Thursday, July 27, 2006


An inspector from the DC Regulatory Authority came over yesterday. He was either tipped off by the presence of a dumpster, or by a neighbor (I have my suspicions). A STOP WORK order is plastered on my front door, a flourescent orange scarlet letter.

Oh, for shame.

It looks like I'll have a chance to use some of my fancy 3D sketch-up I submit them to DCRA for a building permit.

So I still have a 10' wide moat out my back door. And tomorrow is trash day. Hopefully I can take my trash out the normal way by next week or so. (Wishful thinking.)

Anyway, the Monkey Mama is hosting a baby shower this weekend. I know the ladies will instantly be in a festive mood when they see the STOP WORK order upon their arrival.


Tour de Petworth

Every ride home is a race.

I usually leave myself no more than 15 minutes to get home from work on my bicycle, yet our in-home childcare provider (nanny, I guess) should not be kept from leaving at the appointed hour. These days, we always have hot weather. And regardless of the season, I always have to contend with The Hill: the escarpment that separates lower DC from upper DC. (It was once the bank of the primordial Potomac!)

I fight my way out of traffic and get as far east as I can before I tackled The Hill. At 13th Street and 15th Street it's at its steepest, and west of there is too congested. (14th Street is a saddle that is not so steep, but it carries a lot of traffic too.) 10th Street (Sherman) is pretty gradual, but 11th Street has a bike lane and not too many cars. So I try to make every light -- give or take the occasional red -- and boogie up 11th.

And then I just keep spinning.

It's around this time that I usually invoke the name of Lance Armstrong, or lately Floyd Landis. What's impressive to me about bike racing is that the riders set a pace that makes their legs scream...and hold it. Up mountains. During heat. Through sheer force of will. Ultimately, you race against yourself. (And everyone loses except the winner.)

Update: Floyd Landis is suspected of doping because he has high testosterone levels. (Duh! He just won the Tour de France!)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Porch Blogging, Day Six

Maybe I don't want a back porch anymore. It's kind of a nice feeling to have a 10-foot wide, 4'+ deep *moat* in the back yard. Our neighborhood as some crime concerns, and nothing says safety like a *moat*. (Unless you're trying to take the trash out the back door.)

Or heck, maybe instead of a back porch, I want a whole new 200 sq.foot foundation poured. There has been almost enough excavation.

Friday night, I even got to sling a little dirt. They had three guys on the job, but one went home at around 6pm. (He was probably overcome by the still-ridiculous heat we are suffering.) Whether it was the temperature or the sheer scale of the work required, 6pm saw my backyard still full of dirt. The dumpster was not full, and yet it needed to be full before its pickup.

With two workers, these guys were going to be shoveling past 10pm. (They said as much.) When the Monkey Mama came home at around 6:15pm, I put on some gloves and went outside to help. First, I didn't want these guys out there with the baby sleeping and the Monkey Mama and me trying to wind down from the week. Second, the tight logistic window on the dumpster was due to the fact that I am working without permits, and the presence of the dumpster might attract regulatory curiosity. I wanted to help them help me. Third, I was pretty jealous of the work they were getting to do. Fourth, I was probably guilty about the work they were having to do. But even the contractor came by and started digging. (Making his crew work alone until 10pm is probably unsupportable.)

We were done in two hours.

Two hours of aerobic and anaerobic labor was just right. I got a blister and some scrapes, but it was a good workout and I was only minimally sore. I felt great the next morning. Of course, 2 hours is not 12 hours, and the relative cool of the evening is not the searing heat of the day. Anyway, they were glad to have my help. Having one live shovel can speed things up a lot, just in terms of the wheelbarrow logistics, etc.

Intentionally Misleading?

The family was shopping at Great Beginnings yesterday, purchasing a few items for some friends' baby shower. There was a room off to the side filled with furniture, with a sign that read:


Let's just say that "Huge Blowout" is an attention grabber for most of the moms and dads shopping at the store.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


The Monkey Mama noticed it as we were putting the Monkey to bed tonight: he was singing.

They were "baa baa" nonsense words, but there was a definite change in pitch, and the pulses of his gibberish seemed to follow roughly along with the beats of songs in his songbook.

The Monkey Mama had to shush me so that I could hear it too. The Monkey Mama was also first to notice his 7th tooth breaking the gumline. He's been close for a while, but the bottom left tooth one out from the middle is now showing.

Back when I was the full-time stay-at-home dad, these are both the sorts of things that I would have noticed first. I'm happy to share these fun discoveries, but it does make me a little nostalgic (for last month).

Monday, July 17, 2006

Poobah Pow-wow

I swapped work days with the Monkey Mama so that I could attend a meeting with some poobahs downtown. It was interesting. And apparently one of the big projects that my team at work is getting underway is in near-perfect synchronicity with an even bigger initiative across nearly all departments of the federal government. So that's good timing, and there will be an audience for what we produce. But the stakes have been raised: poobahs don't like to wait, and they don't like to settle for inferior quality product. I always get a little nervous at these types of meetings: the tendency to overpromise at a meeting is always there. But you've got to make a splash, right? Anyway, there were at least two layers of poobah between me and the head honcho poobah, so I mostly kept my mouth shut.

I definitely don't mind working: it's pretty fun to be working on a challenging project that might have an impact.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Good Luck

Good luck to anyone who might be having a baby tonight.

Rug Doctor

A Rug Doctor:

IS a portable carpet and upholstery cleaning system
IS NOT a real doctor
IS reasonably effective at removing dirt
IS NOT easy to move around the house
IS prone to leaking soapy water all over the floor
IS NOT too hard on the pocketbook
IS essentially maintenance free
IS NOT very good at removing stains
IS pretty loud
IS NOT a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Boys Night In

It's just me and the Monkey tonight: Monkey Mama has flown the coop. I hope she's enjoying mojitos and salsa music on her girls night out. But I prefer to see the glass half-full: boys night in.

Accordingly, red meat and red wine for dinner. Hell, I even cooked myself some beets.

And while the meat seared on the grill, I stood atop a pile of sticky clay and surveyed the wreckage that is our backyard.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Porchblogging, Day Four

Staying home on Tuesday and observing the work in progress, I got the shakes. The technology being used to excavate 10 feet by 20 feet by 3 1/2 feet of heavy wet clay soil is the following:

One dude, one shovel, one wheelbarrow.

And because it was a Code Orange heat advisory kind of day, there was one gallon of water.

For Day Four, they scaled it up to two workers and two shovels per wheelbarrow. And they have pretty much finished it. Only the stairs to go.

The dog is even more concerned than she looks in this photo. I think she realized that the project has reached the "Point of 'Whoa'". That's the point at which you say "Whoa," and start thinking about how to do less demolition and more construction. Every project has a Point of Whoa. I'm glad I can just shut my eyes for another day or two and we will be on our back from the Point.

700 cubic feet of dirt makes an impressive pile, no? I just hope they take it away before Friday...trash day. How else am I going to get my trash and recycling through the gate?

Porchblogging, Day Two

(First photo) After the second day of excavation, this is what you get. A hole in the ground. The low part with the water is 3 1/2 feet deep.

(Second photo)I thanked the worker for his care in digging up and repotting some begonias and hostas. If they had ended up at the bottom of a pile of dirt, I wouldn't have been disappointed. But I appreciated the care with which he preserved them.

The dog looks concerned.

(Third photo) Miraculously, this gladiola survived. It was quite a sight, poking out from between a pile of heavy wet clay dirt and a pile of busted up concrete.

Economist Stuff

Some of my interlibrary loans came in today. Science for Agriculture: A Long-Term Perspective 2nd ed. by Huffman and Evenson (Blackwell, 2006) and Confronting the Nation's Water Problems: The Role of Research (NAS, 2003). So I got some good reading done.

I spent most of my day with the latter. It was a useful background on U.S. federal water policy, and confirmed (or at least didn't contradict) a working hypothesis I have about the direction I should take my research.

Unfortunately, my research organization doesn't "do" working papers. And it doesn't "do" econblogging. And it doesn't "do" a lot of open, informal airing of opinions and sketched out hypotheses.

So that's why I mostly keep that stuff off this blog. But I just thought I'd let my readers know that I am finding my groove at work and getting engaged with a few interesting projects.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Crazy Diamond

For no reason in particular, I was thinking about Syd Barrett on Friday during my bike ride home from work. He was the psychedelic leader of Pink Floyd before they made it really big, but cracked up from the combined pressures of touring and drug abuse. (This is more than 30 years ago.)

Anyway, news came down the wire today that he is now on "Interstellar Overdrive". Which is to say, he died Friday.

Whenever a coincidence like that happens, I try to think about all the coincidences that didn't happen. But still, that's weird.

(I don't know what's with the rock music-influenced posts these days.)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Senators I have seen, and their relative heights

Leaving Washington DC National Ronald Reagan Airport on our way back from Quebec, we saw Majority Leader Senator Dr. Bill Frist. That brings the number of senators I have seen while living in Washington DC (2) closer to the number of broadcast journalists I have seen (3). The others are: Senator Clinton (leaving "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" in Dupont), Chris Matthews, Ted Koppel (both in Dupont), and Gwen Ifill (at Logan Circle Whole Foods).

Bill Frist is tall. So is Chris Matthews. Hillary Clinton, not so much. Gwen Ifill is tall for a woman (but shorter than Frist). Ted Koppel is short of stature.

Unleash the Dragoons!

Although not wishing to date myself -- owing to Internet privacy concerns rather than modesty -- I can't help but pass along this information. Using this link, you can look up the #1 single and #1 album the day you were born.

And the #1 single was..."Amazing Grace," by The Pipes & Drums & Military Band of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. Surreal. Bagpipes were the #1 single the day I was born.

The #1 album: "Machine Head," by Deep Purple. (Includes "Smoke on the Water" and "Space Truckin'"...can't hate that.)

Also sharing my birthday:
Donovan (1946)...wild about saffron
Sly Dunbar (1952) ...of the Family Stone?
Dave Mason (1947)...of Traffic
Sid Vicious (1957)...that's more like it
Paul Hewson aka "Bono" (1960)...I ROCK!!!

Sketchup Deck Plans

The geniuses at Google have come up with free 3d modelling software called SketchUp. It is, as my friend wrote me, addictive. Here are a couple of renderings of the deck as I envision it.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Murky Water

I don't know how often a stranger watches the Monkey at play and says, "He's going to need a bath tonight."

Today, he was dirty at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain in Dickerson, Maryland (at the foot of which is a neat new winery, by the way). Last week, he was dirty in the Isle d'Orleans at a cafe in Quebec. Tomorrow, he'll be dirty somewhere else.

We want him to play as often as he wants, to engage with the world. And the world is dirty.

I'm proud to say that he needs a bath every day.

Holy Guacamole

The Monkey Mama and I were eating a lunch of burritos the other day while the Monkey slept. They were pretty good, but we were still vaguely unsatisfied. I looked over at the fruit bowl and saw some amazing, ripe avocados.

"Do you want some avocado with your burrito?"
"But those are the Monkey's avocados."
"We can get more. Anyway, they might go bad before he eats all of them."

There is something especially pleasing about eating your kid's lunch.

And the avocados were good.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Porch Progress

Progress has slowed down a bit since the initial rush (doesn't it always?) but here are some photos of the work. (I'll save a before-and-after until "after.")

One thing that has endeared me to this crew: they repotted my hostas and begonias (annuals, even!) as they demolished part of the yard. Miraculously, they even left a gladiola standing amidst the rubble.


Here are a few pictures of the bookshelves I built for the Monkey's room this winter. The construction is 3/4" Baltic birch plywood with solid maple edging. I milled the crownmould and basemould from solid pieces of maple. All stained and then finished with hand-rubbed polyeurethane.

And we're back...

Sorry that blogging has been light for my regular readers. It's not that I don't have anything to write; it's that the new schedule, work, travel, and family time cut into my more solitary pursuits.

I'll have more to say about our trip to Quebec City coming up. For now, I'll share two moments:

The Best Moment: Eating breakfast at L'Omlette with the Monkey and the Monkey Momma. There was a high chair, so we could both enjoy our bottomless cups of coffee. The food was fine, good breakfast chow. But what made it so special was just watching the Monkey. He was feeding himself bits of toast, egg, and fruit...and 100% of the food was going in his mouth. He was dextrous, coordinated, smiling, hungry, and pleasant breakfast companionship. He responded to the horse-drawn carriages passing by outside by giving us the Monkeysign for "Horsie." It was a chance for the Monkey Momma and me to reflect on just how well the Monkey is integrating his mind, body, and spirit. He's really coming together.

The Worst Moment: Outside the wedding, keeping the Monkey entertained while the Monkey Momma enjoyed herself inside. That's not what made it bad, though: the grounds outside were beautiful, green, and littered with croquet and bocce instruments. It's that I pulled a mosquito off the Monkey's brow, squeezed it, and saw my son's bright red blood. Yuck. I hated that.

(Later on was perhaps the cutest moment. At the wedding, he slept in the reclined stroller with a blanket draped over the top...only his little dirty feet poking out through the bottom. Cute!)