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.