Friday, February 29, 2008

Making No Eye Contact

It has started at my non-profit employer. Employees are being unofficially told that they will be laid off soon. Final notification will occur after the Board of Directors meets next week.

About 1000-1300 out of 3000 will be let go.

Very sad and quiet time at work.

I'm not in the mood to blog.

Monday, February 18, 2008

"There Are Big Tall Terrible Giants in the Sky"

On Presidents' Day, DC residents turned out in droves to say goodbye to long time Hains Point resident, "The Awakening" which is moving to National Harbor in Maryland February 20.

There are Giants in the sky!
There are big tall terrible Giants
in the sky!
When you're way up high
And you look below
At the world you left
And the things you know,
Little more than a glance
Is enough to show
You just how small you are.

You're free to do
Whatever pleases you,
Exploring things you'd never dare
'Cause you don't care,
When suddenly there's
A big tall terrible Giant at the door,

And you heart is lead

And your stomach stone
And you're really scared
Being all alone...

And it's then that you miss
All the things you've known
And the world you've left
And the little you own-

The fun is done.
You steal what you can and run.
And you scramble down
And you look below,
And the world you know
Begins to grow:

And you think of all of the things you've seen,
And you wish that you could live in between,
And you're back again,
Only different than before,
After the sky.
There are Giants in the sky!
There are big tall terrible awesome scary wonderful
Giants in the sky!

Photography: JessiCub
Text: Adapted from "Giants in the Sky" (Stephen Sondheim, "Into the Woods")

Friday, February 15, 2008

Hollywood on U Street!

Would you like a chili half-smoke with your cell phone, Mr. Crowe?

Ben's Chili Bowl is ready for another DC close-up! Looks like the U Street institution and its environs will be featured again in filming to take place Wednesday, March 19th for Universal Studio's feature "State of Play."

I'm not sure which of the stars will be there but with a cast consisting of Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, and Robin Wright Penn the photographers and groupies should all be out in force to watch the stars eat DCs signature dish.

Originally Brad Pitt was to have starred but he dropped out after disputes with the director which disappoints me greatly since I had hoped that he and Angelina Jolie might consider adopting some of the Junior Herb Youth Corp.

When "The Pelican Brief" was filmed at Ben's back in 1992 or 1993 I recall lamely walking with my dogs back and forth across the plaza above the U St Metro (no Starbucks back then!) hoping for my dogs to be discovered. Yeah that's right. For my dogs to be discovered.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Cherry Pie for Abraham Lincoln's Birthday

Since both my parents were teachers, every life event was milked for the maximum educational impact. For instance in February at the dinner table we would celebrate the birth of second month's presidents by discussing Lincoln studying by candlelight or telling the story of George Washington throwing a coin across the river.

If global warming is caused by a lack of trees it certainly is not the fault of my family who slavishly celebrated Arbor day each year by planting a tree "for ecology." Is "ecology" even a word any more? Flag Day was celebrated with lots of red, white and blue decorations and visits to local cemeteries.

Along with the historical references we would also have theme dinners. As I write this on Abraham Lincoln's birthday, I fondly recall the annual cherry pie my mother would make in his honor with the outline of a hatchet cut out in the top crust.

Also as I write this I realize that the cherry pie was most likely in honor of the cherry tree cutting Washington.

Oh well, my parents tried their best.

However, for some reason I cannot see a cherry pie without thinking of Abraham Lincoln.

Happy Birthday, Abe! Enjoy your pie!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Potomac Primary! Robotopia + Culture + Hyper Culture at the Kennedy Center

The longest and most expensive presidential primary campaign in history marches into the the Washington DC area for the Potomac Primary.

The remaining Democratic candidates and their surrogates flood the Kennedy Center with their messages.

Republican candidates hammer home their familiar themes in the North Atrium

Voters swing from candidate to candidate as favorites drop out or a new leader in the race is proclaimed

The candidates display discipline to stay "on message" and patiently answer the same questions day after day

Clear differences on some issues

Despite the tireless campaigning, the hard won votes and the millions spent, the final decisions may be in the hands of the Super Delegates.


Venue: The Kennedy Center, Washington DC
Exhibit: Japan! Culture + Hyper Culture
Photos: JessiCub
Herb: Himself

News I Missed This Week

The inside of Delta "I Was Crazy Before Crazy Was Cool" Burke's house looks
just like mine.

The Clinton's think Chelsea is still 12 years old and apparently no one on their staff as ever checked out the online Urban Dictionary or watched that new network MTV.

Kelli Pickler may not be smarter than a 5th grader but she was pretty funny interviewing football players before the Super Bowl.

"Do you think he knows somebody put GAY on the back of his jersey?"

Jimbo has found my long lost cousin Fedde.

DC's "Mayor for Life"
endorses Obama. Mayor McSpeedy has also thrown his hat into the ring for Obama. Whew! How many months until election day?

Scarlet's 37th Annual Bake Sale

Thanks to the work of the Junior Herb Youth Corp, I can now stay home in agoraphobic bliss and blog about events I didn't attend such as the 37th Annual Scarlet's Bake Sale held at the DC Eagle. The Scarlet Foundation Inc. has announced that proceeds from this year's event will benefit Food & Friends and Pets-DC.

Had I been there, I totally would have bid for this campcake.

Pets-DC does wonderful work "Caring for the Companions Who Comfort Our Friends."

A cake walk the "Partridge Family" never took.

This is not your mother's church bazaar cake!

Everyone loves the iconic Armadillo cake!

Another missed opportunity--I've always wanted to ask the First Lady of Leather what gown she will bequeath to the Smithsonian?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Grill of Rights

In another case of the Nanny State Gone Wild, a legislator in Mississippi has introduced a bill that would prohibit restaurants and buffets from serving food to anyone who is obese.

Stock prices of The Cracker Barrel plunged at the news.

State Rep. Ted Mayhall, R-Southaven, said he's simply hoping to "call attention to the problem."

"No one's doing anything about it," Mayhall said, referring to obesity. "They just keep on going to the buffets and eating."

Suzanne Sugarbaker's reply, "You suck one!"

Monday, February 4, 2008

Refinancing with My BFF!

I'm no Alan Greenspan but I suspect the recent decline in mortgage interest rates will be as short-lived as an appearance by the sisters Spears at a Planned Parenthood meeting. Therefore, I've been looking for options to refinance my mortgage and my outstanding home equity line of credit (HELOC) balance.

My equity has not been used as my personal piggy bank for hair plugs fancy vacations or lipo and I tried to wisely use my HELOC to replace mechanicals, remodel a bathroom and update the kitchen-- all jobs that I am assured on HGTV I will receive close to a 100% rate of return on my investments. Or at least they said so last season. My concern though was that since the HELOC is a variable rate product at some point in the high interest rate future it will be difficult to make the increasingly large payments on my not so high non-profit salary.

After some online research I found a rate that I thought was really good. Really good! Since my loan hasn't closed yet I won't reveal the name of the mortgage company but it is the one that currently services my mortgage and is often mentioned in relation to the mortgage meltdown. Let's just say it kinda rhymes with County Slide Mortgage.

My County Slide mortgage consultant, Bo was your typical frat dude turned telephone sales guy. He wanted to have fun. It's Friday!!! He confidentially told me wanted to make his boss mad and find me a great deal. He wanted me to join him me doing body shots off of the loan processor. He wanted to be my BFF!!!!

I'm a very poor negotiator but I know that saying "I need to think about it overnight" after a lengthy discussion of loan terms is like saying "I think HE is innocent" to Nancy Grace. Lots of frothing at the mouth ensues and considerable effort action will be taken to prevent you from having the last word. Ever.

Points started coming down. Fees shaved. Rules bent. "Dude my boss will kill me but..." However, my great rate stayed the same. I agreed to proceed with the application and Bo-bro and I engaged in a series of telephonic congratulatory chest bumping.

Since I was already a customer and have a good credit score, the loan was eligible to be a "Fast Track" mortgage. No proof of income. No new appraisal needed. Am I really that good of a BFF? Shouldn't County Slide at the minimum ask to be my friend on MySpace first? Isn't this how the mortgage crisis occurred to begin with? Regardless, Bo-dude and I would be rolling a big fat HUD-1 and smoking it in seven days to celebrate.

My main shortie Bo explained to me that my appraisal on file would be used to calculate my current value:

"In 2005 your house was appraised for $XXX, XXX. Our computer program now shows it is worth $YYY,YYY. "

OUCH! Bo-boi you and your computer are killing me!!!!

I've lost over 20% of my appraised value in three years? Does the DC Office of Tax and Revenue know this? I've updated the kitchen and bathroom! Have you seen my new boiler? I think this is when on TV they cut to commercial and the HGTV hostess is attacked with a satin nickel towel bar, her head violently slammed against natural stone counter tops before stuffing her lifeless body into a stainless steel bottom mount refrigerator.

"Uh oh" said the Bo-ster. "Unfortunately, we DO need to get an appraisal. Your property is rated in a '3' zone which means it is in a soft market. This will delay your funding another week to 10 days."

I am at the age where the word soft is normally only welcome in relation to "food" or "porn" but I didn't think this was a deal breaker. However my Bo-meister wingman was determined to Fast Track my deal so we could cash out in time to head to Spring Break together.

"Let me try this. I'll lower your appraised value and submit it again. OK. That worked. Awesome! We should be closing in seven days."

So in the space of a 30 minute phone call I lost 20 % of my home equity and now the consultant lowered it even more to get my loan approved without an appraisal? I've been Fast Tracked! Shouldn't I be celebrating?

I'm not complaining. Much. I have a great low rate (4.125%). My new payment is less than my combined mortgage and HELOC payment were before with about a two year payback to cover points and fees.

I also have a new BFF. Bo, call me! Seriously, we can get manny peddies.

But somehow despite being Fast Tacked I feel a little poorer.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Generation Y Grocery Shopping

Saturday Morning

The Junior Herb Youth Corp was getting cranky.

"There's no food in the house. We need to go shopping."


The haul:

Cocoa Pebbles, Cheezits, Triscuits (family size), Wheat Thins, Golden Oreos, Salsa, Chicken Noodle Soup (3 cans), Chef Boyardee Mini Ravioli ( 3 cans), Ice Cream Flavored Skittles, Fritos Cheese Dip, Doritos (Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch), Cheerios, Coke, Ginger Ale, and I guess the one "healthy choice" Hello Kitty Fruit Flavored Snacks.

Saturday Night

The Junior Herb Youth Corp:

"Can we go shopping tomorrow to get some snacks for the Super Bowl?"