Monday, March 31, 2008

San Diego Bay - I

Evie and I are currently in San Diego. The following are some pictures I took during our Sunday afternoon boat tour of San Diego Bay.

The first is a destroyer with an amphibious assault ship behind. The amphibious assault has some markings of an aircraft carrier because it launches Marine helicopters and Harrier jets.

The second picture is of the Midway, which we toured early in the afternoon. The Midway holds the record as the longest serving aircraft carrier. It entered service 1945, launched missions over Korea and Viet Nam. Just before it retired is served as the fleet flag ship (Command ship) for the Gulf War I.

The following is one of two docks Los Angelas class attack subs birthed for resupply and shore leave in San Diego. In the foreground are the protection nets and buoys used to keep civilian traffic away.

Last three of two F-14s we saw taking off from the naval airstation.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

What Has Howard Dean Been Smoking?

Friday as I waited for my flight CNN was interviewing Howard Dean, the Chairman of the National Democratic Party. During the interview he was asked if the Primary System for selecting a Presidential Nominee was broken and needed fixing. The interviewer noted the recommendation being made by some to have four rotating regional Primaries over a four to seven week period.

Dean’s response was that the system is not broken. To justify himself he noted that for the first time in decades that people in Pennsylvania, Indiana and other late Primary States are able to make a difference this year whereas in the past they the race was well settled before their Primaries.

My reaction was to laugh. Of course the system is broken. The season is too long and costs too much. Even in his own answer in pointing to the late States having a voice Dean notes that this year in an anomaly since before 70% can express their opinions the race has been decided. Most of the time, by the Super Tuesday a field is a quarter or less of what it started out to be at the beginning. Is that a good system? Dean seems to think so.

Dean thinks he is part of the solution to making the system stronger. Again he is deluded. On the contrary, Dean and those who think like him are a major part of the problem. Being part of the problem was exemplified in his response to the next question about Florida and Michigan. Dean says that their delegates will be seated when those two States and the two nominees agree on a solution. He went on to say rules are rules, that the two States did what they did contrary to the rules and the rules much be held up firmly regardless of the situation.

I smiled at Dean’s answer as it is a very Republican in nature…you hold to the rules and laws because the rules and laws demand that they be followed and there are no exemptions or modifications regardless of the consequences. Dean in washing his hands of a problem that he created is saying the disenfranchising voters is perfectly appropriate with the Chairman of the National Democratic Party because holding legalistically to the rule is the stronger fundamental principal. On national television Dean has implies that the right to vote, the right of hundreds of thousands to express their preference is secondary to obeying unswervingly a human made procedural rule.

The Primary System is broken but it will not be fixed until Dean and those like him get off stage. They thrust out their chest with pride without realizing that their pontificating sounds so foolish down on the street. It is time for creative ideas from leaders who are willing to move beyond the current system.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I Know Spring Is Arriving When...

I am issuing a blog challenge. As Spring arrives write a blog that you know Spring is arriving where you live, “I know Spring is arriving in YYYY when …..” Here is my list.

I know Spring is arriving in the Washington DC area when….

The Daffodils start to sprout through the grass along the roadway’s grass median and roadside.

Petunia are being planted in beds and the Petunias from the prior year stir back up.

You start to see restaurants washing down and preparing their outdoor sitting area for business.

People talk about having to call their golf course to book their T-time ten days before the desired date.

The number of tourist buses increase twofold and you see parades of teenagers walking around the Federal downtown.

A dozen or more rowing crews fill the Potomac River early in the morning and late afternoon.

One hears announcements about the Cherry Blossom Festival

Street sweepers are back on the streets.

Nursery sales fliers start to fill the papers

Barbeques go on sale at WalMart, Sears, Home Depo, etc.

Lawns being raked.

Window washers arrive to wash the office windows.

Camping World advertisements arrive with sales on air conditioning check-ups and tuning for RVs.

I look at my calendar and see a) that I am only in the office for two business days in a four week stretch, and b) I am going into a seven week stretch where I sleep elsewhere more than I am sleeping in my own bed.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Festival Weekend

This past weekend was Festival Weekend, the time when the high school bands perform before adjudicators. There are three adjudicators that listen to your three prepared items in the concert hall. Parents and the public form the audience. One band moves off stage and minutes later the chairs are rearranged for the next band who five minutes later enters.

The exiting band goes off to a separate room where they perform a sight-reading item before another adjudicator. Before performing it the band has 10 minutes to look over the item and for the conductor to give directions to the band. No parents are in the room.

Each adjudicator gives a grade for 1 being high to 4. Depending upon the nature of the band, each is expected to perform at a particular grade level. For Oakton's top band, Symphonic Band, they play at a level VI which is college level music. Concert I plays at grade V and Concert II plays at grade IV.

As Josh plays in all three, he was busy Friday night with Concert II, Saturday morning with Concert I and Saturday afternoon with Symphonic. Four years ago Oakton was the first school in Virginia to have three bands achieve straight 1s in the same year. This year they achieved it again for the third time in four years. Musically and academically Oakton is one of the strongest schools in the area (ranked in the top 100 high schools in the nation by US News and World Report).

Unfortunately, the quality of their music and education program is going to decline over the next three years. The school board in its wisdom has taken a significant part of the Oakton catchment and assign it to another school. Why they would want to tamper with one of the strongest schools in their district and nation is beyond me (next election the current board will not get my vote). Within two years they will only have two bands and their top band will be a cross between the current Symphonic and Concert I.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Dodge Caliber

For the last week while my vehicle has been in the body shop I have been driving a Dodge Caliber. The Caliber has a mini quassi-SUV look. Its dash is nicely designed. The two glove compartments on the passenger side provide spacious storage. The vehicle has a built in converter between the two front seats that will accept a power cord from a laptop or other small appliance. That said, the vehicle only has one power plug which means I cannot run my GPS and XM-Radio at the same time.

Its maneuvering is not spectacular but adequate. Though the engine provides the vehicle with passable power for maintaining highway speed and moving are the city, it is a little sluggish on the pick-up. Its sound system does not have speakers in the back.

The vehicle’s thinly padded seats, both front and back, are uncomfortable. The back of the front seats do not adjust. The rear seats are at a 90 degree angle which Josh has found to be extremely uncomfortable. The rear wiper is a little on the small size.

This vehicle cannot be driven above 40 mph with only the two back windows down. When the two windows are down, then angle of the back window causes the wind to thump around the back creating a loud base drum affect. Above 45 the thumping on the ear is unbearable. One front window down changes the airflow and the thumping disappears.

Overall, the Caliber would not be a vehicle I would buy.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Cougar to A....

In the coming week the picture will become clearer as to whether Josh will be a Duke (James Madison), a Mountaineer (West Virginia), a Tiger (Louisiana State), a Patriot (Mason) or a Hokie (Virginia Tech). As noted in my blogs of 12 and 19 February Josh has a double acceptance process. He has to gain entrance to the college as well as the school of music through an audition.

Josh has had friends in the last two years who have been accepted to the colleges but not into the schools of music, or accepted into the schools of music but not the college. To have choice everyone hopes to be fully accepted at two institutions, having more than one choice is not uncommon.

Josh has been accepted into the five colleges to which he has applied. He has now heard from four of the five schools of music and been accepted by all four. James Madison does not inform their prospective students until the end of the month. Therefore, he is in an enviable position of having a range of good choices.

For our Canadian family, American state colleges have three different tuition rates. For residents of that state, the “In-state” tuition is around $6,200 to 7,500 a year. “Out-of state” tuition tends to run 160 to 250% of the In-state rates. “Non-US Resident” tuition is around 30% higher than the “Out-of state” rates.

Two programs, LSU and WVU, have given scholarships from the colleges. Both schools of music have noted that scholarship offers could be forthcoming in the coming days. Interestingly Virginia schools are slower in come forth with scholarship offers...two are slow in making scholarship announcements and one, JMU, gives few scholarships. What a school offers in the coming week or so could well make a difference as to where he will attend.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

New Orleans - Part 2

New Orleans is an interesting city. The city is flat and surrounded by contrasting images of wealth and poverty. It is a city where old buildings are reused. For example the Ritz has bought up several buildings, such as the old Kresge building (see pic below) and turned them into a Ritz Hotel.

As you know the degree of devastation was massive, so much so that neighborhoods are still recovering. While much of the media is focused upon the Ninth Ward, one the lowest lying areas and the most impacted area by flooding, there are homes throughout the area that are impacted. It is not uncommon to look down a street to see all but one or two homes repaired or in the process of being repaired.

The Ninth Ward is caught up in politics. Most of the homes have been bulldozed and few are being rebuilt. Most homeowners did not have insurance and the residences are expecting the government to rebuild their homes at taxpayer expenses. Some say this area should not be rebuilt as it is the one that is most prone to future devastation. Others argue that they should be rebuilt but with codes requiring that the houses be raised at least one story with the ground level forming storage and parking garages. Erecting such homes would be much more expensive and the government covering the bulk of the expense is debatable. Those who argue that the government should carry the full costs (owners may pay a nominal amount) note that the government’s hesitancy to build the homes is a sign of institutional racism and the government not being sensitive to the needs of the poor.

Above is the pic of the Ritz which starts in old Kresge (K-Mart) building and has rooms on the buildings to its right and left. Below are two old stone buildings.

Notice the old wooden structure in the heart of Bourbon Street. Do to its age, and the nature of the community, this building cannot be replaced. Below is the statue to General Andrew Jackson that stands before the Cathedral. Jackson defeated the British during the 1812 war.

Street car on Canal Street. Below is a look up Canal Street away from the Mississippi River. Bourbon Street and the French Quarter starts at Canal Street (French Quarter is to the right in the picture).