Archive for the ‘Time’ Category

Today marks five months since we’ve been in our house. I didn’t expect it to be winter for the entire first five months here, but here I am stuck at home on yet another snow day. Seriously? I thought I moved from Colorado, but maybe I’m mistaken.

The last month has brought some more visible changes to the house, which is a nice change from the unexciting grunt work that you can’t really see. I mentioned our two new furniture items, a coat wardrobe and a kitchen storage island, which have made a big impact in form and function. I’ve also made a few decor purchases. Up until now, I’ve felt like I should hold off on decorating since we expect to be painting and fixing drywall throughout the house. But given how long our first project has taken to complete, I decided it might be awhile until we got to other areas of the house, and I figured I should enjoy some cheerful trappings in the meantime.


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Virginians love their vanity plates. Or maybe it’s just that there is such a high density of people here that, even if the percentage of unique license plates here is the same as in other states, I see an extraordinary number of them around. Whatever the reason for their ubiquity, perusing the vast array of clever–and sometimes stupid–phrases has become a bit of a hobby while driving around town.

There are well over 200 available license plate themes offered by the state, and most of them very affordable at just a few bucks per year, making them the perfect backdrop to a witty vanity phrase. You could show your pride for the local professional football team (never mind that they actually play in Maryland):

You could support finding a cure for breast cancer (apropos for the month of October):

There’s the ever popular Gadsden Flag, particularly provocative here around the Beltway:

You can even live it up in Margaritaville every day; cheeseburger, anyone?

Naturally, since I’ll be headed to yet another new state and getting yet another new car registration, it’s time to hypothesize about getting my own fancy, personalized tags for my car. I’m never actually serious about getting a vanity plate, but thinking of my own clever phrase is a fun activity anyway.

Something nerdy is always a good place to start. I’m sure obvious choices like “HBAR” and “PHOTON” are probably already taken. Something a little more specific to my interests would be interesting. Bart suggested “TICTOC.” Or, there’s my personal favorite, “GHZ PHD.” I do have other interests, too. I could go with something like “KNITTR” or “BLOGGR,” though I bet those are already taken.

As you can see, it’s probably good if I don’t go with a vanity plate, as my ideas apparently aren’t all that stellar. However, I’d love to hear your clever ideas: what would you suggest as a vanity plate for me? If you were going to get a vanity plate, what cheeky, shorthand phrase would you get? What’s the best or worst vanity plate you’ve ever seen?

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A DC Museum Crawl

For Bart’s birthday last month, I surprised him with enrollment in a photography class. We got a fancy camera last Christmas, and though he’s taught himself the basics of how to use it, he’s always been interested in getting more technical and stylistic instruction to enhance his skill. I found a place in town that did introductory classes each month, and he signed up for one in May.

The class normally meets during the week, but one session was a “field trip” to downtown DC for some in situ photography on a Saturday. Since he was going to be down there with his class, I decided I would tag along and poke around the national mall on my own.

We started off at the Botanical Gardens, where he was to meet up with his class. Since he was a bit early, we did a leisurely walk in front of the Capitol and spent a few minutes relaxing on a park bench.

When it was time for Bart to head back, I wandered over to the National Gallery of Art a block away. Bart likes museums just fine, but he wore out on endless walls of paintings during our two weeks in Europe. I decided I could check out some of the permanent collection that he wouldn’t miss seeing.

The main building is a giant marble structure in the neoclassical style. Like any good neoclassical building, it couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay homage to the Pantheon. Ever since visiting the Pantheon in Rome last year, I’ve become aware of seeing its influence all over the place, particularly in DC.


I spent an hour or so wandering through Italian, French, and Spanish art of the Renaissance. I’m no art aficionado, but I enjoy casually strolling around and appreciating different aspects of paintings and sculpture. It’s always awe-inspiring to me to see an object that is multiple hundreds of years old still here today. It’s also interesting to see what the artists felt was worthy subject matter and to compare the varying style of artists even from the same period and location.

I intended to wander there for most of the duration of Bart’s class; however, I quickly became hungry and decided I needed food before I ran out of steam. So I found a sandwich shop off the Mall and ate a bite before venturing back. However, my focused study unexpectedly turned into a DC museum crawl.

Typically, a museum crawl is not something that can practically be done everywhere. Most cities do not have the large number of clustered museums that Washington, D.C. does. Furthermore, most museums charge fees for admission, which makes hopping from one to another a prohibitively expensive activity. However, national museums in our nation’s capital are free to the public and also largely in close proximity. Therefore, I felt totally free to pop in and out of as many as I wanted on this Saturday morning.

It had started raining after lunch, so instead of heading all the way back to the art museum, I ducked into the American Indian museum. This was near the botanical gardens and also on Bart’s itinerary for the photo shoot, so I thought I might see him. I wandered through a few exhibits and paused to sit in the main area for a little while. There was no sign of Bart, so I decided to head next door to the air and space museum to check out the new time and navigation exhibit.

This exhibit, which just opened last month, is very relevant to the work I do. In fact, many clocks and devices from USNO and NIST are featured there. I’ve been wanting to check it out, and this was my first opportunity to do so. It was crowded and well-attended, and I thought it was thoughtfully put together and well done.

Once I’d walked through that exhibit, it was getting near the time Bart would be finished, so I decided to end my museum crawl back at the gardens where he would be finishing up. Sure enough, I saw him talking with his teacher and fellow classmates, so I ducked into the garden for a peek at the orchid room before we left.

The abundance of things to do and see is one of the best things about living here. Even I, as a new inhabitant with the goal to see more of the city, can quickly neglect the ease of popping in and out of many museums and monuments at my leisure. Hopefully this experience will serve as a reminder that there is a lot to see and encourage me to make it a priority to enjoy more of it.

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Bart and I have, on two separate Saturdays, almost made the two-hour drive to Hershey, PA to visit Hershey’s Chocolate World. For various reasons we never made it either time. However, last weekend we decided the time had finally arrived, and we also decided that this time we would go big or stay home. Instead of just a day trip, we got a cheap Priceline hotel deal and made a weekend out of it.

Saturday morning, we got up and hit the road. We headed north to Baltimore, our first time going through the city. We even drove under part of the bay on I-95, which was a new experience for us formerly land-locked types. From there, we took the back way into Pennsylvania and Lancaster County. We saw a few Amish there, one man in his field with a team of oxen and passed a horse and buggy on the road.



We had lunch in Lancaster at diner #1, then headed a few miles east to Columbia, PA to the National Watch and Clock Museum. I had never heard of this place before doing a little internet recon for this trip, and I knew that, as a time nerd, there was no way I would pass up this place.

This is actually a pretty neat little museum. There must be thousands of clocks, from pocket watches to pendulum clocks to even some modern atomic clocks:




The first is the Atomichron, the world’s first commercially built atomic clock (1960, National Company of Malden, Massachusetts). The second, which has a neat yet somewhat antiquated dial face, was unknown to me, or to my boss when I later showed him the photo. It had no plaque at the museum, but we decided that it must be based on ammonia. That boring-looking HP box looks like something we’d have stuck in the corner of our lab under an old spectrum analyzer; it’s no different than the modern instruments we use today. And yes, those were the only items I took pictures of in the whole place.

That evening we drove to Hershey, where we ate dinner at diner #2 (yes, two diners in one day) and stayed the night. We got up Sunday morning and visited Chocolate World. We took the “tour” ride about how the factory produces various chocolate bars and also took a chocolate tasting class. If only all my classes in college were that satisfying.

No, I did not come home with that Reese’s.

From there, we drove back into Maryland through Hagerstown and Frederick, the way we came when we moved, only it was much more interesting and less stressful in the daylight and after two months of learning how to actually get to our house.

This was a fun, laid-back getaway for a sunny winter weekend. There are lots of things to do in the area here, but most of them aren’t very fun when it’s cold outside. But we enjoyed seeing some new county and eating diner food and chocolate. Best of all, I still had another day off for MLK Jr Day/Inauguration Day after we returned. First Pennsylvania trip: success.

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Needless to say, this day is gold for a time nerd like myself.

Someone at work was projecting the official time website from a laptop onto the wall for everyone to come watch and celebrate at 12:12:12 this afternoon. However, at precisely 12:12:11, the screensaver came on. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Also of note is that today my oldest nephew turned 18. Holy cow, people, are you serious? Am I that old? Does anybody else hear a faint tick, tick, tick?

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