Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Washington DC: Days Five and Six

Wednesday was Lobby Day! The last day of the Summit is always the day when attendees come together by state and meet with the Congress people (well, their staff members at least) to ask them to support multi-modal transportation. Texas is a large state, so in addition to the two Senators we had a lot of Reps to meet with!

It was a busy day going between the Senate and Representative buildings. They don't have offices in the actual Capitol Building anymore, as there's just too many of them now. North of the Capitol are the Senate offices, housed in two buildings - Hart Senate Office Building and Russell Senate Office Building. The Representatives are in three buildings to the south of the Capitol - Rayburn, Cannon and Longworth House Office Buildings. The Senate offices are nicer and bigger than those for the Reps. All of them had Dr. Pepper, Starbursts and Skittles in abundance (all are made in Texas).

Lobby Day was also International Women's Day. I wore my red shoes (by accident really), and it was awesome to see so many women sporting red on the Hill.

I closed out the night with a recently-made friend from Richardson. We had tacos at a local place before she left for the airport. It was a busy but fun day, filled with meetings. It felt like we were making a small difference though and that's nice. Lobby Day feels productive and I like that.

Thursday was my last day in DC. Em was gone, so I just hung around. I had breakfast at Ted's Bulletin and took a walk around the area. I made my way to Union Station and then spent a decent amount of time at the National Postal Museum. I adore letters and postcards and this was such a cool museum to check out.

I did some walking around the Mall before deciding to check out the E Street Cinema again to see Kedi, a documentary about cats in Istanbul. It was adorable. The words of advice dropped by those caring for the cats was beautiful. I had some pizza then made my way to the airport to come home to Texas.

Washington DC: Days Three and Four

For me, Monday was the start of the National Bike Summit. While I spent my morning taking a quick bike ride to National Geographic Society to check out their bike facilities for employees, Em did some roaming by herself along the Mall. Since I had a break between noon and 2:30, I reserved Capitol Building Tour tickets for us at 12:30.

That morning I read the back of the ticket, where it noted that ticket-holders should arrive thirty to forty-five minutes early to get through security. My ride was supposed to return to our hotel at noon. I gave Em the tickets and told her to meet met at the Capitol Visitor Center and I'd do my best to get there on time.

The ride got back to the hotel earlier than planned! So I dropped off my bike and made off like a bandit headed for the Capitol (about a mile and a half away). I did a mixture of running, jogging and walking fast to get there in time to pass security and make our tour time. It's downhill and flat...until I arrived at the Capitol. At that point, it's an uphill climb to get to the Visitor Center. I finally made it and met up with Em at the entrance, where we made it through security in about two minutes. We were actually there in enough time to make the noon tour group!

We went straight from the Capitol to the Library of Congress through the underground tunnel (to avoid going through security again!). The Library of Congress is the most beautiful I have every seen! I could not stop marveling at the ornate beauty of the main hall and the adjoining rooms.

I made my way back to our hotel for Summit stuff while Em did stuff on her own. We spent our night resting from all the walking by watching The Voice in our hotel room.

Day two started, for me, with a bike ride to National Public Radio. This was the coolest thing ever. NPR is practically all I listen to and I get most of my news from them. We were shown the indoor bike parking and the showers for employees. We then got to tour the newsroom! Sigh. It was awesome.

Em was off doing her own thing. She possibly saw the President drive by. She checked out a couple of the Smithsonian Museums. I didn't see Em again until about five, when we met up to meet our cousin after work. Scott work in DC and lives in Virginia. We stayed with them when we left NYC headed for SLC. We rode the bus with him back to Virginia, then had dinner with him and his family. It was great to hang out with them! They live far away from most family (I might be the closest in Texas; most everyone is in Idaho), but Em and I are their second-most frequent visitors!

Scott and Nanette dropped us off at the train station (yay for public transit!) and we made our back to our hotel in DC.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Washington DC: Days One and Two

When I moved back to SLC from NYC, my sister came out to help me drive the truck. We left NYC and headed for our cousin who works in DC and lives in Virginia with his family. We reached DC around rush hour and, obviously, didn't really have the time (or a place to park the rental truck) to stop and see the sights. Em has been kinda bummed about this ever since. 

So when I knew I was going to DC for work I invited Em to come out with me. We each arrived on Saturday to have a couple days to hang out and sight-see. I arrived a few hours before Em and hit up the National Portrait Gallery (yes, they still have the portrait of LL Cool J). I then met Em at the Metro stop. After dropping off luggage at the hotel we headed to the Hard Rock Cafe, a tradition, for some much-needed food in our bellies. 

Before heading out for sight-seeing, we hit up the gift shop across the street form the Hard Rock so Em could buy some gloves. It was quit cold, but we didn't want to lose a day of seeing sites. We walked down to the White House to see it at night, followed by the Washington Monument. The wind was blowing and we were freezing, so we made our way back to our hotel room. 

Day two we had tickets to tour Ford's Theater, but first we had a delicious breakfast at Lincoln's Waffle Shop. The place was small and packed. Our food was delicious! 

After Ford's Theater we headed to the National Archives to see the Magna Carta, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence. There are a lot of other things to see, as well, and I think it is my favorite gallery. We then made our way from one end of the Mall to the other, making our way to the MLK Memorial and the Jefferson Monument. 

By this point our feet were super sore and we were cold. Everything closes at 5:30 anyway, so we headed to a movie theater we had passed the night before to rest our feet and get warm (we saw La La Land Em fell asleep). We then went to our hotel to rest and prep for the next day. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Cable Benefits

I cut the cable cord about a month ago. Prior to moving to Denton, I had just used an antenna and it was all I needed. I could still watch all the main broadcast channels plus PBS. But my apartment in Denton couldn't get a signal (I lived at the bottom of a "hill" with a tall building blocking it). I couldn't cut the cord entirely so I broke down and got cable.

At my home I discovered that I was in a better position for cable-reception and ended my cable contract. However, I couldn't get ABC to come in. I was able to get thirty or so other channels, but no matter where I put the antenna I could not get ABC. I did some research (ABC was also the channel that gave me the most issues in Topeka) and discovered that everyone in DFW had trouble getting ABC with their antennas. Turns out ABC is the only network that broadcasts on VHF; everyone else broadcasts on UHF. And there was a lot of frustration with people in the DFW area about this.

ABC also chooses to do live-streaming different than other networks. Even if you have a cable subscription, one can't watch live online unless living in one of eight markets. DFW is not one of those markets. Even through SlingTV or DirectTV or anything else, one has to be in one of the eight markets.

Know what is broadcast on ABC? The Oscars. So I reinstalled cable just to watch the Oscars.

Not only do I the ability to watch ABC clearly, but I also now have the Hallmark Channel. Hallmark movies are my weakness. And tonight, while randomly searching, I came across my favorite Hallmark movie ever, Loving Leah. And that makes the foray back into cable worth it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

I Like Your Hair

I was at Old Navy after work today, perusing the t-shirts, when a woman walked up to me and told me she liked my hair. I looked at her and saw a beautiful women also with a shaved head. We ended up being in line next to each other and talked about our awesome hair cuts. She asked if mine was for fashion or something else. I told her it was for friends with cancer. She said she cut hers by choice - she decided one day it would have to be hair or makeup and she chose makeup. And went simple with her hair; she cuts it every ten days and change the part and other designs in it.

It was awesome.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Oscars: Best Pic Nominees

Of the nine films up for Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards I have seen seven of them. I wrote reviews for six of those films (I finished the Draft I started for Arrival  months ago today!)

Here are the film in the order I saw them, with a link to my review: 
Hell or High Water - no review for this film, which I saw in October (well before Oscar talk) after reading a good review and having it recommended to me by two people. I didn't care for this film, and that it has gained Oscar attention sort of surprises me. 
Arrival - a good, thoughtful sci-fi film
La La Land - an unabashedly romantic film that I saw twice
Manchester by the Sea - a beautiful, sad film that I saw right at the height of its Oscar talk. It was the front-runner before La La Land was released and took over
Moonlight - a moving film; while I'm glad the film has been recognized, I wish the three actors playing Chiron over the years had been recognized. All are powerful and distinct, and yet clearly the same character. 
Hidden Figures - this year's crowd-pleaser nominee, worthy of the nomination
Lion - heartbreaking story about family and home

I had no desire to see Hacksaw Ridge when the trailers came out (I found it interesting that its first trailer made no mention of Mel Gibson, just referenced the director of Passion of the Christ). A Best Pic nom still didn't sway me. I was on the fence about Fences, and a nomination normally would have pushed me over the fence. But it was never playing in Denton so I just never got around to it. 

My personal favorite is La La Land, but I had a deep reaction to Manchester by the Sea and it was my favorite before I saw La La Land. Manchester is one of those high-pedigree Oscar-type films that in another year might have been the front-runner. The way front-runner status changes throughout an award season is strange and ineffable. I'd essentially be cool if any of the films won - I just like celebrating film for a night! 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Saturday Double-Header: Final Oscar Viewings

I finished up my viewing of this year's Oscar-nominated films (in the theaters, at least) with a double-header at the "dollar" theater. Granted, neither of them are up for any major award. But since I have seen 7 of the 9 Best Pic Nominees (and have no desire to see the remaining two) I justified the double-header with them being nominated for Oscars this.

The first was Moana, the Disney-release with Lin-Manual Miranda music and songs. Lots of people liked this film. I thought for sure I would, but I just didn't. I can't even put my finger on why I didn't like it. I kept comparing it to Tangled, which I loved. Whereas I liked Rapunzel and her journey and her spunkiness and tenacity, I found Moana to be annoying. I do think Moana is better than the dreadful Frozen (which I would say I deeply dislike), but both signal a concerted effort by Disney to portray their females at not "just" princesses looking for a prince. That is another discussion entirely, but I will say that I enjoyed that the journey was Moana's and involved a platonic friendship (although I will say that I think Zootopia did this better). A couple times I was amused to the point of actually laughing out loud - when the crab states he ate his grandma; and Maui as shark on top. That visual gag was hilarious. Stray thought: Why was Moana's dad the only one with an accent?

Moana is nominated for Best Animated Film and Best Original Song, "How Far I'll Go", written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton and general awesomeness). I personally liked "You're Welcome" a lot more, and the tune Miranda himself sings as non-diegetic music.

The second film was Passengers, nominated for Best Original Score and Best Production Design. The film is sci-fi lite, the story of two passengers on a spaceship headed for life on another planet. The journey to Homestead II takes 120 years, so the passengers and crew "sleep" in hibernation and are supposed to be woken four months prior to arrival. Technical malfunctions cause a passenger, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) to be woken 90 years too early. He wakes another passenger, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), whom he has become taken with after essentially stalking her. Honestly, if I was completely alone for a year, minus the robot bartender, I'd probably wake someone else up, too.

About halfway through the movie, two people on my row got up and left. I certainly understand why. The film is slightly slow and not terribly interesting. It picks up a bit of steam when a crew member also is woken early, but his time is cut prematurely short. Then it's just your average race-against-time movie. After being only half-engaged in the film, I surprisingly was really into the last ten minutes or so.

I remember reading a headline about the film back when it was released, calling it essentially Titanic but in space. That's a fairly accurate view of the film (however Titantic has much more going on with much more interesting leads). It was really made clear in a couple scenes: Aurora tells Jim that if he dies, she dies ("You jump, I jump"); and when Aurora yells out "Come back!", I thought of Rose yelling comeback to the rescuers after letting Jack go.

Stray thought: Arthur, the robot bartender, reminded me of the bartender in The Shining. Then I couldn't figure out if that thought was put in my head from reading my cousin's review of the film months ago, or was my own. Either way, it's true.

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