Off the Top: DC Entries

August 11, 2018

Ah, August

August in the Washington, DC area is commonly hot and humid (you know, temperatures in the 90s Fahrenheit and 120 percent humidity), the sort of weather that takes your breath away as you step outside. When I moved to the DC area in 1993 for grad school I loathed August with the oppressive heat and afternoon thunderstorms that become mini monsoons.

Some 25 years later, I’ve come to peace with August. I oddly enjoy the clinging heat. August drives nearly everyone who lives in the DC area out. They flee to the shore, see relatives in slightly cooler climes, travel to far off lands, or become stationary moving only to their front porch and not much farther. This change in population density and movement means treks in morning commutes can become magical as you make the 6.3 mile drive in 20 minutes by making every traffic light and for some stretches you are the only vehicle you see moving on the street.

Sure there are tourists who flock to tourist destinations and dawdle looking at the sights or stop with no warning to look at a map. Or, they just stand and have a conversation that consumes the full width of a sidewalk trying to figure out where Billy went (or some other child they didn’t pay attention to that has wandered off) or what type of food or museum will be next, which nobody agrees with. These tourist’s stalemate conversations are mini examples of what happens in Congress, but since Congress is out of session these micro moments are street-side examples of in-action in action of today’s Congress while Congress members are back in their districts, which these people left so to see Washington, DC and their Congress member in in-action.

What is most magical about August is running errands at your pace and leisurely shopping trips. The packed Little Red Hen on Saturday morning has you as the only person in line (okay, there is no line and you can just walk up to the counter and order, but not mentioning the word “line” could leave people confused, as it apparently is part of the “experience”). You can quickly grab a leisurely coffee and walk a few doors up to Politics & Prose to look around as the only customer walking around looking at the what is on offer.

The drive home is at a leisurely pace (this needs to be self-enforced as the usual traffic isn’t there, which usually helps pace you at a non-speed camera inducing speed) is enjoyable. There aren’t people driving with their head in the backseat trying to calm children, or trying to incite them to over achieve at their soccer practice they are running late to.

The August abandonment of the DC burbs means not going away is sublimely enjoyable. But, keep in mind it is only three to four weeks of this tranquility before the 20 minute sauntering commute in the morning returns to its usual hour of halting frustration. The quiet idyllic wandering in book store aisles will return to bumping and constantly being in somebody’s way or someone in yours as you peruse the shelves as if shopping inside a pinball machine.

Ah, August, you have become far too short over the years.

April 5, 2008

Getting to the National Press Club's AFFIRM Event

Yesterday evening I had the wonderful fortune to speak on a panel for AFFIRM Web 2.0 event, which was held at the National Press Club. I really enjoyed the panel as the moderator (Dan Mintz CIO of the U.S. Department of Transportation) and other panelists (Chris Rasmussen: Social Software and Knowledge Manager and Trainer, National Geospatial - Intelligence Agency; and Geoffrey Fowler: Editor in Chief, CIA Wire) were all fantastic. The sold out audience was deeply engaged and asked really good questions.

Impediments to Getting to the Event

While I deeply enjoyed the event and conversation that followed, getting to the event was a completely different story. I felt like I was in a misinterpretation of the joke "how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice" with battling Washington, DC's often horrible transportation/traffic woven into the punch line. The event was to start at 5:30pm, it was raining and during rush hour. The drive from the office to the National Press Club normally takes 35 minutes with some traffic. I thought about taking the Metro, but the last couple of times I have used Metro I have been stuck with horrible delays and outages. I opted to leave an hour early, which I figured would work well. This was not enough it seems.

Technology Did Not Save Me

I made it to about 7 blocks from the National Press Club is great time then all went wrong. It started sleeting and in typical Washington, DC form the rules of the road were thrown out the window and chaos was deeply embraced. I was listening to XM Radio's DC traffic and weather channel in the car, which did not mention anything about downtown Washington, DC traffic had come to a complete halt. I flipped to regular WTOP on regular radio to sort out why I had not moved an inch in 20 minutes (having 10 minutes left to get to the event on time). Neither of these options were working so I tried to Twitter to get feedback and let others know I was running late (I was not actually connected to the people at the event - silly me), but SMS was not going out. I tried calling others at the event, but mobile signal was saturated and when I got through I got no answer and voice mail was full. I had been using the ever wonderful Google Maps and expanded my view to look at the freeway traffic congestion and all of the DC region was red (stopped in its tracks). I was able to get to Mobile Twitter to read and send messages, but it did not help traffic.

Finally, I was able to travel 4 blocks to get to New York Avenue after traveling 1 block per 30 minutes and turn and find a parking lot that was going to be open past 7pm (Washington, DC thinks people only work and go home). I walked the last remaining 2.5 blocks to arrive at 6:35pm, a wee bit late and a wee bit damp (even with an large golf umbrella). Thankfully, they waited and I was whisked to the head table and the event started.

November 25, 2004

Welcome to the 3rd World USA

Our power just went out and Pepco (the local) says it will be 2 to 4 hours before it returns. This is about the 30 to 40th outage in two years. It is time to move to a place that has proper infrastructure that works as expected, this is 2004 after all not 1910 and I did not think it was the 3rd world. My mistake.

[Update] The power went out just as we set the oven to finish our turkey (about two hours of cooking). We were going to be feeding 8 adults and three kids, not counting Will. We did some quick changing of plans, boxed everything up and took it over to Joy's sister's house to cook there. They were finishing their contributions in the oven so when those were done we began our turn. All turned out well, but a little later and with a lot of trucking things about (thankful for our beast on days like this to truly truck things about).

It was a good day of family being together, but the infrastructure problems in the greater Washington, DC area are really getting on my nerves. Yes we are thankful we do not live in a war ravaged country like Iraq and do have many amenities that are a little more abundant that other areas of the world. It is tough to have just come back from being abroad and knowing the U.S. does not have things as well as other countries. But, as learned abroad the closer one is to something the more the fine cracks show and they appear much bigger up close.

Adam's Thanksgiving posting is one of the best I have run across on this day, or most any other day.

November 5, 2004

Losing More Time

Off for another 110 minute commute for 11 miles. The normal 60 minute commute for the same stretch is even more unacceptably longer because of the METRO train crash, or were they trying to make more trains just like the animals we see on the Discovery Channel?

November 3, 2004

METRO Trains More than Bump

Washington DC METRO crash will make a mess of things for a few days. This accident with one train going over another, was noted as one train "bumping" another by METRO just after it happened. Fortunately today was a driving day as I had a dentist appointment, but tomorrow will be an utter mess.

This is the latest in a string of messes on the system of late. In the last two years my commute has gone from 35 minutes to nearly an hour on the train each way to and from work. Driving has also become horrible and had similar congestion problems. Part of the problem is lack of funding for maintenance and up keep.

October 22, 2004

Mess Transit

I am on the bus heading back to my car after spending an hour on the DC Metro and only going one stop. The Metro system has bee getting progresssively worse and now seems to be resembling a system in the third world and not one in the capitol of the U.S. Who knows where this mess will end.

September 29, 2004

A Blimp a Day...

Driving to work this morning (I normally do not drive) I saw a blimp floating over the Mall near the Capitol building. I thought it was an odd place for a blimp. I also realized their is not a sporting event that would cause the blimp to be in town today (a city being awarded a baseball team is not a blimp event). I tried to figure out whose blimp it was, but it was all gray.

My next thought was somebody stole a blimp and is going to fly it into the Capitol. Very quickly that was ruled out as a rational option. I switch my radio from satellite to AM to the news station, which is chatting on about the baseball team and the weather. Nothing about a rogue blimp.

A co-worker at mid-day brings up the odd blimp story in the Washington Post. Yes, the U.S. Army is leasing a blimp to protect the Nation's Capitol. Have we spent so much money on Iraq that all we can afford is a blimp?

September 10, 2004

Crawl in a Hole

There are days when you see something that makes you want to crawl in a hole out of embarrassment for somebody else.

This evening presented one of these moments. I was walking toward the Metro platform and I thought I saw a fake tail or odd fashion accessory hanging between the legs of a woman wearing a skirt. The closer I got the more curious I became. I was wondering if it was a belt that wrapped and then draped to nearly touch the ground. As I got close and ready to make my turn up the platform I realized the accessory was inside her skirt. Well the accessory was actually toilet paper.

March 3, 2003

DC's Ten Penh

Joy and I went to Ten Penh for dinner in DC to celebrate her birthday. TP is an Asian fusion restaurant with good sized portions and very good food. I got pork and shrimp lumpia with three dipping sauces, which has very good. My entre was Sea Scollops over succotash with Chinese sausage. Joy had duck in wraps with plum sauce and red curry shrimp for her main course. We also shared fluffy wasabi mashed potatoes. It was a good meal and we realized we rarely eat downtown and think we may do it a little more.

November 6, 2002

DC-IA book club

Those of you in the DC area the DC-IA group has their book reading tonight at Barnes and Noble in Bethesda at 7:30pm. The book for this month is Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, 2nd edition (the polar bear). Dan Brown who organizes the book club is reminding folk of the free coffee.

October 28, 2002

IA primer

This evening I went to Content and Coffee a networking/information sharing event for content editors and writers for the Web. This evenings event was focussed on IA and had Thom Haller, Cinnamon Melchor, Vera Rhoads, and Sharyn Horowitz on a panel. This was essentially a light overview of IA, but the folks did a really nice job explaining IA and how they sell IA and its benefits to their clients or management. I may also go to the November 11 event covering 508 accessibility issues as it is a fun topic and it is good to get other perspectives.

May 25, 2002

Betawi Grill

Last night we had an enjoyable rijsttafel at Betawi Grill here in Bethesda. One of the dishes was a lamb curry (gulai kambing) that was wonderful. This was not exactly Kantjil en de Tijger in Amsterdam, but very good none the less.

April 27, 2002

Bethesda gets a Landmark theater

Wahoo, Bethesda gets a Landmark theater, which means foreign and independant films are going to be with in walking distance. Landmark usually restores historic theaters, but in this instance they have built a new property. That whole area is now hopping on weekend nights.

I am a fan of Landmark. I had many great nights in Landmark theaters in San Francisco and the East Bay. Washington, DC had the Key theater, but even with that I missed the wonderful Landmarks of the Bay Area. Now there is great hope.

April 7, 2002

We just had a fantastic dinner at Grapeseed here in Bethesda. Each course is paired with a half or full glass of wine. The food was wonderful. We started with orders of mussels in white whine, Escargot in Garlic Three Ways over Grilled Bread, and Fricassee of Roasted Wild Mushrooms over Truffled Polenta. Our main cources were risotto with asparagus and wild mushrooms and salmon over crawfish and two potato with a light saffron sauce. This was a good make up birthday dinner for Joy.

February 6, 2002

This what I saw yesterday morning. Yellow police tape near the Potomac River and across from the Kenedy Centerand a body lying on the grass. There was no mention of it on the news.

January 29, 2002

Things are messed up when the daytime high temperature in Washington, DC is 15 degrees higher than Palm Springs. On January 29th, mind you. We have been sleeping with the windows open in January and it is still a little too warm at night. Then only to find out it snowed in Northern California and many, many, many people caught it on film and/or wrote about it. This is disturbing for me as I love the seasons and really like Winter, only after Fall. I left San Francisco in 1993 tired of eternal Spring. Now what on earth is this.

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