Tuesday, December 30, 2003
wow. my old company's (netpliance) i-opener ranks as one of the top eight biggest tech flops ever.
Famous internet terminal flops include 3Com's Audrey, the I-opener from Netpliance and Sony's eVilla - which shipped for less than two months. Even Oracle's Larry Ellison and TV reporter Gina Smith couldn't save the NIC - also known as the New Internet Computer
it's nice to have worked for a dubious distinction.
Sunday, December 28, 2003
favorite christmas gifts:
me: toss-up between john cheever's collected stories and a telescope. also shirley's card entitled "sharing christmas joy" with $100 bill inside. when in doubt, throw money.
lonanne: tie between dolly parton cd and blue shirt from gap.
thomas: stereo pen and race track
william: race track and spy kit
favorite christmas gifts to give:
rob: transistor radio (nearly cried)
mom: digital camera (spent twenty minutes trying to figure out how to turn on the flash, then took one picture)
lonanne's uncle jim: merle haggard's greatest hits (put it on mantle behind wreath where i'm almost positive it still is sitting)
also bought a new phone with christmas money. it has a built-in camera. i was sorta screwed b/c my plan didn't expire until april, but my nokia was broke-ass broke. i liked rob's sidekick with qwerty keyboard, but it's too big for my pockets. i really like the new handspring treo 600, but "starting at $449" pretty much says it all.
another statistical corrective in the mad cow mania sweepstakes.
Let's consider some facts. BSE has killed 143 people in Great Britain, the country hit hardest by BSE. That's about 20 people per year since the outbreak began. Compare that total to these figures from the WSJ: In 2001 Britain recorded 140,000 deaths from cancer, 3,000 from vehicle accidents and 185 from accidental drowning.
this goes back to the whole culture of fear phenom. we're alternately thrilled and horrified by anecdotal evidence. i remember watching the local news a while back and they had this story about a housewife in round rock who was murdered during the day. they framed the whole story like it was a mid-day robbery where this woman was killed by a stranger. people were in near hysterics. there was a guy at work who actually moved his family out of round rock b/c he lived in the same neighborhood. i'm not kidding. now nevermind that it's probably the spouse 99.99% of the time or that the husband can't verify his whereabouts or that nothing was stolen and there wasn't a sign of sexual assault. somehow, our reptilian brain stems force a fearful narrative out of the whole thing. strangers waiting to kill you in the middle of the day. you're more likely to die in a car accident than anything else when you're under 50. austin had 25 murders in 2002. most, if not all of those, were probably commited by someone the victim knew. most likely a family member.
apd has a site that allows you to search for crimes in your neighborhood. our neighborhood (crestview) is fairly high, but that's b/c we're bordered by three major streets. most of the crime is occuring at one of the two hundred convenience stores that surround us. and most of the crimes are drunks hitting other drunks. our street has zero crime. yet, i prob. get accosted once a year by a "home security expert" telling me i need the latest digital security system for my home so i can keep my family safe. if i really wanted to be safe, i tell them, i'd stay away from my family, take the bus to work and avoid convenience stores. of course, that won't happen.
Thursday, December 25, 2003
apple gets it wrong again.
Still, Apple may have learned these important lessons only partially, and too late. The iPod works only with the iTunes service, and has a $0.99 fee-per-song pricing structure. Dell/Musicmatch and Napster offer consumers more choice. Their Windows-based players and services are interchangeable; they sell individual songs and let users listen to (but not keep) as much music as they want for flat fees of less than $10 per month. Meanwhile, the $15 million or so that iTunes has generated in revenue thus far is statistically meaningless even for Apple. And after it has paid the music labels and covered its costs, Apple is left with just pennies per song. Even using a generous operating margin estimate, iTunes won't turn a meaningful profit until it hits Jobs's stated goal of 100 million songs sold. Jobs has said he hopes to do so by April, but at the current rate of 1.5 million songs sold per week, that is more than a year away.
jobs-bashing aside, this is a good article.
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
ok, i lied. here's a worst-of list.
according to the list, my site is unuseable.
unclear statement of purpose? check.
undated content? check.
no "what-if" support? check.
the thing that gets me about jakob nielson ("the king of useability") is that a) his site sucks and b) he's had the same friggin' picture of himself on his home page since i started doing this web shit in 1998. either he's the dick clark of the internet world or HE'S GOT UNDATED CONTENT!!!! BUSTED!!!!
don't bother making any more best-of lists. 5ives beats 'em all.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
via carlos: if filmmakers were web designers
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
books i didn't read this year (the best-of list):
living to tell the tale by gabriel garcia marquez. i have to be honest here. i got through about fifty pages of one hundred years of solitude and then i fell asleep. a long deep sleep with 57 flying elephants and old ladies who picked beans out of their hair and the earth, oh the sweet, sweet earth. then i woke up and it was just like i read the whole book. all i had to do was hear that this new memoir was the first of three volumes by marquez. presto bammo. i was asleep.
the fortress of solitude by jonathan lethem. every time i'm in the bookstore i see this book and i think, possibly? maybe? but then i read the inset. blah, blah, blah...unending black and white confrontations of will on the street; and black music, from jazz and blues to hip-hop...blah, blah, blah. such a good title, too.
a million little pieces by james fey. another dark, deep drug abuse tale. amazon says it "smash-cuts to the then 23-year-old author on a Chicago-bound plane 'covered with a colorful mixture of spit, snot, urine, vomit and blood.'" ooooh. i think they already made the movie for this. it's called permanent midnight. and no, ben stiller did not deserve an oscar.
jarhead: a marine's chronicle of the gulf war and other battles by anthony swofford. hmmmm. choose between pulitzer-award winning journalist's covering the war OR a marine who imaginatively calls his first ghost-written book jarhead.
the devil in the white city : murder, magic, and madness at the fair that changed america by erik larson. now this is a book i actually do want to read. it's the true story of two men. the guy who built the chicago world's fair and another man, a serial killer posing as a doctor who murdered several people during the fair and used the event itself to lure his victims.
harry potter and the order of the phoenix by j.k. rowling. i'm sorry folks. i really tried with the first one, but that was the dumbest fucking book i've ever read. muggles? oh, haha, i get it. it's all "code" for the british caste system. right. the hardy boys had more heart and george lucas is less obvious. i know it's a kid's book, but i'm so sick and goddamn tired of every other adult i meet telling me how much they love these books. there's no surer sign of our collapse into utter vacuousness than the fact that otherwise grown-up individuals actually bought ADVANCE COPIES of this latest tribbet. haha. see i made up a word? tribbet.
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
another disappointed democrat on the campaign of hate and fear.
Monday, December 15, 2003
fifth revision of st. james church road. several things to note.
- you're never really finished with a story. but i'm still cleaning up for my application to the mfa program, so i'll allow a little more obsessiveness than usual.
- raymond carver, in a course taught by john gardner, wrote ten revisions of the same story. gardner would ride carver about every aspect of the story, down to the comma. that's how this shit happens. it's not magic. carver worked in his garage every night for the better part of twenty years. he died young, fiftysomething, of some sort of lung disease. for most of the sixties, he didn't write at all. just drank.
- i made the third person narration a little more formal in places per lemond's recommendations. he noted i have a tendency to write my character's accent into the narration, as opposed to having the tone, but leaving out the regional dialects. let the dialogue and actions carry that. i have to agree with him and it's somewhat of a blind spot for me. but when you know that sort of thing, you can keep an eye on it.
- i've had a lot of help from various people, as mentioned before. one hopes for critics who are better than you, for lionel trilling or gorden lish, but you usually end up with shitheels who tell you they don't like your main character or you should write more about such and such (your job or your family is a conventional suggestion). you'd be amazed what people tell you, none of it very helpful or encouraging. but a) that's as it should be. if most people didn't suck at writing or giving advice about it, i'd have to find something else. and b) i've been lucky to have met some truly helpful critics who have given me solid insight into the work and helped me along tremendously.
i've been listening to the kings of leon on musicmatch at work today. i'm fully willing to discount my opinion due to a near overdose on nyquil shooters and dayquil chasers, but i think i really like them. it's good dayquil/nyquil music at least. the musicmatch artist info says their influenced by the rolling stones and neil young(?) i think they sound more garage-rok like a cross between the strokes and the allman brothers. early allman brothers. no, that's not right. they got a little grease to 'em, though, and i realized that i really don't much get into bands that, deep down, don't have that memphis hip shake. i know i'm into that experimental jazz fusion and acid jazz and all the dj music, but when it comes down to it, if i'm listening to four guys out to conquer the world with a pair of guitars and a drum kit, i want them to have some chicken guts on their amps. holy roller novacaine. that pretty much says it all. listen to that song and trani.
Dirty belly of a secret town
Cheap trick hookers that are hanging out at the bar in the Greyhound station
And the bare-chested boys are going down on every thing that the momma believes
Pack of smokes and a little bump of cocaine, help you feel not so strange
I said, "Lay it on the ground, throw in a white noise sound, like a tranny on a ten."
amen brothers. like a tranny on a ten.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
i'm sitting here watching battlestar galactica (the new sci-fi channel version, not the original) and i'm wondering who they'll have playing starbuck b/c, you know, dirk benedict would be hard to beat, and all of a sudden, everyone's calling this chick starbuck. that's right. starbuck's a she now. and the cylons. they look like people b/c they're "holograms." and lorne green's adama is now played by the captain from miami vice. holy fucking shit. what have you people done with my battlestar galactica? where's cassiopeia? where's that irascible dagget, muffit? who is that drip playing baltar? where are the goddamn cylons!!! man, does sci-fi ever know how to wreck a mini-series.
and now for something completely different.
the complete seinfeld scripts
truly harnessing the power of the web here folks.
for all the stupid americans...
more on possible iraq - al qaeda connections.
Iraq's coalition government claims that it has uncovered documentary proof that Mohammed Atta, the al-Qaeda mastermind of the September 11 attacks against the US, was trained in Baghdad by Abu Nidal, the notorious Palestinian terrorist.
Saturday, December 13, 2003
blog commentary on various ui elements found throughout the web. the interesting thing about this for me is how much thought is actually put into all the things most people don't take time to notice. just recently, i spent weeks trying to figure out how best have various datagrid elements arranged over a heirarchical datagrid. sort. hide columns. show all columns. ad infinitum. it's hard work and you start to question what people intuit naturally (as if there is such a thing) and what people intuit b/c of how they've been trained (via windows or the mac).
Friday, December 12, 2003
this audioblog thing's been over a year now and it doesn't seem to have caught on at all. or not as much as all the hype around it when it first came out. i don't ever click on them. it's slow and you can read faster than most people talk. also you can't get the gist or scan the entry. i might listen to them in the car though.
lonanne feels chilled and feverish again. it seems like we're still battling the flu and/or colds. william gets this cough that just sticks with him. my throat is sore. i feel like we've been sick for over a month. at the very least there's not a day where one of us hasn't been sick. i feel run to ground. and of course the hysterical news reports don't help. MORE FLU DEATHS! FLU ALL OVER! SCHOOLS CLOSING! i feel like the natural state of the american public is either a) amusement or b) total panic. pacify us. ok ok, scare us. pacify us.
my new insurance sucks. $20 copay. $3000 deductible. and ER visits go under the deductible, not a co-pay. it's also $375 per paycheck to cover my family. that's almost $700 a month for insurance. or $8,400 per year. that's over 10% of my income.
the new job is good so far. i'm taking the cautious approach. i don't want to get too excited, but it's nice working with smart, funny, decent people. the ceo and founder are both just really good guys and they've done incredibly well for a small business in a down economy. they're profitable the first year. they raised $12 million in B round funding. they've got great partners (Dell, Compal, Gateway). they're beating the pants off fujitsu, a company 20x their size. still, i feel like jonah. every company i've worked at in the past five years has either gone out of business or had massive layoffs and money losses. you start to think it's you.
the company christmas party was at the zach scott theatre. they had a pre-party with drinks and fancy hors d'oeuvres and then we had a private performance of the santaland diaries which i'd heard from several people was hilarious. unfortunately, it wasn't. lonanne and i were both surprised at how little of it was actually laugh-out-loud funny. everyone else seemed to think the same thing. i noticed several of the guys checking their watches. the really funny thing was this guy's wife got seriously liquored up and was laughing really loudly, too loudly. then she started in with the heckling. the guy playing the elf was piassed. he nearly stopped the show at one point and just gave her this go-to-hell look. she couldn't have cared less. lonanne and i were sitting right behind her and she took out her teeth to show them to us. then she flashed lonanne the victory sign. her husband, meanwhile, was sitting there like a stone. when they finally came to kick her out, she said "you can't do this to me, i'm the governor!" i wanted to see her one-act play.
major props to nadav for babysitting our kids too. we stayed out way too late and i apologize. when we got in, he showed us a note thomas had written.
the things that i am really bad at:
taking care of my brother
the kid is too hard on himself and i know where he gets it too. nadav wrote another list of things thomas is good at, but thomas crumpled it up. he's got the weight of the world on his shoulders.
william is in his peter pan phase. he wants me to be captain hook. he has the entire movie memorized and if i get a line wrong he has me repeat it with him correctly. we just rented and watched return to neverland. or i should say they watched it. lonanne took some nyquil and passed out and i fell half-asleep on the couch. i think i'll take some nyquil too. like dennis leary says, i can't believe that stuff is legal. i mean, a tiny shot of it knocks you out for eight hours!
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
today i was reminded of a blog entry (although i can't remember who wrote it) that was about the signs over sinks in corporate breakrooms (kevin perhaps?). i was making some coffee (praline pecan) with this gourmet coffee maker at work (it only makes one cup at a time, but hot damn, is it ever easy) when i looked up at the sign over the sink.
Please wipe the lipstick from the coffee mugs before placing in the dishwasher.
Please do not stuff food down the drain. This causes it to flood downstairs.
you can tell a lot about a company by the sorts of signs they put up in the breakroom. usually, it seems like these signs were written to mildy irresponsible children by their uncaring stepmother.
Clean up after yourself! Your mother doesn't work here!
Don't doodoo on the walls!
of course, it's usually the office manager who has to clean everything up so i imagine they are pretty pissed by the time they get around to typing and laminating kitchen notes. but it's true. invariably people are slobs. i've been in some pretty high class corporate bathrooms and there is always someone who does not know how to put a paper towel in the trash. not one paper towel. dozens. all thrown on the ground. it makes me want to type up and laminate some notes of my own.
Paper towels go HERE! (place over trash can)
You pissed on the seat and didn't wipe it off! I SAW YOU! (placed on the door of the bathroom for them to read as they leave)
Please don't take the newspapers if they are hung neatly on the handicap bar. (for the maintenance crew at night)
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
third revision of vegas, baby. again, a difficult and belabored revision for those 0.5 folks taking notes. several people were very helpful including lonanne, lemond and rob and, of course, the class. yes, you rob. see, i'm giving credit where credit's due. another thing i've found difficult as i revise is plotting the story along its polarities. so, in this story, you may/may not notice the whole numb/intimate polarity. well, it was pretty unconscious for me the first few times i scratched on it. but as i went back through this last time, i really tried to cut out anything that didn't underscore or embrace those tensions. drugs numb and they make you come alive. the narrator is trying to get distance from things, but he can't help seeing them in their crazy state, experiencing them too much. vegas underscores that. it's people getting distance from themselves, etc. but also embracing a kind of crazy, enlivened vision. so, trying to fit these things in consciously after having sort of naturally written the story in this way is pretty damn hard. flannery o'connor said that writing was all in the details, in the way a sentence was structured, in the exact smells and tastes you choose to focus on. sometimes writers get too busy trying to "get on" with their story, their plot, that they pass up the things that are necessary to the reader, and to themselves. you gotta get down and roll around in the mud, o'connor would say. i believe it.
Monday, December 08, 2003
Ah, the Grinch hated Christmas
The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why.
No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.
It could be perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
sometimes my heart is too small. i don't like buying things for people who don't need anything. i don't like the christmas crowds or the way everything is shoved down your throat, like we're all little consumer units, just trying to decide how to best stuff ourselves. lonanne hates it too, but mostly because it reminds her of her dad and the whole lousy uselessness of it all, of the way things just twist around and don't make any sense. i don't like our kids tearing through dozens of presents, each one more forgotten than the last, only perhaps one even making it through an entire weekend. i don't like that i have to come up with special kodak moments that seem contrived to make something of things that are, well, pretty hollow. i don't like listening to nat king cole and being reminded of my own christmas' past, of things i'd rather forget, like hope and joy and good tidings. what's the use? my wife asks in the darkness and i don't have any good answer. "i'm not the guy," i tell my mother-in-law. i'm not the guy to fix things. i'm not the guy to bring anyone out of their darkness. i'm not the guy to find the good in things that should've been thrown away a long time ago. but here i am anyway. taking the kids to see santa. buying a small christmas tree, the runt of the litter really. buying useless and goofy presents, really trying to think of what someone might like, taking my time with it. and taking out the little angel that my dad stuffed in a box and gave me before he walked out of my life for keeps. i think it's over 40 years old and it's all beat to hell, it's wings shredded, it's blond hair turning into a sort of crust. we took it out and put it on top of the tree. thomas said it looked "perfect." i tell you, sometimes that kid says shit and i nearly bust out in tears. it really is the little things that get you through.
so take care. watch out for the small, good things. and merry fucking christmas.
Sunday, December 07, 2003
just something to remember when idiots like tom morello say the iraqi people hate us b/c we're killing their people.
"The mass grave at Mahaweel, with more than 3,100 sets of remains, is the largest of some 270 such sites across Iraq. They hold upward of 300,000 bodies; some Iraqi political parties estimate there are more than 1 million. "
ok, 1 freaking million? i'm sorry, but even if we went there for all the wrong reasons and even if there are other brutal governments who have slaughtered 1 million of their own people (of which there are precisely one at this point) and even if foreign terrorists are inciting iraqis to violence against their own people (which, if you think about it, was already happening), this seems like a pretty damn good reason. don't forget that during wwII, america wasn't fighting germany b/c of the holocaust.
JoJo in the stars
check out the "pica towers" link and watch "hound of flesh." if that's not the creepiest thing i've seen in a long time. in an interview, the director described it as:
"You're Blind. There's a killer somewhere in the building. And your dog thinks it's a game..."
Saturday, December 06, 2003
good background on jorn barger, author of robotwisdom. he's the guy that coined the term "blog." apparently, he's also recently disappeared.
unemployment rate at 5.9%. this is just the sort of report that gets both sides frothing at the mouth. see, it's down! yeah, but it's still bad! i think it's a good sign, but we've been in a recession, so people are going to say it's not enough. i'm not sure what an acceptable unemployment rate would be, though. under clinton and a republican congress (i couldn't resist) it was the lowest the country has ever seen and that was 4.8% i think(?) that was at the height of the boom, though, when everyone was hiring. i have to say, on a local level, i've noticed quite a few more jobs coming through on my dice/monster search agents. used to be about 1 per week that i felt qualified applying for. now it's probably about 5-10.
if they handle it nearly as well as they did kosovo, there should be no problems
Thursday, December 04, 2003
fourth revision of the the ditch. hell, i think it's the fourth revision. maybe it's the fifth. i really tore it up this time, started from scratch in several places. someone told me recently that if you have a line that you love in a story, it's usually best to throw it out b/c it's probably getting in the way of something. that couldn't have been more true in this case. there were a lot of little precious lines that i had to toss. it's getting easier, i will say that, but it still hurts, like when you rip off a bandaid. or pull a nose hair.
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
enough sap for a dozen trees
i've been swamped as usual. first with the flu over thanksgiving. lonanne and i were holed up in shirley's upstair's bedrooms, wrestling down the nyquil and tamiflu and motioning incoherantly at the turkey that was left out for us. william's still got a cough from it all. so i'm thankful that the unexpected viral flu strain didn't kill us. apparently, it could've turned into a pandemic plague. makes you think twice about preschool. and i've now started a new job. also preparing stories for tsu mfa deadline, finishing up class critiques, taking thomas to guitar lessons, etc, etc. and i've been meaning, the whole time, really, to give a few big ups to my guy friends, all of whom, seem to be struggling as well. struggling and, to borrow a phrase, kicking the darkness till it bleeds daylight. so here are my long-overdue props to the fellas in lieu of any thanks...
to kyle who is going through the shit - you're a stronger guy than most. and resourceful. and smart. and you've got a bullshit meter that's better than mine. hell, i'll marry you.
to rob who was just recently laid off with seven month's severance from at&t - you lucky bastard! now comes the hard part. you gotta actually put your money where your mouth is. this is it man.
to nadav who got dumped here going on two months ago - you picked up the pieces and your heart and you kept moving. i really respect that. you didn't wallow in it and you could have. you're comfortable in your skin. that's rare.
to mike d. who is a single dad now and trying to raise his two kids in nashville - keep it up man. i know it's a struggle, but you've been amazing in keeping the kids first and foremost. you're a good man.
to kevin - well, ok, your job sucks. and you've got a dog that throws up. that's gotta be rough, right?
i know there's a side to everything. and i know that everyone has their own perceptions, their own judgements of how the cards get played sometimes. but i think a lot of times, the guys in this society get short shrift for doing the decent thing, the right thing, and for putting their heads down when most people (and you know this is true) would dig up every right they had to start whining and bitching and asking "where's mine?" and, the cri de coeur of our age, "i just wanna do what i wanna do." and make no mistake. each of these guys has been on the ass-end of life's deck. i'm just glad to know a few of you.
you are money. and you rarely get told.
jesus, listen to me. i sound like i'm going to die from a rare flu strain. a'ight. end of sap. as you were.