Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

History On Fire

Last night just before dusk you could still see flames licking the upper floors of the Georgetown library. The Eastern Market fire was bad enough, but the library fire appears to be an even greater calamity.

Everyone loves Eastern Market, and they should, not only because, as Fisher says, it's a great place to mingle with people, but also because if you're a manfood aficionado you know it's the best place to buy beef ribs and ham hocks and bacon scraps and whatnot. Market Poultry was where you'd go for the chicken necks for making stock. (That's where Weingarten gets his Thanksgiving turkeys.) The owner of Market Poultry stood outside yesterday, accepting condolences, and he vowed to be back in business soon. He'll have plenty of community support.

But the library -- wow. The scale of that fire appears an order of magnitude larger. It looked to me as though there couldn't have been much left of the interior.

For those of you who've never seen it, the library surveys Georgetown from a hill that slopes down to the Potomac. The library's Peabody Room is -- or was -- jammed with historical treasures, including files of magazine and newspaper stories that any other place would have purged. (I recall that it was in the Peabody Room that I found Hank Burchard's series of stories about the Potomac River that ran in the Post back in the Jurassic, and where I came across the 1793 description of the Potomac by Tobias Lear, GW's personal secretary.)

History is vulnerable. It has the bad habit of being ... well, not very current. Not sexy. Old. But things widely perceived as "historic" are typically not so very far in the past. The point has been made before, but let's make it again: The past wasn't so long ago. (It's not even past, said Fitzgerald.)

Contrary to what some people say, libraries still matter even in the age of Google. Most things aren't online. They're not digitized. Even if they were, the Internet couldn't replace libraries -- not only because of the collective memory of the library staff, but because you can't easily replicate the bandwidth of a book containing footnotes or a whole shelf of books on a single topic.

Yesterday I went to the Library of Congress (after viewing what's left of Eastern Market) and tried to find some information on extinction events. But you can't browse the shelves anymore (the stacks have been closed for many years now -- a wise decision), and so you have to use the online database. The online catalog is excellent, but sometimes there's too much stuff. I couldn't find what I wanted -- because I wasn't really "there," but rather was merely using a computer to search what was behind closed doors.

In the future we'll have digital assistants (software programs) that will help us find things. But for now an excellent way to find material is to go to a bricks-and-mortar facility known as a library. And they let you walk out with books, no charge! All you have to do is promise to bring them back. Libraries are very small-d democratic.

IGeorgetown library will surely reopen, and maybe that historical collection can be reassembled. But it looks like many small treasures went up in smoke -- existing now only in our (dimming) collective memory.


Boodle mining:

We were talking yesterday about the Neanderthal DNA report, and the boodle's resident paleontologist, Dooley, last night posted this comment that deserves highlighting:

' My two cents on Neanderthals, with the disclaimer that I don't work on hominid fossils:

'I had always leaned in favor of the possibility of inbreeding between these populations. The molecular studies in recent years made me rethink that, and I started to wonder if *gasp* I'd been wrong. (Not really gasping--I'm wrong all the time.)

'So here are some points that might be relevant (some of these might have the paleoanthropologists' coming at me with slavering fangs, but that's OK):

'1) I have the feeling that hominids are oversplit taxonomically (someone mentioned "splitters" and "lumpers" earlier--I'm a lumper.) I think the oversplitting is more rampant in hominids because it concerns our species, and so

minor differences unconsciously take on greater importance. In most other groups of organisms, the amount of variation seen in hominids wouldn't justify that level of splitting, especially considering how variable modern humans are. Moreover, the situation seems to be stabilizing--there are currently many fewer recognized genera and species of hominid than there were 50 years ago, and sometimes even the great apes are placed in the Hominidae rather than their own family, the Pongidae (for example, see:

'If hominids are oversplit, it could result in Homo sapiens and H. neanderthalensis being closer than might be supposed (the groups used to be called H. sapiens sapiens and H. sapiens neanderthalensis, subspecies of the same species, theoretically capable of interbreeding.)

'2) While molecular systematics is extremely powerful, the least robust parts of those studies are the "molecular clock" parts. A large number of potentially shaky and untestable assumptions go into the timing of genetic events. That doesn't mean the dates are always wrong, but I don't put much faith in them unless there is fossil evidence to support them (of course, I'm biased toward fossils.)

'3) I wondered how well-known the Neanderthal genome is. From this study, it appears to be "not very."

'4) This is shakier, but my impression of the specimens of Homo sapiens from the late Pleistocene is that they're almost "too human". From what I know of their morphology (not much, and I might be out-of-date), they were on average taller and somewhat more gracile than modern humans. I had a hard time imagining that we were descended purely from these Pleistocene Adonises. I wondered if our slightly shorter, stockier modern humans were the result of hybridization. (This is probably not very likely, as any Neanderthal influence would appear to be minor.)

'5) Humans (when you consider the species as a whole) will attempt to mate with just about anything--probably only dolphins are as liberal in their selection of mating partners (a side effect of intelligence?) It's hard to imagine humans and Neanderthals with a sympatric distribution NOT mating--at least on the sly, back behind the mammoth carcass where no one can see. Then it's just a matter of offspring viability (are they fertile, are they immediately killed for "being an abomination" or some such.)

'And besides, I've always kind of fancied the possibility that I might have some Neanderthal blood.

Wow, sorry, I thought this was going to be a short post!' -- Dooley

By Joel Achenbach  |  April 30, 2007; 6:50 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Shakespeare's neologisms
Next: How Much Is Enough?



Posted by: Scottynuke | May 1, 2007 9:13 AM | Report abuse

With some formatting issues, apparently... :-O

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 1, 2007 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Is there a prize for posting first?

How about for last which I usually am?

I have a day off and would love to do nothing, but look at the redbuds.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | May 1, 2007 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Some good Nats news...

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 1, 2007 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Scotty, How is attendence for the Nationals this year? Do you know when their new stadium is supposed to be finished?

Do you go to any home games?

Posted by: greenwithenvy | May 1, 2007 9:34 AM | Report abuse


I try to get to a game or two during the season, and we're looking into a Boodle Porching Hour at RFK. From what I've seen on TV, attendance is l-o-w.

The new stadium should be finished in time for the '08 season.

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 1, 2007 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Repost from last boodle:

It is May Day or International Workers Day or, as it known as in the US, Tuesday.

Never under estimate the combined power of peer pressure and alcohol when it comes to body modification, particularly among the college aged. My cousin is exceptionally phobic about needles, but has a small incomplete tattoo he got before passing out.

My sister got a little yin-yang symbol tatted on her ankle but shaved her leg before the ink had set so now it is just a odd shaped curve.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 1, 2007 9:40 AM | Report abuse

I would like to go to a game or two before the new stadium is built. Please keep me posted on the BPH there. Does RFK still *Rock* during baseball games?

Posted by: greenwithenvy | May 1, 2007 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Not only is the past old, it tends to be small. The Library of Congress is a great example. The Jefferson Building is stately and grand and nowhere big enough. The Adams Building is twice the size and is still packed to the rafters. The rather ugly Madison Building takes up a whole block.

The stacks of the Jefferson Building are submarine like in their hallway and shelf dimensions. It takes a lot of ducking to wander around the stacks.

One of the coolest places I have been in on the roof of the Reading Room dome. You have to crawl up a series of ladders to get to a catwalk that lead to a balcony that rings the dome. It has a fantastic view over the Capitol and all the way to Potomac.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 1, 2007 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Hey Joel,
Do your posters always go off on their own random tangents?

You have Fitzgerald confused with Faulkner. Oops.

Am I the only person who has been to the Eastern Market who failed to be "charmed" by the grottiness of the place? Blech.

And finally, though I am the muse of history, I have to say that I will not shed a tear for either of these dumps that burned down yesterday. Georgetown may finally be free to move forward in time from ye olde colonial dayes--that's a bad thing? Eastern Market, if it is really the centerpiece of a living community, can be rebuilt in conformity with 21st century building codes and expectations. Again, I fail to see what the blubbering is about.

Don't get so bloody misty-eyed over every brick pile. Seriously, who's the girl here?

Posted by: Clio | May 1, 2007 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the lumper/splitter nod, dooley. I'm a lumper too. I did a search for information regarding the Neanderthal genome and linked to an article in the Nova pages at PBS that recounted some preliminary data about Neanderthal's mitochondral DNA, circa 1997. That particular bit contended that the DNA evidence didn't support relatedness, thus discounting the hypothesis that interbreeding occurred. I forgot that Neanderthals were classified as a subspecies of H. sapiens. I think the proponents of interbreeding are on the right track and, as I said yesterday, will eventually find the DNA evidence. Now I wish that scientific names would be given the proper capitalisation and italicisation they deserve in print.

Posted by: jack | May 1, 2007 9:57 AM | Report abuse

A few years ago, when my husband was doing lots of research at the Library of Congress, he noticed the torch that caps the Library's dome was being pulled in on a flatbed truck after its renovation (I think it was re-gilded).

Seeing the torch sitting on the truck before it was re-hoisted up onto the dome, he put his hand on it. He loves to point it out to the kids and say, "I had my hand on the cap of that dome!"

Posted by: TBG | May 1, 2007 10:03 AM | Report abuse

SCC: Let's try again:

One of the coolest places I have ever been is on the roof of the Library of Congress Reading Room dome.

Other places include the Shuttle launch tower and inside the abandoned DC-3 that the last president of South Vietnam fled the country in.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 1, 2007 10:08 AM | Report abuse

TBG: Very Cool.

Clio: We just have a much more expansive definition of on-topic than most blogs. Feel free to start your own tangents. It's survival of the fittest here. If people want to discuss they will. If they don't, oh, well.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 1, 2007 10:12 AM | Report abuse

My favorite artifact of living near the Library of Congress is that I carry in my wallet a Reader's Card. (Tingling as I write!)

I am sad about not being able to haunt the stacks but I understand.

I remain charmed by the yellow interior of LoC. Jefferson picked this color for many of his interiors. Sometimes the light butter shade is known as architectural yellow. I painted my front door this color and think of TJ often. His books formed the original LoC collection.

He was, like many here, a bibliomane. Such a gentle and good madness.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 1, 2007 10:16 AM | Report abuse

I think it is a important fact that these buildings were old. Here in America when a historic building burns down, we are losing a piece of history.

Also I think you must take into consideration what happens when there is a fire. A fire, any fire is a terrible tragedy.Not only has a historic place been lost, but many lives have been disrupted. Think about all the people who lives have been affected by these fires. The vendors in the market, the workers in the library, all the way down to the janitor who works late nights cleaning the place.

Show a little compassion for all who have lost their livelyhood by these terrible fires.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | May 1, 2007 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of Google, events like the Georgetown Library fire would seem to weigh in favor of their effort to scan darn near every possible scrap of human information into their Big eFfing Database (BFD), wouldn't it?

If those documents and old newspapers had been in the BFD, while the originals could be lost or destroyed in a fire or flood or other event, at least the information would be preserved.

As I posted Sunday night, I suspect most ot the Neandertal/modern human mating probably occurred just after closing time.
They flickered the campfire a couple of times and the grogtenders shooed everyone back to their caves. Or somebody's caves, anyway.


Posted by: bc | May 1, 2007 10:23 AM | Report abuse

There is really nothing like libraries. What is missing when you have to search for information via online catalogue, is the sheer pleasure of taking a book out, and opening it and just simply inhaling the smell of ancient pages.

Occasionally this is not a great smell, at least when you are looking at books in the places I look at books, like the Salvation Army store down the street. Logic tells me that most of that scent is really the scent of pages printed on cheap acidic paper, and is a sign of the slow disintegration these books will suffer, but I prefer my more idealistic belief that that slightly musty dry scent is the scent of learning, the scent of thinking and thoughtful narrative, and poetry.

Posted by: dr | May 1, 2007 10:24 AM | Report abuse

CP, you promise it's a good madness? I certainly have a terrible case of it.

The buildings are replaceable, but the stuff in them isn't. I hope the collection in Georgetown was microfiched or otherwise scanned.

Posted by: Slyness | May 1, 2007 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I love the library here in my small town. It's not that big, but just love going there with all the books and stuff. I can be there a long time, and just go from one thing to the other. I am sorry about the fires. Fires are always bad, nothing good there. The loss from a fire is always bad. One just cannot replace everything.

Posted by: Cassandra S | May 1, 2007 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I also have a LOC Readers Card that is at least ten years old. I have never used it for general admittance. At my last job I had an Architect of the Capitol contractors badge that gets you into much cooler places as long as you look like you belong there. I never found the much fabled pornography collection, but I did find some very rare Vonnegutia on the shelfs.

Going back several kits and tying into a link from the NYT in the last boodle:

The Harvard alumni interviewer article has been much ridiculed in the blogosphere as pretentious and arrogant even by the standards of the NYT and Harvard. In a case of sour grapes, he admits that his own kids won't get into Harvard even though that was his original motivation for volunteering with the Admission Office.

Equally deserving of sympathy is this WaPo profile of a girl that got rejected by all five of the Ivys and NearIvys she applied to:

She is having to settle for the Honors program at UMCP (which claims to be more selective and exclusive than prestigious private schools, this case study not withstanding).

The spin on the article was how polite the rejection letters are trying to be.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 1, 2007 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Upstairs from where I sit there is a library whose historical section is full of beautifully maintained documents. The elderly librarian who used to oversee this collection knew everything about everything. Sadly, he retired a few years ago. But before he did there was a concerted effort by the younger librarians to capture his insights and wisdom. So as valuable as old books clearly are, there is also great value in the people who work with them.

Indeed, librarians in general are a wonderful asset to our society and deserve our undying respect.

So cut me some slack about the Marple book. Okay?

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 1, 2007 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Architectural yellow? Yellow Rose of Texas? Research debunking myth.

From today's paper, a story about how a North Carolinian historical researcher dug out the truth about Emily "Morgan"--the mulatto slave girl who waylaid Santa Anna in his tent at just the right moment. As the writer of the feature story fails to mention, the (fullname of the) library that held the letter that proved key to his research was housed in the Walter Loomis Newberry Library in Chicago.

The only credible documentation Lutzweiler found describing what transpired in Santa Anna's tent on the day of the battle is archived in the Newberry Library in Chicago. It is a brief record handwritten July 6, 1842, in the diary of William Bollaert, an Englishman who was traveling through Texas in 1842-44.

Posted by: Loomis | May 1, 2007 10:38 AM | Report abuse

YK -- I don't think you mean "settle" but are simply reporting the state of culture re middle class children and their college prospects.

(Disclaimer: I teach in that honors program so I guess I resemble that remark).

Hey: what have the best and brightest offered us anyway? Robert MacNamara, Paul Wolfowitz....others?

Can we not shift our collective thinking toward the many fine and unknowledged contributions to humanity by most of us?

I love my time with students but am worried about the pressure they feel (having largely internalized both parental and societal expectations) to at the same time:
*an astronaut
*cure cancer from space
*run their own company
*work from the beach house
*not commute
*produce beautiful, bright and healthy children named Taylor and Parker
*live in an eco mansionette
*marry the perfect person
*stay buff
*run an ultra marathon

and whatever. Most of us will be ordinary. We should help them be happy with ordinary and the loveliness of family, hard work, a hobby or two, charity-work, and kindness. Kindness.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 1, 2007 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Joel wrote yesterday:

I only know of the West Ford "secret son" story recounted in "An Imperfect God" by Henry Wiencek. An implausible tale, that (though a very good book).

Joel, I had to Google the West Ford story (a story similar to the now-authenticated Sally Hemings-Jefferson story) and it's not the one I unearthed.

I was browsing in the deep clearance shelves of our neighborhood used bookstore on Sunday. I normally don't make it a routine to browse there but my husband was delayed in swinging by to pick me up so I wandered into (what turned out to be messy and disorganized) stacks that I don't frequent.

Since I was both drawn to and startled by the cover photograph, I went back yesterday and bought the book for one dollar--along with some others.

I shall try to give you the particulars later today, I hope--but also figure into the equation that my husband will arrive home early today to prep for his trip to Philly tomorrow. DNA testing has come a long way since this book was published and the gentleman whose resemblance to George Washington's portrait is so striking is coming down on a male line (I gather from extremely quick browsing), so it raises the question of Y chromosome inheritance and possible testing of same.

Let me get all my facts together, really peruse the book for more than a few minutes and report back.

Posted by: Loomis | May 1, 2007 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I like the idea of scanning everything, except -- will it be used as a way to make the information conveniently accessible while preserving the original physical records for further investigation? Or will it be used as an excuse to dispose of the paper records and save the space?

The physical artifact carries much more information than just what is printed on the page. Isotopic data from the time of manufacture (for the benefit of very-distant-future archaeologists). Marginal notes by Fermat. Secret coded messages from spies. And then there's the Archimedes Palimpsest, which mostly showed a lot of boring and just-like-everywhere else Church liturgy or some-such thing -- but incidentally recorded (faintly) the only known copy of a text written by one of history's greatest mathematical and scientific geniuses. All that stuff is in the metadata of the artifact. Scanning the book can store pretty much only the information that you thought you were scanning for -- plus, maybe some hints of deeper secrets, showing up as smudges on the scanned page. But that only works if you go to the original scan, not the part that has been translated by optical character recognition. The great interest in Medieval illuminated manuscripts is not, for the most part, the content of the words. You need to reproduce the original page.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 1, 2007 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Yikes! Miss one day and you're two boodles behind. 237 comments just yesterday?

CP, I see you got your rhubarb fix. Do you still need some? 'Cuz I can get a delivery from Mom at the end of the month.

Posted by: Raysmom | May 1, 2007 11:06 AM | Report abuse

May 1 may be May Day and International Worker's Day, but for some reason I know of too many people who've passed on this day over the years. Definitely a day for refelction for me.


PS, Error, one of those people I'm thinking of today is Ayrton Senna. I went to the Brazilian embassy in 2004 when they has a little memorial service for the 10th anniversary of his passing.

Posted by: bc | May 1, 2007 11:06 AM | Report abuse

FYI...this job pays more than a lot that I'm familiar with...,0,1402766.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Posted by: jack | May 1, 2007 11:06 AM | Report abuse

I liked that NY Times opinion piece by a guy who's done a number of alumni interviews for Harvard. Back in the Neolithic when I was unjustifiably optimistic about applying to colleges, I got to do two such alumni interviews, which were pleasant if not productive.

Thinking of softening-the-blow tactics,I recall receiving a post card to be returned if I wanted to be placed on a "waiting list." But few, if any, of those on the list would be offered admission. I guess they thought it would be soothing to be put on a list, even if it was meaningless.

Posted by: Dave of the coonties | May 1, 2007 11:09 AM | Report abuse

>PS, Error, one of those people I'm thinking of today is Ayrton Senna.

Yeah, that was a great one lost. Strangely enough that was one of the first times I was digitizing the race and was able to go through the accident sequence frame-by-frame to see what happened. Sad.

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 1, 2007 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Tim, I would never advocate the destruction/removal of original docs. I agree 100% that the originals contain far more information than just what's been imprinted onto the media.

Besides, how will you find the secret invisible ink 3D maps to various Faubulous International treasure troves on the back of scanned images? Hello?


Posted by: bc | May 1, 2007 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Maybe I'm a little jaded, but if a dolt like George W. Bush can get into and graduate from an Ivy-League school, I really don't see what all the fuss is about. A serious student can get just as enriching an educational experience from any school, or even from his/her own research in their field of choice. We don't need to perpetuate the nonsense and academic snobbery of these Ivy-league elitist halls of learning. But we will continue to do so, showcasing our own herd mentality.

In my opinion.

Posted by: Gomer | May 1, 2007 11:23 AM | Report abuse

The other thing is, when you search online, you only get what you asked for. When you can walk among the stacks (or get someone to do it for you) and actually take down volumes you didn't know you needed, you find some amazing stuff. I don't know when I've been in a library, either for pleasure or study, that I didn't find something I didn't know I was looking for.

Posted by: Yoki | May 1, 2007 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Gomer, I think that's what the NYT commentary was all about. And the girl in the Post today certainly didn't "settle" for the UMd Honors program.

The article ends with...

Like so many other students, Tanvi went back to the letters from her safety schools. She had gotten into the University of Maryland, into its honors program. "So life isn't completely hopeless," she said.

And by now? She's so over it. Forget all those Ivies.

She visited U-Md., met students, felt like she could really stand out in the pre-med program. "It was amazing. It was so much fun," she said. "This is really where I was meant to be."

Posted by: TBG | May 1, 2007 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Yoki - that's why, as I have ranted, I mean discussed, before, a Google search should never be your first stop unless you know for sure what you want. Take some time and browse through Google directory.

or the Yahoo directory (better in my opinion)

It's like browsing the stacks without all the dust.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 1, 2007 11:33 AM | Report abuse

One kind of depressing thing about the rise of the internet age and unlimited information at our fingertips is the decline in the use of libraries by our children. When I assign a research-based project and only allow one or two internet references, the kids freak. When they ask where to go for information, I get blank stares upon mentioning the local public library, or their proximity to the University of Texas library. The kids today don't get it, and they think the rest of us old farts are stupid for going to the trouble instead of just Googling it.

Posted by: Gomer | May 1, 2007 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Happy May Day! Workers of the World, Unite! We told the Boy to be sure and greet his teachers that way today.

One of the great privileges of a former job I held connected with the Library of Congress was going into the stacks to get books. I remember going way down into the bottom stacks and coming on law books from Edward VI. Just sitting there. Guess they weren't important enough for the preserved collection.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 1, 2007 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, TBG. I have to admit, I skipped following the link to the article with all the back-boodling I have to do to catch up with you prolific writers.

Posted by: Gomer | May 1, 2007 11:36 AM | Report abuse

How We Became a Hokie Family

By Melanie Carroll

Posted by: omni | May 1, 2007 11:42 AM | Report abuse

I assert that if anyone is ever bored, there is lots of fun browsing to be done here in particular.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 1, 2007 11:43 AM | Report abuse

The key word is that the client gets charged $60-70 per hour and that is top end and double the industry rate. I doubt the actually flag twirler gets anywhere close to half that.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 1, 2007 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Boy, that's a bit of a back-handed compliment, isn't it?:

"She visited U-Md., met students, felt like she could really stand out in the pre-med program."

Libraries: love 'em. I recently rediscovered the public library. It turns out I don't have to buy every book I have a passing interest in! At this "library", I can borrow for a while, and then give it back! Who knew.

Posted by: SonofCarl | May 1, 2007 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, those books are such a great connection with the past. After reading the kit I sauntered on up to our library and pulled out the reprint of the All England Reports 1558-1774. Great stuff. I was going to type out an excerpt but anything but a snippet would be long-ish.

Posted by: SonofCarl | May 1, 2007 11:48 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the consensus that it is not the end of the world to be rejected from a prestigious institution, and that other schools have students just as bright and programs just as good. I firmly believe that "the best and the brightest" are everywhere, and don't need elite education to prosper and serve. I will encourage the Boy, as I have many other kids, to apply where he feels comfortable and fits well, no matter how prestigious the institution.

However, I am compelled to put in a word for elite schools. I went to an Ivy for graduate school. While I wouldn't recommend it for an undergrad degree (too big, not enough contact with the professors), the sheer scale and scope of the graduate offerings it was able to provide, and the quality of professors, were invaluable. I went to an elite undergraduate school too, and it was well worth it. Neither school was primarily "nonsense and academic snobbery", nor were they consciously elitist (as opposed to elite). In fact, the financial aid and merit-based admissions made it possible for more students from these schools to enter public service or academia, both difficult options when you're looking at loans and expectations. Elite schools don't do everything well, and they are equalled by many state and smaller private school programs. However, they can in fact provide an excellent education, and don't deserve unbridled opprobrium.

In my experience, at least some of the "snobbery" of these institutions is fostered by the outside, from folks who both buy into and resent the myths surrounding them. I note that, while academic performance is certainly among these myths, the ones that seem to rankle most involve wealth, social privilege, etc. I can assure you that not all (or even a majority) of the students I knew or have known since were wealthy, and most were not members of the social "set" wherever they were from. While there is an advantage to an "elite" degree, the practical consequences of that advantage are tempered by where you are and what you want to do. I think, in fact, the popular impression of "elite" schools as snobbish has sparked a backlash. Speaking only from personal experience again, I have noticed that as you get farther from the coasts, such a degree becomes more of a curiosity than a get-in-free card; also, people are more likely to say they went to school "back East" than name the school.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 1, 2007 11:49 AM | Report abuse


Please take no umbrage over the UMCP Honors Program. It sounds like a great program and a good fit for serious students and we know not all at UMCP are. The inquiry letter my son received pointed out that it is more exclusive than most private schools. And statistically, based on SATs, class rank, etc., it's probably true. My point is that if ANY of the five private schools had accepted Tanvi, she would have been going there instead. TBG hit on the money quote I was going to use, but I interpret it differently.

I think "settled" sums up the attitude in her mind. She even goes on to make a few sour grapish remarks about how her pre-med program will be easier without all the competition she would have had at an Ivy.

My alma mater has just started an Honors Program which is limited to 180 students out of a freshman class of 3,000. The selling points are a separate dorm, no freshman classes over 30 in size, and access to special non-cataloged seminar courses. We are talking about one of the top ten engineering schools in the country now skimming another 6% off the top. For what reason I'm not sure.

I asked what their selection criteria were and it was as nebulous and intangible as any Ivy League mission statement. The school also runs a separate merit scholarship program and the overlap between the two is less than 20%. They can't even decide internally who are the best and brightest of an already pretty heady bunch.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 1, 2007 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Back when I first started real life and was dirt poor I got a majority of the books I wanted to read from libraries. I would spend one lunch break a week at the library near work. Then I got a better job, paid off my debt, got several really good raises and started buying books again. Now I have so many I'm beginning to think about the library instead of the bookstore again. Either that or a bigger apt.

Posted by: omni | May 1, 2007 11:52 AM | Report abuse

yellojkt picked up on the same quote I did. Maybe if the conditions were right she could even mate with one of these others.

Posted by: SonofCarl | May 1, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Ivansmom -- you are right. Goodness happens everywhere. I laugh at your "Back East" phrase, as I must live that down constantly....and actually, I don't believe I am Back East, even though I have lived here longer than any other locale on the planet. How in blue blazes did that come about?

My students get a kick out of my cowboy boots. One student quipped about my wheels, "Is your other bike a horse?"

Finally, I sometime say, Western-ish things to them. So, I am colorfull, in a Cowgal sorta way. Incidentally, my most fave cowboy guy-friend hails from Broken Arrow, OK -- fairly well-known family of Cherokee-Pawnee-Irish lines. Don't know if they claim Neandertal genes. Red hair has not popped up, to their ongoing dismay.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 1, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Here's a weird thing I do. (Well, actually just one of many.) I read an awful lot of library books. Whenever I finish one, I write the title, author, and what I thought of it in a little notebook.

That way, if I want to recommend a book, or if I just need to jog my memory, I simply consult this list.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 1, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

RD, I have a brother with a similar system.

Posted by: dmd | May 1, 2007 12:03 PM | Report abuse

YJ -- no umbrage. Just a wish that we would all simmer down about being the best and brightest...

I think Garrison Keillor's quote reveals so much about human nature: home town....where all the men are good lookin', the women strong, and the children, well, they're all above average....

I know your Darling Brilliant Wife has stories to tell about supporting bright children in school, without overemphasizing the value of braininess. Recall the old quote often leveled at young ladies: Prettiness is as prettiness does?

Smartiness is as smartiness does.

I like it when people lead with character. Paul Wolfowitz is awfully smart, I am sure. But, he missed the day on polishing and oiling your moral compass.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 1, 2007 12:05 PM | Report abuse

yello: I was looking at the byline and only skimmed the article. I had an adolescent moment and posted before thinking about the consequences of the post.

Posted by: jack | May 1, 2007 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Oh, Raysmom, I am a addict and powerless before rhubarb. I would love such bounty in late May from Raysmom's mommy, or as Frosti would intone: Ma Raysmom.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 1, 2007 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Yello and SoC... I also saw the irony in her "I'll shine here" remark about pre-med at U-Md.

But what I got out of that quote was that, although she would have jumped at any of those Ivy-ish schools she didn't make it into, what she came away with was what a 17 or 18 year old really should be concerned with: "I'll be happy here."

I think in the grand scheme of things that might be the most important goal of all but it usually takes years of pushing for "success" to figure it out.

Posted by: TBG | May 1, 2007 12:11 PM | Report abuse

RD, I was reading an ancient text on how to organize a household, last evening which recommened that very thing about listing books you have read. You're not one of those secretly organized people are you? Because my whole mental picture of you is you in a cubicle surrounded by layers of very important papers.

The ancient text about household organization was not being read in order to actually organize my household. I am waaaay to far gone for that. I was looking for a recipe. I'm sticking to this story for all I am worth.

The things I love about old books is that their owners frequently used to write in them, sometime margin notes, sometimes in the flyleaf. The coolest of mine is a gentelmans name, with an ode to a certain young lady, and lower on the flyleaf, a quote about fickle women. Somewhere out there once upon a time, was a young man whose heart was broken, and it is immortalised.

My only bone to pick with my community library is that it is all about paperbacks, and new books. They are selling off the really lovely things because according to them no one is using them. That is simply the silliest thing a library can do. The library board is sadly misdirected, and one day I am going to do something about that.

Posted by: dr | May 1, 2007 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Wow! RD, also dmd's brother, I am in awe. I wish I were that organized. While I am obsessively particular in many ways, that isn't among them. Even with books I own, I'm constantly fumbling for title, author, and topic when I'm trying to recommend or even recollect one. I'm lucky to get one out of three. I have the same problem with wine (I can get color, country of origin, and perhaps type, but not usually all three). I wonder if it is too late to start?

Of course, then I look at my reading list and realize, with the exception of the books recommended on the Boodle, why I don't write them down.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 1, 2007 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom - You are quite right about the sense of elitism being an external thing. I went to a school that, to a vanishingly narrow segment of society, is considered elite. But it certainly didn't seem that way at the time.

In fact, one of the most salient characteristics of the school is that it made me feel pretty unexceptional. When you attend class with kids who are all scary smart, not only do you learn an awful lot from them, but you realize that you, yourself, aren't really the hot stuff you might have otherwise thought.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 1, 2007 12:15 PM | Report abuse

dr - My environment is painfully organized. It has to be because my brain is not.

CP - You make an excellent point. Intelligence is not a virtue. It is a gift and a respopnsibility. And where there is (no wait, that's Spiderman.)

The point is, I need to remind both my children that being smart isn't nearly as important as being kind.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 1, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Our libraries are doing the same thing, dr. They still have some good stuff tucked away, but every year they have more popular, best-seller type stuff. The reference, non-fiction, and old fiction books we find at the annual library sale are incredible. It is a huge event, and earned over $251,000 this year (with most of the sales at $1 or .75 per book), but I sometimes cringe at what we can buy.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 1, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I'm truly saddened by the loss of the Georgetown library, as I used to work there. Of course, many are suggesting that copies (electronic or otherwise) should have been made of items in the historical collection, and they probably should have. Librarians and archivists call this the LOCKSS principle (Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe). But, it costs money. Lots of it. And DCPL couldn't afford to replace the rotting wood window frames, patch the tripping hazard they called a carpet or anything else. Other library systems do a much better job of maintaining their facilities and collections (see the beautiful Seattle Public Library). In part because they use both public and private funds. Also in part because their municipal governments work a little (okay, a lot) better.

Anyway, I also wanted to mention that while you may in the future have "digital assistants" to help you find stuff online, you can access a "digital assistant" right now. Most public libraries (not DC, of course, but ALL the other ones in the US), offer access to "digital assistants". We prefer the term "librarian", but they are there to answer your questions. In person. On the phone. Via e-mail. Via IM. Try one next time you're stuck for an answer!

Posted by: Amanda | May 1, 2007 12:24 PM | Report abuse


The Hokie family story is very touching and valid. The tragedy there should not dissuade anyone going there.

It is not a factor in my son's decision. He has already struck VT off his list. Just to make sure it got a fair shake, we went off the beaten path this summer to have lunch in Blacksburg. The part of town next to campus had a great college town vibe similar to Chapel Hill and way better than Durham. Lunch at a funky Cajun-themed place was delicious. Then we went to the bookstore. Since it was a Saturday in the summer, the place was pretty barren. The non-textbook-book section of the store was barely comparable to a small mall bookstore.

I told him that this wasn't a fair view, so we went to the off-campus bookstore and it was no better. There was plenty of Hokie paraphernalia, but very few books. He saw himself having to satisfy his reading needs with Amazon for four years and didn't think he could survive under such adverse circumstances.

The official bookstore for my alma mater is a BigBoxOfBooks franchise complete with OverPricedMegaChainCoffeeShop. The stacks were full of books and they had a poster advertising Thomas Friedman coming for a signing.

Some people pick colleges based on the athletic program or the school colors or the food at the cafeteria. My son requires convenient access to a large well-stocked bookstore.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 1, 2007 12:25 PM | Report abuse

RD Padouk, I am devastated, just devastated to hear that.

Posted by: dr | May 1, 2007 12:25 PM | Report abuse

dr - My cubicle is extremely cluttered with little wooden boxes, a fountain, and a bunch of succulents everywhere. It's not sterile or anything. Think a Japanese garden with filing cabinets and three computers. I crave clutter, but it has to be organized clutter. I like fractals, not noise.

I know people whose desks are totally covered with stacks and stacks of paper. I stand in awe of such people. I fear my brain would simply overload if exposed to that much disorder. I wouldn't be able to process it. They would find me curled up into a whimpering little ball.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 1, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

The most important characteristic of a good school is that you like the kids across the hall.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 1, 2007 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I like RD's point about the leveling experience of college. That is one reason I am so skeptical of this whole "best and the brightest" nonsense. Some of those Ivies are huge. There were over 500 people in my law school entering class, and that is only a fraction of the whole university's population. The whole law school was bigger than my undergraduate school. Where admission standards are high, pretty much the first thing you learn is that you're not so special. You also learn the value of other human attributes, kindness paramount among them. Character is evident through acts and deeds, not intelligence.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 1, 2007 12:34 PM | Report abuse

That and a liberal beverage policy.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 1, 2007 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if BigBoxOfBooks-type stores are supplanting the traditional role of a library. My family is a pretty big user of the small local branch library. If we want a popular book or something not in stock, we just interlibrary loan it. That said, these places keep slim weekend hours. My wife and I frequently shutdown BigBox on Friday night. We go there, browse the music section, get some magazines, order an OverPriced HighlyCaffeinated Milkshake and spend a few hours hogging a cafe table.

The few times our libraries have tried the coffee shop route, they have failed miserably. Just not enough traffic to justify the payroll.

And I too started keeping a log of books I have read. I made it a monthly feature of my blog. As luck would happen since I post it on the first of the month, today's post is this months list.

My monthly reading is seriously stuck at 2-4 books a month and I wish I could up the pace, but the lure of the internet is too entrancing. Here is a site deliberately designed for random useless surfing:

It doesn't have the pretense of wikipedia and skews pretty nerd-ward, but I have wasted more time than I care to admit just following links.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 1, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Its not disorder, its a filing system.

You realize that I am saying this in my own self defense. People always ask me where stuff is, and my normal response is, it's in there, while I point to a large room filled with piles. In recent renovations we added a second room and a section of wide but little used hallway. We now have more places for piles!

Posted by: dr | May 1, 2007 12:38 PM | Report abuse

My 12:34 was *not* intended to be a rebuttal to Ivansmom. The assertion that a liberal beverage policy is more important than good character, although an interesting topic of debate, is not a position I wish to take.

Lovely day for a walk doncha think?

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 1, 2007 12:38 PM | Report abuse

No, no, RD, I heartily agree. A liberal beverage policy is essential (the drinking age was 18 when I was in college). I'd even amend your previous post to suggest that an important factor is whether you'd like to date the kids across the hall, or at least on the campus.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 1, 2007 12:40 PM | Report abuse

CP writes:
I like it when people lead with character. Paul Wolfowitz is awfully smart, I am sure. But, he missed the day on polishing and oiling your moral compass.

Apparently, so did George Tenet. An opinion on whether Tenet's book will be a dud--from the L.A. Times:,0,6349019.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail

All these books drew appreciative reviews, though journalists like Suskind and DeYoung don't pull down what Woodward or big former insiders take home, from Tommy Frank's $5 million to Hillary Clinton's $8 million. But why would any publisher think that Tenet falls into this category? If I. Lewis Libby's a "Scooter," then Tenet's a "Neuter" by trade -- hush it up, make it go away, can't talk about that. Not a fine predictor of revelation. This is the spy who's coming in from talks on college campuses about the importance of national security, not a guy who's dedicated to memoir gold. Add up his assets and they come to WMB -- weapons of mass boredom.

Sure, there will be stuff we don't know. There has to be if Tenet wants to collect his paycheck. Presumably he'll be rougher on former colleagues out of power -- Donald Rumsfeld, perhaps, or Paul Wolfowitz -- than on Bush. But can you imagine Tenet, who's kept basically shoulder-to-shoulder with his commander in chief, describing Bush, a la O'Neill, as "a blind man in a room full of deaf people"? Is the successor to storied CIA directors such as Richard Helms, whose biographer titled his life "The Man Who Kept the Secrets," likely to want eternal literary fame as "the man who spilled the secrets"?

In my dictionary of literary and publishing terms, "tell-all" and "CIA" remain antonyms.

I may be wrong. If I am, I promise to eat yellowcake -- or maybe Tastykake -- in front of HarperCollins' headquarters in Manhattan the day after publication date. And, to plead the obvious -- it was the best judgment we could make in the absence of hard intelligence.

If I'm right, the only tenet sure to survive this moment will be a publishing no-brainer: Don't pay big bucks for the confessions of a man trained not to confess, and don't invest in the revelations of a writer most familiar with whole paragraphs redacted in black.

I say save your money for Rummy. He's got everything -- thumb-in-your-eye style, time on his hands and, like O'Neill, a motive. Tenet, I'm guessing, is New Memoir -- lots of hype, little dish. Rumsfeld -- should any Manhattan editor display the cojones to sign him up -- will be Old Memoir: stiletto-mean, ready to shock and awe, certain to neither greet nor be greeted with flowers.

Posted by: Loomis | May 1, 2007 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Suggest to your children that they be the ones across the hall or in the cubicle farm THAT THEY WANT TO KNOW.

Kindness. Hard-work. Keeping your word. Saying sorry. Laughing. Bringing in rhubarb or moonflowers.

RD is right to remind: somethings are given (not earned but happen as a statistical phenom, namely beauty and brains).

The virtues?: we all can and should cultivate these character traits. Interestingly, we become more beautiful to ourselves and others, when we cultivate them. Not sure about smartness. But, hard work and research beyond googlie-wikie, well, those choices will help everyone at work, more than smartiness does.

And, work does not value smartiness and grades as much as school does. This is a huge shock to many students!

Posted by: College Parkian | May 1, 2007 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai

This months Dharma message

Posted by: Anonymous | May 1, 2007 12:50 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: omni | May 1, 2007 12:50 PM | Report abuse

If you hurry and click on that link, you'll actually get April's Dharma message. Don't know when they'll update to May...

Posted by: omni | May 1, 2007 12:52 PM | Report abuse

RD, I've heard the papers-everywhere desk described as the volcano theory of organization. What you're currently working remains near the cauldron, the little bit of cleared space where you read and use the mouse. That stuff gets pushed into the mountain when something new comes along; you can still find it if needed by triangulation for a while. The papers you don't need any more eventually fall off the back and disappear.

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 1, 2007 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Omni -- thanks. Any thoughts on why you gave us this? I would like to hear your take. It is an invitation to community, by thinking clearly about the limits of too much SELF.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 1, 2007 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Am I the only one who uses her recycling wastebasket as a filing system as well? Our office's cleaning crew doesn't empty it (except when a new crew is hired and then they empty it into the general trash can), so I just keep the papers in there until it overflows.

In the meantime, I know that I can go back and find papers I "threw away" months ago. It's amazing how often that comes in handy.

Posted by: TBG | May 1, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

CP, once on a business trip in San Diego I came across a book in my hotel room. It had no title and no author. I really liked this book. So much so, that the thought of just taking it crossed my mind. The only info I could find inside the book that I thought might be useful in tracking down a copy is this:

Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai
Buddhist Promoting Foundation
3-14, 4-chome
Shiba Minato-ku, Tokyo

Since that day, about once a year I pull up an internet search. Today I was successful. I placed an order for 'The Teaching of Buddha', which is, I think, that book. Then I clicked on the Dharma message, and it is of course a message about shame.

Which is exactly what I remember feeling when the thought of taking the book from the hotel entered my mind.

Posted by: omni | May 1, 2007 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Yello.... I honestly hope that your son's college life will be so full that the idea of needing a big bookstore nearby seems funny to him at graduation.

If he really does need books nearby, the library at Va Tech houses more than 2 million books, not to mention its participation in an extensive inter-library loan system.

And a university doesn't need the nearby bookstore to host authors and speakers; I'm sure there are plenty of those events happening all the time.

There may be lots of reasons Va Tech isn't the place for your son, but not having a BigBoxoBooks within walking distance of his dorm shouldn't be one of them.

Posted by: TBG | May 1, 2007 1:30 PM | Report abuse

TBG, I'm laughing. The rule here in the back corner of the building is never to toss food or anything wet into your desk garbage. You never know when you need that little slip you tossed.

In our recent renovations, I inherited a desk that is old school for computer anything. Its more like a student desk. The blessing and the curse of this desk is deep drawers, which don't fit anything. Too shallow to fit a file folder(just), too deep to hold pens.

But man can I pile stuff.

Posted by: dr | May 1, 2007 1:31 PM | Report abuse

It is a terrible shock to read about Eastern Market. Just to clarify some history---Adoplph Cluss' original Central Market at 7th and PA Ave was demolished in 1931 to clear the Archives site. Shortly thereafter, the Northern Liberties Market at 5th and K NW began calling itself "The New Center Market". This market had a devastating fire in 1946 that destroyed the upper floors, but the lower story stood until the early 1980s and served for a brief time as "the wax museum".

I have pictures of all these buildings on my "Victorian Secrets of Washington,DC" website at

Posted by: peter | May 1, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

peter... your site is quite interesting.

My dad was born and spent his childhood in the building at 8th & M (and Potomac Ave), SE, that now houses a Quiznos, across from the Navy Yard. We took him to visit the building site about 3 years ago and he was pointing out landmarks from his childhood.

His family lived upstairs, above his dad's restaurant and pool hall. He was happy to see that the building is in great shape (even has been added onto) and that the neighborhood is vibrant.

He was looking forward to seeing how the new stadium would shape the area, but he passed away last year.

Posted by: TBG | May 1, 2007 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I consider my piles of stuff to be the equal of a vertical file. Some would consider it an archaeological dig. My wife just calls it junk.

Posted by: jack | May 1, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse

CP... I was never shocked by that reality that smarts have limited use in the real world. I was doing odd jobs since I was 8 and brains didn't count for much in those jobs.

Still, everybody has to find out for themselves what their adult identity will be. I would say it's not OK to be ordinary unless they really do have a clear understanding of what "ordinary" is first.

I keep meeting so many ordinary people in ordinary jobs that I don't think are ordinary as human beings. They do their best with what they've got.

A marathon isn't run 26 miles at a time-- it's one step at a time.

The early leaders may never finish the marathon, or come in dead last, while the slow starters may come in first eventually. The secret is to pace the race to the individual's ability, not to run full-out the first few miles to beat everybody else.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 1, 2007 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Got it, Wilbrod. What I mean to say is that we are special to ourselves and to our circles of love and family and friendship.

But if we lead with our specialness in institutions, especially work, we miss the point.

I think ordinary is rather good, actually.

Omni -- great story. And, the book was not placed by the doubt.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 1, 2007 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I used to be able to use the recycling bin as overflow filing, but our office found the recycling service to be too expensive. It was cheaper to throw it away.

While I am sure the VT library is excellent, I doubt it has a collection of poorly written fantasy paperbacks in the quantity that my son needs.

Besides, the bookstore test is really a proxy for a reasonably sized metropolitan area. I don't fault him there since the urban appeal (and academic quality) was a major factor in me attending college in Atlanta instead of Gainesville. The cowtown aspect of it was a big negative. My father unsuccessfully lobbied that a college town was self-sufficient culturally, but I found that wasn't true.

Also, as a multi-racial kid in Howard County he has a fear of intolerence. While the student body at VT must be rather diverse, the surrounding area does not seem to be. Nor is this prejudice on his part restricted to Blacksburg. I took him on a trip to OkState in Stillwater and the only ethnic faces in the town were around the graduate student housing.

Fortunately for his college aspirations, Palo Alto has a truly fantastic BigBoxOfBooks in a gorgeous restored theater building. In Cambridge, the Kendall Square Coop kept him entertained for over an hour and it's only two subway stops from the Mothership Coop.

He also likes spicy food and while things like burritos are ubiquitous, the MIT cafeteria serves a truly wicked vindaloo every day.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 1, 2007 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes those Google ads kinda scare me:

Evolution vs. Creation
Where Did the Universe Come From? New Angle on a Tired Old Debate

Neanderthal Skull $124.95
Buy It Now, Museum Replica Free Shipping, PayPal Accepted

Bible/World History Chart
Elegant chart of our entire history Bibllical figures/events chronology

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 1, 2007 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Where do you think the last Ad would fit in the conversations of today :-)

Library Fundraising
Quick & Easy Profits. No Upfront Costs. Start Your Fundraiser Today!

Evolution vs. Creation
Where Did the Universe Come From? New Angle on a Tired Old Debate

Ronald Reagan
Learn Little-Known Facts About The Fascinating Life of Ronald Reagan.

Posted by: dmd | May 1, 2007 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Oooh, RD, mine are even more interesting:

Gay Friendly DC
Find Gas & Lesbian Friendly & glbt owned businesses in Washington DC

Shotgun DNA Sequencing
Shotgun Library Construction. cDNA Libraries; DNA Sequencing

Bible/World History Chart
Elegant chart of our entire Biblical figures/events chronology

Posted by: Anonymous | May 1, 2007 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I know you get it CP... just trying to search for metaphors for you :). I absolutely agree with you that we should try and count to those who we really care about.
Still, part of that adulthood identity search is separating out what will work for you from what you parents have given you and hope for you.

Sometimes I think the pressure is actually more from other adults than the parents themselves. I don't think I ever got told to 'go out and cure cancer' by my parents.

But I sure did get the "you'll find a cure for cancer" or "win a nobel prize" comment by a lot of people when I started interning in biology. Ha, ha.

People just go to whatever they know of the field and it's usually those two cliches. The only remedy is to put people in with working experts in the field who won't resort to those facile cliches.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 1, 2007 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, first 3:06 was me.

Posted by: Slyness | May 1, 2007 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Hogtown (aka Gainesville) is an increasingly exotic blossom in the bucolic North Florida countryside. The Asian grocery store across 34th Street from the Division of Plant Industry is owned and operated by a PhD. The campus production of La Traviata was playing the evening I left. Chopstix restaurant was selling a nice veggie pad thai.

But I'm not sure about the bookstore situation. I really think you have to go to Portland for that. Regrettably, you have to change buses to get from Reed to Powell's.

Back in the 1970's, Gainesville's 13th street was sort of the main drag. On a Friday evening, you could spot a fair number of well-polished pickups, preferably four wheel drive, perhaps with a splash of mud to provide the finishing touch.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | May 1, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Yello, sometimes it IS important to have an escape from college.

Also, the bookstore rule isn't infalliable. I loved Ann Arbor because it had 10 bookstores within walking distance and was surprisingly cosmopolitian for Michigan.

Still, it's mostly a college town and it had serious deficiencies in interpreters, deaf culture, and other factors that would have made a long-term stay not so good for me.

Williamsburg also had the same difficulties.

However, I did find a great (vegetarian, too!) burrito place and Indian restaurant in Ann Arbor so your son'd have his needs for spicy and good covered there.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 1, 2007 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Then again, a while back, I got to see the remarkable retrospective of light sculptor Dan Flavin that appeared at the National Gallery. Long before, when I was a student at the (then) unprestigious blue-collar Penn State, Flavin was invited to do a room at the student union. He installed UV fluorescent lighting around the baseboards so everyone who came into the otherwise darkened room glowed, at least the ones who used laundry detergent. Simple. Everyone loved it.

Come to think of it, I wonder if anyone on campus at the time was organic enough to wash clothes with soap? Could someone sponser a re-installation of the light sculpture and use it to surreptitiously survey visitors for soap vs. detergent?

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | May 1, 2007 3:20 PM | Report abuse

DotC - You have to stop making Gainsville seem so interesting. I sometimes get proposals from the University of Florida. I might be tempted to help fund one just to score a nice trip.

And that would be wrong.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 1, 2007 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Hmm, then there's this interesting symposium that just happens to be located in the Bahamas...

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 1, 2007 3:35 PM | Report abuse

My wife mad a fair amount of pin money taking notes for deaf students at the very small Baptist affiliated college she went to in western NC that had a very supportive program for the deaf but nothing in the way of off-campus life.

Besides my distaste for all things bucolic, another reason to avoid Gatorland (Florida's only four year theme park) was to spend my parent's money as wantonly as possible. Their guidelines were that private colleges would require me to accept an ROTC scholarship. Most Ivies don't have ROTC on campus, so that requires long bus rides to nearby universities for the non-credit military science courses.

If I had wanted to go to Rutgers I would have applied to Rutgers. Besides, when my dad showed me the location of Princeton on a map in relationship to major cities, he pointed out the hypocrisy involved in wanting to go to Joel's alma mater but not his hometown.

My mother's rule was that her checks couldn't cross the Mississippi so that I would stay within driving distance of her. My sophomore year, my dad got restationed to Aviano, Italy, rendering that objection moot, but it was too late. Since Florida, Tennessee, Auburn, Clemson, and NC State were all in a self-declared tie for second best engineering university in the South, I ended up at the North Avenue Trade School.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 1, 2007 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Reggie the alligator reappears a year latter in LA pond.,0,3092865.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Posted by: bh | May 1, 2007 3:40 PM | Report abuse

I suscribed to the Victorian Secrets catalog. Talk about disappointment.

Posted by: SonofCarl | May 1, 2007 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Gainesville traffic has become an urban nightmare. When asked to speak at UF - I live about 30 miles away - I allow 2 hours for travel time. The first 20 miles takes 30 minutes, the next ten miles takes an hour, and the last half hour is spent looking for a parking place on campus. The current rate of redevelopment around the campus will only exacerbate the problem because the city granted the university an exception to its traffic concurrency requirements.

Posted by: Shiloh | May 1, 2007 3:48 PM | Report abuse

"Her checks couldn't cross the Mississippi so that I would stay within driving distance" - I love it! My undergrad school was an eight-hour drive away, close enough to come home that first semester but just too far once I settled in.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 1, 2007 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon's Rule is that 3 hours is just about the perfect distance between home and college--close enough you can get home when you HAVE to, and for holidays, etc.--but not so close you're coming home every weekend, or when you need your mother to do your laundry, or whatever. And if there's a direct bus or train line between the two, so much the better: it means your folks (i.e., Dad) doesn't have to spend 3 hours on the road to pick you up and then 3 hours driving home. If Dad has to drive both ways on Friday night and then again on Sunday evening, then cut the distance down to 90 minutes each way, maybe less. (Of course, this generally applies to freshman year. By sophomore year, the student no longer wants to come home every weekend.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 1, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

I have a very sophisticated three dimensional filing system. Fortunately - or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it - I can find just about anything very quickly in the Infostrata Intellidross heap on my desktop, simply by asking myself, "What Would bc Do?"


Posted by: bc | May 1, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

I have not read all the posts, but I am so sorry about the library fire. Books and documents are a passion of mine. I keep thinking of the scene in the book Earth Abides, where Ish watches his boarded-up library go up in smoke. We may not have lost all our accumulated knowledge in this particular library fire, but whatever was lost must be mourned.

And, with that, I'm off to browse my school library discard pile. My daughter asked for a book on Ben Franklin. Is that normal reading for a 6-yr-old?

Posted by: a bea c | May 1, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Who cares, a bea c? Get her the book she wants and let her enjoy it!

OTOH, you know how subversive Ben Franklin was, so watch out that she doesn't try to pull some of the stunts he did...

Posted by: Slyness | May 1, 2007 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Ironic that it was ol' Ben who started the first library in Murica, in Fuldullfya.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 1, 2007 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Hey!!! I just found a cool book in the discard pile! The Sandburg Treasury: Prose and Poetry for Young People. With an introduction by Paula Sandburg.

Mudge, I wish my college had been only 3 hours away. LSU is a bit far from Medellin. And, with that liberal beverage policy, I got myself in way too much trouble. On the bright side, I learned to take care of myself by junior year. Yes, it took me that long to start doing laundry regularly. Now my husband takes care of that for me. I've reverted to my former dependent self.

Posted by: a bea c | May 1, 2007 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Didn't Ben also start the first fire department? There's an odd bit of symbioses. The other strategy for college commuting is to make friends with lots of people in your hometown. A friend's son that goes to Roanoke has a fellow student girlfriend that lives in Pikesville.

My wife knew every person at her college that lived within 50 miles of Atlanta and would bum rides as often as possible. Until I just gave her the keys to my car, but that is a tale for another day.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 1, 2007 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Is the accent on the second syllable in FulDULLfya, Mudge?

My knowledge of syllable stress is hazy but boils down to this:

1) All things equal, one-syllable noun and verbs have more stress than prepositions and indefinite articles. I'm not sure about adjectives.

Safire indicated "a red bird" is a red BIRD" while "a Redbird" as in the baseball team would be a REDBIRD. (I think it should be a REDbird)

2) 1-2 syllable nouns accent on the first syllable. But longer words have second and then (sometimes fourth) syllable stress.
"I'm having a conNIPaTION"

I'm slightly confused because I was looking up sonnet meter and some of the examples would be like

Lo! in the orient when the gracious light...

My question is, I know ! indicates a rising pitch, but does that means "IN" is louder than Lo!

Because I can understand Milton being milTON in this example...

"Milton! Thou shouldst be living at this hour."

If I have missed any accentuation rules I'd be glad to know.

Safire made a fuss about words such as when to stop hyphenating words because they were no longer said GROUNDS KEEPER but GROUNDS keeper. Or maybe he said the opposite... he frequently contradicts himself in his language mavening.

So I thought I'd ask Mudge's opinion on this.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 1, 2007 4:28 PM | Report abuse

In the graciously-lighted Orient example, if one accented the "In" by as much or more than the "Lo", then one would sound like a televangelist, I think.

Posted by: StorytellerTim | May 1, 2007 4:40 PM | Report abuse

a bea c, I learned that lesson more by being the dad who was doing the *&^%$# 90-minute up, 90-minute back haul many, many Friday nights or Saturday mornings, and then again on Sunday nights, for something like three years, off and on. If it wasn't for listening to Car Talk on Saturdays and old radio drams on Sunday nights on WETA or WAMU I'd have gone berserk.

When I was in college the trips were 1 hour, and that only lasted for 2 years, until I got my own apartment (and numerous jobs), so going home on weekends ceased to be an option. (I think it was junior year before I saved up enough to buy an actual car--$800 for a 10-year-old English Ford.)

I'm reluctant to say this, but a lot of this talk about all these top-notch, elite (or not) schools has made me a bit uncomfortable. The only schools I could afford to go to were state teachers colleges in Pennsylvania; I never applied to any schools other than those -- except for a "dream, you fool" to Michigan. Got accepted at all four, and picked the closest, West Chester (couldn't have gone to Michigan even though they accepted me--no money). I remember the costs my freshman year: $1,000 a semester (half for tuition, half for dorm and board, so $2,000+ a year). Took nearly every penny we had. That was a fair piece of money even in 1964. (The cost of a Volkswagen, so I guess it would be the equivalent of $18,000 or $20,000 today.) The next year Temple University got state-related status, and tuition there dropped to $250 a semester (room and board were $1,000). I transferred and lived at home and commuted sophomore year. It took me five years to get out of there, and freshman year was the only year I didn't have a job during the school year. (Junior year I had two jobs--fulltime at the Inquirer as a copyboy, parttime as editor of a little weekly rag on the side--and going to college "fulltime" (with about a 50-percent attendence rate). Worked fulltime my last two years. (I was editor of the paper my last year--14,000 circ. daily newspaper with a staff of about 35; my attendence in class dropped to about 35 percent.) I regret I worked so much and so hard--it would have been nice to have had a little leisure and elbow room to actually go to class and enjoy some of them. But I was in my full-bore Jimmy Olsen phase, covering fires, floods, murders, race riots, shootings, protest marches and riots, city hall politics, and there was a war on, if I remember rightly.

I was in college for more than five years--but except for my freshman year I pretty much missed the entire college "experience," which I regret; I was too busy seeing the world. I now know the world can damn well a few years, so if you folks can cut your kids a little slack, let them enjoy college for what it is and should be. Let 'em dawdle in the Ivory Tower as long as possible. The world will still be there when they come out.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 1, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Phew, I'm not the only one to think that then.
Lo... IN the NAME of JESus....I now CAST out THY deMONS and HEAL thee...

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 1, 2007 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like you have the Hard Knocks PhD.

The community college route is much recommended around here and there is nothing wrong with that, but I feel kids need to learn to do laundry and drink responsibly sometime and it's better to do that the freshman year while the GPA can still recover. That's worth the eight grand a year for room and board at a sleepaway school alone. That price is very inelastic. All colleges seem to charge the same for that since there are no intangibles that can up the price of a bed and a meal.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 1, 2007 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, there seems to be some televangelisticness to choosing a somewhat random pattern of emphasis on various words. Why televangelists do it, I don't know, but it's instantly recognizable.

Posted by: StorytellerTim | May 1, 2007 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Yep, Wilbrod, it's fulDULLfya. Or just FULLy. "Cheesesteak" is vocalized simply as cheezdake, no syllable accented more than the other, or perhaps only very slightly on CHEEZ and a little less on the dake part. (The "st" becomes "d" because of the z sound, and no glottal stop. If ya put the glottal stop in, somebody'd come up behind yeez and steal ya wallet. So don't stop, know whuddamean?)

Who's dis Milton guy? Whynncha call 'em Milty fa crissake.

An' it ain't REDbird. It's REDboid. Sheesh.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 1, 2007 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I only applied to one college and it had a rolling admissions policy, so I got my acceptance by the first of December. It was 15/20 minutes from home. My parents made me a deal; they bought me a car with the proviso that I stay home and commute my first two years, then I could transfer to someplace like Carolina. I ended up getting two degrees at UNC-Charlotte, though I did live in the dorms for half of my sophomore year and my junior year. There wasn't much action on campus then, so it really didn't matter. Maybe I would have been better off to leave home, but it all worked out in the end.

I didn't get my kids that option. Elder child was 2 hours away, younger is 2.75 hours away.

Posted by: Slyness | May 1, 2007 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Agreed, Gainesville traffic is horrific. There should be a limit on the sizes of state university campuses, maybe 30,000 students. Spillover goes to a new site in a depressed neighborhood 30 miles away, connected to the original campus by light rail.

I do not understand how UCF in Orlando manages to function. Somewhere north of 50,000 students, though I assume many of them come to campus only two or three days a week. They need their very own toll road interchange feeding directly into a 25,000-car parking structure. At least they're putting the new med school over by Lake Nona. Visiting lecturers will be able to go from airport to lecture hall in half an hour, if they can find parking (there's an iron law that you can NEVER find parking anywhere near a med school or hospital). Thinking in those terms, how does the GW med school manage to function? You'd think DuPont Circle had sixty stories of hospital, think tanks, and apartments all squashed together like Columbus Circle in New York.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | May 1, 2007 5:05 PM | Report abuse

My freshman year in college, I did something startlingly and unexpectedly wise: I signed up for only 14 credit-hours. Most of my peers went for the slightly-above-average 16, while a few went wild and took on the maximum permissible load of 18. I had some slack, having tested out of English composition and earned advance credits for it, so I took advantage of the opportunity to ease into the college experience. It's one time in which I was a little lazy and I have never regretted it. Like everyone, I had homesickness and depression my freshman year. At least I didn't also have to struggle with a constant sense of gross inadequacy from failing to meet my work load. Moderate-level inadequacy was as much as I could handle.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 1, 2007 5:07 PM | Report abuse

I agree: you were wise, Tim. I'd recommend a light load for a lot of starters, at least first semester, anyway. And better to get four A's (because you have the time) than 6 B's or C's (because you don't). And if things aren't going well in a class, bail out early and take a withdrawl, rather than risk the D or F. It's not a race.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 1, 2007 5:14 PM | Report abuse

I fought freshman calculus to the bitter end. Spent twice as much time on it as on anything else. Finally got my A by repeating part 2. Grrr.

Actually, it WAS a race. I assumed my in-state tuition would evaporate in 3 years when my dad retired from the military. It made for a quick degree.

Posted by: Dave of the coonties | May 1, 2007 5:45 PM | Report abuse

I always found it hard to take the maximum load -- the context switching made it hard to remember very much -- so I cut down and took 5 years. The main things I learned as a freshman were how to play bridge and soccer (I had a lot to learn there, having only practiced up to that point, never playing on a team). The memories are dim, but I recall taking a "test only" approach to several classes, not attending very often, including reading all the books for French in the few days before the midterm and final. Good thing I had learned that reasonably well in HS. Fortunately I already had the essential collegiate skill -- touch typing -- from the HS class intended for would-be secretaries. I guess most kids have that skill today?

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 1, 2007 5:46 PM | Report abuse

More on VT, etc.

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 1, 2007 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, thanks for flupping me the boid. A good lesson in Fully manners.

But I'm heartbroken. I always thought it was 'Filly' and you could find friends named Flicka there. Now I know it's more likely to be "Flucka" who'll steal my wallet instead.

Strangely, I seemed to do worst in the semesters I didn't have enough to do. The one semester I carried 23 credits was my best, of course they were mostly general liberal arts requirement classes which were a slamdunk to take.

It's all the 3 R's-- Reading, Writing, and Arguing.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 1, 2007 6:46 PM | Report abuse

That was good LTL-CA. Did you all see this in today's Gene W chat?

Different take on the VT massacre : I'll give you a different take: he committed crimes against women, stalking, threatening, so he was given a lot of passes.

If he'd cheated on his poetry exam, he could have been expelled from the university. But threatening and stalking women? Go home boy, be nice.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. Very true.

Posted by: TBG | May 1, 2007 6:47 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: College Parkian | May 1, 2007 6:50 PM | Report abuse

TBG, I saw that on Gene's chat, it is very powerful when it is phrased that way.

Posted by: dmd | May 1, 2007 7:16 PM | Report abuse

I agree. Now, if the women had followed up and gotten restraining orders... (sigh).

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 1, 2007 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Yoki... this is for you...

Posted by: TBG | May 1, 2007 7:37 PM | Report abuse

College Parkian, that's such a more genteel way to put it.

I found "Rhetoricize" is not in the dictionary, and "Rhetorize" is.

Rhetorize has a nice sound to it, especially when used with "theorize."

"I've been theorizing and rhetorizing all day."

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 1, 2007 7:38 PM | Report abuse

TBG those pictures are adorable, Yoki I understand why you love the Bermese so much - so cute!

Did you notice Shiloh the Beagle further down the page.

Posted by: dmd | May 1, 2007 7:43 PM | Report abuse


I'm trying to keep Wilbrod convinced I'm the cutest one out there, only to see that gnome going "uhp"-- This is a gnomish sound--part coo, part woof, and part "pup"-- and it was directed at those pictures.

That word is only for ME.

So now I have to do cute overload today-- sitting down at my dish quietly and pointing at it, trying to turn the dish back up, and now fetching a toy to play with Wilbrod, and playing fetch all to try and get that uhppping back for me.

Man, all this globalization of cute is hard on a dog. Have a heart. Not all of us can compete with Berneses.

Posted by: Wilbrodog | May 1, 2007 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Try being a big clumsy mutt, that barks to loud and steals food!

Posted by: dmddog | May 1, 2007 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Yeah! We demand greater loyalties from our owners! No wanton eyeballing of other dogs, just like we're not supposed to wantonly nose other people's crotches!

Posted by: Wilbrodog | May 1, 2007 7:56 PM | Report abuse

RE: "Shiloh the Baby Beagle," any familial resemblance is purely coincidental.

Posted by: Shiloh | May 1, 2007 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Tom Posten died last night. He was 85. He was a very funny guy and I loved his character on the Newhart show.

I had no idea he was married to Suzanne Pleshette. According to the Post, "Poston and Pleshette, who had appeared together in the 1959 Broadway play "The Golden Fleecing," had had a brief fling before marrying other people. Both now widowed, they reunited in 2000 and married the following year."

Posted by: TBG | May 1, 2007 8:18 PM | Report abuse


In a way I agree with you and your son about having a good bookstore in a college town. I'm not sure Blacksburg could support a BigBoxBookStore, as Atlanta can, but when I attended Virginia Tech we had a great independent book and record store called Books, Strings, and Things. It wasn't a big store, it covered about three normal storefronts on a street a couple of blocks off-campus, but had an extensive collection of both books and records aimed at their audience of students and faculty. I spent a lot of time and money there. Sadly it has gone out of business, done in mostly, I guess, by competition from the Web.

I used the university bookstore to buy books for classes and the occasional university souvenir and I'm sad if there isn't at least some kind of an independent bookstore down there.

Posted by: pj | May 1, 2007 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Sad to hear about Tom Poston. He was excellent. It was fun to watch him play off of Newhart to see who could be drier than the other. Thanks for posting that, TBG.

Posted by: pj | May 1, 2007 8:33 PM | Report abuse

That is sad news TBG, he was great and what a nice story about him and Suzanne Pleshette.

Posted by: dmd | May 1, 2007 8:40 PM | Report abuse

I think SP was in the first movie I ever saw: little dogs, a great dane in the mix, Dean Jones? Circa 1965 or so? Disney flick seen in the huge metropolis (i) of Minneapolis-St. Paul, with my sophistcated city cousins.

I liked how she handled Howard, their dim pilot-neighbor. She also wore a dress -- caftan thing -- identical to one my mother had. Oh the late 70s, such fashion days.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 1, 2007 9:12 PM | Report abuse

That would be "The Ugly Dachsund," 1966, CP. *bows*

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 1, 2007 9:22 PM | Report abuse

I loved Tom Poston,too, and didn't know that and Suzanne Pleshette were married. I remember him from the Steve Allen show, when I was just a wee child (how I managed to stay up late enough to see that show, I'm still not sure, but I loved it.)

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 1, 2007 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Hmm, that's yet another hat we're finding on your head, Mudge.

Old movie trivia maven. (I hope you didn't tick an editor off and wind up covering movies for a while?)

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 1, 2007 9:34 PM | Report abuse

>Old movie trivia maven.

Mudge, remember Flight Of The Phoenix with Jimmy Stewart? One of those dang Amazon recommendations, but I couldn't resist.

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 1, 2007 9:42 PM | Report abuse

Given this is in birds, should it even be called an ARMS race?;_ylt=AsSmmg79CDot9oJxT7pWptpg.3QA

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 1, 2007 9:48 PM | Report abuse

I remember that a friend in high school though Suzanne Pleshette was really hot and I thought that was creepy.

Here's the YouTube showing of the final episode of Bob Newhart's second popular series, Newhart (wait... wasn't this all supposed to be about Tom Posten?)...

Posted by: TBG | May 1, 2007 9:51 PM | Report abuse

Am I the only one who is noticing boodle weight gain this evening? Everything is sliding out to the right to create a rather wide girth to each post.

Posted by: bill everything | May 1, 2007 9:55 PM | Report abuse

A gentlemen never observes weight gain in a lady, Bill Everything.

The boodle is merely overmarginalized.

And, in a gender-bender, I'm actually seeing the text dressing to the left, not the right.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 1, 2007 10:01 PM | Report abuse

According to IMDR, Poston was originally to portray Agent 86:

As much as I liked him, I'm glad, in this instance, they "missed it by that much!"

Posted by: bill everything | May 1, 2007 10:03 PM | Report abuse

>Everything is sliding out to the right

>I'm actually seeing the text dressing to the left, not the right.

Man, I wish I had some of whatever you guys are on.

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 1, 2007 10:10 PM | Report abuse

I love libraries. Spent a lot of time in my little smalltown library as a kid. When I saw the map with the location of the Georgetown Public Library, I realized I must have gone past it a million times, but never went in or knew what treasures it held. Well, I was one of those busy college students. I haven't been to the new Seattle library downtown:
I read a story not long ago about it having mixed reviews as a place to read or work - high ceilings that make it hard to talk, not enough comfy areas. Seattle has renovated quite a few of the neighborhood libraries too. I love being able to order books online, but every now and then I like to wander through the stacks.

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 1, 2007 10:12 PM | Report abuse

I remember "Flight of the Phoenix" very well, EF--and it's from the novel by one of my favorite writers, Elleston Trevor (who under the name Adam Hall wrote the "Quiller" spy thrillers, of which I am quite fond.)

Yes, Wilbrod, I do do movie reviews and trivia. And yep, my text has dressed left, too. (You made me laugh at the phrase.) Also, at the top of the page, Joel's column isn't flowing properly.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 1, 2007 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, you must understand that I have, at work, an OCD thing with "full justified" Word documents. Gotta, gotta do it that way.

I have learned to deal with a "left justified" (ha) boodle-world. But, jeez, this rightward drifting is going too far (haha). I am sorry you are seeing it going the other way but you must just be overly partisan.


Posted by: bill everything | May 1, 2007 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Ah, Berner puppy! My love dogs. Thanks TBG!

Posted by: Yoki | May 1, 2007 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Problem solved!

Even at tail end of his career, Jimmy Stewart was outstanding in Flight of the Phoenix. Did he ever make a bad movie?

Posted by: bill eveything | May 1, 2007 10:31 PM | Report abuse

for a second, apparently

Posted by: b e | May 1, 2007 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Bill E. I would rather be thought as overly parmesan-leaning, as in put lotsa that on my pizza. Mangia. Let food be a common denominator.

Thanks, 'Mudge. Now I will dream of dachshunds and great danes tonight.

CeePee Boy has graduated from Mr. Bean to Black Adder. I am along for the ride.

Lovely day. Lovely day. Such bird sightings, Raysmom, including a killdeer and an osprey, all a scant mile from the DC line. The Anacostia watershed is a lazy, gentle (but, most sadly, silted and polluted) river. But is my river, and I do love it.

Night, all.

Codicil to Mudge: I speak of the Bladensburg port, site of a great battle. And this is how the Brits slipped into DC to scare Dolly Madison and others....and on Thursday, the QEII arrives but I bet she ain't visiting Bladensburg. I bet you know a ship detail or too, about this formerly significant port.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 1, 2007 10:38 PM | Report abuse

Library fires are so tragic. Our little town is opening its first community library next month. The bulk of our nascent collection was donated when a nearby town lost nearly a block of its downtown to fire. I don't want to brag, but we probably have the world's largest collection of paperback romance novels ever assembled in a town with a population under 200.

A few fiddleheads are ready for harvesting and the asparagus watch has begun. I spied some on the roadsides last summer, too late for picking but I'm ready this year. Rhubarb will not be far behind.

Interesting observation from our community leadership retreat last week. Of 24 participants, all from rural communities known for low incomes, low education levels, and poor health habits, we had 0 smokers in attendance. Does this mean non-smokers are harder working and more interested in bettering their communities than smokers?

Posted by: frostbitten | May 1, 2007 10:38 PM | Report abuse

CP-Do you know how the wild rice planting/restoration is going on the Anacostia? It looked promising in '05 when we left NoVA for points south, and north.

Posted by: frostbitten | May 1, 2007 10:43 PM | Report abuse

Frostbitten--Maybe the smokers came, ducked out for their smoke break and forgot to come back?

I haven't seen lots of smoking up here, but apparently it's at 21% in Minnesota, and rural tend to have higher rates, so out of your sample at least 3-5 should have been smokers if it was truly a random sample.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 1, 2007 11:10 PM | Report abuse

?? Is everyone going to duck the phallic issue? Wilbrod has a link above; a more extensive discussion is at:

Posted by: MedallionOfFerret | May 2, 2007 12:14 AM | Report abuse

Sorry I missed so much of May Day in here.

I had a lot to do today, and some friends to see, and some life to live. Mistakes were made.

The Boodle's format may be a little quirky at the moment, but the fact is that we're all still in here, and, doing what we do.

Lovely weather we're having.

Dreamer, I see that uber-weird director David Lynch will be chatting in the live tomorrow to promote his new book, "Catching the Big Fish: Meditation Consciousness and Creativity." Wasn't there an article on him in the WaPo last year regarding some school of TM healing he was funding and supporting?

This from the guy who gave us such distrubing films and TV such as "Eraserhead," "Twin Peaks," "Blue Velve," and what some consider the unforgiveable 1980s film adaptaion of Frank Herbert's beloved "Dune." [personally, I thought it could have been a lot worse. Especially if Sting weren't playing Feyd, Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck, and Linda Hunt as the Shadout Mapes.]


Posted by: bc | May 2, 2007 12:15 AM | Report abuse

I like the left-justified kit & boodle. I can narrow my browser more, leaving more room to see what else is going on, typically work stuff that I should be able to see in case something urgent shows up without ringing my ascii bel. ;-)

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 2, 2007 12:59 AM | Report abuse

Oops, wait a minnit -- it just stopped being left-justified and seems to have returned to "normal".

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 2, 2007 1:00 AM | Report abuse

Oops again -- back to L-just. ???

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 2, 2007 1:01 AM | Report abuse

And now the 1-1/2" left margin has returned. I'll stop these margin change notifications on the assumption the web folks realize something is happening.

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 2, 2007 1:03 AM | Report abuse

David Lynch chatting - could be a bit kinky. I sort of liked his version of Dune. And I think Frank Herbert liked it - his son wrote a memoir and talked about that, IIRC.

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 2, 2007 1:14 AM | Report abuse

bc, I'm on it like white on rice.
I think this is the article you mean:

We discussed it in the "It's Raining Methane" boodle:

[Wow, I'm really using my archivist-and-historian skills today.]

I can't *wait* to read the transcript of the Lynch chat . . . and to read the book review, and the book itself . . . and see "Inland Empire" when it makes its way to Hong Kong. As it happens, this week I've been enjoying the second season of "Twin Peaks," which has finally been released on DVD. (Coincidence? I think not.)

All David Lynch, all the time!


"There are clues everywhere, all around us. But the puzzle maker is clever. The clues, although surrounding us, are somehow mistaken for something else, and the something else -- the wrong interpretation of the clues -- we call our world. Our world is a magical smokescreen. How *should* we interpret the happy song of a meadow lark, or the robust flavor of a wild strawberry?"

-- The Log Lady

Posted by: Dreamer | May 2, 2007 3:32 AM | Report abuse

Disney's banning smoking in its hotel rooms, effective next month.

Wonder how they'll de-smell the smoking floors? In Daytona Beach, where the clientele is kinda blue-collar, hotels tend to have rank smoking floors.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | May 2, 2007 4:02 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. Don't have much to add to this conversation, just wanted to check in. A busy day today, and beginning with a doctor's appointment. Hopefully, I will find out the source of the pain.

I hope your day is good, and the weather the best. It was in the 90's here yesterday, just too hot. We need rain badly. We had a wildfire yesterday. Someone buring trash, and the embers lit up several acres. It is so dry here. One could see this large cloud of smoke for miles. Everything smelled like smoke yesterday.

Morning, Mudge, Slyness, Scotty, and all.*waving* Hiya doing, Martooni?

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ. Peace.

Posted by: Cassandra S | May 2, 2007 5:22 AM | Report abuse

Very punny M o' F. Also very interesting.

Wilbrod-thanks for the MN smoking stats. Other groups were meeting at the resort and we noticed their organizers trying to round everyone up after each break. It was our prompt return from breaks that first caused people to notice there were no smokers in the group.

Good morning Cassandra, everyone. A cloudy morning here that I hope brings some rain. We really need it. Still in a moisture deficit from last summer.

Posted by: frostbitten | May 2, 2007 7:23 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Cassandra, boodle.

I think I could have comfortably lived the rest of my life without learning about duck phalluses in that disturbing NYT article you linked to, WeaselMcNuggets. Let us just hope that the phrase "hung like a mallard" does not soon enter the lexicon. On the other hand, perhaps it does shed new light for those of us in the early Walt Disney era who may have pondered the continual "bad boy" behavior of Daffy Duck all these years. Tho' I may never be able to eat long-grain wild rice ever again.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 2, 2007 7:27 AM | Report abuse

Frosti I ride by the "cages" of wild rice and arum about every other day! They look rather anemic at the moment, but give them a month. Near the cages yesterday, a splendid great blue heron...but they are almost commonplace here. I have seen Canada geese standing (dumblike? hopeful?) near the caged treats.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 2, 2007 7:36 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the rice report CP. It grows in abundance here, and is watched and commented upon almost as much as the weather. Ill timed rain can ruin the rice harvest and many a teenaged plan to earn money for new school clothes.

Interesting bit from

"The language you speak may influence how you perceive colours, according to new research. Russian speakers, who have separate words for light and dark blue, are better at discriminating between the two, suggesting that they do indeed perceive them as different colours..."

more here

Posted by: frostbitten | May 2, 2007 7:43 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: frostbitten | May 2, 2007 7:45 AM | Report abuse

It's one of those weeks for me too, bc...

Morning all!! *tired waving*


Posted by: Scottynuke | May 2, 2007 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Mornin' Boodle...

CP... saw a blue heron here yesterday, which got me to thinkin' of fishin'. My favorite fishing hole also happens to be a favorite for one of our local blue herons (I think it's the same one all the time. Are they territorial?). In any case, the heron and I fish opposite sides of the same bit of stream maybe 10 or 20 yards apart. Adds a whole new dimension to the fishing experience, especially when you consider our little oasis is bounded by shopping malls and freeways less than a mile away in every direction.

Cassandra... I'm doing fine, thanks. Hope you're feeling better. Today makes 36. :-D

I started to back-Boodle, but dang are yinz a talkative bunch. I'm going to have to start getting up at the same God-awful hour as Scotty does just to keep up.

On the fires... I've never been to the East Market or the Georgetown library. I used to drive to Georgetown quite frequently years ago, but my primary objective then was to hit the bars and meet the wild women of DC -- not the books. Sounds like I missed out on a treasure.

Gotta run... Handy Hippie has a very full schedule today. We have a string of nice warm days ahead so I can finally get moving on the outside jobs I've lined up.

Peace out, my friends. Hope you all have a most excellent day.

Posted by: martooni | May 2, 2007 8:32 AM | Report abuse


Have you heard they're going to have a model of the James Webb Space Telescope on the Mall from the 10th through the 12th???

Anyone want to bet they aim it at the Capitol and someone gets nervous?


Posted by: Scottynuke | May 2, 2007 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Morning all.

Not good news on the Climate change front, arctic ice is melting much faster than anticipated, approximately 30 years ahead of schedule.

Posted by: dmd | May 2, 2007 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Thinking of outside jobs, that Post story yesterday on gardening at the British embassy provided the first case I'm aware of where a foreign power is enlisting US citizen volunteers to help with the gardening. Does the French embassy recruit volunteer kitchen interns?

Posted by: Dave of the coonties | May 2, 2007 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, everyone.

Scotty, why would they point a model of the Webb space telescope at the Capitol?

What would they expect to find? [this, in comedy parlance, is called a *straight line*, and an underhanded softball, at that. Please free to swing for the fences, folks]


Posted by: bc | May 2, 2007 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Dave, that was a cool story, wasn't it? Wish I could get help like that for Chez Yness. The yard could use the help.

Morning everybody! Hey, Cassandra. Hope you have a satisfactory visit to the doctor.

Doing home things today, then driving to the mountains this evening. We hope the weather will cooperate enough for us to plant and mulch the bank behind the cottage...

Posted by: Slyness | May 2, 2007 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Why, they'd be looking for money, bc!

Silly man.

And the JWST's resemblance to Archimedes' solar death ray is really just a coincidence, yanno.


Won't the bank's security guards ask you why you're mulching there, not to mention why you put a cottage so close???


Posted by: Scottynuke | May 2, 2007 9:22 AM | Report abuse

When I was a college student, I had no idea that ornamental horticulture would boom.

Gardens everywhere deploy swarms of volunteers--but I somehow didn't expect an embassy to do that. Leave it to the Brits to have a genuine Lutyens building and gardens. I don't suppose the gardens were designed by Gertrude Jekyll?

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | May 2, 2007 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Ha, Snuke! You're punny today!

Posted by: Slyness | May 2, 2007 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Hi, guys *waving*. Just thought I'd drop in to let you know I haven't really left. Just too much piled up at work, and had nasal surgery last week to try and open up the airways better. Slower recovery than I anticipated, though. Nice little article in Style today on a get-away to the Railroader's Memorical Museum in Altoona. Their steam engine, which has been in the shop at Steamtown in Scranton for the last few years, is expected back later this year. Not sure when, or where, they might run it. Not likely to be over the Curve, though. Too bad.

Posted by: ebtnut | May 2, 2007 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Good to see you, ebtnut! Get better!! :-)

Slyness, I just can't hep mahsef sometimes.

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 2, 2007 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Green design, not long ago a niche interest among American architects, becomes the central topic at the American Institute of Architects' 2007 national convention this week in San Antonio.
The convention theme, "Growing Beyond Green," indicates a deepening, broadening and codification of what had been a fairly narrow repertoire of environmentally friendly practices.

The top name on the list of theme speakers is former Vice President Al Gore, an environmentalist of long standing, best known recently for his involvement in Davis Guggenheim's Oscar-winning documentary film about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth." Gore's speech on Saturday will not be open to press coverage.

*Just a note: The fact that Al Gore is not speaking to the local press has our Metro columnist Jaime Castillo's kickers in a knot--for two consecutive columns now.

Posted by: Loomis | May 2, 2007 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Well DotC, the Brits certainly do not have gardens everywhere. The British High Commission (embassies of Commonwealth members) is an architectural horror in the middle of an asphalt patch. Not a green leaf in sight. In addition, after Sep 11, 2001, concrete columns were installed all around the building and a heavy sliding gate made with steel pipes was installed at the parking's entrances. Just lovely.
And don't get me started on the traffic-choking concrete&glass behemoth that is the US embassy, I'll catch fire.
On the horticultural side the forsythia "Ottawa" are the most remarkable bloom at the moment in the city. Some places are so bright-yellow that it hurts.
Tulips are expected anytime soon.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | May 2, 2007 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Kati Marton's husband, Richard Holbrooke, writes a powerful column in today's Washington Post about David Halberstam's reporting of the Vietnam War.

I have more to say on the subject of reporters like Halberstam and Sy Hersch and individuals like Ron Ridenhour, perhaps later--in response to Mudge's epiphany.

Dowd clears up the issue of the letter or memo I alluded to yesterday in one of our local columnist's op-eds--and I thought I heard State Dept. on ABC's television news yesterday morning, but Dowd says CIA:

Six former C.I.A. officials sent Mr. Tenet a letter via his publisher -- no wonder we're in trouble if spooks can't figure out the old Head Spook's home address -- berating him for pretending he wrote his self-serving book partly to defend the honor of the agency and demanding that "at least half" of the profits be given to wounded soldiers and the families of dead soldiers (there needs to be a Son of Slam law). One of the signers, Larry Johnson, told CNN that Slam "is profiting from the blood of American soldiers."

She also writes:

If Colin Powell and George Tenet had walked out of the administration in February 2003 instead of working together on that tainted U.N. speech making the bogus case for war, they might have turned everything around. They might have saved the lives and limbs of all those brave U.S. kids and innocent Iraqis, not to mention our world standing and national security.

Posted by: Loomis | May 2, 2007 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Howdy y'all. Among the best local libraries I've ever frequented is the Cambridge library in Boston, just down the road from Hahvahd. It was in some old church building, or similar astonishing public space, and is the only public library I've ever been to with real-live stacks, accessible by teeny ladders, crowding the floors. I used to go there and browse instead of doing my assigned reading.

Congratulations, Martooni, and good luck at the doctor, Cassandra.

Dreamer, we just got the 2nd season of Twin Peaks too. What an amazing show. We spent the entire first season astonished that it was on network at all, and the second season astonished that it had been renewed. We're just deciding whether the Boy is old enough to watch it too. He already knows about the fish in the coffee. I was truly frightened by Bob's brief appearances, in ways I never could properly explain.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 2, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, sometimes I wonder whether *I'm* old enough to watch it! :)

Posted by: Dreamer | May 2, 2007 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Shriek, you made me remember that I left Ottawa before the new embassy was built, and have never viewed a picture of it, but heard many stories about the traffic issues. If I recall it is in an odd spot and after 9/11 security measures increased the traffic chaos.

Loved the old embassy though.

Is that a submarine on the roof? Scroll to the bottom of the page.

Posted by: dmd | May 2, 2007 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Your description of the US embassy sounds quite a bit like the US embassy in London.

Thinking of fortifications, it seems the worst bit of an international trip from the US is being re-admitted to your own country. Apparently the latest is to require some British citizens to obtain visas.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | May 2, 2007 10:03 AM | Report abuse

The lovely new US embassy in Ottawa.

The street used to be two-way. Now it is one way as two of the lanes are filled with steel posts, concrete blocks and a high fence. The issue of poor security was raised with the US gummint (Clinton admin) prior to the construction of the new embassy in but it was brushed aside. The facade of the embassy, commissioned in 1999, was initially located about 8 feet from a busy street. Rumour has it that the location, it has a clear line of view to both the parliament and External Affairs, is perfect for indiscreet listening and could not be negotiated.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | May 2, 2007 10:06 AM | Report abuse

New Kit!

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | May 2, 2007 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Yes, dmd, that indeed is a submarine on the roof. Contrary to the notion that the Arbusto administration is ignoring global warming, all new U.S. embassies will have this exciting new feature on their rootops. After the icecaps melt (as they are now doing 30 years ahead of schedule) and embassy personnel have to be evacuated through flooded foreign cities, what better way than to simply send them to the roof to board the sub, and away they go?

And people complain that the Bushies don't know what they're doing--HAH!

Speaking of Great Blue Herons, more than half of all the blue herons on the entire east cost of North America nest and breed in the Chesapeake Bay region, with two of the largest colonies/rookeries located on Bloodsworth Island in the bay and along Nanjemoy Creek in Charles County along Joel's beloved Potomack River (not far from where I live). (Joel, dude, ya gotta start comin' down to the lower Potomac instead of always heading upstream and inland. We have stuff like navigable water, crabs, watermen, boats, lighthouses--and not a single rapids to be found anywhere. And we got a whole whopping big estuary at the far end of it, too. I gotta get you out on a boat on the bay some day. You've been a "landsman" [pronounced "LAHNDsman" for some reason, don't know why] way too long. Oh, right--just remembered why you won't come--no Starbucks. Ah well, I tried.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 2, 2007 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Posting a bit late, but I thought I'd contribute my $0.02. I recently spent two afternoons in the Map Room at the UC-Santa Cruz Science and Engineering Library, where they have hundreds of thousands of historic aerial photographs and maps of the central California coast. If you're a scientist/engineer (like me) trying to figure out how natural systems have changed since humans started screwing with them, a place like this Map Room is invaluable. Yet, the cost of looking at their photographs for as long as I wanted, and scanning as many as I wanted? Free!! And I'm not even a student, just a member of the public looking for information. Sadly, the budget for the Map Room shrinks every year. If only history were more "sexy", indeed.

Posted by: Piranha | May 4, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company