May 2006 Archives
DC as the Garden of Eden?
It is not the secret that the summer in the District of the Columbia, it can be unpleasant. The humidity and the heat they are oppressive, and the mosquitos they are as thick and as importuning as the candidates asking for the contributions.
It is this latter fact which always makes the Manolo give thanks to the person who invented the electronic zapper of the bugs. This clever device it kills the pests while the electric blue sparks provide us with hours of joyful entertainment.
If only the zapper it could be produced in the extra-strength congressperson size, then this city of Washington, truly it would be the Garden of Eden.
"Manolo the Columnist," Manolo's Shoe Blog, May 26, 2006
Here's part of a conversation between a taxi dispatcher and a man who believed his wife was overcharged for a $25 cab ride.
GUY: Excuse me, I was quoted a rate of $19 by the people here at the hotel, and the fare came out to $25. I was overcharged
. . .
GUY: I think I'll call Monday. Right after I call the Taxi Commission.
ME: Be my guest. It's actually called the Hack Commission, but being a savvy all-knowledgeable consumer you already knew that I'm sure. And there's nothing they love more than listening to somebody complain about a suspected $5 overcharge for a trip from their $350 a night hotel to an $80 per person restaurant.
Overcharge, The Blank Top Chronicles, May 12, 2006
People, people, people: if you want an estimated cab fare, call the cab company. The doorman at the hotel may, or may not, have a clue. A hotel can't give you a quote for a cab ride, just like a cab driver can't quote you a room rate for a hotel.... Sheesh ...
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams - knuckleheads?
Here's a curious trivia tidbit from U.S. history: In 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams took leave from their Europe-based diplomatic duties and traveled to Stratford-upon-Avon to visit the home of William Shakespeare. Not much was recorded of the occasion, but one fact of their pilgrimage to the Bard's birthplace stands out: At some point during the tour, the two American statesmen brandished pocketknives, carved a few slivers from a wooden chair alleged to have been Shakespeare's, and spirited them home as souvenirs.
In retrospect, it's easy to look back on this incident and conclude that -- in terms of travel protocol, at least -- Jefferson and Adams were complete knuckleheads. The thing is, I haven't seen any evidence to prove that, as world-wandering travelers, our quest for souvenirs has become any more logical or dignified in the last 220 years.
"Why We Buy Dumb Souvenirs," by Rolf Potts, Traveling Light, May 9, 2006
hat tip: ALD
Fast food and soccer in Arlandria
If you're looking for fast food in the general vicinity of Potomac Yard Shopping Center, Arlandria, Reagan National Airport, and Crystal City, swing by the Gunston soccer fields (weekdays in the afternoons and evenings, weekends most of the day), and sample the food from the taco trucks parked on South 28th Street, around the Gunston Community Center in south Arlington (north of Glebe and east of I-395), where a lot of soccer is played on two soccer fields, one an artificial turf field.
We like the burritos from the green taco truck, and prefer the tacos from the silver truck. YMMV.
chicken and beef tacos from the green taco truck
beef and chicken tacos from the silver taco truck
Many youth and adult leagues play soccer on the Gunston field, so you may be able to enjoy a soccer game while you eat.
The lamb kabob at Ravi Kabob is excellent - incredible flavor and so tender you can cut it with a small plastic knife. The bread is also incredible. We'll be back to try the karahi. Reviewers on zabihah say this is the best Pakistani restaurant in the US.
Ravi Kabob is located in a small row of shops, Buckingham Center, on the northwest corner of Glebe and Pershing.
Lamb Kabob, with salad, rice and chick peas, and bread
New blog, new books
Posting has been light at Hobnob Blog the last few months as we've been working on some large projects that are almost finished.
Tyler Cowen's Ethnic Dining Guide is now in blog format
Next month we will publish two new books and a new poster:
- "Legislative Drafter's Deskbook: A Practical Guide," by Tobias Dorsey, ISBN 1587330156, is getting rave reviews
- "Real World Research Skills: An Introduction to Factual, International, Judicial, Legislative, and Regulatory Research," by Peggy Garvin, ISBN 1587330075, is also getting rave reviews
- "Federal Regulatory Process Poster," by Ken Ackerman, will also be ready in June
Our quasi-regular "This Week in DC Reviews" will be back soon ...
Weather this week, Homeland Security in Key West, Gang violence in Brazil
Weather this week
Skies will partially clear in the afternoon with a chance for a shower or thunderstorm, mostly to the north and west. High temps will reach a comfortable 70 degrees or about 7-8 degrees below average.
"Spring Continues, Summer on Hold," CapitalWeather.com, May 16, 2006
Homeland Security in Key West
Yesterday was a typical day for Phil Teitsma , a Customs and Border Protection supervisor at Key West, Fla. He got a call about 7 a.m. from the Coast Guard telling him that two crew members of a speedboat had been detained after they were spotted dropping five people off on an uninhabited island near the Florida coast.
. . .
"I need some help," he said. "I've got almost 38 years of government service, and I'll work 16 hours a day and weekends, whatever I need to get the job done. But I can't. I need a team to work with, and I don't have it."
"Border Protection Stretched Thin at Key West," by Stephen Barr, The Washington Post, May 16, 2006
Gang violence in Brazil
Heavily armed police guarded the deserted streets of South America's largest city after four days of gang attacks left more than 80 people dead and brought most business to a standstill.
The rampage included dozens of attacks on police stations, bars and banks and rebellions in many of Sao Paulo state's corrupt and overcrowded prisons.
. . .
Twenty-one new killings were reported Monday, the state government said, putting the overall toll at 81. The figure includes 39 police officers and prison guards, 38 suspected gang members and four civilians caught in 184 attacks since Friday.
. . .
Starting Sunday night, the gang employed a new tactic: sending gunmen onto buses, ordering passengers and drivers off and torching the vehicles. There was no mention of injuries in the dozens of bus burnings, which continued in broad daylight Monday.
Thousands of terrified bus drivers refused to work, leaving an estimated 2.9 million people scrambling to find a way to work.
"Gang Attacks in Brazil Kill More Than 80," by Alexander Ragir, ABC News, May 16, 2006
Cosmopolitan Bakery, Carry Out & Catering
We have been wanting to try a pljeskavica, a Bosnian hamburger, since reading Robert Sietsema's review of Bosna Express in Queens, NY. And after reading Suburban Tasteland's description of Cosmopolitan, we knew we could satisfy the urge right here in Alexandria. (Also see "Bosnia’s Big Mac," by Jonathan Gold, LA Weekly, May 19, 2005.)
First, the important parts. Everything at Cosmopolitan Bakery, Carry Out & Catering is fresh. The pljeskavica (also called the Bosnia Burger at Cosmopolitan) is excellent. This is now our favorite hamburger in DC. The cevapcici at Cosmopolitan is excellent. The cheese Burek at Cosmopolitan is excellent. The chocolate Reform Cake at Cosmopolitan is excellent. The co-owner and chef of Cosmopolitan, Enes, is friendly and gracious, quick to give credit to his partner Ivica, and answered every question we had. The prices at Cosmopolitan are very reasonable. It is across the street from the Huntington Metro stop (Yellow line). Highly Recommended. Go, go, go.
Cosmopolitan Bakery, Carry Out & Catering, formerly Restaurant Cosmopolitan, web site, 5902A N. Kings Highway, Alexandria, VA, between T-Nails and Euro Foods, across from the Huntington Metro Station in Huntington Square, 703-329-3303 [Tyler Cowen | Suburban Tasteland]
Cosmopolitan Bakery, Carry Out & Catering
Enes, chef and co-owner of Cosmopolitan. The other owner is Ivica.
Burek - made-on-the-premises filo pastry dough stuffed with beef, cheese, spinach, or zucchini. We had the cheese Burek. Excellent.
Pljeskavica, the Bosnia Burger, before grilling.
Cevapcici, homemade sausages, before grilling.
Fresh bread, baked there. (What, are you still sitting at home reading this?? Go, go, go.)
Pljeskavica and Cevapcici on the grill.
Enes grilling the Pljeskavica and Cevapcici.
Pljeskavica ready to eat, with a dollop of sour cream. Note the white onion slices under the bread. EXCELLENT! (Unbelieveable, you're STILL sitting at home reading this? Go, go, go!)
Cevapcici ready to eat. Note the white onion slices under the bread. EXCELLENT!
Veal Schnitzel being prepared.
Veal Schnitzel being fried.
Veal Schnitzel with fries, ready to eat. This is OK.
Chocolate Reform Cake. EXCELLENT!!! (If you're still sitting at home reading this, sheesh....)
Baklava. Quite good, but not as flakey as some might be used to.
El Charrito Caminante
El Charrito Caminante is a Mexican taqueria in Arlington that serves tacos, pupusas, and burritos. We recommend the goat tacos. The beef and chicken burritos are just OK. A bargain, too: the tacos are $2 each, burritos $3. If there's a line, it will move quickly. Ask for extra hot sauce if they don't put one or two in the bag.
El Charrito Caminante
Goat Tacos - excellent
2710-A North Washington Blvd., Arlington, VA, 703-351-1177, between Pershing Drive on the north and the 7-11 on the south, on the west side of Washington Blvd. (the right side as you're leaving Arlington toward I-395) [Tyler Cowen | Washingtonian | WaPo | City Paper | Yelp]
Department of Energy changes policy for contractors' pensions and medical benefits
The Department of Energy (DOE) today announced new policy measures for the reimbursement of contractor pension and medical benefit plan costs that are based on sound business practices and market-based benchmarks for cost management. The Department will continue to reimburse contractors for costs for current and retired contractor employees’ defined benefit pension plans and medical benefit plans under existing contract requirements. For new contractor employees, the Department will reimburse contractors for the costs of their market-based defined contribution pension plans (similar to 401(k)) and market-based medical benefit plans. The new policy will improve the predictability of contractor benefit costs and mitigate the growth of the Department’s long term liabilities for these costs.
"DOE Announces New Policy for Contractor Benefit Reimbursements," U.S. Dept. of Energy, April 27, 2006
- "DOE does away with pensions for new hires," by Annette Cary, TriCity Herald (Kennewick, WA), April 28, 2006
- "Department of Energy to stop pensions for new contract workers," by Adam Geller (AP), Hanford News, May 6, 2006
- "New Plan for Energy Department Contractors' Benefits," by Stephen Barr, The Washington Post, May 9, 2006
The gas “crisis” reappears for the summer driving season, right on cue. Washington is naturally “shocked” at the obvious market manipulation and price gouging, and politicians stand in line for photo-ops at local gas stations, venting their righteous indignation and ignoring the fact that America has gone out of its way in the past to allow domestic drilling or the building of new oil refineries, so voila! Now they’re going to fix it with a rebate or some showy hearings where oil execs are lined up with their right hands raised (the ultimate photo-op).
It is all just too pathetically predictable to warrant serious comment. Our crisis is nothing more than the piling up of our consumer choices over the past several decades, our willingness to make investments within our own country (especially in refining), and this weird public sense we have that cheap gas is an American right.
So now the market corrects many of those assumptions with the same level of indifference we've long displayed on the subject. And politicians are going to make this process better somehow? Or are they just likely to confuse the issue, as they so often do?
"The gas 'crisis' won’t be solved by politicians," Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog, May 5, 2006
At a new online site called HedgeStreet, investors can bet on changes in home prices in certain cities. And later this month the Chicago Mercantile Exchange is going to start trading futures contracts pegged to housing-price indexes in ten major metropolitan areas. The Chicago plan, which is the brainchild of two economists, Karl Case, of Wellesley, and Robert Shiller, of Yale, is straightforward: if you just spent, say, $1.5 million on a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, and you want to hedge against the risk that it might be worth $1.2 million three years from now, you can sell contracts that will reap you a profit if local prices fall, allowing you to lock in the current value of your home. Alternatively, if you think the housing boom in Los Angeles still has a ways to run—or if you’re interested in buying a year from now but are afraid that you’ll be priced out of the market—you can place a bet that will pay off if prices keep going up.
"Through the Roof," by James Surowiecki, The New Yorker, May 1, 2006
- HedgeStreet (requires cookies)
- "E-futures for the People: HedgeStreet connects Wall Street with Main Street," RedHerring, April 3, 2006
- "CBOE, HedgeStreet join forces: Firms look to deepen liquidity, market 'hedgelets'," by John Spence, MarketWatch, February 22, 2006
- "Investors get new Net spot," by Kathleen Pender, SFGate, September 29, 2005
- "Derivatives on housing prices," Marginal Revolution, December 21, 2004
Crisp & Juicy
A friend recommended Crisp & Juicy in Arlington for excellent Peruvian chicken. They cook their rotisserie chicken over a wood charcoal fire, occassionally throwing some water on the coals to create steam.
The chicken is just like the name - skin is crisp and the meat is juicy. The skin is very tasty, having been rubbed with herbs and spices. They offer hot and mild sauces, which are also good with the fries.
chicken breast sandwich
The chicken breast sandwich (they were out of dark meat), with everything on it, including both hot and mild sauces. Excellent.
The whole chicken is also excellent.
Mix the black beans and rice with the salad - excellent. Fries OK.
Crisp & Juicy, 4540 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA
Bluebook hazing - Ending Prohibition in Mexico?
Right of passage
I will now explore the reasons why the Bluebook market failure persists despite its manifest flaws.
1. Most Bluebook costs are externalities.
. . .
2. Short time horizons.
. . .
3. Bluebooking as hazing.
. . .
Some people argue that the main obstacle to Bluebook abolition is the self-interest of the four journals who publish it and make a great deal of money as a result (Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Penn). It is true that this interest exists, but it does not explain why editorial boards at other journals (who are consumers of the Bluebook rather than producers) do not junk it in favor of a simpler system.
"The Law and Economics of the Bluebook Market Failure," by Ilya Somin, The Volokh Conspiracy, May 2, 2006
Ending Prohibition in Mexico?
Mexico's president will approve a law that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and other drugs to concentrate on fighting violent drug gangs, the government said on Tuesday.
President Vicente Fox will not oppose the bill, passed by senators last week, presidential spokesman Ruben Aguilar told reporters, despite likely tensions with the United States.
"Mexico's Fox to OK drug decriminalization law," by Noel Randewich, Reuters, May 2, 2006
Improving the gene pool, wood computers, aging civil service
Improving the gene pool
Match low-earning, socially adept teachers with high-earning, socially challenged engineers. Good for the teaching profession, good for family income, probably a good mix for the gene pool.
"Teachers (heart) teachers," joannejacobs.com, May 2, 2006
Wood! It grows on trees! It's the most common building material in the world, it can be harvested sustainably, it's beautiful, it's nice to touch and look at, and it's completely ignored in consumer electronics.
But in the past few weeks, we've seen quite a few new electronic devices housed in wood, and so we went on a search. A long search, it turned out, for all the best, coolest and most useful products in wooden computing.
Aging civil service
The government will soon need recruits to help it ride out a coming wave of retirements. At the same time, it wants to hang on to its experienced hands for as long as possible.
. . .
About 60 percent of the 1.8 million civil service employees will be eligible to retire in the next 10 years and 40 percent of them will leave, based on the government's past experience with retirements, Springer said. She noted that 90 percent of federal executives will be eligible to retire in the next decade.
"Objective: Replace Retirees," by Stephen Barr, The Washington Post, May 2, 2006