Note From Jon


Friday, September 28, 2007

The Funhouse Fountain

My new favorite activity in D.C. is the free Friday Jazz in the Sculpture Garden... which sadly wrapped up its season today. However I intend to make it a fairly regular Friday activity next summer. Here's my plan for the perfect weekend kickoff:
  • Grab free parking spot on Madison Dr.
  • Bring sunglasses and picnic (or buy food from the cafe in the garden)
  • Pick a spot on the east side of the fountain where the sun will shine longest
  • Dip feet in the fountain
  • Soak up the sun and sounds of live jazz
  • And for some bonus fun... bring friends and a waterproof camera (thanks Darren!)

Not enough distortion...... Hmmm. Perhaps too much ... Just right

Plus the performance ends early enough to have plenty of time for the rest of your Friday evening plans... like listening to Ceann play "You're Pretty on the Inside" at Murphy's in Old Town.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thank you Bent.

I found out this morning that my co-worker lost his long battle with cancer last night. Bent was one of the original founders of the simulator product I work on, and without him this job that I love would never have existed. Bent, you wore a smile every day that I knew you and I agree with Jacek that this is exactly how I want to remember you. Thank you Bent.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Yay B!

This is more of a public thank you letter than a blog post. I just wanted to say a huge thanks to AB for coming to my impromptu deck staining party. She and Jeffrey (who came last year) now have priority deck privileges over all other guests at future BBQs. I bet the rest of you wish you'd come now, huh! Well it is too late, you'll have to wait for next year (or 4 years as the stain bucket claims) for a chance to earn your deck privileges.

Darren and I have been planning to re-stain the deck for over a year now (here's a tip - when you stain decking, use brushes instead of rollers, so you don't have to redo it). But in order for both of us to have a free weekend day at the same time... with nice weather... and no rain forecast... and Darren not being too tired from a bike ride that morning... or me from climbing... well you get the idea. Darren is at this moment competing in a 24 hour mountain bike race in Missouri, but I had Saturday free so I figured I might as well put a stop to the endless procrastination (don't worry we've got plenty of other projects that fall into that category, The God of Procrastination will still be appeased.) I planned to do it on my own (not realizing how long that would have taken me!), but AB volunteered (and sounded genuinely excited) to come help.

And so once again, thank you AB for making the whole process fun, for keeping me calm when it started to rain(!), for not complaining about our musical accompaniment, and for staining even faster than I did (not that that's tough to do). Without your help I would still be out there staining in the dark.

Since the original intent of this blog was to help me remember things:
We used "Behr Premium Wood-Toned Weatherproofing Wood Sealer + Finish #501 Natural Cedar" from Home Depot... and didn't need nearly the 5 gallons that I bought. Doh!

Before and After...

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Gauley Lama

Posting some photos from this weekend’s adventures on the fall Gauley. This was Linny’s 5th year planning the trip (Thanks Linny!) and my fourth trip in the area with Songer Whitewater, but it was our first time together. It won’t be the last. While each of my trips has been fun, this trip easily wins for most fun on the river. It probably didn’t hurt that I had a team of strong and zany raftmates (Viva la Banjos!), under the guidance of the man who we named “The Gauley Lama” (you can call him Fred), and a waterproof camera to capture everything (thanks Darren).

As the Banjos prepare to take on...... the Upper Gauley

This was my second time on the Upper Gauley, but first time in the fall (when they release the Summerville Dam). I still agree with our guide from June that the low water Gauley in a 4 person High Adventure raft is more technically challenging than the Fall Gauley. It was a lot more peaceful too since we were the only rafts in the river in June compared to the “Mall Parking Lot” feel of waiting to drop into the Class Vs in the fall. But it’s hard to beat the fun of riding the big water, and we found plenty of fun ways to occupy the time while we waited (back flip anyone?). Next year we want to try the Upper Gauley in the High Adventure rafts and go on a Sunday instead of a Saturday.

I can meditate in mid-air...... but I can't pull off the back flip like Dave

Swim Report: Kelly pulled a “Kelly” and was launched from the boat at a seemingly innocuous time as we bumped into a rock along one of the edges of Lost Paddle Rapids (thankfully another boat was right there to grab her so she didn’t have to swim the rest of the 1/3 mile class V rapid). We all got tossed (including Fred) at the Fuzzy Box of Kittens (aka Surprise), though I managed to be the last man standing in the raft before it went face down. Since the guides always try to flip here, I’ll see if I can attempt the guide’s move of climbing onto the back of the raft as it flips next year.

Other notes I want to remember for next year:

- A good guide makes all the difference (a bad one nearly ruined the trip for some of my raftmates last year). We’ve enjoyed Fred, Hobbit, and Doug with Songer.

- Take the route 60 cut across to route 19 even though Songer doesn’t suggest that in their directions (there’s a Kroger in a town about halfway along 60 – or else take a left on 19 and head back down to the Wal-mart – did I actually just advocate going to Wal-mart?!?)

- The waterproof Olympus worked great in the Sports setting on a sunny day like we had.

- The high was in the mid-60s and the water temp was in the high 50s/low 60s. I was grateful for the wetsuit, and my River Fox socks, but the water felt a lot warmer than I expected (much warmer than our trip at the end of June).

- Try to hit the top of Pillow Rock with your paddle as you go past, this was the one bit of fun that the Gauley Lama left out.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Darren is hilarious. Oftentimes this is intentional on his part. Sometimes it isn't. Darrenisms are one of those cases where he is unintentionally hilarious. Several years ago I began documenting Darrenisms (at his request - I'm not just a mean friend). Since then they've lived lonelyly in a text document on my computer (yes the Dell demonspawn). In honor of a brand new Darrenism today we agreed to liberate Darrenisms from obscurity and share them with the world to document them for... prosperity.

Update: There is some debate about what exactly qualifies as a Darrenism. In the broadest sense it is just when Darren says something unintentionally funny, usually consisting of mismatching a word/phrase/name. We generally skip ones where he just misspoke and is able to correct himself (unless we find it particularly funny). Obviously we all do this (e.g. for years I thought celibate relationships were plutonic rather than platonic), it's just that Darren is a good enough sport to have us document them. Thanks Darren.

  • 6/1/04 After watching Terminator 3, Darren referred to the character Sarah Connor as Sarah Day O'Conner. Well neither is a big advocate of gun control...
  • 6/6/04 Inadvertently invented the word Astrocity (Atrocity and Monstrosity combined) - Referring to the Satellite Dish on our neighbors house*
  • 7/25/04 In Cognito instead of Incommunicado regarding my vacation to California and lack of communication
  • 9/3/04 Darren became disenfranchised (rather than disenchanted) with eating Salmon as a result of working at the Four Seasons. This discussed over a game of Mexican Train at Darren's parents following a Salmon dinner
  • 10/25/04 Darren asked me for neoprene to sooth his blister, then realized he wanted the Neosporin
  • 11/20/04 Darren discussed religious prosecution instead of persecution
  • 11/20/04 Darren talked about how his mom was all for asimulation instead of asimilation
  • 9/13/07 Darren talked about taking a picture of his bike for prosperity instead of posterity

  • 10/7/07 On the car ride back from skydiving, Darren explained that he didn't want to bring up his "nesting" theory of women because the last time he mentioned it the girls got all in a fizzy over it. Fit and tizzy? Or do we believe Darren's justification that it's like you know "fizzy", all excited and bubbling over...
  • 10/21/07 In what may become a new subcategory of Darrenisms - the celebrity Darrenism (see Sarah Day O'Connor above) - Darren asked when Schillinger was pitching again for the Red Sox. Not too funny unless you know that Darren is confusing Sox pitcher Curt Schilling with Vern Schillinger who is the head of the Aryan brotherhood gang on Oz. It's a reasonable mistake I suppose, they are both Republicans...
  • 10/24/07 Baseball tends to bring out Darrenisms. Two classic examples both resurfaced during the Sox World Series Game 1 victory. First, Darren said if they hadn't held up Varitek at 3rd the Red Sox would have scored 4 points in the first. He later commented how he'd seen a news bit on Pedroia and how the fan said he was voting for Pedroia (Darren somehow tried to justify this by saying it was a player instead of a team... as if you vote for a player and root for a team). While these technically aren't Darrenisms in the sense that they aren't difficult words that have been swapped or combined, he's substituted those terms on a number of occasions so we are recording them... for prosperity.

  • 11/4/07 Over dinner at Aladdin’s, Darren invents the word Keginator… which as far as we can tell has the exact same definition as a Kegerator (unless the Terminator will be returning in keg-like form in the Sandra Day O’Connor Chronicles). Of course to be fair to Darren, he isn’t the first person to make this mistake.

  • 11/16/07 Darren described how he'd had an alteration made to a biking jacket, but the resulting fix closed up the back pocket. This was a problem because the jacket was designed to fold into that pocket in order to form a nice little snatchel to carry it around. Perhaps it was a satchel that snaps shut (he said it was). Vulgarities aside, perhaps he's coined a new term for a snapping satchel. As a bonus, when the zipper eventually broke on the jacket, he returned it to the bike store (forgetting about the alteration in the back).

  • 11/30/07 While discussing how we would embed the Festivus pole in the ground, Darren kept referring to rubar. Rhubarb, or rebar? Sure they both go in the ground but I envision the Festivus pole toppling over as the rabbits in our yard munch away the rhubarb support. Still it might be appropriate as a great "feat of strength" for some rhubarb stalks to hold up a pole...

  • 12/29/07 As the Giants led the undefeated Patriots at halftime, Darren commented that the team beating the Pats had lost at home to the Redskins earlier in the season. "Well, that's the polarity of the NFL...". I gave him a chance to catch himself. He went with "Well, that's the plurality of the NFL...". The Giants wound up losing, so maybe there isn't that much parity in the NFL anyway.

  • 2/20/08 When we attempted to capture a photo of the moon watchers, and Mary cringed from yet another camera flash, Darren asked “Mary, why are you so dramatized?”. While she may have been a bit dramatic in appearing traumatized by the flash, I can confirm that she wasn’t permanently dramatized.

  • 4/3/08 Sara explains that she used to be good at tennis, but hasn't played in a while, so Darren remarks that she "quit tennis cold cut". Turkey is a type of cold cut (and no one seems to agree on what cold turkey means anyway), but most importantly... Sara, the first step is to admit that you have a tennis addiction.

  • 4/28/2008 While I was away in Russia, I delegated Darrenism monitoring to Sara. She handled the tremendous responsibility admirably and recorded two new instances. While the context of the first one is unclear, Darren and Sara agree that for some reason he used the word “enjoyful”. The second is more fully documented since she caught it in his blog…

    Darren admits he wasn’t excited about the Greenbrier race… and that his only constellation was that MattyD would be suffering along with him. He’s since fixed the post , but highlighted the correction… for prosperity.

  • 6/7/2008 Sara must be spending more time with Darren than I am lately because I keep hearing about Darrenisms second-hand from her. The latest, from his bike weekend at Big Bear, was his thank you to a teammate who had a spare part (or tool?) he needed. "You're a Lifesend" Apparently Darren was so thankful that neither Lifesaver nor Godsend sufficiently captured his gratitude.
Darrenism-a-Day 2008
  • Day 1 - 6/21/2008 At our friend Colleen's post-wedding brunch, Darren began describing an upcoming show that we have tickets for at Wolf Trap. The show is called Face of America: Hawai'i Revisited. It's a celebration of Hawai'i and will include traditional Hawai'ian music and dance. It'll probably feel like the luau I went to on Maui and I am sure there will be Hula dancing. But really why use so many words to describe all of that when you can be much more succinct and describe it like Darren did... we're going to see a Hulau.

  • Day 2 - 6/22/2008 Sara complements the cheese cutting board that Darren bought his mom for Christmas. "Where did you find that Darren?"... "Cracker Barrel". Frankly I'm with Darren on this one, it's much more logical that something cheese related would come from a store called Cracker Barrel than one called Crate and Barrel. Look, their logo is even cheese-colored!

  • Day 3 - 6/29/2008 While playing tennis with Sara (who has yet to kick her tennis addiction cold cut), Darren began discussing a new kid's tennis racquet, which is both cheaper and better than his current racquet. It is so good that it is endorsed by sisters Vanessa and Serena Williams. Who knew Vanessa was such a tennis fanatic (or that they were long lost sisters!). Actually the entertainer has had some name conflict issues, it's just generally not with Venus.

  • Day 4 - 6/29/2008 After working up an appetite playing with a non-Vanessa-Williams-endorsed racquet, Sara and Darren headed to Panera for lunch where Sara's new favorite Darrenism was born: Darren declared "I'll try one of those sandwiches on... Poonani bread". Yep, I officially won't ever be able to look at a Panini the same way again. Ever. We literally had to stop and get out of the car at Assateague to take a photo of the sign: "Need lunch for the beach? Panini's"

  • Day 5 -7/7/2008 The Tour de France is underway and in addition to watching each stage on Tivo, Darren spends a good deal of time reading the cycling news sites. He particularly enjoys reading the online updates from the riders themselves and told Sara that there are quite a few more of these now because it is so much easier for the riders to post them using their BlueBerrys. Although I imagine some may be using the new version of Apricot's iPhone.

  • Day 6 - 6/28/2008 Going out of order a bit here, to bring up an idiom Darrenism that he made at Front Page. The waiter rattled off the beers on tap, and Darren ordered... a gin and tonic stating that "none of those beers struck my boat". That answer did not float the waiter's fancy (and don't they usually strike boats with Champagne?)

  • Day 7 - 7/13/2008 While Darren and Sara were discussing nipples (don't ask), Darren declared that male nipples are not as androgynous as female nipples. The erogenous mixup is even more enjoyful since nipples are androgynous traits.
Thanks to Darren and Sara for making this week o' Darrenisms possible, hopefully you enjoyed them (and whether you did or not, enough of you at least read them to put Darrenisms back on top as the most visited post here!)

Back to our irregularly scheduled Darrenisms
  • 8/12/2008 While watching the Olympic gymnasts, we got a new celebrity Darrenism when he reflected back on the heroic vault of Kerri Struthers. I guess they do both have distinctive voices... (on several occasions he also referred to breaststroker Brendan Hansen as Brendan Fraser. Sports stars definitely seem to confuse Darren the most... sports stars and Supreme Court justices).

  • 8/15/2008 On our 9 hour road trip to Ohio we played the noun game. An old road trip game where you simply go around the car stating a (non-proper) noun that starts with the designated letter until someone accidentally repeats or can't think of one. The letter was "A". We'd gone around a few times throwing out words such as "Apple, Aardvark, Ant, Anteater". Darren's next word was... Irrigation, though he did try to pronounce it "Airrigation".

*My current favorite

Check back for all the Darrenisms yet to be born...

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Death to Dell

That's right, I am through with you. You will torment me no more. You are banished to the corner of my room where I will mock you until some far off day when I decide that I need to put a real piece of furniture over there. Damn you for getting my blog off track again. I am supposed to be writing about my trip to Africa and not how much I hate the demonspawn of Dell.

Sure, things started off well enough a year and a half ago when you were born and delivered to my doorstep. I know you had big shoes to fill since your older brother had served me well for nearly 8 years, which is an obscenely long time for someone of your kind to stay useful. I really wasn't holding you to his standard. But SIX MONTHS? I never had a hard drive fail on me (knock on particle board) except for yours which failed before you'd seen more than half the seasons.

That's when I learned about your mother's "Warranty" policy. She would send me a "refurbished" hard drive if I handed your busted one (you know the one filled with all my passwords, tax data, compromising photographs, etc.) over to her Eastern European delivery boy. Does this policy strike anyone else as ridiculous? It makes sense for every other one of your parts, but not a hard drive. I let your mother know my feelings on this in a politely worded letter, and some not so polite follow on phone calls to her Indian henchmen (BTW my issue is with you and your mother, I have nothing against Eastern Europeans or Indians. Don't try to change the subject!)

But I forgave you for that (or at least we reached a compromise so we could continue to coexist). I bought you a brand new hard drive with my own money and we went on our merry way. Until you decided to start whining. I ignored you for a while but you wouldn't shut up. At first it was just kind of annoying. You'd whine. I'd smack you upside the head. You'd shut up. We went back and forth like this for a couple of weeks but you just kept at it, whining as soon as I tried to get you to do any work at all. I should have just tossed you in the corner then. But I had pity. Maybe I'd worked you too hard. Maybe I shouldn't have expected you to have a fan that would last longer than a year. Perhaps that's just asking too much these days.

Well we'd written your mother off completely by that point. She wasn't paying child support. She's got too many other kids to take care of as it is. You're mothers a ... well I'd have plenty of other things to say about your mother, but my mom reads this so she will be spared my full verbal wrath. Again, I'd never had a power supply fail on me... before you... but still I appeased you and bought you a brand new one to shut you up. And you did shut up. For another six months. Until I came home from a lovely Red Sox victory last Friday and found you blinking at me.

Your face was blank except for a single blinking cursor. Now I thought I knew how to handle you by this point. But a reboot wasn't enough for you. Not this time. I decided to just let you sleep it off. But that wasn't enough either. Nope. You just kept blinking. At least the blinking was new. I'm familiar with you spouting off about "OS Not Found" or when you are just too lazy to start up at all. But blinking, that's new. You were healthy enough to start up but too sick to even show me your setup screen. Cute. But I've had enough. Off to the corner with you. Just wanted to take one last photo of you blinking at me for your obituary here. I had the camera pointed at the screen to capture the blink you'd given me a dozen times in a row and you... boot the frak up! Ha ha. Very funny.

We had a good last few moments together. I won't say I didn't appreciate the chance to say goodbye to you (and move everything that I really cared about you off to one of your detachable brains - those are handy BTW). Then you were gone. Blinking again. Points for originality because you didn't blink at me with a blank faced cursor anymore. You actually took your usually green cyclops eye and started blinking that at me. A blinking yellow eye. Sure, your mother claims you just need another new power supply... or a new mother board. To which I say: Screw you, and screw her. You need to sit and rot in the corner of my room.

And that is where you are right now. You've been gutted and already replaced. Lest you derive any joy from forcing me to spend some more money to replace you, you were so easily replaced that I just picked up the former hunk of silicon from the corner where you now sit and transplanted all that was good and right about you (which wasn't much) into her. And we are very happy together.

And the moral of the story is: Don't buy a Dell! (well except for your new laptop mom, that will be fine :-) )

And while I am ranting, who decided that it was a good idea to put a hotel up right next to Camden Yards and block the formerly lovely view of the blue lit clock tower? Somehow Dell must have been involved...

Monday, September 3, 2007

Safety Knots

I'll take a quick break from chronicling my trip to West Africa (I'll keep updating the entry below this) to bring you this public service announcement: Always tie safety knots at both ends of a rope you rappel down - or better yet tie the two ends together in a double fisherman's knot. Note to Jon - learn how to tie a double fisherman's knot!

You might not want to read this mom. We climbed Juliet's Balcony at Great Falls VA this morning and decided to rappel down. This was nearly a "very bad idea". I made it down to the balcony without incident and then threw the ropes down the rest of the way. Robert pointed out I needed to verify both ends had reached the ground. I'm pretty sure they did (it was hard to tell from the angle where I was at - not that that's a good excuse) but when you rappel the ropes can feed through your belay device at different speeds as I found out when one of the ends fed right up through my hand and out the belay device, essentially meaning there was nothing holding the other end of the rope I was hanging from. I caught the rope but it was out of the device and I was now dangling from the end of a rope with nothing to hold me up. Thankfully I was only about 5 feet from the bottom at this point and was able to fall safely (except for some nasty rope burn). When Garrick from Sportrock came by later and rappelled down the same rope he pulled the entire rope back to the top and tied the double fisherman's knot between the two ends before coming down. I should probably take the outdoor safety class :-) Good thing I just got a gift certificate for a free class!

The climbing went well though after I shook off the nerves from my (mini) fall. I did a couple of 5.7s and a 5.10c which clearly was mis-rated (or I used some holds which weren't intended for it). Garrick had climbed it before me and rated it a 5.8 so we'll go with that, and modify the name from Randomly Vicious to (Not So) Randomly Vicious. I think the difference is that we climbed a bit up the flake to the left of the intended face at the bottom (though Yvonne definitely climbed the intended route once) and perhaps too far to the right at the top. Either way it was a fun climb and I definitely recommend it if you are looking for a 5.8 level climb.

My day outdoors on Sunday was a tad safer, with an easy hike out to Raven Rocks WV. It is a 5.5 mile out and back hike with a great view and lunch spot in the middle, where we discovered some climbers on one of the cliff faces. I'll have to investigate the area online more and see about doing some climbing out there. I do think I'd have to rappel down though...