If I Knew, I'd Tell You, But...

OK. There are buses that go to Dulles International Airport (which the transportation industry abbreviates to IAD; I suppose the transportation industry is French or something?) And there is at least one bus (or bus LT, anyway) that will take you from Dulles to various points between IAD and Dulles Town Center. The smaller local bus is the Loudoun County Transit Dulles 2 Dulles Connector. (Isn't it cute when they use a "2" in place of "to"? It's like they're trying to be all hip and text-messagey or something.) The D2D is scheduled to meet the passengers of MetroBus 5A, which runs every hour or so.

The important thing to know is that the MetroBus drops you off on the lower deck of IAD and the Loudoun County Transit bus picks you up at position 2E. Position 2E, oddly enough, is also on the lower deck.

This is important to know, because your Metro driver may not be aware of this. In fact, your Metro driver may suggest -- nay! outright tell you with certainty -- that the Loudoun County Transit bus takes passengers from the upper deck. And if you listen to this sad sack, you will walk into the terminal and climb to the upper deck. You will wander around looking for the Loudoun County Transit bus, but it will not be there. You will eventually meander over to the IAD information desk and the attendant will tell you that the D2D Connector picks up at position 2E, which is, as you now know better than the Metro driver did, is on the lower deck, mere paces from where the Metro bus 5A drops off.

However, if you had listened to the Metro driver, you would now be at position 2E ten or maybe even fifteen minutes too late to catch the D2D Connector. You might decide then to wait for the next bus, which, you'll know, arrives hourly.

On the other hand, you might decide that your customer meeting is too important to be half an hour late for, and you'll decide to take one of the conveniently available taxi cabs. Then, you'll find that IAD provides a monopoly to one brand of taxi cabs and a short trip up the road that would cost 50 cents on the shuttle lightens your wallet by $12.25.

It could happen.

Extremely Low Frequency Tuning Fork

We visited a writing group in Silver Spring the other night. Boy, writers are weird people. Our task was to look at unidentifiable objects, identify one of them, then write something about it. I wrote a set of limericks. Remember, this was done quickly and in a very noisy Starbucks.

Woods Hole Institute up New England way
Was all in a flutter one hot summer day.
The professor had lost,
At considerable cost,
A measuring instrument he dropped in the bay

His assistants all jumped into the brine;
Ole professor's lost tool they endeavored to find.
There was great distress
Without clear success,
So he cried, and he pouted, and he had quite a whine.

"Why, my dear love," asked his wife, "do you swoon?
"You're walking, and squawking, and acting the loon."
"Oh, my dear pet,
"How else can I get
"The fish, crabs, and whales to sing in good tune?"

For the sake of sanity and good taste, I don't think I'll be going back to that writing group.

Missing: Hope for the Future?

So, I'm going through these receipts today to file my monthly expense report for the company. This is not a difficult task; it is not mentally taxing. It is simply tedious. So, sometimes, I forget to make the deadline.

When I don't make the deadline, it becomes easy to forget what each receipt was for. Sure, the internet and mobile phone bills are obvious. It's easy to figure out what that Hampton Inn stay in St. Louis was all about. But what do I do with these $4 receipts from June?

One says:

Rcpt# 2645
06/15/05 17:18 L# 1 A# 1 Txn#
Lost Fee $4.00
Total Fee $4.00
CASH PAID $4.00-
Cash Tender $4.00
Change Due $0.00
The other is the same except that "Lost Fee" is replaced by "MAIN FEE". I don't remember getting lost, or having to pay for it, last month. Nor, for that matter, do I remember losing anything. In any case, I don't know what I would lose that would cost me $4.00 and that I would expect the company to reimburse me for.

"Hey, boss, here's a receipt for that sense of wonder I misplaced. Oh, and this other one? It's for my rose-colored-glasses. They seem to have broken."

The problem is, those things were worth at least a fiver. And I lost them a long time ago.


Sometimes, it seems like an impossible mission, walking in Virginia. You risk life, or at least limb, attempting to cross Route 7. There are no cross-walks. The lights are not timed to allow crossing by foot. What few pedestrians there are (both of us) scramble and dive across each direction of traffic, pumped with adrenaline from near-misses and covered in sweat from the heat. By the time we find what passes for sidewalks in these parts, the sidewalk either ends or is blocked by some rich person's toy. (In this case, a rich person's future toy: this is a display for Rosenthal Jaguar/Land Rover.)

Route 7 certainly makes public transportation an interesting choice. Public transportation doesn't come down into your parking lot. If you take the bus from our neck of Tysons Corner, you're going to have to cross Route 7 either in the morning or the evening. It's no wonder that there were only 4 people on the bus for half my journey yesterday. I was alone with the driver for the other half.

Once I made it to the bus, it was a great trip. I tried a different bus yesterday: 5B. Instead of taking me to one of the Falls Church stations or even the Dunn Loring station, 5B drives to L'Enfant Plaza. This seemed like crazy talk to me when I queried the WMATA website for recommended routes, but the bus doesn't make many local stops. After Tysons, we were on the Toll Road/I-66 into Rosslyn, after Rosslyn, we were on 110 and US1 into the city. Since I live in Greenbelt, this drop-off at a Green Line station was mighty convenient. And with the bus so empty, I had plenty of room to relax and play on the computer.

So I take it back: If anybody wants to put internet on the bus, I now think it would be a fine idea.

  • 4:44 Walk from work to bus stop, crossing Route 7.
  • 4:54 The bus was right there waiting, two minutes early.
    • 5:15 We made it to the Rosslyn Station a few minutes early. I stayed on the bus.
    • 5:32 Arrived at L'Enfant Plaza. I was a little disturbed that we were early out of Rosslyn and didn't wait.
  • 5:35 Train from L'Enfant Plaza to Greenbelt Station
  • 6:08 Arrive Greenbelt Station
That one hour, twenty-four minute time now is much more competitive with driving from Tysons, though being picked up at the station by the Brunette definitely helps.

Greenbelt Festival of the Song

Thunder and lightning competed with sun during much of the daytime parts of the Festival of the Song. The artists braved it out until eventually being forced into the Café to finish the festival in dry space.

This is a picture of Mike Elosh.

A Real Shame About That Judas Guy

St Louis's outdoor theater, known as The Muny, hosted us for a viewing of Jesus Christ Superstar tonight. It was mighty hot and these giant fans didn't seem to have much effect. The musical was fair-to-middling, I guess. It's a real shame about Judas, though. I mean to say, something was definitely wrong with his sound system. And, really, what is Jesus Christ Superstar without Judas?

Aside from the heat/humidity, they did a great job with the weather, I must say. They ordered up a nice batch of thunder and lightning which did a great job of adding to the atmosphere of the tale. Much threatening and a little bit of sprinkling, but no major downpour.

Since I'm on my last night at St Louis, let me also mention that I've dropped off a book in one of the coffee houses here. Meshuggah Coffee House seemed like a crazy place to leave a book, so I did. Also, it was a part of the contract for picking the book up. The book is Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver, which, if you want to know the truth, is much like all the other books I've read this year: too dang long! We had picked the book up at a coffehouse in Greenbelt, MD, and found that it was part of the book crossing project. The idea is that you pick up a book from a public place, read it, then leave it somewhere else. I wanted to bring it along to Scotland, but it is just too heavy. I think it will be fine here in St. Louis.

Greetings from St Louis

Another in a string of industrial entertainment establishments (like Krispy Kreme), Fitz's Root Beer Bottling Company restaurant does its bottling tableside. The machines were idle when we stopped by; however, to a mechanical engineer, just having machines around is enough.

The diet root beer and diet cream soda are made with Splenda. Delicious.

Good Job, Sam!

Over on The World's Oldest Blog, we find that Samuel Pepys is practicing his multiplication tables. When I was in 3rd grade, we had to do through the nines in 3 minutes. Can you top that Sam?

More Things that Tick Me Off

I was under the impression that security is an issue in the transportation arena, but apparently that does not apply to leaving bags in the terminal at BWI. Sure, they're all lined up nicely. I guess terrorists wouldn't be able to make such orderly lines.

I mean, I'm really just irritated that these people are so dang rude. Southwest Airlines doesn't assign seats. Instead of that, they assign you a mini gate letter and you line up there. Supposedly, it's first-come-first-served, but I really believe that if people want to maintain a place in line, they should have to physically occupy that space. This is ridiculous.

But it is this kind of rudeness that is going to bring down my country. This just leads to furthering the populace's ability to ignore problems. Who is going to question bags sitting here by themselves? Ask somebody and they're going to tell you to mind your own stinking business. And minding our own business is going to send America to heck in a handcart, baby.

Oh, and I had to stand in line C, the last one to board. Ugh.

Take That!

You can't really tell from this shot, but the guy in the truck is giving us the finger. And he's doing it with excessive zeal. He tailgated us for a bit on DC-295, sped by us on the right, then inserted his 15 feet in the 16-foot space between us and the car ahead. I thought he cut it too close and so I honked the horn.

His response was to point vigorously to the right. I suppose he meant for us to understand that slower traffic should keep right. However, we were going no more slowly than the car we were following. What were we supposed to do? Oh, yeah, we were supposed to tailgate, too.

This picture is some five or ten minutes later. He was still vigorously flicking us off.

I understand the frustration of those who want to speed in the left lane. Yes, we've heard the argument that slow drivers in the fast line are a hazard. But it's hard for me to see how his breaking three rules of the road was safer, especially considering this is a 50mph speed-limit road in the middle of a city!

You Won't Like Me When I'm Angry

Looks like there's an interesting protest at the White House:

bicyclists will ride around the white house for the duration of the g-8 summit in scotland to demand action on global warming. our marathon cyclists applaud the forward thinking support of wind, solar and other renewable resources by the senate. we call on the president to do the same starting in scotland. we will be cycling around the white house 24 hours a day to send this message to the g8 summit: we want clean energy! the american people support the kyoto protocols. contact: mason payne.
But don't tell this guy from the Heritage Foundation. He might get upset.
It seems that the motorist blocked the path of a 23 year-old cyclist early on Friday morning, and when asked, the motorist refused to move. To add injury to insult, the motorist stepped out of his vehicle, approached the cyclist, and pushed [her] over. The motorist then drove off, leaving bystanders to take down his license plate number and attract the attention of a U.S. Capitol Police officer standing nearby. The offending motorist, who turned out to be a certain Ted E. Schelenski, Vice-President for Finance and Operations of the Heritage Foundation, was promptly arrested.

Weighing the Hugo Nominees

A Hugo Report

All right folks, your time is running out. Ballots must be in for the Hugo Awards by 8 July. Tick! Tock!

I know, I know. You're having trouble making up your minds aren't you? Well, never fear, ole Taleswapper is here to help you out. I've gathered together some important data points that might help you make a decision.

First, let me help you by summarizing the books, because Lord knows there were an awful lot of pages to get through, not all of them available through the American market, either. In addition to the little Hugo Tales, I've written a one-sentence summary of each book. How can I distill the wit and wisdom of two thousand, eight hundred and eighteen pages into five sentences? Pure chutzpah, I tell you.


(If you're looking for funny summaries, maybe you should try "Titanic in 30 seconds (with Bunnies)")


If that wasn't helpful, perhaps you could decide based on the blurbs. There are a bunch of good blurbs on the backs of these books. Neil Gaiman said this about Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell:
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last 70 years.
Which, you must admit, is a very nice thing to say. At least it's actually about the book; for The Algebraist, William Gibson had to say something nice about the author: "Banks is a phenomenon."

Which only makes me think of Kermit the Frog.

Well, Michael Swanwick trumps them both by complimenting the writer and the work. He has this to say about Iron Sunrise:

A carnival of ideas disguised as a space opera, a joyous romp through the toy box of the imagination by a guy who's universally acknowledged to be the Next Big Thing in science fiction.
However, let's face it, William Gibson, Neil Gaiman, and Michael Swanwick are fiction authors. They are paid to lie. It's their job. Perhaps we can put a little more faith in comments about River of Gods by the New Statesmen: "He will be discovered with shouts of joy."

That explains why the book store was so noisy when I stopped by. Apparently, though, The Washington Post Book World said this about Iron Council:

Compulsively readable ... There are scenes here that ... are impossible to expunge from memory.
Which begs the question: Are these scenes you really want trapped in your head for the rest of your breathing days? Also, two sets of ellipses in one quote are a bit hard to figure out how to take. I suppose that all of these blurbs are going to be pretty subjective, so perhaps we should move to more objective measures.

"Objective" Measures

Well, all of the books were too heavy for the kitchen scale and too light for the bathroom scale, so our first measure will need to be page count. In the editions we bought, Iron Sunrise easily wins the brevity race at 355 pages, but if you're into a long slog, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell blows the others away at 782 pages. River of Gods tries to catch up, but even with a tacked on glossary and track list only comes in at 583 pages. Iron Council (564) and The Algebraist (534) fill in the gaps.

Finally, we did some high-faluting technical analysis of the text to rank the books by lexical density and readability according to the Gunning-Fog index. I took a long paragraph from page 325 of all the books except Iron Sunrise. For Iron Sunrise, I moved to page 326 because 325 was so barren. I typed these paragraphs into the textalyser tool.

My selection of pages may have affected the outcome, because Iron Sunrise came in as the most lexically dense at 94.1%. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell trailed the pack at 69%. The middle ground were taken up by Iron Council (80.7%), River of Gods (87.8%), and The Algebraist (88.5%).

I'm not really sure what the Gunning Fog index is, and I can't be bothered to look it up, but Iron Council had the highest score at 10.7. Of course, it's possible that a low score is what you want, so you should go for Iron Sunrise at 5.2. The others cluster around 7: River of Gods at 6, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell at 7, and The Algebraist at 7.6.


So there you go, for what it's worth, etc. I don't think we can really conclude anything from this analysis except that it's really important that you think for yourself and go out there and vote. Otherwise, I'm going to be the one picking your Hugo winner for you, and you don't want that.

I suppose that I should make one final note: Two of the books share the word "Iron" in the tile, and two of the authors' names are derivativations of Ian. If you're looking for something unique, then, I suppose you only have one choice.

Early 4th?

Just woken up by the noise and flash. I thought it odd that there'd be fireworks on the first and so late at night, too. I actually wondered whether somebody was just practicing. Quite a show.

Then I realised it's just a thunderstorm. Nice job, though. Gotta give props to whoever threw this show together.