(Image credit: Ted Stein)

Posted by Ellen

"I went hiking one morning at about 5 am and found this boat," Ted told his Facebook buds, referring to a morning last month when he was in Dingle, a town on the far southwestern coast of Ireland.

"I wanted to sneak it out for a ride soooo much," Ted continued. "But somehow, I managed to refrain from stealing the boat. Sadly."

That was the short story. Recently, we learned the long story–which is really only a little bit longer–during a recent conversation with our traveler, now home again in Tedland, West Virginia.

Of course he wasn't going to steal the boat; the idea was just to borrow it. And it wasn't locked. It was just tied up with so many ropes, so many knots, big knots, tight knots, and it was five in the morning, way too early to be fussing with lots and lots of tightly tied knots.

In other words, sadly, Ted was too lazy (hungover?) to take the boat. So he kept on walking.

Posted by Ellen

With this picture we begin a very occasional series exploring the latter-day habitats of the five Stein boys, who all long ago sheltered under one roof in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but who have now scattered to the far corners of the realm. 

Ted has built himself a homeplace high on a hill above Great Cacapon, West Virginia. About a year ago, a friend from Alabama, Tommy Roberts, drove up to Ted's land hauling his tools and a trailer full of old shipping pallets. Pieces of pallets eventually became siding shingles to sheath the house and outbuildings–but first, Tommy and Ted had to build the house, drill the well, install the woodstove for heat and the gas stove for cooking, run electricity in from the pole by the road, and etc. and etc.

The stone wall and outdoor fireplace were built with rocks from around Ted's land; the presence of all the loose rocks was a good sign, according to the neighbors, proving that his property included a goodly amount of flat land for loose rocks to settle on. Ted recently expanded his place by buying more acreage across the road, so he's now got a little guesthouse, and of course if he happens to ever need even more rocks . . . .

Ted builds software for a living, and the wireless in the woods above Great Cacapon is slow. Even so, it's fast enough for government work, as the saying goes, and lately, most of Ted's work has been government work. He can write code in Tedland or discuss work with colleagues or clients, in the house or on the deck or in a hammock under the trees. But every now and then he has to leave his mountainside and drive to Washington to make sure all is well with NASA or the State Department or USGS or whomever; for such occasions, he has rented a room in town.

When he's off the mountain, he probably has to make arrangements for somebody to look after his chickens.

Posted by Ellen

It's gotta be that shredder sitting by the windowsill, just to the right of the desktop.

This is Ted's new office in Washington, DC.

Posted by Ellen

The mountain moonscape of Terlingua, Texas, illuminated (ever so slightly) by the moon at noon.

Posted by Ellen

Note to wedding planners: When choosing a date and venue, do take into account the possibility that the city's annual Naked Bicycle Ride will roll past your event just as guests are leaving the ceremony.

Actually, when this wedding let out late Sunday afternoon, the wedding party did have just enough time to hustle into the limo and peel away before hundreds of naked bikers swarmed the street in front of the church. The young man shown here who was dressed to join the bike ride was a few minutes early; he was waiting in Rittenhouse Square for his fellow riders to reach this part of the route.

By the time the main body of naked bikers showed up, the limo was gone, and the wedding guests in their finery were standing around in front of the church with cameras and cellphones trained on the dressed-down action in the street.

The two young women on bicycles near the left side of the picture were friends of the young man's who met up with him here by accident; like the wedding guests, they were not aware that the annual naked ride was about to descend on Rittenhouse Square. By the time the riders arrived, the women had made up their minds; they pulled off their shirts, stuffed them in their backpacks, and joined the parade.

Posted by Ellen

Piano recital season has come around again.

I took piano lessons as a child, as did my sister, but we had different teachers and thus had to attend each other's recitals as well as our own. My teacher organized mercifully brief programs; we took our turns at the keyboard in the school cafeteria, curtsied, raced through our pieces, and then it was time for the cookies, punch, and dixie cups of vanilla ice cream. But my sister's recitals, in her teacher's living room, were endless, and there were only enough chairs for the grownups; all the brothers and sisters had to sit on the steps while the piano-playing went on and on and on. Many of the students were extremely talented–one of them now conducts a symphony orchestra–but what I mostly remember is how long we had to sit there before the cookies and punch.

These children were among a couple of dozen who performed their recital pieces the other day on the Steinway grand at Strathmore Mansion in Rockville, Maryland. They are students of B&B Music School.

Posted by Ellen

There's an uninteresting explanation for Norman's attire on Commissioning Day in Annapolis, but . . . . But nothing, really.