Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Reading, a little.

You might think that because I'm retired now, I would have a lot of time to read these days.  Somehow the days go by and although I'm busy around the house, I haven't made much time to read.  I blame it on two things this past year; my double hernia surgery last summer which took me longer to fully from, and the shock of November 9th when it became fully apparent that the Russians had pulled off a stunning coup and our world had changed for the rest of our lives.  I read fourteen books, however, and discarding the two short, sketched-in-outline-of-the-conflict on WWI and WWII by the same cruising historian, here are the best half dozen in descending order, roughly.

Oswald's Tale by Norman Mailer.  Mailer was a great writer and this book was every bit as good as his Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Executioner's Song.  This book on Lee Harvey Oswald, a still-mysterious figure that, perhaps lone wolf style, changed US history forever with his assassination of President Kennedy.  (Think Vietnam, the Great Society, RMN, Watergate).  The book details Oswald's dreary and closely monitored (by the Russkies) time in the Soviet Union after he defected, and when he came back married to perhaps a KGB operative.  In short order this secretive, querulous lazy-bones drifter committed the most improbable crime of century.  It was an interesting book, Mailer came to no conclusion as to whether Oswald acted alone, he said--Maybe.  Mailer did, however, convince me in seven pages at the end of this tome that Jack Ruby probably acted on behalf of the mob to rub out Oswald.

Silas Mariner by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans).  This short novel about a reclusive gold-hearted tailor is classic literature and tugs at your heart as all comes out right in the end.  It's depressing to think that in the nineteenth century women authors had to write under male names to get their books published, reviewed seriously and read.

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller.  This classic play introduced Willie Lomax to American lexicon, a prototypical loser, destroyed at the end, and full of closely guarded secrets as are several of his family members also.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  My reading of Victorian novels by female authors continues, they are all worthwhile and I wasn't exposed to them in my educational upbringing at an all-boys high school.  I read Dickens and my sisters read Bronte.  I loved Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (published under the pseudonym Ellis Bell) , which I read in 2015, and this was a good book too, especially the first half.  The incredible, improbable plot-driven coincidences piled up too high by the end for me to think this book is superior to her sister's stunning novel but it did give us the notion of the crazy relative in the attic.  Watch the 1943 movie starring Orson Wells and read the book and you'll be richly rewarded.

True Grit by Charles Portis.  A little known western novel that is totally engrossing.  Most people are familiar with the two cinematic adaptations, starring John Wayne or Jeff Bridges, both interesting in their own right, but this book will absorb you and is full of homilies and life truisms.

Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte.  The least known of the Bronte sisters' novels, interesting and convoluted.  From hard beginnings, this governess persevered and prospered because of the wholeness of her staid character.  Is there a common theme running through the Bronte novels, do you suppose?  I just wish Emily had lived past age 30 and written at least a second novel.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Visitors

Visitors came to town over the weekend to attend a wedding last Saturday, and I spent an enjoyable few hours on Sunday wandering on the Mall with my nephew John while his girlfriend, Gudrun, went to a brunch with the happy couple after she had met me at a restaurant.  It's been rumored to me that I'll be seeing these two again next summer in Chicago.  (In from Chicago.)

Me and John took a Lyft cab (are they called cabs?) to the eastern end of the Mall so I could show him the Library of Congress with its underground tunnel to the Visitor Center at the Capitol.  That was the first time I ever took a Lyft, or an Uber (is that how you term it?), so progress is being made on my part as I claw my way into the 21st century.  (Garfield statue at the base of Capital Hill.)


Since it was Sunday, both buildings were closed, so we ambled down Capital Hill to the National Museum of Art.  There my visitor showed me something that I didn't know was there, the 15 foot blue rooster on its roof.  Cool!  (But is it art?)

I know art when I see it.  We saw Monets, Van Goghs and beautiful statues in there.  (Walkin' the dog.)

We walked through my favorite little garden on the Mall, which I call the Pocket Park but is actually the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, which had Allium 'Pinball Wizard' Flowering Onions in bloom.  I love these globular flowers that appear for only a fortnight each year.  (It's a Pinball Wizard, got such supple wrists.)

From there we walked through the nearby Enid A. Haupt Garden, which I know as Katie's Park.  I used to run through there with a friend named Katie, who subsequently moved away, whose favorite route to the Mall was through there, just like my favorite route to the Mall is through the Pocket Park.  The entrance to the African Museum is off Katie's Park and we toured the museum, filled with beautiful nailless woodwork and carved ivory, a mostly subterranean venue I had never been in before.  (A fifteenth century hunting horn.)

We walked from there past the Washington Monument, viewing the kites flying overhead there and ended up at the World War II memorial.  John noticed my favorite part of of that monument, the "Kilroy Was Here" :> graffiti.  I explained to John from whence the slogan came and why it was inscribed on that monument.  (Kite chasing kite.)

Then it was time to go and I started giving John detailed directions on how to return directly to his hotel so he could check out on time.  He stopped me, telling me it was a "generational" thing, but whenever he heard directions from anyone he zoned out and as soon as the directions were over, he just switched on his I-phone to its GPS app.  I smacked my head, saying "Duh."





Friday, May 5, 2017

The Silver Bullet and The Lone Ranger

Nate Silver at Five ThirtyEight has spoken--FBI Director James Comey gave us President Trump.  I don't think either side of the political aisle likes Comey, who roams the corridors of power in Washington unilaterally intervening whenever he sees problems that only he can discern, and then dispenses resolutions that sometimes fly directly in the face of long-established norms but no matter, he consults sagely before acting with--himself.

Neither side trusts this hifalutin Lone Ranger who wields greater independent power than the infamous J. Edgar Hoover did at the height of nearly four decades of criminal chicanery.

Comey destroyed our democratic process last October with his infamous "private" letter to Congressional leaders (Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz won the race to publicize it, within minutes) about initiating another (baseless) investigation into Hillary Clinton's missing e-mails rather than see (in his mind) the independence of the FBI "destroyed."  If finding those emails is so important, perhaps the president can ask his handler Putin for them.

Remember Rose Mary Woods and the missing 18 1/2-minutes?  We somehow survived that gap and we'll survive this one, and I also seriously doubt those missing emails would provide the scienter necessary to prosecute Hillary Clinton (I know, Lock Her Up!).  If there was criminal intent in those emails, the president's comrade would have already released them from his treasure-trove of hacked content.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-comey-letter-probably-cost-clinton-the-election/

#/:~/)  "Am I doing ok?  I'm president.  Hey, I'm president!  Can you believe it, right?"

Monday, April 24, 2017

Cherry Blossoms on Haines Point

I don't like running around Haines Point; it's too long and lonely and windy, and there are too many memories of hard ten-milers, half marathons and marathons there.  But it is beautiful when the cherry blossoms bloom.  (National Airport.)

This year was no different.  The blossoms were more full and hence more spectacular on Haines Point this year than around the Tidal Basin.  (Fort McNair.)

When I run at noon on the Mall with my friends, I park on Haines Point because parking is free for three hours, there's always parking available, and it's only 3/4 of a mile away from where I meet my friends, so that's my warmup.  I had plenty of opportunity this year to see the trees on Haines Point.  (The long, lonely road.)

Although the cherry blossoms in the District were impacted negatively this year because of the freakish winter weather, they still were a sight to see.  DC is a great place to run.  (The channel side.)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Cherry Blossom Run

Last month I got together with a couple of running buddies from my former workplace and we did a noontime Cherry Blossom run around the Tidal Basin to view the flowering trees at their full splendor.  It had been a rough year for the blooms as the weather had been unnaturally warm for so long in February and early March that they started to bloom early but then they got hit with a spell of extended freezing weather which threatened to knock them off of their bloom.

But, hardy souls, they came out anyway, although muted somewhat compared to other years.  Still, a spectacular show as usual.

Pink pinks, white whites, the colors were there, it's just that the petals were less robust than normal.  Usually the flowering blooms are so frothy and numerous that they form a floating circle six or eight feet wide of downed petals along the walls of the Tidal Basin sea wall, but this year that effect was way off.

But it was a display not to be missed, as usual.  I love running in DC with friends at any time.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Flower Library

There's a flower library on the Mall, over by the Tidal Basin, near the Washington Monument.  Every spring it bursts forth with tulips shortly after the cherry blossom bloom.

This year the library bloomed spectacularly, as usual.  My sometimes-noontime running group ran by it earlier this month.

My running buddy likes to seek out the different flower amidst a group of similar flowers.  She calls them outliers.

There's always something to go see on the Mall.  DC is a great running town.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Get it while you can, if you can

The greatest bargain for anyone 62 or older is a National Parks Pass allowing its recipient and a guest or guests into any National Park for free for life, for a one-time purchase price of $10.  For instance, purchase one at the C&O Canal Towpath parking lodgment for the Billy Goat Trail in MD and you will be able to pre-pay for the parking fee and individual entrance (both free thereafter) for the $10 card, which will save you money for that trip on the spot.

I received a card at my retirement party when I was retired from my agency last year after a quarter-center of service.  I value the card more highly than I do the small statue I received of the agency's distinctive statue outside its entrance, which I also like for memory's sake.

This card has a lot of utility.  Visit the second most spectacular site in the US that I have seen, Crater Lake in OR, for free.

Or visit the most spectacular site in the US that I have seen, the Grand Canyon, with the card.  But the price for the bargain is going up eight-fold soon, so act now if you are eligible.