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March 25, 1998

Your Electronic Backfence

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Dear Neighbors:

Normally I reserve this spot for comments on the most critical issues facing our city - like my complete loss of Parking Karma near the WorldCom (pending Justice approval) Center. But today I want to discuss an even more pressing issue - dc.story's "layout du jour" practice. With the "electric cattle" prodding of correspondents, I have been mercurially tinkering with our rag-mag's format.

However, one element that has caused consternation has not changed. I still segregate postings from others with asterisks. Usually (for at least a few weeks now), the posters name will appear at the top of the posting. Sometimes that approach does not make sense -- especially for classified ads that end with "for more information." Nevertheless, the name and email address is always in the same box as the post. So, dear reader, should you find comments that set your blood boiling and you want Special Persecutor Kenneth Starr to haul the writer's keister in front of a grand inquisition, please make sure you've fingered the right heretic.


Speaking of which, a couple of months ago, a Washington Post reporter quoted me about "Flytrap," AKA "All the President's Tsouris." I found out today that G. Gordon Liddy read that quote and said my name on the air. Ew, yuck. I had to take a shower.


Firehook Bakery opened finally opened in my neck of the woods. Just what Washington needs, right? More inferior bread at OPEC oil prices (circa 1973). Firehook, however, also has the extraordinarily pleasant Roma garden. To date, the garden looks untouched and in disrepair. The store itself is a work in progress at best, hardly better equipped than the fire station across the street. In fact, I had to step over workers to fork over a week's salary for wryless rye bread.

Jeffrey Itell March 25, 1998


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Whose Federal Interest Is It Anyway?
Carl Bergman,

Entering DC makes for many changes, most of them unseen. First, go your voting rights. They may have stuck with you all the way from Alaska, but cross Western Avenue and they take flight. What were once your obsequious Senators and Representative turn hostile. Before you crossed the DC line, they'd heap benefits on you, now it's scorn. You do gain one thing, a millstone that weighs everything in DC down, called the "federal interest." Each of us who lives here has to carry it around at Congress' behest. Any time we want to do something, they remind us that our millstone symbolizes our special status, so we can't. Every time Congress wants to whip us around they point to it as justification.

In theory, the federal interest embodies those enduring national values needed to run the nation, and to override temporal parochialism. In reality, it's the opposite. Congress is the arbitrary, narrow and nearsighted one. It 's the locals who care about the city as capital, and as a city, not the Congress.

For example, look at who Congress chooses to oversee the city, an ever-changing crew of clueless backbenchers. Pressed for time, disinterested in issues, and always angling for better assignments, they hop from one pet item to the other. Even worse are our neighbors. DC suburbs regularly produce clean cut, good government progressives who view the city as a happy hunting ground for job relocations. Only when bankruptcy looms has Congress focused, and then we got a brief, flawed performance.

This is not new behavior. In the 60s and 70s, Congress held back Metrorail for years, insisting on dozens of miles of unwanted, destructive freeways. Who wanted to tear down the Old Post Office? Congress? Who fought to save it, the locals. The next time you here federal interest come out of the hill, the White House, or the national media, ask yourself -- whose interest is at stake here, anyway, and why are they making it a federal case?


Retreads on the Control Board?
Beth-Ann Gentile,

With regard to new appointments to the Control Board, I suggest that no one with a direct connection to Marion Barry should be appointed. That includes past and present members of any of his administrations. Even though Jeff contends that Larry A. King recently retired as D. C. Director of Personnel "with his reputation intact," it is inconceivable that he was not aware of the multitude of irregularities within his jurisdiction. It is also inconceivable that he was not forced to bend a big rule or two by our esteemed mayor.

As for John Ray or Bill Lightfoot, I also suggest that past and present members of the D. C. Council are unqualified for Control Board appointments. For too long we citizens of the District has absolved Council members from responsibility for the miserable quality of the D. C. Government. Over all these years Council members have had oversight authority over most government activities. They have been acutely aware of Marion Barry's shortcomings and have facilitated, either by commission or omission, Barry's rape of our city. Not only are past and present Council members unqualified to serve on the Control Board, they are also unqualified to serve as Mayor.


DC Cable Reception Gone South
Bill Adler,

Have you noticed that DC Cable reception has become very bad lately on the broadcast channels, 4,5,7,9? Ordinarily, there's a little ghosting on those channels, but over the past couple weeks the reception has become simply terrible, and sometimes unwatchable. DC Cable claims that this is because the broadcast antenna interfere with cable reception, but that's about all they say.


Kentucky Courts
Anne-Marie Bairstow,

I am a graduate student whose class (public-private partnerships) is doing a project on Kentucky Courts. Our class has been asked by the neighbors to look at possible reuses of the Kentucky Courts housing project (now abandoned) on Capitol Hill. We are considering several possibilities: market-rate housing, co-housing, senior citizen housing, public housing again but with a better design, or some kind of special structured public housing program. We are open to considering other ideas as well, although our professor doesn't want us to consider the park option that is apparently popular with some of the neighbors. If anyone is familiar with this project or lives in the area and would be willing to be interviewed about the project, please email me at the above address.


More Meter Mania: Congrats to the Post
Bob King,

The Washington Post's front page article on handicapped parking fraud (Sunday, March 22) did my heart good. My only regret is that they left out my two favorite abusers: the street vendors at 10th and E and 10th and Penn who still arrive early, set up shop next to their vans, hang a handicapped drop tag from the rear view mirror, and conduct rent free business every day (see dc.story January 1997 repeat 1997). They are probably acting within the letter of the law, but it infuriates the spirit. It is sort of like the conclusion of the Post article which describes the dedication of the new indestructible meters that were promptly made irrelevant by a dandy sporting a "park free forever" handicapped drop tag. .

The old meters had been relatively unharmed for years if not decades. The problems started when D.C. government decided that regulating parking was unimportant. Parking meters, when carefully watched by swarms of ticket writers, can be a cash cow producing millions for the city - shoppers be damned. When the handicapped tag abusers found a way to beat the system (no money required, no time limit) and occupied most of downtown street parking, the meters became objects of anger and resentment. D.C. government ignored the early meter losses; no arrests, no prosecutions, no replacement or repair of the meters. Many of the remaining meters were methodically destroyed, mainly, because they were signs saying, "this spot reserved for someone better connected or smarter or less principled than you are, and has a handicapped tag and won't get a ticket - ever."


A $45M Boondoggle
Ed T. Barron -

What a waste of money it would be to invest $45 M in fiber optics wiring of classrooms in the D.C. schools for Internet service. The kids can barely read or write and we suddenly want to put them at keyboards to access materials on the Net. Get real guys. Use the $45M to get some real teachers in the classrooms, reduce class sizes, fix up the learning environment (facilities improvements), tutor those who are behind grade levels, and establish basic programs to give our kids the ability to learn. That's what must be done first. If we can get beyond the basics then it will be time to consider wiring classrooms for the Internet. Many of the teachers we have now don't know the Internet from a hair net. Good teachers in the classroom make for good learning, not computers. Computers are tools that are wonderful in the hands of skilled students. We don't have the skilled students yet so the computers and the wiring should wait. First things first. Get the classrooms with good teachers first.


Local Childcare
Sally Kux,

I don't know if the subject of childcare has been much addressed in this forum, but I would like to let dc story readers know about the Jenkins Hill Child Development Center, the daycare center where our 11-month old daughter has been enrolled for several months. JH is a small, independent, and not-for-profit center, run by a director and a parent board. Most of the care-givers have been at JH for several years, and they are very loving. The Center is located at 4th and Independence, SE -- a block from the Library of Congress. I would be happy to answer questions about the center, or you can call JH (543-4664) for information.


Web-Space Drive Launched
Phil Shapiro,

One World Media Center, an exciting new nonprofit video training center in DC, launched this week a new web-space drive to obtain a gigabyte of donated web space before the end of 1998. This web space will be used to showcase excerpts of the community-themed videos created by One World's 110 video producers. Support community television with your unused web space! (And we promise you'll see far fewer needles than when you give blood. Same good feeling of support, though.) Details at


So you're interested in that big advertising spot in the beginning of dc.story? Contact Jan Genzer -- the dc.story marketing maven--at or call him at 202.364.0383.



Friends looking for short-term furnished rental home in AU Park/Cleveland Park area. Would like a lease from June 1 to December 1, though somewhat flexible on dates. Family of 4 (two small boys) plus live-in. Prefer furnished, but will also take unfurnished. Please e-mail me with any suggestions. Amy Goldman,


"Photo exhibit. Artist's reception this Thursday in Adams Morgans:
Michael K. Wilkinson,

"Jolt-N-Bolt presents "RED," a collection of fine photographs by Michael K. Wilkinson. These cibachrome prints span two continents, six cities and seven years, and represent a sample of the odd and interesting range of subjects that catch this photographer's eye. "Michael K. Wilkinson lives in the new U Street corridor evenings and weekends, and in the corridors of the Pentagon from nine to five. He has participated in eight previous shows, five in Washington and three in Vienna and Graz (Austria), and has won several awards for his photographs.

Jolt-N-Bolt is holding an artist's reception this Thursday (March 26) from 6-9pm. Refreshments, including a nice selection of wines, will be served. The store is located at 1918 18th Street, NW (near the corner of 18th and Florida in Adams Morgan)."


Environmental Film Festival
Joanne Dann,

The Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital will screen 80 documentary, animated, feature, archival and children's films from March 27 to April 5 at museums, embassies, universities, international organizations and libraries in Washington, D.C. Highlights include Roberto Rossellini's first documentary, "India," and Jacques Cousteau's "The Silent World." Washington premieres include "City Farmers;" "My America," a chronicle of the Asian-American experience in the U.S.; and a film about American architect, Mary Jane Colter. Family feature films include "Never Cry Wolf," and "The Boyhood of John Muir." "Jammerdal: Valley of Tears" will be screened at the Royal Netherlands Embassy and animated films by Frederic Back will be presented at the Canadian Embassy. For more information about the Environmental Film Festival, please visit our site at: <>, or call 202 342 2564.


Lunch with Dr. Camille Cates Barnett
S.L. Mayhew,

Join us at the DC Bar for a Brown Bag Lunch discussion with Dr. Camille Cates Barnett, Chief Management Officer of the District of Columbia on Thursday, April 2, 1998 at 12:00 noon. The program will be held at the D.C. Bar Conference Center, B-1 Level, 1250 H Street, N.W. (Metro Center). Bring your lunch, beverages will be provided. Please call (202) 626-3463 for details and registration. The program is sponsored by the District Affairs Section of the D.C. Bar and both lawyers and non-lawyers are encouraged to attend!


Bring a Friend Art Show and Dance Party, March 29
Bruce McBarnette, (703) 404-8429

Music City Road House, 1050 30th St. in Georgetown, 7pm-10pm, is the place to be for hors d'oeurves, dancing, cash bar, art for sale, and fun for a good cause. Your $10 donation will benefit For the Love of Children and the Good Knight Child Empowerment Network. Dress is casual.


Jewelry Dance Party, April 5
Bruce McBarnette, (703) 404-8429

Come to Music City Road House, 1050 30th St. in Georgetown, 7pm-10pm, and enjoy hors d'oeurves, dancing, and a jewelry display. Bring canned food or clean used clothing for Bread for the City. Cover is $6. Casual dress.


Zoo Lecture: The Handicap Principle: A Missing Piece of Darwin's Puzzle
Margie Gibson -

On the occasion of Israel's 50th anniversary, Amotz Zahavi, a renowned Israeli zoologist and professor at the Institute for Nature Conservation Research in Tel Aviv, presents The Handicap Principle. Before the lecture, he will sign copies of his book, The Handicap Principle: A Missing Piece of Darwin's Puzzle.

Zahavi studied Arabian babblers, a Middle Eastern songbird that lives in flocks. Adult babblers help care for young that are not their own. Zahavi's studies indicate this behavior is a selfish investment in advertising social prestige, a kind of "showing off." Other species, ranging from ants to peacocks, and gazelles to humans, exhibit similar behaviors that impose a cost, or handicap.

15 April 1998. 7 p.m. Book signing. 8 p.m. Screening. The Education Building at the National Zoo. Enter at Connecticut Ave. and Park in Lot A. Free, but please RSVP by calling (202) 673-4801 or sending e-mail to


Kittens Who Came to Dinner Seek Permanent Home
Clare Feinson and Carl Dahlke,

Two adorable kittens and their mom, rescued during an eviction, are ready to bring love and joy to your household now:

--the little boy kitten is a gray shorthair tiger with white paws --his sister is black with white paws, also shorthair --Mom (Fluffy) is a gray tiger with longer hair and a wonderful bottlebrush tail

The kittens are about six weeks old, born in mid-February; Mom looks to be about a year and a half and is very friendly and loving. For more information or to arrange to see the kittens, call us at (202)667-4701.


Sofa-Bed For Sale
Leila Afzal

Add a new bedroom to your home or apartment by simply buying a sofabed. Ours is for sale. The upholstery is a light oatmeal color. The mattress for the bed is real (not a thin foam one). It is in very nice condition. Make a reasonable offer and it's yours. You can reach me by phone at 202-362-8056 or by email.


Custom Databases available now! Design and technical experts meet your needs quickly for a reasonable price. Web design and computer troubleshooting, too. Call John Griffiths: (202) 546-2398 or email <>.


Stuff To Give To Worthy Yard/Garage Sale
Joan Eisenstodt,

We have good household stuff and books we'd be glad to donate to a school's or other worth group's yard/garage sale this Spring. If you are interested, and perhaps can pick stuff up on the Hill, please let me know by email.


Design/Build/Carpentry: Small design build firm specializing in additions, decks, built-in furniture, and custom-designed furniture available for in-home consultation. No job too small. John Taboada,


Need Help With Your Computer Needs At Home Or In The Office?
Patty Friedman/Nick Chang - (202.237.0130)

PC hardware repairs and upgrades; hardware/software installation and upgrades; maintenance, troubleshooting and network support; Back-up and archive your files and email on CD-ROM; setup computer network for the small office; build customized database in Access or other programs; web training and web page development; application/Internet training; data recovery. Reasonable rates. Excellent references.


Also, free! Free movie passes, short movie reviews, and movie discussion. Send an email message to to subscribe.


dc.story is a discussion group. The opinions stated are the sole responsibility of the authors. dc.story does not verify information provided by readers.

Kibitzing by Jeffrey Itell. Copyright (c) 1998. All rights reserved.

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