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J. Daniel Ashton

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Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, —Ecclesiastes 9:10a NIV
The LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands:
"See that justice is done,
let mercy be your first concern,
and humbly obey your God." —Micah 6:8, CEV
With all your heart you must trust the LORD and not your own judgment.
Always let Him lead you, and He will clear the road for you to follow. —Proverbs 3:5,6 CEV

see also — My Homepage

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Name: Daniel Ashton
Location: Germantown, Maryland, United States

Any links with a dashed underscore probably point to Amazon.com

Monday, May 22, 2006

Commute Education - Week 4

May 22, morning:
  • Brasscast - 5/22/05 - This had a really neat medley that included Gaudete. I need to look up who arranged this one.
  • Brasscast - 5/29/05
  • Brasscast - 6/5/05
  • Pimsleur Russian I, lesson 23
May 22, morning:May 23: took a vacation day

May 24, morning:May 24, evening:
  • Pimsleur Russian I, lesson 25
May 25, morning:May 25, evening:
  • IBM developerWorks Interviews: Lee Nackman & Buell Duncan - 5/3/06
  • Pimsleur Russian I, lesson 26
May 26, morning:
  • Pimsleur Russian I, lesson 27

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I saw a train turn around!

OK, it wasn't all that shocking, but it was something I had wanted to see since I began riding the MARC trains a few years ago. At the east end of the Union Station yard you can clearly see the tracks heading toward Brunswick and the north diverge from the tracks heading east toward Camden and Penn Station. Between the two arms runs a turn-around "loop" allowing a train to reverse itself.

I'm riding the Camden line this evening, heading for a brass group rehearsal in Columbia. A few minutes ago we pulled out of Union Station and then, for no apparent reason (these things are seldom announced) we stopped at the east end of the yard. As we sat there I watched an Amtrak train backing up the north-bound tracks to my right. (Yes, I'm riding backwards today. It's OK: at least I'm on the upper level of one of the really nice passenger liners.) As I watched I felt that the Amtrak might be slowing slightly. It was certainly moving slowly enough to begin with, not as if it planned to head out toward Pittsburgh. I lost sight of it behind a tree as it crept past the point of the loop switch, and I wondered whether and hoped that it would make the turn. Sure enough! A moment or two later it reemerged from behind that tree and began to traverse the loop, heading toward me.

At the same time I noticed another unusual sight. Above and slightly east of the loop track was another dual-track loop, and along it (heading west and turning north) rode an unusual CSX engine. This one had the look of an electric locomotive, perhaps European, but there was no catenary equipment on top. I don't recall ever seeing it in this yard before. I'll have to keep my eyes open.

A moment later we resumed our journey toward Camden. We're just arriving now at Laurel, so I'd better post this and get packed up.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

"New" MARC Cars

Each morning I ride the MARC train into DC. MARC added a third type of car sometime during the last year or so, and I'm enjoying these. Here's a picture:
(Photo credit - Vicki Ashton)

What you're seeing is the upper storey of these cars. The lower level has more conventional seating, with bench seats accomodating two persons on each side of the car, half facing each way. But the upper level is the surprise, with single-wide seats facing front or rear, and a row of drop-down seats (as in a theatre) facing toward the center. These are particularly convenient for laptop use, since there's room to prop your feet up, and room to have your laptop screen open to the proper angle.

Here's a photo Vicki shot last week as the MARC train was coming into Jessup.
(Photo credit - Vicki Ashton)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Big, Beautiful Birds

I saw another Hyacinth Macaw this weekend! We had seen one at Featherheads several weeks ago, and it was astonishing. This Sunday we found the Animal Exchange in Rockville, and they have one too! Here's a picture I crudely cut from a magazine advertisement so you can get an idea of how large and beautiful these birds are. That's an adult-sized hand, by the way.

These awe-inspiring birds sell for around ten grand, and it's easy to see why. Here's a snapshot of the one we saw at Featherheads. You can see a little camera distortion in the proportions, but this is a great view of the expression of interest on this young giant's face.

The store in Rockville also had a Black Palm Cocaktoo, another astonishingly beautiful bird.

Commute Education - Week 3

May 15, morning:
May 15, evening:
May 16, morning:
May 16, evening:
May 17, morning:
May 17, evening:
May 18, morning:
May 18, evening:
May 19, morning:
  • IBM developerWorks WebSphere: Leveraging Open Source Technology - 5/8/06
  • Pimsleur Russian I, lesson 22

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

iPod Mount

I need a clamp or bracket that would fit onto the top of my laptop screen and provide a place to attach my iPod. At this point I'm laying the iPod on the seat beside me and glancing over occasionally. But with video podcasts, like NerdTV, it would be better to have the iPod mounted where I can see it easily.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


It's hard to know what to write about this, but it's so strong an experience that I need to share something with you. At the moment I have an African Grey on my right shoulder. Peanut has been staying with us for the last few weeks, and we've written about him in our Parakeet Journal. After the first few days he and I had some kind of breakthrough, and Peanut has decided that he loves me.

For me and for any Grey this is a significant breakthrough. I don't know enough to understand all of the implications and ramifications, but I can tell you about my experience with it. Peanut is standing on my shoulder, and he's making little breathing/squeaking sounds. I can tell that his wings are out and drooping, and I can feel him shiver and quiver: those vibrations transmit down his legs. He shuffles back and forth just a little, and his claws dig into my neck when he gets closer than the collar of my tee-shirt. I can hear that he is chewing on a little bit of food that he has coughed up. I guess he feeds it to himself, since he can't feed it to me (my ear isn't interested, I guess) and I don't seem to be feeding him.

It's a powerful experience. I wish I knew better how to show the appropriate love in return. The best I can do is stop every sentence or two to scratch his head. But Peanut is so serious about this that he doesn't even accept scritches for very long.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Commute Education - Week 2

May 8, morning:
  • NerdTV #9: Anina - Mobile Internet Model
  • Pimsleur Russian I, lesson 9
  • Brasscast 2/22/05
May 8, evening:
  • NerdTV #10: Dan Bricklin - invented computer spreadsheets
  • Pimsleur Russian I, lesson 10
May 9, morning:
  • Pimsleur Russian I, lesson 11 (aborted at 11 minutes)
May 9, evening:May 10, morning:
  • NerdTV #11: Doug Engelbart - invented computer mouse
May 10, evening:
  • NerdTV #12: Bob Kahn - invented TCP/IP
May 11, morning:
  • NerdTV #13: Judy Estrin
  • Pimsleur Russian I, lesson 12
May 11, evening:May 12, morning:

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Ideal Work Environment

This is a place where I can record fantastic (as in unreal) ideas about what I envision my ideal work environment to be.

Accessible to my family, and no distance from my home.

Windows I can open to enjoy beautiful weather.

I was going to write that I'd like to have a couple of large hookbills, macaw, cockatoo, parrot, but I guess that's just too fantastic to put in this list.

Sometimes located on or near water, perhaps a yacht. But not all the time.

Well-connected: obviously at least 15Mbps bandwidth.

I'm A Leech

. . . at least when it comes to starting things. I recently had a conversation with some dear friends regarding their higher education plans, and I came to the realization that, when it comes to getting the ball rolling, I work best if someone else gives it the first shove.

Of course, this all depends on priority, level of interest and much more. But let's take this example: a Master's degree. I would like to have earned a Master's or Doctorate in one or more subjects that interest me. However, my current field of employement doesn't appear to place significant value on these degrees, and it's not obvious precisely which specialty I would be best advised to study first.

For various reasons I find this pursuit further down the priority list than getting settled into a new job, surviving daily life or achieving a certain ambitious performance. So I find myself wishing for a companion in this endeavour, someone who would say "I'm pursuing a degree in this field that might interest you. Would you like to work together on this?"

I like to think that I would contribute significantly to such an enterprise, and that my cooperation would be more than a little helpful in finishing a degree.

But I came to this realization as a moment of insight into how I go through life. I'm not certain whether it's inherently "bad" or not, or whether starting things is something I should practice just to get in the habit of it. (Actually, I recall starting and failing to finish many things as a youth. Perhaps I'm paying for those now by finishing things I didn't start. Hmmm)

At least I can bear this understanding with me. It may help me when something truly important needs to be started.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Commute Education - Week 1

May 1, morning:
  • Pimsleur Russian I, lesson 1
  • Brasscast 12/25/05
  • NerdTV #1: Andy Hertzfeld - Macintosh
May 1, evening:
  • Pimsleur Russian I, lesson 2
  • Brasscast 4/30/06
May 2, morning:
  • NerdTV #2: Max Levchin - Paypal
  • Pimsleur Russian I, lesson 3
  • Brasscast 4/23/06
May 2, evening:
  • Brasscast 2/13/05
  • Pimsleur Russian I, lesson 4
  • NerdTV #3: Bill Joy - Sun Microsystems
May 3, morning:
  • NerdTV #4: Brewster Kahle - Internet Archive
  • Pimsleur Russian I, lesson 5
May 3, evening:May 4, morning:
  • NerdTV #6: Dave Winer - RSS & scripting
  • Pimsleur Russian I, lesson 7
May 4, evening:
  • NerdTV #7: Dan Drake - Autodesk
May 5, morning:
  • NerdTV #8: Avram Miller - Intel
  • Pimsleur Russian I, lesson 8