Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday News 'N Notes

- This Sunday from 10-5, Silver Spring will host the first ever Handmade Mart crafts fair, featuring over fifty craft vendors along with live bands playing throughout the day.

Last June, the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Silver Spring was the site of the first Crafty Bastards crafts fair outside of D.C. Not sure why they didn't repeat the event this year - perhaps the use of the word "Bastards" was just too much for our suburban sensitivities. The stalls of the Handmade Mart, an event that still seems to be loosely affiliated with Crafty Bastards, will occupy prime real estate along The Promenade. I can't say that I'm personally into crafts all that much, but I find these things interesting as you never know what kind of random thing you might find. I did pick up a Obama-supporting piece of tofu at Crafty Bastards last year.

A map of the vendors can be found here. (PDF) Also, check out the Handmade Mart blog for more info on the participants.

- It's a busy weekend on The Promenade, as Silver Spring will also host an outdoor chess tournament from 1:15-4:30 on Saturday afternoon. Hopefully violence will not break out. This event follows the regularly-scheduled farmer's market and will in turn be followed immediately by the Spirit of Silver Spring "dance party", which will feature an 80's cover band...

- No doubt to the great chagrin of frolf enthusiasts, the Park and Planning Department has decided to attempt to continue to maintain the Sligo Creek Golf Course as a golf course. The problem here, outside the apparent financial barriers, is the non-compete clause the county signed with the Revenue Authority. It will be interesting to see if the RA tries to hold the county to it.

Another proposal, submitted by MSI, is to convert the space into soccer fields. I'm not even sure how that would work based on the present hilly landscape. (Personally, I prefer frolf to this idea.)

I still contend that a miniature golf course could bring in much-needed supplemental revenue. The county already operates a course in South Germantown. Wait, there's a South Germantown? Based on the usual naming conventions in MoCo ("North Bethesda", "North Potomac", "North Chevy Chase", etc.), I'm surprised it's not called North Gaithersburg. Perhaps Gaithersburg's name doesn't carry the same cache. They should just call it Bavaria. Now that would be clever.

- Silver Spring: the "Docu-wood of the East Coast"?

- The City Paper: Love the Tastee Diner, hate the food.

- The NAACP is considering moving its headquarters to Silver Spring. More than likely, they plan to use us as a pawn for better leverage with the Baltimore government. Similar things have happened before.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Welcome, Frolf!

As you may or may not be aware, the 9-hole Sligo Creek Golf Course, located on Sligo Creek Parkway, is in dire straits. The quasi-public Montgomery County Revenue Authority, which presently operates the course, will return the course to the Parks Department on October 1st and there's no guarantee that the county will continue to operate the space as a golf course, a function it has served since 1956. This action is a result of community opposition (isn't it always?) to the proposed installation of a driving range and mini golf (!!!) courses. This isn't the first time the course has been disrespected. Years ago they amputated a large portion when they decided to build a Beltway right across the course, and later in 1994 they tried to build a high school right on top of it.

Now one group (one person?) has put forth a proposal to re-purpose the golf course as a disc golf (also known as Frisbee golf or frolf) course. I can't say what kind of legs this proposal really has, or if the County is actually considering the idea, as the only reference to it I can find is a press release on the website of a Chevy Chase homebuilder. Nevertheless, the concept is intriguing.

For those of you not familiar with disc golf, here's a description from the aforementioned press release:

Disc golf, also known as “Frisbee golf”, is similar to ball golf, with baskets as targets.
Here's another definition, courtesy of the Urban Dictionary:
A game that is seemingly only played by old hippies and college students. College hippies seem to excel at this sport. One of the many sports that always seem easier when stoned and/or drunk.
Here's a video introduction:

According to the Disc Golf Association, there are numerous benefits to constructing a disc golf course, and they claim the courses are inexpensive to maintain. As maintenance costs are a big part of the authority's issue with the present course, perhaps this is a much more viable use of the space.

You know this will be a popular proposal with the Takoma set. Instead of Sligo Creek Parkway being clogged with BMWs and Mercedes at all hours of the day as some neighbors once feared, the street will have a line of idling, cannabis smoke-filled VW Buses waiting to make a right turn into the course parking lot. The soccer matches presently held in the field across from the course will no doubt be replaced by games of ultimate.

Presently, the closest disc golf course to us is in (unsurprisingly) College Park. McLean also has one, so it's definitely not something that nice neighborhoods are averse to.

Personally, I hope they keep the golf course in operation. While I don't even play golf, this is a matter of civic pride. That being said, this isn't the worst idea I've ever heard. If they did go through with this, I might even don a tie-dye and give it a shot. Just don't turn it into a boring old park, as some have proposed - we already have plenty of park right across the street.

And hey, if it's good enough for Willow, it's good enough for all of us.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday News 'N Notes

- Supposedly, work on the Fillmore could start "within a year", but until I see workers buzzing about the place, I shall remain skeptical. "We're at the one-yard line," says [Lee Development Group's] Bruce Lee. Of course, he failed to mention which end of the field this one yard line is on. My support for Live Nation in this endeavor has been slightly tempered by their prospective merger with evil corporation Ticketmaster. No doubt a successful merger would result in BEING CHARGED TO PRINT OUT YOUR OWN TICKETS for shows at the Silver Spring Fillmore.

- The Big Greek Cafe is now under new ownership and has been re-named The Greek Place. According to the most recent comment in the post linked to above, the original proprietors will be re-opening The Big Creek Cafe elsewhere in Silver Spring. How many Greek joints can Silver Spring support? I'm praying for a "Original Jumbo Slice"-like sign battle.

- Sick of getting hassled by The Man for taking photos in Downtown Silver Spring? Adept at Adobe Illustrator? If so, perhaps you should take this opportunity to create your own DHS "Photography License" which you can flash at the security guards on Ellsworth whenever they try and halt your shooting.

- Aside from having an apt alliterative appellation, Tomorrow's Safe Silver Spring Summit will involve the mysterious "Prezco" group, which from what I can ascertain is a shadowy cabal of figures who secretly control everything in Silver Spring. I can picture them at the event, standing alongside each other on the stage bathed in a blinding light, much like the Final Five in Battlestar Galactica.

- A local software engineer engineered a lunch calculator that analyzes co-worker ratings of downtown Silver Spring lunchtime options. Interestingly, Da Marco is dead last in preference.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Let the Penguin Purge Commence

After slumping home to Silver Spring via Metrorail last night, utterly dejected after bearing witness to the Capitals’ embarrassing game seven defeat to the Pittsburgh Penguins, I was tormented further by the ubiquitous penguin imagery that surrounds the Metro station. There they were, those evil flightless waterfowl, looking down mockingly at me with their cold, beady little eyes.

(Question: are there actually any Capitals fans that live in Silver Spring other than me? When I get on the metro at Gallery Place, all the other fans are going the other direction on the Red Line. Everyone else on the Glenmont train following a game cleans office buildings, is an overworked lawyer, or is mentally deranged.)

As I reached my car and sullenly drove home through the gauntlet of penguins, I decided that it is time for Silver Spring to purge itself of all penguin imagery, lest I and other Caps supporters be continually reminded of this year’s staggering playoff loss and those we suffered through in 1991 (the worst), 1992, 1995, 1996, 2000 and 2001. No thanks to the construction of the transit center, penguin signage has proliferated throughout the downtown area. They are supposed to be informing you as to where you can locate your bus or train, but in fact they just serve to cruelly taunt Capitals fans. They are even wearing helmets… like hockey players. Coincidence? I think not.

Why the hell is the penguin a symbol of Silver Spring, anyway? Because someone once made a mural with a bunch of birds getting on the subway? Why penguins? Couldn’t they have used something cute and lovable and not the mascot of a hated rival sports franchise? Like pandas, for example. They ride the subway, too. Once they finish restoring the mural, they ought to just airbrush over the Silver Spring station signs and make them say Dunn Loring or something. I’m sure the Orange Line would welcome a free mural for one of their stations.

In addition to the aforementioned construction signs, we’ve got the fake-ass penguin (actually a finch or some crap like that) that sits on the island at Ellsworth and Cedar. What the hell is that doing there anyway? We’ve also got miscellaneous street signs and a nightmarish balloon they trot out each year around the start of hockey season to taunt us. What’s next, a statue of Mario Lemieux as the centerpiece of the new Veteran’s Plaza?

With apologies to western Pennsylvania transplants, Linux nerds, and local website proprietors, it's time to deep six the birds. Seriously, Silver Spring has too many damn symbols anyway. (This was actually a subject of one of my first posts.) Screw making the penguin the official symbol - I suggest that we create a new symbol/mascot of Silver Spring, such as an anthropomorphic acorn whom shall be christened “Corny”. Any artists out there want to submit some concept sketches of Corny?

And yes, I am a very bitter man today. Go Caps. :'(

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Farmer's Market - Worth It?

I missed the first two Silver Spring Farmers Markets of the season due to being out of town, but was looking forward to going on Saturday to pick up a few things. Up to this point in the year, I had been patronizing the year-round Takoma Park Farmers Market. (Why isn’t ours open all year? It makes us look soft.) It's definitely nice to have our own market now, but to be honest, it still lags behind its longer-running Takoma counterpart, which seems to have a lot more selection.

(Unfortunately, the proprietors of the tomato stand at the Takoma Park market can't spell the name of their principal product.)

Anyway, after shopping for some selected items, I started to wonder - is it really worth it? Some of the stuff is significantly more expensive than other places nearby where I can buy near-identical products. And, while it's nice to support smaller farmers, some of these "local" vendors are actually from farms near the Mason-Dixon line.

The one thing I always like to buy from these markets are eggs, whose yolks have a satisfying dark-orange hue that for no particular reason make them seem more attractive than their store-bought counterparts. I’m not really much of an egg man (goo goo ga joob) myself, as I primarily use eggs as an emulsifier, so I likely wouldn’t notice any superior taste market eggs might have over store-bought. If someone has taken the Pepsi Challenge with standard eggs from Giant or Safeway, is the taste worth the price premium?

At the market yesterday morning I was surprised to see that the eggs at the market were priced at a whopping $5 per dozen. Nevertheless, suckers customers like me were lined up to purchase them. Even at the Takoma market a dozen can be bought for a still-pricey $4. The most expensive dozen eggs you can get at the famously-expensive "Whole Paycheck" are the extra-large organic cage-free Omega-3 eggs for $4.69/dozen (though they were on sale today for $3.99). I’m guessing that the farmers market eggs are not Omega-3, not that I even knew what Omega-3 was until I just looked it up. Ultimately, the line was moving so slowly that my low threshold of impatience was quickly reached and I was spared purchasing a dozen eggs for more than twice the national average.

I did end up purchasing a couple chocolate croissants at a nearby stand for $2.50 a pop, which also seemed awfully high. As an econ major, I started to break down in my head the economics of purchasing a croissant at the farmers market over one at the nearby Whole Foods. For the sake of discussion, let’s say that the size of the chocolate croissants at the farmer’s market is the same as that of the $1.89 ones available at Whole Foods and that the effort to get to WF is the same as it is to shop at the FM. In this case, any additional utility I may derive from the FM croissant relative to the WF croissant would have to come from superior taste and/or satisfaction I may get from buying it from a “local” (in this case Bethesda) source. Is any potential superiority in taste and sententiousness worth the 33% premium one pays? I suppose that depends on how much income you have to dispose of on food. Last time I checked, we were in the midst of a deep recession, so I’m not so sure if it's worth it for me. As far as the taste goes, it was a good enough chocolate croissant, but it wasn’t OMFG good. I've had the WF croissants in the past and I don't think they tasted noticeably worse. (As another point of comparison, the chocolate croissants at the TP market are $2.)

So, is it worth it to shop a the farmers market? I suppose that depends on the person and the particular products they are buying. I suppose I'll keep buying the eggs, since we're not such heavy egg eaters that we'd need more than a dozen every couple weeks. My wife loves the olive bread from the bread stand, so we'll keep buying that - when they don't sell out before we get there like they did this week. Don't think I'll be buying the croissants anymore, though.

As an aside, I really miss the Giant bakery that used to be next to Montgomery College in Silver Spring. It made the whole of what is now called South Silver Spring smell like pastries. If you want to get an idea of the scent I’m taking about, go stand by the back exit to Woodmoor Bakery in Four Corners.