Saturday, September 30, 2006


From the Department of Really Late Movie Reviews...

Back when I had HBO I used it to seek out the old or obscure movies that I tend to prefer. I don't have HBO anymore but Netflix fills the gap nicely, especially since going to the theater is so expensive now that I really only do it for social occasions.

Anyway, though I'm not a big sports fan I remembered liking Varsity Blues, so when Friday Night Lights showed up on my recommendations I decided to try it. Am I ever glad I did! What a great movie. It starts off a little slow and disjointed, but you soon realize that's because they're introducing the main characters, who don't necessarily hang out in one group. Character development--imagine that. And you wouldn't expect Hollywood to choreograph a football game worth anything but this looked great to me, especially since a lot of the camera angles seemed designed to mimic the way TV covers a game. People who know more about football than I do (almost everyone) might find stuff to criticize there, but it looked brilliant to me. The cast is an ensemble and I didn't recognize most of the faces, so they apparantly haven't gone on to great things yet, but Billy Bob Thornton does his usual great job, in this case as the coach balancing small-town political pressure to win against his personal responsibility to the players, who after all still kids. And all done with near-zero melodrama and no obvious plot formulas. Of course it's a coming-of-age movie so there are formulas all over the place, but as in Top Gun they're used wisely and advance the plot without distracting. I'm not really a football fan, but I think it's safe to say Friday Night Lights is a football movie for football fans. You can never assume that in these PC times...

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Rain and More Auld Acquaintances

I seem to be on a run with running into people I used to know. Riding Metro into my old neighborhood to pick up my car from the Subaru dealer this afternoon, the cold wind and rain were blowing sideways hard enough that there wasn't any truly dry place on the platform, let alone outside. I therefore decided to take the elevator to the street level and stay dry for a couple more minutes. Wouldn't you know it, over my shoulder I hear another familiar voice saying "Stacy!", and turn around to see Darren, a former classmate at Virginia Tech who lives in Huntington.

We caught up a bit as the bus saved him from getting soaked on what would otherwise have been a 15-minute walk to his house, but I was mostly thinking "this rain is going to trash my balcony." Had I been expecting a thunderstorm, I'd have taken down my hammock or at least brought the pillow inside and stacked the chairs. I'd also have taken the 36" planter box off the railing since it will fill with water in a downpour.

When I got home though, it wasn't as bad as I feared. Yes, the pillow is wet but it's all synthetic so that's not an emergency. The 24" planter box on the railing was enjoying the rain just fine, as it should since I drilled drain holes in the side after the floods this spring. And my plucky little apple tree is still green and standing up straight. The 36" box, though, and all the catnip in it are done. I guess it's going to be time to plant those snow peas...


Call Me a Cab! ...Ok, You're a Cab

In London a couple years ago, Vicky and I joined her old bridge-playing buddy Jason for a night of clubbing. Jason warned me that British girls are snobbish and unfriendly, and he was right, but it was a fun evening anyway. One of the more interesting parts came near the end when we took a 'black' or unregistered cab back to the hotel. This was just a guy making some extra cash by driving people around at night, and quite a bit cheaper than a real cab. Of course you can't visit London without riding in the funky oldtime cabs, and we did take one of those to the Eurostar terminal the next day.

I thought about that this morning when a coworker joked that he's going to make a lot of money driving a cab today, since several of us need rides to a going-away lunch. I've taken two cab rides in the past week or so, once from National to my house on the way home from California, and another from Japone to Rosslyn when the metro unexpectedly closed at midnight instead of 2am like I thought. Both were $15-20 including tip, which strikes me as a pretty nice hourly rate.

Of course that's the benefit of the artificial scarcity created by the taxi licensing system, but like most regulatory systems it creates an opportunity for freeriding. In each of my cab rides, the distance was around 5 miles. You probably have to drive around a bit in between fares, but let's say you have a 5-mile fare for every 10 miles driven. The standard mileage deduction on your taxes is 42 cents, so that's a cost of $4.20 for your ten miles of driving. If you undercut the pros by $5 then you're pulling in, conservatively, around $6 for your ten miles. If you can do that 3 times an hour, that's $18/hr.

So, if you call yourself a cab for 3 hours a night 2-3 times a week, that's all your going-out money. Not a bad little racket, especially if you're a student of humanity (or of drunk girls coming home from the club!)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Ok, This is Kinda Good!

My alternate title for this post was "Fear my net.stalking skillz, or I Can Read LJ and Click on Links!". But I decided that was going a long way for not much of a joke. Anyway, I ran across Meagan's LJ and from there to her AudioStreet page where she's got an mp3 posted. I've told a couple of my friends before how she brought down the house at Freddie's one night, so I was pretty interested to hear her singing her own stuff. And you know what? I like it! She definitely reminds me of someone I've heard before, though I can't come up with the name offhand. Think somewhere between Tracy Bonham and Veruca Salt Ani DiFranco, though that's probably a horrible comparison and all my more music-literate friends will tar and feather me for it. Anyway, go listen, you'll like it!


Too White and Nerdy

This explains a few things...

You are 24% white and nerdy.
How White and Nerdy Are You?

Here's the video. There, I just saved you a few white-n-nerdy points!

Monday, September 25, 2006


Modern Architecture (con't)

Clearly, I wasn't clear in my last post. That's non-sarcastic--as I look back I don't think I made my point well. Christina and Clint's comments just confirm it. Given that, a couple points bear elucidating (I got yer $10 word right here!):

  1. Nontraditional architecture - What I meant to do was respond to the WaPo writer's assertion that "Not to build such a splendid, modern structure would have been a dumbfounding mistake. The error would have been noticed around the world..." It seems to me that the implication is 'new and cool' has intrinsic value of its own. The marketplace may say that it does, but I think saying DC should have interesting modern buildings because other great cities like London, Berlin, Hong Kong, etc have them just a variation on "everybody's doing it". A pissing contest, as Clint said.

    That's not to say that DC should always have neoclassical architecture because it's always had neoclassical architecture in the past (though this is apparantly the city's policy.) I just feel that if the motivation is "I saw something awesome in London last summer, there should be something weird and interesting here too", that's a bad reason to build something. A good reason would be that the design addresses a particular set of needs in an innovative way and was preferably "invented here" by local talent. I'm not going to have much extra pride in my city because someone brought in outside talent to build something intended to look like a shinier version of something else in some other city, without much regard for setting or function. Yes, that's an aesthetic sense on my part, but that being so it puts me in the Ayn Rand school, which is also basically the Frank Lloyd Wright school so I'll go ahead and hold my head up.

  2. Property rights - Just to talk about Clint's point for a moment. I disagree on the basis that if your neighbor were to build a borg cube with pink bunnies that takes up their entire lot, it reduces the market value of your property because most people don't want to live next to a borg cube (with or without pink bunnies) and will be willing to pay less for your house. So it does affect you, and along with health hazards related to industrial facilities, that is the reason we have zoning. If enough people want to live in borg cubes, they can in theory get together and buy land, lobby the county to create a borg cube zone, and cube it up to their heart's content (as long as they plant trees so the next subdivision isn't forced to live making the same boring cubist jokes day after day)

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Modern Architecture

Real quick, this Post article from last year about the approval of Norman Foster's glass canopy for the Old Patent Office Building courtyard (link from DCist) gives me an chance to say something I like to say about architecture and urban design whenever I find someone to listen. The article includes the following sentiment beloved of, from what I can tell, every architect in the universe:
Not to build such a splendid, modern structure would have been a dumbfounding mistake. The error would have been noticed around the world, for sure. Today, architecture plays a significant role in establishing a city's competitive credentials. To turn down a wonderful building out of excessive caution or misplaced preservationist zeal? Definitely embarrrassing.

My personal opinions aside (short version: I'm on the fence about modern architecture, but have no love for columns and porticos just because they're traditional) it's an even bigger error of judgement to potentially blight the landscape for the next century or more just to add a big-name building to the city's resume, or because something similar looks cool somewhere else in the world. Followers build things to keep up with the Joneses. We should do-or not do-based strictly on our own needs and wants.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Check Your Dryer!!!

A lot of my button-down shirts have plastic tabs in the corners of the collar to keep them stiff and pointy. I am usually too lazy to take them out before washing, but it's never been a problem til today. Or so I thought. I bought a new shirt this morning and went to give it the pre-wearing wash. When it came out of the dryer it was short one plastic tab. I felt around the bottom of the dryer, checked the lint filter, nothing. I said a mental "blah!" and went on about my folding and ironing. Afterward I decided to check again just for fun. This time I spotted a faint outline of something next to one of the fins inside the dryer.

It was a plastic tab, partially stuck under the fin. But it wasn't the one that came out of my new shirt, it went with some other shirt. I went on to recover the matching tab, plus the one for the new shirt for a total of three. So one of my shirts needs tabs, doesn't have them, and may not have had them for several months. Check those dryers!

Friday, September 22, 2006


And Speaking of Flying...

Getting a private pilot's license has always been "on my list". My dad had his when he was about my age, and flew my mom around on some of their dates. I know I'd love it. I've always had a natural feel for what makes airplanes tick, and natural talent at handling any vehicle I've ever tried, from bikes to powerboats.

So when one of my relatives last weekend was complaining about airport security, and declaring that if she ever flew again she'd be her own pilot, it made me start thinking about small planes again. I'm a compulsive researcher (just ask my friends; one of the most common complaints about me is my know-it-all tendencies) and set off to find out what kind of small airplanes (lightplanes) are available today. Answer: the majority are disappointingly the same as when I was a kid looking through my dad's old flying stuff.

The few new-age designs out there have specs that tell me something about their designers' intent. For example, the useful load (weight capacity, incl. fuel) of a Piper Saratoga and a Lancair IV are within 100 lbs or so, but the Lancair cruises almost twice as fast and is 20%+ more fuel-efficient. If you compare any two old and new designs with similar seating capacities, you'll find about the same thing. New airplanes carry the same load as old ones, but generally faster and with lower fuel consumption--using the same Continental or Lycoming engines.

That's a whole box of cookies for modern aerodynamics and materials science, but it leaves me scratching my head in one way. The two aircraft linked above, which are fairly typical, have a max load of about 1200 lbs including up to 60-70 gallons of fuel. At a little over 6 lbs/gallon, that's 400 lbs or so out of that 1200, leaving 800 to divide among pilot, passengers and luggage. Even 6-seat lightplanes come with numbers like that, so unless I'm missing something pretty much every single-engine lightplane on the market can't fill all its seats without being gigantically overloaded!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Kirin is non-alcoholic beer

Tonight had a bit of magic to it. I was up late last night, so tired this morning and dying by 5:30 when I got home. I laid down and slept like a baby for two hours. This was one of those sleeps where you start off feeling just peaceful and relaxed, and wake up feeling completely refreshed. These don't come around often, at least not to me. I woke up around 7:15, made dinner and got ready to go meet Angel, Ian and their crew for karaoke at Cafe Japone.

I don't go to DC much these days, and Japone is in the neighborhood where I used to work. But more on that later. Coming from Virginia I have to change trains at Metro Center. I glanced around the platform in case I might spot anyone en route. That happened more than once going to parties back in the day, but not tonight. Just when I'd satisfied myself of that, though, I heard a familiar voice calling my name. It was Ryan Schutt, an old friend from Virginia Tech who was on his way home from the Nats game. He lives in Rockville but I almost never see him. He said he hardly ever comes into the city either, so the odds of us meeting like that are astronomical. He's doing well and is getting ready to go to Japan for two weeks on vacation. Didn't get much detail besides that as I got off the train two stops later, but it sure can be a small world!

I arrived at Japone a little early, so I decided to check out my old office building. It's still there, as is the organization I worked for, but I'd say a good 3/4 of everything around it has changed. An old womens hospital two blocks away has become a high-rent apartment building, there's a fountain and an outdoor patio bar where there used to be ..not that stuff anyway. Lulu's is gone, though I've heard of it lately so maybe it just moved. Almost every nearby building has had some renovation, an addition, new facade, something. I walked on over to Connecticut Ave, and saw a line outside the Lucky Bar. I knew that couldn't be right, and it wasn't; there's a place next door with loud music and what looked like the Tower Records logo for a sign. At least the Lucky is still there. Some things never change, like the McDonalds across from Joseph A. Bank on M Street. Others definitely do. There must have been 2-3 Cosis in the 10 or so blocks I walked, and of course many Starbucks. I saw a Krispy Kreme off Dupont Circle of all places, which amused me since that's about the last place I'd expect glazed donuts to be popular.

After all that, Japone was a letdown. It was good to see people but the room was small, the beer weak, the whiskey ready to run your car, and the other patrons far too loud to hear anyone sing. I think I'll stick with Freddie's for karaoke, but I wouldn't trade the rest of this evening for anything.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Flying ain't what it used to be...

So I arrived to National at 10:30AM Thursday, two hours before my flight, only to find said flight cancelled. According to the gate agent, Northwest's reservation system automatically rebooks you onto ...the same flight tomorrow. Yeah, that's useful. The next best option didn't leave until 2:30PM, and to top it off, it was obvious by then that dad wasn't getting my voicemails and therefore didn't know what had happened to me. I tried to call him, he tried to call me, but we kept missing each other due to being on airplanes, and when I finally got to Phoenix at 7PM Pacific, he'd decided I wasn't coming and was half an hour down the road. We finally got to my aunt's house around 11PM local, or 2AM my time. The best thing I can say about all of that is that they did give me a free first-class upgrade between Minneapolis and Phoenix. You still get dinner in first class, as opposed to coach where you have to pay $5 for a box of crackers, cheese and Oreos. All this for the low, low price of about $350.

More later, but the immediate news is the answer to this question:

She's pregnant just had her baby, and some of us wonder if Karlie is too

Yes! So Elisabeth will have a playmate right next door. They'll be my 3rd cousins, thanks to step-2nd-cousin ("what does that make me?" "absolutely nothing!!!") Katie for clearing that up. I could never keep the Nth-cousin/N-removed bit straight, but now I know.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


It's Jimmy Buffett, not Frank Sinatra

That's how my cousin Karlie described the dress code for her (shotgun? I don't know!) wedding, which will be held Saturday at her parents' house. Why do I not say it's at my aunt's or uncle's house? Her mom is actually my first cousin, though she was born 20-some years ahead of the rest of us. I admit I was sort of looking forward to being the classy east-coaster in the group, but the t-shirt dress code makes packing a lot easier since I should now be able to get everything into my backpack and avoid checking a bag on my two-part flight to Phoenix tomorrow. That's a long flight just to turn around and come back on Sunday, but it'll help that dad's going to be on the connecting flight with me.

Anyway, back to the wedding. This all began (from my point of view) with an email that arrived about midnight on a Friday three weeks ago. It cryptically said that Karlie is getting married on the 16th and they'd love to have me show up for the party. Who's the groom? No idea! Then plot thickened when dad called to say that not only was Karlie getting hitched, but her sister Sara had finally decided on a guy and was already married, having eloped in Vegas a few weeks before. Seems her longtime (but ex- for about a year) boyfriend finally moved out of his mom's house and did something with his life, which is apparantly what she was waiting for. She's pregnant, and some of us wonder if Karlie is too, but in my case that's mainly due to lack of information. Is this the same guy she was going to marry three years ago? A different one? It's going to take the whole trip just to catch up on all the gossip. I can't wait. The only downside is that it means I had to bail on a previously planned weekend with some friends in the mountains. But hey, how many times does your favorite cousin get married? (shh, that was rhetorical...)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


All Politics is Local...

I attended a meeting of my local civic association tonight. The topic seemed like it should have been interesting (to me anyway, with my urban planning background); a presentation on zoning changes at the county maintenance facility next to my subdivision. The gist is that the facility started off being zoned something that wasn't really appropriate for its decades-old industrial use. In order to avoid problems in the future, the county sensibly decided to rezone it to a more industrial classification. In other words, the zoning changes to reflect the land use, which doesn't change. Simple, right?

Well, first it takes the two county employees 20 minutes or more to manage to convey that point to the civic association officers, some of whom are visibly waiting for a chance to pounce on something--anything. These folks all appear to be retirees with a lot of time on their hands. One goes on about how he can hear backup chimes from trucks all day; another makes the county guy talk at length about issues even he admits aren't a problem to anyone. A third raises his voice slightly to demand that parallel parking spaces on the street next to it be removed in order to have a left turn lane, despite having a drawing right in front of him that clearly shows no parallel parking at the spot he's talking about.

By a narrow margin, the worst one was the lady who alternated between flirting with Irrelevant Man and tossing out silly little gotchas. These included darkly implying that children would be poisoned by playing on a road easement connected to the county facility, which abuts a park and elementary school yard. Nothing is or was built on the easement, it's just a line on a map. But the good citizen is going to Save The Children from death-by-evil-bad-(nonexistent)-pavement!

So much for the civic association. At least now I know that the condo association really is the main political game in my neighborhood. Forget the cranky oldsters.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Decisions, Decisions...

Camping this weekend reminded me how much I love camping (thanks, Clint and Carolyn!) but driving out there reminded me that I miss motorcycling. I still own a bike but, it isn't running very well right now and I don't trust it when I have someplace I need to be. I want to replace it, but the available choices just aren't that interesting. Or I should say, not that practical. Yes, a motorcycle can be practical. But a crotchrocket generally isn't, especially the newer ones that are a bellypan away from being track-ready. The kind of motorcycle I want would weigh 450 lbs or less, be able to take a passenger and sidecases, and have an upright riding position that won't cause shoulder cramps and CTS after a couple hours.

While bikes like that are everywhere in Europe, they are few and far between in the US market, aside from a couple of very expensive BMWs and the Suzuki V-Stroms which are too big for us short guys. What does get imported over here are so-called "naked bikes"; crotchrockets without bodywork or any kind of windscreen at all. As near as I can tell, that's because the magazines over here constantly drool over the European "streetfighter" scene, but the bikes themselves didn't and don't sell well in the states. On the other hand, there's a very active long-range touring scene whose members are inconoclastic, affluent and open-minded about the bikes they ride. That group would eat up the bikes linked above, but since they're essentially ignored by the press, they don't get the chance. And I end up looking at scooters to accomplish the mission I have in mind. Anyone want to grey-market me a Honda CBF1000 (and somehow magically get rid of the VAT that puts it in BMW price territory)?

Saturday, September 09, 2006


People Suck

Bitter got a new [to her] 27" TV, and I whiled away the first half of last night helping her move it into her new digs. It's quite an improvement on her old one, being at least as big as my place and with all-new cabinets and mostly-new appliances. It was also a minorly interesting historical piece, with a floorplan very similar to Mel's old apartment, especially in the placement of the diningroom relative to the kitchen and livingroom.

My reward for this effort--the TV had to go up a couple flights of stairs--was what may be my last meal at the chinese place up the street, which is one of the best in the DC area. The entire shopping center, which is a charming 50s period piece reminiscent of the original Greenbelt, MD, is slated for redevelopment. The new complex will probably have at least the same number of storefronts, but it will undoubtedly be more upscale and expensive. And better, I'm sure. But the Northern Virginia of my youth is slipping away.

On another note, I can't tell the story of the second half of the evening since it involves people known to everyone who reads this. Suffice to say that the human race can be brutally disappointing sometimes, and that there's a new name on the list of men to whom no woman I'm dating will ever be introduced.

Friday, September 08, 2006


A Picture AND 1,000 Words...

This is the coolest thing I've seen in quite awhile. Serialized fiction on FlickR. The stories aren't really related to the pics, but the pics are very artistic in themselves, especially the night shots. More motivation to me to try writing again...


Flickr and Weekend Plans

Per Clint's advice, I tried out Flickr Uploadr. It's interestingly the exact same set of capabilities as the web-based uploader, but adds the ability to edit photo titles and to batch-upload a bunch of pics at once. It also allegedly allows rotation of pics, but when I rotated one, it appeared in the original orientation on Flickr. Bug. Still a big improvement though!

Most likely going camping this weekend. Even after the big hike last weekend, when you live among pavement and brick you don't turn down opportunities to get outdoors.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Teh Plan:

I'm going to try to post at least once a day, which means that most of it won't be Deep Thoughts TM. The rain that's been coming around often enough to keep outdoor activites mostly shut down, but not (at least in my area) doing any particular damage, seems to have abated. It's not dry enough for me to go to Wakefield, at least not without an external bike rack to keep the car clean, but I'll ride around the neighborhood and maybe make a food run to test out the panniers. I wonder if there's a relatively flat route to Harris Teeter from Fairlington...

Also, hurray for cooler weather. The electric bill was $65 last month, which is ridiculous for 1100 square feet. Then again that's probably due more to the dryer than the A/C. I really need to get an electrician to come in and discuss my wiring ideas. Anyone got somebody to recommend?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


You're a little busty for a Storm Trooper, aren't you?

Latest trend in Star Wars geekery: "Femtroopers". Quick, someone tell Jacqueline Passey! And with October fast approaching, I'll have to be sure to catch the Annandale Parade and see if any of the SW reenactors (yes) are wearing the latest gear this year... (link via Instapundit)

Monday, September 04, 2006


Go Hokies!

So Kipp and I went down to Blacksburg this weekend to watch Virginia Tech play Northeastern. Not a great matchup, but being the season opener it brought out the crowds. Said crowds thinned noticeably in the 3rd quarter, by which time the Hokies were blowing them out 35-0. The final was 38-0 and the most I can say for it is that at least they seem to have gotten over their old bad habit of getting overconfident and losing to crap teams.

I have pictures, but can't upload them right now because during the game, someone opened Kipp's car door and helped themselves to a pack of cigarettes and my USB cable. Apparantly that was more worthy of being thieved than my GPS, cell phone, camera battery chargers or Leatherman that were also in there. Not to mention Kipp's credit cards, which were spread across the front seats but otherwise present and accounted for, along with his radar detector and stereo. I guess the nicotine addiction is a powerful thing...

Update: I found a substitute cable in the basement. Pics will be posted soon but not fully tagged for a couple days.

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