Friday, March 18, 2011

Comment On My Report And Come To My Meeting

My report to the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) on public participation in the regulatory process has just been posted to the Internet. You can click here to check it out. Two things will happen next. (1) The report is open for public comment. (2) There will be a public meeting on the report next week.

Here are the relevant details from the ACUS website...

The Committee on Regulation will hold its first meeting on the Rulemaking Comments Project on March 24, 2011 from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm at the Administrative Conference’s Washington, DC office (1120 20
th Street, NW; Suite 706 South). The Conference has engaged Associate Professor Steven J. Balla of George Washington University to research and prepare a report regarding the timing, availability, confidentiality, and impact of comments submitted during agency rulemakings, as well as agencies’ duty to reply to such comments. The Committee on Regulation has been tasked with reviewing this report and developing recommendations for consideration by the Assembly of the Conference.

A copy of Professor Balla’s report will be available on this page on or around March 18, 2011. Comments on the report may be submitted after its posting either (1) by email to with “Committee on Regulation Comments” in the subject line or (2) by standard mail to Committee on Regulation Comments, Administrative Conference of the United States, 1120 20
th Street, NW, Suite 706 South, Washington, DC 20036. Comments must be received by March 22, 2011. Comments received by that date that pertain to the subject matter of the meeting will be distributed to Committee members and posted on this page.

Members of the public are also invited to attend the meeting in person, subject to space limitations. In addition, the Conference will provide remote access to the meeting. Details on how to access the meeting remotely will be posted on this page by March 22, 2011. Anyone who wishes to attend the meeting in person is asked to RSVP to by March 22, 2011. Members of the public who attend the Committee meeting may be permitted to speak only at the discretion of the Committee Chair with the unanimous consent of the Committee. The Conference welcomes the attendance of the public and will make every effort to accommodate persons with physical disabilities or special needs. If you need special accommodation due to a disability, please inform Staff Counsel Reeve Bull (; 202-480-2083) no later than 7 days in advance of the meeting.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Georgetown Prep

Congratulations to Z-man, who will be attending Georgetown Prep for high school!

~Mom, Dad, and Julie

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Beat A Dukie!

For anyone filling out brackets over on, go ahead and join our little group (it's called, oddly enough, "Balla Family"). It's your chance to beat us four Dukies at our own game.


PS: As I touched down at Dulles the other day, I immediately powered up my cell phone. Why? Well, the ACC tournament finals were underway, and it was a classic Duke-Carolina match up. Desi, sitting there in the terminal waiting for me, had the game on her portable radio and headphones. And what good news she was able to convey. "We're up by 14 points with seven minutes to go!" As I was hearing this, there were three young kids right across from me who started hootin' and hollering. Duke students, it turns out. And then, as the game ended a few minutes later, and Nolan jumped into Coach K's arms, a group just to my right were yucking it up with one another as they peered into their Blackberries. "We just won the ACC championship!" It was quite a Duke party out there at the airport...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Now There's A Car!

No problem parallel parking this baby!


Monday, March 14, 2011

My Amsterdam Bicycle

Yes, I spent an afternoon biking around Amsterdam...and I didn't even get into a brawl! (Sad to say, of course, I did once fight over a bicycle on the mean streets of Beijing...)

Heading out from the Movenpick Hotel, my aim was to make it down to the Van Gogh Museum. Snaking my way from north to south, I alternated between main thoroughfares and side alleys running along canals. I pulled over on a number of occasions, to get some food and do some shopping. (No Ballas, you have to wait until I get home to find out what purchases I made!)

As you can see from the middle picture, I was not the only biker out there! Now, I was given strict instructions by the woman at the bike rental shop. My bike came equipped with two locks. One was heavy duty chain lock. The other was a key operated device that released a metal extension through the spokes of the rear wheel, rendering it unable to rotate. Despite all of this protection, I was still a little nervous. I guess that was the woman's point with all of her instructions and admonitions!

(Funny sidebar...When I returned the bike, the woman, who was sitting in a small room that smelled like a particularly pungent weed, told me she would now get rid of my credit card number. She then proceeded to take a pen and scribble somewhat over the numbers she had earlier written down. Note to Des...Watch our account for any suspicious activity!)

Being a big fan of kebobs, I decided to grab a quick bite in this little place that advertised "doner kebobs." There are tons of joints like this around the city, many of them apparently run by folks of Turkish descent. Anyways, a doner kebob, it turns out, is not what I would call a kebob at all. It is actually meat (lamb, I suppose) shaved off a vertical spit and then served in a pita or on bread. Not what I was expecting, but definitely tasty!

As for the Van Gogh Museum, it was quite a learning experience. I hadn't known that Van Gogh worked as an artist for only ten years before he committed suicide. I also had no prior sense that Van Gogh's early paintings were kind of dark, reminiscent (to me, anyway) of past Dutch masters like Rembrandt. And I certainly had never heard that Van Gogh cut that piece of his ear off during an argument with fellow artist Paul Gauguin.

(Another sidebar...The museum is currently exhibiting a collection of early works that Picasso painted when he came to France in the first decade of the 2oth century. Although not my favorites, there were some works that caught my eye, like that famous self portrait of the young artist.)

I finished my excursion by returning to St. Nicholas, this time for Choral Evensong. This was like returning to the 15th century, as much of the music dated to that period. The choir brought tears to my eyes when they first processed in and starting singing, their collective voices beautifully drifting up and echoing through the high vaults of the cathedral. This group of men and women are the real deal! It certainly was an inspiring way to end a lovely afternoon in Amsterdam...


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Of Chinatown And The Amsterdam Flower Market

Taking a break from my work, I headed out for a stroll through Amsterdam. My destinations? I wanted to walk through Chinatown, to get a little of that hometown feel. And I had the aim of making it to the city's flower market (which had come highly recommended).

The flower market, which is located along a little bend in a picturesque canal, was absolutely loaded with bulbs of all kinds. I guess it's that time of year here in the Netherlands. (There were also plenty of cannabis starter sets being sold. I suppose there's just no getting away from certain sights and smells here in Amsterdam...)

As for Chinatown, it is no San Francisco, but it certainly blows DC away. I was especially happy because I found a store that sells the green tea I live on in when over there in the Middle Kingdom. (Sorry, Julie!)

I was also pleased (to say the least!) to find a restaurant that specializes in the spicy cuisines of Beijing and Sichuan. You have to remember that most Chinatowns around the world are dominated by people from Guangdong Province, the folks who bring us Cantonese dim sum and other such delights. No offense to the good people of Guangdong, but I am just partial to the spicy cuisines of places like Beijing, Hunan, and Sichuan. Authentic takes on these cuisines are very hard to come by outside of China itself. (Trust me, your local take-out place that calls itself "Szechuan Palace" or "Hunan Delight" is just using a brand name. People from China would have pretty much no idea what was being served.)

Anyways, it was great to see 土豆丝 (tudousi) on the menu. This shredded potato dish, served Beijing style with tons of red hot chili peppers, was a perfect choice for a meatless Friday in Lent. And all of the spices gave me an extra excuse to chug down some serious green tea (also perfect for the guy who has given up soda for Lent).


PS: As I exited the shop where I picked up the green tea, a group of young guys asked me, "Hey, did you go to GW?" (I was wearing a GW wool hat.) As it turns out, these guys are GW students studying abroad in Madrid for the semester, and they have come up to Amsterdam for the weekend. One of the guys is actually a political science major who may very well be in one of my classes next semester. Pretty cool!