Waiter, a Smaller Check, Please

This memo just arrived from the National Council of State Housing Agencies, sent to "media contacts" from director of policy and government affairs Barbara J. Thompson regarding a "misdirected fax":

"Some of you accidentally received last evening a fax from us concerning a transaction with a New York restaurant which we are in the process of resolving. We apologize that this fax was somehow misdirected to you. We did not intend press publicity of this matter and ask that you give it none."

No problem. It was just about an exceptionally nasty dispute the organization was having with La Reserve restaurant in Manhattan over the cost of the group's upcoming annual dinner in December.

Seems the housing folks thought dinner was going to be about $95 per person, but the restaurant ended up demanding about double that.

NCSHA executive director John T. McEvoy faxed a note to the restaurant. It began friendly enough, saying there seemed to be a "misunderstanding" and he'd like "help in straightening it out . . ."

Otherwise, McEvoy continued, NCSHA would sue, sic local prosecutors on the restaurant, bad-mouth the eatery around town and do just about everything but stink-bomb the place. Yikes!

Given that the dinner is just around the corner, we trust this will be resolved.

Slipping Down Memory Lane

It often seems that only the federal government suffers from computer glitches and such. But here's an e-mail sent a while back to everyone at the Fairfax County Department of Family Services from Howard Wiener, director of information systems at the Virginia Department of Social Services. It explains why ADAPT, short for Virginia's Application Benefit Delivery Automation Project, which has been plagued by problems, was having a bad day.

"DIT [Department of Information Technology] tells us that all indications show today's service failures were due to `memory leaks,' " Wiener reported. "A memory leak is caused by a program that borrows memory for some purpose, and forgets to give it back. Sooner or later, after taking but not giving, the system believes it has run out of memory and just stops."

Wiener noted that "this problem is not caused by ADAPT per se," but apparently by the "amount of work our 1,500 concurrent users are pushing through the system in any given period of time . . . We

believe that our problems from the last several weeks have forced even more people to work" from paper, rather than computer. "Confidence in ADAPT is rapidly slipping."

Bound to happen when your memory starts leaking.

Thanks for Clearing That Up

The Foreign Service has a time-in-class (TIC) system, meaning that folks must get promotions within specified times or find other work. The State Department's absorption of the U.S. Information Agency required new regulations in this regard. Foreign Service director general Edward W. "Skip" Gnehm Jr. sent out a note recently saying he was "pleased to report to you on a recent agreement" with the Foreign Service Association on the new TIC rules.

Gnehm said the rules are "a major accomplishment."

Guess we'll have to take his word for it. Here's a bit of his explanation:

". . . If a specialist is promoted from 02 to 01 in less than 15 years as an 02, they can carry over one year of single-class TIC for each year less than 15 spent at the class 2 level, up to a maximum of 5 years," Gnehm wrote. "As at 02 this unused time can be added to their 01 single class TIC. However, if a specialist spends 15 years or longer as a 02, they can add no time to their 15 year 01 single class TIC."

Sure sounds like a major accomplishment.

Radio Waves

John M. "Jack" Albertine may be, according to the information distributed by his consulting firm and printed here recently, a "very close personal friend of [Treasury Secretary] Larry Summers," and no doubt "has been on several Outward Bound excursions headed by [Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman] Arthur Levitt Jr." But Albertine has most assuredly not been "frequently heard on National Public Radio's Marketplace."

That's because "this popular program is not distributed by National Public Radio, but rather by Public Radio International," writes Linda Sue Anderson, assistant to PRI's senior vice president of marketing. She referred us to a fact sheet, which clarifies:

"PRI & NPR: Public Radio International and National Public Radio are the two major distribution services for public radio. Individual public radio stations can be affiliates of both PRI and NPR, selecting programming offered by each. `Public radio' is a generic term, while `Public Radio International' and `National Public Radio' refer to specific distributors." How could Albertine not have known this? How could we not have known?

Tips and comments for Al Kamen's column are welcomed at: In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or by e-mail at Loop@washpost.com. Please include home and work phone numbers.