Friday, March 31, 2006


I UPLOADED MORE of my cherry blossom-related photos on my Flickr account. Go gawk at the pinkish floral display. Much more brilliant than a baby panda.


The FDR Memorial, taken Thursday morning amid cherry blossom splendor.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

MORNING STROLL: Cherry Blossoms and Tourists

Greetings! I am very excited because I am blogging on my new MacBook Pro. I'm like a kid in a candy store. It comes with a remote control, which I'm quite excited about, but I'm not too sure that I'll actually use it. It's a beautiful machine. And the engine runs real nice. But my screen is quite a bit wider than the one in this MacWorld photo.

EARLY THIS MORNING, before I headed into the office, I ventured down to the Tidal Basin in an attempt to enjoy the cherry blossoms before the area was flooded with mobs of people. I took some photos, but I haven't had a chance yet to upload them, so that'll have to wait 'til morning. Although I'm probably better suited to judge whether a steak has been cooked to a preferred temperature, I thought that the blossoms could use another day to be blooming at optimal pinkish-white brilliance. Things were a bit hazy out this morning too, so the sky wasn't as bright blue as I had hoped, but yet, the blossoms were quite nice. While I think people think of the most utopian view of the cherry blossoms is at the Jefferson Memorial, I think the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial looks even better with the more limited number of cherry blossom trees that pepper its precinct.

As you can see on the Wayfaring map I created, I stopped off at one of my most favorite off-the-beaten path memorials in the city: the District of Columbia World War I Memorial. It is a simple domed structure that reminds you of an ancient Greek ruin with Doric columns. I say ruin because it is, after all, one of the District's most endangered memorials according to the D.C. Preservation League. DC Watch has a good backgrounder on the memorial's history.

I also swung by the World War II Memorial and the Starbucks on Pennsylvania Avenue NW between 17th and 18th streets.

SINCE IT IS CHERRY BLOSSOM TIME, that also means that the first wave of the nation's capital's tourist season will going into high gear in the coming weeks. Rock Creek Rambler is floating an interesting plan to keep tourists separate from D.C. locals who hate them. Surrendering Georgetown and downtown Washington to the tourist classes, RCR has carved out an area north of M Street NW, east of Connecticut Avenue and west of North Capitol Street -- essentially a bubble around the core of Ward 1. There aren't any guard posts, there are no security checkpoints to enforce the no-tourist rule, but you get the point. RCR doesn't want to see a school group from Iowa fouling up U Street, nor does he want to see a fanny pack anywhere the the upper 14th Street corridor.

OF COURSE, that proposal is all in jest, but with the tourist season comes another season: locals-picking-on-tourists-and-the-funny-things-they-do season. In the early days of this blog, and sometimes on DCist, I would be known for posting skewering observations of tourists. E-mails from relatives of mine and DCist commenters called me arrogant, pompous and downright unfriendly. I see their point to a certain degree.

But then there are instances like the following that can justify locals being angry at visitors to our city, instances where the tourists try to tell the locals how to live their lives. This morning, I was riding the Blue Line to the Smithsonian station so I could begin my stroll to the Tidal Basin. Since I am an experienced Metrorail rider, I have mastered physics to where I can stand up on a moving Metrorail car, open up a newspaper and defy gravity and forward momentum. I won't fall over!

But yet, as I was reading the newspaper while standing on a moving train, an older woman decked out in a sweatshirt that read "Louisville," perhaps in her 50s, told me the following:
You need to sit down. It's not safe. It's just not safe to stand up! These trains need to have seat belts!

I wish I had an audio recording, because she was using a tone where she was scolding me, as if I was spitefully challenging Zeus high up on Mount Olympus. She was concerned for my safety, yes, but in a way where she didn't want to be in the vicinity of one of Zeus' lightning bolts (seen here) that was to strike me down for my brash disregard for the laws of physics. I looked back at her:
I do this everyday.
But was I playing with fate? Between the Federal Triangle and Smithsonian stations, there is a cross-over track, a junction where a Metrorail train derailed on Jan. 13, 1982, the same day of the Air Florida crash at the 14th Street Bridge. Fortunately, my Blue Line train navigated the cross-over track just fine. No disasters. I challenged the laws of commuting physics and I won.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

ASTRONOMY: Where Did the Sun Go?

THERE ARE QUITE A FEW really cool photos of today's total solar eclipse. This one is a NASA photo of the scene over Turkey and Cyprus earlier today. We missed out on it in North America, but fortunately, you can look at some great photos on Flickr.

DISTRACTIONS: Leprechauns and Chaucer

TWO LINKS for you this afternoon:

1.) Via Blah Blah Black Sheep, I discover some St. Patrick's Day-related hysteria courtesy of a local television news station in Mobile, Ala., and a clever mashup response. Be sure to view the news story first, then the mash-up.

2.) Yes, this had to come some time or another. Via Rebecca Blood and Robot Wisdom, Geoffrey Chaucer is blogging in Middle English.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

LINKS: Red Line Woes and Bulgarian Feta

Photo from the archives of Fur Cafe. No, the Red Line hasn't been that crowded this week, at least to my knowledge.

FOR TWO NIGHTS IN A ROW, I've been on Shady Grove-bound Red Line trains where one of the six cars has malfunctioned for some undetermined reason while the rest of the five are in service ... and overcrowded. Why one car breaks down while the rest are running just fine really isn't important here, but what is quite interesting is how people react to such situations.

As a train pulled into Metro Center Monday night, car No. 2 pulled up to the platform darkened and empty, two obvious signs that the car wouldn't be opening its doors. As everyone who had lined up to board car No. 2 moved to the first and third cars (including your friendly blogger), an old man in a trench coat was left behind. When the doors failed to open, he smacked the train car with his newspaper yelling: "Open up!"

When his voice request for Open Sesame failed, he looked down the platform toward the operator. He yelled down the platform, hoping the operator would magically open the doors. The train got crowded, of course, and then the train operator, as we pulled into the tunnel between Metro Center and Farragut North, he came over the public address system and scolded us passengers for failing "to utilize all the doors" and not moving to the center of the train cars. I thought that was a bit rude on the operator’s fault. When you have a hundred or so passengers lined up on a train platform and one train car is out of service, you are forced to cram through 15 doors instead of 18.
Additionally, when the center of train cars are already filled, you cannot move farther in.

Then this evening, while my train was stopped at Farragut North, the operator of my Red Line train announced that te first train car would be going out of service, the exact reason unexplained. I was in car No. 2 and one of my fellow riders asked how we were supposed to know what train car we were in. That's a good point. Not everyone notices what car they board. This becomes more of a problem if one of the middle train cars goes out of service. So there you go.

GOTHAMIST EDITOR JEN CHUNG has two loves in her life: Pandas and the late Jerry Orbach from NBC's "Law and Order." (picture from Gothamist's third birthday party). Well, now add a third: her new husband Jay. If you're one to look at The New York Times' wedding announcements, you might have spotted Jen an Jay in Sunday's paper. Congrats to the newlyweds.

FOR SOME URBAN PLANNING links: First, take a look at Kanishka's photos from Islamabad on his Flickr account. (And also read his account on driving in the Pakistani capital.) Ahh, planned world capitals.

Then, also take a look at this photo from blogger dl004d, who lives on 10th Street NW. It looks like life is springing from the once-souless heart of the old Washington Convention Center. I haven't been down to that corner of downtown in quite some time. I'm anxious to see the city's development plans for the site.

AFTER TWO BURGERS IN A ROW on Friday and Saturday, I've been eating considerably healthier (besides today's burrito for lunch.) I must say that Bulgarian feta and rice vinegar are two essential salad-building ingredients. Chop up some tomatoes, onions and cucumbers, cube some Bulgarian feta (which will deform into blobs of goat's milk product quite quickly) and dress with some olive oil, dill and rice vinegar. Let it stew in its juices overnight. Voila.

AND IF I'M NOT MISTAKEN, the Washington City Paper made history on Monday. Not because of its new City Desk blog (which is something I've been hoping they'd eventually develop ... it's about time.) but because on its first day in existence, it mentioned DCist, making it the last major local media operation to recognize the group blog's existence. I can't say I read the print edition from cover to cover every week, but I think I would have heard chattering that the City Paper mentioned DCist. Certainly, there were many things from our early days (when we were trying to figure out what the hell we were doing) they could have relentlessly mocked. To Erik Wemple and his crew on Champlain Street NW: welcome to local blogging. I look forward to linking to your content.