Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween and The Great Pumpkin

I hope you and yours have a very fun, scary and safe Halloween.
Never ones to do things in advance, Ann and I waited until this afternoon to get our pumpkin and turn it in to a real life jack o latern. I give you the making of the Great Pumpkin.

First gutting it.

The nose and eyes start to take shape.

The pumpkin begins to have what looks like a face.

And The Great Pumpkin!

Ann wishes you a Happy Halloween.

As do I. As a neighbor of ours said the year we lived in North Carolina and I was all of 14: "Trick or Bourbon!" Has a ring to it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sleeping Heaven

The last month or so I have had a few nights where I haven't been able to fall asleep. I would toss and turn before finally getting up and watching some TV before trying again. Usually with mixed results. I've never had much of a problem sleeping. Just ask my fellow riders in my vanpool. I convinced myself that it was our mattress that was the problem. It's old and needs to be replaced. It's not as old as the kids, but not far from it. Trouble is good mattresses are expensive and with Christmas soon upon us and a marriage to pay for, we don't have a lot of money lying around for things like mattresses. As a compromise, Ann and I decided to get some sort of mattress topper. We had taken Monday off since we are old and have enough accrued vacation days that need to be taken between now and the end of the year or we lose them. So we're taking every Monday off between now and the end of the year. Sweet. Anyway, we headed off to Bed, Bath and Beyond to see what was available. I had gone with the idea of getting a memory foam topper, but those turned out to be ridiculously expensive. Whenever I find myself in a quandary about what to buy or can't make a decision about what appears to be two equally attractive options, I call on my own personal shopper. That would be Daughter#1. So there I stood in the middle of the store getting a consultation. Daughter#1 recommended a fiberbed topper, which she has and likes and was about a third of the price of the memory foam topper we were considering. So done and done. We also picked up some new sheets as we desperately needed some of those as well. Back home we changed out our bed and made it up with our new purchases. All I can say its like having a whole new bed. Its heaven. My own personal heavenly bed (Westin Hotel trademark, I think). I actually look forward to going to sleep. The bed does look a little lumpy though.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Friday Ride

Daughter#2 drove up from Harrisonburg Thursday night to see and old high school friend that was back in town and stayed Thursday night with us. She brought her bike so we could take a ride on Friday. Friday was cold and we waited to lunchtime hoping it would get onto the 60s as promised. By 11:00 it was still in the upper 40s so we bit the bullet and bundled up for our ride. We wanted to stay close to home so we decided to go on the bike trail that runs along Rt 123. We parked the car in Lorton and rode up to Fairfax, a distance of about 11 miles ad had lunch at Noodles and Company. Ann drove up to Noddles (slacker!) to join us. Lunch really hit the spot although eating a bowl of Japanese Pan Noodles with hot sauce and then riding back to Lorton may not have been the greatest of choices. Daughter#2 right before we headed off on our ride:

With Daughter#2 visiting, it seemed the perfect opportunity to see how the latest batch of home brew turned out. Its British Pale Ale and it turned out quite tasty if I do say so myself. Daughter#2 liked it and wanted to take some home, but we both forgot to pack her some when the time came for her to drive home. I'll hold a few bottles for her and the Son In Law until the next time we see them. Next up I want to try some Scottish Ale.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pictures from Boston

I'm a little slow getting these pictures up, but work was really a killer this week. We were hosting industry representatives all week on a new requirement we'd like them to bid on. Not only did I have to go in on my work at home day, but I also had to wear a coat and tie all week. That's something I haven't had to do in quite a while.

Without further ado here are some pictures from my trip to Boston last weekend for the Head of the Charles. This was my room from the hotel in Arlington. A cozy suite or at least it could have been if I didn't have to share I with two other members of my crew. The glamorous life of rowing.
I did the coxswain clinic they offered since I'm not an experienced coxswain (I'm a rower normally). They had some good information and they also took you out on the river. I bagged the river tour as my teammates were waiting for me to go for a practice row. The boats for the river tour launched from the Harvard Boathouse. Does this say old money or what?
Daughter#1 got me interested in crew when she took up the sport as a freshman in high school. It's an interest we've shared ever since. She was also in Boston and coxing her own crew - a Women's Senior Masters 4+ from Saugatuck Rowing Club. Here she is coxing her 4+ off the trailer.
And coxing them onto the floating docks to launch and row up to the start line. The docks are both slippery and rocky.
Daughter#1 getting into the 4+. It's what's called a bow loader. That means the coxswain sits in front rather than in back. Great for seeing what's ahead and steering, but not so good at seeing what is coming up behind you or keeping an eye on your crew.
Here is a video of Daughter#1's boat as it approaches and goes under Eliot Bridge. The bridge is about 1,000 meter from the finish.
Here is my crew right before we launched for our race. I think it's pretty easy to see why I'm coxing the boat and not one of the rowers. At least this year.
A special thank you to Wintech who let us borrow one of their new Medalist shells for the race so we didn't have to trailer a boat. Here we walk the boat from their display area to the launch dock. I'm in total denial of the gray hair.
On the launch dock - trying not to drop the boat as the dock swayed under our feet.
Pushing away from the dock.

Bow 4 takes us away from the dock. My head is down trying to set the proper volume on the cox box so everyone in the boat can hear my commands.

It was a beautiful day and a successful row for us even though our finish in the Club Standings would indicate otherwise. I can't wait to go back.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Back from Boston

I got back from Boston Sunday morning. All in all it was a fun time. Timewise we had a better race than we expected, but finish position maybe not as much. I have to say that my first time coxing at the Head of the Charles was a blast. There were no boat collisions and not even any clashing of oars, except during Saturday's practice. I nailed the turn at the Week's Footbridge and forced another boat wide in the process so a double win there. Eliot Bridge was a bit of a disaster for us. As we were coming around approaching the bridge on a steep port turn, my 4 seat's oar hit a buoy. His oar hitting the buoy immediately forced the bow to starboard by about 45 degrees forcing as way wide on the turn. As one who has stood atop Eliot Bridge watching other boats make this turn and set up for going under the bridge and mocked those who went wide thereby losing precious seconds, I was appalled we had screwed up so badly. In addition, they do a live webcast from the Cambridge Boathouse that sits right there at the bridge so our disaster has now been broadcast and archived for the world to see. We did redeem ourselves after righting ourselves and getting through the bridge. At that point there is about 800 to 1,000 meters left and my guys managed to hold off two closing boats. I was proud of them. It would have been easy for them to just bag it and throw in the towel after the bad turn, but they didn't. We did the race in 17:48, which was a good 30 seconds faster then either of our Men's Boats from last year. Everyone seemed happy with that and we managed to celebrate old school after putting away our boat with some Pabst Blue Ribbon. Apparently our 23 yr old 3 seat found a deal on a PBR 30 pak for $30 and it was too good a deal to pass up. I'll post more about Boston and the race with pictures and video later this week.

Daughter#1 was also at the Head of the Charles and I got to watch her race in the Women's Master 4. She managed to win a Bronze medal so needless to say she was excited. I got to hang out with her and the fiance for a while after I finished my race before they headed home.

The weather was cold in the morning but warmed up enough to be comfortable during the afternoon. I loved just walking among the thousand of rowers there to race. It's all very exciting. More to come.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Let the Fun Begin

I'm in Boston to race in the Head of the Charles on Saturday in the Men's Club category. It means we will be racing against mostly 20 and 30 somethings while we have an average boat age in the 40s. I'm coxing and not actually rowing, but it's about a demanding a course as there is what with the number of boats on the water and the numerous bridges to navigate. It should be quite the challenge given I have all of one race under my coxswain belt. Since I'm updating from the hotel, I don't know if I will be able to update during the weekend. If not, a full recap will be forthcoming. Have a good weekend.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Of Racing and Washing Machines

I did say in the last post that I would talk about our race this past Sunday. I raced in the 50+ 8+ boat and in a Quad, which was pretty much the last race of the day. In both races we came in second out of three boats in the category. The 8+ race was fine. A little rushed in the beginning, the big 180 degree turn was excellent and we finished about where I expected timewise given the make up of our crew. The Quad was a different story. It was a thrown together group. Two of the rowers have been teamed most of the year in a Double (2X), then there was me and finally a novice sculler thrown into 3 seat. We had not practiced together even once. Then there was the shell. It's the only Quad we have available to our club that has steering. There are other Quads, but we either don't have access or they don't have steering. Having no steering and a fixed rudder is fine for sprint racing where all you do is go in a straight line, but for Head races with their various turns, not so much. We had been having problems with the steering cables on this Quad dating back to last fall when the cable had broken. It has never been properly fixed. When we took the Quad out of the boathouse on Sunday, we discovered that the steering (controlled by the bowman's right foot) was again not working properly. The rudder would turn only in one direction. Feverish repairs ensued and we (I use the word "we" here loosely. I was more an observer) thought we had at least some semblance of steering. It was also decided that I would not row bow instead giving that seat to the person who rowed bow in the Double who had already rowed the course and therefore knew when and how to set up to take the turns. We launched without incident and headed to the start line. It wasn't until our number was called and we headed to the start that we got the inkling that our boat was not quite right. The foot steering was totally useless and we were having a very hard time keeping the boat on a straight course. It kept turning to our port side. Because of the steering problem we were out of position for our start and actually missed the first buoy, which should have resulted in a 30 second penalty, but I didn't see it listed in the results. Through the entire race it was a battle to stay on course. We were constantly having to pull harder with our right oar. It left us all exhausted and cranky and as a fitting end we collided with the finish line buoy. We limped back to the dock and discovered not only had we lost steering, but the rudder had cocked itself in such a position that would turn us to port. It was about that time I decided doing too Head races in a day at my age was a bit crazy and one was more than enough. Amen.

On Thursday I worked from home so I could go to the Dentist to get a permanent crown placed on my back tooth. I've been wearing a temporary one since I had my root canal about ten or so days ago. I was in and out in about 30 minutes. They pulled the temporary crown off, cemented the one one in, checked the bite and that was that. It feels a little sharper than my original molar but I guess that's ok. Its my first replacement tooth. Certainly another black mark that I am indeed getting old.

Today I again babysat The Son's condo waiting for the repair men to come fix his washing machine. The part (drain pump) took a little longer to come in then we expected even though it only had to come from nearby Maryland. They showed up a little after noon. It was a two man job since his dryer is stacked on top of the washing machine. It didn't take them that long to fix and as it turns out, a Canadian coin, of all things, was what destroyed the pump. Somehow it got past whatever filter device they have and got inside the pump and proceeded to tear the insides up. Hopefully this expensive lesson will teach The Son to make sure he empties his pockets before he does his wash.

It's a long holiday weekend, Yea! for Columbus Day. We have another race on Sunday - the Occoquan Chase hosted by the George Mason University Men's Crew Team. I'll be rowing in a 4+ and actually coxing the 8+ that will travel to Boston next week. This should be really interesting. I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, October 6, 2008

It's Alive and I Wish I was Too

When we last left things, I was to take care of getting our car battery replaced. Besides giving your car a jump start, AAA will actually come to your car and replace the battery for you. This seem to be the easiest option, as opposed say to going out and buying a battery myself or jump starting the car again in order to get it to a repair shop. The service representative showed up fairly quickly and I told him what I wanted (a new battery). Rather then just replace it, he checked it out first and his meter showed the battery was fine. Turns out there was some corrosion on the positive battery terminal that once cleaned up allowed the car to start right up. He did mention that the terminals that attached to the battery really should be replaced sooner than later, but he would clean them and it should work fine for a while. As he was cleaning the negative terminal, lo and behold, the terminal broke off. He was a lot more calm about it then I would have been, but he said he would go buy the terminals and install them. It took him a while to locate local auto parts place (I'm not sure where he was located, but obviously not the immediate area), he returned and installed the new terminals. Cost - no charge. He said since he broke the terminals there would be no charge. Sweet.

Since Thursday I had been feeling like I was coming down with something flu like. My shoulders and neck were feeling achy and stiff and I was getting chills and headaches periodically. As we got into Saturday, I was feeling pretty shitty after rowing practice. I started popping Tylenol, which helped me get through the day. By Saturday evening though, I was feeling pretty bad and went to bed around 8:00. I couldn't fall asleep. I tossed and turned all night long. I even got up around 2:00 and watched some TV hoping it would make me sleepy. I eventually fell asleep around 5:00 and slept for a few hours before I had to get up to go race. After the races (more on that later), I came home feeling even worse adding dehydration to my list of woes. I again turned in early on Sunday to again sleep for about an hour and then was up all night long. Ann finally took pity on me and went and got me some OTC medicine to help me sleep. Needless to say there was no way I could face the prospect of work on no sleep so I called in sick. Something I almost never do. As it turns out, the guy in the cubicle next to me was also out sick so maybe we picked up the same thing. Whatever, it sucks. I'm feeling better, but only about 80%. Hopefully things will continue to improve.

Saturdays in the fall are usually reserved for college football. However there were no games on at noon or 1:00 on TV that interested me so I decided it was time to bottle the English Pale Ale that has been brewing down in out laundry room. One of the more surprising aspects that I've discovered about home brewing is the amount of cleaning involved. Everything has to be cleaned and sanitized. Since I was about to bottle, it meant cleaning 50 or so empty bottles, bottle caps, bottling bucket, tubing, etc. It sort of sucks some of the fun out of it. Below is a picture taken about halfway through cleaning the bottles. I just bought a drying tree to let the bottles dry out.

And Volia! The finished product. Just over two cases. It will take another 2 weeks or so before it's ready to be enjoyed. It has to carbonate in the bottles. I've had some doubts how this batch will turn out given the slow start it had with the yeast. I did taste a bit of it while bottling and it tasted fine (if not carbonated yet) so hopefully it's not a wasted effort.

Daughter#1 is in Quebec this week with the fiance as he gets "trained" on a new line of office furniture. Her agenda makes it look like one fun trip and I hear Quebec is a beautiful place and probably more so in the fall. I'm jealous.

I'll skip my races on Sunday for now as this post is long enough and I'll do it tomorrow.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Dead Car

The Son called us on Sunday to "let us know" that his washing machine was making a strange noise. He called back later to tell us that it had completely crapped out on him and the washer was still filled with water along with his very wet clothes. So I got tasked with the job of going to his place on Wednesday to wait for the repair man. The one plus was ours was his first call of the day so I didn't have to wait all day. The repair man came in, turned on the washing machine, listened to the racket and declared it was a defective drain pump and did we want to order the part since they don't carry it in stock? We did and I paid for the visit and he was gone. Total time in the condo - about 7 minutes. Damn. After locking up and leaving, I got in my car and turned the key...and nothing. I tried again and again and again...nothing...nada. Dead battery with no warning at all. Stranded. I called AAA and they gave me a jump and the car started right up and drove fine. Once at home, I hooked the battery up to a charger we have. I charged it for several hours. Later I had to run to the store to get things for dinner. I unhooked the charger, got in the car, turned the key and...nothing. Dead as a doornail. Stranded once again. So my job on Friday, my day off, is to get a new battery for the car. Cars are such fun, except when they're not.