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.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

So how exactly did you get this?

Here's something you might not know.  When you reach a certain age in your sixties, you can apply for a special smart card in the DC Metro system and ride at a greatly reduced rate forever, I suppose.  I didn't know anything about this program until a friend of mine who is older than me told me about it, describing it as a half-off card.

I inquired at the West Falls Church station, which I sometimes use, and the station manager confirmed the program and told me where the "commuter store" was where I could go to purchase the card, for $2, and informed me of the store's hours.  The next day I undertook a run of four miles to that store and bought the special card and loaded it to the max ($300).

I handed over my OL to the clerk in her fishbowl booth and said, "Check the age and you'll know what I want."  Without a word she smiled, glanced at my license and started filling out a form.  She said most people are ignorant of the program but still, she sells about half a dozen such cards a day.

The card is bright yellow, in contrast to the pale green and blue color of the regular metro smart cards.  I guess its distinctiveness shouts out to onlookers, Senior, Senior, as in old.  But who am I kidding, I don't need to flash the fare card for persons to realize that there are seats in the cars set out especially for me and my ilk.

Having run to the commuter store at the Ballston station on the flat W&OD Trail and hilly Custis Trail from the East Falls Church station because I didn't want to pay full fare to get there when I could ride for half-fare back, I entered the metro system for my return trip and carefully checked the posted fare.  $1.75.  Upon exiting the system one stop later, I was disappointed to see that my cost was $1.05, not $0.88.

I asked the station manager if he could explain something about my brand-new fare card to me and handed it to him.  I said that it should have provided me with a half-off fare, but that my fare was more than half of the normal fare.  He gave me the familiar dodge about higher than expected fares and said it depended upon the distance traveled and the time of day.

I said that it was a senior card which is supposed to provide for half-fares, not something higher.  He was quick on his feet and said it was a discount card, not a half-fare card.  It was apparent that neither of us really knew how the program actually works, so I'll have to monitor my fares for awhile or try find its particulars on-line, but his answer was acceptable to me.

And then, his face hardening and his voice rising authoritatively, he asked, "And just how did you come into possession of this card?"  He was staring at me and holding my card, and I looked at him in stunned disbelief.  Suddenly I burst into laughter and pointed knowingly at him.  His eyes twinkling, he handed my card back and gave me a slight chuck on my shoulder.  Friends for life.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


I spent a nice birthday earlier having lunch with a friend and then hiking along the C&O Canal Towpath.  It gave me an opportunity to practice with my new camera.

I have run through the little 8-page set-up guide that came with the Canon, so next I have to print off the 180 page manual and refer to it.  My friends say to just refer to it on line, but, well, it's not written that well and to refer to it and apply whatever it says to the camera, I have to have the instructions  open in front of me.

The camera has a 40X zoom which brings things incredibly close but it's tricky to use because it's hard to find the subject in the field as the initial blurriness of the focus clears, and then hold the camera steady enough to get a clear picture at that magnification.  The slightest tremor or most minor tremble throws off the field or blurs the picture, so I have to practice this feature.

But I am pleased with the new camera and it takes pictures with close detail and vivid colors.  I spent an enjoyable birthday.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The World War One run

Last week a friend and I did a noontime run on the Mall in commemoration of the 100th year anniversary of America's entrance into WWI on April 6, 1917.  We started by chatting up another friend of mine outside my former workplace, who related to us the interesting story that he had a great-grandfather who won an Iron Cross as a German soldier in the Great War, and whose country showed its appreciation for his sacrifices by killing him and his family at a concentration camp during the next war due to his religion.  (Black Jack)

We ran by the Capitol where President Woodrow Wilson asked for and received from Congress a declaration of war against Germany, mere months after he won re-election largely on the slogan, He Kept Us Out of The War.  We stopped in at the Navy Memorial where I pulled up from its database the entry of my grandfather, a sailor in the Great War.  (An engine of the Great War)

We ran through Pershing Park downtown and stopped at General Pershing's statue there, depicting him at the Western Front as leader of the American Expeditionary Force.  Then we ran to the Ellipse, where we viewed the memorial honoring the 2d Division's service in the war, its men participating in the 3d Battle of the Aisne, Belleau Wood, the Chateau-Thierry campaign, St. Mihiel, the Meuse-Argonne offensive, the Aisne-Marne offensive and the occupation of the Rhine.  (The Indianhead Division)

Running past the World War II Memorial, we gave it a nod as that worldwide cataclysm was a direct result of the harsh peace imposed at the Treaty of Versailles which ended the War To End All Wars, with its unsustainable war reparations and its festering War Guilt clause imposed by the victors upon the vanquished.  Finally we ended our four-mile jaunt at the World War I Memorial on the Mall, honoring the District residents who served in World War One.  (Over There)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Another fine lunch

When I was retired last year, my friends at my former workplace gave me a great send-off by giving me a gift card for my favorite pizzeria.  A gift that keeps giving, I had lunch there on Easter Sunday, using some of the credit.

I perambulated around the restaurant before my pizza arrived but I didn't recognize anyone there.  But there are people I know that I haven't seen nor heard from in ten years so who knows if I'd recognize them now.

I enjoyed my pie when it arrived, the Italian Pie, a meat-stuffed pizza replete with ham and Genoa salami.  Relishing it, I had my fill and left behind a symbolic slice and a swallow of beer.

Having kids like mine, plus an in-law in the mix now, is also a gift that keeps giving.  Maybe Memorial Day, eh, JJD&L?

Friday, April 14, 2017

Thanks so much for your thoughtfulness

I received a new camera from a friend for my birthday, a Canon SX720.  I immediately loved it as soon as I took it out of the box, and ran outside and snapped a picture of my house with it.

I sent the picture to the friend who gave me the present, who replied, "Great picture, great detail, now mow your lawn!"  The Canon shows great detail in the pictures it takes compared to my trusty Pentax Adventure camera, which is waterproof and shockproof and has served me faithfully for the past three and a half years during which I have carried it on almost all of my runs, through drenching rain bursts and hard falls on cement.

Contrast the image of the the beauty of a tulip, above, taken with the less advanced Pentax, and the image of the beauty of a tulip, below, taken with the more advanced Canon.  Going forward they'll both serve their functions, as the Pentax is rugged and will still accompany me on almost all my runs, whereas the Canon will perform as my artiste camera and will undoubtedly come along in a padded case on certain runs that promise to be safe enough in terms of conditions and terrain.

I've already had the Canon out on such a run, one that I undertook earlier this month with another friend to commemorate the 100 years since the entry of America into the Great War on April 6, 1917, during which we stopped at several of the WWI  memorials in the District such as the District's World War One Memorial on the National Mall.  On another note, with Easter hard upon us, I hope to see one or more of you for lunch on Sunday, JJ&D, and now Laura, and who knows who else?

Friday, April 7, 2017

World War One

A hundred years ago yesterday, the U.S. declared war on the Kaiser's Germany and entered the Great War, later known as World War I, which had already raged for three bloody years.  German U-boats had unleashed unrestricted warfare on worldwide commercial shipping bound for the war zone, in a final desperate effort to starve England out of the war, and this violated one of President Wilson's grand Fourteen Points, Freedom of the Seas.  (Over There.)

The best account I have read of the confusing and senseless lengthy run-up to WWI is The Long Fuse by Laurence  Lafore.  The reverberations of the war lasted well into the last century, detailed well in Paul Fussell's book The Great War and Modern Memory; for instance think of the phrase going "over the top" (of your own trench in an assault).  (British troops go over the top at the Somme in 1916.)

WWI begat World War II twenty years after the Versailles Treaty, with its "war guilt" clause and its unsustainable, savage reparation payments requirements, that ended the Great War.  Nobody won that peace, as the follow-up war dwarfed the horrific casualties and devastation of the earlier war.  (A doughboy.)

My favorite novel of the war is One of Ours by Willa Cather, and the best popular history of the initiation of the war is The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman, both of which won Pulitzer prizes.  As American missiles rain down on Syria, possibly striking some Russian or Iranian personnel, following a grisly gas attack by Syria on helpless civilians, I leave you with the close of the most popular novel of WWI, the ironically titled All Quiet On The Western Front by Erich Remarque:

"He died in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front.

He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long: his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come." (A soldier from the war, my grandfather.)