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31.Aug.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

One year short of half a century, alive and kicking. Where did the time go, exactly? One of my brothers sent a note, reminding me of the pivotal events we shared in 1978 and 1981; it seems like ancient history now.

Convention #2 underway, and for whatever reasons, I found it less interesting to watch any of the proceedings. Spreading the roll call out over three days? This sounds like a group of people desperate for attention. The message is all about strong leader, as in, we need one. Our current strong leader is having a little trouble forecasting the outcome of the war we need him to lead us in and out of:

July 14: "I have a clear vision and a strategy to win the war on terror."

Aug. 27: "I don't think you can win it."

Aug. 31: "We will win."

Oh, it's just that wacky gaffe-meister thrashing around, as The Washington Times reports: "In other recent interviews, he called Operation Iraqi Freedom a 'catastrophic success' and his postwar plan a 'miscalculation.'" Or are those mistakes in speaking?

Anyway, if we really do want to make the world safer from terrorism, we'd better start paying better attention to the issue of nuclear proliferation; something beyond withdrawing from treaties and planning new weapons systems.

How did Gaston get ashore before Frances? Don't they know they're supposed to come in alphabetical order? It seems the Atlantic is rather crowded with a busy start to the hurricane season, Hermine is #8.

The search for planets in other solar systems is getting more interesting. With Neptune-sized planets detected, you know what's on the way... Anybody home?!

28.Aug.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Perhaps Alan Greenspan seems himself as an oracle and purposely avoids plain speaking, lest those of us who cannot see the future as clearly be blinded by the truth. Yet his warning about Social Security and Medicare should be plain enough. The projections of benefits and beneficiaries intersect and then fly off into an unsustainable red sea.

I think the problem is that too many of the politicans have drunk the Kool-Aid of "surplus" and actually believe that those payroll taxes have been piling up somewhere and we'll be able to use them to make ends meet, for a while, anyway. The "lockbox" has never been locked; it's never had anything worth stealing in it. Gov-to-gov IOUs have been working wonderfully as a political tool, but as an economic tool, they're a non-starter.

Here's the deal: we're paying for benefits as we go, with a 14.2% tax on wages up to $93,656 and a 2.9% tax on wages above that limit. (Those first numbers aren't a typo: your wages include the "employer's half" of the 6.2 + 6.2 + 1.45 + 1.45% FICA taxes, even if IRS accounting doesn't show it to you on your stub.) At the moment, that more than covers it; the Federal Government thanks you wage-earners for your cooperation in reducing the effect of its deficit spending everywhere else.

There is no money for you to invest in "private accounts," unless you're going to skim off that surplus short-term. (Why not, you ask? Everyone else has been skimming off surplus, and beyond, of late. "There's nothing left" can't be an answer, because it hasn't stopped anyone else.) Here are the choices for the system:

Pay less in benefits;

Pay fewer people;

Collect more from the workers.

You can mix and match (and fudge to high heaven with deficits and debt), but you can't make up additional choices like "have workers put their money somewhere else for later on."

Sometimes -- maybe even most of the time -- a single assessment can be clearer and more accurate than a committee's. Such is Richard Posner's assessment of the 9/11 Commission's Report, that "improbable literary triumph."

He has his own list of recommendations to follow the 338 page narrative section, and takes considerably fewer than 90 pages to list and justify them, critiqueing the Commission's "misplaced, though successful, quest for unanimity" and its central recommendation to centralize intelligence.

I still have the report (PDF) in my to-read stack, but it's slipping deeper... In addition to the electronic version, you have your choice of the $10 Norton publication, an edition with reprinted news articles by reporters from The New York Times, from St. Martin's, and Public Affairs' staff reports and testimony excerpts.

27.Aug.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I tell you what, when Garrison Keillor pulls off the gloves, the page starts smokin'. He gets wound up to this, even before the exclamation points start popping: "The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we’re deaf, dumb and dangerous."

25.Aug.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Round three of the travel photos, with extended captions. The thumbnails are linked to the full images which will popup in a separate window using javascript if you allow it, HTML if not. (The .js way works nicer, if you ask me.)

Neptune and friends, in front of the Library of Congress Neptune's other maiden, at the Library of Congress Just over from the Supreme Court is the Library of Congress, which we enjoyed only in passing. Out front is a wonderfully effusive fountain with Neptune, conch boys, fishgoyles, a sea surpent, voluptuous naked women on merhorses and the spittinnest turtles you ever did see. There's a connection with the Library, I'm sure, but it might be a little hard to imagine just what that would be.

George Washington in stained light, at the National Cathedral We got the "early" tour at the Washington National Cathedral (a.k.a. the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul), with a ticket from our Senator. That got us in at 9am, instead of having to wait with the riffraff until 10. A little quieter and not so crowded, but the same spiel. You can also come in on your own and walk around everywhere the tour goes. My stained glass photos came out so-so (not so steady without a tripod), but I was delighted to find the best lit statue of George Washington the city has to offer. (The site linked above has plenty of fine pictures, including the 3 rose windows, but not the Space Window, alas.)

The Washington Monument in storm light Anywhere near the Mall, the Washington Monument imposes its presence on the views and mostly defies serious photography. The change of stone always makes it seem like something's wrong, and what can you do with the thing other than put it right in the center of the photo, or have it come out of someone's head? I was going to leave it all to the postcards, until we crossed upstream as the western sky was preparing to dump another rainstorm on Foggy Bottom and it made for an intriguing flat, pastel light. It mostly defies perspective and scale, why not catch it when it's gone as two-dimensional as possible? (For next time: go up to the top and look around.)

Colonnade in the rotunda of the National Gallery of Art The National Gallery of Art has two buildings and a big sculpture garden, and our schedule made it more of zip through than we'd normally do for one of the great art museums of the world. We devoted most of our time to the outstanding exhibition of Sanford Gifford's landscapes, "Hudson River School Visions," but of course this is much more to see. The colonnade around the opening to the central rotunda is one of them, a dark rich space that creates its own hush as people slip through on their way to the next rooms.

The wonderful space in the center of the National Building Museum The National Building Museum was on our list by virtue of being one of the Smithsonian's 14 museums, and for one of the current shows, Liquid Stone: New Architecture in Concrete. That exhibit was worth the visit, but so was each of the other two: Samuel Mockbee and the Rural Studio, and Symphony in Steel about the ironworkers who brought Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall into being.

And the building itself is a delight, with most of its space -- and volume! -- given to a beautiful, light, and welcoming atrium with a splashing fountain in the center and tables and chairs for a perfect lunch stop. (The museum's café is available if you forgot to pack a lunch.)

Steam Loco at the National Museum of American History We'd made one hurried and somewhat disappointing pass through the National Museum of American History (for which we do not consider First Lady's gowns to be worth the space devoted), but after reviewing the brochure decided to go again. I wanted to see the massive star of the show, Southern Railway's No. 1401 steam locomotive, for one thing.

Tom, with Charlotte Hawkins Brown (sort of) We ended up stopping to visit with Charlotte Hawkins Brown too, and to listen to some of what she had to say. "My philosophy is that position or place can never segregate mind or soul. I sit in a Jim Crow Car, but my mind keeps company with the kings and queens I have known."

D.C. panda, and Jeanette, by the bus stop Finally, all about town, in a new version of what Chicago started with its fiberglass cows, D.C. is hosting Pandamania; 150 arty Pandas of many stripes and polka dots, honoring the National Zoo residents. We had to collect one of our own, Melissa Shatto's "Bearra Cotta Warrior." I'm sorry we didn't get to see Pandulum but I suppose they have a "do not swing" sign on him... lest he be ready for the Panda Hospital. (The vandals aren't the only ones who are expressing criticism, by the way.)

How about this idea: an urban campout charity event to help prevent youth homelessness. Call it... byte night, and include some fun ideas for fundraising.

"Yesterday, the biggest pay cut in American history took effect: The Bush administration's overtime pay cut became official." John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO and guest columnist in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The LA Times' editorial board weighs in on the SBV:

"No informed person can seriously believe that Kerry fabricated evidence to win his military medals in Vietnam. His main accuser has been exposed as having said the opposite at the time, 35 years ago. Kerry is backed by almost all those who witnessed the events in question, as well as by documentation. His accusers have no evidence except their own dubious word.

"Not limited by the conventions of our colleagues in the newsroom, we can say it outright: These charges against John Kerry are false. Or at least, there is no good evidence that they are true. George Bush, if he were a man of principle, would say the same thing."


24.Aug.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Those campaign stops where Bush and Kerry both show up in the same city on the same day seem to be important enough to make the headlines, but this blogger's entry was the first direct comparison I noticed about who showed up: "300 small business owners Friday morning, and 2,300 supporters in a town hall-style gathering" for Bush, and 40 or 50,000 people at Waterfront Park in Portland. (The Bush photo has gone 404, but you can use your imagination.)

And you knew that the Bush "team exerts close control over admission to his campaign events," didn't you? Well, duh! (And double duh if you tried to get in with a Kerry t-shirt showing.)

Tom Tomorrow's undecided voter How is it that Tom Tomorrow can say everything that needs to be said in 6 panels with one left over?

Of course someone has set up a website for cataloging the blow-by-blow details of the Swift Boat Veterans for Bush.

Bush can't bring himself to denounce the SBV's smear campaign (bundling "all the 527s" in a conveniently blanket condemnation, and racking up lots of press credits as if he did do the right thing), but he did say this: "I think Senator Kerry served admirably and he ought to be proud of his record." Hear, hear.

23.Aug.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Who could have imagined that the Vietnam War would turn out to be a presidential campaign issue in 2004? Or that the candidate who used family connections to avoid getting into harm's way would be the one imaginatively staking out the moral high ground? Even the 1996 loser, Bob Dole has jumped on the bash Kerry wagon, "I mean, one day he's saying that we were shooting civilians, cutting off their ears..." and so on. One day more than 30 years ago. Kerry actually said others said yada, yada, yada, but Bob Dole and you both know that careful parsing can't survive on a talk show, let alone in a campaign ad. It doesn't depend on what "is" is, any more than it depends on what "liar" means. Bob sez "...not every one of these people can be Republican liars. There's got to be some truth to the charges."

Why is that, Bob? Because so many people are repeating the charges? Or that they're repeating them so much?

The Church of Stop Shopping has a choir, and it sounds like a pretty good one, to boot. The Reverend Billy is the main attraction, though, as was revealed to me. By The NY Times Magazine this week.

22.Aug.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It seems to me to be safer to trust a politician who has no ambition left but to express his or her own ideas. Even the best of the good old boys still in the hunt have too much incentive to mislead (in that most charitable of euphemisms for "lie"). Gary Hart seems to have The New Caesars pretty well pinned down, without suspect rhetoric getting in the way: "The imperial project is in direct contradiction to America's constitutional principles. We are a republic, not an empire, and we are a republic much in need of restoration, as the erosion of the quality of resistance to corruption and the erosion of the exercise of civic virtue testify."

After you get your day pass on Salon to read that, you can read Garrison Keillor explain why he's a Democrat: "This is a great country for people who earn a quarter-million a year or more, and the others are getting gypped. Democrats were put on earth to speak up for them. We believe in the energy and inventiveness and wild ambition of the young, the marginal, the outsider, the dispossessed -- that's where the genius and soul of this country resides, and we should not crush it underfoot."

It was Keillor's list of positive accomplishments by Republicans that made me think "proving that government is inherently inept" is one thing when undertaken by outsiders, quite another when done from the inside. They kick you out of the sport when you bet on your own team, and worse, when you bet against your own team.

"Political skill in the absence of statesmanship is the first act of a tragedy."

File this under "unintended consequences": "Thanks in part to the explosive growth of the fast-food industry and the huge agro-conglomerates that service it, giant food factories now dot pastoral America." (From the 8/15 NY Times Magazine article on gangs heading afield.) "The plants actively recruit south of the border and in poor Hispanic neighborhoods on both coasts of the United States, drawing legions of immigrants to places barely big enough to register on state maps."

Having the violence visited upon El Salvador come back to the US countryside is another item in that consequence file.

21.Aug.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Sometimes it seems that the bigger the Big Lie is, the better it works. In a NYT story about McCain's figurative and literal embraces of Bush, we have this whopper from Nicolle Deverish, spokeswoman for the President: "I don't think either man is capable of pretense." We're talking about politicians here, after all. From what we know of John McCain we could almost believe his half. From what we know of George W. Bush, as John McEnroe would put it, you can't be serious.

When you're the Prez, it's nice to have people who disagree with you still have to suck up, eh? Never mind that W's call for amending the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage is "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans," or the calculated despicability of his refusal to denounce the anti-Kerry Swift Boat cadre, or the fundamental disagreements on the environment and taxes. McCain still needs the party, and that's what apparently matters most.

Normally, self-referential insults, trademarked slogans and gratuitous exclamation points ("The Online Resource for the Rest of Us!®")) drive me away, but after starting a descent into one of the circles of hell described by A Programmer's Introduction to C# ("Learn C# from a member of Microsoft's C# design team," as if that made a lick of sense), I'm ready to take a look at C# for Dummies. Or, just about any other book on the subject, actually.

Amazon reviewers' comments about Gunnerson's "Programmer's Introduction" include these gems:

"This could have been a very good book on this subject. As it is, it is better than nothing, but I would recommmend looking elsewhere for a better text."

"...looks like there might be a better book coming out soon since this is one of the first on the subject...."

"Anyway, I think that if you need a C# book now, then this book is worth buying."

" will need additional help or reference to learn the system classes so you can actually write useful code...."

"...this book won't hurt to have on your shelf...." (if you have a shelf that's too empty, I guess)

Those fit nicely with the TIP offered after one piece of belabored and obfuscated code that seeks to illustrate one of many confused points: "This code doesn't make sense in a real program." This book doesn't make sense in a real world.

On the other hand, there apparently is a world (one that I don't inhabit) in which this book makes sense. That is, there are a bunch of people who think in confused, obfuscated, self-referential and bizarre ways who find this sort of thing instructive and even lucid. Witness "bradm's" testimonial: "For my money, this is as good as writing gets when the subject is THE LANGUAGE, PERIOD. The writing style is lean, focused, and rigorously accurate."

Try on this "lean, focused" prose, for example, under the heading internal protected: "To provide some extra flexibility in how a class is defined, the internal protected modifier can be used to indicate that a member can be accessed from either a class that could access it through the internal access path or a class that could access it through a protected access path. In other words, internal protected allows internal or protected access." That's right under the tip that "this code doesn't make sense in a real program," incidentally.

Later: I did take a look at the "Dummies" book and it's out of the running. Pretty much anything with a q&a "what is a program?" is a bit too basic for me. The O'Reilly books look like the best thing going, as usual, with the remaining problem of choosing the right one(s).

20.Aug.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Ok, back to that D.C. travelogue thing. The sequence and the dates don't matter to you, do they? It was in the middle of August, that's close enough, and all I have to do is write something interesting, and long enough to keep the pictures from running into one another, right? (Don't forget to click on the pix for the full version.) An interactive sculpture in the park by the Tidal Basin, 'The Awakening'

On our bicycling day, after the FDR Memorial and a tour out along the Tidal Basin to The Awakening, we made our closest approach of the trip to the White House. Between Jersey barriers and a number of inscrutable construction projects, it isn't possible to get very close these days. I'm not sure if motorized access to The Ellipse is choked off, or what; there were cars parked around it, but almost no traffic as we made our lazy Sunday ride around. We stopped at the top, with its classic view of the south façade, I put my hand on the wire fence atop the Jersey barrier to hold myself up without dismounting and to soak it in. Three or four uniformed security guards had an intermediate space to themselves and then a gaggle of pedestrians were lined up at the White House Fence proper, to see the same view, take pictures, etc.

Oops; at the Renwick Gallery We stood still only a few moments when we were told "move along -- you can't stop there." The absurdity and annoyance of the command were almost enough to get me to argue, but I thought better of it. "If you want to stop, you can go around and walk up the other side." Oh, that makes sense then... perhaps we were decoys that would allow truck bombers to come in behind us and stop there, because we were in the way? Oh but wait, they could just stop there anyway, couldn't they, and ignore the foot soldiers' command to move along when they were ready to press the button, or whatever? There's no good reason for it, It's Just Our Policy.

'Game Fish' at The Renwick Gallery It took some wandering, checking the map, and help from some more security guys to find it, but it was worth finding the Renwick Gallery in the construction mess around 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The modern furniture was elegant and often funny, and the craft items from their permanent collection were a hoot. "Game Fish" is made up of various toy and game pieces, and rewarded careful scrutiny.

Would you want this thing delivering your baby?! The Woodley Park/Zoo Metro stop was the closest to our B&B, just across the Duke Ellington Bridge over Rock Creek, and the Zoo was a reasonable walk away. Its press makes it sound like one of the greatest in the world, and for all I know it is, but I found the lack of community in the exhibits a bit disappointing. They seem to have taken a Noah's Ark approach, with one or two of the species they have, rather than more of a herd or whatever. The breadth is impressive, and many of the enclosures seem comfortable or even generous, but then they're still cages, and they seemed lonely ones...

Monkeys Grasp For The Moon, at the Sackler Gallery Monkeys Grasp For The Moon, looking up A different sort of monkey exhibit was at the Sackler Gallery, back on the Mall, behind and beneath the Smithsonian Castle. "Monkeys Grasp For the Moon" hangs in the tall central atrium, a remarkable space all on its own, with the diamond-in-square suspended walkways, skylight, fountain and surprise window views into various gallery rooms. The sculpture is made of characters from multiple alphabets, hanging from one another, from the skylight to the fountain, 4 floors below. I took a lot of pictures of this, looking up, down, all around.

Suzumu bowl at the Sackler Gallery The gallery has a great variety of work in it, as well as showing off itself. Down at the bottom, around the fountain are some contemporary Japanese ceramics that are knock-outs. The pattern in the center of this bowl by Suzumu, highlighted by reflected spotlights, seemed to capture the energy of the universe.

In spite of the Orange Alert, we got into the Capitol for a tour, escorted by an intern from Senator Craig's office. We got to ride both Senate subways, see the old Supreme Court chambers in the basement, go through the big hall under the dome and see a lot of statues (every state gets two). And we got to have a friendly chat with someone of a Republican persuasion along the way. I asked whether she was paid (she is), an Jeanette asked how many interns Craig had (she said about 20). Without prompting she noted that Senator Kennedy had forty, and Hillary has ninety! None of them are paid, she noted snippily, as if having too many and not paying them were both evidence of the inferiority of that Other Party, and its leading east-coast liberals. Hey, supply and demand -- where are you going to find 90 people who are willing to intern for Craig for free? Detail of the painting of the US Capitol Dome

The painting on the Capitol Dome is from an artist who either didn't understand that separation of church and state thing, or else figured that the new nation had superceded the need for religion, ready to put Washington in God's place, flanked by angels, lesser deities and so on. There's probably more detail that I don't remember from the tour script explaining it all, although no explanation is needed to know that Washington would have (or at least should have) been embarrassed by the thing, had he lived long enough to see it.

Consitutional detour at the Supreme Court Back on our own and on the street, we strolled by the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress and on down to the US Botanic Garden (a must-see, especially if you like orchids). Given the Court's recess, the folks holding the prayer vigil might as well have done their work from home, but then I suppose their presence on the street is more what it's all about. I found the temporary sign juxtaposed with them on the steps to pretty much sum it all up.

19.Aug.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I found the blurb for this story in The NY Times striking, having been sensitized by my "outsider" status in the health care insurance game: "Data and surveys indicate that businesses remain reluctant to hire full-time employees because of health insurance costs." By linking health insurance to employment, we've turned one crisis into two. Not good.

Maybe if our two-party system had found a way to give bipartisan support to Hillary's team last decade, we wouldn't have come to this. Add "health care morass" to the sure thing list with death and taxes.

It turns out that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are really the Swift Boat Partisans for Bush, Angry about Kerry's Anti-war Stance, but Unable to Keep Their Stories Straight. The Washington Post starts pulling apart the spin and lies, with The NY Times close behind.

18.Aug.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I mentioned something about needing to clean my desk, and a friend said hey, he could use some tips in that area too! Here's what I just sent him:

Now we're talking about the blind leading the blind.

I've long been one of the "stack method" of organizers -- stuff I'm currently working on is close to the top of a stack, and there are one or more stacks for each project.

This works best when you're young and don't have a lot of history. As you mature, ripen and acquire a past, you experience the same thing that happens with bad software: stack overflow. I currently have multiple, simultaneous stack overflows going, and instead of doing the dirty damn work of fixing the problem, I'm writing this.

Inevitably, reasons for "cleaning up" happen: company comes over, a hurricane comes through, half your house burns up, you change jobs, etc. In the worst case, all stacks are merged into one mega-stack when this happens. This is Bad. It creates an indelible setpoint of Before and After, and a higher entropy Pile of the Irretrievable Past (POTIP). With enough active projects and/or distractions, the event is essentially ignored, and you simply move on. "Hmm, I can't seem to find that anymore," or "I don't remember seeing that, could you send it again?" serve to resurrect whatever was truly important in the POTIP.

A friend gave me a book once upon a time, Organized to be the Best! (Actually, I think he lent it to me, but I hate to admit that, because I still have it.) I read enough of it to recognize that it's a really useful book with suggestions I should (have) take(n). I never finished it, or carried them out in any appreciable way. But the book remains accessible -- I know right where it is, in one of the more accessible "current stacks." Through the sense of obligation it imparts (or perhaps just the exclamation point in the title), it has a higher stack bouyancy than most other printed material.

So, my advice to you is: get advice from someone else.

17.Aug.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The first weather forecast I saw after we got back on Saturday looked like boring summer heat for the forseeable future: highs in the mid-90s, lows in the mid-60s and sunshine for a week. This morning brought a surprise after last night's thundershowers, though: cool, humid, overcast, still in the 60s mid-morning, and now raining lightly. Highs 72 to 81 today?! It's different, wonderful, if a bit gloomy.

I don't know much about charter schools, other than that they have a significant component of experimentation, and vary widely. The Education Department has released aggregate data comparing national test scores, and for those willing and able to dig through the numbers (such as the American Federation of Teachers), here's what they say: "In almost every racial, economic and geographic category, fourth graders attending charter schools are outperformed by their peers in traditional public schools."

"Charters are expected to grow exponentially under the new federal education law, No Child Left Behind, which holds out conversion to charter schools as one solution for chronically failing traditional schools." Hmmm.

16.Aug.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Working my way through the pictures from our D.C. trip: 61 keepers so far, 15 edited for use here, and 43 more to go. It's a lot more work than turning in rolls of film and getting back a wad of snapshots, and a lot harder to share in person, but I guess I still find it rewarding, and hey, I've got the time.

The ones shared here have a larger version which will pop up in a new window if you click on them (and allow popups, of course; javascript will do it elegantly, HTML adequately). What you'll get is not quite what you see in the thumbnail...

Top two figures of one of the totem poles The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History was our first museum stop, thanks to their summer hours going all the way to 7:30pm, rather than the 5pm closing of most. Two totem poles (from the Pacific Northwest, no less) occupy one of the stairwells. I don't know how you could shoot the poles as a whole, so I settled for a close-up of one photogenic end.

Virga in Washington D.C., in mid-August 2004 We'd come braced for heat and humidity (although foolishly without our umbrellas), and it was a bit muggy the first week. For the weekend, some thunderstorms cleared things out and left them cool and relatively dry. While we waited at 18th and Columbia to meet our nephew who lives near there, I noticed virga in the sky, and was amazed to see what's been a frequent phenomenon out west this year show up on the east coast. Go figure!

One of the text inscriptions on the FDR memorial Once Adam found us, and we coordinated three bicycles, he took us on what was supposed to be a tour of his favorite places, but ended up being just one of them: the FDR Memorial. (It's now one of our favorite places, too.)

The text carved into granite is powerful; I wish our current president would take a walk down there some time and see what his predecessor had to say. Those who cannot remember the past, and all.

Our threesome became a twosome because of a flat tire, and no patch kit; our gracious host took the wounded machine home on the bus, and left the two of us to bike around the west end of the mall: we visited the WWII Marine One (or was it the decoy?) coming Home memorial, the Reflecting Pool, the Vietnam War Memorial (sadly half-covered for "lighting upgrade" construction), wonderful exhibits of furniture and craft at the Renwick Gallery.

As we crossed the Mall at one point, I noticed some photogenic cloud formations (smeared contrails, in retrospect) behind the Washington Monument and was getting ready to take a picture when Marine One and a decoy warped in and around the big ersatz obelisk, on their way to the White House. Lucky break: I would not have been able to get my camera ready in time otherwise.

Enough travelogue for now, and back to something webloggish. While tracking down the connection between the FDR Memorial and Ira's Fountain (both designed by Lawrence Halprin's firm, if not Halprin himself), I came across the name of those lovely drinking fountains in Portland: Benson's Bubblers. Those readers from my home town, and certain New England locales know that a "bubbler" is the plumbing fixture that provides a drink of fresh water; what 94.13% of the country calls a drinking or water fountain.

Could Benson be the originator of this term? Perhaps, but given that the good folks of Portland don't call non-Benson bubblers bubblers (it's been surveyed, and mapped), it would seem not. I did find out that plumbers call the delivery appliance a bubbler, so the minority appelation is sensible synecdoche. Why hasn't it caught on more widely?

The Bratwurst Pages provide additional linguistic tips for making your way through the upper Midwest.

15.Aug.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Excerpt of the DC Metro/bus map in Adams-Morgan, where we stayed Our 12 day stay in the D.C. area didn't involve renting --or using -- a car. We'd made email arrangements with other attendees flying into to BWI (Baltimore), to take advantage of the Super Shuttle group rate, which turned out to be somewhat of a bust. When the early arrivers told the folks at the counter that we'd have 9 people travelling together down to Arlington, they said, in essence "we don't want to talk to you until everyone is here, with their luggage." Jeanette and I were close to the last of the group to arrive, but one gal's luggage delayed things a bit longer. Then we found out that a full van is seven people. We could buy two whole vans' worth (at $90 apiece), or one van and two "regulars," and so on. The difference between buying a van and getting in queue for a milk run in the general area worked out to be about an additional hour "touring" the area for the unlucky pair who volunteered to make the sacrifice. It worked out to be $16 apiece for the 7 of us, and a little less for the 2, as we gave them the "spare change" from the $140 total.

By comparison, on the way out, we walked half a block to the #42 bus, then 2 blocks to catch the Green Line at Columbia Heights, then took the B30 Express bus (considerably more comfortable than the 7-seat van) to BWI for a total of $6.10 each. (It would've been $5.40 if we'd remembered to get our rail-bus transfers before getting on the Metro.) For our weekday arrival, a third option would have been MARC rail to Union Station, a couple Metro rides to Arlington and then the hotel shuttle pickup at the Metro station, well cheaper and likely better than the Super Shuttle, if only we'd known.

14.Aug.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

We're back, flew west out of D.C. just before Charley flew up from his lease-breaking party down in Florida. Either the weather was pretty nice for the last two weeks, or my attitude toward humidity is softening in my old age. Some of both, I suppose. It was nice to get out of the heat and smoke and dry air for a bit, especially while singing.

That's all a cryptic summary of our not-quite-2-week hiatus, at the UUMN annual conference, and then touristing in our nation's capitol. We got offline and into a mess of museums, rode the Metro and bus all around town and generally had a great time. I'll write more and get some of the pix up, but maybe tomorrow, eh?

1.Aug.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

After a hot, hot weekend, it failed to cool off very much last night. We slept fitfully, at best. This morning, the house is stuck at 80, with not enough delta T to bring it down much. Some morning clouds are left over from the evening, trying to turn into thunderstorms. At least the smoke from the fires in Eastern Oregon seems to have cleared...

In another attempt to demonstrate insanity, we had our USTA district playoff this weekend in 90-100° heat: 5 matches starting Friday evening and ending Sunday afternoon. I played all 5, went 4-1; our team only managed 2-3, dashing our hopes to go on to Sectionals in Salt Lake City after our undefeated regular season. For consolation prize, we beat the eventual winner, Hall's team from Pocatello, when we played them head-to-head Friday evening.

The competition was quite a bit stiffer than we expected. The Magic Valley and SE Idaho "leagues" have only 2 and 3 teams each, so their records leave a lot to the imagination. A few of the players' self-rating at the 3.0 level seems to have been imaginative, too, but that sort of thing gets fixed eventually. My one loss at 3.0 singles for the season was in the middle of an interesting chain: Brian Smith beat me, and then got beat by Matt Wyse, a 19-year-old who's on ISU's junior varsity team. Dave Horsman beat Matt in a tough 3-setter on Sunday morning, and then I beat Dave in pretty easy straight sets Sunday afternoon.

In other words, I beat the guy who beat the guy who beat the guy who beat me.

When we were over in China in November, I bought a Movado knock-off for $5, and after a few months, it stopped running. I wondered how they managed to keep all that inventory ticking, actually, and when it quit early, I figured they had a supply of almost used-up batteries that they put in as needed.

I can see from the back that the case has been opened a few times, with less-than-professional tools &/or skill.

Anyway, since I don't wear a watch all that much, I haven't bothered getting a new battery for it. (I assume that the quartz movement is every bit as good as the millions of other $1 movements they're whacking out over there...)

About a week ago, it started running again, just sitting on the nightstand. When I noticed that, I set the time to match the other watch sitting there, and sure enough, it's keeping time as well as it ever did.

Here's the explanation I got when I told this story to a friend: "These are social watches and only choose to run when in the company of others. When left alone, they go to sleep! You need to keep both your watches together or your shy china watch will hibernate again." :-)

Nothing like one of your cohort having emergency cancer surgery to remind you of the passage of time. It's good to hear that it's the unusual, curable form, but still...

John Kerry kitesurfing - AP Photo/Gerald Herbert All that and he can kitesurf, too.

It turns out that Fox Entertainment is every bit as ethical as Fox News. Accused of copying competitors' ideas for new reality shows, we get this response from the president, Gail Berman, rejecting the charge that "copied" programs but acknowledging that it did a spin on the ideas of others. "Spin is a fair assessment," she said, "That's a word I can endorse."


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

Wednesday, 01-Sep-2004 21:28:06 MDT