Saturday, October 22, 2011

Week 7 Number One Fantasy QB Kyle Boller?

There's something seriously wrong with Sports Illustrated's Week 7 Fantasy Football player projections:
Your eyes don't deceive, they're ranking the Raiders' Kyle Boller #1 among Quarterbacks (even though it's looking like Carson Palmer will start) and calling for him to account for 1 passing and 4 rushing touchdowns. WTF SI? That's just irresponsible.

Snorkel Adventure with Brad Pitt

I'm Brad Pitt. Welcome to the inner monologue, where I work out anecdotes, phrases and sound bytes in masculine voice over, color-commentating on the large-living glamour parade that is my life in lyrical lusciousness and bon mots with an ineffable, world-weary cool.

Angie, me and the kids have just arrived in the Maldives for a fabulous beach vacation. All checked into our villa and Angie and the littles are tired so I've got the wonderful opportunity of an afternoon to myself for the first time in so long I can't recall.... I'm taking a toke and going for a fucking snorkel.

My FedEx package of t-shirts was at the reception just like my assistant said it would be and wadded up inside the bundle of t-shirts in several nested layers of mouthwash-filled ziploc bags is my ounce of escape -- the finest Sao Paulo North Slope trip weed money can buy, a ceramic chillum and a box of matches from the BOA on Sunset. Why reuse when I can resupply? I have the money and don't need the headaches of any kind of security BS even though I pretty much go where I want with minimal hassle. (Except Germany, where they even hassle Mick Jagger.)

But the herb's still the word when I'm defining relaxation and since Angie gets a little peevish with her malnourishment already making her tetchy and not digging on the stoned-dad routine, it's better to keep things separate. The FedEx package tails us at luxury hotels around the globe addressed to my unemployed man-of-means alter-ego Bobbi Gula. Anyone knows Bobbi, and this includes high-end hotel concierges, knows the drill. That's Brad Pitt's stuff traveling incognito.

Which is super rad on the most perfectly breezy, crystalline blue and green water tropical beach in the Maldives. This is what it's about. Palm trees. White sand. A couple of monster rips from the chillum and then I'm wrapping my kit in a beach towel and fussing with my neoprene booties so I can hit the reef with my brand new Mare scuba fins and snorkel mask from Italy.

I'm sporting some scruff, which is how I roll when I'm relaxing = not shaving. This can create problems with mask seal so, I've got some spiffy silicone gel I smear in my 'stache and that makes for a swell, watertight seal and keeps the puddles from obscuring my vision, which after all these years I'm proud to say is still 20/20.

The water is beautiful, 82 degrees and crystal clear, with the mid-afternoon sun sparking it just right so the light dances off the bottom like a macro-kaleidoscope and the colors are really popping like mad. The coral growth is spotty this close to shore, but I can see the rim of the lagoon a few hundred yards out where the big old Indian Ocean rolls in to meet the proper reef. There's water spraying into the air where the rollers smack the more ambitious coral heads and that's where the action is.

I start to kick out there over the shallows with big stretches of sand and patches of turtle grass and pass over a half-buried stingray, kind what killed the Crocodile Hunter by piercing him through the heart with it's stinger (gnarly), and a young barracuda whose reflective skin almost makes him invisible above the sand. He vanishes with a flick of his tail as I draw near.

Soon enough, I notice the bottom dropping away from 10 feet down to 25-30 or so. The bottom's still sandy, and I pull my head up out of the water to have a look around and reorient in the way air-breathers must. Apparently, I've reached the channel where boats entering the resort breach the barrier reef and cross the lagoon to the pier.

This is semi-dangerous territory for a relatively little snorkeler (though I'm still all beefcake), it'd be easy for a cruising boat captain with a little liquor in him to miss me bobbing in the waves moments before his hull, keel and prop grind up the world's most celebrated living actor to chum. Nonetheless, I have to brave it.

I check both directions and start kicking hard to cross the channel. This is the ocean-going equivalent of running up the stairs from the basement after flipping off the lights. You're 99% sure you're going to make it, but you hold your breath all the same, waiting for the strike of fangs on your ankle to signal impending doom.

Soon, I'm back over the shallows on the other side and kicking confidently for the barrier reef. The coral heads are more consistent, lush and thriving this side of the channel and in turn I'm noticing more and larger fish: a school of green parrotfish as big and wild as a herd of American buffalo; a moray eel thick and muscular like my thighs(!); a neon-orange clownfish family living in a vast, electric shag carpet of a sea anemone; a trip-a-delic peacock flounder and holy shit a giant fucking clam. It's the size of my suitcase with thick, olive-spotted lips and I take a breath and kick down to the bottom to get a better look. Captain Nemo's in my head, warning of pearl divers drowning with their legs caught in the bear-trap grip of the giant clam. I can't resist and reach out to test this animal's reflexes. I dart my hand in and out, nudging the slick, firm flesh inside. It jerks slowly and contracts about a foot in a matter of several seconds, expelling a jet of clam-water that strikes my mask and might have smelled were my nose not covered. No way a clam could catch a man with that slow a response, plus which the shell doesn't even fully close. Disappointed? No. Edified. I'll never try to undo a villain by giant clam. And our hero snorkels on.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Gems of the Web: snowfall database
Tony Crocker's '' is another all-substance, no-style labor of love that I am putting forth as an old school gem of the web. Written in simple, iframe-era HTML with no appreciation or ambition for the aesthetic of web 2.0 or the intriguing possibilities of data-visualization with something as palpably measurable and comparable as snowfall, Crocker has built a dogged and complete curation of North American ski resort snowfall data going back to the late 1990s (which, judging by the look, is the first and last time the site itself experienced any design work).

Clearly Tony and I have few things in common: a passion for skiing and fascination with weather and data. He's created a resource here that I would probably want to create myself if it didn't already exist. The painstaking data collection itself is one thing: accurate, organized and, I would suspect, mostly manually curated from a wild variety of sources as I don't think there's a lot of RSS of snowfall data going on. But there's also the analysis from a skier's point of view with a candid account of the what matters to the people seeking this kind of information: powder.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Assassin Bug

Ever since I was a small boy who chanced upon the terrifying spectacle of a pair of mating beetles on the sidewalk in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I've maintained a horror-fan's fascination with the insect world. So naturally, I was intrigued when I spotted this creeper lurking near the entrance of our house on the Eastern Shore. 

It's a buggy place out there for sure, particularly on a steamy midsummer night when the lights stay on inside and the windows become irresistible, luminous magnets for a teeming, insectoid phantasmagoria of unimaginable variety. Watch and you'll see everything from sub-tropical jumping spiders to fantastically woolly caterpillars to clambering katydids (which are apparently vicious predators). 

But none so far had topped this freaking stranger. Which is about as weird as that unidentified bastard I discovered in my shag carpet last year. So I was duly stoked at the opportunity for another cloud-sourcing experiment to uncover the nature of this little beastmaster. But for my own skills at internet searching, I quickly verified the identity of my discovery and thus spoiled the mystery while adding to my own trove of trivia.

Per the excellent website,, (a gem of the web, no doubt) this is a 'wheel bug' of the assassin bug family of 'true bugs' of the order hemiptera and famous for the painful bite it inflicts with that absurdly large rostrum. Yikes!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Don't You Hate It When...

Cab drivers jam you for taking advantage of the credit card payment systems their cabs offer?

Traveling for work, as I did Thursday morning, requires exact documentation of my costs for reimbursement. Whenever possible, I like to pay with the company card to keep my cash in my pocket, create the electronic record and not blur the lines. I've been using Victory Cab for my scheduled cab travel around Philly, to the airport and 30th street station mostly, because their dispatch service is generally prompt and they take credit cards. And until Thursday morning I hadn't got much guff from Victory drivers for using plastic.

But when I asked to charge as we pulled up to 30th street, I got one of those exasperated groans, followed by an agro semi-statement of sorts: 'I only take cash.'

Um, let me count the signs saying I can use a credit card: credit card logo stickers in the windows, the taxi riders 'bill of rights' entitling me to plastic purchase, and the flipping credit card processing machine stuck to the plastic bullet shield separating me from the driver.

I'm going to have to insist, I told him and persisted with the credit card. He grumbled some more about not wanting to start his day with credit card. Which I understand.* But a) would you rather not have the business? And lastly, don't give my your grief since you (taxi driver) implicitly agree to the terms of compensation as a cab driver when you sign up for duty. You don't like how your employer processes credit card tips, that's not my problem, take it up with your asshole boss and spare me the awkwardness and guilt. I like my cash just as much as you do.

Friday, July 22, 2011

It's Going to Get Hot in Philly

Here's a look at the hourly forecast for today, July 22, 2011 provided by

Is it strange that I'm actually excited about this? See, thanks to the overwhelming humidity, the heat index accompanying today's heat is supposed to reach 115 degrees, which would be the hottest outside temperature I will ever have encountered.

As a young lad in Boise, Idaho I once experienced the mercury rise to 111 degrees, tying the all-time Boise record set in 1960. But that was a typical Great Basin dry heat, with humidity in the 10-15% range. It was toasty, for sure, but bearable and also relieved nightly by the crisp interlude of the high desert night.

Philly's humidity today will range from 55 - 69% and temperatures will peak around 101-102 around the 4 o'clock hour for an insane heat index of 115. There will be no relief with darkness either. I plan to be outside for some or all of this phenomenon to get the most savage taste of suffocating heat seen this side of Libya.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Watch Out When Porting Service From T-Mobile (Evil Bastards)!

On June 15th I signed on with AT&T and joined the iPhone revolution. I had been with T-Mobile for over 2 years so I was now month-to-month and figured there would be no issues with letting AT&T do the dirty work of ending my relationship with T-Mobile (which in the end isn't really ending the relationship, since AT&T is buying T-Mobile).

So I was surprised today to receive a 'final' bill from T-Mobile for $85.14, which was about what I had been paying for a full month to cover the vestigial 6 days in June before I canceled by account. In the bill I found the following line item Monthly Recurring Charges explaining my debt to T-Mobile:

Partial monthly charge for G1 UNLDATA 400MSGS from 6/09/11 to 6/14/11 $5.00
Partial monthly charge for G1 UNLDATA 400MSGS from 6/15/11 to 6/15/11 $19.99
Partial monthly charge for myFaves 600 from 6/09/11 to 6/14/11 $10.00
Partial monthly charge for myFaves 600 from 6/15/11 to 6/15/11 $39.99

In plain English, T-Mobile recognizes the 6-days pro-rata usage in the billing cycle up to termination but is charging me the full monthly usage anyway as an 'F you' to send me out the door. Cue outrage!

I called the Customer Service Number immediately and was stonewalled by a powerless(?) peon named Meredith with vague allusions to the dreaded 'Ts and Cs' (terms and conditions) to which she asserted I'd agreed and that seemingly bound me to this full charge for monthly services upon termination of my account if I didn't call them myself to inform them of my intent to leave. She was certainly powerful enough to handle me.

Here's a look at the language (relevant bit highlighted in blue) I could find in the Terms and Conditions:

Somehow between when I signed up with T-Mobile in 2008 to now, the Ts & Cs changed from what I had originally agreed to: You will remain responsible for all fees and charges for your Service and usage through termination (T-Mobile Ts & Cs, 2008). Was the world a better a place in 2008? Because this seems fair to me. It honors 'termination' as the point ending usage and debt for said usage and just generally makes sense in the universally fair, pay for what you use doctrine. Apparently between then and now all that changed was T-Mobile found an avaricious lawyer to comb their Ts & Cs for loose language that could be keeping them from squeezing every last penny from their customers victims.

While the new clause is patently unfair, it doesn't exactly seem ironclad. The 'may' seems pretty squishy and 'may' be the loophole I use to fight back here if I hear back as promised from Meredith's manager 'Shannon.' Whom Meredith was quick to point out  was equally powerless and couldn't override charges I'd agreed to in the Ts & Cs. Otherwise, in the pretty standard lawerly-way that corporate Ts & Cs screw consumers, I'm limited to arbitration rather than court to settle disputes with T-Mobile.

In the end, all of this is a long-winded, ventilating way to say that I'm probably getting fucked out of $60 by T-Mobile. Not the end of the world, but it still really pisses me off. Imagine how much bad profit T-Mobile is making through this little clause change in aggregate. And what a backhanded and cowardly way for lawyer-driven companies to squeeze the common man out of a few more bucks. It really is outrageous.

I have faith that awareness helps, if I keep shining lights where the Man doesn't want people looking maybe I can keep the next guy from losing his $60. Then, maybe I can count that $60 as good karma in the bank and hope that companies reverse course on cloaking themselves in legal protection from their customers and don't do what's wrong just because they can and it earns them a few bucks in the short term. Hopefully this costs T-Mobile more customers than just this guy.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged

“[W]hen you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing; when you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in goods, but in favors; when you see that men get rich more easily by graft than by work, and your laws no longer protect you against them, but protect them against you . . you may know that your society is doomed.”

Monday, July 11, 2011

Skunks Redux

Man, a while ago I complained about never seeing a living skunk and I think in the cosmic view of things that was the wrong move. Karma and whatnot, 3 months go by and Saturday night I'm driving home from dinner out on the Eastern Shore and notice a flash of white and black scuttling through the grass in my peripheral view. Could have been a kitty right? I didn't think about it again as I let the 3 dogs out and settled onto the couch for a viewing of True Grit.

Eddy lets the dogs back in 5 minutes later and Brownie, the adopted Australian Shepherd we found cowering under the boxwoods in the summer of 2005, rolls in smelling like jet fuel. Only at a distance was the smell remotely skunkish in the familiar way of whizzing by roadkill on the freeway. Up close, it takes on a different character and the only adjectives that came to mind were powerful - nuclear, chemical, burning in the nostrils. It is truly overwhelming in the intimate encounter -- enough to reset the inner narrative and induce short-term amnesia.

Brownie was acting frantic too. Imagine an animal whose primary means of navigation in the world is the sense of small and the scale of the sensation for her must be something else. The only human parallel I could imagine would be the daze brought on by a flash bang grenade. Brownie was out of it, eyes rolling in her head and desperate whining for relief.

Smart phone technology brought up the usual list of treatments, including tomato juice bath, vinegar, dish detergent, and hydrogen peroxide. Having no tomato juice, we whipped up a bath of the former and shooed the dog outside where a garden hose was also brought to bear.

Not wanting to ruin my clothes I stripped down to my undies and we held and washed the dog outside with several good scrubbings with the mixture, interspersed with rinsing blasts from the hose. It worked quite well except for what skunk scent Brownie had already brought into the house lingered through the night.

Though maybe it was more us acclimating to the odor, as those from paper mill or refinery towns. This morning, Monday, Jill called me from the office to report that the first young patient in whose mouth she put her hands this morning initially recoiled with a gasp, choking out the question what's that smell? And that after about a dozen good latherings with various skunk-scent solvents.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gems of the Web: Fish of Lembeh Strait

Caledonian Devilfish, Lembeh Strait, Sulawese, Indonesia, Asia, Planet Earth
From time to time I'll stumble across absolute treasures on the Internet that aren't made in Silicon Valley and it's these increasingly rare moments that keep me rooting for this grand experiment.

To wit, the link below will take you to a marvelous photo gallery of the most exotic fish in the world presented in a decidedly homegrown website which itself is a wonder as the apparent passion project of a Swiss ex-pat living on the Indonesian island of *Sulawese. So glad we had the opportunity to connect, if only virtually.

Link: Underwater Photos from Lembeh Strait

Almost as much fun as the actual discoveries themselves is the path of curiosity that leads me to these day-making discoveries. In class this evening I met an Indonesian ex-pat who's studying in Philly. He told me that once he leaves Philly, he's going back to Jakarta to run a few product-lines of his parents' polymers business. Mind blowing stuff that alone and it got me thinking of Indonesia, and all the places there I'm curious about including Bali and the scuba diving possibilities of the world's largest archipelago. Soon enough I was Googling the scuba scene in Indonesia and found a refreshing, old-school un-commercialized corner of the Web (messy, awesome and weird like it was in the late '90s early '00s) made up of fan pages about 'muck diving' in Sulawese's Lembeh Strait.

*As upheld by the fish that live there, Sulawese is in fact the most exotic place I can imagine and officially goes in the file of ultimate adventure destinations along with Borneo, the Seychelles, Kamchatka, Tierra Del Fuego, Assam and the Okavango Delta.

Vegemite Sandwich in Philadelphia?

The 'Ex-Pat' is the first sandwich on the list at the new Wedge + Fig in Old City and at first I didn't get it. Ingredients: Quicke's cheddar, Marmite, Avocado, Watercress on a Sesame baguette.

What is marmite? I asked the girl behind the counter. She started to say something about salty yeast extract, and then stopped, said, it's an acquired taste, maybe you'd like a try? At this point the owner stepped out of the kitchen and drew the parallel between Australia's famous Vegemite, which is illegal in the United States, saying Marmite is the America-safe version of this concept, which is, literally, yeast extract only with government-mandated processing for sensitive American gastronomy.

Then an ice cream sample spoon was offered over the counter with a dab of thick, dark syrup on the tip. So this is Marmite? It was opaque, not quite tacky, about as viscous as molasses. The taste was bracingly salty but with a familiar organic tang to it. After processing, I compared it to distilled soy sauce, like the heroin to soy sauce's morphine.

True to stereotype, Australians are apparently, actually crazy about vegemite and as word has spread of the marmite sandwich at Wedge and Fig, the owner has reported Aussies making pilgrimage from around the Philly area to snag a sando with the flavors of home. Now the 'Ex-Pat' part was making sense.

And I was intrigued enough to order one. True to assurances from the staff, the marmite wasn't overwhelming and added delicious saltiness next to the smooth avocado. It was a delicious sandwich.

Most of all it's good to see Wedge + Fig stepping up the game in this promising space. The former tenant and concept-proving, Old City Cheese Shop was decidedly un-cheesy for a cheese shop and a little too laissez faire in terms of knowledge, service and overall business-savvy. The best recommendation I ever got out of the OCCS was 'cheddar.' The Wedge + Fig has outfitted the fridges with a properly exotic roster of cheeses and sent me home with an excellent sheeps-milk cheese called 'ewephoria' in addition to the sandwich that helped me finally understand the Men at Work.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stickin' it to the Man (or his proxy, the Philadelphia Parking Authority)

A lot has happened since last we spoke, back at the end of May, which was literally the last time I felt free to do things that don't pay me or require a high degree of professionalism (like this blog), but the long and short of isthat I'm enrolled in the summer semester at Wharton which is a huge time suck featuring 7 hours of evening class, 2 nights a week plus more homework than you can shake a stick at. Fortunately it's over on June 30, but I didn't want that to let a whole month go buy without a peep.

Also, I'd like to prove I'm still out there setting out crafty, bloggish thought experiments to entertain the masses and have been cataloging them through various digital channels including Facebook mobile uploads, Twitter and emails to myself with notes about things I'd like to write later on. I maintain a list of 'Band Names' on a notepad application on my cellphone and have added a few this month, which I'll sample here:

Big Word Salad
The Nestorian Heresy

So it's still very much on.

To wit, this post, which was motivated by my good friend Dr. W following the trend of moving to town from New York City and doing so in a big UHaul truck which he emptied and parked on the street in Old City last Monday night. Having helped him hump a bed, bookshelf and other heavy items up to his 4th floor apartment, I was clearly in a giving mood and kept on with some advice on the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA, stars of TLC Show 'Parking Wars'): that he'd better get the UHaul out of there lickety-split at 7am or he was in for a world of pain. No problem, he'd set his iPhone to wake himself up and return the UHaul.

715 I get an angry text that Dr. W has slept in a mere 10 minutes and by the time he arrived on the street, the PPA had already called a tow-truck to the scene who couldn't be dissuaded from collecting his rented UHaul the associated $250 release fee. Ouch. But we saw this coming.

On Tuesday night I was over at Penn where I park my car on the street and the PPA collects tolls for this privilege until 8pm at night. You can pay for up to 3 hours at a time, but it increments in 10 minute intervals from the time of your payment so it's often the case when I'm buying big chunks of time that I am forced to increment past the hour of 8pm because I have to stay until 9. Not this time. Claiming an ounce of Dr. W's pound of flesh, I won back $0.25 by paying for parking through 7:59pm rather than 8:09pm just to see if the PPA would be on the scene in the moments of my infraction. I know this sounds lame, but you have to fight the aggrieving forces of creeping bureaucracy in subtle ways or it will overwhelm you. And I'm happy to report that I didn't get a ticket. So take that PPA!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Inception Sound Effect Button!!

Push the button and prepare for incredible Sound Effects! Do it!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

HBO GO = No go

Wow! That's not good. Amid a pretty big promotional push to get people to use what looks like a promising service in HBO Go, the site is apparently crashed. Having the juice to handle the traffic is 101 in website launches. This looks bush league and is pretty humiliating for HBO.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

NFL Players All Over

Sports Illustrated has this nifty gallery of famous NFL players organizing their own workouts as the lockout prevents them from actually using NFL team facilities.

While I was disappointed not to see some pics of the Eagles in here, I do have a bit of local dish from Old City, where I've witnessed Eagles' 3rd-string QB Mike Kafka blasting his pecs (one armed bench press, no less) at the Sweat Fitness on 2nd street. I may have to stalk the gym now with my cellphone to sneak out any photographic evidence, but I'd also have to weigh that against the real threat of that making me creepy.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Healthy Choices

I try to make 'Healthy Choices' too. Which is why I was so glad to see that the Jade Garden in Dresher, PA, where I dined on Lunch Buffet today, has anticipated the need for 'Special Diet Sauce,' which they serve on the side. Not sure what's in special diet sauce, but I'd like to think it's a mix of Fen-Phen and MSG for good flavor. Pouring it on your Chinese Food then is like taking speed and not having to eat for the rest of the week while you ride the snake to a skinnier you. Ah, the trope of making fun of Chinese menus never fails to amuse.

One Offs: mustaches and scuba mask seal

Turns out mustaches make it difficult to get a watertight seal with a scuba mask. I've been snorkeling and diving a bit lately and kept noticing water pooling in the lower half of my mask. Without any introspection I chalked it up to flaws in the mask until an older, mustachioed gentleman on my last dive boat asked me if I wanted some silicon gel to help the mask make a seal around my mustache. He had a little jar of it, kind of like the old Carmex compacts of yore, and with a light application in the furry upper-lip area I was able to maintain both my mustache (technically part of my total facial hair package, or, beard, more commonly) and my watertight scuba mask seal.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Why is the Tower Theatre So Expensive?

Tickets to the Fleet Foxes' May 21 show at Upper Darby's Tower Theatre range in price from $96 to $331 when purchased directly from the venue on their website. I'm a casual fan of the Fleet Foxes and had some interest in going with my Special Lady, but not if I've got to shell out ~$200 for the experience at a minimum. This also leads one to wonder how many rabid Fleet Foxes fans out there are ready to plunk down $700 to treat themselves and a friend. Is this a glitch or do I just not know all the rich-ass mofos who love them some Fleet Foxes?

Another exciting show coming through the Tower Theatre is Eddie Vedder, whom I last saw in Philly during Pearl Jam's epic 4-night stand to rock out the Spectrum in 2009. This time it's just Eddie (presumably with a guitar, at least) and the Tower Theatre is selling tickets ranging from $126 in the nosebleed zone to an astronomical $868 for row BBB in the orchestra pit:

I mean, those are sweet seats and it is Eddie Vedder, but $900 for a ticket? $1800 if you want a friend to corroborate the experience? (Which you must if you're going that far to enjoy yourself.) I'm not buying it. So what's the deal Tower Theatre? How special an experience are you peddling? For $900 I'd want guaranteed access to a semi-serious friendship with Eddie Vedder.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Greening the William J. Green Federal Building

Last night around 10pm the special lady and I were walking up 7th street back from Washington Square to Old City when we noticed some conspicuous activity up the street. Squad cars had blocked off 7th between Market and Arch and an improbably tall crane, lit by intense spotlights was hoisting large bundles of something from the street up to the roof of the Willam J. Green Federal Building, which houses the local offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Entering the immediate area on foot, we noticed a flatbed truck with a dozen or so bales of 'green roof media' which the crane was lifting one-by-one up to the roof of the building. A little Google-searching reveals this stuff is used to grow grass on building rooftops.

So, a couple of thoughts: 1) way to go on the FBI for greening a building. Not what I expected of a conversative Federal agency. Are they doing this elsewhere? 2) Is a sky-high crane really the best way to do this? I've heard crane rentals start around $10K/day, but it seems to me a few trips in the freight elevator could accomplish the same task. I'd like to see the cost-benefit analysis in energy savings making this a worthwhile endeavor, though in spirit I probably agree that it is no matter the installation costs.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Curated Content: Raul Ibanez Scared Hitless

-Raul Ibanez went 0-4 last night and is now 0 for his last 34 at bats. The Inquirer adds some context: "To put his woes in perspective, the record for most consecutive hitless at bats in the big leagues is 46 by Brooklyn Dodgers catcher Bill Bergen in 1909, according to" 1909. Ouch. Not that Ibanez is there yet, but he is pressing and it's looking bad. He even shaved the devilish beard he was sporting earlier in the season to stoke his mojo.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

La Compagnie Transe Express at Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts

If you don't know how to describe this, you're not alone. But this is a scene from the culminating event of the ambitious 25-day Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. Sold by the friends who enticed me to come out last night as a circus with French acrobats and pyrotechnics, what we actually got was 'Maudites Sonnants/ The Celestial Carillon,' courtesy of a troupe of Lyonnais known as La Compagnie Transe Express. Bascially, we have an over-engineered contraption (later revealed to be a chandelier) hoisted into the sky on a very tall crane. Dangling beneath the metal and wires is a gang of French minstrels with drums and bells and just 3 acrobats. The contraption expands and contracts and slowly rotates while the musicians tinkle out the creepy-clown music of a child's nightmare and the acrobats write around on swings or ropes.

All in this was the kind of opium dream spectacle of Toulouse-Letrec-era France that is kind of lost on modern audiences who have no expectation of such things. Hence my confusion when it turned out to be very un-circus. There was also a notable underwhelmingness in the crowd of 150,000 or so Philadelphians, who waited an hour while the device haltingly got off the ground in 20 minute, bell-announced intervals. This was puzzling: technical flaw or French theatrics to build up the anticipation? Either way it had the affect of riling a rile-prone audience and then under-delivering in terms of expected dynamics. Acrobats, for example, did no flying leaps and pyrotechnics turned out to be a few sparklers and kerosene torches.

Still, in terms of sheer novelty it was the most original thing I've seen in a long while and no doubt left some indelible impressions on attendant children, some of whom are still cowering in fear this morning after resultant night terrors, while others are probably plotting their emigration to Lyon to sign up with the celestial performers of La Compagnie Transe Express.

Video provided by the Inquirer since words fail.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

One Off: the limitations of skinny jeans

1) Friends of mine report from Brooklyn on the fate of a mutual acquaintance from college who transformed himself into a pretty serious hipster. Seeing him at a party he had a flowing gypsy scarf tied around his locks so to channel the more feminine end of the spectrum along the lineage of Louis the XIV, Purple Rain-era Prince and now Russell Brand. After the party, waiting in line to get into a club everyone decides to leave and merrily steps over the velvet rope stanchion to find a more inclusive event. Everyone that is except said hipster, whose pants are so tight he can't raise his leg high enough to step over the rope.

2) This morning at the local Starbucks I witnessed one of the barrista boys in painted-on black jeans (still not sold on this as appropriate for a man, even, or especially, considering the precedent of European swimsuit tastes) attempting to carry a table outside to place on the sidewalk. Was he the least appropriately attired Starbucks employee for the physical demands of this job? I'd argue so. Because I saw him waddling like a penguin with a popsicle stick clenched between his nethercheeks while 'maneuvering' the table through the double doors up on edge like a wheel. Constrained by his pants and grappling with the physical challenge of opening door, propping door open, rolling table, he lost his grip and the table rolled out the door and did one of those twirling routines like a runaway coin, turning a few pirouettes before belly-flopping down decisively on its side and nearly crushing a small dog on its way down.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Monster Bug Fights

A few years ago I came across an amazing website called Japanese Bug Fights which pitches terrifying bugs against each other in forced terrarium matches with low-fi sound effects and

Now some smart producer at Discovery Networks' Science Channel has given the concept the classic Westernizing treatment with high production values, on-location shoots and gripping voice over from one of those movie trailer narrators. There's also expert color commentary from dorky entomologists cut in to give it just enough facts to put it on the Science Channel. But the best part is probably the enhancement of the canned sound effects from Japanese Bug Fights.

Listen to the clip from Monster Bug Wars as each bug is introduced and enters the battle. The unique cocktail of animal-sound gibberish they mix up for each bug is fantastic.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

March Madness: Chicago

I looked up and realized today is the end of March, which meant I had to hustle to get my 'March Madness' post up asap or risk dreaded, un-bloggy, decidedly anti-2.0 anachronism. Any case, here's the highlights of a stopover in Chicago to catch up with some old amigos and watch a little hoops during the 2nd and 3rd rounds* of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. 

A few highlights worthy of mentioning that didn't make the highlight reel for reasons of decorum and or forgetfulness include: hanging near (not with, per se) Nick Lachey at the United Center while his beer lackey and bodyguard ensured he kept his cool; bowling at an old-fashioned, man-powered lane in Chicago; and outmaneuvering the 'chocolate milkshake' treatment at Weiner's Circle while still thoroughly enjoying the fully-loaded Chicago Dog and socially tense, verbally-abusive vibes. 

On with the pics:
This is VCU torching Georgetown en route to a Final Four appearance.
Albert, iced.
Joanna Connor, Kingston Mines, tearing up the Whipping Post.
Kingston Mines was a gas. If you're in town, ever, go. And if you cross paths with Joanna Conner, ever, go. She can melt face with the best of 'em and was the most fun heavy blues rock surprise I've had since Anders Osborne at Jazz Fest last year.

*Feels weird to refer to what are still in spirit the 1st and 2nd rounds as such just because there are a few random play-in games.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Last night was my father-in-law Eddy's 66th birthday and we celebrated by having dinner at Smith & Wollensky steak house in Philadelphia. Not exactly an original choice of restaurant, but given the constraints imposed by 3 grand children, it was nicely suited to the occasion blending the appropriate level of fanciness and child-tolerance, and we got a great, private table in their amazing second-floor dining room overlooking Rittenhouse Square.

Between the taxidermized* moose heads on the wall and my sister-in-law's recent vehicular run-in with a telephone pole, the conversation turned to roadkill at which point my youngest nephew chimed-in that he'd never seen a skunk, except for what gruesome, dead remains they came across on the side of the road.

And it's true, driving around the city and burbs for almost two years now, I've seen countless roadkill raccoons, skunks and opossums, but have yet to see a single living example of any of these three critters which are so evidently present. Curious.

Then it was Eddy's turn. As a 27 year-old immigrant from the Dominican Republic in the 1970s he and some of his buddies had never encountered a skunk. (In fact I remember asking him a few years ago what the Spanish word for 'skunk' was and he didn't know it (mofeta, in case you're curious) because I guess they don't have any skunks in the DR.) So during his residency at a party, one of his colleagues found a skunk rooting around outside and captured the animal with his bare hands and then brought it into the party to show his friends what he'd found. A mix of hilarity and panic ensued, but Eddy doesn't recall the skunk getting down to skunkish business with the stinky spray.

Hearing this I wondered why hadn't the skunk sprayed? Which brought me to another supposed insight I'd gleaned from a classmate in college who was a direct descendant of original mountain man Daniel Boone. Seeing as Daniel Boone fought bears without aid of fire arm, we afford credibility to his great great great grandon's testimony that if a skunk raises its tail to spray, you have a split second before the scent-glands engage and the manly response to this is to step forward, grip the skunk by its tail and fling it skyward to avoid the spray. You can also run the other way, but what fun would that be?

*Hipster bars in New York City are teeming with taxidermy. Last month after whiffing on my trip to Bonaire, I drowned my sorrows in a bar in the East Village which featured some really poor-quality taxidermized deer heads on the walls.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

One Offs: Omniture Summit 2011Edition

3rd day in Utah and haven't had much down time to report on a few things I wanted to share from Summit 2011:

*No Josh James this year diminished the opening night star power of previous years and some of the enthusiasm. Omniture was a bit of a cult of personality with James at the center so it will be interesting to see how the 'business group' (part of Adobe for about a year now) and its attendant culture starts to change. Summit was a big part of that and may get softened by Adobe, whose California-based players seem to like making jokes about Utah.

*Another slight against Utah was the presentation of Vail resorts as the ski industry examplar of good web-marketing practices (as crowned by Exact Target, their enterprise email vendor). With the Utah ski culture playing a big role at Summit, I wonder if Exact Target thought that through before presenting Vail as the finest ski area in the world. And, uh, meanwhile let's get excited about the Canyons on Friday.

*Flouting rumors ranging from the Black Eyed Peas, Kings of Leon, Muse or even Bon Jovi, Lenny Kravitz was the entertainment this year. The announcement was met with little initial fanfare and you could count me among those only mildly interested. BUT, Lenny rocked it. He and his band were pumped and tight and gave a terrific show with some unexpectedly groovy extended funk jams. His back up band kicked ass, routinely, and I give Kravitz a lot of credit for pulling out the extra effort for a corporate gig.

*I can't remember the exact stat, but someone said that something north of 90% of the web pages on the Internet have some form of advertisement on them. That media used to be content consumed in the presence of ads, and somehow we've got to the place where now it's ads viewed in the presence of content. This makes me feel good and more resolved to not have ads on my blog.

*Which also reminds me of the time I did try to monetize my now dormant College Football blog with AdSense. After about a year, I was somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 in accrued click revenue. At this point Google upped the automatic payout amount to $100 and I guess I never got there. I burned out on the blog and the few users it's still getting are apparently ignoring the ads.

*But, it may have been a blessing in disguise. Last year I recall a notice from the City of Philadelphia inviting local bloggers to come to a cocktail reception/brainstorm on development opportunities to showcase the blogging talent of the City. Once they got the respondent bloggers together in a room, the City quizzed them on whether they'd tried to monetize their blogs with ad revenue. Those that replied in the affirmative were promptly slapped with a reconciliation request for the Philadelphia Business Privilege Tax of $300. At $40 of unpaid ad revenue (which I might add was earned before I moved to Philadelphia, so don't get any ideas Nutter) which could reasonably be par for the earnings course for most of us aspiring-professional bloggers, the $300 is a steep, relative 'privilege' to pay. But staying on point, shame on you Philadelphia for being predictably disingenuous and sneaky and cloaking this tax-revenue dragnet in the virtuous guise of fostering creative output from your citizen bloggers. Motherfucking money-grubbing. No ads on this blog.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


I took the good weather on Saturday for a chance to spend the afternoon outside making some improvements to the small strips of soil that pass for 'landscaping' around my apartment. I put on my headphones and set my phone to vibrate in my pocket and was just getting into a good debris-clearing groove when a strange number with a northern Jersey area code interrupted me.

It was good George Flores calling from a post-office in Jersey City (outlet of the Holland tunnel from Manhattan) to tell me that a bag with my belongings had been turned in to his possession. Eureka! Sweet mother of luck, I thought, could it be the world has smiled on me and I'll be made whole except for the irrevocable loss of the trip to Bonaire?

Feeling no offense that he'd already gotten into my belongings to learn my identity, I encouraged him to keep digging and report out what else might still be in the bag. Well, there was a passport, some glasses, some other shit, (literally he said that), batteries, some prescription drugs....

I cut him off. No iPad? No digital camera? No. Damn it!

I suppose I might be grateful I'm getting anything back at all, but here's the thing -- what's being returned does me almost no good at this point. Two weeks since missing the trip, I'd already cancelled the passport and diving certification cards and spent the money to replace them as well as my prescription eyeglasses. Whoever first found my bag helped themselves to the fungible values contained within and did nothing to prevent me from sinking the cash to replace the items of no use to them.

I guess I'm expecting honor among thieves here, but if they were going to take my street valuables and return everything else, an anonymous email or text message certainly would have been possible and helped me to not lose the additional $500 or so it's taken to replace those things. Now it's just sentimental value (passport stamps?) and the modest utility of back-up pair of prescription glasses that would spur me to retrieve the bag. George Flores can't mail it to me since there's a passport involved, cancelled or not, so on top of everything there's the unpleasant errand of a special trip to Jersey City. I might just forget it.

Because I was at the point where I was moving on. This in some weird way, reopens the wounds and has sparked a second wave of anger. And for what? Because the thief wanted to feel better about themselves by returning my lost belongings after helping themselves to what they liked. Well guess what asshole? You don't get off that easy. You still stole from me and you didn't help mitigate any further losses on my part because you're a bad person who steals and you know what you did was wrong in every way so fuck you for bothering to return my bag at all. I wish you'd kept the whole thing and tried to sell the passport and gotten busted for treason and renditioned to Cuba where CIA interrogation experts tore out your teeth and toenails with pliers. So there, God and I both reject your attempt to make things right and that's the thanks you get for returning my bag, dickhead.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Google Street View Tricycle

By now you can tell that I'm totally obsessed with Google Street View. Having previously appeared both in person and vehicular avatar on Google's effort to visualize the mapped world, I feel a sort of connection to the project.

It was my awareness of the peculiar, camera gantry-topped car and chancing to recognize one coming down the street that created the opportunity for minimal Internet stardom. In case anyone else is interested in replicating, I wanted to share that Google is now 'off-roading' the effort to photograph parks and trails, off piste, so to speak, with these nifty man-powered tricycles. So look out next time you're plodding through the back country.

The camera equipment looks heavy, good because you probably have to move relatively slow to get good photos, but this must be a hell of a job, particularly in hilly country. Still I know plenty of hipsters who'd love nothing more than to slow down some hiking yuppies with this kind of work.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Shots Fired 41st and Pine!

I'm generally suspicious of any calls from unknown numbers, but particularly those interrupting me at 1:16AM this morning. Naturally I screened the call, but this caller was determined to get through and left not only a voicemail but one better: a chilling text message about 'shots fired' at 'area of 41 pine.'

'41 pine' is a pretty specific location to pin the nebulous sound of 'shots fired' but okay, shit's going down at a street address about 9 blocks from my own apartment. I wasn't feeling threatened at this point, but curious and also wondering whom was behind this rather sophisticated security feature. At first I thought it was the City of Philadelphia, but this was hard to swallow for a number of reasons having to do with the City's general inability to perform basic tasks like trash pick up with anything approaching efficiency. Plus which, if I got a phone call and a text every time there were shots fired in the Philadelphia Police Department's jurisdiction I'd be blowing up like the World Trade.

So I turned to Google which revealed ace reporting by the Daily Pennsylvanian citing shots fired (and nobody injured, phew!) at the intersection of 41st and Pine streets as opposed to the street address 41 Pine street. Now things were making sense. This was the doing of the University of Pennsylvania and their largest private police force in the commonwealth. And then I remembered that I'm enrolled at Penn, paying tuition and taking night classes in the Old Dogs, New Tricks department, and so am entitled beneficiary of this level of protection. Which is at once impressive -- showing what a state-of-the-art privatized police force can do to keep its paying citizens safe -- but also a bit scary in the dual sense of being both a glimpse of the future of the surveillance state and testimony to how far behind our public police organizations are.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Part II: The Weekend of Disaster on Amtrak

The short answer from Continental is no. With the exception of a few rare documents I don't possess, there's nothing other than a Passport that will allow an American to leave the country on an airplane no matter what the entry requirements of the destination nor how much body cavity searching you can tolerate. Predictably denied, I booked myself on the next flight to Bonaire, 24 hours later and turned towards the trains to track my bag into New York City.

A return trip on the people mover and I was waiting on the train platform in a chilly breeze waiting for the NJ Transit train to Penn Station. I phoned my dad and brother who had been waiting at the gate for me to join them on the airplane to share the bad news and also checked in with Jill for her latest process with Amtrak security. In the dark below the platform a peculiarly large rabbit lopped across the train tracks, squeezed through the hurricane fencing and disappeared into the gloom of Newark airport.

The NJ transit train was a half hour late and these were probably my grimmest moments, sitting there beating myself up with how different things could have been if I'd only been paying attention. Calls ahead to Penn Station and Amtrak were fruitless and all I could do was wait and hope that someone kind and responsible would retrieve my belongings and help them get back to me.

Following up in person did me no better as I got weary repetitions of their archaic 'lost and found' operations that are only open Monday-Friday from 8am-4pm excluding holidays, which did me exactly no good at 11:30 Friday night with a long weekend in the offing. The train I'd been on had come and gone to a train yard for cleaning and the best I could expect was my bag returning to the office Tuesday morning, which means I'd miss the Saturday night flight to Bonaire, and thus the entire vacation since flights from Newark go out on Friday and Saturday nights only.

I left Penn Station after midnight, dressed for morning touchdown in the Caribbean, feeling ridiculous and stupid and under dressed for the cold. With my huge check-on bag in tow, I hailed a cab and met up with some friends in the East Village to drink away the pain. Over beers and shots of Jameson we brainstormed ideas to get me to Bonaire on the Saturday night flight ranging from a new passport via expediter to buying  new ticket in a friend's name and assuming their identity. Ultimately, the passport processing idea only works mid-week on a 24 turnaround time at great cost and borrowing someone else's passport amounts to some kind of fraud and probably ends up with problems for both the borrower and lender. I was perfectly screwed and with no one really to blame but myself.

Still, I  held out hope of a 'good samaritan' recovering my bag and taking one of the ample clues inside with my contact info in the recognition of its personal and time-sensitive importance. (Most of us don't casually travel with Passport and every owned, portable electronic device at once.) But this didn't happen in time to salvage the trip and with each passing day is looking less likely at all. A disappointing side note on society these days, I guess. I would have accepted anonymous return of the passport and diving certification cards in exchange for the electronics.

Defeated by the combination of my own goof, the incompetence and undesire of Amtrak and the low scruples of whomever has my bag, I returned to Philly on the Saturday afternoon Amtrak where Jill cheered me up with tamales and micheladas at El Rey.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Weekend of Disaster on Amtrak

Tuesday morning as I shoveled my car out of the 5 inches of snow that fell in Philly overnight, I mumbled some a curse at the Universe beneath my breath since by rights I should have been in the Caribbean this morning on a scuba adventure with my dad and brother.

Rewind to Friday night after a crazy week of work and I'm scrambling to wrap up my business affairs, spend a last few quality minutes with Jill and catch the 8pm, 138 Northeast Regional train from 30th Street Station up to Newark to catch the red-eye to sunny Bonaire.

I make the train and we sit there next to the platform for about 30 minutes without moving. The conductor comes on to explain something about the 8:35 pm train breaking down and its passengers needing to board our train. Not a big deal, but I actively chose the 8pm train because the 35 minute difference might mean something on an international flight. Still, I'm not panicking as we pull out of 30th street at 8:35 and begin the journey.

Under normal circumstances I'd have been on the platform at Newark airport at about 9:15, which would have been plenty of time to catch a midnight flight. But the train keeps slowing down and even stopping and we're getting up there past 10pm and still not there, so I'm starting to get a bit anxious.

10:15PM we finally pull into Newark and I grab my checked bag and hurry off the train to get a ticket for the strange people-mover type train Newark uses to get people from Amtrak to the airport. I settle onto the people mover, in a small car all by myself and as the glass doors seal me in and the train leaves the station I realize that I've left my carry-on bag with my passport, iPad, digital camera, prescription glasses, sunglasses, antibiotics, and scuba diving certification cards on the Amtrak bound for New York City.

The rush of panic I felt just then was about as serious a jolt as I've felt since watching Jill nearly bleed out on our couch. As I realized that I'd probably just screwed myself I went into a rage and gave the glass door of the people-mover a few good head butts before picking up my phone to call Jill, to get her working from home with the advantage of a good Internet connection, and then Amtrak to see about tracking down my bag.

Meanwhile, I'm still puttering on at slow donkey pace toward the Newark Airport terminal while my precious bag and passport are flying down the tracks in the opposite direction towards the mean streets of New York City.

First of all the Amtrak Police are completely useless. Don't even bother calling these guys. I'm not sure what they respond to, but unless someone's entrails are hanging out already I'm not sure they'd bother with the situation. They tell me 'we don't do that kind of thing,' (like, help people?) so I have to call sales and support through the 800 number. My heart sinks. I picture the Amtrak cop hanging up and smiling at his buddies over their steaming styrofoam cups of coffee and saying some poor fuck just left his passport on a train and thinks he's still got a chance of flying tonight.

The 800 number is predictable, polite computer voice recognition maze of sales oriented dead ends that takes 10 minutes to speak with an agent despite my dire, loud screams that yes, I'd like to speak an agent. I'm sorry, I didn't quite get that, it sounded like you said you'd like to speak to an agent. Who finally, also informs that she has no way to get in touch with the train, but I could phone up ahead to Penn Station in New York to alert them and have them look for my bag.

The people mover stops and I get off at the terminal in Newark. The Continental line isn't too long, maybe 10 groups ahead of me in sandals and Hawaiian shirts with their passports poking out of the front pockets. I'm still on hold with Penn Station's customer service line when I get to the check-in and the guy there does a double-take as I inform him in an increasingly hoarse voice that I don't have a passport but is there any amount of body-cavity searching I can submit to that would get me to Bonaire?

To be continued...

Monday, February 21, 2011

That is Philly in the Cedar Rapids Trailer

Here's the screen grab from the 25th second of the Cedar Rapid's Trailer on IMDB, and that is definitely some old* b-roll of Philadelphia from somewhere over the Art Museum being passed off as Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Here's the actual Cedar Rapids skyline for comparison:
Not quite the same.

*Old, because the Comcast Center is conspicuously missing form the shot meaning two things:
1. The footage is definitely pre-2008 when the Comcast Center was completed, but maybe even older since there's no tower visibly under construction either.
2. The filmmakers saved a buck or two on some outdated, canned footage of a city skyline, still the choice is mystifying for lack of any real good reason to use it. The shot doesn't contribute to the general theme, which I suspect is central to some of the comedic set up of the film, of Cedar Rapids as a bit of a backwater.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Selected Scenes From Philly Thundersnow 2011

In addition to being the night of the East Coast's last freakish weather event, aka Thunder Snow 2011, January 26 was also when I watched 'Exit Through the Gift Shop.' The street art subject matter of the film got me feeling a bit mischievous and coupled with the interesting weather outside, motivated a midnight adventure armed with Flip Video and digital camera. I've already shared the motion picture account of that evening, which featured such unusual moments as drunk bastards snowboarding down Market Street, but here share a quieter sampling of my favorite still shots of the city transformed by more snow than most Philadelphians have seen in a generation (unless of course they were here last winter).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Results: Beer Stein of Change

That's $0.01 shy of $95 dollars.

The poll closed with 12 votes and most of you deeply underestimated the value of quarters. A full half the field estimated $45 in change in my Lowenbrau beer stein and only one reader took the high and accurate road of $95. So much for the wisdom of crowds. Or maybe 12 doesn't quite make a crowd. I think Surowiecki's point had something to do with random individuals and large sample sizes, neither of which we produced here. It's clear form the poll results that I just know a few skeptics.

That said, I do want to get back to a comment by reader 'Iceman' that read:
Coinstar is for suckers....go to any TD Bank and they'll sort your change for free.
Cold, Iceman, but true. I didn't do my homework going in and was only mildly surprised (as in, I should have expected this) the Coinstar tries to fee-gouge you to the tune of 9.8%. And after that just gives you some kind of 'cash voucher' which must create a second layer of inconvenience as you find a way to redeem it. I was picturing some kind of mail-in and wait 6-10 weeks for a check, but didn't go down that road to find out for sure. Perhaps someone else can comment?

So I went with Plan B, which in Coinstar terms is taking the full dinero amount in the form of a gift card with one of their pre-selected partners. This is also a pretty sly deal and I'm sure Coinstar's getting a tummy scratch on the back end of this too, but at least you get your full value and some of the vendors are pretty good. I chose but you could have iTunes, The Gap or a few others. Surprisingly, Wegman's wasn't one of the vendors.

Adding in poll results for posterity and because I wanted to remove the widget from my left-hand nav:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Gritty City: Philly's Got Your Back

This is an incredible story wherein Philly tough guy Joseph Lozito ended the killing spree of a New York City serial stabber in a spectacular subway car knife/karate fight: Philly guy fights off NYC serial-stabbing suspect.

The article and picture confirm Lozito as 'burly.' I know we don't respect the judgment of serial killers as a rule, but in a subway car full of people it didn't occur to him to attack someone other than the 6'2" 260lb martial arts buff with the shaved head, fu manchu and biker tattoos?

Still, glad he did. One leg sweep later and Philly did New York a solid and justice has been served.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Second Act on Google Street View

I was pretty stoked back in 2008 when my car appeared on Google Street View parked out in front of my folks' house in Boise. However, being that said car was parked there from June to September 2007, it was as likely as not that should the Google camera-car drive by sometime that summer, my car would be there ready for its cameo. What are the chances lightning strikes twice?

Flash forward, probably last spring some time, and my amigo Ben and I spotted one of these Google Street View camera-cars rolling down 2nd street in Old City with its conspicuous roof-mounted gantry. Here's the moment of recognition captured in digital perpetuity:

Spotting the opportunity from the cross-walk....
We makes it pay off big time, brah!
I made a mental note of the corner: 2nd and Market, not too hard to remember, and just happened to check back in with Google Street View yesterday. To my surprise and delight here we are looking about as douchey as we do in real life, proving once more that Google is succeeding in its mission to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. Avoid us at all costs it says.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Beer Stein of Change

What is the dollar value of loose change contained in this beer stein from the Lowenbrau in Munich? My guess is $60, Jill's guess (after watching my scientific estimate-building process) is $75. We're heading to Wegman's in Cherry Hill, NJ where there's supposedly a Coinstar machine to convert this into crisp paper bills and will report back on results.

But, first how much change do you think is in here? Submit your best guess in the poll at the top left of the blog and see whether you get it right when I report back next Monday.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gritty City: Murder Map

Fortunately for moi, Old City where I live is in the eastern end of the little valley between 'Point Breeze' and 'Strawberry Mansion' which are both summits of killing in this captivating visual rendering of murder by numbers in Philadelphia. True to its flat topography in this map, I haven't heard of a killing in Old City in the year and a half that I've lived here.

So it was hard to fathom that Philly's been nearly as deadly to Americans over the last decade as 7 years of open warfare in Iraq, but when there were 7 murders last weekend alone, it felt a bit more real. Nearly all of these were gangland-style, multiple-bullets-to-the-head brutality. Yikes!

This got me thinking about whether it's more dangerous in Philly compared to other prominent American cities. The data is readily available and in terms of per capita rate of murder and non-negligent manslaughter, Philadelphia is tied for 9th place with esteemed peers Cleveland and Memphis with .2 instances per 1,000 residents, or about 300 per year. This is below the rates of familiarly violent cities New Orleans (#1 with .50 murder-death-kills per 1,000 residents), Detroit (.46) and Washington, D.C.(.24), but well above Boston (.08), San Francisco (.06) and New York (.06).

For reference, my hometown of Boise, Idaho doesn't even rank in the available data set. Which might not surprise anyone.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Out of the Darkness Came Thundersnow!

I've literally felt like hibernating since the end of December, but then woke up last Wednesday night as the 15 inches of Thundersnow was covering Philadelphia and felt like taking a late-night walk in the otherworldly winter scene outside. I took along the new Flip video camera I got for Christmas and shot a little b-roll of the scene in Old City. Pretty ridiculous that we're on pace this winter to beat out last winter's all time record 85 inches of snow in Philly. I wonder if this is the new winter paradigm for the area, the unpredictable emergence of global warming simply making things crazier, or two freakish blips on the radar. Either way it merits documentation.