Dumb Things I Have Done Lately

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Blog Performance Anxiety and Procrastinating Your Way to Immortality

My blog drafts pile has been building up, while my actual blogging has been going down. I can only blame Twitter and posting in other blogs to a limited extent.

The actual mechanism goes something like this:

* Gather blog material into drafts.
* Procrastinate, delay, obfuscate.
* Despair at evergrowing pile of drafts, whose short half-lives are rapidly aging into irrelevance.
* Horde drafts, in the hope that events will come around that will provide hook with which to revive draft.
* Take perverse comfort in completely specious rationalization that I can't die with unfinished business, even though I know it happens all the time.

How's that working out? I'm reminded of an old Bloom County cartoon (I took the liberty of scanning it, possibly from my copy of Bloom County Classics of Western Literature):

Binkley: Ya know, Voltaire once said that there's a certain inevitable futility in indecision.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Things I Don't Want to Deal With Right Now

Just a partial list of things I should be dealing with, but choose not to:

* Raking the leaves.
* Repairing the roof [Basically, just choosing between proposals and signing on the line that is dotted.]
* Adding more insulation to the attic.
* Fixing my credit rating.
* Saving the date for my 20-year high school reunion next year.
* Damage controlling my 401k.
* Taxes.
* Dealing with my fear of dying.
* Dealing with my fear of dying alone.
* Thanksgiving.
* Fixing personal e-mail schema.
* Relaunching my blog in a fashion that distinguishes my silly catless cat-blogging from everything else.

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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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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Feel the Awesome Healing Power of Kurt Russell

I'm sick. I have a cold. I thought I was getting better, but it was apparently the lull before the peak, which just hit me now.

So right now, I'm grabbing a blanket, loading up the DVD player with 3 movies I've seen a million times before, plopping myself onto the sofa, and striving to move as little as possible for at least the next 6 hours or so.

The lineup right now is Big Trouble in Little China, Escape From New York, and The Thing. I was originally going to go with Predator, but will try the Kurt Russell triple-play. This may change, especially since my DVD player doesn't really like my copy of The Thing.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Managing to Annoy Me

My homeowner's association recently switched management companies (an embezzlement scandal will tend to do that). I didn't know about it, which was annoying -- I don't go to the HOA board meetings, but they could have at least told us about it before the first invoice came out.

The new company is a local joint -- Millenium Management. They've already managed to annoy me because:

* The name of the company features a prominent misspelling -- "Millennium" has two N's. (Though, curiously, their URL uses the correct spelling: http://www.millenniummgt.com -- which means they're basically typosquatting themselves.)

* According to their site:
"We provide the same management services offered by other HOA management companies. What sets us apart is the manner in which we provide those services."
This is actually true -- the fact that they don't give you a payment envelope in the bill certainly sets them apart.

The payment coupon also isn't perforated -- you have to cut it with scissors, knife, or maybe a piece of flint chipped to a cutting edge.

What are we, savages?

I expect that from the Federal government (I had to send them a check, for reasons I will get into some other time), but at least they give you a return envelope (even if the payment coupon didn't really fit right -- the address doesn't show without modification).

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

No More Human-Flavored Pez

With the Washington Post's Sunday Arts & Style realignment, I see that the "Life Is Short" human interest haikus (funny, they don't look haiku-ish) are no more.

This disappoints me -- they were inoffensive, quick and tasty bits of humanity, ranging in flavor from sweet to bittersweet (though always in a self-consciously-treacly kind of way).

Like little pieces of human-flavored Pez.

And yet the Sunday Source continues. Go figure.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

All I Want to Do Is Buy Some Goddamn Popsicles and Go to Sleep

It's been a rough couple of weeks on the personal blogging front. Almost makes me want to try swigging from a random bottle of 1800 tequila sitting on the curb of Clarendon Boulevard late Saturday night/early Sunday morning:

Fortunately, it was empty.

This was after heading up to Dupont Circle, which I will maybe talk about later, since as mentioned, I just want to buy a bag of store-brand Popsicles, cook a steak, (eat it) and go to sleep.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Followup on Wonkette and Burning Blog Bridges

So, following up on my entry this week about how Wonkette was sponging off the DC Blogs Noted feature (without attribution), I see that the most recent Wonkette Metro Section entries are no longer cribbing exclusively from DC Blogs; I see they're also hoovering from DCist and Washington DC Craigslist.

I also note that Big Head DC took pains to mention my AOL affiliation (and that if anyone mistakes me for an "Internet guru", it's an indicator that they're paying attention to what Wayan has to say).

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wonkette Editors Are Shameless and Lazy. But We Knew That

I guess I'm the last person to notice, but there's a been high correlation lately between the blog picks that show up in DC Blogs Noted and Wonkette's Metro Section.

In fact, they've been just about identical. (Ah, but pity the poor souls who are featured on DC Blogs, but don't make the Wonk-cut. I just made that up. I'm so clever.)

I'd first noticed this on the 15th -- Wonkette and DC Blogs are just a few tabs apart in my Local folder, and 4 of the 5 featured blogs were the same. I had a moment of deja vu before I figured it out.

On the off chance that it was some sort of baroque, creditless content swapping deal, I'd asked the DC Blogs folks about this -- Pat wrote back that they'd noticed Wonkette was using the same picks, but that they didn't care and that it just drove more eyeballs to the featured blogs. Win-win-win.

It's pretty obvious that Wonkette and others watch the live feed (which is what it's there for), but cribbing from the editorially-chosen selections of DC Blogs Noted, without giving credit, is a cheeseball move.

I know I shouldn't look gift pageviews in the mouth (DC Blogs listed my 9/11 Raisin Bran entry, which was then mentioned in Wonkette, tripling my usual pageviews and validating my heretofore worthless existence), but I hate to see Pat and the rest of the DC Blogs crew not get the credit they deserve for the work that they've done.

Of course, I would hate it more if the Wonkette folks bagged the live feed and picks out of spite.

So, I'll just take my Junior G-Man badge:

Vincent Hanna says: "Well, I am over-fuckin'-whelmed. What do you want for that, a Junior G-Man badge?"

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Why Economists Are Not Real People and Other Lessons From My Recent Reading

I just finished reading More Sex Is Safer Sex, by economist Steven Landsburg, and was reminded just why economists are not real people.

Actually, I may be painting with too broad of a brush, since Landsburg isn't just an economist, he's a libertarian economist, which means he's doubly nuts.

Now, in theory, aspects of libertarianism thinking should appeal to me -- I generally want to leave people alone, and be left alone.

However, like many economists and libertarians, he goes off the rails and into his own little libertarian economist-land where:

* People have perfect information
* People can accurately gauge the costs and benefits of their actions
* People act rationally based on that information
* Market prices truly reflect the value of things

Since I got a C in Econ (barely), I should probably stop here. I will just say that economists are not real people the same way that game theorists are not real people.

Other books I have read of fairly recent vintage (last 6 months or so):

* Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad, David Zucchino: This book depressed me. Not because the startling strategic success of the invasion only serves to highlight the lack of post-invasion planning and incompetent implementation that's landed us in this fiasco now. Nor because of the loss of human life.

It depressed me mostly because the book prominently features captains and majors, all are my age or even younger, who have responsibility and leadership over hundreds or thousands of lives, whereas I can barely take care of my own.

* The Road, Cormac McCarthy: This one didn't depress me. Instead, I felt despair. And hunger. Maybe because I'm in year ten of my ongoing existential crisis, but the thought of an entire world that's gone so far bad that death is a welcome alternative... it just gets me.

Stylistically, the short and choppy fragments and phrases bothered me. I got used to it, but I can't say that I enjoyed that bit.

Oh, and I read it before it made Oprah's Book Club.

Other than that, there have been some zombie books (which I'll talk more about some other time).

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Monday, June 25, 2007

From 0 to 140 in 35... Years

I'm up to 140 now.


It's not the good kind of 140 -- the "lean, rock-ribbed, 6-12 packed, resting heart rate of 55 kind of 140."

It's the "flabby, out-of-breath climbing the stairs, 30 minutes of light-to-moderate activity followed by 3 hours of drinking beer" kind of 140.

I thought I was going to start the week out right and get to the gym, but I started flagging towards 8pm.

I hit a brief uptick where I thought I'd make it, but then I had to spend 10 minutes fiddling with some printer settings (I had to print out my temporary car registration renewal), and the window of opportunity was lost.

I figure I can coast a bit more (good genes), but I got to get back on the wagon soon, or else I'll never make it as an underwear model.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Undoing the Damage Done: Blogger's Labels vs. Technorati Tags

I've been untangling 6 months worth of stupidness with my blog categories (Blogger insists on calling categories "labels," which in my mind is only outstupided by Salon's insistence on calling comments "letters").

Ever since I switched over to the Blogger beta, I've been trying to figure out the best way to combine the functions of externally-oriented tagging (tagging content so others can find it, primarily through Technorati searches), with internally-oriented tagging (tagging or "labeling" to have discrete categories to organize my posts).

For a while, I tried to do both (the categorization via labels and the tagging through the Greasemonkey Technorati Tagging Script), but having two sets of tags/labels was ugly and inelegant. So I decided to stick strictly to the labels.

Boy, was that a disaster.

What I failed to fully realize is that Blogger creates an aggregator page for each one of your categories/labels. So when I started using labels for single-use, one-off tags ("stupid html jokes" or "hot and ugly"), I was also creating useless aggregator pages with lone entries.

This created a whole bunch of unnecessary pages, which greatly increased the number of pages that need to be updated whenever I posted or edited an entry.

In addition, it basically made the categories useless as categories.

So after an initial cleanup this weekend, I was left with 261 categories... and 218 of them had only one entry. (And of course, editing old entries pushes them back up into the DC Blogs feed, in case any feed watchers wonder why 6-month old entries keep popping up.)

Now, I'm down to about 80 categories -- the number will drop a little more as I do some final cuts, then rise again as I start categorizing old posts and making new ones, but keeping it under 100 should be manageable -- as long as I can apply a little self-discipline.

Yeah, that's another trainwreck in the making.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

The NRA's National Firearms Museum Bugs Me

So as I mentioned yesterday, after I got done filing my taxes, I stopped by the National Firearms Museum, which is at NRA HQ in Fairfax (right down the road from my CPA):

NRA HQ in Fairfax

I've been there before, though not in the digital camera era. You can see my full set of 50 photos here.

The exhibits started to bug me after a while. And not for any political or ideological baggage -- it's a museum full of guns at NRA headquarters, so it comes with the territory. It's for other reasons [Update: A few weeks later, Philip Schreier of the NRA museum e-mailed me -- I posted his response, which addresses the issues I raised]:

* Aesthetics: The presentation for a bunch of the displays just... lacks. You've got a lot of glass display cases, relatively close together, and the lighting leads to a lot of reflections, and you've got layers of pistols in front of rifles and the like. All of which makes it really hard to get a picture where you can clearly see what's inside the case:

Japanese guns of WWII
You can sort of see the WWII-era Japanese firearms here.

Since it's a relatively small space, I don't know what they can do, but a lighting consultant couldn't hurt. The reflection problem, for example, didn't seem quite as bad in the Marine Corps Museum (I still need to get my pics up from March).

Similarly, some of the older, rarer, and presumably more valuable items in the Old Guns in a New World gallery are in a kind of display bunker, which makes it really hard to get a good view:


Okay, so asset protection is important. I get that. Then what about the diorama-ish window treatments in the Revolutionary War House display and Civil War Federal arms factory, that pretty much only serve to obstruct the view?

DSCF1064 DSCF1066
Left: Revolutionary War muskets. Right: Civil War carbines (note the revolver action on the middle one)

* Information Design: In some of the cases, the numbered labels skip around, so you have to hunt around to see what item is which. That's a minor annoyance, though, compared to the info kiosks that have the information on the bulk of the firearms. In order to find out what's what, you have to:

1. Get the number off the display case (which is pretty easily overlooked, since it's on a frosted sticker on the bottom of each case) and the tag number off the item, then...

2. ...go to the kiosk, which typically serves a bunch of display cases and is invariably a few steps away and out of view from the one you want:

Modern assault and sniper rifles.

So you have to keep going back and forth from case to kiosk.

3. Not to mention having to key it in on a number pad that looks like it was pulled off a TRS-80, that throws a modal window if you try to enter a case number after the Num Lock key gets accidentally turned off (which shouldn't even be allowed):


...and that throws the same warning dialog every time the Num Lock key gets pressed (even if you're turning it back on).

Oh, and it runs on Windows -- I saw at least one kiosk that had crashed out to the desktop. (I didn't do it, but I didn't get a picture.)

Anyway, that's the whining portion of the program. A couple more of the more notable items:

"For obvious reasons the return of this rifle after Germany is defeated would be deeply appreciated."

The story behind this rifle is here.

A strange billy club mounted on a revolver (the gun can be fired with it on), and some snub-nosed revolvers.

A closeup of assault and sniper rifes:

French FAMAS, Czech VZ.52 (not SKS, like I thought) rifle, M-16 Colt Commando (I think), M-24 sniper rifle (I think), Dragunov sniper rifle, a Valmet assault rifle, and of course, an underfolder AK-47 with bayonet.

Gyrojet carbine and rifle, which fires a mini-rocket projectile and was also mentioned in the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice.

Some sort of prototype:


And of course, a competition target rifle wrapped in duct tape:

Apparently the shooter needed to jerry-rig some counterweights with lead wire and duct tape and decided to keep it like that.

So that's it. See the rest of the photos here.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Short People Got No Reason

It never fails:
  • In clothing stores, the "XS" and "S" sizes are invariably on the top rack. They do this on purpose.

  • My office snail mail slot will be start in the very topmost, just beyond tippytoe position. Gradually, through attrition or addition, it will move down to a comfortable eye level, at which point we will move again.
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