Monday, March 31, 2008

My skin is as smooth as an infant's buttocks...

...not necessarily TMI for a Monday - I'm talking about my the wholesome, G-rated (unless you're aroused by such things) skin on my feet.

Around Christmas-time, a visiting relative bequeathed to me a gift pack of Burt's Bees skin products that were too liquidy to get past TSA at the airport. Within this bag was the Peppermint Foot Lotion.

"Hmmm, appropriately festive," I thought and began slapping it on my feet before bed (Hint: cover your feet with socks afterwards or else you will fall on your ass on a tile floor).

Imagine my surprise when I tried on some strappy sandals this weekend in preparation for spring and - for the first time ever - found spring-worthy feet.

It has been a long *ahem* walk from my first pedicure, where my raggedy toes freaked out a young pedicurist.

"You Americans are very hard on your feet!" she exclaimed politely and razored away. But behind her smile, I knew she was thinking:

I did not travel all the way across the world's largest ocean for this. Your scaly heels are not the American dream - they are a human rights abuse.

Thank you Burt, your bees and your magic peppermint. (Apparently these ingredients are wholesome enough to eat. I did not try this; I still had some candy canes left from Santa's stocking. But good to know when packing cosmetic gear for a backpacking trip.)

Welcome springtime and sandal weather!

Something Rotten in the State of Colorado...

Here's a quick quiz for Monday morning...

What are the most important elements to a school, the things without which a school could not function:

a.) A gym
b.) A computer lab
c.) Teachers

If you guessed c, you are correct. Although many elementary and secondary schools these days boast elaborate amenities, when you get right down to it, the basic elements one needs for a school are simple: Students and a trained, dedicated professional to instruct them. For example: Laura Ingalls' little one-room schoolhouse may have lacked Mac Powerbooks and an Olympic-size swimming pool but it still was considered a school.

Last week, the St. Vrain school district in Colorado found itself in a budget shortfall of millions of dollars. St. Vrain includes Boulder County, where the median home price is one of the highest in Colorado.

What did it cut?

Teachers, of course.

Why? "Costs in energy, health care and compensation"

Because teachers are notoriously overpaid, of course...

"The layoffs will ensure that the district maintains a balanced budget."

Isn't that the job of the administrators who were supposed to manage the budget in the first place?

Then why are the teachers the ones getting the axe?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ode to Bethesda

In my off-blog existence, I joke about this wealthy suburb frequently (but out of love, baby, out of love).

Like the top-security-access restrooms – even in the most innocuous buildings. If Osama’s declaring a war on shabby chic, thank God the Blue House is secure. {ed note: you buy stuff at the Blue House}

The pampered dogs at places with names like “Bone du Jour” {ed note: you think those dogs are cute}

The pampered people everywhere else. Duck! That’s a pink yoga mat swinging your way. {ed note: you go to Unity Woods. All in all, you are a hypocrite in this post.}

And the lack of regard for stop signs. If I had a quarter for every time a fleet of Lexi nearly mowed me down crossing the street for a coffee, I’d be able to actually afford a condo here. Maybe even a single-family detached home.

Enough negativity. Two things (besides vast restaurant selection) Bethesda does very, very right:

The one near downtown is a frickin’ palace – like a Barnes & Noble without the espresso bar. Every public library should be like this…and it makes me mad when they are not. Like in Charleston, SC (down the street from Armani, too!) and in several neighborhoods in the District. These “public houses of learning” look like shacks out of a 1970s documentary about Haiti, whose few scattered, antiquated books just look as though they reek of mold and were rejected from a prison GED program. I know that tax base realities have a lot to do with these discrepancies – nevertheless, this is a shameless slap in the face to the citizens purportedly “served.”

“Hey, poor people! Yeah, we don’t want you to read. You know that, of course. But we thought we’d just make it blindingly obvious that we want to keep you stupid and oppressed. Now you just go back to 7-11 and your trans-fat-filled chips and your mindless court TV shows.”

So Montgomery County's commitment to good libraries almost make me happy as I fill out my tax forms. (Almost. That crazy local tax - percentage of gross income! - makes one longingly reminisce about the Ron Paul blimp.)

Not money, silly. Sustainability. Bethesda has launched BethesdaGreen. It’s a group, it’s a blog, it’s businesses, it’s events.
Better yet, let them explain; here’s the website.

Now if only they could get their parking ticket SWAT force to chill out. For a person who drags out the Zipcar maybe twice a month, what I spend on overdue meters might be able to finance a small Hyundai at this point. Or, given Bethesda's new focus, a Prius..

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Magick Yeast

(Because “bread” is so 20th century…)

As Fred Krupp, author of Earth: The Sequel, explained to the crowd at Politics and Prose yesterday, entrepreneurs at the company Amyris have engineered a magic kind of yeast that can produce any kind of matter they want.

(now that’s World of Warcraft-level power)

How does it work? If I was that smart, I would not be writing this blog. I would be off on a yacht in the Mediterranean with handsome pool boys feeding me grapes. What I do know:

It’s creating a cost-effective malaria therapy for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

It’s hard at work making biofuel

If I could engineer yeast to create any kind of matter I wanted, for the betterment of mankind, what would it be?


Peep matter, of course!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A head wrapped in yarn, a couple trapped in a hoodie…

A man with a vacuum hose suctioning his crotch.

From the photos that greeted me , I knew I could be in no other lobby but that of the Goethe Institute.

(God bless the Germans)

Die Wolke (The Cloud) was the second movie I saw from the DC Environmental Film Festival, depicting the town of Schlitz (right next to the burg of PBR) before during and after a nuclear power plant meltdown. Antonia – a Brazilian film about four friends who form a band – was the first. Those the moods and sensibilities of these movies were worlds apart, they shared these things in common:

• Both put the characters ahead of pontificating. In Antonia, these were not the typical “poor but proud” archetypes of the favela up on the screen but rather four young women with personality traits that could be found anywhere from Brooklyn to Bahia to Bangalore.

• Neither felt like a Very Special Episode…and Die Wolke could have easily slipped into this territory, too. But the director kept the anti-nuke protests and graffiti to a minimum. Frankly, the graphic scenes of the fleeing citizen mobs and post-cloud hospital wards got the point across far more effectively: Nuclear radiation does bad bad bad things to Mother Earth and its people when unleashed unwittingly. *

• Both were an engaging and moving way to spend a few hours

*Although the main character seemed selectively radioactive. One moment she’s quarantined like the boy in the bubble, the next she’s off having sex and walking bald among the populace. And how did she lose her hair yet keep her lush eyelashes and delicately arched brows? An interesting form of contamination…

When one hears the words “Environmental Film Festival,” one imagines video of a crunchy off-the-grid tinfoil engineer in his A-frame survivalist cabin, lecturing you on how to reuse your bread wrappers. Or endless footage of birds and sunsets (ground which, frankly, HDTV’s Sunset channel covers much better).

Fortunately, the Washington DC Environmental Film Festival delivers far, far better than this - and it’s going on through this Saturday.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Out of Africa (a DC traffic story)...

In Senegal, taxi service may be cheap for the tourist or expatriate, but fares are well out of reach for the average citizen. Around town, the general mode of transport is to walk from place to place - and I did see a guy do so while successfully balancing 10 trays of eggs on his head.

But every so often, one needs a wheeled vehicle. Ingenuity being inherent to human nature, a solution evolved: the clandeux.*

* Not sure on the spelling. As it's unofficial, they don't really hand out flyers or post ads.

This is Senegalese for "dude * in car who gives people a ride for a few coins" sans papiers. " Basically, it's the gray area between hitchhiking and fleets of metered cabs, entrepreneurship that sees a need and uses a rusty-but-still-functional Peugeot to fill in the gaps.

* In most cases, a dude is driving. Though Senegal is one of the more liberal Muslim nations, with women active in government and well-represented in the universities, traditional divisions of labor generally prevail.

Yes, it's safe. Yes, you can trust the driver not to whisk you off to the Sahel and bury your dismembered limbs under the baobab tree.

What could this story possibly have to do with Washington, DC, the capital of the free world, leader of industry and commerce?

The Anti-DC, a very witty and observant local blogger, gives the low-down...

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A stripper thwarted: How WMATA - like a good parent or guardian - kept me off the pole

What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than in a strip-dancing class?

Indeed! I packed up my gym bag, donned long yoga pants (“to prevent chafing,” I’d been warned) and descended down into the bowels of Metro to meet my friends at the Arlington studio.

And in those bowels I remained for the better part of three hours. I did not learn how to strut in stilleto heels. I did not find out how to twirl tassels in opposing directions. Instead I hunched on a cold cement bench until my tailbone was sore and my hands black with the ink of this week’s City Paper, the sounds of “attention passengers – we’re single tracking” reverberating in my ear.

It took over 20 minutes for the first train to arrive, and by the time it did, the Friendship Heights station was crowded like an airport on December 23. “Red line to Glenmont!” Finally - I would have just enough time to get to Metro center and connect with the Orange line. I hopped aboard and listened to my tunes (a little Shakira to get my hips warmed up) as the train gently swayed. And swayed.
Hmmmm…Tenleytown sure was far away. Why had I never noticed this before?

Well, maybe because this train was going to Bethesda instead.

Sweet Lincoln’s mullet. I checked my cell phone’s time against that of the next Glenmont-bound train. There was no way in hell I would make it in time for the class. So I texted my fellow strumpets and told them I’d met them for post-class drinks instead around 3 o’clock.

Yes, drinking at 3 p.m. Because stripper-dancing naturally leads to such debauchery. Maybe these Metro shenanigans were a conspiracy to keep us on the wholesome path. {ed note: too late for that!}

I descended anew. Goodbye, daylight!

The yuppie mosh pit at the bottom of the escalator was not a good sign. During this more than 30-minute wait, I read every page of the City Paper. I started with Savage Love and Wild Side so I would have something racy to contribute to the conversation, moving on to the intricate relationship between the Washington Post and Adrian Fenty’s press office. Then the movie reviews in which CP by editorial decree finds every movie viewed underwhelming. By the time the train arrived, only classified ads for intern group homes remained unexamined.

I grabbed a seat. And a good thing I did. Every stretch between two stops seemed to take a full 10 minutes. Were hamsters pushing the train? The train stopped in Van Ness, never again to accelerate. “Mechanical problems.” As we were evacuated, only the presence of small children prevented an uprising.

At this time, I knew I had to give up on my afternoon plans, being that evening plans required me to be dressed up and at a certain location in a timely fashion. And once I got to Arlington God only knew how long it would take me to get back. Walking home from Van Ness (there was a run on cabs, for obvious reasons) I realized something: If DVD players had been available in the Metro stations and cars, as they are in air travel, I’d been able to watch a good portion of Gone With the Wind, well past the burning of Atlanta and renovations of Tara.

I would miss drinks, I realized. My Saturday afternoon would be as wholesome (and as technology-enabled) as a rerun of Little House on the Prairie.

Dear Metro – I appreciate your role in making Washington a public transit-friendly city and making my car-free life possible. However, today, you disappointed me. Today I was counting on you to deliver me to Virginia in a timely fashion in exchange for my $1.85 so I could learn how to dance like a contestant on Rock of Love while getting a physician-approved aerobic workout. Instead I spent nearly $4 for the pleasure of walking up Connecticut Avenue in the rain. No, Metro, you did not open doors for me today. At all.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

"Opening the Web 2.0 Kimino"

(This post has a fun contest: Spot the 10 hidden new media buzzwords. Hint: You have already read two in the subject header!)

To mix things up a bit on Ye Olde Blog, I have added Twitter. Because you truly care where I go and what I do every minute of the day.

To wit (or, ahem, to twit):
- I have brushed my teeth
- I have mixed myself some oatmeal
- I am really, really excited about the grassroots flashmob that's surged to support Barack Obama!!!

In all seriousness...

It seemed appropriate that a blog that "posts about place" have synergistic widgets (as opposed to widgets that encourage you to "stroke" the long tail of a domesticated animal or rate the hotness of your friends and kin).

I moved it over from its original home on Facebook because FB already has its own "what are you doing" feature. Under Facebook, I "twit" benignly under my real name. Needless to say, there's no live commentary from orgies, meth labs or dungeon video shoots. (Difficult to keep a grip on the Blackberry under such circumstances anyway.)

To twit anonymously under a nom-de-blog? Therein lies the challenge. I will need to reveal fun tidbits of where I go, without revealing my identity.

Can one twit without transparency?

Is privacy really dead?


Follow me. And let's (*argh*) get the conversation started.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Liveblogging Panera - Saturday morning

The fire is crackling. The pastries smell good. And, despite the sunny skies, Panera's got some customers appreciating the great indoors today. Who are they?

- Three older gentlemen hold court. In Bulgaria, they'd be in a park, playing chess surrounded by spectators and stray dogs. Here they're sipping coffee discussing foreign affairs and religion.

- A toddler gnaws on a bagel as large as his head, holding court over his sippie cups

- A student lounges in the Corner o' the Leather Chairs, where it is perfectly acceptable to put one's feet up

- Two impeccably maintained women in running gear discuss college admissions with great authority. Something about Harvard, Georgetown as the safety, no patience for waiting and a drug-resistant allergy to third-tier schools.

- Construction workers set their hardhats by the fireplace to read over the morning news.

- A stylish older woman in a chocolate cloche hat, maybe five feet tall and ninety pounds, balances a tea with an elegantly weathered handbag. She's dining alone but carries the air of a woman who's lived enough adventures for all of us in the bakery.

Bagel kid coughs. A surge of customers swarm the counter as the construction workers return to the Whole Foods site, making it one step closer to completion and olive-bar goodness.

"It's made of the ricin!*" one of the Table of Older Guys proclaims to his growing number of companions (which leads me to want to quit typing and start eavesdropping with greater concentration).

Just another morning at Panera.

* Note: Not the bagels