As part of our move down to DC, Shannon and I both have to change our addresses and phone numbers with what feels like a metric ton of companies and services. I’ve spent the last half hour or so making my way through the four or five domain name registrars with whom I have accounts, and wow how painful each of them makes the process of changing your contact information. First, you have to change your personal information, which seems to be the mailing address and phone number they keep on record for use when your domain names are about to expire (or to pass on to marketing agencies and spammers). Then, you have to find your billing information and change that, so that when the company automatically charges your credit card, they are able to match the information up with the billing address on the card. Finally, you have to go through each and every domain name, updating the addresses and phone numbers on record for the various contacts listed on the domain registrations. And for each registrar, just finding the links to let you get to each of these bits of information is difficult, so it ends up taking five to ten minutes just to get through a single company’s process. Would that any of these companies invested a cent or two in the services of one of the hundreds of website usability consultants out there…

Holy crap: Amazon is now doing groceries! It’s (obviously) limited to non-perishable items, but everything’s eligible for Amazon Prime (and Super Saver) shipping, and they seem to have a pretty good selection. Shannon and I have been devout Peapod users here in Boston, but we’ll have to change with our move to DC, so it’s a nice option for us. Key will be for Amazon to get the interface right — Peapod allows you to assemble an order using prior orders as templates, has a nice interface for adding things to your cart, and does a good job of showing you options when you’re just browsing. Right now, Amazon’s using its standard ordering interface, which probably will get in the way if we become regular users, but we’ll see.

For a good read, and a lesson in humility and respect to boot, check out this awesome post by Michael Bierut about calling Arnold Newman one day without having the slightest idea of who he was.

Does anyone out there actually use TiVo’s podcasting client? I saw it appear on both my boxes after a system update around six months ago or so and putzed around with it then; it felt raw and unpolished, so I figured I’d check in again a little bit later to see if the folks at TiVo had made any progress. I just tried the application out again, though, and have to say it’s just awful.

When you’re listening to a podcast, you can’t pause it, nor can you fast-forward or rewind within it; it seems like all these options would be available to you given that you’re listening on a freakin’ TiVo. If you want to walk away from a podcast, you have to just stop it, and then the only option available to you later is to restart it and listen from the beginning. What? Could this break the TiVo playback model any more? (Fascinatingly, a TiVo employee revealed how little they get it in a post to the TiVo Community forums, where he said that the fast-forward, rewind, and pause functions weren’t available because most podcast servers don’t support them. Do the television broadcast networks support these functions? Of course they don’t — TiVo invented the technology that allows users to layer them atop television, but is acting like the same model wouldn’t work with podcasting.)

It’s also difficult to listen to podcasts that aren’t in the list that TiVo provides — you have to enter the URL manually, using the directional arrows and select button to type out each character of the address. There’s no option to use one of the many podcast directories to find the one you want, nor does TiVo provide any handy shortcuts for commonly-entered strings within the URL-entry interface (things like “.com” and whatnot, strings that have shortcuts in the interface in which you enter your email address during Guided Setup). There’s also no function that actually allows you to download and store podcasts as they become available so that you can listen to at your leisure; instead, each time you listen you have to download the podcast anew.

The whole thing is clumsy, and the interface feels like it’s doing everything it can to dissuade you from actually using it. Honestly, I’d expect more from TiVo than this piece of crap.

This is pretty brilliant: a list of restaurants in New York City, grouped by subway stop. I can’t tell you how useful this would have been to me when I lived there! Now, is there a similar site out there for stops on the DC Metro?

In what can only be described as an only-in-New-York-City case, a state appellate court ruled yesterday that the co-op board at 941 Park Avenue erred when it gave the owner of one of the apartments the right to take over the elevator vestibule which they shared with another co-op, including painting the other owners’ front door, and preventing the other owners from being able to receive their mail or guests at their door. My favorite excerpt from the opinion (all emphasis added by me):

To the extent the Moores are concerned about the security or privacy implications of someone unknown to them wandering into their apartment, they have recourse to the self-help remedy of locking their door. As to the nuisance the Moores might suffer from another resident’s guests ringing or knocking on their door, there is a panoply of reasonable options that would not impair the market value of the Moores’ apartment or otherwise tarnish its luxury status. For example, a tasteful marker could be affixed to, or next to, the doors indicating the apartment numbers or the residents’ names. In the alternative, the Moores’ door might be painted one color, the Brauns’ another, and the service and elevator doors a third. Barring the existence of three respectable colors in the paint spectrum or a fashionable marker design, the Brauns and the Moores might wait in their respective entranceways for their guests during the interim between the doorman’s calling up and the elevator door’s opening. Insofar as the Moores might find it “embarrassing and disturbing” to open “the door to retrieve mail and hav[e] a stranger staring at them,” as they remonstrated to the Board in one letter, even the one-man building escort they advocate would not shield their vision from other people in the hallway.

It’s the kind of case you have to read the opinion to believe; it’s also the kind of case people should have to understand before diving into the New York co-op real estate market. As a good friend of mine (and lawyer-in-training) wrote to me when I forwarded him the link to the opinion: so long as there are petty, pissed-off, rich people in this world, there will never be a shortage of work for lawyers willing to serve them.

In the Philly cheesesteak battle between Pat’s and Geno’s, there’s never been a debate for me — Pat’s is far and away the better of the two. It’s nice to learn that this distinction doesn’t only rest on the quality of the cheesesteak, though; the owner of Geno’s has recently drawn his line in the whole immigration issue, and decreed that English is the only language that can be used to order at his restaurant. (Looking at the sign, it’s unclear that proper use of punctuation matters as much as language.) What a jackass.

the US capitol

After all my work at the various bureaus of the DC municipal government was done yesterday, I figured the weather was nice enough for me to walk back to our new house, and made a point of including the Capitol on my path. Every time I wander our new neighborhood, the enormous dome is just there, at the end of all the major streets, helping me orient myself.

doing it ourselves

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a new weblog project that took root in Shannon and my decision to buy our first house. Being someone who likes to at least try to be self-sufficient at little tasks around the home, I figured that owning a house would give me the opportunity to try my hand at the whole do-it-yourself world — and being an unrepentant geek, I figured that a new weblog would be the perfect way to share my DIY attempts with the world, talking through problems and highlighting notable things I come across. Shannon loved the idea (of course!), as did a few other people who might become occasional contributors, so I put a little effort into a good name and a reasonable design. And with two weeks of tweaking now behind me, I feel like it’s time to unveil the site: Doing It Ourselves.

As part of burn-testing the new digs, I’ve already penned a few posts, including one about putting a new French door into our current apartment, two about the process of taping-off and painting our new house, one about a neat ladder that I want, and even one about setting up our new Vonage phone service. I aim to write a handful of posts a week, and I’m pretty sure that I’ll have a lot to talk about as we move down to DC and get settled into our new home. And as I imply above, while the site is all me me me right now, Shannon intends to put her two cents in here and there, and I have a few people already on-tap to contribute as they find time and energy, so I’m hoping that Doing It Ourselves morphs into less a chronicle of my DIY experiences and more a view of the DIY world through the eyes of a few people deep in the thick of it.

I’m usually not one to get all wrapped up in the bashing of someone who’s more of an insufferable character actor than he is a wise political pundit, but when a man douchebag like Bill O’Reilly gets taken apart as effectively as was done by Keith Olbermann today, it’s worth mentioning. At issue was O’Reilly’s segment with Wesley Clark yesterday, in which the two “discussed” the information that’s coming to light about the tragedy of Haditha, Iraq. At one point, O’Reilly cut Clark off and tried to demonstrate that terrible things have happened in other wars, too, and the following statement came out of the jackhole’s mouth:

In Malmédy, as you know, U.S. forces captured S.S. forces who had their hands in the air and were unarmed and they shot them dead, you know that. That’s on the record. And documented.

Anyone who knows their World War II history is probably cringing right now — because O’Reilly got that one totally backwards, it was the German troops of the 1st SS Panzer Division that massacred 84 unarmed U.S. soldiers who had just surrendered.

See the bit from “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” yourselves; it’s worth the seven minutes of your time. (For those who don’t have Quicktime installed, I’ve mirrored a Flash video version of the segment.) Pay attention to the part where Olbermann shows how Fox News has already scrubbed the typed transcript of the show, replacing the word “Malmédy” with the word “Normandy”; I wonder if they’ll do a voice-dub over the video transcript as well.

I’ve been barrelling my way through the Jack Reacher murder mystery series of novels by Lee Child, and I have to say that I’m loving them. About four years ago, one of my pediatrics mentors strongly recommended them to me, but the first two books of the series had lapsed out of print and I had difficulty finding them. Shannon’s mother tracked copies down and gave them to me for Christmas this past year, and since then, I’ve been resisting the urge to read them all as fast as possible, instead limiting myself to one or two a month. (I’m like an addict, enforcing my limits by buying just one or two at a time so that I can’t binge.) Last night, as I was finishing the seventh book while on call, I picked up a mark of how good Child is at suspense: despite me knowing that there are three more books in the series, I was terrified that Reacher was about to die, and couldn’t put the book down without knowing how everything turned out. (For those of you who’ve read Persuader, I’m sure you know the part I’m talking about.)

If you’re into books like Robert Parker’s Spenser series, John Lescroart’s Dismas Hardy series, or Robert Crais’s Elvis Cole series, then I’d give these a shot — they’re just awesome.