30 June 2007


Ponder on those mostly-flightless birds.

Video #1: Chickens, flash mob style.

Video #2: Whatever you do, keep the chickens HAPPY.

Hmm... maybe I need more sleep!

29 June 2007

How much coincidence is too much coincidence?

A few days ago I had a very odd experience. I was driving home from work in my new car, and looked over at a car in the lane next to me. "Wow, that looks like my old car." It passed me. I noted the old Riverhouse and GWU stickers in the rear window. "Wow. That IS my old car!!" The car ended up driving directly in front of me for a while. Then it made the same turn as me... And then it turned into the same complex as me! Given that I've seen the car parked here since then, it appears that my old car just happens to have been sold to some guy who lives in this same place. I guess that means the dealership fixed the car, rather than selling it for parts...

Weird, though. My old car is haunting me!

27 June 2007

A string of pearls. Or a string in Perl?

Last week I went to Chicago for a class on Perl (that's Practical Extraction and Report Language). Interestingly, it turned out to be the most useful class I've taken in the past 5 or so years. I only wish I'd learned Perl sooner--I can think of all too many occasions when it would have come in very handy.

I found Perl to be a surprisingly intuitive scripting language. No need to mess with variable types or pre-defined parameter passing. I now know it's a language for people like me. As the instructor kept saying, "We are lazy. We're Perl programmers." Shortcuts everywhere! What started out as bunches of lines of code could always be reduced to something like:

while(<>) {

That's a perfectly legitimate and complete script, fyi. $_ rocks. Plus, Perl has great concepts like chomping, slurping, slices, and "anonymous arrays." On some level it made me worry that I'll have to develop an appreciation for carbonated beverages (yuck) and junk food (okay, so I already have that appreciation) to understand the language at a deeper level.

Can't wait to put this dangerous knowledge to good use... :)

18 June 2007

A good reason to be crabby

Imagine you're sitting on the beach, or maybe in the water, enjoying a nice chicken meal. Suddenly someone swoops down, throws you into some uncomfortable container, and drags you into the kitchen to become their dinner. Kind of a morbid thought, eh? Well, that's precisely what we did to a dozen or so Maryland blue crabs this weekend.

I spent the weekend in Maryland with assorted family members. We were on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake, staying in a house designed by (and formerly inhabited by) famous architect Arthur Cotton Moore. Hmmm... why do I always want to add "Sir" before his name? Anyway, he is known for his "industrial baroque" style. He was the brains behind renovations of such Washington D.C. buildings as the Old Post Office Building and the Library of Congress. His house, described in 2005 by the Washington Post as a "stainless steel mansion," is a very distinctive waterfront property. Here are some pictures:

It's supposed to be hurricane-proof due to the shape of the roof. It is not, however, flood-proof.
This is the view from inside the main house:

I stayed in this building, which used to be the studio. Think of it as something more like the "servants' quarters" now.

Lots of wildlife in the area. Good sunset views as well. Examples:

Yes, deer.

Duck, duck, goose.

Very patriotic.

Check out those eyes.

Column of geese.

Just before the sun sets.

Just after the sun sets.

And then there was the blue crab experience. Maryland blue crabs like to eat chicken necks. Ultra fresh blue crabs taste great. Here is the complete traumatizing experience:

All she wanted to do was smash the crabs with her mallet:

Lesson learned: despite the fact that it made for a good meal, I still prefer living in a world of denial, in which I eat meat that doesn't look like the animal it came from...

In other news, I bought an orchid at the farmers market in St. Michaels. I keep wanting to refer to it as a fern. Hmm... perhaps I should name my orchid Fern to reduce future confusion. Do people name their plants? Whatever. This is Fern, the Orchid:

15 June 2007

Vegemite. Or vegemite not.

Five pictorial reasons Australia is worth the long flights down under:

Reason #5: The landscape

Is it a forest fire? No, it's an amazing sunset!

Misty scene from a moving car. Grr, stupid power lines through the picture! Can you believe we drove from Canberra to Sydney?!

The man-made landscape isn't bad either!

Reason #4: The jumping marsupials

Kangaroos are delicious.

Reason #3: The opportunity to visit my niece and nephew on the way

Aren't they cute?

Plus I got this interesting picture just before the plane landed in LA:

Reason #2: The food

I do all my breakfast cereal shopping in Australia now. You can buy Weet-Bix in the US, but not Fruity Weet-Bix.

Australian snack foods are better than American snack foods. Hooray for hazelnuts and blackcurrants! Um, not necessarily together... Though I must say, I don't know why Australians have such strong opinions on Starburst candies!

Australian candies are very different than Swedish candies, which tell you what ISN'T inside. For instance, this is apparently not chocolate.

Reason #1: The birds

This kookaburra seemed totally uninterested in us.

I love sulphur-crested cockatoos.

Have I mentioned that I like sulphur-crested cockatoos?

Sulphur-crested cockatoos... they have such personality. I'd get one if they weren't so darn loud!

This is not an ugly duckling.

12 June 2007

Things around town

Apparently the Kennedy Center is attempting to attract a different sort of subscriber: Young nerds. Fascinating. Even more fascinating that I really want to attend both of these events. See here:

- Event #1: The Tiny Ninja Theater performs Shakespeare, on the Millenium Stage. Today and tomorrow it's Macbeth, and Wednesday and Thursday it's Romeo and Juliet. Looks like I'm going tomorrow. What is Tiny Ninja Theater? Oh, just check the hyperlink. You can't expect me to waste my time retyping it all!

- Event #2: National Symphony Orchestra: Video Games Live. That's right -- they're performing theme songs from famous video games!! I really have to go to this. Why is it so hard to find someone who wants to go with me?? Oh, yeah... high nerd factor.

BTW, a note to those people who call themselves my friends and family. Why didn't anyone tell me there was a pirate reality tv show?? SOMEONE must have come across it. Thanks a lot. Good thing my DVR and I happened upon it. Imagine the sorrow if I had missed the entire season. That reminds me... I still haven't seen Pirates of the Caribbean III. My sad life...

11 June 2007

A word of advice

Don't schedule travel that takes you across the International Date Line on your birthday. It makes for a long and very boring day (20+ hours of air travel!).

What was I thinking?? I could easily have spent one more day in beautiful Australia!

More later... :)

01 June 2007

Rudolph the Red Nosed Main Dish

In my job, I have learned the importance of addressing key points and main themes right at the beginning of whatever I'm writing. For that reason, I have decided to bury my explanation of the title of this blog deep within the text.

OK, on to the important stuff: highlights of this latest trip to Denmark and Sweden. Complete with pictures. My hotel was just around the corner from Nyhavn, which is this lovely area:

We visited Tivoli Gardens a few times. It's mostly an amusement park, but the "Gardens" part is an accurate descriptor. Here are some flower samples.

I've never seen tulips like this before:

More tulips:

And for some reason I kinda like the perspective on this one:

I opted not to ride on the crazy "world's tallest carousel":

On this trip, I learned that Danes have unusual pets. For instance, this woman appeared to be walking a mouse. Whatever it was, it was about an inch tall. Oops, forgot to use the metric system. Whatever it was, it was about 2.5 cm tall.

I got a good pastry shop recommendation. If you want excellent danishes, try Lagkagehuset:

This part is the explanation of the subject line. You will find that Santa won't be bringing me any gifts this year. I can forget about even getting coal or other less attractive gifts with possible market resale value; after this, I think he may have put a hit out on me. Why? Well, we ended up having dinner one night at a restaurant that served grilled reindeer. I ordered it, and it was REALLY GOOD. Who knew!! I don't know why Santa bothers to keep the reindeer around anyway. He should be serving them for dinner, not flying with them!

Moving on, I spent part of one of my days in Sweden, where I visited Lund (a university city) and Malmö. Through postcards in those fine cities I learned psychically that my sister Emily is destined to marry the Prince of Sweden. I mean, really, how could she refuse?

The Cathedral in Lund had this amazing 14th century astronomic clock:

I squandered most of my time in Lund because I had this craving for Swedish meatballs. Seriously, how can you visit Sweden without having Swedish meatballs? The restaurant menus were all in Swedish, and I was feeling introverted, so I ended up ordering my fine meal in a local 7-11. The guy behind the counter heated my fine Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes in the microwave, then added what turned out to be a delicious lingonberry sauce. I couldn't find a place to sit to eat my gourmet meal, and it had started raining. I wandered over to the main square, where some sort of peaceful protest in honor of the Palestinian/Serbian/Tibetan/other misc separatist movements was taking place. I ended up on a bench that turned out to be right by the very animated speakers, and there I sat, shoveling down the food so I'd have sufficient time to catch the bus.

In Malmö I did a whole bunch of walking. I also made a stop at the local H&M. It's a Swedish chain, so how could I not do my shopping there? If I had seen an Ikea, I would have purchased a souvenir lamp or bed or something. Good thing I didn't come across any. Malmö also has a number of odd statues, such as:


Eventually we crossed the Øresund Bridge, and the trip (and depressing stories about bloody conflicts between Swedes and Danes) ended. This is the bridge:

When we got back, I contemplated having a little bit of (nerd warning) Foo-cacia, but ultimately returned to the hotel.

On my last day in Denmark I spent the day collecting photographs. For instance...

...the great dragon statue thingie on a building:

...a better picture of my beloved "Students Swapping Signs" drawing:

...a picture of the former engagement ring that Søren Kierkegaard had given to Regine Olsen.

I didn't get any good pictures of the ring last time I was there. I do have to correct the record, though. Here's the "correct" story of the ring:

In closing, I just want to say that I love lilacs. There were lots and lots of lilacs in Denmark and Sweden. Lovely...

The end.