Archive | June, 2007
June 10, 2007

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, A beautiful day for a neighbor

Welcome to my neighborhood:

D.C. police have responded in force around Columbia Heights since last weekend’s fatal shooting of a teenage boy there.

But for many residents such as Nancy Miranda, drug dealing and gunfire are the norm for Columbia Heights, particularly after dark, and D.C. police have not been doing enough to stop it. Drug dealers “pump” product on the 1400 block of Girard Street, where Miranda’s 15-year-old daughter Kaylah walks home after school. Because of the crime, Miranda is wracked by fear whenever her 9-year-old son, Alex, walks to the neighborhood recreation center.

Two shootings happened on her block last weekend.

“That block is hot as hell,” said Miranda, 33, a real estate consultant who grew up just a few blocks away, at 13th Street and Park Road. “There are crackheads around here everywhere at night, walking around like zombies.”


In recent weeks, the nights have been punctuated by gunshots, some fatal.

About 10 p.m. June 2, gunfire killed Terry in front of his apartment building on Girard Street NW. The night before, a teenage girl was shot and wounded on the same block.

The shootings in the neighborhood stretch back months, even years, leaving many neighbors angry and afraid. In the past 60 days, nearly 50 violent crimes have pierced the Columbia Heights area with staccato regularity. Among them were two homicides and five assaults with guns.


“There is no sense of lawfulness in this neighborhood,” said Paul Whatling, who bought a condo on Fairmont Street 2 1/2 years ago. “We’ve gone back to the old days. That’s what we’re upset about. This in the last week, this is the worst it’s ever been.”

Discomforting scenes reminiscent of the old days are common, residents say. Drug buyers cruise in cars with Maryland and Virginia license plates. People brazenly smoke marijuana on the sidewalk. Crack addicts light up in alleys.

Residents say they are living in a danger zone. On the Thursday night before last week’s shootings, alarmed residents called police when 50 neighborhood toughs battled in a street brawl. It was the latest in what neighbors believe are squabbles between a Fairmont street group and another crew located a few blocks to the north.

This has all happened about a block or two from my house. Say, when is that Starbucks on 14th Street opening?

June 10, 2007

Soviet Arcade Games


“Duck Hunt”, Soviet style

Yes, just like their American counterparts, some teenagers in the Soviet Union spent their weekends playing arcade games:

From the late ’70s to the early ’90s, Soviet military factories produced some 70 different video game models. Based largely (and crudely) on early Japanese designs, the games were distributed — in the words of one military manual — for the purposes of “entertainment and active leisure, as well as the development of visual-estimation abilities.”

Production of the games ceased with the collapse of communism, and as Nintendo consoles and PCs flooded the former Soviet states, the old arcade games were either destroyed or disappeared into warehouses and basements.

It was mostly out of nostalgia that four friends at Moscow State Technical University began scouring the country to rescue these old games. So far they have located 32 of them and are doing their best to bring them back to life.

Last month, the four officially opened the Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines in a Stalin-era bomb shelter under a university dormitory. Packed into two rooms are dozens of Soviet-made video game carcasses in various states of repair. Some work perfectly; others last for a few minutes, then fade. One common feature among them all is a lack of a high-score list.

“That kind of competition wasn’t encouraged,” explains Alexander Stakhanov, one of the museum’s founders and engineers. “If you got enough points you won a free game, but there was no ‘high score’ culture as in the West.”

“Sea Attack”

Check out the rest of the games here.

June 6, 2007

D.C. story of the day


This afternoon, while leaving work, I hopped into an elevator headed to the ground floor. It was completely full of furniture that a guy was moving to another office, but there was just enough room for me to wedge myself into the front corner. As the doors were closing, a taller, older gentleman in an impeccable suit thrust his hand through and looked around.

“Got enough room for one more?”

I paused my iPod (“I’m Shipping Up To Boston” by Dropkick Murphys), gave him a kind of “Dude are you serious? Look at all this goddamn furniture in here” look, shrugged my shoulders, and replied “Uh, yeah, I guess so.”

And that’s how I ended up crammed in between a desk, several filing cabinets, and Senator John Kerry and his aide (room for one?) for seven floors. Up close and personal, for real.


Apparently he has some sort of office on the same floor as mine. No idea why, but he does. This inevitably means that I will run into him again. A seven floor elevator journey involves a decent amount of time, so I am devising a list of questions to ask him the next we partake in aforementioned trip. Possible questions include:

- How do you manage to maintain such a great tan while living in Boston and DC?
- Why wind-surfing? Be a man, lose the sail.
- What is you favorite Jimmy Buffet song? (I am hoping he answers “Fruitcakes”. “Margaritaville” is so ridiculously cliche)
- Is Manny Ortez on your fantasy baseball team?
- HOW IN GOD’S NAME DID YOU LOSE TO GEORGE W. BUSH?! (Note: this may involve me assuming a fetal position and breaking down in tears)

I will, of course, report back on future oh-so-incredibly-exciting elevator trips.

June 4, 2007

Note to the Edwards staff: Hummer driving teens not ideal campaign prop


This article wouldn’t be out of place in The Onion, but sadly it’s true:

Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards took on the oil companies Thursday while campaigning in Menlo Park, with the help of a San Jose teenager who says his friends can barely afford to fill up their SUVs and a Hummer.

Edwards called for the U.S. Justice Department to conduct an “aggressive and thorough investigation” of oil companies, contending the industry exerts too much control over gas production and distribution. Antitrust laws need to be enforced or strengthened to bring down gas prices, the former senator said.

“The oil companies basically own the entire process from refining all the way to sales at the gas pump,” Edwards said during a stop at Stacks restaurant in Menlo Park.

He brought along Brandon Li, 18, and his mother, Wendy, to underscore how high gas prices are hurting average Americans who need short-term relief. The Lis own MCI Manufacturing, a San Jose sheet metal company.

As cameras rolled, Li complained her profit margins were being eaten into by fuel costs to run her company’s four vehicles. And in her personal life it “means we have a little less to pay the basic bills.”

“You can’t just really say drive less because it’s not a function of our daily life.” Li said. “We need more immediate relief.”

Brandon, an Edwards supporter who persuaded his mother to participate in the event, said he shares his parents’ pain.

“My gas comes out of my dad’s pocket. My friend has an SUV. It cost $100 to fill up a whole tank,” he said. ‘It’s hard for teenagers to get enough money to put in their cars.”

I think my brain just exploded. All California high school students are required to take an economics course in order to graduate, but it appears that Mr. Li hasn’t completed that requirement yet. Supply and demand? WTF is that?


June 3, 2007

Hot wiffleball action shots


Straight outta the pages of Sports Illustrated!

In honor of today’s rain out (horrible weather in DC?! I’m just shocked!) I have uploaded some photos from our two seasons playing wiffleball with the Potomac Wiffleball League. Most of these are from the League website.

Summer 2006 – Ballers for Jesus
Even though we only won ONE game the entire season, we had the best t-shirts in the league. And that’s what really matters, right?

Wiffleball<br />

There were plenty of people who didn’t “get” our shirts. Our team name was “Ballers for Jesus”, which might lead you to believe that we were a group of Bob Jones University grads playing Wiffleball in the name of Jesus Christ. The Jesus on our shirt, however, is not Jesus, the Jewish carpenter of long ago, but rather Jesus Quintana of “The Big Lebowski.” If you are a newb and have not seen this movie, go out and buy it, as it is quite possibly one of the greatest movies of all time (“Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man”).

Wiffleball jersey
Back of my shirt

Mike batting wiffleball
Mike at bat

Starr batting wiffleball
Starr gets a piece of one

Ryan pitching Wiffleball
Ryan pitching

Playing wiffleball
Someone probably hit a home run off of me prior to this picture being taken

Spring 2007 – DC Wifflehouse
We decided to ditch Ballers for Jesus and, after much debate and a thousand long message thread on GMail, finally settled on DC Wifflehouse for our new team name.

Wiffleball team
DC Wifflehouse after a win: Geoff, Mike, Ryan, and me

Mike batting wiffleball
Mike at bat

Ryan batting wiffleball
Ryan steps up to the plate

Lindsay batting wiffleball

wiffleball field
My double to right field

Ryan scoring wiffleball
Ryan zombie runs to home, scores

A few more are available here.

June 2, 2007

Hidden Palms WTF?


What kind of people decide to bring up children in Palm Springs anyway? As the resident satanic charmer explains to the newcomer in town, “It’s all retired grays, gays and streets named after dead people,” he says. “People come here to die.” – some lame NYTimes critic (Gee, what kind of people decide to bring up children in New York City anyways?)

Hidden Palms: a shill for the wind power industry?

When “The O.C.” first premiered back in 2003, my friends from Orange County couldn’t wait to rip it apart for its ridiculous portrayal of life in their hometowns. Who the hell calls it “the OC” anyways?

Well, now it’s my turn. A new teen drama has hit the airwaves, this time set in Palm Springs, California, the lovely resort area where I was born and raised. It premiered Wednesday night on the CW (you know, that network you never watch that was a merger of UPN and the WB, those two other networks you never watched?)

The show revolves around Johnny, a young fellow clad in preppy attire who lives in depressing as hell rainy Seattle. While Johnny is trying to study trigonometry, his drunk father rambles on about poetry and numbers and then proceeds to blow his brains out right in front of the poor kid. Johnny spends some time in alcohol and drag rehab and one year later finds himself moving to Palm Springs with his recently remarried mom and seemingly harmless stepfather (although Johnny dislikes aforementioned stepfather because his mom was having an affair with the dude which partially led to Johnny’s dad’s suicide, natch).

Johnny still seems rather depressed, or maybe he’s just a typical, brooding teenager with a penchant for always carrying his camera everywhere (a “creative outlet”, he claims). Look Johnny, you got a huge new house! And a pool! You live on a golf course! Your stepfather has a Mercedes! Palm trees everywhere! Sunshine! Your mom has amazing interior decorating skills! It’s 115 effin’ degrees! Welcome to Palm Springs, man!

From there, the show devolves into typical melodramatic teenage BS that is too painful to describe. It’s like “The O.C.”, but without a beach.

A few things in the show that make say WTF?:
- The characters constantly complain about the blazing summer heat (“it drives people crazy”), yet continue to wear jackets and multiple layers of clothing. HELLO?! You are not in Seattle anymore! Ditch the army surplus jacket, long sleeved shirts, and sweaters!

- Cliff, the first local kid who Johnny meets, is the epitome of (l)east coast prep. With his pink Ralph Lauren polo shirts (and oxford shirt worn over polo shirt – WTF?), popped collars, and boat shoes, the dude looks like he just stepped off a sailboat in the Hamptons. No flip flops? No Quicksilver or Hurley t-shirts? Does this show take place in Connecticut or Palm Springs?

- The men at the country club party are wearing suit jackets! In the summer! You rarely see men in Palm Springs wearing suit jackets, much less in the middle of the summer. WTF is wrong with these people?!

- The show takes place in Palm Springs, but any desert native can recognize that Johnny actually lives in the rich enclave of Indian Wells. Palm Springs is old and busted. Go to the east end of the valley, young man. Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage are the new hotness.

- Johnny does not have a driver’s license and thus must ride a bike everywhere. I am especially impressed that Johnny managed to bike the 15 miles from Indian Wells to downtown Palm Springs in the 115 degree heat.

- We’re supposed to believe the mayor’s daughter works as a waitress at the country club pool? Yeah, right.

- None of the characters appear in a Starbucks, the epicenter of teenage life in the Coachella Valley. And no iceblocking? Come on, it’s the summer and you live on a well-manicured golf course. WTF else are you supposed to do? (Ice blocking, for you newbs out there, is when you head to the local 7-11, purchase several large blocks of ice, find yourself some nice grassy hills aka golf course, sit on said block of ice, and race your friends down to the bottom. In other words, the perfect night time summer activity).

- A main character lying down on a golf course and crying? Jesus, D-R-A-M-A. And she wasn’t even crying over a horrible drive on a par-4…she was just…crying…in the middle of the golf course.

A few things the show gets right:
- “It’s all retired grays, gays and streets named after dead people.” True. I can’t really tell you what Dinah Shore, Buddy Rogers, and Fred Waring did, but they were famous, are now dead, and have streets named after them. I do know who Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra are, though, so I am not completely ignorant (Frank Sinatra was a singer, right?!).

- It is truly a bizarre place to grow up. Did you run around a lot of golf courses when you were a kid? We did. They were everywhere. I was particularly fond of the sand traps. They were like giant sand boxes. The groundskeepers at the Marriott Rancho Las Palmas were not so fond of us, however, especially when we would steal balls from the driving range and ride our bikes down their really step hills screaming at the top of our lungs. Ah, those were the days.

The show didn’t garner very positive reviews or pull in large viewership numbers, so it’s doubtful that it will emerge as the hot new summer show. I have it set to tivo, but am not sure how long I will be able to watch it. For one thing, it sucks. And secondly, while the show’s pilot was filmed in Palm Springs and Indian Wells, the rest of the episodes were filmed in Arizona because it was cheaper. Apparently all desert communities are interchangeable. A show about Palm Springs but filmed in Arizona? That’s almost too easy to mock.