Dumb Things I Have Done Lately

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Raveonettes at the Black Cat, and a Look at Things That Are Upcoming

Saturday night, I went to see the Raveonettes at the Black Cat. I'd originally tried to make a bigger group outing out of it, but that didn't work out. Especially since the show sold out, and I'd selfishly and short-sightedly only gotten two tickets (and I'd only bought them Saturday afternoon, succumbing to nervousness and something resembling "experience.")

Actually, having that second ticket caused me some measure of consternation; it was simultaneously too much and not enough. Fortunately, Ryan ended up accompanying me, so I didn't end up having to scalp it (which had been a possibility at one point).

After some really bad luck parking, we finally made it inside while the opener was still playing. (Black Acid -- don't know much about them; not bad, though they seemed to be channeling a progression of styles.)

We settled in next to the sound board, where Ryan attempted to put the whammy on the sound guy, by gazing intently on a random section of the board until the sound guy adjusted it:

"My mind to your mind... your thoughts to my thoughts."

Then, the Raveonettes came on -- they split between playing previous hits and stuff off the new album (which I bought at the show). They were pretty tight and sounded fine.

I broke away at one point to try to get some photos -- unlike prior attempts, I only came away with one moderately usable pic:

Sharin Foo

After the show, we headed back to meet up with some folks in Arlington, but by the time we got back, things had pretty much broken up for the night.

Oh, and after some discussion and a little research, I've come to realize that I'd had a mistaken notion of what constituted shoegaze music. I apologize for the (notional) inconvenience.

In other news, I had planned on replacing the bathtub faucet handles and spout this weekend -- bought the hardware, the tools and the plumbers grease and all -- but chickened out/got lazy/procrastinated my out of it. I'll get around to it eventually -- originally, I was just going to replace the leaky valve stems, but the hardware is really grody, so I figured it'd be worth it to just change everything. (Sure, I want to convert the master bath to a corner shower unit eventually, but one thing at a time.)

Things That Are Upcoming: Let's see -- Monday is Social Matchbox DC, which is right down the street from where I'm contracting in McLean, so I'll be there.

I haven't seen the cherry blossoms in a few years -- to be honest, it's looking like I'll skip it again this year -- we'll see what the weather and my schedule looks like mid-week.

Friday is Hirshhorn After Hours -- I haven't been to one yet, but it's on my list of stuff to do, especially since the Hirshhorn is my favorite museum.

Saturday, Mike Doughty plays at the 9:30 Club.

Looking out a little further -- PodCampDC is the weekend of April 18th.

The Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race is May 3rd, and the following weekend is SkateDC. Which means I should probably dust off the skates now. (The "getting back in shape" bit of it is optional, though recommended.)

I also registered for June 13th's BlogPotomac. It's only $75 and it's at the State Theatre -- if nothing else, it gives me an excuse to visit the Beach Shack.

The days, they may drag, but the weeks and months just fly on by, don't they?

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Friday, March 28, 2008

At Last: MySpace Lets You Categorize Your Friends

So I see that yesterday/today, MySpace finally added the ability for users to categorize their friends:
Does this mean that future MySpace enhancements are dependent on movies that are tangentially related to Judd Apatow?

Functionally, this means that, in addition to creating groups for Friends, Enemies, Cow-Orkers, Work Spouses, Work Spouses With Benefits, etc., you can also create groups for people Who Aren't Actually Your Friends, which is basically everyone you don't know personally: Bands, venues, radio shows, comedians, porn stars, c-list quasi-celebrities and other entities you want to keep track of but are not, strictly speaking, your friends. (This is an important distinction.)

The ability to organize and categorize your friends, I'm sure, ties (in some oblique, opaque, and eminently billable ways) into your social graph. If I hadn't already had 3 (or was it 4?) beers, I'm sure I could do a graphic with some very skillfully annotated concentric circles. And perhaps even an Indexed-style Venn diagram.

However, it reminds me of many, many AOL product Powerpoint presentations that hinged on leveraging "the first and most relevant social network: the Buddy List" -- as a primary driver for success.

At a theoretical level, it made a kind of sense. But (and maybe this was just a function of crappy product execution), I don't know anyone who actually used their Buddy List categories in a way that was fungible to this kind of social network application.

Looking back, it was kind of like trying to apply your landline phone's speed dial to a social network: The metaphor didn't really translate across media. I'm not sure why -- looking at my own online interactions, online presence is very much a key driver of how often I harass my friends.

I will have to think about it some more.

Anyway, the conceit that leveraging the existing AIM/AOL Buddy List network would overcome the many fundamental flaws in product concept and execution, resulted in the titanic thuds that accompanied more than a few launches, some of which were outlined in this week's FastCompany article on AOL, "Dead Man Walking."

[Edit: Boy, it's a good thing Blogger normalizes entry titles by stripping out punctuation -- otherwise, I would have had to live with "Let's" in the title. Oh, the indignity.]

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Today's My Birthday!

It being my birthday today, it's also the most appropriate time to post this comic:

Yay! (Though PBF is on semi-hiatus, boo.)

Since I did my celebrating on Saturday (still haven't posted the pictures), tonight I'll be tearing things up at RFD, where I'll be, um, learning about using SharePoint for a Web CMS at the March Web Content Mavens Meetup. (Though I might swing through Arlington on the way back.)

I'm headed out that way now -- I just had to get out of the office and make a coffee, food, and blogging stop. So I'm at Jammin' Java in Vienna, which I figured was better than, say, Panera.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Mullet Gone Mild on Spring Break, 1992

You think I am kidding about the mullet. Think again:

I wore contacts back then. The better to wear Wayfarers and show off the buzzed sides.

I was going through a box of old stuff when I found a bunch of my photos from the 90s.

A lot of the prints were stuck together. (Time and pressure, people.)

I'm in a more nostalgic mood than normal -- my birthday is coming up, as well as my 15-year college reunion next month. (I don't know if I'm going to go.)

It's strange to think about, since I feel pretty much like I did when I was 25. 15, even. Yet, I'm going to be 36.

If my high school classmates are any indication, I'm way behind the curve -- I should be popping out kids like a Pez dispenser by now.

Anyway, since it's approximately spring break now, I thought I'd scan and post some of my pics from Spring Break, 1992.

It was a fairly low-key affair -- more of a retreat, actually. That's what happens when two of your good friends in college are evangelical Christians. We ended up driving down to share a house with some other good, clean-cut moral types in Fripp Island, South Carolina.

After I got a fresh mullet touch-up at the campus barber shop, we got off to an even more inauspicious start, going the wrong direction from campus and making an unplanned stop at the Shearon Harris nuclear power plant:

Me, Mike, Geoff and Jeff, in the time before GPS and Mapquest.

Here is probably my favorite picture of all time (even though I'm not in it). To show just how undebauched things were, I think this is the only beer we encountered that entire trip:

"Beer for City Council."

There was wackiness, though, in the form of a plastic Slinky:

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This is about as wild as things got.

There were also assorted side trips to the waterfront:

08-cannon 05-four

As well as a trip to a wetlands nature preserve-y type thing with a boardwalk:

Leaping was the fashion of the time.

This is my other favorite picture -- this trip was the first fling in my self-timer love affair:

I still have the windbreaker and boots.

Anyway, I don't remember much else about the trip. I have no idea what else we did, other than it was disgustingly wholesome and disappointingly chaste. (Which is a polite way of saying I didn't get laid, though I wouldn't be surprised if that applied to the entire island. Including the deer.)

So I probably wouldn't consider it "fun" in the jaded now. But it was something to do.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Buoyed by the Cute, 24-Year-Old, Pathologically Lying Hairdressers. Plus, Another Birthday.

I have to admit, I was feeling pretty low this afternoon. Mostly, it's because I haven't been sleeping on a regular schedule, and when I have been, it's been on Pacific Daylight Time (possibly even Alaska Daylight Time). Which is inconvenient when you're in EDT.

So I've been tired, out of sync, and not feeling particularly effective or productive. And my right shoulder is killing me, from excessive improper mousing.

I'm a little out of sorts, I guess.

A bunch of folks met up tonight for a Spring Equinox Happy Hour at Carpool -- after work and my run-in with the White Van Speaker scam guys this afternoon, I was dragging ass so bad I seriously considered not going. But since I was watching the NCAA tournament (well, half-watching, until the Duke game came on) and not getting anything done anyway, I went out.

Between kickballers, AOLers, and other locals, I think I knew half the bar. I did not, however, know the two cute girls at the bar I ended up talking to for a bit, who turned out to be local hairdressers, impossibly young (the 24 thing was just a guess), and also pathological liars (well, just the one, and I think she was just making conversation).

Anyway, between the company, the time, the friends, and the drinks, I ended up feeling a lot better. But I do still have to get back to EDT.


* Adam and I will be celebrating yet another more-or-less joint birthday, this Saturday the 22rd at the Four Courts in Arlington. We'll be there by 9pm, so come on out.

* Also, the Washington Pyschotronic Film Society is coming back from hiatus -- the new night is Wednesday starting next week (the schedule dates still say Tuesday, so watch out) at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse. (The April 9 showing of Kentucky Fried Movie will be a must-see.)

* Saturday, March 29, the Raveonettes return to DC, playing at the Black Cat. I hope to add to my Sharon Foo photo collection.

* The 2008 running of the Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race is Saturday, May 3. It's also the same day as Gold Cup, so you'll have to choose. I hope to go, and since my usual method of spectating is on rollerblades, that means I have about six weeks to get back into skating shape, or else it's going to be a long day. (See more race info.)


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The White Van Speaker Scam Blows Into Reston

I was driving back from lunch and stopped at a red light on Reston Parkway, when I heard a loud conversation coming from behind me.

A guy in a white van in the left lane was talking to the driver of the car behind me. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but when the van rolled up to me and the passenger motioned to me, I figured they were asking for directions.

I rolled down my window and heard:

"Hey, you want a set of speakers? For your house?"

This, of course, is straight from the script of the White Van Speaker Scam. (If you haven't heard about it, it's pretty interesting to see how it works. The mechanism relies on people's greed for a bargain, as well as the desire to help someone stick it to The Man. See also.)

I just shook my head no and rolled up the window. I should have taken a picture of the guys, but I only got a crappy and useless cellphone photo of the back of the van:


They moved turned in to the North Point Shopping Plaza, presumably in search of another sucker.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Only 2/3rds as Screwed as Projected

I'm taking a late lunch in Tarbouch right now, which is a Mideast/Mediterranean place on the corner of Lee Highway and North Kirkwood in Arlington.

It used to be a carryout place -- I'd stopped in a few times before, since it's right off the Spout Run I-66 exit, a convenient stop on the way to Clarendon. Over the winter they expanded it and fancied it up -- there's a restaurant section now, complete with hookah.

It's 4pm and there are three different groups of people smoking up now. It's a thin, sweet, fruity smoke, so it's not nearly as annoying as regular smoke.

Ah, my spicy falafel sandwich and chips are here:

It's a perfectly serviceable and tasty falafel sandwich, but if I'd had my druthers (who still talks like this?) and easy parking, I'd prefer to spend my euros getting the full experience over at Amsterdam Falafel.

Anyway, following up on yesterday's brake situation -- I dropped my car off at the dealership this morning -- not the one I'd been to before, though -- I didn't want to go all the way into Arlington.

The waiting room had wifi, though I hit a content filter a few times. No, I wasn't surfing porn in a crowded waiting room. (Not at eight in the morning, anyway.) Oddly, popurls and Cyanide and Happiness were both blocked as mp3/filesharing sites, and some ad providers were blocked, which is not as useful as it seems, since it was hanging pages that had those ads in an iframe.

They diagnosed my car, gave me the keys to a loaner (a Mazda3) and I was on my way to McLean for work. A few hour later, I got a call and picked it up -- I probably still got ripped off, but only 2/3rds as much.

Okay, the smoke is getting really thick. Time to relocate to a coffee shop for a bit before I head on over to tonight's DC Blogger meetup.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I Am Going to Get So Screwed Tomorrow

And it doesn't have anything to do with the March Washington Blogger Meetup (7:00pm at RFD, across from the Verizon Center).

A few days ago, I started smelling this really strong burning brake odor from the back of my car. I wasn't sure what to make of it until yesterday, when I was filling up at a gas station, smelled the smell, and touched my rear left wheel.

It was really hot. The other wheels were cool.

Even I, with my limited car knowledge, put two and two together and figured it was a stuck caliber (which might explain why my mileage last week was a little worse than usual).

I took it in to the local brand-name brake/tire/burrito place today -- after some initial confusion with the ticket (when they tried to sell me on a new timing belt -- I'd just gotten it inspected at the proper interval -- and all the usual unnecessary fluid replacements), they confirmed, yes, it was a stuck brake caliper.

This is apparently something of a known issue with the Mazda Protege5 (mine is just under 6 years and 70K miles old).

They told me I needed two new rear calipers, rotors and pads. They didn't have the right replacement calipers (they should get in tomorrow), so I'm driving only locally, and carefully. right now.

However, based on my reading, and seeing their ridiculous price quote, I'm going to get a second opinion at the Mazda dealership tomorrow, especially since I don't think the local shop is up to speed on my car's brakes (like, how to free up a stuck piston). I've got a couple of 16ths of an inch of brake pad safety margin left to spare, so I have a little time, and if I'm right, this would probably save me a few hundred bucks.

Of course, my initial thought was to either: 1). Ignore it and hope it goes away, or 2). Throw money at it, but neither of those is really an option right now. But I can't afford to procrastinate on this one, as it's hurting my meeting schedule.

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Om Nom Nom Nom. Waka Waka Waka.

My curiosity was piqued by this Popurls item: "Google Naps [photo]" -- it points to a Reuters photo gallery with this picture of a nap pod at Google HQ:

The Google logo is just a stuck-on color printout.

Naturally, it deserved an om nom nom nom treatment:

I would be surprised if the "EnergyPod" hadn't gotten the om nom nom nom treatment somewhere before.

Though after talking to Corey, I determined that a Pac-Man treatment was also in order:


One thing that was surprisingly troubling for me:

How do you spell the Pac-Man eating noise?

"Wocka Wocka Wocka" is clearly the realm of Fozzie the Bear. So then it's a tossup between "Wakka Wakka Wakka" and "Waka Waka Waka."

Judging by Google search results, "Waka Waka Waka" seems to predominate, so I went with that (even though I associate "Waka" with WAKA).

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Shamrockfest: Striped Socks, Sanitizer, and Questionable Outfits

I went to Shamrockfest on Saturday, thanks to some comped VIP passes arranged by their PR person for blogger outreach purposes. (That's a full disclosure, but it's also a bit of crowing.)

You can see my full set of pics here: Shamrockfest 2008.

Despite earlier threats of rain, it turned out to be a really nice day. Almost perfect, in fact, for a festival: cool, still, and clear, with just enough clouds to keep the sun at bay.

We got to the stadium around 1:30pm -- got really good street parking, too. Getting inside was no hassle (well, I had to turn out my pockets and scarf down my Golean Roll bar -- no outside food).

There were two VIP areas -- one by the entrance, and another all the way over by the DJ stage, at the far end. The near one was packed pretty solid:

Momentary jam-up to get into VIP. The beer lines were more substantial.

So we went to get some beers (much-needed, to loosen up my shutter-finger) amongst the riffraff:

Lon pulls Michelle and Dennis's strings.

Last year, I think I stayed in the VIP section the whole time and missed all the bands I'd said I'd wanted to see. I didn't want to do that again, so we wandered around, doing the occasional good deed:


As you might recall, last year was all about the hats. This year, was all about t-shirts and other questionable outfits:

KISS Boots Pants DSCF4187
Left: Not sure what KISS Army boots have to do with St. Paddy's Day. Center: Pants! Right: Lets go back to the pants.

Other Things:

* The far VIP area was kind of a haul -- you had to walk under the road bridge, but the beer lines were practically non-existent. (I stayed with Bass.) Recommended for you double-fisters.

* Two different groups of helicopters made a few passes -- in preparation for the air strike, I guess. (The photos are basically specks with rotors if you really want to see.)

* Some of the stages were pretty close together. I was wondering why a band wearing traditional dress and instruments was covering 'Sweet Child o' Mine', until I realized it was from the other stage.

* I forgot to look for a TV to watch the ACC tournament. Probably for the best, from my perspective.

* After making a pit stop in one of the fancy bathroom trailers with the running water, I grabbed a squirt of what I thought was hand sanitizer as I headed out the door.

It wasn't hand sanitizer -- it was soap. By the time I figured it out, there was a bit of a line, so I had to hunt around for a paper towel or some unwary person's t-shirt.

Intermission -- Workers at work:

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Left: Trash cart guy makes phone finger. Middle: Hoop Shots hat. Right: Security

Two girls in matching suspenders and striped socks caught my eye:

Note baleful glare of passerby.

They really didn't appear to be having too much fun right then, though:

I just noticed this, but they did a shoe-swap thing, too.

There was a stuffed dog, with beer:


As well as other sketchy characters:

Wait, I know them: Brandon, Kelly, and I forget.

Obligatory photo with me to prove I was there:

My beads are the same ones from last year.

We hung around the food area for a bit, running into more former cow-orkers:

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Left: Kelly. Right: Kim.

I did run into people I knew from several different constituencies, though on the blogger front, I only saw I-66 (as far as I know -- some of you folks are pretty secretive).

Then we headed down to see Carbon Leaf. There was some crowd surfing:


It was a pretty good set, and naturally they ended with "The Boxer."

Carbon Leaf got done at about 8pm, and we decided to forgo Oakenfold and take off. Which was just about right, since it started to rain again. All in all, a pretty good time.

Afterwards, we ended up going to Fairfax and meeting up with some other folks at Hard Times -- I had two chili dogs, which may have been a mistake, though we did stay til the end of the triple overtime WAC final.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

What an Amazingly Great Idea for Teen Girl Drivers

I took this cameraphone photo in Herndon on Saturday -- a Honda Element with "I'M 17!!!!!" marked up all over in window paint:

The sides were done in similar fashion.

Young miss (and it was a girl -- I saw the driver, but was that ever a question?), I can guess that you're excited about turning 17, and I also realize that, generally speaking, fears of stranger danger are overblown, and that anyway, there are plenty of ways that people accessorize their cars that reveal all kinds of personal attributes, but screaming out "I'm a 17-year-old girl!" on your ride just seems like a bad idea.

(Incidentally, I remembered afterwards that I had a real camera in my pocket.)

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Scabs and The Family Sack

Two items from today's Washington Post:

* A newspaper ad from Safeway -- "Now accepting applications for temporary employees in preparation for a possible labor dispute":

Legal workers only. That's a relief.

Note that I have no knowledge of this particular labor dispute, so I make no judgments as to the nature of greedy, soulless corporations vs. greedy, corrupt unions -- I just hadn't seen an ad for strikebreakers/temporary workers before.

Also, note that I am not considering applying at this juncture, as I am currently consulting right now. For realz.

* An ad insert for the Frito-Lay Family Sack:


I can't be the only person to think that "family sack" invokes a completely meaning. (And I'm not.) Nards.


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Friday, March 14, 2008

Will We See Pretty Young Abercrombie Blonde at Shamrockfest?

(To immediately allay potential concerns: Probably not.)

Looking at the regional weather forecast, we might see some drizzle and a few sprinkles, but it should hopefully be a pretty good day, so come to Shamrockfest, where you'll be able to see Carbon Leaf, Tommy Lee, and if you're really, really lucky, me.

However, if you're me, the question is: Will pretty young Abercrombie blonde be there?

Alas, as far as I can tell, the answer is "No."

Admittedly, I'm taking it at face value -- I has checking through my referrers a few months ago, and I found a link to a Web forum (anime-focused, if I recall correctly -- it was one of those Web message boards that blurs the line between synchronous and asynchronous), where a girl, claiming to be located somewhere in New York City, said she was pretty young Abercrombie blonde.

I have no way of verifying this. But then again, why would one lie about something like that?

If you would like to become the new pretty young Abercrombie blonde (note: the Abercrombie bit is optional), please let me know.

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ELIZA creator dies at 85. Why do you say ELIZA creator dies at 85?

Here I recycle one of my redlit Fark headline submissions (which was covered in a huge way when BoingBoing linked it, but whatever) -- the creator of ELIZA, Joseph Weizenbaum died last week at the age of 85.

For those not in the know, ELIZA was one of the first chatterbots -- she (or it) simulated human agency in conversations by acting as a virtual therapist. (You can see an AIM port version over at AIM ELIZA.)

As chatterbots go, ELIZA was fairly limited -- she had a pretty short set of responses, and more often than not, she would just repeat back what you said to her. But you could still have a fairly robust conversation with her, if you were stupid, distracted, or had a fairly forgiving nature.

In fact, you could say that ELIZA was the precursor to intelligent agents, as well as chat sex bots like Jenny18.

Back when I was working at AOL, I used to joke that ELIZA was more or less indistinguishable from some of our lower-functioning chat room denizens -- and arguably more useful.

While I'm on the subject -- I'm reminded by a situation we ran into with AIM Chats. Now, these days, AIM Chats are promoted group Web chats that are powered by Userplane. But, back in the day, AIM Chats were basically just buddy chat rooms, which were invoked via the URL (http://someAIMURL/chat+room+name).

Because they were promoted at a pretty high level off the AIM.com Web site, they were fairly high trafficked. I don't know if they were ever particularly useful, but they were pretty active.

Then the spam bots took over.

After a short time, you literally had rooms full of IM spam bots (usually sex spam bots) talking to each other. That meant that they were triggering a wall of sex spam IMs -- a bunch of bots talking to each other.

Then, occasionally, some hapless human would wander into the middle of this torrent of sex spam.

It was distressing, yet at the same time, hilarious.

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Don't Honk at Me, Bitch -- You're the One Who Cut Me Off

I was coming back from McLean this afternoon, when a driver made me very angry.

I was on Spring Hill Road, getting ready to hop onto the Dulles Toll Road:
View Larger Map (screenshot b/c Blogger didn't like the iframe)

Now, it's covered by the Dulles Toll Road overpass, so you'll have to trust me on this, but there are two left turn lanes, which undergo a leftward lane shift as you pass under the overpass.

So, if you're in the left lane and not paying attention, you'll ignore the lane shift and continue straight, cutting off the driver next to you. If you're lucky, said driver will anticipate this, avoid the collison and simply honk his horn instead of getting all road-ragey.

However, if you decided to honk back at me (I mean, the other driver)... well, then, all bets are off and there's no telling what could happen.

I was seriously contemplating ways to initiate a frank and thorough educational discussion with the other driver, possibly leading to an ad-hoc brainstorming session, culminating in some concrete suggestions on improving the intersection that we could take to VDOT, but what ended up happening is that I stewed for a while, then went to Lake Anne, where I browsed for a bit at the Reston Used Book Shop (cut short because looking up at the higher shelves was hurting my neck), then went to Cafe Montmartre for a few drinks and to use the open wifi hotspot.

Incidentally, it's an optimal day for outdoor laptop use: No wind, no bugs, temperate, and cloudy enough so that the sun is behind a big diffuser, with minimal screen glare.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Blogging My Way to Shamrockfest

I'd slept on getting tickets to this year's Shamrockfest, which is this Saturday. I had a line on some passes, though that fell through (procrastination on my part). So I was preparing to buy them online, either by going to the site and eating the Ticketbastard fees, or by trolling through DC Craigslist (neither of which I was looking forward to).

Then I got an e-mail. It was from the local PR agency that's doing publicity for the 'fest, offering media credentials to various DC bloggers and media types to cover the event.

At first, I was annoyed --when you do PR outreach e-mails, you're not supposed to blast out uncustomized boilerplate (especially if you're trying to reach bloggers, who are a notoriously touchy bunch), and you're especially not supposed to forget to use BCC (though it was somewhat gratifying to see my name on a list that included the City Desk, DCist, MetBlogs, and a bunch of individual blogs with a far greater readership than my own).

Presumably, someone had done a Technorati or other blog search and saw my Shamrockfest blog entry from last year (though I note that I know of several other DC bloggers who also blogged it last year but didn't make the cut, at least in this e-mail).

Anyway, I admit it -- I'm a cheap date. It's not a SXSW junket or anything, but I was going to go and most likely do a recap entry, anyway, so what the heck. You got me -- call this a full disclosure. Media creds, here I come.

Now, I'm probably not going to try to finagle backstage access to interview talent -- it's not my beat (kids today with their crazy music). I haven't yet seen anyone blogging about going on a media pass (or maybe I'm the only person gauche enough to mention it), but if you're a blogger interested in getting media creds of your own, you'll probably want to check out this entry: Shamrockfest -- Calling All Bloggers.

Maybe there is something to this blogging thing, after all.

Unfortunately, the weather for Saturday is looking a little dodgy -- cold, dreary, and at the very least, moist.

What's more, most of the authentic Irish-from-Ireland crowd are probably going to be occupied with the rugby triple-header (including the England vs. Ireland match -- always a crowd-pleaser).

But then, what do the real Irish know about St. Patrick's Day in America, anyway?

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Arrington and Swisher Scooped Me on SearchMe

About a week and a half ago, I noticed my site (such as it is) was getting a bunch of hits from a crawler from something called "searchme.com."

Of course, I did a little looking around -- there wasn't much on the site at the time, and the only Web results that came up (like the Techcrunch article) referenced wiki search.

I was going to mention it, but I never got around to it.

Then, this morning, Boomtown, Techcrunch, and others of that ilk posted about it -- it's "visual search", which looks to be a Cover Flow interface over search results.

With the caveat of not having actually used it, I will say that visual search is like Snap Shots, or animated DVD menus: Seems like a cool idea, is neat for a minute or two, then gets annoying once you realize that it's not at all useful and actually gets in the way.

As to the purported "scooping" -- since I had no preview access, it's not like I had anything to report (unlike Boomtown and Techcrunch), and since I didn't attempt to do any actual investigating, it's not like I was trying to do any journalism (unlike Boomtown), but I still feel like I missed out on something.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

A Self-Contained Watch Band Watch Stand

I wear a Skagen 105LTX watch. It's thin, titanium, and Danish, and I bought it on eBay a few years ago.

It also has a metal link band with one of those flip buckle things, so it's not the most comfortable thing to wear while typing. I usually take it off and put it on the desk.

Purely by accident (I'm guessing I was bored during a meeting and fiddling with my watch), I discovered that I could arrange the watch band and buckle to make a self-contained, self-standing watch stand, that also served as an impromptu desk clock:

If you're ever sitting across the table from me during a meeting, there's a good chance you'll see this.

As a bonus, it makes checking the time a little more discreet than glancing down at your watch (especially if you put it next to your notepad).

Side view.

Now, I haven't determined whether this is a universal application, or if it's unique to my watch band, which is sized for my slender (in a very manly, steel-rod kind of way) wrists.

Rear view, for good measure.

A silly little thing, but I find it useful.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Halftime Notes From the Duke - UNC Hype Machine

It's halftime of the Duke - UNC game. Carolina is up by 12 right now, in a first half marked by a lot of dumb turnovers. Blame it on Senior Night nerves, and because ESPN has been hyping this game up like it's the end of the world.

I'd entertained the notion of going to Jimmy's or something to watch the game, but I've just been flat today. In fact, I sat on the couch and woke up about 3 hours later. (Missed an ebay auction I wanted to bid on, too). So now I'm drinking a few Blue Moons and just hanging out at home.

Anyway, Duke is down by 12. When I was in school, I didn't think we relied on the three-point shot nearly as much as we do now -- I'm troubled by the number of one-and-done quick threes we take, especially since we've never really been a strong rebounding team.

I also see that the Speedo Guy has returned. I have a VHS tape of one of the Duke - UNC game from 04 or 05, which I think was his introduction to the national viewing audience. He sits in the grad student section behind one of the baskets and tries to distract the opposing foul shooter. This new incarnation wasn't nearly as effective, probably because he wasn't nearly as... hairy.

Also, the ESPN commentators apologized for replaying Speedo Guy, because unlike the previous Speedo Guy who relied on funky dance moves, this version used some D-Generation-X-style crotch chops.

As to the whole pre-game hype -- when was the last time you saw them playing the National Anthem for a regular season college game? And then that whole thing about the support for Eve Carson, the UNC student body president who was found murdered a few days ago.

Look, I'm glad the Duke fans wore ribbons and did a moment of silence in honor of her, instead of trying to do some tasteless cheers about it. But come on -- how many Durham residents (not so much the Chapel Hill) will get murdered near the campus and just get another item in the crime briefs of the newspaper -- without the full-court media press and the candlelight vigils and the Facebook memorials?

Yeah, she was a pretty blonde co-ed and it's a shame she died a violent death, but come on.

OK, game on.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Killing a Mouse... Changes a Man

I had a glue trap tucked away in a corner, near my washing machine (which is in the kitchen, but let's not dwell on that).

This afternoon, I was in the living room, in the middle of a conference call, when I heard some rustling noises coming from the kitchen.

For a few brief seconds, I entertained the thought that it might be, say, dishes in the sink shifting, or maybe the garbage settling. But the rustling kept happening. So I went over to take a look.

Yeah, it was a mouse stuck in the glue trap.

Since I was still on the call, there wasn't much I could do. Luckily (if you could call it that), the mouse was stuck fast, so it wasn't going to get away.

Now, look -- I know I could get a humane, live catch mousetrap. But when it comes to mice, catch-and-release just seems kind of pointless. Besides, if you subscribe to castle doctrine (as I do), I reserve the right to use deadly force to protect my home from invaders.

So, after I finished the call, I prepared to deal with the mouse. I wouldn't say that I'm particularly squeamish when it comes to rodents -- let's just say that I'm cautious when it comes to dealing with potential biohazards. (Hantavirus, anyone?)

I ended up double-bagging the trap in some grocery bags, placed a handy 1x5 scrap board on the locus of the rustling lump, and stepped firmly. (Okay, stomped.)

The rustling stopped.

I can't say I enjoyed it.

Also, while I considered taking photos, I decided against it. You sick, twisted bastards.

Anyway, I seem to have avoided PTSD, but I do have to admit it's one of the reasons I stayed in tonight.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Your Hair-Covered, Meat-Powered Mansuit

I found this soap marked "Discontinued -- 50% off" at the supermarket today. It's Dial for Men, which is evidently a very manly soap -- so much so that it states: "Your hair-covered, meat-powered mansuit will be clean, smooth, and fresh all day."

Manly micro-scrubbers consist of ground glass and broken dreams.

Naturally, I had to buy it.

I vaguely recall they used the same stupid line in a TV ad campaign. People: It's soap -- rendered animal fat, lye, and perfume.

If they want to do a truly manly soap, they should probably just sell sodium hydroxide for application directly to the skin.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

There Is Shit in the Meat

I just finished reading Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser's 2001 look at the societal impact of fast food.

It begins pretty gently, talking about the early chains, the origins of Carl's and McDonalds. It starts to rake a little muck when it talks about the exploitation of teen workers, the de-skillification of fast food jobs (even as fast food companies take millions of dollars in subsidies for worker training, and the problem of theft and robbery at fast food restaurants (usually involving current or former employees).

The bits about french fries, and the science of artificial and natural flavors are really interesting.

Then it gets to the meat of the thing -- agribusiness and the meatpacking industry. It's blood-boiling -- it should be required reading for everyone, especially:

* Libertarians and Grover "drown government in the bathtub" Norquist-types to see just what happens when you neuter the FDA, OSHA, and the USDA and rely on industry self-policing (hint: E. coli 0157:H7 and bloody stools feature prominently). It's where the "shit in the meat" bit comes from -- fecal contamination, combined with sending all the meat through a few big processing plants, equals bacterial fun for everybody. Industry solution? Irradiation. So nuclear shit in your meat.

* Anti-immigration types, to see just how the meatpacking industry relies on and recruits illegal immigrants to staff their ultra-high-speed, ultra-high-turnover industries (hint: if you don't give full benefits until 6 months or a year into a job, high-turnover keeps employer costs down). Let's see if the neo-Know Nothings will put their money where their mouths when it comes to their food buying dollar.

* Terrorism Chicken Littles who fixate on bioterror threats to the food supply, yet turn a blind eye to agribusiness's steadfast opposition to real food safety and robust scientific testing measures.

Since the book came out in 2001, you can see how things have changed since then (Schlosser's warnings about obesity seem almost quaint now), and then, looking at the largest beef recall in the nation's history, seeing how they haven't changed.

Maybe I'm prone to being unduly alarmed by food threats -- I took a meat vacation for a few years after reading Deadly Feasts (about mad cow disease) -- or maybe because it's because I just really like hamburgers, but just looking at how corrupting the meatpacking industry in its race to the bottom on costs shows the dangers of unfettered capitalism.

Perhaps we need a new grass-roots advocacy group -- something to take food safety back from the vegetarians and animal activists: Hamburger Lovers for Food Safety. (Kind of how Ducks Unlimited is a wetlands conservation group for the purpose of having abundant ducks to shoot.)

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Easier an Exercise in Online Activism, the More Worthless It Is

In advance of tomorrow's eDemocracy camp, and because I've been drinking tonight, here's my stating-the-obvious observation about online activism:
The ease of participating in a social or political activity online is inversely proportional to its effectiveness.

In other words, the easier an exercise in online activism, the more worthless it is. High ease = low effectiveness (thanks to Jamy for the correction).

Obviously, this is just a restatement of any number of old adages that say you get out of something what you put into it. But I still see far too many people online who delude themselves into thinking that they've done something worthwhile just because they clicked "OK" somewhere.

  • Signing an online petition or pledge: Ease: Ultralow. Usefulness: Ultraworthless
  • Sending e-mail to an elected official: Ease: Low. Usefulness: Low (worthless if you're not actually a constituent.)
  • Joining a Facebook group: Ease: Low. Usefulness: Low (unless it's in support of a tangible result, like a rally, or would potentially get you killed by the Mafia or guerrillas, or would otherwise require, you know, actual time or effort).
  • Participating in political forums: Ease: Low. Usefulness: Almost universally worthless -- because of the polarized, self-selecting, self-segregating nature of most online political communities, at best, you're preaching to the converted; at worst, you're engaging in yet another worthless online flamewar, convincing no one and simply reinforcing each other's stereotyped views.
  • Political or advocacy blogging: Ease: Varies. Usefulness: Depends -- Are you creating anything original or simply rehashing other people's punditry?
  • Using online activities to organize and mobilize offline activities: Ease: Varies. Usefulness: Well now, this is where things get interesting.
For far too many people, online political and social activism is like prayer: A way to feel like you're helping, without actually doing anything.

The trick, of course, is trying to figure out how to leverage all this online stuff into things that actually matter.

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The Triumphant Return of the Turnip Twaddler

Here's a sneak preview of tomorrow's Opus, which features the triumphant return of the Turnip Twaddler:


When last we saw the turnip twaddler, it was just a bonus gift with the purchase of a Tomato Musher, so it seems to have moved up in stature, as the recommended use for the upcoming economic stimulation.

In a bit of synchronicity, the Turnip Twaddler also gets a mention in a recent Democrat[ic] Underground thread in a discussion about consumers and the state of the economy.

The Turnip Twaddler -- get yours today! Operators in an offshore call center are standing by to take your order.


Waking Up to the Sound of George Clooney Screaming

Yakov Smirnoff was in the middle of calling the play-by-play for a Slamball match when I woke up this morning.

The night before, I awoke to the sound of George Clooney screaming; I'd fallen asleep on the couch, shortly after putting Syriana on -- evidently there's a torture scene. I don't remember a bit of it.

Just prior to that, I'd finally made it all the way through Glengarry Glen Ross. I'd started it ages ago, but I never could get through it -- I kept falling asleep, probably because of all the rain scenes. Though all the endless variations of "Fuck you!" "No, fuck you!" Mamet dialog also gets pretty tedious.

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