living up to this blog’s name

picture of some gold rush prospectors

So, I suppose I should have mentioned this earlier, but I’m on the verge of a delirious Western adventure. First! A week of vacation in California. Emily and I are headed to the bay area to hang out with Jeff, Marie, Chris, Paul, Jon, my aunt & uncle, and the hippies, weirdos, fortune-seekers and drug addicts that power the world’s seventh-largest economy.

Second! It’s back home via Austin, where we’ll rejoin the EchoDitto crew at SXSW Interactive for some good old-fashioned internet fun. Needless to say if any readers, lurkers or inter-friends will be in either area you should send me an email. If you don’t have my address, send a blank message to tom@[this domain] to get the real one sent to you (consider it an experiment in spammer-foiling).

making a difference

graphic for kriston's campaign to get the nytimes to get rid of their stupid double-click functionalityKriston’s on to something here. People don’t want websites to make their browsers work in radically different ways than they normally do. Or at least they don’t want them to when everything else seems to be normal. This NYTimes behavior is almost as irritating as the snap.com preview windows that now pop up by default on every wordpress.com blog.

I imagine that the folks at the Times will come to their senses. But to me the most remarkable part of all of this isn’t the stupidity of the “feature” — it’s how many people seem to share my affliction. I thought I was the only one who constantly highlighted and rehighlighted text while reading things on the web. But no! It seems that Kriston, Spencer and Ogged all suffer the same compulsion. And who knows how many more suffer in silence? Man. It just feels good to talk about it.

Actually, though, I’m not sure whether I can still count myself among their ranks. I don’t remember performing the highlighting tic recently. But I honestly couldn’t say whether that’s because I’ve gotten out of the habit or because it’s now so automatic for me that I don’t notice myself doing it.

the fruits of our labors

title graphic from the fifth episode of Defenders of StanThe episode of Defenders of Stan in which I, Emily, Hemal and two mysterious strangers got to be extras is now online.

I had planned another round of deluxe video labeling, but given the way they cut it I don’t think it’s really worth the effort.

If you haven’t seen any episodes of DoS before, I’d suggest episode 4 as its current pinnacle so far (although you may need the exposition of episode 1 to figure out what the hell is going on). That’s not to take anything away from the recent episode and its formidable star power, but the fact that I heard bits and pieces of a lot of the jokes during filming makes it seem a bit less funny to me than the others.

so here’s something kind of fun

I’ve been screwing around with Processing’s video capabilities ever since doing a demo on it during out tech meeting at work a few weeks ago. It’s pretty neat, and getting all the neater with the sudden ubiquity of iSight cameras.

I initially thought that there was a somewhat glaring security hole to all of this that would potentially allow a website operator to take snapshots of users without them noticing. Turns out that’s not the case: an applet has to be signed in order for the camera libraries to work in a web browser. That means it either needs to come from a very trusted source (say, Sun Microsystems) or the user has to sign off on a security warning.

But even without the potential for sneakiness, this is still pretty neat. Here’s a first pass at it that I thought I might as well post online. It’s a pretty simple tech demo — it just distorts your image in a fun way. But the potential of the technology is amazing, mostly by virtue of how amazingly accessible it is. If you’ve got a webcam, click on the image below and say “ok” to the security warning. And don’t worry: this applet doesn’t send your picture anywhere. That’ll be coming in a future blog post (and yes, I’ll warn you).

I’m pretty confident that this works OK on Macs, but things may be dicier on Windows. When it comes to Java stuff there’s always a chance of unexpected browser crashing, so please don’t leave anything important unsaved in any of your other tabs.

click here to launch the applet

boo

Sue signs off. This is entirely unacceptable. I can deal with blogospheric neglect, but not its formalization. But if this is the way it’s going to be, I’ll at least console myself by indulging in a blogubituary.

Out of everyone in our little corner of the internet, I’d say that Susan managed to get closest to the dignified end of the quality–quantity continuum. But that’s not to imply that I think we’re playing in a zero-sum game, or on a level field. Do the math and you’ll see that Sue could have pretty clearly become an blogospheric titan if only she’d cared to. But reading her site always left me feeling like she was writing it more out of an obligation to her talents than because she loved the medium (and the egocentric gratification it provides). She seemed like some foreign basketball prodigy swept out of rural obscurity and compelled to play a game that her heart wasn’t in. If that analogy seems strained, consider that Susan is in fact quite tall.

I remain optimistic that this departure isn’t permanent, or is perhaps just being made in favor of more pseudonymous pastures. Either way, do yourself a favor and go page through some archives.

another triumphant return

So look, cut me some slack. It’s been a rough week: between work trauma and being sick enough to miss a full day of work for the first time in I don’t know how long, this wasn’t very bloggy week for me. Well, not here, anyway; I was happy to pursue titillating inquiries into American Idol contestants over at DCist.

I did manage to fail to implement a cool webcam thing I was working on, as well as managing to not get Arcade Fire tickets (iCal reminders don’t work, apparently). I know, quite a week.

But I didn’t just sit around complaining! I did other things, too. Ever since Jeff told me that my beloved zinc tables were probably destroying my brain I’ve been looking for a new pseudoscientific way to recover from colds. But nothing plausible and affordable had come along, and I was ill again — I found myself lowering my standards. I was getting sicker and more suggestible by the day.

That’s when I heard this NPR report. Nasal irrigation? Sure! Why not?

dr. somethingorother's nasal rinse

So yes, the deal is that you squirt warm, salty water up your nose. And yes, I realize that this may seem kind of embarrassing and gross. But the NPR people made it sound great! I was convinced that if I took this one simple step I would feel refreshed and recovered; have a more resonant, stentorian voice; and might attain a new level of consciousness and/or be able to shoot bolts of energy from my fingertips. It’d be like Scientology, except available at CVS. At the very least I wouldn’t have to sniffle and sneeze quite as much. That was the hope, anyway. But you don’t have to take my word for these incredible benefits — just look how happy the girl on the box is:

a young girl with a nasal rinse bottle jammed up her nose.  she seems happy

Well, I tried it. The actual experience was less unpleasant than you might expect. But aside from the fulfillment of that promise, it’s a total crock. I didn’t feel any better immediately afterward, and the next day things had actually gotten quite a bit worse. Maybe I should have taken the box’s entreaties that I boil the District’s tap water a bit more seriously.

Anyway, it may be unrelated, but I currently have no sense of smell. It’s a little weird — I can breathe perfectly normally, but I can’t smell anything at all. Waving a bottle of scotch under my nose produces absolutely no effect, and I was only able to tell that I was in a smoky bar by virtue of my watering eyes.

I’m confident that my sense of smell will eventually come back, but for now it’s sort of neat to be working solely off of my sense of taste. Things are salty, sweet, sour or bitter, and that’s about it. Food’s a little boring, but the cheapest booze at a bar now tastes the same as top shelf. Call it a wash.

whine, whine, whine

Sick days: not as bad as they could be. It’s true that I still sort of feel like I’m breathing through a tiny, phlegmy drinking straw. But there’s a lot to be said for spending a day in your pajamas a scant few feet from a chocolate cake. Plus I got kind of a lot of work done. It’s really made me miss the heady days of telecommuting to my considerably stupider but also more hygiene-optional last job.

But all’s not well in the world. I’ll issue this qualification: I really like the stuff that BYT/Garutachi is doing — seems decidedly too cool for the likes of me, but I’m glad there’s a distinct party scene in this city that’s concerned with things other than date rape and boat shoes. Still, I wasn’t pleased to see this. I find it extremely depressing that the only thing still keeping DC safely out of Blue States Lose eligibility is the fact that we’re not a state.

superheroics

Saturday night was astoundingly great. Earlier in the week Josh asked me if I might like to dress up like a superhero and stand around an Arlington TV studio for a few hours. Clearly the answer was yes.

So two nights ago Emily and I joined Josh and Lindsay at Galaxy Hut before heading a few doors down to channel 69 to be extras in the next episode of Defenders of Stan.

Getting a bunch of people dressed up like superheroes is an excellent way to start an evening. And Arlington’s small-world tendencies made the evening even better: Hemal and her sister Payal were there, and I was pleasantly surprised to see HT in a jaunty cape — I’ve known the guy off and on since taking computer classes at the Career Center together, where he and I acquired the advanced Applesoft BASIC skills that eventually led him to work with my friend Jon. Like I said, Arlington’s a small world. A small, inbred world.

The shoot was pretty fun, particularly since Josh made an in-costume run to Whole Foods for beer. After things wrapped up we tried to head back to Galaxy Hut, but they looked a little crowded and were charging a cover. So Josh continued his streak of real-life heroism and drove us all into the city to meet up with folks at Townhouse. I stopped taking photos at that point; Kriston’s photostream picks up the story from there.

But here are the shots I did get:

a belated valentine

I haven’t put anything up since then, but better late than never: thanks to everyone who came out to Unbuckled on Thursday, especially those who bought me birthday drinks. I can’t think of any way I would’ve rather celebrated — it was great.

And thanks & congratulations to Kyle and Amanda for putting the concert together. I’m consistently amazed that people I know manage to put together such great rock shows. Their ability to identify bands at the sweet spot between popularity and bookability; get people in the door; make them feel like they got their money’s worth; and have the bands leave happy — well, it’s impressive. And for sub-$10 shows, it’s surprisingly rare.

rock show!

Well, I’m 27. 26 was a fairly traumatic year, but I’m sorry to leave it behind — it seemed like a pretty good age to be. But I’ve still got over a thousand days until the crystal in my left palm turns black, so I’m not really upset at marking this year off the calendar.

I’m still sort of apathetic about the whole birthday observance ritual, though. So instead of trying to guilt you all into celebrating the anniversary of my glorious birth, I think I’ll just try to guilt you into coming to this:

unbuckled flyer

I’m confident that it’ll be great.

In other news, it appears that the song on the new Arcade Fire CD that’s my current favorite is actually about what a jerk Jessica Simpson’s dad is. That makes me like it even more.