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.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 Metrics: Golf

I managed to get out and play golf 20 times in 2011, playing at least once each month from April through (absurdly enough) the very last day of December. I played mostly in Delaware but a few times in the "mar" portion of Delmarva (Maryland) and once in Washington DC.

View Golf in 2011 in a larger map

I'm happy to report that my game, while still not very good, is no longer quite so embarrassing. I broke 100 (my goal for the year) in June at East Potomac Park, at Haines Point in DC. This was part of a memorable weekend of golf with my friends Andy and Rich; our wives teamed up to give us tickets to the US Open in Potomac, Maryland. We played on Friday and then watched our betters play on Saturday and Sunday.

5th fairway, old landingWhile I spread my game up and down the state, my "home course" has been Old Landing Golf club, outside of Rehoboth Beach. I played there eight times in 2011. Old landing is where I often go for a solo, contemplative practice round. It's not the greatest course in the world, but it is laid back, pleasant, inexpensive, and near by.

I hope to play at least as much golf in 2012. I spent time on golf courses with all of my golf friends in 2011, I hope to continue that trend and expand that circle.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Metrics: Automotive

We drove our 2008 Toyota Scion a total of 17,450.4 miles in the last year, burning 542.58 gallons of gas for an average of 32.2 miles per gallon. That's more miles than we drove it in either 2009 or 2010. Our average miles per gallon has been about the same since we first started driving the Scion in 2008.

Our best mileage of the year, 36.9 miles per gallon, was in early September, when I logged a day's worth of highway driving from Lewes to Villanova to pick up daughter #1 and then to Upper Marlboro, MD, for our nephew's wedding. Our worst, 29.5 mpg, was the last week of the year, when I was driving only short hops from home to my vanpool meeting spot.

We spent $1,878.72 on gasoline for the Scion in 2011. Gas prices we found averaged $3.50 over the year, with a low of $3.03 per gallon at the start of the year and a high of $3.94 in early May.

These metrics are for the period December 31, 2010 through mid-day today. They are from my gas mileage log, a Google spreadsheet. I also track gas mileage using Matt Haughey's