OK, so the average house is expensive as hell here, but dude, I'm sitting here and seeing the entire horizon is filled with mountains, all snowy and stuff. I mean, how cool is that?
I'm incredibly annoyed with the whole airline failure today, but in a lot of ways it's also nice to hang out with Joe and Kristen (and Nina) without the giant crowd of people. Wearing pajama pants and being bare foot in their house feels nice, you know? And Louie the cross-eyed cat is hanging out next to me.
Joe is an architect, and he recently went independent. Kristen also works from home. I look at that, and I'm envious, because that's precisely where I wish I was. The great irony is that having a baby didn't cause him to worry about holding down a day job, it pushed him out to realize he wanted to be independent. Granted, he's seven years older, but that took some balls.
Yeah, I know where it's going for me. It just helps to verbalize it and give myself the gut check to understand what I need to do. Diana and I are itching to get out of Ohio. It's not fair for me to say Ohio sucks, because I don't think it does, but we want out. I've lived there my entire life, and just saying that sounds shitty when I've been to so many places that are so much more interesting.
Anyway, a couple of pics on Facebook, if you haven't already seen them.
So we get to Sea-Tac at 4:30am to find that American couldn't staff their plane. WTF? A 757 worth of people and you can't find a pilot?
So we're stranded here after spending two hours in line, and now we leave tomorrow. I'm annoyed, but at least I like it here. Oh, and Diana isn't well either. Perfect.
Despite having Internet access continuously, between the hotel and Joe's house (Diana's bro), I haven't really stopped to bang out a blog post. How very unlike me!
First of all, the weather has been unseasonably weird. Last night was an adventure leaving Joe's house to return to the hotel, because there was significant snow that actually stuck to the ground. That almost never happens, especially in March (unless of course you go to the higher elevations). It's not like they have snow plows or anything. It really was quite beautiful last night though, even if it was hard to drive in. We saw a couple walking down the street really getting into it, as I'm sure they don't see snow like that in the neighborhood that often.
Anyway, we're really not doing touristy Seattle stuff, but I'm sure we'll come out again at some point and there will be plenty of time for that. Friday was a nice get to know each other kind of day, and yesterday there were even more family and friends here for Nina's baptism. That's Joe and Kristen's adorable little baby, the reason we're here. It's really wonderful to see all that love for a tiny little creature like that.
It's been a roller coaster for the family, because Friday was also the anniversary of Diana's mom's passing. Her and her dad in particular have had a somewhat rough time. But the way I look at it, her mom is still giving gifts and leaving an amazing legacy, in this case Diana's new niece. Isn't it cool that love is the one human force that death can't stop?
Today we're going to check out one of the local waterfalls, hopefully framed by some snow still, to add to the 200+ photos I've already shot of the family. I'm really having a good time shooting, and I absolutely love the 5D and the new lenses. They're seriously awesome and my spark for photography has really started to come back. As I get more comfortable with the camera, I'm starting to pay more attention to composition and look for things too.
I feel compeled to record what I see.
Sitting across from us is a girl with tattoos that have some sweet shading work and detail. Down the row, a nervous girl plays with headphones, but doesn't listen. A mom with two young girls cuddles with them on the floor in the corner. All the older folks are reading. A guy with two leg braces has been standng talking on the phone for a half hour.
Diana is knitting. I'm blogging. That is all.
Last night, around 1:45 a.m., the tornado siren a mile down the road went off. Even more surprising, I actually woke up. The sky was clear, so I assumed we were under attack or something. I rolled over and pecked CNN.com into my iPhone, and nope, no attack. No idea what the hell that was about.
Then one of the guys at work mentioned this morning that they were supposed to do a test at 9:30 a.m. Apparently someone got the memo wrong.
I got the invite for Hard Rock Park's media shindig, and I'm torn about whether or not to go, and how much to cover if I do.
First off, it's mid-week, which is not convenient. It's not that I can't take the time off as much as I wonder if I'd rather use it for something else. The travel time is a factor, because I either have to fly somewhere not close to Myrtle Beach (at higher expense), or I have to drive to Pittsburgh and go direct (cheap tickets).
Then there's the issue of what exactly I cover there. I'd like to do the full video treatment, but in order to do that, I need either someone who can be my reporter/producer who knows how to interview, or someone who really knows how to shoot and I'll do the stand-ups. Basically I'd like to do what I couldn't do for Maverick due to the delayed opening.
The biggest thing is that new parks open so infrequently that I feel it'd be a serious missed opportunity to not go. I have to figure something out soon because I have to pull the trigger on travel very soon.
Jason Calacanis made a blog post yesterday about how ad networks suck. Yeah, tell me something I don't know. For years they've been taking half the money, delivering lower and lower CPM's, and you need to go four deep just to fill your inventory.
Of course, when you're a small publisher, you're stuck. He suggests after a certain traffic level, you hire someone to sell for you. We're not at that threshold, obviously. When you're small, you have the unfortunate situation that you can't sell enough at a reasonable commission to hire a contractor. You also want to concentrate on your content and coding and whatever, not selling.
This is a crappy place to be. Even selling at the crappy rates of the networks, with commission to the sales contractor, we'd increase our own revenue by 75% or more. Sell it at rates that most would argue it's really worth, and we'd double or triple our revenue.
Economy of scale is a brutal reality. It's actually that reality that makes the ad networks exist at all. In any case, we're trying to work the problem, and find a solution.
I was showing Diana some old Busch Gardens pictures the other day (the Williamsburg variety) and realize that I have many thousands of older photos I really wish I had in digital form going forward. Some of you youngin's might not remember, but there was this thing called film, and when light touched it, it changed chemically and we made prints from it. I think I've finally given up on buying prints, and I think it's time to go the other way, and make them digital. Back them up to a big ass hard drive, dupe in the cloud, and live on.
I actually have a Nikon negative scanner, but it's old. It uses some SCSI standard and I have an ISA interface card for it. That means I pretty much can't use it. There are newer models from Nikon that aren't particularly cheap. There are also Canons that are pretty cheap. Most importantly, they're all USB now, and they all seem to have OS X software. One plus for the Canon models is that they're also full scanners, which are useful for scanning docs for e-mail or whatever.
Regardless, the biggest issue is one of speed. Even that old Nikon I have, while incredibly high quality, was so f'ing slow. Scanning four to six frames took forever. And there's the dilemma that once I'm done with it, I don't really need it ever again unless I get one of the Canons with regular flatbed functionality. They're cheap, so I may go that route.
I have a bunch of CD's with scans on them, but I have almost no idea how far back I go. I'd like to go all the way back to high school.
It was getting pretty clear that all of the non-sleep and sickness and general stir-crazy-lethargy nonsense of the last two weeks or so was really getting to me, and I was living in my head. Yeah, no good comes of that!
So tonight I went out to the tub solo, as Diana wasn't up to it, and the clear skies above were accompanied with a clear head. No racing thoughts, no list making, no holy-shit-I-need-to's... just relaxation. It was fairly liberating.
In fact, my head is really not any more ahead than this weekend in Seattle. I've got my Ta-Da Lists neatly describing things I need to do, and today I just leave that stuff there.
I also felt like I turned a corner at the Blue Man show. The lyrics to "Persona" and "The Complex" really strike a chord with me. The subject of those songs has let himself get beat down by The Man, and that's not me. Realizing you ultimately have the control really sets you free.
I had lunch with a friend today who is navigating the world of dating after divorce. While our situations were different, our pre- and post-relationship experiences were similar in terms of the range of our dating experience. I've come to the conclusion that if you don't have a ton of dating experience when you get married, your skill level essentially freezes. That makes it all the more hard to get back into it when you're in your 30's or 40's.
Anyway, I've always enjoyed counseling people, going all the way back to college. I remember the triumphant feeling I had when I mediated a roommate conflict with one of my best friends. As time went on, I found that I spent too much time talking and not listening when I would engage in these situations, and I only really learned that during my own counseling post-divorce.
So I listened to her issues and quietly processed what she had to say. Toward the end of lunch, I was able to draw some reasonable conclusions and offer my perception of her dating issues. She said she felt so much better, and thanked me. That's a pretty good feeling, to know that you helped someone like that.
Me assuming the role of Dr. Phil like that isn't always easy. I think there are two problems. The first is that I have to draw on my own experiences to really offer any insight. I don't know how effective I'd be in helping were it not for the fact that she's going through things I went through two years ago. The other thing is that I'm not good at this if I'm really close to the person. I was never good at helping Stephanie with her problems, and I had another relationship that I was too deep into to be effective. But with a good friend where the stake is simply the good friendship, listening and helping comes really naturally.
I wonder if maybe that was my true calling. I don't even know what you get to be licensed or certified for offering psychotherapy, but I'm pretty sure it's more school!
Oddly enough, she helped me as well, indicating that my career, location and relationship changes are exciting. Funny how sometimes you need someone else to state the obvious about your own life.
Most hilarious personal ad ever...
I wonder how many women think this way?
The lingering congestion and coughing, neither of which makes it hard to be breathe or anything, seems to be keeping me down to some degree even after three weeks. I'm sleeping a lot and the body just isn't ready to manifest what the brain wants. It's kind of annoying.
I miss being able to stay up later, have a glass of wine now and then and just generally not feel like I'm dragging ass. Flying again this weekend concerns me, though my doctor said that the way airplanes circulate air, your only significant exposure to people's cooties are from people in front and behind you. He thinks I probably got this from the thousands of nerds watching Steve Ballmer's monkey boy redux.
I'm looking forward to the weekend though, because I want to play the role of photojournalist for the baby festivities. It'll be cool to get some good use out of that portrait lens.
Diana and I did the Blue Man Group last night on what is presumably the last How To Be A Megastar tour date we'll see. Always a good time.
The crowd was absolutely the lamest I've seen at any of the four arena shows I've been to. You know, usually you expect that people are in some way reacting to the music, but this crowd was so not into it. They couldn't even get the basic head bob right.
But whatever, I still had a good time. This version of the show is definitely the tightest for a lot of reasons. They used more pieces from the stage shows to kind of fill in gaps and also play during the rock concert manual voice-overs, so there's more of a flow throughout the show. The darker songs are grouped together and there's no down time between them. Even "I Feel Love" gets teased by way of guitar in the dark while the Blue Men take off "The Feeling" suits. "Rock-n-Go" really rocks out, even though I kinda miss "Exhibit 13" in that spot.
The guy who replaces Peter Moore for the male vocals is actually not bad. Adrian Hartley isn't bad, but she doesn't quite have the pipes for "I Feel Love." Still, there was a certain chemistry there between the two singers with the new arrangements on "Sing Along."
I think it's time to put this tour to rest. The upper bowl was actually closed for this show, so there were far fewer people in The Q than there were the first time I saw the show in 2006. I think part of the reason it has run its course is because this is essentially the same music they've been playing since The Complex tour back in 2003. It's time for some new music.
I've got that free "in" for the Vegas show next time, so I'm sure I'll at least be seeing that one again. :)
Photos from last night on Facebook.
I think I need this shirt...
I was watching The Complex this evening in preparation for the big show tomorrow, when I started to think about Venus Hum, and how we haven't had anything new from them for quite some time. So I did the Googling and YouTubing and found this "live" performance of "Pink Champagne" from late 2006.
Yikes... reminds me of a Crystal Method video. Two dudes playing their computers. OK, so Annette isn't much of a dancer, but how cute is she with that hair? I'd still see them live. That little woman has some pipes.
In other Blue Man affiliated news, nothing new about Tracy Bonham lately. Peter Moore is apparently working on his solo album.
It occurs to me that we got back from Vegas nearly two weeks ago now. That's nuts. The sick thing is like a time warp.
Anyway, I wanted to talk briefly about the vacationing components between and after the Mix stuff. The day I got there, that Tuesday, it was still morning because of the time zone difference and the fact that the only reasonable flight I could get was earlier. That left me with a lot of time to kill.
The first annoyance was that the Venetian checked me into a dirty room. With robes flung over furniture, I was fortunate I didn't encounter naked people. So I went all the way back down and bitched, and they put me in another room, only with a better view (the first would've been the roof of the parking garage). I guess that was good enough.
I was determined to stay up as late as I could to adjust and not be up at 5am with nothing to do but gamble. I decided early on that I'd play in a poker tournament, with little expectation other than I'd have fun. Venetian's low-end tournament was $160 or something like that, which didn't seem terrible to me. It was only $70 at Caesars Palace, which was even better, and I love that place! So I registered for a 3pm tournament.
To waste time, I played a little video poker at the bar where I won big last time, and I walked away with $30.75 on $20 when it was time to play poker.
Here's the problem, is that they keep giving you drinks when you play at the bar, and the same was true for the poker tournament. It probably impaired my judgment. Our tournament was with 50 players (five tables), and they kept consolidating as the field narrowed. I managed to get about half way through the field, reaching about 6,500 in chips (you start with 2,000) at one point. I got into an all-in bidding war with this guy that kept bullshitting every hand, and I lost the only time he actually had something. That was kinda stupid, but I got to play for a little over two hours, was well watered and had a good time. I was about half-way through the field.
By the time I headed back to the Venetian, I was already starting to crash. Dammit. It was only around 6. Registration opened for Mix, so I got my lanyard and goodie bag and headed up to my room. I had room service (chicken parm) that wasn't bad, and frankly priced about the same as the restaurants anyway. Oh look, another copy of Visual Studio in the bag. I swear they're like water to Microsoft.
I headed back to the conference area for a screening of King of Kong: Fist Full of Quarters, with a Q&A session following that included the producer and the guy who has the score record, Steve Wiebe. It was definitely entertaining, though the long-haired guy just creeps me the fuck out. Wiebe's wife and kids were there too (annoyingly cute family), and when you see them you realize that he's less the freak than the other people in the movie.
Microsoft really goes all out in terms of food and refreshments, by the way. Had I not been sick, I was sure I'd gain a ton of weight. They even had all the Red Bull you could drink, which I can't, but at a typical two bucks a can, well, that's premium. For the Kong screening, they had Haggen-Dazs ice cream bars (something like 80% your daily fat), popcorn, chips, soda, Red Bull... just all out.
Already I grew jealous of other attendees, as there were a number of MacBook Airs during the screening in the room. But whatever, I found a free copy of the movie under the chair in front of me. I win!
Wednesday was pretty hard core Mix. After the last afternoon session, I went next door to Chipotle ($6 for chicken burrito) to get something I knew would be decent enough and not overpriced casino crap. It was more the convenience than anything, as I wanted to be well fed before the evening party at Tao.
As I mentioned before, Tao wasn't that much fun because I had not met any truly interesting people to that point. What's more, I couldn't even find the people I did know despite intentions to connect. What can I say, I wasn't going to be a Twitterer for the sake of the party.
Thursday was pretty hard core too, and Diana arrived around 7pm. We shared some crappy food, but overall it was just nice to be together somewhere that wasn't Cleveland. Other than some walking around, we mostly hung out in the room as she was fighting off something (which I think I got tenfold), and suffering from jet lag.
Friday the Mix sessions only went until 1 or something like that. Diana went over to Casino Royale for some craps action (I still don't understand how that game is played) and a little shopping. After Mix, we picked through a box lunch I got from the conference and then set out into the world.
I think our first mission was to scope out real lunch, so knowing there were decent and affordable choices at Caesars' food court, we went there. From there we headed down to Paris via Bally's to see what the hours were on the breakfast buffet.
Fortunately, the strip is not super crowded this time of year, so we were able to move with relative ease. The evolving skyline is crazy to see. We didn't cover that much ground, as I tend to be more activity focused than casino-hopping focused. I've still never seen the entire Bellagio fountain sequence, nor have I seen the pirate hooch show at Treasure Island. One other interesting thing to note is that the volcano is being refurbished in front of The Mirage.
We made our way back north and walked the mall in search of headache meds, and a stop in the Apple Store. Diana had not yet seen the Air up close. The mall was so not crowded, but the Apple Store was a zoo.
Next we walked through the Wynn, in part to scope out quality dinner choices. We found Corsa, an Italian place specializing in the more non-red sauce kinds of food, and got a reservation about two hours prior to the show time for Phantom, for which I bought tickets.
Let me say, I like the Wynn a lot. The carpeting is a little, I dunno, Playskool, but it's a nice casino with lots of nice restaurants. The people watching is interesting because they service some very high end people. People that have that much money to piss away are funny because they're so not grounded in the reality most of us share.
The interim afternoon hour or two was spent just relaxing. I think this is where my Vegas experience differs from a lot of people. I like to just take it easy an enjoy a nice hotel. I don't need to go 24/7 just because you can, and I know that's what a lot of people do there. I'm not much of a gambler (I think I spent less than a hundred bucks total), but I love comfortable hotels, good food and the shows.
Corsa was amazing. We did it right, with wine, dinner and desserts. A hundred bucks for two people, when the food is excellent, and the service is blow your mind amazing, is totally worth it. I forget now what Diana had (it was creme brulee for dessert!), but I had this baked rosemary chicken that melt in your mouth amazing. The chocolate dessert I had was also dreamy, though the espresso gelato was a bit much for me.
Phantom was technically stunning, as you'd expect, with the best chandelier gag of any permanent or traveling production. Unfortunately we had the understudies for Phantom, Christine and Carlotta. They weren't bad, they mostly just adequate. Actually, the Phantom needed some work. But it was still a great show, and for the 20 or so years it took me to see it (first time at Venetian in '06), I still feel like it's new to me.
We followed the show by obtaining more gelato, this time in a shop in the Palazzo shopping area. Diana is a still searching for what she calls "real" gelato, which has a different texture than what we kept finding. That's the burden of her having visited Italy. But I do know she's talking about, because I had what she describes at Epcot last month.
We enjoyed some people watching at that point. There was this young woman, a hostess for a restaurant there, who was getting mentally undressed time after time by passing men, and we had a discussion about what makes women attractive. Don't get me wrong, she was gorgeous, but she was the Barbie stereotype. Perfect body, blonde, tan... and totally not my thing. I'm convinced most men like the variations. I like taller or shorter, whiter or darker, red hair or darker, basically the anti-Barbie. But in Vegas, where there are a great many beautiful people, so many women try to emulate that.
Saturday started fairly early, and we had no wait to speak of at the buffet in Paris. The variety of the food is great, and they do custom omelettes and crepes. As usual, I take "all you can eat" too seriously, and usually exceed that amount. Duh.
On the way out we tossed about three bucks into one of the big Wheel of Fortune machines that appear everywhere now. I can see the appeal on them. If you get a good slot lineup and the big wheel lands on a big multiplier, you can seriously kick ass. But you know, it's a big if!
We made our way back up the strip. Runners passed us, and we encountered the "drunk bitches" (a la 40-year-old Virgin). I'm pretty sure these girls had been out since the night before, and I was amazed at just how (relatively) coherent they were. After that much sustained drinking, and when the party had obviously ended in most places, they were still going strong.
Back at The Venetian, we decided to get some pool time in. Diana lacked swimwear, so it was Wi-Fi for me and reading for her. The water was like a bath, and in retrospect I should've gone in. During this time I bought Blue Man Group tickets because the second show had cheaper seats on the lower level. I also felt like something wasn't right.
We essentially spent most of the afternoon in bed, and I could feel myself getting worse. We ventured down to Grand Lux Cafe for dinner, which was remarkably average. We also picked up the tickets.
After dinner, I started to get into the chill/sweat cycle, which was really bad news. I figured, whatever, I can make it at least through the show. Gotta make it. No refunds. I watched a lot of Discovery HD and pretended I was fine.
I felt reasonable all the way downstairs until we had been sitting in the Blue Man Theater for about 15 minutes, and 15 minutes before show time. I had a growing urge to yack. Finally, I gave in and told Diana we had to go. Watching a Barbie insist she couldn't sit in the poncho section was not entertaining enough to beat the disapproval of my innards.
I sat on a bench in the lobby, and at this point my arms and legs started to fall asleep. The fever was getting worse, and wow was I dehydrated. Diana went to find a manager to see if we could get refunds. A security guard asked if I was OK, and the first thing I did is say I was sick and not drunk. They were about ready to call an EMT, but I insisted that cold water would be a great start.
They refunded our tickets, and the show manager invited us to come back and see the show any time, on him. That was a wonderful gesture. It wasn't the reaction I expected at all.
Back in the room, Diana dosed me with some of that warm water/yellow powder junk, and I layered on the blankets and went to sleep.
Sunday was a little better, but I still felt like shit. It got to the worst point when we landed and my ears got so blocked it hurt. Then Continental took forever to get checked bags off the plane. Then we had to dig out Diana's from the snow without any significant winter gear. Fucking Cleveland weather.
So we basically lost 24 hours of our vacation to my sickness, and Diana did her best to nurse me back to health the rest of the week. She drove me to the doctor Tuesday when I was at my worst, and thank God, because my body was not going to recover on its own.
I think there's a good chance we'll return in December for one of Diana's friend's birthday, but we'll see. There are shows and attractions for us to see, and a free Blue Man showing too.
It looks like my body was bluffing, because after eight hours or pretty solid sleep (for the first time in two weeks), I woke up relatively well. Slight sore throat, but it got better once I started shoving stuff down it.
Hopefully that means a nice weekend of Blue Man Group, eating, some much missed cuddling and maybe even a little work.
You ever get that feeling like something just isn't quite right, and you associate that feeling with being sick? That's me right now. I've felt it since I got home. Hopefully it's just my imagination, because I've already had a good two weeks of feeling less than stellar. Besides, I've got Blue to attend to Saturday!
I can pretty honestly say that the bulk of my real life social life exists because of the Web. All of my best friends today I met in one way or another because of the Intertubes. Even Diana came by way of eHarmony. The surprising side effect, one I've never thought much about, is that the richness of those relationships can probably be attributed to the fact that via online community, you have a much larger pool of people from which to interact, and the people you most hit it off with are actually easier to find.
A large subset of friends I know because of CoasterBuzz, PointBuzz and CampusFish. Of the three, the only one to get any serious attention in terms of improvement is PointBuzz (after three and a half years), and I think the motivating factor there was that I co-own it with Walt. So on one hand, these things I created are responsible for many of my friendships, but on the other hand, I don't understand the responsibility my friendships have on those properties.
I've had a lot of conversations that go along the lines of, "It'd be cool if you could do this with that site." Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don't, but regardless, people close to me still have feelings for those sites. There are two problems. The first is that I'm not always sure that I have the same feelings for the sites. The other problem is that, dammit, there aren't enough hours in the day to work on those sites as long as I'm working a day job.
I love our little mini-community at CampusFish. I struggle with it every day because stuff is limited in how it works, it's based on .NET 1.1 code and the damn moblogging gets hosed up constantly. On one hand I feel personal motivation to re-build it because I love it, but on the other hand it isn't something that would pay the bills in the event it was part of my stay-at-home day job.
CoasterBuzz is more tricky, because I don't feel like coaster enthusiasm is what it used to be. We've talked about that in the podcast and in the member-only forum at length. It's still a place people meet, and the club membership number has remained relatively constant for years despite relative neglect. Those couple hundred people are really important to me though, and I feel like I owe them.
Time feels like my enemy. Those six hours every night seem destined for slacking because I need to balance out the previous eight (plus commute) or go nuts. I want to give Diana attention. I want to play with my cats, and play video games. It's hard to come home to work my "other" job.
Of course, the obvious remedy is to make this stuff my full-time job, and in short stints, that has worked for me in the past. But when you go down that route, you essentially burn a bridge. If I decided it wasn't working, it's not like I could go back to ICOM. Not that I couldn't go elsewhere, but would it be as good of a job? I'm too risk averse lately, and I have no idea how I got that way. I'm still trying to get my arms around what that damage is so I can fix it.
The heart wants to pursue what I see as real obligations, but the reality of needing to balance out my time outside of work gets in the way. It's something I've been thinking about quite a bit lately, and I hope I arrive at some useful conclusions very soon. My happiness hangs in the balance.
An update to the firmware on my Airport Extreme base plus an update to Time Machine seems to equal Time Machine working (without a hack) to a USB drive on the router. Yay! I've been doing this for awhile on my MacBook Pro already, but it's sweet that it works now without the hack.
I'll have to find a big old drive on sale somewhere and put that baby on the router so I can have my media drive back in the MacBook Pro. Plus future Macs in the household can use it. ;)
I was listening to TWIT #136 and, wow, Leo Laporte is totally out of touch. Patrick Norton is not far behind. Listen starting around 36:30. I've found that lately these guys are hanging out in Pundit Valley and completely missing what's going on in the rest of the world. He's actually got the balls to suggest that Web developers don't like Microsoft, and that believing in Silverlight is akin to drinking the Kool-Aid®. Had Leo actually gone to Mix08, I think he'd feel differently.
You can throw all kinds of sites out there that use ASP.NET today, like Chase, Match.com, Sharebuilder, Schwans, Ars, and this little start-up I work for called Insurance.com, and he still would believe something different. The funny thing is when they go on to say only a million people who use Twitter, which, I know this comes as a shock to the non-blogging valley types, most people don't have any desire to use. Put the Calacanis Twitter attention whoring aside and put it in perspective.
Mix08 was certainly a coming out party for the part of Microsoft some of us already knew about. Going back to 2004 when I started writing my book, I was surprised at the way things were opening up. Today, you can debug the .NET Framework code, the very sweet MVC framework is being developed with full source exposure, and (gasp!) unit testing. Silverlight is cross-platform and finally nails down the designer vs. programmer problem. We can make fun of Windows Vista and Office all day long, but if you're paying attention, you'll see that Microsoft has amazing tools, shipping, today.
I'm not qualified to say that they're better, because I don't have time to learn every new technology that comes around. But, Patrick Norton, .NET has been shipping and improving now since 2001's "go live" beta license. I have a site written using ASP.NET v1.0, and running on v3.5. Before you start pontificating about the platform, maybe you should talk to people who actually use it.
This Web developer loves Microsoft, in particular Scott Guthrie's entire division. Come to Mix next year, Leo and Patrick, and get clued in. You guys cease to be credible pundits when you stop paying attention.
We had a little lunch get together today for one of the guys who is going to be a daddy any minute now. What a crazy thing that has to be... knowing your entire world is going to change drastically just like that.
I was sitting off in the corner and had one of those disconnected movie moments. You know, where all the chatter kind of silences in your head and you see the subject of the scene smiling and talking in slow motion? You start to feel kind of isolated even in a room full of people.
I'll be 35 in July, so I'm not exactly and old man. Diana is 38, and she's not an old woman either. I'm not suggesting anything (yet ;)) about us getting married, but obviously we're on the kind of relationship tract to arrive at that point. And it makes me wonder what it would be like to have a child. We both feel like we're still transient, not exactly ready for parenthood because X, Y and Z aren't in place.
Of course, most parents will tell you it's never the right time, and you either want to have kid(s) or you don't. That's probably true. It's just that, in today's world, if we really fuck up something or make some major career change, us grown ups have no real issue. We can roll. When a little person is in the picture, that changes dramatically.
There's a part of me who knows I'd be a great dad. When I look at the various volleyball kids I've had, I had real impact on some of them, only it was such a short-term thing, two or three years at most. They in turn had dramatic impact on me. It's a fascinating dynamic. I can't even imagine what it'd be like over the course of 20 years.
Who knows... maybe that's the great accomplishment in life I've been waiting to make.
I love that song. :)
Anyway, Diana and I were pretty pathetic last night. I'm going on like day 12 or something of being sick to some degree, the current level involving a nagging cough that prevents meaningful sleep. No meds help. Diana has some serious shoulder something or other going, and can't sleep on the side she wants, and tennis is a bitch. So there were are sitting in bed last night, coughing and hurting, can't even cuddle, and just annoyed.
Throw in the monsoon, SAD, and some frustrations we have with other life components, and we really suck. And it's not like either one of us has some big picture bad thing hanging over us, it's just the stack of minor shit starting to weigh us down, some of it outside of our control.
What I'd give just for one sunny fucking day!
After living in the same town as one of my best friends from college, for the better part of like nine years, I finally ran into her and her family today at a local restaurant. She has two school age kids and a husband. It was weird and awkward. She didn't even introduce her husband. I've invited her to our parties and such over the years, but she never dropped by. First time I've seen her in probably ten years.
More important than who I saw was what I saw. A well-developed family, long standing established careers... safety. Radical change or mid-life correction for her would be hard, or maybe in her mind, even impossible. I'm not suggesting any unhappiness on her part, just that if it were there, it'd be a bitch to change.
And since it's all about me, this is obviously something I think about. That kind of change would be relatively painless and low risk for me in my situation. So why am I so incapable of acting where I know I want to make change?
It's fear, obviously. I'm not even sure what it's fear of exactly. Not only do I not have the family to put at risk, but even in terms of career, there's plenty out there for what I do. I think it's that the dreams I truly want to pursue just don't have enough definition. Let's face it, I've accomplished what I have largely by winging it. Taking that next leap isn't as easy to wing.
I'm still reminded though that awareness is half the battle. Knowing your fears and weaknesses is half beating them. There's something very empowering about that.
I've been sick now for more than a week. The last three days haven't been terrible, but I haven't felt particularly human. Actually, today I did, but that was offset by this intense fatigue. All I've wanted to do is sleep all day. I did manage to keep it down to two hours of napping.
As my head starts to come back online, I realize there are a lot of important things to think about. About a month from now, as long as I'm not a jackass, the business will be debt free for the first time ever. I'll try to retell the story here in part for Diana's benefit, and in part for my own. I've had this company face now for years, and it never quite had a clear reason to exist.
After college, and after starting the cable TV gig in Medina (this was 1997), I was already intent on using the Internet as another form of media to use and understand. What made it more interesting was that anyone could do it with a relatively low cost barrier to entry. Having exited from radio, I thought, wouldn't it be cool to build these Web sites for radio stations? So in thinking of popular music and such, I came up with POP World, and registered popworld.com on July 11, 1997, for $150 or whatever domain names cost back then.
Ironically, I propositioned Cedar Point about building a site for them too, only because it seemed like a sexy thing to do. Keep in mind, Web sites in 1997 were hideous, and what little I knew how to do was just as bad.
I stuck to video and my day job for the most part. In 1998 though, after finally owning my own (film) SLR camera, I wanted to put some of the photos I was shooting online somewhere, especially those from Cedar Point. That's when Guide to The Point was born. Graphically, it wasn't pretty, but it wasn't horrible either. Print influence and video graphic design (the one place where I felt like I did know what I was doing) really helped give it a distinct look. What sucked is that it was all static HTML. It was a pain in the ass to maintain.
Regardless, it was the first time that I actually generated revenue. I might even still have my first check stub from Burst Media for like twenty bucks. Believe it or not, it didn't take much traffic to generate that kind of money back then!
It was still not a business as much as it was a label. It wasn't until 2000 that I did two things intended to expand the income. The first was to sell the forum application to the public that I had originally written for GTTP. That was important enough to form the LLC that still exists today. The second was the creation of CoasterBuzz, which was essentially GTTP meant for a broader audience.
What I did not anticipate that year was that some British firm with deep pockets would come knocking, wanting to buy popworld.com. They offered me $1,000 the first time, and by the time we had a deal, I made $100,000. Sometimes I wonder if I should've gone higher. When I started Yahoo'ing (I don't think Google was a verb just yet) the name of the company wanting to buy, I found that they were working on music promotion deals with Spice Girls and Pepsi, so I was willing to stick it out and get whatever I could. And I did.
(Side note... I think what they have, a Brit pop music portal that's currently not even up, will eventually fail, and I'd love nothing more than to buy the name back some day... starting offer, $1,000.)
That $100k went toward a lot of things. Stephanie and I paid for our wedding, honeymoon, credit card debt, the one car (which she's still driving, by the way, go Toyota), and whatever was left was the down payment for my house.
The very next year was shitty in so many ways. While we closed on the house in the spring, the fall of 2001 was, well, who was it good for? 9/11 was somewhat connected to me being laid-off, but then I also had a perfect storm of shit when DoubleClick (then representing sites for ads) dropped me, I just signed up for a T-1 to serve the sites for a year at more than a grand a month, I built a server and bought licenses for stuff... it was not a good scene. The prior year's financial score was being offset by a total meltdown.
I was unemployed six long months when I started a shitty job that never went anywhere, but it did give me time to really start to learn .NET, and rewrite the forum to the version that has been around almost since then. Demand for the forum app trailed off, as many free alternatives surfaced, so that part of the business had gone away.
That put me pretty squarely in the content business. During the meltdown I started CoasterBuzz Club, offering an alternative way to fund the site (and that damn T-1), which to this day still makes a lot of sense. People don't mind putting out a little money annually for something they enjoy, and honestly I see more value in retaining those users than those who "pay" by seeing the ads.
But still... that's what the business has been. It has been mostly by accident. It has never been, "I will do this and make money this way." That's not even a business, it's still more of a hobby (one that takes a lot of time to maintain). So as I reach this point where I am without fiscal liabilities, the question is, what now?
There are two things I've observed about online work. The first is that client work sucks. I hate it. I've watched other people do it and they hate it. Too often you end up being someone else's bitch doing something that you know isn't the right thing. For that reason, I prefer that anything that I "sell" be something self-serviceable and not huge. I have some ideas (which are not the same as business plans, of course).
The second thing is that I really like the content world. I especially like content that users compile and maintain. Remember, CoasterBuzz has been generating content from the user end since the beginning in 2000, long before anyone knew what Digg was. I never automated it, because I'm frankly not sold on the whole "wisdom of crowds" thing, but it was the people who built the content. I still like that world, even if the scope of the world I serve has narrowed a bit.
Of course, I still have this day job thing which is comfortable, pays extremely well, and I honestly benefit from greatly because I become a better code monkey from having it. I still haven't figured out how to make those things co-exist.
No matter what comes out of this year, there are many exciting prospects.
This week has been mostly a waste. And what's really strange is that what little I feel accomplished about concerns work. Usually when I feel crappy, my day job is the last thing on my mind.
I didn't touch CoasterBuzz all week. If I weren't blogging, I'm not sure I'd know the server was up. While I did work from home, I didn't go into the office at all. I haven't driven my car in almost two weeks. This sickness has been pretty awful in every way. I suppose I can't complain too much because I know it's all temporary, but it has really sucked and I feel like bitching about it.
The sinus infection is gone, I'm pretty sure, but now I'm dealing with ridiculous chest congestion. I was up all night coughing to the point where my abs hurt this morning. I just want this to fucking be done so I can engage the world again. Being stir crazy when you can't get vertical is shitty.
Mix was an inspiring experience, and instead of getting to ride that wave, I'm wallowing in a puddle of my own piss. (That's a metaphor, by the way... I am in fact urinating in the toilets.) I guess what most annoys me in retrospect is that the post-conference part of my trip, the part where Diana and I were on vacation together, got turned into crap when I started seeing aliens. The part where it kept getting worse most of the week wasn't good either.
OK, I think I'm about done. I just feel like I need to get this toxicity out of me.
Saturday will mark the one-year anniversary of the installation of my hot tub. I can't believe it! Funny thing is, we had a blizzard about then too. I think we have one every March, we just try to forget about it.
First, I've learned that "stuff" doesn't really make me happy in a meaningful way, but this is one object that has been able to consistently change my mood, center me and ground me. The thing that seemed like a stupid single guy thing to buy at the time has been a smart has-a-girlfriend and likes to relax thing to buy ever since. Getting through winter has been easier in part because I can be outside under a clear sky while naked. Despite the purchase regret at the time, it now ranks as one of the smartest things I've ever purchased. Tax refund well spent.
The more interesting thoughts surrounding the anniversary of the purchase are more with my state of mind a year ago. I read my blog posts and I seemed annoyed with the world (more so than usual), and the dating thing was really bringing me down. Also ironic, Diana was delivered as an eHarmony match on March 6, though we'd go almost three months before meeting because she was in Florida with her mom in her final weeks. I can't believe she stuck with it that long to meet me, and then stay with me after taking her to Coastermania. The horror!
Anyway, what made me think of it is that I put some bromine in the thing today because it's been unreachable for about two weeks, buried under snow. I was worried it would have changed color or smelled funny or something, but it seems OK.
You know the little tiny birds that fly around in packs, make a lot of noise, and make the cats go apeshit? Yeah, they've definitely returned. With the sun today, that gives me hope that we're headed in the right direction in terms of weather.
I really thought that last night was gonna be the night I'd finally sleep all the way through. After the awesome five-hour "nap" I had yesterday mid-day, I figured I was home free.
Then the coughing started. You'd think, yeah, I just need to take a cough suppressant, but the problem is that they all have acetaminophen, in huge doses at that, and between what I already had and what was in the Vicodin, I was in my mind risking overdose. In real clinical terms, maybe I wasn't, but reading about it scares the hell out of me. The problem is that NyQuil/DayQuil has a shit load of the stuff. Two TBSP, one normal dose, of NyQuil has 1000 mg. According to the online research, some people's livers start to react adversely with 4000 mg in a 24 hour period. I was already up to 1500 with three Vicodin, so I made the non-medical opinion that I had to put it off until morning.
I've been up since 6:30 or so (and by up I mean vertical with the computer on), and I feel like I'm getting a handle on work stuff. Prior to going to Vegas I knew I had to get a fresh build of our app because mine was hosed, so that's taking a little bit of time. Had some things to research too. I have an afternoon meeting they're going to call me for, and things should be swell and I'll be caught up. I decided to work from home because all of this coughing is aggravated by talking, and aggravating for anyone who has to hear it (or be exposed to my bacterial death).
My body is pissed off. I'm now down seven pounds since before Vegas. I'm assuming much of that is water weight, but secretly hope it's not. My stomach was angrily making noise all night. It's doing it right now, but I just can't bring myself to put anything into it. Everything tastes terrible and nothing is appetizing.
My world at home is in chaos. I've got laundry all over the damn place, we need certain key grocery items and I've got the aftermath of the trip all over the place too. I feel like I've relied on Diana beyond what I should (though being the sweetheart she is, she insists otherwise), and I don't want to ask her to do anything else for me.
Then it occurs to me I haven't posted news on CoasterBuzz all week. The new project that Walt and I are doing I haven't touched at all. I'm not getting my sales person the data she needs for that project. The business is simply going by the way side.
So I'm feeling a little overwhelmed, and will likely have to pass out for a couple of hours after the lack of sleep. My meeting isn't until 2:30, so I've got time.
One step at a time... I'll get it together.
I'm trying very hard to keep up with work e-mail (and failing, since that last Vicodin put me out for five hours of glorious continuous sleep), and every other messages is about someone going home sick or going home to attend to sick kids or just not coming in because they're sick.
Is it that the company has just grown a ton and there are more people, or is there just a lot more sickness this year? I can't remember it being like this in recent memory, but I don't have any evidence that it's the actual situation.
For the first time in a year and a half, and only the second time in like 20 years, I went to the doctor. Seriously, I'm a moron for not going sooner. I've dropped five pounds or so and swallowing even water was so painful that I wanted to cry.
The doctor said that it was some variant of sinusitis, and he said it was probably the pressure changes of the airplane ride that really aggravated it into something worse. They did a test for strep, and the quick test came back negative, but he really wants to see what the overnight culture returns too. The quick ones only have a 1% false negative rate, but he thinks what I've got is awfully aggressive.
The first prescription didn't surprise me at all, azithromycin. Three big old horse pills of an antibiotic that work for ten days. He says to expect a turn around in 36 hours or less. The fact that I've not really had any antibiotics in 20 years works in my favor too, because I'm not harboring resistant strains of things.
For the pain, he gave me Vicodin. I was honestly a little scared when he said that because, well, it's half narcotic. Pain drugs that alter some physical state are one thing, but things that alter the chemistry of your nervous system freak me out a little. Regardless, every swallow was hurting so bad that I figured I'd give it a shot, because I had to.
Wow, that stuff fucks you up. No shit about the don't operate machinery or drive. If I wasn't so blissful being pain free, I'd likely be concerned. Diana jokingly said I appeared slightly stoned.
Already after the first dose of the antibiotic, I can feel it doing its thing. I'm a little miserable for different reasons now (constant draining, major dehydration), but at least it feels like a means to an end. I can kind of feel the fever coming back a little, so if I can space it out 12 hours I'll probably take another Vicodin around 10. It also has 500mg of acetaminophen, so it really covers all the bases in terms of pain.
So what have I learned? Don't be a douche. If you feel shitty, see a doctor. Cleveland Clinic rules, and I'm lucky to have it so close.
Huge +1 to Diana for taking care of me and countering some of my poor judgment. I know I've been pathetic this week, but it really helps to have someone looking after you.
OK... head is pounding... I think work e-mail has to wait some more. If I could just get four or five continuous hours of sleep it would help so much.
The thing that sucks the most is that I haven't had any real sleep in days. Once I can breathe through a nostril, I get an hour at most, then violently wake up when I clear my throat or swallow, because it hurts.
I feel like today it could go either way. Diana called off, so she's home today and recovering herself from more mild sickness and undoubtedly some level of exhaustion (God knows I've been keeping her up). If things don't get better by early afternoon, I need to seek out a doctor. This shit can't go on like this.
I thought midway through last night that I would wake up in the morning feeling much better. I was wrong.
The fever is back, and swallowing hurts so much it makes me want to cry. The only thing I've had to eat in the last 36 hours is some couscous, which isn't exactly a windfall of nutrition.
I must've scored negative karma points with my taunting about snow-free Vegas.
Saturday started off easy enough. We got up early and headed to Paris for the massive breakfast buffet there. My throat felt a little weird, but it had several other mornings as well, probably because of the really dry air (and the Venetian funk, which doesn't get into the rooms, but it does waft up through the elevators).
When we got back from breakfast, I suggested we go down to the pool to enjoy a little sun. While only in the mid-60's, it was pleasant enough. Diana did some reading, I did some pool-side Wi-Fi. Learning earlier in the week that the 10pm Blue Man show had nosebleed priced tickets for the lower level (they apparently don't use the balcony for the second show), I figured, what the hell, let's go see it!
I didn't feel quite right just after that. I couldn't put my finger on it, I just didn't feel right. I left Diana to read and went back to the room to crash.
And crash I did. I wasn't feeling well at all. By the time we pursued an early dinner, I had that feeling like I wanted to always be swallowing something. I kinda knew what was coming, but was in denial.
After dinner, we picked up our Blue Man tickets from will call, and went back to the room. I could feel the decline, and I started to get some serious shivering, but no fever. Yet. We lingered around in bed for like three or four hours before the show, at which time I put on a T-shirt, sweater, and jacket to stay warm and counter-act the shivering.
At first, I thought I was OK. We sat in our seats and had a little bit of "The Feeling" even though physically I felt like shit. We got into the theater at 9:30, and at 9:45, I felt like I was gonna yack, and my hands were falling asleep. Yeah, I was in full-fledge high fever mode, and dehydrated as hell. Reluctantly, I got up and went down to the theater lobby.
This is where there was at least a happy mid-section to the story. Diana went above and beyond and talked to the box office and got a refund. They obviously don't have to do that. The theater manager scored some ice water and they offered to get me a wheel chair or whatever I needed. He gave us his contact info and told us to give him a call next time we were in Vegas, and he'd hook us up with tickets for the show. How cool is that?
The water helped immediately, but wow did the fever get ridiculous. At the room, Diana got me some Theraflu (or whatever it's called), I tried to hydrate some more, and passed out. Sleep was shitty, as I kept waking up in a puddle of sweat, and every time I swallowed it hurt enough to wake up. I had some strange dream that had something to do with a Mix session from earlier in the week, and that was annoying.
So sadly, our last day was not a particularly good day. This morning the cab ride was uneventful, and aside from idiots who seemingly have never been through security at an airport, we're chilling and waiting for our flight to board. Cousin Dave sent me a text warning that our driveway was impassible (he was feeding the kittehs), so I called the good ol' boys who cut my grass and they're gonna take care of it before we get back.
I'm already worrying about whether or not I should go to work tomorrow. I know I've got meetings, including one that I called, so I really should go. This is, oddly enough, the second time I got sick after going to Mix. I went through the same thing in 2006, only it started the day I got back. I think it's the Venetian funk. I don't intend to stay there again. (Side note: They do not pipe that stench into the Palazzo, thank God.)
I've got two more sessions to go, but while it's fresh in my mind, I'd like to rattle off some overall impressions of this conference. When it's over, I'm going to purge my brain with alcohol, gambling and shows.
First off, what I dig about this conference is that it's very diverse in its content and target audience. Most conferences are endless code demos that make you want to kill yourself. I consider myself a well-rounded person who enjoys the code, but also the creative side, the business and the culture.
It also has a bit of a rock star vibe. In addition to Microsoft execs being here, you get the authors of the books you read, "Web 2.0" (I hate that term) types behind major sites changing the way we use the Web, and people everywhere who might build the next big thing.
And there's something I haven't really touched on, is the conversations in the halls and at meals. Ballmer mentioned that you can get the whole conference, essentially, online, but that's not entirely true. The people you meet are a huge part of what you get out of it. I mean, I met a guy who works for Oprah's studio rolling his own media management software. How cool is that?
Silverlight is obviously a huge deal at this conference, and for good reason. I admit, I'm drinking the Kool-Aid now. It probably has zero application to my day job, but it's fascinating to me. The very clear separation of code and presentation is exactly what I wish Flash did. That, and I wish Flash used C#.
This conference is a good blend of now and future. There really isn't anything here that is pie-in-the-sky future porn. Yes, there's a certain level of Microsoft centricity, but that's to be expected since it's their conference. And as a Microsoft developer, I don't mind. Unlike some of the local events though, they're not pushing crap I don't care about.
Overall, this conference really delivers, and this one was even better than the 2006 event. It's ridiculously expensive, but they do take care of you in terms of food and such. The party sure is a nice touch. They announced that next year's event will be here at The Venetian as well. I hope I can attend again next year!
Like a moron, I didn't realize that the added session on Hard Rock's Silverlight memorabilia site was first, not last, today, so I went to a really boring session on what Microsoft thinks the future of advertising is.
And the truth is, I don't think they know. The presenter said that the entire process of buying and displaying ads online is terribly inefficient (he neglected to mention it's not nearly as bad as other forms of media). The future is going to work more along the lines of ad exchanges, a la the stock market, which is something we've heard countless times in other places, so there's no new information there.
The problem as I see it is not a technical one. Sure, there's no question at all that we can achieve better targeting and transparency, but who is going to be willing to share their data in these exchanges? I'm a little skeptical there. For example, can you see Google saying, "Yes, we have about a half-billion ad impressions available for 30-something females who like bowling?" If they were willing to share that, my suspicion is that they'll want a cut for that, and as a publisher, I worry about the revenue being even further diluted.
Indeed, when you look at the fact that only 5,000 companies buy 90% of the advertising, you start to wonder if it matters.
I'm in the room now where the Hard Rock demo was, and I'm annoyed. I guess I'll have to catch that one on video later.
Not surprisingly, the ASP.NET MVC session last night was absolutely packed. Scott Hanselman, as it turns out, is a pretty dynamic speaker, and frankly pretty funny. MVC is a very computer sciencey kind of concept, but it's also a very neat way to generate Web sites.
The thing that's kind of hard to deal with is that Microsoft is going entirely the opposite direction from eight years ago, where a limited number of people saw something and we had a big bang release. This is something that is truly agile and being developed completely in the open. With that transparency comes the "when it's done" ethos, which is fine, but I worry that there's some expectation gap there for customers who have release and support expectations. I mean, until it's RTM, I can tell you that we'll never be using it at Insurance.com. (I'm not indicating we would anyway, I'm just giving an example.)
In any case, there's a lot of appeal to drive the site in part by the URI. What feels strange is letting go of the postback model, which you very much have to do in this case. That forces you into a very smooth and task-driven way of designing an application. You can see this in all its glory on pretty much anything built with Ruby on Rails today. There's a "forced" style of sorts you see in those sites (see any of the 37signals sites). I'm not suggesting that's bad in any way, because I think it's actually pretty cool. As Hanselman was quick to point out though, it's not ideal for every situation. What I'm anxious to see is how people are using it in the real world, and how they roll it in a meaningful way with Web forms and even the AJAX framework.
If it were out today, I have a personal project in mind that I'd love to try it out on, but even when it's a small "me" project, I don't know that I want to commit to non-final bits.
Also exciting this morning, Apple finally released the iPhone SDK. I have to admit that I'm probably going to play with it and see if I can at least do a "hello world" app on it.
They also announced "enterprise" features for the iPhone, including Exchange and Cisco VPN support. That to me sounds like a slam dunk for selling iPhones. God knows everyone at work who has whatever cheap ass phones Verizon puts out with Windows Mobile suck.
I just got out of a panel discussion that included the guy from Me.dium, a VC, Scoble, Kevin Rose, and some other guy I don't remember. Interesting discussion, and the general theme was do right by your users, and find the mix of advertising and subscription models to pay the bills.
I asked Scoble and Kevin the same thing I asked the King of Kong guy the other day, regarding the transformation of video delivery and monetization. They both said they're not trying to kill cable or broadcast, but rather serve a specific audience. The moderator was kind of a douche and wouldn't allow the discussion to keep flowing, unfortunately, and God knows Scoble had more to say.
After the session, I got a moment of Kevin's time to congratulate him on his success and tell him that his success is a real inspiration to schmucks like me who have a hard time turning ideas into real and sustainable businesses. He was very gracious about it. For a guy who's basically a rock star, he strikes me as a very down to earth kind of guy.
I'm sitting here in Nikhil Kothari's session on ASP.NET AJAX, and he's going through some of the more basic stuff to start. So I'm reading e-mail and kinda scoping out the room. First of all, there's a guy with a MacBook Air sitting in front of me. It's very cool. I couldn't help but notice he was looking at Google Analytics, and that his site has had 14 million visitors and 124 million page views in the last month. Gasp! I guess he can afford that laptop.
Here's something I did not expect. This is the first session I've gone to that was very heavily code/developer-centric. I'm very surprised to see how many women there are here. It's no secret that this profession tends to be a sausage party, either because of gender tendencies or some kind of discrimination (I honestly don't know or care). The only reason I even notice is because gender and racial diversity in work, to me, feels more like real life. It's hard to explain exactly.
OK... Nikhil's getting to the good stuff, gotta pay attention.
I just left the party at TAO. Not all fucked up like two years ago, but "happy" enough, on Microsoft's dime. Bartenders in tight Internet Explorer shirts. There's something you don't see everyday.
Sadly, I didn't meet anyone cool this time. No Swedish guy, or Mary the designer from DC. It was like a junior high dance, where all the dudes sit on one side of the room, only there are no girls.
The Donkey Kong guy failed.
The action was out on TAO beach, on the roof. That's a pretty cool place. Like the rest of if though, I don't understand the celebrity appeal, or the exclusivity thing. That's a recurring theme with the various clubs in this town. Why do people get off on that?
I was not feeling great in the first place, headache and all, but made myself be social and went. I failed. I'm either generally anti-social, or I only gravitate toward certain kinds of people, most likely creative types. I admit, I think I'm in the wrong line of work for that. I did talk to some cool people between sessions today, including a guy who works for Oprah's production company. There are so many people doing interesting things, and you don't hear their stories enough.
OK, iPhone typing is hard after drinking. I'm done for now!
Ozzie has been regarded as the thinker who will take the place of Gates and set the tone for the direction of the company's software. I think that's a pretty huge burden.
Generally speaking, he's got the right idea in the bigger picture, that the PC over time is replaced by a combination of devices and stuff "in the cloud." I do think that we're headed there. I'm just not that convinced that Microsoft can get there. On one hand, you have the developer tools folks and the Xbox division doing great things, delivering new stuff to market relatively quickly, but then you have dogs like the Office and Windows people.
He asserts that advertising is ultimately the thing that drives the monetization of this stuff, and generally speaking, I think I agree with him. As almost an aside, he said that this is part of the reason they're so interested in Yahoo, because of the creative input that could lend (and I'm sure the substantial ad experience).
I like to hear this guy talk, and I think he's a smart guy. It's not his, or Microsoft's, vision that I question. It's more the execution.
Dean Hachamovitch leads the IE team, and he's here selling IE8. Seems like just yesterday he was on stage doing IE7. Even last time around he was very honest about what they didn't do well, and he's doing the same here. He did a demo showing Safari, Firefox and IE7, with IE7 failing in terms of CSS big time. Then he showed IE8, apparently for the first time in public, and it works like a champ. If only they could get the bits out today and force everyone else to use it!
He showed a number of things available in the developer tools, and people were w00ting and clapping like it was an Apple keynote. It's stuff that has been available in Firebug, for the most part, for quite awhile. But whatever, it's good to see them going down that road.
He also showed some new things in terms of offering contextual linking options, and something called a "WebSlice," which is like RSS for a small piece of a page. I guess it's a cool idea, but why do I want to tie this stuff to IE? I do like that they're making it all available for use under Creative Commons. At least people may use it then (*cough* active push or whatever *cough*).
Oh, and beta 1 is available now. Nice Jobsian plug. :)
Scott Guthrie is plugging Silverlight 2, and there is a lot of buzz around it here, to the extent that it's obviously a priority with Microsoft. It is a pretty cool tech, and the fact that you can start jumping into it quickly as a .NET monkey gives it a lot of appeal over Flash. Now make it playback H.264 video, and I'm in.
Through another guy from the tools area, they demo'd how easy it is to build an ad with Silverlight, complete with video. I wish they'd say what you do when the user doesn't have the plug-in. While the adoption rate is apparently taking off, with a million and a half downloads a day, I suspect it has a long way to go.
A guy from Doubleclick showed how you can hook various events into your Silverlight ad creative to make call backs to log (ad expanded, video started, ended, etc.), and I know metrics geek will just love that.
There's no question in my mind that Silverlight is cool, and I'd love to play with it, but it's just that whole thing where I want adoption to be further along before I invest time and money into it. I suspect that with the summer Olympics using it (they're demoing the site here for the first time), that could be it. NBC is all about it. The video app that they're building is nuts. If it can in fact handle the bandwidth requirements, I can see this being the future of sports consumption. If they can figure out how to get it on a TV, that would be the turning point.
I think the big news for code monkeys is that the Silverlight controls and a new testing framework for it are now available, and they're open source, and you can do whatever the hell you want with that source. I gotta say, the culture change at Microsoft is stunning. I'm so glad that they've finally managed to let go of all the tight (and ultimately useless) control.
One other thing that comes to mind is that WPF in general is so superior to Windows Forms and all of the old Win32 and MFC crap that it's a shame they can't pull an Apple and say, "Sorry, the next version of Windows means you need to write your apps to this new stuff." I think it's time to let go of DOS support.
Onward to the break out sessions! (After lunch, that is!)
Only in Vegas, right? I just sat down for the first keynote, and they've got a Johnny Cash impersonator singing on stage to warm up the crowd.
They figured out that breakfast need not be overly fancy the way they did in '06, but cold scrambled eggs are kind of the opposite extreme.
During the Q&A last night after the King of Kong screening, I asked the producer if he thought that online distribution and the dependence on theater and DVD revenue was being challenged. He felt that the tech is on the right track, but the "right" product has not been marketed to consumers yet. The Donkey Kong champ's wife and kids came in at that point, and when you see what a cute family they are in real life, you get a sense that the guy is actually pretty normal outside of the goofy obsession.
I hope I run into Guthrie after the keynote, or at some point today. I just want to shake his hand for helping me out last year. I'm still blown away that someone so high level is able to find time to help the smallest of customers.
I think a lot of geeks go through a Dungeons & Dragons phase. I was in 7th or 8th grade. Well, we wouldn't have that opportunity in the way we knew it were it not for Gary Gygax, who wrote the original rules for the paper-and-imagination D&D. He died today.
I didn't know they were doing it, but they're screening King of Kong here. I figured I might as well hang out and watch it and surf for porn on Microsoft's dime. There's a Q&A after the movie... and if it's the guys from the movie (the "champ" is supposed to try and beat the record at the party tomorrow night), I gotta say, they'd make the computer geeks in this building look like well-adjusted lady's men. I mean, this Billy Mitchell guy had a perfect Pac-Man game... every dot, every ghost. Who does that?
They have an epic sound system.
Looking around at the crowd for the first time (there are around a hundred people here for the screening), I'm surprised there aren't more Macs around. But the composition is what made it exciting when I was here two years ago... nerds, designer types that look like rock stars, a few suits, lots of 'Softies. I dig that vibe. As I've said before, I picked this conference over others because it's not just endless code demos.
Really looking forward to this week!
Well, I managed to last half way through the field of 50 players in the poker tournament. I played for a little over two hours at Casears, and eventually got sucked into a stupid betting war with nothing on the table, pocket kings, and a guy who got trip sixes. Oh well, it was a good time, and I was well taken care of in terms of beverages. A good time indeed!
Oh, and I did get ten bucks ahead playing video poker before the tourney, so my entire gambling loss for three hours is only fifty bucks.
I bought tickets to see Phantom. Couldn't resist. They play the music in the elevators, and my girlfriend is a theater geek. What else was I supposed to do?
I just checked into Mix, haven't gone through my goodie bag. I'm distracted by the RockBand stage down the hall... I'll moblog that momentarily.
I gotta say, this is the most excited I've been in awhile to travel. I checked in already and got a much better seat, up like ten rows from where I was. Yay!
I'm genuinely excited about Mix. The first one in 2006 was fun, and I got a lot out of it. I like these kinds of cross-disciplinary conferences because days worth of code and product demos make me want stick sharp things in my eyes. They introduce the AJAX framework at the last one, and that was very cool. Some of the sessions I intend to do also have new technologies that I haven't had enough time to dive into, so I look forward to that. There are several marketing and creative sessions that'll break up the monotony of code.
There's just something about Las Vegas that lends itself well to excitement and energy, and I suppose that something is just the sheer excess of everything. I'd consider myself a treehugger, who does well for himself but drives a cheap Toyota, and yet, I'm drawn into the excitement of that town. I can't imagine this conference, with its rock star keynotes, presentations and panel, taking place anywhere else.
I can't help it... I laughed my ass off over this. First, find the quality post on Yahoo! Answers...
Note the really stupid response, and how the question asker picked it over the long winded scientific explanation.
Now, to make it ten times as funny, check out this animation, dramatizing the response...
(Watch for the tear drop. :))
I was telling Diana on Friday that I've come to realize that I beat myself up over not accomplishing things on the weekend, when I don't even have an agenda in the first place. That's pretty silly, right?
So then a friend e-mails me about how she's worried she won't achieve certain goals or reach certain milestones in life and the like. In trying to come up with some kind of advice I realized that frankly she was thinking a lot like me. We were both letting fear and doubt cloud the fact that things are generally going more sweet than sour.
Yeah, it's the old stop and smell the roses thing. The added layer is that if you spend all of your time chasing things, you never get to just be. I think it's a trap that successful people fall into all of the time (and by successful I mean they reach career and financial goals, balanced with social and relationship efforts). What's worse, I think you can get into an endless cycle where you want just that next income level, or that more flawless relationship, or that slightly nicer shiny thing, etc. I see that in workaholics all of the time.
I think when you can't achieve that next level of whatever quickly, you start to think of yourself as a failure. That's pretty stupid, especially when the failures are clearly what make you better in the long run. I was reading a news story about a study that said people in their 40's tend to wallow self-loathing, because they didn't achieve what they thought they would when you were in their 20's, as if changing careers and priorities somehow shows weakness and failure. The reality, say the shrinks, is that your accumulating experience in life alters your perception of what success and happiness is. The definition changes not because you've been beaten into submission, but because you see that your requirements don't have to be so high.
That whole coming of age thing never really gets to an end point.
Back in the day, I used to watch La Femme Nikita on USA pretty religiously. It was produced and created by the cat who did 24 (and several Nikita alumni have been on it). It's a show about this chick who is profiled to be an ultimate super agent killing machine, so she's framed for a murder and broken out to live this secret life.
It was kinda low budget, the male lead was a shitty actor, and frankly a bit over the top, but I really did like it. It was totally a precursor to 24 and Alias. It had a very loyal fanbase that saved the show long enough to wrap up the story line.
Anyway, I never got it on DVD because each season was like $70 or more, apparently because of the costs to license the music in the show. So Diana and I were browsing at BJ's on a trial membership, and there they were... all five seasons for $20 each. Obviously I had to buy them.
No idea when I'll get to watch them all. We still haven't watched season 3 of Veronica Mars!
Tonight we went to see A Nightmare of Crime at Diana's undergrad alma mater, Baldwin-Wallace. It was written and directed by one of her professors, after researching the terror that happened at Auschwitz.
I'm not a theater academic (unless you count the year I spent with it as my minor in college), so the only opinions I have are generally those that come out of what I feel. I heard a lot of people after the show saying how powerful and good the show was, but I have to admit I felt a little indifferent about it. That style of story telling, the dramatized documentary, I don't think translates that well to stage. I think it's an important subject matter, with powerful themes and a dreadful reminder of the evil humans are capable of (and the courage they're capable of, for that matter), but I just had some issues with the format of it. In trying to tell such a broad story, it's hard to get really engaged and invested in it, especially with something so horrible going on.
Understand that I'm not totally dissing it either. I think it takes some balls to even try something like that, and with a sold-out show, I'm not the only one who thinks so. The female lead I thought was pretty good, as was one of the Sonderkommando (the Jews charged with "disposing" of other Jews). Video screens were used with stills, historic film and some stuff they shot themselves, and that worked pretty well. The set was beautiful, situated lengthwise between the seating, with the electric barbed wire fences behind each side. The lighting and makeup was interesting too, designed to cast a gray and dark tone to it (though some color should've been used to compensate for the yellow color temperature of the lamps when dim).
It's hard to be really critical of any live performance, I guess because live performance is still such a wonderful thing to see compared to TV or film. I mean, that's why I keep seeing Blue Man Group. I loved Cirque du Soleil's Delirium too (less circus freaks, more music, apparently not touring the US this year). Heck, even the community theater production of Big River that Diana and I saw on an early date wasn't bad.
I don't know what we'll see in Vegas. We pretty much decided to just wing it instead of planning it out.