Two Hundred Thirty Feet in Wheaton

In honor of Metrorail’s 42nd birthday last year, the Greater Greater Washington blog posted an animated slideshow showing the progression over time, from a little baby Metro system in 1976 with only five stations, to the planned Phase II of the Silver Line Dulles extension being built today. Map update #16 in 1990 illustrates the addition of two new stations, including Wheaton.

The Wheaton Metro station is near a mall, a movie theater, and various other stores and restaurants (some older, some new). But it’s the station itself that I find most interesting: its 230-foot (70 meter) escalator is the longest in the Western Hemisphere. (It is commonly referred to as the second longest in the world, but I gave up trying to verify this factoid after the Internet offered up longer examples in both Hong Kong and St. Petersburg.)

Wheaton’s escalator has a vertical depth of 115 feet and takes nearly three minutes to ride (while standing as far to the right as possible, of course). Ascending is faster if walking on the left.

The Wheaton Metro station's very long escalator

The Wheaton Metro station’s very long escalator

Our WMATA stations may not be museums like the San Giovanni metro stop in Rome, and they probably don’t meet most people’s idea of a visitor destination, but WMATA does have the occasional oddity or claim to fame like the Wheaton escalators. Other architectural and structural quirks in the Metro system include:

Union Station is not just a Metro station but also the hub for various transportation lines, including the starting point of both the MARC Train and the VRE (commuter rail lines in Maryland and Virginia, respectively). Like the National Postal Museum next door, the building (which houses a food court and shops) is an example of the Beaux Arts style. Points of interest include the statues of men running the length of the walls just under the ceiling (look behind the shields) and the bust honoring A. Philip Randolph and his contributions to the civil rights and labor movements.

At the southern end of the Yellow Line, the Huntington station offers a unique amenity to riders in the form of a self-cleaning bathroom.

Wheaton’s neighboring station Forest Glen has a similar design, with separate tunnels for each track. Unlike Wheaton, Forest Glen does not have record-breaking escalators, or any escalators at all. Instead, it’s so deep underground that it has only a bank of elevators and an emergency staircase, with an ominous warning sign indicating that it’s 20 floors from bottom to top. Both of these deep-underground stations lack the central soaring vaulting ceiling that one sees in many other underground stations in the system.

Wheaton is on the Red Line.

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2018 Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge Update (December 2018)

December 2018 was the final month of the 2018 Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge, which was an interesting endeavor, but one that I won’t be repeating. I found it difficult to have specific words tied to specific months, because this parameter meant that a book that qualified in November would no longer qualify in December, and I’d have to start over.  As a result, I would start books but not finish them in time, or not know near the mid-to-end of the month which book to start next, or go a whole month (like December) without finishing any actual books. Instead, I filled December with short pieces like poems and satire articles.

December’s words were: bell, Christmas, give, party, present, red, sing, tree, under

I read:


“Praise Song for the Day” by Elizabeth Alexander

“Our Song” by Shakira Croce

Song” by Eamon Grennan

“Fire Island Song” by David Groff

“Reagan Red” by James Allen Hall

“What to Say to a Friend Who Wants to Give Up” by JP Howard

“[under the evening moon]” by Kobayashi Issa

“Little Sickness Song” by Rodney Jack

Song of Quietness” by Robinson Jeffers

“The Gift to Sing” by James Weldon Johnson

“In a Cemetery under a Solitary Walnut Tree That Crows” by Fady Joudah

“The Best Thanksgiving Ever” by Jennifer L. Knox

“Little Song” by Rickey Laurentiis

“Like a Party” by David Lehman

“Family Photo Around Xmas Tree” by Thomas Lux

“Liberty Bell” by Aaron McCollough

Red Wing” by Joseph Millar

“Love Song” by Carol Muske-Dukes

“Aubade in a Red State” by Josh Myers

“September Song” by Erik Schuckers

Understanding” by Robert Stewart

“I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman

“A Ribbon Red” by Glen Wilson


Back at the Fruit Tree – the story behind the Nields’ song (and I think the song “Fountain of Youth” is more than okay!).

Old Sturbridge Village Rethinks How It Presents The Past – As a leader in NEH is quoted: “Many historic site interpretations have lagged behind scholarship, so they have to become more relevant to a more diverse audience.”

There Will Be Blood-Red Trees – I have written before about how First Ladies are subject to criticism no matter how they decorate the White House (a history museum among its many other functions) for the holidays. Nevertheless, Melania Trump’s austere décor makes me think of Narnia under the reign of the White Witch – always winter and never Christmas. As the article puts it, “Christmas at the White House is about the potential for cozy, heartwarming photo-ops, and the Trump administration is perhaps better known for battles on Twitter than glitter.”

This Nativity Scene Starring Dogs Will Get You Into The Christmas Spirit – Christmas canine cuteness.

Onion articles:

Area Man Remembers Less Politically Correct Time When Christmas Was About Honoring The Glory Of Saturn

Manager Of Combination Taco Bell/KFC Secretly Considers It Mostly A Taco Bell

R. Kelly Releases Emotional New Song Thanking Fans For Continued Acceptance Of Sex Crimes

Red Hot Chili Peppers Accidentally Write Song About New Hampshire

Terrifying Man Selling Dead Trees Out Of Middle School Parking Lot

Trump Boys Leave $5 Bill, Candy Bar Under Propped-Up Laundry Basket In Effort To Catch Op-Ed Writer

White House Concerned Ryan Zinke Made Land Deal Without Giving Cut To Trump

White House Now Just Holding Continuous Going-Away Party For Departing Staffers

From the Onion, “American Voices” section:

British Radio Stations Ban Anti–Theresa May Song

R. Kelly Releases 19-Minute Song Addressing Sexual Assault

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2018 Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge Update (November 2018)

November’s words were: brown, dream, family, food, laugh, over, table, thanks, town

I read…

Book of Poems:

Food by Ogden Nash


“In Defense of Small Towns” by Oliver de la Paz

“The Circus Is in Town” by Patricia Smith

Dream Dead Daddy Walking” by Patricia Smith

“Small Towns Are Passing” by Wesley McNair

Over Ohio” by Michael Blumenthal

“A Dream Within a Dream” by Edgar Allan Poe


Immigrant high school students challenged to ‘dream – a conference in Long Island encouraging “dreamers” to pursue careers and higher education

Michelle Obama says she will “never forgive” Trump for putting her “family’s safety at risk” – Obama’s new memoir calls out Trump on his ridiculous birther conspiracy theories.

Marco Rubio’s “conservative solution” for paid family leave: Pick your kids or your retirement – article at Quartz argues that Rubio’s proposal is not a reasonable solution

Michael Brown sculpture on display at the Contemporary Art Museum St Louis – article on a new exhibit with a goal of “elevating specific stories [of police violence] to combat historical amnesia.”

Indian man, woman killed in fall from Yosemite park overlook – sad news from October out of Yosemite National Park. (This article was from, but as of December 2018 the link doesn’t work, so I’ve removed it. The articles currently on the site about this tragedy do not contain “overlook” in their headlines and I’m not sure whether what I originally read in November is still available.)

Trump: I’m thankful for the difference I’ve made – because nothing epitomizes the Thanksgiving spirit more than bragging about one’s own supposed accomplishments

The Thanksgiving Tale We Tell Is a Harmful Lie. As a Native American, I’ve Found a Better Way to Celebrate the Holiday – “Most of our Thanksgiving recipes are made with indigenous foods: turkey, corn, beans, pumpkins, maple, wild rice and the like. We should embrace this.”

First Lady Melania Trump Faces Backlash for Thanksgiving Tweet – Melania Trump tweeted, “let’s keep those who can’t be with their families in our thoughts today.”

Laughing at the Jokes on Ancient Greek VasesHyperallergic article on a 2017 exhibit at the Princeton University Art Museum

The Prom’s Same-Sex Kiss Makes History at Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade – a happy milestone

New questions raised on Trump’s family separations as 14 children discovered – “Two recent government reports faulted the administration’s tracking efforts, and one said officials feel no obligation to find children who were released to other homes before a judge ordered an accounting of them, suggesting the total separated under the policy may never be known.”

Trump family cheated the IRS for decades: Letters – The letter writer says, “My prediction is that supporters of this president will shrug their shoulders and perhaps offer an ‘attaboy’ to President Trump for being smart enough to beat the IRS.”

Victorian Table Setting – blog post from the Tinker Cottage Museum in Illinois detailing the many objects associated with mealtime in the Victorian Era and the importance placed on how the objects were arranged.

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2018 Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge Update (October)

The October words were: black, castle, ghost, haunt, mask, moon, mystery, night, witch

Here’s what I read:

Middle grade/young adult novels:

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore


Moon for Our Daughters” by Annie Finch

“Lament Under the Moon” by Daniel David Moses

“The Moon from Any Window” by Li-Young Lee

“Jackrabbits, Green Onions & Witches Stew” by Juan Felipe Herrera

“Why Don’t You Wear a Black Crepe Glove Embroidered in Gold, Like the Hand that Bore a Falcon?” by Kiki Petrosino


28 Reasons To Love Black Cats – My favorite creature currently living in the universe is a black cat, so this listicle was preaching to the choir when I read it!

Spiders blamed after broken siren played creepy nursery rhymes randomly at night to UK townsfolk – This headline could be a writing prompt for a much spookier story than the real explanation of what happened.

An Example of a 2,000-Year-Old Board Game Was Found in a Secret Castle Passage – In Russia’s Vyborg Castle, which is open to the public as a historic site and museum, a very old board game (or brick game) was recently found in a secret crypt.

Cop acquitted of killing unarmed black man teaches class on how to ‘survive’ officer-involved shootings – The class in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on the “legal, financial, physical, and emotional challenges” in the aftermath of a police officer “surviving” a “critical incident”, is facing criticism and protests.

In a Town of 11 People, Mysterious Disappearance Turns Neighbor Against Neighbor – A sad story of the disappearance and presumed death of man and dog, the article reads like the stuff of a contemporary literary thriller.

Women, Trauma, and Haunted Houses – This Book Riot post starts an interesting discussion that could be further developed with a good dose of intersectionality.

Gallery supporting black artists fighting eviction from West Oakland warehouse – a Bay Area gentrification story centering on the Alena Museum.

Heard Museum Presents Original Exhibition Featuring Rare Works By Henri Matisse And The Native Alaskan Masks That Inspired Him – The director of this Phoenix museum states, “Of particular significance to us is the effort this story inspired to reunite pairs of Yup’ik masks that, due to a variety of circumstances, have been separated by time and great distances.”

Book I read in print years ago, and partly listened to in October:

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

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Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge Update (September 2018)

The words were: always, below, call, chase, fall, leave, school, sleep, teach


Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

Picture book (for adults):

Go the F*ck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach, illustrated by Ricardo Cortés

Short story from We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices:

“One Day Papi Drove Me to School” by Tony Medina, illustrated by Edel Rodriguez


This art museum Is 40 feet below water – In my Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge Update for July, I included an article about an underwater art museum off the coast of Florida. Here is another example of an underwater art museum, this time off the coast of Mexico.

A Park for Fallen Statues? – In 2012, Edward Tenner wrote of how we might display statues that, for whatever reason, are no longer compatible with shared ideals: “The purpose should be neither to mock nor to glorify them but to help visitors reflect on art and political life in an open-air setting.”

History isn’t a ‘useless’ major. It teaches critical thinking, something America needs plenty more of – This May 2016 article focuses mostly on the skills of, and career prospects for, history majors but also touches on the importance of historical knowledge for society as a whole.

Don Lemon on Why Survivors Don’t Always Report Sexual Assault – CNN anchor and sexual assault survivor Don Lemon explained that many victims ask themselves, “Will I be believed, will I be blamed, will I have evidence, will everyone judge me, and if I speak out, will it even matter?”

Historic schoolhouse roof repaired with a little help from the Amish – Not gonna lie, I was disappointed that this article is not about a museum, but the story out of Carroll County, Maryland is nonetheless interesting.

The racist history of Chevy Chase, long home to Washington’s power players – As an advisory neighborhood commissioner put it in 2014, “I don’t think [Chevy Chase founder Francis G.] Newlands gets a pass because of the times. He helped create the times.”

Book I had previously read in print form, and listened to parts of the audiobook in September:

Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry

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Remembering the Brightest Jack O’Lantern

The thing about your family acquiring multiple pets in their youth over the course of a few years is that they grow old together and then break your heart while it’s already broken. This is my third cat eulogy post in the span of a year.

Jack O’Lantern gave us 11 years of happy and funny memories as we watched him change over time: from young to old, feral to domestic, outdoor to indoor, playful and adventurous to mellow and always sleeping. Perhaps the biggest change was when he went blind and, his eyes needing annoying drops a few times a day and doing him more harm than good, we had his eyes removed. With or without eyes, he was always handsome in his own goofy way.

The day after we said good-bye to our Jack, I was wandering around Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant and found myself spontaneously wandering through the National Zoo. I sought out the black and white animals, in honor of the black and white Jack. The Von der Decken’s hornbill, skunk, and giant pandas all had coloring that reminded me of him.

I thought about the phrase “charismatic megafauna,” and the fact that giant pandas are a prime example, and I got to wondering if there was something especially appealing to people about black and white animals. Pandas are widely beloved. A preschool child I taught a decade ago loved zebras; a six-year-old I know claims puffins as his favorite animal.

Jack, for his part, has been given the role of a few black and white animals for celebrations like Halloween, taking on some extra accessory just long enough to take a photo. Put little orange puffin feet cutouts on top of his front paws and turn him into a puffin. Buy panda ears at the National Zoo’s gift shop, put them on Jack’s head, and voilà, he’s a giant panda.

Black and white cat wearing black and white panda ear headband

Jack the panda, Halloween 2010

But it’s not just Jack’s black and white fur, including his adorable black diamond-shaped nose, that made him a charismatic fauna. I once wrote that he possessed an “effortless charisma.” He did not cling or beg for attention the way some of our other pets did. But he hung out in the same room as us, followed my mother around when she did yardwork back in his semi-feral days, and got along with everyone. Jack had the most easygoing, laid-back personality, and he won everyone over without really trying.

In his younger days, he loved having a buddy. First there was his feral cat friend Purple, then there was his feral cat friend Noodle. We provided food and vet care and Christmas presents for Purple and Noodle, who sadly both died young. Jack taught them to trust humans, went on adventures with them, snuggled with them, and occasionally had to assert his dominance by swatting them or eating first but overall was best buddies with them.

Jack also loved his dog, Duncan. When one of us humans walked Duncan, Jack would follow for part of the way. It ranks among the top ten most adorable things that have ever happened in the history of the universe.

Some of Jack’s other adorable moments include rolling around in the dirt and leaves and becoming black and brown instead of black and white (and then grooming himself and making his fur pristine again just minutes later), meowing in a way that sounded more like the quacking of a duck, climbing trees, and, even in his last days, perking up and walking over as fast as he could whenever he heard anything that sounded like a bag of treats being opened.

We will always remember Jack and his long, exciting life. He brought joy to humans, cats, and a dog (who was probably also a bit perplexed by him). Just like his name suggests, Jack O’Lantern was indeed a silly, cute face on the outside; and on the inside, a source of bright, warm, peaceful light.


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Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge Update (August 2018)

August’s words were: above, beach, boat, camera, few, help, house, sun, yellow


Glass Houses by Louise Penny


I Am a Camera by John Van Druten

Picture Books:

Sunny Days by Trudi Strain Trueit

Toy Boat by Randall de Sève, illustrated by Loren Long

The House that George Built by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Rebecca Bond

Short Stories:

“Tea at the House” by Meg Wolitzer


Help Me” by Luis Alberto Urrea

“Paper Boats” by Rabindranath Tagore

“Listening to a Flute in Yellow Crane Pavillion” by Li Bai

Beach Walk” by Henri Cole


Here’s a list of organizations that are mobilizing to help immigrant children separated from their families – from pro bono legal services to backpacks filled with stuffed animals and toiletries.

How you can help victims of the California wildfires – article from early August providing ways to assist amid the devastation sweeping through parts of California.

Museum colours: contemplating yellow – Hazel (a sort of shade of yellow?) Saunderson of the National Museum of Scotland wandered the galleries looking for yellow objects. Her detailed post is not just a list of what she found, but a reflection on what attracted to her to the different shades of yellow in a variety of objects.

The Latest: Italy wants to pay less to help asylum-seekers – immigration-related news in Europe reported by the AP on July 23.

The Problem of the House Museum – an opinion piece from Traditional Building argues that the historic house museum as a model has a low success rate, with individual examples flourishing only under certain financial conditions.

Cat Self-Help? – Hank Phillippi Ryan and Alice Loweecey discuss cats in real life and on the covers of cozy mysteries. Glass Houses by Louise Penny (see earlier in this post) is about as cozy as I can handle, and I don’t think I’d ever read a mystery with an adorable cat on the cover. But I do love cozy adorable cats in real life!

Dave Eggers: A Cultural Vacuum in the White House – While we may not think of arts and music and literature as the most important subjects for a president to care about, Eggers argues, “Every great civilization has fostered great art, while authoritarian regimes customarily see artists as either nuisances, enemies of the state or tools for the creation of propaganda….[Art] expands the moral imagination and makes it impossible to accept the dehumanization of others.”

Red Cross helps homeowner after fire makes house unlivable – sad news, but with some relief, from Rockford, Illinois.

A Few Maxims For The Instruction Of The Over-Educated by Oscar Wilde – for example: “To be really mediæval one should have no body. To be really modern one should have no soul. To be really Greek one should have no clothes.”

The Sunny Side of Armed Conflict – a 2010 article by Edward Tenner noting that notwithstanding the horrors (ecological, among many other kinds) of war, the lack of development in some war-torn or military-protected areas has had a positive effect on the preservation of beaches and wildlife.

Red Cross receives $1,200 Helping Hand to put smoke alarms in homes – The Helping Hand is a donation given by KWCH in Wichita.

8 Signs Your “Pokemon Go” Team Is Definitely Team Yellow– I am Red, because that’s what my brother already was, but I would really fit in better with Blue. Yellow, as described in this article, sounds like the kind of person I would be friends with.

George & Amal Clooney Donated $100,000 To Help Migrant Children & They’re Not The Only Ones Protesting – As the Clooneys wrote in their June 2018 statement against family separations, “At some point in the future our children will ask us: ‘Is it true, did our country really take babies from their parents and put them in detention centers?’ And when we answer yes, they’ll ask us what we did about it. What we said. Where we stood.”

Can Artists Do Anything to Prevent Climate Change? Miami Beach Has Recruited One to Find Out – Misael Soto is the new artist-in-residence with Miami Beach’s Office of Resilience; the program is sponsored by the Art Center of South Florida, whose CEO explains that resilience is used as a “code word for the things that concern us here… South Beach is ground zero for rising sea levels.”

Does It Really Help Research When Scientists Work Close Together? – I was expecting this 2011 article to be about a room of not-even-cubicles, where noise ricochets in mysterious ways and desks don’t have enough room for more than two stacks of paper and one glass of water, but it’s actually about proximity of offices (same floor? same building? same campus? same city?).

Romantic or racist? Perceptions shift on ‘Little House on the Prairie’ – I have written before that there’s a difference between museums and monuments, between remembering history and honoring history. Similarly, there’s a difference between studying an author and naming an award after an author.

Maryland State House could get laser cleaning to remove biofilm – as the headquarters of Maryland’s legislative body, the State House serves as a living museum in that it’s a historic site where governmental business still happens in the present. But just because it’s a living museum doesn’t mean it needs a layer of microorganisms creating a resilient slime on the surface of the building.

Luis Laplace Creates a Museum Above the Clouds in the French Alps – This article is interesting, but I object to the word museum to describe a fancy, remote vacation home with art in it.

Danica McKellar: Netflix show to help tween girls find ‘inner confidence’ – article from 2015 about an educational show designed to get girls into STEM subjects.

“Don McGahn Hates Rudy with Intensity of 1,000 Burning Suns”: Is Trump Ready to Cook Giuliani? – if the Trump administration were a fictional political thriller, I’d complain that it was too long and too implausible with too many characters.

Madeleine Albright sounds off on Trump: He acts like he’s ‘above the law’ – The former Secretary of State speaks out in favor of freedom of the press and in opposition to “foreign policy by tweets.”

Why Retaining Older Women in the Workforce Will Help the U.S. Economy – “U.S. businesses should put particular focus on retaining older women. Now and even more so in the future, increasing their participation would create substantial economic opportunity. To realize that opportunity, more companies should consider making flexible work arrangements a staple of their employee recruitment and engagement strategy.”

Gut Enzyme Could Help Solve U.S. Blood Shortages – a certain sugar structure could be altered to change blood from one type to another.

Relief officials say Marshalltown immigrant families should not fear seeking help – After the hurricane that swept through Iowa in July, aid organizations tried to reassure the community that they were there to help everyone, regardless of immigration status.


Doc, Help! by Harry Bliss

Audiobooks that I read (in print form) years ago and fell (or tried to fall) asleep listening to in August:

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

Open House by Elizabeth Berg

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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