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A Home Efficiency Stress Test

by Ross Shearer


Last winter's stubborn chill imposed an involutary stress test on the capacity of our houses to keep us comfortabe. That chill and February's natural gas rate spike motivated some of us on Vienna's Community Enhancement Commission to compare our consumption for space heat. Those of us who have invested in making imprvements to the efficiency performance of our older house had up to 40% better results.

The benefits are not limited to the financial savings and lowered emissions. I enjoy improved indoor comfort, humidity is more easily managed, the late spring ant invasion is nearly eliminated and the addit odors intruding into second floor bedrooms on hot sunny days are no longer present.

The four most effective actions I have taken are:
1. sealing the basement bandboard area with foam.
2. blocking off openings between second floor and attic.
3. new cellulose attic insulation.
4. installing a very high efficiency gas furnace.

A blower door test allowed me to locate and deal with significant areas of leakage that were hidden from view.

The results: My 50-year-old house required 8.2 therms of heating per 100 square feet during January and February. If you heat with gas, calculate how well your house compares: Add the therms used in January and February. Unless your hot water is electric, subtract from that sum the therms from last year's July and August bills. Divide the result by the size of your house in square feet, including heated basement area, and mutiply the result by 100. If yours is an older house (built before 1980) and the resut is lower than 10.0, the CEC would like to hear about your success and how your achieved it.

A blower door test begins with a fan in your doorway, to pressurizes the entire house, either positive or negative.

This creates noticable drafts which can be detected easily with a thermal infrared camera.

Interested in an Energy Audit for your home? Contact Beth at 703-732-4576.

Coming Up: Saving energy by looking at your insulation.

Ross Shearer is a Westbriar Civic Association member and serves on the Vienna Community Enhancement Commission for the Town of Vienna

Creek Crossing Speed
Calming Verdict In

11/14/14 by Leon

Ballots have been counted, and the results are in. Enough voters turned in their ballots to achieve a quorum. Of these, a majority of 107 voters (54.6%) wanted the traffic calming, and 89 (45.4%) did not.

Because 60% was needed to pass the measure, Creek Crossing will remain as-is for the foreseeable future.

Traffic calming on this street has been an issue for as long as many people can remember. But this is the first time that anyone has taken the steps all the way to see what could be done about it.

It would seem that traffic calming is not as popular with the general public as it is with those living next to a problematic street. But considering the closeness of the vote, and that a third of the eligible voters did not even send in their post-paid ballots, it is tempting to speculate on whether a more aggressive door-to-door campaign might have made a difference. At any rate, if history is a guide, the issue will likely be revisited in the future.

The person who worked this Fairfax County program is Dr. Micha Joffee, who lives in Westbriar. Our Civic Association picked up the ballot expenses for its 90 homes in the voting bloc because it was considered a beneficial civic exercise.

Joffee personally funded the much larger ballot expenses of the County residents, because they do not have a functioning Civic Association at this time. He also funded two informational mailings to all 299 voters.

"Dr. Joffee's dedication on this project was an example of community spirit at its finest," said Westbriar Association President John Shreffler.

Micha Joffe

NEW Free Concert Coming Up 11/11/14

Talented Westbriar vocalist releases her first CD

Westbriar's own diva extraordinaire Danielle Talamantes will be hosting a
CD release concert and reception at the Vienna Presbyterian Church on Sunday, November 23, 7PM.

The album is Canciones Españolas, an eclectic sampling of some of the most popular folk songs in Spain. Passionate and evocative, it's the perfect background music as you read the exploits of Don Quixote, or revisit Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls. The concert is free, no tickets, but door donations are accepted.

Can't make the concert? Listen HERE at 7PM on 11/23 streaming live.

NEW Church Street
Holiday Stroll 2014

Monday, December 1 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Join us for this popular holiday event along Church Street. Santa will arrive at the Freeman Store to help Mayor DiRocco light the tree at 6:20 pm. All merchants along Church Street will remain open for holiday shoppers.

Enjoy fun family friendly activities including a petting zoo, free hot chocolate and roasting marshmallows at supervised bonfires. Holiday entertainment will be provided throughout the evening. Caboose and train station will be open.

NEW A Pair of Parties!    Meet our Town Government and our voice out at the Fairfax Government Center!

Party #1
Wednesday, December 10
Hunter Mill Holiday Open House

Flame Room, Vienna Volunteer Fire House
4:30 - 6:30 p.m.

Supervisor Cathy Hudgins & Staff invites us all for a cup of cheer and more. Count on great sandwiches and cookies.See you there!

Party #2
Friday, December 12
Vienna Annual Holiday Reception

Vienna Town Hall
4:00 - 6:00 p.m.

The Mayor and Town Council invites us all for more of the same. Music supplied by JMHS Madrigals, and the Vienna Choral Society.

Water Line Break 11/8/14

Vienna DPW workers were called out for a Sunday repair of a water line break under Echols Street SE in Westbriar's Zone A.

Echols is a busy commuter route which parallels Route 123. Delaying the job until Monday would have caused traffic problems.


Food for Others
Facility Dedicated

New warehouse space was opened in Merrifield for the launch of the 20th year of Food for Others. FFO is a safety net for Northern Virginia residents needing food when an emergency strikes.

Interested in helping? Call Nikki Clifford
at 703-207-9173 or Click.

Fairfax Bond Issue Passes 11/5/14

The Transportation Bond Question passed yesterday. In our Hunter Mill District, 73.3% voted Yes, compared to 71.8% overall in Fairfax County. A number of civic organizations in the greater Vienna and Reston areas, including Westbriar, have been working on trail issues, especially into the Tysons area. Dan Benson, who is the Transportation Advisor at The Trails at Wolftrap HOA, thanks you all for the support.

Bicycles make a lot of sense, especially in an urban area. Compare two commuters going ten miles to work. One exhales perhaps a bathtub-full of CO2 into the atmosphere, over and above what he would exhale at rest. The other is the sole passenger in an SUV which exhales a garage-full of CO2 plus other green house gasses and soot over the same distance. The bicyclist is better for our environment, and is keeping fit. They both the share the roads for the most part. But this is not ideal. Sometimes motorists become impatient behind the slower bicycle. When there is contact, the bicyclist always pays the price. A comprehensive pedestrian and bicycle trail system is a vital part of the Tysons plan.

LEAF COLLECTION began in late October and will continue through December. The first of a total of three passes is just being completed. Exact scheduling is made on the basis of "facts on the ground," and signs will be placed at entrances to neighborhoods. You may also bag your leaves for your regular weekly collection day. Use clear plastic bags or paper yard waste bags. For more information about leaf collection, call the Town of Vienna Public Works Department 703-255-6380, or click HERE.

To prevent the wind from undoing all your hard work, try to get your leaves to the curb "just in time" for the vacuum truck. Yes, maybe easier said than done.

Worth the wait!




Redskins trombonist delivers a raspy riff

Bolivian La Diablada dancer

A Gigantic Tennis Shoe proclaims this year's theme:

Girls Sports!


Trick or Treat?



W&OD Trail
Offshoot Dedicated


The new trailhead is about 2.5 miles north of the Caboose, and marked by a sign, a plaque, and a small kiosk shelter.

As if the cloudless sky and the autumn leaves were not bright enough, about twenty of the group were clad in a rainbow of colorful Lykra riding suits. In addition to those who showed up especially for the Saturday morning event, many trail users paused their jaunt and joined. It was, after all, for them.

The occasion was a ribbon-cutting to open a new trail branch heading north to Meadowlark Gardens, a premier piece of eye candy for trail users in a comptemplative mood.

The Meadowlark branch has been in the works for a while as details were worked out. Now, with a key bridge completed, it was time to celebrate. The W&OD Trail is one of the finest in the country. It is not only the trail itself, but the interesting places that you can easily access a short distance away. This new branch is but an example of many more to come.

Getting ready to make the cut is Brian Knapp, Keith Laughlin, President of Rails to Trails, and Vienna Mayor, Laurie DiRocco.

Popularity of trails is on the increase. Over 80% of respondents to national surveys show trails to be among the top items on wishlists for people in urban areas.

At left, Brian Knapp, Chairman of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority delivered the keynote address.

New trail. Click to enlarge.


he power line marching through the backyards of Westbriar is the extension cord that powers Tysons. Three hundred meters spans the forest that was recently spared from the woodman's axe.

Under the line is a path, well-worn, but fit only for the most agile. It crosses the Spring Branch Creek for the sure-footed, but only during low water. Even then your choice is fording a gravelly area up to your ankles, or clambering over sharp rocks. When rains come, the "Asphalt Triangle" comprised of Routes 7, 123, Old Courthouse, and Gosnell Roads, two shopping centers, and the huge car dealships disgorge the runoff that quickly makes the stream an impassible torrent.

The master plan for the Tyson makeover has put a premium on walkability and bikability. A network of trails is a vital part of that goal. The Vesper Trail has been looked at for many years as an important link.

Last night, Fairfax County unveiled their plan for making the route safe year 'round for pedestrians and bicyclists. The project is Federally funded, and already approved. It is estimated to cost about $1.5 million, and will be finished in 2016. Detailed descriptions and artist renderings were displayed on tripods and walls of the Westbriar Elementary School cafeteria.

The audience of about 50, mostly residents of Greater Tysons Green, were generally pleased with the plan. No one expressed any serious objections, but some concerns were raised during a Question-Answer session.

One concern was whether the bridge span was wide enough to carry the storm water. It seemed a bit small for the realities of a large storm. Another was the lighting, and whether it would be an annoyance to residents along Higdon Drive. Currently proposed lighting is on 18 foot poles spaced 85 feet apart.

A strategically-placed cement
block aids the present dicey trek.

Another concern was the possibility of the trail becoming too popular, especially with commuters who may overuse the surrounding streets and create parking problems for residents.

Nobody was happier than the many bicyclists present. While admittedly Tysons would be a long walk, especially for us in Westbriar, it will be a real boon for the 2-Wheel set coming from anywhere in Vienna. The route will eliminate dangerous maneuvering along 123, Old Courthouse Road and Gosnell.

The bicyclists expressed appreciation to the County for the resurfacing of another forest-crossing trail, Ashgrove Lane, The potholes were getting to be downright dangerous, especially in low light conditions.

Vanessa Aguayo describes
Vesper Trail features.

Lawrence Weisgal installs rails
on the Ashgrove Lane bridge.

The Maple Avenue Corridor initiative officially became part of Vienna Town Code last night. MAC is a framework of zoning refinements, recommendations, and other incentives which will encourage compact, pedestrian-oriented development, consistent with preserving Vienna's unique small-town identity. The adoption of MAC is the culmination of years of work by various groups, and input over the summer from Vienna citizens.

Green Dot Scam:
Still Going Strong

We have covered this topic before, but this week's Vienna Police Reports shows no let up in this vicious scam. A Westbriar resident on St. Andrews Drive was a target, but fortunately he did not fall for it.

Ring! A telephone caller, who represents himself as being from the IRS, claims you owe back taxes. He directs you to go to a drug store and purchase a Green Dot MoneyPak card, usually for several hundred dollars. Once you do that, he directs you to read the numbers from the card. At that point he has the money, and you have nothing but a hole in your bank account.

A Rite-Aid employee called the police after a customer bought several thousand dollars worth of cards, and was actually talking to the scammer on his cell phone. The responding officer was able to intervene.

No legitimate government or utility company demands payment with these cards. A number of other ruses are used, such as your relative has been arrested in a foreign country and needs to be bailed out of jail. Or, you have won a huge prize. The variations are endless. If you receive any call of this nature, hang up and call the police.

Water, Water, Everywhere

Here's an excerpt from Chairman Bulova's Byline Oct 2014 that caught our eye. It involves one of the area's best-kept secret places to spend an enjoyable day: Occoquan. The best part is the little historical "nugget" about the river that probably few are aware of.

Last weekend I participated in a ground breaking for the future renovation of the Occoquan Regional Park. Over the next two years, this park will be rebuilt as a major waterfront destination park. The largest feature in the refurbished park will be the Jean R. Packard Occoquan Center.

Through a future Park Bond Referendum, Fairfax County has pledged to fund the "1608 Room," which will focus on Explorer John Smith's excursion up the Potomac River in 1608 with a crew from the Jamestown Colony. They were the first Europeans to visit what is today Occoquan Regional Park. The 1608 Room will educate visitors about this historic part of Fairfax County, including native vegetation, wildlife and people. The main room will offer stunning views of the river and will be available for gala functions and receptions, becoming one of the signature sites in the region for social gatherings. A cafe will offer park users an attractive place for a casual meal while enjoying the beautiful surroundings - a perfect complement to the Workhouse Arts Center next door.

Jean Packard attended the groundbreaking event and was as gracious and sharp as ever. For those who may not know of Jean's many contributions to Fairfax County, she served as the Board of Supervisors first woman chairman from 1972 to 1975; just 55 years after suffragettes seeking the vote for women were treated brutally at the Occoquan prison (now the Regional Park and Workhouse Arts Center grounds). Jean went on to serve in leadership roles in pretty much every environmental board or initiative throughout the next four decades. She is best known for her efforts in protecting the County's drinking water from dense development through the downzoning of the Occoquan watershed in the 1980's. Thank you, Jean!

While celebrating Jean Packard's contributions toward protecting one of our most important resources - water - I was reminded of another individual who stepped up to the plate at a critical time in history to ensure Fairfax County's access to clean water.

Paul Andino served as my appointee on the Water Authority Board for over 20 years, with his wife Margaret stepping in for him during Paul's illness in 2008. In 1996, during Paul's service, Fairfax Water was attempting to build a new off-shore intake on the Potomac River to take advantage of the higher water quality deeper in the river. Maryland had permitting authority because the boundary between Maryland and Virginia is at the Virginia shoreline.

In December of 1997, Maryland denied the permit, kicking off a long legal and political battle over rights to the Potomac River. Paul was not a lawyer or a professional historian, but he was an avid reader of history. During these days prior to the Internet, when research meant climbing over shelves and pouring through dusty volumes of books, Paul was able to produce what was later described as the "gold nugget" solution for Virginia's right to water in the Potomac.

The gold nugget was the 1785 "Mount Vernon Compact." The compact was written at Mount Vernon at the urging of George Washington with representatives of both Virginia and Maryland to try to resolve a dispute on the boundary between the states. Virginia was represented by George Mason and Alexander Henderson. The compact's seventh article stated, "The citizens of each state, respectively, shall have full property on the shores of the Potowmack River adjoining their lands, with all emoluments and advantages thereunto belonging, and the privilege of making and carrying out wharves and other improvements, so as not to obstruct or injure the navigation of the river..." Further research uncovered the 1977 Black Jenkins Award which affirmed Virginia's "full enjoyment of her riparian rights." The happy end to the story is that Virginia won her case which went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Yea, Paul!

Why do we bother with spelling?

Unlike chess, in spelling the middle game is irrelevant. All that matters is the right choice at the beginning and the end. The middle letters, which must be the correct set of letters, can be completely jumbled and the reader will not be confused. For example:

Arocdnicg to rsceearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pcale. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit pobelrm. Tihs is buseace the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

How can this little known God-given ability of the human brain be exercised to simplify, and perhaps improve, our lives?

Make the Ordinary Come Alive

Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is a way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples, and pears. Show them how to cry when pets and people die. Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself.

By William Martin

Red Army Invades the Town Hall 9/22/14

What a summer!

Vienna's own 9-10 year old Little Leaguers had an astonishing run to look back on as they took on all comers, and went on to claim the 2014 Virginia State and District Championship trophies.

The Team, known as the Red Army, did a victory lap Monday night at the Vienna Town Council meeting, as Mayor Laurie DiRocco introduced them to an appreciative audience.

Congratulations, guys!

Going Up
Wu's Garden?

Wu's Garden, a Vienna landmark for many decades, closed its doors last winter, much to the sorrow of the region's fans of Chinese food delux.

In its place, the steel structure of a new building is rising quickly. When finished, it will be the home of two new dining choices: Potbelly, and Zoe's Kitchen. Both are growing chains, featuring fast, but made to order sandwiches, soups and salads. Potbelly is decidedly American, but Zoe's has a Mediterranean slant. Both offer catering as well as on-line ordering.

LEFT: A little bit of Wu's Garden will stay behind. A portion of the original brick wall just happened to fit into the new design, saving some construction costs

Freeman House
1st in Vienna

The Freeman House is the first 3-D Vienna
building in Google Earth.

If you are familiar with the remarkable free computer program Google Earth, this will be just a note of passing interest. But if you are not familiar, and you download it, your life will be changed forever. You may start spending all your waking hours learning more about our world than you ever thought possible.

Virtually every square inch of the world has now been photographed in high resolution, many times over. Google Earth puts all these photos onto a virtual globe, and gives you the tools to fly anywhere, and zoom in on the details. You can see your house and your car in the driveway. You can "drive" down streets and experience the streetscapes in seamless photography.

You can also see 3 dimensional buildings from above. The Freeman House is the first such building in Vienna. Note the caboose in the lower left is just a blob on the ground, as is the roof of Dr. Gannon's office in the upper left. But the Freeman House has been enhanced, and you can circle around it like a bird, seeing all sides accurately from the point of view of your location above it. Almost all large buildings in downtown Washington DC are now rendered in 3-D.



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