Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Moon Rulz!! (The Mooninites Pwn Boston)

If I have to explain it, it's not going to be funny:

Mooninite Inignot getting manhandled by the ManIt's censored out of the photo, but Inignot is flipping the bird as hard as he can.

Well, okay, I'll explain it a little bit; there was a bomb scare in Boston today, due to a couple of "suspicious objects."

They turned out to be magnetized LED signs promoting the upcoming Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters.

They look pretty cool at night. However, in the daytime, they looked threatening, since terrorist bombmakers today like to use Lite Brite sets to make their bombs as conspicuous as possible.

So, since we live in a state of constant fear, there was a great big hassle, and Boston freaked out (though it turns out that these signs have been in a bunch of cities, for 2-3 weeks.)

Anyway, despite being big ole 'fraidy cats, the stalwart American people will not be deterred!

Remember, there are no false alarms, only terrorist dry runs! The price of liberty is eternal vigilance! We must defend ourselves against terrorist sprinkler parts and animated cartoon characters with five... thousand dimensions.

Inignot, 1/31/07: Never Forget, by Farker Toonz
"1-31-07 Never Forget" Image by Fark user Toonz

No strip clubs? What the hell kind of planned community is this?

Forget about the lack of cemeteries; Reston has a couple of big hotels (the Hyatt and the Sheraton come to mind), but no strip clubs (let alone any within easy cabbing distance from said hotels).

Don't see the demand? Au contraire -- here's a referrer from about 10:30pm, Tuesday:

(Reston Sheraton Hotel)
Virginia, Reston, United States, 0 returning visits

Date Time WebPage
30th January &rlz=1T4GGIH_enUS205US205&q=Strip clubs Reston%2c VA

Looks like it's discreetly billed hotel room porn for you, fellow traveler.

Now, if you could get it past the zoning and planning boards, a strip club in Fairfax or Loudoun County would make a fortune. Like that would ever happen. (Though I hear the Board of Supervisors in Loudoun County gets pretty cozy with real estate developers. I sense possibilities.)

As it happens, I guess the closest titty pastie bar would be Crystal City Restaurant (never been, though I have been to the Crystal City Sports Pub a few times, which I am told, is run by the same people). Though from here, and especially given the presence of nipple-coverings, you might as well go the whole hog and into the District.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Nuclear Fallout Causes Boredom

Spoilers ahead for '24', season six, 11AM-12PM
  • Looks like the country has gotten a lot more relaxed when it comes to the detonation of nuclear weapons on US soil. People were rioting and cougars were attacking after a nuke went off in the middle of the Mojave Desert in season 2. Now, 12,000 people and Magic Mountain get vaporized, and there are a few fender benders and a helicopter crashes.

    Oh, and there's some political infighting in the bunker. Geez, maybe people would be more freaked out if the terrorists had a

    Dancing Baby GifDancing

    Never forget.

  • Wow, what a great plan, Mr. FBI-Agent. It only requires that the Confidential Informant that you recruited on-the-fly be a trained pickpocket.

    And there's no chance Mr. Cellphone Terrorist-Wannabe would ever check his outgoing call log. Nope. Don't know why cellphone makers even bother to include Call History anymore, since it's such an obscure feature no one uses.

  • "CAUTION: Keep away from babies and small children. The thin film may cling to nose and mouth and prevent breathing. Do not use this bag in cribs, cots, beds, carriages, prams, playpens or field interrogations without proper training. You have to trust us!"

  • Apparently, when the president refuses to accept your resignation, you don't need a two-thirds majority to override him.

  • Hrm, Karen Hayes gets military transport to LA. Which means she'll make it inside the blast radius within a few episodes.

  • Milo better wipe down Tech One after his menage with Mick Schtoppel and Chloe before he doinks Nadia. Maybe he has some anti-static handi-wipes in his desk.

  • Agent Curtis is still dead.
Look, I'm not a super-huge stickler when it comes to realism in 24, as long as it's interesting, exciting, or moves the plot around. But post-Visitor-Number-1 has been BORING.

About the only things that would have saved this episode would be McCarthy's bimbo giving him a handjob in the car to reduce his "stress," or Pops Bauer putting the whammy on Rocket Romano's security team with a well-timed "Baa-ram-ewe."

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Only Person I'm Stalking Is Me

Saturday, I went to my friend Reed's place in Dupont Circle for a party. It was a party for his birthday, though not necessarily a birthday party.

I'm there for about 30 seconds, saying my hellos. As I go to drop off my jacket, I catch a glimpse of someone who looks familiar, but nah, that can't be him. Re-enter the room, and suddenly from behind, there's a pair of hands over my eyes and a voice telling me "Bet you don't know who this is."

My previous glimpse confirmed, I forego the double-arm trap/elbow smash to throat/knee strike sequence (it would have been rude to the host) and say, "Wayan, get your hands off my glasses, you're messing them up."

So that's where the DC Metblogs item ('A small DC blogging world after all') and photo stems from:

Wayan and Joe
Photo by Wayan. Notice the tendrils growing out of my head.

The DC-area Blogging-with-a-Capital-B scene isn't all that big, so I'm not surprised that I've run into Wayan a few times, though the random house party encounter was kind of odd. But am I stalking anyone? Not presently, though if you would like to be considered for stalking, please send me a mail or leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

However, this does give me an excuse to dive into my draft post pile.

Interesting (If You're Me, or Stalking Me)

When I do vanity searches, I find that looking for Joe Loong finds me pretty well -- I own the first view of results, with a mix of work and personal stuff.

However, Joseph Loong does considerably worse, in that you can find me, but only in a roundabout way.

The explanation is simple: I really only use Joseph on official documents and such. Since middle school, I've pretty much always gone by Joe, which carried over to my cleverly-constructed online handles ("Hi, I'm Joelogon." "Cool, what's your name?" "Um, Joe."), Web sites, and later my blogs and online profiles.

Of course, my business cards say "Joseph" -- I will have to consider the implications of this.

It's partly because of the proximity of my personal stuff with my work stuff when you search on my name that's got me re-evaluating this whole concept of trying to keep your work stuff separate from your personal stuff online, which is a fading concept that I still cling to.

There are plenty of folks out there, the A-List bloggers and such, who've fully embraced the concept of using their names as brands for everything they do, such that there really isn't a distinction anymore between their work/non-work, or even public/private lives. It's very Hollywood-ish.

Though I've noticed that:
  1. Bloggers' transparency always stops at a certain point (even if that point is much further along than the rest of us might hope). It's the blogger equivalent of when a regular celebrity goes into rehab and drags out the "I hope you'll respect my and my family's privacy during this sensitive time."

  2. I'm also not trying to launch any companies.
I should be more used to this, I guess. I've never been particularly difficult to find, even in pre-Internet days -- there just aren't that many Loongs in the phone book in the U.S. -- lots and lots of Leungs, but not many Loongs.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Here We Go, Heat Pump, Here We Go! *Clap-Clap*

I'm watching the Duke-Boston College basketball game right now (Duke's up, we're 4 minutes into the second half), and during a commercial break, I learned that I can get an Affinity heat pump by York in one of 7 custom designer colors, or more importantly, sporting the logo of your favorite NCAA Division 1 college.

They include a handy preview widget:

Duke Heat Pump
Operators are standing by.

As it happens, York is now a subsidiary of Johnson Controls -- you may have seen the name on a thermostat somewhere, though they have their fingers in all sorts of pies. A girl in one of my classes back in college grew up in the Marshall Islands -- her parents worked for Johnson Controls, presumably supporting one of the military bases or missile test sites out there.

I always thought it was kind of sinister -- it had that Omni Consumer Products feel to it.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Are You an Older/Newer or a Newer/Older? (Or, Proof That the Washington Post Leans Left)

While reading the Washington Post's Express blog, I noticed something annoying:

Their Previous/Next navigation is backwards from what I expect:

Express forward/next nav
Previous 10 Posts [older] | Next 10 Posts [newer]

It bugged me until I figured it out.

Now, since timelines usually start with older dates at the left, moving towards newer dates at right, I guess this makes sense.

However, since we read from left to right, having the newest stuff at the "left" side of the timeline is a more natural and more expected behavior for me.

But if you're going to use metaphors, what about paper diaries? The first entry is the earliest entry...

I think because blogs are reverse chronological anyway (their defining characteristic -- the new stuff goes on top), flipping the timeline so the newest stuff is anchored at left has a certain symmetry to it.

Looking at other blogs, say, Engadget, a Weblogs, Inc. blog that uses Blogsmith:

Engadget forward/next nav
Previous Page [newer] | Next Page [older]

Over at GawkerMedia blog Wonkette (are they still on Movable Type?) they do the same thing:

Wonkette forward/next nav
Previous [newer] | Next [older]

And you know, those guys don't agree on anything.

Lastly, looking over at Valleywag, even though they're also GawkerMedia, they're so forward-looking, they can't go back:

Wonkette forward/next nav
Next [older]

Taking the opposite point of view, it looks like Wordpress blogs default to
« Previous Page [older] — Next Page [newer] »

I don't think we Blogspot/Blogger users even get a vote in the standard templates.

Anyway, the « [Older] | [Newer] » folks could bring up browser forward/back navigation, and the « [Newer] | [Older] » side could counter with Top 10 lists (editorial top 10 lists should always start at 10 -- to start at 1 is anticlimactic).

Muddying the waters further, I realized that the Gawker & Weblogs blog networks don't really have calendar-based archives -- Gawker's archive pages go « [Newer] | [Older] » within each month, and Weblogs blogs don't do monthly archives. Obviously, calendaring goes from « [Older] | [Newer] », so that's another one for the ONs (making the other side the NOs?).

So basically, it's a big mess, and someone's always going to be annoyed (even though all we right-thinking folk know it should be « [Newer] | [Older]» )

At the very least, I would say the "Previous" and "Next" labels should be replaced with "Older" and "Newer," to take away any ambiguity and remove the misleading linguistic baggage that the Previous | Next labels carry with them.

In the classic new media "make it a user preference" cop-out-to-avoid-tough-but-ultimately-meaningless UI decisions, just label the links clearly and let the blogger choose. That way, people could use whatever scheme they wanted, readers are happy, and I wouldn't have such a headache.

(Oh, and something else irritating about the Gawker blogs? The "Next" link at the top of the page doesn't do the same thing as the "Next" link at the bottom of the page -- the top page link goes to the next entry, while the bottom page link goes to the next page [with multiple entries])

Friday, January 26, 2007

Voting Machine Security: I'm All Over It

My Keychain

Back in my entry where I talked about my keychain, I mentioned that I'd Photoshopped the bumps on my house key, so no one would be able to duplicate it from the picture.

Ha-ha: silly, right?

I'm a fricking genius. Or at least, compared to the Diebold people. [link via BoingBoing, who seemed quite gleeful about the whole thing.]

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The State of the Onion, 24 and the H&R Block Box Bitch

You know, I think the chimp-in-chief didn't do all that bad of a job giving the State of the Union this time around. At least in terms of delivery. Well, except for that whole "assed/asked" thing. And I have mixed feelings about that bit of pandering to the fairer sex when he referred to Pelosi (who, truth be told, does have an incredibly annoying voice.)

Though Dikembe Mutumbo?

The Jim Webb rebuttal was hardcore, though.

Looking over at my catchup viewing of '24', I think the primary takeaway is that Rocket Romano's wife Marilyn is HOT. (She's also apparently wheelchair wife from Heroes, so there's that Monday night connection.) Also, Milo, Chloe and Mick Schtoppel are going to have a three-way in Tech One. And soon.

Finally, if you've seen that H&R Block TaxCut software commercial -- the one where the husband and wife are getting audited because they used Turbotax, and the wife keeps going on about how they should ask the box for advice?

Man, what a bitch.

Tags: ,

Monday, January 22, 2007

Fat Penguins and Scenes from the Snow

This no-camera thing is sort of liberating, actually.

I met up with the folks at the Boulevard Woodgrill (the original plan had been to hit up RiRa, but there was a line).

The bar area there is really narrow and crowded (which is a little odd, considering that by the end of the night, the rest of the restaurant is empty.) It makes for lots of incidental contact and some okay people watching -- I had my eye on a large chocolate cake, as well as a trio of young bucks trying to pick up on 2 girls (leading in with the ever-popular, "we got a round of shots for you.")

There was also a comparison of different pickup lines/jokes -- Jenny led with "Fat Penguin," and Scott countered with the Reese Witherspoon stabbing (which is a joke, believe it or not)

We got kicked out at midnight and went to Galaxy Hut (where we met and hung out with a visiting Aussie named Dan); after that closed, we went to Ryan's house (after a brief encounter with an Arlington County fire truck that was blocking my car in).

I didn't get home until around 4am. I also rediscovered that the left travel lane at the intersection of Reston Parkway and Baron Cameron Ave does not trip the roadbed sensors that trigger the traffic light.

Snow Day

I woke up this afternoon to the snow. I had some vitally important errands to run, so I blatantly disregarded any suggestion to stay off the road. My ABS kicked in one or twice, but it was generally okay, though I did see:
  • A seven-car accident on the toll road (two cars were facing the wrong direction; only a few of them looked smashed up, though)
  • A Trans Am driving backwards on Sunrise Valley Drive -- the bit by the golf course is hilly, curvy and surprisingly treacherous; I guess he couldn't make it.
  • A couple of cars high-centered on medians or slide off the side of the road, as well as a few just abandoned in turn lanes.
Anyway, I survived. I would prefer to have the unseasonably warm January we had before, though.

Friday, January 19, 2007

My Camera Committed Suicide

Well, I may have helped it along a little bit.

When I turned on my camera today -- an obsolete-when-purchased 3.2 megapixel Canon SD200 (which I got in October 2005) -- the lens extended a bit, then the screen went black, except for an error code in the bottom left corner: "E18"

Doing a search shows that when the lens gets stuck (possibly due to foreign object debris), it throws an E18 error. It happens soften enough that it has its own Web site.

The Web site suggests a few measures, including a few varieties of "helping" the lens along.

I think I may have been a little too helpful.

I may have to take it apart, and I'm not confident -- I think I already damaged one of the connectors.

I like the Canons; heck, if I can get an SD200 cheap, I may just replace it, since I like the form factor. However, I would like something with better low-light performance, since at high ISO settings, the pictures are awful noisy.

So if I can live without a camera for a while, I may poke around and do some more research.

On the plus side, if it's irrevocably broken, it gives me some time to catch up on my backlog of untreated photos.

Tags: , ,

Blogger Meetup Says: Virginia Is for Snipers

I went to the revitalized-for-2007 DC Blogger Meetup on Wednesday at RFD & dragged along my friend Adam (who has a blog, but hadn't been part of the scene).

It was pretty hopping. I had a few Leffes. I also took this picture of the men's room wall:

Virginia Is for Snipers

"Virginia Is for Snipers" and some other quotes.

Saw a bunch of familiar faces and met a few new folks. I also:
  • Called someone a blog groupie (though in actuality, she had a blog but didn't cop to it until afterwards -- a first, I think).
  • Was reminded by Amber that we first met at a blog happy hour (my first) almost precisely a year ago.
Here's my sole other photo from the evening:


Eventually, we got a ride back into Arlington and hung out at Ragtime for a couple. I'd never been before, oddly enough, and had been led to believe the demographics were pretty favorable, though I didn't see much evidence of that.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Late Night Shots Kinda Makes Sense to Me Now. Also, Women Are Bitches.

I just finished reading Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities by Alexandra Robbins (the other books in that library run were How to Survive a Robot Uprising and The Men Who Stare at Goats, so don't even).

While the book could have used more topless pillowfights (or any topless pillowfights, for that matter), and some of the interpersonal dramas got a little tedious, it was a pretty good read (as long as you define "good read" as "confirming every negative stereotype you ever had about sorority sisters, college girls, and the entire female gender BITCHES BITCHES THEY'REALLBITCHES")

Anyway, the Late Night Shots crue hasn't made it into Wonkette for a while, but reading the book puts the whole "what if a girl was lying about what sorority she was in"-thing into context.

The comments on the book's Amazon listing are also pretty interesting (if by "interesting" you mean "depressing." As with modern American political debate, a viewpoint different than your own = crippling bias.)

My own college experience is pretty irrelevant to this -- other than a few friends who were sisters, my only experience with sororities was walking through the quad during rush and hearing this low murmur, that slowly grew into a hum, then droning buzz, then an overpowering, mind-destroying goose-squawking of a thousand inane conversations going on at once.

There's probably a larger point to be made about slavish adherence to ritual, conformity, conspicuous consumption and political conservatism, but I'm not going to get into it.

Anyway, as long as I'm dipping into the old college memory hole, I do have one mildly amusing anecdote that involves a sorority, but I will have to see if I still have the physical evidence before I can talk about it.

An Amazing New Way to Listen to Your iTunes Collection

Late last week, I discovered a great new way to listen to your iTunes collection (it should also work for most other digital music playing software). It's real easy:
  1. Open iTunes
  2. Sort by "Artist" (It should automatically group an artist's songs by album -- if not, you may need to choose "Album by Artist" or sort again)
  3. Uncheck the "Shuffle play" mode
  4. Hit the "Play" button and listen to the songs (this is crucial) in sequential order!
This is revolutionary. I may try to submit a patent.


Sadly, this "discovery" is due to the fact that my primary music device has been a 1-gig iPod shuffle for a while, and my portable behavior has affected my desktop listening behavior.

After being on shuffle mode for so long, I also find that I'm a lot more impatient with songs, hitting "next" after only a few seconds.

Forcing myself to listen to songs in album order really helps when I'm trying to stay in the flow of something -- without some smarter song/beat/genre matching, shuffle can be awfully jarring at times.

A Few Thoughts on the 24 Season 6 4-Hour Premiere

I'm determined to not fall entirely behind on 24 this season, partially so I can read blogs and boards without worrying about hitting spoilers, but mostly so I don't have to cover my eyes and go "LA-LA-LA-LA" any time a 24 commercial comes on.

Random thoughts for Season 6, 6AM-10AM (episodes 1-4) [Spoilers]:

* When are the terrorists going to learn that, for clandestine deployment of Weapons of Mass Destruction, using just-in-time delivery for components and assembling them on the fly is just more trouble than it's worth?

Sure, in theory, it reduces your vulnerability and makes it harder for someone to roll up your entire organization in one go. But it seems needlessly complicated. Especially since the 24 terrorists are always making their connections by yakking away on unsecured cell phones.

* Similarly, would it kill them to procure some WMD that they can use right out of the box? The terrorists always have to go track down parts and find some engineers to custom-rig detonators and assemble the things at the last minute, and they're always leaving circuit diagrams and schematics lying around for anyone to find.

* Nice job of the writers setting up the not-UPS guy (Ray, Hostage Dad) to look like a potential hero (especially after he channeled a little Jack, killing custom detonator guy with a lamp and the floor), then not doing anything except screaming "NOOOOOOO" before the big boom.

* At this point, I don't think we know if Agent Curtis is dead (I get a morbid glee when I see the big "DECEASED" stamped across the character profiles on the 24 site). I'm inclined to think he's only wounded, since if they were going to write him out, they could at least have given him a heroic death trying to stop the suitcase nuke.

* The first 4 hours are available on DVD tomorrow. That's kind of interesting.

* They're good actors, but all I see is Dr. Bashir, Commander Lock, Mick Schtoppel, Ally McBeal guy, Col. McQueen, and of course, Terrorist Kumar.

* I miss the split-screen camera work. They don't use it very much any more.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Playboy has a blog. Oddly enough, it's pretty much SFW.

BoingBoing had an item yesterday dusting off the old "Playboy playmates on the moon" prank. (Remember, if you don't know about it, it's new to you!)

The interesting thing is, the item was a "Link to blog entry."

Since when does Playboy have a blog? (August 2006, apparently.)

I checked out the site, and it's mostly, even remarkably, Safe For Work. They link off to boob-y YouTube videos and such, but it looks like they're making a deliberate attempt to keep it clean, as evidenced by stuff like this in the source code:
It looks like they're using the blojsom platform (v. 2.3, so they're a little behind).

Either they're viciously moderating comments, or they're just not getting any.

Media and publishing companies probably have a little more reason to blog than other types of companies (especially if they're pushing out monthlies), so it's not really a "look who has a blog now" story any more.

I just would have thought that Playboy would have had a more prominent place in the blogosphere, even if they're downplaying the boobies and going for a more standard "editorial plus behind the scenes" blog.

I guess it's a double-whammy: anything on is probably still hard to defend when it comes to workplace filters ("I read Playboy for the blog articles"?), and if there aren't any nude pics, why visit?

I do note, though, that the SuicideGirls editorial blogs seem to be doing okay (I check out Wil Wheaton's entries from time to time), so maybe Playboy just isn't doing it "right."

A superficial look at both sites shows that SuicideGirls has community as a core offering (since they're not focused around a print magazine, they need to have a robust Web site, and the community aspects -- boards, social profiles, etc. -- go a long way in providing that) whereas Playboy does not (which explains why their site is primarily a big ad for their premium Web content.)

So it pretty much looks like the standard story of the big, entrenched company trying to move over to a new business model, but not getting the social media bits quite right. Only with more tits.

Friday, January 12, 2007

3 Stock Comic Phrases for the Humor-Impaired, Usage of

Are you generally seen by friends, family members, and acquaintances as being "unfunny," "humor deprived" or generally "lacking a sense of humor"?

If you would like to remedy this situation, you will find that judicious use of the following three (3) comedic "stock phrases" will greatly assist you in changing that perception.

Note that you do not have to be "funny" in order to use these stock comic phrases. In fact, the comedic impact of these stock comic phrases may actually be enhanced if you are seen as not normally being funny.

You just need to recognize the trigger events (which can be achieved using rote memorization techniques) that will allow you to deploy your stock comic phrases to hilarious effect.

Ready? Let's begin:

Comic Phrase:
"[He/She] isn't even breathing hard yet."
Setup Line: "[Subject] is coming/Is [Subject] coming?/Is [Subject] going to come?"
Why It's Funny/Comedic Mechanism(s): Sexual innuendo; Pun/Double Entendre /Exploitation of Ambiguity based on multiple definitions of "coming" [i.e. arriving/accompanying vs. achieving orgasm]
Usage Notes: Adjust as needed to fit situation and maintain subject/verb agreement
Historical Example:
"The Redcoats are coming! The Redcoats are coming!"
"Don't worry, they're not even breathing hard yet."*

*Note the prefacing of the stock comic phrase with "Don't worry," referencing the original usage of the setup line as a warning or call to alarm. Recognizing the context of historical statements and being mindful of other, similar nuance will greatly enhance the comedic impact. Don't be afraid to modify these phrases to best fit your specific situation!

Comic Phrase: "Is it [day of week] already?"
Setup Line: Subject mentions extraordinary, uncharacteristic or otherwise atypical occurrence -- typically, an event of a sexual, scatological, violent, or sexually scatologically violent nature.
Why It's Funny/
Comedic Mechanism(s): Implies deviant behavior by the speaker is actually part of his or her normal routine; use of irony (incongruity between expected and stated behavior); putdown (impugning the character of the subject, usually with good-natured intent)
Pop Culture Example:
"Man, I had a guy's finger up my asshole tonight."
"Is it Friday already?"
-- The Usual Suspects (1995)
Usage Notes: Be sure behavior described is generally seen as non-standard (deviant) behavior for that person.
Tip for Expert Users: Consider using longer measures of time: months, seasons, or even calendar years.

Comic Phrase: "That's what she said!"
Setup Line: Varies. In all instances, subject makes a statement that might conceivably be used in a sexual situation (i.e. a classic double entendre)
Why It's Funny/Comedic Mechanism(s): Calls attention to subject's inadvertent use of double entendre (Implies that similar phrase was heard by you during a sexual encounter.)
Usage Notes:
* Similar in nature to the stock comic phrase, "Is it [day of week] already?" although its usage is limited to dialog that might conceivably be delivered by a sexual partner.
* Must be sure that double entendre was not deliberately invoked by the speaker.
* Verbal emphasis should be on "she"
* Can be applied to situations that would reflect either positively or negatively on yourself (see examples)
"It was the biggest one they had ever seen."
"That's what she said." (Positive)

"Oh my god, I took one whiff and puked my guts out."
"That's what she said." (Negative)
Important Contraindications: Do not use the gender-reversed construction (female speaker, implied male subject), e.g. "That's what he said." This is because women are not funny.

With practice, you too can instinctively deploy these stock comic phrases and increase your perceived humor quotient!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

You Don't Have to Listen to Me (But You Shouldn't Break the Law)

I was on the way home from the DC Blogs Summit -- I'd parked my car in Clarendon, but ended up Metroing to Rosslyn since I didn't feel like waiting for the Orange Line. I also thought I would try for some photos. In retrospect, this was probably a mistake, since it was cold and my feet hurt.

And I only got one marginally usable photo:

Shiny Sculpture in Rosslyn

I was at the intersection of Clarendon and Barton, when an SUV full of guys rolled up next to me at the red light, asking... something. I couldn't quite make it out.

Since they were apparently Middle Eastern by way of Eurotrash, I finally figured out they were looking for Guarapo, so I told them they'd passed it, and to take a left on Barton and go back around on Wilson.

I'm not sure if they understood me or not (I even pointed and used hand signals).

However, one thing I am quite sure I did not say was "Keep going straight on Clarendon, through the red light," which they did... directly in front of an Arlington County Police cruiser (marked, even).

They immediately got pulled over.

I felt vaguely bad (even though it wasn't my fault), but it was cold, so I didn't stick around to see what happened.

Lastly, I did manage to catch a snowflake in my hand -- I wasn't sure if it was snow or ash from a fireplace or something, but it was a snow flurry.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

This Is Not a Competitive Analysis of the Post's Local Blog Directory

As I mentioned last week, I went to the Washington Post's "First Ever DC Blogger Summit" last night. (Obligatory "dumb things" content: I got there an hour late, partially because I got a late exit, and I forgot how much I-66 eastbound sucks at rush hour -- not to be confused with I-66, who was also there and does not suck -- and I also neglected to write down the cross street.) So I got there at 7pm, during the break after the first session (a panel of Post bloggers):

Washington Post DC Blogger Summit Sign

Random Observation: The audience was very male, surprisingly so. The word "sausagefest" comes to mind.

Blogging and Libel Law

The second session was a "meet a real-life lawyer"-style presentation on blogging and the law. (I don't have his name, since I didn't grab a packet). It was informative, insightful, and as these legal presentations usually do, simultaneously sucked the air out of the room and scared the hell out of people.

I've participated in a bunch of presentations on legal issues on blogging and social media, so I do know that people do get sued (even people who aren't, say, Perez Hilton) and that there are real pitfalls and liabilities, and that people should watch what they say.

However, I thought that the session, which focused on defamation and libel, was not as well suited to this audience, especially since locally-based bloggers on national political topics had been specifically asked not to attend.

For those of us who aren't political reporters, more stuff on copyright infringement, the much abused concept of "fair use" (see the fair use comic book), dealing with frivolous DMCA claims, and where to get photos that aren't , you know, stolen, would have been useful.

Blast from the past: Remember the Communications Decency Act? The parts that were upheld are a good thing, since that's where safe harbor provisions for ISPs come from. (Thank you, pandering to telecom corporate interests!)

Questions asked and answered included:
  • Factual Predicates --> Ridiculous Conclusions = Okay!
  • Blogging about material obtained from the public record = Fine (but hallway discussions don't count)
  • Comments posted to your blog are probably covered under safe harbor, and you don't have to verify that is a real e-mail address (but don't go sourcing Him with abandon)
  • If you photoshop satirical photos where you mess with celeb pics: -- don't be too subtle (i.e. do a crappy job), asked by Listen to Leon
  • Paraphrasing the lawyer: If I were going to blog myself, I'd get libel insurance. (I love it when non-bloggers explain how to blog. And when I say "love," I mean "hate." And there's libel insurance?)
  • See Libel resources for bloggers, including EFF, and I think MLRC and RCFP
  • A really naive question (sorry, it was) about using your employer's name to give yourself credibility, yet trying to cover yourself with the standard "opinions expressed are my own" disclaimer... go talk to HR
  • Saying "But everybody else is doing it!" "gives you co-defendants, not cover"
There was also a plug for his book on legal issues for reporters, which he apologized was pricey -- I was going to say, it's okay, we'll scan it and put it online, which would have been both snark and a comment on the lack of more discussion on IP, copyright and fair use issues. But I didn't.

Random Observation: Condo Boards and Loudoun County land use folks play hardball.

The Local Blog Directory

The final session covered the Local Blog Directory that the Post is putting together, as well as some associated advertising strategies. It was led by Jonathan Krim and Jeff Burkett:


As a social media professional (such as I am), it was gratifying to see that everyone is dealing with the same issues and asks the same questions:
  • Folksonomy vs. rigid taxonomy
  • What to do about profanity (e.g. blog tagline: "I piss excellence!", which I later saw was a Talladega Nights quote)
  • How to surface relevant blog content in other areas, and how to emphasize relevant content during interest spikes
  • How are people going to get to the silly thing?
  • Categorizing blogs/entries that span multiple categories (or none)
  • What other visualization methods are useful (e.g. tag clouds)
  • The balance between human intervention and automation
  • Granularity, especially in geotagging -- how much is too much?
  • Related -- how to handle the "general" blogs, and bloggers who live in a neighborhood, but don't have a "neighborhood" blog
  • Interest Matching/Customization vs. Serendipity
  • Using social voting (a la digg)?
  • Abstracts: How much information to expose? Summaries are useful, but costly (in terms of screen real estate)
  • Resources for participating bloggers: Widgets? Knowledge sharing? More?
  • Submitting and exposing photos (a la the dcist Flickr tag)
  • Oh yeah: All the monetization aspects.
Like I said, the same problems and the same questions.

Here's a photo of the Local Blog Directory mockup:

Tip: Use English, not Greek. (Oh, I slay myself.)

Some additional comments:
  • Easy to miss (even if it is on the home page), but they do have a sponsored blogroll (under the banner of WPNI) -- they're trying to see if the model is extensible to the local level; see their blog for more info.
  • They name-checked DCBlogs (go Pat!)
The Social Portion

Afterwards, we decamped for the Post Pub; I didn't get very many pictures, but between the event and the bar portion of the evening, other bloggers I encountered included DCist's Sommer Mathis, Celeste Dawn Mitchell, Miss Chatter (sporting very pink hair), Hey Pretty, Jeff, Wayan and a metric shitload (oops, darn that profanity) of Metblogs DC folks; Rob Goodspeed, plus a bunch of Posties (they love it when you call them that), including Jim Brady (who hasn't been in the middle of blog dustup in, months now) and entourage.

Also, a special hello to Mike Grass, the Express dude who I'd been giving a moderately hard time via a few comments to a recent entry where he'd complained about VA drivers on the trip back from Michigan. He seems like a nice guy... even if he was the one who mistook me for a girl in a local blog log item a while back -- I hadn't realized he was the one until he owned up.

Overall, I think it was a useful event, and I like to see if these continue as the Post gets closer to rolling out their directory. Metblogs DC wins the DC group blog attendance award. It's a good thing I brought enough business cards, since that's what I was taking notes on.

Finally, you still can't say "Man Ass" in the Washington Post (but you can say "Manassas.") I don't know what means in this context, but that's just the wacky, irreverent, spontaneous content that makes blogs so... bloggy. Can't you feel the decline in readership and subscribers reversing as we speak?

Anyone Want to Go Halfsies on a DC Strip Club License?

Around the time of the (first) dotcom bubble implosion, I started checking out the site of R.L. Rasmus Auctioneers (they do business liquidation-type auctions) in case I could hoover up a cheap Aeron chair, random hardware, or other symbols of burn-rate excess for pennies on the dollar.

I still haven't got anything from them, but I saw this listing yesterday: Nude Dancing License - District of Columbia.

The auction is next Tuesday. Deposit required: Only $10,000.

Back in November, the DC City Paper had an article of the state of DC strip clubs and how they're being affected by gentrification, development, and the new baseball stadium.

I guess the strip club licenses are like NYC taxi medallions or something.

I think this calls for extensive online research, plus on-site competitive analysis fieldwork.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

An Obsessive Look at My Chewing Gum Methodology

I chew a lot of gum.

Not only does it help me concentrate, but it also helps prevent my lower incisors and canines from growing up into my brain, which would be fatal.

Also, it makes me look exceptionally attractive in photos where my mouth is partially open and you can see it betwixt cheek and gum.

Chewing a lot of gum means carrying a lot of gum. I found out quickly that just slipping packs of gum in my pockets wasn't a good idea. Unless you like lint gum.

For a long while, I used Starbucks After-Coffee Gum; I would buy a pack, rip through the gum in an afternoon and save the tins, which were pretty cool; I don't have any more of the ones with the translucent plastic band near the top (the plastic, alas, was a failure point), but I do have some of the all-metal ones:


The tins would fit a standard 5-pack of stick gum (I'm partial to bubble gum, Extra usually).

Why not just use the original gum? *rattle* *rattle* *rattle*

Now, chewing full pieces of gum gives me a headache after a while, so I ended up tearing the pieces in half. Eventually, I just cut all the pieces in half ahead of time.

I'd keep the container in my back pocket; it wasn't the most ergonomic thing, which explains why most of my jeans now have holes worn out in the back pockets.

I went looking for some different containers:


Starbucks After-Coffee Gum, Altoids Smalls Mints, Jones Soda Candy

The Jones Soda Carbonated Candy container is really neat -- The lid fits inside the tin, not over the end:


Unfortunately, it's roughly the same shape as the Starbucks container, with the same attendant problems.

Also, both the Green Apple and Fufu Berry flavors taste like ass.

The Altoids Smalls container is the perfect size, though it doesn't work with stick gum. (Cutting the pieces in half wouldn't give the right size, and custom cutting each piece would be silly and not worth the effort. Not that I would know because I tried it for a while or anything.)

However, 8 pieces of Trident gum will fit into the tin perfectly:

IMG_3581 IMG_3583

This seems to be the ideal configuration for me; the only possible problem might be if I were, say, lying awkwardly on my right side, trying to get a low-angle shot of some flags flying at half-staff because of a president's death, and I bent the case out of shape so it wouldn't open without a screwdriver.

And really, how often does that happen?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Employee Not Terminated

Cow-orker's cubicle, towards the end of December:


The sign reads:

My Keychain Is Prepared For Disaster

Here's a photo of my current primary keychain, which I will warrant is more prepared for disaster (both man-made and natural) than most people's pockets, purses and man-bags:

My Keychain

First, holding it all together in the middle is a flat wire gate carabiner from Bison designs. (It was originally blue.) Because it's a biner, I can add and remove individual items pretty easily; I can also clip it to the top of my pocket. It's pretty secure, though I still have to make sure everything stays together, lest disaster happen.

Then, starting at the top and going clockwise, I've got:
  • My car keys and remote; they're together on their own split ring. Also on that section is an orange Photon II keychain light. For fun, there's a now-obsolete NYC subway token.
  • An ARC AAA LED flashlight. It looks a lot like a Maglite Solitaire, but it's not -- it costs 3 times as much (so, about 30 bucks) and it is worth every penny. It's incredibly reliable, practically indestructible, and it doesn't have a bulb to blow out -- the LED will last thousands of hours.
  • A Swiss Army Knife Rally, which has a blade, bottle opener, phillips screwdriver, nail file/flat screwdriver, tweezers and toothpick.
  • A Spyderco Ladybug knife; it's on a quick-release plunger so I can detach it if I need to go somewhere where knives aren't allowed. It's got a partially-serrated blade that's a smidge under two inches.
  • A safety pin. Useful things, those.
  • My housekey (The cuts are photoshopped so you can't dupe it from the photo, though if you were going to break in, it would be easier to just make a bump key.)
  • A green Traser Glowring -- it will glow in the dark for about 10 years, because it has a little vial of Tritium gas, which is radioactive (but perfectly safe). If you want one in the US, you need to find someone abroad who can send you one, since they're not available here and can't be shipped in.
  • A storage capsule, also by Bison Designs; I keep a rolled-up twenty and some Pepcid AC antacid tablets (critically important, for reasons I've mentioned before).
So why carry all this crap on my keychain? It's not just "be prepared" stuff -- I use a lot of what's on it pretty much every day.

The lights are probably the most useful things. Lights are incredibly handy to have even if you're not worried about blackouts or being stuck in elevators or on the Metro. (Flashlight geeks like to say that there's a 100% chance of darkness every night -- what more reason do you need?)

On any given day, I'll use the ARC for looking under my desk, poking in the dark corners of my laptop bag, or checking inside my mailbox.

The knives I use less often, but only because I usually have a handier knife or multitool available.

Now, there's other stuff that gadget and personal preparedness types might carry that I think is overkill, at least for a primary keychain -- whistles, magnifying lenses, hotspark fire starters, pens, mini-compasses, mini-prybars, small multitools, GI can openers, etc.

Plus, I try to avoid any other keychain junk: USB drives, SecureID tokens, buyers club cards, wifi hotspot detectors, coin purses, condom holders, laser pointers, and the like.

(Besides, if I need to carry any of that other stuff, it'll usually be in another pocket or my laptop bag.)

Short legs = short pants = small pockets, so I don't want too much stuff dangling from my keychain.

As it is right now, it's fairly discreet, with no jingling. Everything goes in my pocket except the car remote, which I let drape over the edge of my pocket.

I guess it also helps that I only need to carry two keys.

Go See Children of Men

Saturday was unseasonably warm, so I took the opportunity to do something I haven't done for a long while.

I went to a movie.

Yes, I took advantage of the rare January shorts and t-shirts weather by sitting inside a climate-controlled multiplex to see 'Children of Men.'

It was worth it. You should go see it. It was intense.

There are plenty of reviews out there, so I won't give away any of the details.

Technically speaking, there are a couple of ridiculously long uninterrupted tracking shots, including a spectacularly complicated 8-minute battle scene towards the end. (I didn't realize how long it was until reading about it afterwards.)

It's also one of those movies that gives movie theaters a reason to continue existing, at least if you don't have a surround sound setup at home.

Anyway, like I said, it's intense, especially the extended urban combat scene that ends in the apartment building. And the thing that halts it (briefly) is even more intense. I teared up.

It's definitely going on the DVD-to-get list, which is pretty ridiculous, considering my existing backlog of unwatched movies (which I just added to today, getting 5 more: The Matador, Brick, Inside Man, United 93, and Land of the Dead.)

Yes, not only am I procrastinating when it comes to dealing with my life by buying movies, I'm procrastinating in my procrastination by not watching the movies that I buy.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Logon's Run, or A Long Way to Go for a Stupid Sci-Fi Joke

Sample Web registration form in the world of Logan's Run:

Birth Date:

Why yes, I am still very punchy right now.

Another reason why you shouldn't watch the Saddam execution video

From now on, I'm going to yell out

at inappropriate moments.

It has a rhythm to it. Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada.

Plus, if you say it right, it sounds like a chicken squawk:

Bok, Bok, Bok, Moqtada!

I'm a little punchy right now.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Washington Post's Secret Plans for Local Blog Domination had an article today about how the Washington Post is looking to more closely integrate its Web and print operations. Here's a perfect (though inadvertent) example:

Gene Weingarten's Sunday column addressed the whole "Christopher Hitchens sez chicks ain't funny" trainwreck (which I'm not going to talk about here because it's, well, tedious -- see a comment I made on the issue in the Too Many Words blog).

Here's the relevant excerpt, faithfully reproduced from the print edition:
"I don't have anything to say. I do have something to sing. Here is my song "What Was I Thinking" (
content/audio/2006/12/13/AU2006121301229.html). And here is a special new verse I added just for Gene -- and Christopher, of course (

-- Christine Lavin, folksinger / songwriter"
Now, can you imagine someone trying to hand-type those nightmare URLs into a Web browser? (I had to add line breaks to keep them from blowing up my page.) The inclusion of those URLs demands that you visit the Post Web site so you can at least copy-and-paste the URLs. It's brilliant! Synergy!

The Post and DC Bloggers

Now, I've always liked the way the Post has experimented with integrating community and new media/social media into their primary content. They've usually done it in a careful but substantive fashion (not just throwing up a link to a Web bulletin board up and calling it community).

This dates back to their scheduled Live Online Web chats (they were only nominally "chats," but they were still pretty interactive -- and useful).

More recently, they were one of the first big mainstream news sites (that I recall) to incorporate Technorati modules in articles to show linking blogs (a feature which was discovered by spammers shortly afterwards, of course).

Then, about the time Jim Brady came on board, they started ramping up on the blogs and Web-only features (with the attendant stumbles, of course, but that's to be expected).

Now, as DCist and others have reported (I think it started snowballing -- no, the other kind -- after I-66 blogged about it), they're reaching out to the local DC blogging community for a DC Blogs Summit next Tuesday, Jan. 9.

At a guess, they're making contacts with the local blog community, to take on what Backfence and others are trying to do. It looks to be a follow-on to a similar, but closed, event from this past August (my invite undoubtedly got caught in my spam filter).

In the Web 1.0 world, we thought (well, I thought) that newspaper Web sites were going to be the logical hubs for local community content. Newspapers had local presence, resources and most importantly, name recognition and eyeballs.

It never really panned out fully (hell, I thought that the local free alterna-weeklies were going to get a bigger piece of the local online community pie); maybe the participatory Web wasn't really ready until blogging came around. Or maybe it was because of high walls between the "real" newspaper operations and the "web stuff." Or maybe it was because newspapers pretty much expected everything to happen on their own sites -- a variation of the walled garden.

However, the rise of blogging, as well as old-school social media like Web boards and craigslist, has kind of flipped this around. Instead of newspaper sites trying to incubate and hoard user content, what they can do now is go into the maturing social media space, find stuff like DC Blogs, see what other folks are doing (including DCist, Metblogs DC, Backfence), try it out on a smaller, faster scale (DC Express), then look to see what else they can do simply by aggregating and linking to unaffiliated contributor content.

Is it an attempt to get free content -- a crowdsourcing variation, to use the en vogue term? To an extent, but they've still got eyeballs to spend, which matters. Plus, it gives everyone a degree of freedom -- bloggers are free to talk about whatever they want, which the media site is free to feature -- or more importantly, not feature.

And there's still room to offer wholly-owned content, which now has more stuff -- an active environment -- in which to develop.

On top of that, the newspaper sites can add value by doing the things that only professional media can do really well (primary-source, long lead investigative reporting; writing without using the word "douchebag", etc).

Anyway, I plan on attending the thing next week to see what's up. It should be interesting, even if it's not.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Why Is There Whipped Cream on My Car?

10:08pm: The Spectrum at Reston Town Center parking lot (in front of the Barnes & Noble):

Crushed Can of Reddi Wip Whipped Cream

As you can see, there's a pile of Reddi-Wip cans on the ground, including one that'd been crushed under the tire of the car parked in front of mine.

Some of the whipped cream had squirted onto my front tire. Not much.

Hadn't realized that the RTC parking lot was the in-place to do whipits.

I'd had my camera in my pocket in case I could get a shot of tonight's full moon, though this was more interesting.

Turned on the long exposure and 2-second self timer, and set the camera on my front driver's side mirror.

Do Have: Podcast Interview. Do Not Have: Goddamned Philly Accent

So last month, I did a phone interview for SFSU campus radio show and podcast No One's Listening. You might know the host, Irene McGee, from MTV's Real World: Seattle (You know, Irene? Curly hair. Lyme disease. Got slapped.)

The show focuses on media issues, and they wanted to talk with someone from AOL on blog and social media etiquette. So they ended up with me.

(This was actually my second-ever work-related phone interview; my first phoner was back in September, 2005, talking about an AOL survey about blogging trends and motivations, though it was for print-only.)

Anyway, I did the interview. It went about 10 minutes and I think I did okay -- you can listen to my segment online here.

(I posted a full writeup in one of my work blogs -- I'm basically repeating it -- but I hadn't gotten around to talking about it here. I did mention it at the last DC Bloggers' Happy Hour. Evidently, one of my resolutions for 2007 is to do more self-promotion.)

It was fairly basic stuff. We looked at each other's blogs, discovered a mutual liking of The Pogues' Fairytale of New York, talked about some etiquette items specific to blogs, then meandered over to discussing profiles and other social media.

I probably should have gotten in a few more plugs for stuff, but I'm generally happy with what I said. After all, I can regurgitate the conventional wisdom on this community stuff with the best of them (be transparent, be authentic, be responsive, etc) and I've given this kind of spiel internally a bunch of times.

However, how I said what I said needs some work. I was too close to the phone mike, so my b's and p's were popping (guess I need a pop filter), yet I was still too soft in spots. Plus, I talked over the host a few times. So I need to work on my delivery.

However, one problem I do not have is any sort of harsh regional accent. I speak pure, flat mid-Atlantic American English. So I don't care what any damn Web site quiz says -- I do not have a goddammed Philly accent:

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: Philadelphia

Your accent is as Philadelphian as a cheesesteak! If you're not from Philadelphia, then you're from someplace near there like south Jersey, Baltimore, or Wilmington. if you've ever journeyed to some far off place where people don't know that Philly has an accent, someone may have thought you talked a little weird even though they didn't have a clue what accent it was they heard.

What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

I was originally prompted to take the quiz by one of Gene Weingarten's weekly chats (now on haitus).

Obviously, I must have misunderstood the quiz questions, or otherwise answered them incorrectly. (I took the quiz twice, though -- same result both times.)

If you've never spoken to me, you have the interview podcast audio to listen to, so you can judge for yourself.

Finally, Happy New Year.