Today, a kind of wave of emotional exhaustion hit me. I'm not physically tired – I slept really well last night, though I've not yet burned down my sleep debt – but I just feel demoralized by the overwhelming scope of Things To Do To Move.
Probably the most demoralizing thing to do is clearing off my desk.
It has finally dawned on me, like in the last 15 minutes, that my desk is where Important Things I Don't Know What To Do With go to die.
Uncluttering my desk in a more durable fashion will entail figuring out some other way to handle things I don't know where to put. Perhaps part of that will be getting better at figuring out where they should be put in the first place.
In some cases that is challenging due to form-factor. I have two plastic accordian files here, which I can't figure out what they can fit in, to store them, e.g. In other cases it is challenging because I do, nominally at least, have a place something belongs, but there's something wrong with it. For instance, it seems my volume of business cards has recently exceeded the volume of my business-card box; inversely, I used to have a box I kept on my desk into which I put mailing supplies like stamps and envelopes, but when I reorganized my apartment in 2016, it stopped fitting on my desk and got moved somewhere else, so mailing supplies have gotten backed up on my desk. (The answer turned out to be, "Yes. Yes, as a matter of fact, I had not so long ago bought a book of forever stamps.") A few things on my desk are things with newly developed homes that hadn't yet moved in, e.g. I have ephemera which belongs in the new ephemera box I bought a few months ago.
But then there's other stuff. For instance, I found the large manila envelope which was shipped to me, containing what are basically SASEs for disposing of unwanted medications. I expect that momentarily that will be super useful, but if that envelope was sitting there since 2016, or was circulating my place for years before that, I wouldn't be surprised. I don't remember when it was I got it; I do remember receiving it, and promptly putting a few to good use, but then I had some left over and thought they were likely useful in the future. I have no idea where to store such a thing.
Hilariously, I now have a new category of difficult to handle paperwork: things that I know perfectly well how and where to file, but belong in files that.... are now in storage, thanks to the book mover. I'm starting a "File Me When We Get There" folder.
The lawyer interestingly did not say that it's not a trick. Rather the lawyer said that legally handing over keys does not constitute surrendering the apartment, but (perhaps recognizing the possibility for he-said/she-said shenanigans) suggested that I write up a document to give with the keys stating that handing over the keys does not constitute my surrendering the apartment, which I think is a brilliant solution, if I tack on the bit where I demand that either the landlord or the agent sign the thing and keep it myself, while giving them a copy.
Assuming I want to provide them keys. Lawyer didn't answer my question about what happens if I don't provide the keys, and whether the landlord can break in.
The internet seems to be saying it would take a court order to–
Aaaaaand I literally just got a txt message from the agent asking if I would be there to let her in tomorrow at 6:30pm. Which I was planning on being, anyways, so fine. It's not 24hrs notice, but I'll take it. She didn't try to strong arm me into providing keys, so a point in her favor.
Two weeks ago, a longtime reader challenged me to create a new sexual neologism. (Quickly for the pedants: You're right! It is redundant to describe a neologism as "new," since neologisms are by definition new: "ne·ol·o·gismnoun a newly coined word or expression." You got me!)
"Neo-Neologisms, Please!" was too polite to point it out, but my two most famous and widely used neologisms have been around so long—pegging (2001) and santorum (2003)—that they're practically paleogisms at this point. So I accepted NNP's challenge and proposed "with extra lobster." My inspiration: on a visit to Iceland, I was delighted to discover that "with extra lobster" was a menu item at food carts that served lobster. This delighted me for two reasons. First, lobster is fucking delicious and getting extra lobster with your lobster is fucking awesome. And second, "with extra lobster" sounded like it was a dirty euphemism for something equally awesome. I offered up my own suggested definition—someone who sticks their tongue out and licks your balls while they're deep-throating your cock is giving you a blowjob with extra lobster—and invited readers to send in their own. It was my readers, after all, who came up with the winning definitions for pegging ("a woman fucking a man in the ass with a strap-on dildo") and santorum ("the frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex").
What follows are the best reader-suggested definitions for "with extra lobster," with occasional commentary from yours truly...
"With extra lobster" sounds to me like going down on someone—regardless of sex—when it's a little more odoriferous than you would like because they haven't bathed in a while. For example: "Things were getting hot and heavy with my Tinder date last night, and then I started to go down and was surprised with extra lobster."
I think I have a good candidate for your "with extra lobster" definition! It could be applied to a man who has an exceptionally large and dangling foreskin ("His penis comes with extra lobster!") or a woman whose labia protrudes ("I love pussy with extra lobster!").
When I first started dating my wife, she kept her lady parts waxed clean, and they looked a bit like a lobster claw, even being slightly red if the waxing was recent. We nicknamed her vagina and surrounding area "The Lobster," or "Lobby" for short. So I would suggest that "with extra lobster" should mean anytime you get some extra lobster in on the act—from normal lesbian sex (two lobsters!), to a standard-issue male fantasy threesome (two lobsters and one cock), to a surprise second go-around after you thought the sex was over.
The area surrounding the vagina already has a name: the vulva. While most people are familiar with the labia majora and minora parts of the vulva, aka "the lips," fewer know the name for the area between the labia minora. The spot where the opening to the vaginal canal can be found—also part of the vulva—is called the "vaginal vestibule." According to my thesaurus, lobby is a synonym for vestibule. So this proposed definition of "with extra lobster" is pretty apt. Now, some will quibble with the lobby-ish implication that a vagina is a space that needs to be entered. One can have a good time—great sex with lots of extra lobster—without anyone being penetrated, i.e., without anyone entering the lobby.
"Extra lobster should be the name for those cock-extender things. Example: "My husband has a small penis. And you know what? The sex is great! He gives great head, and isn't afraid to strap-on some extra lobster now and then."
As a vegan, Dan, I strongly object to "with extra lobster." It reinforces the speciest notion that is it permissible to consume lobsters, sentient life forms that feel pain, and associating a sex act with the violence of meat consumption further desensitizes us to acts of sexual violence.
When you see a gorgeous ultra-feminine creature far more gorgeously feminine than my straight CIS ass will ever be. But under all the silks and stockings and satin panties... there's a wonderful and welcome surprise! That girl comes WITH EXTRA LOBSTER!
I've learned about fursuits from you, Dan, and so many other crazy things—like the guy who wanted to be sexually ravished and then torn apart and eaten by zombies. With that in mind, I think "with extra lobster" shouldn't refer to a sex act. It should be ENTIRELY literal: an act of bestiality performed not with one lobster, but with two or more lobsters. (The zombie guy was what hooked me on "Savage Love." I'm too shallow for the actual problems and stuff. More freaks please!)
Too literal and too improbable—and euphemisms that describe things that have never happened or only happen very, very rarely are unlikely to enter the lexicon.
I used to hook up with a cuckold couple with a particularly naughty fetish: I'd fuck the woman, fill her up, and her man would eat it out of her. So, say you hooked up with a woman, let's call her "Melania," and her husband, call him "Donald," ate her pussy after you filled her with come. Donald is eating pussy with extra lobster!
Sounds more like pussy with extra chowder to me—and what you've described already has a perfectly good (and widely-used) name: cream pie. And, please God, let's leave Trump out of this. There's no need to associate something so vile and disgusting with eating another man's come out of your wife's lobby.
"With extra lobster" should refer to any intimate pleasure where your expectations are greatly exceeded! I'm a gay man in my sixties, and my husband and I have been together for decade. I also have a friend with benefits. One night we were camping and I blurted out, "I would like to cuddle with you." What happened next was 12 courses—at least—with extra lobster! We've managed to rekindle this energy every couple of years over the past 25!
I believe your example of "with extra lobster" regarding an extra WOW factor during something sexual is perfect and doesn't need extra explanation. As the saying goes, Dan, you pegged it!
I agree with the last two letter writers: "with extra lobster" shouldn't refer to any specific sex act—and it should never involve actual lobsters and/or mental images of the current president of the United States—but should, instead, be a general term meaning "expectations exceeded." When someone really comes through for you, when they knock your socks off, when they make you see stars—when they really WOW you—then you got boned or blown or fucked or flogged or torn apart and eaten by zombies with extra lobster!
And with that sorted and settled, a bonus neologism to close the column...
This isn't a definition for "with extra lobster," but I wanted to share it. I live in Uganda and many of the streets are lined with stalls that sell BBQ chicken. If you know to ask for the special chicken, they'll often sell you weed. Special Chicken has become my favorite euphemism for weed!
Patreon CEO Jack Conte said in an interview with CNBC that the platform will soon be facing the challenge of maintaining a profitable model as the company continues its growth.
Okay, so, this is kind of disturbing, not just for the obvious reason that, hey, I use Patreon to make a living, but because, you know, the way business models are supposed to work, when you have more customers, your profits are supposed to go up.
I am alarmed to be reminded of the old joke, from back around the turn of the millennium, in the dot.com boom, we told about the most half-assed web ventures: "We're losing money on every sale, but don't worry – we'll make it up in volume."
Now, this is not a huge surprise, because the Patreon fish swallowed the venture capital fish-hook. I suspect that what is not sustainable is the sort of growth their investor-predators want to see. Because I have trouble imagining that serving as a payment processor that's getting 5% is not actually quite lucrative and sustainable. Like, Paypal only gets $0.30+2.90% of transations it handles, and they're not crying about being in mortal peril. Patreon is not obviously providing more service, tech-wise, than Paypal, to explain why basically getting 2% more than Paypal does is insufficient to its operational needs and profitability wishes. And if Patreon's operational costs are half-again as much as Paypal's, well, presumably that's because Paypal has economies of scale on Patreon, and if that's the difference, Patreon's growth (in terms of customers) should solve the problem, not worsen it.
If the problem is that the investors are bleeding the company, then, well, it's not clear how doom could be averted. This is what happened in the 80s, the whole leveraged by-out craze: investors bought companies – profitable, successful companies – to eat them.
And if you’re into the fanworks thing, check out the various days in this Raven Tower release event! I’m looking forward to seeing what cool stuff the participants come up with! My readers are awesome.
I suppose it was inevitable: I discovered a that I am listed as a contributor to a book that I was not aware existed. It’s a 2009 book from the National Geographic Society called The Backyard Guide to the Night Sky, credited to Howard Schneider, and for which I am listed as contributing essays. And when it was brought to my attention, I was all, “I did what now?” I had no memory of contributing to this book at all.
Mind you, I don’t think the National Geographic Society was trying to pull a fast one. The far more likely explanation is that I did contributed to the book and then, over the course of a decade, I had simply forgotten anything about it. And indeed, that was the explanation — a quick look through my email archives from the time unearthed not only the correspondence trail between me an an editor at NatGeo, but also the essays in question, about constellations, telescopes and UFOs (and all the things that are not them).
These essays were a throwback to a time where I was writing a lot more non-fiction than I do now, and also taking freelance writing assignments from folks for quick pieces on, well, just about anything. It wasn’t entirely out of my remit to write articles on astronomy, since by that time I had written an entire book on the subject and it had even gone into a second printing. Which may be why I don’t remember too much about these pieces; I could pretty much write them without effort.
I grew up understanding "golf" as "a game rich people play while doing low-key industry networking." Indeed I know at least one executive woman who learned how to play golf tolerably well in order to acquit herself well when invited to play by colleagues, clients, etc.
Here in NYC it feels like game nights/board game afternoons are the golf of the programming class. It's kind of assumed that you can play socially, there are gaming circles that also end up serving as industry networking. And you can invite a coworker to a game night and they'll understand that it's social, and not a date, and it's ok if they play really badly as long as they show good sportsmanship.
Is it like this in other cities too?
Edited to add: By the way, I am someone who loves a few board/card games and doesn't love most of them and is willing to play many of them if that's what everyone else in a group of visitors wants to do, and I believe I recognize many of their virtues and their downsides. What I'm specifically curious about is what other cities have this same kind of scene.
I heard the world premiere of Greg Brown's "Fall and Decline," which I really enjoyed, but oh my goodness The Rotunda is probably made of nothing but antique dust. I had a lovely walk home afterwards with Camille, who accompanied me.
Saturday morning, I learned a college friend had passed away the day before, from cancer. She was 46, and we knew it was coming, but not so soon (it is always too soon). She was a very sunny person and much beloved, and it hurts to see the suffering of those who were closer to her than I was. She was a writer, and a good one, and I mourn for her work that might have been as well as for her.
I skipped the Sunday concert I'd planned to attend in favor of being sad and doing very little along with drinkingcocoa, and then camping out on the couch with Ms. 10's legs in my lap. She's started to get taller recently.
Monday, I woke up with an irritated throat and a massive feeling of I Can't. So I called in sick, and seem to actually be sick, because I slept on and off, mostly on, until 2:00 pm, and still slept the night through. I came into dayjob today to clear things out before potential terrible weather tomorrow, and because I didn't want to stare into space at home. My ears are stuffed up; my head isn't too bad, and my throat feels a bit better. I might go to rehearsal, and decide if I can sing when I get there. I mean, I can sing, but the question is whether I should do so, or just take notes.
And if you're into the fanworks thing, check out the various days in this Raven Tower release event! I'm looking forward to seeing what cool stuff the participants come up with! My readers are awesome.
In 2005, Malissa Freese took an eye-opening trip in search of a new home. Coming off DC’s Interstate 295, she hit the block of Benning Road NE that houses an unsightly Pepco facility and made a left turn on Anacostia Avenue into River Terrace, a cul-de-sac neighborhood that sits along the Anacostia River (where, full disclosure, this writer grew up).
Freese, who is now serving her second term as River Terrace Community Organization (RTCO) president, describes the first time she drove into the neighborhood as a real-life Wizard of Oz experience. “It was like Dorothy opening the door after the tornado and everything’s in technicolor. There were tennis courts with nets, a beautiful park, the River Terrace school, and lovely well-kept homes on a tree lined, wide boulevard,” says Freese, who grew up in New York and moved to DC to work in the hospitality industry.
River Terrace is comprised of about eight apartment buildings with a total of 75 units and roughly 840 rowhomes. Freese purchased a two-bedroom house priced around $180,000. Among other things, she’s come to love 5:30 am strolls around the community with a neighbor who grew up in the ‘hood.
If being a civic leader happens spontaneously, roll with the punches
In 2015, Freese laughingly says she was “bamboozled” into becoming a community organizer. It began when a civically engaged resident, Dianne Hampton, politely asked Freese to hand out fliers on her block, which she soon learned was the longest street in the neighborhood with about 120 homes. After a few months of helping out, Freese was invited to a meeting where, unbeknownst to her, she was introduced as a block captain.
She then started going to RTCO meetings where she volunteered to lend a hand. “You know, if something happens, you’re like, 'I could probably do that a little better,'” she says. So she joined the community organization’s editorial committee to assist with social media efforts and later took over as chair when her predecessor bowed out for personal reasons.
When plans for new developments arise, communities should organize quickly
Meanwhile, as the cost of living in DC started to rise, developers and future homeowners were setting their sights on neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. In River Terrace, it’s now unremarkable to see a home on the market for $400k.
In April 2016, real estate development firm Neighborhood Development Company (NDC) told River Terrace residents that it purchased a piece of land in the neighborhood and planned to build a multi-unit residential building.
In response, RTCO created an economic development committee. Freese led the group's first meeting in September 2016. “We were all learning about zoning and planning together,” she says. Over time, they created a chart that shows zoning regulations for every apartment building and commercial property in the neighborhood, in addition to who owns them.
Residents wanted to make sure that if owners sold properties, “we weren’t going to have a 12-story condo there,” says Freese, who’s working on writing a best practices document for neighborhoods that are approached by developers for the first time in decades. “There needs to be an intense education process” that starts with basics such as zoning laws and types of developments, she says.
The economic development committee also began consulting with Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners (ANCs), diving into DC’s comprehensive plan and making arrangements for representatives from the Office of Planning to attend community meetings “so we would be on guard for any evil developer that came into the neighborhood,” Freese says.
Meanwhile, her personal calendar became jam-packed with community engagements. In addition to the monthly RTCO and economic development committee gatherings, she began attending the monthly ANC meetings. Since River Terrace sits directly across the Anacostia River from Kingman and Heritage Islands as well as the RFK stadium, she attended information sessions for developments planned for those sites as well.
Expect opposition from unexpected people
NDC originally approached the community with plans to build a rental property with roughly 60 units—one, two, and three bedrooms—priced at 30 to 50% of the area median income. It would also include about 20 parking spaces.
Most River Terrace residents who attended the meetings were not for the project, so NDC was willing to go back to the drawing board. Thus, the biggest challenge was getting the community to come to a consensus. “Now you have [to consider] 2,000 people and everyone has their idea of what’s the best thing for that plot of land,” Freese says.
While not every household in the neighborhood was involved, there were some residents with very strong and opposing opinions. Some who lived in close proximity to the forthcoming development worried about digging and structural damage to their homes. Other neighbors preferred condos versus more rental properties in the community. The cost of the units was also a point of contention.
“Basically, we had civil war going on—it was tough,” says Freese, adding that the changing demographics in the neighborhood has played a role in decision making.
“I'm worried about gentrification not necessarily along color lines, but along income lines,” she says. “People from different economic classes want different things.” In the end, “if you want something or don’t like a decision, you need to come to the meetings, so it’s very much a democracy,” she says.
To lead effectively, be transparent
In November 2016, Freese was nominated to become the community organization’s vice president, which she accepted while holding onto the economic development position.
“I thought I was going to have a Joe Biden moment—taking selfies and wearing sunglasses,” she says. But that all changed when then-president Elaine Hart had to step down in March 2017 for personal reasons. The following month, the community organization elected Freese president.
As an introverted leader, Freese is learning how to best oversee a group of passionate community members. “I’m not really good at going up there and pressing the flesh—I'm not a politician or good at managing public opinion.”
Nonetheless, she tries to be as transparent and diplomatic as possible. The simplest way: “We do a lot of referring back to the bylaws,” she says.
Get people to participate based on interests
Another challenge is getting residents to participate, which could help more people get informed and lessen Freese’s weight of responsibilities.
“Right now, I’m trying to spread out everything, so pulling people who like to bike [and suggesting that they] get on the environmental committee,” for instance, and “making sure that we have representatives at all of these meetings so they can feed that information back to the neighborhood,” she says.
And she makes a point to let people know: “We're not trying to suck up all your life. If you can give us six hours of your time a month, that would be great.”
Remember who the built environment is for
Freese was elected to her second term as RTCO president in November 2018. While staying abreast of more developments that are coming to the neighborhood and surrounding area, she hopes to also build camaraderie.
“For the next two years, I want to work on having a community where people can talk in meetings, send emails, and have fun together, be it at the park [or someone’s home],” she says, referring to tension that's cropped up as new neighbors move in and the community is forced to make decisions on new developments. “I want to make sure that we can do all the economic development stuff, [like] clean up Benning Road and have beautiful stores. But if everyone's miserable on the inside, it's not worth a beautiful facade.”
A powerful Virginia legislator is facing his first serious challenger in recent memory in Senate District 35, a diverse, V-shaped district in Alexandria City, Fairfax County, and Falls Church.
Democrat Dick Saslaw, the Senate Minority Leader, has served in the General Assembly since 1976. He has not faced a primary challenger in 40 years, and cruised to reelection in his solidly blue district in the last few elections.
Yasmine Taeb, a human rights lawyer and progressive activist, is challenging Saslaw from his left. Saslaw’s role as a legislative leader has drawn him into the controversies surrounding Governor Ralph Northam and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, issues which may factor into the coming campaign.
About the 35th Senate District
The district is large, spanning from Merrifield to Bailey's Crossroads to Springfield, including Falls Church and part of the City of Alexandria. It contains significant tracts of single-family homes, several Metrorail stations, and the Mosaic District, a retail and restaurant development which has contributed to more urbanization in the area. Big issues here include affordability, congestion, and lack of walkability and easy access to Metro.
The 35th has the highest foreign-born population in the state, with 40% born in another country, according to legislative tracking service Quorum. The district has non-white Hispanic and Asian populations well above the state average, and handily favors Democrats. In 2016 and 2017, residents voted for national and statewide Democrats by a 3-to-1 margin.
Dick Saslaw, a powerful force in Richmond
Saslaw has been in the Senate since 1980 and has been the Democratic leader in the chamber for 20 years. He’s won in each campaign since 1999 by at least 17 points – and usually by much more.
While Saslaw holds progressive views on many social issues and has received endorsements in the past from groups favoring abortion rights, gun control, and conservation, he has also been a lightning rod for criticism from the left. Liberal groups argue that he has used his leadership position to stymie progressive policies, and say he’s too conservative for his Northern Virginia seat. He was also critical of Tom Perriello’s outsider run for Governor against Northam, his former Senate colleague.
As a Democratic leader in Virginia, Saslaw has entered the fray amid accusations against Northam and Fairfax. As a picture on Northam’s medical school yearbook page emerged depicting one man in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan robes, Saslaw was one of the only Virginia Democrats to defend Northam. Concerning Justin Fairfax, who is facing claims of sexual assault, Saslaw asserted that impeachment is reserved for crimes committed in office.
However, as Minority Leader, Saslaw is one of the people the party relies on to wrangle the other Democratic Senators and to negotiate with Republicans. Some voters may stick with him because replacing him could weaken the Democrats' organizational structure.
Yasmine Taeb, progressive challenger
Yasmine Taeb, a human rights lawyer, progressive activist, and Democratic National Committee member, is offering Saslaw his first primary challenge in a generation.
Taeb, who calls herself “the first Muslim woman ever elected to the Democratic National Committee,” fled Iran as a child and grew up in Florida, incidentally attending Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the site of last year’s school massacre.
Although her campaign website does not mention her opponent by name, it does feature a “clean energy” plank that promises to “stand up to Dominion” and promote renewable energy. Taeb has also seized upon Saslaw’s defense of Northam, tying his position to upholding the “old Virginia way” that tolerates racism.
Urbanist issues aren’t a highlight—yet
Thus far, a paucity of urbanist issues have emerged in the campaign.
Both candidates highlight education, with Saslaw noting his support for STEM programs, smaller class sizes, and higher teacher pay, and Taeb promoting increasing teacher pay, universal pre-K, and standardized testing reform.
Housing affordability and land use do not seem to have yet emerged as major issues in this race, and transportation isn’t yet a major differentiator between them. We’ll continue to watch how the campaign develops, and try to illuminate the candidates’ views on these important issues. Saslaw, for instance, will soon vote on the Governor's proposed changes to the budget, which includes additional funding for affordable housing and eviction mitigation.
While many of the issues Taeb is running on so far are hallmarks of progressives versus centrist Democrats in Virginia, housing and transportation often doesn’t line up cleanly along this divide. Some self-identified progressives see it as a priority to open up opportunities for people of all incomes to live in job-rich Northern Virginia, while others feel communities need to be “rescued” from proposals for new housing.
Likewise on transportation, both progressives and centrists in Northern Virginia generally support transit funding and expansion, though specific decisions—especially ones that might inconvenience drivers or force them to pay for the cost of infrastructure and pollution—don’t break down cleanly across ideological lines.
Taeb will have to form more detailed positions on these issues if she wants to mount a viable challenge to one of the Senate’s most powerful figures.
In Arlington's intense housing market, a breakthrough project aims to provide housing-strapped veterans with an affordable place to live. However, the project has also illustrated how the county's planning process is limited by its reliance on sector plans, and brings forward some new ideas to the ongoing conversation about parking.
Affordable housing for veterans
For better or worse, Arlington County and the US military share a long history. The small jurisdiction is home to the Pentagon, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, and the National Cemetery. The county seal represents the house of Robert E. Lee, and the largest high school’s football team is ‘the Generals.’
Veterans who rejoin Arlington’s civilian population, though, suffer from the same housing shortage as everybody else. In fact, nearly a third of the 236,000 veterans in the DC metro area are housing cost-burdened, meaning they pay well over 30% of their income for rent. Veterans in our region are also often young, putting them in an even more unstable position.
American Legion Post #139, established in the 1930s, is located on the fringe of the densely-developed Metro-accessible Virginia Square area. It hosts a social space for the local veterans' community. Over the past year, the American Legion has collaborated with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) to propose a groundbreaking new project.
The planned development is one of the most ambitious affordable housing projects that the county has seen in years. It's seven stories tall, and all of the 160 units will be committed to affordability for 75 years. The majority of units will be two- or three-bedroom, ensuring that not only single people but also families can afford to live in Arlington. Eight of the units will be affordable to people making about $33,000 per year (30% AMI), and most units will be affordable to people making about $66,000 per year (60% AMI).
Half of the units will be prioritized for veterans, and APAH has partnered with the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) to help homeless veterans find a place to live. Very few projects are able to achieve this level of affordability. The icing under the cake? The American Legion will continue to operate on the building's ground floor, making the building a social hub for all of Arlington's veterans.
How sectors limit development
Urban space is continuous. This is obvious if you've ever walked down a street. You aren't interrupted by a force-field when you pass from, say, a “C-O Mixed Use District” to a “RA-18 Multiple Family Dwelling District.” You probably don't even notice the change.
In defiance of this continuity though, for the past 90 years American city planning has relied on dividing cities into discrete chunks. Originally, this took the form of zoning. In Arlington, it also takes the form of sector plans. Similarly, DC has faced challenges resulting from the rigidity of the borders in its Future Land Use Map (FLUM).
Sector plans identify the county's aspirations for certain specific areas. The area around Virginia Square was most recently discussed in the 2002 Virginia Square Sector Plan, which embraced a “special emphasis on inclusion of affordable on-site housing units in new residential construction.”
But wait—if affordability was embraced in 2002, why didn't this project get started until so much later? The answer is as simple as it is unintuitive: the American Legion site isn't technically in Virginia Square. Despite lying less than a quarter-mile from the Virginia Square Metro station, despite any Arlingtonian ready to tell you that it's in the Virginia Square area, the site in question is just across the street from the border of the sector plan. Thus, it is not in Virginia Square.
Because of this bad luck, the American Legion had to wait another 15 years for the oxymoronically- and interminably-named Washington Boulevard and Kirkwood Road Special General Land Use Study “Plus”. This study, effectively a miniature sector plan, only addressed the single superblock that is home to the American Legion site, and generally brought it in line with the Virginia Square plan.
The American Legion is also just barely outside of the Rosslyn-Ballston Metro Corridor as it is legally defined. Despite being only a few minutes’ walk from the Metro, the site is on the wrong side of Washington Boulevard, and so doesn't technically benefit from the reduced parking minimums recently put into effect along the corridor.
Urban space is continuous, but Arlington's urban planning is disjunct, inevitably resulting in unnatural development. Arlington's ‘site plan’ process treats most developments (including this one) as individual projects and remedies this somewhat. It treats sector plans as aspirational and calls for separate County Board approval for each process, allowing developers and the county to bend the rules.
Nonetheless, the ideology of separation and disjuncture that underlies zoning and sector plans is a major factor lying behind many challenges in urban planning nationwide.
Innovations in the parking conversation
“Parking” might have been the most-heard word in the recent Planning Commission meeting held to discuss the development. It’s a perennial item of debate in Arlington, as it is across the region and the country. During this Planning Commission hearing, though, a few innovations echoed around the room.
The American Legion project will include 0.43 parking spots per residential unit, mostly in an underground garage. A representative of APAH pointed out that it will be one of the first few developments to make use of ‘transportation demand management’ techniques that aim to cut down on private vehicle ownership.
Residents of the planned development will be eligible for a 5$ annual membership to Capital Bikeshare, and APAH will provide each resident who doesn’t have a dedicated space with a 65$/year preloaded SmartTrip card. APAH will also contribute $6,900 each year to Arlington County Commuter Services, an organization dedicated to transportation demand management. Finally, the cost of a parking space will be unbundled from the rent of a unit.
Some neighbors, concerned about parking being underprovided, wonder whether this demand management goes far enough. Henry Staples, of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, points out that APAH saves approximately $50,000 for every parking spot it doesn't construct—according to his calculations, 4.5 million for the building. He encourages APAH to invest more of this money, more than $6,900 per year, into other mobility options.
Takis Karantonis, speaking on behalf of Arlington’s Alliance for Housing Solutions, pointed out that new car-free residents will feed into a virtuous cycle of demand for public transport. “For this [improved] service, we need the riders, and the riders will be brought. 160 households will be using these services.”
A nearby resident of a single-family house wondered whether County restrictions could be lifted on her property, enabling her to build more private off-street parking.
Finally, a representative of APAH commented that the affordable housing developer is able to handle some transportation demand management of its own at the level of individual residents. When a prospective tenant with a car comes to call, APAH could arrange for them to be preferentially housed in one of their other developments with more available parking.
At the meeting, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend that the County Board approve the project. The Board will be convening for a vote on Saturday, February 23, and interested Arlingtonians—or those who would live in Arlington but are priced out—are encouraged to chime in.
If approved, the development will take roughly two years to complete.
Top image: A rendering of the planned development. Image courtesy of APAH. Image by APAH.
In today’s Big Idea, author Tina LeCount Myers discovers that in writing Dreams of the Dark Sky, her conscious was writing one thing, and her unconscious writing something entirely different — and yet, it all came together in the same story. Here’s how.
TINA LeCOUNT MYERS:
Conscious Me: I wrote a story about invasive vs. native human-like species in a volatile environment.
Unconscious Me: Actually, I wrote a story about fate and free will, where I used my characters to work out my own existential uncertainty about these concepts.
Conscious Me: What do you mean? The story is about how humans and elves fail to coexist and the ramifications of their wars.
Unconscious Me: Perhaps on one level. But if you look deeper, you’ll see that both humans and elves must come to their own understanding of agency.
Whereupon, Conscious Me pauses, thinking, then appropriates what was unconscious, feeling self-satisfied with the deeper meaning it has come up with. Then, in a moment of insight, Conscious Me suggests: Really, Dreams of the Dark Sky is Freaks and Geeks meets Excalibur—the John Boorman Excalibur.
And both parts of me are right, except maybe for the John Boorman reference, which feels a little conceited and hyper-masculine even for the Conscious Me.
I started writing The Legacy of the Heavens trilogy with the idea to write a fantasy story with science at the foundation of the worldbuilding. Dark matter disguised as magic. Multiverses and string theory cloaked as portal realms in arctic Scandinavia. Evolutionary biology to posit the existence of sequentially hermaphroditic elves. But what I discovered was an even more profound interest in what makes us human, even if we are elves.
On the surface, Dreams of the Dark Sky, the second book in the trilogy, is about two human-like species struggling to coexist in a volatile arctic environment. But at its heart, the story is more concerned with how the two main characters, Dárja and Marnej, experience the complex love between parent and child, yearn to belong in their respective communities, and struggle to take control over their lives. They reflect the deep-seated, human questions that I have about my own life: my relationship with my parents, my sense of belonging—or not, and, most importantly, my conflicted experience with the concepts of fate and free will.
I have suffered the resentment of fate, where I must live with a decision over which I have no control. I have struggled with the paralysis of free will, where I am unable to make the “right choice”. I have no definitive answer on which is better or worse. So when Marnej, who is half-human and half-elf, asks, “Was I always meant to end up here? Or did circumstance and my own action bring me here?” it is me asking that same question of my own life. And when Kalek, the elf-healer, answers, “I do not believe the gods choose our actions. They may set the course of events, but it is we who decide what direction to go in,” it is my own unwitting compromise.
Dreams of the Dark Sky is about the aftermath of a struggle between humans (invasive species) and elves (native species). But it is also about the tension between conscious and unconscious choice and what that interplay reveals about not only the characters, but also the writer, and hopefully the reader as well.
Using climate data, a new study projects that by 2080 climates for 540 North American cities may on average shift 530 miles, meaning Washington, DC's climate will feel more like Mississippi's in the 20th century, while Boston’s climate will be like Baltimore’s in the 20th century. (Jacob Fenston / WAMU)
Using data from 11 major cities including Washington, DC, a new study looking at buildings built between 2014 and 2016 found that the construction of new market-rate housing in some neighborhoods was associated with slower growing neighborhood rents. (Michael Lewyn / Planetizen)
Dollar stores, with more locations nationwide than Walmart and McDonald’s combined, are a growing presence in urban, suburban, and rural low-income communities. They're also becoming the primary grocery store in many of our region's food deserts. (Sasha-Ann Simons / WAMU)
The new owner of the Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn and its 5.5-acre site is planning mixed-use buildings, with housing above street-level restaurants and retail. Current zoning allows for up to 630 residential units, 990 hotel rooms, or 660,000 feet of office space. (Rebecca Cooper / WBJ)
Local opponents of the Amazon HQ2 deal feel newly energized following the company's decision to back out of its Long Island City, NY location. Virginia's $750 million package for Amazon has been finalized, but Arlington County’s proposed $23 million in incentives has not been approved yet. (Ally Schweitzer / WAMU)
In a recent poll of 110 US mayors, 58% said public subsidies for corporations were bad politics, 44% said they were both bad politics and good for the city, and 14% said they were both bad politics and bad for the city. (Jeff Andrews / Curbed)
Citing regional competitiveness, an opinion piece argues for a Maryland state-wide $15 minimum wage to prevent Montgomery County businesses from being disadvantaged against Washington region rivals with lower minimum wages. (Adam Pagnucco / Bethesda Beat)
Due to rising ocean levels related to climate change, downtown Annapolis now floods about 40 times a year, up from only 10 days a year only 50 years ago. Both the 370-year-old city and the adjacent US Naval Academy have announced plans to combat the flooding. (Ashley Halsey III / Post)
Interesting -- although short and not very detailed -- article about Estonia's volunteer cyber-defense militia.
Padar's militia of amateur IT workers, economists, lawyers, and other white-hat types are grouped in the city of Tartu, about 65 miles from the Russian border, and in the capital, Tallinn, about twice as far from it. The volunteers, who've inspired a handful of similar operations around the world, are readying themselves to defend against the kind of sustained digital attack that could cause mass service outages at hospitals, banks, and military bases, and with other critical operations, including voting systems. Officially, the team is part of Estonia's 26,000-strong national guard, the Defense League.
Formally established in 2011, Padar's unit mostly runs on about €150,000 ($172,000) in annual state funding, plus salaries for him and four colleagues. (If that sounds paltry, remember that the country's median annual income is about €12,000.) Some volunteers oversee a website that calls out Russian propaganda posing as news directed at Estonians in Estonian, Russian, English, and German. Other members recently conducted forensic analysis on an attack against a military system, while yet others searched for signs of a broader campaign after discovering vulnerabilities in the country's electronic ID cards, which citizens use to check bank and medical records and to vote. (The team says it didn't find anything, and the security flaws were quickly patched.)
Mostly, the volunteers run weekend drills with troops, doctors, customs and tax agents, air traffic controllers, and water and power officials. "Somehow, this model is based on enthusiasm," says Andrus Ansip, who was prime minister during the 2007 attack and now oversees digital affairs for the European Commission. To gauge officials' responses to realistic attacks, the unit might send out emails with sketchy links or drop infected USB sticks to see if someone takes the bait.
Tonight, I'm gonna attend my local Community Board meeting, which will include an MTA presentation on the Astoria Boulevard ADA & Station Renewal project. (I hope that, after the meeting, I can hang out with other locals and toast to the end of the Amazon HQ2 giveaway.) I wondered aloud to Leonard: how will people at the meeting use the Astoria Boulevard station closure as a demand for more parking spots? (The members of my local community board mostly own homes and cars, and are far more interested in the alleged lack of parking in Western Queens than I am.)
The easy answer is: the MTA is closing a station for renovations, so more people will have to drive, so they'll say we'll need more parking spots. But: who should be responsible for providing that parking, and how? Some satirical answers we came up with:
The MTA, by magically creating more parking on Astoria Boulevard
Auto manufacturers -- after all, didn't they cause the problem in the first place?
The MTA, by letting car owners hitch their cars to the end of subway trains
Wesley Crusher, who does not need parking himself and should use his Traveller powers to transport people and cars around
The city, which should allow buildings to zone far higher into their airspace and build parking garages into the troposphere
The city, which should adopt a form of "congestion pricing" where if you are congested you need to pay extra to enter Manhattan -- this would also have a side benefit of reducing infectious disease. If you already live in Manhattan? You can't leave your home -- the "achoo curfew".
I do not recommend anyone do any of these things. I do recommend you joke about parking-hungry community boards.
Also if you can figure out how to make a good joke combining the Lisp function cdr and the fact that we should lengthen the G train, do make it somewhere and let me know.
Overstock.com is saying they're estimated to arrive on Thursday!
And that they've been shipped by FedEx!
FedEx is saying they'll be here by the end of tomorrow! (Tuesday!)
ETA: FedEx has a way to sign up to schedule delivery times for a fee, but I can't get it to authenticate me. It suggests either having them mail me a confirmation postcard, yes, physical mail, which should take 3-5 days, or just waiting – I am not making this up – 30 days to try again. Also, their website is buggy and unprofessional in general, and they are trying to reduce customer service calls by having customers talk to a bot. This is my entirely unimpressed face.
Meanwhile, the rug pads from my same order are coming by UPS, due on Friday, as two separate packages. I signed up with UPS to provide delivery instructions (it's visually ambiguous what is the "front door" to my new building, and there is definitely a right answer and a wrong one) and it turns out that UPS doesn't have a freetext field for delivery instructions. They have a pull-down menu with no choices relevant to my situation.
I suddenly have a great appreciation for what problem Amazon is trying to solve by having their own shippers, and doing things like having them photo your door when they deliver and asking for feedback when they get it wrong.
So right now I have no idea if I'm going to wind up with all three packages in limbo.
ETA2: Ah, apparently Overstock has a better idea of what's going on than FedEx does. FedEx is now saying delivery by end of day Thursday, which is what Overstock said all along.
Today was full of snow. Very gentle snow, the kind that falls softly and steadily and spirals on the wind and makes a pile of garbage bags in a parking lot look like the hedgerows of a winter field; it started last night while spatch and I were at the 'Thon so that we walked through its cut-paper whirl a few times this morning, finally stopped around nightfall. I am hoping it does not all suddenly melt with a new seasonal spike tomorrow. I am enjoying the old-fashioned feel of New England in February.
It is my hope to write up the marathon tomorrow when I have had some sleep. Until then, links.
1. Maybe I'd feel differently if I had seen Downfall (2004) rather than doing my best to avoid the ranting Hitler meme, but it is a little strange to me to see Bruno Ganz remembered for that film rather than the role I always associate him with, the angel Damiel in Wings of Desire (1987). I imprinted more on Otto Sander's Cassiel, but that doesn't mean I couldn't appreciate his dark-haired, more wistful companion who quite literally runs away and joins the circus, falling for love, falling into love, trading the wings and armor and overcoat of his immortality for a terrible flannel jacket and a hat that doesn't match either, the ability to taste coffee and bleed, see in color, tell a lie. That was one of the first movies I loved and I loved all the actors in it who seemed inseparable from their characters, the ancient storyteller walking the vanished city, the trapeze artist in her stage feathers, Peter Falk. I saw Ganz in little else, but I don't think it would have mattered if I did. It was entirely believable that before he was an actor, he watched the world.
3. I had not known about the mummies of Cladh Hallan before tonight. It's another one of the ideas that would have terrified me when I was small: the icon of a body made from other bodies, bog-preserved and curated for centuries before their interment under new construction, strangers interlocked into family. "The results show that bones came from different people, none of whom even shared the same mother . . . The female is made from body parts that date to around the same time period. But isotopic dating showed that the male mummy is made from people who died a few hundred years apart." It feels ancestral, but I don't know. It was the Bronze Age. The rocks of South Uist are the oldest in the British Isles.
4. I have been listening repeatedly to Desperate Journalist's "Hollow." This was true even before I read the above-linked article, though I think they may have gotten a little mixed together since—frost in her hair and sand in her shoes, skirts the coastline, iron-black and blue.
I slept very little on Saturday night, but I dreamed of tiny slugs carved into gingersnap cookies passing a candy cinnamon heart back and forth among one another. It was a kind of stop-motion animation. In real life I have no idea how it would be achieved, but in the dream it was adorable.