“In Mother Russia, winter endures you.”

It was cold out this morning. According to the news, the weather is the coldest its been in four years. So you can imagine I was kind of surprised when the L2 pulled over to service a stop and one of the men waiting in the shelter was dressed in khakis, a light blue shirt, and a satchel over his shoulder.

No coat. No hat. No scarf. No gloves.

He even let the other folks — the ones who were wearing coats, and hats, and scarves, and gloves — board the bus first.

When he got on, he didn’t appear to be shivering, or cold at all. It was like he was perfectly comfortable in the cold. A friend remarked, “In Mother Russia, winter endures you.”

Farewell, old Quasar

A few years ago, I wrote an ode to my microwave.

Since the time I wrote that post, the microwave gave up the ghost.  I actually acquired a new microwave last spring, but until this amazing just past weekend of deep cleaning, reorganization, and throwing out of stuff I no longer use, I had two microwaves in my kitchen: one that works great, and one that sometimes worked when it felt like it.

Farewell, Quasar.  You were one hell of a machine.

Congressman Trey Gowdy’s Gorgeous Necktie

There’s no real reason why you should know who Trey Gowdy is. I only know because once upon a time, a guy named Dave Stroup posted on Twitter about the guy’s extraordinary necktie and I thought “That is the most beautiful necktie I think I have ever seen.”

Trey_Gowdy,_Official_Portrait,_112th_CongressBut of course, inquiries to Mr. Gowdy’s office about where did he get that amazing necktie?! went — unsurprisingly — unanswered.  It’s hard to google a necktie, too.  “Mosaic necktie” or “colorful necktie?”  I’ve tried both, and many, many, many more search variations.  Last night, on eBay, I got lucky.  I found this tie (below, left):

necktie_ebayNow, you may say, “but those aren’t the same colors!”  True, but forget the colors, look at the pattern of angles colored rectangles.  Now, I’m not saying these are both the same tie, just in different colors, but I do have these two (below) that are clearly the same pattern (albeit different colors).  The red one, by the way?  The one I wore on my job interview for the position I have now.  IMG_1503[1]

Additionally, when you look at the pattern on the rectangles on the tie above, they seem to mesh with the pattern on the rectangles of the tie Congressman Gowdy is wearing.

The eBay tie is from Charles Tyrwhitt, a men’s fancy-clothes shop, with, I’ve just realized, a location by Farragut Square.  I might just have to stop in with a picture of Mr. Gowdy and see if they have that tie in stock.  Of course, even if they do, I probably won’t be able to afford it.

Sadly, as you may have noticed, I missed my opportunity to score the tie I found on eBay: I didn’t pay enough attention to the end date of the auction and that auction ended last night.

That Photo Is NOT Of a Smart Car on the DC Metro

smart-carThis photo has been making its rounds on Twitter tonight, with most people deciding that this is a picture of a Smart Car.  On a DC Metro train car.

Well, maybe it’s the fact that the door is hinged from the rear (you can see the operator’s left foot); or that the operator appears to be a very elderly individual; or that the tires are clearly not auto-tires …

I described this vehicle on Twitter as some sort of enclosed motorized wheelchair.  And then I started Googling.  Guess what I found?

This page.  Top row, middle.  See anything that looks familiar?  The contraption pictured above is a “Shoprider Flagship Enclosed Personal Mobility Scooter.”  Basically, an enclosed mechanical wheelchair.

This is what a Smart Car looks like, by the way.

Google — and common sense — is your friend.

UPDATE 1/17:

This post got some love from the Washington City Paper!

Happy Birthday, National Geographic!

NGSThe National Geographic Society, housed across several interconnected buildings just east of Washington, DC, turns 125 years old this month (possibly even today)!

I have so many wonderful memories of the magazine (and less of the Society’s other media), including a bookshelf in a back hallway of my grandfather’s rambling farmhouse, packed end to end and up and down with copies of the magazine dating back decades; and, of course, realizing as a kid that some issues of the magazine featured full frontal nudity of women (this may seem surprising to today’s youth, but in the days before the internet was readily available, a guy had to do what a guy had to do).

I’ve been to the NGS headquarters a number of time.  A gentleman I worked with at the bookstore has worked there for a number of years and gave me a behind-the-scenes tour of the building — most memorable was getting to see the huge room with the gigantic fireplaces where the board meets, and the Andrew Wyeth paintings, “Romance of Discovery,” hung on the wall just outside.  I was in the building most recently in March for lunch following my job interview a few blocks away: the cafeteria is amazing, but most importantly, it was a successful interview & I got the job.

Monday, January 7, 2013 – Walk

walk_010713I may have been too optimistic about the warm weather predicted for today – in the 40s! – because it sure felt colder, but having built up an anticipation to walk to work, I couldn’t bear to take the bus.  So I walked to work, and then once I was at work, I had to walk to a meeting on campus, and later, I decided, what the hell, and walked home, too.  That walk home was REALLY cold, especially as I was only wearing a hooded sweatshirt (I mean, not ONLY, but no scarf or winter coat) and a wool hat.

Anyway: 4.8 miles.  Pretty good for a walk in January.  Although I’m hearing the weather’s going to get into the 60s this weekend so I am already plotting a Saturday morning urban hike.



Rename the Washington Redskins

I won’t lie: I’m not a fan of foo98787tball.  I root for the Ravens and the Redskins because of geography.  But, man, I really do not like the name Redskins.  And then last night, I stumbled across a pretty great proposal for re-naming the team (best of all, you’d get to keep the logo).  There’s an edited excerpt below, but you can — and should! — read the full proposal on David J. Peterson’s tumblr:

If you’re not a fan of football (or sports), you should be aware, at least, that there is a team—here in the year 2012—that goes by the name Redskins. And there’s no ambiguity about the reference (e.g. like how the Cincinnati Reds’ name originally referred to their red stockings and not to Communism): it’s Redskin as in, well, redskin: a racist term making reference to the perceived skin color of most (if not all) Native Americans. I suppose the reverse would be something like the Washington Palefaces, with a logo featuring a white guy’s face.


If you’re like me, at first, you’ll go, “Eh”. But think about … the current logo for the Washington Redskins[.]  And what is that? It’s a fairly realistic depiction of a Native American warrior—and, in fact, as far as Native American sports logos go, I think it’s pretty respectful (notice how the figure’s skin is not, in fact, Redskins red: it’s an attempt to be more or less authentic)—certainly a far sight better than [the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo logo].  As a result, you could change the name “Redskins” to “Warriors” and retain everything else about the Washington Redskins’ identity. The only change would be to the wordmark, and if you’ll notice, all the letters you need to spell “warriors” are contained inside the words “Washington Redskins”
And while the name wouldn’t be unique (the Golden State Warriors have had it since they began playing in Philadelphia [and, incidentally, they were also named after Native American warriors]), I like it for Washington for two reasons. First, it alliterates. “Washington Warriors” rolls off the tongue so much better than “Golden State Warriors” (frankly, that team is in need of a rebrand [yes, another one]). Second, NFL teams, for the most part, favor simpler names. The NBA has the Memphis Grizzlies. The NFL? The Chicago Bears. They have the Lions, the Giants, the Eagles, the Cowboys—iconic, simple, tough. Classic. It’s entirely subjective, but to me, Washington Warriors has a classic feel.


In my opinion, a switch to the name “Warriors” would be a simple, minimally-invasive rebrand, and I think it’s long overdue. The main argument against a rebrand would be tradition, which is nothing to be scoffed at. I think by making such a minimal change which still obviously makes reference to the same entity, the tradition is honored and maintained (more so than, e.g., making a change from Bullets to Wizards).


Seems like a rational proposal to me.


Six Floors Up, Six Floors Down

I live on the 5th floor of my apartment building.  I’ll have been here for five years this coming June, which is kind of freaking me out, because this is not a large apartment …

Anyway, so I actually love where I live.  I mean, there are things that could make this place better.  A larger apartment, for one.  Hardwood floors.  An in-unit washer/dryer.  Less rent .  The management company is great – fast maintenance response, and lots of improvement projects: the roof-deck was re-done at the end of summer, and the laundry room was just ripped apart and improved (alas, still the same machines).  The building itself was put up in the 1920s, so it’s got a lot of character.  Fortunately, it’s been modernized, and has two elevators I would have, until recently, described as reliable.

The two elevators are, if the need to be specific comes up, are described as the “little” one, and the “big” one.  The little one can barely fit two adults.  The big one is a bit larger, but not by a lot.  The little one broke around late October or early November.  I’m not quite sure what happened with it, but there’s been a note taped to the doors informing the residents that as the elevator’s manufacturer has long since gone out of business, new parts need to be fabricated for it.  It’s still out of service.

Now, guess what just happened to the big elevator?

I went down to the laundry room to get my clothes taken care of for the week.  Yep, I sure live an exciting life: Saturday night is laundry night.  I took the elevator down, saw that the dryers and washers were all in use, decided I’d check again in half an hour or an hour, and pressed the button for the 5th floor.  The elevator doors closed, but the elevator did not move.  The floor lights blacked out.  Eventually, but it seemed like a long time even though it was probably only thirty seconds, the doors opened and I was able to get back out at the basement.

stairwellSo I lugged my laundry basket up six flights.  Waited an hour or so, and lugged it back down.  Victory!  Laundry room washers were all open so I put my load in, then walked back up six flights, only to repeat when it was time to put in the dryer, just a short time before starting this post.  On my way back up the inner staircase, with narrow and tight turns, two people entered the staircase a floor or two behind me.  “I can’t believe they’re both broke now…” a woman said.

“Right?” I called down to which I received an answer of laughter.

Meanwhile: I’m not super upset about this.  Fortunately, I don’t have to move into or out of the building or lug anything super heavy up the stairs.  And, hell, it’s good exercise (my legs are burning).

Reading: Midnight Rising by Tony Horwitz

My parents introduced me to Tony Horwitz about a decade or so ago when they gave me a paperback copy of his “Confederates in the Attic” for my birthday.  That copy is long since gone – I made the mistake of lending it to a rather cute lady friend who never returned it.  A few years ago I picked up a new copy at Borders and just a month ago or so picked up a signed hardcover I found at the Chevy Chase DC Library folio sale.

“Midnight Rising” was a belateMidnight_Risingd Christmas gift.  My Mom mentioned how it is hard to gift books to me (last time I counted I was well over 1400), and I reminded her that not that long ago we’d been discussing Tony Hortwitz & I mentioned that I was interested to read his new book.  This conversation happened on Tuesday, Christmas Day.  When I got home from work on Wednesday the book had arrived via Amazon (my parents became Prime members, but even so, that’s some fast shipping).

Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War” (2011) chronicles the life of John Brown, the militant abolitionist, and his warfare on “the peculiar institution” of slavery which culminated in leading a force of armed blacks and whites on a raid of Harpers Ferry, a federal armory in what was then Virginia (and what is now West Virginia).

Horwitz is the author of now four books (I’ve read all but “Blue Latitudes,” but never fear: there is a copy on one of my bookshelves) but this is the first that is entirely set in the past.  Both “Confederates” and “A Voyage Long and Strange” intercut between Tony’s present exploration of the past with that very past.  It’s very effective in “Confederates” (a must read if you’re a Civil War or U.S. history buff) but I found it less than wonderful in “A Voyage.”  In “Midnight Rising” it would be laughable to attempt.  This is not a cheery book, it’s dark and fucking depressing.  One of the raiders Brown brought with him to Harpers Ferry was a freed slave named Dangerfield Newby who had collected $700 to buy his wife and children, still slaves, into freedom, only to be informed by their owner that he was raising their price.  Planning on liberating them by force, Newby accompanied Brown and … well, let’s just say this isn’t the stuff sweet heart-warming Lifetime movies are made of.

I didn’t know a lot about John Brown before I read this.  I knew the basics: John Brown was a white guy who disliked slavery and who raided the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry in an effort to start a slave insurrection.  I knew that future Confederate General Robert Lee commanded a force of U.S. Marines who defeated Brown and his men, and that Brown was subsequently hanged.

There’s a lot more to the story than that.  Horwitz discusses Southern fears about a slave rebellion and also the horror to which they viewed the lionization of Brown in the North after his death — and a hint that, despite the grand plans he had for fermenting a war of liberation (including free black communities in the mountains with their own armies to defend against whites), perhaps it was all just a red herring and Brown had no plans other than to use his own death to plunge the country into a war which he believed would end slavery.

And he succeeded.

I have sometimes asked myself if John Brown was an American terrorist.  Having read “Midnight Rising,” I think I can answer that.  Yes, he was.  But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t also an American hero.

Sort of interesting post-script: when asked by a reporter if white people could join the Organization of Afro-American Unity, Malcolm X said no, but added an exception: “If John Brown were still alive, we might accept him.”


I was contacted by a representative from Macmillan Audio, who asked me to include a clip from the audiobook, narrated by Dan Oreskes, to this post.  The clip runs about 10 minutes and is available here.