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20 December 2010

Dyker Lights, 2010

dyker lights brooklyn
We made the annual trip down the road to Dyker Lights last night, which, if you don't know, is what they call it when a bunch of houses in Dyker Heights (in Brooklyn, between 83rd and 86th streets and 13th and 11th Avenues) pay decoration companies to make their houses look like Christmas in Disney Land. I'm being snarky, but it's truly awesome, and we go every year. I love this shit.

This year I decided to take some pictures, because although you see tons of people there with cameras, good pictures of the magic are hard to come by online. I regret to say they still will be, because I'm a terrible photographer. Still, here's what I've got:
dyker lights brooklyn
This house is actually on 14th Avenue and about 10 blocks north of the action, but I thought it was cool anyway.
dyker lights brooklyn
I'm a terrible photographer because there's a huge Santa (more than 20 feet tall if he's an inch) and I failed to get him in the shot.
dyker lights brooklyn
dyker lights brooklyn
dyker lights brooklyn
dyker lights brooklyn
dyker lights brooklyn
dyker lights brooklyn
This is a topiary of a dancing bear; there are about five of them in this yard. I kept trying to get a good shot of them, and mostly failed.
dyker lights brooklyn
dyker lights brooklyn
The best shot of the dancing bears.
dyker lights brooklyn

dyker lights brooklyn
This Santa was moving. I'm pretty sure he was supposed to be waving, but it sorta looked like he was spanking this kid.
dyker lights brooklyn
dyker lights brooklyn
This bear (whose skin was falling off in places) was my favorite part of the whole thing.

16 December 2010


I got home last night and noticed a suspicious package on the front porch of the house whose second floor I rent. It was addressed to me, from someone I didn't know. I spent a few moments wondering whether I had simply forgotten that I ordered something, then remembered that I had to pee, so I went inside.

I guess Google doesn't want to put its name in the return address because then a laptop-sized box might seem like a pretty good thing to steal. I opened the mysterious box to find one of these. I had applied to Google's Chrome OS Pilot Program a few days ago, and promptly forgotten about it since I figured there was no way I'd ever be selected. There was, it turns out, a way. Fist pump.

I've been making a conscious effort for months now to move all of the things to I do into the cloud, but after playing with the Cr48 for a few hours, it's clear to me that I'm not quite there yet. I don't, for example, have an online music provider that I like better than my obsessively curated collection. Grooveshark is pretty good for finding individual songs, and I like and Pandora for radio functionality, but I really still like to listen to whole records. I did just get an invite to Tubeify, which seems like it might be cool, but it still doesn't do exactly what I want. But I digress.

I'm so pumped to be able to play with this thing. I even took pictures of the whole business as I was unwrapping it, like they do on tech blogs, but it turns out my unboxing pictures are too embarrassing to actually post any of them, for a few reasons. They're blurry, you can see my disgusting couch in the background, and I cut my finger on the box when I got really excited as I realized what was inside, so there's blood on the packaging and the inserts. Corrugated cardboard papercuts are the worst.

Anyway, I'll let you know, after I've been using it for a while, if I have any success in moving myself further into the cloud.

01 December 2010

Review: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can't be the first person to say this since it's so deservedly well loved (and if I am the first then build a statue of me looking insightful), but I couldn't help thinking every time Eggers reminded me that he hadn't started masturbating until college that he was still making up for lost time throughout the writing of this book. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by a man named Dion Graham who was...marvelous. I loved the shit out of this.

View all my reviews

23 November 2010

Quite necessarily scatalogical.

I've become obsessed with my advancing age (apologies to any reader older than me) -- of milestones marking time's incessant march.  I am constantly musing that things are different now than they were.  Of course, there are all the physical reminders.  The left side of my tongue feels weird most of the time...because I burned it?  Flexing this muscle this certain way always hurts.  My knees are completely intolerant of abuse.  I have done these things to myself; I am mostly inactive, but occasionally and unpredictably I am active enough to hurt myself, to teach myself again the lesson that I should take it easy.  But these physical twinges, now that I've overcome -- at least temporarily -- the obsessive worry that they mean I'm dying, aren't as interesting as the changes I notice on occasion about the way I interact with the world.  Cognitively, I'm very much not the same as I was.  Which is obvious when you come right out and say it, but which is precisely the sort of thing I can get really going on about after a drink, and which I'm compelled to give an example of here.

I stepped in shit last night on the sidewalk.  I saw my footprint in it this morning; I parked right next to it and stepped right out of my Yaris into shit.  Old, rubbery shit.  I tracked it into my apartment, oblivious, and proceeded to microwave a frozen dinner.  When I began to smell it, I cursed the garbage in the kitchen, which probably contained some old chicken packaging or something.  I lifted the lid, breath held, sealed the bag, and took it outside.  Then I came back inside, ate my food, and sat down to play Halo: Reach.  I won more completely than I ever have or probably ever will again.

But all the while, I kept smelling poop.  Between games I would sniff suspiciously, moving around the apartment to try to locate the source of the odor.  Did something die in the wall?  God, it smells awful everywhere.  What the fuck?  And eventually, I did find something on the floor of the living room: an offensive little ball that, when I picked it up barehanded (what the fuck?), did indeed smell like and was in fact shit.

Here's how I know I'm older now: I still didn't put it together.  I blamed my brother, or one of his friends, who had clearly tracked it in the day before, when I was staying at Amy's place.  Can you believe these people? I wondered aloud.  Still, even with the decroded piece of crap spirited away, my apartment was uninhabitable.  It was like I could taste it (indeed, I spent much of today still feeling as though I could smell it, as though it had penetrated my very being the night before).  And I continued to play, my performance suffering at the hands of extreme distraction.  I lit candles.  I opened a window.  It never occurred to me to remove my shoes.

I didn't actually figure it out until this morning, when I put on the same pants I had taken off the night before (so what?), and crossed my left leg to put a sock on.  There was shit all over my jeans.  Of course there was -- I sit cross-legged when I play, left leg on top of right shit-smeared foot.  Only then, confronted by incontrovertible evidence and after at least 30 seconds of processing time, did I understand.

I am older because it just didn't occur to me that I could have stepped in shit.  I haven't stepped in shit in years.  I don't remember what it feels like.  My memory hadn't even been jogged by the unmistakeable smell.  I spent all day in an office, probably taking no more than 30 steps out of doors all day long.  When I was growing up, I stepped in shit just about every day.  Barefoot, often.  (We didn't name our childhood Wiffle Ball diamond "Dog Doo Field" because of a generous sponsorship by electronic typewriter magnate Wendell Dogdoo.)  There was a time when I would have known instantly that I had stepped in shit.  Those days are, for the most part, behind me.  Because I'm old now, you see.

Buster, our beloved groundskeeper, in front of home plate.

12 November 2010

Tough Guy

I gave someone the finger today in my car. I held it up proudly, wagged it back and forth a bit, slowly, like a wave. The gesticulatory (first I typed "gesticular" but apparently that's not a word) equivalent of a sing-song fuckyou. In fairness to me (for such displays are decidedly not my style -- I'm occasionally accused at work of being an "avoider"), my target fired first, and I was only imitating his own style with the slow wave. Let's back up a bit.

If you must drink such a revolting
amount of soda, please at least find a  
trash receptacle when you're done.
On the way to work this morning, I pulled up behind a black Chrysler 300 with his gas cap hanging off and was considering the best way to signal the driver to alert him when I watched a large big gulp cup fly from the driver's side window, right into the middle of 15th Avenue. Littering sends me into unspeakable rage. It's all I can do to resist ramming a car when I see the driver drop a gum wrapper out the window; I get apoplectic when I see a pedestrian toss an ATM receipt onto the sidewalk. And this...this was much worse. If the crime were measured simply by the size and weight of the refuse, we're talking orders of magnitude worse than a gum wrapper. Not to mention the relative biodegradability. And this was like 2 blocks from my house.  That's my neighborhood, man.  Cups go in cup holders until you can dispose of them properly. I decided to let his gas cap dangle.

I remained behind him on my way to the parkway, and a few minutes later I found myself sitting at a green light behind him, while he fiddled with his cell phone. So I honked. I let my Yaris's horn (not as intimidating as I'd have liked, but you go to war with the army you've got) express, shrilly, my displeasure for a good 3 seconds. I watched him look up at me in his rearview mirror, spite obvious on his face although I could only see a narrow slice of it in his mirror and much of that was obscured by dark glasses, and then came the wagging finger. Without thinking, and with a defiant grin, I returned it. He turned right, I went straight, and went about congratulating myself for such a macho display.

I turned right at the next light and found him sitting at the light waiting to go the same way I was. Apparently he gets to the highway by turning right then left one block earlier than I do. The intersection we were at is more complicated than your average one, from a traffic light standpoint, so we had plenty of time, with neither of us able to go anywhere, to just stare at each other. And man, he was huge. And mean looking. Bald. If you've seen The Wire, he looked a bit like Herc. Only bigger.

So then I spent about 60 seconds cursing myself for thinking I was a tough guy, trying not to look scared and surreptitiously locking my car door. And then the light turned green for him and he went, and then the line turned green for me and I did. And then I ended up right behind him in slow traffic on the Belt Parkway for a couple miles, vacillating between rage and fear. And then I came home 10 hours later and spent half an hour writing about it for no good reason.

09 November 2010

Seventy-six cents

Amie Street, wonderful site though it was, is no longer*. Seriously. Go to and you're now redirected to the Amazon MP3 store. Amazon, you see, was an early investor in Amie Street, so I guess they got the rights to the domain name when the company folded. I'm getting away from the point, though. The point is that Amie Street had a great model for independent artists to try to get some traction: all your songs started off free, and gradually increased in price as more and more people downloaded them. Users could recommend tracks to other users (and in doing so, could gain credit for themselves if their recommended songs climbed in value). It was a very cool idea and I'm sad that it didn't work.

Amie Street was also the only place I ever made any attempt to sell my own music.  Turns out the full market value of sulky, overly melodramatic and indulgent amateur pop songs is $0.76.  I know, because they sent it to me via PayPal the other day.  I'm pissed because I think that might put me into a higher tax bracket.

* Full disclosure: for a little while in 2007, Amie Street was paying me to write reviews of things in their catalog.  No, I never reviewed my own record.

08 November 2010

Review: Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception

Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical DeceptionProofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception by Charles Seife

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this, but I was expecting to love it. I think, if I'm honest with myself, I wanted it to be more heavy-handed in its indictments of those whose faux-mathematical manipulations are the most egregiously misleading. It seemed to me that a few times Seife had his subjects by the balls, and let them get off with little more than a finger-wag.

View all my reviews

18 October 2010

Review: Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat TillmanWhere Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ultimately unsatisfying, because the truth is ultimately frustrating. Pat Tillman is a fascinating character, though. Read this to get to know him, not because you want to understand the circumstances of his death any better.

View all my reviews

05 June 2010

What's that smell?

I was thinking the other day about how a lot of movies and tv shows have minor characters that exist basically to be curmudgeonly, and how often there'll be a very quick explanation of how or why said character got to be that way. Oh, don't mind Ed, he's been that way ever since his dog stole his wife, etc.

Anyway, I think a good backstory for a particularly sour character would be that he suffered a head injury in such a way that his olfactory system was thrown out of whack, and so he smells poop, constantly. Like that's his new baseline. It just always smells like poop. That'd put a pretty good-sized chip on your shoulder eventually, I'd bet.

17 May 2010

Voodoo Bell

It seems silly to break a multi-month blog silence with something so trivial, but I'm pretty sure I just saw "Voodoo" Tatum (Aldis Hodge) from Friday Night Lights in a Taco Bell commercial.

I've been making my way back through Season 1 of the show with my girlfriend who hasn't seen it, so it's fresh, but it was funny that I had an instant reaction to a villain on screen, before I was able to figure out what villain I was reacting to.

Anyway...hi again.

16 February 2010

File under: Things I'm not proud of.

Back in the day when I was working for the promotions department at WBRU Providence, I would on occasion be presented with the power to tell people to do ridiculous things in exchange for cash and prizes.  I was digging through some old backed up files the other day, and came across this primitively shot video of one such time. Needless to say, I was drunk on power. It consumed me.

The prize exchanged for the dreaded half-eyebrow-shave? A shovel and a chance to dig up prizes alongside a bunch of other maniacs in the annual Beach Dig (we called it 30 Grand in the Sand back then).

11 February 2010

Blogger FTP Publishing Degradation Fallout, Part 1: .htsuccess!

Caution: the following post contains extreme nerdery and ineptitude, and may not be appropriate for readers who are 1) not nerds, or 2) nerds who know WTF they're doing editing a .htaccess file.

With Blogger's recent announcement that they're no longer going to allow FTP publishing* after March 26th, I've been busy making decisions about the many blogs I own and neglect.  I am not a web guru, but everything I do blog-wise (including this blog) I do with Blogger's soon-to-be-defunct FTP publishing, so this is something I'm going to be dealing with for the next few weeks.

The first site I wanted to tackle is, which is just a tiny site I set up for my mom to help her sell my grandfather's paintings.  It's rarely updated because he's not painting anymore, but it will be updated from time to time as we decide to put more of his many paintings online.  It's also the site I manage that I did the least with design-wise, so it was a good candidate for some experimentation with Blogger's custom domain hosting (nuking my template and starting over wasn't too great a loss).  I've always wanted to try out all the Blogger widgets FTP publishers haven't had use of anyway.

Making the switch over was pretty easy.  Google gave me plenty of help navigating GoDaddy's Byzantine menus to point to the Blogger servers, and since my link structure didn't change at all, the only thing left to do was re-upload a few images (only a minor nuisance since there are so few posts there).  I understand that I could've avoided that by setting up a missing files server, but honestly after thinking about it I became excited not to have to pay for hosting anymore at all for that site.  So, I re-uploaded the files.

It took me about an hour, and I'm happy I did it.  The labels widget makes the site better (or it will, if the site ever grows to a size where simply scrolling doesn't show you the whole thing), as does the ability to create static pages without date stamps.  I've got more work to do to make the page look more appealing, but I always had that.  Overall, a positive experience, and in the long run, a net gain.

The TestTakers Blue Book Blog (which I manage for work) is a slightly more complicated story, and the reason I decided to write this post.  It's still light on content as it's fairly new, and it's not updated (or viewed) very often yet, so it was really the perfect candidate for some experimentation.  Thing is, it used to live at  If you're familiar with Blogger's custom domains, you know blogs that don't live in the root directory are a no-no, so if I was going to keep this a Blogger blog and use custom domains (and not lose the branding of our url), I was going to have to set up a CNAME.

So, was born.  The initial setup of that was no problem at all, after having gone through a similar process with the last blog, since I still have hosting for the '' CNAME, (and old blog pages that will never be updated still live there), my work had only just begun.

First, I wanted to make all the old pages redirect to their new homes on Blogger's hosting, but since none of my old images transferred over to that hosting, I didn't want any image references to be changed (all the images still reside in '').  I did a bunch of Googling for help with .htaccess files to redirect .html files and leave everything else alone after being inspired by this Blogger Buzz post, but I didn't find anything prepackaged that did exactly what I wanted, so I basically fudged and fudged until I got it working with some help from this guy's .htaccess tutorials.  The line that worked for me (...sorta) was:
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/(.*)\.html$1.html
That took care of the old individual post pages, but I was still having 2 other problems:

1) Annoyingly, '' and '' were redirecting to '', which is not the homepage of the blog, and so was throwing a 404.  I got around that with these 2 lines (which might not both be necessary, but whothehellknows?):
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/$
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb$
2) Much to my chagrin, links for label pages completely changed.  My old labels (which were the pages I found most when searching for my own blog, and thus, a source for much of the traffic the blog had been getting) were at '' (for example). Label pages on my new, Blogger-hosted blog ended up at '' instead. So, the directory changed, and the file extension went away. That's a problem I hadn't seen coming, and a bit of a pain in the ass since I'm going to use labels pretty heavily as the site grows to keep things organized. One more line in the .htaccess file fixed that for me:
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/labels/(.*)\.html$1
For the curious, here's what my whole .htaccess file looks like now:
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/$
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb$
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/labels/(.*)\.html$1
RedirectMatch 301 ^/bbb/(.*)\.html$1.html
I'm well aware that it may not be elegant, since I basically threw it together at 2 AM and I've never messed around with Apache before, but it seems to be doing the trick although I'm sure it could have been done much more efficiently.

Bottom line: I wish I'd waited for Blogger's soon-to-arrive migration tool for this one.  Migrating by myself was just a little more complex than I thought it would be, and it took a few hours that I would have rather spent playing Mario Kart.

I still have some big decisions to make about this blog, and my rarely-updated music blog at  Both use some rudimentary PHP includes, and both took a lot of time and energy for me to build as a completely know-nothing web programmer.  This one, obviously, is more than just a blog.  Staying with Blogger might not be an option on either site, but I don't love the idea of migrating to any other blogging software much better.  WordPress is the obvious choice, except I'm a genius and bought Windows hosting for this site which I'm now finding won't even allow me to install it.  I'm open to suggestions/help, if anyone's paying attention.

* Pete Hopkins from the Blogger team (and from WBRU, represent!) wrote a great behind-the-scenes post about why they're saying goodbye to FTP publishing, which I've read about 7 times in the past week or so.  Check it out if you're curious.

26 January 2010

To blog, or not to blog?

I started thinking about this a few days ago, when I was messing around with the CSS of this site to make my Google Reader shares display nicely.  Well, I started thinking about it again, I guess.  I've thought about this many times.  Why don't I write on this site anymore?  This used to be such an important thing in my life, and now I have to force myself to even think about it most of the time.

One of the main reasons I don't write much anymore is that I'm afraid of what people who read it will think.  Not the random strangers, obviously, but the people who know me and read this, only some of whom I know about.  So it's become the most boring kind of blog...the kind that's updated infrequently with pictures from vacations, or sanitized updates about my personal life, scrubbed of names and salacious details.  And the knowledge that it's become so banal only paralyzes me further.  It's increasingly uninteresting because it's increasingly uninteresting.

That's not what I wanted this to be when I made it.  Well, I guess originally I just made this site so that I'd have a place to pretend I had a band and put the music that resulted from that fantasy.  But it evolved pretty immediately into a place that I regularly recorded actual thoughts.  It inspired me to learn some basic web programming.  Hell, it inspired me to create another site at which I could post more thematically specific things (I all-but-ignore that one too, now, but that's because I don't listen to enough cool music anymore).  This site used to bring me joy because it was a public (but still relatively private because honestly, who spends the time to read this stuff?) place to vent*.

When I go back and read some of that venting though, I'm embarrassed.  That's another thing that keeps me from posting more often.  An accumulated shame.  The fear that the next post might be one more than I'll read later and think was stupid.  And the knowledge that, as dumb as it is and as unlikely as it may be that anyone would stumble upon it years from now in a Google cache, I'm crafting an indelible persona for myself on the web that feels incrementally unlike my current self, despite sharing my name.  It's petrifying.  It's not like I don't have thoughts I'd like to post somewhere all the freaking time.  I just don't know that I want to post them here anymore.  I feel exposed.

This is unorganized rambling and it's a testament to my haziness today that I'm going to post it all, especially since there's no A-Ha! moment at the end where I decide to screw everyone and post every day about impolite things like love and politics.  I'm probably still not going to post any more often.  I've just been thinking a lot about it, is all.

Anyone else who does this sort of thing ever become similarly preoccupied?

*This post, by the way, is only meta-venting.

25 January 2010


I realize that the Cognoscenti of the web will scoff at my years-late acclaim, but I don't care. I've been using it forever, but recently Google Reader has become, without question, the most important webthing to me besides email. It's completely made redundant my Digg and accounts, become far more important than Facebook, and solidified my resistance to Twitter (which I still think is dumb). As the sharing features have become more and more robust, it has become a complete maelstrom of things I like but wouldn't have known about if not for my friends. It's a machine that gives me food pellets every time I press the button, and at the same time an echo chamber for all the things I find that I like, from awesome things to reasons-to-hate-the-GOP. And now, with a little javascript, I've added a constantly updated stream of my most recent shares to the sidebar of this very webpage, to make it easy to ignore not only the things that I take the time to type up myself, but also the things that I just plain agree with or think are funny. This is very exciting.

If you're super cool, you're already reading this blog with your Google Reader, in which case, I'm always looking for more sharebros. If you're not already using it, get on board son. This train is bound for glory.