Aug 23, 2004

I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to be stuck at work. I am being sarcastic, of course. I wish I was outside today. After the rain yesterday and the humidity of the past week, today was clear, dry and in the high 70’s. I drove to work with the windows open and hated every minute of it. It was so nice – I wished I was off or something. Incidentally, I’m not sure why, but I got a hankering for a quarter pounder today. I stopped at a McD and as I was ordering, I noticed that they now serve Mr. Pibb!! Of course, now it’s called Pibb Xtra. Xtra what? I have no idea. But it is my favorite soft drink. It’s hard to find anywhere and it’s a shame that they have it at McD’s – but they also have it at Chipotle too. I guess that makes sense since McD owns Chipotle.

It was a very slow night at work. Not one call, not one incident. We have a TV and we watched coverage of the Olympics all evening. I have to admit that I have very impressed with the coverage by NBC thus far. One can find almost any sport on one of six channels almost 24 hours a day. I would have to say that cycling, track & field, swimming and beach volleyball have been my favorites.

Hmm… flash back to Friday… grocery shopping, haircut, laundry, frozen pizza, chillin’. Pretty much sums up that day. Saturday morning I went to men’s group at church and really reached out to find some common ground with these guys. I’m not going to be able to go to men’s group anymore with my new schedule and wanted to try to create some new relationships. Anyway – it worked! Most of us traded numbers and will try to hook up in the future. In fact, I found out that one of the pastors, Derek, is an avid bicyclist. He invited me to join him for a ride that afternoon. And even though rain was in the forecast, I didn’t care and was excited to get on my bike for a ride. I loaded up the bike and all my gear and drove over to his house. We had some lunch and then headed out. He took me on some of the trails that start near his house and he showed me how all the trails in the area run together and are very well laid out. Indeed, they are… they even have signs and stripes painted on the trail. Most of the trails go under roads and rarely cross traffic! It’s like a highway for bikes. We took an easy ride, the trails were easy, the rain fell hard at times, but it was a blast. In all, we rode about 12 miles. My butt is sore and my shoulders ache a little bit. I’ll just need a few more rides to get my body used to the saddle again. I was very happy with how my bike handled, especially in the rain. And it cleaned up very easily.

Matt and Pili invited me to join them and some friends at a Spanish restaurant called Lauriol Plaza in DC later in the evening. The margaritas were excellent, and the platanos maduros were awesome, but the lomo saltado was just okay. I first had that dish at a Peruvian restaurant in LA and it was much better there. Here the flavor wasn’t as good and the meat tasted overcooked. At least the margaritas were yummy!

So this week I understand I'll be toodling around DC performing software upgrades at various sites. This will be a nice break from the norm - and I'll have to get to work early too so it will help me get on the right schedule. One day and a wake up until I go home!!!!

Aug 19, 2004

I have been trying to email a blog in from my pager while commuting, but every time I tried either the message was too long and it wouldn’t send or I didn’t have a signal. I wanted to quickly share my experiences over the past two days with you! Like, yesterday I picked up my bike from the shop. I rode it back to the apartment and it felt sooo good to be in the saddle again! I can’t wait to take it out for a long ride on a nearby trail. I might have to do that Saturday morning. And then there was the guy with one eye asking me for money while I was waiting for the Metro. And the other guy that wanted fifty cents to make a phone call or buy some drugs or something, but I couldn’t hear him because I was reading and listening to music and he had to repeat himself three times, each time successively louder. Wouldn’t you think, that if you came across someone who was reading and had earphones on, that they wouldn’t want to be disturbed? That ticks me off. I guess I don’t have to worry about it anymore though. I finally heard from work and they are unwilling to shift my schedule a mere 45 minutes so that I can take the Metro to work. They want me to get there at 0545 and the trains don’t run early enough to get me there by then. So, I will have no choice but to add another car to the road and all of its pollution and drive. I thought about riding my bike to work and taking Metro or riding home after work, but I’m going to have to think about that one real good. I don’t know if I am disciplined enough to get up reeeaaal early to leave, get to work, shower and report to work. And I have to lug all the clothes along and stuff too. Then there’s that whole winter cold thing… eesh! It was a nice thought – I might revisit the thought after a while. I understand that this new schedule will only be in effect for two months, so I may be able to Metro to work again soon. I have started buying some winter cycling gear that was on sale though – I do plan to ride for fun when it gets colder. But it hasn’t even shipped yet... even though I bought it on Sunday! I guess I need to call to see where it is. I was excited to be getting new stuff soon, but now that it hasn’t even shipped, all the fun is gone. I want my new stuff!

Aug 17, 2004

It has been another run of the mill week here in DC. The big news last week was the hurricanes that were supposed to make their way up here. The remnants of Bonnie were very disorganized and only brought us a short rain. Then came Charley… they put out tropical storm warnings and said we were going to get four inches of rain and high winds. I decided to grab some groceries early and just stay in and take care of laundry and other stuff in my apartment. Sure enough, the rain came and the heavy stuff was moving up from the south. But as the evening pressed on, the storm moved to the east of us and the sun was shining through the clouds around sunset. All that hype for nothing.

My grandmother’s funeral has been scheduled for Saturday, August 28 at 10am. I have been authorized a pass for the weekend and will be able to make it home for the services. My aunt from LA and all my sisters will also be there, so all of our close family will be there. Looks like that Saturday will be a family packed day.

Last Friday I ventured out a saw the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights at the National Archives. The wait was about 30 minutes just to see anything and the whole exhibit took about another 30 minutes. It was very cool to see our founding papers, but I was astonished at how faded some of the documents were. The Declaration of Independence was extremely faded. It made me sad to see this faded piece of paper that established our independence. I mean, really… it was so faded you could barely read the writing. The other two have fared a little better over the years.

After that, I walked over to the National Building Museum. It was on a list of top five things to see in the downtown DC area in my Lonely Planet book, otherwise, I never would have visited it. The building itself was very impressive. From the outside, it looks like a huge office building, but when you walk in, the interior of the building is a huge hall. And the architecture is spectacular. According to their website the building is “constructed of more than 15 million bricks, the Museum houses some of the largest Corinthian columns in the world and has been the site of fifteen Presidential Inaugural balls, from Grover Cleveland's in 1885 to George W. Bush's in 2001.” They currently have three exhibits. The first one I saw is called “Liquid Stone: New Architecture in Concrete.” It was an interesting view into how concrete is used in architecture. The other one is called “Symphony in Steel: Ironworkers and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.” It is an exhibit of striking black and white pictures capturing the beautiful lines of the new building and the spirit and courage of the men and women that built the hall. Check out the website of the museum for some pictures of the museum and info on the exhibits. I am seriously considering bringing Holly here next time she comes to visit. Maybe we’ll take a tour of the building.

Holly shipped my mountain bike to me last week and it arrived in one piece. It is being assembled at a bike shop down the street and it supposed to be ready tomorrow! I am pretty excited about getting my bike. I am so looking forward to checking out some of the trails around here after work. Of course, the after work thing will be next week, after my schedule changes. I still don’t know how that’s going to work out with my internal clock. I hate getting up early.

Aug 8, 2004

As you learned in my last post, my grandmother passed away yesterday. My family in Austin is current making funeral arrangements. Due to some legalities, the services may not take place for another week or so. It also appears that I may be able to return home for the services.

I found out last week that my working schedule will be changed after Labor Day. I will most likely begin working the day shift, 0545 to 1415 Tue thru Sat. But since they encouraged us to take Metro, the soonest I can get to work is 0645 – so I may work 0645 to 1515 instead if they will allow me to. At first, I was not happy about the schedule change. I was not looking forward to having to get up so early. I guess I was being stubborn and selfish – wanting to sleep in every morning. But my wife is right, it would probably be better to live a more normal schedule. I still wasn’t sure, but after talking to everyone at church today – it will be really nice to be able to attend the weekly evening community meetings and to have the afternoon to myself. I’ll even be able to ride my bike since Holly shipped it to me this past week also… it should come some time this coming week. So bring on the schedule change.

This past weekend was good. I had to switch out my rental car on Friday morning. Apparently, Enterprise sold the Jetta I was driving. They told me there was a recall on it, but I think they just wanted it back quick. They didn’t have to lie to me! I was glad to give it back for a Nissan Altima. The Altima isn’t at cute as the Jetta, but it sure has a heck of a lot more power!

A friend from church, Matt, called me up before noon. A friend of his, David, was visiting from St. Louis. He asked me if I wanted to join them for lunch in DC. I was more than happy to say yes and hopped on the Metro. We met up at Federal Center SW and David wanted to see the WWII Memorial, so we took a stroll down there and checked it out. Then we had lunch near the White House and then met Matt’s girlfriend, Pili, at her work. She was just getting off work to go to the Women of Faith conference at the MCI Center. We accompanied her to meet her friends for dinner at this place called the Austin Grill. It is totally themed after Austin, TX – so I’ll have to check it out soon. Later that evening, Matt and David came over and we grilled streaks and veggies and ate outside. I have not had a steak in so long… it was delicious! BTW – I failed to mention that the weather this past weekend has been absolutely wonderful. Nice and dry, highs in the 70’s and lows in the low 60’s – a very nice reprieve from the humidity here.

Saturday, Kenny and I wandered to a military surplus store to try to find some stuff. He is looking for dress blues and I am looking for a black jacket to wear with my Class B’s for the wintertime. These jackets are about $70 new. They didn’t have anything for either of us, so I think I will have to try eBay next. Sat night I picked up Matt and David and we went over to a monthly get-together for the young folks at Grace. I met lots more great people and we ended up the evening playing Cranium.

So, I am looking forward to a change. I guess it is time to change things up a bit. My brother-in-law said its good to change things up – he was right.

Aug 7, 2004

I got word early this morning that my grandmother, my abuelita Eva, passed away. We learned yesterday morning that her health took a turn for the worse and my mother and father rushed to her bedside to make sure she was comfortable. We understand she may have gone in her sleep, which gives us all comfort. I am glad she no longer has to suffer due to her health. I have many memories of my grandmother, but the ones that will always stay with me are the pictures in my mind of her smiling face and her cooing laugh. My abuelita and I did not communicate in lengthy conversation due to the language barrier, but we always managed to understand each other with a laugh and a smile.

My abuelita was at times mischievous… she would sometimes do things just to get a rise out of us. I remember how she loved kids... she always loved kids – smiling at them and making baby sounds to them – that smile beaming through and through. For the most part, abuelita was quiet. While at my parents, she would retreat to her room and just lie on the bed and rest. We would always try to summon her out to join us, “Abuelita!! Don’t sleep! Come spend time with your family!!” We wouldn’t hear anything from her. After a few minutes my mom would notice that she was peeking at us from around the corner. We would all look and she would disappear. Usually, she would emerge and it was always a grand entrance, “Abuelita! It’s so good to see you!!” everyone would exclaim, “come sit here at the table with us and talk.” She would sit and just listen to us.

One time my mom, dad and wife went to a Chinese restaurant – abuelita joined us. She was so alive that night! She was talking and joking – it was so uncharacteristic! I remember that evening very well. Then there was our wedding... we couldn’t believe it when she got up and made her way to the dance floor. She joined the rest of us, dancing away for a good while. Our guests said to me, “Hey man… your grandma is cooool! Check her out!!” What an impact that made on me. I once thought – maybe she’s always resting to save up her energy for these moments.

Being up here in DC, I am sorry that I didn’t get to see her in her last days. But I will forever have with me the memories of the good times that we shared together. My abuelita… she brought my mom and dad to God. My parents brought me to God. She was truly God’s worker. I know that my abuelita was the working force that brought my mom and aunt and her daughters together after many years of anger and silence just a few weeks ago. It was my abeulita’s last big accomplishment. I believe that the Lord had this one last task for her to complete. With it done, He was ready for her to come home. She gave us such a great gift – she gave us our family back. I know that she is in a better place now, up there in heaven.

I love you abuelita. I will see you soon.

my abuelita
Eva Rivas

Aug 1, 2004

We got to work today and learned that the feds raised the threat level in DC, NY and So. NJ (NYC has actually been at high since 9/11.) We wonder what this means for us here in the DC area. We can only presume that security will be tighter on government installations. The news says that the feds are saying that the information they have gathered is very detailed and unlike anything some have seen. This sure is a great time to be in DC!

Uneventful weekend… gosh… I can hardly remember what I did. Oh yeah… I went to the PX and Commissary again for stuff. Also drove down to Potomac Mills to check out the shopping center and to find the Sam’s Club. Holly emailed me a bunch of recipes of stuff that we cook at home. I spent Saturday night cooking and doing laundry. I cooked up one of my favorite dishes that Holly makes – I knew it was some kind of chicken bake so I looked it up and it’s called One Dish Chicken & Rice Bake. It was very good! I am definitely going to cook more often now – need to try to save money. I guess we’ll soon find out how will security will be tweaked around the area.