15 February 2010

Distractions: Skimming the Country

Can you define a geographic region by its milk consumption? I like this cow. I spotted him on a heritage breed dairy farm website and thought he was cute. Growing up on a farm, I always liked cows and calves.
Of course, I never had to milk them.

Washington, DC, as you may know, is still locked in snow. Focus on the cute baby cow, please! No need for pictures of the dreaded white. Keep your eyes on the cow! Yes, my car is still surrounded by drifted snow that is 30 inches deep, exactly as it has been for the past ten days.
And that was before it started. Again. Today.
So I ducked out of the house for a few more supplies. ("Stocking up" covered the first two weeks, but fresh bread and a couple of other things made the trip necessary.) Once inside the grocery store, I got a little surprise. The shelf for skim milk was empty. "All gone." I got to wondering, can you tell what area of the country you are in by the milk they're drinking?
In my home state of Utah, they like Vitamin D milk. Lots of kids there. Vitamin D for extra healthy bones and no need to skim the fat for growing, active children.

In Tennessee, they liked chocolate milk. Lots of sugar. Heavy chocolate. Heavy sugar. Heavy cream. Glug-glug-pudge.
To be completely honest, I believe what Southerners really want would be deep fried milk with "lil pat" of butter on the side. (Look at the look on this one's little face. Is he perhaps one named "Veal Chop?")

In Southern California, I remember seeing a TV commercial that showed a crowd of people excitedly running into the grocery store.

The big draw? A new brand of soy milk.

The funny thing was, it actually seemed completely plausible. It is accurate.

And here in Washington, where we hear about every study, survey, research project, prediction, projection or changes in fur on the back of water-bound rodents that eat only odd numbered insects flying at night could be somehow wildly extrapolated to mean something in terms of human health, we drink skim.

Can happiness be derived from milk without any fat? It's like life without luxury, isn't it? Sorta says something about us, don't you agree?

As for me? I wanted the skim, but seeing none, I forced myself to buy 2% and walked home feeling udderly flush!

(Venturing into pseudo-psychology and pop culture today. People Candy resumes as soon as everyday life regains normalcy in Washington. "This, too, shall pass!" Thank heavens.)

09 February 2010

Snowmageddon: Why Shut Down?

It occurs to me that I should explain a few things about the huge amount of snow that we have here in Washington, DC right now.
Yes, it really is two feet deep everywhere. And yes, we're getting another 8-20 inches tonight. We're trying to be polite about it, because that's our nature, but mostly we're sick of shovels and shoveling.

Most of the country thinks that the city of Washington and Washingtonians themselves don't really handle snow very well. I mean, hey, the federal government has been effectively shut down since last Friday (they didn't tell you, but every federal worker who had the option stayed home last Friday), and formally closed since Monday. It won't likely reopen for business this week.
Here's why that's such a good idea:
When the snow moved in, there were a lot of plows standing by and trucks full of chemicals, salt and sand waiting to push the snow aside and treat whatever was left on the roads.

I showed you this picture last week; trucks and plows lined up and waiting. But for some reason, they aren't doing the job the same as they do in other cities.
Where I am from, in the West, they seem to understand snow removal. When there is a heavy snow, the interstates are immediately plowed and the snow is completely pushed off the highway.
Completely. Safely. Off.
But when the plows cover the highways here, for some reason, the snow isn't completely removed. Instead, it gets pushed around and piled up. Layers get compacted and built up on the interstate system that is the heart of transportation in this very population-dense area.
The snow forms ice in layers. It thaws and refreezes, but since it's never properly disposed of, the ice on our interstate becomes thicker in some places and thinner in others. It is extremely uneven. It's hard to imagine unless you've seen it, but the net effect is that something like a ski mogul that builds up in one place while a dip forms in another. Only the mogul is made out of ice and your life depends on it.
As a driver proceeds into the city (where the interstate curves at the Pentagon is where I've seen it the worst) that icy mogul can be anywhere between 3 inches and several feet thick. Your car vaults up one mogul and comes crashing down a few yards later. No telling which way the car will go because it will land on more ice and be immediately headed for the next mogul.
Now, imagine trying to drive into a city during rush hour along a normally smooth highway that suddenly resembles a giant slalom with deep dips that you've never seen before, all made of ice, alongside of everyone else who is also trying to go to work.
In short, it's the most terrifying rollercoaster ride you've ever been on.
So yes, we are somewhat a city of snow-sissies, but after you've had one frightening ride on our snow-mogul-infested interstate after a big storm, you might just stay home, too.
Try not to judge us too harshly. We're dreading Monday morning for a different reason than you.
(And yes, we do have a great train system here in Washington, but right now, the Metro is limited to "in city" service where the tracks are all below ground and unaffected by the snow. It's currently running at about 1/4 of the usual number of trains with shorter hours.)

08 February 2010

How I Spent My Snowed-In Weekend

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Winter bliss!!

I'm a little embarrassed that I haven't posted my snow pictures, and to be honest, the pictures above and below are not mine. Oh well. Can't exactly brag about my photography skills anyway. (I was always on the other side of the camera, I b'lieve.)

I spent Friday night through Sunday afternoon working at a government agency. I may not be staff. I may not be highly paid. But it turns out that what I am is "essential personnel."

I think in my particular case, the promotion to "essential" came immediately after government managers learned that I lived less than half a mile from a MetroRail station that was two stops from their doors.

So I got a weekend sleepover with bad food, a cramped couch and coworkers possessed of weary, wonky and somewhat bleak outlooks. It was not the best, but to be honest, there were others who suffered far worse than my fate.

If you are looking for someone who is suffering under the 20+ inches of snow, this ain't her blog. I'm not particularly fond of snow, but my roof hasn't collapsed, my power isn't out and I haven't even tried to dig out the back steps.

In the absence of anything better, I've sort of adopted this attitude:

Yes, it has all been great fun, but nobody else seems to share my feeling. This is probably a "once-in-a-lifetime" weather event, but apparently while they're in it, not a lot of people are enjoying the ride.

By the way, my car isn't in this picture, but it does look a lot like these.
I was thinking that tomorrow, I might make a snow angel on my Ford Focus' roof, except I think three feet of snow angel plus a live human on top just might be the straw that broke the camel's back. Or caved in the car.

As for the forecast, we're expected to get another 8 to 20 inches in the next 48 hours, depending on who you listen to. I may yet spend another night (or three) on some government manager's spare couch.

So I have my pillow, an apple, a stash of Costco's finest Belgian Chocolates and the promise that "this, too, shall pass."

Unlike the truck below.

Because that, my friends, is a snow plow in Wheaton, Maryland on Sunday. It might still be there.

And it's stuck.

06 February 2010

Snow Cabin Fever? Not. Yet.

There's a big storm hovering over the Mid-Atlantic states. You may have heard about it. It includes Washington, DC where I live. We've been sorta cowering in our orthopedic shoes (It's town full of wonks and you thought Louboutins?) for the past 4 or 5 days. Let me show you a little of what that looks like.

A very little... at least to start.
This is the view as I was driving by at 2pm Friday on the 14th Street bridge. This particular bridge is the main entrance into the city's downtown, and if you've ever come for a visit, it's is very likely that this how you got into the city.

See the trucks? You're thinking "Marti, didn't we just get you to stop texting and driving?" Well, yes, but I was actually sitting in traffic. Nothing freaks out Washingtonians like snow, and nothing is more synonymous with "freak out" here more than stalled traffic. I was going nowhere fast.
More trucks. You might think they actually were preparing for the snow. You could almost get the idea they knew how to handle a weather event. But, as we all know, you'd be wrong.
On the way in to the city, please notice our beautiful memorials and monuments. This is the Jefferson Memorial.
That snow a-top the roof? That's from the last go-round of winter a week or so ago. That spot doesn't get much sun. But doesn't it sorta say something about what we're headed for?
This is a poor, dead soldier, body left in the street to fall to dust. Gave his all for me and my fellow travelers. Reminds me of some people I know.

I got a little worried and went into the office a couple of hours after taking these pictures on Friday afternoon. The snow was piled rather deep by the time I got up for work at 6 o'clock this morning. It's not expected to stop until 8 or 9pm tonight.
So I'm making the most of it. I've picked up a few extra shifts in the next couple of days. A friend has loaned me four of the latest Blockbuster Rentals and his mini-DVD player.
And of course, I've got everything I need for a heckuva a snowman. Snow sculptures. Snowforts. Snow angels. Snow ice cream. Snowy picture postcards. Snowballs. Snow boulders. And probably even for an excessively annoying life as a snow-bound shut-in.
I'll post those pictures in a bit.

02 February 2010

People Candy: Making the Most of Your Flight

This is Brenda Dymock. She's a flight attendant.
I won't say what airline, but it's not one of the newbies. No "Jet Blue" or "Midways Air" for her. She's an original.
She's been flying for more than 20 years. I met her on a flight in 2009 and this picture has been floating around my hard-drive ever since, making me smile every time I bumped into it.
And now here it is for you.

What, you say you haven't seen a uniform like that in quite some time? I told you, Brenda is an original.

Brenda began flying in the old days, when the job was still called "stewardess" and flying was glamorous, exciting and relatively safe. We'd never heard of "al Qaeda" and the only people trying to get into the cockpits were the occasional hijackers who even more occasionally, jumped out with their loot and were never heard from again.

Looking back, those folks seem sort of tame.

Flying was an adventure in those days. If you saw the movie, "Catch Me If You Can" with Leonardo di Caprio and Tom Hanks, it was during the period when "stewardesses" were the smartest of career gals (at a time when the word "gals" was still PC because PC hadn't been invented yet). They were the ones who flew in, enjoyed the best that any city had to offer and then flew out again. (By the way, if you aren't already stunned by that photo, click on it for a closer look. In person, it's as if a giant red bird was walking the aisles of the flight. You can't miss Brenda coming.)

Brenda joined that set and has been amongst them ever since. She told me that this particular uniform is one of the company's many choices, but very few of the current flight attendants deign to wear it. They opt for something a little more modern. And a lot less distinctive.

But not Brenda. Like I said, she's an original.