Back Home and Catching Up

I made it home from a week in DC in one piece after a full week there and I’m trying to get caught up on lots of stuff around here.

I made it home from DC on Friday in one piece, and although both of the connections on the flight home were very close I actually arrived as scheduled. This trip was the first time in quite a while I bumped into any problems going east; usually it’s the other way around. I had a full but good week in DC:

  • Good food: Indian at the Polo Club near Dupont Circle on Tuesday, South American at La Choza someplace out toward Vienna/Fairfax on Wednesday, and Spanish on Thursday (I have to track down the name of the place where we met for dinner)
  • Met Jim and Brittany for dinner on Wednesday evening; it was great to get to see them again and spend some time catching up with them
  • A week filled with project meetings (a couple of which were surprisingly productive) and presentations
  • Had a few minutes to spend between meetings on Thursday morning at the Sackler Gallery across the street from DOE’s headquarters in the Forrestal Building

The early start on Friday morning for a 6:10 flight out of Reagan made for a long day, but it was nice to get home by mid-day.

Friday evening was the start of a soccer tournament here in Idaho Falls, and we’ve been blessed with glorious weather the past couple days (and today looks to be more of the same). Ian’s team played one match Saturday afternoon (a 2-0 win against a good team) and has two more slated for Sunday. We’ve got a couple more weeks of league play before the end of the season and are planning on wrapping things up with a tournament in Utah over Memorial Day weekend.

Ian and Fi, Graduation Dance -- May 2010

Ian’s senior year of high school is winding down, with the graduation dance Saturday evening sort of serving as the beginning of the end. He and Fi did stop back here at home after dinner so that we could get a picture or two before they headed off to the dance. They are already finished with their AP tests for the semester and it sounds like the next couple of weeks are going to be pretty loose in terms of school itself. Graduation itself is June 2 for their high school… Deb and I are still trying to get our heads around the thought that Ian will be done with high school and moving on to the next phase of his life.

More St. Louis…

We are ready to get home again. Ian and Teagan’s preso on Wednesday morning went very well, the Arch is cooler than I expected, we had great Indian and sushi… and if all goes well, we’ll be home to our own beds tomorrow evening.

Teagan (l) and Ian (r) at the top of the arch (01/2010)
Teagan (l) and Ian (r) at the top of the Arch on Wednesday afternoon (01/2010)

… and I think we are all ready to be home again.

Ian and Teagan’s presentation on Wednesday morning went really well, striking a nice blend of the geek stuff. They seemed comfortable doing it, and seemed to have fun in doing it. Very well-received by the audience, and I think it was more than just being polite; a number of them were genuinely impressed with what these guys had accomplished. As a dad, to say I was a little proud of these guys would be a big understatement.

They had a bit of time in the afternoon when there wasn’t anything on the conference agenda that appealed to them during the afternoon, so we wandered down to the arch (our hotel is less than a mile from the park with the arch, or “The Arch”, I suppose). I have to admit I was not expecting all that much, but it was way cooler than I had anticipated… and not just the weather, although it did start snowing while we were up at the top. I knew it was big, but I really didn’t have a sense of its scale and it really is pretty impressive. We walked back to the hotel in an increasingly-dense snow shower.

Sculpture, downtown St. Louis
A rare splash of color in St. Louis: cool jazz sculpture in the snow near Laclede's Landing in downtown St. Louis (01/2010)

Food has been a pleasant surprise here in St. Louis, to put it mildly. We had excellent Indian on Wednesday evening at India’s Rasoi on Euclid with Bryan (Ian’s and Teagan’s mentor); it was exceptional and we all came home impressed and stuffed. We went a little lighter this evening with very good sushi (edamame, nagiri, and a couple different rolls) from Wasabi on Washington, then we wandered around in a cool foodie grocery/deli called Culinaria on 9th and came back to the hotel with ice cream.

Tomorrow we head for home, and we’re all ready — at least mentally — to be home again. Likely to be a long day, given that we aren’t scheduled to get back into IF until almost 11pm… I can’t say I will feel bad about leaving St. Louis. It has been cold, almost exclusively grey, and damp the whole time. Aside from the food and the Arch, there just really isn’t much here that we’ve seen that would make me want to come back but I also recognize that we haven’t had much of a chance to get out and do much and January in the midwest really hasn’t given St. Louis much of a chance to impress.

St. Louis so far…

St. Louis so far is definitely a mixed bag: ugly ride into town on the train, but a decent hotel and good food. Awards presentation for Ian and Teagan yesterday morning, their big presentation this morning, and sushi on the menu for tonight.

Ian and Teagan on the train into St. Louis
Ian (l) and Teagan (r) on the train into St. Louis Monday afternoon (01/2010)

… is kind of a mixed bag. Ian, Teagan (a friend of Ian’s), and I are back here for the week for a conference (more on that in a bit), but I don’t yet really have much of an opinion aside from initial impressions. We flew in on Monday and rode the train from the airport into the downtown area to the hotel. The train ride was grey, brown, and rust: a grey blustery day, nothing green in sight, and passing through areas of run-down industrial and urban decay on the west side of the city. I’m a little surprised at the lack of effort on the part of the city to do anything to clean up the area, given the impression it leaves on someone new to town. Depressing.

The hotel where we are staying and where the conference is being hosted is pretty decent and is big enough that it doesn’t seem stretched to hold us all. Decent food within walking distance (very good Italian at J.F. Sanfilippo’s on Monday — made even better by great service — and decent Med last night at Nara’s). Looks like several sushi and Irish places close to us, too. We’ll probably check those out the next couple evenings. We haven’t really had much of a chance to get out and see anything, but the food and the hotel have been a bit of a counterpoint to the ride in…

Ian and Teagan were presented their awards at the conference yesterday morning in one of the plenary sessions, following a great presentation by Alan Paller of the SANS Institute. I’ll post a picture or two if I can track them down. They have their presentation this morning; I’m sure both of them will be glad to be past that so they can just enjoy the rest of the conference.

End of summer and Cyrillic spam

The first snow of the season marks the real end of summer, despite being a ways from the end of the fall soccer season; ratatouille last night for dinner and a full plate of Cyrillic spam before breakfast this morning.

It’s official: we’re done with summer. We woke up to snow on the ground this morning. (I suppose you could say it actually ended midweek last week when we had snow on the hills around town, but I didn’t want to rush things.) Of course, we’ve still got a little over a month of soccer left… so I’m hoping for at least a little bit of an upward trend in temperatures from where we are forecast to be this week. Hoping, but not holding my breath…

Our garden has long since been cleaned out, since we’ve had a couple hard frosts over the past week or so. We used up some of our zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers in a nice ratatouille last night (the first time I’ve tried making it) — a great way to use up some of the piles of produce we have from the garden.

On the spam front, I woke up to 31 spam messages on my blog which pushes the total number to almost 1,000 since I started accepting comments on some posts. (Again, I am very grateful for the Akismet plugin within WordPress.) The difference today: all 31 were posted in Cyrillic.

Five Peaches

The surprise of the summer: a total of five peaches on our little peach tree, found at the tail end of the summer, when we were thinking the tree didn’t have any (given that we never saw any blossoms on it through our cool wet spring and early summer) this year.

One of five hardy peaches on our tree -- the surprise of our summer
One of five hardy peaches on our tree -- the surprise of our summer

It was the surprise of the summer: I found a peach in the grass under our peach tree Friday afternoon as I was trimming the lawn ahead of mowing. Why the surprise, you might ask? Because — to the best of our knowledge — we had no peaches on our brave little peach tree this year.

As we made it through the cool wet spring and into the first part of the summer, we had been keeping an eye on the peach tree to see if it was going to need lots of thinning as it had last year. We never saw an blossoms, let alone any forming peaches that might need thinning, and had as a result just written off any chance of getting peaches this year.

Given that it had produced big crops the past couple years, we figured a down year might not be all bad as it would give the tree a chance to rest and grow. But we were missing our annual fix of peaches, missing it enough in fact that we actually bought peaches. Not bad (actually good) but not in the same class as a tree-ripened peach that has just been picked…

Li holding a treasure: a fresh peach from our tree
Li holding a treasure: a fresh peach from our tree

So imagine my surprise to see one laying in the grass. It took a few seconds to register with me as I stood looking at. All through the summer, I’ve trimmed around that tree each time I’ve mowed the lawn and never looked up. A quick look showed two more on the tree, and further looking revealed two more. A total of five peaches, a couple of which were softball-sized world class peaches.

I gently carried the one I’d found in and showed it to Deb, and when Li woke up from her short nap on Friday afternoon, we went out and picked the surprise. And we were reminded how wonderful fresh (I mean really fresh) peaches are…