Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Post Holiday Weekend blogging...

Ah, another Memorial Day weekend come and gone.
No more war movie marathons or anything close to it until July 4th or November 11th.
Grilling is now the order of the season.
The Cubs have already imploded.

Yes, if you look at my profile you will see that I am a fan of The Chicago Cubs.
You may ask, "Why is someone from Maryland who has NEVER lived in Illinois or the greater Chicagoland area a Cubs fan?"

I will answer you this: Expectations and Emotional Investment.

Why the Cubs? Because if they suck it's expected. And they just keep coming back, like Charlie Brown kicking the football they just don't know when to pack up and go home. I like that.

I invest a lot of emotion into my teams. Yelling at TV's, radios, etc. I wear my sports heart on my sleeve when I can get away with being an obnoxious loud annoying fan. (usually home alone or in a car.) So if you are familiar with the now regular fall of the O's every season, the beginnings of futility with the Nats AND the lean years of the Washington Redskins, you can understand that I needed a team to root for that would not help give me a stroke. Ergo I have picked the Cubs. I can sit back and enjoy the game. It's nice.

That and Wrigley Field is a great place to go see a game. I have been there, I want to go back. The fans, the real pipe organ, the drunken idiots in the bleachers...ah Chicago how I miss thee!

So what else is going on...
Had the BBQ, that went well. Go to NYC for an EPA Records Conference thing next week, that should be nice.

And work is work. Though I do have a research trip planned this weekend so that should be fun.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Memorial Day

It's Memorial Day weekend and I'm darn glad it is. AMC is showing all war movies, though I have a more than adequate collection of my own and there's the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 Tomorrow. And the gang is coming over Monday for a BBQ.

But it's also a time when I get a bit introspective...

For 9 years "professionally" and 14 years total I have studied military history. Primarily I am interested in the American Civil War but I've had a fairly wide range of interests in history books on this topic. So whenever this time of the year comes around and the movie channels start showing all the WW2 movies I watched as a kid with my dad I start thinking of cemeteries.

Yep, cemeteries. Part of it has to do with a tradition that my grandfather on my dad's side (hereafter known on this blog as Pop-Pop Fry) did EVERY Memorial Day. He went to all the cemeteries where his parents and aunts and grandma Fry's parent's were buried and put flowers on their grave. I usually went with him. Part of this started because he would take us to Kiddie City in Frederick for a toy at the end of the journey. Still I always remember going out with him. I also know where my great grandparents' graves are in Mount Olivet cemetery and Resthaven Memorial Gardens in Frederick. (The tradition is modified now with Christmas trees that my Dad puts up instead of the Memorial Day trip. Still, someday I'm going to have to take up the duties. I may opt to do both.)

Anyway, there are a lot of veterans buried in Mount Olivet including a few score of Civil War soldiers who died from wounds received at Antietam. They were brought to Frederick by horse drawn ambulance and put in the army hospital, the churches around town and the old Hessian Barracks (originally built to house Hessian POW's from the Revolution.) I recall frequently looking at the headstones of those graves and others we came across that had flags and I took the time to read the dates of service.

Now with the US at war with terror I think about those graves a lot now. And the new ones with guys my age in them and I just get kinda quiet. Sometimes I don't know if this country is worth all the trouble that people go through to protect it. Seriously. We haven't done a really good thing for the world as a whole since the Second World War and the Marshall Plan. Most people don't vote for President. The best and the brightest don't serve their country in government as there's no money in it. We're selfish and have a short attention span.

What the hell happened?

Seriously? Why did we let it get this far? We're supposed to be the United States of America dammit! Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. C'mon in, get a job make something of yourself, make your kids' lives better and on the odd occasion we SAVE THE FREAKIN WORLD! We did this. This whole country got its stuff together and looked at Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire and said, "You guys are doing bad stuff, you didn't leave well enough alone and now you bombed us. We and several million of our friends here have come to kick your ass!"

And by God we did. It was that rarest of things, a GOOD war. I'm not going to argue it with anyone. It was a GOOD thing. It had to be done. It should have been done in 1935.

So I'm lamenting the past and now everyone is expecting some idea from me on how to fix it. I don't know how to fix this country but I have some ideas to try.

First I'm gonna steal an idea from Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun; reinstate a draft. Now calm down and let me finish what Dan suggested. You can choose three paths; military service, domestic social service, overseas social service. Kind of like Armed Forces/Peace Corps/Americorps only you don't have the option of doing nothing. You as a kid have to pick one. Get off the computer kids and go fix the planet. I think this is a brilliant idea.

Second: Reality TV=VERBOTEN! Just make it stop, please for the love of all that is right and holy in the world. Make it stop!

Third: If in the future we decide to invade someone...BRING EVERYONE! No more of this bringing a small forces because the American public will blanche at a huge military buildup. If you're gonna go, GO! Go with EVERYONE! You're going to war, there are no half measures. It's supposed to be messy and a hard decision, it's WAR! We made that mistake in Vietnam and we've made it again in Iraq. If you do something like this do it all the way. There WILL be civilian casualties, they will be YOUR FAULT. But that's the way it goes. We never have had any second thoughts about Dresden, Berlin, Schweinfurt, Polesti, Wilhemshaven, Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, etc. When you go to war with a country you go expecting to fight the WHOLE COUNTRY. Like I said, going to war is not supposed to be an easy decision, nor is it supposed to be painless. That's what keeps war from being more frequent. It's a terrible thing.

Fourth: Everybody in this country needs a good sense of humor and to stop being so sensitive. Just relax. It's been worse.

Ok, that's all I got at the moment.
Happy Memorial Day everyone.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

I'm just workin for the weekend...

And I was working...

This weekend was volunteer weekend at the B&O Railroad Historical Society. So I spent these glorious two days around dusty documents.

Well...not really. Actually this weekend we started at the B&O Historical Society and then went to the B&O Railroad Museum to listen to a lecture. Then Sunday was a more productive day at the archives. More sorting, I strained my back trying to help move shelves. That wasn't so hot. But we got some good stuff done.

So now I go to the new building tomorrow and unpack. Hopefully all will be well.
We shall see.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mr. Sulu...warp speed

We have a cable modem now...


Thursday, May 18, 2006


So I'm not at my normal office today, actually technically today I don't have a normal office...WE'RE MOVING!!!

Ahem, well we're not moving, by we I mean the actually office workers, the moving guys are moving today. EPA people are off at some conference thing or just off, us contractors are scattered across the greater Arlington/DC Metro Area. I'm spending today at the company's office suite in Rosslyn. I'm about three blocks from the garage where Bob Woodward and Mark Felt met during Watergate. That in itself is a cool enough fact to ALMOST make me "tourist out." But I won't. I work here, I have a badge on a dongle. I'm supposed to be in a hurry, walking up METRO escalator and yelling "STAND TO THE RIGHT!" at tourists who are either corralling their kids, gawking at the metro (why you would gawk at what I consider to be some of the WORST subterranean architecture in THE WORLD I do not understand. Seriously, METRO stations are dark and sterile. There is no personality to them. Do what Chicago does, lighten them up and put some tiles or something on the wall...Paint murals! ANYTHING! Ahem, anyway...) or looking at their maps of DC wondering where the hell the Smithsonian/White House/insert memorial name here is.

This in itself is a shame. Those of us who work or travel through DC to our jobs really miss out on some neat stuff. Usually the highlight of my commute is taking the yellow line bridge over the Potomac and seeing the city and its water/train/air traffic, (yes, I like to watch boats, trains and planes, I am a transportation geek.) or walking across Farragut Square from Farragut West to Farragut North Metro Station. (Another thing, Adm. David G. Farragut doesn't get enough press these days. That's someone who needs a Carrier named after him. Though there is some solace in that Capt. Kirk's first assignment upon graduating Starfleet Academy was the USS Farragut. Also the Nebula Class USS Farragut was one of the three ships to rescue the crew of the Enterprise D at the end of Star Trek: Generations.)

So...where was I? Oh, not being able to "tourist out." yeah I think too many people take the city for granted or think it's a pain in the ass. And at times the traffic is a pain in the ass, this is what we get for having a Frenchman lay out the streets. (So George Washington gets a mulligan on that, otherwise he did pretty good.) So I'm just saying, look around you when you commute, you may not know what you're missing.

Anyway I'm off tomorrow. Getting a cable modem (HUZZAH!) and a haircut (HUZZAH!) and meeting with the Curator of the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore. (HUZZAH!) Busy day, but I think the meeting will be a great thing. Oh, and I have to drop off a calendar for the historical society to the printer. That's VERY important. Really, this is my first publishing project. I want to make sure it gets out right.

Also I was reading one of my friend's blogs and was struck by how she wanted to be Scarlett O'Hara but now doesn't. I think Scarlett is an interesting character and rather complex. However, I agree with Kim's new assessment that she's not a great role model. But it got me to thinking...who did I want to be from the movies...and I realized that I had several characters that I wanted to be, but I think the one that was always at the top...Han Solo.

Han Solo was the Mac Daddy of Star Wars. First, he got the coolest sidekick; Chewbacca. Second, he wasn't noble to the point of being a pain, nor brave to the point of stupidity. He was in most of Star Wars for the money, Empire to save his own skin and Jedi is when he finally decided...I'm in it for the cause...and the girl. This brings us to the third great thing, he got the girl. Nobody else got the girl in all of Star Wars. And in her day Carrie Fisher was indeed hot. Though she's hit the wall pretty hard now. Fourth, having the Millennium Falcon to tool around in is a major plus. Yeah, that pretty much sums up the reasons why I wanted to be Han Solo when I was a kid.

Well, I've got to go off and do the Kessel Run now. May the Force be with you.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Railroad Warrior

For the second time in as many weeks, I've been driving like a madman. Not in terms of speed, but distance.
Yesterday at 6:45am I left for Wheeling, WV to pick up a donation of railroad documents from the B&O RR's Benwood Roundhouse. The forecast was for afternoon thunderstorms, so I was hoping to make it out and back before things got really hairy.
I took I-70 West to I-68 West to Morgantown, WV. Stopping there at 9:30am for breakfast and to refuel the truck I was in. Left Morgantown at 10:00am on I-79 North to Washington, PA where I got back on I-70 West and took that into Wheeling, arriving at 11:30am.
So in Wheeling I meet up with a local B&ORRHS member who met us at the woman's house and we caravaned to the place where the records were stored in McMechen, WV. We picked them up, I took the member back to his truck, we socialized, I saw a neat train layout under construction and then at 2:30pm, I left for the return trip.
I stopped in Cumberland, MD at 5:00pm for dinner and gas. (Note: the gas station I used did not require one to pay before pumping. That surprised me. It was under $3 a gallon out there, that did not surprise me.)
After Cumberland I went to Baltimore, MD to unload. I called people back who left messages for the HS and finally got back on the road home at 9:20pm. I got back to home around 10:30pm. A total of 16 hours on this trip.
Some would say I'm crazy to have done that, at times I was inclined to believe them, but it was a good trip.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

10 Years...

10 years ago, around this time, I was graduating high school.

10 years ago, a little more than three months from now, I started UMBC.

10 years!!! Holy crap where did it all go?
4 years undergrad at UMBC-2 girlfriends and Rheumatoid Arthritis
***1 BA in History with a certificate of General Honors***
2 years FT grad work at UMBC
2 years FT T. Rowe Price and PT grad work UMBC and PT RR Historical Society Archivist
2 years FT STG International, PT RR Historical Society Archivist with an additional year of PT grad work UMBC and one more girlfriend.
***1 MA in Historical Studies***
2 months at DPRA.

So that's where it all went. I guess I have been pretty busy. And I THINK...I THINK I'm the first of the UMBC Gang to have gotten an advanced degree. Which is ironic since I was not the one with the highest GPA.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ummm...I'll take "seriously? You mean it?" for $200 Alex

I'm listening to WTOP right now and they had a "Keith Richards update" just now;
"The Rolling Stones denied that Keith Richards has brain damage."

Perhaps not from the fall but...c'mon...the man has freakin' embalmed HIMSELF!

Seriously, good thing that was radio. I couldn't say that with a straight face.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Weekend of Trains and Travel

So...I've been on quite a trip.

Friday I took off work and got up at the normal time of 6am.
I was met by a fellow B&O Railroad fan and historical society member at 7:30 and together we embarked on a trip to Willard, OH by way of Altoona, Horseshoe Curve and Gallitzin, PA.

While it was a 9 hour trip to Willard, it was a good trip. First, Horshoe Curve ROCKS! Plenty of trains and a very scenic spot. It's a park with a funicular up to the viewing area, museum, gift shop and bathrooms that well...there are no flush toilets. It looks like a real bathroom, but it just goes down to a septic system below the building. If you drop your keys...they are so gone man. Second, Gallitzin, PA has a nice train viewing park near the Gallitizin tunnels. Very impressive to see a train roar out from a mountainside.

Willard was the site of the 2006 B&O Railroad Historical Society Ohio Mini-Con. Good times. I enjoyed myself and there are plenty of trains in Willard as well. So, I was trained out. It took 7 hours to get home, a more direct route thankfully. We had good weather for the entire trip so that was a major plus.

So now back to the drudgery of work until this weekend when I have to venture once more into the mountains on a mission to Wheeling, WV.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Look out Teldar Paper!

"Greed, for lack of a better term, is good."-Gordon Gecko (played by Michael Douglas)

Today I bought stocks for the first time. It was cool.
I now own little bits of:
Norfolk Southern Corp
Acher Daniels Midland
Genesse and Wyoming Inc
Six Flags Inc
Energy Partners Limited (Jim Cramer recommendation)
Mercantile Bankcorp

So far I'm up $90.


Got some bad news late last night, Louis Rukeyser has passed away.

If you're not familiar with Mr. Rukeyser, well he had a pretty good show on PBS called Wall Street Week that was produced out of MD Public Television in Owings Mills, MD. It's near where I used to work.
(good people, I still have my investments with them.) People would call and say, "Do you see Mr. Rukeyser in town?" These also tended to be people who were fun to work with on the phone, they knew their stuff and asked good questions and they generally had a good attitude about the market.

He was a smart guy who didn't scream or yell (though Jim Cramer does have his good points). But he was witty. For me wit and clever use of language go a long way.

Anyway he got royally screwed over when MPT put a new guy in charge who said "Hey let's go commercial and partner with Money Magazine." Lou said no, in fact he said, "HELL NO!" The bosses at MPT said, "Lou even though you made this show, we're going to screw with it." That's when Lou decided it was time to leave, so he told everyone. In fact he did it on his show, first verbally skewering his boss and then saying, "take this job and shove it," on TV. Then he went to cable with his show, his old boss got fired because of how he turned MPT into crap and then Lou retired because he got sick.

Lou, I'll miss ya!