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September 24, 2000

Spamming themail

Dear Spammed:

The latest fad among spammers, in an attempt to make their E-mails seem more legitimate, is to begin their messages with a line like, “I saw your address at, and thought you might be interested in this exciting opportunity to make money at home in your spare time.” As you probably realize, no live person actually saw your address — it was just collected by an automated “spider” that crawls the web gathering all the E-mail addresses it finds.

I don't mind unwanted junk advertising E-mails, but then I don't mind junk snail mail, either. However, some other people, among them some themail subscribers, hate spam. If you hate spam, you're out of luck, since you're going to get it whatever you do; but there are some things you can do to reduce it. First, never reply to spam mail, and never ever write to the address it gives that's supposed to get you off the list — any reply just confirms that the spam reached a live E-mail address. Second, spammers get your address whenever you post anything public — to a newsgroup, bulletin board, chat room, or to a web-based discussion group like themail. When you write to a public forum, you can disguise your address in a way that people can still reach you, but automated “spiders” probably won't. For example, you can write your address as, or as Unfortunately, some real people won't get the idea, and will try to write to your disguised address — and some smarter spiders will learn to correct commonly used disguises.

A third, better idea is to get a free web-based E-mail address from a company like Hotmail, Netscape, Excite, Yahoo, or dozens of others, and to use it for all your public correspondence, reserving your private E-mail address only to write to friends and your company E-mail address only for business. This isn't perfect, either; you still have to check your free account for any real, non-spam mail, and your other addresses will eventually get on some spam lists anyway. But it will help. Fourth, you can set up anti-spam software — go to a site like and search on the word “spam” to find several examples — and set up the filters in your E-mail program. Unfortunately, if you set up rules to filter out all of those messages about money and loans, you'll never get that E-mail from your former friend saying, “I need your address to send you the money from that loan you gave me twenty years ago” — and if you filter out all those messages about sex, you'll never know what you're missing.

Gary Imhoff


What’s in a Smell? — Brush Up Your Shakespeare
Charlie Wellander,

Demonstrating the difficulty of ascertaining the exact form of DC's name or a familiar quotation, a recent correspondent did not quite nail the quote. It is: “What's in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.” — Romeo and Juliet, II.ii (not “...smell the same.”).

But attar of roses is not often what I whiff around here. Shakespeare's slightly smelly sayings have more olfactory affinity with DC politics:

“A very ancient and fish-like smell.” The Tempest, II.ii
“Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.” Sonnet 94
“...this foul deed shall smell above the earth” Julius Caesar, III.i
“O! My offense is rank, it smells to heaven.” Hamlet, III.iii


Tenleytown Towers — To Councilmember Kathy Patterson
Stephanie Faul,

Dear Councilmember Patterson: Thank you for your efforts against the broadcasting behemoth under construction at Tenleytown.

The continued proliferation of electronic towers at Tenley Circle needs to be stopped. While the health effects of such facilities are not proved, the practical problems associated with broadcast transmitters are easily documented by the experiences of people who live nearby. As a child I recall listening to WTOP on the movie projectors at Alice Deal Junior High. As an adult I listen to WRQX on my telephone and, until I replaced it, on my answering machine. (I can't hear the station that interferes with my computer modem, but there certainly is one.) My car's remote keyless entry system is useless — its weak transmitter is no match for the overpowering signals from the towers. Ironically, even listening to the radio is problematic: Reception is limited to the few stations actually transmitting in the neighborhood, since the strength of their signal interferes with more distant broadcasts. Adding new broadcast towers will only amplify these problems and will further limit neighbors' ability to use common electronic devices. Please keep working to reduce broadcasting activity in the Tenleytown area.


The Price of Residing
William M. Mazer,

Residence prices are zooming out of sight. Every few years, a realtor-driven buying frenzy occurs in DC, particularly in Georgetown. Multi-bedroom boxes are now being bid in the many million dollar range, often double the prices of even a few months ago. But it is my feeling that we are at the edge of a precipice because oil prices are essentially out of control. Even if current politically driven oil price steadying and reversals occur in the short term, a retrenchment is bound to occur in the longer term in the concept of how many thousands of square feet of living space are required per person in order to assure a minimum quality of life. Prices of other energy products, such as natural gas, will follow oil prices.

The buyers of these residential multi-bedroom, sewing room, laundry room, dressing room, utility room, library, den, and football field-sized entrance foyer monsters may find that they bought at the peak. Holding on will require shutting off and leaving unheated what has suddenly become superfluous space, with no buyers in sight. A few months ago I took the Washington Post to task for poor mouthing the sizes of the lockhouses now being rented out along the canal. Living space per family occupant in the hundred square feet range were apparently inadequate. DC's little one and two bedroom houses will be our future premium residences.


Registration Renewal
James Treworgy,

In regard to auto inspections when renewing for two years versus one and why renewal costs $75: first, inspections are every two years no matter what. Inspecting your car is basically unrelated to your registration — that is, it's entirely possible to end up on a totally different inspection cycle than registration if, for example, you take your car off the road for a while and don't inspect it, but keep your registration valid. Until about a year ago they were required every year, but all inspection stickers issued now last for two years.

As for the fees, the annual registration cost is $65. You are probably paying $75 because a residential parking sticker costs $10 and they automatically bill you for that with the registration renewal. However, this is not required (but probably a good investment) — I seem to remember being asked if I wanted one when I used to live on a zoned street and registered my car. On the other hand, those of us who currently live on unzoned streets cannot acquire one at all, which is a rather annoying law, since there are very few unzoned streets in DC and it means I can't legally park anywhere near my house except the actual block on which I live (or other unzoned areas in DC) for more than two hours. In effect, my parking privileges are no different than any other car in the United States' in DC even though I have DC plates. But that's another story.


Car Renewal/Car Inspections
Rick Otis,

In response to Ann Carper's E-mail about the differences in registration fees: my understanding is that DC charges based upon the weight/size of the vehicle. So if you own a large old clunker from the '70s (or a new Caddy), you'll pay more than for a brand new mini.

[The DMV's site doesn't have the information on it, but I think James Treworgy is correct, and basic registration for cars in DC is $65 for any private automobile. While some other states, such as New York, do have a sliding scale based on car weight, my heavy, real steel, 1973 clunker costs just $65 here. — Gary Imhoff]


DC Car Inspection?
Lawrence P. Bouton,

A question about DC car inspections I am hoping the readership can answer. I just purchased a used car in DC. The previous owner just had the car inspected and the car has a DC window inspection sticker valid through 2002. The "new" DC stickers, however, now have the car tag number on them. Does this mean that I must have the car reinspected? Seems ludicrous that these types of inspections should be tied to ownership as opposed to the car itself (of course I paid an inspection fee when I purchased the car). Any ideas? Do I have to have the car reinspected? (And, more importantly, do I have to go to the DC inspection station to have it done?)


Digital Parking and Registration (Update)
Andrew Aurbach,

I filled out the on-line vehicle registration and residential parking renewal forms on September 2, 2000. I received the license plate stickers on September 23, 2000. I still haven't received the residential parking permit. At least I can drive it, if I can't park it.


DC Department of Motor Vehicles
Ed Kane,

I went today (Saturday) to the DC Dept. of Motor Vehicles office at 616 H Street, NE, and was well served. The office was crowded (maybe Saturday is not the best day to go), but the staff was both polite and efficient. Total time spent to get a copy of my vehicle registration certificate: 30 minutes. Not bad!


Paul Penniman,

Did anyone else miss their recycling pick-up today (Wednesday)? There has been no explanation yet from DPW.


Wrong Answer
Ed T. Barron,

An article in last Wednesday's Northwest Current echoed complaints from AU Park residents about rowdy behavior by AU students. The article quoted an AU spokesperson as saying that student behavior off campus was not the responsibility of the school. That, folks, is definitely the wrong answer. That's equivalent to a parent saying that he has no responsibility for the actions of his children when they are away from their home. AU takes in a large Freshman class each year recognizing that many will drop out in the first semester. Most of these Frosh are fresh out of the box teeny boppers and many are not necessarily here to really focus on their school work. Because the school accepts so many new students, they cannot house many of these students on campus. Everyone has a horror story about living near a “student rental house.” A lot of these first time college students, and particularly those who seek to live off campus, are not yet committed to or focused on why they are attending a university. They are here only to party — big time.

AU should recognize that they have some “children” who are not mature enough to handle the challenges of going to a university and AU should accept responsibility for seeing that the behavior of these students conforms to the accepted behavior of the neighborhoods that the students pass through and live near. It is surely the undergrad students that are causing the problems since those who are attending the AU Law school on Massachusetts Avenue, just a chip shot from my home, are quite well behaved and causing no noticeable problems. The time to address and correct rowdy behavior is right at the beginning of the term. AU should step up to that.


Three Missives in One
Ken Katz, Forrest Hills,

So many things, so few bytes. (1) Low Voter Turn-Out: Ummm, I don't know about others, but as a registered democrat in Ward 3 I had NO — read 0 — competitive races. The ONLY reason to vote would be (1) to write someone in I thought better in the one meaningful race (at-large council), and the two un-meaningful races, or (2) to show that I voted. Well friends, this is no more of an election than that in the old USSR when there is only one name on the ballot. Importantly of course, the means to this end were different for us than for those Soviet citizens. Now, for those of any political denomination residing in other wards, if there was a competitive race then, yes, you should have voted. Or if you had someone to write in, you should have voted. But I for one am fed up with people blindly and stupidly touting the recent turnout as if it were some meaningful measurement. Now, the low turnout in November, that they can complain about.

(2) “Infill”: it is a word, not a concept, and definitely not a substitute for planning. Whether a particular instance of “infill” is good or bad has nothing to do with a concept called “infill”; it only has to do with local planning and city-wide planning. It is certainly true that the metro region would benefit from more people living in the city, as would the city itself. But given that one of the hallmarks of D.C. is that many of the residential neighborhoods are tree-lined and not built-up to within an inch of their lives — very distinctive relative to most Atlantic/mid-Atlantic cities — well, you can follow the point. Anyway, what is lacking for sure is local and city planning. Generally speaking (or typing as the case may be), one can surely see why from a developer/builder's point of view that “infilling” on Connecticut Avenue in NW is a good thing. However, from the city's point of view, surely we would be better served by attracting/directing this growth to vacated parts of the city or those that by all rights should benefit. That is, if you prefer meaningless argot, refill before infill.

(3) Thank you, Wilson High Students: For (I think) the second year, Tenleytown Metro station has been brightened mightily by three artworks depicting the leonine aspects of metro travel. Always brings a smile to my face and spirit.


School Selling/Overcrowding
David Pansegrouw,

Perhaps Sharon Cochran didn't read themail of September 10 wherein Leila Afzal's post tells of her direct experience with overcrowded classes in DC public schools. While Ms. Afzal's post is the comment in themail that I was responding to, it is not the only account of classes larger than stated goals for class size that I have read lately. I also add my experience of being a new parent in the DCPS; my son just entered pre-K in a DCPS. His class looks to me to be crowded and his school does not seem to suffer from abundant unused space.

Ms. Cochran notes that 6 to 9 year olds are a growing population and that she hopes classes can be added for them. Gotta have some space to add classes. A lot can be done with unused school properties other than sell them, as other posters to themail have pointed out, that can result in income to DCPS and keep the properties in the system. I am not saying that no properties should be sold but rather that selling of DCPS properties needs to be examined extremely closely; the cost of replacement is far greater than income from sales. A previous poster to themail pointed out the much smaller footprint of city schools versus suburban schools — one way to counter that is a student population with less density per school. Also, an unintentional benefit of schools is that they provide open space — I think this is worth thinking about when infill issues are discussed.

I firmly believe that a good school system is what will keep people in the city. Younger single people have a way of getting together and kids result, so I am skeptical of the argument that younger people moving into the city don't have kids so schools aren't needed. Counties such as Howard and Loudin are adopting their own slow growth policies, making infill more and more of a reality whether you like what gets built in the city or not. As for myself, I have a four-year old who has just entered the DC schools and a three-month old who will follow her older brother. For my wife and me, school quality is a central issue.


Selling Surplus Schools
Richard Layman, Northeast Washington,

I am all for full funding of DC schools. However, I believe that enrollment figures reported for DC schools are suspect. As Ms. Cochran points out, Census figures show that the population of school-aged children has significantly declined over the last 10 years. But reported school enrollments haven't declined significantly. George Grier, a locally-based demographer, did a study on this many years ago that was reported in the Washington Post (note: this is from memory) and he posited, based on Census figures, that the student enrollment should be something like 67,000 students when enrollments greater than 78,000 students were reported. (Actually, here is the cite: D.C. STUDY CHALLENGES SCHOOL ENROLLMENT DATA/ CENSUS FIGURES SHOW 13,000 FEWER STUDENTS By Sari Horwitz, Washington Post, Friday, April 28, 1995.) A study commissioned by the D.C. school system has found that the District's schools may have 13,000 fewer students than school officials have reported for four years.)

Other reporting at the time in the City Paper said that anecdotally people believed that enrollment figures weren't accurate because when they visited various classrooms the number of students present in various classes was extremely low. Then, in the last round of school closings, I remember (a) a high school being closed that had an enrollment of less than 700 students; (b) a junior high closed with an enrollment of about 190 students; and a proposal for selling and rebuilding the elementary school at (I think) 22nd Street, NW, between K and L, and building for an enrollment of 250 students. Now, charter school enrollments should have some impact as well. I still believe, as a result, that enrollment figures reported for DC schools are inflated.

Empty decaying school buildings are a drag on neighborhoods and should be converted to something viable. And other properties may offer other “higher, best uses” given other needs for improving neighborhoods. Although, I must say, I liked the idea that someone suggested of the City benefiting long term through leasing of such property. However, it is likely that the average developer wouldn't want to deal with the bureaucracy of a property encumbered by the government.

[George Grier's 1998 testimony to Congress on DC school population figures is available at — Gary Imhoff]


D.C. Voting Rights in the Presidential Debates
Joshua S. Wyner,

Please take a few minutes to contribute to an effort to get the issue of representation in Congress for D.C. residents on the agenda for the Presidential debates. To do this, (1) go to, (2) click on “suggest topics for the debates,” (3) begin to fill out the survey, (4) choose the categories “government” or “Domestic Programs and Policies,” (5) choose “other” when asked for subcategories within those categories, (6) when asked what the other issue is that you would like to see addressed, type in something like “full representation in Congress for residents of the District of Columbia,” (7) when asked if you would like a particular question asked, type in a specific question related to D.C. representation, such as “if you support the right of every American to participate in our democracy, do you support full representation in Congress for the 500,000 plus residents of the District of Columbia?”

Please E-mail this to as many people as you can around the country and ask that they do the same. The debates are an excellent way to raise awareness about this on-going civil rights violation.


A September Expedition to the Poles
Charlie Wellander,

And then a November expedition to the polls. I am seriously considering voting, in each contest, for any name that I have not seen smeared across the landscape. Ah, I think, “But if they were elected, and cozied to the money, then we'd see those names blighting the prospect.” Still, perhaps worth a try. To Pete Ross, who asked for the address of a violation — as of September 23, the very short block of Connecticut Avenue between Dupont Circle and Q Street has 24 of your posters. Even if three signs are one sign (hmm, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, oh no, we're back in Orwell's Oceania again), as you claim for your “triples,” then you have put up 8 “signs” in one block. Clearly, at least one side of that block has more than three signs and is in violation of 24 DCMR 108.10. On the other hand, since your election is over, I assume you will be taking down all of your posters soon. Meanwhile, the innumerable and egregious violations by your erstwhile opponent will remain on poles long into December, or even the next millennium.

Several times each week, I walk in the edge city of Bethesda. It's a different world. Posters on public space are prohibited, the few that appear are removed, violators are fined. Here in DC, we have a web site — — which under “Legislation” suggests that we keep checking there for the latest information on the “Street Sign Regulation Amendment Act of 1999” which “...will come before the City Council in 1999.” Oh my, that soon?


Olympics on NBC
Bill Starrels,

Watching the summer Olympics used to be exciting. Tonight (Saturday) I turned on NBC to watch mountain biking and saw about 30 seconds of biking and then, PRESTO, another profile! Perhaps NBC could devote one of their cable channels to be no sports and all personal profiles and leave the actual sports on their regular broadcast channel. I find the coverage of the games to be most disappointing. I would love to know what audience they are targeting by their devotion to so many extraneous stories of yet another athlete overcoming yet another difficult period in their lives (before their million dollar endorsement from NIKE).


Great, Except for D.C.
Mike Livingston,

Jessica Catlin writes of the Post: “You get one of the best newspapers in the country for far less than other major newspapers charge their local readers.” It may be, for some purposes, one of the best papers in the country, but it is one of the worst in the District of Columbia. Only in recent months, with the welcome promotion of Sewall Chan to the D.C. Council beat, has the Post begun to compete with the Common Denominator, Loose Lips, and the Current and InTowner in covering local news. (Even the Washington Times has done better, though I only read it when someone leaves a copy on the Metro.) Despite its special-interest orientation, the Washington Business Journal is more informative about D.C. affairs than the Post is. I agree that the Post is a bargain, but only for national news and features; for coverage of the District, it's only worth a quarter on Thursdays.

On Friday, September 29, the “Democracy Seven” go on trial for standing up to congressional interference with the decisions of our elected city council and our elected mayor — standing up loudly, in the visitors' gallery of the House of Representatives. Last year, the “Democracy Duo” merited about 75 words in the “Crime & Justice” column of the Post's Metro section; let's see, a week from Saturday, if the Post has developed any sense of local news judgment.


Cost of Newspapers
E. James Lieberman,

The Post can charge 25 cents because of advertising. This is a mixed blessing. The “news hole” (yes, that's what it's called) is much smaller than in Europe (even in the International Herald Tribune, a US paper sold abroad) where they don't have paper to burn. Ad rates are much higher there. If the Post charged 50 cents and doubled ad rates our recycling system and land fills would benefit, not to mention our forests. I suppose the same logic applies to the City Paper, but it's already free.



8th Annual Taste of Georgetown
Bob Andrew,

Grace Church will hold its annual “Taste of Georgetown” with sample tastes from over twenty local restaurants, silent auction, and a 30-foot climbing wall. The event will be at 1041 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 30. Proceeds support worthy local charities. For more information, see


SOS on Tenleytown Tower
Jo Cooper,

Community meetings to stop the tower! Tuesday, September 26, 7:00 to 8:45 p.m., Tenley Friendship Library, 2nd floor meeting room, Albermarle and Wisconsin Avenue. Friday, September 29, 7:30 p.m., St. Columba's Church Great Hall, 42nd and Albermarle (with apologies to our neighbors who will be observing Rosh Hashana. This was the only additional time/space available that we could locate next week in the area on such short notice, and we are in a serious time crunch.)

Time is of the essence! The TV tower is very quickly being constructed on 41st Street in Tenleytown, and is going to be one and a half times as tall as the Washington Monument, right in your backyard! Come meet with your neighbors about this blight and possible health hazard being constructed right in the middle of our community. At each meeting, we will be screening an hour-long video entitled Broadcast Blues, a one-hour documentary video by independent filmmaker and Emmy award winner Len Aitken, about efforts of the community of Lookout Mountain, Colorado, the site of most of Denver's broadcast towers, to challenge the erection of a similar broadcast/telecommunications tower, and follow the screening with a group discussion. Contact Jo Cooper, 966-3202, or E-mail



Washington Wizards Tickets
Horace Howells,

I have gone and done it again, I renewed my Washington Wizards season tickets. I wasn't going to, but after they offered me two seats in section 111 row E, I couldn't resist. The seats are five rows off the floor directly across from the Wizards bench (probably just inside the foul line). Having just had a second child, there is no way I am going to be able to make it to all of the games, so I am looking for folks willing to buy partial plans and single game tickets. Obviously the more games you take the better your choice of games will be. And please, don't E-mail me if you are only interested in the Lakers game.



Web Designer Needed/DC Salary and Pittsburgh Cost-of-Living
Jeffrey Itell,

A hot Internet company desperately seeks a web designer in Pittsburgh. Real money, stock options, free cruises, and pastry chef on premises. All these benefits and more can be yours if you, your friend, your friend's friend, or a person you don't care for produce great web designs for Java/Flash web sites. Please forward resumes and inquires to me, your former kibitzer, at,


Non-Profit Administrative Assistant
Susie Cambria,

Non-profit children's advocacy organization is seeking applications for the position of administrative assistant. Excellent verbal and written communication skills required. Proficiency in Microsoft Word and Access required. Salary in mid to upper 20's with excellent benefits. To apply, send or fax resume to DC Action for Children, 1616 P Street NW, Suite 420, Washington, DC 20036. Fax 234-9108. No calls please.

Register for DC ACT's second annual conference, Our Children, Our Future, on November 9, 2000! Subscribe to DC ACT's bi-weekly legislative and information alert — E-mail me today!



Share Expenses to Midwest
David Sobelsohn,

I'm considering renting a car and driving (with stops just to refuel) from DC through Pittsburgh and Cleveland to Detroit and back during the next couple of weeks. If you'd like to go I estimate total expenses at $150-60 (car rental for four days plus gas & tolls). It's a 9-hour drive. I'll do all the driving if you share expenses. E-mail me directly for more details.



Babysitter Available
Suzanne Griffith,

Looking for a loving and reliable child care provider? Our terrific babysitter is now able to take another child, since our son is starting school. She currently cares for a 2-year old in the family's Brookland home from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information, call Suzanne or Ed at 832-0589.



Atlantic City Driving Directions Sought
Jon Katz,

What is the quickest way to drive to Atlantic City, NJ, from Washington, D.C.? Route 40 looks like the shortest distance, but I was wondering whether I should connect to the Atlantic City Expressway at some point. Also, how many hours should the ride take on a weekday morning (going close to the speed limit)?


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