Archive: June, 2006

Podcasting in IAAPA Fun World

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 28, 2006, 9:19 PM | comments: 1

I totally forgot I did this interview, because it was ages ago.

Me in IAAPA Fun World

Vital inspiration

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 28, 2006, 8:25 PM | comments: 0

A friend of mine is making things happen. I'm inspired. cream

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 28, 2006, 7:25 PM | comments: 5

There's this homemade ice cream place that has been on SR 303 for probably decades. I think it was there before the Richfield Coliseum (which makes it even more fitting that it's still there). Between various jobs, where I would pass it, going to see Stephanie in Kent, going to the Winking Lizard in Peninsula, etc., I haven't stopped there since, well, maybe I never stopped there. I could swear I had been there as a kid, but I don't remember. But I always think, "One of these days, I'm gonna stop there."

Today was the day.

And the verdict is that it's AWESOME. Yummy stuff. Single dip is only a buck-fifty. "Single dip" is country ice cream store for "a shit load of ice cream."

If you're ever around SR 303 and I-271, circa Richfield and Peninsula, stop. It's good.

Stop and smell the...

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 28, 2006, 6:19 PM | comments: 1

Kevin Rose is my hero, opportunities, what the audience wants

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 27, 2006, 11:16 PM | comments: 1

I saw a blog post that theorizes how much money makes. If you've been living under a rock, digg is a "social news and bookmarking site" that aggregates stuff and ranks it according to how crowd wisdom thinks it's important.

When it comes down to it, the site doesn't do anything all that remarkable, as hundreds of sites did a lot of the same things before. But it was successful in part because founder Kevin Rose was able to use his celebrity, and in part because it was one of the better implementations of the various features.

Kevin was a lowly segment producer on TechTV's "The Screen Savers" back in the day. He was also a natural on camera. When the horrible G4 (Comcast) network bought TechTV, he became even more popular. I think he clearly had a bright future in television. But he didn't like he was doing, so he had the courage to go out and do his thing. One good idea is all it took, and unless he really screws up, he's going to be well off for a very long time. That's a great story. He stuck it to The Man, and eclipsed what The Man had him doing.

This makes you wonder... what's next? Clearly these kinds of opportunities on the Web keep cropping up, but it's so hard to think of the next big idea. I want that kind of self-made success, I just don't have the ideas flowing.

However, there are some things that are clear to me. The first I've known for a long time: The Internet levels the playing field. for as much as we might complain that there's more crap than ever, the brief history has shown us again and again that money and big corporations don't get you to success any faster than some hack like me working at home. That's the single most exciting thing about the Web, and it has been that way for the last decade. It's how Google, eBay and Amazon were born.

The second moment of clarity is more relevant to me as a media guy, and it became reinforced in my head when I read some comments for a recent podcast. It's simple: People want content on their terms, and they want it specific to their needs. That means niche content, in whatever format is best for them. It's not always clear on how to translate that to revenue, but that's the side of the publisher-consumer transaction that us Web jockeys have had to figure out for years. We'll figure this out too.

Despite an aging site that isn't well designed, CoasterBuzz had done a pretty good job at some of that from the beginning. That's why I mentioned that user-submitted content was hardly a new concept that came along with digg. I don't think there is much more revenue to be squeezed out of the coaster enthusiast scene, but I still can't help but wonder what a future version of the site might bring. It's fun to think about.

I'm a media guy. I do HD video now too. I have to figure out how all of the interests in my life can combine with experience to define something really cool to do with my life.

State of the amusement industry

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 27, 2006, 9:49 PM | comments: 1

Well now that Mark Shapiro, the CEO of Six Flags, says they're wondering if Magic Mountain is worth even keeping open, it's an LA thing and LA media is interested. I just talked to the reporter at the LA Times about it all. Made me realize that between the Six Flags stuff and Cedar Fair's acquisition of Paramount Parks, the industry has never been in such turmoil. It's not that big of an industry to begin with!

A lot of it is still wait-and-see stuff. I think in the long run Six Flags will get its act together. I expect there will be some culture clash in the ranks of the CF-PP deal, but I bet that will smooth out in the long run as well.

Not a good day at work

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 27, 2006, 7:51 PM | comments: 2

I had one of those days at work. I just wasn't happy there, for a number of reasons.

It kind of culminated in some raised voices between me and my boss. I was probably in the wrong for that, and I'm big enough to admit it, but the reason he was getting up in my space is why I was annoyed in the first place. It was an issue of time.

The specifics are boring, and I don't want to air that kind of thing in public anyway, but suffice it to say that I'm having a hard time fitting in culturally. As a consultant, I've learned more about software development as a process than I could ever recall. Regardless of the methodology, there is a method, and it generally involves specific roles and structure. Even iterative development styles start out with a reasonably clear goal in mind, and you get to that goal before your revise it.

And therein lies the problem. Despite all of this "process" around me, with meetings, disparate documentation, more meetings, and drive-by by-the-ways, I'm left either waiting for someone to do something (at which time others perceive me to be wasting time surfing the Web), or I'm spending time beyond the normal work day trying to catch up.

As a consultant, I always knew the value of my time. When I had to wait for something, I didn't work, and I didn't get paid. When I had to get things moving, I did work, and got paid, even if it was working from home. There is no question about accountability or earning your keep in that scenario. But when I wasn't working, I could be doing other work, and I think that's where I'm having such a hard time fitting in with a salary culture. I feel very strongly that my time is the only thing that I truly own, and I want to control it.

I'm trying to be objective about it as I can, to make sure that I'm not just being a stubborn asshole. When you're objective, you tend to want to compare for a frame of reference. So as I look at my co-workers, and I generally like most all of them, I see very different perspectives that are unlike mine. One guy has never had any other job, and knows only this going back to the early start-up days. Another guy shows a lot of fierce loyalty to do what it takes, I assume for some personal motivation. Yet another guy just goes along and doesn't want to rock the boat.

The truth is that I think those guys are right just as much as I am, because of different perspectives. I have a very, very rich perspective on things after the last year or so. Some of it is personal, like the separation, while other perspectives come from seeing others find themselves, put up with abusive relationships, or even recently, watch a new friend essentially deal with an inevitable and early death. As I'm now pulling out of my quarter-life crisis, more than ever, I understand how precious time is, even if I don't have a well-defined purpose in life.

Well, there are certain things I can define. I remember back in 2001, with my first lay-off and subsequent depression, being stressed out and working crazy hours didn't get me anywhere in the long run, that was for damn sure. I don't want to go back to that now, and I don't think I'll have to. But I also don't want to be in the uncomfortable feast/famine work cycle either. I like the people I work with, because some of them are fucking brilliant. I like my boss too, even though we got a bit heated today. I just want the process to run smoothly, so we're not always barely making or missing a deadline. The process needs to be better.

Talking through it like this really helps me see the bigger picture at least. Culture isn't easy to change. I don't think it's really my place to change it anyway. It's just that I've seen it work better, and I wish it did.

Time is so very precious to me. I like what I do, but it's not all I do. I need my employer to respect my time, so that I can respect my employer.

Nine Inch Nails?

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 27, 2006, 1:04 AM | comments: 9

I realized that Nine Inch Nails is playing Blossom tomorrow. $20 for lawn, tickets available right down to the pit.

Do I go?

Gotta get my playing out

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 27, 2006, 12:44 AM | comments: 3

I realized today that the reason I can't seem to focus on getting my little projects done is that I need to play. A lot. With the year half-over, I just haven't done much to play and let loose. It's not ADD, it's PDD (playing deficit disorder).

Sunday is of course Jeff Putz day, so that will certainly help a bit. In fact, it's really going to be Jeff Putz week starting this Thursday night. Good times ahead.

I've had these fun little weekend things over the last year, but no gee-whiz moments. Little trips to Orlando and Michigan were nice retreats, but I'm looking for the big score now. I blame the company I keep. Most of my friends are much younger than me, and that kind of rubs off on me. Even the older friends act like they're about 10 years younger.

I'm inevitably going to miss the milestone I set for the end of the month on my forum app rewrite, but alas, hopefully the week after that I'll have the focus to get something done.

Kitty pile

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 26, 2006, 7:51 PM | comments: 1

Cancel AOL

posted by Jeff | Friday, June 23, 2006, 3:57 PM | comments: 7

It took two hours to get home

posted by Jeff | Friday, June 23, 2006, 11:25 AM | comments: 2

Last night it took me more than two hours to get home. As the storms rolled through, they did their worst here in the southeast part of Cuyahoga County, namely Solon, Ohio. Where I work.

The problem was that I couldn't get out of town. All of the roads going out were flooded. Cars were floating around, rivers crossed roads, and I've generally never seen so much water rushing around anywhere that wasn't already a rushing river. And what made this even more weird is that, generally speaking, this is a town with lots of hills and high ground. So much rain was coming down that even on hills there were several inches of running water.

I finally went east then south from town until I was able to get to the turnpike to get home, but what a pain in the ass. I've never seen anything like it before.

Thunderstorm geek

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 21, 2006, 9:51 PM | comments: 0

I love thunderstorms. I've been lucky to see probably hundreds of really awesome storms that weren't destructive. What's neat about storms in Northeast Ohio is that they're generally pretty easy to track and predict. We have a very familiar weather pattern here. It's not like some parts of the country where you can get shit from every direction (I assume Florida is like that).

We've got a pretty strong blob on the radar headed this way now, and I expect it will roll in by 11. Should be interesting. Poor cats still, after this many years, are scared of the thunder.

Running from the sky

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 21, 2006, 9:12 AM | comments: 1

Moron of the day

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 20, 2006, 2:18 PM | comments: 2

I came back from lunch, where I noticed some woman sitting in her car reading, windows up, car running, air conditioning on. It's 74 degrees.

I can't imagine why we're "too dependent" on foreign oil.

Flowers, not finance (b-b-baby!)

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 19, 2006, 9:00 PM | comments: 0

Gold star to anyone that knows what CD that's from.

It seems like everything has to do with finances lately. Of course, that could be because of the huge five-digit numbers I racked up in debt to finance my video operation. I had one paying gig, and have another tentatively on the calendar though, so that's a plus.

My new mortgage is approved and being processed. I paid a higher rate to get a "no-cost" loan, but when I looked at the actual amortization over the next eight years, it's actually way cheaper to take the higher rate than spend oodles on closing costs. I can't see staying in this house that long, so that works for me. All I have to pay is money into the escrow account, and even that will come from a refund on the old escrow account. Hope to have a closing date soon.

I find myself spending money on small things for the business, and that annoys me. Even though I have all of my credit card debt at 0% to 3.9%, I want to make some meaningful progress. My first video shoot required stuff I didn't have, so I had to blow a couple hundred bucks there. Then my power supply on my computer died last week (which is what I get for buying $20 supplies... I spent more this time). And I think I recently bitched about the three toner carts for my printer.

I am excited to finally have my personal debt below $10k for the first time in ages, but I still wish I was getting it down faster. I find myself spending a lot of money eating out, buying "stuff" like DVD's, grills and beers at Cedar Point.

So Jeff, you might ask, why the hell are you going to Las Vegas for your birthday? Well, I haven't had a "real" vacation that lasted several days since going to Orlando in November 2004. Every other trip was like a 48 hour retreat or a working voyage. I deserve it, cost be damned!

In other news, my Schwan Guy, who is recovering from an injury that caused partial blindness, tells me that the breaded spicy chicken breast, a la the Wendy's sandwich only better, is coming back this fall. Wicked.

I'm so fried right now

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 19, 2006, 2:25 PM | comments: 1

Allergy meds kick my ass. I think I might be out of the woods with the rain last night, but I took the little pill today anyway. I'm so tired I can barely stay awake, yet I barely get any sleep overnight because of day sleeping. I can't win!

Then after the busy weekend, that has me tired too. And there's so much I want to do before Vegas. I need like 24 hours to do nothing at all, and then I'll be good to go.

Happy pictures

posted by Jeff | Friday, June 16, 2006, 1:51 PM | comments: 0

Mainstream American media shows a lot of really scary things on a daily basis, so I think it's neat to see things that make you feel all warm and fuzzy from time to time.

Deer and the dying cat

A really tiny chameleon

Hope Is Emo: Why network TV won't mean shit

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 15, 2006, 11:20 PM | comments: 0

Laugh away... I think this is hilarious.

As best I can tell, this chick was on MadTV, and is working with the Ask A Ninja guy. OK, so it's not the funniest thing ever, but the fact that this kind of shit gets linked to death around the Internet in a matter of hours demonstrates that the traditional means of video program distribution is becoming cumbersome and irrelevant. It's exactly the reason that the HD DVD format wars don't matter.

Mark my words... it's easier than ever to get your thing out there.

Road to Guantanamo

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 15, 2006, 9:58 PM | comments: 15

I knew this story would be told sooner or later, and as I expected, it would be very hard to stomach...

Credit to Alex for pointing me to it.

Bill Gates is retiring

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 15, 2006, 8:53 PM | comments: 3

Bill will still be the chair of Microsoft, but he's going to step away from his executive role. He wants to spend more time with his charitable foundation.

When you're worth $50 billion, how could you not want to be more interested in trying to have a positive impact on the world? I would do that in a heartbeat. In fact, I would've probably done it years ago if I were him. We can all do our part at the local level, and that's great, but imagine being so loaded that you can single handedly immunize a small country against a disease or drop several new buildings into a university. I honestly wouldn't know where to start!

Mentos + Coke = Awesomness

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 15, 2006, 2:21 PM | comments: 3

Did you know that the two cause an explosion?

Jewel: last minute show

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 15, 2006, 11:20 AM | comments: 0

One of Catherine's roommates had an extra ticket to the Jewel/Rob Thomas show last night, so I went. Unfortunately, even though I think much more highly of Jewel, she played first. We were late, so we only saw the last half-hour of her set (she played for about an hour and a half, apparently).

The last time I saw Jewel, the fourth time, she disappointed me because she had no heart in her performance. She got on, did her thing, and got off. That was a disappointment because the other times I saw her, she told stories, improvised a lot, yodeled of course, and generally worked the crowd. She has a lot of good songs, but she's one of the artists that is really meant to be seen live.

The good news is that she seems to be back into that mode. For all the crap people give her about the different kinds of music she tries, she's a solid performer still, and she makes it look easy. I wish we could've seen her entire set.

I don't hate Rob Thomas, and I admit I like some of the Matchbox 20 songs, but overall he just strikes me as a pop artist who writes kind of average music. But clearly, there were more people there to see him than Jewel, which seemed unfortunate to me. Even the pierced and tattooed chick behind me was there to see him. Totally doesn't fit her image. He's not a bad performer, but the performance was so polished that it lacked the feeling of live music. I do give him props for a really great arrangement of "3 a.m." that was much better than the original.

Cath made the point after the show that Jewel is a phenomenal performer and a singer the likes of which you don't frequently see. She doesn't even have to try. She's been singing most of her life, and it's her opinion that in terms of sheer musical talent, Jewel just buries Rob Thomas. I totally agree, but crowds don't always follow the best. If she tours on her own, I'd really like to see her again. She seems back in form. I just hope it's a smaller venue.

On a side note, Blossom Music Center, while not even remotely full of people last night, looks a lot better than it had previously. They've cleaned up the place, added new signage, new restrooms, and generally it just looks more like a modern venue, despite being decades old. Really great night for a show there.

Feeling bogged down

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 13, 2006, 9:46 PM | comments: 2

I figured out why I feel like I'm dragging ass lately (aside from the two weeks of allergy drug-induced stupidity). There are lots of things that are just kind of bogging me down.

The biggest of these is paperwork of various sorts. I think I might finally have that one taken care of. Contracts, BeastBuzz registrations, bank statements, loan stuff (yeah, I got one I'm happy with... more on that later), unopened mail, etc. I don't know how I get so behind on it all, but it's like I look at my desk one day, and there it is. That might be in part because I don't spend a lot of time at my desk anymore, because I <3 my MacBook Pro.

The other thing is work, which is not stimulating me right now, and it feels like I'm living a mundane existence every minute I'm there. When the sun is shining and there are a dozen different things I can think of that I'd like to be doing, it's not a good feeling. Then when I finally get home, I don't feel like doing any of those other things, because work sucked the passion right out of me. I need to make an adjustment on this soon.

I know that part of my problem is that I suck at time management, because I like to use time to screw around, be social, play video games, etc. Man do I need to figure out that next great idea so I can sit around and collect (more of) the money!

I just can't test it all

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 13, 2006, 3:15 PM | comments: 0

So here's the thing about test-driven development. I think it's awesome because it forces me to be more focused in my design and I know when I break something if I have to revisit it. But I suck at it.

I test too much or too little. Sometimes I write tests after the code because I want to get something working quickly. I don't break things into small tasks like I should, and I let big picture temporary roadblocks slow me down.

The bigger realization that I've come to is that TDD is amazing and awesome for back-end development. When I was first exposed to TDD, it was in an environment that was 100% executing code with no UI, like mainframe replacement stuff. Indeed, this development methodology is a big deal because you really don't have any other way to understand and be sure that the code you're writing actually works.

When you're building a Web app, especially on the considerably smaller scale involving a team of one, TDD can get in the way. A lot of the time, I want to hack out some UI and start to drive my requirements from that. And if you think about it, that really makes more sense, because the UI helps define the solution to the business problem you're trying to solve. I'm sure that some consultants would freak out hearing me say that, but it's so true. The UI is something tangible up front, not a bunch of abstract bullshit that won't actually translate to something useful.

That said, there are a lot of cases where TDD makes sense even in this scenario, because it provides a great apparatus to make sure what you're doing works. It's great for testing (and maintaining) data access code in particular. It also works great for making sure some kind of calculation or text manipulation performs as expected.

So as is the case with most things in life, I'm finding the all or nothing approach using a particular methodology is just not practical.

What's wrong with rich people?

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 13, 2006, 2:43 PM | comments: 4

Last Friday, I had lunch at a restaurant in Legacy Village, a fairly upscale themed shopping area east of Cleveland. Most of the stores there are places I'd never shop, because I don't see any value in the high-priced stuff they sell. Well, except for the Apple Store, of course, where I've spent a couple grand! I just think it's a neat place because it feels like a theme park, and, well, you know how I am about theme parks.

Anyway, as we were sitting there eating lunch, watching the beautiful and well-to-do doing well, I couldn't help but notice the way many of them act. They roll in, climbing out of their giant SUV's, treat the valets like shit, treat the restaurant staff like shit, and can't even hold a damn door open for people. They're just totally pretentious assholes. What gives?

Then it occurred to me... a lot of these people don't actually make any more money than I do. (And that's actually a scary realization for me because I don't feel like I make enough to do what I really want.) But I'm different, because I choose to drive a Toyota Corolla, shop at Old Navy, hold the door for people, and generally try to just blend in unless it serves me otherwise. So why is that?

I think a part of it might be that I'll never forget having food stamps when I was a kid. Part of it is that what I have isn't quite enough to reach the goals I'd like to reach, financially, professionally, or otherwise. In fact, there's my well-known realization that money doesn't buy happiness either, so working my ass off for something I don't care about will never happen. I guess none of the shit is important to me, and I certainly don't gain anything by flashing my shit to other people.

But I'm always reminded of my choices in certain scenarios. For example, I like staying in nice hotels where you get lots of attention. Hey, to me it's worth it to be spoiled now and then, because for me, it's all about me. But I'm always amazed how "rich people" look down on me because I'm sporting a T-shirt and a 2" barbell in my ear. I wouldn't say it bothers me, but I wouldn't be shy about telling those kinds of people that I kick ass, people like me for who I am.

So it's strange that I could afford to be a part of that culture, when I stick with a job anyway, but I'd be totally out of place in it. I hope to keep it that way. I mean, I hate working for The Man, I think The Man doesn't contribute to society, and The Man looks down on anyone not also The Man.

And for the record, I do look down on some people... but just the stupid ones. Socioeconomic status and demographics matter not in that regard!

Blue Man tour dates announced

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 12, 2006, 6:43 PM | comments: 0

Here they are!

No show in the Motor City, but Cleveland and Shittsburgh looking good.

Summer time

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 12, 2006, 11:48 AM | comments: 0

With the weather being as nice as it is, I'm struggling with work again. I know that a lot of people might find that to be kind of lame, like I should suck it up, go to my job, and smile, but I've essentially been on an academic schedule for the last two years. I did work part time last year, but for the most part, I could roll out of bed when I felt like it, have breakfast/lunch on my deck, stay up late doing whatever, and just kind of do my thing.

I really miss that this year. But because of the financial risk I've taken with buying my video gear, I have to work a day job for now. Well, I don't have to, but it's the responsible thing to do. I could make some really great headway on debt if I stick with it. And hey, the bonus at the end of the year could be a massive amount of money. Of course, it could be nothing instead.

It was easier last year to take care of myself too. I think it was easy to lose weight when I wasn't out in the world every day being distracted by Chipotle and made tired by things I don't care that much about.

I guess what I find most alarming is that the weeks just go flying by, and I feel like I'm missing something. I realize now more than ever that time is so precious, and I don't like the feeling of it passing by quickly. That's why I've been living like a rock star for much of this year. Three flying trips and three driving trips by the mid-point of the year!

Viva Las Vegas, baby!

Return to video production

posted by Jeff | Saturday, June 10, 2006, 10:03 PM | comments: 0

Yesterday marked my return to professional video production. I guess it would technically be the first time I've done anything like that for money in about seven years.

For the most part, things went really well. Because of the stuff I needed to buy to do it, my net profit on this particular gig is probably less than $200, but I guess it was never about the money anyway (says the guy bitching about that $10k on his business credit card to buy the gear). The HVX200 is a remarkable camera, and looking at the images I'm seriously impressed. The great lighting helped. I'm starting to really understand how to light outdoors.

The tapeless workflow needs some work. Basically, shooting 720/30p, I can shoot about 16 minutes before I need to dump the stuff off of the camera to the laptop. That process takes nearly 10 minutes to complete, and that's too long. There are a number of products that can help with that, but what we're really waiting for is some kind of Cardbus adapter to plug into the MacBook Pro so we can offload the P2 cards that way. Then it's just a matter of swapping them out as you go, recording on one while dumping out of the other one. (The MacBook Pro instead has an ExpressCard/34 slot).

Here's another thing I've learned... no matter what the subject matter is, corporate video is still boring as hell. I remember now why I only did it a couple of times in college. It's just not very sexy. But it does pay the bills, and if I can generate enough income to pay for half of this stuff, then it was a totally justified expense, as far as I'm concerned.

Sniff sniff

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 8, 2006, 3:22 PM | comments: 4

You smell that? That's the smell of limitless opportunity.

Watching people make their journey

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 8, 2006, 11:57 AM | comments: 0

It occurred to me last night that there are a lot of people in my life making progress on their journeys through life. It's something that is fascinating to me because I've been doing the same thing the last year or so, and it's astounding how there are so many good stories with every day people you know.

One friend is being more assertive and looking out for herself and really understanding what makes her happy in life, regardless of the cost. That's very brave. Another friend is seeing the opportunities for her career and taking them, slowly building confidence in her abilities and her decisions. Yet another person is working the first real job of her life, and doing it 60 hours a week, loving it. And then one more is making the transition to a totally new era in her life.

The recurring theme in this, and with my own journey, is that people who are successful, happy and fit for the world, are constantly evolving, learning and doing things that are hard. The core things that enable success and happiness are self-respect and courage. I think we're brought up to believe that these are very selfish things, and being selfish makes you a bad person. That's total bullshit.

In fact, it's so bullshitish that I can say without question that the people who are most able to look out for themselves and achieve happiness internally first, are the people who are most generous and have the most generally positive effect on others. When you provide for yourself, something that's really hard, then providing for others is so easy. Sure, you might put some people off by putting yourself first, but do those people need so much of you that they need you to feel right themselves? If they can't respect what you need, how can they really respect themselves?

The journey can be endlessly exciting when you start it with yourself. The external things will always fall into place with that solid foundation of self-respect and courage to do what's right for you, first.

My big reflector

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 7, 2006, 7:20 PM | comments: 3

I'm doing some HD work this weekend, and some of it is going to be outdoors. I used to fear outdoor shooting because of lighting issues, but these days I know a little better. I bought a big ass reflector. I opted for one with white on one side and silver on the other side. No idea how each will work, but I'm going to do some experimentation tonight to see.

At this rate, I may never pay off my camera, but on the other hand, I have a growing collection of gear and feel like I can shoot anything if I have the opportunity. This is all stuff I'll need for my film too.

Mortgage hell

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 7, 2006, 11:36 AM | comments: 1

So I thought that refinancing the house was going to be all swell. I used Lending Tree and found a deal that was generally better than anything I could find calling around here. My payment was going to be about the same, despite losing some of the equity in our separation, which is about what I was hoping for. I wouldn't even need to show proof of income because my credit is so kick ass. Then when the paperwork started flowing, things went to shit.

First off, every other page had a different value for the loan amount and the stated value of the house. That's not cool. Then, to my big surprise, they added PMI to the loan payment, which they did not quote to me. I don't pay it now, I'm not going to ever, no matter what the loan-to-value ratio is. That's why i did a 85/5/10 deal last time. So I flipped out on the guy and said it was unacceptable, and told him to cancel everything. Now I have to start over.

Generally speaking, I don't get stressed out anymore, and I don't let external forces get to me. But when someone tries to screw me, I totally lose it. (I don't think they were intentionally trying to screw me, I just think they're incompetent.) I went over to have dinner with friends and I noticed on the way there that I had the tightness in the chest and the clenched jaw and all of the physical manifestations of stress. That's such a completely shitty feeling.

Why the Interweb is saving the world

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 7, 2006, 11:10 AM | comments: 1

With great content like this, aren't you glad the Internet is mainstream? Fabulous technology.

Iterate, dammit!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 6, 2006, 2:49 PM | comments: 0

In my relatively short career in software development (which is still like 50 years in Internet time), I've been exposed to a wide range of development methodologies, project management and general dev culture. The easy trap to fall into is trying to apply what you learn to every new situation.

The worst thing I've ever seen was at this, uh, accounting type company I worked at, where they had this monstrous application (in FoxPro, puke!) that was a dog. My boss would work like 60 hours a week, people were pissed all of the time, and there was no significant testing, and zero documentation. Changes would go to production instantly. Getting laid-off from there was the best thing that could have ever happened to me, and I didn't even have any work to do there.

On the other hand, my five or so months as a contractor at Progressive was remarkable. It changed the way I look at everything. You'd think such a huge IT organization would be a mess and filled with failure. But in my group at least, the requirements process was very precise, and the agile methodologies being guided by consultants was having very rapid pay-off. It was kind of boring to do work with no UI, but I guess having a big line of green dots on NUnit was fun, sort of.

I'm struggling staying on target with the rewrite of POP Forums because, I think, it just feels like I don't have anything tangible to show for my work so far. It's so odd that despite being a published author, able to make ridiculous salary or hourly demands and generally being perceived as a clever Internet guy, this one stupid application defines my total existence. I suppose it's because the app is core to my "hobby" sites, and that's what I really like doing.

After reading the sample chapters from 37signal's Getting Real book, I decided to plop down the $19 for the PDF. I'll first say that I think these guys are a little on the pretentious side, and their preface indicating they aren't doesn't get them off the hook. That said, a recurring theme in the book is to just f'ing build something and not get hopelessly caught up in the details. And build the UI first.

Even Microsoft is starting to get that Web apps can be built on the fly (see Windows Live), and never be "done." I do agree that's true, but it's not that simple when you depend on the income from a particular existing app you're replacing. For example, my new forum app will be the core of a revamped CoasterBuzz. While they make the case that you should deploy half an app and not a half-assed app, I can't exactly put even a half-site up when people already expect certain things from it.

But there are other things they talk about that I do catch myself doing. For example, I'm thinking about some clever way to encapsulate permissions (can/can't read/post in a forum), and even tie it to the UI. As the book says, I'm worrying about a problem that I can't solve, and that wastes time. I don't even have topics or UI yet.

And this gets to the iterative nature I'd like to adhere to. I hate how I get wrapped up in details that aren't relevant when I haven't even solved the basic problem. Getting something that starts to look useful quickly, and building on top of that is certainly a lot more rewarding.

Part of the issue is my fascination with unit testing, which I don't do correctly most of the time anyway. I test too much or too little. Pair that with the agile mantra of doing short, four-hour tasks at a time, and I don't do things the "right" way at all. So here I am building a class library based on unit tests, and not getting closer to the place I want to be. At the same time, the unit tests save my ass when I do iterate and change something to, for example, add a new column to a database and associated property in the object representation of the data.

But for all of the angst I feel over not feeling accomplished, reading about different ideas on how to develop software kind of gets me energized. That's a good thing.

Back in the video business

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 6, 2006, 10:43 AM | comments: 1

After being in, then out, I've finally got that paid video gig again. And unfortunately, I'm now so in the loop that I have to be careful about what I say!

But the best news is I'll pay off my HD goodies some day...

A fun podcast

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 5, 2006, 9:29 PM | comments: 2

I just posted our latest podcast. Man, it was a slow news week. We really screwed around. Funny how suddenly there's a lot more personality, but it's probably not exactly professional.

New grill

posted by Jeff | Sunday, June 4, 2006, 3:54 PM | comments: 3

It wasn't obvious to me at the time, but when I tossed my old grill, that meant that I would have to buy a new one. I wasn't really prepared for the financial implication of that, but it's not like I had a choice either because the old one was beyond repair.

Somehow I managed to get out of Home Depot without buying a $1,000 grill. I didn't buy a cheap ass $125 grill like the last one, but I did settle on a "Char-Broil" $200 model. I took the step up because it has a huge grilling surface, and there's never enough room when you cook multiple things or have people over. And I could never justify buying a Weber at twice the price for half the grill surface. That would be silly.

So I'm burning the crap off of the burners now, and getting some food to grill shortly. Turkey burgers, taters and such for me!

VH1 Rock Honors

posted by Jeff | Sunday, June 4, 2006, 1:40 PM | comments: 2

I DVR'd the VH1 Rock Honors show from the other day. I just watched it. While I question the validity of crediting Kiss and Judas Priest with anything, there's no doubt that Queen and Def Leppard played a huge role in shaping rock music. And what's cool about a show like this is that these people are still around.

Jaime Pressly hosted, and did some of the interviewing too. I'm really surprised at how genuine she is and how not stupid she is. I didn't think she was stupid, but they frequently get blonde actresses to do stuff like this who are totally clueless. Although, she's so ugly she's hot.

The surviving members of Queen played with Foo Fighters. Kiefer Sutherland did a kind of spoken word tribute to them. It was neat to see Foo Fighters do "Tie Your Mother Down," and then later have both drummers, plus Dave Grohl, play drums on "We Will Rock You" and "We Are The Champions." Brian May is still the shit on guitar. Totally amazing.

Def Leppard was without question the band that moved rock forward in the 80's. I think they also made it accessible because it was so pop friendly. It worked on top 40 and MTV too. And for them to survive after their drummer losing his arm and their guitarist dying of alcoholism is something you gotta give them credit for.

They had the All-American Rejects cover "Photograph" (down to the cow bell), and honestly it was kind of cool to see such a young band be influenced by an 80's band. DL themselves did "Rock of Ages." Brian May joined them on stage for their T.Rex cover of "20th Century Boy" (it's on their new album). It's funny how Joe Elliot looks fat and old, while Rick Savage looks the youngest he ever has with straight hair.

Rock nostalgia is a weird thing. I never got much into "classic rock" as it were, and there weren't a lot of really timeless rock bands when I was growing up. But I guess that's what makes remembering the 80's easier. There is less to remember!

I need to capture images

posted by Jeff | Friday, June 2, 2006, 4:38 PM | comments: 1

I've been thinking lately that I need to get out and take some pictures and or shoot video. I'm thinking about bringing my good Canon out to Vegas, but it's so not convenient. When I look at my pics from Orlando a few months ago, I'm also very impressed with the pictures from my little Canon.

I also really want to get out and shoot more HD. I haven't had time to even crack the case on my camera since the Cedar Point media day. I'd like to start shooting some HD at Cedar Point, in fact, just for my own use and get a good feel for outdoor use.

I have an idea for a screenplay in my head that I can't quite materialize into a plot yet. There's some human condition that I see a lot lately in me and my friends, and I'm trying to nail down what exactly that is and how I can build a plot around it. I wish Freeze would get that short film idea of his into a script as well so we could bang that out.

Tim O'Reilly is blowing it

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 1, 2006, 11:18 AM | comments: 2

There was a big uproar over CMP and O'Reilly sending some guy a C&D letter for using the term "Web 2.0 Conference" in that those companies are using it as a trademark.

Tim O'Reilly's response indicates that he overall agrees with the action, and honestly I do see his point and agree that defending a trademark is the right thing to do.

However, there's an underlying tone in his words, and one that I sensed at Mix06, that stinks of self-pleasuring "look-what-we-came-up-with" posturing that really gets under my skin.

Let's start with the obvious: The term "Web 2.0" is stupid. I don't know or care who coined the term (O'Reilly insists that "no one was using it before they did a conference on it), but it has been so over-used in feel good journalism in magazines and by people like O'Reilly that it doesn't mean anything. The Web is iterative in nature and constantly evolving. It isn't having a second coming or all at once doing new things or spawning a new economy, or whatever the hell people say it's doing.

I respected O'Reilly for building a publishing empire, and articles I read about him seemed to indicate to me that he was the real deal. But when I saw him speak, he seemed kind of arrogant, especially when he brought up his company. I'll put it this way: Book publishing is a noble business that helps people, but it's rarely a source of innovation. Books help people explain and use the innovation. It's rare that it goes the other way. I think I'm fully qualified to say that since I am an author with a published book. My book isn't the result of my own greatness, it's the result of wanting to teach people about something innovative that Microsoft made.

I realize that they're not claiming "Web 2.0" is all theirs, but the difference is too subtle to matter, in my opinion. I guess it's the notion that the term is important, in any context, that bothers me.

I have to get back to writing software for Web 10.5.6, or some other such nonsense.