Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Kennedy Center is expanding.

Last June, Congress approved legislation authorizing the Kennedy Center to begin fundraising for an expansion on the center's south end. (North end expansion is blocked by The Watergate.) This comes after Congress refused to fund a $650 expansion in 2001.

The expansion will cover over the concrete parking garage with sod and create a new outdoor pavilion for free summer concerts near the parking garage entrance. Halfway between the KC and the south boundary will be the "Glissando", a classroom and rehearsal space with another outdoor pavilion. One wall of this pavilion will be curved to provide a space for projecting films.

Perhaps most interesting will be a new floating stage adjacent to this area. It will be enclosed with Okalux, an insulating plexiglass-like material. The floating stage is both an homage to President John F. Kennedy (who often spoke to the primordial nature of the sea), Edward Durrell Stone (the architect of the Kennedy Center, who originally planned for floating stages and water access from the KC until his original designs were changed to accommodate freeways and cost), and the original "Watergate" floating concert stage. (The original "Watergate" name comes from the terraced steps west of the Lincoln Memorial that lead down to the Potomac River. The steps were originally planned as the official reception area for dignitaries arriving in Washington, D.C., via water taxi from Virginia, but they never served this function. Instead, beginning in 1935, the steps faced a floating performance stage on the Potomac River on which open-air concerts were held. Up to 12,000 people would sit on the steps and surrounding grass and listen to symphonies, military bands, and operas. The concerts on the barge ceased in 1965 when jet airliner service began at National Airport, making too much noise for music programs to continue.)

The KC currently has only one room for offices, and no classroom or rehearsal space. The changes will be the first expansion of the KC since it was finished in 1971.

KC board chairman David Rubenstein has donated $50 million of the expected $100 million price-tag. A formal design will be unveiled in four to six months, and will need National Capital Planning Commission, U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, and DC Zoning Board approval.

On this day in 1865, Congress passed the 13th Amendment, forever abolishing slavery in the United States. The amendment made official the emancipation proclamation. Less than 48 hours later Illinois, Lincoln’s home state, became the first state to ratify the amendment.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dave Powers Special Assistant and Appointments Secretary to President John F. Kennedy. The 51-year-old Powers, one of Kennedy's oldest and closest friends, was with the president in Dallas on that last day in November 1963. Powers was Curator of the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum from 1964 until his retirement in May 1994. He died in 1998.

The Powers family sought last year to sell their long-time family home in Massachusetts. When clearing it out, they discovered a treasure trove of more than 2,000 items relating to the Kennedys. Among these are numerous family photographs from the late 1940s to 1963, including many of the Kennedy wedding and Kennedy family vacations. There's also an official "Air Force One Bomber Jacket" that Kennedy gave Powers, one of the pens used to sign the Memorandoum of Action in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the pen and official copy of the legislation used by President Lyndon B. Johnson to creat the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

You can see a full listing of all the items, which are to be auctioned off on Presidents Day, here.

For my money, however, the most poignant item is Powers' typewritten schedule of that awful day in Dallas. His handwritten notes at the bottom of the page document in sparse, heart-rending text what happened that day.
12:30 - 3 shots

12:30 - JFK shot

12:36 - Carried my President on stretcher, raced to operating room

12:52 - Parkland Hospital emergency operating room #1

1:00 - My President is dead

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In the past quarter century, Congress has authorized 24 new memorials for the District of Columbia. That's just about one a year. Roughly two dozen memorials are proposed each year, and planning officials say that D.C. will see another 35 memorials between 2015 and 2050.

Here's a list of some of those that were proposed in 2012, but never got approved:
  • A Museum of Ideas about the history and evolution of human thought.
  • A National Women's History Museum.
  • A memorial to honor the patriots of the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
  • A Gold Star Mothers National Monument Foundation to establish a national monument. (Gold Star Mothers are those who have lost a child in wartime.)
  • A plaque at the National World War II Memorial listing the words of the prayer delivered on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  • A memorial to free blacks and slaves who fought in the American Revolution.
  • A Wall of Remembrance (similar to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial) as part of the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
  • A Smithsonian Institution the Smithsonian American Latino Museum. (Congress established a commission to study the need for an economics surrounding a potential National Museum of the American Latino. The commission issued a positive report in November 2011. Implementing the report and actually creating a museum will require an act of Congress.)
  • A National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial.
  • A Navy Dive School memorial at the Washington Navy Yard.
Murphy: [into the phone] Gimme the desk!

Endicott: [into the phone] No, I tell you! Nobody knows where he got it!

Murphy: The Crime Commission has offered a reward of ten thousand dollars for Williams' capture. ...No, no clue yet as to Earl Williams' whereabouts. Here's a little feature though: There's been an accident about a tear bomb -- Yeah -- tear bomb. Criminals cry for it. This tear bomb went off unexpectedly in the hands of Sheriff Hartman's Bombing Squad. Four of Mr. Hartman's Deputy Sheriffs were rushed to the hospital -- The names are Merwyn D. Mayor, who is the Mayor's brother-in-law, Howard Shenken, the Sheriff's uncle on his mother's side, William Lungren, who is the Sheriff's landlord, and Lester Bartow who married the Sheriff's niece. You remember, the very homely dame. Call you back!

Wilson: [into the phone] Mrs. William Tausig, age fifty-five, scrub lady, while at work scrubbing the eighth floor of the Commerce Building, was shot in the left leg by one of Sheriff Hartman's deputies.

[sound of machine-gun fire]

Hildy: There goes another scrub lady!

Murphy: Any dope yet on how he got out?

Hildy: From what I hear, the Sheriff let him out so's he could vote for him.

[Murphy and Wilson leave]

Hildy: [into phone] Give me Walter Burns -- quick! ...Walter, listen. I've got the inside story on how Williams got the gun and escaped. It cost me 450 bucks to tear it out of Cooley.

Burns: Never mind that. What's the story?

Hildy: Never mind it? That's not my money! That's Bruce's money!

Burns: You'll get it. Now what's the story? I'll have the paper send the money right down to you. I swear it on my mother's grave.

Hildy: Wait a minute. Your mother's alive!

Burns: I meant on my grandmother's grave. Don't be so technical, Hildy. What's the story?!

Hildy: Well, this expert Dr. Egelhoffer, from New York, decides to make Williams re-enact the crime It seems the professor had to have a gun to re-enact the crime with -- and who do you suppose supplied it? Sheriff Peter B. Hartwell. B for brains!

This dialogue is from this movie.
Very interesting!

A major new report has come out that documents, in detail, the changes that will come in the United States due to global warning within the next 25 to 35 years.

The upshot is:

1) The Northeast U.S. will have more than twice as many days above 95F as it currently does.

2) The Northeast will suffer the worst rise in ocean levels and flooding from storms. (NYC, Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware are going to see the worst.) This is because ocean currents push water against the Northeast (not California, not Mississippi, not North Carolina, etc.), and because the geography of the Northeast will tend to funnel water in (as it did during Hurricane Sandy).

3) In the Pacific Northwest, watch for an end to rain and massive forest fires. Seattlites, complain about the rain while you can. You won't have it for long...

4) The Midwest will see a lengthening of its currently short growing season by 50 percent. But it will also see many more multi-year extreme droughts.

5) The Deep South will become intolerably hot.
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) has already said the GOP will oppose any attempt to restrict greenhouse gases.

Remember that when he begs for New Orleans to be saved, or for aid to his collapsing marine fisheries.
EXCEPTIONAL!!!!!!!! My god, her voice!

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,..."

Frankly, I do not think this is what the Founders meant.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Aside from the fact that I think Dominic Monaghan is cute with that upturned nose and big ears and tight, rangy body...

He's also a rather engaging host of Wild Things, this new nature show on BBC America. You know he's not an expert in this stuff, but he's goddamn fearless. (Who else would pick up a cobra? or an eight-foot python? Or eat goat penis and balls?) He talks about things very conversationally, not like he's lecturing.

There's also a huge amount of cultural stuff in his show. He's in Vietnam in the first episode, so he has breakfast on the Mekong River, he eats in a Ho Chi Minh City restaurant, he haggles for a Manchester United t-shirt with a seller, and visits a Vietnam War surplus store. He avoids the "golly gee whiz" attitude of Jeff Corwin, and doesn't pretend to any advanced knowledge about bugs or reptiles or anything. He's a host, and he totally relies on the experts around him (who he brings on camera and talks to) as he finds these unique animals. There's nothing "extreeeeeeeeeeeeme!" about it. Just unique animals that help us understand our world better.

Lastly, for a guy who is only 36, he's showing a lot of gray in that beard. But it's endearing!

Pretty AND smart!

This is Zack Kopplin, a guy in Louisiana who as a middle-schooler got upset because his science textbooks were full of junk about creationism (a heretical "Christian" belief). He began amassing evidence against that idiotic thinking, and soon had his local school board on his side.

Now he's pulling an upset in the state legislature. Creationists world-wide fear him. Legislators who support junk science run away from him in the halls.


We're supposed to have snow here in D.C. overnight.

As a reminder to everyone in the District, on January 28, 1922, the biggest recorded snowstorm in Washington, D.C., history caused the roof of the Knickerbocker Theatre to collapse, killing 98 people. The death toll was high: 98 people died and 133 injured. The dead included ormer Congressman Andrew Jackson Barchfeld and a number of prominent political and business leaders. The theater's architect, Reginald Geare, and owner, Harry Crandall, later committed suicide.

Enjoy the weather!
Hey! Where's my wintry mix? How do I turn this into real snow, I wonder... do I need to add water, or stir for three minutes or something?

Quite an interesting article from an out-of-town newspaper examining in-depth D.C.'s dependence on federal money and a rapidly-expanding contractor workforce to push the city's growth.

Myself, I doubt the article's fundamental thesis. The author concludes that it's all federal dollars that is fueling construction in the D.C. area. Baloney! Much of the city's downtown growth has come because the city has given away land for close-to-free and provided hundreds of millions of dollars in tax increment financing to support this development. The federal tax break for first-time home buyers in the city hasn't hurt at all.

But it's still a really good article. One the Local Paper could never dream of printing, because it involves investigative journalism and real news reporting.

T+1:02............PLT..... Thirty-five thousand going through one point five.

(NASA: Altitude and velocity report, 35,000 ft., 1.5 Mach).

T+1:05............CDR..... Reading four eighty six on mine.

(NASA: Routine airspeed indicator check.)

T+1:07............PLT..... Yep, that's what I've got, too.

T+1:10............CDR..... Roger, go at throttle up.

(NASA: SSME at 104 percent.)

T+1:13............PLT..... Uh oh.

T+1:13.......................LOSS OF ALL DATA.

On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger suffered a catastrophic failure 73 seconds into its flight when flames from its damaged solid rocket booster caused the main external fuel tank to explode. Contrary to popular belief, the shuttle itself was not destroyed by the explosion. Rather, it was torn apart by the G-forces being exerted on the shuttle from the outside.

The space shuttle launch system consisted of the orbiter itself; a giant, non-reuseable external liquid fuel tank; and two resueable solid fuel booster rockets. The shuttle was sold to Congress and the American people as a cheap, reuseable space launch system capable of more than 50 flights a year. The watch-word was "recycle". NASA originally wanted to make the main liquid fuel tank as well as the solid fuel external boosters recoverable and reuseable. But cost analyses showed that it was cheaper to abandon all three tanks in the sea during flight rather than recover them. Politically, NASA knew it couldn't get that past Congress. So NASA fudged the books, and told Congress that at least the external solid-fuel boosters could be reused.

Because of its design, the space shuttle was very, very, verrrry heavy. Everyone at NASA knew by 1975 that the shuttle wasn't going to be an effective space launch vehicle. The shuttle's payload bay was too small by half. And even if the payload bay were reconfigured and re-engineered to accept larger payloads, the shuttle was so under-powered it couldn't lift them. NASA would have been better off spending the shuttle's $7.5 billion development costs on building Saturn V rockets (for heavy lift payloads) and improved Delta V rockets (for smaller payloads), and building a space station to keep manned space flight going. Cost, too, was a problem: The total price tag for the shuttle program was more than twice the $90 billion NASA originally calculated. America spent more on the space shuttle than the cost of going to the moon, creating the atom bomb, and digging the Panama Canal COMBINED.

And let's not even talk about the shuttle's lack of escape system. Or that by placing the fuel tank on one side, it exposed it to massive amounts of debris during launch. Or its miniscule computing capacity. Or the way it exposed its heat shield to damage during launch.

The key to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster was the solid rocket boosters (SRBs). Each SRB had six sections. Three of the sections were joined at the factory ("factory joints"), while the remaining three pieces were assembled at the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center ("field joints"). The factory joints had asbestos-silica insulation applied over the joint. But the field joints were different.....

More about the Challenger disaster behind this cut.....

It ain't about paint, it ain't about canvas. It's about ideas. Too many people died without getting their mind out to the world.

- Thornton Dial, Sr. (1993)

Xtacles Leader: Guys, come on! This tape is supposed to be a learning tool! What'd Ronny do wrong here?

Xtacle: He uh... took off his robot pants?

Xtacles Leader: And what does the manual say about hostile prisoner control? [silence] Right up there in section one. [silence] Ronny?

Xtacle Russian Ronny: Don't take off robot pants.

Xtacles Leader: See where I'm going with this?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Stanley Karnow was a journalist turned historian. From 1959 to 1971, he was a reporter in South Vietnam for a variety of newspapers. In 1983, he produced a documentary titled "Vietnam: A History" that ran on PBS. It was based on a book Karnow had authored that covered Vietnam's history from the ancient past to the present. The book attempted to discuss the Vietnam War from both sides, and was a runaway best-seller. It was one of the first works of history to document the entire Vietnam War.

His documentary was the most successful on PBS at the time. Nearly 10 million people watched its 13 episodes. It won six Emmy Awards, and a Peabody, Polk, and duPont-Columbia award. Its record viewership was exceeded only by Ken Burns' "The Civil War" in 1990.

Karnow died of congestive heart failure today at his home in Potomac, Md.

Why you act crazy?
Not an act maybe

Ain't found a way to kill me yet

Save my eyes...

In my eyes - indisposed
In disguise - As no one knows

How would I know?

Been writing heavily all weekend. Now for a little music....

Friday, January 25, 2013

So, Metro once more proposes pie-in-the-sky plans that are so costly they will sit on the shelf and collect dust.

The transit agency released its 49-page new strategic plan, pompously dubbed "Momentum", yesterday. Metro's board still has to approve it, but no one is suggesting that major changes will be made. The Washington Post ran a big article about this yesterday.

I can't think of anyone who believes Metro will get what it wants. Some people are desperately trying to justify "Momentum" by arguing it is a negotiating tactic: Ask for the stars and sun, and maybe you might get the moon (which is what you wanted all along). I don't believe it. These deliberations are fairly public, and have to have a "record of decision" behind them to justify it. You can't fake that, and without the data nothing goes into the report. So it just doesn't seem possible.

The most interesting comment in the WaPo article is Zachary Schrag's, right at the end. Schrag notes that Metro will be at capacity in 2040. (Or sooner. Metro has a disconcerting habit of woefully under-estimating ridership on new lines.) Even running completely packed eight-car trains all day long, Metro can only move 1 million people a day. The only way to get beyond that is to build more lines in parallel to the ones we have now. (Building lines that merely dump more people onto clogged existing lines does nothing but jam the system.)

Building a bypass for the Blue Line downtown just temporarily reroutes around a bottleneck. (The bottleneck is heavily-used Blue, Orange, and Silver lines trying to use a tunnel designed for just a single line.) So how can Metro Manager Richard Sarles claim any of this is adding capacity to the system? Diverting Orange and Silver Lines to the Pentagon and then points south is another means of trying to avoid this choke-point. And pumping half of all Blue Line trains south to Pentagona, then over the WMATA Bridge and out into Prince George's County again at L'Enfant Plaza is just another choke-point avoidance measure.

Every subway system in the world has parallel tunnels -- except for D.C. Metro keeps saying they want to "serve" the growing region by dumping more people into the subway. But it refuses to actually build capacity by building parallel tunnels to add more trains. Clearly, the expense of building parallel tunnels would be a non-starter.

Once, more I turn to surface transportation as the only real fix: Adding buses and dedicated bus lanes throughout the area. They're only one-tenth the cost of the subway, are fantastically simple to expand, can be easily realigned, and don't have the choke-point problems.

Ever notice that the bus system is always last on Metro's agenda? It's because it's not sexy and doesn't impress tourists. It's because poor people, the mentally ill, the homeless, and gangbangers without money ride the bus. Buses are not safe, and the subway is physically designed to deter crime. Buses don't have cops riding them, while the subway does. If there's a shooting or fight on a bus, it takes 30 minutes for police to arrive. If something happens on the subway, it takes 60 seconds for Metro Transit Police to arrive. Lawyers and doctors and SES-level federal workers don't want to ride the bus.

Well, that's my screed. You're welcome to it.

So, here is the short version of the plan. WaPo, naturally, has such shoddy reporting that they simply can't describe the strategic plan at all.

1) Create a $6 billion Blue Line bypass tunnel from Rosslyn to Georgetown,, down M Street to Thomas Circle, and then down 10th Street and back onto the Blue Line (somewhere under the Washington Channel). This ties in with Georgetown's demand for a Metro station, and the city's desire to have a new Metro station at Thomas Circle so trolleys can take people north to the Walter Reed redevelopment.

2) $1 billion to build a cut-off tunnel at Rosslyn to divert the Orange/Silver lines south to Arlington National Cemetery and points south on the Blue Line.

3) $2 billion to upgrade the electrical system so it can accommodate eight-car trains. (Something it was designed to do, but apparently cannot.)

4) Cost unknown to build a new Orange/Silver line tunnel at the Pentagon.

5) Cost unknown to build a 375-foot pedestrian tunnel to connect Farragut West and Farragut North. (Goal is to ease congestion at Metro Center.)

6) Cost unknown to build a 500-foot pedestrian tunnel between Metro Center and Gallery Place. (Goal is to east congestion at L'Enfant Plaza.)

7) Cost unknown to build new mezzanines, elevators, escalators, and emergency stairways at Gallery Place, L’Enfant Plaza, Metro Center, and Union Station to accommodate growing use of these stations.

8) Cost unknown to buy more rail cars to expand to eight-car trains, all the time. Expand train yards to accommodate more trains.

9) About $500 million to buy a lot more buses. Build more bus garages.

10) About $100 million to build bus-only lanes on K Street, M Street, and H and I Streets NW between 13th and 17th streets (and perhaps other streets, too, including north-south streets) in downtown D.C. to ease bus delays.

The Smithsonian is going to reopen the 132-year-old Arts and Industries Building by installing a permanent exhibit showcasing American inventors, ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and business style.

An innovation pavilion..... Hmm, now where have we heard that before?

"Smithsonian Gifts With Strings Alarm Some Scholars"
By Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post
May 26, 2001

"A group of scholars at the National Museum of American History has accused Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small of establishing questionable relationships with private donors and eroding the public trust. ...

"American History, opened in 1964, has often been the flash point for public debate about how history is presented. Some on the museum’s staff suggest that donors’ projects have been imposed on the museum since Small took over. American History has received $ 40 million from the family of inventor Jerome Lemelson for an inventors’ center; $ 80 million from businessman Kenneth E. Behring for modernizing the building and for some exhibitions at the Behring Center, now a prominent part of the museum name; and $ 38 million from local businesswoman Catherine B. Reynolds for a hall of achievement."

"[The letter from the scholars] continued: 'The secretary’s actions create the appearance of impropriety: Will the Smithsonian Institution actually allow private funders to rent space in a public museum for the expression of private interests and personal views?' "

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Your everlasting summer
You can see it fading fast
So you grab a piece of something
That you think is gonna last
You wouldn't know a diamond
If you held it in your hand
The things you think are precious
I can't understand

I made my favorite stir-fry: Chicken, onion, green and red bell peppers, and chili powder. I serve it over some pasta, and add about six or seven dashes of Crystal hot sauce.


This poorly-written article says that American manufacturers are adding non-union jobs faster than union jobs. Why? You don't learn the possible reasons until the last paragraph or so. (Who teaches these reporters to write?) Upshot: It appears most of the jobs are being added by small businesses which were never unionized in the first place. So this is not a matter of union-busting. Large companies are adding automated manufacturing processes, and not hiring.

The AFL-CIO trots out the old "labor law isn't working" line. And that is true.

So why aren't unions organizing OUTSIDE labor law? That's where all the big unionization efforts have been in the past two decades: Card-check, corporate campaigns, neutrality agreements. All things not covered by the National Labor Relations Act. And if jobs are really being added by small firms, it should be fairly easy for large national unions to organize them. So why aren't they organizing them?

Meanwhile, a true story:
UAW President Walter Reuther was being shown through the Ford Motor plant in Cleveland. A company official pointed out the new machines which did the work of three men, smirked, and asked Reuther: "How are you going to collect union dues from these guys?"

Reuther replied: "How are you going to get them to buy Fords?"

This is the kind of cool article I like. Something people see a lot, but have no idea what it is, where it comes from, or what it means.


I've never taken photos in the Kogod Courtyard of the National Portrait Gallery/Smithsonian American Art Museum before........

I have rectified that oversight.

Kogod Courtyard - northeast corner and floor - Smithsonian American Art Museum - 2013-01-04

Most people who have gone to go see the movie Lincoln believe that Ford's Theatre is never shown.

Au contraire! There is a scene at Ford's. Here it is, above. Only, so few people know what the interior of the President's Box at Ford's looks like that they don't know what they are looking at. Below is the real thing.

Abraham Lincoln Box - Fords Theatre - 2012-05-20

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Don't think about...

Size matters.

The giant barred spiral galaxy NGC 6872 collided some 130 million years ago with the much smaller IC 2970. The smash-up extended the spiral's arms and made it even bigger -- one of the largest in the universe! IC 2970 turned into a dwarf galaxy. But not just that: The collision e-energized UC 2970, and now it is a place where many hot young stars are forming.

This, too, is amazing....
Astronomers have discovered the largest structure in the universe: A Large Quasar Group (LQG) that is 4 billion light-years in size. Quasars form around supermassive black holes deep in the centers of galaxies. As gas, dust, and debris spirals into the black hole, it forms a gigantic disk that begins spinning and heats up to some of the hottest temperatures known in the universe. The spinning force some of the material upward and outward in the form of a gigantic column of bright, hot, dense material. The heat and light are so intense, they actually mask the supermassive black hole at the center of this galactic hell.

The LQC is composed of 73 quasars!

Most ot the LQC is just 1.6 billion light-years in size, but parts extend to 4 billion light-years across.

In contrast, the Milky Way galaxy is just 100,000 light-years wide. Andromeda, our nearest galactic neighbor, is just 2.5 million light-years away.

Art is a birth, and you can't go to a teacher and learn how to be born... you have to struggle... until that image, the one that comes out of your need to create, emerges.

- Malcah Zeldis, 1978
"Die, you cyborg sons of bitches!"

OH NOOOOOOO! As Godzilla rises from the crack in Mt. Laundry, Rodan attacks him!

Part of the sensational "Godzilla on Mt. Laundry" series, which is all the rave in the art world. And in the movie world. The entire world, really. Each print is $75 million. Get yours now.

Rodan attacks Godzilla in the crevasse - Godzilla on Mt Laundry - 2013-01-15
Know what would be cool?

To have someone paint a picture of a guy painting their wall. On their wall.

The New York Times has reported on how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has spent the summer blasting away bedrock, scraping up riverbottom mud, and generally devastating whole portions of the central Mississippi River (from St. Louis, Missouri, down to Memphis, Tennessee) so that barge traffic can keep going despite the massive summer drought that left the Big River down by almost 10 feet.

In fact, the Corps has removed so much bedrock from the bottom of the river that they've actually lowered the channel by two whole feet. That's millions of tons of rock.

* * * * * *

What's interesting to me is this:

If this is only the beginning of global warming, then barge traffic on the Mississippi River is doomed. This has been a relatively mild drought year compared to the year-long heat and much more intense summer droughts we have to look forward to.

Does the Army Corps of Engineers believe that they should blast and dredge every year, going forward? Does the Corps believe that they should remake the bed of the Mississippi into a brand new river in order to challenge the effects of global warming?

These are serious issues, because river shipping is highly energy-efficient (relying on the speed of the river) and far less environmentally invasive than building highways or railways. But what the Corps may be thinking of would be much more environmentally destructive -- and to a river already stressed by global warming.

So shouldn't we just give up now?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

This is one of the most famous paintings in the United States. Senator William Bingham of Pennsylvania commissioned it in 1796 from painter Gilbert Stuart. It was given to British Prime Minister William Petty FitzMaurice (Marquess Lansdowne), who supported American independence. The 8' x 5' painting shows 64-year-old George Washington renouncing a third term as President. (A copy of the painting was rescued by Dolley Madison during the War of 1812 just before the British burned the White House down.)

In 2001, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation purchased the painting for $30 million, and donated it to the National Portrait Gallery as a gift to the American people.

On January 4, I stood before this magnificent piece of history for 10 minutes.

A condo or apartment house fire in Washington, D.C., at about 3:00 PM on January 18, 2013. The condo/apartment house that is on fire is somewhere in Southwest D.C. near the waterfront fish markets. I'm guessing on G Street SW, north of Jefferson Rec Center or north of Town Square Towers Condos.

There's nothing in the newspaper or on local radio or TV stations about this fire, though.

I was at Arlington National Cemetery, standing at Arlington House, when I shot these photos.

DC apartment fire - 2013-01-18

Ye Olde Ebbitt Grille.

Everything you wanted to know about D.C.'s oldest bar and restaurant.
Tony Kushner on writing the most difficult scene in the movie Lincoln.

I love Kushner, because unlike so many writers he is very open about his process of writing and the struggles he encounters. He never couches what he says in poetic junk-language; he just comes out and says it. Conversing with his 1.89 million closest friends.
I found a love I had lost
It was gone for too long

Has it really been 22 years since I heard this song? But I can still whistle it!

Why, here's a shot of Washington, D.C., from Arlington House, taken on January 18. If you look closely, you'll notice that the U.S. Capitol is decked out with flags for the Inauguration.

Looking ENE at US Capitol - Bureau of Engraving - Arlington National Cemetery - 2013-01-18

Monday, January 21, 2013

OH CRAP! I left the flash on while taking my self-portrait at Arlington House.

Self portrait - Arlington House - Arlington National Cemetery - 2013-01-18
From back in the day, when Bush had a great producer and Gavin Rossdale still knew how to write songs.

"I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry."

Martin Luther King, Jr. Address at the Herman W. Read Fieldhouse, Western Michigan University, December 18, 1963

MLK Memorial 0010 - 2012-03-15


It seems that the state of Georgia is only going to give private school vouchers to those school which openly discriminate against LGBT students.

Vouchers were first conceived of in Virginia as a way of ensuring racial segregation: Public schools would close, and state vouchers would be paid only to private, whites-only schools.

Today, the state of Georgia practices segregation of a different sort, denying to its LGBTQ students their equal right under the law to attend school. Because, we know, it's worked so well when the state imposes religious beliefs on the people.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

President Obama takes the oath of office (for a second time in 2013) during tomorrow's inauguration.

So let's look back 100 years: Woodrow Wilson, the governor of New Jersey, was elected President of the United States in November 1912. He took the oath of office on March 4, 1913.

Wilson, who had extreme high blood pressure and suffered a series of strokes during his lifetime, collapsed aboard his private train shortly after delivering a speech on September 25, 1919, in Pueblo, Colorado. It was a "premonitory event" -- a pre-stroke. He had weakness on his left side, he couldn't see for several hours out of his left eye, his speech was slurred, he had trouble breathing, and he passed in and out of consciousness. Admiral Cary Grayson, his doctor, knew it was probably a stroke. Sped back to D.C., Wilson was well enough to walk from the train to his car four days later. The press was told Wilson had had a "physical collapse" due to exhaustion.  But on the morning of October 2, he collapsed from a massive stroke in his White House bathroom. He was near death for 3 days, completely paralyzed on his left side, and blind in his left eye. He could not speak for many days. Then, suddenly, he'd be able to, and then lapse into days of speechlessness again. He had almost no memory, and no concentration.

After six weeks, Wilson was still so weak he could not sit upright. Mrs. Edith Galt Wilson refused to let only a few doctors see him, and categorically ruled out hospitalization. She believed her husband needed something to live for, and that Wilson would die if he knew he'd been stripped of his presidential powers. She only permitted a physical therapist to see Wilson in January 1920, after two months of argument. Woodrow Wilson improved significantly with therapy, and by mid-January could stand and even take a few steps. Still, he could barely write, his reading comprehension was nil, and his mind drifted after only a minute or two.

By the end of May 1920, Wilson could walk with a cane and cross the hall from his bedroom to his office. But it was clear that his whole personality had changed after the stroke: He suffered from severe bouts of depression, had raging temper tantrums, and was excessively stubborn. And still his entire left side remained immobile and his left eye blind.

Wilson's rehabilitation progressed only a little bit more by year's end. He never regained his ability to concentrate, and could not compose full sentences. He also had little emotional self-control: He openly discussed his deep depression tactlessly, even with total strangers; would break into sobs and tears without provocation; and heaped bitter, scalding hatred on anyone perceived to have given him the slightest insult.

On Inauguration Day, March 4, 1921, Woodrow Wilson met the incoming president, Republican Senator Warren G. Harding, in the Blue Room on the first floor of the White House. They exchanged pleasantries, and then the two men walked out to the presidential limousine. Wilson's gait was so precarious that a Secret Service man, a valet, and an usher all had to stand by lest he fall. Police stood on the street, making sure no reporters or members of the public took photographs of the frail President.

Wilson and Harding rode together to the Capitol. Wilson didn't speak, and his face was frozen by the stroke. Many interpreted his impassiveness as hatred of Harding.

Tradition dictated that when Wilson and Harding reached the Capitol, they get out together and walk up the Capitol steps together. At that time, the main entrance to the Capitol was on the east side rather than the west. The President-Elect would go on to the Inauguration Platform on the East Front of the Capitol, while the outgoing President would retire to the President's Room -- a luxurious second-floor room in the Capitol where he would conduct final business. But Wilson could not climb steps. Instead, Harding got out alone and walked up the steps. Wilson was helped out of the car, got into a wheelchair, and was taken through a freight entrance on the Senate side. He rode a private elevator to the second floor. He was wheeled to the President's Room, where he rose and walked into the office. It was full of Senators, dignitaries, and guests. Wilson sat at the desk, signed documents, and (per tradition) accepted some final obesiance from Senators and ambassadors. The room was cleared, and Wilson got back into his wheelchair. He was wheeled to the Inaugural Platform, then rose and walked down the aisle to his seat. He stayed only until Harding was sworn in. Then he rose and limped off before Calvin Coolidge's inauguration as Vice President -- too exhausted to remain. Edith Wilson held him upright. Two Secret Service men, Dr. Grayson, and chief of staff Joseph Tumulty walked with them -- ready to catch Wilson if he fell.

Woodrow Wilson died at 11:15 AM on Sunday, February 3, 1924, at his home in Washington, D.C., having never improved physically or mentally beyond those gains made by May 1920.

The first treatment for high blood pressure was hydrochlorothiazide, in 1948. It came 25 years too late for Woodrow Wilson, and five years too late to save Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Vice President Biden was sworn in at 8:00 AM this morning at the Vice Presidential residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory. At Biden's request, Justice Sonia Sotomayor administered the oath.

Then he and President Obama traveled to Arlington National Cemetery, where just before 9:00 AM they laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

President Obama is now about two hours away from his swearing-in in the Blue Room of the White House shortly before noon. The oath will be administered by Chief Justice John Roberts.

The Constitution requires that these oaths of office be administered before noon on January 20. Both inaugurations will be replicated tomorrow in public. The administration decided on a faux-nauguration on Monday so that employees, staff, visitors, and others did not have to work on a Sunday. (It's Muslim respect for Christians, doncha know.)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"The Wharf" -- a massive waterfront redevelopment project that will remake the Washington Channel waterfront from 12th to 6th Streets SW -- just got zoning approval from the D.C. government. It will be the largest development in Southwest since L'Enfant Plaza was built.

The image above depicts Parcels 2, 3, and 4. You can learn more here.

Groundbreaking will occur some time in 2013. Madison Marquette and PN Hoffman are the developers. The entire project will be LEED Silver, although they are aiming for LEED Gold.

Water Street -- once the subject of a famous U.S. Supreme Court case -- will be torn out and cease to exist. Along the water will be a pedestrian mall lined with restaurants, kiosks, scenic overlooks, and cafes. Nearly all the existing marina piers here will be removed.

"The Wharf" will begin at 9th Street, where a wide, long new pier ("District Pier") will extend into the Washington Channel. (This may force the removal of one or two existing marina piers.)

"Parcel 2" (I don't know who numbered these) is on the southeast side of 9th Street SW. The centerpiece of this will be Wharf Hall -- a multi-purpose cultural center with a ground-floor performance hall that's two stories tall. Four more stories of performance, rehearsal, and meeting space will top the main auditorium. Two apartment buildings will be wrapped around Wharf Hall, and a new, natural gas-fired heating plant will be built to power and heat the entire "The Wharf" project. The rooftop of Wharf Hall is designed to be green, with water-absorbing turf and plants, and areas for outdoor seating, entertainment and other events for those living in the condo and apartment building.

Parcel 3 is adjacent to Parcel 2. A four-star Intercontinental Hotel is planned for the water side, and an office building for the Maine Avenue side. There will be ground floor retail in both buildings.

Parcel 4 is adjacent to Parcel 3, with 7th Street SW on its southeast side. A condo building facing the water and an apartment building facing Maine Avenue will be built here. The preliminary design is Postmodern Industrial (an homage to the waterfront's industrial past) with ground and second floor retail for both buildings. There's room for a new waterside park here, which will be open to the public.

Parcel 11 is the next piece, at 6th Street SW and Maine Avenue where the Water Street turnaround is now. St. Augustine's Church is building a new, avant-garde, assymetrical church here. In addition, a condo building facing the water will be built.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Arlington National Cemetery is not static, despite the impression of immovable eternity it gives.

And now, The Bugler.

The Bugler will be unveiled at Arlington on Sunday, January 20, at 9:15 AM.

Unveiled on Memorial Day in 2010, the 12-foot-high Price of Freedom (by Greg Wyatt) is dedicated to the men and women who served in World War II. This massive sculpture was moved outdoors to the west entrance of the Visitors Center about a month ago to make way for a new piece, The Bugler

The Bugler is a life-size fiberglas statue created by StudioEIS in New York City. The sculpture is a life-cast of U.S. Army bugler Staff Sgt. Jesse Tubb. It is part of a rebranding of the Visitor Center into a "Welcome Center". The Welcome Center is changing its exhibits for the first time since it opened on January 16, 1990. The new exhibit contains three themes: Honor, Remember, Explore. The "Honor" exhibit will explore the military funeral and how it works. The "Remember" exhibit is the first time Arlington will document and provide an exhibit on the monuments and memorials that exist at the cemetery. The "Explore" exhibit is an interactive area where visitors can touch, see, and hear things about Arlington (touch a headstone, hear taps played, see videos, etc.) Kiosks will allow people to learn even more about Arlington.

Here's Jesse Tubb signing the statue's base on the evening of January 17, 2013.

Here is a brief video about the statue and how it was made. The woman who asks Jesse Tubb if he's claustrophobic is Debra Schwartz, the sister of StudioEIS co-founder Ivan Schwartz. She's the hands-on interface between each project and the studio. BJ Ervick is the long-haired, scruffy guy who welcomes Tubb to the studio. He's the production manager for StudioEIS.

You can learn more about StudioEIS by viewing this pretty decent video about how they do both fiberglass and bronze work, how they do realistic works (like mannequins) as well as more artistic pieces.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Washington Post on Sunday ran a big article about how Fairfax County is now trying to lure the FBI out of the city.

About the FBI building...

First, does anyone really want this white elephant to take up 55 acres of land inside the city? I certainly don't. That's a square that's four miles per side! OK, most of that is just empty space which the FBI wants for "security" (much like the CIA gets). Even a square that is one mile on a side would be intolerable inside the city. Imagine something as wide as Rock Creek Park... that's what the FBI wants inside D.C. The huge, dead hole this would put in any neighborhood would never be worth the 3,500 employees working there. Just how many sandwiches a day can they eat? Would the sales taxes they generate equal the loss of $2.5 million a year in property taxes? The deadening effect on other local businesses? The way the site would be a gigantic, dark, dead hole at night with no businesses open nearby? I say: Good riddance to bad trash! Let the FBI building be built in Maryland or Virginia, where they have gazillions of acres of land that no one wants to live on and no business wants to be close to.

Damaged concrete on east facade - J Edgar Hoover Building - Washington DC - 2012Second, why is the Washington Post pushing for a "redesign" of the existing building?????????? The existing building is an ugly, ugly, ugly piece of trash. It was poorly designed, poorly constructed, and is falling apart. The parking garage is in danger of collapse, the basement leaks, there is water inside the concrete facade that is causing big chunks to fall off, and the HVAC and elevators haven't been upgraded in 40 years. In 2006, GSA estimated it would take $850 million to $1.1 billion just to make the existing building worth retaining. But in 2008, an appraiser concluded that even if GSA made all urgent renovations, the J. Edgar Hoover Building would still not be classified as "Class A" office space.

I say: Tear down the J. Edgar Hoover Building. Build a giant new Smithsonian museum there. (Remember the push for a "national music museum" five years ago?) Or build a new D.C. Public Library there -- something magnificent (with retail in it, like other libraries have) that would be a jewel for the city. Or build several mixed-use structures with plenty of mixed-income housing, plenty of retail, and even an attraction. (What small museum hasn't been built in the city but could go on a corner? A D.C. history museum?)

Tear down Hoover! Tear down Hoover! TEAR DOWN HOOVER! Plow the earth! Salt the ground! Once the site has been cleansed of its Brutalist shame, build something new and grand and worthy of the nation there.

An article in the Washington Post on January 4 discusses the growing test score scandal in Washington, D.C.

The scandal goes right to the heart of whether Michelle Rhee helped the D.C. school system or not.

Michelle Rhee is a Korean-American teacher who graduated from Cornell University in 1992. She taught in Baltimore for three years after graduation, where she allegedly abused her fourth-graders by taping over their mouths. She admitted to losing control of her class. Student test scores dropped precipitously in her class. In her second and third year in the Baltimore schools, she co-taught a class with another teacher. Rhee later claimed she (and, one assumes, the other teacher) got test scores to rise from the 13th percentile to the 90th percentile over two years. In fact, they were less than half that. Rhee claims the discrepancy is due to reporting of preliminary scores (which she used) versus final scores (which the state reported).

Rhee returned to school, and received a master's degree in public policy.

In 1997, Rhee founded the New Teacher Project, a nonprofit which trained professionals (like attorneys, historians, civil servants, businessmen, etc.) to become teachers in low-performing urban schools.

The New Teacher Project was hired by the D.C. Public School system to improve the district's recruitment and hiring procedures. This occurred despite the fact that the New Teacher Project had no expertise in the area, and had an unproven track record.

In 2007, the D.C. City Council stripped the D.C. Board of Education of its powers and created the new office of Chancellor. The city had had five superintendents of education since 2000: Paul Vance (2000-2003), Elfreda Massie (interim, 2003-2004), Robert Rice (interim, 2004), and Clifford Janey (2004-2007). Massive turnover in principals had also occurred, with 90 new principals in 2003, and another 44 in 2005 (leaving just 20 of the city's schools with a veteran principal). In a whopping 75 percent of D.C. public schools, at least 60 percent of the children lived in poverty. (Poverty is THE critical factor in learning achievement. Not teachers, not physical plant, not books, not anything else.) To counteract the poverty problem, D.C. spent more per pupil than any other school district in the nation (more than $6,000 per child per year). It has one of the lowest classroom teacher-to-student ratios in the nation (11:13).

Rhee immediately closed 23 of the city's 151 public schools -- where the previous chancellor had advocated closing only six. (Enrollment had dropped precipitously in the city: The system enrolled 80,694 students in 1990, but just 68,925 in 2000 -- a drop of 15 percent. But not a single school closed. By 2007, enrollment was at 49,422 -- a drop of 29 percent. But not a single school closed. Since 2007, enrollment has stayed fairly steady at about 45,100. That's a drop since 2007 of 9 percent.) She fired almost a quarter of the city's principals, and slashed the highly dysfunctional DCPS central administration staff by 121 jobs (13 percent of the staff).

Meanwhile, teachers in D.C. schools were in turmoil. Barbara Bullock, the president of the Washington Teacher Union (an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers), was arrested in December 2002 on charges of embezzling more than $5 million from her union. Also arrested where Bullock's assistant, the union vice president, and the union treasurer. A national union administrator took charge of the local union. Elections for new officers were not held until 2005. Those elections were contested, and new elections held in 2010. That ended the administratorship of the union. The city had tried to suspend teacher pay raises in 2003 to close a budget gap, but a judge ruled that illegal. The union amended its contract in 2004 to suspend pay raises instead.

In 2008, Rhee offered a new teachers contact that offered merit pay: A much higher salary of $140,000 if their students achieved certain (and being fired if the kids didn't) or retaining tenure rights but getting a much smaller salary. The union rejected the contract. Rhee declared an impasse (a legal maneuver), and imposed her last-offer contract. The union pressured Rhee to negotiate a new contract. In 2010, the union membership agreed to a contract that suspended tenure for a single year. Afterward, teachers had reduced tenure rights. In exchange, teachers won a 20 percent pay raise over the life of the contract, and merit pay bonuses of $20,000 to $30,000 a year.

Rhee immediately fired 241 teachers and told another 737 teachers that they would be dismissed the following year of their students did not improve. (It turned out that a whopping 76 dismissed teachers had no teaching certificate -- which was required by law.)

Rhee never got the chance to fire them. Her patron, Mayor Adrian Fenty, lost re-election. Rhee resigned her position on October 13, 2010. Within two months, Rhee founded StudentsFirst, a lobbying group dedicated to ending teacher tenure and passing other educational reforms.

By the time she left DCPS, Rhee 45 percent of the teachers in the school system had less than three years' experience on the job. Of the 91 principals she hired over three years, 39 had quit the system or been fired.

* * * * *

So what's the brou-ha-ha??

During Rhee's tenure as chancellor, D.C. public school students saw their reading test scores right by 14 percent and math test scores rise by 17 percent. High school graduation rates also improved by 4 percent (to 73 percent).

Now, the funny thing is, graduation rates improved by 3 percent before Rhee won the right to fire low-performing teachers. Afterward, they rose by just 1 percent. So her huge changes can't have improved it much. In fact, between 2010 and 2011, graduation rates soared to 80 percent -- a whopping 7 percent increase. (These rates are calculated using something called the "Lever method", which counts as a graduate anyone completing high school whether they got a regular diploma, GED, special education diploma, or other form of certificate of completion. Federal law requires schools to use the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate method for 2012, which excludes all those people. Under the ACGR method, D.C. graduation rates were 53 percnet in 2011 and 56 percent in 2012.)

But what about those big rises in test scores?

As the January 4 Post article points out, they seem to be falsified.

Nationally, it seems that most children taking a standardized test will make few erasures. After all, it doesn't affect their grade one bit. Nationwide, it's common for one erasure to occur on the test. Dr. Thomas Haladyna, an education expert, said "the odds are better for winning the Powerball grand prize than having that many erasures by chance."

In many D.C. public schools, there were 10 erasures per test. Some classrooms went from 22 percent proficiency in one year to 58 percent the second. After Rhee left, proficiency in those same classrooms plunged far more than in classrooms where it had not risen as much.

Furthermore, nearly all the changes were wrong-to-right answers. Almost none were right-to-wrong answers (which you would expect if students themselves were changing their answers.)

Cheating is a problem as well. In 2007, an internal DCPS investigation found that as many as a third of all D.C. public school students cheated on their standardized tests. DCPS pooh-poohed the results, saying that since cheating was uniform across all schools, the bias could be corrected for statistically.

The erasure scandal continues, however....

The 2007 test scores already showed high erasure rates. D.C.'s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (which still exists, even though it has no power) recommended that test scores at a number of schools be investigated because of unusually high standardized test score gains. Rhee's staff, including her chief of statistics, strongly opposed this, and nothing immediately came of their recommendation.

But in 2008, Rhee hired Caveon Consulting Services to investigate erasure problems that occurred in 2007. A whopping 103 schools -- 68 percent of all schools -- were flagged as having massively higher-than-average erasures. (To no one's surprise, this included 8 of the 10 schools Rhee lauded as examples of her radical education policies.) Caveon was told not to interview students. Caveon was told not to ask teachers if they changed test scores; it was told only to ask whether testing procedures (did you get training? did the test start on time? did testing end on time?) were followed. DCPS has declined to release Caveon's results.

In 2009, the DCPS Inspector General's office did a very limited investigation of erasure problems at eight schools in 2008. Why? It's not clear. DCPS refuses to say if third parties flagged any schools for high 2008 erasure rates. People close to the investigation told USA Today that 46 schools were flagged for high erasure rates. In four schools, 85 percent of classrooms had erasure rates so high there was only 1 in 30,000 chance of it happening. That should have immediately triggered school-wide investigations, but none were conduted by DCPS. At any rate, the Inspector General investigation was limited to whether teachers implemented the testing process correctly (e.g., adhered to time limits, did not open test booklets early, etc.) and whether they observed any cheating. Teachers were not asked to explain high erasure rates, or who (students? teachers? principals?) might have made the erasures. The Inspector General's office had not released its report by late 2012. The Inspector General looked only at testing process implementation again in 2010. And again, no report has been issued.

Caveon was hired in 2011 to look at 2010 erasure rates in 41 DCPS schools. No reports have been released.

In 2011, the consulting firm of Alvarez & Marsal was hired (to the tune of $400,000) to investigate yet another round of high erasures. A&M was told to ignore all evidence of erasures before 2010. A&M was permitted to talk to only 80 students across the city (that's 1 student for every 2 schools). They asked the students if they or anyone had cheated on the tests -- but did not ask about erasures. Furthermore, DCPS only told A&M to focus on classrooms where there were big jumps in erasure rates. If a teacher or principal was making erasures at the same level in 2009, 2010, and 2011, no jump in erasure rates would be seen. Thus, that classroom would not be investigated.

The January 4 Post article was damning. It contained statements by teachers and paraprofesionals that they witnessed teachers changing answers in booklets after hours in some schools -- sometimes late into the night. There was also testimony that some principals colluded with teachers to change test answer, and that in some cases principals acted alone.

What does Michelle Rhee say?

Naturally, she says it's all a conspiracy against her.
1) She claimed the investigations cleared the school system, even though none of the results were released and the investigations themselves appear deeply flawed.

2) She said press reports about high erasure rates showed that "enemies of school reform once again are trying to argue that the Earth is flat and that there is no way test scores could have improved .... unless someone cheated." (She since retracted her remarks.)
When Rhee resigned, her deputy, Kaya Henderson, took over. Henderson argues that high erasure rates in and of themselves don't mean anything. They could be a sign of tampering by principals and teachers, yes. But she says there's no evidence of that. She says they could be a sign of cheating, but there's no evidence of widespread cheating -- and what evidence there is will not statistically alter the test results. She says it could be a sign that teachers are urging students to go back and check their work, and the erasures are legitimate.

But almost no one believes Henderson. She won't release the investigation reports, and she continues to limit and hamper the investigations by forcing them to look at the wrong data or ask the wrong questions.

So my "bachelor uncle" who died a month ago turned out to have left a three-decades-old will in which he left everything on his farm to his brothers and sisters. Which means it's split up some 11 different ways (that's his siblings). Because my father is dead, that's about 15 acres coming to me (plus unexploited mineral rights).

However, it turns out he also owned a farm ("the Fisher place") across the highway. He left that to my dad and just one other brother. That's just a six-way split (three cousins, and me and my two brothers). That'll be about 83 acres.

Somwhere in there, is a plot of land where I'll get the land -- but no mineral rights. I was common in the 1920s for farmers to buy farm equipment by handing over mineral rights rather than taking out a mortgage. The lender remains a silent partner in mineral rights. So, that needs to be settled too. (In this case, the lender was the state of North Dakota -- which still owns those rights.)

Probate, here we come.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Thomas Boswell, one of the best sports columnists in the world, gives some amazing insight into why RGIII's decision to play in last night's NFL playoff game was one of the worst ever made in sports (even if the MRI comes back without a career-ending injuring).

"Griffin collapsed in a gruesome heap near the Redskins goal line while merely trying to bend over to pick up his own fumble. He lay there for several minutes. Replays showed his knee twisting in grotesque directions. ...

If Griffin has a major injury, even one he is entirely able to recover from, then the sight of Griffin staggering through this game like a defenseless one-legged man, and the playoff-blood-pact between coach and quarterback may go down as one of the sport’s most remarkably stupid macho decisions."

Maika Elan is a young Vietnamese photographer who took photographs of happy same-sex couples in Cambodia during a photography meeting there. Back in Vietnam, she realized how images of same-sex couples there stigmatized them -- showing them without heads, only from the back, sometimes masked. She decided to change this.

Now, her series of images, "Pink Choice", is getting worldwide attention. In Vietnam, it has turned the deeply stigmatized world of gay people upside down, and has created what others are calling "a decisive moment" for gay Vietnamese.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

John Brown by Ole Peter Hansen Balling - 1872

A superb portrait of John Brown, American abolitionist, by Ole Peter Hansen Balling. Painted in 1872, 13 years after his death, probably from a daguerreotype attributed to Martin M. Lawrence. Brown was 59 years old at the time. He was hanged on December 2, 1859.

French author Victor Hugo, in exile on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel, wrote passionately about Brown's forthcoming execution:
Politically speaking, the murder of John Brown would be an uncorrectable sin. It would create in the Union a latent fissure that would in the long run dislocate it. Brown's agony might perhaps consolidate slavery in Virginia, but it would certainly shake the whole American democracy. You save your shame, but you kill your glory. Morally speaking, it seems a part of the human light would put itself out, that the very notion of justice and injustice would hide itself in darkness, on that day where one would see the assassination of Emancipation by Liberty itself. ...

Let America know and ponder on this: there is something more frightening than Cain killing Abel, and that is Washington killing Spartacus.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Kogod Courtyard - northeast corner and floor - Smithsonian American Art Museum - 2013-01-04

I have never taken photos inside the Kogod Courtyard at the National Portrait Gallery/Smithsonian American Art Museum before. Not sure why. But that oversight has now been rectified.