Dumb Things I Have Done Lately

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wearing My Homemade Blackjack Dealer Costumer (Part 2 of 2)

I built a wearable blackjack table for Halloween. [See Part 1, the build.] Then I got to wear it:

Me, behind the finished product.

I already owned the tuxedo shirt and bow tie. Same with the red vest. (I'd originally sized the harness for a black vest I had, but the red one was wider and hid the harness better, and besides, when you're wearing a 3.5" wide green table, restraint should not be the objective.)

The Wearing
I met a bunch of friends to pre-party before we headed over to Carpool in Herndon, for the Fairfax Athletics Midseason/Halloween Party.

This was actually the first time I'd actually worn the entire, completed costume. It seemed to work okay, once I made it in the door: At about three-and-a-half feet wide, you have to go through sideways (and carefully).

This also makes navigating crowded rooms interesting. The padded rail and a firm voice helps. And when you order a drink, it's best if someone can pass your drink from the bartender.

* My costume was very well received. People wanted to know where I'd gotten it. (It was only later -- like, today -- that I found you can buy a cardboard version for $40, but mine was much cooler.)

* Since the harness is almost completely hidden, folks asked how it was held up -- since the platform is at waist level, there's a built-in "I'm just happy to see you" joke.

* Wearing a blackjack table is a good icebreaker -- everyone wants to play:

Hey, sailor, new in town?

I dealt a lot of hands to random people over the course of the night, though as time went on, my counting skills (with both chips and cards) deteriorated.

Oh, and to keep things simple, I didn't do insurance, and I was paying blackjack 2-to-1. We weren't playing for real money (didn't want to have to deal with that headache), so who cares?

* It's not really heavy, especially at first, but I definitely started feeling it in my back (I'm still recovering from a mild strain from a few weeks ago). I was a little sore the next day.

* It's pretty easy to take off and put on again, which is an important consideration since I wouldn't want to try taking a leak while wearing it. It would be... messy.

* Initially, I was concerned about sturdiness, but it's pretty solid. The pipe clamps were tight, and the triangle frame supported the platform pretty well. And no one tried leaning on it, thankfully.

* People (myself included) will want to set their drinks down on it:

Dealing to Harem Girl Michelle

Since the platform is attached and moves with my body, being a drink tray is a potentially dicey situation. I'd thought about adding cupholders, but besides being extra work and having to work around the frame -- hey, people can hold their own drinks.

There were a couple of minor spills, nothing too bad.

* Minor design flaw: If you have short arms, it can be hard to pick up cards at the edge of the platform.

* Happily, even though I'd pre-emptively written off the chips (I only brought half from the set), I didn't lose a single card or chip.

* Lastly, remember: The house always wins:

Jeremy "Cobra Kai Johnny" preparing to sweep my leg.

Enhancements and Conclusions
I had a lot of fun with this costume, primarily because it's interactive and fully functional. Oh, and with it, I also won $100 in the costume contest. (Which basically covers my material and tool costs.)

Unfortunately, outside of a party this Halloween night (and maybe Saturday), there doesn't seem like I'll have any excuse to wear it, which is a shame.

I guess I could rent myself out to be a roaming blackjack dealer at parties.

Last week was something of a dry run. In preparation for this weekend's Halloween activities, and after seeing some of the photos, I decided to spray paint black the exposed bits of the frame, because the bare wood looked pretty cheesy. (Incidentally, I found my black spray paint -- it was next to the laundry detergent. No idea why).

I also painted the lower part of the PVC harness -- against black pants, it should be even harder to see. (You can see the PVC poking out in a few of the photos. Well, it's PVC, as far as you know.)

Other enhancements I'm considering -- cutting in a casino-style money drop slot, and painting more decorations on the felt ("Joe's Casino" and such). Though I'll probably just leave it be. I might still extend the bumper around to the back of the frame -- it'd be a quick fix.

You can see the full photo sets here: Halloween Costume Build 2008 and Fairfax Athletics Halloween Party, 10/25/08.

Lastly, thanks to Cockeyed.com's Rob Cockerham for the inspiration and instructions on how to build the harness and platform.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

That Last Rep Was Probably a Mistake

I jacked my back a little bit at the gym this afternoon. It's okay as long as I don't need to sit on the floor. Or touch my toes.

I was doing squats -- after 6 weeks of doing 20-rep sets, I switched to 5-rep sets (I hadn't been making too much progress anyway -- still haven't conquered the "eating right" portion of things. Though I was able to fit into my suit a couple of weeks ago).

Now, the free weight racks were taken, and I didn't feel like waiting, so I went over to the Smith machine. It locks you into the vertical axis, which was okay for the warmup sets, but it was a mistake for the work set.

The right side of my back had been a little sore, so I was already favoring it a bit. I went for one last rep (I figured out last week that by widening my stance, I could get closer to parallel without making my knee feel funny), when I felt a silent little ping in the lower left part of my back.

I set the weight down in a rapid, but controlled fashion. I did finish the workout in half-assed fashion, but we'll see what Mr. Advil has to say about this tomorrow.

In other news, the Adams Morgan Street Festival was Sunday, and it was middle-of-summer hot. I walked up and down the hill a few times, ran into Martin, got my usual pad thai and Jamaican beef patty (but no chicken on a stick or steak in a sac), but didn't end up taking any pictures. Not even of the "No curry, no spices" faux-thai stand, the "Pad Thai, Corn Dog" stand, the Madam's Organ festival boycott storefront, or anything else. I was uninspired. That, and thinking about my backlog of photos.

I also spent about an hour in the CD store, at first to cool off, but then looking through the discount racks. Emmet Swimming and Republica for 15 cents each, then taking a flyer on Eiffel 65's Europop, Sister Machine Gun's Burn and Liz Phair's Juvenalia for a buck each, and then two BRMC albums (B.R.M.C. and Howl) for a bit more.

Saturday, caught Chuck Brown at the Kennedy Center Open House (after some GPS- and parking-related misadventures), then went to hang out on U Street for a bit.

Anyway, I think I will take that Advil now.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Hirshhorn After Hours: What Ticketless Suckers Can Expect

Hirshhorn After Hours is tonight. Advanced ticketing, which I think was available all the way up until yesterday, is now closed.

If you didn't get your tickets in advance (fool), you can still purchase tickets at the door. Here's what you can look forward to, based on my previous experience in April (I scribbled notes on an old ATM receipt):

* 7:30pm: Get to the museum. Congratulate myself on my cleverness and foresight in getting there 30 minutes early.

* 7:31pm: See the line, which already runs down Independence from the museum entrance in the middle of the block, down to the corner on 7th. Stop congratulating myself.


* 7:35pm: Suffer the indignity of being gawked at tourists on Segways:


* 8pm: The line, which has stretched far down 7th, out of sight, starts moving. Advanced ticket holders start arriving and breeze past us. I hate them.

* 8:35pm: Getting through the cursory bag check, I turn around and take a picture. Then, more waiting:

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After a few more minutes, we get inside the building. The security guard at the door has a clicker -- I ask him and he says the count is already at #250.

Since there are supposed to be 500 tickets at the door (and 1500 presale), I wonder how many disappointed people there are going to be. Their number do not include me, as I get mine.

At this point, I should be able to stop taking notes. But I don't.

* 10pm: Smell the first doobie of the night.

* 10:15pm: Overheard: "This is, like, the best party I have ever been to." Surmise speaker needs to get out more.

* 10:30pm: The beer starts to run out.

Here are some photos that are not of the line -- the lit plaza fountain from above (through a dirty window) and band Hooliganship:
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Purple and shadows:

A faux-infrared photo -- the pink/orange light from the building was a neat effect on the trees:


You can see my full photo set (including some sculpture and many museum artwork labels) on Flickr: Hirshhorn After Hours, 4/4/08.

And I look forward to breezing past the line-waiters tonight.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tech Cocktail DC 2

Thursday night was Tech Cocktail DC 2 -- you can see Frank and Eric's writeup on the Tech Cocktail blog.

There are some good photos of the event on Flickr. Unfortunately, they're not mine. Mine are here: Tech Cocktail DC 2, 4/24/08.

The event was pretty packed. The bar was slammed -- for a while, it was tough to get a drink. (And those Revolution Health guys have sharp elbows.)

It was a little less crowded upstairs:

Looking down from the balcony.

There were lots of familiar faces -- AOL had an anchor sponsor position by the sign-in. Plus, there were a bunch of folks I'd seen at other recent DC tech events, like Social Matchbox DC and PodCampDC.

Tech Cocktail founders Frank Gruber and Eric Olson.

Left: JC and PJ.

Right: Lisa, Paul, JC.

Kerry Parkins and Will Kern from Mixx.

The Mixx crew was pretty prolific with the stickers -- Kerry stuck one on my back; she used me for branding, I used it as a conversation starter ("Hey, you've got a sticker on your back." "Why, yes, I know.").

Tom Osborne gives the evil eye. Or something.

So it was another good event.

As with last time, a bunch of folks decamped for the Daily Grill, but me, I just took my swag (including another AIM running man baseball cap -- just what I needed) and limped home.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Social Roundup: Getting Lucky at a Fark Party and More

Looking back, I had a pretty active latter half of the week.

Saturday was a DC-ish Fark party, at Carpool in Ballston. I am happy to say that I got lucky and scored in a big way, snagging a prime, um, parking space in the Carpool parking lot.

In all my years down here, I think that's the first time that's happened.

It was a good meet; we had a spot at the bar, and it was busy but not too crowded. It was a smaller meet, but there were some new folks.

It was not a sausagefest.

I'm not sure what Chris and Jess are trying to do here, but whatever it is, you're doing it wrong.

It started out pretty warm, but then it got cold. I don't remember when I left, but I'm pretty sure no one got stuck with a huge bill this time.

Friday, I met up with the Gel-Man, who was in town for some training:

Obligatory Metro shot. I didn't bring my camera, so had to settle for the cameraphone.

We met at Mackey's, then moved to Lucky Bar for a bit. I guess I just can't hang with the youngsters any more, since we took off as it was starting to pick up. (Then again, I had been drinking -- moderately -- since 5pm.)

On previous trips, I hadn't noticed the strong odor of empanadas permeating the bar from Julia's next door. It was slightly irritating, since I'd just eaten at Mackey's and wasn't at all hungry.

There was also an interesting-looking building demolition nearby -- K or L street, around 17th. It made me wish again that I'd brought my camera:


Waterfall effect.

Pile of scrap metal debris.

Passing it again at night, there was an interesting scene with the work site lights going through mist from the rain and spray from a hose, but that picture didn't come out.

Thursday was all over the place. I got out of work about 3:30pm and needed to grab a bite and kill some time before a Social Media Club DC event in Falls Church, so I stopped by Clare and Don's Beach Shack.

I'd planned on eating, then moving to Stacy's Coffee Parlor to mess around online (I haven't been yet, but it's next to the CD Cellar), but then David told me that the Beach Shack has wi-fi. And the signal is perfectly fine from the patio seating. And it was about 70 degrees out. Score.

I anticipate I'll be there more often. Unlike some others I could mention.

The Social Media Club DC event was just down the road at Viget. Here's Aaron streaming video of audience comments with his Mac's iSight:


After the discussion, I hung out for a bit, then went back to the Beach Shack, since I'd convinced the Captain to come out. Here, he shares a big Guinness with Rebecca:
Guinness, now served in handy book form.

After that, it was off to the tail-end of a pre-season kickball happy hour at Carpool back in Herndon:
This season, we're trying out the Fairfax Athletics league instead of WAKA, so we'll see how that goes.

Wednesday was the Washington Psychotronic Film Society's showing of Kentucky Fried Movie at its new location at the (new) Old Arlington Grill restaurant at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse. It's a little space just off (and before) the ticket booth.

I got there about quarter to 9, which means I missed a few of the opening sketches, but arrived just in time for Catholic High School Girls in Trouble. Here's a cameraphone photo I snuck:

The movie ended about 10pm, so I decided to head over to Galaxy Hut. Driving down Clarendon Boulevard, I saw a striking young woman wearing a very trendy black and white trench coat-ish jacket, and I said, "Hey, this looks like someone I'd like to know." But it was just Jenny. I yelled at her through the car window to meet me at the Hut for a drink. (I'm persuasive that way, and the fact that it's on the way home doesn't hurt.)

The patio is also open for the season, and the Patio Clown is waiting for you:

I also hadn't realized that the Hut acquired the silo from Dr. Dremos -- it's at the end of the patio. That makes me happy -- I like the silo.

Anyway, that was last week. I still have to talk about Hirshhorn After Hours, the Mike Doughty show and a few other things. But that will have to wait.

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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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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

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:

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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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