Saturday, July 31, 2010

Farewell Trusty Steed

For the past six years, my family has been truly blessed to have an Acura MDX as our family car.  It has served us tremendously well, and I will forever have countless good memories of the road trips and adventures we have embarked on together in our MDX. 

Heck, we've had the MDX as long as my Youngest can remember.  He was only 9 months old when we moved from San Diego to the DC area and bought it when we arrived here.  Our Eldest was only 4 years old, so he vaguely remembers the car we had in San Diego, but not much.

My wife and I have developed a pattern of alternating upgrading our cars over the years.  We have orchestrated it so that we have one car that's paid-off and one car with a monthly loan payment.  Each time we pay one off, we shop around to upgrade the other one.  This time it was my wife's turn to upgrade.  We still loved our MDX, but we just had the 75,000 mile service done and it is going to need some work in the not too distant future, so we decided it was time to upgrade again.

Farewell trusty steed, you have served us well.
 (sniff, sniff - dabs at corner of eye)

Up next...

Adventures in car salesman psychology tactics.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I'm alive

Hey folks,
     Sorry my blog posting has been light lately.  I blame summer vacation and new toy syndrome.
     Back when the boys were in school, they had a bedtime that allowed my wife and I to have a few hours to ourselves between them going to bed and us going to bed.  That was the main time I was writing blog posts.
     Now that the boys are out of school for the summer, we've been letting them stay up later.  We've been enjoying the time together.  We used to only do family movie night on Friday or Saturday nights (not school nights).  Now that they don't have to get up for school in the morning, we've been having a lot of family movie nights.  Actually we've sorta run out of movies per se, but we've become big fans of Netflix on the X-Box.
Netflix has a lot of movies and TV shows you can watch instantly through the internet, and we've been working our way through a bunch of old TV shows that my wife and I used to watch when we were kids.  During the day the boys have been watching an episode of Knight Rider with my wife.  In the evenings, they've been watching an episode of Quantum Leap with me.  Tonight we watched my favorite episode of Amazing Stories from Steven Speilberg, "The Mission."  It's about a B-17 bomber crew flying a mission over Germany.  I actually had this episode recorded on a VHS tape when I was a kid and watched it several times, but it had been a long time since I had last seen it. I was quite surprised to notice the cast included Kevin Costner and Kiefer Sutherland
     Anyway, sorry, end of tangent.  The POINT was that now I only have about an hour between putting the boys to bed and my own bedtime because I still have to get up for work in the morning.

     Another factor has been new toy syndrome.  My wonderful wife picked me up a Kindle off of Woot.
     I wasn't so sure about it, but my wife got a great deal on it, and I figured I'd at least give it a try.

     Oh my gosh, I LOVE IT! 

I've always been one to work on several books at once.  Every once in a while, I get really engrossed in a book and can't put it down until I finish it.  See for example, "Ender's Game."  Most of the time though, I have several books that I rotate through depending on my mood.  For example, right now I happen to be working my way through three books:

"The Book Thief"  THIS is an AMAZING story.  It's the story of a girl growing up in Nazi Germany, and it's narrated by...  well...  that might be a spoiler.  It's just an extremely thought-provoking and well-written book.

    "Last Child in the Wilderness"  This is a really good book about how our society is changing because we don't spend anywhere near as much time outside as our ancestors did.  It's got some interesting insights on the societal changes that brought it about and on the unintended consequences of it on our children and our society as a whole.  The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) blog had a similar post about this topic and also cited this book.

      "Managing Maintenance Error."  This book was recommended to me by a fellow submarine officer, and someone I look up to as a mentor.  It's an EXCELLENT book, and I wish I had read it before becoming a department head.  The title may sound a bit boring, but I have found the subject matter fascinating.

             It becomes problematic for me when we want to go anywhere on a vacation, and I always want to bring several books with me.  They quickly add a lot of weight to one's baggage.  I always have trouble picking out just one to put in my carry-on bag for reading on an airplane.

             Enter the Kindle.

        I can now carry untold dozens of books with me in something the size and weight of a single paperback.  It's AWESOME.  I've always liked to carry a book with me wherever I go.  Long line at the DMV?  Bring it on!  I just open my book and read.  The Kindle has just reinvigorated that habit for me.  I carry it almost everywhere now.
             In other news, we are in receipt of orders once again.  This time the Navy is sending us to the Pacific Northwest, and we're pretty excited to live someplace where the houses are affordable, AND the commute isn't bad, AND the schools are good.  That'll be a first for us.
             As a result, we're in that stage of the PCS-cycle of military life (moving every 2 to 3 years) where the weekends we have left in our current duty station are numbered, and the calendar quickly fills up with all sorts of things you want to do before you leave.
             We're supposed to break heat records this weekend in the DC area.  Yuck.  I'm sorry to say the extreme heat tomorrow will prevent any attempt to get out hiking, biking, or kayaking.  However, I'm very excited to see some dear Navy friends of ours coming up to visit from Norfolk.  We went to church together in San Diego when R and I were both department heads there.  As much as it hurts to say goodbye to our friends each time the Navy moves us to a new duty station, it's always a joy to be reunited with those old friends when you cross paths at new duty stations.

             I hope you all are enjoying your summer, and I hope it's not nearly as HOT and HUMID as it has been here in the DC area.

             Oh, two administrative notes on my blog:
             1. I've finally surrendered to turning on comment moderation.  Those annoying comment spammers just keep leaving CRAP in my comments.  I think I've deleted like two dozen spam Chinese comments from my last blog post about our Shenandoah kayaking trip.  I apologize to those of you who leave legitimate and thoughtful comments, but there shouldn't be too much of a delay.
             2. You'll notice the book links above.  I have written before that nobody is paying me to write about anything in my blog.  My recommendations for books or any other product are my honest opinions.
            That being said, Blogger has added this nice link-to-Amazon feature, where if you mention a book, it will include an image of the book cover and a link to the Amazon website.  IF you should click on the link and purchase a copy, then I will get some small compensation from Amazon.  I don't think that compromises my assertion that my recommendation of the book is my honest opinion that it's a good book, right?  It's just offering you a quick and easy way to click on a link IF you desire to buy the same book from Amazon, that's all.

        Alright, I've talked your ear off enough for one night.  It had been long enough that at least my one most faithful and devoted reader started to complain that I hadn't posted anything in weeks.  Hopefully we'll be going on leave up to New Hampshire again for a couple of weeks in August, and I'll have more outdoor adventures to write about then.

        In the meantime, I'll be enjoying our air conditioning.  :-)

        Saturday, July 3, 2010

        Paddle Log #16: Shenandoah River

        This morning, I dragged the boys out of bed at 6:30 a.m., threw them in the car with some Dunkin Donuts, and we headed west to the Shenandoah River.  We went with Ben and some of the same guys who went with us on the Goose Creek trip we did last summer

        Self-Portrait under the Route 7 bridge 
        over the Shenandoah River

        We met at the public boat ramp parking area under the Route 7 bridge over the Shenandoah River, about five miles east of Berryville, VA (see Ben's map of the Shenandoah River).  There was plenty of space here.  When we had our rendez-vous at 7:30, we were the only ones in the parking lot.  When we got out later though, there were at least a dozen cars in the lot and just as many kayaks and canoes laying around everywhere.

        We left a couple of cars there under Route 7 for shuttling people back to the put-in point, then we drove down past the Watermelon Park to another public boat ramp about five miles upstream of Route 7.

        It was a gorgeous day out.  I couldn't have asked for better weather.  Temperature started out around 70F and gradually climbed to about 82F by the time we got out.  The thermometer said the water was 76F, but it felt like bath water.

        There were about ten kayaks in our group.  This was my eldest son's second time out in his solo Perception Acadia Scout kayak, and he did really well.  He especially liked flying through the light rapids, saying, "wheeeee!" 

        Photo by Ben

        Level-of-difficulty wise, this trip was similar to the Goose Creek trip we did last summer although considerably shorter.  There were about four short stretches of water where the current picked up and we brushed up a few rocks here and there.

        The water level was very low, so a couple of times I had to get out and pull our boat across the rocks. 

        The waterproof doodle pad continues to be a hit.

        So does nap time.

        ES self portrait.

        At the end of our paddling trip today, ES told me, "Daddy, this was funner than most of our other kayaking trips."  Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!  Success!!!

        Semi-traditional feet photo.

        Some stats for the paddle log:
        • Date: 3 July 2010
        • Time In: 8:30 a.m. (approx)
        • Time Out: 10:45 a.m. (approx)
        • Elapsed: ~2 1/4 hours
        • Moving Time (GPS):  1 hrs 58 minutes
          Stopped Time (GPS):  20 minutes 56 seconds
        • Mileage: 5.21 miles by GPS
        • Sea State: 0
        • Winds: 0-5 knots - just an occasional light breeze
        • Air Temp: 70F initially then climbing to 82F when we got out.
        • Water Temp: 76F - felt like bath water
        • Current:   (Discharge) 540 cf/s (very low - less than half the median daily value) (source)
        • Gauge Height:  1.5 feet (source)
        • Avg Speed (GPS):  2.6 mph
        • Max Speed by (GPS):  6.8 mph
        • Rapids?  There were about four spots with some light rapids.  The most significant was right by Watermelon Park. 
        • Hazards?  None.
        • Kit: Second time for ES in his Perception Acadia Scout.  ES had previously complained about water dripping on his legs tickling/itching, so I sent him with a soft sponge this time and he seemed happy.  YB and I rode in our Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL. Flop hat, sunglasses, NRS paddling gloves. Short sleeve shirt, swim trunks, Keen sandals.
        • Configuration: I started out sitting in the back with YB in the front.  I put my soft lead weight belt for scuba diving in the forward storage hold as ballast to keep the bow down and to make up for ES not riding in the kayak with us anymore.  Even so, I felt like our bow was pretty high up, and I figured that was why we were scraping bottom on so many rocks back at my end of the boat.  So mid-way through the trip, I shifted to the middle seat.  It was a lot more comfortable and kept us more on an even-keel.
        • Route:  Put-in at a public boat ramp a few miles upstream of the Route 7 bridge and took out at the public boat ramp under the Route 7 bridge five miles east of Berryville, VA.    

        • Other comments (such as wildlife spotted): Great Blue Herons, dragonflies, tadpoles, fish jumping out of the water, water bugs.  Somebody else in our group saw a snake in the water.
        After we finished loading up the car, we headed into Berryville in search of lunch.  Berryville is a very pretty little town with lots of red brick and old architecture.

        The boys wanted pizza, so we went to Mario's.  It was extraordinarly good pizza.  I highly recommend it if you're ever passing through town.  The boys both ate like horses.  Well, maybe not like horses, but they ate significantly more than they usually eat. 

        Then, our 6 year old YB who NEVER sleeps in the car (cue Gilbert and Sullivan, "What never?  No never!  What never?  Hardly EVERRRRR!")...

        Long Day

        Thursday, July 1, 2010

        Have a Great 4th of July Weekend!

        MCPON put out an outstanding public service announcement for this weekend.  Check it out:

        I couldn't agree more.  Like I told my crew every Friday at quarters on the pier - don't allow yourself to end up in a position where YOU have decide if YOU are "sober-enough" to drive home after YOU've already been drinking.  Drinking impairs your judgment and you're likely to make a bad-call in the interest of convenience. 

        Follow MCPON's advice and HAVE A PLAN how you are getting home BEFORE you go out.

        That being said, I have also frequently told my crew that I know sometimes plans go awry.  You had a designated driver and next thing you know, you look across the bar and there is your "designated driver" putting down shots of tequila. 

        That's okay.  Not your fault.  There are other SAFE alternatives available to you such as calling a taxi cab or a friend.  I think there are a lot of people like me around who would rather you called at 1 a.m. in need of a safe ride home than have to attend your funeral because you didn't call / didn't want to wake me up at 1 a.m.

        Along the same lines, here in the DC area, there is a safe ride home program.  From 10 p.m. Sunday July 4 until 6 a.m. on Monday July 5, call the SoberRide program at 1-800-200-TAXI to get a free ride home (up to a $50 fare).  If you aren't in the DC area, then google it for your home town.  Take the number with you JUST IN CASE.

         Have an awesome 4th of July holiday weekend everyone!