Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sixth Golf Game of 2009

I played a solo round at Old Landing Golf Course, outside of Rehoboth Beach, yesterday afternoon. Old Landing is a course I've played many times in the past. It has not been the best-kept place to play, but it is getting better and is a fine value. I walked, carrying my clubs, as part of my attempt to get into better shape.

I decided to try playing the whole round with my driver in action. In the past, I have limited the use of the driver, as I am not very good with it. But my swing is improving and I can sometimes hit a decent drive, so I decided to use the driver on all holes save those where it is clearly the wrong club -- par-3 holes and those with narrow, tricky drives.

I had mixed results. There were several drives that I was proud of, but often, when I hit a firm, rising shot that seemed to have some distance in it, my slice ruined things. I hit a few trees. But my fairway shots are getting better; I've found a comfortable spot with my 3- and 4-hybrid clubs. There were several holes that I was able to approach in something like golfer fashion.

I still carded a disappointing 114, but had at least one par and several holes where, but for a decent putt, I'd have had more. There was only one truly ugly blow-up hole.

And I got some very pleasant exercise.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Floating History

I spent a pleasant hour today visiting the Nina and the Pinta, reproductions of two of the ships that Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain to the Americas. The ships are in Lewes for the weekend and the volunteer crews are offering tours.

I love boats of all kinds and am a voracious reader of maritime stories, so I was in heaven. I took about a hundred pictures, some of which I liked well enough to post on-line.

While I was aboard, a small group of volunteers from the Kalmar Nyckel were wandering around and playing compare and contrast. The Kalmar Nyckel is a reproduction of the ship that brought the first permanent European settlers to Delaware, in 1638. There are almost 150 years between the two voyages; it was fun to listen to them compare notes with the Nina and Pinta crews. The Kalmar Nyckel was a much more technologically advanced ship, yet all three are but small cockle shells in which to cross a stormy sea.

One of the perks of living in Lewes is the town's close connection to the sea. We were historically a port, and a fishing town. Now we haul in tourists and retirees, but the water still plays a key role.

A Stormy Night in Delaware

A storm front moved across Delaware last night, bring high winds, thunder and lightning, and possibly hail up and down the state.

The scene at right was at 7:05 p.m., just outside of Rehoboth Beach. Heavy rain showers had just moved through, though there was not much thunder or lightning. There was a momentary opening of the clouds that showed the sunny skies that had been around earlier in the day, and the tops of the storm clouds above the murk that hovered just over our heads.

As the evening progressed, we watched storms roll across the sky north of Lewes. They tend to pass us to the north, but we did get a few brushes of rain and wind and were able to watch the show from our north-facing living room windows.

And it was possible to track the various storms via twitter.

In Ocean City, Maryland:
  • drvcrashI sweat a tornado is coming thru right now
  • drvcrash It's hailing sideways
  • scottking Hail just shattered the windshield on our neighbors truck. They look like cocktail onions.
  • drvcrash @scottking yeah i was watching the cameras at work when it hit and all the customers run in
  • scottking @drvcrash I can only picture being putt-putting or on the boardwalk and have it start hailing. Bet it's hilarious to see tourist run.
In New Castle County, Delaware:
At around 10:00 p.m., del_editor, who works at the News Journal, tried a little twitter-based reporting:
  • del_editor so how's the weather, any power outage situations out there in the south, north and in between delaware?
  • andytuba @del_editor Well, Newark had that weird yellow sky earlier, but it stopped raining a while ago and the power's doing fine.
  • lifeontheedges @del_editor not much crazy weather here, lots of thunder and lightning for a while but calm now. sky looked like orange sherbet at sunset.
I assume there were several other responses, from folks I don't follow, because del_editor soon seemed satisfied:
  • del_editorI love the power of twitter. In a few seconds, I can gauge weather throughout state. thank you, all.
And others were watching the storm and storm-watchers:
Meanwhile, in Southern California:
  • martenhogeweg even the fox weather man is twittering: it's sunny in socal.. it's sunny in socal.. it's sunny in socal..
And this morning? Here on Delmarva:
  • oceanviewde Storm last night was worth the incredible weather it brought for today!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Words Matter

Wordle: Dick Cheney on Security (5/21/09)There will be plenty of other people parsing the security/terrorism speeches by President Obama and Dick Cheney today. There are substantive differences in policy, of course. But I wanted to keep it simple and just look at the words.
Wordle: President Obama on Security (5/21/09)
To the right is a word-cloud of Dick Cheney's speech. Note the largest word. We spent the last eight years having that word, "terrorists," shoved down our throats.

At left is a word cloud of President Obama's speech. His largest word is "people."

A note to Dick Cheney: go away.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Photo Project

I've started collecting, photographically and geospatially, Kent/Sussex Boundary Monuments. These are stone monuments, set in the past to mark parts of the boundary between the two counties. Most of the boundary follows streams, but there are two stretches of lines which run from point to point. Most of those points are marked with stone monuments. The New Castle/Kent boundary is similar.

Staff from all three Delaware counties and several state agencies have started a project to improve the accuracy of the geospatial data that we use to represent the county boundaries in our GIS tools. We have been looking at historic surveys and have noticed references to stones that serve as monuments in several places. So I have started do some scouting to see if we can find these. And, of course, I take pictures.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I Hereby Challenge #1

I hereby challenge former Lewes City Councilperson and several-time Sussex County Council candidate Judson Bennett to Get Your Own Blog (GYOB).

Jud is a prolific e-mailer. He maintains a private mailing list he calls the "Coastal Conservative Network" to which he sends a constant stream of updates which read, to this jaded liberal reader of conservative thought, as blog posts.

Here are some subject lines from Jud that are still in my inbox:
  • Future Scan-the Development of the future of Lewes?????????
    Repeating charges from some no-growth activists that a regional planning initiative by a local group is developer-controlled.
  • Group threatens to stop Prayer at Sussex Council Meetings/Prayer Breakfast
    Jud is shocked that Americans United for Separation of Church and State object to explicitly christian prayer before county council meetings.
  • Legislating or "Dictating Morality"- A Response
    A sort of "comment -rescue" in which Jud forwards a rebuttal by a local pastor to something he (Jud) had to say in a newspaper column.
  • The sailing ships Nina & Pinta-coming to Lewes
    Cool local news.
  • Marine Corp Band to Perform in Lewes JULY 1st !!!!
    Also cool, local and news.
  • Lewes Council Goes for Carrying Capacity Study
    Lewes City Council agrees to try to get funding for a traffic study.
  • Sussex County Council will sue DNREC ??????
    Jud questions the wisdom of the county suing the state.
  • I endorse Joan Deaver
    Jud had recently lost the republican primary and endorsed the democrat running in the race. Big news locally.
I'm know I've deleted a few others over the months, and I left out several purely procedural e-mails. But there's enough here to illustrate my point: Jud is a blogger without a blog.

There was a period of time when Jud was contributing a regular "Jud's Rant" to the "First State Politics" blog (which became Delaware Politics after some other name, which escapes me). But that stopped. And he does appear occasionally as a "from the inbox" post on Nancy Willings' Delaware Way blog.

Other than the occasional guest spot, Jud continues to generate content that is only going out one-way and is not really part of a back and forth discussion (except when contrarians like me pester him back with argumentative e-mails).

I think the Delaware body politic would be better served if Jud left the closed-circuit of e-mail and entered the world of blogging, on his own blog. I think "Coastal Conservative" would be a great name. Blogger and Wordpress are both easy to use.

So... I hereby challenge you, sir. Get Your Own Blog.

Help Wanted: Perfect Parent

There's a classified ad in our local paper this week-end from a family from the city that is planning to summer here at the beach. They are looking for someone to help with their kids. The ad reads, in part:
...a reliable, ENERGETIC, patient, yet firm, individual to help with caring for/nurturing a 4 year old boy and 6 year old girl, as well as light housekeeping items (laundry, meals and kitchen). help with sports activities (swimming, running, playing ball, bikes, etc) outings to the park and beach, on our boat.

We also would like our children to have reading, math and other "lessons" over the summer. The ability to teach a musical instrument ... is a plus!
Apparently, Maria Von Trapp, Mary Poppins, and Nanny McPhee were already booked up.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I Think I Killed It?

sorry dave
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
I was trying out the new Wolfram|alpha knowledge engine/search tool this morning when I made it freeze up. The fail-screen says it was because it has "exceeded its current maximum test load." But I think it's because I asked it for all Grateful Dead concerts.

In any event, I find the fail-screen charming. I'm a sucker for a clever fail-screen.

Friday, May 15, 2009

I Find Myself Listening To Phil Lately

Phil Lesh
Originally uploaded by Laughing Squid
I'm a deadhead. I got on the bus 27 years ago and have been listening to the Grateful Dead ever since; sometimes more and sometimes less.

When I was a young man, I tended to listen with my focus on Jerry Garcia. He played lead guitar and, as a guitar player, I wanted to study him. Then I started to pay closer attention to Bobby Weir, the young "rock star" and rhythm guitarist. I liked his style and songwriting and I began to see how complex and musically cool was his playing.

Some years back, I became a drummer. I had married a music therapist and through her started to learn more about the healing power of music. I read books on the subject written by Dead drummer Mickey Hart. I began to play in drum circles. As I listened to the band I heard more of the two drummers, Mickey and Billy Kreutzmann.

Of late, I find myself listing to Phil Lesh, Dead bassist. I'd played some bass in college, and had always kept an ear on Phil. But it seems lately that his playing is really coming through. It may be the fact that my eldest child plays bass. And it may have something to do with the increased amount of high-quality Dead live recordings I am able to listen to via the Sirius/XM channel The Dead.

My car stereo is pretty good, and the digital satellite signal is pure, so I am physically able to hear more of the bass range. And what I hear Phil Lesh play is marvelous. This holds true for the full historical span of the Grateful Dead, from mid-60s recordings of the band jamming behind blues preacher Ron (Pig Pen) McKernan through the jazzy 70s, the rock-n-roll 80s and 90s and today, as the band is reborn.

Don't get me wrong. I still listen to the whole wonderful beast that is the Dead playing live. But I am particularly enjoying Phil Lesh right now.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Prom Time

Sussex Tech held their prom last night at the new clubhouse at Heritage Shores Golf Club, in Bridgeville. Colleen attended with her young man. She in a lovely chocolate gown and he in a white tux.

We went along to watch the "grand parade" that starts the event; couples and groups of friends descending a palatial staircase and making a short circuit around a walkway in front of parents and grandparents and dozens of cameras.

I spent my time trying to get good photos of Colleen's circle of friends, the children of our friends (often the same, of course), and a general sense of the moment. I hope the picture at right will give you an idea. This (I hope) anonymous young couple posing after the parade for moms and dads, in front of a putting green and the carts of a few late golfers, are representative of a large crown of high school kids who, in the words of one mom, "clean up real nice."

From a parental perspective, it is astounding the amount of work that goes into a prom. For the girls there are huge decisions: gown, shoes, hair, nails, make-up, jewelry, and such. The guys have easier decisions but tend to be less prepared to wear their finery. And those rental tuxes look hot and uncomfortable. Then there are protocols to observe; to her house for photos and then to his for photos. When will you fit-in dinner?

In the end, though, the prom is meant to be fun. I will guess that it was, but direct evidence will have to wait. My young prom-goer is still asleep.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fifth Golf Game of 2009

Sandy Schenck, Pat Susi and I took vacation time today and played an afternoon round at Jonathan's Landing golf course, just south of Dover. We all had the same meeting this morning and so it seemed a good day to try to get out and play. I had the vacation time and nothing that needed to be moved; so it worked out.

Jonathan's Landing is a low, flat, "links" style course. It sits next to the St. Jones River and a complex of marshes. And it is close enough to Dover Air Force Base that one must pause now and again to let a C-5 scream overhead.

I think this could be a rough place to play in hot weather; the bugs would be rough. But today wasn't bad at all. We had worried about rain; it has done almost nothing but rain for what seems like a month. But bad weather held off and we played a dry, if cloudy, 18 holes.

There was some sort of tournament starting off a bit later, so we started on 10. We managed to stay well ahead of the tournament, made the turn with a hot dog in hand, and finished on the front 9.

I had hopes for a while that I might score a personal best, but started to fall apart a bit. I ended with a 110, with one par and a few gratifying bogeys. I was hitting some decent drives and only failing in my putting. The greens were in terrible shape; I think the rain has kept them from a regular mowing schedule.

All things taken into consideration, it was a very pleasant afternoon.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Small Drive in New Castle County

I had a chance to take a short drive around upper New Castle County yesterday afternoon. It wasn't as much of an automotive wandering as I might have wished, but I had a little time and a reason to be up there and so I took advantage of what I had.

Colleen's Sussex Tech lacrosse team had a game yesterday afternoon against Ursuline Academy. The game was scheduled late, 3:30 p.m., to allow for the several students, Colleen included, who took the SAT that morning.

She and a few others had to drive up separately from the team bus because of the test. Few parents wanted to have their 17 year old, relatively new drivers wheeling around New Castle County -- a place they have not driven before -- on their own. So I agreed to ride along and coach Colleen in her first foray onto I-95 and some of the crowded roads of New Castle County. We took two others with us.

The game was moved away from Ursuline's home field, adjacent to Barley Mill Plaza, because recent heavy rain had left that ground too soggy. We headed instead to Hockessin Montessori School, on old Lancaster Pike, where there was an artificial turf field. The field looked great to play on but it was surrounded by a fence, with no provision for spectators, and made a lousy place to watch a game.

It didn't help that one of the Ursuline moms was loudly disagreeing with the rulings of the referees all game long. I know she cared about her kid, and she may have thought she had a point, but there's no reason to be such a huge jerk. The refs felt it too; eventually one turned and said, simply, "That's enough out of you. Hush."

After the game, Colleen and her friends wanted to ride the team bus back home. It's part of team spirit and camaraderie and I think the coaches like to go over the games on rides home and talk about what went right and what went wrong.

That left me on my own in a part of Delaware I rarely get to visit, with an hour or so of daylight and a newly cleared sky. I headed north, into Hockessin, and west on Valley Road. I cut north again and crossed briefly into Pennsylvania on Little Baltimore Road (I wanted to see if I might spot a Boundary Monument -- no luck), then continued west and south on Doe Run Road and then Corner Ketch Road. I took that to Route 72 and jogged east a bit to hop onto Upper Pike Creek Road, which I followed south to Kirkwood Highway. I love the fact that Delaware, so flat and open where I live, also includes roads that wind along small stream valleys.

Eventually, of course, I had to return to modern highways and cruise back to Lewes. I comforted myself by listening to the first part of the evening's concert by The Dead, on Sirius Radio's The Dead Channel. I'm listening to the rest of that show on the Internet Archive as I write.

I like to get out a see new things. Sometimes I can make it a walk, and sometimes it needs to be a drive. But I am thankful that there is a world to see, roads to explore, and landscapes to learn.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

10 Years of Librarianiana

Happy BlogsDay (a few days ago) to Jessamyn West's Ms. Jessamyn started her library-focused blog ten years ago on April 20. She's just catching up to the anniversary now.

I "met" Jessamyn on-line about five years ago through the group-blog Metafilter, for which she serves as a moderator. Metafilter was my entrée into this world of on-line communities. I count Jessamyn as one of my inspirations for starting Mike's Musings, which will celebrate a half-decade this fall.

Ten years is a long time for a blog, though there are some older out there. In her anniversary post, Jessamyn muses on the slowdown in posting that all bloggers eventually experience. I think sometimes it is the case that we reach a point at which we've covered all of our personal "evergreen" topics and become reluctant to repeat ourselves. So we count on real-life activities for inspiration. And there are times when the things that happen at work, or in our families, are not really appropriate to share with the world at large.

So we slow down a bit. and, as new technologies emerge, we spread our communications over new channels, some of which stick while some fade. Bloggers, if I may generalize for a moment, are people who want to communicate with a broad audience. We're excited by new possibilities and new tools. Hopefully, we return to home base often enough to keep a blog alive.

And on occasional anniversaries, we like to look back at who we were then. Jessamyn ends her anniversary post, as I will, with a link to the first few days of

Who were you ten years ago? What were you thinking? What did you write?