Category Archives: D.c.

Are Bicyclists REALLY Terrorists? (Yes!)

Courtland Milloy’s Washington Post column has received a lot of criticism from the emotionally unstable bicyclist crowd. So much so, that apparently 40 bicyclist/terrorists are planning a spontaneous bike ride/sit-outside protest to demand to meet with editors and Mr. Milloy to discuss his column.

Of course, this is all part of a ploy to make him read a forced apology recorded from one of their GoPro helmet cams in front of a bicycle caliphate flag before, well…

Bicyclist or Terrorist? You decide.

To keep this debate on track, I will make sure not to mention that fact that the protest sounds like something terrorists might do. And to further keep this discussion above the fray, I will not compare this bicycle weather mask to something a terrorist might plausibly wear.

Or bring up the fact that when ISIS terrorists aren’t stealing MRAPs and Humvees, their preferred mode of travel is bicycles. That wouldn’t be cool.

For those who must know my commuting habits, I am a car driver to and from work, a walking pedestrian for lunch or happy hour, and am a communist-red key fob toting member of Capital Bikeshare.

If you’re thinking “what is an ardent republican doing riding bikeshare?” I’ll tell you. I figure if the government is going to spend federal monies intended for welfare recipients on a hobby mostly performed by college educated wealthier-than-average white males, I might as well capture the subsidy. And it helps me almost never take WMATA, which I’ve taken five times in the past year.

Now that we’re keeping things above the fray, let’s look at some of Mr. Milloy’s concerns and see if bicyclists are, indeed, terrorists.

“They’ve got more nerve than an L.A. biker gang. And some can be just as nasty.”

Most of the nerve I’ve experience from bicyclists is, well, as one. For pointing out unlawful or unkind behavior.

The thing about many cycling advocates is that they’re generally quick to tell anyone who’s not asking that bicycle sharing is a great transportation idea because it is commensurate with the goal of spending more money on cycling and cycling infrastructure. A means to an end, if you will.

Secretly, though, most real cyclists hate Capital Bikeshare and those who use it. Why? They’re not true believers. You have to spend as much as a nice used car on a bike to be a true believer.

The family from Kansas tooling around DuPont circle at rush hour? The young intern with the red badge of courage salmoning against traffic?All are pawns of the bicycle caliphate and a necessary evil for the cause.

In short, they’re not the real cyclists, those who are the ones pulling the strings. Sort of like leaders of a organization with cells, or something.

Before my cyclist friends think I am calling you terrorists, I’m not. Not all bicyclists are terrorists, but most terrorists are bicyclists. I’ve witnessed a college classmate of mine (rightly) chewing out a dumb pedestrian he nearly took out for crossing against the light outside of Union station. Update: Classmate (whose memory is obviously better than mine) writes to remind that he didn’t say a word to the asshole pedestrian in question crossing against the light.

Frankly, he should have, just to teach him a lesson, like “and that’s why you always leave a note.” Had he clipped him, I would have said to him while he was in a state of shock “this is why you never cross against the light.” If only I had one arm.

Milloy, rightly, thinks the idea of a bicycle escalator is absurd.

“They fight to have bike lanes routed throughout the city, some in front of churches where elderly parishioners used to park their cars. They slow-pedal those three-wheel rickshaws through downtown during rush hour, laughing at motorists who want them to get out of the way.

Now, some of them are pushing to have a “bicycle escalator” installed on 15th Street NW, going uphill from V Street to what used to be known as Malcolm X Park (until influential newcomers to the city pressed to get it changed back to Meridian Hill).”

Yes, I think bike lanes are evil and my cyclist friends will never agree with me on that. Other religions than those who align with the bicycle caliphate must come second to the bicycle caliphate.

Little old ladies need convenient parking near their church on a Sunday? Sorry, bicyclists were too busy off on another-taxpayer funded bicycle trail in the woods to notice.We’ve gone from “share the road” to “heed our demands absolutely or we’ll cause trouble.” Which doesn’t sound anything like the logic of terrorists.

Are we only supposed to share the road when bicyclists are forced to share it with us because they don’t get special treatment with their own lane? Or does share the road mean “let’s get rid of street parking?” Which is partially what Milloy is alluding to, since we’re basically ceding 25% of our working lanes to bicyclists who comprise a total of commutes much closer to zero.

“Share the road?” More like Sharia roads. Am I right?

I think we can all agree that Rickshaws are the worst — especially at 5:30 PM on the road leading to the Lincoln monument. I’ve seen them laughing. Why? Rickshaws are most popular in countries that harbor or are sympathetic to terrorists/ the bicycle caliphate, they’re laughing because they’re winning.

Don’t believe me? Rickshaws are popular in Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden was hiding. Case closed.

Lastly, the touchy topic of ghost bikes, left at the scene of where bicyclists are killed. Honoring martyrs much? Terrorists would never do that.

Perhaps That Guy Was Onto Something…

Yesterday in the Examiner, Joel Gehrke wrote about the horrifying prospect that Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) could chair the Senate Banking Committee if Democrats retain control of the Senate after the 2014 elections.

Brown’s views on economics (especially banking and international trade) are decidedly backwards and appeal to the misguided economic populists in Ohio that elect him and keep Ohio in an economic homeostasis that’s not as bad as Detroit, not as good as Pittsburgh, and far behind Texas.

One paragraph that Joel wrote jumped out at me:

Brown is working with Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to craft legislation that would shrink the biggest banks in the country, and they have 10 other Republican allies, according to Business Insider. The Dodd-Frank bill was supposed to solve the problem of some banks being “too big to fail,” but it didn’t.

OccupyWallStreetNYC (which apparently still exists) tweeted this about Gehrke’s story:

Perhaps the folks operating their twitter account aren’t very familiar with the Dodd-Frank law (RAFSA), but Brown already sold them out by voting for it.

Read More →

Inaugural Ballin’

In January of 2013, I attended President Obama’s second Inauguration and the official ball. A longer story I had written on the hilarity of the Inaugural Ball was cut down for space constraints into a much shorter item.

I came across it today on my desktop and figured I would share it with you:

Walking from THE WEEKLY STANDARD offices to the Walter Washington Convention Center should have been an easy task; it’s just a few blocks down M Street.

But, seeing as the convention center was housing the official inaugural ball, a quick straight walk became a little more cumbersome, which tends to happen when government gets involved. Directed elsewhere by police officers from North Carolina, I paired up with a nice couple from California to find my way in.

Making small talk, the gentleman praised my spiffy Secret Service credentials and inquired as to their purpose. “I’m a journalist,” I told him, “but with a small j.” He asked where I worked, and I obliged him. “Oh, so you’re the enemy,” he joked, but I’m not entirely sure he was joking.

As we made our eight-block walk around the convention center to security screening, I casually asked how much one would pay to attend a ball like this. Conveniently, the man had to stop to tie his shoe. With reports that the price to attend the ball was slashed, maybe I made it awkward. Then again, I was “the enemy,” so I wished them well and pressed onward.

With interest waning, lots of the inaugural balls were slashing prices. I had hoped to attend the National Wildlife Federation’s “green” inaugural ball so I could mingle with the likes of Al Gore, Van Jones, John Cusack, and Bill Nye the Science Guy. Sadly, their progressive PR firm told me: “Going to be honest with you,” (an age-old PR trick to let us in the media down gently) “we are currently at capacity with media due to an overwhelming amount of interest in the Green Ball.”

The interest was, allegedly, “overwhelming” on the media side, but not so on the “green” side— that is those willing to part with paper that depicts deceased presidents—since Groupon was selling tickets to the ball at a steep discount. I guess $400 for a normal ticket and $1,950 for a VIP ticket might be too much to ask, especially when the media is getting in for free. No wonder the media interest was overwhelming.

Hurt feelings aside, I was happy to attend the “official” ball.

Media were instructed to arrive early, by 5:30 at the latest. Alone now and fighting the clock, I raced through the labyrinth of barricades and metal fences, eventually making it to the checkpoint with a few minutes to spare.

Famished as I was, not having eaten since the morning’s wee hours, I briefly considered ducking into the local Subway to satiate my need for food. But, as a man of my word and someone who respects timeliness, I got in line.

Security was tight. We had to put our bag(s) down, go through security, and wait in another line to go back out and retrieve our bags. It’s almost as if Rube Goldberg moonlighted as an adviser to the Secret Service. When it came to our bags, only a bomb-sniffing dog was on the line of defense to find contraband. No x-ray machines, only metal detectors. And Fido.

Once I was through security, I was ushered to the special “press” line. How great, I thought, that our esteemed president and his compatriots have seen fit to rid us journalists from the scourge of the long lines of bourgeois!

Minutes later, I discovered that was naïve.

At the end of the long special line awaited an escort, ready to take us to the special press section. It’s a similar realization that pigs have before their lives are taken to create delicious bacon and pork rinds. My father—a former pig slaughterer—once told me that the contagious panic among the pigs is what alerts them to their impending demise.

To be sure, the Washington press has its share of pigs, but that night at President Obama’s inaugural ball, there wasn’t any panic—we all found out after it was too late.

The majestic press area was, well, like a low-security prison. Once safely in its confines, you’re told the ugly truth: You’re not allowed to leave on your own. Kind of like the Hotel California.

Then there was panic. How will I eat? How will I get drinks? Talk to ball-goers? Relieve myself?

However, should you need to use the facilities, the Presidential Inaugural Committee allotted volunteers to escort you to and from the bathroom. Just as if I were visiting, say, North Korea.

To immediately test this theory, I set my bag down, made some quick friends, and went off to the bathroom. Mind you, it was only 200 feet away, but there the escort waited patiently while you did your business.

This was before most of the many thousands of attendees arrived, and the dance floor was about as empty as a mixer at a Catholic grade school. Leaving the bathroom, I bluntly told my escort: “I need a drink.”

My escort, a retired businesswoman living in northern Maryland, said she knew just the person and took me past the closest bar to meet her drink-slinging connection.

On the way, I quickly realized that I did not have any cash. Not wanting to blow my chances of acquiring precious libations, I asked if the bar took credit cards. “Yes,” my escort told me, “you can buy drink tickets with a credit card.”

I purchased my drink tickets, and even for D.C., the drinks were expensive. The prices would probably even make a strip-club owner blush: $10 for a small “premium” drink, like whiskey or vodka, $7 for an imported beer, and $6 for a domestic.

As I was buying my tickets, I joked with the cashier that I was “investing in alcohol futures.”

While not the same as buying Frozen Concentrated Orange Juice futures like in Trading Places, there do come advantages to buying your tickets early—mainly avoiding lines.

My escort took me over to her friend, and I ordered a Jack Daniel’s on the rocks, straight. As someone who appreciates good service, I felt bad not having any cash because I prefer to tip for good service. I explained/apologized for not having any money for tips and promised, if my escort were kind enough—that I’d go to the ATM later to get some money to tip her for her services.

The bartender gleamed. “I appreciate that honey,” she said. And, like many bartenders, if the tip was good she said would “hook me up.”

I told her I’d see her soon; after all, I bought eight nonrefundable drink tickets. I went back and my new friends in the Washington press were surprised I was gone for so long. While there were hundreds of press, there were not very many escorts.

As I sipped my whiskey, I chatted with a nice gal from NPR who had two cups (made of corn, for the environment’s sake) filled with water. She, too, managed to get out of our media playpen to acquire them. They cost her $6, three dollars for each bottle.

I asked why she couldn’t have just used the bottle and she informed me the bartender wouldn’t let her keep them. Such waste would have never occurred at the “green” inaugural ball, I mused.

Our little cadre was comprised of: a writer for NPR, two Elon college journalists, a gal whose affiliation I forget, a Russian writer for Komsomolskaya Pravda, and me.

We quickly realized that we were, in effect, quarantined, and agreed to a credo: “We won’t turn on each other.”

I finished my drink in short order and sought out my escort. I told her that I’d like to go to the ATM to make sure I had cash to take care of her bartender friend, and that it made more sense to go before it got busy. She agreed.

I elected to withdraw $60, keeping $20 in reserve for emergency drinks and petty cash, and put the remainder towards tips. We went back to our bartender and I proffered my remaining “super premium” ticket, asking for another Jack Daniel’s on the rocks.

“Would you like two?” she asked. “Of course!” I said, and who wouldn’t? Before she got to the business of pouring my drinks, she poured a red wine for my escort and gave it to her. It was promptly consumed.

The bartender grabbed the big cups, the 16 ounce ones, and poured me two straight whiskey drinks on the rocks (totaling a pint between them). She asked if I needed anything else. I said, “Sure, a beer would be nice.”

As it turns out, a big tip and a solitary drink ticket can grease the skids for good access to booze in Obama’s Washington.

Off I went, effectively triple-fisting liquor as the attendees were just beginning to pour in to the tune of “Everybody, Everybody” by Black Box. It was as if I were transported to a mixer in the 1990’s, and yes, it was that awkward.

Back in the media playpen, I offered the excess of the fruits of my labor to Alexey the Russian and Linda from NPR. Linda happily accepted the free beer and Alexey thanked me, but dryly responded in his Russian accent that he preferred vodka. To his credit, he offered to take me to Brighton Beach to experience real Russian-American life next time I’m in New York.

A moment later, my friend Mike came over to the media demarcation fence and yelled out to me. I brought over my extra whiskey and offered it to him while we waited for his girlfriend to return from the long line to check overcoats. Mike is never one to reject a free drink, which shows why we’ve been friends for 26 years.

That night, such a drink would have probably cost $30, so my investment was wise. We hung out for a short while and commiserated over the plight of my minimum security imprisonment. Hopping the fence would have been easy, but it also would have been obvious. I told Mike to go have some fun with his girlfriend so I could plot my escape and hopefully meet up with them later.

A few minutes later, Alicia Keys took the stage to perform a short set. I went around the large pipe and drape riser to get a better view. Alicia belted out “OBAMA’S ON FIRRRRRRRE!!”and nobody, not even the Secret Service, seemed to take her claim about the president’s conflagration seriously.

I felt like I was in that Citi “private pass” commercial where the recently single guy gets to meet Marilyn Monroe, Giada De Laurentiis, and Alicia Keys because he spends a lot of money. After Alicia Keys’s performance, I was stopped by a middle aged woman in the press playpen who assumed that—based on my age—I would know how to spell the performer’s last name.

That was a mistaken assumption; since I told her I didn’t know. For what it was worth, I replied that I thought it was “Keys.” A twenty-something behind me incorrectly assured her it was spelled “Keyes.”

That wasn’t all for entertainment—the Mexican band Mana played, as well as Brad Paisley. But the capstone for most attendees was the band “fun.”—whom you might know from their songs “Some Nights” or “We Are Young.”

At this point my stomach was running quite literally on fumes. Alcohol fumes. I needed food. I sought out my escort and made another trip to the bar and stopped at a food station on the way back.

For all of the money people spent on tickets, the only food they were given was pretzels, Cheez Its and trail mix. Beggars can’t be choosers, so I scooped up what I could carry and brought it back to the media playpen.

Others tried going to the bar or out to get snacks, but found their requests denied by the escorts. As the crowds swelled, the escorts were increasingly unlikely to grant requests to go anywhere but the bathroom. Except mine, of course. My arrangement was paying dividends, kind of like paying “insurance” to organized crime does.

My greasing of the skids got her some free drinks on the side, too. I scratch your back, you scratch mine, they always say.

Mike returned with girlfriend in tow to say hello. Then, it dawned on me. Being part of the media elite, we had spiffy Secret Service credentials complete with mugshot-like photos. Guests, like my friend Mike, had a tux and no credentials, just a ticket. I asked him if they had to wear credentials too.

They did not. It was time to blow this Popsicle stand. My opportunity to escape had arrived.

I would take off my credentials, put them in my bag, hand the bag to Mike and simply waltz out past the other escorts into a sea of thousands of similarly dressed people, pretending not to hear them—“Sir! Excuse me, sir!”

It worked.

I went around to the other side to meet Mike and reacquire my bag and enjoy my new-found freedom. While I wasn’t there to celebrate four more years like he was, it was nice to spend the remainder of that historic day with my best friend.

It’s sort of ironic—to have any real fun as a member of the press at Obama’s inaugural ball, I had to essentially bribe my way out of our playpen to get access to the booze. Crony capitalism is the Chicago way, they say, and for the next four years, it will also be the Washington way.

Can Reason Save Cleveland?

Earlier today, I shared Matt Yglesias’s story on why Silicon Valley should relocate to….Cleveland.

The facebook post I shared came with this message:

Yglesias writes “It’s time for tech hubs to go where they’re welcome.” And he picks…. Cleveland? What? Off his rocker.

The post received a number of comments, including one from a thoughtful a neighbor, whose son I played hockey with. He writes:

So Jimmy, you have been away long enough that you are now a Cleveland basher as well? True, we have three months of bad weather…..but unbelievable property values, great cost of living, great culture (I would put the Cleveland Orchestra up against any from San Francisco or Washington), the largest theater district west of NYC, a great art museum, the Hall of Fame, fantastic restaurants, great music ……and, oh yeah, you can actually get to all of them within 30 minutes – not 2-3 hrs. BTW…how much would your old home on Eaton Rd cost in either SF or Washington?

I frequently, and sometimes more harshly than I should, criticize Cleveland. I’d like to clear the air and share my thoughts on the matter. I don’t hate Cleveland, I criticize because I love where I grew up and want my hometown to thrive — despite its efforts to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Here’s my response to my former neighbor, an all around good guy who frequently inspires great discussions on my facebook wall:

Dr. S. — I don’t disagree with your points on Cleveland the region. I do think, and agree, that the region would be good to host a wide range of industries for the reasons you express. And, for what it’s worth, I love the bad weather.

Indeed, the house I grew up in on Eaton road would easily go for a million or two here in Washington or San Francisco, if not more. (So, three to six times the cost.) Detroit, as Yglesias notes, has even more affordable housing, but he wrote them off as a lost city, noting that if he had picked Detroit, people likely migrate to Ann Arbor. I don’t think Cleveland is lost yet, but it’s not going out of its way to improve things, in my opinion.

Solving Cleveland’s inability to attain the growth it could attain is a puzzle, one with locally imposed constraints and with ones imposed by the state. The Cleveland area has many great attributes and it also has some things it needs to work on. That goes for Ohio, as well.

While I am frequently critical of Cleveland — sometimes more harshly than I should be — it’s because I’d love for my hometown to be the next Silicon Valley, but at present, I don’t think it can be. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t. Some of that is on the city of Cleveland itself, some on the suburbs, and some on the state. Before I forget, some of it is on Cuyahoga County — now with less corruption!

One reason is because I think that municipal income taxes are a poor way to structure things, especially if individuals who live in one city but work in another have to pay taxes to both in some respect. Unlike other comparable jurisdictions in other states, potential employers would have to pay more in salary and benefits to offset the tax differential. Not exactly a welcome beacon to relocate to NE Ohio. Sure, low-income earners get an exemption, but, in the case of the Yglesias example, tech employers probably employ fewer people exempted than those subject to paying taxes in Cleveland and (insert name of other jurisdiction).

Like the electoral map, Ohio has a bunch of residential clusters and a larger swath of area with lower population density.  Yes, California has high taxes — but it doesn’t allow city income taxes the way Ohio does. I do think an examination of the state’s tax policies are in order. That could benefit Cleveland and NE Ohio greatly.

Yglesias is correct to note that, unlike Detroit or Buffalo (no offense to my Buffalo friends), Cleveland could be fertile ground for such a resurgence. But, knowing that Cleveland and nearly every other major city does what it can to sell itself to businesses (like Philadelphia is doing to California’s Sriracha maker, under fire from the city in which it does business), businesses aren’t flocking to Cleveland. I wish they would, because I’d love to move back some day and watch the Browns lose in person. Maybe some day, we’ll win big.

My other concern/criticism with his piece is, at least as it pertains to the city, is this: If Yglesias thinks that it’s time for “tech hubs to go where they’re welcome” because SF residents are complaining about private bus stops — wait until he learns about some of Cleveland’s NIMBY problems.

Cleveland’s zoning and regulatory policies, for me, leave much to be desired. In my opinion, the city of Cleveland’s problem isn’t due to one-party rule, it’s more a problem of ideology. It’s more of a “our job is to help business ‘thread the needle‘ of regulations” than it is to make the regulations and laws more conducive for businesses to want to locate there in the first place.

My TL:DR is this — If Yglesias were revealing some secret about why everyone should “flee to the Cleve” and move their business there, people would already be doing it. I wish they were, as Cleveland is a great area with a lot to offer. But they aren’t. It’s not because of a lack of publicity or PR. Other journalists, with a love for Cleveland and Ohio, have already suggested some reasons why Cleveland might want to shun PR and focus on change, but they’ve largely been ignored.

While I’d love it if Ohio and Cleveland adopted the Texas and Houston models, that is unrealistic. It won’t happen. It’s part of the culture, which is fine. Even some modest changes in that direction, though, could help Cleveland.

bsig

UPDATE: I recommend this post by Daniel McGraw on the same topic.

Buying Local and Foraging to the Extreme

foragingI have nothing against the “buy local” crowd, the foraging crowd, or the urban gardening crowd per se.  I have no problems with people liking each of the concepts. My complaints and problems with each of the groups stem from absurd and cult-like adherence to each dogma as if it were its own religion, forced on others, or taken to the extreme.

While buying local might be worse for the environment in some cases, or more expensive than mass-produced items shipped from a distance, people should be free to pursue the best course of action they see fit. Even if it means more harm to the environment and their wallet. Urban foraging, provided you’re not stealing from your neighbor — like chefs in local-food-crazed Portland are doing — is a little weird, but if that’s what you want to do, fine.

This recent story I read in Bloomberg Businessweek is an extreme example in buying local, urban gardening and foraging craze — or as I call it, going Authentically Amish (with apologies to the local furniture store.) A half hour outside of Albany, NY is Earlton. Here, there is a restaurant with a five-year waiting list.

The restaurant with the longest waiting list, five-years to be precise, is a small, nondescript, 12-table basement located in Earlton, N.Y ., named simply enough Damon Baehrel after its owner and chef. Its guests come from 48 countries and include such celebrities as Jerry Seinfeld, Martha Stewart and Barack Obama himself. However what makes Baehrel’s restaurant the most exclusive restaurant in the world is not the decor, nor the patrons, some who fly overnight from Manhattan to pay $255 for dinner (before wine and tip), nor the hype (although all the advertising is through word-of-mouth), but the food, which is all cultivated, grown, prepared, cooked and served from and on the property, and where Baehrel is literally the only employee. “I’m the chef, the waiter, the grower, the forager, the gardener, the cheesemaker, the cured-meat maker, and, as I will explain, everything comes from this 12-acre property.”

By that math, if this restaurant is open five days a week, with 12 tables and two people at each averaging $255 a head, Mr. Baehrel is raking in close to $1.5 million a year.

Bloomberg notes that it’s about half that, but still:

This hyperlocal, hyperunderground strategy is paying off. Baehrel won’t provide exact numbers but says he serves a few thousand guests each year and generates annual revenue of at least $750,000.

For foodies, visiting the so-called “Michael Jordan” of the movement has to be a big treat. There are similar restaurant concepts here in Washington.

But it is a cautionary tale of foodie-ism taken to the extreme. A five year waiting list? Must be nice if your last name is Baehrel, but to those wanting to go to a nice restaurant, pay a more modest price, and not have to wait five years, it’s good that the market offers other options.

The world would look a lot more like this if the extremist-type locovores were able to impose their whims on the rest of us, but that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. More likely, the locovores wage smaller, more winnable battles. And what start out as suggestions often become requirements later.

If you are among the Manhattan elite and can afford to pay and wait for such food, I hope it’s worth the wait. And to some, I’m sure it is. Nobody should begrudge Baehrel his success in offering something that clearly has high demand.

As for me, I’m happy to get my corn from where it’s most efficient to grow corn, beef from where it’s best to raise cattle, and my high-fructose corn syrup from the plant best able to deliver a quality product to the Coca Cola bottler near me. Or Mexican coke with that cane sugar. Delicious imports.

So long as the market isn’t unduly inhibited by regulations, locovores and free traders should both be able to enjoy the fruits of the harvest in harmony. bsig

 

Fairfax Connector Strikes Individual at Huntington Station [Photos]

Fairfax, Virginia | 11:30pm
A sad story outside of my residence tonight in Fairfax county. It appears an individual was struck in the crosswalk across Huntington Avenue by a Fairfax county Connector Bus.

Police arrived at the scene within minutes, and EMS and fire shortly thereafter. Fairfax One — the county’s helicopter — was also on scene but did not evacuate the injured individual, who was transported to the hospital by ambulance.

The individual’s condition is unknown but presumed serious.

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Photographs property of Bomble LLC and may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission.

 

B Magazine’s Hilarious List

For those of you who don’t follow Baltimore media, and I assume that’s pretty much all of you, B Magazine — apparently the magazine of the Baltimore Sun — published a list of 100 reasons why they think their city is better than Washington.

I have lots of criticisms of Moscow on the Potomac. However, claiming that Baltimore — yes, Baltimore — is better than Washington does not pass the laugh test.

D.C. isn’t perfect, but even I can admit that D.C., for all its faults, is far better than Baltimore.

Friend of the blog Liz M. shares some of the top rebuttal comments she’s seen. I’ve added some I found, too. After reviewing the whole list, I decided I might as well as some of my own, which are unsigned.

100. Our circulators are free. But D.C.’s cost $1, because of course they do.
That’s because Baltimore is so terrible you have to actually pay visitors to travel around.

96. We don’t start conversations by asking, ‘What do you do?’ or ‘Who do you work for?’ 
-That’s because most of Baltimore is unemployed –alex35332

84. Natty Boh. What’s that, D.C.? Don’t have your own old-school beer — you know, like Pabst or even Schlitz? That’s sad.
Unfortunately, the great National Bohemian beer is no longer brewed in its hometown of Baltimore. The beer is owned by the California-based Pabst Brewing Company and mainly brewed in North Carolina and Georgia.–WCP

93. We can buy a rowhouse for $100K less. 
-We can buy a rowhouse for the same price and sell it for more in 5 years as opposed to taking a loss on it.  –alex35332

87. We may have plotted to kill Abraham Lincoln en route to his inauguration in 1861, but a few years later, D.C. actually did it. 
-Apparently, history isn’t a strong suit in Baltimore.  –alex35332

85. Our signature food is crab cakes and pit beef. D.C. has … yeah. 
-½ Smokes, Mambo Sauce. And DC is a major foodie city now. Can you even find indian food in Baltimore?  –alex35332

(No, but we do have some kick-ass craft beers. Also, Natty Boh isn’t even brewed in Baltimore anymore) — DCist

80. TV shows being filmed here right now: ‘House of Cards’ (above) and ‘Veep.’ Recent TV shows filmed in D.C.: TLC’s ‘Randy to the Rescue.’
It should be noted that House of Cards and Veep are set in D.C. and shot in Baltimore because the city’s rowhouse landscape resembles our own. Also, way to win the race to the bottom when it comes to giving massive tax breaks to Hollywood. -WCP

81. Waiting in line for an hour for a damn cupcake?! You’re joking, right? 
-Cupcakes are so 2 years ago. It’s all about doughnuts now. –alex35332

78. We don’t have to pick a fight with another city to make ourselves feel better 
-YOU MADE A LIST OF 100 THINGS TO PICK A FIGHT!–alex35332

76. We can afford our rent. And we don’t have to live with seven 20-somethings to do so.
Maryland is among the top 10 states with the highest foreclosure rates, and delinquencies are on the rise in the Baltimore area.

71. For us, tourist season doesn’t come with the risk of being run over by endless Segway tours.
Because for most tourists, Baltimore is a fun half day trip when they visit D.C. And by then, they’ve already been Segway’d-out. You’re welcome!

61. Chances are, we know someone with a boat. And they’re having a party on the water next weekend and of course we can come.
Marinas in D.C. are expensive. Where do you think we store our boats?

57. You rarely meet someone who has lived in D.C. for five years. We can walk down our streets and meet someone who has lived here for 50 years.
Stockholm syndrome. It’s a thing.

52. Back-to-back weeks, we had BronyCon and Otakon.
I wouldn’t be bragging about BronyCon or Otakon. Seriously.

49. Cal Ripken is 2,632 times better than any D.C. sports figure.
So much respect for Cal, yet in one of your suburbs, somebody kidnapped his mom. Way to show some respect.

48. D.C.’s bars close at 3 a.m. Nothing good ever happens at 3 a.m.
We all know that nothing good happens in your city after dark. Sounds like you’re jealous we can stay out later.

34. Way to steal our basketball team and then replace the intimidating Bullets franchise with the completely terrifying Wizards brand.
No, your city has nothing to do with “stealing” teams. Nothing, nothing at all…. By the way, how’d ya get that football team? ಠ_ಠ

32. The first lady has a vegetable garden? Cute. We’ve been turning vacant lots into community gardens and parks. On a regular basis.
Vacant lots? How’d you get those? What are they?

21. We’re pretty sure more people watched Ray Lewis’ final game on TV than Obama’s second inauguration.
Know who didn’t watch that game? Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. (Google it.)

9. The Ouija Board: Baltimore’s most useful invention.
Yet earlier, you brag about not having Scientology?

 

Commuting in Washington

By no means am I a super commuter. I don’t live out in the exurbs or in West Virginia. My commute is ordinary. I live across from a metro station and bus hub relatively close to Washington, D.C. — but I’m done taking the train every day.

For starters, I’m lucky that my phone has an unlimited text plan. If not, the amount of texts would really put a crunch on my plan.

WMATA texts me more than a psychotic ex-girlfriend. While I’ve never had one of those, my friends who have inform me they received about a hundred texts or so over the course of a month or two. WMATA easily meets that.  Except that instead of “I miss you” you get soul crushing texts like “Red Line: Single tracking btwn Van Ness & Friendship Heights due to a sick customer aboard a train at“. In other words, “Say goodbye to twenty minutes of your day.

Of course, these alerts are only helpful if your phone works underground. Which, thanks to the stellar work of WMATA, hasn’t happened.

It’s the same story with email.

In the past month, WMATA has emailed me no less than 138 times. In that time, Jos. A. Bank emailed me about 25 times. When your email rate is five times that of Jos. A. Bank, you’re in trouble.

Are these alerts helpful? Sure. So is WTOP, but WTOP isn’t subsidized by my tax dollars and tells me where the traffic is for the cost of a few advertisements. These alerts are more of a mea culpa of failure.

Since I’ve had enough, I decided I am driving to work now every day. I’ve done this before, and I loved it. (A parking spot in the shadow of the Capitol helps.)

Driving may end up being slightly more expensive, but I have ways of mitigating the increase in cost. Driving enables me to stop at the grocery and bring in food for lunch conveniently, and that will save money over getting lunch at a sandwich joint every day.

It will also save me time and, as we all know, time is money. Even with Washington’s horrible traffic, on average, I beat WMATA during my normal commute time by close to 10 minutes each way. On late nights, it’s close to 30 minutes of savings.  Tonight, with a major accident on the 14th street bridge, a Nationals game, and bumper to bumper traffic on 395 N to 295 S, I tied my normal metro commute. I’m on track to save close to 20 hours of time this year. Admittedly, it helps knowing the back streets.

In addition to the time it will save me, especially given my irregular hours, it will certainly save me the frustration of having to actually ride WMATA. It’s a miserable experience if you have to ride it regularly, if you’ve never had the pleasure. It’s like the popular bar in a tourist-driven resort town. Its patrons are either regular drunks (commuters) or hawaiian shirt-wearing visitors (tourists) who just crowd the place. The bar is run by incompetents and managed by those who know the tourist and government gravy train isn’t getting shut off, so little changes.

But hey, at least it’s clean!

To avoid having to take WMATA on short trips, I registered for what I call BikeSocialism — or Capital BikeShare as it’s known around D.C. The RFID key they sent me looks like a Soviet flag.

Some of the money used to subsidize the BikeShare program was meant to “address the unique transportation challenges faced by welfare recipients and low-income persons seeking to obtain and maintain employment.” That hasn’t worked out, according to a recent story by Reason magazine which reported that “95 percent of its regular patrons have college degrees, 53 percent have a Masters or Ph.D….”

I figure if my tax dollars are going to be used to subsidize a bike commune at below-market rates, I might as well do what I can to capture the subsidy — even if I am a college graduate.

Mind you, I have nothing wrong with bike sharing.  I just don’t think our tax dollars need to subsidize it and the lanes we dedicate take away from motor vehicles when the cyclists don’t pay the same taxes that auto drivers do to maintain the roads. Call me crazy.

I am just plain sick of riding WMATA. The fares are going up, the PIDs are never correct (if they’re working), and the experience is getting worse and worse. Going forward, my goal is to give as few dollars possible to WMATA as possible. I realize that this won’t make much of a dent in their balance sheets — not that they particularly care too much about those. I know that my tax dollars will continue to their coffers, but my discretionary/pre-tax transportation dollars? Not so much.bsig

The Russian WMATA Fix

The Russians are crafty people. If WMATA adopted this policy, we’d have no more instances of broken train doors, stuck doors, doors reopening and shutting.

Except for the last car (to discourage people from falling on the tracks) I’m open to trying it.

Cap South — What It’s Really Like to Work in Congress

There are tons of funny shows out there that touch on what it is like to work in the federal government. House of Cards is excellent, and the scene work is phenomenal. Veep — a show I just started watching — is entertaining, but not on the same level for me as House of Cards.

But, one new show might change all that. It’s a forthcoming web series starring my good friend / mortal prank enemy and former room mate, Andrew Heaton as the lead character. His girlfriend in real life, Naomi Brockwell, also stars in it.

It’s called Cap South. (You can learn more about it here eventually, but you can learn more now by following it on facebook.)

Since Andrew’s involved, and the show is run by a fellow Congressional Expat, I expected the dialogue to be highly realistic and very funny. I was correct. Below is what it is really like to answer un-screened phone calls.

Here’s the Trailer:

Answering the phone on the hill in real life (left) versus in Cap South (right). Spot on.
phone

bsig