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Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Hey, take a look at this website.

Ignoring the actual content, it looks like someone's personal homepage circa 1998 that has been left to gather dust in a dark corner of the internet. The format, the icons, the fonts -- old-school, all around. But this is the website of the Thrift Savings Plan, the federal employee equivalent of a 401(k). It manages about $225 billion in assets (as of June...a lot less now, I'm sure).

I'm not sure how such a large entity, with millions of users, can have such an anachronistic website. Then again, their fees are miniscule -- about 15 cents annually for each $1,000 of assets invested. I, for one, would be willing to increase that to 16 cents if it would pay for a better website (which it certainly would, since that would be tens of millions of dollars).

Anyway, I suppose I shouldn't diss TSP for being a bit stodgy -- I think we've all probably had enough of flashy financial management for the time being...

Thursday, February 19, 2009


You might have seen this already, but...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Folding Bike!

I bought a new bike this weekend:

It's a Dahon Speed P8. As you can see, it's kind of funny-looking. That's because it can fold up in a matter of seconds into a comparatively small package for tucking in the checked luggage on a train, a bus, or (with a case) an airplane. Or bringing into a building with you, or putting in the trunk of a car, etc.

Bikes@Vienna is a cool store across the river in VA that specializes in folders and other non-standard bicycles. I've been thinking about getting a folder for a while, and had been down there last summer to try out various models -- this bike seemed like the right one for me. (A Brompton would be better, but costs twice as much.) They were having a sale this past weekend, so that was as good an excuse as any...I took the Metro out there and rode my new bike back.

It rides pretty well. It also has some nifty features, like a bike pump inside the seat post (you remove the post, pull out the nozzle, and use the seat as the pump handle). But the really cool thing will be the new places it lets me bike, like day trips to Baltimore on the commuter train and weekend trips to Philly, New York, and Boston on Amtrak. Seeing a city by bike is perfect -- you can get around easily, but not so quickly that you miss the city as it passes by.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Famous hair care

I was out in Vienna, VA this weekend (purchasing something exciting that I will discuss later), and I saw this establishment. I bet there were a lot of people stopping to take pictures back in late 2007...and probably a few wags stepping to ask if $500 was the rate for a haircut.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sky Meadows

In honor of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln (and maybe a little bit for Darwin, too), I went hiking today with Zachary at Sky Meadows State Park in Virginia. It was nice -- a fairly vigorous 7-mile or so hike up a forested ridge, along part of the Appalachian Trail, and down through some high meadows.

We saw this perplexing tree...not sure what happened to its branches.

Chatting with the ranger manning the gift shop (which would certainly be my least favorite task if I were a ranger), we learned that the meadows are maintained by a fleet of cows deployed strategically to keep things trim. The cows are not owned by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, they're owned by the Department of Corrections. Apparently they're used for some sort of work program. (The herd also includes cows sentenced through the Virginia criminal justice system. Most of them are in the pen for attempted car theft. This seems surprising because you so infrequently hear about cows stealing cars, but it's because they're almost always caught -- they break the window, but are usually still trying in futility to hotwire the car when the police arrive.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Street View

Many years ago, I thought that someone should take a video camera and drive down all the streets in a certain part of a city, and then stitch it all together on a computer so that people who bought the "San Francisco" CD-ROM or whatever could simulate driving through the city, picking any random street they want to see.

Of course, Google has now done this with Street View. Moving down the street can be a little laborious because you have to keep clicking the arrow to move ahead, so it's more like walking than driving (if they could format a version better suited to wandering down the street, that would be great). But it's totally amazing, and covers an astoundingly large part of the U.S.

I've written previously about how much I love meandering around unfamiliar cities in Street View (Detroit, for instance). Now, Google has apparently also added some pretty obscure places, which is a pretty effective way to get me to waste a lot of time...

There's this house in Clint, TX overshadowed by its shrubbery.

big-ass bridge in Astoria, OR.

Or there's the (quite vacant) downtown of Teague, TX.

(Just be careful not to hit any deer.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Song Lyric of the Day

"I don't mind worry following me like a dinosaur"
-Soul Coughing, "So Far I Have Not Found the Science"

I've always liked this lyric. It's kind of interesting because the comparison works, even though none of us have ever been followed by a dinosaur.

(I picture a medium-sized dinosaur lurking behind you all day, slyly reminding you of things you should be worried about.)

Sunday, February 08, 2009


The weather was incredible in DC this weekend...high 50s yesterday, around 70 today.

The frisbee game I usually go to on Sundays was moved to an astroturf field to give our muddy regular one a rest. Running on the fake grass in the freakishly warm weather (after temps in the 20s a few days before) made it all sort of surreal.

This was also the first weekend in a while when I've done much purely recreational cycling. (Though I do maintain that every time I go somewhere on my bike, it's both functional and recreational.) Yesterday, I went on a ride with Aron up to Bethesda via Rock Creek Parkway and the Capital Crescent Trail. Later, while out picking up a new Craigslist DVD player, my rear shifter cable broke. After consultation with the folks at the bike shop, I replaced it myself. This felt like an accomplishment, even though it's really quite easy. My bike maintenance skillz are improving! (The progression is something like: pump up tire > lube chain > replace brake pads > fix flat tire > grease squeaky parts > replace pedal > replace shifter cable.)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Songs of the Moment (An Occasional Feature)

> Silver Jews - Like Like The The Death
> Wolf Parade - It's a Curse
> Talking Heads - Crosseyed and Painless
> Pearl Jam - Hail, Hail
> Jose Gonzalez - Down the Line
> Elvis Costello - Every Day I Write the Book
> Clark - Ted

Also, I ran across this great video of TV on the Radio performing Golden Age on a BBC's Later. (Can't match their legendary Letterman performance, though.)

Monday, February 02, 2009

I think he sees his shad--OW!

Mayor Bloomberg was apparently bitten on the hand by Chuck the Staten Island Groundhog at today's festivities. According to someone in Chuck's entourage:
[Chuck] was probably nervous. There was a lot of activity outside, and he was probably nervous. He was basically concentrating on his food. The mayor’s fingers may have just been there. He wasn’t necessarily going for the mayor.

Not necessarily. Or maybe Chuck simply objects to the Mayor's end-run around the term limits law, and decided this was the most participatory form of democracy available to him.

The NYT writeup has more details, including the Mayor's thoughts.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


Just as DC got its first measurable snow of the season, I went to Texas for work. I would have liked to have been around for the snow, especially since the weather in Dallas and Austin was cold and wet/icy for the first couple days. But things warmed up once we moved on to San Antonio, so I did get a dose of the sunshine that we won't see in DC for another couple months. And despite being a work trip, it's always nice to see someplace else for a change. One thing I can say with certainty is that Texas is very different from the East Coast.

Foggy, cold Dallas:

Near the Mexican border, where it was much drier and warmer:

See Flickr for a few more pictures.