Monthly Archives: December 2008

Inauguration

I am trying to decide if I will go to the Inauguration. I am leaning towards not going because of the crowds, mainly the strain it will have on METRO and other public transportation options. I need to look into how the National Mall will be set up to accommodate the crowds because if I am a mile away from the Capitol and I can not see or hear anything I don’t know how valuable it would be to trek down to DC.

On the other hand I am so close to DC and this is a historic event I feel like I should go and I would be wasting a great opportunity if I don’t. I am still  on the fence about going or not so any input would be appreciated.

US Capitol Visitors Center

Today I went to the newly opened Capitol Visitors Center. I wasn’t really that impressed, I am a big fan of the way things use to be done.

The entrance to the visitors center is on the East side of the Capitol so now that entire area with the Library of Congress and Supreme Court isn’t covered with construction anymore which is nice. To get into the museum you need to go through a metal detector which is fine, but the flow of people was not thought out very well and the lines to get inside were very long. Once inside you had to get in another line to pick up your tickets or try and get one that remained for the day. After that you waited to get into the theater.

One thing I did not really like was how the pre reservation of tickets has changed. In the past you could reserve tickets for a certain tour time and pick them up in the morning, come back in the afternoon for your tour and not have to wait in line for it to start. Because you have to go through security to get your ticket and if you leave wait in security again when your tour is going to start it makes the most sense to reserve a ticket show up two-three hours early and use the time to get through security, pick up your ticket and then go through the museum part of the visitors center before your tour starts.

The building has two theaters that are used to start the tour with a ten minute video that gives an overview of how government works. It was a good video and can see it being very useful for school trips. After the video the guided tour starts with groups of around twenty people. One thing that I really liked was the use of headsets on the tour. Every visitor got a head set with a receiver that matched up with your tour guides microphone and it made hearing him a whole lot easier.

The tour guide was good with lots of information to share but I was disappointed with the length of the tour. The tour consisted of the rotunda for fifteen minutes, and then a quick peek inside the old Supreme Court room which is now used for the “behind closed doors” meetings. And that was it for the guided tour, no House of Representatives or Senate Tour; you get another ticket at the end of the tour and go through some more lines for those.

The museum was just ok, it had videos about the house and the senate little exhibits about key legislation in twenty five year blocks.

It may seem like I am down on the new Capitol Visitors center and the reason is because there is a much better option to see the Capitol, it just requires planning ahead. You have the ability to schedule a tour through the office of your senator or representative and it is lead by someone on their staff.

You get a smaller more personal tour sizes, and you don’t have to go through as may lines. Because you are with a member of someone’s staff you get access to a few more rooms and if the house is not in session instead of looking from the gallery you can go out on the floor and sit in the chairs. Another thing you can take of advantage of that not a lot of people know is in the rotunda. At the top of the dome is a walkway that goes around the mural and you can also go out on the roof. The problem is you need to go up 18 flights of stairs to get there and most of the staff do not like to hike up there, so you need to ask about this when you get a tour. And if the scheduling works out a lot the time you can meet your Senator / Representative.   

 

So if you want to visit the Capitol I strongly suggest you take the time to set up a tour through your Senator / Representative office.

Checking Out

I’m done with work until the 5th on January and I only have to use two vacation. 🙂

I also got a nice surprise at work, because they calculate the vacation days differently then I thought. Each year you have the opportunity to by vacation days that you can use throughout the year. Since I had a lot of things to travel for this year I bought a weeks worth of time. The policy is your earned hours are used first and then your bought one, I assumed it was a rolling total and your vacation was applied for the apprriate paycheck. Turns out I was wrong and they match everything up at the end of the year so I was expected to get about 5 hours back and wound up getting the whole 40 hours back, so that was a nice sized check to get.

Benefit of having an off day

Today is one of my off-Fridays and it’s a good thing I didn’t have to commute to work today because White’s Ferry got stuck this morning.

We have had a lot of rain the last two days so tree branches and other debris is going down the river. It looks like a large tree on one of the banks came loose and got jammed on the cable.

The ferry was on it’s way back to the Maryland side and it got stuck twenty feet from shore. The water is only three feet deep there so if they really wanted to they could wade back to shore.

http://media.myfoxdc.com/live/dclivestream/index.html is the streaming video, it might not be active when you click but there it is.

Ice Ice Baby

I got my first taste of winter last night after having been in Atlanta the last two years and not having a real winter. Early in the afternoon we started to get a light busting of snow. Driving back to Frederick in the evening to drop my younger cousin off the roads were getting really bad and it was starting to snow a little heavier. The real problem was the bridges, when they have the signs up that “bridge ices before road” they are there for a reason.

The road about a 1/2 mile from his house was closed because the bridge at the bottom of the hill was to icy for people to stop on. So we had to turn around and go back on I-70 which was a mess, traffic was averaging between 30-40 mph and all the bridges were a mess. 

It stopped snowing about an hour later and the roads cleared up later in the evening, but it was a mess for a few hours. The interesting thing is the roads were not salted beforehand even though there was a very good chance of a dusting, maybe that is going to be the new plan because of budget cuts and they don’t want to waste the salt?

And to reinforce what I already knew, at least 30% of the people in the DC metro area do not know how to safely operate a motorize vehicle. When when it’s snowing and icy you need to find a happy medium between:

  1.  Pretending that the road conditions have not changed and going 70+ riding on every ones bumper.
  2. Going 5 mph+ with your hazard lights on in the middle lane of a major highway.

 

Earlier in the day I ran another 5k which was in Fairfax, the Rudolph red nose 5k. That’s me with Rudolph and one of the volunteers.

 dscn1996

I did the 10k a few years ago and really liked it they have some good post race food with hot chocolate, apple cider, home mad cookies, and a bon fire. This year was the first time they had a 5k so I gave that a try this year.

The 5k was a lot smaller than the 10k, about 75-100 people. The course had a decent sized hill at the start and was out and back over rolling terrain the rest of the way.

I finished 7th overall for this race with a time of 21:20, given the hills I would say it was a better effort then the 21:10 I ran at the turkey day race last week. So I am happy with this. I had the 6th and 5th place person about 200 feet in front of me the last mile but couldn’t reel them in. I won the 20-29 AG and won a medal and a little gift basket with some ornaments and candy.

Party Time

The DC council wants you to party. In emergency legislation the DC council approved extending the hours to serve alcohol during a few days around the inauguration.

This just screams not well thought out. First is the member who proposed the legislation did not even vote for it because it was amended to include clubs. Second, and probably more important from a safety point of view is METRO hours have not been extended yet.

And I think I have an early front runner for most akward Chirstmas gift.