The Answer Guy Online

Providing information to unwitting victims on a "don't-need-to-know" basis since 1974.

Monday, August 25, 2003

A Quick One (While He's Away)

DSL is still down, so for now, dear readers, I'll just throw a few random things out there...

* Over the last weekend, I had a good deal of fun and didn't spend much time here at my computer. I saw the Washington, DC City Museum for the first time, caught a portion of the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the Civil Rights March on Washington, and got two massive blisters on my feet. Hooray for fresh air!

* Labor Day weekend is coming. Which is too bad, since I sort of liked the fact that Washington was a little less crowded in August.

* The California recall gubernatorial election. (I don't even need a punchline here.)

* The all-important (ha!) Answer Guy endorsement for President will be forthcoming soon.

* The Red Sox went 8-6 over the last two weeks against Oakland and Seattle. Seattle's slumping, and Oakland just lost one of their best pitchers for the season. Though this team frustrates me sometimes, it does seem that they come through every time the season seems to be on the line. Not that they can let up yet - two weekend series with the Yankees are coming up.

Friday, August 22, 2003

How To Disappear Completely
I am working a lot. My high-speed connection is currently not working at all.
Hence the lack of blogging activity. Hopefully the connection will be restored soon.
Until then..you won't find many answers, or much of anything else new here. Sorry.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Jane! Stop This Crazy Thing!

Remember George Jetson's job at Spacely Sprockets, the one he kept getting fired from? It was more or less pushing buttons all day.

I thought to myself "How unrealistic and silly of them!" Not because of the car that folded up into a suitcase, because no company would hire someone to just push buttons all day.

Fast forward to 2003. I spent a big chunk of my day simply scrolling through massive spreadsheets and ledger files. They all looked the same - I was checking for a small number of things that were, generally speaking, not there.

Which meant lots of, well, button-pushing.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Life, Or Something Like It

More strange scenes from the Nation's Capital...

As I was walking to Au Bon Pain for lunch, I saw, from about 60 feet away, a young man dart out of the Gap on Connecticut Avenue into oncoming traffic with approximately eight pairs of pants. He almost got hit - twice. I can only assume that he was pulling off a daring shoplifting move, but it's odd he would do it when there were dozens of witness to the scene.

The heat officially became oppressive today. Or maybe it's just that I spent 30 minutes in a packed bus without the benefit of air conditioning as it slowly winded its way uptown, through the traffic snarls, the red lights of Connecitcut Avenue, and the four-way stop signs on Columbia Road.

A visiting tourist from New York dropped her cell phone on Columbia Road yesterday, and I was the first person to notice, or at least the first person to decide to do something about it. I called her home number, which was on file in the phone. She sadly went back to New York, but her parents were still in town, so I left the phone at their hotel. I hope the rest of their stay was more pleasant, and I hope I contributed to that just a little bit.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

And now, the Department of Unintentional Comedy presents:

Now you too can have your very own George W. Bush action figure!

This way, youor your child could play "Big Money Lobbyist" and tell the pres...er... action figure president what to do.

If you prefer your comedy to be of the "intentional" variety, you could always bid on this item instead.

Updates from last week’s dire personal report…

I found some work, which should keep me occupied for a while now…which of course means my furious blogging pace will slow down a trifle…

The abandoned car is gone, in plenty of time for school. Apparently, enough people complained to the Department of Public Works (they, not the Metropolitan Police Department, handle this sort of thing) about this car and another car in another part of Adams-Morgan.

Safeway still sucks. Although no one attempted to steal my hand cart this time around, it was announced over the PA that the store’s electronic payment transfer system was down and that, effective immediately, the store was cash only. Not having any cash on me, and not wanting to schlep all the way to the ATM machine at night, I just walked out of the store.

Don't Say A Word

I can't say I'm in favor of this latest vote by the American Bar Association to loosen rules of attorney-client confidentiality.

Though well intentioned, anything that facilitates disclosure to the government about client activity is going to provide a natural incentive for clients to keep secrets from counsel, making it far more difficult for attorneys to perform their representation properly. The end result is not going more transparency, as its advocates hope; it is likelier to produce the opposite effect, as more and more facts get swept under the rug.

It might even lead to some malpractice litigation. Even though a client (in most cases, a corporation) can be said to have brought problems upon itself by failing to notify counsel of all relevant facts during the course of a representation, just you watch - there are going to be cases where a court will impute knowledge of damaging information because a lawyer "should have known" something was wrong.

This would become an even bigger problem if the laws were changed to make it easier for shareholders to sue law firms in derivative actions for breaching their duties to the corporation, as this Washington Post column argues.

I understand why the ABA would pass such a resolution, having rejected each time it was brought up previously. The SEC, as well as state governments, are under some political pressure to require rather than simply permit such disclosures. The result would be even worse under these circumstances, since a client is going to enter a representation with a strong incentive to mislead its counsel, not to mention leaving attorneys to decide between the Scylla of possible bar discipline and malpractice litigation for breaching duties of confidentiality and the Chayribdis of government sanctions or prosecutions for fraud.

However, as it stands now, I do agree that the real-world impact is likely to be minimized by the fact that an attorney eager to blow the whistle on a client has likely damaged his reputation severely. The new rule, probably another product of Enron, Global Crossing, and the rest of the accounting scandals, is similar to what most states have passed now.

But it's still a step in the wrong direction.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

The Last Broadcast

As a blogger, I suppose it's time to start writing about the California recall election circus. But before I plunge into the fray, I just wanted to make one interesting observation...

Looks like television stations won't be seeing movies featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger during the next campaign.

The old Fairness Doctrine, which mandated a form of viewpoint neutrality among broadcasters, was jettisoned in the 1980s as part of a slew of dergulatory policies. However, the Equal Time Rule is still in effect.

It was most famously used in In re Weiss (1976) against a television that intended to broadcast the film "Bedtime For Bonzo," which starred Ronald Reagan, during the 1976 presidential primary season, in which Reagan was a candidate. The station, when told that to air the film would entitle opposing candidates to equal time, declined to air the movie. It's less established, though, that a channel only available to cable subscribers would fall under the same obligation. (If I were them, I'd probably avoid the issue for two months just to be on the safe side, since the potential benefits don't come near the potential costs.)

Then again, if I were going to run an anti-Ahhnold campaign in California, perhaps I might choose to make his dubious choices of movie roles an issue.

Do you, voters of California, really want to give this kind of power to someone who thought that starring in "Junior," "Jingle All The Way," "End Of Days," "The 6th Day," and "Collateral Damage" were good career moves?

Rant #1

I hate "reality" television. With the white heat of a thousand suns.

I especially hate the shows that revolve around people marrying other people for money or to entertain the audience.

I might even respect religious right-wingers a little bit (but just a little bit) more if they spent anywhere near as much moral outrage over the way these shows cheapen the institution of marriage as they do over the audacity of gay and lesbian partners to ask for equal rights to the favorable government treatment that married heterosexual partners take for granted.

That, and in the back of my mind I'm thinking that maybe if people had no interest in watching those kinds of shows, "Greg The Bunny" might still be on the air.

Sometimes I remember that few of you, dear readers, are interested in 1200 word essays about the Boston Red Sox.

So instead I'll blog about something near and dear to the hearts of many blog fans - schadenfreude.

Sometimes, when I find I am losing faith in the capacity of humanity to recognize evil, I come across something like this. Of course, I am somwhat torn because, well, I was raised not to take delight in the misfortune of others.

Capitol Hill is full of people like this, except that they're not usually this blatant about it.

What's really sad is that I'm convinced that Paul Kelly Tripplehorn Jr. still has a political future somewhere. Despite (Because of?) his incredible ego, sense of entitlement, and the like. Not to mention his dreadful spelling and grammar, which must horrify fellow students and alumni of the elite institutions he attended.

ObCheapShot: Of course this guy's a Republican. Heh.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Crunch Time

It’s probable that years from now, Red Sox fans will look back on the next two weeks as either the time the 2003 Red Sox proved themselves worthy of being remembered by posterity, or the time when the wheels came off the 2003 Red Sox and it became time to watch pre-season football instead.

Over the weekend, some good things happened. the Yankees dropped two of three to the Mariners, and the Athletics dropped two of three to the White Sox. However, the Red Sox completely failed to take advantage of a comparatively weaker opponent, losing three of four to the Orioles at Fenway Park, finishing 6-7 during a 13-game stretch where they should by all rights have gained some ground in the pennant races.

The bottom line: Not counting the three-way race in the weak Central division, there are four contenders (the Yankees, the Sox, Oakland, and Seattle) in the American League, and one of them is by necessity not going to make it into the postseason. Right now, the pundits are largely convinced the star-crossed Olde Towne Team are going to be the ones playing golf in October.

I’d say the Bosox have blown their chance to catch the Yankees for good, since the rest of New York’s schedule is on the easy side - except they do have six games left against the Yankees; go 4-2 in those games, and all you have to do is beat the Yanks by two games over the rest of the schedule to seize the AL East. Assuming Baltimore and the White Sox are both playing over their heads at the moment, Boston’s schedule isn’t really much more difficult than that of the Yankees.

And maybe, just maybe, the Orioles play the Yankees as tough as they did the Red Sox. (Yeah, right.)

Last weekend’s debacle leaves them with not much margin for error for 14 games in a row against Oakland and Seattle, two teams they have not played yet, who also happen to be key competitors. The first three of this stretch are in Oakland, against the Big Three starters – Hudson, Mulder, and Zito. (There’s a fourth game in Oakland where Wakefield is slated to face #5 starter Ted Lilly.) I have a hard time asking for better than an 8-6 record over this stretch, but winning 9 of these 14 would go a long way towards making October baseball at Fenway a reality, especially if the Sox can win a whole bunch off of either team – the Sox likely only need to finish ahead of one of these teams for a wild card berth, as Anaheim and Toronto have faded, and no one in the Central seems to poised to make a Wild Card run. Anything worse than a 6-8 record probably dooms the Sox to another year on the post-season sidelines.

I’d rather see Seattle in the playoffs than Oakland, mostly due to the starting pitching the A’s bring to the table, but also the fact that Sox pitchers would seem to have better luck against the Mariner hitters. Left-handed pitching is not the Sox’ strength, and that’s where Oakland seems to be vulnerable; I’d even consider giving southpaw Casey Fossum the start on Thursday instead of Wakefield and save Wakefield for Friday night at Safeco, maybe slowing down the Mariners’ bats for Saturday’s crucial start by Pedro.

I don’t exactly feel confident going into this set of games. But this team has done enough to keep us interested, and both times they’ve gone into crucial sets against the Yankees mired in a mild slump, the Sox have managed to passed the test and stay in the race both times. This test is tougher, since it’s two weeks straight against playoff-caliber teams that are playing well.

Grady Little is still dumb, but at least Todd Walker, two months after he stopped being useful, isn’t batting second anymore. Now we need to stop Grady from running his way out of innings, and putting in light-hitting pinch runners for sluggers when those pinch runners will likely have to bat in future innings.

Hmmm..you’ve got what some people are calling the most potent lineup, top to bottom, in the history of the game. You’ve already lost at least two games in large part because you ran yourself out of a potentially big inning. If there was ever a team that should never bunt, should never steal, never do anything but let your hitters hit because they can, it’s this team.

Walker’s been mired in a slump for two months, and the Sox have traded away his supposed replacement at 2B, Freddy Sanchez, to Pittsburgh for Jeff Suppan, which so far looks like a huge blunder. Manny is struggling lately (ever since I traded him in my fantasy league, interestingly enough) and Oakland and Seattle have lots of lefty hurlers, which will probably stifle the bats of Walker and Trot Nixon while helping quiet David Ortiz and Kevin Millar. It’ll be up to Nomar, and switch-hitters Bill Mueller and Jason Varitek to keep the runs coming in this next stretch.

Optimist’s Scenario for the next 7 games:
1. Pedro outduels Tim Hudson, for the simple reason that the Red Sox have more dangerous hitters than the Athletics do.
2-3. One of these two games (Burkett v. Zito, Lowe v. Mulder) degenerates into a slugfest where the Sox come out on top. It's also not entirely unreasonable that in one of these games, the Sox get a quality start.
4. Either Boston feasts on Ted Lilly, Wakefield continues his hot streak, or both, and the Sox take the Thursday afternoon game.
5. Jeff Suppan, happy to be away from Fenway Park and needing a good start to hold off talk of being yanked from the rotation, actually pitches decently at Safeco Friday night. And Jamie Moyer, whose career record against the Sox isn’t very good, struggles against a potent lineup that likes to take pitches.
6. Martinez has more or less owned Seattle during his entire career, and that doesn’t change Saturday.
7. Either John Burkett’s rejuvenation continues, Gil Meche can’t follow a gem against the Yankees, or both.

Pessimists’ Scenario:
1. Pedro’s good, but Hudson’s better. Or Pedro goes seven innings, leaves tied, or up 3-2 or 2-1, and Oakland wins the battle of the bullpens, as they would do against the Sox in most games.
2-3. The Sox win neither of these games as they continue their hitting slump. (If the Orioles’ starters can pitch well against you at Fenway, facing the Big Three at the Coliseum can’t exactly make you feel confident.) Or, alternatively, the Sox offense does score some runs in one of the games, but the Sox starter on that day gets shelled.
4. Either Wakefield finally has a bad start – he’s due for one - or Ted Lilly shuts the Sox down too, as the Sox are vulnerable to lefties as long as Manny and Nomar are slumping.
5. I still think the Sox will hit Moyer, but Jeff Suppan is so bad that he doesn’t give the Sox a chance to win. The Sox bullpen is improved but the Mariners still have a better one.
6. See #1 above, replace Hudson and Oakland with Joel Piniero and Seattle.
7. On paper, Burkett v. Meche in Seattle isn't really a good matchup for the Sox, and it plays out that way.

The truth is somewhere between these two. Hopefully, for my sake, closer to the former than the latter. I'd be pleased as punch if they went 4-3 on this West Coast swing.

I suppose I ought to plug the opposing perspective.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

It was 2 AM, and twelve people in a bar were drinking "exotic" beers, and singing "O Canada" despite not knowing most of the words. Some of us took turns wearing the cardboard container of a 6-pack of Labatt's Blue as a hat.

We were also supporting the Czech beer industry, since perhaps if they have more money maybe they'd have a better chance of prevailing in lawsuits against Anheuser-Busch over the name "Budweiser." Never had this stuff myself but it just has to be better than this stuff.

DC has the Brickskeller going for it, that's for sure.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Capital Punishment

I might have to leave Washington, out of necessity, for good soon. But I might be ready to go after all.

Crime in my neighborhood is on the upswing, and the price of everything is still going up as quality of life appears to go down.

I was let go from my brand new job on Monday. I was given no reason for this other than “This isn’t working out.” No real reason, no explanation, no nothing. Before they had any chance to comment on my work – heck, before I was even asked to do any work. So my meal ticket for the near future – gone, out of nowhere, and for no reason I can ascertain.

Another sign, perhaps, that I was meant for a different line of work, if for no other reason than the fact that I hate other lawyers.

So I had to go back to the unemployment office on Thursday. The bureaucrats have gotten meaner, the halls more crowded with those of us down on our luck (probably related phenomena, come to think of it), and the building décor even more annoying than last time.

But it’s not just the money. It’s just as much the little things. People throw trash wherever they feel like it. We have people hanging out on the streets, leaning against and sitting on other people’s steps, and other people’s cars.

For instance, I went outside this morning to find that the abandoned car parked across the street – next to an elementary school – is finally gone. It’s been there for about six weeks, with broken auto glass, discarded auto parts and the like all around it. I was wondering when they were going to take care of the damned thing, and whether it would take someone setting it on fire for that to happen. At least they got to it before school started.

There was a shooting - in broad daylight -around the corner from here. Sure, it was one gang member shot by another gang member* – but there were little children playing in the immediate vicinity. One of them could have taken a stray bullet.

I was in Safeway Wednesday afternoon, and this couple just decided to take my shopping carriage, hand cart and all, while my back was turned. They just took my items out of the carriage, put their items in, and walked off with the carriage. I confronted the guy, angrily unhooked the hand cart and yanked it out, and gave the male half of the couple the dirtiest look I could conjure on such short notice. I had half a mind to either deck the guy (I weighed about as much as the two of these people combined) , or start taking his items out of the cart and take it away. I did neither of those things, but the couple left the store without buying anything anyway. Heh.

For once, someone was afraid enough of me to get the hell out of my sight. If only more people did this when I was angry.

Seriously, folks, what causes people to think they can get away with this stuff? It would have never occurred to me – particularly when there was no shortage of carriages in the store – to do something like what this couple did.

I have something of an idea of what people from flyover country must think when they come to the Nation’s Capital and experience their own version of this sort of thing – whether they are mugged, approached by prostitutes, accosted by aggressive, drunk panhandlers, or simply see activities and behaviors out in the open that normally are supposed to take place out of the public view, if at all.

Soon it looks like it’s getting to the point where the ups of living in the middle of it all – being able to walk to everything, nightlife in close proximity – are starting to be eclipsed by the downs – the sorts of things I’m having to either condone, tolerate, or at least not cause a scene when they inevitably happen.

It’s not as if I’ve bought into the “murder capital” hype or anything. I’ve lived in Washington for seven years now, and I’ve never really feared for my life, not even in the aftermath of September 11. But I have felt under siege at times, as if some of the rules of civilized society simply didn’t apply here.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Don't you just hate being at the back of the line at catered lunches?

* The only sandwiches left are tuna salad, some vegetarian thing, and one turkey on rye with seeds. Blech. (Of course, sandwiches that are premade and wrapped in cellophane are lousy anyway, since the cellophane traps in moisture and makes the whole thing taste soggy.)
* Honeydew melons are the only thing that's left from the fruit salad. The people in the front of line grabbed the pineapples, the strawberries, the raspberries, the grapes, and the blueberries.
* Diet Pepsi is the only thing left for soda.
* The only cookies left are sugar.
* The only potato chips left are the ones in the little pieces you find at the bottom of the bag.

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