Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My Halloween Avoidance Strategy

So Halloween is tomorrow, and I could very well be at home during prime candy distribution hours. That leaves me with three options:
  1. Stock up on candy
  2. Hide
  3. Flee
Since I have no cow-orkers to pawn the leftovers on and I've already been eating like crap and not getting any exercise, #1 is right out. And #2 is pretty lame. So I think I'll go with #3 -- flee. But to where?

I haven't been to Great Falls in a while, and it's supposed to hit close to 70 tomorrow, so I'm thinking an afternoon jaunt to Great Falls Park (possibly starting in on my usual entry point, Riverbend Park.) Then maybe hit the Old Brogue on the way back. Or just head over into Arlington, for... Wednesday night.

As for tonight, I'll be heading over to Restaurant Three shortly for a congratulatory layoff dinner with some old friends, possibly following up to see Alice Smith at Iota, or perhaps the regular Psychotronic movie night at Dr. Dremo's (catch it there while you can, dontcha know).

Zombie Post-Post-Mortem

I didn't end up going to the DC Zombie Lurch this year (sheer laziness). I did, however, dress up as a zombie for parties later on. I kind of waited until the last minute and it shows a little bit, but I didn't worry about it too much:

Post-Halloween Costume Assessment

I basically went as Generic Hoodie Zombie. The eye makeup was kind of a disaster, but what are you gonna do? It was a rush job.

The cheek wound was just some toilet paper and spray-on bandage, splattered with fake blood. If I'd given myself more time, I could have made it look like a true gaping wound, but here it's more like a wrinkled road rash. I had a neck wound done similarly, but it didn't look as right. Both didn't stand up close inspection, but were okay from the middle distance.

The blood was just corn syrup, red food coloring (with a drop of blue), cocoa mix and a tiny bit of strawberry jello mix.

I even carried a little film container of it with me, in case I needed a touchup or tasty dessert topping, but I didn't use it.

The tear in the t-shirt is for a chest wound that I didn't have time to do, so I just slapped a big band-aid over it (someone later asked me "Why do you have a teabag in your shirt?")

I put a towel down on the seat and drove out to Leesburg. I was thinking about potential reactions by cops or paramedics, when I nearly hit a deer that was standing in the middle of the Greenway. Fortunately, a minivan was passing me, and its headlights gave me enough warning to get out of the way.

A few photos from Jason & DeAnna's party are here.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Recent Reading

Been doing a lot of reading recently (wonder why). Here are a few of the more recent items:

Indecision, by Benjamin Kunkel: Eh, it was okay. Maybe I should have empathized more, since the protagonist lost his job, but I dunno. Didn't see that twist ending coming from a mile away. Nuh-uh.

We Were One, by Patrick O'Donnell: A pretty straight-ahead combat report from the Battle of Fallujah.

How I Became Stupid
, by Martin Page: Maybe it didn't translate well from the French, but it felt pretty flat. Yes, we know, shallow people are stupid and stupid people are happy.

The Sagan Diary, by John Scalzi: A quick read, basically a behind-the-eyes supplement to the other books in The Old Man's War universe (I still haven't read The Last Colony yet). I guess I'm more into your basic military and hard sci-fi. Not really my thing.

Boomsday, by Christopher Buckley: Set in the world of Thank You for Smoking, I liked it a lot, even though it's a bit ham-handed at times. The ending feels a little abrupt, too, but it's a good read -- I finished it in an afternoon.

In other book news, I saw from DCist that Bethanne Patrick is book-blogging for WETA. I know her from AOL, when she was blogging as AOL's Book Maven. Good on her.

The Future of News Industry Jobs Conference: Session 1

As previously threatened, I'm at the Future of News Industry Jobs Conference, at the University of Maryland. Getting to College Park was less of a hassle than I feared, so I got there just on time.

Now, I have no journalism experience, but I'm interested in online media in general and social media in particular.

There are a lot of newspaper folks here; some of them are visibly uncomfortable with the whole online thing. (This is not unfamiliar to me -- I was working with a lot of product folks who were uncomfortable with the whole social media/public communciation thing). There's a lot of anxiety evident, especially among the union folks.

The first session really demonstrated this anxiety -- "Industry Upheavals and the Effects on News Workers," where John Newhagen of the Phillip Merrill College of Journalism presented a survey of newspaper industry people (reporters, ad folks, circulation, etc) and their attitudes towards the future of the industry.

* 73% respondents were not sure or did not think they will be working for a newspaper in 5 years. It evidenced a nostalgic view of the past, pessimism towards the future.
* A slide on attitudes about the importance of software tools (Google, spellcheck, Photoshop, Video [Avid]) and hardware tools (PC, Cell, Digital Cameras, Digital Video)
* A high percentage of people responding to questions about layoffs of people doing the same jobs as them.

Panel reactions varied. Linda Foley of the Newspaper Guild/Communications Workers of America was mostly defensive spin (e.g. high proportion of responders with low work-related Web usage [c. 1 hr/week day -- Correction: I was quoting someone else, who was incorrect; I later spoke to John Newhagen and saw the survey slides] meant that reporters were out in the community, not deskbound

Tom Rosenstiel of the Project for Excellence in Journalism gave a contrarian view, where the question isn't (or shouldn't be) "will you still be in your job at the newspaper" but "will you still be doing journalism" (in whatever form)

Liza Gross of the Miami Herald and Int'l Women's Media Foundation had the best points and anecdotes. She noted that the fears & anxieties of int'l newsroom workers were similar to those presented in the survey and that layoff/outsourcing fears were greater in older (35+) workers.

* Sound bite: "Generally speaking, we journalists are not models of time management." She gave an example of designer using a "proportion wheel" (I had to look it up -- it's basically a slide-rule for resizing images -- talk about not adapting to "new" technology)

* Some journalists simply fear losing status or voice, especially where "voice" is equated with "length"-- the sheer number of words printed (vs. integrating graphics, photos, video); the same types of folks exhibit discomfort with interactivity, citizen/public journalism -- problem of mindset and the way journalists see themselves.

* Looking at changes in newsroom piecemeal leads to lack of clarity

* Rush to hyperlocal news (local-local-local) -- won't solve all ills, may not work for everyone

* Newspeople can get lost in academic issues (she shared a story of a days-long discussion at a European paper whether editors should use the computer mouse, or if that was a role for a blue-collar worker -- I'm hoping it was an old ancecdote)

Bruce Shapiro from the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma had a few points, but they were basically irrelevant to the session.

From the QA, a few points to pull out:

* The role of technical training -- people want it, say they don't get it, then often don't take it when it's offered.
* A Reuters writer told of being asked to do video, audio, photo (typically other union roles), and brought up the question of quality and time.
* The session videographer closed it out by saying: Let the kids teach. It kind of raises an interesting question -- if there's the idea of mentorship and apprenticeship by more-experienced journalists, why not have mentorship and apprenticeship by folks who are experienced with the new technologies and tools?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I Don't Consider Myself a Web Content Maven

Went to the Web Content Mavens Meetup last night at Whitlow's. I got there late, since it took an hour to get from Reston to Arlington -- 66 was a big hassle (shocker), though the main presentation hadn't been going on that long.

The speaker was Lisa Welchman, and the topic was Web Operations Management strategies. She had a very simple handout, with four points: Strategy, Operations, Governance, and Community. Even I, a simple end-user, could follow it pretty well. And as a typical end-user, I'm usually on the "why can't we just do this now?" side of things, but it was still pretty engaging -- especially the bit about needing content policies in place. (I did think her answer to the problem of managing user-generated content didn't really cover it -- simply not giving user content an "official" stamp of authority may cover you from a common-carrier perspective, but there are just certain things you need to act on, not the least of which if you want to have a viable and useful community.)

Did a little networking -- right now I'm still x-ing out my old business cards and writing my contact info on the back, which is pretty cheesy. I'll need to get some simple ones put together soon.

Afterwards, hung out in the bar with a few folks. It was some good conversation.

Tonight (now, as a matter of fact) is the NextDC Happy Hour; I'll see what the traffic's like and head in. However, I do have to be up early tomorrow morning and over at College Park (yay, morning rush on the Beltway) for the Future of News Industry Jobs conference, so I dunno. Too soon to tell.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

So Now What?

Today officially marks a week since the layoff, so I guess I should figure out what to do. Step One is to get out of the house a bit more (bonus: I get to avoid doing around the house stuff), so I'm in the local Greenberry's right now, taking the laptop out for its first field trip.

Some things I need to do.

Small stuff:
* Make some appointments for some checkups. It's been a while, and I might as well do it while the health insurance stuff is still the same.

* Macbook: Mail isn't quite working right, so a little more tweaking is in order.

* Personal calling cards. Get some.

Middlin' stuff:
* Blog Housekeeping: Overhaul the categories, which are a big steaming mess. A few adjustment to the template, especially the main page. Fix that stupid top nav bar, which I just hacked together after the Blogger beta transition screwed it up a while back.

* House Housekeeping: It's still a mess. The addition of 3 boxes of office crap didn't help things.

Big stuff:
* Identity Theft: I have a situation that I need to resolve. It's a pain and I've been avoiding it, but I got plenty of time right now, after all.

* Fix Up the Office: I have plenty of things to fix in the house, but now it's going to be pretty critical to finally fix up the extra bedroom into a real workspace.

Other than that, I guess I should think about a Halloween costume and do a few other things. Also get to blogging some more, and not just about stuff I need to do.

I'm sufficiently wired on coffee now, so I think I'll go home and play with some boxes.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Passing the Time With DC Tech Networking and Concerts

It being officially the start of a new workweek (Well, it was this morning -- gimme a break, it's not yet quite a full week since I got laid off. Speaking of which, I note that AOL CEO Randy Falco talks about the layoffs in today's Post -- and yes, he felt "bad" for diverting the corporate shuttle to White Plains at least 5 times), and since I'm mostly up and running on the new machine (mostly), I should probably have a plan for stuff to do.

It largely involves leaving the house during daylight and while it's still nice out. I will break it down thusly:

* Balance checkbook (done)
* Pay a few bills
* Go the library, return a few books and print out a Web page.
* Set the groundwork for future progress

This Week:
While I haven't started the full-bore job search yet, there are a few DC tech networking events that sound interesting (thanks, DC Tech Events):

* Wednesday: Meeting of the Web Content Mavens Meetup group, which is conveniently located at Whitlows, positioning me for later hanging out in Arlington.

* Thursday: NextDC Happy Hour at Science Club.

This, unfortunately, conflicts with the Cowboy Junkies show at Birchmere; their Friday show is sold out. I will have to decide. I thought it was next to the Camelot strip club, which would have been a plus, but I was thinking Sign of the Whale. I also note that strip club proximity is not normally part of the calculus, but I've been watching the Laid Off episodes from Odd Todd (I blame Corey) and strippers feature prominently.

* Friday and Saturday: The Future of News Industry Jobs Conference in College Park. Being local and only $50, it's probably the only conference I'll be going to for a while. But the topic is interesting to me.

Saturday night is also the 2007 DC Zombie Lurch. If I do day 2 of the conference, I might not be able to dress up, but I would like to watch.

* Sunday: Over the Rhine at Birchmere.

I'll be writing more about what I'm going to be doing in my enforced downtime, mostly to organize and prioritize it for myself. High priority: Calling cards. I might get some Moo minicards, which are shiny and pretty, but they're not really what I want (and they aren't cheap).

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Macbook Story So Far...

Okay, I ordered the Macbook on Tuesday. Got it on Thursday. It had a trackpad bump. They gave me a new one. iSight didn't work, but I fixed it. Here's what else happened.

It's All About Connections

I had a damned of a time getting the MacBook to connect to my home network Thursday night. It was fine with an unencrypted connection, but as soon as I turned on encryption, it refused to recognize the router and tried to assign itself an IP from the on-board Airport card (which resulted in a whole lot of fail).

It took me a long, long time, but after a lot of searching and reading, I finally was able to get it unfucked -- I had to update the firmware on my router (a D-Link DI-624, which is now "end-of-life" -- if it happens in the future, I'll probably need to get a new router), and it started working normally.

(I guess that explains why my sister was never able to get a wireless connection with her Mac laptop. Sorry about that.)

Back That Azz Up

Now, I can't find my license key for Retrospect Express to do an auto-restore from my external drive. But I figured I could use this opportunity to do some cleanup, instead of copying everything straight across the Evergrowing Pile of Unexamined Crap. So I manually restored what I was able, and I'm in the process of getting updated versions of all the other programs I need.

I'll be doing a lot of fine tuning and tweaking over the next few... years... but I'm basically up and running. The only hardware I need and don't have right now is a printer, so I see a lot of Kinkos in my near future.

What's the Word? Thunderbird!

The main thing I'm wrestling with now is getting Thunderbird to work across my various and sundry accounts. Moving my personal mail to Thunderbird is a big step for me -- outside of an extended tryst with Eudora way back in the day, I've pretty much been using PINE for everything. (Pine Is Not Elm.) The command line is just so much faster, but I'm tired of bouncing HTML mail to another address so I can see everything.

Since my only experience with Thunderbird to date has been on the corporate network, I'm still trying to figure out how to get the IMAP from over here, and the SMTP from over there. Oddly enough, hooking it up to my AOL account (which I have back now), was fairly painless... well, once it grabbed 3,000 sent mails and 20,000 received mails (and that's only from 2004 or so).

Sign Here, Please

Even though I'm not 100% running yet in T-bird (I can still use PINE, so it's not a big deal), I did spend an inordinate amount of time twiddling with my e-mail sig. I'm trying to use elements from my old, text-only sig, and mash them up with stuff from my newer HTML sigs (including the Feedburner headline animator) -- here's what I got so far:

 ### | Joe Loong | joe@joelogon.com | AIM/GTalk/etc: Joelogon
-0n0-| "...the Recording Angel, making occasional adjustments
 \-/ | in the direction of the interrogation..." -- William Gibson
     | Dumb Things: http://www.joelogon.com/blog

hair on fire

Dumb Things I Have Done Lately

Four lines of text, an ASCII picture, and two animated gifs. I know, I'm a bad person, and I risk angering the antispam guardians. Also, the ASCII pic looks especially vulnerable, since the non-breaking spaces aren't sticking. We'll see if it lasts.

I also removed one of the quotes I've been using for a dozen years or so (sorry, Bert), though here it is for posterity:
"*shake shake shake* HELLO? The Web is not a reference source! It's a cesspool of dubious information!" -- barton
Even in a world of Google and Wikipedia, I think it mostly still applies.

Effects of a Layoff, in Facial Hair

Here's what a week of unemployment has done to me:

The Effects of Unemployment

Actually, that's two weeks of beard right there -- a week of sick and a week of slack. What you see is what I get. And that's it -- nothing more, nothing less. (How could there be less?)

It's unlikely I'll keep it much longer -- if I do, I'll need to clean it up a little. The iSight camera isn't catching it well, but the word "patchy" does not do it justice.

Speaking of which, this is also the first pic I've taken using the Macbook's built-in iSight camera, uploaded via Flickrbooth. And following up on my trip to the Apple store, they took a look at the bump on the trackpad and just replaced it with a new machine (since I'd only had it for a day, barely).

I fired up the new machine last night, but when I tried using Skype, it wasn't recognizing the camera. I was afraid I had another lemon, but I did some searching around and found that resetting the System Management Controller (SMC) fixed it for other folks with similar problems. (Real simple -- pull the battery and hit the power button for 10 seconds.)

I'm still fiddling with the Macbook to get it just right (I'm also taking this opportunity to go over to Thunderbird for all my personal mail -- I've been using PINE all this time) but I'm pretty much up and running now, and I'm almost caught up on everything I missed last week when I was offline (I'd used my work laptop for nearly everything, so I needed to get the new system up and running). I guess I'll cover all that excitement in another entry.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

No, I said I wanted to get LAID

I'm sitting in the Apple Store in Clarendon right now, waiting to find out about a bump (on the trackpad of my new MacBook -- it's shiny), so I figured I would do some catching up.

Yeah, I got laid off from AOL on Tuesday. I was prepared, but I wasn't expecting it. I hadn't gotten an ominious e-mail by the time I left the office Monday night, so when I got in at around 10am, I still wasn't too worried for myself, even though I saw that our team got whacked pretty hard.

Checking my mail, I skimmed past a subject line about a mandatory meeting at 11am. I just figured it was the usual post-layoff survivors' meeting and went about IMing other folks. "You okay? Yeah, I'm okay." I also did a call with one of the folks over at Mapquest to talk about some blogging stuff.

Eventually, I talked to my boss, who suggested that maybe I should read my e-mail.

Okay, so I got whacked.

The rest of the day was pretty non-extraordinary. I did spend my own sweet time packing up my stuff -- just about my only regret was that I didn't get a chance to make sure my last e-mail got to everyone I wanted. So I will include it here:

Subject: They Finally Got Me
Hi folks -- apologies for multiple recipients and anyone I missed -- some folks never made it in to the new address book, and I'm in a rush, since I still have to pack 11.5 years worth of crap.

Speaking of 11.5 years of crap:

I had a Web page. Someone liked it. I came in for an interview. There was a marching band on Westwood Center Drive. I started on April Fools' Day, 1996, went through Internet Connection and AOL.com. There was a bubble. I went to Community. Somehow along the way, they started paying me to blog. It was a pretty good gig.

That's about it. (Special to AOL.com and IC alumni -- looks like you'll need to find someone else to turn out the lights.)

Anyway, it was great working with you all -- you can find me just about everywhere as Joelogon (though sure I'll keep jmloong@aol.com, why not?)




Best of luck, everyone!

-- Joe

Other concrete impacts of the layoff:

* The AOL Journalers have found me. (Welcome.) Since my personal stuff comes up directly after my (former) work stuff in Google, I never tried to hide it, but I (almost) never called it out (and I didn't mention it in my farewell post).

You'll find here that, while I'm basically the same person, I'm not the same blogger, so I suspect that many of my former readers will probably stay my former readers. Which is fine.

* I still have to get this laptop up to speed, restore a bunch of my files, and do a lot of housekeeping stuff. Most tellingly, since I don't have Photoshop right now, you'll get to see just what a hack photographer I am.

* I'm going from being Windows-primary, Mac for messing around, to Mac-exclusive. (For now, anyway, I'll probably need to get a Windows system to mess with.) So I'll have to re-acquaint myself with the Mac way. For my penance, I'll have to figure out how to get my old, old legacy files off my PowerCenter 120 (featuring the very first generation of the PowerPC chip).

I'll talk more about the post-layoff drinking at Clyde's in Ashburn, as well as things I can potentially do with my enforced downtime later on.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

This Is Going to Be the BESTEST Boss's Day Ever!

Actually, Tuesday is going to suck pretty hard. But everything I know about the expected layoffs, I get from Valleywag. And Alley Insider. And paidContent.org. And NYT. And WaPo. And USA Today. Hell, it's probably in the City Paper by now.

About the only amusing thing I can get out of this is watching Valleywag and SAI trying to scoop each other. As long as you define "scoop" as "republish the executive memos that get forwarded the instant they arrive." Or outright begging for exclusive content ("We have heard, for example, that some of you will be fired en masse, in auditoriums. Digital pictures would be wonderful!"). No payment, please, we're bloggers. And mass layoffs are an interesting sociological event.

Stay classy, guys.

Am I defending the company, the strategy (-ies), management, or this round of layoffs, considering I don't know my own status (though honestly, I'll be fine either way -- and frankly, getting laid off would probably be the only way I would possibly get to cash in all my vacation this year)? Of course not. But there's plenty of disgusting behavior to go around. (Including the voluntarily and involuntarily departed from years past -- folks, you're supposed to move on. What you're doing -- it's just not healthy.)

One thing I know, though -- whatever or whoever you blame this on, I'm pretty sure that AOL's Slingo missteps (egregious as they may be, I have no idea) are not directly responsible for these layoffs [see the comments].

Monday, October 15, 2007


I'm mostly recovered from my cold, though I'm still a little congested and have a lingering and nasty-sounding cough. So I was in the mood for a nice big bowl of pho tonight, with just the right amount of plum sauce and Sriracha. (Just enough for some nice heat, not so much you sweat into the soup. That's nasty.)

Unfortunately, all the local places I know were closed by the time I got out there, so I settled for an instant substitute -- Nong Shim-brand Shin Ramyun:


It's Korean-style beef-flavored ramen noodles. My mom sent me, like, a case of it last month. It's really spicy, too, which she neglected to tell me until after I'd tried it, dumping the whole seasoning packet in (my parents only use a third or half packet, and they can take the heat better than I can).

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Feel the Awesome Healing Power of Kurt Russell

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Managing to Annoy Me

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

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

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

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

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

What are we, savages?

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

A Grevious Error: No Rap, No Hip-Hop and Ned Devine's Studio 30-Something

I haven't been yet, but apparently Ned Devine's Irish Village in Sterling has a "Studio 30-Something" every Thursday night, where they play "No Rap, No Hip-Hop, Just the Best Music of the 80's and 90's"

Being a child of the 80s and 90s (and at this point, "child" is a term best used loosely), this is of interest to me. However, I find the "no rap, no hip-hop" emphasis a little disturbing, because:

1. It carries vaguely racial connotations.
2. It eliminates a lot of really good party music from that era. (Note that "really good" does not preclude "really cheesy")

Now, assuming that #1 is just an extention of that old saw, "I like every kind of music -- except rap and country" (and why do those two always get lumped together?), #2 is still really troubling, because this blanket prohibition leaves out such 80s & 90s party-rap favorites and proven dance floor fillers such as [artist names link to Wikipedia, song names point to YouTube]:

* Wreckx-N-Effect's Rumpshaker
* Anything by Rob Base (which, er, just means It Takes Two or Joy and Pain)
* Snap!, The Power
* Young MC, Bust a Move
* House of Pain, Jump Around
* Sir Mix-a-Lot's Baby Got Back
* Sugarhill Gang's Apache (which I've talked about before)
* C+C Music Factory's Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)
* Vanilla Ice, Ice Ice Baby
* MARRS's Pump Up the Volume (which is technically house/dance, but still)
* Tag Team's Whoomp There It Is (I hate this song)

That's an even dozen songs right there. I'm sure you have your own additions.

I'd started percolating on this entry when I first heard the ad on the radio, but it gained additional relevance when I saw this item on Metafilter today: The Top 10 Rap Songs White People Love. There's a lot of crossover between the two lists (ooh, The Humpty Dance, good call. O.P.P. -- can't believe I missed that. Though Biz Markie... don't think so.)

Anyway, while I'm sure you could waffle by claiming that some of these are actually house or dance, I submit that no dance night can truly have the "best music of the 80s and 90s" with such a blanket prohibition in place and thus say, "Mr. Ned Devine's, tear down this wall!"

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I have been convicted of treason or felony. If yes please explain

Oh, joy of joys: I got a Fairfax County jury questionnaire on Thursday:

Official Business: Jury Questionnaire

I've managed to avoid jury service for... ever. It's not like I ever did anything to try to avoid it -- I've just never been called. (Well, there was that one time in college, but I was out of state.)

Let's look at the questions -- maybe I can find an exemption:


What else? "Employer." Hrm, ask me in a week or two.

Am I a landowner in Fairfax County or the City of Fairfax? I have a house, I guess that counts.

Okay, so no exemptions. So I go on a list, and if I'm really lucky, I can look forward to a jury summons within a year.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Lazy Saturday TV Watching

My original plan for Saturday didn't work out (read: hangover), so I'm puttering around the house, reading a few library books that are almost due, and watching TV.

Well, actually, it's been mostly just watching TV.

USA Network has been rerunning the premieres of the new fall NBC shows, so I've been doing a little catching up:

* Chuck: Better than I expected, though it's still filled with odd bits of stupid. Like the whole premise of the show. And that NSA vs. CIA trying to kill each other thing. Good role for Adam Baldwin, even if he's basically playing a slightly-smarter Jayne Cobb.

* Life: Pretty good. Perhaps even very good. I'm a fan of Damian Lewis, from his role on Band of Brothers. They certainly did frontload the pilot with a mess of character baggage, potential plots and arcs.

* Bionic Woman: Eh. I was napping for the first 15 minutes, maybe I would have liked it better. Probably not. And Mark Sheppard is way too young to play the mad scientist father. Even with gray in his hair.

There's also a Law & Order: Criminal Intent marathon on. I've pretty much stuck to reruns -- I like Randall Flagg better than Eric Bogosian as the captain of the Major Case Squad, and I don't care much for the Chris Noth episodes. Especially when they started moving more to character-driven episodes instead of plot-driven ones. But the writing for the new ones? The one I saw this afternoon involved polonium, the Mossad, the FBI, and the Men in Black. It was pretty ridiculous.

Also pretty (but still ridiculous, or at least implausible) is having Alicia Witt playing a hard-boiled Major Case Squad detective. She's 32 and looks even younger, which is a stretch even for TV cops.

Oh, and in this one that's on now, (which is a Vincent D'Onofrio one, of course), everyone, from the crime scene tech to the former Marine who was supposed to carry it, is calling the M1911 .45 cal pistol an "M11", which is irritating.

Anyway, I just had a chicken curry for dinner from Charcoal Kabob. So it's all good.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Making an iPod nano Carrying Case From an ID Badge Holder

After annoying my friends with incessant "nano... nano" IMs, I finally rejoined the iPod nation (I've been without since I lost my Shuffle for the second time) -- I picked up a black 8 gig iPod fat nano at the Apple store in Tyson's Corner last night:


Leaving aside the fact that it was a repackaged return -- complete with fingerprints, fully-charged, formatted for PC, and identified as "Bill's iPod" (I decided not to care and just reformatted it, renaming it "JoelogoNano") -- I'm now playing with it.

Carrying Case: Free Is Better Than Cheap

I don't have any accessories, save for an all-purpose car charger I picked up for future need, so I did something I'd done with my old shuffle: I took an extra ID badge holder (the clear vinyl kind with the zip-lock top and clip -- any good cubicle dweller will have some) and used it as a carrying case:

Show the screen through the back side of the case, which is clearer -- the front side has kind of a matte finish.

It fits perfectly. Note that it's upside down -- this is because the nano headphone jack is at the bottom. This actually works out, which I'll get to in a moment.

I also looped the headphone cord through the lanyard holes, to provide wire stress relief.

Here's what it looks like, clipped to my cargo pants pocket:


"Hey dumbass, it's upside down!", right? Ever wear a wristwatch on your belt? (I did for a while. Nickel allergies.) Same principle -- when you lift it to look down at it, it'll be right-side up:

Down is up.

The scroll wheel and buttons works fine. You can see the screen perfectly -- the vinyl actually sticks to it (I don't think it'll leave any residue), so it doesn't slide around (which was a problem with the old shuffle).

The clip is secure enough, though I'll put a rubber band around the snap loop so it can't come loose by accident. You can also run a lanyard through the holes if you want to wear it around your neck, or maybe put it on a retractable reel.

Now, I don't know that I'll be wearing it too much this way, since I mostly just got it for car use, and you have to take it out to dock it, but it works as-is, with no modifications. And what more do you want for free?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Weekend Wrap-Up: Crafty Clarendon Bastards

As predicted, I bagged the Book Festival on Saturday and headed straight (and late) to Clarendon Day. It was a beautiful day, so we immediately ducked into Hard Times. (I had two chili dogs.)

The rest of the day outside was nice, even though they only had Miller Lite left. We met up with a few more folks and headed to the roof deck at Clarendon Ballroom (walking past the band on the main floor that, at the time, was playing to a completely empty house -- though things picked up later in the evening).

There was a series of pipes that looked straight out of Blue Man Group:

Rock Concert Movement #1: One, two, ready, go.

We then went to Eleventh Street Lounge to carouse for the rest of the evening. There was a private party at the new downstairs, so we just lounged upstairs:

Me, lounging in borrowed sunglasses.

Colored ceiling.

More pics of unindicted co-conspirators here.

Sunday, also got a late start (sensing a trend here) and rolled out to Crafty Bastards. As last year, in the face of sensory and hipster overload, I didn't take very many pictures.

Well, there was evidence of one fine specimen of human being who evidently felt it necessary to take a VW Thing and lower it:


I bought a few t-shirts, which I'll try to model this week (they're keen). I also went to Amsterdam Falafel. It was good, even though I failed to achieve optimum condiment distribution.

That was about it.