Monday, October 31, 2011

And That's the End of the Tourmobile

My mother is a big believer in doing all the tourist things, even in your hometown.  Perhaps especially so.  So, it wasn't uncommon for us to head off and see museums, the National Cathedral, or various other spots around town.  And one time, she decided we should all do the Tourmobile, saying you shouldn't have to wait for visitor for the excuse to look like a tourist for a day.  So we went (armed with a careful plan my mother had put together) and hit places that Tourmobile got us to a little easier than one could by metro or on foot. 
I used a similar strategy in Barcelona travelling the Bus Turistic since it got to places like the Olympic Park that were outside the metro (or a very long walk). 
Sure, I had wondered why there weren't other buses doing what Tourmobile did.  And I see less of them these days.  So I was sad to hear a combo of monopolism and the economy mean that the Tourmobile is no more.  Sure, there are still plenty of ways to see DC (and it's environs) but, I'm still a little sad to see this one go.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's All About Perspective

There's a poster out there somewhere that says, "How long 2 minutes is depends on what side of the bathroom door you're on."
The other day I was walking down the street.  Park Street to be exact, which in this section (between 14th and 16th) is one way with parking on both sides.  Traffic tends to back up there a little because there's a light at 16th and another light just a half block back, plus all it takes is one person trying to turn into all the traffic on 16th to jam everyone up a bit.  So, it's two blocks that can take a few light cycles to get through, frustrating, but not the end of the world.  (Although yes, this might be why we have the worst traffic.)
So, I missed the precipitating event here, but looked over to see that two guys had gotten out of their car and were helping a guy lying in the street to get up.  (It took both of them to lift him.) Then one grabbed his bicycle.  (I was on the sidewalk, these guys were on the other side of the car from me, so I could see, but only from an angle.) I was watching to see if maybe someone should dial 911. The cyclist seemed, once upright to be moving okay if slowly and possibly a little embarrassed.  The guys from the car started to ask what had happened.  I was not the only pedestrian who stopped to look.  And a few folks from cars lined up behind also popped open their doors and leaned out.  It was at this point that someone yelled, "Do you have to do this in the street?"  The guys from the car waved their acknowledgment and after checking in with the cyclist moved back to their car.  The guys who had popped their head out of their cars all shut their doors and one of them took this opportunity to lay on his horn.  (I know I am my father's daughter because I considered banging on his window and asking why he was being a jerk. I know I am my mother's daughter because I did not.) 
Several cars back people seemed quieter.  Now, I admit that given my obscured angle, and the fact that all of this occurred in the small space between cars, not everyone could see much of anything other than the driver had gotten out of the car.  I am guessing that the two guys did not hit the cyclist but given his proximity on the street to their car felt that a - it would be nice to make sure he was okay and b - if they drove further they might hit him (or someone behind them might not even see a cyclist lying in the street.
Given recent events here and abroad where folks have lain in the street for hours, it was great that these guys helped. And while certainly I understand that it takes just a little bit of driving these days before I see twelve really idiotic things, and depending on your vantage point of the situation, this may have seemed like the thirteenth, so your patience may have been worn down. But, I still think that it might be time to consider that people might have a really good reason (sometimes) for what they are doing.  And laying on your horn has never made anyone smarter. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

I'm a Stealthy Swiper

DCist lists the various types and methods of passing your SmarTrip* over the reader. 

*Hard, reloadable metro card.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Too Much Information

Living in a multi-family dwelling (aka apartment building) can be an interesting thing.  There is good (neighbors who share flan) and bad (party guests who decide to wrestle at one in the morning, right in front of your neighbor's window).  It also means that, particularly if there are enough of you, all it takes is one person's smoke detector going unattended, and, well, everyone is tromping down the stairs at three in the morning. And even with all those neighbors, I don't always hear what happened.  So, having a resource like the DCFIREEMS Twitter account is useful.  It lets me know if all those fire trucks are racing towards my building and if everyone's okay.  It lets me know if that traffic backup due to the injured pedestrian is close to being cleared.  In fact, it kind of does what Twitter was really intended for.  So, I am saddened to hear that the employee who had managed the account for a while has been moved to a new position and they are hoping that the new person will be, shall we say, less effective in the dissemination of information.  This is a big city.  Not every fire even makes the news.  (Not to give the impression that DC is a hotbed of fires, but let's face it, only on a slow news day does a fire where no one was hurt tend to get even a passing mention.) And, even if they did, often by the time the news covers it, it's hours later.  I don't think it's ridiculous to want to know now.  And my alternative is to bug people who should be, you know, putting out the fire.  I'm hoping this decision gets changed.  (Again.  This has already flip flopped once this year.  Here's hoping for one more.)
In the interim, the firefighter's union has taken over some of this

h/t to TBD for the link to the Atlantic.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Maginot Line and Other Facts Gathered

My high school history teacher asked a question one day and was met with silence.  We were discussing the events leading up to World War II and how what in retrospect seemed like a clear escalating power grab, seemed at the time to enough people to be some guy doing stuff that the other countries didn't care about much.  (She may have implied that included Poland, saying that people were always taking over Poland.  Or I may be embellishing this in my memory.)  And she mentioned that the French were not worried because they thought they had defenses in place after the Great War.  Did anyone know what?  This brought on the silence. And then I remembered reading something.  Not in the history book (although one imagines it was there.) In Judith Krantz's Til We Meet Again there is a conversation between Delphine and Armand during where she (with a certainty not dissimilar to what my teacher was describing) says that France will be fine, they have the Maginot Line.  My teacher was happy to have elicited an answer and the class went on.  And let me tell you, I still remember the Maginot Line.
Now, I am not going to suggest that reading romance or other novels is a substitution for doing your homework.  But, sometimes those little facts placed in the context of an intriguing story can help make them more memorable.  (And it is possible, that being a fun bantery conversation I may have read it, you know, multiple times.)
I still know quite a bit about the Civil War as a result of my extensive reading of John Jakes' North and South trilogy. (I have stopped torturing the tour guides in Harper's Ferry who all bring up the story of how the one church on the river didn't get destroyed because they flew a British flag.  (No, no one seems to know why that worked once the British allied with the South. It is apparently not in the tour guide manual.)
Til We Meet Again
also inspired me to read a biography on Amy Johnson.  And to read more World War II based novels.  One of which (the name escapes me at the moment) introduced me to Jackie Cochran and the Women's Air Service Pilots. 
Certainly a basic knowledge of HIPAA or law procedure can make a sane person want to cry while reading some contemporaries.  (Or rant.) But, contemporary novels have offered me the chance to experience some different professions, locations and experiences.
So, a book titled Everything I Know I Learned From Romance Novels was in my wheelhouse, as it were, already.  Make it by the lovely Sarah Wendell, aka Smart Bitch Sara and it was a done deal.  The book covers things less from a will it help you in history class perspective (shocking, I know, maybe there will be a sequel) and more from the ways that romance novels can offer opportunities for readers to escape but also evaluate the situations for themselves.  While it seems likely that I will not have to fight off a horde of zombies with the aid of my demon protectors (for example) books offer the opportunity to walk in those shoes and even the moments that make you want to say, "Oh, honey, no," are useful for just that. 
I may keep a copy around for the next time someone says, "Oh I figure I'll just write a romance since they don't have plots."  At the very least I can smack them upside the head with it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hi, I'm a Girl

So, it's been an interesting fall already on the gender front.  At least, you know as far as pop culture goes.  The Monkey See blog has an excellent post about how many of this fall's new TV shows seem to be existing in some place where there are manly men and wimpy men only. (And yes, I have heard folks mention that the article focuses on a strict gender binary, which is fair, but even within that frame, I think we can all agree that some of the new stuff still, you know, sucks at portraying any attempt at a realistic spectrum.)
And sure, I read about trends and things so I had noticed this movement in the world of soda where attempts to lure men to diet soda have moved from the been there, done that we swear cool guys drink this too of the nineties (by the way, just went and looked that up, aw, good times) to sodas with supposedly manlier labels and removal of the word diet in place of words like max and zero. I do not have access to whatever research there is on male soda drinking habits, but let's imagine for a moment that there is some and that somewhere in there it provides reason to believe that there are tons of men who secretly wish that they could drink a low calorie soda, but are attached to the idea that low calorie sodas are for girls. 
(And no, I'm not touching with a ten foot pole the ads for low calorie beers because I could write a treatise on the inequities and insanities found there.) 
Now, in the interest of disclosure, I personally do not drink low calorie sodas (personal choice, totally not based on my gender) but I do occasionally drink soda.  And when I do (I sound like I'm in an ad, weird, not my intention) I drink Dr. Pepper.  So, I am so sorry to hear that the decision has apparently been made somewhere that just showing (supposedly) manly men sipping their manly drinks while doing manly things is not quite overt enough for their new low calorie soda.  No, they have decided to come right out and say, "Not for women."  (Not kidding - look here. SishFW, you can choose to click the video portion or not.)
As Gothamist rightly points out this is actually equally offensive to men and women.  (So, um, great job there.) Soda is not gender based.  (Unless the soda makers have something they need to tell us.)  Now certainly Dr. Pepper has the right to market their soda based on gender.  But I remain a bit amazed that they would choose to alienate so much of their potential population (and no, I do not just mean women.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

How to Hit All 50 States in a Few Days

There is a bike ride each year that hits all the state streets in one day.  But, one local teacher filed it using a bike cam over a few days and put together this video.  So, go have a look

Friday, October 07, 2011

I am Biased, but...

When I heard that a group from Howard University was competing in this year's "The Sing Off", I was predisposed to wish them well, local group and all.  (It helps that the heats kept them separate from the only group I had actual prior knowledge of.) This year's "The Sing Off" continues to prove that a capella comes in all shapes and sizes, and that judging can be critical and still extremely thoughtful and respectful.
TBD, has a nice little link to Afro-Blue's first performance, which was excellent. 
And NPR's Monkey See blog has a link to their second, as well as the suggestion (with which I agree) that the large group numbers that they start every show with are amazing and worth flipping to (if you must move on to other TV that night, though, until "Chuck" comes back, what are you watching?  I kid, I kid.) 
Because of the heats, Afro-Blue will not be on next week's episode, but will return the following week when they collapse from two heats into one.  Of course, I expect the six groups appearing Monday to provide excellent performances as well.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Would You Like Free Stuff?

From the not getting paid for this files, the lovely ladies over at the Waterworld Mermaids have banded together and are posting an anthology of short stories that they are posting on their blog for much of October.  A list of who and what along with a snazzy trailer is here.
In the interest of disclosure, these guys are all in my writing chapter, and I have read stuff from most of them, so am biased, but hey, free!

Monday, October 03, 2011

I'm Not a Hoarder But...

...I am the daughter of two collectors.  Less kind people might refer to us as clutterbugs.  It's apparently a recessive gene because my sister rearranges and purges all her stuff every six months and my brother upgrades his TV regularly, but doesn't hang on to stuff too much.  But, my sister did turn me onto "Storage Wars" which is one of those shows where you think - really, a show about storage units? But, it fits that thing where it's interesting to watch the personalities and the guesses they make about the units and when they're right and find something worth money and when they're wrong and end up with a half empty box of diapers and some used porn. 
I also have to tell you it confirms my worst fears about storage units.  There are legitimate reasons and uses for such things, but I think just as often people have exceeded their space, they shunt stuff off to storage and then don't ever do anything with the stuff in there. And then forget to pay the bill.
But, there is one guy, Barry - they list him as "the collector" because he gets excited about units that may have something weird or unusual in there, rather than looking for things like jewelery or furniture or what-have-you.  Most of these folks run consignment shops or work with other re-sellers.  Barry, goes through the motions, hunting down the experts when he makes a find and getting the estimate.  And often enough, he keeps it.  I don't know what he does (or did) for his livelihood (and I don't need to) but this would be me.  And this is why I do not have a career as a storage unit scavenger in my future.