Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Let the Games Begin
As predicted, I got home from work after 8:30 last night. Today, I started with a 7:00 AM surgical conference, and just now got home after working at the course downtown all afternoon and evening. A 17+ hour work day, and I still have to answer some email and get things organized for tomorrow, which starts at 7:00 AM - again.

Lather, rinse, repeat until next Friday.

I'm already hoarse from talking to people, and nearly fell asleep during dinner at 10:30 this evening after we closed the registration booth.

I'm glad we only do this once a year....

39 countries are represented at the conference this year. The audio visual bill to record and make DVDs of all the sessions was more than $107,000. And if you want to know exactly what an arm and a leg really cost? I just bought a couple dozen of them for our cadaver lab sessions.

Ahhhh'll be back.
posted by Broadsheet @ 12:16 AM   1 Editorial Opinions
Monday, August 27, 2007
Tax Season
Dear Internet,

I know I have been less than punctual in keeping Broadsheet up to date this summer. First, there was the whole floor refinishing debacle, which has really stressed me out, distracted me, and has left me homeless off and on for the last five weeks or so. Now, I am in what I deem "Tax Season".

Ever since I got this job, I inherited an annual event. Every year, I now host a 9 day, international conference for about 300 surgeons, and right in the middle of it, I throw a huge charity fund raiser sporting event featuring a former Tour de France rider that raises more than a quarter of a million bucks. Hint, hint - I need volunteers and/or bikers and runners! If you are around this Sunday - contact me for volunteer or race info. It's a lot of fun, there will be a band, food and beer - but you have to get up early. I need volunteers at 5:30 AM - yes AM - to pull this off. You'll get a T-shirt and goodie bag for your efforts!

In addition to the fund raiser, there are receptions, dinner parties and harbor cruises every night of the week - in addition to my real job. We're talking 15-17 hour days at a minimum for the next two weeks.

Shortly after this event is over, I am going to be hosting a horde of lovely Dutch folks from Holland (ummm - where else would they be from?) for the upcoming wedding of my two favorite people in the world, and then just two days later, leaving for China for about 20 days.

The blogger formerly known as Zenchick is house/kitty sitting for me in my absence, so I'll see if I can coerce her into keeping you all amused with guest blog posts while I'm gone, but I apologize for my recent paucity of posts and the fact that it ain't gettin any better soon.

BUT - I will have AWESOME photos and posts about some of the most remote regions of China when I get back - so stay tuned......
posted by Broadsheet @ 9:22 PM   1 Editorial Opinions
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Wrong. Righteous, but wrong
Buy the Michael Vick Dog Chew Toy

posted by Broadsheet @ 8:20 PM   0 Editorial Opinions
And you thought YOU were bored......
posted by Broadsheet @ 9:19 AM   0 Editorial Opinions
Friday, August 24, 2007
Well, I must say, that was rather anticlimactic.

The Chinese Visa office is in a very nondescript, shabby looking, 70's era, office building on Wisconsin Ave., about 4 blocks before you hit the Georgetown shopping area. It's on the first floor, down a dingy hallway, next to a State Farm Insurance office.

It reminded me a little of jury duty. Lots of security (metal detectors, and a very thorough bag search), and then one big room with fraying carpet, uncomfortable chairs, and two TVs blasting Chinese language shows. One was some kind of variety show at a big theme park with a cheesy host, and the other station showed idyllic scenes of Chinese landscapes and forests.

On one wall, there are four window booths. Two for applications, one for cashier, and one for pickup. I got there about 10 minutes before they opened, and all the seats were already filled. I took a number and waited. The mix of people were interesting. There were a lot of Chinese families, a fair number of students, some elderly couples, and then there were the visa agents. These are the guys I could have paid upwards of $250 to run this errand for me. Stacks and stacks of passports and paperwork flowing out of bags and briefcases. For anyone too busy or too far away, this is the alternative. I was glad to be there in person. The one guy was big and beefy looking and at 10:00 AM, his shirt was absolutely drenched in sweat. It looked like he got caught in a rainstorm. Ick.

With perfect Chinese efficiency, the blinds on the windows opened simultaneously at precisely 10:00 AM. From there, things were pretty straight forward. I got to the window at about 20 after ten, and I had already completed all the paperwork the night before. They seemed very interested in the fact that I was going alone to visit someone, as opposed to going there to study or as part of an organized tour, and in the cities I listed. They seemed very concerned that I might be heading into the western frontier all by myself, which is most definitely not allowed. I assured them that I was part of a group for that portion of the trip, so they made me write down the name and contact info for the group we are going with, and then said that they would have to verify it. That made me pause a little, because I was pretty sure no one was going to answer the phone at nearly midnight Beijing time, but I wasn't in any position to argue with them, and they said I could come back and pick my passport up after 2:00 PM.

So, I went across the street to Starbucks for morning coffee and to check email at the office, and then headed to Georgetown for a few hours of shopping and a leisurely lunch at Bistro Francais.

Back to the Visa office promptly at 2:00, walked right up to the cashier, plopped down $130, slid over to the next window, and a very nice woman with stacks and stacks of passports, handed me mine.

All in all - it was a MUCH better experience than say, the MVA.

The only downside to the whole thing was the $8 in parking and the fact that it took me from 2:20 to 4:30 to get back to Baltimore in bumper to bumper beltway traffic. Going down there at 8:30 this morning was a breeze. Not so the ride home.
posted by Broadsheet @ 4:42 PM   0 Editorial Opinions
Thursday, August 23, 2007
I'm taking tomorrow off to visit the Chinese Embassy in DC. The visa office is open from 10:00 - 3:00 PM, and for the mere price of $130, I can have an interview and get permission in the form of a pretty stamp on my newly minted passport to visit their country for 20 days.

Normally, a travel agent would submit the passport for me as part of the fee for a trip, but because I am going to China as a private citizen, not as part of an organized tour, I have to show up in person, or pay a visa agent some exorbitant sum to do it on my behalf. Besides, I think it will be interesting.

The itinerary for the trip is beginning to take final form. I know that I will visit all the highlights of Beijing during the first 6 days. Places like Tianemen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, Mings Tomb, the Olympic venues, and the Summer Palace. I also know that I will fly to X'ian to see the Terra Cotta Warriors for a day or two at some point, but we just got our detailed itinerary for the six day trip along the northern route of the Silk Road to the western border of China with Kyrgyzstan.

We start at the Mogao Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Dunhouang in Inner Mongolia which date back to the 4th century. Then to the city of Turpan situated 505 feet below sea level in the Gobi Desert, the lowest and hottest place in China, with an ancient underground irrigation system the Romans would envy, and which rivals only the Great Wall as a feat of engineering. From there, we head to what is measurably the most landlocked city on earth, Urumqui, so that we can catch a flight across the Takla Makan Desert Basin to the border of Kyrgyzstan and the world famous markets of Kashgar. Finally, a trip into the Himalayan foothills and Lake Karakul at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, it promises to be a real adventure.
posted by Broadsheet @ 4:13 PM   2 Editorial Opinions
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Building a Legacy

We have a piece of creek front property that's been in my family for going on five generations now. My grandfather had built a small, very simple, cabin on the property back in the 40's, and I have lots of fond memories of summers spent with my family and cousins, swimming in the creek and camping out for a few weeks every summer, and on weekends when we would go out for a cookout.

The cabin deteriorated thanks to time, the elements, and the fact that we hardly used the property when we all went to college and got too busy to get together, or put the work necessary into repairs and upkeep on a cabin made from Depression era scraps. The cabin finally collapsed, we salvaged some antiques and collectibles, and we burned what remained.

We all had visions of rebuilding a new cottage on the site, but until my Dad retired last year, none of us had the time, talent, or $$ to pull it off.

Well, this is the year of the Phoenix, and out of the ashes of the old cottage, a new, larger, much more modern and useful dwelling is going up.

When I came home just six weeks ago in June, the foundation posts had been poured and we retrieved the boat dock from a neighbor about a mile down the creek after it was ripped from its mooring in the winter ice.

Here's what it looked like just eight weeks ago:

Thanks to my Dad working with a construction crew consisting of a burly ex Marine, and three Amish guys in hats, dark shirts and suspenders, this is what it looks like just eight weeks later:

The roof is on, the walls are up, the windows are in, and we now have phone, electricity, and after yesterday - water. Water means a bathroom, which is a big improvement over the old outhouse! Yesterday, we had a family "work weekend", and got a lot done! Pavers laid, the roof was put on the shed, stairs were built, the work lot was cleaned up, piles of wood were moved and organized, and thanks to some weekend contractors, wiring was done and pipe was laid. The dark brown areas on the cabin will be faced with stone, as will the entire front of the cottage which has a huge fireplace facing the creek front.

Here's another view:

The large wooden "box" in the front is waiting for the fireplace. There is another fireplace facing the inside of the cottage as well. And perhaps the best view of all - down the creek in front of the cottage from the deck:

We got home last night after dark, muddier, dirtier, and sweatier than I've been in a long time, and my legs and back are feeling it this morning.

Building a family legacy? Priceless.
posted by Broadsheet @ 10:03 AM   3 Editorial Opinions
Mid Summer's Night Dream
Hi folks - I ran back to the People's Republic of Pennsylvania for a long weekend and to celebrate a few family birthdays.

Every summer, you might be lucky enough to experience that one perfect summer day, where the weather, people and activities all align to create the Perfect Storm of enjoyment. Friday was such a day.

The weather was cool, clear, and just perfect. I did nothing more strenuous than lay by the pool with an ice tea and a good book, and found the perfect balance between floating in the pool and lounging in the shade reading.

That evening, we had been invited to friends of my parents for a hayride and BBQ at their home. OK, a hayride and BBQ you say? Not just any hayride when these two beauties are your horsepower. Meet the Boys. Billy and Bo. They are 5 year old brothers and perfectly matched Percheron geldings in all their tack.

And when you hook them up to their "Haycart", a wonderful antique wagon that our hosts found in Quebec, the term "hayride" gets pumped to a whole new level.

We piled siblings, parents, family and friends into the cart, and enjoyed a long trek through PA hay fields and farmland for nearly an hour before returning to the farm house where we enjoyed a summer feast of beef BBQ on homemade rolls, fresh corn on the cob picked that day, tomatoes fresh from the garden, iced tea, lemonade, and a big birthday cake for my sister and my brother, whose birthdays are three days apart.

The evening got cool - you needed a sweater to continue sitting out on the enormous porch of the farmhouse overlooking the pond. Just before the sun set, our host pulled another toy from his garage, and took my lucky brother for a birthday spin in his restored '59 Triumph.

Yep - the Perfect Storm of great weather, special people, and a wonderful evening of everyone getting together. It was truly a perfect day. Yet to be followed by another one - although quite different.....
posted by Broadsheet @ 8:52 AM   0 Editorial Opinions
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
"....researchers calculate the odds of life starting on Earth rather than inside a comet at one trillion trillion (10 to the power of 24) to one against."

posted by Broadsheet @ 8:43 AM   1 Editorial Opinions
Monday, August 13, 2007
Happy Left Handers Day!!!
A day for me! Happy Left Handers Day.

Who knew there was a day to celebrate all things leftie?

It's also my kid sister's B-day, but she isn't a leftie. Happy B-Day sis! I think she's the only sibling who doesn't read my blog.
posted by Broadsheet @ 5:42 PM   0 Editorial Opinions
Saturday, August 11, 2007
I am the cutest puppy in the world

This is Bella. I got to play with her today. She is perhaps the cutest thing I have ever seen. Friends of mine adopted her about 10 days ago. It's been a year since their other dog, Annie, had to be put down. Annie's a tough act to follow, but I have a feeling Bella will do just fine. She's a border collie / huskie / lab mix.
posted by Broadsheet @ 5:28 PM   1 Editorial Opinions
Friday, August 10, 2007
UGH. Is anybody else out there having a problem with their power in this awful heat? I was a few minutes late to work yesterday because the power went off in the middle of the night for four hours and I lost my alarm clock.

Tonight, it went off for more than 2 hours right around midnight, but since I fell asleep reading, the sudden reappearance of my reading light woke me up when the power came back on.

It's also why I'm blogging randomly at 3:00 AM. Can't get back to sleep. Bleh.

It seems to be a neighborhood thing. I can see the microwave clock in my neighbor's kitchen blinking, so their power was out too.

Thanks BGE.
posted by Broadsheet @ 2:49 AM   4 Editorial Opinions
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Joe Squared
After eating out for nearly three weeks now, the thrill is long gone. The thought of another Quizno's sub, take out salad from the cafeteria, or Chinese food doesn't do much for me.

A friend had mentioned that Joe Squared on the corner of North Avenue and Howard St. was really good, so I decided to stop on the way home from work for some takey outey.

The place isn't much to look at from the outside, and the neighborhood leaves a little to be desired, but inside is a very cozy little bar / restaurant, and the menu will blow you away. I decided to just stay and eat in.


Sure, you can get pizza, subs, pasta and bar food. But what bar food! I had a panini of grilled lamb with mint, caramelized onions, roasted peppers and asagio cheese. To. Die. For. Along with that, I had a side of risotto from their rather extensive and exotic risotto menu. Carrot risotto with curry, feta, and fennel. Yummy.

I didn't have the guts to try their chocolate-walnut, or ginger- pine nut, buffalo wings, but the waitress insists they are awesome with a fresh squeeze of lime. I'll take her word for it on that one.

They do deliver to my neighborhood and after reading the descriptions of some of their signature pizzas, their menu is going right to the top of the take out menus in the kitchen drawer.
posted by Broadsheet @ 9:20 PM   4 Editorial Opinions
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
The Saga Continues
So....I missed another half day of work this morning for the flooring guys to come back and move my furniture back where it belongs and rehang my doors.

But wait, there's more.

In cleaning my brand new floors, I discover a deep gouge in the wood near the back door where they moved the furniture. Nice.

Apologies all around, but they now have to re-sand and refinish the all the floors boards near the door with three coats of poly - again.

I don't need to move out this time, but the cats get a three day pass to the laundry room.

And - there's no sense in cleaning much of anything since they are just going to dust it up all over again.

This has been fun.
posted by Broadsheet @ 10:50 AM   7 Editorial Opinions
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Reality Check
I had the extreme pleasure of having a casual week night supper with Ambassador Bob and his wife Alison this evening. They are back in the states for a little summer R&R and to get some State Dept. work done in Washington. Getting to hear the real scoop on Iraq from someone who was on the ground in Baghdad for the last month (after spending 2.5 years there at the beginning of the war), and from someone who is in regular meetings with General Petraeus, Ambassador Cocker, and video conferences with Dubya, is quite a reality check. And it's not good news folks.

The emperor has no clothes, and all the King's horses and all the King's men, can't put Humpty back together again.

I've never seen him quite this discouraged or hopeless about the future (or lack thereof) of Iraq as a nation, and of our efforts in trying to put a finger in the dyke of civil war.

My trip to North Africa next spring to visit them at the Algerian Embassy is looking bleak as well. Al Quaeda activity in Algeria and Morocco show no sign of diminishing, and threats against US diplomats are increasing. Oddly enough - Libya is a safer bet for travel these days.
posted by Broadsheet @ 8:46 PM   0 Editorial Opinions
Monday, August 06, 2007
Readers Tips
One of the cooking magazines I subscribe to, Fine Cooking, just emailed me that they are publishing one of my reader's tips in next month's issue! Cool! The favorite reader tip usually wins some cool kitchen gadget worth about $200.

They've already posted it on line - please go here and vote for me! See "Freezing lemon grass stalks" - on the right hand side. Click on "Vote for the best tip", and then vote!

UPDATE: They fixed the voting box - so vote early and often!
posted by Broadsheet @ 2:01 PM   1 Editorial Opinions
Am at home today, waiting for an electrician to get the power restored in my kitchen and hopefully get the phone line up and running as well.

The floor company was nice enough about the repairs - it was just their office staff. But I have a feeling the guys who were here are getting a good talking to right about now.

Once everything is done, I'm going to give the owner of the company a call directly and have a little chat with him/her.

Gotta go - the electrician is here!
posted by Broadsheet @ 10:39 AM   0 Editorial Opinions
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Good News, Bad News
The good news is that my floors are finally finished and look brand new, and that I should be sleeping in my own bed tonight for the first time in two full weeks.

The bad news is that my china cabinet is in my living room, my bookcases are in my dining room, the refrigerator is plugged into the outlet next to the garbage disposal, my land line phone is fried, and none of the outlets in my kitchen work - except for the garbage disposal. No lights, no stove, no nothing.

The flooring company called me around 4:30 on Thursday to tell me to be home on Friday morning to meet the movers who would put back the furniture. WTF?? I had meetings scheduled all morning on Friday and was taking a manager out to lunch to do her performance evaluation. They showed up anyway, and screwed up the furniture placement despite a little sketch I left them clearly indicating where the bookcases and china cabinet were to go. They also did not rehang any of the doors they removed, so there are a stack of doors leaning against the wall in the dining room as well.

The dust is EVERYWHERE and will take weeks to get clean, but it was the sheer audacity of not bothering to tell me that they had fried my entire kitchen wiring that left me speechless. By the time I got home around 7:00 on Friday, and discovered what was wrong, I was tired, didn't know where to begin with the cleaning, and without any lights except the dining room - it was going to be hard to see well enough to clean anyway. I went back across the street to the apartment, had some wine, watched a movie and went to bed.

Yesterday was a bit of a luxury problem. Dear friends of mine in DC had rented a stretch limo for the day so 12 of us could be ferried around the northern VA wineries all afternoon in celebration of their 5th wedding anniversary. Tough day. Needless to say, I didn't do anything about the house situation.

Today - I am going to make as much progress as the dust will allow, and tomorrow morning, I will call the flooring company to get them to send an electrician. Later this week, I will buy a new phone, and send them the bill for it. And once everything is fixed, they will send movers to put everything back where it belongs. I paid $400 for them to move the furniture as part of the contract.

I would readily recommend the company for the quality of their flooring work - but on their scheduling and moving skills? ummmm - not so much.
posted by Broadsheet @ 9:41 AM   3 Editorial Opinions
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
The Tuxedo Travels
My absolute new favorite blog and obsession - meet Tuxedo Travels.

Take two drunken Englishmen, let them make a bet, and see if they can foolishly, with no planning whatsoever, make it from Hong Kong to London overland from April 1 (yes - April Fool's Day) to August 18, while wearing tuxedos the entire time.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Oh, and BTW - they are only in Kyrgyzstan. It's doubtful they'll be through Russia before the end of August.
posted by Broadsheet @ 5:35 PM   0 Editorial Opinions
In league with the Devil
Thanks to a PR firm we've hired to promote an upcoming charity event that I'm in charge of, yours truly is now slated for a series of Public Service Announcements and interviews on local radio and TV affiliates over the next few weeks.

The first one is tomorrow morning. A live, call in radio show on a station that won't be named.

I don't mind doing these things, but I hate the fact that I'm pimping this event for a good cause on a radio station that broadcasts the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter and Sean Hammity.

Yeah. I have a not so clean feeling all of a sudden.

Can I get a round of "ick"?
posted by Broadsheet @ 1:19 PM   2 Editorial Opinions

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