Dumb Things I Have Done Lately

Monday, July 28, 2008

Things That Are Upcoming: DC Fark Party, Music, Matchbox, Meetups & More

Here are a few things I'm interested in. I say this even though I didn't catch a single Fringe show this time around (which I had mentioned), nor did I go see Spiritualized at the 9:30 Club (which I hadn't):

Southern Culture on the Skids at the 9:30 Club, Thursday, 7/28. Doors 7:30pm. $15. I'd never really paid much attention to them, but I'd signed up for a Yep Roc Records freebie and ended up listening to some of their stuff (curse you, Internet marketing!). Alas, I have a potential kickball game on Thursday (weather and playoff victory permitting), so I'm a very tenuous maybe for this.

DC Fark Party (with a scheduled appearance by Drew Curtis), upstairs bar at The Big Hunt, Saturday, 8/2. 8-10:30pm. Free (If you don't eat or drink. Which would be a silly thing to do.) DC Farkers and lurkers of all sorts are expected to attend. (NPR coverage is undetermined at this time.) I'll definitely be there.

Virgin Mobile Festival 2008. Pimlico Race Course. 8/9-8/10. $100/day or $175 for a two-day pass. Premium parking +$25. Chances I will attend: Vanishingly slim, but I had an embarassing empty spot between weeks. Here's a tip: Pay for a parking pass and tailgate -- you can should be able to hear the main stage act from the parking lot.

Social Matchbox DC, at TeqCorner in McLean, Thursday, 8/14, 5-8:30pm. Free. More networking. Try not to swarm the venture capitalists. Also a definite for me, as it's right around the corner from where I'm working.

Suzanne Vega, at Birchmere, Monday, 8/18, 7:30pm. $35. Outlook hazy at this point. Try again later.

August Washington Blogger Meetup, RFD, Wednesday, 8/20, 7pm. Kick in a buck or two towards Meetup costs (and get the wifi for free). I'm planning on attending.

Liz Phair, 9:30 Club, Thursday, 8/28. 7pm doors. $25. I'd like to attend. Not sure at this point. [7/29 update: Sold out now. As Voltaire said, there's a certain inevitable futility in indecision.]

That's it for August so far. September gives us the Dulles Plane Pull (9/6), PodCamp Philly (9/6-9/7), Twin Tech II (9/18), and Crafty Bastards DC (9/28). More updates as events warrant.

Of course, there'll be the usual interspersion of DC Tech Events and so forth.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Crowdsourcing a Restaurant: Good Luck With That

Today's Post has a front-page item about a DC restaurant-to-be (Elements) that's crowdsourcing its theme and menu: "Online, a Community Gathers to Concoct A Neighborhood Eatery."

The theme the community has picked is, er, a "sustainable vegetarian/raw food restaurant," with a community-center vibe.

Now, the article mentions that the owner/funder has the final say over all business decisions, so presumably she's crunched the numbers and sees a market opportunity that backs up the community's sentiment. I don't know anything about consumer demand for raw foods or the restaurant business (other than it's a tough racket), so I'll leave that be -- other than to say that what might work for a co-op or other collective endeavor, might not work for a 3,500 square foot restaurant with $1 to 1.5 million in startup costs, and that has to have appeal outside of the core community participants.

However, I do note a few caveats on relying on a community for feedback and guidance. I believe it's a valuable practice -- but you have to go in with your eyes open:

1. The loudest, most engaged people do not necessarily represent your entire target audience. Paying attention to users is important. Paying attention to all users -- not just the loud ones -- is also important. You need to capture the wants and needs of people who don't participate in the community, too, which requires looking at metrics, testing, and other forms of research.

For example, in product development communities, your active contributors may be power users or edge cases clamoring for features that have little value to the rest of your core audience. Overserving them can pull resources away from items of greater benefit to the larger community.

Look at the political primary system, where candidates cater to primary participants (the most engaged, active, and extreme sections of the electorate) to build momentum, then move to the center for broader appeal in the general election.

2. Don't forget about Participation Inequality. This is basically a restatement of point #1 -- the loudest users will dominate the conversation. Even if they are "influencers" with disproportionate impact on other people, you're still only hearing a few voices.

The Elements community has about 400 people -- here's a graph of their top 20 community points holders (which I will use as a proxy for participation -- I left out the #1 "Living Green" user, since that's composed of 4 people):

Elements community points graph
Sorry, no means, medians, or standard deviation -- this is as statistics as I get.

Since I'm not a member, I can't see the boards; even if we assume that semi-active participants (normally the "9" in the 90:9:1 ratio) number higher in this particular community, that's still not a lot of people, so you need to take care that you're seeing the whole picture.

3. If "The squeaky wheel gets the grease," wheels will find reasons to squeak. Again, this goes to audience tunnel vision. People are not wheels -- they like it when you pay attention to them, they get used to it, and they find ways to maintain your attention. You need to continually reach out to new voices (while at the same time, you can't alienate your early adopters -- it's tricky.)

4. Community drama can impact the business. Inevitably, every community goes through crises. Sometimes it's board drama that goes overboard. For activist-types, it's often a case of the revolution eating its own -- factions develop. In some cases, it's the introduction of a poisonous personality or incompatible culture.

If the business is explicitly tied to the community, this can be a problem. If you intervene, you're seen as taking sides. And if the community splinters in a meaningful way, you've got a big problem.

I don't have a case study, but I do have an anecdote, courtesy of subscriber letter in a March 1989 copy of Dragon magazine (I unearthed it and liberated it from my parents' house a while back):

A Dungeons-and-Dragons-type gaming group in Kentucky, numbering about 200, had an influx of what we today would call "griefers." This eventually caused group members to drop out, then splinter into smaller factions that eventually both withered away. In the process, the local gaming store (which provided supplies and a venue) saw its clientele dry up and subsequently went out of business. The community, which formerly sustained the business, took the business down with it.

The article says, "Unlike so many Web discussion sites, there are no angry or insulting posts in the Elements community." To that, I would just add, "Yet." Community conflict is inevitable... but it can be managed.

Anyway, the proof is in the pudding. Going to the community for feedback is great, but it's only one part of the puzzle. Unless the 10% of active and semi-active contributors is going to eat at the restaurant all-day, every day, the proprietors need to make sure they're not just catering to the whim of a select group of people, especially if they need to make a broader audience play.

(I was just going to add this to my del.icio.us slushpile for later neglect, but I'm making a conscious effort to reduce my post-procrastination; that is, post more, bookmark less.)

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

I Enjoy Smart People and Dumb Quotation Marks (Refresh DC)

I made it to my first actual Refresh DC event tonight (I'd been to a happy hour or two before). Got to Georgetown slightly late, and I think I passed up a couple close parking spots because I wasn't sure they were valid. Chicken.

The speaker was Ellen Lupton talking about typography and design. Her presentation was funny and engaging, though I have to admit I was feeling a bit contrary tonight. Also, it looks like Twitter ate the updates I sent during the event, but bad typography is not a "crime against humanity."

Also, when it comes to quotation marks, as much as she hates dumb quotes, I hate smart quotes -- while I understand the usefulness and aesthetic, in practice, we've all been burned too often by cutting and pasting smart quotes that turn into little boxes or otherwise get munged. You can blame Microsoft or other software developers, but if text is something that people are going to work with and not just look at, until you can fix these kinds of real-world problems, it's just not worth the trouble.

And even though I appreciate good design, something felt a little hollow -- like the idea that good design justifies frivolous consumer consumption that will fill some void in our lives. (And I'm as much of a consumer as anyone.)

Or perhaps the notion that crafting is on the rise because fewer and fewer of us have vocations where we actually make anything worthwhile, and try to make up for it by creating silly notions, stuffed soft goods, t-shirts, papercraft and the like.

Like I said, I was feeling contrary and a bit off, so I skipped any post-event socializing and trucked home for a late workout. My neck is still a little sore from hitting the turf last night, so I ditched the pullups, but I felt a little better afterwards.

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Proof That Iraq Is Distracting Us From Afghanistan

Wired's Danger Room blog had an item this week ("'Hog Pilot's Quick Thinking, Huge Gonads") about Air Force A-10 pilot Capt. Brian Erickson being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor for his actions during a close air support mission in the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan.

Here's the article from Moody AFB Public Affairs: "Moody Airman receives Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor." It's a good story about the pilot's bravery and ingenuity in saving the lives of a six-man German Provincial Reconstruction Team from insurgent attack.

However, the article runs into problems towards the end -- I took a screenshot (it's still up as of this moment):


It reads:
"With Captain Erickson's wingman marking the enemy's position with his TGP's infrared pointer, the PRT confirmed the mark as the enemy fire point of origin. In a single pass, Captain Erickson employed 240 30-millimeter rounds from the aircraft's GAU-8 cannon. This completely halted the enemy's fire and saved the lives of six German soldiers.

Captain Erickson and his wingman remained in the area to monitor both the friendly and enemy positions until the Iraqi National Police and International Security Assistance Force Quick Reaction Force were able to reach and recover the PRT and bring them to safety." [emphasis added]
It's a good thing Captain Erickson was there, because if the PRT had been waiting for the Iraqi National Police to show up, they'd surely have been toast, as it's about 1400 miles between Bagram and Baghdad. (Obviously, the article meant Afghan National Police.)

Then again, perhaps it was indeed the Iraqi National Police, using John McCain's secret tunnel between Iraq and Pakistan.

With the snark out of the way, I guess I'll use the "contact us" form to let them know about their little boo-boo. (I'd tried posting to the Danger Room entry, but it ate my comment.)

[Update, 7/25: The item has been corrected without comment -- it now reads "Afghan National Police." I'd sent them a note yesterday via their contact form, though who knows if that was the impetus.]

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Needs More Mung (Soybean and Smoked Turkey Salad)

I finally made it through 3 sets of the conditioning workout that I'm trying to do in between regular workout days. (With the help of judicious pauses, and cheating on the Bosu ball push-ups, but at least I finished.)

For dinner, since I had to work my way through that two-pound bag of soy bean sprouts (not mung bean sprouts as I'd originally thought), I did a bean sprout salad, starting with a recipe from the Chowhound topic and modifying it along the way based on what I had on hand:

  1. Cover and microwave soy bean sprouts for 3 minutes (Or 3:33 if you're particularly lazy. Which I was.)
  2. Rinse under cold water, and drain.
  3. Add in splash of soy sauce, two splashes of vinegar, sprinkle of sugar, half a takeout container of hot salsa from Baja Fresh, a few pinches of cilantro (also from Baja Fresh), and a few drips of olive oil.
  4. Shred a few slices of smoked turkey and add it in.
  5. Spice to taste -- in this case I used, cayenne, garlic powder, chili powder, onion flakes, cumin, curry, black pepper, red pepper, and the spice flavoring from Shin Ramyun ramen (which I save in a container from the packets, since using a full packet in the soup is too hot for me).
  6. Toss, shake and serve.
It was pretty good -- crunchy, spicy, with lots of fiber and protein. (The vegetarian version works, too, but I wanted the extra suffering.)

I didn't realize that soy beans were comparatively high in fat (the package says 8 grams of fat in an 85 gram -- 3 ounce -- serving), though maybe I will switch to those mung bean sprouts.

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Facebook Loops... and the College Kids Scream

Apparently, something is amiss with the rollout of the new Facebook layout (presumably if you checked out the new design in Firefox); I've been getting this error for the past few minutes -- it's apparently looping between www.facebook.com and www.new.facebook.com:
Redirect Loop: Firefox has detected that the server is redirecting the request for this address in a way that will never complete.

I expect many indignant Twitter posts and subsequent blog entries on the matter.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Masala Wok Before Twin Tech

I had plenty of business cards on hand in preparation for Thursday's Twin Tech Party (at this point, recapped to death), but unfortunately they were all other people's, so I headed back home to restock.

I also did a quick workout, then proceeded to completely negate that workout by getting dinner at Masala Wok in Herndon, which had just gotten a writeup in Sunday's Post ("Curries on the Quick").

I had the Chicken Tikka Masala (medium heat):

Well-plated chicken tikka masala. Cameraphone pic.

It looked very appetizing. The chicken was tender and tasty, though the masala sauce was a little rich and creamy for my palate.

Also, I have to agree with some of the Yelp reviews: The "medium" heat was disappointingly mild. (And this is from someone whose thermostat usually tops out at "American hot.")

It was good and I'll probably give it another shot, though it won't replace Charcoal Kabob for me (I note it's almost finished its remodeling and bakery expansion).

Thus sated, I headed in to the Twin Tech Party. This was the first real test of the new GPS. Results were... mixed. I nearly got into an accident on the Whitehurst Freeway where it necks down to one lane (though that wasn't really the fault of the GPS), but it also took me through Georgetown at the height of rush hour.

The event itself was pretty good. There were jokes-a-plenty about picking out the scruffy startup folks from the whiteshoe NVTC types (though most of the sport coats and all of the suspenders, I'd wager, were from the latter group); it was hot as balls on the patio; I met a bunch of new folks and touched base with a bunch of familiar faces. All in all a pretty standard (albeit well-attended and good) DC tech event.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

The Hammer Is My Penis

Captain Hammer says: "The Hammer is my penis."

I'm not a Joss Whedon fanboy, but I'm liking Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog so far, even though it's causing the TMBG song "Someone Keeps Moving My Chair" to keep looping in my head ("Mr. Horrible, Mr. Horrible: Telephone call for Mr. Horrible").

It's cute and well-cast (even though Felicia Day runs the risk of getting typecast in laundromat roles).

This is a short review, but then, it's a short movie.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Falling off the Flashlight Geekery Wagon (NiteCore Defender Infinity and Extreme)

It's been a while since I bought a new flashlight, mostly because I haven't been active over at CandlePower Forums for the past few years. (The keychain cow with mooing action doesn't count, since I got that at a Books-a-Million. And neither does the Princeton Tec headlamp combo, since that was a closeout that I got from Sports Authority when I was just looking for a folding camp chair.)

Last week, I fell off that wagon in a big way. I'd been browsing TADGear (a staple for gadget types) and saw that they were liquidating their stock of NiteCore lights.

NiteCore is a relative newcomer to the tactical pocket light market (a field dominated by Surefire). I'd missed out on a lot of developments, and the CPF folks have been salivating over NiteCore, who seem to be doing things right.

Of course, I don't need any new lights, let alone tactical lights. So naturally, I ended up buying two of them -- a NiteCore NDI (Defender Infinity, which runs off a single AA battery), and a NiteCore Extreme (which runs on a CR123 3v lithium battery, which looks like a shorter, fatter AA battery and can go for 6 or 7 bucks a pop if you're silly enough to buy it in a store -- you can get them for a buck or two online):
NiteCore Extreme (standing) and Defender Infinity.

When it comes to reviews, I'm not that much of a flashlight geek, so I'm not going to do any runtime graphs or beamshots (go to CPF or CPFReviews for that sort of thing).

They're both LED lights, so there are no bulbs to replace or break; they're really solidly built, hard anodized, with push button tailcap switches (the Infinity also has a lockout tailcap, which prevents it from turning on accidentally.)

The neat feature is the electronic control -- by momentarily twisting the head, you can switch from High to Strobe and back. And by loosening the head slightly, you can pick any brightness setting in between the highest and lowest (this YouTube video demonstrates the interface and the different modes).

Have I mentioned that they're amazingly bright? (Up to 130 lumens for the NDI and 190 for the Extreme.) You don't get a lot of runtime at the max, though, and they run pretty darn hot, which is where the user settings come in. If you don't do a lot of low-light, SWAT-style room clearing (and I don't), the low modes are a lot more useful.

Here's the Defender Infinity compared to my previous pocket light, a Fenix L1 (an older version -- current models here):

It's about the same size (slightly bigger than the AA battery that powers it). I didn't do the paracord koppo wrap that you see on the L1 -- the loop makes it more secure to hold, but it's a bit too small on the NDI, and might interfere with heat dissipation. So I took a pocket clip off an old Gerber Infinity, which seems to do the trick.

Here it is in hand:

Eyeballing the brightness, the NDI at somewhere between low-to-medium is about the same as the L1, but the high setting just blows it away.

Here's the Extreme. It has cooling fins:

Both of them have the uber-tactical scalloped edge at the front of the light. Nominally, it's supposed to hurt more if you have to clobber someone with it, but really it just means you'll wear holes in your pockets faster.

When it comes to lights and other devices, I prefer to stick to commonly available batteries like the AA. And for most applications, 130 lumens is overkill, let alone 190. So the Extreme is more in the nature of a cool toy (though I consider it a substitute for a more expensive Surefire, which means that by buying the Extreme, I'm actually saving money).

Check out my Flickr set for more size comparisons, including the Extreme compared to my ARC LSL (which is also obsolete).

Besides being darn useful things to have around, carrying a flashlight on your person marks you as part of the gadget enthusiast tribe (as typified by any number of Web-based discussion forums out there). Which means that if you've got a light, it's a safe bet that you're also carrying a fancy lighter, a knife, a nice pen, and a bunch of miscellaneous pocket or keychain tools (as well as collections of each at home) -- collectively known as your Every Day Carry (EDC).

(Camera buffs and gun nuts are related, though specialized, branches of the gadgeteer family.)

I'll talk more about the flashlight, EDC, and gadget cultures online at some point.

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Lactic Acid, White Rice, and Dark Meat

Despite some earlier misgivings, I went for a skate on the W&OD Trail this afternoon, starting at Old Reston Avenue and going west to Sterling Boulevard (and back, of course, after extending to Wiehle Ave on the return leg) -- about 10 miles.

The reason I was having those misgivings was that my legs were still sore from delayed onset muscle soreness, after a Sunday leg/shoulder workout and a Monday conditioning workout that kicked my ass (again), even without a trainer prodding me.

I skated on the theory that it would flush the lactic acid from my muscles (especially my quads), which would be great, except 1.) It would be replaced by fresh lactic acid, and 2.) Current thinking on DOMS is that it isn't caused by lactic acid buildup.

Anyway, it was a good day to skate, and I ran into some friends near the Fairfax County Parkway overpass, who were taking some wedding portfolio pictures.

That Conditioning Workout I Keep Whining About
Incidentally, here's the workout that keeps kicking my ass -- it's light weight, one set of 20 reps on each exercise, switch quickly between exercises (you need a Bosu ball, dumbbells, and an adjustable cable cross machine). Repeat the cycle 3 times. Try not to pass out:
This time around, I got through 2 cycles out of 3([a half more than my previous time) before I had to stop, due to a monster headache and not wanting to barf.

When I get into a little better shape, it'll be a good workout between my usual three-day split. (I enjoy saying "three-day split." It makes me feel butch.)

As to the rest of the headline, I'm still eating dark meat (drumsticks or thighs, prepared one value pack at a time) and white rice, instead of the opposite, so I guess I'm still Doing It Wrong.

That just means it'll take me a little bit longer to get ripped, shredded, stacked, packed, smothered and covered, at which time I will resume my underwear modeling career.

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When Irony Attacks! (Mozilla's Attack Site Info Page)

[Update: False alarm. I didn't get the joke. See below.]

I was just trying to go to the Baltimore City Paper site, when Firefox 3 threw up a "Reported Attack Site!" warning (for the following reasons).

I'd seen the attack site warning page a few times but I wanted to find out a bit more about it, so I did a search on firefox attack site. The second result is a mozilla.com site, www.mozilla.com/firefox/its-an-attack.html, so I clicked it. I was surprised -- nay, shocked -- to see that the It's an Attack! page also gave me a Reported Attack Site! warning:


(Oddly enough, the "Why was this site blocked?" diagnostic page says that there is not and never has been anything wrong with the page.)

I'm trying to decide if this is some sort of perverse, "Who watches the watchers?" object lesson in browser security. It's definitely the textbook definition of irony, though.

Minor update: http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/its-an-attack.html (the page you get to via search) is blocked, but http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/its-an-attack.html (when you navigate from the top level of the site) is not.

Mooting Update: Asa Dotzler of the Mozilla organization responded in the comments -- it's a test page that demonstrates the feature, so it's supposed to trigger the warning for FF3 users (which it says on the page itself). So instead of me being clever, it's another item for the Dumb Things file.

However, in my defense, I do think that given its prominence on the relevant search result page, this approach is a little too "cute" if you're already a FF3 user just trying to find out about the feature -- in order to see the info on the page, you have to click past the warning, and if you're at all security-aware, you might not do this (I know I was hesitant -- I only clicked past because I know there's currently very litle malware that affects Macs).

Also, the /en-US/ version doesn't invoke the warning, which threw me.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Kid Rock's "All Summer Long" Is a Terrible, Terrible Song

This is just a followup to my Twitter item on the subject, but I heard the new Kid Rock song on the radio tonight. It's apparently called All Summer Long, and it's also apparently really, really awful.

One might think that a song that mashes up Sweet Home Alabama and Werewolves of London would at least have some humor value associated with it, but the song just plods along, and has some of the worst rhymes I've ever heard.

The song nominally uses an AAB rhyme scheme. But the very first line is problematic:

It was 1989, my thoughts were short, my hair was long.

There's supposed to be a rhyme in there somewhere, but I'll be damned if I can find it. So the song starts grating from the very beginning.

The second verse also tries to rhyme "sand bar" with "campfire," but that's barely even worth mentioning here.

Then we get to the chorus; here's the AA rhyme:

And we were trying different things
We were smoking funny things

Yes, a self-rhyme is still technically a rhyme. But it's really grating. And it's also terribly grating.

And of course, it's in the chorus, which means we get to hear it two more times.

Naturally, the song, as terrible as it is, will be a big hit (possibly achieving "song of summer 2008" status), since there's a WWE tie-in and a bunch of bikini girls in the video (I refuse to embed it).

Finally, just to be clear: I don't begrudge Kid Rock his crossover chart success. Picture was kind of schmaltzy but relatively inoffensive -- it was basically his spiritual cover of Islands in the Stream. But this song is just awful.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sunday Geek Comics Preview

A sneak peek at two geek-oriented comics in tomorrow's Sunday funnies, which gets delivered early. (See, there are some advantages to subscribing to a print newspaper.)

First, Bill Amend's Foxtrot takes on four staples of the current geek canon, hitting Penny Arcade, Player vs. Player, XKCD, and Joy of Tech:

I'm three for four, in that I don't read PvP

Next, Stephan Pastis deflates the self-importance of bloggers (again) in Pearls Before Swine:

The wide-eyed Rat is the best part.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

A Delayed Entry Into the Land of the GPS-Enabled

Over the weekend, I had the chance to play around with Garmin Nuvi 200 (an entry-level car GPS unit), and I have to say that I was pretty impressed with its simplicity and ease-of-use.

Thus far, I'd managed to stay outside of that particular realm of gadgetry, which makes no sense, as I've been living down here for over a decade, yet when I drive to a new place in DC, it's even money that I'll somehow end up near the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

So, I was pretty psyched to see an offer that was theoretically too good to pass up on bargain/coupon aggregator site Mother of All Deals: Best Buy had the Garmin Nuvi 200 on sale for $149, with an additional printable $50 off coupon, bringing the total down to $99 and change (lest you think I was being selfish with the scoop, I posted it to my del.icio.us this morning). So I went to my local Reston Best Buy.

Now, I'm not a Best Buy basher -- I go in, swoop down on their loss-leader items, politely say "no" to anything the salesperson or cashier offers me, and get out. This time, though, wasn't so easy, as the GPS units were locked in a cage and required a manager's key.

I'm not exaggerating -- it took nearly 20 minutes and talking to four different sales associates before I was allowed to give them my money. (I was willing to wait, as they only had two units left and that $50 coupon wouldn't work with rainchecks. It was somewhat amusing -- the sales associates were more annoyed than me that we couldn't track down a manager.)

While I was waiting, I looked down in the Wii section -- just as I twittered, there were six Wii consoles just sitting there:
You gotta get yours, but fool I gotta get mine.

Apparently, though, the hotter item was the Wii Fit pad, which sold out as I watched (there were still four Wii consoles left when I finally got out of there).

Eventually, the key was found and I got my $99 GPS. I set it up tonight, but I'll give it its first real try tomorrow.

Oh, and I did a stair stepper workout tonight and nearly left my keys at the gym. That would have been annoying.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Snout Shoes and Lifting Bodies at the 2008 Folklife Festival (with a bonus Anonymous encounter)

On Saturday, I met up with new buddy Vinnie to check out the 2008 Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Mall. It was hot (but not "DC in July" hot), and it was cloudy but didn't rain, which was nice.

I didn't take too many photos, but here they are: Smithsonian Folklife Festival and DC.

A few notables -- first, from Texas, a video of Guy Clark:

Guy Clark and Verlon Thompson singing Homegrown Tomatoes.

Then, over through Bhutan, where we saw that incense-making is a lot like working with a Play-Doh factory (except more grueling):

We watched a textile artisan weaving at the loom:

Though I was also interested in the action behind the loom:

Seen head-on, the shoes look like snouts:

After the shoes, it was NASA's turn. Here's me trying to be clever with a shot of a model of the Ares 1 rocket and the Washington Monument:

I also got to hold $100,000 worth of NASA history -- a hand-crafted, stainless steel test model of an HL-10 lifting body. It was heavy:

We also saw robots, UAVs, space food, astronaut gloves, and high-altitude pressure suits.

Afterwards, we headed up to Dupont Circle to grab a bite at Bistrot du Coin. I did not expect to see Anonymous parked in front of the Church of Scientology, though they seemed happy that someone knew who they were (in a manner of speaking):

Anonymous, promoting their You Found the Card anti-Scientology Web site and this month's protest.

Then, after dinner, we did a little walking around and grabbed dessert in Georgetown.

So it was a pretty well-rounded DC afternoon (even if I did manage to lose a pair of new, albeit somewhat cheap, sunglasses, which disappeared under baffling circumstances).

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Friday, July 04, 2008

What's Going on at MetBlogs DC? (And Other Local Bits)

* Catching up on my local links, I see that there's something of a blogger exodus happening today over at MetBlogs DC. It had seemed to me that postings had slowed down recently, only to be followed by an abrupt slew of farewell entries by the likes of bhrome, the Bridges (Tiffany and Tom), and Don Whiteside, who have pulled up stakes for their own DC local blog endeavor, We Love DC (not to be confused with "We Loved C").

Blog Rumors Daily picked up on it earlier ("DC Metroblogging Exodus" - also featuring a comment by MetBlogs's Sean Bonner). Other than to say that I've met Don, Tiffany, and Tom a few times, I have nothing to add to the matter.

* Speaking of abrupt departures, I noticed back in March (and never got around to posting it) that DC Bloggers went on permanent vacation, with this surrender notice:
"Let's face it: DC Blogs does it better."

I never knew who was involved with DC Bloggers, which was primarily a blogroll/directory, as opposed to DC Blogs, which had a more robust content offering with its feed, editorial picks, and happy hour announcements (though I note that there hasn't been a DC Blogger Happy Hour in a while -- at least, that I've heard about -- as opposed to previous years. I don't know if it's because of the leadership [sic] or the landscape.)

* I was looking at the Capital Fringe Festival lineup -- I have to say, there's a lot of really interesting stuff listed. I will have to do more research (and probably wait for some preview reviews) in order to whittle the list down.

Tomorrow, I'll be headed over to the Mall for the Folklife Festival (I think the best we can hope for is rain but no thunderstorms), but for right now, off to the gym for a quick workout, any progress made therein to be completely negated by a cookout.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

I'm Either Having an Affair or a Mid-Life Crisis

After all, I'm showing many of the classic warning signs:

* Yesterday, I went to my new gym for the first time (after deliberation, I went with the Fitness First).

I met with a trainer, who led me through a relatively short conditioning workout, which still kicked my ass. Especially the BOSU ball pushups and cable push-pulls. I was a little dizzy on the drive home, though a good part of that was due to my...

* New contact lenses, which I'd gotten earlier that afternoon. I'm still adjusting to them, so items low and close in my visual field (like my hands and the steering wheel) look large and out of perspective.

I wore contacts on and off in high school and college, then stopped wearing them about 14 years ago. Which means it's been about that long since I've been able to watch someone give me a...

* New haircut today. Somehow, a few months had slipped by since my last one, and my hair was really getting in my eyes. I hate that. So I decided to go a little shorter than was probably wise, but it's summer and it'll grow back (unlike with so many other men my age):

Before and after. (Or is it dumb and dumberer.)

The downside of the haircut and the lack of glasses is that I don't look as much as my WeeMee avatar any more:


But I can live with that and the other downsides (e.g. will lose any future staring contests, and when napping, my eyes stay part-open, which freaks people out).

Actually, I'm so used to seeing myself wearing glasses that I prefer how I look with them on, but contacts are just so much more useful in certain endeavors -- sports, shooting, the physical act of love, etc.

Also, I can do a proper *facepalm* now. And, I can wear cool sunglasses, instead of wearing clip-ons. So it's worth the occassional dry eye and itchiness (my eyes are still adjusting).

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Microblogging Is a Mistake (By About Five Orders of Magnitude)

Microblogging, as exemplified by an individual Twitter entry, is 140 characters.

"Micro-" is the SI prefix for "millionth," so it logically follows that a regular blog entry would be a million times bigger, or 140,000,000 characters. (If nothing else, blogging is a completely logical behavior that is characterized by its rigorous adherence to strict scientific standards, is it not?)

At 5 characters per word, that's 28,000,000 words. Or about 280 novels.

Of course, no blogs begin to even approach this word count (some merely feel as if they do). So a renaming is in order.

If Microblogging Is Wrong, I Don't Want to Be Right

By one study, the bulk of blog entries are under 249 words.

Eyeballing my last few entries and using the quick-and-dirty Google Docs word count, my own entries are a little wordier than average (go figure) -- tending towards 500 words per entry, so call it 2,500 characters. Heck, I'm lazy -- call it 2,800 characters (it makes the math easier).

If a standard blog entry is 2,800 characters, 140 character-blogging (so-called "microblogging") is only 5% of that. Which would put the proper name for this kind of blogging in the realm of "deciblogging."

Meaning that the term microblogging is a misnomer by a factor of, oh, 100,000.

Now, since I just push words around, I know that I probably committed math abuse in there somewhere. And I'm okay with that. Since it would still be far less facepalm-worthy than this honey of a math error that I found in a Yahoo! UK & Ireland Answers response to the question, "How many words in a basic adults book?" that I came across as I was writing this:


Vici says, "i wondered this the other day so i counted a page full of words and times it by the number of pages

the answer came to twenty thousand

that means with every 5 books i read i read a million words i think that is amazing myself."
Yes, vici, I'm sure you do.

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