Every December, I break out the Speedball italic nib and the Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay Red india ink. I tried a few too many inks until I found one that was Christmas red and sufficiently opaque.

Bombay red 2

My lettering isn’t great, but people give a fair amount of slack for hand-lettered gift tags.

Gift tag

Give it a try. You might have better lettering than I do. A bottle of ink is only $3 and will last a long time. I’ve probably had the nib and holder for a couple of decades. Nah, longer, they were pre-kids.

Letting Go

There is control and there is letting go of control. I remember a commute home on Richmond in Houston, where it took multiple cycles at each stoplight. A Bee Gees song I hated came on the radio, so I changed stations. It was on that station too. I changed stations again and the third station was playing the same damned song. I laughed, turned off the radio, and decided that life was too short to get worked up about traffic. Stop and smell the exhaust, there is always something to appreciate.

Notes on Visiting Washington, DC

If your walking shoes are a year and a half old and the cushioning is stomped flat, get new ones before you go. You’ll be doing a lot of walking on concrete and terrazzo. My feet hurt after the first day.

Allow a lot of time to get places on the Metro. We rented a house in upper northwest, so our route to The Mall was to drive about a mile, park three blocks from the Friendship Heights Metro station, walk there slowly (with boy and dog), change trains downtown, go another stop or two to some part of The Mall, then walk to a museum. This took almost exactly an hour.

A Metro map is essential, a Metro iPhone app is optional. I used find a metro dc, which was mostly useful for the list of outages. Unfortunately, they just say “elevator outage”, without mentioning whether it is the train/mezzanine or mezzanine/street elevator. You really do want a simple, free iPhone Metro map.

The best street map of the downtown area is the National Park Service map of the National Mall (pdf). This shows all the monuments, a generous amount of surrounding city, and the exact location of the Metro entrances. You’ll want a paper copy, so drop by the White House Visitor Center and grab one. I expect other NPS visitor centers have them. I got ours at the ranger station just southwest of the Washington Monument.

The only map I found that distinguishes between Metro escalators and elevator is the Smithsonian accessibility map (pdf) available from the Smithsonian page for visitors with disabilities.

At any Smithsonian museum, you’ll find a booklet that describes all of them. Donate $2 and get the booklet, because it has the floor plans and exhibits for all the museums. The Air and Space Museum has a bigger, more detailed floor plan at the info desk, so ask for one of those.

Mitsitam Café at the National Museum of the American Indian is the best meal on the mall. It costs about the same as the other museums, but it twice as good and four times as interesting. Though you can get a burger or chicken strips, you can also get bison, pheasant, planked salmon, and other native foods. I had seaweed and wild mushrooms, some great fry bread, and grilled game. It is even a pretty place, with a river-like fountain outside the window.

We checked several guidebooks out of the the library and the house we stayed in had even more, but we ended up almost always using Pauline Frommer’s Washington D.C..

Operation Beautiful

Two days ago, a student at my son’s high school committed suicide on the train tracks near our house. This is the fourth student suicide at that spot in six months. The Mercury-News article said it well, it “renewed a sense of shock and helplessness” in the community.

The Gunn students are shocked, but they are certainly not acting helpless. They continue to do smart things, reaching out, talking, trying to make Gunn a better place for teens. They did this after the first suicide and have not given up.

A new blog titled Henry M. Gunn Gives Me Hope appeared today, and already has dozens of posts. One is about Operation Beautiful, a project to put Post-It Notes with inspirational sayings all over campus.

After the first suicide, students organized ROCK (“Reach Out. Care. Know.”), with a ROCK Facebook group and “ROCK at Gunn” blog. ROCK is completely student-run, including a staffed spot at the Gunn Academic Center and a list of students who volunteer to be “rocks”. Other students are gearing up a second round of handpainted “Talk to me” T-shirts with the proceeds going to the Kara grief counseling center [additional coverage]. The student paper covered teen suicide along with ROCK and the professional counseling available.

The suicides are a sadness beyond words, but the response of the Gunn students is more than just a ray of hope. It is beautiful.

The Truth About Working at Home

Editorial Ass posts a conversation about becoming a full-time housewife.

RM: I hate this grocery store. It’s ALWAYS packed! I HATE it here. I want to move to a different neighborhood where you can go shopping after 5 pm or on weekends.

YT: I have an idea. How about I quit my job and become a housewife? Then I’ll have time during the day to go shopping when it’s not crowded.

RM: Let me tell you how that would work out. You wouldn’t make it to the store. You would blog, watch Netflix, and not wear any pants. That’s what would happen.

Glad to do my part, here at Netflix. The comments are fun, too, so head on over there.

Hmm, and I’ve been doing my own Fill-in-the-Gaps Project for a decade or so, maybe I should post some of the progress.


Tina made an Underdog costume for Loken. You can’t see the blue cape in the photo, but it is there. Loken is a little confused by having fabric on his legs, but he’s putting up with it. The “U” is carefully modeled on the cartoon Underdog. The one in the live-action movie looks different.

In this photo, we see that Underdog has just captured a criminal. There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here!

Loken as Underdog

The Merchants Are On Board

I just heard a commercial on KCBS from Shreve and Co., a San Francisco jeweler. There are three different people talking about shopping for wedding rings with their sweetie. The second voice is a woman who says, “Julie and I have been dreaming about this for years…” and the third is a man who says “Rick and I have been planning our ceremony, the reception, and, of course, looking at rings…”

To paraphrase Engine Charlie, “What’s good for jewelers is good for America.”