Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Don't we all wish...

It's often interesting to see how hard it is find out specific things that happened in history. I wa doing some research on the East Room of the White House -- where boatloads of press conferences, treaty negotiations, legislation signings, weddings, and funerals have been held.

Of the eight president who died in office, all but one -- James Garfield -- had a lying-in-repose or funeral in the East Room. The two events are different, but historians often seem to confuse them. (Lying-in-repose usually occurs in a more informal setting, and out of public view. Lying-in-state usually occurs in a specific site -- like the U.S. Capitol Rotunda -- and is usually open to the public. In the U.S., the distinction between these two is not often important, as it is in other countries. But we're not talking about the repose/state issue...)

Garfield, of course, died in New Jersey. When his body was brought back to the capital, it went straight to the Rotunda for lying-in-state and a funeral.

William McKinley died in Buffalo, New York. His body lay in repose there for two days, to allow obsequies by the people of Buffalo. He lay in repose in the East Room of the White House less than 12 hours before being taken to the Rotunda for lying-in-state and a funeral.

Warren G. Harding died in San Francisco. His body lay in repose for less than 12 hours, too, before being removed to the Capitol rotunda.

Funny thing is, while there are many books about McKinley, few of them mention him lying in repose in the White House. Some blatantly get it wrong, and say he went directly from Union Station to the rotunda!

Not unexpectedly, there are few books about Warren G. Harding. Almost none mention his funeral in depth.

In order to learn about the history of the East Room in both cases, I had to go into newspaper stories from the era and glean the truth there.

One would think that historians would have done a better job here.........

(I can't find any photos of either funeral, so you get one of JFK being laid in place in the East Room. Notice Jackie, standing in blood-and-brains-spattered pink, by the main door. This photo was taken approximately 4:40 a.m. on November 23, 1963. The body had just returned from Bethesda Naval Hospital.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Don't we all???

Council member Jack Evans wants to resurrect the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation -- and he wants the D.C. government to run and finance it.

Back in 1963, when John F. Kennedy's inaugural motorcade went up Pennsylvania Avenue NW to the White House, Kennedy was appalled at what he saw: two- and three-story 1850-era townhouses on the north side of the street, mostly containing pawn shops, TV repair stores, wig and costume outfitters, and souvenir shops. The only buildings of note were the _Evening Star_ building and the Willard Hotel (then run-down and struggling). On the south side was Federal Triangle. As his limousine reached what is now Freedom Plaza, he encountered a trash dump.

Kennedy got his aide, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, to get to work on a plan to rejuvenate Pennsylvania Avenue. But Kennedy died just as Moynihan's plan was coming together. President Lyndon B. Johnson used an executive order to create a Temporary Commission on Pennsylvania Avenue, and the D.C. city commissioners redid some zoning rules to help keep the street from being improperly developed. But with repeated threats to their existence, most businesses along the avenue began closing and the street looked like a ghost town.

Moynihan quit the Johnson administration, but got back into government with the Nixon administration. Congress had balked at Johnson's proposal to use 100 percent federal funds to reconstruct the north side of the avenue. Moynihan how had a master-stroke of an idea: Create a $200 million revolving fund with federal money. The federal money would be used to jump-start redevelopment, but private developers would find most of the money and build the buildings.

Congress approved the plan, which created the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation in 1973. Elwood Quesda, who'd built L'Enfant Plaza after its original developes went bankrupt, led the corporation.

By this time, the ugly, massive, brooding J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building had already been constructed, largely ruining the PADC's plans. But the PADC got its way on almost everything else. It cajoled Congress into spending $100 million to buy land for much wider sidewalks along the street, it killed plans to tunnel an expressway below the avenue, it helped save the Willard Hotel and the Old Post Office Pavilion, and it got a boulevard constructed down the middle of the street to improve visibility. In 1975, it managed to get Market Square going -- just the sort of mixed-use building it wanted all along the north side of the street to enhance foot traffic and make the street-level retail viable (especially at night).

Two new public areas -- Freedom Plaza and Pershing Park -- were built as part of the PADC's efforts.

Between 1973 and 1996, the PADC got private industry to pony up $1.5 billion to rebuild Pennsylvania Avenue.

Since the PADC's dissolution two decades ago, Pennsylvania Avenue has languished. Renovations to the new buildings on the north side got rid of the housing, the street-level retail shuts down at night, and Congress allowed the Newseum and Canadian Embassy to be built -- creating huge holes with no retail and no housing along the street. Freedom Plaza has not worked out as planned, and is a barren, sizzling hot skateboard park.

With the FBI leaving Pennsylvania Avenue in 10 years, local business people have been urging the creation of a new PADC to take over redevelopment of the Avenue. Evans, a tool of local business, agrees and wants a new corporation.

The problem: The District oversees the street itself. The National Park Service manages the sidewalks. The General Services Administration owns the real estate on the south side. And there are about 20 private landowners on the north side. Those are some big players the city would have to cajole to get on board with projects.

"This guy has now crossed 70-some yards of restricted area. If he has [an explosive] device on him and he gets in, he controls the White House. He could have anything on him." - former high-ranking Secret Service agent

New evidence shows that the Secret Service's plan for guarding the White House -- with five different rings of protection between the public sidewalk and the president's front door -- FAILED COMPLETELY.
1) A plainclothes surveillance team, mingling among the tourists and which is supposed to stop fence-jumpers, failed to notice Gonzales.

2) An officer in a guard booth on the North Lawn was knocked over by Gonzales and did not get up in time to stop him from reaching and entering the White House.

3) An attack dog on the White House driveway was supposed to be let loose to stop Gonzales, but was never let off the leash.

4) A SWAT team -- specifically created in the 1990s to stop fence- jumpers -- was supposed to stop Gonzales, but did not react in time.

5) There was supposed to be a guard at the front door, but he was somewhere else.
Who stopped Gonzales? A plainclothes agent -- the sixth ring of security -- patrolling inside the Executive Mansion. A place intruders are never supposed to reach.

Security analysts also expressed surprise that the Secret Service did not fire on Gonzales. Gonzales was clearly headed for the White House, and the guards were not going to be able to intercept him. Secret Service agents had their guns trained on him, but did not fire -- and which allowed him to gain entry to the Executive Mansion.

The Big Bang Theory saw a whopping 17 million viewers for its two new episodes on Monday night. Analysts project, based on past viewing habits, that this will rise to 25 million by the time delayed-viewing is counted. In the critical 18-to-49-year-old viewer category that advertisers pay a premium to reach, Big Bang had averaged a very large 5.3 and 5.4 for its two episodes.

Gotham averaged 8 million viewers, with a strong 3.2 in the 18-to-49 category. Even more impressive, Gotham saw increased viewership the second half-hour, even though competition from powerhouse Monday Night Football began at 8:30 PM.

Sleepy Hollow, however, failed to keep its lead-in from Gotham. The sophomore show had an average of just 5.5 million viewers, and just a so-so 2.0 rating in the 18-to-49 group. Analysts are unsure if delayed viewing will help it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sauron is that all-mighty evil nasty thing that made the One Ring? Please. He's a skinny cowardly freakazoid beeyotch compared to Melkor.

Melkor was Tolkien's biggest-baddie of them all. How do we know? He created Balrogs.

In J.R.R. Tolkien's universe, spiritual entities are called Ainur. The Valar are the most powerful of these, essentially a form of archangel. There are 15 of them -- with Manwë, a male Valar, being the most powerful. But Melkor was equally powerful to Manwë, if not even more so. Iluvatar ("God" in Tolkien's world) asked his Valar to help him "sing the world into existence". (Singing the world into existence is a common creation myth.) Melkor, however, didn't want to sing the same song as everyone else, so he introduced evil into the world by singing a different song. Some things he created were new and wrong; other things were twisted versions of goodness or beauty.

Lesser Ainur are called Maiar. These are animist spirits -- the spirit of the lake, the spirit of the hill, the spirit of the valley, the spirit of the tree or the deer. There are bazillions of Maiar, some more powerful than others, but all of them dedicated to a single place, species, thing, or idea. The wizards -- Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, and others -- were all Maiar, although they were the most powerful Maiar around. Sauron? Just a Maiar!!!! A very powerful one, but nothing more than your common squirrel-spirit or shrub-ghost.*

As the song went on, and then once it was over, Melkor kept sneaking into Middle-earth to do even more damage, most of which wasn't apparent to the Valar for millennia. He built two, vast fortresses in the arctic: Angband, his greatest work (delved so deep into the earth that its dungeons, pits, and hell-holes are unnumbered), and Utumno, a smaller version of Angband that served as a watchpost. Melkor destroyed the Valar's home in Middle-earth, forcing them to create and move to Valinor, a mystical isle beyond the western sea. There they created Two Trees to give light to the world (as the sun and moon didn't exist yet). Melkor was captured in the "War of the Powers" and chained for a thousand years. He then convinced Manwë (who is kind of stupid) that he had reformed. He destroyed the Valar's home again, fled to Middle-earth with the Silmarils (Elvish jewels which captured the light of the Two Trees), and started doing more evil.

It's about this time that Melkor creates a bunch of things. Among them are orcs (Elves which are tortured, twisted, and corrupted into a race of pure evil), dragons (unfortunately, it takes hundreds of years for their skin to harden, so they don't appear on the scene very quickly), and Balrogs.

Tolkien's concept of the Balrog changed over time. He initially indicated they were pure creations of Melkor, like dragons. In his later writings, he seemed to think they were fire-Maiar. Like orcs, Melkor (who the Elves called "Morgoth", or "the enemy") twisted the Balrogs into evil things. But unlike orcs, the Balrogs apparently underwent this process willingly.

How many were there? In The Silmarillion, Tolkien's history of Middle-earth, there are THOUSANDS. They are only twice the height of a man, and rode dragons into battle. They were hot as lava, and just being nearing them could burn a man severely. They had whips (it's not clear if they were physical, or made of fire, or on fire), swords, axes, maces, and claws like steel. They sometimes wore chain-mail, and were very strong. Yet, holding them under water (and dousing their heat) could kill them, and if you pumped enough arrows into them or slashed them enough with swords, they could die.

But The Silmarillion was not fully finished by Tolkien. In The Lord of the Rings, which was finished, Balrogs are FAR more larger and powerful. Tolkien apparently contemplated reducing their number, too, so that there were only seven (this never made it into the LOTR text, however).

Interestingly, Tolkien seemed to abandon this idea after LOTR was published, and in drafts of his later writings he returns to the idea that there were thousands of them.

What did Balrogs look like? That's hard to say. They were dark, and had cracks all over their body through which red fire gleamed. Now, Maiar are spirits, and not physical beings. They can take on physical form; indeed, hurt a Maiar enough, and they lose the ability to choose certain forms. (Sauron, for example, was once able to take the form of a handsome man. After causing the downfall of Númenor, however, he lost this ability.)

In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien provides the most complete description of a Balrog Yet: It appeared "like a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, of man-shape maybe, yet greater". Tolkien says the Balrog actually passed through the Dwarf-sized door to enter the chamber of Mazarbul (where Balin's tomb was). But just a few pages later, while in the 21st Hall, it "drew itself to a great height, and its wings spread from wall to wall". Given how vast the 21st Hall is, the Balrog would need to be enormous!!! (In an early draft of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien said the Balrog was man-high, with fiery eyes, long arms, and a red tongue.)

Whether Balrogs have wings is also unclear. In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien wrote, "His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings." Oh, so they're only shadows. BUT WAIT! "...suddenly it drew itself up to a great height, and its wings spread from wall to wall..." Oh, so they ARE physical wings.

Frankly, Virginia, Tolkien just isn't clear on the subject.

Even the way you kill a Balrog changed. The Silmarillion is quite clear you can douse or drown them. But Gandalf and the Balrog fall into a subterranean lake beneath Moria. The Balrog survives, although its form is now slimey and mud-like. (Maybe he didn't hold it under long enough?) Gandalf continued to hew at the monster with his Elvish sword, Glamdring.** The Balrog fled, and Gandalf pursued it for eight days up the Endless Stairs. They emerged on the mountaintop, where he finally killed the creature (although he died himself in the process).

Here are depictions of the Balrog. Three are from John Howe, the British painter who has done hundreds of LOTR and Hobbit paintings. You can see how different each one is. (One depicts the Elf, Glorfindel, defending Gondolin from a Balrog.) Howe later did the artwork which Peter Jackson used for his films, and that's yet ANOTHER conception of what it looked like. One of the images is by the Brothers Hildebrandt, traditionalist fantasy painters working in the 1970s and 1980s. Two images are from the Jackson movie.

* - If you wonder why Gandalf et al. couldn't defeat Sauron easily, you're in good company. Tolkien suggested in his letters to friends that it's because the Valar wanted Men, Elves, and Dwarves to do so; thus, Gandalf et al. agreed not to use their Maiar powers while in Middle-earth. Sauron, however, was under not such compulsion. This still begs the question, however, and Tolkien never really provided a good answer except "That's the story I wanted to tell".

** - Glamdring was forged by the Elf Turgon. Turgon was one of the Noldor, those Elves who swore a magical oath to retrieve the Silmarils from Melkor or die trying. But once in Middle-earth, he became worried that the Elves would lose. So he quit the battle, and after some years discovered a hidden valley ringed by high mountains. It could only be reached by an underground river (now long-dry), and thus was nearly impossible to find. He led his sub-tribe of Elves there, and they established the magnificent walled city of Gondolin. Gondolin would later be betrayed by Turgon's nephew, the evil Elf named Maeglin. (Yes, there are evil Elves!!) This sets in motion a long chain of events that leads to the defeat of Melkor, the birth of Elrond the Half-Elven, the rise of Sauron to replace Melkor, and much more!! Glamdring was rescued from Gondolin by the human named Tuor (Turgon's best friend). Tuor's daughter would marry an Elf, and their sons are Elros and Elrond. Elros decided to emphasize his human side, married a human woman, and his great-great-great-great-great-great-Nth-great grandson is Aragorn. His brother is Elrond, who decided to emphasize his Elvish side. Essentially, Elrond's daughter, Arwen, marries her cousin. EWWWWW!!!!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

In 1984, Tipper Gore -- wife of U.S. Senator Al Gore -- bought Prince's album Purple Rain for her daughter. When she got home, she was "shocked" at the lyrics, which implied sexual activity and female masturbation.

Gore got together with Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker; Pam Howar, wife of Washington realtor Raymond Howar; and Sally Nevius, wife of former D.C. City Council Chairman John Nevius. They formed the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to warning parents when their children were going to buy "dirty lyrics". With her husband's influence, hearings were held in the United States Senate in which PMRC called for censorship of lyrics. A wide range of musicians testified against the censorship ploy. At the hearing, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), to which nearly all record labels belong, announced it was going to put "Parental Advisory Warning" stickers on all music which carried explicit lyrics about sex, drugs, or violence.

Over time, PMRC grew to include 22 different organizational members. But it largely died in 1992 when Tipper Gore resigned from the center in order to devote full time to her husband's Vice Presidential bid. PMRC collapsed. Left with only a tiny revenue stream, it stopped publishing its newsletter, stopped conducting studies on the "detrimental" effects of explicit lyrics on America's pure youth, and stopped issuing press releases. PMRC soon changed its goals; although it still exists today, it says it now exists to promote the "positive long term effects of music on health, analytical and creative thinking and self-esteem."

On July 18, 1993, Rage Against the Machine protested the invidious effects of PMRC at Lollapalooza III by standing naked onstage with duct tape covering their mouths and the letters PMRC inked onto their chests. The band stood there for 14 minutes, buck naked. The band's "set" ended, and they left the stage. (Rage later played a free concert for disappointed fans.)

* * * * * * *

Did you know that, after graduating from Harvard in 1988, Rage guitarist Tom Morello worked as a male stripper? He made a lot of money doing so. I wish he'd come to Washington, D.C., to strip. Tom's got a sizeable cock, and a nice, toned, furry body. I'd love to see Tom's erect penis.  Wow!

I was surprised at Brad Wilk. The guy is short, which is very hot. And he's got a nice fat dick, too. He's also apparently uncircumcized. Huh?? Wilk's parents are Russian Jews and German. How did Brad get away with not having his very nice cock clipped?? He must look amazing sexually aroused.

Both men have kind of darker skin for their cocks and balls, which I like a lot.

By the way, the lyrics PMRC hated so much? Today's rap music has lyrics 10,000 times worse, and no one is complaining. Tipper Gore, you suck.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I've not posted the past few days, because I've been working on an article about the Cross of Sacrifice.

It's a British (really: Commonwealth) war memorial that is ubiquitous in Commonwealth war cemeteries. There's one at Arlington National Cemetery as well.

This is all there was about the memorial itself:
The Cross of Sacrifice was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield for the Imperial War Graves Commission (now Commonwealth War Graves Commission) and is usually present in Commonwealth war cemeteries containing 40 or more graves. It is normally a freestanding four point limestone Latin cross in one of three sizes ranging in height from 18 to 32 feet. On the face of the cross is a bronze broadsword, blade down. It is usually mounted on an octagonal base. The Cross represents the faith of the majority of the dead and the sword represents the military character of the cemetery. The Cross of Sacrifice is frequently built into the boundary wall of cemeteries where subsidence is a liability, such as those in Turkey.
Nothing about why it was created, what the design process was, where it was located, nothing. The memorial's height is barely mentioned, and nothing about its construction features.

That's crazy shit. The original article had three times as much text about places where the memorial appeared (e.g., non-war cemeteries) than it did about the memorial itself! That's nonsense!!

I'm slowly laboring to create an article about all major memorials at Arlington National Cemetery. I lay down that burden occasionally, because my brain needs a rest. I figured that there was no need for a Canadian Cross of Sacrifice article, becuase there already was one about the Cross of Sacrifice itself. But boy was I wrong...

Although I knew NOTHING -- NOTH-ING -- about British war memorials or Commonwealth war graves, I spent four days doing some heavy research and writing.

It's better now.
Can't getenough of that skin color, and those huge, erect nipples. He's lovely.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Drew van Acker on the ABC Family show Pretty Little Liars.

THIS is what they show on that channel?????? Half-naked beefcake?

I think I know what sort of "family" this is..........................!!!

Stunning. Just stunning.

"The role of a factfinder, whether administrative or judicial, in a contested case is to neutrally find the facts, then apply the appropriate law and thus determine the outcome. It is not the proper function of such a factfinder to announce 'you won, now tell me why.' Both this court and other courts have condemned this practice. In spite of this continued condemnation, courts have remained reluctant to vacate orders where the practice is clearly evident. In my view, it is high time for this court to begin to do so. I would do so here."
Could this legal ruling up-end the D.C. zoning process?????

Let's return to those halcyon days of yester-year...

During the 1800s, the Georgetown waterfront was a commercial harbor, and most of the land was occupied by warehouses. Between 1900 and 1960, the harbor largely closed as commercial river traffic declined sharply. The warehouses were demolished and a number of coal gas, cement, steel, and other medium and light industrial manufacturing plants were erected in their place. By 1960, many of these plants closed, and the waterfront fell into disuse. A city-owned waste incineration plant, a waste sorting facility, and construction materials depot occupied portions of the site.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the federal government attempted to build a number of super-highways around, and through, the District of Columbia. Local citizens did not want them, and argued they were not needed. Several studies of the issue were made in the 1960s. In 1970, a study by the National Capitol Planning Commission (NCPC) and the Georgetown Citizens' Association (GCA) not only condemned the need for these super-highways, but asked that the Whitehurst Freeway -- which blocked Georgetown's vistas and inhibited development of the waterfront, be demolished.

President Richard M. Nixon didn't accept the study's recommendations about Whitehurst, but was impressed with the study's characterization of Georgetown as a unique, intact, historic neighborhood. In April 1971, Nixon announced a "historic Georgetown initiative" that called for extensive planning, zoning, and regulation of Georgetown to preserve its historic character.

But Georgetown Inland, a subsidiary of the Inland Steel Company, owned a big chunk of the Georgetown waterfront, where a former steel plant once existed. They commissioned architect Arthur Cotton Moore to design an eight-story office building in April 1972. The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), which had statutory authority to approve the design and height of structures in the area, recommended against its construction and the D.C. Zoning Commission issued a 120-day ban on construction on the Georgetown waterfront. Undeterred, Georgetown Inland tripled the size of its planned retail and office complex. The Zoning Commission lifted its ban without comment.

Now, here's where it gets interesting: The Zoning Commission provided no justification for lifting its ban. It just did it. In February 1973, the D.C. Court of Appeals reimposed the ban and castigated the Zoning Commission for failing to provide any justification for its actions. The appellate court required that, going forward, the zoning commission must take sworn testimony and permit cross-examination of witnesses prior to making zoning decisions, and issue quasi-judicial written opinions outlining the reasons for its decisions.

Four more years of zoning rulings, lawsuits, court decisions, and more would occur. Georgetown Inland sold its land to the Western Development Corp., which built shopping malls. Georgetown's waterfront was rezoned, and in 1979 Arthur Cotton Moore unveiled his plans for the eight-story Washington Harbour development. Completed in 1986, the $200 million project consisted of five six-story buildings in two block-long structures, with 23 facades.

The struggle over Washington Harbour led the D.C. City Council to enact the District of Columbia Comprehensive Plan Act of 1984, which forced the city government to adopt a city-wide comprehensive planning and zoning document. City-wide zoning proceeded under two documents generated by the Comprehensive Plan Act. The first was the Future Land Use Map (FLUM), which established broad categories for each parcel of land within the District of Columbia. The map did not show intensity or density, and the most intense land use was not necessarily automatically permitted under the document. It did, however, guide zoning decisions by the Zoning Commission. The second was the General Policy Map (GPM), which was designed to show how far land use could bend in a given direction between 2005 and 2025. Naturally, developers want to push land use toward the most dense, intense level permitted by zoning regulations. The GMP helps rein in that tendency. The Comprehensive Plan, FLUM, and GMP have been modified extensively since.

Zoning, however, has failed to keep up with the modifications. The D.C. Zoning Commission, which became an independent agency of the city government in 1990, instead adopted a process called the Planned Unit Development (PUD). Under the PUD, a developer could win an exception to zoning regulations if the developer promised to provide a much higher level of amenities to the local area. For example: A site might be zoned for just four-story buildings and medium density. A developer could win a zoning exception to build a six-story building of high density, provided they also set aside a portion of the land as a park and added retail to the building.

In 2002, the federal government forced the National Capital Planning Commissions (NCPC) to adopt a Comprehensive Plan for the national capital in cooperation with the D.C. city government. Although not a city document, the NCPC has legal authority to approve or disapprove construction within sight of federal property, and legally plays an advisory and reviewing role in city zoning and land use decision-making.

FLASH FORWARD now to 2012.

The site is 901 Monroe Street NE, a block located just one block from the Brookland-CUA Metro stop. The train runs on an elevated track over the area. Brookland is a rapidly gentrifying part of the city, with its own thriving retail corridor, restaurants, shops, and parks (and relatively crime-free).

Four developers -- the Menkiti Group, Esocoff & Associates, Horning Brothers, and Jim Stiegman (MEHS) -- purchased 901 Monroe Street. The site was occupied by four decrepit detached houses and a two-story commercial building with no tenants. MEHS wanted to build a six-story building with about 215 apartment and ground floor retail space.

A group of residents living within 200 feet of the parcel ("the 200-Footers") objected to the proposed development. They argued the project was inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan and established a high-density development in an area zoned only for moderate density.

MEHS quickly submitted a PUD to the Zoning Commission. Now, the problem with PUDs is that the Zoning Commission usually grants them without amendment or exception. And it copy-and-pastes developers' justifications for the PUD exception into its ruling.

Cut-and-paste wouldn't be so bad, if the Zoning Commission actually engaged in those public hearings, receipt of testimony, study, fact-finding, and so on required by the Court of Appeals waaaaaaaaaaaay back in February 1973 in the Washington Harbour case. But the Zoning Commission doesn't do that. It wants to be developer-friendly, and that means moving as fast as possible on PUDs. Developing an extensive written record isn't consistent with that. Developing an extensive written record also provides lots of ammunition for local residents to use when going to court to stop a development. To win in court, the Zoning Commission would need to have extensive evidence supporting its conclusions (also developed within the written record), which would be time-consuming, expensive -- and might fail to convince a court!

In June 2012, the D.C. Zoning Commission granted MEHS its zoning exemption for 901 Monroe Street NE. As is its usual practice, it copied-and-pasted the developer's rationales and justifications into its own decision.

The 200-Footers sued.

In May 2013, the D.C. Court of Appeals issued a ruling in "Durant v. District of Columbia Zoning Commission, 65 A.3d 1161 (D.C. 2013), in which it overturned the Zoning Commission's ruling. The Court of Appeals said:
(1) The Zoning Commission had failed to determine whether the project was consistent with the FLUM;
(2) The Zoning Commission had failed to determine whether the project was consistent with the Comprehensive Plan; and
(3) The Zoning Commission had failed to determine whether the project was consistent with the GPM (which designated the area as a Natural Conservation Area and required much more parkland).
The D.C. Court of Appeals has issued a potentially precedent-setting opinion that not only tosses the Zoning Commission’s approval of a controversial Brookland development, but also may force the commission to change the way it reviews and OKs projects.

Remember what the Court of Appeals said in 1973: Hold hearings. Receive testimony from experts. Study. Analyze. Write a quasi-judicial report outlining findings, considering alternatives, weighing evidence, drawing conclusions.

The Zoning Commission did none of that. Instead, it asked MEHS to draft a new proposed order, and asked the 200-Footers to comment on it. The Zoning Commission then copied-and-pasted MEHS's new language into its zoning order. It essentially ignored the 14 pages of reply given by the 200-Footers. The Commission even adopted the grammatical and typographical errors in the developer's proposed order.

The 200-Footers sued again.

On September 11, 2014, the Court of Appeals once more overturned the Zoning Commission's PUD.

The Court of Appeals – and numerous courts throughout the United States – have said that using a developer's language is fine. The developer may be right, and there's no need to re-invent the wheel. ("...a judge or agency might 'conclude[] that a better document could not have been prepared'.") But when courts see copy-and-paste zoning orders, they engage in heightened scrutiny of the facts. Courts normally defer heavily to the expertise of a zoning commission and its staff, but when there are cut-and-paste zoning orders – courts stop deferring.

The Court of Appeals did not actually consider whether the Zoning Commission's conclusions of fact were accurate or not. It didn't have to.

The Court of Appeals noted that the second zoning order still did not address the FLUM or the GMP. Moderate-density use is four-unit apartment buildings, and medium-density use is four to seven story apartment buildings. The FLUM requires moderate-density use only, and yet the Zoning Commission permitted medium-density use. Why? The zoning order doesn't say. The GMP requires that special care be taken to preserve the low-density housing east of 10th Street NE. That doesn't mean "at all costs", it merely means that the Zoning Commission needs to balance the need for redevelopment. The GMP does not prohibit development of a larger scale, and is a guideline – not a rule. There are other policies which the Zoning Commission must follow, such as promoting redevelopment of exhausted neighborhoods (and Brookland is just such a place). But there was nothing in the Zoning Commission's order which weighed these policies and goals and decided in favor of the PUD.

The court said it was not enough for the Zoning Commission to merely conclude. It needed to EXPLAIN its reasoning.

The PUD was overturned a second time, and remanded back to the Zoning Commission, so that the commission could address these issues.

Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park, Montana, USA

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My fortune cookie fortune today basically sucked. What the heck??

Make art.

In 1880, the National Mall did not exist west of the Washington Monument or south of Constitution Avenue -- it was all water. West Potomac Park, the Tidal Basion, East Potomac Park -- all water. Beginning in 1881, Congress appropriated funds to have the Potomac River dredged to bedrock as a flood-reduction measure. They used the earth to expand the National Mall, and ensure that the whole area was at least six feet above the high-water mark.

By 1900, with the National Mall finally reclaimed from the waters of the Potomac, there were a host of plans with what to do with it. Some called for industrial parks. Others called for public bathhouses and bathing beaches (since so few in the city, e.g., blacks, had running water). Others wanted it sold off for development. Still others wanted parks.

In 1901, the U.S. Senate established the Senate Parks Commission to decide what to do. Led by Senator James McMillan (R-Mich.), the "McMillan Plan" laid out the National Mall as we know it today. The vast forest and winding footpaths were torn out, and double-rows of trees laid on either side. Down the center was a vast "tapis verdt" (green lawn), just like at Versailles. At one end, a new "Lincoln Memorial" with reflecting pool would be built. In front of the Congress, a new "Ulysses S. Grant Memorial" would go up. The shape of the Tidal Basin would be altered, there would be a bridge linking the "Lincoln Memorial" with Arlington National Cemetery, the train station on the Mall would be gotten rid of and a new one (a "Union" Station, for all railroads) built north of the Capitol. Museums, art galleries, theaters, and auditoriums would line the National Mall.

And east of the Capitol, the townhouses and odd buildings would be condemned using eminent domain. East Capitol Street would be widened into a six-lane ceremonial avenue (two lanes for parking, the rest for traffic). New, Beaux Arts and Neoclassical federal office buildings would line the street. Most north-south through-streets would be cut off by these new buildings. Sunken trenches north and south of this "Eastern Mall" would hold a limited-access highway, allowing quick access to the new parkways that would be built -- one extending north on the western shore of the Anacostia River, and one zipping southwest across a new Massachusetts Avenue Bridge that would, finally, like the two segments of the great state's ceremonial thoroughfare.

Lincoln Park would be turned into a fantasy land of a park. And at the easternmost end of the great avenue would be another train station, a new city university, a great city hospital, and a gigantic sports arena. On the shores of the Anacostia would be a new, vast park -- beautiful like no other, with gigantic meadows, winding pathways, copses of trees, playgrounds, boating, picnic sites, athletic fields, and a gigantic natural (if man-made) amphitheater...and on the weekends, in summer, an orchestra would play music, accompanied by fireworks, and the people sitting on the grass would applaud and thrill to their fantastic city and its urban wonders.

Well, nothing happened on the east side. But that was the plan. Even as late as 1941 -- when the plan was put on the shelf due to the emergency of World War II -- there were plans to implement this grand scheme to transform the eastern half of Washington, D.C., into a spectacular vista of magnificent buildings, parks, avenues, and public conveniences.

But when the war ended, there wasn't any money for it. And then Korea happened. And then the Cold War. And then Vietnam. And then the plan just was put aside, forgotten, cast away.
I love his blemish-free, translucent, very white skin. His soft, chunky muscularity. The powerful legs.  The almost average face, with slightly too pudgy, too big nose. The lovely small, hard nipples. The lovely bulge in his briefs.

This is what the universe looks like.

After the Big Bang, things aren't uniform. There are clumps here and there. Things kind of string out here, drizzle out there, smash into one another.

Two big pieces form. Each has a sort of dense backbone made up of billions of galaxies, from which filaments of hundreds of millions of galaxies stand out like hair on your head after being rubbed with a balloon.

Scientists have long known of the one "supercluster" of galaxies, and called it Perseus-Pisces. But the shape of the other has just been identified. It is known as Laniakea, a Hawaiian word meaning "immense heaven".

And where are we? In the yellow-on-black image, we're the little red dot.

Sadly, no one would ever bring me my barbacoa....

What male superheroes would look like if the misogynists drew them posed the way they pose female superheroes.

The timeline of the future... Or, at least, where movies and television say we should be headed.

What I found today.


In 1845, Captain Sir John Franklin led a major exploration of the Arctic in an attempt to traverse the last unnavigated section of the Northwest Passage. His two ships became icebound near King William Island, and the entire expedition -- which included Franklin and 128 men -- was lost.

The British desperately launched a search for the missing expedition in 1848, which at one point involved eleven British and two American ships. They found the graves of three crewmen on Beechey Island, and a few pieces of equipment. In 1854, explorer John Rae found more equipment and collected stories from Inuit who told of survivors from the Franklin party. A search party led by Francis Leopold McClintock in 1859 discovered a note left on King William Island with details about the expedition's fate.

Scientific investigation in the late 20th century revealed that the crew might have come down with tuberculosis, and gotten lead poisoning from badly soldered cans of tinned food or from the ship's fresh water system. The bones recovered from Beechley Island showed signs of cannibalism.

BUT NOW...................

On September 9, 2014, a Canadian expedition announced that it had located one of Franklin's two ships. While it is not known which of the two has been located, it is preserved in very good condition, with side-scan sonar picking up even the deck planking!!!!

Sir Edwin Landseer's painting Man Proposes, God Disposes, unveiled in 1864. It depicts two polar bears, one chewing on a tattered ship's ensign, the other gnawing on a human ribcage, and is one of the more powerful imaginings of the Franklin expedition's final fate.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

James Corden, the British actor best known in the U.S. for playing the delightfully pleasant and chunky Craig on two episodes of Doctor Who, will be taking over the reins of The Late Late Show from Craig Ferguson.

Here's Corden with Tom Daley in a Sport Relief comedy bit they did. They're the bubbly boys!

Ah, childhood! Mine would have been much easier had I read these...

Tom Riley got a blond wig and grew a goatee as Robin Hood in the last Doctor Who. For those who know, Tom also plays Leonardo DaVinci in the Starz/BBC series DaVinci's Demons. It's a fictional historical drama about a young Leonardo DaVinci, who is caught up in the machinations of the de Medici and Borgia families in Renaissance Italy. Behind the scenes, Da Vinci is trying to find the mysterious "Book of Leaves", which will help him unlock the potential of the human mind and help him shape the future.

* * * * * * *

Robin Hood: Trussed up like turkey-cocks... thanks to your friend.
Doctor: Shut it, Hoodie. I saved your life!
Robin Hood: I had the situation well in hand.
Doctor: Long-haired ninny versus robot killer knights? I know where I'd put my money.

* * * * * * *

Doctor: Guard! He's laughing again! You can't keep me locked up with a laughing person!

Topography of the Washington, D.C., area, overlaid with city streets and boundaries of the area.

Look closely: You'll see that much of downtown Washington is basically on a flat plain, with a curving natural escarpment to the northeast, north, and northwest.

On July 9, 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which approved the creation of a national capital on the Potomac River. The exact location was to be selected by President George Washington, who chose a portion of the states of Maryland and Virginia on January 24, 1791. Originally, government officials did not foresee that the city of Washington would expand to fill the boundaries of the entire District of Columbia. The "Federal City", or City of Washington, originally lay within an area bounded by Boundary Street (northwest and northeast), 15th Street Northeast, East Capitol Street, the Anacostia River, the Potomac River, and Rock Creek. Boundary Street was renamed Florida Avenue in 1890.

Florida Avenue passes along the foot of the hilly terrain which basically marks the Federal City. These hills are the Wicomico-Sunderland Escarpment, which is part of the Atlantic Seaboard fall line. The escarpment help marks the transition between the Appalachian Piedmont region north of the avenue and the flat Atlantic Coastal Plain terrain of the city's downtown area to the south.

You will also notice the natural valley in the escarpment to the north of downtown, which is where most of the city expanded in the late 1800s. Note, too, the flat land along the Potomac River next to Georgetown, which is on the Georgetown Heights. Beyond that, you can see how a natural northeast-southwest running ridge forms Nebraska Avenue NW, and beyond that is the gentle slope of AU Park and Spring Valley.

In the lower central image, on the left bank of the Potomac is Alexandria on the flat land there. On the right bank are the flat farmland that is now Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, and the high escarpment behind it that used to hold Civil War forts. (That's South Capitol Street hugging the base of the escarpment.) Slicing southwest through Anacostia is Oxon Run, and through Maryland is Broad Creek. South of Alexandria, that's Cameron Run. These creeks have carved deeply into landscape.