Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Address Book Reset

OH how I love my dependence on Microsoft products.

My Microsoft Outlook ate itself.

Spontaneously combusted.


No worky.

I went to the Microsoft support website and followed the instructions how to clear the problem. Great, Outlook starts now.

...but it's starting from scratch.

No old emails.

No address book.


Aaaaaand... it won't talk to gmail anymore. I checked and double-checked the settings, and it refused to connect to my gmail account.

Since I've been using Firefox for a while and prefer it over Microsoft's Internet Explorer, I decided to give Mozilla's Thunderbird a try. We'll see how it goes...

Monday, October 27, 2008

More Ninjas

Man, if you thought the Tobasco Ninjas were scary...

The past two mornings in a row, I've been assaulted by the Underwear Bandits.

Before you get too grossed out, YES, it's at least CLEAN underwear.

I look forward to seeing this up on the big screen when Uncle Jon makes the slide show for YB's wedding someday.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Print Server Follow Up

For those of you who are keeping track, I FOUND my print server! Hooray!

It turns out, not only did the packers for our HHG shipment take it OUT of the printer box, but they also didn't pack it AT ALL. Apparently I totally failed to notice it laying around the house in between the HHG pack out and the UB packout. What can I say? I was a little busy and had a few things on my mind back then.

The result being that I was NEVER going to find it in ANY of the boxes from the HHG shipment.

I found it purely by accident when I was unpacking a box from the UB shipment. Go figure.

So I no longer have to get up and carry my laptop over to the printer and plug it in to print something out. I can sit right here in my chair and just click "print"...

...and hear the gentle whir of the laser printer in the basement spinning out my document (or in this case, my wife's recipe for dinner).

Simple minds, simple pleasures, right?

Exploring Fall Free Family Hike

The Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship offers some really cool educational activities.

Once in the fall and once in the spring, they offer a family nature walk led by Phil Daley. We went on the fall walk with Phil and we really enjoyed it. Phil was great with the kids - pointing things out for them, asking them questions that kept them engaged, picking things up along the trail to show the boys or let them hold. We learned a lot and really enjoyed the walk with Phil.

NEXT SUNDAY, 2 NOVEMBER is the Exploring Fall Free Family Hike with Phil. You're required to register in advance so he knows how many people are coming.

I'm disappointed it's on a Sunday this year and conflicts with our church plans, but if you are able to go, I highly recommend taking the walk with Phil.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Unintended Consequences Part III

One of my favorite parts about being a Dad is the conversations I have with ES about American history and U.S. Government. Back during our Wiliwilinui Ridge hike, ES told me he wants to be President someday. He asked me,

"Daddy, if I'm president, can I outlaw smoking?"

This sent us our conversation off on a tangent about federal versus state government and ways how the federal government can get the states to make laws. For an example, we discussed how the federal government wouldn't share its money for highway improvements unless the states made their drinking age 21. The states all wanted that money for their highways, so they made their drinking age 21. I told ES that he could do something similar. For instance, he could tell the states he has a bunch of money to share for improving schools and libraries, but he wouldn't share the money unless the state wrote a law that banned smoking. He liked that idea.

Anyway, one of the unintended consequences of these discussions with ES came to light recently when we had some friends over for dinner. ES wanted to be a hermit and lock himself in his room. I told him that was rude and he wasn't allowed to lock himself in his room. He felt he was being oppressed, so he drafted up his own Declaration of Independence and presented it to me that night just before dinner.

(Aside: I meant to take a picture of it to post on my blog, but I got distracted through the course of dinner and forgot, and now I don't know where it is.)

Yeah, so, my son is declaring his independence at the great age of 7 years old.

Is this foreshadowing some more egregious form of civil disobedience in the years to come? I just can't WAIT to see what he's like as a teenager!

Oh, and I almost forgot: That night will go down in history as the first time I've heard my wife quote Monty Python. After I told her about ES's declaration of independence, she said:

'elp! 'elp! I'm bein' oppressed!

Funny thing was, she didn't even realize she had done it. It's become ingrained in her psyche. She's been assimilated by the borg nerd!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Blog Celebrity and Blog Friends

The Naval Submarine League's annual symposium was Wednesday and Thursday this week down at the Tyson's Corner Hilton (just outside the beltway here in the DC area). One of my chiefs from the Mighty MSP was there to receive the Lockwood Award for Professional Excellence. Congratulations and well done, STSC(SS) Sowa! It was good to see you and Heidi and I hope you had a safe trip home.

Wednesday evening, my wife and I went to the Submarine Force Cocktail Party. It was a nice event. Since it was held in conjunction with the NSL symposium, there were booths set up by all the major submarine-related defense contractors with pens, posters, and other goodies to hand out.

The cost and the food were much better this time than last time we went a few years ago. The last time we went, it was like $70 per person and we barely got anything to eat. Okay, okay, I know it's a "cocktail" party, but still. We did NOT get our money's worth that night. This time around though, the tickets were "only" $35 per person and there were several buffet tables of everything from veggies, cheese, and fruit to meatballs, crab dip, and roast beef, plus an open bar.

Anyway, it's not that we went for the food or the booze mind you. It's a great place to run into old classmates and shipmates and friends. We had a good time chatting with several old friends and some of my new coworkers as well.

The surprise of the evening came when one old classmate and friend of mine who I haven't seen in... gosh... at least two years, came up and told me what a big fan he is and that he reads my blog all the time. I was floored. So hello, Chris! It was good to see you Wednesday evening, and I appreciate your positive feedback on my blog. :-)

It makes me wonder who ELSE is LURKING out there reading my blog and not leaving any comments. (You can always email me if you don't feel like posting a comment for others to read).


Today I raised the number of blogger friends I've met in person from one to three. By this I mean people whom I have met through the blogosphere before meeting in person. Samantha and Kelly are in town for the Marine Corps Marathon this weekend, and they met me for lunch in Crystal City.

I tried to give them a wide variety of options for lunch and not corral them into any particular favorite of mine, but we went to an awesome Mexican restaurant. You'd think they read my blog or something.

Okay, okay, so I might have given them a slightly biased assessment of their lunch choices by saying something like, "Well, there's THIS AWESOME MEXICAN RESTAURANT RIGHT HERE (stomp stomp stomp) or we can go into that greasy food court over there."

Sam and Kelly - it was a pleasure to meet you both, and I hope you have a blast with all the MCM festivities going on this weekend. Have a good run on Sunday!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Okay, will someone explain something to me?

What's the difference between the fancy REAL leather shoes at the uniform shop and the Bates synthetic leather shoes?

I mean, the REAL leather shoes cost like 50% more than the pleather shoes, so they must be somehow BETTER than the pleather shoes, right?

I tried them both on.

The REAL leather shoes were stiff, painful, and uncomfortable on my feet. The pleather shoes were instantly comfortable (at least while I was standing there in the store).

Soooo.... the pleather shoes are more comfortable AND they cost less. Why would I buy the REAL leather shoes with the fancy felt bags in which to store each individual shoe? It just doesn't make economic sense to me.

Now, after walking miles around to the Pentagon, my blisters seem to have healed, but the shoes still aren't the most comfortable for doing a lot of walking - especially when you're in a hurry. (Aside: Dontchya love it when a lack of prior planning and/or inadequate staff work by someone else results in a last minute crisis wherein YOU now have to jump through hoops to cover for their goof?)

Chap recommended a pair of Deer Stag shoes for more comfortable walking around the Pentagon. I've been looking for them at a few local stores listed on their website, but no luck finding them so far.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Frivolous Lawsuits & Silly Legal Disclaimers Part II

So we went to Target to pick up a few things.

Walking through the home decorations, I happened upon this cute little globe...

Ask ANY submarine officer (and probably ANY naval officer) what legal disclaimer they would expect to see on ANY geographic product, and I bet you 99% of them will give you the same answer. Come on guys, say it together with me now:

"Not to be used for navigation."

Well, as I slowly turned this cute little globe around in my hand, I came upon a very startling legal disclaimer, and considering how recently I wrote about frivolous lawsuits and the resultant ridiculous legal disclaimers, I burst out laughing.

The Disclaimer:

Oddly enough, this little globe could actually serve as an educational device to demonstrate the challenges of cartography and trying to print a representation of a three dimensional surface on a two-dimensional piece of paper. In this case, those challenges are highlighted by the attempt to cut and fold said piece of paper onto a spherical object to make it look like a globe.

Look!!! The polar ice caps melted and
swallowed Alaska and half of Greenland!

But alas, I can't use it for education.

In order to file a complaint with the manufacturer over their product, I thought I would visit their office in India. Since they didn't say I couldn't use the globe for Navigation, I figured I'd use this handy-dandy globe as my guide to seek out their office...

...but alas, those clever guys at the factory managed to HIDE their home office in Mumbai.

Okay, so as far as get-rich-quick schemes go, I can't really sue the manufacturer since they're in India.

But surely I sue the company that imported the globes, can't I?

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Parenthood Gripe of the Day:

There's nothing like a swift, sudden "hi-YAH!" punch from your rambunctious 4-year old at a perfect right-angle directly between your legs into your crotch to send shockwaves of pain through your body and really wake you up in the morning. Maybe this is just his subtle way of telling us he doesn't want any younger siblings.

Reminds me of a recent video on the Fail Blog.

Moving Gripe of the Day:

Hooray, I can print again!

Before the movers came to pack up our stuff in Hawaii, I specifically packed up my laser printer in the original box it came in with the pieces of styrofoam specially designed to hold the printer in place inside the box. I also specifically packed the print-server in the box with the printer so that I wouldn't have to hunt for it on the Virginia side of our move.

A month later, I saw the printer box come off the moving truck here in Virginia, and I felt a sense of satisfaction and reassurance that I had the ability to print again.

Um... not so much.

I opened the printer box to find that the packers had removed the specially designed styrofoam and wrapped the printer up in packing paper.

And there was no print server in the box.

This meant I had NO printing capability. Besides the convenience the print server provides by allowing us to print from any of our computers on the LAN, it also serves a very important function. My laser printer is an old but very reliable Epson Action Laser 1500 with the old style printer cable.

My wife and I both use laptops now.

Newer model laptops don't have the old standard printer cable plug. They just assume nowadays everyone has USB. ...or a print server.

So now my unpacking quest has been to find the print server. WHO KNOWS what THAT box will be labeled. Any guesses? Like my previous quest to find the iron, the printer and print server were in the closet under the stairs with the iron. You'd think maybe it would have been in the same box with the iron, but no...

Thank goodness our Unaccompanied Baggage (UB) shipment arrived on Thursday.

Aside for anyone not knowing what an UB shipment is: When you move overseas with the military, you get three shipments. Your Household Goods (HHG) shipment is the bulk of your stuff that you are taking with you to your next duty station. Your Non-Temporary Storage (NTS) shipment is stuff you don't think you'll have room for overseas and you're either sending to or receiving back from storage. Then, you get an Unaccompanied Baggage (UB) shipment that's limited to like one or two thousand pounds.

Some people call the UB shipment the "express" shipment because it's a limited weight and supposedly travels via AIR instead of SHIP, so THEORETICALLY it should get there faster than your HHG shipment. So far in our two overseas shipments, neither UB shipment has earned the title of "express." End Aside.

We packed out our HHG shipment near the beginning of August so that it would get across the ocean and meet us in Virginia pretty close to our arrival date. We got the Aloha Furniture and loan locker stuff for the kitchen, and we kept a small amount of stuff at the house to send in the UB shipment just before we left Hawaii - stuff like the bicycle I was riding to work, one of our satellite dish receivers, the X-Box, etc.

Now getting back to the printer story...

We had sent my printer and the print server ahead in the HHG shipment, and kept my wife's printer (okay, so I just think of it as "my wife's" printer because we bought it to replace her old printer that she had before we were married) to send in the UB shipment.

Since our UB shipment arrived this week, we at least have my wife's printer that's a newer HP with a USB cable.

The search continues for the print server though. I just had to share my frustration with the packing company who apparently didn't like my printer packing job.

Again, keeping things in perspective, if this is the worst of the stories that come out of this move, then it'll be a pretty good move. Overall, this move has still been MUCH better than some of our moves inside CONUS.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fall Color Tour

My MIL has been in town helping us unpack and get settled in the house. She had to leave today to drive back up north. So this morning we took a break from unpacking and went to visit a couple of stops on the Loudoun County Farm Tour going up Route 15 on Grammy's way out of town.

First we stopped at the Temple Hall Farm Regional Park. This is yet another one of the wonderful parks of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) that I love. It's kind of hard to see in the photo above, but the yellow sign says the regional park authority is inviting people to "GET LOST!" in the corn maze.

We saw some of these...
and lots of these...
And a bunch of these...
And a few of these...
And lots of these...

We saw many varieties of horses, ponies, pigs, turkeys, and chickens.

The parking lot attendants were pretty intimidating, too.

Man it was COLD out today. Note how ES is bundled up in the picture above. The car dashboard told me it was 58F outside, but it was also WINDY, and the wind was sucking every ounce of heat from the exposed skin of my face and hands.

Activity-wise, they had the corn maze, a pig race, a tractor ride pulling little cars painted like cows, but the thing ES seemed to enjoy the most was the CORN GUN. (Go figure.)

(See the corn flying through the air?)

The corn maze looked like fun, but (a) it cost $10 per adult and $8 per child, and (b) my nose was starting to run all down my face from the cold wind, and I needed to find a kleenex.

Next up, we headed up Route 15 a little ways to the Farmer John's Wayside Fruit and Vegetable market.

It was really cool to see this place after being in Hawaii for so long. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of beautiful things to see in Hawaii, too - especially the tropical flowers and rainbows. Even so, it was good to be back in Virginia. I tried to capture a different kind of rainbow with my camera at Farmer John's.

Let's see... how does the color spectrum go again? ROYGBIV...

Man I missed GOOD, fresh tomatoes while we were in Hawaii.

Red and Orange...






Okay, blue was the one color I had a hard time finding at the farm stand. This was the best I could do.

Indigo and Violet...

Overall, it was a beautiful drive up Route 15 through the Loudoun County countryside.

We said farewell to Grammy as she headed north, and we headed back down to Leesburg to grab some lunch and then home to continue working on things around the house (hanging curtains, installing lights, unpacking and putting stuff away...).

There are many more farms open during the farm tour, and it's going on again tomorrow, so I encourage you to go out and enjoy it if you're in the area.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

NoVA Heads Up! Loudoun County Fall Farm Tour

For those of you in the Northern Virginia area, mark your calendars. Next weekend (Oct 18 & 19) is the Loudoun County Farm Color Tour.

I mentioned before that there is a fall and a spring farm tour in Loudoun County where the farms (and vineyards) open their doors for visitors to see the animals, taste the wine, buy their fresh produce and crafts. It's a wonderful event that we have enjoyed doing a few times. [Aside: I think the last time we got to do it, Loping Squid was with actually with us, wasn't he?]

Anyway, if you go to the website above, you can see a list of the farms that are open, get a brochure, look at an interactive map through Google Maps, etc.

One place I DON'T see on the list this year that has always been one of our favorites is the Chile Man. He's one of the farther-out stops on the tour, but it's worth it. He runs a very large sort of greenhouse with all sorts of herbs and chile peppers for sale. He also makes and bottles his own salsa, sauces, and marinades. Usually, during the farm tour, he has a large table set up with samples of all his delicious stuff and bowls of tortilla chips to dip it in. We love his salsas and marinades and always leave with several bottles.

Chile Man Samples during Spring Farm Tour 2006

Since we've been away for a year, I fear the worst - like maybe his business went under. His website is still up, but the calendar of events on his website says 2005, and an email I sent to his website address got rejected. I'll try calling during business hours and see if there's a response.

Monday, October 13, 2008


After dinner, the boys were running around screaming like banshees and carrying on. For some reason, they adopted "Tabasco" as some sort of a battle cry and were running around the house screaming "Tabasco! Tabasco!"

I was washing the frying pan and casserole dish in the sink and not paying too much attention. It got quiet for a moment, then suddenly they came bursting through the back door into the kitchen and started attacking me while I was standing there at the kitchen sink. ES repeatedly stabbed me in the back with the blunt handle of a plastic comb.

My wife looked at the boys and said, "Did you two just run around the outside of the house in your socks?"

ES looked at her quizzically, like why on EARTH would she ask such a silly question.

"No," he said matter-of-factly, "we walked."

My Shoeless Tabasco Ninja

After I finished cleaned up from dinner (my wife made those awesome chicken enchiladas from Becky's recipe :-9), the boys and I went for a walk to find a nearby geocache.

I think I've mentioned before, but I'll say it again, I love Ashburn and the network of paved walking / jogging trails through the open space areas. This is the perfect time of year, too. There's a very slight chill in the air, but it's not really cold, and the trees are all different shades of green, orange, yellow, and red.

Autumn in Ashburn

Oh, yesterday we went to the outlets in Leesburg and got shoes for the boys. Tonight for our geocaching trek, YB was particularly excited to try out his new shoes.

YB's new fire-truck shoes

One of the fire trucks even lights up! (They gave us 20% off on the shoes since the other one didn't light up and they didn't have another pair in his size - cha-ching!)

We got a lot of stuff done around the house this weekend - unpacking boxes, hanging curtains, hanging pictures, installing motion sensor lights, etc, etc.

I hope you all had a good 3-day weekend, too. Happy Birthday Navy! :-)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Frivolous Lawsuits

I think we've all had one of those moments where you see something, your jaw drops to the floor in amazement and disbelief, and you say to yourself, "Self, that is SURELY the result of some sort of frivolous lawsuit."

The legal disclaimers we see on products today often leave me wondering what the HECK some idiot did that caused the company to put THAT statement on the warning label or user manual.

We have become an "I'm a Victim" society. We seem to think that if the user manual doesn't tell us NOT to do something, then it's okay for us to try it. If it doesn't work out, then we can sue the manufacturer for the physical damages and or emotional trauma that result.

What happened to common sense?

Do you think major corporations today have some sort of "red team" that sits around thinking up bizarre ways people are going to hurt themselves by using the company's product in a totally unintended way?

Why do I ask?

After church today we went to Arby's to lunch.

In the boys' kids meals, they each got an Arby's toy. They're plastic, in the shape of the Arby's hat (I'll show you a picture here in just a sec). One was a magnifying glass, and the other was a pen. (Yippie. Try to contain your excitment. Actually, the kids were pretty excited, although I'm not really sure why.)

These toys came with a little slip of paper instructions with a full length paragraph on how to use the toy. The slips of paper were even unique and specific to the pen versus the magnifying glass, and the last sentence of the paragraph (for both the pen and the magnifying glass) was,

"This is a toy and is not intended to be used as a piece of survival equipment."

Uhhhh... SERIOUSLY???

Arby's Magnifying Glass

I mean, what is the likelihood that someone would see this in their kid's happy meal and say, "Oooh, I need a magnifying glass for my trip to the Amazonian rain forests next weekend!" Furthermore, what's the likelihood that even if that person DID take this magnificent magnifying glass with them, that the magnifying glass would somehow fail to perform it's function? What, does it dissolve in water? Does it melt in temperatures above 90F?

And why is the same disclaimer on the pen instructions? How is a pen supposed to be used as a piece of survival equipment? Only one scenario comes to my mind. Imagine if you will... I'm stranded on a tropical island. I somehow happen upon a scroll of paper and a bottle. Here's my chance to write my distress note in a message in a bottle. I reach into my pocket. Since I ate lunch at Arby's with my family before I got onto the airplane that crashed on this island, I HAPPEN to have an Arby's kid's meal PEN in my pocket. But alas, I recall reading the instructions that came with said pen, and I say to myself, "Self, this is NOT a survival tool. I think writing a distress note for a message in a bottle technically qualifies as an act of survival, so I better not use this pen."


In a momentary lapse of judgement, I USE the pen to WRITE my distress note. My bottle washes up on the shore of a thriving metropolis with the maritime projection capability to rescue me, but the ink faded in the sunlight as it traversed the miles across the open ocean, so my distress note was illegible. Twenty years later when my beard reaches my toes, the staff of CBS arrives on my deserted island looking for a new place to host the next season of Survivor. They take me back to civilization, and I SUE ARBY'S because nobody ever rescued me. ...Only the judge doesn't find in my favor because Arby's specifically stated in the instructions that it's NOT a survival tool.


Well, I can think of some MUCH MORE LIKELY as well as IMPROPER uses of these toys. If it were ME sitting in that corporate red team board room, I would have suggested some alternative legal disclaimers.

How about...

- Do not stick this pen in any sort of electrical outlet.

- Do not stick this pen in a toaster (unless you at least unplug the toaster first).

- Do not use this pen to dislodge any paper jams from your copy machine.

- Do not use this pen to override a safety feature on a power tool.

- Do not stick this pen up your nose.

- Do not stick this pen in your ear.

- Better yet, to cover all the bases, do not stick this pen in any of your bodily orifices, nor those of your sibling, parental unit, neighbor, cousin, friend, acquaintance, random-passerby, classmate, teacher, librarian, school bus driver, grocer, gas station attendant, video rental store clerk, barber, trash collector, IRS agent, pet, farm animal, or zoo creature.

[Light goes off over head!]

Actually, no. I'VE GOT IT!!!

Are you ready for my new get-rich-quick scheme???

I'm going to start a small fire with my eldest son's Arby's magnifying glass, and the fire will accidentally consume some prize possession... Hmmmm, what prize possession shall we throw in accidentally allow to be consumed by the fire? Oh, I've got it! The fire will accidentally consume my youngest son's precious Arby's Kid's Meal PEN!

THEN! I'm going to SUE ARBY'S because they didn't write "Not to be used as a fire-starting device" on the instructions or include a diagram of the fire triangle and proper fire safety watch procedures. Surely the emotional trauma and anguish to YB will be worth a couple of million bucks.


How much did the "victim" in the McD's hot coffee lawsuit get?

Ah, yes, $2.7 million.

Incidentally, I found the answer in this quick summary of the Top Ten Frivolous Lawsuits. They're just totally bizarre.

But seriously... not to be used as a SURVIVAL TOOL????

Backtracking and fulfilling promises

Okay, I promised you the video of YB doing is Elvis Dance at Dave's wedding. Here it is:

Then, I told you about how much fun I had riding the dinocoaster at Legoland three times in a row.

Dontchya like how the lady walks right in front of the camera, then notices my wife with the camera in her hand and STOPS right SMACK in the middle of the field of view?

Then, I told you the video of my wife rolling down the grassy knoll with the boys at our rest stop in Alamosa, Colorado was better than the still photo. Here's that video...

Then, I promised you videos of the Great Wolf Lodge. For those of you just passing by, if you want a sample of what the Great Wolf Lodge was like, then check this out:

For the sake of anyone doing Google searches for the Great Wolf Lodge, I went back and embedded a few of the videos in that blog post. For grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends who want to see ALL the videos from the lazy river and the water slides, go to my YouTube channel and you can watch all the videos.

I think I'm all caught up on uploading videos to YouTube now.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ashburn Restaurant Reviews

Bonefish has been our favorite restaurant in Ashburn ever since it opened.

One time, we went to the Bonefish down in the Chantilly / Fair Oaks neck of the woods for a friend's birthday. It was right after I got off work and I was still wearing my uniform. When it came time to pay the bill, the waitress came to our table and said, "That guy over at that table is the owner of the restaurant [points in one direction], and that guy over at that table is the regional manager [points in the other direction], and they instructed me to tell you thank you for serving our country and that your dinner is on the house." WOW. Cha-ching! Cha-ching! Two thumbs up for Bonefish!

Now, even if that hadn't happened, Bonefish would still be our favorite restaurant in the Ashburn area. The service is always top notch, the food is always to die for, our kids like the food (which is always a challenge, especially at a nice, semi-fancy restaurant), and they have the cool butcher paper on the table and crayons for you to color on the table. Unfortunately, we can't afford to eat there more than for birthday and anniversary-type special occasions.

Now, shifting to the "affordable but good" category, I think we may have another favorite restaurant in Ashburn.

When we left Ashburn for Hawaii about 15 months ago, there was a Mexican restaurant in the corner of the Broadlands shopping plaza. I only got to eat there once before we left, but I liked it. Too bad. It's gone now.

In it's place, there is a new place called Bluz Brothers BBQ.

We decided to give Bluz Brothers a shot on our second night in town. Much to our surprise, the place was empty...

The hostess explained to us that they JUST opened. They didn't have any sort of a grand opening and did a "soft" opening to allow business to slowly build up and let them iron out any kinks and adjust to the workload.

The waiter brought us a plate of some of their home made potato chips with samples of their four kinds of barbecue sauce to try. The potato chips were really good, and I'm not a big fan of potato chips.

The service was prompt, attentive, and friendly. Then again they had enough staff there to serve all the tables and we were like one of two occupied tables in the restaurant that night.

The food was really good. I had the beef briscuit & chopped pork combo with hush puppies and sweet potato fries. The hush puppies were a little blah, but the rest was really good. We were all really excited about the sweet potato fries because (a) the boys like them, and (b) it's the only time LW can come close to getting the boys to eat an orange vegetable.

Their signature drink is something like a "Bluz Tea" which is iced tea mixed with pink lemonade. (Arnold Palmer?) I thought it was pretty good.

The boys liked it so much that they asked to go back a couple of times since then. Then, this week when the truck delivering my car arrived and agreed to meet us at the Broadlands Shopping Center parking lot after I got off work, the boys said they wanted Bluz Brothers for dinner, so we gave in because it was close and easy. So now after two visits, I can say that I still like Bluz Brothers (and there were a few more customers besides us in the restaurant this time).

My one complaint is that the American flag hanging on the wall behind the bar is hanging backwards (the blue field with the stars is supposed to be on the left, not on the right). I pointed it out to our waiter the first night we went, and he went and told someone about it, but it was still hanging the wrong way when we went back this time.

So if you read this and you go to Bluz Brothers, make sure to comment on their flag hanging backwards!

Incidentally, in the process of searching to see if Bluz Brothers had a website, I happened upon this blog of Ashburn Restaurant Reviews. I'm going to have to check it out and compare notes.





A decade.

SO much has happened.

SO much has changed.

I'm so glad you've been there with me through both the good times and the tough times, Sweetie. It's been a blessing to be with you, and I can't wait to see what blessings the next 10 years and more will bring us.

Happy 1oth Anniversary!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

How far did you walk to school?

ES leaving on his first day of 2nd Grade in Ashburn
(He wasn't in the mood to cooperate with a papa-razzi).

The topic of walking to school has come up in conversations in our house recently. My oldest son's walk to school is about a third of a mile.

It got me to thinking, and I said to myself,

"Self, how far did I used to walk to school?"

It sure seemed like a LOOOOOONG walk to me when I was in grade school. So I used the route feature on the Buckeye Outdoors website to measure it.

In Kindergarten through 2nd Grade, I would have guessed off the top of my head that it was at least a mile.

Um, yyyeah, not so much.

It was a whopping 0.35 miles. Man, it seemed a LOT longer than that as a 6 year old.

In 3rd and 4th Grade, I knew it was longer than my previous walk, and I would have guessed it at 2 miles. Nope. It was only 0.9 miles. I only got beat-up by a bully older-kid once while walking home from school though. That's not bad for a two year stint, is it?

In 5th and 6th Grade, it was only 0.4 miles to the bus stop where I caught the bus to school.

In 7th through 9th Grade, I walked 1.35 miles to the junior high school.

In 10th Grade, I walked 1.5 miles to the high school.

[Aside: After that... I got my driver's license. It's amazing how many people become your "friend" when you're in high school and you have a car and a driver's license.]

So how about you? How far did you walk to school when you were a kid?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Another QUICK and really funny blog

If you liked my recommendation to check out the It's Lovely, I'll Take It! blog, then you're gonna like this one, too. It's kind of hard to explain, so just go check it out. I tried picking out one example to paste here for you, but it's just too hard to choose.

I like both blogs for the fact that they're a quick laugh and don't require a lot of reading (unlike most of the other blogs on my blog roll).

(H/T to Loping Squid)

Monday, October 6, 2008

First day in the new job

Today was my first day at the new job.

Man my feet hurt.

I walked 8 blocks from the bus stop to the office, I walked what seemed like miles around the Pentagon doing check-in stuff, I walked from the Pentagon back over to Crystal City, and I walked from the office back down the 8 blocks to the bus stop again.

...Wearing new leather uniform shoes.

...I have blisters the size of Rhode Island.

Other than that though, the first day wasn't too bad.

I hitched a ride to the Dulles North park-n-ride with my next door neighbor and took the Loudoun County commuter bus in to Crystal City. I left the house at 0553 and arrived at the office at 0708, so 1 hour and 15 minutes total door-to-door. It broke down about like this:

13 minute car ride to Dulles North
50 minute bus ride
12 minute** walk to my office

**Update 10/11/08: I figured out there is another bus stop that's a lot closer to my office, like 3 blocks away. It only takes me 8 minutes to walk slowly on my blisters, or 5 minutes if I walk at a brisk pace.

The Loudoun County commuter bus was pretty nice. It's not like it was an hour wasted driving my own car in traffic. I got to read and write emails on my Blackberry during the bus ride in. (Aside: I forgot how dark it is that time in the morning). This afternoon on the way home I read a book. I look forward to making a dent in my "books I wanna read" list.

When I got to work this morning, I admired a beautiful sunrise over Washington, D.C. from the windows of my new office. Then I dove into the bureaucracy and started plugging away at my three different check-in lists and sat through boring security indoctrination videos.

So who the hell is BOB anyway?

I've had the same gosh darn cell phone number for four years now, and all of a sudden I've started getting phone calls out the wazoo for somebody named "Bob." I've started asking the callers who Bob is and how they got my phone number, but they evade the question or hang up. Today I came out of my office to find I had two missed calls from the same phone number, and no sooner did I turn on my cell phone than the phone rang - a NEW call from the SAME number I had already missed twice, and of course it was someone looking for "Bob."

I suppose I need to start screening my cell phone calls. I'll put a message on my voice mail explaining this is NOT Bob's phone and not to call back.

Somebody help me out. What's the difference between a catapult and a torsion catapult?

Did you know there is an annual pumpkin launching contest in Delaware? It's called the World Championship Punkin Chunkin, and it's being held Oct 31st through Nov 2nd this year. The competition is divided into several classes - pneumatic ("air"), centrifugal, trebuchet, catapult, human-powered and torsion catapult to name a few.

Looking at the pictures of last year's event, these contraptions are HUGE. Then again, I suppose they would need to be in order to fling a 10 pound pumpkin as far as possible.

It sounds like a pretty fun event that the boys might enjoy watching if it wasn't way over in Delaware.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Customer Service Ups and Downs

Two shout outs for customer service this week:

First, there was Verizon.

We were supposed to have our home telephone service set up on Oct 1st. Well... Oct 1st came and went and we had no telephone service. My wife called them on Friday to ask what the heck. The customer service rep on the phone said that our service was scheduled to be connected on Oct 1st 2009. LW was understandably exasperated and said, "Uh, NO it wasn't." The guy on the phone got all snooty and rude with her and said, "Well do you want me to help you or not lady?" Nice. So we had to place a new work order to get it hooked up on Monday. Go suck an egg, Verizon!

On the other hand, there was Dell.

The backspace key on my keyboard stopped working. I went to the Dell support website and entered a live chat session with Dell technical support. They walked me through popping off the backspace key and reseating it to see if it would work. It didn't take long at all, and when it didn't work, the rep wrote, "Okay, I'm going to send you a new keyboard." That was Wednesday afternoon.

Thursday about lunchtime, I had a package on my front porch with a new keyboard and easy to follow instructions on how to replace it. AWESOME! I installed it and it worked like a champ. A real live human being called me the next day to make sure I received the keyboard and was able to install it okay and ask if I needed any help.

Two thumbs up for Dell customer service!

My only gripe about Dell (and a very minor gripe at that) is that I received two automated computer phone calls advising me on the shipping status of my repair part... AFTER I had already received the part. You'd think maybe if the DHL tracking service showed the part was already delivered then you wouldn't need to call the customer and tell them their repair part shipped.

Predator Pilots

This is funny...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

AWESOME Geocaching Event


This morning, my lovely wife was VERY kind and allowed me to take a break from unpacking in order to attend a geocaching event here in Ashburn.

Now, normally a geocaching event falls into one of two categories. The first and most common is a meet-and-greet. NoVAGO will typically meet at someplace like CiCi's pizza so you can place faces with names, share stories of geocaching adventures, trade travel bugs and coins, have a raffle for door prizes, etc.

The second is a CITO (Cache-In Trash-Out) event where we do some sort of a park cleanup. I'm going on a quick trip down memory lane here for a moment...

Me and YB at the Scott's Run Park Cleanup Event
January 2006

Me and the boys at the Rappahannock River Park Cleanup Event
August 2006

Me and YB at the Goose Creek Park Cleanup Event
December 2006

Anyway, getting back to the reason I started writing this post...

Here in Ashburn, a friend of ours who goes by the screen name Lion Heart likes to make puzzle caches. He makes wicked and awesome puzzles. I have spent many an hour in my comfy chair trying to solve Lion Heart puzzles.

Today, Lion Heart took his puzzle-making talents to a new level in the event he hosted today.

We all had to be there at 0830 to register that we were going to participate in the hunt and receive our packages of information.

At 0900 he welcomed everyone to the event, explained the basics of the hunt, and set us loose.

Lion Heart Welcoming Everyone to the Event

Inside the information packet was a "Lion Heart Hunt Newsletter." He really put a lot of effort into this and it really looked like a published official type of newsletter.

The Newsletter

On the front page of the newsletter were obvious GPS coordinates for six "Special Points of Interest." Everyone quickly plugged those coordinates into their GPS receivers and headed off to see what they would find there.

At each spot, we found a group of other cachers gathered around a sign with a clue on it.

Cachers trying to figure out one of the clues.

This was the first clue. It was a pretty easy one. Can you figure it out? (You're supposed to get a number out of each clue. I'll put the answer below).

On the next one, there was a picture of a butterfly. Well, in the newsletter was a page with an article about "Where do butterflies come from?"

This was at the bottom of the article on butterflies in the newsletter.

Also in our information packet was an advertisement card to a free class on Butterfly Enclosures at the Ashburn Nature Center.

This was the advertisement card that was in our information packet.

This is where I became REALLY glad that ES came with me on this hunt.

He figured it out!

There were three holes in the advertisement card, and they happened to line up with three of the butterflies on the article in the newsletter and revealed a number we had to write down.

The clues lined up to reveal the number 70.

ES didn't really help on the rest of the stages, but it's sort of like a golf scramble and playing "best ball" - as long as your team uses YOUR ball ONCE during the day, then you've contributed to the TEAM effort. Even so, thanks to his early on success at the butterfly puzzle, he was enthusiastic about helping with the remaining puzzles and didn't gripe about being hot or hungry or thirsty or tired or bored until we got to the final stage and found out we hadn't won (we were the 4th team to find it). It even made his "favorite part of the day" during bedtime prayers.

ES examines the clue at Stage 5

In other stages, there were pretend business advertisements in the newsletter that just so happened to have the same address as where the GPS coordinates led you. For example, on one of the clues it asked what Napoleon insisted his officers have in the field besides coffee, and the advertisement that corresponded to that address was a chocolate shop.

The last stage really threw us for a loop. Check this out...

Can you figure it out?

Hint #1: There's NO MATH involved in this one.

Hint #2: At that address, there was an advertisement in the newsletter for a brew pub offering "close to 100 varieties of beer."

Answers to stages 1 and 6 above:
Stage 1: Out of all the numbers on that page, only one of them was a prime number: 3.
Stage 6: If you push those keys on a telephone, they play the song "Ninety Nine Bottles of Beer on a Wall." The number we were looking for there was 99.

After the first six stages, we all had to go back to the beginning to get the final clue from Lion Heart himself, and that gave us the last piece of information we needed to go find an actual physical geocache (that ended up being in his own front yard).

Thank you Lion Heart for all of the time and effort you put into this puzzle / event. What an AWESOME and FUN morning we had!