Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Magnificent Up

I saw Pixar’s Up today. It was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a very long time. I saw it in 3-D and it’s worth the few extra bucks to see it that way. The 3-d shots aren’t stunts like in some movies but add to the rich depth of the entire film. Pay close attention to the balloon shots and the scenes at the waterfall, these are where the 3-D effect really are the most impressive.

As impressive as the 3-D is the story is even more so. The main character is Carl Fredricksen. He has always dreamed of adventure along the lines of his hero Charles Muntz. Carl dreams of traveling to South America like his hero. We first see Carl as a young boy watching a movie time like real of his hero. Carl then runs into Ellie who is just as enamored of Charles Muntz. They vow to go off exploring together. Ellie’s dream is to live right near Paradise Falls described by Charles Muntz.

The two eventually get married and what follows is a montage of their life together. They always vow to go on their big adventure Ellie even has a scrap book and a section called Things I’ll do. But life seems to always get in the way. They need a new tire for the car, a new roof. They decided that they’ll have children. And in one of the most heart breaking scenes in the movie you find out they can’t have children. Suddenly they are old. Carl decided to take Ellie on her adventure. He even get the tickets but Ellie get sick and then dies. It’s a very sad point in the movie but it sets the foundation for the adventure that is to come.

Carl decides to go on his adventure. The idea being he’s going to go all by himself. But Carl ends up with a stowaway Russel the wilderness exploring. These two share some of the single funniest moments in the entire movie. They do reach South America. They land close to the falls and Russel says they can walk the house over there. Needless to say a few minutes later Russel is asking are we there yet. Followed by I’m hungry and my knee hurts and I have to go to the bathroom. With each one of these lines the laughter in the audience got louder and louder. I might note that this was coming from the adults in the theater.

Then there is the absolutely hysterical Dug the dog. I won’t go into his antics but will say they are very funny and that squirrel plays a vital part in that and for that matter in the plot itself.

Carl and Russel run into the famous explorer who is obsessed with finding a giant bird that Russel befriend by bribing the bird with chocolate. Russel names him Kevin. Kevin turns out to be a girl and to have little Kevin’s waiting to be feed. The last part of the story deals with if Kevin will be captured by Muntz or kept free by Carl, Russel and Dug. And to find out what happens you’ll have to go and see the movie.

The ending is wonderful. Carl realizes his dream of adventure although it’s not the one he originally thought it was going to be.

This is one of the richest films Pixar has ever done. I mean that in the visual sense (the scenes by the waterfall look like it’s live action and not generated by a computer) but more importantly I mean it in an emotional sense. This will strike a cord no matter what your age and you’ll leave the theater in a very Up mood!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Silliness at the DMV

This comes from a story about the DMV in the state of Virginia. See if this makes any sense to you at all.

People are being told to no longer smile when their picture is being taken. The reason:

DMV officials say the smile ban is for a good cause. The agency would like to develop a facial recognition system that could compare customers' photographs over time to prevent fraud and identity theft. "The technology works best when the images are similar," said DMV spokeswoman Pam Goheen. "To prepare for the possibility of future security enhancements, we're asking customers to maintain a neutral expression."

Let me see if I get this right. If you smile this will fool the face recognition software. Then how the hell is it any good?

And then this:

Instead, licenses and identification cards are now processed at a central facility in the southern Virginia city of Danville, then mailed to the customer's address a few days later. The new cards are loaded with security features, including tactile lettering, secondary photos and anti-tampering measures, and they will be phased in as state residents renew their licenses and ID cards, Goheen said.

The expressed purpose of all this is to avoid fraud and identity theft. So someone explain how mailing the license to someone is a good idea.

Do people really think these things through?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Banality of the News Media

With all that’s going on in the world, I tuned into the Today this morning to see what was going on. What with the Supreme Court nominee, everything happening with North Korea and the GM bankruptcy, I thought I would get caught up with what was going on with each of those subjects. I wondered what would be the first story.

Wow was I surprised when the first story on Today and in fact on all the other network morning programs (because I checked it out) was about this story:

A suburban mother who claimed she and her daughter had been abducted and stuffed in a car trunk is in custody in Florida after the pair were found at Disney World, where they had flown hours after the mother reporting their abduction, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

And each station went on and on and on about it. The first five minutes of each program was devoted to this “story” On each network the Bucks County prosecutor was interviewed. And in one really great question the prosecutor was asked if this was racial profiling because the alleged abductors were black. I’m not an expert but the following definition is what I think racial profiling is:

“Racial Profiling” refers to the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.

The above is from the ACLU web site

So there’s no way you could consider this racial profiling by the police because they were responding to information provided by a supposed “victim”. Law enforcement was in no way initiating the targeting of people.

After babbling on about this story for what seemed like forever they finally got to the real news of the day. How sad and how far these shows have fallen.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Riding the Bike

I had set a goal for riding this weekend. I wanted to do 50, 40, and 30 mile rides. I based the declining mileage on how well my legs would hold up and what the weather promised to be. I rearranged the mileage for Sunday and Monday because I was going to a movie in the afternoon.

It turns out I was able to met the goal. Of course this morning I can barely walk and I'm not sure how easy it will be to get out of my chair at work.

Total mileage for the weekend: Saturday-51.61, Sunday-36.15, Monday 40.12. Just about 128 miles over the course of the three days.

The weather was good all three days. No rain. Monday was the most humid day. It was also the hardest in part because of my legs but also I took a new route that didn't give me all the mileage that I needed. I had to retrace some of my route but that proved to be a good thing since I needed to use the bathroom.

Sunday yielded some fun things on the trail. I was on my way back into Alexandria and I heard what at first sounded like metal rubbing on metal. But then at the sound became clearer and closer I realized it was a dog barking. Then I realized it was two gods barking. But the thing was one dog would bark then the other dog would bark. They took turns. Now I'm riding on the path which is next to the road and I hear this while listening to my iPod. The sound isn't too loud but I heard these two dogs as if they were next to me. I can only image how loud it must have been in the car. The other site also involved dogs where I saw a guy walking seven dogs. Imagine the fun of cleaning up after all of them.

In all a very successful weekend on the bike.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sam the Cat

Here are some pictures of a typical day for Sam the cat.

I enjoy getting up on very high and nearly unreachable spots and then meowing for assistance to get down.

Keeping all this fur clean is a full time job.

I take care of things around the house when what's his name isn't here. I usually do this while lying in the sun. Then I roll over and lie on my other side. As you can see taking care of things around the house is a full time job.

I enjoy smelling stinky shoes and rubbing up against them. What did you expect. I am a cat.

Yes. I am THE CAT. And don't ever forget it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

What About Dick?

Or maybe it should be what a Dick. I'm not sure. The Dick of course I'm referring to, in case you've been under a rock for the last few days, would be Dick Cheney. What to say about this person. I was thinking about that when I was riding my bike yesterday. I was especially thinking about it while viewing the Washington Monument and riding around the Lincoln Memorial.

I wondered what the two of them would think of all this.

I thought of a great many things to say in response to Dick. The absurd notion that enhance interrogation techniques, otherwise know as torture, saved hundreds of thousands of America lives. Wow, where'd he come up with that one. The Obama administration and Obama in particular have been very restrained in their response to this.

What Cheney is saying is nothing new. I thought I'd go on about that but then I thought of something else. Actually a couple of things.

I find it interesting that the far right and the Republicans (which I guess these days are one in the same) during the Bush Administration couldn't fathom that there was a first amendment to the Constitution.

You know the silly one about freedom of speech. Because boy they sure didn't believe in it when anyone criticized Bush especially on the war. But lo and behold Barack Obama is elected president and all of a sudden they found out there is a First Amendment. Here's what Bush press secretary had to say:

"Why shouldn't the vice president defend the Bush administration policies?" Dana Perino said yesterday by e-mail. "I am pretty sure we still have free speech in our country -- and he should exercise his right as he sees fit, just as every American should."

Gee too bad you didn't believe in that when you were in office.

As to the Democrats the story is just as interesting. Staunch defenders to the First Amendment when Bush was in power. And now well gosh maybe Dick should just shut up and go back to Wyoming.

I think I smell a whiff of hypocrisy from both sides.

And my other thought was this. I'm not sure why this came to mind but Dick Cheney reminds me of the big bad that used to be the major story arc in seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sort of like Glory or the First but much more malevolent than both of them combined.

So what to do about Dick? Well, what we need to do is banish Dick back to the hell dimension from which he came. And I think that time should be right about now.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Morning Ride

A spectacular morning ride today. The weather could not have been better. It actually didn't rain for a change. I got off at 6:06am. Even earlier than I'd hope for. I wanted to get out at 6:30. So leaving early was great.

A bright sunny day. I never get over how beautiful it is to look out across the Potomac while riding down to Mt. Vernon and see the monuments. This being Memorial Day weekend there are lots of celebrations and events going on. The pictures of the flags are for one.

I had no problems on the trail. I got down to Mt. Vernon in really good time. It took my about an hour and 45 minutes to get there. I then went further down the road to where it ends at a t-intersection. That's where I turned around and started heading back.

I had a really wonderful thing happen on the way back. I was on the bike path and came under a canopy of trees and there were all these cardinals singing. There must have been at least six or more singing. It was just fantastic.

The path got a little more crowded as I was heading back. I'm glad I got out early. I took the path up towards the Key Bridge. I thought I put on a few extra miles by getting on the Rock Creek Trail and riding up to the zoo. Once on Rock Creek I remembered why I don't ride it. It really is not trail for bikes. It is just too narrow at least at this point of it. Also the road is literally right next to you so if you went off the path you'd be right on the road. I got off the first chance I found.

That's when I headed toward DuPont where I found my next surprise for the day which you can see below.

Oh yes the total for today 51.61 miles.

At DuPont Circle

On the way back home I ran into Batala playing at DuPont Circle. I then rode past the condo where Lis and Frank live. Frank just happened to be out on their balcony so I stopped by. It was a great way to end the ride.

Video of Batala of Washington, DC

Here's video of Batala's performance at DuPont Circle. You can find out more by following the link.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Obama at Notre Dame

I wrote something on this earlier in the week but never got around to posting it. But then last night I heard some more carping about Obama's visit to Notre Dame and decided I needed to post it.

I’m going to comment briefly on Obama’s visit to Notre Dame. First I find it interesting that such a big to do was made about the appearance. Conservative Catholics raised a big deal about this. Funny how this didn’t happen when George Bush spoke at Notre Dame. George Bush who favored capital punishment and started two wars. I guess there’s bad murder and then there murder that’s sort of ok and that’s not protested. I can to some degree get the nuances here. But what I won’t given these conservative Catholics a break on is when they said they were protesting the actions of the university not the president. Adding that this was not political. All I can say is give me a break.

I did see some of the speech and I liked what Obama had to say:

“Is it possible for us to join hands in common effort?” he said. “As citizens of a vibrant and varied democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side?”

I think the news media didn’t do a very good job of giving a proper perspective on what was going on. There were or at least I should say I didn’t hear on TV the number or protesters that were present on the campus or the number of graduates who boycotted the ceremony. There was of course a huge number of people (360,000) that signed a petition calling for the invitation to be rescinded but I’m not sure how much stock to put in that either. It wasn't made clear if this was petition passed around to people or a petition that was on the internet. Also the major objection seemed not to be that Obama was speaking but that he was getting an honorary degree. But I have to say, again, the media didn't do a good job explaining that one either.

The question has to be put if President Obama should not be welcomed on Notre Dame’s campus where does it stop. Shouldn’t every entering student be asked where they stand on abortion? If they say they are pro-choice, then should they be allowed to attend the university? Should the same question be asked of everyone on the faculty or anyone who has a job at Notre Dame? Where exactly does it stop?

I thought that those were some good questions to ask the people protesting but the media never got around to that either.

In the end I think Obama gave an excellent speech. He acknowledge the controversy and again talked about where the two sides can have common ground. I think that's the approach we need to be taking on many more issues instead of just yelling at each other.

A Treat for Thursday

The long weekend will soon be upon us. In fact I'll be getting out of work early tomorrow so there's only a day and a half of work left. If the weather cooperates I hope to ride all three days. Saturday is going to be my big ride. The goal is to do at least 50 miles maybe even a little more. It means getting up very early or at about the same time I normally do. It also means I have to be all set with my stuff. I think it will be a great holiday weekend.

In order to start the celebration a little early here's something from Peanuts. Click on the image to see it at a larger side.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

2Political Episode 007

2PP007 – 19 May 2009
2Political Podcast Episode 7: We begin with my special days, but today’s episode is mostly a discussion with our first guest (and we are so happy to have a guest!), Peter (aka epilonious). We look at civility on the Internet, the origins and implications of the lack of civility. It’s a wide-ranging discussion, and other political issues come up, too, including how to deal with religious arguments. We wrap up with our advice and strategies for avoiding “uncivility wars” on the Internet.

After the discussion, we have comments on our previous episode. That raises topics we discuss. Join the discussion!

Please leave a comment, where you'll find links for this episode. You can also listen to or download all previous episodes on the site, or on the widget on the right side of this blog. US comment line: 206-426-0527.

Get 2Poltical Podcast for free on iTunes

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Credit Card Legislation Passes

The Senate today passed legislation on credit cards.

Finally maybe the consumer will get some relief from all of the crap put out by the credit card companies. You still got the line from them and the American Banker's Association that this will make it harder on consumers.

There was also this comment:

Scott Talbott, senior vice president of government affairs at the Financial Services Roundtable, an industry group, said most interest rate changes are a result of actions by consumers. "A small number of Americans have seen an increase in their interest rate due to the increase in riskiness in the economy," he said.

All I can say to this is what of load of crap. My actions had nothing to do with the increase in my rates. This was done solely so Bank of America could make more money.

This bozo then added this:

Any changes in terms over the next months, he said, will not be based on the credit card legislation. "Increases in interest rates and fees aren't premeditated," he said. "They are the result of market forces and contract terms."

Yeah right. They have nine months to implement the new rules which don't allow rates to be raised by whim. I'm sure no one's interest rate will be raised during this time. I guess I have to ask is how dumb do they think we really are.

And to get an idea of just how bi-partisan this is the Senate bill passed 90-5. You can read about it here.

The smartest thing for people to start to do is join a credit union. They have very reasonable rates on cards. I was able to join the NIH Credit Union because I'm an alumni of GW. I'm looking into possibly refinancing with them. And I'm also looking into getting a credit card. One where the interest rate would never go up and there are no fees on balance transfers.

I hope tomorrow to get some more information on the loan. I'm not entirely sure if this will work but at the very least I plan on getting the credit card.

Multiverse by Leo Villareal

Here video of Multiverse by Leo Villareal from my trip to the National Gallery a couple of week ago. You can read about it here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Growing Around the House

Spring has finally arrived. Well at least the flowers for spring have arrived. It still is getting fairly cold at night. But my roses are starting to come out. With any luck and some good weather I should have the yellow roses blooming until December.

Here are two of my flower boxes. I went out and got geraniums for them. They are the only flowers I plan to buy this summer.

Here are the other two of the flower boxes on the front porch. In the far ones are some zinnas I planted. In the box at the bottom is another snap dragon that just decided to grow all on its own. I think it is left over from last year.

Here are the seeds I planted a few weeks back. I figure that sometime in November they might be big enough to actually produce flowers. Note to self next year plant a whole hell of a lot earlier in the year.

This is the snap dragon that sprouted up last summer. It survived the very cold weather of winter to emerge and prosper for this year.

This last picture is of the plants on my back steps. This is Sansevieria. All 19 of these potted plants are descended from one plant. I got the original plant from Jennifer's parents. It's when I had an operation on my lung in 1983. It was part of a planter that you would send to someone who was in the hospital. All these years later I still have it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Finally the Weekend

The weekend is finally here. I have to say it was a rough week back at work after being off for a whole week. Not sleeping well didn't help matters.

I got to bed early last night and slept late 6 am instead of 5:30 am.

I've been on the couch in the living room. The front window is open and I'm listening to a cat bird sing. It's imitating all the sounds it picked up. Thankfully they are all different bird songs. A pleasant way to start the weekend.

I've added a couple peanuts cartoons to bring a smile too.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mid City Artists

Here's a great thing to do this Saturday and Sunday you can participate in the Mid City Artists Open Studio.

This is where a group of local DC artists open up their studios for you to come and see there work. It is a great way to spend the afternoon. If you follow this link you can get a map in PDF format that shows you where everyone is.

Here's a list of the artists:
Sondra N. Arkin
1764 Church Street NW
Sunday, May 17, 12-5pm

Chuck Baxter
914 Westminster Street NW
Saturday, May 16, 12-5pm

Tanja Bos
1446 T Street NW
Saturday, May 16, 12-5pm
Sunday, May 17, 12-5pm

Robert t. Cole
Susan Cole
1714 rear 15th Street NW
Saturday, May 16, 12-5pm
Sunday, May 17, 12-5pm

Thomas Drymon
1340 U Street NW, 3rd floor
Saturday, May 16, 1-5pm

Gary Fisher
Glenn Fry
John Talkington
1327 14th Street NW
Saturday, May 16, 12-5pm
Sunday, May 17, 12-5pm

Charlie Gaynor
1438 Swann Street NW
Saturday, May 16, 12-5pm
Sunday, May 17, 12-5pm

Rod Glover
1807a 14th Street NW
Sunday, May 17, 12-5pm

Betsy Karasik
1718 P Street, NW, apt. 508
Saturday, May 16, 12-5pm
Sunday, May 17, 12-5pm

Regina M. Miele
1833 14th Street NW, 2nd floor
Sunday, May 17, 12-5pm

Lucinda F. Murphy
1704 Florida avenue, NW
Sunday, May 17,12-5pm

Betto Ortiz
1340 Q Street NW # 32
Saturday, May 16, 12-5pm
Sunday, May 17, 12-5pm

Mark Parascandola
2002 15th Street NW
Sunday, May 17, 12-5pm

Brian Petro
Colin Winterbottom
1829 14th Street NW
below Vastu Gallery
Saturday, May 16, 11:30-6:30pm
Sunday, May 17, 12-4:30pm

Ronald Riley
1601 16th Street NW unit 4
Saturday, May 16, 12-5pm

Peter Alexander Romero
1320 Wallach Place NW
Saturday, May 16, 12-5pm
Sunday, May 17, 12-5pm

NicolaS F. Shi
1500 P Street NW
Saturday, May 16, 12-6pm

Anita Walsh
1429 Q Street NW
Saturday, May 16, 12-5pm

Robert Wiener
1322 Corcoran Street NW
Saturday, May 16, 12-5pm
Sunday, May 17, 12-5pm

Sunday, May 10, 2009

To the Library of Congress

On Friday the sun finally came out. First time for the entire week I was off. Well at least when I was in DC. I headed out to the Library of Congress to see an exhibit. It was just a fantastic day.

The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is truly a spectacular building. The interior is extraordinary as you can tell from these pictures. It is also an actual working research library.

I remember using it for a paper Freshman year in college. My subject was the War of 1812 and the burning of Washington. I got to read books that were published in the early 1820s. Then there was the time I was allowed up in the stacks of the library itself. I did my research and then did a little exploring to see what else was around the section I was in. It was a very interesting afternoon. I have to assume now you're no longer allowed up there.

Lincoln Exhibit at the Library of Congress

Went to a great exhibit on Lincoln at the Library of Congress on Friday. I just happened to be paging through the style section and saw an ad. I'm lucky because this is the last weekend of it.

Here's the description of it:

The exhibit marks the greatest assemblage of objects from the Library’s Lincoln collections in history, with original drafts of documents in Lincoln’s hand such as his first and second inaugural addresses, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address. For the first time ever, the exhibit unites an exchange of letters between Lincoln and Grace Bedell in which the young girl urges the Illinois politician to grow a beard. These letters are on loan to the exhibition from the Benjamin Shapell Family Manuscript Foundation and the Detroit Public Library.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Stress Tests

So the banks are in fairly good shape:

The stress tests showed that despite a deepening recession, the government will require only two of the nation's 19 major banks to raise new capital totaling $9.5 billion, far less than what many analysts had projected. The government also is requiring 10 of the largest banks to increase their capital reserves by raising $74.6 billion in common equity, which can be generated by the sale of common stock.

Not that this comes as that much of a surprise. It seems a little creative accounting was done but in general things are better than they were in the fall.

Of course I personally find it amusing that the bank that needs to increase its common equity the most is (drum roll) Bank of America. There's a shock. It needs 33.9 billion more dollars. No wonder they increased credit card rates.

There are still many questions about how well the banks are doing. If the economy continues to get worse especially in the area of employment, the banks might be sound and ready and able to loan money but there might not be any takers. Then what happens to the banks. Has any thought been given to that scenario?

It is important that the banks are in good shape or at least seem to be in good shape. If there really are they can start repaying the money they owe the tax payers. The sooner the better.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Pictures from New York City

This was a really great idea on my part. I was able to go to New York see two shows, have lunch and dinner for around $225. Can't beat that.

Yes, it was only 14 hours but I accomplished everything I set out to do.

I can't wait to do it again.

More Pictures From New York

I'm not really sure why Elmo was there but he was.

This was a promotional bus for Cirque Du Soleil's new show. They were throwing out clown noses. A bunch of guys snatched them up and put them on.