How Fucked IS Metro?

I am a very – very – amateur transit geek. That said, so fascinated by howfuckedismetro.com, which takes the train information from WMATA — how long the train is, where it is, where it’s going, and when it’ll be there — and displays it on a cool, easy to read map. At one glance, you can pretty much tell if things are running smoothly or not. On another note, it’s just pretty neat to see how trains are staggered (or not) throughout the system, and keeping an eye on it over the course of the day (as I have been), it’s been really cool seeing the trains in service numbers rise as we exited the afternoon into rush hour.

I think there are some problems with whatever is calculating the “fucked” level — for example, right now, on the Red Line, there are 20 trains in service in both directions, with Shady Grove traffic experiencing an average of a 4.1 minute wait for a train, and Glenmont bound passengers experiencing 3.7 — and yet, the site is describing Shady Grove as “a little fucked”, and Glenmont as “pretty fucked” … which I don’t get. Lots of trains. They’re all moving. Maybe the “fucked” level has to do with the volume of passengers?

I hope there’s an iPhone app soon!

My Longest Walk of The Spring – April 25, 2011

The Capital Crescent Trail. I picked it up in Bethesda after work, at about 3.25 miles, and walked down to the end: 7.75 miles later.

I was hot, sweaty, and my feet were blistering.

My plan was to pick up the Rock Creek Park trail to the walk home. However, although I picked up the trail fine from M Street, I somehow lost it once I hit Dupont Circle and instead of trying to pick it up again I walked up Florida to Connecticut.

At about this point, I started feeling not so hot. By which I don’t mean I felt cool, I mean something in my stomach was not at all well. I checked NextBus and saw an L4 only a few minutes away and decided to take the prudent course and jump on it for the final mile home.

And so I did.

Hey: Google Maps put the walk at 9.3 miles. And I am going to sleep VERY well tonight.

Star Trek IV suddenly super relevant


The best way to prevent whaling is to scare the shit out of whalers with stolen Klingon warships

In the movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Kirk & Co. are enroute to Earth in a stolen Klingon bird-of-prey to surrender themselves to Federation authorities following their varied assortment of charges — assaulting Federation personnel, stealing Starfleet property, and then blowing up Starfleet property: aka, the USS Enterprise — when a giant probe of unknown origins arrives in orbit of this lovely planet and begins probing (that’s what probes do: they probe) the oceans with a weird transmission that has the side effect of boiling the planet’s water off, thereby killing everyone around. Recently resurrected from the dead Spock figures out the probe is trying to communicate with humpback whales, and so Kirk, Spock, McCoy and everybody else go back in time to early 1980s San Francisco to find some humpback whales to “time transplant” to the future. (Presumably in the hope that the whales will say, “Hey, probe, lay off – it’s cool, we’re here! There’s only two of us, and we’re having one baby, so it’s not like we’re going to be viable survivors, but we’re here now and would rather not be boiled off, so please stop it with your probing” and not “Dude! These motherfuckers drove us to fucking extinction! KILL THEM ALL!”)

Anyway, so a movie about the dangers of driving whales to extinction becomes super relevant because it turns out — wait for it — that humpback whales might, possibly, be “migratory astronomers”:

An eight-year project that tracked humpback whale migrations by satellite shows the huge mammals follow uncannily straight paths for weeks at a time.

The results suggest a single migratory mechanism isn’t responsible. Instead, humpbacks may use a combination of the sun’s position, Earth’s magnetism and even star maps to guide their 10,000-mile journeys.

To better understand humpback migrations, Horton’s colleagues embedded satellite tags in seven South Atlantic and nine South Pacific whales from 2003 through 2010.

Each tag contained a battery-operated transponder that beamed its location to the researchers. The tags lasted from four weeks to seven months before falling out; altogether, they provided one of the most detailed sets of long-term migratory data for humpbacks ever collected.

Decades of research on long-range animal migrations has identified geomagnetic and sun-tracking mechanisms, but that work focuses primarily on birds. Humpbacks don’t seem to rely on either method alone.

Earth’s magnetism varies too widely to explain the whales’ arrow-straight patterns, and solar navigation requires frames of reference that water doesn’t often provide. “The open ocean is an endless horizon of blue,” Horton said.

Horton suspects humpbacks rely on both mechanisms, and perhaps the position of the moon or stars. His team is preparing to submit a second study on reference frames in marine mammals, birds, fish and reptiles. After publishing that work, Horton hopes to further investigate the humpbacks’ abilities.

I just think it’s really cool that humpback whales — apparently long in communication with some alien species, according to Trek — actually really do have a connection to the stars. This is super cool for dorks like me who are deep enough into Trek to know that, in The Next Generation, whales are actually aboard the Enterprise to help with navigation. (Totally true).

V-Cart Wars & one last memento of The Bookstore

“Wanna play V-cart wars?” I asked the new girl.

“I was sixteen and we were in the back of my dad’s car.”

There was an awkward pause. “What?”

“You asked when I lost my virginity.”

More awkward pause. We were both standing in the popular fiction section at The Bookstore, both holding V-carts. It was her first or second night. “No,” I somewhat stammered. “Do you want to play v-cart wars?” And this time I really stressed the “t” at the end of the word cart.

A V-cart is a small two-wheeled book cart. The name comes from the arrangement of bars running up from the cart’s base, which forms a “V” from an overhead viewpoint. We also had a “W” cart, which was pretty much the same thing, only a bit wider.

In V-cart wars, players roll their carts (empty, or full or partially loaded) and release them. The goal of the game is to see how far the cart will go before either tipping forward and coming to a stop, or toppling over backwards. Really, the trick is to push the cart far ahead of yourself so that if, say, the normal degree of inclination when you’re pushing it is 20 (I don’t know, I’m making this up), you instead go for like 60 or 70. Basically, instead of the handle being four feet off the ground, you’ve got it at like two or two and a half.

I think the most I’ve been able to get a cart was about six feet.

Anyway, so that was an awkward moment. And she was lousy at V-cart wars, but it’s an acquired skill.

So The Bookstore is gone: doors closed and locked. The fixtures, what remain, are being sold off or tossed in the dumpster. I’ll have very many fond memories of the friends I once called coworkers. When the news first came that the store was being closed, I decided I wanted a V-Cart.

And I did. I stopped in a week ago, and the fixture sales themselves were being steeply discounted. I got a bit of an additional discount (“The former Borders discount,” a coworker told me), and was allowed to roll the cart out of the door that day (most people buying fixtures had to go back later in the week).

We probably had up to a dozen of these carts in the store. I didn’t get the one with the horrible black rubber handle, thank goodness. Currently the cart is in the nook between a bookshelf and my bar table, with — as it should be — a small stack of books accruing on its base.

happythankyoumoreplease (2010)

Written and directed by Josh Radnor, who you probably know as Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother, this movie feels like a really long episode of the show, except missing the great writing and supporting cast, which might be a little mean to say (about his writing), but is how I felt.

Which isn’t to say it’s a bad movie. Just something to save for DVD, y’know? All the best lines (“I made a New Year’s resolution not to be such a whore.”/”Yeah? How’s that going for you?”) are in the trailer anyway.

Radnor’s character, Sam Wexler, is an aspiring novelist described by some in the film as “the voice of our generation.” I gotta say: when you write a film, and you’re starring in it, and you cast yourself as a character who is “the voice of our generation” in a film you wrote, it’s just a tad – just, like, a smidgen – pretentious. Just a bit. You know?

Super (2011)

This was — wow.

This was a very, very violent movie. Here’s my favorite scene: our “hero” (and I use the term loosely), Frank, is standing in line waiting for a movie. An asshole and his girlfriend cut in front of him. There is an argument. Frank walks to his car, dresses in his Crimson Bolt costume, then clubs the guy’s face open with a wrench. When the guy’s girlfriend objects, Frank smacks her with the same wrench. Y’know, just watch it. It’s pretty awesome.

I mean … like, not “awesome” in the sense that “you should do this when people are mean to you” but, hey, we can dream, right?

This is not only a brutally violent movie, there’s also a lot of raping going on in this film: guy on guy, guy on lady, and even lady on guy. One’s a nightmare, the other isn’t successful, and one is. The one that is successful has pretty brutal consequences on the aggressor, too, but I don’t want to give it away, but …

… wait, I don’t?

So basically Rainn Wilson is raped by his “kid sidekick” Ellen Page, and is so disgusted with himself he insists on launching a rescue attempt for his lost wife immediately (she left him for her drug dealer Kevin Bacon, who winds up with a flying knife scissoring up his nuts) instead of, I don’t know, planning things through more thoroughly. The end result is that Ellen Page’s right side of her head get blown off.

Whoooooooooooooooooops.

And I mean, like – wow, it’s nice to see good old fashioned splatter effects again, y’know? I’m pretty sure you could see that what was left of her skull was pretty much fucking empty.

Despite the violence, the film was kind of pretty. That might sound strange: let me ‘splain. Frank is successful in rescuing his wife. She cleans up, and leaves him. She marries another guy, and they have four children. They call Frank “uncle” and send him postcards which he puts up on the wall. He thinks of the things he did and realizes that if God had a plan, it wasn’t for him: he was simply the instrument of God’s wrath.

I think.

On the other hand, this is a film that could survive less thought and more enjoyment of violence.

Long Walk – April 10th, 2011

Usually I like to start my long walks early in the morning for a couple of reasons: for one, particularly later in the year, going for a long walk when the sun is up is a really bad idea. For two, a lot of people are snoozing at 6am in the mornings on the weekends. For three, there are less people, which equates to being able to maintain a faster pace. Maintaining a faster pace means a higher heart rate. A higher heart rate means I burn more calories which means, hey, goodbye tummy!

But today. Bit of a late start — by which I mean I wasn’t out the door until 1pm. WOW LATE. I finally made a stop into Idle Time Books in Adams Morgan, but wasn’t sure if they took credit cards or not and had no cash so I had to stop back on my way home several hours later to pick up what looks to be an awesome book – The Pyrates by George MacDonald Fraser.

Well, either awesome or goddamn horrible. I’ll find out whenever I actually find time to read it.

Considering I also stopped past The Bookstore to catch up with some former colleagues — and mourn the state of the shelves — and picked up some titles while I was there (hint: sales go up again tomorrow, and the store’s last day is next Sunday, not that there’s much left), it’s clear that no longer working in a bookstore isn’t exactly impacting my book purchasing by a whole heck of a lot.

Anyway.

Google Maps put the walk at 7.7 miles. I worked up a nice little sweat. Hopefully next Saturday I’ll be able to do at least ten.

Long Walk – April 9th, 2011

Ahh, the weather is warming, and my hibernation from exercise over winter sadly was not met with a similar hibernation from food. Mmm-mmm Ellio’s Frozen Pizza. Yesterday – not exactly warm, but brisk – was a good day to resume said walk. While I had kind of wanted to go straight to a 12 mile walk, I decided to start off a bit on the slow side to avoid risk to my ankles or, whatever.

Also, it was kind of cold, y’know?

The walk came in at — courtesy of Google maps — 6.3 miles. Took about two and a half hours, but that included a stop at the Giant Food on Wisconsin Ave.

Strange Incident on the Silver Spring Platform

So, I am in fact, no longer with Borders. And I’ve had a post in my head for a while about my new part-time job, but this is not that post, but allow me to give you something to look forward too: my first night training on one particular area, I did something which got mentioned in The Washington Post!

Anyway, right when 18th & L entered liquidation, we got several boxes filled with coupons. These coupons were intended to encourage customers to take their business to the “going forward” stores in the area, namely Silver Spring and Pentagon City. Each sheet had two coupons: one was 50% off any in-store item, the 2nd was 30% off one item online. Being the savvy shopper that I am, I snagged many of these for my own use (and took a whole bunch more in to my day job for my coworkers). They’ve been a huge hit, and yesterday afternoon, after work, I jumped on a bus from Bethesda to Silver Spring to pick up a couple of books I’ve been wanting to read.

I was looking for:

Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, Black Hills by Dan Simmons, and Secret History by Donna Tartt. Sadly, none of these were in stock, so I snagged something by Jonathan Barnes, and made my way down the hill to the Metro station.

The down escalators appeared to be working (I didn’t pay a lot of attention), but the up escalator was out of service. I trudged up, and made my way to the eastern end of the platform, so that I could board the first car of the next Shady Grove bound train, as I was headed for downtown to catch a 7:00 showing of Carancho.

There was a woman standing at the east end of the platform. As I’d come up the escalator, I could see she was talking with the operator of the train that was just now pulling out. There’s a glass booth located at that end of the platform, and a gentleman in a vest had stepped out of it to continue the conversation. As I positioned myself for my ideal car placement on the next train, I could understand the gist of the conversation:

The woman was upset about something and needed assistance. I’m not sure if she was upset about the escalators, the elevator, or what. The gentleman explained that he’d called for a station supervisor to come up to the platform to assist her, however, he was a rail supervisor, and was responsible for signaling approaching trains along the track, and could not leave the booth (or at least, completely vacate it, as he was standing outside the booth on the other side of the railing). All the while, I could see a Shady Grove bound train waiting to approach the station – when I’d gotten onto the platform, it had pulled in the opposite direction, gone out of service, and positioned itself for a return run into the city.

The woman would not listen to him. She wanted assistance, and dammit, she wanted it now. Except, of course, the platform was filling with people who wanted to go home and really wanted that train to pull onto the platform – which it of course couldn’t do because the supervisor had stepped out of the booth to assist this woman who was basically being unreasonable.

I mean – I don’t know what she wanted, or what her complaint was, but the Metro supervisor was very polite in repeatedly explaining to her that he was responsible for getting moving, and not for clearing up problems with her SmarTrip or whatever (he didn’t put it quite like that, but he did say that he couldn’t resolve her problem from the booth and he was unable to leave the booth).

Anyway, after a few minutes with her voice repeatedly rising, she apparently decided that Metro was unable to help her, and stalked off. A much friendlier rider on the platform asked, “May I help you down the escalator?” but the woman either ignored or did not hear her. No station supervisor came up to the platform – that doesn’t imply neglect, it could simply be that there were issues on the entrance level that prevented her from doing so (and the station manager I saw when I came in had been assisting a woman in a wheelchair). I simply thought it was an interesting thing to witness, an explanation for why sometimes trains don’t run on time (because the rail supervisor is trying to help some crazy person)

Carancho (2010)

Carancho is a subtitled orgy of Argentinian sex and violence (but mostly violence). And it’s really good, too!

Sosa’s a bit of a scumbag: lost his law license, now he’s an ambulance chaser in a country where thousands are killed and injured each year by reckless drivers, earning money for a shady organization called “the Foundation” that pockets the majority of the insurance settlement money. He finds true love in Luján, an ambulance based doctor who is, as you might expect, put in danger when Sosa finds his moral center and defies his bosses. Really, everything you need to know about this movie is in the first sentence.

Basically, this movie made me really grateful to live in Washington, DC where most drivers are considerate enough to at least slow down for a red light, and brake hard for pedestrians aggressively exercising their right to the crosswalk. Thank you, people who obey traffic laws!

Bill Cunningham New York (2010)

I am not what you would call someone who is overly obsessed with fashion, or how I look. Shoes? Pants? Shirt? Zipper up? Belt buckled? Good to go. I wear cheap shoes, cheap jeans, and moderately expensive LL Bean shirts.

So why am I watching a movie called Bill Cunningham New York? A documentary about a fashion photographer who writes for The New York Times?

Honestly, it was because I had a few hours to kill before work, and this was the only thing playing from start to finish in this time frame. Hey, there are worse reasons to see a movie.

So this is a documentary about a guy named Bill Cunningham. I mentioned he photographs and writes a column for The New York Times. I like documentaries because they give you an opportunity to learn about a person or subculture that, without said documentary, you would know very little about. Really, they’re kind of fascinating. (There’s a very interesting one – Netflix streaming! – about the guys who work at a parking lot. It’s called The Parking Lot Movie.

In brief: Cunningham’s 80 years old. He did a stint in the Army during the 50s, designed hats, and then branched out into fashion photography, which is how people know him now. He’s famous in that industry, apparently, and yet very few people actually know anything about him (who he is is sort of the point of the documentary). He puts tape on his ripped ponchos, buys cheap worker jackets, and has had 28 bicycles stolen from him. He’s also so concerned with his journalistic ethos that, when working and photographing events, refuses to eat or drink anything — even a cup of water. When a magazine he worked for was bought by Conde Nast, he didn’t cash the (apparently large) check he’d been given.

Really – he’s just quite a private, interesting character. And for the fashion industry, for which I could’ve honestly said “everything I know is from The Devil Wears Prada“, he’s a remarkably un-judgemental individual (those exist in fashion?!).

And since goodness knows, a lot of folks have been asking for this film’s poster, guess what? It’s available on Amazon.. You can get a pretty good deal on poster frames at Michael’s, FYI.