Updates from December, 2004 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Ted Mann 10:17 am on December 23, 2004 Permalink | Reply  

    Beware the Burka Bandits 

    As if you needed one more reason to be weirded out by burkas, the Philadelphia Daily News reported yesterday that a team of thieves have been dressing in the women’s Muslim garb to rob local convenience stores and banks. Police estimate that there are four to five people in the ring, including a couple males, and they carry silver, sawed-off shotguns under their black dresses.

    I suspect that the reason for all this tomfoolery might just be that the bandits have been listening to sultry lyrics of the one, the only, John Legend — specifically, to the lyric, “maybe, I should, rob somebody.” Personally, though, I feel that wearing burkas undermines the stylish authority of Mr. Legend. Maybe that beekeeper lady’s outfit would be a better alternative.

  • Ted Mann 4:55 pm on December 22, 2004 Permalink | Reply  

    Endorsement: Snapfish 

    I got my first digital camera, “Cammy” the Cannon Elph, two Christmases ago, and ever since I’ve been on a search for the perfect online photo store. Early in ’03 I hit upon Snapfish.com, which at 19 cents-a-print was a bargain — by far and away the cheapest. The 4x6s looked decent and always arrived within a week, so I was happy. But as time wore on, I began to question my initial decision. After all, the only reason I was drawn to Snapfish was because a colorful internet ad. Nobody I knew could vouch for the site, and surely paying half the price of other stores must involve some trade-off. Besides, everyone else I knew was using Ofoto and Shutterfly.
    (More …)

    • Ms. Mann 11:11 pm on December 22, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      Tell me more about how sturdy and vibrant the Snapfish photo paper is.

    • Ted 9:30 am on December 23, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      Oh boy, let me tell you, Ms. Mann, it’s so sturdy and vibrant that you could almost mistake it for a John Legend video, what with the stoic facial expressions and bountiful bling-bling.

  • Ted Mann 3:47 pm on December 21, 2004 Permalink | Reply  

    Hanukkah for Christians 

    The blog police are on to me, pointing out that I haven’t posted in over a week. But po-po, I have an excuse–the same one I’ll keep returning to for, oh, the next two years. I’m planning a wedding!

    I mean, the event is over and done, but that doesn’t mean we’re not still working. Thank-you cards, albums for the parents, prints for friends and family. Come on, we all know that the planning and holding the event is only half the work. I’m not even sure we’re really over the hump yet.

    Please don’t be disappointed, fair blog readers, if the only thing you get from us this holiday season is a 4×6 or 5×7 glossy. If it doesn’t arrive in time for Xmas, the joint holiday/thank-you card should be waiting for you by New Year’s at the latest.

    On the topic of gift-giving, one quick question: Do any of you Jesus-goers out there find that Christmas has morphed into a two-week marathon of mini Christmases? In my recent experience, especially last year and this, I find that I’m hopping from house to house every other night to open presents with a different branch of the family tree. My parents’ divorce and the addition of Ana’s family to the holiday lineup have certainly added to this strange phenomena–not that I’m complaining (though I may well start if my wish for an Omnibot goes unfulfilled for the 27th year in a row).

    Pity the poor Pontiac Vibe that has shuttle us around on this most unholy itinerary: Last Saturday we were at my dad’s house, ogling Winifred, Frances, and Owen, and unwrapping a plethora of knock-off watches, purses and pens that my father bought on a business trip to Hong Kong. This Thursday we’ll be dining with Ana’s godparents; the night after that we’re visiting the Portuguese church in Elizabeth and more relatives; then we’ve penciled in Ana’s brother’s family for Dec. 25; and after that it’s up to White Plains for Xmas all over again with my mom and siblings’ families.

    We haven’t quite made it to eight days of present-opening yet, but I’m sure that with a little hard work, we’ll be able to find three more families to hang with and goose presents from in 2005. Then my transformation from Episcopal to Catholic to Jew will be complete. Now, if only we could start marrying off those triplets …

  • Ted Mann 9:43 pm on December 13, 2004 Permalink | Reply  

    Wiki Wiki Wacked 

    About a year ago I read about Wikipedia, the open source encyclopedia that had just eclipsed Britannica.com in popularity. The secret to Wikipedia’s success is that all of the entries are open to the general public to edit. You can write entries on just about any topic–though turkeymonkey has yet to be added–and factcheck the work of others. Now the folks at the Wikimedia Foundation, the site’s parent organization, have taken the idea one step further, with a site called Wikinews. The idea is really quite simple: to make journalism into a truly collaborative and egalitarian medium, written and edited by the masses.

    Noble and exciting as this goal is, there are two main problems: One, most “wiki” writing–or, collectively authored web documents–reads like it was written by 7th graders obsessed with every possible half-point deduction to their history papers. Which isn’t to say that all of the authors are terrible; it’s just that editing by committee, especially one in the tens of thousands, often results in prose that’s overstuffed with facts and bled dry of any personality. Lucky for wiki devotees, there’s Wikibooks, where textbook writers have finally found a cozy home.

    The second problem with Wikinews–feel free to call me Mr. Obvious, here–is that there is no fact-checking component before articles go live. Not that fact-checking is all that and a bag of chips. But in the case of breaking news stories, what’s to prevent Wikinews entries from becoming runaway games of telephone? And even if the stories do eventually morph to fit the facts, as printed in newspapers and magazines, why would anyone turn to Wikinews first? If a media outlet broadcasts unreliable facts and biased opinions, well, we have a name for that: Fox News.

    • Gabe 11:46 am on December 14, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      Wikipedia is cool. Even if it does read like an Encyclopedia Brown spoof. However, open-source news is a stupid idea. We have blogs already, and the only reason the open-source-ness of Wikipedia is an advantage is that users have time to correct and add to what is already there: time they’re not spending meeting girls or being gainfully employed. In the time it takes for a news story to be properly vetted by the requisite army of dorks, it’ll become as obsolete as a protest over Blockbuster late fees.

      “Encyclopedia’s real name was Leroy, but everyone called him Encyclopedia because he knew everything. An encyclopedia is a series of books that contains all the facts in the entire world written from a Eurocentric perspective.”

    • Ted 4:15 pm on December 15, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      The folks that write for Wikinews seem like a barrel full of retards in training, but now that I’ve had time to think it over, I’d honestly prefer to get my news from real bonafide retarded people. Like, say, the good folks at How’s Your News?

    • Blog police 5:48 pm on December 19, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      You’re not posting very much anymore…at this rate you’ll soon be down to one post a week.

  • Ted Mann 8:30 am on December 8, 2004 Permalink | Reply  

    Mistress Saffron Strikes Again 

    After canceling my Philadelphia Inquirer subscription last month, the one thing that I miss desperately is Inga Saffron’s column. Every once in a while I’d get a kick out of Tom Ferrick or Tanya Barrientos, or I’d read the latest on the City Hall corruption probe, but Inga was the only staff writer that had my undivided attention, week in and week out.

    I set up an RSS feed of the paper to My Yahoo, but because they don’t attach bylines to the excerpts, I usually miss her stories now. So, muchas gracias to Philebrity.com for pointing out Inga’s latest withering attack on Philly architecture. Kimmel CenterSpecifically, the six or so massive civic projects that have been built in the last five years: Kimmel Center, Linc, Constitution center, the ballpark, etc. While every Philadelphian is delighted to have snazzy new concert halls and football stadiums, all of these constructions are, aesthetically speaking, uninspired heaps of concrete and red brick. Philebrity sums up the critique this way: “Even though Ed Rendell was all like Mr. Bold when it came to greenlighting big new buildings, the fact of the matter is, they all pretty much look like university cafeterias.” Not quite as elegant as the Pulitzer prose of Ms. Saffron, but well said nonetheless.

    • Korey 3:11 pm on December 8, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      I’m not fully persuaded. As she readily admits, “Lots of dazzling designs have turned out to be functional failures; others quickly got old.” The interior of Seattle’s library does look like Pod, but the outside strikes me — from the photos, because I haven’t seen it in person — as pretty wacked. I’m curious how it will be viewed in ten or twenty year’s time. Will Seattle residents view it as “an ambitious public dare” or some wacky concoction that has a disparaging nickname?

      Anyway, some of her other points are valid, although the location of the ticket box in the Kimmel center, or the lack of engaging walls for the rest rooms at 5th street, don’t strike me as major failures. But anyway, my second thought is: does she (or did she) do anything to try and influence the design of Philadelphia buildings? Or did she just let this once in a generation spat of design pass her by? I’m just curious.

    • Korey 3:19 pm on December 8, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      OK, I have more thoughts. I think the point about Philly needing to get away from the red brick is a great one. But the Milwaukee art museum, like the Seattle library, looks to me like a wacky shape (bold design?) that doesn’t trigger any association with the city. I prefer things like the Sydney Opera house and Boston’s Zakim bridge, which make some connection to the locale, but that’s just me.

    • Ted 2:51 pm on December 9, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      Whether or not the Seattle library is wacky, don’t be dissing my woman, ya hear!

      And yes, to answer your question, she does an awful lot to influence the design of Philly architecture. She wouldn’t be nominated for the Pulitzer if her writing was solely critical and ineffectual. Though she does do as much Monday morning quarterbacking as the next architectural critic, a large portion of her pieces deal with as-yet unbuilt structures and city planning. Her critiques of the Penn’s landing plans–including asinine schematics calling for more office space and a giant Ferris wheel–were withering and dead on. Her commentary on the Free Library addition really helped the designers to recognize some flaws in their plans. And her personal campaign to stop the building of ginormous parking lots on Rittenhouse square, while unsuccessful, were valiant and pro-active nonetheless.

      So, say what you want about Milwaukee, but don’t even think about badmouthing Inga with that same filthy mouth.

    • Gabe 4:19 pm on December 12, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      Saffron, Schmaffron. I haven’t bothered reading the Inquirer since Mike Leary left.

  • Ted Mann 3:38 pm on December 7, 2004 Permalink | Reply  

    The Perfect Holiday Gift: Satellite Imagery 

    Sometime, when I’ve got a little too much time on my hands, I’ll make up a list of all my bad habits: nail biting, coffee drinking, Oprah on Tivo, typing blog entries at work (no whammies, please, no whammies!). One thing that doesn’t usually get included, but should, is figuring out unusual ways to stalk myself.

    Google is useful for digging up dirt on others, but for someone I know as intimately as myself, I need more diabolical tools. Credit reports have somewhat interesting factoids, like how I applied for 10 cards, unsuccessfully, in a two-week period. “People Search” background checks are ok, even if they do whitewash my extensive prison record. And visits to the National Archives always enlighten me about my oversexed ancestors. But the most freaky stalking device that I’ve discovered, hands down, is keyhole.com.

    You may have already seen the service on NBC or ABC news, in one of those satellite shots where the image zooms in and swoops down for a 3-D view. They’re using them all the time to give on-the-ground perspectives in remote Iraq areas. What’s so fantastic is that this high-tech imaging is free; all you have to do is download the software off the web, enter an address or location, and zoom away. Seeing as how most of you won’t want to install the program or suffer through the interminable buffering of images, I’ve taken the liberty of making a screen capture of my neighborhood (below).

    A word of caution: Though this may seem like the perfect way to spy on people in Boston and/or South Carolina, the free trial only lasts for seven days. After that you’ve gotta spend $30 per month — money that I say would be better put towards long-range shotgun microphones and wireless video cameras.


    • Monkey painter 5:12 pm on December 7, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      How many days do I have left to spray paint a giant monkey on my roof?

    • Ted 5:41 pm on December 7, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      Monkey painter: That’s like painting a giant bullseye for the simian al-Qaeda! A better plan, I think, is to station a monkey on your roof to thwart the miscreants, as this this proactive Indian person did.

  • Ted Mann 12:54 am on December 3, 2004 Permalink | Reply  

    West Philly, Reconsidered 

    When I first moved to West Philadelphia, in college, it took less than four hours before the thieves struck. A freshman girl stole all eight of the 20-pound cinderblocks I’d hauled to use as bed stilts, and when I caught the biz-atch red handed, she insisted that concrete could not be “owned” by anyone.

    During the next four years, a lot of my other prized possessions were stolen. My new Trek mountain bike, sophomore year; the new VW Jetta, junior year; and my dignity, when Kevin bitch-slapped me and damned my “boarding school bullshit,” senior year. Given this track record, I sometimes wonder how it came to pass that I’m again living in the WC, back among the Christopher Miller joyriders and cinderblock bandits of the city.

    One simple word: Cereality. Well, that and a 3-block walk to work. And the Green Line coffee shop. And the woman who jogs around Clark Park in what looks like a beekeeper’s outfit. And the other woman who speedwalks while smoking a foot-long cigarette and sipping from a coffee cup the size of Texas.

    As you can probably tell, I’m trying to psych myself up about the neighborhood, especially now that there seems to be a better than 50 percent chance Ana and I will be staying put through her residency. In the spirit of festive optimism, I hereby present three things about the West Philly renaissance that make me happy — or at least keep me from fearing for my life.

    1. The renovated 40th Street library. Despite all the budget cuts that the library system has gone through, the 1906 “Carnegie” branch, long in disrepair from a flood, was somehow able to scrounge up the change for a massive restoration. They basically gutted the interior and replaced it with equal parts ski chalet and self-help book archive. OK, maybe that latter part is unfair, and I just naturally gravitate to the “Dummies” and “Idiot’s Guide” shelves — all eight of them. Though the library doesn’t appear to stock your traditional scholarly tombs (no Penn Press books, for shame!), it is a wonderfully warm and happy space. Plus, the electronic self-checkout system is undeniably rad.

    2. We’re getting a bowling alley! Seriously. That post I made a few months ago appears to actually be coming true (the one about bowling, not the one about free citywide wi-fi — which is going nowhere fast). Walking home the other night I passed by the old, empty storefront next to the Video Vault, on Locust between 40th and 41st, and there it was: a big sign announcing “Strikes! Open this January.” Aw jeah.

    3. Retro trolleys. Back when Ana and I were off frolicking in Belize, the UC District unveiled three restored 1930s trolleys, which have now been put into operation on the #15 Girard Avenue line. They were christened on October 16, Trolley Day, “where 1938 meets today on the tracks.” Trolley Day sounded like a jolly good time, except of course for the black participants who had to sit at the back, who thought it kinda sucked ass. Hey folks, at least the ride was free.

    • Korey 11:20 am on December 3, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      Also, that supermarket you have at 40th and walnut kicks the crap out of the one I live near here in Beantown.

      I think the goal of West Philly is to become a poor man’s Cambridge. The problem is that ten or fifteen block span of pure blight…I don’t see that getting fixed any time soon.

    • andy 9:24 pm on December 4, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      Sam and I always get a good laugh at the crazy beekeeper woman when she speedwalks by us on our way to the GL.

    • Katie 3:50 pm on December 5, 2004 Permalink | Reply

      Neat blog. My friend (and I guess yours too) Priya showed it to me. 🙂
      I really like the pictures you took. They’re amazing. I’m not so handy with my digital camera.

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