Monday, December 28, 2009

Running on empty

Apparently, in today’s disposable society, it’s fashionable to just discard an electronic device once its power source can no longer hold a charge.

Case in point: my search last week, Christmas Eve in fact, for a new battery for my cell. From the way they looked at me in not one, but two stores, you’d a thought I was making some kind of unreasonable sexual request from their mothers (I wasn’t). The morons who sold me the phone (a RAZR if you must know) didn’t even carry batteries for it anymore. (Thanks AT&T, you jerk offs). And, when I finally tracked one down at Radio Shack, they guy looked at me funny and asked, “You know we have the iPhone now?”

Really? What’s an iPhone? I wanted to ask. I've never heard of such a thing, I wanted to say. Totally channel the pretty darn smart youngest brother. Make the guy explain the whole damn thing, from soup (the actual iPhone) to nuts (AT&T’s stupid-assed monopolistic rate plans), seriously take up 45 minutes of his time (on Christmas Eve), and then say “Nah, I think I'll just go with the battery.”

Instead I just let him sell me the wrong (yeah, wrong) battery for $50. Let me repeat, 50, friggin’ dollars. For the wrong size battery. Jackass.

What the heck is so wrong about wanting to keep a 3-year-old phone going a little while longer? Nothing, I say. The problem is companies make it inconvenient and expensive – planned obsolescence – for us to stick to one tech toy for too long. (Did I really need to put that link in? Is there anyone out there who doesn't know what planned obsolescence is?)

Don’t get me wrong, I think iPhones are pretty whiz-bang neat-o, I just don’t need one (or any other smart phone) no matter how much society or the me-me-me-now-now-now part of my brain says so.

I’ll tell you one thing, one of the reasons I’m sticking with the RAZR in my pocket is survivability. Remember those old commercials where they melted a metal pan in the glass Visions Cookware pan? They just slagged that sucker down to nothing – "Turn a aluminium saucepan into sauce" the ad said – and the glass pan came through without a hitch.
My sister had a great comment when that ad came on TV, “And, for our next demonstration we’re going to drop both pans from a one-story building and see which one can still boil water for spaghetti.”

My RAZR survived not one, but TWO falls from my seventh-floor balcony onto the bricks below. I am virtually certain an iPhone would has shattered into countless tiny shards under similar circumstances.

Me? Gimme metal any day of the week and twice on Sunday.*

*Of course all of this goes out the window if Apple shitcans AT&T this summer and opens the iPhone up to other carriers. If that happens you quickly see me (once the vapor trails clear) with iPhone. An insured iPhone, just in case I want to bring it out on the balcony.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Something under the tree

I love this ad.

You still have a couple of days left to donate to Toys for Tots and, with the storm here on the East Coast, the Marines have a request about drop-offs in the NoVa-area. Read it here. Here is a list of places in the D.C.-area where you can drop off toys.

One of the best Christmases I ever had was in 1994. I was in the Marine Reserves that year and because of a conflict with my finals, I had to do my weekend drill during the week after exams.

This turned out to be a good thing. While everyone was doing stupid shit around the Reserve center the weekend before, I got to have fun when I showed up Tuesday morning.

I spent two days driving around Greensboro, N.C., in a Humvee, in my Dress Blues, collecting toys from elementary schools and bank drop-off locations for
Toys for Tots. The best pickups were at the schools where, often, the kids donating the toys had given up a shot at a toy they wanted so their families could donate a new, unwrapped toy to a child who would otherwise have nothing.

Toys for Tots began modestly in 1947 when Maj. Bill Hendricks, USMCR(eserve), and a group of Marine Reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needed children. Since then the program has grown a bit: During the 2006 Toys for Tots Campaign, 19.2 million toys were given to 7.6 million needy children. In the first 59 years of collecting Toys for Tots, Marines distributed more than 370 million toys to more than 173 million needy children.

Another cool part of the day I spent collecting was getting to unwrap about a hundred presents picked up from the banks. Despite the wonderful effort some folks went to to wrap up their donations, everything had to be unwrapped to make sure we weren't giving away any S&M Barbie dolls or live hand grenades. That wouldn't have been good. Moral of this story: Donate a toy, but don't wrap it up 'cause some Marine is just going to have fun tearing the paper off.

If you don't have time to go out, buy a toy and bring it (unwrapped) to a
drop-off location, you can still donate cash online by clicking here.

Times are tough for everyone this year, but I'm pretty sure anyone reading this can probably spare $25 to bring a smile to the face of a kid on Christmas morning. Think about it, $25 is one less round at the happy hour this week (to put it in terms most of you will understand).
Christmas is just three days away, you don't want it to be your fault those kids didn't get anything from Santa, do you?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A trudge around the Mall

Like all of us here in the D.C. area, when I went to bed Friday night the snow had started falling. When I got up Saturday morning, it was still falling and it kept falling all day long.

So, like any normal, insane person, I decided the best thing to do was head out for a walk around the National Mall to take some pictures. A walk around the Mall through at least 12 inches of snow. More of a trudge, if you like. I did come to one conclusion Saturday morning during my journey: It's was a good thing I don't have covered parking. Cause if I did I wouldn't have made it nearly as far as I did. I'd initially bundled up the top half of me - shirt, fleece, shell, hat, gloves - but neglected the bottom half, on which I was only wearing jeans, boots and wool socks.

In the process of brushing the 8-to-10 inches of snow off my car I decided I was stupid and should probably head back inside and fix this oversight. On went the polypro long-johns, polypro sock liners and ski pants.

Much better.

Surprisingly, West Potomac Drive was cleared of snow and, more importantly, the usual hoard of cars belonging to bikers and joggers was blissfully absent so I had my choice of parking.

My journey from there was long and hard...err, anyway. I started at the Korean War Memorial and headed from there to the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam veterans memorials (the statue, Wall and Women's Memorial) and down to the World War II Memorial. Strangely, the water in the fountains at the WWII memorial was on. So much the better.

Although not usually a long walk, it took me about two hours to reach this point. I was still toasty and dry due to my wise wardrobe choices, but it's a bit of a chore walking in snow (that's why man invented skis) so I decided to head home.

Alas, my route took me past the Tidal Basin and, while I was able to resist the lure of the FDR Memorial and it's waterfalls, I couldn't resist the pull of the cherry trees. Despite the snow and cold, my fatigue and thirst (dehydration is also a winter danger, another staggering oversight on my part), I spent another 20 or so minutes around the Tidal Basin. The snow was coming down so hard at this point the Jefferson Memorial was invisible across the way.

You've been kind enough to read this far so I won't delay any more. Here are the results of my stroll in the snowstorm. I hope you like them.

And the irony of the whole thing? Well, not once on my walk did I slip and fall, even on the really slick steps up to the Lincoln Memorial or the path along the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. But Sunday afternoon? Well, as I went out to dig my car out for the third time this weekend - BAM! I fell on my ass. And, for those of you who know me, well, you know that's a long fall and a lot of ass hitting the ground in a heap.

I think the bruise may invent some new hues before it's done.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Let there be light…but not too much and also in the right temperature

Somewhere in the vague, dark recesses of my memory is an 11th grade chemistry lecture from Mr. Chas Bowman about how different colors of light have different “temperatures” along the Kelvin scale. This same concept has popped up again a couple of times in the intervening years – when friends were making a movie and, despite being pretty smart themselves, forgot this and had to spend $10k to rent lights for their shoot; in my college astronomy class; and so on.

It came up again Sunday night when a deliciously interesting looking fog rolled into
A-Town (and the rest of NOVA/DC area as well). Hoping to capture the phenomena, I headed out to the veranda with the camera and stick (monopod). This is what I got:

Yeah, it’s unsteady, yellow and just plain ugly. I post it here only as an object lesson, not an object of beauty. It was shot with the camera on auto white balance at an aperture of f2.8 and a 1 second exposure. I don’t recommend this method for night pictures, but go ahead if you want, don't say I didn't warn you.

Then I remembered reading in my brand new, just arrived from Amazon last Friday “How to use my DSLR” book that my camera could easily adjust itself to differing light conditions. I also got my tripod and remote trigger out for obvious reasons. This, is the first attempt at playing with light temps:

Better, but not quite. It was shot at an aperture of f2.8, a shutter speed of 1.3 seconds, and a temp of 10,000K.

I won’t bore you with the 50 or so intervening pictures where I dropped the temp one setting at a time and played with the shutter speed. Instead I’ll jump right to end where the camera eventually ended up set at 2,500K (the minimum). This finally got rid of most of the ugly yellows, although some other colors crept in, the greenish-blues at the bottom center and right of the next three pictures, for instance. But what’s a guy to do? Seriously, this is a real question and if anyone has an answer that’d be great. kthxbye.

Once I got the light temp figured out, the aforementioned 2,500K, I started playing with the shutter speed and aperture. This is the result, shot at f11 with a 20 second exposure:

And, finally, these two (f14 for 30 seconds) with their wispy clouds, long trails of headlights and taillights, and beautiful fade from misty white to azure through cobalt blue and then finally to the inky black sky, well, I’m pretty satisfied with them.

I didn’t get around to it, mainly because it was kinda coldish, near midnight and I had to get up for work in about six hours, but I really would have liked to try a really long shot. Something where I left the shutter open for two or three or even five minutes with the aperture really stepped down to f32 to see what I could get.

Also, I have to wonder what my neighbors, any who might have seen me that is, thought about me being out on my balcony with a camera on a tripod late into the evening? Thankfully I didn’t have a telephoto lens on. That could have been awkward.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I love your perfume...Eau de IHOP?

Our office manager is a very interesting person who thinks way, way outside the box (even though I hate that saying I'm using it here.) Today, for instance, we had our little holiday...brunch.

For $16 each, she hired a chef to come in and make us all omelets and waffles. And let me tell you it was G-O-O-D, GOOD. I love breakfast above and beyond all other meals. I've actually eaten it three times in a day on more than one occasion.

This love affair probably goes back to Sunday mornings growing up when the old man would bust out the cooking skills (apparently, when they were first married, my mom could and did burn water) and make the family breakfast after church. Also, later on in the Marines, along with getting your mail you could almost always count on a hot breakfast. Not necessarily a "good" hot breakfast, but a meal to get you going.

Eggs? Love 'em scrambled, fried hard and most especially of all in an omelet (for those of you who like sunny side up, take your runny-assed eggs outta here). Bacon and sausage? Yes, please, both by the pound. Pancakes? Stack 'em up high. Waffles? Oh, God YES! With butter and syrup or whipped cream and strawberries (heck, why not all four? It'll be a party in your mouth).

Which brings us to the point of this post. Not one, but both of the women who work on either side of me mentioned as the party ended and we headed back to our offices, "I smell like IHOP." That brought me up short and I had to think, "Well, what's wrong with that?" That smells pretty darn nice. It reminded me of a study where researchers were trying to find out what smells men thought were sexy. The winner? The smell of hot cinnamon rolls was the favorite among men going away.

Now I'm not saying you'd want to wear it all the time ladies, but if someone comes up with a perfume that evoked IHOP or Waffle House or even the Denny's never-ending breakfast bar in the primitive primate portion of our less-evolved brains...Well, there's not much a guy would refuse you.

What do you think? Tell me in the comments what your favorite meal is and what, if any, scent could inspire you to do things you wouldn't normally do.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Rules of Marriage, as described by kids

Another installment in the "Friday Humor" category. I especially like the picture there: He's got a bottle in his hand and she's dragging him away by the tie while his buddies, for some reason shirtless and crouching (I'm not gonna ask), are left far behind.

Onward though, to the wisdom of children.

-You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming. - Alan, age 10

-No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with. - Kristen, age 10

Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then. - Camille, age 10

You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids. - Derrick, age 8

Both don't want any more kids. - Lori, age 8 (Makes me wonder just how bad Lori and her siblings, if any, are)

-Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough. - Lynnette, age 8 (isn't she a treasure)

-On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date. - Martin, age 10 (Martin, has apparently already been on a couple of Match dates)

-When they're rich. - Pam, age 7 (Someone's got a plan)

-The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn't want to mess with that. - Curt, age 7

-The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It's the right thing to do. - Howard, age 8

It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them. - Anita, age 9 (Makes you wonder what her home life is like, eh? )

There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn't there? - Kelvin, age 8

And the #1 Favorite is .......


Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a dump truck . - Ricky , age 10

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

So, which is it?

This is a screen shot from the WaPo Tuesday afternoon. I direct your attention to the Capital Weather Gang box on the left. No, really, go ahead, I'll wait:

Notice the snow flake on the left side. Now, notice how it says "Rain, and lots of it, coming tonight".

One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn't belong.

Perhaps it's very, very cold in the room where the page was designed and, because of that, the raindrops the designer meant to be there turned to pretty little crystals as the electrons fell through the Internets.

Or someone just used the wrong box and typed in the rain forecast.

Either way, the weather tonight is not suppose to be fit for man nor beast. Bundle up and wear your galoshes.

My prediction? Pain.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A walk in the snow

Saturday, the D.C. area got its first snow storm of the winter. It's was a time for snuggling up under a blankie on the couch, sipping some hot chocolate and slipping a movie into the Blu-ray. For those of us like to take pictures, it was also a time to head outside to see what we can see.

Personally, I wandered over to Arlington National Cemetery. I'd wanted to get down to the Mall as well, but there wasn't just snow coming down and cameras aren't very fond of the wet. So I had to be satisfied with Arlington.

And, despite only spending about 45 or so minutes strolling its quiet paths, I was.

The colors in this one immediately caught my eye from a good distance. The snow was coming down, but there wasn't quite enough to cover the fallen leaves...yet.
I also shot a close-up for better detail, and when I looked at it later, I was surprised to see exactly what I’d captured. If you take a close look at the picture (click on it) and look at the campaigns these men served in, in just this one small area of Arlington there are veterans of the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The stone front-right with the gold lettering belongs to Medal of Honor recipient Ordinary Seaman Gustav Adolf Sundquist, who served in Cuba (where he received the Medal) and later in World War I.
The red bow and the color left in the leaves here caught my eye.

A lone Christmas wreath decorating a stone.

Hope everyone enjoyed the snow. And, if you didn't get any where you are, there's always next time.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Why is it called “golf”? Because all of the other good four-letter words were taken…

For my first, and I swear to God, only foray into the whole Tiger-Elin thing, let’s take a look and have some fun at their expense. Why? Hell, why not?
My boss emailed these to me (he's the same guy who sent me the Mountie joke a couple of weeks ago, and I figured I’d pass them along. Enjoy.
Q. What's the difference between a car and a golf ball?
A. Tiger can drive a ball 400 yards.
– Tiger Woods wasn’t seriously injured in the crash, but he’s still below par.
– What were Tiger Woods and his wife doing out at 2:30 in the morning? They went clubbing
– Tiger Woods crashed into a fire hydrant and a tree. He couldn't decide between a wood and an iron.
– Ping just offered Elin Woods an endorsement contract pushing her own set of drivers. The clubs will be called "Elin Woods" ..."Clubs you can beat Tiger with." [Ed. - This one is probably my favorite just because I can see someone trying this if they actually get divorced.]
– Tiger just changed his nickname but still kept it in the cat family – his new name? Cheetah
– Since Tiger drives an Escalade, can he blame the accident on his caddy?
– “Hello Mister Woods this is On*Star. We have detected an angry person has put a golf club through your window. We are contacting Nike for a replacement driver.”
– And finally, the thought that was going through most of our minds: Who amongst us doesn't hear a car crash and immediately grab the closest golf club we can find?
Busy weekend ahead including the Tar Heels' game against Kentucky tomorrow, my pal Brandon's "I'm now old enough to be president" birthday party and, on Sunday, Christmas tree shopping with my brother and niece and nephew. Hopefully, somewhere along the line, I'll be able to squeeze in a bike ride...if the weather cooperates. If not, I've got a plan for that as well.
Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Things that suck, but in a good way (Warning: sports content)

Something special happened last night: Dook lost for the first time in the ACC/Big Ten (11)* Challenge. Up until the No. 5 Dookies ran into the unranked, but hot-shooting Badgers (who also played some stifling D as well) they were the only team to never lose in the 10 years of this kinda-sorta made for ESPN sporting event.

Even though Dook’s loss, for the first time, handed the Big Ten (11) its first-ever “win” in the challenge (six games to five), I can’t help grinning about it like the Tar Heel I am. The Heels held up their end of the deal, beating Michigan State Tuesday night for the third time in a year, including the National Championship game in April.

I’m also smiling because a guy who works for me was, yesterday, going on and on about how good Dook is and how they’re going to beat on Carolina this year. Somehow, after playing UNC Greensboro, Coastal Carolina, UNC Charlotte, Radford, Appalachian State and Connecticut (#13), Dook was ranked fifth in the nation. I could go on and on about the cake non-conference schedule they’re playing and how brutally tough the Heels’ schedule is (beat #15 Ohio, #9 MSU and playing #4 Kentucky Saturday and #2 Texas in two weeks), but I won’t.

I’ll just let this article ironically speak for itself. And, for some laughs, these two NSFW (unless you have some head phones or a door you can close) videos. In case you’ve never seen this video by Peter Rosenberg, it made the rounds a couple of years ago and, in searching for it, I discovered the sequel.

And laughed and laughed and laughed.

This is why you suck

And part deux, "Dook Fan Stan"

Go Heels!

*When the Big Ten added Penn State in 1990, the school in Happy Valley became the conference’s 11th team. The logo changed, incorporating an “11” around the “T” but the name didn’t change.