Friday, March 30, 2007

A Busy Day Off

I took the day off from work today. Colleen had a normal school day, but Christina was off from school for a teacher in-service day. Karen is out of state at a Music Therapy Conference.

ChristinaI spent the day just as I wish I could spend most days. I saw my daughter off to a fun day at a friend's house. I did some back-road exploring on a sunny day. And I took a brisk hike in the pine woods at Cape Henlopen State Park.

Christina's friend Morgan had invited a small core of fifth-grade girls over for a day of crafts and cake and fun at her home north of Milton. So, after getting Colleen off to high school, and a quiet morning of the news and the laundry, I ran Christina up to Morgan's house.

I knew she was in for a fine day when Morgan and her young sister Emma came bouncing out their front door as we pulled into the drive. They were, quite literally, jumping for joy.

So, I headed west, intending to see where roads I've never driven before might take me.

Brush Fire 1I wandered up through the village of Lincoln and was swinging south again when I saw smoke in the west. I let the smaller roads lead me west and north again until I found a small brush fire being brought under control.

Now the challenge was to get back to Lewes, following as few familiar roads as possible. I took good advantage of Old State Road, a two-lane that was replaced by DuPont Highway, and other small back roads. My goal, as always, to see new things and perhaps to photograph them.

I stopped for a light lunch in Milton and headed for Cape Henlopen State Park.

I have been meaning to complete a wander I took in the back part of the Park two weeks ago. I had gone out from the campgrounds, along an old military road, toward the Salt Marsh Spur. This is a thin neck of upland that extends out into the Salt Marsh between Lewes and the Cape. I was slowed by very wet conditions, and had to turn back without following the whole of the spur trail.

Low TideThis time, I went in via Herring Point and made the full three-mile round trip out the spur and back in just over an hour.

The fellow at the Nature Center told me that there is said to be an Eagle building a nest out the spur. I kept my eyes on the tops of the trees and snags, but I didn't see it. I wasn't particularly quiet moving along the trail. I didn't have the time, or the skill, to be stealthy.

After returning to the car, parked by the old battery at Herring Point, I headed back out to Morgan's house to pick up Christina.

We came home tired, but satisfied with our day.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


This photo, and its partner, remind me that there are pictures to be taken at almost any time. Even when I think there's nothing to be seen.

I took these Monday evening, while in Annapolis for the Mid-Year Meeting of the National States Geographic Information Council. We'd just been dropped off outside Phillips Seafood House, in the center of town, for our "offsite social."

It was a slightly overcast, cool, and (I thought) unpromising evening. But there was still daylight (saved from somewhen) and I was in the harbor area of one of Maryland's oldest towns. It seemed worth a wander around, at least.

I found a few good pictures, and it was nice to stretch my legs after two days of intensive meetings. But I didn't think there was anything special until I was just about to enter the restaurant.

I turned back for one last look and realized that the sun was just behind an American Flag from where I stood. So I waited and timed the wind and its unfurling of the flag.

The jet in flight was a lucky accident.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dave Burris is a Mensch

Dave, who writes the blog First State Politics, is also the Chairman of the Sussex County Republican Party. We don't agree on much, politically, but he's always been a polite and pleasant opponent; one who puts forward real arguments in a spirit of positive discussion.

Today, Dave has taken a difficult position, and done so in a manner that can only be called open, honest, and very personal. Dave has released a letter to the State House Republican Leaders explaining why he feels Representative John Atkins, who has lately come under scrutiny by the House Ethics Committee, should resign or be expelled from the House.

Agree or disagree on the Atkins matter, it is clear that our Dave Burris is a mensch.

The Weird World is a Small World

When I saw this headline on the News Journal web site this morning, I felt drawn to the story, and not just because it may be the single greatest headline ever written:
Mouse makes off with man's dentures
When I clicked on the story, I was surprised to find the dateline "Waterville, Maine."

Waterville is where Colby College, my alma mater, is located. I spent four great years in that small town. I saw many things and learned a great deal.

I never saw denture-swiping rodent.

A Mr. Bill Exner lost his dentures. He eventually found them, dragged off to the mouse's lair in the bedroom wall. They retrieved (and boiled) the dentures, but the story is not yet complete.
The mouse apparently isn't done. It frequently comes out and stares at Exner, his wife said.

''He's taunting him -- I swear he's taunting him,'' Shirley Exner said.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Actually, I Did Expect This. Or Something Very Much Like It

Dorothy Wickenden offers a commentary (Never, Ever Land) in the coming week's edition of The New Yorker that nicely summarizes the US Attorney Firings scandal and goes on to sum up the Bush administration:
Bush’s Presidency has been defined by the war on terror, but not in the ways that Rove intended: nonexistent W.M.D.s, Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Gonzales’s acquiescence in memos condoning forms of interrogation outlawed by the Geneva Conventions, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation. Today, Gonzales has the support of few Republicans except the President. Rove, who once boasted of a permanent Republican majority, is facing a subpoena from a Democratic Congress. The Bush Administration is struggling to regain the trust of the American public and to avoid a constitutional showdown over executive power—something it never, ever expected.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Wow: Great Blog Skin

Dina Hakimi has an excellent blog skin. Where it says "Pull?" You should pull.

Grazing in the Grove of Ethics Legislation

The National Conference of State Legislatures offers a new State Legislation Database on Ethics Issues. This is a database of ethics legislation in State legislatures since 2004. It can be searched by state, topic, sponsor and status and in several categories and includes bills in state legislatures and Executive Orders.

A quick search on "Ethics Oversight" for 2007 found 87 different bills. Of the total, 82 are "active," one has been withdrawn, and four have been passed.

In Idaho, Executive Order 2007-01 includes members of the Governor's staff "as executive officials for purposes of reporting of lobbyists on activities with executive officials."

In Iowa, Senate Bill 40 adds to the standards for when government officials sell things to the government or accept gifts.

And in Missouri and Delaware, there were House Resolutions setting rules and procedures for their Ethics Committees. Missouri's was House Resolution 267. In Delaware, it was former Representative Smith's House Resolution 4 which was passed on January 9, the day the 144th General Assembly convened.

It seems like that was just in time. I did a quick search on the News Journal web site and found a report on January 9 from Patrick Jackson (archived and for sale, so no link). Here's the lede:
State Rep. John C. Atkins' legal troubles in Maryland and Delaware may be resolved, but the Millsboro Republican may have some political problems ahead of him as he gets sworn in for a third term today.
That does seem to have foreshadowed the way things have gone on the Atkins matter over the last few months.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Wind in Trees

I took a walk on Sunday. Back in Cape Henlopen State Park. It was windy and cold, so I went inland a bit, on the trails through the back dunes and marsh areas.

The wind was blocked by the trees. It was blowing strong in their tops. The tallest trees were swaying and knocking against each other like huge claves.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

OK. This is Weird

Apparently my youth is still out there. It appears to have moved to California.

When I was a youngster, I played guitar in a band called The Ramblin' Beach Guys. We were never famous, beyond a small radius around our high school. But we were loud and fast and fun and being a part of the RBGS, as we called ourselves, was a hoot.

Tonight, I find another young Mike Mahaffie playing guitar in another small band. This Mike is 18 "and goes to some college with a really long name." He plays guitar for The Benefits, out of Campbell, California. The other fellows in the band are all in High School. They list their influences as punk, ska and hardcore. We were similar, though more influenced by the 1960's-era Stones and early punk than by hardcore and punk.

What do they sound like? According to their MySpace profile, The Benefits sound like "a basement of frustraition! [sic]"

Two Stupid Thoughts

They say that in any dispute, it's always better to take the high road.

It occurred to me that that is because clearly it's much easier to throw things down at the other guy from up there.


My daughter's class is making anonymous support cards for each other during mandated state testing just now. These are anonymous cards of encouragement to make each other feel better and keep up their spirits during testing.

I suppose it's a "Secret Pollyanna" program.

That's all.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Don't Even Try That Line of B.S. on Us, Young Taxpayer...

The IRS has published a list of "frivolous positions that taxpayers should avoid" when filling out their returns.

When I first saw the title "IRS Identifies 40 Frivolous Positions for Taxpayers to Avoid," I thought it referred to jobs that had somehow been deemed as beneath the dignity of an American taxpayer.

Not so, according to the "Purpose" section of IRS Notice 2007-30 (PDF).
Positions that are the same as or similar to the positions listed in this Notice are identified as frivolous for purposes of the penalty for a “frivolous tax return” under section 6702(a) of the Internal Revenue Code and the penalty for a “specified frivolous submission” under section 6702(b).
That seems clear enough. In other words, "Yeah, right. Nice try, Sparky."
Persons who file a purported return of tax, including an original or amended return, based on one or more of these positions are subject to a penalty of $5,000 if the purported return of tax does not contain information on which the substantial correctness of the self-assessed determination of tax may be judged or contains information that on its face indicates the self-assessed determination of tax is substantially incorrect.
Wait... what?

I have no idea, but I'm guessing that this means that trying any of the listed lines of ... stuff in a tax return is a bad idea.

There really are 40 frivolous arguments listed, several with corollaries and related claims. It reads like the mass of bumper-stickers on the back of a ratty old pick-up driven by a bitter, grizzly, glowering tax-protester.

The final words of the Notice, on page 13, are somehow appropriate (and emphasized [by me] just so you don't miss the irony):
For further information regarding this notice contact the Office of Associate Chief Counsel (Procedure & Administration), Administrative Provisions & Judicial Practice Division, Branch 2, at (202) 622-4940 (not a toll-free call).

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

It Was a Different Time

I found my way to a YouTube posting of an early Johnny Cash performance. He's singing There You Go on the television show Ranch Party. This is from the mid or late 1950s. Just Johnny, a bassist, and an electric guitar player (the Tennessee Two). It made me realize how different music on TV has become.

Look at Johnny Cash here. He's so darkly slicked-back. He looks rather like Desi Arnaz as Ricky Ricardo. Dig the gold jacket. And he's soooo restrained.

Meanwhile, the bass player, Marshall Grant, is just boppin' and poppin' back there. You can't tell from this still shot, but he's chewing a big 'ol wad of gum; out of time with the tune.

And then, there's Luther Perkins, the guitar payer. He's playing a classic country-style Fender Telecaster. I played a Tele in my youth, and I always focus-in on them when I see one played.

Perkins is playing a very restrained "plunkety-plunk" lead-line throughout the song. This still is from his solo (you know, the part where the guitarist usually grimaces and poses and wrings the poor guitar's neck).

There's not a note out of place in his solo. There's not a lot of flash or fire, either. It's perfect, but it's so under control. There's a moment just at the end of the solo when Cash leans back and, I think, calls a chord change out to Perkins.

This is classic stuff, but it is also remarkably stiff and the players, with the exception of a happy, bouncy Grant, seem oddly uncomfortable.

(Via Mr. Dante Fontana's Visual Guidance LTD)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I Wonder if There's Going to be an "Open Fort?"

Each summer, either going to or heading home from The Tyler Place, we pass Fort Montgomery. It is a weathered 19th-century military installation that juts out into Lake Champlain on the New York side just south of the Canadian border.

I've often thought it might be cool to visit, but it doesn't look like it is "open."

It turns out that, for just the low, low price of somewhere between 3 and 9.95 million dollars, it could be ours! The fort, and some additional land, is on sale on eBay, according to the web site The Lay of the Land:
365 acres with frontage on, and under, Lake Champlain is for sale in northern New York. The property comes with a 19th century fortification, Fort Montgomery, that while in need of some repair, is still largely intact. Furthermore, the property abuts the Canadian Border, making this an excellent opportunity to add to the defense of the nation.
I could be tempted. Ever since we started visiting in Vermont, both Karen and I have thought about moving there. It's a lovely place and that far upstate part of New York is nice too.

But Colleen and Christina won't hear of it. They want to stay here in Delaware where they have life-long friends.

I can respect that. But a fort on Lake Champlain would be pretty neat. And maybe we could get some cannons. (Via BLDG BLOG)

At Herring Point

Turning the Corner 2I found a spot of local beach I'd not been on before on Sunday.

I took advantage of the bright sunshine and warmer weather to go in search of a few benchmark locations in Cape Henlopen State Park. I found that the Parks folks have opened up some new beach access points, making it easier to get onto the beach at Herring Point, near the Great Dune.

This is an interesting spot. The beach has eroded enough to uncover old tree stumps from when there was a coastal forest here. There are old jetties and breakwaters and birds and shells and dunes and grasses.

I also took some time to climb to the top of the coastal gun emplacement bunker at Fort Miles. It gives a fine view of the Point of the Cape and of the Harbor of Refuge.

Please don't tell anyone, but this time of year is really the best time of year to see Cape Henlopen State Park.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I Get So Confused

"Only count your sunny houres"
Originally uploaded by bc anna.

I get confused about daylight savings time. I have to stop and think whether we are entering it or leaving it. I think we've just entered it and now should call our hours "EDT."

The Daylight Savings switch always leads to a day or two of general uncertainty for me. We handle the clocks with no problem, but the difference in daylight as it relates to the clock leaves me feeling disconnected for a while.

I understand that measured time, as we have diced it up with our 24-hour clocks and what-not, is itself an artificial construct. But I get used to how the day is parceled out and measured. When we change that, even slightly, I feel out of sorts.

Here's An Even More Radical Idea

There's been some discussion lately here in the First State about selling off one or more of our Toll Roads as a way to fund transportation improvements.

If you think that that would be a drastic step, you're not likely to endorse the proposal put forward (we hope with tongue in cheek) by a blog called "The Needs of the Few" out in the Midwest: "Let’s outsource Delaware."
It sounds radical, maybe even a little extreme. But it’s a win-win proposition. We’ll sell off Delaware to the highest bidder. I’m thinking it would probably go to Europe, because Europe seems to be fond of lackadaisical countries that seemingly have no purpose (reference Portugal, Belgium, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg). We’ll be rid of the deadweight, and the profits from the sale will go towards the budget deficit. Probably no one would even notice that Delaware was gone, as it’s merely the 46th most populous state in the nation. No one even lives there.
I live here. I might notice.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

...and Then It Warmed Up

Snow Girl, Two Days LaterHere's what the Snow Girl looked like late this morning. We've warmed up considerably since Wednesday's pretty snowfall and Thursday's icy roads.

We found a trace of snow, the buttons that made up parts of the face, and the carrot nose. I'm impressed that the ball that formed the head was still visible as a separate part.

Walking in Dover, yesterday, I found a small patch of snow hiding in the shadow of a bench.

I imagine that's gone now too.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Final Crop?

We live in eastern Sussex County, Delaware, an area that has grown at what sometimes seems an alarming pace in the 21 years we've been here. Sussex has traditionally been a rural county, with an economy dominated by agriculture. Eastern Sussex, where our town of Lewes is located, is a retirement and resort area, featuring beaches, ocean and bays. We still have farmland, but it is devolving into developments around us.

That's why I'm fascinated by an art project in Arizona, near Phoenix. Matthew Moore is an artist who is watching his family farm fall to encroaching development. His response has been a series of art projects using the remaining fields as his canvas.
Rotations: Moore Estates is an exact replica of the first planned community being built on my family's land. The homes have been planted in sorghum and the roads in a black-bearded wheat. The project is a third scale of the actual development, which can be seen to the east of the project.
Mr. Moore has also carved a new-home floor-plan into a 20-acre field of barley.

I've always enjoyed corn mazes, but this is something bigger.

(With thanks to WFMU's Beware of the Blog)

Snow Day? Snow Girl.

Snow Girl
We didn't get a huge amount of snow yesterday, but it was enough to cover the roads and the night was cold enough to turn that covering to ice, at least on the back roads. The result was a day off from school for Karen and the girls.

Christina made her traditional Snow Girl. Much of the snow had melted by the time I returned this evening. Snow Girl was gamely hanging on.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Paul's Back

Paul has brought his Progressive Postings out of the garage. He says the fall election was enough to keep him happily qiuet for four months
It took awhile for me to return from cloud nine. Progressives had a slew of victories last November, however it is time to get back to work.
And he does, looking into issues both national and local. Welcome back, Paul!

Did I Jinx It?

There I was on Saturday, thinking spring and digging higher temperatures. I called the change of season too soon, I guess.

This evening, we're looking out at about three inches of snow that fell during the day today. It's not a spring snow, either. This is a fluffy cold-weather snow.

We could see school delays in the morning. The main roads look mostly wet, as evidenced by this image from shortly after 8:00 p.m., just outside Rehoboth Beach. Things could be a tad slick in the morning.

Thanks to the DelDOT Interactive Traffic Map site for the image.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Feeling The Urge to Get Outside

It feels like spring is just around the corner. Stormy skies have given way to sunshine and rising temperatures. The days are getting longer.

In younger days, this sort of weather made me want to drive down back roads in rural Maine, listening to acoustic Grateful Dead and looking for water -- ponds, lakes, the Gulf of Maine -- and mountains. Water and mountains represent nature for me; I always want to get out into or onto them at this time of year.

Now that I'm older and more settled, this time of year has me looking at the yard with a gardener's eye. I'm not very good at it, but yard work brings me that same natural feeling.

This is also when my urge to walk and take photos comes on strong. I've spent the last two months nursing back and sciatic problems. Yesterday, though, I took a short lunchtime ramble (about a mile and half) in Dover. It was a test-walk and I wasn't crippled by pain.

Things are looking up.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

What the...!

botoxThis white flag flapping along Route 9 in Georgetown caught my eye this afternoon. It is one of two flying in proud advertisement outside a cosmetic medical clinic.

In bright red letters on a stark white field:
This is the sort of advertising approach I associate with a Used-Car lot. Not a medical office.

I can't help screening this mental motion-picture:
IRIS-IN. Interior. Medical Office.

A nervous-looking WOMAN sits on the very edge of an examination table.


A MAN enters, wearing a plaid, frayed, Doctor's Coat and with a slicked-back toupee.

MAN: Say little lady. Whats it gonna take to get a syringe-full of botulinum toxins injected into those sweet cheeks of yours today?

WOMAN: Ummm....