Jim's Polka

The life of a former software engineer, now a law student

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Back In Town

We just got back today from this group's annual conference. Basically, it's four days worth of sitting around and talking. And I mean that in a good way. Some of the discussion is formal, in groups with a particular theme. But just as much happens over beers late at night. It's a very fun group for me, because it's so different from my usual crowd. Most of the fellows are academics - grad students, college professors, deans and presidents, but they don't stand on ceremony. Everybody gets to talk and is received equally.

It's also the most liberal group I ever get to hang out with. In this group, I'm the right-winger. I'm not sure there's more than 2 Republicans in the group. As you can imagine, watching Bill Clinton speak at the Democratic National Convention was a pretty special experience.

On the other hand, after only being home for a day and a half over the last 2 weeks or so, it's going to be good to sleep in my own bed tonight.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Secret's Out

A side-effect of my unexpected trip to Seattle is that my secret is out at work. Most of the higher-ups already knew, but I was planning to wait another week or two to tell everyone else. Unfortunately, the only really good explanation for my suddenly missing two days of work was the truth. So, now everyone knows. They're taking it pretty well, except for the guy who keeps mumbling "damn lawyers" when he walks by. But, I'm pretty sure he's joking. Many people weren't too surprised, because they all knew about D's mysterious career transition and expected that we would take the opportunity to move to the West Coast. For me, it's nice to finally be able to talk about all this stuff. Keeping it in was driving me crazy.

Fahrenheit 9/11 in NC

Actually, it was a pretty good experience. It had just opened last Wednesday, so people were still very interested in seeing it. We tried to get tickets to the 7 PM show, but it was sold out. So, we settled for tickets to the late late showing (9:55).

That was good, because we got to see the small Billionaires for Bush protest. They were having a very good time and I enjoyed the irony, so we gave them encouraging smiles and waves. I suspect that at least some of the people who honked in support as they drove by didn't get the joke.

We eventually got bored with wandering up and down main street, so we sat down on a bench in front of the theater. While we were waiting, a reporter and photographer from a local free magazine came up. They were waiting for the current showing to end so they could interview some of the locals for their reaction. While they were waiting, they interviewed us, too. By sheer coincidence, we had sat down directly in front of the Fahrenheit 9/11 movie poster, so they took a picture of us. It's a pretty classic image, except for the idiot on the left (that's me), so I'm optimistic that we will make it into the article. Hopefully, mom will remember to pick up next month's issue.

Now, about the movie itself. I enjoyed it very much. But, given my politics, I would be expected to, I guess.

On the negative side, there's a lot of conspiracy-mongering. Some of it, I didn't take very seriously. The gas pipeline through Afghanistan, for example. Luckily, I'm good at working around that sort of thing to find enjoyment. It's how I got through The DaVinci Code. I don't know how far to take the Bush-bin Laden connection. On the other hand, I think the Carlyle Group is a pretty sketchy bunch who probably shouldn't have such a prominent place in a democracy.

However, there were a number of things I liked about the film. As many other people have said, 9/11 itself is very well-handled. It really took me back to that day, without being exploitative. But, what I really liked was the human side of the film. The trip to Walter Reed showed me something that the mainstream media doesn't give us enough of. The raw numbers of deaths hurt, but just as bad were the soldiers missing arms and legs - lost during the war in Iraq. The mother who had lost her son was also very moving. Honestly, I don't care if it was exploitative or not. It was something that needed to be shown. I really felt for her.

But, the people I felt for the most were the high school kids in Flint, MI. They reminded me of the guys I went to high school with. They seemed like a great, bright bunch of kids. And their best way to better themselves is going to be the military. I'm glad that they have that opportunity, but I worry about them, too. Despite having never met them, I feel like they're old friends, and I'm afraid those old friends are going to get sent off to die in another pointless war.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea At the Time

It always seems like a good idea at the time.

Bear with me, this is a slightly complex story. Hopefully, it has a happy ending.

I had the clever idea that D should go to Seattle this past weekend to look for a home for us. I didn't want to take all that time off work, so I figured it would make sense for her to go by herself. She left on Thursday morning and had a ticket to return on Tuesday.

At the same time, my mom decided to buy my car. This saved me a lot of trouble, because we only want to have one car in Seattle, so I was going to have to get rid of it somehow. All she asked was that I drive the car down to her new place in North Carolina, near Asheville. I planned to drive down on Friday and bought a plane ticket back to DC for Sunday morning.

I did, in fact, make the drive to North Carolina. 500 miles in about 8 hours, including one stop for lunch. My mom's new house is in a new development near a small village south of Asheville. The town is charming and the house is great. Lots of exposed pine construction, if you're into that sort of thing. Anyway, we went out for dinner and then went to see Fahrenheit 9/11. (I'll talk about that in a later post.)

Meanwhile, D and her parents (who drove to Seattle to help her look around) spent Friday looking at properties for sale, condos and townhouses. She doesn't know how many places they saw, but I think it was more than 20.

She called me just after the movie. She described some of the places she had seen, but quickly got to the point. She thought I should be there with her to make the decision. In retrospect, this should have been obvious. I mean, we're talking about a place we're going to live in for at least the next 3 years, to say nothing about the amount of money we're talking about. So, I say, "OK, but how will I get there? Can we afford to get the ticket?"

So, we come up with a plan. D's parents use their frequent flyer miles to get me a ticket from Dulles to Seattle for Saturday afternoon. I change my ticket back to Dulles from Sunday morning to Saturday morning. So, I was left with 5 hours between flights, a ton of loose ends to deal with at work and hardly any clothes to get me through the trip. I called JT, a former coworker and one of the nicest guys I know, and asked him if he wanted to get together for lunch. And then drop me off at the office for a while. And then drop me back off at the airport. Luckily, he's pretty nice (see previous description), so he didn't mind. We had a nice lunch, I spent my hour at the office sending e-mail to prepare people for me being gone, and then he dropped me off again. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. I arrived on time, D and I had dinner at the IHOP by the hotel and then went to bed early.

On Sunday, we only had 8 places to look at. (Only!) As expected, many of them were nice, but none of them were a slam dunk. At the end of the day, we had managed to narrow down to 4 options. One was priced $20,000 more than it was worth. One was a little smaller than we wanted. One had tenants living in it until the end of August. And one was just pretty nice. I liked that pretty nice one. D thought it was decent, but she wasn't sure she's ready to live in a house (rather than a condo). We slept on it for a day and decided to put in an offer on Monday.
That's basically where things are now. We're currently going through the usual back-and-forth to get the contract signed. The inspection is scheduled for Friday. And we're going on vacation.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Gone Fishing

Actually, I'm driving to North Carolina tomorrow (8 hours) to give my mom my car. I'll be flying back Sunday morning. I'm sure it'll be the most fun ever.

Two Men Dancing

I've mentioned a number of times before that I've been ballroom dancing for a long time. Ballroom is a funny activity, in a number of ways. There's a significant split in ages, for one thing. As you would expect, a large number of dancers fall into the senior citizen category. But, in recent years, ballroom's been growing in popularity in the younger crowd, especially college age. (I started almost 10 years ago as a college sophomore.)

As you might imagine, these groups don't have a ton in common. The older crowd is socially very conservative. They see ballroom dancing as a formal, structured, rule-bound activity. The younger crowd, like most college students, is much more easy-going. We just want to have a good time. Basically, "Shut up and dance!" When it comes to homosexuality, the older generation is, at best, uncomfortable. The younger generation has an almost complete acceptance. Ballroom men have justifiably been described as "the gayest straight men you'll ever meet."

All of this background leads to this article. Two men danced together at a dance competition at MIT. As a member of the younger generation, I don't think this is a big deal. Guys dance together at college events all the time. Sometimes you get tired of leading all the time and want to try following. Older dancers hate that. So, this is the latest manifestation of an old controversy.

I was involved in the Youth and College Network (mentioned in the article) for several years after I graduated, so I've already made my own contribution to this argument. I thought it was silly then, and I think so now. The only acceptable reason I've ever heard to oppose allowing men to dance together is that there are way more women then men, so men dancing together takes away the option for the women. But, that hardly seems worth making such a huge fuss about.

I know a number of people quoted in the article. Gary Morris is a friend of mine. I'm glad to see him out there working for the sensible choice.

(Luckily for the conservative side, I hear the president is proposing a constitutional amendment to prevent this sort of incident from ever happening again.)

(Link via Unfogged who describes this as proof that there is "something too gay for ballroom dancing. Hopefully, I've disabused him of that notion.)

Hell, Yeah

As I was driving in to work today, I saw a big Ford F150. With a rainbow flag sticker in the rear window. And a Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker.

Something about that makes me very happy. (I'm willing to believe that that makes me a freak.)

Monday, July 12, 2004

Real Estate

Wow. It seems like everybody has a real estate story lately. 123L sold his house two weeks ago. Robert has a contract on a place in San Francisco. Gloire de Guilan is showing her parents' current place and trying to keep her parents from buying something crazy here in DC. And we're going to settlement on our place tomorrow. I've been avoiding talking about it because I didn't want to jinx it. (I also have a slightly nutty mother that I have to talk out of things. I don't always succeed. That's why I'm driving to North Carolina on Friday.)

Food and Fun

On Friday night, D announced that she had a craving for dim sum. We're a little short on time when it comes to DC stuff, so I immediately got to it. I called some friends to see if they were free for lunch on Sunday. Happily (and slightly surprisingly) they were free on short notice.

So, yesterday, we went to A & J Restaurant in Annandale. It was excellent. A & J is northern Chinese, so they don't have the roaming carts of food, but they also don't have many shrimp dishes, which is good, because D is allergic to shrimp. Instead of the carts, you just circle what you want on the menu and they bring it to you. It's hard not to get carried away when the food is so good and the prices are so cheap. Four of us ate our fill for $32, which came to $40 when we had the bubble tea for dessert.

Then, yesterday evening, we went to see The Producers at the Kennedy Center. It was hilarious! Brilliant, even. And very offensive. The central number, "Springtime for Hitler", was priceless. I'm a sucker for a good dance number and the Busby Berkeley-style swastika was the perfect ending. And, one of the stars was Alan Ruck, who you may remember from Ferris Bueller's Day Off (one of my favorite movies).

Friday, July 09, 2004


The school started a Yahoo Group for the incoming class. So far, topics of conversation have included basic introductions, where to live near school, and (just like for Naked Drinking Coffee) when to get together and drink (ahem, I mean, "get to know each other"). Someone has even organized a DC happy hour for the group (all 4 of us). I'm bringing D. I figure this is as interesting as my classmates and I are likely to be for the next few years. Better that she meets people before we start taking classes and become unable to discuss anything other than that really fascinating (not) case we discussed in Contracts yesterday.

Yet Another Personality Test

Wackiness: 52/100
Rationality: 60/100
Constructiveness: 72/100
Leadership: 78/100

You are an SRCL--Sober Rational Constructive Leader. This makes you an Ayn Rand ideal. Taggart? Roark? Galt? You are all of these. You were born to lead. You may not be particularly exciting, but you have a strange charisma--born of intellect and personal drive--that people begin to notice when they have been around you a while. You don't like to compromise, but you recognize when you have to.

You care absolutely nothing what other people think, and this somehow attracts people to you. Treat them well, use them wisely, and ascend to your rightful rank.

Feel free to take the quiz yourself.

By way of several people, most recently Beanie and Ditzy Genius.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


We are now a one income family. D had her last day of work last Wednesday. It's a momentous occasion that has hasn't been sufficiently celebrated yet.

But, it's also one more step towards the inexorably approaching day when we leave town. We're scheduled to settle on the sale of our current place next week. (We're renting back until the end of August.) I'm selling my car pretty soon. (We never really needed more than one car, anyway.) D is going to Seattle next week to find us a place to live.

It's scary how fast it's all happening.

On the bright side, I had a really good experience talking to the bank today. I don't want to jinx it, so I'll just say that a process that I thought was going to take a really long time is going to take no time at all.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Gloire de Guilan asks the eternal question: "... what were the Founders and City Fathers thinking when they plonked the capital in the midst of a swamp?!"

On the other hand, at least we don't get earthquakes. And the temperature almost never drops below zero, so it could be worse.

I Probably Should Know Better

Yesterday, in the process of trying to fix a problem with my computer, I deleted most of the work I'd done for one of my projects at work. Luckily, I know how to delete files completely, rather than send them to the recycle bin where I might have been able to retrieve it.

I rule.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Better, maybe?

Well, it's looking a little better out there. Maybe it'll happen. Some friends of ours are planning to get dinner at Cafe Asia and then walk over to the Iwo Jima memorial to watch the fireworks. It's a little bit the slacker way to do things, compared to sitting on the Mall for 5 hours to get a seat for the NSO concert.

Of course, I'm all about slacking today. Right now I'm watching Australian Rules Football, or "the footie" as my Australian co-worker calls it. It's a great sport to watch, right up there with my other two favorites, American football and sumo. I like my sports with a little bit of violence... :-)

Postponed Due To Rain?

First of all, happy 4th of July to everyone! Take a second to think about how lucky you are to live here and about all the people who have come before who made that possible. For me, that means sending a thank you back in time to my great-grandfathers who came to America from Greece to escape injustice and find a better life for their families.

I'd love to go out and see some fireworks, but I don't think the rain and the lightning are going to allow for that.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Spiderman 2

My company paid for us to see Spiderman 2 tonight. I have to say, the reviews were absolutely right. It really is the best super-hero movie I've ever seen. The fights were excellent, but not the focus of the movie. The effects were excellent as well, but they were supplementary to the story, not its whole purpose (c.f. Matrix Revolutions and any number of other recent movies). The story itself was extremely well done. And, to round it out, the actors were right on, as well. I'm not into that whole "character development" thing in my action movies, but in this one it worked perfectly. (Yes, I'm joking. Kinda.) Oh, and D, who isn't a huge geek like me, liked it, too.

We saw the movie in the depths of the suburbs of Northern Virginia. After we left, I took a wrong turn into the Twilight Zone. Well, actually, a new residential development that was all small, winding streets and garages with no visible way out. We went down 2 dead ends and had to turn around 3 times. And, I think we went all black and white at one point.

Car Chases Are Cool, Right?

You have to check out this video. Like Eric at Off Wing Opinion says, if it wasn't a crime, it would make a great Mustang commercial.