Category Archives: Best Of

Popular, poignant, or otherwise significant.

Hot Truck Memories

Reflections In The Glass Facade

The big project for my department (and the entire Medical College) at the end of 2006 was the launch of our new clinical care building at 1305 York Avenue. For much of the length of the project, those of us in the IT shop simply referred to it by the most appropriate acronym: it was the new York Avenue Building, so it became YAB.

But eventually, the building was given a more donor-friendly name, and it became the Weill Greenberg Center. The appropriate acronym became WGC.

I refer to it now, as I did then, as “YAB”. Sometimes “1305”. But never “WGC”.

“WGC” still only means one thing to me: Wet Garlic and Cheese.

Continue reading Hot Truck Memories

Bucket Of Tears: A Review Of Dance Dance Revolution The Musical

Buckets Of Tears

It is a strange experience to watch something you once obsessed over – but no longer care for – get bastardized. You can tolerate much of it, perhaps even find some humor in it, because it’s no longer something you care for. But part of you can’t help but recall how strong that obsession once was, and feel that sharp taste of injury in the back of your throat.

I sat for 90 minutes last night in the Ohio Theatre, taking in the third public performance of Dance Dance Revolution, a new musical by Les Freres Corbusier.

For context: I started playing Dance Dance Revolution in September of 2001, and played at an unhealthy clip until the end of 2004, at which point things started to tail off. By this year, I’ve played less than 3 rounds worth of arrow smashing; I have moved on to other games to fulfill my music game addiction. But if I find myself near an empty DDR machine, chances are I will find my way back onto that stage and stomp through a few songs for old times’ sake.

Also: I am not a professional theatre reviewer. I do not frequently go to the theatre proper – I average 2.5 plays/musicals a year. This review should not be taken as anything more than a gamer opining on a show claiming to be inspired by a game he used to play.

Also: I ingested no alcohol or drugs prior to, during, or after the show.

Continue reading Bucket Of Tears: A Review Of Dance Dance Revolution The Musical

The Great Release

And it feels like it won’t come on
And it takes like you’re full of love
Still the time never to pay on
Still the time never to pay on

And it feels like I’m coming home
And it’s still like a merry cow
And it feels like it’s coming home
And it feels like it’s full of love
Still in time is the great release
Something dying will be a great release

I recently realized that I began writing for the web not long before the 2000 election season. There was no cause and effect there – I certainly wasn’t writing about anything deep on Day One – but I do find the timing curious. Soon, what had been a predominantly vain site about my school goings-on became my emotional release to the world.

As outlets go, I’ve been hard pressed to find one that can be more cathartic than writing: writing for myself, for a nebulous group of friends and coworkers, for the world. I write to preserve thoughts, to capture feelings. I write so that I will not – so that I can not – ever forget.

With that in mind: I do not ever want to forget how I felt at 5:58 in the morning, walking to PS 16 and finding a line, the first time I would ever have to wait to vote. I was #31 at my polling station. I could not cast my vote soon enough.

And I do not ever want to forget how I felt last night, at a quarter past ten, when the path to victory became clear and I began to eagerly count down the forty-five minutes left until the west coast closed and the election could be called.

And I do not ever want to forget how the nation and the world reacted at eleven o’clock the evening of November the 4th, as the tears came to my eyes.

And I do not ever want to forget watching John McCain concede – both for his attempts to mend the wounds he had caused during his campaign, and for him coming face to face with them, as his supporters booed the president-elect.

And I do not ever want to forget listening to President Obama’s victory speech, and realizing that I no longer had reason to doubt the possibility of the American spirit, to no longer believe that hope was little more than an exercise in futility.

I can not ever forget what the last eight years have done to this country. It has divided us, such that my own relatives feel that calling me a “commie pinko” is acceptable discourse. It has destroyed our good standing around the world. It has warped our values: intelligence and eloquence had become something that we no longer wanted in our leaders.

And I will not delude myself: the next four years will be extremely rough on our new government. I do not hold any expectations that everything that is broken will get fixed. President Obama does not have all the answers, nor should any one of us expect him to. But we should expect him to do right: to uphold our rights and empower us; to work with our allies and strengthen us; to deter our enemies and protect us; to set a good example and lead us. We will hold him accountable and demand transparency, just as we should any government.

But the electorate has spoken resoundingly. No longer are we a nation who can be cowed by our government in the name of security, fear, or war. A nation that can so strongly reject fear mongering has already found its strength again. And with the leadership we have elected, we have the possibility of rebuilding from the damage of those last eight years.

For the first time in my adult life, I am hopeful for this nation.

I do not ever, ever want to forget that.

The Zen Of SkyMall

Finding myself stuck in a non-JetBlue plane for a quick up-and-down flight, I attacked my gratis copy of SkyMall and discovered a wonderful world full of fact, wit, and astonishment. I have collected every useful nugget of “factual” information used to sell products, and extend them to you as a sort of bizarro-Coupland reading exercise. Alternately, you can just imagine them on fortune cookies. Enjoy.

Continue reading The Zen Of SkyMall

Sing When You’re Winning

Thursday night, we were playing Rock Band, and she was giggling again.

“What?” I asked between a break in the lyrics.

“Nothing, nothing!” Katie smirked as she kept banging on the drums.

But I knew what it was: my vocals were coming through too loudly, and they sounded ridiculous. A quick visit to the controller and my vocals were muted behind the lead vocals, allowing me to avoid being mocked for the time being.

Continue reading Sing When You’re Winning

Mashup: Closer To Business Time

In one hypothetical hand, I hold an instrumental version of Trent Reznor’s seminal (ha!) single, *Closer*. The original is directly sexual and raw. It continues to have one of the most familiar refrains in recent musical history – you know, the one about, er, doing things to people like an animal and feeling them from the inside.

(Warning: the song and the video, embedded below, are NOT SAFE FOR WORK. Also, do not play this if there are children in the area. Not because I don’t want them to see and/or hear it, but I don’t want to be held responsible if you hit the play button.)

In my other hypothetical hand, I hold the original staged version of *Business Time* by New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk rock parody band, *Flight Of The Conchords*. Never has the actual process of lovemaking been so accurately described.

(Strangely, the video for *Business Time* is flagged on YouTube, but the video for *Closer* is not.)

You can see where this is going, I’m sure. And certainly this hilarious photoshopped image will make it even clearer.

I would traditionally use this paragraph to half-heartedly apologize for ruining perfectly good songs in my mashups. Mocking my usual inability to find appropriate loops or sighing about parts where the track trainwreck, I would try to lower expectations.

Not this time. This one came out pretty well.

DOWNLOAD: Nine Inch Conchords – Closer To Business Time

(For the technically inclined, this was done in a very uncomplicated manner in Ableton Suite 7.)

HOWTO: iPhone Webclip Icons

I remember, years ago, I was baffled by the little 16×16 icons that were showing up in my URL toolbar, and it took a surprising amount of searching to find out how to create one. I refuse to let this happen again.

So: if you want to make a custom icon for your website that will show up in the Springboard when a user makes a “webclip”, using their iPhone or iPod Touch, the dirt simple way is:

* Create a 57×57 PNG.
* Name it “apple-touch-icon.png”
* Throw it in the root folder of your website. (Not the root of your server, the root of your web documents.)

Boom. If you add a webclip for vjarmy.com, you’ll see my smiling mug.
If you want more flexibility – perhaps you don’t have access to the site root, perhaps you want to use a different file name or format – you can use a link tag in the head of the document, such as:

<head>
<title>iHelloWorld</title>
<link rel="apple-touch-icon" href="/whatever.jpg"/>
</head>

I’ve tested this with a slightly larger (75×75) JPEG, and it works without trouble – it just scales things down.

If you’re testing this on your iPhone, you may notice a pause of a few seconds before the icon appears when you press “Add To Home Menu”. I’d imagine the icon only downloads when you request to make a webclip, instead of the “request it every time” method used for fetching favicon.ico. (As for why it’s a few seconds – well, that’s EDGE for you. The lag goes away when you use WiFi.)

Apple has more info on their iPhone Dev Center; look at “Create a WebClip Bookmark Icon”.

And don’t worry if your icon design skills aren’t up to snuff, but do worry if you care about the sanctity of your image:

>Safari will automatically composite the icon with the standard “glassy” overlay so it looks like a built-in iPhone or iPod application.

Addendum @ 9PM: I should note another oddity: there’s some degree of clipping off the sides of the icon that can’t really be controlled. I found this by scaling down a circular logo (in EPS format) to 57×57, and there was a noticeable clip on the sides. With that in mind, I recommend adding a pixel or two on the sides if you’re using a circular design. Note that scaling the icon down under 57×57 does not solve this, it merely scales it up to fit the 57×57.

Addendum @ 10PM: Neil Epstein, Technology Director for Gothamist LLC, says 47×47 seems to be the usable area, and that he had best luck with 45×45.

Addendum @ 1/16 7AM: Playground Blues notes that because of the resolution of the iPhone screen, using an oversized image (such as his 158×158 image) may result in a crisper icon. [via HicksDesign]

Last Train To Astroland

One of my favorite pieces of writing is David Foster Wallace’s collection of short pieces called _A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again_. There’s a piece inside it called *Getting Away From Already Pretty Much Being Away From It All*, a piece that “takes on the vulgarities and excesses of the Illinois State Fair”, if you’re the type to believe Wikipedia. It’s very reflective of the big-city-to-state-fair experience, but there’s one abstract paragraph that I love:

One of the few things I still miss from my Midwest childhood was this weird, deluded but unshakable conviction that everything around me existed all and only *For Me*. Am I the only one who had this queer deep sense as a kid? — that everything exterior to me existed only insofar as it affected me somehow? — that all things were somehow, via some occult adult activity, specially arranged for my benefit? Does anybody else identify with this memory? The child leaves a room, and now everything in that room, once he’s no longer there to see it, melts away into some void of potential or else (my personal childhood theory) is trundled away by occult adults and stored until the child’s reentry into the room recalls it all back into animate service. Was this nuts? It was radically self-centered, of course, this conviction, and more than a little paranoid. Plus the *responsibility* it conferred: if the whole of the world dissolved and resolved each time I blinked, what if my eyes didn’t open?

Astroland

Continue reading Last Train To Astroland

Xbox Support: The Text Adventure

You enter your apartment.
Buttons the cat greets you with a warm purr.

> EXAMINE ANSWERING MACHINE

The answering machine is black, with silver trim. The phone rests in the cradle. The red LED displays a solid "1", indicating you have one message you have already heard.

> TURN ON XBOX 360

You boot your Xbox 360. You reach the dashboard.

> LOG IN TO XBOX LIVE WITH RECOVERY ACCOUNT

You attempt to sign on with your recovery account, but you receive a network error.

> LOG IN TO XBOX LIVE WITH RECOVERY ACCOUNT

You sign on with your recovery account.

> CHECK POINTS ON XBOX 360

Achievement points or Microsoft points?

> CHECK MICROSOFT POINTS ON XBOX 360

You have 0 Microsoft points.

> FUCKITY FUCK FUCK

You kiss your mother with that mouth?

> PRESS BUTTON ON ANSWERING MACHINE

Which button?

> PRESS PLAY BUTTON ON ANSWERING MACHINE

A message from someone who sounds like "Suzette" plays. Your request to be refunded your points has been either put in or is being processed.

Suzette says she'll give you a call back within 24 to 48 hours, or you can call her at the phone number she mentions and give the case number.

This message was left Monday afternoon.

> CHECK DAY OF WEEK ON CALENDAR

Today is Wednesday.

> CHECK WATCH

It is 8:30 PM.

> DO COMPLICATED TIME MATH

Through a series of difficult equations, you deduce that it has been over 48 hours since Suzette has called.

The stress of the math makes you realize that you have been awake for 16 hours straight. You should think about going to bed.

> PICK UP PHONE

You pick up the phone.

> TAKE NOTEPAD

You pick up the notepad.

> TAKE PEN

You pick up a pen.

> TRANSCRIBE MESSAGE ON ANSWERING MACHINE

You get part of the phone number written down before the message ends.

> TRANSCRIBE MESSAGE ON ANSWERING MACHINE

You get ten digits, but they may not be right.

> TRANSCRIBE MESSAGE ON ANSWERING MACHINE

You get all ten digits right and the first four of the case number.

You are tired. You should think about going to bed.

> TRANSCRIBE MESSAGE ON ANSWERING MACHINE

You now have all of the relevant information.

> CALL 1-800-469-9269 ON PHONE

You dial 1-800-4MY-XBOX.

> OH CHRIST IT'S A TRAP

General Akbar would be proud.

The Xbox tone plays. Max, the automated menu, answers the phone in a chipper voice. He begins: "Hey, thanks for calling Xbox Customer support."

> SAY "OPERATOR"

Max doesn't respond.

Max says "Your call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance. My name is Max, and I can help you find what you're looking for. Do you need help with: Xbox Console, Xbox Live, Xbox Games, or Accounts and Billing?"

> SAY "XBOX LIVE"

Max continues: "Which console are you calling about? The original Xbox, or the Xbox 360?"

You are very tired. You should go to bed.

> SAY "XBOX 360"

"Xbox 360, gotcha. Here's a tip. You can visit xbox.com/marketplace to get the latest information about downloads and other information about Xbox Live."

> SIGH

You sigh.

"So what are you trying to find out about?," Max continues.

> SAY "OPERATOR"

Max responds, "I'll see if I can find someone else who can help you out. The representative will be able to help you faster if you have your gamer tag ready."

You are extremely tired. Go to bed.

> WAIT

A female voice says "PLEASE WAIT!", followed by two tones.

> PREPARE TO ROCK OUT TO HOLD MUSIC

You get in a comfortable position to chair dance.

You are about to pass out from exhaustion.

An automated female voice answers the phone.

> QUIRK BROW

"Thank you for contacting Xbox. We are unable to answer your call at this time. Please try calling again later, or visit the Xbox web site at www.xbox.com. Thank you for calling. Goodbye."

The phone disconnects.

You pass out.

GAME OVER

Your final score is 0 out of 17,000 Microsoft Points.

RESTORE, RESTART, QUIT?