Saturday, September 17, 2005

WHEATON: Manipulated Escalator

My camera's been screwed up for the past few months and I haven't gotten around to either fixing it or procuring a new one. But one side benefit is that it can create images that manipulate light in odd ways and with some further manipulation by yours truly, you get this strange view of the longest bank of escalators in North America at the Wheaton Metrorail station.

SHERIDAN KALORAMA: Discovering an Apostle

I stumbled up on a new monument yesterday afternoon outside the Bulgarian Embassy on 22nd Street NW, a monument to Vassil Levsky, a Bulgarian hero known as the Apostle.

Before this, I had never heard of Mr. Levsky and there isn't too much information online about him, but here's a Bulgarian website detailing the "Apostle of Freedom." To sum his life up, he established the Bulgarian underground in the late 1860s, with the aims of kicking the Turks out and establishing a republic. In 1872, when the Turks caught wind of what was going on, there was a disagreement within the Bulgarian underground.
Karavelov and other revolutionaries wanted the uprising to begin immediately. But Levsky did not agree with them. He headed to Roumania in order to avoid rash actions. On his way, a mean betrayal led The Apostle right into the hands of the police.
He was hung near Sofia in February 1873 and "[o]ne of the greatest Bulgarians ever was no more."

So there you have it.

In other recent Bulgarian news, via the embassy's website:
"EU Human Rights Court Fines Bulgaria"
"Bulgarian School Uniforms Inspired by Harry Potter"
"Bunny Girls Welcome Sheraton Sofia Guests"

Friday, September 16, 2005

CONTEST: No Winners

The answer to the trivia contest is Mount Vernon Square-7th St.-Convention Center. And nobody got it. And I'm not necessarily surprised. I did make it tough.

Let's review ...
A Vaulted Challenge:

If Dupont Circle is equal to Union Station, and Ballston is equal to Stadium-Armory, what station doesn't belong on the Green Line between U St.-African-American Civil War Mem'l-Cardozo and Navy Yard ...

A shift at Rock Creek might be able to help you pin-point an aberration.

So how did I ever come up with that answer? A few people e-mailed or asked me at Stetson's last night made some good attempts, either taking maps out and trying to do some triangulation, counting the number of stations and trying to do some sort of mathematical deduction. Nope.

First off, it was a "Vaulted Challenge." With vaults, I'm talking about, well, the vaults in Metrorail stations, as in the "arched structure, usually of masonry or concrete, serving to cover a space," according to

Second, look at the next part of the clue. Besides being on the same lines, what is the common bond between a.) Dupont Circle and Union Station, and b.) Ballston and Stadium-Armory? Besides being stations on the same line, they are the bookend stations for segments that feature the so-called waffle or coffered design throughout. (The waffle design of the Pentagon City station on the Blue and Orange Lines can be seen here.) Outbound after Stadium-Armory, the Orange Line runs above ground to Minnesota Avenue and beyond. Outbound after Ballston, the Orange Line runs above ground in the I-66 median.

With the Red Line, outbound after Union Station, the Red Line runs above ground. But outbound after Dupont Circle, there is a shift in station design. (Thus the secondary clue ... "A shift at Rock Creek might be able to help you pin-point an aberration.") The waffle or coffered design ends and shifts to a "six-coffer" barrel-vaulted design. Essentially, you couldn't easily convert the ceiling design at Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan to a waffle iron. But it would be easier to convert the Dupont Circle ceiling for breakfast service. Look up, look closely and you'll notice the difference.

So what about the Green Line? What station doesn't belong between the U St.-African-American Civil War Mem'l-Cardozo and Navy Yard stations? They all have a the waffle design, except for one: Mount Vernon Square-7th St.-Convention Center station, which was the first station to use the design (according to the Schumin Web Transit Center, which can be seen most prevalent on the Red Line between the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan (pictured above) and Medical Center stations.

Pentagon City photo from the archives of Drew McDermott.
Woodley Park photo from the archives of Ambivalent Images.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

CONTEST: Free Drinks Tonight

I encourage you to come out to DCist's first birthday party tonight at Stetson's. Unfortunately, I will be on deadline tonight when festivities get started, but I'm sure the most hardened DCist contributors and readers will be there past 9 p.m., when I should be arriving.

As was customary when I was DCist editor, I crafted a trivia challenge before each DCist happy hour. So I will continue in that tradition here. The rules are the same. First to find me at Stetson's tonight with the right answer gets a free drink or free drinks, depending on how sastisfied I am with how you came to your answer.

A Vaulted Challenge:

If Dupont Circle is equal to Union Station, and Ballston is equal to Stadium-Armory, what station doesn't belong on the Green Line between U St.-African-American Civil War Mem'l-Cardozo and Navy Yard ...

A shift at Rock Creek might be able to help you pin-point an abberation.

DAILY MUESLI: Fresh Chili Paste

Good morning.

As some people know, I have to move out of my apartment temporarily for two weeks next month for a renovation overhaul of the electrical and plumbing systems. It's an old building, and the mechanical systems do need upgrades. It won't be that bad as I just have to move all my stuff out of my bathroom and kitchen into the living area. So I'm happy I don't have to totally move out.

But there is one problem: the fridge. Everything must go, so what do I do with stuff like an 8 oz. container of Sambal Oelek Ground Fresh Chili Paste that's only half-consumed. I have been using it quite a bit over the past few months and I consider it an essential item for cooking. But it can only go so far. To finish off the container, I would have to use it everyday in odd places, like cereal. But I don't think that'll work. If anyone has any bright ideas on how to consume it in a semi-normal way without killing my taste buds, please let me know. (I'm thinking about thawing some frozen salmon and coating the whole thing in chili paste, or at least will be generous with the chili paste.)

So what else is going on?

1.) Does this mean that I'll be getting cheaper flights back to Michigan during bankruptcy restructuring?

2.) Forget Paris: Gourevitch evacuates the Upper East Side and heads to Tribeca, says the NY Observer.

3.) Tom was having trouble with the CTA in Chicago, trying to get from O'Hare to Belmont. He recounts his story of trying to get to the Purple Line. My CTA experience consists of a couple of trips on the Red Line between the Loop and Howard, but I think if I remember correctly, the Purple Line only runs rush hour as an express. The rest of the time it only links Evanston to the Red Line at Howard.

4.) Speaking of Tom's other half at Unrequited Narcissism, I know everyone at DCist will be missing Catherine tonight at DCist's one-year birthday party. I wish her all the best in Chicago. Catherine was the first person to respond to my subtle call-out for writers July 2004 for a "group-blog" I had hoped to form. Exchanging e-mails with her she said it'd be totally cool if we could create something like Gothamist. Unbeknownst to her, Rob and I were already posting secretly to DCist's beta, and we didn't want to let the secret out quite yet. So Catherine, I'll miss you. Come back to D.C. real soon.

5.) In other Chicago-themed news, the man once known as DCSOB, Mr. Thrown for a Loop, has easily transitioned to a new blog. But I must respectfully disapprove of his weekend law school groupie excursion to John Barleycorn's in Wrigleyville. I was not a fan of that place. Head across Clark Street to the Goose Island brewery or anywhere else than that block of Clark Street.

5.) One, two, three, four, who declared the blog war? (This is all quite funny, and exhausting. And it has generated more than 50 comments on DCist.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

NEW JERSEY: Examining Seaside

Photo of South Jersey magazine taken fall 2004 in a house in Cherry Hill, N.J., on a whirlwind 36-hour trip from D.C. to Brooklyn and back

This past weekend, a friend from my days at the college paper came down from Princeton, N.J., for the sake of getting out the greater Princeton Junction area. As a Jersey native, Neal has always enlightened me about all things Garden State-specific. It's always been an odd place, a state I never have really understood.

But there is Jersey pride (the movie "Garden State", a still pictured at left, has a cult following and from what I've been told is a good depiction of life in New Jersey) amid all of the trash talking its residents are used to, whether they're doing the trash talking or not. Anyhow, I want to go up sometime this fall to do a grand tour of the state's finest diners. As Neal, his girlfriend and I were talking about that glorious state, I remembered perhaps the one thing that will always instantly make me laugh: the web resource to understand that unusual anthropological specimen, the New Jersey Guido.

"Guido" most often is used in a context that is insensitive. But in places like Seaside Heights, the environs where the Guido is typically on the prowl in search of his Guidette, it is used as a term of endearment. I highly suggest you read this 2002 article from The Washington Post's Style section that Libby Copeland penned. It is truly a wondrous piece of journalism:

As the sun sinks, guidos prepare for partying. Some nap. Some shower. The whole crew walks to Temptations to wait 20 minutes to pay $20 and get stamped so that later, they won't have to wait in an even longer line. When they stand outside the club, guys drive by pumping loud music through open windows, and a voice from somewhere keeps yelling, "'Ssup, girl!"

The story's protagonist and Guido cult hero, Moo, is stuck trying to figure out what he's going to wear:
Moo gives up and goes to take a shower. Jana says, "He takes longer than I take." Out in the main apartment, the music is loud, and Construction Carline is shouting, "WHO WANTS SOME SHOTS OF JAEGER?"

Carline already has his outfit set for the club: his construction helmet (actually a tree-trimmer's helmet with ear guards) and a red cape. Tonight, he'll be calling himself Tempts Man.
Seaside Heights, N.J., sits in the Garden State's Third Congressional district, currently represented by Jim Saxton (right), a Republican who represents much of central New Jersey including some Ocean County beach communities. While Moo 'n' crew and the Temptations bar sits in Republican territory, much of this guido demographic comes from various parts of New Jersey to Ocean County, so it is probably difficult to easily track voting patterns, or cross check with data from the Census Bureau. I wouldn't think statisticians would be able to craft a Jersey-specific "Would you describe yourself as a guido? If so, fill in the bubble"-type of question.

Google "new jersey guido political leanings" and all sorts of stuff comes up, most of it not very useful. From Underneath Their Robes, the judicial news and gossip blog, you come across a Sept. 24, 2004, post analyzing the Vanity Fair article "The Path to Florida: What Really Happened in the 2000 Election." In it there is a listing of Supreme Court clerks, who they clerk for, law school and appellate clerkship.

For Justice John Paul Stevens, you come across "Eduardo Penalver (Yale/Guido-maniac)."
For Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, you come across "Linda C. Lye (Berkeley/Guido-maniac)."
For Justice Steven Breyer, you come across "Danielle Spinelli (Harvard/Guido-maniac)"

So who's Guido-maniac? Under Their Robes explains in a post from Aug. 11, 2004:
Some of you might be scratching your heads right now and asking, "Guido—who’s he?" If you have to ask, get out of this blog! Yes, Article III Groupie understands that, to much of the world, a guido is "[a]n adolescent or young-adult American male of Italian ancestry or descent, esp. one of lower-middle-class socioeconomic background or status, [who is] thought of as being dim-witted, excessively aggressive, and prejudiced against perceived outsiders, particularly homosexuals and members of other races." … But within the federal judiciary, "Guido" refers to only one, truly unique individual, of aristocratic Italian ancestry and extremely high socioeconomic and educational status: the Honorable Guido Calabresi of the Second Circuit, the most prestigious circuit court after the high-and-mighty D.C. Circuit. (Yes, Article III Groupie stood up from her seat and genuflected after typing the words "D.C. Circuit." Her mama raised her right!)

According to Judge Guido Calabresi's Yale bio, he specializes in "Torts; tragic choices; legal process, constitutional litigation." If his 1970 book, "The Cost of Accidents: A Legal and Economic Analysis" doesn't seem all that interesting, this quote from a June 2004 meeting of the American Constitution Society might:

In a way that occurred before but is rare in the United States...somebody came to power as a result of the illegitimate acts of a legitimate institution that had the right to put somebody in power. That is what the Supreme Court did in Bush versus Gore. It put somebody in power.

The New York Sun later reported on the gathering, saying in its lede: "A prominent federal judge has told a conference of liberal lawyers that President Bush's rise to power was similar to the accession of dictators such as Mussolini and Hitler."

Just to be clear, the judge did say: "I am not suggesting for a moment that Bush is Hitler. I want to be clear on that, but it is a situation which is extremely unusual."

The judge has been considered liberal by observers. But I don't think this Guido hangs out in Seaside Heights at Temptations.

What happens when you Google "new jersey guidos republican"?

This Sept. 2, 2004, post from the Village Voice's strip-club blog pops up, which was trying to gauge strip-club patronage among Republican National Convention delegates.

The club's normal weekday summer crowd consists of couples looking for adventure and "Guidos from Brooklyn and Queens," as one cab driver described them, so the wave of suits means either that a) Wall Street has returned from the Hamptons (an event, according to my customers in the champagne room last night, that is not due to take place until next week), or b) the delegates, perhaps fired up by Zell Miller's declaration that "God is not indifferent to America," had come in for another night of spiritual fulfillment.

But the Guidos here came from the outer boroughs, not New Jersey. Again, no indication as to political leanings. On, a quick survey of the fan-sent writings and Moo's writings reveals little politically. It seems the world of politics doesn't penetrate into these parts of Ocean County, to Temptations (right) or the Surf Club.

Moo perhaps says it best in his "NJ Anthem."

This is the weekend that we show the rest of the world what we are made of.
It's time to show the New Jersey haters out there, how we party.
They don't know what it's like to be part of the energy of Temptations on a Saturday and Sunday night. ...
We don't want to dress up, we want to dress less.
We want to show off the fact that New Jersey men and women are in the best shape.
It's time to put all of the petty bullshit behind us.
Turn off the damn t.v. Get off your ass, and get to the Jersey Shore.
It's weekends like this that last forever.
There are no excuses. Party like a rockstar.

Something tells me that the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial hopefuls, Sen. Jon Corzine (D) and Doug Forrester (R), could have trouble cracking this voting bloc of undetermined importance.

What could they promise these Shore hard-cores?
Trenton-subsidized gym memberships? New Army Corps of Engineers appropriations to help protect Seaside from storm surge? A toll-free Garden State Parkway?

I'll be waiting eagerly for new Census data.

DAILY MUESLI: Bulgarian Feta Bagel

Breakfast: Bagel and egg sandwich with Bulgarian sheep's milk feta and green chili salsa.
Good morning. I feel that I am now officially back blogging. If I went and took photos of what I'm having to eat this morning, I guess that I'm back in the game. It's been more than a year now since I've kept a personal blog. Sure, thousands of readers got to know me somewhat when I was editing DCist, but there are rarely "I"s in a group blog. It was just easier to relaunch my old pre-DCist blog, The Washington Oculus. This blog will probably move soon.

So what's "Daily Muesli"? Assuming I'm awake early enough each morning, I'll point you in the direction of some interesting stuff I find online and in the news. Muesli , if you may remember, is the "mixture of usually untoasted rolled oats and dried fruit, often used as a breakfast cereal." Sure, I had a bagel sandwich this morning, but this muesli is nutrient-free, fat-free information that's good for your mind. We'll see how this "daily" feature develops ... let's hope I can pump out one post a day. Just watch your step, this site will be undergoing reconstruction in the next few weeks.

1.) According to Reuters' top two stories, things aren't too happy in Iraq or at home.
2.) Information Leafblower and Coolfer detail the Future of Music Conference at George Washington University.
3.) This ad for the late great architect Philip Johnson's Urban Glass House in Manhattan is kind of irksome. But perhaps Mr. Johnson would want to be fused with Annabelle Selldorf for all eternity. A Daily Dose of Architecture and Curbed have more.
4.) The Guardian: "Ich bin ein Berliner." Another broadsheet downsizes. But is it cherry coke, as Chris Lewis says?
5.) Dean Donald Trump: "At the end of the school year, I will be selecting 16 students - eight men and eight women - to compete in tasks of grading papers and leading discussion groups and selling hot Italian sausage in Spanish Harlem while dressed as mimes." [via Chris Kula]

Gotta run. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is now speaking during the John Roberts confirmation and MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell is trying to explain Kelo v. New London.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

ABOUT THE EDITOR: A Short Biography

U.S. Capitol, viewed from the Old Post Office's bell tower. Photo illustration by Michael Grass.

UPDATE, MARCH 2008: A current backgrounder can be found here.

Michael Grass is the Web editor for The Washington Post's Express. Although he grew up in East Grand Rapids, Mich., Grass' family has resided in the District of Columbia since the 1860s. His grandfather grew up in what is now Kinkead's restaurant on I Street NW. Other ancestors ran a Capitol Hill tavern a century ago. His great-great grandfather's noted residential woodcarving can be seen in Dupont Circle's Christian Heurich House Museum, the United States' most-intact late Victorian mansion.

Grass is a graduate of the University of Michigan where he served as editorial page editor and news editor at The Michigan Daily. Grass has written for Crain's Detroit Business and was an editor at Roll Call. He's a founding editor of, the fifth site in the global network of city group blogs from Gothamist LLC.

His work is also featured in "Writing Ann Arbor: A Literary Anthology," (University of Michigan Press, 2005) a collection of essays, poetry, fiction and other writings from Arthur Miller, Wendy Wasserstein, Joyce Carol Oates and other scribes who've made their way through Ann Arbor, Mich.

Links to selected Roll Call articles: (subscription only for full article)

"Recent Defense Debate Has Echoes of 1991" May 29, 2003
When it comes to examining Defense funding debates, an old adage quickly leaps to mind: The more things change, the more they stay the same. That was never more true than during the recent back-and forth over the massive $400 billion Defense authorization measures passed by the House and Senate on May 22. ...

"California Finds Messing With Texas Troublesome in Major University Spat" June 11, 2003
Keeping a watchful eye on moves by the Energy Department, the University of Texas is gearing up for what would be a major coup in the research community: taking operational control of the nation’s top government nuclear weapons lab away from the University of California. ...

"Bill Divides Capito, Bush" July 30, 2003
As Pfc. Jessica Lynch returned to a nationally celebrated homecoming in West Virginia last week, the former prisoner of war’s Congresswoman found herself in a public relations pickle. ...

"Saudis Spend Big on Image Work" Oct. 14, 2003
Eager to change its image in the nation’s capital, Saudi Arabia has emerged as one of Washington’s biggest spenders since President Bush launched his war on terrorism.

According to newly released figures compiled by the Justice Department, the government of Saudi Arabia paid about $15 million in the second half of 2002 for an extensive lobbying and public relations campaign designed to persuade the Bush administration, Congress and the American people that the Islamic kingdom is an ally, and not an adversary, in its counterterrorism efforts. ...

"Guantanamo Fight Comes to K Street" Nov. 17, 2003
In an unprecedented move, a dozen Kuwaiti families have hired K Street lobbyists to help them try to free family members from the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the U.S. military is holding enemy combatants from terrorist sweeps in Afghanistan. ...

"K Street Files: K Is for Kandahar" Nov. 23, 2003
Of all the American powerbrokers registered to represent Afghan interests, the most peculiar may be Four Horsemen International. While the North Carolina-based group’s name may evoke mythical visions of the apocalypse, it refers to the combined nickname of the founders, four Army Special Forces combat veterans who have an “untiring work ethic.” ...

"Boeing Playing Defense in New Session" Jan. 20, 2004
Senate sources say the Boeing Co., which is already under fire from the Pentagon, will face increased heat from Capitol Hill in the next few weeks. ...

"Flap Over Intern Infuriates Frank" Jan. 28, 2004
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is accusing the nation’s largest internship placement organization of misleading him over the firing of a program supervisor allegedly dismissed for assigning a student from a conservative college to the openly gay lawmaker’s office. ...

"Home Is Not Where the Hart Is" (Sept. 13, 2004)
Office space allocation has always been a complicated matter on Capitol Hill, especially in the Senate. And in the fall of 1982, when the Hart Senate Office Building was set to open, Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), like many of his colleagues, was not happy about the prospects of moving out of the Dirksen Building. ...

"Jefferson’s Bible Returns, Controversial as Ever" Jan. 24, 2005
It is a great irony of American history: Thomas Jefferson, the man credited with coining the term “separation of church and state,” wrote his own version of the Bible — and for decades the views in that Bible were imposed on Congress. ...

"The Keystone of Washington" June 16, 2005
If you were to stand at Union Station and look down Delaware Avenue Northeast toward the Capitol, it’s possible to see how the Congressional campus has changed in the past 50 years — if you know what you’re looking for. ...

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog. Any views expressed in this space does not necessarily reflect those of my employer, Express, or The Washington Post Co.

PHOTO: Testing New Photo Application

It's the Taft Bridge, taken two weekends back, this is only a test.

FROM THE EDITOR: Watch Your Step

The Oculus is under reconstruction.