This file contains all newsletters for March 2002


Friday 29 March 2002


    After a quick trip to Florida, and a week in Georgia, both of which were mostly sunny and warm, Maryland feels a bit out of place. It was about 50 degrees in my garage when I left for work this morning, so it must have been at least ten degrees cooler outside (I forgot to check). The ornamental Bradford Pear trees in my yard, Kathy's yard and at the entrance to the High Meadow Drive hill are almost bursting with white petals. A couple of warm days and they will all be giant puffs of white flowers. More bulbs are now sprouting in all of my gardens, and the daffodils are still blooming. I'm going to check the long term weather forecasts to see if I can plant my cannas soon. If it is warm this weekend I might even finish cleaning out the two gardens and get them ready for planting by the end of April.

    It is Good Friday, so I had no problem finding a parking spot inside the fenceline at work today, one quite close to the gatehouse entrance, just like the old days when I used to be, perhaps, "A Person of Consequence" (whoo boy!). The parking lots are mostly empty, with people taking advantage of the minimal manning in each office and opting to take off early themselves as the day progressed. I started the day off "right" by catching my "dressdown Friday" Hawaiian shirt on the office doorlatch, ripping two buttons off and thereafter trying to keep a low profile so no one would notice the single pin keeping my protruding stomach covered :-)

    My company still has a ban on anyone receiving an "outstanding" performance rating (92-100 percentile) so they gave me a 91% rating and a nice pay raise instead. Damn! Now I just can't get any better. And more money! What the heck do I need with more money? ;-)

    Back to Florida: my friend and co-worker, Fred MacDonald, and I arrived at Fort Gordon, Augusta, Georgia on Thursday night, after enduring three flight delays on USAir. 35 minutes at BWI to start the day off. Then, after a two hour layover in Charlotte, NC, they announced a 30-40 minute "maintenance delay" for our next flight. When that time elapsed they made a general announcement that the flight was cancelled. That set off a mass race to the podium by all the passengers - to no avail. The next flight out was already overbooked. Fred and I chose to be rescheduled for a 6:05pm flight, rather than fly to some South Carolina city and be bused for 79 miles. The projected arrival time was the same, but we didn't have the hassle of dragging luggage on and off (etc). So we spent the afternoon sitting in Charlotte Airport, in a rocking chair or at the bar listening to a jazz band in the airport's large hall. At 6:05pm they announced yeat another "maintenance delay". Luckily we did finally take off, but overall we were delayed more than five hours (with no compensation either!), so all our plans for a leisurely afternoon and evening at the hotel were dashed, as I ironed clothes up to midnight and dropped off to bed with my stomach churning.

    Fred and I thought that our Friday duty would be over by early afternoon, and we would drive to my condo in Bradenton, Florida for the weekend instead of sitting around Augusta. An early start would enable us to reach Bradenton by 10 or 11pm. Not to be! Our software engineer misunderstood his instructions and flew home while we were sitting around waiting for him to arrive back on post. He had already been here for a week and was anxious to get back to the bright lights of downtown Glen Burnie, MD or something. Fred and I ended up staying until 8pm testing out the newly installed systems, in order to be sure that everything was done properly, and that our formal test (with the Fort Gordon users) could begin on Sunday's mid shift. So, it wasn't until 9:15pm that the two of us started driving across the back roads of Georgia to reach Interstate 75 at Macon. It took us three hours (we thought we'd make it in less than half that time). The rest of the trip was uneventful. Fred brought some music CDs, including Hawaiian Slack Key guitarists. He also brought a Gaelic language CD, and it was very interesting to hear the lessons, first in English, and then in Gaelic. All of the sounds were familiar: the English was spoken with an accent that made it seem as if our Scottish friend, Tony Thorne, was sitting right next to me; and our neighbors on Linden Avenue (1969-72) in Prestbury, England (the Nicholsons) spoke Gaelic and I remember listening to Mary speaking on the phone to her relatives in the Outer Hebrides - on the island of South Uist, I think.

    We drove all night, usually at 80mph or more, but it still took nine hours to get there: 6:15am. We got some sleep and made it to the Gulf Drive Cafe on the beach for a late breakfast around 12:50pm, then spent the rest of the day driving all over Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key, Sarasota and even both of the fishing bridges (original Skyway bridge) alongside the new Sunshine Skyway.

    On Sunday we drove to "The Pier" in St. Petersburg and took our time walking around. Very nice. Then on to Celebration, a town that Disnet built right next to DisneyWorld. Celebration looks like it belongs in a Disney movie - everything is brand-spanking-new, beautifully designed with close-knit, neighborhoods - like connected English or New England villages.

    Fred had a new Ford Mustang convertible as a rental car, and we had the top down all day. We both got sunburns. My face has already peeled. The old scalp is a bit sore too, which tells me that I am finally arriving at the age when the hair is thinning out and doesn't afford my head the protection it once did. ;-)

    Then, on to Daytona Beach where we ran into horrendous traffic. It was "Spring Break"! All the college kids were descending on the beaches! Thousands and thousands of teenagers and twenty-somethings jammed into or on top of cars, bikes, cycles and even golf carts everywhere. Of course, all of us out-of-Staters didn't know that we could reach the beach (Daytona is on a very, very long barrier island) by just going north, up the road a mile or two and cross over on a couple of other bridges! So we literally inched our way across to the island's main road, and finally drove onto the beach itself. Daytona is famous for letting you drive on their gorgeous white sand beach. It is so wide, it isn't a problem. We drove for miles and miles, and of course there were thousands of America's lovelies in their skimpiest bathing suits (if that's what they can be called). Several cars full of nubile young things also willingly responded to the signs held high by the young males to "Show Us Your Breasts" (they used a different word). Some girls would just yank up their blouses, T-shorts, Sweaters - whatever. It must have something in common with mass hypnotism, or power of suggestion, or ...?

    Since we had the entire day to ourselves we were in no hurry, so we continued north along the island road (route A1A) all the way to St. Augustine. Unfortunately we arrived after the local castle had closed. They also closed the castle's parking lot so we weren't able to find a space, and we weren't able to just walk around the outside of the castle either! Trying to find a parking space on St. Augustine streets was futile, so we drove to Route 95, had something to eat at a MacDonald's instead of a nice St. Augustine restaurant, and then on to Savannah and (finally) to Augusta. Arrived back just after 11pm. A great day - much better than sitting the weekend out in Augusta!

    So long for now!
Best regards,
Barry & Dale


Monday 04 March 2002

Hi Everyone!

    Actually, there isn't much to tell you! It's been a warm (and dry) winter, and the State of Maryland is concerned about the water supply for the rest of this year. All the reservoirs are down about 1/3 from where they should be, and after the three years of drought which preceded last year, the fear is that we are once again in for another very dry season. I think I will load up the truck with my 225 gallon water tank and hotfoot it to the local creek with my gas pump as soon as the weather gets a little bit warmer. I have another water tank in the garden (1550 gallons) so if I fill it up my garden shouldn't have any problems this growing season.

    Last month I had a business trip to San Antonio, Texas. Dale came with me and, once again, we had a ball. Just can't match their Tex-Mex food! Our friends, Chuck and Penny Crowell, took us to Fredericksburg, TX, where we visited the Nimitz museum and just had a really good time wandering around. Of course we also visited the Riverwalk (several times!)in downtown San Antonio, one of the smartest urban ideas I've ever seen. We spent several evenings at riverside cafes, just enjoying the sheer beauty of the building, the water, the trees and flowers, and all the people having fun. Even watched a young man propose to his girlfriend as they glided by on a riverbarge on St. Valentine's Day evening. Scores of passersby had been tipped off by one of their friends before their barge came by, so all these strangers were whooping it up from the walkways as he popped the question to the unsuspecting woman! Nice! If Baltimore really wanted to draw people downtown they should raze blocks of rundown buildings and dig shallow canals for their own Riverwalk. It would be a big hit!

    On our last free day the Crowells took us to Breckenridge Park to see the Japanese Tea Garden with its wonderful pagoda-like pavillion, and on a grand tour of the San Antonio missions - one of which is the Alamo. I've been going to San Antonio for over 40 years and had never visited the other four Spanish missions, which are stretched out along the wide, natural San Antonio river in a swath of unspoiled countryside which runs virtually unnoticed through the entire southern part of the city and out into the countryside!

    This month I'm off to Augusta, Georgia for another business trip. I'm not a golfer, and even though Augusta is a pretty enough place, after a couple of days I am twiddling my thumbs! Good thing that the work down there is so satisfying.

    Dale will be visiting Honolulu in April (Tracey, Taka and Alana)! I am scheduled to be in Honolulu the last week of July and the first week of August (HEY! Somebody has to do it!). In the meanwhile I am once again working like a dog in my cellar, constructing 2x4 walls, sheetrock, wiring and all that kind of homeowner stuff. I am concentrating one what will be the main recreation room now. I need to finish this job fairly soon because the inside and outside of the house needs touchup painting this year, and wallpapering in the main rooms, and ...... well you get the picture!

    So long for now!
Best regards,
Barry & Dale