Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Small Warship Named for my Small City

I have learned, quite by accident, that there was a US Navy warship named City of Lewes in service during World War I.

USS Lewes off Lorient, France, circa 1918. From NavSource Online
The City of Lewes started life as a menhaden trawler (likely on the Delaware Bay). She had been built in 1912 at the shipyard of W.G. Abbott, in Milford. She was 150 feet in length, with a beam of 24 feet and a nine foot draft. She displaced 245 tons and could make 12 knots.

In May of 1917, she was purchased by the US Navy and Commissioned as the USS City of Lewes. In July, she was recommissioned as simply USS Lewes. In August and September the Lewes sailed across the Atlantic for the port city of Brest, in France, as part of a squadron described in On the coast of France: the story of the United States naval forces in French waters (Joseph Husband, A.C. McClurg & co., 1919):
The next squadron of the patrol force, Captain TP Magruder USN in command, reached Brest on the afternoon of September 18, and consisted of the yacht USS Wakiva, the supply ship USS Bath, and the trawlers USS Anderton, USS Lewes, USS Courtney, USS McNeal, USS Cahill, USS James, USS Rehoboth, USS Douglas, USS Hinton, and USS Bauman. With these also arrived six 110-foot patrol vessels under the French flag. Due to the construction of the trawlers, which was soon proved to be entirely unsuited for the hard sea service required, they were withdrawn after a few weeks from escort duty and fitted for mine-sweeping. 
The USS Rehoboth was a sister ship of the Lewes, having also been built in Milford and bought into the service. And I've found references to a USS Henlopen, built by W.G. Abbott, as well.

According to the US Naval Historical Center, the Lewes spent most of her time as a mine-sweeper, keeping the coast of France free from floating German mines, an effort that continued int 1919 after the end of the war. She was decommissioned in September of 1919 and sold.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

At the Lewes Christmas Parade

beam backParade Routefrostytrollylittle carjohn's old car, that is new to him
john's new old carwhite caryellow carrollerboat floatsnow man
Santa's cookies......and milklight comingbig lampbig dogsshining
beam aheadwaiter!jusst sooup coming Jusst Sooup leavingair cannontrebuchet
2011 Lewes Christmas Parade, a set on Flickr.
Last night we watched the annual Lewes Christmas Parade. It's one of the biggest and best parades in our little city. We'd missed it for some years due to scheduling conflicts with the Sussex Ballet's Nutcracker. This year's Nutcracker will come later in the month, so we were able to spend a pleasant, though cold, few hours watching classic cars, fire trucks, church groups, dogs, boats, businesses, politicians, beauty queens, and a marching band file by on Savannah Road.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dancing at the Sea Witch Festival

Christina and her corps-mates from the Sussex Dance Academy gave a dance exhibition this morning at the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand. It was part of the Sea Witch festival. There were other dance schools, a choral group and a magician.

That's our lovely daughter there, second from the right. I liked the way the five dancers are matched by five little girls who dream of dancing in this shot.

It was a good morning for photography. I captured a container ship and what I think was a dredge platform for my Distant Ships collection. I took pictures of pumpkins,  costumes, benches and beaches. And more.

Then we all trooped off for lunch at Nicola's.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Coast Day, 2011 - A Photoset

I went to Coast Day, at the University of Delaware's Lewes campus this afternoon. Coast Day is an annual open house at what we used to call "the College of Marine Studies," or CMS. The University has changed the school's name a few times now, and I've lost track of what it's meant to be called; for most people who've lived in Lewes awhile, though, "CMS" still works.

Coast Day is an open house for the researchers that has grown into an environmental and marine culture fair. Many state and local agencies have displays, as do local government and non-governmental organizations. There are boats and food and music and general science-themed fun. I like it and I like to photograph it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Fine Brunch by the Wissahickon

valley run 1 by mmahaffie
valley run 1, a photo by mmahaffie on Flickr.
We were at Villanova University this weekend visiting Daughter #1 for parents' weekend. We watched football, met her friends, bought things with big blue Vs on them at the bookstore, and laughed at the best in improv comedy. And we had a fine brunch today at the Valley Run Inn.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

23 Years Ago...

mimosas soon by mmahaffie
mimosas soon, a photo by mmahaffie on Flickr.
Karen and I were wed on this date (9/10) 23 years ago. We spent the first night of our marriage in Baltimore and then flew to Switzerland for a hot air balloon tour.

This bottle of champaign was waiting for us after our first landing after a long, bouncy, dragging landing in a Swiss field.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I'm Reading O'Brian Again

I do this every few years; I start reading Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series again. I ran out of library books to read during the pass-by of Hurricane Irene in late August so I went to my personal collection and grabbed Master and Commander. Again.

It may be the start of another run through the whole 20-book series. Maybe. Last time, it was May to October of 2006. That has been the only time I have read through the series start-to-finish. I've read most of the novels in the series at least twice, but usually in a disconnected, non-sequential way.

I enjoy sea-stories and stories from the Napoleonic wars. But what I love most about these books is the language. Writing like this: would have been difficult to imagine a pleasanter way of spending the late summer than sailing than sailing across the whole width of the Mediterranean as fast as the sloop could fly. She flew a good deal faster now that Jack had hit upon her happiest trim, restowing her hold to bring her by the stern and restoring her masts to the rake her Spanish builders had intended. What is more, the brothers Sponge, with a dozen of the Sophie's swimmers under their instruction, had spent every moment of the long calms in Greek waters (their native element) scraping her bottom; and Stephen could remember an evening when he had sat there in the warm, deepening twilight, watching the sea; it had barely a ruffle on its surface, and yet the Sophie picked up enough moving air with her topgallants to draw a long, straight whispering furrow across the water, a line brilliant with unearthly phosphorescence, visible for a quart of a mile behind her. Days and nights of unbelievable purity. Nights when the steady Ionian breeze rounded the square mainsail -- not a brace to be touched, watch relieving watch -- and he and Jack on deck, sawing away, sawing away, lost in their music , until the falling dew untuned their strings. And days when the perfection of dawn was so great , the emptiness so entire, that men were almost afraid to speak.
I marked this passage as I read by it the other day and thought it might make a good blog post. In searching back through this blog for previous O'Brian posts I realized I've done this kind of post a few times before.

I finished Master and Commander yesterday. The library is closed, so I moved on to Post Captain, the second in the series. I don't know if this is the start of another run through all 20 novels. That would probably carry me into January.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Near Miss?

the neighbor's garage by mmahaffie
the neighbor's garage, a photo by mmahaffie on Flickr.
Our next door neighbor's garage door took a mighty wrench at some point during the storm. another neighbor, across the street from this one, lost the top of a large tree as well.

The working theory around our cul-de-sac is that both were caused by the storm cell that spawned the tornado that hit Nassau station, northwest of us -- or maybe by the tornado itself.

We Survived Hurricane Irene

It's a wet, blustery Sunday morning here in Lewes and we're approaching the endgame of Hurricane Irene. Bottom line: we're just fine.

The storm has moved inland in New York state at this point and is down to Tropical Storm strength. It was a Category 1 Hurricane when it passed east of Delaware overnight. I think the worst of the wind and rain for us was later afternoon and early evening of Saturday.

We had a scare when a storm cell that appears to have spawned a tornado passed just overhead of our neighborhood. we'd had warning from local television and spent a few minutes down in the basement.

The twister apparently touched-down about three miles to our west and damaged a number of houses, at least one of them seriously. as of now, I have heard no reports of injuries or deaths in Delaware from this storm.

We spent the rest of the night on the main floor, closer to the basement, camped-out in the living room.

I took a quick look around the house this morning and so far just a small tree is down in the side yard. It may be savable.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Somewhere in this picture....

...may be my grandfather, my great grandfather or my great grandmother.

This is a photo of Anadarko Township, Oklahoma, in its early days in August of 1901. It is from the Today's Document blog from the National Archives.  Anadarko is in Kiowa County, southwest of Oklahoma city. It lies about 50 miles from Hobart, where my great grandfather George Mahaffie was homesteading with his wife Mollie and their four children. They had moved to Oklahoma from Kansas sometime between 1889 and 1900.

George and Mollie would have been 40 years old in August of 1901. My grandfather, Charles, would have been 16. His elder sister, Rose, would have been 18. Younger brother Bart would have been 11 and the baby, Beatty, 1 year old.

It is possible that George may have taken Mollie or one or more of his children east for the lumber auction pictured here. If nothing else, it provides a clear picture of the landscape and environment that helped form my grandfather.

Monday, July 25, 2011

At The Delaware State Fair

My new office is sharing a booth at the 2011 Delaware State Fair with the Public Service Commission (PSC). We're both part of the Department of State for Delaware. As the new Deputy Director at the GIC, I thought I should lead by example and take a healthy number of shifts at the booth. I've been taking pictures when I can.

Monday, May 30, 2011

"The best looking couple in Lewes (this weekend)"

The best looking couple...
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
I have no idea who these two people are. I ran across them while I was wading in the shallows of Delaware Bay along Lewes Beach today.

The gentleman said, "wanna take a picture of the best looking couple in Lewes this weekend?" Putting aside for a moment the fact that the best-looking couple would have to, by definition, include the Lovely Karen, I said, "sure," and snapped this picture.

They thought I must be a newspaper photographer, because they asked about where the picture would appear. I promised them that I would post it with this title so they could google it and find themselves.

And so, I did.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

...So Far

Wordle: Blog Content as of 5/26/11
Just for fun, I ran the RSS from the blog through Wordle to see what the word cloud of recent posts looks like. Recent travel and Census stuff seem to predominate.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

We're Missing a Tourism Opportunity: Water Baseball

The Library of Commerce photo stream in the Flickr commons includes a few intriguing, if faded, images of men playing baseball in the surf sometime in 1914. We should investigate this as a tourist activity/draw for Delaware beaches. The Division of State Parks could organize leagues. But I imagine the outfielders would have to be fairly tall.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Stuck in the Middle With (897,933 of) You

Census Bureau Director Robert Groves was out in the tiny village of Plato, Missouri, yesterday to unveil a National Geodetic Survey disc commemorating Plato as the new national center of population.

The Census Bureau calculates the center of population after each census as "the place where an imaginary, flat, weightless and rigid map of the United States would balance perfectly if all residents were of identical weight." The center of population has moved slowly west and south from Kent County, Maryland, in 1790 to Missouri.

The Census Bureau also calculates the center of population for each state. In 2010, the center of population for the 897,934 of us counted in Delaware was northeast of Smyrna, along Route 9.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Walking Up A Pair of Waterfall-Filled Gorges

I had a day to kill in Ithaca, New York, this weekend. Daughter #1 had a day of training scheduled the day after pick-up from Villanova. We drove straight from Radnor in PA to Ithaca on Friday and I spent Saturday wandering around two of New York's Waterfall-themed state parks.

First up was Taughannock Falls State Park, north of Ithaca and above Cayuga Lake.

Just south of Ithaca, and distressingly close to a Home Depot and other big-box retail, is Buttermilk Falls State Park.

Monday, April 25, 2011

We Bid a Fond Farewell to Sanibel Island

lighthouse point beachWe're sitting in the airport at Fort Myers, Florida, waiting for a flight back to Philadelphia and home. We've just spent a pleasant four days on Sanibel Island, just west of here.

We stayed at an older beachfront resort called The Island Inn. It's a small and very laid back sort of place. The main activity here was none at all. We sat on the beach, we collected seashells, and did some very minor shopping. I threw in one exploratory bike ride out to the east end of the island to Lighthouse Point.

A word about seashells and beach-combing. Sanibel Island, and its neighbor Captiva, are awash in shells. I imagine they formed from shoals of shells deposited by currents unique to the area.

Sanibel is a quiet spot. The beach was not crowded and many of the homes, rentals and resorts seemed slightly populated. The Island Inn folks told us they were full, however, and said that the weeks around Easter are often the last big push of their tourist season.

Soon it will get too warm here and most of the folks who winter in Sanibel will head north. Probably some of them will be in Lewes this summer.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fun With Culinary History

The New York Public Library has a neat crowd-sourcing project up in which volunteers are helping to transcribe the dishes offered on their collection of historic menus.

It's called What's on the Menu?
We're transcribing our historical restaurant menus, dish by dish, so that they can be searched by what people were actually eating. It's a big job so we need your help!
I spent some time with the menu at right this evening. It's from Friday, April 26, 1901. I found dishes like:
  • Broiled squab on toast, with lettuce, for 50 cents
  • Lobster a la Newburg, for 40 cents
  • Barbecued oysters or soft clams in shell, for 35 cents
I think its fascinating to think that my great-grandfather John Redmond Farrar, a lawyer and justice of the municipal court in New York City, might have eaten here. Or maybe another great-grandfather, Augustus Charles Becker, described later by his son-in-law, my grandfather Redmond Farrar, as "a very imposing and good-looking man, over six feet tall, and very aristocratic in his bearing," might have eaten here.

They might have ordered a boiled young turkey, with oyster sauce.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rocking the Mothership

It was a last-minute sort of thing, but I traveled down to Hampton, Virginia, yesterday to see the band Furthur in concert. They were playing in the distinctive-looking Hampton Coliseum, known variously as the Mothership or the Cosmic Cupcake.

I bought a ticket earlier in the week on a whim; partly to celebrate the new job and partly because I've been following the band's setlists and photos this tour and getting more and more interested.

The band Furthur, named for the Merry Pranksters' psychedelic school bus of that name, is made up of two of the original members of the Grateful Dead -- Bob Weir and Phil Lesh -- along with a talented crew of younger musicians. As a group, they are tight and inventive and having great fun.

There was some fear that this would just be a very good Dead cover band, but they are more than that. In fact, they are a cover band in the same way that the Grateful Dead were; taking classic songs and making them feel new. The setlist for the Hampton Coliseum show includes covers of Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and Led Zeppelin. Their version of Zeppelin's Fool in the Rain was particularly good.

I went alone to this show. It's fun to do that sometimes. It makes you completely free to be anonymous. And it lets me talk to all those around me. At this show, there were fans in a wide range of ages from substantially older than I am to much, much younger. 

A large group of college students (from Old Dominion University, I think) were in the row behind me. Though they would have been toddlers when the Grateful Dead last played, in 1995, some of them were  were Deadheads in the true sense. One young man had been in New York City for the run of shows at Madison Square Garden during which Furthur covered The Clash (a first, and exciting) and there were guest appearances by Elvis Costello and his wife the jazz singer and pianist Diana Krall (among others).

I was jealous.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Here's News: I Am Taking A New Job

I've been putting word out via twitter, e-mail and the telephone (yup, still do that sometimes) about a new job I've taken. Starting on April 11, I will be a part of the Delaware Government Information Center, a state agency with a mission of connecting Delaware citizens to government. In practice, that means managing Delaware's web site and helping state agencies use the web and social media to do a better job of communicating with and interacting with the people of the state.

As you may know, this sort of thing is what I really enjoy.

At the same time, a new job means leaving behind the work I've been doing for more than 12 years as GIS Coordinator and Census State Data Center lead for the Delaware Office of State Planning Coordination. This is a time of transition and reflection.

I’ve been around to see the State Planning Office grow into a small, focused, effective service bureau that helps state agencies, local governments, businesses and citizens come together (when that’s possible) on land use planning issues.

I'm very proud of the work done by the Delaware Geographic Data Committee in the time I've been associated with that group. I've made great friends among Delaware's GIS Community and I plan to stay involved, if at a lesser intensity.

I have been honored to be a part of the National States Geographic Information Council, an astonishing group of people from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories who lead GIS efforts in their part of the nation and come together to improve government at all levels.

And I have had the satisfaction of working with the people of the US Census Bureau to help plan for and carry out the decennial census and to distribute data and information from the Census Bureau to people, businesses, and units of government.

Working within state government can be very rewarding. We take our lumps of course -- sometimes rightfully so -- but at its most basic level, public service means helping people. I do that with data and information and sometimes with some modest expertise. I'll keep doing that sort of work in my new job, I enjoy it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

In Which Two Streams of My Musical Life Meet and Mix

Furthur, the best of the post-Garcia incarnations of the Grateful Dead, played a cover of Train in Vain, originally by The Clash, last night at Radio City Music Hall, in New York City. They didn't do too bad.

The song was originally sung by Mick Jones, the lead guitarist for The Clash.

I'm a Deadhead and I was a huge Clash fan back when they were active. I've written about this before. I think it's really cool that these two streams of music have come together.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

STEM Education Should Be STEAM Education

Mickey Hart has written a nice little Huffington Post column on the importance of the arts in education. He argues that the science, technology, engineering and math approach, known as "STEM," won't work as well without the arts.
Neuroscientists also have shown that the brain is hardwired for music, innovation and creativity, all other human activities follow. No human culture known to historians or anthropologists has ever existed without music and dance. The arts are a necessity for insight: the arts make us human.The energy that you acquire from art and music turns inspiration into invention. This allows an inventor to dream up something never envisioned before and creates new industries and good-paying jobs.
I think he's right.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Last Hours of Winter

I took a short walk this morning on the Junction and Breakwater trail that runs through parts of Cape Henlopen State Park between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. Spring begins this evening at 7:21 p.m., but this morning was cold and clear and the trees remain spare and stark in the weak and watery light.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I Thought She Looked Familiar

This is a couple of years old, but it's new to me. Ann Marie Calhoun and her brother Joe Simpson play the old Grateful Dead tune Ripple. Her performance is remarkable.

I shouldn't be surprised. I'm pretty sure I've seen her work elsewhere. There's been lots of it and it looks like she'll be an interesting artist to watch.

Not least for how musically abandoned she is in her interpretation of what is one of my favorite tunes.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

All It Needs is a Splash of Paint

A space scene? A lightning bolt? Either way.

Here's to Pleasant Surprises

It's been a busy week or two lately. You may have noticed a lack of posting here, but be sure I was busy elsewhere.
Wordle: 2011 NSGIC MidYear Tweets 2
Last week at this time I was starting a short midyear conference of the National State's Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), in Annapolis. I'm communications chair for that group and so spend the conference taking notes and developing an on-line, cloud-based repository of conference stuff.

And when I returned to the office, it was to a release of 2010 Census redistricting data for Delaware, which I am working my way through as lead staff (the entire staff, to be honest) of the Delaware Census state Data Center.

So I was looking forward to this weekend; to a nice dinner out with both our girls and to ferrying daughter #1 back north to Villanova after her mid-term break. But old-lady nature threw me a curve and hit me with a fast-moving sinus infection that settled over the roots of my upper left molars for an effect like an un-ending explosion.

I'm on the mend though. And this morning came across a pleasant surprise in my RSS Reader feed (took me a while to get here, didn't it?). Yesterday I added a new blog, that of the proprietor of a new bookstore that has just opened here in Lewes called biblion. reading back through her entries, I found one from a week ago that included, as a one-off gesture to a friend, an embedded performance by
Rodrigo y Gabriela of their guitar duet Tamacun.

I've been a fan of this pair ever since hearing them interviewed on NPR a few years back. They are from Mexico, where they played heavy-metal rock before dropping out of that scene and travelling around Ireland for a time, where they earned their living playing more traditional music. They play a fusion of folk musics with a rock and roll abandon that I quite like.

This tune is on my iPod and gets much use when I'm writing, the rhythms and fast pace seem to help my fingers keep up with  my brain.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Freedom. Exercised.

The news out of Wisconsin this past week has been fascinating for many reasons. It's been interesting to see the tensions of our political, social and economic challenges play out on a normally civil mid-western stage. And the turmoil in the middle east adds a depth that helps us keep it in some perspective.

That it's taking places in Madison adds personal interest. I was there in the fall of 2007 for a national GIS Conference and used the occasion to tour the state capitol. It's a lovely building and was fully open to the public when I visited.


This same spot has been filled with Wisconsin folks lately, exercising their right to speak. Here's a view from this weekend.

Protests - Capitol Dome, Feb 19

I like this.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Success! I Fixed A Google Maps Mistake. Now, For the Next One...

I got word from Google Maps today that they have accepted my correction to the location of the Judy V charter fishing boat. Google had shown it as a business located on the street outside our house, but it's actually based at the Indian River Inlet Marina, south east of here.

We live on Inlet Place, in Lewes. The Indian River Inlet Marina is on Inlet Road, south of Dewey Beach. Unfortunately, the road data that Google Maps has for Delaware doesn't include Inlet Road, so we tend to get identified as the location of things at the Inlet. For a short time, the offices of Delaware Seashore State Park were found (by Google, anyway) at our house. I think I sent a correction on that one as well.

I can't remember when I submitted the Judy V correction, but it's probably been less than a year. Back in April of last year, I gave a presentation on GIS and on-line mapping to a class of the Delaware academy of Lifelong Learning. I used my correction request as an example of what to be careful about with on-line maps.

It's not Google's fault, really. They are an aggregater of other data. They use state, federal or private sector aerial photography for their "satellite" view. They use crowd-sourced information for reviews of businesses and photos of places. And they use publicly available GIS data for roads, cities, waterways and the like. That Inlet Road is not on their maps yet speaks to a failure of what-ever mapping company they are using to provide road data to pick up Inlet Road.

For the record, the Delaware DataMIL, which serves statewide road data for Delaware, does have Inlet Road.

Now that the Judy V's place-marker has been moved, I see that Google identifies our house as the local headquarters of the Coast Guard.

I guess I need to get back into correction-suggestion mode.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

This is Molly Lewis. She Made This Song Which I Really Like (For Several Reasons)

Let's start with a few basic facts. I am, and have been for a while, a fan of Stephen Fry. He's a hugely intelligent and terribly interesting writer, actor, director, etc. I first found him when he and his then performing partner Hugh Laurie (who I also really like) put together a TV series of PG Wodehouse stories (I love PG Wodehouse's writing too).

I also like quirky music, idiosyncratic singer-songwriters, and female vocalists. And I like real songs; too much of music these days is just an excuse for elaborate stage shows and dancers. There's nothing wrong with dance, but I like musicians and singers who play and sing songs.

So this evening I found this, by way of MetaFilter. It's by Molly Lewis and is a sung open letter to Stephen Fry, who is gay, proposing a combining of genetic material to improve the human genome.

I understand Mr. Fry heard this when it came out last spring and was charmed. I just think it's cool.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Walk Around Killens Pond

I spent part of Saturday afternoon walking around Killens Pond. Daughter #2 wanted to spend the day at Lake Forest High school, watching a high school swim meet (which her school won, I think). I decided to use that as an excuse to spend some time at Killens Pond State Park with my camera.

Afterwards, I spent some time at the new Kent County Library, working online via their free wifi (thanks, very much) until it was time to pick up my daughter again.

Is That Mr. Bill?

I'm a huge fan of Craig Ferguson and his Late, Late Show. Recently, as I was watching him do his twitter and e-mails segment, I found myself thinking about Mr. Bill, an early feature of the old Saturday Night Live.

You Have a Right to Free Speech, But Have Responsibility Too

Shirley Sherrod is suing Andrew Breitbart for libel. I think she has a case. Breitbart was served papers during the Conservative Political Action Conference the other day, according to a story on the  conference in the New York Times.
Andrew Breitbart, the owner of several conservative Web sites, was served at the conference on Saturday with a lawsuit filed by Shirley Sherrod, the former Agriculture Department employee who lost her job last year over a video that Mr. Brietbart posted at his site 
The video was selectively edited so that it appeared Ms. Sherrod was confessing she had discriminated against a farmer because he was white. In the suit, which was filed in Washington on Friday, Ms. Sherrod says the video has damaged her reputation and prevented her from continuing her work. 
Mr. Breitbart said in a statement that he “categorically rejects the transparent effort to chill his constitutionally protected free speech.”
Everyone has a right to free speech, but we also have a responsibility to speak truth. Libel is libel. It may certainly be spoken and you may certainly be sued for it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Waves of Justice are Ridden Slowly?

Former Rehoboth Beach lifeguard Michael Scanlon was back in the news this week. He was sentenced to 20 months in prison on Friday for conspiracy in a hideously complicated case tied to the Jack Abramoff bribery and corruption scandal.

Scanlon had pleaded guilty back in November of 2005. I remember being struck by the local paper's headline, "Rehoboth Beach lifeguard pleads guilty to conspiracy." I thought it a sample of how a local newspaper -- all local media, really -- tried to keep a local focus on the news. I was a little charmed, if also scandalized, by the idea of a jet-setting lifeguard.

November 2005 seems a generation ago. Back then we were deep in the mire that was the Bush administration. The Abramoff scandal was the tip of an iceberg that only agonizingly slowly knocked some sense of how bad things had gotten into the public's mind.

It turns out that Scanlon has spent his time since then living up to the terms of a plea agreement that has seen him help bring the slow, but certain, tides of justice to bear on a collection of corrupt bastards. I guess it takes time.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Harsh. Based on Reality. But Ultimately Wrong

The excellent Letters of Note blog today has posted a late 1967 letter from a record company executive to one of the managers of the Grateful Dead, scolding the band for their unprofessional behavior in the studio during the making of the album Anthem of the Sun.

I think it is funny as hell to read this now. Here are some bits:
...the most unreasonable project with which we have ever involved ourselves.
It's apparent that nobody in your organization has enough influence over Phil Lesh to evoke anything resembling normal behavior. 
With their attitudes and their inability to take care of business when it's time to do so would lead us to believe that they never will be truly important.
The Dead were certainly weird in those days. Anthem of the Sun is one of their more out-there and experimental efforts. But it has some gems, including attempts to capture their astonishing jamming of that period on pieces such as The Other One (cf. 1968 version and 1989 version).

It's not surprising that music industry folks thought they would fade away. Looking back over the long history of the band (they continued until the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995), it's clear that the Grateful Dead were never going to fit comfortably in the music industry. They didn't make product, they created an atmosphere in which music could come into being. Sometimes it was pretty lame, but mostly is was fabulous.

Letters of Note adds that the producer referred to in the letter eventually quit the project; "apparently the final straw was a request by guitarist Bob Weir to create the illusion of 'thick air' in the recording studio." I remember reading or hearing about this -- I think in Phil Lesh's memoir Searching for the Sound  -- as an example of Bob Weir's inventiveness. Lesh says, if I remember who said this, that what Bobby was really going for was the sort of compression that is now a standard tool in all recording studios. It didn't exist in 1967. They hadn't invented it yet. But Weir knew it was needed.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Winter Walk on the Beach

We had sunshine and blue skies today, so I took advantage of the change in the weather to walk the beach and the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach this morning.

I was out early, but the tents and signs and flags were already going up for the Polar Bear Plunge to take place in the afternoon. By the time I was done and headed out of town, the town was filling up with plungers and their friends. But I still got some quiet alone-ish time on the beach.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Columnist Slams Redskins Owner and I Cannot Disagree With Him

I am a Redskins fan. I have been since the 1972 season, when I was 10 years old and first learning about the game of football. It should be no surprise to football fans that I am not happy with the current ownership of my team. And neither is Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten.

In his column, Memo to Dan Snyder: Thank you for your stewardship of the Redskins, Weingarten starts with the fact that Redskins owner dan Snyder has been trying to get a reporter fired for having written an unflattering article.
I just want you to know you have my full support in this matter, as I support everything you have done during your stewardship of the Redskins. You rock. I wish you good health and long life and hope you run the franchise for many, many years to come. I say this with utmost sincerity as a lifelong fan of the New York Giants.

I know you are taking some criticism today from carping media types. They seem to think that you are not only behaving like a petty, vindictive bully but also that you are being strategically stupid - by bringing a vast new audience to a three-month-old, otherwise-obscure alternative-media piece, which can be found here.
I cannot disagree with what Weingarten has written. Except that thing about the Giants. Don't much like them.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Lightning Trip to Wilkes-Barre

Karen and I made a fast trip to Wilkes-Barre with our eldest this weekend. We'd planned it a while back around a hockey game our daughter's boyfriend would play there. His game was cancelled, but we made the trip anyway, giving the two of them a chance to see each other and us a chance to spend time with them as well. And Wilkes-Barre is a place we had not yet seen.

Daughter #1 is a freshman at Villanova and her young man is at a prep school in Kingston, PA, across the river from Wilkes-Barre. He's a talented hockey player, and a good kid. We missed the opportunity to watch him play, but took the pair of them out for excellent steaks at the Ruth's Chris Steakhouse that is part of the new Mohegan Sun Casino at Pocono just outside Wilkes-Barre.

And we had a bit of a walk-around in Wilkes-Barre in a gentle, pretty snowfall. We were surprised by what we thought was a grand-looking mosque, but turned out to be the Irem Temple, designed in the "moorish" style more than 100 years ago as an auditorium for the local masonic lodge. It has a wonderfully-decorated front door, but appears to be deteriorating badly.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Word Clouds From the State of the Union Speech

NPR is playing with some of my favorite on-line tools this evening following President Obama's fine and inspiring State of the Union speech. They've asked folks, via twitter, to respond to a very brief survey asking for three words in reaction to the speech. and they are running the results through the wordle word-cloud creator.

First, here's a quick word cloud of the speech itself.
The NPR 3-word reaction survey used a simple Google Documents form and collected about 4,000 responses in the first half hour after the speech. Clearly, people either tickled by, or annoyed by, the President's salmon joke dominated the resulting word cloud.
I somewhat prefer the preliminary, test version they did with the first few thousand responses. NPR is also creating different word clouds based on different segments of their respondent community.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I Guess "Flat Featureless Former Cornfield Estates" Was Taken

Driving down Delaware Route 30 from Gravel Hill to Millsboro today, I spotted two new subdivisions with nonsense names: Stoney Ridge Estates and Kingston Ridge.

Sussex County Delaware is distinguished by its flatness. We start at sea-level and rise gently to around 40 feet above sea-level. Gravel Hill itself is one of the few places even close to worthy of the name "hill" (other than the landfill). It goes up to about 50 feet above sea-level for very short stretch.

The nearest "ridge" is a two-hour drive to the north, in northern New Castle County.

By the way, "Stoney" Ridge? This is essentially a large sand-spit of a peninsula. One thing we don't have a whole lot of is stones.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I Am Easily Amused

I spent a bit of time today at work checking out a new on-line data exploration and mapping site from the GIS company ESRI. Community Analyst was announced as part of a federal government GIs conference (I was watching via twitter). It is a promising tool and may be a real success.

But this brief post isn't about substantive things. No, this post is about the silly little things that amuse me.

Community Analyst is in beta testing. The makers are looking for feedback. As a dutiful data freak, I immediately looked for the feedback link and found the first thing to comment on: it is a "feeback" link.

What I wanted most of all at that point was to be the first to have noticed. And I was!

I got a kick out of that.

Monday, January 17, 2011

From the Archives: Punkin' Chunkin'

punkin 3
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
In the old days, Punkin' Chunkin' was a small, homey affair. We used to attend it back when when we were first married; back when they held the thing just north of Lewes at the Eagle Crest Aerodrome.

In those days, the "big guns" were rotary-arm hurlers and giant metal slingshots. None of the compressed-air canons that they use today.

In those days, there were some "special" chunkers. Here, for example, is the famous "illegal mortar" chunker which made a few appearances. And there was a pilot who flew over several times, heaving pumpkins out of the cockpit.

These are photos from an old desk drawer I've started sorting through. I've been scanning a few and adding them to an archives set.