Monday, June 30, 2008

Windows 2.0

I did the 2nd window over the last week. On Thursday, I tore out the old window and installed the new. Yesterday I finished the brick outside. I still need to install the sills and brick molding for both windows. I decided my 2x6 was dry enough to finish on Sunday so I slapped it with some polyurethane. I'll give it another coat tonight and probably one more after that and install it during the week. The poly, by the way, is just as an alternative to painting them. I like the natural wood look.

So all that remains on the window project is the sills and the brick molding, and of course sealing, caulking, and filling the gaps inside with expanding foam. (Important note there: you HAVE to be careful when doing this or you can mess up the frame. Expanding foam is powerful stuff - it's easy to overdo it on windows and push the window frame in onitself, which will cause problems with the operation of the window). They make foam specifically for windows that expands less than general-use expanding foam, but even with that it can be overdone.

Window #2
This is the 2nd window from the inside. The tarp is just covering the gap outside (since filled) in case of rain.

I didn't take a picture from the outside (it's pretty much the same as the other one) but there was one little difference. This window is over a stairway that goes down to the rear entrance of my house. It was a @!&*# pain in the neck to get a ladder situated properly to access it from below. And there was an air conditioner venting on my head the whole time I was working. Nonetheless it still went faster than before... practice makes perfect. Though I have to admit, I stopped caring so much about making the brick patterns being perfect on this one. It's all the way in the back corner of my house and way up high, you really can't see it from anywhere. And the original masons obviously didn't care as much back there either, it was pretty funky already.
Vintage Insulation
Note the "insulation" they used last time around! I think that expanding foam will give me a better seal than crumpled newspaper in the new windows.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My First Bike Commute

Well, I'm about six weeks late for Bike to Work day, but I finally got it together. In my own defense, my bike was trapped at City Bikes for three weeks because of a defective fork. But I got it back last week, good as new. There it is, kids: my bike, with me, in the office. I fully expect it to start raining around 5 PM.

Here's the skinny.

Distance:Approx. 4.9 miles.
Temperature:Approximately 72 degrees, overcast, slight humidity. Not bad.
Duration:Approximately 28 minutes door to door. Better than metro. Worse than driving.
Route:Start on 13th Street in CoHi*. Cut over to 14th at first opportunity, and take bike lane to Aspen Street where 14th ends at Walter Reed. Head towards Georgia, and proceed across to 9th Street and resume north, avoiding Georgia. When 9th ends, go back to Georgia. Realize I should have gone to 8th instead which goes farther.

Proceed up Georgia in right lane, looking over shoulder frequently as large vehicles whiz by me. Get scared and cut over to 16th Street by way of Eastern Avenue. Forget how steep hill is from 16th & Eastern to 16th and Spring. Decide this route sucks after 14th Street ends. Finally get to office, sweating.
  • Save $4 per day on gas (and $85 a month on parking should I go full time), wear and tear on car.
  • Free exercise
  • Cease to be a hypocrite by driving every day to my enviromental consulting firm job; possibly sleep better at night.
  • Adrenaline as good or better than caffeine: eliminates need for morning coffee
  • Become part of mysterious, nerdy-yet-athletic bike-to-work culture.
  • Biking uphill for five miles when you've only been awake for 30 minutes ain't no walk in the park.
  • Will most certainly have to shower at work when the weather is warmer an more humid.
  • The last mile or so after Walter Reed is problematic. I can do better than I did, but see no way to avoid either Georgia or nasty hill & superhighway traffic on 16th at the very end.
  • Riding through residential neighborhood on 8th/9th to avoid georgia involves crossing many streets without 4-way stops, and people getting in their cars to go to work who apparently are incapable of seeing bicycles.
  • Become part of mysterious, nerdy-yet-athletic bike-to-work culture.
Overall, it wasn't bad, and was definitely kind of fun. And, since the ride home is all DOWNHILL, it will undoubtedly be a lot faster and even more fun. I'm going to try to stick with it. We'll see how my resolve is when I've got a a hangover and it's 103 degrees.

*Columbia Heights. I apologize for joining the bandwagon with these irritating neighborhood nicknames copped from NYC. Annoying as it is, this one is rapidly becoming commonplace, and it is kinda convenient. Because I'm CoHi.... CoHi... but I ain't touched the sky...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Forest Hills Frank: Buzzkill, AND Hypocrite

Startling developments today in the Frank Winstead saga. City Paper reporter Jason Cherkis, in his tireless efforts to create entertainment by getting a statement from Frank, has obtained exclusive video footage of Frank at his apartment, refusing to comment.

But the CP expose has overlooked the real story here. CP's shocking video reveals that Frank is harboring an exotic bird in his apartment. Frank lives at "The Brandywine," an apartment building on Connecticut Avenue. A bit of web sleuthing reveals that The Brandywine does not allow pets!

This profile of The Brandywine clearly indicates that Frank is harboring an avian creature in violation of the terms of his lease. Frank, the man who calls out Mary Cheh for failing to turn her wheels to the curb in violation of an obscure DC regulation, is living a lie! The ANC commissioner apparently thinks that rules are meant to be followed only by other people, while he can endanger the health and well being of his fellow residents without consequence. Truly, this man is a monster.

In order to find out who this monster really is, we put our crack team of digital forensic reconstructionists on the job. We have come away with damning revelations about Forest Hills Frank's true identity. Below, we see a capture of the only known image of Frank Winstead to exist on the Internet, from CP's video. It had been theorized that he was, in fact, a bloodsucking vampire, and hence photography would be impossible. But CP has debunked that myth, since we can clearly see Frankie peeking out of his apartment in this still. On the right is Frank's face blown up and enhanced.

Here at Farm Fresh Meat, we employ only the latest and most advanced digital enhancement software available today via The Pirate Bay. After hours of digital processing, the truth began to appear. When the process finally completed, the startling image below was revealed:


I strongly urge anyone residing at The Brandywine to vacate immediately, or risk Asian Bird Flu and possible dismemberment. Get out while you still can!! Mr. Cherkis is lucky to have survived this encounter.

Ping Pong is no longer the greatest threat to Connecticut Avenue.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Windows 1.0

I promised a home improvement post some time ago... well, I actually improved my home over the weekend. This is the tail end of my now 6-month long kithen renovation project. But in fairness to myself - after the 3 months of hell that was January through March, when the counter finally went in, I felt I deserved a break. Now, I feel I deserve a kitchen that is finished - so back to work.

Kitchen Counter 1The project at hand is replacing the windows over the countertop in my new kitchen. To be more accurate - the countertop was over the window, which was the problem. The bottom of the original windows is a good 2 feet below the top of the counter, visible in this picture from a few months ago. So I needed to replace them with smaller windows, so it doesn't look completely ridiculous.

Kitchen Window
My nemesis: The window from the outside.

All the windows in my house are pretty ancient, and in the end I will replace some of them anyway, so this bit of work fits into the master plan. (Hah! Bet you didn't know I had one of those... ) While I love the original windows, many of mine are in bad shape due to neglect. I'll probably end up keeping (and repairing as needed) the four street-facing windows, to preserve the facade, and replacing the rest.

Here's a quick photo tour of how this project went down.


First the old window was summarily removed. This is the first time I've done a wholesale deconstruction of an old timey counterbalanced double-hung window. I have to say, the pile of wood that resulted was pretty impressive.


This is the new window installed. It was actually a piece of cake to get the new one in - but finishing it was a bit more time consuming. The window has a flange around its perimeter which is the white strip visible between the framing stud and the window frame on the left side. This is (apparently) a new construction design, which is not what I intended to order, but as it turns out worked out perfectly. I built a simple frame for the window out of studs which you can see on the left and right edges of the rough opening, and horizontally between those two below the window. The window flange is secured to a piece of 1x4 pine behind the vertical studs that I ripped down to make an opening exactly the same width as the window (minus the flange). Once that was in place, all I had to do was pop the window in, square it, and screw the flanges on the left and right into the pine. There is a flange on the bottom as well that's screwed in from the outside to the horizontal stud.

Window In, Needs Brick

Here is the window from the outside. Ah yes - slight problem with replacing a big window with a smaller one. That little detail of the gaping hole in my exteriour wall where there once was a window that needs to be bricked up.

I had actually been thinking about this for a while. I needed to get my hands on some old bricks to make the result not look completely silly. "Modern" bricks are smaller than the type used to build my 1913 house, and any random bricks I might find, even if from the same era, would probably not be the same color as my house. I looked around for a while on craig's list and local discussion groups but didn't come up with anything.

I realized that the answer was right in front of me: my own house.


This column is vaguely supporting the addition on the back of my house. As it turns out, this is a remnant from the original sunroom (or deck or whatever was here when the house was built). The old frame was left there when they built the current, larger additon, which is supported from the corners of the frame in several places by steel columns. I wasn't exactly sure what the consequences might be of knocking this thing down to salvage the brick, so I ended up replacing it with a post to be on the safe side. This was accomplished by jacking up the structure next to the brick pier, tearing it down, and the installing the new post in its place. When I lowered the jack onto the new post, the structure didn't even settle. The column was basically doing nothing. In the end, I netted about 70 bricks - almost exactly what I would need to fill the gaps on these two windows.


Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!

I haven't had a ton of experience with masonry. I tried to do some repointing on my last house and it ended badly. That is to say, it looked like crap. The mortar color didn't match at all, and I left sloppy drips all over the place. This time I was more careful about cleaning up the work as I went.

I put in the seven rows of brick below the bottom of the window. The fourth row, you can see, the bricks are laid end-in. Although my little wall is not structural (it's just one brick deep) I mimiced this from the original structure so it matches. I also took out the half-bricks on the edges before starting so it would look as if this had been here originally, rather than just filling the opening. That is, since a window opening has perfectly clean edges, every other brick is a half-brick. So if I just left those there and filled it, the regular alternating pattern would be broken. In the end, I am very happy with the way it came out and I have definitely improved my technique since my last lame effort!

Still to do: replace the sill, install brick moldings, caulk & seal. The old sill was not in good shape so I couldn't salvage it. I picked up a 4x6 timber, which is unfortunately pressure treated. And wet. Very wet. The wood is swollen almost 1/4 inch more than a dry piece. I want to cover this thing with polyurethane to protect it from the elements (and make it look cool) which can't happen until the wood has dried out. Hopefully it will be dry enough by this weekend. If not I'll go somewhere else.

Oh yeah. And when that's done, I get to do it all over again on it's brother.


Me, tired happy.


I just like this picture.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Hand Is Faster Than The Eye

IllusionistWho is this man of mystery? His wry grin and impeccable outfit have graced our neighborhood bars on several occasions in the last week or so. But it's not just his old world charm that has captivated the imaginations of the pub patrons at Wonderland and The Red Derby.

This man, who identified himself only as Frank, has entertained and amazed us with feats of illusion. As dozens watched slack-jawed -- agape with wonder, or perhaps with Jamison -- he defied gravity by levitating cigarettes, made coins disappear and reappear, activated our cell phones with the power of his mind, astounded us with card trick clairvoyance, and generally made us wonder if we should have skipped the last drink.

The existence of this photograph of Frank and, er, someone else, proves that he exists, and is not a mere figment of my chili dog. I asked for a card, but of course, one who travels in the shadows cannot be encumbered by such mundanities. He did give me a web site, though, which I promptly text-messaged to myself: But alas, when I tried to visit his etheareal presence on the Internet, it was not to found. That domain name has never even been registered. I must have misunderstood what he said.

Or perhaps - he was never meant to be found.

Friday, June 13, 2008


This has been a big week for signs of the apocalypse. The shocking photograph which I am about to show you is the fourth post just this week that I have tagged as such. And there were a couple last week.

Well, today is Friday the 13th. So I supposed it's only natural that there should be a runoff of unholy events leading up to this pinnacle of evilness. But I digress.

What you are about to see is an undercooked hamburger that I purchased at McDonalds in Silver Spring, Maryland, for lunch yesterday. Before proceeding, I would like to respond in advance to the obvious criticisms that will be leveed against me.

1. Yes, I have read Fast Food Nation, and I don't care, McDonald's makes kick-ass fries.

2. No, I do not eat fast food every day or even that often. Unless you count bar food. But every once in a blue moon (or a Thursday the 12th), usually involving stomach-clenching starvation as a result of running for an hour on a really hot morning before work, I get that McDonald's craving, of the sort that you get several hours into a long car trip. It is hard to fight it once the grip takes hold.

3. Yes, this is a "Big 'n Tasty." I really don't have much excuse for that, I just felt like I needed a tomato to mitigate the otherwise total earthtoned greasiness of every other McDonald's sandwich. As it turned out, I got more red than I bargained for.

So here we are. And I warn you, this image may not be suitable for vegetarians or even fast-food lovers. This photograph has not been doctored in any way.

You can clearly see that the burger is not just pink in the middle (and even that would be shocking at a fast-food joint) but almost completely raw.

I realize most sane people would have tossed this thing in the trash and immediately induced vomiting. But the tentacle-like hold of McDonald's was stronger than I was. I took the pattie out and nuked it into brownness, and then ate the whole thing. There were several thoughts going through my mind, in this order:

1) This could be just the ticket to a big-corporation lawsuit that I've been waiting for. Early retirment, here I come. I considered eating it as-is.

2) McDonald's has fallen from grace. They used to be the pinnacle of fast-food consistency. We expect this sort of thing from Jack In The Box, even Wendy's. But not McDonald's.

3) Do I have any antibiotics left from when I stepped on a nail?

Well, nearly 24 hours later, I didn't get sick. I guess I'm going to have to keep the day job. But hopefully, McDonald's will still send me a large payoff to take this post down.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Customer Service Has Gone Too Far

My phone rang a moment ago. It was American Express.

Amex: Hello, this is (redacted) calling on behalf of American Express concerning your customer service call on June 9.

Jamie: Yes? Hmmm... they called me Monday because I had forgotten to pay my bill last month. I paid them electronically the same day, they must have it by now...

Amex: I would like to assure you that this conversation is confidential and anything you say will never be released to a third party.

Jamie: Okay, fine. Why are you calling? This is weird. Do I need a lawyer?

Amex: How would you rate the quality of service you received on your recent call with American Express? Please answer using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is poor and 5 is excellent.

Jamie: Bursts out laughing. Wait a minute. You're surveying me about the call that you guys made to me to tell me I had missed a payment? Seriously?

Amex: Ummm, yes, that's correct.

Jamie: I'm sorry, it's nothing personal, but you have to admit this is pretty silly. The call was fine. They told me I was late paying my bill. I said I would pay it immediately. They said thank you and we both went on our merry ways. A this point, I have already spent more time on the customer service survey than I did on the original phone call.

Amex: Ah, OK, so you would say it was excellent. Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your experience?

Jamie: I really can't think of anything else I can say about it... but thanks for asking!

Amex: Thank you, have a nice day...

It appears that we have gotten to the point in society where the followup and metadata generated around any given activity consumes more resources than the activity itself.

It's bad enough that we get barraged with emails demanding we rate every single online transaction. Did your item arrive on time? Was it as described? Sure - there is some value to being able to see this kind of feedback. But it goes too far. On, for example, you are actually required to leave a comment in addition to filling out the survey. One-click checkout my ass... the post-purchase process is more complicated than the actual purchase!

Another example. I went to DMV about a month ago for that wonderful biannual ritual, the vehicle safety inspection. I was advised that I might enjoy completing a customer satisfaction survey while I waited for my car. For DC government vehicle inspection? Surely you jest. You really don't want me filling out that survey. Do we really need to solicit feedback on what is universally reviled as a frustrating, time-consuming process that involves baking in your car for an hour while sucking carbon monoxide from a hundred tailpipes around you? You KNOW what's wrong: It takes too damn long! Open more lanes! Re-open the West Virginia Avenue station! But apparently, we'd rather devote resources to surveys that tell us what we already know, than towards actually dealing with the problem.

Stop the madness. For the love of water buffalo, Amex, I didn't even call you in the first place, you called me. I didn't want to hear from you then, and I certainly didn't want to hear from you now. This will inevitably come to it's logical conclusion in all aspects of society:

Prison Guard, about to release inmate: unused prophylactic, one soiled, one man's hair comb. One Timex digital watch, broken. Two gold-plated finger rings. One black suit jacket. One pair black suit pants.... but before you leave, we have a few questions.

How would you rate the cleanliness of your cell? Please rate from 1 to 5, where 1 is Gitmolicious and 5 is Club Fed.

Now, think about the last time you were ass-raped by a prison guard. Do you feel like they were too gentle, pleasingly rough, or raging like a silverback orangutan on steriods?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Continuing Crisis: "ATM Thefts"

I received today via one of my DC mailing lists this warning about the threat of falling victim to an ATM scam in which the crook can obtain your card and PIN number without your knowledge. The email included this powerpoint presentation that shows in a series of slides taken from an ATM security camera how the scam is perpetrated. It was sent directly from a DC MPD Lieutenant.

Being immediately skeptical about the latest threat to the safety of the world that I receive via email, especially when it originates from an official source, I googled it. As it turns out, this isn't exactly breaking news. Hoax slayer put up a page about it on December 4, 2006, but confirms that it is not a hoax. Some official looking European anti-fraud website has the presentation hosted as well. It's unclear who actually put this thing together or how old it is, but the nature of the scam seems to be of the sort we might have seen in WarGames circa 1983. In the demonstration they talk about a sum of money that is "R4,000" so clearly this originated in some quaint European dukedom with funny colored bills of different sizes.

So I looked through this presentation, available here as a regular slideshow for those who don't have Powerpoint. It isn't rocket science. A piece of film is installed in the ATM machine to basically jam the mechanism when someone puts in their card. The con artist then pretends to help the victim with some story about entering the PIN again while pressing another button, and obtains the PIN in the process. Eventually, unable to recover his card, the vic leaves, and the con artist pulls out the card from his trap.

I got three things to say about this dire warning.

1. Do any bank machines even capture your card any more?

2. While criminals in Europe may be clever and polite, is there a single crook in DC who would go to all this trouble to get your money when you are at the ATM, versus the much simpler solution of sticking a gun to your head and demanding you withdraw $500 and give it to him?

3. This presentation ends with the ubiquitous calling card of all that is useless on the Internets:

Send this message to friends and family immediately!

I, for one, will not be losing any sleep when I use an ATM.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sorry, We're Closed

In recent years Washington DC has become a far more cosmopolitan place to live than it was in the early 90's when I first moved here. I feel like it's become a true walking city (at least, if you don't mind sweating bullets in the summertime). Whereas in those days, the only real entertainment and dining destinations were Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, and Georgetown, the whole city has become connected. U Street, Logan Circle, Chinatown, "old" Downtown (e.g. K street), Metro Center, all have thriving restaurant and night lives. And the corridors between them, as well as the outskirts, have begun to sprout nighttime businesses as well, like 14th Street south of U street, not to mention my local favorite Red Rocks on 11th and Park and Red Derby at 14th and Quincy.

This has all been all great for those of us who enjoy good food and night life. It's also great for the neighborhoods. Gentrification issues notwithstanding, the changes have resulted in large stretches of the city becoming walkable which in years past would have been devoid of businesses. This has made them more appealing as places to live and safer places to walk. I've walked from L'enfant Plaza to my home in Columbia Heights. I frequently walk to U Street, Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, all within a mile or so of my home.

But this is not the point of my post. Last night, I was meeting a friend around U street for a drink. I was hungry and wanted to have a bite to eat. Our initial choice was Vinoteca, which is supposed to have good happy hour specials. Closed. So we went next door to Solly's. They were open, but their kitchen is closed on Mondays. Foiled again.

I then suggested The Saloon across the street, a cozy place I'd only been once before. I didn't eat that time but thought their menu looked like it was pretty good bar fare, so wanted to try it. Closed. We finally ended up at Ulah Bistro, which actually was open and serving food. Good wings there, by the way.

I realize that Mondays are the traditional day for restuarants to be closed. But in a thriving community like U Street, and in the summertime when it's light out until 9 and people love to get out of their little shoebox apartments and relax in an air conditioned bar or restaurant - or even sit outside if it's not intolerable - this tradition seems a little dated. DC has just about become a real city in the sense that many communities are becoming truly walkable and you can find about anything you need on foot.

I've never liked this Monday tradition, personally. In fact it's one of my favorite nights to eat out. Who wants to cook for themselves on the first day back at the grind after a weekend? The popular restaurants in town seem to be having no trouble getting people in their doors any night of the week, based on my anecdotal observations as a frequent diner, so I would think there's money to be made -- especially in summertime. So what is it? Maybe they can't get the help, maybe the owner just has to be there every day and needs a night off, or maybe I'm just wrong about how many people really want to eat out on a Monday.

Ulah seemed to be doing a decent business last night around 7 PM when I was in there; the bar was more than half full and most of the tables were occupied on the first floor. Maybe that's because they're the only place serving food in a two block radius.

Monday, June 9, 2008

NYTimes, How You Have Fallen

Print media is doomed.

This story about a kid who got stuck in a bar overnight is apparently the most interesting thing that's happened in the New York region.

And even worse, this happened on May 20. Almost three weeks ago. But the heartstring-pulling story of some NYC 20-something who got drunk and passed out in a bar was worth honoring in the local news.

The drama builds to an incredible crescendo as our hero, Mr. Hausmann, descibes his innermost feelings as the sun rose:

A faint light was coming through the windows — it was about 5:30 a.m. “I thought, ‘I guess I’m going to be late for work,’ ” he said.

But luckily, he then started to sober up and his natural McGyver instincts took over in the nick of time. He discovered a laptop computer he could use to get online:

“I checked my e-mail,” he said, “which was completely not helpful. My friends were planning a get-together. And I wrote back, ‘Yes, this will work. If only I could figure out how to escape from the bar I’m trapped in.’”

Good time to update the facebook page, for sure.

I won't spoil the end of this riveting drama for you, just go read the story. It will have you on the edge of your seat, but don't be afraid - everyone lives happily ever after.

Well, I guess someone can't climb the New York Times building every day...

Steal My Bike


I'm just wondering why go to all the trouble of carting around a U-lock, if you don't even lock your bike to the convenient parking meter? I was tempted to move it a few feet away just to make a point.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The end is nigh!!

Holy crap!! Everyone start building an ark, prepare for the rapture, or make love to the nearest hot person of the opposite sex. Or whatever your preference is.


As of 1:46 PM on this Friday, June 6, 2008, the world's most powerful consumer web site has been broken for at least five minutes. Already, thousands of people are sweating and wondering where the nearest Wal-Mart is.

Update, 1:55 PM: is still down, and I have learned from reliable sources (that is: spam from Borders) that Borders has terminated their seven-year partnership with, and launched their own website a few days ago. Could this be first shot across the bow in a bloody bookstore battle? This could be the ugliest online vendetta since Wonkette pissed off the Ron Paul freaks. And is working fine, stealing thousands of customers per second. Coincidence? I think not.

Update, 2:07 PM: Still down. I'm not sure exactly what's going on, but I'm feeling a little anxious. Are those bugs on my arms? Ack, get them off!

Update, 2:44 PM: After hitting reload 4,234 time in the last 20 minutes has finally been restored. Praise be to Allah, Isis, Shiva and Kim Jong Il for gracing us again with your terabytes of one-click shipping goodness. How the world managed to exist for the approximately one hour of Amazone-free hell, I will never know, but this day will live in infamy as one of the greatest horrors of the 21st century. Never forget.

Update, 2:49 M: Noooooo!!! It's broken again... those heinous Borders terrorists have somehow defeated Amazon's advanced security grid and once again brought the world of gratuitous spending to it's knees. The network is shaky, we're up and down. I'll be outside sniffing glue until this crisis is over.

Update, 3:49 PM: It's official. There are dozens of stories in the news about's demise. Their stock is down 4%. This is, without question, the first horseman of the apocalypse and the surest sign of the end of western civilization. Saddle up, bitches. It's time to move to Canada.

Signs of the Apocalypse #284: Scootergate

Once again I present you with a dreadfully composed picture, courtesy of Lucky Goldstar (that is, my LG cell phone). I was devastated to find myself without my camera at the Red Derby last night when they happened to be hosting a scooter rally. There is little that I find more entertaining than accidentally stumbling into one of DC's many bizarre subcultures. Ironically, though, most of the scooters had Maryland plates, but we'll overlook that for now.

Once again, Google to the rescue. This weekend is Scootergate 2008, the preeminent scooterer? gathering in the United States. Think Hell's Angels, except with 150cc engines and 12 inch wheels. I had the fantastic good fortune to surreptitiously attend the pre-rally warm-up, which featured a viewing of Quadrophenia at the Derby, complete with audio! That was a rare treat. I remain a bit confounded about the relationship between the classic rock opera and scooterists. Those are motorcycles in that movie, kids. Oh wait, the tricked out Vespas... okay, it's been a while and I wasn't paying attention last night. Something about scooter sacrifice. Anyway...

Tonight the official rally begins, and damn it if the scootererers won't be taking over H street. You can get the details from the link above, but suffice it to say that the Rock and Roll Hotel is the place to be... if you can get in! The website strongly encourages pre-registration for the show.

But the real fun should be on the mall after 2 AM where the "monument ride" will take place. I am not joking, if I am still awake and cabable of getting my ass to the mall, I will be there. What could be better than witnessing dozens of scooterererers of varying degrees of intoxication driving through the World War II memorial? Or seeing if a scooter still works under 12" of water in the reflecting pool? Doing donuts in front of the Lincoln Memorial? This should be awesome.

Well, that's it for now, but I hope to see everyone at Scootergate '08. Scooterists: I am not making fun of you. Really. Okay, I am, but it's nothing personal because I make fun of everyone, and I'm laughing with you, and not at you. I really do love this kind of stuff. So please don't get angry and leave little 1" wide treadmarks on the hood of my car.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Artcar Sighting

ArtcarSaw this beauty on 11th Street walking home one night last week, and all I could think was, "now there's something you don't see every day."

The picture's awful, unfortunately -- I snapped it quickly and didn't want to stick around too long for fear that the trapped souls trying to escape from the car would come after me. But if you look at the large version of the pic on Flickr, you can make out the phone number. So naturally, I googled it. I mean seriously, who has time to make phone calls these days?

I quickly found this post in a Yahoo group about "Artcars." Well, that makes sense. I've never heard of an "artcar" before but if I had to name this creature, that might have come up. Right after "Ghostbustermobile" and "Hell on Wheels." But being a ruthlessly persistent Google bloodhound, I branched from there and googled the poster's name. His home page was easily found, with lots of links and blogs. I went on to search for general information about Artcars. There are bunches of web sites easily found. The pictures of these things are out of control. If I ever found myself driving down I-95 next to an Artcar procession, I'd probably assume that I was no longer on the planet earth, or had eaten an especially funky Arby's sandwich.

The owner appears to be from Baltimore; maybe he's in town for Artomatic. Or maybe he just felt like taking the ol' gooniemobile to DC for a spin on a nice day.

Artomatic, by the way, is phenomenal -- I've been once and barely scratched the surface, I'm hoping to go back once or twice more before it closes on the 15th. If you haven't been, go, now.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Future Is Now


"There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission."

-- From the introduction to The Outer Limits, 1963-1965.

It's been a week since I've posted. And my last post was essentially filler. Perhaps this means that my life has been soporifically boring for the last week or so. On the other hand, since I don't share Emily Gould's philosophy of describing every sordid detail of my personal life for the enjoyment of friends, co-workers, complete strangers, and bounty hunters, perhaps it means that I've actually been in deep cover posing as an insurance salesman while attempting to infiltrate Kim Jong-Il's palace for the last week, as part of my efforts to free the world from the threat of nuclear holocaust.

As it turns out, he self insures.

Sooooo... anyway. I love movies, and have been in a bit of a retro phase lately. The photo above is from the 1966 film adaptation of "Fahrenheit 451," the 1953 Ray Bradbury classic. I read the book years ago but had never seen the movie, and one day it arrived in my mailbox, having been queued up a long time ago. The story is of a futuristic society where books are illegal, and firemen don't put out fires, they set them. The dystopian vision presented is of a world where emotion and free thinking are suppressed in the interest of creating a happier society. The centerpiece of every household is the television; and self-medicating through a variety of drugs is encouraged.

This story was written more than 50 years ago and the movie created more than 40, yet many of the dark visions shown by this story find analogues in our society. Pharmacalogical management of our well being is becoming commonplace. Emotional states such sorrow, depression, or moodiness, once understoond by philosophers as an essential part of the human condition, have become a treatable illness. The solution to problems is a quick fix, a pill, or a surgery. Introspection and emotion -- the kind that might result from reading a book -- is to be avoided at all costs, because it breeds unhappiness. Instead, the television is the only information source, and the media is carefully controlled to ensure the happiness of the populace.

The picture above is a picture of a scene in the movie, showing a flat-panel, wall-mounted televison, in a widescreen configuration, as viewed on my own flat-panel widescreen television. Not bad for 1966.