Why why.i.hate.dc?

I realized I needed to put together some kind of FAQ post, after a new reader posted some questions in a comment thread:

1. Is there anything about DC that you like that has abated your hatred of the city somewhat?

2. What keeps you from moving away?

3. Where would you live, if circumstances permitted it?

4. Where have you lived before? Did you like any of these places?
4. I've lived four other places:
- Great Falls, Montana. Actually not bad. Boring, yes, but there's clean air, friendly people, and beautiful country.
- Jacksonville, Fla. Awful, hot, stringently Bible belt. But it got a little better after I left for college.
- Atlanta, Ga. Fun and diverse. Good for living in, not so good for tourismy things. Best restaurant town ever.
- London, England. Da bomb. If you can't find something to do here, give up.

3. Seattle! It's always been my favorite place to visit. They complain of "Californiazation" these days, but I could work around that. It's got the right mix of weirdness and metropolitanism (that's probably not a word).

2. My wife's working on her PhD. I don't know how much longer that will take.

1. It's actually gotten a little better since I've started this blog. Things I like:

  • People are complaining that Clarendon has been developed into yuppie heaven, but I really like some of the stuff that has gone in there, and it's within walking distance of my apartment. Dinner in Clarendon + train to Metro Center + movie at E Street Cinema = a perfect date.
  • Speaking of my apartment, it's crappy and expensive, but in a good location, and the rent hasn't gone up much since we moved in.
  • There aren't many cities that have a pinball league. There are three here, and I've made some friends through that. (Hmm, I've got some catching up to do.)
  • I work as an on-field football official, from little kids up through varsity high school, and the officials assocation in NoVa is great. Maybe a little too regimented due of all the members from the military, but at least I always know they know what they're doing.

    So, why do I keep this blog going? Because, while there are things I like, they are so far outweighed by the negatives that, after a while, I just needed a way to vent.

    Primarily, the source of my frustration is the repressive social environment. I always feel like a jerk trying to explain this to people, because it's not like I can plot "personality per capita" on a graph as proof. But I feel like that, by moving here, I've forfeited my right to be weird.

    It's hard to explain what I mean by that. But I've been thinking about it since the other night, after watching Gigantic, the movie about crazy-rock duo They Might Be Giants. I loved listening to them in high school; they were (and are) so weird and so clever. It was always so much fun to try to figure out what they were singing about.

    I'm not all that weird myself on the outside; no tattoos or piercings, normal hair, always wearing jeans. Pretty boring, really. But I like hanging around the "alternative" people once in a while. Back in Atlanta, when I would start to feel down, I would take some time to go to Criminal Records in Little Five Points and thumb through indie records and comic books. Or maybe I would grab a $3 slice of pizza at funky-looking Fellini's and catch a movie at the Lefont theater. Or grab a delicious breakfast at Flying Biscuit after checking out the local arts and crafts shop next door.

    It was relaxing to me, but not because it made me feel cool to be in on the indie/alternative culture (I have never felt cool). It was nice because I was around unique people who weren't afraid to express themselves. Those little field trips of mine would remind me that it was OK to just have fun and be myself, and, as someone with perpetually low self-esteem, that felt good.

    In Washington, I've never had that feeling. I can't feel comfortable expressing myself here, because uniqueness just isn't encouraged. It's not like anybody in Washington set out with an agenda to suppress weirdness; it just seems to have developed that way. During the winter, I'll step onto the platform at Metro Center station, wearing jeans and my puffy bright-green-and-yellow Seattle SuperSonics jacket that I've had since high school, and suddenly I'll realize that I'm the only person there wearing an article of clothing brighter than dark brown.

    That kinda creeps me out.

    So anyway, I got more and more frustrated about not feeling comfortable expressing myself. This came to a boil last March, after the start of the war in Iraq. I was all, "Iraq? Uh, where did this come from? Why are we attacking them?" and everyone else was all, "Yay, spill the blood of the brown-skins! Doesn't matter which ones!" (I'm paraphrasing, of course.) I felt marginalized, like I had no voice. I really wanted make myself heard.

    Blogging seemed like a good way to do that; I could vent my frustrations about living in Washington, D.C. without having to deal with all the blank stares that usually result. Plus, I could be creative and express myself to anybody who cared. All the guys wearing the same black leather jackets, and the ladies wearing the same black track pants with the white stripes down the side, could ignore me if they wanted. But any kindred spirits out there -- people who maybe have been frustrated trying to express themselves in a very status-minded city -- might appreciate what I have to say.

    Luckily, there are a few kindred spirits out there. (Incredibly, this blog now gets almost 200 hits a day during the week.) And the ironic part is I'm happier now, knowing that I can express myself to people who actually want to hear what I have to say. I think I can tough out living here for a little while longer by getting other people to understand why I find it so uninviting.

    So... let the hate and obscure pop-culture references continue! Join me, won't you Stetmeyer?
  • 2.27.2004

    So there is a shred of ethics in Washington!

    Have to give respect where it's due. Yesterday, when CBS Radio's world news roundup at 8 a.m. was leading with Howard Stern's radio show being pulled off of Clear Channel stations, WTOP news refused to run it:

    "The news value is not that Stern was yanked from the airwaves by six stations in other markets. It is the context of more controversial hearings on Capitol Hill today. In that context, there was news value but that's not the way CBS Radio News handled the story this morning. It was a patent shill for Stern without any disclosure that Infinity, which syndicates Stern, is owned by Viacom just as CBS Radio is owned by Viacom. There was a very real perception of bias, if not actual bias." (Quote from story on DCRTV)
    One of the reasons I decided to shy away from pursuing a career in journalism was that I was concerned about where news coverage was going. As more big corporations snapped up news outlets and merged them together, I felt the emphasis in coverage was going to shift from public service to profiteering and self-promotion.

    Which is pretty much what has happened to varying degrees. (Like, who can even take TV news seriously these days? After they essentially covered up a movement in the FCC to further deregulate the broadcast networks last year, I stopped paying any attention at all.)

    Instead, this is a great move by WTOP, and flies in the face of my perpetual cynicism. After the out-of-control ownership consolidation that has gone on over the past decade, WTOP is the only local radio news presence in Washington, D.C. (which, when you think about it, is absoludicrous). To me, seeing the station stick to its ethical guns is encouraging.

    Please Orrin, Don't Hurt Them

    Congress has already forced D.C. to accept school vouchers against its will. Now, the next great experiment: there's an attempt underway to repeal the city's gun ban via an amendment to a tort lawsuit bill. The movement is being spearheaded by Sen. Orrin Hatch, who of course is straight outta south-central Utah (play that funky music, white boy).

    Visit the obligatory protest web site (like that'll do any good).

    Yay! If this passes, I'll be able to legally carry a gun into Congress!

    (What's that? You say I still won't? Awww, MAN! How will I protect myself from those scary Utah legislators?)

    Oh no you DINNN'T

    OK, work. You can force me to drive all the way out to Reston every day. You can put me in a conference room with two other people and no telephone as my "office". You can even stick me with a boss who is condescendingly insulting about my lack of knowledge about auditory beam forming on my first day.

    But now, I've found out that I can't read the Onion on the Web, because it's blocked by the company firewall.

    That, my friends, is the last straw.

    So who's hiring?


    Because unfightable parking tickets don't bring in enough money

    The honor of the first jurisdiction in the country to install permanent automatic cameras to catch speeders goes to the District of Columbia. Says Chief Ramsey:

    "The sign out there says '25' (mph), it doesn't say about 25, or close to 25. It says 25. So, if you are under you are OK, if you are over, you are at your own risk."
    As someone who was ticketed for driving 65 mph on an empty 55 mph road in Luray, Va., yet who every day is tailgated by people trying to drive 85 on the 55-mph I-66 and Dulles Toll Road, I can sympathize with anyone who gets ticketed by a camera for doing 26-34. It's just one more way to turn people off to moving to or visiting our nation's capital.

    The buck stops nowhere

    In Washington, nobody ever seems wants to take responsibility for their mistakes.

    1) Not a single person at WASA or the EPA has taken responsibility for covering up lead in the water, even though multiple officials appear to have known about the problem for years, and they've unsuccessfully tried to underplay the seriousness of it over the past few weeks.

    2) Lucy Spelman, director of the embattled National Zoo of Dead Animals, gave her bosses her 10-months' notice (10 months?), because:

    "I have pushed, pulled and prodded to move the zoo forward. [...] But now, to accelerate the rate of our progress, I have concluded that it is time for me to move on. . . . I have become a lightning rod for too much attention. It has become a distraction for the zoo and the Smithsonian."
    BZZZZT! Wrong! The response we were looking for was, "Because I suck like a porn star at being Zoo Director, and several animals have suffered and died of negligence under my watch. You can read about it in the Washington Post!"

    3) Funny story here: millions of dollars have been stolen from Metro's parking lots and garages by its contracted employees. How much is missing exactly? No one knows. How long has this been going on? Metro was first alerted that money was being stolen at least four years ago, and as many as 10 years ago, at a rate of $500,000 to $1 million annually. This also comes while Metro is discussing ways to raise fares (and almost double parking fees) to make up for a budget shortfall.

    You know, in any of these situations, all I ask for is someone to come forward and say, "You know what? That's my bad. I messed up. I knew there was a problem and should have done something about it, and I'm sorry. " Not a single person will do it; the problem is always somebody else's fault.

    How about just a little personal responsibility?

    Mike Luckovich rules

    So does Doug Marlette:


    Headline of the Year

    "Minnesota stand on flag in flames Civil War buffs".

    Wrap your head around that one.

    District to Issue Warning on Lead

    "D.C. health officials plan to announce today that all pregnant women and children younger than 6 who live in homes with lead service lines should immediately stop drinking unfiltered tap water and have their blood tested."

    Third-world city living, dc style!


    The '00s are the new '50s

    Today, my friends at the Washington Times printed an editorial denouncing news organizations' use of the term "conservative" in describing the hard-line Islamic candidates for Iran's Parliament, and "liberal" to describe the reformist candidates seeking to loosen the Islamic restrictions imposed on the public.

    After all, the editorial says, "The absolute power of the Iranian ayatollahs is an anathema to all conservatives, fearing as we do the power of big government to take the small liberties away."

    Also today, President Bush called for an amendment to this country's Constitution. The proposed amendment would add language to place nationwide restrictions on whether homosexuals can have government-recognized marriages and/or civil unions. The proposal clearly springs out of the President's religious beliefs, and essentially would write a specific form of discrimination into our Constitution.

    Ahh, irony; she is a beautiful thing.

    Don't let this happen to you

    Public service announcement: If you're going to participate in a contrived marriage proposal stunt on the floor of the MCI Center during a Wizards game, you'd better be 99 percent positive she's going to say "yes."

    This woman did not say yes. Her response was to run off the court, into the tunnel.

    Come on, baby! You could at least pretend you accepted his proposal in front of the thousands... er, hundreds of people in attendance, and then tell him later that you think getting married might not be a good idea. So that he's not completely humiliated.

    Link props to Swamp City.

    These pandas probably won't fare much better than the zoo's pandas

    Remember the D.C. city art project in 2002, when hundreds of decorated donkey and elephant statues dotted the streets, and residents responded with vandalism?

    Well, replace 2002 with 2004, and replace "donkey and elephant" with "panda."

    Hooray, I live in China now! (Oh wait, I used that line already.)

    Somebody had to go and spoil it

    As Andrew says, "See what happens when you talk during a no-hitter? Someone dies." But let the record show that, for 11 glorious days, nobody in D.C. died by someone else's hand:


    11 days since our last murder

    I'm not set up with Photoshop at my new job (which, BTW, sucks). But if I was, the murder counter would read an astonishing 11 days since the last DC murder. Three cheers for no killing!


    The War on Criticism

    It bears mentioning that Oklahoma representative Ernest Istook's crusade against the First Amendment has come to fruition. This would be the the same crusade I railed against in December, against placing advertisements on Metro that dare to criticize government policy.

    (I still haven't been invited to Monday at Micah's. Come on, Micah baby. Gimme some sugah.)

    Here's the ad Metro is refusing to run, due to threats of the feds withholding their funding:

    That's it?

    Hooray, I live in China now.


    Fun with Google

    Every so often, since I'm a shallow human being who desperately needs his ego stroked, I'll look for links to my blog in Google. I also occasionally plug in "why i love dc" as a search term, just to take a look at some opposing viewpoints.

    Sometimes, I get hilarious results. (See the "why i love dc" link on the menu bar for a similar example.) Occasionally, I'll find something well-written, although it may be completely lacking in capital letters.

    But nothing reaches the pinnacle of hilariatude that is this "why i love dc" link. Do you dare enter the mind of... 18-year-old Serena? Here's how she introduces herself on her front page:

    My name is Serena, I'm 18 years old, and live in Fairfax, VA (for any idiots out there, that's in the DC metro).
    Yes, you're all idiots for not knowing that Fairfax, a random Washington suburb outside the Beltway, is near D.C. Idiots, I tell you! On to the D.C. essay:

    I love the DC metro because first of all, it's one of the nation's biggest cities. Only city that's bigger is New York, which I also like a lot, but I love DC more than any other city.
    Umm, technically that's not true, if we're talking urban area and population. Washington ranks about 7th on that list.

    But don't let me interrupt!

    It's a city filled with culture, diversity, opportunity, and things to do and see. There's something for practically everyone here. As long as you aren't from the midwest, north, or west coast you're sure to like at least something about DC.
    Ha! Well. That leaves... not much. The Southeast, I guess. (Humourous aside: I'm from the Southeast.)

    And if you don't care that much about historical things, DC and it's surrounding metro are filled with some very modern buildings. Some of the nicest looking buildings I've seen are here in the DC metro. Crystal City, Ballston, Rosslyn, Reston, Herndon, and Tyson's Corner all have lots of skyscrapers, high rises, and modern looking glass buildings that shine in the bright southern sun.
    OK... those are all northern Virginia towns. So, to sum up, Virginia has modern-looking buildings. We build excitement, bitches!

    It's true that nothing gives me a chill like driving past the Cable and Wireless building in Tysons. Look how it shines just off the Route 7-Route 123 access ramp!

    That's another thing about DC I like. That we're in the south, where there's southern hospitality, the people are friendly and not in the fake way that northerners are.
    Uh-huh. I'm afraid that's bullshit. I used to live in South. Strangers in the South will tend to make eye contact with you, voluntarily, and maybe even say hello. That happens here... never. JFK would back me up. The old dead one, that is. See the quote up there, below the title of this blog.

    There's diversity here, and most people in the DC metro are very open minded.
    I'm gonna have to say double bullshit. We've got a separatist culture in Washington, where suburbanites and city dwellers are basically waging a cold war against each other. Part of that is rooted in decades-old racism. And believe me, you don't have to spend much time in Northern Virginia to realize that it still exists.

    If you live in DC, there's endless opportunities for you.
    Aaaand that's going to be triple bullshit. (You win the progressive triple bullshit jackpot.)

    There's lots of jobs and a very low unemployment rate of 3% in Fairfax County. There's everything from just regular jobs which are easy to get here, to computer jobs, to government jobs.
    Well, that is every type of job imaginable. Regular, computer and government.

    DC has something to offer for everyone except for farmers and spoiled rich kids who don't know how to work.
    Um, I think the spoiled rich kids who don't work seem to be having the best time. (Look for the "diplomat" license plates on some of their vehicles.)

    (Also, why farmers can't have a good time here? What about that guy who drove his tractor into the reflecting pool on the Mall? That looked like a rollicking good time.)

    If you're 22 years old and never worked a day in your life and were sheltered by your parents in a small town who didn't want you to know what real life is like, then I strongly suggest you stay in your small town cuz you wouldn't last very long in DC.
    Anyone else get the feeling this is directed toward a more specific audience than you generally might reach on the Internet? Me too.

    Ahhhh, Satan. I mean... ahhhh, humor. So much fun. Also, I am a bastard for picking on this poor girl.

    But I only kid because I'm not from the Midwest, North, or West Coast.


    Newww record!

    In the ten months or so since I've been maintaining the D.C. murder counter (on your left), not once has the column keeping track of "days since our last murder" gotten as high as seven.

    Until today.

    D.C. has actually gone an entire week without a homicide. Here's a snapshot for posterity:

    That's right, there's a party going on. Right here. A celebration, if you will. And we owe it all to.. a mysterious man in a red jacket.

    Boyce said the man chased him down an alley and began stabbing him again, wounding Boyce's hand and wrist as he tried to defend himself. During the struggle, Boyce said, the man in the red jacket walked into the alley.

    "He's a working man," Boyce remembered him saying. "You don't want to go to jail for trying to kill him. He's just doing his job." The attacker did not seem to listen, Boyce said.

    At one point, Boyce said, the man in the red jacket started to lead the attacker away. But the assailant broke away, ran back and started punching Boyce in the face.
    Incredible... an outsider actually helping someone in danger. In D.C. Someone in D.C. actually took an interest in the life of someone else, and stepped into a dangerous situation to help them. I'm speechless. And that's not all:

    Boyce said that as he lay on the ground, the man in the red jacket called 911 and talked to him to keep him awake.

    "I felt him rubbing my hair, saying, 'Come on, stay with me,' " he said.
    OK, this man in the red jacket fucking rocks! This mysterious man is my new hero. He actually saved this guy's life. It's an unprecedented display of selflessness in Washington.

    This, seriously, makes my day. Man in the Red Jacket: you rock.

    P.S.: Andrew, I expect a heroic graphic rendering of this man, including superhero name, on my desk by Monday.

    A public service announcement for college basketball fans

    Old and busted: Georgetown and Maryland.

    New hotness: George Washington.


    Digging in the dirt to find the places we got hurt

    Washington, D.C. A city of democracy, freedom, liberty... ha ha, just kidding. Actually we're all about digging up 30-year-old dirt on our celebri-ticians.

    Call Exhibit Q. Last Wednesday, that bastion of journalistic inegrity, the Washington Times, led off with the following breaking news story above the fold on the front page:

    Photo of Kerry with Fonda enrages Vietnam veterans

    Hey, sounds like a pretty juicy scoop, right? (Wow, I bet nobody has said that phrase since 1934.) Fonda, of course, is widely reviled by veterans for her stint in Hanoi (here's the comprehensive Snopes history lesson for young'uns like me). I dare say that Vietnam veterans are not fond'a Fonda, and by doing so I have used up my allowable number of puns for the 2004 calendar year (one).

    Anyway, a photo of Kerry associating with Fonda would probably ruffle some ridges. Here's the photo in question:

    Um, OK... Jane Fonda's obviously the woman in the orange top and sporting way too much in the bangs department. Kerry's not the guy to the right of Jane Fonda, even though that's who I looked at first. He's not directly behind Fonda. He's not, in fact, anywhere adjacent to her. He's that guy wayyyy in the back, squinting and so far away from the camera that he's out of focus.

    This. Is the big story. That John Kerry was, at one point in his life, standing within 20 feet of Jane Fonda at an anti-war rally. Two years before she went to Hanoi.

    Wow. I'm sorry, but... you would have to be delusional for this to upset you. It adds nothing to what we already know. Kerry served in Vietnam, was awarded a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, three Purple Hearts and a partidge in a pear tree. After that he came home and protested the war and testified to Congress about atrocities he claimed were regularly commited by soldiers.

    If you were already mad at Kerry for that, this photo isn't going to change that. Also, if you weren't already mad at Kerry for that, this photo also isn't going to change that. And yet, this was story A-number-1 last Wednesday, and thus was all over other various websites. Unreal.

    Then of course, the Internet exploded when a story broke out last week about Kerry having an affair with an intern at some unspecified point in the past (let me guess, 30 years ago?). This has been beaten to absolute death everywhere and supposedly proven false, so I'm not going to rehash it. But, you know, VOMIT. The way this was treated both on the Internet and in the mainstream news media left me feeling... not so fresh. Everybody ran with it like it was the next Watergate. It was not.

    Meanwhile, the President doesn't have it much better. For some reason, the White House press corps has chosen now to grill him on a subject on which he's been less than forthcoming: his National Guard service and whether he fulfilled it, all-the-way-completely-for-reals. Thirty years ago.

    (Um, guys? Why now? Why choose now to call him to task on this pointless issue, instead of last year, when you were all basically giving the President fellatio and generally accepting his claims about Iraq at face value without asking for actual proof? Seriously, Woodward and Bernstein are rolling around in their graves right now.

    Just kidding. Woodward's still alive, of course.)

    All week, Bush's press secretary has had to fend off an angry press corps. Document after document was released about Bush's past; dental records, pay stubs, etc. And still, they kept on coming like jackals. Where was the President on Aug. 12, 1973 at 4:50 p.m.? America demands to know!

    Listen up, press people and bloggers. I want to be able to vote on a Presidential candidate based on his stand on the issues. I don't care what these guys did 30 years ago. I don't even care if Kerry and Bush were AWOL and driving drunk together throughout the Northeast, banging interns and doing coke off Jane Fonda's torso before moving on to Botox. Because none of that has anything to do with them trying to be President.

    And futhermore, people have to be able to make mistakes 30 years ago and move on with their lives, even if they are President or running for President. In fact, I would suggest that having someone as President who has made a few mistakes in the past is a good thing, because people can learn from their mistakes. This is apparently a shocking, relevatory concept in this country. When you make a mistake in life, which I think *maybe* a couple of us have done, you have to be able to accept it, learn from it, and grow as a person. You shouldn't have to feel that your mistakes will haunt you for the rest of time. And yet, that's what we do to our presidential candidates; their mistakes from 30-plus years ago are dredged up so we can all have a good laugh at his expense.

    Obviously a lot of these retarded attacks are initiated by people who are just trying to dig up some shit on a prominent candidate they don't like, and hopefully the rational voters in this country who are undecided know to ignore that stuff and pay attention to what's important.

    Yeah, I don't believe that either.

    I think for now, when I look across the river and see the Mall, the White House, the Capitol building, I'm going to be thinking, "that's is one fucking gigantic playpen for a bunch of three-year-olds." Not so much with the "wow, they're doing great things for our country over there" feelings at the moment. If ever again.


    This time, it counts?

    The District, with much local fanfare, held the first presidential primary in the nation back in january, ostensibly to draw attention to the fact that D.C. has no representation in Congress. However, bowing to pressure from the national Democratic party, the primary was made non-binding; i.e., people could vote, but the delegates could wind up going to a candidate other than the winner. Then, five of the nine candidates (at the time) dropped out of the primary. Howard Dean got the most votes.

    Aaand, the nation ignored it. John Kerry won the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary, and a bunch more primaries, and has clearly become the front-runner for the nomination. On Saturday, D.C. held caucuses, which really do count in determining who gets the District's delegates come convention time. Kerry, who wasn't even on the D.C. primary ballot, had the most votes by far and will receive the most delegates. Al Sharpton, the sideshow of presidential candidates, finished second. Dean received the third-most votes.

    That's right: Dean, the winner of the January primary in D.C., will receive fewer delegates than two other candidates. Dean, unlike Kerry, actually took a stand on D.C.'s lack of national representation, which you'll recall was the reason D.C. wanted to move up the primary in the first place.

    The voter turnout at the caucuses was a staggering 3.5 percent, compared to 16.5 percent for the meaningless primary. For a city that's trying to draw attention to its lack of representation, this has to feel like poking yourself in the eye. After trying to organize a first-in-the-nation and publicize it as a cry for voting rights in Congress, at a cost, oh by the way, of $350,000, they threw out all those votes and went with someone else.

    Ladies and gentlemen... your nation's capital.

    Don't drink the water

    Trying to determine which properties in D.C. are served by lead service lines is an inexact science at best. Residents are changing their routines, buying bottled water and filters, and generally avoiding tap water (and in some cases, steering clear of D.C. restaurants).

    Sad: the high levels of lead in the tap water. Infuriating: WASA and the EPA knew about it and said nothing to the public.

    Plus, WASA's response has been inconsistent, especially its attempts to educate the public on the problem.


    Back to business

    Here's an amusing article about Coyote Ugly coming to town. Yes, the tourist trap-slash-bar featured in the one-star movie of the same name opens today near MCI Center. Joy. The writer gets in some good barbs:

    There's a wildly successful Coyote Ugly at the New York New York casino in Las Vegas, but Vegas is a city that boasts, "What happens here, stays here." The slogan in Washington is more like: "What happens here may be grounds for a special prosecutor."
    Heh. Anyway, the one in Vegas charges a $10 cover. I just can't bring myself to do that; it would be like paying money to get into Hard Rock Cafe or Planet Hollywood.

    Instead, I'll be content to drink swirly girly margaritas at Lauriol Plaza, in excess, about four hours from right now. Party!


    Status quo: maintained

    Ahh, what a year so far. I've lost hundreds in Vegas, been in a car accident, gotten a speeding ticket for driving 65 mph in a 55 mph zone, and also lost my job due to federal budget cuts. And today, I had a job interview with my parent company, for a different job than the one I currently work, in which I do contract work at a different company's building where I have an office, but still get paid by my parent company. (NOTE: This could only happen in Washington.)

    The interview was set for 11 a.m. in lovely Reston, Virginia. ("Reston" being Cherokee for "Land of the Great Boxy Office Park.") During the night, I dreamt about snowboarding. When I woke up, I was surprised to see daylight coming through the window. Then I looked at my alarm clock: 11:40 a.m.! Holy shit! I had somehow overslept (even more than usual) right through the interview! Even if I called my interviewer and made up a lame excuse about car trouble or something, I would still have been 40 minutes late reporting. Disappointed, I threw up my hands in disgust and fumed about costing myself a valuable opportunity for employment.

    Oh, wait: then I woke up for real. That whole oversleeping thing was part of my dream. It was actually 7 a.m. I was so mad at my stupid subconscious that I couldn't get back to sleep. (In fact, I'm still mad. FUCK YOU SUBCONSCIOUS! We're officially not on speaking terms. Not that I guess we ever were.) Back in real life, I managed to arrive at the interview site a good 40 minutes early, and sat around in the parking lot for half an hour. Then I chatted for a good five minutes with the receptionist about Tina Louise, a.k.a. Ginger on Gilligan's Island, and whether she really thought she had the star power to exceed Bob Denver and Jim Backus in celebrity.

    Then, when the actual interview started, I realized I had forgotten something important about computer programming interviews: they always spring little pop quizzes on you to see how much you know.

    This can be highly nerve-racking. There are few worse feelings in the world than standing dumb-faced in front of a whiteboard, trying to solve a problem and prove you're not an idiot fishing for a job out of his league, while an interviewer watches and waits and waits and tallies up your "stupid points". (I made up that part about the stupid points.) And it didn't help that the interviewers were giving me: math-related pop quizzes. (Dun DUN DUNNNNNN musical stinnnnnng!)

    Oh, the horror. The. Horror.

    I realize that, as a computer scientist, the word "scientist" in my job title might give the impression I know something about math. When, in fact, I really don't. Math is not something I've have to use on a regular basis; that's for my programs to figure out. I may look up and program an equation, but I certainly don't feel the need to remember it after the fact or learn how to calculate it myself. The last actual math class I took was a calculus course as a freshman 10 years ago. I got a C. I can write good, I can design, I can program. Notsomuch with the math.

    So when they started asking me about differential equations, I started to panic a little. Usually I'm a good interview; I come in prepared with resumes and samples of my work, ready to talk myself up and appear to act interested in the work and the people I'm meeting. In this case, I had little to no idea going in what the job entailed; it was arranged by people in the company yesterday. When I get asked about things I can't remember, such as differential equations, it throws me off my game. I vaguely recalled x^2 (x-squared) magically becoming 2x, or something. I was not able to give an answer for x^2dx.

    I was heartened a bit when the interviewer said he'd had math graduates straight out of Maryland unable to answer the same question. (Then I remembered: this was Maryland he was talking about, after all. They were likely too busy making up oh-so-clever derogatory signs regarding J. J. Reddick's penis to actually do any studying.)

    I did only slightly better on the next math question: if a car is traveling northeast at a velocity of 30 mph, what is the north component of its velocity? I went up to the whiteboard and started trying to use the Pythagorean theorem on the problem, but after about an eternity I figured out that was not going to work. Then, after another eternity, I realized I was going to have to use either the cosine or sine of a 45-degree angle to solve this problem. But which was which? I couldn't remember. After much prompting from the interviewer, I finally figured it out, and felt stupid for not being able to come up with the answer until well after the universe had ended. (It was 30*cos45. Whee.)

    Next they gave me a programming problem, which took me another eternity to figure out, but I did solve it after much more prompting. Then, this priceless conversation:

    INTERVIEWER: Have you ever worked with semaphores?
    ME: (Vaguely remembering programming with semaphores in a class in 1996) Yes.
    INTERVIEWER: What's a semaphore?
    ME: Um... (drawing a blank) I can't remember.
    MY BRAIN: (Dammit! My kingdom for a Google search!)

    So after that humiliating display of mathematic and scientific ineptitude, my morale had been reduced to negative and, who knows, perhaps imaginary numbers, if I could remember what those were. I didn't have a good feeling about the interview, and was pretty sure walking out that they would be able to find a less mathematically-challenged applicant.

    Which is why I was surprised when they called to offer me the job three hours later. So surprised that I said I'd do it, although I know I sounded hesitant on the phone, for a number of reasons.

    First of all, the job is a military-related project, which gives me some ethical heebie-jeebies. Yeah, call me a liberal pantywaist and tell me that the military is fighting for our freedom and blah blah blah, but I know I'm not going to be able to shake the feeling that I'm using my powers for evil rather than good.

    Secondly, the job is in Reston. I already feel 20 years older than I really am by working out in McLean; Reston is twice as far out into the suburbs, so now I'm going to feel 40 years older. You can really only eat at T.G.I. Friday's so many times at age 28 before you start having a mid-life crisis. (Plus, this doubles my commute from Arlington.)

    Thirdly, I have a feeling the work environment is a little more conservative. Probably less time to blog and surf, and I'm likely going to have to show up on a more regular schedule (instead of strolling in around 10:30 like I tend to do now). Looks like the dress is less casual as well, rather than the jeans I'm used to. So potentially less goofing-off, but that's a minor issue.

    Most importantly, I've been pining lately for something more creative and interesting that will allow me to use the left side of my brain in a professional capacity. (Is the left side the creative side? Whatever.) And this is clearly not that job. It's full of math and equations and probably enough military jargon and acronyms to make my head a splode. I doubt it will turn out to be very fulfilling for me.

    So. Maybe I should have taken a little more time to think about it; still, I think I made the right decision in taking the job. The key here is that, if I find that the work is just too boring and unbearable, I can look for another job while simeultaneously having a job. And obviously that's a lot nicer than looking for work while not having a job.

    The moral of the story: including the phrase "J. J. Reddick's penis" should boost my search-engine hit count considerably. Good night everybody!


    Will blog for food

    Thanks for the kind words on my employment situation.

    When I hit my two year anniversary here last October, I posted about how happy I was to find this job, after my one and only interview in Washington (other than the infamous NSA polygraph incident).

    On the one hand, it's kind of nice that I'll have the freedom to look for something more interesting or more productive than what I've been doing. On the other hand, if it's going to be as hard to find a job now as it was in 2001, I'm going to have a stressful few months ahead of me.

    Plus, there probably aren't that many interesting or productive jobs available, and the chances I'll be able to find such a laid-back work environment are probably slim. At this job I could wear jeans to work every day, there was a lot of vacation time, the hours were flexible, and they let me blog and goof off whenever I wanted, as long as I got the work done. I doubt my next job, even if I get picked up by my parent company (in beautiful Reston, Va.), will be that relaxed.


    Somehow, I no longer have a job

    The boss sat me down this morning and said that the government research company we contract with is facing budget cuts and has decided to let me go. Unless someone in my parent company decides they want to keep me on for some other project, I'm going to be out of a job in two weeks.

    Guh. What a gut punch.

    So. Looks like I'll be working on my resume and looking for jobs. Anybody in the Washington area want to hire a software engineer who can also write and do graphic design, but has no security clearance?

    Didn't think so. I am so boned.


    Somehow, she still has a job

    Yes, I'm talking about my favoritest columnist, Jen Waters, lifestyle reporter at the Washington Times, fan club established in 2003.

    Jen been having a rough time lately. She's really been going through the motions, just plugging all her interview data into the Jen-o-Matic 2000. Here are the leads from her last four published stories:

    Amey St. Clair of Arlington had migraines for months.

    Bonnie Vining of Vienna has paid her dues as a student.

    Cindy Weller of Edgewater, Md., is reminded of the importance
    of family every time the grandfather clock in her home chimes.

    Three-year-old Maria Christine Vucci of Brookeville,
    Md., is on a diet.
    Coming soon: Jen Waters' Mad Libs!

    (Proper name) of (city) (is/has) (something boring nobody cares about).

    Personally, I prefer her journalistic writing over at yifa.org's "newz and viewz". Here's her lead on a story entitled World Bank and IMF:

    In order to pray in an effective manner, it is important to stay abreast on the cultural issues. [sic]

    One of the most controversial subjects of our day concerns the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Like most contentious matters, there are many sides to the debate. All of which need prayer.
    Awww, what a cutie-pie.

    Sadly, yifa.org took down Jen's bio and attractive photo a while back. The next-hottest yifa-girl remaining appears to be Megan Johnson, FYI.

    Great googaly moogaly

    We're all professionals here. When Jerry Stackhouse took the court for the Wizards last night, the name on the back of his jersey apparently read:


    Sadly, I haven't been able to track down a photo yet.

    Let me see your papers

    The Post's website has infuriatingly started asking for registration information in order to view most stories. If you're local, they want to know everything about you: address, phone number, favorite color, next of kin, current GPS coordinates, your highest score on Ms. Pac-Man, name of person who took your virginity, etc.

    To avoid the gestapo, and presumably avoid having your data sold to the highest bidder: if you've provided a local ZIP code in the past, clear all browser cookies from washingtonpost.com and washpost.com. The next time you go to view a story, it will ask for your information, but minus the address/phone/whatever fields. Enter a bogus ZIP code that's not local, and whatever other bogus information you like. The website doesn't care about the addresses of out-of-town visitors. You don't even have to enter a valid e-mail address to register.

    Presto! Now they can't track you down. Although they may e-mail you a hale and hearty "fuck you" if you criticize their stories.


    Water Agency Fired Manager Who Warned of D.C. Lead

    Seema S. Bhat was WASA's water quality manager from 1999 until she was fired in March after her bosses decided that she had too often reported lead problems directly to the Environmental Protection Agency.


    Bhat said she was keeping the EPA informed because she wanted WASA to launch an aggressive campaign to replace lead service lines and inform the public of the problems. Instead, she said, her superiors told her to be more patient and enrolled her in a training course designed to teach her to respect the chain of command.
    In. Fucking. Credible.

    I'd really like to hear them explain this one. We're talking about high levels of lead in the fucking water supply! That's kind of important! And now it looks like people at WASA and the EPA knew there might be a potential problem as far back as 2001, and did nothing, except to go all Silkwood on the whistle-blower. The relevant testing information didn't even make it up the chain of command at WASA.

    I really don't understand this one. Why would lowish-ranking officials at a civil water agency want to cover up lead in the water? Is there something else going on here?

    Are you there, God? It's me, Tony

    This is from the Post's gossipy political column thingy (scroll down):

    Mayor Tony Williams, who has vowed to "crush" any effort to recall him from office, has mighty powerful supporters. One is his mother, Virginia E. Hayes Williams, who was cheering his leadership at a Super Bowl fundraiser for the Butterfly Foundation, which assists disabled kids. "I don't minimize anything," she said of the nascent recall movement. " Saint Vincent said God never fails to come to your aid -- after you've done all that you can." The first mom added: "I think it's God's will that he will not be recalled."
    Oh, really.

    So not only Bush is going to be re-elected because it's His will, but Mayor Williams won't be recalled. I had no idea God was such a political activist.


    Couldn't have blah di blah blah myself

    Jeffrey Frank was a longtime editor at the Washington Post, now working for the New Yorker. In an interview about his new novel Bad Publicity, he renders this website obsolete.

    What was your inspiration for Bad Publicity? Did you gather a lot of information for it while you were working in Washington in the '80s?

    I wasn't even aware I was collecting it at the time, but I was constantly uncomfortable living and working in Washington. I was very happy working at the Washington Post, but the city itself was increasingly giving me the creeps, and I really wanted to find some way to get it down. How do you get down the fact that you go to a dinner with Washington people and you always leave feeling somewhat unclean? I was just trying to capture this odd place that was increasingly out of touch with the world, but increasingly doing mischief on the rest of the world and the rest of the country. It's a kind of toxic biosphere, but it's only since I left Washington that I really got a sense of how.


    How does this kind of Washington scene compare to its equivalent in New York?

    The difference is that New York, to me, is more hopeful. It's like every hopeful impulse in the world is gathered in one place. I mean, of course we have all the awful careerism and ambition as well, but I have this sense that here people want each other to do well. Washington, by contrast, is a city where you sort of root for failure. The ultimate statement was from Vince Foster before he killed himself, where he wrote "It's a bloodsport out here." I mean, I enjoy Washington, but the conversation is so insular and so sharply focused on politics, and there's a lack of real culture. In some ways, a city like Cleveland is even more interesting than Washington, because there's more of a diversity of interests.
    Awww, BURN! Washington, D.C.? You just got served.

    Link via Wonkette, which I don't need to link to because everyone's reading it already and it's so damn cute, but I will anyway.


    0 days since our last murder

    D.C. suffers another fatal shooting at a high school, this time at Ballou. A 16-year-old boy died from gunshot wounds to the chest.