NASA photo of the Moon, and Lincoln Memorial

January 21, 2014

This one NOT taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, though I suspect a telephoto lens was involved.

“An amazing photo of a full moon over the Lincoln Memorial.” Photo: NASA

Another photo from the Department of Interior’s Great American Outdoors Tumblr site.

It’s a rising Moon, with the photo taken from the west side of the Lincoln Memorial, perhaps from the Virginia side of the Potomac River.  The Lincoln Memorial is now part of the National Park Service’s portfolio of properties around our national capital.

Update: Jude Crook points out in comments (below) that this was a NASA Photo of the Day, originally; two federal agencies cooperating in the interest of photographic excellence . . .

Super Perigee Moon

The full moon is seen as it rises near the Lincoln Memorial, Saturday, March 19, 2011, in Washington. The full moon tonight is called a super perigee moon since it is at its closest to Earth in 2011. The last full moon so big and close to Earth occurred in March 1993.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Millard Fillmore waxes on

April 5, 2013

Millard Fillmore at Madame Tussaud's, D.C.

President Millard Fillmore, as displayed at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, Washington, D.C.; photo from

Ever on the lookout for images of Millard Fillmore, I found this photo at  This is the “wax” sculpture of Fillmore displayed at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum – D.C.

Is it art?


In 90 seconds, National Parks stuff you should see in Washington, D.C.

January 27, 2013

National Park Service video, and of course, featuring some stunning time-lapse photography.



Jefferson Memorial from above

October 27, 2012

Must be rare to get such a reflection of the sky in a calm Tidal Basin pool; from the Department of Interior‘s Instagram:

Jefferson Memorial from the air, Department of Interior photo

From Interior’s Instagram: Last night we posted an aerial photo of the #Washington #Monument, which everyone seems to really enjoy. So we are keeping it going today with a #photo of the #Jefferson #Memorial. #NationalMall #DC

One commenter noted the photo almost makes it appear that the Jefferson Memorial is floating in the clouds.

There are more than 300 units in the National Parks System.  In the past two days we’ve had two spectacular photos from almost the same place, two memorials about a half-mile apart.  How many thousands of great photos are possible from all of these properties?  NPS’s job, caring for all of that stuff, is monumental.


Friday Photo: Washington Monument from the top down

October 26, 2012

U.S. Department of Interior, on Instagram:

Interior’s Instagram caption: It’s not every day you see the #Washington #Monument from this angle. #dc #mall #bestofteday

For me, additional security in Washington, D.C., has stolen much of the fun, joy and awe of the Washington Monument — compounded by the damage from the 2011 Virginia earthquake.

Before September 2011, the Washington Monument was open until midnight in summer months.  Tourists head off for dinner and hotels at before 6:00 p.m. — the tourist lines disappear, and especially after 10:00 p.m. on most nights, one could, or one and the three or four visiting friends you had could, without waiting catch the elevator to the top for an absolutely matchless view of Washington D.C. at night.

Spy on the White House; spot the tourists dangling feet in the Reflecting Pool at the Lincoln Memorial; see the light in the Capitol Dome indicating Congress in session, and gloat that you were in recreational mode instead.  See a couple kissing on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial, thinking no one would see them.  Watch the arc of U.S. Airways airplanes coming down the Potomac River corridor, panicking anyone in the USA Today building who happened to look out and look down on an aircraft passing by, and almost hear the screams from the non-frequent DCA fliers as the plane banked sharply at low level to line up with the runway at National Airport (it will never be Reagan to true aviation buffs, who still miss the controllers who gave us confidence in that thrill ride).

For the Fourth of July, the National Park Service (NPS) used to conduct a lottery to select a tiny handful of professional photographers to shoot the fireworks, one of the best displays on Earth.  The fireworks shoot from near the Lincoln Memorial.  Does NPS do that any more?

Then walk down the stairway, past the hundreds of carved memorial stones, gifts of Americans who wished to honor George Washington by contributing some large, expensive rock to the interior of the obelisk rising Pharaoh-style out of the swamp near the Tidal Basin.  Notice the color line shift that marked the Know-Nothing Party control of the group building the monument — the original American Tea Party austerity group, who stopped construction for 20 years just to prove they could impose austerity on those ‘spendthrifts’ who wished to build a monument to a man, even without any public money, and even though they controlled the commission only from 1855 to 1858 (the Civil War intervened).

The Washington Monument, all 555 feet, 5 1/8 inches of it, is closed now.  When I visited last, in June, damage from the earthquake was still being assessed, and to protect the monument and the public, no access to the interior was allowed.  Around the base, the 50 U.S. flags still fly 24 hours each day; but the paths to the monument now have blockades to stop any unauthorized truck, perhaps laden with explosives, and the public benches sat empty where we used to meet small-town Americans awed by the thing, and foreign tourists in awe of America.

The caption from Interior begs more explanation.  Why don’t we see this view?  The Washington Mall — that expanse of grass and, now, museums between the U.S. Capitol on the east end and the Potomac-side Lincoln Memorial on the west — graces pilots’ air charts as a civilian no-fly zone.  After too many small-plane pilots gave the FAA fits, and somebody parked one on the lawn of the White House, FAA banned all flights over the mall, except by police or other official aircraft.  Pragmatically it’s the D.C. cops and Marine One helicopters who might be able to capture this view.

How did Interior get the shot?  The Instagram doesn’t explain. Perhaps it was part of the work to repair and restore the monument from the earthquake.

This picture highlights some interesting things. You can see wear and discoloration of the stone, from weather.  Discoloration is not consistent; you can see how the windows at the top alter the even flow of water.  Acid rain causes the stone to turn gray, then black; the monument is light only from a couple of scrubbings (though, contrary to climate denialist and GOP claims, Clean Air Act control of acid rain reduces the damage since 1972).  Some of the discoloration may be from copper solutions washed off the window frames by the rain.

If you look closely, you can see one of the cracks caused by the earthquake.  At the peak rests a tiny pyramid of aluminum, undistinguishable from the limestone.  Aluminum?  Yes — while the metal is a very common element around the Earth, refining it out of ore was difficult, commercially impossible in the 1880s when the Monument was completed.  As a last tribute to Washington, builders capped it with what was then one of the most precious metals on Earth, aluminum.  Soon after, the advent of mass quantities of generated electricity made aluminum refining commercially viable; today we make disposable drink cans out of what was once the most precious metal on Earth, when purified.  One may ponder how George Washington would consider such technological changes in the nation where he hoped every citizen might have a “vine and fig tree,” first to cap his monument with aluminum, and then make millions of tons of the stuff to throw away.  We are an industrial society to an extent Washington did not, perhaps could not anticipate.  Would he approve?

About a quarter of the way up from the base, you see the color of the limestone changed, as I noted earlier.  All the stone on the face of the monument came from the same quarry; however, during the cessation of construction during the rule of the Know Nothings on the monument commission, rock from the quarry continued to come out, to be used in other projects.  By the time construction on the monument was restarted, rock quarrying pulled out limestone of a slightly darker, more reddish color.  Builders decided to continue with the color variation rather than pull down the stone already stacked.  The Washington monument thus becomes a memorial not only to Washington, but also to the politics he futilely hoped would not affect our nation’s government, even non-governmental commissions working around and about the government.  That color line preserves in stone some of the political errors of the mid-19th century.  It remains unclear whether anyone ever learned a beneficial lesson from those times.

At the base you see patterns of stone unrecognized at ground level (are those white stripes the benches to wait in line to get up to the top?).  Around the monument a phalanx of 50 U.S. flags, which fly constantly (except in hurricanes), and you can see the lights that illuminate the flags and the monument at night.  Flying into Washington, D.C., at night, becomes one of the great vistas of the world, pierced by the shining white spire of the Washington Monument against a black sky (or dark blue, better), and the panorama of great public buildings, also lighted limestone.

Under local and federal zoning rules, skyscrapers are not allowed in that core area, to preserve the buena vista.

And finally, in the photo you can see fewer than a dozen people, colored dots at the base of the structure.  Are they looking up?


Sunset parade at the Iwo Jima Memorial

June 24, 2012

Into August, the U.S. Marine Corps puts on a Sunset Parade at the Iwo Jima Memorial, near Washington, D.C., each Tuesday evening.  It’s one of those grand events that is free, but difficult to get into because it’s so popular.

June 19 Marine Corps Sunset Parade at Iwo Jima Memorial - photo by Ed Darrell

For watching, many good seats on the hillside can be found. For perfect photos with the Memorial perfectly framed in the background, get there an hour early.

Well, not difficult to get in — difficult to get a good seat.

Who doesn’t love a parade?

Last Tuesday the parade opened with a selection of numbers from the Marines’ Drum and Bugle Corps (in red coats); they marched off to leave the field for the formal parade, but returned for the close.

The setting is spectacular for watching, with the Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol in the background, the stirring statue from the iconic photo, and more men and women in uniform than you can or should shake a sabre at.

Bring your own chair or pad to sit on. We walked over from our hotel in Arlington.  Lots of places to sit among the trees on the hillside to see, and a few thousand other people did the same.  Most of them got there before we did.

Enjoy the show — someone else has probably snapped the perfect picture and you can get it on a postcard.

Crowd at Sunset Parade at Iwo Jima Memorial, 06-19-2012 photo by Ed Darrell

It was a large, respectful crowd out to watch the Marine Corps Sunset Parade at the Iwo Jima Marine Corps Memorial, June 19, 2012. Panorama photo by Ed Darrell.  Click on photo for a larger version.

Save Our Schools: Teachers march on Washington, no pitchforks, torches, tar or feathers

July 29, 2011

Save Our Schools and other teacher groups organized a march on Washington, a four-day affair to get attention to problems in schools and gain support for education-favorable solutions.

Will their voices be heard over the debt ceiling hostage crisis?  Is it more than coincidence that many of the politicians attacking education lead the effort to ruin the nation’s credit and sink our economy?

Here’s an explanation from EDWeek’s  Politics K-12 blog:

Teachers Converging on Washington for 4-Day Schools Rally

By Michele McNeil on July 28, 2011 5:54 AM
By guest blogger Nirvi Shah


Today kicks off the four-day Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action, a gathering and rally in Washington, D.C., organized by teachers who say they are fed up with test-driven accountability for public schools—and, increasingly, for teachers.

The group, which maintains that it is a grassroots, from-the-ground-up organization, hopes to send a message to national and state policymakers about their displeasure, as well as highlight a variety of principles for improving public education. The group has developed a series of position papers outlining its views on high-stakes testing, equitable funding for all schools, unions and collective bargaining, and changes to curriculum, among other issues. For the most part, the position papers aren’t yet at the level of detail of formal policy prescriptions, and it remains to be seen whether such proposals will emerge from the gathering.

March organizer Sabrina Stevens Shupe said however that policy proposals aren’t necessarily the goal of the events. “What we’re talking about is creating the right conditions, not prescriptive policies,” she said.sosrally-tmb.gif “There’s no one silver bullet that’s going to save anything,” she added, referring to attempts to craft education reforms for the last 30 years.

The big event happens Saturday, when thousands of teachers and supporters of the cause are expected to rally and march at The Ellipse, near the White House. (About 1,000 people have indicated they’ll attend via the movement’s website, but registration is not required, and organizers believe 5,000 to 10,000 marchers will turn out.) The group will wrap up with a closed-door meeting Sunday at which participants will try to determine how to keep the momentum from the rally going. (Movement organizers haven’t disclosed the meeting’s location, and it is not open to press.)

Watch this blog and our issues page for developments from the movement’s events today and through the weekend.

The movement began with a small group of teachers, including Jesse Turner, who walked from Connecticut to the District of Columbia last August to protest the No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top. Their efforts predated actions by state legislatures across the country this spring to curb teachers’ collective bargaining powers and tenure, noted Bess Altwerger, a member of the movement’s organizing committee, who hosted a reception for Mr. Turner last summer. She said the shortcomings of the American public education system do not lie with teachers.

“This has been framed as somebody’s fault—either the parents’ fault or the teachers’ fault,” Ms. Altwerger said. “The fault lies with an education policy that does not work.”

Eventually, both of the nation’s largest teachers unions threw their financial and philosophical support behind the movement.

The American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association have donated about $25,000 each to the effort. The bulk of the rest of the donations have come from one-time gifts provided through the Save Our Schools website. Conference organizers estimated that they’d raised over $125,000. After this weekend, they will have to begin fundraising efforts anew to keep their work going.

Taking Message to Obama Administration

Three organizers of the SOS March met Wednesday for an hour with senior-level Education Department officials, including two press officers and the deputy chief of staff. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was in attendance for about 10 minutes, and described the meeting as a “good conversation.” He added that “there is a lot of common ground out there.”

(Read the rest of the story from Politics K-12.)

With some luck, a few thousand teachers will show up.  With greater luck, a few thousand other people, concerned parents, perhaps, will join them.

In much of the nation teachers are still stuck fighting for jobs.  Here in Texas, for example, the Texas Lege didn’t get a budget out until June, including dramatically slashed funding for this coming school year.  In some Texas districts we still face layoffs before school starts in just over two weeks.  Many of us don’t have clear assignments, and many more of us will lose basics of teaching, like preparation time, breaks, classrooms, paper, books, and pencils.

Considering the trouble created by political attacks on education in state legislatures this year, much of the attacks wholly unnecessary, it’s a wonder the teachers don’t show up with pitchforks, torches, and tar and feathers.

It’s a crazy world out there.  Help make some sense somewhere, will you?

A Seussian fable, about how tests ruin school reform

April 7, 2011

Look, you really need to go to TeacherSabrina’s blog, Failing Schools, where she first posted this, and take a look at many of her posts.

But I can’t resist putting the video here, because I know a few old-timers would be confused by the link, and some people will think they don’t have the time to make two clicks instead of one.

So, here, in its Seussian glory and demand for Flash Animation, is TeacherSabrina’s story of D.C.’s late Queen of the Schools, Michelle Rhee, and her desire to get D.C.’s kids to score well on an increasing battery of tests  [Got a good joke about assault and battery we can insert here?]:  “Rhee the Reformer:  A Cautionary Tale.”

Tip of the old scrub brush to Accountable Talk.

Dan Valentine – Pink cigarette lighter, part 5

July 23, 2010

By Dan Valentine


Shortly after my little episode with Melody – y’know, the brigadier general’s daughter, so on and so forth, the one with the butcher knife, etc., etc., with the crazy ex-boyfriend – I soon found myself a studio flat of my own in downtown D.C.

The Westpark Apartments, 2130 “P” Street, just west of Dupont Circle and the Metro stop that took me straight to work at the Russell Senate Office Building. The Ritz-Carlton was just around the corner. My good friend Paul Smith, Orrin Hatch’s former press secretary, and I saw Peggy Lee perform there one evening. She had fallen shortly before the engagement and sang on crutches.

The residents at the Westpark were mostly students and professionals. There was a grocery store next door and some of Washington’s better restaurants nearby. Georgetown was a ten-minute walk.

Great location but noisy on weekends. Across the street, I soon learned, was a stretch of very popular gay bars: a gay dance club, a gay sports bar, a gay piano bar, a gay you-name-it. “The cutting edge of Gay nightclubs,” I later read in a local rag.

I lived there for some two years without incident.

Flash-forward half a decade. I had moved my folks from Salt Lake to Arlington, Va. A three-bedroom penthouse apartment, above the Balston Commons Arcade, with a view of the Nation’s Capital. It was to die for! Fourth of July, it was the best seat in the house. Fireworks galore sprouting above the Washington Monument.  During Bush I’s term, when the troops returned home victorious from fighting in Kuwait and Iraq and the whole town celebrated, it was the best seat in the house. Fireworks galore.

One evening, shortly after returning for the second time to the District, I joined my bestest friend for a cocktail or two. We may have even had dinner.

You could smoke in bars and restaurants back then and, like many times before in the past, by the end of the evening, her cigarette lighter ended up in my blue sports coat pocket. She doesn’t smoke cigarettes; though, she’ll light herself a cigar every once in a great while. She prefers to smoke, well, let’s just say she likes to laugh. As I do. Laughter is a sound foundation for any relationship. (My ex-mother-in-law once asked my ex-wife, in front of me, “Why did you marry him?” “He made me laugh,” she said. Her mother sniffed and replied, “I’ve never thought he was funny.” I had to laugh.)

Anyway, the lighter ended up in my pocket when I used my last match and she lent me hers. It was pink.

Many a time I have sat at a table with friends and, by the end of the night, everyone’s lighter or matches or both have wound up in my possession. I’m infamous for it. And many a time, a friend during the evening has slapped his pockets or searched her purse only to find that his or her light is missing. “Where’s my lighter?! Where are my matches?!” Friends always turn to me. “Valentine! Not again!” I get caught up in the conversation at hand and, without thinking, I slip them in my pocket after lighting up.

We had met at a restaurant nearby Dupont Circle, close to my former residence. After bidding goodnight, call-you-later, I thought I’d save a buck or two – I was raised by Depression Kids – and catch a cab to Georgetown for one last drink before going home to Arlington.

In D.C., at the time, there were taxi zones. When I lived on “P” Street, I soon discovered if one wanted to save some cash one had only to stroll a few paces and cross the street at the end of the block to hail a taxi. Back then, every zone your cab entered cost you an extra-added fare.

So, I’m on “P” Street–familiar and friendly territory, or so I thought at the time–a few steps from saving a dollar or so, when I stop to light up. I pulled out my friend’s pink one. I lit my cigarette, pocketed the rest. It was then that someone head-butted me in the back like an NFL guard, plunging me face-first to the pavement. Another man, from out of the shadows, joined in the fun, kicking me in the head and ribs, both of them shouting, “Faggot!” and other slurs I suppose.

I can only suppose that the pink lighter offended them.

I was knocked unconscious. When I came to, I opened my eyes to see two Pink Angels gazing down on me, one with a flashlight beaming on my face.

Every Friday and Saturday, near the stroke of midnight, a group of volunteers, dressed in black berets and jackets, pair off and walk unarmed up and down the gay sections of D.C., making sure gays get home in one-piece. They’re known as Pink Angels. Such groups exist from San Francisco to Greenwich Village.

The two helped me to my feet and guided me to the gay piano bar on the corner. Upon seeing me, the bartender immediately began dialing an ambulance. He didn’t have to pick up the phone book and thumb through its pages to look for the number. I told him to dial me a cab instead. Save a buck here, save buck there. I was raised by Depression Kids.

No doubt, the bartender poured me a drink on the house. And, no doubt, I lit myself a cigarette. Can’t have a drink without a cigarette, swollen-bleeding lips or no. And, without any doubt, I pocketed a book of matches with the bar’s logo on them. Can’t have a cigarette without a light.

The pink lighter was missing, glimmering in a moonlit gutter somewhere.

I was in the Men’s, cleaning up best I could, when the cab arrived. The driver took me to the Georgetown University Hospital emergency room for my wounds. Broken nose (again, for the umpteenth time), multiple bruises, battered ribs, fractured jaw. I may have even had a minor concussion. Can’t remember. That wasn’t meant as a joke. It’s just been that long ago.

Later on that week, I saw a specialist, etc. In all, visits, procedures, more visits, more procedures, it cost me some several thousand dollars. I was unaware at the time–no one volunteered the info–that there is some sort of city fund for such incidents.

The time was the late ’80s, but little has changed.

Just recently I came across a news story on the internet The head read: Wearing Pink Gets Straight Man Gay Bashed. The date: October 2009. The story: A straight man who wore pink to aid breast cancer charities was bashed by men at a Kansas City Chiefs game. The victim, a father of three, had volunteered to wear pink clothing to draw attention to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. He raised a few hundred dollars, vending pink ribbons and shirts and hats, among other things. Third quarter, he decides to call it a day. He’s heading out of the stadium when two men, drunk, began harassing him because of his pink clothing. One of them punched him in the face. The second threw him to the ground. Both began kicking him in the ribs and head. I can relate. Managing somehow to get to his feet, he scurried for his life, the men chasing after him. Dodging them in between parked cars in the stadium’s lot, he finally escaped.

Sometimes, looking back, I think it may not have been the pink lighter at all. Maybe they were simply hard-core anti-smoking activists. They could very well have been paid assassins hired by my ex-mother-in-law. They may have been Danes! One thing’s for sure: The two wanted to hurt somebody, badly–gay, straight, or Martian–and they did. Me. Wrong place at the wrong time. A lot of life is timing. You win a few, you lose a few.

For some time afterward, I smoked very little, if at all. Wired-fractured jaw. When I was well enough, I visited my bestest friend.

THAT didn’t make me feel better! She was seeing a cop. Upon hearing that, no doubt, I lit-up a cigarette. I left shortly afterward.

A few weeks later, I visited her again. Just happen to be in the area. Yeah, right! I asked how she and the cop were doing. She said she had broken up with the fellow. She had discovered he was gay.

This was at the height of the AIDS scare. AIDS was somewhere in everyone’s mind, in flats on “U” Street, where she was living at the time, and in dark, shadowed doorways on “P” Street.

“He told you that?” I asked.

“No. Not exactly.”

“So, how do you know?”

He, too, it seems, had visited one day, and after he’d left, she had found a book of matches from a gay bar.

“I know you’re not gay. So–.” She showed me the matches. They were mine. From the gay piano bar on “P” Street.

You win a few, you lose a few. One day you’re lying in a puddle of blood, your own; the next day, you’re soaring, eagle-like, high above the clouds, a big-big smile on your face, fractured-jaw and all.


Fireworks in Washington, D.C.

July 6, 2009

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch the fireworks over the National Mall from the White House on July 4, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch the fireworks over the National Mall from the White House on July 4, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza) (White House caption)

July 4 in Washington was always a lot of fun, and I always found myself without the right film or the right lens, or knowledge about how to make the exposure work.  Several times I tried to get good shots of the fireworks from the Capitol lawn — no success.  Once we walked the Mall and sat under the fireworks going off, near the Lincoln Memorial (Kathryn won’t let me forget that one).  Bad angle for photos, and for viewing.  Once I tried from the Virginia side of the Potomac.  Not a single good shot.

One of the great joys of electronic photography is getting more of these kinds of shots.

Still, this photograph shows great skill on Souza’s part — lens selection, exposure, and composition come together just right.

Some restrictions apply to use of this photograph.  See notes here.

March 27, 1912: Cherry trees for Washington, D.C.

March 27, 2008

From the Library of Congress:

Potomac Blossoms

Japanese cherry blossoms
View of Washington Monument, Cherry Blossoms and Tidal Basin
Theodor Horydczak, photographer, circa 1920-1950.
Washington as It Was, 1923-1959

On March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted two Yoshino cherry trees on the northern bank of the Potomac River Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. The event celebrated the Japanese government’s gift of 3,000 trees to the United States. Trees were planted along the Potomac Tidal Basin near the site of the future Jefferson Memorial, in East Potomac Park, and on the White House grounds.

The text of First Lady Taft’s letter, along with the story of the cherry trees, is available from the National Park Service’s official Cherry Blossom Festival Web site. From the opening screen, scroll down to the paragraph beginning, “The history of the cherry trees.”

A lot more, with good links, at the Library of Congress “Today in History” site.

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