Sunday, December 31, 2006

When Did Nerds Quality Control Slip and Other Questions I'm Behind On

No wonder why obesity is so rampant these days; even Nerds are fat now:


I swear I thought the orange ones were Captain Crunch or something.

You can see the full set for more hot Nerds action.

(Incidentally, someone needs to tell Nestlé USA that their stuff is never going to index properly in search engines if they stick to that lame Javascript and Flash implementation on the site.)

* When did Gwen Stefani turn into Madonna? (Version 2.0... maybe 1.5)

* When did Wal-Mart stop using employees and their families in their ads? (I mean, obviously, we know why, but when?)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Cheap New Year's Eve Fun

Unless something changes dramatically, I'll be ringing in the New Year at a house party. No word whether Kid n'/or Play will be there.

I'm not a super-h00g New Year's Eve, all-you-can-drink-type (it usually takes forever to get a drink from the bar and besides, trying to get my money's worth from the cover would put me in the hospital). But I've found a couple of nice (not to mention free to get into) local celebrations:
  • Galaxy Hut
    -- Like I need another excuse to go to Galaxy Hut.

    This was also mentioned in the Post's New Year's for Less feature.

  • Guajillo -- I guess I have the credit the Post on this one; I think it was a Going Out Gurus chat from a few years back -- I've still never eaten dinner there, but it was a good party.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Altering Reality for the Captain

So my friend The Captain sent me a photo of his and asked if there was anything I could do to clean it up.

Since I'm no great shakes as a photographer, I rely pretty heavily -- more than I should -- on post-processing in Photoshop. And not for cool effects or anything like that -- just basic corrections like color, contrast and levels.

Oh, and red-eye reduction. I hate the red-eye reduction flash setting (it's impossible to take candids using it), so I'd rather fix it afterwards.

I said I'd give it a shot. Here's the original photo, from a Halloween party back in 1998 (they went with a "James Bond and his bitches" theme -- thanks to the Captain for the correction):


Now, even I can see that there are some problem areas that could use a little improvement.

All I usually do is take out the red-eye, then use the auto color/contrast/levels adjustments (following up by hand as needed).

Then, I bring out dark areas and darken light areas with the Shadow/Highlight adjustment (trying not to overdo it).

Finally, I give it a nice 4:3 or 1.5:1 crop and call it a night. Which is basically what I did here:


Like I said, I'm a hack, so nothing with curves, adjustment layers or layer masks or anything else like that. But it was good enough for government work. As they say.

Still, something wasn't quite right. Something that kept the photo from being... perfect.

Oh, I know what it is:


Former President Gerald Ford Eaten By Wolves (He Was Delicious)

This will probably be the 10 millionth time you see this today, but if you haven't, this SNL sketch of Dana Carvey as Tom Brokaw pre-taping obituaries for Gerald Ford is one of the funniest things you'll ever see (even now, given news of his actual death):

This link was posted in the Fark thread, which also brings up the ever-popular "Trifecta in play/Celebrity deaths come in threes." Who's next -- will it be Castro, as one poster suggests? (I know it would make my dad happy.)

Incidentally, the bit at the end where Dana Carvey is speaking some "African" language of clicks and pops for the Zimbabwean invasion scenario newscast is one of the reasons why the whole Rosie O'Donnell "ching chong chinese" affair from a few weeks ago didn't bother me much -- whether it's gringos speaking fake Spanish by adding -o to everything (el pass-o el mayo-o), or someone putting on a Sgt. Schultz German accent or whatever, making up sounds for languages you don't speak just doesn't strike me as all that offensive.

If she'd done the slanty-eyed, buck-toothed thing, then we would have problems. But otherwise, it's silly and stupid and some folks need to get a grip.

Notes on the Blogger (Un-)Beta and OpenID

So, seeing how Blogger is officially out of beta, I finally took the plunge and switched over last week. Here are a few of my initial thoughts:
  • You know, it would have been nice to let me know beforehand that switching to the Google login would wipe out or otherwise make inaccessible my previous Blogger profile. (I'm not very original.)

  • Categories are nice to have finally, though right now, I have both Categories (sorry, "Labels", ugh) and Technorati Tags.

    I know it's awkward, but even though it looks like the Blogger Label tags are getting picked up properly by Technorati as tags, I'm still thinking about if and how tags that I use to label content for external consumption (e.g. Technorati) should co-exist in the same space as tags that I use to label content for internal navigation (categories).

  • Blog owners are recognized as owners when they leave comments and no longer have to go through the CAPTCHA, which is a welcome relief.

  • Layouts: I do want to mess around with the layout, designs and modules, but I need to try it in a test blog first. I'm generally satisfied with the current layout, but it's jarring to me to see another blog that shares Snapshot: Sable (albeit modified -- for example, the stock Snapshot: Sable is too narrow for the standard Flickr medium size of 500 pixels).

    However, at this point, I don't know how far under the hood I want to go with CSS and graphics , or just switch to Wordpress.

  • The settings and control pages seem a bit more functional, though I don't note anything completely different. I will have to play around some more.

  • Of course, I'm using the DC Blogs GMT time zone fix to make sure my posts show up at the top of the feed when published.

    If it weren't for DC Blogs live feed visits, the bulk of my traffic would be people looking for overpriced uncut currency sheets, big-boobed MLM infomercial hosts, and misspelled female genitalia.

Playing With OpenID

Thanks to this OpenID tutorial, I finally better understand what it's all about -- I mean, I understood that it was similar to other single sign-in schemes used elsewhere, but it's more open and delegated.

In it's most useful form, if you've got a Web site (including a blog), you've got a login.

For example, I've got a free OpenID account set up with, and I'm currently using as my delegate, which just means I, as the Web page owner, put a few lines of HTML code in the header of my page. (It's kinda-sorta like embedding the technorati claim code in your blog.)

When I go to a Web site that takes OpenID, I login by typing in my address. From then on:
  1. The Web site looks at
  2. It sees the HTML code I've put in, which redirects me to the OpenID provider I've previously specified (
  3. I login at to confirm I am the owner of, which confirms my identity.
Because is my identity, I can change my OpenID provider down the road, but still keep using my URL as my ID -- I just need to change the HTML to point to the new provider.

I'm trying to come up with a good real-world metaphor; I guess a seasonally-appropriate one that comes close is the scene from Miracle on 34th Street, when they proves that Kris Kringle is Santa Claus, because the U.S. Postal Service sends letters addressed to "Santa Claus" to him.

I will have to come up with a better metaphor. All metaphors break down eventually -- this one, sooner than most.

How Did I Know With Absolute Certainty That Best Buy Would Fuck Up?

...because it's Best Buy, of course.

So, through Saturday, 12/30, every season of '24' on DVD is $19.99 at Best Buy, which, after careful analysis, I determined to be less than a dollar an episode.

I'd seen it in the Sunday circular (which comes on Saturday), so I checked the Web site just after midnight on Sunday, and when it showed up at the correct price, I bought seasons 2, 3, and 5, choosing to pick up at my local store.

I went to pick it up today (they'll hold it for 8 days).

Naturally, after standing in line at customer service (so much for the special store pickup line), then watching them root around in the cabinets, they could only find season 5 from my order, with no sign of seasons 2 or 3 (and of course, it was sold out in the store, which was why I bought it online in the first place). Presumably, they sold it to someone else.

What would Jack Bauer have done? Probably shot some people in the thigh, while yelling, "We're running out of time! You've got to trust me!" which wasn't really an option for me.

So, I took season 5 and got a raincheck for seasons 2 and 3 (if you want to get it at that price too, just get a raincheck). I'll need to keep a close eye on my next credit card statement to make sure they didn't charge me for the other 2.

As a coda, though, when I came home, I saw that I already owned season 3. (I don't really remember the season numbers, just the storylines: 1. Senator Palmer. 2. Nuke LA. 3. Virus. 4. Marwan (that was an especially complicated one). 5. Sentox Nerve Gas.)

So I would have been making a return trip in any case, because of my own dumbness. However, it doesn't excuse Best Buy's failure in this case.

On a side note, I may not be the best manager in the world, but I'm pretty sure you shouldn't throw your employees under the bus to save face in front of a customer, even if they are "retarded."

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Monday, December 25, 2006

James Brown... Is Dead

And L.A. Style experiences a sudden surge of popularity, bobbing briefly into view, before sinking back into the depths of obscurity:

I saw the Godfather of Soul at the 9:30 Club with MWH a few years ago.

James Brown wasn't actually on stage all that long; he was more like the emcee at a variety show, which included a few different vocalists and a magician, plus about 23 people on stage.

We were standing pretty close to the stage -- close enough that we flinched when he snapped the mike stand at the crowd, reeling it back by the cord with the practiced hand of the hardest working man in show-business.

I remember at one point, he was talking about DC, and something about how we needed to get the city back on track. We weren't sure exactly what he was saying, but we applauded along dutifully, until he said something that made me realize, "Wait a second, are we clapping for the return of Marion Barry?" (This was before his political resurgence, such as it is.)

Anyway, I'm glad I got the chance to see an icon like him live, especially in a small venue like the 9:30 Club.

However, it looks like we're going to be hearing a lot more of 'Christmas in the Ghetto' during the holidays from now on, which is unfortunate, since it's one of my least-favorite Christmas songs.

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Dumb Things I'm Not Going to Blog About for Christmas

I had a few Christmas-themed entries lined up, with high-minded titles like "What My Christmas Lights Taught Me About Mortality" -- a tempus fugit entry, how not taking down my weak-ass Christmas lights from last year demonstrated the fleetingness of time or some shit.

I also had cautionary tale about possibly falling for a newspaper delivery Christmas tipping scam a few years ago (it's pretty brazen -- you take a card with a holiday tip appeal and PO Box address and slip it into some other newspaper carrier's deliveries).

Finally, I had some thoughts on my general disconnectedness from this particular holiday season -- I didn't, for example, send any care packages to deployed soldiers, or donate to any Christmas charities; I didn't even send out any Christmas cards, or even do anything particularly holiday-like.

However, being at home, together with my family, I find all that really doesn't matter. (Even if they are all crazy. Well, my sister isn't crazy, she just lives in New York City. And I'm completely normal. "Eccentric," tops.)

So, I will just shut up and wish everyone a Merry Christmas:


Sunday, December 24, 2006

FoxTrot Goes to Sunday-Only. In Spanish.

I guess I missed this a few weeks ago, but the GoComics blog reports that FoxTrot (one of my favorite strips) will be going Sunday-only starting next week.

Also, judging from today's comic online, it will be switching to a Spanish-language format:

Dec 24 Foxtrot Comic, in Spanish

On his site, Bill Amend says the syndicate screwed up, and since it's over a long holiday weekend, no one's around to fix it.

FoxTrot always had lots of geeky humor (mostly courtesy of Jason Fox and his friend Marcus), so I'm going to miss it.

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Scavenging the Cooling Corpse of Tower Records

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

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


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

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

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

No New Releases

Inside, the shelves were pretty bare:


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Saturday, December 23, 2006

My Mom Subscribes to Stuff Magazine

It's true: My mom subscribes to Stuff Magazine:

My Mom Subscribes to Stuff Magazine

Apparently, she had some expiring credit card points to burn on magazine subscriptions, so she picked Businessweek, Fortune, and then a few other random titles.

At least, that what she says.

It must run in the family, since that's how my uncle in California ended up with a subscription to Essence. At least, I think it's Essence. I was just told a Black-interest magazine, so it could possibly be King.

I got a late start home, leaving Virginia a little before 3pm. I hit some traffic on the Beltway, then lost 40 minutes sitting in traffic on I-95.

Everything else was fine, excepting the usual slowdown at the Delaware tolls, so I made it home in just under 5 hours.

Also, there are now 4 open wireless connections available to us, though the parents now have DSL (which is primarly used by the sister and me when we visit, though we're working on that).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Layoff, in Pictures

The Week Before:


The coffeepot note reads:
"During this time of intense stress due to reorganization and layoffs, please do not further contribute to this stress by leaving the coffee pot empty. It is a supreme act of arrogance and inconsideration to take the last cup and not make another pot.
Coincidentally, that week I was reading the novel Company, by Max Barry (who also wrote Jennifer Government) -- it's about a company that, unbeknownst to the employees, exists solely as a test bed for management concepts.

The theft of a donut figures in prominently, which is spiritually kin to my other entries on lunch thieves. It's good, go read it. (The book, that is.)

The Day (Before):


Dec. 13, "How to Take a Punch in the Stomach" day from my Worst Case Scenario Daily Calendar.

To be honest, though, I guess I was both a puncher and a punchee.

The Day (After):


Out front.

Apparently, understandably, someone didn't take things so well.

Monday, December 18, 2006

It Might Be a High-Tech Dinosaur, But It's Definitely My Damn Photo

Dear Valleywag:

Look, I don't care if you take one of my Holiday Prom Photos to torture an analogy linking AOL to aging space hardware:

Screenshot of Valleywag using my picture

I mean, it's on Flickr and publicly available, and even labeled with the relevant tags (though I haven't gotten around to writing descriptions yet), so it's meant to be found and used.

The goddamn thing is even under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license (it doesn't even stipulate "noncommercial use only," whatever that means anymore).

But if you do that, and use it as the seed for a bit of snark, you could at least get the attribution right, since I am not Mukesh, who I'm sure is a good person, but did not take that photo:


For most people, this will probably be the best photo I took all night (unless you like looking at drunken party photos of people you don't know); I know the Valleywag photo is mine because of the person lit in red in the right foreground, which was a nice little bit of serendipity.

(You're also using one of my thumbnail pics below, but you didn't try to incorporate it into the copy, so whatever. You also used one of Frank's pics, but you took that down.)

I was going to blog about the party later in the week (I'm trying to stay roughly in chronological order and I'm a week behind), so damn you for making me go out of order.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Big Tits and Bonus Checks

It hasn't been a very good week for sleeping, for reasons which I will talk about later.

A few nights ago, I found myself up and about in 3am territory. In between late-night episodes of 'The X-Files' on TNT and 'Girls Gone Wild in Outer Space' infomercials on Spike and Comedy Central, there was this infomercial, which was short on details but long on cleavage:


The commercial is basically the chick giving one continuously looped pitch, interspersed with a few testimonials.

They never say what the job is, though from the pitch, I gather it consists solely of sitting at home and collecting all the checks and bonus checks they send you.

She's very big on the bonus checks. Apparently, it's all the company does -- send out bonus checks. I was reminded of the First Citiwide Change Bank parody ads on SNL -- the bank that just makes change, and makes money on "volume."

Now, there was no way I was going to call the 800 number (which, in case you can't tell from my artful photoshop job, I changed), so today I did a google search on "millions are being paid out" infomercial.

According to the Infomercial Blog and Infomercial Ratings, it's a vitamin MLM thing. (Which I would call a scam, but that would probably upset any true-believers who see this. Suckers don't like being told that they're suckers.)

I did take a look at their Web site (which I'm not going to link to); in one of her other videos, the chick, Tylene Megley, says she's a 37-year-old mother of two. (Hey, maybe she'll be one of my connections on LinkedIn.)

If true, she's either in pretty good shape or has a good plastic surgeon.

They have another video online, where she's with an equally bodacious woman and they're talking about all the great money they can be making, then they get naked and start having big boobed girl-on-girl action. Or maybe that was the Girls Gone Wild in Outer Space thing again.

Anyway, the only other thing to say is that I keep trying to type "informercial."

Whad'Ya Know? Not So Much, WAMU

So this is our first Saturday with the new WAMU programming lineup.

I haven't paid much attention to the weekday changes, since I don't get to listen to the radio over-the-air during the day, and since I'm usually writing or otherwise thinking, I can't really listen to talk radio anyway. Especially public radio.

So I was a little surprised to find out this morning that Michael Feldman's Whad'ya Know isn't on WAMU any more. Instead, it's This American Life.

Now, I lurve This American Life (I'm waiting, as we speak, for a few of the box sets -- I haven't decided if they're keepers or gifts), but with the programming shift, it's now on WETA at 11AM, and then on WAMU at noon, which is silly.

(Plus, This American Life is a bit more podcast/stream friendly for me, since it's explicitly divided into discrete acts. Though my favorite timeslot for it was Sunday afternoons.)

Anyway, since I usually don't get started on Saturdays until about noon, anyway, Whad'ya Know was good to have on as I was puttering around the house. So I will miss it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Non-Ebullient DC Blogs Holiday Happy Hour Wrapup Post

Since it's been just shy of a week since the DC Blogs Holiday Happy Hour at Science Club DC, I will forgo the usual ebullient writeup and just show you the photos (full set here), which is what you want to see anyway:

Not sure what's going on here, but it appears to be some sort of floor show. Also, the phrase "Line 'em up" comes to mind.

Birthday wishes in chalk for KassyK

Red in pink.

Sorry Hammer, it's just not your look.

There are a few more pics in the set, though a bunch were not usable for various reasons.

Also, enjoy some crappy long-shutter shots from the Metro ride home.

Anyway, final observations from the night:
  • It was very, very cold.
  • Getting through the front bar was something of a gauntlet, given that it was relatively spacious in the other rooms.
  • It is a cool place, though.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The 3 Manly Things I Did on Sunday

After a hearty breakfast (that's not one of the three things), I:
  1. Replaced a burned out headlight on my car: This was actually more about perseverance and the ability to deal with skinned knuckles than actual manliness. I've done it a few times before; the battery is directly behind the left headlight, and the windshield washer reservoir is directly behind the right headlight, so there's not a lot of room to work with, especially to fiddle that damn retaining clip. And this from a guy with small hands. (Small hands; big hog, though.)

  2. Shot at stuff with guns: It's been a long time since I've fired a gun, so I went to Blue Ridge Arsenal to get some trigger time in. It's just off the intersection of Route 50 and Route 28 -- they seem to have put up a few new shopping centers in the, oh, 7 years since I was there last .

    I set myself up with a polymer-framed Ruger 9mm and ended up shooting about 150 rounds. I managed to keep all of them on the paper, but I was pretty rusty:

    From 7 yards. (Ignore the 2 misses up by the head.)

    Looking at my targets, I was mostly shooting a little high and to the left right, which is probably a bit of recoil anticipation and poor trigger manipulation. Add in a little loss of concentration, a need for new glasses, and forgetting where to put my thumbs, and that tells me I probably shouldn't wait 7 more years to shoot again.

    After shooting, I got to handle some of the rental long guns, including a WASR-10 (a Romanian AK-47 variant) and the FN PS-90 (the civilian version of the submachine gun commonly seen on Stargate SG-1).

    I have no need for any sort of long gun. Doesn't mean I don't still want one, though.

  3. Worked out and got HUGE: Actually, it was a makeup workout to get back on schedule, and I'm doing lighter sets of 20 right now (well, up to 20). But it was still very manly -- and the manliness was only increased by the UFC Unleashed and Man vs. Wild episodes showing on the TVs.
After that, I went to Jammin' Java for the Over the Rhine Christmas show, which was not especially manly. It was, however, canceled (due to illness), so it will probably be rescheduled to a later, non-Christmas-y date.

As I was driving back on Route 7, I passed Tower Records and saw their "Going Out of Business" sign. I hadn't known they were still open, so I made a U-turn and did some damage there. But I'll have to talk about that later.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Hints From Heloise Is a Lousy Tipper (also, the redesign blows)

I was getting a jump on the Sunday comics this afternoon (they arrive in a hermetically sealed package on Saturday), when I saw this marginally helpful and profoundly disturbing hint in the The Just for Kids section of Hints from Heloise -- it's the one on tipping:

So very, very wrong.

It reads:


My family went out to dinner the other night, and when my dad got the check, he was trying to figure out how much to tip the waitress.

I told him I could tell him and went straight to my cell phone. It has a built-in tip calculator!

He was surprised and happy. When he got home, he checked his phone, and it had one too!
in California"
Yes, apparently the knowledge of how to determine a tip without a calculator has bypassed the family of young Mitchell in California.

What's worse, though, is that the accompanying graphic demonstrates how to use your cell phone to calculate an 1.5% tip on a $52 tab, which comes out to an extravagant 78 cents.

If you're going to leave 1.5%, you might as well just stiff the waiter completely. That way, at least you'll be seen as a cheap asshole, instead of a complete retard.

Obviously, the illustrator either:
  • Misplaced the decimal
  • Is an inveterate cheapskate
Now, tipping etiquette questions -- How much do I give the garbageman at Christmas? What do I give to the valet and when? -- those I empathize with.

But the inability to move a decimal over a spot and double it (20% is usually my base tip -- it's just easier) without a calculator?

Yeah, technology is making us dumber.'s Redesign Blows

Speaking of tipping etiquette, I was just going to link to the main page of and be done with it. However, thanks to their Web 2.0-ish redesign, they've done a great job of hiding the useful information -- I finally had to use the site search.

Here's the path to the Tip etiquette info, which is presumably why you're visiting in the first place:
  1. Go to the main page (
  2. Click "Tips" in the top nav bar (goes to
  3. Click "The Tips" in the left nav bar (goes to
  4. Scroll past the sales tout for tipping books and stupid plastic tip cards that takes up the entire above-the-fold screenspace on every damned page and finally click "United States - Domestic Guide (goes to

The first view of every page in's Web 2.0-style redesign
Hope you like this sales tout, because it's the first view of every damned page (Firefox, XP, 1024x728)

Honestly, I thought the site had been taken over by some cybersquatter and all the tipping content had been replaced with ads.

Here's a bit of free advice:
  • Trim that silly mirror-image off the bottom half of the logo (it could be worse -- at least it's not a shimmering-lake-effect java applet); that'll free up 72 pixels (a good inch) or so of vertical screen space
  • Put some actually tip content on the Tips main page and category page -- the Webster's definition that dominates is especially useless.
Anyway, I think the moral of this story is:

Always read the comics first.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Giving the Gift of Strep Throat to Lunch Thieves This Christmas

I wasn't going to do any more of these angry refrigerator notes, but this one was pretty elaborate:


The note reads:
"To the ignorant person who stole my lunch between yesterday and today:

I just wanted to let you know that I have strep throat and you'll notice that I had partially eaten the food. Don't be surprised if you get sick. I'm sure the visit to the doctor will cost more than would have paid if you bought your own lunch as opposed to stealing someone else's.

Also, since you're such a genius, I just wanted to remind you that what you did is stealing and it would be a shame that you'd lose your job for being a thief. ON second thought, it wouldn't be a shame; it would be great.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family!"
I'm not making these up, nor encouraging the creation of the notes, or instigating in any way. Just documenting.

Anyway, I created a Public Flickr group for these sorts of things: Furious Fridge Notes - Lunch Thieves, Beware!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Birth of a Meme: "Tears of Awesome"

One of the more memorable items in last week's Wonkette entry about condom breakage and closed social douchebag networking site Late Night Shots (see my previous entry) came in a Dec. 3 comment from user Josette:
"The brutality of this exchange brought tears to my eyes. Tears of AWESOME."
That's a great turn of phrase and I was curious as to its origin. There just aren't very many occurrences of the phrase "tears of awesome." (Google only finds 23 right now.)

The earliest online work listed in Google is from October, 1998, where in the Tell Us Your Story discussion forum, poster Bobby Greer uses it as a partial phrase in a very sincere and snark-free paragraph:
"He lived in a barren shack in West Texas, outside of Abilene. My eyes still fill with tears of awesome inspiration when I think of him."
DC's own Virgle Kent has a similar usage from November 2005 (he seems to be having blog issues right now):
"...with my hard on, The Flurry is crying tears of awesome joy, Pretty Ricky is still in traumatic shock."
However, in its purest form, the earliest online sighting is pretty recent:

* A Jan 27, 2006 post to the Words of the Mind forum (focused on anime, video games, etc.) by user BlademasterNick:
"You should see the top of my desk. You will cry tears of awesome, for the awesome will spread on to you."
Later sightings:

* This Oct. 2, 2006 post by user OctopusPrime in the AllSpark forums (a Transformers fan board):
"I am crying tears of awesome right now."
* An Oct. 26, 2006 entry by LiveJournaler Koreagle:
"The first time Goku and Vegeta Fight, when Goku goes Kayoken x3 and shoots his Kamehameha at Vegeta's Beam, I just about bust a nut in tears of awesome."
* A Nov 16, 2006 comment by blogger Stacie Ponder in this Genre Girls entry:
[previous comment] "...It can only end in tears."

"Tears of awesome, Brian!"
I e-mailed the people to find out if they came up with the phrase on their own, or if they got it from somewhere else -- Stacie has been the only one to respond to date, and she says it just kind of came together as a synthesis of "tears of rage" and "awesome."

So, while it's possible there was some cross-pollination between the anime/transformer/video game forum aficionados, it's also possible that people just came up with it independently, perhaps in response to some linguistic trigger event.

There have been a few other appearances of "tears of awesome" since the Wonkette mention, but as the philosopher Sammy Hagar said, "Only time will tell if we stand the test of time."

Anyway, I registered the domain, just to keep from the (other) domain squatters, and to try out GoDaddy; I have no idea what I would use it for, if anything, other than to redirect it here.

If anyone has any other insights as to the origins of the phrase, please let me know.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Joelogon's Theorem of Avatar Attractiveness

The attractiveness of a person's online avatar* is inversely proportional to their actual physical attractiveness.

*For our purposes, an avatar is a graphic (usually non-photo) representation of a person's self in a blog, forum, virtual world, or other online social communication medium. It is not necessarily a person's allegation of their literal appearance.

The hotter the forum avatar, profile graphic, sig image, or graphic tag, the uglier the person is in real life.

The Rationale
People who are generally judged by others to be attractive will just use their own picture to represent themselves online (where technically applicable).

Similarly, people who view themselves as attractive, or are simply comfortable with their appearance, will also use their own picture.

Alternately, they may highlight another aspect of their personality -- interest, hobby, family, favorite graphic meme, etc.

However, people who know that they are not conventionally attractive, yet have a desire to be seen as such, will choose a graphic idealization of themselves that meets or exceeds societal standards of beauty.

There are two primary motivations:
  1. Aspiration: They want to be seen as beautiful, perhaps even wanting the benefits of being beautiful -- better treatment, more attention, etc.
  2. Delusion: They have an over- or hyper-exaggerated sense of their own attractiveness, and take advantage of the online medium to show their "true self."
In either case, the person will often overcompensate by going to an extreme, choosing a hyper-sexualized archetype of desirability (porn star, Playboy model, etc.).

Observations and Exceptions

* People to whom this theorem applies may not be (and in fact, probably aren't) trying to say their avatar is what they actually look like (as opposed to "fakers"). Rather, their avatar is a supplement to their real world appearance.

* It seems to occur more with females (particularly teenage girls) -- also see the gender discrepancy in fake photo exposé sites like Another win for the male gaze! (Can't speak to the male gays, though.)

* The male equivalent of this phenomena may lie in visual expressions of toughness, strength, wealth, violence or other traditional signifiers of masculinity.

* Men's avatars are often images of female porn stars or other celebrities. This is because guys like looking at hot chicks.

* 3-D avatars: Since overly realistic avatars run the risk of falling into the Uncanny Valley, users may shy away from realistic depictions of themselves.

* Nonhuman avatars (including aliens, animals, robots, furries, vampires, etc): Presumably, the theorem applies, to the extent that the avatar is a representation of the person's self-image (and not simply expression of an interest).

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Get It While It Lasts: Traditional Vaginia Cuisine

As an artifact of having my Thanksgiving and vaginia entries on the main page of my blog, it's now the number one Google search result for traditional vaginia cuisine:

Google Search Results for Traditional Vaginia Cuisine

Of course, I know this due to my referrer logs.

Incidentally, there are a distressingly large number of people who don't know how to spell the female parts.

Also, I will just say what I'm glad my blog no longer appears anywhere near any search term that contains the phrase "white bumps that haven't gone away in a month."

[Item for possible future inquiry: How does the ability/inability to correctly spell "vagina" correlate to that person's ability to locate the happy button?]

Far less titillating (to the extent that the other one was), is also being number one for the phrase "Yes I know I need a haircut"

Lastly, to the s00per-geni0us in Texas who found my George Foreman grill entry after searching on how do I burn my house down: You need help. And by help, I mean the fire department.

Monday, December 04, 2006

An Unexpected Gift of Electronics for the Holidays

So as I was leaving my house last Thursday morning, I found a surprise out front next to my recycling. And I don't mean the pile of dog crap on my lawn (though thanks for that, kind stranger):

The stuff in the bags? Mine. Everything else? Not mine

Apparently, one of my neighbors or other passerby dumped some of his (I'm assuming "his," sue me) old electronic equipment next to my garbage.

The garbagemen had already come and gone, so unless the recycling people were going to take it (and that would be "no"), it was going to be my problem.

I didn't have time to deal with it, so I took the pics and went to work. I figured the stuff would still be there for me to deal with when I got back. And it was.

Here's a closer look:

A Digitech Telegraph Signal Analyzer

Some sort of rack-mounted phase angle voltmeter.

Of course, they were both still there when I got back, slightly moist from the weather but otherwise fine. Since I was stuck with them until next garbage day (Monday), I took them inside for a closer look.

The phase angle voltmeter is a model 213 from North Atlantic Industries (the product page is for a non-obsolete version).

I couldn't find any info about the telegraph signal analyzer, which is infinitely cooler looking.

On the off chance that it was some perverse junk bombing attempt, I took the casing off to take a look at the insides (which I realize would not have helped if it was actually a bomb).

It didn't explode, either then or when I tried plugging it in, so I took the opportunity to clean the casing (there was some particularly nasty sticker residue on it).

So, I still have the two pieces. I haven't decided if I'm going to hang on to them (the signal analyzer looks like it's in pretty good shape) and try to sell them on ebay, or try to take them apart and do something interesting and artlike with them.

However, realistically, I assume they're just going up as two more pieces of clutter for my house.

Scratch Notes: "It's on the Wiki" Means What?, Corrupting Social Media, and Hyperlocality

Lately, I've been using Google Docs as a scratch pad/dumping ground for stuff I might want to write about, both for work and personal consumption.

I've always been ambivalent about writing stuff down -- in my mind, it's how I give myself permission to stop thinking about something.

Anyway, I split my scratch docs among a bunch of different places -- drafts in PINE (remember: Pine Is Not Elm), AOL, Blogger, and of course the Google; text and HTML files on my computer, and of course, the old standby, paper notes in a spiral notebook, convenient napkin, or sticky notes in my wallet.

A lot of the work-y stuff eventually evaporates, since a lot of it doesn't really fit with my current primary audience, which is consumer (though we're working on reaching out to the rest of the social media universe). Sometimes it goes to internal listserves; other times, I just hang onto it until it goes stale and then forget about it.

I've always been kind of an information hoarder anyway, which is kind of wasteful. So, in the interest of sharing and using social media for knowledge management, I'm going to be posting more stuff. Though not necessarily here -- I'm a big proponent of using social media for internal knowledge management, where appropriate.

(It's still Sunday and I'm breaking out the buzzwords.)

Appropriateness is a big consideration -- I do know that blogs and wikis aren't a magic bullet for institutional knowledge-sharing. Without structure and norms, you just have a wild profusion of blogs and wikis that don't talk to each other.

For example, I haven't decided if "It's on the wiki" is Web 2.0 for "Take two aspirin and call me in the morning", "Go away, kid, you bother me", "RTFM" or to butcher the saying, what "Trust me" means in Hollywood (namely, "fuck you").

Anyway, here are two links for those of us on the wonkier side of the social media endeavor:

* "The Corruption of Social Media and the "New" New Media Literacy" [via Digg]: I'm still processing this one -- the thrust of the blog post is that the love of money is sinking its hooks into social media (shocking, I know), so it's not particularly relevatory (there's a reason this Bubble/Web-thing is called "2.0" -- we've seen this movie before), though it does wrap together a few different examples, including:
  • Some implications of PayPerPost
  • Vote-buying and other ways to game social bookmarking and link-sharing sites (primarily digg), such as SpikeTheVote and User/Submitter
  • Friend-buying, especially the ability to buy cool (or make that "hot") friends for your profile (FakeYourSpace)
  • And of course, companies' use of fake profiles, astroturf and other non-authentic, non-transparent content.
I've been trying to do some thinking about quantifying the Attention Economy, so the examples were useful.

* "A Newspaper Chain Sees Its Future, And It's Online and Hyper-Local": So Gannett is running a test down at the Fort Myers (Florida) News-Press, focusing on "hyper-local" news coverage, as well as other aspects of community, user-generated content, social media, and all that good Web 2.0 stuff.

Oh, and the new reporters are mobile journalists, or "mojos" for short, which is charmingly irritating.

Again, I will have to reserve judgement (spelling note: I prefer the UK variant) until I dig in a little deeper (and I'm not even going to get involved with the lowering of the wall between business and reporting), but I am reminded of two things:
  1. If memory serves, when NY1 first rolled out in the early 90s, they did local TV news, only a lot lighter and faster. For example, reporters were their own camera operators (Shades of the 'Edison Carter Show.' And just why exactly isn't 'Max Headroom' on DVD yet?)
  2. The One True B!x and his Portland Communique blog, which sounds a lot like a political version of what the News-Press folks are playing with, albeit earlier, unpaid, and much more obsessive.
So, in closing, my thoughts about this entry:
  • Too long and digressive for mere link sharing
  • Little substance and no audience to make it as commentary
  • Ambivalent, since I still try to keep the work blogging separate, which means I still compartmentalize my thinking on industry stuff
  • Completely redundant, since I still plan on doing something with the links elsewhere.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I Demand Truth in Breakfast Meats

Here's a pic of the Turkey Smoked Sausage (growing up in the bustling, multicultural enclave of NJ, we always called it kielbasa, "kel-bah-see") that was part of my nutritious breakfast this morning:


What's wrong with this picture?

What the fuck is the point of calling it "turkey" smoked sausage if they add pork and beef?

Remember, that's how the Indian Rebellion of 1857 started. Well, except for the sausage.

I remember first running into this particular turkey kielbasa issue when I stopped eating red meat for a few years. (Except for the occasional wedding steak. And the cold cut exception. And Carolina-style barbecue. And, generally, pork is more of a white meat, right?)

I'd cut back on the red meat primarily as a result of reading Deadly Feasts, which is all about brain-eating diseases spread through meat, like CJD, kuru and Mad Cow Disease.

I stepped off of that wagon, finally (a bout of mild anemia will do that), but I do fervently hope that if I ever fall prey to a prion-based brain-wasting disease, it was the result of a good cut of steak, and not some mechanically-separated, processed and formed beef-based meat concoction.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Meet the Farkers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I have no idea, either.


"Let it rain. Clear it out."


There was a lot of kissing going on.


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

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

Late Night Shots: Elevate the Hate

This story will probably be familiar to Wonkette readers and DC-area bloggers, so for all you other folks (all 6 of you), here's the summary:

DC politics/gossip blog Wonkette has been pretty obsessed with Late Night Shots since they surfaced this summer.

It's a closed, invite-only social network for the best and brightest of DCs social-climbing, trust fund-relying, hyperdeveloped sense-of-entitlement-having future leaders of America.

In other words, it's full of douchebags.

Okay, that's unfair. There's nothing wrong with coming from a rich family. You can't pick your parents and you shouldn't have to apologize for your origins, be they humble or grand.

However, based on the highlights of the message board postings that are smuggled out to the proles, these folks should be hounded mercilessly, if not put on the VIP list for "first up against the wall when the revolution comes."

You can see all of Wonkette's Late Night Shots entries here. Make sure you start at the beginning, for earnest discussions like "you wouldn't want to date someone who couldn't get into a good [sorority] house" and "Someone should receive absolutely no more than 30 k/yr and car payments from parents."

They seem to be self-censoring now that the best of their posts have been making it to Wonkette every week.

However, you have to check out this thread.

I won't repeat the story here, but it involves:

* A broken condom
* Plan B contraception (the "morning after pill")
* The perils of posting about a person, in a forum which that person reads.

Now, is it too good to be true? Is it a fake story designed to lure the unwary Wonkette mole, or perhaps some perverse guerilla advertisement for Plan B or Durex Ultra Thin Condoms?

In the absence of additional information, I choose to believe.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Farewell, English: We Can't Hardly Knew You

Saw this linguistic gem in a Digg item today:
"A Gears of War site member was commenting on while the single player game was fantastic all be it short, the multiplayer was filled with bugs and other shortcomings."
One does not go to Digg looking pristine spelling, flawless punctuation, or rational discussion, but albeit is NOT 3 FUCKING WORDS.

Not for about 600 years, anyway (and don't try to pretend you were trying to use Middle English).

Look, I've have plenty of words I still have trouble with. I always have to double-check "misspell," I have been known to switch "peek" with "peak", and I even occassionally (well, rarely) fall into the "you're/your" pit.

(Similarly, I remember the first time I tried pronouncing "bourgeois" -- I was in high school, and I didn't know any French pronunciation rules. It was up there with the "Dom Perig-non" moment from 'Misery.' I still cringe a little bit.)

But some things are just wrong, and you're on the damn computer -- just look it up if you're not sure.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Unabomber as Protoblogger

If it weren't for that whole anarcho-primitive, "living in a remote, cold-water mountain shack with no electricity" thing, it looks like Ted "Unabomber" Kaczynski would have been a heck of a blogger archetype.

Witness, from an AP story about evidence from the Unabomber case (which was never officially released since he plead guilty):
"He wrote about everything. He wrote about what he had for lunch on May 5 of 1979, where he got the food, how he prepared it and what did it taste like," said retired FBI agent Max Noel, who helped lead the investigation.
Plus, he was insane, which in my experience, seems to help.

Monday, November 27, 2006

"I suggest everyone sneezes on and profusely licks their food"

Seeing how my previous workplace fridge note entry was so beloved, here's another one from last Tuesday:


One of your coworkers is a thief and so completely lazy that they stole my sandwich. They stole a HOMEMADE sandwich. Who steals food in the first place? And honestly, who steals a non-packaged product? Do you really want something someone else has handled?

From now on, I suggest everyone sneezes on and profusely licks their food prior to bringing it to work.

I know I will.

Karma will find you.
This was on one of the fridges in another, farther kitchen (ours doesn't have an icemaker).

On a related work-food note, here's another discovery I made last week:

If the opportunity to eat Sodexho's implementation of "pad thai" presents itself, I strongly suggest you refrain.

A Red-Letter Day for BoingBoing?

I shouldn't be amused by this, but I am: Here's a graphic illustration of why you should always, always check your content on the live site after you publish it. This includes after making any changes to published content:

Red text on boingboing due to an unclosed font tag
 Apparently, Cory Doctorow (or someone updating his entry on the Make-magazine edition Leatherman tool) forgot to close a font tag, so all the non-link text is red from that point on. It finally stops when it hits another font tag.

For most of us personal bloggers, unclosed tags, silly typos, broken links and the like are just a minor inconvenience. They make us look sloppy, but since we have relatively few readers (who probably know us personally, to boot), they should be willing to cut us some slack.

Then again, if you don't get many readers, it's a case for not annoying the ones you get, isn't it?

However, for the folks on the high side of the long tail (to say nothing of, say, the #2 blog in the Technorati Top 100), silly little mistakes like this just make you look bad (no matter what anyone says about the blogosphere norm of "publish, then correct").

Details matter, even if you don't have a anti-site dedicated to you.

(Yes, I know I shouldn't be using a table for this.)

Uncut Snatch for Stupid People

I was flipping through Parade Magazine this afternoon (I hadn't had any coffee yet and Parade has small words and lots of pictures), when I came across this two-page ad from the "World Reserve Monetary Exchange":


Two pics, lazily stitched together.

It's an advertorial (note their microscopic "Advertisement" disclaimer) done up to look like a breathless, soft news puff piece about your chance to snatch up sheets of uncut currency from the "World Reserve Monetary Exchange". (You can see the "announcement" on their site.)

How much? Fiddy-nine bucks, plus shipping. It includes a "rich Angus grain cover."

Now, at the Bureau of Printing and Engraving Store (which, as it happens, is where they get the currency), a sheet of 4 uncut one-dollar bills goes for $15-fiddy (shipping and handling included).

So you're paying upwards of 44 smackers for that rich Angus grain cover (note that the word leather is never actually used).

The Roanoke Times has an article about from last year (I found it by doing a search on "angus grain"): "Money for nothin'? Better read the fine print."

It goes over the essentials -- what they do is simply marketing to stupid people, and their fine print disclaimer ("the world reserve monetary exchange is not affiliated with the united states or any government agency") probably gives them legal cover.

Note that I couldn't find a similar disclaimer on their Web site. I did, however, find this gem of a paragraph on their terms and conditions page:
Any communication besides financial information that you transmit to Universal Syndications, Inc. over the website by electronic mail or otherwise, including any data, questions, comments, suggestions, or the like is, and will be treated, at the discretion of Universal Syndications, Inc., as non-confidential and non-proprietary. Universal Syndications, Inc. may, at its discretion, use this communication or information contained therein for any purpose, including, but not limited to, reproduction, disclosure, transmission, publication, broadcast and posting. Subject to our confidentiality policies, Universal Syndications, Inc. is free to use any ideas, concepts, knowledge, or techniques contained in any communication that you send to the website for any purpose including, but not limited to, developing, manufacturing and marketing products or services using such information.
Look, if people want to pay out the nose for this kind of crap (and they will, especially Parade readers -- look at the Franklin Mint, et al.), that's one thing.

But in my opinion, this is a questionable business practice (some might even say, slimy), and in a less-imperfect world, they'd be getting a visit from these folks:


US Treasury Bureau of Engraving and Printing Police SUV

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving Dinner in a Bowl

Here's what I had for Thanksgiving dinner:

Now that's good noodle.

I'd left Virginia just before 8 on Thursday morning. It was a little later start than I wanted, but considering that I'd gotten in at 1:30am the night before (after the Beach Shack's "pulling up stakes for Falls Church" party), it was probably for the best.

It was spitting down rain most of the drive up, but nothing too bad. There was some brief slowness in Delaware (as expected), but the worst part was two big slowdowns at the New Jersey Turnpike.

Still, it only took me four and half hours, all told.

Since Mom is in Taiwan right now, and my sister was with her fiancé's family, my Dad & I bagged on the traditional Thanksgiving dinner and trained in to Chinatown for some noodles at some of his usual spots.

As we were waiting on the station platform, there was a recorded message: "The scheduled 1:05 train has been canceled." We headed back to the car to go home to wait an hour for the next one, when the train pulled into the station. Guess you can't believe everything you hear.

We got to the World Trade Center PATH and walked to Chinatown. It was raining just enough to be annoying.

There have a few Calder stabiles around City Hall Park:


The brightest spot of color on a gray day.

Here's a pedestrian marker in the sidewalk near City Hall:


And, this is some sort of Herve Villechaize-meme sticker thing at the playground in Chinatown:


Look, boss: De rain! De rain!

So, we went to the noodle shop and had seafood noodle soup, which hit the spot on a cold, rainy day.

Then we went to a few other shops (everything like clockwork -- my parents hit the same spots so regularly, there's practically a groove in the sidewalk), then headed back for home. (It was too nasty out to do much other walking around.)

So it was a good Thanksgiving, just me and my dad: