Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Cool Water Park

water park active pool 1
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
There's a cool water park at one end of Main Street in downtown Fort Worth, Texas. The Water Garden, as it is properly called, was put in in the 1970s and it has that "70s Cement Architecture" look, but is pretty fascinating. It has many levels and different types of water features.

The NSGIC retreat group wandered down there on Tuesday evening and walked down the steps to the Active Pool, which was fairly disorienting in the dark. There are cement steps of varying shapes and sizes, surrounded by the sound of rushing water; add deep shadows and a dark sky and it is otherworldly.

Will Craig and I went back just after sunrise this morning. The steps are still daunting, but not as frightening, in the day.

There's also a quiet pool, surrounded by Cypress trees and walls of gently falling water. While we were there, the aerated water pool was closed for maintenance.

So, if you find yourself in Fort Worth, take a moment to check this place out.

In Fort Worth

fort worth morning
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
I'm in Fort Worth, Texas, for a few days, for a leadership retreat of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC). We're here for just two nights, with meetings for an afternoon and evening, a whole full day, and a morning, before flying back home.

There's not much time to look around, but I stepped out this morning and again just before the sun sank to grab a few photos of the downtown. I hope to get out again tomorrow morning. Fort Worth seems to have a compact and walkable downtown, but it has been quiet when I've been out.

My trip to this Fort Worth Hilton was a minor odyssey. I managed to get on the wrong "SuperShuttle" van at Dallas/Fort Worth International and got a bonus tour of downtown Dallas before catching the right van into Fort Worth. Next time I won't trust the fellow in the yellow windbreaker, with the clip-board, at the shuttle stop to make sure I don't get on the wrong van.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Meet Polly

meet polly
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
This is Polly, our third cat. We weren't planning on having a third cat, but she showed up at the Sussex Dance Academy one day last week looking cute and lost and alone. The Dance Academy at any given time consists of a dozen or so teen and pre-teen girls, most of them with feline soft-spots. There was no way they were going to let this cat stay a stray.

She spent a few days at Miriah's house, but her family had just taken on a stray in their neighborhood. We were always on call, just in case and I fully expected to have this new cat before too long. We picked her up on Friday evening.

Mocha and Shoe are not pleased with us. They were neither of them quite pleased with being one of two cats in the house. Adding a third has them a bit miffed-off.

Shoe got over it fairly soon. He's been faced with a new cat once already, so he was a bit more used to this.

Mocha has spent much of the last two days under our bed, coming out only to eat and use the cat-box. She's been arching her back and puffing-up her tail and looking very intent. But this afternoon she has come out and is napping in the sun; not fully comfortable yet, but getting there.

Why "Polly?" She was discovered outside the Dance Academy door during rehearsals for The Nutcracker while the Polichinelles were rehearsing. The girls refer to them as "the Pollies."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Grand Opening: Crumb's

Grand Opening: Crumb's
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
I watched a grand opening in downtown Dover this week. The Dover Mayor, a councilman, and local economic development folks joined the owners of Crumb's in cutting a ribbon on Thursday at around noon.

A few of us walked uptown to try the place out and watch the ribbon get cut. My colleague Laura (second from the left here) is involved in things Dover and wanted to attend. My friend, and former colleague, Anne Marie is the city's head of inspections and planning. She's holding the roght side of the ribbon in this picture.

Anne Marie and her husband Mike T. (one of my golf buddies and a GIS pro) joined us for lunch. Th place has pretty good food and makes a nice addition to the downtown choices.

There are now four newish lunch choices on Loockerman Street, in Dover. I'm still loyal to my friends at 33 West, but it's neat to have a few other choices, a few other styles from which to choose.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tenth Golf Game of 2008

Mike T., Sandy, and I took Tuesday afternoon off to try out the newly refurbished Garrison's Lake golf course just south of Smyrna, Delaware. We get to play together every once in a while and when we found ourselves all scheduled for the same morning-long meeting on a day with clear afternoon schedules, we decided to use a little of our vacation time, get some sun, and show how much fun poorly played golf can be.

In fairness to Sandy and Mike, I played poorly. They played pretty well. That's Sandy in the picture there in his Tiger Woods red shirt, about to drive on the back 9.

Garrison's Lake was built in the 1960s and is a mature course. It feel into disrepair a few years ago when the ownership closed it and sold it for housing development. After an outcry against that idea, the course was purchased by the state. After some outcry over that idea, the course has reopened as a public, non-profit course.

The course as been made a little longer than it was, and the trees have been trimmed back a bit. The greens are in great shape and fairly fast. The fairways are still recovering from encroaching crab-grass but have been kept quite short and play well. It is a challenging and fun course.

May game started well. I was hitting straight, if medium-length drives. My iron play was acceptable but my putting was not great. And, when my putting started to come around, I started pulling my approach shots badly. Several times I hit what were, for me, great drives, but wasted them with poor approach shots. Frankly, I'm not used to being within a short-iron of the green for my second shot on a par-4.

With a few "blow-up" holes, I ended my day with a 120. Pretty poor. But it was a lovely afternoon, and we had fun. That is always my test for a round of golf.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sad News

I'm saddened this evening to read that Grace Pierce-Beck has died. I remember her as petite, quiet, polite, ridiculously intelligent, determined, and very effective. Grace Pierce-Beck was an environmental leader and leading light in Delaware and on the national stage. You may not have heard of her, if you have not been intimately involved in the environmental movement. She got a huge amount done very quietly and behind the scenes.

I was lucky enough to have met her in the early 1990s, when I was working for DNREC -- Delaware's environmental agency -- and got to interview her for a magazine story.

The News Journal story linked above includes a recent photo of her. It looks like she had been fighting an illness recently, but she still had that spark in her eye that I remember. It looks like it is from earlier this year, on the occasion of her induction into the Hall of Fame of Delaware Women.

Grace Pierce Beck was a wonderful person. I'm thankful to have known her.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bruce Springsteen on Barack Obama

Ryan Cormier has posted the text of Bruce Springsteen's short speech in support of Barack Obama on his Pulp Culture blog. Springsteen spoke, and sang, yesterday at a voter-registration rally in Philadelphia. The News Journal's straight news section has the story as well (Springsteen rocks Obama rally in Philly). Both feature some impressive photos of the crowd that gathered.

Springsteen spoke about how his job has been to observe, and sing about, the promise of America. And he noted that he has observed a growing distance between the promise of the our nation and the reality of life lately.
I believe Senator Obama has taken the measure of that distance in his own life and in his work. I believe he understands, in his heart, the cost of that distance, in blood and suffering, in the lives of everyday Americans. I believe as president, he would work to restore that promise to so many of our fellow citizens who have justifiably lost faith in its meaning. After the disastrous administration of the past 8 years, we need someone to lead us in an American reclamation project.
It is worth noting that Springsteen went on to remind the crowd that it will take more than voting for Obama to turn things around.
But most importantly, it needs us. You and me. To build that house with the generosity that is at the heart of the American spirit. A house that is truer and big enough to contain the hopes and dreams of all of our fellow citizens. That is where our future lies. We will rise or fall as a people by our ability to accomplish this task. Now I don't know about you, but I want that dream back, I want my America back, I want my country back.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ninth Golf Game of 2008

Andy and I played 18 holes at the Rookery this afternoon. We started late, after two, and timed our game so that when we finished we could join our lovely wives for dinner at Saketumi, a new pan-Asian restaurant at Midway, between Lewes and Rehoboth.

We were paired on the course with Jim and Ellen, a very nice husband and wife from Bethesda, Maryland, with a place in Lewes. They were a little bit older than we are; their two sons are now in college. I was interested to learn that their boys had graduated from my old High School, Walt Whitman.

Andy and I had so-so rounds. Interestingly, we seemed to trade-off bad holes. When I was going well, he sliced. When he hit well, I hooked shots badly. I was not putting well at all. still, though I ended with a dismal 118, there were some bright spots. I did hit the green in one on one of the long par-threes. I just completely spoiled that chance at par with very sad putting. But I had a few tee shots I was proud of, and I reached the green on the long, long par-5 tenth hole without wanting to kill myself, which is, I think, a first.

And it was a lovely day. Sunny but cool. With low humidity. It's hard not to enjoy weather like that.

From the New Lexicon #102: "Sarah-phonics"

NY Times Op-Ed Columnist Charles M. Blow has coined a new term in his column on the Biden/Palin debate (The Joe Biden Show).
Palin launched into her charm offensive — winking, smiling, dodging questions and speaking in her signature Sarah-phonics , a mash up of sentence fragments and colloquialisms glued together with misplaced also’s and there’s — gibberish really. Everyone in the bar lapped it up. It was The Sarah Palin Show." [Highlighting by yours-truly]
While we're on the NY Times site, I can also recommend Bob Herbert's column "Palin's Alternate Universe," which includes this gem:
...Ms. Palin’s words don’t mean anything. She’s all punctuation.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Deployment Ceremony

There was a deployment ceremony today in downtown Dover for the 361st Signal Brigade, a unit of the Delaware National Guard. They are headed out for a period of training in Texas and then to Iraq. These ceremonies are not all that unusual, but this one was special in part because Delaware's Attorney General, Beau Biden, is a captain in the unit and his dad, Senator Joe Biden, was on hand.

I understand that our Governor, Senators and Congressman often attend these ceremonies, and address the troops. Senator Biden's status as VP-candidate, with the Secret Service complications that go along with that, made this one a little different. Streets were closed all around the site of the ceremony -- Legislative Mall in front of Legislative Hall. Access to the ceremony itself was strictly controlled, but we were able to watch from outside a guarded perimeter.

A colleague and I took a short break early in the day and checked out preparations. A crew was erecting a flag-draped ceremonial arch for the Brigade to march under. We spotted Captain Biden on the street in front of our office. We stopped for a quick chat and, why not, a photo. Beau Biden is a nice guy; friendly and charming. You can see his dad in him.

At eleven, the brigade marched a short way down Legislative Avenue, under that ceremonial arch, and onto the Mall. They were preceded by a group of police on motorcycles, a platoon of Harley-mounted Patriot Guard Riders, and a set of bag-pipers. The Patriot Guard group, by the way, included Delaware blogger Shirley Vandever, the Delaware Curmudgeon.

The ceremony itself featured short speeches by the leadership of the Delaware National Guard, the Governor, the Senators and a representative of our Congressman (who was back in Washington to vote on the bailout). We expected Senator Biden to avoid the election in his remarks and he seemed to do so; his was the shortest address. The CNN story has the heart of it:

"I've come here many times before as a Delawarean, as a United States senator," he told a crowd in Dover. "But today I come, as you prepare to deploy, as a father -- a father who had some sage advice from his son this morning: 'Dad, keep it short, we're in formation.' "

"My heart is full of love and pride. ... You are the best demonstration of both our nation's greatness and ... our people's goodness," he added.
I've long opposed the war in Iraq, but I couldn't help feeling a little choked up with pride and concern as I watched these men and women marching in my state's capitol. You can oppose the war and support the troops at the same time.

I also found myself watching some of the VFW guys who were in attendance in support of the younger troops today. I was standing a short way behind a Vietnam Vet. Did he get this sort of support? I hope so. In any case, we can still show him and his compatriots respect today.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I Want One #316

I have spotted a technology that I want to play with. The Make Blog points to a plan by AS220 Labs to debut a new tool at the Maker Faire in Austin, Texas, later this month: The Hair and Balanced TV Filter.

The technology is simple.
The Hair and Balanced TV Filter taps into the composite video input to your TV, detects whether you are watching talking head pundits or newscasters, then draws mustaches on the faces on the screen. The TV filter is a new kind of hardware shield that helps users take control of their screen.
I love it. It reminds me of a novel I read some 34 years ago. I cannot remember what the title was, but it was about someone who developed a tool that let him add graffiti to live television broadcasts. I remember the novel following the consequences of that and the uproar it caused. It was a counter-culture novel. The Nixon people were the bad guys.

I do remember that I finished that book a few days before we learned that Nixon would resign the Presidency. It was an exciting time.