Jamie Parker, who sat on the panel that chose Michelle Terry to lead Shakespeare's Globe, describes her as a "genuine collaborator, who at the same time won't sacrifice the courage of her artistic convictions. ... No one can possibly accuse Michelle of being a regressive traditionalist, or backwards-looking. Her work speaks for itself. That said, she is also in-tune with the building as a theatrical instrument and she has her own understanding of the imaginative contract between the actors and the audience. That is the bedrock of everything that happens on Bankside."
"Theatrical instrument" is well said. If you've been in the Globe, it resonates like a drum: its players speak high and clear, like pipe and tabor, sackbut and shawm. And hearing a play in the Wanamaker is like sitting inside a lute.
It's sad that that commentators keep apologizing, as if a love of Shakespeare were reactionary.
Michelle Terry says: "The work of Shakespeare is for me timeless, mythic, mysterious, vital, profoundly human and unapologetically theatrical. There are no other theatres more perfectly suited to house these plays than the pure and uniquely democratic spaces of The Globe and the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. I am so proud and excited that I will be in the privileged position where I can offer artists the opportunity to come together to reclaim and rediscover not only Shakespeare, but the work of his contemporaries, alongside new work from our current writers. For us to then share those stories with an audience that demands an unparalleled honesty, clarity and bravery, is all a dream come true."
Recently, my husband and I have been talking about taking a step to be more open in our relationship. We had made attempts to do this before, but we sort of jumped in without enough discussion and then had to pull back because if something hadn’t been explicitly outlined for him as being okay, his default was that it was and he would be willing to soldier forward regardless. It was a little more of a “better to seek forgiveness than ask permission” kind of a situation and I kiboshed that because I need boundaries to feel secure. Anyway, we have been talking and talking and talking and someone sparked his interest and so we talked about baby-stepping our way back into this situation with much clearer boundaries and I felt totally okay with it – until recently.
So this woman, I will call her Pandora, came over to our house for dinner and things were fine until she and my husband started to have some weird and ambiguous conversation about an appointment she had the next morning bright and early. This goes on for a while, so finally I was like “Hey! I’m in the room and I feel like you’re having a conversation around me and it is making me uncomfortable! What are you talking about?”, at which point, Pandora goes “Oh well I have a lot of drama going on in my life right now and it is just best that I keep some things vaulted.” Which like, okay, but then also don’t vaguely drama dump in front of me in my living room. Anyway, she left and then my husband goes “You want to know what that was about?” and I said “yes!” because of course I do when baited with juicy morsels of gossip. Well it turns out that Pandora has been fooling around with this one particular couple when they do MDMA and now has started hooking up with the dude half of the couple without the woman’s knowledge. In fact, the appointment she kept referring to was a six am visit from this dude, who was going to hook up her secretly on his way to work.
For context, this info was dropped on me at close to 2 in the morning and I had work the next day, so I didn’t say anything in the moment, but I spent the whole next day thinking about it and it seriously made me annoyed and upset. Like do I think her morning secret hookup dude takes a large share of the blame for stepping outside his primary relationship as he is the committed person? Yes. But it genuinely bothers me that she was intimate with this woman, knew exactly what the woman’s boundaries were and what the boundaries within the primary relationship were, and then decided to go there anyway. To me, sex isn’t just something that happens, it’s something that you choose to make happen and they chose against the wishes of the other person involved which is sketchy as fuck. That to me shows a huge sign of disrespect and I told my husband that it really made me upset and uncomfortable to bring this person into our lives in an intimate way. My reasoning was that if she is so willing to do this to someone she has had sex with, I don’t see what would stop her from doing the same to me, a casual acquaintance.
At this point, he says that they have had multiple boundary talks and she has assured him this won’t be an issue to which I think my exact response was COME ON, MAN! Also, during this conversation, he insisted on trying to contextualize her decision in her other relationship by saying things like “We have no idea what that other primary relationship is like!” and then he also bomb-dropped that this couple is very close friends with some other very good friends of mine, so I can’t talk to them about this because they could probably figure out who I was talking about via context clues, and he said that I can’t tell Pandora I know because she made him promise not to tell anyone and it would implode his friendship with her if she found out she broke his promise as she would be really embarrassed. I again told him that if she is sneaking around with this dude, whatever the current status of the other primary relationship is, they know it is not kosher and that it actually really bothers me that this early in the game she told him to keep secrets from me which, I think, are important contextually. Also, I seriously can’t help but wonder about not only the emotional healthiness of this situation, but the physical health as well. Like I can’t really imagine a situation where she’s like “Yeah, the guy I am also seeing is sneaking around behind his partner’s back and is kind of a cheating scumbag, but he’s really fucking diligent with condoms!”?
Anyway, I told him I am not comfortable with him taking things any further with her in light of these things and he responded by saying that he feels like she has explained things to him to his satisfaction and that because he has self-control and he is a good judge of character that he thinks that should be satisfactory in in this situation. If I have concerns about this situation, instead of unfairly shutting it down and taking this away from him, I should trust him, or, I am still feeling uncertain, I can have a conversation with her directly about boundaries, however I would have to do so without mentioning I know about her cheating scenario.
This whole situation bums me the fuck out because I feel like Pandora soiled all of it with her bad relationship mojo. I mean I am not against him seeing someone else – that’s totally fine with someone who is honest and above board with all sexual partners! -I am against this particular boundary breaking person and he keeps harping on the fact that they have an emotional connection and I am taking this away from him even though things haven’t gotten fully physical between them yet.
So I guess my question is – what the fuck do I do here? At the end of our last conversation, I agreed that we would put a pin in things on that front right now, but like, with the way things are now, I cannot imagine what scenario would ever make me feel comfortable enough to pull the pin out. (Maybe if she broke things off with the downlow dude and stopped pulling sketchy shit?) I mean how can I possibly trust this person? I feel seriously backed into a corner here.
Yours sincerely, Sick Of Dealing With Pandora’s Box
Dear Sick of Dealing,
You feel backed into a corner because you have been backed into a corner.
You confronted the weird behavior at that awful-sounding dinner party, you trusted your (excellent) instincts and gathered your thoughts and then told your husband “Hey, Pandora is telling you who she is, which is someone who does not honor agreements around sex. I am not cool with that!” You have not been vague or unclear or unreasonable. You have been a rock star of boundaries and keen observations about the likelihood of emotional fallout and poor condom diligence.
Is there a version of ethical fun cool open relationships that allows for you to say this?
“Look, I deeply dislike Pandora and from what I’ve seen she is a shitty friend, lover, and dinner guest. I wouldn’t trust her to water my plants when I’m out of town or drop a letter in the mail on her way to the bus stop. My strong preference is that she is nowhere near our lives from this moment onward. But clearly you want to fuck this person real bad, so please go get it out of your system with a minimum of fuss, a maximum of safer sex precautions, and zero amount of making me sit through dinner with her ever again or pretending that this is okay with me.
(I imagine you wearing something kind of awesome and dark and voluminous and sweeping dramatically out of the room after delivering this speech. Your eye makeup – if you wear eye makeup – has never looked more perfect than at this moment.)
I like your script better: “COME ON, MAN!”
“BE SERIOUS, BRO.”
Pandora’s “Oh, my private dramatic secret jokes are definitely not designed to make you feel like a weird date-crasher in your own house, teehee, why would you think that?” game at dinner at your place was a classic Mean Girl power move. She cast her and your husband as a sexy team with sexy secrets and you as the one prying into “the vault.” Fun!
Unfortunately for you, your husband the one who is like “Yeah, but her boundaries are good enough for my emotional connection with her my deep desire to have sex with someone I know is probably terrible (but also have you still be cool about this.)” He knew exactly what she was doing with this other couple before that awkward dinner and he still tried to make Pandora happen in your life. He also told you her secret (good, not great, but better than lying more) but now expects you (?) to keep that secret (?) so Pandora won’t be mad at him for telling it(?) and for you (?) to also somehow confront her (?) about her poor boundaries in a way that will make the situation all cool so he can sleep with her?
Am I parsing this correctly? And there was something something about him “being a good judge of character?” Except he brought the “Heyyyyyyyy, I make agreements with people about sex and then break them when it suits me!” lady to your house? And he thinks there is a way forward here?
If you veto Pandora I predict they will either be secretly fucking before the clock strikes August or he will heroically not fuck her while reminding you of his enormous, heroic (so heroic) sacrifice weekly for the rest of 2017. Fun!
I guess my questions are:
What’s appealing about trying an open relationship again, right now, with this guy, for you?
That was gonna be a list but actually that’s my whole question. What’s in this whole situation for you? Pandora is clearly looking out for Pandora, so who is looking out for your heart and your comfort level and your health and your right to have informed consent? Who is treating your feelings and (excellent, fully-functioning) instincts with importance and care? Right now it kinda sounds like “Mostly just you” and that sounds…well…the word “lonely” comes to mind.
Her two teenage daughters are fighting over the same boy.
by Dan Savage
I'm a reader in Kansas with two teenage daughters, 16 and 18. My girls recently met a boy where they work and both took an interest in him. The 18-year-old was devastated that he was more interested in her younger sister. I spoke to the 16-year-old about it, which is when I found out this boy is going to be a sophomore in college. The fact that he's interested in a 16-year-old is a red flag. I asked the 16-year-old to keep her distance. She agreed, but I saw a shirtless photo he sent her. I don't know what other photos he's sent and I don't know what she's sent him, but I immediately removed all photo apps from her phone. The girls have had public fights about this boy. They've made peace with each other, but now my 18-year-old wants to date him. I can't control the actions of an 18-year-old but (1) it seem likely this guy is a complete creep and (2) isn't her relationship with her sister more important?
Knowing A Numbskull Stalks Adorable Sisters
1. I'm not ready to pronounce this guy a creep—at least not for the age difference. It sounds like he met your daughters someplace they're all working this summer, which is a lot less icky than some college boy creeping on high-school girls via Instagram. And you say this boy is going to be a sophomore in college, KANSAS, but don't give his age. There are 30-year-old college sophomores, of course, but if this boy went straight to college from high school, that would make him 19 years old. If your 16-year-old is closing in on 17, this guy could be "older" by two years and change. While I can understand why you wouldn't want your younger daughter dating college boys, I think you are overreacting to the age difference—and it's a moot issue, as he's no longer pursuing your younger daughter.
1.5. You know what is creepy? Pursuing a pair of sisters. The possibility of conflict was so predictable, it was likely a motivating factor for him. Getting off on drama and public fights isn't a crime, but it is a red flag.
2. You ordered your 16-year-old to stop seeing this guy and deleted apps from her phone. (It's cute you think your daughter isn't tech-savvy enough to re-download and hide all the same apps.) You should warn your daughter about the risks of sexting—it may be legal for her to have sex (16 is the age of consent in Kansas), but she could face child porn charges for sending photos and this boy could wind up on a sex-offender registry for receiving them. (Laws meant to protect young people from being exploited are routinely used to punish them.) But don't attempt to micromanage your daughters' love lives. Parental disapproval has a way of driving teenagers into each other's arms, KANSAS. If you don't want your daughters having a fuck-you-mom threesome with this guy before the summer is over, you'll let them work through this on their own—but go ahead and stitch "boys come and go but sisters are forever" on a couple of pillows and put them on their beds.
I'm a straight guy married to a wonderful woman. She has a daughter. This girl's bio dad is a checked-out deadbeat, so I have played "dad" since I met her mom five years ago. The girl who used to be a gangly, awkward 11-year-old is now 16, and there's no other way to put this: She is hot. I'm not supposed to notice, I know, and I have ZERO interest in being creepy with her, and she has ZERO interest in me. But she has always liked to cuddle with me and still does. I believe safe closeness from a dad figure helps girls make good choices when it comes to boys. (If not for me, she might seek attention from douchebag teenage boys trying to take advantage.) I want to continue to play this role for her. But when she comes in wearing tiny shorts and puts her legs over my lap, I get rock hard. I'm not trying to be creepy, but I'm a guy and she's a perfect female specimen. I can't say, "We can't be as physically close as we used to be," because that itself would be creepy and it would make her sad.
Insert Dad Acronym Here Obviously
Sometimes children grow up and get hot, and bonus adults in their lives—typically (and thankfully) not their bio or lifelong parents—can't help but notice. The onus is on the adult in that situation to suppress that shit. Not awareness of a young person's objective hotness, which cannot be suppressed, but all evidence of said awareness. Which means setting boundaries and, if necessary, keeping your distance. No, you shouldn't go to your stepdaughter and say, "You got hot, and I get boners when you put your legs on my lap, so stop." But you should put an end to the cuddling. When she plops down on the couch, go take a walk or a shower or a shit. Better she has a sad over the end of snuggle time than she notices your boners and feels unsafe around you.
She's most likely plopping down on you out of habit, IDAHO, not out of a need for affection from a trusted male. I promise you, she's not going to start blowing bad boys in back alleys if she can't get close enough to give you a boner anymore. (Also, if you don't want to come across as a creep, don't describe your stepdaughter—or any other woman—as a "perfect female specimen." Ick.)
My college-student daughter lives in an apartment over our garage. She has a boyfriend, age 19. After many loud "discussions," he is allowed to sleep over. My daughter got an IUD without informing me, so I assume they're sexually active. Two days ago, I crept into the apartment to check on something and found bondage items on her bed—a set of formidable leather restraints. I'm worried she's being pressured to do things someone her age wouldn't be interested in. We agreed not to go into the apartment when she wasn't present, and I know there will be a loud "discussion" if I tell her what I saw. The mental image of my bound daughter distresses me and I worry for her safety. What do I do?
Offspring Has Incriminating Objects
You stay the fuck out of your offspring's apartment when she isn't home, OHIO, per your agreement. And you keep these things in mind: Just as there are young queer people out there, there are young kinky people out there too. Your adult daughter might be one of them. For all you know, the restraints were her idea and her boyfriend is the one getting tied up. And a scary-to-mom set of restraints is a lot safer than nylon clothesline or cheap handcuffs. Leather restraints distribute pressure evenly, making them less likely to pinch a nerve or cut off circulation. Like your adult daughter getting herself an IUD, formidable bondage gear is a good sign that she takes her safety seriously. (And how did you find out about the IUD she got without informing you? Did you wander up her vagina one day to "check on something"?)
Finally, OHIO, it's perfectly understandable that you don't like the mental image of your adult daughter tied to the bed in her apartment (her apartment, not the apartment), but I'm guessing you don't like the mental image of your adult daughter with a dick in her mouth, either. Just as you don't torment yourself by picturing the blowjobs your adult daughter is almost certainly giving her boyfriend, don't torment yourself by picturing whatever else she might be doing with, to, or for him.
Résumés are forever. A year from now -- five years, 10 years, 30 years from now -- everyone who sees your résumé will see where you were and what you did in July 2017. They will not be able to ignore this or forgive this, and you will not be able to excuse it. But you can change that. You have a chance -- one chance -- to turn July 2017 into a badge of honor instead of an indelible mark of shame.
Over the years, I've read about how my Advisory Neighborhood Commission has advocated for new crosswalks in Glover Park. I have also researched and written some GGWash posts about streets and sidewalks, lots of which have crosswalks. But I recently realized that I still had a lot of questions about why crosswalks go where they do and how they are maintained.
I asked DDOT Communications Specialist, Michelle Phipps-Evans, a bunch of questions about crosswalks, and she helped me understand the basics. Here are ten bits of crosswalk trivia I learned:
1. There are more crosswalks than you think there are
People generally think of crosswalks as the marked lines across the street. But crosswalks exist whether marked or not exist at every intersection of one or more streets according to the law in the District and all 50 states. DC's rules define a legal crosswalk occurring at the intersection of a roadways, even when there are no markings on the pavement.
While DDOT doesn’t have an exact count of crosswalks, on the maintenance side 1,225 crosswalks were installed and refreshed in the past five years.
2. Some new crosswalks are DDOT’s idea, yet many come from resident suggestions
Residents contact DDOT when an intersection is “missing” a crosswalk, meaning that there are no painted markings on the street at a specific intersection. Markings installed at intersections without traffic signals are referred to as uncontrolled crosswalks. In other cases, residents ask DDOT to consider installing a mid-block crossing, but the rule is that those must be at least 250 feet away from intersections with traffic signals.
DDOT also examines installing crosswalks during nearby DDOT projects and those completed by private developers.
3. Marked crosswalks aren’t appropriate everywhere people request them
The people who decide whether to paint a crosswalk first look at roadway width and vehicular traffic volumes. Phipps-Evans illustrated this point by adding, “for example, we do not want to install a new, uncontrolled crosswalk across a major arterial, like Connecticut Avenue NW, because of the width of roadway and heavy traffic volumes.”
For mid-block locations in particular, DDOT examines whether there are sufficient pedestrian generators such as bus stops, residences, commercial uses, recreational uses, and schools. If there are heavy left-hand turn volumes, DDOT might only install the marked crosswalk on the right side of the intersection to balance vehicular congestion with pedestrian connections.
4. Yet there are ways to make crosswalk locations more frequently-used, and safer
DDOT is working with WMATA to remove and consolidate bus stops when doing so means safer conditions for pedestrians. DDOT generally avoids uncontrolled crossings within 350’ of an intersection with a traffic signal because sometimes focus on the signal in the distance instead of people in the upcoming marked crosswalk.
But DDOT will consider a crosswalk across a major arterial roadway when the agency can make the crosswalk more visually noticeable to drivers than simple painted lines. These types of crosswalks are referred to as "enhanced control," and examples include High-Intensity Activated crossWalK (HAWK) signals. In fact, DDOT installed enhanced control signals at a record pace in 2016 and now operates 15 HAWKs and 12 Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons (RRFBs).
5. Crosswalks can only go in locations compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA, a law signed in 1990, ensures equal opportunity and access to people with disabilities. The US Department of Transportation sets federal accessibility standards that apply to curbs and sidewalks based on ADA. Any new crosswalk location must have ADA accommodations such as curb ramps with detectable warning strips.
DDOT will only install a crosswalk at a location where those features can be installed, and the agency avoids crossings that would potentially conflict with drainage, streetlights, or utility poles.
6. Crosswalks wear out and resident service requests prompt most repainting
Resident requests cause about 85 percent of crosswalk marking restriping, with DDOT inspectors identifying the rest. Older markings last two to five years on asphalt roadways. These markings fade even faster than normal on high volume traffic roadways and on concrete roadways where they may only last 18 months. Manufactures keep improving thermoplastic used for markings and the current technology can last up to five years, even in high traffic locations.
7. Crosswalk restriping is seasonal
DDOT inspections track missing and faded crosswalks during the winter months. Crosswalk repainting only happens in warmer months, even though residents and DDOT identify crosswalks for repainting year-round. Phipps-Evans noted that, “Crosswalk marking maintenance is seasonal as thermoplastic cannot be applied successfully in temps below about 50 degrees.”
8. Pedestrian pylons are relatively inexpensive ways to enhance unsignalized crosswalks
DDOT's Safety Team identifies locations for pedestrian pylons, also known as in-street stop for pedestrian, a sign at least 3’ high normally paced on double yellow centerlines or even center concrete islands. Pedestrian pylons cost $291 for materials and $50 for labor to install. For that modest investment, a pylon provides a visual reminder for drivers. DDOT has installed 500 pedestrian pylons and they last about a year... unless a driver runs over them.
9. Some crosswalks need to be removed to make streets safer for pedestrians
New research from the from the Federal Highway Administration shows that simply marking crosswalks on high volume, multi-lane streets dramatically increases the risk for pedestrians trying to cross. Pedestrians are safer in these locations only with other enhancements, such as HAWK signals or adding a traffic signals. DDOT will identify where HAWKs, RRFBs, refuge islands – a protected space in the middle of a street – and traffic signals can serve as enhancements at reasonable intervals along corridors. Safety research indicates that crosswalks should be removed when it can’t be substantially enhanced.
10. DDOT planning changes will lead to better decisions and safer pedestrian crossings
Pedestrians can walk across several or even dozens of crosswalks each day without appreciating the complexity of crosswalk locations and maintenance. These top issues and their explanations may be useful to residents when making crosswalk-related requests in the District.
DC’s Comprehensive Plan is a land use and policy document that is supposed to be a guide for inclusive growth in the coming decades. Unfortunately, it has too many parts that, in the hands of exclusionary and anti-development neighbors, are the means to push all of DC’s growth and change onto other, typically poorer, parts of the city.
Land use policy in DC has history of outright racism and exclusion. Not too long ago property owners in some neighborhoods used racial covenants to keep out minority neighbors, placing clauses on deeds that explicitly forbid rental or sale to African Americans and other minorities.
I’m not talking about that kind of explicit legal exclusion. I’m talking about embedded and problematic language in our current land use policy and the way it is used by those with more power and privilege. There is a persistent system here. You can choose to not see it that way and read these policies as neutral, but I think that ignores systematic patterns of exclusion, segregation, and a fundamental imbalance of power and resources when it comes to the enforcement and use of land use policy in DC.
The Comp Plan map labels DC neighborhoods as “stable,” “transitioning,” “emerging,” and “distressed,” terms the Office of Planning uses based on demographic and market data. Comp Plan policies attached to each of these categories guide development in the area and help determine the future of that neighborhood.
The Comp Plan map is not a redlining map; it does not explicitly segregate the city. But it’s not too hard to see that it also does not support integration.
It is not that labeling neighborhoods is wrong. What is wrong is calling predominantly white and wealthier neighborhoods “stable” and then providing policies and defensive language in the Comp Plan that, when utilized by a few land use activists from these more privileged neighborhoods, ultimately furthers these exclusionary patterns.
Here’s an example of how the the Comp Plan approaches new development in “stable” neighborhoods (I’ve added the emphasis):
Framework Element 217.6: Redevelopment and infill opportunities along corridors and near transit stations will be an important component of reinvigorating and enhancing our neighborhoods. Development on such sites must not compromise the integrity of stable neighborhoods and must be designed to respect the broader community context.
Framework Element 218.1: The residential character of neighborhoods must be protected, maintained and improved. Many District neighborhoods possess social, economic, historic, and physical qualities that make them unique and desirable places in which to live. These qualities can lead to development and redevelopment pressures that threaten the very qualities that make the neighborhoods attractive. These pressures must be controlled through zoning and other means to, ensure that neighborhood character is preserved and enhanced.
I can easily see how some neighbors have been able to consistently use documents like the Comp Plan to reduce or push away development projects.
Of course we should have attractive neighborhoods, but if that neighborhood does not offer housing options that are affordable to people of many incomes, what should be done? Do we just accept that and ask lower-income or moderate income folks to go live elsewhere? Or do we try to find ways to incorporate diverse housing types and affordable options into these stable neighborhoods, creating opportunities for others to access and enjoy the neighborhood?
That’s a hard ask, and solutions need to be considered carefully. But it seems unfair to me to just throw up our hands and accept the status quo.
We could prioritize inclusion. Here’s what that might look like.
Last month, after over nine months of work with a broad set of housing and development stakeholders, Greater Greater Washington helped to submit a package of amendments to the Comp Plan that specifically targeted this exclusionary language. We believed there were ways to talk about “neighborhood character” without making neighborhoods exclusionary to people of middle and lower incomes. Whenever we found this kind of language, we worked to adapt it to maintain its intended message while also de-weaponizing it as a tool of exclusion.
Here’s an example of that same policy, but reworded to emphasize inclusion (bold = proposed changes. You can read more in section 1 here):
Amendment 1-1-1 - Framework Element 217.6: Redevelopment and infill opportunities along corridors and near transit stations will be an important component of reinvigorating and enhancing our neighborhoods. Development on such sites must respond to and enhance existing neighborhoods, respect the broader community context, promote diversity of housing types, accommodate needed housing, particularly affordable housing, and affirmatively further fair housing. Adequate infrastructure capacity should be ensured as growth occurs.
Enhancing beautiful neighborhoods and building more opportunities for people of all incomes to live there does not have to be in conflict. If you think they are, I think you and I are going to have some more fundamental disagreements about neighborhood character, race and class.
We hope our amendments reprioritize inclusivity in our land use policy, and give both District agencies and advocates the tools needed to effectively push back on these patterns of exclusion.
Protective policies lead to protective zoning
An overly protectionist land-use document leads, of course, to restrictive zoning. This is a map of the different residential zones (under the old zoning code) in DC, going from lowest density (R-1) to highest (R-5):
With my background as an community organizer, when I first saw this map it looked like something else to me: a map of power. Those who have a lot of power tend to live in lower density zoned areas, and those who have less of it live in higher density zoned areas.
For instance, even though many neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River are currently similar in density to parts of upper Northwest, their zone category under the old code was R-5-A, which allows apartments. (In the new code, the names changed but the densities did not.)
And what I’ve learned in my time with GGWash has verified this; those with power and privilege much more often wield the tools of zoning and land use to protect their interests, which leads to pushing away new development, new residents, and affordable housing. Maintaining a restrictive lower-density neighborhood helps maintain a cap on the supply of homes there, ultimately leading to higher prices. That’s great for those who already live there, but it makes it more difficult for moderate and low-income people to join them.
Again, solutions to opening up lower-density neighborhoods to people of a wider spread of incomes need to be thought through carefully. But we need to have that conversation, and we need to address the problematic land use tools that neighbors with more power and access keep using to “protect” their neighborhood.
Top image: Land use and zoning tools are too often use to limit new homes and new affordable homes. Can we make land use policies that encourage inclusion? Image by Elvert Barnes licensed under Creative Commons.
I know people have been anticipating what I will answer for reader question 1,000. Thanks for the emailed suggestions and the hype, it’s awesome that people are excited! Milestones are cool!
It’s also way too much pressure and I’ve started answering people privately the past week or so because it’s like “Well, this is a great question, but is it QUESTION NUMBER ONE THOUSAND?” “Shouldn’t QUESTION ONE THOUSAND sort of sum up everything I think about conflict and awkwardness?” (Answer: No, that’s a book. A book that I am trying to figure out the shape of. A book that will happen.)
So, here is question #1000. It’s a placeholder. I choked. I’m sorry. What I’ve got is that writer’s block trick of “okay if you don’t know how to write the next thing, try writing a next thing and figure out where it all fits later.”
I’ve got some It Came From The Search Terms to knock out this week and then we’ll be back sometime with #1001, which will be a normal question with normal significance and normal amount of (pretty damn interesting!) interestingness.
There are thousands of new apartments being built around the DC area today, and most of them are high-cost “luxury” apartments. But they likely won't stay that way. A look at 1950s rental ads shows how yesterday’s luxury housing became today’s affordable housing.
Here's a portion of the classifieds of the November 15, 1958 edition of the Washington Post, courtesy of local graphic designer and historian Richard Friend. There are ads for apartments all over the DC area, including a bunch of then-new apartment complexes in Silver Spring and Takoma Park.
Each ad talks about how swanky the apartments are, boasting of features like air conditioning, modern kitchens and bathrooms, private parking, and swimming pools. Just like today, these ads boast that tenants can walk to nearby shops or transit (which would have been the bus; the Georgia Avenue streetcar, which served Silver Spring, would shut down two years later.)
These were the nicest apartments you could rent at the time, and the ads marketed exclusivity. Many of the ads refer to “ADULTS ONLY” apartments, free of the noise and disruption of kids. None of the Montgomery County ads seem to reference race, though there are several ads for “Colored” apartments in DC. Of course, these practices are illegal today due to the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
Here’s what those apartments look like today
Sixty years later, many of these complexes have now become housing for working-class families. Some of them are subsidized by the government, which is an important way of providing affordable housing. The Cambridge, on Houston Avenue in Takoma Park, which offered the “finest in modern suburban living” in 1958. Today, it’s maintained by Victory Housing, an affordable housing non-profit, and there are maximum income requirements for residents.
Apartments were cheaper 60 years ago because we built a lot more of them
Economists like to talk about a concept called “filtering,” in which homes built for wealthy people become homes for less affluent people over time. These buildings were all “luxury” buildings in their time, but as new homes took their places, the landlords weren’t able to compete and instead rented to tenants who could pay less.
Yet these apartments were still cheaper in 1958 than they are today. That same one-bedroom at the Barbizon offered 1 bedrooms for $114.50 in 1958, or about $967.50 today. That’s because we built a lot more new homes in the 1950s and 1960s, when Montgomery County was experiencing a population boom due to people moving to the DC area, and people (mostly white and middle-class) leaving DC for the suburbs. The county doubled in population during the 1950s, and again in the 1960s.
Many of those people moved to brand-new developments on former farmland. But in Silver Spring and Takoma Park, which were already established communities at the time, new development took the form of apartment buildings, which often replaced smaller, older single-family homes. These buildings helped meet the demand for new homes, which kept prices down.
That largely stopped in 1958, the same year Montgomery County introduced a new zoning code that restricted where you could build apartment buildings outside of the county’s downtowns. The Barbizon, which is a five-story building, sits one block away from downtown Silver Spring on a street with a mix of houses, townhouses, and other five-story apartment buildings. But under the current zoning, you can’t build a new building on Sligo over 35 feet. That means that a building the same size as the Barbizon couldn’t be built on the vacant lot next door.
Building new housing keeps communities diverse
One of the reasons why the people in Silver Spring and Takoma Park are so diverse is because our housing stock is diverse. There are lots of different types of housing, including new buildings and old buildings, that all charge different rents and enable people of all socioeconomic levels to live here. Public subsidies can help lower rents, especially in the short term, since not everybody can wait 60 years for rents to fall. But we also have to build new homes to take the places of older “luxury” homes. When we don’t build enough new homes to meet the demand from people who want to live here, prices continue to rise for everybody.
New homes are expensive because they have all of the modern conveniences people like, and that's okay. In a few decades, they'll be the affordable housing of the future, but only as long as we allow that change to happen.
Top image: Part of the rental ads in the November 18, 1958 edition of the Washington Post. Image by Richard Friend used with permission.
Adam Christopher is joining us today with his novel Killing Is My Business. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Another golden morning in a seedy town, and a new memory tape and assignment for intrepid PI-turned-hitman―and last robot left in working order―Raymond Electromatic. But his skills may be rustier than he remembered in Killing Is My Business, the latest in Christopher’s robot noir oeuvre, hot on the heels of the acclaimed Made to Kill.
What’s Adam’s favorite bit?
Ray Electromatic, eponymous hero of the Ray Electromatic Mysteries – if hero is the right way to describe a robot who pretends to be a private detective when he’s really a paid assassin – has a problem.
Actually, that’s not strictly true – Ray Electromatic has lots of problems. A six-foot-something-else bronzed titanium titan, clad, like any half-decent private dick, in overcoat and hat, Ray’s biggest issue is his memory. He only has twenty-four hours of it, tucked away in a little reel-to-reel tape behind his chest panel. When the tape is up, he heads home to the office and the tape is switched to a new one under the supervision of his boss, a room-sized supercomputer called Ada.
Which means Ray doesn’t remember a damn thing about what he’s done – the perfect cover for a hit-robot, but quite often Ray wishes he had a clue or two about what he’s been up to in Hollywood, California, 1965. It doesn’t help that he doesn’t quite trust Ada, either, and then there’s the shady federal agents and the even shadier private contractors from thrice-shady International Automatics to watch out for.
So sure. Ray Electromatic has problems, but he is – or was – a detective, so once he starts leaving himself clues about what’s going on, he’s in his element. Because if the dirty little operation that he and Ada run is in danger of discovery, well, he needs to know what’s going on so he can protect them both.
But Ray’s other problem, the one that would keep him up at night if he didn’t have to switch off, is that he thinks he’s human.
Okay, that’s not strictly true either. Ray knows he is a robot. But in this glorious and far-distant sci-fi future of 1965, Ray’s creator, the perhaps-not-so-mysteriously-deceased Professor Thornton, realized that the secret to true artificial intelligence was to use a template based on a human mind as the spark of creation. So Ray Electromatic is, in a way, Professor Thornton – not a duplicate or a clone, but an AI that shares some of his creator’s personality and tastes and even (although this isn’t supposed to happen) memories. Ray is his own robot, and he knows all about the template, and he absolutely knows he is a robot and not a human being, but that doesn’t stop him… well, thinking about things.
My favorite bit of Killing is my Business, the second Ray Electromatic Mystery, is in chapter one. Here, Ray is staking out his next target – Vaughan Delaney, a planner for the city of Los Angeles. Ray doesn’t know why Delaney has to die and he doesn’t care – Ada gets the jobs, he carries them out – but in the three weeks he spends watching Delaney’s office, Ray has time to consider the lives of the human beings around him. He watches them go to work, he watches them go home. He even gets some very human urges:
It was a busy street and the office got a lot of foot traffic, some of which even stopped to admire the car that was the same color as a fire engine parked right outside the door. Back on my side of the street there was a drugstore down on the corner that got a lot of foot traffic too. I watched people come and go and some of those people were carrying brown paper bags. Some people went inside and stayed there, sitting on stools at the bench inside the front window as they drank coffee and ate sandwiches.
I watched them a while longer and then I thought I’d quite like a sandwich and a coffee to pass the time. I didn’t need to sit and watch the building. Vaughan Delaney’s schedule was as regular as the oscillators in my primary transformer. I had time to spare.
I got out of the car and stood on the sidewalk for a moment, one hand on the driver’s door, looking over at the office building. A sandwich and a coffee still felt like a great idea. It was the kind of thing you got when you spent a lot of time waiting and watching. It helped pass the time, like smoking and talking about baseball with the boys and making your own flies for fly-fishing.
Of course, I had no need for a coffee or a sandwich. If I walked down to the drugstore and went inside and bought one of each I wouldn’t have any use for them on account of the fact that I didn’t eat or drink.
I was a robot.
And still as I stood there in the street the faint memory of the taste of fresh hot coffee tickled the back of my circuits. An echo of another life, maybe. A life that didn’t belong to me but that belonged to my creator, Professor Thornton.
A coffee and a sandwich would be a real waste, but maybe the drugstore could sell me something else. Maybe I could get a magazine. A magazine or a paperback book. That sounded fun. I had two hours to kill before I followed the target on his weekly jaunt around the City of Angels.
That’s Ray’s problem. He’s a robot who sometimes feels like a human, but he can’t do a thing about it, and he’s not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but what he does know is that even if he feels this way each and every day he won’t remember a blind thing about it, thanks to his limited memory tape.
I like Ray. He’s very good at what he does but he’s flawed and he’s uncertain about a lot of things. There’s an air of melancholy about him. He’s the last robot in the world, and he knows it, and sometimes he dreams of another life that wasn’t his.
And then he gets on with the job, because he’s a professional – another echo from Professor Thornton’s template.
Adam Christopher’s debut novel Empire State was SciFiNow’s Book of the Year and a Financial Times Book of the Year. The author of Made To Kill, Standard Hollywood Depravity and Killing Is My Business, Adam’s other novels include Seven Wonders, The Age Atomic and The Burning Dark. Adam has also written the official tie-in novels for the hit CBS television show Elementary, and the award-winning Dishonored video game franchise, and with Chuck Wendig, wrote The Shield for Dark Circle/Archie Comics. Adam is also a contributor to the Star Wars: From A Certain Point Of View 40th anniversary anthology.
Born in New Zealand, Adam has lived in Great Britain since 2006.
David Horner and Steve McMillin, whose expertise is in finance and budget, will join the WMATA board and replace Carol Carmody and David Strickland, whose expertise was in safety. Carmody was about to lead the safety committee, but it isn't clear who will lead it now. (Martin Di Caro / WAMU)
For the second month in a row, over 90 percent of metro trains arrived within 5 minutes of their scheduled times. Still, riders seem split on whether the system is markedly better after the intensive year-long SafeTrack program. (Andrew Grant / Post)
So far, it's been difficult for autonomous vehicles to detect and predict. Engineers hope that outfitting bicycles with new technology will help them communicate with the vehicles and help them learn. (Margaret J. Krauss / WAMU)
BWI has spent years investing in infrastructure and amenities to attract customers and airline routes, and it's finally paying off. After a $500 million capital improvement operation, it's flying 25.1 million passengers per year, making it the region's busiest airport. (Luz Lazo / Post)
A memorial to Confederate soldiers that's been outside the Rockville courthouse for a century was quietly moved to a privately-run ferry over the weekend. The statue was criticized for only memorializing Confederates from Montgomery County and not Union soldiers or abolitionists. (Bill Turque / Post)
Think a 45 minute morning trip on the beleaguered Red Line is bad? Try spending two hours in cars, trains, and ferries to commute into Manhattan. As the nature of the workplace changes, so too do the commuting habits of employees. (Bryan Miller / NYT)
Atlanta's Beltline project is halfway done, but has delivered less than 15% of the affordable housing it promised when the project began. Two board members have resigned over a perceived lack of commitment to affordability. (Leah Binkovitz / Urban Edge)
In this short essay, I make a few simple assumptions that bear mentioning at the outset. First, I assume that governments have good and legitimate reasons for getting access to personal data. These include things like controlling crime, fighting terrorism, and regulating territorial borders. Second, I assume that people have a right to expect privacy in their personal data. Therefore, policymakers should seek to satisfy both law enforcement and privacy concerns without unduly burdening one or the other. Of course, much of the debate over government access to data is about how to respect both of these assumptions. Different actors will make different trade-offs. My aim in this short essay is merely to show that regardless of where one draws this line -- whether one is more concerned with ensuring privacy of personal information or ensuring that the government has access to crucial evidence -- it would be shortsighted and counterproductive to draw that line with regard to one particular privacy technique and without regard to possible substitutes. The first part of the paper briefly characterizes the encryption debate two ways: first, as it is typically discussed, in stark, uncompromising terms; and second, as a subset of a broader problem. The second part summarizes several avenues available to law enforcement and intelligence agencies seeking access to data. The third part outlines the alternative avenues available to privacy-seekers. The availability of substitutes is relevant to the regulators but also to the regulated. If the encryption debate is one tool in a game of cat and mouse, the cat has other tools at his disposal to catch the mouse -- and the mouse has other tools to evade the cat. The fourth part offers some initial thoughts on implications for the privacy debate.
Teleportation: A great idea, but with some practical… problems. It’s a physics thing. In this Big Idea for The Punch Escrow, author Tal M. Klein wonders, what if you could solve those problems, not with physics, but with another branch of human intellectual endeavor entirely?
TAL M. KLEIN:
F#*%ing transporters, how do they work?
It was the Ides of March of 2012. I had just started a new job and was chatting with a co-worker about lens flare. Specifically, I was ranting about J.J. Abrams’ penchant for gratuitous lens flare, using the Star Trek reboot as an example, when all of a sudden the conversation was interrupted by our CEO.
“It’s bullshit!” he shouted.
(He wasn’t talking about the lens flare.)
Our CEO wielded a PhD in Computer Science and was using it to fight with Star Trek, or more specifically its transporters. He went on to monologue about Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, explaining that the position and the velocity of an object couldn’t both be measured exactly, at the same time, even in theory, and in the highly improbable likelihood that somehow someone did manage to circumvent the uncertainty principle, they’d still have to contend with the no-cloning theorem, which stated that it was impossible to create an identical copy of any unknown quantum state.
Here is what I heard: “Teleportation is impossible because physics.”
Now let’s be clear, I’m not a scientist. What I am is a product man. I build and market technology products for a living. Having bet my career on startups, my brain senses opportunity where others see impossibility. In fact, whenever anyone tells me I can’t do something, my mind automatically appends a “yet” to the end of their statement.
My favorite author growing up was Larry Niven. This fact is germane here because the first thing that came to mind during the CEO’s aforementioned monologue was a Niven essay entitled Exercise in Speculation: The Theory and Practice of Teleportation, part of a collection called All The MyriadWays. Niven’s spiel on teleportation explored the pros and cons of the myriad ways (see what I did there) we might achieve commercialized human teleportation. The science was interesting, but what I remembered latching on to as a kid was his take on the anthropological impact of teleportation.
Niven’s itch was akin to what angered my CEO: If we discount for Star Trek’s technobabble and defer to actual physics, then every time Scotty teleported Captain Kirk he was actually killing him in one place and “printing him out” somewhere else.
This destructive teleportation variant of the twin maker trope has been explored almost ad nauseum. Though there are several good stories and movies that address the existential problems teleportation could introduce should it ever become a viable transportation mechanism, none have adequately presented a marketable solution to that problem — at least none that might pass muster with an anthropologist.
How come nobody ever discussed how society might come to adopt teleportation in the first place, I wondered. Science fiction seemed to lack a scientifically plausible teleportation mechanism that could be deemed safe enough to commercialize in the near future.
So, I decided to solve the teleportation problem — with marketing!
In my day job as a chief marketing officer, when I’m asked to play out this kind of go-to-market strategy problem, I use a game theory methodology known as Wardley mapping; an augmentation of value chain mapping. The “product” came in the form of the Punch Escrow. It’s the MacGuffin that makes teleportation safe and thus both scientifically and anthropologically plausible. The value of mapping in predicting the future is based in pragmatism. If we can assess what components of tech will become commoditized in society, we can envision innovations that build on those commodities in alignment with basic needs, making their commercialization more plausible.
Consulting with a real life quantum physicist, I used the Wardley mapping approach to understand the teleportation problem and then solve for it: When someone teleports, the Punch Escrow is a chamber in which the they are held — in escrow — until they safely arrive at their final destination. That way if anything goes wrong during teleportation, the “conductor” could just cancel the trip and the traveler would safely walk out at the point of origin as if nothing happened.
But how does one market this scenario given the very obvious twin maker issue?
A capitalist society will always want to get from point A to point B faster and on-demand. I don’t think anyone would argue that safe teleportation is a highly desirable mode of transport. The Punch Escrow makes it possible, and International Transport (the company behind commercial teleportation in the 22nd century) effectively brands it as “safe.” To wit, critics of early steam locomotives avowed that the human body was not meant to move faster than fifty miles an hour. Intelligent people with impeccable credentials worried that female passengers’ uteruses might be ejected from their bodies as trains accelerated! Others suspected that a human body might simply melt at such speeds. You know what? It didn’t matter. People wanted to get from point A to point B faster, train tycoons marketed to that desire with implied underpinnings of safety, and trains took off.
Just as locomotives didn’t transform our world into a dystopia, it stands to reason teleportation won’t either. Yes, people die in train accidents (not because their organs fly out of their orifices, I should add), but the benefit is anthropologically perceived as greater than the risk. Same goes with commercial flight. Of course you’ve heard the axiom, “If God had meant man to fly…” — that didn’t seem to stop droves of us from squeezing into small flying metal tubes in the sky. Today, we face similar fears with autonomous vehicles, but I’m certain that the marketers will calm our nerves. I believe within a generation the notion of manual driving will seem as esoteric a means of getting around as a horse and carriage. Maybe the same will be said of teleportation a century from now?
Magical worlds are wonderful places for readers to inhabit; however, they can be devilishly tricky places for writers to create. The magic must be powerful enough to be instrumental to the characters and storyline, and yet not so potent that the characters who wield it become indomitable and their stories therefore boring. Researching existing legends, mythology, and folklore can help an author frame effective magical systems.
Mark Tompkins, T.Thorn Coyle (M) , Jo Walton, Kari Sperring
Signing: Jo Walton
Thursday11:00 – 12:00, Signing area (Messukeskus)
Asexuality in SF
Thursday13:00 – 14:00, 101c (Messukeskus)
Is romance always necessary? How have asexual characters been written in SF and who are they?
Todd Allis, Kat Kourbeti, Jo Walton
Reading: Eva Elasigue, Jo Walton
Thursday19:00 – 20:00, 101d (Messukeskus)
Eva L. Elasigue, Jo Walton
Gender and “Realistic History”
Saturday11:00 – 12:00, Hall 3 (Messukeskus)
The panelists discuss how people from the past (particularly women and LGBT+ folks) were much more prominent and awesome than most fantasy & alternate history would have us believe.
Cheryl Morgan (M), Thomas Årnfelt, Gillian Polack, Jo Walton, Scott Lynch
History as World-building
Sunday15:00 – 16:00, 216 (Messukeskus)
Using knowledge and research of real-life history as world-building fantasy and science fiction.
Thomas Årnfelt, Jacey Bedford, Heather Rose Jones (M) , Jo Walton Angus Watson
Just wanted to notify you about a meetup in Munich that we planned for Thursday the 27th of July at 6:30 pm.
We are going to meet at the same place like last time. The PotAsia Ost. It is in Berg an Laim, Baumkirchnerstr. 21. More details and map here: https://www.potasia.de.
To quote forum member Mercy for directions: “From Tram 19, Haltestelle Baumkirchnerstr. From the corner of Kreillerstr. and Baumkirchnerstr., walk past the Aumüller bakery and it’s about halfway down the block, across the street from the Maibaum.
From U2 Josephsburg, take the exit for Kreillerstr, turn left, and walk a long block to Baumkirchnerstr. From there the directions are the same.”
I will bring my Pusheenicorn so people will be able to identify the table.
If somebody needs to get in touch, there’s the “Munich?” thread on
And as long as I'm musing on British actresses, my stars, Fiona Shaw! An interviewer asked her. "Richard II. What about playing a man?" "I didn't really approach it as playing a man. I approached it as playing a god."
Her Waste Land is a masterclass in speaking poetry.
One way to understand such boundaries of identity is to look at who gets kicked out, and why. Trying to figure out who is -- or who still is -- an "evangelical" is notoriously slippery and difficult. But it's far easier to determine who is no longer accepted within the group, and why.