Sunday, March 08, 2015

Tilting IdeaMills

Eight months ago, the Department of Labor started the equivalent of an electronic suggestion box, where employees could post suggestions to improve the work-life experience at DOL, employees could vote on the suggestions, and management would implement those deemed sufficiently feasible and popular. I quickly wrote up one regarding time-off bonuses (it was during the summer and my leave-balance was down to fumes) and quickly forgot about it. Until mid-February when I was invited, with several other contributors, to meet with the Secretary to discuss implementation of our ideas.

I don't get to meet with the Secretary very often in a small group (this was my first time ever with this particular Secretary) so I jumped at the chance for an hour of face-time discussing outreach ideas with the Secretary, his entourage and other "idea" people. Afterwards, I assumed my work was done and went on my merry way to Whistler, only to discover upon returning that no good deed goes unpunished.

In order to encourage participation in the Idea Mill, the Secretary decided to take his campaign to the elevators, and since I fit some demographic niche that needed to be filled, the Office of Public Affairs insisted that I be one of five very special elevator posters. I was horrified but ultimately assented; Allen was delighted and decided that my new-found celebrity required a special field-trip to Labor to take some pictures to accompany my signed and suitable for framing mementos of the experience...


Friday, March 06, 2015



Snowstorms in March are an odd thing. We awoke Thursday morning to find schools and the Federal government closed with n'ere a flake on the ground (only a lot of rain). A few hours later it was a veritable non-winter wonderland. And while Congress proved to be a bit of a Grinch when it comes to snowday activities, to paraphrase William Wallace, "They can take our land but they can never take our sledding" (particularly when the hills of Gallaudet are only a few blocks away).

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Whistler 2015


After wonderful trips to Snowmass in 2011 and 2013, we decided to mix things up for our 2015 ski trip out west and go to Whistler in British Columbia, Canada with the Hyatts and the Mettenbergs.

It was a funny weather year for a ski trip in the western half of the continent.  The east had one of the coldest winters in years, temperatures were even in the single digits in DC the week of our trip, but the west experiencing a relative heat wave.  There wasn't much fresh snow at Whistler, but there was plenty of skiing in the high alpine of the two mountains to keep us busy, and we couldn't complain about the sunny skies and pleasant weather at the base.

Nora & Gigi spent the week together in Ski Camp with instructor Glen, who according to the girls was from London and 21 which is 'very, very, very young."  They did a great job advancing from the magic carpet the first few days to skiing down the 'big mountain' by the end of the week. The best part though may have been the 'unexpected surprise' of running into us parents on the slopes and showing the dads the amazing tree fort.

The boys -- Owen, Kaden and Liam --were all in their own groups for lessons.  Kaden kept coming back with reports of various black diamonds he concurred, Liam cruised through level three of ski camp, and Owen was ready for level four by with stories of his own experience on a black diamond by the end of the week.

For the rest of us, the days on the slopes were wonderful, and the evening were filled with friends, food, hot tubs, olympic rings, VR, and a little more than our fair share of Munchkin.

In closing, we all need to remember the words of Edward, Nora & Gigi's ski camp buddy from London, "Glen, why are there so many gondolas in the world?"


(click here for all the pictures)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Advice for JK Rowling

I've been reading the Harry Potter books to Owen, and just before our trip to Whistler we reached the third task in the Tri-Wizard Cup from book four.  Harry and Cedric Diggory had competed with each other, but also helped each other and showed wonderful sportsmanship throughout the competition. When they decided to grab the Goblet of Fire together in order to share the victory, Owen felt a deep sense of satisfaction with the story.

That's where we left off before our ski trip, and I was a bit nervous about what was coming, so I warned Owen that the story was about to get much darker, but he insisted we continue reading when we got back from Canada.  Well, we read the next chapter tonight, and despite Owen making up an alternate version where Cedric wasn't killed, but instead awoke from the avada kadarva curse, crawled back to the Goblet of Fire -- which was still a portkey -- and grabbed it to transport himself to safety while Voldomort and Wormtail were distracted by Harry, Owen couldn't sleep and decided we needed to chat.
Dad, why would the author kill Cedric, didn't she want to make more money?  If she wants to write more Harry Potter books after this one, and she wants people to buy them and read them, she shouldn't have killed Cedric, because no one will want to read more of her books if she kills good people like Cedric.
Owen is a very gentle soul, and I think we might want to wait a bit before reading the rest of the series... 

Thursday, February 05, 2015


Allen's bday
The passage of Allen's youth was not the rager I initially thought it would be. At 30 we took over a bar. At 35 we took over a very nice private dining room. For 40, I figured a video arcade was the way to go.

But then Allen found out he had to fly to Boston the morning after his birthday. And Owen got really sick culminating in two ambulance rides and one admittance to Children's Hospital for severe croup. Given we were going skiing in Canada just 10 days after the milestone, we decided to scale down the celebration with just a quiet dinner for two at Rasika (plus I let him and Owen play lots of Zelda at home).

It was really nice and I think we both needed a mellow night out. 50, however, is going to be epic...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015



Our plan was to go skiing on MLK day, but apparently so was everyone else's which meant there were no openings in any of the ski schools in the tri-state area.

Skiing with Owen on a crowded ski slope makes me nervous; skiing with Nora on a crowded slope terrifies me. We decided to instead go with Plan B: checking out Daddy's new digs, visiting the American History Museum and dinner at Mom Mom's.

Surprisingly, the kids' favorite part of our agenda was visiting the Clinton Building where Allen's office moved over the summer and which Nora likened to a mansion! There was a lot of fun re-enacting the murals, checking out all the marble and chandeliers and then timing how long it took to climb the spiral staircase (until a devoted EPA employee asked us to keep it down lest she be stuck at work for even longer).

So we headed over to the American History Museum.

It was actually a pretty appropriate way to commemorate Dr. King as we were able to show the kids the Woolworth's lunch counter, Hale Woodruff's murals portraying significant events in the journey of African Americans from slavery to freedom, and civil war artifacts from "The Price of Freedom: American's at War," though if we're being totally honest, Nora preferred the Ruby Slippers and Owen was pretty focused on some gun.

Afterwards, we headed up to Mom Mom's for dinner and a second re-enactment of Nora's favorite mural at Allen's office -- this time in costume (or at least authentic hair-styling)!

(To see all the pics from MLK day, click here.)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Pinewood Derby 2015

The Pinewood Derby is probably the highlight of the year for the Cub Scouts.  Last year, in his first Pinewood Derby, Owen made it to the semifinals.  This year we started construction over Thanksgiving with some help from cousin Kent and his bandsaw, and with a few new tricks up his sleeve, Owen built a car that was faster than his old one.  He finished second in each of his first three heats (his friend Lucas finished first each time with his fast & cool looking 'Toothless' car).  Owen advanced to the quarterfinals, but the competition was stiffer than last year, and he just missed out on making the semifinals.  Not too bad considering there were over 70 cars entered this year.

We had some extra fun this year building a dad car out of our extra Pinewood Derby kit, and a sister car out of the leftover wood from Owen's car.  Nora painted hers a teal color to match Elsa's dress from Frozen, and I built my car with a GoPro mount.  The GoPro car was a big hit at the Dad's race, they entered it into every heat for 'historical documentation reasons' ;-)  It was designed to be slow, so it would have cars in front of it to film, but it actually beat the super cool 3D printed flame car, and legitimately made it to the finals, where it had a great view filming the other cars from the back of the pack.


Saturday, January 03, 2015

Liberty GoPro

So on the last day of school before the winter holiday, Nora announced to her class that she was going to Ski Camp over break.  This wasn't entirely true, at least not yet.  We have a big trip to Whistler planned for February, and we we're thinking that we needed to hit one of the local slopes before then for a warm up day, but until Nora's announcement, we thought that would be later in January.  Well, we wouldn't want to make a liar out of Nora, so I decided drive up to Liberty Mountain the day after New Year's with the kids and Aunt Katherine & Uncle L (Mommy sadly had to work.)  True to her word, Nora spent the afternoon in Ski Camp, while Owen skied with the grown-ups, and I played around with my new GoPro (Thanks Mom!)

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas 2014

Allen really, really loves Christmas. Which is why it's a downright shame that due to an ineffective flu shot, a bike ride in the rain, an excessive mise-en-place and probably too late of a Christmas mass, he pretty much missed it. Sure, he made it down to see the kids unwrap their Santa gifts, but after that he disappeared for several hours before I told him he had to wake up and shower if he wanted to go to Mom Mom's. He barely rallied, was shivering while getting dressed, had to rest on the couch eating dry toast before he could make it to the car, and went straight to Mom Mom's guestroom once we arrived where he spent most of the day (we would occasionally bring him out to the couch to watch us open presents or force more toast and ginger-ale down him). He was home and down for the count by 10 pm.

The kids had a great time and Mom Mom made a lovely meal, but I have to say it probably wasn't our favorite celebration. Also, with Allen largely out of commission, it was pretty much our least documented one, but thanks to Grandpa Don, you (and Allen!) can get the gist of our celebration here.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Here We Come a Caroling

One of our Christmas traditions is to go caroling on F Street with our old neighbors.  Several of us have moved away from the old block, but we still gather to raise our voices in song, catch up with old friends, and share some cookies and hot chocolate.  Happy Holidays F Street!