Monday, June 26, 2006

So when do the pairs of animals come?

Lake Drive in Manassas, VA flooded by Bull Run CreekOkay so maybe that's a little extreme, but it has been raining a lot here in the DC area this week. This photo is one I took of the road near my house when it was closed because of a flash flood.

The water was careening over the road so fast that the fire department had no choice (apparently) but to close the road.

Maybe it was the ten tons of crap in the creek - tires, chairs, lawn furniture, tree limbs and other stuff - that blocked the drains. But it finally got the illuminati from VDOT to come down and take a look at things. I hope it wasn't too little to late.

They had the road blocked on both sides of my house. Cornelia and I had been out to some appointments and when we got home, we couldn't get to our house! It was such a helpless feeling, and there was really no way to get past the fire trucks - or the water. This was a flood of the first degree, muddy water rushing over the road and down the (too small and clogged) culverts in our neighborhood. And there was nothing we could do to get past, so we decided to go to lunch and wait to see if the water would subside.

But an hour later it had not. So we parked the car and decided to go around. We went to a higher street in our neighborhood, and walked through the woods - getting quite soggy in the process I might add - and finally emerged beyond the creek and behind a neighbor's house. Our main concern was getting home because the dog had not been let out for almost six hours by the time we got home. We saw that the road had cleared enough for us to retrieve our car and then we drove home and felt quite relieved.

But the feeling of helplessness was really crappy. I can't imagine what it would be like if we were in the situation some folks have encountered in DC and other areas - with building inspectors tagging their houses with "Condemned" stickers. That would be unbelievable. I had a sh***y attitude today even though we made it home. But I cannot imagine if we had to leave the house and not come back until it was all cleaned out and cleared by electricians and building inspectors and gas company people.

And the forecast is for more rain and thunderstorms for at least a couple of days. Now watch, some idiot will say this is God's punishment on America for wickedness or something stupid like that.

But right now I am thanking God that I made it home and that my wife - and my dog - are safe.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Back from the Beach

Sunrise, Virginia Beach, Va (c) DbyrdSo I just got back from Virginia Beach, where I was taking a class. The sand and sun are just heating up, and the water is still below 70 degrees, but it was the BEACH. Now if you want to preserve that beach body, I have found something that will help - Weight Watchers chocolate chip muffins. That's right, muffins.

These things are as chocolaty as you would want, and they are lower in calories that your standard comfort food. But the only place I could find them was Farm Fresh in Virginia Beach! Needless to say, I loaded up. But Weight Watchers' website says that Safeway sells them. I will have to find out, because my lovely wife LOVES chocolate, but like me, she has to watch it or the weight monster will jump on her back.

So we have taken to eating the Weight Watchers stuff, and believe me, these things help preserve your sanity. If chocolate is not your thing, they also have them in Blueberry and other flavors. But the main thing is that they help drive away that "I've got to have something SWEET" feeling that you get.

So eat up, and enjoy. They are great with coffee, especially if you nuke them in the microwave for 15 seconds and put a little fat-free Cool Whip topping them. Bon Appetit!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Wilson Bridge Adventures

Kalmar Nuckel (C)
I got the chance yesterday (Wednesday) to take my first trip across the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge south of Washington. The contrast between the new span and the old one is stunning.

Some of you might say "Huh? Why the h*** is he writing about a bridge?" But I had the chance to take a real close look at the old span on my way home because two tall ships - one of them the Kalmar Nyckel pictured here - and the other the Schooner Sultan - had to pass into Old Town Alexandria and the bridges had to open. As far as I am concerned, God bless the men and women who worked on the new bridge cause the old one's a piece of crap!

In Tuesday's Washington Post, the erstwhile commentators wrote that "The new crossing is the product of the labor of some 1,400 workers now at the site, plus the efforts of hundreds or thousands more engineers, planners and officials over the past 20 years. It is a great achievement. And, considering the old span's cracking girders, rusting rebar and crumbling concrete, it is a relief."

Cracking, rusting, crumbling - that pretty much characterizes the old Wilson bridge. It was finished in 1961, and man does this rattletrap show its age. It has no shoulders, it's deck is pockmarked with enough potholes to make 1916 Verdun look like a smooth tabletop, and the backups are legendary on both sides.

The Post writes of the new span, "At a cost of $2.44 billion, the new Wilson Bridge -- six lanes down, six lanes to come on a second span in summer 2008 -- is among the nation's biggest infrastructure projects. Its eventual capacity of 295,000 vehicles per day is about four times that of the decrepit span it will replace."

But Wednesday I and a few thousand of my closest friends were caught in another backup to let these two beautiful tall ships cross under the span.

This one, the Kalmar Nyckel, can be booked for all kinds of stuff, including parties, weddings, corporate functions, etc. They also do public sails, but I think this week, most of the sailings are charters. Even so, it might be worth it.

I originally thought it was the Godspeed, which is sailing the East Coast to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Jamestown's founding. The two ships are of a comparable era, but the Godspeed is in New York this week.

According to "The original Kalmar Nyckel was one of America's colonial ships. The current version of the Kalmar Nyckel is owned and operated by a non-profit organization that offers sea and land based learning and recreational opportunities. The tall ship Schooner Sultana is a full-sized reproduction of the 1767 schooner Sultana that served as a cargo schooner."

If you get the chance, check out the Alexandria Water Front Festival. They plan to have jazz, food, tall ships of course, and other fun stuff. Admissions is $10 per adult, $5 for children 2-12 years old and children under 2 are free.

Friday, June 09, 2006

What's your dirt look like?

Book Cover by
I have been reading a book called Tired of Trying to Measure Up? by a guy named Jeff Van Vonderen. And it has been a revelation. He uses an example of the things in our lives that people see - good and bad things - as plants planted in dirt. And he asks an interesting question: what determines the life of the plant? Is it the plant? Nope, it's the dirt.

And if the soil of your life is shame or performance orientation or anything other than God, you are trying to get life out of a dead thing.

He also uses the example of his dad's funeral. People were saying "he looks so alive!" but his dad was as dead as a stone. And there are a lot of us who are masquerading as alive when we're not. Or those who call themselves Christians - people who are supposed to have the Life of God living in them - still act like dead folks.

I would definitely recommend adding it to the reading list.

Monday, June 05, 2006

With a little help from our friends ....

Cornelia at the finish line Cornelia competed in a triathlon this week - not an Iron Man or anything like that, just a mini-tri - 250 meters of swimming about four miles of biking and a mile and a half of running.

And she did pretty well finishing 7th in her age group.

But she said something that I thought was pretty profound - that even the smallest amount of encouragement made a huge difference. And that was in a small event in Manassas, and the encouragement came from strangers. What if someone you knew actually said encouraging things to you?

The word encourage literally means "to put courage into." The dictionary says it means to "inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence." It is the opposite of discourage - which means to take courage out of.

The Bible has a word that holds a similar meaning - edify. [For the Greek scholars out there, it's oikodome] It literally is a term taken from the building trades and means the act of building or building up. It also means "to increase the potential of someone or something with the focus on the process involved; to strengthen."

I was standing by the road as the cyclists were buzzing by during this triathlon, and I was clapping and shouting encouragement to them. And one guy - who I think ended up winning or being in at least the top three - as he whizzed past me looked up and said "thank you." This guy was a stranger, someone I didn't know, but he appreciated the encouragement.

And Cornelia told me the same thing. She said that when she was running, there were many times she thought of quitting. There were many times that she wanted to stop running and start walking, but she wanted to finish. And she did, as you can see in the picture. What made the difference? Encouragement. Just about the time she wanted to stop, someone - some stranger - would say "c'mon now you can do it!" Or the family members lining the route would begin to clap and cheer.

And when you got to the finish line, people would be cheering you and encouraging you - people who didn't know your name, but knew that you were in the race. And a scripture that kept going through my head as she said this was from the book of Hebrews:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.(Heb 12:1)

Often times I am not an encourager. Often times I am more of a critic. But that takes courage out of people. It tears them down. My brother calls it "joining the Dark Chorus." If I have done that to anyone reading this, forgive me. I don't always get it right. Often times I get it wrong. But I did learn something - something that I will probably have to learn again, but something important nonetheless.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Talk About a Caped Crusader

The New Batwoman (c) DC Comics So the New batwoman is gay. Her name is the same - Kathy Kane - but she is a lipstick lesbian in the new DC Comics series "52". Apparently the straight one - who once tried to hook up with Batman - was killed off in 1979 by the League of Assassins and the Bronze Tiger - a black man who has anger control problems and is a master of several martial arts.

And the new one is a smokin' hot lesbian who is also a Gotham City socialite. And she still has the tight outfit and the hot bod - like all the comic characters - to appeal to the teenaged boys in the audience.

According to the story lines, Kathy Kane is a lesbian socialite in Gotham City after Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman have split the scene. She has had a love affair with another character in the series, Renee Montoya, who is a former police detective who was approached by Two-face, Batman's former nemesis, etc., etc.

So the editors at DC Comics, Dan DiDio, said "We're trying for overall diversity in the DC universe. We have strong African-American, Hispanic and Asian characters. We're trying to get a better cross-section of our readership and the world."

So look for more diverse characters including the Blue Beetle a Mexican character, as well as black and Asian superheroes. But remember - this is all to get you to buy stuff, specifically comic books but also the stuff that advertisers put in the comics, and we're not talking about Charles Atlas's muscle program. It's a multimillion dollar business, so remember all this - the gay character, the tight clothes, the adventure stories, the mixture of intrigue and even alternate universes - are to get you to buy a product.

It's almost as bad as Cisco Systems' blatant ad in the final episode of "24" this season, where Audrey IM's the black admiral at Point Magoo to scramble fighter planes. Right in the middle of Audrey Raines's screen is a big white graphic of the Cisco Systems logo. Remember, it's all about the Benjamins, baby.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Welcome to Hurricane Season

Hurricane Katrina August 28, 2005 (c)nasaSo it's here. Hurricane season. New Orleans is still not rebuilt and if you don't have flood insurance, get some. The thing you need to remember when it comes to the storm season - you are pretty much on your own. Don't look for Uncle Sammy to rush to the rescue, even if Katrina did show the weaknesses of the government response.

According to the National Hurricane Center, "The outlook calls for a very active 2006 season, with 13-16 named storms, 8-10 hurricanes, and 4-6 major hurricanes. The likely range of the ACE index is 135%-205% of the median. This prediction indicates a continuation of above-normal activity that began in 1995." The ACE is the Accumulated cyclone Energy index, which accounts for the intensity and duration of Atlantic storms. If you want to read all the science stuff, click above.

As far as flood insurance goes, FEMA - you remember them from Katrina - has put all kinds of information on their website. They have this thing called "Test the Waters" which estimates what it would cost should a certain level of water enter your home. It's really funky, and scary if you live near a body of water like I do.

Also, the FEMA folks have added a tool that will allow you to assess your risk of flooding and will take you to a list of insurance agents in your area.

The whole thing should sober you up a little.

As far as emergency preparedness, you know for when it his the fan, your county has probably issued some kind of guide. I know Prince William county, Virginia has one. These things list the kind of stuff you should have in an emergency - water, flashlight, energy bars, ponchos, wind up radio, blankets, first aid kit -- all that stuff and some even have lists that you can check off when you get everything.

So hang on, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.