check me out

I’m going to be presenting at the next Dorkbot DC, and I’m pretty excited about it. If you’re free a week from Wednesday why not come down to GW and listen to folks get excited about DIY hardware?


I missed all the excitement, but Cristen has a great first-person account of the Mount Pleasant fire that you should read if you haven’t already.

the “shining star” jingle claims its prey

Hey there. I’m no longer in Puerto Rico! Oh, right, I should’ve mentioned: Emily and I are going to Puerto Rico. Were going. Sorry. You know what I mean.

Despite what I will immodestly call an impressive series of attempts to ruin the vacation, I was ultimately unsuccessful and we ended up having a great time. Beaches so pristine as to border on cliche; rutted dirt roads weaving through palm trees and abandoned bunkers; a full assortment of rum, both spiced and regular. We were basically living in a Corona commercial for five days, except with mercifully few Corona drinkers around us.

It’s taking an effort to avoid writing thousands more words about it right now, so I’d best cut this short while I still can. I’ll have more to say once timesheets have been filled out and some lidocaine/aloe solution acquired. For now I’ll just point out that the Caribbean is exactly as nice as you’ve been led to believe, and if you aren’t booking tickets there right now you’re not using your computer to optimal effect.

the march of progress

Looks like someone took my work as a starting point and make a hy/pe m Greasemonkey script. It’s nice! I wrote an equivalent bookmarklet right after I wrote that post but didn’t distribute it. It wasn’t as nice as this Greasemonkey script, either — check out the fancy data-URI-encoded icons on this guy! Anyway, get (and use) it now before they rotate encryption keys and break both of em.

It seems slightly silly to me that the free music sampling position we’ve arrived at is so delicate and tendentious. Everyone’s fiercely guarding their bandwidth and ability to deny liability while tacitly admitting the underlying truth: single tracks are now essentially free, priced only by the amount of inconvenience it takes to obtain them — which is primarily a function of which startup has how much remaining money/lawsuits pending against them. It’s all pretty dumb.

A suggestion for the idle Flash developers that I’d like to believe are reading this but probably aren’t: how about a PlayTagger-like application with the following capabilities:

  1. The ability to take a semicolon-delimited list of URLs for an mp3 link (in the rel attribute or similar) and randomly serve one so as to balance load and bandwidth costs.
  2. HTTP_REFERER header forging; either automatic (root of serving domain) or user-specified.
  3. The ability to scrape HTML pages included in that rel list of URLs and find matching mp3 links based on filename or link text comparison.
  4. Testing links for 404s/30xs; on error, proceed to the next URL specified.

It should all be pretty simple stuff, except perhaps for the second and last item — I’m not sure how sophisticated ActionScript’s HTTP functionality is. And it’d allow linking to mp3 files in a way that’s unlikely to break, unlikely to bankrupt the people hosting the files, and that could be automatically generated without too much trouble.

crowdsourcing a conspiracy

I’ve just learned that Amazon Prime, the $75/year service that provides free two-day shipping for all purchases from the site, allows users to designate up to five (or so) relations who can also use the program, apparently without much in the way of verification. Anyone want to go in on this together? It’s first-come, first-served as far as who gets to be niece, uncle or life partner, though.

sometimes the bear, well, he wrassles you

I’ve been meaning to link to this for a while but kept forgetting: a while ago John (who I met at SXSW last year) and his girlfriend Lisa went to have lunch with her grandfather, who used to wrestle in Japan as The Destroyer. Along with a pretty interesting/amusing post about it, John posted this video, which I highly recommend:

It’s a video of The Destroyer wrestling a bear, with commentary from the man himself. I think you’ll agree he makes a compelling case that that bear should’ve been disqualified.

constructive criticism

Via DCeiver, a fantastic accounting of the song “Hallelujah”‘s evolution, from Leonard Cohen to Fallout Boy. The afterword kind of spirals out of control, trying to simultaneously take potshots at Jeff Buckley and repeatedly assert that The OC’s cultural primacy allows it to transcend authenticity. But it, too, is worth reading if only because it’s that rarest of beasts (perpetually hunted by Charles): music criticism that actually talks about music.

sure it’s sleazy, but it holds to a proud tradition of sleaze

Look, I like Barack Obama, too. I hope he wins the nomination and becomes our next president. But this stuff about the Clinton campaign altering videotape of him to make him seem blacker is just crazy. Have we all really never seen a political ad before? Here, allow me to summarize the art form for you:

Grainy, black and white footage of Candidate A, stretched extra-wide or extra-tall. The camera slowly zooms in on Candidate A’s lips, which move in slow motion but without sound.

NARRATOR: Candidate A says he’s for [good things]. But according to [somewhat reputable news source] on [date] he said [nuanced opinion]. Maybe that’s why [neutral-sounding fringe group] called Candidate A “[outrageous smear]”.

(brief pause)

NARRATOR: Candidate A. [misleading interrogatory]?

Cut to wide shot of Candidate B. He is standing in a sunlit alpine valley, surrounded by adorable woodland creatures and an assemblage of attractive, multicultural children. They look up to him expectantly, hoping to absorb the wisdom of their elders so that they, too, might grow up and take their rightful places in the glorious unfolding story that is AMERICA.

Candidate B: I’m Candidate B, and I approved this message because [something other than “I owe private industry many favors”].

This is how things go. You jack up the contrast, distort the image, slow it down and screw around with the colors because it makes your opponent look generically creepy — not because it accentuates particular racial attributes. For some reason the kossacks are pretending that nobody has ever run video of their opponent through a filter. They’re either insane, dishonest, or haven’t been paying any attention at all. This graphical sniping is common enough that it’s been parodied on The Simpsons, for pete’s sake.

UPDATE: More from Kevin Drum and I hadn’t realized that the evidence being cited was coming from different video sources, and that one of them is YouTube, for chrissakes. It’s simply impossible to meaningfully identify the sort of subtle trickery that’s being alleged when the quality of the evidence is so poor.

With that in mind, a few good litmus tests to apply before opining on these matters: can you succinctly define gamma correction? Have you ever had to figure out what color space an image is using? Does this look at all familiar? If so, then by all means speak your mind. If not, allow me to gently suggest that you have some wikipedia-reading to do.

After that, get me digital stills from the debate and the ad that were recorded on the same hardware. Only then will it be possible to identify the alleged manipulation as genuinely existing — at which point my previous objections about the likely lack of racial malice surrounding the manipulation will resume applying. Seriously: this is laughably weak stuff.

suddenly keytars seem so staid

animal keyboard

I twittered about it yesterday, but allow me to repeat myself through yet another automatically-distributed form of correspondence: this Animal Keyboard song is great.

Animal Keyboard – Good vs. Bad

More at his Myspace page. Sure, this is far from the first act to use the toy instrument gimmick. But the palette of noises on offer from this particular toy is distinctly more NES-ish than most, which fires up my brain’s nostalgia receptors something fierce and generally makes for some of the more pleasant 8-bit music I’ve heard. It makes me want to run outside and start collecting coins.

Unrelatedly, I’m also currently a little fixated on the song at the end of this Stereogum post.

Frightened Rabbit – The Modern Leper

You might remember me getting excited about this band’s Christmas music offerings. Now I’m just excited about them in general (or at least about their upcoming album, from which this song is taken — the stuff I’ve heard from their last release isn’t blowing me away). Scottish accents and melodrama are a winning combination.

killer car

Well, I got hit by a car again. It’s pretty stupid, but I thought you should know.

It was Thursday evening, and I was biking home from work. The intersection of 12th and O is a four way stop two blocks from my house — actually three-way, I suppose, since 12th is a one-way street that runs North. I was headed East.

And I was good! My cyclist-lawbreaking apologism notwithstanding, in this case I played by the rules. I got to the intersection and stopped, or at least slowed as close to a stop as a bicycle can while maintaining enough gyroscopic mojo to stay upright. The car to my right went through the intersection and I then proceeded. I was surprised to see the next car begin accelerating, but to be honest my first thought was Oh no you’re not: this is usually the point at which the driver stops short, and I take smirking pleasure in knowing that another motorist has been shocked and angered by a momentary awareness of drivers’ perpetual irresponsibility.

Except this time the car didn’t stop. It sped smoothly into my bike’s front wheel, flipping me around and depositing me on the pavement. I’m not sure exactly where my body went in relation to the car, but I know the other guy left the intersection without a driver’s side mirror.

With characteristic wit I screamed MOTHERFUCKER and wandered shakily out of the intersection. This is the wisdom I can offer about unexpected physical trauma: you’re suddenly going to be stuffed full of adrenaline, and that’s going to make you quite bad at thinking and evaluating your physical state. The best you can hope for is recognizing your own impairment and prioritizing a few key things. In this case that meant pushing through my sudden kinetic confusion and getting down the car’s tags. Because at that moment the driver showed no signs of stopping.

Eventually he did. There was nowhere to go, for one thing — traffic ahead; angry, honking motorists behind. And I’m now inclined to think he was even more shocked and confused than I was (motorists: exactly like bears). He eventually stopped about halfway down the block. I called 911, and there was a cruiser on the scene before I had even hung up. The cop took my statement and that of a nice lady who’d been kind enough to stop, make sure I was okay and then take some photos of the scene.

Eventually the other driver came over. He was an enormously tall African gentleman, seemingly near retirement age. He appeared to be heading home from his job as a security guard, and it looked like he was blind in one eye. He was taciturn, shocked and withdrawn, but through embarrassed mumbles he said he was sorry; he thanked God for protecting me, and hoped aloud that he would bless me further; he said that life is the best, most important thing. He hoped that I would forgive him.

In short, he did not seem to be the type of guy whose personal misfortune could be considered a karmic positive. So although I still felt pretty pissy as we shook hands, I also knew that it wouldn’t last. I plan to talk to his insurance company about the $150 worth of attention that my bike needs, and EchoDitto wants me to make some inquiries about their dinged-up laptop, so I guess I’ll be doing that. But otherwise the upshot was just a sore knee, shin and shoulder. I still made it onto that evening’s 8 p.m. Chinatown bus.

So while I’m dreading the coming insurance-wrangling, it wasn’t too bad overall. Certainly it was better than when I got hit by a cop car in high school — that hurt my body and my bike less, but also ended up with me getting a ticket and my dad having to threaten a lawsuit to get the Arlington County Police Department to stop sending us bills for unrelated damage to the cruiser. I think I’m getting a hang of this vehicular catastrophe business, and am hopeful that by the next time I’ll really have the routine down pat.

Oh! I should also draw your attention to the lack of “head injury” in my list of woes. I haven’t pored over my helmet yet for signs of impact, but this story could’ve been a lot less happy (although also perhaps less overwritten) if I hadn’t been wearing it. So, you know: embrace the dorkiness.