Say Goodbye to Styrofoam

October 28, 2014

Say goodbye to takeout lunch as you know it. As passed by the District Council July 14, styrofoam takeout containers will soon be a thing of the past.

The Sustainable D.C. Omnibus Act of 2014, more formally known as Bill 20-573, was discussed without much opposition in an earlier vote in June, and has now been finalized. This means that as of Jan. 1, 2016, restaurants, grocery stores, cafes and even food trucks will be prohibited from supplying customers with disposable food and drink containers made from plastic foam.

The complete rulings of the bill will take place over the course of two years so that the use of styrofoam containers is slowly phased out in exchange for more environmentally friendly materials. In 2018, the second portion of the bill will go into effect, requiring food and beverage outlets to use only containers made from recyclable or compostable materials. This ban was part of a broad environmental bill introduced by Mayor Vincent Gray last fall.

After D.C. Department of Environment found in 2008 that a significant portion of the trash in the Anacostia River originated from plastic foam objects, the discussion to ban such containers was underway.

Despite facing some opposition from businesses worried about this expensive new burden, the ban was supported by environmentalists who have said that since the foam is not fully biodegradable, it often crumbles into tiny particles that can harm fish in the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.

The new law follows suit to ones passed in Seattle and California as well as the plastic bag tax in D.C. and Montgomery County that began four years ago to reduce the use of non-biodegradable materials, while generating funds to support river cleanup programs.

With Record Crowdfunding, Jibo the Robot Ready to Join the Family


Meet Jibo, the “world’s first family robot,” an innovative gadget designed by robotics experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A futuristic device created by Professor Cynthia Breazeal and her team of media tech specialists, Jibo is unlike any other household gadget. Move over, Siri, Jibo is now part of the family.

Standing at just 11 inches tall, Jibo is an interactive storyteller, messenger, photographer and personal assistant. It even has the ability to learn and recognize the different voices and faces of family members under the same roof, to create a more helpful and personal experience than other gadgets.

It’s sleekly designed and packed with artificial intelligence algorithms that allow it to learn and adapt to people’s preferences and habits. It can take photos and videos, deliver hands-free messages and even read and tell stories.

Using recognition software to learn and track faces of family members, Jibo provides an advanced version of video calling, almost as if you were really there. It uses natural cues, such as body movement and speech, to know where to look during a video call and moves as if it is part of the action in a room. Its hands-free message delivery system uses the same face recognition software to ensure each message is delivered to the right person.

Designed to provide companionship while assisting its owner in coordinating and managing daily activities, this six-pound gadget wirelessly connects to the internet and will “support the unique needs to a human being as we interact with it – to empower us to succeed, thrive and grow with technology like never before,” according to Breazeal’s recent blog post about Jibo.

After just a week into its crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.com, Jibo, Inc. has raised well over $1 million from nearly 2,500 backers. The campaign, with the initial goal of $100,000, was fully funded within just four hours. Because of its astonishing crowdfunding results, this little gadget now holds a record for achieving “top rank” status among the website’s 15 most funded tech projects of all time, and in just four days, according to the Jibo team. Currently, it is the most funded product that is active on the website.

Since it reached its $1-million stretch goal, the company plans to release a free bonus collection with each purchase, complete with special animation and extra movements that Jibo can execute in the home. If it reaches the $2-million mark before the last day of the campaign on Aug. 15, the company said they will release another exciting bonus collection for their customers at no additional charge.

The home robot will cost $499 in the consumer version and $599 for the developer version, which will allow engineers and developers to optimize Jibo’s capabilities on its open platform.

The initial release is scheduled for early 2016.

Click here for more information on Jibo and the record-setting crowdfunding campaign.

Infectious Diseases Put World and D.C. on Alert


The Ebola crisis in West Africa has put the world on high alert, forced some leaders to remain in their home nations to miss the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit and caused the postponement of “The Future of Development and Business in Africa, ” a forum to be held today at Georgetown University.

Like some other universities, Georgetown University has taken action against the spread of the virus. Joseph Yohe, associate vice president for risk management, and James Welsh, assistant vice president for student health, announced Friday that there will be a temporary travel moratorium on all university-sponsored trips and programs to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, three West African nations in the midst of battling what is considered to be the worst Ebola outbreak in history. This moratorium follows U.S. health officials’ travel warning about the dangers of the virus, which kills 90 percent of those infected. As for when the travel moratorium will conclude, Yohe and Welsh intend to comply with the CDC’s guidelines.

The Gaston Hall event was to feature Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who delivered the university’s School of Foreign Service commencement speech in 2010. The forum’s focus was to discuss private investment in Africa while looking at its role in the region’s health, education, poverty and emerging business opportunities, as well as benefits of receiving support by the United States’ government and other international organizations. The event has yet to be rescheduled.

Sirleaf, along with 50 other African leaders, was invited to attend the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in D.C., taking place Monday to Wednesday this week. To contain the deadly virus that has already killed over 700 people, Sirleaf and leaders of Guinea and Sierra Leone have cancelled their attendance to the summit.

Although there have been no known Ebola outbreaks in the United States to date, residents should still take caution when coming into contact with those exhibiting flu-like symptoms. A Washington, D.C.-area man was hospitalized last month after contracting a flesh-eating bacterial disease. Joe Wood of Stafford, Va., was swimming in the Potomac River when a scratch on his leg became infected with an aggressive bacteria that feeds on flesh – vibrio vulnificus. Wood was admitted to Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg where he received skin graft surgery the following week.

This news comes just days after a 66-year-old Maryland man was treated for the same strain, characterized by fever, chills, vomiting and other flu-like symptoms. In Maryland, the number of vibrio cases reached a 10-year high last year, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, Set for Georgetown, Also Opens in Rosslyn


The Delaware-based sandwich shop Capriotti’s plans to open at 34th and M Streets, NW, in the vacant building that housed Philadelphia Cheesesteak Factory and before that the famed Cellar Door music joint.

There is a Capriotti’s already in downtown near Dupont Circle at 18th and M Streets, NW, run by franchisee George Vincent Jr., who confirmed the expansion to Georgetown at 3347 M St., NW. No set time was announced, but Vincent said he hoped that it might open in the fall.

Today, Capriotti’s also opened a Rosslyn location. The new store, boasting the company’s iconic brick wall logo, is the inaugural restaurant for the franchise in Virginia, and is located at 1500 Wilson Blvd.

Established in 1976 in Wilmington, Del., Capriotti’s has distinguished itself from other sandwich shops by slow-roasting whole, all-natural turkeys in-house each night and hand-pulling the meat the next morning for its signature subs. It is touted as a favorite spot of Vice President Joe Biden, formerly a senator from Delaware.

Since then, the affordable sandwich chain has received “Best of” awards across the country for their fresh ingredients and unique fare. Its acclaimed best-selling sub, the Bobbie, is a taste of Thanksgiving with its freshly roasted turkey, cranberry sauce and homemade stuffing, and was voted winner of the “2014 World Cup of Sandwiches” by the Washington Post.

The restaurant serves a large selection of salads, cold and hot subs and sandwiches and a variety of vegetarian options.

Since its first shop opened 38 years ago, Capriotti’s has expanded to more than 100 locations in 15 states and the District of Columbia.

Dumbarton House: A History

August 20, 2014

Dumbarton House, located at 2715 Q St., NW, gets its name from landowner Ninian Beall. He named the surrounding land after “Rock of Dumbarton,” a prominent geological feature near Glasgow in his native Scotland in 1703, 48 years before the town of Georgetown was chartered by the Maryland Legislature.

Since Beall was granted the property, it was bought and sold by various owners until a Philadelphia merchant named Samuel Jackson built a large two-story brick home on the property in 1799. Just before the nation’s capital moved from Philadelphia to D.C., Jackson mortgaged the estate.

Five years later, the U.S. acquired the mortgage and sold the land with the brick home at public auction. It was purchased by Joseph Nourse, the first Register of the U.S. Treasury, for $8,581.67 as a home for his family. In 1813, Nourse sold the property to Charles Carroll, cousin of the signer of the Declaration of Independence, who renamed it Bellevue after his former plantation near Hagerstown, Md. On Aug. 24, 1814, after living on the estate for just a year, Carroll was asked by President James Madison to escort first lady Dolley Madison out of the White House to safety as British troops advanced on Washington. Carroll fled with the first lady, along with the wife of the Secretary of the Navy, Eleanor Jones, to Bellevue before meeting the president in Virginia.

In 1815, Carroll vacated his Georgetown home and left it to be occupied by a succession of tenants for decades. Thirteen years before the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America bought the property in 1928, the historic home was moved 100 feet north. It was originally located in the middle of today’s Q Street, but with the construction of the Dumbarton Bridge, continuing Q Street from downtown to Georgetown, it was moved out of the way in 1915 to its present site in order to avoid demolition.

Alterations were made to the property during the late 19th and early 20th centuries by various owners. In order to return the home to the simplicity and style of its original design, the NSCDA spent several years executing restoration projects, beginning in 1931, under the direction of architect Horace Peaslee and renowned architectural historian and museum director Fiske Kimball. Restorations included removing the Georgian quoins and balustrades and expanding the window openings to their original size and altering the roofline. The mantels in the home were not originals and were subsequently replaced by ones reflecting the popular style of the Federal period. Historical and architectural research continues to this day to ensure the highest degree of accuracy in restoring Dumbarton House back to its original Federal character.

In 1932, the property was renamed back to the familiar Dumbarton House and was declared a Federal-period historic house and museum by the NSCDA, which then opened it to the public.

Who Are The Colonial Dames?

August 6, 2014

The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America is an association of 44 corporate societies across the United States. Since its inception in 1891, the society has grown to well over 15,000 members who work to ensure the proper restoration and preservation of historic homes and museums. Currently, the soci- ety headquarters is located at Dumbarton House in Georgetown.

The first project the society undertook was the preservation of the Van Cortlandt House Museum, the oldest home in the Bronx in 1896 by the New York chapter. Since then, the NSCDA has acquired 41 unique properties, including Gunston Hall Plantation in Lorton, Va., as well as 13 museum collections in 38 states and the District. The society also works with 30 other historic proper- ties that continue to receive significant financial and volunteer support from the Colonial Dames.

In November 2000, the society received the prestigious Trustee Emeritus Award for Excellence in its stewardship of his- toric sites from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In addition to preserving and restoring historic homes and museums, the NSCDA sponsors several scholarship programs and essay contests for high school and college students interested in patriotic service or pursuing a degree in Native American and American history, political science or education.

For more information on the Colonial Dames click here.

Equinox Fitness Acquires Sports Club/LA

August 4, 2014

Equinox, the upscale fitness club known for its luxury facilities and seasoned personal trainers, has announced its plans to acquire the Sports Club/LA properties in Washington, D.C., July 28, as well as those located in New York, Boston, Miami and San Francisco.

With the six newly acquired clubs, Equinox now operates a total of 73 fitness centers around the world, including several in London and Toronto. Next to the Ritz-Carlton, a newly acquired Sports/LA — and soon to be renamed — is located at 1170 22nd St., NW. An Equinox club can also be found on Elm Street in Bethesda, Md.

“This acquisition is a testament to the continued expansion of the Equinox brand as a global leader in luxury health and fitness and the growing demand for our unique offering,” says Harvey Spevak, CEO of Equinox.

Since its inception in 1991, the company has provided a holistic approach to fitness and offers a variety of strength and cardio training programs, group fitness classes, personal training, spa services and products and healthy food and juice options. Seeking to expand its range of health and fitness options and reach a broader scope of clientele, Equinox introduced an outpost of Pure Yoga, a popular Asian yoga studio, in New York, as well as acquiring a majority interest in SoulCycle, the trendy boutique cycle studio to open Saturday, August 2, on M Street.

Equinox will take operational control of the new clubs immediately and will begin transitioning the clubs to the Equinox brand. During the transitional period, the company’s signature classes will be introduced to members as well as new strength and cardio training equipment. Members will receive special access to Equinox’s mobile app, which stores the member’s fitness activity and data while exercising both inside and outside the club.

“Equinox is committed to an unparalleled member experience,” Spevak says. “We are thrilled to welcome all of the existing Sports Club/LA members to Equinox. We think they will welcome the changes in their clubs, and look forward to continuing to serve them with a luxurious lifestyle fitness experience.”

For more information, visit Equinox.com.

Crumbs Ready to Make a Crumback


Crumbs Bake Shop, the specialty cupcake store known for its colossal cakes that closed last week, may be making a colossal “crumback,” thanks to Marcus Lemonis who has rescued makers of baked products before.

After voluntarily filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Crumbs unexpectedly shut down all its 48 remaining stores in 10 states July 7, including three in D.C., according to the company. The D.C. stores were near 11th and F Streets, NW, near 19th and L Streets, NW, and at Union Station.

The New York City-based company, founded in 2003, had already closed 15 underperforming stores and was notified that Nasdaq planned to delist the company’s shares from the stock exchange, expediting the popular bakery’s imminent demise.

A joint venture by Fischer Enterprises and Lemonis, the company behind Dippin’ Dots ice cream, has agreed to provide financing and acquire the bankrupt Crumbs. Lemonis, host of CNBC’s reality television show, “The Profit,” has previously invested in several other snack-based companies, including Doc Popcorn, Wicked Good Cupcakes, Sweet Pete’s Candy and Little Miss Muffin.

To strengthen the future of Crumbs, Lemonis and Fischer said they want to use their prior knowledge of these snack stores to take the company beyond just cupcakes and attract a broader range of customers, potentially expanding their product line to ice cream, popcorn or other sweet treats.

The agreement also includes a retail strategy of evaluating each location with the goal to reopen select ones, possibly even adding new stores if necessary, as well as move toward a franchise store model.

It is still unclear when exactly Crumbs – and in what form — will be re-opening for business.

Bones Found at Hyde-Addison School Not Human

July 22, 2014

While performing maintenance work at Hyde-Addison Elementary School, 3219 O St., NW, construction workers unearthed bones, while digging Friday morning, July 11. Metropolitan Police Department say the bones are not believed to be human, but their origins are still under investigation.

Rah, Rah, Raw Food

July 16, 2014

The beauty of eating mainly raw fruits, vegetables and legumes is you can turn your oven off for the summer.

The raw food diet is a fad that has been around for years. It emphasizes the benefits of exclusively eating uncooked foods in their natural state. Proponents claim cooking or heating of any kind diminishes most of the vitamins and minerals in food and kills natural enzymes that boost digestion and fight chronic disease. Many raw food aficionados believe this diet helps to clear headaches and allergies and boost the body’s immunity.

Even Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, has adopted the unusual diet to maintain her fit figure and radiant complexion. Popular raw dishes she enjoys include watermelon salads, gazpacho, tabbouleh and ceviche, a Latin American fish recipe.

This plant-based diet is similar to that of vegans and vegetarians. It consists of fruits, vegetables, sprouts, nuts, seeds, sprouted grains, beans and raw fish. Nutritional perks include an abundance of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants to reduce the appearance of aging. Some individuals even practice this diet to lose weight, due to the food being naturally low in calories, fat and sodium. The raw food diet is heavy in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat and salt and is consequently associated with healthy levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease.

Though eating raw food has become popular among celebrities and royalty, it certainly has its drawbacks. Restrictive diets such as this are linked to growth problems from a potential lack of protein and are not recommended for growing children. Those who are pregnant, elderly or sick should avoid this diet due to the risk of foodborne illnesses from uncooked or unpasteurized foods.

In addition to potential health risks, adopting the raw food lifestyle certainly takes a toll on the wallet.

Specialty stores are preferred by raw foodists for their variety of organic, natural food options, yet are oftentimes pricier than a general grocery store. Once the food has been purchased, meal preparation can be quite extensive due to juicing, blending or dehydrating, which requires expensive appliances of up to several hundreds of dollars.

Another challenge faced by those who eat raw is eating out. It can be difficult to enjoy dining in restaurants because raw dishes are not standard fare on most menus. Khepra’s Raw Food Juice Bar, 402 H St., NE, is one of the few raw, organic restaurants in Washington, D.C. Khepra’s specializes in serving fresh salads, entrees, desserts and juices that are packed with vitamins and natural flavors, perfect for vegetarian or raw food customers.