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Ax finally falls on Verizon’s telephone weather line

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It seems somehow fitting that it dawned cloudy and wet on the day Verizon killed its Washington telephone weather line. Far be it from me to say the sky was crying on Oct. 19, 2011, but facts are facts.

The District’s weather line — 202-936-1212 — was the last of its kind in the country. Verizon vowed months ago to shut it down as of June 1. I guess we should be thankful it lived through the summer.

The service dated back 70 years, starting with female operators who read the forecast over the phone. Over time, it got more automated. Since the 1980s, a company called D.C. Weather Services has provided the forecasts, using such familiar voices as Neal Pizzano and Howard Phoebus.

Keith Allen runs D.C. Weather Services, and his crew is already up on another phone line. The service is run by a company called Telecompute, which hopes to subsidize it by finding local sponsors. The number is 202-589-1212.

I don’t know why Verizon wouldn’t allow Telecompute to use the venerable number, which old-timers remember as WE(ather)6-1212. I expect the company’s just being churlish.

But in a way, Verizon has done us a favor. It has reminded us that when all is said and done, corporations exist to do one thing: make money. Any tiny pebble that disturbs the great river of cash as it flows toward the ocean of profit has to be removed. Any ad that touts “tradition,” or shows smiling employees and happy customers and invites you to join a “family,” is so much marketing.

Was it odd that in the year 2011 a phone company — excuse me, a “global leader in delivering broadband, video and other wireless and wireline communications services” — had a number you could call for free to hear a friendly voice tell you whether you needed to wear a sweater? Yes.

Was it kind of lovely? Yes, it was that, too.

The naked truth

In the 20 years since it received its inaugural shipment of naked mole rats — on Oct. 18, 1991, to be exact — the National Zoo has witnessed the birth of nearly 300 of the weird little African mammals.

That is about 300 times more baby naked mole rats born at the zoo than baby giant pandas. And yet the naked mole rat is not the zoo’s international mascot. There is no Fujifilm Naked Mole Rat Pavilion at the zoo.

I suppose that with its pink, wrinkled appearance — a hot dog with teeth is one of the kinder descriptions — the lowly Heterocephalus glaber is destined to be eclipsed by more cuddly creatures. Never mind that recent research suggests the naked mole rat’s DNA may hold the key to the fountain of youth.

Of course, the NMR does have some unfortunate traits. It is bereft of hair, except for in its mouth and between its toes, which is kind of gross. And in the past 10 years, not one of the zoo’s baby naked mole rat has lived to adulthood. The queen — the naked mole rat social structure is like a beehive — stops caring for them, allowing them to die. No one is quite sure why.

But I’ll tell you this: It is much more mesmerizing to watch naked mole rats scurry about in their Small Mammal House display than some sedentary, bamboo-chewing beasts I could name.

In other animal news, the votes are in, and Jordy came in second in the National Postal Museum’s Owner Look-Alike Contest. I’m bitterly disappointed that the Arlington County mutt was bested by Bentley, a canine from California, but I suppose now is the time for healing.

Back pages and pet sounds

Few Washingtonians are as well-traveled and well-read as State Department employees. Items they’ve picked up will be on sale this weekend at a book and art fair sponsored by Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide. There are even books from Henry Kissinger’s personal library. The sale is Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the State Department. Use the C Street entrance, and bring an ID. For information, visit www.aafsw.org.

Speaking of obsolete technology, just as some people crave the feel of paper between their fingers, others love the warm sound of vinyl. They’ll be at Rosslyn’s Artisphere from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday for the D.C. Record Fair. More than 30 dealers will be selling LPs and 45s. As a guest DJ, I’ll be spinning records — all by Washington bands — from 2 to 3 p.m. For information, visit www.thevinyldistrict.com.

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