Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Link of the day

A recent survey attempted to uncover the reasons people have sex .

Apparently, there are 237 reasons. Who knew?

One month to go!

One month from tomorrow, I go back to Oregon. I'll have been gone nearly three months. As much as I've loved this internship and enjoyed Washington, I can't wait to go back. I'm getting really psyched.

The thing I miss most? My cats. If I'd actually moved here for good, they'd have come with me. I'll admit that wanting to get back to my pets is driving me to think of other things I miss about home. But mostly, it's the cats. I know that many of you are thinking to yourselves that I'm going to become a crazy cat lady, and you're probably right. But those cats are my buddies. I miss having them around. I miss all of my human friends too, but at least I can talk to you guys on the phone.

I may have mentioned before that I've found that the things that are exciting about visiting a large city (and really, Washington isn't that big. Its population is comparable to Portland's.) are the things that make me miss smaller cities. There are too many buildings and not enough large expanses of grass (my roomie, who's from a small town in Texas and lives in South Carolina now, agrees with me on this point). Maybe in part due to the differences between the East Coast and the Pacific Northwest, there is just too much going on. It's a very chaotic, fast-paced life here and while it's exciting for a while, there are times when I feel a tad suffocated by it. I want to go lie under a tree in a park and read a book and just listen to birds instead of traffic (of course, who would want to spend any more time than necessary outside in this weather?). I enjoy it, but I'm much more laid-back than this town seems to allow.

I miss having a yard. While the stoop outside my house is a good place to people-watch (and occasionally even catch a glimpse of a Congressperson or two), it certainly doesn't offer the privacy of a yard.

I miss privacy in general. As much as I enjoy the public transportation here (and would totally use it for everything but grocery shopping if I lived here permanently), it's just one more time when you're surrounded by people. I love Washington because of its diversity, and I hope to one day live in another place where there are so many different types of people. I just wish I could get the diversity of the population without the sheer number of people. A city the size of Eugene with a population as diverse as Washington's would be perfect for me.

With three roomies in my two-bedroom apartment, huge crowds on the subway at least one way of my daily commute, there's never any privacy. At home, at least I know that I'll have time to myself in the drive to and from school. The cubicle at work is more private than home in many ways. The problem isn't that I don't like being around people. I love being around people and in general, don't spend much time totally alone. I hate living by myself. But I like to have the option. Sometimes I just want to walk around singing really loudly, listen to music that I don't want other people to hear (see one of the embarrassing confessions in my post from a few days ago), eat gross food without other people knowing, etc. I can't wait to get back to my house in Eugene and sit alone in my own bedroom (with the cats, of course) and watch stupid TV by myself without having to talk to anyone about why I like some stupid shows.

Finally, I can't wait to start my new job at the school paper. I'll be the Freelance Desk editor and I have some exciting ideas about how to go about getting the best stories out of my writers. I've also got some ideas about things I'd like to write while I'm there and I can't wait to get back. I've only got a few more months (two terms) at that paper, and I'm going to miss it. I think there are some good things I can do. When the time comes, I'll keep people posted on what those ideas were.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The halfway point

Today marks the start of the fifth week of my ten week internship (Friday will mark the first time I receive a paycheck that I can actually put into savings, even if I spend a little. The initial costs of moving were really more than I'd expected).

It seems like a good halfway point. I'm just now at a point where all the "touristy" things I'd looked forward to doing are out of the way and I can spend my free time relaxing and/or finding quirky things to do. I'm kind of museumed out. I haven't seen the National Museum of Art yet, but that doesn't seem nearly as interesting to me as the other museums. Now it's time to types of things that some of my friends wonder think I'm weird for liking.

his past weekend was kind of a bust. I went to the Folger Shakespeare Library, thinking "Wow, it would be awesome to see the world's largest collection of Shakespeare!" Problem: Unless the person I asked didn't know what she was talking about, the general public can't see the collection. The description of the place in guidebooks and its own Web site makes it sound like you can go in and do research, but I don't think so. I don't know if there's some separate part of the building or what, but all I saw was a theater (kind of modeled after the Globe, but not nearly as cool as the Elizabethan Theatre in Ashland , and a hallway with a display called "Shakespeare in American Life." Admittedly, the theatre stage was under construction so it probably didn't look as good is it normally would, but it wasn't what I'd pictured.

There were lots of posters and scripts of plays and of works derived from Shakespeare, but it wasn't anything special. The only really unique thing I saw there was the copy of the first folio (the first book of his collected works). It was very cool. That was what I really wanted to see. Underneath the glass display, they had a digital version made to look like the pages of the real book and you could touch the screen to "turn" them and look at the text. That was neat.

The excitement of seeing the first folio aside, the rest of it wasn't any more interesting than anything you'd see at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival or any gift shop in Ashland. The highlight was really when I was discussing Hamlet with some people standing near me and an English gentleman came up and quoted the entire "to be or not to be" soliloquy. That was a fun, nerdy moment that I enjoyed.

I also saw the Library of Congress, which has some decent exhibits, including the Guttenberg Bible, and is a breathtaking building (the details of the tiles on the floor and the paintings are just amazingly intricate), but again: I wanted to see a library. Books. I didn't get to see that.

Anyway, time to get going or I'll miss the subway home.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Random links

So as a copy editor, when there's downtime and I don't have stories to read, I spend a lot of time looking around Google news. I figure that way, I'm sort of still doing my job. Keeping myself informed about the world. Sometimes, I come across some interesting articles. I thought I'd share.

1. A Wall Street Journal blog on what might happen to the person who catches Barry Bonds' record-breaking home run ball.
The question at hand is, if you had to pay taxes on the ball, estimated to fetch a half million dollars, when would you have to pay them?
When I found out that I was coming to the east coast, I checked the schedules of all the baseball teams I might be able to go see this summer (the Orioles, Nationals, Yankees, Mets, etc), hoping I could catch the Giants at a time when the record might be coming. As it turns out, he may break it against the Nationals, but in San Francisco. I hate Barry Bonds, but I've always liked baseball and I'm a sucker for the record-breaking moments. I also confess to having had a fantasy that I could catch the ball and suddenly my student loan problems would be solved.
Anyway, I thought the question posed was interesting.

2. This article on bonobos from the New Yorker is fascinating, but a bit long. If you have been living in a cave for several years and don't know, bonobos are relatives of chimps (and supposedly, our closest relatives). Unlike chimps and humans, bonobos are very peaceful and have no "warfare" amongst themselves. They live in a female-dominated society and solve all problems (or celebrate everything) with sex. They're very happy creatures. The downside is that the bonobos are endangered and difficult to study, in part because they live in the Congo, where civil war has destroyed the country and their habitat. They're also hunted for food.
The sad part aside, a world in which women are in charge, there's no war and all conflicts are solved through sex . . . sounds like a damn good lifestyle to me.

3. But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? UFO's sighted at Stratford upon Avon, Shakespeare's birthplace . My deepest apologies for the lame joke.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

On a lighter note ...

Ok. Unlike Mr. Burns , who I believe when he says he hates these things, I think they're kind of interesting. I'd like to say that I despise them, but anyone on my friends list over at Myspace knows I like the surveys. Here's one I happen to think is very cool. First, the rules (like Mr. Burns, I'm skipping the last two. Half the people who read this blog already did this):

Rule #1: Don't talk about Fight Club.
Rule #2: We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
Rule #3: Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
Rule #4 People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules. At the end of your blog post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
Rule #5 Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

1. When I was in elementary school, I used to get kicked out of class all the time for being bratty. Mostly my behavior involved talking back to teachers when I thought rules were stupid or because I'd finished my work way ahead of other students and the teachers didn't believe I was done. Most of my teachers wanted to test me for ADD so I could have some ritalin and my parents refused because they didn't believe in drugging their kids. I love them for that.

2. The scars of being made fun of in elementary school and jr. high still cause me self-esteem issues. If I'm in a room with a group of people my age and people lower their voices, I still sometimes think they're whispering mean things about me. At nearly 27, I've never had a boyfriend and can count on one hand the number of dates I've been on, in part because the fear of rejection is too strong to keep me from ever having the nerve to tell guys when I like them. It's very lonely. I worry constantly that I'll never find someone.

3. I was very mean to my brother as a kid. I pushed him around a lot and said mean things. I don't know why I did this, but there was a point at which he became very mean too. I think we're both to blame for how poorly we've gotten along, and he did some pretty crappy things when he was older, but he did not deserve to be treated meanly when he was very small. My only justification for this is that I must have been jealous to no longer be the only child, or that subconsciously I was angry that he wasn't a girl, but I really don't think I had a conscious reason for it.

4. Over the years, I've grown apart or lost contact with many people I at one point considered my best friends. I can explain some of the changes in friendship, but others baffle me. One in particular involves my biggest regret, but I'm not even sure if that event caused the rift because the person in question refuses to tell me why we're no longer friends.

5. As much as I enjoy traveling and talk about wanting to live abroad, this internship has caused me to realize how much I love Oregon. The thought of leaving it, or at least, living more than a day's drive from it, terrifies me. I think this is partly due to the fear of having to move somewhere where I don't know anyone and would have to make an entirely new group of friends.

6. Despite the fact that the previous 5 items make me sound dark and depressed, I'm really quite happy with my life right now. I've recently realized that all the shitty things that happened to me following getting my undergraduate degree (including the fact that I was dumb enough to not work my ass off in journalism as an undergrad), were necessary to lead me to this point in my life, where I'm sitting at my desk at a fabulous internship in Washington, D.C., writing this. Things sucked a lot at the time, but now, I'm working toward the career I'm supposed to have, having a lot of fun and making great friends in my grad program.

7. I'm scared of the dark.

8. On a much lighter note: I'll admit something rather embarrassing. I own, on CD, the New Kids On The Block's Greatest Hits. And I listen to it. And still know the words to all the songs.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Recycling in DC

Yesterday, I complained about not being able to find recycling. Our trash is apparently an issue, as my roomies and I have been putting it in the wrong place this whole time. The things that happen when you share a small apartment with a lot of people after being used to an actual house.

Today, my roommates and I discovered that there is a "recycling" bin behind our building. We knew there was a Dumpster behind the house, but previously thought we had to be able to get into the main house (which we don't have keys to) to access it. So, we'd just been putting bags of trash on the curb and not recycling. The bags always disappeared. After a week-long dispute (and by "dispute" I mean that each of us had the same reason for not doing it, but we didn't really discuss it) over who should take the bags sitting just outside our door to the curb, we learned that we can walk around to get to the cans. We learned this when a rep from the housing office stopped by. As the only person who was home, I suddenly became the one who had to remove the trash. As usual, I took it to the curb. Two of the other three roomies got phone calls later in the day informing them of where we actually take it.

Anyway, we saw what appeared to be a "recycling" bin; however, my boss tells me there's no recycling program in DC and that he's not even confident that newspapers go to the recycling plant. This has me worried that the bin behind the house is for newspapers only. He didn't seem to think that I could put real recycling in it.

This came up because I asked him where I could recycle the stacks of paper (news budgets, print-outs of stories, etc) and empty water/soda bottles that accumulate every day. He said: "You mean real recycling? Nowhere in the District."

It blows my mind that in the nation's capital, a city that is so dedicated to a clean subway station that a 12-year-old was once arrested for eating a French fry (thus violating the strict "no food or drink" law) in the station, can't fucking recycle. Seriously.

With all the fighting over global warming, you'd think somewhere, a Senator would say "Hmm. Maybe the nation's capital should be setting the example of how to have a good recycling program!"

I am complaining about this not just because I'm a tree-hugging Oregonian, but because I'm blown away that there's all this talk about saving the earth, and yet I can't even recycle my paper and soda bottles. With the amount of bottled water my roomies and I drink (I've never been able to deal with tap water that's chlorinated. Makes me feel sick), we're being so wasteful it's disgusting. And all this paper at work. Just horrible.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Some things I dislike about Washington

I've been writing a lot about my exploits exploring DC, so I thought I'd post a few things I've come to dislike about this town.

1. As I've said, getting to a grocery store is a pain in the ass, especially for someone used to just being able to run over to a big store at almost any time of day.

2. When I walk home at night, enormous beetles and cockroaches (comparable in size to the ones people eat on Fear Factor) run across the sidewalk and because it's dark, I don't see them until they're almost on me. This is especially disconcerting when I'm wearing sandals. There are also large, millipede-like things in my apartment.

3. Drivers couldn't care less about pedestrians. It's dangerous to enter an intersection, even if there's a crosswalk and you have the signal.

4. Ten percent sales tax. One good thing: the museum and monument gift shops don't charge tax because taxes pay for the buildings.

5. There does not appear to be recycling available. Supposedly there are recycle bins inside the house I live in, but I live in the basement and do not have a key to the part where the recycle bins are. It disgusts me to see plastic bottles and papers thrown in the trash.

DC Update

Well, going into my fourth week in Washington, I've finally done all the really "touristy" things, with the exception of the Jefferson Memorial. I may go see that in a few weeks, but it's further away from the subway stops than other attractions and as hot as the weather has been, I'm not in the mood to walk. This Friday, I'll get to tour Congress and will have the opportunity to stay and watch the action. I'm not sure if they'll have anything interesting to debate, as the war debate is really going to get heated tonight, but here's hoping. I did the White House tour last week, but it was a slight letdown. They only let you go into four rooms (the ones named after colors), and you don't get to see the Oval Office or the West Wing or anything like that. I would have liked to see the press room, which was just renovated and re-opened a week or so ago. We did get to see the "East Room," which is a ballroom (smaller than I'd have expected) with amazing crystal chandeliers. It's very unfortunate that you're not allowed to take photos, because the only way to get close enough to the house to take a decent photo is to go on the tour. Otherwise, you're just shooting through a fence and it's hard to get a good close-up. My digital camera broke, so until I get a paycheck that I feel is big enough to warrant spending money on a new camera (a few weeks from now), it's an old-fashioned disposable for me. It's funny. I remember being a kid when those things came out, thinking they were so cool, and now they seem so out-dated.

On the White House tour, you get to see portraits of many (but not nearly all) of the presidents, as well as some photos taken at various points in history. My favorites were a photo of LBJ with his dog on his lap and they're both howling at the ceiling (weird, but I liked to see a light-hearted photo), and the portrait of Millard Fillmore.

This past weekend, I went to the U.S. Holocaust Museum. It wasn't exactly a "fun" experience, but it's absolutely fascinating. Everyone on earth should see it. When you go in, they give you an "identification card" (based on your gender) that is a little booklet about the size of a passport. It tells you the story of one person who lived during the Holocaust. Both my roommate, who went with me, and I got women who had survived the camps and survived. I'm not sure if the rest contained only names of survivors or of people who were killed. Anyway, it gave the person's name, age and story about what happened to them.

The design of the building is really interesting. You start out on an elevator, which like the rest of the building is concrete with wire mesh over the walls and watch a short video of an American talking about what it was like to find the camps. Then you come out to photos that were taken by the first troops to liberate the camps. The rest of the floor deals with the rise of Nazism and Hitler's rise to power.

The next floor down discusses anti-semitism and the events leading up to the Holocaust. Then you go down one more floor to find artifacts, videos and photos of the camps themselves. I thought the most moving part was the piles and piles of shoes and other belongings taken from the prisoners. Those things really remind you that you're talking about real people. I went expecting to see grotesque photos everywhere, but it's pretty tasteful. There are videos of the really disturbing visual images of the camps, but they're enclosed behind cement barriers so you have to make the choice to see them. At one point, you walk through one of the train cars used to transport people (they also have actual doors from gas chambers and from buildings in ghettos) and go listen to recordings of survivors talking about the campus.

The last part of the exhibit deals with the liberation of the camps and the aftermath. There are videos of survivors talking about their experiences and what happened after they left the camps (including those who were taken on "death marches." It's really interesting.

The entire thing was of course very sad, but incredibly fascinating. I really do think everyone should see it.

Sunday, I made a trek to the Whole Foods in a desperate search for fresh produce. One of the things I really dislike about where I live is the lack of a grocery store anywhere nearby. The small, 7-11 sized store near my house has virtually no produce, and while you can get groceries delivered, the produce sucks. I had food delivered once and things were rotten. I've been to a Trader Joe's once or twice, but they don't have much either. It took me three hours to get to Whole Foods and back on the subway, and the food was VERY expensive, but after I ate the produce, it was worth it. They have some delicious stuff. I've got to figure out a better way to buy groceries. Paying for a taxi is kind of out of the question, but I know there must be something that's close to a subway stop so I don't hurt myself carrying heavy bags to and from the train.

I plan to lock myself in the house this weekend until I've finished the new Harry Potter. It'll be a week off from tourism, but it will be nice to relax.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

I'm using my roomie's computer and can't seem to put a title on this thing or spell-check. So if there are spelling errors, it would be appropriate for you to make fun of me, but you should know that her computer gave me an error when I tried to spell check.

Well, I didn't get to see the fireworks from the National Mall. My roommates and I heard that you have to get there early in the morning and stake out your spot all day to get a decent seat.

Instead, I went to the parade with my friend Lila. It was a lot of fun. It's very long and has balloons and entries from different cultures around the world. For some reason, the very last float in the parade was the Hare Krishnas. I'm not sure why that's funny, but it seemed like an odd way to end such a big event. It didn't feel conclusive, I guess.

After the parade, I went to Lila's house in Arlington for barbecue. It rained, so we used the George Forman grill. Later, we walked to this bridge over the Potomic River and watched the fireworks. They were great. They did a lot of effects I've never seen before. It's quite impressive to see them with the Washington Monument in the background.

Anyway, work is great. I think I'm doing good work. The stories I'm editing are already pretty error-free, but I've caught some misspelled names and incorrect phone numbers. This week, I start working a later schedule, so I have the mornings free. I'm scheduled to go see the White House on Thursday! I'm really excited. They say you only get to go in four or five rooms, but it'll be fun to be able to say I went.

I've done more touristy stuff since last week, but nothing too interesting. I'm walked around in the heat way too much. I did go to the National Archives yesterday and loved it. I spent way too much time in the giftshop and took photos of what looks like a blank piece of paper to commemorate seeing the Constitution. I spent too much money in the giftshop, too. But, it's a really cool museum. I loved it. If I have the time later on, I may go back and use the research facilities to go through old Supreme Court cases or something else that only I would be that interested in!

Today I went to the Museum of Natural History and saw the dinosaurs and the Hope Diamond. It was all very cool.

Next week: the Holocaust Museum. Not exactly "fun," but very important.

I can't wait to start my new work schedule. It'll be so nice to have the mornings to myself to do things or just enjoy having the apartment to myself.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Why I'm sore today

This morning, I awoke determined to spend the day sight-seeing.

I left my house to discover a beautiful, only slightly too-warm day. For once, it wasn't very humid and there was a lovely breeze. I took off for the subway station near the Capitol and instead decided to walk the mile or so down the National Mall to the Washington Monument. On the way, I walked through this festival going on here. It's called "Folklife" and is put on by the Smithsonian. They pick a state (this year it's Virginia) and a country (Ireland) and showcase them. I didn't really stop at any of the booths, but I'll check it out next week. My roomies and I have plans to camp out all day Wednesday to get a good vantage point for viewing the fireworks, and the festival will be there.

Eventually, I got to the Washington Monument. On the way, I walked through the Smithsonian sculpture garden and contemplated going into the National Archives, but decided to save that for next week.

I coudln't go up into the monument because I didn't have a ticket (they're free, but you have to get there early in the day), so I kept walking and hit the World War II and Vietnam Memorials on the way. At the Vietnam Memorial, I passed a father, surrounded by his young children (one sitting on his knee), explaining the wall to them in Spanish. It was such a cute family scene and it was one of many moments throughout the day that reminded me that the diversity of this nation is one of the things we're supposed to be fighting to protect, but we have all this divisive stuff going on right now.

I was also frustrated to look at that wall and think that in 30 years, someone may be building a memorial to commemorate the lives of everyone in my generation who died in the War on Terror. It's scary to think of it that way, but it's certainly a differnet perspective thinking of those deaths after seeing that.

Next, I stopped by the Lincoln Memorial and listened to the "Ranger Talk," all about Lincoln. The crowd visiting the memorial was one of the most diverse groups I've ever been in. There were Midwestern grandmas, Indian women (in Saris), Sikhs, Muslims, little blonde girls wearing red, white and blue.... and it seemed like everyone I passed was speaking a different language. This nation should be a place where all people feel safe practicing their religion, speaking their language, keeping their cultures alive... but with all the debate over immigration, the War on Terror, etc. there aren't enough people talking about protecting the diversity of the United States. It's what makes this a great nation. I loved being in this building, one of the most recognizeable in the nation and the world, and seeing all those different people standing there staring up at the Gettysburg address and wondering what the words meant to them. I confess to having gotten a little teary. I have never been one to describe myself as "patriotic" (except while watching the Olympics), because of the connotations of the word in recent years, but one thing I do love about America is the diversity and freedom it's supposed to stand for. It makes me so angy to think about what certain foreign policies are doing to the country, what people around the world think of America because of those policies.

Anyway... I headed for the White House next, and of course couldn't get very close, but it really is pretty. I'm still working on getting to go on a tour. Here's hoping that actually happens.

I think next week will be the time for the National Archive and the Natural History museum.

After sightseeing, I took the subway to the Trader Joe's for some good produce and bought way too much. On the way home, I had to carry very heavy bags to and from two subway stations and as a result, my back/shoulders and feet hurt so bad that I'm walking like a little old lady today. It'll be nice to go to work and be forced to sit for 8 hours!

I can't wait for Wednesday. I think I've said before that while I know the crowds on the Fourth of July will be insane, I think it's kind of like Times Square on New Year's. You've gotta do it once.