27 July 2006

I'm in the frickin White House, man!

I was able to go to the White House today and watch the Press Conference with Tony Snow. He is a handsome man.

We went in through the West Gate, on the corner of 17th and Pennsylvania and were able to walk around the driveway to the Press room. Entering the room, the podium is on your right, the seats right in front of you, and the cameras to the left. My impression of the room from TV (televised press conferences, movies, West Wing) was that it was very big. It is not. In fact, it's quite cozy.

We headed to the back of the room, where the tv cameras are, and went downstairs. Here are the offices where the newspaper writers write and the radio reporters report. These offices are very very small. The C-SPAN office is the size of a bath tub. The AP office is the size of your average office cubicle, but four reporters have to use it. Fox Radio has an office big enough for a chair and a desk just big enough for a computer. The radio gear itself is shelved/stacked high along the walls. Each newspaper there has a desk just big enough for their computers. Amazing.

We took seats in the back. The seats in the last row, all of them broken in some way, are for guests. In come all the regulars – Helen Thomas was the highlight, of course, but so was the other AP guy Thomas Mann, I think his name was. Lot of folks you see on TV. Pretty cool.

I wanted to go eat at the White House Mess (hall), but didn't want to get introuble, or C-SPAN in trouble and dash any hopes of a return trip, no matter how unlikely. What a trip, though, to be in the White House.

I had many, many moments where I was thinking, "I'm in the frickin White House, man!" Or, "I'm on the driveway of the frickin White House, man!" Or, "That's one of the door-opening Marines. Of the frickin White House, man!"

24 July 2006

sold! to the gentleman from Sayville

I sold Persuasion. JMcG came out and took a look at the boat on Sunday and to my great surprise, after a little bit of a look around and walkabout, bought it. I am very happy for him. He got a great little boat that will serve him, and his family, very well. He and I are going to go out sailing in the beginning of August, just to give him a little more info about the process of sailing on Persuasion.

I was surprised because I expect all buyers to be hesitant to actually fork over the cash. And sometimes the idea of buying a boat is better than actually buying a boat. I guess that could be true of any large item.

The sale is bittersweet - I have had so many good times on Persuasion, so of course I am sad to see it go. On the other hand I am excited for my new life, and series of projects, on/with Redwing.

21 July 2006

DC's National Portrait Gallery response

I want to live in a Albert Pinkham Ryder painting.

Like the Hudson River School painters, who I like the most, especially the ones at the NY Historical Society, the Ryder paintings seem to capture the mood of real nature the best. The viewer is in the weather.

I also strongly recommend you read the short story All Gold Canyon by Jack London. A short story in my top three.

12. Sea Change by Peter Nichols

A short book about this guy who plans to sail from England to Maine.

He wants to sail to Maine because he has this old wooden boat to sell and the market in Maine is better than anywhere else for old wooden boats. He also goes for the adventure, and to conquer a bad experience he had on his first blue-water experience.

He is also escaping the melt down of his marriage. At the start of the book, say, in the first two chapters I found myself wanting to know more about why the marriage failed. Unfortunately we spend a lot of time in the rest of the book poring over details of his ex-wife's diaries (found in the boat during the trip).

I shouldn't complain too much, because ultimately I thought the book had some value as a crossing the ocean adventure and I learned a little bit more about trade winds and boat maintenance.

18 July 2006

11. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

A good little story about the Cultural Revolution. I'll admit that I know next to nothing about Chinese history. I have a little bit of stuff rattling around about the dynasties and the Revolution and establishment of Taiwan.

This story is about two young men who are relocated to a remote mountain village for re-education. As part of the Cultural Revolution city slickers were sent into the country to work alongside the peasants. The peasants decided how long the re-education would last, and in the case of the two main characters there is almost no hope that the re-education will end because each of the boys' parents are considered radicals.

Conditions on the mountain are harsh. Rains cause so much flooding that their little, drafty house is on stilts. Because they have been to the movies, and because of the natural story-telling gifts of Luo, the boys get special treatment (fewer work details and opportunities to go to the city to watch new movies).

During their travels they meet, and Luo falls in love with the Little Seamstress, the daughter of the tailor who works on the mountain. Luo teaches her how to read, and takes her to the movies in the city. Eventually she catches up with Luo's skills and wants to go to the city all the time. And she starts dressing a little more cosmopolitan (she can make her own clothes, you see).

Luo, who has to stay on the mountain, can only watch helplessly as she is pulled out of her old self.

Another section of the story deals with Four Eyes, a fellow city-slicker sent to the mountain who smuggles in a suitcase full of books. In exchange for some help, Four Eyes lends Luo a copy of Balzac. Luo uses the novel his story-telling and wooing of the Little Seamstress.

To say anymore would be to reveal too much. This is a short book, and the story is well told, in a spare style that leaves us as isolated as the two protagonists.

17 July 2006

so far so good

So I have been down here in our nation's capitol for a whole week and I am loving every minute of it. I haven't had many more star sightings, but I have seen some very cool sites.

First, a description of what I have been doing. For the past week we have been working on the CSPAN website, working on creating a list of keywords, working on putting some more videos onto the CSPAN Classroom website. We also had a reunion of most of the former Fellows. That proved to be fun and valuable. A lot of smart, motivated people and it was quite refreshing. I had partly dreaded it as another run of boring meetings. Not so.

Second, I have done some serious sight-seeing. After a grueling bike ride (hills, humidity, I'm a wuss) I spent the day visitng some museums. The first stop was the Holocaust Memorial. That was chilling, gripping, and sobering. It was packed. Next was the Smithsonian American History Museum. I went here mostly to see the Foucault's Pendulum only to find out it has't been here for ten years. I had an old guide book. But I did see the flag that flew over Ft William Henry, that FS Key wrote the poem for. (When I was in the Navy I was stationed on the Francis Scott Key (SSBN 657).)

On Sunday I went to the Native American Museum, probably the best museum I have been to. I spent six hours there after vowing no more than three. Next was the National Archives where I saw the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Billof Rights. There was plenty more there, but those, obviously where the highlights.

I felt like I was seeing some ancient artifact, I mean, I have large parts of all three documents memorized, so why would I feel compelled to go see the real, actual copies? It didn't make any rational sense to me at any part of the visit, but I am glad tohave done it. Another interesting thing about the visit was the people who I was in line with, both in front and behind me parents were making their kids look at the documents (and in some cases reading to them) and telling them how they would be studying these in school. I had two reactions. First that teachers have an extraordinary responsibility to teach citizenship and civics, and that parents, or at least these parents (and in my experience, most parents) are abdicating, or giving over a shared responsibility to the Social Studies/Civics teachers. And not even many teachers, but the 7th and 11th grade teachers who, in NY, are tasked with teaching US history.

Anyway. Washington is great. People keep bracing me for disappointment, knowing I am from NYC, that DC isn't going to be so great. So far I am fully loving it.

12 July 2006

DC, baby. Lovin' it.

After less than a week in DC I am absolutely loving the city.

I am here working with CSPAN, working in/with their education department. The other Fellows and I are creating the clip of the week for the CSPAN Classroom website, and we are working on some other web projects, combining the video of the Congress and the education programs. So far so good.

There are many differences between living in NYC and living in DC, and I may get to listing them later when I have more experience here in DC. But one cool thing, so far, is that there are many star sightings for a political junkie like me. For example, on the first day of work, at Monday's lunch I crossed paths with the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa and his retinue (and Secret Service folks). He was coming in to talk on either CSPAN or MSNBC (we are in the same building). Later that day, as my fellow Fellow and I were leaving work, she yelled across the lobby, "Hello Charles." Turns out she knows conservative writer Charles Krauthammer.

Yesterday at happy hour, Howard Dean walked by. This morning, I met Ben Cohen from Ben and Jerry's. Right after that I met Brian Lamb, the CEO and brain behind CSPAN – he started CSPAN, and controls its direction.

The work day is long enough to prevent much museum-hopping, but I am going to hit some up this weekend, starting with the Smithsonian.

I also brought my bike and will be having some bike rides this weekend.