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This Week On Metro Connection: Feeling The Heat

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

Welcome to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir. And this week we're bringing you a show that's become an annual favorite around here. We call it Feeling The Heat, always an appropriate theme this time of year when temperatures around D.C. can soar well into the 80s, 90s, even the hundreds. In fact, this July was the second hottest in the history of Washington. July 2011 was the first.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

But just to give you an idea of last month's fiery factor, we set the record with 16 days where the mercury shot past 95 degrees and seven days where it skyrocketed past 100. We tied with the sultry year of 1930 for the most consecutive 100-plus degree days. And the way things stand right now, 2012 is shaping up to be D.C.'s warmest year on record.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

So with plenty of sweat-breaking weather no doubt still ahead of us, for the next hour we're going to bring on the heat Metro Connection style. We'll hear the latest breakthroughs in fire research at the University of Maryland. We'll get tips and tricks on how to make your garden grow beneath that sizzling sun. And we'll talk with federal workers who are feeling the heat as the nation debates how to create a smaller, more efficient federal government.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

But first, we'll consider the heat of a spot roughly 93 million miles from here, the sun. And the hottest part of the sun is its center, which is at least 10 million degrees Kelvin. Just how hot is 10 million degrees Kelvin? Well imagine boiling water okay. Now imagine something 30,000 times hotter than that.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

So, yeah, we're talking major hotness on that star of ours. And on August 23rd, NASA is launching the second mission in its Living With A Star program, which aims to improve our understanding of the sun, and how it affects us humans in space and on Earth. The upcoming launch will focus on space weather, which David Sibeck, a mission scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD defines as.

MR. DAVID SIBECK

The set of effects that happen in space that can affect humans and their technology in space.

SHEIR

So it's not like we're thinking tornados, storms, rainstorms, snowstorms just in space, it's not that kind of weather

SIBECK

Well we use the same kind of terminology. We have storms in space, but they're caused by disturbances coming out from the sun. Big blobs of charged plasma that can envelop spacecraft and cause short circuits and other effects in those spacecraft.

SHEIR

Now, this charged plasma Sibeck talks about, it actually dominates interplanetary space. In fact, 99 percent of the universe is made up of this electrified gas. And immediately surrounding our planet.

SIBECK

At distances of about one earth radii above the earth to five earth radii above the Earth.

SHEIR

We have two giant rings of highly-radioactive plasma. They're called the Van Allen Radiation Belts, named for the late space scientist James Van Allen.

SIBECK

Professor Van Allen and his colleagues at the University of Iowa were among the first to launch rockets into space. The rockets carried Geiger counters. But what they found was that Geiger counters suddenly stopped working at a certain height.

SHEIR

David Sibeck says there were only two possible explanations. One...

SIBECK

The Geiger counters had broken.

SHEIR

Or two...

SIBECK

The space was so radioactive that it was overflowing and overwhelming the Geiger counters.

SHEIR

Number two eventually won out, because seriously these belts are extremely radioactive. So much so that they actually emit these crazy sounds. Professor Donald Gurnett, also of the University of Iowa, recorded and named some of these radio waves. And David Sibeck and I listened to a few like "Earth Chorus," "Earth Proton Whistlers," and "Earth Multihop Whistlers."

MR. DONALD GURNETT

Those are called whistlers because you hear the falling sound of the whistle, because the high-frequency ones travel faster and the low-frequency ones follow along.

SHEIR

Sounds like I'm in a rainforest you know, like there are birds everywhere.

GURNETT

That's exactly the right impression to have, because the very first people to hear these sounds in the 1920s began to call them things like chorus, or morning chorus, the sounds you'd hear from a forest in the morning when you wake up and hear the birds.

SHEIR

Sibeck says the upcoming NASA mission not only will better our understanding of the radiation belts, but of space weather, and our ability to predict it. And that's a good thing, because not only can space weather screw up instruments and astronauts in space, it can mess up stuff on Earth, too. Like, for instance...

SIBECK

Communications on Earth. It affects the Earth's ionosphere and just can shut out radio transmission.

SHEIR

So, cell phone signals and short-wave radio broadcasts can go haywire; even airplane communications can go on the fritz. And the reason NASA is launching RBSP this year is because next year's space weather could be the most extreme we've seen in a while.

SIBECK

Next year will be the peak of the solar cycle, the 11-year solar cycle. We expect the most intense activity from the sun. These explosions on the sun sending out enormous blobs of plasma, of charged particle, battering the earth's magnetic field, shaking it up. It's this shaking up and driving it that cause these effects in the radiation belts.

SHEIR

As for how that'll affect life here on earth, well, get this. Down here in Washington, D.C., we may be able to view the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights.

SIBECK

This will be the best time in the solar cycle for it to happen. It has happened in the past 11 years ago.

SHEIR

Though farther north, the effects may be more severe.

SIBECK

In the past, there have been surges in electrical power lines that have blown out transformers and caused massive blackouts.

SHEIR

So again, Sibeck says, the RBSP mission could not come at a better time. Now as for what the $650 million mission actually entails.

SIBECK

On August 23, at 4:00 a.m. at Cape Kennedy, NASA will launch two radiation-belt storm probe satellites on a single Atlas 5 rocket that will carry them up a distance of about a tenth of the way to the moon.

SHEIR

In other words, to the heart of the earth's radiation belts. The satellites were built by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. And as these twin discs spin away from the rocket, their instruments will measure those dangerous, whistling particles.

SIBECK

From the lowest energies to the highest energies.

SHEIR

So we can finally understand...

SIBECK

The complete environment around the Earth.

SHEIR

The satellites are expected to send back measurements for two years. And as they do, David Sibeck hopes to answer questions that have plagued him and his colleagues for years. Like, where do the radiation belts' dangerous, energetic particles come from?

SIBECK

Where do they move to?

SHEIR

How do they move around?

SIBECK

Where would you find them on any given day?

SHEIR

And finally...

SIBECK

What removes them? Because the radiation belts, the intensity of particles, rises and falls over the course of an hour, over the course of a day, over the course of a month.

SHEIR

David Sibeck says answering these questions would be a defining moment for him, and for all of us really, because by understanding more about space weather and radiation belts, we could understand more about the entire universe. And we can thank our lucky stars for that.

SHEIR

For more on the radiation belt storm probes mission and NASA's Living With A Star program and to hear more of those amazing chirping and whistling sounds made by the radiation belts, visit our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

Heading back to Earth now, let's continue our feeling the heat theme by talking about fire. Turns out researches in our very own neck of the woods know a thing or two about fire. They actually spend their days studying how a flickering flame becomes a blazing inferno. Raphaella Bennin headed to the University of Maryland to check out the latest research that has these folks truly fired up.

MS. RAPHAELLA BENNIN

Graduate student Paul Anderson is fiddling with his experiment on a large metal table at the University of Maryland's Fire Testing and Evaluation center. He has a tower fire setup. The whole thing is pretty small and contained but honestly beautiful.

MR. PAUL ANDERSON

I think it looks like two laser beams being shot by a, you know, a Jedi master.

BENNIN

The gas fueled flame streams up through a metal ring. And above the ring hover two more flames one inside the other. A triple flame or two laser beams being shot by a Jedi master.

ANDERSON

I'm going to rapidly insert a probe into different places in the flame and then we're going to take a look under an electron microscope. That's it.

BENNIN

That short click was the probe collecting information about the flames behavior. And what Anderson finds under the microscope will help the school design more accurate computer models for fires. There are still a lot of mysteries about fire that researchers would like to solve.

MR. ANDRE MARSHALL

I feel like fire is the quintessential engineering problem.

MR. ANDRE MARSHALL

That's André Marshall, the director of the Fire Testing and Evaluation Center.

MR. ANDRE MARSHALL

So ever since we first created fire, we had this challenge of being able to put it out.

BENNIN

And he says it's a challenge that continues to change over time.

MARSHALL

Building materials and furnishing are changing in the modern environment. There are a lot more plastics that are used. And plastics tend to burn faster than traditional commodities that were maybe more wood based. And the construction of the furniture is not always solid. Sometimes it is hollow. With this hollow construction, the fire may spread more quickly through the furniture.

MR. ISAAC LEVENTON

And I'm just going to light this with a torch.

BENNIN

Back in the lab, grad student Isaac Leventon is testing how some of those modern materials burn. He's studying the plastics used in airplanes.

LEVENTON

It's pretty much everything you will see in the cabin of an airplane is going to be some form of plastic because it's cheaper, it's lighter, it can be made pretty much to look however you want it to. But one of the problems with that is unlike bricks or something it's going to burn. And so we're trying to understand that behavior a lot better than we presently know it.

BENNIN

Leventon says that after about a year of burning these bookmark sized sheets of plastic, they'll have enough data to report on how some of the materials that carry us through the friendly skies burn. But the school is looking at fire even higher than the clouds.

MR. MICHAEL BUSTAMANTE

All right, so our project is to try to identify the limits of burning in a quiescent environment in microgravity. So quiescent would be like a still environment so you don't have any wind blowing.

BENNIN

Yep, microgravity. Graduate student Michael Bustamante wants to see how fire burns when there's little to no gravity, like on the International Space Station. So this past May, Bustamante took a flight on a plane that simulates zero gravity.

BUSTAMANTE

So I was floating in front of my rig and my rig stood up higher than my head and we were using a touch screen. And every time I would push my legs would fly out.

BENNIN

With his legs kicking and floating, Bustamante pressed a button on the touch screen and several wicks were lit. He quickly saw that fire really does behave differently when gravity is removed from the equation.

BUSTAMANTE

Obviously fire is hot, and everybody knows that. But the hot air also gets a lot lighter. And in the presence of gravity, that air lifts up.

BENNIN

And when hot air rises, oxygen can move in to take its place and encourage the fire to keep burning. Without gravity...

BUSTAMANTE

You get these small elliptical of spherical flames depending on the shape of your burning area.

BENNIN

Versus more of a tear drop shape that you would get on earth?

BUSTAMANTE

Exactly, exactly.

BENNIN

Researchers will use this data to design a gas burner that could be used on the space station or maybe someday by scientist on Mars. The project just goes to show as we take technological leaps forward, we can't forget about one of our first and most primitive discoveries. I'm Raphaella Bennin.

SHEIR

To check out some of the fiery research being done at the University of Maryland, head to our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

Time for a quick break. But in just a minute, the heat continues with HOT lanes. Get it? H-O-T lanes, hot, hot. Anyway...

MR. CHARLES KILPATRICK

I think it's frankly unrealistic to believe that there's sufficient public funds to fund these enormous projects in Virginia.

SHEIR

That and more is just ahead on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.

SHEIR

I'm Rebecca Shier, and welcome back to "Metro Connection." This week, we're feeling the heat. And later in the show, we'll explore that theme by hanging out with a lifeguard on his shift at a local pool. In this segment, though, we're going to get a bit more metaphorical with the theme with some stories about the other ways we feel the heat in our lives, whether in the workplace, in the doctor's office or in the case of this next story in our daily commutes.

SHEIR

By the end of this year commuters on the Beltway will have a new way to beat the traffic, for a price. And that's the topic of our weekly transportation segment, "From A to B."

SHEIR

We're talking today about the I-495 express lanes also known as HOT lanes. The $2 billion project will include two new toll lanes in each direction between the Dulles Toll Road and I-95 in Springfield, VA. But there are questions about whether these HOT lanes will actually reduce congestion. So joining us now to discuss this issue is transportation reporter Martin Di Caro. Hey there, Martin.

MR. MARTIN DI CARO

Hello, Rebecca.

SHEIR

All right. So, Martin, give us the low down on this project. My understanding is this is a public-private partnership.

CARO

Right. The state of Virginia is partnering with Fluor-Transurban, a company that's built these high occupancy toll, HOT lanes in other states and around the world. And on paper, this project seems like a win, win, win. The state gets a $2 billion road, Transurban gets the toll revenues and commuters get a faster ride through a congested corridor.

SHEIR

Right. But I'm guessing you're going to tell me now it's more complicated than that.

CARO

Exactly. Well for starters, Transurban, the company that put up most of the capital to build it, can't say for sure if it will make a profit. Here's spokeswoman Jennifer Aument.

MS. JENNIFER AUMENT

Transurban is taking 100 percent of the traffic risk on this project. So if the traffic revenue doesn't happen, if the traffic doesn't come and we can't generate the revenue, we're taking that risk on this project.

SHEIR

She just said if the traffic doesn't come. That seems like a weird phrase to me because of the gridlock we see every day around this region. I mean they are expecting drivers to actually use the news lanes, right?

CARO

Yes. It's a question of how many drivers. The non-toll lanes will still be there. So when the HOT lanes open by the end of the year, Transurban will have to figure out how high to charge the tolls. They don't want to make them too high right because then that might make fewer people try the new road. If tolls are too low, Transurban doesn't make enough profit. In fact, the reason the state had to chip in about 25 percent of this project's cost was toll revenue projections weren't strong enough for Transurban to pay for the whole thing.

SHEIR

Aha, I got it. So I'm guessing there are a lot of carpoolers listening right now who use the Beltway every day. Martin, where do they fit into this whole equation?

CARO

If you have at least three people in your vehicle, you get to ride free. But that could also cause problems for Transurban's bottom line. Basically, if really large numbers of carpoolers use the HOT lanes, state taxpayers will wind up subsidizing those trips.

SHEIR

Really? Why?

CARO

Well I'll spare you most of the dry language in the contract. But here are the basics. If at least 24 percent of vehicles in the HOT lanes on busy days are carpoolers, the state will have to pay Transurban up to 70 percent on those lost tolls. But the project supporters are downplaying this possibility. Here's VDOT's chief deputy commissioner Charlie Kilpatrick.

KILPATRICK

Is there a back stop? The answer to that is yes. Do we think we'll get there? The answer to that is no. And if we do, we still consider that a success.

CARO

Now if Transurban makes a certain profit, that subsidy won't apply. And the reason all this talk of the bottom line is important is that other private road ventures like the Dulles Greenway are not working out as planned and the contracts with the public entities had to be restructured.

SHEIR

For commuters, though, the bottom line is that this is a win. Right?

CARO

In some cases, yes. If you know you have to be at the doctor in 30 minutes and don't want to risk sitting in traffic, the toll lanes will be there. You know, I spoke with Emil Frankel, a visiting scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center in D.C. He's also a former assistant secretary at the USDOT. He thinks the HOT lanes are a good idea because without the public-private partnership, the road doesn't get built.

MR. EMIL FRANKEL

It's a negotiated transaction between the private and the public sector in which the private sector is putting a lot of money into this only with the assurance that they're going to get a return on their investment. So the public has had to give up something in order to get this built and get the private investment made.

SHEIR

So, Martin, this wouldn't be Washington if there weren't some people, how should we say, questioning the wisdom of this project. What are opponents saying about the HOT lanes?

CARO

Well, they're unhappy with the deal the state got. Transurban hopes to pay off its debt in 30 years but gets the toll revenue for 75 years not the state. And smart growth advocates are concerned that Virginia is just paying lip service to transit options on the way to just expanding highways. Here's Stewart Schwartz the executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

MR. STEWART SCHWARTZ

I think we should be looking at all alternatives upfront and look more objectively at transit and transit-oriented development alternatives. We should look at public ownership of the tolling so that we have access to those revenues in the future.

CARO

Schwartz says if the HOT lanes are successful and encourage more people to get in their cars there that will cause more traffic congestion on local roads when those vehicles eventually exit the new highway.

SHEIR

Well, we'll definitely keep an eye on this project as it continues to unfold. Martin, thanks for giving commuters a lot to think about when they head home today.

CARO

You're welcome.

SHEIR

And we want to know how much would you be willing to pay to zip around the Beltway and avoid all that traffic?. You can reach us at metro@wamu.org or tweet us. Our handle is @wamumetro.

SHEIR

When it comes to feeling the heat, and I'm not talking about the sweaty, schvitzy kind, few institutions are feeling more heat these days than the federal bureaucracy. But with all the talk of downsizing the government, cutting spending and eliminating waste, you don't often hear the voice of the average federal employee in the debate. Well, Jonathan Wilson brings us this story on how the fight over the size and scope of government is affecting morale for federal workers right here in our region.

MR. JONATHAN WILSON

If you're looking for signs that the talk about shrinking government is getting federal employees down, you won't find it here. This is the Next Generation of Government training summit -- an event aimed at bringing together Generation X and Y government professionals.

MR. DAVE UEIJO

My name is Dave Ueijo. I work at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

WILSON

Ueijo is also the president of Young Government Leaders, one of the groups hosting the conference. He says the possibility of a smaller federal government isn't really changing how young federal workers feel about their jobs. Probably because the new generation of federal workers doesn't necessarily see federal employment as a lifetime commitment.

UEIJO

I think for our members, you know, it may slow their lateral movement, but they're really not worried about it because they’re not looking at this as a 20-year career.

WILSON

But for others, the current political atmosphere can be disconcerting. Ruth Schulte is a research scientist for her federal agency. She asked us not to reveal which one because she wasn't authorized to speak on behalf of her department. She says she hears too many people call for smaller government without considering which services to eliminate.

MS. RUTH SCHULTE

It's complicated and people want their silver bullet. Oh, smaller government, that's going to be the solution. I'm not going to have to pay as much or -- they just want the simple version and it's not simple. It's multifaceted.

WILSON

John Palguta is vice president of policy at the Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes effective government. He says federal employees can get frustrated when budgets are reduced but expectation for services are not. He points to a survey his organization conducted last year. Employees at the National Park Service expressed relatively low levels of job satisfaction after funding reductions.

MR. JOHN PALGUTA

And we actually took a look at that, because how could you not love working in a National Park? And the fact of the matter is they love their jobs. And what bothers them, what decreases their satisfaction is that they cannot maintain those national parks at the level that they want for the public.

WILSON

Some federal employees have long been beating the drum for cost cutting from within the bureaucracy. Joel Ridenour is a travel policy analyst for the Department of Defense. He says he's gotten used to hearing his bosses remain silent in response to some of his politically unpopular suggestions. But he says he started to see some of his ideas break through.

MR. JOEL RIDENOUR

There was a recent memo from OMB dictating ways of cutting waste, and there were some of my ideas that I put forward that were listed in there and I got all excited.

WILSON

Steve Ressler is the founder of GovLoop, a social networking site for government employees. He worries about what the tenor of the discussion means for employee recruitment and retention. He wants to make sure the best and the brightest in the federal workforce stay on the job.

MR. STEVE RESSLER

In pure numbers, I think sometimes you're still fine, right? So, in terms of -- you'll still get a number of folks applying for jobs in items like that. But are you really getting the best, the brightest, the most energetic, the most innovative or are those the folks that are leaving?

WILSON

He says the answer to that question may depend on whether the public perception of the federal workforce takes a more positive turn. I'm Jonathan Wilson.

SHEIR

The story was informed by sources in our Public Insight Network or PIN. It's a way for people to share their stories with us and for us to reach out for input on topics we're covering. To learn more about the network, head over to metroconnection.org/PIN.

SHEIR

Kids in D.C. often feel the heat quite early, at least when it comes to the pressure to have sex. A national survey by the Centers for Disease Control Intervention has found that compared with kids in other parts of the country, young folks in Washington have sex earlier, have more partners and have higher rates of sexually transmitted disease. And the District's public schools are now facing that reality by trying new ways to talk with kids about sex.

SHEIR

As we wrap up our series on kids with HIV, special correspondent Kavitha Cardoza brings us the story. And please note the names of the students in this story have been changed to protect their privacy.

MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

Pearline Lee is a nurse at School Without Walls Senior High School in Northwest D.C. She rummages around in one of several fishbowls full of condoms, including female condoms, she keeps around the school. Lee shows off one in gold foil.

MS. PEARLINE LEE

This is the Magnum. This is the largest condom that we have.

CARDOZA

It's also the most popular. She holds up the last one.

LEE

Girls often say, Why do the boys not pick the right size condom? Guys pick this one because it deals with their macho-ism.

CARDOZA

Lee is blunt when she talks about sexual health, everything from abstinence to practicing safe sex. That's because her students have so many misconceptions about sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. She says the most common one is everyone else is at risk, but not me.

LEE

It would never happen to me because I keep myself clean. And he looks like he is very clean and wears clean clothes. So, therefore, I'm okay.

CARDOZA

Lee says parents don't usually talk to their children about safe sex, and when they do, they tend to keep it short.

LEE

The discussion is keep your pants zipped, your dress down. End of conversation.

CARDOZA

Lee says arming young people with information helps them make better choices. And Thomas, a senior here, agrees. He says his classmates don't talk to their parents about sex.

THOMAS

The health class is the number one information source. I can't speak for other schools, but at least here I know that the classes are very explicit and are very direct.

MS. DIANA BRUCE

You can't prepare the road for the child, but you can prepare the child for the road. Giving young people information that they can use to make decisions is really empowering.

CARDOZA

That's Diana Bruce, head of health programs for D.C. public schools. In the past two years, DCPS has significantly revamped its sex education program. Now, in collaboration with the D.C. Department of Health, every traditional public high school has free condoms available and several teachers certified to answer questions about sexual health. Last year, the D.C. Department of Health distributed approximately a million condoms to young people.

CARDOZA

Adam Tenner heads the nonprofit Metro Teen/AIDS, which reaches approximately 30,000 students every year and trains teachers to talk comfortably about sex. He says in April, D.C. became the first school district in the country to include age-appropriate questions on health, including HIV, on standardized tests.

MR. ADAM TENNER

At the end of the day, what gets tested, gets done.

CARDOZA

Parents can excuse their children from having to answer some of the questions, but Tenner says it's still a good baseline to gauge how much students know. The results are expected later this year. He says health education is not just about information, but also about helping young people manage their relationships more effectively.

TENNER

How to say, I'm not going to have sex with you. Thirty-three percent of kids says they're already having sex by seventh grade. We can shut our ears and shut our eyes, but it's not really helping the problem.

SHEIR

Diana Bruce says teachers are trained to assume there are children with HIV in class, and to avoid stigmatizing language...

BRUCE

So, we're, you know, oh, well, you don't want to get HIV. A simple statement that like that could seem benign, at least by the teacher, but for the student who's living with HIV, that separates them.

CARDOZA

If children don't feel they're part of the group, they tune out and no longer think the information being taught applies to them. Bruce says that's why teachers try to be inclusive. So, for instance, when they talk about celebrities, they mention gay and straight examples. Keante was 16 when he tested positive for HIV. He was dating an older man and started out using condoms, under pressure, he stopped.

KEANTE

Because I was starting to trust him. I shouldn't have never trusted him.

CARDOZA

He says what was worse was sitting through health class in 11th grade, almost a year after his diagnosis, and learning about how HIV is transmitted.

KEANTE

But I'm like, okay, I'm already with this situation. So it's kind of too late in the game for you all to be explaining this to me and making me feel bad.

CARDOZA

Keante wishes someone had talked to him at 13, before he started having sex, so he wouldn't have to be worrying about the future.

KEANTE

You know, am I going to see at least 20 or 25?

CARDOZA

Adam Tenner says health education is not just about actions today, it's also about a lifetime of healthy choices. And he says schools have to be involved in HIV education.

TENNER

While they may not die on the watch of schools, we should still feel the stain of that blood on our hands, if we're letting young people mature to adulthood without understanding how their bodies work, how they can protect themselves, how they can make decisions around whether they want to have sex, when they want to have sex or with whom they want to have sex.

CARDOZA

Dr. William Barnes oversees the HIV program at Children's National Medical Center, which cares for the majority of HIV positive children and teens in the Metro area. He says he's seen an increase in numbers.

MR. WILLIAM BARNES

In the last five years, we averaged somewhere around 35 to 44 new cases. This year, we already have over 50 new cases.

CARDOZA

Michael Kharfen with the D.C. Department of Health says last year the District tested approximately 4,000 students in schools with sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. And this year he says there are plans to scale up that effort with a big push to have more charter schools participate.

MR. MICHAEL KHARFEN

To get people to feel like this is something that they can do on a routine basis.

CARDOZA

Walter Smith heads D.C. Appleseed, an advocacy organization that creates the District's HIV prevention efforts. He says schools were slow to realize how big a problem HIV is.

MR. WALTER SMITH

From the beginning, pretty uniformly, our lowest grades have been from the schools.

CARDOZA

But he says that's slowly changing. In the most recent report card, D.C.'s traditional public schools received a B-plus. But charter schools only received a C. Smith says many charters don't have health teachers or programs in place as yet. Kharfen says approximately 30 percent of the $10 million the District spends on HIV prevention efforts is directed toward young people.

KHARFEN

When we talk about the end of HIV, where does that start? That starts with our youngest generation. We can inoculate their future from HIV if we work with them now.

CARDOZA

Because for all the improvement in HIV treatment, prevention is still the best treatment of all. I'm Kavitha Cardoza.

SHEIR

After the break, keeping that green thumb when the mercury soars to triple digits.

MR. JIM KAUFMANN

You're not going to be able to beat Mother Nature, so you have to figure out ways to work with her.

SHEIR

That's coming your way on "Metro Connection" here on WAMU 88.5.

SHEIR

Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and today we are Feeling the Heat. But of course, we humans aren't the only ones who feel the heat when the thermometer rises. That's why our environment reporter and part-time gardener, Sabri Ben-Achour, headed to the U.S. Botanic Gardens to find out how we can beat the heat for our plants.

MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR

So if a car in the sun can reach temperatures of 200 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, how do greenhouses do it? I mean, they're basically big glass cars. Jim Kaufmann helps run the nation's greenhouse at the U.S. Botanic Garden. I met him in the Orchid House.

KAUFMANN

The really neat part about this house is that if you look above us and around us, is that we're surrounded by a big fichus and this is natural cooling at its best. The canopy covers up the entire house.

BEN-ACHOUR

Yes, there are roots dangling around us right now.

KAUFMANN

We're draping through the aerial roots.

BEN-ACHOUR

But sometimes even the botanic garden needs extra help so they have vents in the ceiling and special misters and underground vents to push cooler air up. But most people don't have those things so what are we supposed to do? You might be saying, duh, just water your plants, but Kaufmann says that's not necessarily a good idea.

KAUFMANN

Sometimes some plants get so hot that they just stop taking up the water and they...

BEN-ACHOUR

They just kind of shut down.

KAUFMANN

...just kind of shut down. You know, just like anybody else. It gets so hot, they're not working anymore.

BEN-ACHOUR

The problem is hot soil and you can have hot soil that's wet and ends up just drowning your plant. So Kaufmann says don't boil your plants.

KAUFMANN

Probably the most important thing that I'd like to stress is feel the soil. The soil is so important. Take the mulch aside and you reach in right around the roots, where the roots are, and you just take a fist full. If you can take that soil and squeeze it in your hand and it retains that shape of your fist, you're at a good soil moisture and you probably have a good soil texture in there. If you start to see water drain out of there when you squeeze it in your fist, you've got too much water going on there and if it just crumbles apart, you're probably too dry.

BEN-ACHOUR

He says one great idea to keep the soil cool is mulch, two or three inches of it, but again, he says, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

KAUFMANN

A typical thing that I see a lot of around here is what I call the mulch volcanoes, where some folks will take shredded hardwood mulch and build it a foot or more up around the base of a tree. You never want to do that.

BEN-ACHOUR

That's because what rots mulch could rot the bark on your tree. But fundamentally when it comes to beating the heat, maybe the best strategy is to not try so hard. That means picking your plants wisely. Outside the greenhouse, Kaufmann uses a lot of native plants.

KAUFMANN

You'll see plants like the long-leaf pine with the long green needles are probably about a foot long. As far as perennials, I got to say some of the Echinacea, just anything you can throw at Echinacea, it can really take. You'll see them in purples, whites, green, there's a beautiful one called Green Envy. Echinacea and a variety of ornamental grasses really make a good combination.

BEN-ACHOUR

Thyme, he says, is a really tough plant and a good bet. So are a lot of herbs like rosemary. For annuals, there are some really resilient ones, too.

KAUFMANN

Those tough annuals, some of my favorite are Lantanas and Coleus. They take all sorts of conditions and they go from oranges, yellows, multi-colors and then the Coleus's there's a variety of textures of leafs from, looks like duck's webbed feet to some really dark almost black leaves.

BEN-ACHOUR

You're not going to beat Mother Nature, says Kaufmann, so you got to figure out ways to work with her. So the best way to beat the heat is to use plants that love that. I'm Sabri Ben-Achour.

SHEIR

You can find a list of some of the resilient plants Kaufmann recommends on our website, that's metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

On a hot, hot day, there's nothing quite as refreshing as going for a swim. And when people head to the pool to cool off, Devin Rudnick's day starts to heat up. The 20 year-old is the head lifeguard and manager of Tally Ho Swim club in Potomac, Md. On a recent steamy afternoon, Emily Friedman joined Rudnick to find out what really goes on in the life of a lifeguard.

MS. EMILY FRIEDMAN

For 15 minutes out of every hour, Devin Rudnick is the least popular guy at Tally Ho Swim club. Those few minutes are adult swim, a time for the moms and the dads to swim laps and aqua-size in peace. It never goes over well with kids.

MR. DEVIN RUDNICK

The kids usually ask why. They always pretend to fall in, that is a very, very common occurrence, is people just falling in accidentally during adult swim.

FRIEDMAN

Rudnick doesn't look like a guy who's known for laying down the law. His toenails are polished to look like Skittles and he's wearing old-lady sunglasses. But in spite of his light-hearted fashion choices, he wants you to know being a lifeguard is serious business.

RUDNICK

Every day is kind of like, you don't know what's going to happen, just because kids are really unpredictable, especially at the pool. You definitely see a lot of kids with sugar and hormones racing and little kids are pretty weird.

FRIEDMAN

And Rudnick gets it. Not too long ago, he was one of those kids.

RUDNICK

I was a poor act growing up. Days at the pool were like 40 hour days where I would just be able to play forever and pool rats are the kids that are there from 10 o'clock in the morning to 8:30 at night every single day, pretending to be a little lifeguard. We have a couple of them here.

FRIEDMAN

Rudnick gestures to a ping-pong table where we meet Sean Clackston (sp?) , a lanky 13 year-old in braces.

RUDNICK

Would you consider yourself a pool rat?

MR. SEAN CLACKSTON

Yes, I would. I like being called it because I am here every day.

FRIEDMAN

We walk into the lifeguard office where there's half a chocolate birthday cake with purple icing.

RUDNICK

Lifeguards eat anything and everything. People just bring over like half a cake or bring over four boxes of pizza and they're like, we can't finish this. It's basically like throwing it to the dogs when you give it to the lifeguards.

FRIEDMAN

It's pretty much the best job ever, says one of Rudnick's guards, Tyler Wooster.

MR. TYLER WOOSTER

Sit out in the sun, swim in the pool and look at girls pass by. They can't see you looking at them with the shades on, but the eyes are still following them.

FRIEDMAN

Devin, what do you think about that? Do you concur?

RUDNICK

I really wish I didn't hear that, to be honest.

FRIEDMAN

Devin Rudnick blows the whistle to signal it's the end of adult swim. From his chair six feet above the shallow end, he looks out across the pool.

RUDNICK

You can kind of tell who's tired, how well they can swim. It's like a lifeguard's sixth sense.

FRIEDMAN

Earlier this summer, Rudnick says, there was a big birthday party and one of the kids went down the slide into the deep end.

RUDNICK

I'm not entirely sure if he was able to swim at all.

FRIEDMAN

His arms were splashing and he was tilting his head back, gasping for air.

RUDNICK

And he kept going, bobbing up and down. I just got out of the chair, walked over, jumped in and kept his head out of water and just like scissor-kicked to the side. It gets your heart pounding pretty good.

FRIEDMAN

15 minutes later, it's time for the lifeguards to rotate chairs. Devin has a short break so he climbs up the diving board and jumps high into the mid-afternoon sun.

FRIEDMAN

Are you refreshed?

RUDNICK

Indeed. I like to go to the bottom of well. It's like an ice pit down there, it's awesome.

FRIEDMAN

Jumping in the pool, he says, is one of lifeguarding's greatest perks.

RUDNICK

It's a job where I can be myself. I'm that lifeguard guy.

FRIEDMAN

And with that, he gets in line for the diving board behind Sean, the pool rat, and a six year-old in a blue rashguard wearing neon green goggles. There's time for one more dive before getting back to work. I'm Emily Friedman.

SHEIR

For a map of all the public pools in the District, Maryland and Virginia, visit us at metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

Back in June, at the technical start of this sweltering summer, we rolled out a new series we're calling "D.C. Dives." As the name suggests, we've been visiting the city's best dive bars, you know, the sort of watering holes you'd probably miss unless you're in the know. In our debut, we visited the Raven Grille in Mount Pleasant and this time around, Jerad Walker takes us to the Quarry House Tavern in Silver Spring.

MR. JERAD WALKER

To the uninitiated, the Quarry House Tavern may be difficult to find, but former general manager, Gordon Banks, says that's not by design.

MR. GORDON BANKS

So we don't have a sign. Our big sign actually blew away in a storm and the other sign got stolen.

WALKER

You'd think that might be a problem for a bar whose entrance is located down a poorly lit stairwell in the basement of an Indian restaurant. But owner Jackie Greenbaum says the clientele of the Quarry House is a resilient and in her words, "self-selecting crowd."

MS. JACKIE GREENBAUM

There are people that walk down the steps that fall in love and they know this is their new bar and there's people that walk down the steps or who won't go down the steps who just hightail it out.

WALKER

And once you enter the Quarry House, two things immediately stand out. Number one, the bar is dark.

GREENBAUM

There is a window, but there's something covering it up and then...

WALKER

And number two...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #1

The ceiling's really low.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1

Watch your head, that's important.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2

There's, like, three dropped ceilings.

WALKER

The ceiling is really low. So just how low is it? Well, on this Saturday night, Silver Spring residents, Brent Ewig and Samantha Biondo, are dancing to live music from Rockabilly band, the Ultrakings. With each twirl and hop, their heads come within a foot of the plaster. But they don't seem to mind. Samantha says it's all part of the draw for them.

MS. SAMANTHA BIONDO

This is our local dive bar so to the extent we get out with two little kids ,we do try to come here as much as possible. They usually have really good music on Saturday nights and it's just the kind of place where you can come and it's very casual and it's, you know, laid back to the point that they don't even answer the phone when you call.

WALKER

As the bar's former booking agent, musician J.P. McDermott helped create the live music scene with its emphasis on rockabilly music.

MR. J.P. MCDERMOTT

It's part of what I think makes the Quarry House so unique because with that sort of fun music in there on a Saturday night, you get a range of ages. You get people who were listening to Elvis Presley when he first hit the radio and the younger kids who are there at the Quarry House anyway because it's a cool place to be.

WALKER

McDermott thinks that this Silver Spring establishment is the perfect dive.

MCDERMOTT

I think a dive bar's got to have sort of a dark atmosphere. Underground bars work great as dive bars, you know, you're sort of away from the prying eyes of the street. It's got to have some good music, it's got to have an interesting staff and an interesting crowd and, I think, the Quarry House hits on all those bells.

WALKER

And the staff at the Quarry House have plenty of interesting stories.

BANKS

We had a gentleman walk in bare-ass naked and walk up to the bar and say may I have a vodka cranberry? He was very polite. I had some new bartenders in there, jaws dropped, didn't know what to do. And one of the other bartenders, who was kind of training them, just walks up to him, puts his arm around him, and goes, come on, naked guy, and walks him back up the stairs where the police were waiting for him. And I was like, here we go. This is why my parents want me to take computer classes.

WALKER

Tonight, all of the customers are fully clothed and well behaved. Couples are dancing to live music, friends are huddled together at their tables and conversations are piercing through the wailing sound of the Telecaster guitar. In other words, it's just another Saturday night at the Quarry House Tavern. I'm Jerad Walker.

SHEIR

A quick note, Saturday night is Rockabilly night at the Quarry House Tavern and this week, J.P. McDermott will be making an appearance. If you have a favorite dive bar you'd like to nominate for this series, we are all ears. Send an email to metro@wamu.org or send us a tweet. Our handle is @wamumetro.

SHEIR

And now our weekly trip around the region. On today's "Door to Door," we visit Northwest D.C.'s Penn Quarter and Lake Arbor, Md.

MS. NANETTE PARIS

My name is Nanette Paris. I live and work in Penn Quarter. I've been here approximately 11 years or so. It's bordered on the south by Pennsylvania Avenue to the east approximately 5th Street, to the west approximately 11th Street. Many people think that it was a recently developed neighborhood, but it actually started in the early '70s when the Pennsylvania Development Corporation was formed.

MS. NANETTE PARIS

Government officials just decided that it was a shame to have this decaying, deteriorating, beautiful boulevard so they decided to form this corporation and develop this plan to revitalize this area. While this area has been newly developed, it does have a lot of history. When this project that I live in was being developed, someone went over to check and make sure that nobody was living in these vacant buildings.

MS. NANETTE PARIS

What he noticed were some papers and some objects. And he looked a little closer and what did he find, but this treasure trove of artifacts, 20 boxes of newspapers, books, clothing, fabric. And come to find out, it was Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross. She had an office there, the office of Missing Soldiers. And what she tried to do is reconnect soldiers in the Civil War with their families.

MS. NANETTE PARIS

I like the vibrancy. I like having a mix of with the architecture, the new, the old, the historical and then having a mix of people. Having the residents, office workers, tourists altogether.

MR. KEVIN ALEXANDER

My name is Kevin Alexander. I live in Lake Arbor, which is a community within the Mitchellville. Lake Arbor is about 15 miles east of Washington D.C. Lake Arbor approximately has 10,000 residents. I would say the demographics of Lake Arbor is predominantly upwardly mobile. We do have Asians, we do have white people, we do have Hispanics, so we have a cross-range of folks. But the predominant ethnic group here is African-American.

MR. KEVIN ALEXANDER

There are three pretty sizable lakes in Lake Arbor and around each lake is a walking path. It's not uncommon to see children or adults walking or riding their bikes around the paths in Lake Arbor. Last week was the third annual Lake Arbor Jazz Festival, which attracted about 6,000 people and is a friendly-family oriented festival that everyone in the community really, really enjoyed.

MR. KEVIN ALEXANDER

We have our own shopping within the community. We have our own middle school, our own elementary school and then we also have, in the middle of the community, a swimming pool, tennis courts, pavilion and a community clubhouse for the residents to use so it's a really nice place to live.

SHEIR

We heard from Nanette Paris in Penn Quarter and Kevin Alexander in Lake Arbor. If you think your neighborhood should be part of "Door to Door," send an email to metro@wamu.org or visit us on Facebook, that's facebook.com/metroconnection.org. And to see a map of all the doors we've knocked on so far, visit our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

And that's "Metro Connection" for this week. We heard from WAMU's Emily Friedman, Sabri Ben-Achour, Martin Di Caro, Jonathan Wilson, Kavitha Cardoza, Jerad Walker and Raphaella Bennin. Our acting news director is Meymo Lyons. Our managing producer is Tara Boyle. Lauren Landau is our editorial assistant. Our interns are Jessica Officer and Raphaella Bennin. Jonna McKone, Lauren Landau, Raphaella Bennin and Jessica Officer produce "Door to Door." Thanks, as always, to the WAMU engineering and digital media teams for their help with production and the "Metro Connection" website.

SHEIR

Our theme song, ''Every Little Bit Hurts" and our "Door to Door" theme "No, Girl," are from the album "Title Tracks" by John Davis and used with permission of the Ernest Jennings Record Company. You can see all the music we use on our website, that's metroconnection.org. Just click on a story and you'll find information about its accompanying song.

SHEIR

Also on metroconnection.org, you can find our Twitter link, our Facebook link. You can read free transcripts of stories and if you missed part of today's show, you can hear the whole thing by clicking the this week on "Metro Connection" link. To listen to our most recent episodes, click the podcast link or find us on iTunes. We hope you can join us next week when we'll be Looking Back with some of favorite stories from recent months. We'll visit a long gone Capitol Hill with 93-year-old author Mary Z. Gray. We'll hear the tale of a D.C. man who breached the boundaries of earth and sky as one of the world's first pilots and we'll find out what it's like to look back at your childhood and realize your family was keeping a major secret from you.

#1

I learned so much about me as a person and who I am today and that secret had a lot to do with it.

SHEIR

I'm Rebecca Sheir and thanks for listening to "Metro Connection," a production of WAMU 88.5 news.
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