Saturday, April 29, 2006


Often Spring seems to vanish as quickly as it arrives, just a brief interlude between the cold grayness of winter and the sticky heat of summer. Never mind that the calendar says it lasts for three months -- it sometimes seems that two weeks is all you get.

This year, for the first time in a couple of years, we're getting a genuine spring, temperatures usually going from the 40s to the upper 60s or low 70s. It's been going on for a while now, and the forecast calls for it to continue in the near future. It's been great walking to work, the crispness of the morning keeping me from dripping with sweat, and the bright blue sky jolting my mood upward and away from work even as I approach the office.

The cherry blossoms are gone, but it seems like everything else is in bloom. In front of our house the azalea has gone crazy, the jasmine is in season, and poppies are starting to appear. But the real story is the daisies -- two years ago we planted some in our little patch, and they've spread all over the place, giving us a mini-field of sunshine.

Kathy thinks they're out of control, and she's right. For next year I'll pull some of them up before there's nothing left except daisies. Right now, however, I don't care -- just seeing them bobbing gently in the wind en masse keeps me buoyant.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Scenes from a Mexican Restaurant, and who's Billy Joel?

An easy walk away from home is a very good Mexican restaurant that we frequent. When friends were visiting one Friday evening a few weeks ago, we went down there and found ourselves waiting for a table for roughly 20 minutes. During the wait, Marion Barry walked right by us and got a table immediately (to be fair, there were only two in his party and a small table was available). For those not familiar with Barry, he was dubbed "Mayor for Life" because nothing, not even a drug conviction while in office (the sting operation yielded the memorable quote from the Mayor, "bitch set me up"), stopped him from winning election as D.C. mayor. He finally stopped running after a fourth term in office, but recently returned to politics and is presently a city council member (and continues to have drug problems). I'd never seen him in person before, but it was apparent by the interactions with the people he greeted and was greeted by that even now he's quite charismatic.

This past Saturday night, a 20-something friend of mine from RateBeer was over for a music exchange and tasting, and we took a break to get dinner at the same restaurant. When I mentioned that we'd seen Mayor Barry there last time, I was rather surprised when the friend said he had no idea who Barry is. Then again, the friend was a teenager in Vermont at the end of Barry's last term as mayor, and was only about 10 when the cocaine trial took place in 1990.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Never Any Doubt

Yesterday we went in for another sonogram, and despite any lingering worries we had, everything checked out fine. We didn't get a good angle to see what sex the baby is, but that's not important to me -- basically we've made it through the first trimester, and though that's no guarantee, it's yet another milestone we've gotten past. We're both feeling more positive as the possibility of becoming parents has become a likelihood.

When it comes right down to it, however, there's no reason we should have been concerned -- on Sunday Kathy had been told by a psychic that the baby would be fine. And not just any psychic -- Kathy and her sister (Suz) went to the same psychic at Eastern Market who, as far as Suz is concerned, successfully forecast her life for about one year a couple of years ago. Never mind the fact that the psychic had to be told that Kathy is pregnant. Once that was worked out, the psychic informed Kathy not only that the baby will be healthy, but also that it probably is a girl, will probably be born in November, will get along well with both parents, and be a lot like Suz. The psychic also said we'll have another baby in two years.

Today's Top 5 Reasons I'm Still Stressing (fully recognizing that I worry too much):
5. Lots to do to get the house ready (all those projects we've put off that need to be done in the next six months).
4. Money to pay for #5.
3. The feeling that I need to cram the rest of the life I'm used to into the next few months.
2. Mary P.'s wonderful advice covers toddlers, not newborns.
1. Worried that I'm too set in my ways to adjust to being a parent.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Travelers and Travels

Since the first of the year, we've had the following guests --
John H. (2 nights)
Moj, 6 pups, 1 adult dog, and 4 cats
Sharon (2 nights)
Sharon & Gary (3 nights)
Chris & 1 dog
Kathy's Mom (2 nights)
Chris & 1 dog
John M. (2 nights)
Sharon & Gary

And starting tomorrow night, Kathy's sister will be visiting for a week. Even though it might sound like I'm complaning, I'm not. We love getting the chance to see so many of our friends and family, even when they're more passing through rather than specifically coming to visit us. It looks like things will start slowing down once Kathy's sister leaves and good thing too -- with all that company, there's scarcely been a chance to travel. We did drive 2.5 hours away to a cabin in the Shenandoah Valley over President's Day weekend, but otherwise we've been grounded in DC since we got back from Kathy's folks for Christmas.

As someone who loves to visit places, I've been jonesing to hit the road again soon, especially since after late October, travel, when it takes place, will take on an entirely different feel. Actually, speaking of that, Kathy isn't interested in taking too many trips beyond the two one-week getaways we've committed to, or trips to far away places, or long vacations, because she wants to save leave for maternity. In effect, the only additional trips she's up for are weekend trips, ideally around holidays (Memorial Day and Labor Day). So that does somewhat restrict the possibilities for us traveling together, and as such, I've ended up booking a couple of trips on my own (with her blessing!).* I don't know if I'll squeeze in any more than I already have, but I figure that these ought to keep me fairly entertained.

I hope everyone reading this also has a wonderful summer travel season in store.
* Before any of you accuse me of being callous for not also saving up leave for when the baby comes, please note that federal employees are able to use 3 months of sick leave toward maternity/paternity leave, and over the 12+ years I've worked for my agency, I've built up over 5 months of sick leave. Kathy's employer gives her one month of paid leave plus an additional two months of unpaid leave (for my non-American readers, that's not an uncommon practice in the U.S. -- federal law requires 12 weeks off, but they don't have to be paid. Federal workers can only use the paid sick leave they have -- if they have none, no maternity/paternity leave). So in effect I have much more leave than she does at the moment.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

What in Iraq Doesn't the Bush Administration Lie About?

No mobile bioweapons labs after all. And the Bush Administration was told this by the experts sent to evaluate the trailers before Bush went public with the assertion that they had recovered such items.

"Within the first four hours," said one team member, who like the others spoke on the condition he not be named, "it was clear to everyone that these were not biological labs."

And for nearly three years they've covered up the report that made this finding unequivocally. Piling this lie on top of all the others provides more ammo in the arsenal of anyone who questions why we should believe a single thing they tell us.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


With spring here, and winter fading rapidly into memory, the time had come to say farewell to my full beard. I started growing it the day before Christmas, and I think my favorite part of having it was the double takes I got from people who hadn't seen me in a while. The comments also gave me quite a laugh. A couple of weeks ago, one friend likened me to Fiddler on the Roof, and at last week's DC United game another person asked me if I'd joined the Taliban. A co-worker gave me the half compliment that I looked much better with the beard. Kathy liked it, but I think she would have preferred me to keep it a little more groomed. And while I did a little bit of trimming (mostly to keep the moustache out of my mouth), I didn't do a whole lot to it. I had no interest in making my facial hair a high-maintenance thing, which it would have if I trimmed it regularly, or shaped it, or turned it into a goatee.

Still, there have been moments when I thought about those options, and when I finally shaved it today, I did so in steps, to see how I'd have looked. Kathy took photos for posterity, and for everyone's general amusement. As a bonus tribute to Spring, the photos are taken in front of our cherry tree, in full bloom. Let me know what you think.

What's your favorite form of facial hair for Aaron?
Full-on beard
Shaved neck
Aaron looks great no matter what
Free polls from

Which form of facial hair should Aaron never consider going with?
Full-on beard
Shaved neck
Aaron looks great no matter what
Free polls from

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

It's Better When I Laugh

I don't generally discuss my job, because (1) much of what I do is confidential; and (2) I've read horror stories about people getting fired for what they post on their blog. Most of the time there's not much to tell -- it's usually fairly boring to anyone who isn't involved with it (as Kathy would undoubtedly assure any skeptics), and for that matter, it's often boring to me. That being said, there are some days when I wish I could share with folks some of the absurdity I face at work, in the forms of substantive decisions (occasionally), procedural hoops (often), or management (usually).

Maybe it's the advent of spring or the clocks changing, but whatever it is, the past couple of weeks have seen a sharp uptick in the ridiculous. I have done my job, and given my recommendations, as I am supposed to. If The Powers That Be make what I consider to be poor decisions despite my best efforts, I can rage, moan, complain, stress, or get frustrated or angry at their decisions. Historically, this is what I've done, but for whatever reason, this time I'm mostly laughing (together with similarly affected co-workers) at what's going on around us. It seems that given the absence of effect I'll have either way, I might as well gain some enjoyment, rather than unneeded anxiety or stress, from the circumstances beyond my control.

Whether I can maintain this relaxed outlook remains to be seen, but Spring is beautiful right now, which should help provide some perspective should things continue as they have been.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Everything Begins Anew

The wonderful thing about sports is that every season begins with hope. Only one team wears the champion's crown at season's end, so most hopes are dashed, but until then, every fan can dream that her/his team will be the one to win it all.

Yesterday was DC United's season opener, the memory of the 4-0 drubbing that sent us careening out of last year's playoffs diminished by time and an umblemished record in the new season. We hosted Red Bull New York, the rebranded MetroStars, now owned by a company that makes an energy drink (a chant soon followed -- "what a waste of vodka"). This is a team we've dominated for the first ten years of the league, and should have done the same yesterday. But after 18 minutes, we were down 2-0, thanks to a very nice direct free kick from 35 yards out, and a major defensive screw up. While those goals were against the run of play to that time, i.e., United looked to be the better team, for the rest of the half the Red Bulls were playing with confidence and United looked shaken.

United was missing two defenders (one injury, one illness), our starting goalie (injury), and our playmaker (suspension). The absence of the playmaker (Christian Gomez) was felt most acutely, as United struggled to find any offensive rhythm. But with one substitution at halftime, our fortunes changed. Alecko Eskandarian, himself coming off an injury-filled 2005 season, and currently recovering from a sports hernia (and he probably wasn't healthy enough to play the full 90 minutes), scored about 10 minutes after coming on to the field. Ten minutes after that, we tied it up, and that's how the game ended, 2-2.

Ordinarily, a tie on the road is a big lift for the visiting team, and a letdown for the home squad, but given that United came back from a two-goal deficit, the roles were reversed. Hopefully the second half performance signals what will follow during the rest of the season. With Gomez returning from suspension next week, there's no reason to think otherwise.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Repentant Republicans

Seems like wherever I turn, there's another book, article, or column by a Republican aghast at how things have turned out. A few weeks ago William F. Buckley joined the chorus of conservative voices declaring the U.S. invasion of Iraq a failure. On Tuesday I read an interview with Francis Fukuyama, a neo-Con defector who essentially says that regardless whether the priniciples behind a neo-Con approach to foreign policy are sound, this administration has been clueless in applying those principles. Today Kevin Phillips, one of the architects of the GOP's rise to power, expresses alarm with the party's reliance on oil, debt, and most of all, religion. His concern rests not just with the GOP, but where he believes the party is taking the country, i.e., irreversible decline. He also believes that the religious wing of the party has no worries about such matters, as they're gearing for Armageddon.

And yet, I wonder whether these dissenting voices will do a lick of good. Will the Democrats narrow the gap in the mid-term elections, or possibly gain control of either the House or Senate? What does it say when the Dems have become the party of fiscal responsibility, and still the odds are against them retaking Congress? Fukuyama states that he voted for Kerry in the last election. Will 2008 bring a different type of Republican presidential candidate to the fore, and if not, what will it take to convince Bush supporters to follow a new path?

Verily, we live in scary times.

April Fooling

For April Fools Day, I had fun writing up a fake press release (which I linked to on RateBeer), announcing that Anheuser-Busch bought AleSmith and Southampton, two of the best breweries in the world (#1 & #12 according to this list). My friend CapFlu made the awesome fake logo for AleSmith. Beergeeks are so paranoid about such things, which made for ripe pickings. Of course, despite getting "confirmation" from a brewer of the sale (top post), any lingering doubts soon gave way. If any of you appreciated that, you might also want to check out what that same brewer did yesterday to celebrate the holiday.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

O My Aching Back!

You do it to yourself, You do, And that's why it really hurts.
You do it to yourself, Just you, You and no-one else
You do it to yourself.
-- Radiohead, "Just"
I have a bad lower back. It started acting up when I was a teenager, and at various times over the past two decades, it has caused me varying degrees of pain. Fortunately, my back has only gone out on me once, when I was in law school and we were moving furniture around so we could steam clean our apartment's carpets (which left Ex the unenviable task of performing all the steam cleaning, and moving all the furniture back in place afterwards -- she was steaming and I was miserable). After two days I was able to climb out of bed and within a week, time and a chiropractor's assistance got me functioning again.

One advantage of having had a bad back all these years is that despite the aches that accompany it, I know how to take care of it. I shouldn't sit at a desk for hours without standing up and moving around every once in a while. I should perform basic stretching exercises that can be completed in less than ten minutes, every day. I should perform additional exercises designed to strengthen my back muscles at least every other day. When I do all these things, my back is fine. If I don't do #3 but do the other two, I'm still usually fine. Especially if I get a massage every once in a while.

That being said, I'm not usually very good about doing any back care or maintenance, and my failure to take care of myself inevitably catches up with me. Wednesday morning I noticed my back was sore so I did the stretching, but it was too late -- by noon, I was in serious pain, and I had trouble standing up straight. I somehow made it through the workday, came home, and plopped myself on the heating pad. (Side note -- I'm glad I'm in a family where I can strip to an undershirt and boxers in front of my visiting mother-in-law).

In the time since then, I avoided sitting at my desk for long, I did my stretches, and twice Kathy pulled out the massager and worked my back over (not as nice as a manual massage, but it still helps significantly). By yesterday my pain had given way to soreness, and today the soreness is mild.

Over the next few days, I'll undoubtedly continue the stretches, and be careful with how long I sit at a desk. But if history is any guide, then, with no soreness to remind me, I'll start to slip, maybe sitting at my desk for a couple of hours one morning, and not doing the stretches one day. And before long, any semblance of commitment to a sensible regimen for back maintenance will fall by the wayside.

Maybe this time will be different. Maybe this time, whenever I think of Kathy being pregnant, I'll think of the consequences -- I'll want to be able to pick up our child, not just at birth, but when s/he's 20+ pounds and wants to be carried. The idea of having to tell little Esmerelda or Cletus* that Daddy can't pick you up right now because he didn't care enough about you to take care of himself is pretty sobering. And if that's not enough incentive, the vision of Kathy pushing a stroller in one hand and a wheelchair in the other should spur me to behave.

* The actual girl's and boy's names have not been chosen, these are merely finalists.