Observations from my two-week vacation just concluded:

  • Squirrels like to be photographed; they will (within reason) stand still for a few seconds. Chipmunks, on the other hand, are very camera-shy.
  • In front of the main building of the Library of Congress stand two very tall flagpoles, rising from three-foot tall marble pedestals. On each of the three days that I went past them, they were bereft of flags.

    I went in the first day, having a subject to research that no regular library would be able to help me with. Before enjoying the privilege of using the facilities of our national library, a person must register. I stood in the anteroom for about five minutes before wimping out.
  • When taking the D.C. Metro subway, it is best to stand at the extreme end of the platform and get into the end car. Everyone else stands in the middle (near the escalator) and gets in the interior cars, but unlike many other systems, people are not allowed to move from one car to another once aboard the train.
  • In these days of supposedly higher consciousness regarding security, many people in the D.C. area wear an ID tag on a canvas necklace. They wear them even while jogging during lunchtime. The necklace is usually embroidered with the name of the agency they work for (e.g., FEMA or DOL Ofc of Insp Gen). One person I saw had USA on his; either he worked for the entire country, or just enjoyed wearing his ID card on a canvas necklace.
  • The last time I was in D.C., I noticed that the United States Postal Service has its own police force. This time, I saw that even the FBI has one.
  • The street closure in front of the White House (initiated by President Clinton) looks really stupid. It applies only to vehicular traffic; pedestrians can still walk the street, and it wouldn't be tremendously difficult to carry a rocket launcher up to the fence. I don't think the couple of Park Police (I think) standing there would prevent a determined attacker.
  • The Ellipse, a large lawn between the White House and the Washington Monument, is presumably elliptical, but from ground level appears circular.
  • Speaking of the Washington Monument, the new circle of concrete barriers outside the old circle of U.S. flags, also looks stupid and not totally effective.
  • Acorns make a tremendous racket when falling through the boughs and foliage of an oak tree, much more so than I would have thought. And a big ol' plunk if they land in water.
  • Edward has a beautiful telephone voice!
  • The DC Statehood Green Party wants people to vote yes on the question of statehood on the ballot next month. Of course, even if passed unanimously, it will have no effect, particularly not the effect of transforming Washington, D.C. into the 51st state. I presume the backers know this.
  • There are signs on traffic lights in Arlington, VA which caution drivers that there is a US$100 fine for not yielding to a pedestrian in the crosswalk. No mention is made of any manslaughter charge, though.
  • My brother and his wife recently adopted two children from an orphanage in Bolivia. Little did they know that there was a much closer one -- Bolivia, NC.
  • There is a driver on the Metro that pronounces "Potomac" with a short o. I've never heard that before. The station agent looked at me like I was crazy when I asked him how it's pronounced.
  • Watching the squirrels cavort on the lawn around the US Capitol building, I found myself wondering if they look down on their cousins the country squirrel, and even other city squirrels.
  • Charleston: When they say It's not the heat, it's the humidity, boy, they ain't kidding
  • The first building on the Mall as you leave the Capitol is the U.S. Botanic Garden. It recently re-opened after a four-year renovation. According to the tour guide that I passed, it is open 365 days a year (yes, even Christmas). But one day every four years, it is closed. That is the day of a Presidential inauguration. That day, it is used as the headquarters for the security (and sniper) contingent.
  • Same as my last visit, the National Archives was not open to the public. Perhaps the reason our country has forgotten about our Constitution is that we're not allowed to see it.
  • Nothing grows in the dirt around much of the perimeter of the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Ten blocks up Pennsylvania Ave. from the Capitol, in what I believe is a predominantly black neighborhood, is a business advertising hair braiding. There were various styles to choose from, at prices ranging from US$200 to 300. This seemed very expensive. A few blocks away, I asked a woman if that's what people really pay. She said $50 was more reasonable.
  • The traffic lights in Charleston, SC have a very weird feature. When the red (stop) light is on, a thin, bright white, horizonal light right in the middle of it strobes about once a second. Epileptics beware.
  • When entering Dulles airport, one finds oneself in a building basically just holding ticket counters. Every few minutes, the same announcements are made over the public address system, in English and Spanish. To get to your plane, you need to take a bus to the actual terminal building. There, they play the same announcements, but only in English.
  • I noticed on three different occasions a high correlation between diplomatic license plates and very bad driving. This on the same day that Governor Gray Davis of California vetoed a bill to allow illegal aliens to get driver's licenses.
  • There are two simple rules in a soccer (sorry, rest of the world – football) league made of up 5- and 6-year olds:
    1. Kind words
    2. Have fun
  • Mitzi and husband TonyStark are very hospitable. In fact, she told me she was "jonesing for noders".
  • There is a sign at the George Washington Memorial Masonic Temple in Virginia prohibiting running, jogging, and exercising. This seemed odd and out of place. There is no such sign at the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., and people do in fact run right through the monument grounds in their shorts and sweaty T-shirts. The disrespect is heavy in the air.