It's a birthday/Xmas miracle

It was a high-degree of difficulty, but after a tough 2.5-month search I managed to land a job in another city. A company with a branch in Seattle extended me an offer Monday night. And that means...


[If I had a picture of me doing that "west coast" finger-sign thingy, I would have put it here. You'll just have to visualize it.]

I can't believe I finally, really did it. I've been wearing my lucky two-logo-changes-ago Seattle SuperSonics jacket to celebrate. (As if on cue, they beat the Wizards right after I got the job offer.)

Now, there are a couple things you should know. First of all, they want me to work here for a few weeks before I move, so you're not completely rid of me yet. However, I'm likely to be super-busy, with work, moving chores, and also teaching myself the dope programming skillz my new job requires. So you won't hear too much from me, but I'll try to check in periodically.

Second of all... I'm sorry. I apologize. To everyone. I started blogging here in March 2003, right after the U.S. invaded Iraq, as a way to get out my frustrations. I figured it would just be me venting into empty cyberspace, but it wound up catching on, and eventually I became quasi-famous-for-D.C. (which, in the real world, thankfully translates to "not famous"). There are obviously a lot of people who live in the Washington area who really like it, and some of them even liked the blog despite that, but others were really pissed off, and that's perfectly understandishable. I basically sat at my computer and criticized, without really offering any solutions to the problems I had (in fact, that was the mission statement from post #1), and that's not an especially fair thing to do. Partially, I did it because I didn't feel like there was any way I could fix the problems I have seen, and I still don't. But I also was so focused on getting out that I didn't bother spending time on solutions.

If you're a like-minded individual, and you're in D.C. or thereabouts, and you don't like what you see... don't stop observing and criticizing where needed, but try to be more active than I was in changing things. We have a lot of smart and thoughtful people who live here, but I think that too often they let their ideas and their individuality get subsumed by the great gray mass that is Washington. One of the city's biggest problem is inertia; it's difficult, but we need more people be willing to speak up and rock the boat a little, rather than settling for the status quo.

(And don't expect me to start a "Why I Hate Seattle," because they've got that covered. The number one complaint appears to be traffic; after living here, that just sounds completely adorable.)

Today, in the spirit of Xmas, and at the request of a good lawyer friend whose club name is "Staci", I'm going to tell you about the things I will actually... really... well, maybe a little... miss about D.C., and thereabouts. The things I even.. dare I say... love about D.C. In the traditional James F/Nick Hornby-standard Top 5 List format.

5) George Washington basketball. A lot of my good memories are sports memories, which isn't unusual for me. I thought about putting baseball here, and all the fun times I had watching the Nats: the home opener, the time the game ended because the grounds crew couldn't pull the tarp out during a rain delay, the upper-deck bomb Barry Bonds hit in September. But who knows if the Nationals will even stick around? They probably will, but it's up in the air right now.

GW provided the absolute best sports memories, and also the best atmosphere for watching a game. It just feels like college basketball should. Unlike Maryland and Georgetown, who play in huge arenas, GW plays in a smallish, 4000-person on-campus gym. You're pretty much right on top of the action, no matter where you sit. The band is loud, the students are loud, and you even sometimes have GW alum Red Auerbach on hand as a spectator. How does it get more basketbally than that? Even better: the team is good, and better than those other local schools with the huge arenas, but it's still pretty easy to get tickets.

And luckily, the students didn't mind the slightly older fan sitting in their section, thanks to guest passes. This really paid off last December, when I was sitting in the student section wearing a goofy three-corner colonial hat (I like novelty headgear) at the MCI Center's BB&T Classic. I was selected to shoot some baskets for free plane tickets, and I did it, in front of 15,000 fans. I used the tickets for my San Francisco vacation last May. That's definitely going to be my best D.C. memory.

So, even though I did my graduate work at Georgia Tech, when Tech was playing GW in the tournament last year, I found myself rooting for GW. It's been fun watching them mature into a great team, and they've given me some great basketball memories.

4) I rediscovered my love for writing while living here. I loved working on the newspaper in college, and I did some freelance sports writing after that, but I just didn't wind up going into writing for a living. And I don't think I realized how much I missed it until I started blogging.

I promise that I didn't think that many people were going to read my stuff. I never had that much confidence in my writing, but having complete editorial freedom to write about any crazy thing I wanted wound up being more fun than I expected. Plus, I got a lot of great e-mail support letters. I didn't reply to all of them, but I did read them all, and they helped keep my confidence up and kept me writing.

I'm working on an article right now; in the end, I don't know if anyone will publish it, but all the support I've gotten gave me the confidence to get started and at least give it a shot. You never know... it could be the beginning of a great writing career for me. Who says nothing good comes out of hate?

(BTW, I owe a lot to the writing style of Seanbaby. If you liked my writing, you'll probably like his even better.)

3) My bike trail. Out the back of my apartment complex to the Custis trail; down the hill to Giant Statue of Teddy Roosevelt Island; follow the river, across from the monuments; around the airport to Four Mile Run trail; on the street briefly, for a tough uphill climb to the I-395 pedestrian ramp (I had a good Rocky moment the first time I made it up without stopping); through Shirlington; up the W&OD Trail, back to the Custis Trail. Seventeen miles, and I got my time down to 1:10 at one point. It was also where I did my best thinking.

2) My friends. They had to put up with all my complaining and general crankiness. It's always hard to move on and leave your friends behind, but I hope they'll keep in touch.

1) E Street Cinema. Sorry, friends, I'm not cheesy enough to put you at #1. E Street theater is definitely the best thing that happened to Washington while I was here. I'm a huge film buff, and one of my favorite big-city-dwelling activities has always been being able to see independent movies that aren't available in smaller cities.

But I found Washington to be sorely lacking in this regard, at first. We had some theaters that would show unusual things, but they simply weren't good places for watching movies. Visions near Dupont Circle was the worst offender; they would show some interesting things, but the screens were tiny and the theaters were narrow, making it like watching a movie being projected at the end of a long hallway. The sound was terrible, and sometimes obscured by construction outside. They had food, but it was bad. Often, they would show things on DVD, and there would inevitably be some disc skipping.

And then... E Street opened. And It Was Good. This wasn't some crappy theater with a tiny screen that just happened to show indie films; this was an underground movie palace. Literally underground, because there was not a whole lot of room for new construction where they put it, so they went subterranean. This creates some quirky Tetris-like theater configurations... but it gives the place personality, like Fenway Park. The screens are big, the sound is good, and they show some great films... more than once I wished Twinkie the Kid might sneak out of the White House and sidle down to E Street for some life lessons.

Plus, the neighborhood has picked up... all of a sudden Chinatown has become a hot spot. Granted, it's a little too corporate, but still, it's hard to think of any better place to do dinner and a movie.

So there you go. Now if you'll excuse me, it's been a long, hard slog finding a job, and I have some lazing around and football watching to do. Have a good Xmas, and remember to be good to each other.

(Jesus might be watching.)


Recurring theme #125A

It's as true today as it was when I moved here:

Police and federal authorities continued to investigate yesterday the explosion early Saturday of a sport-utility vehicle near the D.C. jail, which badly injured a corrections officer.


Witnesses said [the officer] staggered around the flaming vehicle for a brief time until a family in the Southeast Washington neighborhood took her in and tried to comfort her until paramedics arrived. The family said that paramedics did not arrive for more than 35 minutes, despite several calls to dispatchers, and that an additional 20 minutes passed before an ambulance arrived to take the woman to a hospital.
It's an important lesson to remember. While visiting or living in The District, starring Craig T. Nelson, do not get yourself into some kind of life-threatening situation where you need some kind of namby-pamby "emergency" civil services. Because YOU WILL DIE. In fact, if you're really unlucky, there will be enough time for you to die several times over.

When paramedics arrived, said Carolyn Barnes, Catrice and Crystal's mother, "they took stuff out like they were tired. We told them the lady was badly burned. They still were moving slow."

This is just amazing, and amazingly repetitive. The paramedics are called to treat a badly burned patient, and they can't even be bothered to move with more urgency than the average Restaurant Week waiter.

I know I've probably all-caps-yelled this before a few times, but... WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THIS PLACE? Surely no other city in the country can match this level of apathy. How many millions of times does this have to happen before it gets fixed?

(A: Fourteen million.)

And I think we all know where the blame lies: squarely on the shoulders of Craig T. Nelson.

Damn you, Craig T. Nelson.

This one's for you, Twinkie the Kid

[Bush] also repeated his warnings against a rapid withdrawal from Iraq, saying "to retreat before victory would be an act of recklessness and dishonor -- and I will not allow it."
We lost already, Mr. President.

Yeah. I hate to be the one to break this to you. But we lost. We lost the minute we invaded and took over a country that did not pose a threat to us. We lost when we started holding "enemy combatants" indefinitely without a trial. We lost when we secretly tortured people and tried to pass it off as justifiable. We lost when we allowed the government to limit our rights through the Patriot Act. We lost when the FBI encouraged spying on peace protestors and the NSA tapped our phones without oversight.

WE FUCKING LOST. We let a terrorist attack completely compromise the freedoms we keep crowing about defending. That's not what a strong country does; and Mr. Bush, you are not a strong leader. You are weak and a coward. Nothing you can say will convince me that any result following the unnecessary loss of 32,000+ lives is a victory. We lost.

I believe one of my detractors once openly wondered whether I got mad every time I saw one of the big monuments on the Mall. I don't, but I do get sad when I see them, because I think about how little it took for us to abandon our ideals. For the time being, they're a thing of the past.

OK! Is that defeatist enough for you? Sorry, but I'm especially pissed off tonight. Can't sleep after all the crap that's gone down this weekend. I still can't believe the NSA story; I could have gone to work for those people. That would have been a fun ethical pill to swallow.

I guess while I'm awake, I should also tell this other fun story that I never got around to posting. This is a good one that's been kicking around in the brain late at night and needs to be exorcised, bloggy-style. It happened at work, about a month before I got laid off. A co-worker came in and started talking about events of the day, which is always fun. And this was the day after hundreds of Muslims were crushed to death on a bridge in Baghdad, after rumors of an imminent suicide bomber attack spread through the crowd. Basically just a horrible tragedy, and very sad.

Said co-worker's editorial comment on the story:

"Stupid Muslims."

That was it. "Stupid Muslims." Yes, how stupid of them. For getting crushed to death in a panic.

Those fools.

What I should have done was angrily yelled at him to get out of my office, and I actually had half a mind to do that, but I didn't want to get in trouble, so I tried to ignore him instead. Which is no fun at all. Ugh... and, of course, this guy, who I'm not going to name, David Guill, is a devout Christian; because, if Jesus stood for anything, it was reveling in the senseless deaths of others.

Of course, that guy still has a job, and I really really don't. It looks I'm going to need a birthday/Christmas miracle to land a job out of town. (And that's still possible. I'm talking to you, place I follow-up interviewed at last Wednesday. You were supposed to call me last week. Please call me Monday. Get me the crap out of here.)

Four shopping days until utter humiliation. One shopping day until I get turned into Soylent Green.


Countdown to embarrassment: 7 days

I'm not going to say why, but... let's just say I have to think the Bloggers Alliance is going to frown on this.

Meanwhile, countdown to my Logan's Run-style execution, because I'm turning 30: 4 days.

Countdown to job offer: who knows. Hopefully <1 day.


Stupid wintry mix

I was supposed to have an interview today, but the wintry mix postponed it to next week. I really, really want an offer from this company... it would get me out of Washington. And into the other Washington. State, that is.

Just in time, because I have got to get out of my apartment. This is the fifth... ugh. I can't believe it. The fifth consecutive winter in that damn apartment. The problem is lack of heat; the landlord controls the gas. There is no thermostat in the apartment. So, of course, he keeps it set to "not so much heat." And, he's raising the rent (granted, for the first time since 2002). And, we have ants now.


Oh, and here's some more good news: I'm turning 30 soon. My understanding is you're not allowed to blog after turning 30? I think that's how it works. Or, at least, you're not allowed to actually think I'm cool or something. I need to ask the bloggers union about that.

Some moving companies are coming next week to give me an estimate; I'm really hoping for an offer from this company I'm talking to, because I just don't know if I can, in good conscience, spend thousands of dollars to move across the country without having a job lined up first. If things fall through, you may be stuck with me a while longer. And I may be stuck with the ants, crappily ever after.


I shant miss it

I may have found a way out. I don't want to pop the champagne yet, as I still have a follow-up interview to get through. I'm in a little bit of a holding pattern, but it's looking pretty good.

Meanwhile! A lot of stuff probably has been going on that I just haven't been paying attention to. It's definitely easier to live in this city when:

a. You don't have to commute anywhere.
2. You've stopped caring about anything going on around you.

And both of those apply to me right now. I've largely tuned out the world these last two months, and I've basically been super-busy looking for work and doing various other chores/hobbies/fun things.

But there were two deliciously stupid things I turned up yesterday that I had to blog aboot. Abooooooot.

a. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I have higher standards for civic employees than I should. Maybe my expectation that people who work for a city should take some measure of civic pride in their work is misguided.

Suspect in D.C. Nightclub Shootings Freed by Mistake.

Maybe it's wrong of me to expect the employees at D.C. City Jail take their job marginally more seriously than the lunchtime line-order cook at Five Guys in Georgetown. (Who is also, by the way, very lax on the job. You're on notice, line-order cook. Stop flirting with the ladies and gimme my fucking burger.)

Have you no sense of decency, D.C. jail system? At long last? OK, well, your sense of comic timing is spot on, at least:

According to the Corrections Department, Harris appeared in D.C. Superior Court on the shooting charge Nov. 21 and was returned to the jail with a document authorizing his release.

After Harris's release, corrections officials received documents ordering that he be held without bond, the Corrections Department statement said.
BOI-OI-OING! It's the wackiest jail in the city! They let the guy go. This could be the makings of the shortest season of Prison Break ever. You don't even need the tattoos and the corrosive liquid in the toothpaste tube and the tape recorder; all you need is a piece of paper saying "Let me go!" and they will.

But the hilarity DOESN'T STOP THERE. After they let him go accidentally, the jail didn't notify the cops FOR A WEEK.


This isn't even up to the level of "Bump-bump-ba-nah, wahhhhhhh." This is way worse. So of course, with a WEEK'S HEAD START, the suspect got away, and is probably lounging around somewhere in Jamaica or thereaboots.

So that's the city in a nutshell. Scary: Some dude wounds four people in a shooting, and gets inadvertantly set free. And... nobody cares. The people whose job it is to keep him locked up... just DON'T CARE. Even after they fuck up, they don't care.

Scarier: They've fucked up this badly before, or worse, and still nobody cares. This didn't even get much play in the Post... it ran on B4.

(Updated since I started writing this last night... the guy did not flee to Jamaica like he should have, but instead fled to... Southeast D.C. And was bagged by some U.S. Marshals. The escape is being blamed on "staff negligence.")

2. There's a new bowling alley in Chinatown. Normally I'd be all about this; I sort of like some of the new developments in Chinatown, and it's nice to finally have a neighborhood where there are a lot of people hanging around on a random Tuesday at 10 p.m., and you can get there easily from just about anywhere via Metro. The movie theater's nice; Matchbox is a good new restaurant. Bowling should be another plus. I like Strike Bethesda, and I'd go there more often if it were easier to get to. This looked like a good chance to add to the Chinatown atmosphere.

Oh, but for the D.C. twist, vich ve hate: the dress code.


Why is there a dress code?

Why is there a dress code... at a bowling alley? IT'S BOWLING. Bowling should not have a dress code. Bowling should be conducive to scuzziness, if desired.

Of course, the DCist readers have it figured out: the dress code excludes black people. Or, at least, black people who actually dress like black people. It reads:

Dress Code
NO Sweats or Athletic Wear
NO Skull Caps of any kind
NO Excessively Baggy Clothing
NO Torn or Soiled Clothing
NO Clothing with Offensive Writing
NO Shirtless Vests or Jackets
NO Sleveless Shirts for men
NO Exposed Intimate Apparel
NO Sports Jerseys
NO Baggy White T-Shirts
NO Excessively Long Sweaters or Jackets
NO Excessively Long Shirts or T's
NO Chains
It would have been so much easier to just go with


That's just wrong

Those Post reporters have no idea how to behave on a message board. There's, like, not even any cursing, or racism.



Toby writes the Metro post I would have if I'd had more time.

Deal of the Century

Well, I did it. For the first time in my life, I refused to be interviewed for a job. Partially because I appeared to be overqualified, but mostly because it would have been working on a military project that develops weapons systems for a new fighter jet coming down the pipeline, thus violating my whole "Future's So Bright I've Gotta Wear Shades" principle.

Yes, I'm an idealistic twit. I don't want to work for the Washington war machine any more. A lot of the conspiracy theorists assumed the super-fun marathon Iraq occupation we now find ourselves in was an effort to control the region's oil; my fear is that it was actually about keeping the war machine turning.

More than $200 billion has been spent on Iraq. As long as we're fighting a war of some kind, it's a huge windfall for the Lockheed Martin/Raytheon/Northrop Grummans of the world. More is spent on weapons systems and combat gear and other high-tech crap... and a lot of it is a huge waste, like the shelfware I worked on briefly for the Navy (i.e., software that sits on a shelf and doesn't even see the light of day). And these contractors are obviously huge campaign donors to members of Congress and the executive branch, no matter what the party. So this stupid, destructive machine keeps turning and turning. And people keep getting needlessly blown up by our innovation.

Inadvertantly we have backed into Reason #854 why I need out of Washington... as a software engineer who doesn't want to work on military projects, I probably just eliminated like 95% of the available local jobs by adding that qualifier. Part of the reason I like working in software is the creative aspect. It's the same reason I like blogging... I like making things that people can enjoy. When I write software, I like it when people can use it and say, "Hey, that's pretty neat/useful/interesting." And not, "Hey, is that a missile heading towards the orphanage?" (Oops, could have sworn that was a missile silo.)

Put simply: I want to use my powers for good, and not for evil. And I don't think I can do it here. Let's face it: we're going to be in Iraq forever. Forever and ever and fuckingever. The crazy people who still think we're somehow getting our revenge for 9/11 by being in Iraq won't be happy until "the enemy has been defeated," and of course that's not even a definable goal (since there appears to be an endless supply of "the enemy").

Every time someone calls for an end to the madness, you get protests from powerful people who don't know how to shut down the machine. They can't comprehend of the U.S. being able to say: "We've made a huge mistake."

"Saddam is gone. It's a good thing, but I don't agree with what was done," Clinton told students at a forum at the American University of Dubai.

"It was a big mistake. The American government made several errors ... one of which is how easy it would be to get rid of Saddam and how hard it would be to unite the country."


"The mistake that they made is that when they kicked out Saddam, they decided to dismantle the whole authority structure of Iraq. ... We never sent enough troops and didn't have enough troops to control or seal the borders," Clinton said.

As the borders were unsealed, "the terrorists came in," he said.

Clinton said it would have been better if the United States had left Iraq's "fundamental military and social and police structure intact."

Oh my God... I sort of remember what it was like to have a president who wasn't completely and functionally retarded. It's a little bit hazy. But I sort of remember. And, honestly, at this point I think we can forgive the whole "blow jobs" thing. I'm pretty sure there are a number of us who would personally give Clinton blow jobs, if it meant he could take over for a few years and get us out of this shitstorm.

Alas, such a provision is not in the Constitution. Yet. So, in the meantime, I will remain an idealistic fool with no job. And a blog. There's nothing I can do to stop the machine... all I can do is not be a part of it.

It's called a break-up because it's broken

Out of 23,547 complaints the FCC received in July, all but five came from Alexandria's own Parents Television Council. Yes. That's ALL BUT FIVE. I always wanted to try to infiltrate the PTC as an employee, but it looks like they don't have any openings right now. Maybe I can get an internship, though. I would really like to manipulate their e-mail system and try to get Arrested Development back on the air.

A GMU student was arrested for passing out literature counter to the efforts of nearby military recruiters. Proving again that we tend to like the idea of defending freedom, but when it comes to actual freedom, that's really more of a you-have-to-agree-with-us thing. Funny, it doesn't feel like the 1960s in here... but I guess it must be.

And the rest... median households can't afford over 80 percent of homes in D.C., the oil companies set our energy policies that set up their stupidly huge profits, and the media and the government keep their little secret club going so they can feel like the cool kids. Boom, boom, boom.

We need to break up, Washington. We had a nice run, but I think it's time to move on. It's not you... it's me.

Wait, actually it is you. Sorry.


Damn you, Billy Gates

I did not get the job at Mister Softee.

Came very close, I think. They have a very rigorous interview process. It's kind of like a videogame; you interview with three or four different people, and if they like you enough, you get to talk to the "big boss". Which is usually a good sign. In my case, I got to the big boss, and they said they would move quickly on a decision, but instead took two agonizing weeks to let me know they didn't want me.

Which is disheartening only because I prepared so hard for that interview, and they would have covered the costs and hazards of relocation. There were a lot of red flags going up with working there, not the least of which was this recent Business Week article. But I thought it would have at least been a good learning experience and short-term opportunity for me.

Unfortunately, the non-challengingness of my previous job is making the interview process difficult. Since moving here, I haven't worked in the new technologies that everyone wants you to have experience in, and I haven't really pushed myself either, so I've forgotten a lot of things being asked of me... and they always ask little technical quizzes at these interviews, just to make them more stressful. (Although I didn't get the job, I'm sure I nailed all the pop quiz questions at Microsoft, so at least the studying I've been doing (instead of blogging) has paid off.)

C'est la vie. Top that off with Arrested Development getting cancelled, and it's been a pretty shitty week.

One good thing that came out of my Seattle trip is: I'm 100% sure I want to move there. That place FUCKING ROCKS. Seriously. If you're there, have dinner at Wild Ginger. Walk around Pike Place Market. Go to a Sonics game. I did all those things and fell in love with Seattle all over again. If worse comes to worse and I don't get any offers, maybe I should just up and move out there anyway... it's a scary prospect, but it might be easier to get hired.

Sorry, just thinking out loud. Oh hey, you know what's funny about Washington (D.C. I mean, not state, in order to stay on-topic)? It's a little easier to stomach when you don't have to work at a boring, mindless, completely non-challenging job and drive around in the awful traffic. On the other hand, a salary of some kind would be nice.

My to-do list has actually stayed pretty full. I've been doing the usual football officiating (enjoy my work tomorrow night, Leesburg), and writing up an article related to that (not that anyone hired me to write it... I'll have to pitch it when I'm done and see if anyone's interested). Funny "Virginia sucks" side note: I couldn't draw unemployment insurance even if I wanted to, because the $200/week or so I make officiating would be deducted from that, and potentially even outstrip it. Even though I won't get paid for the work I'm doing until late December. Hilarious.

The job hunting and other various chores keep me busy. Maybe I'll even get to check out the Native American museum one of these days. It does kind of suck being apartment-bound almost all day, but at least I'm working down my Netflix queue. I'll keep you posted, Internet. In the meantime, enjoy a few laughs at my expense.


The essence of Washington

He really did do a heck of a job.


OK, so not as much time for blogging as I had hoped

Yeah, I forgot that the original reason I blogged so much was because I had so much dead time at work. Unfortunately, that (all the dead time) maybe also led to being laid off. Because Congress can spend a bazillion dollars building a bridge to nowhere in Alaska, but cuts the funding for air traffic control prototype software (which is what I was working on).

I've actually been busier without a job. I've got a to-do list a mile long, and I've barely made a dent in it. Of course, finding a job is like a full-time job in itself, and finding a job in another city is 10 times as difficult. A lot of potential employers won't even talk to you if you're not in town. But I'm taking the layoff as a chance to finally escape Washington.

I had a good interview at "Mister Softee" out in Seattle last week, but I'm still waiting to hear an offer. Seattle... is like... THE BEST. Every time I go there, I wished I lived there. Maybe now I can. Other than that, I've been trying to keep busy and not spend too much money. Right now I'm confined to the couch with a sprained ankle... so at least that's free.

If there was one thing I would have liked to have blogged about in the past few months, it would have been... THE DAY THE BULLSHIT ENDED.

Of course, the bullshit never ends. But in one shining moment... I really thought we had had a breakthrough. And it was all courtesy... Anderson Cooper?

Senator, I’m sorry… for the last four days, I have been seeing dead bodies here in the streets of Mississippi and to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other — I have to tell you, there are people here who are very upset and angry, and when they hear politicians thanking one another, it just, you know, it cuts them the wrong way right now, because there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats because this woman has been laying in the street for 48 hours, and there is not enough facilities to get her up. Do you understand that anger?
Ohhh, that was so the best. We had to endure days of "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" and the rest of the usual political fellatio. While people were starving and dying on my TV. And finally, someone called bullshit. It was brilliant.

Of course it didn't last... even though the federal response was clearly clueless, they found a way to spin it and place the blame on someone that wasn't Bush or FEMA. Things returned more or less to status quo. Still, a lot of people got pissed off, and the president's approval rating took a tumble. So that was nice for a while. (If only Iraq was televised.)

So anyway... sorry I've been quiet and not responding to e-mails. Hopefully soon I can nail down a job and bid farewell... PERMANENTLY.


Being laid off sucks

Yes, it happened again.

ARGGGHHH. It's my own fault, really. This is the second time I've been laid off from this job. I should have known they'd do it again. Fortunately, I was already looking for jobs in other cities... now I'm just looking a little HAHRRDERRRR. I mean, harder.

The upside for you: this might leave slightly more time for blogging.

(I haven't even looked at my e-mails for a couple weeks, either, so sorry about that.)




Kickin' back

Hey guys,

I'm on hiatus, enjoying my vacation(s), drafting fantasy football teams, trying to do some writing on the side, searching for a new job somewhere else, etc.

I'll return when you probably least expect it.


It just gets better

"Redskins Owner Tried to Buy Permission to Cut Down Trees."

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder offered to pay the National Park Service $25,000 nearly four years ago in exchange for permission to remove trees behind his Potomac estate, according to Interior Department documents released this week.

Park Service officials denied the offer, explaining that cutting down trees in an environmentally protected area was not up for financial negotiation, the documents show.
Of course. No word on how Snyder's purchase of Richard Pryor to be his son's playmate is coming along.


The best antidote for Washington

As I've said, is vacations. Lots and lots of vacations.

Coming later this month: my regular trip to Vegas. Which is actually a lot like Washington, except they're totally up front about all the corruption and evil. They don't pretend to be all virtuous and important to the world in Vegas; they're content to just take your money and give you a lap dance. So at least the honesty is refreshing.

But perhaps we could adopt their tourism slogan, with a little tweaking. "What happens in Washington, everybody finds out about and you get really embarrased."


The Big Redskins post

August in Washington, D.C. It's the suck.

Congress leaves town, with good reason. A great stench rises up from the former swampland. Air conditioning tries nobly to offset the heat, and fails. The city becomes a veritable ghost town until school starts.

But there is one good thing about August: it's football time.

And that means it's time to make fun of Washington's entry in the National Football League: the Redskins.

Ahh, if only the team were also built by Home Depot.

First of all, the team had to deal a disgruntled Laveranues Coles. (More about that later.) They struck a straight-up deal with the Jets for Santana Moss; although the receivers are similar, most people consider this to be a bit of a downgrade for the Redskins.

By itself, that's not a disaster. But instead of the usual flurry of free agent signings, the team lost a bunch of players it wanted to keep. Cornerback Fred Smoot decided to move to Minnesota... for only $500,000 more than the Redskins were apparently offering. Coupled with the loss of linebacker Antonio Pierce to the Giants, the team lost two of its most important defensive cogs.

Certainly poor salary cap management is a factor. Bad signings from years past restricted the amount the team could spend. It's a state of being I like to call "Salary Cap Hades." Remarkably, the Redskins, a 6-10 team, had the highest payroll in the league last year at $117.4 million (perennial champion New England spent $77 million).

A lot of people questioned the team's draft strategy. It seemed like wide receiver was the biggest need, and a good one (Mike Williams) was available when the Redskins' turn came; but the team drafted a cornerback with its top pick, and followed that up by trading three of its picks to... reach for yet another quarterback. As part of that deal, the team traded its first-round pick next year, plus this year's third- and fourth-round picks, for this year's 25th overall (a late first round pick). Sooo... this is what happens when you can't pay for players, I guess. Give away all the draft picks.

Meanwhile, among the remaining defensive players, there were other problems: Lavar Arrington complained the team had hung him out to dry during his recovery from surgery; rookie safety Sean Taylor, whose selection in last year's draft was described by Gibbs as one of the "most researched things in the history of sports," never showed up for offseason workouts, and then briefly traded his burguny-and-gold for prison grays.

So the offseason was like a Perfect Storm. Of Crap. And, if you're into schadenfreude... and I think you know that I am... it was hilarious at every turn.

Meanwhile, the parallels between the Redskins and the culture of Washington continue to astound me. The team introduced a plan to charge fans $7,500 to join the "Touchdown Club", and vault over the thousands of people on the season ticket waiting list... because rich people shouldn't have to wait in line, dammit. This happened about the same time Virginia introduced a proposal for high-occupancy-toll lanes on the Beltway, derisively nicknamed "Lexus Lanes" by certain bitter people. (I choose not to do that; I prefer to simply call the non-toll lanes "Hispanic Lanes.")

There's a chance the salary cap, which enforces league parity and a fair playing field, will go away for a year, in 2007, while the NFL's collective bargaining agreement is renegotiated. The Redskins, being completely unable to control their spending, are, of course, actively rooting for this situation, in which they would be able to outspend all the other teams at a geometric rate.

"Sure, if only we didn't have play by these pesky RULES, we'd be doing great!" You might recongnize this as the competitive strategy trademarked by George Steinbrenner. Or, like, every lobbyist in town.

Meanwhile, the team's relationship with the press seems to mirror that of a certain white house in town. In retaliation for printing an (accurate) article about the team misleading fans by selling them obstructed-view seats without telling them, the team cut off the Post's long-time season ticket supply. Then, the team starting promoting its website, redskins.com, as the place to get the "unfiltered" story on the Redskins, instead of that anti-Redskin bias apparently rampant in the media (sounds... so... familiar!).

And for a while, all was good in Redskinland. The website published exclusives you couldn't get from the Post, like "Patrick Ramsey Gives Back to the Community" and "Fans Enjoy Staring at Concrete Pillars." That is, until the team posted video of its voluntary offseason workouts, which included "live blocking" drills, something that's prohibited by rule.

"Do you know how we caught them?" NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw said. "We saw it on their Web site."
Hi, larious. The team was stripped of some of its practice days as a result.

And really, the schadenfreude is fun, even though I don't have anything specifically against the team. Really, the only reason all the mistakes and problems are so much fun is the owner, Daniel Snyder.

Mr. Snyder is best described as an Evil Rich Guy. He somehow manages to represent everything I hate about humanity in one bite-size package. He's clearly the kind of person who assumes that succeeding in business will translate into success at anything else, which has delightfully been proven untrue over the past five years. The team has steamrolled through big-name coaches but failed to reach the playoffs each time. Danny continues to make plenty of money off the franchise, all the better to fuel his helicopter; but a steady stream of high-profile free agent signings have failed to improve the team.

The Danny's last coach, one Mr. Steve Spurrier, recently vented some sour grapes about Mr. Snyder:

[Spurrier] says he realized his NFL career was a mistake at the beginning of his second season. That's when Redskins owner Daniel Snyder made several personnel decisions without consulting him.

This conflicted with a big interview that Snyder granted the Washington Times (another obvious slap at the Post):

I've never told anyone who to draft. There's a false impression out there that I'm watching film, that I'm grading players. That's silly. I've never watched film and graded players. I don't want to be a coach. I just want to be the owner.
Ahhh, who to believe?

Well, that's only Exhibit A in People v. The Danny. When Coles made his desire to leave the team known, Snyder was apparently less than accomodating:

[Coles] described every week of last season as a "miserable" experience and added that the most important lesson he learned while in Washington was "trust nobody."

If you want to know how badly Coles and the Redskins needed a divorce, consider this: Redskins owner Daniel Snyder threatened Coles when the receiver's refusal to accept [a trade to the Jets] without a contract extension thwarted the deal last month. "He said that if I stayed in Washington, he would turn me into another Terry Glenn," Coles said. (Glenn, now with the Cowboys, missed most of the 2001 season with New England as his public feud with head coach Bill Belichick resulted in various fines, suspensions and ultimately Glenn's benching). "He said he would send a flat-screen television to my home because I'd be better off watching the games there. That was his way of saying I'd be sitting for the next couple years until they cut me."
The "flat-screen" quote has become somewhat infamous. Granted, Laveranues was being more than a bit immature, but having this quote out there is not the kind of pub you want for your team, if your team typically is a heavy player in the free-agent market, as the Redskins usually are.

Gotta love the rich-guy hubris. It continued into last month, when the National Park Service started re-scrutinizing a deal that allowed Danny to clear-cut a goodly number of trees adjacent to the C&O Canal National Historical Park. You see, it seems that... hee... it seems that... heh, hold on...


...Snyder wanted a better view of the river.

And so, to achieve said view, he went ahead and cleared 50,000 square feet of trees. Without permission from the county, which claimed the trees provide erosion protection on that particular slope.

Wow. I abso-fucking-lutely LOVE THIS. You couldn't make this shit up. Could the man be anymore hateworthy?

Well, yeah, he could. I mean, the deceiving people into obstructed-view seat thing alone should tell you something about the man.

I don't think you can appreciate exactly how obstructed the seats are, until you've seen photographic evidence.

Yeah. That's not Photoshopped, people. The fan who bought this season ticket last year was apparently told by the team that "the corner of the end zone would be obstructed by a pillar." Cost for the season: $690/seat. (This year, the seats have been discounted to a mere $440/seat.)

So, yeah... as much as I hate to fall back on an old standby:


Reason #818 why I can't live here anymore

I can't live in a city where The 50 Most Beautiful (People on Capitol Hill) is presented in a completely non-ironic fashion, and I'm expected to take it seriously. It's like living in some kind of parallel universe where the Key Club from my high school went back in time and took over the world.

Wow, who has the unfortunate task of having to put this thing together? "Oooh, this is going to be a tough one. Get me Glamour Shots on the phone, STAT! Okay, we're going to need soft focus here... softer... softer........ softer...."

This dude's my favorite:

"Oh, hey! Didn't see you there. How ya doin'? I'm good, just... just, uh, hanging out, by this... uh... pillar here. Yup. We sure have some great examples of Greek, and/or Roman, architecture, here at the Capitol. Where I work."

I still can't believe they cancelled "Wind on Water"

It is a joyous time throughout the land, for Bolero has been released on DVD.

Bolero was basically a soft-core vehicle for Bo Derek, directed by her husband John, who apparently wanted to exhibit her naked body to the world (obviously, this was before the advent of the Internet). It's also widely considered to be one of the worst films of all time. It easily took the Worst Picture Razzie in 1984, and currently is stationed at #59 on IMDb's Bottom 100 list, one spot ahead of/behind Cool As Ice, a movie... I own... um... on laserdisc.

But don't worry about that! The point is: Bo, as an actress, was, shall we say... problematic. Sure, she's famous for being Dudley Moore's perfect 10, but if you've seen that, you know the illusion is shattered as soon as she opens her mouth. Her awfulness was further exhibited in John Derek's Tarzan, the Ape Man, another pseudo-soft-core job.

But it was Bolero where our vapid heroine proved she couldn't even act her way out of a wet paper bag. As one IMDb commenter says:

Having worked in a theater that exhibited "Bolero" on its first run in 1984, I can attest to the fact that, during most showings, at least a third of the audience walked out before the half-way mark. A lot of people demanded their money back on this one. To be frank, a fair number of them were disappointed because they expected explicit pornography and instead only got soft-core.

Bo is in search of ecstasy--"E-X-T-A-S-Y," as her character says early in the story. Later in the movie, during a fantasy sequence, Bo sees a neon sign that reads, "Extasy." She says, "See? I was right - 'X'," then makes an "X" in front of her face with her two index fingers.
Utterly hilarious. You could definitely make an bonafide argument for Bo as "Worst Actress Ever."

So, yeah.

Bo Derek.

Right now, you're probably thinking: "What does this have to do with anything? This is not related to D.C. in any way. James is totally wasting my time. I could be downloading baby panda porn right now."

Well, let me put it this way (you pervert). Let's say it was your job to pick someone to fill out the board of trustees at the Kennedy Center. Would you pick the worst actress ever? That's what Bush did, apparently as a reward for Derek putting her unique charms toward the 2000 campaign fundraising effort.

I'm sorry... this just seems so backwards. We're talking the preeminent performing arts body in the country... and Ms. "E-X-T-A-S-Y" is on the board? That's like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame deciding that, from now on, Dokken chooses all potential inductees. Completely nonsensical. Or it's like putting Exxon in charge of the EPA. (Wait, did that already happen? I'm so confused.)


I generally try not to fall into the cliche of complaining about the weather

But when you can basically see, and/or chew the air... that is really not fun to be in.

On the bright side, the swampy, oppressive heat really brings out the city's underlying aroma of sewage; like a fine wine. If wine were made from crap.

Entertainment for the day

Rick Santorum!

Live XXX chat room action!



If only we lived in a city where the bus actually showed up. Instead of totally not showing up.

I'm really getting the feeling that half the buses on the schedule don't actually exist. This has happened to me twice this year already: I'm waiting for the bus like a good citizen, and it just. Doesn't. Show.

And it sucks if you're waiting during off-peak times, like Toby was, because there's no backup coming. You wind up standing at the bus stop for half an hour, feeling like a chump for deceiving yourself into thinking the bus would actually come this time. It's as if Metro is mocking you: "Why did you want to go somewhere at 10 p.m., anyway? Silly person. People don't need to go places at night." And this is in, thanks to our uncanny aversion to streetlights, near total darkness.

So, as a proxy for Toby, and for everyone else who has been left in the lurch by Metro's complete retardedness, I would like to say: "Fuck You, Metrobus. Fuck You The Maximum Amount."

A 12,000-word treatise on Timbuk3's "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades"

OK, not 12,000 words. But really: this is one of the best songs of the '80s. It's got that upbeat tempo, and the harmonica, and it's definitely one of those songs I could imagine listening to while driving up the coast in my convertible. (If I had a convertible and if we had a coast.)

But beneath the surface, "TFSBIGWS," the acronym I call it by all the time in real life, is not really the happy song it sounds like. It's actually got a dark, satirical message at its heart that a lot of people miss, which only makes me love it all the more:

I study nuclear science; I love my classes.
I gotta crazy teacher; he wears dark glasses.
Things are going great, and they're only getting better.
I'm doin' all right, getting good grades;
The future's so bright;
I gotta wear shades. I gotta wear shades.

See, though, you can't just gloss over the "nuclear science" reference and assume that this is merely a peppy yuppie anthem. His future's so bright, literally, because it's filled up with the nuclear holocuast that he will help bring about. In his quest to fulfill his fantasy of achieving his economic dreams, this young man has lost sight of the big picture, and helped to bring about his own destruction, not to mention the world's. Simple and brilliant, even if a lot of people don't pay close enough attention to get true message (See also: "Born in the USA").

Which brings us to some strange news from last week. You guys know Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Anal Lube), right? You know, basically the most powerful homophobe in the country? The guy who equates homosexuality with bestiality and child abuse? One of the guys who wants to write restrictions of gay civil rights into the Constitution?

Of course you know him. Now, what kind of person should really, REALLY not be working for Sen. Santorum? Correct, the gay kind. And in any other normal reality, that would be the case. But, this being Washington, home of some heretofore uncategorized brand of Bizarro Reality... the good Senator's communications director, Robert Traynham, is gay.

Samma... hamma... WHAAAA?!?! How does this happen? If you're gay, isn't Santorum the ABSOLUTELY LAST FUCKING PERSON YOU WANT TO BE WORKING FOR? Dear fucking Lord. Wouldn't you have loved to be a fly in the wall during that job interview?

SANTORUM: Well, son, everything seems to be in order here. I'd like you to be my new communications director.
TRAYNHAM: Thanks, sir!
SANTORUM: Now, you're not, you know... that is to say... you're not ho-mo-sexual, are you my boy?
TRAYNHAM: Um, well actually I am, sir.
SANTORUM: Ahhh. Oh. I see. Hmmm.
[uncomfortable silence]
SANTORUM: Well, I don't see how that's a problem. Just put on this armband and badge for me...
TRAYNHAM: Oooh! Pink triangle brooch!

Yeah, I don't get it. I can't even begin to guess why somebody who was gay would decide to work for Santorum.

But that's part of the D.C. mystique, isn't it? We have some of the smartest people in the world living here. We're one of the most literate, well-educated cities in the world. Tons of bright young people come flooding in by the busload every year. So many smart people who could use the power of Washington to make the world a better place.

But too many of them wind up compromising their ideals, or even, as in this case, actively working against what's in their own best interests. Traynham seems to me like the young man in "The Future's So Bright"; he's so determined to make a name for himself in Washington, so determined to get the salary, so determined to achieve the status that comes with being a top Senate aide, that he's lost sight of the big picture. He's working for a man who is actively working to restrict his rights. Traynham's working for a powerful man who believes his sexual preferences place him on the same level as pedophiles. (And you think your boss doesn't like you.)

Traynham, a Santorum staffer for eight years, called his boss “a man of principle. He is a man who sticks up for what he believes in. I strongly support Sen. Santorum.”
Wow. The future's so bright, he's gotta wear culottes.


An ugly time for journalism

The True Father Times needed a reporter to send to the G8 Summit in Scotland. So, of course, True Father sent Jen Waters. Because, really, where do you go once you've covered the hell out of rich peoples' dog houses and the crazy lady who makes paper out of old blue jeans? Clearly, the logical next step was to dive into the compliacted world of international politics.

Oh, and also, Marie Kester Coombs made it back into the TFT (under "Culture Briefs?"). You remember her, right? The white supremacist lady they regularly publish, who oh by the way just happens to be the wife of Managing Editor Francis "Fran" "Franny Boy" Coombs? (That totally is his full nickname. Francis "Fran" "Franny Boy" Coombs.)

But the bestest blow to el journalismo ever: Judith Miller is in jail! For those of you who forgot/never knew, Miller's patented "fake scoops", published in no less a newspaper than the New York Times, gave the pro-war lobby a lot of fake ammunition with which to convince themselves that blowing up some random brown people in retaliation for 9/11 would be an acceptable cathartic release.

And, more recently, it appears she may have helped someone in the administration commit some light treason with regards to the outing of noted superspy Valerie Plame, JUST as Plame was about to foil Lena Olin's master plans for world domination. (Or, I made that last part up in my head.) So just like that... Miller's in jail!

OK, but the judge didn't go all out here. I was disappointed. He could have sent her to the D.C. jail, which is everything you'd expect from a pound-you-in-the-ass jail in D.C., and maybe even less. It's way run down, way way over capacity, and inmates keep killing each other and stuff. The Bowtie was supposed to have set a new population cap for the jail 17 months ago, but, you know, that would require work, and there's no way to get a decent photo op out of it.

So Judith Miller, being a quasi-celebrity who merely helped deceive America into the Iraq slam-dunk cakewalk we still find ourselves gaily skipping through, does not get sent to real jail. No, she gets sent to Alexandria jail instead. Oh man, I can't even type Alexandria without having it show up in magenta. How bad can prison be there? It's, like, Jail Lite. Or maybe Tropical Fruity Jail with Mango and Passion Fruit. LAME!

Oh, FYI, apparently me wishing that Judith Miller had been sent to Super Scary Jail instead is mean-spirited.

But I am appalled by those who seem to be reveling in her jailing (incidentally, for a story that she never wrote) as retribution for the stories she did write during the run-up to the Iraqi War. Is this what the anti-war movement has come to?
Ummmmm... yes. Nobody would actually listen to reason or caution during the run-up to the war... so at this point, yeah, schadenfreude is basically all I've got left. Aww, Judy has a tummyache from jail food? Awwwww. That's adorable. And she can't get the other inmates to switch from rap videos to Fox News. Again, hilarious. If I thought I could get away with it, I would go down to the Fruity Jail posing as a visitor, and then basically laugh and point at Miller through the glass for several minutes.

So yeah, I'm definitely enjoying this. I'm hoping this goes on for a while, and that I get to hear about Judy getting sold for cigarettes or something. Hey, there's a reality show I would watch: Judy In Jail. Coming this fall on Fox. Oooh, I, um... need to go make some calls about this.


Baby panda dead pool

Anybody running one?


A complete and utter disdain for our environment

You know what I love? Sewage. Lots and lots of raw sewage.

And I'm in luck, because when you're in Washington, you're soaking in it! For example: the C&O Canal park? Smells like sewage. Apparently, the park sits atop a big long sewage pipe. Doesn't sound like a good idea to me. Somehow, some way, Pierre L'Enfant is to blame.

You know what doesn't smell good in hot, July weather combined with the high humidity that comes from living in a swampy climate?

Raw sewage.

How about that Anacostia river? Oh, yeah, guess what's in it? I'm thinking that it might be sewage. Maybe the most disturbing statistic ever: about 740 million gallons have already flowed into the Anacostia this year. WOW that's a lot of crap. The problem is that D.C.'s infrastructure can't handle more than half and inch of rain before overflowing. You can't swim or fish in the river without risking serious health problems. Appropriately, most of the sewage comes from federal buildings, including Congress.

And guess what's in the Potomac? It's... gender-confused fish? Ummm... that's not good. Male fish are laying eggs. And that's our drinking water, too. Is it turning all of us into biological females? That would explain our collective lack of driving ability. OHHHH NO I DINNNNNT! Ohhh, my misogyny is hilarious.

Well, I guess that takes care of every possible body of water. They're all polluted. Why stop there? There are so many other aspects of our environment to defile. For one thing, animals at the National Zoo still aren't safe. An emu, a lion, a lemur, an orangutan, a Komodo dragon and a partidge in a pear tree have all perished before their times. So at least there's some variety in which animals are dying... a zoo should have variety. Maybe they should just ditch the whole "zoo" concept and change it to "taxidermy museum."

Oh, and don't forget global warming. Washington is doing its part! That EPA aide who dumbed down a global warming report got a job with Exxon-Mobil, the leader in funding global warming "skeptic" scientists. Should have seen that coming... there's nothing quite like retroactive bribery. And Twinkie the Kid is still dragging his feet on reducing greenhouse gasses. Four-plus years after pulling out of Kyoto, we've made absolutely no progress.

The way I see it, in the future, if we don't become the Road Warrior society first, we'll surely become the Waterworld society, which obviously is even worse. Kevin Costner + gills... brrrrr. I'm SO not having kids.

Oh man

So sad about London right now. I've been through those tube stations and on those double-decker buses dozens of times.


Things I notice

At the Nats game on July 4, i.e. yesterday:

Before the game, I hung out on the balcony overlooking the Will Call window. I'm pretty sure I saw Adam Eidinger heading for the gate, carrying a big posterboard-sized bag marked "art supplies". "Uh-oh; it's signage time," I said.

Sure enough, midway through the game, between innings, several people held up signs in the right field purple seats, spelling out: "STRIKE 4 DC STATEHOOD". Then they flipped the signs to read "BUSH PLAY BALL WITH DC".

Unfortunately, the signs were only revealed for a total of about 30 seconds. And, as is often the case with D.C. statehood campaigning, no-one noticed. Except me. (And I can't do anything about it.)

See, this is just weak sauce. Right field? During a commercial break? If you're going to pull off political signage at a ballgame, you have to go all out to get maximum exposure.

1. Scalp/sneak/bribe your way into the Diamond Club.

2. Situate yourself above the rotating advertisement just to the right of home plate.

3. Throw your sign up against the netting. The bigger the better.

4. Do it during an inning, so that the cameras will have no choice but to show your sign during a pitch.

5. Wait for the ushers to show up and ask you to remove the sign. When they arrive, refuse to take down the sign; argue instead, to stall for time.

6. It will take a couple minutes for enough security guards to come eject you from the stadium. But it will be too late; the entire MASN-viewing public will already know that Peter Angelos Eats Babies.

This would be most effective on a weekday night, towards the end of a game, when the Diamond Club has mostly cleared out and it's easier to manuever around the empty seats. For maximum TV exposure, do it on a night when ESPN or ESPN2 is showing the game, because it will be more likely to show up on their various highlight shows.

(Not that I've... um... thought this through to the last detail, or anything.)

James's super-crappy, jumping-the-shark, stream-of-consciousness post: in 3-D!

I love trying to explain my job to people. It's like a contract of a subcontract, but I work in the building of the contractor, even though I don't get paid by them. When the funding gets cut, my group is the first to get laid off, rather than the regular employees. That's what led to me working in MFing Reston for most of last year.

But I made it back to my new old job when the position re-opened. I figured this would be a good thing, not only because it's closer to home, but because the environment is a little less poisonous and a little more flexible. Plus, I figured there was a chance of getting a halfway decent raise come Scheduled Mandatory Raise Time, since the people in charge here like me better, instead of what happened last year, when they made up some lame excuses not to give me a decent raise.

Sadly, nuh-uh. I have two bosses: one does the evaluations, the other gives the raises. My evaluations were pretty good, but it turns out that there's competition for the subcontract contract this year, and in order to better re-compete for it, my company decided to give shitty raises at the scheduled mandatory time.

Thus, my raise: two percent. Two fucking percent.

Guh. Fine, whatever; better to have a job with a crappy raise than not have one at all. So much for my dreams of replacing the Maxima with a car not made from papier mache. But, feeling daring during the Scheduled Mandatory Raise Time Talk, I mentioned to Raise Boss that it was disappointing getting The Shaft two years in a row, and that the last raise I was really pleased with had been two and a half years ago. And that it would be nice to get some extra salary thrown my way after we know for sure that we still have the contract.

Only then... ONLY then, after I'd dared to suggest that a raise outside of Mandatory Raise Time might be nice... did he pull out my evaluation and start looking for ways to shoot holes in my hopes and dreams. Well, you see James, you only got 4/5 in Quantity of Work and Quality of Work... you really have to get 5/5 for me to consider breaking all the Mandatory Raise Time Rules. I wasn't sure how to respond... I always thought the quality of my work was great, and the quantity was pretty much based on whatever they gave me to do. But it's hard to argue when they have a sheet of paper that says otherwise, isn't it?

What sucks is that now I feel like a chump and that they're taking advantage of me. I took this job almost four years ago because I was positively desperate for someone to hire me... it was the only interview I was able to get after about six months of looking. I took a maybe-lower-than-average salary because I was so happy to just have found a job. But now, after all the shafting, I'm definitely getting below fair market value for what I'm doing (software engineering).

And it super sucks because I can't understand why my company doesn't find me to be valuable. For example:

- I can write good. I love to write, and I'm good at communicating ideas... especially at taking complicated ideas and making them easy to understand. This is unique in my field, where most of my co-workers are borderline illiterate and can't form coherent sentences. There aren't too many people with an MS in computer science who also have an English degree, but I'm one of them.

- I have an eye for design. I did page design professionally for a while, and I pay close attention to colors, layout, things like that... which is useful when you're designing a user interface for a piece of software. It has to make sense and do that whole conveying-complex-ideas-into-layman's-terms thing, but visually.

- I don't consider myself a pure scientist, but I am a good problem solver. Even though I don't have a hard-core scientific or mathematic background, I'm good at organizing and executing programmatic solutions in a logical way. I've never been stuck unable to solve a problem of my own making. Plus, once I get used to a new system or language, I'm super-fast... there's only about a three-four week learning period before I feel like I'm in Turbo Mode, and could crank any kind of program in record time.

(BTW, I don't usually do the self-flagellation thing, but I'm currently in a desperate struggle to feel better about myself. Please forgive me.)

Bottom line: I don't know too many people who have my combination of right-brain and left-brain skills. (Just don't ask me which half does which.) I can do the creative thing, and I can do the logical thing. So the question is... why doesn't anyone find that useful?

OK, there are people who appreciate what I can do. But most of them are related to me. The most rewarding work-related things I've done since I took this job weren't even work-related. My brother has been doing website-building work. One time, he was having trouble with a piece of Javascript code and was stuck trying to figure it out. I jumped in and found the problem in a couple of hours. In another case, my wife was trying to solve a complicated database problem while crunching some numbers, and I was able to construct an SQL query to do the job and save her a lot of time.

And both of those things were 100 times more rewarding than anything I've done at this job, because the people I helped really appreciated what I did. I love hearing "James, you're the best," and then I can kind of look down and put my hands behind my back and say, "Awww, I'm OK."

That's also why blogging has been so much fun for me: because it's more rewarding than anything I've been doing professionally. It basically started just as a way to exercise the... er... left? side of my brain? (Nope, right side. Dammit.) But it's also helped me become a better writer, and it's helped me get in touch with something I had been sorely missing: being appreciated for my creativity by completely random people. Writing, and having other people enjoy my writing, is just a great feeling.

But I do have some problems. Namely: trying to recover from a lifetime of people telling me how much I suck. This is not good, because those are the opinions I tend to think of when I want to blog. I've gotten a lot of e-mails from people telling me they love the blog... but, of course, the way blogs work is that you tend to attract people who agree with you. When people don't agree, or want to call me a stupid moron, it tends to be in the comments or on their own blogs. I don't feel the need to get involved in some kind of dramatic blog-fight, which would be about the lamest thing ever, but the way my mind is wired, it's those people I tend to think of more than my fans.

And it's the criticisms in my own mind that keep circling around until I can't get anything accomplished. Why would anyone want to read what I have to write? Does anybody in the entire world agree with the opinions I'm about to post, or am I just going to get lauged at and thrown in the trash again? Is anybody going to get this obscure pop-culture reference?

Well, this blog has answered many of those questions. Yes, some people want to read what I write. Yes, some people will agree, and some will not. Yes, some people will remember that Barry Bostwick, host of last night's "A Capitol Fourth", was the bad guy in the direct-to-video werewolf movie Project: Metalbeast. But the criticisms in my head are still paralyzing, in terms of taking the next step as a writer.

Because, let's face it: blogging is the easy way out for a writer. I said to myself at the beginning that I would spend no money and make no money off why.i.hate.dc. I figured it wasn't fair to myself to spend money on something that should just be for fun, and that it wasn't fair to make people pay to read my stupid writing. And then, I just started writing. It was short things at first, culled from articles; later, I started getting into essays, until I became a full-fledged long-form blogger. But there was still no risk or reward involved; I could write for a couple hours, get the instant gratification of people reading my stuff, and then forget about it.

But now I'm questioning that philosophy. Maybe if people aren't going to take me seriously as a computer scientist, I should start taking writing more seriously. I don't know whether I could turn that into a profitable full-time endeavor down the road. But in the meantime, in the immediate present, it couldn't hurt to try to...

oh God... couldn't hurt to try to...

write a book.

Yeah, I know, I know. It's a cliche, isn't it? Bloggers going on to write books. But see... Wasingtonienne has a book. Wonkette has a book. They both started blogging after I did. And am I a better writer than they are? Hells yes.

And there are a lot of reasons why I should not write a book. Believe me, they weigh heavier on my mind than the positives. For one thing, I have only the foggiest idea how to get published (I hear "sample chapters" are important?). But dammit... I've written so much over the past couple-plus years, and so many people have actually enjoyed what I've written, that I have to try this.

It's going to be difficult. For one thing: I hate books. Books are so pretentious. They’re all, "Oooooh, look at me! I’m a book! I’m sooooo important and socially relevant! You’d better read me, or you won’t be able to have an intellectual conversation about me with your peers!"

Then you read it, and at the beginning the author rambles on for nine pages in detail about exactly how green the grass was on some particular day, and it takes days just to get through the whole thing. You have to break it up into several readings, and if you’ve put it down for a few days, it’s hard to remember what was going on when you stopped. (“So wait, Bilbo begat Frodo, and Frodo begat… who?”)

But I have to try, even though there will be detractors. Oh, there will be detractors. Many, many detractors. But I'm realizing that, when even your biggest detractor resorts to "borrowing" your material, it's probably a sign that you're doing something right. (Oops, I said I wouldn't start a blogfight. Oh well.)

So yeah. I've gotta do this. I'm going to try to put together a why.i.hate.dc: the book. It may be slow going, and it's going to suck staring at an empty Word page and thinking, "What the hell am I doing? Typing, with no guarantee that anyone will read it?", but I've got to give it a shot. It could be the start of a more fulfilling future, in which I bring joy and happiness to the book-reading world. (Or, failing joy and happiness, at least a lot more profanity.)

So... yeah. Maybe I'll start tomorrow. At least I won't feel guilty about working on it while on the job.


What I've been up to


Lots and lots of baseball.

Specifically, watching the Natty Nats. Seriously, I've been to, like, 15 games already. I was there Wednesday night until about 12:30 a.m. because of a rain delay, and Metro was nice enough to actually stay open and get me home. I was there last Saturday, and I'll be there again Monday and Wednesday.

How great is this? Team's in first place, with a middling payroll and no superstars... I had forgotten what that looks like. So fun. And RFK's the most pitcher-friendly park in the majors, leading to more tight, exciting games.

Ah, but so very many ways to screw it up. And we came up with a few. For example: still not on TV. The team just swept Pittsburgh; none of those close games were on TV. In the series a couple weeks ago against the Los Angelheim Angels, a game in which the opposing pitcher was thrown out for cheating, and Frank Robinson got in a shouting match with the opposing manager... was not on TV. The following night, Chad Cordero enters with a one-run lead, loads the bases with no outs, and gets out of the jam. Very exciting and dramatic... oh and what? Not on TV.

But it's worth it, because it means Peter Angelos is not getting so much money for MASN, which does my heart good. Amusingly, he took out a full-page ad in every paper in town last week, urging Nats fans to call their cable companies to demand that his Satanic regional sports network be picked up. To which all Nats fans basically responsed, "No. Because you're Satan."

Some rich people we tolerate, and others we don't. Some Republicans in Congress are really concerned that George Soros might become a part-owner of the team. So concerned that they threatened to take away baseball's antitrust exemption if it happens!

I wasn't even so mad about the threat itself; I've come to expect that kind of nonsensical meddling by Congress in random local affairs. Big surprise, it's our old friend Tom Davis who's behind this. (And nobody, I mean nobody I've talked to has cared to defend this latest bizarreness.)

I was more upset that... this is what you guys decide to play the antitrust card on? What about all those other times when you could have pulled the exemption or threatened to pull it to fix baseball's problems? For example, without the exemption, the judiciary could have intervened during the '94 strike and saved the World Series. Or, even better, without the exemption, baseball wouldn't have been able to keep the Expos from moving to D.C. using a monopolistic cabal of owners.

And now, you finally, finally play that card because you disagree with a potential team owner's politics? Whiskey... Tango... Foxtrot?!

Meanwhile, D.C.'s been eager to welcome the team with open arms, but not enough to, you know, not break into the players' cars at RFK while the team's out of town. Twice.

"I asked the security guard after the first time, 'Are you going to have security?' " McCraw said. "He said, '24 [hours a day], seven [days a week]. You don't have to worry about nothing.' Well, he was wrong."
No, no no no... you don't understand. In this case, 24-7 means "Every seven hours, I'll stop by and check on your cars for 24 seconds. And then go get a donut." Welcome to the D.C., bitch! For reals: when somebody employed by D.C. government says they're going to do something, you have to understand that they're completely lying. Just pretend it's Perpetual Opposite Day, and it will make a lot more sense.

Speaking of which: how about the mayor? So full of himself at that game I was at a few weeks ago, as his admirers cheered him on; so proud of his forthcoming $500M stadium. And poor Eastern High, right next to RFK, can't even afford more than one box of baseballs for its team. (The mayor had promised to go to their first game after they helped teach him to throw less like a girl for the Nats opener, but, you know... Opposite Day.)

Unfortunately, that's the kind of fiscal imbalance that upsets only me. I may have a serious problem.


I hate real estate

I was walking in my hood the other day and passed by a house that was for sale, and I thought to myself, "Self, knowing this neighborhood, we obviously would not be able to afford that house." But if I could, this place would be perfect. It's nothing fancy; just a little three-bedroom job, clearly built a long time ago, near Metro, basically equidistant between my office and my wife's school. It probably needs some fixing up, but it's a nice old little house where I could, on a day like today, grill up some hamburgers in the yard while listening to a ball game on the radio.

Out of morbid curiousity, I looked up the house's listing on the "information superhighway," figuring the asking price would be in the $350K-$450K range.

Wrong. $665,000.

For real. Oh, and it's a 73-year-old house. Thanks a lot, "Ron Cathell Team." You suck in large quantities.

Yeah. $665,000. That's great. Let's see, if I pool all my savings together and sell every drop of plasma in my body, I could scrape together about a... 0.02% down payment*. That would be a fun mortgage to pay off.

*-Actually, it would be more like 2%. But I really need my plasma.

I hate to say I have housing envy, but... well, yeah. Clearly I do. Every once in a while, when I realize that I will never ever be able to afford a house for all of eternity, I'll start wondering, "Where did I go wrong?" I worked so hard in college and grad school so that I'd be comfortable later in life, only to be stuck in Scuzzy Arms for the past four years with little hope of escape. How did this happen? Who can afford these $600K houses?

Then I read this article about the lobbyist Gold Rush. That explained a lot. I don't make enough to compete with people who get paid by businesses to bribe Congress. The starting salary for the especially well-connected is $300,000; of course, that's not including the various "gimme five" aspects of the job.

What a ridiculous industry. It doesn't even produce anything, except bullshit and, I guess, millionaires. If only I were willing to screw democracy up the ass, I, too, could be a lobbyist. Or maybe not.

Basically, it all makes me feel like a chump. I'm feel like I'm paid pretty well, but it still seems to get me nowhere. And I'm getting frighteningly close to that scary grown-up round-number age (don't make me say it), at which point I'm going to feel especially super-lame if I'm still living like a college student.

So I don't know what to do. Except to adopt the rallying cry, "Ramen noodles forever!" Bleh.


Villains United

Hey, remember North Korea? You know, that "axis of evil" member that actually does have nukes?

If you do, you may find it funny that a certain Rev. Moon is kinda sorta helping to prop up its government.

Throughout the 1990s, as Western observers predicted that the Kim dynasty that rules North Korea would collapse for lack of hard currency reserves, the Moon organization invested tens of millions of dollars, which apparently included payments made before U.S. sanctions eased in 1999.
Even funnier: a lot of the Moon front organizations that do business in North Korea are headquartered at a certain newspaper building, located where New York Avenue meets the lovely Anacostia River.

Oh well. Who could have possibly forseen that Congressional support for a crazy self-serving billionaire cult leader over all those years would lead down the road to trouble? I mean, just look at this face:

How could you not trust that face?

Plus, he talks to former presidents from beyond the grave all the time. Surely they'll set him straight on this whole "investing in our enemies" matter.


Where's your car dude?

The police chief's unmarked car was stolen off the street in D.C. Hilarious.

And, unlike when your car gets stolen, the police are actively looking for it:

A few hours after Ramsey reported the theft, investigators passed out fliers to commanders and other supervisors that described the missing Crown Victoria...
They passed out fliers describing the car! Like it was a missing puppy! That is just adorable. I don't think they even do that for missing kids.


You'd better wake up and smell the real flavor

...because 911 is a fake life saver.

The 50-year-old employee of Waldron Inc., an air-conditioning and heating company, was having a heart attack, and all his colleagues could do was watch and wait, the business's owner said yesterday.

Medics arrived 14 minutes after Waldron workers first called 911. The man, whose name was not released by the company or by authorities, later died at Inova Alexandria Hospital.


[Company owner Floyd] Smith said an employee called 911 shortly after 8 a.m. to request an ambulance.

The employee was told that he had reached the wrong call center but that the information would be transferred to the appropriate jurisdiction, Smith said.

"He was told that Fairfax County would call back for the information, but Fairfax County did not call back," Smith said.

Minutes passed. The employee phoned 911 a second time, Smith said, and again the call was answered by an Alexandria call-taker.

"This time the transfer to Fairfax was made with [him] on the phone," Smith said. "The two dispatchers were going back and forth as to which had responsibility for the call. The Waldron co-worker told them he didn't care who came, but to send them right now."
Wow. Just... wow. This poor man actually died... of beauracracy. Unbelievable.

If I didn't know it was real life, I would have guessed Terry Gilliam movie (You're Mr. Buttle? Oh dear, we were sent to revive Mr. Tuttle). Seriously... the two dispatchers were actually arguing over the phone who's responsible for saving this guy's life? I know that, in Washington, we're slavishly devoted to official procedure and carbon copy forms that must be filled out in quadruplicate, but maybe this is one of those times where you just have to let that all fucking go. If you have to send the paramedics a block outside their usual turf, just fucking do it and worry about the consequences after they've saved the guy's life.

ARGGHHH. And the trademark why.i.hate.dc running joke, of course, is that you'd better not need 911 inside the District, because every day, they don't come correct, etc. etc. I always assumed that Virginia was more or less on top of things as far as emergency services, and that the greatest risk you would face would be, say, calling 911 from a cell phone in Rosslyn but getting the D.C. call center, and having them not know what to do. I never imagined that calling from a jurisdictional border inside Virginia could also be fatal.

Come to think of it, when I was in that car accident last year on GW Parkway (my wife thought I was covered in blood, but it was just smoothie), I called 911, got the Arlington dispatcher, and she transferred me to the Park Police, who handled all the details (because that's Park Police jurisdiction). That went OK, but it's another potential wrinkle in the system.

Fascinating. These humans are fascinating.

INS1PID: Personalized Virginia license plates I have hated (part 17 in a series): special DVD commentary edition!

Ohhh yeah. So, um, this is the part where I make fun of the license plates. I do this because Virginia personalized license plates give outsiders some idea of what it's like to live among boring suburbanites who think that puns are the absolute highest form of humor.

Our official motto: "They really need to start charging more for those things."

Well, as Black-Eyed Peas might say, "Let's get it started!" Ha-ha! Ha. Um.


This is a commonly-found genus of plate: the homonym. It says, "I'm clever, because I'm able to think of words that sound like other words." In this case, the word "too" is substituted for the number "two", in the grand tradition of cinematic classics such as Teen Wolf Too and, to a lesser extent, Splash, Too.


This is another interesting sub-genre of plate, in which the driver intends to make it clear to you just how much better his life is than yours. As if that weren't annoying enough, there's the common 1-in-place-of-an-I-aren't-I-l33t trick.


Obviously the most popular technique is to use a combination of letters and numbers to phonetically form a word. Or somewhat close to what actual words sound like; in this case, N2 actually sounds like "Entoo", which is not a word, but could potentially be the name of a Star Wars character. The message of the plate is unclear; is the driver exhorting me to get "ento shape," or herself? Either way, this plate is dripping with that annoying "Just Do It" mentality often exhibited by realtors. Thus, I place the chances this driver is in real estate at 62%.


Ah, yes. These are always particularly amusing; the "I'm hot shit!" genre. The driver has chosen to actually spend extra money at the DMV to let the world know that he is too hot for "YU". Punk.

When I spotted this plate, it was passing me by in traffic on I-66, and I had to speed up to get a better look. The driver appeared to be in his 50s, wearing a floppy hat and what appeared to be a floral shirt. I would have said it was Hunter S. Thompson, but he didn't have a giant hole in his face. Needless to say, I did not agree with the plate's supposition that the driver was 2HOT4ME.


This one isn't particularly infuriating... it's the "ASSMAN" genre. But it is funny, because Dr. Math is a dick for refusing to let me merge onto the I-66 on Tuesday.

You know the type. You've got a car full of groceries, you're on the on-ramp, and there's a perfect your-car-sized space to merge into. You've matched the speed of traffic so as not to slow anyone down. But then Dr. Math just has to accelerate at the last minute to box you out, nearly forcing you off the road in an effort to get to his destination 1.2 seconds faster.

Being of level-headed coolness, I decided to honk my horn at Dr. Math. As it has been pointed out by readers, I'm living outside my means, which should be obvious from the totally pimped-out '91 Maxima I'm driving these days. The entirety of the car's insides are apparently made from papier mache, including the horn mechanism, which often decides not to work. Including just then. So, there I am, furiously pounding on the steering wheel, and nothing is happening. Dr. Math is just sitting there in front of me, totally not being honked at.

Finally, after about a minute of pounding, the horn started working again. To make up for all the honking Dr. Math had missed, I proceeded to honk the horn for the next 30 seconds or so while laughing maniacally. "TAKE THAT, DR. MATH! AHHH HA HA HA HA!!!"

I'd like to think that Dr. Math's real name is Victor Von Math.


Invasion of the Interns

It's June, and they've descended on the city.

They are young and bright and ardently right. They tack Ronald Reagan calendars on their cubicle walls and devote brown bag lunches to the free market theories of Friedrich von Hayek. They come from 51 colleges and 28 states, calling for low taxes, strong defense and dorm rooms with a view.
And they, along with the oppressive heat, conspire to make Washington into the level of hell that Dante missed.

Speaking of hell, here's an intern blog you'll "enjoy".

Can someone explain to me

...why a neighborhood in McLean would be so dead-set against a new youth soccer field?

McLean, was, like... made for soccer fields. It's the suburbiest suburb ever. This takes the NIMBY mentality to a whole new level. And the wacky suburbanites can't even adequately describe why they don't want the field there, except that it would be "noisy" (you know how those youth soccer hoodlums can be) as late as 10 p.m. (obviously well after bedtime).

Why is it nobody here wants to admit they live in a city, in which other people should occasionally be allowed to do fun-yet-noisy things in public during the day?

(Answer: because we all despise the mere presence of other people in our lives.)

Neighbors in Fairfax County often are allowed a detailed say in how nearby land is developed, particularly if it is publicly owned; just a few years ago, in the planning of another McLean park, neighbors stipulated that musical performances there be limited to non-amplified "5-string and/or woodwind instruments."
Oh, well, huzzah for that! I'm going to assume that Rev. John Lithgow had a say in that little ruling.

Boringest... major metropolitan area... ever.