Posts in “Misc 2008”
Christmas caught me a little flat-footed this year, although the midnight service last night was beautiful and made up for my lack of Christmas spirit.
We had a wonderful time visiting friends today, and then on the way home, I talked Anne into making a detour to take a picture of some extreme holiday lights a la Griswold. It was my first panorama and Photoshop (CS2) made stitching the seven exposures together effortless. I set the exposure to preserve the color of the lights, so everything else is inky blackness. It looks OK, though.
There are a few even more extreme displays I hope to shoot over the weekend. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
Election Day 2008
Many happy returns.
We Are the Champions
That “we” in the title is a bit disingenuous. Sure, I live near Philadelphia, home of the World Champion Philadelphia Knockerbackers, er, I mean Phillies. But as someone lacking the “sports gene,” it’s not fair that I enjoy the sweet rewards of championshipdom without having suffered through 28 years following the allegedly losing-est team in baseball (a pointless statistic if ever there was one). Nevertheless, I’ll take it! Wooooooooo-hoo!!! World Champs, baby!!! But I didn’t feel like I belonged at the parade today, ya know?
For example, I confess I didn’t know a single Phillies player until a month ago. Now I know a good three or four.1 I even watched some of the games. I couldn’t watch the final game on Wednesday, unfortunately, but did soak up some of the energy from the packed house at McGillin’s waiting for the game to start, the cheers from patrons at Ly Michaels when the Phillies scored, and the crew working at Jim's Steaks where Kenric and I grabbed a bite on our way home. Even though I didn’t get home in time to see the final out, it was an exciting and historic night, and I am so happy both for this city and for all of the Phillies' real fans.
1I knew most of the Phillies during the Sixties when I was a kid. I liked baseball cards, even though I didn't know a thing about baseball.
Roosters at York Fair
This tidbit in Saveur about the different names for the Rice Krispies spokescharacters (Snap! Crackle! & Pop!) around the world caught my eye, because it started with this:
Just as a French rooster sounds unlike an American one...
Now wait a second. Sure, every language uses different words to imitate animal sounds (Wikipedia has a long list at onomatopoeia), but I can’t believe that the actual sounds that animals make are different. Or maybe that’s not what they meant.
In any case, it provides an excuse to post a recording of roosters crowing I made at the York Fair about a month ago. Interestingly, each one sounded unique, but I don’t know whether that’s because they were of different breeds, or if they were just expressing their individuality. I wish I could tell you the breed of each rooster on the recording, but they only crowed when my back was turned—very sneaky. Two bonus sounds: There’s a turkey gobble about two-thirds in, and the rhythmic honking at the end is from geese when people got too close to their cage. [980k mp3 1:03]
Rename the Phillies for What Philly Does Best
Back to work after a wonderful week in Maine. During the ten-hour ride home yesterday, our conversation covered a lot of odd ground. (Perhaps it was the low barometric pressure of Hurricane Kyle.) I'd like to tell you all about it, but you know what they say: what happens in the car stays in the car.
For the most part, anyway; I’ll share one thing. Out of the blue, I mentioned I thought I should follow the Milwaukee Brewers, because of the whole beer thing (if I followed any sport, it would be baseball). That led to dreams of renaming the Phillies instead, because Philadelphia is the Best Beer Drinking Town in America™ (and “Phillies” isn’t much of a name when you think about it). We spun out some variations based on drinking euphemisms such as putting some away, throwing down a couple, tossing back a few, etc. Anne came up with the best one: The Philadelphia Knockerbackers.
Last year on this day I was attending BlogPhiladelphia. Ah, memories. Based on the large turnout and general enthusiasm, I would have predicted that the event would be held annually, but apparently not. The conference was free, and I have to assume the sponsors just didn’t feel it was worth it. For the record, I would be willing to pay to go to such a conference in the future. Just sayin’. For example, I am looking forward to attending the Higher Education Web Symposium this week at Penn, and that’s definitely not free (but very reasonably priced I thought).
By the way, these pics don’t capture the energy and dynamism of the event at all. Rather, it was between sessions as people took a break and caught up with their lives online. I find pictures of people staring at laptops plenty interesting.
If I had known it would take over three hours to get an iPhone 3G, I never would have done it, but when we arrived at the Apple Store yesterday after work, the line just didn’t seem that crazy long. But we did it, and it was even kind of “fun.” It’s the first time I’ve ever been caught up in first-day frenzy.
Why did I get one? Funny you should ask. For one thing, my first cell phone was with AT&T, and the service was just so unusably bad, that I canceled after two weeks and went with Verizon. I have been very pleased with the Verizon network, which worked even in isolated locations where other providers failed (sometimes even switching to analog), but I was never thrilled with any of my (admittedly low-end) Verizon phones, because Verizon installs their own clumsy, proprietary software. Since I don’t use the phone that much anyway, the lame software wasn’t much of a hardship. Last month I finally found myself in a location where Verizon had no service of any kind and AT&T phones did (Point Reyes Station), so I had to admit that AT&T has come a long way since I was a customer.
Anne wanted an iPhone for a lot of good reasons besides it just being cool, and I convinced her to wait for the 3G. Since we would be busting up our family plan with Verizon, it was going to cost me more to stay with Verizon, so I made the switch, too. At least that’s how I am rationalizing it, since it is undeniably costing more for us to make the switch. I’ve never used any kind of smart phone before, and I have to admit having this much functionality in the palm of my hand is cool. Surprisingly, the iPhone’s voice quality is superior to my current Verizon phone (Motorola V325). It just sounds more like a “wired” phone. Whether that’s due to the phone’s hardware or the stability of the AT&T signal, it’s a welcome improvement. Plus I basically got an iPod for “free” (I never had one).
We joined the line (at the Suburban Square Ardmore Apple Store) about halfway down the side of the building just before 6:00 pm. When we turned the corner—our first milestone—I took these two pictures at around 7:15 pm.
Ooooh, another milestone in line. At the threshold of the Apple Store at 7:53 pm.
We reached the counter around 9:15. There were no glitches porting our two accounts; it just took a while (probably because they were using Newtons for data entry!). After that was finished, activation took only a few seconds and consisted simply of plugging each iPhone into iTunes briefly. We were on our way.
There was still a huge line when we left at around 9:30. The store was supposed to close at 11:00, so it seemed unlikely that everyone in line would get in. I hope no one was disappointed. We took our phones and our appetites to Teresa’s Next Door for a celebratory dinner. I had awesome grilled halibut and a Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel. Now that was something to celebrate.
Things That Come In Sheaves
Not long ago I read a piece by Jack Handey in the New Yorker, “The Symbols on My Flag (And What They Mean).” It was the funniest piece I have read by him; I even had to stop reading it on the train until I recovered my composure. Embarrassing.
When I saw this sheaf at the Panera Bread in Millbrae, I knew I had to share the link. You’ll understand the connection if you read it.
George Carlin’s Hair Poem
I was very surprised to hear that George Carlin died. Sure, he had a history of heart trouble, but still. I stopped following his career a while ago, but back in the day, I was a huge fan.
For my George Carlin tribute post I would like to share one of my favorite bits, the “Hair Poem.” I liked it so much I took the trouble to memorize it (I thought it would make me the life of the party or something). I still remembered most of it (Google filled in the gaps).
I'm aware some stare at my hair.
In fact, to be fair,
Some really despair of my hair.
But I don't care,
’Cause they're not aware,
Nor are they debonair.
In fact, they’re just square.
They see hair down to there,
Say, “Beware” and go off on a tear!
I say, “No fair!”
A head that’s bare is really nowhere.
So be like a bear, be fair with your hair!
Show it you care.
Wear it to there.
Or to there.
Or to there, if you dare!
My wife bought some hair at a fair, to use as a spare.
Did I care?
Spare hair is fair!
In fact, hair can be rare.
Fred Astaire got no hair,
Nor does a chair,
Nor a chocolate eclair,
And where is the hair on a pear?
Nowhere, mon frère!
So now that I've shared this affair of the hair,
I'm going to repair to my lair and use Nair, do you care?
Nice Shoes, My Man
Those who have seen me in real life know that I do not adorn my body with luxurious fabrics tailored in the latest style. Rather, I dress in the urban camouflage known as “business casual” (think Dockers® and button-down shirts—although I don’t wear actual Dockers®). I think I blend in perfectly with my surroundings, and as long as I keep up with the rest of herd, the lion ain’t gonna get me.
Once a long time ago (probably when I was in my ballroom-dancing phase), I stepped out a little and bought some notice-me shoes. I wear them rarely, because they just aren’t “me.” Monday night, however, I got myself all dolled up to go to Chris’ Jazz Cafe: wool trousers, one of my lobster ties, and these look-at-me shoes. Since I’ve always called these my “jazz” shoes, it seemed appropriate.
As I was walking along 16th Street, I thought I heard someone say, “Nice shoes, my man.” He couldn’t be talking about me, but I slowed down anyway. He repeated the compliment in a tone that unambiguously emphasized his sincerity. I had to laugh because it was so unexpected to receive any kind of compliment on my appearance (there’s a first time for everything, I guess). But you know, they are nice shoes. They really are.
Update: Albert shamed me into posting a picture of said shoes. i think they were better left to the imagination. :-)
The Active Blogger Meetup RIP
<Maurice Chevalier accent>Ah, yes, I remember eet well: my first blogger meetup—in fact, my first meetup of any kind.</Maurice Chevalier accent>
I had been blogging in isolation since early 2002 and, amazing as it seems to me now, only reading a handful of other blogs by the onerous process of visiting each web site one at a time. In March, 2005, I was reading Drunkenbatman’s interview with Brent and Sheila Simmons, who together comprised Ranchero Software (makers of NetNewsWire, the RSS reader I eventually started using). Both were asked what blogs they read, and Sheila answered, “I like Blankbaby - he’s regularly quite funny and gives an interesting slice-of-life from Philadelphia.”
Philadelphia? There are bloggers in Philadelphia?! So I visited this “Blankbaby” person’s site, and the current post at that time invited people to come out to a “blogger meetup.” I joined Meetup.com forthwith and ventured forth on March 16, 2005, to the Independence Brew Pub. The rest, as they say, is history. Scott “Blankbaby” McNulty has been the tireless organizer of the monthly Active Blogger Meetup (there was apparently an earlier meetup that was “inactive”) since that day and has been paying the monthly fee faithfully ever since, never once asking for help.
Attendance has been erratic in the last year, and Scott has decided to resign as organizer. It is doubtful that anyone could ever fill his shoes. Myself, I’m only a 9-1/2 C (way too small), and even though I was a strong believer in the meetups, I was only attending them a few times a year. The purpose of this post is to thank Scott for his generous support to the meetup, which has enabled me to meet so many wonderful people over the years as well as getting me hooked on good beer. I am also pleased to say that Scott and I have enjoyed an asymptotic relationship—growing closer and closer over the years, without ever actually hugging. Thanks, Scott, for doing so much for so long!!!
Star Destroyer vs. Enterprise: Another Perspective
A footnote in John Gruber’s analysis of “BlackBerry vs. iPhone,” in which John answers the unanswerable question, “Who would win in a fight, Star Destroyer vs. U.S.S. Enterprise?” piqued my interest briefly and those of many others, as John noted on Twitter. (John’s money is on the Star Destroyer.) But it wasn't a question I could debate myself. After all, I’ve only seen two and half of the seventeen Star Wars movies and barely fifteen minutes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (is that the show with Data?). I’m more comfortable debating a conundrum like “Who's cuter, Ginger or Mary Ann?”1
When I saw my friend Keith on Memorial Day, I mentioned it to him. He has long been interested in Star Wars (one of his email addresses is “wookie”), and I thought he would have an opinion. He had an immediate and definitive answer, and I thought his logic was unassailable.
The arguments I have been reading since then, based on “facts” gleaned from various published sources, have convinced me that, based on its superior weaponry, the Star Destroyer would win. The Enterprise has some advantages, but I don’t think they would allow it to prevail. In the world of fiction (the only place this battle could ever take place), however, anything is possible. Keith pointed to an answer right in the stories themselves—regardless of the firepower, the good guys always win. After all, didn’t Luke Skywalker, a single pilot in a puny fighter, destroy the Death Star itself? That’s a mismatch in opponents that makes David vs. Goliath seem like a fair fight.
Therefore, whereas the Star Destroyer is an Imperial warship (Bad Guys), and the U.S.S. Enterprise is a Federation craft (Good Guys), I have to go with the Enterprise. And you know, not even the full might of the Enterprise would be necessary, but probably just one person in a shuttlecraft, armed only with a pocketknife, could do the job. Goliath never had a chance.
Face Time: Nancy Boy Signature Shave Cream
Just a quick update on my “wet shaving” experiment, which has been a wild success. People stop me on the street just to admire my, um, cheeks and say: You smell. So good. (Punctuation is tricksy, isn’t it?)
My first two jars of shaving cream were both English (or English-style): Truefitt & Hill’s Ultimate Comfort and Art of Shaving’s Sandalwood, so I surfed around and found Nancy Boy shave cream (via Corey Greenberg’s Shave Blog). It is half the price of the premium English creams ($16), so I was hoping to like it.
At first, Nancy Boy was a big disappointment, but I was merely using it incorrectly (hence this post). The English creams I’ve tried seem to thrive in lots of water. They make a luxurious lather in the cup and work best on a wet face. When I mixed Nancy Boy the same way, the razor really tugged almost as if I wasn’t using any shave cream at all. The trick is to use it almost dry. Dampen the brush and work a little cream until it begins to foam. (In fact, you don’t even need the brush, but that would take all the fun out of it.) Apply it to dry skin. As counter-intuitive as this sounds, the razor glides at least as smoothly as it did with the English creams. Works for me, and I will probably be using Nancy Boy from now on.
After trying the five kinds of blades in the sample pack from West Coast Shaving, I decided on a brand of blades, too. It was a little difficult to decide, since I liked all the blades about equally (except for the Merkur, which just seemed dull). I noticed that I never cut myself with the Derby Extras, so I bought a bunch of those.
The Lost Generation
I started a draft of this post way back in October, but when Adam Lisagor posted his take on the Barack Obama HOPE poster (created by Shepard Fairey), I just had to pull it up and finish it. Brilliant. (The posters, not this post, silly.)
The woman in the poster is, of course, Mavis Beacon, or one of them. Like Lassie, there have been a number of Mavis Beacons over the years. But that first Mavis... wow. If my wife ever finds out, I’m dead; pure fireworks. Mavis and I spent a lot of time together for a while. I am ashamed to say I used her—at least until I reached 60 wpm, then sadly we went our separate ways, never to meet again.
I had always been an adequate two-finger typist, but when I got my Mac Plus in 1988, I knew I needed to learn touch typing. Like most boomers, I didn’t grow up with computers and never had a “keyboarding” class. Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing was just the ticket.
Anne had a great insight about boomers and computers that originally inspired this post, and since she isn’t blogging at the moment, I’m using it. She noted that one of the main reasons boomers have trouble adapting to computers is their lack of typing prowess. It makes a lot of sense. I’ve watched my own brother struggle to hunt and peck on his Mac, and it’s clear why computer usage doesn’t interest him. I’m sure there are many older people who might make more use of computers if only their typing were a little better, but who aren’t quite motivated enough to learn. Anne calls these people The Lost Generation. Perhaps there should be a special Boomer Edition of Mavis Beacon with drills tailored just for them.
Pettigrew for President
Timothy Pettigrew to be precise. I went to Catholic schools for grades 1 through 10 and during elementary school, subscribed to Treasure Chest, a “Catholic-oriented comic book series created by Dayton, Ohio publisher George A. Pflaum and distributed in parochial schools from 1946 to 1972” [Wikipedia]
I had a distinct memory of a story about the 1976 Presidential campaign with a surprise ending in which it was revealed on the last page of the final episode that the candidate Timothy Pettigrew was African-American. (For some reason, I didn’t think it was odd that you never saw Pettigrew’s face until the last page.) Some Googling filled in all the details.
From the NPR News Blog, I learned that the story ran in 1964 (I was 10 years old). Catholic University in Washington, DC has scans of most issues from 1946 through 1963. Unfortunately, the issues from 1964 forward are still under copyright. You can see a YouTube video of the comic, however.
1964 was a momentous year for other reasons than this footnote in comic-book history. Three civil-rights workers were murdered near Philadelphia, Mississippi (dramatized in Mississippi Burning and Murder in Mississippi) and shortly thereafter The Civil Rights Act, which had been introduced the year before, was finally signed into law by Lyndon Johnson. It only took another 44 years before an African-American would have a chance at the nomination.
Adventures in Plumbing: When a Trap Dries Out
One of the urinals at work has been out of order so long that the water in the trap evaporated. I noticed because I could suddenly hear the hollow sound of distant flushing and water rushing down a pipe. For a few days, I was fascinated by the acoustics, but the novelty wore off, so I filled the trap back up with water. The sound-deadening properties of a couple inches of water are amazing. I thought it was odd that I never smelled any sewer gas, but I’m now thinking that air only rushes into the stack and never out.
Tried watching the lunar eclipse last night, but my distance vision has really deteriorated in the last two years and that took most of the awe out of the experience. (My new glasses are ready, and I’m picking them up Saturday.) I tried taking a picture of it, but as you can see, that didn’t work out so well either. The effort reminded me how quickly the sky changes as we hurtle through space. Even with a shutter speed as short as 1/2 second, the stars were elongated by the earth’s motion. This was my best compromise: 1/3 second, f/4 at ISO 320.
For Drummers Only [nanoblog]
Oh, go ahead. Anyone can watch it. Children of all ages (1 to 100) like to bang on the drum all day. Charming and not just cause it’s drum-related. Via Snarkmarket.
Blogger Meetup Recap
A couple of meetups I attend are on life support, including the Philly Blogger meetup, several of which at the end of 2007 had attendance of exactly one person. No problem, as worst case I still get a delicious sandwich, the chance to check out some new beers, and strange looks from the wait staff. Still, it is nice to actually, you know, “meet up” with people at these meetups. I didn't have high hopes for today’s meetup, but this one came roaring back from its near-death experience (probably thanks to organizer Scott McNulty’s deft skill with the defibrillator paddles). Fifteen people showed up! South Philadelphia Tap Room really worked out for the meetup, at least from my perspective. I loved the beer selection (all the beers on tap were new to me), and my sandwich was great. I had a wonderful time catching up with everyone, some of whom I hadn’t seen in a long time.
I gotta give SEPTA some credit for a super-smooth trip. I took the train to Suburban and jumped on the Broad Street subway. I only had to wait two minutes for the subway (they run about every ten minutes), and my total travel time was only 45 minutes. There’s no way I could have driven there that fast, and parking in South Philly is challenging. I was also impressed by the quality of musicians playing in Suburban, including a young cellist burning up a Bach suite, a fine violist, and a guitarist. Shades of Joshua Bell. Please consider joining us for the next meetup on February 16 at 3:00 pm. It’s a fun and welcoming group (registration with meetup.com is not required).
Blogger Meetup Tomorrow
I’ll be attending my first Blogger Meetup since October (at which I was the only attendee) tomorrow—even though I’m barely blogging. I have high hopes of not being the only one there and am looking forward to sampling the fare at an establishment new to me: the South Philadelphia Taproom. I’m planning to get there using SEPTA, a trip that includes the Broad Street subway, which I haven’t been on since high school when I rode it every day. Adventure is my middle name.