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Category — Brookland

Coffee and Tea

Sundays May through October we have, in our neighborhood, what could accurately be called a “Farmer Market,” because these days, we’re down to just one farmer, except that I think he’s more of a consolidator for a few mostly-organic farmers and less of a farmer himself. But the produce he sells is good, and I really don’t need more than one vendor of green beans or potatoes.

There are other vendors, too, including Fresh Off the Roast, a local coffee roaster who started as a hobbyist but who has been steadily expanding his business. I’ve been getting my coffee from him for just over a year now. He roasts every Friday, and I pick up just enough for the week on Sunday. It works out very well. He blogs at Cuppa Joel.

There is now, at our Farmer Market, a tea vendor as well. A fellow Brooklander recently bought Pearl Fine Teas, which has mostly, I believe, been a mail-order firm dealing in higher-end loose teas. She had several teas–black, scented, and herbal–on display, which were sold in one-ounce packages. She blogs at TeaLove.

I drink more coffee than tea. Every morning starts with coffee, although I lean towards tea at work because low-effort tea is much better than low-effort coffee, doubly so if there’s nobody else around who would want to share the coffee. My tolerance for caffeine in the evenings isn’t what it used to be, so I tend to favor herbal teas after dinner, although there is no better accompaniment to dessert than coffee.

For our little Farmer market to become a center for high-quality beverages is pretty cool.

September 22, 2008   1 Comment

Brompton: report on the commute

The short answer is that my new Brompton has substantially improved my commute. The combination of Brompton and Metrorail is by far the fastest way for me to get to work without a car. It gives me more freedom than the all-Metro commute, in which I was tied to the (unreliable) bus schedule. And it isn’t as grueling as the all-bicycle commute.

The one part of the commute that is longer is the first part, taking my son to his day care. It’s on the way to the Metro, but instead of simply pushing him in his stroller, I have to push his stroller and haul my bike at the same time. I’ve become somewhat adept at the one-handed stroller push, so that I can walk my bike with my other hand. It’s faster than leaving my bike at home and going back for it, but slower than just pushing the stroller.

On the return trip, though (my wife picks up Matthew in the evening), cycling the 3/4 mile between the Metro and our house is much faster than walking, or calling home to get a ride.

As folding bicycles are rather rare, I am frequently asked about it. A friend of mine once observed that Americans, in particular, have a tendency to ask how much you paid for something: this is certainly true of the Brompton. Complete strangers are often most interested in how much it cost me and have no hesitation about asking. I’m also asked where I got it, and I’ll go into a little spiel about going to New York City to buy it, and that College Park bicycles says they carry it but never have any in stock but they do have other, cheaper brands, and a new place in Vienna [Virginia] now carries them. I really should print up a bunch of cards listing the stores to give to others who might be interested in folding bicycles.

Although it’s certainly easier to wrangle than a full sized bicycle, the Brompton is more “luggable” than portable, so it’s as awkward as any other piece of luggage on the Metro. As such, my seat preferences have shifted. On the red line, I used to try to get a window seat with a view of the Amtrak yards; now I prefer to be at the ends of the car. Going home, I’ll try to board last, so I can stand near the doors. The doors open on the right at Gallery Place, and at the next stop (Judiciary Square), which tends to have very light traffic. After that, the doors open on the left all the remaining stops, including Brookland, so I can stay out of everyone’s way near the left-hand door.

I take different routes going to work and coming home. The natural Metro stop would be Anacostia: this is where I caught the A4/A5 bus that took me to work, and it’s a short and flat trip to the northern entrance of the swath of government facilities through which I ride. When I ride home, I ride to Anacostia, a 3.8 mile trip. But for the trip to work, I’ve come to prefer to ride one more stop to Congress Heights, for a slightly shorter 3.5 mile bike ride, which includes a long downhill stretch (which would, of course, be uphill on the way back). The first two weeks of the Brompton, I alternated between these two routes to work, and I think it’s about 4 minutes faster to ride to Congress Heights.

The all-bicycle commute is 10.2 miles: at this distance, one really wants to wear separate cycling clothes, and probably shower at the end of the ride. On the way to work, this just shifts the shower to the health club at work, but on the way back it would add to the trip, but in any case even changing clothes adds time. The three and a half miles from Metro to work is short enough so that I don’t feel a change of clothes is necessary.

The steps of my commute are now:

  1. unfold bicycle
  2. ride to Brookland Metro
  3. fold bicycle
  4. lug bicycle through faregates to platform
  5. wait for train
  6. ride to Gallery Place
  7. lug bicycle to Green line platform
  8. wait for train
  9. ride to Congress Heights
  10. lug bicycle through faregates outside
  11. unfold bicycle
  12. ride to work
  13. park bicycle

I include many of these steps, which might take a minute or two, to emphasize the fact that they do add up: five steps that take two minutes each means ten minutes. In a sense 10 minutes isn’t a terribly long time, but psychologically the difference between a 45 and a 55 minute commute is huge.

The other point with all the steps is that I don’t have any big contiguous block of time along the trip, so (say) trying to read is really not feasible. When I did Metrorail and Metrobus, I’d usually pick up the Washington Post Express and work the Sudoku, and listen to podcasts on my iPod. No time for the Sudoku now, and I have much less iPod listening time, so I’m down to a handful of podcasts.

Folding or unfolding the bike takes less than a minute, unless someone has asked about the bike and I’m sort of narrating the process and giving a demonstration.

Step 12 above is reliably 20-25 minutes, depending on the wind, traffic lights, how much air is in my tires, how heavy my bag is, and how willing I am to work up a sweat. I’ve done the ride in less than 20 minutes, but during much of the summer I prefer not to. According to WMATA, step 6 above takes 8 minutes, and step 9 takes 12 minutes. 

All total, the whole trip–office to front door–can be done in 50-55 minutes. I think that 45 might be possible, if I have a tailwind and no red lights, and have no waits for trains. But I’ve found, though, that I’ve become a much more relaxed commuter. No longer worried that I might miss a bus by a minute or two, which would mean I’d have an extra 20 minute wait, I don’t feel as compelled to rush for trains as I used to. And especially in the summer, I’ve found that a leisurely pace ensures that I feel comfortable without a change of clothes.

September 21, 2008   8 Comments

A tree falls

As predicted, our heat wave was broken in dramatic fashion last night with the arrival of some intense thunderstorms. At about 7pm, a series of small-ish storms came in. We lost power for perhaps a minute–not long enough to fetch a flashlight–but our neighbors down the street didn’t fare quite so well.

A large street tree came down during the storm:

This tree came down in the storms of 10 Jun 2008

Fortunately, the tree fell in the street, not on a house.

Alternate view of fallen tree

The tree did take some electrical wires down with it, to the point of ripping a neighbor’s meter box from the side of the house. I suspect their power outage lasted longer than a minute:

A meter box ripped from a house after tree takes down power lines

June 11, 2008   1 Comment

iPod again

I finally listened to my iPod again, during my commute, but not, of course, while walking to the Metro. Mostly, I listen to podcasts. Today I listened to:

Sierra Club Radio, the Dec. 1st episode. Excellent interview with Ken Weiss who wrote the LA Times series on the plight of the oceans. 

The Splendid Table, an NPR show about food, with ebullient host Lynne Rossetto Kasper. 

This American Life, which is consistently the most captivating radio show around. When I was in grad school, this came on Sunday mornings and I almost always listened, but here in DC it’s been on at a time when I’ve almost always been doing something else. Which is why I love the podcast. 

December 12, 2007   No Comments

Zwei peanuts ver valking down der strasse…

and von vas… assaulted!

Except in this case, it’s not a joke; I was assaulted Friday evening while walking home from the Metro, about 3 blocks from my home. This is, in large part, why I haven’t posted anything lately.

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December 5, 2007   5 Comments

small pleasures

I’m not, by any stretch, a serious railfan. No vacations centered around sites to watch trains, no vest or baseball cap studded with rail-themed collectors’ pins, no log of serial numbers of cars I’ve seen, or even ridden, nor even a mileage log of my own. But I have enjoyed watching trains for as long as I can remember, and I’m told that when I was very young I’d make my parents stop the car to watch a passing train. If my son asks, in a few years, to stop and watch a train go by, I’ll happily agree.

One of the bonus features, then, of living in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington DC is that the Metro tracks parallel the Amtrak tracks on the way to Brookland leaving Union Station, so when I’m riding the Metro to or from home I have a few minutes view of some busy rail lines.

One sees lots of MARC trains, especially during commuter hours; they’re not so interesting. There are usually random pieces of Amtrak equipment in the yards, locomotives and switchers and the like. It’s a good day when I see a revenue service Amtrak train moving, especially an Acela Express, or the Capitol Limited. Once I saw the American Orient Express. In the late mornings, when most of the VRE  trains have arrived and are waiting for their evening departures, there’s a particularly nice view of 4 or 5 of them on different tracks but lined up: a nice illustration, I think, of the Zen View from A Pattern Language.

I of course prepare for this brief trip through the railyard, by trying to get a window seat on the appropriate side of the train: right side when going in the direction of Glenmont, left side when traveling in the direction of Shady Grove. In morning rush hour, it’s rare that any seat is available, but in the evening enough people get off at Gallery Place-Chinatown, with some more getting off at Union Station, so that there’s a reasonable of a window seat opening up. When one does, and especially if I get to see some trains, it’s a small but welcome pleasure in my day.

November 28, 2007   3 Comments