Thursday, March 31, 2011

The early garden continues to grow

The weather has been generally in the 40's during the day and with rain the last couple of days the early crops (lettuce, spinach, greens, cabbage and kale) are doing well. Now for the starts indoors: the tomatoes are about a foot tall and so begins the task of transplanting into bigger pots.  Next year I won't be so quick to start tomatoes in early February! The peppers and basil look great and are growing slowly which is fine by me...I am also trying to use a mixture of soil that uses 1/3 sand, 1/3 compost and 1/3 clay....we'll see how this goes!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What's Going On?

Now - Prince George's Pool is accepting membership applications for the 2011 season. Join by 5:25 p.m. on 5 April to get $25 off. If you prefer to apply via hard copy instead of online, click here.

Now - As a resident of Maryland, Delaware, Washington DC, or Pennsylvania, you can choose your electric supplier. Clean Currents is the region's leading, independent green energy company providing electricity sourced from clean wind power. The electricity that powers your house will still be delivered through the grid, so there is no installation of equipment and no change to the dependability of service at your home. Write "Gateway Arts District" in the space that says "Where did you hear about us?" so that the local nonprofit gets a $10 sign-up bonus.

30 March - 17 April - Active Cultures presents The Resurrectionist King at Joe's Movement Emporium. "This play explores the life of a man unlike any other in DC’s past - the true story of Vigo Jansen, a grave robber who became a local legend. Jansen robbed local cemeteries to get cadavers for DC’s medical schools and scientists. Hounded by the police, but loved by the press, he became a folk hero to DC residents. Set during a 24-hour period in 1884, the play follows Jansen’s disastrous attempt to create a stage play about his grave-robbing career. Written by Stephen Spotswood, winner of the Mark Twain Award for comedy, The Resurrectionist King is an amusing backstage drama about life, death and the theft of our earthly remains." 3309 Bunker Hill Rd.

30 Mar, 6 April, 13 April - The city council would like a committee of local artists and a business owner to present three designs for a painting of the intersection of 34th and Bunker Hill, and to present a plan of execution and maintenance. Meetings to process designs, and narrow them down to 3 that council will select from, are happening every Wednesday until the 4/15 council meeting. Anyone in Mount Rainier can bring a design to the table. A committee of artists will refine them into the final three. Rawberry Ranch, 4115 31st St., 9-10 p.m. For more information call Mike, 240-461-7026.

2 April - Marvin Gaye Day bike tour! Meet at Mt. Rainier Bike CoOp, 3601 Bunker Hill Rd., 11 am. A fun and free bike tour through DC this coming Saturday, a beautiful spring day, will feature spots relevant to Marvin Gaye's young life growing up here.

21 May - Mount Rainier's Farmers Market will be open from 10 am-2 pm at One Municipal Place. We will have tea, organic fruits and vegetables, coffee, Indian food, meat, eggs, a bakery, cheese and barbeque, cooking demonstrations and music, to start. You can "like" the market on Facebook.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

ZZ Pizza & Kabob - Mt Rainier - MD - Discount | Coupon

ZZ Pizza & Kabob - Mt Rainier - MD - Discount | Coupon

Headed to ZZ to pick up a pizza and chicken kabob. I can't wait to get home and eat it! Click on the link above for a discount when you order online.

No snow today

You would have thought that we might end up with lots of snow overnight but, no, we ended up with just a dusting...yay for the garden! Outside temp is about 40, ground temp about 44. Spinach, kale, collards and cabbage, arugula and lettuce continue to look good. Asparagus, started from seed indoors not looking so good but this is an experiment. A side note that I started tomatoes indoors too early as they are about 10-12 inches tall...will have to transplant to larger containers with hopes of moving outdoors mid-April/early May.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cold this morning!

I woke up this morning (Friday, March 25, 2011 at 7am) to discover the temp went down to 30 degrees, frost only on car windows but still with cool weather crops in the ground I was a bit dismayed that I had let that slip by me, whereby I could have played with row covers last night ;-) Still the collards, kale and spinach look just fine, perhaps liking the cold temp (ground temp was about 45 degrees).

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why Evolution is True….and Nobody Believes It

Author and U Chicago biology professor Jerry Coyne will give a public lecture called "Why Evolution Is True….and Nobody Believes It" on Monday, March 28 at 6 p.m. at the University of Maryland, College Park Biosciences Research Building (BRB) 1101.

I've read his book "Why Evolution Is True," and I think it's the best single-volume easy-to-read explanation of what evolution is.

The full announcement and campus map with a big blue star over the Biosciences Research Building are below.
"College Park Scholars Life Sciences is pleased to present the first “Lee Hellman Lecture in the Life Sciences” on Monday, March 28, 2011, at 6:00 PM in BRB 1101. Refreshments will be available in the Colonnade next to the lecture theater beginning about 5:15 PM.
Lee Hellman, Emeritus Professor of Entomology, is the founding director of the Life Sciences Scholars Program and remains an integral component of the program to this day.
Each year, Life Sciences Scholars will bring a prominent scientist or journalist to campus who has written a book or article on an important topic in the life sciences directed at a level appropriate for our students and of interest to the general university community. The speaker for the first Hellman Lecture is Dr. Jerry A. Coyne, previously a faculty member in the Department of Zoology at Maryland and now Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago. Dr. Coyne is the author of the 2009 New York Times bestseller, Why Evolution Is True."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring Time gardening in Mount Rainier, part one

I've decided as an "urban farmer" to posts some entries to this MR city blog from my ongoing garden journal so that others might benefit (or not ;-) from my adventures in tilling city soil to get food and flowers to the table. Since I am far away from my journal I shall just say that the weather currently is in the 40's, some rain, soil temp about 50 degrees. I decided to start my "cool-weather" garden early this year so believe it or not I planted peas and spinach at the end of February (spinach is peeking up but the peas are not). It is the great experiment to see if I can extend my garden without having to invest in hoop houses and cold frames.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

City Councilmember Jimmy Tarlau's Ward [1] Report

I bumped into Councilmember Tarlau at ZZ Pizza the other day and he mentioned that I could use items from his regular Jimmy's Ward Report e-mail for this blog. Although it is aimed at Ward 1 residents the Report will interest anyone living in Mount Rainier. I would link to it if it were online, but as far as I know it's not. And because all the items are essential, here is the whole thing. Thanks, Jimmy! And if you want me to link to your report in the future instead of posting the whole thing just give me the URL.

Neighborhood Watch Activities– As a result of the recent rash of burglaries, a new neighborhood watch organization has been formed in our City. Over 35 people came to a Neighborhood Watch meeting on February 27th. The meeting was organized by Rick Ruggles and John Campanile. On Sunday March 13th they led over 20 residents in a neighborhood walk through the center part of Mount Rainier. Their next walk is scheduled for Sunday April 10th . They plan on doing these walks the second Sunday of every month. They are looking for block captains to help out in different parts of the city. If you are interested in participating, send me an e-mail and I’ll forward it on to John and Rick.

John Campanile also has an engraver that you can use to id valuables (electronics, bikes, cameras, et al) using your driver's license number. The deterrent: Pawn shops will not accept id'd items. If you would like to borrow the engraver , email me John at .

Senator Ramirez Submits State Bond Bill to Help with Civic Center – State Senator Victor Ramirez introduced in the MD State Legislature a bond bill that would give the city $250,000 to complete the detailed architectural drawings for the Civic Center planned at the current City Hall, the Eastern Starr Building and the library. Council members Knedler, Updike, and Thompson went to Annapolis last Saturday (March 12th) to testify in support of the bill. We do not know yet if it will pass in its entirety or the amount will be reduced.

Council Begins Budget Deliberations – On Tuesday March 1st the Council received a presentation from the City Manager and City Treasurer on next year’s proposed budget. Because of the cut-back of $200,000 in State Highway User Fees and the bond payment for the properties purchased by the City over the last few years, it has been proposed that the City take close to $400,000 out of its reserves to maintain its operations and not have to increase taxes. We will be continuing the discussions on March 24th and April 5th and there will be a public hearing on the budget on April 19th. I am basically in support of the transfer of the money out of the reserves. There is right now $1.6 million in the reserves and there will still be $1.2 million after the transfer. The reserves are being depleted and in the next two years we will need to get a developer to purchase the properties on Rhode Island Avenue or we will have to make some hard decisions on operations cut-backs or an increased revenue stream. You can see the whole budget presentation on our City web-site: ( )

Spotlight Café Space – We were all saddened to see the close of the Spotlight Café. The owners were community minded and we were hopeful that it would succeed. Unfortunately they did not get the business they needed. The good news is that the City Manager reported that three potential tenants are interested in the spot and are in discussions with Artspace, the owners of the building. I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll get a well-run coffee place in the spot.

RFP Proposals for Downtown Properties – We were disappointed that no developer submitted a proposal by the March 11th deadline to develop the former Bass Liquor/Funeral Home lot. We know there still are people interested in investing in the City and we have a meeting planned with our consultant to discuss why we received no bids and to see if the RFP can be re-worked to be more attractive to potential developers.

Vacant Buildings – The City is aggressively going after abandoned property but it is a long and difficult process to get the owners to pay the fines. The City has requested $27,000 in property tax liens for failure of property owners to register vacant buildings.

Mount Rainier Day – May 21st - Save the Date

Better Block Project Coming on Saturday April 9th – 34th Street between Bunker Hill and Rhode Island Ave. Check it out!

Discussions on Noise Problems at Skate Park Continue – The City met with representatives of park and planning to discuss the continuing noise problems for the neighbors of the Skate Park at Otis and Wells Avenues. Park and Planning has budgeted $150,000 for park improvements and proposed an 8 foot sound barrier on two sides of the park but it is unclear whether that will actually improve the situation. The Council is considering all alternatives: restricting the hours, possibly turning it into a pump track (you can check it out on you-tube – it’s a bicycle track), a community garden, the proposed sound barrier, demolish the park, or keep it the way it is and improve the upper part of the park). The discussions will continue.

Revenue from Speed Cameras Decreasing which Means They are Working – The City has seen a dramatic decline in the revenue from the speed camera on Rhode Island Avenue. I do not consider this a bad development. It means that the speed cameras are working and people are slowing down. I do not believe that fines and fees should be used as a revenue generator but as a means to change behavior.

Electronic Recycling Set for April 19th - The next scheduled electronic recycling event is scheduled for Saturday April 16, 2011 between the hours of 9 AM to 1 PM. Bring stuff down to public works on Wells Avenue.

Singer Building – Resident Jack Priestly came to our Council meeting and discussed his plans for rehabilitating the Singer Building (on the corner of 33rd Street and Rhode Island Avenue). He has a working partnership with the owner, Mr. Butler. We wish him a good luck in getting financing for the project.

New Welcome Packets – The City Hall staff has developed a packet of materials for new residents. If you are new to the City and would like a ‘Welcome Packet’ please let me know and I will get you one.

City Works On Plan for Going Green – Mayor Miles has taken the initiative of developing a Mount Rainier Plan for Going Green. The plan is now being discussed with the City’s Environmental Protection Board. The Council had a first reading of an ordinance that mandates that the City look at “green” solutions for all infrastructure problems. The ordinance calls for preserving open space, promoting ‘green streets’ as a strategy for transforming the City’s transportation infrastructure, and encouraging even more recycling. This will be a main City priority over the next few years.


R.I.P. - Former Mount Rainier resident and Japanese artist Santana Miyazaki died in Japan last December. To the left is his painting of the Rhode Island Ave. traffic circle, and  this image is a postcard he created for Glut.

25 March - Deadline to submit entry forms for the annual high school Congressional Art Competition. All high school students who reside in or attend school in the Eighth Congressional District are encouraged to participate. A juried exhibition of approximately 90 pieces of the submitted artwork will be on display at VisArts at Rockville from April 6 – May 4, 2011. For more information, click here.

26 March - Focus on Wellness is a free event at Joe's Movement Emporium where you can learn and try accupuncture, the Alexander Technique, massage, herbology, aromatherapy, chakras, the Feldenkrais Method, and yoga with local practitioners. From 2-5 p.m. 3309 Bunker Hill Rd. Mount Rainier. For more info call Monica Huber at 301 699-1819.

26 March - Anacostia Hours, which has created a local currency "in order to bring face-to-face relationships back to economics" is hosting their Annual Membership Meeting & Potluck from 1-3 p.m. at Joe's Movement Emporium, 3309 Bunker Hill Rd. Mount Rainier. "Come on by and check out another way of becoming more creative and sustainable in our local communities!"

30 March - Free ($5 suggested donation) presentation on how playing supports children's learning. College Park Cooperative Nursery School and Kindergarten. From 7-8 p.m. 4512 College Avenue, College Park, MD. For more info, call Laura Jones at 301 864-5355.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Catholic Bishops Rebuff, Rebuke Mount Rainier Ministry

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has rebuffed Mount Rainier-based Catholic group New Ways Ministry for attempting to promote a "gay-positive" gospel within the Church.

New Ways Ministry, located on 29th Street near the DC border, provoked national attention by publishing a downloadable book that advocates marriage equality for same-sex couples in a Catholic context.

In Marriage Equality, A Positive Catholic Approach, New Ways Ministry's Francis DeBernardo makes a case that homosexual relationships are compatible with Catholic teachings. The book also distinguishes between the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' staunch opposition to same-sex marriage and "Catholic citizens" who "do not always hold positions on public policy issues identical to those the bishops maintain."

DeBernardo writes that, "The Catholic Church is more than just the bishops," and also, "the bishops need to listen to the people in order to discern what the Catholic faith is and how God is working in the world."

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who is archbishop of Washington, D.C. was quoted in religious conservative Web site Lifesite News as saying on March 11, "In no manner is the position proposed by New Ways Ministry in conformity with Catholic teaching, and in no manner is this organization authorized to speak on behalf of the Catholic Church or to identify itself as a Catholic organization."

The story was also reported by the Catholic News Agency.

UPDATE: New Ways Ministry has issued a press release in response to Cardinal Wuerl's statement.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Sunday, 13 March - PG County Police shot a man in Mount Rainier.

Tuesday, 15 March, 5:30 p.m. at 34th and Bunker Hill - Mount Rainier members of have organized a local corollary to today's nationwide protests in support of labor in Wisconsin. "Guys, it's time to hit the streets. The corporate right is trying to pay for their phony wars & bail-out rip-offs by slashing all social services across the board. We have until the March 18 budget deadline to push Congress in another direction. WE PLAN FOR THIS STREET PROTEST TO BE FUN & EFFECTIVE Music, singing & dancing; cash food & drink at Glut, ZZs & Francis; chants; stand up comedy maybe, a few short speeches, & lots of schmoozing with your friends & neighbors."

Tuesday, 15 March, 7:00 p.m. at City Hall, One Municipal Place - "A special meeting of the mayor and council."

Thursday, 17 March - Sunday, March 20 - Dance Box Theater's Affectations at Joe's Movement Emporium.
Commissioned by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Created by Laura Schandelmeier & Stephen Clapp with Dance Artist Ilana Faye Silverstein, Installation Artist Lorne Covington and Composer James Harkins.

Wednesday, 30 March - Sunday, 17 April - Active Culture Theater's The Resurrectionist King at Joe's Movement Emporium.
"It's 1884 and times are hard at the struggling Theatre Comique. But Vigo Jansen, DC 's most infamous grave robber, is determined to put on a one man show. The Resurrectionist King is based on the true story of Vigo Jansen, a man who robbed local cemeteries to get cadavers for DC's medical schools and scientists."

Saturday, April 9 - Mount Rainier Better Block Project
"Join us, and hundreds of community members and partners, as we turn a half-vacant commercial block in Mount Rainier into a vibrant “Main Street” with outdoor cafes, performers, local vendors, and art installations. The goal of the project is to show the economic potential of 34th Street while energizing the community."

Every Friday morning, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. - Toddler Time. "Art Works welcomes our youngest community artists and their accompanying grownup to join us for creative time. Art Works asks for a $5 materials donation, and with that, our kids will be making play dough, working in clay, and using a wide variety of art materials to play, create, and get messy." 3711 Rhode Island Ave (the Post Office building).

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Devil in Our Town

Did you know that Satan is widely believed to have made a few special manifestations right here in Mount Rainier? If you've seen the Exorcist movie then you know the outline of the story: a child is possessed by the Devil, walks funny, vomits copiously, and exhibits a malfunctional atlanto-occipital joint and dens.

The movie was notorious for sending audience members fleeing up the aisles in fear or nausea, and nine members of the cast and crew were rumored to have died during filming.

The film is set in Georgetown, which is several strata above Mount Rainier socially and economically but only about 20 minutes across town if traffic is light. The famous staircase scene was filmed at 36th and Prospect NW. If you want to feel like a tourist and maybe get a cupcake then hitch a ride on the Circulator because the staircase is still there.

But if you're more in the mood for a short stroll, head over to 33rd St. and Bunker Hill Rd. here in Mount Rainier and see if you can feel any remnants of the evil that supposedly took over a child's life here in 1949.

If you're a skeptic like me and you love to ruin the magic then check out this article that explodes many of the myths around the story and even offers a convincing alternative to the demonic possession theory.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

ZZ Pizza in peril because of apparent PEPCO screw-up

So according to this article Pepco has a perfectly good, accessible meter at ZZ Pizza downtown. But instead of reading the meter regularly and charging ZZ Pizza the correct amount every month they have been chronically undercharging them since October 2009.

After more than a year of charging too little, Pepco sent ZZ Pizza a bill for $14,000 or, according to another source, $17,000 which they say reflects ZZ's actual energy usage.

ZZ paid what they believed they owed in good faith for more than a year. For a small business to be hit with a bill like that out of the blue is not fair. To Pepco's credit they worked out a payment plan with ZZ, but the unexpected expenses are still a major burden.

In this case Pepco was clearly in the wrong on two counts: first, they should have been reading the meter and charging the correct amount each month. I'm not aware of any good reason why they couldn't do that. Second, if they couldn't send a correct bill each month they should have made sure via personal contact that ZZ Pizza knew they could be hit with a giant bill, and then provided the actual charges well before a year had elapsed.

ZZ's Pizza is suffering as a direct result of Pepco's mistakes. It's one thing to pay for the power one has consumed, and it's another to be crushed under an unexpected debt load as the result of another's mistake. Pepco should recognize its error and reduce ZZ's debt significantly.

Please let Pepco know if you agree. Make sure they know exactly which business you're talking about and what you think they should do.

Props to Mount Rainier Mayor Malinda Miles for supporting ZZ Pizza.

Mount Rainier crime spree mystery solved

Thanks to the Mount Rainier police for solving a recent burglary spree! The miscreants hit at least three homes that we know of so far:

- Saturday February 19th in the 4400 block of 30th Street
- Friday March 4th in the 4000 block of 36th Street
- Monday March 7th in the 4000 block of 30th Street

Mount Rainier police caught three male juveniles and charged them with the crimes after one of them confessed.

UPDATE: Mount Rainier City Council Member Brian Knedler would like to point out that this series of crimes was solved thanks to someone who lived near one of the scenes and gave a description of the suspects to police. After the police knew what to look for it was just a matter of time before a little extra surveillance resulted in the arrests. Thanks, Brian.