Cherries Blooming: The news out of Japan gets bleaker and bleaker, between nuclear reactors (in worse shape than originally believed) and the death toll from Friday’s 9.0 magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami (likely much higher than estimates so far). Word that the National Park Service is sending back cuttings from the original cherry blossoms Japan gave the United States in 1912, to help preserve the genetic line of the trees, isn’t likely to do much to salve the pain there; it’s a small gesture, after all, and it seems to have been planned since before the disaster at any rate. But at least it’s not more bad news. +1

Walk This Way: Transferring between Farragut North, on Metro’s Red Line, and Farragut West, on the Blue and Orange lines, now involves a detour through Metro Center and McPherson Square, plus who knows how long waiting for trains on each line. By this fall, that transfer will simply involve walking across Farragut Square. Metro officials say they’ll finally implement “virtual transfers” later this year, after reprogramming and testing SmarTrip readers at each station so they don’t charge riders for switching between the two. Which is a lot cheaper than actually digging a tunnel would have been, and should help alleviate crowding throughout downtown stops. +2

Ex Post Facto: Things look a little… different today at another D.C. media website beginning with “Washington.” The Post unveiled a top-to-bottom redesign, complete with new commenting features, new RSS feeds for every blog (none of which, alas, include the full text of posts), new fonts, and a new layout that’s reminiscent of the look of the Post‘s iPad app. (The PostLocal page looks like it’s mostly the same as it had been.) As with any redesign, there’s been some grumbling; one friend of ours said it made him pick up the print edition for the first time in years. Maybe that’s the secret agenda! -1

District of College Basketball: The best thing about the NCAA tournament selection show on CBS last night? It didn’t feature Dick Vitale, who was busy shrieking on ESPN. The second best thing? Some potentially excellent games will be played at the Verizon Center this week, starting with Old Dominion vs. Butler starting shortly after noon on Thursday. Local teams didn’t do quite as well as local fans. With point guard Chris Wright back from a broken hand, Georgetown got a 6 seed and will play the winner of a play-in game, possibly helping them salvage a season that seemed to be crumbling; George Mason made it in, and gets to play Villanova, who also seems to be collapsing. But Maryland didn’t get a bid—even to the NIT. So look for Gary Williams sitting in the stands Thursday? +3

Friday’s Needle rating: 48 Today’s score: +5 Today’s Needle rating: 53