Go East, Ernesto!

Looks like we missed this almost entirely. It’s tracked just far enough east that we aren’t even getting much wind now. We’ve had rain, but far less wind than I was expecting. I think Wilmington NC is going to get it worse than we did. Hold tight, neighbors to the north!

Studio 60

I’ve seen the commercials for the upcoming Studio 60 series and heard the hype about it, and I have a one word reaction: “Yaaaaaawn.” I’m one of those people who thought the West Wing was good in parts but I never worshipped it and never found it great. Frequently I found it too annoying and I didn’t even watch the last few seasons, bailing even before Sorkin left. My problem with Sorkin is the overwhelming cutesiness and writerliness of his shows. I never ever for one second believe these are real characters. I can always hear Sorkin behind the actor and see his hand working the gears. I just get tired of it.

I have no plans to watch this show. It’s funny that podcasters and bloggers catch shit about talking about their own medium too much, but half of all network TV shows are about TV shows.

Update: I’d been curious why all these people are commenting on a several weeks old post about how unenticing I found the promos for this TV show. Turns out this post is on the first page of the Google search for “Studio 60”, right below the link to the official site for the show. I was as good as my word and passed on the show last night because I truly don’t care. Whereas most people find Sorkin’s involvement a selling point, to me it is a hurdle to be overcome. I don’t want to listen to lots of rapid-fire bon mots and long impassioned monologues that are oh-so-clever and oh-so-cute. I got sick of that by the second season of the West Wing. People seem to like it and more power to them, but I opt out of this particular self-referential solipstistic exercise.

This all proves there is no justice. If I’m going to get this kind of traffic from Google, I wish it pertained to a subject I care about rather than this one, of which I am already sick.

You Can’t Skim Podcasts

I was listening to this panel on IT Conversations, and I heard Mena Trott repeat a canard that I’ve heard her say umpteen times on various ITC panels. Pretty much every time I ever hear her on a panel, she makes the statement “You can skim blogs but you can’t skim podcasts.” I’m just sick of this because it’s silly and it’s wrong and it’s annoying to hear this person that people pay attention to consistently spout this untruth.

For a little meta-irony I decided to skim the podcast by skipping the rest of her statement. Yes, friends, I did the impossible with the miracle of the — gasp — fast-forward button! That actually made the listening experience better, so for the rest of the panel every time she started to talk I fast forwarded until she was done. Yep, it sure does suck that you can’t skim podcasts. All you need to do is repeat that a few hundred more times, Mena, although I won’t hear it because I’ll be skimming you.

Rain Rain Go Away

It’s looking more like Ernesto is nothing to worry about. It’s been downgraded to a tropical depression and the latest wind speed probabilities have us at 40% of receiving 34 MPH winds, and 8% of 50 MPH. Hell, that’s an average day where I grew up in Kansas. I’m not quite officially standing down from this one, but I’m not terribly worried anymore.

EGC Clambake For August 29, 2006

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for August 29, 2006.

I decide on the spur of the moment to throw myself a second anniversary bash for this podcast (which began on August 20, 2004 – we start the party early around here, you frigging late-comers). I play the music of friends of the show – Paul Melancon, Rocket City Riot, Jonathan Coulton, the Gentle Readers, Steadman and Michelle Malone. I talk in the interstitial bits about life and love and loss, about why I podcast and why I care and who I care about and why we all need the little bits of joy we can scrape up in this shitty life we are in. Thanks for sticking with me, on to the next two years and beyond.

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Ernesto

That’s not a happy site. The probable line for Ernesto’s path is straight from Charleston to right about our area. If it takes that path, at least it will have weakened for 90 miles before it gets here. The worst case for us would be for it to go out to sea and strengthen, and then come ashore right here. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to be too terrible but one never knows. Buckle up, Florida and Georgia and the Carolinas!

Start Me Up

Here is a very interesting Linux project called upstart which aims to replace the way all processes are started and stopped on the system. This would supercede init, cron, inetd and anything that needs to control a running process based on criteria. Upstart would be event based, so that all of cron’s functionality is a special case of event, name “It is now 01:52 on Saturday” or “It is 10 minutes after any hour”. You’d configure upstart to start a process when that event happens, and away you go.

The exciting thing is that this fixes problems with initialization of a system, namely what happens if one of the filesystems isn’t available at boot time for some temporary reason – a slow hard drive that is still spinning up or a network drive that is temporarily unavailable. Interesting stuff, I’ll be following this closely.

Eggs and Baskets

Here’s an interesting story about a midsized company being held hostage by their credit card processing software vendor. What’s really interesting is their conclusions from the experience. A decade ago, companies were skeptical about dealing with open source software because they felt that having no company behind it exposed them to too much risk. The conclusion of this company was that using proprietary software that left them no alternatives was too much exposure, and that their desire is for an open source alternative to run their business.

It’s interesting the number of companies that are coming to make this decision, that worse comes to worst if they have the source to the software they can pay someone to work with it. When you buy a black box on someone else’s terms, you dance to their tune. Particularly when via mergers and acquisition the company you now have a relationship with is not the one you began with and maybe not the one you would have chosen, it sucks to play on their terms.

Open source is no panacea, but it is higher flexibility and there are certainly real world situations where the difference between having flexibility and not means staying in business or not.

(Very Late) Summer Reading

This year, I’ve read more books than any year in recent history. I’m forcing myself to spend less time dicking around online and more reading. I just finished The Long Tail and now I have a a new book. It is Ultimate Sacrifice: John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba, and the Murder of JFK by Lamar Waldron. I’ve known Lamar for pushing twenty years, since he was one of the first batch of writers I ever interviewed on the radio. When I met him, he was writing the Micra comic book and working on this crazy JFK book. That book has reached fruition finally. I’m 26 pages in and engrossed. I almost hate to stop reading and go to this reunion. That’s good since at 900 pages, this book is a doorstop that would beat up a Robert Jordan novel for its lunch money. It takes a little bit of resolve to even commit to picking this up and starting it, but it looks like that will be rewarded straightaway.

The premise of the book is right out there upfront, which is that the Mafia had JFK murdered. Why is related to a secret invasion plan the Kennedys had for Cuba, complete with an inside job palace coup murder of the Castro brothers. It should be noted that is isn’t fiction, it is a giant work of journalism with them digging through a huge amount of information that was already out there and some that has been declassified over the years. It promises to paint a cohesive picture of why so many investigations into the assassination hit a brick wall, mainly that you can’t get too deep into the truth without finding out about the secret Cuba plans and there were plenty of reasons to keep that secret. Man, there are going to be some late nights working on this book in the next week or three, I suspect.

Brad Sucks on Productivity

The title reads two ways, I mean it in the positive interpretation. Here is one of the most succinct summations of my feelings on productivity and creativity. I frequently talk about “putting your ass in the chair and doing the work.” Brad was talking about doing the groundwork for his next album when he dropped in this doozy:

And I know that for me there’s a dangerously thin line between absolute perfectionism and total laziness. Both result in not finishing anything. It’s in the middle where the magic happens.

Just so. SF writer Steven Barnes once said to me “perfectionism is procrastination disguised as quality control.” Given the choice, I’m always in favor of finishing flawed work rather than noodling infinitely on something that is asymptotically approaching perfect. To me, polishing one work indefinitely rather than finishing and moving on to something else is an implicit admission that you feel you only have one shell in the magazine. I’ve been accused of being an apologist for half-assery and hackery with this stance, but I believe one of the best senses to acquire is the sense of when you have hit the point of diminishing returns. When subsequent effort stops improving it, stop working on it and submit/publish/display/get rid of the goddamned thing and start working on the next one. This applies for writers, artists, filmmakers, podcasters, poets, custom furniture makers, craft brewers or any pursuit with the slightest aspect of creativity. Learn how to put your ass in the chair, but also learn how to stand back up. It is truly in the middle where the magic happens.

In the ATL

We’re in Atlanta for the weekend. Sorry friends that we aren’t getting in touch with. It’s always tough to come back here because we can book every possible second catching up with friends without seeing everyone. We’re here for a high school reunion, hanging out and seeing old friends (we’re reaching the age where you can read that phrase two ways.) Swoopy of Skepticality was kind enough to invite me to participate on the podcasting portion of the Dragon*Con panel and I really wanted me to do it but it just didn’t seem doable to make the trip two weekends in a row. Now that I’m here though, I kind of wish I had agreed. Oh well, there is always next year.

I was absolutely flabbergasted when we drove in yesterday, coming in from the east on I-20 and up 75/85 to 14th Street at 5 PM on a Friday without ever really getting in stop and go traffic. What has happened to this place? My first thought is that there must have been some kind of horrible pogrom that thinned out all of the shitty rubbernecking drivers that used to jam up every possible driving surface. Then we exited into Midtown and I found them. My faith in the consistency of the city has been restored.

Dinner with friends last night was good. It’s weird, but we had to think hard how to work the interstate. I couldn’t remember if you could get on to GA 400 if you get on I-85 from W. Peachtree, forgetting about the cutover at Sidney Marcus. Then we had to remember how to get to Sandy Springs down Glenridge. I’ve spent 11 years here at various times and yet when we come back driving is always tricky. I never fail to get where I want to go, but it may not be the optimal route or in the first attempt. I can see how the place would complete confound the out of towners who don’t grok at first that there’s a difference between say, West Peachtree and the west part of Peachtree.

During the visit we’ll go to the park where we used to walk Gracie. They raised money for renovations by selling bricks in the central part, and the one we bought has her name on it. I’ll Flicker a photo of it soon.

I’ve had a growing love/hate thing with this city for years. It’s a good place and I enjoy being here yet the last stint when we lived here, I couldn’t wait to leave by the end. As a city, it has a lot of problems and I think the Atlanta of 2006 is much less charming than the Atlanta of 1985 I found when I first came to college. Still, it is filled with memories for me and I can’t claim that I don’t have a good time when I’m here. I now think the best strategy is to visit more frequently and make sure to never ever live here again.

EGC Clambake For August 25, 2006

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for August 25, 2006.

I talk a little about the loss of my beloved dog, play some sad songs by K. McCarty, discuss Chris Anderson’s book The Long Tail and go back to my theme of why we all do this if we aren’t getting rich. I then play a song by Choose Your Own Adventure and return to my cave of despair.

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To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5.

Links mentioned in this episode:

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(Not) Getting Things Done

I couldn’t have known it at the time, but I picked about the worst time possible to begin my transformation to Getting Things Done. Because of the various crises in life lately, I haven’t really been doing the reviews regularly enough to meet the minimum needs of the system. When that part gets dropped, you end up with an elaborate way to collect together the things you will neglect into meaningfully ignored buckets. I’m going to try to keep the basics of the system from flying apart from centrifugal force while I limp along with this. The Hipster is still here, gathering data but it is desperately in need of a good chunk of review attention.

Lost Weekend

… or at least Sunday. Saturday was OK, but from 3 AM to midnight on Sunday I lay on the living room couch, alternately sweating and shivering. The only time I got up that whole time was to occasionally hurl. That’s what you call a bad day. I’m up and moving and making it to work, but I’m still shaky and moving slow. Expect light blogging and everything that is not essential systems for a few days.

Set it Off

Doc Searls has always been my favorite “A-list blogger.” Part of what I like about him so much is how uncomfortable he is with that tag. Famous people who love to be famous for its own sake have a strong tendency to be assholes, so I like my famous people to have a certain amount of reservations about it. In a recent post, Doc went off on Nick Carr about A-listiness. Preach on, Brother Searls!

It’s weird how people talk and write about the blogosphere (and by slight extension, the podosphere and vlogosphere and other other citizen media -osphere). There are basically two tones one can take. 1) Breathless euphoria about the burgeoning infotopia at hand (think, anything Christopher Lydon ever says on the subject.) 2) An odd mix of fear at the lack of hierarchy and/or assertion that the hierarchy is there and this is just like old media (think, every single story ever done by major news media about blogs, vlogs or podcats). My thinking puts reality square in the middle – blogging and podcasting are useful tools and have been positive forces in my life but let’s not get too crazy. They haven’t transformed my life into something different, they have added a little to what is already there. New media is not governed by the rules of old media, and despite how many lazy reporters assert that the goal of every blogger or podcaster is to get famous and millions of fans, it is a patent lie.

Big media says that because big media is projecting their goals on citizen media and cannot imagine anyone having goals that differ from theirs. That someone might sit down and record a podcast or write a blog regularly, have 120 listeners or readers and be completely content with that is mind-fryingly weird to them. They cannot mention it without condescension or derision because of their own failures of imagination and vision. Blogs and ‘casts scale up and down, and while big media understands scaling up they lose it when it comes to scaling down. If MSNBC was offered the chance to have their ratings cut to 25,000 viewers but be of so much relevance to those fewer viewers as to completely alter their lives to their wild betterment, they couldn’t do it. We can. Ponder that dynamic, big media, and when you begin to understand that then perhaps you are in position to write or tape your story. Unless and until then, shut the fuck up about citizen media because you fail to grasp the one insight that makes us all do what we do. When you do a story without grasping it you are really reporting about yourselves and your own fears, not us.

The New Normal

I don’t know that I’ll ever feel normal normal, but I’ve reached a sort of new equilibrium. It’s very sad doing the basics of life without Grace. For 15 years she’s been an intrinsic part of our lives, and for something like the last 7 or 8 she has received pills at 12 hourly intervals that marked the rhythm of our lives. Last night we went out to dinner straight from work, and farted around until almost 10 PM. Normally whatever our Friday night plans were, they always involved getting home to give a pill at 7 PM and let the dingo out into the yard. Staying out so late without returning home felt vaguely like a betrayal. It feels the same when I sleep past 7 AM, like I have let her down and been a bad doggie daddy. The past two weekends, when I wake up it is always with a jolt like I have slept past an obligation.

A week ago, I set myself into a crying jag when I was cooking and dropped a piece of diced tomato on the floor. I waited for her to come and snatch it up, and then remembered I’d have to pick it up myself and got sad all over again. There is this kind of ambient ache in my tear ducts from being used so much, and being triggered for so many different reasons. It’s hard to look at a picture, think about her, be in a situation where she was usually there (which is almost everything one might do), or look at the backyard where she is buried and not want to cry.

All that said, I think the pain has been isolated into a numbed pocket in which it will stay. Like arthritis or bursitis or any sort of chronic pain, it will never go away but I will be able to live around it.

Several people have suggested that we get another dog. That would be reasonable advice for most, but we aren’t going to do it. We’ve known for 10 years or more that whenever we lost Grace that would be it. She was the first and only dog we’ve ever had, we got her right near the beginning of our marriage and have had her almost our entire adult lives. Despite some rough puppy times, she was so sweet and so good for so long that we can’t imagine another dog living up to that nor would it be fair to bring in another with such baggage in the relationship from day one. We’ll have to deal with our loneliness and sadness all on our own. It will never be good, but it’s getting less bad.