29 Jan

Washington DC continued

Well, I came back from Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting 90 (TRB) and we watched Black Swan with Natalie Portman. Very intense film, quite scary and very good. Upset both of us quite  bit and we had a long and good talk about sad things, sometimes you just need to have sad moments and reaffirm our mutual love and care for each other and the kids, both with us and gone.

Wednesday. Another day at TRB, and the snow starting to fall, although preceded by rain, which has a role to play later. Dewan and I did our poster session, and I had some good chats with other researchers, most of whom were also posters! TRB is very odd about presentations and posters. At most scientific and engineering conferences being a poster means you’re not quite as good as a conference presentation. TRB has a different criteria. At TRB presentations are for topical issues, and usually don’t have an academic peer reviewed journal associated with them (as I can confirm having spent quite a while on the TRB site trying to find them); poster sessions are for complex pieces of research that are better suited for one-to-one explanation. Most of the peer reviewed papers for publication in the Transportation Research Record come from the poster sessions, not the conference sessions. I got this from several senior members of various committees, one of whom at a get together shortly afterwards..

As we did the poster and I was talking to a lovely lady from IFSTTAR about research consortia and Talleyrand I noticed that the rain had become heavy snow. I got a text from Ann saying that "all sorts of snow and gridlock had broken out in the centre of Downtown" and she’d not be joining me for dinner. I then went to a session on City Logistics where the delightful Laetitia DaBlanc and the charming Robert Govaers were presenting, along with a guy from Chicago whose name I’ve forgotten since the record here only shows the first author, but I enjoyed the presentation and the use of SODA etc. [Ok, this is a reminder for me..] Then I left and discovered that D.C. is even more susceptible to snow than the UK! Ok.. it was quite a bit of snow.. but it was melting even as it fell, but in short, the buses stopped at 9pm, I ended waiting for a train for 45 minutes, 400,000 people lost their power, and the next day no-one came to work, the buses were on weekend schedules and everyone you talked to said how awful it had been. Now what do I know? What it reminded me of was the hysteria in the UK when some serious big cold snow came and we stopped as we tried to cope. This was slushy and not very deep snow, and the world ended. I am not criticising the DC people/systems.. just reminding UK people that lots of other countries have problems when it snows as well!

Ignoring all this I went the Lebanese Taverna and had a very pleasant hour and a bit chatting with Roberta W and 4 of her friends (most senior TRB people) about this and that and the other, especially to Mary from Canada about all and everything. Then off home through the world-ending snowstorm (pah!)..

Thursday was Washington Monument and Vietnam War memorial day. Washington Monument is a 500ft obelisk in the centre of the National Mall. Slowly built to honour George Washington, interrupted by the Civil War, it’s a perfectly fine piece of pointy phallic Egyptian like construction. The views, however, are excellent, the city is laid out perfectly at your feet. It’s free and I have to say is compulsory to my mind, maybe after you’ve seen the rest from the ground or maybe before, it works both ways in my mind. The Vietnam War memorial is the long black wall with every dead or missing combatant engraved on it. It’s understated, poignant and again carefully aligned with the Washington Monument. There are also 2 bronze statues, one to the soliders and one to the women who served. Then off to Union Stations which is a great shopping place as well as the terminus/hub for Amtrak. Nice food at Thunder grill and a great chair massage later.

Friday we went to the Smithsonian Museum of American History and did the Americans at War exhibition which was well done, interactive for kids, quite even handed and used up all our time. We Brits got a fair hearing in the War of Independence, and 1812 War. The Civil War section was very good, as was the WW2 one and the Vietnam one. The genocidal wars against the Native Americans were not detailed, altho they did talk of the Trail of Tears when the USA ethnically cleansed the Cherokee people from their lands in the East and the Spanish-American Wars were missing. Vietnam was done well, but no mention of the Vietnamese view of things, and Iraq and Afghanistan were tokenistic.. but since they’re not really history yet it’d be difficult to do much more at this stage. Didn’t really do the rest of the Museum so can’t comment. That night we went to Ollies Trolley which is a greasy burger joint full of old fairground antiques/junk that makes wonderful burgers and we enjoyed a guilty feast. Read lots more of Life by Keith Richards on the Kindle and slept like a log.. Ann slept badly. I dreamt I was in some kind of Midsomer Murder thing set in semi-rural Yorkshire with rain and grime and abandoned houses, with Mick Jagger as the detective.. useless I might add.. Huge laugh.

Now we are going to have a late breakfast, pack and fly home.. ooh goodie.. Club World again..


Washington, D.C. Flickr Set