November 2011 Archives

Date Night with Leon Panetta and CaBis

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Look! Bikes at the Shaw metro station.

The Help and I went on our date night last at i Ricchi (1,000 Opentable points plus a Spotlight coupon) and two or three tables over was the Secretary of Defense. You'd think such a restaurant would have great food if it can attract the likes of Mr. Panetta, alas no. With the exception of the soup, I've had better at Olive Garden. Maybe it was the atmosphere, which was great, once I got comfortable with something I noticed. Almost all the waitstaff were African American men, giving me throwback visions of what dining in the early half of the 20th century must have looked like. But hey, this place hires black men for the front of the room, which is a good thing and sort of makes up for the crappy entre that ruined my meal. Seriously, I have dined at some pretty pricy places in DC and the quality of what we had for the prices stated on the menu, didn't match, with the soup being the exception.

Cut & Paste- Sustainable DC

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We have plans already but it looks interesting-

 Please join Mayor Vincent C. Gray  tomorrow, Tuesday, November 29, 2011,  from 6:00 to 8:30 pm at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (Room 202B) to hear about the progress from the "Start in September" outreach and to meet the  working groups established to help develop recommendations to make Washington, DC the greenest, healthiest, most inclusive and livable city in the nation!


Working groups will meet for the first time to hear Mayor Gray outline his vision and objectives and to help map out the Sustainable DC planning process. Then, they will break out into nine topical groups:  the built environment, climate, energy, food, nature, transportation, waste, water, and the green economy and begin lively discussions.


We invite you to actively participate in one (or more) of these working groups either as a citizen or to document this District-wide effort in your blog, newspaper, or radio/television program.   Whatever role you choose to play, we hope to see you tomorrow at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and we look forward to working with you to make the District the greenest, healthiest, most livable city in the nation!

Triumph of the City : People not buildings

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Tommy Wells the soon to be Wardman for central Shaw has a book club and will be at the Shaw Library on Monday December 5th. The book for that day is Triumph of the City by Edward Glaeser. Thursday night I downloaded the audio verison from Audible and gave it a half listen while I multitasked at work. I'll have to give it another go through as there were parts where I was not engaging with the book.

What did stick with me was something I've heard repeated in another venue, people not buildings. In my case it is the ocassional sermon/homily to remind us that a church is not a building but its people, and likewise with Glaeser, a city is its people not its buildings. So there are calls to invest in the people with education and such.

Not that the author doesn't talk about buildings. He does, and mentions how wrong the patron saint of urban planning, Jane Jacobs, was wrong. Jacobs liked older buildings and disliked really tall ones. Glaeser points out that taller buildings, allow for a greater population density which allow a city to be greener (factoring heating, transportation, etc) and gives Mumbai as an example of the problems brought about by lots of people in a city with height restrictions. Singapore, on the other hand is a gleaming city-state with 5 million people and really tall buildings. I should ask Kim (he's Singaporean not Korean) over at Field to City why he left such a urban wonderland.

While listening I was wondering how this book applied to DC. Well, loosening up the height restrictions would be one, particularly for areas along the DC/Maryland border. Second would be investing in people, mostly with education. The charters, which began trying to coax parents to give them their children now have waiting lists. I'm seeing some improvement with the DC Community College, so that's looking good. But the thing with investing in people is you've got to be okay with letting them go. You are currently enjoying the investment made by the property tax payers of my home county, the State of Florida and the local county branch of a national bank. I can't think of a third point, I'll have to listen to the book again.

Pre-T Day Misc

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House Watch for the Holidays

The awesomeness that is Commander Andy Solberg, announced that if 5D residents contact him the police will keep an eye on your house while you're away for the holidays. The terms of the house watch is that the police will make an effort to drive by your house, front and rear. That's Andrew dot Solberg at DC dot gov. For the rest of y'all, I don't know what your PSAs are doing.

Still tell trusted neighbors to pick up fliers, contact the Post Office to hold your mail, and stop the newspaper.

Canning the front yard

Yesterday I canned a pint of arugula. I used the rules for spinach. I tend to use the pressure canner for stocks, but I have used it for solid items and I think I need to fill the jar will less solid matter because a lot of the liquid just seems to boil out of the jar.

It didn't take much arugula, just about 5 or 6 plants, and I cut those down because they were big and shading some of the winter salads. I believe if I cut more down to a reasonable level I could get 7 more pints. The arugula will survive the winter, as well as the winter salads, but our need for fresh arugula is pretty low. I hope to use the canned arugula like greens or see how it turns out in a saag paneer, minus the paneer. I've used fresh arugula for the curry but never canned or frozen, so we'll see how that turns out.

I am very thankful for having a yard that provides my family with food.

Jerry Weinberger of the City Journal, a libertarian occasionally conservative journal on urban affairs, claims in his article "Gentrifying Washington, DC" it does. So he uses an incident on his street in Capital Hill to illustrate his point.

Friendlier? Eh, I don't know. The drug dealers on the corner were friendly. There is a new crew of old guys selling, old as in their 40s looking 50, which makes me appreciate good living and exercise. They pretty much ignore anyone that doesn't look like they're buying and may grumble a greeting if you pass close by, maybe. Cindy (the ex-crackho) is still as friendly as when she was selling herself cheap. The block I used to avoid, has a friendlier vibe. That one is hard to gauge.

More diverse? Yes. First let's define diverse. More than just one type of demographic. Shaw and more specifically the TC had been overwhelmingly African American for at least 70 years. My TC study showed that the area that from 1880-1920 had been diverse wham! became black and kinda stayed that way until the 2nd wave (I think the 1st was in the 80s) of gentrification. And it is that change to have more economic and racial diversity the cries of gentrification get thrown around.

Christmas related crime


No nothing has happened yet that I know of, but I want to give y'all a heads up on some seasonal problems so that you can do what's best for you.

On the 5D MPD listserv there is a notice of how the Guardian Angels are volunteering on Black Friday around the Columbia Heights metro station to help prevent robberies. Well, that's fine and dandy till you have to get off the metro and lug stuff home, or are getting out of the car near your house.

Also try to avoid having packages sent to your home if you don't have a secure mailbox, you don't work from home, or the like. Unfortunately, Uncle Sam don't trust me to receive mail so I'm going to have things, even if they are used clothing bought off eBay, sent to the Help's work. We need to tell relatives to mail gifts there too. So far after living here for 10 years I've only had one package stolen.

Also, and this is just my pet peeve, crime might have nothing to do with it, but some of you need curtins or drapes or some decent blinds. Riding home at night I can see the whole entire floor of many residences along the way. I can see how big some people's tvs are, and computers, and other neat electronic things. Large windows and 1st level open floor plans will do that to you. In this Facebook age maybe some people like being on full display. Fine. Just know it just easy to scope out your house.

Oh, and.. I almost forgot, secure your rear. This weekend I looked out my back window, hearing the russle of leaves and expecting to see one of the many alley cats. Instead it was a human walking through the alley. And I noticed this human (white if you must know) taking a slow and careful look at all the houses. He wasn't peering over or through fences, just slowly looking at the yards and 2nd floors. He could have been getting design ideas or casing the block. I dunno.

People who talk funny say we're hot

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They spell funny too.

In a BBC-Travel article Truxton Circle and Shaw are mentioned among some other DC hoods as places to live. My only issue is the separating out the TC from Shaw. Though we are politically divorced from the rest of Shaw by Ward and MPD PSAs, but historically bound.

HT- Shaw listserv

Fall-Winter gardening and squirrels are EVIL

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Onion SeedlingThe Darwinistic garden is still going. No pesticides, no fertilizer, hardly any watering, and nothing in nice rows. I don't really do much with it, except cut back, which does help. Sometimes I try to stop the furry little agents of EVIL from digging up my %$@! seedlings. I have some netting over some pots to keep the squirrels from digging up the seedlings that have popped up, but the little devils have figured out how to undermine that effort. Bastards!

The adult sized arugula is going fine. I've used it like spinach when cooking and have thrown bits of it in pasta sauce. Which reminds me, I should have planted spinach, this would have been a great time for it. I'm hoping to try making a curry with it and trying to can it in the pressure canner.

The herbs are great, I now have the Help making use of them. He's figuring out what main herbs are freshly available, so he doesn't make the mistake of buying them, as those things are pricey. I've been making use of the bunches and bunches of parsely and mint to make tabloueh, with the remaining tomatoes that are getting red in the window sill.

The onions are getting fewer in number and everything else I make ramen soup with, and this is why I hate the squirrels.  I buy lots of onion seed, and I broadcast it in the pots and on the ground. In some spots other plants shade the onion seedlings. In other spots the squirrels dig and dislodge the seedlings and they die. I use fresh spring onion in my ramen soup, along with green bean (that's nearing the end of its life cycle) and I'm running out of onions in the yard. A few more batches of soup and I'm going to have to start buying onions.

The salad green seeds I planted in late summer and through fall are doing well, I just need to thin them for dinner. Thinning helps the neighboring greens get bigger. As I mentioned the arugula is doing well, but the Help does not like it raw, too spicy. The mache or corn salad is doing fine and can survive the winter snows, just don't try to harvest them when the ground is frozen.

Shaw Rez manages to stick with it

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Just want to give a quick shout out to a certain young man, who goes by the pen, er blog name of Shaw Rez, author of He posted about the new business that have appeared in his 5 years of blogging and the changes that occured in that period.

So good work Shaw Rez, here's to 5 more years.

Sad to hear neighbors moving

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I and the Help went to celebrate two friends' anniversary and there we found out they are planning on pulling up stakes, and moving to Rural, USA. And not too long ago we found out some other neighbors are also planning to move out to the boonies. Two different sets of neighbors, two boonies, one in fly over country the other within the DC media market, both close to one partner's relatives. And not too long ago a couple who were quite invovled with neighborhood moved to a warm sunny area suitable for aging bones and semi-retirement.

Ah, tis friendship in a transitional neighborhood, in a transitional city. One of our oldest friends has been threatening to move back to Wisconsin for the past 10 years, with the excuse to be closer to his mom. Sadly his mother passed away, but there a other aging relatives he ponders and everyso often will play with the idea of selling the house and moving in with ornery independent elderly uncles.

One of the things I love about living in my neighborhood is running into the familiar friendly faces of my neighbors. There is a warm feeling in my heart when I see my neighbors on the bus, at the farmer's market (BFM ends in Nov), or just on the street. I love that I have friends whose houses I can drop by and visit for a spell. That is something I did not have living anywhere else in the DC metro area. I didn't have it in Hyattsville, nor College Park, nor Arlington.

But as one door closes, yadda, yadda, yadda. I've made new neighbor friends even after some other people moved away from Richardson Pl, New Jersey Av and my own street. But still, I'm sad.

Christopher Sullivan did you get your wallet?

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Saturday a friend of ours found a wallet. It was the 2nd wallet of the day he'd found. So we offered to take the wallet to the address listed on the DC driver's license, which we did. No one was home and so I left the wallet with a note between the unsecured storm door and the door. As soon as we left I had a not so great feeling about it. The house we left it at just seemed unoccupied and bare. Like it might be undergoing a slow interior renovation, minus the permits being shown.

So after we were done with church we went back to the house. Still no one was home, so I took the wallet and went next door. The person there claimed to have just moved in and didn't know who lived in the neighboring house. So we then left a sticky note on the door saying what we did and that's that.

This is not the first wallet I've tried to return to it's owner. You know what would help, really help, if you've just moved and your DL address is now wrong, please have your business card or a in case of emergency call # somewhere obvious in your wallet. This just reminds me, I need to label my cell phone with a "if found" thing. Because yes, there are opportunistic people out there, but there are also many good Samaritans as well and we want you to be reunited with your stuff.

Art and Gentrification

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IT-Logan Cir Art.jpgIT had an exhibit opening over on 14th Street at the HAL gallery in Logan Circle on Friday.

Anyway IT tends to do installations. I love IT and I want to be supportive, but most of the time, I just don't get it. Which was why another neighbor and artist who gave his interpretation was soooooo helpful. To quickly sum up what I saw, the installation was in a small dark bedroom, with a twin sized cot wrapped in a sleeping bag and heavy chains off to the sides. Behind the bed were transparent images of maniquin heads looking away. On the floor there were tiles of cardboard and a tree stump. The tree stump was connected with chain to the bed with chains. There were also photographs of the Logan Circle area circa 1990-something.

So what I can give is a small interpretation of Bri's interpretation of IT's work. If you want Bri's interpretion, you're going to have to ask Bri. I'm interpreting the interpretation. Elements are about gentrification. The cot and sleeping bag represent people who have moved into the neighborhood, who are just camping out in Shaw, until they move on to the next rung in their career ladder. They are not permanent. They are also represented by the dummy heads who do not interact with the viewer. The dummies stand in for the people too ingrossed in their crackberries and smartphones to engage with other people in the neighborhood. The stylishly cardboard tiled floor represents the homeless, another sort of transient. The tree stump represented something else, can't remember now.

Ah I should have written this all out when it was fresh.

What local DC protests need is Go-Go music

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Yesterday was wonderful and I decided to venture out for lunch in the lovely Penn Quarter area. Anyway, along Indiania Avenue, in front of what looked like the PNC bank, there were what looked like the "paid" protesters out and chanting along with a small crowd that lacked the yellow signs about unfair wages. I did not see a large inflated rat.

I avoided that side of the street but I could hear drums, that sounded like plastic pails and a cow bell. Yes, cow bell. I saw the guy with the cow bell did not see the drums. They had a pretty good beat going on and sounded like pretty good go-go music, the only thing missing was Chuck Brown. The young adults off to the side seem to like the music as well and swayed and dare I say, danced. Go-go gave this a distinctive flavor. It was not just a protest, it was a party, a DC party.

More cow bell please.

Friday night, the day before I was to give the presentation about the TC neighborhood, I tested it out on two neigbors, one who gave a lot of good constructive criticism. The attached PDF (Segregation in Truxton Circle 1880-1930.pdf) of the power point presentation does not reflect that feedback. That version is stuck on one of the world's slowest computers and a random CD somewhere under a pile.

Saturday I met Dr. Karl Byrand of the Geography department of the University of Wisconsin, Sheboygan, who was the last presenter of our three person panel. I was the second presenter. His presentation was "The Spatial and Occupational Advantages of Shaw's Mulatto Population in Turn-of-the-Century, Washington, DC". Which brings up some parts of his University of Maryland- College Park PhD dissertation about parts of Shaw from 1880-1920 regarding alley dwellers. When I was doing research on the Truxton part of Shaw and looking through many dissertations regarding race, DC neighborhoods, and urban migration, I came across his paper. When I first spotted it, I thought various four letter words, because from the title I was under the impression he had already done what I half-way did. Once I read it, I saw that he was looking at one particular aspect, and particular blocks, not the same thing I was doing. So it was great to talk with him and meet him, as our topics are so similar.

Right now, I'm going to take a break from the project. I will probably find some interesting tidbits as I finally get around to cleaning my house, and share them. I'll probably get back to it and spend time cleaning up the data after the whole holiday season, say mid January.

Crime and Snopes

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I was going to write about the History Conference, and maybe tonight's BACA meeting, or a topic I've been mulling over ignorant reporters and legally obtaining firearms in the District. But no, an email from a well meaning and retired aunt has set me off.

It was another one of those crime emails that get circulated warning people against some strange evil in the criminal world. Snopes, people, Snopes dot com. I don't know if it's a generational thing, or it's from living in Shaw and being aware or semi-aware of the crime that does happen around here that makes me realize those weird fake crime warning emails are BS on sight. If someone is going to steal your car, they probably will a- steal if off the street or b- seize upon the opportunity you create when you leave your car, with the keys in it for 'just a minute', as one theif did sometime this year in the TC.

I'm going to say it's generational, even though I know of people in her same age range who have figured out this email internet thing is not for spreading urban legends or messages littered with dancing hearts. I suspect, from other emails, the cutesy ones, a lot of people in DC's DPW are of that same age range. Because if I do read the emails and scroll down through the address blocks, I see a lot of addresses.


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I've been thinking about a comment this blog got from about gentrification:

I think we can resolve the apparent contradiction ("damned if it gentrifies; damned if it doesn't") by looking at the post 70's history of DC, and black economic mobility. For about three decades, the focus was on "jobs creation". This took the form of DC government creating as many government make-work jobs as it could (at the cost of fiscal collapse), and putting poor residents into those jobs. This lifted tens of thousands of DC residents--and their families--out of poverty and into the middle-class. They largely moved to the suburbs once they had the means.

Suburbs, probably PG Co., also known as Ward 9.

With gentrification, you've seen a switch in focus away from maximizing public employment to optimizing government services. (Number of public employees went from 30k to 12k between its height during the Barry years and nadir under Fenty)........

Efficiency, probably made the jobs that the city might tried to create to lift some of its citizens out of poverty, unneeded and unwanted. Considering government budgets and bond problems, I don't see a change in the trend. The trend is to do more with fewer people, not just in government, but in business, everywhere.

When I look at period dramas like Mad Men, Life on Mars (British) and Downton Abbey, I see jobs that will be swept away by techology and trends. The chambermaid who wakes up early to light the fires in the great house will be replaced by a good HVAC system with timers and automatic temperature settings. The Afro-American elevator operator will be unneeded as people discover they can press their own buttons. The textile factory workers will all be let go as consumers favor cheaper fabrics from overseas. And personally I wish offices and agencies still had a Joan, keeping the paperwork and the office in order. Oh, and have you noticed the complete lack of a secretarial pool in your office?

In the book Shopcraft as Soulcraft, author Matthew Crawford, makes note of how jobs have been dumbed down, starting with blue collar work and slowly creeping into white collar professions. As the jobs start making specialized knowledge and skills unnecessary, it makes the number of skilled workers, expensive workers unnecessary. So if you need fewer college educated workers, you might not need an army of minimally educated DC citizens either.

So the government, and efficient government, isn't going to hire an army of lower income DC citizens, provide them with jobs, employer sponsored health care and a sense of worth. It's just easier to maintain a paternal system of handouts. Besides if you provided jobs they'd just wind up moving out of the city anyway, which does nothing to hold back gentrification.

Robberies around the NJ/ Q St area

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I hate writing about these things, but in one case at least no one was home to get hurt.

I gather some of you have been following the messages on the Shaw Listserv about the brazen attempted home invasion/robbery of a home on October 29th on a home on Q St. Since the email wondered about a group of men hanging around 5th and Q, I wondered if they are thinking about the groups of guys who hang out on the 400 block of Q St. Of the 5 accused attempting robbers, one Tevin Durant possibly of SE DC, was arrested and found with a gun.

Then the other day I ran into a neighbor who asked about the robbery on my side of the street. What robbery on my side of the street? I then asked some other neighbors and apparently a lone male had banged on the door of one neighbor's house in the middle of the day. The neighbor was in, working from home, but didn't answer the door not recognizing the strange guy banging on the door. So the guy, thinking no one was at home, went around back to the alley, and broke into another neighbor's house. Rowhouses are so confusing from the rear. Using the trash cans from one neighbor's yard to climb into another yard, he opened a rear window and got in. He got away with as many electronics as he could carry. He was wearing bright yellow tennis shoes.

Instead of taking in this information to get scared, take it in and think about how to improve the security of your home. Take a look at your neighbor's yard, if you're in a rowhouse and there is an alley behind you, and see what weaknesses there are that expose you to greater risk. You probably can't do anything about what's going on next door (unsecured back fence, trash cans that can be used to climb into your yard or on to your deck), but you're now aware.

Tonight at St. George's Episcopal Church at 7pm at 160 U St NW. Today 11/1/11. Check out their website at

Addition- see also GGW's series on the topic

Attack of the teenage "Boo"-bies

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Last night the most disturbing outfit I saw came to the door as part of a trio of girls, I'm guessing late teens, maybe early 20s. One of the girls was dressed in a colorful bright costume, the other two, not so bright and they were all using their purses to collect candy. One of the less brightly dressed gals was about 2 cm away from indecent exposure, with her breasts nearly falling out of her push-up cleavagy bra-like thing. When I asked what she was supposed to be, she said Army sargent or lieutenant. Slutty Army sargent? For most of the night Mr. InShaw (aka the Help) was answering the door as I was feeling a little bit under the weather, but when the girls came, he was in the kitchen and I was closest to the door. Thank goodness I answered the door, sheilding him from this possibly illegal sight.

Trick or treating started at about 5:15 as some kids from the house a few doors down came by to collect. We wound down and turned off the light at 8:50pm. Because the Help was answering the door most of the time it's hard to say what the quality of the costumes were and if we got of lame teenagers. Despite me telling him to not reward teens who don't bother, he was very generous with the candy. Of course, we still have lots of candy. A neighbor had given us her stash as she was going to be away that night. So interns and students at my work place will be able to get their sugar fix today.

I did witness some lame parent excuse of collecting candy. A group came, about 3 or more kids with one or more adults. From my vantage point on the couch, I could see 1 costume. So the Help gave out the candy, and then I heard,:

Adult: Oh, gotta get some candy for the baby.

(sound of a big generous handful of candy being dumped into a plastic grocery bag)

Kid: What baby?

The cutest costume was on a toddler. His parents were carrying a little boy who appeared to be two years or less in a little lion outfit with a terry cloth like mane. His eyes had that "I don't know what's going on" look to him. When we asked the little fellow what was he supposed to be, his parents tried prompting him. Still looking a little baffled he let out the cutest "Rowwr" ever. After candy was given he roared a little more, so cute.

Hope y'all had a good Halloween, and have a happy Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos)/ All Saints Day.