Thursday, March 29, 2007

Treat Day

In general, I like my job. Its interesting and pays decent for a civil servant gig. Without doubt though, the highlight of the week is treat day. Every Thursday one of my workmates (at least those that participate) bring in goodies. There are about 16 that are a part of this, so my time to provide treats is once every four months or so. Now being a guy it doesn't take much to please me foodwise, but really if your bringing in treats there are a few simple rules. The first is you need your main dish. For some (like me) who don't or can't bring in something cooked the night before, this means bagels. For a lot of others, its some form of scrambled egg casserole. The only other rule to this is provide something that lends itself to constant nibbling through out the morning. I like to bring in mini donuts. I bring in both kinds - powdered sugar coated or chocolate covered. I also bring grapes for the more healthy eaters among us. Anything beyond this is pure gravy. Greatly appreciated for sure. Muffins? Great. Some sort of danish or bread, like banana bread? Yummy. Assorted cookies? (Chocolate chip - Mmmmm) Bring it on. What I find fault with are those that miss the point that this is primarily a breakfast deal. Hence, the need for your bagels or eggs. Don't give me cake or pie for breakfast. I know you're a great cook, but it just doesn't work. Don't make the minor foods, like banana bread your main course. Its a supplement. And forget anything that has peanut butter and coconut in it. Not appropriate plus I don't like them. Rules to live by. Today it was bagels, but they were all plain bagels so a few points off for that. Variety is good with bagels. I love an everything bagel. Sausage was provided so bonus points. There are two types of grapes to nibble on every time I pass the treat desk. No sweets like donuts or cookies though. I'll give today a "B". Hmmm wonder whats for dinner tonight.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Spring Weekend

The weekend was a reminder that Spring is here or at least on our doorsteps. With promises of 80 degree temperatures on Tuesday. Bring it on.

I did make it out on the water for a row on Saturday. I rowed bow in a double for a nice seven mile row. I was in a mixed boat, which in rowing terms means you're rowing with member(s) of the opposite sex. A friend and I are toying with the idea of rowing a mixed double in some races this year and this was our first time in a double this year. She's strokes and I row bow and steer. Although, unlike the Quad I was in two weeks ago, a double doesn't have a steerable rudder (you use your foot to steer in the Quad, you turn your foot in the direction you want the boat to turn). A double turns by using more force with one of your oars than the other. I'm used to rowing bow in sculling shells and steering while rowing so its not a big deal to me. I know the Occoquan well enough to know when to start my turns and how to get the right points coming out of a turn. A lot of my teammates are not keen on being in the bow of a Quad with the responsibility of not only rowing hard, but steering as well. Its does take a bit of practice to be able to push off your foot stretchers with your normal stroke pressure with your foot cocked at a strange angle making a turn and constantly looking back over your shoulder to check where you are going, look for debris in the water and to avoid other boats. Where most rowers have the problem is over steering the boat. The tendency is to apply full rudder when actually only a slight amount of rudder is required. You see the boat zigzagging from one side of the reservoir to the other. That's a lot of extra rowing for your boatmates, which won't make them happy. I like to think that some of my ability comes via Daughter#1. Daughter#1 got me interested in rowing although she is not a rower herself. She's a coxswain and a very good one at that. I think a bit of her has rubbed off on me via our talks, watching her cox or being in the boat she coxes where I'm no longer her dad but just another rower in the boat. Which is how it should be - most of the time anyway. The row in the double went better than I expected. It doesn't mean we'll be that competitive, but the set was good and the boat ran fairly well. There's nothing like hearing that gurgle under your boat as it moves along. The competitive challenge that we'll face is we're both classified as lightweights. That's under 165 lbs for men and 130 lbs for women. The races we might possibly enter have no separate lightweight category for mixed doubles so we would be racing against crews much bigger, heavier and stronger than us. Not a good thing. Now I can live with this as I understand most mixed races are considered more fun races than anything else. A chance to get in an extra race or two when you are at a regatta. My partner though seems to be highly competitive and I think our race results might be a shock to say the least. We'll see.

The Son is off to California for a week long trip to Vandenberg AFB. Its his first trip to the west coast so I think he was looking forward to it. The only bad thing was he had a 6:00AM flight out of Dulles to LAX. Guess who got to drive him to the airport? You got it. There is nothing as unpleasant as to having to get up at 3:30AM on a Sunday. Did I mention it was foggy. Its the heaviest fog I've had to drive in in quite a while. I almost missed seeing a red light as I was concentrating so hard on seeing and following the lines on the highway. The more amazing part of it, by the time I dropped him off at the airport (I didn't park and go inside) and headed back, the fog had mysteriously disappeared. I did manage a few hours sleep after returning home, but I felt a bit out of whack the entire day.

I also found out on Sunday, that I was responsible for van this morning. Normally I meet the vanpool at a commuter parking lot, which is not the origination point of the van. However the usual drivers that start the vanpool run were both unavailable leaving me the default driver. Given my druthers I would never drive the van. I much rather sleep than drive. I'm not crazy about having the responsibility of the safety of several other people that happen to be in the van with me. However, I also realize that we have to take turns because no one really likes to drive the beast. Rather than drive to the commuter lot where the van is parked when not in use (not my commuter lot, but another one) and then having to drive home in my car from that lot in the evening a process that would add about another 30 minutes to my commute, I chose to go get the van yesterday. I'm sure my sleeping neighbors enjoyed the sound of its diesel engine starting up at 4:30 this morning. The good news is I don't have to drive it in tomorrow and I get to sleep on the way home today.

No Daughter #1 updates as I didn't talk to her this weekend to see what she was up to. Sometimes no news is good news.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Spring Friday

Friday was a nice taste of spring. Gentle breezes and warm sun (most of the time). Some daffodils blooming. It was a joy to walk the dogs rather than an endurance against the cold and wind while they decide what blade of grass suited their purpose. The sun felt really nice against my skin. I hope spring is here to stay.

Friday was my day off so I try to take the opportunity to sleep in, if sleeping until 7:30 is sleeping in. The morning was spent paying bills before heading out to lunch at the Hard Times Cafe. Usually I get their chili since that's what they're known for, but chili didn't seem quite right given the warm temperature. I opted for the fish and chips instead. They also have a nice selection of microbrew beers, which I like.

Then we were off to Target to stock up on dog food. I can't imagine what some of the pet owners are going through losing their pets to tainted dog and cat food. Its tough losing a pet. It really is like losing a family member, ever if they're furry and walk on all fours.

The rest of the day was spent enjoying the weather out on our deck until dinnertime. Usually on Friday everyone is tired of cooking so we opt for pizza from the local pizza joint. They make an excellent pizza and they have a three topping special. Last night it was bacon, onions and mushroom. Yum.

If the weather holds and doesn't rain, the plan is to go row a double today. So far its cloudy, but not raining. Rowing in the rain isn't that much fun, especially this time of year.

The NCAA tournament continues to unfold with some exciting games although the high seeds are managing to pull games out in the end. I have Florida and Georgetown in the finals and they're both playing pretty well right now. Vanderbilt almost upset Georgetown last night, but their 3-point shooting deserted them when they needed them at the end of the game.

Daughter#1 update: She assured me she had Harp for St Patrick's Day. As a parent, its rewarding to know that you raised them right. Its the little things.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Round 2

About all I did over the weekend (actually Thursday through Sunday) was watch basketball. And drink some beer while watching basketball. After the way the results came in, I'm glad I had plenty of beer on hand. Saturday had to be one of the most exciting days of basketball I've ever witnessed what with all the close games. the overtimes! Double overtime! That said every team I was routing for went down on Saturday and Sunday. Maryland? Lost to Butler. Virginia Tech? Lost to Southern Illinois in a third straight ugly-as-sin shooting performance. Xavier? Lost to Ohio State after a gutless no call flagrant foul by OSU's Greg Oden. At least Xavier could have defended their 3 point arc with 6 seconds left. Virginia? Lost in a heart breaker to Tennessee. So much for my prediction Tennessee would be gone in the first round. Winthrop? Downed by the Ducks of Oregon. VCU? Loses to Pitt in OT. Of course there were a few good developments. Texas is gone as is Kentucky and Louisville. I wasn't happy to see Wisconsin lose, but a few upsets are good for the tournament. Obviously my sweet sixteen bracket is in shambles. Only 8 teams I picked made it. I do have have Georgetown and Florida in the finals and those picks still look good at this point. I'm always somewhat amazed (but pleased, of course) when I see a team like Texas not make it to the Final Four. Lets face it, Texas athletics has all the money in the world, athletic facilities second to none, a deep pocketed, involved alumni base and able to attract almost any recruit they desire. So when they're bounced out in the Round of 32, the same as say Winthrop, it makes the world a little bit fairer for a day. Of course the fact that they got eliminated by Southern Cal, another athletic powerhouse with lots of money and rich alumni (plus beaches!) is not lost on me.

There was no getting onto the water this weekend to row. The weather was too cold. it was way to windy. I did force myself to erg on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for a total of 22,000 meters. Spring comes at 8:00PM, so hopefully the weather will start to improve (please).

In a Daughter #1 update, the boyfriend made her a Filet Mignon dinner Saturday night. I didn't get to ask her if they partied Saturday night in honor of St. Patrick. Considering she lives within two blocks of two Irish bars (you can hear the singing on summer nights), one would only hope she had a pint or two. Lets just pray it was Miller Lite.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Round 1

Round 1 is in the Books and I'm already feeling a bit sleep deprived and my eyes a little bloodshot. So far I've done ok with my brackets. Nine misses out of 32 games, including two sweet 16 misses. Its what I get for listening to the experts and for picking against Virginia. and Ga Tech? Learn to rebound in the last minute of the game. God. Virginia Tech also took a few years off my life last night with their win over Illinois. They need to learn how to shoot the ball, including foul shots. That was just ugly. Congratulations to Winthrop for finally winning a tournament game. Go Big South. What a great recruiting tool that must be for Winthrop though. They win the Big South almost every year. Must be quite an incentive to be able to tell a recruit "Hey you want to play in the Big Dance? Come to Winthrop. We go every year. Sign right here."

The weather totally sucked yesterday. Rained all day before switching over to sleet and snow. Daughter #1 got sent home early from her job, which really to adults, is like getting a snow day when you were a kid. Connecticut got a lot more snow than us, of course. It will be another cold day here with temperature hanging in the 30s. Perfect day for a fire, basketball and a cold beer...or two.

Hope you all have a happy St. Patty's Day. Remember to celebrate in a safe adult manner. Pass the green beer. Time to go erg.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Let the Games Begin

After hours of studying all the various Brackologists recommendations (not really), I've dived into the bracket pool with my picks. I'm not in any office betting pool only because no one has stepped forward to organize one. In the past it was handled by what I call the old guys. They were into the betting thing. They are all gone now and I am now one of the old guys. Anyway I leave it up to the kids to organize things. The kids don't seem interested. It could be that over the years our office make-up has gone from 90% guys and 10% women, to 70% women and 30% guys. I'll make a crass generalization and say women aren't as interested in basketball pools. Guess the sex of the baby pools, yes. Basketball and sports in general, not so much. My history in the NCAA Men's basketball pool is not stellar. For certain teams I tend to pick more from my heart than my brain or as The Son points out "You always pick against teams/schools you hate. That's dumb". Out of the mouths of babes. That being said, lets look at my predicted upsets for Round 1. I have Old Dominion beating Butler. Hey I live in Virginia, what did you expect? My former neighbor's kid graduated from ODU. So there you go. Winthrop over Notre Dame. Everyone is picking this as their upset, which probably means it won't happen. Winthrop is the Big South Conference winner. The Son is a graduate of Radford University, a Big South member. They broke my heart last year losing on a last second 3 point basket by Tennessee. I hate Tennessee. I graduated from Auburn so enough said there. Plus I don't care much (an understatement) for Notre Dame. When I was but I wee lad and there was no such thing as cable or satellite TV and was growing up quite happily in NJ, every Sunday morning they would have a one hour recap of the Notre Dame football game with Lindsey Nelson. Ruined me forever for Notre Dame. Lord you would have though they were gods. I made sure to watch the times they lost, which back in those days wasn't often. Ok where was I? Oh yeah basketball. I also have Ga Tech over UNLV, which is an upset, but not in my book. I also picked Villanova to beat Kentucky. I don't think Kentucky scares anyone this year. I also have Virginia Commonwealth beating Duke. Duke stinks this year so why not kick them while they are down? VCU is the Colonial Athletic Association winner. They really should have lost to George Mason in the CAA tournament - down by 5 with 2:00 minutes left and Mason has the ball? Maybe its their year to make some sort of run. I also have Gonzaga over Indiana. I really can't say why other than I like Gonzaga and I really don't like Indiana harking back to their Bobby Knight era. On the other side of the bracket, I have Michigan State over Marquette. Marquette just hasn't been playing well lately. Next is George Washington over Vanderbilt. I'm also an alumnus of GWU for my graduate degree so there is that plus they're on a bit of a roll. Next up is Long Beach State over Tennessee. I think Tennessee is overrated (always). I know they beat Florida, but they're not going to be playing in Nashville and Tennessee is mediocre away from home. Plus Pat Summit won't be there with her cheerleader uniform on. Plus its Tennessee. I can't pick Tennessee. My last upset pick is Creighton over Nevada. A lot of relatives from my wife's side of the family went to Creighton. Plus they seem to go every year. They have tournament experience for what that's worth. We'll see how these and the rest of my picks (the non-upsets) work out. Stay tuned for Round 2.

Daughter #1 has let me know that I don't talk about her enough on here. I think she just likes to hear about herself, which is ok. She did want me to write that she isn't single as I described her in my very first post. As she told me: I have a boyfriend. Hmm....ok. I stand corrected. Anyway, Daughter #1 or as she suggested I refer to her as my High Maintenance Daughter (as opposed to my semi-hippie granola crunching almost vegan frugal Daughter #2 - Daughter #1's words (she was being funny, I think)) spent the weekend with said boyfriend in Florida watching the Mets play and eating great tasting seafood. What is wrong with this picture? I'm at home paying bills and my always poor daughter is jetting around watching spring training. The world is not fair.

On the rowing front, I finally got out on the water for my first row of the season on Saturday. I rowed bow in a Quad. The weather was nice, but still a bit windy for my taste, but overall it was nice getting back out. We did a 5 1/2 mile row. We were accompanied by a double and a single and a good time was had by all. This weekend looks like a bust for rowing as our 78 degree weather is going down the tubes with cold weather and possibly even some snow in the forecast. March is not playing nice.

Monday, March 5, 2007

The Madness Has Begun

Hope everyone had a good weekend. This weekend was a preview of what the next few weekends will be like - all basketball, all the time. There is nothing like college basketball in March. I love the excitement the NCAA tournament generates, the filling out my brackets, the endless discussion of which Mid Major will be this year's Cinderella team. Last year was quite the ride as I live not far from George Mason University. The area was more than a little excited about their run to the Final Four. As the president of George Mason said that to get the kind of publicity that their basketball team generated would have cost millions. I was glad to see it happen. One of the benefits of living in Virginia is the excellent college system here. Whether it be our so called Ivy League school - University of Virginia or our cow college Virginia Tech to the numerous smaller schools that have excellent academic reputations- William and Mary, James Madison University, University of Mary Washington, Virginia Military Institute and a host of others. Now George Mason is not a small school. It enrolls about 30,000 students. But its still has that commuter school feel to it. So their run to the Final Four gave the student body something to rally around and come together. Who knows if they'll make a similar run this year? They're playing in their conference title came tonight against a very good Virginia Commonwealth team. Considering GMU has already beaten the number 2 and 3 seeds, they have a chance. But anyway back to my point, even though the tournament hasn't even started, I found myself totally immersed in basketball this weekend. I caught GMU playing Hofstra and Old Dominion and some of the VCU-Drexel game. I watched UMD play NC State. I was watching the Northeast Conference game between Mount Saint Mary and Central Connecticut State and the Metro Atlantic semi-finals between Marist and Siena. Toward the end, it felt like my eyeballs were going to fall out. Yes, its a fine time of year. Have you signed up to watched all the tournament games on your PC? You haven't? How are you going to keep up with your brackets while you are at work? Not that I would. I'm just saying. Go here.

Winter played a bit of a cruel joke on us over the weekend. Giving us gorgeous weather on Friday with warm sunshine only to pull it back with a cold windy weekend. Just the taste of it on Friday has me wanting the warmth of spring. It can't come early enough. A few diehard rowers tried to convince me to go out on the water in a Quad, but to tell you the truth, I'm more of a fair weather rower. I don't want to go out when its barely above freezing and I don't want to go out when the water is just short of having white caps, especially when the water temperature is barely above freezing. Lets not forget the reservoir was frozen over this time last week. I'll wait till its a bit more pleasant out.

Speaking of rowing, my 30 minute row on Friday went well. I set a personal best in terms of meters rowed. Only by 4 meters, but hey, a personal record is a personal record. I manged to move past a gentleman from Great Britain on the Concept2 Rankings List. There's a guy from Michigan I'm shooting for next. He's only 4 meters ahead. Something to shoot for. My Sunday erg class was its usual fun torture that I got to share with 19 others. Four minutes at 3/4 pressure with 3 minute rest. Repeat 7 times. Good times.

Thursday, March 1, 2007


Its been a rather routine week in the household so not much to report. Said routine consists of getting up at 3:30, get ready for work, commute to work, get to desk at 6:30, work for the man till 4:00, commute home, change into nonwork clothes - usually jeans and a sweatshirt this time of year, enjoy a beer or two, eat dinner, watch some television, go to bed. Repeat. Weds is my work at home day so a change to the routine and it really helps in breaking up the week. An extra 2 1/2 hours of sleep doesn't hurt either. Somehow there is nothing as satisfying as rolling over and going back to sleep while your spouse heads off to southern Maryland. One of the benefits of working from home, is the lack of interruption from your co-workers. Not that I don't love my co-workers. At times, though, its eerily quiet and you're like someone, anyone, send me an e-mail. Throw me a bone. The dogs aren't much company as they're usually off sleeping on one or more of the beds. Slackers. Since I'm home on Weds, it also falls to me to make dinner for Ann and The Son. Dinners lately have come from The Son's cookbook that he received for Christmas. Its one of the Rachel Ray cookbooks. Last night it was Balsamic Glazed pork chops. It comes out pretty tasty although its not really a glaze like I think of a glaze. But we all eat it with no complaints.

Another benefit of working from home is that I have the time to row. When I have to commute down to southern Maryland, by the time I get home, I'm just too beat to even think of exercising. So during my lunch hour I hopped on the erg for a 5,000 meter row. Initially I wasn't trying for a personal best, but it felt good. The swing was there and I bested my best time by 2 seconds. That was the good news. The bad news is I didn't move by anyone in the rankings. I keep a log of my meters rowed on the Concept2 web site. They also give you the opportunity to rank yourself against other rowers from around the world for certain distances (1,000, 5,000, 10,000, etc. meters) or certain times (meters rowed over 30 Min, etc.). You can sort the rankings by age group, gender and weight. Anyway, despite lowering my time, i didn't pass anyone. I need to take another second or two. Next time.

It appears that the reservoir has thawed out and some of the local high schools will be taking to the water on Saturday with the rest starting on Monday. Can Spring be far behind?