Saturday, June 19, 2004

ANIMAL REPORT: Snakeheads in Love

The Washington Times reports this morning that the voracious Northern Snakehead is sexually active and could go on a breeding frenzy in the Potomac River.

From The Washington Times' Isaac Wolf:
John Kauffman, Virginia's regional fisheries manager, said the discovery of the first adult snakehead in the Potomac adds "growing evidence of an established population" of the toothy, nonnative fish.

With its ravenous appetite and having no natural enemies, the snakehead can disrupt an ecosystem by preying on all other fish in it. The specimen caught Thursday was the sixth found in Potomac waterways this spring.

As I've said before, I'm anticipating a media feeding frenzy when these creatures jump out of the Tidal Basin and freak out little kids visiting the Jefferson Memorial.

Friday, June 18, 2004

MUSIC: Franz Ferdinand at 9:30

In case you were interested in seeing Franz Ferdinand at the 9:30 Club on Sunday, the show is sold out. But more interesting is the speculation as to what kind of reception the come-out-nowhere band from Scotland will get in the District. According to Gawker, many spectators at Franz Ferdinand performance at the Union Square Virgin store were in the mindset that the band was just the latest flavor of the month about to go stale. In fact, Gawker says: "Anyway, it looked pretty over on Tuesday when I walked into the Union Square Virgin store and people were watching their in-store appearance as if a perhaps exciting but also rather ugly albino cockroach had suddenly crawled onto their dinner plates."

We'll see what the reviews are next week.

"Franz Ferdinand: Not Quite Over Yet" [Gawker]

ANIMAL WORLD: Snakes — In D.C., They're the New Pit Bull

The most interesting (and morbidly depressing) Washington Post Animal Report items involve pit bulls. And while this week's Animal Watch has some attention-grabbing items involving the aggressive dog (including a Fourth Street Southeast pit bull that had boiling water poured on it), this week is dominated by snakes. No, the Northern Snakehead has not crawled out of the Potomac. In fact, pythons and boas are on the loose, apparently.

From The Washington Post's Animal Watch:
CRITTENDEN ST. NW, 1200 block, June 8. A woman phoned Animal Control after looking out her living room window and seeing a snake staring at her. An officer found a six-foot boa constrictor lying on the ground under the window with its head resting on the sill. The officer took the snake to the D.C. shelter, where it was held as a stray.

THIRD ST. NW, 500 block, June 3. A motorist found a stray python on New York Avenue NW, put the snake in his car trunk and drove to his place of employment. He called Animal Control, asking that the snake be removed from his car. An officer took the snake to the D.C. shelter; it was transferred to a reptile rescue group.

... Also, a rare hybrid tutle has been discovered at a home on 47th Place Northeast. It is "part red-eared slider and part map turtle," according to the Post.

DEAR WMATA: Bus Driver Complaint

A bus driver accused me yesterday of trying to avoid paying full fare when I boarded the N4 bus at Massachusetts Avenue and 20th Street Northwest during the Thursday evening rush hour. The suspicion? He accused me of obtaining a subway-to-bus transfer ticket from Dupont Circle, not my point-of-entry, which was Union Sation. I told him to look at the ticket, which indeed read Union Sation. What follows is my complaint to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which I filed this morning.


Yesterday, after leaving the Red Line at Dupont Circle, I walked to the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and 20th Street Northwest to board a Friendship Heights-bound N4 bus (No. 4031). Since I was doing a subway-to-bus transfer, I had a paper transfer in hand, which I had obtained before boarding the Red Line at Union Station.

When I boarded the bus, I dug through my pockets to get the 35 cent transfer. After I found it, I put the change in the fare collector and since the driver didn’t take my transfer directly, I put it in the transfer bag myself, as many bus drivers throughout the Metrobus system are accustomed to passengers depositing their subway transfer tickets themselves. I then asked for a bus-to-bus transfer, as I was heading later up to the 30-series buses.

When I did that, the driver accused me of trying to evade system regulations, telling me that my transfer was not valid because I had not obtained it from my point of entry to the subway system. Essentially, he accused me of taking a subway-to-bus transfer from Dupont Circle, and told me I would have to put in $1.20 for a full fare.

I informed him that I knew the rules of the subway-to-bus transfer, and told him to check the subway transfer. He seemed disgruntled when he pulled it out and it read, as I told him it would, Union Station, not Dupont Circle. I asked for a bus-to-bus transfer for a second time, and begrudgedly, he complied with my request.

At major subway-bus transfer points — particularly the 30s at Foggy Bottom and the D2 at Dupont Circle — I have seen many bus drivers target younger riders and single them out to try to catch them not complying with subway-to-bus transfer procedures. I may be 24, but I don’t have to be treated like I’m some sort of scheming, conspiratorial rider taking advantage of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Please put this complaint in driver XXXX’s file.

More information:
"That Pesky Bus Transfer" [Oculus]

Thursday, June 17, 2004

DRINKING: Onward to Tequila Grill, Hawk 'n' Dove! Odds, R.I.P.

Swamp City and DC SOB have written about today's Washington Post's article on how the District can do little to enforce underage drinking regulations. I cannot add anything of substance to the discourse on underage drinking in the District, except from my own experiences as a lowly intern during the rainy summer of 2000. While I turned 21 that summer, I remember my underage friends getting into places like Tequila Grill and the Hawk 'n' Dove with ease. The Oculus remembers the frat-like Odds sports bar near 20th and M street in the West End. Odds, where passed-out 19 year-old girls were commonplace and I was given dirty looks for ordering a Newcastle -- fortunately shut its doors sometime ago. But ahh the memories.

An Update: Memories of Odds from an Oculus reader.
I remember Odds when I was 19, my 1st summer back from college ... I went with several other of my underage co-workers and we stood on the outside "patio" pounding 25 cent pitchers of god-knows-what kind of beer while the bouncers just made sure everyone had paid the cover. ... I became so intoxicated that when I got back to Bethesda I simply peed in a bush and walked to the sidewalk and promptly lay face down on the concrete until my friends [dragged] me home. Ahhhh...sniffle...I miss the good times :)

MUSIC: The Cure, With Interpol, The Rapture, et al, to Play Merriweather Post in August

From a 9:30 Club e-mail alert:

Single-handedly keeping eyeliner companies in business, Mr. Smith & Co. will return to Washington this summer with an entire package of '80s music. Playing old favorites and new material from their eagerly-awaited release The Cure, this time Friday *we're* in love.

w/ Interpol • The Rapture • Mogwai • Muse • Auf der Maur • The Cooper Temple Clause
August 6
Merriweather Post Pavilion • Columbia, MD

Tickets on sale Saturday, June 19 @ Noon through Ticketmaster

While I'm having a hard time envisioning Interpol -- or The Rapture for that matter -- playing on a large festival stage like Merriweather Post, it could make for a good ensamble for the end of the summer.

It is a 5 p.m. concert on a Friday. That means that traffic on Route 29, I-95, MD-32 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway will be terrible. Who remembers the "Radiohead/I'm stuck in traffic" fiasco from last August?

COMMUTING: Playing the Fare Zone Game With Hawkish Cabbies

My new housemate, who is new to Washington and its Byzantine taxicab farezone system, was charged $26 the other night to go three zones from Kelly's Irish Times to 39th Street, McLean Gardens. That is, of course, complete extortion.

When I relayed some helpful hints to beat the cabbies at their own game, I thought it would be good to pass that on to my readers.

So how do you one-up hawkish cabbies that prey on drunken revelers and tourists? Follow these rules.

1) When you can, pre-arrange a price. Ask: "How many zones will it be to [insert destination]?"
2) But that cannot always be done. So once you reach your destination and feel like you're being taken, ask for a receipt.
3) Ask the cabbie to fill out the starting point and destination. It is well within your rights as a passenger.
4) Ask the cabbie to sign the receipt.
5) Ask the cabbie to write out his taxicab driver ID number. If the cabbie refuses, write it yourself.

By this point, the cabbie will be frustrated, realize that you know his game and he's been caught. Admitting defeat, he may give in.

6) When you get out, look for the cab company name and any identifying features, like a cab number.
7) With all that information, you can file a complaint with the DC Taxicab Commission.

Be prepared to deal with a complicated bureaucratic mess. The Taxicab Commission isn't necessarily the most consumer-friendly agency.

The Oculus Wants Your Cab Horror Stories. I am currently compiling taxicab horror stories for future posting. With this, I hope to do an indepth analysis of the capital city's Byzantine taxicab system.

DRINKING: Have Tar Heel/Anti-Blue Devil Forces Taken Over Regional Food and Drink?

An Oculus reader writes on how University of North Carolina fans may have taken over RFD, the Brickskeller spin-off in the East End's "MCI-ville/NoPeQua." At least if you judge from bathroom graffiti.

"[J]udging by the graffiti in the men's room - RFD has a weirdly pro-UNC clientele. In addition to several scrawled "Duke Sucks" and "Fuck Duke," there is a quote from one of Chapel Hill's favorite bars, Linda's. The quote? "No matter how hot she is, someone, somewhere, is sick of her shit."

When the Oculus was at RFD a few weeks ago during the Jessica Cutler frenzy, there was, scrawled above one urinal: "Save Washingtonienne." (Ahh, those were the days. Washington is entering its summer slumber.)

COMMUTING: WMATA to Raise Bus and Subway Fares; Activists Freak Out Over Street Parking

We all knew this was coming ...
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is planning to vote on a set of fare increases for subway, buses and parking today, The Associated Press reports.

From the AP:
Base subway fares are expected to climb 15 cents to $1.35, with the maximum rush hour fare rising 30 cents to $3.90. Local buses would cost $1.25, a nickel more, with express routes going to $3, up 50 cents. Parking fees at Metrorail stations would also increase. All the hikes are expected to take effect June 27.

Meanwhile, the City Council has been milling over a 30-page report on street parking and small changes to maximize the use of the city's 4,000 street spaces, The Washington Times reports.

Georgetown businesses believe that they will suffer regardless if changes are tiny. Up in Cleveland Park, residents say the extension of visitor hours in the neighborhood would cause havoc for residents needing a place to park. Meanwhile, churches are pissed off that parishioners are being ticketed on Sundays.

The Washington Times reminds its readers that the City Council voted two years ago to exempt itself from the city's parking regulations, giving the council the same parking courtesies given to Members of Congress.

WRC/NBC 4 says that employees who park for free in the District may be losing that privilege. City Councilman Phil Mendelson is proposing a $20 fee per parking space for employers. The rule would apply to the federal government, which has 30,000-40,000 parking spaces in the District. It's all in the name to improve air quality and get people on public transportation.

More information:
"Metro Expected to Hike Fares" [AP via WTOP]
"Parking solutions met by protest" [The Washington Times]
"D.C. Considers Fee For Employee Parking Spaces" [WRC/NBC 4]

CRIME: Parks Not Safe, Says D.C. Delegate

WTOP is reporting that D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) says that the area's national parks and parkways are not as safe as they once were because of budget cuts. Along with more homelessness, there is increased speeding on Rock Creek Parkway. Unlike most cities, the majority of D.C.'s parks and forest preserves police enforcement is overseen by the U.S. Park Police, not by city authorities.

Last week's City Paper also had an article, "Frankenforts" about the unsafe nature of the forgotten and downtrodden Fort Circle parks near Fort Totten.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


I've been meaning to deliver my full report on last Saturday's Urban Challenge. So here we go. As a quick reminder, this was the second year I've run the race, which is sponsored by Verizon. Last year, I placed 13th. This year, after initially placing 10th, I, along with my racing partner, placed 8th place after two teams were apparently disqualified. Official results go up on the Urban Challenge website on Friday.

So what is the Urban Challenge? It's part road-race, part trivia challenge, part urban orienteering exercise. You can run, or take public transportation to clear the 12 checkpoints, all of which are reached after figuring out sometimes very complicated clues. Take a photo of the checkpoint with your Verizon camera phone, in the correct order and race back to headquarters.

Part One: Trivia Challenge ...
From a quick estimate, there were at least 96 teams of two, but probably more. To prevent the entire mass from starting at the exact same time and going to the same checkpoint, urban Challenge staggers the start by releasing 12 teams at a time who start off going to different checkpoints on the route. To break teams into their starting groups, teams participate in a trivia challenge of 30 multiple choice questions. The highest scoring teams start out with a significant time advantage. After placing in the top group last year, I was shocked to find out that me in my racing partner got 14 questions wrong, which placed us in one of the last groups to leave home base, which was the Grand Slam sports bar at the Grand Hyatt Hotel at 11th and H streets. Sucking up the initial defeat, we left the hotel determined to make up time.

On to the Race ... Our first stop was Checkpoint No. 4. "Rhyme time! Checkpoint 4 is an establishment with a two-word name in which the second rhymes with the first. Find it in Georgetown near Wisconsin Avenue."

The answer was Commander Salamander, the clothing store on Wisconsin near 0 Street. So we ran down to the Orange and Blue lines, caught a train within two minutes and made it to Foggy Bottom fairly quickly. We ran from 23rd and I streets to Wisconsin Avenue and O Street.

The next stop, Checkpoint No. 5 was at the Georgetown Booeymonger at Potomac and Prospect streets. And after that, the Moby Dick kebab house on 31st Street between M and K streets.

Knowing that Checkpoint No. 7 was somewhere near the State Department, I decided that the quickest way from the Georgetown waterfront was via the Thompson's Boathouse access bridge over Rock Creek and then along Virginia Avenue to 23rd Street. I noticed that other runners after clearing the Moby Dick checkpoint were heading back to M Street and then over the Pennsylvania Avenue bridge. The Thompson's Boathouse bridge saved us a few minutes.

Violating Security at the State Department. But what about Checkpoint No. 7? "We Wonder If That's Ed ... Find the statue of a man with a discus within 1/2 mile east of the PAHO."

PAHO is the Pan American Health Organization, and the statue in question turns out to be the giant discus man in the State Department courtyard. It appears that the folks over at Urban challenge never thought that the security officials protecting the State Department might get a bit angry with a bunch of people on a giant scavenger hunt with camera phones.

In fact, one guard took my clue sheet and took down the information of the good folks at Urban Challenge. While you could see the discus man sort of through the State Department's glass C Street lobby, the agitated guard would only allow us to take a photo from across the street. The photo was out of focus, but was still accepted by the Urban Challenge officials.

Dodging Perplexed Tourists on the Mall. The next clue was fairly straightforward. Take a photo of the World War II Memorial from the Pacific Arch looking toward the Atlantic Arch, without straying into the monument proper itself. Perhaps they didn't want us disrupting the World War II vets and other tourists who were looking at the new memorial. But that was hard to avoid as tourists flooded the precinct. I nearly ran down one octogenarian who could have doubled at Rosie the Riveter back at the Willow Run plant who got in my way.

The next stop, Checkpoint No. 9, was at the Andrew Jackson Downey urn in the garden at the Smithsonian Castle.

Winning With Public Transportation. As I've said before, part of any winning strategy for the race is knowing when to use public transportation to save time. The next checkpoint after the Smithsonian urn was in Dupont Circle, so using the subway was the obvious choice, even with the Red Line being delayed for NewYoFla-related trackwork. After, Checkpoint No. 10 ("We've Read Them? Checkpoint 10 shares its name, but not its spelling, with what the following have in common: Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, The Rule of Four; Find it within 1/2 mile of Dupont Circle"), Best Cellars wine shop at Connecticut Avenue at R and 20th streets, we knew the next checkpoint was at Madam's Organ on 18th Street. While many people cut down R Street to 18th Street, I thought that hopping on a 42 bus to 18th Street and Columbia Road would save some time.

Sure enough, the trusty 42 bus came in two minutes and we were on our way. But another team, wearing American flag dew rags, saw us climb aboard. They ran after the bus and up near the Washington Hilton, climbed aboard to follow us. Instead of getting off at 18th and Columbia, we got off at Mintwood Place and ran down the alleyway to 18th Street, which put us 60 seconds ahead of the flag dew rag team in reaching Madam's Organ. Then there was a mad dash along Calvert Street to Woodley Park, where Checkpoint No. 12 ("Stop whining! Checkpoint 12 shares its name with a one-word song title containing the following lyric: '... we'll dance the night away...' Find it west of the Duke Ellington bridge"), Sherry's liquor store on the corner of Calvert Street and Connecticut Avenue. We then caught a Red Line train back downtown to finish up the first three checkpoints. (Remember, we started at Checkpoint No. 4.) This is where we put our minds, bodies and instincts to work.

The last three checkpoints to clear were the pen store on F Street between 13th and 14th streets; a scultpure in the National Gallery's sculpture garden at Seventh Street and Constitution Avenue; and Fado at Seventh and H streets. After running to the pen store and then to Pennsylvania Avenue and 13th Street, we saw a 34 bus heading east. With other runners nearby, we slowly approached the bus stop and climbed on without anyone noticing. Still, as we passed by a series of runners who were going in the direction of the sculpture garden, we ducked (and took a photo of the unfortunate souls running down the sidewalk). When we disembarked at Seventh Street, the bus driver asked us: "Are you in some race? And you're taking the bus!?!"

He started laughing, bewildered but admiring our savvy bus skills, thinking that we were cheating. Of course, we weren't.

As we cleared the sculpture garden checkpoint, we noticed a 70 bus heading north on Seventh Street, but it was approaching too quickly for us to catch. Somehow, using the last energy reserves from this winter's hibernation, I managed to run all the way to catch the bus at Seventh Street and Indiana Avenue. It took us to Fado, we snapped a photo and hauled ass on H Street to make it to the finish line. We had just missed a P6 bus, which would have dropped us off in front of the Grand Hyatt, but alas, we had to run the last leg. We crossed the finish line in about 2 hours and 47 minutes. (When results are posted on Friday, I'll confirm that.)

ANIMAL REPORT: Deer in Annapolis; Prince Georges to Be Pit Bull Friendly?

The Washington Post has two animal items of note this morning.

First, a lost deer was seen scampering around downtown Annapolis, running from the State Capitol to the docks.

Meanwhile in Prince George's County, elected officials are debating a measure that would lift a ban on pit bulls and mixed pit bull terriers, replacing it with a mandatory registration for aggressive dogs.

From The Washington Post:
"This is an approach that we believe will improve public safety," [Councilman Thomas] Hendershot said. "It's fairer, more balanced and, I think, a more effective approach."

SECRET LOCATIONS: Cheney's Dumbarton Oaks Escape Hatch?

Drudge and others reported on the controversy surrounding a Time magazine disclosure of Vice President Cheney's secret bunker, located on the Maryland/Pennsylvania border near Camp David.

While there has been much speculation about Cheney's "undisclosed location" outside Washington, don't forget about the so-called secret bunker at the Observatory Circle residence. Residents in Observatory Circle area have been living with constant, but well-hidden construction, behind a fence near where Calvert Street meets Observatory Circle.

But what about the S Street trench? Local cabbies have complained that their mobile phone service cuts out when they take the S Street shortcut to Wisconsin Avenue from R Street. The reason they claim? Some say it has to do with the vice president's house. The now-covered trench on the north side of S Street that starts on the property of the Dumbarton Oaks Museum and makes a beeline north toward the vice president's house in the vicinity of the D.C. Boys and Girls Club behind the Social Safeway has raised the eyebrows of those who pass through the area. When I heard of the cabbies' phone troubles, that sparked a bit of suspicion and has caused me and others to speculate. First: Why was it so huge? It could, after all, accommodate a vehicle the size of a golf cart. Second: Why does it make a beeline toward the vice president's house? It's now covered and all but forgotten.

The signs on S Street indicate that the project is for drainage. Which could very well be true. The trench, if it continues on its beeline toward Observatory Circle, would have to tunnel beneath the Dumbarton Oaks-Whitehaven greenbelt, which, while not impossible, would be a large engineering project.

At the Calvert Street construction site, the Oculus has seen vehicles and trailers for Clark Construction, the large engineering outfit, and M.C. Dean Building Intelligence of Chantilly, Va. Green tarps and a giant construction barn mask what is really going on, but it is assumed by the neighborhood the site is the vice president's "nuclear bunker." Who knows, anything is possible (maybe it is for square dancing) ...

More information:

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

SPRING VALLEY: 'Tastes Like Burning'

I answered the phone this evening and listened to a recorded message from the D.C. Office of Emergency Management Office warning of a test siren at noon Wednesday in the Spring Valley/Ward Circle area. The reason? Chemical weapons.

D.C. emergency officials are preparing for the worse. As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers excavates the infamous Lot No. 18 on Rockwood Parkway near American University, it is preparing for the accidental release of old chemical weapons from the era when American University and Spring Valley were used for testing during the end of World War I.

From the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:
In the unlikely event that, during the planned dig at Lot 18, a chemical release occurs and escapes the engineering controls, the siren will sound to let people in the immediate area know they should shelter-in-place. The residents and university staff who are potentially affected have been notified and taught shelter-in-place techniques. Others need take no action unless directed by fire or police officials.

How comforting. The weapons of mass destruction are right here in Upper Northwest.

More information:
Spring Valley, Project Update [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District]
"Mustard Gas Concerns Spreading Beyond Spring Valley" [Oculus]

COMMUTING: Broken Train Vexes Red Liners

A broken train bound for Glenmont/Silver Spring somewhere in the vicinity of Farragut North and Dupont Circle has caused people across the Northwest quadrant to fight for cabs this morning ... or try to find the 42 bus or a crosstown D6. Trains were single tracked between Dupont Circle and Judiciary Square.

While I made it from Woodley Park to Union Station without many delays, others faced a much more troublesome trip downtown or to Capitol Hill this morning. My train operator, sensing the chaotic and stressful trip, was very reassuring and jovial through the whole ordeal. "I'm not sure what's going on. I think someone didn't have their Starbucks this morning. But we'll get through this." As the train pulled into Union Station, he said: "Sorry for the delays. Don't let Metro ruin the rest of your day."

For some people who are easily agitated, it was too late.

U STREET: Losing Its 'Chocolate' Flavor?

The Washington Times writes that gentrification is threatening U Street's role as Washington's historic Black Broadway. In fact, it is losing its "chocolate" flavor. (No word from the Times if "vanilla" is the replacement flavor.)

From The Washington Times' Adrienne Washington:
There's a joke going around that "the New U doesn't include any of the old U's." For many such as Ms. McCall-Haygan, a native Washingtonian who operates the Streets to Skills Social Service near 16th and U streets NW, feel that Sisterspace is symbolic of "what is happening throughout the city" as once-neglected neighborhoods are being redeveloped and property prices are skyrocketing.

While this isn't necessarily anything new, symbolically, when the Quizno's and the Starbucks moved in at 13th and U streets earlier this year, the corridor was officially was no longer up and coming -- it had already arrived. (One friend calls it Cleveland Park South.) So what's the new up and coming corner? 9th and U streets. Three years from now: 7th and Florida. Destination? NewYoFla! (New York Avenue-Florida Avenue-Gallaudet University metrorail station)

Upcoming. The Oculus has been working on an analysis of the U Street corridor. Expect that next week.

"U Street NW at risk of losing 'Chocolate' flavor" [The Washington Times]

COMMUTING: Person, Car Fall Onto Tracks, Delays Trains

The Washington Post reports in its Metro briefs that Amtrak and MARC trains were delayed yesterday because of obstacles on the tracks. At New Carrollton, a woman fell off the platform and beneath an Amtrak train, suffering minor injuries.

While that incident caused only a brief delay, later on, MARC and Amtrak trains were significantly delayed after a car drove down an embankment and blocked the tracks for about 90 minutes. The driver of the car fled after driving down from New York Avenue.

"Woman Falls Beneath Amtrak Train; Car Left on Tracks Delays Train Traffic" [The Washington Post]

Monday, June 14, 2004

PANDAMANIA: The Vandals Strike

This was bound to happen. Vandals have targeted the capital city's newest public art project, Pandamania. The Washington Post reports that pandas from downtown to Cleveland Park have been defaced or damaged. There's even a tape of the evildoers attacking a beloved panda in Foggy Bottom.

From The Washington Post's Debbi Wilgoren:
A security camera at the World Wildlife Fund headquarters in Foggy Bottom captured a young man, beer in hand, prying a piece off the "For a Living Planet" panda at 2 a.m. one Saturday. ...

The damage captured on the World Wildlife Fund videotape appears accidental, said artist David Ciommo, who created the panda affected and has seen the tape.

It shows a young woman hugging the sculpture, while a man who is with her jabs at a piece on the base with his toe. When the piece comes loose, the woman runs. The man follows -- then returns, grabs the dislodged section, and disappears.

Does that exactly sound like malicious intent? That description sounds like it could have been a drunken female intern in George Washington University summer housing who hugged the jolly panda and the guy with her accidentally broke off a piece, ran off and then decided to come back and take the broken piece as so it wasn't in the sidewalk.

"Pandas Defaced, Artists Devastated" [The Washington Post]

Sunday, June 13, 2004

TELEVISION: Trading Spaces Swings By Arlington Apartment Complex, Finds Keri Strug

Could Keri Strug, the diminutive gymnastics gold medalist from the 1996 Summer Games, be aiming to oust the sassy Paige Davis from her hosting perch on the hit Learning Channel show "Trading Spaces"?

According to Oculus sources in Arlington, one resident at the Meridian at Courthouse Commons thought that Strug was the host of the show when the "Trading Spaces" crew showed up at the complex's pool on Saturday. He was quickly corrected by another bystander. According to a Courthouse Commons memorandum posted in elevators, the show is featuring residents in the residential complex. Filming took place this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

During this time, the Phase I clubroom and the Phase I loading dock will be reserved for the production crew. You will also likely see crewmembers of the show throughout the building.

We apologize for any inconvenience this activity may cause. We will inform you as soon as we know when this specific episode will be televised.

Thank you for your cooperation.

So who are the residents in question? At least one is Strug, who resides at the Courthouse Commons.

KALORAMA: Weiss' Wyoming Avenue World

Jennifer 8. Lee scores the front cover of The New York Times' Sunday Styles section with an indepth piece on Juleanna Glover Weiss, who is being toasted as Washington's new it hostess. Weiss, former spokesman for Vice President Cheney, lives in a fashionable townhouse on Wyoming Avenue in Kalorama, just a few minutes walk from the homes of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the French ambassador.

In a city defined by passive aggressive political incivility, Weiss -- a 35 year-old lobbyist who is registered to represent the new Iraqi government -- provides neutral territory for bipartisan socializing. Lee's piece seems to have solidified societal conventional wisdom that Weiss is the heir to the grand hostess throne once held by the likes of Katharine Graham, Sally Quinn and Pamela Harriman. And Weiss, according to Lee, has carefully carved her own niche "[b]y carefully building -- and then trading on -- professional connections to journalists, Republican leaders and Middle Eastern diplomats, Mrs. Weiss has maneuvered herself into the middle of Washington's cozy media-political complex."

From The New York Times' Jennifer 8. Lee:
Seven years ago, when most of her peers were still renting studio apartments or living in shared homes, Mrs. Weiss, then single, began inviting Washington's young establishment-in-waiting to casual get-togethers in her two-bedroom condominium in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood.

One wedding, two homes and three children later, she has moved from kegs of Sierra Nevada and Chinese takeout to nearly monthly parties that feature valet parking, bartenders and coat checks at the house she bought with her husband for $1.5 million in 2002.

Wyoming Avenue: Where Journalists, Policy Makers and Power Brokers Meet. The Oculus has actually been to Weiss' beautiful home located on Wyoming Avenue a block west of Connecticut Avenue. It has a grand foyer and staircase appointed with detailed prints of plants and flowers, with a formal living room on the left. The house can accommodate a large crowd, but the house's layout is fairly chopped up, which can cause gridlock in the dining room, with people milling about the appetizers and the bar. The doorway to the side deck is even more clogged, creating frustrating traffic patterns. While the vodka at the bar was decent, the premium liquor was out of reach, but on display in the kitchen.

So how does one go about writing a profile on Ms. Weiss' position in Washington? Get invited to one of her parties. The Oculus spotted Ms. Lee at Weiss' home at a party earlier this spring.

Lee's profile on the city's new hostess with the mostess comes months after Wonkette and others had a field day with a New York Sun article that declared that the young Lee herself was the new Katharine Graham. (The Sun article was apparently written by one of Lee's former co-workers from The Harvard Crimson; also, a majority of those quoted in the article were all Harvard alums.)

More information:
"The Days and Nights of Juleanna Weiss" [The New York Times]

FROM THE EDITOR: Urban Challenge Results ... Oculus Gets 8th Place

While results are not up on its website yet, I can report that yours truly placed 8th in Saturday's Urban Challenge (after initially placing 10th and two teams were disqualified). The Oculus and his racing teammate, with the help of a diligent and resourceful homebase war room, was able to improve upon last year's 13th place finish. Expect a full report with the racing details. The 8th place finish is an automatic qualification for the national race in Miami in November.