Fewer lights, more pincers

Empire State Building Seeks Best of the Brightest via Gizmodo

With the new lights, though, the Empire State would be able to feature “dynamic new patterns,” said James T. Connors, the general manager of the Empire State Building Company.

Just what NYC needs.  A huge, gaudy, brightly colored display.  When this sort of thing is confined to Times Square, it’s kind of cool.  I still remember the first time I walked out of the subway into Times Square, and the overwhelming-ness of it all.  To be fair, it was only a few years ago.  But still.

And I’m not a New Yorker.  I love to visit the city, but I don’t live there.  But I can’t imagine that any New Yorker really wants a huge, animated American Flag waving over the city.

Maybe they’d be better off if they got their own Anti-Terrorist Pincers of Doom like we did.  Rumor has it that over 30,000 terrorists have already been captured and impaled by the pincers.  How many terrorists has the Empire State Building caught?  That’s what I thought.

Some of those loans were NOT a good idea

Subprime lending is imploding

By now you’ve all heard about the problems in the subprime mortgage market. To summarize, if a person with bad credit and no money down wants a house, giving them a loan can make a ton of money for anyone willing to charge them exorbitant interest rates. With the housing market the way it was recently, it didn’t matter that they were unqualified because their homes would drastically increase in value almost immediately. Then, when they realized that they really couldn’t afford the place, they had no trouble selling it.

Now that the housing market sucks in comparison, these people who never should have been approved in the first place are defaulting on their loans, many of them in the first few months. When this happens, secondary mortgage purchasers (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) force the lender to buy back the loan. This means that lenders who made too many of these loans are bankrupt. And, since we’ve recently seen that neither Fannie nor Freddie are particularly concerned with things like obeying accounting laws, it follows that they are similarly unconcerned about ethical lending practices.  Now, the whole country is in a bit of a mess because of these defaulting loans.

These loans never should have been made. Many times a lender will take a loan that was designed for an investor and give it to an unqualified borrower. These investor loans usually offer very low payments up front, but then after two or five years, they explode into much larger payments. For someone buying a house to renovate and resell it, these make sense. For someone buying more house than he/she can really afford, they are utterly irresponsible.

I think Im officially a DC resident now

This morning, I got my first parking ticket since I moved to the city. They have emergency – no parking signs up in front of my house, and I thought that meant no parking between the signs. Apparently it means no parking just beyond the signs, either.

My initial reaction was, “I’m selling my stupid car. I do most of my driving these days when I have to move it for street cleaning. I can use the Zipcars right down the street”. But then I got some Sierra Nevada from Hi Market and talked to my wife, and I feel a little better about it.

Still, the thought of getting rid of the car is getting stronger. Already I think about it as a nuisance more often than I think about it as a convenience. I don’t really want to give it up, though. If Zipcars had manual transmissions, it would be easier. I know, I’m being ridiculous if I keep my car just because I want a manual transmission. But that’s my right, I think.

I’ve also been given a “you have 15 days to get your car registered in DC, clown” notice. Maybe I’ll go park it at my grandmother’s house in Virginia for a few weeks until I can get that taken care of. This is a huge pain. I don’t really have time to go to the DMV and get all this taken care of. I hear all sorts of horror stories about the DMV. I don’t want to subject myself to that.

However, one $50 ticket and fear of the DMV is probably not a good reason to sell my car, though. We do still use it about once a week. I don’t think I’m really prepared to get rid of it yet.

Who needs cake?

Accidental Hedonist – The Smells of a Kitchen

When the aroma [of garlic and onions frying] filled the kitchen and then wafted into neighboring rooms, something happened that kicked any “new home anxiety” out of the door.

Some people say to bake a cake or bread when you’re trying to make your house seem as appealing as possible.  I like garlic and onions better.

Smells do have a strange effect on people.  For example, I found it very disconcerting today when I walked into the men’s room at the headquarters of one of the illustrious branches of the Department of Homeland Security.  I can’t describe the smell, exactly, except to say that it reminded me strongly of a pet store.  Hamster bedding, perhaps?  I don’t know.  It freaked me out a little.

But I’d never really thought about smells-as-therapy.  It makes a lot of sense, though.  If a smell can quickly generate a strong feeling of something, it’s logical that they could be used to turn unwanted feelings into something more comforting.

That’s not to say that I want to smell garlic and onions everywhere, or that I want to smell my grandmother’s basement all the time and be transported back to 1986, playing my uncle’s old hockey game.  Sure, it’s a nice memory, but it wouldn’t be  so comforting if I had it all the time.

Anyway, it seems like an interesting way of manipulating emotions.

Stop your long commute

The Informed Reader – WSJ.com : The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Commuter

The number of people who travel 90 minutes to work — deemed an “extreme commute” by the Census Bureau—has doubled since 1990, reaching 3.5 million.

I can tell you from personal experience that my commute stress level has gone from below average to nearly nonexistent since I stopped driving and started Metroing to work.  I had a 25 minute drive, very pleasant as DC Metro area commutes go.  Now I have a three block walk, 25 minute Metro ride, and then 2 minute walk to work.  I’ve only been at this new job since March 26th, and I’m reading my third book.

Currently, actually, I’m reading Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, by Robert Putnam, quoted in the above article.  I’m still trudging through the 150 pages at the front of the book where he reels off statistics, but I expect to get to the good parts soon. 

As an aside, if you ask anyone who knows me, you will find that any amount of statistics that I find excessive is REALLY EXCESSIVE.  I enjoyed Bill James’ Baseball Abstract in my early teens.  This is, for those who don’t know, the book where you can find out who the backup third basemen for the Pirates was in 1967, and what he hit on Tuesdays against left-handers in his home ballpark.

The point here is that these commutes are ridiculous.  As usual, I don’t know what the solution is.  Better public transportation would certainly be helpful.  I mean, I’ve taken my commute, which used to be a total waste of time, and turned it into nearly leisure time.  Not everyone has the flexibility to be able to move near work, or the willingness to live in a “transitional” neighborhood in the city to be near public transportation.  But there has to be some middle ground.



Okay, this is a cool idea. A new t-shirt every day, and the more people who buy it, the cheaper it gets.

But they don’t have an RSS feed for the shirts. This is the type of site that RSS was made for. If I wasn’t on my way to bed, I would email them right now and demand an RSS feed.

I mean, the nerve. Making me actually, like, check back every day to see what’s new. I don’t have time for that. Do you think these complaints write themselves?

We really need a solution for the immigration problem

Secret Immigration Raids in the D.C. Subway – NAM

I may be a little unsure of what I think should be done about the immigration problems in this country, but picking out Latinos on the Metro and asking for “papers” is not the answer.  It’s hard to fathom who might have thought that was a good idea.

I understand that many immigrants are coming in illegally, and many aren’t paying taxes, but still benefit from American tax dollars.  And I understand that I’m not one of the citizens being noticeably hurt by the fact that they’re here.  But whatever solution we come up with has to start with the fact that these are human beings, and this is the United States.  This is not a country where people of any color should have to worry about being stopped and asked for papers.

We need a solution.  We need to stop politicizing this, like we do everything else, and figure out what is best for the country, and what is best for people looking for better lives.  And then we have to implement that solution.

Race is over!

Less than a mile in

I’m back from the race. Official results posted here. I was 140th of 216 men. I was 30/47 in my age group, but my age group is 25-29, which is pretty competitive. Five of the top ten, including the top three, were in my age group. I finished in 55:04, first place was 31:27.

So, I’m pretty happy. I would do it again. My toe didn’t bother me. The dregs of my cold didn’t bother me.

Crossing the finish line

Biggest bother of the day, actually, was the crowds of people for the cherry blossoms. It took us forever to get back home because of all the streets that were closed. If Metro opened a little earlier, I would have done that, but it was cutting it a bit close.

And now the Bay Bridge Run monkey is off my back. A few years ago, some friends and I planned to run it, and we never made it. We started training, and then gave up. But now I’ve officially done a 10k. Maybe next year I’ll be in town for the Bay Bridge Run, and I can do that one. I think it’s a tougher run – this one is all flat, but the bridge slopes a lot. Next year.

Almost race time

My race starts in about ten and a half hours. I’m honestly a little nervous. I’ve just had a weird 24 hour cold. I banged my foot on the door yesterday, and now have a cut on the top of my big toe. I’m not quite sure how this whole thing works.

But I can’t imagine it’s that difficult. I mean, you show up, you get a number and a little sensor on your shoes, you line up, someone says go, and you run. I’m really curious as to what it will be like. I imagine adrenaline kicks in when you’re surrounded by all those people. There are 793 participants, but many of them are doing the walk, not the run.

According to the participant list at the website, I’ll be number 360. That’s a pretty sweet number. So, if you’re going to be near West Potomac Park tomorrow morning at 8AM, you can come cheer us on.

Now I think I’m going to bed. Don’t want to be tired in the morning.

Flickr users like hot moms


It appears that Flickr users, despite whatever claims they might make to the contrary, are really looking for pictures of hot women, probably in various stages of undress. Witness the photo here, which in a mere 11 days has already become the most viewed photo I have on Flickr. I have 1,951 other photos on Flickr. The first one was posted February 25th, 2005. Many of them are of greater artistic quality than this one.

Y ou may wonder, from looking at the photo, why it’s so popular. One only has to look at the title, “I LOVE HOT MOMS”, and the tags, which include “hot”, “hotmoms” and “NOLA”.

For shame, Flickr users. For shame.