Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Not Quite Yet.

My soon to be in-laws were in town visiting last week and I took my soon to be father-in-law to the Udvar Hazy Air and Space Museum out by Dulles. I've been to the museum before and it's really great, but it was even more fun to go with someone who was clearly so excited about getting to see all of the planes. I could barely finish reading a description placard before my almost dad-in-law was excitedly telling me about the next plane over.

And of course, in addition to looking at planes and jets, I heard all kinds of stories. I heard about the time he was hitchhiking across the country and ended up in east St. Louis at 5am. I heard about the time he was briefly an NRA member. I heard about the 9 hours that he was in the Army. I even heard stories about old co-workers who piloted planes in WWII.

We had a lot of fun. Even the planes thought it was a cool day.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mad Men.

The Valanx is a prototype light armored vehicle designed by BAE Systems to replace the Humvee as the US military's primary small transport vehicle. At this point only two companies are in the running to become the sole supplier of the military's new transport system (Lockheed Martin is the other candidate). Analysts estimate that the winning contract could be worth $20 billion, and that does not include the potential future contracts with foreign militaries or the possibility of civilian crossover sales.

Now that's all fine and good, just another defense contract competition that may or may not drag on for years like the current Air Force air refueling tanker dispute. (Google it if you want, I don't have a handy link to put in for you.)

The real issue I have is the recent public advertising campaign by BAE Systems for the Valanx. Ad space has been bought inside Metro cars to promote the Valanx. The ads are simple, a three quarters shot of the vehicle with the tag line, "Move Over," at the top.

It was actually my friend Ben, visiting from California who pointed out how strange it was that a defense contractor bidding on an exclusive military contract would choose to spend marketing money on public ads that seemed aimed at Metro riders on a busy commute. I just assumed that BAE Systems wanted this contract so badly that they were willing to gamble on placing the ads in the Metro with the hopes that some Pentagon employs in the aquisitions division will see the posters and be influenced. Stuck on a crowded train in the morning on the way to work, these civil servant accountants will see the aggressive lines of the Valanx and think, "Yeah, MOVE OVER! Let's buy 30,000 of these things."

I suppose stranger things have happened.

Friday, July 24, 2009

When they come for you.

"Uh yeah, copy that, we're gonna need some more backup here. I already called Jenkins in for this one, but we might need tactical to get in here too. No, this car is huge and I'm worried that we won't be able to handle this with only two squad cars."

"Roger, we'll stay here and stand around doing pretty much nothing for the next 20 minutes. That should take care of things."

Thursday, July 23, 2009


We visited the H Street Country Club a few weekends ago and had a great time. The Country Club is a two story bar that has a preppy argyle theme throughout. Lots of tennis racquetes, golf clubs, weird looking hats. Downstairs they have a couple of pool tables and shuffle board tables. Upstairs they have a nine hole mini-golf course.

Yes, an entire nine holes indoor golf course with full bar service while you play. Better than that, the course is DC themed, so that you have to hit the ball past a lobbyist's briefcase and around zombie Lincoln and through an accident on the beltway.

The final hole is a par three around the Washington Monument. The monument also happens to have King Kong climbing on the side holding a woman.

If you happen to make it to the Country Club try the house lemonade, it's perfect for summer and indoor golf.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Keep It Together.

On my way home today I saw a group of little kids out for a walk with their day-care center. To make sure that none of the kids ran off into traffic, the day-care leaders tied all of the kids' wrists to a long yellow piece of rope. The kids seemed to be having a good time, toddling down the street like a miniature chain gang.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Out West.

I spent a really great weekend whitewater rafting with an old friend in Colorado. We spent two days with some of his friends on the Arkansas river and had a ton of fun.

One of our river guides was a Nepalese guy named Boche who had been living in the US for the past 6 years guiding rafts on a bunch of different rivers. Before that, Boche had grown up guiding rafts in Nepal. And I mean, he really grew up on rafts.

As a boy Boche was employed as essentially a movable ballast on rafts in huge rapids. He would sit in the middle of the raft and when they were about to hit a huge wave (say 14 feet tall) he would jump over to the high side of the boat and help to add extra weight so they wouldn't flip over.

So Boche knew how to handle the river pretty well. He was also a pretty quiet guy who would occasionally just break into laughter. When I asked him what was so funny he just looked over at me and smiled and said, "Oh, I just like to laugh sometimes."


To the guy who spent the entire plane ride hitting on the girl in the seat next to him: Having a close up picture of Jesus' face with blood dripping down it as the screen saver for your iphone is really just not okay.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Brain Food.

I know I've posted about them before, but I was at the Arboretum with my sister and her boyfriend a few weekends ago. I forgot how disgusting the writhing mass of koi in the pond are. My sister made the mistake of buying some fish food and tossing it into the water. The koi jumped on top of each other and almost spilled out of the pond while trying to eat the food.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dressing Up.

We went for nice bike ride down to Arlington today, and on the way back up the Mall I saw three kids walking with their parents towards the Air and Space Museum. The three boys were each wearing the orange NASA space suits that you can buy at the gift shop there. They must have been so excited to see the rockets and spaceships that they dressed up. How cute.

Of course, from far away all I could see was three little people walking down the Mall wearing orange jumpsuits and I immediately came to a different conclusion. There are three little kids in mini-Gitmo jumpsuits heading down the mall to protest something or other. How cute.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I only just now realized that I'm actually in WESTERN Virginia, and not West Virginia.

I guess I was confused because they have a Shoney's and a Cracker Barrel and a Golden Corral all in the same block.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

I'm up already.

Back when it was a true novelty to see a telephone on an airplane, I remember that the phones on Delta were all explicitly labeled "public phone," so people would know that they were there to be used by anyone. On one flight from Chicago to somewhere, the previous person in my seat had scratched out the 'l' from the label, and I was left with three and half hours to contemplate the meaning of a "pubic phone."

I never did come to terms with what that meant, and it really has nothing to do with these pictures below other than to say that I really enjoy public art. Not that I like all pieces of public artwork, far from it. It's more that I really like the idea that we are willing to use public funds to pay artists to create (often) huge pieces of art for everyone to see and enjoy (or see and despise).

When public art happens to involve a giant metal man arising from the earth and is built on a scale that allows small children to climb into its open mouth, well then all the better.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Walking towards GW last week, half of the street was blocked off by several police cars. Two fire trucks were out and a hazmat unit was unloading stuff from their van. I walked over to one of the police on the perimeter to ask what was going on.

Police Lady: We're not able to release that information at this time.

Me: You know, saying that doesn't really make any of us feel safer about what's going on.

Police Lady: Well, how do you think it makes me feel?

Me: I really have no idea.

I walked away feeling very confused. I guess that was better than feeling frightened.