Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

I'm not much of a dresser upper lately.  This year's pre-Halloween costume parties were canceled due to the hurricane, and the law firm is way too Serious and Important for workplace costumes.  But that doesn't mean I can't use the holiday as an excuse to wear awesome socks.

Okay, fine, I admit they aren't exclusively Halloween socks: I wear them whenever I want, but they're my best alternative to going as a ring-tailed lemur and/or Lawrence of Arabia.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Winding down the storm

As predicted, the storm is now on its way out.  The strong winds are gone; rain continues, though significantly lighter than before.  Public transit is scheduled to resume sometime this afternoon. 

Thankfully, my area seems to have come through relatively unscathed -- I never lost power (though we had frequent flickers), nor did any of my friends that I've checked with, and I haven't heard of any significant flooding (certainly nothing like what happened in New York and New Jersey).

I'll be sticking close to home again today.  I've got everything I need to work from my living room, so there's no need to brave the debris-strewn roads.  I suspect I'll be a little stir-crazy by the end of the day, but until then let's see if I can't focus and get some work done!

Goodnight, storm

It's late.  I should go to bed.  But I hate the idea of going to bed and having the storm be mostly gone by the time I wake up!  If the earlier stages of the storm were like Christmas Eve (plus the apocalypse), this part of the storm is like the night of Christmas Day (plus the apocalypse):  I just don't want it to end.

So what better way to put off the inevitable than to blog about it? 

First, here's another snapshot of the storm's progression.  I'm still in the thick of things, but on the southern end of them.  Looks like the northern tentacles are finally reaching my sister near the New York/Canada border.  For Ashley's sake, I hope they get a good wallop (and that she sends me some weather reporter footage that I can post, hint, hint).

Second, my nostalgia may be a tad premature.  A brief visit to my balcony confirms that the wind and rain haven't lessened at all; maybe not the same boisterous gusts, but still nothing to sniff at. 

It also reveals a slice of storm life, as I look into the apartments across the way:  Everyone is home with their lights on (yay, no power outages!) and I can see what they're up to.  Families playing board games; twenty-somethings having an impromptu dance party, a bunch of guys sitting around drinking beer, lots of movie watching (thank heavens for streaming Netflix!).  It's kind of endearing.  Makes me feel like part of the neighborhood. 

Monday, October 29, 2012


Okay, folks, it's getting fun now!

Around 5:30pm I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood to get a feel for the storm.  It'll still be an hour or so before Sandy actually makes landfall (probably just north of here, in the DE/NJ region), but the wind has really picked up and I wanted to see it before night fell.  It's a good thing I'd prepped my camera before stepping outside becuase I was instantly pummeled with intense wind and rain!

Sorry about the sound.  Tturns out the iPhone camera doesn't come equipped with hurricane-proof microphone -- I've covered all the key points in my intro above.  Here's a better segment from a few minutes later:

By the time I got back to my apartment my fingers were so cold I could barely move them, and I was as wet as if I'd gone wading in the river.  I literally poured the water out of my shoes and into the bathtub!  I didn't even bother taking off my clothes before turning on the hot shower.

For a sense of how this fits into the overall storm, here's another satellite view:

I'm roughly where the pink pin is.

According to the forecasts (and as you can tell by the satellite shot), it's only going to get worse overnight.  By morning, though, the worst of the wind should be gone; we'll just have trailing rain and flooding.

Frankenstorm update

First, some background:

4:30 a.m.
8:30 a.m.
Now this local weather report:


The non-Elijah fish waiting out the storm
Elevator notice from the Management
(with helpful proofreading marks from my fellow tenants)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Waiting for the storm

I'm getting conflicting messages.  At 7:00pm, I received the following notice from WMATA:

Two hours later, this one came in from the firm:

Because I'm a lawyer, only the highlighted part applies to me; the rest is all for non-lawyer staff.

For a firm that prides itself on its attention to detail, this is pretty embarrassing.  I mean, seriously, who doesn't think to check the status of public transit before sending an email like this?  Even if you still decide to keep the office open, at least acknowledge the lack of transit in your email -- otherwise you just sound out of touch (or, worse, insensitive to the predicament of support staff who don't have the luxury that we lawyers have of being connected everywhere all the time).

Not that the storm has gotten bad enough yet to make the decision to shut down metro an obvious one.  It's only been cloudy and breezy all day; raining lightly since around 6pm.  In fact, it's been kind of boring. 

So, here's a recap of a few non-Frankenstorm highlights from this weekend:

Shopping.  A friend of mine asked me to go shopping with him yesterday.  He wanted to get some new clothes but wasn't confident that he would pick out good outfits.  At first I limited myself to nixing things that were obviously too big or unflattering.  Then I got bored just standing outside the dressing room, so I started putting outfits together (fun at the best of times, even better when it's not my money).  My first proposal was met with skepticism:  "That's not my style."  Just humor me.  "Mmmkay, but I'm not sure abou . . . . woah, this is great!"  Yep.  "From now on I'm just going to let you do all the picking."  Yay!  To be honest, at first I felt a little trepidatious because there had been less pressure when my suggestions were unsollicited.  Then I scored again with an awesome outfit that included bright red pants.  I may be good at this.

Karaoke.  After shopping, Tim (the same friend) suggested that we go to a karaoke bar.  Mmmkay, but I'm not sure abou . . . "Just humor me."  I did, and although my attempt at Adele's "Rollin' in the Deep" was pretty much an unmitigated disaster, it was good for me to get out of my comfort zone and try something new.  (I've now resolved to learn a few songs to have in my back pocket -- that way the next time someone spontaneouly suggests karaoke I'll have something to "spontaneously" draw on.)  

New calling.  I recently got called to be the Assistant Executive Secretary in the ward (for those of you not familiar, this means I handle all the scheduling for the two counselors to the bishop).  I think it'll be a good calling, because the guys in the bishopric are all really great and it'll help me get to know more people.  Still, I've inherited some records that are in serious need of updating, and the process of updating them is quickly taking on a cat-herding quality.  I've decided to take it as an opportunity to learn how to be effective without being totally in control and/or totally perfectionistic.  (We'll see how that plays out.)

Turnips are one of my favorite smells, especially when they're simmering in a stew-pot along with onions, potatoes, carrots, cabbage and rice.  So earthy and delicious.  Plus, they remind me of a storybook that we had when I was little about a giant turnip that was made into stew.  At the time I'd never eaten or seen a turnip, so it was as fanciful as any other creature in a fairy tale; now I eat them and feel a like a fairy-tale peasant (which, short of being a fairy-tale prince, is a pretty good gig).

*   *   *
Oh, and look what just came in from the firm.  Better.

Needless to say, I'll be at home tomorrow, noshing on turnip stew while drafting contracts and hoping that the storm turns out to be a whopper (that doesn't actually hurt anyone or cut the power for too long). 

Friday, October 26, 2012


Hurricane Sandy is on her way -- apparently she has a play-date with a nor'easter in our backyard.

Virginia and Maryland have both declared states of emergency; DC's in a state of blind panic.  The radio stations are all reporting about "the upcoming power outages," having long ago realized that with utilities like Pepco in the region, there's no need to include the word "potential" in front of that phrase.  And my fellow Arlingtonians, apparently operating on the theory that freezers and microwave ovens work when the power is out, are lined up at the Harris Teeter with carts full of frozen pizza.  (Judging by the quantities of toilet paper nestled among the pizzas, they also must anticipate an exponential increase in their use of the facilities during the next four days.)

Needless to say, I love all of this.  The forecasts are at once dire (using words like "unprecedented," "double-freak," and "beyond strange") and obvious (the storm will either hit us or it won't!) -- I can't wait to reprise my role of intrepid weather reporter

Of course, being the good Mormon and/or Boy Scout that I am, I couldn't let a potential natural (non)disaster pass me by without practicing my emergency-preparedness skills.  So I left work a little early to top off my gas tank and replenish key elements of my food storage:
  • Perrier?  Check.
  • Dark chocolate-covered almonds?  Check.
  • Cornichons?  Check. 
  • Ingredients for hermit's stew?  Check.
  • Nutella and bread?  Check.
  • Fresh flowers?  Check.
Just the essentials
Okay, I'm set.  Bring it on, Sandy!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Conference of the Birds

Tonight I met up with my friend Melanie and saw the Folger Theatre's production of The Conference of the Birds

The play is based on a 12th century Persian poem.  The overarching narrative follows a group of birds in their search for their king, but there are numerous stories nested within.  Stories of other kings, slaves and princesses, a hermit obsessed with an eggplant and his beard.  Of course, they're not really "about" any of those things.  At its core, the play is a meditation on our search for the divine and for self-understanding -- that paradoxical notion that to discover the divine you must overcome the self, but in discovering the divine you encounter your true self.  The message is never stated directly; it's conveyed through the juxtaposition of stories: it's up to the audience to interpret them.  Late in the play a bird says there's nothing more powerful than "something that is neither clear nor unclear."  He could have been describing the play itself. 

My understanding is that the ideas in the poem reflect the mystical tradition within Islam called Sufism.  Watching the play, I was struck again (as I have been before by thoughtful presentations of Islamic thought and art -- e.g., here and here) by the elegance of the ideas and the aesthetic, and their concordance with many of my own beliefs and tastes.  In many ways, The Conference of the Birds seemed to be a more subtle and interesting version of Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life (minus the Christianity part, of course).

It has been years -- maybe ten? -- since the last time I attended a play at the Folger.  I'd forgotten what a fun place it is.  The theater is just a small part of a larger library devoted to Shakespeare.  The ambiance is wonderfully bookish and Elizabethan -- lots of dark wooden paneling with rows upon rows of leather-bound tomes; a bibliophile's paradise. 
The plasterwork on the ceiling is wonderful

The main hallway had a particularly interesting exhibit this time.  I especially enjoyed seeing an actual book of magic ("grimoire") with spells and instructions to call upon the spirits and supernatural powers.  I've read about those sorts of books (think Harry Potter) but don't recall having seen one before tonight.

The library/theater is two blocks from the U.S. Capitol building, just behind the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Elijah Fish

Remember these guys? 

Rainbow, Goldie and Ralph (so named by my nieces and nephew in Boise) have been my faithful companions these six months.  Being the talented goldfish they are, they have performed their piscine duties of being pretty and not dying with remarkable diligence -- even when I abandoned them to the negligent care of a middle-aged Guatemalan woman for two weeks while I went traipsing across northern Africa on camels.

Imagine, therefore, my astonishment upon discovering this morning that Rainbow has disappeared.  Not only that, but Goldie and Ralph are acting like everything is perfectly okay!  Which can only mean that one of two things has happened to Rainbow:

Either he was rescued by a merry band of misfits and a crazy pellican so he could go back to his family in the Great Barrier Reef . . .

or he was taken up into heaven in a fiery chariot like a kick-ass Hebrew prophet-fish.

We all know that Rainbow came from PetsMart, not Australia, so it must have been the chariot of fire.  Incredible.  It's a shame I slept through it. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fall colors on Old Rag mountain

Old Rag is a mountain in the Shenandoah National Park that is famous for its unobstructed 360-degree vistas.  At this time of year, with the colors peaking and the weather literally perfect, crowds of hikers flock from cities, villages and farmland alike to soak up the natural beauty of autumnal Virginia.  Amy, Julie and I set out early on Saturday morning fully expecting a lovely hike; what we discovered exceeded all of our expectations.  It was the sort of hike where at every bend in the trail you just have to stop and laugh because you didn't think that anything could be more beautiful than what you just saw, and yet . . . . 

My iPhone's camera was woefully inadequate for the task, but here are some shots that give at least a sense of the colors.  (Additional photos are available here.)

We couldn't even wait to get to the trailhead before we started taking pictures -- we
passed this driveway to an old farm and literally did a u-turn to come back and gawk.

While we photographed random lanes, half the population of the mid-Atlantic states
beat us to the parking lot.  Thank heavens an enterprising indigena opened
up a neighboring pasture for overflow parking

Once parked, we followed the disappearing crowds up the road to the trailhead.







The trail went over, through, and beneath these rocks. 
It made for quite the scramble and a major bottleneck with all the hikers.
It took us nearly two hours just to do that little stretch of trail.


At the top.












Note the scale.  This section of trail felt like a cathedral.

Ten miles of wildnerness is grounds for a healthy appetite.  We spied a charming little pizzeria in the village of Sperryville and decided to stop in and give it a try.  We devoured the pizza with great enthusiasm.


And since an entire pizza apparently wasn't enough, we stopped in Warrenton to get some treats.  Amy and Julie got some sort of ice cream or milkshake -- I went for the funnel cake.


Because fried dough is never wrong.