Monthly Archive for July, 2005

Lonely in San Diego

Church of the Immaculate ConceptionI’m in beautiful San Diego for the annual ESRI International User’s Conference this week. I’m staying in California’s first city, actually a neighborhood of San Diego, called Old Town. It’s nice, though a bit touristy, with a real Mexican feel about it. Last night, I had some really nice Carnitas with a side of some awesome guacamole at Old Town Mexican Cafe. This morning, when I walked by the cafe window at 0730 on the way to the trolley, the ladies were already up and tossing tortillas to the sounds of a Mariachi band. I thought that was pretty cool.

Today was the first day of the conference, attended by over 14,000 GIS professionals. The famous chimpanzee expert, Dr Jane Goodall, was the keynote speaker and she really moved people with her stories of the chimps’ ‘humanity’ and how their survival is threatened due to being hunted and habitat change (deforestation/logging). She also spoke a lot about our treatment of Mother Earth and the dire need for its renewal or we all will become extinct. Meanwhile, while I looked at the photos of the big, sad, brown eyes of baby chimps whose mothers were poached, I couldn’t help feeling homesick and lonely for my little girl and her Mommy back in Virginia. Friday, the last day of the conference, seems so far away. Thanks to modern technology, I can at least get a daily photo sent to my Pocket PC.

Google Watching

If you haven’t already seen the Google Maps interface or (especially) downloaded their free Google Earth software, you’ll see that it’s so much cooler than other online mapping sites like Mapquest. The interface and navigation are both smoother and, with Google Earth, you can go 3D with terrain features and, in some cities, building models visible.

There’s even a site called googleglobetrotting.com that is solely devoted to interesting, strange, and downright disturbing things (e.g. someone carved out a maze of Oprah’s face, Jacko’s Neverland Ranch) that regular users find on the earth’s surface. I noticed that the US Capitol Building, White House, and Old Executive Office Building have been sort of masked by The Man. Can’t say I blame them as it can be used as a planning tool by sicko Muslim extremists. And I’ll have to ask aussiegirl if she’s familiar with this bizarre floating man thing in Brisbane.

Yeeee-Haw!

We bought us some land in Greene County, Virginia. Two acres to build us a homestead on. Never had no septic tank or well water before. Can’t wait to perch my behind on a rockin char on the front porch, smoke a corn cob pipe, and enjoy the view of the Blue Ridge Mountaains….Yeee-Haw!

Link is to a 10Mb mov file, which will take a while to load

My First Father’s Day

My First Father's Day
To put it simply, I’m as happy as I could possibly ever be.

Harry’s Place

What a great blog – this Harry’s Place. It’s UK-based and even though I lived there for six years, I only just found out about it…and from an fellow American friend in central Illinois (you know who you are Liam). Some great posts there recently, including a link to an interesting Observer article and a letter from a former “anti-pro-war” reader. But what I found most amusing, since I was a regular viewer of their newscasts while I was over there, was the story about the BBC and how their writers have been directed to never say “terrorist”. They have some before and after screen shots where you can see the change from “terrorists” to “bombers”.

That is so lame, though not surprising for the beeb. I remember thinking to myself while watching their Iraq coverage that if I didn’t know the whole story and just showed up from outer space, I’d think a Hitler-esque force (they almost exclusively used the terms “attack” and “occupation”) rolled into Iraq for no other reason than world (i.e oil) domination. And those poor, bomb-strapped individuals that were forced to resort to decapitating people on video, mutilating foreign contractors and parading their corpses? They were merely “insurgents” fighting against the big, baddies from the USA. My guess is that Galloway and Red Ken are getting a lot of airplay on the station this weekend.

Stay Strong, London

United KingdomThe terrorist atrocities in London today anger me, as they do most other sane humans. They were almost inevitable, really. How do you stop a guy that’s willing to commit suicide in order to murder others? How do you stop killers when bombs can be made out of stuff in your kitchen, a washing machine timer, and instructions on the internet? How do you stop these animals when you have a free and open society? It’s difficult and even if you stop 9 out of 10 of these lunatics, all it takes is one to get through. What angers me almost as much are comments by lowlife politicians like George Galloway. Read how he says the UK should roll over like the new Spanish government did after they murdered 191 there. Read where he says we should have listened to him and all would be hunky-dorey. Read how he implies it would be OK to target the UK government, but not its citizens.

No one can condone acts of violence aimed at working people going about their daily lives. They have not been a party to, nor are they responsible for, the decisions of their government….We have worked without rest to remove the causes of such violence from our world. We argued, as did the security services in this country, that the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq would increase the threat of terrorist attack in Britain. Tragically Londoners have now paid the price of the government ignoring such warnings….We urge the government to remove people in this country from harms way, as the Spanish government acted to remove its people from harm, by ending the occupation of Iraq and by turning its full attention to the development of a real solution to the wider conflicts in the Middle East….

Read the whole, pathetic statement on his pathetic organization’s web site. I’m sure there’ll be others like him (but he’ll, of course, be the loudest and most obnoxious) that turn this horrific event on its ear and blame the US and UK for this – our comeuppance for the war in Iraq. As if these maniacs would stay at home and be good if we stayed at home and let dictators and fanatical Islamists take over the rest of the world. That’s such a small-minded view, and from someone who hobnobbed with Saddam Hussein a few years back, it’s a joke.

These scumbags, no matter how many they kill in their sporadic rampages, will never win. The cities will bustle again, people will fly to vacations, tyrannical governments will be toppled, and free people will (as they did recently in both the US and the UK) re-elect leaders that the terrorists hate.

Freedom will ring and the human spirit will overcome their hatred. Just watch London bounce back in the next few days.

Back in the USA

Patriotic EleniWow, it’s been almost three months since I’ve blogged. I’ve honestly been busy with things. Stuff like moving back to the states from the UK, looking for a house, getting AussieGirl‘s immigration papers together, taking care of Eleni, and arranging a baptism and wedding in St Louis. I also have the in-laws, Bob and Helen Armstrong, visiting from Down Under at the moment.

Most importantly, Eleni is happy and healthy. She doesn’t give us a minute of rest, but it’s all worth it when I smile at her and get a big smile back. I can’t measure the happiness she’s brought to our lives.

We had a very small, but nice wedding and baptized Eleni in a dual ceremony at St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in St Louis. Just family and a few close friends. We wish we could have had a big, fat, Greek wedding but our time was limited and we weren’t even sure the bride would be able to get into the country (those always suspect Aussies may never get over their convict past). Anyway, everyone in attendance should be proud to have made it through not one, but two, Greek Orthodox ceremonies in one afternoon. There were some technical difficulties (sound department), but Father Doug made it casual and enjoyable for all and it was great the way he involved the kids. We were very pleased to have timed the events so that some of our extended family from Greece (Mom’s side) could attend – the Dimitris Bilalis and Dr Panagiotis Kolliopoulos families were in the US at the time and made the road trip over from Philadelphia. I was honored to have Dimitri as my Best Man and Carolyn and I were both privileged to have the smashing Sophia Paipeti as Eleni’s Nouna (Godmother). I couldn’t think of two better people to have join us as Koumbari.

We now live at the feet of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia, in the city of Charlottesville. I write this from the hometown of US Presidents #3 (Jefferson), #4(Madison), and #5(Monroe) and on the evening of the 4th of July. Pretty cool. Even with the ultra-liberal University crowd here (University of Virginia), it’s a great place to live. It’s a bit of a relief not to have to go back to the traffic snarls of Washington DC. We’re in a nice, furnished apartment and still searching for a new home. It’s very green here and you don’t have to stray too far to be in some dense woodland. Deer are plentiful and a colleague of mine said he had a large, black bear lumbering around in his backyard the other day.

Enough for now. I’ll be a better blogger now that things have stabilized a bit and I’ll need to redesign this page since it still shows the London skyline.