Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hmm ... perhaps a Resolution is in Order

Adding onto the last post ... an update on the never-ending battle to make myself into a less-rotund human.  Over July and August, mostly triggered by the impending cruise, I was doing REALLY well, almost (*almost*) got myself down below 190, and on a great trajectory.

Then came the Great Flood (TM).  With no fridge, no sink, no oven, and no microwave, and no interest whatsoever in spending the money to eat out each day ... I basically had Cup Noodles every night.  Blech.

Anyway, you can see the year as-a-whole below:  Started around 200, a big gap when I helped take care of Dad and couldn't track, a nice dip in July & August that steadied out in September ... followed by the Great Flood and a return to the 195-200 range.  Poopies.

Anyway, what are New Years for, if not for making resolutions to get back to the gym more often?  This year isn't NEARLY as bad as the others, though, since I actually kept a decent gym regimen going through most of the year, and managed to keep myself at a not horrible weight.  This may actually be the first year in a decade that I start out less than 200 pounds.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Bloggy Update - Home Repairs & Holy Crap, it's Christmas Already?

Ok, a brief update on what's been going on in my life for the past couple months.  If you know me personally or follow me on facebook, you know that during the past 2 months, there's been some extensive repair work done on my home.  To sum up: I went out one Sunday afternoon to a friend's house to watch some football, and came back 8 hours later to find that the kitchen sink had been left running.  To this day I still don't understand quite how I let that happen; I have to walk right by the sink to leave through the back door, but I came home to a completely flooded kitchen, hallway & bedroom, which of course leaked through the floor and into the apartment below.

The damage was EXTENSIVE, and the repairs even more so.  Basically, the entire downstairs apartment had to be gutted, moldy & rotten wood pulled out, and then rebuilt from the studs.  In my upstairs apartment, the kitchen & hall floor was completely pulled up, along with most of the cabinets, and my bedroom was off limits for about a month.  The downstairs tenants moved to an extended stay facility for a few weeks, and I had to move into the office/second bedroom for a month and a half.

Let's just say it was not an experience that I'd care to repeat, and it took a lot more out of me than I thought it would.  The futon wasn't uncomfortable per se, but it's a futon, and after 45 days of waking up with a crink in your neck that won't go away all day, it gets old.  Since my bedroom was off limits, all my laundry and clothing was in piles on the floor, and of course Lucy's food and litter box had to be moved too.  Everything in the kitchen and pantry was moved into the dining room, which looked like a disaster zone.  The stove, fridge, sink, and microwave were all unusable, so my meals mainly consisted of water from the bathroom that was boiled and then added to Cup Noodles.  I actually washed dishes in my bathtub after I couldn't stand to have them tied up in a plastic bag any more.  There were exposed flooring and nails in the kitchen that I had to walk over every day to get to my car.  I know it pales in comparison to what some people in the world have to deal with, but for me, it was one of the more miserable periods of my life, and wore me pretty thin, especially towards the end.

And the worst part of all this - somehow, between the repairs, how the holidays fell on the calendar, work trips to South Dakota, Chad & Carter's wedding, volunteer commitments for the choruses and some personal/family issues I've been working through ... I almost feel like I got cheated out of a holiday season.  Fall and Christmas are my favorite seasons; my apartment is all decked out with decorations and while I'm always busy, I've always enjoyed being able to light candles and sit back for an evening and just relax in the general glow of the season.  Not so this year.  A few weeks ago, I put away all my fall decorations: all of the candle holders still had the unused tea lights in them from when I first set them up back in September.  I had every intention of trying to get the Christmas decorations up (and I did get the outdoor lights up, at least), but by the time the repair work had been completed and I actually had a home to decorate again, it was the middle of December and I had exactly zero free time left.  Which is basically to say that none of my holiday decorations ever left their staging area in the living room, and served as a constant reminder that the holiday went *poof* for me this year.

That's not to say it was all bad.  The family had a happy (and turducken-filled!) Thanksgiving that my mom, sister, and I spent days preparing and having a blast at the same time.  I was honored to be a part of my good friends' Chad & Carter's wedding.  Mom visited Richmond and we went to the Capital One holiday party, the Bizarre Bazaar, and the Sunday performance of the chorus' holiday concert.  Lucy kept crawling up beside me each night and nuzzled and purred as I fell asleep, even on the futon.  And while the gift shopping encountered a few snafus (the reason I'm sitting here typing this post and not driving up to Lancaster is because UPS is 3 days late on the overnight shipping that I paid for), it's mostly done, with only some minor assembly to go for the family gifts.

Still, I'm looking forward to at least a few days where I have a chance to reset and get back some semblance of normalcy.  Parting thoughts: we could all learn a thing or two from how Lucy approaches life during these hectic times: aware that something is quite amiss, but doesn't let it interfere with nappy time :)

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Congrats Chad & Carter!!! Also: Tasers

Ok, this is a bit tardy, but congratulations to my good friends Chad & Carter, who tied the knot Saturday the 23rd.  Visibly it was absolutely gorgeous (although more than a bit chilly ... brrr), and the ceremony & reception was as classy as I've come to expect from the couple and their tastes.  All the best to you both as you start this next phase of your life together.

But of course, it wouldn't be Gheby blogpost without a few turd blossoms thrown into the merry mix :)

I am referring, of course, to the Taser Incident.  Now, most of you are probably saying "Wait, weddings and tasers don't normally go together."  And ordinarily, you would be right ... but never underestimate the ability of drunken idiots to rewrite the laws of the universe.

So anyway, here's what happened.  A friend of a groomsman (although not a friend of the groom if he's to be taken at his word) decided to tag along with the groomsman to the wedding, and basically started drinking as soon as he got there.  Seriously, we kept running into him throughout the weekend, and every single time he was either drunk off his ass, or passed out.  He was drunk on Friday afternoon an hour or two after he arrived; he was drunk when he invited himself along to the rehearsal dinner, he was drunk at the hotel bar afterwards; he was drunk when he went out later and got into an argument with a Wawa clerk about them not giving him all the almost-expired food in the store free of charge; he was drunk when he dove into the hotel fountain that night; he was (somewhat mercifully) passed out on Saturday morning & afternoon while we were getting ready.  He was drunk at the reception, and naturally, drunk at the hotel bar after the reception.

It was the after-party at the hotel bar that did him in.  The bartender took one look at him stumbling around and told him that he wasn't going to serve him anything, and that he had to leave the bar.  Drunk Guy wasn't too pleased with this, but fortunately a few of his friends were also at the wedding, and they convinced him to go back to his room.  They must not have done a very good job, though, since 10 minutes later he was back. So the bartender kicked him out again, but 10 minutes later he snuck in a third time.  This time the bartender had hotel security "escort" him back to his room (which, incidentally, was right next to the bar, so we could see all of this), and inform him in no uncertain terms that he was to remain in his room for the rest of the night.  Just to get the message across, they stayed outside his door for a good 10-15 minutes before leaving.  Not one to be deterred, though, Drunk Guy snuck out the back of his hotel room ... and back into the bar for a fourth time.

At this point, the bartender had had enough, and called the cops.  So, four cops show up, and aren't mincing words with this guy that he needed to leave NOW.  They get into an argument, tempers heat up, and then Drunk Guy decides it's a good idea to punch one of the cops.  Yeah ... you don't do that.  As you might expect, as soon as he threw the punch at the one cop, the other were on top of him: getting him in a choke-hold, throwing him to the ground, knocking over tables & drinks; and then you saw the taser come out and *POP*, down he goes.

As you can imagine, lots of different things happened after that.  First, while most of the guests were enjoying watching the guy go down while pretending not to out of respect for Carter (who was understandably not terribly pleased), the hotel manager on duty was making no bones about which side she was rooting for.  "BOOM!  YEAH!  THAT'S HOW YOU BRING 'EM DOWN BABY!  UH HUH!! YEAH!!"  Second, a couple of us were trying to stop Chad (who was understandably pissed) from breaking into the groomsman's room (who was passed out in bed at this point) and committing grievous bodily harm.  Third, Drunk Guy was getting handcuffed on both his hands AND feet, and apparently still wasn't convinced that he should have to leave, because the cops had to tase him a second time in the hotel lobby.  Fourth (and most disappointingly) the bartender closed the bar down early and sent us all back to our rooms.  Harumph.

So anyway, that was the wedding!  Anybody out there have a wedding story that can beat some guy getting tasered?

White-Knuckling the Bay Bridge

Ok: the Bay Bridge.  I don't really have any reason to go to that part of the country, so I've only driven it a small handful of times (like 3 or 4, max), and when I've driven I was always on the "right" side of the bridge.  This time, though, I used the EZPass lane ... which shunted me right into one of the lanes on the "wrong" side of the bridge.  If you're unfamiliar with the Bay Bridge, it's actually 2 bridges separated by about 30 feet, each with 3 lanes carrying traffic in one direction.  Except that it isn't always 3-3 ... the bridge was designed so that during busy periods, one lane on each bridge could "switch" direction according to the volume need, and move to a 4-2 or 2-4 configuration.

Traffic-flow-wise, I understand this completely: if traffic flow is heavier in one direction during the morning, and then the opposite direction in the evening, then it makes a lot of sense to design your lanes to be able to switch their direction during the day as necessary.  Usually, though, this is accomplished on a single roadway with some movable barriers, where you're still driving with the rest of the people heading in your direction.  Not so on the Bay Bridge.  Here, they just painted a double broken line and put a flashing signal overhead to let you know whether you could drive it or not.

From a traffic-flow perspective: great.  From an actual-human-being-driving perspective: H-O-L-Y-C-R-A-P.  I was white-knuckling it the entire way.  Like I said above, there is no barrier on the bridge, so oncoming traffic is literally barreling right past you at highway speeds; and since the bridges are separated there's just a flimsy steel fence between you and a 50 foot drop down into the bay below.  In other words: 2 feet in either direction lies certain death.  Add into this that it was WINDY that day, so the cars were being tossed around like crazy, plus the fact that GPS was freaking out every couple seconds because it thought I was on the wrong side of the bridge and driving into oncoming traffic (which I kinda was), and you get the picture.  And if you don't get the picture, well then here's another after I calmed down enough to realize that it would be a fantastic blog post:

Seriously, did any of the engineers think this through at all?  I suppose the fact that we didn't have any major catastrophes is kinda proof that they did, but even so.  Not something I'm looking forward to again.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Sorry Jonah

Thoughts and condolences to Jonah Goldberg, who said goodbye to Cosmo the Wonderdog today.  Pets are family, with attitudes and personalities that are every-bit as distinct as their humans'.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Good Saturday

Had an absolutely awesome Saturday this weekend - spent it in Newport News with my sister Katie & bro-in-law Brandon*, visiting our good friends Heather & Doug.  Katie & Brandon made a weekend of it, but I live close enough that I can drive down and back again in a single day without too much hassle, so I did that.

We toured and tasted the Williamsburg Winery, which I'd heard of, but never actually been to.  It was nice - a gift shop with some neat things, a pretty old (for America) and large wine cellar, lots of history, a relaxing restaurant with good food, and, of course, some wine tastings.  I have to say that I wasn't super impressed with the ones we tasted ... some of their wines just taste like damp musk to me.  Katie insists it's the stainless steel fermentation, but I've had plenty of stainless steel wine that doesn't taste like that, and I really think it's the wine.  Blech.  First winery I've been to in years that I didn't actually buy anything.

We also went Shop Kicking!  That's right - when Heather introduced me to it earlier this year, she created a monster.  And you know what?  I think I'm ok with that.  It's fun, rewarding in it's own way, and you actually do get something for nothing!  Or at least, I've gotten something for nothing - about $30 of Starbucks gift cards just for walking into stores and scanning certain items.  Not too shabby.  I'm sure I'll eventually tire of it, but in the meantime, Kick away!  About $20 in a little over a week ... Boo Yah!

Finally - it's a 75-minute drive home, so I had a lot of time to think.  And it dawned on me that with all the crap that life has thrown at my family this summer, there's certain drama we don't have to deal with.  No fights with neighbors, nobody getting arrested (both of which we witnessed on Saturday), great friends who love us, animals who love us too, and the ability to enjoy an afternoon at a winery if we want to.  I'd trade that all away in a heartbeat, of course, but really, we are pretty lucky and it's good to remember that every once-in-a-while.

* As I was typing this, I realized we have no good word in English for the family unit that consists of your sibling and her spouse.  "Sister Katie and brother-in-law Brandon" is just plain awkward and too long.  We need a single word, like "sposling" or something.  As in, "I spent the day with my sposlings Katie & Brandon."  Ok, now that you're thinking about that for the rest of your day, my work here is done.

Saturday, September 07, 2013


I just screwed up a package of Ramen Noodles.  Fail.  :$

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Our Pets

As I said in my post before - it has not been a great year for the Heberleins.  We've lost some people that were lost too soon..  And while you may argue that they are better for it, in their absence we are not.It just so happened that another political blog I read, Andrew Sullivan, had to say goodbye to his beloved beagle this week.  I can't even imagine that right now - or when I try (even when I read the story) I'm reduced to tears.  Even so - some of what he says sticks with me, even this quote by Dean Koontz:
Dogs’ lives are short, too short, but you know that going in. You know the pain is coming, you’re going to lose a dog, and there’s going to be great anguish, so you live fully in the moment with her, never fail to share her joy or delight in her innocence, because you can’t support the illusion that a dog can be your lifelong companion. There’s such beauty in the hard honesty of that, in accepting and giving love while always aware it comes with an unbearable price. Maybe loving dogs is a way we do penance for all the other illusions we allow ourselves and for the mistakes we make because of those illusions
I may not have a dog, but everything he says is exactly the same for cats - or really any animal that you form a connection with.  Anyway, it touched me, so thought I'd share.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Bye Little Mike

So my sister called this morning with the horrible news that our cousin Mike passed way last night.  He'd been fighting some pretty serious health issues for the past decade, and was diagnosed with esophageal cancer earlier this spring, for which he recently started a pretty hefty round of chemotherapy.  But no one had any idea it was going to be this sudden or without any kind of real warning.  I called my aunt Joyce (little Mike's mom, and my godmother, incidentally) and talked to her a bit, and everybody's still kind of in shock.  I mean, there is never a good way to bury your child, but still.

It has not been the best of years for the Heberleins.  First my dad passes in June, now cousin Mike.  The weirdest thing is, both were named Michael A Heberlein and both passed from cancer within 2 months of each other.  It's surreal.

Not too much else to say right now, just a sad goodbye to a cool dude who was happy and didn't let anything stop him from enjoying as much life as he could.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Most Awkwardly Amazing Non-Dinner

So tonight was the birthday of a girl - let us call her Girl X.  Girl X works with Ben.  Ben is engaged to Fionna.  Fionna works with Chad.  And I'm friends with Chad.  Such was the relationship-chain that led to a rather strange evening.

Backing up a bit - the evening started out pretty normally.  Chad just got promoted (congrats buddy!), and he, his fiance Carter, and I went out for drinks to celebrate.  Nothing crazy, just a few beers and some good pizza at a new restaurant called the Portrait House in Carytown.  Halfway through dinner, though, Chad's phone started to buzz.  It was his friend Fionna, who had been invited to a birthday party for her fiance's coworker, and was now inviting us as well.  It seemed a little odd, and really I kinda sorta just wanted to go home, but I've been pushing myself lately to be less of a homebody and actually have a social life, so we piled into Chad's car and off we went.

It was at a Fan restaurant called Heritage, which I'd walked past a few times but never actually went inside.
See that giant table in the middle?  That's where we crashed.
 It's a pretty nice place - great ambiance, kind of a throwback to the old classy bars of the 20's before prohibition, with (as you'd expect from a bar living in the 20's) a really great eclectic cocktail menu where every-other drink had egg white as an ingredient.  Ambiance was blown away, though, by the sudden realization that this wasn't really a "party", so much as a "dinner party".  At a table.  That had been reserved.  For a specific number of people that the birthday girl (never did learn her name) had invited.  Which did not include myself or Chad or Carter.

Eeeeyup - turns out that Fionna had invited us to a specially arranged sit-down dinner party for the birthday girl, whom none of us had ever met.  I never did find out whether that was ok or not, but judging by the strange looks we were getting and the very direct "um, and you are?" lines of questioning, I don't think they were planning on us.  The restaurant certainly wasn't, since 10 minutes after we sat down they had to add another table with more place settings for the 3 people who came in AFTER us, hugged Birthday Girl X, and who then got very confused when she said she didn't know where they were going to sit.  Awwwwwwwwwwkward.  Eventually we got into good conversations with our side of the table, and Fionna & Ben certainly seemed to think it was fine, although Carter and I were mortified the whole night.  Chad just sort of plonked himself down at the table and had his usual I-don't-give-a-damn good time.

But the food.  OOHHHH the food.  It. Was.  FAN-TAS-TIC.  We never ordered; instead the restaurant did this thing where they just kept bringing out tasting portions of the entire menu.  Everything was great, but my personal favorite was the pork belly.  I've had pork belly before, but not like THIS.  You didn't even need to chew it - you'd put it into your mouth and it'd just sort of  evaporate on your tongue.  The bourbon sauce that they had on it was smokey and sweet, but not so sweet that you couldn't taste the pork, and ooohhhhh it was just that awesome.  They also made this incredible seared tuna with a really good corn succotash (oddly enough not on their menu, but pictured on the website).  I will definitely be going back at some point in the future, hopefully with a bit more planning this time and with people I know.  :)

Monday, July 08, 2013

I lose money on the horses

Apropos of nothing, really, I just thought everyone might like to know that I bet on horses for the very first time ever last Thursday.  A group of us decided to spend the 4th at Colonial Downs Racetrack, and watch the races and the horses.  Being an adventurous sort (*cough*) I bet $2 on #7 to show in race 4.  #7 promptly came in dead last by at least 2 lengths to the next horse.  Oh well, at least now I can say that I lose money on the horses.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday Sunday!

Ah Sunday - the day when I get up early, go to work, sweat in an 85 degree workplace, watch soccer at BWW's and never touch the laundry!

Ok, none of that is my typical Sunday, but it WAS today's Sunday.

First, the work:
My team doesn't normally work on Sundays, but we made a deal with the production floor because of the holiday: if they came in and worked this Sunday, then they could take Friday off and have a 4-day weekend while still getting their 40 hours.  About 75% of them decided to do it, and since I really do believe that you should never ask your team to do something you're not willing to do yourself, I pulled myself out of bed this morning and drove to work.

Of course, I expected that it wouldn't really be a normal day, but what I DIDN'T expect was that the building facilities staff would've forgotten to turn the AC on over the weekend.  When I got in this morning it was like a sauna ... the team was literally fanning themselves with paper to try to keep cool, it was that hot.  I called our corporate team who deals with that kind of after-hours issue, but of course we're one of the point-oh-two percent of the company that rents an office building instead of working in a corporate-owned building, so corporate had to call a second team, which didn't come out for several hours.  After 30 minutes I said "heck, this is ridiculous", got back in the car, drove to the grocery store, and bought a couple dozen sodas and juices and waters (and was SORELY tempted to add a few Miller Lites to the mix), lots of ice, a few styrofoam coolers, and then drove back to set up our own iced-drink cooler station.  It was a hit, but not exactly how I was hoping to spend my "free" workday.  Oh well.

Second, the soccer:
I am normally not a soccer fan, but Janeth and a few of her friends invited me to BWW's to watch the Confederations Championship game between Spain and Brazil after work, so I joined and tried my best to follow along.  In between laughing at Janeth's very jittery excitement (seriously, she gets so excited she vibrates on the chair) I did manage to pick up a few things, although I have to admit there were more than a few games of solitaire played on the phone during those 2 hours.  Oh well, Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither shall Nik Heberlein learn to love soccer in a day either.  And yes, those are similar in effort.  It's my blog, I get to decide these kind of things.

Novice as I am, though, even I had to admit that BWW's spotty satellite connection was annoying and EXCEPTIONALLY ill-timed.  In case you can't see, this is the tv freezing about a-tenth-of-a-second before Brazil scores their 3rd goal.  I mean, seriously, the ball is less than 12 inches from the net.  They couldn't have chosen a worse moment if they had tried to.  Sheesh.

Well, anyway, that was Sunday.  How was yours?

Oh, and I did laundry yesterday.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Cat vs Bird ... FIGHT!

Or, more accurately, ONE-SIDED-STARE OFF!

Blogging has been impacted by a busy couple of weeks (more on that in some other post), but this definitely deserved a post.  Lucy and I are staying at Mom & Dad's house for a bit, and Lucy's been having a grand 'ole time looking out the windows and watching all sorts of critters scurry past that she never sees at home.

This morning, though, she finally looked up, and discovered the family of cardinals who decided to build their nest in one of the trees by the family room windows, and did so in a place that you can see clear-as-day from inside the window.  When I say family, I mean family - the first week I was here I watched mama cardinal do nothing but squat on the nest all day long, while papa cardinal flew in and fed her berries.  Earlier this week the eggs finally hatched, and now I get to watch both mama & papa feed and look approvingly over 3 beautiful baby birds who open their mouths for food every time one of the parents lands beside the nest.  (Yes, you can actually see them from inside.)  It's really quite beautiful and calming, in a simple and natural sort of way.

Iz bird!  Iz bird!  Bird!  Bird bird bird bird bird bird bird bird!

Anyway, this morning Lucy finally figured out that
they're there, and immediately perched herself on the windowsill with her eyes glued to the nest, with her tail whapping like crazy behind her.  As you might imagine, Mama & Papa Cardinal were not particularly pleased with this situation, and immediately initiated an attention-diverting behavioral technique that I believe professional ornithologists refer to as "freaking out".

I mean seriously, these two birds went NUTS - started screaming at the top of their lungs, hopping around from branch to branch, fluttering right in front of the window like some kind of hummingbird, and just generally making as obnoxiously loud a ruckus as possible.  In turn, this drew the attention of some other birds, who flew down to the tree to see what all the fuss was about, which neither Mama nor Papa much appreciated, either, and proceeded to chase the interlopers out.  More ruckus - with Lucy getting a good neck workout by following every move.

Doing her best to satisfy both hunting instinct and entropy
This continued for a good 15 minutes, even after Lucy decided she was tired of balancing on the sill and adopted a decidedly more comfy position from which to watch.  Mama Cardinal eventually stopped fussing and just perched by her nest, *glaring* at Lucy with feathers all ruffled, but Papa Cardinal refused to calm down and just kept hopping about from branch to branch, squawking his little red head off non-stop.

This all finally came to an end when I decided the bird was going to kill himself if he didn't shut up soon (plus I couldn't stand the noise anymore), scooped Lucy up, put her out of the family room, and shut the doors so she couldn't get back in again.  Peace and quiet returned soon after (although not immediately, grah).  Lucy was not pleased with her displacement, but that lasted for about 10 seconds, which was as long as it took her to spot the chipmunk that lives by the back porch and shoot over to the back door to watch it.  Sheesh.

Alas, didn't get any pictures of the squabble, but if you're looking for a smile, here's the Cardinal family :)

Mama Cardinal at her nest

Closeup of Mama & one of her babies

Papa Cardinal, still freaking out over the cat that's a foot away from his nest

Saturday, May 25, 2013

VA is for Dummies

Well, as expected, last week Republicans nominated current VA Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to be their candidate for Governor, pitting him against Democratic candidate Terry McAulilffe in November.

As far as elections go, this one promises to be something akin to a visit to the dentist's office - you know it's necessary, but you dread it for weeks and then when it finally happens you just want it to be OVER for-cryin-out-loud.  Terry McAuliffe leaves a rather unpleasant taste in your mouth, and I think everyone knows what I think of Ken-ordering-colleges-to-accept-discrimination-against-gays-Cuccinelli.  I'd just as soon not have the whole world watching us as we figure out which one of these guys we dislike less, but given that it's an off-year and we're pretty much one of the few elections of significance ... well this is gonna be fun.

And lest there be any doubt just how much fun this is going to be ... who would've thought Republicans would find and nominate a Lt Governor who makes Cuccinelli look moderate by comparison?  And they did exactly that when they nominated Bishop E W Jackson as Cuccinelli's running mate - this guy is a piece of work.

There's a great rundown at TPM, but just on the issue of gay rights alone:

"The president has proclaimed June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Pride Month.  Well that just makes me feel ikky all over.  Yuk!"

"The 'homosexual religion' is the most virulent anti-Christian bigotry & hatred I've ever seen.  They have threatened me, but not vice versa."

"It will be interesting to see how Obama reconciles Islamicizing America with homosexualizing America. Babylon v Sodom & Gomorrah."

When a reporter questioned him about those remarks on Friday, Jackson responded that those remarks were made "in my role as a minister, not as a candidate."  Swell.

Putting aside for the moment the question of whether saying those kinds of things "as a minister" makes it any better, what exactly does Jackson think that changes?  Life doesn't have a "Get out of history free" card that you can flash whenever you're embarrassed by something you once said.  You measure a person based on what they say (and do) when no one is looking, not when everyone is looking.  If Jackson no longer agrees with those comments he made, then he should explain what he's changed his mind on, and why.  If he still agrees with them, then he's going to own them regardless of whether he considers them unhelpful in his current campaign.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Lucy at Home in Lancaster

Otherwise known as: "When Kitty Beast is away, I will sit in all his favorite spots!"  :)

Lancaster Again

Back up in Lancaster for the week.  Really, it's for several overlapping reasons: spending some time with Dad (who's going through a rough spot) and helping Mom out with some chores around the house and in at the gallery.

I have to say, this was not a trip that I prepared for very well.  Normally I have a list (I love my lists) and work on it during the days leading up to the trip so I know I'm prepared.  But this time, there was just so much going on that I never had a chance.  That means that when I get back there will be an overgrown jungle where my side lawn is used to be; it also means that I never got a chance to do laundry, so half my wardrobe is shoved into a plastic garbage bag ready to be washed once I get to Lancaster.  That, plus there's a lot of paperwork-type stuff that I need to sort and go through, which is all stuffed into a box and crammed into the trunk of the car.  Lord knows what's in there.

Anyway, I made it up, and Lucy only puked once, so I guess that counts as a successful drive.  I made it up in time to visit the gallery during First Friday Art Walk, which my mom always works.  Here she is not noticing for 10 minutes that I've walked in and am standing in "no man's land" behind the desk where all the wine is hidden.  We Heberlein's are observant folk! :)

(although technically speaking, since my mom is a Graham by birth and I seem to have inherited it from her, I guess it's that we Graham's are observant folk?

The pleasant surprise of the evening came when Brent, an old high school friend, saw that I checked in on Facebook and made it a point to visit the gallery.  We chatted for a good hour or so about where we were in our lives (mostly griping about how owning a house really just means writing out one check after another).  A fun little diversion, and hopefully we'll connect with another mutual high school friend who still lives in the area and grab a drink sometime this week.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

GI Joe and Physics - yup, still got it

My friend Janeth and I have been trying to see Oz Great and Powerful together for over a month, but one of us has always been busy, so we haven't had the chance.  Thinking that this past Sunday might be just perfect for both of us, I called Janeth up, asked if she wanted to go watch it ... and promptly learned that eventually she got exasperated and just went and saw it herself.  Hmph. 

-But!-, Janeth asked, would I be interested in seeing GI Joe 2 Cobra Strikes instead?  Turns out she really REALLY wanted to go see it.  Now, usually action movies don't exactly set me atwitter with anticipation, but this one does feature Channing Tatum and DJ Cotrona, men known for their absolutely fantastic, um, acting abilities. That, plus the fact that it's been a crappy 2 weeks
Fine Acting Abilities
and I was really looking forward to just being entertained for 2 hours, meant GI Joe 2 was in order.  (Side note - did you know that after Magic Mike debuted, Channing Tatum was so popular that GI Joe 2 was rewritten to give Tatum a bigger part?  Now you do.)
Anyway, off we went to see guys blow each other up.  And really, it was about as you expected: lots of explosions, lots of guys duking it out, the hot girl who's a better fighter than any of them, futuristic space weapons, disasters averted at the last possible second, and plot holes galore.  (Someone should explain to their script writers that it is not possible for it to be daytime in the US, Britain, France, Russia, Israel, India, and North Korea all at the same time.  Nor is it likely that you would design a control pad for your space weapon where the biggest button on the pad is the self-destruct.  But I digress)  Janeth walked out of the theater and promptly declared herself disappointed, in that it wasn't very realistic, an expectation that still perplexes me to this day.

BUT, (spoiler alert) I have to admit, there was an idea for a pretty cool weapon in there, one that at least seems semi-plausible in terms of the physics involved.  Basically, you haul a moderate-sized, pure heavy-metal rod into orbit (one that can withstand the heat of reentry), position it over a major city, then let it drop.  Gravity takes over and accelerates it downward, until it smashes into the Earth with enough kinetic energy to demolish said city.  Sound in principle (go look at some impact craters from meteors if you don't believe me) ... but do the numbers work?  The fact that nobody's done it yet makes me suspect no, but what's the real answer?  It's .... PHYSICS TIME!!

First, let's assume that the engineers took care of any pesky problems about angular momentum and keeping the rod on target.  (That's what she said! -Zing!)  Second, let's assume that the rode has a small enough cross-section that it can zip through the atmosphere with practically no drag, and not bleed off any energy in the form of heat and reduced speed.  Both of those just increase the destructive potential, so if we're looking at feasibility, that's a good bet.

Now, for some more grounded assumptions.  Judging by the scenes in the movie when it's still under construction, the satellite carrying the rods is about 10 meters tall.  The rods look like they're about half that, so let's say 5 meters tall, and half a meter in diameter.  That gives it a volume of about 10*pi*(.25)^2 ~= 2 cubic meters.  The movie specifically says this rod is Tungsten (a popular metal for military use given its hardness and high melting point), which at 19.25 g/cm^3, makes this Tungsten rod mass out at about 38500 kilograms.

Now, for the speed.  Let's assume a standard solar orbit, which is about 700 kilometers, and still close enough to Earth that gravity will accelerate anything towards earth at a constant 9.8 m/sec^2.  Integrating twice, that's 4.9t^2 = 700000, were t is the time it takes for the rod to fall the 700,000 meters, and solves to 378 seconds, or just over 6 minutes (again, assuming no drag and falling straight down).  Derivating to get back to velocity ... you get 378 * 9.8 = 3,700 meters per second.  (If you're having trouble thinking in metric, that's about 8200 miles per hour, or about 11x the speed of sound.  Zippy rod!

Ok.  Kinetic energy is 1/2*m*v^2, so 1/2*38500*(3700)^2 = 2.6*10^11 Joules.  That is a LOT of Joules, but just how big is it, really?  Well, a giga Joule is 10^9 Joules, so that's about 260 giga Joules ... or roughly 40-45 barrels of oil.  Destructive?  To any given building, definitely.  But to an entire city?  Hardly.  This weapon would really only be good at destroying individual buildings, and it's a LOT cheaper to do that by flying a plane over said building than it is by launching a complicated weapon system into space.  In other words ... COBRA FAIL.  Just as well, really.  If it were that easy to destroy entire cities, I'd be walking around a bit more cautiously.  You never know when a Tungsten rod will fall out of the sky and hit you on the head.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Caribbean Food!

What better way to celebrate rising temperatures than by eating a new Caribbean restaurant?  I love Caribbean food - I think it does a fantastic job creating meals that taste good and that are "hearty" but not "heavy".  Plus, I'm trying to retrain my tastebuds to be able to taste fruit again, and there's plenty of fruit in Caribbean food to practice on.

Which is to say that I was pretty happy when Danielle recommended it for our every-other-week dinner on Friday afternoon.  Unfortunately, Danielle had something pop up at the last minute and couldn't come, but Justin and I decided to go and eat anyway (and get some takeout for Danielle).

So, off to Midlothian, in what Justin described over the phone as "the sketchy part of town".  I harumphed when he said that, although I have to admit when I first pulled into the parking lot and saw the giant (and incomplete) "CHECKS CASHED" sign over the restaurant, I did start to wonder.  A restaurant that cashes checks?  wtf did I agree to?  It took a solid minute to figure out that the restaurant shares the building with the pay-day loan shop next door.

Anyway, once you got past the sketchy loan shop, it was actually pretty awesome.  Great atmosphere, friendly people, and really REALLY good food.  We started with fish cakes as an app, which were pretty much perfect: lots of chunks of fish, light breading, a good fry on them.  For my entree I got pineapple chicken with rice & beans, and steamed cabbage.  The rice, beans, and cabbage is pretty much the perfect example of what I mean by "hearty" but not "heavy" ... it's a great side dish that fills you up, it's really flavorful, but it's also very light and doesn't sit like a brick in your stomach after you've had it.  In other words, the perfect side for hot weather.  The cabbage was great too - it's really easy to overcook cabbage, but this was done perfectly, and still had a good crunch to it.

The pineapple chicken was fantastic.  The chicken was cooked really well, lots of chunks of pineapple and peppers, and the whole thing was covered in a pineapple sauce with a little bit of curry in it.  Delish!  There was a good bit of it, and the fishcakes were pretty filling too, so I brought home about half the dish.  I polished that off for lunch this afternoon, and it tastes just as good the second time.  Justin got the jerk chicken; I sampled a bit of that and it was fantastic too.  (And no, I don't know why Justin is reaching out with his knife in the middle of the picture.  Sometimes he's just Justin.)

Monday, April 01, 2013

I Am No Longer the Best Child

Or, by it's more familiar name:
"My sister and her husband have purchased their first home."

Scheming to reclaim the title will commence shortly, but in the meantime, you should go tell them congratulations.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Penguins Falling Down

Because ice is slippery.  Also, need something to take my mind off of the hell that has been the past few weeks.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

When, exactly, did we lose our collective minds?

This morning I decided it'd be nice to peruse the news and blogosphere while having my coffee.  So I brewed a pot, put on my hoody, and sat down to discover - this:

An official request to the Vatican to make St Gabriel Possenti the official "Patron Saint of Hand-Gunners."

Pat Robertson advising his viewers to be wary of second-hand clothes, because demons could be attached to them.

A Connecticut state lawmaker telling a high-school teenager, in legislative session, that "[i]f you're bashful I got a snake sitting under my desk here."

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with people these days?

Oh, and how could I forget to mention, of all people, Dennis-freakin-Rodman visiting North Korea and watching a basketball game with Kim Jong Un.  I think "humble guy", albeit one who "loves power" is destined to go down in history.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Curious Dinner Choice

Blah - today was another day in the long series of what's become the norm:  8 hours straight of meetings, followed by another 2 hours of dealing with all the other things that piled up during the day, and then finally 30 minutes of cardio that I forced myself to go to.

I was drained, both mentally and physically, and on the ride home decided that I did NOT want to cook dinner tonight, and so I pulled off the highway into a shopping center, parked the car, and walked up to ... a Salad Works.

Only as I stood in line did it dawn on me that I was frustrated and stressed out, and that to deal with it I was standing in line ... for a takeout salad.

Wow.  When did THAT happen?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday Dinner and Other Notables

Well, I may have gotten off track for part of this week, but today I'm right back in the saddle!

First off: I made dinner :)

That is Asian-Style Scallops, a "recipe" of my own creation that I also shared with the Weight Watchers community (my first ever!)  Although really, "recipe" is a bit of a stretch, since the preparation isn't all that complicated.  It required a) cooking rice, b) chopping and steaming veggies, c) braising scallops and baby bok choy, none of which is particularly complicated as long as you have enough counter-space and range-space.  But, it looks fantastic and also counts as a home-cooked healthy meal a-la my 2013 resolutions.

Speaking of 2013 resolutions, I also signed up for the Monument Ave 10k race earlier this week.  I really REALLY want to be able to run without stopping, and that only gives me 3 months to take my run-without-stopping record from 1.5 miles to 6.5.  Eesh, that is not gonna be easy.  But that just makes it a challenge, and while I'm not always fond of challenges, they do bring about a sense of satisfaction once you meet them.  So, onward!

And in other news, it is 70 degrees in Richmond right now, which is officially way to warm for mid-January.  I want my winter, gosh darn it!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Resolutions - 2013

This is definitely the CapitalOne process dork in me coming out, but this year I'm going to try something slightly different and make S.M.A.R.T. resolutions for New Years.  For the uninitiated, SMART is a framework that helps you make better goals, and stands for Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-specific.  Basically, it forces you to be very clear and specific about what you actually want to do, and avoid overly vague statements like "live life better".  It works decently enough in a professional setting, so I guess it won't hurt to give it a shot here!  And now, without further ado, Nik's 2013 resolutions:

Health & Weight Related:
- Lose an average of 5 lbs per month for the first 6 months of 2013.  That may sound like a lot, but when you break it down it's only about 1 1/4 lbs per week, which is well within the 1-2 lb range that's generally considered healthy.  Plus, last year I actually did it for 2-3 months before going off track.  So definitely attainable.
- Run & complete the Monument Ave 10k on April 13th.
- Limit myself to 1 16-oz coffee per day on 4 of 5 work days - allow myself another cup on 1 weekday.
- Make at least 1 meal/recipe per week that I've never made before.  I have a TON of recipes that I've ripped out of Men's Health magazines over the years but have never tried (don't judge).

Social & Personal
- Go to Nu Nightclub at least once per month.  This really shouldn't be that difficult - it's within walking distance, I know people who go there so I don't have to go alone, and it has beautiful dancing men.  'Nuf said.  It'll also help me meet more guys, which directly feeds into another resolution below.
- Go to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts at least once every 2 months.  I'm a member so I get into most exhibits either for free or at a reduced rate, but I go way too rarely.  Even if it's just a Wednesday Jazz night, I really should go more often.
- Take a cruise.  It doesn't have to be at a particular time or to a particular place, but I want, nay - NEED, a vacation this year.  I haven't had a real vacation in 5 years, and it's starting to gnaw at me.  I need a break.
- Keep my work-related email to less than 100 at day-end, and don't allow any email to get past 2 weeks.  I know, I know, this really shouldn't be on my list ... but it is.  I want to do better in ALL aspects of my life, and for better or worse, work is a significant part of life.
- Break the being-single-streak with a somewhat serious relationship.  Ok, so this one isn't exactly a SMART goal, but given how important this one is to me, I'm giving it a pass.  I don't exactly have a way to measure it, but I'll know it when it happens.

2013 - Starting it out right with a kitchen disaster!

Well, I certainly didn't waste any time on that one - barely 10 hours into 2013 and I've already managed to have a giant pan of liquid custard and boiling water slide off of my oven rack and splash all over the oven door and kitchen floor.  Apparently, it also somehow managed to work its way inside my oven door, because after I'd cleaned it all up and shut the door, a magic flow of liquid custard appeared and flowed down between the glass door panes.  *sigh - gonna have to leave that one for this weekend, I think.

At least I had enough left over batter that I could do another (albeit smaller) batch of 4 ramekins, so tonight's dessert is still on track.