Saturday, May 9, 2009

Day 213/365 - National Train Day

Today was National Train Day in the U.S., although most people probably weren't aware of that fact. Amtrak held celebrations in DC, NYC, Chicago, and somewhere on the West Coast. The DC festivities were held at Union Station. They have model trains, real trains you can tour, and various other activities.

I think last year's Train Day was better. They had more historic trains you could walk through last year, including a really cool old streamlined train. This year it was mostly contemporary rolling stock from Amtrak and local commuter rail lines MARC and VRE. They did have an old Pullman car from the 1930s though, and the railcar Obama and Biden rode into DC for the inauguration. You couldn't walk through that one. You just had to peer through the windows.

I love trains, even though I don't really know much about them. My friend Chris and I have decided that if either of us ever wins the lottery we will put together a huge model train set-up that replicates various regions of the U.S. I've never owned a model train. My brother had one when I was little that made actual smoke. I remember thinking that was pretty cool.

(Taken with my Nikon D90)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Day 212/365 - A Glorious Afternoon

Today, for the first time in over a week and a half, we had blue skies and sunshine. I was damned if I was going to let it go to waste while I toiled away in my office all day, especially given that the rain is supposed to return this evening. So I decided to take the afternoon off. Come 12:30 I turned off my computer, grabbed my bag, and headed for the door.

I decided to spend the afternoon in the Dupont Circle section of Washington, DC. On the subway ride there I ran into JW, who had snuck away from her office to meet up with Samer for lunch. It was a great day for escaping from offices. On the subject of lunch, I opted to take mine sitting on the patio of the Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe. I went for the jerked chicken salad, a glass of Riesling, and a slice of blueberry pie. Yummmm on all counts.

Once I finished with lunch, I ambled over to the Phillips Collection to finally see the Morandi exhibit I've been meaning to check out for a while. Morandi was an Italian painter who worked from the 1920s through the 1960s and who specialized in still lifes (on a random note, why is it 'still lifes' and not 'still lives'?). His still lifes are very stark and simple and feature a muted palette and abstract backgrounds. Morandi didn't paint the standard 'bowl of fruit' still lifes. His paintings were of small arrangements of commonplace household items, the artifacts of everyday life.

The focus in his work is always on containers or vessels of some sort -- vases, cups, bowls, tins, pitchers. With the exception of a few paintings of flowers, the containers are always empty. It's as though they are waiting to be filled with whatever the viewer wishes to project into them. For all their stark simplicity, there is something very zen, patient, and contemplative about his still lifes. It was an interesting exhibit. I really need to take an art survey or appreciation course one of these days so I'll know what the hell I'm talking about.

Given the rare dose of sunshine, I couldn't spend the whole day cooped up in an art gallery though, so after taking in the exhibit I headed to the small park at the center of Dupont Circle and sat in the sun near the fountain to read for a while. After about an hour I got a little hot, so I popped into a Starbucks nearby to get an iced coffee and sat there and read for another hour or so.

It was a glorious afternoon and to make matters even better, when I got home I discovered that the Nikon D90 I ordered had been delivered! I had been thinking about replacing my DSLR for the past 4-5 months and earlier this week I finally decided to do so. I've only had my D80 for about 15 months and I got a lot of good use out of it, but its performance in low light and mixed lighting environments was really frustrating. I had originally been leaning toward getting a D300 until I read an on-line review that said the D90's performance was just about as good, but it cost several hundred dollars less and featured newer technology. So after checking with Marie to get her firsthand account of using one, I switched my sights to the D90.

Now I'm just waiting for the battery pack to charge up so I can start playing with my new toy.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Day 211/365 - F$&# the Flowers!

Look, I like flowers as much as the next guy and I know they need water to survive, but this continuous rain nonsense needs to stop. We're at what now, day 10 of dreary downpours? I want my sunshine back, dammit!

This shot was taken inside the Conservatory of the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, DC -- where the flowers don't even need rain anyhow.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Day 210/365 - Crosswalk Symplegades

Today was the first day in a while that I've been able to go for a walk on the Mall during lunch. Nine straight days of rain can certainly put a crimp in your style. The cab and the car and the pedestrians in between in this shot make me think of the story of Jason and the Argonauts. On their way to pilfer the Golden Fleece, the Argonauts had to pass between a pair of clashing rocks called the Symplegades. The rocks stood at either side of a narrow passage and would slam together whenever a ship passed between them, thereby crushing all interlopers.

Jason and the boys got around that by sending a bird through first and then, before the rocks had a chance to fully reset after slamming shut, they rowed like hell and made it through. I loved reading books about Greek mythology when I was a kid. Little heathen that I was, I found them far more entertaining than Sunday school stories. The parable of the prodigal son doesn't have quite the same pizzazz as tales of minotaurs, gorgons, and krakens -- although I would pay to see Samson and Hercules in an arm wrestling match.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Day 209/365 - Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Happy Cinco de Mayo a mis amigos. I spent mine eating queso, drinking Corona, and watching "The Mexican" on dvd. Perhaps not the most authentic way to celebrate Mexico's victory over the French imperialists at the Battle of Puebla, but it was fun anyhow. "The Mexican" is an odd little movie, but I like it. Great cast (Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Gene Hackman) and quirky humor. If you haven't seen it, rent it. There's quite a bit of bloodshed, though, so be advised.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Day 208/365 - Today's Shot

When all else fails, resort to being literal.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Twice on Sunday Bonus Photo - Edward Hopper Window

This week's bonus photo from my archives is a shot I took on my weekend trip to NYC last week. This view from the window of my hotel reminded me of the sort of scene you'd see in an Edward Hopper painting.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Day 207/365 - Rainy Day Self Portrait

This week's self-portrait is me out in the rain on my way home from a late breakfast. It's been raining all morning and the forecast is for it to keep raining all day. Not hard, but steady. As a result, my team's kickball game was cancelled and we'll have to make it up as a doubleheader later in the season. They almost won the game I missed last week due to my trip up to NYC. They only lost 2-3. That's a big improvement over the results of our prior two games.

I don't really mind rainy days. They're perfect for staying inside and reading and watching tv or going to a museum or the movies. Plus you get to stomp in puddles! That's the best. It's like Mother Nature's equivalent of popping bubble wrap. After years of study into the subject, I've discovered that the trick is to do it with one foot while you draw the other one up out of the way. That way you burst the puddle but don't get much water on yourself. The worst approach is to jump in with both feet. Then the water shoots up between your legs and soaks your pants.

And definitely avoid muddy puddles. It's okay when you're a kid and your mom gets stuck having to clean up the mess afterward, but it pretty much sucks as an adult.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)