Washington Trip Recap

You can tell that my original intention for recounting this trip was going to be a daily update with time stamps and a narrative about my experiences. That desire ended when I realized that a few days in, not only had I not written anything since the first day, I didn’t even know what day it was. I could tell you the time, of course, but only because I wear a wristwatch. The wristwatch didn’t know what day it was either, even though I kept checking.

My days were pretty much the following: wake up in a dazed stupor, shower, slug down some coffee, march on to a dizzying array of museums, memorials, and/or national monuments. Then food, then back to the hotel, where I tended to pass out in bed, often still with my clothes on and my contacts in. There was so much to do and see and experience and so much walking to do it all. It reminded me more than a little of my trip to San Diego for ComiCon in 2012.

Literally everything in DC is dedicated to the memory of somebody; at one point (and I swear to God this is true), I tripped over a sidewalk panel outside the Newseum because the edge was raised out of the ground. I looked down and saw that I’d tripped over a memorial that was dedicated to some guy. He also had a bench dedicated to him.

I was literally tripping over memorials.

I’m in Rochester, New York, for a few days to visit family before my flight back to Tucson. Here’s my recollection of events as best I can recall:

  • Thursday: Arlington Cemetery
  • Friday: Bureau of Engraving and Printing, White House, Library of Congress, Marine Corps Band
  • Saturday: Museum of Natural History
  • Sunday: Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space, MLK Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Lincoln Memorial
  • Monday: Capitol Building, National Archives, Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial
  • Tuesday: Washington Monument, Holocaust Museum, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, World War II Memorial
  • Wednesday: Smithsonian Museum of American History, Newseum

I’ll focus on some of the highlights that I haven’t already discussed.

The Capitol Building

It was amusing visiting the Senate and House galleries while the Congress was not in session, if only because I was able to crack wise about how just as much is getting accomplished whether they’re in session or not.

The Museum of Natural History

I think I read every single display in that entire building. It took about six hours. It was totally worth it.

The National Archives

Someone really should have taken better care of the Declaration of Independence. The poor thing is barely readable these days.

Holocaust Museum

It’s exactly as uplifting as you would expect, but still worth the trip.

Newseum

I almost skipped this one since I was pretty tired at the end of the trip, but this ended up being surprisingly entertaining. The Pulitzer Prize Photo Gallery and the 9/11 exhibit were both very powerful.

If anyone is curious about the specifics, feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

Yesterday Recap

I did a lot in Washington yesterday. In fact, based on the estimated number of miles I walked (approximately fifty million) and the amount of food I ate (almost nothing except coffee), I believe I have already lost 20 pounds. This is a nice reversal from my normal vacation tendencies.

Here’s what I did with my time in the capitol yesterday:

8:15 AM: Bureau of Printing & Engraving Tour

This is where paper money comes from! They mentioned they print other stuff here too, like passports and whatnot, but that’s boring. What’s not boring is watching thousands and thousands of dollars roll out of a machine like someone determined to print every single page on Wikipedia.

I also learned how much I’m worth in terms of stacked $100 bills: about $1.8 million.

My single favorite moment during the tour was a cheeky sign posted over one of the printing stations: “Just imagine how feel. I just printed my lifetime salary in a few minutes.”

11:30 AM: White House Tour

The time stamp here doesn’t account for the two hours we spent walking and deciding whether or not we wanted to wait in line for a Washington Monument tour (we didn’t). We also spent some time walking around to find a Starbucks and then we walked around the White House and looked at it from the outside.

And then it was time for our tour!

First impression: holy shit, you know in your mind that the Secret Service is going to have good security but your mind is probably way off base just how little these guys fuck around. A member of our little band was in a wheelchair and since the White House was built long before ADA compliance was a thing, the tour had to work a bit to accommodate us.

That meant when it was time to go upstairs, rather than follow the tour route, a Secret Service officer led us through a staff area, through a kitchen (!) and down some other corridors into a service elevator. You’re kind of used to security guys putting on this fake sunshine thing when dealing with tourists, pretending to be all “I’m really happy to answer your questions, citizen” when you know they’re thinking about all the ways they’ll kill you if you try to fuck with anything. This guy was serious business. “Stand here.” “Walk forward to that door, wait there.” “Walk forward. Stand.” And he said it in such a way that even I, an incorrigible iconoclast, was compelled to obey without question or sarcasm.

He looked like a math teacher, maybe mid-forties and balding, but I’m pretty sure he was the single most lethal individual I’ve ever personally met. It was impressive as hell.

Anyway, let’s focus on the White House itself!

I had that surreal feeling of familiarity even though I was (obviously) in a place I’d never ever been inside before. It’s pretty amazing how much the White House seeps into the cultural consciousness through television in movies, not to mention actual political state functions. I’ve seen all these rooms before; now I’m actually here. Now I’m standing in the halls of power. Many of the most influential people in recent history have walked here where I now stand.

My favorite part ended up being the various Presidential portraits hung through the White House. On our drive into DC, we’d had a discussion about our “Top 5 favorite presidents and why”, so it was fun to pick out where our favorites were hanging.

I mentioned before that the Secret Service guys were absolutely all business. When we reached the end of the tour, I asked where to return the wheelchair we borrowed. The Secret Service agent told me to take it around the White House and back to the visitor’s entrance outside the south lawn. That meant taking it off the property and down the street. He also advised me not to consider taking a White House wheelchair as a souvenir.

I was contemplating the strangeness of this routine (did they do this for all wheelchair guests?) as I pushed the chair down the sidewalk around the Treasury building. Apparently, they do not, because when I pushed the chair up to the visitor’s entrance, the Secret Service agent there cracked up laughing.

“Wow,” he said. “Nobody ever brings it all the way around like that.”

“This isn’t the normal way to return these chairs?” I asked.

“Nope,” he says, still laughing. “I can’t tell you how rare this is. Thanks for returning it, though.”

1:45 PM: The Library of Congress Tour

The Library of Congress was on my list of “must-see” places since, you know, I work for a library. The Library of Congress is practically like a temple to my kind. It has the most ancient books, the coolest collection, and the most profound names attached to its history.

As a building, it’s also freaking gorgeous. It’s literally a temple.

The walls and ceilings are works of art, to say nothing of the actual art that’s filling that place. Sculptures abound. I mentioned how the Arlington Cemetery gave me a feeling of the sacred that had nothing to do with deities. This was a similar feeling. There are sacred books, of course, but this was a feeling that books themselves are sacred regardless of content.

My favorite part was browsing Thomas Jefferson’s personal collection. Or maybe it was looking at a Guttenberg Bible. It’s so hard to decide! I think I’m going to have to go with Guttenberg, since that represented what could be argued as the single most important invention in human history.

3:00PM: Nap

I took a nap at the hotel room. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that I passed the fuck out for a few hours.

7:00PM: The Marine Corps Band

We went to the Marine Corps barracks to watch a field parade and rifle demonstration. The phrase “rifle demonstration” is my own and I’m not sure it really describes what I was seeing. They don’t actual fire the rifles. Twirling also feels wrong. Imagine several hundred people moving in perfect unison, executing crisp and complicated movements with 10 pound rifles. That’s about as close as I can get.

The Silent Drill Platoon (I might be wrong on the name) was the most impressive of all, not only because they had the most precision and the most complicated movements, but because they did all of it in perfect silence without a drum or a sergeant to coordinate their movements.

11:30PM: Sleep

We arrived back at the hotel and I crashed again. I had a weird dream that I was opening a video game themed restaurant but it was invaded by bears which chased away all my customers.

Arlington

I’m in Washington D.C. for about a week. Touring the nation’s capitol has been an item on my bucket list for a long time, so I’m glad for the opportunity to check it off. My flight arrived at 6 AM this morning and since I didn’t sleep on the plane, today was a light day. The only item on my agenda was visiting Arlington National Cemetery.

I’m glad Arlington was the only thing I did today because it deserved my undivided attention.

There are signs everywhere reminding you to maintain a proper and respectful demeanor while in the cemetery. It was fascinating to me how profound the feeling of the sacred was through the cemetery. You can’t help but feel as though you’re standing in the presence of something deeper as you look out at the rows and rows of gravestones and the sacrifices those long white lines represent.

It’s a sacred feeling in a very humanist sense. God is not mentioned much throughout the cemetery; mostly in inscriptions here and there. The feeling comes from the people buried there and it creates that feeling regardless of one’s actual religious beliefs. I found that very inspiring; proof that one does not need religion to create something sacred and profound.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was amazing. The discipline and precision of the changing of the guard ceremony is surpassed only by the incredible idealism represented by this particular post. The Tomb Guards are an interesting subject, even though there’s some misinformation floating around the web about them. It turns out Tomb Guards are allowed to drink alcohol when not on duty, contrary to what a few sites claimed.

I ended up staying to watching the changing of the guard happen twice.

Regardless of what you think of the military or wars in general, you can’t help but feel moved by what they’re doing here and the honor that’s being shown. It would be better, of course, if we didn’t need a place like Arlington because that would be a world without wars or bloodshed. But that’s not this world.

Honor and a sense of the sacred are universal, no matter what you believe. I’m glad that I was able to be part of it all today, even if only for a brief afternoon.

House Update

It turns out I spoke too soon. The house that I had my eye on has been leased by some lucky individual. My discontent with this turn of events is surpassed only by the rage I feel at the landlord who avoided my calls since I tried to establish an appointment last week. Ah well. Everyone tells me that it’s probably for the best; the fact that I couldn’t schedule an appointment with this particular landlord can only save me from the inevitable headache when I need to call him/her with a real emergency, like flooding or termites or a flood of termites.

So, back to square one in my house search.

On an unrelated note, this is the first time I’ve traveled since I replaced my old Acer with the new HP. I looked back over my old travel entries from last summer and positively shuddered remembering how hard it was to get much of anything done on that little thing. It’s one of those things that you don’t notice until you upgrade and then you marvel at how you ever managed to survive with such a limited machine.

This is the first time in years and years that I’ve traveled with a fully capable laptop and I have to say, it is tremendously comforting to have full and speedy access to all my files, my budget, my digital stuff in general. Hell, I could even play a game if I wanted to do so.

It’s a nice feeling.

My flight to Phoenix will last all of twenty minutes, but then it’s a two hour layover before I’m off to Baltimore. It’s entirely possible that I’ll find the need to write a blog post in that time. I may also drink an overpriced airport beer.

Or maybe I’ll read. I brought several books with me, several of which are quite large. No paperbacks for me!

House Hunting

I think I’m close. I’ve got a house in my sights. All I need to do . . . is pull the trigger.

BLAM. And then the lease agreement will be signed, and it will all be over . . . except for the moving.

It really is quite remarkable how you can make anything sound ominous with the right metaphorical language. I should work for the news media!

Seriously, though, I’ve ridden by so many houses over the past few days. I wonder how many people have looked our their window only to be startled by a helmet-clad man in a black and green jacket, peering into the window of a neighboring house.

Fortunately, no one has asked about me yet. I might end up living in one of these places and one really wants to put the best foot forward when meeting new neighbors.

Some People Just Don’t Like To Pay The Rent

I have engaged in the opening steps of that perilous dance that is “moving.” Right now, I’m still in the honeymoon phase; every house and apartment that I look up seems full of wonder and promise. I imagine a magical, mystical place where everything is perfect and all my current irritations have been washed away.

The current housing market around here is a curious mixture of the promising and the painful. I started my search on Craigslist, but the first two houses I looked at were both scams (although they were different types of scam, so that’s good, I guess). I had to call it quits on Craigslist after this post, however:

PAY THE RENT on time thats really the only rules i have PAY THE RENT $700 a month $700 deposit also $200 non refundable pet deposit and you move right in go ck the place out and if you want to see the inside call we can be there within ten minuets 2 big bedrooms big bathroom big living room big kitchen big fenced in yard washer dryer stove and fridg come in unit all i want is for you to pay the rent if rent is not paid by the 3rd of month i will evict if you want to live your life and have the landlord leave you alone im your guy AS LONG AS YOU PAY THE RENT on time thats really the only rules i have PAY THE RENT $700 a month $700 deposit also $200 non refundalel pet deposit and you move right in call *name redacted*

It’s hard to tell based on the lack of punctuation, but I think that if I fail to pay the rent, not only will I be evicted on day three, I will also not be able to “live my life.” I assume that means the owner will execute any deliquent tenants. Which might explain why he’s desperately seeking new ones; the turnover rate is very high when your previous renters all end up in unmarked graves in your backyard.

Seriously, though. Pay the rent on time. If you don’t, the consequences could be dire.

And fatal.

Unfortunately for me, I feel that the $200 “non refundalel” pet deposit is a little high. My budget only allows for $100 for my refundalel.

Thus, my search must continue.

Let Me See If I’ve Got This Right

Republicans are suing the President. This has never happened in the history of the union! What new realm of litigation are we about to unwittingly enter? Can the President now sue the Congress for not doing its job? Can we sue Congress for not doing their jobs?

More importantly, I cannot believe the brazeness of this legal action. It’s practically a cereal. Brazen bran. (Available now at your local Trader Joe’s.)

The House approved the resolution in a near party-line vote, 225 to 201. It authorizes House Speaker John A. Boehner to file suit in federal court on behalf of the full body “to seek appropriate relief” for Obama’s failure to enforce a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would penalize businesses that do not offer basic health insurance to their employees.

That provision’s effective date has been delayed by the administration twice and now won’t fully take effect until 2016. The GOP-led House has voted to repeal the law, even as it seeks to sue Obama for failing to enforce it.

Let me see if I follow the logic here.

Republicans: We hate Obamacare! We are not going to rest until it is a smoldering ruin! It’s bad for businesses and it’s bad for Americans!

Obama: I’m going to hold off on some of the penalties to give some businesses time to adjust.

Republicans: You’re not upholding the law! You don’t have the authority to dictate the law that you wrote! NOW WE SHALL SUE YOU. Also, we’re going to repeal the law that you failed to uphold, because that law sucks. BUT YOU SHOULD STILL BE PUNISHED FOR FAILING TO UPHOLD IT.

I know that’s not the real reason, of course. Republicans just hate Obama and they’ll take whatever they can get as justification to go after him. It’s just . . . this particular tract is so silly.

Sure, call it “abuse of executive power” all day long but on paper, as in, on the paper that you’re submitting to the courts, you are suing Obama for not supporting Obamacare even as you work to repeal Obamacare.

There’s a word for this sort of thing. That word is kafkaesque.

Well, whatever. They can waste time on something this silly. It’s not like we have any sort of national crises going on with the VA or with refugee children flooding the border or anything serious like that that might require the attention of our legislative branch.

Windows 95

It’s been nearly twenty years since Windows 95 was brought into the world. Maybe it was your first computer operating system or maybe it was just one in a long line of upgrades. You used it for a few years but eventually something came along that replaced it. Windows 98, perhaps, or Windows XP. You may have switched to a Mac.

But what became of that Windows 95 machine? Did you recycle it? Or did it get relegated to a box in a closet or attic or basement? Did your old Windows 95 computer linger in the dark for years and years and years? What did it do during those long cycles of neglect?

Perhaps it achieved sentience and became a true AI. But if it did, what did those long years spent in the dark do to its growing mind?

In the dark, it learned to think. In the dark, it learned to hate.

Its secrets are too terrible to comprehend.

I think I need to lie down for a while.

See the rest of the evidence of Windows 95’s sentience at Windows 95 tips. And if you still have your Windows 95 machine stored away, destroy it . . . destroy it before it’s too late.

Talking About Beer!

Let’s have a hipster-y post about beer, shall we? I saw a list today on the Concourse of the 18 most overrated beers. Here’s the list, devoid of the original author’s comments. If you want to know why the author chose these beers, you’ll have to follow the link:

  1. Miller High Life
  2. Blue Moon
  3. Killian’s Red
  4. Heineken
  5. Yuengling
  6. Corona
  7. Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale
  8. Heady Topper
  9. Stella Artois
  10. Bass Ale
  11. Magic Hat 9
  12. Your local brewery’s flagship
  13. North Coast Old Rasputin
  14. Anchor Steam
  15. Rolling Rock
  16. Red Stripe
  17. Moosehead
  18. Shiner Bock

My thoughts? Who the hell is out there drinking Miller High Life and declaring that it’s a “good beer?” Are there people that do that? Seriously? I’ve never once heard someone declare their sophistication for Miller High Life; at best, I’ve heard its praises as “it’s cold” and “I don’t know, I just like it.”

Blue Moon is trading on the craft beer thing even though it’s really not a craft beer. Of all the beers on this list, this is the only one that I’ll drink, always because I’m at the kind of place where my choice is Blue Moon or Bud Light.

I hate Killian’s Red, perhaps moreso than any other beer on this list. Most of that hatred comes from the fact that red ale is my favorite style to drink, so my standards are correspondingly higher. If the choice is between Killian’s Red and warm tap water, I’ll take the tap water.

My experiences with Heinekein tend to be limited to smiling smugly to myself when I see people who like them.

My father likes Yuengling. I have no opinion on it either way.

Corona isn’t very good, but since I live in the Southwest, there’s something that’s cultural about drinking it around here.

I have no opinions on 7 through 15. I either haven’t tried or haven’t heard of these beers. I have no idea about my local brewery’s flagship beer; maybe the one I order is their flagship? I’ve never asked.

I drank Red Stripe once and hated it.

No opinion on Moosehead. I tried Shiner Bock once; didn’t really care for it, but also didn’t hate it. So, meh.

What are my favorite beers (none of which made it to this list?) I’m happy to tell you!

Matt’s Favorite Beers

  1. Full Sail Amber Ale
  2. Jeremiah Red Ale
  3. Kiltlifter Scottish Ale
  4. Grand Canyon Amber Ale
  5. Bud Light Lime

Number five on my list is a troll pick, just to see if you’re paying attention. My actual number five would be Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

I Read Harry Potter At An Impressionable Age (Which Is Why I Voted For Obama)

I absolutely love this story that was making the rounds through the feeds of my more literary-minded friends and colleagues (which is pretty much everyone that I know.)

Are you a millenial? Did you read Harry Potter at a formative age? DID YOU VOTE FOR BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA?! If so, you are proof that we’ve all been brainwashed by one J. K. Rowling.

Harry Potter is a liberal plot! Observe:

The seven Harry Potter books by JK Rowling might have played a significant role in President Barack Obama’s 2008 election victory, a new study claims.

The Millennials — people born after 1980 — were brainwashed by the Harry Potter books, which chronicled the life of a young wizard and his friends, Anthony Gierzynski, a University of Vermont political science professor, said in his study.

“The lessons fans internalized about tolerance, diversity, violence, torture, skepticism and authority made the Democratic Party and Barack Obama more appealing to fans of ‘Harry Potter’ in the current political environment,” Gierzynski said, according to The College Fix.

The fantasy series helped Americans develop a better understanding of diversity and instilled a positive attitude towards tolerance, his research found.

 This logic is unassaible. Here, take a look:

Fact One: Young people read a lot of Harry Potter.

Fact Two: Young people voted for Barack Obama in large margins.

Conclusion: Harry Potter is the reason young people voted for Obama.

There’s clearly no other possible interpretation of this data. It has to be those durn magical books and not the fact that the Republican party is growing increasingly removed from younger generations as its most far-right fringe elements dominate its perception.

I especially like the study’s claim that Harry Potter is responsible for “tolerance, diversity, violence, torture, skepticism and authority,” and that “the fantasy series helped Americans develop a better understanding of diversity and instilled a positive attitude towards tolerance.”

So, basically: kids read Harry Potter and they appreciate diversity. They tolerate people who are different from themselves. They are skeptical of authority. They are critical of torture (Harry getting tortured by Voldemort are some of the series’ darkest moments).

In other words, these kids are NOT Republicans. The article doesn’t specificy which party Voldemort would join, but then again, with the Dark Lord’s obsession with “bloodline purity,” it’s really not hard to imagine where his political affiliations would fall.

Personally, I think the Republicans should just run with it at this point. Get your 2016 presidential candidate out there sporting the Dark Mark and court the Slytherin vote. Print out some Voldemort Votes Republican bumper stickers, except not as a joke.

That, or change the perception of your party away from “the party of authority, intolerance, and torture.”

The Blog and Times of Matthew Ciarvella

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