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30 May 2007

Little Rhody Brand Frankfurts

Far and wide have I traveled, long have I searched for my white whale. This weekend, I am happy to report, one of the final (and almost certainly the most elusive) obstacles crumbled at my victorious feet.

Ed Robalasky (pictured center) is the proprietor of Little Rhody Brand Frankfurts, and represents "probably the 4th or 5th" Robalasky generation to run the family business from an unassuming corner lot in Johnston, RI. While their culinary accomplishments are many, none are so triumphant, so famous and so infamous as their distinction as the sole hot dog provider to The Ocean State's very own NY System weiner restaurants. My devotion to these comestibles is boundless and well-documented, but it was only on this fateful Memorial Day weekend that my quest to prepare my own NY Systems in the state whose name they carry was rejuvenated with the discovery that the unique hot dogs that are so integral to their taste are indeed available for purchase.

We got a 10 lbs. box (also pictured). Which I can all but guarantee you amounts to more hot dogs than you think it does. It should go without saying that I have already for some time been in possession of the requisite spice mix. Soon, so very soon, I will stack wieners up my very own arm. I've been tittering with excitement, unable to sleep, for days.

One last note about Ed: It is with no small sum of reverence that I tell you that I witnessed with my own eyes Ed persuade a vegetarian of 15 years to eat a hot dog.

22 May 2007

hello my treacherous friend

I finally spent the money and developed the last 4 rolls of film that have been following me around since college*. A sizable chunk of them ended up being pictures from the cross-country road trip my friend Sarah and I did the summer before our senior year, from Portland (the farther one) all the way to Providence. Lots of pictures of animals, rock formations, and geysers. Some of them came out pretty okay.

But as you can see above, I also spent considerable time my senior year developing my healthy obsession with centipedes; running for my camera every time a centipede scampered across my floor (which was basically every day). Some shots came out okay, although just like the last time I did this, it's easy to tell these shots have been sitting around undeveloped for around 5 years.

*I can't believe how shitty it felt to pay money to see my pictures. What a long way we've come.

The Assault on Reason

Al Gore's got a book coming out that might well end up being the first book I purchase for myself since college*. There's an excerpt from The Assault on Reason that's been making its way around the web. It really speaks to society's dangerous deference to junk culture, and the helpless frustration with it that permeates those who prefer meaningful dialogue and logical argument to one-way, man-behind-the-curtain massaging of public opinion.

The excerpt isn't entirely apolitical (you can take a man out of politics, but you can't take the politics out of the man) but this isn't a condemnation of one particular individual or party, either. In the end, it reveals itself to be an impassioned argument for Net Neutrality. The Internet is well positioned to provide a nurturing home for a political discourse that has outlived its usefulness to the traditional media outlets who have decided that Paris Hilton and her ilk sell more car commercials than crusty politicians and boring policy discussions. But I probably don't need to convince you of that.

It's a good read.

* EDIT: I have of course been reading books. Just not buying them.

17 May 2007

My new alarm clock

I spent about 20 minutes this morning trying to get a still picture of this little guy, but my digital camera takes about half a second to snap after the button is pressed, and as you can see at around 9 seconds, that's not fast enough.

So yeah, there are birds living in the exhaust tubing that goes from our clothes dryer to the outside world. For the longest time we thought it was just one, but the other day I saw two of them in there at once. It might be kinda neat if the nest they're building wasn't rendering the dryer completely useless. Think about how shitty a dryer works when the lint trap hasn't been cleaned in a long time. Turns out a bird's nest has a very similar effect.

Anyway, in retrospect I'm glad I wasn't able to get a still photo, because the video provides a pretty accurate aural reproduction of what wakes me up every morning.

15 May 2007

Exporting Insecurity

The Format's live record, Exporting Insecurity, is up now on The thing about is that it's a great idea that's not getting the kind of traction it should because major labels (and indies, apparently) want to charge more for music, not less. So any site that lets demand set the price of music (songs range from free to a maximum of $.99, and always start free) has a steep hill to climb. Luckily, some big free-agent names like The Format and The Barenaked Ladies are warming up to the idea.

Anyway, The Format's live show was my favorite in a long list of awesome shows I saw last year, and these recordings capture that energy pretty well. If you hurry, you can go and use the credit you get for signing up with them to get Exporting Insecurity for cheap. Even free, like I did, if you haul ass. "If Work Permits" and "Sore Thumb" are absolute must-haves.

(While you're at it, if you feel like it, you can pick up my music there for about $.50 total. Sure, it's available for free right here on this site, but if you wanted to pay $.50 for it, that'd be cool too.)

14 May 2007

you clean up nice

For as long as I can remember having this site, I can remember hating the way it looked in Internet Explorer. Hating the fact that occasionally, a seemingly innocent post would break some invisible barrier and push the sidebar down underneath the blog entries. Because I'm a bungling amateur, I haven't taken the time in the past to try to deal with it.

But all that changed over the weekend, baby. In between the meat packing district velvet rope parties with models, the triathlon running just for fun, and the crime fighting, I found some time to do some serious coding.

Make no mistake. It still looks better in Firefox and it always will. But I am cautiously optimistic that I solved the problem of the mysterious floating sidebar. And I got rid of the stupid entry page. That was so 2002. Oh yeah, and that background image down there in the corner. I did that too.

11 May 2007

all the fuss

I'm happy to report that today I finally accomplished what I originally set out to do with this website: to attract people who do google searches for "foot suck." Welcome, weirdos! I do hope that you enjoy your stay. You will not be judged within these confines.
I saw The Arcade Fire on Wednesday at Radio City Music Hall. Landing tickets to see those guys in this city has proven to be difficult in the past. Imagine trying to snatch a pork chop from the murky, piranha-ridden depths of the amazon river with your bare hands. It's like that, only internet fan-boys and reseller bots have sharper teeth. Their pings will blot out the sun. This time I faired no better, but in the zero hour, a guy that I know who had managed to get a pair, became unable to attend. Score.

The usual suspects have setlists and pictures and David Bowie sightings, and I have little to add to their songs of praise. It's sufficient for this space simply to say that I can now smile knowingly and nod when people say things like "The Arcade Fire is amazing in concert." With my own eyes and ears I have seen and heard, with my own hands I have clapped and with my own voice I have shouted myself hoarse. Do see them if you have a chance. It's well worth all the fuss.

One thing though that I'm going to say even though I can already hear you groaning: The whole time I was watching them I was reminded of another band with a lot of touring members that play multiple instruments: The Beagle Club. It's not that they have a similar sound, it's just a similar chaotic energy. So go see The Beagle Club, too. They're on tour again.

08 May 2007


Thanks to a sweet patch from blogger, delivered in Santa Claus fashion with a wink and a finger to the side of the nose, the metamorphosis of this site is now complete. The html caterpillar has become the php butterfly. What, oh what happened behind the opaque walls of that cocoon? Oh Mother Nature, what a wonder are you to behold!

Seriously though, there had been a problem for a long time with blogger that prevented users from republishing old entries with new file extensions. So although I had been able to create all my new posts in php, it was pretty useless because I couldn't apply any in the templates lest it be applied also to my older, less malleable posts.

And then magically one day, the problem was solved. I went to post an entry, and every single post in the blog republished itself with the proper extension. And so, as of today, any changes I decide to make to this site will only need to be made once to appear everywhere. Simplicity and elegance.

Ok fine. I was excited.

07 May 2007

eMusic is cool

David Pakman, CEO of eMusic, just posted a manifesto of sorts on and it's really got me fired up. He's a businessman and it reads that way, but try to get past the blah blah of it and see someone in a position of relative power in the music industry talking sense for once.

I don't think music should be free (well, mine is free, but that's because I care more that you hear it than that you pay for it). I like to pay for music when I feel the price is fair. David has rightly been banking on there being a lot of people like me out there, and eMusic's success to date is a testament to the growing numbers of people willing to pay for a service that treats its customers with dignity and respect, and doesn't punish people who acquire music legally.

A few months back I went to an eMusic customer focus group and met this guy. He's about as down-to-earth as you can imagine a CEO to be. Essentially, he and some of the other eMusic brass stood in front of 30 or so customers that responded to the email invitation and talked to us about how we consume media for 90 minutes or so. If more people in the music business took the time to understand their customers...well, let's not get carried away. Pigs might fly sooner.

Anyway, here are some highlights:
"According to data we analyzed from the RIAA and Ipsos, last year, more than 30% fewer people bought music than did in 2000. This is an enormous decrease. Many have offered theories to explain it -- piracy, music quality, you name it -- but informed people will tell you that a very big reason is that consumers, inundated with well-priced entertainment choices, think most music is too expensive."

"Most of you know about price elasticity. It's the basic economic concept that says, for certain goods, when you raise the price, sales will fall disproportionately, and so the increased revenue doesn't make up for the lack of sales. And if you lower the price, sales will rise disproportionately. Music is an elastic good, and we have now seen that by raising prices, the industry in fact did not make up the revenue, and, in the end, only slowed sales."

"So, eMusic is all about trying to satisfy two concerns that most former music buyers have: a) they aren't sure what to buy anymore because they don't hear anything good on the radio, and b) they think music is relatively expensive compared to DVDs, etc. eMusic makes a splendid bargain with our customers: get a better deal on music from us than what you get at iTunes, and we'll work really hard at helping you discover great music. But in return, you spend more money on music than you normally would. And that's good for everyone: artists, labels and customers. And here's the bottom line: the average customer only spends about $12 per year on iTunes; by contrast, the average eMusic customer spends about $168 per year with us. Imagine how different our industry would look if more retailers could serve their customers so fully."
I'm one of the customers he talks about that spends a bunch of money every year with eMusic. If you haven't ever tried it and think you want to, leave a comment here and I'll send you a referral email. You could just sign up for it on your own and do the free trial, but if you let me refer you, you'd be helping me dig through the incredible backlog of songs I want from there that I haven't been able to get to yet. Just sayin'.

Again, read his whole post here.

What You Crave.

White Castle, 8th Ave between 36th and 37th. Around 10 PM.

When you have a friend in from out of town, you find yourself doing things you might not otherwise do. And so, after a 6:30 showing of Spiderman 3 at 54th and 6th (which I mention only because if you've seen it, that's the intersection the police scanner squawks as the location of the crane scene) I find myself hoofing it some 20 blocks to White Castle. No trip to NYC is complete without it.

It's on a completely unremarkable block (for Manhattan): a few blocks north of Madison Square Garden and a few more southwest of Times Square. Nestled between an unremarkable sushi place and a Subway restaurant. There is a McDonald's across the street. If you want to use the bathroom, you need the person at the counter to buzz you in. A sign above the counter informs you that 20 minutes after you've ordered your food, you will be asked to leave.

"You got exactly 80 cents?" a guy decked out in a Superbowl-sized ring and flashy jacket asks me. "No, sorry," I say as I make my way to the counter, avoiding eye contact, past a girl asking to borrow her friend's phone: "Mine's dead and I need to call my bank and see if I can buy something."

I order my food. Andy orders his. And then the little man behind Andy orders, his voice tiny and thick with accent. The girl who borrowed the phone takes a seat and waits for her friends to order, apparently lacking the funds to partake. She starts singing to herself in honest-to-God the most amazing voice I have ever heard in person.

As we take our seat and begin to make our way through a sack of fries, dipping into a large-sized drink lid full of ketchup since dipping cups are nowhere to be found, a homeless guy approaches the counter. "I'm going to make a deal with you. Either you do me a favor and give me a few burgers, or I'm going to beg every person who comes in here for change until I can afford them." It works.

The little man who ordered after Andy sits down a few tables behind me with his chicken breasts. And the girl with the voice continues to sing. Andy and I chew.

The door to the street opens and a small group of high school aged kids walk in. The man with the accent and the small voice looks up from his food to greet them.

"Welcome to Hell," he says.

03 May 2007


In 1999, a month or so after I graduated high school (what's with the flashback posts today?) I went to Woodstock '99 with a few friends. The sanitary atrocities and "Apocalypse Now"-ishness of the whole thing is well documented and maybe someday my own personal "oh shit" moments will make a good post here. But perhaps the festival's most lasting impression on me was formed when I wandered into the Students for a Free Tibet booth with my friend Dave, situated amongst the bong and pipe retailers. A few months later, as a college freshman, I started going to meetings.

We did some film screenings, had some letter-writing parties, held cultural nights, and ate a lot of food from Kabob and Curry. In the end, it never left me with a sense of real accomplishment, so as I got more and more involved in singing and intramurals and radio I just stopped going. It wasn't that I stopped believing in a Free Tibet. I guess I just stopped believing in my own ability to do anything about it.

One guy who left a mark on me, though, was Tenzin Dorjee. We knew him as Tendor, and he was an exiled Tibetan-American, never having been to his own homeland. Speaking with Tendor, you'd find yourself leaning further and further in, so as not to miss a single softly spoken word. For many of us, SFT was one of many activities we would dabble in at Brown. For Tendor, it was, and is, very personal. His passion was contagious.

I got an email today that he was recently detained by the Chinese government after staging a high altitude protest in Tibet's Mt. Everest base camp, but has since been released. China is hosting the 2008 Olympics and planning to march the torch through occupied Tibet to Mt. Everest.

It's awesome (and a bit guilt-inducing) to see that Tendor continues to fight for what he believes in, long after my own energies have shifted elsewhere. That's him speaking in this video.

Fort Bend, TX is full of n00bz.

There was a span of a few months during my junior year in high school in which my friend Chris and I taught ourselves how to create maps for Doom II. I don't remember the name of the program we found on the internet that enabled us, but it was a buggy, awful application that would always hang at inopportune times, driving me to distraction and causing one out of every three or four of my clicks to be on "save."

Basically, we were able to draw lines to create a bunch of different sectors, and then set properties for each sector to determine textures for the surfaces, lighting, height. If you ever played those games, you might remember that the mechanics didn't permit overlapping rooms, so although you could create elevators and stairs and the like, you couldn't make one room actually exist above another. All floor surfaces had to be completely level, too. Still, with these basic tools we set about creating these maps, and then splattering each other all over them for hours and hours over our 14.4k modems, ensuring busy signals for all who would foolishly attempt to dial our parents.

Nothing I made was ever pretty, but I liked the idea of taking ownership of my gaming experience. Chris on the other hand, accomplished some truly remarkable things given our limited tools. He's an architect now and makes his living doing a much more complicated version of the same thing.

One of the things I tried to make, after a moderately good model of my own home (with teleports instead of staircases to simulate multiple floors that were actually on top of one another), was a map based on our high school. It seemed a completely natural and fun thing to do to try and recreate a real-life place in a virtual world. I never was able to finish it, because it got too big and the buggy program couldn't handle it. But I did try. It was unanimously agreed upon by my friends that if I had succeeded, it would have been totally rad.

A story that's all over the Internet today is that of a sociable, popular honors student in Fort Bend, TX whose life is being turned upside-down because he succeeded in creating what looks to be a pretty amazing Counter-Strike map of his own Clement High School:
Although the police confiscated a hammer they found in his bedroom as a possible terroristic weapon and not a tool to fix his wobbly bed, no charges are being pressed. Still, the kid has been relegated to the district's alternative school and will not be permitted to attend his graduation.

I'm certainly not the only one who thinks this is fucked up, and a very large number of folks are making their concerns be known in a number of comment sections. I just wanted to go on record here as an example of someone who, as a high school student, found great satisfaction in digitally simulating familiar surroundings, and then littering them with the pixelated blood and guts.

You could make a fairly convincing argument that I turned out ok. Chris too.