Thursday, June 24, 2010

So, you're not into the bar scene...

marker at u street near metroYou're not alone. So, a special place in DC exists for people who want to talk tech, without the loud music and background of restaurants and bars.

That place is 1410 Q Street, NW. By day, it's an elegant, unassuming brick rowhouse that incubates tech startups. By night, it hosts various IT and other technical group meetings. (Shhhhh!)

Which is why the comfy yet refined meeting space came to house a "Blogging Buddies" meetup tonight, meant to encourage people to exchange, and, if needed, to begin blogging. It happened--two--count 'em, two--people actually began their blogs tonight, on two separate subjects. I'd call that success, especially for a first meeting.

If you're looking for advice, war stories, technical advice, and practical encouragement on blogging, get thee to 1410 Q Street next month, the 4th Thursday (which would be July 22nd) between 7 and 9 pm. Bring yourself. Bring a friend. (No need to BYOB, though!) Most important, bring your point of view.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Keeping it cool...with dessert.

peach cobbler from Everlasting Life
It's that kind of day--while fruit's great as dessert, at times, you want something different, a little extra on a scorcher like today. Particularly if you don't have to make it yourself.

Like, say, ice cream and other ice treats. But you're worried about your waistline. Not to fear, Turtle Mountain's got you covered. Its most recent icy creations are coconut-water based sorbets, so they're low in calories, from 100 to 110 calories per serving. (A serving is half cup. Sure.) I got the 'lemonade' flavor from Giant, and boy, it is good. Smooth, soft, and (if you have any left over), doesn't get lots of ice crystals. Yum!

Double yum if you're out and about is the soft-serve soy ice cream at Everlasting Life (in Capitol Heights, near FedEx Stadium). You have to call to find the flavor of the day, which is strawberry today. Sounds good, although my favorites are the rum raisin and sweet potato. Which might go splendidly with one of the cobblers (pictured above is the peach, which I particularly love). Most recently the cobblers were mixed berry and apple, and I just had to have the berry; turned out to be a good choice, full of sloppy fruity juices and such.

Or the guilty pleasure of the soft-serve ice cream from the Miller Farm store in Clinton. I last had the banana nut in a cone, but the flavor changes daily.

slice of Sara Lee Signature Selections Deep Dish Gourmet cherry pieFor a decent, large, fruit pie for those days when there's no time to find a farmer's market, scarily enough, you can find a reasonable one at the grocery store (for some reason, Safeway in particular). That's right, good ol' Sara Lee makes a delish cherry pie from the Signature Selections Deep Dish Gourmet pie line). Made with those tart Montmorency, aka "pie," cherries (which hold their shape better than sweet ones, and have higher levels of antioxidants to boot), they are a revelation; not too sweet, and full of plump cherries, instead of crimson-colored cherry cornstarch.

It's big enough, and rich enough, for company, but not too expensive. And, again, not too sweet. Because it's full of cherries, which are, in fact, the first ingredient, which, sadly, is almost unheard of for storebought frozen fruit desserts. In fact, the ingredients are: cherries, enriched flour, vegetable oil, sugar, water, as well as less than 2% of each of the following--modified corn starch, high fructose corn cyrup, salt, soy flour. Now, this is no natural product, as the vegetable oil may contain cottonseed (?) oil, and there's high fructose corn syrup, but again, this isn't an everyday food (as fatty as this is, it shouldn't be).

This is treat-yourself weather, so go ahead and do as The Jacksons used to sing:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The best Father's Day gift...

Louis' congratulations cakeToday, my cousin received what must be the best Father's Day gift ever: celebration of (one of) his son's success. The son, Louis Young (Good Counsel's most recent football hero), is headed off to Georgia Tech on a football scholarship. Woo hoo! More good news: two of Louis' sports-playing friends (in the field of basketball) are headed to Georgetown and Princeton. In this day and age, anytime parents have raised young people to be kind, academically oriented, and to excel in sports, as is the case with Louis, it's time to celebrate.

Future good news--little brother wants to follow in Louis' footsteps. (However, the younger brother looks like a linebacker, and is Louis' height, so we can't call him "little" anymore!)

Brains and brawn are what we as a community, and as a nation, need to hold in high esteem, to affirm at every turn.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Another dispatch from Digital Capital Week...

Attended one more Digital Capital Week session today, "Can I Tweet That?," a discussion about user-generate content and the law. Three attorneys, two in person (moderator Kendell Kelly, mentioned in a previous post), and Andrew T. Mirsky, and another (David A. Wheeler) via teleconference, generously provided information and answered questions about various aspects of the law and how it affects online publishers/writers/commentors (this means you!). The session got into the nitty-gritty of the things that you say online that would be protected by copyright, and what would (or might) not, what constitutes fair use, etc.

All in all, another productive (and still free) event, one of many during this first annual Digital Capital Week.

Is this Nirvana? (Restaurant)

wait area near entrance of Nirvana restaurant in DCThe wait area at Nirvana, near the entrance.

Not sure if Nirvana Vegetarian Restaurant qualifies as nirvana, but it's a nice spot for lunch. It's practically mandatory to visit an Indian buffet, just to see what's available, and because it's a pretty inexpensive way to get tasty, nutritious food, as much as you can handle--it also makes it easy to eat enough that you don't have to worry about dinner. (Or at least I tried to eat that much. Says a lot about me, I know.)

The decor is warm and inviting, in the waiting area and in the restaurant itself. In addition to tables, there's also a bar, a nice option for singles. However, the buffet is the main event, so I got a table nearby, close to the action. I should first say that though the place was close to full (this was between 12:30 and 1 pm), it wasn't packed, so the tone of the place was civil. (I'm surprised there wasn't a tv at the bar with World Cup coverage, so perhaps that helped keep the vibe calm.) The attentive service, from the wait staff to the owner, helps keep the ambience friendly, as well.
buffet table at Nirvana restaurant in DC
In the midst of this Old World atmosphere is the $11.95 buffet, which was vegan except for a lentil-yogurt dish at one end. (It didn't look as appetizing as the other dishes, so I stayed away). As it is a Thursday, today's buffet featured savories. I think the rice was a biryani, but I also had the chole, a chickpea dish infused with flavorful coriander, so I went for seconds. Also making an appearance was one of my favorite breads, the puffy puri. There were also potato patties, a bit too soft for my liking, as well as a nice bagda, another bean dish, slightly spicy. There was a different potato dish, an aloo, with many peas and other vegetables. There was also a dish made with chickpeas and papadi, which had an odd (but not bad) texture and good flavor, just took getting used to. The spiciness snuck up on me, but a nice glass of the $1.00 (during lunch) iced tea helped tame it. (Not that the spiciness really bothered me, as I like it spicy.) My plate was full, and refilled...
full lunch plate from the vegetarian buffet at NirvanaIf you're in the 18th and K area, and need a place to go for lunch, keep Nirvana in mind, as the buffet menu differs depending on the day of the week--Monday is North Indian food, Tuesday, the food represents the Gujrati region, Wednesday, it's South Indian, Thursday it's savories (whatever that means), and Friday is food of the Rajasthani region. Which means you'll probably never be bored no matter which day you decide to go. (Oh, Nirvana also serves dinner, so I may have to try it sometime.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Serene at Java Green? (And more foodstuffs...)

outside patio at Java Green in DCThe above scene at Java Green was serene, but only because I was there during the morning, when it serves breakfast (9 am to 11 am), before lunchtime's zoo-like atmosphere. In addition to all the hot and cold coffee and tea concoctions, the drinks menu has expanded to include a few raw items, three raw lattes (mate latte, ginger latte, and a green tea latte), all for the hair-raising price of $9.00! (The other coffee drinks start at about $3.80, more in line with reality.)

During breakfast hours, you can also get a tasty sweet treat, such as cookies from Sticky Fingers Bakery, or one of the cakes and pies from Sweet-n-Natural Bakery (also sold at Brown's Market and Everlasting Life) and Seemconi, which seems to specialize in delectable-looking cashew "cheesecakes." Had I known about the latter beforehand, my hand would have slipped into my purse to pay for the chocolate cashew cheesecake, and eat the fattening goodness, but that will have to wait for another time.

Not that I was showing any waistline discipline, mind you, but I was going to eat something savory, such as one of the hearty breakfast sandwiches. And for a not-bad price of $5.95, at least compared with the lunch sandwiches. (Admittedly, lunch sandwiches at Java can be enormous.)

Eggcentricity breakfast sandwich at Java Green The breakfast sandwich above, "Eggcentricity," could have been great. The bread is very tasty, the soy chicken chunks are firm and delicious, and the sandwich itself is a decent size overall (very important for breakfast, IMHO). However, there is no need to shred the soy cheese, as that makes the "cheese" fall out of the sandwich and all over the plate. Also, there's entirely too much garlic in the scrambled tofu! The other breakfast sandwiches, often called "che," also feature the same bread and the scrambled tofu, so I'd forget the ones that don't have the soy chicken. And stick with one of the drinks and sweets.

* * *
Speaking of sweets, Hello Cupcake's cheery exterior just called out to me from Connecticut Avenue. I answered that call, and was not disappointed. That is, after I finally decided which cupcake to buy. The lemon "you tart" was suitably tempting, as was the dulce de leche sweetie. However, I chose a vegan chocolate with strawberry icing. Ooooh, the chocolate was moist and sweet, and the icing, swoonworthy, tastes of real strawberries and piled high atop the cake. It tastes like the bakers actually do bake the cupcakes every morning. Freshness--what a concept!

* * *
I'm looking forward to the premiere of the new season of Top Chef DC tonight, if only to see local boy Timothy Dean obtain even more exposure and success (maybe then I'll finally be able to eat in one of his establishments, as his last DC foray was less than successful). Also curious to see how Tameesha Warren, sous chef at the Oval Room, does this season (the one time I ate there, years ago, was a joy). I haven't watched this program consistently since the season Carla Hall was a contestant. Go DC!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dispatch from Digital Capital Week, part deux

Panelists and moderator listening intently to a participant
Panelists Najeema Washington, Chris Cooks, and moderator Faith Dow listening intently to a participant.

All's well that ends well, so tonight's Digital Capital Week session, "Integrating Technology with Advocacy and Education," moderated by Faith Dow (Acts of Faith blog, and all-around social media maven), was a success, although there were logistical problems in the beginning. (Aren't there always?)

The discussion, a Black Tech Blazers event at the MLK Library, had a panel well versed in all things social media--Najeema Washington of the Hell in a Handbag blog, who started DC WIN, a networking organization, and Chris Cooks, social media enthusiast and co-founder of NGage DC, a different networking group.

The other participants were a varied lot, and their presence proved the point that familiarity with social media is becoming necessary across many fields. We discussed the advantages of Twitter for getting a point across, Ning as a social-networking jack of all trades, as well as the pros and cons of Facebook. The panelists drove home the necessity of in-person networking, that social media, important as it is, cannot replace face-to-face communication, and lamented the dearth of minorities at such events, although they know of many minorities working in their respective fields.

Speaking of serendipity, near the end of the session came Patrick Timony, of the MLK Library's office of Adaptive Services, which uses adaptive technologies to help persons with disabilities access various media. (There was a mixup between his office and the classroom the session was held, so we had a chance to view Assistive Services' setup before, so he agreed to come to our session near the end to provide us additional information about his office's services.) Glad he stopped by, for I certainly wouldn't have known that the iPad is convenient for the visually impaired (at least for those who can afford it).

Looking forward to another Digital Capital event this week, and toward a second annual Digital Capital Week same time next year.

Time to step it up...

Canada geese near pondTonight's the night. Yes, the President is finally giving a speech outlining what his Administration plans to do regarding the Gulf oil spill cleanup, as well his plans for an energy policy.

It's about time. However, the President, and the government in general, can only do so much. We as individual citizens have to get serious about reducing energy consumption and resource waste. It's ridiculous for Limberger to attempt to blame the spill on "environmentalists," as the need to drill deep comes not from BP's caring about anyone's opinion, but rather the need to go (as all oil companies do) where the oil is.

What can I do, you say, to cut down the use of petroleum? Any number of things, which may be easier to implement in your life than you might imagine.

If you must drive a car, don't be a leadfoot. Seriously, again according to tests done by Edmonds, easing up on the accelerator alone can cause you to save, at minimum, 20 percent gas (and lives), no matter where you drive. For city drivers, there's still significant savings in easing up, as you're not stomping down on the brakes so often (or so hard); being easier on the brakes also saves petroleum, and reduces wear and tear on your vehicle (which is also composed of petroleum, in large measure). Please, drive the speed limit. (On the highway, drive 55). It's not a communist plot--the federal speed limit was passed, in fact, during the original oil crisis of the 1970s, to save gas. Oh, and you're not saving that much time when you speed, weaving in and out of lanes, etc., particularly when you're not driving on the highway.

We've all heard the saying, "reduce, reuse, recycle," which has always struck me as an updated version of the old saying, "waste not, want not."

To reduce means to look at whether we need to buy something in the first place, whether we'll actually use what we buy. We also need to look at product packaging, as some packaging is excessive, and other packaging is easily reusable. For instance, I've kept certain candy and cosmetic tins, glass jars, and the like and reused them, to use for office products (e.g., pen and pencil holders) and other uses. Sometimes that's the reason I've bought certain mints, because I could see that I'd be able to reuse them (in addition to the delicious candy, of course).

Look at what you use most often--can you use less of it? Be it paper, laundry detergent, or something else, chances are you use way more of it than you need. For instance, with laundry detergent, for one load, you don't need to use the entire scoop, only up to the first fill line. You might find that using this reduced amount not only saves money, but gets your clothes cleaner. I have found this to be the case when doing laundry, particularly for my dark clothes.

Perhaps the last part, to recycle, is not done as often as possible is that often, municipalities make it as difficult as possible to do so. Thankfully, in my part of Prince George's County, officials have made it easy to recycle, ever since single-stream recycling has been implemented (as I mentioned in an earlier post, of Jan. 7, 2009). If you live in PG and don't have single-stream recycling yet, it will be coming to your neighborhood sometime this year. If you don't live in Prince George's County and don't have single stream recycling, contact your local public works and ask why it hasn't implemented single-stream recycling; perhaps contact P.G. County yourself and ask how it came to be put in place. Remember, plastic is made from petroleum, so when it's recycled to make new products, less petroleum overall is used in the process.

Of course, it makes sense to complete the circle, and purchase recycled goods, when you need to buy things. It's almost too easy to buy 100% recycled paper for writing or printing/copying, and the quality is the same. Actually, someone mentioned to me that the 100% recycled copy paper by Staples is better in quality than the 30% recycled version, that it was more trouble free with office equipment. If you think you can't swing the price of the recycled product, and you have a Staples rewards card, bring in your used inkjet cartridge or toner cartridge for recycling next time you go shopping there, and soon enough, you'll be getting coupons for $3, $5, $6, or more off your next purchase. Easy. Without a button.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dispatch from Digital Capital Week...

Blogger with business and entertainment attorney Kendell KellyEntertainment and business attorney Kendell Kelly is on the right.

Digital Capital Week is a sprawling (and often free!) event this week that goes to prove that you can find just about every type of person in DC. Some of them attended the fun and informative "What is Protectable? A Practical Intellectual Property Basics Discussion," hosted by the estimable, energetic Kendell Kelly.

Potentially intimidating terms were put in perspective, making it easier for the rest of us to understand concepts such as trademark, design patent, copyright, derivative work, etc. (And free drinks were provided by the hostess, not a small thing in today's swamp-like conditions.)

I might even be tempted to attend another session or two this week, provided they're not already filled to capacity. Truly, there's something for everyone here, even for decidedly non-techical folk like me.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Farm, stuff...

lavender bush at Clagett FarmJust had to see what's down on the farm at Clagett Farm this year, and was not disappointed last week. Not just because of the plentiful lavender (above) and other herbs/flowers (though not sunflower yet), but because even on the old farm, there are new developments. The farm looks somewhat different every year, because crop rotation is practiced, so even the same crops are planted in different fields from year to year. For instance, the current garlic field used to have peppers planted there. Crop rotation is used to keep the soil from becoming depleted of nutrients.

Maybe I somehow missed the sweet peas last year, but not this time! Better yet, they lived up to their name, being sweet and tender, and pickers were encouraged to taste to distinguish between sweet peas and snow peas (the latter I can live without). Peas are probably the one crop you pick without bending down, so picking them is a welcome treat after picking, say, rainbow chard (also quite tasty, and plentiful). In fact, the greens of various kinds are plentiful this time of year, as well as various lettuces, and rather large zucchini specimens.

compost sign which says no meat no dairy

compost sign asking for raw veggies and fruitI know the farm produces and uses compost to fertilize the soil, but now it's openly requesting material for composting from shareholders and volunteers. This can be a win-win situation, helping the farm create compost, because it comes back in the form of organic food. The only thing is, I'd need to get a bucket or crock (with lid), to keep compostable (is that a word?) food scraps (no meat or dairy) safe before transporting them to the farm. I'll get to it, eventually. Anything to keep down the use of petroleum products (synthetic fertilizer is often made from natural gas, a byproduct of petroleum processing, which has become an industry in its own right).

Friday, June 11, 2010

So unnecessary...

intersection near Applebees in Forestville Maryland
Intersection near the Applebee's in Forestville; Applebee's is on the left. (Photo taken earlier today.)

The scumbag who's on the run from the police for killing a state trooper in Forestville could have done us all a favor, and gone with the time-honored practice of criminals in previous times--simply run out on the check if he didn't feel like paying (which, in essence, he's doing anyway). No, Surpassingly Selfish had to go shoot and kill Trooper Wesley Brown, depriving Brown's loved ones, co-workers, and community (Brown started a mentoring program in 2007, and was engaged). Not to mention depriving all the rest of us in the area of sleep, as high-powered helicopters were hovering over the area during much of the night.

If Selfish had simply run away, that establishment would simply be out one meal. But no, now Applebee's is closed today, as well. (And perhaps until Selfish is caught.) If Selfish had merely run off, he'd have gotten two hots and a cot, but he'll be up for the death penalty when caught (and that seems only a matter of time, as that part of Forestville is crawling with cops). Pointless. Senseless.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Express yourself!

That's what blogging is all about, self expression at its most basic. At tonight's meetup at Mezza Luna, it was great to encourage folks interested in creating their own electronic megaphones (aka blogs), with good thumping dance music in the background.

For those who have blogs, whether novices or more experienced, and want to exchange specific feedback about their sites in a quieter venue, come to 1410 Q Street, for a "Blogging Buddies" session on Thursday, June 24, from 7 to 9 pm. If you have a laptop, bring it (the building has wi-fi); if not, bring a pen/pencil, paper, and perhaps a printout of at least one page from your site.

Express yourself!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Summer music legends, now silenced...

Whoa--in the space of about a week, two music legends, who both helped set the soundtrack for summer and year round--are now no longer with us. First, it was go-go legend Lil Benny, of Rare Essence fame and later, Lil Benny and the Masters, best known for the catchy hit, Cat in the Hat.

Yesterday we lost Marvin Isley, who was for years the bassist and a songwriter for one of the best music groups EVER, the Isley Brothers.

If you watch tv, you've definitely heard one of their major '70s hits, Who's That Lady, as of late played incessantly via Swiffer commercials. Then again, that's life repeating itself, 'cause when an Isley Brothers song becomes popular, it is played constantly.

This definitely happened in the mid-1970s, especially with the song, For the Love of You, which you couldn't get away from on urban radio. Which was a good thing.

Frankly, there are so many good songs from the Isleys, it's hard to choose a favorite. For instance, there's the dreamy classic that Marvin co-wrote, Voyage to Atlantis:

as well as hits like Footsteps in the Dark (which has been sampled silly by the likes of Ice Cube and others),

and Isley renditions of great songs like Todd Rundgren's Hello It's Me (made even greater with that Isley touch),

and my favorite version of the Seals and Croft hit, Summer Breeze. When I saw the Isleys at the Carter Barron years ago, it was the most requested song. No mystery as to why.

Other great Isley tunes include: Midnight Sky, Brown-eyed Girl (NOT the Van Morrison song), Hope You Feel Better Love, Sensuality, Lover's Eve, Lay Lady Lay (the Bob Dylan tune), Make Me Say It Again.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Just say no!

graphics stop sign over phone number 777-9311Often, when I go shopping, I am in shock, and not just because of the bill. Many stores, such as Party City, ask for the customer's phone number as part of the transaction. Now, I say no to this (and last time, perhaps the cashier recognized me and knew not to even ask, because I always pay cash there). Apparently I'm an exception, because almost always, the customer tells the number, which floors me!

This often goes on at Giant and Staples, which have customer loyalty cards; cashiers ask for the loyalty card, and quite often, the customer can't find it, and provides the phone number. Not by punching the phone number into a keypad for the cashier, which might be better, but says it out loud.

Again, whoa! That's identity theft waiting to happen, as you never know who's around you--one of the other customers might be thieves, or in direct marketing, and sell your number to telemarketers. I'm most uncomfortable with how most people passively provide something that should remain private, and which could be misused in the wrong hands.

I wouldn't be surprised to find that for many of these folk, disorganization is something of an issue, as it can be for any of us, at times. But in a few areas, it might be a good thing to try to get things together, such as the financial stuff that we carry around with us. For instance, a wallet with enough compartments to hold all the cards you need (so, it may be time to dump it to see if there are any cards you're carrying that you don't use, to make room). Also ladies, beware the bag as well, and make sure it has enough compartments for all your stuff. (It's amazing to me how some of these big, pricy bags don't always have a compartment for your cell phone.) That's why I can't be bothered with a wallet or purse unless it's from Liz Claiborne, because the bags and wallets are attractive, inexpensive, and have lots of compartments (even my smaller Liz purse). I mean, you shouldn't have to conduct an expedition to find what you need when you open your purse. Or have to look over your shoulder.