Dumb Things I Have Done Lately

Monday, January 22, 2007

Fat Penguins and Scenes from the Snow

This no-camera thing is sort of liberating, actually.

I met up with the folks at the Boulevard Woodgrill (the original plan had been to hit up RiRa, but there was a line).

The bar area there is really narrow and crowded (which is a little odd, considering that by the end of the night, the rest of the restaurant is empty.) It makes for lots of incidental contact and some okay people watching -- I had my eye on a large chocolate cake, as well as a trio of young bucks trying to pick up on 2 girls (leading in with the ever-popular, "we got a round of shots for you.")

There was also a comparison of different pickup lines/jokes -- Jenny led with "Fat Penguin," and Scott countered with the Reese Witherspoon stabbing (which is a joke, believe it or not)

We got kicked out at midnight and went to Galaxy Hut (where we met and hung out with a visiting Aussie named Dan); after that closed, we went to Ryan's house (after a brief encounter with an Arlington County fire truck that was blocking my car in).

I didn't get home until around 4am. I also rediscovered that the left travel lane at the intersection of Reston Parkway and Baron Cameron Ave does not trip the roadbed sensors that trigger the traffic light.

Snow Day

I woke up this afternoon to the snow. I had some vitally important errands to run, so I blatantly disregarded any suggestion to stay off the road. My ABS kicked in one or twice, but it was generally okay, though I did see:
  • A seven-car accident on the toll road (two cars were facing the wrong direction; only a few of them looked smashed up, though)
  • A Trans Am driving backwards on Sunrise Valley Drive -- the bit by the golf course is hilly, curvy and surprisingly treacherous; I guess he couldn't make it.
  • A couple of cars high-centered on medians or slide off the side of the road, as well as a few just abandoned in turn lanes.
Anyway, I survived. I would prefer to have the unseasonably warm January we had before, though.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Blogger Meetup Says: Virginia Is for Snipers

I went to the revitalized-for-2007 DC Blogger Meetup on Wednesday at RFD & dragged along my friend Adam (who has a blog, but hadn't been part of the dcblogs.com scene).

It was pretty hopping. I had a few Leffes. I also took this picture of the men's room wall:

Virginia Is for Snipers

"Virginia Is for Snipers" and some other quotes.

Saw a bunch of familiar faces and met a few new folks. I also:
  • Called someone a blog groupie (though in actuality, she had a blog but didn't cop to it until afterwards -- a first, I think).
  • Was reminded by Amber that we first met at a blog happy hour (my first) almost precisely a year ago.
Here's my sole other photo from the evening:


Eventually, we got a ride back into Arlington and hung out at Ragtime for a couple. I'd never been before, oddly enough, and had been led to believe the demographics were pretty favorable, though I didn't see much evidence of that.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

You Don't Have to Listen to Me (But You Shouldn't Break the Law)

I was on the way home from the DC Blogs Summit -- I'd parked my car in Clarendon, but ended up Metroing to Rosslyn since I didn't feel like waiting for the Orange Line. I also thought I would try for some photos. In retrospect, this was probably a mistake, since it was cold and my feet hurt.

And I only got one marginally usable photo:

Shiny Sculpture in Rosslyn

I was at the intersection of Clarendon and Barton, when an SUV full of guys rolled up next to me at the red light, asking... something. I couldn't quite make it out.

Since they were apparently Middle Eastern by way of Eurotrash, I finally figured out they were looking for Guarapo, so I told them they'd passed it, and to take a left on Barton and go back around on Wilson.

I'm not sure if they understood me or not (I even pointed and used hand signals).

However, one thing I am quite sure I did not say was "Keep going straight on Clarendon, through the red light," which they did... directly in front of an Arlington County Police cruiser (marked, even).

They immediately got pulled over.

I felt vaguely bad (even though it wasn't my fault), but it was cold, so I didn't stick around to see what happened.

Lastly, I did manage to catch a snowflake in my hand -- I wasn't sure if it was snow or ash from a fireplace or something, but it was a snow flurry.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Washington Post's Secret Plans for Local Blog Domination

News.com had an article today about how the Washington Post is looking to more closely integrate its Web and print operations. Here's a perfect (though inadvertent) example:

Gene Weingarten's Sunday column addressed the whole "Christopher Hitchens sez chicks ain't funny" trainwreck (which I'm not going to talk about here because it's, well, tedious -- see a comment I made on the issue in the Too Many Words blog).

Here's the relevant excerpt, faithfully reproduced from the print edition:
"I don't have anything to say. I do have something to sing. Here is my song "What Was I Thinking" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/
content/audio/2006/12/13/AU2006121301229.html). And here is a special new verse I added just for Gene -- and Christopher, of course (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/

-- Christine Lavin, folksinger / songwriter"
Now, can you imagine someone trying to hand-type those nightmare URLs into a Web browser? (I had to add line breaks to keep them from blowing up my page.) The inclusion of those URLs demands that you visit the Post Web site so you can at least copy-and-paste the URLs. It's brilliant! Synergy!

The Post and DC Bloggers

Now, I've always liked the way the Post has experimented with integrating community and new media/social media into their primary content. They've usually done it in a careful but substantive fashion (not just throwing up a link to a Web bulletin board up and calling it community).

This dates back to their scheduled Live Online Web chats (they were only nominally "chats," but they were still pretty interactive -- and useful).

More recently, they were one of the first big mainstream news sites (that I recall) to incorporate Technorati modules in articles to show linking blogs (a feature which was discovered by spammers shortly afterwards, of course).

Then, about the time Jim Brady came on board, they started ramping up on the blogs and Web-only features (with the attendant stumbles, of course, but that's to be expected).

Now, as DCist and others have reported (I think it started snowballing -- no, the other kind -- after I-66 blogged about it), they're reaching out to the local DC blogging community for a DC Blogs Summit next Tuesday, Jan. 9.

At a guess, they're making contacts with the local blog community, to take on what Backfence and others are trying to do. It looks to be a follow-on to a similar, but closed, event from this past August (my invite undoubtedly got caught in my spam filter).

In the Web 1.0 world, we thought (well, I thought) that newspaper Web sites were going to be the logical hubs for local community content. Newspapers had local presence, resources and most importantly, name recognition and eyeballs.

It never really panned out fully (hell, I thought that the local free alterna-weeklies were going to get a bigger piece of the local online community pie); maybe the participatory Web wasn't really ready until blogging came around. Or maybe it was because of high walls between the "real" newspaper operations and the "web stuff." Or maybe it was because newspapers pretty much expected everything to happen on their own sites -- a variation of the walled garden.

However, the rise of blogging, as well as old-school social media like Web boards and craigslist, has kind of flipped this around. Instead of newspaper sites trying to incubate and hoard user content, what they can do now is go into the maturing social media space, find stuff like DC Blogs, see what other folks are doing (including DCist, Metblogs DC, Backfence), try it out on a smaller, faster scale (DC Express), then look to see what else they can do simply by aggregating and linking to unaffiliated contributor content.

Is it an attempt to get free content -- a crowdsourcing variation, to use the en vogue term? To an extent, but they've still got eyeballs to spend, which matters. Plus, it gives everyone a degree of freedom -- bloggers are free to talk about whatever they want, which the media site is free to feature -- or more importantly, not feature.

And there's still room to offer wholly-owned content, which now has more stuff -- an active environment -- in which to develop.

On top of that, the newspaper sites can add value by doing the things that only professional media can do really well (primary-source, long lead investigative reporting; writing without using the word "douchebag", etc).

Anyway, I plan on attending the thing next week to see what's up. It should be interesting, even if it's not.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Scavenging the Cooling Corpse of Tower Records

When we last left my very manly Sunday (two weeks ago), I was on my way home from the canceled Over the Rhine show at Jammin' Java.

Driving home on Route 7, I passed by the Tower Records and saw the "Going Out of Business" sale signs:


I'd thought they'd already been liquidated, so feeling a powerful mix of nostalgia, curiosity, and bargain lust, I pulled a U-turn.

I hadn't been to that particular Tower in a while, but I always liked going, especially when I worked in Vienna, because:
  • It was open until midnight
  • The listening stations were okay (they lacked a fast-forward, though). It was where they would showcase their featured CDs, which were usually loss-leaders and thus, relatively non-overpriced
  • The magazine section, of course, was pretty good
  • It was two doors down from the Ranger Surplus Army-Navy store.
So I'd spent my fair share of time and money there in the past -- though there were plenty of occasions where I would just go in, browse for a little bit, grab a free City Paper and leave.

They were in their last 10 days (which means they're toast now), and as the sign said, "Sorry, we have NO new releases":

No New Releases

Inside, the shelves were pretty bare:


CDs were 60% off, DVDs 50%, magazines 90%. This, of course, meant that for the first time, Tower was selling reasonably priced merchandise.

The bare shelves and the fixtures tagged for sale made it a pretty depressing scene -- you can check out the DCist article that came out a week after I went (Tower Bids Final, Low-Priced Farewell), as well as the Post article (For Tower Records, End of Disc) -- they both have the tone and substance captured pretty well.

My purchasing calculus went like this: At 60% off, it made new CDs slightly cheaper than trying to buy them used. Not sure if they still got SoundScan credit, though.

I could have waited a few more days to get a deeper discount (20%, as it turned out), but I didn't feel like losing out, especially after an hour or so scavenging.

I ended up buying 10 CDs. The first two were 2 bucks each; the rest averaged around 7 bucks per, so the final damage was about $66:


I pretty much stuck to artists with whom I had at least some familiarity, and I ended up with:
  • Dada, How to Be Found
  • Banco de Gaia, You Are Here (At 2 bucks, I took a flyer on it. There are a couple of good tracks on it, I'm going to have to give it a deeper listen.)
  • Durutti Column, The Best of (This one's for you, Biffko. Well, figuratively, anyway.)
  • Josh Rouse, Subtitulo (I think I actually read the Pitchfork Media review for this one, which savages it, but I have one of his other albums and saw him open for Cowboy Junkies, so I got it anyway.)
  • JunkieXL, Today
  • Air, Moon Safari
  • The Heartless Bastards, All This Time (I'd first heard about them on All Things Considered; I was listening to this in the car during the drive; it's really good)
  • The Donnas, Gold Medal (I can't be certain from the spine, but I'm pretty sure that's it) Update: Okay, I was completely wrong; The Donnas was a previous purchase from the CD Cellar; that CD is Mojave 3, Puzzles Like You
  • The Charlatans UK, Simpatico
  • Shonen Knife, Genki Shock (Come on, it's Shonen Knife)
So it was a pretty fruitful trip.

I'm going to miss Tower, though vulturing the liquidation sale brought me back to New York, where across the street from the Tower records at West 4th, there was a Tower Clearance Outlet that had some really random stuff (including dirt cheap pr0n DVDs -- score!) upstairs. It used to be a staple of my NYC visits.

Anyway, I wonder what's going to end up in that space.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Meet the Farkers

I finally made it out to a DC Fark party Friday night.

This was after a few previous aborted attempts, where I'd gone to the venue but failed to meet the Farkers (like during the night at the Big Hunt), mostly due to a lingering shyness that makes me unwilling to go up to random people and ask "Are you a Farker?" (though it might make an interesting conversational entry, a.k.a. line.)

Meeting up with online people in real life is nothing new, of course. I've been doing it for 10 years, which means I was doing it way before Dateline NBC made it cool. (Why are you looking at me like that?)

Typically, though, I've been a more active contributor in those communities. While I've had a Fark account for a few years, I don't post very often, and it's been a while since I've had a submitted link approved.

I made it out to Whitlow's, and headed to the back bar for a drink as I looked for the party. I saw a group in the back room that looked like it was loitering with intent, and I asked the waiter for confirmation.

Mid-sized story short, I hung with the Farkers. I met a bunch of folks, including 612WharfAvenue, Bufu, Creepy Lurker Guy, Kronicfeld, MsStressa, Stars_at_Night, TheKnownUniverse, TheMailDemon, and a bunch of people whose names I forgot (including some ultralurkers who don't have accounts -- not that there's anything wrong... actually, I think that is kind of wrong).

I was not involved in any shenanigans, though I did take pictures. I tried to avoid using the flash as much as I could. You can see the full set of 18 pics here: Friday Night Fark Party at Whitlow's.


I have no idea, either.


"Let it rain. Clear it out."


There was a lot of kissing going on.


I like this one, in spite of, or probably because of, the fact that you can't really see anything.

The Whitlow's segment of the party broke up before midnight. There was talk of an afterparty, though I headed home safe and sane.

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