washingtondc

Try this again

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Whoo! Okay, let's try this again.

Go to airport. Check.

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Get chocolate milk shake I've been craving. Check.

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Buy snack items for the flight. Check.

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Wait forever in the airport. Check.

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See a Le Mutt in the airport. Be surprised. Check.

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Board the plane for takeoff. Check.

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Go go go! Check.

Fasten your seat belt

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On the way back to the airport, I noticed the hotel shuttle bus had this sign:

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We tried to comply, but had a moment of confusion. Something about a lack of seat belts:

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Kris went ahead and tried away, to my delight.

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Mom wanted pictures!

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Mom told me she wanted pictures of our trip to Ireland. Me. Taking pictures? Really? I mean, really really? I mean, will this be a problem?

Well, here's my first picture:

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Wow, it looks an awful lot like a view from a Washington DC Dulles Airport hotel window.

Oh wait, because IT IS.

Kris arrived nominally on time yesterday afternoon and wandered down to baggage claim for his bag, only to be Hobbes by me on his way to the carousel. We wandered back up to the ticket counter, checked in, wandered through security (where, OF COURSE, we were put in the slowest line where some incompetent TSA agent was "speeding things up" by micro-managing the process, causing 3 people to go through our line for every 20 in the next, unmanaged line - I wish I were kidding, I'm not, I counted), sauntered to the gate and waited.

The incoming flight arrived about two hours before our flight was supposed to take off, so the ground crew had plenty of time to clean out the plane, restock it, etc. Around 6:30, though, for a 7:45 flight, we were informed the maintenance crew was doing work on the plane, and our flight was delayed until 8:30.

It was later delayed again.

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And again.

And again.

And again.

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Around 11PM, I had just started complaining to Kris that the uninformed delays were seriously making me not want to take this flight. He asked why, and I explained. If you tell me what's going on with the repairs, I'm informed, and can feel comfortable in the fact that the flux capacitor needed to be charged to work at 88mph. If you just tell me, We're working on it, I'm uneasy. I don't know what you're doing. I don't know what repairs you're making. I don't know if you're replacing an engine or repairing a bullet hole, or what you're doing. I'm not going to be comfortable in the solution you provided because my imagination is much worse that what you can throw at me.

Kris commented that most of the engineering problems are well defined, and they don't really need to tell us what's happening. I retorted back quickly that, gee, the engineering problems had been well defined and solved in 1987 when the pilots turned off the wind-shear alarms, weren't they? They were well defined when the auto-pilot disengaged because it was unable to continue its severe controls correction in the adverse conditions.

Lots of problems are already solved, but clearly not the problem of effective communication.

Just as my tirade was winding down, we heard the announcement the flight was cancelled. The airline did take care of us, though, as hotel rooms were available for travelling customers.

We bypassed the massive crowds around the gate counter, split from the small crowd going to baggage claim, and went straight to the ticket counter where the hotel vouchers and instructions were being issued. Kris was a little hesitant to skip the baggage claim, but agreed when we walked away with our hotel voucher and saw the line was twenty couples deep.

I suspect we walked down to the baggage claim, grabbed our bags, caught a taxi, arrived at the hotel, checked into our room, and got jiggy with it before some of those people even received their hotel voucher.

Another one?

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Our plan this morning was to wake up early, throw on the closest walking-around clothes, and dash out to see the Great Mall. This is my first time in DC, right? Surely the Great Mall is worth spending a couple hours touring. Having spent some time yesterday walking down to the Lincoln Memorial, I wasn't overly motivated to wake up and GO GO GO!

So, when my phone rang around nine am this morning, I was a little confused at the ringing wake up call, since we hadn't called for one.

Imagine my surprise when Kris said hello. Kris. Kris, who was supposed to be on a plane flying towards me, I thought, as I looked at my watch and saw it was after 9 and his flight left at 8. "What are you doing? You're supposed to be on a plane right now!" I asked quickly.

"Time difference, it's only 6 here."

"Oh."

Decided to walk the Great Mall

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On my way back to the hotel, Jessica texted me that she was in a meeting, to take my time, so I decided to walk along the Great Mall. I wanted to see the Lincoln Memorial, more so than any other monument or statue in the area. Since there wasn't any reason not to go, I went.

I was quite entertained at the pickup game of ultimate happening on the Mall. I ended up setting a couple games, one was a lunchtimate game, of crappy quality and not enough people. The other was a high level game with subs, enough for another game, if they wanted to start another game.

As much as I wanted to join in the fun, I was there to walk the Mall, so I kept walking.

The sun cooperated with me with the Washington Monument.

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I felt the irony was lost on the Dubnium-sounds-like-a-dumb-president, who authorized the World War II monument.

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Yes, I was really there.

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Eventually I made it to the Lincoln Memorial. Although there were "Quiet please, be respectful" signs up all over the place, the place was loud. I went up the stairs, dodging small children and school aged kids as they darted in front of me playing on the stair, and walked into the Memorial. I had hoped it would be quiet. It wasn't.

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Didn't stop me from crying though. I was overwhelmed with emotion, and unable to do much more than step behind a column and wait until the moment passed. It did. I had a big red nose, and tears in my eyes.

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I guess that's the point of these Memorials, to help us remember those who are dedicated in these buildings, remember their actions, their work, their successes.

Talked to the guy next to me

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As I boarded the Metro this morning on my way to the Drupal Conference, I couldn't help but notice I was the only white person in the car I had boarded. I can't say I was pleased about this realization, but my displeasure was most likely not for the reasons you may think.

I was annoyed by this realization because I realized that as soon as I walked out of the train, up the escalator and into the convention center, I was going to move from a spot where 100 people were black and I was the only white person, to where 1000 people were white, and more than 90% of them male.

The contrast of the two locations was the source of my annoyance: the large difference between the "haves" and the "have nots," between those who grew up with technology for whom this tech stuff is second nature, and those who flinch when a petite white woman talks to them on a train (which is what happened when I talked to the large black man sitting next to me on the train yesterday).

I don't know how to address this annoyance, other than to comment about it, and continue to break the commuter taboo and talk to the people on the train.

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Coco Sala fail recovery

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As has become our daily ritual, a daily ritual of one day, I might add, Jessica and I met up at the hotel to head out for dinner somewhere in DC. Jess hasn't really explored the city yet, and, well, being my first time, neither had I. We hemmed and hawwed, trying to figure out where to go, with my suggesting the boring (do what we did last night), when she suggested CoCo Sala.

CoCo Sala is a restaurant bar with a chocolate theme. The Yelp reviews were all positive for the food, all with caveat that the noise in the place was, well, uncontrollable. The portions were listed as small, but I'd been overeating a lot on this trip so the smaller portions didn't really bother me, I stopped listening when Jessica said "chocolate."

So, off we went, on the Metro. Jessica stays at hotels close enough to her work that she doesn't need to take the Metro, so my back and forth jaunts to the conference made me the "experienced" one on the Metro. Off we went, to a new station, one that dumped everyone heading into downtown to see the Capitals play. Quite the adventure, I'm not sure how we surived with the mass throngs of Captials fans.

Once we arrived, I pulled out my camera and started taking pictures of the area.

"You look like a tourist," Jessica commented.

I embraced my touristism (much to Jessica's embarrassment, I think), inflicting it on Jessica.

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The restaurange was as advertised. LOUD. It was painfully loud.

Since it was so loud, when I sat down, I sat in the chair 90° from where Jessica was sitting in the booth, instead of opposite her. Knowing I don't do well in loud, sitting next to Jessica worked perfectly. We were able to talk over the loud noises, ooooohing and aaaaaahing over the various courses. The first course was AMAZING.

It went downhill from there.

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The next tastiness of the next courses weren't as great as the first course. The chocolate souffle had cayenne in it, which wasn't exactly tasty to me. The third course had maybe one tasty item in it.

The kicker came, however, when the hostess came up and asked me to move away from my seat. She wanted me to move 90° so that I was sitting opposite Jessica. That way, she could seat another person in the space I vacated, turned the opposite way, sitting at the table next to us.

Now, I hate being unreasonable. I dislike the ugly American. I can't stand when I'm high maintenance. In this case, however, I believe my anger was justified.

I went from enjoying the conversation in the difficult environment to sitting in front of not so good food, unable to hear Jessica talk, much less yell at me from across the table, so that someone else could be seated at the next table.

I could not wait to leave the restaurant. The dinner was spoiled.

Jessica was much more level headed about the dinner disruption. She talked to the manager. I didn't hear any of the conversation, unfortunately (see the part above about the noise level). He didn't seem to be agreeing with anything she said, by his body language, yet our bill had a hefty 50% discount on it. She must have been somewhat persuasive.

Exiting the restaurant was a walk into relief. I wouldn't have thought that street level noises would be pleasant, but after the noise of the restaurant, phew!

We took the Metro back, which was yet another first for both of us: riding the Metro after 9PM.

And, hey, look! We made it back in one piece! We rock!

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The subtleties of DC

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On the surface, Washington DC seems like every other metropolitan area: lots of buildings, lots of people, a reasonable public transit system, some culture, diverse ethic groups oddly segregated, lots of good restaurants.

The differences, however, are in the in the details, and ooo, boy, are they annoying.

Take the diffference between where bathroom orientations.

Here in D.C., perhaps all along the East Coast, I don't know, I haven't checked, the men's bathroom is on the right, and the women's is on the left.

Which is the COMPLETELY WRONG ORIENTATION.

Sure, the doors are marked with big Ms and big Ws. Doesn't help. I've walked into the men's bathroom not once but TWICE today alone.

The women's bathroom should be on the right and the men's on the left.

Everything here is automated, to my annoyance. As if touching a toliet handle, or soap dispenser, or water fountain is beneath the dignity of anyone who lives or visits Washington D.C.

As a result of this mis-configured automation, I've managed to flush the toliet an median of three times for every time my ass has actually touched the toliet seat. That median, however, does count as one all the times I leap off the seat to avoid being sprayed by the toliet that has decided to flush WHILE I'M STILL DOING MY BUSINESS.

The soap dispensers are fine, I can deal with them for the most part. I've finally figured out how to hold my hands when pulling them out of the automatically flowing water from the faucet, so that I don't manage ANOTHER spray of soap on my freshly rinsed hands (which of course, prompts ANOTHER rinsing - vicious cycle that).

The water fountain, oh, the water fountain! It turns on with sensors. Except that, if you don't know this, and push in on the sensors, which is the same as, oh, covering the two sensors and triggering the water. Unfortunately, it doesn't turn OFF until you walk backward away from the sensor by three feet.

I figured I had broken the damn thing.

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Good girl!

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So, I'm out in Washington DC this week for the first DrupalCon of 2009. Since Jessica travels to DC to work onsite sometimes, she arranged her schedule to be here the same week. That week involves work, though, so when she went off to work, I tried in vain to use the hotel wireless, then gave up and went to register for the conference, hoping to snag some conference center wireless.

Since the conference center is only a few Metro stops from the hotel, I decided to Metro over instead of taking a taxi or walking.

As I sat on the Metro, with my backpack in my lap, I flipped it over. On the back of my pack, woven in the mesh cover, was a stiff white hair.

ANNIE!

The little dog has sent a little piece of her with me so that I would be comfortable in a city three thousand miles away.

Good doggie!

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