Sunday, October 29, 2006

Walking Tour; Lost; Icing; Books

Great Day for Walking

(As I wrote the last time I posted photos and drawings: a blog is no place to do this--sorry the quality is so bad. It's the best I can do; take that to mean that there are probably better ways to do it...)

It turned out to be a great day for a walking tour of the remaining two Buckingham Villages. The grass was a little soggy from rain Friday night, and the 20 or so people on the tour blocked traffic on the sidewalks at times, but the sun was shining Saturday morning on the changing trees as Clark Ewart of Paradigm Development Companies led us through the changes his company is proposing for Villages 1 and 3.

All of these changes are, like the balloons in the photo below, up in the air but nearing completion. The Site Plan Review Committee, one of three committees with a hand in overseeing the project, is hoping to finish its work by its December meeting.

Earlier this week, the buildings of Village 2 were demolished to make way for the “Buckingham Commons” townhome development. [See “Are We Lost?” below, and the Oct. 25 post for more on this.]

Only a couple Buckinghamsters came to the tour. The majority of the people either were county staffers or citizens from the SPRC, the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board or the Community Preservation Committee. All three have their hands in the redevelopment process.

Major changes discussed on the tour [See the Oct. 1 post for more information and drawings]:

* In Village 1, the 62 Townhouses (two fewer than the last plan) moved south from N. Henderson Road and now take up the northwest corner of N. George Mason and N. Pershing drives.

Village 1 map:

Paradigm provided two different options for the placement of the townhouses. One allows for a wide pedestrian thoroughfare through the village, the other changes that pedestrian space into a road. The different versions change the traffic patterns (see the drawings, if they’re legible). Notice in the "Pedestrian Way" drawing the entrance to the village via Pershing Drive. That entrance moves to George Mason Drive (the upper right corner of the drawing) in the "New Road" version:

The bottom of the balloons (see the photo below) mark about 40 feet, the height of the townhouses. They more closely match the height of the buildings in Village 3 than the “Octopus” did.

* The “Octopus” has moved north to N. Henderson Road at N. George Mason Drive, across the street from K.W. Barrett Elementary School. The building, with its tongue-in-cheek name derived from its seven wings, apparently lost one unit and is down to 374 apartments. The move places the four-story building across George Mason Drive from the tall townhomes going into to Village 2.

* The “Stick,” the long, narrow five-story apartment building running parallel to the Culpepper Gardens Assisted Living Center property now sports a courtyard on the side facing Culpepper Gardens, a move that breaks up the roof line of the building, Mr. Ewart said.

It looks decidedly less stick-like with courtyards carved out of its back and front. As well, a 30-foot wide greensward now runs along the backside of the building between it and Culpepper. It’s a fire lane but will look like a lawn to the average viewer. The building still holds 152 units.

* Five of the 16 buildings of Village 3, at the northeast corner of N. Pershing and N. George Mason drives, will be improved with six “bump outs” and a pool behind 4323 N. Pershing Dr.

Village 3 map:

The bump out additions, similar to those constructed at the Gates of Ballston on N. Pershing Drive, will convert the two-bed, one-bath apartments into three-bedroom apartments with either one-and-a-half or two bathrooms. A “tot lot” playground is planned for Village 3.

Mr. Ewart could not say which units would remain “affordable,” as that is still under discussion with Paradigm and the county.

Are We Lost?

I went to the web site for the new “Buckingham Commons”—the name of the Townhouse Development going into Village 2, and saw this map!

They don’t know where they are!

One page on the web site talks about a “gorgeous tree-filled setting”—sure, but that’s because you think you’re moving into Arlington Oaks, where all the trees are. Unfortunately for you, dear Marketing People, you’ll be selling units two blocks farther north. (Hint: your homes are north of 4th Road.)

It’s funny, too, that one map of Village 3 on the walking tour was mis-marked; it placed Village 3 on the block where Village 2 is.

What’s in a Name?

A couple million bucks, no doubt.

Silly me. I thought the name of the new ice skating center atop the Ballston Commons Mall was
The Arlington Ice Skating Center, as is posted on the signs, web sites, etc. But I was reading the Post story Saturday morning about a sneak peek civic leaders and press members were given of the new facility when I read:

“Next week, the center will get its name after officials announce the company that has bought naming rights.”

I’ll admit I felt a little foolish thinking something so large with an attachment to professional sports would be called “The Arlington Ice Skating Center.”

But now I want to know who it is. My dream: The Dunkin’ Donuts Glazed Icing Center. (Think about it: youth hockey would be the “munchkins league;” the arena would be nicknamed “the coffee cup.” This is perfect.)

Bug in the ear to the county board: Pursue the Donuts. Dunkin Donuts (a company looking to expand in the region) and a couple other small retailers would fit nicely in a plaza-style space (with tot lot??) at the corner N. Glebe Road and N. Randolph Street.

Friends of the Library Book Sale

I swung by the Friends of the Arlington County Library Book Sale in garage of the Central Library branch on Saturday to talk to Cindy Sweet very quickly. Business was brisk, and I held myself to only a few books because I was on my way to the meet-n-greet with school board candidate Sally Baird (more on Sally during Wednesday’s post).

It was nice to meet Ms. Sweet who told me that the Friends hope to raise upwards of $55,000 that goes toward the library’s endowment and their summer programs.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

BV Updates; Book Sale; HFK Auction

The Changes at Buckingham Village

The four-hundred block of North Thomas Street was the first to see demolition as crews tore down buildings that are part of Buckingham Village 2 on Monday Oct. 23; by Tuesday, much of Village 2 was gone. The village will be refilled with luxury townhouses starting in $750,000 range.

Village 2 is bounded east and west by George Mason Drive and Thomas Street and north and south by Henderson Road and North 4th Street.

To see a couple short, silent video clips of the demolition,
click here and here.

Paradigm Companies, the owner and developer of the property, released this statement via email, and Pat Hope was nice enough to send this along to me:

"To ensure safety for all residents (especially the children) and construction personnel, we will be temporarily closing sidewalks while the process is taking place and re-opening them at the end of each workday. In addition to the crossing guards at the corners of Pershing Drive and North George Mason Drive and North Henderson Road and North George Mason Drive, we plan to have construction personnel as well as signage at the corners of North 4th Street and George Mason Drive and North Henderson [Drive] and North Thomas [Street] at the
beginning and end of the school day to assist the children and their families to and from Barrett School."


BV Walking Tour
The Buckingham Villages Walking Tour has been rescheduled to take place on Saturday, Oct. 28 (it had been rained out a couple weeks ago).

The tour of all three villages runs 9 - 11a.m. starting at the BV rental office, 4319 North Pershing Drive.

Questions? Contact:
Freida Wray, Site Plan Coordinator, at 703/228-3541 or
Gizele M. Carnell-Johnson Clerk, Planning Commission (703) 228-3525


Who Needs the Book Sale When They Give Away the Best for Free?

I love used book sales, often buying more books than I’ll ever get around to reading. Still, it wasn’t the
huge sign for the book sale in the Arlington County Central Library parking garage the other morning that got me so happy.

The volunteers who sort through all the books had found what they believed to be the good, but un-sell-able, books and placed them on shelves just outside the doors to the elevator.

If I love book sales, I love free books even more (one of the many perks of being a professor is that publishers just send me books out of the blue). I must have gotten to the free shelves shortly after the volunteers had filled them, and the salivation began.

How are these beauties just left for anyone to take?

I brought that question to Cindy Sweet, the book sale coordinator for the
Friends of the Arlington Library.
The volunteers have to sort through 60,000 to 70,000 items, she said, looking for books in four general categories: books for the sale (the most valuable), books for the store inside the library (it’s open regularly year-round), books for the free shelves and finally books that have to be trashed.

“A lot of times you’ll see they’re slightly tattered,” she said, referring to the free books, “but they’re very readable.”

I told Ms. Sweet I love those books because I’m always hoping to find the gem they missed.

“Chances are slim,” she said.

None of the volunteers has a background in bookselling, she said, but “We’re pretty good at spotting these,” books that have any market value, she claimed.

Au contraire!

Where else—for free no less—could I find “Funk and Wagnalls New Encyclopedia," the 15th volume from “Lace" to "Maots”? I’m pretty sure this blue-covered classic with gilt lettering is from 1975 by the Roman numerals on the title page.

“Maots” it turns out is Mao Tse-Tung, the philosopher-chief of Chinese communism. This volume also includes information on Lao-tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher who produced “Tao te Ching.” When they let Volume 2 slip through their fingers, which I’m sure includes the Buddha, I’ll have the whole of Chinese philosophy at my fingertips!

I ask you, How did this gem get by your group, Ms. Sweet?

Or, even better, how did the “Microwave Cookbook” get past you?

With recipes from 1984 like Tomato Jalapeno Cheese Dip and a cooking time of only 7 minutes (at most!), the good people of Sanyo (makers of car radios and microwave ovens) have nothing on Rachael Ray.

From page 44:
Recipe for Tomato Jalapeno Cheese Dip:

Makes about 4 Cups.
Total Cooking Time 7 minutes
2 pounds process American cheese, cubed
1 can (1&1/2 ounces) tomatoes and jalapeno peppers, drained
1 can (5&1/3 ounces) evaporated milk.

Combine all ingredients in 2-quart glass measure or microwave bowl. Cook on HI (max. power) 7 minutes, or until cheese is melted, stirring once during cooking time. Blend thoroughly with electric mixer. Pour into serving bowl. Serve with corn chips or dipping-style potato chips.

Extra dip can be frozen in plastic containers. To reheat, cook on 55 (defrost) 1 minute. Stir and repeat until dipping consistency.

175 more pages of these babies!

The Arlington County Central Library Book Sale runs at the Central Branch, 1015 N. Quincy St., from Friday Oct. 27 (for members only, but you can buy a membership at the door) through Saturday Oct. 28 and Sunday Oct. 29, for the rest of us. Click the links for more info.

Hope for Kids Auction

Pat Hope of the Hope for Kids charity reported that last Thursday's HFK auction netted about $5,000 for the group with about 60-70 people attending throughout the night (Excellent!). [See the Oct. 15 post, below].

Remember that all secure, tax-deductible donations with HFK go to the children. Administrative costs and other overhead expenses are paid by the HFK board.

In the past Hope for Kids has bought jackets, books, school supplies and, of course, holiday gifts for the children of the region.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Espenoza, McMenamin, Bham Villages 1 & 3

Breakfast with Cecelia Espenoza

I met
independent school board candidate Cecelia Espenoza the first time at the dedication of the Buckingham Plaza park on North George Mason Drive [see my post from Sept. 13]. She seemed nice enough then, but she wasn’t really doing what I’d call campaigning. She handed out cards and introduced herself but beyond that wasn’t really pressing the flesh. I thought to myself that she doesn’t have a chance if this is how she acts on the campaign.

Then I met her at a breakfast at a friend’s house yesterday. These friends, the Redmond/McGilvrays, have been tirelessly campaigning for her to the point that when their youngest wants to get a ride in his stroller he says, “Let’s go campaigning”! After meeting Ms. Espenoza there I could see why my friends (as well as another family from my son’s pre-school) were supporting her so staunchly.

At the breakfast she showed that side of her that was a prosecutor in the Salt Lake City area and is now an attorney with the Department of Justice.

I’d say the theme of the day seemed to be one of making transparent rules and following them. Since I was the only person who showed, the morning was more of a chat, a long one where we talked about her time as a Vice prosecutor, her time living in Colorado and other friendly talk.

We didn’t even really talk about the school board race too much, until we got to street signs. That’s when the proverbial gloves came off.

She doesn’t like the way the regulations regarding campaign street signs are being enforced.

The rules, she said, state that a candidate cannot have more than two signs per median strip in a road. Any sign with the candidate’s name on it is considered a sign for the candidate. So the signs with Sally Baird and Chris Zimmerman on them are considered one of the signs for each of those candidates. Yet median strips with that double sign often also have another two just with Ms. Baird’s name on it, Ms. Espenoza said. And no one is enforcing this breach.

“Why have an ordinance that some of us are trying to follow where others are not?” she asked.

I have to admit that I started looking for this as I drove around the county yesterday, and I saw what Ms. Espenoza was saying. It didn’t seem like a tragic gaff on the part of Ms. Baird’s committee, but I thought it gave insight into Ms. Espenoza’s thinking. This was probably the third or fourth topic where she talked about the need for clear policies and the need for following and enforcing them.

Buckingham Villages
Site Plan Review Committee is holding its second meeting regarding Buckingham Villages 1 and 3.

[I can’t make it to this one, so if anyone else can get there and wants to pick up handouts for me and wants to take some notes, that’d be great. Please let me know—
Steve Thurston.]

October 23, 2006
7:00-9:45, NRECA Building
4301 Wilson Blvd.

According to the SPRC:
The Site Plan Review Committee (SPRC) is comprised of Planning Commission members, representatives from other relevant commissions and several appointed citizens. The SPRC reviews all site plans and major site plan amendments requests, which are submitted to the County Board and the Planning Commission for consideration. The major responsibilities of the SPRC are the following:
1: Review site plan or major site plan amendment requests in detail.
2: Advise the Planning Commission by recommending the appropriate action in regard to a specific plan and any conditions, which it might determine to be necessary or appropriate.
3: Provide a forum by which interested citizens, civic associations and neighborhood conservation committees can review and comment on a particular plan, or the effects that the proposed project might have on the neighborhood.

Second Meeting – October 23, 2006
1. Status of Committees to date: HALRB & CPC
2. Follow-up on site design and building architecture
3. Transportation, Streetscape and Parking:
3.1. Review of Street systems including existing and proposed cross sections
3.2. General routes for vehicular and pedestrian traffic flow to and through the site
3.3. Pedestrian network:
· Sidewalks, street trees, crosswalks, connections, bike/walking paths
3.4. Relationship of transit stops and routes
3.5. Parking and loading dock access: locations, number curb cuts,
3.6. Driveway widths and treatments, potential conflict with street trees
3.7. Parking
· Numbers, ratio, visitor (and potential public) parking, delivery drop offs, parking management plan, TDM plan, amount and location of bicycle parking
4. Open space
4.1. Landscape Plan, Detailed Plaza designs and/or types and elements of public and private open space
4.2. Compliance with Planning Documents including Open Space Master Plan, Sector Plans and Phased Development Site Plan (if applicable), Chesapeake Bay and stormwater management plans
4.3. Orientation and use of open spaces (external vs. internal)
4.4. Relationship to scenic vistas, natural features and/or adjacent public spaces
4.5. Tree preservation and/or replacement
For more information on the Arlington County Planning Commission, go to their web site

For more information on the Site Plan public review process, go to the Arlington County Planning Division’s web site on Development Proposals/Site Plans

To view the current Site Plan Review Committee schedule, go to the web site

Short Shrift on McMenamin

About an hour after I posted the endorsement of Chris Zimmerman, I must say I got thinking more about Mike McMenamin, and how I think I gave him the short shrift. I reviewed some stories about him, and then I looked at his web site, and I was struck by his neighborhood needing a stop sign.

I started looking around my neighborhood at all the things I’d like the county to fix, including adding a stop sign on Pershing Drive and the crosswalk area on George Mason on the north side of Arlington Boulevard.
Mr. McMenamin’s right, this county government can be amazingly unresponsive, especially with these smallish changes. You have to follow the whole “Arlington Way” (seemingly endless calls, emails and/or paperwork or analysis through the civic associations) to get a small change, that often doesn’t come. Perhaps that was the political theme I would have liked have heard from him: “Cut taxes to create a more responsive government,” or something like that.

In our neighborhood we had county board members (including Mr. Zimmerman) and county employees on a neighborhood walk-through telling us there are professional studies which show that people don’t stop at stop signs if the traffic on both streets is not roughly equal. In other words, if the traffic along Pershing Drive largely outweighs the cross-traffic on Thomas Street, which it does, drivers on Pershing will ignore the stop sign.

But what about pedestrians? I have a hard time believing that most drivers would blow through a stop sign when there’s a pedestrian in a clearly marked cross walk. We’re a pedestrian-heavy neighborhood; the county doesn’t seem to understand that.

I’m realizing the backwards nature of what I’m about to write, but I’m going to write it anyway, Mr. Zimmerman, you’ve got my endorsement, now get me my stop sign.

Arlington Connection

My first free issue of the Arlington Connection arrived in the mail, Friday. Excellent. It took about eight weeks to arrive, but I had talked with Mary Kimm, the Connection publisher, and she asked for my patience. I’ll admit, I was getting a little antsy, but then, there it was. A free community paper in Buckingham, yea! Thank you, Ms. Kimm.

To request a free subscription to the Arlington Connection, call 703-917-6465 (available to residents of Arlington). It is currently the only free Arlington-focused English language newspaper available in Buckingham.

Police Notes for Buckingham
Oct. 18: Robbery by force. 300 block of N. Glebe Rd.

At approximately 10:10 p.m., a woman walking down the street was pushed down by two men. The men took her purse and her jacket and fled on foot. Suspect #1 is described as a black male, 6’2” tall, wearing a white sweater and a baseball cap. Suspect #2 is described as a black male, 6’2” tall, wearing a dark long-sleeved shirt, and a baseball cap.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Zimmerman Gets My Vote

A Short Post Today--A Quick Endorsement.

I’m throwing my weight behind Chris Zimmerman in the race for the county board seat. Not that it really matters. First of all, despite my girth, I don't have much weight, politically speaking. Also, with the race for the U.S. Senate so tight, Democrats in Arlington will vote in force, and Mr. Zimmerman, the incumbent Democrat, will skate to victory, I’m guessing.

I’ll admit that I’ve been thinking a lot about Josh Ruebner. Mr. Ruebner is asking the right questions and challenging the board in the right way. I hope this isn’t the last election we see him in. He’s asking the people of Arlington to take a close look at how we deal with some key issues, not the least of which is low- and moderate-income housing. He’s unabashed in his pursuit of new answers to these concerns, and I wish him the best of luck going against other board members.

In an earlier post, I said that Mike McMenamin’s Republican candidacy just felt uninspired. It has the same rhetoric (“cut taxes”) as every other GOP campaign out there; a sort of one-size-fits all feel to it. Although I’d love to have more money, I don’t want to take it from a program that might really need it (but now I’m getting into a huge ball of beans).

Finally what hit me about Mr. Zimmerman is that I see him quite a bit in Buckingham. I’ve seen him at the Buckingham Festival (at least three years), I saw him when the Buckingham Plaza opened about a month ago. I’ve seen him just driving through the neighborhood. He was part of the board’s task force on the Buckingham Village Apartments renovations.

He has emailed me at least twice regarding information in my blog (we have agreed and disagreed on issues). When I said hello to him at the Buckingham Plaza event, he already knew me and talked about the blog with me. When I ran a small paper in the neighborhood a few years back, he took the time to talk with me (once while washing dishes in his kitchen).

I don’t agree with him on everything (in fact we have recently played email tag to set up a time to meet and discuss a disagreement), but I can’t completely fault a guy who’s involved and listening.

I don’t know how much he gets into other neighborhoods, but he gets my vote for showing up in mine (it’s more than some of the other board members—some who live closer to Buckingham—manage to do).

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Hope For Kids; Warner and Webb; My Stoopid Email

Hope for Kids

Patrick Hope told me that he’s always been a little uncomfortable with the name of the charity he helped found:
Hope for Kids. He said he doesn’t remember who came up with the idea for the name back in law school (Catholic University) about six years ago, but he really doesn’t want it to be about him.

Still, he’s the president of the group, a friend of mine, and a Buckinghamster (he’s the president of the Buckingham Community Civic Association—while I’m at it, he’s also the Buckingham Captain of the Arlington Democratic party, works with and coaches for the Special Olympics, has been on any number of county-wide citizen task forces or committees (I lose count), and he is a new dad to Emma. I feel mildly lazy when I talk with Pat.)

So anyway, when the note came in the mail inviting me to HFK’s latest fund-raising art and memorabilia auction (this Thursday Oct. 19—admission $20 per person or $35 per couple; see details below), I thought to call Pat and sit down with him to talk about the organization.

donations go to the kids, Pat told me. Invite printing, web site maintenance, postage and other overhead expenses are all covered by the HFK board so that all donations go directly toward buying clothes, books and toys for the region’s disadvantaged and homeless children. HFK has no paid staff or even an office to maintain.

“I think the concept is solid,” he said over coffee at the Ballston Common Mall Starbucks. “If more charities operated like this, they’d get more done.”

Although the group had been around a couple years before 2001, it was after 9/11 that they turned themselves into a 501(c)(3) corporation so that
donations are tax deductible. (It was a bunch of attorneys, he said, they just couldn’t help but get all legal.) They’ve raised $50,000 in donations over the past five years.

The group lets needs-based agencies find what and where the need is and then HFK does what it can to fill the need. The group has worked with D.C.’s Child and Family Services Agency, House of Ruth, The Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network and other organizations. They bought encyclopedias for four DC elementary schools that didn’t have libraries, he said.

“You don’t have this problem in Arlington,” he said.

He said they’ll walk into Target and just buy up the coats. HFK also provides the gifts at the annual Lubber Run holiday party, gifts for 40-50 kids each year for the past four years.

“There’s nothing like going to…KB Toys where we went last year [in the Ballston Mall] and piling up the toys,” he said, $5,000 or $6,000 worth from them or Target. He said last year they just kept filling his car with toys and driving “back and forth between here and my house.

“I don’t know how Santa Claus does it,” Pat said, but then he remembered: “He’s got Rudolph and can stop time.”

Some other details about how you can help:
Their web site:
Giving via the “Network for Good”:

For tickets and Info regarding HFK’s Live Auction, contact:
Helene Slavin (301)530-0438.
$20 per person or $35 per couple (all door receipts go to HFK)
Fine Art, Sports Memorabilia, Music Memorabilia and More
Wyndham Washington, DC Hotel
Vista Ballroom A
1400 M St., NW
Washington, DC
(Near McPherson Square Metro stop)
Preview 6-7:00 p.m., with a cash bar, hors d’oeuvres and door prize.
Credit Cards Accepted.

Just Like the Rest of Us

I was up in Glens Falls, N.Y., my hometown, over the summer talking to a former editor of mine. It was a nice sunny day, the day after his weekly deadline, so we took time to stroll the block to Crandall Park to sit under the trees at a table like a couple of old geezers; we should have pulled out dominoes or a box of checkers, but we didn’t.

Mark Frost, the editor, at some point told me about the tight race in his district (what’s now New York’s 20th) for the Congressional seat once owned by Gerald B.H. Solomon—staunch conservative Republican and supporter of all things said by the Leadership (from before Reagan until after Gingrich).

Although things looked good for the Democrat running there and for Democrats in general, Mark said (and he’s Republican), that he thought the Dems would pull defeat from the jaws of victory this November. [*See my other short piece, below.] I said that was well within the realm of possibility. This led to his surprise at how well Hillary Clinton does in northern New York and how strong he thought a presidential candidacy of hers might be. I told him that’s OK, she won’t win, but Mark Warner will.

“Who is he?” Mark Frost asked, and when I told him who, he followed up, “Why will he win?”

That’s when I hit him with my litany: Warner’s a photogenic, white man from the south; a governor not a Senator; who brought the state from a huge deficit to a huge surplus during a mediocre national economy in just four years while working with a legislature of the other party; at the same time, he’s a businessman.

“Unstoppable,” I said. In hindsight that may have been a tad premature.

News of his leaving the race shocked me (he didn’t call!). I thought he was just saying “I’m not sure” because he didn’t want to announce until he officially announced. I thought he was running superbly.

We all know that Hillary really is running (she won’t pull out for family reasons), and the press—by continually treating her like the darling front-runner in a race that hasn’t really even started—is setting her up for the big fall. McCain’s in the same boat.

I thought Warner was playing it great, staying in the shadows until Hillary makes a blunder, and then step forward and become the new darling of the media. Alas, he wasn’t lying in wait, he was thinking.

He’s gotten mainly favorable coverage of why he left. It looks like a good man got out of the race—( said that this proves the rule that only megalomaniacs run for president, not good people. The right-leaning Instapundit said, since he wasn’t leaving under scandal, that it was too bad an honest politician was leaving).

But be prepared for it, people, it may still be that Warner has a skeleton he doesn’t want out (and now that he’s leaving, people will start looking for it). I doubt it’s there, but it might be.

When the Foley fiasco lit up the front pages recently, my brother-in-law called and asked just when the Republicans were going to realize that they’re just like everybody else. They’re gay, or wife-beaters, or heavy drinkers, or smart, or conniving, or hard working and honest, or soccer moms and fans of heavy metal, just like the rest of us.

Not Playing It

That Jim Webb’s campaign is doing as well as it is, amazes me. In today’s Washington Post, they said Democrat Webb and Republican Senator George Allen are in a dead-heat, so what did Webb’s people say:

"We are extremely encouraged by these numbers," said Webb spokeswoman Kristian Denny Todd. "We've always maintained that the more people learned about the real George Allen, the more they would feel he's wrong for Virginia. We will build upon this momentum, and we know we will win."

Granted, this might just be the quote the reporter used, and I haven’t had time to see if anyone else picked up this story, but that shouldn’t be what’s said. Learn to spin for Pete’s sake (you’re running for U.S. Senator, jeez). Try any of these:

"We've always maintained that the more people learned about the real Jim Webb, the more they’d come to his side.”


"We've always maintained that Jim would make his biggest impressions late in the race, and here he’s done it.

Or, you can always steal from the “Bull Durham” playbook:

"We gotta play it one day at a time."

Just make sure the response focuses on your candidate (Allen’s people know this very well—their quotes are much more on the money). In some ways, Webb really doesn’t deserve to win.

Stoooopid Email
I've been having trouble with my Verizon account lately, and tonight apparently I've sent the same message three times. I'm terribly sorry, and I'm not trying to fill your inbox, I swear.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Debates and Mountainous Jellyfish

I watched a tape of the Monday night debate between James Webb and Senator George Allen first thing this morning, and I was mildly surprised at the two questions that Webb asked Allen toward the end of the debate.

First, Webb said that he’d repeat a question from an earlier debate—why did Allen vote to raise his own salary but not the minium wage?

Who on Webb’s staff thought this was a good idea? Webb even admitted that Allen had had time to think about it since the last debate. This meant that Allen had a nice answer (or an evasive one, depending on your leanings). And then they wrangled over, basically, what the definition of “vote” was before the moderator cut in.

Then Webb asked, “We have a situation in the Senkaku Islands that could blow up into an international incident, and I’m curious what you think about that, George.”

Webb didn’t look up when he read this question from his notecards; to me, he looked like he was about to laugh, like he couldn’t believe how well he’d set this trap. And it worked, for what it was.

Allen paused—the TV shot was great of the two of them across the stage just staring at each other for a moment. You could almost hear the gears in Allen’s head chunking out, “I’m going to fire the staffers who should have told me about this.”

Allen answered, “I’d have to study the issue more fully to give you a complete answer.”

“This is not Craney Island, this is Senkaku Islands,” Webb said.

“But Craney Island is important.”

“Yes, we did discuss that before,” Webb said. “This is important too.”

He went on to explain that the islands lay between Taiwan and Okinawa, that Japan administrates them, but China claims them, that they have oil, and that there have been two “incidences” there over the last two years. At that point, Allen snapped back into his best rhetoric and had a decent response about watching China and fixing trade deficits and such.

I hadn’t seen the debate in July when Allen had a similar “gotcha” moment over the Craney Island project in Virginia, and Allen didn’t make the same gaff as Webb (Webb asked where Craney was—rookie error. “It’s in Virginia,” Allen responded according to reports.) But I knew I was seeing something that was probably more rhetorical than leadership in nature.

That is, I’ll bet only a handful of people on the Hill could have said where those islands were and why they’re important (Japan and China are arguing/negotiating over the oil rights), though they’ve made it into the news in the past week or so, and people should have a decent understanding of this, I think.

It was odd, I watched the tape and then skimmed back through it on fast forward, and I could see just how uncomfortable Webb looked up there, and how he barely moved; his head tilted from one side to another, but that was about it. He barely let go of the podium. Allen looked relaxed, but perhaps smiled at a few odd times.

Still, the little Senkaku incident pointed out something important to me—Webb has a handle on foreign issues (or at least he’s better briefed). His most animated moment was when he spoke about foreign debt, especially related to China—he used both hands to gesticulate, like letting go of the handle bars.

The Senkakus have all but been forgotten, so predictably, the race is coming down to taxes and the economy.

The debate made me think of a column from the May issue of Newsweek in which George Will said this about the current Congress and their response to the president’s “emergency” supplemental spending for the Iraq war:

“Funding the war in dribs and drabs—as if the fact that the war costs money is a recurring surprise—spares Congress from confronting the huge cost and having to make room for it in the budget by shedding lower-priority spending.”

This was at the height of the conservatives’ hand-wringing over the national debt. I agree both with the conservatives and with George Will (who often drives me nuts), that the funding for the war should be a part of the actual budget, not supplemental/emergency spending.

We need to stop pretending like the war money doesn’t really come from taxpayers. This means to me that we need to look at the tax cuts Bush and the Congress enacted and whether all or parts should be permanent, which is what Webb has been saying.

I also wouldn’t mind having another person up on the Hill who knows international politics and who has been to war.

For that reason, I’m planning on voting for Webb.

Don’t call it an endorsement, but more of a shared opinion. I agree with Scott McCaffrey at the Sun Gazette. These candidates are lack-lustre. Scott thinks staying with the devil we know is the right way to go, but I’d rather take a chance with the one we don’t.

Mountainous Jelly-fish

As I drove by them earlier today, they floated like jellyfish a few feet above the green sea-floor. The gray scaffolding that held them aloft, nearly invisible from my car. Their bright bodies of white linen, about 20 of them in suspended animation, draped over the frames and spread like slips below the apexes.

When I stopped at the Arlington Arts Center on Wilson Boulevard, I saw that the frames were abstracts of mountains. The bamboo painted gray formed a string of large pyramids surrounded by smaller ones, and what I thought were jellies, were snow caps made of a water proof material.

Or, they’re “teepees,” as the AAC web site refers to them.

This inaugural exhibit “Sculpture on the Grounds” opens officially on Friday (reception, 6-9 p.m.), but I had the fun of walking through it today. (See “Insight Out” on the AAC web site).

Many of the trees on the grounds are wrapped in accordion-folded screen which mimics the trees’ own bark. But the piece that may stop you is in the back yard—a tree in a museum-quality vitrine. The AAC web site asks, “Can we value the three-dimensional objects of the natural world in the same way we value human-created (and therefore culturally vetted) objects?” It was an interesting piece that I must admit made me giggle. I thought of the Tom Tomorrow cartoon in which all nature is observable from a viewing deck that surrounds just one tree.

It’s open through March, but get there soon (especially before the birds doo anymore damage).

Police Notes for Buckingham
MALICIOUS WOUNDING, 10/8/2006, 300 blk N. Thomas St. At approximately 0303 hrs on 10/08/06, two male roommates got into a fight. During the struggle one of the roommates stabbed the other in the upper body with a broken beer bottle. The suspect fled the scene. The victim was transported to a local hospital for treatment. His current condition is not known. Detectives continue to investigate and will determine what charges will be filed against the suspect.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Ice, Donuts, Calendars and a Moose

Ice Skating and Donuts

Sharpen the blades and strap on the boots
Find you some mittens and polish your tuuks
skating is almost here!

Corduroys under red-and-black checkered wool pants, sweaters, gloves, a hat, pack boots with a couple pair of heavy socks, skates (with long laces tied together) slung around my neck and a heavy steel snow shovel held rifle-style over my shoulder, I with my sisters or a couple friends walked to a pond about a half mile away from home.

It’s funny that I don’t remember how long it would take us to shovel off the ice so that we could skate (or maybe my sisters did all the hard work!), but I remember going around Christmas one time after a good snow, a foot or so, and that we didn’t come close to clearing the whole pond. It’s probably about a half an acre. Ah yes, my youth was spent inside a Currier and Ives painting.

I guess that’s why I’m so excited about the opening of the
Capitals Ice Center atop the parking garage of the Ballston Common Mall; it should open by Nov. 1. The idea that starting next month we’ll live within walking distance of ice pleases me.

I know there’s been some grumbling from the neighbors about the large, lighted signs that will hang from the garage’s walls, and maybe they are too gauche for a corner that shares commercial property with residential. I know, too, from an article in a recent Arlington Connection, that the mini-golf course planned for that same corner (the corner of North Glebe and North Randolf Street) is facing some controversy. But I just can’t help but be excited.

I was talking with Beth Lenz, the center’s general manager, at her Spartan office space in the Ballston Common Mall on Friday. She told me the office on the second floor is temporary and that it will move up with the ice, probably in mid-November. Up there on the eighth floor of the garage will be two sheets of ice and a pro-shop for sales, rentals, skate-tuning and other amenities.

Still, I’m a little nervous that public ice time just to skate will be lost to lessons and league play, or relegated to 5:00 a.m. We’ll see.

By the way, I agree with the business owners quoted in the Arlington Connection—that little triangle of space wouldn’t work as a mini-golf place. I think they should set up a couple walk-up store fronts, cute shops, or (dare I say it) a Dunkin’ Donuts! Give that space a wide sidewalk and a little grassy space with trees and make it someplace people would want to walk up to, or a place they’d drop down to via elevator from the 8th floor ice. They need a place that sells hot cocoa and mittens, not mini-golf.

112 seconds.

That is, nearly two minutes. Or, the amount of time it takes for the
Arlington County calendar to open on my computer. And that was one of the fastest times I got it to load, and I have a DSL connection at home (I just tried it again and got 62 seconds, but there are no events on the list for today!). God help people with dial-up. 19th century typesetters could produce a page more quickly.

Who designed this thing?

Not only is it slow, it’s a secured page (https://...). I imagine that’s needed for the times when people register for events, but couldn’t the security be on another page, the page the person gets when he or she clicks on “register here”?

I’d love to hear from the county about what’s up with this.

Open Season
The whole fam-damily and I went to see
Open Season at Ballston Common mall on Friday. Quite funny and though PG wasn’t bad for my very-youngsters (it’s PG mainly for the scary scenes with knives, guns, huge waterfalls, etc., one shot of a deer pooping and the word “crap,” associated with the aforementioned deer). Even my four-year-old liked it. I know, I know, I’m a bad parent—four-years-old at a PG movie. I was probably 12 when I saw my first PG movie.

Police Notes for Buckingham:
RESIDENTIAL BURGLARY, 10/3/2006, 4300 blk N. Pershing Dr. Between 0830 hrs and 1400 hrs on 10/03/06, someone removed a screen from an apartment window, reached into the apartment, and took several items including rechargeable batteries and a battery charger.

RESIDENTIAL BURGLARY, 10/5/2006, 4400 blk N. 4th Rd. Between 2230 hrs on 10/03/06 and 2000 hrs on 10/05/06, someone entered an apartment through a window and took a laptop computer.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Buckingham Updates and Haiku (sort of).

Short post today…(too many papers to grade, and the Sunday through Monday technology fiascos threw my whole week off).

Buckingham Updates

If you’re interested in all this Buckingham stuff, two items of interest:

SATURDAY (Oct. 7), Raindate: Saturday Oct. 28.
The walk starts Saturday, 9:00 a.m. at the offices of Buckingham Village Apartment complex, 4319 North Pershing Drive. According to the county: This walking tour is coordinated by the Planning Commission’s Site Plan Review Committee. For more information please contact Freida Wray at 703.228.3525 or

For more information on both of these, check out the county’s
Buckingham Village Updates page.

[If someone is interested in posting to this blog about either of these events, please contact me, ASAP 703.946.7836. I won’t be able to be there, but I want to have something on it. A few photos wouldn’t be bad, either.—Steve Thurston]

Indian Summer, Barcroft Soccer Field.
(Waiting for my son's acrobatic class to start, we ate a snack outside today, and what we saw--combined with the temperatures--inspired this haiku, if I may be so bold.)

Pretty leaves turning
Young men warmed in passion
press for one last score

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Octopus, TV, The Trib

The Octopus and the Stick

Old Wise One tells the story of how the Octopus was formed and how his leg was broken to make The Stick:

In that time, there was a great upheaval and people found themselves thrown into disarray. Their homes were lost. And in the mind’s eye of the Great Creators, the land was obliterated. The people were not happy, and they beseeched the Great Creators for order from the chaos.

The Great Creators, starting with a formless shape, thought to offer the people a companion, but the people came with ideas of their own. Some wanted smaller companions, others wanted their old ways back; all of them agreed that the creation could not be too tall. At first the Great Creators tried to make numerous small companions, but there were not enough to go around and the people got very angry.

And so the Great Creators mushed some of the smaller ones back into a chaotic ball then pulled at that formless shape and tried to fit it into the land while making all the different people happy until the shape had eight legs, but the people said, “It’s too big, and what about parking?” So the Great Creators pulled even more at one of the legs of the Octopus until that leg broke off and grew on its own to form the Stick.

And the Octopus ate a parking garage.

The end.

OK, that might not be, exactly, how Paradigm Development Co. came up with their latest ideas for the buildings that will fill Village 1 of the Buckingham neighborhood (what is currently part of the Buckingham Village Apartments). And my story pokes fun at what is a very serious debate, but at the Site Plan Review Committee meeting on Sept. 28, the people in the room (SPRC committee members and laypeople) voiced praise, skepticism and confusion at the designs of the buildings dubbed the “Octopus” and the “Stick Building” by viewers (with all due affection, no doubt).

[Scroll down to see some images from the materials handed out at the SPRC meeting on Thursday Sept. 28.]

The designers really have been pulled in a number of different ways—preserving greenspace, preserving “affordable” housing, preserving trees, preserving the “look” of the neighborhood while having enough room for parking and for kids to play. They also must create efficient designs so that the Paradigm companies make as much money as possible. (Their favorite idea is to plow under everything and make townhouses--that’s most cost effective.)

[Side note: The meeting started at 7 p.m., but I didn’t arrive until 7:30 because one of the announcements on the county’s page dealing with these meetings was wrong—ugh. Look to notes and agendas to get the right time, SPRC people say.] There are many more design meetings to come--see the Buckingham Village updates link to the right for more information.

Boundaries, Village 1:

*Northern boundary: North Henderson Street (across the road from K.W. Barrett Elementary School).
*Eastern boundary: George Mason Drive (across the street from Villages 2 and 3—Village 2 is surrounded by fencing right now and soon will be luxury townhouses—since they’re “luxury” they might be “townhomes” I don’t know, though).
*Southern boundary: Pershing Drive (across the street from Arlington Oaks, a condominium). *Western boundary: the property line of Culpepper Gardens, a rent-controlled assisted-living facility.

Proposal Overview:
*22 buildings will be torn down, about 170-220 “affordable” apartments (sorry I don’t have the exact number).
*Two new roads are proposed—one extends 3rd Street from Henderson Street down to Pershing Drive. The other branches off the 3rd Street Extension and is a winding driveway for the townhouses proposed for the north end of the village.
*64 townhouses, a couple rows deep starting parallel to Henderson Street. Two car garages underneath each. *Two other buildings, outlined below.

“The Stick”:
*A five-story apartment building with peaked roofs similar to those of surrounding buildings, the building’s ground floor is a parking garage.
*152 apartments, tot lot and pool.
*It runs 200 feet long and has four “bumped out” entrances on its front. *One- to four-bedroom apartments.
*It runs along the western boundary of the village from Pershing Drive up to, almost, Henderson Road (the 3rd Street extension runs parallel to it).
*At the SPRC meeting, people referred to it as the “low-income” apartment complex, but Paradigm officials were quick to point out that no decision has been made as to which units in which buildings would be rent-controlled.

“The Octopus”:
*Anchored at the corner of Pershing Drive and George Mason Drive, the building undulates and twists northwestward.
*Four floors and 375 apartments (on the drawings handed out at the SPRC meeting the building is called a “condominium,” but Paradigm officials said it is apartments).
*Studio to three-bedroom apartments.
*The five-level parking garage (the fifth level of parking has no roof) takes up a large center courtyard within the Octopus and won’t be visible from the street.
*The building has a pool.

The Good, from myself and others at the meeting:
*Paradigm, with pitched, hipped roofs on the buildings, with wrap-arounds and “quoining” (fancy brick work on corners), and with front door styles similar to those in the area, kept the architecture of The Stick, Octopus and some townhouses similar to the buildings in the area.
*The buildings have a lot of apartments here and should be able, between here and Village 3, to save 300 units of low- to moderate-income housing.
*They have at least one playground for kids and two pools.
*Designers kept many of the old-growth trees along George Mason and Henderson.
*Given the bedroom choices, there’s quite a bit of room for families.

The Bad, from myself and others at the meeting:
*These buildings are HUGE. Even though they’re not overly tall, the difference between them and the neighboring buildings is as much as 20 feet.
*With its height (four stories plus the roof), The Octopus will significantly change the look of George Mason and Pershing drives. The building is set back the requisite 25 feet from the road, and the “legs” of this building provide courtyards to break the solid wall of the building, but it will be large and institutional looking.
*Both The Stick and The Octopus eat greenspace—could the buildings be divided?
*Is one tot-lot enough for all of the potential kids?
*They have the required parking spaces, but will it be enough to stop the spillover into neighboring streets such as the overfilled Pershing Drive and Henderson Street.

My own two cents:
I’m still really annoyed at the county board for not being as on top of this process as they should have been. When the Gates of Arlington (now the Gates of Ballston) was up for sale, the county board stepped in to assure that the apartments remained affordable. The board took a leadership role in making sure AHC Inc. bought the complex so that it would remain affordable.

The memorandum of understanding came too late, and the only option for the county is to throw historic status over the villages to stop Paradigm from moving ahead. It’s a sloppy process. On the buildings, I know most people have said they don’t want the buildings to grow too tall, but I couldn’t help but think that perhaps a couple “sister” buildings to the Culpepper Gardens building at 11 stories (with parking on the two bottom floors) might look good and could be moved back from Pershing Drive, Henderson Street and George Mason Drive, leaving a larger swath of greenspace between the buildings and the roads. If the architecture were retained, eventually all three of the buildings would look as though they’d always been here.

The Images and Explanations...

These images of Buckingham Village 1 are proposed changes to the neighborhood. There are many more meetings to discuss plans before final decisions are made.

A blog is a lousy place to run images; the file size can only be 38kb, so the resolution is too low and the pictures are too small. Some of the images are shrunk down from three times this size. All the images were taken from a collection of images handed out by Paradigm development at the SPRC meeting on Sept. 28.







1: The top image is an overview of the proposed changes to Buckingham Village 1. "The Octopus" building has a large gray space (the parking garage) in the middle of it. "The Stick" runs from the lower left to the upper left corner.

2-3: A line drawing of "The Octopus," shows the placements of the apartments, the pool in the upper left corner and the traffic circle on the upper right. The traffic circle connects to Geore Mason Drive. The proposed color elevation of the building shows two of four entrances to the building along Pershing Drive. The current parking lot along Pershing Drive west of George Mason Drive will not be there if these plans are accepted.

4-5: The line drawing shows the apartments of "The Stick." Designers placed a tot lot and pool at the upper end of that building (not shown, near Henderson Street). The color elevation shows an entrance on the proposed 3rd Street Extension. The grond floor is a parking garage.

6-7: These elevations show the different configurations of the proposed townhouses. Notice that the townhouses along George Mason match the current architecture of the neighborhood more closely. The Henderson Street townhouses match the architecture of the townhouses that are being built in Buckingham Village 2, across George Mason Drive from Village 1.

Ah, TV on the ‘Net

Can I just tell you how excited I am that TV networks are putting their shows on the ‘Net? I only watch about one show per season, usually Scrubs. But Scrubs hasn’t started yet (stupid NBC won’t just give them a day/time and let them develop an audience—best show on TV), so I started watching Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (I should say, too, that we don’t have cable, and the only station the rabbit ears get well is NBC).

But last Monday I missed the show, and I taped it, I thought, on Tuesday. What can I say, I thought it was on Tuesday nights. I should also say that I go to bed really early, so I’m not staying up until 11 to watch anything (“Studio 60” runs 10-11 p.m.—that’s at night for you parents of young kids who have forgotten that nights go that late).

So, Wednesday, I had the kids in bed and sat down, bowl of ice cream in hand, to find Law & Order on my tape. Annoyed, I went to to find out what gives, and there I found the WHOLE EPISODE of “Studio 60” on-line. I should say here that the networks and TV stations hate, HATE TiVo, so I’m guessing that this is their way to stick it in TiVo’s eye. You cannot avoid the commercials on the ‘Net version of the show. But since only about four of us watch the show on line, they only have one commercial (about 20 seconds) that they play at four breaks during the show.

I’m telling everyone this because I saw an advertisement that ABC is doing it, too. Watch shows you missed a day after they air. And now I can watch more than one network! By the way, it’s totally worth it watch the final four minutes of the final segment of Studio 60, just sayin’.

The New York Herald Tribune (The Trib)
The paper from which this web site stole its name made the New York Times the other day

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