Come back soon, Eastern Market

Washington Post: Eastern Market: What We’ve Lost

It’s all over the news, so you’ve likely heard, but Eastern Market burned down last night. I’m very glad that I finally made it out there for the first time a few weeks ago. I don’t think I could hope to retain my DC resident status, parking tickets notwithstanding, if I had never been to Eastern Market.

My fear now is that it won’t be rebuilt without some kind of “anchor store”, like a chain grocery or a Starbucks. That would certainly ruin some of the feel of the market. I can’t claim to be a regular visitor, or claim any nostalgia at the market being part of my life, so it’s hard for me to talk about the feel of the market. But even my one visit was nice, and I can’t imagine it being reborn as something like Dean and Delucca in Georgetown.

I realized something today

This may be obvious, but it just occured to me this afternoon.  The wife and I were dropping her car off at my grandmother’s to avoid the wrath of DC parking officials who don’t like people who “forget” to register their car in the District when they move there.  We’re selling the car, so it doesn’t make sense to title it in DC.  Anyway, we stayed to chat, and the topic of talking on the phone with computers came up.  The phone had rung, and I answered it.  It was someone wanting me to take a survey.  I declined, since it would be rude to leave my wife and grandmother.

In any event, we talked a bit about talking on the phone with computers, and how voice recognition has come a long way, but that it’s often difficult to get a real person on the phone when you need one.

I realized why this irritates me so much.  First, it irritates me because, in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a mild annoyance, which means it’s more likely to get under my skin.  But the real reason it drives me up the wall is that anything a computer voice can do on the phone, I’ve probably already tried to do on the company’s website.  I don’t call my bank to check my balance or see the last three debits from my account.  I call because I have a weird question that a computer isn’t going to understand.

There should be special customer service lines for the technologically-adept.  I’m willing to promise (And actually mean it) that I’ve made every reasonable effort to solve my problem on your website before calling you.  In return, you promise to actually have a real person answer the phone when I call.  I’m willing to answer two questions to a computer for call routing purposes, but that’s all.  No series of menus that never seem to quite have the option I need.

I suspect that things will go this way.  As more and more people grow up with the internet, more and more people will turn to the computer before the phone.  And as websites get better, the number of people who need to actually call a company for customer service will go down.  Then it may make sense to have direct lines answered by people because the only problems that will actually be addressed by phone are the ones that really do require human intelligence.

Of course, that’ll probably happen right about the same time that we figure out real artificial intelligence, and that will change all of customer service.  But that could be cool, too.

On Blogging

I feel like I’ve been neglecting this blog lately.  That’s probably because I’ve been getting more traffic to From Harvard Street, and that makes blogging more interesting.  It’s always nice to have people reading your stuff, and maybe doing some commenting.  Harvard Street is tied to a location, and right next door to the 2nd “bloggiest” neighborhood in the country according to, and so there are tons of people looking for local DC blogs.  All this blog has going for it is me bitching about things.

As a brief aside, I cooked a delicious dinner tonight.  Tilapia sauteed with some olive oil and garlic, a little pepper and oregano, served on top of homemade black bean salsa, with steamed cauliflower on the side (The wife LOVES cauliflower).  We had a really nice bottle of wine that she bought me for Christmas, and we’ve been enjoying the nice weather with all the windows open.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about consolidating the two blogs.  Mostly I’ve been using this one for general thoughts, and the Harvard Street blog for things related to DC.  I’m not sure if it really makes sense to keep them separate.  On the other hand, it’s probably a huge pain to take a wordpress blog and a typo blog and combine them.  I’m sure there’s a tutorial somewhere, but I’m also sure I don’t feel like doing it.

So, as usual, I’m rambling.  To summarize, the additional traffic I’ve been getting at the other blog has made me focus more on it than this one, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.  Thanks for reading, though.

Go see this play

The Rorschach Theatre Blog: Political

This is not a show about two people fighting for two hours. There are very real laughs and tears. There is sex and hunger and all the colors of the human condition.

I think that does a pretty good job of summing up the play we saw last night as part of my birthday presents from my wife. References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot was written by the guy who wrote the screenplay for The Motorcycle Diaries. And The Rorschach Theatre is literally right around the corner from our place, tucked inside a little church. I would describe the theater itself as “very intimate”. There are two rows of folding chairs on either side of the stage, room for maybe 70 people.

I was pleasantly surprised by the production quality and the acting. I thought it might tend to the amateurish side, since this is a funky little theater in a church. Yes, I know I’m switching between “theater” and “theatre”. The proper name has the “re”, but I don’t spell the word like that.

Anyway, the acting was anything but amateurish. It’s a very emotional and sexually-charged play, typical of Spanish magic realism, and I thought the acting was great. The set was cool. They did a nice job of working with the space limitations and the lack of a curtain.

Now, the play itself. The story is about a soldier returning to his wife, who is bored and alone in the desert. She desperately wants his companionship, to connect with someone on a meaningful level, after spending a lot of time with her cat and the boy next door who is in love with her. He desperately wants to take his boots off and take her to bed.

I’m no theater critic, but this is a pretty good way to spend two hours. The wife and I will definitely go back to see another play.

In memory of Ruth Renaut, 11/19/1926 – 4/23/2007

My grandmother died last night. She had not been well for a while, and they couldn’t really figure out what was wrong.

I think she was ready to go. She had been in a rehabilitation center for a while, and then staying with my dad. She hasn’t been able to walk for months, and she wasn’t responding in any long-term sense to the treatment.

I last saw her the weekend before last. She didn’t really want company, but I went anyway, and I’m glad I did. Our last conversation wasn’t very good. She was upset, and wasn’t terribly pleasant. I’m sad that the last time we talked ended with her upset with me, but I know she didn’t really mean it. We’ve always had a good relationship. I used to spend the night with her and my grandfather when I was very little. She loves to tell the story of how I asked for toasted cheese one night for dinner. She cooked me a grilled cheese. Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but in our house when I was little, “toasted cheese” was really just a piece of bread with sliced cheese stuck in the toaster oven until the cheese melted and the bread browned a little bit. I’m not sure I’d ever had a grilled cheese at that point, and there was NO WAY I was eating it. I was a pretty picky eater until sometime in high school. My grandfather apparently made me sit in my chair for quite some time, staring at the grilled cheese.

“You asked your grandmother for this, and now you’re going to eat it.” He said.

“No.” I said. Allegedly. I was probably three years old. I deny this ever happened. I certainly don’t remember it.

I out-waited him, though. She never told me how the story ended, except that I never did eat the grilled cheese. It’s too bad – I probably would have liked it.

In college, I lived about 20 minutes from her, and I used to take her to the grocery store a few times a month. She never drove, and my grandfather died in 1986. Kind of amazing that she lived in the suburbs of Baltimore for 20 years without a driver in the house.

Anyway, I knew exactly where everything she ever bought was in the Pikesville Giant. She would always buy me a sandwich for lunch, and serve something for dessert. Often it was Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. Occasionally it was something she made. She was a great cook, and her specialty was old-fashioned New England desserts. Her Christmas cookies were fantastic, too, but I think that may be partly nostalgia.

So, my recommendation to all of you is to go and spend time with the people you care about. Some of them may be difficult sometimes, as I know my grandmother could be. But it’s funny how quickly you can forget the little difficulties.

High School kid shot in my neighborhood High School Senior Killed in Northwest

An 18-year-old kid who lives on my street was shot about three blocks from my house late Saturday night. Maybe it was gang-related, but they don’t seem to have much in the way of details.

When we moved into the city, some people thought we were crazy. Why would we move from the nice, safe suburbs into the scary, busy city? People wondered about Columbia Heights, too. It’s not the most dangerous place in the city, but it’s also not Georgetown (Thankfully. I don’t want to live in Georgetown. It’s a nice place to go shopping if you have too much money on your hands, but I don’t like the feel of the area. Not quite sure why.). But this is the first major crime I’m aware of in the area since we moved.

I have not yet felt unsafe at any time in Columbia Heights. Sure, I’ve passed some people talking loudly to themselves, and I’ve been asked for money. But I’ve never had to cross the street because I felt threatened or anything like that.

We were out at a bar on P St Saturday night, and we were just walking home shortly before this happened. I guess that makes this a bigger deal. I’ve probably scared my mom and my mother-in-law by now. But I’ve talked to my wife, and we think we’re going to be more inclined to take a cab home if we’re out late. I still don’t feel unsafe, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful.

Tshirts are awesome.

All my friends are dead.  :-( Birthday present from my mom. If you can’t read it, it says, “All my friends are dead”. It’s funny because it’s a dinosaur. I found it on TCritic. Even more awesome is the kitten explosion t-shirt. I’m not sure it gets any awesomer than a mushroom cloud of kittens. I’m not sure which site I saw kitten explosion on, but if it wasn’t TCritic, it was Hide Your Arms. It could have been Preshrunk, except he stopped posting again. Kitten Explosion!In any event, the shirts are cool. I wish I could still wear t-shirts to work, but they frown on that at the new job.

Happy Birthday to me!

What a beautiful morning. It’s sunny and warm and all the windows are open. My wife is cooking me breakfast. There’s a huge pile of my mother-in-law’s chocolate chip cookies on the counter (I wanted to empty the box they were shipped in so the cat could play in it). This afternoon, the wife and I are going to take a little walk, and my family is coming over later for dinner.

Last night, we went to Merkado for dinner. It was quite good. I had the special, which was halibut over a black bean and mango salsa. I highly recommend it. The fried banana dessert was also great.

This is especially relevant to residents of Columbia Heights because the company that runs Merkado, as well as Grillfish and Logan Tavern, is opening a new restaurant in June or July right at the Columbia Heights Metro stop. They’re going to call it Logan @ The Heights, which I think is a dumb name. Maybe they think that Columbia Heights can’t stand up on its own, and they have to associate Logan Circle with us so we know their restaurant is cool.

In any event, I’ll try the new place when it opens.

I also need to try the Intercambios at Dos Gringos in Mount Pleasant. It seems like a cool idea – it’s a semi-structured informal conversation designed to meet new people and brush up on your language skills. I’ve been saying that I’d like to brush up on my Spanish, so I should actually do something about it.

So thats where all those people came from

This morning, I checked my traffic for yesterday and found that it was about five times normal on Friday. Looks like my previous post got a mention on DC Blogs. That’s pretty cool. It appears to have been overshadowed by a somewhat heated discussion on some on- and off-line drama, but that’s okay.

As a follow up, the reason they blocked off the street became apparent this morning as I was woken by the sound of a large construction machine tearing up the street right in front of the house. They removed a chunk of pavement about ten feet by twenty feet, put down some metal screens, and then repaved. Not sure what that accomplished, but they seem pretty efficient at getting it done.

It is also a beautiful day, and we have flag football in a few hours. This is only my second game of the season, and the team’s third, due mostly to rain.

Also, tomorrow is my birthday. Looks like a pretty good weekend.

Teaser for Script Frenzy

The teaser site for the new project from the people who brought you National Novel Writing Month is up.  I think I’m going to try this new one.  The goal, instead of a 50,000 word novel in November, is a 20,000 word script in June.

I’ve never written a script before.  And I never got around to reading the script for Die Hard, which I’m told by someone who should know that it’s the de facto guide to writing a good script.  Or maybe a good action movie script.  Whatever.

I think it will be fun.  If you have suggestions for a movie, let me know.  If the suggestion in some way involves a duck, so much the better.