Monday, May 30, 2005

A Family Holiday

Memorial Day weekend is the start of the summer season and nowhere does that mean more of a change than here in Coastal Sussex County.

They start arriving with this week-end and they don't go away until Labor Day. Of course, a large part of our local economy depends on them and their vacation dollars. So we put up with them. We complain endlessly about them, but we do put up with them.

Memorial Day also means the start of regular visits by my brothers and sisters and their spouses and children to my parents' place in North Bethany -- the Beach House.

This week-end, we had Bob and Karen, with Jimmy and Andrew, and Connie and Mark, with Christopher, Valarie and Gus. My cousin Jennifer came along as well.

Here, Jimmy, Gus and Valerie play with bubbles after a big family dinner.


Originally uploaded by mmahaffie.
Actually, a double. I shot about a dozen digital images of this in an effort to get good picture. That's the beauty of the digital camera; you can shoot the great many times that are required to get a decent shot.

This one is posted on my Flickr site. I have more from that evening, but I've reached my monthly upload limit!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Abbey Road: Ubiquitous and Surprising

I spotted this shot on Flickr this evening. Of course, it is tagged "Abbey Road." So are about 85 other shots from around Flickr.

Many are the usual tourist shots. Some in homage to, and some inspired by, the famous Beatles album cover.

In some, we are reminded that Abbey Road is a working recording studio.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Are You a Member of WXPN?

May I respectfully suggest that you become am member of WXPN? I've just renewed my membership.

XPN is a listener-supported radio station from the University of Pennsylvania. It's the home of The World Cafe. It's a great place to learn about music beyond the pablum on the regular radio stations.

It's my favorite radio station and I don't live -- or work -- in range of its broadcast. Thank goodness for the web and broadband.

I would point out though, that I've been a member since before I could regularly listen on-line.

So. Maybe you should become a member and support the station too!

Well Played, Mike Castle

I was proud of my Congressman, Mike Castle, yesterday.

We can all agree or disagree on the stem cell issue; it is complex. Still, I have to praise Mr. Castle for clear, determined and principled lawmaking. He stood up to his party and to the easy emotional grandstanding that this issue can offer to tempt a politician.

I realize I'm a day late on this, but I was too tuckered to post yesterday.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Beachcombing with Christina

This past Saturday, Christina and I spent a pleasant hour or so walking along Lewes Beach, looking for shells and pebbles.

It was a bright and beautiful day, so I was busy with my digital camera. The result? Another photo set on my Flickr site.

Christina shares my taste for pebbles, though I'm trying to teach her a bit of discrimination. If left to her own devices, I'm sure she would cart home every pebble and stone on the beach.

Instead, we brought home a decent sample. We've added them to pebbles from earlier visits and other beaches.

Pebble-collecting always makes me think of my paternal grandmother, Isabel Cooper Mahaffie. Grandma was an artist; mostly a painter, but she also dabbled in terrariums and miniature landscapes.

She had an extensive collection of pebbles she used, some of which I imagine came from this beach, from Rehoboth, Dewey, the barrier islands now known as Delaware Seashore State Park, and Bethany.

I can see her wandering along these shores in the 1920's, 30's and 40's drawing beauty and art supplies directly from nature.

I like to think that some of her spirit and creativity has come down through me to join with the color-sense and music in my mother's family and with the music and determination of Karen's family to help form the characters of Christina and Colleen.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Third Golf Game of 2005

I had a chance to play a solo round of nine holes this morning. I had hoped to be beyond the third game of the year by now, but life is busy, so I will take what I can get.

I played the Heritage course again; Christina and I played a father/daughter round there last month. This time I kept score. I thought I had a fairly good round. I shot a 54 for nine holes. Par for those nine would have been 35. That's pretty good -- for me; I'm not a great golfer.

I enjoy the Heritage course. It's not in great shape, but it could be worse. It's still just a converted cornfield, but it has its small challenges.

And it's cheap. I can walk 9 or 18 holes -- or as many as I have time for -- for only 15 bucks. At least until the "high season."

Saturday, May 21, 2005

A Walk in Dover

The other day I decided to try combining my new hobby (taking pictures of everything, all the time) with my long-term need to get more exercise.

Instead of hitting the treadmill and weight machines at the YMCA on my lunch hour (as I have been trying, and often failing, to do for a while now), I stopped at the Y to change into workout clothes, grabbed my digital camera, and headed out for a jogging/walking tour of downtown Dover.

It was a beautiful day, and Dover is a lovely city. I have created a photo set of some of the resulting photos on Flickr.

This was fun. I'll have to do this sort of thing more often.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Know Your Market

Know Your Market
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie.
Sometimes I wonder what we're designing towards.

Based on this sign -- "Luxury 2 Car Villa Homes with Basement" -- the market for this new housing development is going to be . . . cars.

Cars that live as couples. Cars that like basements. Cars that want that little European flair that you get when you call it a "Villa."

I've seen similar advertising for other new developments around Delaware. I've seen town homes whose most prominent curbside feature is their garages.

Car culture, indeed.

Note to Self II: Remember to Spell

Neil points out that I misspelled "Remember" in the title of yesterday's post on Mug Shots.

I have no excuses. I was responsible and I'm willing to face the consequences of my actions.

On the bright side, this is not a crime for which they run your mug shot in the papers.

This was just a minor literary transgression. It takes a bit more effort to get into the mug shot collection on literary merit.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Note to Self: Remember to Smile

Reading through the news this morning, I noticed a mug shot of some fellow that the authorities are seeking as a person of interest in yet another disturbing crime. I don't mean to make light of that crime, or the need to find this guy, but I couldn't help thinking to myself: remember to smile; someday you may be in the news.

Here's the thing, if ever I have to have my mug shot taken, and let's hope I never do, it would probably help if I tried to look ... nice ... in that shot. Think about some of the mug shots of famous people that are out in public now (Nick Nolte's or Corey Clark's, for example); these photographs aren't helping these guys.

So, anytime you get your mug shot, try not to look like a complete degenerate. If things go south sometime in the future and you are a person of interest, wanted, a suspect or -- heaven forbid -- a victim, that's likely the photo they're going to use. You will want to look you best.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Brevity: Wit

They say that "brevity is the soul of wit." If that's so, then for much of the day, the News Journal web site made Al Mascitti one of the wittiest men alive.

Al's column from today's paper -- NCCo's history of nepotism lives on at the expense of historic Glasgow -- was edited, apparently by the New Journal web site itself, to just:
"Nancy Willing can be forgiven for thinking the fix is in."
The site is back to normal this evening, offering the whole of Al's latest column. I'm thankful for that, but have to say that, to Al's credit, I got the point from just the title and the first sentence.

Maybe the News Journal web site is eager to exercise some editorial control?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Have We Gone Completely Out of Our Minds?

JazzyWe may have. We have purchased a horse for Colleen. His name is Old Tyme Jazz; but he answers to "Jazzy."

Jazzy is a 20-year-old thoroughbred. He was a race horse, but retired early. We know he worked as a schooling horse for the last several years, but we're not sure what he was up to in the intervening years.

So now we face monthly boarding costs. Monthly food-additive costs. Regular vet visits. The equine dentist. The farrier. And a dozen minor but recurring costs.

The costs don't really bother me so much; we can handle them. Our biggest challenge will be making sure we can make time to visit and care for Jazzy. Colleen and Christina carry heavy schedules already.

We also need a long-term home for Jazzy. The stable he's at now will be there through the summer, but the land is up for sale and we may need to move him in the fall.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Getting Ready for Gardening

Originally uploaded by mmahaffie.

Christina and I dropped some cash at Lowes Garden Center this morning. We got some soil to add to the flower beds, grass seed, annuals, perennials, and hanging baskets.

The big project this spring is a new flower bed built in the spot where a tree used to be. The tree came down in a wind storm and, despite having a crew come in and grind out the stump, we were left with a mass of thick roots. Rather than conduct a major excavation, we used left-over field stone to build a low wall, back-filled with new soil, and planted a mess of day-lilys.

There is a path, in life, and it is the path of least resistance.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Mahaffie House Entry In Wikipedia

My "Mahaffie" Google Alert turned up a new entry on the Mahaffie House in the Wikipedia on-line encyclopedia this morning. I had to have a look, and -- since Wikipedia is an open-source, anyone can edit it, collaborative space -- I had to add a few things.

Along with some text, I added a link to the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm Historic Site and a link to a Google Maps aerial image.

The Mahaffie House was started by my great-great-grandfather (there may be another "great" in there), so I take an on-going interest.

Part of what I've been doing with this blog has been tracking the "Mahaffie-ness" of that area and Mahaffie family history in that area.

More connections!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Playing With Language(s)

I'm fascinated by on-line translation systems. I like to take a simple few lines of text and start translating them through the languages. It's a form of solitaire-telephone.

English to French:

Je suis fasciné par les systèmes de traduction en ligne. J'aime prendre à un simple peu de lignes de texte et commencer à les traduire par les langues. C'est une forme de solitaire-telephone.

French to Spanish:

Soy fascinado por los sistemas de traducción en línea. Me gusta tomar a un simple pocas líneas de texto y comenzar a traducirlos en las lenguas. Es una forma de solitaire-telep.

Spanish to Enlish:

I am fascinated by the translation systems in line. I like to take to simple few lines of text and to begin to translate them in the languages. It is a form of solitaire-telep.

Monday, May 9, 2005

I Oversaw A Conversation Today

Driving back to the office from lunch with colleagues this afternoon I found myself at a stoplight and next to a car with two people having an animated conversation in sign language.

What struck me was the fact that both of them were smokers with cigarettes burning between the index and middle fingers of hands they were using to sign.

It was like the old days, when we'd smoke and talk at the same time with cigarettes hanging out of the corners of our mouths and bobbing up and down as we spoke.

In this case, the cigarettes were waving about for the larger gestures of sign language and deftly switched from hand to hand for the finger-spelling part.


Saturday, May 7, 2005

Music Map of North America: Looking for Ideas

Originally uploaded by mmahaffie.

I've been thinking about creating a playlist of songs about North American history. I thought I'd start a music map to keep track of the "where" of songs as I think of them.

This is a work in progress. I'm looking for ideas; what other songs should I consider?

Friday, May 6, 2005

Fritz Takes a Helicopter Ride

Fritz Schranck, who blogs Sneaking Suspicions, took a Helicopter Ride over southern Delaware on a sunny day recently. Nice photos, Fritz!

More on our Controlled Burn

Today's Cape Gazette (expect the story to move off this front page by 5/10 at the latest) included a short story on the controlled burn Colleen and I watched a bit of the other day.

It turns out that the burn was part of a neighborhood clean-up project initiated by the Cool Spring Community Association, a newly-formed neighborhood group. I like them; they get things done.

An interesting side note: the burn appears to have inspired several residents to want to become part of the volunteer fire company.

Thursday, May 5, 2005

Everyone Is A Newbie At Something

Matt Haughey, founder of MetaFilter and a web and blogging star, this week became a first-time dad. It's nice to know that even Matt gets to be a "newbie" at something.

Mazel Tov, Matt!

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Controlled Burn. Station 85.

Colleen and I came upon this controlled burn, near Coolspring, on our way back from the stables this evening. There was a plume of black smoke on the horizon, on our way home, so we had to have a look.

I had a feeling it would be a controlled burn. I had seen several Milton Volunteer Fire Company (Station 85) trucks headed south from town, past the stables. They were not flashing lights or sounding sirens, but were headed away from their station. They appeared to be headed for something organized, but not an emergency.

In fact, they were planning to burn down two very old houses along Fisher Rd. This one was fully involved. A second, a few doors down, was just starting to smoke when we went by.

Controlled burns are an interesting loophole activity. They serve to train fire fighters in how houses burn. They also serve to get rid of old houses for landowners. Sounds like a win-win.

But, think about it. If you were to tear down these houses and then burn the resulting debris pile to get rid of the mess, it would be at least a source of air pollution and maybe a violation of environmental law.

Burn 'em down as training? No problem.

There's a small, contrary, curmudgeonly voice inside me that also asks: what are we training the firefighters to do here? Watch a house burn completely to the ground?

I'll ignore that small, cranky voice, however.

Sunday, May 1, 2005

Mom's Childhood Home

On our way to Polly's wedding we formed a six-car caravan. We were following Jim's car, from which Mom navigated us through the neighborhoods of Old Greenwich to the home in which she grew up.

This is it, with at least one addition.

I have vague memories of this place. My granny lived here through the first five years or so of my life. I do remember the timber-frame style. I remember that tree on the right. I remember the streets trending down to the shores of Long Island Sound.

We must have caused some consternation in this neighborhood. A line of cars from several states pulled up in front of a house and a group of all ages, dressed in wedding finery, piled out to stare at the house.

It was important to visit. I'm glad we did.

Road Trip to Connecticut

Colleen and I are in Stamford, Connecticut for my Cousin Polly's wedding today. We drove up yesterday; a long, dreary, rainy traffic-plagued ride up the Jersey Turnpike, across the George Washington Bridge, through the Bronx, and into Connecticut.

Colleen helped me out with a small photo-experiment in which I had her take a photo out the front of the car from her post in the passenger seat every half-hour. I think it would have turned out better had it been a nicer day.

Karen and Christina, meanwhile, are in the Washington area visiting our in-laws for the Orthodox Church's Easter celebration today (Karen was raised in the Orthodox Catholic Church and that's where we were married).

We've had to split the family this week-end, but at least this way we can cover all our diverse family events.