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A Mom-umental Failure

Sun, 11 May 2008 00:00:00 EDT

ON A WARM SPRING DAY IN 1929, dozens of Washington dignitaries gathered in a forest near Chevy Chase to think about their mothers. It was, after all, Mother's Day, just the 15th since the holiday had been made official, and thus an appropriate time to break ground for what everyone assembled hoped would be Washington's newest, and biggest, monument.

Media Files:

Don't Pass the Chips -- or the Snow Shovel

Tue, 19 Feb 2008 00:00:00 EST

For the first month or so after my heart attack (at age 38, no family history, no obvious risk factors apart from being a man), I left the light on at night and cried myself to sleep. Having been startled by my own mortality -- the inevitability of it, the unfairness of it -- I was certain I was going to kick it at any moment. Never had the sound of my own heartbeat been so simultaneously reassuring and horrifying.

Media Files:

Portrait of an Artist's Mental Descent

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 00:00:00 EDT

D r. D. Percy Hickling was accustomed to judging the sanity of his fellow man. As alienist for the city of Washington in the 1920s, he diagnosed madness, determining when someone's odd or frightening behavior might warrant admittance to the mental asylum.

Till Death, or Clerical Muddle, Do Us Part

Wed, 01 Aug 2007 00:00:00 EDT

For a fleeting moment last month, it looked as if maybe I had never actually gotten married.

Your Generosity for Kids' Camp Astounds Me

Tue, 31 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

"I like to make people smile," says Iris Phelps-Perry, the staff assistant at the Wall Street Journal's Washington bureau.

Scientist Gets a Hand With Inventing a Legacy

Mon, 30 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

Elmer R. Gates was the most brilliant scientist you've never heard of. He taught dogs to see color. He studied the way emotions affect human breath. He had 43 patents to his name. He spent each waking moment intensely studying his own consciousness, going so deep inside himself that he was certain he had changed the very structure of his brain.

Steel Yourself for This Nugget Uncovered by Answer Man

Sun, 29 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

I come from McKeesport, a town in western Pennsylvania where my father had been general superintendent in a specialized steel mill named Firth-Sterling. Imagine my surprise when I moved to this area in 1959 and found that a street in Southeast Washington had the same name. Can you please let me know if the street is named after the steel mill and the circumstances that led to naming the street?

After the Campfire, These Children Glow

Thu, 26 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

For the past eight weeks I've been talking in this space about what happens before kids go to Camp Moss Hollow -- about the day-to-day lives of some of the children who attend this remarkable summer camp for at-risk youngsters.

Kids Donate the Darndest Things

Wed, 25 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

Say what you will about 13-year-old girls -- and since I've had two of them, I think I'm entitled to say whatever I like -- but some of them can be pretty darn sweet. Considerate, even. Generous.

The Whir Before the War

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

The recent Answer Man columns about helicopters in the Washington area prompted a phone call from Ray Lustig, a retired Washington Post photographer who lives in the Palisades section of Northwest Washington.

For All Your Wildlife Conflict Resolution Needs

Mon, 23 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

"The key to this business, really, is to think like an animal," says John Griffin of Wild Neighbors Humane Wildlife Solutions. "How does an animal use their space?"

Answer Man Tracks Roots Of NIH Tree to Greece

Sun, 22 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

My granddaughter Colette and I would love to know the name and age of the magnificent ancient tree on the grounds of the NIH National Medical Library with the tag number 5014. Any history on the tree would be much appreciated. We love to visit this tree often and have taken many pictures during the seasons.

I'm Off to Oxford . . . but I'll Be Back

Thu, 19 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

In April, I went with my family to visit Oxford, England. In August, we'll be moving there for a year.

Bound for a Place Where Laughter Replaces Traffic's Clatter

Wed, 18 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

Another group of campers left for Moss Hollow on Monday morning. My assistant, Julia Feldmeier, watched them go.

Flashing Back to My Face-Off With Mortality

Tue, 17 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

It was six years ago today that I had my heart attack.

A Chance to Recapture Their Inner Wildness

Mon, 16 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

One of the pleasures of working with Send a Kid to Camp is watching the youngsters grow. My assistant, Julia Feldmeier, checked in with a brother and sister who wowed us last year with their positive attitude s.

Answer Man Solves Mystery of Bird Bands

Sun, 15 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

I was lunching at the Navy Memorial p laza on Pennsylvania Avenue NW this week. Cleaning up after the lunchtime crowd was a mixed flock of sparrows and starlings. Pretty ordinary birds for these parts. But one sparrow and one starling caught my eye. The sparrow had two tiny leg bands, one red and one blue. The starling had a longer band, solid white.

A Doting NeeNaw's Dream for Her Grandson

Thu, 12 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

Life is about new experiences, about breaking out of the routine and the day-to-day. My assistant, Julia Feldmeier, has the story of a District grandmother eager to give her grandson a taste of something new.

Whose Job Is It to Save the Planet, Anyway?

Wed, 11 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

There was an electric thrum in our back yard the other day. It wasn't coming from a downed power line but from a swarm of bees that had encased a neighbor's tree trunk like a huge, furry carbuncle.

Many Reasons to Support a Great Experience

Tue, 10 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

Far be it from me to tell you what to do with your money. Instead, I'm going to tell you what a few other people did with their money.

Even Geniuses Miss Deadlines . . . And Frolic Nude

Mon, 09 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

There was a hint of desperation in an e-mail I received last week begging for a little coverage.

Answer Man: Noises Up And Residents Ticked Off

Sun, 08 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

Readers were not at all happy with the response Answer Man gave to Charles B. Saunders last week about hovering helicopters that disturb sleep in the early-morning hours.

Suspected Crime Might Have a Winged Witness

Thu, 05 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

Do you recognize this bird? It might have witnessed a crime.

A Look at Where Your Donation Is Going

Wed, 04 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

Curious what Camp Moss Hollow, in Fauquier County, looks like? Here's a map of the summer camp you've been hearing so much about, the one for at-risk kids from the Washington area. Take a look, then take a video tour of the camp at (Scroll down, click on "Videos," then select "A Tour of Camp Moss Hollow.")

Brothers' Family Grows in Unusual Ways

Tue, 03 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

Who benefits from Camp Moss Hollow? Kids like the ones my assistant, Julia Feldmeier, writes about today.

Flat-Line Time for the Squished Penny Museum

Mon, 02 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

As I toured Washington's Squished Penny Museum -- indeed, as I took the very last tour of the museum -- I couldn't help wondering if perhaps the reason the museum has closed its doors is that everyone who could possibly want to see the world's largest public collection of copper coins flattened into wafer-thin souvenirs has already seen it.

Answer Man Directs Your Attention Directly Over Your Sleepy Head

Sun, 01 Jul 2007 00:00:00 EDT

This morning my wife and I were awakened from a sound sleep at 6:35 a.m. by the shattering noise of a helicopter. It seemed to linger in the area for several minutes before flying on -- either up 270 or over the Beltway. Are there any time restrictions for helicopters flying over residential areas? I've heard them before on occasion, at about the same time in the morning. What are they up to so early? And where does the citizen direct complaints?

Looking Way Down the Road -- to 2057

Thu, 28 Jun 2007 00:00:00 EDT

You can tell a lot about the present by pondering the future.

Navigating the Currents of Summer Camp

Wed, 27 Jun 2007 00:00:00 EDT

You can't have a shakedown cruise without a shakedown, and so Ricky Majette lifts up a silvery canoe that sits, overturned, at the edge of the pond and gives it a vigorous up-and-down shake. Little bits of debris -- leaves, twigs -- fall from the canoe, and a mouse scurries from the bow. The furry critter has been evicted from its winter home.

An Effective Executive: Potentially Priceless

Tue, 26 Jun 2007 00:00:00 EDT

Some days this job is so much fun that I think I'd do it for free. I lie down in a darkened room until the feeling passes.