Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Baltimore World Trade Center

Baltimore's Inner Harbor has a lot of cool stuff to go along with the major attractions like the Historic Ships, the science museum, and the aquarium. One building is the World Trade Center, which is part the World Trade Centers Association which started in the late 1960s and has locations in eighty-eight countries. This building was completed in 1977. Its thirty stories house the Maryland Port Administration, the World Trade Center Institute, and several other businesses.

Baltimore World Trade Center

I'm not making it up

This Trade Center has a memorial to the victims of the 9/11 attack. Three of the steel beams from the New York World Trade Center on a marble platform.

Part of the original World Trade Center

The platform has a timeline shows the events of the attack in 2001. Each September 11, the shadow of the building falls on each marker at the time the event happened.

Pentagon crash

Some of the structural elements are on display.

Girders from 9/11

Slabs from Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and the Pennsylvania crash

It's a sobering and respectful memorial to the horrible events of that day.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Nationals Blood Drive 2018 (Mostly the Free Tour)

The Washington Nationals have been hosting blood drives at their ball field this past summer. I went a second time and brought the kids with me, mostly so they could join me on the free ballpark tour.

We drove in early and the park is a little spooky when there's nobody else there.

Nationals Park, sans fans

I gave blood, which was the regular routine. I guess they expect kids to tag along because the organizers had a scavenger hunt that my children did while I was going through the paperwork and the bloodletting.

Paperwork area

Scavenger hunting--finding the "BOOM!"

After I was done and we'd all had a snack (or two--they were offering Pirates Booty which is a favorite for my daughter), we went on the tour. The first stop was the luxury suites. Interestingly, the cost of renting a suite is higher during the week than on weekends. The explanation was that businesses were more likely to rent for after-work functions, so they could charge more.

A fancy suite

The suites are stocked with a bar and buffet and great seats for viewing the game. This particular suite was unique because of the pool table included.

Luxury suite

View of the game from the suite seats



Down the hall from the suite was some interesting works of art.

First was a baseball bench made from bats and balls and bases!

Not so cosy looking, but really cool looking

Above the bench is a baseball flag by Ron Kittle with several of the balls signed by team members from 2010 (when the flag was made).

Baseball flag!

Nearby is a picture of Hall of Famer Walter Johnson. He started playing for the Washington Senators over a hundred years ago and is famous for great pitching and great sportsmanship. He was one of the first five players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Walter Johnson

A window showed the view to the new soccer stadium not far from Nats Park, though it was far enough not to get a good picture.

View to a soccer field
Even zoomed in, it's not too clear

Down the hall is a display of memoribilia from Shirley Povich, a famous DC sports reporter who covered the Washington Senators and had a long career.

Shirley Povich Hall, is what they should call it

On the wall is Povich's personally scored program of Don Larsen's perfect game in game five of the 1956 World Series. It was the only perfect game in World Series history.

Yankees beat Brooklyn Dodgers

In one of the conference rooms is another World Series record--the longest game when the Senators beat the Yankees 4 to 3 in 12 innings of play. The story is even more dramatic--that was the seventh game of the 1924 World Series, so it was the deciding game. Povich had a championship pin from that Series.

Score of the only DC team to win the World Series

Pin in Povich's collection

Povitch kept all his press pins from the World Series he covered. Back in the day, teams would send pins to the press so that they would have access to press boxes, club houses, and such during the World Series. One interesting pin is the Brooklyn Dodgers "Phantom pin" from the 1946 series. Teams would send out the pins before the end of the season. Occasionally teams didn't clinch their title until very late in the season, like in 1946. The Dodgers had a chance to make it but didn't. Just in case, they sent pins out before they were sure they would win.

Povitch pin collection

The phantom pin!

We went up to the press box, which is at the top of the stands. A lot of other stadiums have the press lower down with a better view of the game. The Nationals owners decided to save the good seats for the fans (and the suites) rather than the press.

View from the press box

Urban renewal in the neighborhood

Looking out over the edge

Our tour guide pointed out some red chairs over in the high right-field stands. Those chairs are where Washington Nationals players hit home runs. All but one of the red chairs are due to Bryce Harper.

Stands with mis-matched chairs

Close up

The tour took us downstairs to the clubhouses. We were not able to go to the home clubhouse since the Nationals players leave personal items in their lockers. No one wants overenthusiastic fans filching stuff. We toured the visitor's clubhouse, which had plenty of interesting things to see.

Visitor's enterance

The clubhouse has a snack area and a few tables with entertainment items, along with a series of lockers lining the wall. The lockers have removable numbers above them, so visiting teams can have their own numbers over the lockers.

Snack area

Lockers and a table

Games and other distractions for the visitors

Looking cool by the lockers

We went down another hallway that led to the field. On the way we saw some batting cages for practice.

Leaving the clubhouse

Batting area

Going out to the field

We were allowed out on the dirt by the field but not the grass. The groundskeepers are fastidious about the conditions of the field. Being so close to the field was still awesome.

Home plate covered in case of rain?

In the visitor's dugout

View above the dugout

The tour guide showed us the various phones in the dugout. One connects to the bullpen, so the manager or a coach could check with the pitchers warming up. My daughter got to dial it. No one answered but we could hear the ringing in the distance (thanks to the empty stadium).


Calling for a relief pitcher

My son on the field

The last stop on our tour was to the clubhouse for the Nats Pack, the people who rile up the crowd during the game. Their accommodations are not nearly as luxurious as the players, but it's still nice to have a special place at the stadium.

Nats Pack hangout

Nats Pack signs

We really enjoyed the tour. Sadly, the Nationals finished the season with barely more wins than losses (82-80), so no post-season excitement for us. The blood drive people did sign me up for their next drive, which is with the Capitals. I am pretty sure they aren't giving away free tickets and the drive and tour are at the practice arena in Arlington, Virginia. The location is a long drive and we are not that into hockey (even though the Capitals won the Stanley Cup last year). I'll probably return to the Nats blood drives in the spring of next year.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Book Review: The Mighty Captain Marvel Vol. 3 by M. Stohl et al.

The Mighty Captain Marvel Volume 3: Dark Origins written by Margaret Stohl and art by Michele Bandini

Captain Marvel searches for her lost Kree friend Bean only to get sucked into an alternate universe. This new universe is your standard mirror-universe. Here, Captain Marvel is the most wanted outlaw in the galaxy (with the Guardians of the Galaxy running a close second). She has to pretend to be bad and figure out the interpersonal dynamics of everyone's mirror-self in order to get back, let alone find Bean.

The story was a bit too "paint by numbers" for me. I've read and seen lots of mirror-universe stories and this is totally standard stuff. Changing Groot into Root (he's a giant walking carrot instead of a tree) was funny, but that was the rare shining moment in a lot of dullness.

Not recommended.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Movie Review: Ministry of Fear (1944)

Ministry of Fear (1944) directed by Fritz Lang

Stephen Neale (Ray Milland) is released from two years at a psychiatric asylum in rural England during World War II. He wants to live a quiet life but amid the bustle of war-time London. Before his train leaves, he visits the local fete where, through an odd visit with the fortune teller, he wins a cake by guessing the correct weight (which the fortune teller told him). The next guy goes to the fortune teller and clearly he was meant to get the cake because they have a very awkward scene. Neale takes the cake and gets on the train. He's joined by a blind man with whom he shares the cake. The blind man crumbles it up as if he's looking for something (and the audience sees that he isn't really blind). The train stops during a German bombing. The blind man breaks his cane over Neale's head and steals the cake. Neale chases him down but one of the bombs gets the blind man. Neale continues on to London where he investigates the fortune teller to try and find out what's going on. The situation only get more complicated from there.

This paranoid thriller is based on a book by Graham Greene, with the typical complications and ambiguities. Neale has stumbled into a Nazi spy ring, or so he thinks. He doesn't know who to trust and the audience is left guessing too. Director Lang's noir sensibilities only add to the atmosphere of unease and dread. The film is a very satisfying thriller.


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

USS Constellation, Baltimore

The ship Constellation that sits in Baltimore's Inner Harbor is the second American naval vessel to bear that name. The first was built in Baltimore in 1797 and served in many missions, including the Blockade of Tripoli in 1802 and the defense of Baltimore during the War of 1812. She was broken up in Norfolk in 1855.

The second Constellation was built in Norfolk in 1855 (no word on whether they recycled parts from one for the second) and served in the Mediterranean and West Indies before joining the blockade of the Confederate States during the American Civil War. After the war, the ship was assigned to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where cadets trained on it during summer cruises. In the 1890s, the ship was converted to a stationary training vessel in Newport until the Navy stopped sail training in 1920. In 1914, it was cosmetically refitted to an 1814-era look for the centenary celebration of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner. The ship was decommissioned and towed to Boston to be a memorial. Funds were lacking and the ship was towed to Baltimore in 1955. After a decade of repairs (the delay mostly due to lack of funds), the ship was opened as a memorial in 1968 but closed again in 1994 due to extensive dry rot. Another commission was put together to restore the ship and it reopened in the Inner Harbor in 1999. It's been a tourist trap attraction since then.

We visited on a beautiful September day.

USS Constellation, with museum in front and modern buildings in back

Anchor on the shore

Replica of the wheel, also on shore

The original wheel

The museum is interesting but we did not spend too much time there since the kids were eager to see the ship. The diagram below was helpful in seeing how the wheel works as well as providing a preview of how many decks there are to see on the Constellation.

How it works--the helm!

We crossed over to the ship and admired the uncrowded deck (we arrive at our usual time, just when the ship opened at 10 a.m.).

View from the gangway

On deck

We had audio guides which were very helpful. The guide has both adult and child programs, so the more boring technical stuff (or gross medical stuff) is left out for the kids. My daughter enjoyed the description of the bell system for telling time and even tried ringing the bell.

Ship's bell


The front of the ship (the ship's bow) was a fun spot since it had some small cannon and a description of the ship's head, or the toilet that most of the crew used.

Is it safe to admire the view?

The bow

The head explained

We went downstairs to the gun deck.

Larger cannon

The gun deck didn't hold just guns. We found the kitchen area and the captain's quarters, which are quite luxurious by US Naval standards.

Food display

Barrel of biscuits!

The stove

More guns

The ship is definitely more open and spacious than the other ships in the harbor!

Whoops, I forgot what this was!

The captain's quarters is a seven-room suite with his own dining table, a pantry, an office, a bedroom, and his own head!

Captain's quarters



Private bathroom!

Sleeping area

I was amazed to see the windlass (used for raising the anchor) had a below-decks component. Maybe they used it to raise the anchor in bad weather?

Windlass and stairs

Below was the berth deck, where the crew slept and several of the lesser officers had their accommodations and work areas.

Offices for the ship's carpenter and sailmaker

Plenty of hammocks are still hanging and our children could not resist trying them out.

Safely in bed

Too casual


A mess area showed how the crew ate back in the 1800s--no table!

Mess for the sailors

Several offices and work areas on this deck are open for viewing.


Executive officer's room

View of exec's desk

Officers' Wardroom

Chaplain's room

Master's room

The bow of the ship has the doctor's room, which includes several supply cabinets and work areas, including hanging surgery beds.

Doctor's "table"

Medicine cabinet

Medicine and tools

One more floor down was the "basement" of the ship. It was definitely used as a basement, storing spare parts and ropes along with other key supplies.

Blocks and tackles (and anachronistic fire extinguisher)

More equipment

Neat rope storage

The most important stores of all!

A local distillery is using space on board to age their rum. I'll have to get some to try, though I fear the price may be high.

It was a great ship to visit and we highly recommend it!