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Sunday, July 22, 2012


Here there! I haven't posted for quite some time. But...
...if anyone is still following the blog, here are some photos from my recent trip to Chile. I went to visit Davin and Molly (pictured above) for a couple weeks. We spent the first part of that in Santiago, where they'd been living for several months. Then we went south, jumping off from Puerto Montt via ferry to the Carretera Austral, a highway through part of Chile's southern frontier. There were bumpy roads, tiny towns, snow, and a 5.1 earthquake. It was pretty awesome.

I will try to post some more details later. I'd also note, for those still reading, that I do intend to post other stuff as well, despite my recent radio silence. For instance, I will be checking off my 49th state next weekend when I visit Michigan with Catherine, and that seems an occasion worth of a blog post.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Long time no blog. I've been meaning to post about a few things, including my parents' visit to DC a few weeks back. I'll write again soon, but for now, I'll leave you with what I believe to be a rather adorable picture of them near the Washington Monument.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Songs of the Moment (An Occasional Feature)

> Songs:Ohia - Blue Factory Flame
> TV on the Radio - You
> Arcade Fire - Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
> The Books - All You Need Is a Wall
> Wye Oak - Plains
> Grizzly Bear - While You Wait for the Others
> tUnE-yArDs - Bizness

Don't let the crazy caps put you off -- definitely check out that tUnE-yArDs video, and stick around for the second half.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


I'm pretty excited about a new carshare service that's rolling out in DC on Saturday, called Car2Go. Why would I be excited about this if I already have Zipcar, you ask?

All their cars are tiny Smart FourTwo hatchbacks (the company is a subsidiary of Daimler, the maker of the Smart). Unlike Zipcar's half-hour increments, Car2Go charges by the minute. But here's the big difference: You don't have to reserve a car in advance, and you don't have to commit to a time that you'll return the car. Just use it until you're done, and that's what you'll pay for. And, like Capital Bikeshare, you don't have to return the car to the same place you picked it up. Even more impressive, you can leave the car in any legal parking spot in the city -- even metered spots. Car2Go has an arrangement with the city to pay for all parking. There are only a few areas of the city, like Rock Creek Park, where you're not allowed to leave the car. You'll be able to see the locations of available cars in a smartphone app, or you can just come upon one on the street and swipe your card. One nice touch: If you end up having to put gas in the car, not only do you not pay for the gas, they will give you a credit to your account for the time spent filling up.

While it might be a little hard to envision how this will be useful, I can think of lots of situations in which it will be great. Consider, for example, that Car2Go will cost slightly less than a taxi for most one-way trips ($0.38 per minute, maxing out at $14 per hour). Not to mention that stopping to pick something up on your way home isn't really an option in a taxi. Likewise, if you take bikeshare or Metro to meet up with a friend, and want to head somewhere together afterward, you can just hop in a car. Furthermore, Car2Go happens to be a great complement to Zipcar. You're not going to pick up a dining room table from Ikea or go hiking in Shenandoah in a Smart FourTwo, and Zipcar rates are lower, but small trips that are currently a pain with Zipcar ("Will this take less than 60 minutes?") will be much easier with Car2Go.

They've been operating in Austin, TX and a number of European cities for a little while, and apparently the cars have stayed fairly well distributed across the city. There will be 200 cars in DC to start; I'll be interested to see how it goes. It all adds up to making the city a place where it's much less essential to own a car. Hopefully that will lead to more articles like this one about how auto manufacturers are struggling to get young people excited about buying cars.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Blinky lives!

I was riding downhill on 16th Street this evening in the 70-degree (!) weather when I hit a pretty big rut in the pavement. I heard something fall, and turned my head just in time to see my rear blinker light smash on the pavement, the several pieces of it scattering across a lane of traffic. Crap. Those suckers cost about $30, and I don't want to take the time to go find a new one.

I doubled back on the sidewalk at the next intersection; a passing jogger said "Bummer, dude." Figuring I'd pick up the pieces and salvage the two AAA batteries, I dashed out to grab them during a break in traffic. Strangely, none of them appeared to have been run over. And when I put them back together, it worked! It's a blinky miracle.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


Alex and Alissa moved to Chicago at the end of last summer. I made a quick visit this past weekend -- good to catch up, and nice to see a bit of the city, since I haven't spent much time there. We did some of the typical tourist things, and ate at a very trendy (and very good) restaurant. (There was both pigeon and wild boar, but I must say the gruyere-filled doughnuts with fig jam and honey were particularly notable.)

I put up a few pictures on Flickr (but none of doughnuts).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Songs of the Moment (An Occasional Feature)

> Soul Coughing - Blue-Eyed Devil
> Warpaint - Warpaint
> Neko Case - People Got a Lotta Nerve
> Broken Social Scene - Fire Eye'd Boy
> Spoon - I Could See the Dude
> Fujiya & Miyagi - Yoyo
> The Weakerthans - Anchorless

The Warpaint video, which I like a lot, somehow seems very 1990s to me, even though it's recent.

Monday, February 20, 2012


My Capital Bikeshare key fob stopped working a couple weeks ago. This was perhaps not too surprising following a grueling 18 months on my keyring. After calling to request a new one, I identified the problem -- the two halves of the plastic shell had become slightly separated at one end, and the little RFID chip had come loose and was sliding around inside. Here's what the little guy looks like:

I don't actually know anything about RFID, but it looks like the chip itself is the encased in that little bubble; there are wires running around the perimeter of the square that probably serve as the antenna.

CaBi continues to be awesome, as I've written previously. This seems like a good time to mention some stats available from my account, which shows that I've taken 245 trips since becoming a member in October 2010 -- about one every other day. The system tracks data on your 200 most recent trips (for me, that's trips since January 18, 2011). Here are some summary stats on those:
  • 240.34 miles traveled. However, they measure this using as-the-crow-flies distances between the stations, so the actual distance will almost certainly be longer -- for instance, my route from the station nearest home to the station nearest the office is 3.3 miles, but CaBi counts this as 2.5 miles. If we assume this ratio holds true across all trips, I've probably covered about 320 miles on the CaBi bikes in the past 13 months. (That's similar to the distance covered in my bike trip to Pittsburgh.)
  • 10,334 estimated calories burned. That's based on CaBi's assumption of 43 calories per mile.
  • 1 day, 12 hours, 47 minutes and 48 seconds of riding.
  • If you take the time elapsed and my estimated distance above, it indicates an average speed of about 8.7 mph. Given traffic lights and the conservative gearing of the bikes, that sounds about right.
There's lots of really interesting analysis to be done with
data that CaBi recently released, which anonymously show all individual trips taken on the system during certain periods.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sound happenings

Two audio-related items to note:

A couple weeks ago I got an opportunity, as part of the DC Listening Lounge, to visit a cool and mysterious place -- the abandoned trolley station underneath DC's Dupont Circle.

A little background: Dupont Circle is one of the city's most vibrant neighborhoods, with many restaurants, bars, stores, the city's biggest weekly farmer's market, etc. Most people don't even realize that beneath the eponymous circle, there's a station from the days when streetcars were the primary mass transit in DC. (Metro's present-day Dupont Circle station is significantly deeper below.) The station and accompanying underground track tunnels were built in the 1940s, in an effort to ease congestion in the circle. An automobile underpass to allow Connecticut Ave to bypass the circle was also built at the same time. The streetcars were abandoned in favor of buses (sigh) in 1962, exactly 50 years ago. The station (actually two stations, wrapping around both sides of the circle) was reserved as a fallout shelter for a time, but fully abandoned in the 1970s. A small part of the facility was turned into a food court in the 1990s, but an unscrupulous developer and claustrophobic design doomed it in short order.

Jumping to the present, a group calling itself Dupont Underground is trying to develop the entire underground area -- the stations plus adjoining tunnels -- as a retail and arts space. They've been at it for a few years now, and have recently secured an exclusive agreement with the city to negotiate for a lease on the space. They are working to build support for this effort, and are giving various interested parties tours of the space. We met two reps from the group on a street corner near the circle, walked down the narrow curb alongside the vehicle underpass, and went through a metal door in the side of the underpass, and entered the dark tunnel. Here's a sound recording I made as we went in:

It was pretty cool being in a totally abandoned (and mostly forgotten) space underneath one of the busiest places in the city. I took a few pictures with my phone in the station portion where there was lights, but you'd probably be better off looking at some more professional pics of the space posted by this guy on Flickr. We brought a few noisemaking implements (including a violin) with us to explore the acoustics, which were echoey in an unusual way, with all the bare concrete and connecting tunnels. In any case, the group has a lot of work ahead of them to realize their vision, but if they can make it work, the space has the potential to be a very cool addition to Dupont Circle.

- - -

Also in the sounds-in-striking-settings department, a band that my friend Jocelyn is in, The Torches, played a gig this afternoon at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. It was in the Luce Center, which is a gorgeous three-tier atrium on the top floor of the museum. The band got to select a piece of art from the collection (a painting entitled "Life Mask"), and a staff member gave a short talk about it before they started their performance. Seeing a band I've seen several times in small clubs play an "unplugged" set in such a stately setting was neat, and definitely changed how I perceived the music. This is part of a monthly series the Luce Center is putting on, so I may try and check out some future shows.

Here's the Luce Center, with the band setting up at the far end.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Omnibus update

Haven't been blogging much recently, mostly because I've been busy. Here are a few things worth mentioning:
  • Davin came to visit last weekend, prior to his move to South America. I failed to take any proper pictures, but did snap one on my phone when we hiked Old Rag.
  • After great disappointment at not getting tickets for LCD Soundsystem's farewell show at Madison Square Garden last spring, I have to say I'm pretty pumped to see the film that was made about it, Shut Up and Play the Hits.
  • I've restarted my Potluck Initiative this winter, and have been reminded how nice it is to have people over for dinner.
  • I was proud of installing this lamp in my apartment on my own. (To be clear, there was a different lamp there before, so it's not like I did any real electrical work.) I also fixed the leaky shower, but I'm debating whether replacing the leaky kitchen faucet is within my ability.
  • Relatedly, after complaining bitterly for years about my mother's unwillingness to turn on the heat, I have said to myself more than once this winter that "52 degrees isn't so bad if you put on a hat." (But much of the winter has felt more like spring.)
  • I got to go in an abandoned underground trolley station here in DC yesterday. I'll do a separate post about it later, but it was pretty awesome.
Heading to Greensboro this weekend (via train!) to visit Matt and Risa (and the local Mountain Goat population), which should be great.