Friday, January 25, 2008

All Politics Are...

Local politics are very much on my mind these days. For one thing, I've just kicked off a new research project that is looking at the spread of Neighborhood Information Systems across US municipalities. Essentially, I'm trying to figure out why networks of governments, non-profits, and intermediaries in some cities are taking the lead in using mapping technologies to understand community problems and revitalize their neighborhoods, and why networks in other cities are lagging behind. Is it just that larger, wealthier cities are the kinds of places where these technologies prosper and spread? Or are there patterns of communication and leaning that draw organizations in some cities into this growing movement and leave others on the outside?

In the meantime, while I'm ruminating on this stuff in my ivory tower, friends of ours are involved in some real world local politics. Basically, they're trying to influence the way in which a plot of land adjacent to their property is going to be developed. For more information, check out their blog, "Friendly Avenue Rezoning." And if, on the off chance, you or someone you know is in their neck of the Carolina woods, by all means get involved. Here's hoping that the technology of Web 2.0 can make a big difference in this manifestation of Tip O'Neill's famous characterization of politics...

~Steve

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Vines, Vines, and More Vines

About five years ago (when I was "unsensible"), we were on a trail near the C&O Canal with puppy Cameron when we came across some vines. Now, these vines aren't just some lame-o half-inch vines. These are two inches, if not more. Daddy says, "When we found them, we climbed them."

So, assuming I climbed them (which I don't know is true), I supposedly had fun. This led to coming back every winter and climbing them.

About two years ago (when I started getting "sensible"), I reached fifteen feet. A year later, I reached seventeen to nineteen feet. This year I reached my high of twenty to twenty-five feet!

Now, I don't know how high Julie gets, but she gets up there.

Now that we have two dogs, the trip is even more fun. The other stuff we do out there is another story. Hopefully, next year (oops...I mean two years from now...after China) I will reach twenty-five to thirty feet. That's more than halfway up the fifty foot vines.

Well, that pretty much sums up vines, vines, v i n e s...you get the picture.

~Zoli

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Split-Second Decisions

It's kind of funny to me to me how Steve and I make big decisions. While my perception is that they are like mountains...huge monoliths that take eons to climb...in reality they usually happen in just a few minutes.

Let's take marriage, for example. After "dating" for 6 1/2 years, one fine January day we decided to take a "country ride" to discuss our future. Just like that. At the end of around 30 minutes (while driving up Club Blvd. in Durham) we had everything mapped out, including the exact date (July 17, 1993) and what ages we thought we should be when we had kids (27 and 29). Something I thought should take weeks or months, literally took minutes.

Fast forward 16 years...new topic but similar situation. Last Saturday morning (a fine January day) we started discussing one of our "big questions"..."What do we do with the house?" After mulling over all the options we had a decision before we even got out of bed. With a "mental deadline" of January 31st, and thoughts that a decision like this might take forever, we were amazed at the ease with which we reached our final verdict.

What's the bottom line? While it is a tantalizing thought to sell the house and start with a clean slate when we return, in reality we want our focus to be on planning our trip and not about getting the house ready for quick sale in a slow market. In addition, in an effort to have a smooth transition back, we plan to just close it up (instead of renting). As Steve put it, "let's just leave it like we do when we go to Hancock for the weekend...just vacuum and go." While it will be a little more like, "clear the pipes, shut off the heat, hire a landscaper and then vacuum and go," we think this is the right decision for us.

In the end, while the decisions we make seem to be split-second, the preparation, meeting of the minds and intense discussion allow the mountain to become a molehill.

Anyways, that former decision has worked out well so far...right, Steve?

~Desi

Bombay Gaylord

As the third least adventurous eater in the house (Z has me beat by a mile), meat and potatoes were my staples. As a kid, my idea of eating out including Italian and Chinese. When we moved to Silver Spring, the options for Italian were limited and, while our choice of Chinese restaurants has gone up immeasurably, the ethic foods in our area are different.

A major breakthrough for me came a few years ago when the Sindelars invited us over for dinner. They chose to get some Indian food (which you can imagine was not my first choice). I was hesitant but luckily didn't have much choice, because it was awesome. My favorite dish was chicken tikka masala (with some onion kulcha on the side).

The food was from a restaurant we now frequent--Bombay Gaylord. Bombay Gaylord is undoubtedly in our top five restaurants in the area. It's inexpensive, the service is great (the waiters seem to know you after just a visit or two), and I haven't had better chicken tikka masala anywhere, including those more expensive establishments.

While on the weekends they have a great buffet, my first choice is "the usual"...which even Z doesn't mind being a part of:
  • one order of chicken pakora
  • one order of chicken tikka
  • one order of chicken tikka masala
  • rice
  • naan
  • onion kulcha
Thanks Sindelars!

~Desi

Monday, January 21, 2008

Bus Sightings!

So far we have seen four buses with my picture on them. We saw two in downtown Silver Spring, and last night we saw two in Chinatown. In Silver Spring, we went to eat dinner at Bombay Gaylord because we knew we would be able to see a bus there (our principal had already seen one in Silver Spring). We sat by the window so we could spot one if it came by. Z spotted it first, and Daddy, Z, and me went running out of the restaurant to try to catch it. Luckily, it was stopped at a red light. So we proceeded to jump around, which I'm sure the people in the cars thought was crazy!

The next time we saw a bus was also in Silver Spring. We waited at the Metro station hoping to see one and get a good picture. Mommy spotted it coming from the street next to the station. We got some good pictures, but Daddy forgot the extra batteries so we only got pictures from a distance.

The third bus sighting was in Chinatown, right under the arch. We were about to cross the street when Mommy spotted the bus stopping to pick up passengers across the street. We got some pictures of me with the arch and the bus. Our excitement was short-lived over that bus because Z suddenly spotted another bus stopping right on the corner in front of us. We ran to it and started jumping around! Mommy got a good picture of me standing with my back against it and a picture of just my face on the bus. I don't think the people getting on the bus were too pleased (Z said they looked mad, especially one lady)!

Also, several kids in my class have seen buses with my picture on them, so they are out there. Keep an eye out for them!

~Julie