Wired published a ten-year retrospect about stuff that changed the world. It's a really interesting read if you lived through all of that, and it makes me quite nostalgic! I've been writing code all day, so I need to write something humans can understand tonight. Thus... 10 Years That Changed The World (of Jeff Putz).
I graduated from Ashland University with a double major in radio/TV and journalism. The Web was pretty cool, and I remember that spring screwing around in Windows 3.1 with Winsock and Mosaic so we could figure out what the hell this http://www.zima.com was on the back of the labels of the then-trendy girl beer. I spent the summer working at CompUSA and bought my first Intel-based PC, a 75 MHz Pentium with 8MB of RAM and a 200 MB hard drive. I found a local ISP and began looking at the Web from my room at my parent's house. You could spend hours looking at stuff back then.
After surviving the launch of Windows 95, I finally got into my "real" career with a full-time overnight gig at "Cleveland's Hit Music Station, the new Jammin' 92.3!" Garbage came to town, I was spending days here and there with Stephanie back at AU, and in the back of my mind I could see that the Internet held a lot of potential as a new form of media.
I got laid-off from the radio station and haven't been behind a microphone since (this is something that I sorely regret, even though commercial radio completely sucks). Back to CompUSA, modems got faster, PC's got faster, and there was this site called Yahoo you could search for hours.
That summer, I got a job with the City of Medina, Ohio and the school district, charged with creating a government, and eventually public, access cable TV facility. I would get to buy about $150,000 in pro TV gear, and be well on my way to doing everything I loved about TV... engineering, production, talent... the whole thing. But I also thought it would be cool to have a domain name, so I shelled out $100 to buy popworld.com, thinking that maybe I could eventually build some kind of site as a hub for radio people. I got an apartment with Stephanie as well.
I coached freshman volleyball and it was a total disaster. I had no idea what I was doing. But the job was going well. We moved into a bigger apartment as well, after a near-meltdown nearly split us apart. I was screwing around looking for something meaningful to put on the Internet. Nothing came to mind. I'm pretty sure this was the first time I bought a book on Amazon. Putting video on the Web was really interesting though, and I started to experiment with it.
I saw HD television for the first time at a vendor demo. I was absolutely floored. I figured we were just a few years away from having this in our house. Stephanie bought our first DVD player, a Sony that cost a whopping $500! (It's still sitting in the rack.)
Digital video was starting to become a serious reality. I started to push for the stuff at work, and bought into Panasonic's DVCPRO tape format, and scored a non-linear editing system from Media 100. It changed everything about the way we did TV. I couldn't believe it. No more shuttling through tapes, generation loss, pre-roll, etc. It was amazing.
It was also the first year that I put entire video programs on the Internet, and I think it was the year we first had broadband, in the form of DSL. 512k download speeds were amazing. This was the year I started Guide to The Point, an unofficial site dedicated to Cedar Point amusement park. In December of that year, I made $11.09 by putting ads from Burst Media on the site. I wondered what might happen if I had more visitors.
By this time I was getting seriously annoyed with the idiot politicians I worked with. I wasn't getting paid what my peers in other cities were, and I was tired of being referred to by asshole school principals as a kid. That summer, I had my first true Internet job with Penton Media.
The new job was awesome. I was surrounded by like-minded people that saw the Internet's potential as a means to connect people and reach a broader audience. Unfortunately, the idiots we all worked for didn't see anything outside of the tired old magazine model, but that melt down was still two years off.
I consider this the best year of my life, the highlight of which was my marriage to Stephanie. I really felt like I was living the American dream, with a spicy new marriage, an incredible honeymoon in Hawaii, a great job that paid well and fed the soul, Stephanie was teaching high school (her first job after getting her masters in biology), Friday lunches at Moe's with work friends, a nice apartment... really good times.
It was also the year that two other important moments happened for me. The first was that I sold that popworld.com domain... for $100,000. Some Brits wanted it to promote Pepsi and the Spice Girls or some such shit. They first offered me $1,000 and I laughed my ass off. I knew who they were working for. Eventually I banked the huge coin that paid-off my car, credit card debt, my wedding, my honeymoon and the down payment on the house we'd buy the next year.
The second big moment was that I founded CoasterBuzz.com. This coaster enthusiast site was based in part on some of the ideas we had at Penton in terms of creating a gateway to all things serving a particular market. I pushed it one step further by taking user-contributed content, something inspired by the site Voodoo Extreme years before. By this time I was fairly comfortable writing ASP code and developed my first significant version of POP Forums, which I sold for $175 per license (including to Burst Media).
This year was not so good. Penton started going into the crapper because the moron executives thought that anything with ".com" in the company name was good to buy. They didn't empower people to do the right things, and group managers and publishers were stuck in their print kingdoms.
But I moved on to a small publisher called Pfingsten Publishing and we bought a house with popworld.com money. Stephanie went back to school. The summer showed a lot of promise with new things. I even spent the spring coaching junior Olympic volleyball, which was much more satisfying than high school.
Then on September 11, 2001, everything changed, as it did for most people. The event caused a catastrophe in the company and I got laid-off. (If I would've stayed at Penton, I would've been employed about two months longer.) The timing was bad, because I just signed a contract for a T-1 at the house to run my servers from. The advertising at that point did support it, barely, but it was scary. To make things worse, my biggest-paying ad agency, DoubleClick at the time, dropped me. To keep from paying that grand a month myself, I started the CoasterBuzz Club, a premium ad-free subscription to the Web site. It saved my ass, and maybe my house.
Not able to find a job, my self-esteem hit an all-time low. I was depressed. Winter sucked. The only good thing that came out of it was that I sucked it up and bought an MSDN subscription to get all of the new Microsoft stuff, and I learned all about ASP.NET (well, not a ton, but a start).
My six months of unemployment finally ended in April when I started working for a payroll processor, charged with developing their Web front-end. I was drawing a paycheck again, even though the work, well, when there was any work, was not interesting. That summer I got my first digital SLR camera, and I rediscovered how much I loved photography.
CoasterBuzz Club really started to take off, and picked up the slack quite a bit from the crappy advertising market. We had a great event at Paramount's Kings Island and we've had it every year since. I would never be rich with this site, but I was making enough to make it worth my time, even though I racked up a ton of debt the previous years with servers, software and the T-1.
It was clear that my job, where I had nothing to do, was sucking the life out of me. I spent time working on the forum at work from time to time to stay busy, and it was the year that object-oriented programming finally sunk in enough that I "got it." For the first time since leaving the broadcast world, I felt like a "real" programmer. I knew my job would go away eventually, but I really felt at peace about the whole thing. I'd roll with it this time. Sure enough, in October, they dropped me.
But technology was interesting. I was coming into my own as a code monkey, I got this really cool thing called an iPod, and bandwidth got so cheap that I could finally rent a server somewhere instead of doing the T-1. The timing was good too because my cable company finally finished an upgrade to provide broadband service.
Walt, my partner to combine GTTP with his Virtual Midway (that next spring), suggested as I was helping him that my advice sure would make a good book, so I decided to write a chapter and start sending it to publishers.
Being unemployed was different this time, as recruiters were calling like crazy. It was then that I realized that I could bill more than $50 an hour as a consultant if I could live with the weirdness that might bring. So I went to work as a contractor for Progressive in late January.
Progressive was, as far as I could tell, securing developers in part to make sure they had them. The Cleveland market was being sucked dry. I had nothing to do. The commute was an hour each way. I was quickly getting unhappy despite the gigantic paychecks I was getting.
Then Addison-Wesley offered me a contract to write my book, and I decided I'd take the summer off to do just that. I got up when I felt like it and did what I felt like, even though the money from CoasterBuzz didn't entirely pay the bills. At least I was doing what I wanted to do. In fact, I think I was almost too relaxed, because at one point Stephanie asked if I was depressed. In retrospect I was certainly working things out in my mind about my place in the world, reaching no conclusions, but I don't think I was depressed. Just very contemplative.
This one is still obviously a work in progress. This year I started working a contract job that has allowed me to really work in my own world, on my terms, the way I want. I'm also coaching high school volleyball again. Overall, I like where I am professionally. The part of me that suffers is my emotional side in terms of relationships and self-care. I'm trying very hard to repair those.
The past ten years were interesting, with more ups and downs than I could have ever thought possible. Professionally, I still get excited about all that might be. The only regret I have is that I never got to be a part of something big the way some people did (like the founders of Yahoo or Google or whatever), but I've had so many little victories in life that it's OK.
I wonder what I'll have to write about ten years from now?
Garbage did "Bleed Like Me" on Leno tonight. Wow, they sure had to cut the song down to about half of its length. While it's a great song, my favorite, it doesn't really show how strong they are live either.
But Shirley sure was cute!
I upgraded Stephanie's computer today with a shiny new Athlon 64 3000+. She's had a 2 GHz P4 for almost three years, so it was time for an upgrade.
Actually, she did most of the work. She gutted the machine and rebuilt it, except for me clamping down the heat sink. Then I f'd around with Windows because it couldn't just do a repair install, it needed a fresh install. I hate that about Windows. With XP I've never had "OS rot" like in the Windows 95 days, but I still upgrade CPU's and motherboards about once every two years, and that's when I run into this.
Anyway, I bought a nice Abit motherboard with an AGP slot because her video card (Nvidia 5700) is still serving her well enough, so no reason to get a PCIe board. That's the third Abit board I've bought in the last year (one for my desktop and one for my HTPC), and they seem to be nice stuff. I love the optical audio outputs and the ton of connection options for USB and Firewire ports.
The chip itself, with the stock cooler, runs insanely cool. Even after messing around in Half-Life 2, it never got very warm. I was seriously impressed. Lower clock speeds apparently pay off there.
At some point it might be interesting to hook her up with the 64-bit version of Windows, but maybe we'll just wait until Longh... I mean... Windows Vista ships. And heck, since most of these socket 939 boards also support the lovely dual-core chips, upgrading will be smooth!
My inner coaster geek was excited to announce today that CoasterBuzz Club is having an event at Holiday World on October 1. The CoasterBuzz Club Fall Affair was originally going to happen back in 2003, but due to the accident that year we had to cancel it.
If you've never been to that park, it's run as a tight business but they make you feel like family. Virtually everyone that works in some segment of the service industry could learn something from visiting that park. No one can even come close to touching the standards they set.
And the club finally has three events in the same year!
I noticed in making my previous post that it was parsing URL's funny. Turns out it chokes on URL's that have a vertical bar (|) in them. Well that only took me like a year to figure out.
And I'm completely not motivated to do anything about it.
For example, their image data is a bit old, or of poor quality. Not only can you see the World Trade Center[url][url], but the image was taken apparently at dusk given that the shadows of NYC buildings block out virtually everything. You may have also heard about how Apple headquarters doesn't exist either.
I don't much care for it just because the UI sucks. I mean, why would permalink open up a little window? You can't drag the zoom slider. The only thing I really like is that it will fill the entire browser window with images.
I guess it just reeks of "me too." I'm generally a Microsoft fan boy, but I guess I just don't entirely get the point. (After installing Google Earth, I felt similarly, I might add.)
I wish I knew what was wrong with me. I had high expectations of getting a lot of coding done today and it's just not happening. I keep allowing myself to be distracted by, well, anything. I'm starting to feel that the problem is not that there aren't enough hours in a given day, but rather I'm incapable of concentrating and sticking to one thing in those hours.
Part of that is that there are so many things that I want to do, so many things I need to do, and so many things I'd rather not do. Collectively they cloud my head and keep me from doing any of them effectively. It's really annoying.
Stephanie and I are going to blow off some steam at Steak n' Shake late tonight (odd since neither one of us eats beef these days). Clearly not in my dietary parameters, but I think I'm still OK to drop a pound this week.
While getting the "support" guy from Dell to understand that I knew what I was talking about was a pain, the swap to a replacement was fairly painless. UPS dropped off the replacement today, and it included a DHL tag to put on the defective monitor.
And here's a surprise too... DHL doesn't seem to suck as much, or maybe that was just the Airbrone Express component that sucked. I called for pick up and there was a guy at the door 30 minutes later. The attention I needed to give for the entire monitor swap was just over 30 minutes. Not bad.
I'm enjoying burn-in free computing again... hopefully on a permanent basis.
So it would appear that now Best Buy is going to pull Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas off of the shelf following the discovery of some kind of nudie patch you can download to let you undress characters and make them do sex acts.
This is a violent game where you can shoot people, cut their heads off, kick people in the nuts, etc. Now how is it that, in this world, we can be OK with the violence, but as soon as we see pixelated boobies on screen we need to call the morality police? I personally don't have a problem with any of it (wouldn't let my kid play it), but how is one worse than the other?
And as for all of the people that think that self-regulation of the video game industry is a failure, here's a clue... try letting parents be parents for a change. The feds can't, shouldn't have to, and certainly shouldn't pay for a check to see that parents actually take interest in what their kids are doing.
Well, the J.O. season ended in May. We did OK at regionals, but honestly that was just about getting one last hurrah in as a group. Such a great team, very close. We actually ended the season with the highest point average I've ever had, but because of the asinine ranking system that OVR had this year, we ended up being like 25 out of 38 or something like that. Granted, in 17 open you've got the best teams, most better than the 100+ club teams anyway, so just competing at that level is a big deal. We actually made the gold bracket in every single tournament other than the big multi-day events, which is another first for me.
It was a strong team overall that kind of lacked strong personalities (although that's probably why we had no team meltdowns or fights). On the other hand, so many of them had such strong skills. I really have been missing them this summer.
Meanwhile, one of my former players that went to a tiny high school in Akron called Our Lady of The Elms encouraged me to coach there. By tiny, I mean they have fewer than 125 kids in this all-girls school. Literally one-fifth of the school plays volleyball. I didn't think I was going to do it, but after running just one open gym, I was hooked. They have a core group of really talented kids, and they all learn so fast. Lots of unlearning to do, but they're getting it.
I've said for a long time that I wouldn't coach in high school again, but being a private school with outstanding support from the AD and principal, it's the right environment to do so. The only real negative is the OHSAA. Wow, they're at least a decade behind in volleyball, and worse in general rules. My biggest complaint is that they're still messing around with the national H.S. federation's rules. Come on... you overlap with the biggest region of USA Volleyball, and arguably one of the most competitive regions in the country. Why would they not just adopt the FIVB rules like everyone else? If it's good enough for the Olympics, international play, USA Volleyball and the NCAA (mostly, anyway), then why aren't they being used for high school?
For example, last year they finally moved to rally scoring and using a libero, which they're still calling "experimental." And what's most funny is that some coaches hate it. Perhaps they need to get with the times and learn why it makes the sport so much better. The thing that killed me the most is that the coach had to be seated most of the time. That's intolerable. In FIVB, you can stand right up to the side line the entire time, and that's generally what I do. This year they're doing another "experiment" that lets you stand during dead balls, which is a step in the right direction, but not enough. If some obnoxious basketball coach can walk up and down the line (and personality wise they're about as far from mellow volleyball coaches as can be), then I think we should be able to do the same.
Don't even get me started on eligibility and playing sports during the off-season. They've moved well-beyond protecting the kids and into a total lack of common sense.
So it should be interesting. Playing among the small schools, I would think that there's more potential to go far in the state tournament if you know what you're doing. Seeing as how high school volleyball has become so much of a joke in this state, I'm down with that potential. (Ask recruiters if they bother screwing around watching high school games when they can hit a big J.O. tournament and see hundreds of choice kids.) It's a damn shame what the sport has become at that level. A lack of good coaches and the OHSAA are really holding back the high school game.
Off I go into another adventure this fall...
Good old fashioned display advertising on the Web isn't doing a great job at sustaining me these days. It's for this reason that I get annoyed when I see a guy making more than $10k a month on Google ads...
I blogged last week about my shiny new 20" Dell widescreen, and alas, it needs to be replaced.
I've had a total of three other LCD's, plus laptops, but I've never had one burn-in or ghost. This one is doing it big time. On a black or gray background, you can see my desktop background, my chat client, icons and the task bar. Worse, you can see a window that was only there short-term.
There's also a moving "wave" down the one side of it that's annoying. Between those two problems, I speculate that there's some kind of power problem in the monitor that's pushing too much into it or something. I mean, I've seen the Apple part in stores (uses the same LCD), but this one does seem almost unnaturally bright. Oh well, we'll see what the replacement does. It should be here in two to three days.
In the latest episode of This Week In Tech, John C. Dvorak and Leo Laporte think that Microsoft is "dead in the water" because the company is so stagnant. I'm not entirely in agreement, but they do have a point.
Longhorn certainly has become a joke. Honestly, Windows XP has been solid for me since beta 2, with not a single blue screen that I've had. It's not high on the "pretty" factor like OS X or anything, but I'm not sure if I even need it.
But while that gets the headlines, other parts of Microsoft have been getting it together. The forthcoming Visual Studio 2005 and .NET Framework v2 are just around the corner. Granted, they're screwing that up with this asinine segmentation of the Visual Studio line (the idea that the testing stuff comes in one particular edition and not all of them shows that some marketing moron is still driving development), but for those of us already using .NET, it's a huge improvement.
The Xbox 360 has potential way beyond gaming. The quest for the ultimate "set-top box" is still something that I'm not sure consumers are ready for, but it sounds like 360 will be that box, even if they don't push it as such... at first. I say ditch the whole Windows Media Center and push 360.
Despite being a big fan of Microsoft, the company frustrates me so much. The kingdoms don't talk to each other enough or understand what the others do. While the Xbox group is out to change the world, the Windows group doesn't appear to be doing anything except dragging its feet on a product that only serves one purpose: To generate upgrade revenue. The product has no clear point to it or vision.
It should be an interesting fall/winter as these two major products hit the street though. I'm looking forward to it.
I'm starting to wonder if I'm really cut out for being a code monkey. On this contract I'm the architect and senior coder, and we're wrapping up about eight weeks of requirements and starting ten weeks of writing code.
I can't focus. I'm bored with it. Doing this for 40+ hours a week is a challenge. The work itself is not difficult work for me, I just can't look at it for extended periods of time. My attention span won't allow it. That's a real pain.
I spend a lot of time thinking about other things, like volleyball in particular. This is going to be insane when I start doing that five or six days a week and at the same time do contract work for 40 or more hours. But volleyball feeds the soul, and that part of me is not entirely whole right now, so it takes precedence.
At the same time, I need to resolve some of this debt that has been piling up. I've been able to throw a couple grand at it here and there, but it feels like I'm not making adequate progress. The business debt is what bothers me the most, because if that wasn't there, it would be mostly profit for me.
Grrrrrr... does anyone every figure this shit out? I wouldn't say that I'm unhappy, but things aren't precisely peachy either.
Yeah, summer music that makes me want to kick ass. I do kick ass, but life needs a soundtrack.
So at the top of the list is the new Gorillaz album. Make no mistake, this one buries the last one. It has been a long time since I've heard something that has some obvious references to various genres, yet creates something that is new and unique. Demon Days is Grammy material. With all of the bland bullshit music out there, this one is like a kick in the nuts of popular music that says, "Fuck you, this doesn't fit your neat little categorization."
I also picked up the new Beck album, and after that piece of shit he put out in 2002, thank God he's back to form. He has all kinds of bizarre influences as well. Can't resist the track "Hell Yes." Lots of interesting moments on Guero, including a song that starts with something that sounds a lot like an Atari 2600 or 8-bit Nintendo music.
And there are other great things out in the recent past. Bleed Like Me from Garbage is certainly the best album this year, for me anyway. The new Black Eyed Peas is a winner. I'm still listening to Gwen Stefani and Green Day. The only significant disappointment is The White Stripes. Wow did they choke. Very mediocre.
I got some preliminary numbers on book sales in the first three months and they weren't nearly as strong as I had hoped. Feedback from customers has been extremely good, but I don't know that the publisher is reaching the right people, or anyone for that matter. That's frustrating.
So it looks like I'm going to have to start marketing myself a bit harder. Maximizing ASP.NET is all about turning beginners into gurus. I recently hired a guy for the project I'm working on and he's one of the many people that came from a script background and I'm not exaggerating to say it changed his life. There have to be tens of thousands of people coming from ASP, PHP, Cold Fusion and even Perl that are trying to get their heads around ASP.NET, and my book was written for them. I know the story because that was me four years ago.
Looks like I need to put myself out there a lot more...
I was listening to This Week In Tech today and I think it was Robert Heron that mentioned a tip he got from Yoshi regarding your computer case. Keep the fan pressure of the intake fans higher than the output fans. By doing this, you don't get dust getting pulled in through every little crack in the case. In the case where your intake fans have a filter, that means you should have virtually no dust in the computer.
Unfortunately, my case, and I suspect most others, have more output fans. I have the power supply plus three others, and only two pulling air in through the filter. That's why I have nasty dust build-up around the floppy and CD drives. I suppose I could get pots to adjust fan speed, but the current setup does expel a whole lot of heat and I'm not sure I want to mess with that.
Since I had my "piercing epiphany" about a month and a half ago, it's interesting how my actions have fallen right in line and I just feel so damn healthy. It's really weird.
In late 2003, I made some realizations about taking better care of myself physically, and I did make some important changes then like not eating fast food. When I got the mental thing in order by writing my book and quitting my day job in early 2004, I thought of it as a great transitional time to do more, but it never panned out.
But now... the eating is better in terms of portions and at least some veggies (which compared to none is an improvement). I'm not exercising quite as much as I'd like to be, but I am playing with the volleyball kids at the open gyms I've been running.
That's where the other realization hit me. Last night I brought one of my alumni J.O. players with me, and we got hardcore. After 90 minutes, I wasn't tired or sore, and I'm good today as well. The only way I can account for that in terms of the difference from the J.O. season is that I'm eating right and drinking crazy amounts of water.
I'm sure that some people I know would be skeptical about my long-term ability to maintain this lifestyle, but the thing is that it hasn't been hard. Not even a little. I have my moments of "shit I need to eat something," but usually I'll have a small snack and move on.
Was browsing iTunes (lots of great new stuff!) and I went into the electronic genre page. The top two songs? The first is "Technologic," the song in the iPod spots, and the second is Paul Oakenfold's "Starry Eyed Surprise," which is in the Coke "roller girl" spot. That second one is from 2002!
Write a catchy song, get it into a TV spot, people will buy it. Look what Mitsubishi did for Dirty Vegas two years ago.
So I've been dieting for about six weeks now, trying to drop 20 pounds or so. I've already got nine down, so that's 11 to go. It's not an issue of being fat, it's just that damn beer trophy. It doesn't match my legs, which have always been fairly cut from my cycling days. It's not about being vain though as much as it is about just being more healthy. Even 20 extra pounds can be detrimental to your health.
In these six weeks, and two weeks before, I haven't had any beef. That wasn't so much a conscious decision as much as it was the idea that the cholesterol isn't so good and the body just doesn't digest it as efficiently as other things. I have been eating a lot of meat-like soy-based stuff, partly because of the low calorie/fat hit and partly because a lot of it is convenience food. I still eat chicken two or three times a week.
But now I'm starting to wonder... do I need beef at all? Clearly I don't, because I haven't had any in two months. I'm in no hurry to have a burger, and I never crave steak. I'm sure as hell not eating any cow lips-and-assholes sausage or wieners. I can't in good conscience put that shit into my body anymore.
Then Steph brings up the issues of things like mad cow and the general inefficiencies and environmental impact of beef production, and since I don't feel I need it, now I'm actually hearing her for the first time. It is an interesting thing to consider for an important personal choice.
I'm going to have to think about it because that's kind of a strong conviction. I mean, I'm already doing it, technically, but it's still a big deal. I'm not ready to go vegetarian yet, because I still don't eat enough vegetables (in terms of variety), but that might be a logical step some day. Funny thing about being married to a vegetarian dietitian is that the influence starts to eventually rub off on you whether you like it or not.
The only thing holding me back is Arby's, which I haven't been to anyway since... wow, I don't even know. It's not even like I really eat there ever.
Last year it became clear that working for myself was indeed what I needed to do to be happy. Generally speaking, I am happier. What I find lacking is the satisfaction of my creative side at times. I'm struggling to figure out how I managed that.
My career as a code monkey has only been in progress for about six years, but in that time I've established a point where I can bill a ridiculous hourly rate and I wrote a book. It's ironic then that I would stop and wonder if it's really what I should be doing. I enjoy writing code, and in the last 18 months or so I've reached a new level of ability that I'm excited about. So why am I not entirely content? I can have money and status, but I'm not sure if that's what I need.
Indeed, coaching is the thing that feeds the soul the most, but that's not a job, and if it was a job, I'm not sure how fun it would be. I've also got that creative film/video thing that I want to do in the worst way. These are things not entirely compatible with my day job.
For the time being though, I need to stick with the project I'm on, because frankly I can't afford not to. Last year's "break" from a day job is something I'm still paying for. I wouldn't say I'm stressed about money, but there's no question that I need to makes some serious bank so I can get out of debt and prepare for new expenses in the coming year. I'm also trying to stay focused on getting the business debt eliminated because of the volatile ad market for specialty publishers (not to mention I'd like to actually keep some of the profits for a change).
I don't know... I'm not unhappy, just... frustrated that I'm not sure what exactly I want to be doing.
Yeah, I bought the 20" Dell that I said I wouldn't.
After coupons it was about $500, and for the first time in months (especially since getting my laptop with the widescreen), I'm actually using my desktop again. I just couldn't stand to look at those non-sharp 17" ViewSonics with all of the plastic in the middle. This, my friends, is how to write code.
Again, the LCD in this thing is the same one Apple uses in their 20" CinemaDisplay. It's awesome. Turn on ClearType, make the icons big, and it's glorious. Not a dead pixel on the thing. Yes, if you look at a totally black screen, there's that bit of light leak in the corners, as some people have complained, but what the hell? I don't ever sit there staring at a blank screen!
And it's nice to use the desktop. I've given that machine a lot of love lately. I had to replace the old 20 gig C: drive because it started clicking, a power supply died on me about two months ago, I dressed it up with new cold cathodes, and God knows that 6800GT in there is still among the faster video cards out there. Doom 3 at 1680x1050 is something to really behold.
And the color profile seems to be dead on, which is something I've been struggling with for a long time. If I ever decide to get more serious about using video and get back into more photography, maybe a calibration device is in order, but the out-of-the-box profile looks very good.
I didn't need this, technically, but at least it gives me the motivation to work a little harder.
I'm still a month behind on reading Wired, but there's a great article about Xbox 360 and J Allard. Seriously, this guy is my hero.
Why? Because he's a badass that says what he thinks. I respect that. I respect that even more that he's able to do it in a huge corporate structure like Microsoft. (And by extension, I respect his superiors more that they'll put up with, and listen to, his foul-mouthed e-mail.) I get the strong sense that his personality is a lot like mine... strong opinions, not content with mediocrity, not concerned about others' perception of him, 30-something, and perhaps walks the line between confidence and arrogance. That's me.
I tried to work that way once in a corporate environment, while at Penton Media. That didn't work out because it was a horrible yet classic example of a good old boys club, with a bunch of fat old white men that figured the status quo would continue to work. They didn't want to listen to some 28-year-old kid at the time tell them what the Internet really meant.
What did I have to say? While it wasn't my idea, one of "our" people suggested building a Web-based CRM product for internal use and to sell to our customers. I mean, we were a B2B media company, why not? I pushed the concept around in the business units I worked in. They said it would never work and no one would buy into it (this opinion was largely based on their lack of sales of Web-based ads). Morons. Salesforce.com got there and made people rich. Those assholes all got canned, Penton was delisted from the NYSE, and that was the end of that. I left for other things before it went down.
I wouldn't say I'm bitter as much as I hate that I worked in an environment where new ideas were never given a chance for discussion. You'd think they'd stand up and listen to the "kid" that sold a domain name for $100k, but they were so stuck in the print world that they didn't understand the company's evolving role for our customers. The key to success is a combination of identifying customer needs and innovating.
But who knows, if it were a different company, maybe I would've had the kind of success Allard has had. I really admire the guy because, if you believe everything that has been written about him, he's never backed down from the winner-take-all attitude for risky business. Who in their right mind would create a business plan to take on Sony and Nintendo? And walk into a room with Gates and Ballmer to sell it? He's even smart enough to see the potential for other Xbox uses, even if he sees the thing as mainly a game machine. Frankly his vision makes a hell of a lot more sense than the whole Media Center approach. If he has Gates' ear, hopefully he's listening.
So I raise my glass to J Allard... someone who really gets it.
I've really been an amateur film geek lately. Saw War of The Worlds today, plus picked up two DVD's, going to see Fantastic Four tomorrow. I'll probably blog about all four movies tomorrow night.
The more movies I watch, the more I feel like I need to make one. This need has me questioning a lot about what I do for a living (that's a topic for yet another post), but clearly there's a creative side to me that isn't being satisfied. I've worked professionally now in nearly every form of media... books, magazines, radio, TV and the Internet. Wow, that's weird just to say that. I don't think I really realized that until just now. Anyway, I haven't worked in film. Or cinema or movies, if you will, because frankly actual film is starting to die, no matter what Spielberg says.
I have to bang out 20 pages of something easy to shoot and get a nice short under my belt, no matter how bad it might suck. I'll do it purely for Internet release. Fuck, I've been talking about that for years now and I still haven't done it. I can't get my hands around what the barrier is. It's not money, because I'll be irresponsible and blow cash on the equipment if I feel I have the right script.
A movie can do a lot of things for people, entertain them, and make them feel something, even if it's just for a few moments. Some films leave a lasting impression (Dead Poets Society and Singles did it for me), others just make you appreciate a well-told story (The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction). I think that maybe my barrier is that I want to do something right out of the gate that will do either of those things, which is a ridiculously stupid expectation to have.
Certainly one of the things that has always drawn me to video is the toys. I mean, here's something that can satisfy both sides of the brain with something technical and scientific, as well as creative and inspirational.
The first frame of video I ever edited was in 1989 at the local government cable access studio, where I would later work. Editing tape was slow, with the pre-rolling and searching, but it was still satisfying. In 1998 I would run a government studio and have the foresight to go digital before the local TV affiliates would. I also bought a Media 100, my first non-linear editing system. What a liberating feeling that was, to cut video and play it back in real-time without generation loss or anything harmful like that!
Only a year after that I left for the riches of the Internet, but I've tried to keep a hand in it here and there. I actually make a grand or two a year encoding video for the Internet, and like a true geek, I own a version of Avid (Xpress Pro HD, for those that care). I try to keep up and read stuff online and still get DV Magazine for free. The Panasonic DVX100A is an amazing camera I'd love to own. There are also amazing, yet astonishingly simple things like the Fig Rig that make shooting on DV interesting.
I really need to stop talking about this and start doing it.
Something I didn't make clear last time... the moblog functionality only works if you're sending a photo. A straight text message won't work. The formats of different providers make it tough to really nail down something that will work for everyone, but per normal RFC's, an e-mail attachment (photo) is always the same.
Regardless, the developer of the e-mail component I'm using just put out another build. Maybe this one works better.
You should see all of the crap text sent with photos from Verizon! Every entry would be an ad!
The bombings in London today were kind of scary. I guess what concerns me the most is that it was a coordinated attack. I thought the major terrorist organizations had been dismantled to the point where they couldn't pull something like that off.
On the positive side, I am impressed at how well the people there are taking it. In interviews, so many of them appear to feel that, yes, they were attacked, and they will go on with their lives. That's good, because as they say, the terrorists win when you can't continue to function.
I was listening to the 1995 mix on iTunes this evening, and the last track is Jewel's "Angel Standing By." Still gives me chills to hear it, and always reminds me of people brought to tears hearing it live.
An appropriate song though just before bed... this has been a long-ass day.
I got a call today from Sprint PCS. After f'ing around with a bunch of idiots on the phone that had no clue, we finally got more than $200 in charges killed.
About two months ago, Stephanie called and asked them to add on the unlimited text messaging to her line. Problem is, with her phone she could only do it via "wireless web" and not standard SMS text messaging because her phone was old. So they signed her up for the wrong thing, and we got billed out the ass.
After idiots couldn't help, I finally wrote a postal letter, and told them I'd call the state attorney general for fraudulent charges. The woman I talked to basically erased all final charges and said they were tracking down the people responsible, since some apparently went as far as trying to cover up the contact with us.
We're both on Verizon now, and so far so good. We like our phones (Samsung a670). The ironic thing is that we just ditched Verizon for our land line in favor of Vonage. I guess that makes Sprint the biggest losers.
If you're a Campusfish subscriber, try sending a picture message from your phone to email@example.com, replacing username and password with, well, you know. I think they're case sensitive, so in my case I have to use "Jeff" and not "jeff" in the e-mail address.
So far I know it works with Verizon, which is my provider. So if you're "in," don't bother because I know yours works. :)
Edit: I know there's a problem with Cingular. Actually, it's a problem with the e-mail component I'm using... but I working with the programmer to work it out. I mean, I think he wants my business.
Ever wake up and feel totally lost? Like, "Shit, I'm not sure what I should do with my time." I'm having one of those days.
The obvious thing I should be doing is working, because there's a lot to do this week. I have to go run a volleyball open gym tonight, so I have limited time in the evening.
My own projects I think cause some of the conflict. I've been talking now for more than a year about building a new CoasterBuzz, and that hasn't happened. I've also got my new forum version, and my ad serving software. So many loose ends. I just haven't had the time, and I don't see that changing.
The obvious solution would be to drop off of this work project, but I can't afford it. My own projects aren't really for money. So I'm caught in this conflict and as a result sit and stare at the wall not doing either one.
What I really need right now is to waste some serious time on something totally not related.
This morning I finally got around to rotating my tires. That was a mistake. Waiting I mean. As expected, the rear wheels were pretty stuck after 25k miles. I can't believe just how much I sweat I created trying to get those damn things off. Wow was I gross.
This is why I can't have nice cars I think. Back when I got my first car, it represented the opportunity to be free to travel. Now cars are just something that get me between points. I just don't take care of them.
I have to wonder, if I actually spent more money on a nice car, would I take care of it better? Hard to say. My opinion on taking care of things has changed a great deal the last few months, but I don't know if that applies to cars.
There's a Garbage show on DirecTV's "Freeview" channel this month, kind of a mix of the videos, a live performance from Fuse and some promo interview clips for the Bleed Like Me album.
It's hard to believe now that it was almost ten years ago that we saw them in tiny Peabody's Downunder with a couple hundred other people (and the lame-ass top 40 station where I was a jock couldn't get me tickets). When I look at all of the stuff I'm listening to right now, Garbage is the only band that was around then and is still making music. And fuck, if they don't get some Grammy love this time, I'll be super pissed. It's their best album thus far.
Sometimes I'll hear one of their songs and totally forget it was out. Like "The World Is Not Enough," "#1 Crush" (soundtracks), or "Girl Don't Come" and "Afterglow" (B-sides). There's just so much they've done!
I remember just before Version 2.0 came out I was a regular visitor to Garbage.net, but that fucking loser stopped maintaining his site, the best unofficial site at the time, just because he didn't like Beautiful Garbage, saying the band wasn't doing what they were "famous" for. What the hell? Why do people expect bands to make the same fucking album over and over? It didn't work for Def Leppard (although it has managed to work for Metallica for like 20 years now).
After seeing them five times, associating those shows with various stages in my life, and literally modifying my attitude by certain lyrics of various songs, I have to say that Garbage is now the single most important band in my musical experience. I hope they can continue to get along enough to keep recording.
So to Shirley, Butch, Duke and Steve, thanks for a decade of great music. Hope to see you in Cleveland again!
There are some projects on my desktop computer that are just too much of a hassle to port to my laptop (old Visual Studio is like that). So I was working on my desktop and found that my colors for a recent project that I was looking at on my laptop were all f'd up. I'm so annoyed with those monitors because they've never been sharp and I've never been able to get the color right.
So then I see that with a coupon, the 20" Dell widescreen monitor is only $525. At it's core, it's the same LCD as the one in the Apple monitor. Dammit. Why must I be tempted with things like this? I can't beat this need to buy something!
Given the renewed interest in African poverty, am I the only one that finds it a little (a lot) absurd that we're spending hundreds of billions of dollars on a war against a country that posed no threat to us, instead of spending money on eliminating said poverty, domestic issues like poverty and education, or if you must bomb the shit out of someone, the brutal dictatorships in Africa?
Still waiting for those WMD's and links to terrorism. It's a damn shame people my age and younger are dying for no reason. God bless them for signing up to defend us, but I wish it didn't have to be on the watch of the moron in the White House.
I had a nice low-key birthday yesterday. It really started when Stephanie got home from work. She gave me a few small, special gifts, and we were off to dinner.
I wanted to eat at Outback, not for steak, but for cheese fries. No one gets them quite right the way that Outback does. We did call-ahead seating and it surprisingly wasn't that busy. We parked across the street at the movie theater because we intended to have a few drinks.
Steph was in a wine mood and I had several diet beers. This led to a lot of open and free conversation. ;) I had Chicken-on-the-Barbie, she had salad, a sweet potato and grilled mushrooms. Fortunately we were seated right next to the "used beer department" (as the sign said) given our beverages. That's the most damage we've done at Outback in years. As usual, we only ate half of our food and took the rest home.
We stumbled across the street to a Walgreens for some cheap cigars. Cigars are normally a vacation thing for us since neither one of us smokes, but generally drinking is a vacation thing too, so it seemed to make sense. We walked back to the movie theater and smoked for about 15 minutes behind the theater.
We saw Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which was absolutely brilliant. It was not simply an action movie, but a comedy. The whole spy versus spy thing was actually a big metaphor to getting along as married people. Well written, from the opening shot to the last.
And hear this: Anyone, male or female, that doesn't think that Angelina Jolie is simply the most beautiful human being on the planet has absolutely no sex drive. My God is she gorgeous, and I don't know any other person that more women say "I'd be gay for her."
All in all, it was a nice, quiet and relaxing birthday with my baby. Sometimes it's the simplest times that can be the best.
OK, so this is a little geeky, but I really love my Dell Inspiron 6000. I love that I paid only $756 for it. I love that the battery lasts three hours. I love that it doesn't bake my potatoes when it's on my lap. Best of all, I love the glorious, perfect WSXGA+ screen.
I don't really get geeked out about computer gear anymore. I guess since I deal with these machines for a living, I'm just well beyond that now. But this thing really is the first piece of tech I've felt good about using since my first digital SLR camera in 2002.
I guess the biggest surprise for me has been the screen. It's the first LCD I've ever had that has no defects. I've also discovered that this wide aspect ration, 1680x1050, is absolutely better than two conventional monitors for working with code. That's important since it's 75% of what I do with it. I wasn't expecting that. Now it makes me want to get a 20" Apple CinemaDisplay for my desktop (same resolution, much sharper than the two crappy Viewsonics I have now).
Enjoying this thing at least gets me over the purchase regret.
Apple put out a preview version of Quicktime 7 for Windows. The excitement here is of course that it includes the H.264 codec for HD video.
The good news is that I've never seen that kind of quality at ridiculous resolutions like that anywhere. I'm speechless that they could get the bit rate below 1 MB/sec, but they did it. The bad news is that even on my overcloked-to-hell Athlon, running almost equivalent to a 3 GHz P4, it's still not fast enough to keep up. The 1080p stuff hits about 4 fps, and the 720p stuff can do about 12 fps, half of what you really need.
Still, I'm impressed. Remember, I started professional life as a broadcast guy, with a particular geek passion for digital video (still not in the hands of the general population in 1999 when I left it all). To see this now... it's amazing. I wish I had the hardware to see it.
It's clear to me now that the next video camera that I buy has to be HD, preferably 1080p. I think we're a year or two off before you can buy a camera under two or three grand that can do it, but the software and display devices are very quickly coming down in price. The day you can watch a movie at that resolution at home is the day that I think movie theaters will be obsolete.
Now if only I had something to put in my copy of Avid Xpress HD... ;)