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PreCheck Is PreCheck

courtesy: TSA.gov

We hear it all the time: “the TSA line is slow and long.” We even allot extra time to get to the airport in order to get through the sometimes torturously slow lines in time to get to our gate. We submit to a background check and pay a fee so we can avoid the line with TSA PreCheck. You may have recently noticed that not everyone in the PreCheck line is a PreCheck member. The TSA has more recently been shunting passengers they consider low-risk out of the regular line and into the PreCheck lane, thus increasing the length of the PreCheck line. The U.S. Congress, many of whom are probably members, have taken note of this and — citing the security risks of letting un-vetted passengers bypass the regular scrutiny in the standard line — are passing the PreCheck Is PreCheck Act of 2018 or H.R. 6265

The bill “directs the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to ensure that only travelers who are members of a trusted traveler program are permitted to use TSA PreCheck security screening lanes at TSA checkpoints.” The bill also asks for an inspector general report on if there has been a systematic pattern of violations of the use of TSA PreCheck security screening lanes at TSA checkpoints. The bill also goes on to investigate the designation of “low-risk” lanes that certain passengers can be sent to in order to alleviate overcrowding and not sent to the PreCheck lane.

I, for one, don’t mind the occasional use of the PreCheck lane for non-PreCheck flyers (as long as the wait doesn’t become long). On the other hand, I think the bill makes sense on its points of security and the fact that we pay for that expedited service and the re-routed regular flyers haven’t. I don’t mind being courteous to my fellow traveler and letting them in the line occasionally but if it becomes a regular event it will be one of concern for both of those reasons.

The bill currently has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is awaiting being scheduled for a vote in the U.S. Senate.

courtesy: TSA.gov


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A Weather Obsession

The memory of the devastation wrought by hurricanes from Irma and Maria is still fresh in our minds. The islanders, as well as those of us who love the islands, are just a little apprehensive about the current hurricane season.

NOAA Hurricane Tracker

The fact that my little sister, though a grown woman, is living down there means my anxiety level has been rather high. The only way for me to alleviate that feeling is to watch every tropical wave that drifts off the west coast of Africa and heads toward our shores. You, like me, can constantly look at charts from the National Hurricane Center closely. I’ve kept an even closer eye on Windy.com, my new favorite weather site. The site lets you look at wind patterns on a global scale, wave heights, temperatures, cloud cover, and weather radar with lighting. I highly recommend you check it out if you are a weather geek. But I digress a bit.

Windy.com Wind Tracking

The focus of my attention the last week has been Isacc. The hurricane, like most, formed off the coast of eastern Africa and slowly moved its way across the Atlantic. I watched Issac like a hawk. I was nervous as it didn’t make a predicted turn that said it would head north but instead aimed at the Leeward Islands. I called my sister on St. Thomas to remind her about stocking up strategies, how she can slowly fill her pantry with plenty of food and water just in case. She said the locals weren’t worried and they don’t get worried unless a storm is Cat 2 or higher.

I started feeling better as Isaac began to destabilize and become a tropical storm. I relaxed even more as it passed 120 miles south of St. Croix. This apparently disappointed the children she teaches because they get “storm days” like the “snow days” we get in the northeastern US. I guess the point of this whole post is, whereas hurricanes were an object of fascination before, they’re a focus of obsession now. I firmly believe that by the time the season is through my time studying the weather should afford me a degree in meteorology.

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A Disaster of a Summer in Japan

The summer hasn’t been kind to Japan. The usually hot summer was even hotter than normal with the temperatures topping out at 106 degrees, beating the old record of 105. The record temps weren’t just at one location, either; a large portion of the country recorded record highs. A recent report from Kyodo News cites that there were at least 77 heat-related deaths. “The heat is a threat to life. We recognize it as a natural disaster,” an official with the Japan Meteorological Agency said at a press conference.

The island nation was also dealing with the aftermath of severe flooding from earlier in the summer that was considered the worst in 40 years. It was reported by Japanese broadcaster NHK that 14.3 inches of rain fell between 5 am and 7am in Uwajima on July 11th and that was just a sample of what July had offered. The summer continued with Typhoon Jebi, considered the worst in 35 years. The death toll was officially recorded as 10, seven of those deaths were in Osaka.

And then a major earthquake hit the north island of Hokkaido last Friday, August 31st and killing 16 as well as causing massive mudslides that buried homes in the mountainous region.

We say all this as a reminder that disasters like this don’t just happen in the developing world or small islands in the Caribbean. A major developed nation like Japan can be knocked back on its heels after repeated disasters. The people responding to these emergencies are none other than the same people who respond to crises like these all over the world: the Red Cross. The Japanese Red Cross Society is a good place to make your donation if you feel like helping out the country that gave us instant noodles, emojis, and the Walkman.

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Are You on Your Way to San Jose?

We know this looks more like an Instagram post than a blog post and we’re sorry about that. I’m on the road this week in San Jose, California. It’s a whirlwind trip with not a lot of downtime. I did manage to take some pictures of the heart of Silicon Valley. The city is filled with a lot of restaurants and cafes; almost all of them have outside seating. The city feels like a wonderful place to get to know and this being my second trip to San Jose I am already looking forward to a third.

Light rail tracks in downtown


Cafe Frascati


Warm mocha on a warm day


Light rail


San Jose Museum of Art


Cathedral Basilica de St. Joseph


Plaza de Cesar Chavez




Tree-lined light transit tracks


The City National Civic Center and Montgomery Theater

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The Beginnings of a Plan of Escape

The post last week was all about my sister and her move to St. Thomas. If you have been paying close attention to our blog over the last few years, you’ll remember this is the same sister who is restoring the 40’ Morgan sailboat with her husband.  Her husband, Matt, and the boat, Errant, are still back in Maryland. The Errants’ refit still needs to be completed and it will take a few more months. The idea is that after the boat is finished Matt will put her in the water in the Chesapeake Bay and then sail down the Intracoastal Waterway.

The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is a 3,000-mile inland waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States. You can travel it all the way from Boston to Florida and even up the west coast of Florida along the gulf coast to Brownsville, Texas.  The waterway is composed of canals, sounds, and bays. The idea is that you never need to travel into the open ocean to get down the Eastern Seaboard.

I will then fly down to Florida and meet him at a harbor near Fort Lauderdale and help guide the Errant across the Gulf Stream, through the Bahamas, past the Dominican Republic, around Puerto Rico, and finally into Charlotte Amalie Harbor on St. Thomas.

You should see my shopping cart on Amazon. The cost of this trip in just books, maps, and tools is near $200 and it isn’t even complete yet. We will, of course, get years of use out of the reference material. I have spent hours watching videos, reading books and asking every sailor I can about the passage. I’m even doing fuel calculations based on the average burn rate of diesel fuel at 2,500 rpm (avg. 1hr:1gal), although we won’t really know until Errant is in the water. The point is the planning for the trip is underway in earnest.

I am really looking forward to this trip as a way to prove myself as a captain and a navigator. We hope to shove off in December. We’ll keep you updated on this journey.

If you want updates on the progress of the Errant and its dingy, the Comma, tune into their YouTube channel: Errant Comma.

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Starting the School Year in STT

Zeke and I have been dreaming of relocating to the Caribbean for years (we’re still determined to make it happen someday) and now we’re getting to live vicariously through Zeke’s sister, Andi, as she makes the move to St. Thomas.

Andi accepted a position as a history teacher at the Antilles School. She’ll have her first students in a little over a week. I came down with her a little early to try to get her settled in her furnished apartment overlooking one of St. Thomas’ marinas.

Oasis Marina, St. Thomas

Oasis Marina, St. Thomas

It takes a lot of work to make a move like this. Andi and her husband flew down a couple of months ago for a very productive visit, finding the apartment and buying an island car. Now it’s time to make the place feel like home.

But first, Andi needed to attend a full day of orientation at her new school.

Andi’s first day at the Antilles School

We found ourselves on a shopping spree this weekend, buying basics like paper towels, bottled water and beach chairs along with classroom supplies like pencils, construction paper and bulletin board letters. It was quite the cart-full.

Now our goal is to relax and enjoy the weekend (and practice driving that Explorer on the left-hand side of the road) before she goes back to school to get ready to welcome her students on Monday.

We’re proud of and excited for Andi as she starts this new adventure. She’s definitely living our dream!

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The Morrison-Clark Hotel, Washington, DC

The Morrison House was originally built in 1864 by a wealthy DC merchant named David Morrison who made his money during the Civil War by selling feed and flour to the Union Army. The Clark House, built by Ruben B. Clark, was also built in 1864. Clark made his fortune through investments, owning a grocery, and being the director of the Anacostia and Potomac River Railroad and well as the DC Jail Commissioner.

Morrison-Clark Hotel, Washington, DC

Later on, the Women’s Army and Navy League took ownership of the Morrison House and combined it with the adjacent Clark House to create a haven for enlisted soldiers and officers. Today’s Morrison-Clark Historic Inn marries beautiful, historic architecture with modern design to pay homage to the original buildings’ storied pasts. Immersed in the vibrant culture of downtown you’ll find a truly unique DC hotel experience that celebrates new and old.

Morrison-Clark Hotel, Washington, DC

Morrison and Clark were identical townhomes until 1876 when the Morrison House was expanded to border 11th Street and given a new facade. The houses, still separate at the time, became home to congressmen, military officers and the Washington elite for decades. A Chinese-inspired room was added to the two-story porch of the Morrison by one of its owners in 1917.

The head of the Women’s Army and Navy League was traditionally the First Lady of the United States. The presidential wives would then host teas and fundraisers to help maintain the facility. A few first ladies of note who helped the League were Grave Coolidge, Mamie Eisenhower, and Jacqueline Kennedy.

The two houses were combined by the League in the 1930s and became known as the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen’s Club and hosted not only the rank and file of the US armed forces but also the likes of Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Mrs. Admiral Dewey, and General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing.

In 1987 the Morrison Clark Inn opened and included an addition the north side of the Morrison house that wrapped around the rear of the site, creating a courtyard behind the Clark House. The five-story building opened with 42 rooms, replacing a 19th-century stable. William Adair, the man who oversaw the restoration, was also in charge of the great restoration of White House between 1949 and 1952. He made sure that preserving the historic exterior and many of the interior details of the building, including four pier mirrors and Italian Carrera marble fireplaces, were a priority.