The Washington Canard
Where C-SPAN is the local TV news

Sunday, January 25, 2009

This post doesn't necessarily require an introduction, but here I am writing one so it would just be a waste of time to delete it now:

Phase One: iCame, iSaw, iPhone
Buy iPhone on the first day of its release, after much anticipation, and it works great, especially once I figure out how to type accurately at a deliberate speed on the touch screen keyboard.

Phase Two: The Dead Zone
That's right, a dead zone develops on the upper seventh of eight imaginary regions north to south on iPhone's face, and they replace it no questions asked; store pops out my SIM card and gives me a loaner until the replacement arrives in two days' time.

Phase Three: The Curious Case of the Case
Apple kind of screws over us early adopters by slashing the price by $200 or a full third, though eventually gives original customers $100 credit at the Apple Store to make up for it, with which I buy a plastic case that I use on and off for awhile until finally pretty much off, pretty much just for taking up too much pocket room.

Phase Three: iPhone Falling Out of Place
Attend Radiohead concert at Nissan Pavillion, epic for being Radiohead of course but also for the many inches of rain dropped on the venue that afternoon and evening, reducing the amphitheater to a muddy hillside and flood zone, where late into the show amid taking ill-advised photos I drop the iPhone briefly into the mud, after which for awhile every time I plug in the phone it gives me an error message stating that this accessory is not designed for use with the iPhone and would I like to switch to Airplane Mode so something unspecified yet bad does not happen, to which I answer no, and while I still occasionally see this message it's not really a problem.

Phase Three: You Can't Go Home Again
Drop my phone this time I think on the hardwood floor of my room, causing the next mechanical error: when pressed, my Home button doesn't register anything at all, which seems to mean that if I start using an application I can't stop using it unless I turn the phone completely off, which seems to be a pretty serious might-have-to-take-it-in problem until it becomes more responsive in a few days, and then for a period of weeks it sometimes doesn't respond at all or other times registers a double-click, which brings up the iPod application, which I then have to click back out of and that does usually work because more and more the Home button is registering single clicks more and more, so that pretty much works itself out, no major issue.

Phase Four: Partially Shattered Glass
Drop the phone this time on the main platform tile in the Rosslyn Metro on my way to work one morning, which is a bit more violent than occasional typical falls, and instantly I notice that the face of the screen is cracked -- but only up in the mostly non-functional glass-but-not-screen black matte corner which I instantly know will not greatly affect my usage as long as the internals are all OK, and in fact it's still playing my music at this point so hey, looks like I dodged a bullet, and sure it looks like hell but what have I had it for now, almost 18 months and well after the introduction of the 3G or second version of the iPhone so really it seems I can keep this thing operational even under occasionally serious duress because this thing really is pretty well constructed, and who cares if it's cosmetically damaged, if anything that's a badge of honor at this point.

Phase Four: Touch and Go
On my way to work then a few months later, I'm not even noticing how my earphones' cord is getting caught on my Eddie Bauer bag until it pulls the device all the way out of my pocket and clattering down to the tile at McPherson Square, where I watch as it finally comes to a stop not three inches from the edge of the platform, and as visions of jumping down to retrieve it from the tracks with three minutes to the next train thankfully exit I pick up my iPhone to notice that now the power button now appears flush with the body of the phone, meaning stuck in fact apparently permanently so, which seems to be a very bad state for the phone's usability, and indeed it is because whenever it goes to sleep it immediately starts to shut down, but then once off I suppose it notices that the toggling power button is engaged so it turns on, after which it gets to a certain point in the process where it notices the toggling power button is engaged so it turns off, and it does this in approximately 45 second cycles endlessly, until I plug it back in, whereupon it asks to be shut down and I say no, and it then alerts me for the first time in some time that this accessory is not designed for use with the iPhone, etc., so I choose no again, and it works fine as long as it is plugged in or stays awake after being unplugged, so now I've realized the way to keep this thing functional until the third iteration of the iPhone comes out in a few months (I hope) is that when I need to put it away, I'll put an album on (presently Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's self-titled) and set it to repeat then close out the iPod app (still running) to open the iLight app, which accepts no touch screen input and so harmlessly goes dark after a minute, but because it is still playing music it's not actually asleep, thus will not toggle itself off and on, and will come back to life easily by again touching the Home button, which this is better by far than just changing settings so the device never goes to sleep, as the battery is drained much faster displaying pixels on the lighted face than it is just playing music, so that will pretty much work if I just remember to do it, otherwise when I forget to do that I'll just have to wait until I can plug it in either at home or at work, both of which being places where I have docks that also recharge my two Bluetooth headsets, which why I have two don't even ask, though one once survived a trip through the washing machine and now also appears to have survived being momentarily dropped into a bucket of Pine-Sol last weekend, which by the way compares favorably with the $100 V-MODA headphones I bought a year ago and which have now failed on me four times, yet V-MODA refuses to give me a refund even though I've asked/demanded one vehemently starting the third failure but I've given up, and pair number five will arrive in the mail in another few days, but back to the iPhone itself basically I'm left wondering if maybe I'd save myself a lot of grief (though not money) and just got a 3G (the current phone, operating on the third generation of wireless networks) even though I expect the 3G (by which I mean third generation of the iPhone device itself) to come out by maybe July i.e. the two-year anniversary of my pre-replacement original but who knows what will happen when I drop it next, so really I could go either way at this point.

Photo of broken-but-working iPhones courtesy respres and thecameo on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons. Thankfully my iPhone's glass face is not so badly damaged as on either pictured, but it's what you can't see that's truly screwed up. To see my iPhone in earlier, happier and unboxinger times, see here.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

The word "fisking" -- originating in the blogosphere ca. 2001 -- has fallen somewhat into disuse in recent years, especially as the 'sphere has expanded to include many who weren't around back in its earliest days.

For the uninitiated, it refers to a line-by-line, or paragraph-by-paragraph, refutation of an odious written work, often with an acidic or sardonic tone. The referent is one Robert Fisk, a British columnist whose absurdly self-abegnating columns from Afghanistan made him a pariah, at least until he was forgotten. Forceful responses from bloggers such as Andrew Sullivan gave rise to the term itself.

But this eponym is worth keeping around, and it's up to armchair cultural anthropologists like yours truly to point out earlier examples of the form where they find them.

Which brings us to the once-popular and still-familiar 1936 book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. I picked up a copy from Amazon recently, and have been reading it on the Metro to work. In one early chapter, Carnegie explains how persuasion is best accomplished by appealing to your persuadee's self-interest, and as a counter-example reprints a letter from an officious adman and intersperses it with his own commentary. Carnegie introduces the section thus:
This letter was sent to the managers of local radio stations throughout the country. (I have set down, in brackets, my reactions to each paragraph.)
And here, for your reading interest, is a partial reproduction:
Mr. John Blank,
Dear Mr. Blank:
The ------ company desires to retain its position in advertising agency leadership in the radio field.

[Who cares what your company desires? I am worried about my own problems. The bank is foreclosing on my house, the bugs are destroying the hollyhocks, the stuck market tumbled yesterday. I missed the eight-fifteen this morning, I wasn't invited to the Jones's dance last night, the doctor tells me I have high blood pressure and neuritis and dandruff. And then what happens? I come down to the office this morning worried, open my mail and here is some little whippersnapper off in New York yapping about what his company wants. Bah! If he only realized what sort of impression his letter makes, he would get out of the advertising business and start manufacturing sheep dip.]

This agency's national advertising accounts were the bulwark of the network. Our subsequent clearances of station time have kept us at the top of agencies year after year.

[You are big and rich and right at the top, are you? So what? I don't give two whoops in Hades if you are as big as General Motors and General Electric and the General Staff of the U.S. Army all combined. If you had as much sense as a half-witted hummingbird, you would realize that I am interested in how big I am--not how big you are. All this talk about your enormous success makes me feel small and unimportant.]

We desire to service our accounts with the last word on radio station information.

[You desire! You desire. You unmitigated ass. I'm not interested in what you desire or what the President of the United States desires. Let me tell you once and for all that I am interested in what I desire--and you haven't said a word about that yet in this absurd letter of yours.]
Zing! Dale Carnegie wasn't warblogger, but he certainly could have fit in with those whippersnappers.

Cross-posted from Blog P.I.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Statehood -- and DC's conspicuous lack of it -- is a perennial issue in the District, and last week it came up again when the city encouraged the President-elect to affix those "TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION" plates to his presidential limousine. President Clinton used them, President Bush did not, and one expects President Obama will do so as well.

Here is Matt Yglesias's blissfully un-nuanced assessment:
I’d like ... congress to use its power to admit new states to admit the State of Columbia as the fifty-first state. You would, of course, need to carve out a portion of the existing city to continue serving as the “federal district” and capital of the country. But that could easily be made a compact area around the Mall where nobody (except the President and the First Family) lives and thus nobody is denied voting rights. ... It would be totally constitutional.
Of course it would be constitutional. That isn't what's keeping Washington from becoming a state. The bigger issues include the city not much resembling a state in geography nor governance, having a lower population than every state but Wyoming, why DC deserves greater representation than NYC, LA, Chicago etc., and especially the obvious political implications of creating two new Senate seats that would never be seriously contested by the Republicans within the foreseeable future. (Don't worry about the stars on the flag, that one's covered).

So it was a small surprise to see this response from Markos Moulitsas, who is generally considered less of a "thinker" than Yglesias and more of a "strategist":
To me, the more obvious solution is to simply have DC annexed by either Maryland or Virginia. (Preferably Virginia, which would solidify it as a solid Blue state, and most of NOVA is a suburb of DC anyway.) Can someone explain why that option is either ignored or a non-starter?
Now we're getting somewhere. I have always considered retrocession the best option, although Markos fails to note that most of Western Maryland is also a suburb of DC. I'm vaguely aware that Maryland may have its problems with this, though I'd think the newly larger tax base would outweigh having to shoulder the burden of DC's notorious school system. The real reason, though, is because of politics.

In any case, the complaint about lack of representation is a valid one (although I always like to note that nobody is forced to live in the city) and worth doing something about. But it seems to me that city activists who insist upon statehood at the expense of all other options are not being honest about their intentions. If equal represenation was the issue, then retrocession would be on the table.

So come on, Washington. Let's stop electing "shadow senators" and "shadow representatives" who essentially serve to lobby for statehood. This year, my first time voting in the District, I refused to cast a vote. Not only do I think the offices shouldn't exist, I think they're detrimental to the city's interests. But what do I care? I wouldn't be living here if I did.

Image via dbking on Flickr.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Well folks, this is it. After two years of the longest presidential campaign ever -- and one hopes it can't get any longer -- the polls are open and people are standing in line all across America. Or, given the early hour, all across the Eastern time zone. And this time around people are doing something they couldn't the last: posting their thoughts to Twitter via mobile device.

Why do I bring all this up? Because New Media Strategies (where I work and whence I type) has teamed up with Tropicana (the orange juice makers, not the casino resort) to create a Twitter-focused data visualization tool that we're calling Fresh Squeezed Election Tweets, and just went live a few moments ago at

The site is continuously collecting tweets using the words "Obama" and "McCain", counting up which other words appear with them -- Vote, Election, Country -- and other words that appear frequently -- Bush, War, Lie (no one said Twitter was fair and balanced) -- and representing this frequency by the size of the associated blue-red bubble. The bluer it is, the closer-aligned the keyword is with Obama; the more red, the more it's McCain. And see the black lines connecting? Those show you which words are used together most: if you mouseover the keywords, you'll get actual percentages. Did I mention it's embeddable? I don't think I did. Here, let me: It's embeddable.

Is that cool, or what? Feel free to use it in your own posts and check back throughout the day, as the data set changes and perhaps reveals some insight into the day's events. We might already have a pretty good idea who will be president-elect by day's end, but Freshly Squeezed Election Tweets may help give a better idea why.

Cross-posted from Blog P.I.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Thompson I have advocated on the Internet most is probably Fred Thompson, whom I supported and worked for during the presidential primaries. Lately I've been helping to spread the word around the District, to Prince of Petworth and elsewhere, about another Thompson entirely: Ellwood Thompson's.

The Richmond-based grocery store is coming to the District sometime next year, filling out the awesome (if horribly named) DC USA retail complex in Columbia Heights. If you're not familiar with the expanding chain, it's an organic grocery store that emphasizes its local inventory. That is to say, the arugula you (or future President Obama) just bought probably came from the immediate area. As a strong supporter of globalization and international trade I can't say the local aspect moves me greatly, but I'm still looking forward to Ellwood Thompson's arrival.

So why have I, as a man of the Right, taken an interest in this store? Well, it doesn't hurt that the chain is a client of a friend's design shop (JESS3, who I'm working with here). But it's also worth remembering that even after half a decade inside the Beltway I remain an Oregonian at heart. I may disagree with the prevailing political positions of Portland, my hometown, but I still dig its crunchy vibe. (Note: I would not, however, call myself a Crunchy Con.)

Oh, and it doesn't hurt that the location will be going in across the street from my Metro stop. And did you notice that Ellwood Thompson's is a grocery store? It's all about capitalism, baby!

The new location should be open around this time next year, which means many a trip out of my way to the Giant on Park Rd still to come. In the meantime here's what I have to look forward to (well, an artist's rendering of it, in any case):

Ellwood Thompson's in Columbia Heights

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, to appropriate an extended phrase from one of the few works that spoke to me seriously before I found Infinite Jest the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college. Tonight someone at the wallace-l listserv excerpted one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking passages from IJ, and although it's easy to miss, one that is very key, and in fact is something of a key:
Death is explaining that Death happens over and over, you have many lives, and at the end of each one (meaning life) is a woman who kills you and releases you into the next life…. Death says that this certain woman that kills you is always your next life's mother. This is how it works: didn't he know? …This is why Moms are so obsessively loving… they're trying to make amends for a murder neither of you quite remember, except maybe in dreams. As Death's explanation goes on…, the more unfocused and wobbly becomes his vision of the Death's Joelle…, until near the end it's as if he's seeing her through a kind of cloud of light, a milky filter that's the same as the wobbly blur through which a baby sees a parental face bending over its crib, and he begins to cry in a way that hurts his chest, and asks Death to set him free and be his mother, and Joelle either shakes or nods her lovely unfocused head and says: Wait. (850-51)
If you recognize this, then you probably know where The Entertainment is located, and how this relates. If you don't, first try reading the title essay from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again and then set aside a few months to read David Foster Wallace's 1,079-page (including the footnotes) masterpiece. I'm just sorry there will never be another.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

I already tweeted this last week, but I figured I had better save this real headline from for posterity, if not for any particular reason:

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but is it any match for the nozzle?

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