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February 21, 1999

For a Good Time, Call themail

Dear Correspondents:

There's lots of good information in this issue of themail, but I still want to know more about what you would suggest we do for fun. Where do you go, what do you do? I certainly want to try Melio's soup -- and I'm not going to wait until I have a cold — but where else should we go to play?

Gary Imhoff


Wild Life in AU Park
Mary Lou Fahey,

A wild night for us in the AU Park area is to wander into Melio's Restaurant in the Spring Valley Shopping Center. The place is run by a Greek family, headed up by Mary who is a superb cook, with daughter Anna, who is in charge of what is a very respectable wine list. Two-year-old granddaughter Elizabeth is often in residence, as are several neighbors, including AU Law School students. It's a great neighborhood place. (I particularly recommend the chicken-egg-lemon soup — don't ask me to spell the Greek name for it — which is fantastic for relieving colds.)


What Qualifies as Wildlife?
Barbara Zartman,

The critter kind is found throughout the city. Right here on 35th Street, I have had both raccoon and opossum in my own patio. One morning as I peered up from my coffee cup, there was a very large raccoon in my pear tree. Another time a remarkably agile possum was clambering over the fence. When I was providing birdseed for flying critters, I received a visit from a sharp-shinned hawk, apparently interested in feeding on the smaller winged things.

The richness of our parklands apparently offers enough of an oasis for these beings to survive, even off 35th Street (Glover Archbold Park is on the far side of the Visitation/GU properties). That less welcome critters also have havens is the downside.



For a Good Time in North Lincoln Park
Sharon Cochran,

Other than hanging with the dog at Lincoln Park, we pick up fish and fries at Horace & Dickie's (12th&H NE) and go for long walks at the National Arboretum.


Wild Life in the City
Susheela Varky,

Last week, I had a wild life sighting. Walking by The Croydon at 17th and Swann, I saw a raccoon peek out from behind some bushes in front of the building and dash for a parked car. Poor thing!


Wild Raccoon Life in the City
Cheryl Campbell,

Boy, that raccoon gets around! For one week (a little over a month ago), an enormous raccoon was living in our back alley near 16th and T Street NW. We always saw it come down our fire escape landings, and then precariously walk down the steel grates that cover our alley's windows and door. What a balancing act! On the first landing he would set off our alley lights, so we could “catch him in the act.” We never figured how the raccoon got to the top, though. After one week, he seems to have moved on to another area. What an inventive creature!


DC Representation
Kurt Vorndran,

Kudos to Mark Schaefer for getting the churches behind DC representation. He should know, however, that in the '70s and '80s, most national denominations adopted positions either in favor of DC representation or specifically for the DC Voting Rights Amendment, which was the vehicle of the moment. I don't know what the expiration date is on such acts, but it should make it easier to elicit a re-affirmation of the past positions.

Those supporting DC included: United Methodist Church, National Council of Churches, United Presbyterian Church USA and the Presbyterian Church in the US (South), Protestant Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, AME Church, Disciples of Christ, NETWORK, National Coalition of American Nuns, Unitarian Universalist Association, YWCA and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.


No Water, Plenty of Free Phones
David F. Power,

It's official, this is now the lamest town in the country. This week we found out our town is paying nearly 2 mil for other peoples' phone service every year, but the city has no official plan for Y2K other than to tell us to “buy four weeks worth of water and put $100 in your pocket.” You do the math: is $100 supposed to last us 4 weeks in the event of chaos here in the nation's capital? Also, does anyone have a clue how much “four weeks worth of water” weighs, or how much space it occupies? Give us a break. Or, maybe the plan is, we are supposed to put up with the pain in the butt of no water for four weeks because the city is planning us a nice, new $300 million baseball stadium? See link:

[The Inspector General's report on “Controls Required to Identify Unneeded Telephone Lines and Eliminate Unauthorized Telephone Charges” is available at   — Gary Imhoff]


Four Weeks of Water
David F. Power,

Here is what will surely rank as one of the most amazing remarks of 1999 (and it's only February): according to Mary Ellen Hanley, the District's Y2K program manager, as quoted in the 2/19/99 Washington Post online: “You can do the marauder approach and move to the mountains and take everyone, including your mother-in-law, and hole up for a year,” she said. “Or you can buy four weeks' worth of water, put $100 in your pocket and make sure you are safe in your home.”

What are the government recommendations for human daily water consumption? National Academy of Sciences puts out official daily recommended intake (DRI) figures for water & electrolytes, but you have to buy their book, I couldn't find it on their web site. Let's assume the District thinks we need four weeks' worth of water only for drinking, not for all purposes (cooking, coffee, showers, baths, toilets, washing machines, sanitation). Let's further assume that for, drinking and cooking purposes only, we need only two quarts a day, half a gallon. Forget about all other sanitation requirements, break it down to the raw daily survival requirement.

If we stick to a half gallon per day, four weeks' worth is 14 gallons per person, 28 gallons for a two person couple, 56 gallons for a hypothetical two parent, two child family. Where exactly are we supposed to put our 14 gallons per person? A pint is a pound, a gallon is eight pounds. Does the District want each person to buy 112 pounds of water, each couple to buy 224 pounds of water, and each hypothetical family to buy 448 pounds of water? The entire District, with a population conservatively estimated at 450,000 would need to buy 225,000 gallons of water per day (1.8 million pounds per day), which is roughly 6,300,000 gallons of water for four weeks (50.4 million pounds). Any guesses at the cost?


Different Artists, Different Portraits
Ed T. Barron,

The “Loose Lips” column in Friday's edition of the City Paper paints a very unflattering picture of D.C. Public Schools Superintendent, Arlene Ackerman. The article is particularly critical of Ms. Ackerman's management style which involves intimidation of those who question any of her policies or decisions. Ms Ackerman has demonstrated that she feels omnipotent and that it is unnecessary to involve those stakeholder (parents, eg) in any of the decision making for the DCPS. Ms Ackerman has said that she can count the supporters for her tenure in the DCPS on the fingers of one hand (I hope she has all her fingers on that hand). That may well be true, but not involving the people who must make things happen in the decision making process will ultimately lead to Ms. Ackerman's demise.

I do not support all of Ms. Ackerman's decisions. As an example, I think that it is wrong to decrease funding for schools that have demonstrated success. The budgets for those schools should be considered “save harmless.” For the most part, though, I applaud Ms. Ackerman's energy and enthusiasm for making the DCPS work to benefit the students in the system. If Ms. Ackerman can modify her management style to one of a more leader-like approach with involvement of the real stakeholders in the educational decision making process, then she might just get the DCPS moving in a long term evolution to a viable school system and survive to see it happen.


Smoking and Public Schools
Randy Wells,

I am writing to share with you my concern about smoking by public school staff in the view or presence of our school children. Yesterday morning, I saw a sight which greatly disturbed me: a DC Public School (DCPS) bus driver smoking on board their bus, with children present and more boarding. I cannot believe that DCPS policy permits staff to smoke either in the view or presence of our children, and certainly not in the enclosed space of a school bus. What a terrible message to send to our kids!

My purpose in writing is not to finger a single driver, or to besmirch the many good and conscientious DCPS staff who drive, teach and care for our children every day. Rather, my aim is to assure that DCPS have a no smoking policy and that this policy be well publicized (and enforced when necessary) among drivers, staff and the public. The highest priority of DCPS must be the safety, well-being and success of our children. A nonsmoking policy seems an obvious and reasonable step in that direction.


The New Lauriol Plaza
Jon Desenberg, JonDes@hot

For months I've walked out of my house and past the new, huge Lauriol Plaza Restaurant under construction on the corner of 18th and T NW. It was huge and ominous looking, designed to sit more than 300 hundred people, but I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt. Now it's close to done and it's hideously ugly, cheap looking, and out of place in a neighborhood of small townhouses from the 1900's. It might look nice on Rockville Pike, surrounded by acres of parking, but I just can not believe anything of this size was approved for my North Dupont neighborhood.


Grocery Receipts, Etc.
Clare Feinson,

Bancroft School in Mt. Pleasant is a good place to send receipts. I think you can just send them to the school, but Robert Frazier, , who referees the Mount Pleasant Forum listserv should be able to give you more information.

On the wildlife front, my two most memorable urban DC experiences are a) the fox strolling along Adams Mill Road in the morning, across the street from my usual path to work; and b) the raccoon strolling down Wisconsin Avenue in Chevy Chase, right across the street from Cartier's — maybe he was looking for an engagement ring.


Deciding About Those Receipts
Larry Seftor,

Margie Siegel recently asked for suggestions about finding a good home for those cash register receipts that can be used by schools. For normal neighborhoods it is an easy question. Everyone just sends the receipts to their local school. In DC it is a little harder, since many neighborhood just don't have a local Giant or Safeway, and schools in those areas miss out. My wife's law firm has adopted one of those DC schools, and that school is now better off than the rest. And that is the difficulty: any school someone might mention already has an advocate garnering receipts. The losers are the schools that no one cares about. I don't have an answer to that. In my own case, the choice was straightforward. I think the arts are important, and I respect the work done at the Duke Ellington School to encourage talent in DC kids. I send my receipts to Duke Ellington.

Finally, in the wild animal sweepstakes, I'll trump Margie's raccoon by the opossum we have seen twice around our house in the last 8 years or so.


Giant Food Receipts
Margie Siegel,

Thanks to everyone who forwarded me suggestions of schools for my Giant Food receipts — what a wonderful set of recommendations — it seems there are lots of elementary schools in town trying hard to improve conditions for kids and I hope we all can contribute something to the revival of DC public schools. I'm pondering the choices — 15 at last count — and appreciate the advice.


Chevy Chase DC Neighborhood Mailing
Phil Shapiro,

The newly set up Chevy Chase DC neighborhood mailing list is a way of keeping residents of the neighborhood informed about community events, announcements, opportunities, and issues. The list will include announcements about events at area churches, schools, libraries, and community associations. The purpose of the list is to set up an improved mechanism for neighbors to communicate with each other. Sign up instructions at


Getting Fibered and DC Web Searching
T. Jr. Hardman,

Ed T. Barron remarked in the last issue of themail that he was seeing a lot of information-infrastructure hardware getting put into the ground out around American University. This came right on the heels of a conversation I had with someone regarding ubiquitous computing; this fellow had trotted out the hoary chestnut that fiber wasn't in everyone's house, because while for a decade fiber had reached to within a mile of 99 percent of telephone subscribers, 90 percent of the copper wiring on earth was in that last mile between the station house and the householder's handset.

This is no joke. Many new home builders are starting to build for the foreseeable future of non-broadcast telecommunications. As anyone can tell you who has ever tried to get a dedicated electrical line and a second phone line into even a recently built home's inner rooms, retrofits are neither cheap nor easy. If you're in the market for a house in the District, and are hopelessly plugged, you might wish to consider the costs of getting the latest technology installed. Insist that any cabling installed is installed inside a proper tubular guide of a larger-than-needed diameter, with access plates in appropriate places. The initial cost might seem outrageously high compared to simply feeding a cable through the gaps between the two sides of a wall, but when it comes time to retrofit, the speed and ease of running more cable/wire/fiber will offset the original expense.

On another note, I have initiated the Washington Metro WebSpace Search-Engine. For now it only indexes the DCFRA, DCWatch, DC Pages and WashDC sites, and of course the DCRA site. However, for all of those sites, all public pages have been indexed. This still needs a little work, but if, for instance, you type in “permit” as a search term, it will kick out quite a few results. Point-and-click, and you'll get a results window displaying your “found” page. This is still a little buggy, it gets best results with only one search term, but it will improve with time. Be my beta-testers! It's free, and advertising-free, and it's a public service of mine. See:

If anyone wants something like this for their own site, send me some mail. If the City would like to buy the hardware, I'll be happy to set up something like this so that any employee with a browser can quickly tell any caller who handles what and what their number is, they can send me mail to. The software is freeware from the University of Colorado with subsequent code enhancements by the University of Edinburgh UK.


Web Site Tribute to Street Musician Bob Devlin
Phil Shapiro,

I'm assembling a web site tribute to the very special DC street musician Bob Devlin who passed away a few years ago. As some of you might recall, Bob's one-man-band was a fixture on K and M St. NW for many, many years. His harmonica playing, guitar strumming, and thumping drum stirred many a soul. If you have remembrances of his singing, I'd love to gather them for the tribute page. (Even one or two sentences would be great.) I'm also looking for photos and short video clips to include on the page, and am especially trying to track down his album, “Live at 19th and M,” to include some short audio clips from that. Naturally, I am interested in talking with anyone who knew him as a friend, relative, or colleague, too.



Dance Classes
Susheela Varky,

I attend a wonderful jazz dance class at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) at 16th and Q that is in danger of being canceled. “Strictly Jazz” is taught by Debra Floyd and offered from 7:30 - 9:00 PM on Tuesdays and Thursday nights. Debra also offers an African dance class that requires no prior dance experience from 6:30 to 7:30 on Thursday nights. These classes are a real find — Debra gives each of us individual attention and provides instruction that make us stronger dancers. At the end of class, for the last half hour or so, she choreographs a dance. She adds steps each class. Then, every few weeks, she teaches us a new dance. It's always exciting and energizing. Unfortunately, the JCC does not support the program with publicity or subsidies. We're hidden in the squash courts where JCC members don't necessarily happen upon us. Debra may have to cancel class b/c she's not breaking even. If that happens, I'm really hoping to figure out other spots in the area where she can hold class. Does anyone have any idea about schools, churches, etc. where we can hold this fabulous class? And if YOU are interested in attending, please come! You're more than welcome.



Books Giveaway
Keith Fort,

I am a teacher of English at Georgetown University who will shortly be retiring. I am cleaning out my office. I have a large number of textbooks I don't want to keep. These are collections of poetry, drama, short fiction, and essays plus some grammar books. Many are examination copies which have never been used. The books have no monetary value. I have asked among my friends who do volunteer work at various places in the District if they could use the books. They took only a few. It seems a shame to throw them away, but I'll have to do so soon. My query: can anyone think of an individual or an organization that
could use these books? If so, please contact me.


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