Saturday, October 18, 2014

Still Life With Robin: Our Attention Is Flagging

by Peggy Robin

If you are a registered voter in DC and you’ve been looking over all the election flyers and informational materials that have been been cluttering up your mailbox lately, you’ve probably seen the DC Voters guide sent to you by the DC Board of Elections and Ethics. If you are the kind of person who picks up on little anomalies, you would have been struck by something amiss about the guide: the DC flag image was upside-down on the cover. Even if you weren’t really paying close attention when you got it, you might have been alerted to the goof by news reports, either in the Post (, on CBS local news (, or on WAMU (, among others.

The weirdest thing in these reports is not the mistake itself -- it’s the response by the spokesperson for the BOEE, Denise Tolliver, who insisted that wrong-side-up flag was actually printed that way on purpose, to see if anyone would notice – a little game to engage the voters, kind of like “Where’s Waldo” but with DC’s two broad red stripes on top as the fun thing you are trying to find. Here she goes, as quoted in the WAMU report: "The plan is to put [the guide] on the website and ask voters to find the mistake…. The hint would be that it's not the content [of the guide]."

My reaction to that is….yeah, right. That’s the ticket [sarcasm indicated]. Whether you believe the flag was printed upside-down on purpose or was just a typo, followed by a quickly-concocted and good-for-the-gullible story of how it came about – either way, it doesn’t inspire confidence in the people who are in charge of running this election. Nor does it help to remember that in the last election (the April 1 mayoral primary) the BOEE was agonizingly slow in counting the ballots. (Want a fast compilation of DC BOEE election screw-ups? Go to and type “BOEE election problems” in the search box.)

Rather than continue to pile on the hapless DC BOEE, I’d like to offer another example of an upside-down flag that does not exactly explain or excuse the Voter Guide foul-up but does lend a bit of perspective. The Union Jack has been shown –or actually flown – upside down on a number of occasions, both official and unofficial, and hardly anyone ever catches it except hard-core vexillologists (that’s the multi-syllabic way to refer to anyone with expertise in the design and display of flags). Now, I’d be willing to bet that only a very tiny percentage of Americans even know that the seemingly symmetrical Union Jack even has an up and a down side to it.

Here’s a UK flag information website that first of all, describes very clearly how to tell which way of the UK flag is up …. and then goes on to call out some examples of inverted flag-flying in their own country and abroad:

Wait, there’s more! In 2012 the European Union opened with a flag raising ceremony, but somehow the UK flag went up the pole bottom first: Even worse than that was the wrong-side-up display of the flag at the 2009 official trade-deal signing with China that took place at the Prime Minister’s very own residence at No. 10 Downing Street:

Well, one thing that did not happen in any of these cases is that someone tried to explain it away with a line like, “We did it on purpose, just to see if you were paying attention.”  As we like to say here in DC, “Oh no you di’n’t!”


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Get Out! The Events Column

White House photo by David Bohrer
(Public Doman/Wikimedia Commons)
We wanted to share some events and activities that list members might be interested in. Have a great weekend -- and week beyond, too. If you know of an event that the 14,000+ members of the Cleveland Park Listserv should know about, email us at (events @

Peggy Robin and Bill Adler
Publishers, Cleveland Park Listserv

Friday, October 17 at 12:15 PM, Arts @ Midday, Concert by OperaBelle with Angela Knight, soprano, Katherine Keem, soprano and Anna Korsakova, Mezzo-Soprano. This trio of opera singers will present a selection of operatic arias, ensembles, art songs, and Broadway hits in Italian, French, German, English, Korean, and Russian. Free. At St. Albans Episcopal Church, 3001 Wisconsin Avenue NW. For info about the series visit:

Friday, October 17 at 4 PM, Skype Author Chat with Beth Revis, author of several YA books including the Across the Universe series. Beth Revis will discuss her writing process and her books. You can: Ask questions / Learn about the life of an author / Receive giveaways / Meet friends. At the Cleveland Park Library, corner of Connecticut Avenue and Macomb Street NW. More info at

Saturday, October 18 from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM, DC Authors' Festival. Meet local authors (some of them are your neighbors!) and attend writing workshops, visit author booths, and hear readings and discussion panels. Participating authors include George Pelecanos, Warren Brown, Elisavietta Richie, Carrolivia Herron, Carolyn Morrow Long, many others. Free. At the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G Street NW. Full details at

Saturday, October 18 from 10 AM - 12 Noon, Trick or Treat at Tudor Place. Celebrate a Spooktacular Halloween at Tudor Place. Children in Halloween costumes are invited to trick-or-treat through the enchanting north gardens on the estate and participate in pumpkin painting, crafts, face painting, and games. For children aged 2+ and their family members. Member Child: $7, Non-Member Child: $10, Accompanying Adult: $3. Register at Tudor Place Historic House and Garden, 1644 31st Street NW, 202.965.0400. More info:

Saturday, October 18 from 10 AM - 4 PM, Self Guided Garden Walks through four gardens -- part of the Garden Conservancy’s “Open Days” program. The tour includes the Macleish garden in Cleveland Park. $7 per garden or $25 for all four, payable by cash or check at any of the four locations. The Macleish Garden is at 3525 Springland Lane. Information about all four gardens at:

Saturday, October 18 from 2 - 5 PM, The second annual Mount Pleasant House and Garden Tour, featuring six homes and gardens in the Mount Pleasant historic district, with reception afterward, from 5 - 7 PM. Tickets $25 - $40, benefiting the Bancroft Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization. More info:

Saturday, October 18 from 3 to 7 PM, The Adams Morgan PorchFest transforms the front porches of homes and a few local businesses into intimate performance spaces to be enjoyed by anyone who happens to stroll by. Inspired by similar PorchFest events across the country aimed at creating a family friendly, neighborhood-based alternative to the nightclub music scene, Adams Morgan's version will span an eclectic range of styles from Brazilian, Irish and jazz, to indie rock, children's music and even Egyptian Nubian folkloric. Adams Morgan PorchFest is free to the public and presented by Adams Morgan Partnership Business Improvement District in partnership with Cultural Tourism DC. Free. Tour maps available at the information booth at 18th St & Columbia Rd NW.

Sunday October 19 at 2 PM, Newark Street Dog Park Costume contest and fundraiser. Celebrate the Park's Anniversary with baked goods (for K9 & Human alike), a doggy costume contest, and drawings for prizes. We'll also have hot apple cider The event opens at 2 PM and the Costume Contest will take place at 3 PM. The drawing will be at the end of the event and you do not need to be present to win. The Dog Park is at Newark & 39th St. More info:

Monday, October 20 at 5 PM, Eisenhower Memorial Redesign Competition. Although the Frank Gehry design for the newest presidentil memorial on the Mall has, after many years of controversy, finally been approved, and groundbreaking is set for sometime in 2015 (see, you still have until the close of business on Monday to bring your own design down to the National Capital Planning Commission, 401 9th Street NW to meet the deadline for the “I Could Design a Better Memorial Than That in My Sleep” addendum to the Eisenhower Memorial Design Review Process. This is an open call to all designers, artists, architects, computer modelers, or anyone else who has looked at the Gehry “tapestries” and thought “meh” to bring in your own model, sketch, or computer schematic showing how you think the Memorial should look. Even though this is the weekly fake event, we really hope some people actually show up with their own inspirations!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Still Life With Robin: What to Do With Columbus on Columbus Day?

Columbus - Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)
by Peggy Robin

It’s the Columbus Day weekend and as I’m sure you’ve heard, there are now more than a few states, localities and legislative bodies that have already dumped, or are ready to dump, the name Columbus. The city of Berkeley, California did it way back in 1992. (Sure, you say, that’s to be expected from the left-est city on the Left Coast). Well, South Dakota, Alaska, and Hawaii have all renamed the holiday “Indigenous Peoples Day. Portland, Oregon has come on board. And just a week ago the city council of Seattle voted unanimously to go with the no-Columbus flow.

The Huffington Post nicely sums up the reasons for the switch in an article, “Columbus Day? True Legacy: Cruelty and Slavery, (Sample quote:Columbus' reign of terror, as documented by noted historians, was so bloody, his legacy so unspeakably cruel, that Columbus makes a modern villain like Saddam Hussein look like a pale codfish.”)

The Washington Post’s education columnist Valerie Strauss wonders why, given the historical record, DC has not similarly de-Columbussed the holiday:

That is something I think I can explain without much difficulty; it’s a problem that seems fairly obvious to me. If we take the name Columbus off the holiday, then how can we justify leaving it on our lovely little almost-a-diamond of a city? If we were to follow the lead of progressive states and towns and change the name of the second Monday in October to “Indigenous Americans Day,” wouldn’t our city need to be called, for consistency’s sake, the District of Indigeneana?

But that just doesn’t sound right. There has to be a better way to approach the problem. I think I have it. Let’s not ditch the name Columbus, let’s just ditch the historical figure attached to the name. Columbus has a meaning in the Latin from which it originates. Columba (noun, f.) means “dove.” Columbus is the masculine form. A dove is a wonderful thing, a symbol of peace, something well worth honoring with a holiday...or a city name, a university, a river…all the many forms of Columbia found from sea to shining sea. Let’s stop producing iconic images of a navigator and explorer now recognized as a cruel, gold-driven exploiter and slave-master and substitute images of a snowy harbinger of peace, wings spread, olive branch in its upturned beak. Let's celebrate this: – not this:

An entirely different fix for the problem is for us to give up the pretense that we still care what the holiday stands for. Let’s just admit that the modern activity most associated with this three-day weekend is a holiday sale-a-thon for cars and mattresses. Call it Car-Lumbar Day. Of course, it would never do to rename our city in that fashion -- the District of Car-Lumbria. Bah! That's not who we want to be. Maybe we should go for a simpler fix: Let’s drop all names and call it by its initials, DC, and not have a spelled-out version at all. Kind of like CBS (it used to be the Columbia Broadcasting System, but now it’s just three initials). Nobody misses the Columbia in the BS! I’m guessing nobody will miss the Columbia in the D, either. And certainly not in the Day.

Happy C-Day to all!

Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Get Out! - The Events Column

Rock Creek Park photo by Thomas S. Mann
We wanted to share some events and activities that list members might be interested in. Have a great weekend -- and week beyond, too. If you know of an event that the 14,000+ members of the Cleveland Park Listserv should know about, email us at events @

Peggy Robin and Bill Adler
Publishers, Cleveland Park Listserv

Thursday, October 9 from 7 - 8:30 PM: The Secret River, by Kate Grenville (Australia) - part of the Cleveland Park Neighborhood Library Book Discussion Series, Literature of the English Speaking World, with Discussion Leader Phil Burnham, Professor of Literature at Geoge Mason University. About the book: William Thornhill is caught stealing an armful of wood in 1806 London. A friend in high places spares him the hangman’s noose, and he’s sentenced for deportation to New South Wales instead. Once in Australia, he finds with his wife Sal the one thing they never had in London—a plot of land they can call their own. That is, until the local Aboriginals appear on the scene. Free. At the Cleveland Park Library, corner of Connecticut Avenue and Macomb St NW.Call 202 282-3072 to register. More info about the series at

Thursday, October 9 at 7 PM, A History of Rock Creek Park: Wilderness and Washington, DC. On Sept. 25, 1890, Rock Creek Park was established as one of the largest and first urban nature parks in the country. Join author and historian Scott Einberger for a special evening program spotlighting how this largest of Washington, DC parks was established. . Free. At the Mt. Pleasant Library, 3160 16th Street NW. More info: 

Friday, October 10 & Saturday, October 11 from 10 AM - 4 PM and Sunday October 12 from 1-4 PM Friends of the Palisades Library Huge Used Book Sale. Most books $1 - bargain books 25c. $10/bag (except children’s books). Collectibles corner offers rare, specially priced books. The Palisades Library is at 4901 V St NW (corner of MacArthur Blvd).

Saturday October 11 from 10 AM - 4 PM, Milling, Cider Making and Open Hearth Cooking at Peirce Mill. Take a journey back to the 19th century as you watch the millstone turn corn into cornmeal, view old-fashioned open hearth cooking including fruit turnovers that are cooked in a skillet (samples anyone?). Try your hand at the hand-cranked cider press making cider the old-fashioned way. These events run from 11 AM - 2 PM. Visitor Center open from 10 AM - 4 PM. Learn about the Peirce family and the other mills that operated along Rock Creek. Try your hand at games for children including a self-guided treasure hunt (with small prize), water flow and gravity toys and corn husk doll making. Guided tours of the mill. All events are free. More info Pierce Mill is at the corner of Tilden St (Park Road) and Beach Drive.

Saturday, October 11 from 10 AM to 12 noon, "DC By the Book" Walking Tour of Shaw, U Street and the Harlem Renaissance. Get your walking shoes on for this "literate" stroll around the U Street neighborhood, exploring locations highlighted in significant works. Kim Roberts, a historian of DC's literary culture, will lead the tour of places made famous by cultural icons including Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Toomer, Duke Ellington, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Richard Bruce Nugent, Langston Hughes, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Edward Christopher Williams, Pearl Bailey, James Weldon Johnson, Alain Locke, and Rudolph Fisher. The tour will include several stops featured in the free "DC By the Book" App (iPhone or Android) that guides users on tours of significant literary sites across the city. To download the free app: For more information about the "DC By the Book" project: . For more information about the tour and to sign up: Meet at the 13th Street entrance of the U Street Metro station Free (registration required).

Saturday, October 11 from 11 AM - 9 PM Columbia Heights Day Festival. Fun and entertainment for all ages, ranging from eating contests, local musicians, a dunk tank, face painters, an adult tricycle race, family fun field day, and much much more. Outdoor movie screening at 7 PM. Free admission. On 11th St NW (from Park Rd to Kenyon St NW) & Harriet Tubman School Yard. More info including performance schedules:

Saturday, October 11 from 11 AM - 4 PM, Taste of Bethesda. Bethesda's famous food and music festival brings 60 restaurants and five stages of entertainment to Bethesda's Woodmont Triangle. Each year, more than 40,000 attendees sample the delicious restaurants, enjoy the live entertainment and visit the kid's corner for face painting and arts & crafts. The annual Taste of Bethesda is held in conjunction with Best of Bethesda Day, which also features Come Back to Bethesda classic car show and Rescue Day.Taste of Bethesda is held rain or shine. Taste tickets are sold on-site in bundles of four tickets for $5. Food servings cost one to four tickets. The event is held along Norfolk, St. Elmo, Cordell, Del Ray and Auburn Avenues in Bethesda's Woodmont Triangle. See

Saturday, October 11 from 4 - 9 PM, Escape from the Woodmont Triangle. Like the infamous Bermuda Triangle, the Woodmont Triangle of Bethesda has long been the subject of tales of lost souls. Some emerge dazed after a seemingly endless time of wandering….others are never heard from again. If you venture out to the Taste of Bethesda, stay to learn about the secret and mysterious forces that sometimes trap unwary visitors….and most important, find out how you can escape, if you are caught in a terrifying repeating loop that keeps funneling you back to the Cordell-St.Elmo Municipal Garage. More info: see (Too bad that the map does not inform you that this is the weekly fake event!)

Saturday, October 11 at 7 PM, Jean Philippe Rameau's Enlightenment brings the beauty of baroque to Levine's Lang Recital Hall. This year marks the 250th anniversary of Rameau’s death and this concert celebrates his long-lasting legacy. This concert will present some of his most innovative and striking works, featuring talented Levine faculty artists Lois Narvey and Ralitza Patcheva, harpsichord, and Jeff van Osten and Vasily Popov, cello. At the DC Campus of Levine Music, Lang Recital Hall, 2801 Upton Street, NW. Special $10 tickets for members of the Cleveland Park listserv with the promo code “CPFriends” during registration.

Saturday, October 11 and Sunday, October 12, 12 noon to 7 PM. Taste of DC, a multi-day culinary and cultural event in the heart of the nation’s capital -- 5 blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue from 9th - 14th Streets packed with area restaurants, great drinks, lively entertainment, engaging corporate partners, and fellow Washingtonians and visitors. Entry tickets available at 11th & E St or at 13th & E St. If you have purchased tickets in advance, enter at 11th St. Tickets, $10; $5 (ages 6-12) available at; under 5 free. Info on beverage and food sales and entertainment schedule at 

Sunday, October 12 at 1 PM, Spies of Georgetown Walking Tour. This approximately 2½ hour walking tour will highlight sites associated with spies, counter-spies, and covert action successes and failures, and will include personalities as diverse as Alger Hiss, "Wild Bill" Donovan, James Angleton, and Betty Pack, an auburn-haired American beauty who successfully spied for the Allies during World War II. Learn real-life stories that took place in the narrow historic streets, trendy restaurants, and stylish homes of "fashionable Georgetown." Cost: $15 - no reservation needed, just show up in front of the Georgetown Public Library, corner of Wisconsin Avenue, NW and R Street, NW. More info at:

Monday, October 13 from 1 - 2:30 PM, Fairy Tea and Treats. Bring your favorite Tinkerbell, as children dress up in magical fairy costumes complete with tutus, wands, and wings. Dressed for tea, costumed interpreters explain the favored drink of early America, while guests enjoy tasty desserts. After the tea, children tour Tudor Place’s enchanting fairy gardens and make a special period craft to take home. For ages 4+. Tickets: member child: $20; non-member child: $25; accompanying adult: $10 Registrations must be received by close of business on Fri. Oct 10 - go to: 

Wednesday, October 15, from 6 - 9 PM, Art Buzz at Sunset. Join Jade Floyd and Cher Freeman for Art Buzz at Sunset, a fundraiser supporting the DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative, held on the Rooftop at The Embassy Row Hotel, 2015 Massachusetts Avenue NW. Register for free tickets ($10 suggested donation) at More info about the DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative at

Wednesday, October 15 from 6:30 - 8:30 PM, Party by the Park, a festive evening reception to raise funds critically needed to help protect and restore Rock Creek. Held at the House of Sweden located at 2900 K St NW, in Washington, DC, just on the edge of Rock Creek in Georgetown Waterfront Park. More info at Tickets $75 at

Wednesday, October 15 at 6:30 PM, Opening night reception for DC Reads 2014 with special guest Dinaw Mengestu, celebrating the selection of his novel for DC Reads 2014: The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears. Special appearance by author Dinaw Mengestu at 7 PM with meet-and-greet to follow at 8 PM. Free. Food and drinks provided by the DC Public Library Foundation, More info about DC Reads series of programs at The MLK, Jr. Library is at 901 G Street NW.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Still Life With Robin: Relaxing Way to End a Rough Week

Photo by Rob, Cambridge, MA via Wikimedia Commons
by Peggy Robin

It’s been another one of those weeks: screaming headlines filled with forecasts of doom. Ebola is here. ISIL a/k/a ISIS is gaining ground. Ukraine is losing it. Hong Kong is under a fog of tear gas. Then there’s more ebola. At some point you either want to crawl under a rock or find something soothing to distract you from the grim drum-beat of news. Of course, the soothing distraction is much easier to come by than a suitably comfortable rock, and that, perhaps, explains the unending popularity of cat videos on the internet. At a time like this, they serve a function beyond mere procrastination. In that spirit, I offer the following half hour of down-time, which can lower ease tension and lower blood pressure:

This next one is mostly cats, with a sprinkling of other furry actors (ferrets, otters) plus a horse with cool headgear: (8:24)

This one has been around for a longtime, so you have probably seen it….but it’s still funny on the second (or third or tenth) viewing: British Voiceover Animals: (4:34)

If you’re not going for laughs but just want a large dose of unrelieved cuteness, then go for this one: (6:58)

And now for the final one (58 seconds) with the caution that you may not be able to get the bouncy little song out of your head. One of these days you will be trying to concentrate on something serious – your overdue tax form, for example – and you will find yourself singing, “Baby monkey, baby monkey, riding on a pig, baby monkey….”  If that ever happens, just remember the middle lyric, “The world has gone insane….”and carry on as best you can.


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Oktoberfest by Andreas Steinhoff (Wikimedia Commons)
We wanted to share some events and activities that list members might be interested in. Have a great weekend -- and week beyond, too. If you know of an event that the 14,000+ members of the Cleveland Park Listserv should know about, email us at events @
Peggy Robin and Bill Adler
Publishers, Cleveland Park Listserv
Friday, October 3 at 4 PM, Oktoberfest at the Petworth Library. If you can’t make it to Germany, come and celebrate with pretzels, root beer and fall crafts for children ages 5 and up. Free. The Petworth Library is at 4200 Kansas Avenue NW,
Saturday, October 4 from 10 AM - 2 PM, Let`s Move! DC Children & Families Health Expo. The District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) presents the 2nd annual Expo, featuring cooking demonstrations, fishing and dance lessons, music, games and a farmers market. Community organizations will also present information for families on healthy eating, early childhood education, and youth fitness and enrichment programs. The expo is free and open to the public. At the Deanwood Recreation Center at 1350 49th Street, NE. For more information, visit 
Saturday, October 4 at 4 PM, “Steel Sculpture: Anxiety and Hope.” Meet sculptor Sam Noto and learn about improvisational technique and his use of found metals to create the beautiful sculptures featured in the sculpture garden at the Katzen Arts Center, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW. Free and open to the public.
Sunday, October 5 from 8 AM - 5 PM, Fall Fun Fest at the Armed Forces Retirement Home campus in Washington, DC. The Oktoberfest Tent portion of the festivities will run from 1 to 5 PM. In addition to the fun under the tent, the day’s activities include an antique car show, golf tournaments, beer and bourbon tasting at Lincoln’s Cottage, a fishing rodeo at the ponds, military displays, food trucks, exhibit booths and much more! The Edelweiss Band and the Bavarian and Austrian Dance Company will perform. Fun Fest schedule and flyer at: Cars enter at Randolph St and Rock Creek Church Rd, parking $5.
Sunday, October 5 from 3- 6 PM, Volta Park Day. Rides, games, flea market. East Vs. West softball game at 2 PM. Enter to win a free iPad! Fresh grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, plenty to drink. Music by Basement Riot. Flyer at:
Sunday, October 5 from 2 - 4 PM, Traditional Irish Music & Dance Celebration: The Embassy of Ireland, in conjunction with Dupont Festival, The Dupont Circle Hotel, Tourism Ireland and Comhaltas Ceoltórí Éireann O’Neill-Malcom branch, will proudly present a free open-air traditional Irish music and dance celebration at Dupont Circle in honor of 90 years of Ireland-U.S. diplomatic relations. Performers will be drawn from the cream of local Irish music and dancing talent, including the Irish Inn Mates & Friends, and the Bog Band and Brian Gaffney, as well as dancers from the Culkin School of Traditional Irish Dance and Shannon Dunne Dance – along with a few other Irish surprises! More info at
Tuesday, October 7 at 6:30 PM, Landmark Society Curator Talk: The Key to the Desk. Join Curator Erin Kuykendall for a close look at the Francis Scott Key “partner’s desk.” In the early 1800s, Key and James Dunlop, Jr., were law partners well-established in Georgetown (then part of Maryland). Called to negotiate the release of an an American imprisoned by the British in August 1814, he spent a fateful night outside Baltimore. The 25-hour attack he witnessed there inspired the poem, “Defence of Fort McHenry,” that became the US national anthem. While Key is well known as the source for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” his achievements as a lawyer and politician are significant, too. Hear that story brought to life through the solid artifact of his twice-signed desk, with fresh insights into his legal and political work and the ways of Georgetown society. Tickets: Free for Landmark Society members, $15 for Tudor Place members, $20 for non-members: At Tudor Place Historic House and Garden, 1644 31st Street, NW
Tuesday, October 7 at 7 PM, The “Books That Shaped America” series features a discussion of A Street in Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks. The discussion, led by American University’s Timothy Staples, will start with the focal text, but the conversations in the discussion series often stretch far beyond the pages of the books themselves.Attendees are encouraged—but not required—to have read the featured text. Admission and parking are free for this series, and no RSVP is required. You need not have attended any previous discussion to join in this one. More info: Location: Training & Events Room (115), Bender Library at American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
Tuesday, October 7 at 7 PM, Vikings: Life and Legend. This special British Museum cinema event offers an exclusive private view of the exhibition “Vikings: Life and Legend” that was on display through June at the Museum in London. The accompanying 90-minute film is being shown worldwide on this date. Introduced by British Museum Director Neil MacGregor and presented by the celebrated broadcasting historians Michael Wood and Bettany Hughes, the exhibition will be brought to life by curator Gareth Williams, alongside experts on Viking ships and swords, burial and beliefs, language and legacy. With demonstrations, stunning close-up photography of the Viking objects in the exhibition and a torch-lit burial staged in the grounds of the museum, Vikings from the British Museum will be a reminder of how the Vikings have shaped modern lives across four continents of the world. Showing in DC at Mazza Gallerie Cinema - tickets $12.50 at More information at:
Tuesday, October 7 at 8:45 PM, Vikings - A Re-Enactment. Following the worldwide showing of the British Museum film about Vikings (see above entry for details), there will be a gathering of Viking re-enactors outside the Mazza Gallerie Theater. Anyone who can throw together a Viking-ish outfit is welcome to participate (but no horned helmets, please -- that’s inauthentic!). Once we have amassed a suitable number of warriors to form a shield-wall, we will then advance up Western Ave, march across McKinley St and descend upon the Chevy Chase Public Library in a fearsome simulated onslaught. (The library will serve as a stand-in for the Lindesfarne Monastery that fell to the Vikings in A.D. 793, as it is the most convenient nearby place of contemplative scholarship.) There will be mock pillaging, mock swordplay, and carrying off of captives and loot. Bring your own foam battle-axes and plastic swords. Women assuming the role of shield-maidens are welcomed as equal opportunity raiders. We will finish off with a rousing Viking funeral, with feasting and treasure in Valhalla for all. If you can’t make it to this week’s fake event, be sure to view the splendid Viking funeral in this You-tube clip:
Wednesday October 8 at 6 PM, Chocolate Through Time: A Tasting at Dumbarton House. Learn about the history of chocolate from its ancient beginnings in Meso-America through the centuries to the modern day. An interactive presentation will focus on how chocolate has changed through time both in terms of its cultural value and how mechanization has altered its production process over time. The presentation will be followed by a chance to taste 17th c. Style Spanish Hot Chocolate, an 18th century style chocolate tart, a 19th century style chocolate cake, the 20th century milk chocolate truffle, and the latest 21st century chocolate incarnation! Tickets $15 - $20 ($60 for 4 Tasting Events) at Dumbarton House, 2715 Q Street NW.
Wednesday, Oct. 8th, at 7 PM, Daniel Pink will discuss his book To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, which explores the power of selling, something each of us does every day - whether we know it or not. Whether we’re entrepreneurs persuading funders, employees pitching colleagues, or parents and teachers encouraging and coaching kids, we spend our days trying to move others. Today, like it or not, we’re all in sales. Free. Book sale and signing to follow event. The library is at 4450 Wisconsin Ave NW. More info:
Thursday, October 7 at 7 PM, A History of Rock Creek Park: Wilderness and Washington, DC. On Sept. 25, 1890, Rock Creek Park was established as one of the largest and first urban nature parks in the country. Join author and historian Scott Einberger for a special evening program spotlighting how this largest of Washington, DC parks was established. . Free. At the Mt. Pleasant Library, 3160 16th Street NW. More info:

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Still Life With Robin: What's Wrong With My GPS? (A Mystery With Three Clues)

Photo by Tom W. Sulcer (Wikimedia Commons)
by Peggy Robin

I was about to post a query on the Cleveland Park Listserv to find someone who could help me fix the GPS app on my phone. It had the weirdest malfunction. When I plugged in an address --let's say it was a point about seven miles away-- it would show me a perfectly  reasonable route to get there but then it would tell me that the travel time was two hours and 17 minutes. I just could not figure out what was wrong with the thing. I would press "start navigation" and it would direct me, turn by turn, without a single error, to my destination -- but it continued to calculate the time in an alternate reality, as if in some sort of slowed-down segment of the space-time continuum. This went on for more than a week. I tried rebooting it, and re-entering the location, and I tried Googling the problem to find a solution, but no matter what I did, the long hours of travel continued to show up for short drives.

Then, just yesterday, I used the GPS to guide me to an address in far-flung Rockville. I encountered construction along the way and had to depart from the approved course and meander through some side streets to continue in the right direction. My GPS voice didn't like what I was doing one bit and kept insisting I head back toward my original route. At one point she [it uses a female voice] directed me to turn down a one-way street the wrong way. I ignored her, of course, but that was my first clue as to what was the matter. She did not care about one-way streets. The second clue was something that had been happening all week long....but I simply had not noticed it before:  the marked route on the moving map was not the usual solid blue line, with occasional red patches for traffic delays; it had become a dotted line. The third and final clue came just as I was nearing my destination. The GPS voice directed me to cross a park where there was no road at all. At last the light of understanding dawned: my GPS had been switched to pedestrian mode. I had been following walking directions for the past week! And it really would have taken me 3 hours and 22 minutes to reach my destination in Rockville on foot. The way I walk, probably longer.

Then I was able to think back to what must had happened. More than a week ago I had lent my phone to my daughter's friend who was visiting Washington, DC from Colombia (South America, not Columbia, Maryland or Columbia, South Carolina, and not Columbia, University either -- though these were the three most common reactions he got when he told Americans where he was from. But I digress.) He needed a US phone for the day so that he could call my daughter and meet up with her downtown; his Colombian phone plan made it too expensive for him to call or text on his own account. At some point he had become turned around but had realized that he could get oriented by using my phone’s GPS function, and he also figured out how to put it in pedestrian mode. He just forgot to tell me when he returned the phone to me later the same day.

I am just sorry that he did not also reset the GPS to the metric system. I think I would have quickly figured it if the distance had shown up in kilometers. Instead….a week of mapping mystery!


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Get Out! - The Events Column

Photo by US Navy Spec 2nd Cl Ronda Spaulding via Wikimedia
We wanted to share some events and activities that list members might be interested in. Have a great weekend -- and week beyond, too. If you know of an event that the 14,000+ members of the Cleveland Park Listserv should know about, email us at events @
Peggy Robin and Bill Adler
Publishers, Cleveland Park Listserv
Friday, September 26 from 8 AM – 4:30 PM, Green Building Symposium and Expo at the Washington Convention Center, presented by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Everyone is invited to join us as we take a closer look at how the new Green Construction Code, Energy Conservation Code, Green Building Act, Green Area Ratio, benchmarking law and more are being implemented and enforced from design through building permitting, inspections, and post-occupancy. The Washington Convention Center is at 801 Mount Vernon Place NW. Full schedule of events at Register for the free sessions and workshops at
Friday, September 26 from 12:30 - 4 PM, “The Back Yard Habitat.” The Rock Creek Conservancy hosts a hands-on workshop on growing native plants and creating rain gardens in your back yard. At All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church, 2300 Cathedral Avenue NW. Free. Reservations required at
Saturday, September 27 from 11 AM - 3 PM. Rock Creek Park Day at Peirce Mill. The National Park Service and Friends of Peirce Mill invite you to Rock Creek Park's 124th anniversary celebration. Join us for a day of milling and historic craftspeople demonstrations, history hikes, an author talk, children's games and more. Explore the diverse history of one of the oldest and largest urban nature parks in the United States and watch the waterwheel come to life as the gristmill operates. Free. More info:
Saturday, September 27, 12 noon - 4 PM. Taste of Friendship HeightsFriendship Place hosts a celebration of community and cuisine featuring great food from local restaurants, music by the Dixie Power Trio, moon bounce, face painting, balloons, basketball games and restaurant raffle drawing. Attendees
most food 
purchase. At the Village Center 4433 South Park Ave. in Chevy Chase, MD. More info:; info about ticket sales:
Saturday, September 27 from 12 noon - 2 PM, Truck It! The Best Trucking Food Festival. Food / Drinks / Music / Face Painting / Pumpkin Picking. Cost: $20, 5 tickets for 5 tastes ($25 at the door) Location: St. Luke's Parking Lot at 15th and P Street NW - more info:; Tickets:
Sunday, September 28 at 1 PM, The Spies of Capitol Hill Walking Tour. Learn about locations in and around the Capitol where espionage happened. Meet outside the Union Station Metro entrance. More info at Tickets: $15, no reservations required - just show up outside the Union Station Metro entrance at 1 PM on Sunday.
Sunday, September 28 from 1 - 6 PM, The Tenleytown Block Party, featuring FREE Grilled Burgers/Hot Dogs/Drinks; FREE Dessert Food Truck; Moon Bounce; 45' Inflatable Obstacle Course For Teens/Adults; Face Painting and Balloon Animals; NFL Zone- Featuring Live Game Viewing Tent; 3 On 3 Basketball Tournament w/ Trophies and prizes; Music - Live DJ; Ferris Wheel Ride For Children; Skate Park with ramps, rails and more; FREE Sno-Cones, popcorn, cotton candy; Care Packaging Station For Local Area First Responders; and much more! A free community event sponsored by The City Church, 4100 River Road NW (next to the Container Store),
Sunday,September 28 at 3 PM, Concert by the Chicago Piano Duo at Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church. The program will include four Schubert works for four hands and two Brahms works for solo piano. The church has a wonderful big (Model D) Steinway that will fill the sanctuary with beautiful sound. A reception and the opening of a show of art quilts by seven artists follow. The church is at 3401 Nebraska Ave. NW (corner of New Mexico). Free; a free-will offering will be taken. For further information: carolgriffith33 @
Tuesday, September 30 at 6:30 PM, Author and journalist Steve Vogel, formerly of the Washington Post, will discuss his book Through the Perilous Fight: Six Weeks That Saved the Nation. Free for Landmark Society Members. Tickets $15 - $20 for non-members available at 6:30, wine + light appetizers, 7 – 8:30 PM lecture. At Tudor Place Historic House and Garden, 1644 31st Street NW.
Weekend in September from 11 AM - 11 PM, 97th Annual Fall Fun Fair. Come to this annual festival and bazaar, featuring performances on 29 stages, 226 vendors, food from 1,492 countries around the world and across the galaxy; activities for kids including a moon bounce and a Jupiter bounce (that’s a non-bouncy house with gravity so intense you can’t get yourself off the floor!), face painting (choose between latex and oil-based paint, depending on whether you want it to last years or decades); giveaways (because you really need a few more free key rings and mousepads); and much, much more! Free, wait, it’s better than free - we will PAY you to come! Location: Just about anywhere this weekend, as this is a generic fall fair description and it’s the weekly fake event.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Still Life With Robin: A More Perfect Union...Jack

by Peggy Robin

Now that the Scottish independence vote is over and it’s clear that Scotland is staying in the UK, you might think that the design problem with the Union Jack is over and done with. (For those not up on the flag aspect of the independence vote, the issue was this: Should the design element that represents Scotland – the cross of St. Andrew, a diagonal (saltire) white cross on a field of blue – be removed from the Union Jack? If that came to pass, the flag would be left with just two crosses, the upright red cross of St. George, which represents England, and the saltire red cross of St. Patrick, which represents Ireland … or rather, Northern Ireland, since the rest of the island left the UK in 1921. Now there’s no need to change the flag if the countries symbolized by the elements in the design are unchanged, right?

But what if all the countries that should be recognized in the flag are not there to begin with? That’s an argument coming from many in Wales, a land that’s been in a union with England since 1282. That’s far longer than the union with Scotland, which dates a mere 300-some years to 1707.  Seven hundred and thirty two years of union should be more than enough to earn a place in the Union Jack, one would think. You don’t need to be Welsh to see the point.

What would solve the problem?  Welsh flag wavers offer two possible solutions. One would be to add the Welsh cross of St. David to the design. It’s an upright gold cross on a black background.  Work those colors into the Union Jack and you can really come up with some eye-popping designs. The Atlantic magazine recently posted an article showing a stunning variety of designs along these lines: See

But the cross of St. David is not actually one of the symbols used on the current flag of Wales, which features an arrow-tongued and arrow-tailed red dragon in the middle of two color blocks; the top block is white and the bottom green. So another, perhaps more historically correct approach, is to take the Welsh dragon and work it into the design of the Union Jack. Here’s one such design that puts the dragon at the dead center of the flag:

The BBC asked its listeners for ideas for a new Union flag that solved the Welsh omission as well as other representational problems, and then posted the 25 favorite designs on its website:

At this point, having looked over dozens of UK flag designs, you may be thinking, “What’s this to us in DC?” Well, here’s why I think it's relevant: We, too, are an unrepresented piece of a larger union. The District of Columbia came into being in 1790, just 14 years after the creation of the United States, and we still don’t have a vote in the House or the Senate. We still don’t have the final say over our own laws or even our budget. And we still don’t have a star on the flag. If we can’t get anywhere on the more substantive matters of voting representation and financial and political control over our own destiny, I suppose it’s not worthwhile fretting over the lack of a star.... But one can always dream. Just as the Welsh may dream of getting their dragon or their colors onto their own national flag.

Looks pretty good, doesn’t it?


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.