Friday, April 20, 2007

Chinatown shenanigans

I live in Washington, DC, it's a fun place to be. It has the quirks and conflicts of any city: creepy rush-hour street musicians who use too much chorus effect on their guitars, volatile homeless people, and an atmosphere of vehicular lawlessness.

While DC is the mecca of international political intrigue and 18-year old bootsniffers in silk suits, the city itself has some fun political history all its own. It what many people (particularly sociologists) will remember, DC's former mayor, Marion Barry, was caught in an FBI sting smoking crack cocaine. What did he have to say for himself of the affair? "[The] bitch set me up." Nice. He went to jail for 6 months, and then immediately ran for seat on the city council under the campaign motto "He May Not Be Perfect, But He's Perfect for D.C." Truer words could not have been spoken, because he was elected to the council and then to the mayorship two years later. As Kent Brockman so eloquently put it, "I've said it before and I'll say it again: democracy simply doesn't work."

Anyway, the point of this is not to go on about Marrion Barry's countless offences (he forgot to pay his taxes again), but just to give everyone a sense of DC's whacky, laissez-faire political texture.

So this story ran in the Washington Post about two months ago, and I'm not sure why I'm coming back to it now. I guess it's because it just keeps pissing me off. For the record, I haven't met another person who had heard anything about this.

District May Fund Arena Upgrades,
$50 Million Urged For Verizon Center
Link to story

The rub-down: DC Council members get a tricked-out luxury suite at the Verizon Center and the ticket-holders get to foot their bill for the next 40 years.

"Three D.C. Council members introduced a bill yesterday that would provide $50 million in public funding for improvements at Verizon Center, a move that supporters said would spur more economic development near the Chinatown arena.

As part of the deal, the city would take over ownership of the building from Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin in 2047. In the meantime, the city would get a rent-free, 24-seat luxury suite, which includes a private bathroom, two TVs, a refrigerator, a food service area and an
unobstructed view of the arena floor.

The legislation, under which the District would issue $50 million in bonds and increase the tax on tickets and merchandise at the center, was requested by Pollin, who built the arena with private financing. The Wizards, Washington Mystics and Washington Capitals play in the 20,674-seat arena, which also hosts major concerts.
... more...

Under the proposal, the city would issue the bonds, which would be repaid by a 4.25 percentage-point increase in the tax on tickets and merchandise at Verizon Center. The current tax at the arena is 5.75 percent, so the legislation would push the tax to 10 percent.

Because about 60 percent of patrons at the center are from Maryland and Virginia, Evans said, much of the increase could be considered a "user tax" on nonresidents. "People who use the arena are going to the pay for the arena," he said."

First of all, they may as well strap C4 onto the Verizon Center if it is actually turned over to the DC government in 2047. It's better off as a heap of rubble than in the hands of DC's incapable politicians.

Now, usually when politicians take bribes for handing out pork, they at least try to make it a little less obvious. But the bar is set so low for DC politics, these guys gladly (and overtly) took a 24-seat luxury booth---worth probably $300-$400K/year---in exchange for doling out this "public funding"...which comes straight out of the pockets of eventgoers.

Doesn't that seem strange to you? What this says to me is that the Verizon Center wants to buy the right from the city to double the tax on tickets so it can buy itself some new stuff. The V.C. doesn't have to worry about the DC Gov't getting in the way because they give it a suite, and the DC Gov't doesn't have to worry about spending out of its own pockets because the cost comes right out of our pockets. It's win-win! So who doesn't come out on top of this one? Everyone else.

Further, why does the Verizon Center need $50M worth of upgrades already? It was built less than 10 years ago and from what I understand recently got a brand new JumboTron.

Ironically, this same issue came up in 1997 when Barry was mayor, but public outcry nixed the deal.

Finally, the last paragraph of this is hilarious. 60% of eventgoers are out-of-towners, so we feel comfortable doubling the tax on tickets. And I assume as a DC resident (one of whom comprises the other 40%) that I'll be exempt from this "user tax" on nonresidents, right? What better way to encourage attendance at events than by increasing the price for no perceptible reason!

So I have a better idea for you, DC Government. You can still take that extra five bucks out of my pocket when I go to a Caps or Wizards game, but instead of putting it into new carpeting and plasma TVs for the luxury boxes, why don't you put it into the shitty teams I inexplicably pay to watch lose?

(ABOVE) "Alright, who else wants to come to the game tonight. We have 9 free seats left and plenty of standing room. You're with me tonight, alright?"

Let's get physical

No matter what you think I mean by the title, it should annoy you.

For the first time since I was 12, I used my bike to get somewhere I needed to go to. Okay, that's not quite true. I used it Freshman year at Michigan to get to crew practice a couple times, but it's fun to think about being 12, and it's quite depressing to think about being a Freshman in college.

Today I rode my bike to work. I went from Dupont across Q St and took a right on 7th, down to K St, then over to and down 6th to where I work---about 2 miles. I was planning on leaving at 7:45am because I wasn't sure how long it'd take. Of course, I woke up late and left at 8:00am instead.

It only took me 15 minutes. That's faster than taking the Metro and even faster than driving, I was pretty surprised. Of course, the way back is going to take twice as long because it's uphill, but there's no rush going home.

Not sure why I decided to try this, or while I feel good about it. I certainly don't want to become one of those annoying bikers who complains about how few bike racks there are in this city or how everyone should bike to work to save the environment.

So, I'll leave it at this: let's get physical.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Why do these pictures exist?

I've got a pretty good set of hard-to-fathom pictures on my computer, so I thought I'd share a couple. I'll also struggle to understand why these pictures even exist and what they mean for mankind.

(ABOVE) Yeah, that's Wilford Brimley. He's the guy from those Werther's Original butterscotch candy commercials, and who, if you're over the age of 65, has been trying to sell you life insurance. Why somebody bothered to take a picture of a shirtless Mr. Brimley at the beach, and how somebody even recognized him, is way beyond me.

(ABOVE) "Hey, do you want a hot dog or somethi... HOLY SHIT!!!" I'm not sure what this "clown" on Coney Island is supposed to do for business, but I'm sure as shit that it was placed there by Lucifer himself. I mean, look at this kid's face! How can it possibly remind anyone of anything other than someone writhing in agony in the pits of Hell? That cute little sombrero doesn't fool me one fucking bit either, I bet if you touch this thing those flying demons from Ghost will come out of the ground and drag you down to Satan. And look at the demonic little man-face on this kid's t-shirt, it's like a cross between the Joker and The Violator from the Spawn comics. I can't imagine why Coney Island went belly-up. And thank god somebody copyrighted that photo, I'm sure Ms. Dembling got to retire early because of it.

(ABOVE) Pop quiz: Is this a costume party or not?

I can come up with at least three stories as to how the planets aligned for this picture to have been created on our plane of existence, and none of them involve a costume party. The simplest, and therefore probably the correct one (much thanks to Occam and his cutlery), is that the two girls in the prom dresses are getting ready to go to their senior prom taking place somewhere in the middle of South Dakota. They don't have dates so they decided to dress up more than usual. The house, which has more wood paneling than is legal in the 48 contiguous, belongs to the parents of the blue prom dress girl. The lanky guy with the trucker hat and bleach-stained whitewashed jeans (henceforth known as "Stretch") on the right and the girl in the electric blue garbage bag are also on their way to the prom, but are taking it more casually because Stretch has to go back to work at White Castle later that night. That's Stretch's 1980's-era camera on the table. The girl in the translucent red top is the sister of blue garbage bag girl; the guy with the shades and buzz cut behind her is her boyfriend who had to drive both sisters over to blue prom dress girl's house before the big night. The tall guy in the middle is the Estonian exchange student living at the house who had to borrow the father's old gym gear because his luggage was confiscated in Slovenia during his trip to the States. He just got back from the gym in time to say "bye" before the big night. Make sense?

(ABOVE) I dare you to find one square inch of this Kenny Loggins album that isn't bewildering. I'm not really sure where to start, so how about with the title, Return to Pooh Corner. So you're probably thinking, okay, it's probably an album for children. Putting aside his gay anthem "Playing With The Boys" from Top Gun for a minute, do you remember prancing unicorns and robed, bearded men lying around ponds in the Winnie the Pooh series? No, in fact that sounds a lot more the backstory for a To Catch A Predator episode. The next thing you might notice on this cover is Kenny's reflection in the pond. Yep, that's a kid in there. But is it Kenny's reflection minus 45 years and a beard, or just some toddler he's banished to the mirror world with his black magic? All of the sudden the mirror world theory looks pretty compelling doesn't it? Just try and tell me that Kenny's face isn't full of wicked joy and twisted self-accomplishment, and that the kid's eyes don't look soul-less and empty after being driven into the spirit world. I don't think Pooh Bear would approve of this depiction of Pooh Corner, or the 39% discount Loggins is hawking.

My awful, awful jobs, Part 1

Last night I was out at a bar posing as a Law School grad so I could get free food and beer---which, incidentally, does not come close to the subterfuge at hand when my British alter-ego, Simon, makes a late-night appearance---where I started talking to some girl, which eventually led me to bring up this really awful job I had. I'm not sure why my friends think it's so funny to walk up to people on the street to sell them hair salon packages, but my last post made me realize how many bad jobs I've had over the years.

I'm going to start this as a list of bad jobs but I'm pretty sure it'll just end up being stories from not-so-bad jobs since they're funny. Maybe I'll make another post for them, maybe not, but I'm sure as hell not going to go back and restructure everything for your convenience. Onward, in chronological order!

1. Gibby's Seafood Restaurant. I worked as a busboy for one summer at this popular, somewhat expensive, neighborhood seafood restaurant (as implied by the name: Gibby's Seafood Restaurant). It was the first "real" job I ever had, having only ever cut lawns and rented Godzilla movies out of my backpack previously. It was the first time I had had coworkers, a boss, a schedule, and an hourly wage.

I'll start with my coworkers. There was Rob, who trained me. Rob was a conniving 18-year old (I was 16) who looked like he was 25 and had no intention of going to college. Busing at Gibby's was all he needed. Rob also smoked a lot. The nicer female waitresses warned me to make sure Rob didn't try to skim too much off my tips while he was training me, which he did. That was my first experience with graft. This was also my first experience with people using smoke breaks to take unscheduled breaks they otherwise wouldn't be allowed to take.

About a month in a new busboy, Dave, showed up. Dave was 40. I learned in the first 5 minutes that Dave was a recovering crack addict. A decade on now, I wouldn't be too surprised about that when I met Dave---what with his glassy eyes, vacant stares, and unflagging utter confusion---but at 16 I was pretty freshfaced when it came to the ravages of drug abuse. He was a nice enough guy, but surprisingly, Dave vanished a couple weeks later. Godspeed Dave, whatever seafood restaurant you ended up at.

There were the dishwashers, who at any restaurant are by far the most jovial but also the ones you don't want to cross. One of them would always comment on my "pearly whites" (teeth). I guess those G.I. Joe PSA's really hammered home that point on brushing your teeth.

My bosses were a curious crew, too. The guy who hired me was a family friend, his name was Roger or something. Roger was one of two managers, the other was Steve, who was a prick. The owner, Mr. Gibby, was a bigger prick. They all had moustaches. Mr. Gibby got really upset once because his friend who came to the restaurant couldn't get buffalo wings since they had run out (in restaurant world, "we ran out" means that the cooks just don't want to cook it anymore), but then he found out that the cooks had made me a heaping plate of wings. Those wings were delicious but maybe not worth it. The real kicker came one day when I found out that Roger had been fired because he called out Mr. Gibby and Steve when they had been found at the restaurant late one night liquoring up some younger ladies and shenanigans had ensued. That was a pleasant atmosphere for me, all around.

Then there were the customers. I remember two customer "situations" vividly to this day. The first was a big fat whale of a woman who complained when I accidentally put water in her glass that was apparently Sprite instead. How could I be so foolish? She moaned about how stupid I was to make that mistake and demanded a free Sprite. I guess all the fat in her brain made her forget that refills were free, so I punched her in her fat face and slit her throat.

The worst nights I had there was when I was on crab deck duty. The crab deck was a big concrete block with a shitload of tables where people ate steamed crabs, and where people put all their trash on the ground and laughed at me on the way out because I had to clean up their fucking mess. One night, after cleaning up the whole deck (which took about an hour) and just before closing, a flock of about 20 Iranians flooded in, mostly children, to eat crabs. The mess these fuckers made in 30 minutes would make Jesus Christ cry. AND, if that wasn't bad enough, while I cleaned up the biological hazard they had left, the local radio station, 98 Rock, decided to play the entirety of Rush's latest album Test for Echo. Oh my god, I think I ground away half my teeth that night. I also vowed mortal vengeance on Geddy Lee, which will be exacted come Hell or high water.

Note: When looking up "busboy" and "crabs" in Google's image search, be very, very careful.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Of course someone else on the Internet has already thought of that

Sometimes I'm just amazed by the internet. If you think you're the first person to think of something, you can immediately prove yourself wrong. And, if you're like me, you enjoy having silent arguments with yourself even though you somehow manage to lose them more often that not.

So after receiving a poorly phrased email one day, I thought it'd be funny to have a day where everyone talks like Yoda, or "Talk Like Yoda Day." It wouldn't really be funny, but when you're at work for 9 hours a day just about anything can be amusing. The feeling of blinding boredom and monotony itself can even be amusing in that sort of hopeless put-your-head-in-your-hands way.

Surprisingly, but not really, it took me 5 seconds to find I like to think that I'm a pretty random individual, but the internet showed me otherwise. It was pretty foolish of me to think that I had been the first person to become so bent of mind at work to conceive of Talk Like Yoda Day. People have been bored at work for centuries, who am I to be the big shit? What gall. And not only does TLYD already exist (as a website no less), its warped creator went so far as to pick a day: May 21. Why May 21? Who the fuck knows.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

KevinC fronts amazing effort to clinch Expedia Challenge

Newcomer KevinC has all but secured the title of Expedia Challenge champion with an impressive entry:

Leave Washington-Dulles (IAD) -> Chicago O'Hare (ORD) -> London (LHR) -> Islamabad-Rawalpindi (ISB)

Total duration: 51 h 38 min with connections

For the sake of fair competition, I'll give the peanut gallery 24 hours from 9:30am Tuesday to find a longer flight. Barring that unlikely outcome, I think we've found our winner. Nice work KevinC.

Friday, April 06, 2007

"Wu-Tang must watch a lot of TV"

That's an understatement.

I've been listening to a lot of what's considered now to be old school rap, predominantly by members of the Wu-Tang Clan. I just downloaded Liquid Swords, GZA's original side project, and have been cruising through the day at work. The Wu's pretty much perfect for doing work, the beats are repetitive, calm, and the flows are the same; that is, unless Ghostface starts talking about how his shoes talk when he shrooms or ODB busts in with some half-sung line about "the poonany splash".

The problem is that when you get a good rap song in your head you can't say it out loud. This morning I was washing my hands in the "pantry" (coffee room) and was caught saying "What? What? Ya'll!" to myself by our Division Executive Director. Oh well. Now he knows I'm down AND fresh, and so not to be messed with.

In addition to being known for their merry-go-round incarcerations and incestuous side projects, Wu's famous for sampling random old kung-fu movies. Most of their albums are driven by these themes, for whatever reason (probably weed-inspired). They even put out a "movie" where they rap over a concatenation of these movies. A bowl and a starter 1/8th is included in the box set.

But this begs a question. No, not "why?" Asking why would only lead you into the mental equivalent of quicksand. What I wonder is where the hell they found all of these fucking movies? My friend Diesel, a German bodybuilder who works on the line at the Volkswagen factory in Königslutter, and who is obviously way ahead of me in rap I.Q., answered this question as stated in the subject of this post. They must watch a lot of TV.

Anyone who saw the MTV Cribs episode in Wu's house can verify this. Aside from the hilarity of seeing random Clanmen... hmm, maybe we should use "Wu-Tangers" instead... wandering around a huge mansion in Beverly Hills, Methodman was passed out on the couch with a PS2 controller, like 4 remote controls, and a bag of the sticky next to him.

Anyway, I came upon this pretty awesome list of movies that Wu-Tang samples in all its albums. It's not entirely complete, but anyone who's dedicated enough to put something like this together is probably too deeply invested in the Wu-Tang philosophy to properly finish it off. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A new leader in the Expedia Challenge!

I've heard from a lot of people that they've tried to beat adspar's time in this contest, but just couldn't breach the 48 hours mark. Well, this marks a welcome sea change in adspar's impregnability. He can kiss that free case of beer goodbye.

Clocking in at a particularly grueling 48 hours and 30 minutes, beating the previous leader by 20 minutes in his trip to Dhaka, Bangladesh, is Brice Lord.

The trip:

Washington Dulles (IAD) -> Chicago O'Hare (ORD) -> London Heathrow (LHR) -> Islamabad-Rawalpindi (ISB)

48 hours 30 minutes

The proof:

Since I don't want to win my own game, I'll give everyone until Monday to beat my time. If no one has beaten me by then, I will receive a free slap on the back and a night of self-stimulatory romance. Let the game continue! (If you're new to the game, scroll down for the gist, etc.)
Note: All new entries will require a screenshot as proof. Just hit the PrintScreen/SysReq button and paste the image into a powerpoint file, then email the file to endthecolawars at gmail dot com. Also post your trip time in the comments of this post or the original post. And good luck fuckers.

Monday, April 02, 2007


That was my final time for the Cherry Blossom 10-mile run. My pace averaged about 9:24 minutes per mile.

The race started off pretty slow, I think we hit like an 11-minute split on the second mile, which was way too slow, so we needed to pick it up. I increased the pace by about 0:20 each mile after to make sure I had enough left to finish strong. By mile 7 I realized I had plenty of juice, and I ran the last two miles at about an 8:00 split or faster in an attempt to make up the slower early pace, and try to hit my goal.

That goal was to finish in 90 minutes, which I missed by a couple minutes. This being the first time I've ever run more than 3 miles (other than during training for the run) I'm still pretty happy with my time.

Maybe next time I'll be up front with the Kenyans and Ethiopians, who managed to finish 10 miles in a modest 46 minutes, at a 4:37 minute splits pace, or 13 mph.

...and music history was made

Just about anyone who ever watched MTV in the early 90's remembers Metallica's "Unforgiven," and its accompanying video that an entire generation of head-banging adolescents tried, and failed, to wrap their heads around. Of course, I don't think that was our fault, it still doesn't make any sense whatsoever---what, with the creepy, desicated old man shaking and wearing diapers, and carving weird things in the wall before finally escaping from the prison he walled himself into. I think Megadeth reused the set for "Sweating Bullets" not long after; prison videos were pretty popular with metal groups, I guess.

Anyway, the song still rocks, and retains a unique stigma among Metallica fans. Other than highlighting Metallica's departure from its previous albums, for whatever reason the band just doesn't play it live. I think they forgot the lyrics or something. "And I some-thing Unforgiiivuuuouuuhun, whoah-oh-whoah whoah."

What really sets this song apart from the others is its very unMetalica-like solo, without all the whammy pedalling and high-fretting we were all so used to. Metallica's new sound opened up the heavy metal floodgates to a main stream audience for the first time, and music's been different ever since.

This below clip comes from A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica, a "rockumentary" recording Metallica's recording of their black album recording. For anyone who remembers Unforgiven or had a plutonic infatuation with Metallica (or Kirk Hammett, which might not be "plutonic" since it's Kirk Hammett), you'll enjoy this. This is how that solo was born.

In case you don't know, the guy with the long black hair is Metallica's lead guitarist, Kirk Hammett, and at the time, Guitar Player's "Guitarist of the Year"; the other guy is Metallica's producer for that album, Bob Rock. I'm sure you recognize Lars Ulrich, the blonde drummer, from the Metallica-Napster copyright debacle.

Expedia Challenge Update

As you can all see, Adspar is in the lead in the Expedia Challenge (see below post) with 48 hours and 10 minutes.

If you can beat that, you get a free case of beer. So beat it. Just beat it.

Hop on and waste some time.