Archive for the ‘outdoors’ Category

Getting back to rugby has been fun, a great way to socialize, and it restores a much-needed sense of normalcy to my life after these past two years of upheaval. However me olde body does not recover like it used to. Even a mere practice has me physically wrecked for days. After this season (yeah I keep saying that every year) I will certainly question my continued participation in the sport. Still, we managed to smile for a moment a few weeks ago during play:

This summer’s weather has been remarkably cool. With the exception of a week or two here and there, it’s been really pleasant. But cooler temps are on the way, as evidenced by that fall smell that we encountered on our hike in the Monongahela National Forest of West Virginia this past weekend. We didn’t see any bears, but there were plenty of otters on the trail:

It rained Saturday morning but that’s about it. They say it’s gonna be a cold winter this year.

I have a new roommate. The other one was great but he followed his girlfriend to NYC. Strangely, this new one was my roommate when I lived upstairs, so I know we get along. BUT he seems to have gathered a tremendous amount of stuff this time around. Either that or the first time he never intended to stay for long. He’s still unpacking and I don’t know where it’s all going to go. I hope he has a toaster because I left mine in Portland somewhere.

I went to the premiere of “Love Is Strange,” starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina. I know a few of the producers and was contacted by the director for consulting regarding a very brief scene in which Cheyenne Jackson is playing Dungeons & Dragons. It’s a good movie and you should go see it.

I’ve been so busy on the job hunt and travelling, I didn’t realize I hadn’t been biking or going to the gym as much as I usually do. On Labor Day I got to the gym and a long bike ride, and it felt real good. I also got caught in a rainstorm, but there was a rainbow afterwards, even though congress does not deserve a rainbow:

I forgot to mention I’ve gotten back to rugby. Of course I first had to get health insurance, as it would be stupid to play rugby without it. I went through the DC health exchange (“Obamacare”) and I must say that process really sucked. It took about 2 1/2 days to process my application, and that was with a specialist trained in holding people’s hands through the process. That and the website sucked. I mean, I just finished a webmaster gig so I know a few things, and found out I had to log-in or log-out on this or that screen, or clear the browser cache before this screen worked. Extremely user unfriendly website. And what if I was a struggling mother working 3 part-time jobs? I wouldn’t have the time to navigate this system that takes almost three days to process.

Anyway, rugby has been good. I’m slower than I used to be, but my body is still intact. Getting back to rugby has given me a sense of normalcy and practices offer two hours where I’m not obsessing over my career recovery. And the guys are nice to look at, of course.

I went back to Wisconsin for my 25th class reunion. It was a lot of socializing and remembering faces I hadn’t seen in a while but a lot of fun. A few of us went up the Brady’s Bluff trail at Trempealeau State Park. It was hot that day (for Wisconsin) but a great view of the upper Mississippi River. That’s Minnesota across the river:

I helped my brother a little building his new garage. I mostly held things in place and let him do the hammering and nail placement.

Then off to my family reunion. Even more faces and names I couldn’t place right away, since the last family reunion I’d been to was 20 years ago or so. Someone brought a photo album where I could see pictures of ancestors Homer had traced for me a while back. I took some hasty photos to put names to faces. Most of the males on that side had excellent mustaches, like my great-grandfather Michael:

I finally learned why my father’s dad’s nickname was “Pumpy.” We would always say “We’re going to Grampa Pumpy’s house” when he was alive. It turned out he got that name because he worked for his father’s drilling and pumping business and often ran the pump, thus the name “Pumpy.”

The week before I arrived there was another giant swarm of mayflies, which is a fairly unique occurrence in that area once a year. By the time I got to Wisconsin there were only a few swarming here and there, but you can see more of the amazing peak swarming in this article.

Then it was back to the job hunt in DC. My roommate moved out so I had to cover August rent myself, which was tough considering my last contract job ended in June. I have a few possibilities in the works, and also had a phone interview which I think went well. Although it’s a slow time in DC as many are on vacation and hiring is slow.

Hey there – it’s been a while. I’ve been hangin’ out with my beardy bros from the Washington Nationals baseball team.
bearditude
That’s Jayson Werth on the left and Bryce Harper on the right.

In June I went on a hike with a bud to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. It was where lots of ironwork machinery was made during the Civil War. Today lots of people like to go tubing in the summer:
Harper's Ferry
My latest contract ended, the work on a website migration complete. I had no jobs set up so I said “fuck it” and went to Provincetown for 9 days. Normally I’m ready to go home after about 5 days, but the plane ticket price was cheapest for that range of days and my housing was free, so I was there for quite a while. I hit the tail end of the “circuit week” theme days, and my roomates tended to not eat much during that time. But then we segued into “Bear Week” and the fridge was suddenly packed with food.

There were lots of beards. I was partial to the one on the left, for he made good quiche and wore only briefs for much of the time around the house:
Bear Week attendees
I did a lot of sunning on the beach, a nice bike ride, and lots of cocktails at the Boatslip. Bear Week was kind of crazy, and in the future should I go again I will choose a less popular week, despite the amount of fur.

My next trip at the end of July will be to head back to Wisconsin for my 25th class reunion. My brother will have a new garage built and it will be interesting to see what’s been done.

Hello again. Been workin’ hard but have adjusted to the new job, just in time for it to end by the close of June. It is a contract position, and while it’s been good revisiting web content management and managing people (I think I’m good at it!) I am told we will likely be done with the web migration by the end of June.

While I have been looking for and applying to jobs this whole time, the push begins again in earnest. Still looking for long-term/permanent public affairs/communications employment, preferably for the government, preferably for a science- natural resources- or ag-based organization. So your help is appreciated dear readers – leads are always received graciously. It has been a rocky and fruitless job situation since September 2012 and I could really use some good news and developments.

Last month I actually had a phone interview for a job I was genetically engineered for: performing public affairs work for a sage grouse conservation program in Oregon. But despite two follow-up emails I have not heard anything back from them. As I recall Portlanders avoid conflict, so bad news is probably not going to be received at all.

We have had some heavy rains in the Mid-Atlantic, and the Potomac has been swollen:flotsam and jetsam
A few weeks ago “ten million ‘real’ Americans” gathered on the National Mall to protest Obama/Benghazi/buttsex or something. I only counted about ten teabagger loons. And for the record I’m tired of hearing these people dictate who “real” Americans are. Teabaggers STFU and go home.
TenMillionMurcans
On the Saturday before Memorial Day, we went for a bike ride along the Potomac River. The shad were running, and we observed herons eating them from this platform (which I think is a flow measurement station):
Flow Station
Under a nearby bridge, me and Bubbles contemplated the meaning of ‘BE’ and the flag of the District of Columbia:
DC Flag, and BE
I celebrated Memoral Day by sleeping in, going to the gym, and another bike ride. I took a picture of John S. Logan in Logan Circle. The dude founded Memorial Day:

I’m going to a Nationals baseball game tomorrow. Sadly woofy Bryce Harper is not playing these days, but super-beardy Jayson Werth will be playing.

Suddenly spring arrived. I went for a hike with friends on the Billy Goat Trail at Great Falls in Virginia. There was a gun show:

I spotted a bald eagle and a baby snapping turtle.

Later that month, we went to the National Arboretum to see the azaleas in bloom:

Bubbles and me. Photo by GURL.


This weekend, a friend with a vineyard asked us to help plant vines:
I dig alone. Photo by GURL.
I carried the vines on my head:

I did not plant the vines as the Overseer preferred, so I soon changed to watering the plants rather than planting them:

As the sun set and we completed the project, we squinted in unison:

There were cute Jack Russel terriers present:

Recent polar surges have pushed snowy owls southward in the last month. The mammals they feed on burrow in and enter a torpid state when it’s freezing out, so snowy owls are forced to fly to where they can find food. A few snowy owls have been spotted in the DC area the past few weeks, and I was finally able to see one downtown at 15th & L Streets NW:
Snowy Owl
He was there for a few hours, not 30′ above the street. He seemed unfazed by the crowds watching him. I was glad city folk got to see this unusual sighting. It’s interesting that I saw a whole parliament of snowy owls almost a year ago in Oregon.

I was on my way to the community clinic to get my nasty sinuses taken care of. I got a cold around New Year’s Eve which persisted and turned into a sinus infection and possibly bronchitis. Having no income nor health insurance, I avoided getting it taken care of as long as possible. But it got so painful and just malingering I finally broke down and went to the community clinic. Turns out the experience wasn’t so bad, nor expensive and I got some antibiotics. I’m also signed up for “Obamacare,” we’ll see how affordable that actually is. Anyway, I got a snowy owl selfie pic taken of me. I am grimacing because my molars and sinuses hurt:
Snowy Owl Selfie
It was also really cold out so that might account for some of the grimace as well.

Trimming the beard for the job interview earlier this week was somewhat of a relief. I was getting tired of the overgrown ’stache doubling as a coffee/soup strainer. That and this sinus cold I’ve had since NYE made boogers and beards problematic:

That said, I still love having a fur-bearing mammal attached to my face. I’ll admit the shorter beard looks better, but as y’all know, I like big beards and I cannot lie. It will grow back again.

The interview went well. It was a basic first-round interview at an institute of higher learning where I worked many years ago. I recognized many of the people on the 7-person interview committee, and recognized the questions since I had been on several similar committees. And by now I know how to answer them the best I can. We’ll see how it goes. There’s a few other irons in the fire, and things have picked up in the job department as I expected they would now that the holidays are over. And with the government passing some budget, more opportunities may come up as organizations become confident they can afford to hire.

My room has dried up from the flood for the most part but I think the cold snap broke the heat exchanger outside. I’m not quite sure what it is for, but it doesn’t always work now and the house seems colder than usual. Anyway my cheap-ass computer desk did get some water damage, and my renter’s insurance is paying for a replacement. I put the soaked rugs outside in the two days of rain that followed, dried them out and put some carpet freshener on them and they seem fine. They may rot later, we’ll see. But like I said before most of it is crap anyway and is no great loss.

typical DC streetscape in winterIt happened like clockwork after the daylight savings time change earlier this month. My mood dropped, it was an effort to get motivated, and I noted an increasing reluctance to go out. The temperature changes didn’t help either, but I’m aware of these mood changes this time of year and work to recognize these mood changes. I do things to go against these urges like work out, ride my bike, and make sure I get out to socialize. These things help a lot.

This has always been a challenge for me in DC. I often explain to others that our winters are like the scenes from the Sleepy Hollow animated feature and movie. It’s worth noting I didn’t feel this way this time of year in Portland. I was warned that their winters were miserable in a different way. Granted, I wasn’t working and was able to go out in the day to get some amount of UV through the cloud cover. But Portland was somewhat warmer despite being drippier with all the rain. I think the tipping point for me is the colder temperatures in DC.

The other thing comparing winters between the two cities was that I noticed that not everyone in Portland did proactive things to combat the winter blahs. Not everyone in DC does either, but considering the reputation of the winters in the Pacific Northwest, you would think more people would do things to actively combat the blahs. Anyway my conclusion from all of this is that DC doesn’t have the reputation for having horrid winter blahs, but should. It is just as bad here as in the Pacific Northwest, but not as rainy. Just cold and dark.

looking?The other way DC is much like Sleepy Hollow is that we have a lot of headless torsos running around. I mean like people not showing their faces on mobile apps like Scruff. We have far more headless horsemen in DC than in Portland. I attribute this to some sort of cultural thing having to do with remnants of Puritanism or Southern propriety. And despite being recently hailed by the New York Times as one of the gayest places in America, there are still a lot of closet cases – or maybe people who think being seen on an app is indicative of their whorishness. This wasn’t the case in Portland, where people didn’t give a shit and showed their faces.

I think there were just as many open relationships in Portland as there are in DC. But again they were simply honest about their open status in Portland, which was very refreshing. In DC relationship statuses in online profiles are often left blank, where I simply assume they are in a relationship, open, and they think they are being sneaky about it. I much prefer to be fully disclosed on someone’s relationship status, then we can both go from there with all cards on the table. I don’t care if you’re an online whore or in an open relationship, I just want to be informed that you have a boyfriend. It helps interactions go much smoother. And believe me gurl, if you think I won’t find out you have a boyfriend at home, think again. My agents are everywhere.

Good news: while things are still rolling for a permanent job, I secured a short-term contracting gig that could possibly turn into a very lucrative long-term gig. It’s helping to write a proposal to assist as a contractor with the agency I formerly worked for. It’s the next best thing to actually getting right back with my former workplace. So right now it’s just helping to write a proposal as a “subject matter expert.” It’s nice to be recognized for my expertise after a year and a month of esteem-crushing joblessness. The irony is that they found me and actively recruited me without me having contacted them at all. This is after applying to 100+ jobs and networking my ass off for a year. I can’t complain, I guess this is how things work out. Now to turn on my UV lamp and get my happy self to work on Monday.

I’m mostly settled in to my new place and have started the job search in earnest. There are already a wealth of job opportunities to apply to, sometimes one each day that I’m genuinely interested in and qualified for. And networking has been off the hook as well, although the shutdown had slowed things down a bit. We’re also approaching the period where not a lot of government work gets done (late November though early January) which concerns me. So I’m focusing more on the nonprofit sector rather than federal employment, even though the latter is what I’d like to return to.

The neighborhood has changed radically in the year I’ve been away. Some blocks are completely unrecognizable. Tons of new restaurants and office buildings with more construction on the way. The crane is the state bird of the District of Columbia.

Between running around getting stuff for the house and meeting up with people to reacquaint and network, I haven’t had a minute to get on my bike for a good ride. I did manage to get out to the Shenandoah National Park to hike Old Rag Mountain with a group of new and old friends. It was a gloomy grey day but the fall colors were in full effect, and the hike was challenging with good views all around:
Dark Shenandoah 3
Anywhere Goes Guys
Old Rag Hikers
I have a temp gig with an old blogger friend in Baltimore on Friday and Monday. The pay is pretty good and the boss is a hoot.