Monday, February 26, 2007

Baltimore Celebration

Saturday we had a wake up call.

Not in a bad way, just a realization.

More of a "Wow it is almost here!" kind of realization.

It started off with Jill and I dashing out to Frederick, MD to sign the paper work for our new apartment.

Since we (read as I) have been unsuccessful at finding any employment in Utah and we thought it would be a nice idea to actually live in the same place once we are married, we started looking for housing options a few weeks ago. The two areas that we were looking at were the mid-way points between our two jobs. So it was either Silver Spring/Rockville area on the Beltway or Frederick in the 'country'.

We figured that the Beltway commute would be about 25-30 miles (each way) which translated to a 1 to 2 hour commute (depending on traffic and weather) for both of us and the rent started at about $1100+/month for a basement apartment or about $1200+/month for a one bedroom in a run down neighborhood (read as potentially scary both inside and out).

The Frederick option will be about 50+ miles each which way or about an hour commute for both us without any major impact of traffic (there is some but not the same as I95/I495/267). We found a one bedroom with den built just over a year ago for just over $1100/month which we are very excited about.

While looking for apartments we kept seeing nice places that would have been great and priced well but they just didn't feel right. When we walked into this one I knew immediately that this one was going to the top of the list. It did not take much discussion as we drove back to complex office to decide that we both felt really good about this place. We just hope that the increased gas usage on our commutes will not sink us!

Once everything was settled at the complex and we put a few things into our new apartment, we raced back to Baltimore to attend the first of our three wedding related celebrations.

The Baltimore crew (lead by Brittany, Mike, Shelly and others) threw a big party for us. It started out as a shower for Jill, then a Jack (aka Corey) and Jill shower, then an engagement party of sorts, then an open house thing then just a big party. I don't know what it really was, we just called it a Celebration! And it was great.

They did an amazing job decorating the Cultural Hall to try to disguise the fact that it was a Cultural Hall. No fluorescent lighting was allowed to be on. All lighting was provided by lamps and white Christmas lights.

Jill and I were able to practice being the center of attention for a few hours. Definitely not our normal comfort zone.

Jill's family (from the Philly area) made the trip down and Matt and Cami came up from Richmond. We had lots of friends from the Baltimore area and there were a few from the DC area also. Jill's bosses were also there and it was nice to meet them and chat about their upcoming Utah ski trip.

Jill's brother-in-law Toby (soon to be mine also) was volunteered to captured the memories using my camera. Thanks Toby.

The food was great with a wide variety of choices: meatballs, popcorn chicken, chicken skewers, mini quiches, taquitos, and chicken salad sandwiches. Plus lots of fresh fruit, cheese and crackers and spinach dip. And of course some great choices to satisfy the sweet tooth also.

It is a bit overwhelming to be the recipients of such kindness and love. Brittany, Shelley and the rest went above and beyond. Thanks to everyone who helped out and all those who came to visit with us.

Here are the rest of the pictures.

Less than 4 weeks left!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Brittany's Swim Meets

I forgot to post about Brittany's swim meets.

While I was in Utah, a couple of weeks ago, she had two events.

One at BYU against Wyoming and one at the UofU against Utah.

It was a real challenge to try to get decent pictures with the lighting in the pools.

Plus I was sitting up in the bleachers using a zoom lens.

For the Utah event, several of us rode TRAX from Sandy up to the U.

Maya and Isabelle really enjoyed that.

We had a pretty large cheer section for Brittany as most of the family was able to be there.

Brittany did really well, winning her individual events and making up some huge ground in the relays.

Check out the write-up on the BYU site.

Brittany is the featured picture for the article!

"BYU started out winning the 200-medley relay with swims from Brittany Davis-Burk, Jamie Bloom, Angela Goodson and Leilani Roberts (1:45.52). Davis-Burk then collected the next two Cougar first places by sweeping both the 100 (57.35) and 200 (2:03.64) backstroke events."

Here is a report from

There was a tie for first in the Individual Medley! I don't know how often that occurs but I thought it was pretty amazing. That may have been the difference between first and second place for the meet since they had to split the points for first in the event. This was the only loss of the season for the women.

Great job Brittany!

You can find a whole bunch of pictures of the Wyoming meet and Utah meet.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Last week's storm shut down this city. I have been to work each day without any issues. Other than the morning after the storm, the roads have been very passable and often times completely dry.

Jill even drove down from Baltimore in order to celebrate Valentine's Day together. (Which, since you asked, I made her a wonderful crab stuffed salmon with roasted veggies and baby arugula salad with feta. And for desert, mixed berries over lady fingers layered with whipped cream)

For some reason all of the northern Virginia school districts were closed. I understand Wednesday. Thursday was a stretch, but OK, they can use another Snow Day. But Friday? Come on... What do all those parents do? Most of them still have to work. So they are forced to take valuable leave time because the infrastructure of this big metropolis sucks.

Welcome to DC.

The main issue was that the temperature was below freezing for several days so the 'snow' and ice was completely solid. Any streets or sidewalks that were not cleared right after the storm became as hard as concrete. Normal plows and snow shovels were not able to deal with it. By Saturday I still had a 2 1/2 thick slab of ice on top of my car that was threatening to destroy my roof rack as it slide back and forth violently (at least it sounded really violent from inside the car).

For some reason I took very few pictures of the snow/ice. And they are almost half-way interesting. On our way back from Frederick, MD on Saturday I should have stopped and taken a picture of the rolling farm land that was perfectly glazed like a wedding cake.

But I didn't!

I guess I can't call myself a photographer yet!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Hayes Mansion, San Jose, CA

I spent last week in California in lovely 60 degree weather while the East Coast got a pretty significant snow storm.

The training was an internal HP event that I have attended before. The first one of these Exchange Academies was in Atlanta in 2000. I was actually one of only 5 people (out of 120) in attendance that was also at that first academy. That was pretty surprising.

This academy was on Exchange 2007. This new version of Microsoft's Email server has changed in a big way. It will be a major process for organizations to implement. Which is good news for HP and why they spent a whole lot of money on training their consultants (estimated at over half a million dollars when you consider all the man-hours spent on development, the training location, travel costs, lost billable hours, etc).

It was good to reconnect with a couple of people I have worked with in the past and meet a few new people too. My hope of networking my way onto a west coast project has not worked out yet.

We stayed at the Hayes Mansion which quite a nice spot. Unfortunately I was not able to see anything but the Mansion and the park next door because we were in sessions and labs from 8:00AM till 10:00PM or later every day.

Even with those late hours the presenters were having to keep a fast pace to get through all the information. My lab partner Dave R. and I never completed all the labs either. But they kept us fed very well with three big meals a day and lots of break-time snacks. The deserts were a bit too good!

It felt good to actually attend some training again. I have not been to formal training in over six years. Too bad it does not actually help me get the certifications that I need.

Here are a few more pictures.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Especially to mine!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Quick Chuckle

Does this strike a chord with anyone?

Our family never had a Nintendo system (Commodore 64 Ruled!) but I had plenty of friends that had them. I clearly remember that when the game was not working, for some reason, the solution was to remove the cartridge and blow on the connectors.

You can check out more funny comics here.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Winter Inversion

The only negative thing about winters in Salt Lake City is the temperature inversion that traps all the smog in the valley.

Here is how the National Weather Service describes it.

Those wonderful Wasatch mountains surrounding the valley only exacerbate the problem.

When driving along I215 on the Eastern bench of the valley you are almost above most of the muck.

Luckily a storm came through and cleared out all of the stifling yuck - even though it was building back up again the next day.

Here are a couple of pictures to illustrate this 'wonderful' weather phenomenon. The first one was taken last February and you can see across the whole city to the Ochre Mountains. They were taken in almost the same location (University of Utah Medical Center). If you look really close, you can just make out the temple.

More Frustrations

So the saga of the invitations continues...

While I have been in Utah, Jill has been busy assembling the announcements and inserts for all the people invited to the Baltimore party. Almost 100 were sent out earlier this week.

Then the phone calls starting coming in.

"The announcement looks nice and picture of you guys is really cute, but..."

After checking and re-checking I don't know how many times, we somehow managed to not include the date of the Baltimore celebration on the insert.


So now we get to send out a post card to all those people with ALL the information! (Feb 24th)

On a good note, the ribbon finally arrived. YAY!

Although it is a bit different than Jill was expecting.

Another good note...our passport forms have been sent in. We had to pay for the expedited service since the recent rule changes have increased the load and therefore lengthened the completion time to 8 weeks.

$127 for my renewal and $197 for Jill! OUCH!

That's all for now...
Hopefully our snafus are behind us now.