Our Adventures in Sri Lanka

Safaris to spot leopards and elephants, swimming in the Indian Ocean, sipping tea in the mountains, and several more!

Our Nile Cruise

Starting in Cairo, we sailed to Luxor, Edfu, Kom Ombo, and Aswan.

Trouble at Sea: Our Red Sea Dive Trip in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia

The Red Sea is one of the top diving destinations in the world, but Saudi Arabia is a very restrictive country to get into. That alone would have made the trip memorable...but then things went south and the Saudi Coast Guard and a hospital got involved.

Our Expedition to Jordan

Highlights included tracing the steps of Indiana Jones into Petra, following Lawrence of Arabia into Wadi Rum, and floating in the Dead Sea.

Discovering Turkey

We emersed ourselves in Istanbul, explored the white travertines of Pamukkale, and traced history through Laodikeia, Hierolopolis, and Cleopatra's Baths.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Lego Table Upgrade, Version 4

About 10 years ago, I built myself a Lego table that was comprised of three square sections that connected to each other. They were sized to each hold nine standard-size Lego base plates, which also means that I could have a full circle of Lego train track on there as well.

Well, eventually, my Lego collection grew and I needed more storage/display/working space. So, while I was in Germany, I got to work building some new, non-square additions to my Lego table. I built a suspended extension piece that could also double as a recessed river (and thereby allow me to make a bridge for the train to cross.) I also built two shelf-like extensions, that could be installed in a variety of ways. each of these extensions would hold an additional nine base plates.

After moving back to the US, we were trying to find room to place all of our furniture and I ended up with an extra shelf unit. So, this was the third configuration of my Lego table. Which is great and all, but in that house I had very little actual area to work/play...so it was really more of a display area.

While I'd basically doubled the available surface area from 27 to 54 base plates, but I never reached this full capacity because the room that stored my Lego collection couldn't accommodate it. Until now. Without further ado, I present to you my current Lego table in all of its glory:

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Breaking out the patterns

This morning was kind of cold and drizzling, remnants of the storm that delayed my post-holiday return flight by two hours. Since I got in late last night, I didn't really put any effort into figuring out what to work today. So, I figured that I might as well try out some new (as in, "recently acquired") clothing combinations if half the city was still out on holiday...and therefore unable to point a collective mocking finger at me.

One thing led to another and I found myself leaving the house wearing a two-tone plaid peacoat over a multi-tone houndstooth sportcoat on top of an argyle sweater. The only tie that qualified with this combination was a solid, slightly metallic tie. Sure, it seems like a crazy combination, but I think it just might work.

The pattern trifecta

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sold the Car!

One of the most annoying things about the northern Virgina / DC area is the traffic. I knew this before we came up here, which is why we found a place within walking distance to the Metro for my daily commute. But we moved up here with two cars, knowing from Day 1 that at least one of them wasn't going to go with us overseas.

So which would it be: Kacey's station wagon that is currently configured to seat two adults, two kids, the dog and a roof rack...or my 2010 VW Golf TDI that we got in Germany after my VW died on the Autobahn so that I could commute to work and now sits in the guest parking space down the road? The question kind of answers itself, doesn't it?


So we put up a listing on Craigslist & Cars.com and had two interested calls before the weekend. I scheduled them both for Saturday morning, but one of them cancelled the night before the test drive. Fortunately, the guy who showed up Saturday morning was interested and by Monday night we'd established the price and plan to exchange money, keys, and title.

So I picked him up at the Metro and since we both are members of the same bank, we called them on the bluetooth speaker phone inside the car. I think it took longer to confirm our identities than it did to transfer the funds and see them appear in my account on my smart phone. Seriously, it was that fast. Almost surreal how easy it was, not to mention leaving my (now his) car in the parking lot with the keys in it and walking home.
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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mount Vernon

We visited George Washington's Mount Vernon between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so they were kind of in transition regarding decorations.

Mount Vernon at night lights up those lanterns.

Chillin' on the back porch

Beam me up!

Not a bad view, is it?

I believe these are Cobbler and Gobbler.

Look kids, turkeys!

Gobble! Gobble! Run away!!!!

A camel is part of the Mt. Vernon Christmas Tradition

Aladdin, the Christmas Camel


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Saturday, December 08, 2012

A Parting of Ways: Choosing a post-military hairstyle

I think I mentioned earlier that one of the more unique challenges of separating from the military and joining the civilian workforce is trying to determine a suitable hairstyle. Sure, it sounds superficial (and it is to a degree), but imagine if you spent the last decade under regulations governing how you wore your hair and now find yourself in a completely unregulated world. You might be surprised how hard it is to get a sense of what's appropriate from your co-workers, especially if they to were once governed by the same regulations...You end up being a young guy with "Old man hair."
"#1 on the sides, taper the back"
Now, enter the professional arena with its own grooming standards. I'm talking full suit & tie. A "high and tight" isn't going to cut it. Yeah, bad pun, but totally appropriate in this sense. Anyways, after growing my hair out since August (with two trims since then), I finally felt I had enough hair to work with to get a style that looked good on me. The second trim actually set me back from this goal a bit, but it's my own fault for thinking that a 53-year-old man might know what looks good right now. So, there I was, trying to grow out a haircut that didn't look good from the beginning and trying my best not to look like a grad student awkwardly trying to dress up for his first job interview.

While it's probably some sort of a faux pas since some people might go here for a little escape from reality and we brought it right to their armchair, Kacey and I both went in to Jon David Salon in Springfield with the kids. Yeah,  I'm sure serveral of the patrons were a bit dismayed at hearing a 4-month-old occasionally crying while they also pretended to ignore an active and curious 3-yr old, but the staff were great about accommodating us. My stylist was Katy and based on her tattoos (one of which was done with black-light ink), I knew I was going to get the edgy style I was hoping for. She did a great job.

Katy also taught me a couple of things that I never had to learn when my hair was short. 1) The difference between 'paste' and 'putty', and how they need to be applied to dry hair to work correctly. Apparently, paste is a little creamier (like, uh, toothpaste) and putty/mud is more like drywall spackle...both of which you need to warm in your hand before applying. It doesn't work right if you try to change the consistency with water. 2) I've been parting my hair on the wrong side for a very, very long time. It turns out that my hair grows opposite to the direction that I've been parting it since 1990. Yes, I actually looked up pictures of myself to find when my part last shifted. Now it feels like I'm looking in a mirror when I look at old photos of myself post-1990. And I also have to re-learn the muscle-memory related to brushing my hair, since it now sticks straight up if I try to brush it in the old, familiar direction.

So now I can check off that box on my To-do list:
[x] Look like a professional.
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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

50 Shades of Gray

Ever since I've had to "suit up" to go to work, I've been paying more attention to the  'buy-one, get-x' deals at stores like Men's Wearhouse and Jos. A Banks. Today, I visited the latter for their buy-one, get-two sale on pants and sweaters.
After coming to terms with an industry sizing standard that makes me feel gargantuan, I still had to sort through several dozen pairs of pants running the gamut from medium gray to charcoal and in hues ranging  from gray-green to gray-brown. I settled on one gray, one green, and one brown pair of pants (grammar note: tough call on the agreement of multiple singular pairs of pants). I also ended up leaving with two argyle v-neck sweaters and a half-zip pull over.
The only part of my new look that still needs help is the hairstyle...the grown-out military haircut is not flattering. I probably look more like a grad student headed to an interview than a professional headed to work. But I have to give the barber something to work with, right?
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End Of Tour Summary: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

We spent two and a half years in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on our second tour in the Foreign Service with the US Department of State. As you migh...

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