Being a reporter means being observant. So here's the big news: The tops of the tulips have poked an inch or so above the soil in McPherson Square. That tells us spring isn't far off.

And an amusing aside: National Park Service personnel dumped a load of shredded bark in the square to be spread around the azaleas. It formed a mound. And with hundreds of birds -- pigeons, gulls and starlings -- in the park, what breed established primacy for sitting atop the highest peak of the mound? A gull, of course, another of his breed already having taken the high point atop the statue that is the centerpiece of the square.

Which leads us toward the question: Will our town's famous cherry blossoms that rim the Tidal Basin actually break open during the Cherry Blossom Festival, April 6-12?

The National Park Service, in a press release that says "it's still too early to tell," says its scientists are watching. For a total exercise in indecisive obfuscation, let's tune in to what chief scientist William Anderson had to say, relayed by a Park Service press release:

"The buds are in good shape -- well developed and turgid as spring approaches. On some you can see green poking through at the tip where the bud scales have started to part." The implications of that are left unexplained.

Anderson, the press release notes, has correctly predicted the blossoming dates four of the last five years (although we don't recall the prediction dates), but that it still is too early to predict this year's.

So there you are. You now know as much as anybody. Some Days Are Like That

Hey, here's total frustration! You're involved in a fender-bending accident, you jump out to deal with it and, having done so, you try to get back into your car. Only then do you discover that when you got out, you had locked the car and left the keys inside.

That's my guess as to what happened yesterday when the middle northbound lane of Shirley Highway leading into Washington was blocked during the morning rush hour near the Rte. 1 on-ramp in Arlington.

As one drives past on a freeway, it's impossible to stop and gather information. But using educated perception, that explains why the good samaritan driver of a Virginia state highway emergency truck, halted behind the accident-stalled vehicle, appeared to be trying to open the driver's door of the car in the middle lane as the owner hovered nearby.

Yes, Virginia, to borrow from another context, there is a Santa Claus. Kent Family Footnote

The obituary yesterday of Sherman Kent, 82, a longtime official of the Central Intelligence Agency, deserves a footnote. His father, Rep. William Kent (R-Calif.), a Theodore Roosevelt Progressive, gave to the nation one of its treasures: Muir Woods National Monument, a stately grove of redwoods in Marin County, just across the Golden Gate from San Francisco.