Hurricane Charley

The hurricane is just now hitting our area. The winds are blowing, and our patio is filling up with water where it can’t drain fast enough. Although we are less than 15 miles from the beach, we’re getting much less severe weather than the poor schmo reporters standing on the beach doing their standups. We still have power, TV and internet so all is well so far. The worse part is supposed to be over within an hour, so I am hopeful that we’ll come through this OK.

Where to Draw the Red Line

Another Hugh MacLeod insight on creativity, this one on where to draw the red line, ie what you are and aren’t willing to do with your art when told to by others (typically those who pay you.) This is good advice for all new creators that make a stab at a career of it, before you get into the thick of things decide which compromises are reasonable. This also applies to entrepeneurs who accept venture money, proprietors who take on a partner. Sit down and think through your values and what matters to you while the heat is off, and use that thinking to inform your decisions when the heat is on. It is the nature of things that you can often get talked into things you don’t want to do when told things like “you have to do this or we will cancel the project/not publish your book/ not syndicate your comic strip.” That’s where unhappiness begins, when you accept what is really unacceptable to you in service of acheiving the goal. By establishing the point at which you walk long before it is necessary, that helps you stand tough when you need it.

Says Hugh:

When I see somebody “suffering for their art”, it’s usually a case of them not knowing where that red line is, not knowing where the sovereignty lies.

Somehow he thought that sleazy producer wouldn’t make him butcher his film with pointless rewrites, but Alas! Somehow he thought that gallery owner would turn out to be a competent businessman, but Alas! Somehow he thought that publisher would promote his new novel properly, but Alas! Somehow he thought that Venture Capitalist would be less of an asshole about the start-up’s cash flow, but Alas! Somehow he thought that CEO would support his new marketing initiative, but Alas!

Knowing where to draw the red line is like knowing yourself, like knowing who your real friends are. Some are better at it than others. Life is unfair.

Hidden in there at the end is another point, which is to hope for the best in these endeavors but never count on anyone else to do what they should or even what they said. If you are a first time novelist, assume you will get zero promotion and make plans to do what you can on your own. Be prepared for the VCs to be intrusive and to bust your balls. Figure that you are on your own, and treat it as a pleasant surprise if you aren’t.

Welcome Home

The move is over, all the stuff is in our house. It’s almost all in boxes, but it is here. In our typical impeccable timing, 24 hours after the end of the move we will be weathering our first hurricane. It shouldn’t be too bad here, but we might get 50 MPH winds for a short time. They are evacuating Myrtle Beach right near the hotel we were staying at early in the week. Landfall is expected near here right around noon, so we may lose power and/or internet connectivity. Now if we can only find our flashlights and candles, we’ll be alright. We wen’t to the grocery store last night, and other than bread most things were on the shelves and it wasn’t even too busy. There was lots of bottled water still there, so we picked up a few things. My hope is that things won’t be too bad. Wish us luck.

Jacked In

If you are reading this, my connectivity is restored. I love it when I can have broadband in a little town in coastal South Carolina. This is in many ways my wildest dream come true.


Now I’m offline in the empty house, taking a break from running a rented Rug Doctor cleaner over the dirty carpets. I got here at 8 AM to wait on the phone and cable installers. The phone guy has already been here and was so efficient that the first time I knew he was here was when he knocked on the door and told me to try the phone because it should be working. The cable guy called to say he’ll be here around lunchtime, which as far as I can tell could mean anything from now until 2 PM. I’m hoping he won’t freak out about the fact that we have no TV in here. To us, getting the cable modem connection is way more important than the TV. I’m hoping that he can just wire things up, hook up the box and leave it that way. When the TV gets here tomorrow, we’ll know if it worked. If that goes according to plan, then I should be online in a few hours and back on the grid, baby!

House Bought

The house closed today without incident. Tomorrow we’ll be steam cleaning carpets whilst waiting for the phone and cable installers. The plan is for us to have cable modem before the end of the day tomorrow, which I hope actually happens. I’m enough of a dork that I spent a lot of my time in the house sitting in what will be my office, plotting where the desk, credenza and bookcases would go. I believe I have it all mapped out, and should be able to set it all up how I want it easily on Friday, when the stuff is scheduled to arrive. Whew, I’m so happy to be getting beyond this phase of the move, and on to unpacking and making this house our home.

Gamer Hassled by the Man

Greg Costikyan reports on a kid who, during a search on the Waterway Ferry from New Jersey to New York had a had a White Wolf book confiscated because it was “inappropriate.” Costikyan is outraged, pointing out that the role of these searches are to find things like bombs and guns, not decide whether passenger’s reading material is to the liking of security guards. Also reproduced in that post is the text of the letter he wrote, as well as the responses he received. It sounds like the organization is hunting down the rogue guard who did this action, which is the correct response. I like the idea of these abuses of power quickly being brought to light, followed by vigorous actions to purge the organizations of such abusers.

Achewood Community College

Ouch, Achewood has run a couple of strips skewering the course offerings of community colleges. Not only are the actual lists funny, but there is a hidden joke in today’s offering. If you hold your cursor over the strip, you get an informational tool tip that says:

AUTO SHOP 154 – Recreate the car that Jonny Cash describes in “One Piece at a Time.”

I also particularly like “Know your Fast Food” and “Draw that Dog.” These actually sound kind of like the things you see in course catalogs. This strip is my favorite online comic. It makes me laugh every single time.


Wow, what a horrible neologism! With all the furor surrounding recent weeks, I missed the fact that on July 27th, I had officially been blogging for two solid years. I don’t feel like looking up the stats, but I don’t think I have had more than 15 days without a post in that whole time period. I’m not claiming that I’ve made two years of good posts, just fairly consistent ones.

When you see the stats of how many blogs are started and then abandoned, I feel pretty good about this accomplishment. Now I just need to get back into the swing of things, and make some posts about things other than packing up the house and moving. That’s a hard thing to avoid writing about, though, because it so thoroughly consumes one’s life. As of this weekend that should all be over, and I should be blogging my regular stuff, albeit in a house full of boxes.

More Comment Spam

I took a few moments and did a hand move of the code from Doug Alcorn‘s blosxom writeback plugin (part of his MT-Blacklist functionality to writebacks into my version of Fletcher Penney‘s writeback plus. This is when the freedom of plugins available in blosxom becomes kind of a drag. When everyone has a forked version of the plugin for everything they want to customize, it becomes a management problem when you want to mix and match features amongst forked versions.

I cut and pasted the part of Doug’s code that takes the Movable Type blacklist and rejects comments based on that. I also added in the code that sends an email when a comment is recorded, just because it was there and easy. By adding to my crontab a call to his script that fetches changes to the blacklist when they exist, I should always have a copy current as of the last 12 hours. Now it will be interesting to see how often this actually stops comment spammers. It wouldn’t have, for example, stopped these guys today because their URL isn’t one in the blacklist yet. I was going to submit the URL to the system, but since they only take them in the form of forward MT-Blacklist notifications there ain’t nothing I can do with it. Oh well. Thanks to Doug for porting this over, and for using the MT infrastructure so we blosxom users can share in the blacklists.

Comment Spammers

While we were sleeping after our monumental drive, a comment spammer was going to town on this weblog overnight. I was going through and cleaning up by hand, which takes forever! I found a reference to a guy who ported the MovableType blacklist to blosxom. I haven’t hooked up his real time blacklisting stuff yet, but I did use his cleanup tool to remove the spam comments.

The tool worked pretty well, but there is a downside. It goes through, divides each writeback file into individual comments, and then searches each isolated comment for occurrences of a regular expression (ie, the URL the spammers were using). If the regular expression is found the comment is dumped, otherwise it is kept. If this means there are now 0 comments for that post, the whole writeback file is removed. All good so far. The problem comes with the rewriting of the files that previously contained legitimate comments. All of them are written with a current timestamp, such that when you do the “recent writebacks”, it shows every comment that has ever occurred on this weblog. At the beginning of the year, I switched over to “writebackplus”, which writes the timestamp in the text of the writeback, so for any comment of the last 8 months the date it was written can be determined. I hacked the tool such that – if this information exists – it will do a touch to alter the timestamp on the file to that time. It worked great on all the ones for which that information exists, but for the ones older than January 2004, there is nothing that can be done. Oh well. I might change it to just timestamp all those to January 1, 2004. It won’t hurt anything else, and it will keep them from all showing up as recent.

Off the Road

Thank god, we are finally at the hotel in Myrtle Beach. Good grief, we thought we had about 300 miles left to go, which was really more like 450. We ended up doing almost another 8 hours today, which was not what we were expecting. Oh well, we are now at the hotel and have our free high speed internet. Since I brought the Linksys WAP, both laptops are connected to the hotel network right now. Ah, the joys of being a geek. I’m too fried to write too much right now, but I’ll get back up to speed soon.

On the Road

This post probably won’t go online until later tonight. I’m offline in a hotel room in Corbin, KY. Note to all you travelers – when the hotel says it has “dataport”, that probably just means a place to plug in your phone cord for dialup. All the stuff we looked at did not have a way to search for high-speed internet as an amenity. Note to former Orbitz coworkers – this would be a differentiating factor!

We drove a little over halfway yesterday, from Chicago to here. It’s right around 500 miles, leaving us around another 350 to go today. I’m suppressing my natural inclination to powerdrive, and we are just going at whatever pace we feel like. Even if we don’t leave here until noon and we lope along, we’ll still be in Myrtle Beach by 6 or 7 tonight. We’ll be staying in a hotel close to the beach because we couldn’t find one in Conway that both had internet and allowed dogs. I don’t find that to be a big burden. For the first few days we can hang out and do beachy things at night. The days will be full of that unfun adult stuff, like filling out the water application, buying a new washer and dryer, possibly a new mattress. We hate the pink carpet in the master bedroom and we are going to explore the possibility of having new carpet put down in the very narrow window between when we close on the house and the stuff gets delivered. It certainly would be much easier to do it then than move all the stuff back out of the bedroom to do it later. We’ll see what kind of turnaround the carpet guys have.

All in all, things are going about as well as can be expected. I was hoping we could avoid the mistake we made coming up here, which was allocating way too much stuff to carry in the cars on the way and then having to throw it away because it wouldn’t all fit. It’s nothing to throw an extra box on the moving truck, and it can ruin your day when that same box just won’t go in the car. We actually have plenty of room, so all is well that way. The drive hasn’t been that bad so far. We’ll see how it is going through the mountains around Asheville, but I’m hoping for the best. Next stop – Myrtle Beach!

Bye Bye

In a few hours, we’ll be on the road. With any luck, we’ll be in a hotel with connectivity tonight. I’m finding that the worst part of this whole thing has actually been dealing with the loss of internet connectivity. I guess I must admit what a freaking geek spazmo I am.

Goodbye Evanston, goodbye Chicago. Tonight we should be somewhere around Knoxville.

Oooooooh, We’re Halfway There

All our stuff is on a truck and is heading to South Carolina now, via Michigan and Ohio and wherever else it might be going. I had been on the edge of having panic attacks over the last week and now I have a feeling of complete calm that has descended over me in the last few hours. Originally – me being the spazmo that I am – I had suggested that we get in the cars and drive for a few hours tonight after the truck left. As is not uncommon for me, that was a really stupid suggestion. We’re exhausted, and if we tried to drive we’d probably crash (figuratively first, followed shortly by literally.) Even if we did that, we still wouldn’t get to Myrtle Beach until Monday morning, and doing it this way means that we’ll get there Monday afternoon or evening if we really take our time. Big deal. This is way better. Luckily I was talked out of my poor judgement.

I’m now completely excited to get there. I don’t mind having an 850 mile drive ahead of us. I’m looking forward to making it, in fact. I just want to be there. If we are lucky, the truck will get there the day after we close on the house. That would be nice. For now, we’re just lounging on the floor of our empty house where we shortly will be sleeping. One of our neighbors has an open WiFi link, which we are using to amuse ourselves. Laptops are the only entertainment option we have at the moment. Unlike Mitch Wagner I don’t even have any ethical qualms about it. I’m just thankful that my neighbor has this otherwise I’d be bored off my ass. Thankee kindly, neighbor!

T-Minus Twelve Hours

It is the night before the packing crew comes, and like always we are exhausted yet have more to do than can be fit in the remaining time, even if we stayed up all night working. We’ve done this enough that we’ve gotten the hang of reaching the Zen acceptance at this point, knowing it cannot be done and being at peace with that. There is no such thing as an optimal move, or even a good one. Just try to avoid the avoidable catastrophes and then let it sort itself out. For me, the hardest part is picking the things that don’t get packed. It is difficult, because you don’t want to put things on the moving truck that you will need, but you also don’t want to load the car up with extraneous stuff that you won’t use. The search for the perfect middle path, grasshopper, is never finished.

As excited as I am to be getting to Conway and the Myrtle Beach area, I’ve been kind of sad and wistful the last week about leaving here. I really have enjoyed Evanston and Chicago. There are so many people that I never even saw when I was here, so many things that we didn’t do. Every day on the El or the Metra, I would go past things and think “I should visit there before we leave.” We are bicycling distance to the Bahaii Temple, yet we never visitied. We never went to the Botanical Gardens, the Lincoln Park Zoo, any of the museums, any of the famous rock clubs. A lot of this was on the to-do list, but it just never happened. Man, it is hard to believe this year went by so fast. I could swear that last week I was pulling up in my car and marvelling at how great I thought it would be to live here.

It’s been fun, Evanston. I will miss you.

Paul Melancon name change

Well, not Paul himself but his music is now being recorded under a band name. Because he has a problematic name that can be hard to spell (and has that French curlicue letter in it), he is giving up. From here on out, he is recording as The Arts and Sciences, which as best I can tell is the same group behind him with just a new name. Although I’m not wild about the name (which lacks a lot of sex appeal), this is probably for the best. I think this will help him out psychologically, because even though nothing really has changed in the music they play or the group on stage, it’s now abstracted away from being PAUL MELANCON + band to this other entity that isn’t solely the weight of his name. I don’t care, as long as he keeps his catchy songs coming out. As Paul says:

All the depressed, cynical, deceptive pop tunes full of angst and self-deprecation that you’ve come to expect from me will continue unabated. I’ll also continue to play the occasional solo show under my own name.

The new bandname also has a website. Check it out.

Batman in Chitown

Looks like I stopped working on Wacker Drive at just the wrong time. According to Chicagoist, they are filming Batmobile street scenes down there currently. I think it would be quite cool to look out the office window and see the Batmobile running up and down the street. I’m guessing that they are doing this overnight, though, not during the business day so I probably couldn’t have seen anything anyway. I will be looking forward to seeing this movie in a year or two and spotting familiar sights as Batman does his thing.

It’s All About Me

My brother has a pictorial tribute to me on his blog today in honor of my birthday. It’s a sweet sentiment, and I (sort of) appreciate it. On the one hand, all the college age pictures of me look so goofy. On the other, I thought I was heavy back then but I look so freaking thin compared to the present day ones that it depresses me. There is one photo of me in the last few years in that set, and in that one I just look fat old and tired.

Sigh. This is why I don’t like birthdays and hate to have celebrations or even recognitions of them. I wouldn’t have said a word about it if James hadn’t outed me. Having a birthday is, as they say, better than the alternative. To me, they are mile markers of a drive off a cliff, and I can’t say I find that comforting. Best to pretend they aren’t happening.