Thursday, November 6, 2008

Seeing is Believing -- Electoral Results Using Cartograms

Check this out. This site uses mapping techniques to show, proportionately, how blue and how red the United States is, according to population, electoral college votes, etc. Super interesting. The cartogram above uses red, blue, and shades of purple in between to indicate percentages of votes by county. There are more cartograms on the site. All are worth taking a look at.

Nick's Photo From the Richmond Parade on Election Night 2008

Here it is. Taken with a shaky cell phone. But you can still see all the kids, some of them holding up signs, heading down Broad Street.

Gettin' Down Just For The Funk Of It . . .

Today's suggestion. That we keep the Star Spangled Banner -- because who can't resist the charm of a national anthem with a tune so difficult no-one can really sing it properly -- but add Funkadelic's "One Nation Under a Groove." We could have the traditional option. And the cool option. Just thinking out loud . . .

The Bias Belt

Here is a map of counties where McCain outpolled Bush. Look at the trail of red going south, along the ridges of the Appalachian mountains. It's the Bias Belt -- as in racial bias. Look at Arkansas! It's almost completely filled in. That Obama didn't win the traditional democratic states of West Virginia and Arkansas suggests that racial bias did play a role in the election -- just not a determining one.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Can I Say Again How Much I Love This Man?

From a Newsweek roundup of campaign highlights.

The debates unnerved both candidates. When he was preparing for them during the Democratic primaries, Obama was recorded saying, "I don't consider this to be a good format for me, which makes me more cautious. I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, 'You know, this is a stupid question, but let me … answer it.' So when Brian Williams is asking me about what's a personal thing that you've done [that's green], and I say, you know, 'Well, I planted a bunch of trees.' And he says, 'I'm talking about personal.' What I'm thinking in my head is, 'Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I f---ing changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective'."

Unicorn. Rainbow. Puppy

You know where this unicorn flying over the rainbow with a puppy on its back is going, right? Straight to the White House. Malia and Sasha -- here's your new puppy. Awwwwww!!

Obama Good For Truckers, Pilots, etc.

Not to be a buzzkill, with all the excitment going on and everything, but let's take a minute to shift a gear and steer into a little policy discussion. Obama has promised to establish a National Infrastructure Investment Bank. What does that mean? Read this from a guest blogger.

The Deal

My husband doesn't like flying the American flag. He says it's a symbol of imperialism. But I'm a patriot, and for me, flying the flag is a symbol of my pride in this country and the principles upon which it was founded, in spite of the fact that they've sometimes been shabbily implemented or ignored. I believe in them. When I lived in Maryland, I flew the flag on national holidays, but when I moved to Virginia, since my husband's feelings were stronger than mine, I put the flag away. So, during the election, I made a deal with him. If Barack won the election, we'd fly the flag because it would represent the realization of something truly great in America. A potential fulfilled. So, here I am with our flag. This is one of the best deals I've made in a long time.

They elected Barack Obama and all I got was this crappy T-shirt

Seriously, though. How cute is this? Via Getty Images.

Richmond, Virginia last night

Shortly after 11pm, after CNN had called the election and announced that Virginia was going for Barack, I got phone calls from my two sons. The first called from Clemson, South Carolina to let me know that "we'd won." We talked a bit about South Carolina and how eventually, they'd get there too.

My other son called from Richmond, where he's a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, and he told me that the students there were flooding the streets, singing, yelling, beeping car horns, setting off fireworks, etc. A half hour later he called me to let me know that he was in the middle of an impromptu parade, that they'd shut down six lanes of traffic on Broad Street, and were marching together toward the Capitol. When they got there, the crowd stopped and sang The Star Spangled Banner.

The significance of this celebration, in Richmond, in the state of Virginia, where our nation was founded, in a city that was built on the slave trade and slave labor in the tobacco plantations of the Old Dominion, was almost overwhelming. Nick said, "We've come full circle."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

First to vote in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn

My friend Jo Ann, the very first to vote in her precinct at PS #29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, New York. She was there before the school fireman (that's what they call the main superintendent) and the poll workers. She had a fellow voter behind her take her picture at the voting booth so that she could always remember this historic day.

Discouraging student voters at Virginia Tech

From Politico's The Arena:

"More than 5,600 people, mainly Virginia Tech students, are registered to vote at precinct E1 in Blacksburg of Montgomery County in Virginia. That number is nearly double what the state law allows for polling stations and the lack of an additional polling station is causing substantial delays. In addition, the polling place is 6.5 miles away from campus at a tiny church located off the main road. There is no street sign marking the turn off to the one lane road. There are 30 parking spots for the thousands of voters expected to turn up at precinct E1.

A few months ago in Montgomery County, the registrar of elections issued a statement warning college students that if they registered to vote at school, they could forfeit scholarships, lose health and carinsurance and negatively effect their parents' tax status. The registrar retracted the statement when it was disproved by the Internal Revenue Service, major media outlets, legal and voting rights experts and health insurance companies."

My wife made me canvass for Obama; here's what I learned

First person story about canvassing from, of all places, the Christian Science Monitor.

The gist:

"I learned in just those three hours that this election is not about what we think of as the "big things."

It's not about taxes. I'm pretty sure mine are going to go up no matter who is elected.

It's not about foreign policy. I think we'll figure out a way to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan no matter which party controls the White House, mostly because the people who live there don't want us there anymore.

I don't see either of the candidates as having all the answers.

I've learned that this election is about the heart of America. It's about the young people who are losing hope and the old people who have been forgotten. It's about those who have worked all their lives and never fully realized the promise of America, but see that promise for their grandchildren in Barack Obama. The poor see a chance, when they often have few. I saw hope in the eyes and faces in those doorways. "

What a difference two years makes . . .

Exactly two years ago, SurveyUSA completed interviews with 600 voters in every state (30,000 total interviews), asking them how they would vote in a 2008 Presidential Election between John McCain and Barack Obama

What a surprise!

Virginia election officials warn of phony calls about polling places

I Ain’t Gonna Work on Maggie’s Farm No More

From a guest blogger

I recently got an email from Cox cable telling me that they want me to upgrade my modem. I was good with that because it’s their network, and they know what works best - or at least they should. If they want to replace my original modem for free and it helps streamline their network, why should I complain?

I followed instructions to the letter but it didn’t work. I tried for an hour to make it happen, but because I wasn’t interested in spending another hour on the phone with one of their service people, I emailed them a note saying that if they want me to use the new modem, they will have to send a technician to my house.

I know a lot about computers and networking, but why should I spend my time doing their work?

This is a very common practice among technology companies. They expect users to do their fine tuning. They send a new product to market, software in particular, and wait for comments to come rolling in. They incorporate these fixes and send out patches and updates or even new software.

To thwart this, I always wait a few weeks to upgrade any software or suggested hardware because I know there will be patches or alterations coming along, the result of users bringing problems to the company's attention. I waited the usual several weeks after the modem arrived, didn’t get a follow-up email, and then installed it. My system isn’t fool proof.

From the company’s perspective, it’s free R&D. They get non-employees to do work without pay. I’m tired of this attitude. Get the product right and don’t expect me to troubleshoot it for you. We don’t tolerate this attitude in other consumer products, so why do we tolerate it for computers, software and internet-related services?

(Microsoft wonders why people aren’t flocking to Vista. This is why.)

If I hear from Cox cable, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I put back my old modem and it works fine. It’s their loss, not mine.

A New Citizen Casts Her Vote

A friend of ours, originally from Scotland, who became a citizen last year, casting her first vote in a U.S. Presidential election in Bethesda, Maryland. Look at the happiness!!!!

First person report from swing state Virginia

From Politico

Susan Brophy, Democratic strategist:
I am doing Obama visibility with three friends and here's the report from the corner of George Mason Drive and Leesburg Pike in Arlington: about 35% of the people beeped in support of Obama, from all walks of life, although there seemed to be slighly more support going south; three people gave us the finger and three people gave us thumbs down; Obama seemed to have a lot of support from Fed Ex drivers and people who were driving and talking on their cellphones simultaneously; one Obama supporter threw Snickers at us, which at this time appear not to be tainted. We are changing locations because we have been promoted to door-knockers.

Down so low

It's one thing to hear about Bush's declining approval ratings, it's a whole other thing to see it in a graphic. Damn! That is one hell of a downward slide.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I picked this image up from Jezebel. It pretty much sums up how I have felt about this election from the beginning, and by the beginning, I mean 18 months ago. This is one of the rare instances in my life where I've felt absolutely sure about something without any doubts or anxieties or unsureness. I knew that Obama would beat Hillary Clinton, and then go on to trounce John McCain. It was one of those gut feelings that you can't ignore. I figured that once people got to know him, got to take his measure, they would think and feel exactly as I did, that here was someone who was so extraordinary, there was no other response except to say, "Yes." So, don't say anything to me about how you're worried, that you don't want to think that he can win because if he loses it will be too devastating. Just. Believe.

Just another reason

why I love Barack. The man has common sense. F' real!
From a recent MTV interview.

Sway: I know people have piercings, tattoos. Eric, in particular, is talking about a ban on sagging pants. Do feel like people should be penalized?

Obama: Here is my attitude: I think people passing a law against people wearing sagging pants is a waste of time. We should be focused on creating jobs, improving our schools, health care, dealing with the war in Iraq, and anybody, any public official, that is worrying about sagging pants probably needs to spend some time focusing on real problems out there. Having said that, brothers should pull up their pants. You are walking by your mother, your grandmother, your underwear is showing. What's wrong with that? Come on. There are some issues that we face, that you don't have to pass a law, but that doesn't mean folks can't have some sense and some respect for other people and, you know, some people might not want to see your underwear — I'm one of them.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Best. Obit. Ever.

Here's an unusual death notice from the Austin American-Statesman in Texas for an artist who died in her 60s, Hester Holbrook Abrams.

....Hester was a natural, graceful athlete with a passion for fly fishing, scuba diving, paddle tennis, tennis, and golf. She was a self taught guitar player, and the harmony when she sang was pure beauty. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the charity of your choice. P.S. She would appreciate it if you would vote for Obama.

And the lambs shall lie down with the lions

Indiana, October 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Nothing Says Ready-To-Lead-On-Day-One Like A Shiny Red Leather Jacket

According to the World Health Organization, suicide rates worldwide have increased by 60 percent in the last 45 years, with depression as the leading cause. In the United States, the numbers have jumped sharply — almost a full percentage point in six years — and is driven largely by, according to the report – holy cow! -- middle-aged white women.
No one involved in the study has ventured a theory about the cause or causes of the trend. Is it women who are on the younger side of middle-age and are crunched and overwhelmed between kids and work and maybe aging parents? Is it women whose kids are gone and who don’t have enough to do anymore? Is it women who never had kids? Or never married? Are any of those things relevant to the numbers?
The findings of this WHO study were both disturbing and reassuring to me. Disturbing, because it’s shocking to hear that so many women are taking their lives. But in a perverse way, it was also reassuring because maybe it meant I wasn’t alone. Maybe I wasn’t the only woman of my age, 56, who was having a great deal of difficulty figuring out what to do with a life that was stretching out in front of her for probably another 30 years and which looked terribly empty.
Once you’re past menopause, there’s an upside and a downside. On the upside, you’re happy about not having the monthly annoyance, or worrying about birth control, or coping with surging/waning hormones. But the downside is that -- if you married and had kids -- now you’re right up against the fact that a whole phase of your life that had consumed so much of your time and effort and heart – bearing and raising children – is done. Finished. That’s it. And it’s a long time between now and the possibility of grandchildren.
Last week my husband was away with a bunch of his buddies. Every year they go to a beach house in Rehobeth where they, for reasons that are unclear to me, enjoy just setting up their laptops and writing during the day (they’re all writers) and going out to dinner at night. That’s it. (Well, there might be some drinking involved too.) Sometimes they fish. I’ve never heard that they actually catch fish and judging from the pictures I’ve seen of them when they’re up to it, it’s not surprising. But that’s all they do. Write and eat and drink a bit and fish in a lame-ass way.
Usually when he’s gone, I have the week planned out with all kinds of projects – one year I painted the walk-in closet in our bedroom (which isn’t much work at all because it’s no bigger than a regular closet, really), another year it was painting one of the bedrooms. I wear sweatpants and a ratty T-shirt every night, leave the dishes in the sink and the bed unmade, and enjoy watching all the shows on MSNBC from six o’clock on without the husband periodically walking in and asking how I can stand to watch the same people screaming at each other over and over again about the same damn things.
But this year it was different. I wasn’t happy my husband was gone. I wasn’t relishing the time to myself. But on the other hand, I wasn’t missing him either. It was like – meh.
I rented a couple of movies. I watched Rachel Maddow at 9 o’clock and then again at 11 o’clock just in case I missed anything. I moved the living room carpet a couple of inches because where it had been annoyed me. I cleaned the bird’s cage.
But I just couldn’t get motivated to do anything more than that, even though there were lots of things that needed to be done around the house that I could have turned into projects.
So, as I was lying in bed last night, thinking about the week, I realized that there was this big chunk of my life gone that I really missed a lot. And it was my kids. Not who they are now, although I really love who they are now and actually enjoy talking to them and doing stuff with them still. But I missed who they were way back when they were so small they had to climb on top of my feet to reach me. Or when they’d get all worked up over something that only a two-year old would care about. Or when they’d run towards me when I picked them up at pre-K. I just missed those toddler years.
I started crying. And you know how when you cry when you're lying down, the tears trickle down the side of your face and pool in your ears? It was like that.
I missed being the center of their lives. And I missed knowing exactly what it was I was supposed to be doing with my life, which was raising two boys so that they knew right from wrong and were capable of kindness and generosity and knew that it was enough to have a roof over your head and food on the dinner plate because if you had that, you were lucky.
If you’ve ever been a mother you will understand it when I say that you will never ever again be so completely and unconditionally loved and needed. And no matter how much you love your husband, or your friends, or your family members, or the people you work with, there is no-one you will ever love that completely and naturally and unconditionally either. It’s a once in a lifetime experience. What else is ever going to be that compelling? Or absorbing or engaging?
So, it’s not surprising to me that other women my age might have a great deal of trouble figuring out what to do with themselves once their kids have left home. What else is going to compare with raising them? Isn’t your life work done? What’s left but marking time?
Maybe I’ve trivializing the numbers from this report and they have nothing to do with whiny, middle-class moms like me missing their kids. Maybe it’s women to whom truly horrible and devastating things have happened, like losing a job, or being left for someone else, or not being able to live with a painful, chronic disease, or just being overwhelmed by having to work so hard just to stay in place.
But I know, for me, it’s just wondering, at 56, what I’m supposed to do with myself now.

Thought for the day

"In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways." --Edith Wharton

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lawn jockeys for Obama

Mansfield, Ohio

This is what it's all about

From Ben Smith's blog on Politico. This is a story sent in by a reader in Cincinnatti about his early voting experience.

Upon arriving at the Hamilton County Board of Elections in Cincinnati to vote early today I happened upon some friends of my mothers - 3 small, elderly Jewish women. They were quite upset as they were being refused admitance to the polling location due to their Obama T-Shirts, hats and buttons. Apparently you cannot wear Obama/McCain gear into polling locations here in Ohio.... They were practically on the verge of tears.
After a minute or two of this a huge man (6'5", 300 lbs easy) wearing a Dale Earnhardt jacket and Bengal's baseball cap left the voting line, came up to us and introduced himself as Mike. He told us he had overheard our conversation and asked if the ladies would like to borrow his jacket to put over their t-shirts so they could go in and vote. The ladies quickly agreed.
As long as I live I will never forget the image of these eighty plus year old Jewish ladies walking into the polling location wearing a huge Dale Earnhardt racing jacket that came over their hands and down to their knees! Mike, patiently waited for each woman to cast her vote, accepted their many thanks and then got back in line (I saved him a place while he was helping out the ladies).
When Mike got back in line I asked him if he was an Obama supporter. He said that he was not, but that he couldn't stand to see those ladies so upset. I thanked him for being a gentleman in a time of bitter partisanship and wished him well.
After I voted I walked out to the street to find my mother's friends surrounding our new friend Mike - they were laughing and having a great time. I joined them and soon learned that Mike had changed his mind in the polling booth and ended up voting for Obama. When I asked him why he changed his mind at the last minute, he explained that while he was waiting for his jacket he got into a conversation with one of the ladies who had explained how the Jewish community, and she, had worked side by side with the black community during the civil rights movements of the 60's, and that this vote was the culmination of those personal and community efforts so many years ago. That this election for her was more than just a vote...but a chance at history.
Mike looked at me and said, "Obama's going to win and I didn't want to tell my grandchildren some day that I had an opportunity to vote for the first black president, but I missed my chance at history and voted for the other guy."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fountainhead State Park, Virginia

Fountainhead State Park is on the Occoquan River. I kayaked there with a friend a couple of weeks ago. The leaves were just turning. The water is so calm and still, the foliage reflects like a shimmering mirror image. In the bottom photo, that's a lone leaf floating on the surface of the water.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Mokue΄ of Barack

There’s been a lot of talk in the past week about Barack Obama’s demeanor -- his steadiness under pressure-- as the American economy spun in and out of control. There was also speculation that the American public noticed it too, and that his steadiness and reserve were calming and reassuring as they began to get an idea – a positive idea – of what an Obama presidency could be like. His poll numbers rose in some states to double digit leads over John McCain.
But there was never any mention that as much as Barack’s reserve and discretion were unique to him as an individual, they were also utterly characteristic of the African concept of “coolness.”
Robert Farris Thompson, an art history professor at Yale University, has spend his academic career tracing the roots of African aesthetic traditions in the art and music of North and South American and Caribbean cultures. Flash of the Spirit, probably Thompson’s best known book, published in 1983, was the first to explore the African concept of coolness. (If you have any kind of interest in American culture, it is a must read. There is no way to understand American music -- blues, jazz, rock and roll -- without understanding that it is as much African as it is American. Maybe even more.)
The core concept of coolness, as a modern day elder of the Yoruban tribe described it to Thompson, is that “coolness is a part of character, to the degree that we live generously and discreetly, exhibiting grace under pressure.”
This idea is uniquely African, and is expressed in the languages of many African tribes. In Yoruba, the word is itutu, which Thompson characterizes as a kind of “mystic” coolness. In Luo, the tribe of Obama’s Kenyan father, the word is mokue΄, which means cool, quiet, and peaceful. Thompson has traced the concept’s origins to at least as far back as the fifteenth century in Africa.
The African concept of coolness is different from the Western concept of coolness, as in icy determination or “sang-froid,” (translated literally from the French as cold-blooded). The Western concept is a much simpler expression of a steely, perhaps even amoral, character. The African concept is highly moral, an all-embracing idea of detachment and calmness that is both emotional and intellectual. Someone who possesses itutu or mokue΄ is reassuring to the people around them because they are able to be nonchalant and in-control in situations where emotionalism or eagerness would be natural and expected. Think John McCain cancelling his campaign before the Senate vote on the bailout. That is not cool.
If you want to listen to what cool sounds like, listen to the perfect combination of desire and restraint in the tunes of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.
And if you want to see what it looks like in art, here is a 12th century Yoruba bronze head from Ife, Nigeria. The composure of the face, the inner stillness and control it expresses – its sense of repose and assurance -- is quintessentially cool.

While I was poking around the Internets, I discovered that Thompson has a new book coming out at the end of the month. Aesthetic of the Cool: Afro-Atlantic Art and Music
It’ll be on my reading list. Put it on yours too.
Andrew Sullivan talks about this too, but without the African context.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The guys -- minus one -- in Richmond

Jesse, Larry, and Nick in Richmond, VA, last weekend. We were waiting for a table at Comfort, a restaurant on West Broad Street, before we went on the First Fridays Art Walk in Jackson-Ward.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Go Tigers!

More than 80 thousand people, all dressed in orange, cheering on the Clemson Tigers this past weekend in South Carolina. To no avail. The Maryland Terps beat the Tigers 20-17.
But I did get to have my picture taken with the Clemson Tiger!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Black Snake Moan

I've never been much afraid of snakes. Until this evening when I went down to the rec room and saw this fellow at the foot of the steps.

The really nice young lady who came to the house from Fairfax County's Animal Control said that he was a male juvenile black snake. If he were mature, he'd be around 3 feet long and as wide around as a hot dog. I'm glad he was still a teenager.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McLean Not a Sundown Town for Black Squirrels

My stepson, who is as smart as he is curious, did a bit of research about the lack of black squirrels in McLean. It turns out, black squirrels are not indigenous to the area -- they are escapees from the National Zoo. According to a 2005 article in the Washington Post -- from which this graphic is taken -- a few have been spotted in Arlington -- brave swimmers across the Potomac. But I don't think they swam. I think they "slugged" themselves across the river.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I'm just sayin . . .

I realized something the other day, while I was sitting in my car on the NIH campus in Bethesda waiting for a friend. I was watching two cute little squirrels playing with each other -- one grey and one black. We used to have a lot of black squirrels in the yard of my old house in Silver Spring. But there are no black squirrels in McLean. Just sayin . . .

Friday, September 19, 2008

I thought my head was going to explode

this morning when I was watching Morning Joe on MSBNC, and Pat Buchanan started ranting about capitalist pigs destroying the American economic system.
I guess anyone can turn into a populist when they're losing money.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A beautiful day in the neighborhood

For the first couple of years that I lived in Salona Village, I thought that my neighbors were pretty regular people -- regular well-off, white people -- who weren't very interesting. But it turns out I was wrong
It's like a friend of mine once said to me about her boyfriend at the time. "Why is it that the better you get to know someone, the more f*cked up they are?"

This is a question that I've found applies to far more than boyfriends. You can say the same thing about people you work with. Family members are exempt from this because you grew up with them and already know them well, so you're completely familiar with how f*cked up they are, it's just a matter of the ebb and flow of their f*cked-uped-ness over time.
So, it wasn't until I'd been here for a while that I came to understand that there are pockets of f*cked-uped-ness in Salona Village.
For example, here is a home on the main road of the neighborhood. The out of control shrubbery is a tipoff that something might be a little bit squirrelly. The fellow who lives here has a very big stomach, and he has a grey ponytail and wears the same chambray denim shirt over and over again in the spring and the summer. In the fall and winter, he switches it out for a red and black plaid shirt.
Here are the cars in his driveway. I'm not sure if they are all his. Someone who lives nearby told me that he has a "group house," and that "hippies" live there with him. I've also been told he's a janitor at a local elementary school. He's a regular at the neighborhood association meetings but I've never known him to speak up.

The thing about my neighborhood is that it's transitioning from one generation to the next. Like a lot of places where the price of real estate has risen far beyond what the original owners could afford now, Salona Village has a fair amount of children of the original owners doing what I call, sheltering in place. The mortgage has been completely paid off by their parents, so it doesn't cost anything for them to live there. They can't afford to move out and live nearby, but they're not making enough money to keep the place up, so it falls into disrepair.

Their are 2 equations that apply in my neighborhood:

Equation Number One:

original owners + children elsewhere = teardown, and

Equation Number Two:

original owners + children sheltering in place = suburban blight.

So, we have these absurd real estate conjunctions. Like our hippie, plaid-shirted, group-homey janitor's house, above, next to something like this.

And it's hard to tell which one is more f*cked up.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The McMansioning of McLean

I live in a neighborhood in McLean known as Salona Village. We're a little backwater in the center of town, nestled between Dolley Madison Boulevard on the north, Chainbridge Road on the west, and Old Dominion Road on the south. The houses were built in the 1950s out of brick in ranch, cape, and split-ranch styles.
Here's typical Salona Village house.
Over the years, people have added on to their houses, or bumped up, or done a number of improvements to add to their value. Most of the houses were orginally built with only one or two bathrooms, and two to three bedrooms. Our master bedroom, for example, has its own bathroom, but it's as big as a shoebox; and we have to have the smallest so-called walk-in closet in the greater Washington metroplitan area.
It's all liveable and fine. We raised 3 boys here and they all reached normal height and width.

Everything pretty much went along as usual, until around 5 years ago, when stuff like this started showing up.

Here's how it works.

You tear a completely liveable house down. Then you spend a couple of hundred thousand dollars building a new house and then you sell it for an obscene amount of money.

This is an $800,000 teardown in Salona Village.

It just sold and the land is currently being cleared. We always know when a house is a teardown because the fire department shows up and uses it for practice maneuvers. So, when we see a fire truck in front of a house and the sirens aren't squealing and the lights aren't going around, and people aren't jumping out of windows with their pets, we know, "Ah-hah! Tear down."
In less than a year, the house above will probably end uplooking something like this and it will sell for over 2 million dollars.

I'm going to follow the progress of the teardown from demolition to open house. There's really nothing good that can be said about it. Our neighborhood, now, is a hodgepodge of old and new.

Some of the new is pretty hideous.


Join me!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Parking lot maneuvers

When I first moved to McLean, my husband had already been living here for several years. He grew up in Brooklyn and I'm not exactly sure what the relationship is, but it was very important to him to take as many shortcuts as possible through parking lots as he went about his errands around town. For the first couple of weeks, I had no idea how to actually DRIVE ON THE STREETS to get someplace, because all I knew was what I'd seen driving through parking lots next to him as he pointed out, "There's the Giant," "Here's the Safeway," "That's the Blockbuster," etc.

It became a joke around the house that my husband lived for his, what we called, "parking lot maneuvers," and we were always trying to one up him with more, and more bizarre, ways to get to places via going through parking lots that were actually much more simple to get to if you DROVE ON THE STREETS.
Larry's pride was a 2 parking lot maneuver that involved going through the SunTrust parking lot to get to the street in front of the Safeway, and then going through the Safeway parking lot to get to the street in front of Pappa John's. The big deal was that there were no traffic lights you had to sit at and wait through.
We are a competitive family. When the boys were younger, we used to play a card game together called PIT, as in a stock trading pit. The goal of the game was to amass all the cards of a particular commodity, such as corn, wheat, etc. Once you'd done that, you had to yell "Cornered Corn!" or "Cornered Wheat," and bang this push bell on the table. We would get so competitive, and so physical about winning, that people (me) were known to actually bodyslam the bell on the table, to keep anyone else from getting to it.

You would think that this has no relationship to this story, but it does, because one day, our middle son came home looking like the proverbial cat that swallowed the canary. Or in his case, someone who knew he had come up with a parking maneuver so astounding in its ingenuity and boldness that he would leave Larry breathless, astonished, and totally unable to come up with anything better.

Let me lead you through this triumph of male one-ups-man-ship. It's a trip from our house to the post-office. A normal person would go out to Old Chainbridge Road, take a right onto Elm Street after the light at Old Dominion, and be there in a minute or two. But that's not how you do it when you're competing for King of Parking Lot Maneuvers.

You start out up Kurtz Road -- this is the main road that leads out of our neighborhood. The direction you are heading is completely opposite to the direction of the post office. But no matter.
Oh! Look! There's the SunTrust parking lot.

Let's take a left turn!
This is Parking Lot Number 1.

You drive through the SunTrust Parking lot.
It's a little hard to see here, but the SunTrust parking lot is directly adjacent to the Salona Village stripmall parking lot.
So you drive from Parking Lot Number 1, directly into Parking Lot Number 2 without crossing a street to get there. I'm not sure how many prestige points you get for this, but it's probably a lot. It's a fiendish move.

Once you're in the Salona Village strip mall lot, you drive a little bit, past the Treasure Trove and Green Matter and almost to the McLean Family Restaurant and there is the opening to Chainbridge Road.

Turn left and then take another quick right into the Safeway lot. This is Parking Lot Number 3.
Here we are in the Safeway lot.

And here we are, with Old Chainbridge Road right in front of us.

So you take a left onto Old Chainbridge, and then take a quick right into the next parking lot. There are a lot of little business-oriented shops here. This is Parking Lot Number 4.

It's a block long lot. Once you go through this lot, you're on Beverly Road. And this is where the trip goes back to normal.
You turn left onto Beverly.

Take a right onto Elm Street

Then another left into the post office parking lot. That's Parking Lot Number 5.

Of course, by the time you get there, it's taken you 10 minutes or more, because of speed bumps, waiting for traffic to clear to make all those left turns, and in general, just going much more slowly than you would if you were driving down a regular street.

But damn! It's a 5 Parking Lot Maneuver.

Larry was never able to surpass it.