31 March 2009

Some Personal Dumping

You asked for it. (Okay, you didn't ask for it. But you didn't say "no" in a previous post, so that's an implicit "yes".)

I've learned through the power of the Internet that life is moving on. In the not-so-distant past, this would have been cause to drop me into a deep depression. But, in all honesty, I am happy. People deserve to be happy, and people deserve to be with people who love them and treat them the way they should be treated. If you're reading this and you recognize who you are, know that I love you and that I truly am happy. No comments, please.

As for me, I have started seeing someone. It's the first time in ... many years ... that I've waded into the wild world of dating. We have applied no labels, we are not exclusive, and I have no idea where ... if anywhere ... it will go. But it's a good place to be. I am content in where I am in life right now. I am happy with the people in it. And I am not anticipating or deciphering where it may lead from here. It is what it is and it will go where it goes.

I'd be a liar if I said that at times I didn't wish for more in my life. I do. My brain, my analytical side, wants to take me down dark alleys I don't particularly want to go. But I remind myself ... or I call on people I trust to call me back ... that life is good where it is and that it's where it should be. I've been there. I've lived there. In those dark places. And it's not a pleasant place to be. I'm just thankful that I have people to talk me back.

Being happy for friends and being happy for self is all anyone could want in life, right? If so, my life is golden right now.

And that is a truth I can smile with.

Random Music Tuesdays: "Twenty-Five Miles" by Edwin Starr

Best known for his anti-Vietnam War song War, Edwin Starr had a fairly successful career before his signature hit. The best known of all of his other hits is Twenty-Five Miles, a song about a man desperate to get home to his love. It's a powerful Motown song complete with soul, drums, horns, and ... did I mention soul? There really isn't a lot to say about this song that you won't feel from hearing it.

So hear it. Here it is.

Twenty-Five Miles - Edwin Starr

30 March 2009

When A President Gaffes, We Should Turn A Blind Ear.

Tipped off by Jimmie, I went over and read this article and nearly choked on my coffee right out of the gate.
Instant Internet communication and an explosion in political commentary are magnifying President Obama's gaffes and administration missteps, and could erode his popularity faster than that of other presidents, say experts from both left and right.

I agree with Ms. Johnson. We should take it easy and back off the President a bit. I mean, it would just be wrong, mean-spirited, and uncouth to focus our attention on the President every time he "misspeaks", wouldn't it?

iPhone 3.0 Preview And My First Major Disappointment With Apple

I'm a Mac fanboy. It's no secret. I know it. You know it. To me, Steve Jobs farts rainbows and unicorns; and everything he touches turns to banana pudding. (Mmm ... banana pudding ...) My house is an Apple house; and if it weren't for work, I would not have one single Micro$oft machine in it.

Of all the the Apple toys I own, I love my iPhone best of all. It should come as no surprise that I was incredibly excited when I heard that the iPhone OS 3.0 upgrade will be released this summer and that it will finally include some features that have been sorely lacking.
For iPhone owners, it just keeps getting better. When iPhone OS 3.0 arrives this summer, it will introduce over 100 new features, including the ability to:

Search your iPhone
Cut, copy, and paste
Send photos, contacts, audio files, and location via MMS*
Read and compose email and text messages in landscape

Additional features include text forwarding, voice memos, support for additional calendar programs, Notes synchronization, Wi-Fi auto login, stereo Bluetooth, anti-phishing, and auto-fill.

I giddily watched the presentation, as all good fanboys should, feeling like Santa himself was letting me know what Christmas will bring this year.

Of all the goodies, though, I was most excited about MMS and voice memos. Two things I had on my ol' Palm Treo 650 were finally coming to my iPhone. The only thing missing is video ... but I'm patient ... good things come to those who wait.

Wait. What's this? There's an asterisk. Asterisks aren't usually good things.

And, indeed, it's not.
* MMS messaging is available only on iPhone 3G; fees may apply. MMS may not be available in all areas.

And herein lies my first major Apple let down. See, I have the original iPhone 2.5G. MMS will not be available to me. Unless, that is, I upgrade to the iPhone 3G.

Steve ... after all we've been through together ... after all the Windows disciples I've converted ... how could you?! You know I love my iPhone 2.5G! You know I planned on growing old with it! How could you put me in a position to chose function over feeling?! You bastard!!!

Yet you know I will. You know that I will upgrade my phone in preparation of the OS update. You know I covet MMS and voice memos too much to keep hold on my iPhone 2.5G.

And though I may enjoy sending picture messages and recording song ideas, I will be sorely (and secretly) disappointed in you.

Gird Your Loins And Don Your Thinking Caps

Any longtime reader of The District Diaries will remember my post from last year about The Post Hunt. Take a moment to read it, if you haven't already. I'll wait.

Back? Oh. Okay.

Ah, good. Welcome back.

Well, hallelujah and amen, boys and girls, it begins again!
The Hunt Returns!
Get ready for another wild, wacky afternoon of brainteasing puzzles in Washington, D.C.

When & Where
May 17, Noon-5 p.m., Rain or Shine
Starts at Freedom Plaza (14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW). Puzzles take place throughout downtown D.C.

So, where my peeps at? Are we up for tackling this again this year? Bring it on!

29 March 2009

Caught Red-Handed

This is pretty cool.
For the first time, researchers filmed the transfer of HIV from infected to uninfected T cells through structures called virological synapses. The study, conducted by researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York, NY, and the Center for Biophotonics Science and Technology, University of California, Davis, could lead to new methods to block the transmission of HIV. The study published in the March 27 edition of Science.

28 March 2009

Bird Watching

My condo building is mostly surrounded by woods. I see plenty of wildlife - the family of ingenious raccoons that raid our dumpster at night, the occasional deer that wanders out into the clearing, the random opossum, and the numerous birds.

Birds I haven't seen in a long time.

Last week, while having a smoke outside, I heard a woodpecker in the woods. A couple days ago, I saw the little feller. He was a Red-cockaded Woodpecker and he was beautiful.

There is a family of Cardinals that live around my building. I see them often. But I can't remember a time in my life when I actually heard a Cardinal. Until today. A male was sitting in a tree no more than 50 yards from where I was standing. And he was trying his best to attract a mate. Cardinals have such a lovely song. I can't believe I've never heard it before.

I also spotted an American Goldfinch. I hadn't seen one of those since I was a child. I remember we had sunflowers in our back yard at one point, and those flower attracted so many Goldfinches. And here I was, so many years later, looking out my window when one stops for a moment along the thickets just on the other side of the fence.

It makes me wonder what else is out there just beyond my windows.

More On Barry's Circus

From today's The Washington Post, Barry plans on making a payment of $4,250 on Monday toward his unpaid taxes. He also feels that "federal prosecutors are being unfair in asking a judge to revoke his probation for tax offenses".
"I just wish that the U.S. attorney will tell the truth," Barry said. "They keep saying that I haven't paid my taxes, but I am contributing to my tax bill every month. I take full responsibility for the past, but I have met every condition of my probation as it relates to taxes."

I'm no tax attorney, but I think missing paying last year's taxes isn't quite meeting "every condition". Barry is still whining about the disclosure of the exact amount of his back taxes.
Barry said in a statement Thursday that prosecutors had broken the law by disclosing the specifics of what he owes [...]

That's not an opinion that is universally held.
[...], but they are permitted to do so in criminal cases, especially when they are trying to show a defendant has engaged in a pattern of unlawful behavior.


Andrew C. White, another former federal prosecutor, said authorities justifiably disclosed Barry's debt to show the seriousness of his offense. "With the budget issues we are facing right now, they are trying to show that this is an absolute affront to hardworking taxpayers," White said.

You broke the law, Mr. Barry. Not once. Not twice. But eight times. Still, you believe that you are the one being unfairly treated. So go ahead and cry us a river, Mr. Barry. You're pretty good at playing the victim. Unfortunately for you, you are also pretty good at being the criminal.

But You Can Only Order Them In Pairs

Mmm mmm mmm ... yes, please!

It's just a shame that Issac Hayes is no longer with us. I can think of no one better to headline such an event. But he will live on in our hearts, in our minds, and on the Internet.

Sing it, Chef!

27 March 2009

Rethinking A Decision, To An Extent

I've been thinking ... or rather my subconscious has been thinking ... about this site and why it's been languishing. And I think I've discovered a couple reasons for it.

The first reason is that I just don't post as much, on average, as I have in the past two years. I always made an effort to write something, anything, to keep things from getting all musty up in here. I have failed pretty badly as of late when it comes to that.

Which segues us into the second reason.

I made a conscious decision a few months ago to keep my personal feelings to myself and off this blog. At that time, it was a necessity ... I was falling apart and you were all witnessing it. T'weren't purdy ... a'tall. Since that decision, I came to quite a few personal realizations and conclusions, and I've righted my ship. I doubt that I will ever fall into as deep a pit of despair as I did last year. Which is why I've decided to begin writing about myself a bit more as well. Hell, that's why people visit personal blogs ... you can read news anywhere and you can listen to music anywhere. But you can't get my singular thoughts, feelings, or experiences anywhere else but here.

Maybe you're rejoicing and popping open the champagne. Maybe you're gnashing your teeth and rending your garments. Either way, I don't particularly care. It's my sandbox and I want to build me some castles.

But it'd be cool if you still want to play, too.

26 March 2009

Send Him To Jail Already

Anyone who knows me knows that I am no fan of Marion Barry. It makes my blood boil that he's still in "public service". He has singlehandedly done more harm to my city than possibly any other person or persons involved in politics. If it hasn't been his race-baiting and populist trickery, it's his "recreational activities". And if it's not that, it's his laziness as a citizen. The man should not be entrusted to "serve" the people.

Today, we learned how much Barry owes in back taxes ... over $277,000! What was his response? It was essentially "stop saying mean things about me".

If this were you or I (or even those hated Wall Street fat cats), we would be jailed quicker than you can say "tax cheat".

Hell, now that I think about it, the best way to get a "get out of tax-jail free" card is to be a politician.

Are You For Real?!

This had better not suck or so help me gods ...

Cloud Computing ... Do You Know What It Is?

I can tell you this much ... it's not this ...

25 March 2009

Template Change

I thought, what with Spring and all, that the ol' Diary needed some dusting off. So I'm trying a different template. What do you think? Keep it? Revert back? Try something different? The comments are all yours.

Fenty Seeks To Undo All Williams' Initiatives

With a headline like that, I could work for the MSM. *smirk*

On 04 January 2005, Mayor Anthony Williams signed into law the District of Columbia Emancipation Day Amendment Act of 2004, making Emancipation Day a legally recognized city public holiday.
The holiday commemorates the day in 1862 that President Abraham Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act, which ended slavery in the District of Columbia and freed more than 3,000 slaves. This act was passed nine months before President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. It was the first time that the government of the United States acted formally to abolish slavery and telegraphed the eventual end of slavery to the rest of the country.

Mayor Adrian Fenty, as stated in his proposed fiscal 2010 spending plan, wishes to put the holiday back into private observance. His rationale is to "save the city about $1.3 million" in holiday pay for city workers who have to work on 16 April, beginning in 2010. Obviously, not everyone is happy about the proposal.
“I think it is just disrespectful of what I think is one of the most important holidays we can honor,” Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. said Tuesday. “I will fight to ensure that it stays in the budget.”

Personally, I don't really care one way or the other. On one hand, taking away a holiday from people is a rough thing to do. On the other hand, which would you rather have ... one less holiday or a cut in services?

24 March 2009

Random Music Tuesdays: "C-lebrity" by Queen + Paul Rodgers

In 1991, Queen lost their bigger-than-life frontman, Freddie Mercury, to AIDS. During the rest of the 1990's, the band put out various compilations, re-releases of albums, and various other performances with other artists.

Bassist John Deacon decided enough was enough and retired from music in 1997. Still, the final two members, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, believed that the band wasn't finished saying what it had to say. So, in 2004, they teamed up with singer Paul Rodgers to perform with them at the band's induction into the UK Music Hall of Fame. The chemistry felt right for all involved and they set out for a world tour.

In 2008, the band, newly dubbed Queen + Paul Rodgers, released an album of new material. If you're expecting Queen of the 1970s - 1990's, you will be sorely disappointed. If you're expecting a Bad Company sound, you will be sorely disappointed. What was born out of this collaboration is a mixture of the two ... the hard-rocking theatrics of Queen with the gritty blues rock of Paul Rodgers. It's a combination that shouldn't work but does (mostly). The song featured in today's Random Music is one of my favorites and probably the hardest rocking song on the album.


C-lebrity - Queen + Paul Rodgers

23 March 2009

Television Series Review: Lie To Me

On 21 January 2009, FOX introduced a midseason replacement to its Wednesday lineup. It follows Dr. Cal Lightman and his colleagues at The Lightman Group as they try to crack cases based on the lies people tell. They do this by using the Facial Action Coding System that was developed by Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen in 1976.

This show gives a new spin on the "detective show" genre. Instead of scouring crime scenes and following hard facts, they rely on catching people in lies. While not admissible in court, it makes for some interesting drama. And I do like the new spin.

First, the good. The show is anchored by movie actor Tim Roth, who brings a fantastic intensity and egotism to the main character. This man is the shit, he knows it, and he'll make sure everyone else around him knows it. The supporting characters are all fairly good in their own quirky way. The writing is pretty solid; at least it grabs my attention for the duration of the show. And I guess that's all that can be asked of national television.

Now the bad. The show has fallen into its format - two cases tackled per episode. I suppose that offers variety in an hour span but it also doesn't allow much time to flesh out any one case; that will be good for only so long. The writers are also very heavy-handed in pointing out when people are lying. That will make sense here at the beginning of the series, as we viewers are being introduced to this new line of detective work. But they need to learn to be more subtle as the show goes along. Part of the excitement of watching this show will be in allowing the viewers to find the nonverbal clues themselves. And the cases, so far, have been far too easy. I would love to see a case or a character that pushes Dr. Lightman and his group to the edge of their abilities ... a Moriarty to his Holmes ... set in an espionage case, perhaps that could run over several episodes ... someone based on this man perhaps. Finally, and this is a minor gripe but I'm a D.C. native and so such things bug me, the building that houses The Lightman Group's office is not an office at all; but I do understand the attraction to use it as an office building. (By the way, bravo on the clever use of cinematography to mask how massive the building actually is.)

All in all, it's a good series and you should check it out.

21 March 2009

I Can See It

It's a canvas laid out before me. I can see its shape but I can't see its pattern. And it frustrates me that I can't see its true beauty ... that I can't quiet my mind to enjoy it for what it is.

18 March 2009

Anybody Looking For A Tech Job?

From D.C. Wire:
Government sources tell D.C. Wire that city officials today plan to terminate 23 contractors tied to three companies named in the affidavit from federal law enforcement authorities charging manager Yusuf Acar and Sushil Bansal, the contractor who owns Advanced Integrated Technologies Corporation.

17 March 2009

Random Music Tuesdays: "Get Up" by Mike + The Mechanics

In 1991, Mike + The Mechanics released their third album, Word Of Mouth. While not a commercial success like Mike + The Mechanics and The Living Years, the album was a solid piece of work. In any other year, the album probably would have cracked the Top 40. Unfortunately, it was quickly forgotten after its release due to another album that was released a shortly thereafter.

The opening track was sung by Paul Carrack, channelling his inner Paul Young. It's a terribly catchy tune that will hopefully brighten up your day a little.

Get Up - Mike + The Mechanics

Happy St. Patrick's Day

14 March 2009

Would You Like Some Punch With That Pi?

Happy National Pi Day, boys and girls!
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a resolution introduced two days earlier that designates March 14, 2009 (3/14, get it?) as National Pi Day. It urges schools to take the opportunity to teach their students about Pi and "engage them about the study of mathematics."

Learn more about Pi Day and get some geeky goodies at the official website.

11 March 2009

Watchmen - The Spoiler-Free-ish Review

*** WARNING: While I won't be going into plot details, I may spill a hint or two about the movie. If you haven't yet read the graphic novel or seen the movie and you wish to be surprised when you do, you might want to stop reading this review now. But if you don't care, by all means, read away. ***

This past Saturday, after sitting around the condo for most of the day, I got a bit bored and decided to do something I hadn't done in many months - go see a movie. Watchmen had just been released the day before and so I thought to myself, "Self," because that's what I call myself, "let us go watch Watchmen and see if it lives up to the hype or if it's the big disappointment that the pre-release reviews say it is." And so I went on Fandango, bought my ticket, printed it out, and trekked my way to the movie theater.

I arrived about forty minutes early (cutting it close, from what I've heard about the lines). Seeing the parking lot half empty, I felt safe in lighting up a smoke before entering the theater. I walked up to the ticket guy, handed him my pre-printed ticket, and entered the lobby.

I was immediately accosted by some fellow taking a survey on commercials shown before the movies. If you know me or if you're a faithful reader, you already know my position on commercials at the movies, but what was a couple minutes out of my life? What can I say, I was feeling generous.

So yes. Movie.

But first there were the previews, most of which, yet again, disappointed me greatly.

"Excuse me, sir." Ah ... the survey taker followed me into the theater! "I forgot to ask your age." I told him my age and, slightly startled, he replied, "Do you mind if I put you down as twenty-four years old? I didn't realize you were outside of the demographic."

Sure, dude. Knock yourself out.

Disappointing trailers. Yes. Littering my vision like ... well ... like litter, I suppose. Except for one. Where the first trailer was witty (as I commented on my other movie review last year), this trailer got me all sorts of excited. To quote Tuffie, "Finally the Star Trek series is going to be fun and explosive and [...] ENTERTAINING again for its entire fan base!" Amen and hallelujah.

Now to the movie.

I'm not a Watchmen fanboy. I've never read the graphic novel, though I will now to see what was edited or scripted out of the movie, as I did with The Lord Of The Rings trilogy ... as "epic" as a movie based on existing material can be, something important is always left out. Anyway, I was walking into this movie a complete Watchmen virgin, with no expectations other than to be impressed by a good story, neat-o effects, and bone-crunching fight scenes. (Notice I didn't say good acting.)

I wasn't disappointed.

Fantasy movies, by definition, demand the audience to suspend a good deal of belief. Even fantasy movies "grounded in realism" like Christopher Nolan's Batman series. You have to walk in knowing that very little that is about to happen is plausible in any way whatsoever in the real world. I do appreciate the attempt to make it as "real" as possible to allow the audience to connect to it in some real way, though.

I enjoyed seeing the heroes as the semi-realistically flawed people they would be if they truly existed. Seriously, if your soul purpose for living was to fight crime, how could you not be at the very least marginally screwed up? Or if you were the only person on the planet who embodied the definition of superhuman and could see the past and the future and all other planes of existence simultaneously, how could you not help but become apathetic toward humanity and its incessant need to eradicate itself? I understood this side of these characters. I liked seeing this side of these characters.

I appreciated that a character existed who saw the world in absolutes, who refused to compromise despite the ramifications. As much as we are hesitant to admit as much, people like that do walk our earth. I also appreciated that some of these characters needed to be heroes ... they needed that fix as badly as an addict needs a score or some people need attention.

I found the pacing of the movie to be comfortable. It slowed just enough in a couple places to add some back narrative and to allow the audience to catch their collective breath. Of course, it helps to have a character like Rorschach to push it along.

The fight scenes were pretty cool, though nothing I haven't seen before. I think, maybe, they would have been better if Mr. Snyder hadn't relied on his now-becoming-signature slow motion shots. Maybe one day an American director will study Asian action movies and learn how to do action correctly without having to rely on gimmickry.

Oh, but what of the plot, dear Diarist?

The story is pretty solid, as superhero movies go. I don't think it would have been as surprising if I had been watching for the signs that were peppered throughout the story. Yes, there are plenty of clues leading up to the big finale and if you are watchful (HA!) you will see them. I, obviously, wasn't. Frankly, I was so drawn in to the movie. There is so much visually to take in. And the acting, while not spectacular (with exception of Jackie Earle Haley), is strong enough to support the script.

My only major quarrel (which is a minor quarrel, really) is defining Ozymandias as "The World's Smartest Man". "The World's Most Perceptive Man" or "The World's Most Opportunistic Man" or even "The World's Greatest Chess Player", perhaps. But I didn't see anything in the movie that would qualify him as the smartest man on the planet. (Unless you argue that being the most perceptive, most opportunistic, and greatest chess player all at once makes you the smartest. I might concede the point on that argument.)

All in all, a good flick. A long flick. But definitely worth your time. Just make sure you have plenty of it.

10 March 2009

Random Music Tuesdays: "Let The Good Times Roll" by Chuck Brown and Eva Cassidy

Today's Random Music is focusing on a pairing of two of D.C.'s finest.

In 1992, a powerfully talented young singer was introduced to "The Godfather of Go-Go". This unlikely duo went on to record the album The Other Side, a collection of jazz, blues and soul standards, some of which were recorded live. The whole album is a gem, particularly because of how well it showcases Brown's rich, soulful baritone and Cassidy's emotive soprano.

I've chosen the first song on the disc because it has almost everything I require from a song: horns, drums, guitar, powerful vocals, and singers simply having a good time. It is hardly the best song on the album - there are a couple others that tug at the soul (as all good jazz and blues should do). I recommend that you do yourself a huge favor - buy this album and play it until you wear the electrons out.

Let The Good Times Roll - Chuck Brown And Eva Cassidy

07 March 2009

Still Here, Just A Tad Busy

Hey there. Remember me? Yeah, I hardly remember me, either. I do apologize for the lack of blogging. Life has been busy and I'm just trying to keep pace. I will have some goodies for you next week (don't get too excited ... it's not like I'm giving away cars). In the meantime, enjoy this fantastic weather we're having, all you Mid-Atlantic readers.