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March 15th, 2019

DC first week

My peregrinations brought me to DC Sunday, on an unexceptional if kind of long Amtrak ride (7 hours from Boston.) I'm actually staying in Arlington, which means I can add Virginia to my lists of states visited/slept in. Due to, um, high uncertainty at work, the week has basically been vacation.

Monday: Smithsonian Zoo. Decent, decent size, and free. Cold and vet meant a bunch of animals were out of sight, but I got to see all seven Asian elephants, quite a lot of gorillas and orangs, and some decent small mammals, including the always-cute and always-mobile sand cats. There were a couple of beavers, one of which kept attacking a metal door; I don't know if it was trying to get in for food, to go inside, or get to a female -- a third beaver was found on the other side.

The zoo also had a T. Rex skull, with conservation information of "Extinct"; I sent a picture to a friend, who replied "Are you okay???", I guess worried that I was feeling extinct. I just thought the info was hilarious.

Tuesday: Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Pretty big. I think I managed to eyeball most of it in three hours, but that's with a hall being closed, and some pretty superficial eyeballing. I spent particular time in a mosasaur room, Mud Masons of Mali, African Peoples in general, and Human Origins. Mosasaurs are apparently overgrown monitor lizards, which I found kind of funny. Pterosaurs are archosaurs, like dinosaurs and crocodilians; plesiosaurs were apparently some whole other branch of reptiles, on the same level as archosaurs, turtles, and lizards.

Wednesday: mostly veg, with a bit of going out for restaurant food and shopping.

Thursday: long walk through Arlington, largely trying to find parks, even though nothing non-evergreen is green yet. I did find a couple parks that probably will be nice later, but my overall reaction to Arlington has been 'meh'.

Friday: long walk through DC proper. Got out at Metro Center, walked east along H street; very monumental even without actual monuments. (I.e. big buildings with little retail.) Chinatown has the standard gate and like a street or two of businesses, it's tiny. After consulting satellite views a bit, I jumped over to Dupont Circle as looking more residential/mixed than downtown DC, which it was. Nothing super exciting until I consulted some lists of DC walks, and discovered Embassy Row wasn't far to the west. Also that it's mostly along Massachusetts Avenue, a major street, which is pretty funny coming from Boston/Cambridge. I did see many embassies, there seems to be a range from "we can afford to lease a building" to "we can afford to build our own culturally-redolent building with security gates", Turkey being the star there. Japan had a huge ground but the big building looks like a bunker.

Then I headed further west into the Georgetown neighborhood, said to have a lot of nice buildings. It does! Though also really narrow ones. Certainly looked like a pleasant neighborhood, though I imagine the rents are high. Supermarkets... actually looks like you'd be near either a Safeway or TJ, so not bad there.


Metro: nnng. Rail is rated by distance, 7 day passes exist but are pricy -- $38.50 for 7 days, which would just fail to pay for itself if you commuted 5 days at the maximum distance for that pass. And I was told that still doesn't get you onto the buses, which is another $17.50 for a pass. Probably better just to load money on a card.

Escalators seem broken a lot. Some stations are reeallly deep. Actual stairs are very rare, it's all escalator or elevator. Lights on the edge of the platform light up when a train approaches. Stations have next train timing displays which are nice. The Red Line trains inform you that they are "a 7000 series train" and also have a dynamic route display like some of the trains in NYC.

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Damien Sullivan
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