Category Archives: Washington, DC

First world problems

Third world problems usually center around a lack of food, clothing, water, or shelter, or possibly all of them. Compounding these lacks, you often have severe pollution and poverty.

First world problems, however, are more nuanced. For example, this sign in a hotel, alerting guests to the fact that the door does not lead to an entrance or an exit to anything interesting, just Employee Stuff:

This door leads to ES: Employee Stuff. It isn't interesting to anyone else, so move along. Note the sign is written in Braille, too. Photo by Lykara Ryder.
This door leads to ES: Employee Stuff. It isn’t interesting to anyone else, so move along. Note the sign is written in Braille, too. Photo by Lykara Ryder.

Fire hydrants aren’t all that exciting in the first world, but this one is at least different. It is orange instead of red, and it has an Out Of Service sign. Of particular interest: this is a professionally crafted sign, not some temporary thing taped to the hydrant, suggesting that hydrants, much like buses during rush hour on busy routes, are routinely Out Of Service:

Bright orange (orange is the new red?) fire hydrant, prominently saying that it is Out Of Service. Who knew hydrants went off duty? Photo by Lykara Ryder.
Bright orange (orange is the new red?) fire hydrant, prominently saying that it is Out Of Service. Who knew hydrants went off duty? Photo by Lykara Ryder.

Finally, there is this park bench, near the Capitol in Washington, DC. This isn’t just any old park bench, but a solar-powered park bench. And why would a park bench need to be solar-powered? Because it is a park bench with two USB charging ports!

Soofa Bench is a solar-powered park bench. It has space for three people, and can recharge two USB phones at once. It is "made of sustainably harvested materials and built in the United States." Photo by Lykara Ryder.
Soofa Bench is a solar-powered park bench. It has space for three people, and can recharge two USB phones at once. It is “made of sustainably harvested materials and built in the United States.” Photo by Lykara Ryder.

It was crafted by Changing Environments, an MIT Media Lab spin-off that took a look at how technology could improve urban living. The Soofa Bench comes in various versions, some of which also include environmental monitoring sensors, powered by the solar panels on the bench. Also available are a Soofa Core, which is essentially the central pillar without the bench, and a Soofa Sign, a solar-powered, stand-alone neighborhood electronic bulletin board.

Why the company uses the Colombia domain (.co) and why things are called “Soofa” are not readily apparent.

Instead of weed removal, weed delivery?

The District of Columbia voted to legalize possession of marijuana in November 2014. Because of misguided criminal laws, bad science favoring marijuana use, bad science opposing marijuana use, and a great many other factors, this was — and still is — a contentious issue.

But that doesn’t mean commercial entities are waiting for Congress to stop meddling and the District government to stop fiddling. This trailer with oversized placard was spotted in Maryland. It proclaims that “compassionate physicians are waiting” for folks to schedule appointments to get pot. And there is a toll-free number.

DC medical marijuana placard parked on the side of a street in Maryland.
DC medical marijuana placard parked on the side of a street in Maryland.

Monkeys grasp for the moon

Washington boasts many world-class museums, but some of the most impressive are not necessarily the most visited. The Freer Gallery of Art, part of the Smithsonian Institution, is an Italian Renaissance style building just east of the Smithsonian Institution “castle” on the Washington Mall, and hosts a vast collection of amazing Asian, Near Eastern, and Egyptian art, plus some spectacular American entries. The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, attached to the Freer Gallery, is not as obvious; with the exception of the atrium, the entire museum is underground, mostly beneath the garden behind the Smithsonian Castle.

One of the most impressive pieces in either museum is Xu Bing’s “Monkeys Grasp for the Moon,” a complex sculpture that hangs from the skylight at the top of the atrium to a fountain, several stories underground. The sculpture is composed entirely of the word “monkey” written in several different languages, with each word or character shaped to link to the next. There does not seem to be anything else holding the pieces together beyond gravity.

An iPhone 6 Plus was used to take this photo, using the panorama photo mode. Rather than go from side to side, as it was intended, the panorama began at the bottom and panned to the top. Click on the photo for a (much) larger view.

This magnificent sculpture by Xu Bing, "Monkeys Grasp for the Moon," hangs in the atrium between the Freer and Sackler Museums in Washington, DC. It is composed of 21 pieces, each showing the word "moneky" in a dozen languages, linked together using the words themselves. To photograph this several story sculpture, an iPhone was set to panorama mode, only panned from bottom to top rather than side to side.
This magnificent sculpture by Xu Bing, “Monkeys Grasp for the Moon,” hangs in the atrium between the Freer and Sackler Museums in Washington, DC. It is composed of 21 pieces, each showing the word “moneky” in a dozen languages, linked together using the words themselves. To photograph this several story sculpture, an iPhone was set to panorama mode, only panned from bottom to top rather than side to side.

The government shutdown explained

I figured since everybody else was drawing charts, I should make one of my own. (Photos from various public sites.) Government Shutdown Explained (full size)

Visualization of the Constitutional provisions which caused the government to shut down.
Visualization of the Constitutional provisions which caused the government to shut down.

How the Washington Apple Pi Journal is produced

Washington Apple Pi Journal is the official publication of the Washington Apple Pi user group, the oldest continuously active microcomputer group on the planet. Washington Apple Pi originally was focused on Apple II computers, but has branched out to the Apple III, the Lisa, the Mac, the Newton, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, the… Washington Apple Pi Journal flowchart (full size).

Flowchart of process flow for Washington Apple Pi Journal
Flowchart of process flow for Washington Apple Pi Journal