Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Joe And Sam

Every time during the State Of The Union speech when they showed the podium, I thought I was watching The Muppet Show. Then I figured out why.

Joe Biden IS Sam Eagle. Which explains so much.

(h/t to seekered for the image.)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Where Is Yellojkt? Winter Getaway Edition

I'm having a hard time getting up any sympathy from coworkers, but my boss decided I was the right person to go with her to a conference in a climate known for its warm winter weather although last week that definitely wasn't the case. Today though, it is expected to be in the upper 70s.

Never wanting to miss a chance to turn a business trip into a romantic getaway, I arranged for my wife to come along. Since we had waited so long to make reservations, the official convention hotel was sold out at the Conference Package Rate and only had rooms available at the Rape Winter Tourists Rate. Instead we found a 'resort' just down the road to stay at. It offers two-bedroom condos for half the price of a hotel room.

In reality, this place is a residential development that bottomed out with the Florida Land Bust of '08 and converted the unsold units into short stay rentals. And when we arrived, we had been mysteriously upgraded to a three bedroom townhouse. The place was as big as my townhouse in Maryland. And while daily maid service is not included in the rate, they do have towels folded swan style when you get there.

My boss is in a unit of her own, so just my wife and I are rattling around in this huge vacation rental more suitable for family reunion or a traveling softball team. Last night we had dinner at Tu Tu Tango which has live starving artists and belly dancers and fortune tellers. Tonight I'm going to try to talk my wife into a cheesy dinner theater and hope she doesn't spend too much money while I am in long boring seminars.

So this morning, not having to go to dreadful meetings until later this afternoon, I jogged the 1.25 miles (as measured by the GPS/pedometer feature of my Droid) over to this building:

So the challenge for this round of Where Is Yellojkt is:
  1. What city am I in?
  2. What is that big odd building?
  3. What conference am I attending?
  4. Bonus round: What 'resort' am I staying at?
And just so you can sympathize with me a little, the top on the rental convertible doesn't even work.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Best Golden Globes

Last night was the kick-off the awards season with the Golden Globes which liquors up its nominees for three hours and then shoves them on stage. And the awards very name lets me bludgeon this joke to death:

How about these Golden Globes?

That's Mariah Carey on the left doing her best Queen Latifah impersonation and on the right is Christina Hendricks revealing what made all those men mad.

I've been doing some variation of this joke since 2006 (yes, I've been blogging that long). But four years has classed up Drew Barrymore. Check out the before and after:

As for the awards themselves, meh. Avatar won and James Cameron cemented his placement in the Dork Hall Of Fame for giving part of his best director speech in Na'Vi. He also wins the Passive Aggressive Award for claiming he was sure his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow was going to win for Hurt Locker. Way to twist that knife, jerk. And anybody that thinks his bit about thanking everybody was magnanimous needs to check up the concept of 'false modesty'. It takes big egos to make big movies and Cameron is the King Of The World.

Update: For my tirade on the Washington Post coverage of the Golden Globes, read this article.

Another Update: For more Golden Globes coverage (or lack thereof) check out the HuffPo slide show where I stole found my pictures.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Restaurant Week Wars

For you non-DCers mid-January is a time of great rejoicing and feasting. No, it's not King Day, it's Restaurant Week. Restaurants of all cusines and price levels offer 3-course dinners for the price of $35.10 (the cents go up a penny each year insuring that inflation erodes any profitability) excluding drinks, tax, tips, parking and coat check. So while the prices sound cheap, it's real easy to be north of Benjamin in a hurry.

The trick then is to pick a restaurant that offers the best value and that is harder than it looks. The dirty secret is that the more high end places create special low-end dishes that are cut-rate versions of their signature meals. And at the budget ended participants, thirty-five bucks goes pretty far and you might as well just order ala carte because there just isn't any bargain to the meal.

This year we tried an experiment and went to two different steak places and compared the selections.

The Caucus Room

Finn and Porter

In the basement of an office building on 9th and D with a view of the brutalist FBI building across the street, this tries for a clubby simulation of a place politicians would hang out and smoke cigars in. A series of small dining rooms lets them cater to groups very easily. It is going for refined high class and missing the mark by just a smidgen.
The 'hotel restaurant' of the Embassy Suites on 10th and New York, the place is large and airy and open. Just last week on a business trip I ate at a Finn and Porter in a Hilton, so I suspect the chain is a Hilton knock-off of the Ruth's Chris/Mortons mold.
Five dollar self-park in the office building garage with validation.
Five dollar valet at the hotel with validation.
Not too busy. Plenty of empty tables between 7:30 and nine.
Average. The place filled up and there were several large tables full of business travelers.
Menu choices
Each restaurant had a beef, poultry of seafood dish available. We had the beef and poultry and passed on the seafood.
Doing an end run around the value menu concept, in addition to the $35 price point, they also had $42 and $55 menus each with more choices and more elaborate dishes.
Finn and Porter stayed to the concept, but still had very limited choices.
As part or RW, they offered either a house white or a house red for nine bucks. I had the chardonnay and it was very good. My wife sprang an extra buck for a pinot grigot off the regular menu and it was even better.
The RW menu included a special wine menu with over a half dozen bottles price between 25 and 40 bucks each. And while they were tempting, we instead went for the $14 specialty cocktails off the regular menu. My wife had a lemoncello vodka drink that took her cares away. She followed up with a glass of white wine that was not up to the quality of the Caucus Room. My pomo cosmo was okay but not up to my girlie drink standards.
First Course
At $35, you only get a salad. When I asked my waiter why mine was missing the cheese, he pointed out on the menu that mozzarella only comes on the higher priced lists.
A choice of a salad or a soup. The soup was a clam chowder and quite flavorful. The salad hit all my hot buttons: mixed greens, nuts, dried cranberries, and gorgonzola. A bigger portion would have been a meal.
Beef dish
Steak with pomme frites came in a generous 8 ounce size but just a little tough and overcooked. The fries were perhaps a little too delicate and tough to eat gracefully.
A really nice sized sirloin just a shade under medium rare and still very juicy. Delicious taste. A really good steak. The side was an indistinguishable mess of grilled potatoes and vegetables.
A roasted half chicken with a delicious crispy skin. The dark meat was just a little bloody and the white meat was tough to pick off the bones. The wild rice was drier than I liked, but the cranberry sauce made the dish. Very tart and sweet, I want this on table next Thanksgiving.
A plump chicken breast that was very juicy and meaty.
Both places offered only a single dessert.
A delicious mango sorbet that served as a small but tasty
Red velvet cake with a decent cream cheese frosting.
Here is where all RW places fail.
Just a little too droopy and slow.
Friendly but divided between too many tables.
Overall Value
Poor. You were clearly shown that you were getting the budget food and should have sprung for a pricier menu.
Good. Decent portions with presentation and quality level not much different from the regular menu

Saturday we go the opposite direction and try a casual trendy food place in Montgomery County.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Winter Wallow

If you read this blog regularly, you would get the impression that I do nothing but travel to exotic places, dine at fine restaurants, see Broadway shows, and read highbrow literature. And while I do do these things as much as possible, some days I just park on the couch and wall in front of the tube.

Here is what I managed to catch in a single ten hour boob tube marathon:

Georgia Tech vs Duke. Final score: 71-67. Two hours of college b-ball is a great way to spend an afternoon. Especially if your team beats the most hated team in the ACC. Go Jackets!

Five episodes of Parks and Recreation. I DVR the entire NBC Thursday comedy night (which would by definition excludes Jay Leno). As I find time, I watch in order of importance 30 Rock, The Office, and Community. Clearing off old shows from my DVR, I found that I had a backlog of nearly a half dozen episodes of Amy Poehler's Office rip-off. The premiere episode of this series was nearly unwatchable which kept me away for nearly a season. It's still the weakest of the four shows, but watching several shows back to back helped catch the rhythms of the show and nuances of the characters. Poehler's Leslie Knope is still a poor man's distaff Michael Scott, but some of the other characters are coming into their own. Mark Brendanawicz in particular seems to be the one sane person in the nut house. It's still wildly uneven show, but at least it is now tolerable.

Margaret Cho Beautiful. I recently realized that as part of my FiOS movie package I had Showtime On Demand. I scanned the offerings and settled on a Margaret Cho special filmed just before the 2008 election. She hilariously explains that she was too over-the-top for the Obama campaign. Her raunchy stream of consciousness riffs on her rather active pan-sexual personal life redefines Too Much Information. Very little of her routine can be repeated in public unless you know your audience really, really well. As obscene as she is, she is also rather funny and painfully truthful.

Kevin Nealon: Now Hear Me Out!
As a Weeds watcher and a fan of his stint on Saturday Night Live, my next On Demand choice was a stand-up comedy special from kevin Nealon where he explains that he is not the pothead he plays on television. Well, nobody could be. The jokes and routines are very yeomanlike and funny. I find myself laughing outloud even when I see the joke coming a mile away. About 45 minutes into it my cable connection goes all wonky and I lose the signal. After a few miles, it works itself out, but at that point it wasn't worth it to restart the show. I'll never know how it ends, but I bet it was plenty funny.

Mac Break Weekly. I am a regular listener to the This Week In Tech TWiT-cast hosted by Leo Laporte, the former star of TechTV's The Screen Savers. And if you understood that last sentence, you are at least as big a geek as me. Congratulations. In English, Leo Laporte hosts computer related talk-shows on the internet. These shows were once audio-only, but he now tapes the video as well. Recently his shows have become available on the Roku. Just to see how the shows look, I navigated the rather easy menu and landed on Mac Break Weekly, his show devoted to discussing everything Apple. Which this week meant spending most of the show comparing the new Google Nexus One phone to the iPhone and speculating wildly about if and what the forthcoming Apple tablet computer would look and act like. Watching four guys in a studio argue computers is not the most compelling television, but the video quality was excellent considering it was filmed in somebody's basement and streamed across my wifi connection to a hundred dollar video box. While the TWiT shows are uneven in quality, he is a pioneer and what he is doing is the future of television. Someday a lot of shows will be independently produced and distributed on demand.

The "Time Warp" from Rocky Horror Picture Show. All this time, I had been websurfing and blogcommenting and somehow the topic of Rocky Horror Picture Show came up. In high school I knew some serious RHPS fans that could Time Warp at the drop of a hat. To relive old times, I found the number on Hulu. Since tinny computer speakers can't do the song justice, I hooked up the laptop to the flatscreen so I could crank up the volume and jump to the left at a tap to the right. Pull your knees in tight and pelvic thrusts. After three replays, I was taken right back to midnight shows in 1981.

Four Paramore videos.
Recently a client mentioned that he had taken his daughter to a Paramore concert. This band I had never heard of also recently won a People's Choice award. YouTube is a great way to check out new bands since you get to hear the songs and watch the band in action. As best I can tell, Paramore is some sort of emo-ish teeny bopper version of Garbage all the way down to a scary looking lead singer of random hair color. Can't say they are my cup of tea, but I can see why all the kids dig them.

Saturday Night Live. It's axiomatic that Saturday Night Live had been on an exponential decay in quality ever since Chevy Chase abandoned the show he could pursue a career that would ultimately land him a role as second banana on an NBC sitcom. While my own theories are complicated and contradictory, I think the show still has its moments. This weekend's was not one of them. When I saw Charles Barkley hosting, I had to check the listings to make sure it wasn't a repeat from 1988. Unfortunately Sir Charles proved himself no more adept at reading cue cards with a straight face than Horatio Sanz. I powered through until at least Weekend Update which is my benchmark for the dividing line between the funny sketches and the filler. Since the playoffs ran late, SNL was now running past the DVR window I have programmed for it, so I will never know if there was any funny stuff after I fell asleep. Somehow I doubt it.

So there is my wallow on a cold wintery day. Just don't judge.

ReturnOfBlatantCommentWhoring™: What did you watch this weekend?

Friday, January 01, 2010

National Just Read More Novels Month 2010

The viral internet sensation that is National Just Read More Novels Month (or NaJuReMoNoMo for kinda short) continues to steamroll along. Now in its fifth year (which is 237 in internet years), NaJuReMoNoMo encourages people all over the world to take some time and curl up with a good book. There are tons of sites and memes and contests that encourage writing, but without readers writing is futile. Every year, I and other NaJuReMoNoMo participants dedicate ourselves to reading novels every January. By doing so, we are creating a demand for quality fiction and spreading the word about good books and authors.

January was picked because the weather is dreadful and it is a nice long month to catch up on all those books on the nightstand. Nobody is hectoring you to write a novel, so you might as well read one.

2009 was a fantastic year with over 30 formal participants and more than 250 books read. We had all sorts of blogs pass on the good word and many previous participants are listed here. I want to give a special shout out to Gautami Tripathy who is one of our charter participants and runs a wonderful bookblog here.

The rules are whatever you want to make of them, but here are the guidelines I go by:
  1. Must Be A Novel. Works of fiction only, please. Memoirs, non-fiction, how-to books, and Garfield collections don't count.
  2. Memoirs Aren't Novels. No matter how made up the story, anything ostensibly true isn't a novel. Also known as The James Frey Rule.
  3. Start and Finish in January. I guess if you got some cool books for Christmas, Hanukkah or some other gift-giving event and jumped the gun, you can't be blamed. But I only count books I start and finish within the 31 day window.
  4. Re-reading Doesn't Count. Try something new. Read something by your favorite author or try an entirely new author or tackle that novel you have always wanted to read.
  5. Have Fun. Nobody is grading you or paying you or judging you. Read what you like and like what you read.
The big news this year is that we have made the social networking jump and joined Facebook. Join the NaJuReMoNoMo group and start discussing what you are reading and how you are progressing. I'm hoping this will open up the challenge to a lot more people including non-bloggers.

For bloggers we have the usual bevy of logos and badges that you can plaster your site with. I'm just linking to the Photobucket album so that you can pick and choose what you need. Just click on the slideshow to get taken to the album where you can pick and choose images. I'm doing this rather than providing code because you can take advantage of all of the Photobucket social networking links as well. So tweet and facebook and whatever other way of oversharing you have.

The green, silver, and gold multiple winner badges (3x. 5x, and 10x respectively) can be mixed and matched to document the exact number of books read if you want. Last year's top winner was a triple gold reader. But you only need one novel to qualify and the blue winner badge is plenty.

Nothing is a better entertainment value than a book. So read and share the novels you like and spread the word about NaJuReMoNoMo.