Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mile High Muslims on the March

Obamathon Man and his associate were admiring the Denver Library yesterday evening when we heard chants rising from the Capitol building nearby. Shrill voices rang out on megaphones, and car horns blared along with chants. We thought perhaps it could be a group of irate young Republicans, or perhaps the citizens of Denver spontaneously assembling to show their love for Hickenlooper. In reality, it was something much more controversial, and thus blogworthy: the Colorado Muslim Society had gathered to protest Israel's attacks on Gaza.

Across the street from the protest, five police cars camped out; if the middle east couldn't have peace, at least Denver would. As we waited to cross the street, a man on a cell phone angrily said, "Yeah, the same people who launch rockets at Israel get angry when Israel fights back." We crossed the street and walked past the long line of protesters waving flags and shouting at passing cars. Some of the women wore headscarfs, others didn't. We climbed to the top of Capitol Hill, passing several Muslim families with kids running up and down the hill, and it occurred to me that young children look just as sweet and innocent when they observe hijab. We hit the top of the hill right as a prayer session began, and while I could not understand the words, I reacted to the prayer in much the same way as I do to Christian prayers. I wondered what Americans would think of Islam if they could understand the meaning of Muslim prayer, and realized how similar it was to Christianity.

We walked down the steps to the main table. An older woman with glasses sold glowsticks to young kids. She needed change and my associate and I were able to help her out. We asked her about the gathering, and while she was reluctant to talk, a tall older gentleman wasn't. He told us that this was organized by the Colorado Muslim Society in conjunction with Christian and (even) Jewish groups in response to what he called a total overreaction by the Israeli state. He identified himself as a Christian. He talked about how bad conditions in Gaza were, how people there were subject to random searches and seizures, and how Palestinian fishermen were periodically fired upon by Israeli naval vessels. Ultimately he said that these things do not excuse the Hamas Attacks, but they do explain them.

I asked what he thought the new administration would do differently in regards to the Israeli conflict. He praised the level headedness of Obama but said that he was faced with a difficult situation that he might not be able to change. Then I asked him his take on what Muslims thought of Obama. He told me that he had been to a few Middle Eastern countries recently, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Gaza. The Muslims there generally supported Obama, he told me. A middle-aged man, who later identified himself as a Muslim originally from Morocco, chimed in. He said that he personally voted for Obama because he seemed more capable of making good judgments with lasting effects - incidentally, one of the main reasons I voted for Obama too. He said that Obama would be under alot of pressure to act a certain way, and he hoped Obama woudn't cave in. While I could agree with such a general statement, I had a feeling he probably meant something more specific than that.

He continued, talking about how in Moorish Spain in the Middle Ages, Christians, Muslims, and Jews occupied the same area without conflict. He also said that modern day Israel was much more peaceful before 1948. His feeling, he said, was that most Muslims just wanted to live their lives peacefully. We all agreed that that was a good thing, that people should be able to live their lives without fear of excessive violence.

They asked where I was from, I told them the LA area, and they were happy I was visiting Denver. I told them I was going to visit the inauguration and they were actually impressed, but more that I would subject myself to such discomfort. The older man said that he had attended Obama's acceptance speech at the DNC, and that it took him 3 hours to get in. He also talked about his trip in 1963 to see Dr. King's epochal "I have a Dream" speech. I could only begin to imagine what that must have been like, and I told him I would do my best to carry the torch. I thanked them for talking with me, and then left to get dinner.

The next morning, I found a well-reasoned editorial in the Rocky Mountain News. While there is much to disagree about on this issue, we can all agree that our goal is to have as few deaths as possible, and that instead of killing our enemies it is better to make them not want to kill us. As I write this, it is already 2009 in most of the world, but to those of us who have yet to celebrate the new year: Chicago, Denver, and my home back in Los Angeles, let us think of peace as we sing Auld Lang Syne. We have elected a man to be our president who in the midst of troubled times has given us hope. In this new year, let's work together for something better, for change doesn't come from an elected leader, it comes from us all.

DC Metro Exiting Directions

DC's subway stations require the doors to open on alternating sides of the train, which may be problematic for passengers on packed inauguration day trains. So, as a New Year's present to all inaugural attendees (and curious District residents), Obamathon Man presents a footnote to Part 2 of the Obamathon Guide: a list of platform directions for each metro station within walking distance of the inaugural proceedings. "Left" or "right" directions are relative to the direction the train travels; in other words, if you are facing the direction the train is traveling, stations marked "right" will have platforms on your right hand side.

RED LINE Stations

Dupont CircleRight
Farragut NorthLeft
Metro Center (Red Line platform)Right
Gallery Pl./Chinatown (Red Line platform)Right
Judiciary SquareRight
Union StationLeft


Arlington Cemetery(Blue Line only) Right
Rosslyn Left
Foggy Bottom/GWU Left
Farragut West Right
McPherson Square Right
Metro Center (Blue/Orange platform) Left
Federal Triangle Left
Smithsonian CLOSED Jan. 20
L'Enfant Plaza (Blue/Orange platform) Left
Federal Center SW Left
Capitol South Left
Eastern Market Left
Potomac Ave Left


Navy Yard (Green Line only) (Green Line only)Left
Waterfront/SEU (Green Line only)Left
L'Enfant Plaza (Green/Yellow platform)Right
Archives/Navy Mem./Penn QuarterCLOSED Jan. 20
Gallery Pl./Chinatown (Green/Yellow platform)Left
Mt. Vernon Sq./7th St./Convention CenterLeft
Shaw/Howard Univ.Left
U St/African American Civil War Memorial/CardozoLeft

Links for 12/31

Obama's New Year's resolutions (Associated Content)
War on God: Atheist launches attack on something he doesn't believe in (MSNBC)
Inaugural ticket lottery announced, odds of winning lower than odds of hitting $65 million jackpot. (Washington Business Journal)
For some reason, people are expecting Rick Warren not to pray in Jesus's Name (Yahoo)
More on Crush Hour (New York Times)
And more on inaugural weather (Washington Post)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Unstapled: How an International Airport Became Mayberry

Obamathon Man and his associate were driving across Denver to investigate Park Hill, and as we exited the freeway, we noticed an odd hotel. It was large, drab, and looked like it was designed by the Aztecs, but the weirdest thing about it was that a hotel of its size had been placed in this relatively remote area in the first place. We passed two more large hotels, still confused. Then as we looked to our left, we noticed what looked to be an abandoned control tower, and suddenly everything made sense: this is where the old Stapleton Airport used to be.

I remembered flying into Stapleton once when I was in first grade. For my extended family who lived here at the time, the construction of DIA was a big deal; for us it was a minor civic footnote and a longer drive when we flew in. We forgot about Stapleton, and had never devoted any thought to what became of the place, other than once speculating that with a name like "Stapleton" they should convert it into a staple factory.

The eerie control tower prompted us to park and take a few pictures. We found a nice looking park full of baseball diamonds and basketball courts, and parked in the nearby neighborhood - it was the kind of neighborhood you'd expect to be near a major airport. After crossing the park, we found that on the other side was an entirely different neighborhood. The homes were lavish and immense, each one could easily fit four bedrooms and bathrooms. And they were perfect, down to the last picket on each of their fences. You could easily imagine each of these houses as the home to 2 cars and 2.5 children. It occurred to us that this area actually used to be part of the airport, and that screaming jet engines had been replaced with suburban idyll.

It was all very pleasant, but at the same time there was something unsettling about the place. No one entered or left the houses, and the only sound was an occasional gust of wind. It felt as if we were the last survivors of a nuclear winter, that the houses had been preserved and the inhabitants had long since perished. Looming over every rooftop was the control tower, and my mind began to craft horror stories about radioactive Gollum-like miscreants, scanning the vacant neighborhoods from their vantage point in search of prey.

Upon later research, I found that the Stapleton redevelopment plan was considered extremely environmentally friendly, and had a website as hip as the opening credits from Juno. But why did the area have to be developed at all? Why couldn't they have done what Orange County did with the former El Toro Air Station and turn it into a giant park (one of the few things OC has gotten right)? At this point in America's history, we have enough suburbs. Hopefully, the new administration will bring with it a new attitude toward civic planning that reduces expansiveness and promotes shared space.

Across the Aisle

In the interest of bipartisanship, Obamathon Man looked into what Denver Republicans were up to, and stumbled upon the Denver Metro Young Republicans. Presumably, they included "Metro" in the title because there are more republicans further out in the metropolitan area, and not to recognize the metrosexual community (if such a thing exists). The DMYR had a few nasty things to say about the election, but for the most part they tried to stay away from sniping, focusing on strategically placing themselves for the 2010 and 2012 elections. Obamathon Man may just have to drop in on one of their meetings at some point.

Monday, December 29, 2008

THE OBAMATHON GUIDE.™ Part 2: Crush Hour

To staunch West Coasters like myself, "in and out" has always meant either tasty burgers or innuendo. But in Washington DC on January 20, getting in and out of the inauguration zone will be an epic battle, and in some cases, a matter of life and death. No, seriously! If a Wal-Mart rush can kill someone, imagine what might happen during what promises to be the most crowded inauguration ever. So, with the utmost care, dignity, respect for the human condition, and other feelings not normally felt outside of a beauty pageant, Obamathon presents Part 2 of his guide to the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama: Crush Hour - getting in and out of the inauguration... alive!

Getting to the DC Area
As you may know, airlines have added flights for the inauguration. However, getting a flight into Washington's Reagan or Dulles airports will cost an arm and a leg, and that's only if you get a good deal. A quick search Travelocity reveals that you may be able to squeeze a cheaper fare, but only if you're willing to endure a six hour layover in Atlanta. If you do end up flying to DC, you can take the 5A express bus from Dulles, or the Metro Blue and Yellow Lines from Reagan to get within the District on the cheap. Flying into BWI may be a cheaper way to go, and the airport is directly served by Maryland's MARC trains. If you can't get a good deal at either of these airports, better try Philadelphia, Richmond, or Newport News, VA; they'll be less crowded but you'll need to find ground transportation to DC from there.

For those of you based on the eastern seaboard, you may want to consider riding straight to DC on Amtrak. Increased train service has been announced for inauguration day, and with tickets for sale at regular fares, traveling into DC on Jan 20 could save you a small fortune in hotel fees. If you live north of DC you can take either the Northeast Regional (aka the little engine that could), or the Acela, which is slightly faster and twice as expensive. If you live in Richmond or Newport News, you're stuck with the regional. Amtrak does offer direct train service to DC from some cities in Illinois, Indiana, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Florida, and while this will take you into the center of town, Amtrak's long distance trains are notoriously slow.

For those of you driving in beforehand, check with your hotel or place of lodging to make sure parking isn't an issue. You may want to check to see if they plan to charge extra for parking on inauguration day. Another option is to leave your car near a suburban Metro or MARC station, however since neither of these offer overnight parking in their official parking lots, you'll need to find street parking in an area that doesn't have street sweeping.

And for those with no other option, there are buses. Lavish bus tours are being offered from various Eastern and Midwestern cities, but for those of you without the extra dough, there are also lowbrow intercity buses. Buses are a bit more reliable than trains, but they are subject to freeway traffic and usually stop further from the center of town than trains. Plus, it's virtually impossible to leave the bus without someone at the terminal asking for money.

Getting to the Mall

The fun begins! First off, central DC is difficult to park in on a normal day, so you can pretty much scratch that out. If you're riding in on a charter bus or on a train, you will be dropped off within walking distance of the mall, though you may have to push and shove a bit on the way. For those staying outside the city, both MARC and the Virginia Rail Express are offering trains from as far away as Frederick, Fredericksburg, Perryville, and Manassas (love that name), but you will need to book tickets in advance. For the lucky ducks who have found a place to stay within walking distance of the mall, good for you, but with all other means of transportation completely jammed, "walking distance" may become a bit longer than it normally is. Here's a list of walking distances to the mall from various DC hoods, or you can run a pedometer search of your route.

Bikes, a perennial favorite with Obamathon Man, appear to be a good way to get into the inauguration, especially with the newly announced bike valet. However, for out-of-towners, obtaining a bike may be difficult. SmartBike DC is an innovative bike rental program in the DC area which offers dozens of bikes for rent at several locations throughout DC, but you need to pay the $40 annual subscription fee to have access to them. Other bike rental services don't generally rent bikes in the winter, but you can contact them yourself if you're feeling lucky. Here's a list.

For most of us, including Obamathon Man, the Metro will be the way to go. As you may know, trains will be operating on a rush-hour schedule (at rush-hour prices) from 4AM to 9PM on the 20th, and continue regular service until 2 the next morning. Station parking will cost $4 (cash only), check to see if there is parking available at your station. Metro's capacity is 120,000 people per hour, about 6% of the projected crowd for the inauguration, so needless to say, trains will be packed. Near the mall, two stations will be closed: Archives/Navy Memorial and Smithsonian. The DC Metro charges different fares depending on where you board and where you exit, with longer trips costing up to $4.00 one way. Check here for pricing by clicking on the station you're departing from. An alternative to this is to buy a day pass, which for inauguration day has been raised to $10. You can also buy passes in advance to avoid lines at the ticket machines.

If you hate crowds, it may be best for you to get off at a more distant station, such as Farragut North, Farragut West, or Eastern Market, however this will give you a longer walk and you might have more difficulty finding a good spot to view the proceedings. If you're driving in, park at the most distant stations, like Shady Grove, Vienna/Fairfax, or Franconia/Springfield, so you can secure a spot on the train. If you need to board at a closer station, don't stand too close to the tracks while waiting for trains - it probably won't save you time, and it could result in falling on the tracks (especially with large crowds), which could result in getting hit by a train, which definitely will result in pain and inability to attend the inauguration.

Once on board, keep all your possessions close by and always hold on to handrails. Know which station you're getting off at so you can know which side of the train you'll need to exit on, and start moving toward the exit well in advance. On the way home, consider boarding the train at a station in the opposite direction of your destination (for example, if you're riding to New Carlton, get on at Foggy Bottom instead of Farragut West). Trains will be less crowded and it will be easier to board. If you plan on carrying anything with you, leave as early as possible. For more tips on surviving crowded subways, check out this helpful link.

Getting to and from the center of things will certainly be challenging, but with a little advance preparation it wont be too difficult - though it may be a bit uncomfortable. But hey, no one ever said being a part of history would be comfortable. See you there.

Introduction (history, crowd density)
Part 1: Is It Safe? (safety, prohibited items, law enforcement, crime)
Part 2: Crush Hour
Part 3: When Nature Calls (restrooms, sanitation)
Part 4: Phone Frenzy (Cell phones, texting, finding lost friends)
Part 5: Food for Thought (Food, sack lunches, vendors, restaurants)

Links for 12/29

Warrengate: Warren isn't a major player, he just gives a prayer (Muskegon News)
DC cops get their motors runnin (NBC)
Stars say g'day to Obama contribution committee (Sydney Morning Herald)
Speaking of Australia, did you know that to "barrack" means to cheer on for Ozzies? Ace!(Koalanet)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Good Hoods

This just in! Denver's Greater Park Hill has been named one of the top ten neighborhoods in the country by the American Planning Association. Park Hill is located just east of the historic City Park, and on top of a hill, thus "Park Hill". Obamathon Man has been to City Park in previous Denver trips, but never really dug into this neighborhood. But with its free jazz concerts nearby, I dig this neighborhood already. Be on the lookout for follow-up posts!

In other news, the APA has also named one of Obamathon Man's hometown haunts to its list of glory: Echo Park! Rock on, you latino/hipster hood.

Denver on One to Two Wheels

Obamathon Man has always been a big fan of bicycle commuting; it's clean, energy efficient, and not space-intensive the way cars are. However, it seems the citizens of Denver are not only fans of bicycling, but also unicycling: while hiking up a mountain, my associate and I saw a unicyclist pedaling down the other way. Such is the way of mountain-folk, I guess.

While one-wheeled riders may still be in the minority here, parts of Denver are blossoming with bicycles - particularly the area near and directly south of the Capital. Bike lock areas are seldom empty and often filled with trendy fixed gear bikes. Denver has a pretty good reputation for bike-friendliness, garnering praise from bike advocates back home as well as the extremely bike-conscious citizens in the Northwest. However, there is still room for improvement. Denver has completed a bike master plan, which hopefully will help usher in an era of even greater bike friendliness.

It has been pretty warm here (above freezing), and if this weather holds I may just have to try biking Denver for myself. But if we do get hit by a blizzard, it will be interesting to see if our unicyclist friend can still make it down the mountain when it's covered in snow.

That's Where I Want to Be

Wouldn't ya know it? Denver's got it's own Beverly Hills. Obamathon Man has yet to visit, but I suspect that instead of Rodeo Dr they have actual rodeos, and the Beverly Hillbillies wouldn't look so out of place.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Obamorabilia: Change We Can Buy Into

Barack Obama will go down in history for, among other things, being the president who lent his image to the most merchandise. If his economic stimulus doesn't work, hopefully at least Americans will buy enough Obama-themed objects to put the economy back on track. Obamathon Man chronicles the popular trends, the quirky deviations and the utterly tasteless byproducts of Obama mania in a series known as Obamorabilia.

What an appropriate gimmick to cover while here at the home of the world's largest mint: Obama commemorative coins! Now for a limited time, get these wonderful gold-plated coins for three easy payments of $4.95. How would you ever remember Obama's historic election without a coin bearing a likeness of his face? Check out the testimonials, all from smokin' hot babes - hey, it works for beer ads. No word as to whether or not these coins are actually legal tender, but the people making them hope they will be worth $14.90 to you.

Time to Shine: Colorado and Renewable Energy

Yesterday, Obamathon Man took a day trip to Denver's equivalent of Santa Monica: Boulder. True, the median age of Boulder is about 10 years lower and the median temperature is about 50 degrees lower. The college vibe is felt all across town, unlike Santa Monica where it stops 3 blocks from SMC (though I dare say the radio station at SMC is a bit more influential, if less countercultural, than CU Boulder's). But just like Santa Monica, there's a pedestrian mall lined with chic sake bars and hobos, and every newsstand includes a free publication dedicated to "wellness".

But what struck me is not Boulder itself but the solar plant I spotted along the way. I was aware that Colorado was actively getting involved in renewable energy, but its nice to see it first hand.

Colorado has a long history with renewable energy. In 1974, the Solar Energy Research Institute was founded. The Institute flourished under the Carter administration, and it was during this time that my relative relocated to Denver to work there. During the Reagan years, it was determined that "government is the problem", which meant that all government-conducted solar research was part of the problem too. My relative eventually left for a university job and later ended up working for private research firms, with mixed results. The SERI ultimately survived the wrath of Reagan, though its budget was cut by 90%. In the 90s, it was rebranded as the National Renewable Energies Laboratory, or NREL, and continues to operate to this day.

In 2006, Colorado's Governor Bill Ritter announced that Colorado was to be an energy pioneer, becoming "bolder [Boulder?] than any other state when it comes to renewable energy". This is certainly great news and I commend the efforts of the great state of Colorado, though as a west coast loyalist I have to add that if they want to become the greenest state they've got some competition.

With Obama in office, the future is green for the whole country. But it's great to see that here in the purple state of Colorado, change isn't waiting for January 20.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Obamorabilia: Denver Edition

Barack Obama will go down in history for, among other things, being the president who lent his image to the most merchandise. If his economic stimulus doesn't work, hopefully at least Americans will buy enough Obama-themed objects to put the economy back on track. Obamathon Man chronicles the popular trends, the quirky deviations and the utterly tasteless byproducts of Obama mania in a series known as Obamorabilia.

Obamathon Man comes from a bookish family, and has a keen interest in literature himself. There's so many books in my blood that after I die my corpse will be recycled. So I've been to many of the bookstores of the Denver area, and each of them has one book well stocked and prominently displayed: Democratic National Convention 2008: Obama's Mile High Moment. The book is loaded with glossy photos, includes shots of prominent democrats and our new friend Hick. There is heavy coverage of protests which took place, including a shot of an anarchist swollen from pepper spray. Plenty of got snaps of Obama's closing night speech as well. A 72 page book, it lists for $15.95, a price that can only be described as "Mile High Markup". But on Amazon the price is $10.85, a fair price for any Demorcat or Denverite.


After a brief break from The Obamathon Guide: an Inaugural Guide to Washington DC, Obamathon Man is back at it, beginning in earnest his definitive guide to the 2009 inauguration of President-Elect Barack Obama. Yeah, I know there are some other guides, and official guides, but what do the so-called "locals" or "officials" really know? My advice is not to trust fancy websites and stick to the hard-hitting inauguration guide you know and love: The Obamathon Guide.

In Part 1, Obamathon Man turns his attention to inauguration safety. Astute readers of Obamathon Man will recognize the reference to my namesake, Marathon Man, a film in which an evil ex-Nazi posing as a dentist ironically asks the main character, "Is it safe?", before beginning a painful tooth-oriented procedure. While the inauguration promises to have a dearth of ex-Nazis and (hopefully) dentists, many inaugural visitors find themselves asking the same question in light of projected record crowds, "Is it safe?"

First off, ticketed front-row visitors will want to really make sure not to have anything on the prohibited list:
"Firearms and ammunition (either real or simulated, explosives of any kind (including fireworks), knives, blades, or sharp objects (of any length), mace and/or pepper spray, sticks or poles, pocket or hand tools, such as “Leatherman”, packages, backpacks, large bags, duffel bags, suitcases, thermoses, coolers, strollers, umbrellas (pray for sunny weather),laser pointers, signs, posters, animals (other than service animals), alcoholic beverages [damn], other items that may pose a threat to the security of the event as determined by and at the discretion of the security screeners"

For front row visitors, you will also have to pass through a metal detector and be patted down. So if security asks if that's a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see them, make sure you're happy. Although general mall visitors aren't subject to such stringent requirements, and at this point it doesn't look like there will be checkpoints(subject to change), security will be beefed up, and it would be better not to have suspicious looking items. You don't want to give an excuse for the armed forces, secret service, municipal police, and other arrestocrats to get cuff-happy.

The parade route also has a list of prohibited items, which include "bicycles, backpacks, aerosols (which could include Silly String), coolers, thermal containers and chairs." Also, "Signs or placards can be brought to the parade, but only if they're made of cardboard, poster board or cloth and are not more than 3 feet by 20 feet." Looks like the Obama-Gram program is still on!

For those of you with items on the verboten list who don't have the option of leaving those items in the hotel, car, or your buddy's apartment, there are lockers available at DC's Union Station. In the past, Amtrak has limited its lockers to passengers, though this may change for the inauguration. However, just like everything during the inauguration, lockers are subject to overcrowding and overpricing. For more info, go to the Union Station website or call 202 289 1908.

View Larger Map

Official road closures have been announced, as have vehicle restriction guidelines. The secret service has also listed entry points to the parade route and cautioned: "All attendees, including general public and ticketed guests, are subject to a thorough security screening before entering the Inaugural parade route, the White House reviewing stand and the Inaugural balls. Please allow for additional time for this security screening, as it is expected that lines may be long." Thanks, SS! Way to earn your coily earpieces. Here's the complete list of entry points for the parade route:

- 2nd Street NW and C Street NW
- 3rd Street NW and C Street NW
- Indiana Avenue NW between 6th St NW and 7th St NW
- 7th Street NW and D Street NW
- 10th Street NW and E Street NW
- 12th Street NW and E Street NW
- E Street NW just east of 13th Street NW
- 13th Street NW just North of E Street NW
- 14th Street NW just North of E Street NW
- 12th Street NW between Constitution Avenue. and Pennsylvania Avenue
- 10th Street NW between Constitution Avenue. and Pennsylvania Avenue
- 7th Street NW between Constitution Avenue. and Pennsylvania Avenue
- Constitution Avenue between 6th Street NW and 7th Street NW

To avoid run-ins with the law, avoid carrying large or suspicious-looking objects, and avoid doing things that would draw attention to yourself. If you are stopped by law enforcement, remain calm and do not provoke hostilities. You have nothing to gain and everything to lose. If you are arrested, know your rights, and don't say anything until you have a lawyer present. The Washington based group Flex Your Rights has a good list of resources for dealing with law enforcement, including DC-specific advice.

Since the inauguration is going to be a large gathering, the chance of violent crime is going to be relatively low. However, be aware of pickpockets, petty thieves, or grifters. Leave valuables behind if possible, wear pants with button-up pockets or keep your wallet somewhere hard to reach, and keep bags or purses close by. If someone unfamiliar asks for money or asks you strange questions, say no and walk away; it could be a setup.

Most importantly, stay calm and enjoy yourself. With a minimumum of self-preservation, you can enjoy the inauguration. See you in DC.

Introduction (history, crowd density)
Part 1: Is It Safe?
Part 2: Crush Hour(Transportation, Getting to DC, Getting to the Mall, the Metro)
Part 3: When Nature Calls (restrooms, sanitation)
Part 4: Phone Frenzy (Cell phones, texting, finding lost friends)
Part 5: Food for Thought (Food, sack lunches, vendors, restaurants)
Part 6: Got Balls? (Inaugural balls, dress codes, bars)

Links for 12/26

What bible verse will Obama pick? Hopefully, not Leviticus 18:22(CNN)
Coping with donor limits (LA Times)
NYPD too good for inauguration(NY Times)
Warrengate: an anti-anti-Rick Warren perspective (ONN)
For those who'd rather spend the inauguration in NYC, Trinity Church to ring bells as Obama takes office (NY Downtown Express)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Loopy for Hickenlooper

Back in 2004, the American people were introduced to the self-proclaimed "skinny kid with a funny name": Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. It certainly was a funny name, and oddly enough, funny names seem to have less trouble becoming household names. Fast forward four years to the 2008 Democratic convention. As Barack Obama prepared to accept the Democrats' nomination for president, the skinny kid with a funny name this time was not really a kid, but worked tirelessly to bring the convention to his hometown of Denver: John Hickenlooper.

Just as Chicago is famous for "the Loop", Denver is famous for Hickenlooper, its mayor. He took office in 2003, and has since launched numerous programs, including aid for the homeless, improved transit, and green incentives which have bolstered the city's reputation. I had known that Hickenlooper (or as they affectionately refer to him here, Hick) was mayor for a few years now, owing to my Denverite relatives. But I didn't know exactly what he was doing until the convention came around, and Denver became the darling of purple state-hungry Democratic electioneers.

Upon visiting my family this time around, I actually learned that a couple who were old friends of our family had close connections with Hick. We all had planned a get together at our house, and they were nice enough to stop by. After brief chit chat between them and our family, I casually asked them a few questions, thrilled to be talking with people inside the Hickenloop.

First off, they had been able to work their connections to get seats for Obama's speech in back in August. Not good seats, but seats. I asked them what the convention had been like, they said it was slightly wilder than a typical Broncos game, but knowing Broncos fans, that's saying something. They also said that Hick had gotten the idea to bring the DNC to Denver early on, and had worked diligently to make sure it happened. They said he was a nice guy, a friendly guy who had helped them in the past.

He had been roommates to one of them when they were just out of college, and was responsible for introducing the two of them. He had originally been trained as a geologist, but lost his job during a recession in Denver. In the early 90's, he took his savings and co-founded the Wynkoop Brewery in LoDo, then a sketchy factory wasteland and now a fully gentrified swingin hood with its own baseball stadium. Since he took over the Mayorship, Hick has done the same thing for the entire reputation of Denver. One of them told me that her out of town friends used to chuckle when she told them about Denver. Now, they nod politely.

They were very friendly about my formal line of questioning, and had nothing but good things to say about Hick. They told me that if I had been here two weeks earlier I could have stopped by his annual Christmas party and said hello. Too bad.

Later I heard some in my family, who heard rumors of Hick having a wild side when he was younger. I didn't really get to ask the couple along those lines, but at this point Hick seems to be anything but wild. He has been longtime friends with Colorado's Sen. Ken Salazar, and has expressed interest in filling Salazar's now vacant seat. Could Hick be a White Obama? Maybe, but I'm sure everyone in Denver will be sad to see their hometown hero go. If anything, Hickenlooper proves that "change" is not just about Obama. It's about the work one mayor has done, and that all mayors (including Tony V back home), officials, and citizens will be able to do. I never thought I'd say this, but hopefully in the future we'll all be Hicks.

New Photos on Flickr

There's some new photos on the Obamathon Man flickr page. I posted most of the Utah/Colorado set, and there are some interesting shots, if I do say so myself. Check em out!

Obama-Gram: Make Your Voice Heard at the Inauguration!

Today is Christmas, and Obamathon Man would like to take this opportunity to thank all my visitors for stopping by. I would also like to announce the launch of a new Obamathon Man feature: Obama-Gram: Make Your Voice Heard!

Have something you want to say at the inauguration? Want your message to be seen personally by Barack Obama at the inauguration? Obamathon Man is now accepting any and all messages from his visitors in a new comment section on the main page. Comments will be accepted until 6:00 PM, Pacific Standard Time (West Coast Represent!), January 18, 2008. I will painstakingly look over each of your comments, and do the following:

  • Print each comment on a giant poster, and personally stake out a position as close to the parade route as is possible. I will fight tooth and nail for a good spot, even if it means losing all my teeth and nails. Your Message will be seen!

  • Read through each message on a bullhorn, megaphone, or whatever amplification device is permitted during the inauguration, during the parade.

  • Print each message on a commemorative leaflet, available free of charge to all spectators at the inauguration. Your voice will be heard by your fellow countrymen!

  • Assemble a video clip displaying each message, and post the video online, accompanied by relevant images and footage as the case may be. The video will not be made available until after the inauguration, but it will still be cool.

  • Select politically relevant messages and assemble them into a separate print and video presentation, to be submitted to as well as directly to the offices of state and federal representatives, and presidential cabinet members.

  • Publish a general report on February 20, 2009, one month after the inauguration, chronicling where each of the messages have been heard, the reactions they have goten, and the effects they have brought about.

Note: Profanities will be represented with asterisks: f***, etc. Unnecessarily violent or sexually explicit messages will be edited. Advertising/Spam and redundant messages or identical reposts will be ignored. Messages longer than 500 words will be shortened for the poster, but preserved for all other media. Foreign language messages will be reprinted in their original form and accompanied by an auto translation into English. Messages will be accepted from the comments section in this post, and a specifically designated comments section on the main page

So here's your chance: be a part of this historic inauguration! Send your message in today, and see the change you create. Obamathon Man salutes you and whatever you have to say!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Tis the night before Christmas, and the biggest news is that some paparazzo took pictures of Obama strutting around without a shirt. But of greater concern to Obamathon Man is the latest archival project from the Library of Congress, who are seeking

"Audio and video recordings of sermons and orations that comment on the significance of the inauguration of 2009. It is expected that such sermons and orations will be delivered at churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship, as well as before humanist congregations and other secular gatherings."

While I can appreciate the preservationist urge many of us feel, it seems a bit unfair of the LoC to limit their search just to sermons. If they really are looking for all types of orations, why don't they also look to the libraries, universities, parks, and other places where noteworthy observations are being made. Hell, why not look to the comedy clubs or the concert venues? While I respect the services offered by churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and humanist congregations (however that works), I think that significant orations about the inauguration (inauguorations!) are happening everywhere, and it would be unfair to limit the search for them. High minded things can be said in low places.

So Merry Christmas to all, and make sure you stuff the LoC's stockings with anything you view to be a significant inauguoration, no matter who gave it or where it was given.

Changing Fuel, Fueling Change

Yesterday afternoon, a family member showed us around his lab here in Denver (he's a physicist). It's a fairly sophisticated operation, and several employees were present, even this close to Christmas. A young woman with glasses and a bun worked the front desk, she was polite but clearly had her hands full with scheduling. We grabbed safety goggles as we entered the work area, but at this point they weren't necessary since nothing really dangerous was going on.

One of the lab techs came over to talk to us. His name was Dan, and he was happy to talk about what was going on here at the lab. There were several benches full of drills, hammers, welding torches, small stoves, and other relevant tools. At the center of everything was a roughly 8x8x16 foot rectangular assemblage of steel tubes. If this wasn't a laboratory, the structure could easily pass as playground equipment. However it became clear that it was intended as a container for some large scale apparatus.

Dan warmed up when he learned that I was about to graduate from the alma mater of a friend of his. Somehow, the topic of discussion abruptly turned to theoretical physics, which as it turns out is not very popular with practical physicists. Dan didn't like the fact that the theories of theoretical physics were not falsifiable and were difficult to test. I asked him if this had anything to do with the Large Hadron Collider, which I almost referred to accidentally as the "Large Hard-On Collider". Not being a theoretical physicist, he didn't know, or really care. But he did admit that theoretical physics was great for science fiction.

I asked him what was going to be housed within the massive tube system, and he said that it would house machinery to convert the thousands of trees afflicted by pine beetles into charcoal. While this charcoal could be used as fuel, in this case it would be used as a fertilizer which would also remove carbon from the atmosphere. Apparently, the charcoal can also be used to neutralize the damage done by mine tailings, which mine companies prefer to call "peripheral leavings" but scientists refer to in many cases as "toxins".

I then asked about if he thought Obama would be good for alternative fuel development companies like the one he was working for. He absolutely thought Obama would improve the state of alternative fuel in the US, pointing out that Obama dilligently went about creating a "brain trust" who would take an effective course of action many different issues. I agreed, a brain trust would certainly be better than the previous executive, who didn't trust brains. In particular, Dan was enthusiastic that Ken Salazar, formerly one of Colorado's senators, had been named as Secretary of the Interior. He was so enthusiastic that he accidentally referred to him as "Secretary of State".

At this point we had to leave, but I was happy to have had the chat. Even though gas prices have dropped, we still need to start working on building up other sources of energy. Government investment in private research is a good way to establish more effective energy sources, as has already happened in Brazil, and it's also good for our economy. Hopefully, Dan will be doing what he's doing for a long time.

Links for 12/24

More Lincolnizing! Obama to be sworn in using same bible as Lincoln (Eurweb)
Obama to spend Christmas in Hawaii, snow not predicted(RTE entertainment)
British columnist in favour of Rick Warren(Guardian)
Inauguration 2009, the cheapskate's guide. Tip #1: bars, not balls (SF Chronicle)
But you may be able to get in to the Bush Farewell Ball (USA Today)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

An Advance Salute to the Denver Young Democrats

Obamathon Man has hit the ground running in Denver, and while three days before Christmas is probably not the best time to hit the ground running, things have still turned out quite well. I have requested an interview/information exchange with the Denver Young Democrats, and their president, Kevin Neimond, has been receptive to the idea. Look for more about the DYDs in the weeks to come.

In other news, my earlier Denver post - not to be confused with The Denver Post - has been updated to include videos taken from my pre-election visit to Denver. View them there, or just go directly to my Youtube page for a look.

Obamathon Man Sells Out

Its official: Obamathon Man has sold out. In the past I have valiantly resisted the corporate powers that be, but those days are no more. I have succumbed to the Google ad-sense program in hopes that in one month's time I will have netted enough for a McDonalds® Double Cheeseburger. They really are delicious, and you can even taste the preservatives.

Fortunately, the overlords at Google have given me the freedom to choose where the ads go. I'm placing the ads toward the bottom of my sidebar, a location I hope my viewers will find aesthetically inoffensive. Also, i really hope that the ads can actually serve a constructive purpose instead of just being an eyesore. The ads will probably contain Obama-related content, and you may be made aware of some good or service you might actually benefit from. Keep an open mind, guys. I'm not entirely happy that I have to go through a mega-corp for ad allocation services, nor am I happy about the massive cut of the ad revenue they take, but I really don't have the time or energy to go about this any other way.

A note on ad encouragement: Obamathon Man is contractually obligated not to offer any message, image, or monetary incentive that would encourage clicks to sites promoted through Google AdSense™. Clicks to other sites must stem from genuine user interest, pursuant to AdSense™ Terms and Conditions, Section 5:

"You shall not, and shall not authorize or encourage any third party to: directly or indirectly generate queries, Referral Events, or impressions of or clicks on any Ad, Link, Search Result, or Referral Button (including without limitation by clicking on “play” for any video Ad) through any automated, deceptive, fraudulent or other invalid means, including but not limited to through repeated manual clicks, the use of robots or other automated query tools and/or computer generated search requests, and/or the unauthorized use of other search engine optimization services and/or software."

You, the clicker of advertisements placed by Google's AdSense™ program, hereby agree that you have not received, imbibed, or partaken in any form of authorization or encouragement to perform any of the above mentioned contractual infringements from the author and supreme master of this web page, herein referred to as Obamathon Man. You also agree that you have not received any similar authorization or encouragement from any third party associated, affiliated, or in any way connected to Obamathon Man. You also agree that you are not a robot, web crawler, web spider, or any other form of malware or malicious software created with the intent of abusing the Google AdSense™ program, or if you are, you are in no way affiliated, associated, sanctioned, or encouraged by Obamathon Man.

However, pursuant to Amendment I of the United States Constitution, Obamathon Man freely chooses to note that users who click advertisements placed by the Google AdSense™ program out of genuine interest will generate revenue, some of which will be received by Obamathon Man, and will be used with the utmost efficacy to ensure continuation of Obamathon Man's fearless and peerless coverage of the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama. By clicking advertisements placed by the Google AdSense™ program, you agree that this statement represents a purely factual utterance, not an encouragement, authorization, or anything that could be construed thusly, by Obamathon Man, and that you click the ad out of genuine interest. You also agree that you will not hold Obamathon Man liable for any data interruptions, computer crashes, or hurt feelings which may result from clicking advertisements placed by the Google AdSense™ program.


It's Cold

It's currently snowing outside, and Obamathon Man is readjusting to the bitter cold and high altitude. Yes, it's cold here, but fortunately not as cold as some had surmised. Family members advised me to bundle up like Randy, the plucky younger brother from A Christmas Story who wears so many coats he can no longer move. I replied that I would be okay with just a thick coat or two, having been to places with cold weather before. Dismayed that I wasn't taking their advice, they then cautioned me, "You'll shoot your eye out."

But what about the weather in DC? what if there's an inaugural blizzard? First of all, people with confusing graphs are basically predicting that the weather will be relatively warm. Another official looking site says that the temperature is likely to be 37°F and there is a 1 in 6 chance of precipitation, which is certainly good news. Look for a more official post with tips on how to prepare for the inauguration at a later date. But even if a blizzard hits, it may actually be a blessing in disguise: people who can't find a place to stay can build inaugural igloos.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Politically Impolite

So I'm here in Denver, doing a little last minute christmas shopping with my associate. We're looking over the best Barnes & Nobles has to offer, and apparently that's some cheesy Sarah Palin "authorized" bio. Gee willikers! So we start having a good old time at the expense of Alaska's first gal. "I'll find those answers and bring em to ya!" A well dressed woman walks by and I look over just long enough to catch her giving us a look that could freeze Mauna Loa. Welcome to Denver folks! In LA, that never would have happened - no one cares what you do or say in public. You could catch on fire and no one would notice.

To be fair, I saw plenty of Obama stickers and posters left up here, so the situation is not one sided. But the Republican contingent is not backing down. Unlike LA, they still have a strong foothold, and though they now appear to lie dormant, they are poised to strike back at the least opportunity. Denver: the town of mile high tempers.

Checking in with Main Street

Even though we've wrapped our Travel Log Series for as far as Denver, Obamathon Man and his associate want to briefly look back on the morning we spent in Richfield, UT. On the outskirts of town there is a Home Depot, a Wal-Mart, and the same clump of hotels and truck stops you would usually find in any interstate town. The center of town lacks that normalized, chain-store look; there are old banks, fishing supply stores, and DVD rental stores whose signs still read "Video Rental". Walking down Main Street (it really is called Main Street) you could easily imagine the same buildings existing 50 years ago, before the interstate existed, or even 100 years ago, when the only way into town was by train. Time moves slower here, and whereas modernity is a way of life for city folk like myself, in Richfield it is more of an oddity. If there is a Middle America, Richfield is it.

We spent the night in a motel in the center of town. From the looks of it, the place used to be an old brick hotel that was bought out by a chain, modernized, with an 80s era addition built later in the back. Waking up in the morning, we were surprised to see the Salt Lake Tribune, which proclaimed that many parts of Salt Lake City were turning democratic. Could Utah be the next Colorado? Maybe, but whatever change was going on in SLC had yet to be felt here in Richfield. An interesting side note: the Tribune has an entire section dedicated to polygamy.

We had looked to the hotel's local attractions guide for a good place for breakfast. One of the guide's recommended Richfield restaurants was the Pizza Bowl, which unfortunately was misspelled as "Pizza Bowel". However, not being in the mood for a breakfast pizza and soured by the thought of bowels, we decided to just walk up the street until we saw a decent breakfast place. The first restaurant we saw was the Little Wonder Cafe, and as it turned out, the place could not have been given a better name.

It's a sweet little restaurant, well worn, and frequented by Richfield's finest. Decorative auburn leaves cover the windowsill, red vinyl booths are cracked with age. Listen in on the conversations: a man in a jean jacket and a wool cap tells of how the nearby mountains just got 18 inches of snow, a pudgy young man in an army jacket raves about his hot cocoa. Our waitress was short, redheaded, and looked like her best years had already passed right here in this restaurant. Listening to her talk, life seemed so simple, and I could better understand why people vote Republican. The food was remarkably cheap, and I ordered overeasy eggs and corned beef hash. My associate suggested I tell her about our journey, but I was reluctant, she was so nice and I didn't want to bring nasty thoughts like a democratic president into such an idyllic locale.

She came by with our food, and my associate blurted out that we were on our way to Washington to see Obama get sworn in. Far from the cold stare I had expected, she could not have been happier for us. She admitted that she couldn't make the journey herself because she was afraid of crowds, but she would want to go if she wasn't. I told her that we would wave to her on the t.v. cameras if she cared to tune in. And while she didn't admit to actually voting for Obama, she said she supports him. She assured us that we were young enough that we couldn't fully appreciate how historic this election was. Maybe so, but I'm not sure if anyone really does.

So it turned out the joke was on me. In my mind, Richfield was one of the last places to ever undergo what Barack Obama refered to as "change", and that this change would have to come in spite of the Richfields of America. And it turned out that Richfield - or at least part of it - was already on board. That citizens here could look past his middle name, his palling around with terrorists, and everything else about him, was as amazing to me as any part of his historic election.

The food was delicious and filling. We took the bill to the register and our waitress rang us up. I asked if I could take a picture and she obliged, though she warned me that she wasn't photogenic. I would disagree.

So we left Richfield happily, and with the knowledge that Obama's change might be a bit deeper than we had thought.

Links for 12/22

Crowd won't be as big as we thought (UPI)
Celebrate the inauguration with expensive food! (
Warren pick prompts ungodly criticism (LA Times)
God-fearing coverage of Obama's inaugural poet, Elizabeth Alexander (Christian Science Monitor)
Gridlock, Obama style (NY Daily News)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Road to Change - Travel Log 12/21

Today is December 21, the Winter Solstice. My associate and I continued today on our soulful journey to Denver, through the majestic Rocky Mountains as well as the less-than-majestic Utah deserts.

Our day began snowily in the unplowed parking lot of our Richfield hotel. We ate heartily for breakfast at a local eatery, then hit the I-70 with a vengeance, plowing through Salina on highway that thankfully had already been plowed. The road then took us through a desolate, completely unpopulated, and imposingly beautiful stretch of country towards Green River. Our interstate highway system does poor justice to the truly inhospitable nature of the American West, and as we rushed through the arid landscape I couldn't help but think of the first humans to traverse this demanding landscape. Here, survival is not a given even in this era of cruise control, as we were reminded by a roadside cross at the bottom of an arid mountain grade. The first American Indians, as well as the white Mormon Settlers, did not settle in this land and were lucky to make it out alive. As we crested the top of a mesa, we could see for miles around us the serene red plains, mountains and ridges. A plume of smoke shot up from behind a ridge, an ugly reminder of humanity in this otherwise pristine setting. Fortunately, the factory at the source of this was charitable enough to hide itself behind a ridge of mountains.

Next was Green River, and a significantly less prosewotrhy stretch of desert. But then we crossed the state line into Colorado, and as the Mormon shroud lifted I inexplicably felt the urge to be sinful again. First up was Fruita and Grand Junction, the agrarian hub of western Colorado which some have heartlessly dubbed "Grand Junkyard". As the mountains approached, the crops became more sophisticated, and as we arrived at the foothills we got a closer look at the harvest of Grand Junction's burgeoning vintners. There was even a "Wine Hotel".

The mountains began gradually, and we passed through the towns of Parachute and Rifle, wondering if they had been named by Sarah Palin. We got off in Rifle, and ate lunch at a local pizza place called "Little Caesar's". After that, we continued past the famed hot springs at Glenwood Springs, and through Glenwood Canyon, a canyon that must have been nearly impossible to build a four-lane interstate through. In order to make it work, the engineers had to build futuristic elevated segments. In stark contrast, the train tracks paralleling the road passed through low-tech tunnels; it looked like the seven dwarfs could burst out at any moment.

The road passed through a long valley, past hills dotted with ski resorts. Finally we arrived at Vail, home to millionaires and the Colorado Ski Museum. It looks like no one in Vail had heard the country was going through economic hard times, there were cranes everywhere.

The sky grew threatening and the road grew snowy as we climed Vail pass, but we made it over without incident.

We passed through Dillon and Frisco, a town whose inhabitants get really mad if you call "San Francisco". Then we climbed another pass and went through the Eisenhower Tunnel, a massive mountain tunnel disguised as a factory.

It was all downhill from there, and aside from a short traffic jam we had an easy drive into Denver. Then it was of to our familial compound to eat gingerbread and sip eggnog. Happy holidays from Obamathon Man. Now blogging to you from Denver!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Democratic Denver: A Prelude

October 25, 2008. In the plaza across from the state Capitol, a crowd was gathering. Blue signs had been taped to the concrete columns lining an amphitheater. An impassioned speaker told of the troubles he and his families had faced, and what it would take to overcome them. Signs read, "Red to Blue", "Obama/Biden", "Renewing America's Promise". Later a woman sang a song, "Living My Life Like It's Golden".

Later, on a walk through an older neighborhood, lawns were littered with leaves and Obama signs, and there was an Obama campaign office on every corner. Maybe holding the convention here two months earlier really paid off for the democrats. Or maybe Denver was just undergoing a political change.

In the coming days, when not overtaken by holiday festivities, Obamathon Man will examine the city of Denver. What has happened here during the last eight years? What do the people here want of their new President-elect? What about the Republicans in town, who lost this round, but are still a powerful force? I've already sent out requests to local political organizations (Democratic and Republican) asking for their take on these questions. But I'll also be speaking to as many of the good citizens of Denver to see what they think as well.

And to those of you from Denver, feel free to write in! let's hear your take. The comments section is open!

The Road to Change - Travel Log 10/20

Here it is, the 20th of December, one month before the big event. And today we set out from the comforts of home, toward the rising sun. We left town on the 210, past a strange city of gravel quarries known as Azuza, then through the desolate land of Foreclosia. At least the mountains were snow-covered and pretty.

Onward and upward, over the Cajon pass to Victorville, Barstow, and a coffee break in Baker, home to the world's largest thermometer and Alien Fresh Jerky!

Then, the bright lights and rapidly emptying wallets of Vegas! Obamathon Man salutes the citizens of Las Vegas this year for helping to push the state of Nevada over to the Obama Column. And apparently, Vegas is still stoked over the Obama win - they had a giant O poster right in the center of town! We regretted that we couldn't stay longer, but we had to press on as family is expecting us tomorrow night in Denver.

We passed through miles of nondescript desert, then through the canyons of Arizona and Southern Utah. Stopping in St. George, we ate our premade sandwiches outside of the Utah Welcome Center and Nature Museum, aka the Dixie Center. St. George has always been fond of calling itself the Dixie of the west - leave it to a city in Utah to wish it were part of the South.

I kid St. George, with love. Back in the day, before the election, I had the opportunity to drive through town on another LA-Denver trip. And there were signs out for Obama! Never thought I'd see divergent viewpoints in Utah. Unfortunately, on the outskirts of town we passed what could be described as the world's greatest eyesore: the Wal-Mart distribution center. Spreading Wal-Mart to every corner of this great land! I've always thought that Wal-Mart would make a great monster for a sci-fi movie.

We pressed on through snow-covered hills and valleys, ultimately spending the night in Richfield. Tomorrow, the majestic rocky mountains await.