Saturday, July 27th, 2013
Dayton Daily News FAIL #10 (See DDN Fail #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8 and #9)

This morning I went to the Dayton Daily News website to see if they had any news worth reading, and their top story’s lede told me that “Ohio is investing more taxpayer dollars in high education under the new state budget that devotes nearly $1.” Now Ohio’s investing just under one dollar (what, 90 cents?) to higher education would certainly be top news, but even under Governor Kasich’s leadership it wouldn’t be believable.

Of course, if you click through to read more, even in the truncated free version, you can read the missing part of the lede, the part that makes it make sense: “$1.8 billion to public schools and universities.”

Whoever at Cox Ohio was responsible for putting this top story on the DDN website either was just too lazy to truncate the lede after the word “billion” instead of “$1” or perhaps thought people seeing that the budget was $1 would be more likely to click through.

Either way, I did click through, but only to the truncated free version. Misleading me with ledes about one-dollar state budgets is not a way to inspire me to subscribe to MyDaytonDailyNews.com.

It did make me curious as to whether I could find the story elsewhere for free. I found several articles about Ohio’s new budget that mention education funding, but the only one devoted to higher education funding was “Ohio Budget Shifts Approach to Funding High Education” on the website of WMFD (Channel 12 in Mansfield). WMFD’s story was just three paragraphs but did mention that instead of funding being based entirely on enrollment, 50% of funding will now be based on graduation rates.

WMFD’s story also featured an ASP error (ADODB.Field error 80020009: Either BOF or EOF is True or the current record has been deleted. /local-news/singlesearchsingle.asp, line 0). Perhaps my blog post is thus also about a WMFD Fail.

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013
Dayton Daily News FAIL #9? (See DDN Fail #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7 and #8)

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you know that I sometimes write about the Dayton Daily News and their failures, which should lead you to assume that I check out the Dayton Daily News fairly regularly, which I do. I live in Dayton and for better or for worse, the DDN is our local daily newspaper, so it’s worth checking for local news.

But is it worth paying for?

Cox Ohio certainly hopes so. For the past couple months, they’ve been promoting their new website, MyDaytonDailyNews.com—a site whose design is an improvement over the old site—although I’m not sure they’ve gotten the results they’d hoped for.

Originally the free trial for MyDaytonDailyNews.com was set to end June 4th but about a week before that deadline, Cox Ohio quietly changed the date in their free preview blurbs to June 25th. This week they’ve omitted all references to a hard deadline, instead saying the preview is for “a limited time.” That the original deadline moved leads me to suspect they didn’t get as many MyDaytonDailyNews.com subscribers as they wanted.

I understand that Cox has to make a profit on the Dayton Daily News. It’s not reasonable for readers to expect newspapers to be published at a loss. However, if Cox and other publishers expect readers to pay for their products, the products have to be worth buying.

An example of what Cox wants us to pay for is a story from today, “Parent company seeks to sell Captain D’s seafood chain,” the preview of which is available here and the full version of which is available here. For your convenience, I’ve included screenshots of the preview and the full version below:

Preview (click to embiggen)
Full version (click to embiggen)

The full version of this Captain D’s story, which in a few weeks you’ll have to pay to read, is only two paragraphs longer than the preview.

More importantly, the source for this story is available online for free (this article does include the source link but not all DDN stories do). Back in 2010, when Cox erected their first pay wall, I wrote a post explaining that much of what Cox wanted to charge us to read was available elsewhere for free. What I said then still applies—if you don’t want to buy what the Dayton Daily News is selling, go to Google News, do a search, and you have a pretty good chance of finding the news you seek on another source for free.

Now my critique of Cox’s latest paywall is not entirely fair. It is true that many of the stories Cox is selling are available for free elsewhere, but the Dayton Daily News does provide some local coverage that you can’t find elsewhere, except sometimes in Dayton’s free weekly newspaper, Dayton City Paper.

Actually the author of the article I used today as an example, Mark Fisher, the DDN’s food and dining reporter, is one of Cox’s more valuable assets, providing ongoing reporting on the comings and goings of restaurants in the Miami Valley. Most of his articles are more substantive than today’s post about Captain D’s. But even Fisher faces free local competition in Dayton Most Metro, “the Dayton Region’s Online Magazine,” which has a big dining section.

Hence the big ? next to my Dayton Daily News Fail headline above. Yes, this particular article about Captain D’s was a fail, just a link to a national story plus a couple local nuggets. But it remains to be seen whether enough people will value what Cox is selling and thus subscribe to MyDaytonDailyNews.com. For Cox’s sake I hope they have better results than they did with MeetFred.

Monday, March 4th, 2013
Dayton Daily News FAIL #8 (See DDN Fail #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6 and #7)

I hit the Dayton Daily News website just now and saw this:

Did anything jump out at you? If nothing did, you’re eligible to work for the Dayton Daily News as a writer or editor.

If, on the other hand, the misuse of “to” to mean “to an excessive degree” jumped out at you, then I’m sorry, you are too good to work as an editor for the Dayton Daily News.

I won’t criticize the Dayton Daily News for frequently letting “it’s” slip through as the possessive form of “it” (read an earlier post in which I accept that the battle against “it’s” has been lost), but this is just to too much.

Interestingly another DDN reader commented about the incorrect use of “to” and so the headline is now fixed, but really, why wouldn’t that error just have jumped off the screen at the Cox Ohio staff, bless their hearts?

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Something from 1993 I once had in my office

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, or actually 18 years ago in this same fair city, I used to be a fairly recently out young queer professional, and I had a bulletin board on my office wall on which I posted things that made me smile and things that made others cringe, two categories that often overlapped. Looking through some stuff today I came across one such item that once hung on my office bulletin board and that, given recent events in the news, seems apropos to share with you today, namely a cartoon from 1993 by Mike Peters, the Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist at the Dayton Daily News*.

In case you don’t remember what was going on in 1993, and for the reference of future web surfers who may be sceptical that this ever happened in our country, here’s the scoop: we had a popular Democratic president, in his first term of office, who’d made some promises—expedient during his campaign but troublesome during his administration—to teh gayz,
A clipping from the Dayton Daily News
that once hung on the bulletin board in my office
causing all sorts of consternation amongst conservatives who, whether they really believed it or not, claimed that allowing openly queer soldiers would lead to the demise of our once proud nation. Yes, I’m talking about 1993 and not 2010.

Mike Peters, bless his heart, was very astute in his criticism in this cartoon showing some of the popular canards about what gays in the military would cause and also showing that OMG we have already have gays in the military, even in high places.

Who’d’ve thought it would take our nation 20 years to begin to accept that queers can be good soldiers, even after numerous examples from other countries with fine militaries including queer soldiers?

Maybe 20 years from now Americans will finally look back at 2010 and at 1993 and realize how stupid we’d been.

* Yes, boys and girls, this was back when people actually still read the Dayton Daily News. Yours truly even had a subscription and read the paper in black and white on actual newsprint delivered to his home, which is why the cartoon featured on this page was not saved from an image on a website but was scanned from a physical clipping (and then Photoshopped to remove its yellowed appearance).

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Cox Media’s latest great idea

This doesn’t quite count as a Dayton Daily News fail, but I just found out, via a tweet from David Esrati, about Cox Media’s latest great idea,
Get there first! because if you don’t, DealSwarm may have gone the way of MeetFred.
a copy of Groupon that Cox is calling DealSwarm.

You can read the article press release about DealSwarm, “Cox Media launching discount program,” on the Dayton Daily News website (this is one article they won't try to make you pay to read.

Perhaps, instead of the mocking being dished out by David Esrati and now me, Cox Media deserves some credit for continuing to try to expand their business.
Alas, poor Fred is dead.
Perhaps Cox Media will be more successful with DealSwarm than they were with MeetFred.com. Or perhaps in a few years, DealSwarm.com will also be a placeholder, owned by some Chinese domain squatter.

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010
Dayton Daily News FAIL #7 (See DDN Fail #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 and #6)

A fun new feature of the Dayton Daily News is their new pay wall. Now when you click on certain stories, such as one featured on today’s front page, “ODOT: 3C trains could go 110 mph,” you’ll see only the first couple paragraphs of the story, followed by an “And there’s more to the story…” blurb trying to entice you to subscribe either to the printed edition of the paper or to their new E-dition.

The Dayton Daily News isn’t alone in wanting to charge online visitors for content. Google “London Times paywall,” and you can see that Rupert Murdoch, owner of the The Times of London, also wants online readers to pay to read his newspapers’ content. In those same stories about The Times’ paywall you’ll also see that The Times’ readership has fallen by as much as 90%.

A challenge facing the Dayton Daily News is that their pre-paywall audience probably wasn’t anywhere near as large as that of The Times.

Another challenge facing the Dayton Daily News is that much of what they publish can be gotten elsewhere for free. For example, the “ODOT: 3C trains could go 110 mph” article starts with the paragraph:

Ohio’s transportation director asserted Tuesday, Aug. 31, that passenger trains eventually will reach speeds of 110 mph across the state, even as freight railroads that will share the tracks effectively responded: “Not so fast.”

Guess where else you can find an article starting with the exact same paragraph? If you don’t know, Google is your friend. Google the above paragraph, and the number one result is not the Dayton Daily News article but rather another article with the exact same opening paragraph, available free to read online at The Columbus Dispatch.

If the Dayton Daily News is going to post basically the same press release that every other newspaper uses, why should anyone bother to pay the Dayton Daily News for news?

Update: Other stories the Dayton Daily News wants you to pay to read on their site that you can get for free elsewhere:

“Starbucks Corp. is set to debut its latest caffeinated concoction — flavored instant coffee.”
Dayton Daily News paywalled version
Free version with same opening sentence on 10news.com

“As of June 30, 21.9 percent of workers with 401(k) plans had loans outstanding, up from 19.3 percent in 2008, according to Fidelity Investments.”
Dayton Daily News paywalled version
Free version with same stats on tricityherald.com

“Democrats unlikely to repeal tax cuts for the rich”
Dayton Daily News paywalled version
Free version with same headline and sentences from McClatchy Newspapers

“N.C. Central University Chancellor Charlie Nelms thinks eye-catching outfits—whether risque or just-plain sloppy—are obstacles to learning.”
Dayton Daily News paywalled version
Same McClatchy Newspapers article available for free on KansasCity.com

“On Facebook, that person you barely know or no longer can put up with is there, all the time, taking up space on your home page, filling you in on all the mindless minutiae.”
Dayton Daily News paywalled version
Same article published 6 days earlier for free by the New York Times

Sunday, September 13th, 2009
Dayton Daily News FAIL #6 (See DDN Fail #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5)

Today’s Dayton Daily News has a fun profile about Rhine McLin, the last paragraph of which refers readers to their profile last week of her challenger Gary Leitzell:

In their printed paper, saying "you can read it at DaytonDailyNews.com/go/politics" is all they could do. On their website, however, they could have but did not actually link to the page to which they’re referring. Fancy, huh?

Sunday, September 6th, 2009
Dayton Daily News FAIL #5 (See DDN Fail #1, #2, #3 and #4)
A particularly offensive comment from today:

The comments below it aren’t much better:

(Click any of the above to embiggen.)

Given that the staff of the Dayton Daily News can’t be bothered to proofread the links they themselves set up on their website, it should be no surprise that they also can’t be bothered to monitor comments left on their website by fine members of their reading audience, comments that others of their readers are invited to “report [as] abuse,” but really, why would anyone bother to report abusive comments since it seems that the majority of comments found on the DDN are abusive?

Today the DDN has an article about the upcoming Dayton mayoral election, and sure enough, it’s attracted some ignorant, racist, and vulgar comments, the text of one in particular of which I will not type out here for fear of attracting the wrong kind of Google searchers but which you can read in the image to the right. This particular comment was posted at 9:42 a.m., the racist two below it were posted at 9:40 a.m. and 9:24 a.m., and it was two hours later when I discovered them on the site. If you go to the comments for this article now, you’ll see that someone did finally click on “REPORT ABUSE,” spurring a DDN staffer to finally remove the abusive comments.

It seems to me, however (and yes, this isn’t the first time I’ve done so), that the DDN could copy a feature from nytimes.com and institute moderated comments, at least on articles which would attract comments in need of moderation. The DDN doesn’t publish each and every letter to the editor they receive, so why should they publish every single comment submitted on their website?

Unless, of course, the DDN would rather to continue to sink down to the gutter instead of to aim for the sky.

Update 09/07/2009: Wow, a day later and there are still ignorant people leaving unmoderated comments. Comments such as these are exactly the reason why the DDN should go to moderated comments instead of allowing people to spew shit and then clean up belatedly afterwards.

Saturday, August 29th, 2009
Dayton Daily News FAIL #4 (See DDN Fail #1, #2 and #3)
On today’s DDN homepage is a link to an editorial:

But if you click the link, the page doesn’t exist:

(Click any of the above to embiggen.)

Earlier this month I wrote about an annoying Dayton Daily News fail involving the search function on their site. This morning I found that in addition to it’s sometimes not being possible to use their search to find stories you know exist on their site, it's also impossible to rely on the links the DDN staff themselves put up on their site.

As you can see from the screen shots to the right, one of today’s “Stories you’ll want to read” is an editorial that declares that “Ohio pensions already cost enough.” Well, for once, this was indeed a story I wanted to read (many of the stories they think I’ll want to read, I really have no interest in), so I clicked on the link… and found myself on a helpful page that told me they couldn’t find the page I requested and perhaps the story I wanted was “an older news story” and thus no longer available except in the DDN archives. Brilliant.

Also, don’t try going to the DDN Opinion page, where the top listing under “Local editorials and commentaries” is this same “Ohio pensions already cost enough” article, because the link there also does not work.

And, God forbid, do not try typing “Ohio pensions already cost enough” in the (un)helpful search box at the bottom of their “We can’t find the page you requested” page, because if you do, you’ll be redirected to a page that says “Page Not Found — We’re sorry. The Web address you entered is not a functioning page on our site.” How helpful is it to include a search function on your 404 page when the search function DOES NOT WORK!!

Rule #1 of web development, Cox Ohio Media — whenever you update something on the web, go test it immediately afterwards. No one’s perfect (I don’t even claim to be), and because we all make mistakes, we need to check our work. I’m no newspaper guru, but I understand that in the olden days, this was often done by a proofreader. I do develop websites myself for a living (and yes, sometimes make mistakes), but every single time I create a link, I check it after publishing it to make sure it works, especially if it’s a link I’m highlighting (as in something such as “Stories you’ll want to read”).

The Dayton Daily News, a never-ending source of material for my Web design (bad) tag.

Thursday, August 20th, 2009
Dayton Daily News FAIL #3 (See DDN Fail #1 and #2)
Useless DDN search field:

Useless DDN search results:

Useful Google search results:

(Click any of the above to embiggen.)

My friend John was quoted today in the Dayton Daily News in a piece by Joanne Huist Smith about a planned historical marker for famous lesbian Daytonian Natalie Barney. He told me about the article, and so I went to the DDN website to look for it. Entered “Natalie Barney” in the handy dandy search field at the top of every DDN webpage, clicked on the “SEARCH” button (powered by YAHOO!) and got…   nothing related to Natalie Barney whatsoever.

So I popped over to Google and searched for “site:daytondailynews.com Natalie Barney,” and sure enough, the article for which I was looking was the very first result.

So what does this prove? Well, first, it proves that Google’s better than YAHOO! for searching, which is no big surprise. But it’s yet another illustration of the Cox Ohio media team’s web-ineptness. How difficult could it possibly be for them to come up with a search function in-house that includes the articles published most recently on their own website? Yes, they’re no New York Times (they’re really no New York Times!), but why wouldn’t they want to copy some of the features of nytimes.com?

This illustrates something else as well, namely that Google News, instead of being a threat to newspapers by aggregating their content, is actually an asset to newspapers by making it easier for newspapers’ readers to find the content on newspapers’ websites. Plus it shows that Cox Ohio made a poor bargain when they chose to out-source their search to YAHOO!.

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009
Dayton Daily News FAIL #2

Reading an interesting opinion piece today by Kathleen Parker that appeared Sunday in the Washington Post and yesterday in the Dayton Daily News, I came across a less obvious instance of Dayton Daily News FAIL than yesterday’s example, one that though less obvious is probably more egregious.

If you read the Washington Post’s version of Parker’s article, you’ll notice phrases such as “radio ads” and “National Fair Housing Alliance” and “report,” phrases that are in a different color from that of the rest of the text in her article, that are underlined and that when you click on them with your mouse bring you to other websites related to them. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, it’s called hyperlinking, and it’s what the World Wide Web is all about.

In contrast, the Dayton Daily Newsversion of Parker’s article, although otherwise a copy, headline and all, has no such differently-colored, underlined phrases linking to other websites. This omission demonstrates that my claim yesterday that the DDN web team is still at Web 0.2 is wrong; they don’t get the web at all.

(In fairness, other sites reprinting Parker’s syndicated column have stripped the links as well, for example, the Jewish World Review’s version; why do they do that?)

Monday, April 20th, 2009
Dayton Daily News FAIL

The Dayton Daily News published an article today about Austin Pike Boulevard that shows how technologically-inept they are:

There’s a lot that could be said about this story’s content, stuff that DDN writers won’t say — such as how the nameless “local officials” quoted in the story as hoping for the sparking of “development in the area” aren’t helping Greater Dayton by promoting on-going urban sprawl — but what struck me (and other readers who commented on the article) is that the article was about a “radically different intersection design that will be the first of its kind in Ohio” yet included no graphics or photos to illustrate what this new type of intersection looks like.

Yes, if you go to the story now, you’ll see a graphic, but it was added hours after the story hit the DDN website, and it features text that is illegible, and you can’t even click on the graphic to make it large enough to read the text in it!

Forget Web 2.0 when it comes to Cox Ohio Publishing. They're at Web 0.2.

Update: They updated the article yet again with a link to an enlarged version of their graphic, but as you can see from my screenshot, that hadn’t occurred to them initially!

Monday, July 9th, 2007
Dayton City Paper logo

Dayton City Paper lets
you see exactly how
each of their print
edition pages looks,
but good luck actually
being able to read them
Zoom in to try
Today's award for poor website design goes to none other than the Dayton City Paper, which underwent a major redesign (for the worse, in my opinion) in the past year. I've never been a frequent visitor to the site, although I do manage to pick up a hardcopy of the paper every week. Their previous online incarnation was at least usable, pretty much text only, but with a newspaper, the text of the articles is probably the most important part, right? Wrong, at least according to the Dayton City Paper, which has decided not to publish any text at all on its online site, only pictures.

So long as you don't use screen reader software (just one of many reasons websites should be mainly in text), you can read every page of the Dayton City Paper, provided that you don't find the font size too small. If you do find the text too small to read, tough shit, because it's not really text at all but a JPG of the page,

A sample paragraph at actual size
and thus increasing the font size in your browser does zilch. You could try something like the Image Zoom extension for Firefox, but a bit-mapped image of text zoomed to 200% is only marginally easier to read.

Perhaps the most important reason websites are text-based is that text is easy to search. Not on the Dayton City Paper's website though. They realize visitors to their website will want to search,
Dayton City Paper mocking search field
This is not a screen capture
—this is an actual image
I saved off their site!
and they mock us by putting a picture of a search field at the top of their site. Yes, literally a picture of a search field, not even a real field that does nothing. How insane is that?

Dayton City Paper miniscule calendar entry (actual size)
(actual size)
That the folks at Dayton City Paper even bother to save their calendar pages as images and upload them to their website is beyond my comprehension. Do they think that having those calendar pages online in that form is useful to anyone? Can you read the example calendar item to the left?

Now posting their pages as images does make life easier on the Dayton City Paper staff and might also make their advertisers happy (every ad is shown online exactly as it appears in the print edition), and they needn't worry about people plagiarizing one of their articles by cutting and pasting. I guess if the City Paper staff is happy, who cares whether the site's useful to readers?

One last whine about the Dayton City Paper before I move on, and that is that I find it incredibly annoying that they list contactus@daytoncitypaper.com as the e-mail address alongside the info about any of the authors of their articles, even if an author doesn't work for them. For example, last July they published an article by Dan Frosch (and misspelled his last name in the byline). Googling for the syndicated article, I found Dan Frosch's real e-mail address (and the real spelling of his name).

Dayton Daily News logo Now given that I sometimes like to make fun of the Dayton City Paper's larger rival, the Dayton Daily News, it's only fair that I point out that in comparison to daytoncitypaper.com, daytondailynews.com is a real pleasure. Actually Cox has really improved daytondailynews.com over the past year or so, by doing the following things:
  • No longer using Flash to display photos
  • No longer charging for access to the text of articles in their online archives
  • Publishing contact information (phone and e-mail) for the reporters who write DDN articles (and these reporters are willing to answer questions posed by e-mail—very helpful)
  • Making Dayton Daily News content available via RSS
  • Having content not available in the print editions available online (blogs such as Scott Elliott's on local education are a good local news source)
Now I realize the Dayton City Paper can't hope to compete with the resources the Dayton Daily News has (just as the DDN can't compete with the truly nice newspaper website the New York Times has), but that doesn't mean it has to shoot itself in the foot with a lame-ass image-only website. (An independent weekly that has a site I admire is Seattle's the Stranger, home of "Savage Love", a sex advice column by the paper's editor, Dan Savage, who once told me I was an idiot.)
Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

Have you met Fred? I've known Fred since October of last year. I was reading the Dayton Daily News online, and Fred invited me to join his site in order to win stuff, so I did (join, that is — haven't won shit). I haven't paid Fred much attention since, only checking in on him if he or one of his friends e-mails me, which doesn't happen often but did happen today.

Fred is Cox Ohio Publishing's answer to MySpace, but Fred is to MySpace as Dayton is to New York City, or perhaps actually as Fairborn is to New York City. As of right now, Tuesday afternoon, the newest post is actually from "late morning" today, but the 10th newest (Fred shows you the 10 latest "blogs and announcements") was from "evening time" on the 15th. In other words, less than 10 posts a day, so you don't have to check constantly to avoid missing anything.

 

When I visit Fred I like to check out how many men (350), women (409), marrieds (61), singles (100), breeders (190), queers (only 7, including me, so Fred won't be replacing gay.com any time soon) he knows. Neither marrieds + singles nor breeders + queers adds up to the total number of men + women, so I'm guessing people have to pick a gender but not the rest. Adding men + women shows that poor Fred has only 759 friends. I'm surprised Fred isn't ashamed to give these various totals. Even Hillary Clinton has 10,734 MySpace friends.

One person who's not Fred's friend is David Esrati, who mocked Fred shortly after his birth and likes to mock Fred's family. No, I don't know Esrati's MeetFred screen name.

 

I'd always thought Fred was a local creation, since back when Fred knew only 4 queers, shortly after his birth, I'd been surprised to discover that I knew two of them, a couple who live in my apartment building on my floor and both of whom actually work for Cox taking care of, among other things, Fred. But Esrati seems to think that Fred runs on Drupal, and looking at the headers of the message I got from Fred today, I realized that Fred actually lives in California, at DreamHost, not with his folks at CoxOhio.

 
Thursday, October 21st, 2004
About a year ago, I wrote about how stupid online polls were. One of my reasons was that some polls allowed multiple votes and thus only showed whether there were more right-wing fanatics or left-wing fanatics who cared about voting in the poll. The particular poll I was writing about was a Dayton Daily News one on gay marriage. Today the paper has another poll on a more important topic, whether October 21st is too soon to put up Christmas decorations (and yes, it is!), and it seems that DDN has finally done something right with its web site, namely to limit voting to once per day.
 
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