The weekend didn't result in much home improvement.... though it did result in a great deal of pulled pork from the smoker on Sunday. But, with rain impending, I had to get up on the roof this week to figure out this leaking.
Using the measurements from Google Maps that I had made last Friday, I cut a little hole in the ceiling with a drywall saw and put my hand through. After pushing aside some insulation, I struck the hatch on my first try. Woo hoo! For my Google Maps next trick, I'll be bullseyeing womp rats in Beggar's Canyon. They're not much bigger than two meters.
So in ten minutes I was on the roof. The bitumen roof is definitely getting on in years, but there were no obvious compomised areas (like broken seams) on the surface. But as I moved towards the front of the house the problem became apparent. There is a metal roof covering the front facade where the dormer windows face the street, which joins the rubber roof that covers the much larger flat surface. The rubber had completely separated from the metal, so water was easily going directly under the roofing surface all the way at the front. Roof leaks rarely manifest themselves inside the house at the same place as the leak, because the surface tension of water will cause it to run along slightly sloping horizontal surfaces until something causes it to have nowhere to go but drip. In my case, the roof leaks were mostly apparent towards the back of the house, so most likely water has been going all over the place between the roofing surface and the roof itself. I don't dare look in the attic to see what kind of shape the roofing boards are in...
I shored up the problem for now with wet-patch roof tar and asphalt mesh. Longer term, the roof will probably need replacing, and depending on how much rot has taken place, probably the roofing boards as well. But at the same time, flat roofs can often be kept limping along for years if not decades if they aren't completely falling apart. I think this one falls in the "I can get ten more years out of it" category.
Though the roofing has tiny cracks in many places from long-term sun exposure, it's still basically in one piece. With a liberal application of silver roof paint (truly, a miracle product) and a couple more gallons of roof patch to hold the big seam together, I think it will be fine for the forseeable future.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Friday, April 24, 2009
I had the great pleasure of receiving a call from one of my tenants a couple days ago to report that water was dripping on his bed. Awesome. There's no plumbing in the attic so it had to be the roof. Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
I had been on my roof once before when the DirecTV was installed. Unfortunately, there's no easy access from inside the house. The DirecTV guy went up with a 30 foot ladder from the back yard. Aside from the fact that I don't own a 30 foot ladder, I can't stand being at the wrong end of a wobbly ladder high above the earth. Being on the roof - I can handle. It's the sketchy trip up and down I don't like.
However, I did note that there was actually an access hatch, which someone brilliantly drywalled over inside the house. If I had been thinking I would have drilled a hole through from the top while I was up there, but I didn't. Now, faced with having to go up there to see what's up with the leak, I need to find it somehow.
Enter Google Maps. The lovely satellite picture clearly shows my hatch and with a little cleverness I realized I could probably get a pretty good fix on it's location. I pulled the screenshot into Photoshop, blew it up, and did some measuring. I know my house is 18 feet wide. In my blowup, it's about 142 pixels wide. The center of the hatch is 73 pixels from the left, and 33 pixels from the back of the house.
Some math... 141 pixels / 18 feet = 7.83 pixels per foot. So the hatch should be 9.3 feet from the left edge, and 4.2 feet from the back of the house. Most likely I'll need to subtract about 6 inches to account for the brick wall from the side-to-side measurement, but this should be close enough so I can drill a hole inside the house and at least be somewhere in the 2x2 hatch zone.
So it seems the internet is not comletely useless after all!
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
It really sunk in that spring is here this morning. I noticed a flash of light out of the corner of my eye and looked out the window of my office this morning. The sky was divided with dark clouds overhead, the sun peeking through a gap in the thin white clouds low on the horizon to the north. It was raining lightly, and the effect was stunning. The fresh spring leaves on the trees in the park outside my office were glowing in the sun, creating a stark contrast to the dark clouds directly overhead. I wish I'd brought my camera with me today, but I didn't, so this cell phone picture will have to suffice.
Today is Earth Day, our annual reminder that we're stuck with this planet. And with each other. So be nice to both. Earth Day is just one day, but it's different from Mother's Day or Valentine's Day. Don't just recycle something, or ride metro instead of driving, or turn the heat back, or turn off a light, today. Make a habit of it. Every day is Earth Day.
Posted by Jamie on 4/22/2009 11:59:00 AM
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
4:20 PM (gchat from K) duuuude happy 420! heh heh
4:28 PM (phone call from P) -- missed b/c my phone was on vibrate
4:30 PM (text message from P) -- "call me ASAP"
call P, tenant at petworth. P: "there is dog shit all over the place. sorry to bug you." J: (sigh) "i'll be right there."
nothing I like better on a monday evening than mopping up dog pee and shit and figuring out what to do with a dog.
90 minutes later: dog shit cleaned up. quasi-abandonded dog moved to my house. dog's owner, who is in the process of moving out, has gone AWOL and made minimal arrangements for dog's care. dog's owner contacted last night. owner gets back three hours later, said a friend was coming to get dog. no contact from friend last night.
contact owner again, 9 AM this morning. wtf? 10:30 AM owner responds. "she was supposed to call you but ok i will be there later today." me: "you can't take the dog back there." him: "well what am i supposed to do with him?" me: "you should have thought about that before you ditched him for a week without formal plans for his care."
debate ensues. in which i make it clear that the dog is NOT going back to petworth, the tenants have had enough.
finally i break down and tell him i will keep the dog for another day. he's moving out for good tomorrow.
e: thank you for the advice. i think it will be easiest for me to take care of the dog for another day at this point.
n: thank you for the support and dog walking.
lessons learned: dogs good. irresponsible dog owners bad. consider tenants with dogs very carefully. having to walk a dog in the morning actually results in getting to work earlier.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I left my phone at home today. While it is slightly disconcerting, it shouldn't be a big deal since there are 27 other ways people could get in touch with me. Heck, I get an email anytime I have a new voicemail or miss a call anyway. But still, it leaves me feeling slightly disconnected.
I remember the old days. You had a black book with your addresses and phone numbers in it, or you kept them in your head. You had a "daytimer" or some such quaint thing with your schedule and important notes. Maybe you even had a rolodex. Yeah, I'm really dating myself, ask me if I care. Just google it. But at the end of the day important information was always in one place. Really important information, like the phone numbers of your best friends/spouse/pizza delivery/drug dealer were kept in your head. Now, I'm not even sure I know my own phone number, much less anyone else's.
There was only one way to get in touch with someone. Land line telephone, leave a message. You made plans because you had to. You couldn't just say "let's all meet up tonight." No, you would have to arrange in advance, a specific place, a specific time. A concert or sporting event was even more complicated - imagine trying to connect with a bunch of other people at RFK stadium with no cell phones. That was serious business. Parking Lot A near light post 27 at 4:30 PM. Try again every hour if we miss each other. Meet at the beer station by portal 120 if we get lost. And so it went.
While in some ways this was a pain in the neck, in other ways it was far simpler than it is now. There was no ambiguity about how to reach someone, because there were no options.
Now, there are a million options.
- Cell phone. Many people have more than one.
- Land line. Becoming endangered in the wild, but they still exist.
- Text messaging. Quickly replacing voice communication.
- Email. Ubiquitous, but inconsistent. Some people receive it on the telephone, some people get it while at work, some people never while at work.
- Facebook. Social networking is becoming increasingly popular as a way to organize events, parties, even just communicate directly with people or groups.
- Twitter. Not really quite sure what it's purpose is yet, but since I just got onboard with it a month ago, I assume it's already yesterday's news. But it is clearly considered a legitimate method of communication by some.
- Online chat. Gchat, facebook chat, whatever.
- Blogs. Half the world has a blog now, so if you want to keep up with your friends' manic musings or rants then you better be on that too.
The lines between everything is getting blurred. I've sent people text messages and had them respond by email. I've posted something on facebook and had someone call me in response.
And it's nearly impossible to keep track of everything. I have events scheduled on facebook and evite. I have a calendar at work in Outlook. I sometimes don't check email over the weekend, but other people assume that everyone's on email all the time because they have a blackberry or an iphone.
Without question there are benefits to all this stuff. But god damn does it suck up a lot of time to keep up with everything. Can't all this stuff just get wrapped into one place somehow?
Someone invent the the twitfaceiphonetextchatblogemailasaurus already. I can't take any more.
Friday, April 17, 2009
I had the opportunity to tour the newly opened Allegro Apartments at 3460 14th Street NW in Columbia Heights. The structure, designed by architects Eric Colbert & Associates, is without question one of the most interesting and visually striking new construction projects in the area if not the whole city. I've watched with interest over the last year as it has been built and I think the result is spectacular. It's deliciously modern design is appealing but tasteful. While I am often wary of modern structures mixing with DC's classic styles, I believe when it's done right the result can be excellent. The brick, steel and glass facade is interesting and unique, but thoughtful enough that I believe it will stand the test of time. It's hard not to like what they've done here.
The location is a few blocks north of the DCUSA development, and the Allegro stands out as the first major new construction in Columbia Heights to open outside of the "downtown" area. Obviously it's still pretty convenient to the metro and the shopping, but not right in the center of things. The first floor of the Allegro is being leased for retail. One restaurant, Thaitanic II, has already leased space and will be opening this summer. The remainder of the space has not yet been leased. Hopefully this will change soon - as far as I'm concerned there can't be too many restaurants in Columbia Heights. From a selfish perspective I live about two blocks from here so I'm looking forward to having more entertainment and shopping options even closer than DCUSA.
The Allegro is deceptively large - 297 units in total. The structure is built around two central courtyards, and as a result nearly all the units have balconies or patios. Let me be clear: this is high end. The building was initially developed as luxury condominums, but like many developments in progress over the last year or two, converted to apartments as a result of the troubled economy. Unlike some others, however, the Allegro did not significantly alter the designs or build-out quality as a result of this switch. All the units feature granite countertops, high-end appliances, and a washer and dryer in every unit.
Additionally, nearly every apartment's floor plan is unique. I saw a few different units and they aren't just different technically, they really do feel different. I think this is really cool because it means as a lessee you will be able to choose from a lot of configurations rather than the far more typical "one size fits all."
I'm not going to say too much more about the specifics and amenities as you can get all the details from their web site. Let's just say it's pretty much got it all - free wi-fi in common areas (which I suspect means some tenants will be able to get online from their apartment, though it's not specifically provided for that purpose); 24-hour doorman; exercise room; public meeting spaces and common areas that can be reserved for private use; a public computer lab; access to the gorgeous courtyards in the center of the structure. And pets are allowed. Though there are apparently certain breed restrictions on dogs (I'm guessing pit bulls and rottweilers though they didn't say and I forgot to ask) there are no size restrictions. This alone should make the Allegro immensely popular. I have heard from friends time and time again how difficult it is to find a rental in DC that allows dogs and especially large dogs.
Of course this comes at a price. The range is from $1,525 to $1,800 for studio apartments to $3,525 to $3,875 for the penthouse suites (which include a loft). While this isn't exactly cheap, it's also pretty competitive with many of the new other new developments in Columbia Heights. Though I'm not sure how many of them offer penthouses....
Additionally, in the middle of the price range are a type of unit called "1 bedroom plus den," in the range of $2400 a month. I saw one of these and honestly, most people would call this a 2 bedroom unit. The "den" is easily big enough to be a bedroom, with the only downside being that the den may not have windows. And there is plenty of living space besides. What this means is that two people could comfortably share a "1 bedroom plus den" for and be paying about $1200 each, which is totally in line with what you'd expect to pay for half of a two bedroom apartment around here. And for a couple, the den would be a great guest bedroom. But you get a ridiculously swank living situation and all the amenities on top. So despite being at the high end, this kind of living might not be out of the reach of some mortals.
Bottom line? It's gorgeous. I can't think of too many negatives about what they've done here. If I had to pick a shortcoming, I'd say the hallways are carpeted, and pretty bland. It feels a bit like a hotel. I am sure the carpeting is a practical decision, since a hard flooring surface like tiles would be noisy. This really isn't much of a complaint, I mean, it's just the hallway. The construction wasn't entirely completed when I did my walkthrough on Monday either, so I suspect that the final appearance will be more visually appealing either with paint or some other kinds of accent to mitigate the whiteness of the halls.
Below are a few choice pictures, but there are many more in my flickr set for The Allegro. If you're looking in Columbia Heights in the $1500-$2500 price range (or you are filthy rich and want to live in a wicked penthouse), this place should be your first stop.
Grand Opening Gala April 22: There will be a grand opening party next Wednesday, April 22, at the Allego lobby and courtyard with music, food and booze. 6 to 9 pm. Info and RSVP.
Disclaimer: I was contacted by the Allegro about writing something for my blog, but I have not been compensated in any way and this writeup was not reviewed by anyone other than myself prior to posting. Obviously I'm a fan, but I am writing this only out of my own interest in the project and the neighborhood. All the photographs are my own.
Below: One of the courtyards.
The upper level of the main lobby. Yes, those are fireplaces.
Bedroom in the model unit
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
About a week ago I started writing a great big long post about Adrian Fenty and how his administration has been a tremendous letdown. I never posted it because honestly, it was too long. But it seemes like a day doesn't go by where another mini-scandal isn't splattered all over the blogs, and I wanted to say something about it. The common theme has been opacity in the administration. Every request for comment about Fenty's schedule, an apparent conflict of interest, or any situation with an appearance of impropriety (of which there are many) is simply met with stonewalling.
WTOP reporter Mark Segraves has been tirelessly holding the Fenty administration's feet to the fire. Unfortunately, it seems that he's about the only mainstream (e.g. non-blog) reporter who cares about this. Marc Fisher has commented on the brouhaha around Fenty's mysterious Dubai trip, but otherwise the Post hasn't had much to say about any of this. Which is too bad - because it's becoming a daily embarassment, and as long as the major outlets continue to give Fenty a pass, it's doubtful anything will change.
This administration reeks of corruption. Peter Nickles, the Attorney General, was appointed by Fenty... and is a longtime personal friend. After the previous AG Linda Singer resigned in disgust, because Fenty was essentially tying her hands. That's checks and balances?
This is where investigative reporting is needed. While the Washington Post has never really excelled at covering local politics, there is without a doubt a big story to be found here. Let's hope someone with the resources and connections is working on finding it. Perhaps we're starting to see one of the real consequences of the fall of conventional media and the rise of internet "journalism." Sure, every local blogger is complaining about Fenty now, but nobody can point to a law he's broken. We aren't journalists - we are just observers. While there is value in the perspectives of the common man, we don't find news, we just aggregate it and snark about it. If we lose real investigative reporting, then we might as well be living in a propoganda state because there will be no watchdogs. And Fenty's sure acting like there's no watchdog.
In one recent situation, Fenty is off on another mystery trip, and when asked where he was going, simply said "I'm not telling." Yet his scheduled meeting with the NYC Schools Chancellor was on the Chancellor's public schedule! So the administration appears to just have a policy of opacity. Now what possible reason could there be for concealing from the public information about official business? The only thing I can come up with is, to deflect attention from all the other shady stuff that's going on. Put another way, by keeping everyone in the dark all the time, it makes it much harder for people on the outside to know when something untoward is happening.
I can think of no legitimate reason for an elected official to have a policy of an information blackout as to his whereabouts and activities. There is an old Chinese proverb which states, "Never tie your shoes in a watermelon patch." The point of this proverb is that if you do not want to be treated like a thief then don't act like a thief -- and bending down to tie your shoes would look to an observer as if you were stealing a watermelon.
Fenty is tying his shoes in the watermelon patch. So either he's stupid or he's stealing watermelons. Frankly, we deserve better than this from our mayor. In some ways, the city has come a long way since our Marion Barry was arrested for smoking crack with a prostitue and the most popular tourist souvenier was a "Bitch Set Me Up" tee-shirt. In other ways, it looks like it's still business as usual. What a shame.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
What's hot and what's not in global politics.
Pirates vs. Pirates
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. U.S. National League - 4-3
Somali Pirates vs. U.S. Navy - 0-3
The season is just beginning for both Pittsburgh and Somalia, so it's a tough call. Though Pittsburgh seems to have an early edge, we are putting our money on Somalia because they want it more.
Evolution vs. Creation
Polar Bear vs. Stupid Human - Darwin fail
Obama ends embryonic stem cell research ban - Church fail
We are giving the nod to Darwin on this one. The "polar bear whisperer" incident is a clear sign that society is meddling with the process of evolution, and it is concerning. But ultimately we believe that evolution will prevail, and the world will be dominated by genetically engineered swamp rats.
Twitter vs. Blogging
A local blogger says Twitter killed his blog.
Jamie @reader taking a crap and reading people. omg rihanna! wtf?
About 10 minutes ago from the apocalypse
Never mind. Evolution has already failed.
Monday, April 13, 2009
This Sunday was supposed to be spent in Petworth building a long-overdue door frame and doing some yardwork. I showed up at the place around noon and apparently, everyone was still asleep. I didn't have the heart to start operating a nail gun while four people were sleeping off the previous nights' indiscretions. So I went home and completely overhauled the living areas and basement of my house.
With the help of a female friend (e.g. someone with an aesthetic sensibility) we transformed my dust bunny-ridden living area/romper room into an actual clean, comfortable living space! Who knew it could be done. It looks great.. now the hard part, keeping it clean. I also cleaned up my basement/pool room/work area, making it possible to walk from one end to the other without tripping over a circular saw or rotting corpse. Yes -- my house has become civilized. Let us hope it is not only temporary.
I will be writing shills* in the next few days for The Allegro, the new 297-unit development at 14th and Meridian, and also for a book of historic photographs of Washington, DC. In the case of the Allegro, the building management contacted me, and I asked them for a tour. I have been very interested in this development as it has unfolded over the last year or so, as it is probably the most visually appealing new structure in Columbia Heights. Today I had the opportunity to tour the premises and take pictures. I will post my impressions in the next day or two. In the second case, the publisher of a new book called “Historic Photos of Washington, DC” by local author Matthew Gilmor sent me a free copy of the book in exchange for a "possible" writeup on my blog. Since the history of Washington happens to be another fascination of mine, I couldn't refuse. I'll write up my impressions of the book here soon. I guess being a small time local blogger does occasionally have it's benefits... free swag and guided tours!
*Not really. In neither case will what I post be read by anyone else before I post it. I just wanted to be completely transparent - that I was contacted by the publisher of the book as well as the management of the Allegro as part of their marketing efforts. I actually think that's really cool that they are in touch with neighborhood bloggers like myself. It shows an interest in community voices and a desire to be engaged at the low level. Yeah it's still marketing, but it seems like a good kind of outreach to me.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
It's a word that most people know only because it's supposed to be the longest word in the English language. As it turns out, it may or may not be, depending on the defintion of the word "word." The longest word could have 189,819 letters.
The word originated in 19th century. Antidisestablishmentarians were opposed to the separation of church and state in England at this time. This issue in general is still relevant in society, though the word doesn't really come up much. For example, there are a lot of people who'd really prefer that the words "In God We Trust" did not appear on our currency. And then there are a lot of people (mostly living in red states) who'd completely freak out if this ever happened.
But this post is not about politics and religion. It's about redefining antidisestablishmentarianism for a much more usful purpose. The word is, for all intents and purposes, dead. Which makes it ripe for a recasting.
This post is about Ruby Tuesday. That's right - that generic chain restaurant that serves unhealthy food in a sterile atmosphere. We have one in Columbia Heights. It's been there for more than a year, and it's arrival was generally greeted with sneering hipster contempt. You know, the sort you get every time something new replaces something derelict in a neighborhood that used to be cool when it was totally dodgy. I admit that I wasn't exactly a huge fan of the idea myself. It seemed like an odd choice, but it's a lot better than an empty storefront. I had never set foot in the place until a few weeks ago.
establishment: noun. the dominant groups in society and their customs or institutions
My friend Rachel called me up and said she had a $20 gift card to Ruby Tuesday. She's a teacher and one of her kids had given it to her for Christmas. (Isn't that cute? Yeah she works in the suburbs.) So off we went on our first trip to the neighborhood Ruby Tuesday for happy hour. We easily found seats at the bar, and were greeted by a friendly server and cheap beer. I mean really cheap. At happy hour, a pint of the daily special is 3 bucks. In this day and age, you're hard pressed to find a glass of anything for under six bucks in the popular parts of the city.
dis-: prefix. Opposite of: disfavor.
I sent out a few text messages to try to suck a couple other people in. The typical response to my saying "come meet at Ruby Tuesday" was... "Seriously?" But in they came and soon we had a jovial gathering. A few appetizers were ordered. French fries with cheese and bacon? Ummm.... while it probably should come with a gift certificate good for your next coronary bypass, it was pretty damn good. The chicken wings were top notch, I am not kidding. They may be the best ones in the neighborhood. Other things weren't so good. On another visit I had some kind of Thai fried shrimp thing that was pretty bland. There is (not surprisingly) a lot of deep-fried stuff on the menu... while I'm no hater of deep-fried goodness one can only take so much of it. I hear the burgers are good too, but I haven't had one yet.
anti-: prefix. Opposing; against: antiapartheid.
At the end of the day, we all had a great time. The service was generally very good, the staff friendly and attentive. The morning after my first visit, I was eating brunch at Red Rocks and saw the manager on duty as well as my server from the night before eating at another table! It really hadn't occurred to me at the time, but the people who work there are my neighbors. Ruby Tuesday may be a large national chain, but they are a neighborhood restaurant that both employs and serves the community.
antidisestablishmentarianism: noun. (2009 definition). The rejection of conventional politically correct anti-establishment viewpoints. The act of embracing corporate institutions that provide necessary products and services in a community, that are good neighbors, despite the common, yet ever so tiresome, hatred of big business that defines urban hip culture.
I talk to many well-intentioned people who rail against corporate business and culture on principle. But the reality is, big business is here to stay. And Columbia Heights should be an example to everyone that it doesn't have to be bad. Don't get me wrong. I hate suburban big-box shopping malls and parking lots and stores filled with fearful zombies as much as the next guy. It's why I live in the city. But that doesn't mean I don't still need to buy stuff.
The Target store that is the cornerstone of the DCUSA development is probably the best thing that's happened in Washington, DC since Marion Barry went to jail. Yet I still talk to people in the neighborhood who despise its presence just on principle. But Target has brought jobs and necessary services to a place where there there was none before. Some will argue that Target will result in local retailers being driven out of business. What local retailers? There was absolutely nowhere in the area that offered even remotely the kind of service offered by Target. Sure, there was a dollar store in Mt. Pleasant and a few other odd junk places here and there, but they had terrible inventory and even worse quality. There is no comparison. The reality is, most people simply shopped in the suburbs, putting us in our cars and taking our tax dollars out of the District. But there was no choice.
Further, these businesses have been designed as part of a walking community. There is no massive above-ground parking lot. Most people are walking or taking metro to the shops, as is evident by the lower-than-expected usage of the undergound parking garage.
I love local shops and restaurants, and it should be obvious to readers of this blog that I frequent them plently. But Ruby Tuesday has been good to me on three visits so far. Who cares if they are a corporation? They are still a good addition to the community. I'm an antidisestablishmentarian.