Tuesday, January 26, 2010

To Boise

Taxi to BWI/Thurgood Marshall  airport from Pikesville on our way to Boise

Up at dawn and out of the house for travel to Boise, our new home. The travel was uneventful.

The CIA are advertising at BWI.

First impressions of Boise:

This is a clean city. I haven't seen even one cigarette butt on the ground.

The behavior of the people who live here is much like my friend Joe described from his visit here - polite people. Considerate drivers who obey the trafic laws.

The downtown is vibrant, with lots of small businesses and lots of restaurants. It's utterly safe. A 30-ish woman overheard us on the street wondering aloud about which way to walk to the restaurants, and introduced herself and advised us. She gave us her business card, welcomed us to Boise, and said call anytime if we had a question about this place. She was from New York City and lives here now.

In the Modern Hotel

I meet my colleagues tomorrow. They are giving me one of their pick em up trucks to use until our vehicles arrive.

The mountains are larger than I thought they would be. The weather is exactly like it is in Baltimore.

I have a good feeling about this place.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Best 100 Albums - Before the Poison

I've been listening to music in the form of vinyl "albums" since I was a boy, starting with Led Zep in 1970. Now it's CD's and online, but they are still albums, individual works of art. I want to catalog the ones I think are good. I'll call them albums for this purpose.

Let's get to the first, "Before the Poison" from Marianne Faithfull.  PJ Harper, Nick Cave and Marianne Faithfull come together to create a brilliant album of songs that are lyrically a bit obtuse (a Good Thing), and musically restrained and at the same time as dense as they need to be for the content. Listen to the album and decide for yourself. It's the best album of 2004 in my book.



Lunch with Annabelle at Friendlies today

This is probably the last time I will have lunch and ice cream with Annabelle at Friendlies restaurant - they aren't out west.

There a lot of lasts, because even though I might come back to Baltimore to charter a trawler from these people, something I've always wanted to do, we'll be here to use the Chesapeake Bay, not Baltimore. And, all my favorite cruising destinations are on the Eastern shore, save a few.

It's a last for blasting though the twisty roads around Loch Raven reservoir. But, there are many more miles of similar roads around Boise.

It's a last for spontaneous trips to Gettysburg for lunch and battle research - but we'll come back for the anniversary historical walks and make a mini vacation of it.

It's a last for spending 90 minutes trying to get home from work - this my new 1.7 mile commute.

It's a last having to flee some crazy motherfucker on the streets of this or any city. And if it comes to it, Idaho is an open carry state, and a shall issue state for concealed carry permits. There were 14 murders in Boise, a city of over 200,00 people in 2007, their worst year. Baltimore closed out 2009 with 238 murders in a city roughly three times the population of my new home.

Baltimore, You Suck, but I've met a lot of wonderful people here, and I will miss things like this, this, this, this, and this.

But we'll make new fun traditions in Boise. Off we go.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Milk Blood to Keep from Running Out

Nice warm day today and what better use for it than to crank up the tunes and go for a top down drive in the Miata. I started out with some John Hiatt who has made a lot of great driving songs (Drive South, Tennesee Plates, Memphis in the Meantime) and who, even though it was Bonnie Raitt covering it that made it a hit, was the genius who was able to rhyme "Queen of Sheba" with "amoeba" in "Thing Called Love". I like John's version of his song better than Bonnie's but her's ain't bad at all.

This probably being my last top down drive hereabouts I thought I should be more mindful of place and put on some music having something to do with Baltimore. And when you think Baltimore you think crab cakes but I don't have any CD's about crab cakes, so I went with songs about heroin instead, because when you think Baltimore you also think heroin. And nobody writes better songs about heroin than Neil Young.

I had a real gem of a CD with me - "The Bridge: A Tribute to Neil Young", which is covers of Neil's songs by some unlikely folks who's work I like a lot: David Lindley, Henry Kaiser, Nick Cave, and others. I love covers. The Grateful Dead at a certain level were just a rock and roll band that did a lot of covers, and I even like Dead cover bands doing a cover of the Dead doing a cover.

The Bridge has some low points, but it's the absolute brilliance of the high points that make this disk one that I keep coming back to. Getting straight to the hair-ron, David Lindley and his daughter Rosanne team up with Henry Kaiser to do a smokin' hot "Needle and the Damage Done/Tonight's the Night". Victoria Williams does a great "Don't let it Bring You Down". Nick Cave and the Bad Seed's version of "Helpless" is dirge-like and completely appropriate for the material. Returning to the Junk, Kaiser comes back with Williams to do an amazing version of "Words".

Henry Kaiser is one of those few guitarists who have developed a unique and identifiable sound. Others have done it as well, but not many - Jerry Garcia certainly, Richard Thompson, and Buck Owens come to mind. Kaiser's playing has a freneticism coupled with a precision of attack that is utterly unique. Williams matches that with her unusual and extremely spirited vocal performance on "Words" that manages to both keep up with Kaiser's over the top playing while at the same time letting us hear that she's getting worn down in the effort. At the end of the song, we hear her in the background as she complains in a weak voice to one of the sound guys that she is "feeling a little squizzy".

"Words" is the high point to a great CD, and a perfect accompaniment to me getting worn down and squizzy flogging the Miata through twisty roads on a warm winter day. Next stop: the mountain roads of Idaho and the Les Bois Miata Club.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

PR32 (BuNo 156511), a
US Navy  EP-3 reconnaisance aircraft
used to collect signals intelligence. 
I met LT Shane Osborne at the US Naval Institute in 2001. I was an employee there doing database work. LT Osborne was the aircraft commander and pilot of PR32 on April 1 2001, and was speaking at our annual meeting. PR32 was downed after a Chinese J8 collided with them in what came to be called the Hainan Island Incident.

They were flying a mission that I had flown many times, in this very same aircraft during my time as a Korean Linguist in the US Navy. Read the links if you are interested in what happened with LT Osborne. The short story is that after the J8 struck the P3, Osborne did some unbelievable flying, pulling the P3 from a 130 degree uncontrolled dive back to level controlled flight. He landed the heavily damaged aircraft on Hainan Island, and he was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for that. It was more than well-deserved.

If LT Osborne had been born fifteen years earlier, we would have flown together.  Regardless, we are shipmates, and I'm glad I met him and had the opportunity to tell him what I thought about what he did.

The VQ1 aircraft crew put their lives in the hands of we intelligence people on every mission, relying on us to detect threats like this J8, and we put our lives in their hands. I didn't think of it in those terms back when I was a twenty year old Korean Linguist doing the work. After flying with VQ1 for eight years and seeing the professionalism of all the VQ1 folks I flew with, I'm not surprised at Osborne's great performance in trying circumstances.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The View From Where I Blog

When Kim is home, this is the view for me as I type away. I've got my girl next to me on the sofa, and all is right with the world as I write.

More people who know me are showing up as Facebook friends. Facebook's concept of "friends" is a lot broader than I'm used to calling my circle of physically present friends, but I still like Facebook a lot. I'm in touch with people who's lives interest me who I might not otherwise be in contact with. Facebook throws information up about folks and presents opportunities for comunication. Communication that isn't always very profound, but communication nonetheless, and more communication is a good thing.

I'm grateful for my friends, one and all.
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Thursday, January 07, 2010

New Job, New City

With my ex-wife and my kids getting ready to move to the west coast in the spring with my blessing, there's not much to keep us in Baltimore except for some friends, who I will miss when we leave for my new job working for Quantitative Consultants, Inc. in Boise Idaho.

QCI does science. From their site:

Quantitative Consultants, Inc (QCI) was founded in 2000 to meet a need for the pragmatic application of quantitatively rigorous methods to evaluate population status and provide meaningful methods to develop and guide the implementation of conservation actions.

I'll be helping QCI support ISEMP using my information management skills with large databases. The goal is to keep salmon and steelhead populations in the pacific northwest from going extinct. Put simply, a lot of people (and devices) collect a lot of very localized and granular data about fish and habitat and send it to us, and I manage bringing it all in, getting it sorted out, and sent where it needs to go. It's a very exciting opportunity for me. I've worked as a database guy with scientists before, and it's a good fit, because they understand the technical concepts of data management and I understand their need for precision. And while I like a poached salmon as much as anyone, I don't want to see the last one poached and eaten.

Kim and I have talked a lot over the years about ultimately moving out west, and now we are doing it. I'm really glad that Kim is finally going to get out of Baltimore, a place she doesn't like, and a place she has tolerated for a long time just to be with me. That's a big deal, and she deserves to live somewhere she doesn't loathe. I'm not liking Baltimore so well either these days - I have a 15 mile commute that sometimes takes 90 minutes or more, and that's a crime. My commute in Boise will be a little over a mile with no beltway in sight, and I'll be working with really smart people to accomplish a good thing. Beats working for a health insurance company.