Friday, June 29, 2007

You Know You're Living in the Future When...

Today, in all seriousness, I actually used the phrase, "Bad Robot!" to admonish my Roomba after it kept going under the desk even though I specifically told it not to.

My car navigation system knows where I am at all times and tells me where to go if I miss a turn. My Roomba cleans my floors for me. I videochat with friends and family over the high-speed network that has overtaken the world. A steady stream of choral music is beamed to me from outer space. And of course, I glide to work on a magic upright broomstick.

On deck: Holograms.
After that: Flying cars.

I. Love. The. Future.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Segway Reaction of the Day!

June 23, 2007

A boy, perhaps 10 years old, stops me as I'm waiting at a cross walk. He is clearly excited about this newfangled transportation mechanism.
"Where did you get that!" he shouts out.
I remove my headphones. "Segway store," I say.
"Segway store? What's a Segway?"
"This is called a Segway!" I say with a smile. "There's a Segway store at 13th and I."
"Oh," says the boy. He looks contemplative. "How much does it cost?"
I know my answer will dishearten him, but it's best he learn how to deal with unfortunate realities now. "Five thousand dollars," I say.
His face scrunches up. He had clearly been intending to proceed directly to the store, until, that is, I burst his bubble. "I wish it was cheaper," he says. "I don't have the money."
The signal turned to "Walk," and as I glided away, I shouted behind me, "You will someday!!!"

Spin-my-Blog Post OR The False Promise of Voice-Recognition

Good morning, everyone & welcome to the new & improved audio enhanced version of before I sleep Batman. When I say audio I speak not of new thing or technology that allows you to hear audio & sounds & music & explosions & sound effects & parts(?) & bangs & so on & so forth. Ney dear viewer I speak of a

Voice-to-Screen messaging - powered by SpinVox

WELL! So much for that that failed experiment. I swear, every year or two, The Powers That Be swear that they have finally perfected voice-recognition technology, and why don't you try it out? So I have:
  • I tried IBM ViaVoice to transcribe word processing documents. ("It was the festive times, it was the Worcester ties." WHAT?!)
  • I tried Apple's built-in system software to control my computer with words. ("Open... Mail. Compose... New... Message... NO, cancel that. Cancel that. CANCEL THAT. Gah!")
  • I tried SimulScribe to transcribe my voice mails. (A message left for me detailing someone's failed experiences with his high school prom completely reversed the meaning, and transcribed that he actually went to the prom and had a good time.)
  • And today, I have tried the Spin-my-Blog service, a promising new start-up that lets me merely dial a phone number and speak my thoughts aloud. The magic of technology will convert my thoughts to text! At least, that's how the theory goes. In practice, the service not only garbled my words ("Before I Sleep dot Net," not "Before I Sleep Batman." "Newfangled technology," not "New thing or technology." "Pops and bangs, and so on," not "Parts(?) & bangs and so on.")..... but even more appalling, the damn thing cut me off! I was all set to wax eloquent for at least 2-3 minutes. What did I get? 20 seconds at best.
So much for voice-recognition technology. I expect I'll try again in 2009 or so. Oy vey!

* Afterthought: Hmmm..... "Before I Sleep Batman." I like the sound of that....

Oops... I Wooted.

Most of you know that I am a tremendous technophile, a gregarious gadget guru, a -- well, you get the point. I loves my electronic gizmos. Anyway, is a wonderful site I've been checking daily for at least a couple years now. The premise is simple and cunning: Offer one product per day, heavily discounted, and when the product is sold out, that's it. Check back tomorrow, folks, at 1 a.m. EST. Maybe we'll have something you like.

I haven't wooted in some time, but tonight they had a great XM bundle for a really good price: an XM SkyFi2 (the satellite radio receiver) plus car kit (to listen to it in the car) plus boom box (to listen to it wherever) for a grand total of $50 + $5 shipping. It's refurbished, yes, but these things tend to hold up well over time. And it's still a substantial savings over what it normally costs.

So, I wooted. I don't woot very much -- the last time was in November -- but when I do, it's usually for something I've wanted for a long time. Like Roomba! As for XM radio, I am a HUGE fan, and when I saw this deal, I knew I couldn't pass it up. I posted a comment in the Woot discussion board, explaining my rationale:
Jun 28, 2007 1:59 AM Awesome. I'm in for one.

I bought the first generation SkyFi with car and home adapters back in 2003, and it was one of the best music-related decisions I ever made. I am a big classical fan, and XM comes with two stations of classical as well as one devoted to nothing but choral and opera! Admittedly not for everyone... but its ability to cater to niche markets is what makes XM so great. Other fantastic stations are AudioVisions (new age stuff, think "Hearts of Space"), and Frank's Place (Sinatra-style).

The SkyFi is still going strong, but I left it back home with my parents. I thought I wouldn't need XM these days, since digital cable comes with all those digital music stations... but the programming is nowhere near as quality as XM, and I don't like having to keep my TV on (wearing out the LCD) to listen to it. This package deal is great. XM radio via satellite sounds much better than FM when you get a strong signal (which I almost always do). I'm especially excited that the SkyFi2 has a built-in FM transmitter -- I can finally use it in the car again! (Cars haven't had tape decks for years......)

I've never really been a fan of iPods and MP3s in general. I like a lot of variety in my music. And I love hearing new classical and choral pieces I wouldn't otherwise know about. XM is wonderful for all that. Before I tried it, I never would have PAID for radio. But once I tried it, I was hooked. And when you get used to studying or reading to a neverending stream of classical and choral on XM 110, 112 and 113, or relaxing in bed to Hearts of Space on XM 77... well, you don't WANT to go back to random MP3s. Or worse, to silence!


My Woots:
• iRobot Roomba Discovery SE (11/6/06)
• Saitek Mephisto Travel Chess Computer (4/14/06)
• Kensington USB 2.0 PocketHub 2 pack (4/4/06)
• Mystery Brand 6 Piece 100 watt Speaker Set (11/18/05)
• ScreenPlay 4805 Entertainment Bundle (10/18/05)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

O Happy Day: I am the highest ranked!

Today marks a momentous occasion in my Web 2.0 existence. For the first time ever, my Engadget comments have been voted not just "highly ranked," but "highest ranked" by the fine readers of Engadget!

The story in question details a funny little provision of the AT&T terms of service, which state that if you buy an iPhone, you have to activate it or else you will also lose iPod functionality itself. That is, you won't even be able to play your songs! I know, what is the point of buying an iPhone without also signing up for service? Admittedly, this is an unlikely scenario, but it is possible that someone might want it mainly for the wide-screen iPod functionality and the ability to surf the Web via WiFi when sitting on the commode. (Yes, some people like to surf the web from the little boy's room. So sue me!)

Anyway, I noted that if this rumour is true, the DOJ's Antitrust division will surely be interested, seeing as that they frown upon tying of products. Some idiot named Justin started disagreeing with me rather forcefully, saying that I am not a good lawyer, and other such nonsense. I kept responding, trying to clarify my points, respond to his arguments, and so on, but he was adamant!

My self-confidence wavered. Was I wrong? I wondered. Am I not a good lawyer? But then I noticed the rankings. Engadget has a nifty little feature whereby users can click a plus or minus to vote on the quality of the comment they are reading. Most comments are ranked "neutral," but some are clearly favored or disfavored by the audience. Imagine my gleeful surprise when I found that my comments were either ranked "highly" or "highest," while the idiots I was arguing with were ranked "low!"

The People have spoken... and I win again!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Its parts are greater than the sum?

  • "Who needs the other 160!" -Norm Scribner, upon hearing the 30-person group he had chosen to sing the Ford's Theatre Holiday Celebration

Segway Reaction of the Day!

Friday, June 22

I rolled on over to Ford's Theatre (where Lincoln was shot) for rehearsal, only to find there was no bike rack in sight. "Excuse me," I said to a guard, "do you know where there's a bike rack nearby?" They didn't really know, and I was about to go in search of one, when the security guards inside the building offered to let me store my Segway inside -- without my even asking! Even more surprising is these were National Park Service guards (Segways are actually banned from all National Park Service property).

Most amusing: I leaned my Segway up against the wall just inside the building... and the guards put orange cones around it! Ha! Awesome!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

My Fraternity

Tonight the Collegiate Network (CN), which funds hundreds of conservative student newspapers across college campuses nationwide, held a cocktail reception for all its members and alumni in DC. My alma mater, The Michigan Review, had a strong presence, with several current members and former editors present. Pictured are five editors-in-chief running a 17 year span. Incredible to get us all together! (Note that as the years progress, the human race seems to grow smaller. By 2032, the average editor-in-chief is expected to be 3'6" tall. I believe this is all part of Evolution's master plan.)

During college, I spent most of my free time in Suite One, the home of the Michigan Review. From 40-hour Production Weekends, to those evenings I was there so late that I decided just to sleep in the office, the Review was my college experience. When I think back on college, the clearest images in my mind are moments from the Review. Being awake at 3 a.m., editing the latest issue in a campus computing lab with my best friends. Sitting around in Suite One, working on our new hand-me-down computers while Sinatra plays in the background. C.J. cracking jokes. Driving the finished paper to our publisher in Howell, MI, at 6 a.m. on no sleep... and returning a few days later to pick up 5,000 finished copies. To this day, my best friends are drawn from those kindred spirits I met in Suite One almost 10 years ago.

Ah, the Michigan Review. It stole my youth and killed my GPA... and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

The Boss

The Boss, originally uploaded by CaseWriter21.

Every day, I am faced with Scott's squinty little eyes, wondering aloud where my memo is, or warning me that in the real world people aren't allowed to do work at Starbucks -- even if one does his best thinking there. He would settle for mediocre conformance over stellar individuality. This is my boss. His name is Scott.

New Feature: Segway Reaction of the Day!

I was originally planning on posting on occasional story about the most recent reaction I had gotten while gliding about the City. Then I realized: I get interesting reactions almost every day. And so this regular feature is born.

Eventually I plan to have the last few "SRDs" in a column on the right side of the page, with a link to the full archive. For now, though, for simplicity's sake (and because I can't figure out how to do that), I'll just post the last four
right here.

Segway Reactions of the Day (SRD):

June 21: As I'm trying to lock Seggie* up to a light pole (which is proving too big to get my cable lock around), a minivan stops in the middle of the street as the driver, a middle-aged woman, rolls down her window. "Do you love it?" she shouts, smiling. I respond: "I do! It's great!" I rattle off some positives -- getting to work in the time it takes to wait for the bus; saving money -- but the woman needs no convincing. I tell her she should get one. She thanks me for my time and drives away.

UPDATE (11 pm): New SRD: As I'm unlocking it after a reception, I notice three foreigners watching it intently. A man is describing to two women how it works. They are all speaking in Spanish, and I can't understand much, but I am acutely aware that they are watching me. After I get it unlocked, I stand on the platform and look at them. Now that they know I see them, they smile back at me. I briefly explain how it works, demonstrating how it responds to my slightest movements, while the man translates my words for the ladies. After a moment, I say, "Adios." They light up, and respond in unison, "Adios!!!" I turn and zoom away.

June 20: Toward the end of my commute home down Reservoir Road, I pass a group of older foreign women sitting next to the sidewalk outside the French Embassy. They all look up as I pass, and one of them actually starts applauding. She probably thinks it's hard to balance, and is applauding my skill. Little does she know it's doing all the work for me!

June 19: I'm heading back from a comedy show at Dupont Circle around 11 pm, and as I pass the Metro, an attractive woman calls out to me. "Excuse me sir, how does that work?!" I tell her it balances for me. "You have to let me try it," she says, approaching me, "it's my birthday!" I step down and put it in Turtle Mode, ready to give my standard Beginner's Lesson. But before I have a chance to tell her what to do, she steps up on it like an old pro. Very graceful, no beginner's shake. I show her how to move, and she asks me some more questions. I like her -- she's cute and spunky and very intelligent. Perhaps I can parlay this into another encounter? "By the way, happy birthday," I say. "How old are you?" Her response: "Seventeen!" Damn.

June 18: I'm returning from work, dressed in suit and tie. Stopped at a crosswalk, some guys next to me are clearly curious. I say hello, and one of them asks me, "Does it work?" Not how does it work, but does it work. I don't really know how to answer that... I'm standing on it and it's moving me around just fine, after all. I consider my answer, and carefully respond, ".........Yes."

*I would like to come up with a more creative name for the flying scooter than Seggie. If you have any suggestions, please drop them in the comments. So far I'm considering "Bruiser," "Steve," and "Donnie Milton the Fourth."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Sexual Appetites of DC Interns

  • "I once had online sex in Second Life.
    I just wanted to see what it was like.....
    It was weird." -Neil the Intern
Clearly Monica was not the only lascivious 20-something to intern in our Nation's Capital.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Fast Facts About My Bar Exam Study Habits

A good friend sent me a brief note the other day indicating his frustration with bar review: "Bar studying is tedious. I missed a couple of lectures and I made one of them up today... 4 hours of evidence, what a drag."

I sent him a reassuring note, which I think will be helpful to others in his situation:
  • I skipped the last hour of almost every Bar/Bri lecture.
  • During the first 5 weeks, I skipped perhaps 1/6 lectures in their entirety and did not make any up.
  • I skipped the entire last week of class.
  • I overslept on the day of the practice MBE.
  • I never did any of the "practice" essays to send to BarBri for scoring.
  • I did MAYBE 20 practice MBE questions per day, and that was on a good day.
  • I often did the MBE questions while recumbent biking at the gym. I think that conditioned my brain to be able to concentrate under physical pressure. Made testing day seem like a peaceful beach in comparison.
  • I split the rest of my time between class, skimming the short outlines (didn't read the long outlines), and watching TV.
  • Didn't even attempt the essays until about 3 weeks before the test, once I had a basic grounding of knowledge.
  • Oh, and I always TOTALLY BOMBED them in practice. Missed half the things they talked about in the Perfect Essay samples.
  • On the MBE, I passed by 11 points, almost "multistating out."
  • On the essays, I ended up getting two perfect 10s, a 9 and four 8s.
  • I passed with flying colors.

In other words: You'll be fine.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Musical Voice Mail

I am a musical person, and I have musical friends. I'm not sure in which direction the causality points -- if musical friends flock to me because I am a musical person, or if I am a musical person because I have surrounded myself with musical friends -- but either way, it leads to fairly entertaining voice mails. Sometimes I can make them out, sometimes I can't, but they're always a nice little surprise.

With that, I would like to start a new "occasional feature" here at B-i-S: Entertaining Voice Mails! I will post these as I receive them, and maybe I'll even go into my archives to find some oldies-but-goodies. Here's one from Fun DM3.

And remember: If YOU want to be featured on B-i-S, just give me a call!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Tale of Speed Dating: Second Time's a Charm!

Gweepay's MugGood day everyone! Welcome to another installment of "Hurry Dating on U Street!" Last year, the subtitle was "OR: Hurry Up and Get Me Outta Here!" -- but this year, things were a bit different.

Matt's MugThat they were, Gweepay, that they were. Whereas last year we had to deal with several incredibly unattractive women, and one who may or may not have been the Biggest Witch of All Time, this year... well, I can't think of a single girl who would take the new crown as Bitchy McBitchBitch. They were generally pretty pleasant, with a couple definite winners in the bunch.

Gweepay: The girls this year were, in the aggregate, highly preferable to the motley crew whose presence we graced at the last event. First, the median level of physical attractiveness was much higher at this event than the last. Of 13 girls, I would say that I found all but 2 fairly attractive, and even the two that I didn't find attractive had great personalities. There were no Bitchy McBitchBitches at this event. You won't get to hear me utter my catch phrase, "what a bitch!" on this post. It was just that good.

Matt: That it was, Gweepay, that it was. But I'll bet I can make you utter your catch phrase yet!

Gweepay: Ho ho, go ahead and try! But why don't we get started. Let's go through the girls one at a time. When we were first asked to take a seat, I decided to sit as far away from Matt the Red and the Tough Talkin' Texan as possible. That's not because I didn't want them to hear my game. As everyone knows, I don't have any game. It was largely because girls would get freaked out by meeting three lawyers in a row, two from Michigan, two who went to Georgetown Law, and at least two who had many of the same jokes. I headed to the far left side of the room and sat across from this Indian girl, Virpal.

Matt: Dave, is that pronounced like "Purple"?

Gweepay: No, Matt, I believe it rhymes with "Beer Call." Anyway, because it took a few minutes for the event to start, I was able to converse with Virpal for a far longer period than the 4.5 minutes typically allotted for each girl. My experience with her was very positive. Since I was the first one that she talked to, she had tons of stuff to talk about, and I found her charming, pleasant, and generally the type of girl I like, complete with a love for banter and sufficiently assertive without being bitchy. I checked yes for Beer Call. Er, Virpal.

The next girl I remember talking to was a cute Asian girl. Yes, yes, Young Shin. She was very much an Asian girl... and I don't mean that as a pejorative! She seemed upbeat, fun, cute, and playful. I can't remember a thing we talked about, but I did get a good impression.

Now, the guy directly in front of me was a real piece of work. Every time the moderator blew the whistle, we were all supposed to end our conversations, get up, and move on to the next table. Well, this guy took his sweet old time, trying to make sure he got a few seconds of post-whistle conversation in with each girl. This meant that I had to stand over the table and wait for him to move. This also meant that I got to hear what he was saying. As he got up from one table, I heard him tell the girl at the table that he was an archeologist/oceanographer. Then, I sat down across from her. This girl reminded me of Matt's ex-flame, Sweetie. She was a stately brunette dressed in a very dignified manner. She was from the south. She was very sweet. Anyway, we started chatting and naturally she asked me what I do. I replied, "Oh, I'm an archeologist/oceanographer."
  • "Really?!" she said as she looked at me in shock.
  • "No, I'm just playing. I just heard that guy," I said. She laughed and laughed and laughed. She had a great laugh.
Matt: That she did, Dave, that she did. There's nothing better than a great laugh. Her name was Amanda, which is a pretty good name, despite the fact that it has the word "Man" in it. That kind of gives me pause. You may remember that when we saw her before the event, I mentioned that it looked like she was wearing a wig... she was all dressed up and looked kind of like one of Jennifer Garner's spy characters on Alias!

Dave: Yes, I do recall you mentioning that! You two seemed to get along well... Tell us, Matt, was it a wig?

Matt: Funny you should ask. During our HurryDate, I specifically questioned whether her hair was real, or whether it was a wig! She feigned shock and told me it was real. But I wasn't convinced, so I actually reached over the table and tugged on it! Admittedly, it wasn't the most gentlemanly thing to do, but she was my final HurryDate, and by this point in the night, I had already consumed a very well done Long Island in addition to those three Yuenglings, so my impulse control was not exactly operating at peak efficiency. Anyway, her hair was on there pretty good and tight, so I'm assuming it was real. Now, by this point, I had established a rapport with her, and negged her as recommended in The Game. My four minutes were almost up, and so it was time to use my Gold Material.

The wig thing wasn't your Gold?

Matt: No! That was just a way for me to A) be memorable, and B) physically break the plane, so to speak, that was separating me from the end zone. So, as all BeforeISleep visitors know, I purchased a Segway a couple weeks ago, and it's awesome. Just passed 100 miles. So I ask Amanda if she knows what a Segway is. She perks up and says of course. So I say, "If you circle Yes to Number 27....... you get to ride a Segway." She laughed and laughed! "Do you say that to all the girls?" she asked. I nodded and smiled mischievously. Ah, that sweet laugh.

Gweepay: Wow, sounds like you won't forget her anytime soon. Now, the girls I definitely won't forget were a group of three sexy chicas who were apparently in attendance only for purposes of general amusement. One conversation went something like this:
  • Girl: So, this your first time?
  • Me: Nah, I've done one of these before.
  • Girl: Oh. Get you laid?
  • Me: What?
  • Girl: Did the last event get you laid?
  • Me: Heh. I wish.
  • Girl: I mean, that's why people come here.
  • Me: You're telling me.G
  • Girl: What's your favorite position?
  • Me: Sexual?
  • Girl: Is there any other?
  • Me: The bottom.
  • Girl: Really? Why?
  • Me: The top is too much work.
  • Girl: Hahahahahaha. That's horrible!
  • Me: So are you gonna mark me down?
  • Girl: I told you, I'm leaving town. I'm not marking anybody down.
  • Me: Come on, just mark me down and we'll do some of those things we talked about.
  • Girl: Hahahahahahahahahaha!
The last girl I spoke with is the Girl Who No One Remembers. Neither Matt the Red nor Tough Talkin' Texan remember anything about her. Her name is Jodie, and she was very shy. She is a major introvert, or an "I" to the Myers-Briggs groupies, and she told me that she was exhausted having to talk to so many people. I can relate, I'm a pretty solid "I" myself, but I doubt she'll get many matches. Especially since I had to explain to her that she had to go home and enter her choices into the system in order to even, you know, receive a single mutual match. But she was still cute. And I still checked yes.

Matt: Yeah, I remember her now. She was very cute, but very quiet. I think I circled Yes, but only because if I don't remember someone, that means they weren't HORRIBLE. So I give them the benefit of the doubt. Actually, I think I circled yes for 12 out of 13.

Gweepay: I checked yes to 10 of 13 girls. Two of the three I didn't select I just wasn't attracted to, and the third got off on the wrong foot with me. I told her I found it interesting that she was from the Bahamas, and she got all defensive and asked me why it was so interesting. Perhaps I just touched a nerve, but it rubbed me the wrong way.

Matt: Wow, what a bitch.

Gweepay: I know, what a -- ooooh, you almost got me!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Fun with Sea Creatures!

Fun in Chicago!, originally uploaded by CaseWriter21.

I flew to Chicago this weekend for my sister's year-end play (she takes classes at Act One Studios), and got to spend a couple days doing touristy things... like going to the Shedd Acquarium and buying a Coral Reef* hat! As soon as I saw a 10-year-old wearing one in the elevator, I knew I had to have it. I ran frantically down to the gift shop and excitedly asked them, "Where are those awesome hats?!" Here, I pose with my family as they hold onto their Special boy.

Lots more Chicago pics here.

*Note: At first, because my fingers have their own muscle memory, I typed "Choral Reef." Now wouldn't that be interesting.....