two transformer plugs, one too late

It’s too late for you now, you poor suckers, but you should be sorry if you missed Spencer‘s virtuoso performance at Transformer last night. Iron Man vs. the Imperialists expanded on his Prospect essay of the same name, and managed to not only make me feel self-conscious about my pathetic knowledge of 20th century American history — which is perfectly normal, and something that happens pretty much any time someone mentions a historical event not explicitly depicted in a Simpsons episode — but also made me feel self-conscious about my limited knowledge of comic books, which is not something that usually happens in places that aren’t the internet.

But I didn’t mind, because Spencer was engaging, funny and had an interesting argument to make. And, more importantly, I didn’t mind because it’s inspiring to see a friend deploy an impressive set of skills toward a whimsical end.

On that note: I can’t boast any impressive skills myself other than wide-ranging dilettantism, but my co-presenter on Saturday certainly can (PDF). So come see us tomorrow at Transformer Gallery and learn a thing or two about microcontrollers and why they’re about to escape the realm of geekery and enter into the mainstream hobbiest’s arsenal. 2pm, on the same block as Whole Foods.

still waiting on wombats

The fact that the Wombats haven’t yet become a hugely successful band is a persistent puzzlement for me. I’ve been patient! Ever since the first version of “Backfire at the Disco” I’ve bided my time, waiting for stateside tour dates and a favorable Pitchfork review. I thought that a much-touted SXSW showcase would do it, but no — I’m still waiting. In the meantime the band has released a number of increasingly overproduced (but still catchy!) singles, and seems to be prepping a new LP.

They also signed with Roadrunner Records, whose artists page is hilarious enough that you really ought to visit it. It’s filled with doughy, dour-looking gentleman who front bands with names like Dragonforce and DevilDriver and Nickelback, and who never, ever smile. It is probably the worst collection of bands you’ve ever seen — except for that one trio of little British fellas, who write catchy pop songs that are smart and fun and pretty much everything you’d want from a cheeky Liverpudlian trio. Bah! Anyway, if you can find this album at a non-exorbitant price, you should really think about getting it.

jury duty

I’m at the Moultrie Courthouse today, fulfilling my civic duty. It’s not too bad. So far I’d say the experience is somewhat more entertaining than Jury Duty (starring Pauly Shore), but probably somewhat less entertaining than “Jury Duty”, an apparently still-running series in which luminaries liek Bruce Vilanch, Kevin Sorbo and Vanessa from The Cosby Show sit in judgment of ordinary Americans.

The worst part about all this is the lack of novelty: the DC internet community has been decimated by a wave of jury summonses over the past few months, totally undermining the anecdotal value of this experience. On the other hand, it’s not like there’s a ton of things to do as I sit here, waiting to be told to go sit somewhere else. Hence this blog post.

I was called into voire dire for a murder trial in a courtroom that had seemingly been designed by the same firm that built our nation’s system of bowling alleys (it will apparently soon be renovated to look more like a cheesy starship set). Things went pretty smoothly: I even managed not to crack up when the judge claimed that the crime occurred in a neighborhood called “Turkeyneck”.

I wasn’t removed during the initial round of juror elimination. I think I have to attribute this to my corduroy jacket: to prosecutors a jacket says that I’m rich enough to have no way to relate to the probably-poor defendant, while the defense sees its waling and immediately knows I’m beset by liberal guilt.

My obvious desirability as a juror (says the 29 year-old with the Xbox Live account) had me a little worried, in fact. I politely explained to the judge that actually I’d rather not spend all next week away from email and/or dealing with weighty moral issues; amazingly, he actually acceded, putting me near the bottom of the line of folks that gradually snaked its way into the jury box. And, sure enough, the court managed to find a full allotment of dutiful citizens/suckers before I was needed.

I’m back in the jurors’ lounge now, and my name has already been called again, but there’s apparently some question as to whether I’ll be needed. I certainly wouldn’t mind being excused: I’m a little wiped out. Having been informed by others that the courthouse had wifi, I’d sort of assumed that coffee would also be available — that’s how Maslow’s Hierarchy of White Collar Needs works, isn’t it? Sadly, this has not proven to be the case, and the other caffeine I’ve got in me came from some weak lunchtime tea at Chinatown Express. Here’s hoping I get to go home soon, or at least that the next trial is about something sufficiently unimportant that my sleepy incompetence will be forgivable.

ok, I’ll bite

The G asks for music recommendations. I can oblige! Remember how I bitched about 2008’s crop of music? And how I closed by saying “but there are a bunch of things I haven’t listened to; maybe they’ll be better”? Well, I listened to a few of them, and they’ve all been fantastic. Here are some albums I should’ve paid attention to earlier, and a few that I’ve been paying attention to recently:

No Age (too cool for skool, but in a pleasant way); Glasvegas (awesomely overwhelming, and prompted me to finally listen to Lust Lust Lust for a full-on fuzz-fest); Gaslight Anthem (actually as good as Spencer says); Titus Andronicus (wears thin by the end, but awfully energetic). And as I mentioned, the new Dan Deacon has leaked and is fantastic — better than Spiderman of the Rings, I think. Although I should preface this observation by noting that my knowledge of classical music is more or less limited to the soundtrack for Beef Council commercials, I will go so far as to say that Bromst sounds Coplandesque to me in a lot of places.

Oh! Also, Julian says that Pains of Being Pure at Heart are good, and the couple of songs I heard at his place bore that judgment out.

Not recommended: Andrew Bird, Animal Collective. Neither are bad (although Bird’s a bit boring, which is disappointing given how wowed I’ve been by the handful of live TV performances of his that I’ve seen), but neither really did it for me, either. Admittedly, my lukewarm feelings for the AC album may have something to do with the displaced rage that its title elicits.

OH YEAH: Speaking of music, this Diplo interview is pretty funny.

I love these real Saturdays

Well, as of yesterday I’m twenty-nine. It’s terrible! Or in theory it is, anyway. I actually had an extremely nice weekend: Emily came down from Philly; we ate at Corduroy; cooked a delicious Valentine’s Day meal with Matt and Sara; saw The Wrestler; had Szechuan hot pot with Ezra, Annie, Ethan, Kay, Ben and Amanda, and then went out for drinks with folks on Sunday. Aside from a minor fiasco involving finding a bar that wasn’t so packed as to be unusable — seriously, space in DC drinking establishments is now at such a premium that booking a band has to be considered a hostile act perpetrated against the patrontariat — it was a great way to spend a birthday. Oh! And along the way I got an exciting new electronic fitness gizmo, a book about werewolves and some custom-made oatmeal. Not too shabby.

At the moment I’m sitting at home, preparing for an Arduino-related presentation I’ll be contributing to tomorrow on Wednesday (not the one with Alberto; that’s on the 28th), listening to the new Dan Deacon (which is beautiful) and playing Advance Wars. It’s pretty pleasant! But it also seems like the sort of opportunity I ought to use for writing things here.

I’ve been terrible about this, I realize. I also realize that blogged resolutions to change are stupid. But in my experience it’s only possible to maintain (relative) prolificacy if I force myself into the habit — after that first push things get easier. Besides, it was mostly the process of becoming oriented to my new gig over at Sunlight that’s left me too busy and distracted to do much else. But I’ve got some help now, and things have calmed down a bit, so yeah: blogging!

So, uh… I guess that still leaves this post a little low on content, huh? Hmm. Has everyone already seen that I’m on a Boat (ft. T-Pain) video?

What can I say? I’m a sucker for profanity and pashmina jokes. And, totally coincidentally, I’ve recently been aspiring to boat-ridership myself. It’s the perfect YouTube storm.

Oh! Also funny: Eugene Mirman. There, that’s enough other-people’s-content, right? See, I told you I’d be able to get back into the blogging swing of things.

mojo rising

I’m a day late, but still want to congratulate the folks at EchoDitto and the MJ web team for successfully launching the new Mother I worked on the new MoJo site for my last few months at EchoDitto, and leaving the project incomplete was one of the major qualms I had about leaving — I got to work with a lot of cool clients at ED, but it’s hard to think of one I was happier about than Mother Jones. I know it’s been an at-times painful process (it always is), but it’s great to see what I left behind turned into the new site.

windmills: so hot right now

While the wort was boiling I put together a couple more Boarduino kits that I had hanging around, and tonight I messed around with them a bit more. I already had the breadboard set up with the shift registers and LEDs — not that you can see them, of course (thanks YouTube!).

Tonight I made a pinwheel, then hooked it up to a DC motor and used the combination as a more expensive, less accurate, potentially chip-destroying rotary encoder. It’s pretty janky, in other words. But I had this motor on hand (scrounged it from a CDROM), and Radioshack doesn’t stock rotary encoders. Besides, some safety checking with the multimeter implies that it’d have to be a very strong wind to fry the chip.

Anyway, all of this was in service of Summer Camp, a series of talks and events at Transformer that launched this Saturday and which will be going on through the first week of March. Marissa was kind enough to invite me to talk about the Arduino, and Alberto is generously sharing a stage with me, which I find pretty exciting. Anyway, mark your calendars: Saturday, February 28! You should check out the rest of the Summer Camp schedule (PDF), too, of course — there’s a lot of cool stuff going on.