February 14, 2006

National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissions

We are finished with most of our NARUC meeting activities. The time has gone too fast. We had nine attendees and several guests at our sessions, which is always gratifying. I have a goodly list of things to do and to look at when I get back to work, which is the best reason for coming to these. We talked about Ed's RSS talk this afternoon and agreed that the face-to-face and discussion that followed is so much more effective than any e-mail exchange or Web page viewing, no matter how compelling, could ever be. That's why we come here.

We decided to hold the next meeting, later this year, on our own, in the hopes of some people who can't work their ways up the queue to attend meetings with the rest of their agencies' staff, can attend when it's not with the rest of NARUC. Coeur d'Alene and Seattle were mentioned as possibilities, so I'll start to work up possibilities for a Seattle meeting. It would be nice to pull in some of our staff to present and listen to our colleagues at such a convenient location.

February 12, 2006

National Museum of the American Indian, DC

National Museum of the American Indian North Pacific Coast exhibit flyer
I took my free morning and walked down to the Mall to visit the Smithsonian. Overnight, about six inches of snow had fallen, though only three or four inches stuck around the hotel. I'd heard that DC has had trouble with snow removal, but I didn't see any evidence of that today. The streets were clear and there were usable sidewalks the whole way.

On the way, I went a little out of my way to complete a task I'd set myself last fall, when we'd visited Vancouver for a weekend. On the way out of town, we detoured to the airport to see Bill Reid's Spirit of the Haida Gwaii sculpture. It's a wonderful, monumental work, in a dark, jade green. And there's another casting, in black, at the Canadian Embassy, along Pennsylvania Ave. Today, it was covered in snow. The viewing is better in Vancouver, where it's placed in the center of a little amphitheater. Here's is poked into the corner of the courtyard, with rails around it. Still, it's a beautiful, powerful work and I was happy to have seen it again, anew.

Then, I went to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian to see the exhibit of North Pacific Coast peoples. I first visited this new museum last year and I was very impressed. The previous Smithsonian exhibits of Native American articles I'd seen, in the Natural History museum, were hideous.

My favorite museum is the Makah Museum, which I had the chance to visit twice, when my kids were in fifth grade, thanks to Mr. Hickle. I love this little museum because it was built by the people descended from those whose artifacts are preserved and presented in it. I found it beautiful that the articles were described using the words "ours" and "us."

Something of this spirit is retained in the exhibits in the National Museum. The exhibits, in general and in the case of this exhibit of North Pacific Coast peoples, are developed in cooperation with the people's themselves. Visitors might come away realizing that they have missed the "overview" -- the map of the "tribes" and their distribution before so many of them were wiped out. Small loss, in my opinion, when compared against the vitality and real understanding that comes from the people telling their own, distinct stories. Wonderful exhibit in a beautiful building.

February 11, 2006

From January in the BVI to February in DC

I've let this go too long. I'm working on a description of the trip to the British Virgin Islands; in the meantime, I'll work with where I am now.

I just got into my hotel in Washington, DC, where I'm attending the Winter Meetings of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissions. I'm grateful for the opportunity to occasionally travel to interesting cities in my work for the State of Washington. These meetings are a good chance to catch up with some of my colleagues from other states and learn some useful things from them. DC's a pretty interesting town, too, and I always find something energizing to do.

Just arriving this evening was fun. The first half of the flight was over cloudless country, all the way over the Rockies. The second half was cloudy and, as we approached Washington National, we descended through clouds for what seemed like an hour. It was one of those landings: you couldn't see a thing but clouds, until a couple of hundred feet above the runway, when we popped out into snow falling. That made the walk from the Metro stop to the hotel more interesting than usual.