Dumb Things I Have Done Lately

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Macbook Makeover Is Free, But the Wardrobe Upgrade Will Cost You

The case of my Macbook cracked on Wednesday, right at the spots where the nubs on the screen bezel contact the palm rests.

I didn't bother taking a picture, because it's a known issue and looks exactly like all the other Macbooks that have experienced the problem.

I scheduled an appointment at the Apple Store in Tysons Corner (which is the nation's first, incidentally) -- they took a look at it, and since it's an acknowledged issue, fixed it for free (even though it's out of warranty).

So, I've got a brand-new top case and keyboard, and screen bezel. It's almost a good thing that this happened, as my case had been getting awful grubby (because I'm a greasy, dirty person). Now, it's like having a new computer:

The dark spots are shadows, not dirt. Not yet, anyway.

My Macbook has been a real trouper (outside of the occasional unexplained kernel panic). I don't baby it, but I don't abuse it (outside of running too many Firefox tabs and windows) -- I may spring for more RAM and a hard drive upgrade, because it just works and I have no real need for a new model right now.

Anyway, I didn't get away completely free. I had to kill about an hour while the Apple Store Geniuses made the fix, so I stopped by Banana Republic, which I am somewhat chagrined to admit is the perfect store for me.

I usually just head straight to the back, to poach from the sale racks. Though this time, they were having a sale, taking 30% off all previously-marked down items:


The dress shirt, a small, slim fit stretch poplin number, was $9.09. The other shirts were about $10 (except the red v-neck, which was $17 -- red costs extra, apparently). The pants were $9.09 and $10.49 -- it'll probably cost more than that to get them hemmed. And the cushioned leather wing tips were $23.79. So that's a dress shirt, 3 other shirts, two pairs of pants and a pair of shoes for $95.

This is why being a guy rules. (Not least of which is, if you don't really care about fashion -- and why would you? -- you can pretty much wear clothes until they fall apart. Or you get fat.)

Incidentally, I would have gotten more things, except the selection of smalls is usually pretty limited. I have no idea what the Freakonomics blog folks are talking about -- smalls are pretty hard to come by, and I rarely see any XS clothes (some of which I can wear, some I can't), as opposed to XL and XXL stuff, which I see plenty of, and shake my tiny fist at.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Selection of Harvard Lampoon Illustrations From the 1990s

My sister, being smarter than me, went to Harvard. Somewhere along the line, picking at the crumbs of her Ivy League education, I managed to glean a few copies of the Harvard Lampoon from the mid-90s, which I recently rediscovered in a box.

Since getting the entirety of their archives online doesn't seem to be a priority (as opposed to, say, getting their ass kicked by The Onion, College Humor, and, shit, 4chan in any objective measure of humor quotient and cultural influence), I scanned in a few of the more interesting illustrations -- the full set, which I'll probably be adding to, is on Flickr: Harvard Lampoon Illustrations from the 1990s.

First, a few items I'd photocopied (in the pre-digital era) for wall decorations:

Superhero comic strip parody, Vol 182, Issue 3 (Fall, 1992): "Got to push the button before Dr. Bad Guy destroys the planet! Gotta do it! Gotta do it!"

Vol. 180, #2 (Dec, 1989): Bunny ears parody of DaVinci's Vitruvian Man.

Vol. 182, Issue #4 (Winter, 1992): "The Wonderful Treasure in Every Light Socket Which You Can Get Out With a Fork."

Next, a couple of items from the Lampoon's Monday Poster Series:

Vol. 180, #2 (Dec, 1989): "As an animal, Mondays are irrelevant to me."

Vol. 180, #2 (Dec, 1989): "When you are stupid, you do not get embarrassed."

Another comic:

Vol. 182, Issue #4 (Winter, 1992): "Dr. Tom Batchelder's Instant Self-Improvement Courses"

Lastly, here's not an illustration, but an actual advertisement, for some upstart humor publication at some podunk state school that will never amount to anything:

Vol. 183, Issue #4 (February, 1994): Subscribe to the Onion.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The People Who Make a Big Deal About Blog Hiatuses Are Precisely the Type of People Who Can't Stop Blogging

Obviously, I haven't been blogging much this year. At least not here -- as I mentioned, I'm blogging over at the Network Solutions Solutions Are Power blog. In fact, that's one of the reasons why I haven't been blogging so much over here. Part of it is blog fatigue, but it's mostly because, in my all-too frequent desperate attempts to get out of deadline holes I've dug myself into, I've been writing about social media and community topics that I would have otherwise have written about here.

The other big reason why I haven't been blogging over here is @joelogon -- Twitter. Microblogged 140-character Twitter status posts are usually more than enough to convey the dumbness that I find myself blundering into; unlike my del.icio.us items, after I post something to Twitter, I don't find myself blogging in greater detail about them later. (Then again, I haven't exactly been doing that with my del.icio.us links lately, either.)

One thing I'm not going to do is announce any sort of blog hiatus or retirement or any of that foolishness. I find that the only people who make a big deal of going on a blog hiatus or doing big farewell posts are exactly the kinds of people who can't stay away from blogging (and invariably come back a few weeks or months later).

People who stop blogging just... stop blogging. No grand gestures or farewell missives. They just sort of trail off, like a fading IM conversation.

Anyway, it's quite the opposite -- I'm going to step up my blogging over here. In fact, I'm in the process of upgrading my blog to Wordpress. And I mean it this time; I even upgraded my hosting package and everything. Not to say I won't end up doing what I'm doing, and just paying three times as much. It could happen. But I have a plan. Or, I had a plan -- it's in a notebook somewhere, and I can't find it. But I'll keep plugging along blindly regardless.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hunkered Down for the Obamapocalypse

I'm ready for whatever happens -- the cisterns are full; the guns are sighted in; I've stocked up on provisions; and I've got my all-Rush mix tape.

Actually, I don't really think anything is going to happen. I just went grocery shopping after the gym and stocked up on jars of buy-one, get-one spaghetti sauce and one-pound bags of grits.

Looking at my kitchen, I could easily be mistaken for a survivalist, instead of the Depression-haunted can stacker it's my destiny to become.

I'm not one of the people heading down to DC to watch the Inauguration. I understand that people want to be a part of a unique moment in history, and yet I know that every single moment in time is unique, worthy of celebration, never to happen again.

Perhaps it is just that I am averse to crowds, cold, and security checkpoints.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

On AOL's MediaGlow and a Need for a Red State/Blue Collar Blog

I was looking over the big to-do this week about AOL finally baptising the Web publishing unit with the name "MediaGlow." (Incidentally, MediaGlow is pretty anagram-rich -- highlights include "Wild Omega," "Dime Aglow," "Mid Lo Wage," and of course, "Lewd Amigo").

Being outside looking in, I just know what I read in the trades, so I have no idea how much traffic they get from other AOL properties. But it seems to me, trapped by my prior experience as I am, that there's nothing really new under the sun -- they're just recreating their content channel strategy, only unbranded, blog-based, completely outside the client (duh), and oh yeah, relying heavily on relatively low-paid contractors.

(Bonus: No need for costly partnerships for content... just steal content [it's not really stealing if you attribute it properly], borrow graphics and link externally, like every other blog out there.)

When I was at People Connection, I was tangentially involved in our own niche blog efforts. These were independent of the channels' blog efforts; some of what we were doing didn't really make sense (until you accounted for organizational dynamics); and most of these are now dead.

A Red State Strategy
One thing that I suggested a few times, but didn't get any traction, was a "Red State" content niche play. I don't mean Red State in the political sense; I just meant "anything not favored by the bi-coastal media elite." God, guns, and gays. [That is, anti-gay, or at least not homo-friendly.]

Probably NASCAR, too.

I still think there's an opportunity. It would involve extensive coverage of:

* Guns, hunting and shooting sports. (There are a lot of gun nut message board community forums and blogs, but off the top of my head I can't come up with a slick, channel-style niche blog)

* Religion. I don't mean this high-falutin' BeliefNet-style "spirituality" crap. I mean prayer circles (requests for prayer, prayer-swapping -- people do this), guys in John 3:16 clown shock wigs, that sort of thing.

Yeah, I'm cynical and opportunistic when it comes to religion. But no moreso than the Bush administration.

* Larry the Cable Guy. Hey, I'm on the David Cross-side of the debate (to the extent that there is one), but somebody out there likes him.

* Wal-Mart. And not the breast-beating, muckraking stuff. It's the biggest employer in the US, and most of the country has shopped there. Shouldn't BloggingStocks give them a "The Unofficial Wal-Mart Weblog" treatment, more than a half-assed subcategory listing? If Trader Joe's has a fan site, shouldn't Wal-Mart?

* Living With Your Obesity-Related Health Complications lifestyle pieces.

If this list sounds condescending, it is. But not intentionally -- I'm a product of the urban/suburban East Coast, and I've spent a lot of time near the media elite. But it seems to me that there's an entire audience out there that deserves to be pandered to, that the bicoastal media elite won't touch because it's uncool. (At least, not until the hipsters ironically co-opt pieces of their culture -- see Crafting, PBR, and Deer Hunter videogames in bars.)

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Breaking the Seal on 2009 Blogging Means Putting to Sleep Some 2008 Entries

Two weeks into the New Year and I'm already falling behind. Before I get into any new business, I decided it'd be best to clean out some entries in my drafts folder, from 2008 and earlier.

Here are the entries that I'm officially pulling the plug on (with the dates they were last touched):

Religion Turned Inside, Outside [7/25/06]: Trying to establish a new religion whose sole tenet was: "That which is inside should remain inside; that which is outside should remain outside." I never really got much farther than that.

Blogging Is Conversation. This Includes the Ones You Don't Want to Have [7/25/06]: In the fullness of time, it became even more trite and pointless.

The Dumbest People Are Usually the Loudest People [8/8/06]: Kind of obvious, yes?

funny looking pop stars [8/27/06]: An outgrowth of the completely non-original observation that there hasn't been an ugly female pop star in a long, long time. The particular tack was looking at the halo effect of fame and pop culture familiarity that turns funny-looking male pop stars into sex symbols. Evidence: Justin Timberlake (goofy looking), Jay-Z (perfectly oval head), Puff Daddy (weak chin).

Deaf Culture Is Pretty Ridiculous [9/5/06]: It started out with the observation that you don't see advocates for the preservation of "Blind Culture" like you do for Deaf Culture. I abandoned this post without going any further because: 1.) As a sighted, hearing dilettante, I felt I didn't really know enough, and 2.) I was chicken about raising the ire of the Deaf community.

SEO [9/5/06]: Remembering how back in the day, I argued that URLs should be readable by, and have meaning for, humans (as opposed to the dynamically-generated URLs we saw back then), and how SEO has brought that back around. No real point except to crow about the obvious.

We Are Our Words [9/24/06]: Just a general grammarian's plea for proper grammar and spelling in online postings.

stroke material [10/28/06]: Commenting on some racy American Apparel and True dating ads.

I Like Girly Conditioner [10/29/06]: That was about it.

Old Movies, New Commercials [11/27/06]: Impotent fist-shaking at the then-newish Direct TV ads that feature actors doing ad pitches cut into famous movie scenes.

The DC Blogs Map Is Not the Territory [1/3/07]: Not sure what this meant, other than the fact that the DC blogging community is more than the blogs that show up in DC Blogs.

The Perils of Command Lines and Visiting the Past [1/11/07]: I think this had to do with a command line screwup I made.

Something about chewing gum for your health [2/22/07]: I chew a lot of gum.

WaPo and VA [5/24/07]: A one-note joke based off an IM conversation, about how the Post coverage of Virginia is disproportionately about Clarendon: "we don't just cover Clarendon... we talk about Rosslyn and Ballston, too."

Flickr Video Whiners [4/11/08]: Remember the hubbub about Flickr adding video? Me neither.

Unintended Lessons From the Virgin Festival [8/27/08]: 1.) My wallet is thinner without all the crap in it. 2.) My trunk has more room without all the crap in it. 3.) If you drink 4 Red Bull and Vodkas, you'll have trouble going to sleep. That was about it.

There were a few others that didn't even have titles, and some that I purged that didn't deserve any recognition at all.

I still have a lot of unformed draft entries, though, and I see some repeats -- themes that keep popping up in different forms, which means I'm still thinking about them. They'll eventually emerge, I think.

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