Tunnels and Trains

One nice perk of new job: access to the system of tunnels under the US Capitol. Hours are limited when House and Senate are recessed, but if I get out early enough it’s still a good way to get to Union Station when weather is less than optimal for a walk outside.

Tunnel, Capitol to Cannon House Office Building

Cannon House Office Tunnel is lined with art from constituents in every Congressperson’s district, and connects to the Capitol Basement. Down there I still keep getting lost in a maze of nondescript and very un-Capitol-like passages while trying to get to here:

Senate Subway, Capitol to Russell Senate Office Building

…the Senate Subway that connects the Capitol to the Senate Office Buildings. There are also walkways between the tracks; at least once walking has been faster than waiting for the train cars.

After a long walk through a brick basement hallway under the Russell Senate Office Building, I emerge right near Union Station.

Washington DC Union Station

Of course, if we still lived in our old apartment on E St NW I’d be practically home by now, but today there’s one more train to ride.

Washington DC Union Station

And miles to go before I sleep.

(If short VRE commuter train rides recorded with a GoPro are your thing, I’ve been collecting them in this Trains Playlist.)

Late Ice

It’s been a fairly warm winter without much snow, so even just the few hours of frozen precipitation we got in March was cause enough for some late weather excitement.

Snowy Marsh

More ice rather than snow, so a smooth slippery crust formed over every surface.

Frosty Rocks

Local forest trail became especially perilous after some refreezing, as I learned the hard way the next evening.

Snowy Trail

Since it was very icy and packed, the snow/ice mix lasted a while. A week later, this sad remnant was still left outside Library of Congress.

Remnant of Winter

The late and sudden cold caused a bit of a cherry blossom scare but the trees appear to have survived nicely.

Eugene Cernan (1934-2017)

I think it was 1989, maybe early 1990, back in the Philippines. I was in 7th Grade. We went on a field trip to see the Ripley’s (of Believe It Or Not” fame) traveling show “World’s Firsts,” which was visiting Manila at the time. That day they had a guest speaker: Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan. (Some irony there, I suppose: that an exhibit about first things would feature the last person to have walked on the moon.)

I don’t remember much about the presentation; all I could think of was an Apollo documentary I had seen showing the EVA where Cernan and fellow astronaut Jack Shmitt had found orange-colored soil.

So when Q&A time came up, I bounded up to the mic (which I vividly recall gave me a strong static shock) and excitedly asked “Remember the orange soil? What was it? Was it radioactive? Was it some kind of ore?”

Cernan was extremely pleased by this. “Now this kid, this kid has done his homework,” he said, “We did find orange soil.” He went on to talk about iron oxide in the soil and volcanic activity, but the rest of the day my head was abuzz with praise from an astronaut who’d walked on the moon.

He died on January 16th, 2017, still the last man on the moon. We still have not returned. But I’ve done my homework.

Mossy

Mossy

Moss-covered rock on a trail in North Virginia, shot with an iPhone 5s on New Year’s Day in the midst of an unusually warm mid-winter.

2016 in Review

The year 2016 brought an epic blizzard and a wave of sad high-profile deaths, including John Glenn, Prince, Princess Leia, Kathy Selden, Admiral Ackbar, R2D2, Snape, The Goblin King, Reverend Book, Chekov 2.0, The Big Lebowski, Henry Warnimont, Willie Wonka, Joe Patroni, Ali, Alf, and democracy.

Snowman in necktie at US Capitol, Washington, DC #blizzard2016

But death aside, 2016 will forever be most notable for one birth: our son Ezra.

Baby Ezra

I turned forty. I also quit my last job and started a new one. In the week between jobs I hopped over to the Philippines to see my brother get married, and also do some diving. (Also got to ride a Boeing 787 for the first time and visit Tokyo for a night.)

Diving at Twin Rocks
Tokyo Sky Tree

Best selfie of the year: tie between Screen Door Ladybug and Tummy Time.

Ladybug on screen door
Tummy Time

And now, welcome to 2017: year of Running Man.

Christmas 2016

Some shots from Christmas with the in-laws, our son’s first Christmas and also his first long trip away from home.

New Jersey Turnpike rest stop family portrait
Baby Ezra
Ezra unwraps his first Christmas Present
Amy and Ezra

And here’s a video of Ezra laughing along with his grandpa saying composer names:

Very important lesson learned this trip: there is no baby changing station at the N Dupont Hwy Wawa in Wilmington, DE.

Dive Log: Twin Rocks, Anilao

Day trip with brother Francis to Anilao, scuba destination of our (and our parents’) youth. We dove out of Planet Dive, a resort in Anilao equipped for day trips, right off Twin Rocks, a relatively shallow and easy marine sanctuary accessible from the resort via shore entry.

Video recorded on a GoPro Hero4 Session with waterproof housing and hand strap mount. (The mount turned out to be terribly shaky and the housing clouded up at times, necessitating some post-processing and stabilization, hence the strange wobbly effects at some points in the video.)

Dive 101: Twin Rocks
Max depth: 60ft
Dive time: 55 mins
Air used: 200 bar

Shore entry means you literally walk into the sea, wearing full gear, then start swimming when it’s deep enough. Lots of scary looking sea urchins nestled in the rocks, though the dive center seems to have done a good job of keeping the immediate shore entry area urchin-free. On descent from the entry point is a sunken barge which serves as anchor for the dive buoy.

Diving at Twin Rocks

The Twin Rocks themselves are several meters north of this spot, a leisurely swim over scattered clusters of coral, harboring schools of fish and other diverse sea life. We met a friendly turtle and a shy mantis shrimp.

Twin Rocks, Anilao #scuba

Hour long dive, with nice shallow reef area for safety deco stop en route back to entry point. Lots of fish and coral but again, many urchins in the shallows.

Dive 102: Twin Rocks, but deeper
Max depth: 80 ft
Dive time: 55 mins
Air used: 200 bar

Second dive after lunch. Went a bit deeper after shore entry, going past the sunken barge down to 80 feet. Sea floor was barer, with only scattered clusters of coral dotting the sand. Saw a moray eel peeking out from under some coral, with a cleaner shrimp roaming around its head and ducking in and out of its mouth.

Moray eel and cleaner shrimp (GoPro screenshot)

Up at the Rocks I tried leaving my GoPro alone on the coral for a few minutes, so that fish normally fleeing my presence returned to the reef, schooling around the camera unconcerned. Got a good silhouetted scuba self-portrait, and an inquisitive red snapper came close to the camera three times, possibly trying to intimidate the GoPro away from its reef.

Inquisitive Red Snapper (GoPro screenshot)

Overall, a nice pair of dives, and the resort day trip package included lunch and decent dive shop service. Extremely grateful to my brother for taking time out of his day for the trip.

Halloween 2016

For Halloween we were a Star Trek family, with me and Amy in our Original Series red shirts and Ezra representing the Next Generation.

Original Series and Next Generation

Last year’s creeper head mask served as a front walk jack-o-lantern and candy table for the trick-or-treaters — of whom there were far fewer than last year, probably since Halloween fell on a Monday. Interestingly there were zero presidential candidate costumes despite it being close to election. Also zero Princess Elsas. Lots of Supermen, Batmen, and Ninja Turtles, of course. Two Kylo Rens, more Darth Vaders.

Creeper Head Mask

I just realized that in a couple more Halloweens I’ll actually have a son to take around the neighborhood, too.