Sunday, July 8, 2012

Driving North

We took a week and drove north to Highgate Springs, in Vermont, by way of Boston. We were on our way to visit Colleen, who is working this summer at the Tyler Place resort. We stopped in Boston on the way to tour Boston University and Emerson College with Christina.

View New England Trip, Summer 2012 in a larger map

A full photographic collection from this trip is on my flickr account. There are a few photos also posted on instagram.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

An Evening in a Kayak

Untitled by mmahaffie
Untitled, a photo by mmahaffie on Flickr.

Yesterday evening, I joined the folks from Delaware Paddlesports in a "social paddle" at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Prime Hook is on the Delaware Bay near Milton, Delaware, and includes a large range of marsh and open water. We saw Ospreys and Herons and Skimmers and many other birds. Very pleasant, a nice minor workout, and quite relaxing.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

It's Been 25 Years Since I Moved to Lewes

Lewes Lighthouse Sign by mmahaffie
Lewes Lighthouse Sign, a photo by mmahaffie on Flickr.
Walking downtown today, I realized that it has been 25 years since I moved into the City of Lewes, Delaware. I came here in the spring of 1987, after a winter in Rehoboth Beach.

I had a tiny bachelor apartment on Second Street before Karen and I married. We had a small apartment on West 3rd Street when we first married. We rented a small duplex on Market Street briefly before buying our first house, a Cape Cod on East 3rd. Eighteen years ago, we moved into a suburban-style house on Inlet Place. And here we've stayed.

I've lived in Lewes for half of my life now. In fact, this is the place I've lived longest in all of my life.

I'm proud to be a part of this town; glad that our daughters have grown up here. It's been my honor to serve for several years now on the Lewes Planning Commission.

I wonder if I'll still be here in 25 more years?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Literature: Words About Jazz

I'm reading a great novel about jazz musicians in pre-war Berlin and Paris. Half-Blood Blues, by Esi Edugyan, tells the story of a group of American and German jazz players who had been successful playing in the clubs of 1930s Berlin but had to hide and eventually run from the Nazis. The group includes African American musicians who found less racism in Europe and Germany, some of them of mixed African and German descent.

The story, the history and the evocation of time and place are wonderful. But I was struck by this passage about playing the music. In this scene, a young, scrawny black German trumpeter first comes to play with an established group of musicians, who are skeptical that he can even hold his horn. The narrator is Sid, a bassist from Baltimore.
But when he lifted his horn, we gave him a respectful silence. His trumpet was a cheap-lookin thing, dented, like a foil-wrapped chocolate been in a pocket too long. He put his rabbity fingers on the pistons, cocked his head, his left eye shutting to a squint. 
"Buttermouth Blues," Ernst called back to him. 
The kid nodded. He begun to tease air through the brass. At first we all just stood there with our axes at the ready, staring at him. Nothing happened. I glanced at Chip, shook my head. But then I begun to hear, like a pinprick on the air -- it was that subtle -- the voice of a humming-bird singing at a pitch and speed almost beyond hearing. Wasn't like nothing I ever heard before. The kid come in at a strange angle, made the notes glitter like crystal. Pausing, he took a huge breath, started playing a ear-splitting scale that drawn out the invisible phrase he'd just played. 
The rest of us come in behind him. And I tell you, it ain't took but a minute more for me to understand just what kind of player this kid was. He sounded broody, slow, holding the notes way longer than seemed sane. The music should have sounded something like a ship's horn sounding across water -- hard, bright, clear. The kid, hell, he made it muddy, passing his notes not only over the seas but through the solid too. Sounded rich, which might've been fine for a older gate, but felt fake from him. The slow dialogue between him and us had a sort of preacher-choir feel to it. But there wasn't no grace. His was the voice of a country preacher too green to convince the flock. He talked against us like he begging us to listen. He wailed. He moaned. He pleaded and seethed. He dragged every damn feeling out that trumpet but hate. A sort of naked, pathetic way of playing. Like he done flipped the whole thing inside out, its nerves flailing in the air. He bent the notes, slurred them in a way made us play harder against him. And the more we disagreed, the stronger he pleaded. But his pleading ain't never ask for nothing, just seemed to be there for its own damn sake. In a weird way, he sounded both old and like he touching the trumpet for the very first time.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Happy Maori New Year

Watch the skies by mmahaffie
Watch the skies, a photo by mmahaffie on Flickr.
I learned that today is the Māori New Year, celebrated in New Zealand when the Pleiades star cluster, known to the Maori as "Matariki," makes its only appearance in the night skies.

It got me thinking back to about this time of year in 1980. I was a senior in high school and had invited a young woman from New Zealand to be my prom date. Helen was an exchange student and part Maori. She had the coolest accent ever.

It's traditional, for Maori New Year, to look to the skies.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Flag Bench

Flag Bench by mmahaffie
Flag Bench, a photo by mmahaffie on Flickr.

On my walk to a sandwich shop in the western part of downtown Dover today, I came across this flag bench sitting all by itself.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Overfalls by mmahaffie
Overfalls, a photo by mmahaffie on Flickr.
The Lightship Overfalls under a perfect early June sky at Canalfront Park, in Lewes.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Hot Day on the Fairway

Fairway by mmahaffie
Fairway, a photo by mmahaffie on Flickr.

I played a practice round at Old Landing Golf Course outside Rehoboth Beach today. It was a very hot day. I didn't carry my clubs, but I did walk the course. I'm glad I took along enough water.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Just Because This Picture is Simply Charming

Gee-Up! by josefnovak33
Gee-Up!, a photo by josefnovak33 on Flickr.
This is from a great flickr group called The Smiling Victorian. Found via the cool web editor at NPR's Fresh Air.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Make Up Your Own Rules"

It's graduation season and I am enjoying watching a variety of graduation addresses. Here's one from author Neil Gaiman, who is one of my favorite writers and who is modeling a new way of living as an artist and writer... on social media and the web.

Here's a part of the speech I found very interesting. It comes at the end when he has already given advice about akin art and living as an artist.
We're in a transitional world right now, if you're in any kind of artistic field, because the nature of distribution is changing, the models by which creators got their work out into the world, and got to keep a roof over their heads and buy sandwiches while they did that, are all changing. I've talked to people at the top of the food chain in publishing, in bookselling, in all those areas, and nobody knows what the landscape will look like two years from now, let alone a decade away. The distribution channels that people had built over the last century or so are in flux for print, for visual artists, for musicians, for creative people of all kinds.
Which is, on the one hand, intimidating, and on the other, immensely liberating. The rules, the assumptions, the now-we're supposed to's of how you get your work seen, and what you do then, are breaking down. The gatekeepers are leaving their gates. You can be as creative as you need to be to get your work seen. YouTube and the web (and whatever comes after YouTube and the web) can give you more people watching than television ever did. The old rules are crumbling and nobody knows what the new rules are. 
So make up your own rules.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Blackbird Creek, From a Canoe

here's a hintsunny daykayakyellow flowersin a canoemore yellow flowers
paddling on blackbird creeka dock in the wrong placeThere were a lot of yellow flowersduck blindmarsh plantslearning
cypress!greendead treesreflectionduck blindquiet spot
two tree islandsunny spotround the cornercanoe tripall done

On Thursday, I took the morning off for a naturalist-guided canoe trip on Blackbird Creek, in New Castle County. It was a part of the outreach programming from the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve, a part of DNREC. My boss took the morning and came along, as did several members of the staff of a company called Delaware Interactive, with whom we have been partnering on several eGovernment projects lately.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Our Purple Tree, Spring 2012

There's a purple-flowering tree in our yard. I think, technically, it is called a Redbud. All I know is that each spring it goes through a purple phase before turning green.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Walk Through Historic Williamsburg

The second part of our Williamsburg visit was a day spent doing the historic part of Williamsburg. It's important to note that a single day isn't really enough, but it is a very nice way to spend a day and we had nearly perfect weather.

We saw the key things we wanted to see and returned in the evening for a lovely meal at the Kings Arms Tavern, where nearly a quarter century ago (!) I proposed to The Lovely Karen.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Visit to the College of William and Mary

We're in Williamsburg, Virginia, for a few days of spring break. We wanted a get-away and we've taken advantage of the visit to start Christina's college search process with a tour of the College of William and Mary.

William and Mary is a tough place to start, I expect. It's such a lovely campus and seems a desirable place to go to school. I worry it might spoil the game for the other schools.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

On the Street Where You Lived (Part 2)

I spent some time this weekend searching through the newly-released 1940 Census records for information about my parents' childhood households. I didn't find anything really new about my family, and there's nothing here that they couldn't easily tell me themselves, but I'm a data geek, a history buff, and a former Census Liaison for state government, so this was fun.

Part 2: The Farrars of Meadow Road
My next search of the 1940 Census was in Greenwich, Connecticut, where my mother grew up in the neighborhood of Riverside. Her family lived on Meadow Road, at the apex of the triangle it forms with Tower Road. They were part of Enumeration District 1-62.

My mother, Judith Farrar, was nine on Census Day in 1940; she would turn ten later in the spring. She was the youngest of three children of John and Roberta Farrar. Her sister Joan was 14 and her oldest brother, Robert, was 16 that spring. Their parents were both 41 years old.

The household included a nurse, 48-year old Edna Bullock from Massachusetts. She was there for Joan, who was unwell. There was also a maid, Geneva Lumpkins (I think), a 20-year old from Alabama. My mother tells me that Geneva was not there much longer. As she put it, "The war changed a lot of things." Robert and their father would both enlist; Robert became a navigator on B-17 bombers out of England.

Before the war, though, my Grandfather was making films. The Census form lists his occupation as Movie Director. My brother John found a listing for his company, Mercury Pictures, in a 1948 edition of the Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. He also owned a hardware store and wrote jazz music.

Among the other occupations listed in their neighborhood in 1940 was an interesting mix of the wealthy and people who work for them. There were lawyers, publishers, and bank vice presidents, as well as maids, cooks, housemen, and a butler. That neighborhood is still very high rent; last time we visited we had to get special permission to go through the gates.

In Part 1, we looked at my father's household.

On the Street Where You Lived (Part 1)

I spent some time this weekend searching through the newly-released 1940 Census records for information about my parents' childhood households. I didn't find anything really new about my family, and there's nothing here that they couldn't easily tell me themselves, but I'm a data geek, a history buff, and a former Census Liaison for state government, so this was fun.

Part 1: The Mahaffies of O Street
First, I searched maps of the Georgetown district of Washington, DC, where my father grew up on O Street, between 30th and 31st Streets. I found that that block was part of Enumeration District 1-245 in 1940. A little scrolling through the scanned population schedules for that district led me to an enumeration  sheet that included my grandparent's household.

My grandfather, Charles D. Mahaffie, Sr., was 55 years old on Census Day in 1940. He served as a Commissioner on the Interstate Commerce Commission. My grandmother, Isabel Mahaffie, was 47 and listed as a homemaker, though undoubtedly she continued to work, if not full time, as an artist. My father was about to turn nine years old and is listed as having completed three years of school.

I was interested also to learn about the people of the neighborhood. This is a partial picture, since the folks on the other side of O Street are in a different enumeration district, but a quick review of the people in the area suggests a fascinating mix.

There were a number of salespeople, a few people employed in the dairy business, a photographer, and the assistant chief of the Library of Congress (Maud Brady) who lived in the same house as a secretary at the Library (Cornelia Brady). I think they were Mother-in-law and Daughter-in-law.

Up the street lived a young woman named Besley (first name illegible, at least so far) who was listed as a Secretary for the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Around the corner, on 30th Street, lived Paul L. Townsend, with his wife and kids. The census form notes that he was born in Delaware, and Townsend is a big name in Delaware; so I did a search. He turns out to have been the son of US Senator John G. Townsend, Jr., of Delaware.

I work across the street in Dover from a building named after the elder Townsend. Small world.

In Part 2, we visit the household of my Mother in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Monday, April 2, 2012

First Time on an Old Golf Course

18th Hole, Shawnee by mmahaffie
18th Hole, Shawnee, a photo by mmahaffie on Flickr.
My friend Andy and I went north to Milford on Sunday for a game of golf on the old Shawnee Country Club course, now known as The Rookery North. It was Andy's birthday gift and I was excited that we had a chance to play what has been, until now, a private course.

Shawnee Country Club dates back to the late fifties; the golf course is fully mature. The club, however, seems to have fallen on hard times and this year the golf course is under new management and is open to the public. That's us.

Course management has been taken over by the folks who run The Rookery, east of Milton. They're calling the "new" course "The Rookery North at Shawnee."

The course is not in great shape, but it's not too bad. The fairways are mostly dead grass; they appear to be resetting things. The tee boxes and greens are fine, though, and the rough, out of bounds areas, and on-course plantings are all quite nice.

I'd play there again.

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Hike to Kingston-Upon-Hull

I joined a guided walk from the St. Jones Center out to Kingston-Upon-Hull yesterday. It was a program of the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve (DNERR) and fit two goals for me related to physical health and mental - walking and taking lots of photos.

Kingston-Upon-Hull is a a decaying 17th-century building that has been a farmhouse, a tavern, a store, and a brothel. It marks the location of some of the earliest settlement in central Delaware and reminds us that waterways, in this case the St. Jones River, were once our highways.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Heart & Soul of Sussex County, Delaware

Folks at the University of Delaware have released a video called the Heart & Soul of Sussex County. It was created by a team that includes my old friend Bill McGowan and looks at what it means to be "Sussex County." I'm proud to say that there are a few images from my photographic wanderings included in this video.

The video is part of an effort to get the people of the county talking about the future of the county. It started back in 2008 with a web site dedicated to collecting words and images about the county from people who live here. I created a flickr group to help collect still photos; it looks like it helped.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Hike at Blackbird Creek

I took time off yesterday morning for a hike at the Blackbird Creek portion of the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve (DNERR). The hike was led by a pair of coastal programs staffers from DNREC who shared the history of the site, information about the flora and fauna, and restoration plans. The day started out quite damp and foggy. But by the time we finished our walk, the sun was out and it was a very nice day.

Monday, February 27, 2012

On a Clear Day....

ship and new jersey by mmahaffie
ship and new jersey, a photo by mmahaffie on Flickr.
This view shocks me a little bit. It's a freighter exiting the Delaware Bay with New Jersey in the background.

I took this photo from the top of the coastal defense tower at Fort Miles in Cape Henlopen State Park. On a clear day, you can often see New Jersey from Cape Henlopen; and the view is always clearest from on high.

But I think the presence of this ship somehow pulls the Jersey shore closer and all of the sudden the Delaware Bay seems smaller - no less grand, but more understandable.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Bench Full of Cats

Bench full of cats by mmahaffie
Bench full of cats, a photo by mmahaffie on Flickr.
This is how part of my family spent the afternoon last February 26. That was a saturday and the sun shone down on the bench in our new room. This seems like it might be a good plan for today as well.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Arbitrary Milestone Number 7,800

hall of records by mmahaffie
hall of records, a photo by mmahaffie on Flickr.
I didn't realize it at the time, but the picture of the Hall of Records I took on Wednesday was the 7,800th thing I've posted to flickr.

So. That's done.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Video: At the Compass Rose

On Friday, at lunchtime, I took my video camera out to Legislative Mall to the Compass Rose, which shows the direction and distance to the other capitals where the US Constitution was ratified. I took a few seconds of video in the several directions around the compass and have strung them together into a short film.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Who Was Norman Greenbaum Anyway?

Driving along this evening I found myself listening to the song Spirit in the Sky on the Satellite Radio. It's a song I've always loved and one that I always crank the volume up for.

This is simply a great rock song and fun to listen to. But I've always wondered about it. It came out in 1969 and was a big hit for Norman Greenbaum, an artist who didn't quite disappear but who didn't become a huge star.

When you listen to this song, you think it is a great example of the sort of rock music that came from that era's "Jesus Freaks" movement (Christian Hippies, it was cool enough in its time). But "Norman Greenbaum" isn't really a traditional "Christian" name. So?

So, I finally looked him up and learned that Mr. Greenbaum was (and I think still is) a practicing Jew. According to a 2011 interview quoted in Wikipedia, he was trying to write a simple song with a spiritual theme:
The song itself was simple, when you’re writing a song you keep it simple of course. It wasn’t like a Christian song of praise it was just a simple song. I had to use Christianity because I had to use something. But more important it wasn’t the Jesus part, it was the spirit in the sky.
His explanation reminds me of what I once heard songwriter Eric Bazilian say about his song What if God Was One of Us, which was a hit for Joan Osborne in the 1990s. I remember an interview in which Bazilian explained that he had written the song in one sitting, partly to impress his then-girlfriend (now his wife0 and partly to demonstrate how songs start as simple musical ideas. As far as I know, he plucked the phrase "what if God was one of us?" from the air and built around it.

Whether these are songs of praise, in the religious sense, or simply fine song-writing, makes little difference to me as a listener. When Spirit in the Sky comes on my radio, the only thing that matters to me is how loud I can turn it up.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Video: A Drive Through the Great Swamp

My wanderings on Saturday took me down the coast to Fenwick Island and across the very bottom of the state to Delmar. I took much of Route 54, which separates Fenwick from Ocean City, in Maryland, and runs along -- in places directly on -- the state line. Between Selbyville and Gumboro, Route 54 winds through the remnants of the Great Cypress Swamp.

For What It's Worth, Here's What Winter Used to Look Like

This is in the city of Lewes, on February 6, 2010.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Video: A Ride Over The New Indian River Bridge

I had an errand in Fenwick Island yesterday, so I took advantage of the ride down to film my first crossing of the new bridge over the Indian River Inlet. I had made a similar video about a month ago, before the new span was completed.

It's only partly finished. At this point, traffic north and south shares what will eventually be the two lanes of the southbound side. Still, it's pretty cool.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thank You, Barbara Vaughn

Lewes City Councilwoman Barbara Vaughn has announced that she will not seek reelection this spring, ending her council career after four terms. I want to take a moment to say "thank you."

I've worked with Barbara on a variety of issues over the years. She's lately been the ex-officio member of the Lewes Planning Commission for the Council, providing us with regular updates and the council's perspective on issues that we discuss.

Barbara Vaughn is a very bright, kind, and dedicated woman. I've always been impressed by her willingness to give her time and energy to my City. This woman is in her 80s, and still going strong.

I will also note that Barbara Vaughn bears an uncanny resemblance to my Mom, Judy Mahaffie, another strong, kind, dedicated and bright 80-something. So working with Barbara has always felt somewhat... home-y.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Just by Way of Comparison...

... here's what it looked like in Dover on this date one year ago. It was cold and grey and there was snow on the ground.

Today? It was sunny and 60-some degrees. Trees are starting to bud. Daffodils are starting to push up through the non-frosty ground.

It ain't right, I tell ya.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

We Won!

We Won! by mmahaffie
We Won!, a photo by mmahaffie on Flickr.
Karen and I have been playing Team Trivia on Friday nights this month at the Milton Irish Eyes restaurant. Lori Callahan, seen here on the left, got us started when she invited us to join her and her young fella Kirk Stirling (right) a few weeks back.

Lori and Kirk are the heart of a trivia team called "Who the H**** is Molly Hatchet." The membership varies, but we've enjoyed being a part of the team for a few weeks now. Last night, the team also included Lori's sister, Linda Lane, her husband Tom, their daughters Katelyn and Stephanie, and Kathleen's young man, Jordan Blankenship.

We edged out the nice couple at the next table last night to win on a tie-break question: "How many pounds of potatoes does it take to make a bottle of vodka?"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Another Video of Lewes: Canalfront Park

Here's another video project attempt. This is video from a walk into Canalfront Park, in Lewes.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Happy (Gubernatorial) Anniversary, Jack Markell

reflected inauguration 1 by mmahaffie
reflected inauguration 1, a photo by mmahaffie on Flickr.
Delaware Governor Jack Markell gave his inaugural address on this date in 2009 in front of Legislative Hall, in Dover. It was a very cold day, but clear and sunny.

I knew Jack Markell very slightly already. He'd spoken, as State Treasurer, at a conference I organized years ago. I like the guy, and I think he's done a good job so far.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Videos of Lewes

I've been taking my new small video camera on my walks around Lewes. And I have been playing around with iMovie with the images I collected. Here are some of the results.

I took a look at Zwaanendael Museum.

And I looked around 1812 Park.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Good Advice From the World of Improvisation

I just finished reading Tina Fey's book Bossy Pants. My eldest daughter gave me this book, and Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, for Christmas. They are both great fun.

Tina Fey worked her way into television through Chicago's Second City improvisation theater and in her book she offers a set of Rules of Improvisation that she says can be applied to everyday life. I've extracted the main heads here; the full thing is well worth reading as is the whole book itself.

  • The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES.
    • In real life, you aren't always going to agree, but this rule reminds us to try to keep an open mind.
  • The second rule is to not only say yes, but to say YES, AND...
    • Don't be afraid to contribute. Make sure you are adding something to the discussion.
  • The third rule is to MAKE STATEMENTS.
    • Whatever the problem, don't just ask questions and point out the difficulties; suggest solutions.
  • Finally, THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only opportunities.
    • Many of the world's greatest discoveries have been made by accident.
Let's face, we're all mostly improvising our way through life anyway; why not look to the practice and rules of that art form to learn how to do what we're doing because we really don't know what we're doing?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Polly vs The Faucet

I suppose something more thoughtful and dignified would be more appropriate for a blog post on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but the video below makes me happy. It has a cute, fat cat. It has sunshine. It has humor. It has almost everything. Including a kitchen sink.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Odd: Family History For Sale, By a Stranger

I was doing some idle family-name searching this weekend and came across a person on Etsy selling illustrations by my grandmother from a book published in 1929.
This gorgeous double-sided plate features the work of the artist Isabel Cooper from specimens at the American Museum of Natural History. One side features seashells from tropical waters and the other American specimens.
Isabel Cooper was an artist and illustrator who provided paintings for a variety of publications, created murals for public buildings, and traveled to remote outposts with scientists where she fulfilled the role later filled by color photography.

As near as I can tell, these are plates cut from a book my grandmother did illustrations for in the years before her marriage to Charles Mahaffie

I'm not sure how I feel about this sort of thing appearing for sale. My grandmother was paid for her work back in the 1920s, so that's not an issue. But I hate to think of great old books being cut apart and mined like this. Also, I always thought of Etsy as a site for artists and artisans to sell things they created themselves.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Remember When We Could Golf?

Actually, it was only last weekend that it was warm enough to head out for a round of golf. And the weekend before that as well, though the weather continues to roller-coaster its way up and down, dropping form balmy to freezing and then rising back again.

This nifty old photo, from the National Library of Ireland, brought me back to wanting to head out and play again, even though this weekend is too cold and windy.

This is from flickr's "The Commons" project, by way, which is worth any amount of time you can spend wandering through the national memories of any of several countries.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tree Shadow

Tree Shadow by mmahaffie
Tree Shadow, a photo by mmahaffie on Flickr.
There was a wonderful glow to the pre-sunset sky in Dover this afternoon as I walked from my office, past Legislative Hall, to meet my vanpool. It was projecting this tree's shadow onto the state capitol.

Monday, January 9, 2012

"the delight of a well-found, well-handled man-of-war"

I shall soon finish Blue at the Mizzen, the 20th novel in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series, which I have been reading again, straight through. Here's a sample of the kind of writing that keeps bringing me back. I've done this a few times before.

In this passage, ship's surgeon Stephen Maturin is describing life aboard the Surprise, captained by his "particular friend" Jack Aubrey, in a letter to his intended:
I wish I could convey the delight of a well-found, well-handled man-of-war, sailing with all reasonable sail abroad, a steady, urgent wind coming in over her larboard quarter, her prow (or I think I should say cut-water) throwing a fine sheet of spray to leeward with each even, measured pitch: there is a generally-diffused happiness aboard; and since this is a make-and-mend day, the front part of the vessel is littered with hands busy, some with shears, many more with needles, cutting out their length of duck and sewing the pieces together, making their hot-weather clothes with wonderful dexterity. And each time the log is heaved they pause, ears cocked for the midshipman's report to the officer of the watch. "Nine knots and two fathoms, sir, if you please," croaks little Mr. Wells, whose voice is breaking at last; and a discrete wave of mirth and satisfaction ripples over the forecastle, while ten knots is greeted with such thumping on the deck, such enthusiasm, that the officer of the watch desires the mate of the watch to attend to "that God-damned bellowing and trampling, like a herd of drunken heifers mad for the bull."
Interestingly, I was just looking back at a post from October of 2006, when I last finished reading the series straight through. Here's what I wrote then:
In the end, it took almost exactly 5 months to read all 20 novels. It was great fun. In another 5 years or so, I think I'll do it again. 
I started this trip through the series in late August of 2011, almost exactly five years later. And I swear I did not realize it until just now.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

For Comparison's Sake

Winter beach by mmahaffie
Winter beach, a photo by mmahaffie on Flickr.
This is what Lewes looked like one year ago today. We'd had snow enough to lightly cover the roads and there was a dark-sky snow squall in the afternoon when I went to take the Christmas tree to be recycled into mulch at the state park.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Birthday Cake!

Birthday cake by mmahaffie
Birthday cake, a photo by mmahaffie on Flickr.
I turned 50 years old today. It's not something I ever really thought about doing; being 50. It's one of the landmark birthdays, I guess. But I find I measure progress in life more by the movement of my daughters through life. They are now young women, people with opinions, and bright futures. I'm very proud.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Down Memory Lane: At The Air Mobility Command Museum

Six years ago today I visited the Air Mobility Command Museum, at Dover Air Force Base. With my camera. There's a large number of vintage aircraft there to wander among.


I was there for a planning meeting for the 2006 Delaware GIS Conference. It was my first visit to the museum. In later years, we started having GIS Day events there and I got to spend more time photographing the museum and all the airplanes.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Cool Christmas Gift

My niece Isabel drew my name in the Christmas draw this year (I'm from a large family). And I'm very pleased with the gift she came up with.

New, personal clock

She visited my various on-line sites and mined photos and logos to create this cool clock. She used my old tag line -- Remarkably self-absorbed. Since 1962. -- as a central theme. Ironically, I had recently accepted Google's suggestion that I link my G+ and Blogger accounts, which required using my G+ profile  which has no tag line, for both. But I added it back to the blog as a description in the header.

So all is well.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wooden Boat Story

My wife gave me a small HD video camera for Christmas and I've started taking it out on my walks. On Monday, I stopped by the Lewes City Dock and found an elderly, converted trawler tied up to the dock.

This is the Juneve, a wooden boat built in 1949 in Scotland. She fished the North Sea and eventually was converted to a yacht. The present owners came to Lewes by accident, after a breakdown, and according to a story in this Tuesday's Cape Gazette, they like the city.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011 Metrics: Reading

I read 54 books during 2011, down from my totals the last few years, but not drastically so. In fact, I think a prime reason for the lower number was the fact that I read all five of the novels that make up George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire collection. These thick novels took up nearly two months of reading time this year; they are long but ultimately satisfying reads.

I also dove back into the 20 novels of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series this year. I started at the end of August with Master and Commander. As we start 2012, I am about to finish The Hundred Days, the 19th in the series. I am reading this series straight through, without leaving O'Brian's 19th-Century. I've done this before and have read some of these novels three or four times. I still thoroughly enjoy them.

Of the rest of the books I read this year, only one was non-fiction - Bob Woodward's Obama's Wars.

though I am happy to say I own the entire Aubrey/Maturin series, most of the rest of what I read this past year were from the Lewes Public Library. I remain a strong supporter of my library.

I also read two books by relatives in 2011. My nephew, whose nom de plume/guerre is Magpie Killjoy, wrote an interactive novel called What Lies Beneath the Clock Tower.
Descend into the depths of the undercity and embroil yourself in the political struggles of colonialist gnomes and indigenous goblins. Fly in air balloons, drink mysterious and pleasant cocktails, smoke opium with the dregs of gnomish society. Or dream and speak of liberation for all the races. Fall in love and abscond into the caverns. It's up to you, because this is an adventure of your own choosing.
And my fifth cousin's wife, Donna Gruber Adair, wrote a slightly fictionalized  account of the westward movement of Benjamin Adair, my paternal grandfather's paternal grandmother's brother.  The book, An American Odyssey, includes my great-great-grandfather JB Mahaffie, a founding settler, with the Adairs, of Olathe, Kansas.

As you can see, I enjoy reading. I am a fan of fiction and treasure the fact that I can entire other worlds and different times through the pages of a novel.