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America, April 13, 2010

Petworth Poop Patrol Featured in Washington Post

Petworth Poop Patrol
A regular poop patrol haul

Picture the loveliest, most inviting thing you can imagine: the cool crispness of a bed made with freshly laundered sheets, the warm peach fuzz on a baby's head, the clink of ice cubes in a cocktail glass as you watch the sun set over the beach. Sadly, this column will not be about any of those things. No. I'm afraid it's time to talk about dog poop again.

It is an unpleasant fact of life that dogs turn food into waste. Until someone genetically engineers a dog that can poop out diamonds or iPads or Berkshire Hathaway stock, dealing with doo will be one of the least enjoyable things about dog ownership.

Those of us who own dogs and clean up after them can't understand people who own dogs and don't. And if you don't own a dog and regularly find "presents" in your yard, you get even more irate.

Since I started on the dog poo beat last month, I have heard numerous stories about neighborhoods torn asunder by the issue. Some stories end along the lines of: "And then he threw the poop at me." I'm sure this only serves to confuse the dogs.

Some Washingtonians take the matter into their own hands in a more productive way. Wayan Vota lives in Petworth. He enjoys walking his dog, Taxi (a "Muttus Americanus," Wayan said), in Grant Circle. He was alarmed by how much orphan poo they encountered.

"I started picking up other dogs' poo, too," Wayan said. "Finally, I got very annoyed, and on a very cold morning last year decided to pick up as much as I could and see how much it weighed." He told his friends it weighed five to six pounds.

"No one believed me," Wayan said. And since it was only an estimate, he had no absolute proof. So a month or two later, he went on another poop roundup. This time he videotaped the weigh-in. The bulging Safeway bag weighed a staggering 13 pounds.

"I put the poo on my wife's scale," he said. "We had to buy a new scale, but it was worth sacrificing to prove, yes, there were 13 pounds of poo. No one disbelieves me now." (Wayan posted the video on YouTube. Search "picking up dog poo in Petworth.")

Horrific, no? And yet Wayan, who is 37 and works in international development, has seen a marked improvement in his neighborhood's fecal metrics: "I'd like to say there is almost no poo in Grant Circle."

Wayan thinks the main reason is that, by cleansing the area of poop, he has made it less acceptable for others to poop and run. "If you see a lot of poop, you might think, 'I can leave mine.' If you don't see a lot, you think, 'I probably shouldn't do that.' "

Wayan thinks it also helped that the Advisory Neighborhood Commission got behind his anti-poop effort. There are now signs in Grant Circle urging owners to clean up after their dogs.

"I'm a firm believer that if you believe in your neighborhood, you can effect change," Wayan said. "Our neighborhood's called Petworth. I want it to be worthy of pets."

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America, October 28, 2009

Petworth Dog Walk Halloween 2009

Freaky dogs in DC
2010 marked the second year of the Petworth Dog Walk Halloween - a celebration for dogs and their owners. Domku Restaurant in the Petworth neighborhood hosted pooches from all over Washington DC in a fun and furry competition for the best costumes and tricks that dogs and their owners could perform.

And the best way to really appreciate the tail wagging good time is to watch this video:

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America, October 17, 2009

Portland Brewpub Beer Tours

Looks like beer-topia!
Beer - is there a better reason to visit Portland? For Amy and I, that was reason enough to celebrate her birthday in Portland, Oregon. She had never been, but heard all my stories of good times in the land of hops. My tales of beer-topia, where every bar is a brewpub and bathrooms are denoted by sign of barley or hops - guess which is which!

To help us navigate such tricky beer house rules, we enlisted my good friend Dieselboi, of VBC Brewpub Tour fame. Accompanied by his loving and patient wife, the four of us went beer tasting.

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America, September 12, 2009

Taxi Dog Pool Day in Washington DC

Jump in Taxi Dog!
What's the best day for a dog in Washington DC? Doggie pool day!

After Washington DC's pools are closed for the season, usually around Labour Day, the DC Department of Recreation opens a pool or two for doggie swim day, before the city drains the pools. The pooch pool time is greatly enjoyed by both dogs and their owners - check out the photos!

Also check out Dog Taxi transforming into a canine seal - barking as she eats all the pool's water:

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America, July 22, 2009

Meet me in Nairobi, Abjua, or Accra

going to Africa
How I roll in Africa
I'm headed to Africa soon for three weeks of meetings and trainings in Nairobi, Abuja, and Accra for Inveneo. I'll be in each city about a week, and would love to meet up with loyal Belly Button Window readers if you're around.

See, while I am a fanatic proponent of web-based discourse - I'm publishing at least six different blogs right now - I'm convinced that online discourse is an amplification of offline, in-person connections. In fact, I believe that online conversations are not possible without some level of face-to-face discussions between participants.

Or as a friend once said "meatspace has the highest bit rate" And I haven't connected with that many Belly Button readers in a while.

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America, July 4, 2009

Petworth's July 4th Fireworks - Does Yours?

Taxi loves the fireworks
Washington DC has a peculiar tradition of intense 4th of July fireworks. Now, I'm not talking about the national spectacle that you see on TV. That tourist-only event on the Mall is far removed from our lives in Petworth. I'm talking about the neighbourhood-based fireworks that put the Mall to shame.

From mid-afternoon on July 4th, to well past midnight, the city is besieged by amateur fireworks displays, each block showering the night sky with hundreds, if not thousands of dollars worth of fireworks. And as luck would have it, our neighbourhood congregates at the end of my block for fireworks central.

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America, June 28, 2009

Minding the Future in Myrtle Beach

Al smiles on the beach
For six months, Amy and I have not left Hanalei's side. For six months, we have traded off parenting roles, day and night. For six months, we showed our love though our presence. Yet this weekend, we have tossed all that aside.

For two blissful days, amy And I have abandoned our child. We're in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a wedding, while Hanalei is back in Washington, DC. Yet do not fear for her, do not fret that she is truly left hone alone. She's being watched closely and safely by Amy's parents.

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America, June 21, 2009

Running Past My First Father's Day

Best use of a bike lane
Today is the first of what I hope to be many happy Father's Days. And even though she is too young to tell me what she'd do for this special day, I knew what would make both of us happy: a long run through Petworth.

No, Hanalei isn't running yet - she gets the easy ride in a baby jogger. Better yet, in the car seat, in the baby jogger, protected and after the first few blocks, asleep. Then its up to daddy to keep the speed, so she can have a cool breeze while she sleeps.

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America, June 16, 2009

Putting Pride into Petworth Medians

Thanks for the attention!
This morning, my Councilmember Muriel Bowser took time out from her busy schedule to meet with community members around the construction of Petworth Medians so they can support trees and community-maintained plantings.

For those that are following along, New Hampshire Avenue is getting a nice brick & granite median from around Park Road all the way to Grant Circle. So far,construction is proceeding from Georgia to Grant Circle, but some in Petworth have an issue with the way it was proceeding. The medians were not being excavated to a depth that would support trees, per the original design, and plants and shrubbery, per community desires.

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America, June 12, 2009

Help for My Green Thumb: Ladybugs!

Better than a bath inside
So a while back I decided we needed a garden in our back yard. The first year was very experimental - I even hired a gardener to help Amy and I understand the process. This year, I'm rocking!

I have two raised garden beds here and here that have exploded with greenery with an amazingly wet spring. I have lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, and beets all reaching for the sky as they put down roots in the amazing Smartleaf compost.

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America, June 5, 2009

New Yorkers Love Hanalei Stockard Vota

Making friends at Starbucks
I'm not sure when I realized that New Yorkers love my daughter, Hanalei. Maybe it was the cab drivers, always willing to wait while I buckled in her car seat. Maybe it was the waitress who made space for her stroller at the table. Or maybe it was when the cute college girls stopped everything and played with Hanalei at Starbucks.

Yeah, that was it. When I could get random women to put away their iPhones and boyfriends to babysit my daughter in a busy Starbucks, I knew she'd won the hearts and minds of the Big Apple.

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America, May 15, 2009

Dog Taxi Tackles Rock Creek Ripples

Better than a bath inside
Dog Taxi loves herself some splashing water. And I am not talking about watching it from afar, or barking at it passively. No I mean she dives headlong into any breaking water to try and eat all the waves produced, by say, the ocean.

While we first noticed her craze at Dog Beach in Maryland, I've found that Dog Taxi will try the same water guzzling feat in Rock Creek:

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America, May 7, 2009

From Majesty to Mulch in Minutes

many ways to say no
An ancient oak, reduced to kindling
I bemoan the loss of any tree, no matter its age or placement. I feel that Washington does not have enough trees, which cool the city, absorb its rains, and make this a wonderful place to live. Yet life is tough for the urban forest, what with all the dangers like vehicular tree slaughter.

So when I see an old oak or elm, which stands proud and tall amongst the built environment, I am heartened. Yet when they fall, be by nature or by man, I am so very sad. And when they are cut down by the chain saw, I am beside myself with heartbreak:

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America, May 2, 2009

Prohibitive Ocean City Signage

many ways to say no
Too many restrictions for me
Whenever I travel, I get a feel for a city from its public signs. Some places, like Barcelona or Paris, enjoy their signage, and make function bend to whimsical. In Ocean City, there was no joy in signage. It was all practical and very prohibitive.

Let's look at what is not allowed, from just one sign on the Ocean City boardwalk which underlines its regulations with the bold Regulations Police Enforced...

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America, April 27, 2009

Grant Circle Vehicular Tree Slaughter

many ways to say no
What death looks like close up
Recently I came across a crime scene in Grant Circle, and I am saddened and angered by its result - a needless death. One of the young trees was cut down in its prime by yet another speeding driver who drove through, instead of around, Grant Circle.

This vehicular tree slaughter took the life of a promising sapling. It also took any innocence that a person, or child, could be the next victim of a careless driver in Petworth.

Where are reflectors, rumble strips, speed humps, or at least working park lights - to slow drivers down and alert them that Grant Circle is ahead? Do we really need to graduate from vehicular tree slaughter to vehicular manslaughter before we get slowing on New Hampshire Avenue?

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America, April 13, 2009

Spring Clean: A New Back Yard

after my yard
Out with the weeds!
It took three truck-bending trips, but I just removed six thousand (6,000!) pounds of concrete from the back yard of my house. This was just the beginning of the rebirth of my lawn from post-industrial wasteland into a green oasis of beauty and serenity.

I did not start out to move so much concrete. At first, I just wanted to take out the sidewalk along my fence line, and replace it with a meandering path between a flower bed paralleling the fence, and through a yard of lush green grass. But with any household improvement, sh*t happened.

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America, April 1, 2009

Hanalei Speaks Her First Words!

Listen to me already!
Its with great joy and surprise that I'm proud to announce that Hanalei Stockard Vota is now talking. Yes, she is speaking at 3 months old - a record for any of our families. While she's not quite saying whole sentences, if you listen to her on this video, you can tell she's making sense.

As her father, I'm so proud that she's talking, its kinda hard for me to admit that I don't always agree with what she says.

Continue reading "Hanalei Speaks Her First Words!"

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America, March 21, 2009

Time for a Spring Haircut

after my haircut
Whoa! How did that happen?
As a young man, I enjoyed long hair. Midway down my back in a long pony-tail, my hair signified my membership in the surfer tribe. We were the beach bums who could grow our hair long and enjoy the day, unrestricted by convention or conformity.

Fast forward a few years, and my hair was short - clipped to get my first job and kept short thereafter for ease as much as employment. In Russia, I started spiking my hair up, but by this century, it was time to leave youth and keep it short and contained.

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America, February 21, 2009

Calming Grant Circle Car Crashes

Grany Circle from space
As drivers speed along New Hampshire Avenue in Petworth, they come to Grant Circle - which is often a surprise by the number of cars that crash through the park. Almost on a weekly basis, each weekend morning shows us that driving fast at night through our neighbourhood will get you a parking space in Grant Circle.

I wonder: what can we do to slow drivers down, to stop the madness before we loose more than a fire hydrant or a tree.

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America, February 8, 2009

Poop Patrol in Pethworth

Where is your poop, people?
Grant Circle is one of the reasons that I moved to Petworth. Its a beautiful park that calms me after a long day at work. That is until I walk Dog Taxi in Grant Circle and we both have to navigate the dog poop minefield.

It seems that some of my pet-owning neighbours are not so good about scooping their pet's poop and frozen dog feces build up quick in the winter. Mad at yet another pile of poo, I decided to measure the laziness of my neighbours, and bagged and weighed the canine excrement:

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America, January 14, 2009

Hanalei Baptisms - From Water to Ice

Time for a first swim
Looking out into the deep Pacific blue as Amy and I arrived at Moss Landing on Monterey Bay, I had only one thought - its time to baptize Hanalei. My loving wife was not trilled with my idea, as the Pacific is quite cold in January with only blubber-encased mammals willing to swim in its frigid waters.

Yet with the warmth of the Santa Anna winds and a cloudless sky, I knew it was time to connect our daughter with her birth name. The very waters at our feet in California also swirl through Hanalei Bay on Kauai. An oceanic baptism would also connect her with my own baptism 35 years before.

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America, January 1, 2009

About Belly Button Window

Who are you to be writing this? The good life What would posses a guy to put up over a decade of his life now on the Internet for the whole world to see? Am I some freak exhibitionist? A narcissistic exhibitionist even? While I've been called both , I...

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