Monday, March 31, 2008


I love spring. This weekend it seemed like the whole world was out. Even though Saturday night was pretty chilly, there were tons of people out on U Street where I spent the early part of the evening. It had been so gorgeous during the day, I think everyone just got that spring fever going and the evening drop in temperature wasn't going to stop 'em. This felt like the first weekend of the year where the city had really shaken off the winter slumber. I even managed to get a run in... unfortunately I was having too much fun this weekend to get any work on the house done! There is no question I will be paying for that in the evenings this week, as my self-imposed deadline is starting to loom.

Anyway, here are a few recent pics to go with the spring theme. This is from the little park outside my office, it was so nice on Friday I felt the need to get the hell out of the office for a few minutes and photograph the cherry blossoms. Enjoy.

Cab hating update: I was heading back to my neighborhood from U street around midnight on Saturday. It was pretty cold by then, and as I pointed myself north on 13th Street I was greeted with a very stiff headwind. All right, maybe it's time to break down and get a cab. I tried to hail several empty cabs and you know what? They all blew me off. Whatever. After five minutes of that crap I started on foot up 13th and ended up at home 25 minutes later slightly chilly but 9 dollars richer.

Sliver Spring Spring 4
Juggler In Spring

Spring At Last

Sliver Spring Spring 3

Friday, March 28, 2008

Big Things Come In Small Packages

Smaller Package

Now, that's a paradox if I ever saw one. Is this the sort of line you give a girl if she's not impressed with the size of your package?

You know that there's someone laughing his ass off in the Pemmican marketing department...

Fenty Financially Irresponsible, Technologically Inept

Urban SuburbiaAt the opening of DCUSA's Best Buy yesterday, Mayor Adrian Fenty, in one of his many photo opportunities, is observed buying a camera by the Washington Post. This syrupy media event becomes a public relations disaster for the Mayor as he shows his true colors: behind the times, and a sucker who is soon parted with his money.

The skinny: During a media-crafted soft-sell from the Best Buy employee, the Mayor asks how he gets the pictures from the camera to his computer. The employee responds, easy, just use the included USB cable, or a memory card.

Fenty: "Now it's sounding complicated."

Wow. Our mayor, who is grappling with a failing school system, a public housing crisis, and a world-class crime spree, thinks that a USB cable sounds complicated. Be. Very. Afraid.

But, wait. It gets worse. At the end of the article, it's revealed that the Mayor ends up buying the camera ($299.99) -- but his total price at the register is $409.21. That's more than 30% more than the price of the camera itself! Where did the money go?

He bought the warranty, and an extra SD card.

Wow. He bought the warranty. That wonderful invention that, for a mere 20-30% of the cost of your purchase, ensures that your new consumer electronics product -- which will be completely obsolete before the manufacturer's warranty expires -- is covered against mechanical failure for 5 years.

Has anyone out there actually owned a digital camera for five years? Apart from the fact that they rarely break, a digital camera made in 2003 is about as high tech as a Sony Walkman with auto-reverse. You probably replaced it three years ago anyway. The warranty is a total waste of money. That's why they try so hard to get you to buy it. Because it's pure profit.

Finally, he bought the SD Card. Best Buy always screws you on the accessories. They will gladly sell you a plasma TV for $999... but don't forget to buy $200 worth of video cables to hook it up! Oh, you mean the same cables I can get for $5 at

So, the man who is responsible for the future of Washington, DC, spends his own money like he was born yesterday. And has apparently never heard of a USB cable. You come to your own conclusions.

*Note to humor-impaired DC Government employees who I know read this blog: This is tongue-in-cheek! I'm just kidding! So you don't need to raise my property taxes by another 30% and continue to lose my parking ticket payments.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bench Vise and Blow Torch

Everyone at my office can send email to the whole office just as easily as anyone else. While you might think that this would be used primarily for business purposes, I don't think I can remember the last time it was. Mostly, people forward around things that are usually not as funny or interesting as they think they are, and usually have little to do with our actual business.

For lack of anything interesting to write about from the weekend I thought I would share one that I got today which is a pretty good one. At the risk of the actual author of this email reading my blog, I am going to publicly mock it here.

From: xxxxxxx xxxxxxx
Sent: Monday, March 24, 2008 1:24 PM
To: Silver Spring
Subject: bench vice and blow torch?

Hi all,

My most recent bicycle acquisition is in dire need of a little surgery.
Does anyone have a firmly mounted bench vice that I might use? I'm also
in need of a blow torch for this task. If you have both, that is most


A few things come to mind.

1) It took 60 people in the office 30 seconds each to read and delete this email. At least 10 people wrote back and forth several times to laugh at it, and at least one person (yours truly) then took 5 minutes to blog about it. That's almost an hour of man-time. Therefore, you have just wasted approximately $125 in taxpayer dollars that our government clients paid us for that time.

2) There are probably three people in the office with even a remote chance of owning such equipment. Everyone can probably guess who they might be. Ironically, I am one of them.

3) Author of email can't possibly think the best way to find such esoteric items is by emailing everyone in our office, versus, say, asking those key people, or inquiring at Bedrock Billiards, or going to a bike shop or hardware store. Author is an idiot.

4) Alternative, far more likely explanation: Carefully planned subterfuge by male author of email to impress one or more young single female members of the staff. This is better than a resume: Athletic, handy, smart, and not afraid to use a blowtorch. Mmmmm, sexxxxyy....

Hmm... maybe he's onto something...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Gun Laws & Crime - Nothing Good Will Come

"If the citizens were armed, maybe the crooks would think twice about sticking someone up."

How many times have you heard that from a pro-gun person? As the supreme court debates the constitutionality of DC's handgun ban, I thought I would post a bit of research I did a while ago after an argument with an office mate. A concealed carry law in DC would probably not happen for a long time, if ever, but whenever you discuss crime & guns with pro-gun people, the same argument always comes up.
As such, it seems that concealed carry is really the goal for most people who want to legalize gun ownership here. They want to be able to carry a gun on their person.

Intuitively, it kinda makes sense, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it's the same argument used to support incredibly harsh punishments for crimes. The deterrent effect. It fails to account for the fact that most criminal acts are not conducted with a lot of regard for the potential consequences. Criminals are desperate. It should be obvious to anyone who lives in this country that the insane punishments we now have for drug crimes hasn't reduced drug consumption, just put a lot more people in prison.

But lets look specifically at a situation where we can see data before and after a concealed carry law was enacted. This piece of fine journalism proudly trumpets the decline in crime after Texas' concealed carry law was enacted. Unfortunately, it's fatally flawed in the most basic of ways.

The triumphant battle cry:

"Jerry Patterson, the author of Texas' concealed carry law that was enacted 10 years ago, wrote in a recent publication of Texas Insider about the legacy of his bill's passage. He happily announced that the success of the concealed carry law has won over even previously vociferous critics of the legislation."

Here are the arguments:

"Between 1995 and 2004, handgun murders in Texas dropped by 18 percent"

Well that's fascinating. Unfortunately, in a vacuum, it's also meaningless. Because nationally, gun murders declined 31% in the same time period. So this decrease in Texas, when compared to the national trend, actually shows the opposite - gun homicides have decreased at a significantly slower rate than in the United States at large following the concealed carry law.

"Gun owners proved to be much less likely than their peers to be arrested for non-violent crimes and violent crimes, including murder."

So he's saying that your average registered gun owner is less likely to be involved in a crime than your average person who hasn't registered a gun. This is pretty much meaningless. What criminal is going to register a handgun in his name before going out to do crimes? Obviously, unregistered guns are pretty easily available now, given the amount of gun crime in DC. There's no rational reason to expect that legalizing guns would make it harder for the crooks to get their hands on one without having to register it.

"And even though Texas (in 2004) had a population three million larger than when the bill was passed, the overall crime rate was lower in 2004-5,032 crimes per 100,000 Texans, as opposed to 5,478 crimes per 100,000."

See point #1. Crime decreased nationally, irrespective of gun laws, at a much higher rate than in Texas.

I am not arguing that the carry law is responsible for Texas' worse-than-average performance on crime during that period. I can't prove that. But these arguments presented in this article certainly DO NOT support that the carry law has been good for crime in Texas compared to the national average -- with even a slightly more thoughtful analysis, they appear to say just the opposite.

The reality is that there are many, many factors involved that could contribute to these statistics. The crime rate in Texas, and nationally, changed dramatically in that time period, having nothing to do with concealed carry laws. That clearly shows that the existence, or lack of, a concealed carry law has little impact on homicide rates compared to other factors.

A complete analysis of what caused crime to drop in this time period (or increase in others) would have to account for many demographics like the economy, poverty, racial profile, and so on, that are widely different from region to region and constantly changing. These are the major drivers of crime rates. While concealed carry laws may have some minor effect, it should be clear from the Texas example that it's insignificant, at best, and at worst, could actually causes crime to increase.

So one could argue, why not let us carry guns if it makes no difference one way or the other? The problem is, it might make a difference. It puts more guns into homes. Children may have access to their parent's guns. A drunken brawl at a bar is more likely to become a shootout. If it's clear that there's nothing good that can come if it, but there are potential bad things, then why do it?

There's one more observation I want to make about the idea that carrying a gun will make you safer. How exactly does having a piece in your pocket help you on the street? When you are mugged, the vast majority of the time, you didn't see it coming. You don't get a chance to pull out your gun first. Or, perhaps, the would-be gun toter imagines himself as Bernard Goetz -- do you plan to whip out your gun the moment your thug-dar goes off and start shooting? That sounds promising. Or, maybe you were just going to shoot the crook in the back as he runs away. Also, not likely to help your long term career prospects. The point is, it's not like you are defending a bunker. I can't imagine very many scenarios where having a gun would help you on the street -- unless you typically get involved in drive-by shootings or executions, that is. The best way to survive a mugging is to give it up, not get in a gunfight.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Game 2.0: Antigame

I was at the Looking Glass recently and was chatting at the bar with the couple sitting next to me. We got to talking at some point about this whole "Game" business which seems to fascinate the single world. I am single, enjoy meeting new people, and certainly know enough about it from reading random blogs and talking to people. Generally speaking, I find the notion of an organized, documented system that uses psychology to manipulate girls into liking you pretty silly, but there seems to be no question that it works on some people.

I have always felt that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see through this crap from the other end. Therefore if you want to meet someone who's got more emotional maturity than a typical teenager, perhaps this might not be the best method of dealing with women. But I digress.

So the guy said at some point that the Game was dead. The new game, he announced, was the anti-game -- brutal honesty. He explained. Rather than going through all these machinations of push, pull, manipulate, being mysterious, just lay it out. What is it you want? You just want to have some cheap sex? Tell her that. You want to find your future wife? Tell them that straight up. If you're into bestiality, drop that bomb in the first five minutes.

I said, ya know, that sounds likely to freak a lot of people out. What do you do when they say, umm, that's altogether too much information? His response: I tell them hey, well you know what? I'm not your therapist. I know what I want. Either you don't know what you want, or you don't want the same thing as I do. I probably just saved us from 14 months of dating followed by an ugly breakup. You should thank me!

Well, not sure I agree exactly on the implementation, but he's kinda got a point... if you know what you want, why beat around the bush? Anyone who can't handle that at the other end probably isn't in the same place you are. Chances are, you'd be wasting your time.

Honesty: The new Game. Or maybe it's the one that always worked on people who have their shit together and know what they want.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Watch the ball...

Claudia forwarded this to me... just take the 30 seconds and watch it. Cool.

I'm not sure what it all means, but I really had to watch it again to be sure I wasn't being messed with. Anyway, at least I got the right answer...


Serve DC @ DC General

Physical PlantOn Sunday, I spent a few hours working with Serve DC on the Mount Pleasant relief effort. This was my first time doing this kind of volunteer work so I really had no idea what to expect. I was told to show up at Building 6 at DC General with work gloves. It was a grey day, and navigating through the barracks-like maze of the DC General complex was a bit baffling, but before too long I found my way to the warehouse where the work was to be done. I parked across from the physical plant, pictured, which apparently powers the whole complex since hospitals can't be at risk should the grid go down. I happened to be the first person to arrive since I got there a little early, and was greeted by Shirley Hall, a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Manager with Serve DC.

Ms. Hall gave me a quick tour of the premises. Building 6 is basically a big storage facility with several loading docks. They do take donations directly there, but it also seems to be a general clearing house where everything else that's been received from other locations is taken to be sorted. There were about two dozen palletes spread throughout the room, each with large plastic bags containing mostly clothing. Each pallete was labelled to identify what the bags contained: Mens Tops, large. Women's suits. Boys, 8-12, and so on.

The primary job of the volunteer force is to go through the donations, decide whether it's a keeper or not, and put it into the right category. The standard for whether something gets kept is very simple. Would you wear this? If the answer is no, it gets trashed. Anything stained, ripped, or generally not in excellent condition will get rejected. Unfortunately, this means that even if something's just a little dirty can't be used, because it's just not possible to deal with washing clothes on top of everything else. It makes sense - there's too much volume. Ms. Hall said that the quality of the donations for the Mt. Pleasant releif effort had been extraordinary. Probably 95% of what was received was useable. And sure enough, in the time I was there, we threw away very little. Most people gave clothing in excellent condition, in some cases still on the hanger from the dry cleaner.

Sunday mornings are typically pretty slow becase a lot of people go to church. Such was the case for my time there, from 8:30 until about noon. We received maybe a half-dozen individual dontations, which were easily handled by myself and the 7 or 8 other volunteers there. So, the downtime was used to prep the space for a large furniture donation that was coming in the afternoon, and get all the items that had been processed the day before ready for distribution. We did some final sorting, labelled and closed up all the bags, and moved them into a back room where they would be held until picked up later in the day.

The whole operation worked like clockwork. Though the process isn't extraordinarily complicated, my experience with any kind of effort involving a bunch of untrained workers is that it can easily go south. But everyone worked together, and there was very little idle time for the first couple hours as the stuff from the previous day was closed up, tagged, moved into storage before distribution, and the loading dock prepped for new arrivals. Each aspect of the system was well defined: when someone arrives, first greet them and have them fill out a donation sheet. Take the stuff inside, and inspect each item for quality first. If it passes, put in in the right pile. If it fails, trash it.

Ms. Hall clearly understands how this stuff needs to work and did a great job of supervising the operation at the same time as fielding dozens of phone calls about other aspects of the effort taking place elsewhere. She had a great attitude and obviously cares a lot about her job. It was pretty cool to see firsthand how this sort of thing works, and even more importantly to see that there are really great people working in DC Government. Kudos to Serve DC.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Mt. Pleasant Fire - Pictures From Above

Yesterday I managed to get onto the roof of the apartment building behind 3145 Mt. Pleasant Street which burned late Wednesday night. The building is a total loss as you can see, and much of the Meridian Hill Church was also destroyed.

Thankfully nobody was killed, but the displaced residents need help. The Neighbor's Consejo is coordinating relief efforts. You can donate online though their web site. In addition to cash, there are many other needs such as clothing and even cell phone chargers. Hear Mount Pleasant is maintaining a page as well.

These are some of the more dramatic pictures, I took a lot more that you can see here.









Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Construction at Petworth Metro

I checked out the progress at Petworth/Georgia Avenue metro on the way to work today. It's been a couple months since I took metro (yeah, lame, but I can drive to work in half the time) but took it today since I have a meeting downtown late in the day.

The last time I went by there on foot, there was little more than a giant hole in the ground. But check it out today.

While I was taking pictures, a very friendly very large man came up to me and said in a Jamaican accent, can I ask you what you interest is in the construction? Subtext: You friend or foe? He was easily a foot taller than me and the broad smile on his face did not completely conceal his intent to intimidate. I assured him I was just a long-time resident who enjoyed watching the development in my neighborhood.

Petworth Metro 5

Petworth Metro 1

I freely admit that I have an unhealthy fascination with massive construction equipment, and cranes in particular. This is just cool.

Petworth Metro 3Petworth Metro 2Petworth Metro 4

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I cannot tell you how long I've waited for this day. There's still work to be done, but the countertop is IN!! Everything works. It's gorgeous. This is officially the nicest kitchen I have ever had, and I don't even have a ceiling. I believe this project began around mid December, so basically three months of busting my ass every weekend. It was so worth it. As my friend Tyler said... "Dude. You have a rich person kitchen!!"

Well, I wish I could say I was a rich person, but if I do say so myself it looks damn nice already. I am inaugurating it tonight with green fish curry. The pictures are horrible, I didn't have time to get good shots in manual mode so I used a flash so it's kinda hard to see the counter color, but it's sort of a brownish-reddish thing. Thanks to Olivia for her expert advice in that department. It looks awesome. The counter is a Quartz composite material called Zodiaq, and the color I got is Chestnut. You can see that online here. The cabinets are Wellborn in antique evergreen (that cabinet isn't exactly the style of mine but the color is the same). The cabinet color was a choice made because the room has several different colors of wood that would have made a natural wood color (presumably, not exactly the same as the floors and existing casings) too much. But I really didn't want painted cabinets. So this was kind of a gamble, but in the end they look amazing and go really well with the stainless appliances. Both the cabinets and counter were obtained through Precision Cabinets, conveniently located at 13th & Taylor, about a half a mile from where I live. Though I installed the cabinets myself, they did the counter installation. They've been great to work with and very accommodating as far as the parts of the work that I was doing myself. I highly recommend them.

Housewarming party is now officially on for mid april, the project will have an end!! I'll let y'all know when.

Kitchen Counter 1

Kitchen Counter 2

To do: Replace the windows with smaller ones; put in a ceiling; put in the microwave over the range; tile the backsplash; paint. Then host many dinner parties and not work on my house again for six months.

Get your ass to the looking glass

All right, I am still not entirely sold on the name change, but I had a chance to sample the new menu for the first time last night. It features a selection of real entrees, dishes that are not just glorified bar offerings, in addition to some conventional pub fare. My choice was the barbecue baby back ribs, and they were delicious.

The meat fell off the bone just as it should and the seasoning was tasty and a little spicy. They were dry-rubbed and served with barbecue sauce on top. I could have used a little bit more sauce, but that's a minor complaint. But the real winner was the collard greens that accompanied it - they were outstanding, tasting of brown sugar and maybe a little mustard. The sweetness was just enough to counter the vegetable's natural bitterness but not overwhelming. My other side was fries, which were fine.

Unfortunately I spent a little bit too much time at LGL last night and my memory of the rest of the menu died with my 4th beer, but I do remember there being a lot of other choices which were interesting. If my first sample was any indication, the new fare should be an excellent addition to the neighborhood bar and restaurant food offerings. I'm looking forward to working through the menu in weeks to come.

Oh - and have no fear, the garlic fries are still on the menu.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Viva Target

There is no question that the whole thing has a certain twilight zone sensation about it. We have a Target in the middle of Columbia Heights. I took this picture yesterday which pretty much sums it up.

Just for the record, I am not one of those anti-big box people. I'm just somewhere between awestruck and mystified. I mean, I can walk to Target. Who does that? Targets are supposed to be in the middle of sterile suburban malls to which it's probably not even legal to walk.

IcehouseAt the end of the day, though, it's excellent. I got an email this morning from Jim Graham (our councilmember) announcing that on Target's "soft" opening, last Wednesday, this store had the 2nd highest gross of any Target in the entire country. And that was a Wednesday, several days before their official opening was supposed to happen!

So, while I would rather buy coffee from Tryst than from Starbucks because I prefer the personality and community of independently-owned businesses to the sterile blandness of your average big corporate store, there's really no neighborhood equivalent to Target. Everyone needs kitchen gadgets and socks and candles and other stuff that Target sells. We used to go to the suburbs to buy these things. Big boxes are a fact of life, and to deny that would be to deny that we need automobiles and cell phones. Given that, I would so much rather go to a big box that's part of the walkable urban envoronment in which I live, than have to haul my butt out to some wretched suburb like Wheaton for the same. I just don't see a downside.

I, for one, welcome our new concentric circular masters. Viva, Target!

More pictures from Target

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Nothing much to say this week as I am in British Columbia until Saturday. Skiing at Whistler. This place is out of control. I will say no more as a picture says it all. It's going to be hard to go skiing on the east coast ever again...

Whistler Peak #4

Whistler Peak #5

Whistler Peak #1