Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I bought 2 boxes of cereal. Then I bought a Wii.

After work today, I went and did a little shopping. Nothing special, just two boxes of cereal at Target (which was something of a face-saving device -- I went in with a vague idea that I needed something, but couldn't come up with anything).

Then, I went down the road to Best Buy, to pick up the DVD box set of Space: Above and Beyond. No problems there. Though I did spend way too much time ultimately deciding not to buy Dark Angel Season 1 for 20 bucks -- it was my way of being thrifty.

Congratulating myself on my self-control, I moved to the videogame console section, with the vague notion of buying a Wiimote so I could be ready to try some of the neat-o Wiimote hacks that Johnny Chung Lee keeps coming up with.

There were two Wii consoles. Just sitting there on the shelf. I was somewhat dumbfounded, but not so much that I didn't have the presence of mind to pick one up as I was making up my mind. (The other one went moments later.)

And there was a mind to be made up. I'm not that big of a gamer -- I can't let myself be, I know it would suck me in. But I ultimately talked myself into it -- if nothing else, I can always give it to my mom. (Hey, it could happen. And she's making headway -- we got her on Skype, so we videochat now.)

So I just stumbled into a Wii.

There's not too much else left to tell. With the perverse feeling that I was getting away with something, I went next door to the Harris-Teeter, where I saw someone speaking truth to power, in the form of a strategically-placed sign on a display of Miller Lite:

If Miller Lite is spring water, I'd hate to see the spring.

The spring water was actually at the bottom of the display, so I like to think it was someone editorializing about American light beers. (I drink my share of Miller Lite, so I'm allowed to say this.)

It also put me in a beer mood -- I picked up a variety 12-pack of Leinenkugels (Sunset Wheat, Berry Weiss, Honey Weiss, and Summer Shandy.)

I tried the Wii for a little bit, too -- it wasn't a shrinkwrapped phone book (in fact, it wasn't even shrinkwrapped), and everything was there (it's the Wii Sports bundle).

I have to say, I'm pretty impressed with the UI, the ease of setup (the Internet config was a breeze), and how effective the Wiimote is for navigating around the screen.

I know all the gamer-types are preoccupied today with the new GTA release. But I'm happy to be on my side of the curve.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Dummy in a Dumb Land

Over the weekend, I finished Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.

The book is said to have been an influence on the hippie movement of the '60s; if true, it goes a long way in explaining why hippies were such big flakes.

You can also see some of the book's influence on Dune (Dune... Arrakis... Desert Planet), which I guess is a mitigating factor. Then again, it seems to track pretty closely to Scientology -- do with that what you will.

I do still like Heinlein's other works, particularly his juvenile fiction, which I grew up devouring. I still have a fondness for them, even after time and a grownup perspective brings to light some of their shortcomings (e.g. clumsy speechifying, Mary Sue-ism, etc).

In fact, if memory and Wikipedia serves, I probably still have hardcover first editions of The Rolling Stones and Have Space Suit, Will Travel at home. Although I might have told Mom it was okay to throw that pile of books out. And in any case, they were public library book sale acquisitions to start with, and got pretty beat up over the years. But I'll try to find them next time around.

One more quick hit of dumb... stuff:

* The Meat Loaf/Tiffany GoPhone commercial is one of the dumbest commercials I've seen in a while. Not just for the overall cheese and cringeworthy reworking of the lyrics -- it's because the commercial ends on the line, "I swear, I'll love you 'til the end of time," when anyone who knows the song at all instantly and instinctively starts into the whole whole, "So now I'm waiting for the end of time to hurry up and arrive" bit of the song.

This is infinitely worse than the Microsoft Windows 95 campaign using "Start Me Up" and cutting right before the "you make a grown man cry" bit.

Although Tiffany still looks pretty damn good.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tech Cocktail DC 2

Thursday night was Tech Cocktail DC 2 -- you can see Frank and Eric's writeup on the Tech Cocktail blog.

There are some good photos of the event on Flickr. Unfortunately, they're not mine. Mine are here: Tech Cocktail DC 2, 4/24/08.

The event was pretty packed. The bar was slammed -- for a while, it was tough to get a drink. (And those Revolution Health guys have sharp elbows.)

It was a little less crowded upstairs:

Looking down from the balcony.

There were lots of familiar faces -- AOL had an anchor sponsor position by the sign-in. Plus, there were a bunch of folks I'd seen at other recent DC tech events, like Social Matchbox DC and PodCampDC.

Tech Cocktail founders Frank Gruber and Eric Olson.

Left: JC and PJ.

Right: Lisa, Paul, JC.

Kerry Parkins and Will Kern from Mixx.

The Mixx crew was pretty prolific with the stickers -- Kerry stuck one on my back; she used me for branding, I used it as a conversation starter ("Hey, you've got a sticker on your back." "Why, yes, I know.").

Tom Osborne gives the evil eye. Or something.

So it was another good event.

As with last time, a bunch of folks decamped for the Daily Grill, but me, I just took my swag (including another AIM running man baseball cap -- just what I needed) and limped home.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

More Schmoozing

I'm just about headed out the door to go to 1223 for Tech Cocktail DC 2. Lots of familiar names on the list, including plenty of former cow-orkers. Should be fun.

I spoke to Paul, and the NoVA Open Coffee event is happening tomorrow morning, 9AM at Panera in Tysons Corner. I'll stop in before I go to my consulting gig in McLean. How early I get there depends on how long it takes to get a drink at Tech Cocktail (and they're usually pretty good about that sort of thing)...

Yesterday's Web Content Mavens event was pretty good. I'll talk more about it some other time.

In other news, my car passed inspection, though apparently one of my rear tires is getting kind of iffy. At first, I was all pissed off ("I just got new tires?!"), but looking at my Tire Rack receipts, I replaced my original tires in April 2005, after 3 years, then I replaced my front tires after a flat tire in April (remember, running on a flat tire is not the same as having run-flat tires). It being 3 years from now, I guess I'm on schedule.

Also, I came this close to getting tickets to see the Breeders at the 9:30 Club in June; however, since I have a prior kickball engagement, plus the fact that the Ticketmaster convenience and shipping fees add $10 to the ticket, plus I've seen mixed reviews of the album and previous tour dates, I'm going to hold off. Since I'm guessing the show will sell out, that just means I've essentially decided not to go.

Decision-making through procrastination.

Okay, schmooze time.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Upcoming DC-ish Tech Event Things

I finally made it to Stacy's Coffee Parlor in Falls Church -- I'm currently sitting in a comfy chair and enjoying an iced coffee as I wait for my car at the place down the road:

From Joelogon's Macbook
Notice the three-finger reboot key combo.

From here, there are two DC-ish tech things going on tonight (of which I am aware):

* Web Content Mavens is looking at Web analytics this month. That happens at Cap City Brewery downtown at 7pm.

* Refresh DC has startup-focused session, also at 7pm, at Strategic Analysis, Inc. in Ballston.

I might have to flip a coin. This, of course, assumes I get my car back today. Though I'll most likely end up at Web Content Mavens.

Looking out a bit:

* At the post-PodCampDC happy hour, there were rumblings of a morning-ish coffee meetup on Friday at Panera in Tysons Corner (the one in the old Tower Records shopping center) -- Paul, any updates?

* Thursday night is the second TechCocktail DC at MC...MCX... 1223 in DC. I will have to remember to wear shoes.

* Wednesday, April 30 is the DC New Media Technology Meetup at Lotus Lounge. I've been one time before. There were three recruiters there -- you could tell, because they were the only ones wearing suits.

* Saturday, May 3 is the Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race. I have a weekend left to repack my skate bearings and shake the cobwebs loose. (At this point, forget about conditioning -- it's all about survival and getting that first layer of blisters out of the way.)

If you're not going to Gold Cup and are interested in going, ping me.

Monday, April 21, 2008

... So Here's a Traffic Cone Wearing a Dust Mask

Following up on my April DC Blogger Meetup followup, here are a few more photos from the Metro ride back.

First, the titular photo -- a traffic cone, covering some broken tiles on the Gallery Place Metro platform. For unknown reasons, the traffic cone is wearing a dust mask:

The oddness of it reminded me of Oolong, the rabbit with a pancake on its head, so I made up an image macro version, which I'll probably never use:

"I have no idea what you're talking about... so here's a traffic cone wearing a dust mask."

Another shot from Gallery Place:
Lit pillars and red platform lights.

The larger version has nice curving lines above the platform, too.

There was some work being done at Metro Center:
Maintenance supplies stored on a Smarte Carte (borrowed from Reagan National?)

Through the fence.

On the Metro itself, there was a key sitting on the floor, and an orange on the ceiling:
DSCF4548.jpg DSCF4549.jpg

At Clarendon Metro, one of the elevators was out of order, its innards revealed to the world:


Lastly, here's a colorful valve assembly in the window of the tanning place on Clarendon Boulevard -- I've passed it lots of times but never snapped it:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

April Washington Blogger Meetup Report

I'm falling deeper and deeper behind on blog stuff -- here's a futile attempt to stem the bleeding, with a brief followup from the April Washington Blogger Meetup at RFD in DC.

Apparently, RFD has wifi, which was news to me (I'd just never bothered bringing my laptop). This changes everything. (Well, perhaps not everything.)

People in attendance included: Organizer Nikolas (Thought Torrent), Leon of Listen to Leon (in suit), Peter the Home Improvement Ninja, Jamy of Grateful Dating, Matthew of Suburban Destiny, Lola of Whatever Lola Wants, Mr. Throwing Hammers, Andrew of BlogPharm, Dave from There Goes Dave, Rachel (Newscat), John Croston, and blogger-to-be Summer. I didn't see the signup sheet, so I think that was it.

A few pictures (full photoset here):

Background: Leon (in suit), Peter, Jamy. Foreground: Matthew and Lola.

Organizer Nick and blogger-to-be Summer.

Hammer and Leon.

John and Lola.

Of course, there was beer.

Beer. Lots of beer.

I got a couple of moderately interesting photos from the Metro trip back, but I'll get to that another time. Or not.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

PodCampDC Thus Far

I'm at PodCampDC right now -- NBC's New Media Jim and NPR's Andy Carvin are talking about Social Media and New Journalism.

I'm still not much of a liveblogger, but we're still in the Twitter stump-speech portion, so I'm going to do a little catching up about PodCamp so far.

Here are my first 12 photos: PodCampDC, 4/19/08.

I got to Rosslyn slightly late, so I didn't catch the intro. From the Spectrum Center, we walked over to the Art Institute of DC (where the sessions are taking place) -- there was much video, utterzing and such en route:

This is very social media meta.

[Andy Carvin is currently doing a live demo of utterz.]

I had a little trouble getting started because I couldn't find any coffee (had to go out to the Tivoli) -- also, there are no provisions for wifi, which is pretty baffling. There are networks in the Art Institute building -- we just aren't allowed to use them, so there have been a few ad-hoc hotspots set up, and intermittent coverage from the Hyatt down the street.

Jessie Newburn, whom I'd met last night gave the first social media track presentation, on Generational Theory and Social Media. She's very animated:


While I think there are definitely are generational differences when it comes to social media (And every other media. And technology as a whole), I'm not sure how useful the generational theory construct is. It's mostly my distaste for overly broad archetypes that marketers want to use as big hooks to hang people on.

The next session was a Podcasting 101 by Michael Domingo, whom I'd also met last night:


It was a pretty good session.

Okay, this session has pretty much spiraled out of control. And we're out of time.


PodCampDC Happy Hour: Social Schmoozing, Secret Handshakes and Unauthorized Persons on the Track

Friday night was the pre-PodCampDC Happy Hour at the Capitol City Brewery in Capitol Hill (moved from the location downtown).

I got there more or less on time. John Croston was outside, and as we headed in, we met up with Justin Thorpe and started picking up steam.

The setup was in the back room. There was a cash bar (only without the bar -- a few of the waitstaff ran orders to the front of the house.) I chatted for a bit with Nick O'Neill and Jessie Newburn and gleaned what bits I could from the Wisdom of Consultants (Jessie is also going to be doing a session tomorrow about social media across generations.)

Of course, Aaron was there, though he wasn't streaming. I guess that's tomorrow.

Judging by the cards I collected, I spoke to a pretty good mix of media types -- Lauren from National Geographic (and she knows the AOL alums I know over there); Kerri Forrest from NBC News (and of course she knows New Media Jim); independent filmmakers (Carl Eyster; also Christina Ruppert from the 48 Hour Film Project); and oh, even a few podcasters (the prolific Jerry Brito; Michael and Melissa, dating podcasters, in both senses of the term).

I also ran into a bunch of folks who I'd seen in various Twitter incarnations. And there were more photographers than you could shake a stick at -- there were so many cameras flashing, I didn't bother with any pictures. (Well, I took one, but it sucked.)

Let's see, other than that, I went through most of my usual social media conversational stock lines (remember, if you haven't heard me say it, it's new to you); I did get to work a reference to the uncanny valley, and I was subject to a secret handshake that is apparently similar to the APO secret handshake (but wasn't). (Note: The point of doing a secret handshake is generally lost if the recipient of said handshake, whether by cluelessness or malice, gauchely blurts out, "Hey, that was a secret handshake, right?")

Things broke up before 11pm, but I didn't feel like staying out, so I headed home. I would be lying if I said it didn't have anything to do with catching the replay of tonight's Battlestar Galactica.

I almost didn't make it in time -- as I twittered, the train was stuck in Farragut West for about 10 or 15 minutes, due to "*garble**garble**static* unauthorized person on the track at Rosslyn."

Though it gave me time to finish my crossword puzzle.

Sessions start tomorrow morning. I anticipate I will be tired for the first few.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Things That Are Upcoming

I'm at the Beach Shack in Falls Church again, to grab a quick pulled pork sandwich and hush puppies before the April edition of the Washington Blogger Meetup Group at RFD in DC (across from the Verizon Center).

Despite earlier rumors to the contrary, Pope Benedict will most likely not be attending.

[Sidebar: Lary from Galaxy Hut just showed up with his daughter.]

Other pending things going on in the DC social media and tech universe:

* This weekend is PodCampDC; it's primarily in Rosslyn, though the Friday night kickoff party is at the Capitol City Brewery downtown.

* Tomorrow is a DC New Media, Movie, and Creative Industry Happy Hour, at Lotus Lounge in DC. Call me a maybe on that (Unless you're an aspiring model, actress, or model/actress looking to meet a producer. Then I'll definitely be there. Trust me.)

Lotus Lounge is also the location of the DC New Media Tech - Web 2.0 & Video 2.0 Meetup, Wednesday, April 30th. Also mark me a maybe on that one.

* Next Wednesday is the April Web Content Mavens Meetup -- the topic is about Web analytics (remember when "analytics" were simply "metrics"?), so I anticipate a sellout crowd (that is, a crowd of sellouts...)

* Next Thursday is Tech Cocktail DC 2, at 1223 in DC. Since I am a big mooch and it's the only time I get to go to 1223, I'll be there.

I also see that on the Tech Cocktail DC events listing, that May 10 is SocialDevCampEast up at the University of Baltimore. I don't know if I'm going to that one yet.

Getting a little chilly out on the patio. Come out to RFD (but maybe bring a jacket.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Dumbest Thing I Did in 2007 Involved Money

I mailed in my 2007 tax payment Monday afternoon. (No, you can't have a refund this year: Not Yours.)

That, in and of itself, is not a dumb thing, though I did procrastinate more than necessary -- the return was all done, so it was just a matter of writing the check.

I did feel bad, however, for anyone who needed to do anything at the post office today. It was pretty darn crowded. (Enough so that a Mercedes SLK that was sticking halfway out of its parking spot might have actually been a hinderance, instead of merely an annoyance. Way to diminish those stereotypes, SLK-driver. Lucky for you my cellphone photo was crap.)

However, the tax season reminded me of what's probably the dumbest thing I did in 2007:

It was towards the tail end of tax season. I'd had my W-2 and other tax stuff accreting for a few months in a pile at the corner of my table (which is already cluttered and crowded on its best days), and when the time came for my appointment with my tax preparer, I bundled everything up, put it in a folder, and took it in.

Easy squeezy, right? It wasn't a particularly complex filing. I sent my payment in and put it out of my mind.

That is, until a few months later, I was going through another, nearby pile on the table, and found an interest statement with some earnings that should have been reported. (It was for an newly-created account that I'd forgotten about, and it had apparently migrated into another pile. It was not an insubstantial amount.)

Welcome to the land of the amended return. Please don't audit me. Pretty please?

Lesson learned -- in 2007, I took concrete steps to improve my tax document management system: I upgraded to a chip clip.

I'm pretty dumb when it comes to money and finance. In fact, the second dumbest thing I did in 2007 was also financial (I was 10 minutes away from forgetting to exercise a mess of stock options that were due to expire at the end of the trading day. This, despite the post-it note on my monitor. It wasn't, like, Learjet money or anything, but it would have made me sad.)


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Social Roundup: Getting Lucky at a Fark Party and More

Looking back, I had a pretty active latter half of the week.

Saturday was a DC-ish Fark party, at Carpool in Ballston. I am happy to say that I got lucky and scored in a big way, snagging a prime, um, parking space in the Carpool parking lot.

In all my years down here, I think that's the first time that's happened.

It was a good meet; we had a spot at the bar, and it was busy but not too crowded. It was a smaller meet, but there were some new folks.

It was not a sausagefest.

I'm not sure what Chris and Jess are trying to do here, but whatever it is, you're doing it wrong.

It started out pretty warm, but then it got cold. I don't remember when I left, but I'm pretty sure no one got stuck with a huge bill this time.

Friday, I met up with the Gel-Man, who was in town for some training:

Obligatory Metro shot. I didn't bring my camera, so had to settle for the cameraphone.

We met at Mackey's, then moved to Lucky Bar for a bit. I guess I just can't hang with the youngsters any more, since we took off as it was starting to pick up. (Then again, I had been drinking -- moderately -- since 5pm.)

On previous trips, I hadn't noticed the strong odor of empanadas permeating the bar from Julia's next door. It was slightly irritating, since I'd just eaten at Mackey's and wasn't at all hungry.

There was also an interesting-looking building demolition nearby -- K or L street, around 17th. It made me wish again that I'd brought my camera:


Waterfall effect.

Pile of scrap metal debris.

Passing it again at night, there was an interesting scene with the work site lights going through mist from the rain and spray from a hose, but that picture didn't come out.

Thursday was all over the place. I got out of work about 3:30pm and needed to grab a bite and kill some time before a Social Media Club DC event in Falls Church, so I stopped by Clare and Don's Beach Shack.

I'd planned on eating, then moving to Stacy's Coffee Parlor to mess around online (I haven't been yet, but it's next to the CD Cellar), but then David told me that the Beach Shack has wi-fi. And the signal is perfectly fine from the patio seating. And it was about 70 degrees out. Score.

I anticipate I'll be there more often. Unlike some others I could mention.

The Social Media Club DC event was just down the road at Viget. Here's Aaron streaming video of audience comments with his Mac's iSight:


After the discussion, I hung out for a bit, then went back to the Beach Shack, since I'd convinced the Captain to come out. Here, he shares a big Guinness with Rebecca:
Guinness, now served in handy book form.

After that, it was off to the tail-end of a pre-season kickball happy hour at Carpool back in Herndon:
This season, we're trying out the Fairfax Athletics league instead of WAKA, so we'll see how that goes.

Wednesday was the Washington Psychotronic Film Society's showing of Kentucky Fried Movie at its new location at the (new) Old Arlington Grill restaurant at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse. It's a little space just off (and before) the ticket booth.

I got there about quarter to 9, which means I missed a few of the opening sketches, but arrived just in time for Catholic High School Girls in Trouble. Here's a cameraphone photo I snuck:

The movie ended about 10pm, so I decided to head over to Galaxy Hut. Driving down Clarendon Boulevard, I saw a striking young woman wearing a very trendy black and white trench coat-ish jacket, and I said, "Hey, this looks like someone I'd like to know." But it was just Jenny. I yelled at her through the car window to meet me at the Hut for a drink. (I'm persuasive that way, and the fact that it's on the way home doesn't hurt.)

The patio is also open for the season, and the Patio Clown is waiting for you:

I also hadn't realized that the Hut acquired the silo from Dr. Dremos -- it's at the end of the patio. That makes me happy -- I like the silo.

Anyway, that was last week. I still have to talk about Hirshhorn After Hours, the Mike Doughty show and a few other things. But that will have to wait.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Washington Post Gets Into the 2 Girls 1 Cup Business, Sort of

This weekend's Washington Post Sunday Magazine has a feature article ("Commando Performance") on the Humans vs. Zombies game at Goucher College.

Ostensibly as part of the education issue, it takes a look at the game, complete with some overwrought hand-wringing about quasi-militarism and Nerf guns on college campuses (*wailing* "ZOMG, gunz!" *teeth-gnashing*), especially as the anniversary of the Virginia Tech killings approaches.

Anyway, accompanying the article is a slideshow gallery with audio (Flash, with an unskippable ad at the beginning) -- I was going through it when I was amused to see that 2 Girls 1 Cup [wikipedia link] makes an appearance -- it's photo 38, about 2 minutes in (hit "Play Slideshow" to get the audio):


A couple of the humans are messing with the Original Zombie -- it's just a reaction photo, so you don't actually see anything (and I imagine the photo editors either got lucky or took particular care to obscure the screen), but you can clearly hear, "2 Girls 1 Cup... you like that?"

The photo is pretty harmless, but it's amusing to me since, in Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten's column about 2 Girls 1 Cup last year, he couldn't even reference it by name, or describe it in any meaningful way (also see the related chat).

Also, not to pick on sheltered pointy-headed academics, but we've got a couple of real winners in the article, including:
"Jenifer Jennings-Shaud, a member of the graduate education faculty, spoke of arriving on campus one evening and seeing a man with a gun run over the hill. 'I was terrified,' she said. 'Guns scare me. Nerf guns, regular guns. All guns.' Then she began to cry."
I'm not trying to be heartless, but that speaks to a much deeper pathology. She might want to get some help with that.

Also, there's a quote from the Goucher associate dean of students:
"Perl continues to wonder whether she and the other administrators are doing right by allowing the game to continue. 'My worst fear is that an outsider will walk onto the campus and pull a real gun, not knowing the kids are using fake guns,' she said."
Um, come again?

Apparently, Goucher College has a rampant problem of outsiders coming on campus armed -- shockingly, in defiance of the college's strict gun prohibition (as outlined in their College Handbook).

Or, another way of putting it, Associate Dean Perl is concerned that Goucher students are outgunned.

Bet you won't hear that on the tour.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

On Memorizing the Periodic Table for Procrastination Purposes

The first time I tried the Peridodic Table game (I saw it on Digg or Reddit or something of that ilk), I only managed 51 of the 118 (well, 117, depending).

(Note: Adamantium, Vibranium, Unobtanium, and Neutronium are not actually elements.)

Tom Lehrer's Elements Song was not of particular help to me (and in fact, may have hindered my efforts, since I could only remember the tune and not the words). Though to be fair, the song was done in 1959, when there were 15 fewer elements.

Anyway, I took it as something of a challenge. The fact that playing the game enabled procrastination in discrete 15 minute intervals may have contributed to things.

I finally managed all 118 elements in 15 minutes yesterday:


To nail an element, you have to type its full name, not its symbol, though it accepts standard spellings in addition to the "English" variations (i.e. aluminium vs. aluminum).

My mnemonic strategies varied. Of course, none of them are useful for anything except completing this particular quiz.

You have to start with hydrogen, of course, and it's easy to stay within the order of increasing atomic number at the beginning: helium, lithium, beryllium, [Boron: I left out boron. Dammit.] carbon, nitrogen, oxygen.

Fluorine is memorable, if only for its spelling -- my chemistry teacher used to say, "It's fluorine, not 'flo-urine.'" After that, it's the noble gases -- neon, argon, krypton, xenon (think headlights), and radon.

Initially, I had no idea what to do with the elements above atomic number 111, but they all have temporary names that stick to a very simple convention: unun[numerical prefix]ium, so if you can remember one (say, ununpentium), that's basically 7 elements right there (just remember that 116 is ununhexium, not ununsexium).

After that, it becomes a little hit or miss for me. The halogen group isn't bad -- we already have fluorine, so chlorine, bromine, and iodine fall in pretty easily. Although what the hell is astatine? No idea, but that kind of leads into some other odd ones, like arsenic and antimony.

Chlorine is part of salt, as is sodium, which jumps us back to the alkali metals, like potassium. Rubidium gave me problems until I looked it up and saw that it was named for its ruby-reddish properties. Then there's cesium (used in atomic clocks) and barium (used in diagnostic enemas), then francium.

Francium leads us to places elements -- germanium, polonium (which is also used to kill dissidents, as is thallium), europium. Rhodium isn't named for Rhodesia or Rhode Island, nor is Indium named for India or Indiana, but whatever. Then there's the National Labs in California -- californium, berkelium, lawrencium -- and americium.

Although we dipped into the Lanthanide series (lanthanum) and the Actinide series (actinium and protactinium), let's go back to the metals everyone knows: gold, silver, platinum, iron, tin, mercury, magnesium (and manganese), nickel, zinc, aluminum, titanium, lead (and bismuth, for some reason).

If you know bike frames, you'll know chrome-moly (chromium and molybdenum [which is not pronounced "molly-bee-denim"), then other elements used in common alloys: vanadium, scandium, tantalum, zirconium.

Niobium is used in anodized rainbow-colored body jewelry (ask me how I know this).

Tungsten is used in light bulb filaments and anti-tank rounds; palladium was used in cold fusion; osmium I know from a comic book (it was used to make denser-than-usual barbell weights for superhumans); cadmium was used in paint pigments, as well as to dampen nuclear reactions.

Speaking of, you can't forget the other radioactives -- uranium and plutonium. Then there's the various isotopes of cobalt, thorium, and strontium that pop up in all sorts of sci-fi, from Isaac Asimov to Beneath the Planet of the Apes to Judge Dredd; technetium has a root of techne; rhenium is "Rhine," so it's back to places; but then you go to ruthenium, which isn't named for Babe Ruth (but could be); while we're back to people we can go headlong back into the Actinide and Lanthanide series: curium (Marie Curie worked with radium), einsteinium, bohrium, mendelevium, nobelium, roentgenium, seaborgium (resistance is futile), meitnerium (reminded me of a guy I knew in college, Scott Mitzner), fermium, rutherfordium, gadolinium (yes, I used James Gandolfini as a mnemonic device), hassium (yes, I realize that it wasn't named for David Hasselhoff, though while we're here we might as well take care of hafnium); dubnium (which, also, is not named for Dubya); tellurium (not named for Edward Teller).

It starts to get ugly here. Neodymium (not "neodynium") is used in speakers, which is kind of related to praseodymium; cerium for the asteroid/minor planet/Roman god Ceres, leading to neptunium for the planet/god and promethium; samarium (kind of a good Samaritan); back to places in Scandanavia with ytterbium (and as we hit the Y's, think yttrium), terbium, erbium, holmium (think Stockholm); and thulium (think Ultima Thule).

So where does that leave us? Some nonstandard names: phosphorous, sulfur, silicon. Silicon is used in semiconductor chips, as is gallium. Minerals you find in vitamins: selenium, calcium. Lutetium, for the lute. Darmstadtium is technically derived from a place, though it's easier to think "darn" and go form there. And dysprosium you just have to know.

I think that covers it. Did I miss anything?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

DownThemAll Causing Firefox Problems

A few weeks back, I started noticing that, after some initial, trouble-free browsing in Firefox, subsequent page loads would just stop working. It wasn't a full hang, as the browser was still responsive, but pages would take an inordinately long time to load, or just time out completely.

The problem persisted through, and disabling all extensions didn't seem to help. I did find that toggling "Work Offline" would clear things up for a little bit, and I used it as a workaround for a while. But that got old pretty quick.

I took a look at my about:config network settings, and stumbled on to the fact that my network.http.max-connections had set itself to 74. I moved it back to a more reasonable number (48), and that fixed it. Regular browsing resumed, and I disabled FasterFox, which I figured (incorrectly) was causing the trouble.

The problem started recurring intermittently. Since I knew what to look for, it was easy to fix, but I did a little more looking and finally found that the problem was coming from DownThemAll (not "down the mall"), and that it was a known issue. So now I know. And knowing is approximately 50 percent of the battle.

DownThemAll is a stunningly useful Firefox extension, in that it makes batch downloading of files linked from Web pages really easy. So, if you're looking at a page that has lots of, say, image thumbnails that link off to source images (alright, I'll say it: porn. DownThemAll is really good for downloading porn), DownThemAll is a quick way to snag them all.

I'm sure it's also useful to other photography enthusiasts and such.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Running a Red Light When You're Leaving a Bar Is Never a Good Idea

For the NCAA Men's Final on Monday night, I was so tired that I thought I might stay at home to watch, but I ended up dragging myself down to Carpool.

Being Monday, it was pretty dead, though I did get to see someone get kicked out for trying to roll a joint at the bar (among other things).

As I was leaving at about midnight (remember, kids: make your free throws down the stretch), there were a couple of cars waiting at the red light to make a left onto Elden Street from the parking lot.

At the head of the line was a grey pickup truck, and after a few minutes, I guess the driver didn't feel like waiting any more -- he just up and went through the red.

This is not the first time at that light that I've seen a driver pull that move. However, it was the first time that I'd seen the driver get nailed for doing it (at least, I think it was the same grey pickup, pulled over by a cop down by the Urgent Care).

And the thing is, he did it for the dubious gain of about 15 seconds.

In other news:

Slow Cookers Are Slow: I did another Brunswick stew tonight. I started it at around 6pm, stripped the chicken off the bone at around 10pm, and tasted it around midnight. I used too much onion, but otherwise it's okay. It'd better be -- I'll be eating it for a while.

I've tried, but I just don't think I can make slow-cooking fit into my lifestyle. I just don't like the idea of leaving it going for however many hours when I'm not at home.

Because of the cooking, tonight was a pretty domestic night. Moreso than I'd planned -- I had to do dishes to clear out the sink, and then I splashed tomato sauce all over my shirt, so I ended up doing a couple loads of laundry. (Including some ironing. I hate ironing.) Also, there's flour all over the place.

An Isotropic Distribution of DVDs at Circuit City: I've been trying not to buy new DVDs until I can get through more of my purchased-but-unwatched ones, but I caved today -- I stopped by Circuit City and picked up Miami Vice, The Good Shepherd, Breach, and A Fish Called Wanda for $20.

The problem with the DVD section at Circuit City is that, as far as I can tell, their shelving system does not conform to any accepted organizational standards and practices. While it's not quite completely random, it is almost completely useless.

It might be a baroque experiment in applying isotropic distribution models to retail. Though I'm thinking it would be better if they just had an associate take a few hours to do some hard core alphabetizing (cheat sheets are available upon request).

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Social Matchbox DC

There's an item in Techcrunch right now about Scalr, some sort of open source server management thingy by a company called Intridea.

Scalr, Scalr. Why does that sound familiar? Oh, right: The company was one of those presenting at Social Matchbox DC on Monday. Good on them.

So now I have a hook on which to hang a quick entry about Social Matchbox DC.

Like I'd said, since TeqCorner is in McLean, right down the street from where I'm consulting, going was a no-brainer. I went as a Socializer, as opposed to Job Seeker.

It was a pretty big crowd. Plenty of blue (or was it green, I forget) badges (the aforementioned job seekers) stalking the red badges (people with, um, openings).

During the pre-presentation mingling, I did talk to a bunch of people, handed out some cards and got some in return. I note that, especially in the DC area, if you ask someone what they do and they say "government," they either work in law enforcement or intelligence... or they want to make it sound like they do.

Folks, since the followup question is invariably "What part?", you might as well just come out with it.

As to the companies's 3-minute presentation pitches: Most were okay, some were good, and a few were really bad.

I'm far from the best public speaker (a lot of times I speed-talk my way into a stammer, and my posture is pretty bad, until I remember and overcompensate, sticking my chest into the front row, which I guess would be more effective if you're a woman), but at least people can hear me. (A few years of high school drama in the age before body mikes will do that for you.)

I should reach out to a few of those companies and offer my services as a presentation coach.

Anyway, I don't have cards I collected on me, but some of the companies that were there included the secretive Pseuds; the ever-present Shashi of Network Solutions; WhyGoSolo (who I likewise see everywhere); fantasy politics provider Publi.us; Foliofn (I know someone who used to work there, back when they were known as Folio[fn], which was a great name until you realize that the brackets don't actually work in URLs and people aren't going to get the math reference); more than a few IP TV-related ventures; Hungry Machine; Searchles (note: not "search less"); Loladex (another recent Techcrunch mention); Investors Without Borders (I guess Kiva with an ROI); Positive Energy (working to apply peer pressure to energy conservation); Mobile Posse; and a bunch of others.

So, it was a good event. Needs beer, though.

Remember, presentation coaching services available. Real cheap (and you definitely get what you pay for). Inquire within.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April Fools Day Is Halloween for Unfunny People

Or New Year's Eve for amateur partiers. St. Patrick's Day for amateur drunks. Whatever.

It's official sanction for unfunny people: "Come on, let's all be wacky in a non-threatening, completely artificial way!"

This goes double for companies.

And then throw in the people who think "mean" is "funny."

If a prank is worth doing, it's worth doing outside of the socially-designated time.

April Fools Day -- leave me out of it.


So at about 6:30pm tonight, an Emergency Alert System warning came on the TV -- "Turn to Channel 12 for more information" the voice said (even though the on-screen message read Channel 16).

Since the temperature was supposed to drop 32 degrees (from the beautiful 74 this afternoon), and since we'd been told of possible thunderstorms, I though it was a thunderstorm warning. Possibly a tornado.

Whatever it was, it had to be important -- it's gotta be a great big honkin' emergency if it's going to interrupt a rerun of 8 Simple Rules on ABC Family Channel (channel 12 on my system).

With each passing moment, I grew more uneasy. (The terrorists struck again. The missiles are flying. Hallelujah, Hallelujah! Get the guns and fill the bathtubs, we're heading on down The Road. )

As it turns out, it was an Amber Alert for two missing teens. Not to say that it isn't a personal tragedy, but there's got to be a better way to do these things.