Late spring in Georgetown

It feels more like summer than spring, and I’m thinking about things to do this summer. A visit to Washington’s Aquatic Gardens is on the list, and if I make it, it’ll be inspired by Horace Gregory:

There is a stirring of grey light overhead,—
These are the Water Gardens, green paths
That walk between the waters, and the white lotus
Where at its center the sun shines inward
To the root. And here are sleeping lilies,
And that grey presence is a fallen tree
Raising its leafless arms
Above the water.

Pale green, pale ochre,—
Here one discovers five seasons of the soul:
Spring, summer, autumn, winter, and the season
Of light where the spirit lives,
Tibet at evening or at early morning
In the grey light that cannot fall
From the sky at noon. It is where
Reeds and grasses contemplate
The heavens, the multiple smiling
Creatures within the clouds,
The gods and lesser gods behind
A veil of rain.

One could believe
That the heat of summer is unknown here,
That the white lotus conceals the sun
Beneath the snow.

Above us a steel blade.


Matt Mullenweg has started Distributed, a podcast:

The cofounder of WordPress and CEO of Automattic embarks on a journey to understand the future of work. Having built his own 900-person company with no offices and employees scattered across 68 countries, Mullenweg examines the benefits and challenges of distributed work and recruiting talented people around the globe.

I listened to the first episode today:

The first episode is a conversation with Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork, about how they built a distributed culture, and how flexible work will shape the future of the global economy.

Unlike Automattic, Upwork does have an office in Silicon Valley (albeit one with a remote receptionist!). It was interesting to hear how Stephane’s teams balance in-person culture with inclusiveness for all employees, no matter where they live. Read more about Stephane’s work at, and subscribe at Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Looking forward to these conversations. When I think of what I want my life to look like, it’s hard to imagine that my next five decades should be characterized by the 20th century office environment.

Washington, DC living expenses

Elly Yu writes that a “modest yet adequate” living for a family in the Washington, DC area requires annual income of at least $105,000:

…this cost is being driven largely in part by the rising price of childcare and housing, experts say.

The Economic Policy Institute’s “Family Budget Calculator” measures the income a family needs to cover basic living expenses, including housing, food, child care and transportation. The budget is based on figures from 2017.

Of the top 100 metro areas in the country, D.C. had the 10th-highest costs in the country for a two-parent, two-childhood household. The San Francisco metro area ranked 1st with an average cost of $148,440. The median family income for the D.C. region was $113,810, in 2017, according to American Community Survey. …

The budget doesn’t include expenses like student loan debt or saving up for rainy day funds.

Gould says the cost of childcare, which has been rising much faster than inflation in recent years, is one of the drivers of rising living costs. According to the calculator, childcare for a family with two children (one four-year-old, and one older school-aged child) costs on average $1,762 a month. …

The costs do also vary throughout the region. In the District, the average income a family of four needs to make is higher than the metro region at $123,975. In Prince George’s County, the figure is $90,824 and in Arlington County, the figure is $113,915.

Housing and the cost of childcare are consistent drivers of rising costs of living, meaning that it makes sense to make a home ideally both where there is family and where the cost of housing is inexpensive. Even if earnings are far lower, quality of daily life is likely to end up being much higher. Daily life can be less frenetic, involve less stress over finances and debt, incorporate family and extended family in a more consistent way, and require little or no professional childcare costs.

We have the means to construct these sorts of lives, but socially and culturally our economic and corporate habits haven’t yet changed to reflected that the technology enables for a distributed workforce in most cases. We don’t all need to be living in the same few expensive metro areas in order to physically work together in high-rent offices in most cases.

Morning in Georgetown

A little seen from earlier this week, after morning mass at Epiphany in Georgetown. How many little moments like this do we miss, because we haven’t constructed our lives in a way that gives us the time or the space to have such moments?

I think little experiences like this are an essential antidote to the politics-as-religion mania of our time.

Georgetown C&O Canal

At dusk I walked from Georgetown Waterfront Park on the Potomac uphill past the C&O Canal, along M Street for a few blocks, and eventually home. Georgetown’s section of the C&O Canal is looking picturesque:

The C&O Canal runs through Georgetown along the Potomac River west from Rock Creek. The Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park is located along the C&O Canal from Rock Creek Park to the DC boundary and extends into Maryland. The park is open during all daylight hours.

The Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal is one of the most intact and impressive survivals of the American canal-building era. The C&O Canal is unique in that it remains virtually unbroken and without substantial modification affecting its original character for its entire length of 185 miles.

The 501(c)3 non-profit organization Georgetown Heritage was recently founded to restore and revitalize the mile-long section of the C&O Canal that runs through Georgetown.

Pittsburgh for six hours

I spent about six hours in Pittsburgh today, where I visited to meet with Rehumanize International to talk shop. Rehumanize has an important mission: “to ensure that each and every human being’s life is respected, valued, and protected.” Rehumanize was founded by Aimee Murphy, who was a fellow Notre Dame Vita Institute participant with me last summer:

Rehumanize International is a non-profit human rights organization dedicated to creating a culture of peace and life, and in so doing, we seek to bring an end to all aggressive violence against humans through education, discourse, and action.

We adhere to an ethos called the Consistent Life Ethic, which calls for an opposition to all forms of aggressive violence against human beings, including but not limited to:​

  • Abortion
  • Abuse (domestic, assault, rape)
  • Capital Punishment
  • Embryonic Stem-Cell Research
  • Euthanasia
  • Human Trafficking
  • Physician Assisted Suicide
  • Police brutality
  • Poverty Issues
  • Racism
  • Suicide
  • Torture
  • Unjust War

The Consistent Life Ethic serves as the philosophical foundation of our advocacy.

Additionally, we achieve our vision by maintaining our organization as non-sectarian and non-partisan, and furthermore by promoting collaboration amongst many organizations across movements.

I took these photos on the way in and out of the city.


I was in Manassas, Virginia this weekend, and spent two hours or so in McKay Used Books. I didn’t know that places like McKays still existed, but was glad to spend the time:

McKay Used Books is unlike any other bookstore you’ve been to. We have hundreds of thousands of different items on our shelves on any given day for your browsing pleasure. Since 1983, we have bought, sold, and traded with customers through the Northern Virginia area.

Looking for books? We have fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, graphic novels, and comics.  Are you a movie buff looking to fill out your collection, trying to find something to watch tonight, or maybe a cheap date night flick? Check out our DVDs and BluRays in every genre. Long commute? Try our books on cd! Is music your thing? We’ve literally got thousands of cds in all different categories and now Vinyl and cassettes too! Did you say that you are a gamer? Well that’s good, because we carry RPG materials, every type of video game and video game accessory, current and retro. In addition to all that, we now carry board games, action figures, beanie babies, and even Nerf guns. There’s something here for everyone!

How do we get all this stuff you ask? From customers like you of course.

I picked up about 70 books and while there met a fascinating man who wanted to talk with me about aliens.

Annie in Fort Washington

We visited Harmony Hall Arts Center in Fort Washington, Maryland last night to see a community theater production of Annie. Harmony Hall Arts Center is in a little community space that reminded me a lot of the WREC that used to exist where I grew up.  A friend played the part of FDR, Bert Healy, and a few other roles. A bit from Jonathan C. Jackson, director and choreographer, from the program:

Welcome to Tantallon Community Players Production of Annie! Annie was the first musical I remember seeing as a child, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. Its sense of optimism and hope is something that has stayed with me my entire life.

The comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” began in 1924 and has continuously revived itself on screen and stage, making this a story that transcends time. “Little Orphan Annie” ran continuously for 85 years, with its last printing on June 13, 2010.

We should all aspire to attack our life challenges with a smile, shake off self-doubt and fears, and sing our hearts out. Maybe the world would be a better place if we simply take each day as it comes, expect the best of our ourselves and the people around us, and yes, when challenged with seemingly insurmountable odds, be patient, the sun will come out tomorrow.

NRI Washington Regional Fellowship

Since January I’ve been periodically heading to the Fund for American Studies near Dupont Circle as a part of the National Review Institute’s Washington Regional Fellowship:

National Review Institute (NRI) was founded by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1991, 36 years after he founded National Review magazine. The Institute is a non-profit, 501(c)(3), journalistic think-tank, established to advance the principles Buckley promoted throughout his life, complement the mission of the magazine, and support NR’s best talent. Each year, NRI selects impressive mid-career professionals in key metropolitan areas—including Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and Dallas—to participate in its Regional Fellowship Programs. In each city, 20 to 25 Fellows attend eight dinner seminars on the foundations of conservative thought. Fellows complete 25- to 30-page reading assignments from foundational texts—from Burke to Buckley—and then discuss the reading with one of the conservative movement’s leading thinkers.

Tonight, we had the last of our eight sessions. Professor Daniel J. Mahoney, whom I last saw interview Ignat Solzhenitsyn at Notre Dame in October, put together the syllabus that guided our sessions:

I. William F. Buckley, Jr. and American Conservatism (Dr. Lee Edwards) For sixty years, William F. Buckley Jr. was the voice of a conservatism that managed to be both sober and combative, committed to permanent verities, and dismissive of a corrupt liberal orthodoxy. He brought style and intellectual penetration to conservatism as it emerged as a coherent movement after World War II. National Review, founded by Buckley and a cohort of friends in 1955, was—and remains—the flagship journal of a thoughtful American conservatism. This first session is dedicated to the thought and journalism of WFB and his role in shaping modern American conservatism.

II. Burke, Prudence, and the Spirit of Conservatism (Dr. Yuval Levin) The great eighteenth-century Anglo-Irish statesman and political philosopher Edmund Burke was in important respects the father of modern conservatism. A champion of the American cause and a panegyrist to English liberty, he saw the great evils at work in the French Revolution and in modern ideology, more generally. An evocative writer and rhetorician, he defended reform, not revolution, and what can be called a “politics of prudence.” He was the enemy par excellence of abstraction in politics, of an appeal to abstract ideas that ignores circumstances, the wisdom of the ages, and settled tradition.

III. The Founders’ Constitution (Dr. Matt Spalding) The United States is that rare country whose nationhood is coextensive with her constitutional arrangements. The “philosophy” of the American Constitution is laid out with remarkable learning, penetration, and insight in the Federalist papers (1787–1788) written by Madison, Hamilton, and Jay. Any thoughtful American conservatism will aim to “conserve” the constitutional heritage bequeathed by our constitutional Founders.

IV. Economic Freedom and Political Freedom (Dr. Roberta Herzberg) The rule of law is the foundation, the pediment, of a free society. This section will explore Friedrich Hayek’s vision of a “constitution of liberty” centered on the rule of law. The threats to the rule of law from the administrative state will also be highlighted.

V. Conservatism, Libertarianism, and Fusionism (Mr. Eugene B. Meyer) Contemporary conservatism has been marked by an enduring tension between a “conservative” defense of tradition and moral virtue (and of legitimate government authority) and a “libertarian” emphasis on the dangers of statism and the need for an expansive realm of personal freedom. Where some see an enhancement of human freedom, others see the erosion of the crucial moral and cultural prerequisites of a free society. These readings will also explore efforts to “fuse” traditionalism and libertarianism that were near and dear to National Review over the years. One reading deals with the decidedly “unconservative” thinking of Ayn Rand whose thought remains influential in some libertarian circles.

VI. Mediating Structures Between the State and the Individual (Mr. William A. Schambra) The best conservative thought opposes radical individualism (which erodes the “mediating structures” between the state and the individual) in the name of those associations and groupings that give shape and form to human liberty. Alexis de Tocqueville famously praised Americans for their prodigious “art of association,” their remarkable capacity to form voluntary associations between the state and the individual. Contemporary conservative thinkers such as Robert Nisbet, Richard John Neuhaus, and Peter Berger have drawn on Tocqueville’s wisdom to show how “mediating structures” can renew community and “empower people,” and in the process act as a check on state power.

VII. Conservatism, Democracy, and Foreign Policy (Dr. John Hillen) Americans have grown war-weary and tired of military engagements abroad. Yet America has vital interests and an abiding commitment to the survival of western civilization. The readings in this session explore the necessity of American foreign policy to combine spiritedness and moderation and to avoid the twin pitfalls of democratic crusadism and escape from our responsibilities in the world.

VIII. The Conservative Spirit and Civic Gratitude (Ms. Kathryn Jean Lopez) The American Dream is imperiled today by social breakdown and economic stagnation. The first reading for this session emphasizes fidelity to “ancient moorings” and resistance to encroaching statism, the second reminds us of our debts to the past and the need to cultivate a spirit of gratitude and civic obligation. Together, they capture the spirit of conservatism as William F. Buckley Jr. understood it.