Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ramada Burbank

I was in Los Angeles for the PDC this week. I started out in a great hotel - one of the best, in fact. I was in the InterContinental in Century City. Everything was beautiful. Marble bathrooms, incredibly plush beds, a little balcony overlooking Beverly Hills. Someone sneaking in your room and turning on classical music while you were out. Just lovely.

Alas, I needed to stay an extra night and then fly out early in the morning. On Wednesday, I moved to the Ramada Burbank. ("Latest in Meeting Rooms Facilities" barks their Web site.) The Ramada was not without its charms, but I soon noticed a few differences in the quality of the lodging.

By the time I staggered back from the dev community party at oh, 1:30 AM, these differences became acute:

1. Insufficient parking at the Ramada. However, they were pleased to offer six additional spaces across the street, next to the railroad sidings.

2. I needed to put a parking pass on my dashboard, even though there were no viable businesses within blocks.

3. The restaurant was named Whispers, a likely hat-tip to the many secret trysts taking place in the oversized, mildewy rooms.

4. My room keys didn't work at 1:30 AM. I had to go down to the front desk to get them reissued.

5. But the elevator on my side of the floor was "under refurbishment" so I had to walk all the way around.

6. Next to the front desk, there was a folding table set up with a cop sitting there on duty.

7. When I got my key and returned to my room, there was a woman sitting next to it, in a plastic chair, smoking. "Non-smoking" refers to inside the rooms only.

8. The toilet had stress fractures.

9. The couch had definite "naked fat guy" imprints on the cushions. Probably the same one who was responsible for the toilet.

10. The doors were made out of the hole-kickable wood paneling that I had in my room as a child. I was afraid that I'd be awakened by a steel toe at 4 AM.

11. When I woke up all too early for my morning flight, I went over to reattach my contact lenses. There were tiny ants crawling on the case.

On the other hand, I didn't have to endure the spectacle of a woman screaming out the front desk staffer like I did at the InterContinental. THAT was pretty gruesome. "HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU DON'T KNOW HER? HOW MANY PEOPLE WORK AT THIS HOTEL ANYWAY?" Followed by a long tirade as the clerk stood quietly. The screamer then turned and started announcing to everyone that she needed to see a manager. I tiptoed over to the staffer who'd been waiting on her and whispered not to worry, because the woman was going to be reincarnated as a diaper.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Important news from the world of pork

From Jersey Pork Roll:

Attn: Consumers
JerseyPorkRoll.com
NJPorkRoll.com, and NewJerseyPorkRoll.com are our related domain names. We are not affiliated in any way with Jersey Boy PorkRoll.com, or Buy NJPorkRoll, the website that began using our name several months ago on yahoo instant messenger.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Just beneath the surface

It's really interesting (but mostly terrifying) to look at how Obama's candidacy and imminent victory have scraped off the veneer that so many people have precariously painted over their deep-seated racism and hatred.
Obama Assassination Plot

Nathan Johnson, 32, an associate of Gartrell and Adolph, was also arrested Sunday morning. He told authorities that the two men had "planned to kill Barack Obama at his acceptance speech." "He don't belong in political office. Blacks don't belong in political office. He ought to be shot," Johnson told Maass.

I see it with people I know. I had one person tell me that "Obama's not qualified to be president because he's black. Maybe president of an Aunt Jemima bottle." What do you even say to someone in their late 40s who would voice a thought like that in public? You know it's not acceptable. You know it's offensive. This type of racism - mostly designed to make others feel uncomfortable - is really no different from the smoker who decides that no one's going to tell THEM they can't smoke, and then lights up on a train or in a restaurant. It's a pure attempt to wield power over others by inviting a challenge to known repellent behavior. The racist slurs are often then followed with "You know I'm just bustin' your chops." Oh, OK then. You're just playing the character of Racist Asshole. You're not actually one yourself.

Man Shot By Racist Gunman

A man told today how he was shot three times in a London street for wearing a Barack Obama T-shirt.

Dube Egwuatu was buying a mobile telephone top-up card in an off-licence when the gunman confronted him and glared at the top, which carries an image of the Democrat US presidential candidate underneath the legend 'Believe'.

The man then launched into a tirade of racist slurs, shouting 'I f***ing hate n*****s' and urging 36-year-old Mr Egwuatu to leave the shop with him.

The McCain campaign isn't being overtly racist, but it certainly is attracting overt racists. And the campaign is to be faulted for letting them fester.

"A Terrorist"

At one point, McCain asked, “Who is the real Barack Obama?” A member of the crowd yelled out, “a terrorist!” McCain paused while the audience laughed at the comment, and then continued with his attack — without condemning or admonishing the audience member.

The GOP has often run on some message of racial discord and undercurrent, from the origins of the "low taxes" quest (high taxes are being spent on THOSE people) to the Willie Horton ads of the 1988 campaign.

"Sit down, Boy."
One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, "Sit down, boy."
This isn't an issue of North vs. South, or rich vs. poor. This misbehavior can be found everywhere you look.

"Change"

7th grade teacher and coach Greg Howard is no longer an employee. He was suspended without pay for 10 days starting Thursday for making racial slurs at presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Howard asked his students what "change" stood for and proceeded to write out the acronym "change"- come help a n(word) get elected.

Sometimes the person involved is directly connected to the campaign, but often they're not.

Obama "spoof"

A local newspaper columnist, in a spoof of Obama’s platform, wrote in one recent piece that the Democrat would hire the rapper Ludacris to paint the White House black (a reference to a pro-Obama song by Ludacris), and divert more foreign aid to Africa so "the Obama family there can skim enough to allow them to free their goats and live the American Dream." He joked that Obama would replace the 50 stars on the U.S. flag "with a star and crescent logo," an Islamic symbol, and that his policy on drugs would be to "raise taxes to pay for Obama's inner-city political base."

What's more upsetting is that in the 1990s, we saw the culmination of the "Patriot Movement," where violent white separatist groups and sympathizers committed major acts of terrorism in Oklahoma City and Atlanta. The language that we're hearing now about Obama is becoming increasingly violent, and the McCain/Palin campaign is not addressing it. Can they? Or is this a small but significant voting bloc that controls them?

"Kill him!"

"Now it turns out, one of his earliest supporters is a man named Bill Ayers," Palin said.
. . .

"Kill him!" proposed one man in the audience.

One thing is clear. We can't just smile and pretend that no more racial divide exists in this country, because especially in the closing weeks of the campaign, we're seeing increasing numbers of disgusting incidents. Is it the desperation of people who realize that McCain is about to lose big? Or the economic downturn a factor, since hard times tend to lead to people blaming groups they view as outsiders?

Witch doctor

Martin arrived at the conclusion that Obama, whom he called a "media witch doctor," has "locked his granny away and refused to allow her to be seen" in order to "pretend he has no white relatives."

This won't be over in November, and frankly if someone can still make a Jemima joke in 2008, I don't know that it ever will be over. But the McCain campaign sure doesn't help it by ignoring it when it happens right in front of their noses.

Spear catching

Salter said to expect more of the same, saying the campaign was tired of “catching the spears.”

Thursday, October 2, 2008

AMG is sooooo close

All Music Guide bio of David Cross:
Also in 2003 he was cast as flamboyant anal rapist and aspiring actor Tobias F√ľnke in the much-celebrated Fox sitcom Arrested Development.

He was actually an "analrapist," not an "anal rapist."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Webmail

It was upon opening this screen that Josh started to think that maybe Optimum Online mail was not his best option....

(click for full-size)

Friday, September 26, 2008

WaMu

Official: WaMu is changing their slogan from "Whoo Hoo!" to "D'Oh!"

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hockey mom VP!

Gotta say one thing. Sarah Palin gives a good speech.

How to make hurricane season more fun!

I find it odd that we give hurricanes names, but leave it at that. We're trying to personalize storms to make them seem friendlier, so it's time to go the extra mile. From here on, I expect all tropical activity maps to look like this:





Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rove speaks out against Palin

"With all due respect again to Governor Palin, she’s been a governor for under two years, she’s been able but undistinguished. I don’t think people could really name a big, important thing that she’s done. She was mayor of a city of 8000 people. And again, with all due respect to Wasilla, Alaska, it’s smaller than Chula Vista, California; Aurora, Colorado; Mesa or Gilbert, Arizona; north Las Vegas or Henderson, Nevada. It’s not a big town. So if he were to pick Governor Palin, it would be an intensely political choice where he said, 'You know what? I’m really not, first and foremost, concerned with, is this person capable of being president of the United States?'"

Ooops, that was Rove talking about Tim Kaine a week ago.

Friday, August 29, 2008

God DOES answer prayer

Just maybe not quite the way you wanted.

The prayer:

Focus on the Family Action has pulled a video from its Web site that had asked people to pray for "rain of biblical proportions" during Sen. Barack Obama's acceptance speech at Invesco Field on Aug. 28. . . .

In the video, Shepard called for Christians to pray for "abundant, torrential" rains during the Democratic nominee's acceptance speech in order to disrupt it. He had asked Christians to pray for rain that would create flash flood warnings and "swamp the intersections."

God's answer:

Republican officials said yesterday that they are considering delaying the start of the GOP convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul because of Tropical Storm Gustav, which is on track to hit the Gulf Coast, and possibly New Orleans, as a full-force hurricane early next week.

The threat is serious enough that White House officials are also debating whether President Bush should cancel his scheduled convention appearance on Monday, the first day of the convention, according to administration officials and others familiar with the discussion.

For Bush and Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Gustav threatens to provide an untimely reminder of Hurricane Katrina. A new major storm along the Gulf Coast would renew memories of one of the low points of the Bush administration, while pulling public attention away from McCain's formal coronation as the GOP presidential nominee.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Scrapbooking weekend

This past weekend, I spent a couple of days at the Ramada in Wayne, NJ. The rooms were pretty basic - they were almost motel-like, with "no smoking" signs that failed to inform the carpeting and drapes of their intentions.

However, the trip was well worth it. As you probably know, I'm a keen scrapbooker. Well, the National Scrapbooking championships haven't been held in the Northeast in six years, and this weekend they were on the grounds of Montclair State University. 840 people showed up for this thing, including two-time world champion Rose McNair. I specialize in "times past" images of dogs from the 1940s in my work, but you can really meet people who do just about anything at these events, from their own children to some R-rated stuff. The Somerville, MA group was actually on probation for a year because of one of their local events in 2005.

The hotel setup was actually nice, because the rooms surrounded a central courtyard. It had some benefits, as well as a few drawbacks. On Saturday afternoon between heats, a bunch of us hung out by the pool, trading stories about past events and gossiping about the scrapbookers who weren't there. And even at 2 PM, holy SHIT can those scrapbookers toss back the mojitos.

We headed back to MSU for the evening eventing, and a small scuffle broke out over the provenance of some pinking shears that someone had left on a table near the entrance. You're strictly responsible for your own supplies at the competitive level, and this whole thing kind of cast a pall on some of the competition.

I didn't get anywhere with my work this weekend, and I ran out of green squares at exactly the wrong time. Plus, the hotel is pretty hard to find in the dark - it's not as far as the Willowbrook Mall, but you have to make this U-turn and almost thread the needle to get to the Rt. 46 service road, then cut hard to the right just as you're merging.

Last night got a bit rough. People wouldn't go to sleep. Rose McNair gave a good seminar at the college, but she went a bit overboard when she got back to the hotel (they comped her suite), and they had to close the pool at 9:30 PM after she yuked in it. It sort of scattered us for a while, and I was feeling pretty tired anyway. But these people wouldn't SHUT UP! 2 AM, I had a guy pounding on the door next to mine, yelling "I THOUGHT YOU SAID YOU HAD THE GLUE STICK." It was wild.

Anyway, I got a few photos up in my Scrapbooking gallery. If you've never seen scrapbookers in action, it's worth a look.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I is learning in college

Just a quick rule of thumb here. If you've got a list of things you are - employee, parent, student - you should preface them with "I am:". If you say "I am a:" and then make the list, complete with bevowelled words, it just doesn't work right.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Olympics joke

Well, I don't watch the Olympics because I find it excruciatingly boring and don't generally get off on jingoism. But I did write a joke!

Q: Why did the dog watch the Olympics?
A: Because he wanted to see Phelps finish Spitz!

Hahahahahahaha!

No, see it's "finish Spitz" like the obscure dog breed. Yeah, it's a type of dog. Sigh.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Photos from Brooklyn


Last night I headed over to Greenpoint to see two great bands, Regina Hexaphone and Schooner. The show started at 8, and I got there at 7. So I tooled on over to the waterfront to see if I could get a few photos of Manhattan.

I drove up West Street, looking down each street to see whether it was fenced off or open to the water. After a couple of false starts, I drove down Java St. I heard some people congregated at the end, listening to music. There were some concrete blocks set up by the water, and two older guys were sitting there quietly, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes.

I pulled my tripod out and set up to take my photos. After the first batch, one of the quiet guys started talking to me in almost a whisper. "You want a better view, go down to Huron. You don't have any of this crap in the way. Huron is two blocks over." He pointed north.

I took a couple more photos, then thanked him for the tip. The second guy piped up. "You don't wanna go down to Huron," he said gruffly. "Huron's where the scumbags are."

Without missing a beat, he then turned back to the first guy and continued talking. "Who's this guy Brett Favre, anyway? My Giants beat him in the playoffs last year. He's got more gray hair than I do."

The two men started comparing stories about the relative arm strength of Chad Pennington versus Brett Favre, and I packed my gear away and headed up to Huron St.

Places like the end of Huron St. have that "feel unsafe to outsiders" thing going on. But at first glance you might see 12 "shady" New Yorkers, when it's really four or five different, unconnected groups hanging out.

Two Hispanic guys were sitting in their car listening to music and drinking beer. One Asian guy had brought his SUV there and was spending a lot of time washing its tires. A couple was sitting on a cement block, looking like they were discussing a college project. A woman was trying to catch a Canada goose that was swimming around. Three old Russian ladies were throwing hunks of stale bread through a fence, feeding some ducks on the other side. Scumbags.

I set up on Huron, and the view was great as well. The setting sun was tossing off golden highlights on the clouds, and made the city seem beautiful and tranquil. A woman was standing at the end of a concrete outcropping. I don't know who she was or what she was doing there, but she didn't move during my bracketing shots.

NYC photos here.

Monday, August 4, 2008

McCain misses 5/8 of all Senate votes

Maybe they should STOP scheduling votes at the same time as the "early bird" special at Denny's. Second place? The guy with the brain hemorrhage.

Vote missers:

63.3%
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
Votes: 399 votes missed (63.3%), 231 votes cast

49.4%
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Votes: 311 votes missed (49.4%), 319 votes cast
Note: Sen. Johnson suffered a brain hemorrhage on Dec. 13, 2006, and spent several months recovering. He has since returned to the Senate.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

McCain's running mate contest heats up

I think we've found a love connection here.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sorry kids!

The issuance of this new series of stamps from the US Postal Service is proof that beloved character Mickey Mouse has been DEAD for at least ten years. Peter Pan, too.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

McCain could have my vote

All McCain has to do for my vote this November? He has to punch Bush in the face. And not a story about it either. We have to see it on TV.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Smile Train

Look, they're an undeniably great charity. They have helped thousands of people with cleft lips, with incredibly low overhead.

I just think that their latest banner ads are a little bit, well, unsettling.



Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dog stank?

We've got a problem.

Bertie (pictured) has suddenly turned into an old dog, and with this change has come Beagle Stench.

I gave Bertie a nice bath on Sunday, complete with two scrubbings of Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap. He smelled OK.

By this morning, he once again smelled like someone had yuked a Chalupa on him.

What the hell do I do to get the Beagle Stench out of Bertie? Tomato juice bath? Dilute bleach? He just got a mint bath on Sunday. And he reeks again.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Obama's VP choice...

Right now, Obama is mulling his choices for VP. If I may make a suggestion: John McCain.

Now wait! Hear me out. If he names McCain VP, he instantly shows he's got bipartisan credibility. More importantly, he confuses the hell out of McCain for at least four days.

"Now wait. I thought they told me I was running for president...?"

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Headphone Quest

I'm not having good luck with portable audio lately. My 160 GB Archos player's drive started making "bad disk" noises, and then wiped itself out. Drive's dead.

My new Sony noise-cancellation headphones let off a whine in the left ear. It goes away if I tap the outside of the speaker, but then builds up again.
I was travelling and didn't want to be without an MP3 player, so I rushed out to Best Buy and bought their house brand, an Insignia 8 GB drive-less player. It works pretty well, actually. The sound on it is pretty good, and I don't get that "disk spinning up" electronic noise that the Archos used to feed me in its last days.

But the player needed a friend - Bluetooth stereo headphones. I poked around the Best Buy site, and found a couple. Insignia makes one. So does Sony.

I went to Best Buy to look at the Insignia model. It's $49.99 at BestBuy.com! In the store, it's either $54.99 or $69.99. Yes, they have the headphones out in two places, with a $15 difference. I wanted to compare them to the Sony, so I picked up both packages. Dynamic range for the Sony was pretty good: 14-24K. Dynamic range for the Insignia, however, was...uh...not on the package anywhere. I looked a couple of times to make sure I hadn't missed anything.

A blue-shirted helper happened by. "Hey, would you know the dynamic range on these headphones?" I queried. "No, man. Sorry, I got two customers I'm helping" came his plaintive response.

An older woman came up to me. "Can you help me in the TV section?" I looked at her to figure out what she meant. "Do you work here?" Aaaaaah, I see. When I'm wearing a multi-colored striped Oxford shirt, it's pretty easy to confuse me with someone wearing a bright blue Best Buy shirt and a yellow name tag! Idiot.

I popped open my phone and searched the Web for the Insignia NS-BTHDP specs. BestBuy.com didn't show them. www.insignia-products.com couldn't say. I went over to customer service.

"I just have a question about these headphones before I can buy them. What's their dynamic range? It doesn't say anything on the package."
The helpful clerk took the package, rotated it around to read the fine print a few times, brightened slightly, and looked back up at me. "Up to 30 feet!" she chirped.

Alas, you're rather simple. I asked again, rephrasing my question. "No, I need to know their dynamic range. You know, the frequencies of sound they carry." She referred herself to the helpful folks at the Geek Squad, who had no idea either. Because this information is not published anywhere. I even looked at the product manual on their Web site. It has all sorts of specs about the unit's Bluetooth capabilities, but nothing at all about the actual sound that would be coming from the speakers.

I put them back and bought the Sony model, which feels about as sturdy as a plastic popsicle stick. But I know its dynamic range.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sign of the day

From Stop & Shop, Bay Shore.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

One Secret Bush DOESN'T keep

This question has been on my mind for years. Any doctors out there have an idea?


WHY


DOES



PRESIDENT



BUSH






SWEAT




SO




PROFUSELY?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

That hot dog TALKS!

While cruising around the ville today, I happened upon a service called GotVoice, which converts your voicemails into text and MP3. Sounds interesting:


GotVoice converts your cell, home and work voicemail to text and sends it to your phone and email. It's the quickest and easiest way to access your voicemail…let it go to text.

Exciting, no? But the greatest feature of all is that you can apparently have it read your voice mail back to you! Which didn't make much sense when I first read it, considering that voicemail is already spoken-word. But then I saw what makes this service unique.

Lip-synched Avatars read your voicemail to you. Turn your boss into the devil or your friend into a lip-synched Hot Dog.

Yes indeed. You can now ease the pain of creditor calls by making them look like large, drunken frankfurters.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Gut pitch

This post should be a consumer alert to all concerned clothing wearers. Target's "More Room in Gut" campaign is clearly defunct.

Over the years, I have enjoyed many a piece of fine, cheap clothing from Target. Their shirts have always been ample, and their pants are designed to grow as I grow. But last week, I purchased what appeared to be a nice shirt at Target. It's a nice light green and white gingham number. I bought the XXL just to make sure I'd have, again, plenty of room to grow.

I got home, put the shirt on, and...no. The thing was so tight I could barely button it. I didn't want to risk it, because I'm aware of the damage a forcibly expelled button can do to drywall and plaster. True, I could use the shirt as a crimefighting tool ("FREEZE! Or I'll exhale!"), but I am not that community minded.

But how could this be? This is an XXL shirt. I may be grotesquely obese, but I've never not fit into a huge shirt before. I brought out the tape measure. I am currently holding a Gap shirt, XL, that fits great. Lots of room. It's got a 51" gut pitch - the distance from button hole to button. (Just as airlines measure seat pitch, so do I measure gut pitch.) I then took out this Target XXL shirt. Only 47" gut pitch! One size larger, and a full 4" less gut pitch! This is either mislabeled, or the shirts are being marketed to an increasingly slim, fit America. Since I can't visualize the latter without laughing, I'm going with the former.

In summary, beware of Target shirts purporting to be large enough. Keep the gut pitch in mind, and remember that if the Gap is like JetBlue, then Target is more like Delta.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The scourge of DRM

Paying for the rights to listen to a DRM-protected song is JUST LIKE paying for a song, except when it's not and you're about to lose your whole library because you've reached the end of lifecycle support with your vendor. Or, as the "Dear MSN Music Customer" mail I received last night says,

MSN Music is constantly striving to provide you, our user, with the most compelling music experience that we can. We want to tell you about
an upcoming change to our support service to ensure you have a seamless experience with the music you've downloaded from MSN Music.

. . .
I am writing to let you know that as of August 31, 2008, Microsoft will change the level of support to be offered for music purchased directly from MSN Music prior to November 14, 2006. As of August 31, 2008, we will no longer be able to support the retrieval of license keys for the songs you purchased from MSN Music or the authorization of additional computers. License keys already obtained as of August 31, 2008 will continue to allow you to listen to songs on all the computers that you previously authorized for service.I am writing to let you know that as of August 31, 2008, Microsoft will change the level of support to be offered for music purchased directly from MSN Music prior to November 14, 2006. As of August 31, 2008, we will no longer be able to support the retrieval of license keys for the songs you purchased from MSN Music or the authorization of additional computers. License keys already obtained as of August 31, 2008 will continue to allow you to listen to songs on all the computers that you previously authorized for service.
. . .
Please take this opportunity to make sure you have the licenses you need to access your music. As a friendly reminder, please remember
that the MSN Music service allows you to authorize up to 5 computers for songs purchased from MSN Music. You must have licenses for the songs on each authorized computer, in order to be able to play the songs successfully. If you have already played a given song on a computer, then you have successfully obtained the license key for that song. MSN Music keys do not expire. If you intend to transfer a previously downloaded song to a new computer (or an existing computer with a new operating system, such as an upgrade from Windows XP to Windows Vista) within the maximum allowed limit of 5 computers, please do so before August 31, 2008. You will need to obtain a license key for each of your songs downloaded from MSN Music on any new computer, and you must do so before August 31, 2008. If you attempt to transfer your songs to additional computers after August 31, 2008, those songs will not successfully play.


So just remember. Our licenses don't expire, but if your machine expires (or if you upgrade to Vista) you will lose all of your music with no recourse. Have a DRM day!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Time to take the action?

Because if you are ready to find out why the palm is emerging from the O in STOP, and why the skeleton has wasted his life, click here. Or down there -->


Another reason Bay Shore is great!

Day or night, you can always head on down to Montauk Highway and pick up a nice pack of smooth, refreshing beear cigarettes.


Let's go baseball!

Suppose you're a major beer distributor who really likes supporting professional sports. You've got a whole bunch of posters designed, linking your brand of alcoholic beverage with area athletic teams.

But something goes wrong. You don't pull off that coveted big league sponsorship. You can't make those New York Mets posters for all the local booze merchants. All is lost! Or...is it?

Solution: Create completely generic signs celebrating "New York Baseball", a schedule for New York Baseball, and a fan-pleasing pennant with the name of their favorite sport on it!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bush has one dance

It involves relucantly standing up, doing a chicken head movement, and hunching shoulders uncomfortably. Then grimacing for a second and standing up board-stiff before trying it again.

http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=4699244

But at least he got to dance in New Orleans! That proves that the city isn't decimated!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ten Questions for John McCain

Just give me a 15 minute interview slot, PLEASE. I just have ten questions. They won't even take the full 15 minutes.
  1. Do you foresee centuries-old conflict between Sunni and Shiite ending when you tell them to sit down and "Stop the bullshit," or have you have some other magical plan now?
  2. Is it ever appropriate to call a woman a c***?
  3. Was it right to attack a nation that we knew at the time had no WMD and no ties to the attacks of 9/11?
  4. You are proud to oppose torture. So why did you vote against a bill in Feb that banned techniques not authorized by the Army Field Manual?
  5. What things has Bush done badly that you are going to do better?
  6. After all your work on campaign financing issues, why did you feel it was OK to withdraw from public financing without FEC approval, and then lie about it? How can we trust you to uphold the law when you violated the one you sponsored?
  7. You have sought the support of evangelicals who say things like Hurricane Katrina was sent to punish New Orleans for its sin. Why did God give you cancer?
  8. Is planning and implementing torture a war crime? If not why not; if so, then who from the Bush Administration should be labeled a war criminal?
  9. Memory loss and cognitive impairment are common symptoms of aging for people in their 70s. What was the previous question I asked you?
  10. 36% of men in their 70s suffer from incontinence. Have you ever worn adult diapers?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Controversy at Guitar Center

The genuine Guns & Roses Slash guitar kit does not contain a tophat, sunglasses, pick, and a strap. Instead, you get a strap, picks, and Slash's autobiography. In this blog's opinion, that makes it about 104% less cool.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Good thing they got this guy writing in the Times

Bill Kristol. Why even bother? Just run another ExxonMobil ad in that slot.


I’ve spent a fair amount of time the last couple of weeks with conservatives of all ages and leanings.

No, really? Bill Kristol hanging out with a bunch of conservatives? What the hell is going on with this topsy-turvy world?

Every time you think the Times is snapping out of it, they run either something like this or, better yet, a unique NCAA bracket that--unlike EVERY OTHER BRACKET in the country--was drawn up to resemble a periodic table.

Lord Hummer's Cup

This year, the Islanders, Rangers, and Devils had a friendly little wager called the Hummer Metro Ice Challenge. The results were based on games between these three great rivals. the Islanders tore out to an early lead, and the Rangers stayed close - both teams beat up on the Devils all year for some bizarre reason.

So anyway, even though the Islanders stumbled at the end of the season, they still split with the Rangers as the season ended, leaving them one point ahead in the Challenge standings after winning the season series with the Rags, 5 games to 3. The Rangers had one last chance, with a meaningless Sunday game against the Devils. Two points would catapult them ahead of the Isles for the Hummer Cup Metro Challenge Cup. But no. The Devils won the game in a shootout, leaving a tie at the top.

The final standings were:

Isles 11-4-1, 23 pts
Rags 10-3-3, 23 pts
Devs 3-9-4, 10 pts

So let's review. The Isles and Rangers tied at 23 points. The Isles had more wins in the Hummer Challenge Cup Metro series. The Isles had 5 of 8 wins against the Rangers. THE ISLANDERS WIN THE HUMMER CUP! THE ISLANDERS WIN THE HUMMER CUP!

Seems simple enough. Then the intrigue started. At the end of Sunday’s game, Sam Rosen comes on and announces “and the Rangers win the Hummer Metro Ice Challenge!” (This is the same genius who announced that the Islanders had been eliminated from the playoffs one week before they ended up making the playoffs.) Someone, somewhere (and I blame the evil James Dolan of Cablevision for this) just randomly decided that the Rangers were the winners despite losing all standard tiebreakers. None of this would be important except that the prize was $50,000 to the winning team's chosen charity.

So now there's a firestorm going on because the Islanders won the Challenge fair and square, but the Cablevision/MSG folks decided to give the charity money to the Rangers instead.

Chris Botta, the media relations VP of the Isles, called the studio immediately upon hearing Rosen saying this and, by his own account, swore out Al Trautwig. Even the Rangers partisans are all saying “What the F?” Botta has mentioned that there is an imminent solution, but we haven't heard anything further about it.

So to summarize: Madison Square Garden/Cablevision made up some bullshit and stole $50K from the Islanders charity for sick children. Way to go!

Better Beamer

As the parents on the hockey team were kind enough to present me with a debit gift card, I decided to drop my new-found loot at B&H. I'd had my eye on a Better Beamer for a while, so I took the plunge.

The Visual Echos FX4 Better Beamer Flash Extender will help increase the reach of the flash and increases the flash output by about 2 to 3 f/stops. It focuses and concentrates the output of the flash into a narrow beam via the fresnel screen that gets positioned in front of the flash. This allows shooting at greater distances and shooting with smaller apertures.

I excitedly attached my Better Beamer to my flash, set it up on my camera along with my BML (Big Manly Lens), and aimed it at a blue jay across the yard. I focused in, pressed the shutter release, and POP! The bird exploded in a cloud of feathers.

WARNING: NEVER ATTACH THE FRESNEL BACKWARDS.

HDR quick grabs

Digital SLRs have sensors whose analog output is converted to digital information, generally at 12 or 14 bits per pixel. The common analogy is to think of each photosite on a sensor as a bucket that can hold a certain number of electrons of either red, green, or blue light. Once the bucket overflows, you have a blown-out highlight in that location. (Technically, the sensor doesn't have pixels. Like a TV, an image is interpolated from the RGB values around it.) The larger the sensor on a camera, the more electrons a single photosite can hold. That's why a 6 MP image from a DSLR is always going to look far better, with far less noise, than a 6 MP image from a small point-and-shoot.

Anyway, you have 12 to 14 bits of information converted from each photosite. When that's converted to JPG, you lose some information because a JPG is 8-bits-per-pixel. You may lose some detail in a highlight, or a shadow might be clipped. If you shoot in RAW format, the camera holds the full information coming off the sensor, without converting to 8-bit values.

What an HDR photo does is expand the bits-per-pixel to 24 or 32, and then combines bracketed images to fill in info that may have been missing from a single shot. (Either the highlights overflowed or the shadows weren't exposed long enough to come out.) Once you've done this, you can use software to choose how you want these pixels mapped back to the visible 8-bit or 16-bit space. The result is a compression of the overall dynamic range into values that can be displayed in an image, just like the superior human eye can register them.

Last night I took a series of photos from a terrace in Tudor City. The first shows what a typical photo of the Empire State Building would look like. It is probably eight or nine stops brighter than the nearby buildings, so you can't get both the tower and the buildings properly exposed.





That was the JPG out of the camera. I took the RAW file (16 bits of data instead of 8) and ran it through Photomatix Pro. It expanded the image range to 32 bits-per-pixel, and then let me remap the tones. I overdid the color saturation a bit, but you can see how much more information is stored in the original image, versus what you get from the JPG.





I also bracketed a series of four photos. It went from so underexposed that you couldn't see much beyond the detail of the tower, up to exposed so you could see buildings but the tower was overly bright. I then used Photomatix to pull all the image data from these four JPGs into a single HDR file, and then mapped them all back to 16-bit space. (And then to 8-bit.)


This was a handheld bracketing, so there was a bit of misalignment and probably camera shake as well. This would look a lot better taken from a tripod. But note how you can now see the detail in the nearby buildings as well as the far brighter ESB tower.


I've taken a number of other HDR landscapes, all available in this collection as well.

Eating cessation

After seeing a box of Nicorette patches on Eric's counter yesterday, I started thinking about what happens once someone stops smoking and gains weight. So I've come up with a new idea that I am officially copyrighting, so you can't do it too. Porkarette. You lose weight by attaching small adhesive strips of bacon to your upper arm, where the porky goodness leaches into your skin. Now you'll be able to go all day without a nosh. Available in original or mesquite smoked flavors.

Cheap advertising links

Well, I decided "what the H" and added some adSense links to my page. My goal is to buy a Nikon D3, so start clicking away.

My first five links:

Hillary Clinton Wristband
Hillary Campaign Website
AARP Auto Insurance
Door Replacement
Need A New Garage Door? (Denver area)

I have been crawled for relevance!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Mourning

As I sat in my comfy armchair just moments ago, there arose quite a clatter. A huge THUD, something hitting the sliding glass door. We've had small birds hit it before, but this sounded like a beagle tossing a chop-block.

I arose from my slumber and went to see what was up. There was a 10-inch-long smear, with a couple of small gray feathers, some small insects, and a couple of seeds. Was an eagle projectile vomiting? I looked further, and I saw it. There was a mourning dove under a teak bench, about six feet away, wings still in mid-flap, stone-dead. Guts trailing out of it. Jilly the foxhound was slowly approaching it, as if she had outrun some prey.

The poor bird had gone into the window at full speed, and hit it so hard that its guts exploded onto the door on contact. Ew.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Why I hate Avis

Well, first of all, I hate every company. So this shouldn't come as a surprise. A long time ago, Avis dragged me through a lengthy small-claims process for $1000 they owed me. They hired a sleazeball Long Island lawyer who thought he'd piss me off enough to settle. So I vowed never to rent from Avis again, after winning all the money I originally asked for.

But then corporate policy got in the way, and I abandoned my blood vow against Avis. Yet they always manage to give me a completely inappropriate vehicle. I want small, they "upgrade" me to a boat. Or they give me a car with a glove compartment full of Marlboro butts.

How bad is it? I've kept track for the past two years, and Avis has given me the following late-model cars:

Ford Poboy
Dodge Dump
Mercury Cutprice
Toyota Three-Runner
Pontiac Broodmare
Hyundai Mistrial
Buick Pontoon
Chrysler Le Bon
Toyota Corroda
Kia Spackle

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A tale of two hotels

I'm traveling on business this week, to Seattle and Denver.

The first stop was Seattle. Or actually, Issaquah. I've stayed at this hotel before, and it's close to the Microsoft office.

I decided to show off by having a nicely pressed shirt. I filled up the iron, turned it on, and started to press away. When I gave it a blast of steam on the collar, a couple of little brown dots showed up. A bit bigger than poppy seeds. I ironed a bit more, and I got a small brown streak on my collar.

Figuring there might be a bit of schmutz in the iron, I took it into the bathroom to clean it. I hit the Clean button, and a ton of brown gunk bubbled out, like the iron was blowing its nose and hit blood. Every time I hit steam, more gunk.

So that wasn't going to work. I took a couple of garments to the front desk for dry cleaning. ("In by 9, back by 5.") I got back to my room that night, and no clothes. I figured it didn't make the daily drop, so I didn't say anything. Went out the next day, came back, still no clothes. I went to the front desk. They told me to look in my closet, because the clothes were hanging up. No, that's where I looked.

I went back to my room, and as I got there, the desk rang my phone. They found my clothes and were bringing them right over. A minute later, a knock on my door. The manager was apologetically holding my clean clothes. She handed them over and asked "Did you not get these yesterday?"

Yeah. I got them yesterday, but then snuck them back behind the desk when no one was looking. That's what happened.

Yesterday I flew into Denver. I have meetings today in Westminster, north of the city itself. I don't like it in Denver. I can't breathe right. If I eat too much, I feel like I have a road flare in my chest the next morning.

Fortunately, my hotel solved that problem for me. I drove up the desolate toll road, E-470. (Which is also the EU code-name for caramel coloring.) I got to the hotel, which was built to resemble a castle. All the conference rooms are named after medieval shit, like the Sir Galahad. The onsite restaurant is called Jester's.

I didn't want to go out to eat, so I called room service. The menu was photocopied and stapled on my desk. I asked for the chicken. Nope, they're OUT OF CHICKEN. They do, however, have the castle special, roasted turkey legs. And the photocopied menu even suggests wine choices - the turkey leg goes well with a "Petite Strah."

I went into the bathroom to freshen up. It smelled like burning hair because of some past hairdryer accident. I turned on the hot water, and it came out as orange as a Snapple label. The TV remote, which is vaguely greasy, doesn't let you use the channel up/down buttons. You have to go to the menu each time, and then choose the channel you want to go to.

I didn't have the turkey leg; I had the marinated steak tips. This is why I always have the road flare. Like most of the world's great hotels, this one has an ad on the cardkey. I could've used it to get 10% off an order at Godawful's Pizza somewhere on 120th Ave.

I want to fly home early. No dice. A 6 PM flight from Denver would get to JFK at about midnight. Nope. Nothing between 1 PM and midnight, for unknown reasons.

So now I'm in my room, trying to figure out which surface smells least like a cigarette so I have somewhere to sit.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Amazing fact of the day

Right Said Fred has released six albums, including one in 2006!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Thoughts on the presidential race

1. Obama is not a Muslim. Idiots.

2. Clinton is not a win-at-all-costs bitch.

3. McCain is not an ethical straight shooter. He does favors for lobbyists and can't seem to stop.

4. And so what if Obama were a Muslim? Frankly, we couldn't do any worse than the Christian we've had in charge for the past 7+ years.

5. Some people have told me that Obama has no shot, because "America's not ready for a black president." That thinking may be true if you're a Republican. But 70-80% of Democrats who have voted in the primaries have said they have no problem voting for the other candidate.

6. McCain will not choose Condi Rice for the VP slot because he will then lose the racist vote.

7. McCain is petulant and pissy, like all old men. Just what we don't need when dealing with someone like Putin.

8. Expect the "Clinton rules" applied only to the Dem nominee. Ask yourself why no one ever asks McCain or Huckabee whether they've put a yellow ribbon on their cars.

9. Maureen Dowd is a shitty, shitty columnist.

10. McCain means four more years of Bush policies. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

RottenNeighbor: The Worst Idea Ever?

I came across the Rotten Neighbor site today. It's a brilliantly simple concept: You sign up for a completely anonymous account (no email needed) and then post any comment you want about any person who lives anywhere on earth. Your comment is geocoded in a layer over Google Maps. There's no moderation, no evidence necessary, and no need to leave any info about yourself. In other words, it's an anonymous, untraceable, slander machine.

This isn't even like Emily's List, where you pay a little and sign up and post opinions about merchants and contractors. This is just a list where anyone can say anything about anyone else, and also point to their home on a map. What possible value could this have to others? I can't imagine this not leading to someone getting shot within 18 months.


(And no, that ahole neighbor who keeps threatening to call the cops because someone else's dog barks at 10 PM hasn't posted me on here. Hey! Maybe I should put up an anonymous note about them! This is great!)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Charlotte Dentist

I flew down to Charlotte yesterday for a meeting. And you know how when you get off the plane in Hawaii, they put a lei around your neck? As we were landing, half of my front tooth broke off, probably as a way to give me that local look. ("NASCAR Mouth.")

It didn't hurt at all--it was a filling put over an old root canal a decade ago. But it was annoying, and sharp, and obvious, and NASCARry. I looked up the closest dentists I could find, and as luck would have it, I found one who had a 3 PM appointment open today.

So I got there, and... I spent an hour with a gay Haitian stranger in my mouth. I was curious and a bit scared, but he was very gentle with me. I was a bit uncomfortable when he told me to bite down at first, but he took it well. He really packed it around my root, too. Gave me an good, old-fashioned inlay. Fortunately, his injection didn't hurt too much. It was just a little prick. He saw me gagging, so he told me I could take a break and swallow halfway through. No, seriously he was really good. He filled my crack right up, and I was on my way.

(I'm looking for sponsorship for this barrage of gay dentist jokes. If you're interested, please drop me a line.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

View from Bayonne

I got a BIG LENS a couple of months ago: the Sigma 170-500. With my job transition, I've been pretty busy lately, and I hadn't had a chance to really use it. So last week, I had to drop Kelli and the kids off at Newark Airport so I decided to take the lens along with me for a quick side trip.

To Bayonne.

Yes, Bayonne.

I wanted to have a view of the Statue of Liberty with Manhattan as a backdrop. There are a few places you can get this from New Jersey. I looked over my map and figured out that Bayonne would actually work. There's this road called Port Jersey Blvd, and if I could just find a place to set up along the way, everything would be great.

So I meandered my way through the Newark/Elizabeth area during rush hour (I think Linden was in there too), and found my way to I-78. I was in Bayonne. I drove along until I found Port Jersey Blvd. It was as industrial and desolate as you'd expect. But there were little brown signs pointing to a "Waterfront Observation Area." This was promising.

I drove past a bunch of big rigs, past what seemed like miles of high fencing, and over some disused railway tracks. Finally, near the end of the road, I found the observation area. It was just a wooden stand you could climb and see the waterfront. It was completely desolate. I got out of the car and was greeted by some stray dogs.

I climbed through some brush and over some paved-over tracks, and set up on a small pathway right next to the water. An occasional car would drive by, turn around, and leave. It was cold. The big lens was heavy. I nevertheless got off a series of shots, including the one you see here.

The lens was OK. It was actually sharper than I thought it would be at 470mm. The only problem I had was its weight, which caused a touch of motion blur (which you can see if you click on the picture and view it at a larger size).

I may even have to go back to Bayonne to try this shot again - and to go on a wonderful shopping junket down Broadway!

The greatest sandwich EVER!

From JF: One pound of bacon, ground up into a patty. Stuffed with cheese. Deep-fried. Topped with more cheese.

"...and one Diet Coke, please."