Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Smithsonian Alternatives near the Metro (subway)

With the Smithsonian set to close until the government reopens what is a tourist in DC (or perhaps a bored furloughed local to do).   Here are a few public transit friendly alternatives. 

If you are looking for an art museum, try the National Museum of Woman in the Arts

Located near so many metro lines, it's a breeze to get here. https://nmwa.org/visit/visitor-information

If you are looking for a kid friendly museum try the National Building Museum.   

Located across the street from the Judiciary Square Metro stop they have large blocks, small blocks, and a playroom.   Do be aware the playroom is limited to a 45 minute time block and sometimes the passes to it sell out (more likely with Smithsonian not open).   The other area with blocks does not have a limit (at least as far as I'm aware).   They also have some exhibits for adults.   https://www.nbm.org/  Another good option that is free is the play area in Tyson's Corner Mall.  It is a good ways out of the center of the city in Virginia, but has completely car free access.   I would mainly recommend it Monday-Friday, due to the potential for track work and crowding.   http://www.tysonscornercenter.com/

If you are looking for history try the Spy Museum.   

I was actually going to recommend, National Geographic, but unfortunately upon researching found out National Geographic will be closed to set up for its next exhibit until well into February.     So I'm going to go with the Spy Museum.  You can use either Gallery Place or Archives metro stops.   These stops are close together and it's in between the two of them.   While there you may also want to check out the US Navy Memorial near the Archives Station.   https://www.spymuseum.org/

If you are looking for something on the military or Judaism try the National Museum of American Jewish Military History.    

Located near Dupont Circle, this is a unique and interesting museum.   They also sometimes have special events.    https://nmajmh.org/

If you are looking to ice skate, try Kettler Iceplex.    

Personally, I like this much better than the Smithsonian Ice Rink anyways and it's about the same price.   It's located in Virginia, but the Ballston Metro stop it's located at isn't very far outside of DC, only about 10 minutes.    Kettler has two rinks.   Definitely check in advance for public skates times before coming as the rink is only sometimes open for public use (but usually at least once daily and usually more than that)   In addition to the standard circle skate there are also options for pick-up games for other ice sports.   The also have a kids skate called "Recess at the Rink" which doesn't require kids to skate in circles and with toys on the rink.    The rinks are big, well maintained and indoors.     Do bring two quarters for the lockers if you need one-that is one of two flaws with this rink.   The second which isn't the rinks fault is that Arlington country with it's useless project of the month (in this case changing a mall into a yuppie mall) has made the rink harder to find and has temporarily destroyed the car-free access that used to be enjoyed from the metro station.   There should be a new pedestrian bridge though soon to replace the perfectly good one that was there before (after finally listening to residents and realizing without the bridge the mall was going to be a total fail).    https://www.medstarcapitalsiceplex.com/

Rachelle Kaufman is the author of the Kaufman Green Guides Series, plus several other books including Now I Know My European Language Colors and An American Jew in Budapest.   


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Quick Vegan Guide: London (UK)

It's actually a bit challenging to write a quick vegan guide to London because there is so much vegan food in London.   In fact, I plan to do several additional vegan guide blog posts because there is so much to write about.   This is also my first trip to London as a vegan and there is so much that I have left undiscovered I don't even feel like anywhere near an expert on the vegan scene in London.  But I'm going to share what I did learn here and in other blog posts. 

I'll start by saying if you don't have time to plan ahead and are okay with eating vegan food at non-vegan restaurants you will be fine.   Most restaurants seemed to offer at least one vegan option.  If a restaurant didn't you could just go to the neighboring restaurant and probably find a vegan option.    Even the hotel restaurant where we stayed called the "Beefeater*" had a vegan burger.   Yes, I know that beefeater is a term that refers to Tower of London guards, but still.   

Pret-A-Manger is everywhere and almost always has well labeled vegan options.   They even have simple gluten-free vegan options such as sliced apples with almond butter.   Chipotle is also in central London offering the full range of vegan options including the vegan tofu.   The Chipotle where I live doesn't offer that so it was my first time having the vegan tofu and I was surprised how good the tofu was. 

There are also several centrally located vegan and vegetarian restaurants with a lot of vegan options.  Enough to really be another post.    I will mention though my favorite that I tried was Sagar an Indian restaurant with several locations.   They also have a vegan sampling plate with small portions of lots of their vegan options.    While I will admit I have not been there, I have also heard a lot of rave reviews about Blacksmith and Toffeemaker which is a 100 percent vegan pub/restaurant. 

You shouldn't have much of a problem finding something to eat at most museums either.   In fact, I plan to write a separate guide to vegan food at museums in London and I'll link to it when it's done. 

We also like to grocery shop while we are on vacation both to save money and for health purposes.   You won't find it difficult to find vegan staples like plant based milks, etc.     Grocery stores are also plentiful in London, although you may have to go slightly outside the hardcore downtown areas.  Tesco (a common grocery store), also carries the Wicked Kitchen plant-based/vegan food line of meals.   

In conclusion, London might be my favorite vegan city taking into account food combined with my general impressions of the city. 

Looking for my other quick vegan guides.  See below:
BWI E terminal
International Air Travel
Kansas City
Little Rock Airport
Mall of America
Reykjavik (Iceland)


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Are SUVs vegan?

The short answer is no, they are not.   But the reasons might not be what you think.   

I've also heard that vehicles often use some animal products in them.   But I'm not going into that here because that is beyond the point I'm going to make. 

My point is SUVs needlessly take lives.   Let's look at some research below.   To quote from a study quoted in an article written by Naomi Buck which you can read here  to learn more**:

"Researchers at the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute have concluded that a pedestrian hit by an LTV (light truck vehicle, which includes minivans*, pickup trucks and SUVs) is more than three times more likely to be killed than one hit by a car – less due to the vehicle's greater mass than due to its height and the design of its front end".

*I'm staring minivan because according to "High and Mighty:The Dangerous Rise of the SUV" the kill rates from minivans are actually much lower than SUVs and pick-up trucks.   However, the kill rates from minivans are still higher than those of sedans thus minivans should only be considered as an option if absolutely needed".   

As vegans the goal is to do the least harm to animals and the vulnerable.   Humans are animals too and cyclists and pedestrians are the vulnerable.     As vegans it is our duty to protect the vulnerable.    

I often hear other vegans talk about the horrors of horses in urban areas pulling tourists on busy streets.   And I do agree that this is wrong.   But our duty goes beyond condemning this practice.   It is our duty not to endanger the horses.   Certainly the least we can do is to not drive a SUV that puts the horses at excessive risk...and better yet not driving or being driven in a personal vehicle whenever possible.    

There is also the issue of the suffering of animals all over the world due to climate change.   This would also include human animals.   Even hybrid SUVs pollute needlessly and excessively compared to hybrid cars.   And the best options anyways for the environment are walking, cycling or public transit, so when not needed avoiding personal vehicles entirely.   And in urban and urbanized areas personal vehicles are rarely needed.   

As the vegan movement moves beyond, just looking at avoiding animal products in food and clothing, not owning SUVs is something the vegan movement really needs to take into serious consideration.    

**Another article I recommend to read more on this is Lloyd Alter's here.


Monday, May 14, 2018

Quick Vegan Guide: Mall of America: 2018 Edition

 Updated: Vegan options have greatly increased at Mall of America, since my previous quick vegan guide to Mall of America.   Also in very exciting news Mall of America is getting an all vegan eatery called Earth Burger!   Sadly, it wasn't open yet so here is what we got for you. ... Many restaurants and fast food places are now offering vegan options, although I can't say any of the food is amazing!  In fact, it was so unremarkable we forgot to take pictures of it!   Sorry!

But I have to say the options are really much improved from our last trip a few years ago.  One note though: vegan food is fairly limited before 11 am.   If you are staying at the mall get food the night before (the Marriott has mini-fridges) and if you are visiting early bring your own. 

With options so numerous we will list them below with a few notes.  For more details, we will be working on an updated Bloomington book and separate Twin Cities book probably available sometime early next year.   But for now:

Chipotle:   The usual-I'd guess most people have heard of it!   Fairly easy to eat vegan there.   Burrito/Mexican food.

Earth Burger: All vegan.   Wasn't open yet when we visited so can't really comment. 

Masu Sushi: Probably the most vegan options of any place until Earth Burger opens up.   As a sit down it's a little more expensive and portions aren't that big.   They have probably at least 8 vegan dishes, not even including a number of vegan sushi rolls and appetizers.   On third floor.

Naf Naf: Middle Eastern food- Doesn't have a huge number of options-but I'd say at least half of there menu is vegan and items that are vegan are labeled vegan.   Until Earth Burger, probably my top choice for a fast food option.   On third floor in food court area near the golf course.   

Noodles and Company: The Japanese pan noodles are vegan and an off menu option is the spaghetti and meatballs without the meatballs. On third floor. 

Panera:  Has a vegan lentil/kale soup type thing.   Sometimes seems to come with bread sometimes doesn't: not sure why!  Small and a bit pricey for what it is, but a bit healthier than a lot of other options.   Also fruit cups.   Also have peanut butter and jelly, but beware it comes with a yogurt stick, so be sure to request they leave the yogurt off.  On third floor.

Qdoba:  Burrito/Mexican Food.  Similar to Chipotle.  On third floor food court near the golf course.   
Subway:  Beware the veggie patty is not vegan.   However, you could get a sandwich with just bread and vegetables. 

Thai Express:  Can make a lot of the menu vegan.  Has special vegan sauce, so make sure to specify vegan.   It is labeled on the menu which dishes can be made vegan.

As far as we know, the mall doesn't have a grocery store, although they do have a few places that sell food products such as Five and Under. 

And one other side note I feel worthy of mentions on the shoe shopping front:  Tom's actually has a number of vegan shoes and labels which shoes are vegan.

Mall of America is huge and I'm sure I've missed something.   If you know of additional vegan options please let us know in the comments! 


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Good news: Arlington County Virginia just made it more expensive to park

It just got more expensive to park in Arlington County Virginia.   The  so called "walkable" community of Arlington despite bragging about "carfreeism" and walkability, generally in practice favors drivers.

But in good news the county in the 2019 budget included an increased parking meter fee of 25 cents per hour and extended paid hours to 8pm, instead of the current 6pm. 

Granted this is mainly a revenue move, but it will have great benefits in that it will discourage bringing cars into areas where they are absolutely not needed.   Most central urban areas of Arlington have a metro station, multiple buses and there is a decent sized biking community.   Not to mention many pedestrians.  Even more so eliminating the 6pm to 8pm time slot might have an even bigger impact on discouraging SUVs which are 3x as likely to kill pedestrians and cyclists.  As many kids go to bed early this will discourage families with their mostly 2 kids, who probably drive SUVs because they can't cope with their existence as parents; despite claiming it is for other reasons or just getting defensive when the topic is brought up.   By the way the statement that SUV drivers don't like to acknowledge the existence of their offspring,  actually comes from auto company research. 

Anyway, yay for parking meter increases!   Keep them coming- in Arlington and elsewhere. 


Sunday, March 4, 2018

This is what public transit and train travel looks like for a family in Oslo, Norway vs Washington DC/New York City, United States

The city to city train

United States: Pray that someone will help you get the stroller and everything else you need up the difficult steps.   Think about not taking the stroller next time and then realize you don't want your child to run onto the tracks.   Get on the train and pray that the air conditioning/heating isn't broken.  Try to confine a small child to the seat, as they try to escape.   Try to keep them entertained with what you have on your back.      Hope that no one gets too annoyed by the crying from screaming child who wants to run around, although at this point you really don't even care if they are annoyed.   

Norway: Board in a special car designed for families and have attendant help you with the stroller.   Take your child to the playroom where they can run around, watch tv and drop books in a hole in a desk.   Enjoy happy screams, that no one there is offended by because it is the kids car.      

The Subway

United States: In DC pray the elevator works...but mostly pray that you don't get to your destination to find the only elevator is broken and the only options are a giant multi-story escalator or heading back home. In New York abandon any hope of their even being an elevator and plan on taking advantage of the swing gates while first scanning at a gate you can't even go through if you have anything bigger than an umbrella stroller because the wider gates require you to have a handicap card.      Both: Pray they don't close the doors on your stroller.   

Norway: Take it as a given that elevators actually work.  

The Tram

United States: Would be easier to complain about the tram if more of them existed.   After all why would you put a platform in the street when you could overpay some contractor to build a gigantic structure around every train stop (maybe if your you might even get a kickback from said contractor!).    

Norway: Get on the tram with child in stroller...and ride.   

The Bus

United States: Struggle to hold onto toddler while struggling to fold stroller-if you are lucky someone helps.  If you don't fold stroller be prepared for bus driver to waste 10 minutes arguing with you about how you can't get on the bus instead of stopping bus and helping which would take about 2 minutes (yes I actually saw this happen on wmata and it really was 10 minutes).  Have someone on the bus comment on how car seats should be required for bus, while they sit in the seat you desperately need to be able to hold onto your stroller and toddler.  Ask them exactly how you are supposed to carry a folded stroller and a 25 pound toddler in a car seat at the same time and what you do if no seats are available?   Even if this is possible wonder how this would work for a parent with two small kids?   Repeat drill when getting off bus.   But wait actually this is only a visualization of how this would work/what you have seen happen to other people because this whole process is so complex you pretty much can't fathom riding the bus by yourself with a toddler, requiring your spouse to waste sick leave so they can stay home while you go to a doctors appointment and only venturing out with toddler to what is walkable to you or near a subway station (apology for the terrible run-on sentence).   

Norway: Push your stroller with toddler in it onto the bus....the end.   

The Walk Down Mainstreet

United States:  Dodge jaydrivers in their oversized vanity SUVs, knowing full well the police will never do anything about these selfish idiots who care more about vanity than other peoples lives.   

Norway: Enjoy a mostly car free mainstreet, where you don't have to worry about turning vehicles for the most part.    Realize that even the few crossings don't have many cars because Oslo smartly removed parking.   


Friday, February 9, 2018

The flu season-why it's really so bad and how we caused it

In short here is the answer-global warming.   But how you say?

Let's trace backwards:

  • A massive outbreak of flu hits.   

  • People don't get what they need to fight the flu effectively.  IV bags are in short supply, allowing victims of the flu to spread it more rapidly through hospitals and elsewhere.   Rather than hanging an IV bag, nurses sit in patients rooms pushing fluids which give the nurses more time to get exposed to the flu and then to spread it to other patients.   Secondly, people's immune systems are weaker because they aren't getting the vitamins they need in natural form because so much produce is being shipped from really far away this winter.   But why these problems?

  • The IV bag shortage happened because in North America Puerto Rico produces the vast majority of IV bags.   When the hurricane hit production halted and then only slowly returned.   Meanwhile much of the US produce supply is grown in Florida.   When the hurricane hit Florida much of the produce supply has destroyed.   But why?

  • Now that much of the mainstream media is owned by companies that do a lot of polluting they are blaming El Nino.   El Nino, as far as I'm concerned, is fancy scape goat which people blame for stuff they don't want to admit they caused.   For example, one author wrote a whole book blaming it for why Africa and other parts of the world are poor-obviously it had nothing to do with European countries colonizing and oppressing these countries (sarcastic).   The same goes for hurricanes and global warming.   We will discuss how next.   Add in the Trump regime that didn't want to send aid to Puerto Rico-its own territory-only to ignore just how useful Puerto Rico is in that it produces much of the medical supplies for North America.  

  • We are seeing more storms like hurricanes because there is more water in the atmosphere.   Ice is melting in both the Arctic and the Antarctic.  This is causing more water in the atmosphere.   But why?

  • The earth in warming due to global warming.  And most people are doing little about it.   Most people still eat meat and dairy, causing there to be far more cows than natural.  Turns out the gas (farts) cows produce does a lot of harm and it not at all sustainable.   Rather than invest in public transportation , safe walking spaces and protected bike lanes, instead in the United States and China remained obsessed with private vehicles and even worse yet wastefully bought more SUVs than ever.  Eight year of a Democrat in charge equaled public transit systems that were often the same or worse than eight years earlier and the highest vehicle use the United States has ever seen.   Meanwhile the media gave the message all you have to do is get reusable bags and the world will be saved-even if you drive them to the store in your massive gas guzzling SUV that you don't need and fill them with grass fed meat and dairy.   Nope if you do that, you might enjoy patting yourself on the back, but you are the problem.