Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Metrics: Gas Mileage

Over the last year, we drove our 2008 Toyota Scion a total of 15,407.2 miles, down a bit from 2009's total of 16,737.6 miles. Over the year, we burned 481.27 gallons of gas, averaging 32 miles per gallon. The gas cost us $1,313.19; or $2.72 per gallon on average. By contrast, I paid $3.02 for a gallon today.

Gas mileage varied more this year than last.The best we did was between September 5 and September 22, when we averaged 35.6 miles per gallon. Most of that was highway driving -- to and from the airport for travel to the 2010 NSGIC conference.

Two time periods were tied for worst gas mileage, at 29.2 mpg. One was between January 28 and February 3, when it was fairly cold (with a little snow). The other low-point came immediately following the high-point. Between September 22 and October 5 we also averaged 29.2 mpg, but I have no idea why.

The metrics above are for the period between December 31, 2009 and December 31, 2010. They are derived from my gas mileage log, which is maintained as a Google spreadsheet. I also record mileage using Matt Haughey's, which tells me that my long-term average mileage -- since the summer of 2008 --  has been 32.1 miles per gallon.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Restaurant (Ristorante) Review: Luca

Karen and I headed over to Millsboro this evening to try out the new Italian restaurant - Luca - that opened there this month. We'd both noticed it driving through town and decided to check it out.

Luca is a small place, in the old Delaware Trust Co. bank building, from  1916, at the corner of Main and State Streets. It has been lovingly finished inside, with pressed-tin ceilings, hardwood floors and a bar designed to look like a teller's counter.

The old bank vault has been turned into a private dining room. This evening, a group of about 8 was in there. That was a little tight, but the vault looks like a cool place to eat.

The food, admittedly based only on two data points, was great. Karen had a ravioli dish that looked both light and rich. She was impressed. I had a rolled pork-loin dish that was really outstanding.

I am ready to return and try a few more dishes.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Snowy Day

Delaware is getting hit with a minor blizzard this Boxing Day. It's one of those Nor'Easter storms that hugs the coast; the snow started from the south and east and is working its way up to the north.

We spent last night in Bethesda, Maryland. We'd had Christmas Day with my family there and planned to spend today in Upper Marlboro with most of Karen's family. The changing forecast for the storm tortured us for most of the day. When we went to bed last night it looked bad and this morning conformed it. We had to leave early.

We made a quick stop in Bowie to drop off gifts with Karen's sister and left for home at about 10:30, with a few snowflakes starting to fall there. By the Bay Bridge, snow was falling heavily enough to obscure the horizon. By Denton the roads were wet and by Bridgeville they started to become snow covered. 

It was east of Bridgeville that we crossed some sort of border and into the heaviest part of the storm. The roads became thickly covered and our speed steadily decreased. The ride from Georgetown over to Lewes was slow and slippery with nearly white-out conditions. 

But we made it. there's a fire in the grate and warm blankets all around.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My Blessings

mahaffie family portrait
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
Forgive me for counting them for a moment. From left to right:
  1. Colleen. Turned 19 today. Doing well as a freshman at Villanova and showing new talents every day.
  2. The Lovely Karen. My wife of 22 years. I'm amazed she said yes.
  3. (I get to put on funny outfits and be someone else on stage every once in a while)
  4. Christina. Just astounded us as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker.
    I have three beautiful, talented women in my life.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    It's a Conversation Starter (Sometimes)

    FlashI wear a pin with the Grateful Dead's lightning bolt logo on the lapel of my winter jacket. One of my daughters gave it to me for Christmas a year or so ago and I've been wearing it proudly ever since.

    It gets occasional notice, usually from another deadhead passing by (there are a few of us here in Lower Slower Delaware). But sometimes it leads to cool conversations with less likely people.

    This morning, as I sat in the waiting room of my eye doctor's office, an elderly woman sitting across from me asked about it. When I told her it was the logo of a rock band, she told me the story of teaching her grandson to play the drums. He's now 25 and delights in announcing who taught him when his rock band plays.

    Sunday, December 5, 2010


    I'm searching for the right hipster/German word to describe my reaction to news yesterday that News Journal reporters Chad Livengood and Maureen Milford had won first place for beat reporting in the third-quarter Awards of Excellence contest of parent company Gannett.

    My first thought was congratulations (Glückwunsch), but then I read the award text and realized I had to shoe-horn in a dose of irony (Ironie, ironically):

    I'm fairly sure we don't have a Chateau County in Delaware. There is "Chateau country," though. It's a rich-folks subset of New Castle County.

    Saturday, December 4, 2010

    When Hobbies Collide

    I like beer. I like to take pictures. I like to record the minutiae of life. Therefore...

    Over the years, along with Lewes, Dover, nature, vacation sites and events in family life, I've been taking pictures of beers I've enjoyed. Not all of them, but beer on vacations and special occasions, beers enjoyed for the fist time, and sometimes when I just feel like it. It often embarrasses my daughters, but I like it.

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    Eye-Surgery Report (I Can See Clearly Now)

    Before Cataract SurgeryThis is the "before" picture of my eye-glasses. This is what I have been wearing for a year or so now as a cataract has grown in my right eye. You can see its growth in the relative size of that right lens as compared to the left. And I could have sprung for an even thicker lens over the last 9 months if I wanted to see fully clearly.

    Today, by contrast, I have a plain piece of plastic in the right side; no prescription at all. And my eye doctor has just tested that eye as seeing 20/40. I'm very pleased with that measurement. Just one day following cataract surgery and I am seeing better than I have in years; better than before the cataract, I think. My doctor describes it as "a home run."

    This, then, is my report to you on cataract surgery. I have a few friends considering similar surgery who look to me as a test-case. I can say, so far, that it's not so bad. The worst part was thinking about it before-hand; the idea that someone will cut open your eye is a little freaky.

    Sunday night and Monday morning, thinking about it too much, were odd. But once we got to the outpatient surgery center, things went quickly and were well-organized.

    I deal with stress over health issues by taking an interest in the technology and the process. I wanted to know what blood pressure reading the nurse got, and I used the beep-beep of the heart monitor to try to play bio-feedback games while she bustled about. We talked about the best places to have an IV inserted as she placed a needle into a vein on my right hand. And when the nurse-anesthetist came in to give me a minor sedative, I tried to gauge the progress of that drug as it took hold.

    To be honest, though, at that point I disappeared from the process and only have a few impressions of the procedure itself.

    They tell you before the surgery that it will go like this:
    1. You get a sedative ("happy juice," someone called it),
    2. They put you to sleep for a few minutes so they can hit your eye with a local anesthetic and get it fully numbed out,
    3. They wake you up for the procedure (I assume since you eye needs to be open),
    4. They brief you and whoever brought you on post-op care and help you into a wheelchair and out the door.
    My experienced jumped from sedative going in almost straight to my wife (the Lovely Karen) coming in to pick me up.

    I do recall being sort of awake and under a blue cover of some sort around which there was activity and some talking. I could dimly see some eye-doctor-like equipment through the cover (I assume with my left eye). I remember feeling cool water around my eye as they worked. And I think I remember the doctor saying "we're almost done."

    But I really wasn't present for all that. And I am fine with that absence. The doctor assured me today (at a follow-up check) that I didn't reveal any deep dark secrets.

    The whole thing took about an hour and a half.

    When I got home, I felt good enough to take a self-portrait. My eye was under a shield for a few hours. When I took it off, I found I could see well-enough, though through a film of medications, to watch a little TV, but not for long stretches. My eye was a bit sensitive to light and itched a fair amount.

    This morning, when I awoke, the itching was largely gone and the sight from that eye is noticeably better. I drove myself to my follow-up appointment (the post-op instructions say you can drive the ext day if you feel up to it and can see well enough, and if you have a valid driver's license).

    I do find it is best if I wear the old-guy style full-coverage sunglasses that they gave me when I drive. I assume the light-sensitivity will ease with time.

    I do not expect to know just how well this has worked until early January. The doctors say it takes about a month for the eye to settle in and "accept" the new lens. I have an appointment the first Monday of 2011 to find out what my final prescription will be. If any (he wrote, hopefully).

    As a side note, I ran into an older couple at the eye doctor office today who remembered me from yesterday. The wife had also had cataract surgery and her husband remembered Karen and I coming in while he waited. We compared notes and found that we had had very similar experiences.

    Thursday, November 25, 2010

    You Can Get Anything You Want....

    It's Thanksgiving, a holiday that will always, for me, bring memories of Arlo Guthrie's wonderful song Alice's Restaurant.
    This year, a member at the social web site MetaFilter has posted an annotated lyrics of the song, which led me, naturally, to wordle to make a word cloud.

    And, as we make our way across the Delaware countryside, through the Eastern shore of Maryland and across the Bay Bridge (to Grandmother's Uncle John's house), I hope to find this song on the radio somewhere.

    Because that's just part of the holiday tradition.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    Speaking of Rockabilly...

    One of the artists I follow on twitter is Roseanne Cash, who led me today to a cool video clip from the 1980s and some of my favorite guitar players.

    Here are Carl Perkins, Dave Edmunds,George Harrison, and Eric Clapton, all in a row. Roseanne Cash is the one seated between Clapton and Ringo Starr. This group is playing a medley of some of the fundamental tunes of the rockabilly period.

    I dig it.

    Sunday, November 21, 2010


    Legislative Mall, in Dover, DE

    I've been playing around with the "panorama" mode of my cellphone camera. I only recently discovered it. I had not really taken my little Samsung Rogue seriously as a camera when I first got it. But I've come to rely on it more and more for those "saw something while walking uptown for lunch" pictures.

    The panorama mode is tricky and doesn't always work. But when it does, I like the results. It is also the case that, because it is a cellphone and has a low resolution level, these images work best in their smaller forms.

    Panoramic miniatures.

    Saturday, November 20, 2010

    At Bethany Blues: A Bo Diddley Beat

    'Oh Boy' at Bethany Blues in Lewes
    The Lovely Karen and I went to Bethany Blues last night to see a group of old friends play rockabilly music last night. The show was part of the on-going Sidney's Music Revival, which has brought a variety of acts, mostly blues, to the barbecue restaurant on Route 1 outside of Lewes.

    This band is made up (left to right in the photo) of Barry Eli, retired music teacher from Cape Henlopen High School; Ken Schleifer, an active music teacher; Walt Hetfield, a music teacher and fonder of a rock-n-roll summer camp; and Mike Long, about whom I have to admit I know nothing.

    Barry, Ken and Walt are our friends entirely through Karen; from her early days as a music therapist and from her playing in various ensembles around the area over the years.

    These guys have been playing together for a while. They are less a bar-band though, and more a show band. They have a Buddy Holly tribute show, the rockabilly show we saw last night, and a "sun and surf" show in which they play music from the mid 1960s.

    But that doesn't mean they didn't tear it up in the Bethany Blues bar last night. They drew a sizable crowd and they played loud, hard and sweaty. There was music by Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, Link Wray and many others.

    I'm an old rockabilly fan. I came of age during the rockabilly revival of the late 1970s in the Washington DC area. My high school band, the Ramblin' Beach Guys, played a bit of this music, and I was a great fan of Tex Rubinowitz and the Bad Boys. And this music is part of the foundation of so much other great music. Without rockabilly, the Beatles wouldn't be the same, nor would the Grateful Dead and many others. They all cut their teeth on what is, after all, simply straight-ahead rock and roll.

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    This is Cool: Culture Edition

    The author Neil Gaiman and the singer Amanda Palmer were "married" on the street in New Orleans recently in a combination flash mob, street-mime performance, and birthday surprise party.

    The details are in Amanda Palmer's blog, but my understanding is that the pair were in New Orleans for a concert by her band, The Dresden Dolls, earlier this month on Neil Gaiman's birthday. They have been engaged since last New Year's.

    She surprised him with a reprise of her street performance as a bride statue down in the French Quarter and compounded the birthday gift with an ambush wedding party and a ceremony officiated ("By whatever powers might be vested in me by any governing bodies or deities, living dying or dead...") by fellow musician Jason Webley.

    Was it really a wedding? Are they now married? I'm not sure. But I think the event itself was pretty cool.

    This is Cool: Political Edition

    Delaware's present and future Congressional Representatives sat down together on Capitol Hill today. We're a small state, we only get the one.
    The gent on the left is Mike Castle, the republican who leaves after many years of service to the state. The guy on the right is John Carney, the democrat just elected to replace Mr. Castle. It's worth noting that they weren't running against each other in the recent election. Mr. Castle was a victim of the tea party uprising in the republican party.

    According to the News Journal's Dialogue Delaware blog, Mr. Carney wanted to meet with Mr. Castle "first to thank him for his many years of dedicated service to the people of Delaware, and second to gain insight from him on how to effectively represent our state’s best interests in Congress."

    On one level, that's the normal sort of platitude you expect from politicians after the elections. But I know both of these men, in a small way, having worked for them in state government over the years. I look at this photo and I see two men who respect each other, in spite of politics, and take their responsibilities seriously.

    I think that's cool.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    "It Gets Worse, Senator McCain..."

    Monday night on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart and his staff took Senator John McCain to task for his cynical tactics in opposition to repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," the dreadfullly stupid law that keeps gays and lesbians from serving in our armed forces. It's a masterful job of reporting and strategic derision.
    The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
    It Gets Worse PSA
    Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

    McCain deserves to be mocked on this one. Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a travesty and he's being a jackass about it.

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    Painting a Railing: A Weekend Odyssey

    Paint failure
    Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
    I finally got around to painting the front door and the new railing we had added to the front stoop. It hasn't gone well.

    Painting the door was not the problem. It needed a second coat, but will be fine. The railing, which is clad in white PVC, has been something of an adventure.

    This photo is what we found this morning after painting the railing on Saturday afternoon. It wasn't all like this, but a lot was. I think the problem was that I painted too late in the afternoon on Saturday and the temperature fell too much for proper drying.

    So. What to do? I toyed with washing the paint off, but that was painful and slow. And, as the day warmed up, I found that the paint was starting to dry.

    So I doubled-down and added another coat during the heat of the day today. I imagine it will need more touch-up later, but I hope to get away with it.

    This is, by the way, further evidence of why I am really not qualified to own a home.

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    Late Fall Golf

    late fall golf
    Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
    My golf-buddy Andy and I traveled north about an hour today to play a round of golf at Odessa National Golf Club in New Castle County. It's a course we've been hearing about and wanted to try. We took advantage of the (slightly) warmer weather today to give it a shot.

    Odessa National is a tough course, and unforgiving. Neither of us played particularly well. But, we had fun.

    Saturday, November 6, 2010

    Rachel Maddow is Correct

    I think this commentary from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow is worth sharing.She's speaking here about the kerfuffle over Keith Olberman's campaign contributions and the open campaigning that goes on at FOX news.

    Sunday, October 31, 2010

    A Visit to Savannah

    a long branch
    Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
    Karen and I are in Savannah, Georgia, for a long weekend. We're here partly in celebration of her birthday and partly just as a get-away. We both have election day off, and we both took Monday as well.

    We're very much in low-key, chill mode. This is a great place for that. Savannah is, quiet simply, a lovely city. It is historic and southern and quiet yet hip and hopping with a strong college-town feel. The buildings are fascinating and the city layout is graceful, comfortable and a delight to walk about.

    We've eaten at the Paula Deen restaurant (The Lady and Sons). That was somewhat by accident; we were looking for lunch after arriving about noon from the airport and that's the first place we came to. We've also eaten at a wonderful place called The Olde Pink House.

    At one place, we looked over to the next table and saw a polo shirt with "Sussex County" written on it. I recognized Russ Archut, a retiree from the Sussex government in Delaware. We chatted over old times. The next morning, we found our carriage diver/tour guide had lived for a short time near Lewes, as a child. And our Olde Pink House waiter turned out to be a recent transplant from Annapolis whose vacation spot as a child was always Bethany Beach.

    It's that sort of a place. like southern Delaware, in fact; a great place to visit that many people decide to stay in.

    We've another day of wandering around with a camera ahead. We'll be back in time to vote on Tuesday.

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    Yes, Delaware, There Is A Tea Party Twitter Bot Network

    Researchers at Indiana University Bloomington's School of Informatics and Computing, who had developed tools to root-out Twitter-based political astroturfing campaigns, have uncovered a determined, bot-based smear campaign against Delaware Senate-candidate Chris Coons.

    Delaware twitter users had started to suspect something fishy as the #netde hashtag, originally declared to help build an on-line community for the state, became polluted by out-of-state political tweets. It was bad during the republican primary -- bad enough that I tried a bit of back of the envelop analysis myself -- but has become really awful in the general election.

    There are repeated tweets of a collection of allegations against Mr. Coons, continuing long after those allegations have been independently refuted. They are tweets with the same wording, or virtually the same wording, re-surfacing every day or so. They are always auto-retweeted from twitter accounts mostly outside of the state. When challenged, a few of those accounts respond as real people; most stay silent.

    The Indiana University work -- and the "Truthy" web site the researchers have built -- came up in discussion about this phenomenon. Twitter user ôl ə twit′ər did some initial detective work to point the researchers in the right direction.
    Following a tip from a user who flagged a handful of suspicious tweets smearing Chris Coons, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from Delaware, the researchers uncovered a network of about 10 bot accounts. These bots have names like @krossnews, @BethlehemTweets, and @kingdomcast. They inject thousands of memes, all of which link to posts from the website.
    Interestingly, it was this freedomist web site that Christine O'Donnell quoted as her source for some of the "facts" she tried to establish in the celebrated "CNN debate" earlier this month.

    This is what they call "astroturfing." It is a sign of a morally bankrupt campaign. It is a sign of a campaign that has no real ideas. It is a sign of desperation.

    This is the Christine O'Donnell campaign.

    Sunday, October 24, 2010

    And So, We Enter... The Loop

    recursive 3

    This IS Getting Recursive!


    This Could Get Recursive


    "Politics -- Delaware" is Stealing my Content

    A blog calling itself "Politics -- Delaware" is scraping other Delaware blogs and stealing their content, including mine.

    The "about" page says the intent is to gather all of Delaware's political blog content into one place. But no permission was ever requested and I have granted none. There is no information about the owner of this blog and I have found no way to comment to that owner. And there are "sponsored links" on this blog.

    So whoever owns this thing is using my work without my permission, in violation of my posted copyright, and they are making money from it.

    I call that stealing.

    Thursday, October 21, 2010

    The World Has Lost Two Great Teachers

    I learned of the passing of two great teachers this month. Each will be remembered for the profound and lasting effect they had on their students.

    Lyn Hendry, who was a childhood neighbor and taught at my High School in Bethesda, Maryland, passed away on October 13 at the age of 89. She was living in retirement in Chestertown, Maryland.

    As far as I can recall, I never had a class with Mrs. Hendry. I graduated 30 years ago, after all, but I think I would have remembered. But she was a neighbor and I can say that her teaching influenced me, if only at a remove. Several of my siblings took her classes and brought her influence home. I'm sure she is one of the reasons our dinner-time table-talk was in many ways like a seminar itself.

    And earlier this week, we lost Charlie Bassett, retired American Studies professor at Colby College and one of the touchstones in my own intellectual development.

    I took his survey of American literature class. It was one of those large, lecture hall classes that can become simply a catalog of facts and figures. But his teaching style was so vivid and involved that I remember some of his lectures to this day.

    Ironically, I had heard earlier this fall that Professor Bassett was battling an illness at a nursing home near Villanova, where my eldest has just started her college career. Her school search, selection process, and move to Villanova had had me thinking back to my time at Colby and to teachers like Charlie Bassett, and what he helped me learn.

    I think we forget sometimes how important teachers can be in helping shape us into the citizens we become. I'm glad to have known these two as neighbors and teachers.

    I'm sad to learn that they are gone, but grateful for the work they did -- work that we'll remember and hopefully pass on to the next group to come along.

    Sunday, October 17, 2010

    A Windy Day in Lewes

    Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
    I took a walk into Lewes on Saturday morning to drop a book at the library, deal with some banking, and shop for Karen's coming birthday.

    It was such a pretty day, I wandered through Canalfront Park, where the wind whipped the flags into a staccatto flapping sound, backed by a clanking counterpoint of blocks knocking against the metal masts of sailboats in the harbor.

    Behind it all was a complex chord created by the wind through the rigging on the Lightship Overfalls.

    A Few Delaware Musicians to Watch

    Setting up for a rehoboth jazz fest concertKaren and I went out last night to watch a concert by Doug James and Keith Mack, two local musicians who do, I think, great work. Particularly when they play together.

    The show, at Epworth United Methodist Church, in Rehoboth, was part of the Rehoboth Beach Autumn Jazz Festival; but was also much more. It was a release party for a new EP by the duo. They have released three songs they are working on for a larger album and, based on what we heard last night, it promises to be pretty good.

    Doug James has had a long career as a songwriter. He's penned hits for a number of people, including Michael Bolton, for whom he wrote "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You." But he's also a fine performer with strong piano chops and a great voice. We've heard him many times around our area, playing restaurant and bar gigs and sitting in for jazzy church services.

    Keith Mack is a Rehoboth native who went away to NYC and recorded and toured as a rock musician. He's returned and plays around the area as well.

    Together, I think these two have a great sound.

    I will be honest: as much as I admire Doug James' craft as a songwriter, he writes the sort of music I don't really care for. I never could listen to Michael Bolton, though I know strong songwriting when I hear it. But the work he's doing now with Keith Mack takes traditional song forms and stretches it, adding a depth and adventurous spirit, without losing a core commercial appeal, that sounds interesting.

    The crowd at last night's show was interesting as well. IT was a who's who of the Lewes/Rehoboth arts and music scene. Many people know these two musicians and many, clearly, count them as friends.

    It was, in a word, cool.

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    Deadhead Interlude

    Just like Jack the Ripper
    Just like Mojo Hand
    Just like Billy Sunday
    In a shotgun ragtime band
    Just like New York City,
    Just like Jericho
    Pace the halls and climb the walls
    Get out when they blow

    Did you say your name was
    Ramblin' Rose?
    Ramble on, baby
    Settle down easy
    Ramble on, Rose

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Word Clouds From the Coons/O'Donnell Debate

    Wordle: coons-o'donnell debate (All)I found a transcript of Wednesday night's debate between Chris Coons and Christine O'Donnell at the University of Delaware and decided (of course) to make a series of word clouds.

    I made a word cloud of the whole thing (at right), and one of each participant's comments alone. That is, one of Wolf Blitzer, one of Nancy Karibjanian, one of Christine O'Donnell and one of Chris Coons' comments.

    For the two candidates, I left in their names, which appear at the start of each section of their comments in the transcript. I did so for artistic purposes.

    Wordle: coons-o'donnell debate (coons)If you haven't figured it out by now, I am voting for Chris Coons. I was leaning that way anyway; we've seen enough of Christine O'Donnell over the last two election cycles to know that she is not qualified.

    The debate did nothing at all to change my mind.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    RIP: Tim Westbrook

    I learned last week that a colleague, who I knew to be battling cancer, has lost his fight and passed away. Tim Westbrook was in a leadership post in New Castle County, Delaware, government and took part in our state GIS Coordination group for many years. I knew him as a wise and experienced friend who offered generous and useful advice. He will be missed.

    His obituary answers a question I had wondered about -- his on-line username. Tim was active on wikipedia; he made a mission of writing and managing entries about Delaware's political leaders:
    I would also like to add articles on other notable Delaware political figures such as certain members of the Delaware Judiciary, Delaware General Assembly, some Mayors of Wilmington, some members of certain politically active families, and some defeated major party candidates. This project also includes several lists of these people and articles describing their positions. While much is done, there is no end in sight.
    He wrote on wikipedia as "Stilltim," which I had assumed might be a combative reaction to having cancer. I was wrong. I learn this evening that his given name was "Stillman" and his handle was simply his given name and nickname combined.

    It seems oddly appropriate. I remember Tim as a simple and very straightforward man. I'm glad to have known him and sad that he is gone.

    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    I Broke 100? Sorta

    Waiting...Andy and I played golf at Salt Pond, outside of Bethany Beach, this afternoon. I carded a 92, which I'm tempted to brag about. But maybe I shouldn't.

    I am not a very good golfer, though I love the game. It has been my ambition lately to break 100. I've made some small strides this year and I think my goal is in reach.

    Today I scored a 92, but Salt Pond is an "executive" course. It is short and has a par of 61, where a long course would be a 72. So I don't think I'll count this as having broken 100.

    But I had a pretty good round in spots. At one point I made par on consecutive holes. And many times, I made bogey, which is usually my goal.

    So. The hunt for 100 continues.

    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    This May Be the Most Accurate News Story Ever

    I found this via twitter on the NPR web site. I don't expect it to survive there long, so I did a screen-grab and posted it to flickr.

    I can't help myself. I love things like this.

    I did not see this coming: Insane Clown Posse have been secretly evangelical Christians all along

    If you don't know who or what the Insane Clown Posse might be, good for you. But they have been, for 20 years, a violet, apparently misogynist rap group that worrked the outre side of the music business and inspired legions of young fans to self-identify as "Juggalos" and act as a loosely organized, fairly violent street gang.

    Apparently, it has all been an act, designed to draw young people closer to God, based on what I read in The Guardian this morning (Insane Clown Posse: And God created controversy).
    Violent J explained himself unapologetically to a New Jersey newspaper: 'You have to speak their language. You have to interest them, gain their trust, talk to them and show you're one of them. You're a person from the street and you speak of your experiences. Then at the end you can tell them: God has helped me.'

    Of course, one might argue that 20 years was, under the circumstances, an incredibly long time for them to have pretended to be unholy, and that, from a Christian perspective, the harm they did while feigning unholiness may even have outweighed the greater good.
    I think they may have gone too far.

    Sunday, October 3, 2010

    In Which Pat and Mike Play Golf With Jay and Silent Bob

    sussex pines golf clubI got a chance to play golf at the Sussex Pines Country Club today. It was a fund-raiser for the Possum Point Players, a community theater group in Georgetown, Delaware.

    Karen and I used to take part in Possum Point shows on a regular basis. We dialed back a bit when the kids came, but I have been back a bit since.

    My friend Pat came down from New Castle County to join in and we were paired with two gents named Jay and Bob.

    We played a scramble format, in which we each hit our ball but used whichever shot out of the four that we judged to be the best. Often, that was Bob's drive; he was playing very well. Pat was also playing well. And though he started slowly, Jay proved to be a long-driver as well. I was the weakest, of course, but among us we managed to play fairly well.

    We finished at 3-under par - a 69 -- and finished fourth in the tournament. I believe there were 18 teams. The winners, by the way, scored a 61!

    Two wet feetThe weather was a challenge. Rain was forecast for the afternoon, but it started in the late morning and by the time we finished it was a steady, cold rain. At one point, we took refuge in a gazebo to wait out a particularly heavy squall. I found myself considering just how wet my feet were getting.

    But we persevered and finished our 18 holes. And my play wasn't all terrible, I made a wise choice and used one of my mulligans to sink a long putt for a birdie that may have made the difference between fourth place and fifth.

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    Craig Ferguson on Christine O'Donnell

    Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show Wednesday night started with an audience member who had moved to California from Delaware (Are you a witch?") in the cold open. And he spent most of his monologue talking about our laughable republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell. Bless her heart.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    Farewell Ted Kaufman, We Knew You Too Little

    Delaware's newest Senator made his farewell speech on the floor of the US Senate today. Ted Kaufman was selected to take over for Joe Biden when he was elected Vice-President and has turned out to be what a Senator maybe should be, smart, experienced, and not worried about reelection. That last may be because he is a special case, but the results should tell us something.

    It seemed a good excuse for a word cloud.
    That, and I've been looking for a way to get that creepy looking guy's picture off the top of the page.

    Friday, September 24, 2010

    How Nice That This Man Could Own Guns

    Delaware state police had to use explosives and a robot to arrest this man, David Stanley, after he was found to be shooting from his house in upstate Delaware on Thursday.

    They had to close down the main north-south highway (State Route 1) in both directions where it ran past his neighborhood. He was shooting at cars on the highway from his apartment.

    Yup, shooting at cars from his apartment. He'd not have been able to do that without the ability to buy as many guns as he needed.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    Thank You, Mike Castle

    I am a little bit shocked tonight to see that Christine O'Donnell has defeated Mike Castle in the republican primary. Pundits will talk about what this means. I don't really care.

    I do know that Mike Castle has been a leader in Delaware since I arrived in the First State. He was governor when I was a reporter and when I started working for the state. He's been our Congressman for a good long while. And, while I am a Democrat and might (might) have voted against him for Senate, I like Mike Castle and I am proud to have worked for him and to have known him in a minor way.

    Mike Castle is a statesman. In a time of partisan divide, Mike Castle governed. In a time of anger and nastiness, Mike Castle led.

    Christine O'Donnell is a joke and there is no way in hell I would ever vote for her for anything.

    Now she faces Chris Coons in the general election.  Chris Coons has my vote. He has my support. He will have my energy and he will have large shoes to fill when he takes office after the general election.

    More importantly, I want to thank Mike Castle for his outstanding service to the people of Delaware.

    Mr. Castle, you have been an inspiration. Thank you.

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    "The Sound of Sunshine" in American Sign Language

    This is charming: a music video of Michael Franti's new tune, The Sound of Sunshine, by the American Sign Language Community. (via Michael Franti's web site and twitter account)

    Monday, September 6, 2010

    Another Representative Paragraph

    I've recently started reading Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson. I chose it based solely on its cover, of course. so far, it's been a fine book, worthy of one of my periodic representative paragraph posts.

    The following is a part of a paragraph near the start of the story, as Major Pettigrew, a 60-ish widower is riding in the car of Mrs. Ali, a widow from the village with whom he seems to be falling in love. It's a rainy, gray day.
    She laughed, and the Major turned his head to look out of the window at the fog-soaked hedges of the lanes. He was aware that he no longer felt chilled. The hedges, far from being grim and soggy were edged to the last leaf in drops like diamonds. The earth steamed and a horse under a tree shook its mane like a dog and bent to nibble freshly moistened dandelions. The car broke from the hedged land and crested the last rise of the hill, where the road widened. The town spread down the folded valley, opening out along the coastal plain. The sea lay gray and infinite beyond the sharp edge of the beach. In the sky, a rent in the fog let down pale shafts of sunlight to gleam on the water. It was as beautiful and absurd as an illustrated Victorian hymnal, lacking only a descending angel trailing putti and rose garlands. The little car picked up speed as it headed down and the Major felt that the afternoon was somehow already a success.

    Sunday, September 5, 2010

    Who is Using #NetDE on Twitter?

    The #NetDE hashtag has become all-O'Donnell all the time lately, or so it feels. And I find I recognize few of the people using it.

    The hashtag #netDE was originally declared as a way to flag tweets of interest to Delawareans among the Delaware twitter-users. But now it seems to be spammed-up without-of-state partisans interested in the Delaware Senate primary; especially since the national (?) tea party people decided to get involved in Delaware politics.

    So I decided to do a brief, unscientific study and see just who is it that is using the #NetDE hashtag of late.

    My survey covers the 12 hours between 8:53 a.m. and 8:53 p.m., Sunday, September 5. That's only because I had cleared my #NetDE column on TweetDeck a bit before heading out into the sunshine around 9 this morning.

    Over 40 percent of the people using the #NetDE tag during that period were from out of state.  They were tweeting from Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and "The U.S.A." A few others had no location listed, but didn't appear to be Delawareans.

    The non-Delaware folks accounted for more than a third of the #NetDE tweets.

    And all of the non-Delaware people were tweeting about politics, from the right-hand side. In fact, two-thirds of all #NetDE tweets during the period were political; only a few of them from the left.

    And what can we conclude from this not-very rigorous, not particularly scientific survey?

    Politics can be annoying.

    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    A Nice Story, Well Told

    Today's Wilmington News Journal includes a profile of my friend Kate Walker and her Sussex Dance Academy. Kate has taught dance to our daughters for the last 12 years and her story is a very cool one. I was very happy with the work done by reporter Kim Hoey, who I've known, though less well, even longer.

    I will claim a little credit for this one. A News Journal editor tweeted a request for story ideas for their "Crossroads" section a while back. I responded with a story-pitch in the form of a series of 140-character messages. (There's something about that limitation that forces one to get to the point.)

    The article chronicles Kate's early career as a nurse, her work as combination school nurse and dance teacher at the southern Delaware School of the Arts, and the founding and growth of the Sussex Dance Academy.
    ... her studios continue to grow, even in a struggling economy, because of the "mom and pop" atmosphere, she said. Students and parents at Sussex Dance say they feel like they are part of a family -- a family with a mother who can be a bit pushy.
    There are also quotes from Miriah Hearn and Kole Lofton, two young adults who I watched grow up at that studio and local schools, who credit Kate with helping them find their course in life.

    Kate has helped our girls as well, and I'm very happy to see her get some news coverage.

    I was a bit surprised to see a photo of Nova Gaffney identified as "Christina Mahaffie." And to see the photo of Christina labeled "Morgan Brower." (At least in the on-line version)

    I've requested a correction. We'll see.

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Elm Tree Update

    The elm comes down
    Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
    A crew had begun taking down the large old elm on Legislative Mall today when I walked out to get some lunch.

    Most of the branches had been removed. Large section so trunk were being piled on a trailer and smaller branches were being fed to a grinder as I walked past.

    I did not have a chance to check it out when I left for the day, but I expect to see just a smear on the grass when I arrive in dover tomorrow.

    Sunday, August 29, 2010

    Lo, How the Mighty are Fallen...

    elm tree 1
    Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
    This huge old elm tree on Legislative Mall, in Dover, will be coming down this week. The tree has stood out on the mall for at least a century. That's Delaware's capitol building (Legislative Hall) in the background.

    The tree's decline has been obvious to those of us who work around the mall for some time. It apparently has succumbed to bacterial leaf scorch.

    A crew will take it down at some point this week. I hope to be able to watch it and say goodbye.

    Friday, August 20, 2010

    I Wonder: Who Will Be Her d'Entremont?

    classWe dropped our eldest daughter off at Villanova University this week. She's now doing her freshman orientation and we are reorienting ourselves to a house with only one teen daughter.

    The drop-off was a two day affair. We moved her into the dorm on Wednesday and came back Thursday for welcome events, meetings with advisors and other activities.

    When we arrived, we were greeted by a "Welcome Class of 2014" painted onto a grassy hillside. And we had two hours to admire it as we waited in one of about six long lines of cars for our turn dropping all of her stuff at the dorm.

    Freshmen at Villanova mostly live in a group of dorms at the south end of campus. There are more than 1,600 in the class of 2014 and logistically, move-in day was quite a challenge. I think the school handled  it well and the cadre of students on hand to direct traffic, check us in, and help schlep all the kids' stuff into the dorms did great work. But it was a long, tiring day.

    The second day we did some dorm-room fine-tuning and heard welcome speeches from various levels of university administration. We navigated the bookstore hurricane together and eventually hugged our daughter goodbye so she could start the next chapter of her adventure.

    I have to admit that I am jealous. I have been throughout the process of visiting schools, applying and choosing one. Our daughter's next four years look exciting and fun.

    The whole thing has had be thinking back 30 years to when I started school. I remember my first day in Foss Hall, at Colby College. I looked into a neighboring room and saw a large, bearded fellow drinking a beer and reading a comic book. He looked up reached out a fresh can of beer to me. That's when I knew I would be happy there.

    That was Mark d'Entremont. He welcomed me into his group of friends and has been a pal ever since. I don't expect my daughter to find a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon anytime soon; it's not that sort of a school and times have changed. But I hope she finds her own d'Entrement, a Todd, a Katy, and a Laurellie.

    I hope she finds the sort of friends I was blessed with. Friends to stretch her, challenge her and help her become the amazing young lady I have seen deep inside.

    Saturday, August 14, 2010

    New Branches in the Family Tree

    House  built 1720I have discovered another ancestral home that now serves as part of an historic site: Huguenot Street in New Paltz, New York. This is the Freer-Low House where a ninth great-grandfather, Hugo Freer, once lived.

    Regular visitors to this blog will have noticed my genealogy hobby and my pride in Mahaffie family history.  I have written a few times about The Mahaffie House, now a museum in Olathe, Kansas.  It was home to my great-great-grandparents JB Mahaffie and Lucinda Henderson who were among the first settlers of that town.

    But that was in the mid-1800s. Hugo Freer came to the New York colony sometime before 1677 as part of a wave of religious refugees -- Huguenots -- who had fled France, stayed for a time in Germany, and eventually came to the colonies. Hugo Freer was one of a group of twelve men (the "Duzine") who purchased land from the local Esopus tribe and received a patent to settle the town of New Paltz in the 1670s.

    At the very end of his life, Hugo Freer replaced his original wood home with the stone structure that stands today. He died in 1698. The house passed through various family members and served different functions before being purchased by the Huguenot Historical Society in 1955 and made part of the Huguenot Street Historic District of New Paltz.

    "My great-grandmother, of French Huguenot ancestry"
    I am related to Hugo Freer through my maternal grandmother, Isabel Cooper Mahaffie, another frequent subject of this blog. Towards the end of her life, she had inventoried her home (filled with a wonderful collection of treasures and art).  Reading through that inventory the other day, I found her reference to "an especially fine small colonial covered pitcher with the dragon finial, which belonged to Joanna Freer, my great-grandmother, of French Huguenot ancestry."

    That led me to renew genealogical searching along that branch of the family tree, which had been stopped at Joanna Freer and her husband, Nathan Myers.  The renewed searching led me to a new treasure trove,  the Freer-Low Family Association, which provided six more generations of family, back to Hugo Freer (who appears in some records as "Hugo Freer Patentee").

    So now, allowing for possible error over more than 300 years, the generations look like this:
    1. Hugo Freer and Marie de la Haye
    2. Hugo Freer, Sr., and Maria LeRoy
    3. Simon Freer and Marytjen Vanbommell
    4. Zimeon Freer and Catrina Vanbenschoten
    5. Simeon Freer and Anna Maria DuBois
    6. Elias Freer and Arreantje Veley (Viele?)
    7. Joanna (Johanna?) Freer and Nathan Meyers
    8. Isabella Meyers and Thomas Cooper
    9. James Cooper and Honora Henry
    10. Isabel Cooper and Charles D. Mahaffie, Sr.
    11. Charles D. Mahaffie, Jr. and Judith Farrar (my parents)
    And, because I keep all these records on, additional connections are made as data in other family trees is compared to data from my tree. The Freer-Low Family Association records start with Hugo the Patentee, but geni connections suggest at least another five generations back in time.

    And so I am once again happily wandering among my ancestors in the near and distant past.

    Saturday, August 7, 2010

    A Representative Paragraph

    Every once in a while, I like to post here a representative paragraph from a book I'm reading. Usually, it's from a favorite author and this one is no exception.

    I'm just finishing the novel Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman. I've read it before. It was worth another look. here's part of why:
    It is a small world. You do not have to live in it particularly long to learn that for yourself. There is a theory that, in the whole world, there are only five hundred real people (the cast, as it were; all the rest of the people in the world, the theory suggests, are extras) and what is more, they all know each other. And it's true, or true as far as it goes. In reality the world is made of thousands upon thousands of groups of about five hundred people, all of whom will spend their lives bumping into each other, trying to avoid each other, and discovering each other in the same unlikely teashop in Vancouver. There is an unavoidability to this process. It's not even coincidence. It's just the way the world works, with no regard for individuals or for propriety.

    Friday, August 6, 2010

    Body Language

    Media Matters for America posted this video of a wanna-be Breitbart trying for some ambush video and failing. What caught my eye was the very obvious and repeated hand-to-mouth gesturing, which I understand is one of the "tells" that someone is lying.

    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    Echoes From the Past: The Season at New London, 1909

    I go on occasional kicks of historical and genealogical searching. This is part of my hobby of maintaining an extensive family tree at that encompasses my Mahaffie, Farrar, Cooper, Becker, Kelly, Bartlett, Williams, Redmond, and Harrison heritage. (To name just a few generations)

    This morning, while searching among the New York Times' archives, I came across a society-page article from 1909 that likely mentions my paternal grandmother. It doesn't add anything to my genealogical knowledge, and the Isabel Cooper mentioned may not be my grandmother, but the time and place are right and the subject matter is charming in any case.

    The article, Midshipmen Give a Tea at New London (PDF), is from July 18, 1909. It details the summer social scene at the Hotel Griswold, on Eastern Point near New London, Connecticut, which lies across either Long Island Sound or Block Island Sound (depending on how you look at it) from the easternmost tip of Long Island.

    New York City, in the days before air conditioning, could be a lousy place to be in the summers. Those who could adjourned to beaches and mountains for much of the summer. Resorts became centers of summer social activity and newspapers reported on the comings and goings and recreational doings of society. It was, I think, somewhat like our present fascination with the personal lives of television, movie and music stars -- except much more G-rated.

    In July of 1909, the midshipmen of the warship Tonopah gave an afternoon tea for the guests of the Hotel Griswold "and to a large number of those who make up the summer colony at Eastern Point." It is described as "the red letter day of the season.
    The afterdack (sic) of the warships (sic) had been polished until it was as smooth as a ballroom floor and under the gaily colored awnings and flags the young people danced the afternoon away to the music of the Hotel Griswold Orchestra, while the chaperons looked on, nodding approval at the pretty picture.
    Along with tea with the Navy, there were tennis tournaments and amateur theatricals. The young woman who may have been my grandmother is listed among the doubles players, paired with a Miss Van Vleck.

    Isabel Cooper is also listed as portraying Mrs. Muriel Crosby in a comic opera composed by an Arthur E. Cushman to be sung in the hotel on August 6.
    It is called "The Tourists" and the songs are to include only the most popular airs of the day. The first act shows the lawn of the Griswold, with Summer girls flitting about. The second shifts the players to the Prada in Cuba, and this setting gives the actors a chance to wear picturesque costumes, and the men a chance to look mildly ferocious.
    The article includes a lengthy listing of who has arrived, who has taken a cottage, and which yachts are in the harbor.

    And, in a nod to the latest technology, there is a paragraph of "automobile arrivals" at the hotel. There were four Packards, and one each of Mathewson, Stevens-Duryea, Columbia, Chalmer's Detroit, Stearns, Buick, Hotchkiss, Palmer-Singer, and Winton. Of this random sampling of early automobile makes, I recognize only two.

    I am not certain that the "Miss Isabel Cooper" mentioned here is in fact the Isabel Ruth Cooper who later married Charles Delahunt Mahaffie, Sr. and raised Charles Junior (my father). But I think it may be.

    My grandmother would have been just a month shy of 17 years old in July of 1909. She was raised in New York and may have summered in Connecticut. She was, by all accounts, a beautiful young woman, and artist and later a model.

    She briefly attended Bryn Mawr, near Philadelphia, before starting a professional career as an illustrator that found her, starting at age 25, painting tropical fish and fauna as part of a series of scientific expeditions.

    I can see her taking part in the summer social scene of New London in 1909; a slim, athletic young woman dancing with midshipmen, playing tennis and performing for other guests. She would have taken it all in with a detached, amused, but friendly air, storing the experience among her catalog of people and places and ways of living that molded the fascinating and broadly interested older woman that I knew, all too briefly.

    Saturday, July 24, 2010

    A Second Year of Driving Data

    FuellyMy little blue Scion xD turned two years old on Friday; I took delivery of the car on July 23 of 2008. I filled the tank this evening. It was my 58th fill-up since July 24 of last year, which makes this a good time to look at a bit of data.

    I drove 16,700 miles between July 24 of 2009 and July 24 of this year. That's a bit more than the first year. I averaged almost 288 miles per tank, less than in year one. I used more gas -- 519.8 gallons -- and averaged 8.96 gallons per fill-up.

    That gas cost me $1,349, an average of $23.27 per tank. Gas cost less in year two than in year one, though, when I averaged more than $30 per tank.

    I averaged 32.13 miles per gallon over the year. That's a bit less than my years one average (32.19) and less than my two-year average of 32.2 mpg.

    Heat Got You down?

    We're expecting highs around 100 today and a heat index well above that. The elderly and the infirm are concerns for officialdom. Libraries are designated cooling zones. Most of us plan to hide inside with our air-conditioners. seems like a good time to look back to February of this year.

    Friday, July 23, 2010

    Local Politics: The Gloves? They Are Off

    My neighbors here in the Lewes area will probably already have seen this, but for the rest of you, who maybe don't habitually follow Sussex County politics, here's an interesting moment and reaction from our County Council this week.

    As Cape Gazette reporter Ron MacArthur wrote in his On the Circle blog, a Lewes woman had a bit of a run-in with some of the council members at their weekly meeting on Tuesday. Dixie Boucher, an active citizen, had come before Council to try to find out the status of proposed changes to the manufactured housing codes that she helped to write.
    [She] blasted county council in one of the most tersely worded criticisms I’ve heard recently. She used words and phrases like “total lack of concern,” “abhorrent” and “detrimental” in her dissertation on the ills of county government.
    Mr. MacArthur's post title -- "Just answer her question" -- tells the story. They didn't answer, apparently. Instead, Council member Sam Wilson (pictured above), never afraid to say what he's thinking, blasted her back.

    Ron MacArthur doesn't give many details, but you get a pretty good sense of what must have been said from a letter to the editor from Ms Boucher that appeared in today's edition of the Gazette.

    Her letter is titled "Everybody came here from somewhere." I include it below because the letters to the Cape Gazette don't get their own pages, or persistent URLs, on the paper's web site.
    I often hear grumbling when, as “locals” call us,” transplants “ speak up with regards to issues affecting the county as well as the state. It is as if we do not exist.  We, appear to have no rights, and according to a statement by Councilman Sam Wilson at a recent council meeting, “People come here and they want more services and more government. I tell them to go home and then they come back and be glad to live in Sussex County.”
    No surprise, but once again Mr. Wilson, you could not be more wrong. We “transplants” in most cases aren’t looking for more government; we just want the government, like your Sussex County Council, to be responsible in its conduct of county business. We want the council to hear what all the citizens say and want for Sussex County. And we want you and the other council members, Vance Phillips and Michael Vincent, to understand that an awful lot of the voters in this county, “locals and transplants alike,” are fed up with your “good old boy” attitude. It is not cute and it is not quaint and it is not good for Sussex County.
    And by the way, I dislike the term “transplant.” We are citizens of this county and we pay taxes and spend our money and should have the same rights as “locals” do. Everybody, transplants and locals alike, came from somewhere. You didn’t just grow out of the dirt, did you?  And the reason you hear more from the eastern side of the county is because that is where most of the development is occurring, thanks to those who continue to approve it regardless of concerns about the effects.
    Frankly, if the three primarily western council members are removed, it would be a blessing to the entire county and that is in reference to Sam Wilson, Vance Phillips and Michael Vincent. You all need to go.
    I guess Sam Wilson isn't the only one around here willing to speak their mind.

    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    At a Jack Johnson Concert

    At a rock concertI heard a story on NPR the other day that outlined the lag in the concert business this summer. Ticket sales are down and some shows and even some tours have been cancelled.

    Ironically, this year has been my family's busiest concert year in some time.

    Karen, the girls, and I cruised down to Virginia Beach on Friday for a Jack Johnson concert. The opening acts were ALO and G Love. It was a great show.

    We were all four of us already Jack Johnson fans. The concert cemented that for us and gave us a good introduction to ALO and G Love. 

    Jack Johnson uses his tour to connect people with his All At Once social action network, and with local non-profits who are invited to take part in the "village green" that he establishes outside each show. We chatted with folks from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Food & Water Watch before the show.

    By the way, we read that Johnson has dedicated all of his profit from this tour to charity. I think that's pretty cool.

    Sunday, July 11, 2010

    Gordon Sumner and the Royal Philharmonic!

    Sting with orchestraKaren and I had the great pleasure of seeing Mr. Sumner, known professionally as Sting, perform with an orchestra last night in Camden, New Jersey. He was quite good.

    We had traveled up to Radnor, Pennsylvania, yesterday morning to collect Christina from Cabrini College. She has just finished two weeks of ballet classes at Philadelphia's The Rock School, which houses its summer students at Cabrini. We packed her out and Colleen drove her home, while Karen and I checked-in to a hotel and got ready for the show.

    At penns landingWe parked at Penn's Landing and took the RiverLink ferry across the Delaware River to the Camden waterfront and the Susquehanna Bank Center. That's a nice way to get to the show, though there was a loud, annoying, preppy dude yelling that we all had to sing a Sting song on the way across the Delaware River.

    "It's a tradition," he yelled.

    I always thought traditions were things that happened without someone yelling that you have to do it. But, in any case, he gave the rest of us something to bond around: "That guy is a boob." "Yeah, he is..."

    Sting performed with a 45-piece orchestra, members of the Royal Philharmonic. He had his own percussionists, a bass player, a guitarist and a back-up singer. His music lends itself well to orchestration; it sounded wonderful.

    Thursday, July 8, 2010

    Great Wisdom From Freddie Maugatai

    The Discovery Channel program Deadliest Catch has been outstanding this season. I've been a fan for several years, but this year has been remarkable; not least for the story line involving the death of Captain Phil Harris.

    I noted Captain Harris' passing back in February. At the time, I wondered how the show would handle his death. In the event, it has been one of the main story arcs for the season and has produced one of the best, most touching scenes in the show.

    Phil had just suffered a massive stroke and been rushed off to the hospital. One son went with him and the other, the eldest, Josh, stayed behind on the boat to take care of the family business.

    The scene I wanted to highlight finds Josh sitting in the wheelhouse uncertain whether he should stay with the boat or go to be with his father. Freddie Maugatai, a Samoan and a long-time and model deckhand, speaking in broken English, encourages Josh to go to his father's side and leave the crab fishing behind for a bit.
    Season every year... crab every year. Dad? No.

    The crab is always catch... we make money every year. But we cannot catch a dad every year.
    I strongly recommend you watch the video. I've just quoted the small bit the touched me most deeply.

    Sunday, July 4, 2010

    Personal Traditions: How My Family Celebrates July 4

    I've been blogging since late 2004 and taking and posting digital photos since early 2005. So I have about a half-decade of documenting my life now on-line. This morning, I thought I'd take a look at how we -- the Lovely Karen and I and our girls -- celebrate the Fourth of July.

    Most years, we spend the Fourth with elements of my family at my folks' place in North Bethany. We often attend the Bethany Beach July 4 Parade, we always lounge on the beach, eat great food and watch Bethany's fireworks show from the beach north of town.

    Squirt The Crowd2005
    This was the first full year of my flickr/blogger obsession and the July Fourth celebration was just the sort of material I needed. I wrote a longish post about it that simply detailed what is our usual approach:
    We spent the fourth with my folks, one of my brothers, and some family friends at Bethany Beach. We went to the Bethany Beach Fourth of July Parade, where I took a mess of photos. We spent the afternoon on the beach at North Bethany. We had a traditional meal of Burgers and Dogs, and eventually went down to the beach to watch the fireworks.
    Don Leads Them Out2006
    Our 2006 Fourth was much the same. We always enjoy the Nur Temple Little-Car Shriners who turn parts of the Bethany Parade into a little Daytona .500. Later, the weather gave us some headaches:
    ... we waited for the sun to set and the Bethany fireworks to start. Unfortunately, a large thunderstorm rolled in and put paid to the fireworks show. So we sat and watched lightning from the living room.
    one lane2007
    We broke tradition somewhat in 2007. Daughter #1 was finishing a lacrosse camp in Westminster, Maryland on July 4 so I spent the day driving out to pick her up and we joined the family for dinner later in North Bethany.

    The Fourth was a Saturday that year so I spent the Friday night, after work, in a hotel partway between work and Westminster and finished the trip in the morning. I had stopped in northern New Castle County after work for a partial round of golf with my friend Sandy. The drive out to Westminster took me through some places I had not been before, including a lovely ride through Gunpowder Falls State Park.

    We were back to our normal Fourth of July activities in 2008. The parade included lots of politicians. And, oddly, Santa Claus.

    We had a primary for the Democratic nomination for Governor that year and I was torn, since both John Carney, then the Lt. Governor, and Jack Markell, then State Treasurer, are great guys. I could cheerfully have supported either of them.

    Ultimately, Jack Markell took the nomination and won the Governorship. He's been doing a great job, I think. John Carney is now running for Congress, where he would be a real asset.

    constituent relations2009
    The parade was on July 3 in 2009. There were somewhat fewer politicians in the parade, because the elections were over. But this parade is a regular stop for some of our leading elected folks. Tom Carper, now our Senator, is one. I got a sweet shot of him greeting a young constituent.

    Since the parade was not on the fourth, Andy and I had a chance to play golf on the morning of the fourth. We played Ocean Resorts, outside of Ocean City. We were back on the beach with our families for an afternoon of sun, dinner, and fireworks.

    Somewhere in the last few years, we've added Andy and Lynne and their girls to our Fourth of July gatherings. They fit right in and add a new dimension to the holiday.

    Dessert for the 4th of july2010
    This year Andy and I played our golf on the Third. And we included daughter #1's young man, who is visiting from out of state. He's a fine golfer and a good kid. He passed the test of golf-with-the-girlfriend's-dad with flying colors. Not that it was really a test; I just wanted to play some golf.

    We're headed out to North Bethany for beach/burgers/fireworks soon. The parade will be tomorrow, for some reason, so I'm not sure if we'll see that this year.

    Meanwhile, daughter #1 is starting a new tradition by crafting festive desserts for the family gathering. Among them is this Fourth of July tart which she photographed for me with her cellphone.