I think the election of George Mason University student Reann Ballslee as Ms. Mason 2009 is fantastic. I found the dissenting opinions in today’s Post article about GMU’s homecoming revealing:

Beyond the joyful tears and tiara, Allen’s election exposed conflicting cultural currents at the sprawling campus in Fairfax County. Many see it as an expression of inclusiveness at a place where about one-third of the 30,000 students are minority. But others say it is an embarrassment at an inopportune time when Mason is trying to revamp its image from commuter school to distinguished institution of higher learning.

Officially, the university is “very comfortable with it. We’re fine,” spokesman Daniel Walsch said. The school does not require participants in the Mr. and Ms. Mason pageant to compete along precise gender lines, he said.

Toward the end of the article they quoted a student who was unhappy about the selection:

But electing a dude as homecoming queen is not the way to bolster pride, sophomore Grant Bollinger said. Mason was recently named the No. 1 national university to watch by U.S. News & World Report, he said — it should act like it.

“It’s really annoying,” said Bollinger, who works as an ambassador for the admissions office. “The game was on TV. Everyone was there. All eyes were on us. And we do something like this? It’s just stupid.”

Why is it stupid? Another air-headed blonde homecoming queen would be dignified and smart?

And the squawking about how this article displaced what could have been a serious piece about academics at GMU? Academics didn’t lose out on the world stage because the guy won. I can’t prove there wasn’t going to be a cool article about econ 101 at Mason in the paper that was killed so the media could talk about homecoming, but it seems like a safe bet to me that there’s no equilibrium being upset here.

There are 175 comments on that article (so far) on WashingtonPost.com but the level of discourse is pretty low, so I lost interest after the first couple of pages. I’m always fascinated when so-called chivalrous men roll out the “but think of the women!” argument to protest. Yes, we’re all delicate flowers who’s very self-esteem rests on competing against one another to see who looks best in a bathing suit.

Honestly, if you were in a beauty contest and you lost to a guy, wouldn’t that be less ego-bruising than losing to another woman, if you really felt that competitive with other women?

I’ll read more of the comments at washingtonpost.com later. For now I need a nap.

“Exotic Snakes Wear Out Their Welcome at Va. Motel”

Fairfax City police said they found 17 exotic snakes, 12 of them venomous, inside Room 11 of the Hy-Way Motel near Fairfax Circle on Thursday night after the motel’s management alerted them to a foul odor. The snakes took up residence at the Hy-Way on Sunday and were not detected by the housekeeping staff because they were concealed in luggage, police said.

Two of the smaller snakes, possibly future meals for their larger brethren, passed away during their vacation at the Hy-Way, police said, creating the telltale odor that led to their sudden eviction yesterday.

Police said the reptiles might belong to an Arlington County man who proudly kept as many as 100 exotic snakes in his home until county authorities recently moved against him.

The snakes did not endear him to the neighbors, who occasionally came across the random Mexican lancehead rattlesnake rambling about the ‘hood. So in May, Arlington passed an ordinance banning venomous snakes and other poisonous reptiles.


An animal control officer and two snake experts visited the Hy-Way yesterday to catalogue the snakes and oversee their removal to an exotic-animal zoo in central Virginia, police said. The breeds included African puff adders, cottonmouths, rhinoceros vipers, albino cottonmouths, speckled rattlesnakes and a black-headed python, police said.

That slithering sound you may have just heard was my skin actually crawling so much when I read the story that I believe it crawled off my body and is hiding under the couch. Hopefully it’s alone under there.

(The competitive renovators post was not about any of our neighbors. This post is, or at least mentions one)

Arlington County is aggressively marketing an anti-traffic congestion and pollution plan called the Car-Free Diet. The website offers lots of information about how and why you should minimize your car usage. There are even incentives for Arlington residents just to go to the site and learn more:


Whether you plan to go car-free every single day or just once or twice a week, you’re about to see some real results! Just answer the following few questions to get personalized estimates of how much money you’ll save, calories you’ll burn and CO2 emissions you’ll reduce when you go on Arlington’s Car-Free Diet!

Residents who fill out a form can get a free copy of [tag]Chris Balish[/tag]’s [tag]How to Live Well Without Owning a Car[/tag] that has a special Arlington-specific information section.

There’s a nice write-up in today’s Arlington/Alexandria section of the Washington Post about a recent event Arlington County held to get businesses more involved in the program:

“We can’t build any new roads, so the only way for Arlington to prosper through growth is through people walking, biking and taking public transportation,” said Chris Hamilton, the county’s chief of commuter services.

Chris is also maintaining a blog about the initiative.