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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Considering an Ark

What had been a couple days of rain on Sunday has now turned into what feels like a week of rain. It rained incredibly hard Sunday night, and apparently we got something like 7 inches. I obliviously toodled down to the train station as usual on Monday morning, only to find it chock full of stuck commuters. Originally the trains weren't going all the way to DC, but by the time I got on one they had fixed the track flooding. My 45-minute delay was mild compared to the folks in my office who live in DC, where the Metro wasn't coping so well.

It was still raining (though less ferociously) yesterday, and for much of today as well. Tonight we are supposed to get several more inches of rain, so hopefully I can get to work tomorrow.

Jaclyn and I went to see Calexico last night in DC. It was the first time I had been to the 9:30 Club, the best rock venue in the city. For those familiar with Minneapolis, I would call it a classier version of First Avenue. Since we didn't have anything else to do after work besides get dinner, we got to the club early and stood right up front, which I enjoy. The opener, Jason Collette, was quite good, I thought. Calexico was great, with that really nice southwest vibe that doesn't feel at all forced. I love the horns. And I was pleased that they played Crystal Frontier and Quattro (though not with the full mariachi band onstage). All in all, worth getting back to B-more at 1am.

Non-sequitor: For those who had some interaction with Josh Grier at Carleton, you might find it surreal to see him in a music video or on MTV.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Rainy Sunday

It's raining here today, so I'm just hanging around inside. We've had some pretty fierce thunderstorms throughout the week. Maura and I were leaving work at the same time on Monday amid one such storm, and since we were at risk of missing our MARC train, we made a break for the Metro despite the torrential downpour. Despite my travel umbrella, we got unbelievably soaked during the 2-block walk, and as we were getting on the escalator down to the Metro station, lightning struck the flagpole right in front of us. Yipes.

The weather was good, however, for the Physical Infrastructure picnic on Thursday. It was quite nice, though as government employees we had to pay for our picnic ourselves. The most amusing part of the day was the "Blue Book Toss." Blue Book is the colloquial name for a GAO report; mine only went about 10 feet.

Last weekend, Steve, an incoming MPP student, was here to check out the house. He seemed cool, and liked the house, so it looks like he'll be taking John's place. April has decided that she's going to stick around while she finds a job in Washington, so she'll be taking advantage of our extra bedroom for a couple months, and we'll find someone to replace her. To that end, Liz, another incoming MPPer, looked at the house today, and will decide by the end of the week whether she wants to live here. Jason is figuring out this week if he's moving out or not.

The mice had been gone for a while, but we just saw them again. Our landlord is going to come patch holes again tomorrow, but also offered to split the cost of an exterminator with us. I think we're going to do that, because the rodents are getting hard to take.

Anyway, it's hard to believe, but it's less than a week until my 4th of July camping trip in MN with Carleton folks. Should be great!

Sunday, June 18, 2006


I've recently started poking around YouTube. It turns out there are a lot of pretty cool music videos and live performances available there. If I've got this technology down correctly, I think you will now see a box below where you can watch a playlist of my favorites:

Note that if you click the button in the middle, it plays here; if you click elsewhere in the frame, it opens a new browser window to the clip page at YouTube.

Doug got me into this by sending me the link to Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" video last month (which is on this playlist). If you want to, you can see a larger list of my favorite videos at my YouTube profile page.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Fishy Fishy

Erin visited briefly on her way to visit Matt and Risa in NC, spending last night here. So I was a bit perplexed when I got home from work last evening to find a package waiting for me -- from Erin. This was odd, seeing as she would be arriving in a couple hours, and was driving, so it wasn't like bringing what was in the box would have been difficult.

I opened the box and found a ferocious shellacked fish:

There was no note or explanation, nor any reason I could think of that Erin would send me this fish. (It appears to be a piranha.)

So, Erin arrived later:

Me: By the way, uh, thanks, I got the fish today.

Erin: What?

Me: The fish you sent me -- I got it today.

Erin: Fish? I didn't send you a fish.

Me: [showing fish] Somebody else sent me this?

Erin: Holy crap!

We examined the box for clues.

If you look closely, you can see the letters "MSP" on the barcode sticker, and the ZIP code "55111" on the postage sticker, which was clearly purchased from an automated machine to avoid detection of the illegitimate return address. A check with the USPS website confirms that it was sent from Fort Snelling, which shares the same plot of land with the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

I think the evidence points to Sebastian/Becky as suspect number one. Other "persons of interest" include LJ, Hannah, Andrew, Eden and Alex.

Anyway, the piranha decided that Erin's coconut shampoo made her too pleasant-smelling to devour.

What's especially funny is that no one else knew Erin was visting yesterday, so the fish's near-simultaneous arrival was a coincidence.

Monday, June 12, 2006


I saw a couple movies this weekend. An Inconvenient Truth was quite good, I thought. I didn't rush out to see it when it opened because I felt I didn't need to be convinced, but it did drive home the importance of the issue and add to my understanding. In talking about it with Reed, he said it seemed less overwrought than other "message" documentaries he's seen, and I think I agree. I think that might be in part because such documentaries have a tendency to make their issue seem like the most important thing in earth, which they usually aren't, but in this case the film really was addressing an issue with worldwide, big-time import. Also, after seeing the film you understand why people are suddenly saying "Al Gore for president" with a straight face again. While there are plenty of problems with another Gore candidacy, we could certainly do much worse.

I also saw A Prairie Home Companion. I'd call it a nice little movie that was really pleasant to watch, but didn't knock my socks off. I enjoyed how the humor was understated (well, mostly) and how the film developed a very enveloping sense of place and feel. I also took pleasure in the fact that I, too, have eaten a grilled cheese at Mickey's Diner -- and after seeing Prarie Home Companion, at that!

Another way in which I'm ending my popular culture hiatus: A bunch of concerts are on my schedule for the summer, benefitting from the combined offerings of the Baltimore and DC scenes. Matt Pond PA this week, then Liars, Calexico, Belle & Sebastian (w/ Broken Social Scene and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists!), The Weakerthans, and the Drive By Truckers. And probably some more I haven't found out about yet. I'm excited about the prospect of traveling for work, but hopefully our trips will happen to avoid the weeks with good shows.

Meanwhile, with John moving out and Sarah in NYC for the summer, logistics for the house have fallen to me. Sarah and I are definitely staying here, but April and Jason might be leaving. Trying to get those uncertainties pinned down and line up incoming students to fill the empty spaces promises to be a bit of a headache.

I bought cold cuts from the deli counter at the grocery store for the first time ever today (roast beef, fyi). Seems like some sort of life event, so I thought I'd note it.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Odds and Ends

It sure is beautiful outside today. Feels like early fall, not early summer. This is the nicest it's been yet, but in general it's actually been quite good ever since I complained about the weather a few posts back. The lesson I draw here is that I should complain more.

Andrew's lightning-quick apartment finding visit to B-more has come and gone. It was a success, as he now has a place to live lined up in Mt. Vernon. (A big building with a rooftop deck at St. Paul and Eager.) Not too expensive, either.

We went for a bike ride and to HonFest before Andrew took off. HonFest is in Hampden, which is seen as a particularly authentic, and particularly Baltimore, neighborhood -- a place where people actually call you "hon." The place (across a park from Hopkins) is gentrifying, and one could cynically see HonFest as the gentrifying forces of New Hampden leveraging a kitschy stereotype of Old Hampden to promote its continued transformation. But anyway, it's a spectacle with fried food and such.

On a completely unrelated topic, Google has a pretty cool Green Tips For Summer Trips link from their Google Maps homepage. As they've gotten big, they've often had a hard time following their "Don't be evil" credo, so it's nice to see that they're still trying. Anyway, they've spotlighted eco-friendly things in some major tourist destinations, integrating them with the maps and nifty embedded video clips. In their NYC section, I found a link to this awesome site that overlays the NY subway lines and stations on Google Maps, which is extremely useful. I also enjoyed the amusing descriptions on what lies beyond the edges of the subway map (western edge: "WARNING: LA This Way").

On that earthy theme, I'm off to see the Al Gore movie (more formally known as "An Inconvenient Truth") with Ira.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Race on the train

(Another brief exception to the ban on job-related blogging:) I got business cards at work today. Pretty nice for an internship, right? They don't even have the "i" word on them, actually -- I'm an "Analyst."

And now, yet more discussion of the train. On the ride home yesterday evening there was a small flare-up of racial tension. I didn't get a seat, and was standing in the middle of the car. I was in iPod oblivion, but I knew there was a black man standing next to me talking to two (black) women who were seated. It got my attention, however, when the old white guy in the row of seats in front of them turned around to the standing guy and said "Shut up!," and maybe something else, with a very angry look on his face. Then a black guy standing to the other side of me said, very loudly, "You've been pestering the shit out of us for 400 years!" Heads snapped to attention around the car, and I'm sure it appeared to many that I was the source of the trouble. I did my best don't-know-what's-going-on expression. And that was that, but there was plenty of furtive glancing and whispering for the next few minutes.

While I don't know what caused the white guy to get angry, the other guy's choice of the word "pestering" was certainly interesting. Maybe the Shut Up man said something about pestering. Anyway, it's sort of like saying that getting the crap beaten out of you is "annoying."

Monday, June 05, 2006


I'm getting into the swing of the commute to Washington.

The bike ride is the best part; unfortunately it's also the shortest. The 6-minute 1.5-mile downhill ride to Penn Station in the morning is nice for obvious reasons. There's a lot of traffic, but I go almost the same speed as it, so avoiding conflicts is easier than it seems like it would be. And although the ride back home in the evening is all uphill, it really doesn't seem like much anymore; it's amazing how fast you get acclimated.

The train ride is good, but would be a lot better if I weren't always trying to ride at the most crowded times of day. The iPod is really good for it, and I read when I get a seat (which has been more often than not). I see my classmates frequently on the platform, but chatting on the train turns out not to be practical most of the time given the crowds. A weird thing about the MARC train: you are allowed to consume alcohol on board. So, that old guy next to you drinking an oversized Budweiser out of a paper-bagged can? A-okay. The folks at the end of the car having a boisterous (Monday) happy hour? No problem. All told, I guess it's fine...it can certainly be seen as a train amenity. Jaclyn said she was on a train where someone spilled a bunch of beer, though, and that would not be so cool. Anyway, I'll need to try this at some point during the summer out of sheer novelty.

The walk to GAO from the train station is about 15 minutes. I've jogged to catch my intended evening train a few times already (twice successfully, once not), so I really should figure out how much time taking the Metro one stop would save me when I'm in a rush.

Anyway, aside from settling in at work, things are pretty calm. We had a stormy harbor cruise on Friday night in honor of our graduating IPS class (which involved Kat, Jaclyn and I running in the rain to catch the boat). And on Saturday I met Ira for a drink at Brewer's Art, which was nice. Andrew P. returns to Baltimore Thursday through Saturday to find an apartment; he says he's leaning toward Charles Village, and I'm looking forward to having him as a neighbor.

Oh, and the tomatoes I'm growing on our roof (where there's enough sun for them) are doing well. Here's what they looked like shortly after I parked them up there a month ago:

Now, they've got perhaps 15 nascent tomatoes hanging on them, and I've had to tie them to that ladder to keep them from falling over. Having fresh tomatoes will be awesome, even if it is way more than I can use and only for a couple weeks. In a blog event truly worth waiting for, I plan to post pictures of my ripening tomatoes later.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Cross-referencing the news

Frank Rich has a very good NY Times column today about the situation in Iraq. (Which gets more depressing every time my attention is jolted back to it.)

What caught my eye was that the column is heavily hyperlinked -- I count 28 links within the text. (Sorry if you can't read it because you don't have TimesSelect.) I've seen links in Rich's articles before, but not for other columnists. Nick Kristof has a very print-style web address simply written out in the text; you can click it, but it's not the same thing.

So this appears to be a personal initiative of Frank Rich. It's quite effective, too -- saying that the Pentagon is sending 1,500 emergency reinforcements to Anbar province feels a lot more real when he links to the news article about it. There's plenty of linking to Times articles, but he references other publications and government documents, too. Clicking through to the State Department's "Iraq Weekly Status Report" is interesting, if more than a tad rose-colored-glasses.

The Times really should be doing this a lot more, at the very least in their editorial content. It's my vague impression that TimesSelect has a been a bit of a disappointment so far (it has certainly taken their columnists out of the online conversation); this is the sort of extra service that would do a lot more to justify it. Rich has already taken it upon himself, but the paper has armies of fact checkers who go through the material that goes into print. The editors should simply hire a few more with that TimesSelect dough and ask them to go the extra step of linking online-available sources to the text they back up. That kind of extensive referencing that opens up our browsing experience would help keep the traditional media distinguished from blogs and such, and I'd pay for it.