Murder on U Street – Now on Amazon!

Cover for Murder on U Street by Joe Flood

My third novel, MURDER ON U STREET, is now available on Amazon in print and Kindle editions.

In this murder mystery, someone is killing artists and hipsters in Washington, DC. And they’re blogging about it in this social-media soaked novel. It’s up to a cynical DC detective to solve the case against the backdrop of a rapidly gentrifying city. From parties full of bright young things to forgotten housing projects, MURDER ON U STREET depicts life beyond the monuments for ordinary people in Washington, DC.

It’s a sequel to my earlier book, MURDER IN OCEAN HALL. A reader said that my books explain, “How Washington works – and doesn’t.” I thought that was a perfect description, for my aim in these books is show what the city is really like, from someone who has lived here for twenty years.

Buy MURDER ON U STREET today!

Pick the Winner of the DC Shorts Screenplay Competition

Come see the DC Shorts Screenplay Competition tomorrow night at the Navy Memorial. Watch a live reading of short screenplays and you get to decide on the winner. As a judge, I helped pick the finalists. But you get the ultimate choice of who wins $2000.

And while I’m counting the votes, enjoy The Goblin Baby by local filmmaker Shoshana Rosenbaum.

Friday Photo: Poolside Edition

Poolside

Summer is coming to an end. It’s been a very mild Washington summer, the coolest that I remember. The water in the pool is chilly and you can sleep with the windows open.

The days are starting to get a little shorter. The shadows a little longer. Soon, fall will arrive and poolside will be a distant memory.

Matt Mullenweg Is a Very Dangerous Man

Matt Mullenweg is a very dangerous man.

At the inaugural WordPress for Government and Enterprise meetup on May 6, the co-founder of WordPress & founder & CEO of Automattic, discussed the amazing journey of WordPress from a home-spun blogging tool to the world’s most successful enterprise content management platform.

Mullenweg believes in democracy. He believes in competition. He believes in open-source. All dangerous notions in Washington, DC, a city devoted to closed-systems, insider deals and imperial government.

WordPress is free. Government spends hundreds of millions of dollars on complicated content management systems that don’t work. “Why is the free thing better than what your agency spent $5 million on?” Mullenweg asked.

WorePress LogoFor him, users drive software. They are always right. Users will decide whether WordPress survives or fails – and he accepts that. “You win because you’re the best,” he said.

I asked him how government could avoid debacles like healthcare.gov. He called for more transparency, imagining a world in which hackers could fix the doomed health care site and develop their own, better vision.

No one got fired for healthcare.gov. Why should they? The project managers at HHS followed all the policies and procedures for government procurement and contract management. You can’t blame the contractors either – they were just doing what the feds told them to do, as crazy as it must’ve seemed at the time. Healthcare.gov was built according to all the regulations and was a $1 billion failure.

The world is moving in Mullenweg’s direction. We, as consumers, pick winners and losers – not the government. Yet, we have a federal bureaucracy designed for the 1930s.

Walter Russell Mead calls this “the blue model“. He writes:

The core institutions, ideas and expectations that shaped American life for the sixty years after the New Deal don’t work anymore. The gaps between the social system we inhabit and the one we now need are becoming so wide that we can no longer paper over them. But even as the failures of the old system become more inescapable and more damaging, our national discourse remains stuck in a bygone age. The end is here, but we can’t quite take it in.

Big Government doesn’t work in a world that’s become small, dynamic and user-driven. For example, Mullenweg works with a distributed team that gets together once a year. He doesn’t even know what some of his employees look like. In contrast, government spends millions on buildings it doesn’t use and struggles with implementing even the most basic of telecommuting policies.

Working in government, I have an old Dell wired to an ethernet jack. We don’t even have a working copier. Office supplies are locked away. Wi-fi is forbidden.

At home, I have a MacBook Pro, wi-fi, WordPress, a digital camera, Dropbox, an iPad and a host of other tools – as well as better coffee. The consumer market provides me better tools than a billion-dollar bureaucracy.

If government is to survive, it must be reformed. We can no longer afford a massive, unresponsive federal state that’s tied down by endless rules and regulations.

Government must become responsive to citizens. It must adopt the WordPress model that users are always right. Citizens pay for government and they deserve better.

If government does not reform, debacles like healthcare.gov are not only likely – they are inevitable.

Governments like China fear WordPress for the openness and free expression it provides. The American government should fear it too. WordPress demonstrates a new, more democratic and more user-driven way of working together. It’s impossible to go back to the blue model. Matt Mullenweg is a very dangerous man.

Friday Photo: Construction Crane Edition

construction crane

14th Street NW in Washington is one of the hottest corridors in the country. This once beat-up strip lined with auto repair joints is being transformed into blocks of condos, micro-apartments, restaurants and high-end retail. Very high-end.

This is one of the construction cranes that Mayor Gray touts as proof of the city’s growth. He’s right – this crane is building a set of $500,000 condos on the site of an old parking lot.  There used to be empty lots on 14th Street and boarded-up buildings. They’re just about gone now, the march of construction cranes marking their disappearance.

Coffeeneuring #5: Peregrine and the Perils of Grad School

Cappuccino at Peregrine on Capitol Hill
Cappuccino at Peregrine on Capitol Hill #perfection

After last week’s episode of bad coffee in Bethesda, for this week’s coffeeneuring adventure, I was determined to get a good cappuccino.

I knew exactly where to bike to: Peregrine Espresso on Capitol Hill.

And not only was it delicious, it was artistically perfect, as you can see from the photo above. The work of a good barista is indistinguishable from magic.

Peregrine gets a bad rap for being a hipster haven, of being home to skinny jeans, ironic facial hair and hipper-than-thou attitudes. But it’s not the staff that’s the problem, I realized as I looked for a place to sit. It’s the patrons.

I had to perch on a stool in a corner because the tables were occupied by grad students with laptops. While I’ve  done my share of work in coffee shops, I would never choose a busy store like Peregrine. And I certainly wouldn’t occupy multiple chairs with my textbooks, knitware and electronic devices.

Nobody cares about your grad school dissertation – that is what I felt like shouting. Ten years from now, you will not even remember what that paper was about. And your thesis advisor, the only other person to have ever read it, won’t remember either.

Grad school won’t get you a better job. I’d be more impressed by someone who managed a Wendy’s than someone with an MA. The Wendy’s manager had to get people to show up and work every single day – that’s really hard, and much more impressive accomplishment than going to classes.

Besides, all those old rules and gatekeepers are coming down. Our most successful companies, like Facebook and Apple, were founded by college dropouts. There is no reason to genuflect before some academy before you can do what you want. You can do so now.

Avoid the trap of grad school. Instead, take advantage of the opportunities that cheap tech and the internet have brought us. Want to be a director? Go shoot a movie with your iPhone. Aspire to run a company? Use Kickstarter to raise the money. Want to change the world? Use Meetup to start organizing people.

If for no other reason, avoid grad school so you can enjoy Sunday afternoons outside. Ten years from now, you’ll remember sunny fall days like today – not the time you wasted hunched in front of a computer.

Coffeeneuring #3: Union Market

The great thing about coffeneuring is that it gets you biking to new places. Coffeeneuring #1 sent me to Buzz Bakery and their delicious red velvet cupcakes. Coffeeneuring #2 was a trip to hipsterville aka Big Bear in Bloomingdale.

For my third coffeeneuring adventure,  I decided to visit Union Market. This wholesale market in Northeast DC (formerly known as the Florida Avenue Market) has been reinvented as an artisanal shopping experience.

To get there, Google Maps sent me across the city via M Street. I thought the route was crazy, but I played along.

the Google Maps route to Union Market
Logan Circle to Union Market, the crazy Google way.

The Google sent me down M Street through Shaw, across Mad Max-style New York Avenue and through NoMa streets torn up from construction. After going under the railroad tracks, I just followed the hipsters up to the market.

Union Market is home to more than a dozen different restaurants and retail shops, including Peregrine Coffee, Dolcezza Gelato, Co Co. Sala and TaKorean. It’s sort of “city in a box” where you can shop for all your luxury treats in one location. Continue reading “Coffeeneuring #3: Union Market”

Friday Photo: Two Phones Edition

Two phones
I have two phones on my desk.

I had too much fun during the government shutdown, taking advantage of the unpaid break to drink in beer gardens, eat delicious jamon and go on coffeeneuring adventures.

But now it’s back to work. While my bank account is thankful for this, the reintroduction to the absurdities of government can be a painful one.

I have two phones. We’re switching from our 90s era phones to new ones. Rather than just replace one with the other, they left both, so I have two phones on my desk with two different numbers. It’s like I’m a 1950s businessman. I haven’t had the chance to talk on both phones at the same time, barking out orders, but I’m hopeful I will have a chance to do so soon.