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Sunday, September 30, 2007

"Dealing with the tail has always been a problem"

Corporate training videos are inherently funny (unfortunately, you have to stifle the laughter). When the subject matter is how to play the freakish-looking Chuck E. Cheese mouse (rat?) character, and the video was made in the 1980s, there are some serious comic possibilities. Via Andrew Sullivan:

Peachy Scene

The weather is absolutely gorgeous this weekend. It's in very pleasant limbo between summer and fall (though I would have no objection to all-out fall, either). One sure sign that the seasons are changing: There were some peaches lingering around the farmer's market last week, but none this week. I bought three peaches last week, and while two were mediocre, the last one was awesome. I cut it up and put it on top of vanilla ice cream...I post this picture as a memorial to the passing of summer.

Monday, September 24, 2007

New House

The view out my window at dusk this evening (Andrew Sullivan-style). I have posted a few photos of my new house over at Flickr.

I was hot on the trail of a ping pong table for the basement earlier this evening on craigslist, but somebody beat me to it. Soon, though...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Neighborhood

I've been living in Columbia Heights for a couple weeks now. A few observations on the neighborhood:
  • The neighborhood is definitely diverse -- the apartment building behind us appears to be exclusively Latino, along with most of the large buildings in the area; the single-family rowhomes like ours seem to be mixed black and white residents.

  • Mount Pleasant, a historically Latino neighborhood just across 16th Street from us, is a really nice amenity. There's a small independent hardware store, a bakery (with good doughnuts!), ethnic takeout food ("Burrito-Fast", anyone?), a bank, and several Latino groceries. There's also a small but good farmer's market on Saturdays, the best news there is that my favorite fruit vendor from Baltimore, Reid's Orchard, is also at this one. Their fruit is great, and their apple selection is huge. (If you've never had the opportunity to try a Pink Lady apple, I highly recommend it.)

  • When my friend Paul was in town last week, I took him to a bar in Columbia Heights that I had heard was cool. The Wonderland Ballroom turns out to be really cool indeed -- an awesome jukebox, grungy vibe, neighborhood crowd my age, patio out front, and, amazingly for DC, cheap food and beer (who can argue with "$2 footlong hotdogs with chili and/or cheese"?). Nice to have this in the neighborhood.

  • The local Giant (supermarket) is good, though about a 10-min walk. And though I'm somewhat ashamed to say it, I'm really looking forward to when Target (and Staples, and Marshall's, and Bed Bath & Beyond...) opens across the street in a few months. Big-box chain stores they may be, but those big boxes will be stacked and shorn of their surface parking lots, and it's mighty handy to be able to walk down the block and buy pretty much anything you might need.

  • As for neighbors we've met, the retired couple who live to one side of us seem to be very nice. The husband told us to avoid the guy who's often sitting on the front porch to the other side of us. The guy seems relatively harmless, but he's pretty much always drunk, and wears his flourescent mesh Comcast contractor safety vest no matter what he's doing (which may be a result of the drunkeness, or it may be meant to convey an air of authority, or both). In any case, turning down his offers of handyman help does seem like a wise idea.

  • The bike ride to work turns out to be about 20 minutes, a tad longer than I had hoped, but still pretty good. I have a bike lane most of the way, and there are more cyclists than in Baltimore, so it feels comfortable.

Anyway, I'm really liking the new place. And with the loaner dining room table that Laura and Stephen so kindly delivered today, the house is feeling pretty homey. Come visit...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery is only a couple blocks from my office, and like all Smithsonian museums, it's free, making it a good place to go during lunch. I finally walked over there yesterday, with relatively low expectations because the idea of portraits didn't really excite me -- I was really just looking for a peaceful break from the office. But it was surprisingly satisfying. For one, the building is rather grand, providing lots of dignified peace and quiet for lunchtime ruminations (especially in the middle of a weekday). As I Iearned from a nice little exhibit on its history, the building was originally the Patent Office, then the largest office building in the U.S. at 333,000 square feet (I wasn't taking notes, that's just an easy number to remember). They needed all that space because back in the 19th century, not only did they keep lots of paper records, but patent regulations required aspiring inventors to submit models of their inventions. The building's great hall was filled with display cases holding tens of thousands of models of newfangled gadgets, which attracted many visitors. It would be really awesome if we were still able to gawk at mock-ups of all the little wrong turns in forward progress, but most of the models were lost in a fire in the late 1800s.

Anyway, like I was saying, the Portrait Gallery is actually pretty interesting, too. (It shares the building with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which I've not been to yet.) Part of why it works is that the context they provide for the portraits makes them more meaningful, and even if you've seen that famous portrait of George Washington hundreds of times, seeing the (rather large) original goes a long way toward making you actually look at it. And while it might be different for someone who is more immersed in history than me, the touches of personality detectable in some of the portraits I looked at reminded me that these larger-than-life historical figures were actually people. (I realize this reads as incredibly corny and cliche, but this is the actual reaction I had.) This photo of Lincoln, taken shortly before he was assassinated, was particularly striking when looking at the large print in person:

Along those lines, watching footage of FDR giving speeches also made him a less imposing historical figure, and made today's political discourse seem a little less depressing by reminding me that the history book version doesn't really do justice to the crass everyday give-and-take of politics -- which makes the historical points of reference look better than the churning mess you're immersed in.

Well, enough meandering -- in any case, I'm glad to have these museums down the street (and the National Building Museum right across the street).

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I Live in DC

With some help from my parents this weekend, I moved my remaining things to my new house in Columbia Heights, and am now officially living here. Still lots of unpacking to do, and our living room, dining room and sunroom are seriously lacking furniture, but it's really good to be done with the moving around. I'm also pumped about the new place -- it's really nice, really clean (grime- and dust-wise), and has central air. I feel a little guilty about the central air, but it is really nice.

I will post some pictures later, more for my benefit than yours...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

No, you can't come in

(Sorry.) This was followed by susequent appearances at the screen door, asking "How about just with this intestine-spilling torso?", and other progressively more disgusting versions. It follows the original critter-munching incident, and another one this past weekend while Kitty was in town when Hershey turned a bird into a pile of feathers in broad daylight.

I realize this is all very deep-seated in dog instincts, but seriously, does an elderly eleven-year-old dog need to keep it up? And Hershey, if you're trying to make me barf, you're definitely on the right track...

Anyway, the dog and I will only be spending a bit more time with each other -- I'll be moving into my new place on Monday, with some help from my parents this weekend.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Songs of the Moment (An occasional feature)

> The Decemberists - Sons and Daughters [mp3]
> Spoon - Finer Feelings [downloadable mp3 stream]
> Washington Phillips - What Are They Doing in Heaven Today
>Weezer - Undone (The Sweater Song) [YouTube]
> Sufjan Stevens - Detroit! Lift Up Your Weary Head (Rebuild! Restore! Reconsider!)
> TV on the Radio - Province [mp3]

Saturday, September 01, 2007


From an article in the Washington Post on Republicans' bleak hopes in the Senate for the 2008 election:
"It's always darkest right before you get clobbered over the head with a pipe wrench. But then it actually does get darker," said a GOP pollster who insisted on anonymity in order to speak candidly.