Archive for August, 2006

Mark Warner takes it to the Internet Tubes

In what can only be described as a bizarre publicity stunt intended to appeal to geeks, former Virginia governor Mark Warner held a townhall-style event online, in Second Life.

HA: Tell us about your background as a high-tech entrepreneur, sir, and how it relates to your efforts now, with Forward Together, and your coming to Second Life.

MW: Clearly, how people communicate, what type of communities they form, is changing real time. At Forward Together, we want to use every tool — including virtual tools! — to communicate some of our ideas about how we get our country back on the right track.

Yeah, I know, undeclared presidential candidate and obscure gaming system do not an innovation make, but the screenshots are pretty entertaining and worth checking out.

Metro: Open Tellers

This is the line at WMATA Metro Center sales office right now. A dozen deep as the noon rush looks to buy cards and passes.

How is this for a customer pleasing move: open more teller windows during the lunch rush.

Having your automated Smartcard machine working would not hurt either.

Stripclubs Sue Prince George’s County

Hoping to block new regulations in effect today, three strip clubs in Prince George’s County have sued to get the regulations set aside in Federal Court. The new regulations required a stage of 18″ and a 6′ gap between the dancers and the patrons of such an establishment, and of course I could see how this would affect dancers and their tips and profits.

Just think, guys, it could be much much much worse. Just check out this article from Metblogs Lahore. They’re banning “vulgar dances” there, the definition of which might just be showing off their calves and maybe even their arms.

Who Didn’t Get the Memo?

Someone down at the DDOT didn’t get the memo. It’s no longer the MCI Center. It’s now the Chinatown Killer. Woops, I mean the suburban Verizon Center.

Wait; doesn’t this sign give you a little hope? Hope that maybe the conglomerate that just bought rights to assault you with an ad every time a place is mentioned might be wasting its money?

That and old-skol street cred. Anyone still remember what was there before it was a basketball stadium?

Newborn Cubs at the National Zoo

This Saturday, September 2, visit the National Zoo to say hello to the three newborn Sumatran Tiger cubs. One male and two females, they are the third litter for 13-year-old tiger Soyono. Soyono was born at the National Zoo and the cubs’ father, Rokan, was born at the San Antonio Zoo. Both parents can be found at the Great Cats Exhibit at the National Zoo.


Sumatran Tiger Cubs – 6 Weeks Old
Photo © Jessie Cohen, National Zoo

As of their July 20th health exam, the eight-week-old cubs each weigh between 13 and 16 pounds after weighing only about two pounds at birth on May 24, 2006.

This is the sixth litter of Sumatran Tigers born at the National Zoo. A great accomplishment, considering that the subspecies are critically endangered. Although the Sumatran Tiger faces few threats in the wild, they are victims of poaching and habitat destruction due to the value of their coats and pelts.

Visit the National Zoo/FONZ website for updates, a journal on their development, and even a Tiger Cub Cam live web stream of the babies. They are currently in the process of naming the babies, after a short contest that ended earlier this month.

The name choices are:

Male cub:
Jati (JAH-tee) – teak wood
Bejo (ba-JOE) – lucky
Guntur (goon-TURR, rolled ‘r’) – thunder

First female cub:
Kamboja (kam-BOE-jah) – frangipani (a kind of flower)
Maharani (mah-hah-RON-ee) – queen
Mawar (mah-WAHRR, rolled ‘r’) – rose

Second female cub:
Kemala (ka-MAH-lah) – magic stone
Melati (ma-LAH-tee) – jasmine
Ndari (nDAR-ee) – pretty or beautiful

What are the odds?

Tom and I are partial-season ticket holders for the Nationals. Last night’s game against the Phillies is one of the games in our package, but Tom was unable to go. A friend of mine had planned to go with me, but at the last minute, we decided that we didn’t feel like sitting out in the rain all night. A coworker of mine, Tony, said that he and his roommate Trey would like to go and brave the rain, so gave them our tickets, happy that they weren’t going to waste. We have excellent seats, after all.

Trey arrived at our office shortly before it was time to leave, and after some banter about the Virginia Tech hat he was wearing, I lent him my Nats cap for the game. The boys happily set out for the game while my friend and I headed to Luna in Shirlington for some comfort food.

When I arrived at the office this morning, as I passed Tony’s desk, he stopped me to tell me a story.

Tony had agreed to take the tickets and go to the game with Trey knowing that Trey didn’t really have any money to buy baseball tickets, but had told Trey he’d pay for them. The face value of the tickets was a little higher than Tony would ordinarily pay for on the spur of the moment, and even though I didn’t really expect to be paid for them, the guys still felt like they ought to do something.

When they got to the seats at the park, Trey said, “I know! I’ll catch a foul ball for Tiff!”

Right Trey, that’s exactly what you’re going to do. Right.

next they’ll put commercials in my dreams

Having started my professional career in the field of sales and marketing, I have something of a hobbiest’s interest in the ways in which companies try to sell their services and products to me. I was recently reminded of an article I read in the Harvard Business Review, where author John Philip Jones, wondered "if companies are spending more money than ever on advertsing…why are the results so disappointing?" He continued by stating:

"Research indicates that only about a third of all ad campaigns have a significant immediate impact on sales, and fewer than a quarter have any prolonged effect. That’s a shocking record….
There’s a simple reason for the problem: advertising has fallen off top management’s plate. Most ad decisions are now relegated to low-level marketing functionaries who are more concerned with selling proposals up the chain of command than with taking risks or achieving excellence."
(January, 2000)

Perhaps this would explain why, at a recent lunch in the Cheesecake Factory, I was overwhelmed with page after page of advertisements for local car rental services, international jewelry lines, and some other random crap that I would expect to fill up the right margin after running a Google search.



According to the Cheesecake Factory website, "Our menu advertising is handled exclusively by Menu Dynamics, an independent contractor." What’s unusual about this statement is the fact that the Cheesecake Factory menu seems to be the only one they can "dynamically" get you advertised in. Not sure how the mechanics of that worked out, but perhaps the independent company is really held by the parent company that created the Cheesecake Factory? It certainly wouldn’t be the first case building interlinked organizations who rely on each other to drive up profits for the overarching corporation.

But seriously! Advertisements for tanning salons next to the list of appetizers? Do companies actually derive any significant sales from this form of advertisement? Granted, as I take a long drink from my Diet Coke, I realize its not as subliminal as product placement – but shouldn’t the restaurant experience be something of a haven from the outside world? Even if it is a chain restaurant, shouldn’t I expect to be able to enjoy my meal without having to have anything pushed on me – except maybe today’s specials?

Cheesecake Factory, I shall now only consume your food from the comfort of my own home, through the miracle of take-out. At least when I’m at home, I can Tivo through commercials…


The Invincible Landscaping

I love my neighborhood – which is not a secret in the MBDC world. The other night I was taking a brisk walk behind my neighborhood and pining at all the character-filled homes. All the porch spindles, the different paint colors that people choose, and all the old stone on the outside of the homes. Okay, I’ll admit, it was dusk so YES I peeked inside to see what I could see from the street. So I like to see what color people pain the inside of their homes – oh well.

I had noticed a certain little home on the corner for sale for a little while and assume someone new has moved in because the outside of it looks different than it used to. The woman that lived there before had no landscape and just a totally plain-looking exterior. Fine by me – doesn’t bother me a bit – I just thought the house had a lot more potential.

Enter new owners: New Owners have quite a bit of junk. As in, I-need-to-pile-it-up-outside quit a bit of junk. On the side of the house, on the front porch, on the side porch, under the front porch that is already filled. Now I realize that they may have just moved and are trying to get organized, but this isn’t a bunch of outdoors stuff they are trying to find a home for. I’m talking about file boxes, wrapping paper tubes, grocery bags clearly just filled with crap. Although in principle I’m sort of against homeowners associations, this is the prime example for the benefits of having one – no one would be allowed to keep something like that.

Then came the clincher. Remember how the previous owner hadn’t done any landscaping? Oh, New Owners have, don’t you worry. They’ve made it all pretty and such with… (sit down for this one)… FAKE FLOWERS. Yes, New Owners have PLANTED fake flowers in their two gardens and up the front walk. The strung fake ivy on the posts of the porch and planted these fake flowers all along the street edge as well. Planted. Fake flowers. Yes, the ones you buy at craft stores for grody bathroom wreaths.

I’ve never seen anything like this and wonder if this isn’t one of the more grotesque insights in to the work-so-much-I-can’t-enjoy-the-life-I’ve-purchased DC mentality and lifestyle. Maybe not, but I’ll probably be inquiring if my new neighbors are out and about the next time I’m taking a stroll.

Wasabi Sushi

Are you like me? You love sushi but can’t deal with all those waiters and their fawning attentiveness? Then perhaps you’ll love the new Wasabi Sushi restaurant that just opened on Farragut Square (908 17th St NW). Instead of having to order off menus, they’ve got this cool conveyor belt dealy whereby you just sit at your table and a long line of tasty sushi dishes continuously winds past. Just grab what you like and eat it.

There are only two problems with a place like that. First, you are always worried that you’ll eat too much and won’t have room for when that dish you really wanted slides by. The second problem is that it’s very fast. There are no menus or cooking times or bread-baskets to soak up the minutes, you just plop your butt down and start eating. It’s not expensive from an objective point of view, but considering you can drop $30 and be done with dinner in 10 minutes, it’s the highest “dollars per minute” restaurant I’ve been to in a while. So, it’s probably not the best place to bring a first date for a ‘get to know you’ kinda meal. But great if you’ve got to catch a movie.

So, if you’re in the mood for a fast-yet anonymous downtown lunch, enjoy Wasabi Sushi. And if you happen to find yourself in need of a quick meal in Gallery Place (like maybe you’re at the National Building Museum for instance…), there’s another similar restaurant called Sushi Go Round at 705 7th St.

A Drink At Lunch

The Three Martini Lunch. A DC Tradition for so many years. It represents all that is smoky backroom Washington: grizzled old fat men in suits that cost as much as used cars, dirty martinis that are strong enough to fill molotov cocktails, steaks the size of your head.

Is the era of the Three Martini Lunch gone by us? Are there no more lunches at Signatures on Penn Ave that take the equivalent of a night at the Opera and cost as much as the GDP of a small African nation? Modern Drunkard Magazine encourages us to revive the lost art of the martini lunch, in order to save not just our productivity, but our very mortal souls:

Institutionalization of the martini lunch would bring vast changes. Disgruntled, shotgun-wielding lunatics in dress-shirts mowing down their supervisors and co-workers would fade into history. Bickering, shouting, and disasters like disciplinary probation would all but disappear.

I couldn’t agree more. Bartender? Pour me a martini to go with that sandwich.

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