Monday, October 27, 2008

Likely Site of the Historic Brooklyn Theater

This is likely the intersection at which the old Brooklyn Theater was located. Built in the same year the Great Chicago Fire occurred (1871), the ill-fated theater burned down just five years later during a performance of The Two Orphans starring Kate Claxton. The fire started when an oil lamp fell over and quickly engulfed the building. Three hundred actors, crew, and theatergoers were burned alive when the five narrow exits proved insufficient for a mass escape. Most sources claim the theater was located on Johnson Street at the intersection of Washington Street, otherwise known as Cadman Plaza East.

Click the blue marker for a description of and directions to the historic site of the Brooklyn Theater. More information and some great historical photos here.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Orange Commercial: "Blackout"

I was in this commercial as an extra. The set was gigantic. The scene depicted is the 2003 New York City blackout. The advertiser, Orange, which is a major communications company for England, actually paid to clear multiple city blocks in Manhattan to shoot the commercial. I am most definitely not visible, although I might theoretically be in the aerial shot of the huge crowd.

The commercial was made for movie theaters and apparently is played all the time. For you Joanna Newsom fans, she's the background singer. No idea who the narrator or protagonist are, although I had a scene with him that got cut. It's amazing how little footage made it into the final product. The shoot went on for days and days. Whatever. Enjoy:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How to Use Social Networking to Promote Your Site

As far as promoting your website online, I recommend against leaning too hard on that until your website is ready for its grand opening. As soon as it is beautiful, however, I use three basic ways of going about promoting websites online:

Commenting on popular blogs and leaving a link back to a specific page on your website. For example:

  1. Go to and look at the top stories. Since they are near the top of Digg, you can assume they are getting mad traffic at this very moment. Now is the time to strike.
  2. Note the domain of the website being promoted ( and are listed as I type this) and ask yourself if it relates at all to your website. The answer is usually YES if your audience is very general. But if the site is Slashdot, for example, which primarily focuses on tech issues, and you are all about fashion, it's not our audience. Leave it alone and don't waste your time. You'll get the hang of this with practice.
  3. Now, click on one of those top entries on Digg. You will be taken to the website the Digg entry refers to.
  4. Scroll down to the bottom of the article. Is there a comment box? If so, note what kind of fields it contains. It will almost always have fields for Name and Comment. Many articles also have an email field for verification purposes (your email won't show up in the comment once you've posted). Finally--and here's the one you're looking for--it might have a website field. Here people usually put their homepage or blog URL. Users fill out that form (name, email, website, comment), and when the comment appears (sometimes after a moderator has approved it) your displayed name becomes a link to the website you specified. This is an opportunity for you to promote your website.
  5. Enter your homepage in the website field, or better yet: enter specific URLs that you want to promote on your site. Homepage promotion is nice, but it's good to be specific, especially if there is a chance your item will ever get posted to Digg.
  6. Make your comment interesting. Take a stand, say something controversial or witty, whatever. Be an individual. Be interesting. This will make some people click on your name. They will be taken to your site. Boom, new visitor.

Being active in your own social networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Plaxo, wherever you are. You only have to pick three or four networks and dig deep into them. Search for old friends and colleagues and "friend" them. Share articles that you find interesting, comment on other people's profiles, just be active and friendly with everyone. Then, when it comes time to pimp something of your own, your friends will trust you enough to click.

Encouraging social bookmarking on your site. Each article or page on your site should have its own unique set of social bookmarking buttons, so that readers can share exactly what they want to share. That is standard across the Web. Most popular social bookmarking services that are appropriate to a general website:

  • Digg - Primarily for news but also widely used for general interest
  • Yahoo Buzz - Same as Digg in essence but slightly different user base and one-third as popular
  • Delicious - Social bookmarking site. General interest.
  • StumbleUpon - Social bookmarking site that suggests web pages it thinks are relevant to the user based on past thumbs-ups. All users have installed a StumbleUpon tool bar by which they can randomly surf the Internet. The program has an uncanny ability to give readers great content they will care about. I love this service both as a user and as a developer.
  • Mixx - The up-and-coming Digg replacement. More and more people are becoming dissatisfied with Digg's stringent posting rules and crowding. Digg's success was, well, too successful. Mixx, being smaller, allows users and developers alike to have more of an impact in that sphere. It's growing though. Its user base doubled this year when CNN made Mixx its primary social bookmarking button for all its articles.
Display too many more buttons than that and you're going to get what's known as "social bookmarking button clutter". This reduces valuable web page real estate, overwhelms the more timid social bookmark users, and makes your site look desperate for attention. Less is more, to use a bad cliche. Some examples of deft use of social bookmarking buttons are this New York Times article and this article about social bookmarking.

Hope this helps!

Add to Mixx!

Bookmark this on Delicious

Thursday, October 16, 2008

For My Connecticut Readers

By way of email from my friend Sarah:
I learned today that voting "NO" on Number 1 (against the Constitutional Convention) is crucial for Labor in CT. If the Convention passes, it will be possible for CT to repeal its Davis-Bacon law, which calls for prevailing wage on Government-funded construction jobs. Without prevailing wage, all tradesmen and tradeswomen in CT will suffer.

The more information we have, the better we lead our government.

Thanks again,

I can attest from experience that non-prevailing wage constructions jobs, at least in the private sector, are just rotten. Back in New Mexico I worked for a private contractor who paid me $7 an hour. I'm not ashamed to admit it. However, I am ashamed for my former employer. If he can't pay his workers a living wage, he has no business in business.

Sure, I took the job, so you could say it's my free will, but perhaps you don't understand that I'm not complaining. I was inexperienced and wanted to learn about construction. The problem is, my veteran co-workers didn't make much more than me. One guy had been roofing for 20 years. His wage? $10 an hour.

On top of that, we were treated more like liabilities than the invaluable asset we were. Getting any respect from our boss was out of the question. He wasn't a bad man; his method is par for the course. We're talking about a systemic trend that rewards less sweat with more money, and more sweat with a smack in the face.

No wonder people are lazy. No wonder the economy is "in trouble". Those at the root of society--the ones who grow your food and build your shelters--are among the lower castes. Yet without them, we would all be without our most basic human needs.

Thank a broke homeless person today for keeping your ass alive. It's okay, you can feel a little guilty.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This is how they will steal it.

"Voter fraud". That phrase is how politicians steal elections. While the Democrats try to get more people to vote, the Republicans want less. This is because new voters are statistically more likely to vote Democrat. I don't even vote (sue me), and I won't pick a side (call me a fence sitter), so I can assure you I am unbiased.

My point: Voting is a hollow gesture. Electioneering wins every time.

McCain Calls for Voter Fraud Inquiry

Monday, October 6, 2008

August in Paris, 1999

Last night I scanned in all 69 surviving pictures of my trip to Paris in 1999. I traveled there through a University of Minnesota program (UMD and UMTC) called "August in Paris". I got six college credits to learn all kinds of fancy French words like "liqueur", "vin", "cidre" and "ivre".* God Bless Countries That Have Flags of Red, White and Blue.

*Liqueur=liquor, vin=wine, cidre=alcoholic cider, and ivre=drunk.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

In 1986 U.S. Tax Payers Bailed Out the Savings and Loan Industry to the Tune of $160 billion over Ten Years

By today's inflated standards that's about $300 billion, or about a third of the total amount of the bailout (sweeteners added) passed last night by the U.S. House of Representatives.

It's a good day to stay rich.

The 1986 bailout was a notable chunk of change. The world did not end. It won't end this time, either. Chicken Little, you may take a nap.

But Robin Hood, where art thou? The savings and loan "crisis" of the 1980s has another thing in common with today's version: it was all about usury, or improper lending.

Read the Wikipedia article here.