Friday, November 30, 2007

Today Are Crazy Sex Day, Plus 35 Is NOT Middle-Aged and Racewalking From Samurai

* Grammar Nazis and Crazy Sex Day: From today's Sinfest comic:

Sinfest's Slick: "If I was president every day would be Crazy Sex Day."

While I am something of grammar and spelling purist, I don't consider myself a "Grammar Nazi" -- I'm more of a, um, "Grammar Youth." Possibly a Grammar Detective -- part of the Grammar Police, only undercover: observing, gathering evidence, building a case.

* 35 Is Not "Middle-Aged." (Dammit): A news item of no particular consequence about a 35-year-old guy who allegedly blackmailed a 20-year-old MySpace friend into having sex (after she revealed that she'd had a three-way -- well, it just says she engaged in sexual acts with them, so I will believe what I want to believe -- with two college hockey players that she thought might have been videotaped).

Okay, maybe there's some particular consequence here (*furiously taking notes*). But the Fark headline from which this story comes reads:
"If you're a middle-aged fat guy looking to pick up college chicks, this local paper has a step-by-step guide... if you don't mind the ensuing jailarity. (with mugshot goodness)"
Besides the usual snark, there's a sidebar discussion in the comments as to what constitutes "middle age," with a lot of vociferous protestations and denial from fellow mid-30s oldsters.

As I'm going to live forever (also, I'm going to learn how to fly -- high!), I must also add my note of protest.

* Know When to Walk Away, Know When to Run (Samurai Edition): Lastly, here's a video (via BoingBoing) that asks and answers the question: When chased by sword-wielding samurai, would a champion racewalker walk or run?

Bonus: Remember this video the next time you sit in a massage chair.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Social Media Clubbing

Heading over now to an event in Falls Church (I'm going to be late, evidently) -- it's a meeting of the DC chapter of the Social Media Club.

Since we're in the penultimate day of NaBloPoMo, I wanted to get a quick entry in to make sure I didn't mess up so close to the finish line. I'll post more after.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bloggers Need Free Photos Cuz They Ain't Making Any Money

Two bloggy items -- first, somehow, I don't think this is gonna work: Corbis offers bloggers free photos, with ads:
"The photos will either include an ad overlay on part of the image, or embedded advertising that pops up when a Web user runs a cursor over the picture."
An example, based on what's at the PicApp blog.

Okay, say I really, really, really need a piece of stock art that I can't get anywhere else, and I'll put up with an embedded ad. What powers Corbis' embedded advertising? Flash. Yes, why embed a mere photo in your page, when you can have a Flash widget that looks like a photo, but also serves up a text ad?

Look, unlike some steal anything/share everything folks, I do believe in some theoretical way for content creators to maintain some level of control over their content or even get paid for the use of it (even if I Creative Commons license most of my own photos). But this is just crap.

Good luck with that, Corbis.

Oh, and they also mention potential revenue share, based on clicks to the photo. That leads to item #2...

...from Read/WriteWeb, There's No Money In The Long Tail of the Blogosphere, which smacks down some of the Web 2.0 long-tail sloganeering and says that, while long-tail content aggregation companies may be able to make money, don't expect long-tail content providers (regular folk) to do so. In other words:

"You can make money on the long tail but not in the long tail."

Sounds about right. Hey, apparently (well, according to a throwaway line in Heinlein's The Rolling Stones) the fortunes to be made during the California Gold Rush didn't come from the gold-rushing prospectors, but rather to the merchants who provided products and services to them.

And for all those get-rich-quick bloggers -- unless you find a niche (and you're a first-mover, at that), don't expect to make any money. (I used to cover my hosting nut with Google Adsense ads -- mostly from clicks on my platonic friends pages -- though that hasn't happened for a while.)

But wait -- aren't we in this for ourselves? At the very minimum, aren't we participating in the broader sphere o' blogs, staking out a spot in the global communication? Sure we are. But blogging is time and time is money. I barely pulled a C in econ, but that sounds like an opportunity cost to me -- if I spend 10, 20, or whatever hours a week blogging, when I could be using that time to earn money, at what point does it stop making economic sense to blog (or at least to cut back)? How much is ego-stroking or a creative outlet worth?

A Pocket Full of Lithium-Ion DEATH

Saw this story in Slashdot today:

Exploding cell phone battery may have killed South Korean man: officials
"SEOUL, South Korea: An exploding cell phone battery may have killed a South Korean man, police said Wednesday, although the phone's manufacturer said it was highly unlikely.


Kim Hoon, a doctor who examined the body, said the death was probably caused by an explosion of the battery.

"He sustained an injury that is similar to a burn in the left chest and his ribs and spine were broken," Yonhap news agency quoted Kim as saying." [emphasis mine]
Okay, so we know that cell phone and other types of batteries have been known to explode. But if your spine breaks due to an exploding cell phone battery, one of two things happened:
  1. The cell phone was attached to a block of plastic explosive (because you were making an IED).
  2. You were driving, the phone blew up, and you drove into a tree. (Falling off a high ledge or scaffold would also work.)
As a commenter noted, you have to remember that many South Korean doctors also believe that running an electric fan in a closed room will kill you.

Obviously, something else happened here. But you know, I'm thinking that anything to moderate the pace of cell phone usage (especially loud, public cell phone usage) may not be a bad thing.

I'm Laughing, But I'm Really Crying Inside

Another blog-focused Pearls Before Swine today:

Rat tells Goat why he likes blogs.

Bonus, via lots of places: Entire Blogosphere Stunned By Blogger's Special Weekend Post.

In other news, I'm doing laundry and listening to the oldies station (to be fair, "oldies" ain't what it used to be -- it's just classic rock).

If I get ambitious, I may reorganize my linen closet, which is demonstrating severe entropic decay.

I did have a meeting over coffee this morning, though, so all is not lost.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

As if I Needed Another Reason to Hate You

It's not enough that you're glued into the passing lane like you own it, and that you're physiologically incapable of moving out of it, no matter how many cars are stacked up behind you or how many times you're passed on the right. (I'm thinking it's a genetic trait, but I also consider environmental factors, such as having a Maryland license plate.)

Oh no.

You also have to be sporting a "9/11 Was an Inside Job" bumper sticker.

I'm a little surprised I was able to resist the urge to PIT your car and run you off the road.

I got a late start on the road this afternoon. (One of the benefits of joblessness is being able to extend a holiday weekend to avoid traffic.) I'd wanted to leave at noon so I could go see the tanks at the Army Ordnance Museum in Aberdeen, or maybe visit the NSA Museum, but one thing led to another and I didn't get moving until about 3pm.

Just in time for DC rush hour, yay.

Anyway, I made it back. I liberated my sister's old Mac Classic to add to my own junk pile/hardware museum, as well as a few other things. Now back to the non-work.

Monday, November 26, 2007

This Is a Quick Post to Stay Legal for NaBloPoMo

Tales of wild, wacky exploits in the big city to come.

Okay, now that that's out of the way. I came into Manhattan. I got a burger with t33pee at the Burger Joint. We went to other places, including the Time Warner mall and the Apple Store. I then went to the Blind Tiger. A good time was had by all. (Except those of us who did not show.) Photos will come eventually.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Getting My Mind Out of the Gutter

I spent a couple of hours up on a ladder this afternoon, cleaning the gutters at my parent's house.

Normally, it doesn't take very long at all -- they had the Gutter Helmet installed a few years ago, and it usually works pretty good.

However, after I went up, I saw that there were a couple of birds' nests up in there, jamming things up. And because the opening for the water is so small, it was pretty tricky trying to pull out the nests a little bit at a time.

The front gutter downspout was jammed up pretty good, and that's the side next to the power line, so I had to be extra careful. Though I wasn't too careful to avoid dropping the cleaning stick (an old rake prong) into the gutter.

I finally unscrewed the screw holding the downspout so I could clean it out the leaves, grass, and muck clogging it up. I put the screw on the roof. Guess what happened next.

Since the rusty brown screw disappeared after falling 20 feet into the grass, we cannibalized another screw from lower down and got everything back together.

I was kind of glad to finally get off the ladder.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Stranded in the Land of the Chinese Hair Women

As tends to happen, my parents and I went in to Chinatown today for lunch and the usual rounds. My Mom also needed a haircut, so I accompanied her to one of the many hair salons on Pell Street.

This was more than me being a dutiful son, as I, too, needed highlights and a haircut, because my roots were longer than my not-roots, and I'd already achieved my "mistaken for a woman" quota after that night at Whitlow's and an earnest "want to make friendship" e-mail from what I gather to be a Pakistani computer science student.

Why go to Chinatown to get your hair done? Try $55 (plus tip) for full highlights and a haircut, which is basically half-price. Why so cheap? Lower labor costs and extra-carcinogenic hair dyes (we pass the savings to you!).

Anyway, I wasn't the only non-local trying to catch a deal -- a few non-Asian heads passed through while I was there.

My dad wants me to get a crew cut. It looks like a better idea all the time.

Now, even though I'm well into my 30s, there are still a few times when I feel like a complete mama's boy -- and this was one of those times. This is because I was a triply-alienating environment:

1. I was in a hair salon, which is still more or less the exclusive domain of women (no matter how many male customers there are, or even if there is a more barber-ish side of the room)
2. While I'm in the chair, I don't have my glasses on, and thus can't see. When I can't see, I don't like to talk.
3. I'm surrounded by Chinese-speaking ladies. I don't speak Chinese.

Because of #1 and #2, getting my hair colored is, to me, more like a necessary medical procedure, rather than a cosmetic enhancement with social benefit. Add #3 and I'm completely out of my element.

I spent the next 3 hours in the chair. It's never taken that long before -- I guess it was a combination of: 1). Not sitting under the hair dryer to speed things up (net loss: 15 min.) and 2). Having to spend extra time painting all the gray hairs out (net loss: an hour or so. Dammit.)

The resulting haircut is pretty good; I probably went a shade too light (it looked darker in the book) and too short (my fault -- overreaction to the whole gender thing).

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tabbing Through Web Form Fields in Mac OS X

While I've always liked Macs more than PCs, over time, I'd come to appreciate one thing about Windows: Since it basically started out as a graphical shell over the DOS command line, it meant that you could do just about everything in Windows using just the keyboard (including repositioning windows).

Macs have always been built around the mouse (which makes it a little harder to defend the lack of a two-button mouse for so long), and it shows... though OS X does give it essentially a command line underpinning.

Case in point -- for a long while now, I've been annoyed by the fact that using OS X and Firefox, when you try to tab between form fields on a Web page, it skips drop-down menus. Since I was doing most of my stuff on the PC at work, this wasn't a huge problem and I never bothered to look into it, but now that I'm exclusively Mac, I found it intensely annoying.

I did a little searching around for an extension or something to change, so I found to my chagrin that it's just a simple settings change in the Keyboard & Mouse preference in Leopard (and probably previous versions) -- in the section marked, "Full keyboard access: In windows and dialogs, press Tab to move the keyboard focus between:" change the selection from "Text boxes and lists only" to "All Controls":

Why this isn't the default is baffling to me.

I'm sure I'm the last person to figure this out. (However, remember: Just because you know something doesn't mean that it's common knowledge, and just because you didn't know something doesn't mean it's obscure.)

Now that that's squared away, in System 7 and 8, I used to have an extension that assigned hotkeys to menu items (similar to Windows menus) -- I have to find the OS X equivalent.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Things I Learned This Thanksgiving

* Our family has pretty much always carved the turkey as if we were butchers (NYT video, via Metafilter).

* ICBM silo launch crews ("Turn your key, sir!") have had Internet connections since August. (One hopes they don't confuse the "really nuking people" computers with the "hackable/playing DEFCON" computers.)

* Lest we forget: Viral video marketing people are really evil. ("Shilling, friend-spamming, sockpuppets: We guarantee 100K views on YouTube or your campaign is free!")

This is not to be confused with record company viral video marketing people, who are also really evil, only in a different way.

* That Haier-built MP3 player that AOL announced at CES earlier this year? (You know, the industrial steel-looking one that looked kind of ugly in the few press photos, the one we all scratched our heads and asked "Why are we doing an MP3 player?" -- AOL never really did hardware very well.) Silicon Alley Insider looked at it, and made it sound like it... doesn't suck. (Former CTO John McKinley also popped up in the comments.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Casual Encounters: Thanksgiving Driving as a Series of Craigslist Titles

* Late-Blooming SAM Seeks Poss. LTR on the Beltway: I got a later start than I'd hoped, so I didn't really get moving until 12:30pm, which was probably about an hour too late to skate. I lost at least 30 minutes crawling on the Inner Loop. 95 and the Harbor Tunnel weren't too bad, much better than I was expecting.

* Must Love Dogs (Your Pic Gets Mine): Snapped this cameraphone pic in Delaware, which was slow around the $5 toll, but not too bad otherwise:

There were actually two dogs in the bed of that pickup, but you can only see the one.

* Rants and Raves: Hey fuckface in the blue Eclipse, zipping by the jam-up in Delaware using the left shoulder -- your flashing hazard lights aren't fooling anyone: Die in a motherfucking fire!!!!

* Missed Connection -- You: Blue Dodge Charger sedan. Me: Red Mazda Protege 5. Where: Crawling between Exits 5 and 8 on the New Jersey Turnpike. Did you feel a real link between us: How you saw how I maintained an even pace, trying not to touch my brake? The sense of mutual trust I felt, that you would pay attention to my needs, respect my boundaries, and not slam into my car? How you didn't lose your cool, even if a couple of cars snaked in ahead of me?

Call me.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Go to a Caps Game, Get a Flu Shot!

I went to the Caps vs. Panthers game on Monday, tickets courtesy of Uncle Ted (Leonsis, natch), who blogged about the game -- a loss -- and acknowledged the fans' unhappiness (as evidenced by the chants of "Fire Hanlon" and "Please Don't Suck.")

Me, I don't care about any of that stuff.

Anyway, as might be expected from a Monday night game on Thanksgiving week, the crowd was pretty thin, even filled out with AOL employees holding complementary tickets.

On the plus side, there wasn't any line if you wanted to get a flu shot:

Our seats were really good -- Section 105, Row L, just behind the goal:

Between periods, one of the AIM product managers, Ryan, was a contestant in the Fan Announcer Challenge:
She won. Funny how that works.

I saw more than a few familiar faces on the big screen and in the stands.

I have to admit, though: I was an ungracious guest -- every time the announcer mentioned AOL, I booed. Loudly (just being playfully contrary, or something):
"The Caps would like to welcome all AOL employees (and ungracious involuntary alumni) for [sic?] tonight's game."

Like I said, the seats were really good. Since we were behind the goal, we had a clear view of four goals. Of course, only 2 of them were Caps goals (we'd started out at RFD and got to the game when it was 1-1). Here's a save:

Afterwards, we hung out at Fado for a bit, where there was a somewhat-resentful trivia night crowd, then packed it in.

What's the New York MTA Doing in Tyson's Corner?

I had a lunch meeting at Cafe Deluxe in Tyson's Corner this afternoon. Lunch was good (tuna steak sandwich, medium rare), but the restaurant is under the Crate and Barrel and has what has to be the worst parking lot exit ever (it bottlenecks out onto International Drive and takes forever).

Oh, and lunch might possibly lead to some work. We'll see what happens.

Since I was right there, I went across the street to Tyson's mall. Went to the Apple Store and played with Photoshop Elements, which I confirmed works on Intel and Leopard, and has the features I need (Shadow/Highlight, primarily). So I ordered it from Amazon.

(Bet you didn't see that last bit coming.)

And just who are all these layabouts who hang out in malls during the workday?

Oh, yeah: I'm one of them.

I also stopped by Ranger Surplus, which is on Route 7 next to the old Tower Records. (It's now a DSW shoe store.) I was looking at some cheap German Army officer's jackets, but they didn't fit (right arm length, but too narrow in the not-quite Eisenhower jacket-style waist -- odd).

There was also a box of old patches that looked to be mostly old bowling patches. But a bunch of these caught my eye:


These were really familiar. It took me a minute to figure out -- it's the old logo of the New York MTA -- the Metropolitan Transportation Authority -- which switched to a new logo back in the 90s.

Here's a recent sighting of the old logo, taken by Flickr user soopahgrover:

Old MTA Logo

Anyway, I thought it was odd that the old MTA patches had made it down to a surplus store in Northern Virginia. (Maybe they're helping with the Metro extension to Dulles. It would explain a few things.)

I bought it. Set me back twenty-six whole cents.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Why Don't We Wear Helmets in Cars?

As the Great Thanksgiving Migration approaches, I've got driving on the mind, which kind of nudged something I've been percolating on for some time: Why don't we wear helmets when riding in cars?

Yes, I know it's just a bike helmet.

This is not a new musing; people have tried marketing car helmets for kids. (The thin end of the wedge?)

It also comes up whenever there's a debate about motorcycle helmet laws -- the "let the riders decide" crowd brings it up, and the pro-regulation folks either ignore it or dismiss it as a reducing the argument to absurdity.

Of course, the very idea gets wrapped up in issues of societal costs vs. personal responsibility and freedom, and is invariable accompanied by such terms as "nanny state" and "bubble-wrapping the world."

Do we even need helmets in cars? You could rationalize not needing them lots of ways:

* Inside a car, your head isn't as exposed as while on a motorcycle (But it's to prevent your head from banging around inside -- that's why fighter pilots wear them. But what about airline pilots? Hrm.)
* The safety systems inside cars already protect the head in many ways -- padded interiors, head rests, seat belts, and particularly air bags (though what about before they were available?)
* Helmets cut down on visibility and hearing (but isn't that also considered and dismissed for motorcyclists?)

But then you look at race car drivers. Even autocross drivers, many of whom drive (mostly) regular cars, use helmets on the course.

I don't know if there have been every been any studies about the benefits of helmet use in regular driving -- I would assume it'd be so unpopular that even a study would be a non-starter.

It basically comes down to the fact that most folks (myself included) just wouldn't want to wear a helmet inside a car. Ever.

Helmet laws for motorcyclists? Sure -- comparatively few people ride motorcycles, and if someone else has to do something that benefits society, we're all for it. Right?

Now, I don't think I'm turning libertarian; I don't plan on driving with a helmet anytime soon; and I do still think that mandatory helmet laws for bicyclists and motorcyclists are a good idea. I just wanted to think a little bit about why we think what we think.

Oops, forgot to put on the seat belt.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Beware Pickpockets, Loose Women, and the Irish

A bunch of us met up at Whitlow's on Saturday night, to celebrate Conor's visit.

I was the first one to arrive, at a little before 10pm. I settled in at the bar just as some guy next to me was getting kicked out. I didn't see why. Though he was wearing a visor, which may have been part of it.

Now, I'm fairly certain I haven't been drinking that much more in my enforced downtime, but I really wasn't feeling it. Even after a few beers, a round of Tuaca (I suggested the round, which I never do), and some sample shot of some caffeinated vodka that some drink reps/shot girls were handing out. (It was kind of nasty. Also weak.)

There are some photos. Here's one I took:

Beware Pickpockets, Loose Women, and the Irish.

Annoyingly, while waiting to get into the men's room, on two separate occasions, someone saw me standing and started in on the "Hey, this is the men's roo...", before they saw that I was, in fact, a male, and just sort of trailed off.

I played dumb and didn't pursue the matter. I know I need a haircut.

At the end of the evening, some guy who may or may not have been associated with the bar came in and started yelling, "You have 5 seconds to finish your drinks and get out of here."

Other people at the bar took offense to this. There was a lot of chest bumping and such. The yeller got hustled out.

I drove home, quite sober, but way low on gas. The needle was on E and the low fuel light was on. I knew I had some leeway according to the odometer, but I drove really conservatively on the way back.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Stalked by Vampire Deer at Great Falls on Halloween

I never did blog my pics from my Halloween avoidance hike in Great Falls Park which, despite only being a few weeks ago, feels like a completely different (not to mention much brighter and warmer) time.

As usual, I started in from Riverbend Park, which is about a mile upstream from the falls. In addition to not charging an entry fee, there's rarely a line, it passes by a dam, and the trails are nice.

I took photos of trails and trees. I like tip-ups and widowmakers (broken off branches hanging in the canopy, caught on lower branches), but I couldn't capture any good examples. This closeup of a tree trunk was kind of neat:

The depth of field comes from using the macro setting.

There's also a log trapped on a big rock just off shore. I've seen it before -- I don't know if it has a name, so I call it "Logon Rock":
Log on Rock. Logon Rock, get it?

I took a bunch of photos at the Aqueduct Dam. There's a fence at the end of the walkable part:

And of course there's water going over the dam:

The photos of the actual falls are pretty generic and not very good -- I was there late in the afternoon, so there the parts in the sun were really bright, right next to really deep shadow, even after twiddling:

I really miss Shadow/Highlight. Photoshop Elements, here I come.

There were two kayakers in the rapids. I went down to the water's edge and stalked one for a while:

DSCF3477.jpg DSCF3493.jpg

As I headed back, I saw one of the photographers who had set up on a cliff downstream. Here he's talking to another visitor -- I like the way the falls looked almost like a matte painting:


On the hike back, I kept hearing rustling noises in the woods. I didn't see anything, so I figured they were squirrels or other small creatures, but I eventually saw that they were deer:
DSCF3508.jpg DSCF3509.jpg

I still think deer are neat -- as long as they don't give me Lyme disease or run out in front of my car. It seemed they were following me -- I tried getting closer, but they heard me and got spooked.

Hiking back up the trail, here's mirror-like water at the dam:

There's also a tree falling into another tree -- the hollow in the supporting tree kind of looks like an open mouth screaming:

Finally, here's what looks a trash barrel, though the sign clearly says that it's not for litter. Or am I being too literal?

Anyway, that's it. The full set is 118 photos: Halloween at Great Falls. I suppose I should go again now that the colors have changed.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Continuous Flow Intersections Are Keen

I'm backing up my hard drive in preparation for upgrading to Mac OS X Leopard, so in the meantime, here's an item that's been sitting in my topic slushpile.

I've been doing a lot more mid-day driving, and consequently, I've been doing a lot more sitting in traffic. Which sucks.

I saw an item on TotalFark about a different type of traffic intersection installed in St. Louis last month (there's also one up in Accokeek, Maryland) that might help things along -- a continuous flow intersection.

It addresses the problem where traffic that's turning left interferes with oncoming traffic (even with left-turn lanes and arrows and such) -- if northbound traffic is turning left, southbound traffic has to stop (except for those folks turning right), tying things up.

By essentially extending the intersection and moving the left-turny part up a few hundred yards up the road, it moves the left-turn folks out of the way:

It's one of those things that's really hard to visualize, even with photos -- Flash animations really help here:

* Utah Dept. of Traffic: Continuous Flow Intersection Tutorial

* Video Demonstration of Continuous Flow Intersections

They're kind of odd to look at, and they involve a kind of double-traffic light, but seeing the animations show how they work. They take up space, though, so I guess you'd only see them at major intersections. I'm also not sure how pedestrians and cyclists fit into the picture. But I'm for almost anything to help improve the efficiency of traffic (until our flying cars get here, of course).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cool Toys and No Bloodshed at the Washington Blogger and OLPC News Meetup

Despite images of violence, Wednesday's mashup of the Washington Blogger Meetup and DC OLPC News contingent went off well. The OLPC guys had the advantage, since they obviously had cooler toys:

Ross Karchner plays with the OLPC X0-1
Ross Karchner plays with the OLPC XO1. Leon is behind him.

Ross also posted an entry using an ASUS Eee PC, which is a basically a palmtop -- it's slightly bigger than, say, a graphing calculator.

Two OLPC X01s laptops, no child.

DC Metblogs' Wayan and DCist's much-reviled (so he says) Aaron Morrissey.

Wayan also gave me tips on how to be unemployed.

I think the meetup benefited from the cross-pollination. Since the purely social/drunken aspects of the DC blogging events are pretty well-covered by the various happy hours, I'm trying to think of ways to differentiate the midweek meetups, make them more attractive to bloggers and potential bloggers by focusing more on mechanics and making them a bit more utilitarian.

I'm talking about things like making them a more hands-on, how-to, workshoppy, best-practices, bring your laptop, potentially-boring-except-there's-beer kind of thing. Not sure yet.

Maybe I'm taking that "Marketing Department" label too seriously.


Virginia: #1 for Nerdy License Plates

More anecdotal evidence today supporting the data that says Virginia leads the nation in vanity plate usage (and by extension, nerdy license plates):

SAT 800 Virginia vanity license plate
I'm hoping that's not a combined score.

Displaying one's SAT score, even a perfect one, skillfully demonstrates both nerdiness and social ineptitude.

Virginia vanity license plate Kal-El
Obviously, a huge fan of Nicholas Cage.

I never really thought about it, but I wouldn't have guessed that Superman drove an Acura.

It Started With the Blackwater Wife and the World Gold Cabal

It's been an up and down day today (which, despite whatever time stamp shows, is still Thursday).

I woke up in the middle of a dream confrontation with a blonde cafeteria worker (who I think I'd seen recently guest starring on CSI) who was married to a Blackwater contractor and who was trying to add a $1.75 surcharge to my meal to offset the global conspiracy that's trying to corner the world gold supply.

(Maybe I should send that in as a Ficlet.)

Up and down. Call it a wash.

I was a few minutes late to my session at the outplacement center, which was basically "So You Wanna Set Up a Consulting Business?" I saw a few familiar faces, and it was actually pretty useful. I don't know that I want to go the full-time consulting/contracting racket, but I'm looking at my options. It's been a month since the layoff -- I'm starting to get bored, so I'm trying to actually, you know, look for a job now.


After that, I picked up a few groceries, got home around 1pm, and then... hit the wall. I just could not stay awake. I guess I should have stopped in and got that cup of coffee. I was fading in and out until about an hour ago.


In an update, after being balky yesterday, my new printer seems to be working again. On the one hand, that's good, and on the other hand, it makes me a little nervous -- hardware problems generally don't spontaneously fix themselves. So I'll need to keep an eye on it and decide if I'm going to return it or not.


Lastly, I see that Apple released its last Tiger update. As I still have the Leopard DVD sitting on my desk, I was debating installing it, since I was waiting for the first Tiger update, but lo and behold, it's out today. So no more excuses -- I guess I'll back up my drive and install it tomorrow.


Oh, and my credit card statement arrived yesterday -- I saw a 5 dollar charge from AOL. I'd had AOLbyPhone since forever (hey, freebie for internals) and forgot about it until I saw the charge. So I called to cancel. I think I got the Philippines call center -- the rep was very competent and courteous, and it went smoothly once I spelled my screen name using the military phonetic alphabet (alpha, bravo, charlie, etc). I guess I could have tried to get a refund of the last charge, but I decided not to push it.


A few folks are meeting out tonight, and I basically slept through Refresh DC, so I think I'll just stay in and keep a little bit ahead of the game today.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Things *Were* Going Okay Today

I had a relatively productive morning -- went to the outplacement place today for an introductory session. We'll see how useful it is -- the resume, I know, could use some help. I think I last updated it in 1998, though my LinkedIn is a little more current.

I got there a little late -- if I'd had more time, I was going to try to take a photo of the tree out front. The leaves are all bright yellow now, and it was still pretty foggy this morning, so I thought it might be interesting. But by the time I got back, the fog had all burned off.

Then, I set up the new all-in-one printer -- printer/fax/scanner/copier. It's a Samsung SCX-4725FN -- got it yesterday after ordering it from Staples: $140 after rebate. Not too bad. Set it up, worked okay (tested everything but the fax).

Get through about 6 different test pages. Then, all of a sudden, it stops working. It's refusing to intake paper to the printing part, either from the cartridge or the manual feed. I can hear something going, but no wheels are turning and nothing's moving.

I'm going to give it one more try tomorrow (got to get to the meetups tonight), but if it still doesn't work, it's back to the store. I might consider an exchange, but if not, it's gone.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jeopardy in My Life

* As mentioned on Fark and picked up by Valleywag, one of the categories on Jeopardy! yesterday was " Headlines":

Apparently this is a big media week for Fark -- Valleywag mentions that Fark is featured in Readers Digest this month, too.

Let's see -- Jeopardy!, Readers Digest... all they need is a guest shot on Matlock and they'll hit the senior citizen media trifecta.

* Went to Jimmy's tonight for their Jeopardy-style trivia night. We did not make it into the Jeopardy portion of the evening (under protest -- shown a photo of a piece of Gary Coleman memorabilia, we answered "Gary Coleman," but the answer they were looking was "Diff'rent Strokes." Given that the category was movies, tv shows, and celebrities, I'm thinking that there was more than one correct answer.)

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Will There Be Violence at the Washington Blogger November Meetup?

Reminder to all DC blog types that the November edition of the Washington Blogger Meetup group convenes tomorrow night (Wednesday, 11/14) at 7pm at RFD, right across the street from the Verizon Center (Gallery Place Metro).

The DC Blogger Meetups have traditionally been somewhat staid, bookish, and erudite gatherings (as opposed to the drunken bacchanalia of the various Blog Happy Hours). However, in the interest of generating more... interest, we're looking at ways to create controversy, inflame passions, cause trouble, end friendships, ruin lives, etc etc.

After all, though RFD ostensibly stands for Regional Food and Drink, "RFD" is also an acronym for "Really Fucking Drunk."

An artificial drama/reality TV-style treatment is not out of the question.

Outbreaks of pointless, inane blogfighting cannot be ruled out, and in fact may be started out of sheer boredom and/or spite.

Turnout is expected to be good -- the attendee list is currently pushing 20 (unlike most of the attendees).

I also note that the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) News folks are having their own RFD meetup, starting at 6pm. They are a rough bunch, and Wayan is banging his drum pretty good, so who knows what might happen?

Come for the Happy Hour specials, play with an OLPC machine, stay for the blog talk (if only to make sure that you are in front of people as they're talking about you behind your back.)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Food. Need Food. Argh.

I'm fasting right now -- nothing major, just 12 hours in front of a routine physical. No problem, right?

Except at this very moment, I'm jonesing for... anything. Maybe the pho I had for dinner wasn't enough. And the multiple fun-sized Halloween fire sale candies (Baby Ruths and Snickers, mostly) weren't enough for dessert.

Yeah, I was front-loading before the 9-ish cutoff.

Worse, I was just watching Metalocalypse on Adult Swim (which, I must admit, I didn't get at first, but it's kind of grown on me over time). Of course, it's the one where they're talking all about food.

So I had to change the channel. Let's see, what else is on? Ah, back-to-back showings of Saving Private Ryan. No eating there.

I Need to Post More While Drunk

The original title of this entry was "Pho: It's what was for dinner," but it wasn't notable in any way (other than the pho was good, and certainly did hit the spot on a November evening), and I probably hate writing filler posts more than most people hate reading them.

I'm under self-imposed time pressure -- got to get my NaBloPoMo entry for today in while it's still "Sunday" (in GMT, that is).

Looking through my entries, I notice that I'm still basically on a one-post-per-day schedule, even though I should have time to do a whole lot more blogging.

I'm not lacking for things to write about -- my slushpile of content topics (that I imported from my work account) is still fit to burst, and I have a whole bunch of draft entries fermenting elsewhere. So what is it?

Partly laziness; part poor time management; part a lingering self-consciousness of the live feed. But mostly, I think it's a carryover from my corporate blogging, which in turn was driven a lot by my own natural introvert-tendencies. There are plenty of things that I don't talk about (dating), and I do a lot of filtering, a lot of editing.

Filtering and editing is good for corporate bloggers, and is generally good. In general. But when it gets beyond wordsmithing and craft and turns into procrastination and pre-emption -- that's when the perfect is the enemy of the good.

Anyway, that's where the drunken posting comes in. Not sloppy drunken, regret-the-next day posting -- just enough to lubricate the synapses and loosen the typing fingers. I find that it's a good way to get past myself sometimes.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Flat Tire = Enforced Coffee Break

I ran over something in the road, driving on Lee Highway last night. I don't know if it was a pothole or something sticking out of the roadbed, but either way it made a pretty good thud.

When I got to O'Toole's Pub in Centreville (it was for a birthday party), I took a look at the right tires and didn't see anything, and I was able to drive home on it okay.

I had a nagging feeling, though, so I took another look this afternoon (I forgot to look when I grabbed the paper this morning) -- there must have been a slow leak, because, the right front tire was dead flat. So I had no choice but to put on the spare (not that I hadn't also learned my lesson from my previous flat tire experience.)

All things considered, it was an ideal flat tire scenario -- still light out, not raining, right in front of my house, plenty of time to put on the spare, limp to the closest gas station to add 40psi worth of air, and drive to the tire place, which is open until 7pm and conveniently located next door to the Greenberry's Coffee. (So I brung the laptop with me.)

It all went by the book -- I chocked the back wheel, loosened the lug nuts (Dad always insisted we pack a full-size 4-way lug wrench -- it gives you a lot more leverage than the little ones, though if you're on the side of the road, you might not have enough room for the big one), jacked the car, changed the tire, done.

It would have been perfect... except I forgot to take the chock off the back wheel, so I backed over it and broke it. Oops.

Anyway, so now I'm having a scone and a latte, waiting.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Noose Humor -- Too Soon?

Given the recent spike in anti-noose sentiment due to the Jena Six incident (not that there's really a pro-noose lobby, though the War on Nooses did impact a few Halloween displays this year), I was a little surprised to see a noose-themed joke in today's Loose Parts comic, excerpted here:

"You and that fool knittin'! I've said for 30 years, what could you possibly knit that will do any good?"

It's kind of a lame joke, and it's bound to raise the ire of a vociferous, rabble-rousing, and disproportionately powerful minority.

I am, of course, talking about the "kn-word": knitters.

In other comic news, today's Pearls Before Swine features yet another blog-theme -- Goat is prevailing on his blog's readers (and it's good to see he's apparently building his audience) to not be petty when posting comments to his blog:

You can guess what the joke in the third panel is.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Welcome, You've Got Dammit! 24 in 1994 (Video)

Here's a video that's far funnier than it has any right to be:
24: The Unaired 1994 Pilot (link via TotalFark):

It's a 24 short that portrays the people at CTU trying to do what they do now, except using early 90s technology -- dialup, one-way pagers, pay phones, dot matrix printers (with tractor feed paper), etc.

As a tech user during that era and a former AOL insider, it was especially fun to pick out the anachronisms (though I could not for the life of me remember the term "anachronism" -- unemployment is making me soft).

If you want to get picky, AOL 3.0 didn't come out until 1996 (I was still using 2.5 when I started); Geocities wasn't really Geocities in 1994; they did, you know, have fax machines in 1994; and people were able to get stuff done before online (And even before computers. Or so I heard.)

Oh, and you can see they're using AIM (on a Windows 3.1 machine?) instead of an AOL client -- AIM didn't come out until 1997:


Since I don't even know if you can run AOL 2.5 or 3.0 on a modern machine (I couldn't, the last time I tried -- don't remember if they were ever officially sunset or just allowed to die... assuming you could find an installer -- need an install floppy?), chalk it up to "revealing mistakes."

The references to Lycos, Encarta, and such, as well as a contemporaneous event or two (Nancy Kerrigan, anyone>) were amusing. I got a few chuckles. (But why did the terrorists just disappear?)

College Humor's production values have been pretty good and are getting better all the time. Good job.


Feel... Myself... Getting... Dumber

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle is on. I keep flipping past it, and I can actually feel myself getting stupider.

It's a similar feeling I get when I flip past MANswers on Spike TV. I watched most of an episode once. It's like Mythbusters, only with all the smart, interesting, original, and funny bits taken out.

I got remarkably little done today. Sitting around and watching OpenOffice download doesn't count for much.

I was planning on doing up a quick and dirty design for business... excuse me, calling cards, but I figured I might as well wait until I look into setting up a consultancy.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Trying to Finish What I Started

While technically my NaBloPoMo quota was fulfilled yesterday, that was a timestamp technicality and I wanted to get at least one honest Wednesday post in. [Edit: Dammit. Missed it. I do the GMT timestamp kludge thing to show up properly in the DC Blogs Live feed. Oh well -- at least the Blogger FTP upload problems seem to be resolved.]

I couldn't get to sleep last night -- I blame a late day large coffee -- so I did some more reading. I started and finished Edenborn, the second book in a sci-fi trilogy by Nick Sagan.

To be honest, I wasn't really a big fan of the first one (Idlewild) -- books that start out using amnesia as a primary plot driver get hit with penalty points -- but I read it and it was okay, so I figured I might as well finish the trilogy.

At this point it's kind of like Kid Nation (I assume, never watched it), only the kids are all genetically engineered geniuses and everyone else on Earth is dead.

His depictions of the thoughts of the batshit crazy are also unsettling, although well done.

I finished it in a few hours, then I started in on an impulse borrow from the New Fiction section -- One Day on Mars, by Travis Taylor. I borrowed it on the strength of the breathless back cover blurbs, which pitched it as a Heinlein-esque hard science/military SF thrill ride, etc. etc.

I made it two chapters in -- 28 pages -- and honestly, I don't think I can finish it. Military/hard science is my preferred genre, but the writing is just awful. The dialogue is crushingly bad, and I lost count of the sci-fi cliches in just the first 10% of the book.

Look, I know I personally can't do dialogue or characters -- that's why I would be an essayist, if I could. But I don't know if I can even find it in me to skip ahead to the space and mecha battles. It's just bad.

I rarely abandon books (I may not start them for... years, but I don't abandon them), so this is pretty significant for me.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Why are these parked cars all facing the other direction?

I was going to go to the semi-usual Psychotronic Movie Night at Dr. Dremo's, but I bagged it. I mean, if I need to get my fix of early-80s trucksploitation T&A... actually, I don't think this would ever happen. So I'm just having a few Yeunglings and catching up on some photos and such.

Monday night, met up with about a dozen other folks to go see Rogue Wave at the Black Cat. It was the largest group I'd ever been there with -- we ended up parking in the couches at the back through the opening act.

The crowd was typically young and hipster, though we were noting (okay, snarking) at one couple with more of a Real Housewives of Orange County look (even though they both sported underage Xs on the back of their hands).

The opener was Port O'Brien -- they were pretty good. They had, like, 8 people on stage and their lead singer sounded a lot like Neil Young (though, as Nate noted, they played a few upbeat, poppy songs that were very un-Neil Young-ish).

Rogue Wave was also pretty good, though I can't say I really have a handle on their sound. I took a few cameraphone pics, but only 2 came out at all:
189605309573.jpg 189604274181.jpg

I also didn't get a picture of a small child -- one of the band member's, presumably -- who was being held (by her mom, presumably) backstage (presumably). I was prepared to be righteously indignant, until I saw that she was wearing full earmuff-style hearing protection (fancy slim-profile ones, too). Kudos.

It was raining when we left the club at around midnight. I was parked on T Street. I pulled out and did a K turn to turn left onto 14th Street, when I saw that the parked cars on both sides of the street were facing the other direction.

I had to think about this for a second. Then I saw the One Way signs.

Blogger having problems with FTP uploading.

In other news, as it turns out, Blogger is indeed having problems with FTP uploads -- they have a scheduled outage tonight to try to fix it. I was more than a little concerned that publishing problems would interfere with my participation in NaBloPoMo, so we'll see what happens.

Election Day, 2007

Chalkboard at Greenberry's Coffee today:


"If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room." -- Betty Reese

Monday, November 05, 2007

Monday Thus Far

* Returning to Standard Time, Effects of: Yeah, an extra hour of sleep. That'll help.

I seem to have been running on Pacific Time for the past few months, anyway.

* Robo-quotable: A source tells me that my robocall entry was quoted in the print version of the DC Express today. I was expecting this, partly because of the subject, but mostly because my referrers showed a hit from the DC Blogs live feed, originating from (Washington Post Newsweek Interactive), which is one of the work domains for the Post.

I took a look at the PDF -- above the fold, very nice.

* Quitting unemployment is called "getting a job."

* Not Going to Vegas (Baby): The inaugural BlogWorld & New Media Expo happens this week in Vegas. Back when I was employed, I had been planning on going to this, since it was always nice when the company paid the freight for the blogging boondoggle/junket/networking opportunities.

After you go to a couple, though, you realize what a racket they are -- the same speakers; the same marketing blogging consultants pitching themselves, their blogs, and their books; the same blog backscratching and circle-jerking.

I'm not the only one to notice this

Not saying they aren't fun, or that they can't be useful or interesting. It's still a huge racket, though, and I'm not going to go on my own dime right now.

* Lastly: I just got my copy of Leopard and I need to get food and coffee. Except Blogger keeps hanging when I try to publish. Argh.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Politicians: Robocall Me Again, and I Will Vote for Your Opponent Out of Sheer Spite

Look, one of the reasons why I've never tried Netflix is that they were one of the earliest and most prolific users of pop-under ads. (Well, that and I already have enough unwatched DVDs).

And I just took out of my daily bookmarks because they keep serving up some stupid malware-ish javascript "performance warning" ad for FixThemNow.

Given that I did this to services from which I might derive some actual utility, what makes you think that I wouldn't do something as spiteful and petty as voting for your political opponent in Tuesday's election because you robocalled me too many times (and once is too many)?

Let's face it -- despite all the PSAs, any one individual person's vote really doesn't matter. (Also, FYI -- a purposeful voter boycott is indistinguishable from voter apathy.)

So robocall me at your peril.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Five Guys Shows How New Yorkers Are Kind of Dumb

Saw via that Five Guys opened its first location in midtown NYC on Thursday. Waits at lunchtime were up to 90 minutes, which is, of course, ridiculous.

(I like Five Guys' burgers, though I'm not really a fan of the fries.)

It's part of the flow of life up there, where something new opens or gets written up in the Times or New York Magazine or whatever, and then there's this mad hype leading to a huge frenzy and lines out the door.

Most commonly, it was a food fad: frites, Japanese egg/meat pancake-things, creampuffs, Soup Nazi, cupcakes. Usually overpriced, but still relatively accessible. It would run for a while, then burn out or fade away.

What really highlighted the ridiculousness of it all was when NYC got really excited for things that the rest of the country already had and took for granted -- like big-box retail: Home Depot. K-Mart. Bed Bath & Beyond. Whole Foods. Trader Joe's.

You can chalk it up to New York egocentrism, of course (even though it happens everywhere), but it's part of the sense of community up there. Waiting in line (and there's always a line, especially for the food places, which are invariably small), it's a bit of shared suffering, a little bit need to be a part of something fresh or big or cool, with a pinch of "if people are waiting in line, it means there's something worth waiting for."

Even when I lived there, I never bought into the whole "It thing" phenomena, mostly because it was stupid, plus I was oblivious and didn't have very much money. Later, when I saw it, it was as a tourist, which is never the same thing.

Anyway, since I am easily suggestible, I think I will go get a Five Guys burger now.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Is it Friday already?

One thing I've found out -- Fridays don't really feel like Fridays when you don't have a job.

I've been mostly channel surfing today, mixed in with occasional bursts of photo editing. The Godfather was on, which explains why I have a pot of linguini on the stove right now, as I'm easily suggestible.

Yesterday was a mini-reunion for our group at Sweetwater, which was okay. Afterwards, I went to Carpool for a bit, then stopped off at the Barnes and Noble for a bit before popping over to Clyde's for a bit. Nothing particularly notable.

Afterwards, though, I couldn't get to sleep. So I just flopped on the couch for a while. Oddly enough, I did wake up at an hour approaching normal.

Oh, and as it turns out, I got slightly screwed because I bought the new Macbook right before their latest speed bump, and I'm just out of the 14-day return period. But I'm not going to worry about it too much.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Wasn't I Was Supposed to Be Doing This, Anyway?

Saw on The Felb's blog that November is NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). All you have to do is post a blog entry a day -- I think I should be able to handle that.

I have a bunch of entries pending on matters both small and small, so quantity shouldn't be a problem, anyway.

The only potential snags involve uploading photos and also reworking the blog template.

Yesterday afternoon, I did end up going to Great Falls -- it was a nice day. I was stalked by deer. There were kayakers. It'll take me a while to work through the photos (125 of them). Then, thanks to a heads up from Jamy, I went to see Shaun of the Dead at Arlington Cinema Drafthouse, then hung out at Galaxy Hut for a while.

Off to Sweetwater now for a post-layoff reunion.