31 December 2015

Books

So, I'm still clearly not a very good blogger in the US.  I didn't even write about the books I've been reading.  Here's an attempt to make up for a few of the books I missed.

The Hollow City and Library of Souls- These are sequels to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.  I felt like they were a little dragged out and didn't quite work as well as the first book, but they were still good.

Greenglass House- I really liked this, although it felt like it was missing something at the end.  It was always leading up to something big but when it happened, it didn't work for me.

Uprooted- This is a Beauty and the Beast story that I liked a lot.

Circus Mirandus- I liked this one.

The Dagger in the Desk- I had thought this would be a trilogy so I was expecting the series to be over with this one, but who can complain about more of this group?  I loved it.

Starclimber and Skybreaker- These are sequels to Airborn.  The plot was, again, not great, but I don't mind that I finished them.  The first book was best.

Go Set a Watchman- I liked this more than a lot of people did.  I didn't think it unreasonable that Atticus was as racist as his society made him, but that he also could be a good lawyer and defend a man from an accusation that wasn't right.  No one is a saint.

Fangirl- I liked this one quite a bit.

Half Brother- Interesting premise, but not a particularly interesting main character.




15 December 2015

Georgia Avenue Trail

We did this walk today because we keep reading about the 7th Street turnpike in the books.  A lot of the signs were down for construction on Georgia Ave. and it would have fit a little better if we'd done this a few decades later, particularly since it talks about the riots of 1919, but it was still an interesting walk on a very warm December day.

10 December 2015

Barracks Row Trail, Union Station, Postal Museum, and the National Building Museum

It's still hard to place these trails in the best time period.  This is one that could have been done a little earlier, but it fit fine in the late 1800s.  We'd seen some of the places earlier.  The best part was going on one of the alleys that still has a few houses in it.  We keep reading about people living in rotten conditions in the alleys inside many of the large blocks in DC so it was interesting to see one (even though the conditions weren't at all the same).  It was another good walk.

Then we walked up to the National Building Museum by way of Union Station. We ate in the food court but it's only a sorry imitation of its past glory because half the food court is gone and there are mostly chains there now.  It was still good when we were there in 2013. Sad.  Anyway, Union Station was a little out of order since it would be better to visit when we're around 1900, but it was convenient today. We also stopped at the Postal Museum which was the Main Post Office in DC from 1914-1986. Same convenience rule.

 The National Building Museum offers free tours of the building and it was absolutely fascinating.  It's one of the best things we've done in DC.  We were the only two people on the tour and the volunteer who took us around spent plenty of time answering our questions and he knew a lot about the building. Highly recommended.

Stuff

There's lots of stuff out there now. Too much stuff.

Donald Trump.  I think that when it comes time to punch a hole in the ballot, people won't actually vote for the man.  But even if he fades in a few weeks and isn't the Republican candidate, he is causing a great deal of harm to this country right now.  He is using people's fears about Islam to promote things that are completely unacceptable and that are creating an environment that is at best scary and at worst dangerous for Muslims living in the US.  In addition, his words are getting a lot of coverage in the media internationally and whether we like it or not, people are hearing what he is saying and that is not good.  Also, while the media has played their role in this fiasco, I do not think this is a media-driven crisis.  It is driven by fears that too many misinformed Americans have about Islam. Also, I am concerned that Trump will make candidates like Cruz look rational which they are not.

Muslims, refugees, all of that.  Please tell your elected leaders to welcome refugees.  Please make it clear that any rule that applies only to people of one religion is not acceptable.  Please protest if your city council tries to vote to ban refugees from your city.  Please be friendly to any Muslim you see (and usually you won't even know you have, of course, but do it if you notice).  Support businesses run by Muslims.  Please don't define terrorists by their religion- there is no major religion on this planet that promotes terrorism.  Please don't contribute to the fear even if you are nervous yourself.  Educate yourself instead.

The policy.  I support my leaders and I follow church doctrine but I can't support this specific policy.  I couldn't have supported the priesthood and temple ban for black members either.  Some people think that a good member of the church must support this policy, but that makes no sense to me since many of the same people also don't support church policies about not carrying concealed weapons into churches or that undocumented immigrants can get baptized. You can tell me all the reasons why this new policy is logical and necessary but that doesn't fix anything for me because it just feels painful to me and seems neither logical or necessary to me.  It is so hard to be LGBT in this church and now it's even worse. It's so hard already when your family doesn't fit the Mormon mold and children from some of those families will now be even further isolated by not being able to be baptized or (for boys) to receive the priesthood which will greatly limit their church participation.  I care greatly about the impact this will have on individual members. I am sad that some friends of mine, including people I have known for decades, have left the church because of this.

San Bernardino.  I cannot begin to tell you how ironic it is that two terrorists used a common US method to kill people- one that we never really have tried to stop no matter how many times it happens. They bought their guns legally.  They did what a lot of other people have done in the US so many times in the last twenty years.  We will still not pass any more measures to regulate the sale, purchase, transfer, modification, manufacture, storage, or use of guns.  We won't even have a decent conversation about it.  We'll just have people advocate for banning Muslims from entering the country so Americans can continue to kill each other because apparently we aren't terrorists.

And despite my testiness on these subjects, I am enjoying Advent and Hanukkah and Washington DC right now.

09 December 2015

DC Holiday Stuff

I have a long list of things to do this month in DC because there is so much to see right now.  So far we've done ZooLights, the Smithsonian Holiday thing, Winternational, the Downtown Holiday Market, and the Alexandria Boat Parade.

I'd been told that ZooLights wasn't amazing so we weren't expecting anything amazing.  We did have a great time at the zoo in the dark though and it was a pleasant evening.  I drove in and we found parking easily (we parked and entered at the lower entrance where it's not so crowded), but getting home when rush hour was still winding down wasn't fun.  But it takes a lot time to Metro in from our house so there's really not a good way to do this.  I'd go again if someone else drove me home.

Winternational was fun.  I got a ticket like I was supposed to, but no one was taking them and it was rather crowded.  There were people from about 25 different embassies with lots of food and things to see so it was fun.  The Uzbekistan line was always long, but I eat Uzbek food all the time so I didn't wait in it.  I tried things from Uganda, Nepal, Uruguay, and more, and talked to the person at the Saudi Arabia stand for a while.  If you go, arrive at the very beginning.

Downtown Holiday Market.  This is exactly what you'd expect it to be.  It's fun to poke around and you can stop at the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum if you want to.  Some vendors are there all month and some just for a few days or weeks so you can wander through throughout the month and see different things.

Smithsonian Holiday Event.  This is on the first weekend in December at several different museums.  We started at the American History Museum, then went over to the Air and Space Museum where you could make some ornaments and do other projects, then went to the Museum of the American Indian for their market. It was fun, but not an amazing must do.

Boat Parade.  We were first planning on going to Alexandria to see this, but then I decided there much be a better way to see the parade than to deal with the crowds that would assuredly be in Alexandria.  So we tried Potomac Park and that was perfect.  There were people there but it was never crowded and we had a great view of the boats.  There is plenty of parking and plenty of places to watch from.  You can arrive around 6 PM and bring a picnic then watch the boats when they arrive between 6:30 and 7, depending on where you are in the park.  I'd definitely do this one again in that park.




03 December 2015

Queen Ammanisa

This is a new Uyghur restaurant that just opened in Crystal City.  There are lots of Uyghurs in and around DC but there hasn't been a real restaurant here before so we tried it out today.

If you're going to eat Uyghur food, you need to get laghman.  Uzbeks make laghman but it's just an imitation of the real thing and Kyrgyz already know that when they make laghman, it's Uyghur.  They don't call it Kyrgyz.  This place had several different types of laghman which means you know you've come to the right place. You can get plov but there's not a good reason to do that.  This was real, hand-pulled laghman (not flung though; I asked).

I got the gyuro laghman (I think it was the braised meat one on the menu?  We didn't really use the menu) and my husband got the dry-fried.  Apparently they also have a picture menu, but we didn't look at it since we knew what we were getting into, except that we couldn't always figure out how they'd translated some things and we would have been better off with the Uyghur one.  Anyway, both were delicious and perfect, although both weren't as spicy as they should have been. I asked for lazy, but our server wasn't Uyghur and didn't know what I meant.

We also got a couple of samsas.  Some of the reviews of the place hadn't liked the samsas (they seemed to be comparing them to other things like dumplings, which samsas most certainly are not, or to empanadas, which is a closer comparison but still not right), but they were absolutely right.  They tasted exactly the way they should have and were perfectly warm and flaky.

It was such a lovely meal.  The owner has been in the US for about 6 years and his family owned a restaurant in Urumqi (he was born in Kashgar and grew up in Urumqi).  We were there around 2 and there were a couple of Uyghur women there along with two men who were speaking Russian- one was Russian and the other Central Asian.

I can't imagine that this restaurant has much chance at success- Uyghur food isn't well known at all and it's stuck in Crystal City. It's also categorized as Chinese or Turkish food in some places which is probably the best they can do, but it doesn't give people the right idea because it's neither Chinese or Turkish.  It's just amazing Central Asian food.

And now I need to make laghman again.

01 December 2015

Tenleytown

A lot of the DC heritage walks don't fit in just one time period, but since the city grew a lot after the Civil War, we're checking out some of the different neighborhoods and this week was Tenleytown.  Nothing of national significance really happened here but it was an interesting walk around the neighborhood and we both learned a lot.

A few of the signs were down.