Saturday, April 29, 2006

Halfway Through?

I reached 44,444 miles on my Prius this morning. It was just as I pulled out of the driveway, on my way to drop off the recycling.

It's been 268 days since 22,222. I missed 33,333 somehow, but it's been a busy 8 months, 25 days.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Roadside Edit

I've been checking the DelDOT signs for Beaver Dam Estates, on Route 9 between Lewes and Georgetown, ever since last fall, to see if they've fixed their "Beavere Dam" typo.
The Right Name
Somewhere in the last few days, someone applied a bit of blue-out.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Update: Who's Suing the School Board Now?

One news story that came through while we were frolicking in Florida sunshine was the newest lawsuit against the Indian river Board of Education.

This time, according to the News Journal story last Wednesday (Insurer sues Indian River School District), the suit stems from their refusal to settle their last lawsuit.
The Indian River School District is being sued by its insurance company, reportedly for rejecting a proposed settlement by the families that filed a federal civil rights lawsuit suit against the district over school prayer.
One part of me wonders whether there's an ethical issue here for the insurance company, but on reflection I suppose they must have a clause in their contract on which to rest their suit.

The News Journal addressed the issue in an Op-Ed this past Saturday (Indian River will pay dearly if it refuses a legal settlement).
Just when it appeared the religious discrimination lawsuit against the Indian River School Board had reached the pinnacle of absurdity, a new twist has left the district and its taxpayers vulnerable to more financial obligations.
I'm no fan of the excess of Christian demonstrativeness by the School Board, but I don't think I'd have sued over it. And, I guess I understand the Board's defensive reaction to the suit, but I think they should have accepted a settlement that their insurer would have paid (if I understand correctly).

Final Irony? Here's a note from the Wednesday story:
School Board President Charles Bireley said Tuesday he was served with a copy of the lawsuit on Easter Sunday.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Report from the Keys, Part 3: Okay, About Chase....

Maybe I'm spoiled, but I usually don't have to sit right next to the most spoiled children in the world. One day, down in the Keys, that's what it felt like.

Here's the scene. It's a bright, hot day. We find four lounge chairs more or less in the shade by the pool. We settle in to relax. There are a few empty chairs to our left, and a few to our right.

A Mom comes along with two pre-teen boys, a frying-size girl, and a grandma in tow. She installs the boys in the chairs to our right (right next to me) and takes the civilized portion of her crew off to the left.

Right next to me sits Chase. A pudgy little guy with his nose buried in some game-boy ultra or something. Next to him is his brother, maybe a cousin, who appear to be poking Chase, or annoying him in some way.

"Maaaaa-AAAAAA-OOOO-ooooo-mmmmmmmm-MUH!" said Chase. In a high, shrieking whine.

Mom is across the way, in the pool. She's playing with the little girl. Chase never really took a look to see who he might be calling for, or where she might be. He just let fly with the loud, drawn-out call of the spoiled child.

He got hungry. His call echoed forth.

He was thirsty. He sounded his battle cry.

That, my friends, was Chase.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Report from the Keys, Part 2: Being There

I'm not sure where the time is going, but I'd better wrap up this Spring Break mini-vacation report before next spring, or risk looking pretty silly.

The truth is, we didn't do a whole heck of a lot at Hawks Cay. We were there to sit in the sun, by the pool (or in the pool).
Some vacations should be active, physical challenges that jolt you out of your day-to-day and reintroduce you to the grit and exhilaration of real life. Other vacations, such as this one, are times to do nothing; to simply be alone with yourself and your family and rediscover the quiet center of your life.

Those activities that we did organize were largely meant as retreats from the hot sun and minor sun-burns we encountered. All four of us suffered minor sunscreen failures; each burning a small bit of ourselves. Mine was the upper left arm and shoulder. It starts about an inch above my forearm/farmer's tan, creating a paler band between tanned lower arm and burned upper. Very tribal.

We took one morning to visit the Theater of the Sea, in Islamorada. This place has dolphin and sea lion shows, exotic birds, sharks and sea turtles and a rich display of plant life. It was small, but well run, and offered lots to look at.

That was swell.

We also dipped lightly into the Spa offerings of the resort. I had a moderately deep-tissue massage and Karen got a facial. Colleen and Christina had their first massages, taking advantage of the resort's "Teen Spa" offerings, which were nicely and appropriately tuned to the younger set.

We also spent an hour paddling around the Duck Key coastline in a pair of kayaks. It would have been better if we had been able to book spaces in one of the resort's twice-weekly guided eco-kayak tours. We didn't really know where to go, and didn't want to risk going to far in waters that were not familiar to us.

That brings up a point to consider, should you plan a trip to a spot like this. Check a week or so ahead about reservations for things like special tours and activities. Things were book-up well in advance. Also note that all these activities cost extra. It adds up.

The best thing we did was also one of the least expensive; a two hour sunset sail on a catamaran. This was a small group of very nice folks, on a comfortable, stable sailing catamaran with sodas, beer, wine and champagne. We cruised out into a calm bit of the Atlantic and back again, watching the sunset, visiting with dolphins, and indulging in sedate, constructive conversation.

I particularly enjoyed chatting with the gentleman who captained the cruise. In his day job, he's food services manager for the local hospital. He and his teen-aged daughter run the evening cruise as an add-on job. We discussed the land use issues in the fast redeveloping Keys. I was curious to know what it was like to work and raise a family in such a high-rent area. This is the discussion that led me to think of the Keys as a condensed version of our own coastal resort area.

That was our last night. The next day, a big breakfast and a leisurely drive up to the Miami airport. A quick flight home and here we are.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Report from the Keys, Part 1: Getting There

It looks like I'm going to have to parcel this story out over a few posts. So much to do, so little time to do it.

We booked a very early flight out of BWI to Miami on Friday (4/14/06). As a result, we left Lewes on Thursday evening after work and stayed in a Holiday Inn near the airport. We were able to leave our car at the hotel and take the hotel shuttle to the airport, but had to be in the lobby, ready to go, at 4:20 a.m. Ugly.

That penance, though, earned us a late morning arrival in Miami. We were able to rent a car and roll onto Duck Key by mid-day. We were able to register at Hawks Cay resort and get in a full afternoon of lazy sunning that day.

Our flight was full, and full of families with kids. The iPod proved its worth. I was able to retreat into music for much of the flight, as were the girls. Karen took refuge in a partial doze.

Miami/Dade, by the way. Wow. Sprawl. Ugly.

Other than a cruise-ship whistle-dock stop last spring at Key West, I hadn't been to the Keys since the early 1970s. I was a kid then, but had some memories of a series of sparsely populated islands. Things have changed.

We only saw the top half of the Keys, but it looked to me just like the Lewes/Rehoboth area, with more tropic weather and flora. Imagine the Midway section of Delaware's Route One corridor, followed by a bridge, followed by Dewey Beach, then a bridge, then a causeway, then Bethany Beach, more bridge, Rehoboth, causeway, bridge, Fenwick Island, etc.

The Hawks Cay resort is part of a seven-island grouping known as Duck Key. Its high-end residential and resort hotel development began in the 1950s and has grown to hotel buildings, pools, tennis courts, marina, villa-style hotel rooms, homes, vacation homes, a spa. The works.

Very nice. Well-landscaped. Established and smooth.

Our room was on a second floor, overlooking a pool and a man-made swimming lagoon. Beyond lay a channel, bridged by part of US Route 1, which winds through the islands from Key Largo to Key West.

We could sit on a small balcony and observe the pool, hot-tubs, and lounging area. There were afternoon steel-drum and guitar players, mostly ignored by the families at the pool. Several of the musicians were quite good.

We had lunch at a cantina next to the pool, and made reservations for a late dinner at a fancy restaurant in the Hotel. Very nice.

A word about kids. At lunch, we were a table away from a group of six, or maybe seven, 8- to 10-year olds, shepherded by two moms paying little or no attention to the little monsters.

It was like lunching next to a mis-tuned jet engine.

These kids went from shrieking, to screaming, to standing on chairs, to chasing each other through the restaurant, to climbing the juvenile palm trees potted in the doorway.

It's telling that the loudest child was sitting at one end of the table, repeatedly yelling "Quiet! Qui-ET! HEY! Be QUUIIEETT!" Endlessly.

We noticed that may of the people at this place were letting their kids run riot. Not all of them; many were quite pleasant. But there were some who made middle-class America look bad.

I was proud of my kids. They stress us at times; but in contrast, they are angels.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Photos from Florida

Two Palms
I've had a chance to go through the several hundred photos I took on our Florida jaunt. I've selected a representative sample and posted them as a photoset on Flickr: "Mahaffies in the Florida Keys, 2006."

I'll try to post a narrative account soon. Don't let me forget to tell you about Chase, the most spoiled of the spoiled rotten rich people's kids we found in Florida. I'll also tell you about some of the very nice people we met. But don't let me forget to tell you about Chase.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Yes, The Weather Was Rather Nice In Florida This Week

In what appears to be a new family tradition, Karen, the girls, and I disappeared for Spring Break for the last several days. We jumped state for a stay at a moderately impressive resort in the Florida Keys.

We slept late, ate well, lazed in the sun, floated in pools, burned odd patches of skin, ate well, slept late, swam, sat about, indulged in spa treatments, paddled kayaks, watched dolphins, slept in, tried new foods, drank Red Stripe beer (me) and virgin daiquiris (the girls), ate great food, slept in beach chairs, ignored the news, met new people, endured other people, and went for a glorious sunset sail on a catamaran.

Our themes for the week? Food, sleep and sun.

Here's a memory.

There will be many more photos on my Flickr site in a day or two. For now, I'm off to bed and into the office tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Irony, Thy Name Is (Apparently) "Smyrna"

I got a pre-dawn chuckle out of this story in the News Journal this morning: Smyrna mayor's camera catches thieves.
The security system at Smyrna Mayor Mark Schaeffer's home, which figured in the arrest of his neighbor and Town Council rival last year, has captured photographic evidence of a crime in progress -- the theft of campaign signs from neighbors' lawns.
If you have followed the election follies in Smyrna over the last few years, you're probably laughing now too.

For those of you who have not, suffice it to say that the Mayor's cameras are up, at least in part, because of political foes living next door. Who were among those whose lawn signs were stolen. Signs which supported the man running against the Mayor.

I'd say that this story will have a lively existence among Delaware Bloggers. As for me, it's time to head off to work.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Flowers for Tonni

Torn Petal
Our friend Tonni Wijte and her hubby live in California now, but Tonni is from Holland and these orange flowers in Downtown Dover made me think of her.

Sunday, April 9, 2006


You wonder what she was thinking. She's certainly seen me with a camera often enough.

A Photographic Recipe

Here's a recipe for Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies that is presented in the form of a set of photos. A cute idea.

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Here's a Worthy Event

This next week there will be a "March for the Arts in Education" at Legislative Hall, in Dover. This is an annual event celebrating the importance of the arts in education.

Groups of kids from a variety of schools around Delaware will perform at Legislative Hall, most on Tuesday, though two performances (including one featuring Colleen) will be on Thursday.

If you've been here before, you are probably aware that I am an arts-partisan. Both of our daughters attend the Southern Delaware School of the Arts; Karen teaches there. Colleen is about to graduate eighth grade and I think stands as a great example of what an arts-integrated education can accomplish.

I'm particularly pleased to now be working in an office just across the way from Legislative Mall and Legislative Hall. I can see where I'll try to be at lunch on Tuesday. On Thursday, Colleen will be one of a small group of dancers from SDSA performing at the opening of the State Senate's session for the day.

She has sung in the House Chamber in the past, so this will balance out nicely.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006


Originally uploaded by mmahaffie.

He just looked so much like it was his truck, sitting there at the wheel.

Monday, April 3, 2006

Why We Worry About a Dry Spring

A Dry Spring
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie.

It was windy Saturday. We were at Kershaw Acres horse farm, near Milton. This is the neighboring field, in the process of blowing across Route 5.

We could use some steady, day-long rains.

Thinning The Blogroll

My blogroll is getting pretty long, and there are a few in there that have not been updated in a month or more. I think it's time to thin that thing out a bit.
  • Butterfly Wings has been dormant since mid-December. Sha was one of the first to comment here, so I have had a sentimental attachment to her blog. I hope it comes back.
  • Carnifex seems to have ended in January. I'm not even sure there's anything at that URL just now.
  • College Democrats at UD last posted on February 1. Must be the pressures of classes?
  • Cute Conservative, also at UD, also seems to have gotten back to her studies since the first part of February.
  • Daily Finds is by UD Professor Pat Sines. She tends to go long periods between posts on this one. She's had nothing on this blog since early February. I do know that Pat tends to create special-purpose blogs and wikis for specific classes. That keeps her pretty busy.
  • DelVoice, the edgy Delaware blog that just never seems to make it back on-line. Nothing since February 1.
  • Delawired was going strong for a while. It came to a stop a month ago today.
  • Delmarva United Homebrewers also seems to have snagged on March 3. Maybe they decided to post after each meeting and made the mistake of over-sampling and so never got to it?
I'll keep an eye on these blogs and add them back if activity resumes. I'm also on the look-out for other Delaware-centric blogs. Am I missing any?

Sunday, April 2, 2006

Tracking the News Journal's Sprawl Series

The News Journal has begun a five-day series of articles examining the issues around growth and sprawl in Delaware. The headline of today's inaugural article, Runaway development overwhelming Delaware, gives you an idea of their thesis for the stories.

I'm hoping that this series will spark some useful discussion of the issue on-line. Some of that has already begun, with dt, of delathought, offering some proposals today.

I plan to track the series, and reactions to it that I can find, via I've set up a tag-link page to track all items that I have tagged as "barrish-article." Cris Barrish is the reporter who has taken the lead on this series, so I think of the whole thing as Cris' article.

I'll be interested to see how much discussion this sparks.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Memory: Maine, Midwinter

Spring is here, days are brighter and warmer, and yet I found myself recently thinking back to a midwinter week-end in the early 1980'’s when I was a college student in Maine.

A group of us from Colby College took a week-end trip from Waterville, on the Kennebec River in central Maine, to Kezar Lake, in the west of the state. We held a gathering at the summer cottage of one of our classmates.

I don'’t recall whether there was much snow on the ground, though there must have been some. I do know that the lake was well-frozen; the experience that has stayed with me was out on the ice in a deep, dark night.

We arrived in the evening, made food, ate, then went for a night-time wander around the mostly empty summer cottage community.

We walked among scattered cottages to a small community center.

We played a loose game of bowling on the single lane in the community center. I remember that bowling lane as an alley of sharp white pine, with pins at one end and a ball at the other. We set the pins by hand, then stood back as Mark, the best bowler among us, rolled strikes. The echoing rumble and crash, surrounded by winter quiet, was wonderful.

We walked back on the lake. The ice was irregular and ridged, with snow banks and drifts. Several of us carried large-battery flashlights. It felt to me, a relative southerner, like an arctic expedition.

As we neared the wooded shoreline, we stumbled over a snowdrift and onto a cleared, level ring of smooth ice that someone had groomed for skating. In our boots and heavy coats, taken by surprise, we slipped and stumbled. Someone dropped a flashlight that spun across the ice, its beam flashing crazy patterns through our group.

Someone, I think it was Laur, lay sprawled in the center of the ring on her back, looking up.

"“Whoa! Guys, check this out!"”

We joined her. Lying on that flat ice, looking up, I didn't see trees or horizon or other folks. I saw sky. Clear, deep, star-filled sky.

Suddenly, the ice at my back felt ever so slightly curved. Just for a moment, I sensed the motion of the planet through that starry blackness.

I knew, of course, about planets and orbits and the universe. But it was that night on the ice in Maine that I understood at a deeper level that I am on the surface of a ball of earth and water moving through space.

That comes back to me now and again, whatever the season, whatever the weather.

It's good to remember where you are.