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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.