Monday, July 31, 2006

Good Mail Karma

I like being able to do things for people that I think in some small way will make them feel a bit better for a moment. Perpetuating good things is a good thing, right? Completely unexpected acts, random unsolicited letters or emails, or small gifts are a fun way to show people that you care about them. It is even better when you are able to pull off an act of kindness or giving of a gift completely anonymously.

I tried pull off an anonymous gift recently. The anonymous part failed miserably since I shipped it directly to her and the package included the packing slip and billing information with all my info! Bummer! But the gift itself had a much larger impact than I thought. I received an excited phone call then accolades on her blog which was completely unnecessary, but appreciated. I had no idea that I was also contributing to a Good Mail phenomenon. Check out her blog for info on that. I'm glad I was able to have a small positive impact.

I prefer being anonymous but, since it wasn't, I thought I would post the story and include how the karma is continuing.When I got back from my weekend in Baltimore, I had a package waiting for me. I am now the proud new owner of my very own aquapac bag for my point-and-shoot digital camera. This is the same bag that Tara used to get the great shots of the tubing trip.

She had recently mentioned that she found a great belated birthday gift for me, which I tried to talk her out of. I forgot about that conversation until I saw the little note included on the packing slip. So, it was indeed an unexpected and exciting gift.

Thank you, Tara.

Let's go get wet!

Hopefully the Good Mail Karma will continue to flow freely...

Mid-Summer Night Sweats

Why has this summer seemed so Hot? Is it really any hotter than normal? The news stations keep talking about record heatwaves across the country so I tend to think that it is in fact hotter than normal.

As further evidence, for the next few days there is an official Excessive Heat Watch for the Greater DC area:





Luckily I have been able to sucessfully escape the heat when I return to the indoors unlike some. Sorry Erin! I am really not a fan of the humidity at all. I have always easily sweated in the dry heat that I grew up in. Once you had a touch of humidity my sweat glands seem to go into hyper mode. Not Fun!

I hope everyone is able to find refuge this week.

I think I'm going to try to bring back the sweatband trend.

Anyone with me?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Whatever Floats Your Boat!

Saturday marked an anniversary of sorts for me.

It was at last year's tubing trip that I met a great group of people. Many of which have become great friends throughout this last year. Tara, Lara, Stephanie, Rae, Gwen, Karl, and Georgina were among the fellow floaters last year. There was also a wedding of two people who met on the river and sadly, two float friends past away during this past year.

Tara once again organized the float trip down the Potomac river near Harpers Ferry. It turned out to be an absolutely perfect day to casually float the river on tubes.

Unfortunately we watched the airlift of a girl who had been injured. The process was very interesting, but more interesting was the sideline commentaries from Erin and Joy and their professional assessment of the emergency personnel. Apparently their execution was significantly less than stellar!

Thanks Tara for all the pictues on the water. I am jealous of your new waterproof camera bag. But I probably won't be jealous for very long!

Check out her post and pics.

Jill and I rushed home, showered and went to an Elders Quorum activity that I was partially responsible for. We played some baseball with a soft bat and balls (Nerf style). We had expected about 30 people but only 5 couples (and their kids) showed up. We had a lot fun but we sweated a lot since the wonderful cloud cover we had on the river was gone. We ate hot dogs, chips, lemonade and cookies while we enjoyed the company.

The evening ended with Jill and I returning to Tara's place where we consumed some yummy brownies and ice cream. We tried to watch "The New World" but it was just too painfully slow. After scouring the large Van Atta movie library we settled on "Sneakers" which is still a classic!

It was a very fun, long, event filled day.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

Friday night was one of those summertime evenings with friends that is an absolute must. The carefree enjoyment of a All-American pastime with awesome friends is the epitome of summer fun.

After a long uneventful work week I was really looking forward to a fun weekend. Jill was coming down on Saturday and we were going with friends to float the Potomac river on tubes. But, as I was chatting with Tara I suddenly realized that I had no plans for Friday night. Tara casually asked me fully expecting me to answer that I was headed to Baltimore or that Jill and I already had plans here. It was a sad moment of realization. Luckily, the sadness was very short lived as new plans were instantly created and Anne hooked us up with an awesome diversion.

Anne, Tara, Dan and I enjoyed the summer heat watching the Washington Nationals play the Chicago Cubs in DC. I have been to two Nationals games now (both with Dan and tickets from KPMG). This time we had 'pretty good' seats right behind the homeplate. The hotdogs were great, not because hotdogs are inherently great but because they were stadium dogs. For some reason they taste SO Much better when consumed off your lap while watch the game. It was also free hat night to help celebrate the new opening of the stadium after some remodeling. The game was a bit of rollercoaster with the lead changing a couple of times but our boys in red regained the lead in the bottom of the 8th.

We finished of the evening at Silver Diner with yummy food, ice cream and lots of goofy moments.

Thanks guys!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Buyer's Remorse

I purchase a lot of stuff online and I have had a very good record so far. But I now have made a purchase that just did not live up to my expectations.

After a lot of research and reading reviews I made my choice. It was a very expensive choice but it had all the features I wanted and was a hundred dollars cheaper than the closest comparable alternative.

I had plans to check out the model in a store just to be sure it would work but ended up skipping that step. Oops!

The rolling camera bag/latop case looked very large when I took it out of the shipping box and it looked like the industrial size bag was going to be perfect. But, I was very quickly disappointed by how quickly I used up all of the avaiable space.

Since the primary storage area is intended for an SLR camera, lenses and accessories, there is a lot of extra padding and dividers. This is a good thing. Since I only own a few lenses, I thought this would be an excellent solution for organizing and storing all of my laptop accessories too.

But there just was not enough space, especailly since I have to carry TWO (2) laptops and all their stuff! The hardware for the handle and wheels takes up a lot of space too. The main thing I was missing was a logical location for the items that I need quick access to while on the plane. My MP3 player, noise-cancellation headphones, book/magazines, cell-phone, ID badges, keys, etc have no place to reside that is convenient.

Also, since I have TWO (2) laptops, the whole security screening process at the airports is a BIG deal for me. I need to be able to remove the TWO (2) laptops for their fun-filled ride through the X-ray machine then replace them in the bag in a fairly hassle-free manner. Since the only place I found for my headphones and book was on top of the laptops, it was quite a chore trying to make it through without spilling my stuff everywhere as I juggled everything.

Next disappointment, the single t-bar handle. Besides being a little bit unstable, since it is a single bar, I was not able to place a smaller bag on the roller bag for a ride-along. I am totally sold on the roller bag concept though. Not having the weight of two laptops/power adapters/accessories on my shoulders was heaven.

Access to the camera compartment (and therefore all of my laptop accessories) was hindered by two 'bat-wing' compression straps. It was a major pain to have to unclip them everytime I needed more than a three inch opening. I could not even get my SLR out without unclipping and it is at the very 'top'.

My smaller lens kept launching itself out of the bag. This was more likely my fault for putting it the 'top' of the bag, but it seemed like the perfect spot at the time I was loading everything.

So, we are boarding the plane and I am way in the back and therefore one of the first people on the plane. I get to my seat, unzip the bag, remove my headphones, MP3 player and book and toss them on my seat. I zip up the bag and heave it over my head to be suddenly halted by the miniscule overhead compartment not accepting my behemoth bag. After a couple of tries of removing items and re-arranging, I finally had a plastic bag (politely offered by the flight attendant) full of stuff, including one of the laptops! A fair bit of strong encouragment and the bag finally squished into the compartment. UGH! Flying home I actually packed one of the laptops into my check-in bag just to avoid the hassle!

I spent Saturday shopping around in Irving, TX for alternatives at various stores. I almost bought what I think will be my solution but I wasn't sure how to get everything home easily. I seriously thought about shipping the behometh home in a box.

I had such high expectations that the Lowepro Rolling CompuTrekker Plus AW was going to make my travels so much easier. Blast! Anyway, now I need to figure out what the return policy is on this beast (I'm not very hopeful - Ebay!) and find a place to buy my new rolling computer bag (and separate camera bag).

Hopefully I will be able to recover from this blemish on my record.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Hot, Hot, Hot

I guess I should update my blog with last week's "excitement".

Sorry, no photos this time.
I actually went a whole week without taking any pictures!
And the sad thing is, I had my camera!

Final B-Day Fling-
Thursday, I was able to finally give Jill her birthday present before I left for Ft Worth. I cooked her some chicken and pasta (with bellpepper cream sauce), stuffed mushrooms and bruchetta. Nate and Sara came over and tried to help us finish the pasta but there was still plenty for left-overs. I got stomped (as usual) in other card game. I actually made an amazing 'Tortoise and the Hare' style come-back and could have potentially won on the last hand! Next time you guys are going down!

I spent the weekend in Ft Worth for work. The Computer-Aided-Dispatching servers needed to be updated. We had to schedule the down-time during the least busy time since the National Law Enforcement Control Centers are 24/7. This means we started the work at 5PM on Saturday and were projected to be done by 8AM on Sunday. Luckily everything went smoothly and we were done by 3AM!

Jill contacted one of her Texas childhood friends (Carlyna) and mentioned that I was coming into town. So Friday night Carlyna and her friend Claire picked me up at we went to dinner with about 15 other folks from the singles branch. The food was good and the company was great. A much better evening then my options at the Courtyard.

Carlyna continued to entertain me on Sunday when she had a small dinner party at her house. The pork loin was amazingly tender and her friend Jill (yes, she has two friends named Jill!) brought some yummy salad. The entertaining was stepped up a notch with an impromtu Talent Show. Carlyna and Josh sang a duet accompanied by Logan, Carlyna then sang a solo, then Matt and Josh performed two dances for us! A South African Boot dance and a River dance. It was a bit surreal but they were quite talanted. We played a quick card game of 'Oh Hell' with a very complicated scoring system. We all let Carlyna win since it is her house and she just fed us dinner. Since I was the out-of-town guest, I went the extra mile and made sure that I did not have a positive score value for the entire game!

Food Confessions-
Well what ever resemblence of 'eating better' I may have had before the trip was completely demolished. Out-of-town eating has never been particulary note-worthy (in terms of sticking to an eating routine), but this trip I was particularly weak. Sonic, Whataburger, Fuddruckers, Taco Bueno, Cheddars, Subway, chocolate milkshake , Oreo malt, cookies cream ice cream. BLAH!

Hiding Indoors-
I actually spent a large amount of time this weekend in my hotel room, in bed, hiding from the heat. I was also trying to get some sleep stored up before the all-nighter, then slept-in on Sunday. The temperature was in the low 100s the whole time I was there so the air conditioning was greatly appreciated. At least it was a 'dry heat' so I was not sweating to death.

Chillyn with Jillyn was a nice way to be welcomed home. The upgrade to First Class was nice too! We made banana pancakes and bacon for dinner then worked on her computer and vegged until I drove home (just over an hour when there is no traffic!) Tara kept me company during the drive as she updated me on her life's adventures.

Well I guess that's it.
I won't apologize again for the lame post.
Just know that from now on, it is implied.

dancing screaming
itching squealing
fevered feeling
hot hot hot!!!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

GorillaPod SLR

Woo Hoo!!!!

Joby just released their SLR version of the amazing GorillaPod.

Mine is now on the way.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Jill's Birthday Week Extravaganzas

Jill's birthday celebrations started last Saturday when her friends threw a large surprise party for her complete with wild jungle animals, palm trees, a monkey birthday cake, a hand-drawn birthday card (by Nate) and a candy-filled pinata. I was in Utah at the time but I hear it was a lot of fun and I have seen pictures of the 'Shock and Awe'. Great job Shelly, Donna, Brittany and everyone else who put it on.

One funny antedote is the fact that Jill was truly surprised and never caught on that there was a party planned for her - even after accidentally seeing the following subject line of an eMail from shelly in my inbox: "Jill Kneeland Surprise Bday Party"!

On Saturday morning her friend Rob was celebrating his 50th birthday with a morning run. About 8 of his friends went for 'fun run' along the water front in Baltimore which was advertised as about a 5k route. It was quite far for Jill and I (I'm pretty sure it was more than 5k) but we did it with only a couple of rests.

After the run (and a shower) we headed up to Philly to hang out with Jill's parents. Somehow we were on the topic of manual labor as we pulled up to the house and within moments of meeting the folks I was recruited to help move a couch. Gotta love it!
Donna and Bruce took the 'local' family members (Linda and Toby, Kelly, Jill and me) to lunch and Bahama Breeze to celebrate Jill's birthday. Everyone one but Bruce really enjoyed their food and dessert. I don't think Bruce will be back be anytime soon! They also treated Jill and I to a movie (Superman - too slow and too long) then we headed for home via Cracker Barrel. Thanks!

The only freak-out moment occuried when we went into the kitchen and saw a large print out of one of our 'self-portraits' posted in full color on the refrigerator! And another picture was posted in Donna's home office! I guess they approve!

Church (Baltimore University Ward) was interesting mostly because of the small size of the congregation which gradually increased as the meetings progressed. I joined Rick and Mike and about 5 or 6 others for the first meeting (Priesthood). The small group was gathered together in the back corner of the chapel. I was surprised when the meeting began with a booming voice across the PA system. The leadership was seated on the stand clear across the vast expanse of the chapel, using the mic and pulpit! Way to add that personal feel boys! The lesson was on journal keeping where blogging was referenced several times as a pretty decent method of documenting events in our lives that we don't mind being public, but we should also keep private journals for our posterity to enjoy.

After church we enjoyed the amazingly perfect weather that Jill must have wished for during one of her candle blow-outs. Fort McHenry was a great place to walk around, people watch, take a few pictures, watch someone chasing their loose kite string and relax on the lawn. When we left, the 'free' kite was still flying strong tethered to a tall tree.

The last celebration was a small dinner party at Mike and Brittany's place. This dinner was the result of the quick thinking of Brittany when Jill mentioned that she was just going throw her own small birthday celebration which could have fouled-up the already planned surprise party. Dave and Kerry and Adam and Shanna also joined us for fajitas and cheese cake; enjoyed outside in the completely unseasonably wonderful weather.

Hope you had a great Birthday week Jill. Lot's of people put in some extra effort trying to make sure you did!

Welcome to your third decade!

Here are the rest of the pictures.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Happy Birthday Jill!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Fourth

Sunday I returned to the East Coast.

Monday night Jill hosted a small (10 people) birthday dinner party for her friend Brittany. We made enchiladas, Spanish rice, cheesy refried beans and guacamole. Others brought chicken skewers, salad and cake.

Tuesday found us (and about 20+ others) at Brittany and Mike's house where they hosted a Fourth of July breakfast. Then we headed to Oregon Ridge north of Baltimore to do some hiking with Sara and Nate, Kelly and ?(Sorry, I don't remember), and Adam and Shanna. I think I won the award for "Most Drenched in His Own Sweat". Cold Stone was a great way to end our outing.
After a badly needed shower and some relaxation time we played Sequence with Nate and Sara for a while. Later Jill and I walked down to the waterfront to watch the fireworks in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Wednesday - back to work. Blah.

Here are the rest of the pictures.