Monthly Archives: March 2006

Nice Enough to Walk Home

What a lovely, lovely day today.

I work a little late, talking with my dashing young protege, who’s having something of a crisis with her fella. Dawn wants to walk home, which for her is an hour walk, but for me is an hour and a half. So I split the difference, like I do with the walk with her into work in the mornings, and meet Dawn at Judiciary Square Metro and we walk home together from there.

I don’t know why, but I’m in a sullen mood tonight. It’s great to walk by all the blooming cherry blossoms, though. There’s this one tree, on the south side of D Street, between New Jersey and Louisiana Avenues. It’s just fat and bursting with blossoms. It looks almost wooly. Every other tree we see is like a 98-pound weakling compared to this tough guy.

The loveliness of today refers mostly to just the weather, though. I spent the day wrestling with these data sets, lists of attendees for various meetings, as well as lists of abstract submitters. I need to filter out duplicates, but I’ve got no primary key. I’m just going by name and location. So like people listed one way as Larry and another as Lawrence are giving me fits. Aargh. It’s frustrating. I do the meeting attendees separately from the abstract submitters, and the woman to whom I send it all wants me to match between those two sets. More aargh.

I also notice today that I’ve lost my ATM card. Luckily I walked Dawn to work and we stopped at the ATM together to get cash, is where I noticed it was gone. Last I had used it was Monday, so who knows when and where it’s gone off to. I look all around my desk at work, thinking I might have left it out when I was trying to sign up for kickball on Wednesday. Not there though. I call the bank and report it missing.

I thought I’d find it somewhere at home as soon as I arrived, but in fact I don’t. That sucker is gone.

First time I can remember losing a card like that. First time in at least ten years anyway. Where’d it go? I’d just gotten the new one last weekend, and was carrying both for a couple days, until Monday when I confirmed that the new one worked. I know I cut up the old one. Last time I saw them both. Last time I saw the new one.


Not Just Republicans

Turning a blind eye to human rights abuses: it’s not just for Republican presidents.

I want to clarify something, stemming from the earlier post, about Argentina and the Junta and President Reagan. I single out President Reagan because it was during his administration that I became aware of these things, when I got to the University of Minnesota and met great MPIRG activists and joined the cause. My focus then was more directly on nuclear freeze issues, but on the Peace Task Force we also dealt with the then current issues in Central America, specifically El Salvador and Nicaragua. And there especially is where I take President Reagan to task.

But the coup in Argentina was earlier and, like the coup in Chile, goes back to Presidents Ford and Nixon and, even more specifically and ominously, to Henry Kissinger.

But, but, but. But there also in the late seventies was President Carter. And many, many of the FOIA documents, found on the National Security Archive website of George Washington University, are from his administration. Like see here, an internal memo of the American Embassy in Buenos Aires, where a security officer writes to the American ambassador, only ten days after Azucena Villaflor has been disappeared, when she maybe was still alive, conjecturing, correctly as it turns out, that she and the other mothers were likely abducted by the Argentine Navy. Again, though, I was 12 years old and wasn’t aware of these things at the time (although these documents weren’t declassified until decades later, so not many folks were then). And but furthermore, in his defense, I do remember President Carter getting a whole lot of flak for his stance on human rights, and the observance thereof being a basic tenet of U.S. foreign policy, whereas then and later Reagan and the right were only ever concerned about abuses in the Soviet Bloc and their allies.

But the narrow point here is, yes, the coup in Argentina was very much before Reagan. I understand that.

Lunch with the Boss

Had this sort of get-to-know kind of lunch at work today with the Executive Director. She apparently has these every so often, as a way of meeting employees other than the regulars she usually sees at the senior staff meeting. I used to go to the senior staff meeting, actually, but haven’t since we’ve gotten the ITAG consultants.

The regular cast at these meetings seems to be Marty, Matt, Rodney and LaFaundra. The guests today were me, Ryan, Renee, and, unfortunately absent at the last minute, one of the Julies or Julias, I’m not sure now which. But, since she wasn’t there, doesn’t really matter.

It was a good chance to meet Renee, though. She’s quite tall and striking, and then it was funny to see how reserved and soft-spoken she turns out to be. She’s from Brooklyn and went to the University of Maryland.

Marty spoke of her first career as a dental assistant in Nebraska. Matt and Marty both have dads who are dentists. Rodney and LaFaundra were both born in DC. Ryan is still happily married.

We have pizza. LaFaundra had sent an email beforehand asking if there was anything that we “cannot” eat on pizza. I replied that I wasn’t sure if being a vegetarian meant that I cannot, or just will not, eat meat. I thought also about mentioning being Catholic and that it was Lent, and under the old rules that meant no meat since it’s Wednesday. But I left that one alone. And she ordered a veggie pizza as one of the pizzas anyway.

Later I went downstairs to re-load TIMSS onto LaFaundra’s laptop. After I was done with that I stepped over to the Blood offices right behind the conference room and found where Renee sits. And she sits with Malaika, whom I got to know a little bit at the holiday party last year. We talked some more about what Renee had brought up at lunch, about job titles and experience.

I encouraged them to follow up with the director of their department and even with Matt and Marty, telling them that changes don’t just happen. Somebody has to make them happen. Both Marty and Matt seemed very receptive to what Renee had said, and Ryan had some good input on the subject as well. But Malaika seemed to indicate that she would wait to see what happens, now that Renee had brought up the subject. I urged her to not now just expect something to happen, but to follow up and try to make something happen.

They, or at least Malaika, seemed to have some sort of impression that I was in some way more important to the organization than I in fact am, because of being up on the seventh floor maybe. I made very clear that I was just a regular joe, exceptin’ for being more like twice their age and sagely wise and that’s why they should listen to me.


Just heard that Matraca Berg is going to be in town next week at the Kennedy Center Millenium Stage. Hey, now, my favorite favorite country artist giving a concert, for free, at a place that’s only like a fifteen minute walk from my office.

Sigh. But I have to miss it. Laura and Elizabeth — sister-in-law and niece — arrive in town that day.


Got my hair cut yesterday, a bit shorter than usual, although went to my usual barber Mike at Louis’s Barber Shop on 20th Street Northwest. He asked if by wanting it shorter I meant tighter or higher. I only sort of had a vague notion as to what either meant, so at first I said tighter then said oh what the hell go higher too. I think it’s too short, as does Dawn.

A Political Town

Sunday we had as our guest in our home the chair of the city council, Chairwoman Linda Cropp. She’s running for mayor and, doing some retail campaigning, was going door to door on our street. We had an advance guy knock first, then another advance guy, and then finally she arrived. I had picked up some the clutter hurriedly before she arrived, but she declined our offer of a seat or a cup of coffee. She just wanted to give her spiel and ask for our vote.

I’m glad that she asked. That was one of the basic tenets that I had read in Chris Matthews’s book so many years ago. You have to ask for the vote.

I told her that I was pleased with her somewhat harder stance on the stadium, since I was unsure as to how much I supported it. Dawn told her that she was concerned about crime, about the various murders on our street the last year.

And then today, walking this morning to work, on the 100 block of C Street Northeast, there at the Hart and Dirksen Senate Office Buildings, we passed by Senator Rick Santorum. I said, “Good Morning, Senator.” He replied with the same, “Good morning.” But he was in the midst of pulling out his cell phone and making a call so he didn’t seem in the mood to chat. And we think he’s pretty much a nut anyway. So we all just kept walking.

Dawn didn’t recognize him, actually, but of course knew who he was when I told her. And then I mentioned to her that he’d been described by the Philadelphia Inquirer as “one of the finest minds of the 13th century.” Dawn, who has a master’s degree in medieval studies, retorted that this insults the 13th century.

Later research reveals that the “finest minds” description is not official Inquirer policy but rather comes courtesy of a columnist therein, one Tom Ferrick Jr.

We Meet in Person

I’m quite pleased today to see this certain man walking down the street. I had seen him like two weeks ago and, for reasons I won’t go into here, just had to write to him. He kindly wrote me back, and he suggested we talk in person, but he was at somewhat of a disadvantage because I knew what he looked like but he didn’t know me from Adam. So it was quite handy to see him on the street again today and be able to stop and introduce myself.

Turns out he goes to St. Matt’s too, at least to the weekday 8:00 a.m. Mass. So he’s out and getting to work about the same time I’m chugging from the Metro on my way to work. We had a nice chat about St. Matt’s and Monsignor Gerhart and Father Caulfield and the Latin Mass on Sundays that I attend. He used to be an altar boy, back in the days of the Tridentine Mass, and he says his father was never pleased with the switch to English after Vatican II.

Laetare Sunday

We get to Mass and the music leaflet says that it’s Laetare Sunday. And I have no idea what Laetare Sunday means. I probably learned this in RCIA class.[1] And the readings are for some reason the readings from Year A rather than this year, Year B. But then the candidates and catechumens come up for scrutinies, so maybe it has something to do with that.[2]

Deacon Work reads the Gospel, and then, instead of swapping with Father Caulfield, he stays at the lectern and delivers a homily. At first it’s rather a plain explication of the Gospel, with discussion of metaphorical blindness and seeing. But then he veers into a very personal and moving witness of his own life and conversion to Catholicism. He ends by singing the first verse (or is it the chorus?) of Amazing Grace, which is pretty good since he’s got this incredibly deep, rich voice.[3]

The Gospel itself is from St. John and is where Jesus, with mud made with own his saliva, gives sight to the man who was blind since birth. Again I notice how St. John is different from the Synoptic Gospels not just in recounting different events but in tone and flavor and detail. St. John’s is much more like a novel, with dialog and great level of detail and description. Like today there’s all this back and forth, between Jesus and his disciples and the begger and his neighbors and the Pharisees. And also that specificity in St. John, where it’s not just Christ healing the blind man, not just waving his hand and saying “Be healed” or “Your sins are forgiven,” but spitting on the ground and mixing it to make mud and smearing it on the blind man’s eyes. Spitting and smearing. Not generally words you’d think you’d find in a religious text. Not in a good context anyway.

And the OT reading is my man Samuel, no longer a child answering “Here I am” but himself doing the searching and the calling, looking for the king for the Lord among Jesse’s sons. I have trouble understanding though how the Lord rejects Eliab by saying “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature,” but then turns around and selects the ruddy and handsome and splendid David. So it’s like looks don’t matter, with the “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” But David is good-looking anyway, and there’s no mention at all of what’s in his heart, just that he’s ruddy and splendid. And, of what very little I know of the Old Testament, what is in David’s heart anyway, what with the later shenanigans with Bathsheba? This is all a bit confusing to me.

[1] A little research and I (re-)learn that it’s pretty standard, that it’s just kinda another way of saying Fourth Sunday in Lent.
[2] It does.
[3] He used to be a radio broadcaster with ABC News in Korea.

The Greatest Show on Earth

The usual morning yoga & workout routine, except that we leave a little early because of road closures. There’s some marathon or some type of running race starting and ending at RFK. We have a lot of trouble navigating in and up and down and around and through it. We head south instead of up Massachusetts, but then we can’t cross Pennsylvania on Potomac to make our way to I Street. We have to turn up Penn. We go to 8th and take that down to I, and get on 395 from there. We get off at 12th, thinking we can go under Independence, but 12th is closed and we have to turn on C. Fourteenth is closed at Independence, so we take Independence to 17th. There’re cops blocking traffic on the southbound side of 17th, but we’re cool to go north. Whew. That feeds us on to Connecticut and to Dupont Circle for Dawn’s yoga class.

At my gym I watch This Old House while on the Stairmaster. Funny enough, Norm & Co. are working on a row house in DC.

Afterwards we drive out to Alexandria VW to get the car washed and buy a new gas cap. The manager of the parts department Fred is like a character from The Office, and he goes on and on about his Russian wolfhounds and how fierce and loyal they are.

We have a good ballet rehearsal, now having gotten the whole thing choreographed and memorized and now just rehearsing and fine tuning. Except that we didn’t have rehearsal last week and now Dawn is cuing me at one point by touching my right arm whereas she used to cue me on the left. Takes a little getting used to it. Rosie’s eye is astonishingly bloodshot red. She whapped herself in the eye trying to do too many things at once last Wednesday morning.

Kevin drops by just as we’re about to have popcorn and beer. We’re glad because we haven’t seen him in a while. He tells us about his new gal, who’s out of town at some horse event, and how he has to pick up her dog from the kennel tomorrow.

I go to make pizza dough in the bread machine and somehow don’t seat the pan right. It makes awful noises and doesn’t mix properly. It looks like how it did when I tried to make the wine and cheese bread, except this time it’s only mixed for a minute or two rather than gone through the whole bake cycle and baked a useless brick. I get it reseated and reset and restarted, but the pizza’s now going to take longer.

So we chow down but don’t have time to get to the circus early to see the elephants like we wanted to do. Most years I get to see the elephants when I come up out of the Metro, but I haven’t gone out that side of the station this year. Just forgot. But turns out they’ve got trailers parked so as to block the freeloaders like me who just gawk through the fence.

The circus of course turns out to be the hootingest good time ever. We get Bello this year, after having sorely missed him last year. He comes up into the stands when he arrives and shakes some hands. He comes up our row, and I get to shake his hand. I’m pretty excited. I mean, not quite as excited as when I met Chuck Berry, but still it’s pretty great.

I wave and dance and cheer and we have a grand, grand time. I do so love the circus.

Later we meet Kate and her new boy Lance, who have also come to the circus. We have them over for water and other drinks, although I forget that Lance is on the wagon, but he’s polite when he asks for just water. Dawn drinks vodka and orange juice and Kate & I have hot buttered rum. It’s nice to meet Lance, whom Kate has told me much about. He’s a fine looking lad and has a good scratchy voice.

I drive Kate and Lance to the Metro, taking them to Eastern Market by way of the Marine Barracks, which Lance has never seen. We slow down by the old gate and the guards start moving towards us menacingly, so we scram.

Thirty Years of Life Defeating Death!

Argentines Mark 30 Years Since ‘Dirty War’
By Bill Cormier of the Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Thousands of Argentines swayed to protest songs Friday at an early morning vigil marking the 30th anniversary of a military coup that ushered in the country’s Dirty War.

The gray-haired Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo took center stage at the rock concert-styled rally, wearing the trademark white handkerchiefs of their long human rights struggle.”Thirty Years of Life Defeating Death!” and “Not One Step Back!” read large banners strung alongside black-and-white photographs of hundreds of “desaparecidos” — Spanish for the “Missing” victims of the seven-year dictatorship and its bloody crackdown on dissent.

It was just after 3 a.m. on March 24, 1976, that coup leaders announced they had toppled the government of Maria Estela Martinez de Peron, widow of the former strongman Juan Domingo Peron. She was flown away by helicopter from the pink Government House, steps from where the rally was held Friday on the Plaza de Mayo.

The junta would remain in power until 1983, leaving a trail of nearly 13,000 now officially listed dead or missing during the era. Human rights groups put the toll for a systematic crackdown on dissidents, now known as the Dirty War, at nearly 30,000.

I’m a little disappointed that both the Washington Post and the New York Times choose only to carry the AP story of the anniversary, rather than reporting on it themselves. I can’t think of a better warning for us now, of the road that we’ve been travelling since 9/11, than the example of Argentina. Indeed, all of the countries of South America that were involved in Operation Condor, with the cooperation of the United States, in the name of fighting any number of -isms, terrorism included, should really be bright red flags, telling us to stop this madness.

Only we call it interrogation, not torture. We call them enemy combatants, not political prisoners. And we say extraordinary renditions, what used to be called “disappearing” someone. The AP story above translates “desaparecidos” as the “missing.” I really feel that that doesn’t capture the chill, the horror, that the “disappeared” give us. And who knows now how many men my government has disappeared, has rendered extraordinarily?

I remember reading, and weeping over, Lawrence Thornton’s Imagining Argentina, blending the Dirty War and magical realism, in 1987. And yet it was all so far away, even, back then. We could imagine all sorts of horrible things about Ronald Reagan, insasmuch as we could see his always sunny and cheerful, and disgusting, support of the juntas in Central and South America, but we could hardly envision this happening in the US. Even more recently, Louis De Bernieres’s The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts, with its grand scope, the fictional country a composite of all the Operation Condor countries, but especially Chile and Argentina, mined similar territory. We could read it and weep, but it wasn’t here. We would never have thought that the disappearing would happen here, that we would become what we beheld.

So today I honor the AsociaciĆ³n Madres de Plaza de Mayo. And I hang my head in shame to them too, knowing that I have not even a fraction of their courage. And honor and prayers especially to you, Azucena Villaflor. Your son Nestor and his wife Raquel were disappeared on November 30, 1976, and, after months of useless petitioning to the Interior Ministry, you began marching on the Plaza on April 30, 1977. You were yourself disappeared, probably to the Navy Mechanics School, on December 10, 1977. Your remains were finally discovered and identified in 2005 and are now interred in the center of the Plaza. And on the Plaza they march still. They’ve never stopped.

Nunca mas, Senora.

Miss Jessica’s Intermediate Class

So I take ballet on Thursdays at St. Mark’s Dance Studio in Capitol Hill. It’s part of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church; for some reason they’ve also got a dance studio. They’ve got some liturgical dance, children’s classes and adult classes. Thursday night is Jessica Sloane teaching the intermediate adult class. Jessica is married, so I guess she’s a Mrs., but as ballet mistress I call her Miss Jessica. Well, usually she’s simply Jessica, but on occasion, in more formal settings, like now, I go with Miss Jessica.

I started out in Miss Jessica’s 7:30 p.m. class for beginners, but after two years I’ve moved up with the big kids. Also in the class are my love Dawn, as well as — pardon my attempts at spelling names — Finnette, Renee, Ada, Jill, Jessica, Ayanna, and Pat. Last night we were also joined by Susan and someone else who’s name Dawn told me and I’ve forgotten, but they’re not doing the recital piece with us. And Renee was missing last night. And Shirley is sometimes there, but I’m not certain what her status is regarding the recital.

We’re doing a somewhat modern piece for the recital. It’s set to a pretty cool tune, called “My Guru.” Jessica found it on the soundtrack to the Jack Johnson movie Thicker than Water. It seems, though, that Jack Johnson himself found it on a soundtrack called Bombay The Hard Way: Guns, Cars And Sitars. That soundtrack is itself a compilation of songs from many other soundtracks, with snippets of dialog added, and then all of that remixed and mashed up by Dan the Automator. The original music is credited to the legendary Bollywood team, the Shah brothers, Kalyanji and Anandji. But there’s no telling at this point what the underlying song is, where it’s from originally, or who’s speaking from what movie the dialog bit at the beginning of the track, “I’m sorry, my good friend. Let me learn it properly from my guru. Then I will teach you.” Blame Dan the Automator, I guess.

The choreography goes well with the music, in that it blends old and new, traditional and modern. There’s this one point where my group does this swivel hip thing that I’m still trying to get comfortable with, but otherwise it’s all cool fun moves. I’m still trying to learn the basic steps, when I’m supposed to be stepping where, and then I’ll be able to stop running into the other dancers.

Lecture on the Proclamation of the Kingdom

Today was the third lecture at St. Matthew’s in our Lenten Lecture Series on the Luminous Mysteries, on the third luminous mystery naturally, and that’d be the Proclamation of the Kingdom. Today was my day to introduce the speaker. There was an awkward moment when I began my spiel and intro for the Reverend Raymond Kemp, and apparently I wasn’t close enough to the mic, and the volume wasn’t turned up enough anyway, and folks in back began shouting that they couldn’t hear me. So then Maureen had to come up, and she and fiddled with a few things, moving the microphone closer and turning the volume knob. And then everyone could hear me. But then I didn’t know if I should start completely over or just keep going, so I just backed up a a little bit and then went on with it.

And Father Kemp was pretty good. More important really than any overall unifying theory to tie together everything he said, which there probably was one but I just kept missing it, was the fun way that he would riff about certain concepts and passages. Like when he was reading from St. Matthew about the sermon on the mount, and he noted that the Sea of Galilee wasn’t especially a sea, but rather a big lake. And when St. Matthew says that Jesus went up the mountain to preach, it was a hill not a mountain, but St. Matthew calls it a mountain so as to be a parallel with Moses and Mt. Sinai. Or like how he noted the apposition of our contemporary use of the word “passion” and its use when discussing the Lord’s experience on Good Friday. Christ’s first passion, said Father Kemp, Christ’s original thing about which he felt strong emotion, about which he was passionate, was the Kingdom of God.

Sliding Miter Table

I was thinking today about my terribly cheap (and somewhat broken) miter gauge and what to do about it. I’ve been looking at getting a Ryobi BTS20 to replace my Delta TS200, but that’s probably a ways off. In the meantime, I’ve set a screw through the T-bar into the plastic guage to replace the little stop tab that broke, and I’ve also screwed on an auxiliary fence. And I’ve built a sled for straight crosscuts, although the 1/2″ MDF and dimensional lumber make it somewhat massive for the little bench saw.

I was looking at the Ryobi website and took a gander too at the BTS15, which does not have the built-in folding leg stand with wheels, but it does have a nifty little sliding miter table instead of a miter guage. And the more I thought about it, I realized that a shop-made version would really only need to be a board for the sliding table part, with a runner on which to slide, and then a pivoting arm as a fence. Heck, even I can probably make one of those.

So this is my concept. My first version pivoted the arm halfway up the right side, but I changed it after another look at the one that comes with the BTS15. And notice how I think I can even include a protractor. I was looking for a protractor one day and the thought occurred to me that I could just find a picture of one on the Internet and print it. It worked great. So for this I’ll just print one and glue it to the table. It doesn’t have to be especially accurate, because you really need to measure with a bevel guage and set the angle with that, and then make test cuts anyway. But the protractor is kinda handy, to give you a certain sense of what the angle is. What ballpark it’s in.

My only worry now is getting the right size runner. I think I recently noted how I used toilet bolts to fit into the non-standard T-slot to use with a feather board. But I don’t think bolts would work with this; I really think it needs a runner. My crosscut slet has two runners, on the outside, one on each side of the saw table, rather than running through the slots. Since this necessarily has to fit on only one side of the blade, rather than both with the sled, that method won’t work here. (And that’s part of why the crosscut sled is so massive. And, now that I think about it, the saw table extension I got for Christmas isn’t going to work with the crosscut sled.)

But I can buy or mail-order a rectangular bar of aluminum that’s 5/8″ wide, the same width as the miter slot. The slot’s about a 1/4″ deep, but I just need a runner that fits in the slot. It doesn’t necessarily have to hit the bottom. McMaster-Carr sells a 1/8″ thick aluminum bar that 5/8″ wide. It’s all of $5.48 for an eight foot length. But how am I going to get eight feet of aluminum delivered to my office?

Back to Work

It’s a hard day at work digging out after having been off on Friday. I spend much of the day messing with committee rosters.

Our database has any number of reports that produce rosters, but the assistant to the executive director wants a report in Microsoft Word format. Now that’s a harder thing to do.

Our database application TIMSS uses Crystal Reports as its reporting service. Crystal features its own viewer, from which you can also print. The viewer also will export to a number of formats, Microsoft Word included. So you’d think that’d solve my problem, right? Oh, no.

She wants the resulting Word document to be editable. Crystal exports to Word using frames, which are really not very friendly to editing. I mean, they are editable in and of themselves, but they are placed on the page more as vector objects rather than flowing text. Plus Crystal seems to separate each page with a section break. So, while the document is in fact open-able by Microsoft Word, it’s not especially use-able by Microsoft Word.

So I had been working on getting Crystal to export to an Excel record format and then using those Excel records as the data for a merge in Word, but she found that whole process too cumbersome. And so today I was trying, at the suggestion of the business analyst at our software vendor, merging into Word directly from the database application from a query result set.

It does work. I’m not sure if the executive office will like it, but I think it’s pretty handy.


Painting mostly finished, except Dawn does a little touch up around the light switch and outlet below. We’ve bought new ceramic covers for the outlets and switch, so those go up. I completely unplug all peripherals from the computer, so as to then be able to empty the desk, to install new glides on the bottom of the desk, since one glide went missing like 3 moves ago. Then we put up new curtain rods and curtains. Boy is the room cute.

Happy Birthday, um, Iraq War?

I’m a little unsure as to how to date the beginning of the war. Wikipedia pegs 20 Mar 2003 02:30 UTC, with explosions being heard in Baghdad, as the beginning. That’s 5:30 a.m. local Baghdad time, so UTC and Baghdad time both put it on 20 March. But that’s also 9:30 p.m. EST, which is my time, Washington DC time, the White House and Pentagon time.

In either case, today is Sunday, which is major op-ed day here in America. And today we see major, and really rather competing, pieces in the New York Times and the Washington Post on this most august anniversary. The Post has Donald Rumsfeld, who writes, “The terrorists seem to recognize that they are losing in Iraq.” On the other hand, the Times carries a piece from recently retired Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton, formerly the commanding general of the rebuilding of the Iraqi armed forces and security forces. Says he, “Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is not competent to lead our armed forces.”

Third Sunday of Lent

The OT reading is from Exodus. It’s the Ten Commandments. Seems like usually, when a reading has brackets to indicate a short version, we still get the long version. But today we actually get the short version. It still covers all ten, but just little more briefly.

I have at home these really fun finger puppets, one of Brahma and one of Kali. When Gloria reads the the second commandment, about carving idols, I wonder if my finger puppets count as idols. I’ve also got lunch boxes, one with Krishna, another with Ganesh. They’re less idol-like, but they do have visual representations of Hindu gods. Do they count?

Then the Gospel is from St. John where Jesus drives the moneychangers from the temple area. I remember being a kid and arguing with other kids, at Sunday school probably, about whether Jesus was committing some sort of sin in this scene. We of course believed that Christ was wholly without sin, but we wondered how you could chase guys around with a whip of cords sinlessly. Surely you’d have to be breaking at least one of the commandments? I probably argued that I’d feel like I was if I chased you around with a whip. But we could never figure out which commandment that would be breaking.

As an adult now, I go along more with what Christ tells us in St. Matthew, where “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Not worshipping false idols, not killing, not stealing? Bah, that’s the easy part. Loving God with heart, soul and mind? That’s the hard part, folks. And then loving my neighbor as myself? Hard too.

But, then again, Christ also tells us, again from St. Matthew, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” So we’re not off the hook for the commandments really. But the New Testament adds like two more. Or one and a half. Or something.

Busy Saturday

Up early for yoga and working out. I go again to the Dupont Circle location of Washington Sports Clubs.

I use an old-fashioned barbell for curls instead of waiting for the curl machine and it sorta makes me understand the appeal of machines. Like when I’m using the curl machine, nobody can really tell how much weight I’m pulling, whereas with the barbell everybody can see how ridiculously small it is and that I’m only curling 35 pounds.

Then I use a strange hybrid machine for triceps, where you load free weights onto different bars for different sets. The first bar and set seems normal, but the second makes the tricep curl harder at the low point of the curl, and the third is heaviest at the beginning, at the high point. The machine has instructions noting that this differentiation makes for a more effective workout, working different fibers of the muscles on different sets. I’m dubious, but it was fun anyway to try.

Bedroom painting continues, with taping the trim and then the actual periwinkle paint going on today. We go back to Home Depot between coats to get another gallon, just in case. I install new electrical outlets and a new light switch, since the old ones have years of paint on them.

New Styles

Dawn and I take the day off to paint the guest bedroom. Today is primer day. We use almost the whole gallon, and we worry that the single gallon of the real paint isn’t going to be enough. Gwen is very upset at all the commotion and spends a lot of time on top of the pantry. Then she spends time on the mattress and box spring that’re propped on their sides in the living room, and she claws it a lot too.

Dawn gets her hair cut today as well, in the morning. Her regular stylist Connie has left Bubbles, so Dawn gets a haircut from a new person, Ann. After ten years of Connie. Big change for Dawn. Dawn is so cute when she comes out of the salon, with such a stylish ‘do. And she head told me she was getting her head shaved. Rascal.

Spackling for Mom

I’m taking the day off from work on Friday, so I end up working late and missing ballet. Then I’m off to my mother’s house to help her get ready for house inspection, since she’s got a contract on her house. (Yay!)

I get off 395 at Duke Street to get some fast food at a drive-thru. There’s a KFC where there used to be a Roy’s, so I get dinner there. They’ve only got Pepsi products, which is okay, I suppose, in an emergency. I get a chicken sandwich which isn’t bad, and their fries are like homestyle wedges and are pretty good.

At Mom’s I spackle a hole in the wall near the ceiling in the office. It looks like maybe some foam insulation, around a vent pipe in the wall, is pushing out and caused the hole. I had brought joint compound and a mud pan in case I needed to do a bigger section, but it seems small enough for just spackle. I also change 2 of the 4 burnt out bulbs in the ceiling fan in her bedroom. The other two bulbs are stubborn and won’t come out. And they won’t break either, like the first bulb did, to allow extraction with needle-nose pliers.

More Rob

I can’t understand how my brother became such a dittohead winger freeper. He was a total stoner in high school, and even beyond that. I always sort of viewed his crowd as somewhat akin to hippies, so I thought of them as sort of anti-war, commune-dwelling, free-love kinda folk. Apparently no so.

One guess maybe is that Rob’s political awareness developed during the Carter administration, and so he reacted strongly against Democrats. Whereas I, maybe a year or so later, reacted strongly against Reagan and Republicans. At all plausible? Who knows how these things happen.

So Rob blogs, of course. And as a right-wing blogger he’s totally a member of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders, at various times urging execution of war protesters and genital mutilation of prisoners at Guantanamo.

Happy Birthday, Rob!

My brother turns forty-three today.

When my mother’s dog Nikki got too old, and was unable to even pick herself up, Mom made the decision to have her put down. Rob and I went over to help take her to the vet. I remember standing over Nikki, trying to figure out how to maneuver this smelly old urine-soaked dog onto the blanket so that we could lift her into the car. Rob finally just pushed me out of the way and reached down and wrapped around her and lifted her up gently in his arms.

To me Nikki was pretty much just my mother’s dog — I mean I liked the dog, don’t get me wrong — but Rob was really quite upset about losing his long-time friend. And yet even with that, Rob was far, far stronger than I was at that moment, visibly grieving but not caring or especially noticing the mess or smell while he was helping his friend at the end of her life.

My brother’s a good guy that way.


The casters arrive from McMaster-Carr! I’m really excited.

And, also, I’m pretty darn pleased with McMaster-Carr as a vendor of neat stuff. I had read about them last week in a message on one of the Woodnet forums, where a guy was complaining that he couldn’t order from Grainger without a business account. Someone replied that he should try McMaster-Carr, who let you order by credit card. So out of curiosity I checked out their web site. Way cool stuff.

I’m dying to put the casters on when we get home from work, but first I have to drive to Alexandria VW to pick up our registration that’s finally arrived. I leave around 6:20 p.m., figuring that traffic is going to suck suck suck and that it’s going to take like an hour to get there. But traffic’s fine, a little slow maybe but nothing like the parking lot I was expecting.

I get there about 6:45, in time to stop by the parts counter to ask about replacement windshield wipers. The guy says that front ones are $18.00 and the back on is $12.00. He says I should check their website for a coupon, so I leave without buying any yet.

When I get home I finally get to put the casters on the saw stand, and they don’t really work. The casters attach to the little rubber feet of the stand, and the feet bend and pull off when perched atop the casters. I try using a wooden shim between each caster and rubber foot, but that works only marginally better, which is to say still not good enough. My next option is to try a full board between the stand and the casters. I’m worried about raising the saw too high, but I figure I’ll try like 1/4″ plywood, which isn’t appreciably higher than the 2″ casters are going to be anyway. And the board will serve as a handy shelf too.

Monday Forgetfulness

I get to work and immediately realize that I was supposed to go straight to a seminar before coming to work. I leave my hot cup of coffee on my desk and shuffle outside. I figure I can catch a Circulator bus on K Street, but I spot a D bus to Union Station coming and hop on that instead.

I get to the Four Points Sheraton at 12th & K just before 9:00 a.m., and luckily they’re still doing registration and coffee and continental breakfast. Whew. And there’s further luck in that nobody really likes ever sitting in the front row, except for me because I’m such a huge dork, so there’s a place to sit as well. Then I learn all about how to “Enhance Your TIMSS Investment by Leveraging New Microsoft Technologies.”

Day with the Boys

Dawn and I go to 8:30 a.m. Mass so that we can get home in time for lunch, where my father and brother are joining us. Dad calls from the car about 12:30 p.m., on I-395, just before the 12th Street exit. I guide him to the 6th Street exit. We make pizza for lunch when they arrive. After lunch, Dad, Rob and I go downtown to see the Capitals play the Ottowa Senators. The Senators stomp the Caps 5-2. We come back home for cheese and crackers.

Second Sunday of Lent

God calls to Abraham, and how do you think Abraham answers? Of course! “Here I am.”

It’s also interesting to me how God himself calls Abraham and tests him, telling him to sacrifice Isaac. But then it’s the Lord’s messenger who calls from heaven to stop Abraham and make him the father of great nations and so on. Why not God both times or the messenger both times?

I imagine maybe that there’s something in the original Hebrew text, something denoting how or in what form or way that God usually calls someone. Like maybe it’s always by messenger. I for some reason have the notion that, somehow way back when, one was not supposed to even call God by name. Or just saying God (or “Yahweh”) was in some way sacreligious, or at least a very powerful and rare thing to do. So maybe the original Hebrew text referred to a messenger as calling Abraham in the first place. Or at least the original references were equivalent, when Abraham receives the first message about sacrificing Isaac and then the second message about saving him.

Otherwise, if we should just take the text as it’s written now, I have to wonder: why would God bother to give the first message personally, then delegate the second?

The Gospel reading is the transfiguration, which is always a good time. I love how God says from heaven, “This is my beloved son,” same as he does at Christ’s baptism.

But, now that I thik about it, at the Lord’s baptism, after God says, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased,” he sends the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. See how once again it’s God speaking first and then sending a messenger?

Although in this case the “messenger” is the Holy Spirit, which is God himself in Catholic dogma. But I’m meaning messenger in the sense of how Christ himself refers to the Holy Spirit as the advocate, the “paraclete,” in the Gospel of St. John.

Goodness. Now I have a lot to look up and re-read.

New Fly Machine

We’re up early as usual to go to yoga and the gym like we do on Saturday mornings. I decide to try the WSC located to the north of Dupont Circle. Dawn tells me it’s north of the Italian restaurant with the woman’s picture. So after dropping Dawn off for yoga, I go up Connecticut, past Anna Maria’s. And on the block just before the Washington Hilton, I see my gym.

Parking is marginally better than trying to park down below the circle. I find a spot on T Street across from the Hilton, pretty much directly across the street from the spot where Hinckley shot Reagan. From there it’s a quick half-block walk. And turns out I like this particular WSC a lot, like far far more than the one at Capitol Hill that I tried. They have this cool Nautilus Nitro Pec Fly machine that I thoroughly enjoy, although I’m still sore from it days later.

From there we go to Home Depot and buy railings for our stairway. The stair parts are sold in the same aisle as moldings, like chair or quarter round, and there they have a station with a backsaw where you cut the pieces to length. But the stair railing is something like 3 inches thick, so it’s going to take a while to cut. An employee wandering by offers to use the radial arm saw in the next aisle, and we eagerly accept. But we end up waiting for twenty minutes or so for another employee to finish cuts for other people, and then we finally give up and go back and use the hand saw.

I find some 2″ casters that I like for the Delta TS200 bench saw at home. It’s on a stand that seems like it’s always in the way of using the workbench, so I figure some casters will be a good idea. The casters have 5/16″ – 18 threaded stems, so I find washers and nuts in the hardware aisle. It’s only when we get home do I realize that I’ve left the casters themselves in the hardware aisle, so I’ve got some extra washers and nuts now.

It really bugs me that I’ve forgotten something like that, so I keep telling Dawn that I’m heading back to Home Depot first chance I get. She convinces me finally to order some locking casters online.

We have a really exhausting ballet rehearsal, but it’s good because Rosie’s pretty much got the whole piece choreographed for us now.

When we get home I nail up the other wall of the wainscot. It goes pretty well until I get to the last four pieces. I get too wrapped up in trying to fan them out a little, so that the last one that I’ve ripped narrower to fit at the end will fit nicely. So where before I’ve been nailing up one piece at a time, so that I know where the backing piece is, where to drive the nails, by these last few I’ve lost where that backing piece is and I end up driving the nails in too low. Dawn points this out to me, and I feel awful about it. Then I try nailing the last few up a little higher and I think I nailed too high this time. Aargh. So what I need to do is go back and get a string and stretch it from the end, where I can see where the backing piece is, down to where I also know that I got the nails right, in earlier pieces. But when I go to do that I’ve already unplugged the stapler/nail gun. So I just leave it for next weekend.

Happy Birthday, Allison!

Allison Margaret Scott turns 10 today. This is a very big deal, you know, turning double digits.

Ally’s the daughter of my best friend Gordon and his lovely wife Babs. Gordon worked for Eileen at Crown Books, when she was manager of store #828, when I met him in August of 1983, when I was visiting Linky at her store. He rang up my purchase of a magazine that day as well. He made me show ID and was surprised that I was younger than he was.

Ally was born on a Tuesday. I was living in Atlanta at the time, but happened to be back in town for my brother’s wedding. Tuesday was my day for visiting with Gordon and the very pregnant Babs, and Babs happened to go into labor. So instead of hanging out with them at home or going to a movie or whatever it was that we had planned, I met them at Alexandria Hospital.

And I got to listen to Ally be born, and meet her right away just minutes later. What a treat.

She has perfect attendance at school, unlike her ne’er-do-well father. She also looks less and less like him each day, and more and more like her gorgeous mom.

Simple Lenten Meal

At church we’ve got this thing going on for Lent called Simple Lenten Meals. Every Friday, after the 5:30 p.m. Mass and stations of the cross, there’s a simple meal served down in the north conference room. Today was my committee’s day, the Adult Formation Committee’s day, to serve the meal. Mary Junk and I both made soup, hers minestrone and mine lentil soup. Lentil soup for a Lenten meal, get it?[1]

I had thought that Mary was also bringing some sort of warming tray or, failing that, we could use the rectory kitchen to heat up the soup. But turns out Mary has made her soup this very afternoon. And the rectory kitchen is not available. My pot of soup has been in the fridge all night and day. What can I do?

Luckily there’s at least a microwave in the little kitchen off the conference room. I find two ceramic serving bowls and start ladling the soup into those for nuking. The pot is pretty massive and there’s nowhere else to put the soup. So I have to empty the heated portions back into the big cold pot, then stir it around to transfer the heat, then ladle and heat again. And again. And again. It’s almost warm enough to eat after an hour, when stations are over and people start trickling down.

First down is Barbara Reck, who’s always a treat to see. Pat and Marinella have brought bread and cheese, and Kirse made sure there were pitchers of water in the fridge. So we serve a nice meal to about 45 people. Father Caulfield stops by at one point, as does Deacon Work. It’s also my first chance to park in the church’s parking garage, since I had gone home to get the soup and brought it in the car.

Dawn asks me when I get home if we said grace before the meal. And honestly, we didn’t. It never crossed my mind, actually, and I feel a little bad about that. But the people eating had just come from mass and stations of the cross, so they’d been praying for like the last two hours. And they formed this long chow line, so there wasn’t really any moment proper when everybody began eating at once, a moment to pause and say grace. But still, I feel kinda bad for not having even thought about it.

[1] Turns out that Lent is a shortened form of lenten, derived basically from roots meaning length, as in the lengthening of the days come spring. Lentil, on the other hand, derives from lens, having to do with the shape of those seeds of leguminous plants. Or so says the Online OED.

Construction Update

They’ve put plywood and Tyvek over the framing on the extension next door. Dawn asks how they’re squeezing between the framing and the fence to nail up the plywood and Tyvek. Good question.

Also looks like they’re going up for the second floor of the extension now. I had been secretly hoping that they’d only make it a one-story extension. We’ve seen the plans, of course, and they’re going up three floors, but, still, a boy can hope.

Toilet Hardware

After work I stopped by Candey’s Hardware on 18th Street and bought some toilet bolts. They work pretty well with the Delta bench saw that I have.

I had been planning to buy toilet flange bolts, because of the relatively small thickness of the heads, but I spotted hanging next to those some brass toilet seat hinge bolts that looked like they’d work. I measured the diameter of the heads and it was 3/4″, which is the width of the widest part of the miter gauge T-slots on the saw.[1] The heads on the flange bolts aren’t round, they’re more like oval-shaped, so I was happy to find round but thin and not too wide.

Both sets of bolts come in a package with other hardware, but the seat hinge hardware included wingnuts, which I also wanted. I had been worried about finding matching wingnuts for the flange bolts. And I had been worried about finding bolts that were fully threaded. So I was darned pleased to have the right size bolts, that were fully threaded, and that came in a package with washers and wingnuts. And all for four dollars.

When I got home I tried the bolts in the miter gauge slots and the bolts were just slightly barely too big. But the belt sander was propped upside down in the bench vise, for use as a grinder, so I just fired that up and ground a bit around the head of each bolt until they fit. Then I grabbed my homemade feather board and cut a channel in it. Then I slipped the bolt in the T-slot, put the feather board over that, then popped on a washer and tightend on a wingnut. And now I have a better way to hold down the feather board.

[1] Standard saw slots are 3/8″ x 3/4″. Delta lists the TS200 slots at 5/16″ x 5/8″, but I measure them as 1/4″ x 5/8″. In such measurements, the first number is the depth of the slot, and the second number is the wide of the slot at its narrow point. Below that slot is the wider slot for the head of the (upside down) T, in my saw’s case 3/4″.

The House Next Door

I haven’t mentioned before, but really have been meaning to do so, what’s going on next door to us at 231. It had been an empty shell ever since we moved in, but now finally there’s work being done on it. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they’re bumping it back pretty far and, even worse, adding a third story.

First there was the weekend where guys came to clear out every shred of the place. I had thought it was a shell before, but then they took out the flooring, boards and joists and all. They set up a wide board as a ramp from the back door to a roll-off dumpster in the back yard, and they carted wheelbarrows full of debris to the dumpster. I thought about nabbing a few floor boards later that night. But finally I decided that it would be stealing, even if I thought that they considered it trash. Maybe they were going to sell it to a reclaimer of someone, I guess was my thinking.

Since then it’s been kinda exciting to watch the construction, even though I’m dreading the final product. Or, more precisely, it’s been exciting to see the results of any particular day’s construction when we get home from work. Like what had been some sort of footprint of a previous extension in the back, more recently just ditches to hold mosquito-breeding pools of water, they filled those in with cement for the new foundation. Then they put concrete block on top of that. Then they built the series of floor joists over that. Then they framed the first floor.