Monday, February 28, 2011

Better is the Enemy of Done

My little pet project is close, so close, to being done. I have 3 screens in total. I've already gone & redesigned 2 of them after playing with them for a bit on my phone and realizing that some of my fancy coding tricks really just got in the way of what I wanted to do. So I redesigned them, rebuilt them, and made them better.

I considered just releasing it tonight so that I could say I did something by the end of February. But I know I want to redesign that 3rd screen. Then there are a handful of small features that I really want to add. I don't think it's called feature creep if they were features I had originally intended to do, I just hadn't got to yet.

So I'm giving myself an extension. I'm not really sure what my March project will be. But I'm going to keep working on this thing until I'm satisfied with its quality. I anticipate that I'll have something good enough to release in about a week. Just in time for spring league!

Netflix vs Amazon Prime

I don't really intend for a good chunk of my posts to be me complaining about's policies. It's really just coincidence that I took the time to write all about the problems with the Kindle lending model just as Amazon announced free Instant Video Streaming for Prime members.

First off, it's a good idea. I don't use Amazon's video streaming because I already have Netflix. I do have Prime. This move makes me seriously consider dropping Netflix because, on paper, it looks like I'm double-paying for video streaming. And even if I just had Prime for streaming, it would still cost less than my Netflix subscription.

Unfortunately, after giving Amazon Video Streaming a whirl, I was disappointed.

I thought the big advantage that Amazon had over Netflix was the business agreements that allow them to stream really recent hit movies. They even advertise them prominently on their front page. MegaMind, Due Date, The Social Network. I'd be willing to watch these again if I could, but Amazon wants to charge me $4 to see them.

This breaks the advertising pitch I thought I was told. I thought Amazon was opening up its streaming library to Prime members. This is a real value proposition that would consider making me ditch Netflix for good. But no, it's more like "Amazon lets you watch movies you don't want to watch for free, charges for good movies"

Like Kindle Lending, I'm betting this is all about the rights-holders. Hopefully over time they'll be able to have a more Netflix-like model where my Prime membership gives me access to Amazon's entire streaming library. That would really make this a worthwhile offering. Until then, it's just another underdeveloped feature.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Book Review: MetaGame

MetaGame is a sci-fi book that looks at what happens when technology completely transforms society. When gaming completely transforms society. When medical advances completely transform society.

The book gets off to a pretty rough start. In this brave new world, there's a whole lot of culture, tech, and terminology to take in, and it's not exactly introduced gradually. It just kind of bombards you with all its slang and its oddities all at once. I imagine it's how my girlfriend feels about 0.3 seconds after I begin talking about work.

In this futuristic culture, science has found a cure for aging, greatly expanding the life expectancy of its people. Currency has been replaced by a simple, global point system. All of the jobs in the world have been restructured and redesigned as games, which is how folks earn their points. The individual religions of the populace have dissolved into one another; now there is only the belief in the OverSoul sets and enforces all of the rules for the game of Life.

Indeed, the amount of detail in this futuristic world is astounding. Chips are implanted so that people can interface with computers at the speed of thought. Indeed, they can even interface with each other at the speed of thought, kind of like Twitter on crack. People get small amounts of points for mentioning brand names in conversation, even more if the mention causes someone to buy said product. Which is kind of how some viral promotions on twitter work, or how this link works if you want to buy MetaGame. :P

The storyline is interesting; it's about one man's experience through a MetaGame, a very specific game run by the OverSoul himself. Apparently, it's something that happens every so often to the noble classes. I'm breezing over the story because, although it is a really good story, it doesn't captivate my imagination as much as the world it takes place in.

What irked me at first eventually came to be what I really liked about the setting. Each way we use technology, each advance, turns out to be not far off from the kinds of technology we have today.

And I, for one, can't wait until I can email folks from my brain.

Lendle: Or, The Problem with Kindle Books.

A friend of mine helped build, a social website to help promote lending Kindle books between strangers. You can think of it as a widely distributed public library. Everyone tells Lendle what's on their bookshelf at home. Then when someone else wants to borrow a book, Lendle says "Oh, it's on this guy's shelf. I'll go get it for you." The book is then digitally delivered to whatever Kindle-enabled device you want to read it on in a matter of seconds. 

It's a simple and concept that works surprisingly well. I've borrowed 2 books so far: The Grid: A Modular System for the Design and Production of Newpapers, Magazines, and Books and MetaGame. The first book turned out to be nothing like what I was expecting, but I also was just curious what kind of content a $40 digital book would have in it. Turns out to be a bunch of too-small pictures and very poorly formatted text. The second book I really liked, and I'll have a real book review up shortly.

What pains me the most about the service (which is really the discussion that Lendle is trying to provoke) is the very poor state of DRM on these digital books. 

Unlike traditional libraries, where a book can be lent over and over so that the literature may benefit and entertain us all, Amazon only allows Kindle books to be lent once. At first, I thought this was a misunderstanding. I thought that it meant I could only loan to one person at a time, which mimicked physical lending perfectly. But no, once a book is lent, it cannot be lent again. It's as if the only way you're allowed to take books out of the library is if they're on fire. A slow-burning fire that takes about 2 weeks to thoroughly destroy the books you've borrowed, but a fire nevertheless. 

That's just for the books that can be lent. Over half of the books that I own can't be shared. That's just downright pathetic. I can't let others enjoy the brilliance of the Mass Effect series or the excitement of The Lost Symbol. There's absolutely no technological reason why these books can't be shared; the publishers are afraid sharing will cost them money. Greed is a terrible reason to make so many people unhappy.

I hate these kinds of problems. Technical problems just require some smart people to think really hard until they come up with a solution that works. This is a social problem that requires enough negative feedback to be heard for the folks in charge to do something about it. And that takes an immense amount of time and effort that simply wouldn't be needed if the folks in charge knew what the people wanted.

In short, Lendle makes a the best of a fairly bad situation. I'll probably still buy Kindle books, but I'll be on the lookout for self-published works and publishers who at the very least allow lending. And I can only hope that Amazon will only push publishers harder to allowing a more open sharing model that functions more like physical books, and less like books on fire.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


I've got the bare bones of my super-secret-alternative-to-rebuilding-my-website project completed. And I use "completed" very loosely. It just works for the one thing I've built it to do, the user can't make many errors, and there are already a few off-the-cuff design choices that I'm going to want to revisit based on trying to use it for a few minutes.

But, it's at the proof-of-concept stage. It works. So now I really wanna talk about it.

I've changed names twice already. But in this screenshot it's called Stat Tracker:
I'm on a pretty stacked team here.
If you've ever tried keeping track of fantasy scores while watching a game of Ultimate, you know it's hard to keep track of more than one player at a time. And then you'll sometimes forget how many points your guy has, so you'll have to guesstimate and hope that your player still comes out with a high score for bragging rights.

Well, with this, you can let your phone do all of the tracking for you. Just fire it up, tell it who's on the line at the start of the point, then touch each person's name as they catch the disc. At any point you can jump over to the Stats tab and see what the stats are for the whole team.

That's the idea anyway. It's still got a long way to go, and a good number of bugs to crunch out. But it's an HTML5 app, so it should work on everything that has internet access and a modern browser. Although I'll probably only be testing it on the latest-and-greatest browsers.

I'm aiming to have something done (or at least shippable) by the end of the month. :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lagging Behind

I've been lagging behind on my blog posts. And for my February project. I'm about a post behind and I'm not really any closer than I was at the beginning of this vacation to having a redesigned personal site.

At this point, I'm throwing in the towel on my February project. I'd like to think I made a decent effort this week to get it done, but it's just not inspiring.

With, I had a really ambitious design plan. I wanted it to look like a desktop. I also wanted it to be skinnable so that with a click you could change it from looking like OS X, to looking like Windows (Win XP, at the time), to looking like Linux. I wanted it to be a css-only change, because that seemed like a cool technical challenge.

I also wanted the site to be a main aggregation of everything on the internet that is me. my blog posts, my tweets, everything. Lots of gathering dynamic content and displaying them on my main site. I had to learn APIs and it was pretty fun & challenging. was to be substantially less ambitious. A minimalist site to host all of my created content that wasn't dynamically updated. Then it would just have links to all the various sites where I generate content. It was to be mobile-friendly. But that's all I really had in mind.

As a result, it's noting noteworthy. Nothing inspiring. It was just me doing what essentially amounted to a bunch of work to get something done. And without any real motivation other than my own wish to have it done, there's no real reward in doing it.

That said, the failure was worth the effort. I've got a pretty good grasp on how to use Node.js (which, in retrospect, was complete overkill for what I wanted to build. But I wanted to learn Node.js, so I did.) and I've been reading up on MongoDB. I'm really excited about what these technologies will enable me to do.

I'm going to build something today. It won't be what I thought I was building this month, but it'll be something fun that I've been meaning to do.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lessons Learned

  • Just because the bottle says "Dishwashing Soap", that doesn't mean it should be used in a dishwasher. Especially if it says "Ultra Concentrated".
  • The dishwasher drains into your sink if the garbage disposal is blocked.
  • If you stop it mid-cycle, the dishwasher doesn't drain. Especially if you stopped it because there were suds pouring out of the bottom of it. You gotta find the right spot in the middle of the "rinse" cycle that activates the pump instead of adding more water (and thus, more suds) to the system.


  • It can hail in Seattle. But when it does, people will still call it "snow".

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I tried installing Node.js on my laptop last night. I did it on another computer a while back, so it wasn't a totally new experience. But man, it took forever. Turns out I didn't have XCode and standard tools installed. Downloading all that took about 2 hours, only to find out that my computer didn't have enough free space for the 8Gb install. Ugh.

Well, now I've got it installed. I got a Hello-World style app running. I also worked a bit with the file-IO stuff so I have a webserver that can spit out header and footer content completely separate from the page's content. Woohoo. Now I can finally build my website.

But at this point, I've spent a good total of 6 hours (last night & this morning) getting things up and running, and now I find myself not in the mood to build things. Booo. Oh well, hopefully it will pass, as I do think this is going to be a pretty slick means of building what I want.

I also took a quick look at MongoDB. I didn't do much with it, mostly played around with the tutorial. I really like how JavaScript is invading all of these different parts of the server. It makes complete sense, and I really think it's going to make developing top-quality web sites (and web services) even easier. It also reinforces the importance of good JavaScript programmers, not just folks who google for bits of javascript code to make their links blink or Java gurus who think they can code in the browser because the use GWT.

I'm sounding bitter again. I'll stop. Instead, I'll go doodle the site I want to build.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bike Ride

On Sunday, Kathryn & I went for a long bike ride. I really like riding, but I haven't been since the weather got cold and rainy. But for the last few weeks, it's been bright and sunny out, so we decided to hit up the Burke-Gilman trail and see how far North we could go on it.

Our Route
We tracked our route using this iPhone App. Kathryn had been using it to keep track of her distance running, but her iPod doesn't have GPS.

Anyway. It was loads of fun. It was a mostly flat route. I was kind of surprised how far we managed to go. I didn't realize we had reached the north end of Lake Washington until we looked at it on a map later. We did take a picture while we took a break before turning around.

Hopefully there will be more weekends like this. :)

Calm Before the Bullet Storm

Bulletstorm is coming out tomorrow. The crazy-ass over-the-top adrenaline-fueled shoot 'em up with perverse humor and grotesque violence will soon be unleashed to millions of Americans.

Who will then rape people. At least according to a fair and balanced news source.


This isn't the first time a new video game has caused the media circus to flip its shit. Fox also flipped out over a sex scene in Mass Effect. But that was forever ago in internet time, so it makes sense that they'd have forgotten about it by now.

I really wish folks would stop trying to demonize video games. Or at least try to demonize them a different way.

It seems with this super-violent video game, the same song and dance is happening. "This is really bad for children, and they're deliberately marketing it towards children." "Everyone knows violent video games lead to increased aggressive behavior and domestic violence" Please. There have actually been studies on this. Real data, real facts, showing that the ESRB ratings for video games work better than the MPAA ratings for movies at keeping adult-targeted content away from children. They've also shown a nation-wide decline in domestic violence as the video games market has expanded in the last few years.

Rock Paper Shotgun does a thorough job examining the original shit-stirring article by Fox News. And when Fox got wind of it and tried to mislead folks again, RPS responded, taking them to task on every detail.

Friday, February 18, 2011

3 Guys, One Box

Last night, we didn't have enough folks for a real game of Mini at practice. It was really just me, Craig, and Walnut standing around, wanting to do something with cones and a disc.

SO! We made up a variant of Hot Box. This wikipedia article describes the basic rules of Hot Box fairly well, if you're unfamiliar with the sport. We called it "3 Guys, One Box" or "Hot 3-way Action". (We also realized ladies might not want to play a game that had '3 guys' in the title, but we were short of better names. Feel free to suggest a different one.)

Here's how to play:

  • Start with 2 folks on offense, 1 on defense. Play Hot Box.
  • If the offense turns it over, whoever is responsible for the turn becomes the lone defender.
  • Score is kept individually instead of by team. 
  • If you throw or catch a goal, you get 1 point. 
  • If you actively get the D (rather than the offense just throwing it away) then you get 3 points.
  • Play until a fixed amount of points, or until you're tired.

We had lots of fun playing. We didn't really keep track of points, so I'm not sure how balanced the 3-points-per-D rule is. We also never set how many points you should play to. It might just be best if we played to 5 points and you only got 1 point for getting a solid D. Maybe we should try that next...

What do you think? Feel free to try it out & let me know if you have any other ideas for rules modifications.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Apple's demands

I've been thinking about all the hubbub around Apple's give-us-all-your-money policy changes. Or enforcement changes. The gist of the situation, as I understand it, is this:

There are apps on the App Store that relate to services and goods that users have to pay for. Netflix is an example: a user subscribes to Netflix, pays them a monthly fee, and can stream a bunch of movies to their iPhone. Amazon's Kindle app lets you buy e-books from Amazon and read them on your iPhone. These experiences existed before in-app purchasing came along, and before the new-fangled in-app subscription stuff came along.

Now that Apple has all these ways of selling to users (in-app purchases for things like Kindle, and subscriptions for things like Netflix), they're going to require these app developers provide an in-app means of subscribing or buying additional content. Not just existing ones, but new apps as well. Any app that is associated with a service where you can buy additional content, or you have to be subscribed to in order to use, should have a means of spending this money with in-app transactions. They also stipulate that things sold in the App Store this way must cost the same or less than things sold directly by these companies

My first response was shock. Are you serious? This looks like a money-grab move by Apple. "Great, you've built something that tons of people use. Now if you want to keep updating it (or worse, continue to let users use it) then you have to give us 30% of all your revenue. Oh, and don't try to inflate your prices to pass this bullshit tax onto your users, because then they won't buy from us because we'll be more expensive". Way to be a dick, Apple.

Now I've thought about it some more. It seems less evil if I think about it from the customer's perspective, rather than the developers. What's the current book-buying experience with the Kindle app? I decide I want to buy a book, click a button, and the app exists, I'm dropped off into Safari where I have to find the book I want, sign in (or sign up), possibly enter credit card information, gahhhhhhh. There are tons of steps. And then when I'm done, the website tells me to go back to the app. Why did I have to leave the app, anyway?

I don't care which payment system is used; Amazon or Apple just take it out of the same credit card anyway. I don't care how I buy the ebook if prices are the same. And in-app is a much better experience. And Apple, to a fault, is all about forcing a better experience on its users.

Additional content purchases make sense, even with Apple's mandate. As long as they only charge the 30% for additional content purchased on the phone (not retroactively applied to my entire Kindle library) then it's not evil. It's a win for users, Apple, everyone except App developers.

But what about subscriptions? This gets a bit murky. I already have a Netflix account. I had it before there was an iPhone App. There is absolutely no reason any of my money should go to Apple for Netflix building an excellent service that I was willing to pay for, that I continue to be willing to pay for. Apple shouldn't charge Netflix 30% for my susbscription, or even just to let me use Netflix on my iPhone.

Where the 30% Apple tax makes sense is in new customer acquisition. If I've never used Netflix, but then decide I want movies streamed to my iPhone, then it'd be a seamless experience if I could sign up for Netflix on my phone. Then, in the same app in a matter of seconds, start streaming my favorite movie. That would be awesome.

But what about recurring subscriptions? Just because I started on my iPhone, should 30% of my money go to Apple for the entirety of my Netflix subscription? What if I'm a current Netflix user, who didn't start on the iPhone, who needs to update his subscription level? If I do that on my iPhone, should that give Apple the right to charge an Apple Tax?

It's murky. It's complicated. But only for businesses and developers. I genuinely think that, once these new regulations are enforced, you'll see a good number of better in-app purchasing experiences on the iPhone.

Or, better yet, the mobile app developers will just say "screw it", build an HTML5 app on web standards that works on any modern device, keep their own payment models, and make fat bank while gaining tech cred for being such a forward-thinking company.

Just kidding. That will never happen. But I can dream, right?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Stream of Consciousness

I'm once again stuck staring at the screen wondering what to write about. I can't think of anything off of the top of my head. I haven't finished any books, or video games, or seen any movies lately, so I can't just cop-out and review something again.

I try looking at news for inspiration. Well, "inspiration". Really it's just another excuse to catch up on twitter, Reader, and news under the guise of trying to write. When really none of this helps me write. Instead it just tells me that South Dakota is trying to make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions (to "prevent murder") and that there are some really cool gadgety toys that I might want but have little to no use for.

But that has left me nothing. Which really isn't surprising, because if you're not writing, then nothing will get written. Until:

BEHOLD! Stream of consciousness. It's a writing technique that's exactly like it sounds. I'm not trying to write things well. Or coherently. I'm just typing out as fast as I can letting things go.

Well, that's not entirely true. I've paused to add links to the above paragraph. I'm writing in full sentences and stopping to fix spelling mistakes. So there's some cycling to my stream of conciousness.

If we were writing this in a Wave at the same times, I could warn you to not cross the streams.

Anyways. I've done this kind of writing before when I had to crank out tons and tons of text. The end result was either a seed idea or something good I could actually focus on and write about or just a pile of dead text to add to my word count. That is, if you're keeping a word count. Which is the whole point of National Novel Writing Month, which is the primary reason for cranking out a bunch of mindless text.

I've done it a few times. Well, 2 or 3. I think I've only successfully done it once. Only once did I actually end the month on target. But that was a lot of me being like "Dear god I really don't want to write please make it stop" so then I'd write that, or something very similar, as fast as I could so that I could have my 6,000+ words for the day done and then move on.

It's kind a pity too, because I had some interesting literary devices that I never fully brought to life. Well, one literary device. I just never could figure out how to really get it to work right. Like "wooo that's great, you can do X now" but "why would you want to" is never really answered.

Fiction! That's it. Maybe when I can't think of something to write, I'll just write fiction again. It's tougher because I'd have to have a root idea or something to try and make a coherent story. That's the advantage of NaNoWriMo, I don't have to worry about having something that's even human readable at the end of it. I just have a bunch of text with a bunch of ideas all bunched up. In a bunch.

Or maybe I can just fill up my blog with mindless rambling posts, like this one.

Letter Spelling

This is absolutely random.

I saw a sign on the street today that had a giant letter X, and beneath it, the phrase "ECKS". I have no idea if it's a brand or what, but it got me thinking.

How many letters in english can you spell phonetically without using the letter you're spelling. ECKS is one. The only other ones I could think of were EYE, CUE, YOO, and DOUBLE-YOO. 'Y' is close, but I can't unambiguously write "WHEYE" without folks reading whe-ye instead of wh-eye.

Apparently, this is what I do when I see signs on the street sometimes.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Music Pages

I'm going to have a week off of work next week. Mostly, it's to recover from the stress of launching that we still haven't gotten out of. Hopefully it'll bring me back to a state of relax I had on January 1st, before things got fucked and they changed everything on us again.

Breathe. Okay. That part is done. Move on.

Anyway, I might actually have enough time and interest into rebuilding my site like I said I would at the beginning of the month. The real big design change is around my music. It's something I never had before. It's also something that might let me try out fancy new HTML5 stuff. Here's my idea:

For each of my songs, I can have a page that displays everything about it. It'll have the video of me performing it, high-quality audio, lyrics, and possibly guitar tabs. This seems very well suited for HTML5, with the various video and audio tags.

And then I can take it one step further. What if I added a bouncy-ball or something, so I somehow highlighted a line of lyrics in time with the audio/video? Or what if I let you click on a line of the lyrics, and it jumped the audio/video to that spot? Or what if I let you highlight a section of lyrics and then looped over that?

I'm not sure exactly what I want to do, but this seems like a fun way to present what I've created and do it in a way that's fun to develop. We'll see what I can make in a week.


Saturday was what I expect all winter Ultimate games to be like, but I'm pleasantly surprised they're not. We had a double-header with our ample supply of energetic players. The first 2 hours went by well, it was absolutely the windiest weather I've played in all year, but at least it was dry.

Unfortunately, that sentiment jinxed the second game. What began the game as a light rain turned into a fierce torrential downpour by half that just continued throughout the afternoon. With our ample subs only playing on one team this time, I was playing roughly every third point. And with all the rain and wind, there were still some really long points, resulting in a bunch of folks just standing on the sidelines, getting drenched, and waiting to go in.

My mind has this wondrous ability to think two conflicting thoughts at a time without (a) having to reconcile them or (b) realizing that they're conflicting. Most times, this ability is an inconvenience, like when I agree to go to 2 parties without realizing they're on the same night on opposite sides of town. But for situations like this, it's actually quite nice.

One thought completely agrees with what everyone is saying. It's cold. It's windy. It's rainy. I'm drenched through. This is miserable. There are too many people. I'm just standing here getting wetter, getting colder, getting more miserable.

The other is completely focused. This poor weather will make the disc slippery, make it hard to catch, hard to throw, hard to play good ultimate. They'll want to quit because it's cold, wet, and windy. This weather is our advantage in this game. Who can I yell at on the field to help communicate, to help motivate, to make sure this weather wears down our opponent more than it wears down my teammates?

Of course, this second thought isn't as fully focused as I've described it. It's really just me looking at my team, yelling at them, cheering for them, moving up and down the sideline with them. I like doing it in any weather, but I'm especially inspired in terrible weather because I really think it helps the team. It also has the advantage of keeping me moving on the sideline, so I don't get freezing cold and miserable.

But when I'm asked, I'll still agree that it's cold. That it's wet. That I'm soaked through. I'll share the same desire to not want to be there any more than I have to.

Until the disc is in play again, and all I care about is telling my teammates when the thrower is looking to get the disc to the person they're trying to defend.

Needless to say, I had a great time despite the weather. And once there was no more game to watch or play in, I had an overwhelming urge to get the fuck out of there and get into a nice, hot shower.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fun with Friends

It's easy for me to get stuck in a rut. Not in a bad way; I like having a certain rhythm to my life. Cycles of things that I like to do repeating with a known frequency. And as time goes on, the fun things changing slightly, or maybe changing frequency.

It's like a song, really. You might like one part of the song, but if it didn't keep changing you'd begin to get seriously annoyed.

I think that's why I'm not so good with planning social things. They're really sort of one-off events that break the normal pattern of my social life. That's not to say that they're bad; whenever I do these things I usually enjoy them. I'm just more resistant to them than I really should be.

This last week was a bunch of one-offs. Monday I didn't go to Kathryn's because she was swamped with work. Thursday I didn't go to Ultimate practice so I could have dinner with some tech friends and see Ignite Seattle. Friday I had to work from 9:30pm-10:45pm, then rushed to Chop Suey to see more karaoke friends. With a 1.25-hour long exception, it was loads of fun all across the board hanging with friends that I really don't get to see much with my current schedule.

If you're reading this, and you're a friend I haven't seen in a while, leave a comment or shoot me a tweet or something. I definitely want to hang out and catch up, even if I'm usually too focused on the day-to-day rhythms to notice it.

And even if I'm awkward about it when we first meet up. Because believe me, I'll be awkward about it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Time Capsule

I just wrote a long post. It's about work. It's really written more for me to say things to myself than for me to broadcast to the world. But then again, that prettymuch describes everything I write in here.

I haven't published it. I don't think I should right now. It might be one of those "write an angry letter but don't send it" stress techniques. But I've done something slightly differently. I've post-dated the blog post to appear sometime in the future. Not soon, but sometime.

Hopefully, this will do 2 things. First, keep that message to me in my sight. I'll see it whenever I look at my posts. Second, to hopefully get the story out once some of the fires have died down. I think these moments will be good to look back on when I'm not in the heat of them.

All I can hope is that, by the date I picked to publish the post, I'm not still in the heat of them.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bad Memory

I wrote a new song!

Song (mp3)


Today I go to a concert
by my all time favorite band
I'm leaving so soon I will be in
an amazing auditory land


I cannot find my keys
Where did I leave my keys
I cannot find my keys
I thought they were right here

But now I can see they're not
Where could my keys have gone
Where have my keys gone?

Then I see them on the counter
So I grab them and I head downstairs
As I reach the curb then my
jaw hangs in the air

I cannot find my car
Where did I leave my car
Where is my car parked?
I thought it was right here

But now I can see its not
Where could my car have gone?
Where is my car parked?

Then I see it down the street
Behind a big ass SUV
I get in and I drive my car
to the concert so blissfully

I don't see where to park
I cannot park my car
I need somewhere to park
I can't just drive it in

Is there nowhere to park?
Where can I park my car?
I need to park my car

I catch someone as their leaving
and I pull right into their spot
As I stroll up to the venue
I remember something I forgot

I don't have my ticket
Where is my ticket
I can't find my ticket
It was in my pocket

But then I changed pants
Oh why did I change pants
It's in my other pants

So I leave from the concert
of my all time favorite  band
I'll see them next time around
and then I'll gladly shake their hands

I cannot find my car
Where did I park my car
I cannot find my car

Oh there it is.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

New Mic

I got a new microphone today! Well, I guess technically calling it "a microphone" would suffice, because I have been using my computer's built in microphone to record my songs before.

I gave it a spin with the two songs I already have written. Have a listen:

Slow Car (In the Fast Lane)

Zombie Song

I have another new song, called Bad Memory. I'll post it tomorrow with the full lyrics. I probably won't be doing a youtube video for a while, but maybe if I get sick of GarageBand and want to use iMovie then I'll start doing youtube stuff again.

Also, on Slow Car, I forgot that I had begun recording for a few seconds after I hit record. So you get a fun never-before-heard intro.

Or something.

Also, in a completely shameless plug, I'm storing the files on Dropbox so if you'd kindly click this link then I'd get a little more space to put songs on the internet. Thanks.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Short post

I forgot to post today. It was a rough day.

But I'm very happy now. It's been a great evening.

I'm partially drunk, too. Wooo.

Monday, February 07, 2011

February Project

...might have to change. I tried making a dent in this project yesterday, but got nowhere. Well, that's not entirely true. I have a design.

I tried designing for mobile first, then the desktop. It's an interesting thought exercise. It was also forcing me to focus on what I really intended folks coming to my site to actually do. Which boiled down to a short list of things:

  • Read this blog
  • Watch, listen to, and read lyrics of my music.
  • Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

But I didn't want to do a full port of moving all my data around. That has some benefits, I'm sure, but I really just want to build the website and not worry about data storage. Which I realize is me being somewhat lazy.

Anyway. I had the design. But the biggest problem with this approach is that the design isn't really inspiring. It's simplicity, while making it a pretty good design, means that I don't get to try my hand at using fancy CSS3 stuff, or any of the more interesting JavaScript additions under the "HTML5" banner.

It's just a simple site that I've built a hundred times before.

So after designing in my notebook, then staring at my computer and getting frustrated about why I wasn't having any fun with this, I put it away. I tried out some new stuff on my guitar. That's still fun. Hopefully I'll have another song or two up by the end of the week.

Still don't know what I'll be doing for my project this month.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Moments of Greatness, part 2

There are a few other layouts I vividly remember.

One year I was at the Stanford qualifier. I forget which team we were playing against. I was trailing my guy by a half step to the open side. The cutter did a stutter step to try and fake me out just as the thrower was committing to his un-juked cut. I didn't buy the fake and kept running. I leapt toward the disc shortly after it was thrown.

I was a more experienced player at this point. I knew I had the D. But as confident as I am, I always aim to get to the disc first however I can. There's always a chance that the offense will lay out and get the disc if you don't, or maybe it will just be macked to someone else on the team.

But in this case, I had slightly overestimated the distance I could lay out. As I flew through the air I saw the disc racing towards me. Reaching out right in front of me, I could see it in my sights. Then I began to fall.

The disc didn't fall with me. It just floated as I began to descend back to earth. I could see it keep going up and up above my eyeline, and I kept reaching higher up, from eye level to above my head, to reaching as far up as my completely horizontal body would let me.

It seemed like forever. But the disc was still in my reach as I descended. I snagged it in my right hand as I hit the ground.

My final year of College Ultimate I found myself in a familiar situation. College Sectionals in the spring, out of the running for advancement into Regionals, but playing a close game against Cal's favorite rival: Stanford.

There was one long point. Both teams had turned it, but now Stanford had the disc and they were being very patient with the disc. Our D held them to a few short upfield throws, only to have them dump it shortly after. The sidelines were relaxed since this game didn't matter for Regionals, but patient play is far from entertaining to watch. So the sidelines were occupied with heckling & cheering their team on.

"Hit the mismatch!" shouted a Stanford player.

I looked at the guy I was guarding. He had been giving me a bit of a challenge cutting, but nothing I couldn't handle. He was getting tired, and lingering in the vertical stack to keep the lanes clear and catch his breath.

He was about 6'2" compared to my 5'8" self. I was obviously the mismatch they were shouting for.

"It's not a mismatch." I yelled back to the sideline.

My guy ran deep. This was the biggest threat. I have to work hard to out-maneuver and out-position a tall guy to catch a high disc. It's substantially easier to just keep better positioning and make the thrower not decide to throw the disc. I sprinted to stay deeper than the person I was defending.

The thrower didn't put the deep disc up, but my guy wasn't done cutting.

He planted and made a hard cut in to the break side. I planted and ran with him. The thrower saw the opportunity he was looking for and unleashed an inside out flick toward my guy.

It was over in a few seconds. I ran with my guy and flew through the air just to his left. I slapped the disc out of the air with a satisfying smack. I landed about 10 feet from the sideline, right in front of the hecklers who had called for the very throw that I just blew out of the sky.

I jumped back up, and tipped my hat to the hecklers, and to my teammates roaring at the ludicrous display.

"Told ya"

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Moments of Greatness, part 1

We all have moments of greatness. Times when, for a moment, you are unbelievably fucking awesome. There's this tight ball of excitement that builds in your chest in the moment, which sends ripples of electricity through your entire body. It can happen very quickly, but the mind slows down the time, or at least the memory of it, so you can savor just how unbelievably fucking awesome you were in that one instant. 

Some folks might have this feeling when accomplishing a huge task at work or winning in a sport. For me, all my best moments of greatness are my layout D's.

That is my only layout ever caught on camera. This is all I know about how I look to others in one of my moments of greatness.

I don't have a good memory in general. Names, birthdays, things on my to do list, why I just walked over here; all these things I forget. But these moments I remember. I can just close my eyes and feel them happening, in slow motion, all over again.

My first layout D was in a scrimmage at UC Santa Barbara against their B team. They have a gorgeous grass field that overlooks the Pacific ocean. I think it was my second year of playing ultimate; for the first year my teammates were trying to teach me to lay out, but I couldn't. I'd want to get the disc, but I always thought the only way I could go faster was to keep running, not by jumping in front of me.

The guy I was guarding ran deep and then in on the break side. I followed. The thrower tried to hit my guy with an inside out flick.

Then I jumped. 

Then I closed my eyes.

I felt the tip of my finger hit plastic. Then I sailed past the intended receiver and landed chest first on the soft, muddy field. I felt slightly dazed; I wasn't really aware what had just happened. I looked back over my left shoulder just in time to see the bobbled disc tumble to the ground. 

Holy crap. That was awesome.

Friday, February 04, 2011

February Project

Whoops! I posted a poll and didn't post the results. What shall I commit myself to doing in February?

Well, I've tallied the results. It was a close one. The victor is of the slimmest of margins: a single vote.

I'll be designing and building a home page. I don't think it'll be a content portal for all my other feeds like is. I think I'll just leave that there for now. I just want a page where I can start posting my music and other static content.

Or maybe something more? We'll see. I should get to designing it soon. I'll keep you posted.

And yes, that single vote was me. Muahaha.

PS: I'll still likely be doing songs. I like destressing by playing on my guitar and singing goofy songs. I just won't have a commitment as to how many songs I'll write this month.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Book Review: A Microsoft Life

I took a brief break from my continuing saga of Mass Effect books to read A Microsoft Life by Stephen Toulouse. aka @stepto. I don't think I would have bought this book if I hadn't heard Stepto talk on Major Nelson's podcast. I don't get a chance to listen to the episodes every week, but they provide a nice break. Stepto's relentless promotion of fair play on Xbox Live is always good to listen to. Not to mention all the good stories folks why try and skirt the rules thinking they won't be caught.

This book is not exactly what I thought it was going to be, but it was an interesting read. Firstly, I had no idea Stepto's career had been quite so long at Microsoft. It's interesting reading a first hand perspective about the launch of Windows 95 and the birth of the security industry.

I also just like reading about Microsoft. Having worked there in a few groups, I have a fairly narrow view of the company as a whole. They really don't deserve all the ire that they've gathered over the years, but they have some fantastic blunders just not understanding who they were building for. Stepto details one story of a futuristic $100 phone system (sometime in the 90s) that required a dedicated computer to operate. Of course average folks going to go out and buy another $500 machine just so their $100 phone system will work. How was this overlooked?

But even on the stuff that folks wanted, computers are complicated, unforgiving beasts. They're hard to get right. So the downfall of having a computer in every office, home, cardboard box in the world is that they will eventually have problems, and the average consumer won't have the patience to realize that it's not Microsoft's fault. They just see the name on it, and decide the onus must be on them to make something work, and since it didn't, it's clearly their fault.

Anyways. I thought this book would be a lot more about the internals of Xbox Live and all the stories of him policing the service. While that's in there (and I really enjoy those bits), his career spans a much larger swatch of time. All in all, it's a good read, with interesting stories.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Email Delay

I tend to flake out in responding to people. This is mostly true via email, but it's also true via Facebook, LinkedIn, and occasionally Twitter. A lot of this really isn't me intentionally trying to ignore folks, it just kinda slips my mind. Or more often than not, I think of a reply, begin to flesh it out, but then something distracts me.

What, you might ask? Any number of things. Maybe someone from my work team asked a question. Maybe I'm just checking on my phone while at a bus stop, and the bus is here now. Maybe it's yet another tweet, linked invite or face booking message. There are literally thousands of ways where something else demands my attention away from your important communication.

And then I never really return to that same place in my mind. Maybe I just totally forget about your message until I look at my inbox/tweet stream again. Maybe I look again and I just don't scroll far enough to see it. I've practically given up on tweets, but I still try and respond to all email. Well, most email. I do long to have a completely empty mailbox now and again.

But I digress. My point is that I forget to respond to something. And then time passes and I wonder if my response was really worth sending. Or I simply don't feel like responding at that instant.

Rinse, repeat.

This used to be OK, which is why I got into this habit. But now I keep pushing things off and never doing them. What changed?

When I was little, I remember wanting to show my dad something on my computer. I totally forget what it was, but it was really important to the 13-year-old brain of mine. It might have been something age-appropriately cute, like look at this website that I built with all the spinning gifs. More likely it was a problem installing a driver on our pirated version of Windows 2000.

I'd try to get him to come over, and my mom would simply reply, "Dad doesn't want to look at a computer right now. He's been looking at one all day."

I remember thinking it ridiculous at the time; how could you get tired of looking at a computer? I saw a computer for an hour or so of my schoolday when I had programming class, and then when I got home the computer stopped being a box of work and became a floating rectangle of color and entertainment. Even when I grew up and started having internships and real jobs I would still come home and spend a good amount of time on YouTube, Facebook, all the other ol' fashioned ways of wasting time on the internet, on a computer.

But somewhere along the line, that changed. When I come home now, I don't often go right to my computer. In fact, I rarely use my home computers at all as it is for just casual web browsing. I come home and have a whole different set of priorities. Cooking, reading, playing Ultimate, playing xbox 360, all of these realms of entertainment take me away from sitting at my computer being productive. Take me away from seeing all those personal emails that I really really should respond to. I just don't think to do it, because it feels like work compared to all the entertainment options available to me outside of work.

And then when I get to work, I think I should be productive, so I'm substantially more likely to push private message responses out into the "to do" pile. Then I only ever see it at work, so it never gets done.

So. Now I know what the problem is. Here's to hoping that knowing this, I actually start spending time responding to folks at work. :)

The Wall

I've begun to hit the wall in my "blog daily" quest.

It's just like running. I don't distance run. But when I do I've run until I can't run anymore, I run for about 45 minutes. Then the burning of my muscles sharply increases, I feel like I'm putting in the same amount of effort, but I've slowed to a snail's pace.

I'm not tired. But my resolve has been tested. I question why I began this quest. Am I really getting something out of doing all this? Or am I doing it now just for the sake of doing it? If I just stopped, who would notice, who would care?

Well, I began trying to write every day in order to get better at writing. I have this (probably idealized) memory of myself when I was good at writing. That was when I was writing a lot, blogging on my personal time and writing for fun. I really don't do either any more, so the idea was simply that if I could write more, then I would get better at writing again.

On one hand, I definitely feel habits forming. I'll go about my daily life and something will happen. If it's something I can joke about, tersely comment on, or brag about, I'll tweet it. But there have been a bunch of things that really deserve more time and attention to explain than either limiting my opinion to 140 characters or tweet-spamming my followers. Often I forget what exactly I meant to blog about when I actually get back in front of a keyboard, but that's another issue.

On the other hand, it's work. I'm writing just for the sake of writing. Most of the "review" posts for books/video games/etc that I do are just because that's how I've been spending my free time, that's what's on my mind, and that's all I can think to write about at the time. I could take time to really just tell interesting nonfiction stories, or dream up wondrous works of fiction, but I just wouldn't be able to pump them out in the one-post-per-day pace that I've set for myself.

So we see quantity over quality. In the hopes of eventually making quality.

The idealism of such a simple task is gone. Now it's just me with 11 months more to go of writing down inane details of everyday life in as vivid a way as possible. Or complaining about it, as I sometimes do. I'm not ready to give up the dream yet, but we'll see how I last after the next month.

Is there a writers-high? Like a runners high, but for writers?

I guess there's only one way to find out.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Video Game Review: Assassin's Creed

I got this game used for $5. I really fell in love with Assassin's Creed II, and this is it's Platinum Edition prequel. Chris warned me against the game, saying that #2 was far better, and the beggars were intolerably annoying. And I was warned that water would insta-kill me and that assassinations are only a small part of the real game thanks to this review.

But for $5 and to keep me happy while I wait for Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood to become reasonably priced, it was worth my time.

I was off to a rocky start at first. The glean and polish given to the 2nd game clearly wasn't here. Which makes complete sense, but it's just hard to think that way when you're playing the original game after playing it's rather well polished sequel. Also, my character is an asshole.

That's right. You start the game as an assassin who's all "I don't care about the 'creed', just let me kill templars". Which, admittedly, is how I sometimes go about in all these cities, but that's not the point. The point is that I didn't like what my main character was doing. And neither did any of the NPCs. And then they would all tell me in very stodgy dialog that I was a bad person. I would totally agree with them, but instead my character was on some kind of asshole cruise control and would just shrug them off, insult them, or kill them. Sometimes all 3.

And then at this one point I was killed, but not actually killed, which wasn't actually explained very well. Sigh.

But the story is deep, once it gets going, and the free running and swordplay mechanics are great. Once I got a few hours in and the "it's not Assassin's Creed II" voice inside me quieted down I actually began enjoying myself. And I'm glad I finally got some frame of reference for what the animus was and why I was in it; the sequel just sort of dropped me off without much explanation.

All in all, it was a good game. And remarkably impressive considering it came out in 2007.