Work gave me an opportunity to tour the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center out in Culpeper VA a few months ago.

LoC Packard Campus

Also known as the Packard Campus — after its benefactor David Packard of Hewlett-Packard fame — the facility began as the Culpeper Switch, a cold war Federal Reserve bunker burrowed into a mountain.

LoC Packard Campus
LoC Packard Campus

Today the bunkers are now vaults and labs for film reels, cassette tapes, records, wax cylinders, photos, video games, and other artifacts of bygone eras of audio-visual media, all carefully restored, cataloged, and digitally archived by Library of Congress workers — with help from a few robots here and there.

LoC Packard Campus
LoC Packard Campus
LoC Packard Campus #throughglass

I mentioned video games. They had a spread of various games across all kinds of on one table, which seemed a haphazard scatter at first, but I don’t think it was an accident that ET for Atari, CD-i Zelda, and Battletoads — some of the worst titles in the history of gaming — were clustered together.

LoC Packard Campus

Meanwhile, someone took severe umbrage with these.

LoC Packard Campus #throughglass

For those wanting to visit, the Packard Campus also has a lovely theater with free events for the public, and yearly open houses with facilities tours. More photos in the full LoC NAVCC photoset.


After decades of 20/20 vision I finally started having trouble reading small text close to my eyes, and an optometry appointment showed mild farsightedness and astigmatism, which means reading glasses.


I only need them for reading small text near my face, very important for Pokémon GO. I picked the thinnest frames possible so I wouldn’t scare our son, who’s failed to recognize his grandpa when he puts on his glasses. Good news is that a puff test showed no glaucoma. This is fine.

Halloween 2017

Ezra outgrew last year’s Star Trek: Next Generation outfit, so this year he was in Original Series Captain’s Command Gold. Meanwhile, Amy and I donned our red shirts as his security detail.

Captain Ezra and security detail

He’s still an unsteady walker and doesn’t have enough teeth to handle candy yet, so no walking around trick-or-treating, but he had fun staying out late and greeting the monsters and superheroes who showed up. Two bags of Costco candy — only one was finished up, which means now we have 150 pieces to ourselves.

First Haircut

Another milestone: Ezra’s first haircut. We brought him to a local Cartoon Cuts which specializes in first haircuts, and has TVs and toys for the kids. None of that mattered as Ezra wailed and struggled through the entire ordeal. Still, he looks a lot better after a trim.

<Ezra: before haircut Ezra: after haircut
Ezra: during haircut

Oh, you know how you get a keepsake lock of hair in a baggie to remember a first haircut? Make sure the lock of hair is dry. Turns out wet hair in a sealed bag gets moldy.

Baby Steps

And suddenly our son Ezra has begun to walk. He was already cruising with some assistance earlier, but at 14 months came those wobbly first few steps at a time, and by 15 months he could cross a room.

Almost 16 months now, and he’s running around outdoors like a pro. He especially likes little footbridges, walking across them and turning around and recrossing them repeatedly.

Ezra walks across a bridge

New milestone crossed. Very proud of our little bridge-crosser, now technically a toddler rather than a baby.

Great Falls

Took a day trip to Great Falls for Labor Day: Maryland side, with trips down the Olmsted Island walk and Section B of the Billy Goat Trail. That latter part was a mistake: I’d forgotten how far a walk down the C&O towpath it was to get to the Billy Goat Trail, and just how much rock scrambling was involved — more than I remember from last time, when I may have taken a slightly different route due to flooding. (Less on Sec B than on Sec A, but still too much to do with a baby in a carrier.) Gonna wait till Ezra’s older to go back there.

Great Falls, MD
Great Falls, MD
Blue Blaze, Billy Goat Trail Sec B

Nice views, at least.

The Total Solar Eclipse of 2017

Washington DC did not see a total solar eclipse, but there was at least one small part of it in the path of totality on August 21st — in Nebraska.

These four sandstone columns were once part of the Department of the Treasury, until they were detached in 1908 and moved to Pioneers Park, Lincoln, Nebraska in 1916. It was to this artifact of historic Washington that I traveled, to watch the moon slide in front of the sun and shroud the area in darkness, above me a ring of silvery coronal fire piercing through darkened clouds.

Eclipse 2017

I had read that the experience of totality produced a kind of primal fear in some viewers, an irrational sense of ominous doom; or in others, a sense of expanded cosmic awareness of the universe. I didn’t feel any of that, but I did get goose bumps of awe. (It’s entirely possible that I just live in a constant state of ominous doom and cosmic awareness.) Mostly I just stared at that silvery ring, mumbling to myself, “There’s the shadow, ooooh prominences, wooow” while letting the camera trigger run through exposure cycles.

Eclipse 2017 Single LE HDR Exposure Eclipse 2017 Single LE HDR Exposure Eclipse 2017 Single LE HDR Exposure Eclipse 2017 Single LE HDR Exposure

Post-totality I also met Thomas, who didn’t just watch the eclipse, he was the eclipse. We talked a bunch about space and forklifts and Nebraska and DC, and he gave me a ride back to my parking spot.

Portrait of Man as Solar Eclipse

This was a same-day round trip and sadly there wasn’t time to drive into Lincoln and see the sights before going to the airport. Instead I hiked around Pioneers Park a bit to see the Prairie and Nature Centers. There was an injured barn owl at the Nature Center who had gotten used to waking at daytime hours to interact with guests. Apparently she had fallen asleep during totality, thinking it was night, and was still sleeping when I got there.

Pioneers Park
Pioneers Park
Sleepy Barn Owl, Pioneers Park Nature Center

It was a 22 hour journey, much of it spent aboard planes, in airports, or driving a rental Nissan Rogue around the Lincoln area, all for a minute and a half of cloudy celestial twilight above four grimy sandstone columns. It was worth the trip.

Total Solar Eclipse at The Columns

Full eclipse photoset here, and GoPro eclipse video here.

Next total solar eclipse on Earth will be 2 July 2019 over Chile and Argentina, and next total solar eclipse to cross North America will be 8 April 2024; so make your plans now, I guess?

Prelude to an Eclipse

I’m on a plane to Lincoln, Nebraska, looking out the window at a sun soon to be obscured by the moon.

Clouds above and below IAD-ORD-LNK

I hadn’t originally planned to travel for the Great American Eclipse of 2017, figuring it would be enough to glance at the partial eclipse from DC today; but then I read the stories:

With all this I decided to give eclipse-chasing a try, and burned some airline reward miles on a same-day round trip to Lincoln, NE, with a car rental to get farther south and deeper into the shadow of totality. I’m torn between viewing the eclipse from Pioneers Park, which has four pillars that connect the eclipse site back to DC, or the Homestead National Monument, which will provide a full minute more of totality — precious seconds where an eclipse is involved — but as a NASA broadcast site and major venue event, will probably be more crowded. It’ll depend on the clouds more than anything else.

Of related interest: 18 second solar eclipse in Uganda, 2013.

(Many thanks to my wife and kid for letting me disappear to the heartland for a day to experience about two minutes of staring at a darkened sun.)

Baby Ezra Update: Dedication, Museum, Zoo

More recent milestones for our son at 13-14 months of age: his dedication at First Baptist DC with Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell. (As Baptists we don’t baptize babies but we do have a dedication ceremony where the infant is presented to the congregation with prayers.)

Ezra's Baby Dedication

Also his first times visiting a Smithsonian museum (Natural History) and the National Zoo, standard must-visits for any DC-area resident.

Baby's First Smithsonian Trip Baby's First Smithsonian Trip
Ezra's First Zoo Trip Ezra's First Zoo Trip

Another milestone: his first time in a swimming pool, the shallow kiddie wading pool to start. (I’ll spare you the photos of me in trunks for this one.)