While at the National Aquarium we picked up a souvenir plush shark for Ezra. Amelia gave it a sniff.

Amelia with Plush Shark

Meanwhile, here is Martha’s face when presented with a catnip fish toy. She is such a goof.

Martha with catnip toy Martha with catnip toy

Back to Amelia, who shows us cat circle theory in action.

Amelia in a Hoop

Sad news: I’ve ended the cat-centric “JonesAndPond” Twitter account I started a couple years ago; if you were following it for pictures of Martha and Amelia, there’s always here, and the Flickr “companionkittens” tag.

National Aquarium, Baltimore

Hopped over to the National Aquarium in Baltimore last Sunday. We wanted to be out of the DC area while the white supremacist rally was on (though it turned out to be a failure) — but even not counting that, we also wanted to take Ezra on his first aquarium trip to see some fish and turtles and sharks.

National Aquarium, Baltimore

I’d forgotten how very linear — and exhausting — the crowd flow in the main “Blue Wonders” part of the Aquarium was, parading you past tank after tank after tank before depositing you in the Rainforest, then ramp down shark alley, and an anticlimactic underwater viewing area all in not-so-quick succession, with only a small upstairs cafe for respite along the way. We knew better and retreated back to the larger cafeteria downstairs for an early lunch when Ezra got cranky, but it wasn’t an easy backtrack through the mazelike layout, nor was the return trip via elevator to where we left off entirely intuitive.

National Aquarium, Baltimore

Still, we saw a nice variety of aquatic wildlife, lots of sharks, plus some golden lion tamarins in the Rainforest. I also learned the giant sea turtle in the reef is named Calypso.

Sand Tiger Shark Golden Lion Tamarins

The main aquarium experience ends with an interactive guestbook where a touchscreen invites you to construct a phrase of up to six words selected from a limited, aquatic/conservation vocabulary, for display on a big projection screen. Ezra mashed at the touchscreen a bit to say SWIM HUMANS HEALTH HEALTH HUMANS.

National Aquarium, Baltimore

I haven’t been to Baltimore for a while and have been terrible about keeping up with friends there. Must come back again.

Baltimore Panorama from Aquarium

More photos here, and a collection of photos from previous trips to the Aquarium here.

Ocean City

Back from Ocean City, MD for a seaside weekend. This was Ezra’s first trip to the beach and his first time to touch an ocean, which he found enjoyable. (I really thought he’d be scared and crying like I was at that age but he literally jumped right in to the experience.)

We stayed at Safari Motel on the boardwalk, slightly old but livable beachfront accommodations with a view of the ocean (if you look sideways from the room) — and a gorilla on the balcony.

Safari Motel, Ocean City, MD

Had a chance to walk along the boardwalk to Trimper’s Rides for Bill Tracy’s classic Haunted House dark ride, which I’ve wanted to ride for years. Would have been too intense for Ezra, however, so he did several rounds on the Wild West Train.

Trimper's Rides, Ocean City, MD
Trimper's Rides, Ocean City, MD

Not having had oysters for a while, I was also glad to try the Chesapeake Steampot, at Hammerheads to get my fill of briny shellfish. Ezra sampled some too.

Chesapeake Steampot, Hammerheads

Other stuff I still want to try for next time: Jolly Roger, Thrasher’s Fries, probably a bunch of other stuff we missed. But for now it felt good to get in the ocean again; it had been a while.

Ezra in the Atlantic

VRE Rear View Leaving DC

GoPro Session video of the ride over Long Bridge out of DC into North Virginia, from the back of a VRE commuter train. In addition to the usual DC landmarks, watch for the WMATA Metrorail train, and an airliner on approach to DCA:

YouTube link

(It’s a view I’ve always wanted to capture on video, but I’ve always hesitated to actually stand up and do the recording. As it is, when I walked to the back fo the train to record the scene, one passenger did give me an alarmed look that seemed to express a sentiment like “OH NO THAT BROWN PERSON IS AFFIXING A SMALL CUBE TO THE TRAIN DOOR” — but she looked relieved when I said “It’s a camera.”)

Folklife 2018

Some snapshots from a Saturday at the 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, featuring Armenia and Catalonia.

2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

We ate some Caucasian lamb chops and lavash wraps in Armenia (with some Kotayk lager beer), and artisanal gelato in Catalonia.

2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Ezra really enjoyed the wide open space on the National Mall and ran around a bit within sight of the Washington Monument — which he can now identify by name.

Ezra on the National Mall

Full 2018 Folklife Festival photoset here, and photosets from previous Folklife Festivals through the years.

Fourth of July Shorts

Happy 4th of July from these patriotic red, white, and blue shorts that I found in, of all places, Landmark Mall in Makati, Philippines, back in 2011.

Patriotic Shorts Fourth of July Shorts

They cost about PHP117, or US$2.65. Good deal.

Ezra Update: 2 Years

At two years of age, our son Ezra has officially graduated from “baby” to full-fledged “toddler.” He is completely off milk bottles and baby food, walks and runs and goes up and down stairs and really enjoys the wading pool.

Ezra (23 months) in pool

He can now speak in short phrases, can say “hi” and “bye” and “please” and “thank you”, and has even learned to be defiant and say “NO”. He’s learning his letters and recognizes Os and Bs on sight, and can count from one to two, maybe three if he concentrates. Dogs are all puppies, but cats are cats, and he can tell Martha from Amelia.

Ezra and Amelia

Water is agua, juice is “jees.” He can identify his favorite foods, and is especially fond of blueberries (“boobappies”) and watermelon (“nenin”). Elevators are his favorite thing but he has mixed them up with “alligator” which he has abbreviated to “aggie.”

Ezra (24 months) points at elevator

Outside he collects spiky sweetgum pods, picks wildflowers, and has dubbed the stream under the park bridge “turtle poop water.”

The Determined Flower Holder

He’s also extremely enthusiastic about trains. He watches Chuggington and random railfan videos on YouTube, and likes to say hi and bye to the Metro and VRE as they pass by.

He knows his way around an iPad, and has figured out Neko Atsume and PokemonGO — although he seems to think the point of the game is to feed wild Pokemon berries rather than catch them.

Ezra plays Pokemon Go Ezra (24 months)  tries Neko Atsume

Happy birthday, kid, welcome to the terrible terrific twos.

Ezra's 2nd Birthday

As Ezra is no longer a baby, the “Baby Ezra” Flickr photo album that has tracked his progress from ultrasounds to toddlerhood is now closed to updates, though new photos will still be added to the Ezra tag.

Cherry Blossoms, 2018

First off, there were some nice blossoms right outside the Library of Congress, which I snapped first just in case I never made it to the Tidal Basin this year due to busyness.

Cherry Blossoms at LoC

Around peak bloom time, I ran over to the Tidal basin with my NEX3N for a quick cherry blossom lunch break.

DC Cherry Blossoms 2018

Along the way I discovered a walking route from L’Enfant to the Tidal Basin via the Rosa Parks bridge, an old railroad span converted to pedestrian overpass over Maine Ave SW behind the Mandarin at L’Enfant. I see the bridge from the train every morning but didn’t know it was publicly accessible, greatly shortening the walk from L’Enfant to the Tidal Basin.

Time was short so I pretty much just went from Maine Ave to Jefferson Memorial and back, snapping photos along the way and swapping between fisheye lens and telephoto.

DC Cherry Blossoms 2018
DC Cherry Blossoms 2018

Also paused at Jefferson Memorial for a bit; haven’t been in there for a few years.

Jefferson Memorial

We went back over the weekend to bring Ezra over for his first hanami but he mostly napped. (Was also his first ride on Metro, which went well.)

Family at the Tidal Basin

Also tried a cherry-blossom-themed donut at Dunkin. It was … a donut.

“Cherry Blossom” donut

Full Cherry Blossoms 2018 photo album here, continuing my unbroken streak of DC cherry blossom photos since 2004.