Thursday, July 19, 2018

20 Years Ago on July 19, 1998 -- All-You-Can-Eat AOL

[In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary.]

July 19, 1998: Third text promo is "Unlimited Time Offer: 'All-you-can-eat' AOL, $21.95/month." I don't remember if I wrote that gem solo or in consultation with the member marketing folks. Note that we're also still pitching 100 free hours in your first month (in the right column). ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Also in the right column, check out the AOL NetMail promo. A lot more about Netmail in the coming months.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

20 Years Ago on July 18, 1998 -- We Add a Lame Disclaimer

[In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary.]

July 18, 1998: The first Saturday home page, which means it was scheduled on Friday. You can also see in the printout header that it's a screencap of the offline HTML template mockup that I used for copyfitting.

There's a fairly small but telling change that was added in the days after launch that most people would miss (I nearly did just now): Just below the nav bar, and above the promo block, we added a tiny text line that says, "America Online's Internet@Large Experience."

It looks like a slogan, but it's actually more of a disclaimer: I forget exactly why we were told to add it, but I think it had something to do with the fact that some of the execs were concerned that people would confuse with the core AOL service offerings.

Of course, this little line of text would do absolutely nothing to alleviate that; it was a tiny piece of ass-covering that we were told to add. 1998_07_18

Ad spot of the day: Lower right in the ad block, the ad for Cybermeals: "HUNGRY? Point. Click. Eat." Yeah, like that would ever become a thing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

20 Years Ago on July 17, 1998 -- Tiger and Mel

[In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary.]

July 17, 1998: We're name-checking a young, up-and-coming golfer named Tiger Woods. I wonder what ever happened to him?

You'll also notice that the four text promos are color-coordinated with the adjacent graphic promo. The designers would create the graphic, then give me the hex color codes for the table rows to match.

I'll talk more about the graphic promo creation process later; it was a point of contention between design and editorial.

Monday, July 16, 2018

20 Years Ago, on July 16, 1998 -- A Word on Web Centers

[In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary.]

July 16, 1998: Nothing particularly interesting; the graphic promo is a fairly generic promo for the Travel Web Center.

Web Centers were just categories; they almost, but not quite, aligned to the AOL Channels. Part of the reason was to increase the available ad inventory (at least it was, later on): they weren't extensions of AOL Channels on the web, they were completely different, and differently sellable thing. That was our story, and it was true (at least as far as they reflected the organizational relationship between and the AOL service channels.)

Also, If you look in the Web Centers column, you see that they're listed in order of popularity, not alphabetically.


Sunday, July 15, 2018

20 Years Ago on July 15, 1998

[In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary.]

July 15, 1998: There's Something About Mary opens in the US. (Note the current slew of articles about the film's 20th anniversary.)

Naturally, we used a Cameron Diaz photo for the graphic promo spot:


Free AOL Hours Offered: 100 (in your first month.)

Saturday, July 14, 2018

20 Years Ago, On July 14, 1998

20 years ago on, on July 14, 1998 (Bastille Day), I was part of the team that relaunched the website.

It featured a new home page that I did the content for; at the time, that just meant writing the 4 daily text promos and text/graphic promo spot (more on that in the future), and some text promos below the fold that rotated on a weekly-ish basis. Everything else on the page was static (well, except for the four ad spots in the top right):


Depending on the specific time period, there were actually a few different versions of the home page: one view for non-AOL members (people using external, standalone browsers) that was mostly an ad to sign up for AOL (this is the version that the Internet Wayback Machine would tend to crawl); an AOL member version seen by people using the (much-hated) AOL client web browser; and later, a version for AOL members signed in to their Webmail accounts using external browsers.

The promos that I wrote were most visible in the member signed-in views.

Anyway, I'd write the promos in an HTML template to make sure the copy fit, then paste it into our publishing tool (I think we launched with the Java-based Shakespeare), then use a push tool to publish it to the staging server, then out live to production.

As part of my process, either from the preview staging server or after it went live, I'd take a screenshot and print it out. (This July 14th launch version was definitely the live version, as you can see from the header URL.) I don't think I kept the soft copy screenshot, just the hard copy, which went into a folder and that I kept, even after all this time.

(One other thing: The footer with the legalese often printed to a second page; you can see here where I cut it out and taped it to the first page.)

Anyway, to commemorate the launch, and to open that time capsule from the late 1990s, I bought a new scanner (after I upgraded to High Sierra, my original 4-in-1 wouldn't scan anymore) and now, mostly as a writing prompt, will be publishing an image of the home page from that day, 20 years prior, with a little commentary as appropriate, and as best my faulty memory can recall. (I'm also publishing all the scans to a Flickr collection: 20 Years Ago On

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Eulogy for My Dad

As written and delivered, Saturday, March 24, 2018, St. John the Apostle Roman Catholic Church, Linden, NJ:

Many of you know the story of how my father came to the US and gained his citizenship. It’s a long one, with lots of dramatic twists and funny stories, and my sister Theresa does a much better job telling his story in her documentary film about his life, “Every Day Is a Holiday.”

That phrase comes from one of Dad’s sayings after his time as a prisoner of war: "Every day as a free man is a holiday." I didn’t really, truly understand that until my sister, after years of prodding, finally got him to open up and share his story.

We can also see his story in the people who are here today to pay their respects, many who have traveled hundreds (even thousands) of miles, over journeys lasting many dozens of years: fellow veterans and members of the American Legion; classmates from Manhattan College and University of Bologna Medical School; colleagues from the East Orange VA; neighbors and friends from a long life well-lived.

And of course, his loving family.

As we honor Dr. Paul Yokwah Loong and say farewell to him, we remember many things about him: the pains he endured and the sacrifices he made; his kindness, care, and compassion for all those he helped; and most of all, his devotion to God; his steadfast patriotism for his country; and his tireless  love for his family.

My father rarely had a problem falling asleep, and always slept well. He liked to say that the reason was simple: It was because he had a clear conscience.

Dad is at his eternal rest now, and I know he goes there with a clear conscience.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Why I Haven't Been Around

I've been scarce lately because my dad had a stroke just after Valentine's Day, and I've spent much of the past 3 weeks in a hospital near my hometown trading off days and nights with my family. (Thankfully, my bosses are fine with me working remotely, and the wifi is adequate.)

I'll spare you (and myself) the medical details. After a night in the ER, dad was moved to the Critical Care Unit, surrounded by tubes, wires, sensors, a rotating staff of nurses and doctors, and a general sense of helplessness felt by the rest of us.

A series of tubes.
After a week, he was moved up to a regular room, where we remain (with a brief diversion to sub-acute care until a complication popped up).

Right now, NJ just went through a winter storm (parts of the state got over 2 feet of snow, though our area didn't get nearly that much), so I figured I'd catch up on a few things.

I guess I've been lucky up until now, as even at my age, I haven't had to spend much time in hospitals, either as a patient or a visitor. Though I'm definitely catching up now: Over the years, I guess hospitals figured out that it was better to let a family member stay overnight. Hospitals are disorienting enough as it is; after a while, I was having trouble keeping track of the days.

They're also pretty difficult places to get actual rest, with all the tests, scheduled medications, position changes, and beeping machines. (So much beeping.) A recliner helps, though.

Dad's is pretty much out of the acute phase of things, and we're all trying to figure out what happens next. I won't get into his prognosis, though we're trying to be optimistic and realistic.

Anyway, I figure I'll be spending a whole lot more time in NJ and traveling back and forth. I'm also trying not to commit to anything I can't easily get out of over the next few months.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween 2016 Costume Lessons: Nobody Watches Quantico

I gave up on ABC's Quantico before the end of Season 1 because it got too ridiculous, but it doesn't mean that I couldn't still make a Halloween costume from it.

As many have noted, the trainee outfit is built around a light-blue, long-sleeved henley t-shirt, with khaki cargo pants (optionally bloused/tucked), combat boots, red training gun in holster, and a badge.

There were plenty of reference photos:

Up until now, I didn't realize the male and female cargo pants were different shades.
The onscreen blue henley is four-button, waffle-textured, and way too expensive for a long-sleeved t-shirt, but I was able to find an acceptable substitute for $15 on Amazon. The shade was "eh, close enough."

(Incidentally, if you Google search on "light blue waffle henley shirt," there's an important two-word phrase in there that may pull up some verrrrrrry different search results than you might be expecting.)

I had everything else (after spray painting red the toy gun from my 2010 sheriff costume), and made the badge in photoshop:

The fonts are a bit off, but honestly, who cares?
IMG_6573 IMG_6575

As to the finished product, over three wearings in three days, exactly two people knew what the costume was... and one of them was an actual FBI agent. Also, the holster is a pain to drive in.

So, I've used up my fallback costume, which means that I have a year to come up with something for 2017.

Monday, March 28, 2016

This Is 44

I've been dreading my birthday this year, because it meant having to come up with a whole new batch of 44 factoids with which to reply to my Facebook well-wishers.

Sure, the first few dozen are easy; they're straight pulls from Wikipedia. But then things start getting ugly.

This year, I topped out at about 150 factoids:

F-44 is the NATO designation for JP-5 jet fuel

The Q44 is a vital inter-borough transit link, connecting the Bronx and Queens while providing connections to several subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road.

The Z44 Corvette Z06 427 edition was built in 2008.

HMS Lagos (D44) is a 1944 British Royal Navy Battle-class destroyer

The T-44 is a medium tank first produced near the end of the World War II by the Soviet Union.

S44 is the postcode for Bolsover, North East Derbyshire in the UK

The W44 was an American nuclear warhead used on the ASROC tactical anti-submarine missile system. It has a yield of 10 kilotons.

Z44 is an Italian distilled dry gin

Interstate 44 (I-44) is a major Interstate Highway in the central United States, running from Wichita Falls, Texas to St. Louis, Missouri

V44 is a brand of pure super premium wheat-vodka produced by the Bratislava-based company European Spirits and Liquor.

The Robinson R44 is a four-seat light helicopter produced by the Robinson Helicopter Company since 1992.

Papyrus 44 is an early copy of the New Testament in Greek. It is currently housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

C44 is the chess opening King's Pawn Game

C44 is the FAA code for Toutant Airport in Putnam, Connecticut

The Y44 is an OHV V8, 16 valve, 4 barrel down draught carb engine produced for the Nissan President and since 1975 used electronic fuel injection.

6Q0B44E, sometimes abbreviated to B44E, is a small object, probably an item of space debris, currently orbiting Earth outside the orbit of the Moon.

The Xccelerator X44 is a 4-string electric bass from Carvin Guitars

The M44 was an American-made self-propelled 155mm howitzer

The M44 is a planned motorway in Hungary.

The BMW M44 is a straight-4 dual overhead cam piston engine that was produced from 1996-2001.

The M44 is a carbine variant of the Russian Mosin-Nagant rifle.

The 44th atomic bomb test at the Nevada proving grounds was approximately 25 kilotons and occured on April 15, 1955.

According to Transparency International, Rwanda is ranked 44th on the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index

Utah is the 44th most obese state in the US, with 21.8% of adults classed as obese.

In the 2016 NCAA tournament, Gonzaga was the 44th overall seed.

44 in Morse Code is ....- ....-

Matthew 22:44 -- "The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?"

In the presidential election of 1964, Lyndon Johnson won 44 of the 50 states (plus DC)

Exit 44 on the Garden State Parkway is Pomona Road in Pamona, New Jersey

The Passage Island Lighthouse in Michigan is 44 feet high.

"44 Minutes: The North Hollywood Shoot-Out" is a TV movie about the famous bank robbery in Los Angeles.

44 in binary is 101100

Ivory Snow soap was advertised as being 99 and 44/100% pure

44 stone Public House is a gastropub in Columbia, MO and has live tap cams

In 2015, the Coast Guard rescued a man who was stranded 44 miles off the Jersey shore, and had been treading water for 4 hours.

Dennis the dachshund lost 44 pounds, going from 56 to 12 pounds

"44 Inch Chest" is a 2009 movie; its IMDB summary is "A jealous husband and his friends plot the kidnapping of his wife's lover with the intention of restoring his wounded ego. "

44º Celsius is 111º Fahrenheit (and 44º Fahrenheit is 6.66º Celsius)

44º North Vodka is made in Idaho from Idaho potatoes.

Fire Station 44 in San Diego serves Eastern Mira Mesa and its surrounding areas. Engine 44's district is 6.58 square miles.

Batman #44 was published Dec. 1947/Jan. 1948, and features the Joker.

This year was the running of the 44th Iditarod sled race, won by four-time winner Dallas Seavey.

The 44th episode of Futurama is "The Route of All Evil", where Dwight and Cubert take over Planet Express.

The 44th National Organic Chemistry Symposium occurred June 28-July 2, 2015 at the the University of Maryland, College Park.

The 44th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) was staffed at the onset of the Korean War, June 1950

Eric Idle was the host of the 44th episode of Saturday Night Live, broadcast April 23, 1977.

The 44th Fighter Group is a classic association partnered with the 325th Fighter Wing at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., as well as a subordinate unit under the 301st Fighter Wing, Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas. The unit's mission involves F-22 5th generation aircraft and T-38A Adversary aircraft.

The Royalton hotel in New York is located at 44 West 44th Street.

The 44th Session of the UN General Assembly ran from Sept 19, 1989 to Sept 17, 1990

The weekly e-newsletter of the New York City Bar Association is named the 44th Street eNews. It goes out on Mondays.

Schumann's Piano Quintet in E flat major, Opus 44 was composed in 1842:

The FCC's Auction 44 occurred between August 27 and September 18, 2002 for the Lower 700MHz Band.

Title 44 of the South Carolina Code of Laws covers Health.

The Powerball lottery is played in 44 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.

The No. 44 Society is a book collectors' club at the University Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

NO-44 was a satellite built by Navy midshipmen launched September 30, 2001 aboard the “Kodiak Star”, a Lockheed-Martin Athena I launch vehicle.

44 Interactive is a digital advertising agency in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Route 44 of the King County (Seattle) Metro system runs from Ballard to Wallingford to UW Station

The winner of Best Original Song at the 44th Academy Awards was the Theme from Shaft.

Earlier in 2016, a man posted a video showing himself learning to juggle from scratch in 3 hours and 44 minutes

The Breitling Chronomat 44 Blacksteel retails for $9,930

In 2015, the world's first 3D printed car was finished in 44 hours

The work time in Brazil is 44 hours per week, usually 8 hours per day and 4 hours on Saturday or 8.8 hours per day.

Italian runner Gianclaudio Marengo was found on a subway 44 hours after starting the New York City marathon.

The Newhouse 44 consists of 44 Syracuse University graduates who are experts in the various facets of the communications industry.

The Chicago Board of Trade North Building is 44 stories.

UTV44 (WJTC) is an independent television station located in Pensacola, Florida, that also serves Mobile, Alabama.

The Twitter handle @44 belongs to Menotti Minutillo

The Ferno Model 44 Rescue Seat is constructed of tough reinforced vinyl that is easy to clean and resists blood and bodily fluids.

The Model 44 Aristocrat is a Manley Aristocrat popcorn popper.

The 44th Army Surgeon General is Maj. Gen. Nadja West, the Army's first black female to hold the rank of lieutenant general.

The John Deere Model 44 is a front end loader.

The IBM System/360 Model 44 was a specialized variation of IBM's System 360 computer architecture designed for scientific and real-time computing and process control.

The Model 44 was announced August 16, 1965 and withdrawn September 24, 1973.

In this year's NCAA tournament, Texas A&M came back from 12 down with 44 seconds to play to beat the Northern Iowa Panthers in double overtime.

PBS and PBS KIDS Receive 44 Daytime Emmy Nominations for the 43rd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards

Kevin James to Suit Up for Inspirational Football Movie '44'

Psalm 44 begins, "We have heard it with our ears, O God; our ancestors have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago."

U.S. Code: Title 44 is about public printing and documents.

The 44th Annual World Series of Poker was in 2013 at the Rio in Paradise, Nevada.

Expressionist painter Jackson Pollock died at the age of 44.

The 44th day of the year is February 13.

Wyoming became the 44th state on July 10, 1890.

For her 44th birthday, Koko the gorilla received 2 kittens.

The 44th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference was held in The Woodlands, Texas, March 18-22, 2013.

The Algonquin Hotel, home of the famous Algonquin Round Table, is located at 59 West 44th Street.

The 44th Precinct in New York City contains Yankee Stadium, the Bronx County Building, the Bronx Hall of Justice, the Grand Concourse, Concourse Plaza Mall, Concourse Village and 146,000 residents.

F. Scott Fitzgerald died at the age of 44.

Minneapolis is located at 44°59′N 93°16′W

The 44th parallel north crosses Europe, the Mediterranean Sea, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America, and the Atlantic Ocean.

The 44th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment was an infantry regiment raised in Virginia for service in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. It fought mostly with the Army of Northern Virginia.

In the 44th Primetime Emmy Awards, Murphy Brown took Best Comedy.

In the 44th Grammy Awards, Alicia Keys won Best New Artist

The Swiss liqueur Tempus Fugit Liqueur De Violettes is 44 proof

A 1.5 ounce shot is 44 milliliters

After drinking 24 shots in less that 2 hours, Michigan State University Bradley McCue died with a blood alcohol level of .44

In the 44th Academy Awards, The French Connection won Best Picture

Super Bowl XLIV was between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts, Feb. 7, 2010.

Expedition 44 to the International Space Station consisted of Commander Gennady Padalka, Mikhail Kornienko, Scott Kelly, Oleg Kononenko, Kjell Lindgren, Kimiya Yui

Herod Agrippa of Judea died in the year 44.

Julius Caesar was assassinated 44 BC

Billie Holiday died July 17, 1959 at the age of 44.

In the year 44, Boudicca married Prasutagus, king of the British Celtic tribe the Iceni.

Marvin Gaye died at the age of 44, one day shy of his 45th birthday.

In the year 44, the emperor Claudius returns from his British campaign in triumph, the southeast part of Britannia now held by the Roman Empire, but the war will rage for another decade and a half.

In the TV series Lost, Jacob and the Man in Black were born in the year 44 on an island in the South Pacific Ocean.

In the year 44, Gaius Sallustius Crispus Passienus (that's one guy) and Titus Statilius Taurus become Roman consuls.

The denomination 44 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.

Year 44 was known at the time as the Year of the Consulship of Crispus and Taurus (or, less frequently, year 797 Ab urbe condita).

Municipal Okrug 44 is the former name of Moskovskaya zastava Municipal Okrug in the federal city of St. Petersburg, Russia

44 figures prominently in the famous Dirty Harry quote:
"I know what you're thinking: "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I've kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"
44M Tas Rohamlöveg is a Hungarian tank destroyer design of World War II, derived from the 44M Tas tank

44M Tas is a Hungarian medium/heavy tank design of World War II

In an operation to capture Zulkifli Abdhir and Abdul Basit Usman, 44 of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force died during the Mamasapano clash, they were later dubbed as The Fallen 44 or SAF 44.

Number 44 (Russian: Номер 44) is the Russian localized title for a 2015 American-British mystery thriller film Child 44.

44 is an agent in the American Television series Get Smart. Agent 44 is usually assigned to small, enclosed, unexpected spots to meet Maxwell Smart, agent 86.

There are 44 candles in a box of Hanukkah candles.

Mark Twain's The Mysterious Stranger features Satan's supposed nephew, whose alternate name in parallel works is "44".

Barack Obama is the 44th President of The United States of America.

Wyoming was the 44th state to join The United States of America.

44 is the largest number for which Wolfram Alpha offers a visual representation.

Forty-Four is the name of a blues song, also known as "44 Blues"

44 is the number of the French department (a region kind of like a state)

Vicks Formula 44 is a cough suppressant

In the song 44 fours by Jay Z, he rhymes the words four, for and fore 44 times. This song is a follow up from the song 22 two's.

+44 is the name of the band including Blink-182 vocalist/bassist Mark Hoppus and Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker.

44 is the common name for the .44 Magnum or .44 Special revolver cartridges

44 is a poker game in which each player is dealt four cards down, and four cards are dealt face down on the table in a row. The first three cards on the table are "community" cards and may be used in any player's hand. The fourth card and any card matching it in rank is wild, and can also be used in a hand (each player is guaranteed one wild card). For each of four rounds, one "community" card is flipped up and a round of betting occurs. After the last round, the winner is the person with the highest poker hand.

44 is the name of a mysterious savior of Poland prophesied by the Polish national poet Adam Mickiewicz in his masterpiece dramatic poem Dziady (Forefathers): In scene 5 of act 3, the priest Piotr announces a "reviver of the nation" who is to bring back the lost freedom of Poland, and describes him with these words:
Born from a foreign mother, his blood of ancient heroes,
And his name will be forty and four.

Pennsylvania Route 44 (PA 44) is a long state highway in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania

U.S. Route 44 is a highway that runs from New York to Massachusetts

Interstate 44 is a freeway that runs from Texas to Missouri

44 is the code for international direct dial phone calls to the United Kingdom.

44 is the number of a car once driven by Dale Jarrett in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (then known as the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series)

44 is the Formula 1 driver number for Lewis Hamilton commencing from the start of the 2014 season.

44 was worn by a number of football legends at Syracuse University, worn most notably by Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little, and Rob Konrad. Although the number was officially retired in 2005, the legend of 44 remains an important part of the identity of Syracuse University.

Jeff Mullins wore the #44 during his Duke career. The number was retired in 1994

44 is the retired NBA number for Dan Issel, (Denver Nuggets); Jerry West (L.A. Lakers); Paul Westphal (Phoenix Suns); Sam Lacey (Sacramento Kings); and George Gervin (San Antonio Spurs).

44 is the retired NFL number for Floyd Little (Denver Broncos) and Pete Retzlaff (Philadelphia Eagles)

44 is the retired number for former baseball players Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey and Reggie Jackson; the number is sometimes considered to be a "hitter's number".

44 is the Saros number of the lunar eclipse series which began on October 1, 1363 BC and ended on March 27, 153. The duration of Saros series 44 was 1514.5 years, and it contained 85 lunar eclipses.

44 is the Saros number of the solar eclipse series which began on April 30, 1448 BC and ended on June 7, 168 BC. The duration of Saros series 44 was 1280.1 years, and it contained 72 solar eclipses.

The New General Catalogue object NGC 44 is a double star in the constellation Andromeda

Messier object M44 is a magnitude 4.0 open cluster in the constellation Cancer, also known as the Beehive Cluster

44 is the atomic number of ruthenium.

In decimal notation (base 10), 44 is a palindromic number and a happy number.
Given Euler's totient function, φ(44) = 20 and φ(69) = 44.

The aliquot sequence of 44 is (44,40,50,43,1,0).

Since the greatest prime factor of 442 + 1 = 1937 is 149 and thus more than 44 twice, 44 is a Størmer number.

Forty-four is a tribonacci number, an octahedral number and the number of derangements of 5 items.

44 (forty-four) is the natural number following 43 and preceding 45.

The M44 cyanide device is used for the elimination of suspected livestock predators. It uses a spring to propel a dose of sodium cyanide into the predator's mouth.

Navy Capt. Daniel Dusek will spend 44 months in prison for trading classified info for booze, food & sex

In a news story this week, "A Scottish man surgically outfitted with a so-called “bionic penis” has lost his virginity at age 44 with a sex worker who donated the session."

The Federalist No. 44 was written by James Madison and is entitled, "Restrictions on the Authority of the Several States"

"Many believe that, in Sonnet 44, Shakespeare is distraught over the absence of the Earl of Southampton, who was Shakespeare's patron for a time and perhaps his lover as well."

Monday, November 09, 2015

My Runaway JLENS Blimp Costume, Halloween 2015

Although I'd made significant progress on my dad bod, I didn't really have a costume for Halloween this year. Getting down to the wire, I was resigned to buying something off-the-rack.

Then, on Wednesday, October 28, a JLENS sensor blimp got loose.

Inspiration struck. But could I do a costume in less than three days?

The Planning
I didn't have a lot of time to plan. Initially, I thought about using a balloon (and in retrospect, I should have tried harder to go this route), but I couldn't find the right shape, so I decided to make something with paper mache.

I looked at some reference images, and just needed a rough teardrop shape, with fins, and a bulge on the bottom for the sensor pod. I tried making a model out of aluminum foil:


The structure would be chicken wire, though I decided to add some supports, using round foam core discs hot-glued onto a dowel:

Next, came the chicken wire, which was a pain to work with. I eventually got it into a teardrop/bomb/whale shape -- since it was a runaway blimp, it didn't need to be perfect. And it wasn't:

I decided I would wear it on my head. For the mount, I wrapped chicken wire around the bike-helmet-in-a-box mount from last year's Speed Hump sign costume, and then wired the "sensor pod" to the bottom of the blimp.

The chicken wire, painful as it was, was the easy part. Next came the paper mache, which I haven't worked with since... I'm not sure. It was messy. I laid it down in neat rows, instead of criss-crossing all around, so the bottom parts wouldn't stay on and there were lots of gaps. I started about 8pm Friday night, and kept going for about 10 hours, before taking a 2-hour nap.

Eventually, by early afternoon on Saturday, it looked like this. I used white duct tape to patch some of the bigger gaps, and used a heat gun to dry off the dampest spots. (If you look closely, you can see scorch marks.)

The fins were easy -- I made 3 out of foam core, and hot-glued them in place. Then it was ready for painting.
It's a lopsided oblong shape, so if I ever need a whale or Super Guppy cargo plane, I'm set.

Because I built it on the floor, I didn't really get a look at the underside. This would be a problem, because I didn't see what the gaps looked like, and since I'd be wearing it on my head, people would be looking up at them. But it was too late to really do anything about it, so I painted it:

The paint was dry to the touch in about 30 minutes, so that was about it.

The Wearing
To test it, I hoisted it onto my head and buckled the strap. It was a lot heavier than I expected, and wasn't balanced particularly well. But I was stuck with it.

Ultimately, I only lasted about 10 minutes under it -- it was unstable, I had a hard time walking indoors with it, and it wasn't very much fun wearing it. So I switched to a backup costume for the rest of the evening.

Like I said, since the aesthetic was "crashed runaway blimp," I could live with the imperfections (and there were many). But if I had to do it again, I wouldn't do paper mache -- it was too heavy to support with just my neck -- I'd just find a regular balloon, or even just tether a helium balloon to my head. And while I can't say I enjoyed the build process, I did find the experience educational.

Materials list:
* 5-pound bag of white flour (for making paper mache)
* Newspaper
* Foam core board (for fins and internal support)
* 5/8" dowel (36" long)
* Roll of chicken wire
* One can of lacquer-style white glossy spray paint
* Hot glue gun
* Heat gun
* "Bike helmet in a box" mounting system
* Pliers and tin ships for cutting and bending wire.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Greek Way: Fraternities at Duke, 1989-1990

This is kind of random; I'm trying to incrementally declutter my house, which in this case means reluctantly going through things I haven't touched in over 25 years (like I said, incremental), when I found something that I've had since my p-frosh days. (Incidentally, it seems that "p-frosh" is a Duke-exclusive take on "pre-frosh.")

Actually, I don't remember if I received this before setting foot on campus or after, but that's not important. It's a booklet entitled, The Greek Way - Fraternities at Duke, 1989-1990, and it was given to all the freshman males to introduce them to the fraternity system at Duke, the rush and pledging policies, and descriptions of all the fraternities.

I never rushed, so I don't know why I kept it all these years (lie: pack rat), but I decided to scan it and share it so I could throw out the hard copy. It's a forty-page PDF file, complete with advertisements, embedded for your perusal:

Consider it an artifact for the archives, a historical document in an era before Facebook, Snapchat, and email. The pictures in the scan are only slightly more terrible than the actual photos in the booklet (such was the state of printing back then).

I didn't really read for detail, but the most interesting part was the fraternity descriptions, submitted by the fraternities themselves. Some play it straight and dull; others go wacky; some try for a bit of edge. A plurality bemoan the impossibility of capturing the diverse, mold-breaking, stereotype-defying essence of their fraternity in words (so come by kegs, meet some of the brothers, and judge for yourself etc.)

And then there's the stuff that would never fly today (at least not in a publication that features an introduction from the Dean of Students), the standout being this little tidbit from Delta Kappa Epsilon in response to the question, "What is the best thing about being a Deke?" "Beautiful little sisters with no tolerance." (Page 12.)

Anyway, now I can throw out the hard copy. Yay for infinite bits!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Vital Update on My TV Viewing Habits

I was cleaning out space on my DVR (the modern digital analog of the VCR, which as Douglas Adams so deftly noted is a labor-saving device that "watched tedious television for you"), so here's where I am with the summer TV lineup. (May contain nuts. And spoilers.)

"The Last Ship" (TNT) -- Silly as all hell, and enough plot holes to sink the USS Nathan James, but the close-combat fight scenes are very nicely done. Status: Still lasting, but only half-watching until the fight scenes.

"The Strain" (FX) -- Also pretty silly, but still watchable. I like how the show's New York City has gone from complete vampire-denial, to the stringing up of decapitated corpses on Staten Island. I was about to make a similar comment on how much son Zach has grown, even though only a few weeks have passed on the show, but I see he was replaced after season 1 with another actor. He seems older, more sullen, and irritating. Carl, is that you? Get in the house! Status: Still watching, but not straining. Goes good with meal prep.

"Tyrant" (FX) -- I like it, even though I'm still hoping that Barry wins power, then gradually turns heel and becomes a tyrant himself. (I mean, the parallels with Bashar al-Assad weren't exactly subtle. But maybe having an Americanized protagonist break bad like that doesn't work, even on basic cable.)

The latest episodes pretty suddenly introduces the show's version of Islamic State/Daesh, then turns Barry into an insurgent. We'll see how that goes. And when will Barry's daughter get some plot lines? She's like the female version of Bobby Draper from "Mad Men." Status: Still watching, usually while editing photos.

"Killjoys" (Syfy) -- I tried. Really, I tried. But I just couldn't care anymore, and if I wanted to watch "Firefly," I'd just watch "Firefly." Status: Killed joy.

"Dark Matter" (Syfy) -- I tried. Not as hard as with "Killjoys", but I still tried. Not even Agent Curtis could save my interest in the show. (He's still on "The Strain," though.) Status: Doesn't matter.

"Hannibal" (NBC) -- (Boy, not a lot of network TV shows here.) I'm not caught up, mostly because you actually have to watch the show when you watch the show. Status: Still watching. Still cancelled.

"Defiance" (Syfy) -- This is a show that I'm still watching, and I'm not sure why. (Also, see below.) A lot of turnover in the cast since last season. And while I like Lee Tergesen in his scenery-chewing turn as a marauding general, they're really dragging out this season's impending invasion of the town. Status: No wordplay, no idea why I'm still watching. But I am.

"Falling Skies" (TNT) -- This show has been on for five seasons. Five. I've been half-watching since almost the beginning (I still haven't seen the first episode, which annoys me), and I haven't stopped watching. I think it's because I just want to see how it ends, but I'm not sure if that's because of or in spite of the soapiness of the writing. (Blonde arch-nemesis! Brother love triangle! Pope's heel turn!) Oh, and Mira Sorvino seemed perpetually confused that she was on the show. Status: Watching for the fall. Or the fold. As in "while folding laundry."

"Humans" (AMC) -- I almost skipped this show. I'm glad I didn't, it's much better than I expected. Status: Still watching.

"Mr. Robot" (USA) -- Technically, I'm not watching "Mr. Robot" yet, because it's piling up on my DVR. But I'm hoping I'll get to it. Status: Planning on watching.

"Married" (FX) -- I think this is the only sitcom I watch right now. And it's not really a sitcom. I mean, it's more comedy than a dramedy. Maybe it's a "com-a." No, that won't work. Anyway, it's a pretty easy lift and low commitment, since it's only a 22-minute half-hour sitcom. (Fun fact: I think I'm older than everyone on the show except Paul Reiser. Actually, that's wrong -- John Hodgman has me by a year.) Status: Watching.

Anyway, after writing this, I see I could pretty much cut the cable cord if I could get FX, USA, AMC, Syfy, and TNT. (Add in Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, and FXX, and that would pretty much be it, outside of PBS, which I could get over the air.) I'll have to see how that might work.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Fringe Festival Saturday, 2015

Last weekend was the first weekend of the 2015 Fringe Festival at its new locations (Trinidad, near H Street; Brookland; and Gallaudet). Unfortunately, it was also a weekend of scheduled track work on the Red Line, which meant a lot more bus-hopping than usual.

I took the train in, switching to the free shuttle to get to NoMA, then walked to the Logan Fringe Arts Space (the new location of Fringe HQ) for the first show, War and Peas. Actually, I had to run the last few blocks (didn't want to miss a show, unlike last year).

The show itself was mostly dance and puppets; it was okay, but the show is really meant for kids, and there weren't that many of those at the 2:30pm show (even including the one kid who had to leave due to meltdown issues).

I also didn't have time to hang around on H Street (a short walk away), or even at the new Fringe Bar, since I had to catch the Fringe shuttle to get to the next show in the Brookland neighborhood.

I'd never been to Brookland -- its a very suburban-feeling neighborhood, one that's seeing a lot of new, hip construction around the Brookland Metro stop.

The second show was really good: Tammy Faye's Final Audition. The lead actress was great (also, as the play started, I was in the front row of her "studio audience" and she greeted me), but I was also impressed by her co-star, who portrayed four characters, including Jim Bakker and Jim J. Bullock.

Afterwards, I did have some time (though, as it turned out, not as I thought) to grab a beer and a catfish po' boy at the Brookland Pint, at the Brookland Arts Walk:

Brookland Arts Walk sign
My third show of the day was out-of-the-way, at the DC Arts Center in Adams-Morgan (not too far from Amsterdam Falafelshop... my original plan was to get a falafel there, but the po' boy put a stop to that). I got on Metro, but after the mandatory switch to the Metro shuttle, I knew I wasn't going to make it in time, so I got out at Metro Center and cabbed it the rest of the way. Wasteful, I know, but I wasn't going to miss out on another show due to mass transit delays.

As it turns out, I probably could have saved the cab fare (though we'll never know), since the showing of Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom started a little late. The show itself was creepy and I think I missed a twist or two, but it also had a nice use of bloody wound makeup.

So that was my first round of Fringe shows. I have three shows left on my current pass, but I think I'll spread them out a bit more, especially so I can spend some more time on H Street this weekend.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

I Held on to AOL Stock. Which Proves I'm an Idiot

I am stupid and I enjoy throwing away money. This is the only conclusion a reasonable person could make upon hearing what I'm about to post. (It's also the ultimate justification for the name of this blog).
Did you know that AOL was acquired by Verizon for $50 a share? I did. Did you know the deadline for accepting the share purchase offer was midnight Monday, June 22? I didn't. (Seriously, who would have thought? The deal closed in 42 days, making it the 11th-fastest acquisition deal over $1 billion this year.)

Apparently, I still owned some ESPP shares from way back that had been converted from AOL to TWX and back again. And by not responding to the letter in that funny-looking envelope, I missed out on the $50/share buyout offer.

That basically means that I now own shares in a company that no longer exists, and left a bunch of money on the table, because I didn't read my snail mail.

How much? In raw terms, it was... enough to cause flinching and moderate psychic pain. However, as they were ESPP shares, it means some of them were underwater, and the rest just represented years of blood, sweat, and tears. 

In the final accounting, I'll say it cost me more than a modern big-screen TV, and less than a moderately-priced used car. 

Call it a tangible reminder that stupid should hurt (or at least cost).