sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

June 23, 2005

high court disappointment
posted by soe 12:55 pm

In a disappointing move, the Supreme Court decided today in Kelo et al. vs. City of New London that a city may seize private property to give it to another private entity.

While generally I believe that the good of the many outweighs the good of the few, I was troubled by this case. The New London Development Corporation wanted to bulldoze people’s (owned, maintained, and unblighted) homes and small businesses in order to build a commercial development. I suppose it just strikes me in this instance that maybe this was a case of the good of the few vs. the possible good/possible bad of the many. Yes, New London needs to reach out and attract more businesses and tourists to its shoreline city. And, yes, the tax base does need to be bolstered. But this didn’t necessarily strike me as the best way to go about it.

The Court’s majority believed that a city generally has the overall best interest of its citizens at heart and that they would not knowingly put their citizens at risk simply for economic gain.

Oddly enough, it was the conservatives who ruled against big business and for the little guy. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor argued against uprooting families in order to accomodate wealthy and powerful developers: “Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random,” she wrote for the minority. “The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.”

Some New London residents say they will barricade themselves in their homes to avoid being pushed out.

This case has repercussions throughout the nation where thousands of residents face eminent domain for private development. The repercussions here in D.C. include the new baseball stadium, which stands to be built where private businesses currently exist.

Sufficed to say, I’m disappointed to see this turn of events.

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reliable friends, english peas, and playing catch
posted by soe 12:23 pm

This week’s trio of beautiful things:

1) Karen and I have known each other for 15 years now (half a lifetime). And I don’t see her nearly as often as I want to anymore because we now live 6 hours apart. But she’s always there when I need her — for those small, every-day kinds of needs (like staying on the phone with me when I’m feeling lonely or providing a supply of recipes for my new bread machine) as well as the catastrophic needs (like helping me pack up and move my life, twice).

2) Sarah’s favorite vegetable is the English pea (peapod pea), and her mom sent her a big box full of them yesterday. And Sarah was kind enough to share them with me as I was in a frenzy packing stuff up to ship to my conference in Chicago.

3) Rudi and I have joined a summer softball rec team, which starts up this weekend (hopefully). Last Saturday, after our bike ride, we stopped at Rose Park to toss the ball around. We weren’t always accurate, but we did have lots of fun. There’s just something rhythmic (and relaxing) about the back-and-forthness of it on a clear late-spring evening.

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for all those bloggers out there
posted by soe 11:33 am

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

(via KW at bookish)

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June 22, 2005

posted by soe 12:51 am

I head to Chicago for five days this weekend for a conference. In between trying to convince people that free health books written by a science organization are actually a worthy addition to their library collection (a post for another day), I will be exploring a city I’ve only spent one afternoon in before.

It’s cross-town baseball this weekend, but no tickets remain. The Taste of Chicago is taking place, as is a free classical music concert at Milennium Park so those are on my list already. And a video-game exhibit at the science museum holds potential interest. Other than that, I’m looking for ideas to fill my time.

Anyone got any suggestions? Restaurants worth checking out? Concert-worthy clubs? Favorite bike paths?

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June 21, 2005

high school teachers
posted by soe 3:26 pm

A member of the Wesleyan alumni email network (fondly known as WesChat) forwarded along a New York Times story by Thomas Friedman that talks about an innovative honor given out by Williams College in Massachusetts. [The story now costs money to read, so I won’t link to it.]

Every year at graduation, in addition to honoring the actual grads and the VIPs, Williams also honors four high school teachers. These teachers are nominated by the graduating seniors to mark the high school teachers who had a profound impact on them. A committee winnows down the nominations and selects who they deem to be the four most inspiring teachers. Each winner gets a $2,000 gift as well as $1,000 for their school, plus the cost of bringing them to Williamstown for graduation weekend.

This story got me thinking about my own high school teachers. Since I do not have to go before a committee, I thought I’d pick the four who inspired me the most from my own high school days: (more…)

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June 20, 2005

posted by soe 11:50 am

I thought I’d share with you some of the D.C. neighbors we met while out riding on Saturday:

We set out around 5:30 p.m. First we met a large family:

wood duck family

Wood duck families were everywhere on the canal. You can tell they’re wood ducks by the large white circle around Mama’s eye, the tuft on the back of her head, and by the whistling sound they make.

Next, we caught up with a familiar neighbor. We had seen him in the distance walking on the canal towpath, but by the time I caught up with him, he’d stepped off, ostensibly to let me pass (he’s only a foot or so off the path here):

Great Blue Heron

When he posed for this shot, he was less than 10 feet away from me. Eventually some other noisy passerbys made him a bit nervous and he decided he’d better head back to the other side of the canal and contemplate supper.

The turtles were feeling camera-shy and dove under the water every time I got close enough to snap a shot.

Eventually, we hit Maryland and decided to turn around. This shot is from the dam near the kayak course:

Potomac River

Apparently news of our adventure had made the rounds, and some new neighbors came out to greet us as we came back into D.C.

We stood quite a while and watched this young’un on the other side of the canal:

a fawn

Mama never materialized, so either this was a solo adventure to teach Baby how to fend for itself or it was on its own. I’m hoping Baby gathers a little more fear — we were on the other side of the canal and no real threat, but I would have felt a little less worried if it had eventually disappeared back into the brush. But it was mealtime, so perhaps it just didn’t want to allow us to interrupt its dinner.

Another newcomer also refused to allow its supper to be postponed.

black-crowned night-heron

This black-crowned night-heron didn’t even look up when four of us stood and pointedly debated who it was. (The bird book Gramma gave me when I was in third grade or so has gotten a lot of use recently.) Instead he focused all his attention on what was lurking in the water under a nearby bush. He did eventually look up as we left. (Interestingly, this water bird roosts in trees during the day.)

And, finally, as we approached the end of the trail, the Canada goose family was there to wish us a fond farewell.

Canada goose family

There are five babies (one is lying down behind its fellow nestlings on the right) and four adults in this group. The babies were lying just inches off the path and the adults took it remarkably well when Rudi came close to snap this shot. As we were watching, a family with teenagers floated by on the canal. The youngsters were pretty much full-sized and were molting to match their folks. Eventually, everybody headed upstream, and Rudi and I exited the path to head back home.

It’s really amazing how much nature is around us here in the District. I mean, I more associate pigeons, squirrels, starlings, and rats with being the native Washingtonians than I do with this bunch. But they really are here — we just have to slow down to notice them.

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