Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Ron & Fez nugget of genius

I'm generally pretty indifferent when it comes to the comedy stylings of Ron & Fez, but I have to say when they're on, they are really on:

Ron: Jim, you're on Ron & Fez.
Jim (Caller): I didn't realize it was legal to burn people.
Ron: No no...flags.
Jim: Oh, ok.
Ron: Also, try not to also get confused if you hear them talking about flags getting married. This is what our Congress decides to waste its time on.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Concert :: Starscape 2006

The 8th annual Starscape at Ft. Armistead Park in Baltimore, MD was held on Saturday, June 24th, 2006. When those Ultraworld fuckers say "rain or shine", they mean it.

Jim (George's friend I met on Thursday night at DJ? Acucrack) joined me since our mutual Starscape-going friends bailed on us at the last minute. We got as far as the parking lot before asking Google SMS where the nearest Walmart was (4.7 miles) and going to get some ponchos, umbrellas, and other wet-weather essentials. As it turned out, the umbrellas were important to keeping a gaggle of 16 year old girls from Bethesda dry before our "sex offender" alarms went off and we left them to their own devices.

There were quite a few complaints from people about this year's event:
  • The Graffiti Wall was too small
  • The lack of tents to protect from the rain (like in past years)
  • The quality of the sound system from the Drum and Bass stage
  • The delay in getting the various stages up and running

Be that as it may, The rain did not stop us.

The lack of electricity did not deter us.

Haters found a spot on the wall to plant their tag:

We caught Medeski Martin and Wood on the main stage:

BT performed on the Buzz Stage (even if it was for only about 12 minutes):

The Disco Biscuits rocked the main stage for over two hours.

While it wasn't really my scene, one of the coolest things I saw while wandering around was that the Progressive House stage was setup out on the newly rebuilt pier. Two of the stages were setup above the beach in the park, two were setup down on the beach, and one was on the fucking pier (and the people who were rocking to it literally rocked the fucking pier). Had they put the D&B stage out on the water, that pier would certainly have broken off into the harbor.

And something special just for George: guess who I ran into?

Sarah and Kate and Cathy. :)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Concert :: John Digweed performs for Buzz @ Nation

John Digweed was interviewed by the Boston Herald last week about how to be a successful DJ:

"After you reach a certain level of success, you get put on a pedestal," Digweed said. "The trick is to remember to let the music do the talking. After all, that’s what drew you in to begin with, right?"

Music is what Digweed’s latest project, "Transitions", is all about. Named for his seamless DJ-ing technique, "Transitions" started out as a globally syndicated, weekly satellite radio show and now has evolved into a wildly successful podcast as well, with more than 100,000 subscriptions in five months. It’s also spawned a new series of CDs, the first of which arrives Tuesday.

"The whole idea is to premiere fresh tunes on a weekly basis," Digweed said. "It’s very rare that I’ll play the same song twice on my show, so each week is a new experience. For the corresponding CD series, I think two releases a year gives an accurate snapshot of what the show is all about.

The music I’m choosing needs to be a bit hypnotic and trancelike with a fundamentally good groove, but it also needs to be a bit quirky. A lot of DJs fall into the trap of only mixing the big records and selling familiarity. I’m looking for the opposite, stuff that people haven’t heard that doesn’t sound at all bland."

Bland is the last word you could use to describe Digweed's Friday return to Buzz. DJ Chloe opened for Digweed and built the crowd into a frenzy before her handoff. It was an evening of break beats on the club-side, and the breaks took over the main room when Digweed called it a night.

The crowd was immense -- I haven't seen Buzz that busy for some time. Many people commented on the message board that they haven't danced like that for years.

Photos, by the way, snagged from the Buzz Life photo gallery.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Scientists make robot dogs smarter, cuter

From The Engineer Online:

"What has been achieved at Sony shows that the technology gives the robot the ability to develop its own language with which to describe its environment and interact with other AIBOs. It sees a ball and it can tell another one where the ball is, if it’s moving and what colour it is, and the other is capable of recognising it," Nolfi said.

The most important aspect is how it learns to communicate and interact. Whereas we humans use the word 'ball' to refer to a ball, the AIBO dogs start from scratch to develop common agreement on a word to use to refer the ball. They also develop the language structures to express, for instance, that the ball is rolling to the left. The researchers achieved this through instilling their robots with a sense of 'curiosity.'

And once the Teacher Aibo shows the Student Aibo how to do it's trick, Teacher nuzzles Student's tummy with his adorable, wet, puppy nose.

Concert :: DJ? Acucrack plays Alchemy @ Nation

Alchemy, the Goth/Industrial night at Nation, hosted several big name artists last night. Sadly, the one I wanted to see the most went on first.

There is nothing quite so odd as walking into Nation at 7:10pm on a Thursday night in complete daylight, only to wander into the dark of the main room to hear Jason Novak and Jamie Duffy spin their unique style of hard electronica with live vocals and jungle undertones.

With the help of two Powerbooks, at least four turn tables, a sound board, and probably the best visual effects I've ever seen projected behind them, DJ? Acucrack brought down the house. Had there been more than 30 people there at the time, Nation might have been demolished a few weeks earlier than planned.

Acucrack is part of Crack Nation, which is both their indie record label and a Flash animation house. They clearly developed the eclectic video streams that we watched while Jason and Jamie tore up their respective tables.

A short set at just under an hour, but well worth seeing live. The guys are in Philly tonight and at Pacha in NYC tomorrow, it's unfortunate that I already have plans or I might just follow them up for a second show.

The evening's lineup included:

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Dating Season 2004 comes to a close

I had a conversation with Joey over the weekend about dating season, and we came to the conclusion that my 2006 Dating Season had never really started because my 2004 Dating Season was still in progress. Virginia and I discussed that notion last night over six or seven pints of Rock Bottom's finest microbrew, and she agreed.

With that, I hearby declare that the 2004 Dating Season is at an end, as is the 2005 season. Contest Alpha John is hearby DQ'ed for both years and forefits any national rankings.

With that, ladies and gentleman, please join me in welcoming the official (albeit late) opening of the Alpha John's 2006 Dating Season.

Perhaps I should start with my new friend:

Monday, June 19, 2006

As Seen at Starbucks:

Unattended CHILDREN will be given an EXPRESSO and a FREE PUPPY


I want to be an unattended child. :(

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The First Rule of Dating Season

The first rule of dating season: Don't waste energy on a woman you have no intention of dating.

This is by far the most important rule of dating season, and one I have yet to master.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Andrew's Worst Nightmare

I met Tom for lunch at Tysons Corner mall, and had not been to the restaurant he suggested. I knew it was part of the recent renovation, but apparently it was downstairs and not all the way upstairs by the movie theatres.

Which is good, because this is what I saw when I got to the top of the escalator:

The picture isn't so great, but that would be about 100 children of all ages by a fake tree being sung to by a man with a headset and Peter Pan syndrome.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Today I am a PMP

At FELD, one of my first tasks was to put together a formal life-cycle for off-the-shelf applications. FELD is not the kind of organization that will ever be ISO-9000/ISO-9001/CMM certified, they exist solely because of heroics. Fred charged me with building a requirements analysis and project management process that was structured enough to be (somewhat) repeatable yet still flexible enough not to cripple the gypsies that worked on the circus.

To get everything sorted out, I looked at some of the better methodologies out there to pick and choose the best pieces from each. I studied up on the Rational Unified Process (the RUP), Carnegie Mellon's Capability Maturity Model (CMM), the SDLC, and the methodology that Fred put together while he was working for Xerox. Since we were dealing with COTS software and not software development, the rules were a little different.

Requirements and system selection were our two worst areas, but closely following was project management. FELD didn't really have anyone internally who understood formal project management, and frankly I wasn't that person. While I had done it informally many times and had a higher success rate that the people who were already there, that didn't make me a better project manager. As part of this initiative to formalize our methods, my Application Analyst and I would follow the Project Management Institute's "Project Management Professional" track and try to become certified PMPs. The majority of my required PMP training took place in 2003 and 2004, and I registered for the exam on June 14th, 2005.

Backing up, you can't just sit for the exam, you have to apply and meet PMI's requirements. Since I didn't have a Bachelors degree, I needed be a member of the Institute, to prove that I had "7,500 hours in a position of responsibility leading and directing specific tasks and 60 months of project management experience" in addition to 35 hours of Project Management Education. Once my application was accepted, I had to pay $400 for me to sit for the exam anytime within the next year.

I left FELD and came to George Mason last October, and decided on June 7th, 2006 to study and pass the PMP exam this summer while I'm off from school. I did some research and discovered that my membership at the Project Management Institute lapsed in March, and that I had to take my exam by June 14th, 2006 or I'd lose my time ticket and have to reapply. I made my appointment and started cramming.

Apparently whatever I did worked, because I passed the 200 question exam this morning. I'm trying to get my membership issue straightened out to be sure my certificate will arrive from the Institute, but by all rights I am a PMP.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Autocross School ala DCAWD and the SCCA

The DC All-Wheel Drive Car Club organized their third annual autocross class, which was taught by Brian Garfield from the Washington DC Area chapter of SCCA. Normally they teach levels I, II, and III separately, but we were able to combine elements from all three levels into a single day.

Before we got started, all three instructors sat us down and went over safety information and some specifics on autocross racing. The very first think we did was to tech our cars (as they would do at a race) and make there were no loose items in the car, that the driver floor mat was out, that the battery was bolted down tight, and that the tires were firmly attached (no loose lug nuts or wheel bearings).

Once all the cars were tech'ed, the autocross n00bs (including me) were sent to the figure-eight drills while the more experienced autocrossers started on the course. After about an hour we all switched.

For the figure-eight drills, Brian rode along to teach us two very important things: shuffle steering and how to use the accelerator to slow down and turn. With three sets of green cones on one side and another set on the other, the idea was to setup your turn and accelerate into the arc using the pedal alternate between going straight and turning (no brakes allowed).

The course was setup primarily for slalom (beginning and end) with a couple sweepers inside to keep us awake. We were shown a GPS-plotted course map before Greg walked us through and showed us what to look out for. Three people had seat time while three worked the course picking up cones, and then we switched.

During lunch, the instructors reset the course and made it much longer. We split the class in half again (six and six), only this time half would run the course more like a real autocross event while the other six worked the course. Once everyone had a chance to run and work, we did it again.

I'm tired, I'm sunburned, but I had an amazing time. There will definitely be more autocross in my future.

[ed.] Alan was good enough to track all my times in the last course:
First heat:

Second heat:

And compliments of Julian: More Pictures

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Pondering the new Honda Fit

I joined Andrew for Bill Maher on Saturday at D.A.R. Constitution Hall in DC, which turned out to be a much funnier show than I expected. Since I only have six months left on my car ballon, the conversation turned to possible replacements at the end of the evening.

I drive less these days, so I'm considering some more obvious choices like an Impreza Wagon (minus the WRX-part) and a VW Golf (Rabbit). I've also had some far less obvious choices stuck in my head like the Honda Fit or a Scion xA, with the likelyhood in mind that once I test drive either car, I'll probably still end up with another Impreza. Andrew brought up the Yaris, which I didn't even know existed, but his thinking was that he wouldn't be comfortable with a friend driving something as small as a Fit or a Yaris should it face-off against something much bigger.

Curious as to how big or small these cars are, I did some research on Edmunds:

The Washington Post had this to say:

Here is a car that is 20 inches shorter than the Honda Civic, previously the smallest car sold in America, but that has as much interior space as the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. The Fit's cabin is multi-configurable, meaning it can be changed around several ways to accommodate maximum hauling of stuff or people. It is family friendly.

As I often do with such vehicles, I enlisted the aid of Ria Manglapus, a neighbor, fellow Post employee and family friend, to give the Fit a real-world shakeout. Ria has two sons -- 11-year-old Q and Bori, 16 -- who keep her running from home to school and myriad places in between. Her taxi duties also include the hauling of equipment such as long bamboo kendo swords and musical instruments. She normally does all of the running around in her Honda Odyssey minivan.

But she managed to do with the Fit everything she could do with the substantially larger, more fuel-thirsty Odyssey. "I think I'll trade in my minivan," she said.

I was impressed, too. In the past, "small" often meant "cheap" and "boring" in automobiles. The Fit proves that is no longer the case. It is a zippy front-wheel-drive rascal with a 1.5-liter, 109-horsepower, in-line four-cylinder engine that uses regular unleaded gasoline. It maneuvers easily through city traffic and fits neatly in tight urban parking spaces. It is charmingly ugly, eliciting the affection one might have for a bulldog.

Ha! I get it. Bulldogs are ugly, but they're kind of cute in their uglyness.

In any event, Andrew and I agree we need to test drive a Fit and just what the thing is all about. I have until October to decide what I'll be tooling around town in when my WRX goes buh-bye.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

My ideas for the next Woot-off

Those of you who know me are familiar with my penchant for streams of consciousness. Many times when chatting me, it's like chatting with a poorly written AI-bot (I have canned dumb answers for even stupider questions like "What's up?"). To make up for that, I like to reserve the tiny thinking part of my brain for those times when I can throw everything in the mental wash with a big cup of bleach and wash on hot until everything turns pink.

Barry sent me this article about Anne Coulter blasting 9-11 widows right before Mike IMed me about a Woot-off:

Mike: Woot-Off !!!
theAlphaJohn: christ
theAlphaJohn: is there a vial of AIDS on there? I want to throw it in Anne Coulter's face
theAlphaJohn: or maybe a bucket of cancer
Mike: you'll have to stand in line.
Mike: what a bitch
theAlphaJohn: i'd like to throw a water balloon full of herpes on her stupid gash
theAlphaJohn: not that it would matter, no one is sticking their dick in that mess
Mike: lol. for sure.
Mike: actually, I think she has a dick.
Mike: albeit a little tiny one.
theAlphaJohn: what are you buying me on the woot-off?
Mike: already got you a couple of really neat electric air fresheners.
theAlphaJohn: :/
Mike: lol
theAlphaJohn: why arent there Real Dolls on there?
theAlphaJohn: or child-killing robots?
theAlphaJohn: or trannies?
theAlphaJohn: something i can use, or at least be entertained by?
Mike: your interests must lie outside the general public's interests. Imagine that.
theAlphaJohn: i doubt it
theAlphaJohn: i'm zero sigma from the mean
theAlphaJohn: which means i am the mean
Mike: I'll have to check that.
theAlphaJohn: and, ironically, i'm just plain mean
Mike: now there's something that makes sense.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Jenn and I discuss my (lack of) literary talent

Jenn: i was talking about the story you wrote about me being a horible person
theAlphaJohn: i have no idea, i'd have to see it
Jenn: it was a long time ago
Jenn: i thougth i was on the suny france website
theAlphaJohn: lol
theAlphaJohn: that was in 1998 jen
Jenn: i know but i still bothered me
Jenn: dont like when people i like dont like me
Jenn: or think less of me then i want them too
Jenn: do you know what im talking about now?
theAlphaJohn: vaguely
Jenn: do you still hate me? ;)
theAlphaJohn: every day
theAlphaJohn: and twice on sundays
theAlphaJohn: :)
Jenn: jerk
Jenn: so when i come visit, you're gonna make me sleep outside arent you?
theAlphaJohn: probably
Jenn: will you at least give me a pillow?
theAlphaJohn: perhaps a mountain of sod
theAlphaJohn: we'll see

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[via SMS]

If it's good to do what makes you happy, is it better to work to rid yourself of what makes you unhappy?

Monday, June 05, 2006

AIDS Turns 25

Aww...happy birthday, AIDS!

Remember when you were a toddler, and Sebastian Bach went on MTV News wearing a T-shirt that said, "AIDS kills fags dead?" And then when people were outraged, he came back on MTV news and "apologized" by saying, (I'll paraphrase because I can't find the exact quote) "It was wrong -- I have gay friends, and I can see how it would upset some people. My grandmother died recently and I'd be mad if someone wore a shirt that said, 'Cancer Kills Grandmas Dead'".

Would you really be mad Sebastian, would you?