Sunday, January 30, 2005

Bleah (Part II). Cold Weather (Again). Ice (Again). But No Sick Kids.

Well. Here we are in the midst of another winter storm. At least this time the girls are over what turned out to be a full week of fever, coughing, stuffy noses and general malaise.

Unfortunately, mother nature has let us down in the snow department. We woke this morning to freezing rain and icy sleet. It's too ugly out for my usual digital camera offerings, so I decided to visit the Delaware Department of Transportation traffic camera web page and see what the weather looks like around the rest of the state.

Upstate, in New Castle County, winter looks the way it should.

In Kent County, looks like they got a fair coating of new snow. It's hard to tell if it has stayed snow; this view rather suggests rain. That's the WaWa I often walk to for lunch, by the way.

Here in Sussex County, at least in the east, we see just freezing rain soaking into minor snowfall and a layer of sleet.

It is weather like this that brings up for us the notion of moving our lives to somewhere like Vermont.

Friday, January 28, 2005

A Bad Idea

The brain trust at The Learning Channel has let Paige Davis go from Trading Spaces (In 'Spaces' Makeover, It's Curtains for Paige (Washington Post; Reg. Req.).

A "new creative direction" towards a host-less version of Trading Spaces. Nope. Sorry. That's probably not going to fly.

They lost Vern, but we came back. They lost Ty, and we came back. I think, though, that Paige has an awful lot of fans who probably won't come back.

Give Ms. Davis (actually Mrs. Mindy Paige Davis Page) credit for class, though. Her farewell statement -- posted both on her web site, above, and the TLC site -- takes the high road.

I have to confess that this was in the news earlier than today. I simply had missed it until I came upon a photo with a caption about the firing on the Washington Post web site this evening. It was one in a series of news photos I was flipping through after having enlarged a photo of a glowering VP Cheney in a bulky parka at a Holocaust memorial event in Europe.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Looks Like They'll Be More Careful This Time

Molly Murray has two stories in today's News Journal on the issue of dredged-up archeological artifacts. In the main story, Beach work mindful of artifacts, she discusses the various precautions planned by the state and by the US Corps of Engineers as they prepare to dredge sand from the ocean floor to replenish Delaware's Atlantic beaches.

There's also a companion piece, Lewes artifacts may be from 2 sites, which looks at what has been learned from the artifacts that were accidentally dredged-up from the Delaware Bay floor late last year.

As a Lewes resident, and with some interest in history and archeology, I've been watching this story and posting links to coverage of it in the past few months. There's at least one person out there with strong feeling about this issue. He, or she, prefers to remain anonymous in his, or her, comments. And they are fairly strong comments.

I hope my anonymous commenter will take some comfort from the precautions outlined in Molly's longer piece this morning. I believe that the folks running these dredging programs are trying to avoid a repeat of what happened off Lewes Beach and I give them credit for their efforts.

It may be because I am a state employee. It may also be because I worked for several years with some of the DNREC players in this story back in the early 1990s. But I have to say that I am confident that the people at DNREC, and even the feds on this project, are not evil people. They are people, and they are trying to do their jobs, serve the people of the state and protect the environment and the heritage of the state.

Stuff happens. There are always mistakes in life. What would be a problem is if we didn't try to learn from our mistakes and avoid repeating them.

Delaware Route 1, east of Milton, 7:00 a.m., January 26, 2005.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

I'm Not Sure Why I Noticed This, But...

When you hold a logo pen in your left hand, the logo is upside down. Are we writing-off left-handed folks when we market by pen? Or are southpaws simply used to this sort of thing?

Monday, January 24, 2005

An Icy Day

I had a meeting this afternoon at the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control -- DNREC -- where I started my career as a state employee many, many years ago. DNREC's offices are in a converted factory complex and surround a very pleasant courtyard.

Today the eaves along the perimeter were sheathed in ice and sported impressive icicles. Of course, I had to take a photo or two.

Bleah. Cold Weather. Ice. Sick Kids.

Here we are with temperatures outside down at about 10 degrees and kids inside running high fevers and coughing away. There is a sheet of ice over all outdoors. What fun.

At least state government offices are opening late, so I can stay home and help with the first hour or so of nursing. I guess I'll try to clear my calendar this week so I can take a few full day's of sick-kid duty.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

10:00 a.m. (Day Two)

Things look a little nicer this morning. It was a cold and windy night, but slight snow showers have dressed the ice up and made it a bit more pretty.

Looks like nasty day on the roads, though. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next day or so with schools. Around here, the main roads get cleared fairly well when this sort of storm happens. It's the back roads, however, where most of the students live, that stay ugly. My money is on at least a major delay on Monday.

And how did Christina's snow-girl fare?

Two things are clear. The prevailing wind in this storm has been in this poor snow-girl's face. And ice is heavy, heavy stuff.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

5:48 p.m.

Crap! Freezing Rain. It didn't change back to snow.

To our north and west, this wet was all snow, and lots of it. In coastal Sussex County, we have puddles instead and should have iced slush in the morning. Curse you, warming influence of the Atlantic Ocean.

All the have-to-stay-at-home and none of the pretty-white-fluffy-world. Crap.

3:00 p.m.

It's just recently switched over to freezing rain, with a hint of sleet. Icky. Christina did get a chance to get out and make a snowman.

Well, a small snow-girl, in point of fact.

1:30 p.m.

It's been snowing since about 11:00 a.m. Just returned from Milford and the SAT's. A fine, but not quite powdery snow. Quickly coating the roads. The main road, State Route 1, was mostly snow-covered. Some places (where the road crews are better, I guess) were more wet than snowy. Saw only one vehicle in a ditch; an SUV, of course.

The SAT!

Wow. This morning I dropped Colleen at Milford High School to take the SAT. She's only in seventh grade, but is taking the test as a part of her application for the Academic Challenge program.

The school lobby was loaded with high school kids there to take the test in their normal course of college applications. Luckily, the test administrators called all the seventh grade takers over to one side and set the kids up fairly quickly in their own testing rooms.

It was a strange feeling to leave her there to take a test that I still associate with that period in my life when I was making the transition into adulthood. She's still a kid, but she's very bright and she's more grown-up every day.

And I get older too.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Inauguration Day, 2005

Mom and Dad taught me: if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

I hope folks are bundled up for the parade. I hope they don't get too cold.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Let It Snow

We finally got snow in Delaware. I welcome it, though I was saddened to learn that there was a fatal wreck on Route 113 today, caused by the weather.

This has been an odd winter. Conditions have been all over the weather map, from 60s one day to 30s the next. Our collective sinuses are taking a beating.

Today's snow was light, only a dusting really. But it was a pretty snow. The cold that finally settled over us in the last few days brought the ground temperatures down low enough that this snowfall stuck and did not melt. It also fell as fine light snow, rather than the clumpy wet stuff we often get in this part of the world where winters are generally warmer.

Above is a shot from late afternoon, looking north up Route 30, towards Milford. I pulled over in an old parking lot about halfway between Milford and Milton to see if I could get some sort of photo. It was my only chance to stop on my way to get Christina from her dance class, so I took the best shot I could.

I realize that this just isn't much snow, after all, I learned my snow-driving skills in central Maine. But for Delaware, especially downstate. A snow like this, especially given hat it quickly covered the roads and packed down, is a rare chance to slip and slide.

The drive home was slow and cautious. People here are not used to driving in snow, though they get some practice. About half of folks drive way too slow and the other half way too fast. I try to lead by example; not so slow as to be an obstacle but not so fast that I can't plan ahead, slow down and stop without having to slam on the brakes or yank on the wheel.

It's all about control.

Monday, January 17, 2005

A Day at the Circus

Sunday evening, Karen and I took the girls to the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center (such a grand name) in Salisbury to see the new Hometown Edition of "The Greatest Show on Earth!" This is a one-ring version of the classic Ringling Brothers circus, scaled to smaller venues and designed to involve more of the audience in the experience.

This "Greatest Show" starts with a chance to meet and greet with the performers for an hour before the show actually starts.

This is a view across the one ring to the entrance/exit to backstage. The "orchestra" sits above, with several levels for the clowns and ring-master to play with.

In this circus, the ringmaster was also a snake-handler and alligator wrangler. This is a baby snake -- a python? -- that he whipped out of a basket just by our seats. The folks two rows ahead of us immediately sprang from their seats and headed for the exit when this snake came out. Here, the snake calmly regards Christina, who had the aisle seat.

There were just a few clowns, but they were very talented. This fellow had a recurring musical theme and, at one point, brought a young girl out of the audience, dressed her in a red hat and tailcoat, and had her play along. No, I didn't get a good picture.

They made a great point of talking about the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation. There were only two elephants in this circus, a few trained dogs and three or four horses. They seemed happy enough. There were protests earlier in the run, by local students concerned for the animal's well-being. We did not see any protestors on Sunday night.

A good time was had by all.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Terrible Towel Miracle!

I have a new favorite sportscaster, at least for the moment: Myron Cope, color commentator for radio broadcasts of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I'm a huge fan of Sam Huff and Sonny Jurgenson, who broadcast the Redskins. As a lifelong 'Skins fan, I won't be abandoning Sam and Sonny anytime soon, but I will adopt Myron for this year's play-offs. After all, the Redskins just aren't there yet.

I enjoy listening to sports on the radio. I had a brief radio career, so I know something of the art, and I got started in that career running the board for a small station in Waterville Maine for radio broadcasts of Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins and Celtics games in the early 80's. What I know of baseball I really learned from listening to Jon Miller, back when he was a radio man.

I stumbled on Myron Cope by accident last night during a parenting odyssey across south-central Sussex County. Christina was due at a birthday party from 5 to 8 in Selbyville. Colleen was invited to another from 7 to 10 about half an hour north in Millsboro.

So, of course, we left Lewes at 4:00, picked up one of Colleen's compatriots (Miriah, who's Mom would handle the late-night pick-up and bring-home), and drove to Selbyville. We dropped Christina in a garage booming with loud country music in Selbyville for a 9th birthday party, with dancing. We took Colleen and Miriah up to Millsboro where we had a gala dinner before dropping the two at a 14th birthday party in a garage booming with rock music. Then we drove back to Selbyville where we picked up a danced-out Christina, and so back home, at about 9:00 p.m.

Somewhere in there, I started wandering the AM radio dial looking for the Jets/Steelers game. That's when I heard Myron. Myron Cope has that raspy/gravelly western Pennsylvania accent that I first heard from my Father-in -Law John Hudack. I always enjoy watching ball games with John because his take on the games is no-nonsense, straightforward, and of the "Look-a that, willya?" variety.

That's Myron Cope. Except with Cope you add a crazed hyper-excitement. This was doubly true at the end of the Jets game. We got to hear the Jets try a long field goal with time running out to break a tie; it missed, just outside. And Cope went nuts. I'm not sure I've ever heard someone in broadcasting get so excited that he went entirely beyond human language, but Cope did.

To get a general idea of the sound, have a listen to some of the samples on Arlin's Copeisms and Exclamations page. Yoi! He credited the miss to the magic of the terrible towels being waved by fans throughout the stadium. That magic, he explained, is really reserved for play-off games. It seemed to hold through overtime as the Steelers went on to win, 20 to 17.

It was all terribly exciting. Now I have an AFC team to root for. I guess I'll have to root for the Eagles in the NFC and hope for an all-PA superbowl.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

And Then the Fog Lifted

The fog finally lifted this morning. We got up close to 70 degrees today, which is absurd for January, but there was some sunshine, and some patches of welcome blue sky.

This is the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve (DNERR) Center, just outside of Dover. I was here for a meeting for most of the day. The DNERR is a state/federal partnership to preserve a large estuarine area for research and recreation. This is on the St. Jones River, where is winds through a broad tidal marsh and out to the Delaware Bay. It's a beautiful site.

We spent the whole day in this building, working our way through a technical document on water quality. It was a good and productive meeting, but I do wish we'd had some reason to wander the nature trail here. A warm day in January. Sunshine. No bugs.

I did have a few moments, as the meeting broke up, to try a few artistic shots out in the parking lot.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A Foggy, Foggy Day

It was a foggy day today in Delaware. This was the countryside west of Dover at about noon.

It was so foggy that our local TV newscasters dedicated fully the first five minutes of their 10:00 p.m. newscast tonight to video of the fog, a special weather report, and several reporters along several fog-bound roads across Delmarva telling us gravely to slow down, be careful, and watch out for puddles.

Yes, it was a major weather story in our area tonight. Not as serious as tens of feet of snow, as in the mountain west; mudslides, as in California; or a tsunami. But a serious story none-the-less.


Fare Well, Tim Fannin. And Thanks!

Arts school principal planning move to Florida (Delaware Wave Newspaper)

Here's a story on Tim Fannin's pending retirement from his position as principle at the Southern Delaware School of the Arts (SDSA).

Tim's been there since the school started seven years ago. So has my eldest daughter Colleen; she's now a seventh grader. My youngest, Christina, is a third grader and my wife Karen is in her second year at SDSA as a special education teacher.

Tim's a good man, and I think he's been a good principle. We probably don't agree on much in most parts of life, Tim and I, but I think we mostly agree on education. At least the on-the-ground, in-this-school-building ones.

I can say that my child has blossomed academically and artistically in the school he's run for seven years.

I wish him well, and say "thanks" for helping start what is a wonderful, successful school.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Serenading the State House

Today was the first day of the 143rd Delaware General Assembly. Colleen helped open the proceedings in the state House of Representatives as part of the Southern Delaware School of the Arts 7th and 8th grade choir. Karen was along as teacher, chaperone, and sound engineer. I took time off from my job across the St. Jones River from Legislative Hall and wandered over to listen, watch, and take pictures.

That's what Dads do.

The kids came up by bus and, after they cleared security, cooled their heels in a meeting room just off the House Chamber. When I got there, some of the other parents were wandering around wondering how to get into the Chamber to watch.

The House Sergeant at Arms and his crew were fairly stressed trying to make sure that the families of all 41 of the elected Representatives had a place to sit in the Chamber or in the Gallery above to watch their wives, husbands, moms, dads, daughters, or sons sworn-in to their two year terms.

There were no seats to be had and no standing in the back. In the end, we were able to watch quietly from the doorway of the room in which the kids had been kept. We were off to the side and way in the back, but able to listen, watch, and take pictures.

That's what Dads do.

The kids opened with the Star Spangled Banner. They sang Amazing Grace, and a Broadway tune. They closed with a medley of patriotic favorites. They sang well, despite the cramped and crowded conditions. They sounded very good.

Credit is due to their music teacher, Lou Ann Hudson. I enjoyed watching her helping the kids through the music. At one point, she had to slow down a group of boys with good voices but a tendency to rush the tempo. She reined them in and prodded the rest of the choir back into rhythmic line and brought them home in one piece.

Normally, Legislative Hall on opening day is the last place I want to visit. The first day is a day of ceremony; a time for the Senators and Representatives and their families. The real work begins the next day.

But with Colleen and her classmates performing in the House I had to be there. To listen, watch, and take pictures.

It is, after all, what dads do.

Sunday, January 9, 2005

We Return to Oak Orchard

Saturday, Colleen was off at a church youth group sleep-over, so Karen, Christina and I decided to try a new restaurant. We chose Serendipity, a new restaurant on Indian River at Oak Orchard. On this aerial photo/map, the restaurant is located along the shoreline, somewhere between the labels for Riverdale Park and Oak Orchard.

(Map created using the Delaware DataMIL).

We had heard good things about this restaurant, and we always try to check out the new eateries during the off-season, so we headed out Route 24 from Lewes towards Millsboro and down to Oak Orchard. The place was very nice. The decor was classy, the room was comfortable, and the food was very good and very plentiful.

This is a restaurant I would like to return to; especially during daylight hours when I think the view across the River will be rather nice. The place does breakfast and lunch, and may be far enough from the main drag of the beach resorts to make it a possibility at least in the early part of the summer season.

It was interesting to head back to Oak Orchard. I had been through there a few times doing "field" tours when I was at the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. Oak Orchard is home, further inland, to the annual Nanticoke Indian Powwow and remains a region of Sussex County that is home to members of that tribe. The Nanticoke Museum is just up the road. We've made it to a few of the annual Powwows and I have gotten to know some of the leadership of the tribe through work.

I also understand that the area was home to a thriving orchard industry in the early part of the twentieth century, before chickens and tourists became the dominant economic sectors in eastern Sussex County.

What I found fascinating driving through the area this week-end, though, is the extent to which this place has remained a small waterfront village, even in the face of exploding development all around it. A major, gated community, the Peninsula, is going in just to the east, on the other side of Emily Gut. And, if I remember correctly, there was a site plan under review in 2004 for a development (The Moore Farm Project, 196 residential units on 56.71 acres ) on that rectangular farm field covered by the label for "Captain's Grant Mobile Home Park" above.

And yet, the waterfront remains pretty much as it was. I wonder how long it will last?

Friday, January 7, 2005

Joe McHugh, I Salute You!

I see that Bethany Beach Mayor Joe McHugh has decided to step away from the helm after seven years leading the town and twelve total on the town council.

Working in the State Planning Office, I'm privileged to get to know a number of elected officials in Delaware, and occasionally to work closely with various Mayors.

Mayor McHugh has been a class act and a very nice guy to work with. I'm sorry to see him go, but glad that he gets a chance to enjoy his retirement more fully.

Bethany Beach has been well served by Mayor McHugh. I wanted to take a moment to applaud him, and wish him well.

Thursday, January 6, 2005

Monday, January 3, 2005

When Did We Become a Cargo Cult?

The other day Karen, the girls, and I went to a movie and stopped by the local Cracker Barrel for dinner. Yes, I know. Consider, though. We have young(ish) kids and need a place to eat that we can get everyone to agree on. At least we don't have to go to McDonald's as often as in the past.

Anyway. As I stood in line to pay our check, I found myself looking up at all the stuff they hang from the ceiling and walls. They have boat motors and lard presses and lanterns and instruments and and a great deal more. Even, if you are lucky, cranberry sorters. This is a key part of their business. There's a guy in charge of all this and they do an admirable job cataloguing it all on-line.

And it's not just Cracker Barrel that decorates in American detritus. Consider Applebee's. Or Ruby Tuesday's. Or TGI Friday's -- just to stay in the restaurant realm. American diners seem to like to surround themselves with evidence of our consumer history.

I couldn't helping thinking, as I stood there, of the Cargo Cults I read about as a child in National Geographic Magazine. These were quasi-religious groups, on small Pacific Islands, that developed a certain level of worship around the astounding wealth of modern materiel dropped onto their Islands by the military during World War II. The military moved on, but the stuff remained and became a center of culture, if not religion, on the Islands.

Now, here we are. Decorating our restaurants with our left-over stuff. I guess I rather like it; I feel like I am eating in an almost museum.

Then I noticed the antique iron hanging above the customer part of the cashier's station. I decided to pay quick and get out of there.

Saturday, January 1, 2005

A Walk in the Park to End 2004

Matt, Bob and I took our kids for a ramble in Cape Henlopen State Park on New Year's Eve.

The Cape is the southern shore of the entrance to the Delaware Bay. In World War II it served as a part of the coastal defense system, as Fort Miles.

Delaware's State Parks folks are working to restore parts of Fort Miles as a living-history museum, much as they have done so well with the Civil War prison island of Fort Delaware, further up in the Delaware River. At the moment, there are just a few guns and deteriorating barracks buildings.

Guns, as mechanical artifacts, are cool.

I would guess that this 155mm Howitzer, with Carriage, dates from 1955.

The Cape is dotted with watch towers, from which spotters would be able to guide the fire of the big guns. One is still open to the public. It provides a wonderful view of the Cape, the Bay and breakwaters, lighthouses, and Lewes.

Back in the woods there are a number of WWII-era bunkers. I believe these were used to store the ammunition for the large coastal defense guns.

The Walking Dune is one of the Cape's most interesting features. It's one of the largest dunes on the east coast.

Cape Henlopen State Park provides a fine example of what the flora and fauna of this area is supposed to look like.