Monday, December 31, 2012

Opinions wanted on phones

I just bought a new laptop and now I’m getting the bug for a smartphone.

I have a dumbphone, you see, running on a prepaid no-contract service from Wal-Mart (which I’m pleased with overall). I could buy an unlocked iPhone 4 off of eBay for not too much (in the grand scheme of things) but I’m not sure I can so far justify the purchase and subsequent upgrade from the $30 phone plan to the $45 one.

So, I’m curious about everyone else’s experience with smartphones and usage thereof. Or random observations that make me laugh. Points for any good jokes involving journalists using smartphones in a dumb fashion.

Most viewed posts of 2012

The thing I love about these kinds of posts is that, though obviously canned and not creative, they’re still interesting!

Without further ado, the 10 posts of 2012 that gathered the most individual pageviews. Stats are drawn from the Google Analytics tool thing, and I have no idea how accurate they are, but they’re a decent starting point.

7 views – “LOMO #24: Guacamole,” in which I wonder why people first decided to eat a mushy Martian-green food.

7 views – “LOMO #22: Road tripping,” in which I picture an iPod radio broadcaster powered by miniature windmills.

8 views – “LOMO #30: Lists,” in which I complain about grocery lists.

10 views – “Reader interaction,” in which my beloved readers suggest topics to write about. (I have used some of them and do intend to hit the rest at some point!)

11 views – “LOMO #31: Jane Austen movies,” in which I make fun of back-of-the-box movie blurbs.

11 views – “LOMO #3: Patterns,” in which I describe, tongue-in-cheek, the progress of a sewing project.

13 views – “I’m going to have stained glass windows,” including a picture.

16 views – “Books for single girls,” which is pretty self-explanatory.

18 views – “LOMO #33: Live blogging the apartment,” in which I describe the antics of the UD* in such a way as to give the impression that he’s dragging a dead body upstairs.

19 views – “A Real Update,” in which I describe the difficulty of painting a bookcase with spray paint (and otherwise include real updates about my life circa April).

*Upstairs Dweller.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Also, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

¡Feliz Navidad!

Joyeux Noel!

Mele Kalikimaka!

The things you learn from obscure Christmas songs. Smile

I attended a family swing dance and taught about a dozen people the basics of east coast single-step swing. Unfortunately, I don’t have my own photograhpic evidence of this splendid occasion – the pictures are all on my relatives’ Facebook pages instead.

What did you do this Christmas weekend?

Life on my own #36: Mattress deductions

I came home from work this evening, carefully inching my way up the main street so as to avoid sliding on the new-fallen snow and crashing into the sidewalk.

I gingerly stepped one foot at a time along the sidewalk at home to get to my mailbox.

I saw a double-bed mattress sitting on the front porch.

Somebody, please explain to me what UD*  is doing with a mattress… oh, and a bed frame… on the front porch.

They’re not even set up so you can sit on them. At least then I might postulate that someone decided to experiment with living in the cool weather that Eskimos experience. Instead, the mattress is leaning up against one of the porch posts.

Also, the mattress is covered in flowers, as if it were the mattress my grandmother picked out to match the wallpaper. A lovely winter view for my front window, but not exactly your typical masculine print. All I can surmise is that it was acquired secondhand.

And if they remain there much longer – accompanied, in fact, by a strange station wagon that apparently wasn’t moved today from its little spot on the curb next to our apartment building (to judge by the accumulated snow) – I will have to guess that someone is either moving out again or moving in. Not really sure which.

I’ll have to take more lessons from Sherlock Holmes to work on my deductive skills.

*UD = upstairs dweller. You know, the one that watches “Friends” and likes to drag dead bodies up the front staircase.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It’s 12/12/12!

I just felt obligated to point that out. Also to point out the interchangeability of the 12s, so that date could be read in U.S. or international style and still indicate the same day.

In addition, this is the last day for about 88 years that all the numbers in a date will match. I will probably not be alive to see 01/01/2101, sad to say.

I think, at 12:12 p.m. today, I will attempt something marvelous. Not sure what yet.

Maybe I’ll bake some banana bread.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Compendium of Links #35: Music and philosophy

I got sick last Saturday night while at work. You know that already. That means I spent the entire weekend cooped up at home, with the exception of the absolutely necessary trips: to pay the electric bill, to buy groceries and non-expired cold medicine and to do laundry.

That also means I had a lot of time to goof off. Because when you’re sick, you’re supposed to take it easy. Thus my predicament: Lots of time that I can spend, but not with people. We wouldn’t want to infect my entire church/extended family now, would we?

For today’s Compendium, let’s first look at a list of April Fool’s Day food and drink hoaxes. Including Squeeze Bacon. (Thx to da baum for da link.)

A writer for The New York Times recently exhorted my generation to take a hard look at the ironic lifestyle so many live. From the article, titled “How to Live without Irony:”

Throughout history, irony has served useful purposes, like providing a rhetorical outlet for unspoken societal tensions. But our contemporary ironic mode is somehow deeper; it has leaked from the realm of rhetoric into life itself. This ironic ethos can lead to a vacuity and vapidity of the individual and collective psyche.

Lots of Bible study tools are online and free at BibleStudyTools.com. I haven’t used this particular site but it looks valuable. As does Memverse.com, which is meant to help you along in your Bible memorization.

A Christian blogger makes a good point about comparing music: Just because a song isn’t your style doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s more worthwhile comparing a music to its genre’s standards or to how acceptable it is in a certain setting.

Then, the owner of an thinly legal music-sharing site (Grooveshark) wrote a defense of why recorded music should be free. I’m sure I’ve had this link open for months but I’ve only recently been able to read through it all. It’s a fascinating take on the current setup in the music industry. (Kudos to Evangelical Outpost for their own take on the guy’s arguments.)

Another music link: Why folk music rocks, according to an Ev.Outpost blogger. I’m a folk music aficionado, of course, and part of why I like it is the poetry of much of folk music’s lyrics (think Paul Simon) and the variety of subjects (not just “I love/loved him/her”).

What are students really buying in an education? An Online Journalism Review writer suggests that it’s evaluation, community and coaching – because we can already get all the information we need for free, you know.

ReadWriteWeb is starting a new series, ReadWritePause, on how to better balance connected and offline life. They began by posting an article with “Don’t read this article” in the URL: “Yes, we’re a tech site. Yes, we’re suggesting you spend less time online.”

Courtesy of my cousin the seamstress-extraordinaire, I present: a C.S. Lewis poetic commentary on nostalgia, which begins:

No. It's an impudent falsehood.  Men did not
Invariably think the newer way Prosaic
mad, inelegant, or what not.

And for your viewing pleasure: ESPN’s impromptu homage to the cult classic The Princess Bride. Yep, I’m serious.

This is the only bit of ESPN I’ve watched in my life. But it’s a highly pleasing bit.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Life on my own #35: Live-blogging the apartment (again)

Upstairs Dweller, a guy, usually works second shift. But for the last two days he’s actually been around here in the evening. Don’t ask me why; I haven’t a clue.

And tonight, as I was gleefully pecking away at my keyboard, UD did a few strange things.

He jingled his keys around upstairs. (OK, not so strange.)

He came downstairs and flicked the porch light on and off a couple times. Click, click, click.

(We have really loud old-fashioned light switches. They’re push-button style.)

He went back into the foyer and clicked a light in there on and off a few times. Click, click, click.

And only then does go back upstairs (to fetch his forgotten keys?) and then back downstairs to start up the truck.

Which didn’t catch the first time. Squeeeeak goes a belt.

It’s an ancient, two-tone Ford, I think, so I’m not surprised at the noises it makes. The ones produced by the Ford’s owner, however…

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Life on my own #34: Sicky-poo

I came down with a cold last night while I was at work.

It was me and the sports editor most of the evening. I sneezed. And sneezed again. (The sports editor just kept talking to some coach over the phone.) I read over pages and tried explaining the corrections to the page designer by phone, as usual. However, this conversation when something like this:

Me: “OK, I’ve got corrections for you on A1 and A8.”

Designer: “All right, give me two shakes of a leg to open this thing up.”

(pause)

Me: “Ok. In the hoops skybox, where it says Boys and Girls in Actions, can you take the S off of Actions, make it… not plural? I mean singular?”

Designer: “Gotcha. Next?”

Me: “OK, now there needs to be a line around the picture. I mean a box. A border?”

Designer: “Got it fixed.”

Me: “OK, now there’s some weirdness going on with the… byline! the byline for the holiday cheer article. It’s what, too far to the right. I mean left.”

Designer: “I see it. Yeah somebody broke the styles or something. I caught all the rest of them.”

Me: “OK, next at the end of that article. In the jump line. It needs to say page A1. I mean A8. It says A1 now.”

Designer: “Got it.”

Me: “OK, now for page A8…. oh, wait, nope, there’s nothing on A8. It’s good.”

Designer: “OK, I think there’s something missing now that I look at it.”

Me: “Um, I don’t see it.”

Designer: “It’s something big.”

Me: “I give up.”

Designer: “The vertical rule between the stories.”

Me: *mentally smacking forehead* “I see it now. Thanks for catching that. My brain’s not working tonight.”

So, having established to the designer that I was clearly lacking sleep, mental capacity or both, I went home sniffling.

A suppertime orange and cup of tea had held me together for part of the night, but by 11:30 p.m. I was good to be able to drive home, my head was so clouded. My nose felt like it had grown to twice its size and was taking over my ears. So I went straight to sleep… or tried.

12:30 a.m. My neck feels swollen. And my nose is severely clogged. Vix to the rescue!

2:55 a.m. Well, Vix didn’t quite rescue me. Time for the cold medicine.

That’s when I discovered that my box of daytime and nighttime cold medicine gel tablets had expired five months ago. I distinctly remember buying them. It couldn’t have been so long ago as that implies! Also, being slightly muddled by lack of sleep/sniffly sinuses, I decided to take the medicine anyway. And soon went almost-peacefully to sleep.

My sister the nurse assures me that though medicines typically lose their efficacy after the expiration date, the alcohol in the nighttime cold medicine likely did not.

It was past 8:30 when I woke up the first time this morning and was still quite tired. I woke up again around 11:15 a.m. and made myself some chicken noodle soup, then listened to a Tim Keller sermon. I didn’t get up for real until 2:30 p.m.

When I did get up, it was merely to loaf around the living room  trying not to overextend myself in my ill state. I don’t actually remember what I did. A good portion was spent talking to my sister on the phone, I think. Also Facebook. And finding more kleenex.

The sad thing was, it was Sunday and I couldn’t go to church for fear of infecting the general populace. So I’ve been holed up here in my living room for most of my waking hours. It has led to some rather funny Facebook commentary. Ironically, the comments strayed to discussing the order in which to blow your nose and wipe your eyes… but without any reference to my current physical state.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Compendium of Links #34

So I went back to figure out what number of the Compendia this should be… and realized I haven’t posted a Compendium since August. No wonder I’ve got like 50 tabs open. So here are a smattering:

I want to buy this computer. I think I really will.

The American Chesterton Society has virtual meetings!! And they’re on Mondays! I might have to participate one of these coming months… (Kudos to my sissy for the link!)

What kind of book reader are you? The Atlantic Wire will tell you. I think I’m a chronological reader:

You are the tortoise to the promiscuous reader's distracted-at-any-turn hare. You buy a book, you read it. You buy another, you read it. Perhaps you borrow a book at the library. You read it, and then you return it, and you get another, which you will read. You may not remember where you began, what the first book that kicked it all off was, and you likely have no idea where you'll end, but the point is, you will go through each book methodically and reasonably, until it is done. You might discard a book, but only if there is very good cause, and it will bring you a sense of deep unease, so you'll probably pick it back up and finish it anyway. You are very good at puzzles, and the most reliable of all your friends.

A friend of mine directed me to the blog How to Talk Evangelical. It’s fascinating: A writer unpacking some of the “Christianese” we tend to toss around so freely within the church. (Sometimes without quite understanding it.)

Forbes can tell you five signs an amateur is lying. (I don’t know what would give away a hardened liar.)

Amen to this: Let’s all find the courage to put away our cameras.

In our amazing era of digital immediacy, I can tell the world where I am and what I’m doing while I’m doing it. I can present myself as a busy man living a rich and full life. I can take pictures of my meals, log my locations, snap photos of the people I’m with, and weigh in on what’s happening around the globe 140 characters at a time. But none of these things mean I’ve been paying attention.

This church welcome message is worth duplicating.

How to pick your vacation reading: An infographic, via a friend of mine.

Via my old editor: A bunch of journal pages expressly designed to prompt writing (and they’re free).

A writer I respect very much wrote this book review of “The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After,” so I went out and got the book from the library. And enjoyed it very much!

Elizabeth Kantor has taken the trouble to think through a serious answer—to wit, Jane Austen “is the cure” for our modern disillusionment about happiness in marriage. Specifically, what keeps us coming back for more is the dignity, elegance, and sheer competence of the Austen heroine’s pursuit of happy love.

And for your video pleasure: A clever public service announcement.

You know I’m a good stalker, right?…. *evil grin*

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Time machine 1812: Dancing in the lantern-light

If you’ve met me in person, you know how much I hate the cold.

I like socks. I love coats. I adore blankets, gloves and hats. I’m best friends with my scarf. But surrounded by all these bosom buddies, I’m still a pitiful mess if subjected to temperatures below about 58 degrees.

So what do I do when it’s cold outside at a reenactment? Well, my usual go-to solutions are out. (They’re all made of non-period-correct materials in non-period-correct patterns using non-period-correct machine stitching.) So I wear an old wool tablecloth that doubles nicely as a wrap/shawl thing. It’s adequate, but not ideal, to be sure.

So at the reenactment’s evening dance, I was happy to be someplace – at last! – where the heat was trapped enough to provide about 68  degrees of temperature.

And then the dancing began. I was supremely happy to be almost sweating.

So you know how guys are always reluctant to get up and ask a girl to dance? Apparently that transcends time. But one of my cousins did decide he’d ask… me. OK, maybe not the most intimidating of tasks, but he’s an introvert! We’ll work him up to asking non-relatives eventually.

We danced these circle dances first. that just means each couple is part of a circle, somehow, and through an inexplicable series of steps makes its way around the circle and back to the beginning position… or close to it. That is, if the inexplicable steps are made halfway intelligible by the “caller,” or the person up front who’s telling you what to do.

Then there were square dances. You’ve probably watched square dancing at a county fair, or at least seen YouTube videos of it. If not, go watch some square dancing. Like this:

This is what nerds consider fun.

So, lots of that happened, too. I participated in much of the dancing, but as always, gals outnumbered the guys, so some of the time I was a “guy” myself for a little girl accompanying my reenacting family.

Hey, at least I wasn’t getting hit on by 15-year-old reenactors. My poor cousin must’ve looked at least three years younger than she really is.

My newly-made red dress positively glowed in the dim lantern-light, an effect I was highly pleased with.

The final dance of the night was the “broom dance.” At first I declined to participate, since I had no partner, but another acquaintance urged me to get on up there, and so I did. Only then did I learn exactly how a broom dance worked.

There’s no YouTube video to assist me here, so simply imagine a long line of women on one side of an aisle, and on the other side a line of men; everyone is facing the front of the room, as if they were lined up to march two-by-two out of Noah’s Ark.

Except, where the ark’s door would be, there are three hay bales. The head of the men’s line takes the middle seat, and then the first two ladies sit on either side.

A broom magically appears in the man’s hand. (OK, so he was given it before he sat down. Whatever.) He’s supposed to hand it to whichever lady he doesn’t care to dance with, while then taking the other lady’s hand and promenading down the aisle until they each reach the end of their respective lines.

The poor lady stuck with the broom moves to the middle seat – and to make amends for her rejection, she’s given the privilege of choosing which of two men she’ll promenade down the aisle with. The two heads of the men’s line sit on either side, and just as the first man handed her the broom, so she must hand another the broom before promenading down. Then that poor man gets the same recompense.

And so it goes until everyone is tired, laughing and full of cheer. (They saw a little girl toss the broom to the next woman in line, choosing a third option: Go down the line with both. The two boys she went down with actually picked her up and ran down the aisle carrying her. I think she ended up a little frightened.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is my favorite holiday. It’s all the family togetherness and gratefulness to God without all the stress of Christmas.

This year, I’m mainly thankful for my family and my best friends from college. I could have the best job and the most awesome possessions, but none of it would mean anything without them; but with them, I could be working at a school supply warehouse all my life and living out of a basement and still be happy!

But I’m also thankful for:

Peanut butter fudge

Sweet potatoes

Texting

Christmas lights

Guitar music

Gloves

Car wax

Socks

Back pillows

Laptops

The internet

Sewing machines

Glasses

Card games

Facebook (never thought you’d see that on my thankful list, did ya?)

…and lots of other trivial things. But I digress.

Since the Thanksgiving holiday has officially come, I allowed myself the inaugural Christmas gesture: I put up my Christmas tree this morning before going to work!

DSCF2888

It’s a Goodwill find, and it’s all intact and it even came with that tinsel hidden in the box. (The same day, I found the lovely angel tree topper you see in the photograph.)

At night, it shines through my Christmas-tree windows looking like this:

DSCF2889

Isn’t it so pwetty? Smile

See, I didn’t want to do so any earlier because I hate the Christmas creep overtaking my favorite holiday. But at the same time… well, I bought this tree like three weeks ago. I really was kinda eager to get it out and dress it all up!

And I couldn’t wait for Saturday  morning. Oh, no. That would have taxed my patience to the uttermost.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

I went to Washington: U.S. History Museum

Back when I was mulling my art gallery choices – the modern art gallery or the portrait gallery – the hotel concierge had confirmed my inkling that the modern art gallery charged admission, but entrance to the National Portrait Gallery was free, as it was a portion of the Smithsonian. Or, I had already paid for it, he clarified, by being an American.

Well, if tax dollars are going to support part of the Smithsonian, they must’ve paid for some high-end museum planners, because the exhibits were enthralling.

Of course, I went in and saw The Flag – you know, the one that flew over Fort McHenry as the British bombarded it, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the ballad that would become our national anthem. At least, I like to think of it as a ballad. It tells a story, if you’d only learn the rest of the verses.

I also saw a Stradivarius violin and Abraham Lincoln’s pocketwatch. And Howdy Doody.

And here’s where I began to think that historical narratives would be so much more interesting if kids could hear them for the first time in a place like this, surrounded not by six-inch-square pictures of objects, but the objects themselves in all their 3-D glory, that so-and-so used or that permitted such-and-such to come about. A reenactment is about as good as it gets outside the Beltway, unless you’re lucky enough to live near a quality local museum. (The Ohio Historical Society was good, and so was a museum in, I think, Canton, Ohio – where I remember strolling down a recreated Main Street in awe.)

The transportation exhibit in the American History Museum was my favorite, by the way. There’s just something about trains, cars, planes and the like that fascinates me.

Just before leaving that museum, I ventured down into the “Stars and Stripes Café” for a late lunch. Yeah, it was overpriced, but so is everything in the touristy part of town (unless you’re lucky enough to find a Subway). But the food I got was pretty decent, and not something I’d make at home: a tamale, a Mexican food wrapped in plantain leaves and stuffed with starch and chicken. It’s traditional to eat them at Christmastime.

Time machine 1812: Chicken-kitties and rain

I’m such a nerd, I wanted to dress up like I was back in Jane Austen’s time.

Well,  maybe not for that precise reason. I wanted to participate in a reenactment, and conveniently, my cousins were planning on going to one they’ve done for the last five years that’s not too far from my new home. It was set in the War of 1812 time period – like much of Indiana history is – so I was tasked with sewing myself a period-correct dress, complete with all visible stitching done by hand.

So there I was, perched on a Windsor-style wooden chair in my bright red linen dress. (Side note: I hate empire-waist dresses, but I suffered through this one all weekend for the sake of faithfulness to the period fashions. Would I ever do something like that for modern fashions? Nope. Call me inconsistent.) My cousins were all around, likewise attired in an oh-so-obsolete manner. We had two chickens trapped in a period-correct, reed-woven chicken cage.

Then the kiddies came along and wanted to pet the chickens. Who pets chickens? They’re farm animals, not kitties.

chicken-kitty

(Let this be a warning to you. Beware what search terms you plug into Google Images.)

Eventually I got to handle the chickens to let passersby pet them. (Such city-dwellers. Some of the kids had never even seen a chicken up close.) And I narrated the history of these chickens. They were Mil Fleur breed chickens, a kind of Bantam, and the one was so docile (letting hundreds of people pet her without so much as a nip at a child’s finger) because this particular breed had been domesticated by the Romans, it’s thought. The longer a breed is domestic, the more docile it becomes.

I repeated that schpiel, oh, five hundred times for the astonished little passersby. They were so cute. Some of them were even afraid to touch the chicken. What, these are things you eat. It’s not going to eat you back.

Also, at one point I handed the chicken off to a cousin and pulled out a dulcimer. Then a guy came by with his family and hung back to listen. I think he may have been smitten.

But after the chicken, there was the rain. Just as the big river battle was set to begin, drops began sprinkling from the sky. So I and my little camera stuck it out through the drizzle in the shelter of a tree.

Without a spill please....

No, silly. That’s not me. I’m not a guy.

After the river battle, it was still raining. But I had not seen the epic Great Field Battle reenactment, occurring at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. Or some times like that. It was multiple times a day, so how I’d missed it all the rest of the day I’m not sure.

One of my cousins – armed with his nifty DSLR camera – and I walked across the reenactment site to the battlefield. It wasn’t a short walk, either, and rain kept falling.

By the time we got to the battlefield, my wool-tablecloth-cum-shawl was rather wet, but I was still relatively dry. (My feet, however, may not have been.) We found a spot pretty close, about 20 feet from one of the cannon, and kept our cameras as dry as possible while still capturing the excitement.

DSCF2837

FIRE!

All hope for my hair was gone after that battle, but my camera still worked.

Making our way past the port-a-pots to our campsite – at least we didn’t have period-correct outhouses – we debated the relative merits of going shopping a bit in the rain, or finding shelter in the tent. We opted for the tent. And then we pulled out a pair of tinwhistles to play period-correct music!

In fact, we did venture out into the rain for a shopping excursion later, just before all the merchants closed. I was very wet, but I got lots of ideas for next year.

(Yes, already planning for next year….)

More to come: The ball! Dancing! Music! Not having to wrap myself in wool to stay warm!

Life on my own #33: Live blogging the apartment

Two or three guys enter the hall to the upstairs apartment. I, the innocent little downstairs-dweller, am sitting here. This is what I hear through the thin wall.

“That smells like poop.”

Some rustling.

Mumble, mumble, mumble.

Keys unlock the upstairs door.

Sniff, grunt, mumble.

(What, are they drunk or something? It’s too early.)

“Yeah, that’s what Brian’s like…” and some strange groaning.

Laughter.

Dragging some sort of tarp-sounding thing upstairs.

A chime or something.

Singing. Yes, singing.

More speech I can’t make out.

A large burp.

Whistling. And it’s not me.

Talking.

“Huh?”

No response.

“What? Where’d he go? There it is.”

“Yep, it’s still there.”

More tarp rustling.

Mumbling.

“No they’re not.”

Mumbling.

“Huh?”

More mumbling. These guys have communication problems.

I think I hear a TV or something.

Singing…

Speech.

“Whoa, juice!” (Well, that’s what it sounded like.)

----------------------

No joke. I really did hear that in the last three minutes. I’m not making any of it up. (And yes, these are the same guys who watch Friends a lot.)

Not only that, one of them started singing “Dust in the Wind.”

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I went to Washington: The Cathedral

Riding a bus is different from riding the subway in just one way: You can see things out of the windows.

The Washington buses, anyhow, differed in very little else. You use the plastic credit-card-looking SmartCard to pay your fare, same as the subways, and you sit in seats that are surprisingly clean and comfy. My entire experience with public transportation came in New York, New York, and San José, Costa Rica, so it would have taken very little cleanness (or comfiness) to surprise me.

Oh, and you pull the little rope to tell the driver to stop. Otherwise he might not let you off where you want to go. The subway just stops everywhere.

My first experience with a municipal bus system this side of the Río Grande came early Sunday morning, when I went to the National Cathedral. No direct route existed via subway, so with a little nervousness I took a subway to the nearest stop for the bus route that would take me direct to the Cathedral’s gate.

The Washington metro website has this handy-dandy trip planner that lets you plug in a destination and arrival time and will suggest various routes to get you there (and maybe early). Armed with that information, plus some general tips for noobs to the Washington bus system, I left my third-floor guest bedroom and headed for the subway, and ultimately a bus stop.

It was only a few minutes after I got to the bus stop that the big blue-and-white bus rumbled itself to a stop next to me, stooping to allow me and my bus-stop companions, all of whom spoke Spanish, inside its warm, dry self.

The next 20 minutes, give or take a few, drew cross-street after cross-street across my field of vision. They were filled mainly with ethnic convenience stores and residential neighborhoods. I could tell I was close when I started seeing the tips of some Gothic edifice above the trees and houses nearer my street.

Offloading myself at my destined stop (according to the metro’s website directions), I walked a few paces, around puddles formed from the morning’s perpetual drizzle, until mounting the steps of this gigantic Episcopal church where a 10 a.m. service would be held in its St. Joseph Chapel – the crypt. No joke.

The crypt chapel was beautiful in its own right, but served only to highlight the superlative beauty of the sanctuary, through which I passed going to and from the 10 a.m. service. I was just able to catch the cathedral’s choir filling the sanctuary with music, from the back, at the beginning of the 11 a.m. service in the main spot (as I was on my way out from the 10 a.m. one downstairs). Heavenly.

I’m not entirely sure I grasp the meaning of “beatified,” but I think it applies to the feeling I have seeing really splendid architecture. And this was indeed splendorous. I probably got more Christian encouragement from the buttresses and stained glass than I did from the interactive sermon.

I went to Washington: The Newseum

It appears to be a cardinal rule among journalists that if you visit Washington, your primary side trip must be to the Newseum.

Thanks to a generous fellow conference-goer, I did make that side trip, and without paying the $23 (including tax) for the two-day entrance ticket.

I spent approximately two hours there, which was definitely not enough to absorb the entirety of the exhibits. But I got to see some pretty nifty stuff. (The Sheldon T-shirt was in the gift shop… I couldn’t resist.)

The Berlin Wall exhibit impressed me the most – mainly because that Wall came down just as my generation was being born. I got to touch a small segment of the wall. (Don’t worry, the placard next to that brick said Please Touch.) The 9/11 and Holocaust exhibits were also moving, but in a different manner; they were memorials, while the Wall exhibit felt imbued with more hope. It was the end of the Communist era in the West; we still live in the terrorist era, a time filled with the same single-minded devotion to a wrong cause that spurred Europe’s ethnic cleansers.

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Next stop after the Newseum was a meandering trek down the National Mall to see the Washington Monument and look from there down to the Lincoln Memorial. I’d never seen the Mall with leaves on the trees, not in person anyway.

I made it back to a subway station by way of the White House and a large gift shop, where I bought a T-shirt depicting the familiar map of Washington’s subway lines, in full color. (Such a “me” shirt! I couldn’t believe I’d found the perfect recuerdo!)

Is sightseeing alone as fun for everybody as I found it to be? I don’t know. But it sure was convenient, except that I’d love to have had my sister along to narrate the funny historical anecdotes only she would have recalled as we passed landmark after famous landmark.