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Quick Stats: DC area universities

26 Jan

Georgetown University

Since a lot of people you’ll meet in D.C. went/are going to school in the area, I thought I’d compile some fast stats about some local universities.

American University
Type: Private Methodist
Students: About 10,000
Mascot: Eagle
Campus: The main campus is in NW on Massachusetts Avenue.
Know for: Strong programs for international relations and political science. NPR station WAMU broadcasts from American’s campus.
Athletics: Decent men’s basketball team.
Fun Fact: 144 countries are represented in the student body. (For comparison’s sake, GW has students from about 130 countries and is almost three times larger.)

Catholic University
Type: Private Catholic
Students: About 6,700
Mascot: Cardinal
Campus: Three miles north of the Capitol in NE.
Known for: Um … er … being Catholic?
Athletics: Not known for anything really. They do have an ultimate Frisbee team though.
Fun Fact: The university is under censure by the American Associate of University Professors for firing a professor for his views on birth control.

George Mason
Type: Public
Students: About 30,000
Mascot: Patriots (changed from the “Gunston” in 2008)
Campus: Fairfax, VA
Known for: A commuter school (an image the university is trying to change). In my opinion, this university is often overlooked among the other DC area schools.
Athletics: Pretty good men’s basketball team.
Fun Fact: Named for a lesser-known founding father from Virginia.

George Washington (aka GW)
Type: Private
Students: About 25,000 (aka the largest in the district)
Mascot: George, the Colonial
Campus: Main campus is in Foggy Bottom
Known for: If you take an informal poll of people in DC, as I did, of what they think of when they hear “GW”, the answer will be—with surprising consistency—“snotty rich kids.” It’s one of the most expensive universities in the country, so I guess it makes sense. But I do know many down-to-earth GW alums!
Athletics: Decent basketball team. No football team. Wonderful athletic center.
Fun Fact: Jackie Kennedy graduated from GW.

Type: Private Jesuit
Students: About 15,000
Mascot: Jack the Bulldog (students are called Hoyas)
Campus: In Georgetown
Know for: Expensive and hard to get into (about 19 percent acceptance rate for undergrads). It’s almost as expensive as GW, and it’s harder to get into. Has strong international affairs program.
Athletics: Traditionally good at basketball. Pretty good at rowing and lacrosse.
Fun Facts: Oldest Catholic university in the U.S. Bill Clinton is an alumn.

Type: Private
Students: About 10,500
Mascot: Bison
Campus: Northwest DC
Know for: A Historically Black University. Homecoming is a huge event.
Athletics: Not known for any sports in particular. Decent at basketball.
Fun Facts: Established shortly after the Civil War and named after war hero General Oliver O. Howard. Zora Neale Hurston started the university’s daily newspaper, The Hilltop.

University of Maryland, College Park
Type: Public
Students: About 38,000
Mascot: Terrapins (aka Terps)
Campus: College Park
Known for: Athletics and, unfortunately, for student riots related to athletic events.
Athletics: Good at basketball but their coach won’t recruit players that won’t stay all four years. Occasionally have a good football team. Pretty good at lacrosse.
Fun Facts: Jim Henson and Larry David are two notable alumni. Featured in the film St. Elmo’s Fire.

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Honorable Mentions
While not DC area universities, many students move to the region from these schools after graduating, so I think they’re worth including.

University of Virginia
Type: Public
Students: About 20,000
Mascot: Cavalier
Campus: Charlottesville, VA
Known for: An excellent and competitive public university. About 90 percent of those admitted finished in the top 10 percent of their high school class.
Athletics: Good at lacrosse, rowing, baseball and soccer. Some soccer players have gone pro.
Fun Fact: Founded by Thomas Jefferson, UVA is the only U.S. university to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Virginia Tech
Type: Public
Students: About 31,000
Mascot: HokieBird (students are known as Hokies)
Campus: Blacksburg (in the middle of nowhere)
Known for: Agriculture and engineering. The tragic 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.
Athletics: Good football team.
Fun Facts: VT created the world’s third fastest supercomputer in 2003. Maintains a corps of cadets.

Tysons Corner: A Survival Guide

11 Dec

This bird's eye view gives you some idea of how big Tysons Corner is. Clearly it wasn't taken during the holidays because there's plenty of parking.

There’s no shortage of malls in the DC area, but Tysons Corner in McLean, Virginia (seven miles west of DC) is the biggest and baddest of them all. In fact, it’s the country’s sixth largest mall. It’s therefore a magnet for holiday shoppers and so, if you decide to go anytime from now through the end of January, you need to be physically, mentally and emotionally prepared.

Wear good shoes. I’m not joking. The place is huge with over 300 stores. There’s even three freaking food courts! I suggest taking a look at the map and making a plan of action before you go—the last thing you want is to be criss-crossing all over the place.

Know where to park. At other times of year I recommend parking in the structure near the movie theater on the third floor. During the holiday season, however, I suggest the structure by Lord & Taylor. It’s probably the most inconvenient, but it’s consequently the least full. If you drive into the mall from Leesburg Pike, it will be the first structure you see on your left. Note: There’s currently no Metro stop near Tysons. If you want to take public transportation, you’ll need to exit at West Falls Church (Orange Line) and take the 3T bus.

Go off hours if possible. Saturday afternoon a few weeks before Christmas? I don’t advice it. Stores are open until 9:30, so you have plenty of time to go after rush hour if you work during the week.

Know where to eat. The best food court is on the top floor where the movie theaters are. If you want a more substantial meal, there are plenty of chain restaurants like California Pizza Kitchen and Gordon Biersch scattered across the mall.

Look for escalators. There are surprisingly few escalators from the first floor to the second (and only one to the third floor, which is much smaller) so when you do see one, take note. There are also a few elevators but you’ll have to cram in between strollers to use them.

Don’t go to the movie theater. Again, this just applies to the holiday season. I guess if you’re already in the mall and you’re planning on seeing a movie that isn’t very popular, than it would be okay. No other exceptions though. Go to Ballston Mall if you live in Virginia. That place is always dead.

Watch out for the train. I’m not kidding. There’s a train for kids on the top floor. It drives around and around in circles and it does not stop for pedestrians.

Know the difference between Tysons Corner and Tysons Galleria. Tysons Galleria is a smaller, snootier mall down the street from Tysons Corner. It’s got stores like Cartier, Chanel and Versace. Though the two malls are close, they are in no way within walking distance from one another.

Be patient. Give yourself plenty of time and just accept the fact that you’ll probably have trouble finding parking, get assaulted by someone’s shopping bags and wait in long lines. That way, if it’s not that bad, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. But it probably will be that bad, seriously.

Interesting Tidbit: The Tysons Corner Santa Clause makes $30,000. He works five weeks a year.

Weekend Away: Philly

12 Nov

© Bev Sykes

I recently went up to Philadelphia for a special taping of NPR’s Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, and I had such a great trip that I thought this would be a good time to kick off the topic of weekend destinations.

Ah, America’s birthplace—known for cheese steaks, brotherly love and Rocky. Philly is the sixth most populated city in the U.S. and is about 2 ½ hours away from DC, but that very much depends on the traffic: Be sure to consider our rush hour and theirs if you’re traveling on a weekday. Typical Philly tourist attractions include the National Constitution Center, Liberty Bell Center and the Philadelphia Museum of Art/the Rocky steps.

I’ve explored the city a few times, but I really wanted to go to the Mint. The Mint in DC used to be open for tours, and I remember loving it when I was eight. Philly’s Mint is well, kind of strange. They allow visitors to do a “self-guided” tour, but it sort of feels like they don’t actually want visitors. The exhibits are very low budget and most look like they are a decade old. My boyfriend said it felt kind of like we stumbled upon something from the Dharma Initiative on “Lost”. The most interesting part is looking down through glass to where they actually make coins, but that’s not all that fascinating either. What made it strange, however, is what made me like it, if that makes sense.

One thing that I did NOT know about until the end of my stay was Breakfast with Benjamin Franklin! So now I have to go back to do that. I love Benjamin Franklin. Did you know he invented swim fins, street lighting and daylight savings time? But I digress …

We went to a popular restaurant called Continental, which is probably one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been too. The food was great—basically American tapas. What really impressed me though, was the décor and the layout—it’s got this retro—while at the same time modern—vibe. I highly recommend. We went before the taping of Wait, Wait so it was pretty early, but apparently it’s a big late-night destination.

Interesting Tidbit: I never understood why Philadelphia was called the “city of brotherly love” because people there don’t seem all that friendly to me, but it turns out it’s not a nickname but rather a translation. Quaker William Penn established the city and chose the name (philos means “love” and adelphos means “brother” in Greek) because he wanted it to be a peaceful place free of persecution.

Taxation without Representation

27 Oct

If you’ve just moved to DC then you may not yet realize it, but you are no longer represented in Congress. Thanks to the 23rd Amendment you can vote for president—DC has three electoral college votes—but that’s it. DC does have one delegate in the House, but he/she can’t vote on the floor, only on procedural matters and in House committees. Currently, Eleanor Holmes Norton is the District’s delegate. There are also two “shadow senators” who aren’t recognized by Congress but who lobby for DC statehood.

Why doesn’t DC have taxation? Well, simply put, it’s not a state. The District is a federal territory under Congress. At times, you may feel that politics are prioritized over the city’s citizens, and taxation without representation is a perfect example of that.

In 1778, Maryland ceded land to make DC a state. The constitution specifically did not make DC a state, which opponents of DC statehood argue was done intentionally by the framers. But did the framers intend for the city’s citizens to be denied representation? Probably not. Chances are they didn’t anticipate so many residents living in the capital city.

Opponents of DC statehood also say that it is important for the city to remain geographically neutral. Proponents argue that DC citizens are taxed, subject to laws passed by Congress as well as the military draft, yet they have no voice on the hill.

To become a state, DC would have to be approved by Congress. Not likely—Republicans won’t support the idea of giving voting rights to the overwhelmingly Democratic city.

Does the fact that your constitutional right is being violated irritate you? Then I suggest you join DC Vote, a “educational and advocacy organization dedicated to securing full voting representation in Congress and full democracy for the residents of the District of Columbia.”

Fun Fact: In a show of support for the city, President Bill Clinton used the “Taxation Without Representation” plates on the presidential limousine. Bush had them removed.

What the gripe: Tourons

27 Oct

I hope despite the fact that this photo is blurry, you can see that this family--which I saw at the Natural History Museum--is wearing matching outfits.

People in DC love to complain about tourists (as Joel Housman wonderfully illustrates on How to use Metro and How to use an escalator). The District seems to be the number one destination for “family’s first vacation.” I don’t know why you’d take a bunch of babies and toddlers to museums and monuments, but a lot of people do. And tourists don’t think twice about traveling during rush hour or standing in a big group in the middle of the sidewalk. The worst times of year are summer, spring break and during the Cherry Blossom Festival. You’ll want to stay away from museums during these times of year–at least on the weekends. Fall is a popular time for European visitors, but you usually won’t even notice them because, amazingly, they often blend in better than tourists from the States.

Tip: If you’re heading to the Metro and you see a huge mass of people wearing matching T-shirts also heading to the Metro … run. Seriously, run to get ahead of them, otherwise you’re going to be stuck behind them on the escalator, at the turnstiles and on the platform. And if you’re low on patience, avoid the Smithsonian and National Archives Metro stations at all cost.

The results are in

26 Oct

© Ksiom

Express (it’s the Washington Post’s paper that everyone reads on the metro; basically it’s Cliff Notes of the news) just published its Best of 2010 results. They surveyed readers to find out favorite restaurants, sports teams, gyms, underrated tourist attractions, vintage stores, hair salons, florists … you get the idea. While the results produced few surprises (the restaurant Zaytinya, for example, seems to always top every list of this kind), I think it’s a great resource for newbies to see what other residents are recommending.

Washington City Paper also produces a similar list, but the categories are different . For example, they’ve got best lost and found, best drag queen and best window display, to name a few.

WAMU’s Metro Connection

20 Oct

Franklin D. Roosevelt Library Public Domain Photographs

In honor of the Fall Membership Campaign for WAMU (D.C.’s NPR station, 88.5FM), I’d like to give a shout-out to their Metro Connection program. This is a great resource for all DC area residents, but I think it’s especially useful for newbies. Just recently, for example, they aired a story about predatory towing companies. If you’ve lived here a few years, you’d already know that tow trucks are out for blood, but if you’ve recently moved from a more suburban area, you’d probably be just the prey they pray for.

Metro Connection airs on Fridays at 1pm and Saturdays at 7am (not often enough, in my opinion). You can also listen online or read a transcript on their website.

Marion Barry: Stranger than fiction

15 Oct


The man, the myth, the legend © dbking


Only in DC could a mayor be convicted on drug charges, go to jail for six months and then be elected as mayor again.

Now that you live in DC, you might occasionally here the phrase “Bitch set me up”—it’s what Barry said in 1990 after a sting operation caught him on camera smoking crack—he was referring to an ex-girlfriend turned FBI informant. There was a lot of drama during the trial in which some jurors refused to believe certain evidence even though it was never contested in court. The jury ended up being ‘hung’ on most of the charges, and Barry was only convicted of one possession charge.

Amazingly, Barry was re-elected in 1995 and served as mayor for four more years. In 2002, he was arrested because traces of marijuana and cocaine were found in his car, but no charges were filed and he said the drugs were planted. In 2004, he won a seat on the D.C. Council, which he still has (if you live in Ward 8, he represents you). In 2005, he was placed on probation for not filing income taxes for several years. In 2008, he again failed to file his tax return, which extended his probation to 2011.

I’d like to take a quote from Barry’s website, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading: “Marion Barry, Jr., has dedicated 40 years of his life to public service living by the motto of ‘always fighting for the people.’ He is one of America’s most accomplished public officials living today. He is directly responsible for the success of more African American Millionaires than any other person in the country. He served an unprecedented 16 years as Mayor of the District of Columbia taking the once sleepy southern migration hub to a major metropolitan city.” I feel I need not comment on this quote–it stands pretty awesomely on its own.

In July 2009, Washington City Paper published an article about drama between Barry his ex-girlfriend, which included a controversial front-page headline. Also in 2009, HBO produced a documentary titled The Nine Lives of Marion Barry.

He’s embarrassing, he’s corrupt, he’s a womanizer, but he’s ours.

Local lingo: Northern Virginia vs. Virginia

29 Sep

A friend of mine, born and raised in Northern Virginia, went to a convention during college where attendees from other states asked why she didn’t have a southern accent. She explained that no, as she said, she was from Northern Virginia, near DC—they didn’t get it. But for anyone in the DC area, the distinction is clear: Northern Virginia and Virginia are in many ways two separate states. Virginia is firmly in the south, rural in many areas and many residents, yes, have accents. Northern Virginia’s identity comes much more from being in the DC metro area. It was, in fact, Northern Virginia, that narrowly won President Obama the state in the 2008 election. Another friend of mine says one of the reasons she prefers living in Virginia as opposed to DC is the fact that her vote counts much more (DC is about 90% democratic).

Northern Virginia is the most populous region of Virginia. It is also the most diverse and has the highest income. In recent years, Fairfax County and Loudon (LOUD-un) county have been among the top—and often at the top—of the highest-income counties in the U.S. There’s no clear cut line as to where Northern Virginia ends and Virginia begins, but those most strongly associated with NoVa include Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, Loudon and Prince William.

Anyone who’s anyone: Crafty Bastards

25 Sep

There’s already several blogs that give the 411 on events around the city, like DCist and DC City Blog. So here at New to DC I’m just going to point out upcoming popular annual events.

Crafty Bastards, as the name suggests, isn’t your grandmother’s craft show. Sponsored by Washington City Paper, it’s more in the style of independent artists from Etsy and the like. It goes on outside in the neighborhood Adams Morgan at the Marie Reed Learning Center at 18th & Wyoming from 10 am to 5 pm. In addition to vendors selling handmade clothes, jewelry, home decor, etc., there’s also live music, workshops and food. The next Crafty Bastards is coming up soon–Saturday, October 2. If you are planning to hard-core shop, I recommend going early to make sure there’s still a good selection of goods at the most popular vendors.

Street parking will be a nightmare, so either park at the garage on 18th, take the Metro (the closest station is called Adams Morgan and is about a mile away) or ride your bike (there will probably be a bike valet).

And make sure to bring cash as many of the vendors won’t take credit. See you there!