Off-topic comic relief

Part the first, from the New York Times:

Speaking at a public symposium, a member of Parliament, Seiichi Ota, recently made light of reports of gang rapes at a Tokyo university. "Boys who commit group rape are in good shape," Mr. Ota said. "I think they are rather normal. Whoops, I shouldn't have said that."
Part the second. My brother visited recently, and on the flight back home he was wearing a T-shirt bearing the logo of "28 Days Later", the British-made zombie flick that was recently released here. Said logo is stark white text over a stylized black "biohazard" symbol. A stewardess on the flight asked if it was the sequel to that Sandra Bullock movie.

When suburbanites attack

Calvert County's not unusual among Washington suburbs; former rural farmland, with zoning laws more suited for farmland still in place, that has been heavily developed into residential subdivisions over the past few years.

One family that moved there and opened a tree and landscaping nursery came under fire from one of those always level-headed neighborhood groups, which claimed that the permits for the nursery shouldn't have been approved. What has followed are accusations of equipment sabotage and a $2 million defamation lawsuit.

Self-important much, suburbanties? This isn't like someone coming in and trying to tear down Marvin Gaye's old house and replace it with a Wal-Mart. This is a battle to the death over a fucking nursery in the suburbs.


Contractors Allegedly Billed D.C. for TVs

You just can't find good help nowadays... that won't rob you blind... if you're not paying attention.

Contractors renovating city office space spent more than $60,000 for eight plasma televisions, only one of which has been accounted for, D.C. Council member Jim Graham revealed yesterday.


International Builders Inc., which is headed by Fernando "Fred" Villegas, listed in its files eight plasma televisions for $60,000 and Washington Wizards tickets costing $7,310. Graham said he doesn't know who used the Wizards tickets.
Well, this also explains why I can't afford Wizards tickets; I'm not stealing money from the city.

Who's More Rednecky?

Everyone's favorite game.

One of the reasons my wife was happy to leave Atlanta was because of all the surrounding rednecks and their less-than-enlightened social politics. Now that we live in Arlington, Va., I maintain that the surrounding areas here are as bad or worse (not just rural Virginia, but Northern Virginia as well). This Post article helps my position:

That's what Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William) says he fears. "The apocalypse for society is contained in this decision," Marshall said.

He called the ruling "cultural suicide" and said the justices involved wear the "black robes of death."

"The most fundamental unit of society is the family -- husband, wife, children -- and when you attempt to parody that and make some new structure or some alternate structure, you cannot contain it; you have to have gay recognition," Marshall said.

Nevertheless, Marshall pledged to fight that outcome by opposing any furthering of gay rights in Virginia.


The state also is home to such leading national conservatives as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who both condemned Thursday's ruling.

The Republican-controlled state legislature has fought annual efforts by gay groups to gain rights, while making curbs on abortion a legislative priority. Conservative legislators say they are confident that their social proposals are in the mainstream of public opinion in Virginia.

Anti-sodomy laws date to the early 17th century, when Capt. John Smith and the first settlers set foot on the Jamestown peninsula.


State Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax) said he would fight any extension of gay rights. He added that "homosexuality is wrong." Cuccinelli said gay rights will be an immediate campaign issue.

All 140 seats in the General Assembly are on the ballot Nov. 4. Cuccinelli predicted that candidates will use the issue to let voters know where their values lie, much as they do with the issue of abortion.

"This will be a strong indicator on a variety of issues for some voters," he said.
But props to Gov. Warner, whose position is that the state shouldn't let such hot-button social issues get in the way of legislative work on schools, taxes, and other non-sexy legislative topics. At least he's got it right.


Must escape

Two of the three clothes dryers in our apartment complex are broken. Rather than wait in line until midnight to do my laundry, I took my clothes to a laundromat. What fun it was to lug around a hamper full of clothes in 95-degree heat and smog-filled air. And also to sit around in a laundromat for an hour and half watching Spanish-language soap operas. Just an absolute fucking blast.

It sure would be nice to get away from the heat. Maybe hit the beach; Ocean City, Md. is the closest one, and I've never been there. (Partially because crossing the Chesapeake Bay toll bridge on a weekend apparently takes an hour.) Wonder what it's like.

Onnnn second thought... maybe I'll just stay home and spritz myself with water. Uggghhhhh. Summer blows.


The bow tie must be cutting off circulation to his brain

D.C. has been after representation in Congress for decades. Literally decades, all this time without representation in the Senate and House. It's even on their license plates: "TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION." (Way to go, guys. There's a great slogan for the tourism deparment.)

Anyway, Rep. Tom Davis from Virginia (a Republican, no less) is considering a plan to add two new seats to the House; one of them would be an extra seat for Maryland, and it would actually also encompass the District. The other seat would be in Utah, so they would probably be adding one Democrat and one Republican. Sounds like a good compromise, and it would put a representative in the House... that's a huge step towards fixing D.C.'s disenfranchisement. So, naturally, D.C. Mayor Tony Williams said...


"Should we be taking a step toward -- which I think it could potentially be -- retrosession into Maryland? That's a huge step I'm not willing to get on board with," Williams says.

"I am not ready to get on board being part of Maryland. No offense to Maryland. Love 'em dearly. They've been allies of ours but no."
Whaaaaaah?! It's a representative in Congress! D.C. has been fighting for this for 200 years... and you're going to say no just because it would group you with Maryland? Hello!? That's a good thing!

Of course, I don't think it would a bad idea for D.C. to join Maryland full-time, and get both state money and full representation. Shunning this opportunity seems like a gigantic mistake to me.

This whole situation is so weird... it's like those episodes of The Prisoner where Number 6 tries to escape, and you're all, "Hey, he might do it this time!" He makes his daring escape, and lands in London in the office of his old boss, but just as he's about to spill all the details of why he resigned, Number 6 figures out that he was still in the Village all along, and then Number 2 laughs at him. This is just like that.

On another note related to Democratic politics, Williams, who would be one of D.C.'s super delegates for the presidential election, says he's not ready yet to support the winner of of the first-in-the nation primary. Norton, who is another super delegate, has pledged to support whomever the winner is.

"You may get a candidate where, in the party politics down the road, the District could be marginalized," Williams said.
Wait... what does that mean? He would consider not casting his vote for whomever actually wins the election? He might pick someone the people of D.C. didn't actually vote for? I think that's what he is saying. Does that make any sense at all?

Oy. Not a good day for democracy in the District.

And so begins the summer of not being able to breathe

Let's get this smog party started. Yesterday marked the first Code Red day for severe smog in Washington. It happened in only the fourth sunny day of the summer. So after weeks and weeks of rain, which prevented me from going outside to ride my bike or shoot some hoops, now it's sunny, but I can't fucking breathe when I go outside. A thick haze hangs over Washington all day, from the moment I wake up.

The problem is cars. Millions of them on the roads, every day, idling in rush hour traffic, spending more than twice as much time on the road as they should, spewing pollution into the atmosphere. When it gets hot like yesterday and today, all that stagnant pollution just hangs over the city.

The irony of our situation is: I've never seen a city/region/metropolis/whatever so commited to anti-sprawl measures. And I've never seen those measures fail so very utterly.

Almost every time someone tries to build a new housing development or shopping center, or build more roads and expand on existing roads, residents put up a huge fight, because they don't want the increased traffic congestion that comes with such developments. It's very much a not-in-my-backyard situation.

There are problems with this, though, at least locally. First, it has driven property values through the roof. Finding affordable housing is a serious problem, but even though Washington residents and city councils often oppose and restrict new housing developments, it hasn't stopped people from moving here. As a result, people who work in Washington simply choose to move further away, simply because they can afford a better home out there. And these commuters are willing to go to some extreme lengths; one couple who works in my office lives two hours away in West Virginia. That's West Virginia the state, as in "mountain mama, take me home." That is a long fucking way out, but they and a lot of other people are willing to spend that much time on the road in order to make a decent living.

We also see several measures designed to encourage people to carpool. Here in Northern Virginia, for example, Interstate 66 is the main artery into D.C. proper. It's the only expressway that leads directly west, out into the suburbs of Fairfax and Prince William Counties. However, inside the Beltway (a perimeter-type Interstate that circles Washington), this Interstate is only two lanes wide, and that's not anywhere close to providing enough capacity to service all the people who work in D.C. but live in the western suburbs.

So, to limit the number of cars on I-66 inside the Beltway and encourage carpooling, the entire Interstate is limited to "High Occupancy Vehicles" (HOV) only. Not just one or two lanes, mind you; the entire Interstate. If you're driving by yourself, you can't legally be on I-66 eastbound in the morning, or westbound in the afternoon/evening. I've never seen such a set-up before moving here. (This apparently isn't enforced too tightly, but whatever.)

Obviously, that isn't going to be convenient for a lot of people. Sometimes it's hard to set up a carpool, and sometimes you just need to be able to drive yourself places. There are two other potential D.C. invasion options. The first is George Washington Memorial Parkway, which is normally a pleasant and scenic drive along the Potomac River. The road travels northwest out of D.C. and eventually hits the Beltway a few miles north of I-66. But there's one problem: in the morning, the downtown exits for Georgetown and Arlington are closed, ostensibly because residents of these neighborhoods don't want to deal with the extra traffic. You might not even realize the exits are closed until you get there; the signs that tell you this aren't especially clear by the parkway entrances, and as you might imagine I've been surprised before by my exit being blocked off.

The other option is U.S. Route 50, Arlington Blvd., which also travels directly west from D.C., but has traffic lights every few blocks. As you can imagine, it gets pretty crowded in the morning the closer you get to D.C.; I've seen cars sitting in traffic waiting to cross the bridge into the District as late as 10 a.m. But if you're driving by yourself, this becomes the only option for getting into D.C. from the west.

These measures to curb new housing developments and single-occupant vehicle traffic might have had a shot at reducing sprawl and pollution. Unfortunately, Washington and its suburbs have provided neither affordable close-to-the-city housing nor sufficient railway alternatives.

Here in Virginia, there isn't even enough money (or support from Richmond) to widen the roads to an appropriate number of lanes. More and more people are moving further away, and when they drive into D.C. in the morning, they are forced to take ridiculous, time-wasting detours around neighborhood-imposed barricades. That is, if they're in not a carpool and sitting in stopped traffic on the two-laned I-66. All these cars are either idling or driving more miles than they should have to, both activities resulting in more smog and more Code Red days. Which, in turn, leads to less federal highway funding. Great.

So basically, this is a vicious cycle with no way out. I think more trains would help. Supposedly a Metro extension up the Dulles Toll Road and through Tyson's Corner is in the works, although the local governments are dragging their feet when it comes to funding it, and even a lot of local residents don't want to spend tax dollars on such a project (even as they choke on the smog). If such a line were in place now, I could take my car off the road and ride it from Court House to Tyson's. Honestly, I can't believe there's no train service to Dulles airport right now; you have to either drive there, take a $60+ cab, or take the slow-moving Metro coach from West Falls Church.

Who planned this city anyway? Sometimes it feels like it was organized by commitee. Oh wait, it was.
Thursday news roundup

Some idiot managed to drive his car onto the Metro tracks in Silver Spring, interrupting service for several hours, which probably made a couple people late.

Maryland's governor is withholding $650 million in payments to state agencies, and Prince George's County cut $50.5 million from its schools budget.

Also in PG County, the police mistakenly arrested three women in a murder case, and jailed them for three weeks, the latest in a long-running string of civil rights violations by the department.

D.C. police received an anonymous tip about the high school football star who was murdered for his sneakers last week, "describing the possible assailant as a black male in his late teens or early twenties, six feet tall with a slim build, wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans at the time of the shooting." All right, way to narrow it down. I think I might have seen that guy walking around.

But hey, when the world gets you down, at least you can read Jen Waters of the Washington Times presented by Home Depot, as she goes into pornographic detail about erecting gazebos. Great, because I really needed more stories about rich people wanking themselves off by building gaudy, unnecessary structures in their yards.


Washington Times: "We hate fags"

This should come as no surprise after the "news" story from the other day. Staff editorial about the subject today:

Overwhelming data confirms that healthy children flourish best under the nurturing love between a man and a woman.
Overwhelming data, no less. Overwhelming data which is not specified here.

While sexual orientation should not deprive someone of the constitutional provision of equal protection under law, such rights do not imply the right to same-sex marriage. To adopt such policies would devalue and threaten the sacred tradition of marriage.
I don't understand this argument at all. If two gay guys want to go through a marriage ceremony to show their devotion to each other, this doesn't affect my marriage in the slightest.

The unique sanctity of the heterosexual family is not only the bedrock of American culture — it is the first principle of all human societies. While the world's great religions all assert this truth, the empirical evidence that it has been embraced by all peoples across all time stands on its own as proof of its validity.
Oh, so it stands on its own. Good thing this isn't a newspaper, where you're supposed to back up opinions with facts... oooops.

You know, the Times claims to not be under the editorial influence of its owner, "Rev." (in quotes to borrow a Times technique) Sun Myung Moon, but this editorial should pretty much debunk that. Moon's Unification Church is largely centered around the belief that... hell, I can't even type this without laughing. Take it away, about.com:

One of the Unification Church doctrines which has attracted the most negative attention is the idea that the Fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden was not so much a result of simple disobedience to God's commands but, rather, the result of an illicit sexual union between Eve and the Lucifer. As a consequence of this, all of her children were born with defective natures, something which God has attempted to rectify by sending religious leaders to humanity.

One of these key figures was Jesus, but he died before he was able to marry and father children who would have lacked a defective nature. Thus, he was only able to offer humanity spiritual redemption. Moon, however, was determined not to fail in the same way and his marriage in 1960 is depicted as an important step in his effort to achieve a complete redemption of humanity. Another factor in this effort is the emphasis on mass, arranged marriages between members of the Unification Church. According to the Church's doctrines, the children of such marriages are also born without the defective natures which result from Eve's sexual dalliance.
So the Unification Church is essentially a gigantic mating service. If you're single when you join up, Moon hooks you up with a partner, and you get mass-married along with thousands of other couples. And in their eyes these random partnerings are "more" sanctified than non-Moonie marriages.

So, despite the fact that its owner basically shits in the face of the important roots of marriage -- love and commitment -- by hooking up and marrying couples at random, the Times has the temerity to suggest that gay unions somehow cheapen everyone else marriage. What utter horseshit.

I'm an atheist and I'm married. The religious significance of my wedding means nothing to me. But being able to express my love and commitment through my marriage is very important. My wife knows that I love her more than anyone else in the world. And because of that, even though it's not rooted in religion, I think our bond is stronger than any of the thousands of random couples married by Moon.

But, hey, if you want to get hooked up for life to a random person by a crazy cult leader, I'm sure the Times would think your marriage is somehow more valid than any that could be formed in a same-sex union. Devotion and love have nothing to do with it.

I have to say, I'm a little surprised that a newspaper in a town as big as Washington can get away with a gay-bashing editorial like this, considering its pedigree. I think most other cities would have burned down the front door of the paper by now. Instead, Washington has supported this shitty Moonie rag for the past 21 years. It's embarrasing for the city.

Let's close with a passage from Moon himself, on the subject of marriage, from the Unification Church's website:

When you stand next to your spouse, as a husband, where does you hand go? In which direction does it move? Does it move to touch your own love organ? What is your tendency? Or does it move toward your spouse's love organ? What about your spouse's hands? Is she the same, or opposite? [The same.] Why? Because both man and woman’s hands want to touch their spouse’s organ the most. Is there truth or falsehood here? [Truth.] Where is the truth? The five senses are all of them truth, the human body is truth, everything truth. How can they make that kind of value, making true love, tying to the place of oneness?

Crazy hand, crazy five senses, you must protect and secure them, your hands, your eyes, your body. They are very precious. Don’t let them fool around. Only your spouse can welcome your entire ten senses being activated fully. Do you understand what that means? Welcome your spouse’s ten senses taking action, becoming one in partnership. Of course, you have freedom to utilize your ten senses however you want, but you must follow the law of love. If you misuse any organ once, you will be doomed to fall into hell. Have you thought, as a wife, when your husband makes that move toward the 100% utilization of his ten senses, are you ready to fully accept 100%, or 80%, what level are you at? Can you accept 100%?
Woo! Moon getting a little hot and heavy there. And he's, like, 80 years old. That's disturbing.
I don't understand this fucking city

Fuck you, Northern Virginia Community College.

Fuck you for giving me a $35 parking ticket last night. I go to your piece-of-shit college every Tuesday night to play in my pinball league. The visitor spaces are always full. The metered spaces are always full. And yet, there are literally hundreds of spaces available in the student lot. I always park as far away from the buildings as possible so as not to get in any student's way. And yet, you ticket me anyway.

OK, I realize the above sounds like an editorial out of The Onion, but I'm serious. Why does a community college that sits in the vehicular no-man's-land halfway between the Beltway and Fairfax city feel the need to ticket me at 7:30 in the evening when there are hundreds of available spaces? It's not like the school is in the District where all parking is always at a premium; this is a giant parking lot in the middle of nowhere, and I have no other options as a visitor because there aren't enough visitor spaces. What a fucking rip-off.

I hate this city.
Full discolsure

I enjoyed myself at Strike Bethesda on Monday night. $15 for unlimited bowling, and I made the most of it; the food's pretty good too.

Coming back through Georgetown, however, was not fun. Most of its streets are under construction starting at 10 p.m. and lasting through the night. Presumably they're removing exploding manholes. (Honestly, exploding manholes. What a major design flaw. Stupid Pierre L'Enfant, putting exploding manholes into the city design. What was he thinking?)


I can only hope nobody who reads the Washington Times takes it seriously

This Times story about Howard Dean's entry into the presidential race is simply awful. It's a hateful gay-bashing piece that purports to be news, but instead focuses on the minor yet divisive issue of whether homosexual couples who marry in Canada should receive the same domestic-partner benefits as male-female couples.

Dean did not even say that he would press for such a law via Congress, but that he would urge states to adopt such a law, as has his home state of Vermont.

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean yesterday said that if elected he would press every state to recognize the rights of American homosexual couples who "marry" in Canada.

The former Vermont governor was the first to highlight same-sex "marriage" as a political issue when he signed a law recognizing it through civil unions in his state...


"Unless the American people rise up to defend this indispensable institution, we could lose marriage in a very short time," Mr. Connor said in a statement.
And the kicker:
 President Bush does not support civil unions or same-sex "marriage."
So, we've got "marriage" and "marry" in "quotes" throughout the entire story, to illustrate the fact that this newspaper thinks that homosexual unions are a sham that don't even deserve the full connotations of the word "marriage." As if simply using the unquoted word marriage in conjunction with homosexuals somehow cheapens the word.

Then, we've got the requisite insane quote from a crazy man who thinks "we could lose marriage in a very short time." Which is to say, he thinks marriage will go away just because some gays are doing it in Canada. Abso. Lutely. Fucking. Insane. This is not a valid source for this story; yes, it's an opposing viewpoint, but it's an irrational one without any supporing facts, and printing this quote is irresponsible at best.

And then, finally, the re-affirmation at the end, the complete pulled-it-out-of-my-ass non-sequiter: President Bush does not support same-sex unions. This story had nothing to do with Bush up until this point, where the Times thought it would be prudent to point out that, hey, our President that we support hates fags. That should have been the subhead: "Unlike Bush, Dean loves fags." It would have fit on top of this story.

Fine, we expect this kind of behavior from the Times. But I happen to be watching All The President's Men on TV right now, and it reminds me of how disappointed I am in the Post these days as well. We've come a long way from the days of Woodward and Bernstein uncovering Watergate. Over the past few months the Post has kowtowed to the President and neglected to ask the tough questions about WMD intelligence and Iraq's connections to al Qaeda that even I, non-journalist James, was asking. They're not living up to their legacy down there.

Political-blog portion over. Now returning to regularly scheduled hatred.


The summer of being eaten alive

I actually have been enjoying the cool/rainy weather we've been having here, since it's delayed the oppresive heat of summer for a few weeks. The downside, however, is the record mosquito population we will have to endure this summer (Washington was formerly swampland). The worst is when I'm bicycling up the W&OD trail and get bugs in my mouth; it's much harder trying to power a bicycle up a hill when you're also choking on mosquito carcasses.

Summer here in D.C... you know what it's like? Back in the day, little James used to play Atari 2600 all the time. I remember staying at a friend's house one night and popping in the Raiders of the Lost Ark game cartridge. Now, I was only seven or eight, so I had no idea how to play this game; I assumed that, like most other 2600 games (e.g. Pac-Man and Donkey Kong) that it would be fairly self-evident. Not so; it turns out that you're supposed to use both controllers to do stuff, even though it's just a one-player game, and that you're supposed to use the grenade to blow a hole in a wall, or something, to get past the first few rooms. Way too complicated for my seven-year-old mind.

So without this knowledge, you're pretty much stuck wandering between two rooms. There's the room you start in, from which you can move down. Then you apparently fall off a tall cliff, and into this swamp, which is really just a red screen with some green splotches:

The manual describes it thuslike:


The Valley of Poison is inhabited by the black-cloaked Thief who will try to steal your possessions and leave you defenseless. If you can shoot him before he leaves the screen, you'll get back whatever he snatched. If he gets away safely, however, he can trade your possessions for bullets. Once he has bullets for his revolver, watch out - he shoots to kill!

The Valley is also home to a swarm of tsetse flies. The flies will bite you and put you to sleep for 1 to 7 seconds. If the flies put you to sleep while the Thief is picking your pockets, you have no defense until the fly poison has worn off. You can run through the green bogs to escape the Thief, but the mud in the bogs slows you down to half speed.
So you can imagine seven-year-old me being frustrated by being unable to navigate Indy past this room, constantly being slowed down by green mud or those GOD DAMNED tsetse flies, and then having all my shit stolen by the thief, who would then shoot me. Ironically, 20 years later, this also accurately describes my summers in Washington.
More about leasing space/buying controversy

Step 1: Buy land in D.C. Step 2: Get friend in D.C. government to buy land for more than it's worth. Step 3: Profit.


Shout out?

By now I'm sure you're familiar with the District's hilarious "city llving, d.c. style!!" marketing campaign, designed to trick yuppies into moving to the damned hellpit that is our nation's capital. There's not much new in this article. Although this quote is funny:

"There are people out there who like living in the city," said Rich Bradley, executive director of D.C.'s Downtown Business Improvement District, "and we want them to know it's okay that they can come out of the closet."
I always suspected us "breeders" were unwelcome down thar in the city.

But it was this graf that really caught my eye:

Already, some residents have poked fun at the city's effort to be hip. The publisher of an online newsletter about music and nightlife complained that some city leaders have tried to crack down on bars and restaurants that feature live music. Another resident mocked a spelling error on a flier touting an upcoming expo that is part of the marketing effort.
Umm... who could that have been? In the words of Shaggy, and with about as much sincerity, "It wasn't me."
There must be a connection

D.C. mental health agency lost $153 million over seven years because it failed to get reimbursed for federal health insurance payments.

D.C.'s school system is planning to revamp the way it runs its credit card program, to which $15.6 million has been charged in the past two years. This includes purchases for "a violent video game [Unreal Tournament], a leather briefcase, snack foods, a small refrigerator, several digital cameras and deluxe computer items. In one case, the bank records listed 23 charges by a school business manager at a janitorial supply store for $50,001.50 in March 2002. The schools said no receipts were on file."

That's a lot of mop buckets. These stories make me wonder whether the fraud perpetrated by D.C. city employees rests in the hundreds of millions, or indeed up into the billions.

Also, a judge is holding the District in contempt for "repeatedly failing to make long-demanded improvements in its juvenile justice system." The city now faces fines of up to $8,000 per day.

Meanwhile, in a completely unrelated story:

D.C. public schools officials said yesterday that 11,000 students have applied for summer school, 1,000 more than the system is currently funded to accommodate.
Gee, if only y'all hadn't blown the summer school budget on Unreal Tournament. And I'll bet a piece of the money wasted by the mental health department or used to pay the city's court fines would have funded those extra 1,000 students.

Two words: cluster, and fuck.


Reader mail

One more funny anecdote today before I attempt to canoe home. Thanks to Jon W for this note:


I was reading your May archives (somebody showed me your blog today), and saw your piece about the conversation you had about 107.3 with a co-worker.

I listen to 107.3 every once and a while, when I'm feeling like a candy-ass, and one thing I've noticed is how annoying the girl who does, I think, late nights is incredibly annoying. She'll do a segment between songs and will sound so damn happy I want to hit something really hard. I mean, she'll be talking about nothing in a voice that sounds like she just discovered the meaning of happiness.

Anyway, about a week or two ago, I was listening and heard her talking about a John Mayer concert coming up. These are her exact words:

"That is a day that will live in infamy!!!!!! Be sure not to miss it!!!!!"

Yes, like you, my jaw dropped. Fucking Pearl Harbor and a John Mayer concert are now equivalent on the scale of infamy.

I called the station and let it ring about 100 times before hanging up, but I so badly wanted to calmly tell her what a stupid bitch she was.
That is... quite simply... hilarious. The John Mayer concert is a day that will live in infamy. (Dictionary link provided in case she's reading this.) Utterly fucking incredible. She's no FDR, eh?

Of course calling the station wouldn't work; the way radio works these days, for all we know she was broadcasting from Pearl Harbor.

And now I'm curious which DJ said that. Judging solely from her web site bio, my money's on Liz Kelly.

Also, what kind of city am I living in where even the Capital Area Pagan Alliance listens to the Jack Diamond morning show? You would think that if anyone would be able to find something more interesting to listen to, it would be the local pagan alliance. This has got to be the most boring, blandest-ass big city on the planet.
Let's Just Me Go To The Movies

I'm a big movie buff. One of my majors in college was Film Studies; I can almost guarantee I'm the only film student in history who earned an A+ writing about Rudy Ray Moore's Disco Godfather. I always try to keep an eye out for interesting so-called "art films"; the kind of movie that gets a small release, usually only in a handful of theaters in a handful of U.S. cities.

I've seen more than my share of good and bad independent films over the years, but I always try to go into a movie not afraid to think. Some people only like movies that allow them to shut off their brains for a couple of hours; I'm the opposite. The thinking about a film, what it's saying, how it says it, etc... that's my favorite part of movie-going. Sometimes the smaller movies that I really enjoy turn into bigger movies upon wide release (e.g. Memento); sometimes they remain relatively obscure (e.g. startup.com). Either way, when I lived in Atlanta, I liked few things better than driving down one of the Lefont theaters (sadly, only two are left), grabbing a couple slices of Fellini's pizza and catching a movie.

There are some decent art-house theaters in Washington; the Shirlington 7 and Fairfax Cinema Arts theaters show some good stuff, although both areas are perpetually crowded with people and cars, and tickets occasionally sell out, which somehow seems contrary to the idea of the art film or independent feature. You also have your Dupont Circle 5 and your various AFI theaters, including the new one in Silver Spring, which, of course, I failed in my attempt to visit last Friday.

I've mentioned a few times that my hatred for Washington is primarily rooted in a series of events that occured just prior to and after moving here in August 2001. My first visit to the Visions Cinema/Bistro/Lounge was one of them.

This was December 2001, and Visions was showing a movie I'd had my eye on for a while: a remake of a classic Japanese animated movie, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. One Saturday I decided to make my way down to the theater to catch a mid-afternoon showing. I knew that driving to Dupont Circle and trying to find a place to park would be no easy chore, so I left a good two hours early for the Court House Metro station near our crappy apartment. Surprisingly, I actually made it to the Dupont Circle station without the train derailing, and I successfully walked the four or five blocks to Florida Avenue after being accosted by strangers only twice. And I was about an hour early.

Surprisingly, as I was about to cross Florida Avenue, a friend of mine from college drove past. He stopped the car and we chatted for a while. I mentioned that running into him made D.C. seem like a small town. "Too small sometimes," he said.

After talking a while, I made my way into the theater. Visions occupies a decent-sized space for being in the District; it has a fairly big front, containing a bar and a cooler with some sandwiches and things. You can order food at the same time you order tickets. There's a table-seating area in the front that's fairly quirky; moviegoers often wait there for their theater to open as they eat and drink.

But the two theaters themselves are somewhat strange. Each is very long and narrow; there are maybe 20 rows of seats, but their width seems to range from about six to eight seats, with the walls jammed up against the edge of each row. This also makes for a very small screen; if you were to take a normal-sized movie screen and cut it into quarters, one of the quarters would still probably be larger than the screens in these theaters. So sitting in these theaters, you get a very strange sensation of claustrophobia; it's like trying to watch a movie while seated in a long, narrow hallway.

So I grabbed a seat a few rows from the front, simply so I could see the movie's visuals in at least some detail. After a while the theater actually started to fill up fairly well, which surprised me. Eventually, the movie started, and I realized that this wasn't going to be the best movie-going experience; the sound in the theater was not great, with most of it focused near the screen, and very little of it surrounding the audience. The movie was apparently being projected from a DVD player, rather than actual film; not a big deal if I'm watching at home, but blowing up such an image onto a big screen can tend to wash it out a bit.

Then things started to take a turn for the worse. Two very loud, talkative, and tall men came in and sat down right in front of me. They started talking after they sat down and pretty much didn't stop. And, since this was an action-horror anime, it of course gave them plenty of things to yell about (e.g. a scene of a person being cut in half is apparently a good time to shout your approval). At other times they were talking on their cell phones. Loudly.

Meanwhile, a college-aged girl a couple rows behind me kept yelping with uncontrollable laughter every time one of these scenes appeared on-screen. We're talking several seconds of loud laughter at the most inappropriate times. Fine, you don't like the movie and think it's ridiculous; there's no reason to ruin it for someone trying to actually watch and enjoy it, i.e., me.

Then, as if that wasn't distracting enough, a construction crew started doing work outside, just behind where the screen is. The crew is, of course, using a jackhammer. So between the loud dudes in front of me, the laughing girl behind me, and the jackhammering going on just outside the theater, I can't hear a single fucking word of dialogue. Then, the DVD started to occasionally skip, causing random two- and three-second pauses in the film. The movie would play for 20 seconds... pause for two seconds... play for another 30 seconds... pause for another three seconds.... guh.

As I mentioned, I like to concentrate on the films I see. With all this cacophany going on around me and the movie itself having playback issues, that was more than a little difficult. I debated whether or not to just go ask for a refund, but I decided I was too angry/depressed to have to fight with the cashier, and I didn't feel like trekking all they way back home without having actually seen the movie.

Then, surprisingly, my cell phone rang. That rarely happens, and sometimes I forget I have it, and I'll forget to turn it off before a movie. I quickly answered it, and realized it was a wrong number. "Wrong number," I said, and hung up. Then, one of the guys in front of me, who had been talking loudly during the movie on his own cell phone, gave me a nasty look. I very nearly started yelling at him right there.

So when I finally left the theater, walking out into the cold winter afternoon, I felt strangely unsatisfied by my cinematic experience. In the past I've always headed for the movies to cheer myself up when I felt depressed; this time I was actually more angry and more depressed than I had been when I showed up. I had taken the time to walk to the train station, train down to Dupont, and walk to the theater, just to be disappointed. Visions was obviously not the place to go if you loved movies; it was a place more wrapped up in its own image, rather than actually being a proper showcase for films. I wanted to like it, because they showed different features that nobody else did. But this was clearly more a place for people to be seen, rather than a a theater that celebrated the magic of cinema. Like the rest of Washington, it was image over substance. And granted, having rude people in the audience is not Vision's fault. But the construction, bad sound, tiny screen and skipping movie really put me off, and I wouldn't have felt I had gotten my money's worth even if I had been the only one in the theater.

Now, don't let it be said that I hold a grudge forever. I actually have been back to Visions twice; once for a documentary about Henry Kissinger, and once to see a collection of funny failed sitcom pilots called "The Other Network" (and again, the DVD skipped during the presentation). My wife tried one of their sandwiches and said it was pretty bad, so out of its "Cinema/Bistro/Lounge" title, it seems that Visions only does the "lounge" part well.

I'll probably go back to Visions, but only if they're showing something unusual that I'm especially interested in seeing. I'm not going to make too many dedicated attempts to see a movie there, which is a shame; it should be kind of place I go to once a month. And it would be, if they took the filmgoing experience more seriously.

It's all part of another reason... why I hate DC. And now you know... the rest of the story. Join me in two weeks for: "The Ice Skating Incident."
News roundup

Why can't Johnny read?

"The District's schoolchildren rank as the worst readers in the country and only slightly better in some grades than non-English-speaking children in the territories of Guam, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa, according to a new national report."
There's a possible strike brewing at the University of D.C. over pay raises for administrators; faculty and staff haven't seen a cost-of-living increase to their paychecks in over five years.

If you're reading this, and you're mentally ill and living in D.C., it would be wise to get out.

And a decent column out of the Washington Times (shock) about disappointment in Chief Moose.
And it could be the one time Rummy said something accurate

Poor, poor D.C. What a mess. The murder counter jumped from 115 to 118... after a weekday. They're working hard down there. The percent change in homicides from last year has risen from +10% to over +14% in just the past week.

Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has the audacity to suggest that the murder rate in D.C. is greater than that of Baghdad:

"You got to remember that if Washington, D.C., were the size of Baghdad, we would be having something like 215 murders a month," Rumsfeld said. "There's going to be violence in a big city."
Granted, this is an odd statement. Rummy's very much doing the apples-and-oranges thing here; D.C. is not a city recovering from a bloody war, and it also covers a tiny geographical area compared to Baghdad. There are only about 600,000 people in D.C., while there are about 5.5 million in Baghdad. On the other hand, the Washington metro area has about that many people, and certainly does not have 215 murders per month.

And, if Baghdad is like most American cities, its suburbs' murder rate is much lower than the central part of the city (and is filled with many more T.G.I.Ahmed's).

Still, his math is technically accurate:

It appears that Rumsfeld did his math, extrapolating the District's number of homicides last year -- 262 in a city of 576,000 residents -- to that of a city the size of Baghdad -- 5.5 million. That's roughly 215 murders a month.
Predictably, Rummy's feeling the ire of D.C. politicians who would prefer not to be compared to Baghdad, no matter how accurately.

"Secretary Rumsfeld should demonstrate a greater level of sensitivity to the challenges being faced by U.S. mayors and governors," [Mayor] Williams said. "He should also recognize that the interests of the United States are not advanced by diminishing the reputation and stature of our nation's capital."
Oops, you mean I'm not working in the best interests of the country? And here I thought I was a brewer and patriot. But I love the whining in the first part of that quote. Oh, boo-hoo, nobody appreciates the mayor, and how hard he works. It's very hard work figuring out new and creative ways to pay off your cronies.

"Your remarks are particularly injurious to our citizens here," [Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton] wrote. "D.C. residents are risking their lives in Iraq, even though District citizens have no voting representation in the House and no representation at all in the Senate, and even though our residents are second per capita in federal income taxes."
Yes, yes, we just can't hear enough about how the District has no representation. This is a perfect time to bring it up for the one billionth freaking time. News flash: the Republican-led Congress is not going to give you more representation. Move 10 miles in any direction if you want representation that badly.

So anyway, as the District bickers on about Rumsfeld's questionable yet technically accurate comparison, three people were murdered yesterday, and the police will probably only successfully solve one of those. D.C. politicians, instead of actually doing something about their Murder Capital title, try to deflect that image by bitching every time someone brings it up. That's not going to save any lives.


I'll have the usual

The mayor claims the apparent city credit card fraud isn't so bad because the cards save the city money in the long run. This despite the fact that employees using multiple transactions in one day at the same store to circumvent a $2,500-per-swipe limit ran up $5.5 million in charges, and that others are probably using the cards for personal purchases:

Michael Richardson, the city's chief medical officer, charged $428,000 with his card over the past two years, including $3,000 from Internet retailer Amazon.com and $14,000 from a Brooklyn, N.Y., novelty store, Kingston Red. Richardson referred questions to department spokeswoman Vera Jackson, who said the novelties were items such as squeeze balls to relieve stress for cancer patients.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the D.C. Sports Agency resigned for his past misdeeds. But good luck trying to get a baseball team.
These people offend my sensibilities

A movie theater pulls the sniper video game "Silent Scope" from its lobby because it's sensitive about the D.C. sniper attacks... which ended seven months ago.

Removing the game is "a good idea," [random passerby Liz Hart] said, "because it's one more thing we can eliminate from being reminded of that whole incident. Whatever we can do to make Manassas life as good as it was, I'm all in support of that."
All right! Of course! We should completely eliminate the memory of any bad things that happened in our past. 9/11. Sniper attacks. Anthrax. Oh, who wants to think of such unpleasant things? Therefore, we should also immediately demolish the Pentagon and the Hart Senate office building, and Chief Moose should quit. Oh, one out of three already? Awesome.

Meanwhile, she also implies that Manassas life was good at some point in the past. And that it was those dastardly sniper attacks that made it bad. Whatever. Removing a fucking video game from a movie theater lobby isn't going to make Manassas any less of a suburban hellpit.

An Annapolis lawmaker is pushing to "ban children from playing outdoors with most toy guns and fine parents of the pistol-packing tots."

Lynn Golb, 70, said yesterday police officers are busy enough enforcing the law and they should not have to worry about children playing guns with their friends.
And using that logic, we should just impose a curfew on everyone.

(Or, you know, in both of these above cases, instead of targeting fake guns, how about doing something about the real guns instead? We so staunchly defend our right to real guns, which are actually dangerous, and outlaw the toy guns that hurt nobody. Does... not... fucking... compute.)

Oh, and this guy is complaining about a Metro bus ad that says "Traffic sucks."

"That word just has too many crummy connotations," Mr. Bishop says. "I think this is a problem with our society, a kind of anything-goes attitude. If that word is permissible, then what is next?"
Jesus H. Fucking Christ. Lighten up pal. It's not like it said "Traffic sucks my balls."


Moose Resigns as Montgomery Police Chief

Adios, you big fat fucking sell-out.
Since I've been gone

The Metro train derailment that thwarted my movie-going plans last Friday was due to "human error," according to Metro. Which is another way of saying, "We're a bunch of morons. Now give us more money."

A hundred D.C. residents asked for a moritorium on murders for Father's Day, but were predictably unsuccessful. The following day, a high school football star from Northeast who had just graduated was murdered for his sneakers.

Meanwhile, the D.C. Council may compromise to give Police Chief Ramsey a $25,000 raise asked for by the mayor, despite the fact that crime went up last year as D.C. again earned the title "murder capital". Your tax dollars at work.

Speaking of which, city employees are apparently charging hundreds of thousands of dollars to government-issued credit cards for personal and/or inappropriate purchases, which they city then fails to pay in time, resulting in $170,000 of credit-card interest since January 2000. The new slogan for D.C.: We're Ghetto Rich. Oh, and lawyers who misbehave are unlikely to be punished.

But hey, if you live in the suburbs, you don't have to miss out on the excitement of city living. There's a new Ikea store opening today, and the line to get in formed 72 hours ago. Here's an article to help you decorate those gigantic rooms you no doubt own if you read the Washington Times.

And I won $500 playing blackjack. But please, if you're going to play, do it responsibly.


Why do I even try?

Last night, in deciding to go see a movie, I foolishy decided to take Metro. Predictably, I didn't make the theater. At all.

I was planning on seeing the They Might Be Giants movie at AFI Silver Spring at 9:15. Everything was going OK, and my wife and I were only running a little late. We took the train from Court House to Metro Center and transferred to the red line, having to wait 10 minutes each time for the train. We're travelling along, one stop away from the Silver Spring station, when... the train stops. Then the train turns around, with the driver saying there was some kind of emergency at the Silver Spring station. It's already 9:15, so even though they're offering bus shuttles to travel up the rest of the red line, I know there's no way we would make the film on time without missing half of it. We had to simply stay on the train and travel back home.

So, I spent 90 minutes traveling on Metro and went nowhere. And they still charged me $1.10 when I got back to Court House, even though my net travel distance was zero. As for the emergency, we heard train derailment on the public address system, but there was nothing about that in any of the papers today. So who knows. My theory is they knew I was coming and were just trying to piss me off.

So yeah, I've had about enough. I'll be spending the next few days in a town that's not nearly as corrupt, inane, and miserable as D.C.

That's right: Atlantic City, New Jersey.


When AOL Was God

Big feature story on everybody's favorite corporate behemoth, AOL, whose notable accomplishments include bringing stupidity to the Internet.

Specifically, it's about Myer Berlow and David Colburn, two men responsible for many of AOL's aggressive advertising deals and partnership, whose high price tags actually begat the downfall of many dot-coms.

Some highlights:

The rabbis weren't there just to pray for AOL souls. Colburn wanted them to pray for AOL stock. He offered a deal: If each rabbi agreed to pray for AOL's shares to rise to a certain level, and they hit that level, Colburn promised to donate $1 million to a Jewish cause.

"So you have skin in the game," he explained, cackling.


Colburn loved to indulge his children. In June 2000, he celebrated his daughter Rachel's bat mitzvah by hiring one of the hottest boy bands on the planet: 'N Sync. The party favor reportedly cost $1 million. Nearly two years later, in March 2002, Colburn pulled out all the stops for his other daughter, Jessica, at her bat mitzvah party, paying $35,000 to rent much of the ground floor at Washington's Union Station. The featured attraction was rock star Dave Matthews. How much this cost was not revealed. Jessica's shindig also featured boxing promoter Don King and a Las Vegas theme, including a casino with fake $100 bills bearing her picture.


Before the strangling and the death threat, the meeting in Dulles began innocently enough.


In one instance, two vice presidents were promoted to senior vice president at around the same time in the late 1990s. But when they got new offices, one executive suspected an inequity. He pulled out blueprints and measured the square footage of each office. His suspicions were confirmed when it turned out that the other guy's office was bigger than his by a few feet.

"He blew a gasket," said a former employee who worked with him.

Walls were moved, and his office was reconfigured to make it as large as his counterpart's.


By late 1999, many companies seeking to do business with AOL were no longer viewed as potential partners. They were a target, to be used. The first order of business was for AOL deal makers to find out how much money the dot-coms had raised in venture capital funding, then try to extract as much as possible from them in online ad deals. Informally, AOL's goal was to get a minimum of 50 percent of a dot-com's venture capital funding.

" '[F-word] 'em,' that was our mantra," said an AOL official. "We'd say that all the time. We took it to heart. 'Destroy them. [F-word] 'em.' You lived by that."
Colburn was eventually fired and Berlow kicked downstairs to a meaningless consulting position after apparently misrepresenting AOL's advertising revenue.

Oh, I'm sure they're still filthy rich, so don't feel too bad for them. Even though their actions probably caused the deaths of several companies and thousands of jobs, which has in turn contributed to our down economy, you can bet these guys will go unpunished. God bless America.
D.C. Finance Chief Voices Doubt About Stadium Plan

At least someone is standing up to the mayor. I love baseball, but its economic benefits to the city are being played up way too far.
Evil traffic cameras are here to stay

The next best thing to a commuter tax, I guess. Have fun trying to fight these tickets in D.C. traffic court.


Purchases Added to D.C. Probe: $444,000 Charged to City-Issued Card

More of the same; corruption in the local D.C. government. Another employee of the District misused a credit card. F12 macro.

The D.C. government credit card issued to a former official under FBI investigation was used for more than $444,000 in charges, including shopping trips to the Gap and a Bally shoe outlet at Potomac Mills, records show.
Damn you, the Gap! You've reared your bland head in my blog for a second time in two weeks! Flashing back:

"Just like if the Gap comes out with a new pair of jeans and has a blitz marketing ad, our job is to let people know the product, to connect people with what we've done," said Chris Bender, spokesman for the city's office of economic development.
You heard it here first: D.C. is obsessed with the Gap. It wants to be the Gap, and apparently also own everything at the Gap.

$444,000?! Who was dumb enough to give a city employee a credit card with a limit that high? Well, everyone in D.C. government, obviously, is dumb enough. The best part:

"One person, a bad apple . . . made improper decisions and has abused the system," Williams said.
Yep, this is the single example of corruption in D.C. government. Only one person made improper decisions and abused the system... TODAY!
Silly, silly Washington Times

Washington is still very much a 1.5-newspaper town.

Exhibit Q: A story called "Mayor tries raining taxpayer bucks to lure baseball" is played like a news story on the paper's website, but features this as a lead:

Mayor Anthony A. Williams appears willing to stand on his head and count to 100 if it results in the city securing the nomadic Montreal Expos.
OK, but I'm holding y'all to this: if Tony doesn't stand on his head and count to 100, I'm suing for libel.

Exhibit 14: We are blessed with a second consecutive day of Jen Waters articles, in which she makes good use of her Encyclopedia Britannica:

Along with identifying the approximate 30,000 genes in human DNA, scientists in the Human Genome Project also wanted to determine the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA. DNA is made up of four similar chemicals — adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine — which are abbreviated A, T, C and G.
The end of the piece says "For more information about the exhibit, contact the Smithsonian Web site (www.si.edu/exhibitions/)." Contact a website? You know they don't, like, talk back, right?

Exhibit pi: A story on the Philips Collection buying an adjacent apartment building and evicting its tenants features this sentence:

Once an agreement was reached, neighbors said some tenants had began vacating their apartments.
Had they? Had some tenants began vacating?

My new slogan for the Times: "Sloppy seconds."
Need... coffee...

It's one of those zoned-out mornings for me.

My drive to work takes me along I-66 west, and up the Dulles access road. Before it becomes a toll road and before my exit, you have a choice of getting on the half of the road that takes you to Dulles Airport, which bypasses all the tolls (for some reason). In order to ensure that you're not just cheating the tolls, there's no way to get off the airport road until it gets to the actual airport, about 30 minutes down the road.

I spaced out this morning and very nearly started driving to Dulles Airport. Fortunately, I managed to veer back over to the main line just in time, at great personal risk and to the anger of my fellow drivers. But that would have sucked if I had not been able to swerve back over; that's 30 minutes to the airport and 30 minutes back, with no way to exit or turn around. Why on earth do they have it set up that way?

Time to get coffee. Lots of it. Garcon, more coffee.


Mission creep

Interesting article related to the management shake-up at Freddie Mac. I didn't realize Freddie and Fannie were such big lobbyists:

In the last election cycle, Freddie Mac was the largest corporate contributor of unlimited "soft money" donations to the political parties, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, which tracks federal election records. The company gave slightly more than $4 million in 2001-02, about 58 percent of it to Republican party committees. That was more than several other prominent corporate political players, including AT&T Corp., Philip Morris and Microsoft Corp.

District-based Fannie Mae, headed by Clinton administration official Franklin D. Raines, is also a top corporate giver of soft money, donating about $1.8 million to party committees in the last cycle, about 53 percent to the Republicans.
Lots of questionable soft money flying all over town, as usual. No wonder I can barely afford to live here; nobody ever thinks to give me any soft money.
Grenade Wasn't Live, but Amtrak Officer Gripping It Didn't Know

Officer Rodney Chambers of the Amtrak police gets mad phat props for clamping down on what he thought was a live grenade so it wouldn't explode. What he did took quick thinking and a hell of a lot of courage; he was standing there clutching a possibly live grenade for 15 minutes.

I shudder to think how a typical D.C. cop would have reacted in this situation. Good thing this guy was there instead.
This meeting of the Jen Waters Of The Washington Times Fan Club is now in session

OK, I haven't even started reading this one yet, and I already know it's the be-all and end-all of Jen Waters stories. Every Jen Waters story that came before was simply a brick in the pyramid leading up to this one: the apex; the summit; the Awesomest Jen Waters Story Ever.

Ladies and gentlemen... I give you...

Canine Castles

While shopping for a pad for her pet, Mary Read of Crownsville, Md., couldn't find anything aesthetically pleasing. Because she planned to put the doghouse for her border collie, Rocky, in her front yard next to the porch, she didn't want it to scare the neighbors.

To solve the dilemma, she decided to have a dwelling custom-made from cedar. Because her own home is cedar, the two houses blend together nicely. Now Rocky spends lazy afternoons as king of his own castle.
This dog has a better home than half the people in Washington. Hell, I'm sure it's better than my apartment.

Although Snoopy probably never napped in such luxury, many of today's dogs are living it up in extravagant doghouses. Some of them even rest their heads in handmade houses complete with air conditioning and marble floors.
All of a sudden this has turned into Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous' Dogs. Air conditioning? These dogs have air confuckingditioning in their doghouses? This is the kind of thing that makes me want to destroy all humans.

The one-of-a-kind doghouses created by Colorado builder Alan Mowrer, who constructs the houses for La Petite Maison, can cost upward of $6,000, depending on accessories, such as copper roofs, electricity, bay windows and hardwood floors. The doghouses Mr. Mowrer has hand-built include a French chateau and Swiss chalet.
I'm... too angry to even respond to this coherently.

Sometimes the dwellings are replicas of human homes. Usually, clients request whatever will best suit the dog's comfort, Ms. Pollak says. However, at times, customers simply want Mr. Mowrer to build a work of art, even if the dog doesn't use it.
Yes. Of course. How many thousands of homeless people are there in Washington? (Rhetorical question, but it's about 9,000 on any given day just in the District.) And yet, there are people building ornate doghouses for their dogs that are not even being used by the fucking dogs.

Oh, crap... we're going to get hit with a plague for this, aren't we? Hellloooooooo, monkeypox!

When designing a doghouse, one of the most important aspects to consider is the size. The house needs to be small enough for pets to keep warm in the winter and big enough for them to keep cool in the summer, says Chuck Keeton, owner of Blythe Wood Works in Blythewood, S.C. The company sells cedar and pine doghouses with insulation and pet mats. A deck for the dwelling is optional and can be purchased at a later time.

Most often, Mr. Keeton uses a dog's weight to determine the size needed for the house. Height requirements also must be considered. Ideally, the house needs to be big enough for the dog to enter, turn around and lie down. If the house is bigger than that, body-heat retention is sacrificed during the colder months.
Blah blah blah. Jen goes into her patented "Encyclopedia Brown" Mode, which is like having to listen to the office dullard.

Some of the doghouses are even suitable for cats, says Melody Lee, owner of Merry Products Corp. in Toronto. Merry Products recently received Cat Fancy magazine's Editor's Choice Award for the doghouse called "Room With View," which has steps along the side that lead to a rooftop balcony.
Argggghhhh... this cat has a two-story house all to itself. Again, too angry to speak.

The company sells various cedar structures, including mansions, barns, chalets, taverns, bungalows, playpens, stables, and bed-and-breakfasts, each priced up to $499. Miss Lee's dog, Happy, has five houses of his own, placed inside and outside his owner's abode.
I have nothing to add. There's just... nothing to say. Except maybe

YOU STUPID FUCKING BITCH. Your dog does not need FIVE of its OWN FUCKING HOUSES. He's a DOG. He's perfectly happy licking his own balls anywhere in your one, single, human-sized house.

Investing in an extravagant doghouse is one way to show a pet love, says Fred Albert of Vashon, Wash., who is author of "Barkitecture."
"Barkitecture." This guy actually wrote a book called "Barkitecture." Dog-related puns just don't get any worse than that.

One of Mr. Albert's favorite creations is "Muttropolitan Opera House," which features an extravagant theater facade with a proscenium stage in gold leaf, embroidered in velvet with draw curtains.
Gah, sweet mother of homosexuality. I stand corrected.

"You could probably put a box out there and the dog would be happy," Mr. Albert says. "Many of the doghouses I ran into, the dogs didn't use, but the people kept them in their yards as a work of art, or the children played in them.
See, that's my point here: dogs don't need fancy doghouses. They'll be OK with a cardbox box. Hell, they'll probably be happier with a box. They're dogs.

For those pet owners who would rather not have a doghouse in their back yard, there is always the dog bed, which can be placed indoors, says Lil Lewis, owner of Canine Carousel in Herndon.
See, that's more like it. A nice little dog bed is plenty enough.

Her poodle, Surprise, sleeps in a four-post bed in the master bedroom of the house.
Gah. This lady has a poodle and bought a four-post bed for it. She must be an absolute hoot to hang out with.

Whatever the environment, it's important to set aside a separate space for a pet, says Elizabeth Quinn of San Francisco, author of "Pads for Pets." Otherwise, they will be in the homeowner's space without a thought.

"Just like you would spend lots of money making sure your child had a comfortable bed, you do that for your pet," Ms. Quinn says. "Animals have specific needs."
Fine, a set-aside space for a pet I have no problem with. But the people in this story seem to be laboring under the assumption that their pets have the same needs that they do: that is, to show off how much money they have by buying fancy things that they don't need. On the contrary, that's what's great about pets: they have no concept of money. A dog's going to be just as happy running around chasing squirrels in the backyard as he is chewing up your $200 tablecloth. A cat is probably more likely to sleep all day on the floor than in an expensive house built just for it.

It's not the pets that need these thousand dollar habitats; it's their shallow owners who need these possessions to stroke their own egos and show off to the neighbors.

Hmm... I don't think I'm analyzing this article the way Jen would. I'm betting she doesn't see the irony, and she just thinks it's cool to interview people who spend needlessly large amounts of money on their homes (this is the third or fourth such article we've seen). Still, I got more out of this article than I expected to, and Jen only launched into her trademark encyclopedic monologue one. There may be a journalistic future for you yet, Jen Waters. Or, at least, a public-relations-flak-type future.

Meeting adjourned.
I live in Virginia, but to the rest of the state, I might as well be living in Massachusetts

Sometimes I wonder why the Virginia suburbs of Washington are always neglected by the state government when it comes to funding. Then I read a letter like this and I remember.

Shout-out to this blog for the link.


Area news roundup

Slavery is alive and well. More fraud perpetrated by the D.C. government. Top executives fired at Freddie Mac, a government-chartered non-profit company that operates out of McLean; add them to the cadre of local companies that misstated earnings (AOL, MCI/Worldcom). A man tries to hold up the R*dsk*ns store at Union Station using a live, armed grenade.

All good stories, but none of them takes the top spot today. They couldn't hold a candle to the story with this Washington Post headline:

Gunman Says, 'I'm God,' Blocks Traffic, Fires, Strips

A D.C. police officer and a man with a rifle exchanged gunfire on a Northeast Washington street in a bizarre confrontation yesterday afternoon that ended with the gunman stripping himself naked and a police dog biting another officer.
Crazy naked city living; mad D.C. police dog style.


I had a feeling comedy would be the result

I mentioned the new "city living dc style!!" marketing campaign that the District is undertaking in an attempt to get childless yuppies (like myself) to move inside its oft-troubled borders.

Here's a PDF flyer for their kickoff promotional event to be held this Wednesday. And here's a piece of the file:

Check it out. "The District is kicking off their move-in sale."

The District is kicking off their move-in sale.

This should give you some idea of what to expect from the government if you do move to D.C.: morons. Morons as far as the eye can see. Morons who aren't even capable of publishing a promotional poster for how great they are without fucking up the grammar. Sorry, D.C., but the word you want there is "its." NO, NOT "IT'S" with an apostrophe. Just "its." Idiots.

Here's the list of thing the flyer promises for July 11:

Live music (a band called Gonzo's Nose, so obviously they broke out the A-list talent). Free snacks. Things to make/things to do. (Things to make? I suggest brewing up a batch of pepper spray.) Good weather.

Good weather! They actually promised good weather. On the flyer. Do they know something we don't? Well, no, but they're also just wrong anyway, at least according the current forecast:


Damp living; Gonzo's Nose style.
Your tax dollars at work

Part the first:

A former Ballou High School counselor, who was hired by the D.C. school system despite a previous sex crime allegation, has been charged with forcing a Ballou student to have sex with him more than 10 times over a two-year period.
Part the second:

The unlicensed topless club in Northeast Washington, authorities say, was run by a D.C. police officer.


City records show that Frazier signed a five-year lease ... under the name of a charitable foundation that had been created a month earlier.

By this year, authorities said, the Give Foundation was legally defunct, but Club Bliss was still doing a brisk late-night business several nights a week. The club typically drew dozens of men to watch pornographic movies, drink alcohol and pay topless dancers who worked for tips.
That's right, it's a clandestine topless nightclub run by a police officer. I thought that kind of thing only happened in episodes of Knight Rider.


That Damn Lie Detector

This is a story of a little-known, embarrassing chapter in James F history. It’s about how I almost went to work for the National Security Agency (NSA).

That’s right, “almost.” I came as close as you can to being employed at the NSA as a cryptanalyst. And it did not end well.

I happen to have a fairly diverse academic background; I earned a Bachelors degree in English from Emory University, followed by a Master of Computer Science at Georgia Tech. While at Tech, I took a class in network security and found I really enjoyed it; we learned about the various methods for obscuring text with ciphers, and how the best codes take millions of years to break without having any information about the encoded message. I furthered my study of cryptology by reading Crypto, an excellent book about the history of Pretty Good Privacy, and the battles its inventors had to fight with the NSA in the ‘70s and ‘80s to preserve their findings.

I knew my wife and I would be moving to Washington and that I would be needing a job up here. At one job fair I attended at Georgia Tech, I was interested to see that the NSA was there courting potential employees. They had several pamphlets describing the various jobs they had to offer; one of them was cryptanalysis. It so happened that my background fit the profile of what they were looking for quite well; my English and writing experience combined with my computer science and security knowledge gave me the perfect background for becoming a cryptanalyst.

I applied for the job, since it seemed like an interesting enough field to start working in, and the NSA was interested in interviewing me. In early 2001 they flew me up from Atlanta to BWI airport at their expense; they also put me (and several other applicants) up at the Holiday Inn by BWI.

The morning of my preliminary interview, they drove all the applicants by van to the Fort Meade, and processed us with visitor tags for the day. I met with the people who work on cryptanalysis; they seemed nice enough, even though the office was obviously pretty boring compared to what I was used to. This obviously would not be the kind of place where I could browse the Web in between bursts of working. They gave me a brief logic test that seemed counterproductive, but I think I did well enough (it seemed to test how well one’s priorities were ordered).

Later, one of the NSA’s mathematicians, who acted as my host, ferried me around to another interview-related activity. He seemed nice enough, and we talked about how expensive it was to live in Washington, and that while the government compensation you get isn’t a whole lot, the benefits of being a government employee were fairly vast.

Overall, it seemed like a fairly low-rent job: not much pay, in the middle of nowhere, and in a dumpy office. But the positives were pretty good. Presumably I’d be working with some cutting-edge technology (or maybe not, since I didn’t get to see any of the machines I’d be working on, and as we know, these federal agencies aren’t all that well funded or staffed). It was a field I was interested in, and probably a good launching point to a better-paying job two or three years down the road. And since this was a bad time for technology-type employment (still is), just having a job (and not having to look for one when I got to Washington) would be a big plus.

And… it would be pretty neat to be working for my country. I really did love the U.S. back then. I loved traveling abroad, but I always liked coming back home; I was proud of my country and its history. (Sadly, the experience that follows was a turning point that helped to change that.)

The NSA conditionally offered me employment a short time later. The condition was that I had to fly back up to Washington to complete a psychological exam, followed by a lie detector test. This is standard for all NSA employees, and they all have to go through it every so often. Everyone I talked to made it sound like a piece of cake; just something they had to deal with on an infrequent basis. And, since I had nothing to hide, I wasn’t too worried.

This time I took my wife with me. On the Sunday before my screening, we drove down to D.C. in a rental car. It wasn’t bad; I actually found a parking space by the Smithsonian in the morning, and we spent a few hours wandering around the American History museum. We had lunch and walked around, and had a deceptively nice day.

The following morning, I went through the same rigmarole I had before; a bus carted all of that day’s applicants from the BWI Holiday Inn to Fort Meade, where we were again processed and given visitor passes. This time I spent the morning on a computer taking a psychological exam. It was fairly tedious, but occasionally asked something amusing: “Do you hear voices in your head?”

Unfortunately for me, I could tell I was coming down with a cold. I had forgotten to bring my trademark Vitamin C drops to fend off colds, and the stress combined with traveling had probably done me in. My throat was scratchy and I was quickly starting to feel tired as I ate the fairly bland Fort Meade cafeteria food.

Eventually, after much waiting, it came time to take the lie detector test. A man who seemed fairly nice took me to a room with a dentist-type chair. I got in the chair and they hooked me up to the machine. The test administrator explained to me that he would ask some control questions (“Is your name James?”) before starting with the test.

The first part of the test, which is primarily about your legal history, went smoothly. They asked some mundane questions (“Have you ever been convicted of a felony?”) and some pretty ridiculous ones (“Have you ever plotted to overthrow the U.S. government? If so, please explain”) which I had no problem answering calmly. I passed this section with no problem.

The second part of the test was where I ran into a brick wall. It was the section on illegal drug use. After I completed it, the examiner switched off the machine and told me I was “having trouble” with one or more of the questions. And this was puzzling to me… because I have never taken any illegal drugs in my life.

I’m not kidding. I never have… not through high school, college, or the rest of my life. I just never saw a reason to take drugs; I’ve never even smoked a cigarette. Now, that may be surprising… it even surprises me a bit. I’ve been around plenty of second-hand smoke, cigarette or otherwise. But I’ve never personally done any illegal drugs, and I know this to be true.

But now, after being asked the “drug question” on a polygraph test, the machine was returning negative results. Now I was getting nervous, and on top of that, my cold was getting worse. I could feel myself getting sicker and sicker as I sat in that chair; my head was starting to pound. The examiner, perhaps presuming now I had something to hide, talked about how lots of people had used drugs one or twice, and that it was no big deal; he encouraged me to confess any experimentation I had done to get it off my chest.

But there was nothing to confess. I stressed that I had never done any drugs, ever. We went through the round of drug questioning again. Again, the examiner said the results were coming back negative.

And now – and this really made me mad -- he started to take an accusatory tone with me. He tried to get me to confess anything bad I might have done that would be giving me trouble with the question. Well, fuck that; there was no way I was going to confess my deepest darkest sins to this choad. He said I could come back the next day and try the polygraph again. I was already booked on a flight back to Atlanta that night, and I had to get back to my job the next day (they didn’t realize I was interviewing in Washington), so obviously that wasn’t going to work.

By this point, my cold and my frustration were making me miserable. I had never taken any illegal drugs. I knew it to be the truth; if the machine said I was lying, and the government didn’t trust me enough to tell the truth about it, then they could take their job offer and fucking shove it.

I was miserable on the plane ride home as I got sicker and sicker. I could barely talk about the experience to my brother when he picked us up from the airport; I was too embarrassed. I had no reason to be embarrassed; I had been telling the truth the whole time. But, in my mind, the fact that the government and their polygraph saw it differently cast aspersions on my honesty, which is something I highly value in myself. I don’t bullshit; I (almost) always tell the truth. And that had been called into question by no less an entity than my home country, the United States of America.

My hopes of having an interesting job locked up before having to move to Washington were dashed. I would instead spend the next several months frantically searching for employment with no success. I moved up to Washington with no job, and my savings slowly eroding away. I was unemployed and living in a shitty $1,000-a-month apartment. I was miserable from the moment I moved here; all because my country didn’t trust me.

I’ve come to find out in researching this article that my experience is not unique. Besides that affirmation, I learned a couple other things from experience.

The National Security Agency is an inept piece of shit, and polygraph results don’t mean a fucking thing.

Good night and God bless.


Sometimes they make it too easy, part 2

"District Makes a Pitch For Hip New Residents" is the title of this story.

The cornerstone of the District's new marketing campaign will be a simple slogan: "city living, dc style!"
Sweet cuppin' cakes. They did not just serve that up to me, did they? Is it April Fools' Day? No? Shit, this is real?

"city living, dc style!" All lower-case, no less, presumably because that's... "hip and happening."

The District is "hip, happening, the hot place to be," said Michael Stevens, president of the Washington, D.C., Marketing Center.

OK, so I have a few questions. First, are they marketing D.C. from the 1950s? And secondly, do you actually think using all lowercase is correct because of your substandard educations?

The design of this website notwithstanding, it's going to take more than lowercase letters to get people to move to the District. Maybe a little h4x0r speak would work better. "(17y l1V1|\|6 D( s7Y|3!! 0wnz0rd!!"

What is "city living, dc style"? According to city planners, it's affordable housing options for people of all incomes, sports and concerts at MCI Center, cultural activities at museums and theaters and an active nightlife at the city's bars and restaurants.
OK, well, not so much "housing" options for all incomes; more like "tenement" options for lower-to-middle classes and "swanky Northwest housing" options for the super-rich.

"Just like if the Gap comes out with a new pair of jeans and has a blitz marketing ad, our job is to let people know the product, to connect people with what we've done," said Chris Bender, spokesman for the city's office of economic development.
You heard it. D.C. is trying to be like The Gap. Because that's hip and happening. So. Very. Sad.

City boosters, however, made a point to stay away from certain topics commonly associated with living in the District. The city's beleaguered education system garnered not a single mention from city planners during a briefing for a reporter yesterday. Nor did the recent surge in homicides.

Still, officials were quick to point out that they are focusing the campaign on the audience they believe the District most appeals to: young, childless professionals and empty-nesters looking to leave the suburbs for a more active life.

City leaders believe they are competing with the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and Bethesda.
Well yeah, because you can live in those areas, get all the benefits out of D.C. they're advertising, and not put your life at so much risk. And you get actual Congressional representation, and don't have to deal with the alternately corrupt and inept D.C. government.

"We want to show this is why living in D.C. is cool. Because you can't go outside our borders and do certain things," Bender said.
Which has nothing to do with living in Washington. The District proper encompasses all of 10 square miles. You don't have to live inside to reap the benefits they're touting.

It was pointed out that one of those things might be to see military vehicles on the streets in the event the country goes to a Code Red alert, in an age when terror warnings are a part of life.

In full selling mode, Bender didn't miss a beat: "You choose that when you live in D.C. You see more Humvees on the street, and you don't mind it," he said. "You're invigorated by it."
That's right. Seeing military vehicles in the streets... is invigorating. It makes you forget all about the severe poverty, urban decay, corrupt local government, awful schools, the classism, the racism, and the highest murder rate per-capita in the country. You get all that, and you get to live in a magnet for terrorism that's practically a federal police state. En-fucking-joy.

Wow. This is going to be fun to follow. If you want more info, "officials will kick off the campaign with a celebration at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Farragut Square, featuring music, food and informational pamphlets." Let's all be there.
Sometimes they make it too easy, part 1

This meeting of the Jen Waters of the Washington Times Fan Club is in session. Today's topic: BEES, BEEYOTCH!

Harry A. Mallow of Cumberland, Md., finds bees fascinating.
Mr. Mallow is a boring, boring man.

"It looks like they wouldn't be able to fly, but God made them powerful enough to fly and carry a load of nectar," he says.
And yet, He didn't see fit to give you a personality.

"They are not anything like an airplane, which is slender and can cut through the wind."
True, although it would be nice if you would say that exact same thing again, and this time have a NASA scientist would back it up.

The method bees use to fly is significantly different from how airplanes maneuver, says James Bell, an aerospace engineer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.
Uh-oh, I sense Jen's High School Essay Mode kicking in...

When an airplane flies, the wing is tilted to a greater and greater angle to produce more lift for a given airspeed. If the wing is tilted beyond a specific angle, which is individual to each airplane, it starts making less lift, which eventually can cause the airplane to crash.

This process, which is called stall, takes a few tenths of a second to develop. When bees fly, they flap their wings so fast in a figure-eight motion that they constantly produce the larger amounts of lift that an airplane can create only momentarily without crashing. This explains why an analysis of bee flight using conventional air-flight aerodynamics fails.

It is understood that bees use motion detection to navigate, a method called optic flow. Although bees cannot see the color red, the insects have internal compasses that detect the polarization of sunlight and ultraviolet sensors to track the horizon, which helps them measure movement. Bees have five eyes, including two compound eyes with 7,000 hexagonal facets. The other three are simple eyes that discern light intensity.
Unnecessary passive voice, check. Three non-sequiters in one paragraph, check.

The faster an item moves by a bee, the closer the bee is to the item. Bees are designed to maneuver so the image speed remains constant, preventing them from running into things.
Wow. Wrap your head around that one. "The faster an item moves by a bee, the closer the bee is to the item." I have no fucking idea what this means. We are talking about Earth bees, right? And "image speed?" The hell?

And then, Jen goes into Encylopedia Brown mode and goes into excruciating detail to tell us all about how bees make honey.

Utterly. Fucking. Brilliant.

Or, if you want a more editorial section kind of comedy, check this out:

Advocates for NPR often claim conservatives have more talk radio hosts with bigger audiences so, even if NPR has a leftist bias, it is not a danger. However, there is a fundamental difference. If you do not like Rush Limbaugh, you can boycott his sponsors by not buying their products. If you do not like NPR and try to boycott its sponsor (the federal government) by withholding your taxes, you can be sent to jail.


Unless it is privatized, it is only a matter of time before its arrogance and intolerance will grow, as it increasingly squeezes its private-sector competitors, like the BBC. Congress needs to privatize public broadcasting, before it is too late.
My God. I couldn't make this shit up. Essentially, this guy is saying we should privatize NPR before it squeezes out Clear Channel. Mind-blowing!

Washington Times, you have fulfilled my need for comedy once again. I pardon you, Washington Times. I pardon you.