Monday, May 2, 2011

Justice After 10 Years

Tonight, President Obama announced that American operatives had killed Osama Bin Laden. The speech was delivered beautifully, and many people view this as justice that has been 10 years in the making. People I know who had friends killed on September 11th felt a sense of relief. It is a bright day in American history.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Members of the Police Officers’ Association of Michigan (POAM) Assault Two Women at Local Washington, DC Restaurant

The POAM, the Police Officers’ Association of Michigan, rented a bus and treated members to a “night on the town,” on Capitol Hill at the Tune Inn, a bar located at 331 1/2 Pennsylvania, Avenue, Southeast, in Washington, DC. Police officers from cash-strapped Michigan¸ paid by taxpayer dollars, packed a local DC dive bar and assaulted two female DC residents while there.

According to multiple accounts, badge-wearing police officers from Michigan assaulted at least two women at the local Capitol Hill diner. One woman was groped by a POAM member as she walked toward the restroom. Another woman was groped by multiple members of the POAM party as she stood near the entrance of the Tune Inn.

“The Tune Inn was recently featured by the Food Network as one of America’s hidden gems, as far as diners go,” said one eyewitness. “It’s a shame that badge-wearing members of the Police Officers’ Association of Michigan not only turned the Tune Inn into a raucous dive, but also into a place where women are objectified. When did the Tune Inn become a place to worry about getting groped while walking to the ladies’ room? I had always viewed the Tune Inn as a comfortable spot to relax. My guard is up from now on,” said one woman. "Multiple Michigan police officers were wearing badges, drinking alcohol, and carrying guns. That is irresponsible at best."

After the first assault incident, where a woman’s buttocks were squeezed by a POAM member as she tried to make her way to the restroom, the situation quickly escalated to a dispute. As the woman accused the perceived offender, another member of POAM told the local resident to “get out of here,” indicating that drinks at the Tune Inn were either being paid by him or by POAM and thus, Michigan taxpayer dollars.

“In Washington, where everything is built on a person’s professional reputation, it’s shocking that behaviors such as those like groping women at a DC restaurant still persist, and people still believe that’s acceptable...especially at the Tune Inn, a beloved neighborhood diner,” said a person at the scene.

“The members of POAM are paid by Michigan taxpayer dollars. It’s certainly feasible, considering the scarcity of jobs in that state, that more upstanding citizens should be worthy of support from hard-working, Michigan taxpayers. Shame on members of POAM for implicitly objectifying women in our nation’s Capitol.”

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Being on this crowded 30s bus reminds me of my old commute from Chantilly to Old Town, Alexandria. It was 1.5 hours each way.  I was living temporarily with a relative, and rent was free. I had a new job in a new town.

Once, I recall dozing off on an Orange Line train heading into the city from the 'burbs one morning. I awoke, realizing that I was leaning heavily on a man's shoulder.

I tried to be cool and slowly lean off the shoulder. I don't even think I said anything. Just tried to play it cool. I don't remember his face; I think I tried to avoid eye contact. It was kind of embarrassing.

The joys of commuting...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Harry Reid Emphasizes Value of STEM Education

Kudos to Senator Reid for his interest in educational activities in science, technology, engineering, and math for young people.

Check out this video:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Advice for Lobbyists


TO: High-paid DC Lobbyist

FROM: Congressional Staffer of 6 Years

RE: Do’s and Don’ts of Meetings with Congressional Staff

1. Do NOT touch your Blackberry when you are meeting with me.

I was once in a meeting with a well-paid lobbyist and six of his out-of-town clients. As the out-of-towners attempted to make their case to me, his Blackberry make sounds twice. Then, he had the nerve to pick it up, check it, and send a message during the meeting.

Finally, I looked at his client and said, “I am having trouble hearing the message that you are trying to deliver today because his Blackberry is so distracting.” The look she gave him suggested that his contract may be ending soon.

Same goes for your phones. Silence them prior to the meeting.

2. Don’t schedule a meeting with me without confirming.

A paid-for-hire “executive scheduler” named Kevin S. has this system for setting up meetings with our office:

(a) He contacts the Member’s scheduler to request a meeting for his client;

(b) Scheduler nixes the request and punts it to me;

(c) He sets a time of his choosing and informs me via voicemail that his out-of-town clients have been advised of this “tentative time.” Will I confirm.

(d) I’m busy and don’t get the chance to let Kevin S. know that I have a schedule conflict.

(e) Clients show up; I’m unable to meet with them due to conflict;

(f) I call Kevin S. to ask him not to set meetings until he has confirmed with me;

(g) Kevin hangs up on me and calls my superior to complain.

This, I tell you, is the perfect recipe for having your calls to a Congressional staffer never returned again.

3. Don’t openly break the rules.

A certain health care lobbyists drives a navy Maserati. Colleagues have seen the Maserati enter secure areas without a permit. Not sure how Capitol Police would explain that. Public records say he made half a million in 2007 off of lobbying.

4. Don’t go around me to my superior.

Maserati-lobbyist also loves to walk into the office and directly into our chief of staff’s office. He wants to talk health care. The chief asks me to handle it because chief is overwhelmed with multiple projects. Mr. Maserati continues to rarely make an appointment and expects me to drop everything when he walks in – once before 10am. I’m really busy. Please don’t do that.

5. Don’t try bribery.

I have actually been on more than one phone call, and the person on the other end wants to talk policy/legislation in the same breath as a fund raiser for my boss. At that moment, I immediately cut him off and say, “Ethics rules disallow me to discuss campaign matters with you at this time.”

‘Nuf said. Please check with the Ethics Committee for further clarification.

6. Don’t flaunt your money.

We all know that many of the lobbyists who come into our offices make big money. Especially if they work for: (1) Big Oil; (2) any health insurance company or conglomeration; (3) most “energy companies,” or (4) specialty health care physicians; (5) trial lawyers; or (6) Big Pharma.

While it’s your conscience about for whom you work, don’t flash your money while you are asking the federal government for money. No huge diamonds. No Rolexes. No designer labels. No obvious recent plastic surgery.

Better yet, hire yourself a 20-something “junior lobbyist” to do this work for you. It’s likely that the Congressional staffer is her age, and they’ll jive a lot better anyway.

7. Do keep the meeting less than 20 minutes.

It is not a good thing if a staffer starts to stack up her papers while you’re meeting with her. That means you have gone on too long, and please wrap it up. If she says, “Well, we need to wrap up the meeting,” that means that the meeting is over.

The folder that you gave us will end up on our desks, at best, in a huge stack of other folders. Today, I had seven meetings from 1:30-5pm. Following up increases the odds that your request will be considered. No follow-up signals to us that you don’t care that much.

8. Do bring 3 people or fewer.

Congressional offices are small places. More than 4 people coming in for a meeting means one thing: the meeting will occur out in the hallway. It’s not a sign of disrespect, it’s simple logistics.

9. Don’t flirt during the meeting OR afterward.

A lobbyist whom I find very charming and with whom I like to work serendipitously met me out at a bar a couple months ago. After a couple drinks, his compliments to me started to get uncomfortably personal. Now I feel awkward trying to work with him. Bleh.

10. Don’t lie to the scheduler.

We’ve actually had lobbyists come in and tell the scheduler that they were “cleared” to come in and give our Member an award and do a photo-op. Cleared by WHOM? That maneuver was shot down faster than you can say, “Cheese!”

Thursday, June 11, 2009


"Is it always this busy?"

Overheard, Cannon House Office Building, southwest entrance; one new guard spoke to another longer-time guard.  8:58am.

The answer is no. That entrance gets crowded only when there is a line waiting at Longworth's southeast entrance (across the street).  Normally it is among the least busy entrances to the House office buildings.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dr. Margaret Ellis Bourdeaux Saves the Life of Dr. Gene Dresselhaus

During the annual National Science Foundation Awards Gala, honors were being given for a lifetime achievement, a distinguished young investigator, and an organization that has done noteworthy outreach.

The event was a black-tie affair, and the guest list contained many influential people in the science policy community. Dr. John P. Holdren, the new Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, attended and addressed the guests. A sumptuous dinner was served, and the awards presentation commenced.

Dr. Mildred “Millie” Dresselhaus was at the head table. After receiving an award for lifetime achievement, she was seated back at the side of her husband, Dr. Gene Dresselhaus. She held his hand, and he appeared to be falling asleep. She squeezed his palm with her fingers to try to awake him, to no avail. Within 30 seconds, Gene had slumped in his chair and was literally leaning on a member of the National Science Board.

For a few moments, the award presentations awkwardly continued. Finally, the men at the head table gently lowered Gene onto the carpet, on his back. He appeared to be unconscious.

Suddenly, from the adjacent table, Dr. Margaret Ellis Bourdeaux, who was in attendance, stood and rushed over, like a breeze. Her curly, bright red hair, fair skin, and teal full-length gown were striking, but not as striking as her calm and direct actions.

Dr. Bourdeaux, dress be damned, knelt down beside Dr. Dresselhaus, very close to his face.

“Gene. Gene! Gene, can you hear me? GENE, CAN YOU HEAR ME?” She calmly spoke to Dr. Dresselhaus. She leaned close to his face to ascertain whether he was breathing, her frizzy red hair covering his face. He was not breathing.

“I’m doing chest compressions,” she stated calmly. She leaned over him and promptly began doing CPR. Her fair arms began performing thirty gentle chest compressions. Then mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Two breaths. Thirty more chest compressions. Mouth…

Gene let out a very loud cough. “Gene, are you okay?” Dr. Bourdeaux asked.”

“Yes,” was the answer, in a weak voice.

Dr. Bourdeaux began talking quietly to him, asking him various questions to assess consciousness. His hand touched his chest. He drew his knees up a little. He remained lying on the floor.

Within ten minutes, an ambulance had arrived. Space was cleared in the dining hall, and paramedics transported him out on a stretcher.

Watching Dr. Bourdeaux save the life of Dr. Gene Dresselhaus, right there at my feet, was an amazing experience. It was an occurrence that deeply touched everyone in that room. It made me think about how transient and brief all of our lives are. How everything we strive for, all of the relationships, all of the education, everything…can be snuffed out like a candle suddenly. Life is so transient.

Dr. Margaret Ellis Bourdeaux should have received an award that night. She was the true hero of the evening.

We all will be forever indebted to her for what she did. A man could have died that night in the diplomatic rooms, just as his wife had received a career achievement award. Instead, Dr. Bourdeaux demonstrated incredible courage and skill to avert the crisis.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Compact Digital Camera with Flip Screen

Would somebody please create a compact digital camera that has a swivel LCD screen? My old Canon has one, but it's big and is getting old. So I'm looking for a fun, compact point-and-shoot. I know that adding a swivel screen adds a bit to the bulk of the camera, but there are things swivel-screen cameras can do that others can't, such as taking pictures from odd angles.

Example 1: From the ground.
Gorgeous crabapple trees were blooming in the median near 4th and Penn Ave, SE. My intention was to take a photo from ground-level, looking up. With a swivel screen, I could have easily set up the picture so that the shot was level with the ground. Instead, because I couldn't see the screen well, the ground was at an angle.

Example 2: Perfect backgrounds.
My friend and I were walking along the National Mall, and on impulse decided to take a hand-held snapshot of ourselves, with the U.S. Capitol in the background. It took 2 or 3 tries before we had a good shot of us, with the the dome perfectly aligned in the background. This would have been a piece of cake with a swivel screen.

Example 3: Timed photos.
Traveled to Giant's Causeway in Ireland last fall. I set the camera on the rocks, put the timer on 10 seconds, and swiveled the screen so that I could line up the picture. Swivel screen enabled me to simply press the button and back up a few paces.

Example 4: Taken from overhead.
I did see someone else make this point elsewhere, but if you're standing in a crowd and want to take a picture from a higher angle, the swivel screen enables you to see the shot before you press the button. Otherwise, it's not possible to see what you are photographing, and composing your picture becomes blind trial-and-error.

I really feel that there is a paucity of information out there singing the praises of swivel screen LCDs. Why doesn't some camera company respond to the call and make one? I'd be first in line to buy it. Others have been requesting it as well.

As far as I can tell, no such product exists. Entrepreneurs, go at it!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Up at Night

Sometimes, especially when life gets extra-busy, stressful, or there's a lot of change swirling 'round, I wake up at night and can't quickly fall back asleep.

Tonight, I awoke at 5. Usually, it's 4am.

I've noticed:

-The 30s Metro buses begin running at 5. I begin to hear their heavy, groaning engines, rumbling by, a block away. I think of my friend, who I call, "Squire," who is a teacher and who buses across town early in the morning.  Buses and 5am seem like a bad combo.  

-Traffic starts to pick up. What are all these people doing at this ungodly hour? I snuggle under soft flannel linens and am thankful that I'm not operating a car at this hour (nor any time!). I hear the whoosh sound of cars-gliding-across-pavement as they pass.  Sometimes, I'll hear a noisy service truck rumble by, and I mentally draft a letter to Mayor Fenty to try and ban large trucks from neighborhood streets.

-There's a bird in the budding sugar maple outside my window that sings like crazy. Actually, now I hear a small bird chorus. Why are all of these city birds singing their little souls out, in the hours before dawn?  Are they confused?  I can identify with that: they sing when they're not supposed to, but the song is in the soul, and must come out.

-The house is finally quiet. I am one of four group house occupants. We're a "Craigslist house," as are so many in the District, meaning that the roommates came together via Craigslist, rather than being friends prior to living together. Once in a while, someone is up at 4... but not tonight.

-I feel energetic, like I could jump up and run around the block. I lie here, curious about why I wake up at this hour.  I sift through emotions. Some nights, it bugs me that I wake up like this. Other nights, I'm awash with feelings of gratefulness about my life.   Still others, I analyze  old relationships or consider my next job move.  Tonight, I'm blogging.

When I woke up tonight, I checked my Blackberry and saw that someone I don't know had actually commented on my blog, in the wee hours of the morning. It encouraged me. So rarely do I receive a comment, that I often just feel like I blog in a vacuum, and no one else really reads it. But tonight was not the case. Maybe this is an example of the power of positive reinforcement.

The House votes today on a bill to allow the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco. I hope that it actually makes it to the President's desk. I need to go back to sleep, so that I can be of sharp mind at work. I'll try now. 

Goodnight, Internets.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cutting my Shin: a Memory Comes Flooding Back

It was in the early 1980s - I was 10 or 11 years old. Our new house was under construction. Mom, Dad, my sister, and my friend, Joy D., went to check on the progress.

Joy and I were playing on the front porch. There was a piece of aluminum sheet metal nearby. I pretended to stumble over it -- except that I cut it too close, and really stumbled over it.

I looked down at my left shin. There was a 1.5 inch slice in my shin, and the taut skin had pulled open into a surprise-mouth shape. Blood streamed down my leg.

The next few minutes were a blur. I remember Mom rushing me to the doctor's office. She worked for Dr. Brooks and must have put in a quick call. I remember sitting in the front seat of the car, applying pressure to the wound. There was a towel.

Then I remember being in the doctor's office, crying and wailing, lying on my back on a cushioned patient table. Dr. Brooks began to quickly sew up the wound. Ms. Donna, a lovely, young nurse, came over to hold me, to keep me from squirming.
I was really squirming and crying.

Ms. Donna leaned over my upper body, almost in a hug. Her long, layered dark hair was soft and perfume-scented. The weight of her, her gentle words, her soft hair...they soothed me. The memory is as vivid as if it happened yesterday.

We should remember that there are key moments in a life, moments that have a lasting impact and are not forgotten. Ms. Donna's simple gesture of kindness and compassion meant the world to a terrified child in that moment.

I'll never forget it, for as long as I live.