I'm strangely annoyed that I'm still thinking about Truth after seeing it last night. It's not thoughts of fear or anxiety or anything like that, but rather strong feelings that there is some huge economic opportunity out there for me.
It was the end of the movie that actually had me feeling patriotic about the whole situation, which is incredibly ironic given the scope of the problem, and America's contribution to it. I haven't had a reason to feel good about our country in a long time, save for the promise of our children.
We have a lot of smart people here, we can innovate, we can succeed in not only addressing climate change but creating an entirely new economy around the technology. If we could break free of the auto and oil industry's grasp, and get politicians to stop being stupid, we'd be all set.
But hey, I spent 30 minutes in the park today where I saw 20 vehicles, all SUV's, come and go. Two had their owners inside, car running, A/C on. But there's no problem here, right?
Finally something really interesting to come out of the labs at Microsoft...
I saw it. It wasn't at all what I thought it would be. It's almost entirely science, and not touchy-feely as I expected. In fact, aside from a few minor jabs at Bush, and some personal notes about why Al Gore is so into this cause, it was mostly science.
And not voodoo or dumbed-down science either. Most of it is stuff I already knew, but there was one key set of facts that really took me by surprise, and squashed any lingering doubt about whether or not global warming is a man-made phenomenon. As you've probably seen on Discovery, scientists have been able to map out more than 650,000 years of climate change and atmospheric CO2 content by drilling out ancient ice cores. Plotting that data out, they can see that over this 650,000 years, climate change was almost directly proportional to CO2 content, through every ice age. Also during that entire time span, it never went beyond 300 parts per million. We're well over that now, so it stands to reason that the temperature will rise as well. 650,000 years of data is pretty hard to dispute.
And here's the thing that also surprised me. While the future looks grim on the current course, Gore was quick to point out that we already have much of the technology in place to do something about it. We can indeed fix this. He gave the example from the 90's where we, as a planet, stopped using CFC's in propellants and cooling systems, and in the process actually reversed the growth of the hole in the ozone layer. All we had to do is decide to do it.
Most of the world gets it, but clearly we in the U.S. don't. The consequences are pretty dire if we don't adjust, and sadly, the millions of people most affected won't be people here (except for beach front property owners, some in Manhattan, and a huge portion of Florida).
If you're a skeptic, you should see the movie. If you think Gore is full of shit, then you're simply unwilling to engage in thoughtful and logical observation of real science. It shouldn't be a political or emotional issue. Gore is right that it should be a moral issue.
I'm as shocked as you are that he's not the dumbass he appeared to be when he was running for president.
A part of me wants to stay up for hours and experiment and mess with the code, like I did in the old days when I didn't have a salary gig, but I really need to go to bed. Yes, I am a geek.
Think your failed relationship was problematic? Check out these...
Wow... Panasonic is really pushing the cost of good high definition gear down. I realize this doesn't include the lens, but sub-$30,000 with 2/3" CCD's for this kind of capability sure is a good deal...
Because I know some people around here (cough*Neuski*cough) really dig CSS, I thought I'd link to this...
Is this really news?
I can see some young girls crying their eyes out over this one. :)
Leo says he'd love to do a TechTV reunion. God do I miss that channel. I sat down to watch The Screen Savers pretty much every weekday for almost three years. I couldn't get enough of it! The personalities on that show were top notch geeks. Over the years we always had Leo and Patrick, then later Kevin, plus Megan, Jessica and Sarah. Yoshi, Roger and Robert contributed good stuff, and even Martin was entertaining to some degree.
But G4 and Comcast hosed the channel, and they deserve the crappy ratings they're getting.
Pirillo and Scoble have differing views on what made TechTV great, and what is good about life after the network. I tend to agree with Scoble. It might be sad that I don't get The Screen Savers in my living room every night, but I don't think it's hard to argue that This Week in Tech, Digital Life TV and Digg owe their roots to the demise of the network. The sum of these things are far greater than TechTV ever was, or likely could have been.
This is a good story...
They finally messed with the wrong guy. Here's someone who owns the damn movie on DVD, and the MPAA insists that he pirated it online. But they're suing a rich guy this time, and it appears that as a matter of principle, he's going to fight back, damn the costs.
I say good for him. One win could set precedence for all future cases. That's a good thing when there are so many unanswered questions about how it is that they (and the RIAA) can be so sure that so-and-so stole media.
I made the five hour drive to Muskegon last weekend to visit my friend Kara, a trip long overdue seeing as how she's been to my home town a dozen times in the last few years. That also meant a stop at Michigan's Adventure.
I had not been to the park since the summer of 2001, shortly after Cedar Fair acquired it. Even then, I was there for probably less than an hour, in town in neighboring Grand Rapids for business.
I'm happy to say that the potential I saw in the park on that visit has absolutely been realized. As I said in the podcast, the park is best described as "shiny" these days. Lots of paint, landscaping, fences, etc. While the layout of the park is a little awkward in places (how well do games do when they're on the way to two rides?), it really is a gem of a park.
First thing we did was ride Mad Mouse. It opened a few minutes late, and they seemed to move people through it kind of slow at first, but no matter. I remember back in the day people complained that they braked the ride too much, but that wasn't my experience. I thought it was good fun. A little shorter than a stock Mack mouse I think, but good times.
Next up, we went to the Falling Star. Kara told me all about her fond memories of the ride growing up, and it really is good fun. For some reason I had never been on one. We did the Yo-Yo and Tilt-a-Whirl as well.
I was surprised to see that the park not only got the Dodgems from Cedar Point, but they actually put the whole building up there. Seeing the ride made me remember how wooded that area of Cedar Point was, now occupied by Dragster, and that kind of makes me sad.
Without further delay, we queued for Shivering Timbers. Waited for a front seat ride, maybe three trains. The ride overall is running pretty well if you ask me. It might need a little smoothing out in the second and third drops, but it's not horrible at all. Great floating air throughout the ride in the front. I had a bit of a headache, maybe from a lack of caffeine, so I opted to not ride it again later. Still a great ride if you're an airtime whore, but straight out-and-back rides, without something interesting at the out, don't really invoke a lot of long-term interest for me.
We hopped on the little gas-powered train. Watch your head! This is a nice relaxing way to roll to the Grand Rapid area. It looks like the natural extension of things will be to some day build a midway down that side of the lake as well, create a big loop.
Grand Rapids is an absolutely beautiful ride. It's the most visually interesting river rapids ride I've seen in a long time. The smaller boats make it more agile, with more bouncing around and spinning. The entrance area is very well done. The only thing I can fault them with is not purchasing older trees to hide more of the ride and make shade, but when it fills in, this entire part of the park will be just beautiful. I didn't ride since I had no change of clothes, but I'd really like to next chance I get.
Looping around the back of the park, I finally got a closer look at the water park. What a great facility! They have a great collection of rides there, and three wave pools. I especially like the way the slides between the pair of wave pools is faced with rock work and the water flowing over it. Well done.
Kara decided to try and make me barf by taking me on this Drummer Boy kiddie ride. Looked harmless enough from the midway. Then when it started moving she got it spinning so hard that I was almost sure I'd spew. I don't get motion sickness, but damn did that thing get to me.
Next up we hit Zack's Zoomer, which is pretty hilarious because tall freaks can't really sit in the little trains properly. It's a nice kiddie coaster without being weak.
We ended our ride on the Gondola Wheel, which looks really fabulous with new paint and new lights. They have a really odd loading process, and I swear we were on the thing for fifteen minutes.
After getting kettle corn and cotton candy, we wrapped up the visit and headed out into the metropolis that is Muskegon for lunch. I really enjoyed myself at the park, and I'm not a bit surprised at the attendance increase. Lots for the kids to do. The only thing it really "needs" is some infrastructure changes, like restrooms and food stands in various places. Great little park!
Bungie and Microsoft posted a video to Xbox Live that was kind of a making of the trailer kind of feature. (If you haven't seen the trailer, see it in all of its high definition glory.) They teased some things about the story, showed the live orchestra that did the music, and made a strong point that what you see in the trailer is rendered in real time by the game engine, and it's what you can expect to see. Awesome.
I need to find a plot summary of the first two games. It has been awhile and I don't remember the specifics.
You know, the July issue of Wired was just full of really good stuff. It has been ages since I've read nearly every story in a magazine.
If you read my blog, you know that one of my big struggles in life is, well, struggling through life. I really do think that I'm a pretty smart guy, maybe a genius, but I look around and see people my age or younger who have done far more than I have. It bothers me. If I'm so fucking smart, then what's holding me back?
So this economist, David Galenson, has this theory that there are two personality types in terms of how your genius comes to fruition. The first type is the "conceptual innovator," a person who bucks trends and creates great things early in life, then spends decades, well, not. The other type is the "experimental innovator," who goes through life in a long trial and error mode, but eventually does great things. Of course there are people who will always be a useless piece of shit, and the rare life-long contributor, but historically, and demonstrated through Galenson's data, people tend to fall into one category or the other.
I wouldn't say that I'm unhappy or pissed off or whatever that I haven't achieved what I think I want to achieve (seeing as how I don't even know what that is), but I do get frustrated relative to people in the tech world doing amazing things. (Also, some people tell me I've already achieved big things, whatever that means.) Still, this research really makes me feel a lot more positive, because as an experimental innovator, clearly my time will come. I need to sit back and enjoy the ride a little.
After I read the article, I was thinking about which I would want to be if I could choose. To peak early in life might be kind of lame. Maybe that's why creative geniuses who do it in their 20's kill themselves. If life's a journey and you actually reach a destination, what the hell is next?
I visited Kara last weekend in Muskegon. I've known her for a few years, and I'd like to think we're pretty good friends, but it's always amazing to me how much you learn about a person when you see them operate in their environment.
Think about all of the friends you've had, the people you've dated, or otherwise had some kind of relationship with beyond casual acquaintance. You certainly understand them more as time moves forward, but you don't always have context. You learn a lot about a person when you see where they lived, who their parents are and the cultural nuances of their native stomping ground.
I got a little of that with Catherine the weekend before up at Mackinac too. While she isn't "from" there exactly, the place has a lot to do with who she is, and her mom lives there in the summer.
Anyway, I had a good time up there, and aside from all of the driving, it was nice to relax again and let someone else decide what to do. I also got to see Michigan's Adventure for the first time in five years, and there is a trip report forthcoming.
But about driving... Between the last two weekends, I realized that I've spent about 20 total hours driving in Michigan. While the higher speed limit is nice, what the hell is wrong with people up there that they ride the left lane? Left lane is for passing, right is for driving. Do they not teach that in drivers education there? If you aren't passing someone, get the hell over! Besides, you're twice as likely to get a speeding ticket driving in the left lane.
Apparently, no more funny money in Monopoly, just a debit card. :(
OK, so it's a little funny, and sometimes not, but check out Hope Is Emo when you have a minute.
What I dig about it is that it's a MadTV chick who is disenchanted with the network TV system and is doing her own thing. If it's popular, by whatever measure you want, then the true promise of the Internet is still ahead of us. It's cool to see people working outside of "the system."
There are so many things I want to do right now for my business, but not before I just melt into my couch, play some video games and watch some movies. I'm thankful for all of the new experiences and memories that come from all of my travels this year, but I need a break!
I was looking at the various blogs I subscribe to, and I love the way Hollywood is so divided on using film or digital.
On one hand, you have Tarantino saying, "Fuck the recording device... It's about the magic." I totally agree with him. On the other hand, Shyamalanadingdong says he not only shoots on film, but edits on film. Give me a break.
This is really interesting stuff about how tech is used in Las Vegas. Particularly interesting since I was just there. The surveillance stuff is kind of creepy!
The company that prides itself on being profitable and not taking money from investors took money from one of the biggest investors period.
37singals posted some numbers on their self-published book today. I don't think I need to really add anything, except to say you should look at the numbers versus their dead tree publication.
And I understand that the company is popular now, but still. That's pretty amazing stuff.
I was thinking about stuff that I need to code for my sites, and was thinking about how I'd like a place for the public to track bugs. Yeah, stuff like that already exists, but it'd be nice to have something more basic.
Then I realized it might be fun to crank something out like that for myself. As fast as humanly possible. Like four hours or less. Could I do it?
I started to ask myself what it is that takes the longest for me. It's almost always the data access code, and more specifically, the test code to make sure it all works. I know that I test wrong by normal standards, in that my data access code is always dependent on the business objects that call it as containers. So a method that gets data from a table of users is called by a User object, and expects a User object from the data call. Most "experts" would say that's bad design.
So if I can let go of the intense testing, maybe I'll give it a try.
News.com compiled these gems...
God bless YouTube...
How funny is this moron? He's so drunk that he bashes his head into the wall while falling. Complete with butt crack!
Got my tickets in the presale today. Club level, side of the stage, about 20 row up. Awesome!
Check this out...
Can you imagine 50 mbits to your house? That's crazy! Funny how just the other day, Mark Cuban was saying how no one would have this for a very long time. Even the 10 mbits would be sweet. I don't use get a ton of high-bandwidth content, but still. There's no such thing as too much!
I went to see my counselor for the first time since before Stephanie and I decided to go forward with the dissolution (neither one of us can still say "divorce" because it sounds so unpleasant and evil).
First off, let me dispel a myth that some of my friends can't get over. Seeing a counselor or therapist doesn't mean you're psycho, broken, or generally fucked up. They aren't people there to belittle you, tell you that you're wrong, or tell you what to do. They certainly aren't there to judge you. They serve one purpose: To professionally help you understand why you are the way you are, and how you can best deal with your state or change it.
So anyway, we spent a good deal of time today exploring my personality type as it relates to my unhappiness in career. Basically, we believe that I'm more of an idea person than anything, and it's hard for me to execute those ideas into material and tangible things. There are moments of inspiration though, often created by others, where I can quickly start to create, but if the moment passes, I tend to think "screw it" and move on to something else to ponder. This has been especially true with my own personal business projects.
Paired with this is my need to not be caged, as he put it. I don't like rigid structure, like normal business hours. That's ironic of course, because it's the very thing that would theoretically help me execute on my ideas. It's not that I disrespect authority or loathe it as much as I don't want its structure imposed on me. That's why consulting work is/was such a good fit for me.
The moments of inspiration thing made perfect sense though. I enjoy coaching because leading others and seeing them develop, tapping into that need to nurture, brings me a lot of satisfaction, and indeed a lot of validation. When that's not a part of what I'm doing, I get bored with it, and I don't execute.
So it's nice to have a good foundation and jumping off point. Something to really think about until next time.
Catherine's family owns a B&B cottage up on Mackinac Island, and her mom runs it in the summer. McNally Cottage is right there in the middle of everything on Main Street, with an awesome people watching porch.
We arrived early in the afternoon on Friday, and I instantly started to like the place. Julie, one of my Spartan friends, is working up there for the summer at the Grand Hotel, so we met up with her and took the bikes up around to a bluff with some neat views. That was a bitch, because the bikes don't have gears. I can't remember the last time I walked a bike! Next time up there, I'm so bringing my own. Of course, I had Cosmo (the dog) in the basket too, which didn't help. She's heavier than she looks! It was neat to see some of the private houses too, as well as various historic structures around town.
That evening we ate at the Pub & Oyster Bar down the street. Not bad at all, and pretty reasonable prices. I was kind of surprised that it wasn't a lot more crowded, but I'm not complaining.
In the evening we hung out some more at the house. Julie came over after work and we chatted for a bit as a few drunk people, mostly seasonals, walked down Main Street. For some reason, maybe because I was just in Las Vegas, I expected there to be a mass of people moving about at night going from one bar to another, but it's a little more family friendly than that. I think horses might outnumber the people in the evening!
I woke up to breakfast in bed. Not a regular feature of the cottage, but I'm dating someone in the family that owns it. We had some grand ambitions for Saturday, but due to some digestive issues and just generally not feeling great, we didn't do much of anything. But that was OK too, because it was nice to just chill out and relax. We had lunch at The Gate House (a Grand Hotel restaurant), and I had the best damn turkey burger ever. The fries are damn good too.
We hung out and did more nothing for the rest of the afternoon, until dinner time. First we went down the boardwalk and down along the beach to catch the sunset. The island has a lot of nice views, pretty much anywhere that there is water.
Dinner was at a restaurant called Goodfellows, in the ground floor of one of the hotels. Originally we were going to The Woods for some gourmet shit, but given our relatively mediocre bodily states (i.e., we both felt poopy), we decided to not go nuts. We got kind of nuts anyway. Catherine got a serious lobster tail, which she said was pretty good, as were the vegetables and mashed potatoes. I decided to take my digestive chances and have fettucini Alfredo, something I never eat because of the fat content. It was easily the best I had in years. The only real complaint I had was that $4.50 for a crappy draft Bud Light, all of 12 ounces, is a rip off even by Mackinac Island standards.
After dinner, we strolled back down the boardwalk so I could attempt to take a few stills of the Mackinac Bridge with lights. I wasn't that successful because I didn't have a real tripod. Then we walked by Julie's work to say goodbye before heading back to McNally.
Sunday morning, Catherine did some training before we packed up our stuff and headed for the boat. An overnight rain cooled things off a bit (and continue most of the morning), saving the island from the 100 degrees much of the rest of the region was experiencing. Cath's mom walked us to the dock, and we got on the 12:30 boat. It was kind of sad to see the island get smaller and smaller as we pulled away.
We really didn't do a whole lot of anything, but that's what made the trip so cool. Without cars or the Internet, it's just a fantastic escape. Some of the politics on the island, and the money snobbery, are a turn off, but not to the point that you can't have a good time. It's very relaxing there, and I absolutely adore the cottage. The plan is to go visit again in the fall.
Some pictures from the weekend. Sorry about all the dog pictures. :)
Funniest damn character name I've heard in awhile on The Venture Bros.
Very awesome and relaxing days on Mackinac Island...
When I worked at Penton Media in 2000, the promise the Internet held was obvious to me. Here I was at a business-to-business media company that made its money connecting people who need to buy and sell each others shit. Some of those markets were very vertical, you know, niches. It was expensive as hell to put out those dead trees and do trade shows, but look at how cheap it was to stuff on the Internet!
Well we all knew that, but the execution sucked. The execution sucked for a lot of companies around that time. The idea was still a good one though, and it has been the root of all media evolution in the past ten years: Stop trying to cater to everyone and give people what they want on a smaller, niche scale.
"The Ride and Fall of The Hit" in Wired really captured that whole evolutionary process with fabulous clarity. Finding exactly what it is that interests you isn't always easy, for sure, but we're getting there. Indeed, the mega-hit is becoming rare. That's not really a bad thing.
You know, I tell myself that this is all obvious, but I'd be lying if I said I always knew. As recently as Rupert Murdoch's acquisition of MySpace, which seemed like a ridiculous transaction to me, I would frequently lose sight of the formation of "micro-markets" and niche content.
So as this evolution continues, there is still the issue of figuring out how to pay for it. MySpace is huge, bigger than Yahoo now in terms of sheer page views, but someone has to pay for it. YouTube is a great and amazing service, but someone has to pay for all that bandwidth (they're bleeding a million plus a month for that pipe).
And then there's the generation of the content itself. That ain't free, someone has to pay for that too. What makes this a unique situation is that, for the first time in history, mass media is relatively inexpensive to create. But it's still not totally free. You can make a feature film for a couple of grand, but it's still a couple of grand. No one will ever be satisfied with short video clips of a fat guy playing Dance Dance Revolution.
As a niche content publisher, I struggle with this a bit. I make a nice profit from my Web sites, but I don't quite make enough to live off of the revenue. A guy that used to work for Nielsen told me that CoasterBuzz easily dominates the Internet in the coaster enthusiast and amusement industry world, but that's not a very big industry to begin with. Dominating a niche isn't a free pass to independent wealth, unfortunately.
That's why we're actually on the back side of a Web site creation peak. In 2000, every amusement park had someone doing an unofficial site about the park. Now they're few and far in between. There must have come a point where people no longer felt the return on investment, even if it was an emotional one, was worth the time and/or money spent on it.
What has changed is that there are now general purpose services that make it easier to share the content you create. YouTube and MySpace are obvious examples of that. You just have to get over the fact that you're making (or losing) money for someone else. Consumers win, the company wins, and you win if the only validation you need is to have your stuff be seen.
So going forward, in the niche world, I'm interested to see how sustainable it all is. While the distribution methods have changed, it's still true that 90% of the stuff put online is crap. If Google can really continue to get the best stuff you're interested on your screen, then hopefully there will be financial incentive for the niche content producers to keep serving what we crave.
Looking out for the environment spun off as a discussion from my last post, but I feel like talking more about it.
Right around 1989, when I was in high school, recycling because a pretty big push. The county I lived in (and still live in) probably knew at the time that people were lazy assholes who didn't want to sort their garbage, so they came up with a recycling plant under the radar and was among the first in the US to do so. We don't need to separate anything, and solid waste is reduced by 40%. In a world of finite resources, that's pretty cool.
I remember in my teenage naivety wondering why people were against anything labeled as an environmental cause. Whether or not the planet was in danger of anything, why would you be OK with junking up the place? Of course the people against any environmental cause are influenced by money and/or politicians that benefit from adhering to the status quo, and what a shame that is because there is so much freakin' opportunity out there.
There are some examples of that over the last decade that did pan out pretty quickly. Who buys paper anymore that isn't recycled? Even the McDonald's bag you buy is recycled (if only the crap it carries were good for you!). Glass and aluminum is mostly recycled as well. Great new industries have popped up around those, and they're finally profitable businesses after years of being on shaky ground.
GE, BP and Toyota are great examples of huge companies that not only get it, but what they work on in the background puts them ahead of future competitors. Whether it's wind turbines, alternate fuels or hybrid cars, they've invested in the future, and they're the companies looking at long-term viability, for themselves and their world. The Toyota story is my favorite, because now that other auto makers see the potential for hybrids (now that gas is $3 a gallon), Ford and Nissan, who have been sitting on their hands, are licensing the Toyota tech.
Environmentalists can be nutty, and I don't deny that. The only reason I can cut them a little bit of slack is because they act out of some sense of moral obligation, not a sense of making a buck. But again, that's what I love about those companies, that they've found a way to do both. As industry and culture evolve, there's this obvious opportunity here. Why not embrace it?
This kind of thinking, the part about dismissing a potential situation and guarding the known way of doing things, is totally irrational. It's the kind of stink that holds us back, especially in this country. Shit, we don't lead at anything anymore because we want to protect ourselves and our way instead of adapting to what the world at large needs and wants. Record companies and Hollywood try to sue their way into protecting things instead of seeing the new world. American auto makers just push out the same crap every year. Universities sell old curricula with recreation centers. When will we get it?
Being a tree hugger doesn't inconvenience me at all. With technology coming full circle and becoming the savior of the environment, instead of its biggest problem, there is enormous potential for new business. Thank God that a few companies get that. The challenge is economy of scale, and when we get there, there will be new winners in the business world. Sure, there will be casualties in the short term (look at recyclers around 1990), but we'll get there.
As I was sitting in the park reading Wired, flanked by two assholes sleeping in their running cars with the windows closed and air conditioning on (mind you, it's all of 74 degrees), I came across an editorial by Lawrence Lessig about Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Putting aside for a moment the issue of what constitutes factual information and politics, Lessig brings up an interesting point about journalism: Sometimes our need to be fair and objective can obscure the facts.
As someone with a degree in journalism, I have to admit that's weird. It's even more weird for someone that generally believes that life is a big gray area, not something that's black and white. I mean, I have to agree with him on this one. Here's why:
About halfway through, Gore cites two studies to explain why so many people remain so skeptical about global warming. The first looked at a random sample of almost 1,000 abstracts on climate change in peer-reviewed scientific journals from 1993 to 2003 and found that exactly zero doubted "that we’re causing global warming." The second surveyed a random sample of more than 600 articles about global warming in popular media between 1988 and 2002 and discovered that 53 percent questioned "that we’re causing global warming..." If any of the networks were so impertinent as to report what scientists know about global warming, could it withstand the inevitably well-orchestrated charge of bias?
Forget for a moment what you may think of Gore or the issue his film is about, and just soak up Lessig's comment there. How do you deal with that? If scientists work in the realm of the scientific method, which as far as I'm concerned leads to the establishment of fact, and as a journalist you've only got opinions, paid for in the political system, as your counterpoint, what is your ethical treatment of the story?
Ethically, you probably report both. I hate to think that's the best we can do, but it's probably true. The failure then, is placed on the people consuming this media. It's kind of like the bleed-lead thing I saw in Vegas. People ultimately consume what they like. That makes me sad for humanity.
That phenomenon is everywhere. It's there in political parties, racial divides, religions, etc. As hard as I try to have some faith in humanity, I fear we're a species of morons. Either we're too busy, or too lazy, to really figure out where we stand on things. Or maybe we just don't care. It's all kind of depressing.
I'm not going to call out any particular blogger on this, but there appears to be a lot of bitching and moaning since Jamie Cansdale announced he was going to begin charging for commercial use of TestDriven.NET. I say, get over it.
For the record, I don't even use his tool, but I 100% appreciate his position, and I think he's going about things the right way. Most of us develop stuff that we put out there to solve some problem for ourselves. Giving it to the world is a secondary consideration at first, but in the long term we can see ourselves getting sucked into the role of supporting it as if it were our jobs. Eventually, I think the touchy-feely warm fuzzies we feel over that turn into, "Wow, sure would be nice if I was compensated for that." I for one value my time, so why do people freak out when someone asks others to value theirs?
I know that I'm finally making a little progress on POP Forums v8, and I'll be straight with you... I don't know if I want to outright give it away this time. In the earliest days, I wrote it for a couple of my sites, then started selling it, then I started giving it away after the .NET conversion. With a total rewrite in the works, and the substantial amount of time involved in doing that, I sure want others to be able to use it, but I'm not sure if I want to just get a pat on the back for my work. I've got bills to pay!
Good software, stuff you value... don't be too shy to pay for it.
Stephanie got Ultraviolet from Blockbuster online, and gave it to me before sending it back. I have to say that I'm a big Milla Jovovich fan. She's so ridiculously hard to ignore. See The Fifth Element and the Resident Evil movies to see what I mean.
This new flick they should've called, "100 Ways to Photograph Milla in Hot Poses." She sees herself in Feria in the movie, and of course, she pulls off every hair color they put on her. It's almost freakish how she can look amazing with any hair color.
The movie itself is OK. The plot is kind of forgetable, but it's still a fun action flick. I mean, it's fun to see her slash through dozens of bad guys without getting a drop of blood on her perfect stomach. Lots of rich color, and it looks like a movie shot on HD (in a good way).
Some days, for lunch, I head out to the local park and crack open one of the magazines I get, typically Business 2.0 or Wired. The relative value of these rags as important publications aside, they frequently have a lot of articles that appeal to the entrepreneur in me.
I frequently envision things in my head that someone else I don't know turns into reality. Salesforce.com and Digg.com are a couple of examples that come to mind. I'm not suggesting I'm a smarty-pants or oracle, because someone would've thought of them anyway, just that my head has generally been very forward thinking since I got into this Web racket.
But the problem is that I daydream about this kind of stuff, and often have problems translating it into something real and tangible. I start to ask myself what the barriers are, and I think I can generally categorize them into two areas.
The first issue is fear. Certain kinds of risk bother me, especially the financial kind. Having survived lay-offs, time off to write a book, coaching "full time," it occurred to me today that there's nothing to fear anymore. I should be able to chalk that up to the been-there-done-that board.
The other issue is failure to execute. That kind of fits under fear, but it's big enough that it deserves its own mention. This is another one that really is unwarranted, because I have a rich and beautiful history of falling on my ass hard in grand fashion. For each failure, I've learned something and tried again.
A very wise girlfriend pointed out to me this morning that I really have my shit together, and there is a lot of opportunity in front of me, if I choose to go after it. She said my "ducks are in a row" (I still don't understand that phrase), and things could really take off, again, if I choose to make it happen.
I gotta figure out what my next big idea is...
After the high of seeing Phantom on Monday night, me and Catherine made our way back to Caesars. The sidewalks were a little less crowded this time, since we saw the late show. We took this really strange, long, puffy people moving thing all the way into the casino, its exit dumping us out just next to the sports book area.
This is probably as good a place as any to mention that, odd as it may seem, people are generally more attractive in Las Vegas. What is it about all of the excess... the lights, the money, the swank drinking establishments, etc., that makes things different? I think that it really is a matter of how you feel reflecting how you appear. Mean people are ugly, right?
The morning of Independence day, we got up at a fairly reasonable time and went to the buffet in Paris. Anything with a line like that clearly could not suck. We were hoping we could also get tickets for Price Is Right at Bally's, but the show had the night off. Bummer.
We encountered a line, but between watching the cutest little Japanese kids attacking tourists and our own amusement of making French noises, it went quickly. And thank God, too, because this made the food at Excalibur look like the dog shit it really was. Holy crap, er, crêpe... it was the stuff you'd expect, plus an amazing custom crêperie and pastries everywhere. I felt particularly inspired and put some chocolate and whip creme on my pancakes. You won't find anything like that at Bob Evans!
With nothing on the agenda this day, we settled down at the bar across from the Colosseum box office. At first, there were a couple of video poker machines out of order, but Catherine scored a seat, and I got one two down from her. There was another machine out of order on the other side of her. Ramon, a slot tech, pulled on up and began repairing it. Cath being the social butterfly that she is, of course started drilling him with questions. Frank the bartender began the hook up on drinks. I yelled over to Cath to say that I wasn't doing very well, and Frank interrupted, "Everybody's a winner at Caesars Palace." Man, I didn't think so.
Ramon eventually finished up, and I moved down to the freshly fixed (and clean!) machine. By this point, we had been there more than an hour, and I was feeling very well. I was still playing on the same $20 I started on, as was Catherine. Entertaining gaming, drinks, fun people, fun bartender, fun atmosphere. This is where I finally understood the real value of the situation. We were having a damn good time! Then something really cool happened...
Cath needed to let the alcohol out, so she started betting five credits ($1.25), on every hand. She drew four aces. I looked over to see what all of the noise was coming from the machine, and there it was... she was up to $225. She cashed out and ran to the restroom. Awesome!
I kept playing, but being lame, was only playing quarter bets. Against all odds... I drew four aces. My winnings were only around $40-something. Between the two of us though, we were out ahead. Cath decided she wanted to see a dance show, and play some real blackjack at a table.
We were pretty drunk at that point, so we, uh, did drunk things. Fired up the jacuzzi tub again. Bad idea... you really get f'd up when you're drunk and exposed to all of that hot water and bubbles. I damn near fell over and yacked when I got up.
Cath settled on seeing "Fantasy" at Luxor. After the show, we'd go to Excalibur, which we expected would be ghetto enough to have $5 blackjack tables. Prior to leaving Caesars, we again ate at the food court there, this time going for the Asian food. Yummy.
By this point in the trip, we were starting to be clever about how to generally avoid crowds. From the Augustus tower, you could exit to Flamingo, and take a bridge across it the Bellagio. It in turn had a bridge crossing Las Vegas Blvd. to Bally's. Bally's has a monorail station ($9 round trip), and that gets you to MGM.
Stephanie and I peaked in MGM back in our 2003 visit, but didn't go very deep into it. My God, entering it from the monorail station, you can see just how freakin' huge it is. It easily has the most gaming square footage on the strip. It's enormous. We stopped to see the lion habitat. They look so deceptively cuddly.
Out of MGM there's a bridge over Tropicana, and from there another bridge over Las Vegas Blvd. again to Excalibur. The castle, Luxor and Mandalay Bay are all connected by walkways and a tram.
Just a word about the tram... because I'm a coaster geek. I was very surprised to see that it's powered by a cable. Pulleys in the track help guide the cable around the turns. It reminded me a lot of the cable lifts on some coasters.
We arrived at the Luxor about ten minutes before the 8pm Fantasy show started. The walk into the theater has Carrot Top posters on one side, and posters of the girls in the show on the other. Talk about beauty and the beast. It's a small venue, with lots of lighting for the size of the stage. There was a drunk old lady having a really good time. The pervert count was surprisingly low.
The show was kind of average. It had a male comedian and female singer who gave a half-assed performance. Most of the women in the show were, shocker, attractive, good dancers, and real. The best number they did was to a techno version of the James Bond theme, and it was performed fully clothed. It wasn't a bad show, but it was kind of silly. "X" at Aladdin, which Steph and I saw in 2003, was much better, and I though had a bit more artistic value to it.
After the show, we took the tunnel back to Excalibur, and Catherine found a dealer that she was "feelin'" and took a seat. Mike, who looked 24 but was actually 33 (we know this because Catherine wanted to play the guessing game) was a good dealer. Cath bought $100 in chips and went nuts. A guy we knew only as Oklahoma was on one side, and a quiet Asian guy on the other.
I couldn't stand to just watch. I bought in at $50. I started out staying fairly even. The serving wenches were nowhere to be found, and I was annoyed by that. We were getting better drink service earlier at Caesars on $20 of video poker! Mike disappeared for a break, and Jun, an Asian guy in his 60's easily, took over. That's when I started to lose. I was getting 4's and 5's all over the place, and he was getting blackjack. Boo! Mike came back, and I ran out of chips. Cath hit me with another $30, and I lost that quickly too. I got up, and a guy we only knew as "Frat boy with anime wife" sat down. Another kid, known as Oregon, sat next to Ohio (Cath).
I don't know why, but the few drinks we eventually got buzzed us pretty quick. We were the life of the table. After about 90 minutes, Cath ran out of money, and we left. We were going to be sorely missed.
We made the same bridge-and-monorail trip back to Caesars. There was a pack of 12-year-old British girls on there with us. How cute are little kids with British accents! I totally wanted to adopt one and take her home, but that might be construed as kidnapping.
When we got to the outside of Bally's, there were police cars everywhere, and Las Vegas northbound and Flamingo both ways were blocked off. As best I could tell, there was a serious accident involving some bicycles and cabs. People were lined up on the bridge staring. What made that so disgusting to me was the fact that the fountains at Bellagio were doing their thing to some patriotic music. People would rather see the tragedy (which had long since been carried away, as there were no ambulances), than the beautiful thing going on just the other way. People suck.
Entering again through the Augustus tower, and crossing through the pool area, we sat down for a little while to just enjoy the peace and quiet. It's strange how shielded you are from the strip in there. It's a really spectacular place. I would absolutely stay there again. I'm so glad I didn't do the safe thing and book Venetian again.
There was nothing left to do but collapse and try to get to sleep. Sadly, our trip was almost over.
Wednesday morning, we had no choice but to get up a little earlier and head back over to Paris for that awesome breakfast buffet. Yeah, it was really that good. We had a wonderful chat about all of the good times.
When we got back to Caesars, I called the front desk and asked if we could check out a little later, since our flight wouldn't leave until 1:50pm. They were OK with a noon checkout. Catherine wanted to hit the pool one last time, but I didn't have it in me. That was weird, because it was the first time in five days we did something without each other. I watched a little TV and packed. At about 11:30, we left suite 2222 in the Palace Tower behind.
The cab ride back to the airport was uneventful, but I almost had to shed a tear as we pulled onto the airport property and watched the strip get smaller on the horizon. This vacation was really among the most awesome I've ever had. I surprisingly stayed on budget ($500 a day average, figuring in room, airfare, food, shows, etc.), which I think had a lot to do with all of the winning. We did a lot of stuff, and it was worth every penny.
Wouldn't you know it, we killed time in the airport playing, what else, video poker. Catherine lost quickly, and I cashed out at $26 on $20. I promptly pissed it away on bad pizza and soda. But hey, we were flying Southwest, where we wouldn't get shit anyway.
This is the kind of trip I can see doing every year. I mean, there are now five Cirque du Soleil shows to see, Celine Dion (don't laugh, it's supposed to be amazing... "Hello Renee!"), the aquarium at Mandalay Bay, the dolphins at the Mirage, Price Is Right, and I'd have to see Phantom again. Las Vegas is absurd in terms of the sheer excess that it represents, but if you want to get away from real life, it doesn't get much less real than Vegas.
When we last left our heroes, Jeff and Catherine, they were enjoying an afternoon at the Caesars Palace pools. It was Sunday, Jeff Putz day, and they started it with endless bounty at Excalibur's breakfast buffet.
After just a brief nap, we made ourselves pretty so we could rock out at The Venetian to see the Blue Man Group. For the record, Catherine was much prettier than me, though you'd expect that given the little black dress. It didn't look right on me (kidding). I was excited to see them for the second time, and interested to see how different it might be with a sold-out show. Last time I was down in the front section because the balcony was closed. I actually like the balcony better in a lot of ways, because you can really see the entire experience. Much better show because of the energy, and the improvised stuff was much funnier.
Seeing the Blue Man Group's stage show is not like a life-changing musical or something, but it's wildly entertaining and there are certain points in the show that really overload your senses. Very good times.
Prior to the show, we learned that you need reservations for the gondola rides in the canals (indoor and outdoor), and we never did end up getting reservations, unfortunately. Something to do next time. Cath also confirmed that I'm not crazy when it comes to "The Venetian Funk," that weird smell in the casino areas of the complex, which also occupies the Canal Shops. It's kind of a smoke with fragrance smell, and it's really, really not pleasant. The girl I met in March, Mary from DC, she smelled it too. I can't for the life of me understand why they do it. Caesars has no funk, and the air handling is so good that it's not even smokey.
The down side to visiting The Venetian is that they're pounding the new Phantom show everywhere. I had known the music for like 17 years, but I had never seen the show. Cath is a musical geek, and she loves the show. By the time we made it back to our room, we decided we had to see it, so we bought tickets online.
Before returning to Caesars, we tried to get closer to Treasure Island, across the street from the V, to see the pirate hoochie show. I freaked out and wanted out. Too many people, all pushing and being assholes. Cath was also uncomfortable because of her footware, a necessary sacrifice, she said, for the purpose of looking good. We did see the "eruption" in front of The Mirage. It wasn't that impressive.
Home sweet Caesars, we ordered a pizza from room service. We stayed up surprisingly late bullshitting about life, Vegas, and the Phantom tickets.
Monday was the first time things didn't just magically go our way. We wanted to go to the Bellagio for their breakfast buffet, because it's supposed to be exquisite, but with the holiday weekend, it was more than $30 a piece. No thanks! We went down to Aladdin, which stopped serving breakfast, then Paris, which has a huge line (something we'd later learn to deal with), and finally ended up with a very, very mediocre lunch at Bally's. It was 11:30 by the time we actually sat down to eat.
All of the crap caught up with me and my stomach was pissed off. We took it easy for the afternoon, watched the TV, napped, and generally relaxed. Our Phantom show was at 10pm. No regrets on relaxing though, because we had been going pretty much non-stop since we arrived, with just sleeping in between.
The gambling bug did bite a little though. We played a few slots, some video poker, and the like. We had a surprisingly good dinner (turkey) at the food court in Caesars, in the newer casino near the Colosseum theater, where Celine Dion does her thing. Since I signed up for the "Total Rewards" thing where you eventually get perks, coupons or whatever from playing at the various Caesars properties, we went over to the Flamingo to seek $5 blackjack tables. Didn't find any, but we played a little video blackjack there.
We arrived back at The Venetian at about the time that the earlier Phantom show let out. This is when we learned how to make sure you stay in the comp alcohol. While the servers came around a lot at Caesars around the slots, sitting at a bar with video poker machines meant total access to a bartender. Catherine and I each fed a $20 to the machines and started playing, mostly quarter bets, but sometimes more. We didn't want to go nuts prior to our show, but it was nice to get poured free. I cashed out at $41, Catherine at $19.
As I mentioned, I've known Phantom of The Opera for a very long time, and it seems like a crime that I had not seen the live performance. The Las Vegas show seemed like a natural fit for this town, and especially this location, which is to me a little classier than a lot of places. No boobie shows here. The theater was built for the show, which obviously let them do whatever they wanted from a technical standpoint.
Upon entering the theater, the stage is set for the auction scene, and the side of the theater are covered in old drop cloths. It looks a bit like a run down old theater. The chandelier is actually broken into four or five pieces, suspended by cables around the theater, with the largest one under cover on stage. These pieces move around the theater in spectacular fashion after the auction scene, seemingly floating around each other.
The story has a few minor changes because there is no intermission, so like the movie, the chandelier crash doesn't come until mid-way through the second act. There are also changes to dialog and lyrics here and there, but every song is still performed.
The cast was amazing. I think the guy who did the Phantom was better than Michael Crawford. (There are two actors for each of the three leads, presumably one for each of the two nightly performances, or on different days.) The actress playing Christine was stunningly beautiful, if perhaps not entirely confident. The Carlotta we saw was over the top and very powerful. Just perfect!
I kick myself for not having seen the show ages ago, and I'm really happy I decided to see it now. It was worth every penny, and I'd go see it again.
More on the last day and a half coming soon...
Stephanie and I stood before a judge in a small courtroom today, where the man unceremoniously declared our dissolution.
And while this was a sad day, it was also a day to remember all that was good in the last 12 years. We had breakfast and saw a movie today.
This seems so obvious to me, with regards to big companies and big functional groups, yet I never thought about it in this context...
After five days of complete fantasy, I have to say that the real world seems a lot less fun.
Many, many details to come...
Thursday night began Jeff Putz week. Actually, nothing really went down that night other than the idea that I wouldn't have to get up the next morning. And that itself wasn't a good start, because my lack of stuff to do was rooted in the cancellation of my client, last minute, to shoot video. Now I know to write a cancellation fee into the contract.
So Friday, Catherine decided we should go to Cedar Point, and that seemed like a good plan with the nice weather. Bonus that the Paramount Parks acquisition happened, and a few people got some promotions at the park. Cath actually got her scared ass on Magnum and Raptor, which is a good thing because how the hell else is she going to date a coaster geek? From the park, we stopped at Old Timer Tim's house, where some of his co-workers gathered. Good times ensued.
Didn't do anything Friday night either except try to stay up, playing video games, but I couldn't do it. The cats kept looking at me all sleepy, and I couldn't play Zuma anymore. I crashed.
I booked my Vegas trip by Southwest Vacations, and got a pretty good deal. But I remember now what I hate about Southwest, the cluster fuck pick your seat boarding procedure. You get these morons who aren't flying with anyone take all of the window and aisle seats, then get all pissy when you ask them to move around so you can sit with your child, girlfriend, grandma, whatever.
We arrived in Las Vegas at 4:10pm or so. Catherine has never been here, and her reaction is I think what everyone thinks... You've gotta be fucking kidding me. This is my third time here, and I still think it. It's so absurd, how excessive it all is. But I suppose that's the point. Very busy streets.
Upon arrival at Caesars Palace, they didn't have a non-smoking room ready, so they upgraded us to a room in the newly renovated Palace Tower. Awesome. View of the pool, 22nd floor, flat screen TV (which will never get watched), jacuzzi tub, trendy walnut furniture. Did I mention awesome?
We went across the street to Margaritaville, knowing that we hadn't eaten in like eight hours and weren't in the mood for hunting. Got a nice, if rather warm, outside seat. Dry heat or not, 100 degrees is 100 degrees. Food was about average. Had some drinks.
And that was pretty much it, as eastern time caught up with us. There was a private party in the pool area, probably for regular customers, and a massive fireworks display set to music. Shit was blowing up right outside of our window. It was the single most amazing fireworks show I had seen.
Today we got up and started roaming around at 8am. Our mission was to find a breakfast buffet, and that's why we bought the Internet access, to research. Excalibur's deal sounded best, so we walked down there. Strip was like a ghost town, oddly enough. Only a few people out nursing hangovers, including one guy that was clearly doing the walk of shame from somewhere.
The Round Table Buffet wasn't horrible. The champagne was terrible, but the food was good and average. You can't really fuck up breakfast food, but we fucked up the breakfast food. The casino was kinda neat. I had never seen it before.
We walked our way through Luxor and Mandalay Bay as well, the latter of which is really a beautiful place. We took the tram back to Excalibur, crossed to MGM, and walked back on that side, stopping through Paris.
By this time (11am), it was getting hot, and we wanted to check out the amazing pool area. Way too many kids, so we decided we'd go into the Venus Pool area, where you can do things European style. The motivation wasn't to see boobies, it was to get away from the damn kids and find a place to put down our stuff. It was seriously crowded. However, you need $30 if you have testicles, $20 if you have breasts, so we hung out with the common folk. The security guy was a total steroid monkey. And the rich drunk people are more pathetic than the homeless people. They're so worried about how they look and what people think.
You know how a lot of pools they heat the water? Here they actually cool the water. The serving girls are clearly hired based on their bodies, all exactly the same. Everything is marble. There was a rock cover band playing. The food looked amazing. Best pool area I've ever seen.
And that's about where we are now. This is the kind of vacation I really needed, with no particular plan. Tonight I see Blue Man Group again, but that's the only thing I have scheduled.
I love this town.