I’m in DC drinking and eating the biggest grapes ever! Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Day 2 of my DC trip has almost concluded. Here is a pictoral diary of today’s events. I took a good handful of photos, so I provided links to them instead of embedding them into the page.

After spending a good hour trying to find parking in downtown Washington, D.C., we found spaces about three blocks west of the White House. Upon exiting my vehicle, I discovered that someone in DC doesn’t like the cold weather (image). Since it was around noon, we decided to hit a local culinary hot spot for a bite to eat (image). After throwing down some chili dogs, we headed to our first destination, the White House. On the way there, I took some shots of the 1st Infantry Division Monument in President’s Park (image).

Pennsylvania Avenue between 16th and 17th was blocked for security reasons, so a gang of people were standing on the sidewalk outside the south lawn to snap pics of the most famous house not to be on MTV Cribs (image). Police officers were present to make certain no one stood in the streets, jumped over the fence, or used a tripod to take photos. My girlfriend’s sister was reprimanded on several occasions about her tripod. Once we informed her that Secret Service doesn’t have a sense of humor about things like this, she desisted.

Next stop on our tour, the World War II Memorial. On the way there, I snapped a pic of the Washington Monument from the 2nd Infantry Division Monument (image). The WWII Memorial is beautiful (image). The memorial is divided into two areas, Pacific (image) and Atlantic (image), representing the two theaters the U.S. fought in during the war. There are bronze reliefs lining the memorial and inscriptions everywhere. It’s a very impressive monument for those that served during World War II.

Next stop was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This memorial is striking. Two dark stone walls that meet at a right angle (image). The only words on the memorial are the names of men and women that did not return to their families with only three soldiers standing sentinel over their fallen comrades (image). Profound is an understatement for this monument.

We visited the Lincoln Memorial next. The memorial is an impressive edifice built in that classic hellenistic tradition (image). Of course the building houses one of the most famous monuments in the country (image). The statue of Abraham Lincoln is immense. I wish I took a picture of it with someone standing next to it so you could get an idea of its size. You’ll have to trust me on this.

From the Lincoln Memorial, you can look across the mall to the Washington Monument (image) and the U.S. Capitol, if you’re standing in the right place. The distance from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol is two miles. It seems so much closer in pictures.

The final stop for the day was the Korean War Veterans Memorial. This was eerie, yet moving (View image). The expressions on some of the soldier’s faces seemed panicked and grip you (image). Some seem to be in complete control (image). Yet you still feel there is a sense of gravity no matter what their facial expressions are (image). By far, this was my favorite monument (I am biased). However, I was disappointed because the monument seemed incomplete.

All in all, my day in DC was more than eventful. Now it’s time to drink some champagne and eat lots of grapes. I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year! Felicidades and I’ll be posting again soon.

My girlfriend, her daughter and father, and myself are visiting her sister in northern Virginia. Today we took a leisurely stroll to the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, VA.

U.S.M.C War Memorial

The monument is a reproduction of a photograph taken by Joseph Rosenthal on February 23, 1945, when five U.S. Marines were raising the flag on Mt. Suribachi in Iwo Jima. The first thing you notice when you are standing next to the monument is its size. It’s huge. The men would stand 32 feet and the flag pole they are erecting is 60 feet tall. The detail in the statues is also amazing. Wrinkles in facial features and buttons on clothing are clearly visible. The pedestal on which the statue sits list every major battle the Marines took part in since 1775.

The monument is located next to Arlington National Cemetary. Since it was a cold and overcast day, it set an eerie tone for the visit. Yet, it was invigorating to see something up close when I only saw it in print or television previously. Also, from this monument, you can see the Washington Monument, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, and the Capitol Building across the Potomac River. Breathtaking.

We will be in DC until next week, so expect more pics from the Nation’s capital.

After nine years of legal wranling, a federal appeals court judge ruled earlier today that Anna Nicole Smith, whose real name is Vickie Lynn Marshall, is not entitled to any part of the $88.5 million estate of her late husband, oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II. The judge ruled that his son, E. Pierce Marshall, is the sole heir to the estate and overturned a lower court’s decision. It’s a good thing that Anna slimmed down and restarted her modeling career because she’s gonna have to work really hard to maintain her current lifestyle. The moral of the story: grave robbers never prosper.

I’ve been watching Jonathan almost beat the shit out of Victoria in the Amazing Race 6. Just last week, right before entering the Pitstop, Jonathan yelled, “Why did you pick up my bag!?” and pushed Victoria violently. How does this compare to people like Puck, from the Real World San Francisco, or Richard Hatch from the first Survivor. Or more recently, Johnny Fairplay from Survivor: Pearl Islands or Omarosa from the Apprentice.

So the question, who is the biggest villain in reality TV history? Of course, this list is comprised of villains that I can remember from shows that I’ve seen. So if you have other nominees please leave a comment explaining who you would vote for and why.

Lori & Bolo, To Be Continued

In this leg of the race, teams started at the Brandenburg Gate and needed to make their way to the guard shack at Checkpoint Charlie. After reading the clue, Kendra said, “Where do you want to go, back to the hotel for research?” What the hell is wrong with this bitch? It’s the Amazing Race not the Great Hotels of the World! If it were up to her all of the clue boxes on the race would be at luxury hotels and the tasks would be getting facials and manicures. And what’s with this let’s do research crap. How dumb is this ho! Even more shocking, after the incident at the end of the last leg, Victoria said, “I don’t like anybody screaming at me, but that’s just Jon.” What! He screams at you all of the time and pushes you. And, behind close doors, he probably beats you. Gimme a break!

At the checkpoint, teams were instructed to go to the Olympic Stadium to sign-up on a board for their next task. The stadium didn’t open until 6:00AM so teams had to wait a couple of hours. Since Hayden & Aaron beat Jonathan & Victoria to the board there was another big ass yelling match between them. When the stadium opened, teams found that this was a Roadblock in which one team member had to do a hot rocket bungee on a huge crane. All of the women decided to do the bungee. After the Roadblock, teams found that they needed to make their way to Budapest, Hungary and find marked cars, called trabbants, at the airport for their next clue.

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Don & Mary Jean, Eliminated

In this leg of the race, teams started on the Island of Goree off the coast of Senegal, Africa. Teams had to find the most well-known Slave House on the island. After arriving at the house, teams found a parchment detailing that in the morning they would be given an opportunity to place a single rose on the archway of the Door of No Return, which was the door that slaves walked through as they headed onto boats to the New World. It was a very emotional task that all of the teams had to perform one-by-one and the first time such a task was part of the race. Gus broke down into tears as he acknowledged ancestors that may have passed through the same doorway. It was pretty amazing, like the race itself.

After the task, teams found that they needed to make their way to Berlin, Germany. All of the teams were bunched up and waited for the next ferry. At this point, Don & Mary Jean asked other teams for money and ended up with enough money for the entire leg. Again, starting with no money had little factor on the race. As teams left the ferry building in taxis, Kendra said some fucked up shit about the Africans. Let me just say this about this bitch. She’s a complainer, she doesn’t want to sleep on the floor, she talks smack about other cultures, she is an ugly American by all definition, and she deserves to lose this race. If she wins, I’ll be pissed. Not as much as I would be if Jonathat wins, but pissed nonetheless.

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Tsunami Propagation

Unless you’ve been under a rock, by now you’ve heard of the Sumatra earthquake and tsunamis that have killed thousands in countries around the Indian Ocean. Immediately after the quake, which happened on Sunday, the death toll was thought to be a few thousand. Now, as of this writing, the estimates for the dead are 56,000 to 58,000, depending on the source, with tens of thousands of people still “missing.” Additionally, the U.N. predicts that waterbourne diseases like malaria and cholera could double the current figure.

In short, this is one of the worst natural disasters in modern history. Emails of surviving eyewitnesses to the event are amazing to read. This animation from Kenji Satake at the Active Fault Research Center at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology shows how the tsunami waves propagated across the Indian Ocean basin in the first 180 minutes after the quake.

Perhaps this could happen here in San Francisco. Certainly if it did many who live in the Sunset District would be screwed. I would think that a wave forty feet high could reach into 44th Avenue–that’s about four to five blocks from the beach. I have a feeling that even with a warning system of sirens and speakers that many would perish. Let’s just hope that doesn’t happen anywhere again.

I know it feels a little late, but Happy Holidays to all of the readers of the Nug. Yeah, all twelve of you, you know who you are. I would also like to wish you all a Happy New Year!

Although I received my college degree from the University of San Francisco in the mail over a month ago, I walked in the graduation ceremony on Friday night held in St. Ignatius Church. It was a little surreal to be finally sitting there and I am really glad that it’s all finally over. I would like to thank my friends Steve Thompson, Chris Braun, Judy Lee, Alice Masuko, and Patty Pedreschi for attending. As well as my mom and my beautiful wife Mama without whom graduating from college would not have been possible. Thank you for your support throughout this process! I guess now it’s time to contemplate taking the GMAT or the LSAT.

Sorry for my absence. I have been joining Nugget and hundreds of thousands of gamers that spend way too much time playing Halo 2. It seems that we’ve been playing the game online so much that Xbox Live traffic has quadrupled. Not doubled. Not tripled. Quadrupled.

Needless to say, my girlfriend isn’t really happy about this. But I need some “me time”. And what better way to spend “me time” than to empty clips of ammunition into alien scum while shouting expletives at complete strangers. Gnarly.

Now I purchased the Collector’s Edition of H2 which comes with a DVD of extra goodies. It’s fabulous, interesting and entertaining! And one of the coolest things in the DVD is a video some guys in Texas made using the Halo 1 video game engine. The result is quite possibly the funniest things I have ever seen. I recommend the Thanksgiving Day PSA. It’s frickin’ hilarious. Damn! I’ve spent a lot of time playing Halo 2!!

Did I mention my girlfriend is not pleased…

This is probably only going to make sense to auditors, but here it goes. What are the tell tale signs that everyone out there is losing their minds with the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) act? The bags under the eyes, the stress, the lack of free time and vacation? Well yeah, but apparently a few people completely lost it and recorded a rap song. That’s right, a SOX parody rap song (MP3, 2.59MB)!

As an IT auditor, this song is near and dear to my heart. I work for one of the Big 4 accounting firms and we are working long hours with our clients to to complete SOX section 404. From the song’s production value, it’s clear that these guys put in a lot of hours–on the song anyway. I hope to find out who recorded it so that I can give them the props they deserve. It’s funny as hell.

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I used to work for a company named iMind Education Systems and left back in June of 2000, the company later filed for bankruptcy in February 2001. Many employees decided to work with an attorney to collect wages, 401k, and expenses paid through bankruptcy court. Others didn’t. In fact, some ignored doing anything about it altogether except to find another job and forget about it.

Now, 3 years and 10 months later, there are still employees trying to get their 401k money from Citibank! Here’s an excerpt of an email that came through on the iMind Refugees newsgroup, a group which I thought was surely dead.

I’ve finally received my 401k distribution from the City Bank. I worked with one guy from the Labor Depatrment, who helped to resolve the issue. If somebody interested, I can give his tel. number.

That’s crazy! Almost four years after the fact and people are still dealing with this shit! The moral of the story: when you have a problem you can either spend a little time and energy now or a lot of time and energy later. The ones that waited for later are going to suffer a much bigger beatdown.

Don & Mary Jean, Last Place

In this leg of the race, teams had to make their way to Town Hall Tower in Stockholm, Sweden to find their next clue. The two youngest and fittest teams, Kris & Jon and Hayden & Aaron who were basically tied for first and one hour ahead of Gus & Hera, the third place team, would probably now be bunched up with the other teams–again! During the start interview, Rebecca conceded, “When I met Adam, he didn’t even cut his own toenails, believe it or not? His mother did. I told him, If you are going to be my boyfriend, you have to cut your own toenails.” Okay this is not only sad, but it’s pretty gross. It’s also one of the funniest and strangest things I’ve ever heard be described about a team member in the race. Be afraid!

The first four teams, Kris & Jon, Hayden & Aaron, Gus & Hera, and Jonathan & Victoria had asked people at the tower what time the tower opened in the morning and they were told 10:00AM. The first four teams went to a hotel planning to return to the tower at 10:00AM the next morning. Adam & Rebecca walked up to the gate at 6:00AM and realized that the gate to the tower opened at 7:00AM, not 10:00AM. This is another example as to why teams need to tough it out and sleep outside for the race. Had the leading teams been sleeping directly outside the tower they would have been able to maintain their lead. The mistake of going to a hotel allowed trailing teams Adam & Rebecca and Freddy & Kendra to leapfrog past the other teams. Sadly, my current pick to win, Kris & Jon were temporarily relegated to last place.

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Crazy Ass Hoe

What happens when storm weary Floridians snap? A woman from St. Augustine Florida ran over two teenage boys after they accidentally hit her car with a golf ball on Sunday afternoon. According to police, the teenagers were bouncing a golf ball in a parking lot when it accidentally went astray and struck the woman’s car. Since the car was not damaged, the boys apologized and turned away. The woman then started to drive away, but suddenly made a U-turn, ran over a median and struck the teens before knocking over a light pole. She then allegedly went after a third boy, but did not hit him.

According to witnesses, after all this she got out of her car and started smoking a cigarette “like a movie star.” Right, like a like a really crappy straight-to-trailer-home-video movie. As of Monday, one of the boys was in critical condition. When the woman appeared in front of the judge she told him she had mental problems, which probably explains the Cousin It style she is sporting (see photo). She is, deservedly, being held without bail. Crazy bitch.

I just placed an order for 20 Live Strong bands on the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s website. I’ll be giving most of them away to family and friends after the holidays. Why wait until after? Amazingly, the wait for these to ship is four to five weeks! There is a mad frenzy of people trying to find the bracelets on the web by any means necessary. According to the traffic logs, people are coming from as far as the UK to try and find Live Strong bands for themselves. I wish everyone the best of luck in finding them!

Lena & Kristy, Eliminated

In this leg of the race, teams had to travel from a farm in Norway to Stockholm, Sweden by train to Oslo, Norway then by bus to Stockholm. Teams had $363 for this leg. Surprisingly, Don & Mary Jean were penalized 30 minutes for taking Adam & Rebecca’s car in the previous leg, so they started in 8th place even though they had originally arrived in 7th place. It’s the first time that two penalties were awarded on the same leg that I can remember.

All the teams were bottlenecked for the trip on the train and then later on the bus trip. Once in Stockholm, teams made their way to an Ice Bar, made entirely of ice to slide a shot glass onto a target on the bar. Let me say that this place looked way cool. The walls, bar, fixtures, tables, glasses, and everything were made of ice. The drinks were the only exception. In order to keep the place from melting, the entire room is maintained at a very cool 23 degrees Fahrenheit. Teams even had to wear parkas to go inside. Once again I must say that this was an amazing destination on the race.

After the bar task, teams had to make their way to the world’s largest Ikea store for their next clue. It was the middle of the night and the store didn’t open until mid-morning which made the whole bar task unnecessary and inconsequential. Some teams slept at the Ikea, but it seemed that Don & Mary Jean slept in a hotel and returned to the store in the morning.

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New York’s Algonquin Hotel is offering a $10,000 martini on their menu that has a loose diamond at the bottom of it. Although nobody has purchased the martini, the hotel is hoping that a hopeless romantic will someday take the plunge. Ordering the drink requires three-day notice to pick out the gem that will be at the bottom. Only in America.

I just ordered a Dell Axim x50v PocketPC handheld computer and I’m really excited. It has built in 802.11b and bluetooth connectivity. Coupled with a bluetooth-capable International phone and unlimited data access from T-Mobile, I will be continuously connected to the Internet from anywhere in the world. Awesome.