Saturday, September 30, 2006

Here I Am

I'm seated at a desk in a room at the Peabody Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas, getting ready for the 2006 Annual Meeting of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), which gets started tomorrow at about 9:00 a.m.

The NSGIC conference is an important part of my professional life. It is the annual gathering of people who try to do what I try to do for Delaware's state government: coordinating the use and sharing of geospatial data among local, state, and federal agencies, along with the academic and private sectors.

There will be state GIS coordinators from probably 40 of the 50 states (maybe more), with lots of private sector folks, USGS staff, Census Bureau staff, and federal Homeland Security people. We'll meet from early morning until late at night Sunday through Thursday and finish up with a Board Meeting on Friday morning. I have the honor to serve as a member of the Board of Directors of NSGIC.

There will be breaks, and members of the group will be out late drinking beer every night. Likely without me. Lots will get done and by the end of the week I will be a wrag (even without too much partying). It's all worth it, though. This is an active, directed, and valuable group.

Riding in from the airport this afternoon, I shared the hotel shuttle with several USGS staff and , as it turned out, several folks who are in town for the annual meeting of COSLA, the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies.

One, I think, was Gary Nichols, the State Librarian of the State of Maine, with one of his staff. I think Mr. Nichols is the President of COSLA. A nice man, and interested, as I am, in the possible cross-overs between our two organizations. We are both, after all, in the business of enabling public access to information.

I was, as a graduate of Colby College in Maine, interested in talking with the Maine State Librarian. In addition, his staff member is a fellow Colby Grad, though she notes that when she was there, in the 1960's, they still had to wear skirts or coats and ties to class.

I'll have to keep an eye out for Anne Norman, the Delaware State librarian, and see if we can have a Delaware Caucus here in Arkansas.

If I can figure out how to get wireless access in the State Convention Center, next door, I plan to try to live-blog much of the NSGIC Conference on the NSGIC Blog. One of my goals for this week is to try to turn the NSGIC Blog into a group blog, recruiting and, if needed, training a few of my colleagues to add content.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Window on Dover

Looking Out On State StreetThis is one of my earliest digital photos, and a favorite. I'm terribly proud of it.

I took this shot from inside the Schwartz Center in Dover in September of 2004. A group of us were scouting the Schwartz Center as a potential site for an event.

Earlier this week, walking back to my office past this spot on a beautiful fall day, I realized that I needed to try to see the other side of this view.

Cityscape 2On a clear, blue-skied day, the view from outside the window is fascinating.

I took a series of shots, trying to find a combination on the windows, the sky, the clouds, the church, the old brick buildings, and chimneys.

I think I like these new shots even more. There's an abstract quality that appeals to me. I like the way the windows scramble the various elements of the State Street streetscape.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Mount Up

Mount UpI took a lunch-walk around the Green in Dover today. It was a crisp, blue-sky day, so I took some pictures.

The Green has a few marble mounting-blocks on the brick sidewalks outside some of the more venerable Victorian houses. These were most likely once used to help ladies and gentlemen climb into their carriages. I imagine they may also have been used to help folks mount their horses.

I've always thought they were a quaint addition to the historic-ness of the Green. I was charmed today to find a Mustang waiting patiently by one of the mounting blocks.
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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Two Word Protest

Paradise Lost 2A new commercial building is going up in what once was about an acre-sized field near Lewes. It is behind, and I assume will replace, an older single-family house that has been turned into a real estate office.

Today I noticed a new protest by the folks who live in the next field over. They've posted their feelings about the new office building rather, well, prominently.

I'm not certain how long this protest has been in place. I only pass this property at the right angle to see this face of this fence once a week. At best.

I hope this doesn't go the way that that incident with the painted spite fence went up in Red Lion back at the end of 2003 and the start of 2004. A property-line dispute there led to a fence being built, being painted a fluorescent green and orange, and eventually hung with a variety of underwear.

We don't need that.

Fare Well, Young Del

Del, also known as The Delawarean, has decided to hang up his keyboard. At least where his blog is concerned.

Last week he reached 10,000 hits; a milestone he had picked for blog-reevaluation.

He has decided to focus on other projects. With a new home, new job, and new challenges, I think Del has plenty to keep him busy.

We'll miss him, but I think we all understand.

Can I out your real name now, Mr. D?
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Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Small Update to the Blogroll

I've re-tagged two of the blogs I track with "inactive-blog." This moves them off my blogrolls in the sidebar.

I try to go through the blogs in my list each month. As a general rule, those that have been silent for a month are removed.

I am sorry to see that Tim Slavin has stopped posting to his blog. I thought it was an interesting experiment in blogging by an elected official. The other inactive blog is DelaVision, which ironically fell silent after bragging about how the long-silent DelaVoice now redirects to DelaVision.

Now that I'm managing the blogrolls with, it should be easier to recheck these blogs and re-add them if they wake up.

New Toy

Chiminea 4
This is my anniversary gift from the lovely Karen. She had decided that I should have one of these Chimineas, which I have wanted since I saw my friend Andy's, but she asked me to find the right one for me.

This is a nice gift. I like to burn wood.

I took a vacation day yesterday to take Christina to an orthodontist appointment. After I dropped her back at school, I had time to wander around under cloud-flecked blue skies and take a few photos.

I found this Chiminea at a shop along Route 113, north of Selbyville. I liked the flower motif and the fact that it has two openings.

I had time for a first fire late in the afternoon. I'm told one needs to start small, with modest fires that are allowed to burn slowly out, to cure the Chiminea. I hope to try another this evening, if we have time.

Friday, September 22, 2006

What Makes an Icon?

Dolle's on an October EveningDolles is a candy shop on the Boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. I've photographed those red letters up there a few times. This one is one of my favorites.

Scanning through photos from "my contacts" on flickr this afternoon, I noticed that salnunzio has also posted a nice shot of the Dolles sign.

It turns out that we're not the only ones.

It got me thinking about those images -- signs, views, vistas -- that have become icons. The Dolles sign is an icon for the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk, I guess.

It's hard to think of the boardwalk without it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


55555This afternoon, driving home from work, I rolled 55,555 miles on my Prius. I rolled 50,000 back in June.

I've made a habit -- or tried to -- of snapping pictures when the digits line up. I caught it at 44,444. I missed 33,333. I captured 22,222, but I don't think I managed 11,111.

Maybe with the next car I can be a bit more obsessive.

Monday, September 18, 2006

It's Nice to Know That It's Not Just Around Here

I got a kick out of a blog posting on DenverInfill Blog about the naming of suburban developments.

In Guide to Suburban Denver Subdivision Names, Ken Schroeppel has created a sort of cheat sheet -- Chinese Restaurant Carry-out Menu-Style -- for the naming of subdivisions.

Thus, we might get "The Sanctuary at Hawk Tree Crossing" or "The Estates at Silver Gate Meadows."

I'm often amazed (appalled?) at the names tacked-on to the multitude of suburban developments here in coastal Sussex. And I see a trend similar to that Mr. Schroeppel notes.

We have more than a few subdivisions with pretentious names like "The Enclave" or "The Preserves." Near my home, you will find Wolfe Runne, which we here in town refer to as "Wolf-EE Run-EE." That's one that shares with places like "The Meadows" or "Red Fox Run" another trend: name the subdivision after that which it displaces.

My current favorite (and I use that word advisedly) is "The Ridings at Rehoboth." "Ridings," I guess to highlight the horsey-ness of our area. Actually, the horsey area is a bit farther west. But we'll let that go.

What gets me is that "at Rehoboth." This "Ridings" is west of Lewes, out on Beaverdam Road and about 8 to 10 miles from Rehoboth Beach. Depending on how you make the drive.

Some of what is between Rehoboth Beach and its "Ridings:" West Rehoboth. Midway. Five Points. Belltown. And Robinsonville.

Of course, naming something as "At Rehoboth" or "[insertname], Lewes" raises the price considerably.

There's a development down near Bethany Beach which has a fancy, gated entrance on one road that is never open. It has several other entrances on another road that are not gated and are always open.

I always wondered why that was.

A colleague who used to work in the County Mapping and Addressing office explained that a development with an entrance on the one road would get a Bethany Beach ZIP Code. An entrance on the other road would mean an Ocean View ZIP Code. Not that the development would be actually in either town; the only difference would be that ZIP Code and which named post office would be in their address.

Ocean View is a great little town. But a Bethany Beach address is worth several tens of thousands of dollars more. Never mind that the residents use the Ocean View Road.

Perception, it seems, is reality.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Out From Under The Clouds

It's not that I haven't had anything to say the last few days. It's just that I have felt too cruddy to want to put together a blog entry.

My first cold of the new school year started Wednesday, and built to a crescendo of congestion, sneezing, and headache yesterday. I tried lots of fluids, some rest, and moderate medication. I awoke feeling a bit more human this morning.

Yesterday, feeling too lousy to get about much, I started playing with LibraryThing. It's not particularly new, but is new to me. It allows you to create an index of your library.

I did wander outside at one point while a crop-duster was working on one of the fields just outside of Lewes.

Today was nice enough, and I was feeling chipper enough, to get out and mow the lawn. I was finally able to get an almost decent photo of one of the many spiders that have set-up shop around the outside of the house.

This evening, while Colleen was exercising her horse, I got to play around with, and photograph, the new kittens at the barn.
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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Art From Ashes

Ever since I've had a blog-roll, I've had a link to Wooster Collective, a site "dedicated to showcasing and celebrating ephemeral art placed on streets in cities around the world."

The September 11 entry on Wooster is a bit of history; Wooster Collective: Our Story. The site founder explains that at the time of the attacks, he and his partner were living near the World Trade Center in the West Village.

He watched the second plane hit. He watched the towers fall. More importantly, he watched the city come together as a community.
And it was at this time, in the days immediately after September 11, that we discovered ephemeral art. Until then we had no idea what street art was. But the attacks of September 11th had made us hyper-aware of our surroundings. We began exploring Lower Manhattan like never before. We were now seeing the city in a completely different way, with new eyes and a new heart. Everything, and everyone, around us was now suddenly important. And it was in these days immediately after September 11th that we began noticing street art everywhere we went.
He started photographing. Eventually he put what he found on-line. It caught on, and Wooster Collective was born. I am paraphrasing. The full post is well worth a read.

It's heartening to find another positive result of the attacks of 9/11. It shows that humans are capable of creating good from evil. You have only to keep looking, and keep your heart open.
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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Yup. I Voted.

Polling Place
I did my civic duty today, just like I was asked to by the nice man from the party who called last night. I voted in the Delaware Primary Election this evening at the polling place of the 1st Election District of the 37th Representative District.

When I came down Savannah Road towards the old Lewes Middle School, where we vote, I saw lots of cars parked along the road. I was pleased, since I had heard that turn-out had been light. I was a bit surprised to see two young women in National Guard fatigues standing outside the front door. When I approached the door, they handed me a folded, xeroxed sheet.

I had gone to the wrong door. There was some sort of program scheduled in the school building. The polling place was the next set of doors down; the entrance by the cafeteria/auditorium. There was no one parked there.

In my defense, the door I first went to is one where the polling place has been set up at least once in the past.

When I got to the right spot, I found I was the only voter in the place. No waiting.

Poll WorkersAfter I voted, the poll workers were kind enough (bored enough?) to let me take their group portrait.

They told me that they had seen about 200 voters by that point (around 7:00 p.m.). They said that that was about what they expected. There were only two races for that District, one each for Ds and Rs.

Changes. Thanks, Ernesto.

Walking back to my car after voting this evening, I found myself looking at a scene that I'd photographed back in June. A lovely brick home with a wrapped porch, framed by mature trees. It looked different tonight. Several large tree limbs were on the lawn, and the house was no longer quite so shaded.

Here's how it looked back in June:
Front Porch

Now, after Tropical Storm Ernesto came through a short while ago, it looked like this:
Opened Up

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Our Marriage Turned 18 Today

Eighteen years ago today, Karen and I called together her family and mine, and all our friends, at a Church in Potomac, Maryland, to witness our wedding.

Karen was raised in the Greek Orthodox Church, worshipping in Slavonic, and our marriage included some prayers and promises in that language. It was very high-church, with kneeling and crowns and incense and a procession three times around the alter.

I don't really know what was promised in some of that ceremony, but that was when I started following my Father's wise advice: "Do whatever your wife tells you to do." It's advice that has served me well, so far.

Whatever the details, I can say that we were pretty well completely married by the end of the ceremony.

The reception was at a country-club-type place out west of DC. Though we were the only sober people at that reception, I don't have a firm memory of what the place was called. I know that we missed most of our meal walking from table to table to meet and greet.

I asked my older sister to buy boxes of Animal Crackers for the head table; I had wanted to get a huge supply of just the Giraffe Animal Crackers, to put in bowls at every table. Karen is a Giraffe person. But I was unable to make that happen.

The band was traditional, playing polkas. At the crescendo of the evening, a huge ring danced around Karen while my youngest brother and Karen's sister collected cash donations for a shot of whiskey and a dance with the bride: The Bridal Dance. Mom still wonders at the sight she had that night of her youngest son cheerily sharing shots with one and all.

Karen was danced into a tizzy and by the time I broke through the ring to claim my bride ("Tradition! Tradition!" sings Tevye), we had collected several hundred dollars. That night, at the Admiral Fell Inn, on Fells Point in Baltimore, we counted our cash, laughed about our families, and started a life together that still includes laughter, joy, and lots of family.

I love my wife. She is a beautiful, kind, talented woman. I'm a lucky, lucky man.

Mazel-Tov! If I do toast so myself.

ax + by = gcd(a,b)

On, there is a short video of a simple strobe-light-enhanced fountain, the Time Fountain. A fellow has added timed, strobing LEDs to a simple water stream to make art. The video posted on this page is neat.

A commenter on MetaChat, where I found a link to this site, tells us that this effect as a lot to do with the extended Euclidean Algorithm. I'll take his/her word on that. The EEA is beyond my ken, but the water drops sure are pretty.

This May be Interesting to Watch

With a tip of the cap to the News Journal editorial page, I point to a new web site: Delaware Public Notices. This is a page posted by the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association to share Delaware government legal notices.

I'll be watching it to see how complete and timely it is, but I can see this as useful in several pursuits.

The head of the Press Association has a "Delaware Voice" column in the paper as well, explaining the thinking behind the new site. He explains that the site is in part a response to a proposal in the legislature last session to stop using newspaper classified sections for state government legal ads. He argues that not using newspaper ads would reduce public confidence.
By placing notices in newspapers, the state reassures the public that no backroom deals are being cut and no contracts are being awarded under the table. The newspapers can monitor that the government has followed the law in inviting bids on contracts or is notifying the public about major projects.

For now at least, ordinary residents are more likely to come across a notice that they were not actively seeking when it is published in a newspaper. On the Internet, most people only find what they are seeking.
I'm not sure I agree completely. I have not looked at the legals section of a newspaper in ages. I don't think most people do; only those who actively seek out the government public notices.

But I have no objection to maintaining the legal ads in print. The cost is not that huge. I am glad to see another outlet for information added, though. And I think we can trust the Press Association to do a thorough job.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Sometimes We Forget...

We forget how nice our City of Lewes can be. This evening, I stumbled across a blog posting from August from "Number 4 of 5." The post, In the streets of Delaware, I swear, tells about a visit to Delaware's beaches by a family from, I think, the DC area.

They were bummed by the crowds on the beach, but charmed by Lewes.
We walked a round for a while, ate dinner on the harbor, bought homemade ice cream, etc. Basically all the things you should do while in a beach town.
There are pictures of the harbor, of the Zwannendael Museum, a labyrinth in the churchyard, and that odd kid-sized plastic pirate outside Kid's Ketch.

It's nice to read someone else's fresh reaction to our town. We know it is a lovely place, but we've gotten used to that fact. This small blog entry by someone I don't know has reminded me of why I fell in love with this place 20 years ago.
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Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Happy Blogsday, To Me

It was two years ago today that I started this Mike's Musings. When I set off on my narcissistic journey, I wasn't sure where it would lead. I'm still not sure, but I'm having fun with it, so I think I will carry on.

Last year at this time, I took a look back and found a variety of topics and styles of posting. I wonder if I've settled into any one in the year since then?

I do think I have become somewhat less political, at least on this blog. Over this past year, several overtly political blogs have babbled up in the Delaware blogosphere. While I enjoy politics,and have strong feelings about them, I've come to think that those feelings may not be the best thing for me to post about here; not least because I have made a conscious decision to be openly me on-line.

Also, there are others on both sides of the spectrum -- left and right -- who do a more complete job of plumbing the political depths than I could or would.

So, I have continued to catalogue my daily experiences and have moved more and more into photography.

I have also started playing with various forms of blog-metrics and I have been interested to note what some of my most popular blog entries have been this past year.

My experiences last fall with a blood clot, and its treatment, for example, have turned up repeatedly as entries that new readers have found.

Even more frequently read has been my entry on adding a Sirius Satellite radio to my Prius. I get a steady stream of hits from google searches like "sirius prius" or "sirius for prius."

One foray into local school board politics, at least as an observer, has also generated some traffic. We had some worries in the winter about the intentions of the Indian River School Board towards our daughters' school. I also found time to cover the legal questions around the District's handling of religion and diversity.

Some Other Favorites From the Past Year
Finally, I've been playing around with some new technologies, new blog tools. I've been trying out different aspects of, for example, to enhance my blog-roll and add a new tag-roll. This is my test-bed for some of the sorts of social networking tools I'd like to bring to my web work at work. We shall see.

It has been fun writing this blog for the last two years. I think I'll dish up some Ice Cream and toast to the future.
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Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Onward and Upward, Into Fifth Grade

Christina, First Day of Fifth Grade, 9/5/06And then it was Christina's turn to pose for her First Day of School photo.

Christina began fifth grade today, moving up to the second floor of the Southern Delaware School of the Arts (SDSA).

Colleen started at Sussex Tech last week.

Karen is back to full-time at SDSA this year. She team-teaches, specializing in helping out special-ed kids. She had been part-time the last two years.

For Karen and I as a couple, this will be our ninth year as SDSA parents. It will be odd to go to school functions and now only see the parents of kids in Christina's class. We had gotten used to also seeing the parents of Colleen's class-mates; a group that is mostly our age. The folks we'll rub shoulders with now at assemblies and performances are mostly younger then we are.

One interesting note of newness for Christina: there is now a set of quadruplets in fifth grade with her. I assume they are split among the two fifth grade classes. Christina says some of them look alike, but others don't.

We were all excited to be fully back in the school year. Shoe was not too thrilled, though. He'll miss his human friends while we're away all day.

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Monday, September 4, 2006

John Mayer and Sheryl Crow, 9/2/06, Tweeter Center, Camden, NJ

Karen and I took the girls to see John Mayer and Sheryl Crow at the Tweeter Center in Camden, New Jersey, on Saturday evening. The two are co-headlining on a tour this fall, with Mat Kearney
opening (at least at the show we saw).

This was intended to be the girls' first "rock concert," though Colleen will argue (endlessly, it turns out) that neither artist is at all "rock." She's 14. Nothing I have to say at this point in her life can ever be right, so I should just let that go.

In any case, Karen and I are John Mayer fans, and we like Sheryl Crow (even if she's not right in our musical wheelhouse). We had seen Mayer last fall, when he was out with his power trio. That show had shown us that John Mayer, while a respectable singer-songwriter dude, is also a funky, bluesy, jamming guitar player. It looks like his new release, Continuum, will be a blend of his two styles.

We booked a hotel room in New Jersey about 15 minutes from the Tweeter Center. I still like going to concerts, but I'm getting too old to make two-and-a-half-hour drives home after a show.

We got to the venue just before Mat Kearney started to play. He's pretty good. It must be tough to play to a mostly empty hall, with people wandering in, chatting, looking for friends, and generally not paying any attention. But he got through to those of us who were listening.

Sheryl Crow was next. She had a pair of guitarists, one of whom she traded bass-playing duty with, a keyboard player, a drummer, and a string quartet. A good, tight band. She played a nicely balanced set. She has plenty of hits and the crowd liked her. She has a very string voice and I heard no bad notes.

John Mayer has a larger band: drums, bass, two guitarists besides himself, keyboard, and two horn players. A very tight band.

One of his guitarists was a noticeably older man, Robbie McIntosh, who was clearly a seasoned pro. McIntosh was playing some really tasty slide guitar to compliment Mayer's funkier fingerpicking. I knew I had to look this guy up (he looked familiar) and I found that he's played with Paul McCartney's backing band and was a member of the Pretenders. I was also pleased to see, in his list of heroes, the writer PG Wodehouse, right there between Freddie King and Lightnin' Hopkins. You may have just won a new fan, Mr. McIntosh.

Mayer's set was great fun. That young man can play guitar. Now that he's freed himself from his commercial music niche, I think he's going to be fun to watch. He mixes singer/songwriter with blues and rock and hip-hop and is making something new. I like that.

I think the girls were impressed. Christina was getting weary. That's a late night for a ten-year-old. But Mayer's final encore was his early hit No Such Thing, which she's always liked. And Colleen will have to hold to her thesis that John Mayer ain't real Rock'n'Roll, but I think she enjoyed it.

So. A successful trip. And the girl's have now been to a "rock" concert.

Uh Oh! The Printed Press People Are Watching!

There's a story on Delaware political blogs in the News Journal today. JL Miller's article, Bloggers hope to generate Del. buzz, looks at the question of whether or not Delaware's political blogs -- right-leaning or left-leaning -- are likely to make a difference in any of Delaware's political races this fall.

It won't be for a lack of effort.

Saturday, September 2, 2006

Pastoral Interlude

After a stormy night (Tropical Storm Ernesto passed over us yesterday), here's a bit of an interlude from Patrick O'Brian's The Reverse of the Medal.

It is early in the 19th Century. Stephen Maturin has come down from London, where he found his wife had left him and the country, to visit his particular friend Jack Aubrey, Royal Navy Captain, at Jack's home in the country.

Stephen takes the overnight coach and is let out, just before dawn, at a small ale-house from which he will walk overland the rest of the way.
For the first mile his road was a lane between high banks and hedges, with woods on the left hand and fields on the right - well sprung with wheat and hay - and the banks were starred all along with primroses, while the hedges had scores of very small cheerful talkative early birds, particularly goldfinches in their most brilliant plumage; and in the hay a corncrake was already calling. Then when the flat land began to rise and fall this lane branched out into two paths, the one carrying on over a broad pasture - a single piece of fifty or even sixty acres with some colts in it - and the other, now little more than a trace, leading down among the trees. Stephen followed the second; it was steep going, encumbered with brambles and dead bracken on the edge of the wood and farther down with fallen branches and a dead tree or two, but near the bottom he came to a ruined keeper's cottage standing on a grassy plat, its turf kept short by the rabbits that fled away at his approach. The cottage had lost its roof long since and it was filled tight with lilac, not yet in bloom, while nettle and elder had overwhelmed the outbuilding behind; but there was still a stone bench by the door, and Stephen sat upon it, leaning against the wall. Down here in the hollow the night had not yet yielded, and there was still a green twilight. An ancient wood: the slope was too great and the ground too broken for it ever to have been cut or tended and the trees were still part of the primaeval forest; vast shapeless oaks, often hollow and useless for timber, held out their arms and their young fresh green leaves almost to the middle of the clearing, held them out with never a tremor, for down here the air was so still that gossamer floated with never a tremor at all. Still and silent: although far-off blackbirds could be heard away on the edge of the wood and although the stream at the bottom murmured perpetually the combe was filled with a living silence.