Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sometimes I Just Want to Take a Walk

I was walking in downtown Dover this week, headed up to 33 West for a Caesar salad, and I found myself wanting to keep on walking west. For long, long time. When I was younger I used to get these urges to take up travel as a lifestyle.

At different times I have wanted to live on a coastal schooner, I have wanted to ride a bike across the nation, and I have wanted to drive around the outside of the US. Generally I have thought that I should make my living writing about the experience or taking lots of pictures.

That feeling came back as I walked into a stiff cool wind on Monday. The walking warmed me and I thought, "I could do this all day." I had a brief daydream of walking by easy stages across the country, carrying a small backpack, my camera, and a laptop. I could blog about it and post lots of pictures, supporting myself with discrete, tasteful ads and maybe a paypal tip-jar.

I could work my way along back roads and through small towns. I could plan my trip to match the seasons, visiting south in the winter and north in the summer. I'd maybe camp-out sometimes, but I'd take full advantage of motels and hot showers. (I'm not that young anymore.) I would simply walk across the country, visiting places.

It was just a daydream. I'm happy in my life as a dedicated husband and dad, a state worker, and a long-term Lewes-ite. But sometimes it is fund to think about being completely different; to think about taking a long walk.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In the Memetime, Here's a Six Five-Word Memoir

Elbert has tagged me for another one of those blog-memes where you play along and then tag it forward. In this case, the task is to post a six-word memoir (you've heard of these, right?), link back to the person who tagged you, and then tag five more.

I hesitated, but then I realized that I've had a five-word memoir posted as part of my Blogger Profile for a while now:
Remarkably self-absorbed. Since 1962.
I'm not sure I can do better than that.

So, who to tag? Why not a few other Delawareans...
There you go. Who can do four words?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

It's a Lovely City

white and red
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
I work in Dover, Delaware, which is a beautiful place, particularly in the spring. The City manages many flower-beds around the downtown. This time of year features tulips.

These are at the intersection of Loockerman Street, State Street, and Kings Highway. They decorate a memorial with flagpole.

I wonder who in city government got this started? Who keeps it going? Whoever it is, I thank them all. I love a lunch of walking around on a sunny day with my camera and collecting images.

I'm not the only one. Dave Wolanski has been finding lovely shots around town lately too.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

New Jersey's Best Editorial Cartoonist Draws in Delaware

I was pleased to see a positive profile of the cartoonist Rob Tornoe in the Wilmington News Journal today. Mr. Tornoe draws for a New Jersey political web site ( but was raised partly in Delaware and lives in Newark. He may draw New Jersey, but he's one of ours. And, I am a fan. His RSS feed has been a part of the "art" category in my Google Reader set-up for a while now.

The profile, 'Equal opportunity offender', traces the 30-year old's young career and his slow migration into the center of the political spectrum, where he has developed a skill at skewering politicians on the left and right with a balanced, if jaundiced, eye.

The News Journal includes Mr. Tornoe's take on the Obama-Can't-Bowl flap, for example. I am a left-leaning cynic, so this cartoon's critical look at GW Bush's war and tactics, and the foolishness of the press, appeals to me. But I note that the cartoon also pokes fun, if gently, at Mr. Obama himself.

I grew up politically on the cartoons of the great editorialists like Oliphant. Theirs was a form of encapsulated commentary that included humor and an understanding of the absurdity of life and politics. Mr. Tornoe is a part of a new generation that is carrying that tradition forward but adding new tricks and twists.

It is good to see. And fun to read.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Purple Prose Enlivens a Tale of the Emerald Diamond

I've been checking through old newspapers at the Library of Congress' Chronicling America site. I'm searching for references to my various forebears; it is a low-return fishing expedition, but great fun.

For example, a search for references to any Mahaffies in California in newspapers from around the turn of the 20th Century has turned up several sports-page notes about a baseball umpire named Mahaffy. I doubt that he is a direct relative, though he may be a very distant cousin. What's great about this, though, is the prose in which I find him.

Here are two paragraphs from Page 42 of the September 30, 1906, edition of the San Francisco Call. William J. Slattery writes about a game between the Portland Beavers and the San Francisco Seals (in first and second in the standings at the time).
Neither team played anything that looked like high art. Errors happened frequently and did a deal of damage. Neither pitcher was there any too strong and and both of them delayed the game as much as possible by indulging in a series of senseless winding ups and warming ups between the rounds.

Maybe it was because of the banishment of Cousin Park Wilson that San Francisco did not perform according to the tips of the wise brigade. Cousin Park assayed to engage in an oratorial contest with Umpire Mahaffy in the eighth spasm and before he realized that the worst was yet to come, the indicator man had already made a mysterious high sign and given Park notice to skidoo. He also informed the leader of the Seals that his pay envelope will be shy five dollars when the next day of reckoning with Cal Ewing is at hand.
The Seals were not doing well in their season series with the Beavers in 1906. The Beavers won this game, 3 to 1, moving to a record of 98-47 and a won/lost percentage of .697. The cellar-dwelling Fresno team, by contrast, was at .335 percent at 51-101.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Morning, Noon and Evening

I had limited time to wander around the French Quarter when I was in New Orleans this week. But I did get out for quick walks first thing, at noon and in the evening. On each walk, I took a shot of the St. Louis Cathedral from the Mississippi levee across Jackson Square.

At around 7:48 a.m., Tuesday, things were quiet along Decatur Street. A street-cleaner machine had been along recently and left parts of the street glistening wet. There were just a few people wandering past. Those of us who were out were focused on beignet with cafe-o-lait.

At 12:54 p.m., the road was dry and there were more people and cars around. Though not too many. New Orleans is somewhat quieter than I remember it from a few pre-Katrina visits. There's not much damage in the French Quarter or in the main business district, but if you know what you are looking for you can see some. What struck me most was the fact that the bustle of the city was reduced by about one third.

At about 6:15 p.m., things were quieting down again. The streets around Jackson Square were emptying even as Bourbon Street, two blocks beyond the Cathedral, was starting to fill up. Decatur Street was wet again. The shadows were creeping across the square.

Up on Bourbon Street, I was struck by a sign offering a balcony for rent for special events like Mardi Gras. And there are quiet streets just a few blocks away, where you find pocket gardens and peaceful courtyards.

New Orleans is worth a visit. Folks there will tell you that tourists and business travelers are a key part of their recovery. The French Quarter is still fascinating and beautiful. The food is great. And the music and culture have not died out.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

An Alignment of Pet Peeves

A blogger out in Ohio has touched, in a way, on a pet peeve of mine in discussing a pet peeve of his own:
In the past year I’ve noticed that the media, and sometimes city officials, use the terms Delaware County and Delaware (city) as interchangeable terms. They’re not.
I try to track news and discussion about the State of Delaware. I have deployed standing searches using Google and other tools to try to catch references to, and discussion about, the First State. I've found some fascinating things this way, but I do have to wade through far too much news about Delaware County and city in Ohio, that county just north of us in Pennsylvania, and numerous Delaware Roads and and Avenues around the nation.

Maybe we should have copyrighted the name.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Return to New Orleans

I'm in New Orleans for a few days for a meeting sponsored by the US Census Bureau. I've visited here twice in the past; once with The Lovely Karen and once for a NSGIC conference. Both of those visits were pre-Katrina. Things have changed.

We're in a hotel on Canal Street, just at the edge of the French Quarter. There are several refurbishing projects in this part of town; you can tell that something went on, but there was no bad flooding here and things are getting back on track. I don't know that I'll have much time to look around, but what I've seen so far has not looked too bad.

I rode in from the airport yesterday evening on a small bus-load of visitors. There are several conferences in town this week. Our driver offered to give us an update as he drove. We agreed and he spoke for the whole of the 25-minute (or so) ride about what had happened, where and why. He pointed-out abandoned hospitals and the high-water marks in places that had flooded badly. He described some of the recovery efforts and credited us, as visitors to his town, as a key part of that recovery.

The Katrina flood, and its aftermath, coincided for me with a minor personal health challenge. I spent the first few days of that event in Beebe Hospital with a blood clot and the balance of that first week recuperating at home. I was feeling vulnerable and couldn't help wondering what it would have been like for me to try to deal with something like Katrina, and to try to protect and take care of my family in that situation, with even a minor health issue like the blood clot.

So it is interesting to be back and to have even a brief look around. We are scheduled fairly tightly, but a small group of us plan to walk down to Jackson Square in the morning for beignets at the Cafe du Monde. That's near the levee along the Mississippi River, which is said to be about as high and running as strong as it ever does just now. I hope to get some good photos in the morning before we go back into another day of meetings.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Go! Fight! Win! (Okay, maybe not "Fight")

I got to do something very new this evening. For the first time in my life, I found myself in a grandstand yelling encouragement to one of my kids on a high school sports field.

Colleen is a member of the brand new Girls Lacrosse Team at Sussex Technical High School. Today was their second game. Ever. There have been a few scrimmages and practice, of course, but they are a brand new team, in a brand new program. And given their complete lack of experience, they don't look too bad.

Our girls are both dancers, and have competed in that discipline in the past. And Colleen went through a period of competing in equestrian events as a younger girl. But traditional high school team sports are something new.

So there I was, yelling "Get in there!" and "Go Colleen!" and "well done!" and things like that.

I asked Colleen as we left, "could you hear me?"

She said, "oh yeah."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Three Tens on a Black Screen

I was waiting for this point in the life of my Prius. I reached 101,010 miles on my odometer on the way into work this morning. The way the number "1" works in the digital read-out adds this once every 10, 1000, and 100000 miles spacing that I find cute.

It really doesn't take much to make me a happy man.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Fishing and Birds

I found this Osprey hanging out on the rooftop of a small building about halfway out the Naples Fishing Pier, in Florida, last month. He(?) was hooked, with a fishing lure hanging from his beak. It didn't seem to have affected him too much, though he seemed very tame and was letting a few of the regulars feed him by tossing small bait fish out onto the deck for him to swoop down and grab. Otherwise, he flew around the pier a few times and then perched, watching things, on top of a fake owl.

There were plenty of gulls hanging around and a fair number of pelicans in the water below looking for fish as much as the retirees and tourists on the pier.

And there were birds that I didn't recognize. The fellow at right was swooping in close. I think he was after the fish that the anglers were offering to the Osprey.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

What Did We Call This Place When?

In order to save electrons, allow me to point to a blog post I just wrote on the NSGIC Blog: Getting Serious About Original Place Names.

It is about a recent small grant by the Federal Geographic Data Committee to the state of Hawaii to add audio pronunciation guides to geospatial place-name data for that state. It builds on an idea developed by the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, in Idaho. The Tribe's GIS program has created audio map data, including for Google Earth and has entries outside of Idaho.
The project is open to input on names outside of traditional Couer d'Alene areas. Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, for example, is at the same spot as what was once known as Tsi wahswèn:to (MP3) which translates as "at the coal forked mouth."
I think this is a cool idea.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Unexpected Fact #195

I found out today that the spell-checker in Microsoft Outlook includes the word "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

I had added an extraneous "l."

How and why did I learn this unexpected fact? I found a use for the word in an e-mail at work. Every once in a while it helps to use absurd language. Even if the sound of it is said to be "quite atrocious."

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Delaware, Victorious

There's been lots of reaction this week to the decision by the US Supreme Court to confirm Delaware's denial of a Coastal Zone Act permit for the proposed Liquid Natural Gas terminal at Crown Landing, in New Jersey. Plenty of news coverage and blog reactions; from Delaware and New Jersey and elsewhere. Some positive, some neutral, and some negative. I've been tagging what I find in