Thoughts on Mass Transit

I’m in Chicago at the moment, in my hotel room on the 15th floor, and in lieu of taking a break from working on handouts, I present you with a short list of things I love about the DC Metro in comparison with the Chicago El, which I spent ~1:20 on this evening.

  • No Food And Drink is a giant pain in the ass at times, but it results in MUCH cleaner subway stations and cars.
  • (Mostly) Polite drivers announcing the next stop well ahead of time, as well as the current stop, so that even if you’re not staring at a map, you know you are approaching x station. This is especially useful if you’re traveling with a giant red suitcase that is the size of two small children.
  • Cell phone reception! Underground! Under the effing Potomac, for that matter! I tried to send a text from the Blue Line today, but no dice until I actually physically exited the station. Now, I know this wouldn’t be an issue if I were above ground – but it’s not an issue, at least where I travel, in DC underground!
  • Clear indication in each station when the next train is coming, which train it will be, and how many cars are attached to that particular train.

I know, I know, Chicago’s transit system is massively under-funded. Massively. For me right now, though, it’s just another reason why I’m really not interested in living in Chicago at any time, now or in the future, even though lots of people I love and treasure live or have lived there.


Candy Corn!

I have decided that today is my favorite of the made-up food holidays: Candy Corn Day! I don’t think I’ve had any yet this year, but I’m going to have to make a point to pick some up. I might wait until Thursday, though, when it’ll all be half off, and I can get a big bag for like 50c.

Halloween was never an exceptionally big deal in my family – my parents are very religious, so while we went trick-or-treating when we lived in a neighborhood with kids, the scary aspect of it was never emphasized for us. We wore nice costumes made by Mom – one year I was a cheerleader, another year my brother was a shark. My small brother didn’t trick-or-treat until a couple of years ago, but one of my VERY favorite stories about him has to do with Halloween and his lack of understanding of it.

When Coo was four, his preschool had a “Noah’s Ark party” around Halloween so that the kids could dress up but without the secular, scary context. Coo was really into grammar at this point – he and Mom read all the time, and he was interested in EVERYTHING on the page, not just the words and pictures – so when asked what he wanted to be for the Noah’s Ark party, he said “a semicolon”. We had to explain to him that there were no semicolons on Noah’s Ark, so instead he was a polar bear – the cutest, grumpiest little polar bear ever.

A Word of Caution About Our Building

The cable guy was just here because yesterday morning, our cable mysteriously stopped working.  No TV, no internets, no nuttin’.  We were told that if there were three calls from our building, someone would be sent out right away.  Well, as of this morning, we still had no ‘nets, so we called Comcast again, and Shane headed off to a bar in Crystal City so that he could watch the Bengals.

I learned a couple of very interesting things in the hour and change that the cable guy was here:

  1. Most apartment buildings have a centralized cable area by floor, meaning that when Joe Cable Guy comes out to do an installation or disconnect, he has to sort through one floor’s worth of cables.  Not our building.
  2. Our building has all the cables for the ENTIRE building in one messy little room, meaning that when Joe Cable Guy comes out to do a disconnect, he is just as likely to disconnect the wrong apartment as he is the correct one.
  3. In addition, cables pass through floors haphazardly, meaning that we have random cables in our closet that don’t have anything to do with our account.  Do you see where I’m going here?
  4. When our cable was connected lo these two months ago, the cable guy couldn’t figure out which cable was ours and, lacking the will or intellect to persevere in this difficult task, he patched us on to someone else’s cable.
  5. This patching resulted in weird connectivity problems, distortion on the TV signal, and general slowness until yesterday, when the other account was (apparently) disconnected.

Many thanks to the cable guy for figuring all of this out, and returning our ‘nets to previously unheard-of speeds!  This will make doing work at home MUCH easier.

A Perfect Saturday

We’ve been remiss of late at posting about our adventures. I blame this primarily on Shane’s lack of interest in uploading the funny photos and videos he’s taken lately. I blame this secondly on the fact that my computer has been on the fritz in one way or another for a good part of this month, and our internet has been flaky at home.

That said, we had a really nice day yesterday, which I will attempt to recount in a bulleted list:

  • sleeping in until 9am!
  • banana pancakes for breakfast
  • a good run before lunchtime (four weeks down, five to go)
  • lunch at Ireland’s Four Courts, where we managed to catch the Iowa-Michigan State game (the first game I’ve managed to see all season)
  • Iowa unbelievably pulling off a 34-27 win in double overtime
  • a nice walk from Rosslyn to Georgetown
  • new shoes for work that are cute AND practical!
  • espresso and a snack at Le Pain Quotidien, and a nice walk on to the Metro in Foggy Bottom
  • Thurn and Taxis before bed (except that Shane destroyed me!)

This week will probably go by in a flurry of activity (and irritation, if our internet continues to be down) – I’m in town through Wednesday morning, then I fly to Chicago to lead two half-day workshops at ALA, then on to Champaign for a brief visit, returning to DC Sunday afternoon. I won’t possibly be able to see and do all I’d like while in Champaign, but if you haven’t already heard from me and want to get together, drop me a line.

Weekend in brief

Shane punched a panda:

Shane punched a panda

Sarah and Greg came to visit, and we hung out with Andy:

End of a long day

We all went to the National Cathedral, which was very big:

National Cathedral

I peed at Starbucks:

Shane saw the White House for the first time:

The leaves were pretty:

We collectively ate seven different kinds of pasta sauce and at least two very large bowls of pasta (not pictured).

It was a good weekend.


I have to say that while at my former job, we did have to worry about Unofficial St Patrick’s Day, we didn’t have to worry about World Bank/IMF meetings causing massive protests or ‘October Rebellion’ marches making it difficult to get to/from work safely.

Red flannel

Last night Shane and I took advantage of our Smithsonian Resident Associates membership in order to go see Garrison Keillor.  We’ve been listening to A Prairie Home Companion on the weekends, so when I saw that he was going to be here, we jumped at the chance.  He wore a suit with a red tie, red kicks, and red socks that were pulled up to his knees (at least from what we could see in the balcony) – and was in general just like you’d imagine – a funny, affable, self-deprecating middle-aged guy with a “flannelly” voice telling rambling stories about his youth, his friends, and his outlook on the world.  My favorite part of his rambling monologue had to do with travel restrictions, and how we all take off our shoes at the airport in tribute to Richard Reid, the “shoe bomber”, even though there are few known correlations between terrorism and women named ‘Gladys’.  He waxed hyperbolic, theorizing about the day when someone goes on a plane with an underpants bomb, suggesting that this would be the day that travel by train comes back into vogue.

I love Garrison Keillor.   If A Prairie Home Companion isn’t syndicated in your area, I highly recommend the podcasts for either The News from Lake Woebegon, Keillor’s signature monologue, or The Writers’ Almanac, a five minute short broadcast about the day’s events in literary history.

My weather widget tells me to expect rain in Champaign this week. I have been here in Virginia for very nearly exactly one month, and it has sprinkled twice (that I have seen). I need rain.