Friday, December 30, 2011

Checking In

Been enjoying the Christmas Break. Met over half my high school classmates at a parent-sponsored event Tuesday night. Spent Christmas in Canada with family- Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. I've resumed keeping a daily journal, and will pull out the highlights to post on my blog. Felt very productive today, and this is the icing on that cake. Did a 4-mile run on the C+O canal, did homework, played the violin, and even picked up doing work on a short comic book that I started back in 2005. Just opened a can of worms. At least it's a kid-firendly book!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Typical Mid-year Plebe Weekend

On Saturday,the Regiment held a regular Class B room inspection. These happen occasionally on Saturday mornings. At 9am, you stand outside your room with your roommate (unless you're a firstclassman), and stand at attention (if you're a plebe/ fourthclassman like I am) until and after your room is inspected. The Class B lasts about an hour and a half; the actual room check lasts about 10 minutes. Sometimes, other duty calls a midshipman to be absent from inspection. My roommate was at a swim meet, and I was at EMT class. A good deal, right? Well, our room passed (though, since my roommate was out since Friday morning, less cleaning was done in my room for inspection than usual).

When both roommates are gone, the parts of the scoresheet that involve personal appearance and knowledge are omitted. But did we get off too easy? Since we're plebes, yes. I'm on the list for room reinspection tomorrow. So I've lived this weekend in essentially a sterile room, and spent an extra few hours today making sure my room and my uniform is perfect for inspection. Why so much dedication to cleaning? Tomorrow's inspector emailed me to let me know that he would not be as lenient as Saturday's inspector. On the other hand, we don't have to stand outside our room for as long as we would on a Saturday. That's plebe life.

Furthermore, liberty was secured (not granted) for plebes. That was a surprise, since we were on track to get some after the inspection. Since the firstclassmen who give us liberty were in Atlantic City for the weekend (just about all are 21 now...), we thought that they had forgotten that we were 'stuck' on campus (except for off campus runs). So tonight we found out that we had done a motivational spirit mission on Thursday night in celebration of the 200 nights the firstclassmen have until graduation, but had not gotten permission to do so. It involved bringing up 13 sailboats to spell "200" on the grass-- $40,000 worth of waterfront equipment. Someone was not happy about it, and that was how liberty was not granted. I've had a typical plebe weekend, as the upperclassmen will say. But plebe life only lasts so long.

Key to note, I got an achievement award--in the form of weekend passes- for a 3.6 GPA last trimester. I seek to keep that up. That means more times studying and less time being regimental. First off, EMT class runs through the plebe training period two of four nights a week (Weekends start on Friday...). So I've noticed I'm already being less of a plebe. As the Academy's unofficial slogan goes, Academics first, regiment second; or the more practical "people get kicked out for academics, not for having a dull shine on your leathers--though try not to end up on restriction" (you will not hear a regimental firstclassman say these phrases, except during exam week). Then why did I clean my room this weekend? An insufficient score equals restriction: extra duty hours and forming up every few hours on weekends and twice on weekdays. Not a good list to be on.

So asides from academic "judgment days", where two 20%-of-a-course-grade tests take place on the same day, this is as hard as plebe life gets. Halfway through already, 2015.

I've already lent the link to a Class of 2013 midshipman's blog to cover for my infrequent postings while I've been at the Academy, but I'll lend it again:

Also are less comprehensive blogs: attempts which started strong but were set aside by the pressure of more pressing duties at the Academy (homework, etc.):

Class of 2015, 3rd Company (Bro Co): //Disclaimer: written by a restricted plebe. Has a Holden Caulfield vocabulary and mindset.//
Class of 2013:
And, since we like to point out our classmates when they're being "different", here is just one of many hometown articles about classmates before they head off to the Academy. Drill Instructors like to find these articles, as well as Facebook profiles, to get a background on their charges before Indoc begins. Guess how one of my platoonmates got the name "Toga Tom"?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

In DC's West End, don't even think about using coupons.

Looking for that 'refined' neighborhood, free from the 'grossness' of America's big-name food companies? Need to be hip? Don't even want to see a non-'hip' grocery store in your neighborhood? You've got good company in DC's West End. Not even New York could compete. We'll bet you that even in the poshest neighborhood, you'll come across a food store that sells name-brand products. Not in the West End.

Word came through the grape vine that the 'regular' grocery store in my West End-Foggy Bottom neighborhood is closing. The Watergate Safeway, as it is known, saw little competition until 2006, when Trader Joe's opened 5 blocks away with a $1million deal sweetener from the neighborhood association (it was clear in the mind of community leaders that Safeway was slacking on performance). Well, this Trader Joe's instantaneously became the highest-grossing outlet on the East Coast (see the discussion on the link). Now Whole Foods has opened up in the neighborhood as well. Can the neighborhood support three supermarkets? Maybe-- if Safeway would have stepped up its game. Bare shelves were a frequent occurence, and the store format is often described as "odd" or "peculiar"-- check the Yelp page. It's been described as "straight from the '60's". I wasn't there, so I wouldn't know.

From what I understand, the store still turned a profit. The main reason for Safeway bailing is that the owner of the property wants a 20 year lease renewal. Next is the corporate strategy of consolidation: the chain opened a rebuilt store of its "urban" design (swanky lighting and higher prices), located a 10 minute drive uptown. That store, known as the "social safeway", performed better as the suburban design it was. Nevertheless, it seems as if the chain assumes that most customers drive to the store, and would drive to the new store (In fact, most arrive on foot, and according to city stats, over half of the residents in the neighborhood don't have cars). Furthermore, Safeway in the DC area has taken a new face as a property developer. A number of outlets are being redeveloped with condominiums or apartment placed on top of the store. Watergate, with the complex already built up, did not fit that model.

Given the way that this store's economic model was shaken in the past five years, I would have shaky hands if I had to sign that lease renewal.

1500 people signed a petition to "save" the store, but it's business first. Despite its faults, this Safeway did supply some of the regular groceries people are used to seeing: marshmallow fluff, 5 pound bags of sugar, and national brands. Betty Crocker? Pillsbury? Yoplait? No more in my neighborhood.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sir, We're Not All The Same.

So for the first time since fourth grade, I'm attending a co-ed school. The ratio is pretty unbalanced (7:1), based on the fact that this is a military institution where half the students are engineering majors. But the ratio is better than in my high school, and especially than my middle school, where we were cloistered save for a trip to an occassional preppy mixer. Sure, some of the guys in high school had girlfriends. Senior prom, there were some steady dates. They meet their classmates' sisters while putting on musicals and plays,and at family functions like the athletic banquet. They also met girls at church, and in their neighborhood, and at late-night 'social gatherings' (house parties) in Bethesda, Rockville, Captiol Hill, New Alexandria, or University Park.

USMMA's Co-ed decks (but some decks only) are a natural means of mingling. What a difference living with potential dates make. All-boy high school had nowhere near the rumor mill that coed school makes. Furthermore, it's a bigger deal about who's dating who at a school where you recognize all your schoolmates' names.

But who gets friendship and who doesn't? It seems as if varsity athletes are too much, too brute to handle. Ditto the football team. Exceptions are the sailing and crew teams, and certain "adorable" members of the injury list. Certain girls fall for boys in running suits and crutches. Academic difficulty? Women don't want to be with a sinking ship. The Academy's mission is to appoint the 'best and brightest'. (During Indoc, the Drill Instructors made a deal about it: America's Best and it takes you a whole 30 seconds to arrange yourselves in height order??) But, at least to the girls, some Academy boys are 'better and brighter' than others. The boys with the best success tend to be sweet talkers with fluid voices, section leaders, 19 or 20 (rather than merely 18), able to party responsibly (able to get to Penn Station and board the 119 am or 319am train without assistance), have a GPA above 2.6, and are recreational athletes. Yes; I've heard this about recreational athletes at every college: they get dates. So it comes through the pipeline that a plebe boy and a plebe girl had a whole night of fun together in the City. Well, I was going into the pool one evening, and I saw their two names in the logbook. Flip back through the log, and there those two are: always swimming for fun together! If you do pay a visit to another gender's room, the door has to pop open 89 degrees, and the boy better have a shirt on. That last rule doesn't apply in athletic areas. Doesn't studness pays off?

And it progresses. After first meeting, a boy and a girl will first come to sit together in the dining hall. Then the boy will go to the girl's room for help on homework. Then they'll go out together on liberty. Next thing, they're exercising together, and then, they'll go to each other's rooms just to talk. I've seen it progress like that more than once.

For everyone else, there's a whole world waiting for young men in officers' uniform.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Outside the Fence

Last year, as an associate editor of the school paper, I learned the adage:Old news is crud news. I wrote this expose on the surprise liberty the Regiment got the weekend before Labor Day weekend for Hurricane Irene, but, that was like, 2 months ago now! I'll find some way to post it so that I don't appear cras. But on that note, it was a welcome surprise to be tromping around a weekend before we were "supposed" to. Now that we're "Accepted" into the Navy and we got our eagles, we look at our former selves in blank-chested summer whites with a smile of amusement.

I'm not sure how prevalent automatically-graded online homework assignments are these days, but, looking back on my soon-to-conclude first trimester, I had a lot of homework. Sure, it reinforced concepts, but my notion of college as a free-for-all where you do homework for your own understanding and not necessariy for a grade, was smashed. Oh- that and sleeping in class. Acceptable at regular colleges, but not at an Academy. I guess it's the taxpayers who would rather have us learning in class than sleeping through it. But since we got caffeine privileges on Acceptance Day, sleepiness- in class or during evening study hours- hasn't been a problem for me. My fix- cafeteria coffee. Once or twice a day. Two-thirds of a mug, no nonsense, maybe sometimes with one packet of sugar and a bit of half and half. I treat it with care: I didn't drink it in high school, but in college, it keeps me working as late as I need to. I understand it's addictive, but I haven't built up a tolerance or physiological attraction yet.

Maybe I don't need the coffee anyhow. The upperclassmen say that first trimester is the hardest, because plebes aren't used a "working adult's sleep schedule". Wake up at 0600, regimental life to 0745, carry on about the school day, sports and homework and dinner, rack-in at soonest time possible (as in 2200/ 10pm if you're lucky; most nights closer to 11pm). So maybe I'm adjusting.

Power Squadron weekend trips for the two weekends before Columbus Day Weekend. First trip was on the YP 679, the Liberator, a true-blue-and white ex-Navy working ship. 108 feet in length and three decks, with a nice galley and mess, and a good rear quarterdeck for grilling and chilling-- and working the lines. Yes; a lot of what us plebes (or rookies, as we are called on the waterfront) learn while working and being underway on a boat is what we'll learn on paper in the classroom. It's good to have a leg up.

So we took the YP out to search for an anchor the sailing team lost the week before. Underway at 0600 on Saturday, first overnight trip: very exciting. We located the anchor, but found out that our equipment wasn't right for lifting the anchor. So we headed into Port Jefferson, NY, and had an evening on the town before retiring to the quarterdeck and shooting the breeze. It was a great time being out in the field, learning on the job and getting to know classmates and friends a bit better than before. A nice break from campus life.

So the plebes back on campus had liberty that Saturday the eleven of us plebes were out on the YP. Well, college kids do what college kids do; and we're held to higher standards than the average college student. And since most everything at the Academy is about teamwork, we sort of let the team down when we let a handful of our classmates, "our own", take liberty with too much liberty. For that, our Midshipman Training Officer promised us a "fun" weekend. So when the opportunity to get underway again came available, I sprung at the chance to go out to Greenport, NY, by Shelter Island near the tip of Long Island.

This time, we would take the trip in our regular Power Squad boat, a 46 foot Grand Banks known as Maximon. A fine yacht, with plush leather seats and good berthing areas. A smaller vessel, there were three plebes (rookies) and three upperclassmen, as well as the Waterfront Director (most comfortable boat, perhaps?), on board. Got underway Friday afternoon, rendezvous for BBQ with the other boats, as well as the Liberator, which also came, with a different and smaller crew. Some of the plebes from the last trip were present; others were back on campus. Studying, I reckoned. I had done most of my homework on Friday before heading out; and I brought some with me. I told my skipper, "as long as I can get my homework done on board, I could leave campus every weekend". We stood watch for 4 hours at a time, rotating with an upperclassman between handling navigation and taking the helm. Crusing through the night, we arrived bright and early in town. Each of the vessels made a day activity: one boat went fishing, another testing out the sonar, and the Maximon went for a crusie around Shelter Island. Good pizza lunch at an Italian place in town,and dinner at Claudio's Crab Shack. A nice clean evening as the town was pretty much closing up for the season. Port Jeff., in comparison, is an year-round town. "Good Morning Viet Nam! played on the TV VHS while getting ready to snooze. Underway for the Academy on Sunday.

I just wanted to cut a post, so that my readers know that I'm about and well.
I'll write to you all soon.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Inside the Fence

"Last published on July 5 2011".
That was well over a month ago.
I think I'm settling into the Academy. Now it's been so long since I've blogged last that I will have off-campus liberty the weekend after next- Acceptance Day Weekend into the Naval Reserves.

I've come across a blog, written by a first year midshipman, that details out all the aspects of Academy life and the evolution from Plebe Candidate (less than 2 months in) to recognized Midshipman 4/c (in the Spring), and onto upperclassmanship. While no two Academy experiences are identical, we go through "all the same stuff", although his Indoc might have been more physical that Indoc 2015. I don't know where he got all the time to blog, because that time is a luxury that I wish I had. Now last time I was working on this post was two weekends ago. Then I would have said that the blog doesn't pick up for two long weeks. It picks up right around now. I'm looking forward to some of the things mentioned, such as "plebe retreat". I have no idea what we will be doing, and I doubt that the upperclassmen will let us roast marshmallows (as mentioned in the blog), but it sounds like a welcome respite.

My Weekend (Aug 6-7)
The Weekend that should've happened:
Class A Inspection
Power Squadron Team Movement to New York Harbor
Midnight Muster
Phone Call
(Weekend ends at 1800)

The Weekend that happened:
Class A Inspection
Rugby Match (spectator)
Watch Duty
Midnight Muster
Watch Duty- some homework done
Frisbee (highlight of weekend- who would've guessed?)
Phone Call
Some Homework
(Weekend ends at 1800)

Weekends can be very pleasant for plebes; especially those weekends where the upperclassmen leave campus en masse. Sometimes, they linger around until us plebes are allowed to hit the racks, so that we always see upperclassmen when we're awake. The best weekends, though, are the ones we are afforded rack-in, that is,extra sleeptime!

And the link:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What an Adventure...

Dear Readers,

I am about to experience one of those major changes in my life, the last one of which occurred four years ago. I'm going to a new school. Not just that, I'm going to college; not just college, either. Tomorrow I leave Washington to go to Kings Point, New York, to attend the US Merchant Marine Academy. I will report on Thursday, July 7, as a "Candidate", two weeks after arrival I will be elevated to the status of "Plebe Candidate". The Academy promises that I will have very little free time, especially as a Plebe. To cut to the chase, I'll be blogging less often; much less often, if at all, for this first trimester at the Academy.

My readers, it has been my joy to have blogged for you over these past four years. I started blogging while I was attending my final year at the Saint Thomas Choir School. Back then, I didn't have much time to blog: free computer use time was limited to half an hour Saturday evening, and an hour and half Sunday evening. Yes; some of us entrepreneuring students figured that we could also use the Computer Lab on Friday evenings when the other students, the nurses, and teachers on duty were all downstairs watching a movie with the lights off. Not recommending current Choirboys take that liberty, but I sure enjoyed the time making and editing digital newsreels with my brother, JT and MP; and building up what I considered my "online empire"- my blog, a general website, and a Youtube account. I've heard that the Choir School has since modified its student computer use policy to reflect the modern digital age, but my memories remain in the past.

My first week at St. Anselm's was filled enough with anxieties of fitting in, or standing out in a good way. I never had to stand in the front of the room as the new kid to introduce myself, but word about this particular afterschool pursuit of mine made it around the block. When it came to what made me stand out among freshmen at St. Anselm's, it was my blog. Over the summer before Freshman year, I had gone on a paid-for three week venture with the Choir School, and over the course of five or so blog posts I delineated our daily travels, highlights, and mishaps, including that night half-spent at the Waitrose supermarket waiting for a replacement bus. Side note: The next day, my brother sent home a postcard with Windsor Castle ablaze- how fitting to the occasion. So in Freshman year, Sophomore year, I blogged just about daily. It was like a challenge to be a daily journalist. I got to blog on a variety of subjects circling my life: cameos on classmates, and "hit reports" on how tests went. It took two years to shed that "new kid" title; I was informed by a class leader that you're a new kid until a newer kid arrives, but the epithet was just tongue-in-cheek: I had already left my mark on the Class and the School.

Then came Junior year, and somehow, I found myself busier than ever. It's probably because I found myself as a two-sport man these two past years at school. You can see on the sidebar on my blog how the quantity of my output decreased. But I must say, though, that the quality, in my opinion, rose precipitously. I got into a grander reach of topics, including politics, and my running gaffe on April Fool's Day. The constraints on my time pushed me to hunker down and get into "the zone" when I did blog. I found that I'd spend more time per post than I had given before. So while I let my regular production of my Youtube video series JangooVision fall to the wayside, I kept up on the blogging.

Jangoo- where did the name come from, you may ask. I had a classmate, and we were not really on amicable terms. In English class, each of us were asked to design a concept and put it to words. This classmate had created his universe of hand puppets, a la silent coyote, and named this universe "Zoltan", which I found out to be a Hungarian composer's name. Now my automated fast food restaurant concept needed a name. Not wanting to have to ask to use the name, I found one to use. Jangoo: I found the name one Sunday while reading through a St. Thomas Church Bulletin. Jangoo is an Australian organist's first name. As I told a classmate who is a fan of my JangooVision videos, I own that name like a trademark. On that note, I've followed the Library of Congress' guidelines to ensure that my work falls under copyright protection laws, even though my official registration is pending.

During my high school years, my blog had filled a niche market: same day community feedback on school happenings. Since my Sophomore year, teachers and administrators have come to me, gently reminding me that my blog was one of the first search results for topics ranging from CUMUNC and WAMUNC, Model UN Conferences, to tributes for an alumnus. My blog got me a position on the Priory Press, which allowed me to access readily a plethora of back-issues, which have served as inspiration for a number of this year's blog posts. Blogging and Youtubing, as one particular fratriarch of four brothers would attest, really makes me someone to remember.

Thank you to all my readers, and I hope to blog again.
Atticus Sawatzki

In Conclusion...

Just before I go off to the Academy, I've got a little bit of local politics for my readers to ponder.

Marc Elrich's got to go:
It sort of disturbs my sleep at night that Mr. Elrich, member of the Mont. Co. MD County Council has commented on multiple occasions that he would like to turn the local power utility, which also serves Washington, DC, into a government run enterprise under the guise of "power to the people". He is, by the way, an elected official, and given the voting record of his comrades, including 8-1 approval for a bag tax, it worries me that shareholders in PEPCO's holding company, many local residents included, will find their shares devalued, and dividends non-existent, by populist moves of the legislature. I'd like to let my readers know that our local transit system was owned and operated by a privately-held corporation, and it took no government subsidies from 1862 until 1973. The transit system is now a gov't run enterprise, and it took $239 million from local and federal government coffers in the last fiscal year. Mr. Elrich, Venezuela is a dangerous path to follow.

Then there is his abstention on a 7-1 vote over the County's Disability Pension Policy. Reports the local paper, the DC Examiner, this vote created a two-tier payment system which differentiated levels of disability: partial and full. Reads the paper, "thus a broken finger no longer qualifies a County employee the same pension benefits as a paralyzed colleague would receive". Telling local county workers "no" is a rather "progressive" move in our area, but Counties across the area are facing severe budget crunches, and need to reign in on politically painless to cut cash giveaways to scrupulous public servants.

Looking ahead:
Both Maryland and Virginia are hosting US Senate races in 2012. In Maryland, Mike Steele (R) lost to the now-incumbent, then Rep. Ben Cardin (D) with a 9-point margin in 2006, probably over his support for the military actions in Iraq. Mr. Steele has not come out of the woodwork to challenge Dan Bongino, ex-Secret Service, in a Republican primary. It'll be interesting to see how much Bongino's lack of elected office experience and his support of Medicare Vouchers will affect him in the campaign. As for Mr. Steele, it has been historically difficult for Maryland politicians to win a rematch against an incumbent; namely the 1998 and 2010 Gubernatorial races, where Republican candidates faltered by significant margins after close losses in 1994 and 2006.

Some in the National GOP is already counting Virginia as a hatched egg as they try to make it to 51 seats in the Senate. It's looking to be George Allen (R), former Governor, and Senator elected in 2000 and outed in 2006, vs. Tim Kaine (D), Governor elected in 2005 for the maximum one four-year term. Has it really been five years since Mr. Allen dropped that slur heard round the Country?

2014 is the next Governor's race in Maryland. Incumbent O'Malley has hit his term limit, leaving the seat open with no clear successor. On the Democrat's side, Attorney General Gansler, who billed himself as one who "targets polluters"; and Comptroller Franchot, who tromped around the State giving commendation to businesses which do "more with less", and branding himself as an effective "fiscal watchdog" and an opposer to new taxes. Lt. Gov Anthony Brown may enter the race, but no Lt. Gov., Republican or Democrat, has won a governorship in the 40-year history of the position. On the Republican side, Harford County Executive David Craig is positioning himself for a run at the seat, collecting contributions even though he is term-limited. Other possibilities include Mike Steele popping out of the woodwork, and, don't think about it, Bob Ehrlich making a fourth run for Governor, but probably not.

2016 will be interesting for the local community. MD Gov. O'Malley is positioning himself to run for the Democratic ticket in 2016. According to political watchdogs, he has played the party line on every single issue in the book. Such dedication to ideals can really propel a candidate to the national ticket. O'Malley is not yet 50 years of age, mows his own lawn, and stars in a band, O'Malley's March, which has cut 5 CD's, and plays pretty decent music. His election record is stellar, too: Baltimore City Council, Elected mayor in his 30's, only person to unseat a gubernatorial incumbent in 2006, pulled a 14-point lead over the former Gov. Ehrlich by pasting him as the incumbent. Take this when Ehrlich was polling above O'Malley early in the campaign. By the way, O'Malley never mentioned, or showed, in any of his TV ads that he was the governor- safe move for the time. His weak spot, though, is his adhesion to liberal policies, which he often rode to extremes in his first five years. However, he has made a change in tenor, publicly announcing that he signed an executive order to "streamline paperwork" for businesses, and it was also announced that he ordered a study on bituminous shale production within the State. That sounds a bit like his foe Mr. Ehrlich's "drill baby drill" policy that would have been put in place if he were given the Governorship in 2010. Perhaps, locals will forget about his "Chavezian" days when he appears on national TV (again) in 2015.

Depending on how the stars align, a Virginian may also be coming onto a Presidential Primary Ballot, for one or two parties, near you.

Then what about Mike Steele, onetime Lt. Gov? Could he be the VP on the 2012 Republican ticket? Would that be enough to swing Maryland to the Republican side for the first time since 1984? Or does Obama still have an unshakeable grasp on the State?


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

One Week to the Academy

Basic Cadets headed out to the US Air Force Academy last Wednesday, and Plebes have trickled in over three days to the US Naval Academy for I-Day, which happened yesterday. US Merchant Marine's Plebe Candidates report next week- after the Independence Day Weekend.

Last Wednesday, my DC Congresswoman Norton held a small reception in a House Committee Room on the Hill. Arriving with half an hour to spare, I found out that I'd be giving a short speech to the audience. So there I am under the statue of Rep. Rayburn scrawling out a list of thank-yous, with my brother chiming in with helpful suggestions. Mission complete in good time. Norton's Naval Academy appointee also found himself writing on short notice. Actually, he gave a good chunk of his speech unscripted, and did a very fine job.

A Fox 5 news camera popped in. Norton gave a talk, which focused on her pet issue, DC's voting rights. The 'keynote' speaker, a 2005 West Point Grad from DC, and the new member of the Congresswoman's selection board, also harped on the topic: He relayed his experience as a member of the Army in Iraq- with no vote in Congress- music to the Congresswoman's ears. He relayed to us an encounter he had with a top-ranking Iraqi official during the planning stage for the first parliamentary election. The West Point Grad let this official know that the half-a-million people in his home city had no vote in their 'parliament'. He said it twice, so that the message was not lost in translation. Says the Iraqi: "No democracy is perfect".
Another perk- us four nominees had our names mentioned in the Congressional Record, and were cited in the local paper, The Northwest Current. The president of the local chapter of the USMMA Alumni Association insisted that we attend the affair on Sunday in Fairfax, VA. Our family accepted the invitation.

With plenty of time to spare afterwards, my family took a walk around the halls of the Rayburn. Near one of the main entrances onto Independence Avenue is ex-Rep. Weiner's office, with sign still next to the office's door. Our send-away reception was not the only social event going on: the opulence of some affairs was over the top. One event was decked with candlelights, lush green tablecloth, and artistically placed bottles of wine. For the record, we had sodas, and cheese and vegetable platters- and a tray of cooked sushi.

Then on Sunday, I attended an alumni association "Welcome Aboard" for the US Merchant Marine Academy at the Westwood Country Club. Rep. Connolly welcomed us to his district, VA-11, and his country club. The banquet hall had panoramic windows overlooking the bustling life of the golf course: carts and all. In half an hour after the buffet brunch, the Rep. spoke on a whole range of topics. Some pertaining directly to the event included his "divinity deferment" from Viet Nam, and the sheer number of Academy nominees he made from his Congressional District, 49, with 26 to West Point. That's the highest number of any District in the US, Connolly reports. Connolly is proud, too, of his five-star rating on Veterans' Affairs issues by a servicemen's organization. He pointed out to the audience that he pushed for full veteran status for Merchant Mariners who encountered hostilities from U-boats "before the Navy got into World War Two". On piracy in the Mediterranean, he reminded the audience that "Thomas Jefferson took care of that 200 years ago; if he could do it then, we can definitely take care of it now". On Libya, Connolly feels that US involvement is a necessary endeavor; however, he believes that it was wrong for Obama to not have consulted Congress earlier. "War; that's the Congress' business". Connolly voted with the majority of Congress for a one-year authorization. He wishes that the authorization was for a shorter term of time, but he notes, "that was what we had on the table". Connolly then opened up to a Q+A session. He is up for re-election next year, as all the Reps. are. On the deficit, he notes that, as a moderate, he believes that to actually get a balanced budget, both cuts and revenue increases are necessary. "Last time Congress balanced the budget, taxes were about 20% of earnings, average. It's down to 15%. If we are serious, we've got to bring it back up to 17% or 18%". He also remarks, "Pray to God we do something by August 2nd".

At both events, at least one person would raise the point of the "fair nomination process" evident in the DC area. Yes; in some parts of the country, Reps. and Senators pick nominees singlehandedly, but around here, where the nominations can get competitive, the job is left to the specialists. The chair of Norton's nominating staff described the task of deciding who gets the nomination: "It comes down to who has the best chance of admissions. It's difficult, and sometimes emotional, but based on our track record, it's effective".

Push ups, Sit ups, Pull ups, and Running: that is my agenda for the next few days.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Experience with The Hill

I started to spend an hour after school on Tuesdays with the "Abbey Elephants" on account of a cordial invitation from my friend who is the organizer of the club. A good number of the members are actually deep into all the names and frictions of Capitol Hill. I, for one, don't feel a need to know exactly who's going to win in New York-10 or Utah-2 or Arizona-3. I supposed that, though, since we're going to school in Washington, somebody could have a lobbyist for a father, or an advisor to a Senator, the State Department, or even the President. I do have the unique distinction, though, of being one of only two classmates who have voted in a real Statewide Election before college. DC had that April 26th Special Election a mere 9 days after my birthday, and one classmate was 18 before the Midterms back in November 2010.

There's also a Young Dems club competing for the "swing" members. Jacob, the leader of the Dems club, already had a DC-government technocrat, and head of DC's Young Dems organization, speak for the club. This is not to mention the three "Deficit Donut Sales" Jacob had set up. So, to keep the membership rolls afloat, our leader, C., who also interns summers on the Hill, decided to go arrange a tour of the Capitol for us through his grandfather's office in the Senate. His grandfather? I wonder what he does on the Hill. So the date was tentatively set for Monday, June 6. "Rendezvous 10am Hart Senate Building. Take Metro; you won't find parking. Staffers can have snob values, those from some offices more than others; dress in school formals".

The Capitol Police, when outside of the tourist zones, are cordial, and getting into the Senate offices is a mere matter of going through a metal detector and knowing your destination. I had a few minutes to wander through the spacious lobbies of the Hart Senate Building, the most modern of the three. Clad in white marble, it's fortunate for the Senators that pictures of the interior haven't made their way into popular debate. I couldn't find the gold bathroom, though.

In good time, our group was all together; three new graduates (including myself), four rising Seniors, including C., our host and intern, and a rising Junior and his dad the school Disciplinarian. With one elevator ride, which was complemented by the onrush of aides and staffers on every other floor, we arrived one turn and twenty steps from our Senator's office. Inside the glass door, an enthusiastic aide sat us in the conference room, our envoy filling most of the seats at the oval table. She then closed the door. On one wall were images of Arizona, just one of the Grand Canyon, but which, all in their own right, "makes me want to go there", commented a classmate. On the opposite wall is a detailed paper map of Arizona, ready to be inked and delineated, it seemed. Opposite the head of the table is the State Seal and Flag, and on the fourth wall, a table bearing a TV, and a framed letter congratulating the Senator for his support of the Ballistic Missile Program. The clock on the wall had a little yellow light that flashed every thirty seconds, and two seconds before the minute as well. Our leader, C., commented with a sense of peeve that "leadership groups" regularly come into the office and ask, sometimes almost demand, that they see the Senator. "This meeting", our leader commented, "was scheduled a month ahead of time and around the Senator's schedule".

At 10:05am, Senator Kyl (R-AZ) opened the opaque door from his suite of offices and walked the two steps to his seat. All of us, seated and passing the breeze, shot up to standing position, as fast as we ever did, in utmost respect. He must have been at ease, with none of us lugging a laptop or scribbling onto a steno pad or wearing press credentials. Any political gaffe he had with us would have not hit the newsstands. Senator introduced himself, and then went around the table to each person, asking their name and shaking their hand with a firm grip. He walked with sprite in his step and appeared to us as sharp and engaged. When he got around to our classmate, intern, and leader, the two broke into a hug preceded by the familiar title, "Grampa!" Well, yes, even Senators have grandchildren.

Senator Kyl laid out to us the generalities of his life as a Senator: "Fly in Sunday some business on Monday...Shorter sessions on Mondays and Fridays...Spend most of midweek in committee when we're not in session...Fly home Friday evening...I enjoy it, though". Despite his responsibilities as not only a Senator but the Senate Minority Whip, he has been keeping part of an eye out on the budding youth political clubs in Arizona as well as ours at St. A's. Asks the Senator: "Do you have a debate team?" "Well",explains one rising Senior, "we have a Model UN team". Says Sen. Kyl: "Get a debate team; tell the Headmaster that a Senator told you so". He goes on addressing his grandson: "and you and Jacob should put together a debate on some political topic. And just as long as you know that it's just for fun; I mean, take it seriously though; you won't have any of the lasting contention that your school is afraid of".

"Any Questions?", Senator Kyl asks. F-Dogg brings up the first, "I'm interested in your point of view on what role the Government should have in business". Sen. replies that this is an "interesting question which the government has been dealing with for at least the past hundred years; and now especially with this current Obama administration and the unprecedented actions taken by Congress in the has become a very important question". "Take GM, for example. We did it by fiat rather than by the bankruptcy rules, and that is where it gets messy. Look at who got left behind; the everyday people with the million dollar or so liability claims- left out in the rush". He continues: "The biggest thing, mediawise, that'll be going on this week in the Senate is the Debit Card Rule. From my perspective, banks aren't utilities; so we really should try to keep out of the way..." Sen. Kyl does appear to become passionate about topics he has a strong opinion about.

The next question came from me, about what it took to get where he is today. "Twenty years as an attorney; then I ran for Representative, and I won that. Eight years, and then the Senate race. Not too many primaries; when they did happen it was pretty straightforward; Arizona is strongly Republican". "My advice for anyone contemplating running for office is to live life a bit; don't go straight into it right out of college". "Connecting with the voters is very important, too. Obama was on top of that...he'd have a rally and then he'd tell everyone in the crowd to text him, and then he'd get the information of hundred, thousands of people all like that. McCain had issues with that; Obama's supporters would get customized emails, like, "Dear Chris...can you help us out?", and McCain's emails would say, "Dear Voter". That's what we got to work on in this next election". A staffer came in with a camera, and posed us flanking the Senator. "Will sign and send to you", the boss announced. We then carried on. How much does a Senate bid cost? "Last election, 15 million dollars".

A staffer knocked on the door. "Come in", said the Senator. Poking her head in, she announced that the PM of Singapore had arrived and was seated in the Senator's office. Says the Senator, "Pleasure to have spent the time with you". "Thank you, Senator". Taking the elevator to the Basement, I remarked, "Can't believe it; just spent 25 minutes with the Senator Jon Kyl, and we aren't even political assets". That chum time with the Senator at his office, indeed, may have been priceless. How many high school groups can actually make that happen? Let's see; St. Alban's, G-Prep, Gonzaga; but the list is short and their guest lists, from what I sense, would be politically driven. Ahhh...

These days, the entire Capitol building is restricted to staff or staff-escorts. Tourists arriving through the Visitor Center are issued "Visitor" passes, which lets them tour designated areas with a tour guide. This pass does not cover the Senate subway, to the chagrin of what I guess is at least a hundred visitors a month. Is that because there is the potential of constituents finding themselves in a capsule with too much concentration of power in one confined space? Fortunately, our envoy received "Official Business Escorted" passes, which allowed us to go wherever a higher-up (intern or greater) would take us. That includes the subway. Our host and intern told us the story about the intern who took his friends on a three-hour thrill ride on the three different subway lines.

Still, there were some areas off-limits to us and to C.: in Hill lingo/jargon,these areas are called APO: Authorized Persons Only. This designation covers other Members' offices inside the Capitol, not in the least Speaker of the House John Boener's well-marked office near the Rotunda. According to our host and intern, "you'd just run into a bunch of cops if you went in there".

After getting properly credentialed, and having all our carry-along items probed by a chemical sensor, our group boarded the automated Hart-Dirksen Subway. The trains arrived with clockwork regularity. Each car on the train held about 8 people each; maybe 7 Senators, as well as the Senate Seal, emblazoned in the center of the car. It was a smooth ride, and the flags of every state provided a change of scene from the sparkling white fluorescent walls of the tunnels. Soon enough, we were in the "tourist" part of the tour; we visited the Brumidi ceilings, the old Supreme Court chambers, State Statues, two from each State, and the stairway where contentions used to be settled with duels. With a few turns and two stairwells, we were in the Senate Minority Whip's well-apportioned office; magazines galore. (In contrast, most Senator's Capitol offices are a simple hide-away room when one wants peace from the press). In good order, though, our next guide arrived to escort us through the Right-wing Caucus Room, and onto the Senate floor. Haven't read Time Magazine in a while.

I tell you, what thrilled me the most were the "inside" parts of the tour. A few of my classmates and I were able to snap a photo from the Senate floor before we were told that Senator-eye point of view photography was not permitted. A classmate flipped through Harry Reid's copy of that day's Order of Business. That was as far left into the chamber as we were led.

There were other young people denizening the chamber: two members of the Congressional Page School spread themselves and their study materials out on the floor right under Senate Minority Leader's Mitch McConnell's chair. To clarify things up, the chamber was empty that morning, as it is most Monday mornings and Friday afternoons. According to our floor guide, "the only time that the Senators are usually all together is during voting". Rush to the vote they do: there is usually one elevator in each bank of elevators that is reserved for Senators (and their invited guests) only. To keep the exclusivity, most of these elevators are staffed. (These days, most of the other elevators are self-service). In a time frame before and after voting sessions, the Senate Subways are reserved for Senators only- the mere hundred of them. Less endowed staffers get to hike it, or wait out the time. Everyone- save some interns and tourists- knows their place in the hierarchy.

Our intern gave us some anecdotes about life in the Senate: about the "candy desk", and the Senate dining room. The most recent (and second) time our intern dined there, our Senator passed him and his companion off to the dining staff as "press". Which brings us to lunch time at 1pm; a traditional time for the Hill to go lunching. (My Mom works in the neighborhood; she knows to lunch before 1pm). For something different, our intern took us off the Hill to the Good Stuff Eatery. That was when I had to split; but, what an adventure.

Oh, and before we left the grounds, our intern collected our spiffy-looking credentials, counting them up to return to a security desk. If anything, it's the staff who feels the pressure for returning the creds: like in many homes, the guests hardly get flack; it's the hosts who do. What I did get as a souvenir is a gold-embossed calling card. The other trinkets, I can get those at the gift shop, any day.

The Senate Dining Room Menu: Bean Soup is Available Every Day.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Entries into my Calling List

"Entries into my Calling List"... did I pick up that phrase from the Choir School in New York?

So, as a continuation of last post's discussion, you'll get to see snippets I have for each of the events I attended over the past week or so:

R 19 0900a-1100a Final Final Exam
In the class "Sacred Masterpieces". Most of exam was a take-home essay; portion at school was the rather enjoyable aural section.

R 19 1130a-0200p Alumni Association Pizza and Yearbook Signing
"Welcome to the Alumni Association". Enjoyed plenty of pizza, guacamole and chips, and mud pie.

F 20 0715p-1159p St. A's Prom at the Hamilton Crowne Plaza
Dinner of bread rolls, arugula salad, fillet Mignon, and cheesecake was excellent. Dance music got more spice as the night went on.

Sa 21 1200a-0900a St. A's Afterprom (Official but not School-Endorsed)
Don't tell any of my classmates about this, but I actually was in my own bed at home by 1am.

Sa 21 0500p-0900p Track Team Hot Dog Party
A small and cozy get-together; got to watch replays of best moments in the 2011 St. A track season. I appeared in more than one of the clips; apple pie stunning; classmates attending affair had just woken up, recovering from afterprom.

Su 22 1100a-0200p Baccalaureate Mass
"Half of graduation", as the President of the School put it. Taking the Mass part of graduation now rather than the following Saturday makes "Vespers of Graduation" a much more manageable (reasonable length) event.

Su 22 0400p-0830p Party at the B-----n home
Just had enough time to change into casuals. Classmates and I watched cars make 3-point turns to turn back the other way from the part of the block Mr. B-----n had cordoned off for our use. Bocatto Gelato outing; and Red Hot + Blue served up the meat and slaw.

M 23 0830a-0400p Outbound Senior Retreat
Hush-Hush; I don't want to spoil any surprises for the younger students.

R 26 0630p-0930p Viewing of "The Hangover II"
Sorry, fellas; I was lifeguarding that evening. The movie, at 1 hr 45 min, is short compared to most feature films today; couldn't catch you all afterwords. If you'd had chosen the later screening, though...

F 27 1045a-0130p Graduation Rehearsal and Locker Cleanout
Persnickety-ness at its finest; at least it came with pizza.

Sa 28 0200p-0600p Graduation Prep, and Vespers of Graduation
Most important day of my life so far? Well, if it was, I took it pretty chill.

Sa 28 0700p-1100p Party at the S-----n home
Because Dr. and Mrs. S-----n found out that a six foot sub feeds more than just an extended family. Those of us with other last names passed our time in the basement den enjoying ping-pong, wifi, and Airsoft.

Su 29 0100p-0500p Party at a swanky home, courtesy of the G------t Family
What's more swank than chilling around in a house featured in the Wall Street Journal? Pool party, what's up! The opulence of the manor was astounding; every aspect of furnishing was extraordinary. In what shop can I find rocket-ship one-use hand towels or straws with a plastic fish at the end? Now what a way to celebrate.
I'm ever thankful that the host of the manor entrusted his home to us new graduates for the afternoon, to Mr. G------t for putting his relationship to his boss on the line,
and to all of those who gave time, talent, gifts, and homes to make graduation season a blast.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

AWOL from Blogging? I have an explaination.

When I last wrote on May 18 2011, I had finished all but one exam, the "Sacred Masterpieces" Aural final. This was before a whole host of events over two weekends, which have served as an excuse for my lack of blogging. As I sometimes do, I'll lay out what went on in list format:

R 19 0900a-1100a Final Final Exam
R 19 1130a-0200p Alumni Association Pizza and Yearbook Signing
F 20 0715p-1159p St. A's Prom at the Hamilton Crowne Plaza
Sa 21 1200a-0900a St. A's Afterprom (Official but not School-Endorsed)
Sa 21 0500p-0900p Track Team Hot Dog Party
Su 22 1100a-0200p Baccalaureate Mass
Su 22 0400p-0830p Party at the B-----n home
M 23 0830a-0400p Outbound Senior Retreat
R 26 0630p-0930p Viewing of "The Hangover II"
F 27 1045a-0130p Graduation Rehearsal and Locker Cleanout
Sa 28 0200p-0600p Graduation Prep, and Vespers of Graduation
Sa 28 0700p-1100p Party at the S-----n home
Su 29 0100p-0500p Party at a swanky home, courtesy of the G------t Family

Oh, yes, and my favorite reason to put off blogging: I got to hit the sack and go to bed. I'll pull this one as a reason to give briefs on each social event- later.
But, as you and I can see, the St. Anselm's Community makes sure that Graduation is a big affair.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Snow Days- Was this a good year?

Montgomery Co. MD to students and parents: Sorry; you should've had two 2-hour delays on April 25 and April 26. All absences for those two mornings are excused. Reason? Tornado warnings issued at 6:30am on both mornings. Reason that these delayed openings were not announced? The County makes the call by 5am.

In our area, school delays and closings usually only happen for snow and ice in winter; and the occasional September hurricane, more often a tropical storm. Cancellation of after-school activities is also common for heavy rains. Closing for tornadoes, in an area that receives few, might seem to parents a little incredulous to believe.

Mont. Co. batted average for giving snow days this year: 4. One was given for an ice storm: that day, I actually couldn't get to school safely. Three were given for one Jan. 27-29 snow event, which left 6 inches on the ground in DC, but a whole 12 inches ten miles north in Mont. Co. The County, usually quick to give snow days, made a dubious call for one late-season weather event, giving a 2-hour delay instead. There was a whole 3 inches of snow on top of half an inch of ice on the ground upcounty. Neighboring PG and Frederick Cos. gave the day to the students. Mont. Co. would've probably given students that day and another in February, if it wouldn't trigger an extension of the school year, and if there were not so many "teacher development days" this school year. Given that we took all four of those contingency days, from our perspective, this year was "perfect". Students would need 10 days off in all- rare indeed- to make any further gains: school year extensions are typically capped at 5 days.

St. Anselm's now has gotten its own banner on Fox 5. While some teachers at school have expressed frustration about what they consider "wimpy" calls from Rockville, snow day calls are still based on Mont. Co. MD for liability reasons. What the school really wants, though, is to be able to make calls when Mont. Co. is out of school for teacher days without resorting to a phone tree. Some parents still live email-lite, but sending a shoutout to students on Facebook would work, though.

As for neighboring DC, only one snow day (Jan. 27) was called this year. The other days which Mont. Co. got off, including that ice storm, were 2 hour delays. But this was enough to trigger an extended school year; for some reason, DC had not put in any buffer days against the 180 day minimum. The Board of Education is looking into why the schedule turned out this way this school year.

Snow and ice totals set a record for the East Coast overall; however, three of the five major storms that hit Philadelphia missed DC, which made this winter season an underperformer for the city; yet, by catching one of those missed major storms, and picking up some clouds from the mountains, snow totals were slightly above average in Mont. Co.

Sources: Washington Examiner Weather Page, May 2011; Northwest Current (DC), May 18 2011.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Fun Never Stops

St. Anselm's school year for upperclassmen works as follows: regularly-scheduled classes end the Friday before the start of the two AP weeks. Given that students typically will take three or more of these 3-to-4 hour tests, it makes reasonable sense to not even worry about having classes these two weeks. Given the tests' comprehensive nature, students feel entitled to a multi-hour r+r period after taking the test. I do too. The administration's support for leaving time after the last class and before exam week is that teachers will get to use all their classtime up to AP weeks teaching new material. Students would then study on their own with a review sheet, and come in if they want help. Washington Christian Academy in Germantown, MD, also uses this open scheduling system during AP weeks, to my knowledge.

So you may think that this time as a two-week reprieve, but read this: Teachers can still have due dates on papers and projects, and athletic teams still hold practice. Despite this, I know that some students have used this time to catch up on missed vacation, but apparently that's not me.

I finished my last AP of the year, Biology, on Monday at noon. Yet, I've been up and around, at school handing in papers and prize submissions, finishing on the engineering class' group semester project, attending track practice, and handling all of the pre-enrollment material for the Academy ahead of July. Oh, and I shouldn't forget about the social events, nor the exams next week.

Sceptics of open scheduling during AP weeks can see that, well, at least a few students are putting their larger chunks of open time to good use.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

First blog from wireless device

I'm blogging from an iPad right now as I return from Pennsylvania to drop off Little Brother. I'm just getting the hang of this device; it's an adjustment to get used to using two keyboards (one for qwerty and the other for numbers).
Now I've got a bit to write about; first off is the DC Special Election that occurred on April 26th. Turnout was higher than expected (I got to participate). Surprising enough, the Republican on the ballot, Pat Mara, came within 1,200 votes of winning over the widely recognized Vince Orange. That is a 5% spread in a highly Democratic city.

Next is our own school elections. Seniors don't vote in these, but it was interesting to see that the students elected the kids with the "too cool" attitude. They are the people whom the Seniors "like, but..."; this nonchalant attitude swill give the second place candidates a heavy say in how things are run.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Golf Carts

Each year, more and more houses are built further and further away from city cores and reliable transit services. While many developments are intentionally planned for walkability to a "town center", many homes are built out of this range. Then consider this: how many car-enabled residents would value the two-minute drive over the twelve-minute walk? Then consider the implications for the non-car enabled- say, younger teens. Are we sure that all of these pre-adults want to "endure" the round-trip walk? (Take Mom's taxi service out of the picture for now). Simple solution- bicycles. As I believe, most American kids have one in their garage. Bicycle infrastructure- either a wide shoulder for the road or a wider sidewalk, and bike racks in good repair- would enhance this transportation mode's appeal for all, and increase younger teens' sense of mobility.

In the meanwhile, as developed areas have continued to sprawl, States have been raising minimum driving ages, although the trend has cooled off in the past year. (Thankfully, the Allstate-insurance sponsored National STANDUP Act failed after the last election). What this has likely led to (I should find evidence or uncover it myself) is that teens are probably spending more time at home. Furthermore, another issue with higher driving ages is reduced employment opportunities because of lack of transportation. I suspect that the decrease in teen (ages 16-19) summer employment is at least in part directly linked to this issue. (Mama and Papa have been your chauffeur for so many years now...).

Working close to home has its perks, but America has a mobile workforce, teens traditionally included. If the teen is lucky, he or she will find a job within their means of commuting- by foot or bike. So how do we extend the mobility range of pre-licensed teens? Give them powered wheels. Easy-to-use and maintain powered scooters and mopeds are practical options that can give "reliable transportation" to more teens, thereby increasing their competitiveness in the entry-level job market. Such scooters are common in Europe, although less so in America.

Part of this is a culture thing- in days past, before 17 yo driving ages and passenger limits- teens in high school probably had little problem finding a ride, so there wasn't too big of a suburban teen market. The next thing is that a number of states require license plates on select classes of scooters and licenses for operators. However, in many states, golf carts, even when driven on a public street, are exempted from these vehicle and operator licensing requirements- and are ubiquitous in a number of communities. So perhaps we could see more of these vehicles around in the future.

Note that I did not list socioeconomic implications on the diffusion of teens in the workplace: many licensed teens don't have access to cars due to economic factors. The effect of this can be quite pronounced; at a park where a car is a virtual necessity to access, the high-school aged waterfront lifeguards were clearly a standard-deviation-plus above socioeconomic norm even for the tony County the park was in.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

That Empowering Time of Year Again

Every year on April 17 since age 12, I've been getting more rights and privileges. A while ago, I tried to find a comprehensive list online, but I couldn't find one. Here are a few benefits of growing up that I've compiled for people from ages 12 through 35:

12- sit in the front seat of a car.

13- COPPA doesn't apply anymore- that means you can get an online life! Also, pre-registration of voters and organ donors.

14- eligible to work part-time, fly commercial alone, get a glider pilot license, minimum age to be charged as adult in some states, get married in some states (with parental consent, of course).

15- be a lifeguard, sit in an airplane exit row, get authorized on a credit card, take aspirin, fly alone on most airlines.

16- There's quite a bit of things you can do; a lot of them are related to 16-y-o's making adult choices. Some include eloping to Elkton and get hitched, w/o parental consent in some cases, moving out of home, saying adios to school in most states (editors note: Use this option to make learning work for you; not to slack off!), age for a standard marriage in a number of states, adult membership in many social clubs, work a full 8 hour day/ 40 hour week, take a Fed Reserve tour, register to vote (if 18 by next general election), get a driver's license, full-privilege ATM card and checking account, qualify to work in a number of semi-skilled professions such as pool operations and entry-level shipping jobs, get a pilot's license, get an adult passport, cross international borders without a notarized letter of consent, participate in a blood drive w/ parental consent in some states, use a weightroom or spa or sauna without an adult, participate in certain vices pertaining to the ATF's domain (though not purchase them).

17- watch an R-rated movie without an adult, participate in a blood drive (w/o parental consent), vote in a primary (some states), join the military.

18- Voting, signing forms yourself, graduating from young driver restrictions, and participating in behavioral surveys is just the start. Essentially you get all the adult goodies except as below...

19- clubbing age, and marriage age in some states and, yep, some states raised the tobacco purchase age. Intent? Keep high school kids out of these activities.

20- this is when you're an adult in East Asia (20 by the Western or Eastern age-counting system?).

21- clubbing age in a number of areas of US, legal etoh purchase age in US, rent a car or hotel room, sign a mortgage in some states, CDL in some states, some heavy machinery licenses, get a concealed weapons permit.

23- become a commercial pilot

25- lower rates on insurance and , become an US House Representative

30-become a Senator or Governor in many states

35- become President or Vice President

And then we have what I'll call the AARP-type benefits that kick in at 55 with Senior Discounts and adult living communities.

My birthday is tomorrow, or later tonight by grown-up terms. I had plans to attend a Landon-endorsed rooftop event to dance my way to legality, but it was cancelled due to rain. In lieu of this turn of events, a friend invited me to go clubbing tonight. "Well", I said, "I'd have to wait 'til midnight. I'm done with teen clubs- over the line". "No, this party starts at 2(am)". Now how would I stay on good terms with my parents if I clubbed my sleeping time away? So I've spent this night at home, tonight feels like a last bachelor party for me- a final night unconstrained by adult responsibility. Yet, shouldn't I be on the edge of my seat waiting for midnight to hit to indulge in legal-aged excess? While I'm not biologically 18 until 8:15pm tomorrow, I'm legally adult in less than 2 hours. Some of the privileges I've already enjoyed, such as signing a waiver for an event on April 30th. Some I will enjoy soon, such as voting in DC's special election on April 26 (single votes hold more sway in special elections!). I'll keep my readers up to date as I exercise these privileges.

Next up: Golf Carts for Suburban Early-Teens!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Astrodyntech Found Another Way

It's my ethical obligation to let readers know that I posted my most recent post on April 1. In reality, no corporation has created a mass migration for the purpose of getting a corporate candidate into Congress. However, I must say that my last post was not all fiction; corporate-backed candidates do sit in Congress, and at much less of a cost to corporations than Astrodyntech's grand plan. Nevertheless, wouldn't it have shock value for a big corporation to form a political party?

The President of Astrodyntech got results back from a study which uncovered that other corporations and big companies got the people and policies they wanted into office with the following:

Lobbyists- hey, Mr. Congressman; if you vote for this, you'll look smart.

Setting up a magic show: big companies make it rain- for example, everyone likes more jobs in town. Attribute these jobs to Mr. or Ms.' policies, while he or she is running for office, and you make a friend.

Private Industry does it better, and at a lower cost- Everyone wins: the politician, the taxpayers, and the big companies, especially.

Flat Tax Rate- this is part of the next point, but wouldn't Average Joe like a simpler tax return? The millions of small...uh... lots of businesses in America would like that too.

Trickle Down Economics- This policy's popularity is a product of the following point: the IRS has a monopoly on government based wealth spreading, but the free market will spread the wealth. It's got to happen, right?

Fear of monopolies - Competition makes a better product. If one organization collects your tax money, how do you know that it's being collected in the best way possible? Outsource the IRS to the highest bidders. Sell the right to collect taxes from w million number of people at up to xyz rates. That's a contract Astrodyntech would love.

While these candidates fall under two big tents, the GOPs and the Dems, rather than carrying outright the name of a corporation, it's a small detriment in comparison to the huge costs of maintaining an under worked plebiscite in a company town.

Now there are enough political blogs, and plenty of them have IP addresses originating from the Washington, DC Area. It's about time I step off the political bandwagon. Next topic if nothing supersedes: Golf carts- a Suburban 14-Something's Upcoming Necessity?

Friday, April 1, 2011

April 1: Astrodyntech Bids for 1st Corporate Seat

Residents of the DelMarVa peninsula have been wondering about the sudden increase in moving trucks coming through their part of the woods. In March of 2010, according to exclusive and anecdotal reports, Astrodyntech opened shop in Delaware, and accepted applications over 230,000 people from all over the world. These people then were required to relocate to company housing in rural southern Delaware. Observers note that this mass migration was just in time for the decennial census, and that this mass influx at this time was both economical for the fledgling company and just large enough to win Delaware a second seat in the House.

Since then, the company has moved another 110,000 staffers to this new boomtown. It is becoming apparent that the redistricting board made a pinkie-swear with the President of Astrodyntech to not "gerrymander" the new boomtown by keeping it in one cohesive Representative District. Delaware is not one of eleven states that is required to report such redistricting to the Feds, as per the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Says Delaware State Historian Angie DeFlow, "Ever since the DuPont family started making chemicals, our state has always sold out to corporate interests". VPOTUS Joe Biden, formerly a US Senator from the State, released the following statement regarding the feds' response: "We have no grounds to invade their property until we have a warrant, which we don't have. We're really curious, though, so we'll jump on the next opportunity. An example of an opportunity might be a coworker coming to the cops with a workplace smoking violation. Then the Labor Department can get in there and see what's going on; but for now, our administration holds nothing against Astrodyntech". Says Delaware Governor Jack Markell: "It's a great opportunity for all Delawareans to have such an influx of new talent and new investment. For us, it's no small wonder that Delaware would be the breeding ground of democratic innovation. By the way, come some time and enjoy our tax-free shopping". Marylanders are wondering with envy why this debacle isn't playing out across the Mason-Dixon Line. Although the Maryland State Senate Leader declaimed this Astrodyntech maneuver as a "desecration of democracy", Lisa Gladden spoke with tearful eyes, as if this debacle was a missed opportunity for Maryland.

Astrodyntech is a privately held corporation which was incorporated in November 2008 in the State of Delaware. Main shareholders include many politicians and ex-politicians at all levels of government, not to neglect Halliburton's hefty share in the enterprise. Regarding the controversy that has arisen regarding the number of power players who hold stock, the President of the Company stated that "We're paying our team members 25 thousand a year, each, plus benefits, for cushy work. If we were paying to play, we could've bought that Illinois seat from Blago back in '09 for 600 grand". The company, asides from these brief comments, has remained mum and kept a low profile, and employees are dedicated to a confidentiality policy, with not whistleblowers coming forward yet.

Based on those figures provided, Astrodyntech will pay out around $7.5 billion in payroll this year. Considering the real cost for the Company, though, we estimate that three-quarters of those funds go back into the Company through rent, the company store, and work they actually get from their stiffs. The employees now are mostly occupied with building this new city; but once everything is built, one can only wonder if the stiffs will spend their days loafing around the grounds.

Residents of Delaware have mixed views. Pizza shop owner Donatello "Buddy" Rissoto, 38, states: "So here's a company that started in the middle of the Great Recession, and now has 300,000 some employees. They (Astrodyntech) deserve something". Another commenter, retiree Jake Barnes, 76, takes a different view: "Look, a survey in the Sassafras High School News reports that the name Jack Markell doesn't ring a bell to a third of the students, a good number of them who are registered voters. Thank you, If the survey had asked for the Governor's name, I suppose half the students couldn't answer correctly, one l or two. By the way, he's their Governor! Politicians are taking advantage of dimwitted, angry, voters. Back in my day, by the way, the voting age was 21, not 17. Yes, I said 17; and I fought in Korea, too."

Just today, a candidate for the 2012 2nd District Election emerged from the largely secluded boomtown. The Astrodyntech party was officially recognized a few days ago by the state. The petition for recognition of this party came in with significant bump over the required signature count. Pundits state that, at least 75%, closer to 90%, will have to vote their boss into power if she is to win. This high threshold is based on predictions for high voter turnout as citizens will want to counter the corporate candidate in this historic Election. The pundits also predict that a number of the signatories on the party's petition just wanted to see this party become legitimate, but will have cold feet at the voting booth.

The candidate stated that she, who has given no identity other than Astrodyntech so far, will most likely align with Old Time Republicans, but says that she looks forward to the day that "the movers of the American Economy, financiers of public education, wars, welfare programs, subsidies, Social Security and Medicare, and American Civil Society", what we think is codespeak for large corporations, will get a fair say in the democratic process. "It's been "look out for the little man" for a century now. Let's change the tide".

Says economist Jack Johnson, "The success of Astrodyntech relies on the outcome of the election. What the employees realize is that, if the company doesn't win, the leadership will declare corporate bankruptcy and walk away scotch free. If this happens, then all the little guys and gals are out of work. We are certain that the staff is being coached about this is in the daily 'employee meetings'". There is a stock benefit in employees, which Johnson says is a cruel ploy to get employees to politic harder for this corporate candidate than they otherwise would. In summation, no Republic has lasted forever; this may be the start of the fall of democracy in America". But, Johnson also quips, "If Astrodyntech was thinking straight, they might've gone for a lower turnout midterm election. On that thought, they'd have gone for a low population state like the Dakotas to get the bang for their buck: the two Senate seats would've come for free".

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Data Probe

Is that true? I have not blogged in 20 days?

Since Feb. 27, I have have attended 3 games of the St. Anselm's 64th Annual Basketball Tournament, and played the role of a cop as well as a groom in the school's revue of Neil Simon. That accounts for the weekends, but what have I been doing Monday through Thursday? I passed my CFA (fitness test) the Friday before March 1. The next Monday, Track practice started, followed one week later with "Heck Week" leading up to opening night for the play. That week was quite a scene: during rehearsal, between my two appearances in the play, I slipped out to complete 75% of Track practice...on 2 occassions. Then, on the night of the dress rehearsal, I had the thrill of getting wet and muddy with a greatly reduced component of the team. I later found out that the County had cancelled after-school activities for that afternoon on account of sustained heavy rain, and flooding. Fortunately, I had a set of dry clothes.

This is not to mention the late night outing to the diner this past Saturday (into Sunday morning), which, when compounded with the time change, has been putting me out of commission at 10pm a few nights this week. So as I recover from early-March madness, I find that it's great to be able to focus on track- and getting on top of homework.

Short from the Abbey Dome: As a schoolmate says, we "spanked" WIS with a 48 point lead, and we took Washington Latin as well with a 30 point lead. This was a far cry from the league tournament, where the Abbey won two nailbiters before falling prey to Cov Life's, again a nailbiting, debacle.

As for today, I found it quite odd that the school admin didn't utter the term "St. Patrick" until this morning over announcement. No official shenanigans today, no official reminder to dress in green. In lieu of this, the students showed up in a green tide, and one of our english teachers served up Irish soda bread. As for the admin, perhaps they did not want us to lauch into spring break too early: it starts at 12 noon tomorrow.

To do list:
Take CPR Renewal
Arrange Easter weekend
Work on 2 long term school projects
Gracefully decline offers from two colleges
Practice Violin
Prepare for and attend Model UN COnference (last in my HS career)
Wait for April 1 (acceptance rush day) to finalize college plans
I've bidden my time.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

10 Days in the Life of a High School Senior

I haven't been on this blog forum since I left for a retreat. I applied, back in the Fall, to go on the retreat as a Senior leader, and got sloted as a substitute. Meanwhile, one leader took up the offer on an all-expenses weekend trip to a certain educational institute in Tennessee (Vanderbilt). This was to occur on the same weekend of the trip, and so one substitute- Al- got placed on the trip. One week before departure, the adult planners found out that more people were going on the trip than originally thought. Enter myself; so that's how it went down.

In those four days,I was unplugged. No internet connection; no cell phone tower in range. That was pretty nice. Then reality said that I was out two business days!
There was some catch-up to play; Merchant Marine Academy matters to handle; b-ball playoff games to watch (including two-hard-won matches and my first witnessed overtime success). That pulls us straight into this weekend.

On Friday, I spent the entire stretch from 7:30am to 10:40pm on campus at school save a 15-minute milkshake run before the start of the at boy-girl mixer at 8pm. Come to think of it, I was in class only to 2:45pm. After this, it was orchestra, a final physical activity for the Academy, play practice, and to get some meaning out of the next 2 hours, Vespers at the monastery, enjoying a meal with the monks, and cracking down on some homework. This was all before that aforementioned mixer. Theme: Country club. I'd say I won 3rd place in the attire category; my polo, Nautica, and neatly ironed dress khakis were a bit traditional to Sean's and Matt's argyle sweaters and pastel shirts, and chill attitude. The ratio was decent, but a number of our female guests seemed more interested in effeminate parlance between themselves than in mixing. Compared to earlier dances, companionship was a little harder won. I got what I wanted from it, and went home in high spirits. I was home a few minutes after 11pm.

On Saturday, my schedule read: r+r from mixer, Violin, lunch, shopping on the Pike (if you're from DC/MD, you'd understand), haircut, parallel parking, league playoffs. Yes, Abbey Basketball made it to the championships to play the near-invincible Cov Life. Cars filled up the three level parking structure- and that with plenty of carpooling; amazing for a high school event. The league held the event at a Gallaudet University venue, and charged us to watch the game. There were a lot of people shelling out $2 or $3 to watch; that included a healthy majority of Cov Life's student body.

Don't get me started: at halftime, my team was up by 10 healthy points. We held the lead from 2nd quarter straight though 3 minutes left. Then stuff happened. Cov Life broke loose. Some of our fans lost the Abbey's trademark classiness for a few minutes. They won on a 3-point made after an extended hold, 57-60. I sort of anticipated it, because this was the team that had chiseled out 8 points against us in the last 40 seconds in a regular season game. By the way- I didn't know that was possible. So, games shouldn't come down to the final 40 seconds. But when they do, teams typically are respectful: not messing up the opponent's foul shots by jeering, for one. Regarding this game, I never felt sick in my stomach like I did when I got home from this one. I was pacing at home past midnight, unable to sleep over my uneasiness with Cov's behavior. We've had tough losses before, but never have I witnessed such sore something-ship from a high school game. In my dreams, I relived entire plays from the game; I felt the enthusiasm of taking the second quarter as our own; then, snapping out of that dream, I realized that the game was over. Out of all of this, one point of pride for this year's Abbey Hoops is that we've never suffered a loss that was not "tough".

I spent a good 3 hours doing backlogged math packets this afternoon, but it sure feels good to be caught up with math. If I would not have been so bothered by last night's 9pm championship chutzpah, I probably wouldn't have the desire to crack down so hard on homework. Anyway, parent-teacher conferences are coming up. Backnote: I resisted the temptation to pack math homework for the retreat. That would be considered a "distraction from duty" as a Senior leader.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Media Influences School Straw Polls

For various reasons, the voting age is set for 18; no higher, no lower. It's basically a moral imperative that the age is no higher than 18, under the old-enough-to-fight, old-enough-to-vote rationale. Many believe that lowering the suffrage below 18 could not democratically happen for a laundry list of reasons. Parental coercion and influence is probably the biggest factor keeping mid-age teens from the polls. How will you ensure that the kids aren't getting paid off by Mom and Dad for adhering to conformist views?

One way we can view this influence in action is through all-school straw polls, most commonly held around Presidential election time. For the sake of this analysis, we will look at Middle and High School results (age ~11 to 18). We find that children of openly political parents are very likely to adhere to their parents' views. (This is moot if the two parents support opposing candidates!). However, this correlation is no causation.

From the sample of children of political parents, when these youngsters voted against their parents' candidate, more children of conservative parents voted for the progressive than children of liberal parents for the conservative. While youth are often by nature progressive, this natural tendency does not explain the full extent of voting trends in school straw polls.

Media geared to youth tend to be left-leaning; I call out Time's TFK publication in particular. Some networks take sides (Rupert Murdoch?), others inadvertently show support for one candidate over another, by amount of airtime and general portrayal of a candidate. If a majority of publications favor one party over another, who gets the benefit of publicity? Young people like a youthful leader, and, in recent elections, there has been no shortage of youthful Democratic candidates who have graced the covers of nationwide publications available in school libraries. For children of non-political parents, the Media seems to be the most important factor in influencing a child's opinion about a candidate.

We also have to watch out for teachers; in their course of affairs, their political views may come out in discussion of current affairs. Teachers need to make sure that their (younger) students receive a balance of political views, if such opinion does play out in the classroom.

Most importantly, though, young voters are most drawn to charismatic candidates- such as Barack Obama. In the Saint Anselm's 2008 Straw Poll, the current POTUS drew a majority of votes across all grade levels, especially in the younger grades.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Let's Thrive This Big 28

February is a short month, but for us Abbey Boys, there's a good schedule ahead:

Of course, today is the Super Bowl. Students are taking both sides; some of us hope the Steelers win on account of one notorious Latin teacher. For the record, I'm on the Steelers' side.

Feb. 10- according to the Facebook Page, the Abbey-WIS Game Away happens. One of my favorite aspects of this yearly match is the logistical side of things: how to move 150+ students, without school-provided transport, across town.
If all goes correctly, I will be a GRAD-uated driver. I plan to pick up my adult license on Tuesday (2/8). It's just a paperwork thing, but stuff happens.

In the past issue of the Priory Press, our sports reported gave a history on the Abbey-WIS rivalry. It started out with a spat over seeding in a league bracket back in 2000 or so.

There us another, more chivalric, notion that we have: a WIS kid insults an Abbey Boy. Rather than throwing fists, the two decide to settle by observing the outcome of the next WIS-Abbey B'ball game. The game ends with a tie, and WIS asks for overtime. The ref complies, and the Abbey wins. Both the Wis kid and the Abbey kid maintain that their team had won, and that was how the rivalry started.

Feb. 17-20- 2 important events happen this President's Day Weekend. Juniors and some Seniors take a Kairos Retreat. I can't reveal details, but it's a great experience. For a number of others, there is a NAIMUN- the N. American Invitational Model UN Conference at Georgetown University. For the Seniors, it's the second-to-last Conference of their High School Model UN Careers. We'll certainly put our experience to good use, saving the world in 96 hours.

TBD- the first Mixer Dance of the year. Stu Gov pulled off October's Homecoming in stellar fashion. However, the "Jersey Shore" themed dance had to be postponed twice: once on account of city plumbing work, and the next time on account of snow policy. Look forward to a Country Club-themed fete at the end of this month.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

2 Day Weeks Are Easy

On a snow day, I'm obliged to blog. As unusual as it is, I've been productive these past two days. When I'm productive, there isn't usually much news. Down in West End DC, the snow total amassed 4 inches, a respectable amount. In the northern suburbs of Fairfax County, VA and Montgomery County, MD, over 8 inches of snow blanket the ground. Get this- in parts of Mont. Co, the snow totalled two digits- 10.2 inches in moderately populated Damascus, and 11 inches in more rural Boyds, according to WTOP reports. Why do suburban snow totals matter? Because St. Anselm's follows the Mont. Co snow reports. Why?

There are several reasons. Mont. Co. is the lowest common denominator when it comes to snow. Back in the '90's, the County picked up a reputation of being the first to close. This snow-phobia has diminished somewhat: 3 inches of snow on farmland doesn't guarantee a day off- it didn't last season, and it didn't two weeks ago. The second reason is that a plurality of students come from Mont. Co, and adding students who live within walking distance of the county line would make a clear majority. A third reason is that DC the city rarely issues snow days: DC expects kids to trudge through snow to a Metrorail or major bus route, even when cars are snowed in on the sidestreets. At least half of St. Anselm's students rely on a car or SUV some part of their journey to and from school. Reason four is that the other schools in our league abide by MoCo's judgment. If your friends are out to play, then so will you! Then there's brand recognition and association. Mont. Co., as well as Fairfax, VA, do an excellent job in public school education; many schools in these counties rank top in the Nation. Mont. Co. Public Schools is the biggest absorber of students between 8th and 9th grade at St. A's. Reasons for making the leap range from "availability of females" to "my gosh they've got Smartboards in every classroom!". To my knowledge, DC Public Schools has not lured off any rising freshman in recent history.

One proposal that arises in the County is whether or not to split the County's schools into two snow districts, so that South County gentry from Bethesda and Chevy Chase (like my classmates) don't get a free ride whenever Sugarloaf Mountain gets a white coating. This suggestion is off the table, though, because enough students from Upcounty travel to Mid-and Down-county schools for advanced level curricula, lacrosse, etc., that a split system would be unfeasible.

It's my last year in the K-12 ed system, so I'm not concerned about this, but some keen, younger students are aware of "changing demographics". As DC the city becomes more cosmopolitan and attracts well-heeled families,the schools increase recruiting efforts in the rowhouse neighborhoods of Capitol Hill and West Georgetown. As a result, pushy parents from snow-light DC may get the schools to adhere to the DC school closing announcement,and call to an end the easy flow of snow days.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

4 Day Weekend

On Tuesday, I went down to the car; I needed it that day to shuttle equipment and people around at school. The night before, around 10pm, freezing rain started to fall from the sky. Tuesday morning, indeed, there was about half an inch of ice all around- sidewalk, and on the car windshield. I turned the car on, and started to chip at the ice with a gloved hand. I tried using the ice brush, but it wasn't much use. After a few more hacks with my hand on the ice, I called upstairs to tell Mom that, "I'm taking the train today". "Come up, there's no school today", she replied. Snow days come when you least expect them.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dr. King, General Jackson or Lee, Commemorate as You Wish.

Illinois was the first state to designate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a state holiday in 1973. MLK Day became a federal holiday in 1986(Fed holidays are a big deal for the DC area), and by 1993(Arizona was the lager), all states had some sort of holiday on the third Monday of January. Some jurisdictions refuse to commemorate holidays that mark a single individual. On that point, some politicians pointed to the need to commemorate all of our Civil Rights activists. New Hampshire and Utah had names such as Human Right's Day to mark the day. On the other hand, some states were less altruistic to the concept of world-as-a-family: South Carolina and Virginia conveniently moved their Confederate Commemoration days to overlap the third Monday in January. Since 2000, though, Virginia's Lee-Jackson Day has been moved to the Friday before the third Monday in January. By 2000, the official name for the holiday in mid-January had been changed to MLK Day.

As for the shrugging of shoulders over designating this day a holiday, it's nothing new. The politically acceptable reason is that MLK day was planned to be too close to the excesses of the holiday season! (Remember that Christmas Week was just three weeks ago?) There is also the reason of relevance. In the DC area, it's a big celebration and commemoration with a deep social context. The influence of MLK is less prevalent in some parts of the country, and thus understandably, isn't as widely celebrated and commemorated. Some counties, usually in areas which do not widely celebrate the day, choose to have school on MLK Day, but some don't have a firm stance. At least one county in North Carolina decided to use this holiday as a snow make-up day. The sudden change really ruffled some feathers.

So whatever you celebrate or don't, enjoy your Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Obecalp(2) by New Age Pharm House

These days, doctors and other authorized prescription writers like to prescribe medications- especially those that give the doctor a generous kickback. When pharm means kickback- that's 1K to 5K dollars. You know, not too much work to get that new car. As long as no one gets side effects, all's happy and well.
On the other hand, Obecalp has no side effects, and is a low-cost alternative that reaches the same placebo effect which fancy, expensive, and time-consuming solutions may do. Obecalp is so revolutionary that it's not on the medicare/aid schedule yet. Don't let the doctor prescribe an unnecessary medication which pads his or her pockets and milks yours! There are many different forms of Obecalp specifically suited to each patient's needs:

Obecalp: (active ingredient: carbonated sucrose dehydrogenase) is a powerful remedy that is prescribed by doctors for many different conditions. Ask your doctor if Obecalp is right for you. Side effects may include a craving for sweetened items or even tooth decay; withdraw symptoms include sugar crash.

Obecalp Lite: (active ingredient: saccharin) goes easy on your waistline, and is suitable for those with conditions which counteract Obecalp Regular.

Obecalp Once-a-day: (active ingredients: aspartame, gelatin) Don't let taking Obecalp get in the way of your daily routine! Once-a-day Obecalp is formulated with two layers to provide both fast acting and long lasting relief.

Obecalp PM: Specially formulated to reduce risk of tooth decay when taken at bedtime.

Obecalp for Kids: (active ingredients: moderate fructose corn syrup, niacinamide) Obecalp for Kids increases immunity to schoolhouse germs and has been proven to increase levels of physical activity among youngsters. Comes in groovy grape or bubbly bubble gum flavors. Side effects may include hyperactivity, which can be counteracted with Ritalin.

Obecalp Xtreme: (active ingredient: agent Y) Feeling tired after midnight is a chronic condition, which, if not treated, may lead to serious problems that can hinder your performance throughout life. Obecalp Xtreme contains the natural ingredients found in OTC Aspirin medication. (some varsity athlete): All your friends are taking it! What are you waiting for?

Obecalp Antacid: (active ingredients: sucrose, sodium bicarbonate) Regular antacids only mask acid reflux! Obecalp Antacid has been shown in clinical trials to cut to the root of the problem. Do not take if overly full from food or drink.

Obecalp KO: (active ingredients: ethanol, petrolatum gel, castor oil, methane by-products) Remember those bygone college days when you were so full of vitality, yet could get a good night's sleep? If you've lost that pep, you may have a condition. Ask your doctor if Obecalp KO is right for you. Obecalp KO may cause drowsiness. Do not operate hazardous machinery or a vehicle until you know this medication's affect on your motor abilities.

DISCLAIMER: This product, Obecalp, is actually a marketed item with a valid patent. Name is used under fair use through the spoof clause. The concept for derivative products such as Obecalp for Kids was created by the author of this blog. Look for these items, under a different trademark, on your local pharmacy shelf in coming years.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Back to Business, Jan. 3

This week is the 1 year anniversary of the DC bag tax. The bag fee is nickel and diming at its finest: for most people, it's not worth shopping across the border to avoid the fee. However, a Giant Grocery right on the border (on the MD side) reported an unexplainable uptick in business this time last year. At least a number of residents had beef with the principle. Of course, you can always bring bags to the store to avoid the 'fee', but that's a hipster thing. But-the idea is not going away: This year, San Jose, CA (population near 1 mil.) jumped on the bandwagon and banned plastic bags.

DC also gets a new mayor: Vince Gray. He represents a return to the status quo: Gray put the long-time teachers who were fired for alleged incompetence to the top of the rehire list. This is good old DC. Although shifting demographics should have favored the "progressive" (Adrian Fenty*), many of the 'new residents' of DC actually vote absentee ballots in their home state. This left the 'authentic' residents to decide the fate of the bike-lane-and dogpark-loving mayor.

*Lost the Democratic Primary, Won the Republican Primary by write-in, but declined the nomination. On Election Day, Fenty won some Northwest precincts through an insurgent (and not endorsed) write-in campaign.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year, Pacific Ocean!

I know that some readers of my blog subscribe to an RSS feed. You receive updates for posts of all sizes and relevance. You suggested that I write a bit less, but more in depth, and I heeded your advice. Thank you for your patronage. The reason I am here is simply a technicality. The dateline posts in California time; so at 12am local time (DC) earlier today, it was 9pm out on the West Coast. When I celebrated 2011, folks in Seattle, Berkeley, and elsewhere on the West Coast were enjoying their last few hours of 2010. Moral of this post? Understand that sometimes the dateline on my posts can be a calendar day off the content I write about!
Happy New Year; the dateline reads Jan. 1 this time around, if California didn't drift too far into the Pacific overnight!