Monday, February 26, 2007


So much for the Winter Storm Watch being downgraded to an "Advisory". We ended up getting about 5 inches of snow. It never changed over to rain as they were predicting. It was beautiful to watch coming down and it turned the woods behind our house into a winter wonderland. I'll try and post a picture of it in the next day or so. After the snow stopped about midday, I drafted the Son to help me clear the driveway and sidewalks. We ended up not only clearing our sidewalks, but those of our neighbors on either side of us. Both seem to be out of town. After some initial grumbling about the extra work, the son went to it. I explained to him about helping out your neighbors and the good karma that will be forthcoming as a result. I should start calling him Grasshopper.

After the shoveling was complete, with a reshovel thrown in when the VDOT plow came through, I built a fire in our family room fireplace and proceeded to chill out. First watching a taped Friday Night Lights and then watching Maryland come back twice from double digit deficits to beat the hated University of North Carolina. A fitting close to the day.

With the snow coming down, I decided to skip my Sunday erg class. Instead I rowed 10,000 meters on my own at home. No speed records were set. One annoying aspect was my monitor started to fade out as I reached the final 1,000 meters. I had noticed before that the monitor would start to fade a little during some of my rows, but not like this. It was all but unreadable. I checked the battery utility and it said they were still at 75% so I'm not sure exactly what is going on. I'll try and call Concept2 on Weds and see if they can help out. I toyed with trying to change out the batteries (2 D batteries), but I couldn't get the back off the monitor. Its held on by a single plastic screw. The head of the screw is really tiny and its really on tight. I'm afraid of stripping out the screw head. I hope I can find the right solution. Its pretty difficult to row without the monitor.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Saturday Update

After a disappointing row yesterday, I took another crack at a 30 minute row today. The result was a new personal best - by 21 meters. I was pleased with the result, but I've been feeling it in my quads all day. Tomorrow is my erg class and 10,000 meters. That hinges on the weather, of course. We're due to receive a "wintery mix". They've downgraded it from a Winter Storm Watch to an "Advisory" so I'm thinking it will turn out to be mostly rain.

After my row this morning, I came down to fix something for lunch. Growing up in NJ, one of my favorite breakfasts was a Taylor Ham and Egg sandwich. I think technically its actually pork roll, but it's what we called it. It was always a favorite of my Dad's and we had it fairly often. After we moved, to NC it was impossible to get. Same for when we moved to Maryland, except down at Ocean City, which always made a morning trip to the Boardwalk worthwhile. It has become available now in Virginia and has been for a while. Of course, I introduced it to my kids and they all really like it. Erin, formerly referred to as daughter #2, introduced it to all her friends. They had never even heard of it let alone tried it. I think it was the highlight of their sleepovers or impromptu lunch dates. Alas, Erin has gone over to the vegetarian side and its been a while since she has had one of the sandwiches. I know from time to time her eyes will glaze over and the she can smell and taste the joy that is a Taylor Ham and Egg sandwich.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Friday Off

I love my Fridays off. Its such a luxury to be able to sleep in. This nonsense about getting up at 3:30 in the morning to go to work gets old. Another nice thing about my Friday off, its also payday. Even if the money is in my checking account for only a few hours, its always nice to see. After Ann and I arm wrestle to see who gets to walk the dogs in the early morning (usually her), I grab my Pepsi and turn on the computer to pay the bills. If the Internet could do only one thing, paying bills electronically would win my vote. Fast, convenient and relatively painless. Of course it quickly empties the bank account .

After paying the bills, it was off to erg for 30 minutes. As I suspected, by missing my Weds row, my distance was a bit off. I couldn't hold the splits I wanted in the last 10 minutes. I came up short by 32 meters of my personal best. I wasn't that disappointed and 30 minutes of exercise is always worth it. I'll try again tomorrow.

After a shower it was off to lunch at one of the local BBQ places. Having lived in NC for a year, SC for two years and Alabama for 4 years, I appreciate good BBQ. We have three BBQ restaurants in the neighborhood including two that are literally across the street from one another. Makes no sense to me, but there you have it. After a tasty plate of pork BBQ and a glass or two of beer, we were off to run some errands and do some grocery shopping. I swear to we go Giant every single day. We're always out of something or other. It gets old. I did make some white bean chili for dinner tonight. Thanks to Bush Beans for the recipe. Easy to make and with some crusty sourdough, a fine meal. Till tomorrow....

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Suit

I think its finally time to admit that my kids are adults and not the slightly older versions from high school and college that I tend to think of them as. The point was brought home yesterday as the Son decided he needed a suit and needed some help. As I recounted in an earlier post the Son resides at home. He's had a "real job" for about a year now for a local IT firm. He makes a comfortable salary for an entry level job and has gotten some decent business travel out of it as well. Because he interacts with his customers, he's required to at least wear a tie. Now coming out of college, as you might imagine, his professional wardrobe was not all what it should be and you'd be right. Actually I think he owned one tie that might have been worn a few times at best. He did have one suit. I can't remember now what the occasion was the required us to buy it for him, but it had been some time ago (high school) and didn't exactly fit very well anymore. Over the year he's been working, he's steadily added to his wardrobe with Ann's help (i.e., he pays and she shops). Now apparently he has a semi-fancy work shindig coming up next week and he decided he needed to get on board with the whole suit/jacket thing and asked for mine and Ann's help. Now like most males, my idea of a good time is not heading out to the Mall to shop. I like to do what I call speed shop. Figure out what I need in advance and see how fast I can get in, buy it and get out. But suit shopping requires a bit more work. Therefore, after he arrived home, he, Ann and I headed out to one of the local men's shop. I think we all were dreading it. Either the suits were going to look like crap or be too expensive or a combination thereof. Plus I hate dealing with the salesmen. But hey, not so. While we had gone into the store with a particular suit in mind that we had seen on line at the store's website, they didn't have it in that branch of the store, but could order it. Since he needs the suit by next week, that wasn't going to work. So he tried on a few jackets to determine his size. Given his height, he's right on the cusp on the "Short" "Regular" jacket sizing. We decided he looked better in a "Short". He found a style he liked and went to try it on. The jacket looked great, but the pants, not just pleats, but double pleats. I have no idea who decided "pleats" on pants was a good look, but dude it so isn't. Back to the racks for something else. We found another suit, which cost a bit more, but looked good and no pleated pants. The tailor was dragged out for a fitting and we were done. Relatively painless for all and best of all he paid! Having kids that are employed rocks. He picks it up on Tuesday.

Weds, since its a telecommute from home day, is a day I try to fit in at least 5,000 meters on the erg. However, between work and the suit buying, I totally skipped out. I'll get back into it on Friday, my Friday off, thank goodness. Skipping Weds will probably affect my time on Friday, but we do what we have to. I'll have an extra beer tonight to make up for it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Holiday Wrap-Up

Is the weekend over already? The most disturbing aspect of the holiday weekend being over is the realization that the next holiday isn't until Memorial Day. The end of May. 3 1/2 months away. At least it will be warm.

Sunday dawned bright and sunny and just as cold. After having my morning Pepsi and surfing the Internet for a bit, I got the laundry started and headed off to my Sunday erg class. There were not as many people as the week before, perhaps 17 or 18. I manged about 10,000 meters during the one hour class. I track my times and distances
here. The instructor, who also rows for our club, had us do 3 minutes at half pressure, 2 minutes at 3/4 pressure and a final minute as hard as we could pull. Then a blessed 2 minute rest before starting over again. Repeat a total of six times. About the fourth time through I was really beginning to feel it. And number 6? The final two minutes all but wiped me out. The fact that 17 others are sharing your misery makes it a bit easier and will bring me back next week.

After the gym and a shower, we let the son take us out to lunch at our favorite Tex-Mex place, the Bar J restaurant. Its just a small, bordering on divey, place, but the food is good, particularly the chili. Ann and I had chili
while the son indulged in his personal favorite, Texas Devil Steak. It comes out sizzling much like a fajita would. Its really good, but really spicy hot. I tried it once and liked it, but I can't handle the burn and I usually love that kind of thing. Hope its not another sign I'm getting old. After lunch, I built a fire in our fireplace and we (Ann and I) watched the "The Guardian" while the son retired to his dungeon to play World of Warcraft. Something about advancing his Shaman. We enjoyed the movie. I like to think of it as "Top Gun" Coast Guard style. I was surprised by Ashton Kuchner's performance. I'm not inclined to like him based on some other roles he's been in, but he pulled it off. Guess that's what acting is all about. I didn't care for the ending though. I liked the alternate ending that was provided in the Bonus material better. The Director made a point about saying how everyone associated with the film preferred the original ending and the alternate ending wasn't even screened for test audiences.

Monday was almost like a work day for me. Besides being a member of my rowing club, I'm also the Treasurer. I had managed to avoid any type of volunteer work for the club for the first several years of participation, but eventually my number came up. This will be my fifth season doing the bookkeeping. So Monday was spent tying up loose ends from the previous season. Getting some tax paperwork off to the IRS and paying the rental fees to the high school booster clubs from whom we rent the shells we row in. Pretty boring stuff, but it has to get done. I also tweaked the budget for the upcoming season and set up the spreadsheets I'll need to track things. Of course doing this work for the club is giving me the urge to get out on the water. If it ever warms up and the ice melts.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Weekend Fun

Ann and I aren't the most social of couples so when we get an invitation for a night out, we usually accept. Yesterday the occasion was a small get-together to celebrate two of our club's members success at the Mid-Atlantic Erg Sprints. One a gold and the other a silver, both women. It was a small dinner party of 11. Ann usually dreads these events in advance as she knows most of the talk will involve rowing and she's not a rower. However, once there, she usually has a good time and endures a lot of recruitment attempts. We love to share our love of the sport with everyone and can't fathom those that wouldn't want to join us out on the water. She handles it pretty good naturedly. As expected we enjoyed the company and the food and the wine and the beer. Of course, its payback time come this mornings erg class.

Our rowing season if made up of two parts - the Sprint season and the Head Race season. Sprint races are held during the summer and involve side by side, up to six lanes, racing over a 1,000 meter course. Fun to watch, easy to tell who wins and basically involves rowing as hard and fast as you can for about 3 1/2 minutes. Our starts can be as high as 40 strokes per minute settling to 32 to 34 strokes per minute with a final sprint up around 36 to 38 strokes per minute. By contrast, Head Races are held in the fall over a 5,000 meter course (lengths vary somewhat), starts involve the shells lining up single file and stating at 15 second intervals, difficult for fans to see but a very small portion of the race and impossible to tell who wins until all the times are calculated. Head Races are rowed at a 28 to 30 strokes per minute. I prefer Head Races to Sprint races. Technically, Sprint races are more difficult due to the start and its all about the start in a 1,000 sprint. Coupled with our club getting a later start than most clubs, I feel we're not as prepared as those we race against. By Head Race season, we've pretty much caught up.

In preparation for Sprint season, I'm periodically timing myself on the erg over 1,000 meters. Yesterday I did a personal best of 3:49.1. Hopefully I can continue lowering that time.

Friday, February 16, 2007


Two posts and the Internet karma is already catching up with me. So last post I tell you how my commute isn't all that bad despite the distance and wham! it takes me 3 hours to get home on Thursday. A combination of bright sun, an accident on the Beltway and those escaping early for the holiday weekend did me in. The trip between southern MD and the beltway took our usual hour or so to cover that 50 miles. The final 30 miles took 2 hours. It was more than a one beer night once I finally got home.

The son cooked dinner last night. Tasty salmon dish. His sister got him a Rachel Ray cookbook for Christmas and he's really getting into the whole cooking thing. I know Ann really appreciates the nights off when he cooks.

I'm working from home today so no death march commute. I'll leave that for the son who has a meeting in the Bailey's Crossroad area starting at 2:30. That should put him squarely in the middle of rush hour after the meeting is over. There's good reason why Washington has the 3rd worse traffic in the country.

Today I'll do a 30 minute row. I'll update with results later on. Hope everyone has a great fun weekend.
Edited to Add: Missed by personal best by 12 meters for a 30 minute row. So close yet so far.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Winter Trials

As anyone who watches the news or lives in the Midwestern, Midatlantic or Northeastern states knows, a big storm came through these last two days. While northern Virginia didn't bear the brunt of the storm, we received a unique blend of snow, sleet, freezing rain, more snow and more sleet. The total accumulation was only 2 to 3 inches, but all that ice mixed with the snow made shoveling the driveway and sidewalks an ordeal. Who knew snow, ice and sleet weighed so much?

As I mentioned in my last post, I did get to work from home on Tuesday to spare me the agony of a long commute home in bad weather. The federal government in the Washington metro area officially closed at 2:00PM so the government actually got a few hours extra from me by working from home. I actually have a nice work schedule considering its, you know, work. I work a compressed work schedule, which means over a two week period, I work my 80 hours in nine days rather than 10. I get every other Friday off. Its like having a three day holiday weekend every two weeks. On top of that I get to telecommute from home every Weds and every other Friday. That means I'm only physically in the office three days a week. Which is nice considering I have an 82 mile commute - one way. I know it sounds crazy, but I have my reasons. My job was relocated from Crystal City, an office/shops/apartment conglomerate tucked in between the Pentagon and National Airport (yes I know its Regan National Airport, but the Republicans aren't in power anymore and their attempts to name everything Regan can go stuff it.), to southern Maryland. I had a choice of finding a new job, relocating to southern MD or commuting. I chose the latter. A lot of my co-workers chose not to move and found new jobs. They were mostly policy type jobs, which didn't interest me. I like my job. I could have moved and actually southern Maryland is quite nice. Lots of water and great crab cakes. Shopping centers? Not so much. Schools? Not the best. My oldest was about to enter her senior year of high school, the twins would be entering their sophomore (daughter) and freshman (son) years. The move would have been particularly hard on them. So after a lot of thinking about it, we decided to stay put and commute. We, Ann and I, take a vanpool rather than drive our own car. Members of the vanpool take turns driving so I don't have to drive that often and I've gotten very good at sleeping on the van. There are days when I hate the commute, but considering most of my fellow commuters in the DC area have at least an hour commute, mine isn't that bad by comparison. It takes about 1 1/2 hours in the morning and 1 3/4 hours in the evening.

Working from home did allow me to erg on Tuesday. I did a personal best for 5,000 meters. My time puts me in approximately the 40 percentile for lightweight men in my age category. Things are heading in the right direction. I didn't erg on Weds and considering it took me 2 1/2 hours to dig out, its just as well. I'll do a 30 minute row on Friday.

Weds is my night to cook dinner. Since Ann and the son are off at work and I'm working from home, its a logical thing to do. Last night I tried some balsamic vinegar pork chops with pumpkin polenta. Pork chops were great the polenta wasn't a big hit. We're trying out new recipes to try and expand our repertoire. We were getting into a bit of a rut with the same 7 or 8 things for dinner..

Hope everyone enjoyed their Valentine's Day. We don't make a big deal out of it here. Ann isn't into candy or flowers or lingerie so its usually a card at most. We didn't even do that this year. I don't think either of us missed it.

Its suppose to be another cold weekend. Hope there's some decent basketball games on. By good games I mean college basketball.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Starting Off

After reading other blogs for some time now and getting some encouragement from others, I decided to jump in and try one of my own. It's just what the world needs - another blog. Not really, but I do it because I can. Also because I'd recently read, in Newsweek I think, about how we all should write more. To leave our own personal record. Something to leave for the GreatGrandKids so they can know something of their family history, how we lived (iPods and HighDef - how quaint) and what a pain in the ass their Grandparents were to raise. So this will be my little spot on the web. We'll see how it works out. To help you along, here is the cast of characters:

Me - Lets just say that according to US Rowing guidelines, I qualify as a Masters rower. US Rowing defines a Master Rower as anyone over 27 years old. I passed that mark a long time ago. I grew up in NJ, NC and MD. I graduated from Severna Park High School. After high school I attended Auburn University (War Eagle!) with a degree in Aviation Management. After bumming around for a bit, I was hired by the Government to work for the Navy. A job I still hold. Lest we forget the lesson taught to us all by Dooce, about all I will say about my job is that I buy things. Expensive things. The Navy paid my way through graduate school at George Washington University. I thank them a lot for that. I'm married to a wonderful wife and have three kids, including fraternal twins. We currently reside in northern Virginia. For fun, I row. Like you see in the Olympics only a lot slower.

Ann - My wife. A Washington, DC native. A rare breed. She went to an all girls Catholic school that no longer exists. She attended Ohio (not Ohio State) University and graduated with a degree from the Scripps School of Journalism. Like me, she also works for the Navy. Its how we met. She doesn't buy things.

Daughter #1 - Currently lives in CT and is a Conference Manager. Single. She's the only blonde in the family and is jokingly referred to as the Milkman's daughter. Also graduated from Ohio University. She's the one that got me interested in rowing after she joined her high school crew team her freshman year. She's done crew at the high school level winning gold at the state level (formerly known as NoVAS), at the Philadelphia Stotesbury Regatta and the Scholastic Rowing Association National Championship, the college level and the Masters level winning the Masters Nationals with Sagatuck Rowing Club. Technically she's not old enough to be a Masters Rower.

Son - One half of our twins. Living at home, temporarily, after graduating from Radford University. Single and working for an IT firm in the area. Spends hours and hours playing World of Warcraft. Also rowed during high school.

Daughter #2 - Other half of the twins. Married and living in Harrisonburg, VA. An environmental specialist with VDOT. Has her own bright yellow VDOT truck and hard hat. Vegetarian. Graduated from Virginia Tech. Lives with husband and a lab mix named Gracie, who we like to call the black demon. Talented ex-soccer player. Her high school team won the state championship her senior year.

Son-in-Law - Works for VA Tech Extension Service. Also a VA Tech graduate. Plays the drums and brews his own beer in his spare time. Their wedding was the best party ever.

Winifred (Winnie) - Miniature Schnauzer. 15 years old and still holding her own. We got her right before Christmas when the twins were 9 after years of lobbying for a dog. Spends her day looking out the window and barking at passersby.

Rosie - Schnauzer mix. Also known as the faux schnauzer. Obtained two years ago from a schnauzer rescue organization. We were under the impression that she was pure schnauzer but she obviously wasn't. Definitely has a bit of dachshund in her. Excels at scamming treats from humans.

That's the list for now. I'm sure others will be popping up from time to time.

The weatherman is calling for snow tomorrow so I'm sure by the time I get home all the milk, bread and toilet paper in the Washington area will be long gone. Luckily if it does snow, I can work from home. Thank God I have some enlightened bosses.

On Saturday my rowing club hosted an erg sprint competition for the five local high schools. We drew a record 100 plus rowers. There was great competition including a new senior girls record for 1,500 meters. The high school crew season begins next Monday, but seeing how its been brutally cold here, at least by Virginia standards, the Occoquan is frozen over. So they'll be a few days late getting out on the water. By way of introduction, the Occoquan is home to numerous northern Virginia high school crew teams and a few adult clubs, including my own. Its one of the best rowing venues in the country and at one time was the home of the US Sculling team. At least until we had a winter like this and the Occoquan froze over and they couldn't train. I think they moved to Savannah.

After the erg races, Ann and I were off to Dulles Airport to pick up the son who was returning from a two week business trip to Colorado Springs. We stopped at Ned Devines in Centreville for lunch where in he embarrassed us by ordering a Bud Light in an Irish Pub. Where did we go wrong? I also helped him do his taxes for the first time. He was happy to find out he'd be getting a refund.

Since it is impossible to get out on the water this time of year, I try to stay in some sort of shape doing my own erging. On Sundays I take a rowing class at a local gym. They have 25 ergs of which the gym owns half and my rowing club owns the other. All the ergs were filled. Made for a fun class or at least as fun as erging can be. I finished with 10,000 meters for the hour long class and I was happy with that. Besides the Sunday classes, I also have an erg at home, which I try to use about three times a week. Since I was a real slacker over the holidays, I'm slowly getting back in form.

The name of the blog - Ready.....Row is a term used by the Coxswain to get the rowers set (Ready) and then all rowing at once. Seemed like an apt title.