Archive for the ‘College Park’ Category

Obama’s Remarks At UMD: Good But Not Profound

Photo Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Photo Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Allow me to be somewhat cynical.

Last night I was driving home from a weekend out in Pittsburgh, the four hour trek gave me a lot of time to think and to catch up on podcasts and other pieces of audio. I loaded my iPod with a couple of recent speeches that President Obama delivered: the recent address to the joint-session of Congress and his speech at The University of Maryland from last Thursday.

I wanted to make sure I had a chance to hear both speeches, the joint session address has been newsworthy thanks to a certain impromptu comment from Representative Joe Wilson. It was almost Kanyesque the way he interrupted Obama’s remarks. I also wanted to hear his speech at UMD because someone at work told me it was one of the best speeches he delivered to the young audiences and it made The Pumpernickel say, “Whatever you may think about the health care debate, the man can give a speech. Not only that; he has the ability to inspire people.”

Sounds like a hell of a speech.

So I was listening to the UMD speech as I was cruising down I-76, and it consisted mostly of the same health care message points delivered in the joint-session address I heard previously. It doesn’t come at too much of a surprise, Obama is hard on the trail spreading his message and pleading his case so one could expect to hear a lot of the same points he spoke a week earlier in Congress. He did work his message to make more of an impact to the younger crowd; my ears perked up when he said, “under my plan, if your parents have health insurance and you’re currently on their policy, you will automatically be able to keep your coverage until you’re 26 years old.” As a quarter-lifer I know how health insurance becomes a sudden worry when you graduate from college.

It’s just that I thought I was going to hear something inspiring, the buzz around me led me to expect another profound, mind changing oration. While the speech was well delivered and Obama did a great job in speaking with the young audience (always cool to acknowledge the teeny-bopper that says, “I love you Obama!”), it’s the same message he’ll say at his next stop on the health-care reform trail.

Now I’m an Obama supporter and I  somewhat understand the idea and plans Obama’s putting forth, I just didn’t think that his particular speech is going to be in his Top-5 greatest spoken word moments as I personally come to expect. I’ll say that since I’ve been somewhat isolated from the political scene recently the expectations were mine alone, built up by the people around me. I’m sure to most others the speech was nothing more than the 24-hour news story of the day.

Barack Obama is a great speaker, I thought the best moment in his UMD speech was at the end when he retold the origins of his, “fired up” slogan/chant. He is an impassioned orator who’s complete body of work should inspire all of us around the country. I guess I am just not as super-enthused like The Pumpernickel who ended her post with, “I feel blessed to be living in Washington, DC at this time in our nation’s history, and to be part the American future President Obama says I will help him to create.”

Am I proud to be living in our Nation’s Capital? Hell ya (especially after spending the weekend in Pittsburgh!) Do I believe we are living in a historic time of change? Absolutely.

I hope however people look past the rockstar appeal Obama has and actually listen to what our President has to say after they are done snapping photos of him. Health care is a very important issue in this country and I hope young Americans pay attention to it.

I feel blessed to be living in Washington, DC at this time in our nation’s history, and to be part the American future President Obama says I will help him to create.

Making Science Fair

Props to DrBacchus on flickr

Props to DrBacchus on flickr

Do you remember your first science fair project?   All that research in the library, carefully printing your experimental procedure, plotting your results, and the nail-biting presentation for the judges — it’s all coming back, isn’t it?   Well, thousands of students are going through that same thing right now in preparation for the 2009 District of Columbia Mathematics, Science & Technology (DC MST) Fair on Saturday, March 14 at the McKinley Technology High School from 8:30 until noon.

One piece of this is still needed, and that’s judges.  For the senior projects that means very knowledgeable folks; trust me, these kids are sharp!  For the junior projects, more a more general background is needed.  And really, it’s not all robots!  Expertise is needed in animal sciences, behavioral and social sciences, biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, chemistry, computer science. earth and planetary science, engineering, environmental sciences, mathematical sciences, medicine and health sciences, microbiology, physics and astronomy, and plant sciences. The two top winners here will go on to compete with students from all over the world at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

To be honest, the DC fair has been pretty dismal in the past, owing primarily to a lack of staff support.  I’ve judged science fairs across the region for several years and I can tell you that the DC fair has come a long way.  It was still worth going to even when you were lucky to get a printed list of projects, let alone the catered breakfast and lunch, packet and clipboard, and staff support that’s provided today (by the very generous and competent Walter Reed Army Institute of Research).  The reason it’s worth it is simple: the kids.  These are the ones who have the drive to make a career in science and technology and a difference in the world.  Many have had little or no exposure to the S&T community, so the 5 or 10 minutes you spend with them is priceless.

The deadline to register in DC is March 2, 2009.  See you there?

And on the theme of fairness, here are links to other 2009 area fairs and the hours they are open for judging: 

Northern Virginia Regional Science and Engineering Fair at the Wakefield High School, Saturday, March 7th, 9:30 AM until 1:00 PM

Montgomery Area Science Fair at the Reckord Armory Building at the University of Maryland, Saturday, March 21, 8AM until 5:30 PM

Fairfax County Regional Science and Engineering Fair at the Robinson Secondary School, Saturday, March 28th, 7:30 AM until noon

Prince George’s Area Science Fair at the Howard B. Owens Science Center at the PG Community College, Saturday, March 28th, 7:45AM until 1:00PM.

Market Season Upon Us

When you’re out walking to lunch today, in the glorious spring sunshine, take a moment to think about what you’re having. Is it trucked in by Sysco after being canned somewhere in the midwest? Or is it hauled in from area farms?

I’ve fallen in love with the area farmers markets, which are about to start their season again. The Post sent over a very neat Google Maps Mashup with a bunch of local farmers markets. Be sure to play with the days of the week on the map, as that made me miss my two favorite farmers markets initially.

If you’re interested in Farm Shares, please check out the VABF’s listing of CSA farms in the northern virginia area, most of whom will have dropoff points in the District. It’s not too late!

Strawberries — Originally uploaded by tbridge

IKEA College Park Emergency Exit to Reality

I often get lost in the IKEA College Park maze. That is until I found this secret passage to the outside world.

If you are by the shopping carts and want to escape before your wallet is empty, go right past this nice elderly couple and through that door marked “Emergency Exit Only”.

Don’t worry, there is no alarm, and it will lead you right to the front door of IKEA. Just remember, the front door is entry only. It will not open for you.

You still have to exit by the cash registers, but at least you’re free from the IKEA maze that much faster.

Smacks Forehead in Disbelief

Over the years, I’ve often found myself enlightening various tourists and relatives about D.C.’s voting rights issue and the varied arguments over the “last colony” status of the District. It never surprises me that most people from outside the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area have no idea about D.C. residents’ disenfranchisement, and that they usually assume we carry on like lucky residents of Puerto Rico or Guam, not having to pay federal income taxes as a result of our “special status.” When I inform them otherwise, they’re usually surprised and think it unfair. So imagine my surprise reading this gem today on the Washington Post’s discussion about yesterday’s House bill result:

College Park, Md.: The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration. So says the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

If D.C. gets full voting rights like the other states, then won’t they have to start paying federal income taxes?

Mary Beth Sheridan: D.C. residents already pay full federal income taxes.

This isn’t a tourist or an out-of-towner. This is a Maryland resident in a close-in college town on the Red Line. Shocking? Ignorant? Just amazingly uninformed? An area newbie? I have no idea, but I practically spat out my afternoon mocha upon reading it.

UPDATE: The irony of my saying College Park is on the Red Line. Oh, the horrible irony. Green Line, Green. My own line too. It’s humble pie tonight!

U-Haul Washington DC Website Referral Rip Off

uhaul dc 20009

Are you moving? Do you want to use U-Haul, “your moving and storage resource” for a DC zip code change? Before you type in to make a moving truck reservation, go local.

Go Google Maps for UHaul.

Why? Because if you go to the main UHaul site, they will charge you a $5 service fee to tell the local U-Haul to call you back. Essentially $5 for the U-Haul website to give you a local telephone number.

I just realized this after I called the 1-800 number listed on the U-Hall website and tried to make a reservation for a moving van. They couldn’t guarantee me a reservation for my in-town move, saying they would have to call me back.

As I am in Egypt this week, gazing at pyramids on Giza Plateau, I asked for their number instead.

A $5 “nonrefundable reservation fee” later, they gave me the phone number of the U-Haul on U Street. Nice. Next time, if there is ever a next time with my half-million dollar mortgage, I’ll save the $5 and call the local U-Haul Company directly.

Before then, you can save $5 and have a better customer service experience. Just call your local U-Haul dealership directly and skip the scam website.

And so the Ikea experience begins

What better task to accomplish early on a Sunday than an Ikea run?

Do not say “sleeping in” or “bloody mary brunch”. Those are for lazy people.

Those that take shopping seriously start before Ikea even opens. Armed with a list and new ideas from the showrooms, its buying time at 10am sharp.

Done by noon, this is the right way to Ikea.

Update: Even Ikea agrees – get your shop on at 10am!

Hot Pads

Perhaps if Wayan’s couch guest is still looking for a place to stay, he should take a gander at HotPads appears to be a mash-up between google maps and wikipedia, offering a user-friendly at-a-glance look at available housing options inside the beltway.

Users can customize their search requirements by zip code, city, county or state, using a variety of variables. A quick Georgetown search turned up not a whole lot, whereas a quick search of my home zip code turned up two rental possibilities.

Looking for a roommate? You apparently can use that feature too, although it turned up zilch for me. This appears to be a great tool for relocation professionals who know naught about the new city they’ll call home. Doing a quick search of cities such as Seattle and Boston turned up a whole lot of useful information.

These three Notre Dame former college roommates moved to the D.C. area and created HotPads in early ’05, relaunching the site last month. The best thing about HotPads? It’s totally free.

Between HotPads and The D.C. Crime Map newcomers to D.C. can learn much more about prospective neighbours before they even put down a deposit. Say ‘sayonara’ to moving in sight unseen, suckers.

CityPaper slams College Park

This week’s CityPaper cover story goes after the home of the University of Maryland in just about every way possible.

What local colleges have a better student life than College Park? Strayer, AU, Georgetown, GW, Southeastern, GMU, Howard, NOVA, Catholic, Montgomery College, Marymount, Gallaudet, UDC…

…stocking the student body with mathletes has done little to address College Park’s greatest shortcoming: It has the locational charm of a highway rest stop.

…an ugly shopping strip, a scarcity of choice, an air of lurking danger, and the promise of thoughtless mayhem.

That the CityPaper is going after a large commuter school is not surprising. Only one of the five parts of this story takes a look at how College Park is trying to improve itself; the other four parts are details of how bad a place the CityPaper perceives it to be.

Is the CityPaper is being fair with this article? Terps, we await your reply.

Len Bias


Twenty years ago this morning, University of Maryland all-American Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose (The Post). It was one of the most shocking events of the 1980s in Greater Washington, not too mention all of sports. Bias, a Landover native, was a juggernaut on the basketball court who had dominated the ACC like no other, save Michael Jordan — maybe. Having everything to live for — he was drafted by the defending NBA champion Boston Celtics — Bias threw it all away.

In the aftermath, UMd athletics was in shambles. Coach Lefty Drisell was forced out (The Post) and further scandals would kick the Terps off live television for a season. It would take over a decade for Maryland to become a force in ACC basketball again and in 2002 they won the NCAA championship. The Celtics, who were expected to extend their dynasty into the 90s with Bias, have yet to win another championship. Bias’ mother, Lonise, convinced that her son did not die in vain (USA Today), has spent the last twenty years speaking out about drug awareness and parental responsibility. Statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse lend credence to her theory. I saw her speak during my senior year of high school. By then she had buried another son, Jay, who was shot to death (The Post) over a trivial matter in 1990.

To this day, there are still questions as to whether Bias was a regular cocaine user or tried it only once. I have heard rumors that it was an open secret in ’86 that Bias used coke, though that could revisionist history since up until his death, Bias passed every drug test. The late Jack McMahon, chief scout of the Philadelphia 76ers, who had the first pick in the 1986 draft, said `There’s just something about him I don’t like.’ McMahon never elaborated on that before he died in the late ’80s.

In the end, Bias leaves competing legacies — “oh what might have been” and cautionary tale. His mother thinks it is the latter.

Futher reading

Bias Death Still Ripples Through Athletes’ Academic LivesThe Post

Michael Wilbon: The Story of Bias’s Death Should Always Have LifeThe Post

For many, Bias’ death still resonatesThe Wash. Times

Rick Snider: Where has the time gone?The Wash. Examiner

Remembering Len Bias – The Gazette

The Death of Len Bias
– A Post section from 1996

David Steele: Memory of shock, emptiness still fresh 20 years laterThe Baltimore Sun

Len Bias: 20 years laterThe Baltimore Sun

Unforgettable anniversaryThe Boston Globe

What might have beenThe Boston Globe

Lonise Bias biography from Keppler Speakers

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