Saturday, December 6, 2008

Day 59/365 - Go Navy, Beat Army!

I took the train up to Philadelphia today to watch Navy's football team put a 34-0 whuppin' on Army in the 109th playing of the Army-Navy Game. This marks Navy's seventh straight victory over their arch-rival. I was actually worried that this might be the year Army took one from Navy. Army had been playing better this season and Navy had been up and down. I should've had more faith in the Midshipmen.

Unless you're a Navy fan like me, it probably wasn't a very interesting game given that Army never really even came that close to scoring. I thought it was great, though. The weather was cold but the end result made it all worth it.

Now if the Navy basketball team can just beat Virginia Tech tomorrow the weekend will be doubly awesome.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Day 58/365 - Flotsam & Jetsam

This is the shopping arcade at Union Station in Washington, DC. This, along with the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building, is one of my favorite buildings in DC. Before they turned the train station into a mall and food court, this room used to be open at the ends and the trains used to pull into it like a carport. This is where passengers would board and disembark the trains that were taking them to or bringing them from the far reaches of the railroad.

I had to stop by Union Station after work today to pick up a train ticket. Tomorrow morning I'm day-tripping up to Philadelphia for the Army-Navy game (Go Navy, Beat Army!). I kinda wish they'd restore this part of the station back to its original use. The place where you catch trains now has all the dark, drab, concrete charm of an office building parking garage. Keleti train station in Budapest still uses the old carport style approach and I like it much better.

I really love train stations, airports too although they don't have quite the same sense of nostalgia and romance. I like getting there early before a trip and marinading in the excitement of going somewhere. It's just such a vital and vibrant place to be with people bustling to and fro like salmon swimming upstream, either rushing toward or pulling themselves away from someone they love.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Day 57/365 - Decorations

These are the military sort of decorations rather than the Christmas kind. These are my ribbons, medals, and rating insignia from my time in the Navy. Only one of them is actually of any significance. The others are what's known in Naval parlance as 'geedunk' (i.e., junk food) awards.

Starting from the right, the red and yellow striped medal and corresponding ribbon is the National Defense Service Medal, known colloquially as a 'ketchup and mustard stain' or a 'Ronald McDonald medal.' You get it for happening to be in the military during a period of armed conflict, regardless of whether you actually participated in that conflict. I received this for being in the Navy during Operation Desert Storm, even though all I did during that conflict was just go through training.

The maroon medal and ribbon in the middle is the Good Conduct Medal, also known as the 'Good Cookie Medal.' You get it for completing four years of military service without ever getting caught doing anything particularly bad (i.e., not going before captain's mast or a court-martial).

The green and orange striped one on the left is the only one that counts. That's the Navy Achievement Medal (NAM). I got mine for various acts of service to my command during my four years aboard ship. I was actually shocked as hell to get it. It came in the mail a few months after I was honorably discharged. A Captain only gets to give out a few NAMs each year and so normally they just give them to sailors who are staying in the Navy because they count as a bonus point on the rating exams you have to take in order to get promoted to the next rank. Giving one to someone who is getting out of the military is pretty much unheard of so, to steal a British expression, I was 'well chuffed' when I got my NAM in the mail.

The patch at the far left is a Petty Officer's rating insignia, also known as a 'crow.' The two chevrons indicate the rank of Petty Officer Second Class, which I believe I may have mentioned before is equivalent to a sergeant. The symbol in between the eagle and the chevrons is an arrown and an oscilloscope (which was an early form of radar display) and denotes that I was an Operations Specialist.

The thin, curved patch above the rating insignia is called a UIC, which stands for 'Unit Identification Code' even though it's the name of my ship rather than an actual code. I was stationed aboard the USS Mississippi (CGN-40) during my four years in the Navy. The blue, white, and yellow ribbon with the two 'E' pins on it is a Battle E or Battle Effectivness award. You get it for belonging to a Naval command that scored highest in the year-long combat readiness/competency evaluation for that class of combatant.

And that's the sum total of my military decorations.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Day 56/365 - Experiments in Bokeh

This may look like an old school Lite-Brite, but it's actually just an out of focus shot of a tree trunk that was wrapped in Christmas lights. I cranked up the shadow level in Picasa to strip out everything except the lights. This is a great time of year to play around with bokeh shots.

Usually I forget to try and bokeh a subject and then it strikes me after I'm reviewing the downloaded images that "dang, that might have looked cool as a bokeh shot." This shot is really too busy and crowded to make good bokeh, but I still kinda liked the way it came out.

Tonight the outdoor shopping area near my apartment was having an open house with free horse and carriage rides, giveaways, and a special Santa for animals to get their pictures taken with (although some little kids did wind up horning in on the Kris Kringle action as well). I met up there with my friends Chris, Desiree, and Adriana. Chris and Des brought their dog Chewie with them and dressed him up in his reindeer costume so he could get his picture taken with Santa.

Can't wait to see how that comes out. Hopefully Des and Chris will post the shot on Chewie's blog shortly.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Day 55/365 - Arrrhh!

This skull-and-crossbones is tattooed on my upper left arm. I got it done when I was in the Navy. I thought about getting a second tattoo on my right arm to balance things out, but I never got around to it. So now I'm lopsided.

I've wanted to be a pirate ever since I was small (although there was a period around the time that 'Star Wars' came out that I modified that slightly and wished I were a Corellian Space Pirate). My friends and I would play pirate all the time. I always got to be the captain, of course.

We used the jungle gym in their backyard as our pirate ship and got some old costume jewelry from my mom to serve as our loot, which we kept in a cardboard box we painted to resemble a treasure chest. We sailed that jungle gym all over the Caribbean, raided a thousand ships, and pillaged a hundred ports without ever leaving our neighborhood.

Years later when my youngest niece came along I got her into playing pirates (it beat the hell outta playing with Barbies) and she and I made treasure maps out of old paper sacks, spyglasses out of empty paper towel rolls, and a pirate ship out of my sister's couch and I resumed my career as the Scourge of the Seven Seas.

Now I need someone else to hurry up and have kids so I can go back to playing pirate. It's much preferable to playing lawyer. There are rich merchant ships prime for the plucking and wealthy port towns brimming with gold. Time to teach those scurvy dogs to once again fear the name of Captain Kevin.


(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Day 54/365 - It's Christmas Time, There's No Need to Be Afraid

These are the little Christmas trees in front of the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory at the base of Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. I spun my camera around on my finger while the shot was exposing just to see how it would turn out. I think it came out pretty cool.

Now that Thanksgiving has passed and December is here, it's no longer too early to start thinking about Christmas. Tonight 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' (the excellent cartoon version, not the crappy movie version) is on tv and Wednesday they're going to be showing 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' and for the first time ever it will be in HD. I'm pretty stoked about that.

While we're on the subject of Christmas, I'm prepared to argue ad infinitum that there are only three acceptable Rock & Roll Christmas carols -- "Do They Know It's Christmas" by Band Aid, "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree" by Brenda Lee, and "All I Want for Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey (which is still one of the only songs that will get me to dancing in the shower whenever it comes on the radio).

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Twice on Sunday Bonus Photo - Peek-a-Boo

This week's bonus photo from my archives is a shot I stumbled upon as I was leaving the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History one day. This little puppet on a popsicle stick thing was peeping out from the shadows in a groove on the base of one of the columns at the front of the building. I really liked the juxtaposition between the colorful, playful toy and the grave, grey formality of the column. It seemed to me like a good illustration of the double nature of DC -- the serious, workaholic, bureaucratic/wonky side and the fun, silly, arts-and-culture side.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Day 53/365 - Confessions of a Retro Boy

This is a replica of an old GE cathedral-style radio from the 1930s. My parents got this for me as a Christmas present years and years ago. I've loved big band jazz and old-time radio (or OTR as it's more familiarly known among we geeky collector types) programs ever since I was in high school. When everyone else at school was getting into Poison and Motley Crue I was discovering Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman -- music that was already old by the time my parents were my age. Even though I'm a self-confessed dance-phobe, I really wish I knew how to swing dance. That looks like fun.

It's a bit blasphemous to admit this, but I think I like OTR better than tv. Old radio programs are like tv shows without the pictures, kinda like the opposite of silent movies I guess. I think imagining the action going on in the program in your head even beats HD. There are many different genres of radio shows, but mostly I focus on collecting the adventure, spy, and detective programs (albeit with a few children's, western, science fiction, and horror programs thrown in as well). I have nearly 200 different programs comprising several thousand individual episodes in mp3 format in my collection. They're great to upload to my iPod and listen to at the pool or when I'm travelling. My favorite programs are probably Jungle Jim and Orson Welles' run on The Shadow.

This is probably my single-most nerdy area of activity. It doesn't get much geekier than collecting OTR. I don't just stop there, though. Noooooo. I also design album covers for each program I collect. I enjoy that almost as much I do listening to the programs themselves. Why settle for being simply nerdy when you can be absurdly nerdy?

BTW -- if your curiosity has been piqued, you can find a huge inventory of old radio programs available for free download from the Internet Archive.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)