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.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A New Commute

Today was my first day of my new commute route. Well, sort of. We recently bought a place about two miles from the place we'd been renting for the last year, so my metro station didn't change...but now I also have to catch a bus to get there. Both routes included less than a quarter-mile of walking to the first place where I swipe my SmarTrip card.

Now, the buses to the metro normally run once every ~15 min or so, but today there was one sitting at the bus stop just as I rounded the corner (some 40 yards away). So I hustled up and the driver waited for me. Apparently he was a little behind schedule, otherwise I'd have missed it entirely. The bus wasn't crowded when I got on, but it collected several more people along the way. I recognized many of them from the last year I've spent waiting on the metro platform.

The bus pulled into the metro station, but there were no inbound trains listed. I walked up the escalator, only to find my train sitting there with its doors open. Seizing the opportunity, I hopped in and then walked forward...had I done it the other way around, the train could have left while I was walking on the platform.
You almost never see the Metro this empty.
Otherwise, it was a pretty uneventful commute. But it did give me the bare minimum time that I need to factor in for the commute. The nice thing is that I should be able to check my exact travel times on wmata.com. And just for fun, I think I'll record this month's commuting data in an excel file to analyze and fine-tune everything.
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Monday, September 09, 2013

Steppin' Up!

So, as it turns out, the automated HR system works. I just received this email:

"A personnel action has been processed for Pay Rate Change, effective 9/8/2013."

Since I've been at State for a year now, I am getting an administrative pay increase. I went into more detail in an earlier post about how the step and grade system works, but suffice it to say that more money is a good thing.
Now, about that DC housing...
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Friday, September 06, 2013

Telework

So today was my first planned telework day. I'd used the telework capabilities before to remotely log in while travelling or to keep from having to go in to the office on the weekends, but this was the first time I'd actually planned to work from home. And I have to say, I was pretty productive. Compare these two environments:

Work: My cubicle is frequently visited by various people asking various questions about various projects, and I figure that if they took the time to find me, I should take the time to answer them. But these visits frequently get interrupted by phone calls, at which time the visitor leaves and I start talking on the phone while reading over my continuous stream of email. By the time I hang up, I usually have three new emails. But by the time I'm mid-way through the first reply email, I get another visitor and the cycle repeats itself. If you noticed, that means my work load is growing faster than I can address it.

Home: Even though I was supervising two 4-yr-olds on a play date and a pre-walking toddler, I was somehow able to focus enough attention to knock out the evaluations of three 80-page project submissions, follow-up with a teleconference to come to a consensus, write a detailed project status updates for several projects, sorted and filed away my emails, and organized my digital files instead of just throwing every download into a "sort me later" bin. I never get that much time to focus on pure task accomplishment at the office. I now feel like I'm finally at the leading edge of the wave instead of tumbling around in the pipeline.

But of course, the one downside is that I can't sit on someone's desk until I get the results I want...so I guess I'm headed back to the office tomorrow.
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Saudi Arabia: So Far, So Good?

We're over two years in to our second tour in the Foreign Service with the US Department of State in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It's hard...

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