Friday, May 23, 2008

Macbook Photos from the May Washington Blogger Meetup

We had about 10 people at Wednesday's May Washington Blogger Meetup at RFD in DC.

Three of them were first-timers; they were able to pick us out because I had my Macbook open, playing around on the wifi (which RFD doesn't seem to advertise, though it works fine... or you can try sponging off the open Fado network from next door):


Not only does this mean we can liveblog events and other silliness, but it also gives us the opportunity to help first-timers set up blogs, do demos, and find other nominally helpful things to do.

Since I had my laptop out, I used its built in iSight instead of my camera:

Newcomer Susanna, of the Chesapeake Climate Action Blog

Prospective blogger Subbarao

First-timer Amy of Free in DC

Mr. Nikolas at the Blogger Meetup at RFD
Mr. Nikolas of Thought Torrent

That is all.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Things That Are Upcoming: Social Media Events, Concerts & More

A few things that are coming up, that, if you're really lucky, you might see me at:

* Tonight, 7pm at RFD (across from the Verizon Center): The May Washington Blogger Meetup Group. I'll be leaving for that shortly. Local bloggers, blog commenters, blog readers, would-be bloggers, and blog groupies are welcome to attend. (Especially blog groupies.)

(Incidentally, as per Paul, the previously automatically-scheduled DC New Media Technology - Web 2.0 - Video 2.0 - Social Web Meetup is not happening tonight. Stick that in yer pipe and smoke it, DC Tech Events.)

* This Memorial Day Weekend, Rolling Thunder happens on Sunday (with other events on the surrounding days).

* Wednesday, June 4, there's a Solutions Are Power social media event at Busboys and Poets in DC.

* The Breeders show, June 11 at the 9:30 Club, is apparently still not sold out. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised -- Cannonball came out in 1993, and several of my (younger, natch) friends who I hit up as possible concert companions responded, "The Breeders? Who are they?"

* Friday, June 13 is the Blog Potomac conference.

* Sunday, June 15, The Puppini Sisters play Birchmere. If you're not familiar, they have a retro-throwback Andrews Sisters-style -- it's a fun sound (including some covers of modern pop songs) with good harmonies.

* Friday, June 20 is Hirshhorn After Hours -- advance tickets are still available as of this writing. (I'll probably blog my photos from the last time up before them. Probably. Possibly. Maybe.)

After that is Independence Day, followed by the sweet embrace of death (well, in 50 years or so.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I Should Have Listened to My Dad, Part XXXXVIII

I think I figured out why the tread on my left rear tire has been wearing out oddly: As I was leaving the office this afternoon, I noticed that the rear wheel looked funny. It seemed smaller than it was supposed to be. Lower, you might say. (This, as you might recall, is also the wheel that needed a new brake caliper. I'm having bad luck with left rear wheels this year.)

Now, in my regular calls with Dad, we usually ask each other how the cars are running. And then he'll ask me a few things:

Have you checked your lights?
Yes, Dad.
How's your tire pressure?
It's fine, Dad.

It's down to a script at this point, and I give the proper response, regardless of whether or not I've actually done the thing.

Invariable, this comes back to bite me.

I got the tire pressure gauge out of the glove compartment (another Dad-mandated item) and checked the tire, which is supposed to be at 32 psi.

The needle barely moved. That's bad. So either it developed a slow leak sometime after my car passed inspection last month, or I've been driving on a dangerously low tire for an even longer period of indeterminate length that includes regular trips on the Toll Road, 66, and oh, a trip up to Baltimore.

I limped over to a nearby gas station and filled it up. We'll see how the pressure holds up overnight, which will determine if I was unlucky (new leak) or simply really, really dumb.

Since the tread on the edge is pretty much shot, I'll have to get order new rear tires and then go from there. Probably overdue for an alignment as well, though since I just passed inspection, I don't think this will be another $2,000 flat tire.

I know it's early for Father's Day platitudes, but you should listen to your Dad.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Moist Hunt

I have to be up especially early tomorrow, so naturally I dithered around the house and played Resident Evil 4 - Wii Edition (finished it -- the ending is a little lame) until I finally decided to start my Post Hunt followup entry now.

There's not really that much to tell; I didn't win (obviously). Actually, I didn't even come close: Of the 5 clues, I only got one (and that was largely due to overhearing a bit of info that jostled things into place for me).

I did get most of the way to solving the other 4, but I was flying solo, and I just don't have the temperament to be a puzzle person -- I'm impatient. I definitely work better at something like this as part of a team. So I was looking at this as a test run for future editions.

After some procrastination, I drove in to DC and parked my car in front of the Carnegie Library (which, as it happened, was one of the puzzle sites). Normally, I Metro in, but I'm glad I didn't -- it gave me a base of operations, though that just meant that I had the chance to swap to a more appropriate umbrella. (The rain varied from drizzle to moderate and back throughout the day. Naturally, the sun came out just as things were wrapping up.)

I didn't get a very good start at noon -- I was trying to juggle a cup of coffee, my Sunday Washington Post Magazine, a pen and my umbrella, so it took me a while to get organized. Mostly I followed the crowd in the beginning, which took me to the Presidents Race:

More exciting than any given Nationals game.

I got the "male hoofed ruminant" clue right off ("buck," though after I couldn't come up with an answer I considered "stag"), but I just couldn't make the presidential coinage connection -- I was stuck on $1.17 (a buck, and 17 -- 1 for Washington and 16 for Lincoln).

That pretty much set the tone of the afternoon.

The Fortune Cookie clue I got (mostly) -- I'd noticed the fake movie listings the night before. Though I didn't make the final connection until I heard somebody saying the cookie tasted like coconut (I'd eaten it without noticing - I was hungry.) I think one of the previous Hunt examples posted somewhere had mentioned a taste being part of the solution.

Now, I should have gotten the Post Comics puzzle. It was pretty clear which comics the standup routines were referring to. (Besides, anyone who reads the chats knows that Gene Weingarten likes Opus, Pearls Before Swine, and Frazz.) Where I failed was looking for numbers that could be gleaned from the comics, instead of looking for numbers that had been deliberately hidden in the comics (due to collusion with the artists). Diabolical.

Also, one of the comics onstage was Dave George. I'd worked with him a bit at AOL; I didn't know he did standup:

Comedian Dave George rags on elementary school janitors.

For the Second Glance puzzle, it took a moment of seeing all the other folks looking at the page in the magazine to figure what was up. (I don't like the Second Glance feature, so I don't pay any attention to it -- if I want to play Photo Hunt, I'll play Photo Hunt, in a bar or online -- gratification is instant and sometimes they even have naked ladies).

Post Hunt clues on the steps of the Carnegie Library.

It took a little bit, but I did notice that the V's had been changed to U's. Again, I got stuck on the wrong track, focusing on "15" or "125", instead of simply 5-5-5.

And for the Chinatown Arch puzzle, I got the little clues, but missed the big one. Not much to say there.

Since I didn't have a clue how to use the final clue (I did have an idea that the "crossed swords" were related to the crossword puzzle -- well, especially after seeing everyone else trying to do the crossword -- but with only 1 clue it was pretty futile), I ended up working on the crossword until the winners were announced.

Dave Barry sneers at the crowd.

Oh, and I was also wearing the same pants as Gene Weingarten (tan cargo pants):

Gene Weingarten

I also said hi to honcho Jim Brady, and was amused to find out he was the final goal -- the guy at the indicated location wearing a Red Sox cap. You can read more about Washington Post staff cameos in the official post-mortem followup chat. And I've got a few more photos of no consequence in my Flickr set: Post Hunt, 5/18/08.

All in all, it was a good time (would have been a great time if the weather had been a little nicer). I was a little surprised at the good turnout, though I was also a little... wary? of the die-hards who'd come up from Florida and points further to participate. Come on now, it's fun and all, but it's like 3 hours (including a lunch break), and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes were stays at a resort in Hollywood... Florida.

Anyway, I feel a little more prepared if and when (barring buyouts) they do it again next year.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dumb Sunburn (Featuring Hot Clavicle Action)

On Saturday, I went to the Joint Service Open House Air Show at Andrews Air Force Base. I won't get into it right now except to say that it was pretty cool, but the line to get onto the shuttle buses (at Fedex Field) were a real bear -- it took over 90 minutes through a line that snaked up and down the parking lot.

The reason why it took so long is they were funneling everyone through airport-style security -- including bag checks, magnetometers, and wand checks. Even with about 15 stations, it was a pretty big bottleneck.

Between standing in line outside, then walking around for a few hours at the show, I was out in the sun for about 5 hours. And the weather was that sunny, cool and breezy thing that suckers me into a sunburn every time.

It's readily apparent that I missed a few spots with the sunscreen:

Why yes, I was wearing a collared shirt. Why do you ask?

Do you have the time? Yeah, time to put on more sunscreen, dumbass.

The tip of my nose is also pretty red.

Stupid, silly person.

NYC as a Stand-In for DC (or, Is AT&T Even TRYING Anymore?)

There's a full-page ad AT&T Wireless ad in Sunday's Washington Post (page A7) -- the tag line says "D.C., we've got you covered. We've added 112 new cell cites in the D.C./Baltimore metro area over the past two years and it shows."

So AT&T, what you're saying is that you had two years to think about this ad, and yet you couldn't come up with a better photo for the DC market than a clearly-identifiable midtown-Manhattan street scene?


How do we know it's NYC and not DC? After a careful, pixel-by-pixel forensic image analysis:

1. You can see a 7th Avenue street sign in the background.

2. There's a great big fucking iconic New York City yellow cab in the midground, complete with rooftop advertising hump and the meter rate on the door panel.

Okay, fine, DC has some yellow taxis. And maybe that's just a cab company logo, not a rate panel. But here's the clincher...

3. DC does not have NYC-style streetside newsstands.


Now, I don't care about the whole "pandering to the D.C. inferiority complex"-thing -- I live in the Virginia suburbs, what do I know? But New York images are so pervasive (thanks to the efforts of New Yorkers trying to convince the world that it revolves around NYC), trying to pass them off as generic cityscapes is just stupid. Not to mention lazy.

Now, who can tell us the cross-street in the photo?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Things That Are Upcoming: Air Shows, Post Hunt and More Social Media Navel-Gazing

A few things going on around the way that are interesting, assuming you are me:

* I took last week off from social media navel-gazing and DC-local tech event stuff. Looks like this week will be no different (due to conflicts, not social media fatigue), though if you're of the mind, Refresh DC is Thursday in Arlington -- as to the rest, check out for current-ish listings.

* This weekend (that would be Saturday and Sunday... well, also Friday for DoD personnel and school-sponsored children) is the Joint Service Open House Air Show at Andrews Air Force Base.

I've been living down here for a dozen years, and I've never made it to one, not because I have a morbid fear of air show crashes, but because I usually don't find out about it until after the fact. If I go, it'll be on Saturday. That's because...

* Sunday is the first DC Post Hunt -- I was kind of 'meh' about it until I read the preview chat -- while I'm pretty good with words, I'm not so good with word puzzles, but it looks like fun -- in the worst-case scenario, I can always bail and go drink somewhere.

Looking out to next week:

* Tickets for next month's Hirshhorn After Hours go on sale Tuesday (May 20) -- if you're planning on going, I can't stress highly enough: Get your tickets in advance.

This is where I would theoretically do my blog recap and photos from the last one. Theoretically.

* Wednesday is the May edition of the Washington Blogger Meetup at RFD in DC. Come one, come all.

This time around, it doesn't conflict with the monthly Web Content Mavens meeting, because that's on Tuesday the 19th. However, it does conflict with the DC New Media Technology meetup at Lotus Lounge at the same time.

Then, a quick look out to next month:

* June 4th, DC social media social butterfly Shashi, in conjunction with DC Media Makers, is sponsoring a social media event at Busboys and Poets.

* Friday, June 13th is the Blog Potomac conference at the State Theatre in Falls Church (right across the street from Clare and Don's Beach Shack, where I am at this very moment). [Conference pro-tip: There's free wi-fi here.]

In addition to whatever luminaries will be official panelists, social media and PR 2.0 guru David Parmet (call him Utma, he loves that) will be in attendance. At least, I'm pretty sure I saw it on his Twitter stream (which I note is misbehaving, yet again, as we enter primetime).

At $75, it'd be cheap at several multiples of the price.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

My Dad Mooned Me on Skype for Mothers Day

For Mothers Day, I had a nice, long Skype video chat with my family.

I was even able to show my mom the card I forgot to mail to her. (She said to save it for next year. )

Also, apparently Dad has been having some intermittent pain in his sacroiliac joints (on the pelvis, to the left and right of the spine, just above the buttocks). Being a doctor, he felt the need to show the location, so he basically mooned me via webcam. Well, half-mooned.

Other than that, today was very damp. I went to a matinee showing of Iron Man, which besides living up to high expectations (save for the post-credits cameo bonus scene, which was kind of a letdown after the big buildup), was also the first movie I'd seen in a theater since I saw Children of Men last January.

I'm at a point in my life where, if a movie is good enough for me to see in a movie theater, it's a movie I'll most likely want to own. In which case, why not just wait a couple of months instead of paying for it twice?

And I don't even have a killer home theater setup. I guess I'm getting pragmatic. Or cheap. Or I need to go out on more dinner-and-a-movie dates.

(And while we're on the topic: Why dinner first, and then the movie? Shouldn't it be movie first, and then dinner? That way, you can at least talk about the movie at dinner. And you don't have to worry about having to duck out to the restroom halfway through because you drank too much water during dinner.)

I also stopped by the neighborhood Giant on the way home. Besides getting thoroughly moistened by the rain, I was also somewhat disconcerted; they're renovating the place and using a new floor plan, so everything is all moved around.

That was pretty much my weekend right there.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Poor Joelogon's Steadycam (or is it Joelogon's Poor Steadycam?)

As I Twittered yesterday, I completed my Poor Man's Steadycam (I'd bought the parts on Monday, for slightly over the advertised $14), without too much trouble. (Well, after I twigged to the fact that the cheap drillbit I was using was never going to be able to drill a hole through galvanized steel. It only took me 45 minutes and one battery to figure out I needed to switch bits.)

Here it is:

You're doing it wrong
I may not be using the $14 Steadycam in the prescribed fashion.

Actually, here it is when held as intended:

$14 Steadycam
My Macbook's iSight camera is really noisy.

Now, I haven't had the chance to really test it yet, so I haven't posted any video using it. Also, I don't own a dedicated video camera right now, and the rig looks pretty ridiculous with my Fujifilm Finepix F30 digital camera (which doesn't even weight half a pound) mounted on it.

It feels a little heavy to try to skate around with -- maybe I'll try building a version using PVC pipe, or try a PVC Fig Rig.


Monday, May 05, 2008

You Can't Spell "Mullet" Without "Me"

So here's a followup to my mullet photo and associated blog entry -- a Flickr user found the photo I posted from 1992, and used it to better illustrate the multifaceted nature of the mullet in its wikipedia entry:

Let's see the Encyclopedia Britannica try to match this kind of credibility.

The edit was made with no prompting from me, but of course it has my full support, for however long it lasts.

While we're on the subject of goofy pictures of me (and really, when aren't we?), here's a photo of me at the 2008 Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race -- a reporter for the Baltimore Metromix took it and asked me, "If you had a kinetic sculpture, what would it be?"


I'm fortunate that this photo made it online, as I didn't manage to take any pictures of myself or my costume (such as it is).

The photo was taken in Patterson Park, just outside of the sand obstacle. I'm wearing a Nomex flightsuit that I picked up from a military surplus sale (I wore it one other time, on Halloween) -- it's a 34 short, and a little snug. I was worried that it was going to give me the dreaded front wedgie, but it was apparently okay.

It came with Air Force Academy insignia, which I left on. The cardboard grin is official race Spectator equipment; on the other backpack strap is an orange safety whistle. The dog tags are really geeky and I'll talk about them some other time. The red Running Man cap is AIM swag from April's Tech Cocktail DC 2 (I wore it because it was red -- no other endorsement is implied), and of course I have my skating wristguards on.

The Scalzi is a long, strange trip indeed

Okay, granted -- a lot of white guys with glasses and, um, thinning hair share a similar, almost generic, look.

Still, might not there be something to the assertion that sci-fi author John Scalzi bears more than a passing resemblance to the late Albert Hofmann, creator of LSD?

Left: Albert Hofmann. Right: John Scalzi (photo stolen from here)

The effect is more pronounced when you take the off-angle gaze and the rimless glasses into account.

I have 3 nipples...

...they're black, 1/2" in diameter, 10" long and made out of steel:

Three 1/2"x10" steel nipples from Home Depot.

Saturday was the 2008 Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race. I'm still exhausted from skating all over town trying to keep up.

I managed to fill most of a one-gigabyte memory card, though I haven't even begun to process them yet. Previewing the video, though, I see that I'm an even worse videographer than I am a photographer -- especially when I'm on skates.

It was because of seeing the crappy video that I finally decided to make a Poor Man's Steadycam. I stopped by Lowe's and Home Depot this afternoon to pick up the parts (oh, and Sports Authority for the 2.5lb weight).

It came out to about $18 -- I could have made it for the namesake "$14 Steadycam," except I was lazy and bought three 1/2" diameter, 10-inch black steel nipples, instead of buying a 30-inch pipe and getting it cut and threaded.

Anyway, I'd be making it now... except I just discovered that my cordless drill's battery is dead. So assembly will have to wait.

Friday, May 02, 2008

I Fell Asleep to Girls Gone Wild... and Now I Have Steel Drums Stuck in My Head

The headline comes from a twit this morning (I don't like calling them "tweets"), and it's all true: I fell asleep on the couch last night with the TV on, in the heart of late night infomercial hell.

So for most of the day today, I've had the Girls Gone Wild steel drums stuck in my head.

The only way to lose an earworm is to replace it with another; my nuclear option is the Chipmunks version of Achy Breaky Heart (for a while, I wasn't sure it actually existed, or if I'd conjured it up in a particularly bad fever dream -- and even if you haven't actually heard it, you can hear it, right?)

In this case, I was able to ditch it with the Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters version of Tonight You Belong to Me from The Jerk, which is a much sweeter and far more pleasant song to have stuck (you can hear it here -- embedded mp3).

Looking on YouTube, though, there's a very nice version by user ShelleyY -- I've included it below. Enjoy:

Now, to finish a few things and head over to the inaugural Friday Night Live in Herndon.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Thoughts From Under the Hair Dryer

Much more unflattering than my previous highlights photo.

Yesterday, I got my hair cut, which these days, more often than not, involves getting my highlights done. It's a concession to both vanity and aging -- grey hair shows up really clearly against a lustrous mane of black hair, such as my own. *hairflip*

Of course, for the past few days, my scalp has been really dry, flaky, and irritated. It's been like being at the center of my own personal snowstorm. So naturally, it was the perfect time to have harsh chemicals applied to my scalp.

(Does that mean I'll chestnut-highlighted dandruff?)

Anyway, I tried moblogging this from my phone, but it crashed midway through, so I gave up.

Some other time, I'll share my half-baked idea for a hair-based community, with tie-ins to point of sale terminals at hair salons. But right now I have a kickball game to go to.