Wednesday, July 30, 2008

No stimulation, no relief

Today the president signed the Hope for Homeowners Relief Act. Eligible borrowers must have spent more than 31 percent of their monthly incomes on their mortgages as of March 1, 2008.

It’s the second big economic initiative since the economic stimulus packages earlier this year.

A few Washington area residents speak up:

“When I lived in a cheaper area of the country I had a mortgage. (It wasn’t paid off, so I hesitate to call myself a “homeowner.”) Payments were less than a quarter of my monthly income, yet I still freaked out a little putting my name to such a big loan. When I moved to DC, I realized that anything with indoor plumbing and electricity would be more than 31% of my monthly income. So I took the fiscally sensible route and rented. Where’s MY financial aid? ”

“I missed the economic stimulus eligibility cut-off by $426. Yes, $426. Apparently this means I’m *rich*. So flush with wealth that 31% of my income would buy me a PortaPotty here. Out by Ashburn. So I did the financially sensible thing and rented. Now I don’t even get a government-sanctioned $600 to spend on cheap consumer imports. Where’s MY financial aid?”

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Why ban when you can add and savor instead?

In Los Angeles, a City Council vote awaits on banning the construction of new fast food restaurants in many impoverished neighborhoods.

True, it is tough to find a decent head of nutritious arugula in the inner city. And the rationale behind the ban is to attract more healthful establishments to the region.

But why not just skip a step and start out with positive activities from the beginning, such as:
• Tax incentives or funding for farmers markets
• Partnering with grocers like Whole Foods, who could set up shop here as part of a feel-good corporate social responsibility program, or develop a Peapod-like grocery delivery service where public transportation is lacking
• Helping neighborhood entrepreneurs launch health-oriented restaurants or take-out establishments
• Afterschool cooking classes
• Community gardens
• Transforming school lunch into something like Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard

Breaking bread with friends and family is recognized as a pleasurable experience worldwide. So why not expand the food choices in these neighborhoods, then let the market decide? (Certainly the colon contingents will vote for fresh produce over Big Macs in the long run.)

But today’s War Against Fat makes no room (pardon the sorry pun) for pleasure. Common tactics instead seem to be restrict, micromanage, dictate, belittle and berate. “Put down that cheeseburger, you slob, or we of infinite knowledge will rip it from your hands!”

That’s motivational. Far more so than the thought of enjoying a tasty, nutritious, preservative-free salad or stir-fry.

(Of course, I write this with a Twizzler hanging out of my mouth. But I’m in Montgomery County, so it’s okay.)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Dress up, DC pedestrians (updated)

This just in...

It seems now that Robert Novak was really not fully aware of that pedestrian.

No more snark from me.

* * * *

You want to look important, so you aren't "invisible" to a Little Black Corvette.

(cue Prince - yeah!)

$50 Robert Novak's fine for hitting a pedestrian and attempting to flee the scene
$85 The fine a friend of mine received from the Arlington police for not stopping long enough at an empty intersection - no pedestrians, no cross traffic.

Hmmm, membership in the "Royalty of Darkness" club has its privileges.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bet they know how the lawsuit will turn out

Did you know that Madame Cleo and her ilk are not welcome in Montgomery County?

Tarot cards, runes, "you have a strong heart line" ...there'll be none of that in this august section of Maryland. At least not officially, since fortune-telling for a profit is banned.

But a pending lawsuit stands to change it all. And the plaintiffs are confident:

"I've got to tell you, I just have a good feeling about this."

Also of interest: The headline off to the side: "Why can't we just leave our genitals alone?"

Why, indeed?

Monday, July 21, 2008

All aboard!

When living in Central America, I used public transit to circumvent spotty navigation skills and the need to second-guess crazy drivers. The same holds true here in Washington…and imagine the similarities I see between the two nation’s transit systems:

1. Like mysterious woodland creatures, people emerge from heavily treed landscapes – not a house in sight – to wander towards the bus stop.

I saw this in rural Costa Rica and I see this now in Reston.

Key difference: The Fairfax Connector is not a repurposed Wisconsin school bus.

2. Standing room only

True on the “chicken bus,” true on the Orange Line.

Key difference: No one sits on the dashboard.

3. Armpits in the face

From a Brooks Brothers armpit to one draped in “ropa Americana,” the hazards of standing near the grab-bar are the same the world over.

Key difference: On WMATA, no seven-months-pregnant woman is squeezing through the aisles selling plaintains.

4. Irregular Sunday service

Key difference: On the Red Line, the transito police doesn’t stop the railcar periodically to raid for (and boot off) illegal Nicaraguans.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Get used to it, kids

Today’s Washington Post relates how the "pressure-filled intense preparation for a high-achieving adulthood" is taking its toll on today’s teens, particularly in certain areas of town.

I hate to break it to these exhausted, overly caffeinated kids, but getting into a decent college is just the beginning. There’s that “high-achieving adulthood” thing to look forward to, including but not limited to:

• Working at a job that’s impressive enough that people won’t shun you at cocktail parties
• Keeping up your skills and network to remain competitive (so you can keep that job or seamlessly land a new one if needed without that awkward “between opportunities” phase)
• Giving back to the community through at least one worthy volunteer activity
• Maintaining a stylish and beautiful living environment
• Maintaining a stylish and beautiful, trans-fat and wrinkle-free appearance
• Keeping up with world affairs (yes, that’s 200+ nations across 6 continents) so you can converse in an erudite fashion
• Cultivating habits and hobbies to ensure you remain interesting and enviable, such as fluency in languages, running a marathon, making one's own artisanal cheese
• Always acknowledging birthdays, holidays and special occasions in a timely fashion with the right card, gift and social event, forsaking a caterer and preparing the quail canapés yourself for the latter
• Ensuring that your family remains as flawless and impeccable as you are. Yes, this includes young toddlers with a will of their own.

Imagine saying, “Forget it – I’m taking a year off and not impressing anyone but myself. For 365 days I will sleep when I want, eat when I want and spend the bulk of my time in a Barcolounger with the remote in one hand and a box of Twinkies in the other.”

But the dream of slack is not the American dream.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

There's no place like gnome...

Rumor has it when a resident of Dawson, Minnesota passes on...

...a gnome appears in his or her honor. (And they seem to like to loiter by the Dairy Queen)

Welcome to the heartland!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Bobbleheads: An homage

Yes, I want to see more bobblehead goodness.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The secret to political success: Just show up

Living as I do in Obama Land (where the esteemed senator could probably roast Labradoodle puppies on a spit and have it called a gesture of hope) it has been interesting to talk to the other side of the political equation in my home state of South Dakota: those who supported Hillary Clinton.

Why did Hillary win this state?

Outside of the thorny issues of race and gender (posts for a different day), here's my theory:

She showed up.

From Sioux Falls to Milbank to Sisseton, she, Bill (he of the $100k speaker fees) and Chelsea the foxy investment banker took time out of their busy schedules to meet with them. They logged time at the VFW halls. They visited the feed lots. They probably ate a hot dish or two, perhaps even a jello/Cool Whip salad. Every South Dakotan Hillary supporter I spoke to mentioned this. Numerous times.

South Dakotans (and, indeed, Nebraskans, Kansans, residents of Wyoming, et. al.) are so accustomed to having our states considered "flyover territory." Yes, we may smile gamely when people reference "the Dakotas" (no, it's not one state), ask if we have trees and running water (yes to both), or jokingly wonder why anyone would want to live there. But we must remind you: You have to actually live in the state for several years before you have the right to make a sheep joke. As for Ole and Lena? They live in Minnesota.

People in rural areas are so often overlooked (often unfairly) as inconsequential citizens lacking in cultural and intellectual curiosity. The outcome: When serious attention is paid...they tend to pay it back.

Now for the next great unanswered question - how do Democratic leaders like Tom Daschle emerge from a state where hunting rifles and right-to-life billboards are as common as Tom Petty cover bands? Hmmm....