Archive for July, 2007

Crapola City, VA Revisited

My neighbor's dumpster IMGP0162

Sanford and Son, who apparently live across the street from me, have a new development going on. Check out the first post I did about the dumpster and the associated picture. Now look at the picture I took today. Notice something different?

Yep, that old office chair is gone. It sat through at least two rains and likely is full of every type of mildew spore you can think of. Now it’s gone. Who would take such a thing? Is my neighbor or his son Lamont lounging on it even as I type this? I hate to think that, but what else could have happened to it?

Did you take it? Did you? Maybe it was Max who took it, when he dropped off his busted AC unit.

Creative Bamboozling Idea #87: Grape Trellis

I feel like a panhandler. “Hey man, can I hold a dollar?” Except instead of a dollar, what I am panhandling for is some specific size bamboo. Need your bamboo field cleared? Have the pandas finally grazed over to your neighbor’s yard? I can certainly help you clear some of that horrid stuff.

I need some sections of bamboo 1-2″ in diameter and about 6′ long. Preferably already dried. It will become the uprights I use to run some training wires for the grapes growing in my yard. Yes, friendly birds munched on grapes somewhere and pooped the seeds in my yard. That means that in 2-3 years I will have grapes, assuming I stay around that long.

So dear folks, if you have what I need, kindly let me know. I am a monster when wielding a saw or bush axe. Wayan needs some as well, roots and all, so he may join me in the festivities. I think he needs the bamboo for his meditation garden or perhaps to do some environmental terrorism, like you might do with kudzu in warmer locations further south.

Do you have excess bamboo? What is your solution to keep it from overgrowing your yard? And when can I pop over to harvest some?

What to do with a 15-year-old girl

What can I do with a 15-year-old girl? No, put that part of your mind away. This is my niece we’re talking about!

My niece will be visiting next week. I haven’t been 15 in so long that I really don’t know what the young people like to do nowadays. One person suggested taking her to the mall, but that seems so empty and meaningless. A museum? Do kids like museums?

So other than what she will tell me she wants to do (“whatever”), what do you suggest? Do you have a teenage daughter and can give me some insight? Are you a teenage daughter? Even better!

Please, folks – help me out here.

New Nuclear?

Constellation Power has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to put a new nuclear reactor in Calvert county, the fourth to be applied for, nationwide, this year. There hasn’t been a new nuclear reactor built in the US since the Three Mile Island disaster, but with new tax incentives for power providers who get their applications complete before the end of next year, companies are positioning themselves to be able to take advantage of the new situation.

Are we ready for nuclear again? The US kinda freaked out after the Three Mile Island near-meltdown and the Chernobyl disaster, but with power needs proving insatiable, and with fossil fuels being subject to significant negative public attention due to global warming concerns, the timing could be ripe for an expansion of nuclear power.

Will it do anything to lower your power build? Almost certainly not. But, it might decrease dependence on fossil fuels, which can be considered a positive.

“Riding the Whirlwind”

A distributor’s worst nightmare, I’ve given in to the home theater phenomenon when it comes to the movie experience. When I watch movies I want to be transported, and I can’t get into it properly with all the inane audiences yapping and texting. So I’ve curtailed my movie theater outings to special events, films that just beg to be seen on a super large screen. And AFI consistently is the place to go for this kind of transportation.

Sunday nights through September 2 at 7:15pm you can catch David Lean’s masterpiece “Lawrence of Arabia” in “glorious 70mm” as AFI says – and it truly is glorious. The restored print re-released on my eighteenth birthday and has captivated me ever since. Though I’m a huge Peter O’Toole fan, here in his intense cinematic debut, it’s Omar Sharif’s fire and ice performance that really does it for me now (“You will not be in Aqaba!!”). It’s also easily one of the most compelling and quotable scripts of the last century, not to mention, relevant once again.

The beautiful restoration of AFI’s Silver Theater back into an old-school temple of film makes it a great venue to see epics like this one. It sears the screen. You have five chances to escape your couch and go. I suggest you take them.

“With Major Lawrence, mercy is a passion. With me, it is merely good manners. You may judge which motive is the more reliable.”

Don’t Be A Slacker, Inspect Early

Cars Lined Up

Originally uploaded by tbridge.

I realized on Friday that I had forgotten to get my state inspection done for my car, and knowing that Friday was going to be a disaster, I scheduled it for yesterday, only to have my day be interrupted by client needs. This morning when I took my car to the Shell at the foot of the hill, at 9am, I left it in a line of at least 15 cars. Today’s the last day of July, and that means the last chance to be street-legal if your inspection sticker runs out today.

You’d think an online-happy state like Virginia would maintain an online listing of places to have your car inspected, but they claim it’s impossible, with 4200 locations that fluctuate between having an inspector and not having an inspector. However, most service stations and car repair facilities tend to have spots to inspect your vehicle. If you’re expiring in August, head down on Friday or something, just get it out of the way.

Why not free?

After Joe LeBlanc commented on a post yesterday I clicked through to look at his site. Right at the top was a post he’d made about an Alternet article that, in essence, asked one simple question: Why isn’t all mass transportation free?

Joe isn’t convinced, but the more I think about it the more I think there’s something to this idea. One of the impediments I personally identify to using mass transit is that contrary to some people’s claims, it’s not a money saver for me. Until the run-up in gas prices the last few years the biggest costs to me in auto usage were fixed: initial purchase, insurance, basic maintenance. Even now the $90 a month I spend in gas doesn’t all that significantly exceed the $400+ I pay in car insurance every six months. If I could trim that down to 1/3rd I’d still be easily offsetting that $60 in savings on fares and metro parking. I’d rather let someone else do the driving so I can sit back and read but I think that’s a minority position. It’s also more of a time investment if I’m traveling off-hours.

Given the impact and costs to us of driving I’m not sure making Metro and buses free wouldn’t be a wash. I’m not talking about pollution, though I’d be happy to suck less fume when I wander the mall. I’m talking about the costs we incur on things like road maintenance, which given the number of metal plates I drive over when I am in the District is clearly not negligible. I don’t have facts to back it up – I don’t know if the matter has ever even been studied – but I’d also wager that on average a Metro rider is more likely to hang around and spend some of their salary in the District before commuting back out of the city, improving tax revenue.

If the regions surrounding the District are really interested in combating congestion I propose this solution to them: issue a SmarTrip card to anyone who fills out the paperwork with proof of residence within a certain area and, at the end of every month, rebate their fare charges. You could encourage carpooling to the stations themselves by NOT rebating parking fees. Using SmarTrip this way would allow each region benefiting from the reduced driving to pick up cost based on their benefit of keeping a car off the road. You could even generate an algorithm such that DC kicks in a larger percentage of the rebate if the person comes in at unusual hours or stays a certain quantity of time outside 9-5, meaning they likely spent some money in the District rather than just sat in their office.

I can hear some naysayers – why should Virginia or Maryland pick up any of the cost to travel to the new stadium? Again, the beauty of SmarTrip: they don’t necessarily have to. You get onto the Metro system in Silver Spring and get off at the South Cap station within an hour of game time there’s a certain probability you’re heading to the game. Maybe all the roads between there and the stadium are DC roads so DC picks up the cost: it’s the city that benefits by keeping you out of your car. If you’re coming in from the Vienna metro, however, you’re being kept off of several miles of VA road, and there’s some motivation to get you on the Metro. Clearly we recognize that this to some extent is a good idea: look at the plans to offer a lower stadium fare. Well, $0.00 is lower….

If there’s any local politicians reading this, let me offer you one suggestion: you don’t need to get into a partnership with all the other local governments to do this or get WMATA to agree to it. You could already offer a full fare rebate to any of your residents if you wanted to. The only thing you’d need that you can’t get on your own would be the ability to get the transit records for a registered resident, something WMATA could provide you if it wanted to, with the traveler’s release.

Holy Identity Fraud, Batman

Now, I’ve heard of using someone else’s identity to get a credit card, or maybe even a car loan, but using it to get an entire house in Springfield?!?! That’s some chutzpah right there. With Jose Lara’s stolen wallet, Elizabeth Cabrera-Rivera got a $419,000 townhouse in Springfield with his documentation, then deeded it over to herself as a gift.

Three parties were involved in the case that probably should’ve caught that something was wrong: WestStar Mortgage, who did the first no-money-down mortgage, Fairfax attorney Rocco J. DeLeonardis who handled the deed, and BB&T Bank who refinanced the house. It wasn’t until Lara got a check for returned closing fees at his Winchester home that something was clearly wrong, and he got BB&T involved. They did the right thing and got Cabrera-Rivera and her husband Lorenzo Castro to come back to the bank to fill out some more paperwork where they were arrested by the Arlington Police.

What’s really odd? They were making the payments on the house, just fine.

From Rags to Riches

Heavy Duty

You know you’re looking at an incredible photograph when something as simple as a washing machine catches your eye for more than five seconds. Hoffman’s 14th Street washing machines, as filthy as they are, are a sensory treat for me. His use of black and white is essential here, as a color version would probably distract too much from the repeating patterns, perfect exposure, and amazing lighting, as well as take away from the industrial vibe. There’s something very futuristic about this photo, yet very “old world” at the same time.

Like any great photo, it conjures up a memory for me – the last time I was forced to use a laundromat in Marseille.

And you?

Fighting Homelessness in Fairfax County

Every time I look at the Fairfax County web page, I see a link titled “Ending Homelessness.” I never looked at it until now, figuring it was another community essentially saying that “someone needs to do something.” I have heard this before – a mix of vague instruction and diffusion of responsibility. It makes me cringe to hear folks say that, knowing full well that they aren’t going to do anything.

So today I clicked on the link and found that Fairfax County actually has a plan. The last place I lived, Crap City, MA, had a plan as well – to make the city less attractive to homeless people so they would go somewhere else. That was both a bullshit strategy and an ineffective one.

Here is Fairfax County’s strategic plan to fight homelessness (PDF). It lays out the scope of the problem, a way of dealing with it and seems somewhat realistic. People have actually put thought into this, not just hot air.

Something that impressed me about Fairfax’s plan is that there is a section for what you can do to fight homelessness. It isn’t much, but it’s something. I think we should all spend some time working directly with or otherwise supporting homeless or low-income people to help them better their lives. There are plenty of opportunities – food banks, soup kitchens, shelters, education programs and more. Having worked with homeless folks and at-risk youth for more than two years, I can tell you it’s an incredible and very humbling experience.

What do you currently do or plan to do in this effort? Can you commit to helping others even a few hours per week?

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