When your resources aren’t perfect

This post is a bit of a “what would YOU do?” request for input. Let me begin with the background:

I am, on behalf of my office, working on a project to digitize (*cough*scan*cough*) all of the D.C. Laws from Council periods 1 through 7. These are unofficial copies, and are online in concert with the unofficial D.C. Code that while unofficial is the easiest to use in most circumstances. The scanning has been done by two interns placed with my office through Urban Alliance (I wrote about Urban Alliance before), the first who did a huge amount of work and the second who is going through and picking up where things were missed or scanned from poor copies.

And thus we have the phenomenon that leads me to my question. I now have in some cases two scanned versions of a law, each with its own problem. You know how you can have two of (a) good, (b) fast, and (c) cheap, but not all three? Well, in some cases I can have two of (a) legible margins (that is, from a flat original), (b) bottom lines of text not cut off, or (c) consistent appearance (that is, all of the pages from the same “original” and not combined from two separate scans).

In an ideal world, we would go and search out the original and scan from there. But that’s not happening here. It isn’t an ideal world, we don’t have perfect resources, and these aren’t intended to be archival quality. (There IS a risk that they could be used as “oh, someone’s already scanned these, yay we don’t have to.”)

Here is an example of this situation. What would you do? 1. Use the scan with poor margins. (law 5-129) 2. Use the scan with the bottom of the first page cut off. (L5-129) 3. Use page 1 of the scan with poor margins and the rest of the pages from the other scan. 4. Throw it all together in a single PDF because the scan with the problem on the first page also doesn’t have page numbers.

L5-129 law 5-129


Notable DC Figures: John Ross

When I’m on track to be on time for work (which happens most of the time now that I have cats waking me up in the morning), my walk to work is filled with parents and their kids walking to John Ross Elementary School. Who was John W. Ross?

Ghosts of DC did the research for me: he was a Commissioner back in the days when the District was governed by a committee of three presidentially appointed Commissioners. Tributes published in the Washington Post following his death note that he had been a commissioner for 12 years and had been postmaster prior to serving as commissioner. He also served on the Board of Visitors of Providence Hospital.

In 1895, there was fevered discussion in the District about the reestablishment of a whipping post. Commissioner Ross, a democrat, opposed this. The other two commissioners at the time (Truesdell–a Republican–and Powell, whose party I haven’t come across in this research, who also both have schools named after them) did not express a personal opinion to the Washington Post reporter writing about the debate, but the Secretary to the Commissioners, Dr. Tindall, offered a comment that is as relevant today as it was 120 years ago: “I think that the resort to violence by a government is rather a confession of the weakness of its power than a dignified assertion of its rights.”


It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m a big West Wing fan. I popped the first DVD in last night and while pondering questions like “why is CJ being called about the president’s bike accident at 5 in the morning” and “how was it possible that people in DC didn’t know what ‘POTUS’ meant” realized that another of my long-standing early episode questions had a fairly obvious answer. In episode 2, the VP has returned from New York. Leo asks how the trip was and the VP responds with a comment about DC’s bond rating. Why the heck did the VP care DC’s bond rating? Because it was still the Control Board era. I should’ve realized.

The funny things that legislative language can do

It’s been quite some time since I last posted about legislative language. I hope you’ve found other sources for your daily humor fill.

Today I want to talk about corporate personhood. You know, like in Citizens United. When something that isn’t a living being with a single set of DNA is included in a legislative definition of “person.” Set aside whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing or whether those “persons” have Constitutional rights and liberties. We’re talking grammar* here.

People die. (Sorry for the bad news.) They might die of illness or natural causes or be shot or stabbed or decapitated by a sword-wielding suspect but when all is said and done, they’ve died. Which is why it’s funny to read this: “if a court finds that the person no longer exists” (my emphasis, in case you needed a hint to my not very humorous sense of humor).


*Not actually grammar. Please forgive the linguistic imprecision.

Notable DC figures: Nannie Helen Burroughs

Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue Northeast was named in 1976 after over 5000 petitioners requested the change from Dean Avenue.[1] Why did she deserve this honor? Because she dedicated her life’s work to the education of African American girls and women.[2] Born in 1883, or maybe 1879 [3], she was the daughter of slaves. She came to DC as a child, attended the M Street School, and when she applied to teach, she was turned down due to her race. Instead she started her own school, which is located just off the road now named for her.[4]  She emphasized hard work and entrepreneurship so that the girls (the school then was all girls) would become self-sufficient adults. She was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree, and sometime among all her other accomplishments, she wrote a book, What Do You Think? [5]

What do you t hink



[1] By Vernon C ThompsonWashington Post,Staff Writer. (1976, Jul 08). Honoring a ‘total person’: Nannie helen burroughs. The Washington Post (1974-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/146630492

[2] Milloy, C. (1996, Jun 12). Unforgettable for all they gave the city. The Washington Post (1974-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1034003375

[3] Little journeys in history. (1933, Jun 24). Afro-American (1893-1988) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/530992307

[4] Milloy, C. (1992, May 24). Lessons from an extraordinary teacher. The Washington Post (1974-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/140719882

[5] Redding, J. (1950, Jul 01). Book review. Afro-American (1893-1988) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/531697489