April 28, 2009

I (heart) D.C.

I think I’m a D.C.ophile. 

For one, I always talk about how great D.C. restaurants are, express wonder over the funky home furnishing in people’s windows, and I smile idiotically at mothers pushing their hip-hop 2-year olds in strollers.  I think I really annoy my friends from N.Y and California, who just shake their heads at me with a smile that says “poor girl, she doesn’t know what she’s missing”. 

But really.  I sometimes walk home from work, a 1.5-hour stroll, from the heart of the business district, to my ghetto neighborhood I call home.

I walk from the Capitol, through Gallery Place Chinatown, trying not to bump into the hoards of Capitol fans (hockey) in their identical red sweats and baseball caps.

I then snake around through Mt Vernon Square/Convention center, with all its chichi new modern condos. 

(there are modern condos and yet these store fronts are rotting and deteriorating in the snow and the tropical heat of D.C.)

I follow through in Shaw/Howard University and wave to the babies in their strollers, and the old men chewing sunflower seeds on their stoop.  I slow to a crawl to look over a prim lady’s yard with wind catchers and plastic flowers.

I get out of people’s way on the busy U street,

(View from the top of a hill overlooking U street - see the National Monument in the background)

(A dilapidating house sits right across from this one with blue accents around the windows)

(Examples of nicely refurbished Victorian homes)

And I stop at the yellow house with pale ivy across from the community center.

I’m home!

Sigh, (I heart) D.C.!


Office Woes

Cubicle Emergency
Yesterday, I walked into the office, to find my cubicle locked. I never lock my cubicle, and unfortunately, my three copies of the key were in a drawer… in the cubicle. Thankfully, I had arrived a full 40 minutes before most of my colleagues.

The administrative assistant was also there, and had forgotten *her* keys at home today. She told me of a trick: “borrow the janitor’s ladder from the main closet”. She helped me to position it just so (making sure it was fully opened, and angled over my desk). She then averted her eyes as I climbed it in my short dress, and hopped over the wall, on the floor, and opened the door of my cubicle.

A few lessons learned:

1-Always be nice to your secretary. She’s a great resource, but she can definitely make your life difficult if you piss her off (those pens you like so much? Sorry, she conveniently forgot to reorder them from staples)
2-Always call your secretary “an administrative assistant”. There’s nothing she hates more than being called a secretary
3-Give one of your colleagues an extra set of keys to your cubicle
4-Ask your colleagues for their innovative solutions. When I was recounting my story to my cubicle-mate, she told me she had fashioned this hook-thingy from a wire hanger, for an identical cubicle emergency. Brilliant!

The Treats Lady
Today, the Treats lady came to my cubicle for a chat. You know who I’m talking about – every office has a nice lady that brings impossibly sweet things to endear herself to colleagues. I always dread our chats because I invariably have to choose from her stack of rich blueberry muffins, and oily lemon-poppy-seed cake.


I don’t really have a choice, because if I refuse, she will be irreparably offended. So I choose the healthier of the two options (was the lemon-poppy-seed cake the best option since it had lemon – a fruit – and poppyseed – a grain?) and am now devouring it at 9:48 a.m.

Sigh, so much for my diet.

April 25, 2009

Margaret Wertheim: The beautiful math that links coral, crochet and hyperbolic geometry

Did you know that crocheting can be made into a huge, artistic coral reef, explain hyperbolic space, and help people understand abstract mathematical concepts?

Margaret Wertheim, a science writer, demonstrates how this "feminine art" can do all of that.

Never underestimate the strange, innovative ideas people come up with!

April 07, 2009

The Euphoria of Being an Adult

Do you ever get this intense feeling of euphoria from doing things by yourself? I’m not talking about refinishing furniture, building a bookshelf, or cooking a perfect Julia-Child soufflĂ©. I’m just talking about getting that feeling when you throw your lights in the washing machine, go to Giant to pick up those ingredients for dinner, or write your monthly rent check.

It happened to me yesterday. I was riding on the metro, and suddenly felt so proud of waking up on time, dressing professionally, and taking the metro ride to work…by myself. I’ve been doing all these things for years, yet, once in a while, I can’t believe I’ve actually made it adulthood, and don’t need my mom and dad to hold my hand anymore.

April 01, 2009

Who had the Majority in Congress

Here's a snapshot of who had majority in Congress since Roosevelt:

President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933 to 1945) was a Democrat
1933-1945 - The Democratic Party controlled both houses of Congress

President Harry S. Truman (1945-1953) was a Democrat
1945-1947 – Democratic
1947-1949 - Republican
1949-1953 - Democratic

President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) was a Republican
1953-1955 - Republican
1955-1961 - Democratic

President John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) was a Democrat
1961-1963 – Democratic

President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) was a Democrat
1963-1969 – Democratic

President Richard Nixon (1969-1974) was a Republican
1969-1974 – Democratic

President Gerald Ford (1974-1977) was a Republican
1974-1977 - Democratic

President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) was a Democrat
1977-1981 – Democratic

President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) was a Republican
1981 – 1987 - Republican
1987 – 1989 – Democratic

President George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) was a Republican
1989-1993 – Democratic

President Bill Clinton (1993-2001) was a Democrat
1993-1995 – Democratic
1995-2001 – Republican

President George W. Bush (2001-2009) was a Republican
2001-2003 – Democrats and Republicans split control of the U.S. Senate 50-50

- From January 3 to January 20, 2001, with the Senate divided evenly between the two parties, the Democrats held the majority due to the deciding vote of outgoing Democratic Vice President Al Gore.
- Beginning on January 20, 2001, Republican Vice President Richard Cheney held the deciding vote, giving the majority to the Republicans.
- On May 24, 2001, Senator James Jeffords of Vermont announced his switch from Republican to Independent status, effective June 6, 2001. Jeffords announced that he would caucus with the Democrats, giving the Democrats a one-seat advantage, changing control of the Senate from the Republicans back to the Democrats.
- The November 5, 2002 election brought to office elected Senator James Talent (R-MO), replacing appointed Senator Jean Carnahan (D-MO), shifting balance once again to the Republicans -- but no reorganization was completed at that time since the Senate was out of session.

2003-2007 - Republicans
2007-2009 - Democrats

President Barack Obama (2009) is a Democrat
2009 - Democrats


How the Budget of the U.S. Government is Decided

The President’s budget is a mix of Obama’s wish list, and the recommendation of various Departments, agencies, and coordinating offices. Here's my (limited) understanding of how the U.S. Government decided its budget.

First Monday in February
Obama must submit his budget to Congress (Congress is composed of the Senate and the House) no later than the first Monday in February 2009. It represents a broad framework for his agenda.

April 1
Congress responds to the President’s Budget with its own version. Both the Senate and the House must submit their markups by April 1, 2009 (today). At this point, the budget is still a resolution and not law. It includes input from the administration, constituencies, and Members of Congress.

Depending on which party is in leadership, Congress’s budget can be either very different or similar to the President’s. Currently, the President is a democrat, and Congress is democratic as well (to give you an idea of how often Presidents and Congress were ruled from different parties, see next post).

It’s a little tricky to draw up a budget since it must reflect
- Budget rules,
- Actual revenues, and
- Mandatory spending (programs for which the Government is obliged to pay)

June 10
The Appropriation process begins – this is basically a fight over small non-defense discretionary spending.

Congress annually considers 11 or more appropriation measures, which provides funding for numerous activities. These measures fund national defense, education, homeland security, crime, but also government operations for the federal agencies. Congress has developed certain (arcane and complicated) rules and practices for the proceeding for these measures: this is the Appropriation process.

House and Senate Appropriation Committees control about 40% of the total deferral spending for a fiscal year, and the House and Senate Legislative Committees control the rest.

June 15
Congress completes action on reconciliation legislation

June 30
House completes action on annual appropriation bills

At the end of the process, Congress develops a Conference Report, a report accompanying the bill which explains much of the bill language and gives specific directions.

Finally, if passed, Congress sends the report to the President for signature.
At this point, the President can:
- Veto the bill. In that case, the process must start over again
- Sign the bill into law. And that’s our Government budget for the year

October 1
Fiscal year begins

Here is President Obama’s proposed budget, submitted on February 26, 2009