Dozer Online

2002-08-29

Funny stuff: Feel your patriotism rise

I will not leave DC before I take a picture like this. Link courtesy of The mentAl Closet.


2002-08-28

Climate stuff: Increases in Antarctic sea cover

Despite the highly publicized collapses of ice shelves in recent years, overall sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere is increasing.

The growth in ice cover may be influenced by oscillations of large-scale atmospheric pressure, speculates Claire Parkinson of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (my workplace!).



Weird stuff: Does this count as child abuse, or just child prostitution?

As yet further proof that everything is for sale, Reuters reports that computer game manufacturer Acclaim Entertainment Inc. is offering $10,000 to the first couple who names a baby Turok, after a character in an Acclaim computer game.

Fortunately, the contest requires that Turok remain the baby's name for only one year. After that, the parents can legally change the name to something sane.

Otherwise, instead of saving the prize money in a college fund, the winning parents would have to spend their $10,000 on the steroids that their child would need to defend against the eight+ years of schoolyard picking that a name like "Turok" would inevitably attract.

P.S. For the record, I have $1.97 in change (pulled from my couch and my car's glove compartment) that I will gladly give to the first couple who names their newborn child Dozer. In fact, I'll even give the money if you name your pet Dozer. Just let me know.



2002-08-26

DC stuff: Corn maze

Yesterday, I went on another excursion with the dchiking group. We navigated the corn maze at the Temple Hall Farm Regional Park in Leesburg, VA.

An aerial view shows that the maze is modeled after the American Gothic painting. If I ever acquire a corn field, I'll shape it into a maze modeled after this equally classic painting.



Funny stuff: Down goes Barney! Down goes Barney!

Here's the outcome of the Wesley Vs. Barney grudge match that I wrote about earlier.


2002-08-23

Tech stuff: Paying for tech support

The New York Times ran an article on fees for previously free customer support services that software companies are applying.

I don't have a problem with token charges to discourage calls from people who really haven't tried resolving a problem on their own before calling. That and the sheer inconvenience should deter most frivolous support requests.

But a lot of companies gouge customers with support fees. For example, a support call for the Norton antivirus software "will be billed at $29.95 if you dial the 800 number, or $2.95 to $4.95 a minute...by calling the priority-treatment 900 number."

If I have to pay up to $4.95 a minute for "priority treatment" on a 900 line, the technician had better be a perky college co-ed with a twin sister and a fetish for NASA technical writers.



2002-08-22

DC stuff: Bloggers met up

Yesterday was the first DC Blog Meetup at Ben's Chili Bowl.

It was a nice casual dinner with Pascale, the writer behind both2and: beyond binary. Her blog content includes news on artificial intelligence and biotechnology, thoughts on religion and spirituality, coding stuff, and reflections on her teenage journal entries.

I also got to meet Luke, whose blog may be appearing soon at a Web browser near you.

Overall, it was a good opportunity to meet more local blogger type people. I look forward to the next one.



Funny stuff: Am-I-old? test

Are you concerned about getting older? Do you wonder whether or not you're "down with it," as the kids like to say?

Here's a test to determine whether or not you've become an old fuddy duddy. Watch this Realmedia video of the Vines' screeching performance on Late Night with David Letterman.

Then ask yourself "Did this amuse me or annoy me?"

If it annoyed you, you're old. Or burdened with good sense. Whatever.

Link via Reenhead.


2002-08-21

Photo of the week: What are nizzies anyway?

I don't know what nizzies are, but apparently my old hometown eats them. This was carved into the bathroom door at some place on Capitol Hill (I can't remember where exactly).

Cleveland eats my nizzies


2002-08-20

Funny stuff: What makes me smile?

PuppyShine posted about what makes her smile when she's going through a lull.

In response, here's a very incomplete list of what brightens my day:


  • Trading pop-culture references with my childhood friends in Cleveland


  • Watching old episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (speaking of pop culture references...)


  • The musical stylings of either William Shatner or Leonard Nimoy


  • Twizzlers licoriche


  • The Fugees' cover of "Killing Me Softly," which reminds me of when Kristi Yamaguchi skated to that song, wearing a white-sequined outfit that showed off her bellybutton. Mmmm....


  • People leaving comments on my blog :)




Writing stuff: Speak Easy

Last week, I attended a Speak Easy storytelling event hosted by the Washington Storytellers Theater.

At $5 a ticket ($8 if you bring your own alcohol), this is a good entertainment value. For less than the cost of a movie matinee, you get over two hours of storytelling.

This edition was particularly entertaining. The theme was "I'm not that kind of boy/girl" and the context was gender role issues. It shouldn't be surprising that many of the stories (at least the ones I saw; I had to leave early) took a gay or lesbian perspective.

The host began the storytelling by invoking various icons of gender identity, ranging from Sylvester Stallone to Marilyn Monroe to Elton John. Then the featured speakers took to the stage. The more flamboyant performers included a man in a floral print dress with pom-poms and a blinking red headpiece and a dominatrix dressed up as Wonder Woman with bare breasts and a... let's call it a "male prosthetic."

After the featured speakers, the stage was open to anyone who signed up beforehand. I spoke at the previous Speak Easy, but unfortunately I didn't prepare a story this time around. I do want to try this again, so I paid attention to the performers' techniques. Here's what I observed:

1) Show up early. The Speak Easy's regular host (HR-57 Center for the Preservation of Jazz and Blues) isn't that big. The main stage room fills up by 7:30pm, a half-hour before Speak Easys are scheduled to begin. There is a back lounge area, but it can be difficult to hear the performers there. Which leads to my next point...

2) Speak up! If you're talking so loudly that you can barely hear yourself think, you're just loud enough for people in the back to hear what you're saying.

3) If you're talking about serious stuff, and people start laughing, it's not necessarily because they think your subject matter is funny. They may simply be acknowledging their understanding or empathy with your material. So relax. They're laughing with you, not at you.

4) If you don't know what to talk about, recast traditional stories from myth and folklore in a modern context. It's not so much plagiarism as a cultural reinterpretation. Besides, stories that have stood the test of time will tend to have a strong emotional resonance, or at least a point to make. A judge in June's Speak Easy event gave this advice to me after my performance.

5) Be energetic. If you don't look excited, don't expect the audience to be excited by what you have to say.

The next Speak Easy is scheduled for September 10. The theme of the evening will be "A Stitch in Time," which is sufficiently broad to promise a wide range of stories. Hopefully, I'll get my act together and add to those stories.



Funny stuff: Spock sings!

This has already made the rounds around the Web, but how could I not link this:
Leonard Nimoy sings "The Legend of Bilbo Baggins."



2002-08-19

DC stuff: Blog meetup has a location

Not only has Ben's Chili Bowl been confirmed as the location of the upcoming DC Blog Meetup, we also have enough RSVPs to ensure that it actually happens.

I look forward to Etoile and other local bloggers this Wednesday.


2002-08-16

Funny stuff: Captain Obvious strikes again

The New York Times ran an essay about how people try to find meaning behind coincidences.

The article cites New Age author SQuire Rushnell (yes, the capitalized "Q" in his first name is how he spells it).

He says that coincidences "are hints that you are going in the right direction or that you should change course."

Thanks, Captain Obvious. It's a good thing this guy isn't a judge. "The jury finds that you're either guilty or not guilty of the charges against you."


2002-08-15

Book stuff: Read all night, sleep all day

The Grace of Tragedy discusses "books that have somehow struck some sort of chord in me."

One book that does this for me is The Coachman Rat by David Henry Wilson. It's a retelling of the Cinderella story from the perspective of the rat who is transformed into Cinderella's coachman. This is the only book that literally kept me up all night (not because I was frightened, but because I was compelled to finish it). Avoid if you don't like sad stories.

By the way, this book sells cheap at Amazon.com.


DC stuff: Blog Meetup

There's a week to go before the (hopefully) first DC Blog Meetup next Wednesday, August 21.

In the vote for meeting location, the frontrunner is currently Ben's Chili Bowl. Voting continues until five days before the event.



Friends stuff: Ultrasound punchline

My soon-to-be-a-mother friend Lisa wrote about her ultrasound yesterday:

"then he turned to the resident and said, 'you know, you can tell from an ultrasound whether the baby's going to be a democrat or republican. but i'm not going to tell you which.'"

This is a setup that's just begging for a punchline. Unfortunately, I can't think of one. Can you?


Dozer stuff: What Johnny Depp character am I?

This result seems pretty accurate, except I don't feel especially lonely. And am I really that hard to understand?


You Are Edward From "Edward Scissorhands."

You are very shy and often misunderstood. Innocent, sweet, and artistic, you like to pass your days by daydreaming and expressing yourself through the arts. You are a truly unique individual. Unfortunately, you are quite lonely, and few people truly understand you.

Take The Johnny Depp Quiz!


Anyway, I wonder what it would've taken to score Ed Wood (besides a cashmere sweater and matching skirt, that is).


2002-08-14

Ponderous stuff: Wedding wear

If a white bridal gown is supposed to symbolize purity, what does that say for a groom's black tuxedo?


Movie stuff: Viva Las Tatooine?

Speaking of Viva Las Vegas, its final race scene through downtown Las Vegas and the surrounding desert bore an uncanny resemblance to the podracing sequence of Star Wars Episode I.

The resemblance came through in the desert vista through which the cars rushed, the casual portrayal of racers' deadly flaming crashes, and the cutting between the racers and onlookers.

Could Viva Las Vegas be another one of George Lucas' cinematic inspirations? Will the inevitable Special Edition of Phantom Menace include new footage of Jar-Jar Binks singing "Yellow Rose of Texas?"


2002-08-13

DC stuff: Viva Las Vegas

Last night was the Viva Las Vegas showing at the Screen on the Green outdoor movie festival. I organized a group through the University of Michigan alumni group to attend this.

A few of my non-Wolverine friends joined us. I even got to meet DC blogger Puppyshine.

We and hundreds of other people threw down their blankets and lawn chairs on the grounds between Independence Avenue and the Washington Monument. They had balloons and signs to their location so friends could find them.

I used a borrowed University of Michigan flag. The ground was too hard to dig in the flagpole, so I planted it in a six-pack of bottled water. Unfortunately, there was barely any wind to unfurl the flag, making it difficult to spot. Josey, the events coordinator for the UM alumni group, propped up the loose end of the flag by fashioning a makeshift second pole out of a backpack, her umbrella, and her left shoe.

As for the movie itself, it was everything I expected from an Elvis film. He plays a down-on-his-luck car racer who needs money to buy a new car engine before the big race in Las Vegas.

At the same time, he chases the voluptuous Ann-Margaret, who mastered the "innocent girl-next-door with a naughty streak" decades before the emergence of Britney Spears.

Of course, the story bends over backwards to provide Elvis and Ann-Margaret singing opportunities. Naturally, the hotel where Elvis works just happens to host an employee talent contest. This is where Elvis performs the famous title song. Watching it, I couldn't help but wonder why he didn't just buy a car engine with the money that he must have spent on his band and backup dancers.

As fun as it may be, to nitpick the plot is to miss the point of the evening. The point was to enjoy being part of a laid-back, communal couch potato patch, underneath the red harvest moon and the Washington Monument.

It was about watching the low-flying airplanes bank sharply toward the Reagan National Airport, and remembering that nearly a year after the 9/11 attacks, no one was afraid of large public gatherings anymore.

Most importantly, it was about a fun night out with friends.



2002-08-12

Photo of the week: First Run swingers

This is a drawing by Dustin, brother of my friend Stephanie, at First Run (a bar at Miami of Ohio University).




2002-08-11

Dozer stuff: What magazine am I?



What magazine am I?

I am Popular Science: The only thing more exciting then the present is the future. I am always the first to hear about whats going on in the realms of human achievement.

What magazine am I?



Funny stuff: Speedy Gonzalez vs. the Taco Bell Chihuahua

This week's Grudge Match match-up pits the Warner Brothers' mouse speedster against the fast food mascot.

From the commentary: "Even more amazing, he's able to withstand a diet of Taco Bell! One thousand burrito supremes are what gave Godzilla that fiery breath, yet the chihuahua remains largely unfazed. This suggests supernatural abilities."


Health stuff: Weight rebound

After a minor setback two weeks ago when I regained a pound, I lost two pounds this past week. Ten more pounds to go for Weight Goal #1.

Exercise included dancing at the Blue Room last night and a hike on the Soapstone Valley-Western Ridge-Melvin Hazen trails on Wednesday with the
dchiking group.


This was a light, two-hour hike near the Cleveland Park and Van Ness neighborhoods. This path provided some good trail variety, several brooks to cross, and a hook-up with Rock Creek Park.


Dozer stuff: Am I tough or not?

Yesterday I joined my friend Preeya to help celebrate her birthday. I met her and her friends at the roof of The Reef. The weather was ideal for night-time rooftop lurking, and we even got to enjoy occasional small fireworks that were fired off from some undisclosed location.

Drink variety was nice, and you got a nice view from the roof, but service wasn't as attentive as it could be. Also, you'll encounter management-induced long entry lines (to make the place look "in demand") if you show up at this place after 10pm.

Later on, we made our way over to dance at the Blue Room. A small club with good dancing, and the couches by the windows on the top floor give a great people-watching vantage point for both the club and the streets outside.

During a wait for the men's room, I sat on a stool and crossed my arms to relax. The guy behind me remarked how I was "bad-ass looking." I was amused because I'm not usually seen as tough.

Five minutes later, the same guy was confusing the bathroom sink for a urinal.


Funny stuff: Naughty children's book

Three Gamer Chicks write about a children's book that's full of sexual innuendo. You be the judge.


2002-08-10

Movie stuff: Star Trek II DVD review

Alan David Doane, editor-in-chief of Comic Book Galaxy, reviews the DVD release of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He focuses mostly on the director's commentary and William Shatner's ego.


2002-08-09

Dozer stuff: Geek quiz redux

For better or worse, I scored considerably higher on this geek quiz than the first one, because it wasn't based primarily on technical knowledge.

You are 59% geek
You are a geek. Good for you! Considering the endless complexity of the universe, as well as whatever discipline you happen to be most interested in, you'll never be bored as long as you have a good book store, a net connection, and thousands of dollars worth of expensive equipment. Assuming you're a technical geek, you'll be able to afford it, too. If you're not a technical geek, you're geek enough to mate with a technical geek and thereby get the needed dough. Dating tip: Don't date a geek of the same persuasion as you. You'll constantly try to out-geek the other.

Take the Polygeek Quiz at Thudfactor.com




Blog stuff: Publicity pigout

Andersja has provided a comprehensive guide to publicizing a weblog.


DC stuff: Elvis on the National Mall

No, Elvis isn't announcing his candidacy for 2004.

The Screen on the Green outdoor film festival is showing Viva Las Vegas this Monday on the grounds between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

I'm organizing a group for a pre-movie picnic and a viewing of this fine cinematic classic.

Although I'm doing this through the University of Michigan alumni group, I've sent the word out on this to my non-alumni friends too. In fact, the RSVPs so far are close to evenly split between Wolverines and non-Wolverines.

At least two other people from the weblogs-social-dc mailing group are organizing groups, so there's no shortage of company for this movie.

In any case, if you're there early and see a blue flag with a yellow M, feel free to stop by and say hello...



Weird stuff: Stand by me... so I can kick your ass!

A San Francisco fundraiser is featuring the kind of celebrity boxing that Fox can only dream of: Ensign Wesley Crusher vs. Barney the Dinosaur.

Actor Wil Wheaton will fight a guy wearing a Barney suit at a charity event sponsored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

This bizarre match-up was based on
mock fight commentary
from the Grudge Match Web site (It?s like MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch, except years earlier).

Wheaton is best known for his roles in the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation and the movie Stand By Me.



2002-08-08

Blog stuff: New URL

My friend Julie forwarded a Salon article to me that concerned the wide and bizarre array of expired Web site domain names.

This article has got me thinking. Since I am already planning to revamp Dozer Online with a new blogging tool and a new server
location, perhaps a new URL is also in order.

(I already have DozerOnline.net registered, but my registrar adds an annoying banner ad to the browser screen. So I haven't promoted it much.)

The Salon article has inspired a few candidates for a new URL:
BuyDozerClamsOnline.com
Dozer-Dozer-Dozer-NFL-Dozer-Dozer.com
IamCarbonatedDozer.com
JurassicDozerPimp.com

Do any of these sound promising to you?


2002-08-07

TV stuff: Joss talks to TV Guide

Joss Whedon drops some details about the next season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


Funny stuff: The Upside of the Down Market

PJ O'Rourke looks at the bright side of the recent accounting scandals.


2002-08-06

Science stuff: Junk in Earth's trunk

NASA-affiliated scientists have announced in this week's Science journal that the Earth's gravity field has been expanding near the equator since 1997. This was discovered by analyzing data from the GRACE satellites.

The change indicates that the Earth's mass is shifting from the poles toward the Equator. A possible explanation for this is a change in ocean circulation, as this change coincides with the last El Nino event.

Incidentally, the computing center that employs me provided some of the calculating power used in this study.


Writing stuff: Okay, I lied

So I haven't stopped blogging because of my template troubles. Even when she abuses me, I can't stay mad at my lady Blogger for long. At least, not until I dump her for that honey Movable Type.

Still, I haven't been writing as much as I should have been. Time management is far from optimal.

But progress has been made on my Writing the Short Story program. Right now, to map out my beliefs and feelings, I'm describing past events on note cards that have inspired different types of strong emotions.

My other major writing project is a cartoon strip that I'm developing with my college buddy Jonathan. I came up with a few new story ideas, but it's been awhile since I'd written an actual script. Meanwhile, Jon's working on character sketches.

I thought about altering the core concept of the cartoon, but Jon felt that its uniqueness would be worth maintaining.

During this conversation, which we had as I was boarding a plane to Cleveland, we also generated a few good story ideas. One of those ideas involved an old character of mine that I would love to see in print.

Finally, I'm adapting a form letter from Saveinternetradio.org to share my views on Net broadcasting to Congress. This shouldn't take up much time.


Cleveland stuff: Pow Wow

I flew back to my hometown Cleveland, OH this past weekend for the 14th Pow Wow.

The Pow Wow is an annual weekend-long party/concert/movie/outdoors camping festival thrown by a tight circle of friends that formed in college.

The party was thrown at a back yard in a sleepy Cleveland suburb. Since the Pow Wow had been going on for so long, neighbors rarely complained as long as the noise didn't persist too long into the night.

However, a few cops stopped by because some cars were parked on the wrong side of the road.

I met up with my very good friends Matt and Julie, Melissa, Eric, and Mark at the Pow Wow. Also, Liv drove up to join the festivities.

The headlining musical act on Friday night was Vigoda, a cover band based in Cincinnati, OH. We missed the two other acts performing that night.

The highlight of the night was the midnight movie: Churn and Burn 4. It could have been just a fun, goofy home movie if it weren't for the surprisingly impressive production values. Music, color, editing, titling, and fading-based special effects all enhanced the Churn.

The tongue-very-much-in-cheek story centered on two Supersoaker-bearing vampire hunters. They were tracking down the undead minions of the powerful arch-vampire Ho Lee Fook.

The movie also showed flashbacks to the vampires' hunting spree in the 1920s (a continuing thread from previous Pow Wow movies). Mark and Eric E. performed admirably as vamp chow.

Overall, the night was very fun. And if any Pow Wow people are reading this, if you want to on-location filming in the nation's capitol for Churn and Burn 5, I have a place for you to stay...


DC stuff: Smelly Metro

The Washington Post reports on odors on the Metro trains.

From the article: "They have a musky, urine smell all the time," said Angel Spates, a federal worker from Manassas who rides the Orange Line. "You can smell it as soon as you get on. It's awful."

Sounds like the elevators in my apartment complex...




DC stuff: Strange weather

DC's been stewing through 90+ degree temperatures these past few weeks, and we get hailstorms over the weekend.


2002-08-05

Dating stuff: The wit and wisdom of Blind Date

The blog crookDIMWIT has some interesting observations on the tv show Blind Date.


Blog stuff: Blogger sucks

Random bits of code have arbitrarily been deleted from my template.

This is why button graphics are missing and type formatting is off.

Therefore, I'm preparing the Great Migration from Blogger to Movable Type.

At the same time, I'll shift from hosting my weblog on the Blogspot server to keeping it on my own Speakeasy Web space.

Unfortunately, the installation directions are difficult for me to understand. So it may take awhile, and blogging may be not so frequent until Dozer Online 2.0 is ready.


Friends stuff: Childbirth: The Musical

My soon-to-be-a-mother friend Lisa has a song about epidurals running through her head.


Photo of the week: bunny cook

I saw this statuette was at the Betawi Grill during my birthday luncheon.




2002-08-04

Writing stuff: new trick

I found an interesting writing trick on the "grace of tragedy" blog:

"And while I don't have conversations with my characters in my head," the blogger writes, "they certainly have conversations with each other.

"When I'm trying to think of how to get past a problematic point, or am just not sure what a character might do in a certain situation, I'll just stick two of them in the back of my head, sit back, and let my imagination loose."


Dozer stuff: How geek am I?

I am 34% Geek

You probably work in computers, or a history deptartment at a college. You never really fit in with the "normal" crowd. But you have friends, and this is a good thing.

Take the Geek Test at fuali.com

My heart is geek, but I don't have the tech skills to back it up. And I can fit in with "normal" people pretty well. I'm just not very good at self-censoring my inner Beavis.


2002-08-02

Media stuff: Bloglegging

Salon just published an article on bootleg music tracks that mix together popular songs into whole new tracks.

The article noted how this illegal practice was creatively no different from the works of "publicly accepted" artists such as P. Diddy and Moby.

Bootlegging was defined as part of a broader trend of the audience riffing off media products to create their own takes on the material. Case in point: Star Wars Episode 1.1: The Phantom Edit.

But is it theft of other people's creative work? From the bootlegs I've heard, I don't think so. The samples are still easily recognizable, and the remixers don't hide the fact that their work isn't wholly (or even primarily) original.

If a bootlegger sampled from so many songs that individual component weren't easily identifiable, and if said songs could be commonly mistaken for original songs, then this would be theft.

Since I'm an aspiring author, I thought about what the literary equivalent of bootlegs would be. I figured it would be blogging.

We take articles that other people wrote, link them to our own site, and occasionally add commentary of our own.

Then we present our blogs to the public, most often for fun and notoriety rather than for money.

So I can't say I'm opposed to bootlegging from a creative standpoint without being hypocritical.

Besides, bootlegs don't really present a financial challenge to the recording industry. Judging from the examples cited in the article, they're not all that good.

Of the tracks I downloaded, only Soulwax's combination of "Bootylicious" by Destiny's Child with Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was the only song that didn't bore me halfway through the first listening.

The impact of bootlegs lies mostly in the novelty of simulating collaborations between well-known artists. Bootlegging poses no more of a threat to artists than does "Weird Al" Yankovick.



2002-08-01

Blog stuff: Blogsnob

I just added a Blogsnob link to Dozer Online.

Clicking on it takes you to a random blog that is registered with Blogsnob.

At the same time, a link to Dozer Online appears randomly throughout registered sites. It remains to be seen how much serendipitous traffic this brings in.



Tech stuff: Guerilla advertising

If you're ever out and about, and run into someone showing off a newfangled gadget like a digital camera-cell phone, it may not be a random encounter.

It could be an actor shilling for Sony Ericsson to manufacture new product buzz.

Effectively, they're sneaking commercials into our lives.

The marketing campaign will target popular tourist attractions, so I'm sure DC will get its share of guerilla advertisers.

It could be fun to mess with these people.

Like, if someone asks you to take a picture of them with a Sony Ericsson T68i camera, complain loudly about how difficult it is to use.

Or if you're in a bar and an attractive woman shows off her T68i to ask, just reply, "That's nice. Are you into assplay?"

Just a thought.



Tech stuff: Wireless for everyone

As if the extensive bars and music scene weren't enough, here's another reason why Athens Georgia is a kick-ass college town:

The University of Georgia's New Media Institute is setting up electronics that will provide free wireless Internet access over a 24-block area of downtown Athens.



Music stuff: New material from Blur, Underworld, U2

According to NME music magazine, a lot of cool new music is on the way...

Dance giants Underworld will release a new CD in September. I'm totally looking forward to this one.

U2 is releasing a new single in October to accompany another greatest hits CD.

Finally, Blur (the band who did the "Whoo hoo!" song in 1997) will release a new album in January.


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