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.


Lead, as in coerce

There's lead in the water in D.C. The Water and Sewer Authority tested over 6,000 homes, and two-thirds had water that exceeded the EPA's set limit.

The best part is, WASA has known this was a serious problem since last summer, and they knew that at least a small number of homes had a problem as far back as 2002. They didn't start notifying homeowners until November.

Lead, as you may know, is not good for the kiddies. Brita can't help you, and neither will boiling the water.

At least the end of the article cheered me up a little:

Cleopatra Jones, a neighborhood advisory commissioner in Bloomingdale, east of Howard University, said some neighbors played down the risks because they buy bottled water.

"I said, 'Don't you brush teeth, shower and cook?' " Jones recalled. "It's got to be alarming."

Awww yeah! You best be listening to Cleopatra! I always knew she'd wind up fighting for the people. Too bad Detective John Shaft and Superfly TNT were unavailable for comment.


Bullock Sentenced in Union Scam

Depression led the president of the Washington Teachers Union to embezzle $4.6 million from 1996 to 2002. No word on excuses for the other five people who helped.

I'm an INSIDER now!

Because I'm a glutton for punishment, I just signed up for the Washington Times' "Insider" online service.

Where else can I get the exact same content that's on the Times' regular website? Oh, guess I answered my own question.

But that's not all... I also get a section called "Civil War" that has articles about... the Civil War? "Civilians fall victim at bloody Antietam!" Well, that's... timely.


Sen. John Kerry declared at a South Carolina Democratic presidential debate last night that the Bush administration has exaggerated the threat of terrorism for political purposes. "I think there has been an exaggeration," the Massachusetts senator said when asked whether President Bush has overstated the threat. "They are misleading the American people all the way." What's next? Charges that the Bush White House staged the events of 9/11 on a Hollywood set like the conspiracy nuts used to say about the moon landing?
Front-runner status brings with it heightened media scrutiny, and Sen. Kerry may find that comments like this don't bear repeating. You can be sure the Republicans already have a tape of the comment in safe-keeping for use this fall. - Fran Coombs
Ummm, so there's the inside dirt... on politics. That Fran Coombs really knows her... his... stuff.


Newsy news

Following the grand tradition of Washington, where doing a poor job is rewarded with more money, Waste Management's much-maligned recycling collection program gets a contract extension in D.C.

The Anacostia River is a toxic waste pit, unfit for swimming on 86 of 100 days in 2002, thanks to waste runoff from Maryland and D.C.'s antequated sewer system that tends to dump sewage in the river. Damn you Pierre L'Enfant!

More Metro cuts coming in the nation's third-worst traffic city.

One possible cut is to end weekend service after midnight, rather than the current closing time of 2 a.m., which was one of the few positive changes during the last couple of years. So much for trying to have a nightlife. Does any other city with a subway system close it down at midnight on the weekend? Take that, New York!

P.S. They're thinking of another fare increase too.

P.P.S. The cold weather once again severly hampered the system and caused delays all week. Which is OK, because everyone's work closed early, except mine of course, the bitches.

When in doubt, always blame the victim

A 14-year-old girl who had been questioned about murders was herself murdered execution-style. Then, the mayor's office inexplicably blew off the family of the victim.

"I got some very strange information from a city official," a reporter for a national magazine told me after receiving a call from mayoral spokesman Tony Bullock. In an off-the-record conversation, Bullock told the reporter, as he has told other news outlets, that Princess Hansen had a 1-1/2-year-old baby, that her mother had a parade of drug dealers coming through her house and that the mother had refused to cooperate with police.


We may yet learn that Princess was deeper into the gang scene than her family admits. But what we know is even more disturbing: The city reacted as if the Hansens are filth, and before helping Princess's family, it scurried to sully her name.
An even better passage about when the mayor finally did visit:

Just after 10 yesterday morning, four workers from the Sursum Corda Cooperative, armed with shovels, spades and salt, started digging a path through the ice from the spot where Mayor Anthony A. Williams's black Lincoln Navigator would soon park to the front door of Judyann Hansen's townhouse.

Not one other patch of pavement in the grim housing project just off North Capitol Street NW had been salted or cleared.
Call me cynical, and, well you'd be right. But that right thurr seems to sum up Tony's feelings about his poorer constituents. And helps explain why there's a recall effort on.


The Caps: we welcome audience participation

After somehow finding a buyer for overpaid "superstar" Jaromir Jagr and putting all their other stars on the trading block, the Washington Capitals are resigned to finishing last or next-to-last in the league standings with bargain-basement players and a more-than-half-empty arena.

That is, until the Capitals' no-necked owner Ted Leonsis assaulted a fan who was mocking him at a game. Clearly the prospect of having a chance to lay a beat down on AOL alum Leonsis is designed to drive up attendance. You've got pain, bitch!

P.S.: Wizards suck too. Worst. Sports town. Ever?

We heart rich people

You know what we need more of? Gated communities for the super-rich. There's really no better way to improve your community.

In this case, Bowie, Md. has plans to add a big complex featuring "two luxury hotels, a gated community of half-million-dollar homes, restaurants and specialty stores," as well as a new private school.

Yep, not nearly enough $500,000 homes in this area. As someone who rents a shitty apartment and has no hope of affording a decent home, I'm flipping this story the bird right now.

The accident

If you were driving north on GW Parkway Tuesday morning, and got stuck in traffic near the Key Bridge overpass around 7:30 because of an accident in the road, you might have seen a bleary-eyed man in blue at the accident scene, wearing a scarf and black knit cap, standing in the snow on the side of the road, almost completely covered in pink liquid.

Yeah, that was me.

So how does one find one's self in such a situation? As it turns out, thanks to a multitude of factors, including:

  • The driver who had skidded off the road, and decided it would be a good idea to back up into oncoming traffic.
  • My wife hitting the brakes and skidding into said driver's car.
  • The fact that my grape smoothie from the airport Smoothie King was apparently not in an accident-proof container.

    Thusly, I was covered in smoothie. The airbags popped in the car, unleashing a nasty burning-plastic smell, which, co-mingled with grape smoothie, will be hard to forget. We got out of the car, and Kimberly thought I was bleeding badly because of the smoothie all over me. Turns out I was fine, but her hand had been badly bruised by the airbag. We put snow on her hand to try to keep some of the swelling down, until an ambulance arrived to take her to the hospital.

    I had just arrived on the redeye from Las Vegas, which meant I hadn't had much sleep and my luggage was still in the car. So there I was, covered in pink, carrying both my luggage and the snow shovel Kimberly had used to dig out my car. A vision in ridiculousness.

    It's going to take some time to sort through this one. I haven't gotten the insurance logistics hammered down yet, so that will be fun. My car had to be towed away and had some pretty bad wheel/axle damage, so it may be a goner.

    And seeing my wife crying and holding out her badly bruised hand seriously broke my heart.

    Which is why, anonymous other driver whom I fortunately didn't have to talk to, I'd now like to say: you are a fucking moron, and I hope you burn in fucking hell. You put our lives in danger by driving like an idiot in snowy and icy conditions. When you originally skidded off the road, it should have been a sign to you that the road was icy and dangerous, and would require more reaction time to brake. Instead, you backed up into the flow of traffic. Now I have to help my wife with changing clothes and washing her hair because her hand is so badly injured. If your ignorant ass gets behind the wheel of a car again, it will be too soon.

    Good night.
  • 1.22.2004

    "Never a dull moment," if you're a very, very boring and shallow person

    As we all know, Washington is a socially conservative and generally boring place to live. Thankfully, the Washington Post's new "Sunday Source" section has come along to save us from the doldrums.

    It does this by printing 200-word feature stories that, as far as I can tell, are either written a) entirely by women, or b) by the gayest gay men from the planet Gaylon 12. Last week's section featured articles on both making a pretty customized place mat... for your dog, and how to dress your dog up in sweaters and little booties when it's cold out.

    There's also no better place to go for articles on monogramming your tank tops, properly maintaining a fish bowl, throwing a Czech dinner party, and wearing clothing with skull designs on it because that's cool for reals, yo.

    Occasionally Sunday Source will try to get you doing something athletic, such as in this article on curling (!), which begins like this: "Ah, curling."

    Other times, they'll interview famous people and ask them what they like about D.C. For example, Mandy Moore likes the National Building Museum. Why do I feel stupider now that I know that?

    The best/most useless part is the "big table of media stuff that comes out this week", which sadly is not online. They pick one or two titles from various forms of media (movies, books, video games, CDs, etc.) and give a half-sentence summary on why it's good and bad for each, along with a grade. The grades all range from A to B-minus. So presumably B is pretty bad, I guess. Who knows? The reviews only scratch the surface of why something is good/bad, so it's hard to make a judgment on whether it's something you would like.

    That's why this TV advertisement (download the Quicktime video) is hilarious.

    In the ad, a woman ostensibly named Lory Levitt (whom a Google search reveals may actually be a real person, so sorry for making fun of you) is sitting in her living room drinking a wine glass full of water. The first thing we hear her say is, "My husband says I suffer from TMC: Too Many Crafts." (Yeah, your husband's a dork, lady. So are you.)

    Then she explains how the Sunday Source is like her, because it's like the little voice in her head that makes her go out and do new things (but not like the voice that tells her to set fires). As she's saying this, we see a little animation of the Sunday Source being pieced together, including articles on "soccer chic", one called "wash and ride" with a picture of a car wash (whee), one that says "run the rapids!", a syndicated column called "Tell Me About It" (which I've read and is clearly targeted towards retarded people), and the big, exciting feature article on cilantro, which the camera zooms in on until we can see all the little dots that make up the image of the cilantro. The camera loves it some cilantro.

    And then, the comedy coup de grace. My wife and I wince every time this comes on the TV, at the moment when Lory utters:

    "...whether it's going out to a new restaurant, or going to buy a CD of some group you've never heard of -- but they gave it a B+, so it must be pretty good."

    This phrase has become the new comedic phrase that pays in my household. (It replaces yelling "Bad Boys II Soundtrack!" at random intervals, a la "Shake Ya Tailfeather". Thank you, Chingy or whoever, for telling me exactly on which album I can find this song, so that I may run out and buy it. And goodbye, whatever artistic integrity that had remained in rap.)

    Anyway, it's funny that this woman would willingly base a CD purchase on the little capsules in Sunday Source, which tell you almost nothing about the music. It probably said, "What you'll like: Andre 3000's shimmy-inducing "Hey Ya"! What you won't: the free-form solos on Disc Two. Grade: B+."

    Well, hey, they gave it a B+, so you know it must be pretty good.

    Guh. The New York Times this ain't. They should rename it Now That's What I Call Reviews!

    Anyway, I implore you to somehow use this rationale in everyday conversation. For example, if you're trying to convince someone to go with you to a movie, restaurant, sex shop, what have you: "Well, Sunday Source gave it a B+, so you know it must be pretty good." That can be your homework assignment while I'm in Vegas this weekend. (Sunday Source gave Vegas a B+, so you know it must be pretty good. See how easy it is?)


    There goes the neighborhood

    About a block from my sketchy apartment is a sketchy but popular 7-11. Next door to the 7-11, ever since I moved here, was Rita's Place. Rita's Place was your typical dirt-cheap, nasty-ass... I can't even call it a diner. "Food-serving type establishment." The menu behind the counter advertised cheeseburgers for something like $1.85 (so you know it's high quality).

    Rita's Place was always dark, always gross looking, and according to the sign on the door, usually always "cerrado." Which, if Sesame Street taught me anything, is not good for business. Over the past two years I kept threatening to eat lunch there, or have our anniversary dinner there, etc.

    Sadly, I missed my chance. Rita's Place is no more; it has been replaced by...

    Wesley Clark campaign headquarters?!

    That just came out of nowhere. Some day last week, the dingy, dark diner was replaced by the brightly lit Clark camp. And they're there all the time; I'll walk by at odd hours of the evening/night, and people will be in there working the phones, with news on the TV. Fortunately for them they have a 24-hour convenience store next door. Perhaps that's by design.

    Anyway, it's weird, but in a funny way. The neighborhood's just not sketchy enough with Gen. Clark around. It just doesn't fit; you've got the 7-11, the psychic lady who advertises $10 palm readings, the myriad small-scale used-car dealerships that presumably prey on the Hispanic population; and Gen. Clark., with his little volunteers skittering around.

    But will they serve me a $1.85 cheeseburger?

    Save our city; give up your vows

    A group called Save Our City is organizing a petition to recall Mayor Williams. Williams has vowed to "crush" the recall effort.



    Crack detective work

    The family of a missing Silver Spring man finds out he is dead. Their first clue was when they got a bill from the hospital.

    Hospital officials told Hossain that federal law prohibited them from releasing any information on the patient. For the next 16 hours, they pleaded with police and hospital officials to tell them whether they knew the whereabouts of Abedin.

    "Can you tell me what happened to this person?" Hossain said he asked repeatedly of hospital officials. "Is he still alive or dead?"

    On Jan. 6, Hossain was finally told to go to the D.C. medical examiner's office, where it was confirmed that Abedin was dead.

    "I said, 'It can't be true. He's been missing almost two weeks. He died on Dec. 19, and nobody contacted us,' " Hossain recalled saying. "If we hadn't got a hospital bill, we may not have found my friend."
    Police failed to locate the man's family. Despite the fact that he had identification and an addressbook in his pocket when he died. And despite the family filing a missing persons report in Montgomery County.

    I have a dream... a DEADLY dream

    D.C. celebrates King Day the way it celebrates all holidays... with murder. And since it happened in a fairly upscale Northwest (*cough* white) neighborhood, the Post actually gives it above-the-fold coverage in the Metro section.

    So far in 2004 there have been 18 homicides in 20 days in D.C. Police chief Charles Ramsey had decalred an end to the "crime emergency" a few weeks ago, but it might be time to invoke it again already.


    It's awesome, despite no sign of Bruce Springsteen's band

    I have to say that one of my major complaints about Washington has been addressed: the need for a cool cinema that shows not-in-the-mainstream films, in a proper movie-watching environment. Ladies and gentlemen: I present to you the E Street Theater.

    It's a cineplex located two blocks from Metro Center station. Thus, no driving required, although there is a garage next door if you insist on driving down. The theaters themselves are actually underground, but the architects somehow managed to pull this off without making it cramped. Some of the theaters even have stadium seating. All of the screens are regulation Olympic movie-theater size, so there's no feeling of "I'm watching a tiny screen at the end of a long hallway" feeling you might get at Visions and Dupont Circle. The sound is good; the ushers are friendly; Andale is within walking distance. Life is good.

    Most importantly, the selection of films is incredible. I've already been to see Girl With a Pearl Earring, in limited release, and Bubba Ho-Tep, in extremely limited release. (They even had Bruce Campbell there in person on opening night. Unprecedented.)

    This week they're showing Francis Ford Coppola's 1982 musical One From the Heart, now infamous for being pulled after just a couple weeks of release and for being a huge financial disaster. In the coming weeks, they'll show an amazing looking French cartoon feature and an experimental musical drama by Neil Young. Maybe someone could drag the President over to see The Battle of Algiers, since it's within walking distance of the White House? No, not likely? Oh well.

    Anyway, I'm flabberghasted. All of a sudden we have a cool new multiplex showing some extremely rare releases and re-releases. The film buff in me is throwing a party right now. (Probably a pretentious wine-and-cheese type party, but a party nonetheless.)

    Honestly, I don't know why I'm not there right now. I almost feel like I'm living in a real city again.

    Well, maybe if it wasn't for that whole people don't get fired from their $90,000 a year city jobs for lying about going to college on their resumes thing. That makes me regret getting my masters degree; I could have skipped that whole process by simply lying. Oh James, when will you ever learn?

    Beware of secret herbs and spices

    From the Post's Travel section:

    The U.K. post office wouldn't mail the package because a new FDA rule prohibits the mailing of any food or drink to the United States as of Dec. 12, unless the sender had filed "prior notice" with the U.S. agency and got permission.

    It's part of a law to prevent bioterrorism.


    But no one at the agency could answer CoGo's questions:

    • Can you trust a terrorist sending bioterrorist agents in food to honestly self-report?

    • If a terrorist were refused permission to mail, say, anthrax in powdered sugar, couldn't he just mail anthrax in baby powder?

    • Will baklava be treated with more suspicion than, say, baguettes?
    Ahhh, good stuff. Incidentally, I'm going to Vegas this weekend (yes, again). I'm leaving on Friday. I wish I was leaving now.