Head Trauma

I’ve had the worst headache since early this morning. I’ve heard enough horror stories from people who have real migraines to know that I don’t have that, but that’s fine with me because what I do have is plenty.

It was bad enough to keep waking me up and then immediately make me want to go back to sleep. Which I did, several times. I’ve been sick to my stomach all day, it’s been near-impossible to concentrate on anything, and off-and-on it’s been hard to visually focus on anything. All taking a pill does is degrade it to a dull throbbing pain for an hour or two. Complaining about it helps, though.

Speaking of complaining: I’ve got to spend another whole week in LA. I’m still not a fan, but my trips down there have been relatively productive recently, so I guess it’s a necessary evil. But my easy travel karma has expired, apparently, because for this trip I’ve got to fly through LAX instead of Burbank. I’ve only been in that airport once, when I missed my flight back to SFO from London and had to re-route there instead. The airport itself isn’t so bad, it’s just not as small and convenient as Burbank’s is. And of course, the drive from LAX to Glendale is a stone drag.

Because I haven’t made use of my Annual Pass and it’s going to expire before too long, I arranged to spend an extra day down there and go to Disneyland. It’s definitely not as much fun when you go by yourself, and there’s not much new going on, although I see the Monsters, Inc. ride is now up and running. And when I’m paying for my own hotel & rental car, instead of working it into an existing business trip, the accomodations go down a couple of stars. Still, it’s Disneyland, and it’s something different to do, and I do want to see the Pirates of the Caribbean one last time before they change it to fit the movie.

News from the Bunker

Making my own kind of musicOkay, my sleep disorder thing has gone from being quirky irresponsibility to being really, really, really annoying. What set off the latest round was my decision at around 10pm the other night to rewrite what I’d been doing for work. And all the problems from that kept me up to the wee hours. It only takes a little bit to upset the balance, which means I’ve been up past 6am the past couple days, sleeping into the late afternoon, and feeling generally creepy and disconnected.

I wasted a big chunk of time this afternoon writing a post on SFist about that congressional hearing on internet business in China. I first read the transcript of the hearing around 8 this morning, and it got me filled with righteous indignation that lasted until I fell asleep. By the time I woke up, I felt obliged to write something about it even though I don’t care that much about it anymore.

Now I’ve finally got my work back to a functional state, I can finish adding the stuff I need to add, hopefully without introducing a whole nother mess of problems. What sucks is that I’ve only got myself to blame; I’m not over-worked by any stretch of the imagination, and I have a perfectly reasonable set of things to have accomplished. It’s because of my poor time-management and tendency to over-engineer everything that’s got me to this state.

Now it’s up to Tylenol PM to get me out of this state. And as I slip off into pharmaceutically induced slumber, I can dream of a world in which I go into work, have a list of things to do, and finish them without my ADD kicking in or my usual tendency to over-complicate everything. And I fly the Millennium Falcon.

180 on the 360

Blurry KlingonAnother inconsequential post on SFist, this time about the rumored video iPod with a bigger screen that, like me, is touch sensitive.

And still I can’t work up much of a reaction other than “meh.” Either I’m getting more mature (plastic guitars notwithstanding) or I’ve just reached consumer electronics saturation what with all the handheld videogame players and MP3 players and phones and such. They don’t seem all that impressive anymore. Now, when they come out with one that plays video and more MP3s than will fit on a memory stick and gives directions and keeps notes and works as a phone, then get back to me. That’s what I’m missing from the Treo — it was kind of a lousy phone, but I liked always having access to maps and a notepad.

In other news, the Microsoft guy is saying that the Xbox 360 shortage is coming to an end within the next “four to six weeks,” and they’ll be readily available. Much to the dismay of ebay price-gougers. And me, since the news (along with the speculation that the PS3 won’t be out until September) re-sparked my interest in the damn thing. I still don’t play console games that often anymore (plastic guitars notwithstanding) and nothing’s really changed to make me want one. I can only guess it’s a subconscious reaction to a story I read a couple of days ago about this group of rabid recyclers who were pledging to buy nothing new in 2006 except for food and medical necessities. The thought of going a whole year without buying things I don’t need fills me with horror and dread.

Which reminds me: what I do need is a new camera. I’ve been to four conventions and other indoor-type events now, and half the pictures I get are worthless because they’re too dark and/or blurry. Either this camera sucks, or I’m developing Parkinsons Disease. Even the ones I take in daylight come out either too grainy or the colors are a lot more muted than I’d like to see. I realize that there are ISO and shutter-speed settings I could use to account for it, but my last camera (same Sony Cybershot line, just lower resolution) worked perfectly as a point-and-click. It was hard to take a bad picture with that one, and it was smaller and a lot more convenient.

If anybody has digital camera recommendations, I’d like to hear them.

Eat Well

Toast, Break, and EatI was all excited at the prospect of Lego Eggo Waffles — how could any sane person not be — but in reality, they’re kind of disappointing. It’s as if they were so proud of coming up with the idea (even though pretty much every kid in America came up with the idea years ago) that they didn’t follow through on the execution.

They’re not very construction-worthy. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say they’re not any more suitable for building things than traditional waffles.

I’ll admit that I was hungry, and therefore didn’t really attempt any project more sophisticated than stacking two of them on top of each other and then eating them. So it’s possible that my hunger was distracting me from the educational fun potential of these things. But for now I’ll just voice my disappointment that these are nothing more than waffles with bumps on the top. It’s almost as if it’s nothing more than some cheap marketing gimmick.

I still want to try combining them with my Lego Mindstorms kit to make a Wafflebot, but only after I’ve figured out how to hook up a voice box to it. You can’t have a Wafflebot without its shambling up to people and pleading “Kill… me…”

Speaking of wrath-filled mechanical hybrid monsters, I wrote a review of Yokai Daisenso for SFist yesterday. Short version: it was pretty cool, but not mind-blowing. More of a lightweight comedy than anything else. And just in time, the Obakemono project added an entry for the Azukiarai that featured prominently in the movie.

Better Living Through Capitalism

Damn homo liberals!I’ve got two posts up on SFist this week, one about an iTunes promotion and the other advertising the WonderCon. Which means that in just a few short months I’ve gone from any pretense of thoughtful opinion and commentary on tech stories, to being a shameless corporate shill.

As I find myself working for big corporations, and more and more often defending other big corporations online, I have to live in constant fear that I’m turning Republican. At the moment, I believe I’m still safe.

My friend and ex-college roommate John found this website recently and commented he’d read the archives, which prompted me to read the archives, where I discovered a couple of things:

  1. I can be a really whiny little bitch.
  2. I’ve been remarkably lucky to get the jobs I’ve gotten.
  3. My last job was really unhealthy.

At the time, I wrote it off as sacrifices you have to make for the sake of working for a big corporation that gets the A-list titles the proper amount of exposure, and it’s the price you pay for working for something that you feel passionately invested in. Well, I’m working for another big multinational entertainment consortium at the moment, and I’m on a project that I’m emotionally invested in, and I’m making enough money to live comfortably. And it’s like night and day.

There are still hassles and frustrations and overtime, and the bonus of working from home has the concession of having no solid structure, no benefits, and no social network. This is about as close to a “perfect” job as I’m ever going to get, and it’s still not perfect because there’s no such thing. But it’s a billion times better, because there’s none of the debilitating stress episodes. Where you’re sitting in the dark at four in the morning and the walls are caving in and you’re wondering what it all means. Or, as the HR department liked to call it, “work/life balance.”

I haven’t really hit on any big epiphany yet, other than I really think it’s possible to have a job that’s rewarding and doesn’t totally consume your life. If I knew what it was, exactly, then I’d be able to write self-help books and leave this weblog bullshit to the amateurs.

Mokuyoubi

Today there’s an SFist post about Google China and how it, apparently, proves that Google has gone from being hero to millions to as corrupt and evil a mega-corporation as :spit: Disney! Ah well, I hope I’ll be able to sleep at night knowing that every web search I do makes me complicit in tyranny.

Since I still don’t have a “links” section working, let’s spin the big wheel of Thursday topics I could talk about to pad out the rest of this post:

We have a winner!

My favorite blog of the moment is called Drawn! The Illustration Blog, because it’s all over the place. I would’ve expected that art-viewable-on-the-internets would consist of about a million webcomics and then the occasional portfolio, but this one shows how much creativity and variety there is out there.

The coolest bit, to me, is how frequently you’ll see people in the visual arts who’re willing to show you how it’s done. Like Olduvai George’s step-by-step demonstration of how he draws a mammoth. There’s still no chance of most of us making something like this painting (yeah, it’s a painting; I would’ve sworn it was an Ansel Adams photograph), but it takes a little bit of the mystery out of it.

Sugar Frosted Goodness is like an artists’ jam session. I’ve been trying to follow the work of this guy, Drew Weing (from Savannah!) ever since he did an Achewood guest comic, and his latest stuff just looks great. The “Copper” tutorial is another step-by-step demonstration, this one of a webcomic. Plan 59 (formerly Ephemera Now) collects “commercial art of mid-century America,” and I’m still trying to decide which ones I want to buy and hang up over my couch.

And of course there’s Illustration Friday, which Jeff contributes to. He wins because of this drawing of Solomon Grundy.

Writing Too Much About iWeb

NetNewsWire ScreenshotThere’s a new post on SFist wherein I talk about how iWeb isn’t as cool as HyperCard.

And talk, and talk, and talk — I blame ecto. I liked it enough to pay for it, and now it means I don’t have to use web browser editors for my crucial blogging endeavors. Which means I’ve got even less restrictions on my natural inclination towards long-windedness. It turns out that living in fear of accidentally hitting the back button and losing everything was the only thing helping me towards succinctness.

My other discovery yesterday was RSS readers. I knew of them, of course; I’m not that far out of the loop. But I thought Safari was plenty sufficient — it tells you what sites have been updated, and then you can click on the links to see the full thing as it was intended to be presented.

After trying out the dedicated readers, though, I’m hooked. It actually makes what is essentially a time-wasting activity more efficient. You only see what’s updated, and it checks every site you’re interested in. I decided on NetNewsWire, but PulpFiction was almost as good. The only reason I didn’t choose that one is because it looks too much like Mail, which feels like work. NetNewsWire straddles the line between web browsing and efficiency, plus it just looks better.

This isn’t all just unfocused rambling, for once: the topics actually have something to do with each other. When I was setting up the different news readers, I could check out all the content from websites without ever visiting the page itself; some of the sites I’d never even heard of before. It only took a few minutes to come up with a NetNewsWire theme that I liked better than any of the defaults, and better than most of the source pages (including my own).

Which raises the question: does all the attention to CSS and webpage design even matter all that much anymore? Artistically-challenged people like myself should be excited at a world where substance is more important than style, and poor graphic design skillz aren’t a barrier to entry. But it’s kind of disappointing, too — there’s always the potential for a full website to have more functionality than a simple newsfeed, but I like the idea of a site’s just being attractive enough that you’re encouraged to see it, just for looks.

iWeb is on the other end of the spectrum from RSS feeds. It’s all about presentation, and the back-end support is pretty weak. It’s not even featured enough for a blog as simple as this one. But it makes it relatively easy to make a page that’s pretty damn slick; I imagine that people more artistically inclined could do really nice stuff with it. I just wonder if it’s doomed to irrelevance. Do people even care how a website looks anymore? Livejournal is one of the most popular blogging engines out there, and I’ve never seen a livejournal entry that didn’t look like ass.

I never thought I’d be arguing for style over substance, but there it is: I want the intarweb to look better. And before anyone points out that charity begins at home: I’m working on it.

So Much For My Pulitzer

MacBook ProYesterday’s post on SFist was about the MacWorld Expo. I only got to see it one day, because I’m in LA for business the rest of the week, but I think one day was plenty.

I actually got up early enough yesterday to make the morning keynote address, but I’d assumed that my exhibits-only pass wouldn’t give me access. I didn’t bother verifying that the thing was open to all attendees until yesterday morning around 8, and by that time, it was already too late. When I got to the Moscone Center, there were hundreds if not thousands of people lined up outside the building trying to get in for the keynote. (According to reports on the web, I didn’t miss much. It’s all on video from Apple’s site anyway, but I would’ve liked to see the crowd reaction to having Their Lord And Master in the same room as them).

So instead I had breakfast at Mel’s and then dicked around at the Metreon until the exhibit hall opened. I was very tempted to get Guitar Hero for the PS2, but some unseen calming force convinced me that it would be an even bigger waste of money than what I’m used to. Instead I just hung out at the Sony Style store and watched the video to La Tortura by Shakira and Alejandro Sanz that they had running on a constant loop. I watched it about five times and let me just say: daaaaaammmn. They’re both astoundingly hot. (And I like the song, too).

Anyway, the show was okay but kind of a disappointment. Not just because the new Apple stuff wasn’t all that spectacular, but because like I said in the article, I was hoping to see more of the Apple Thuggee Cult. The people were kind of clap-happy, but not to a particularly embarrassing degree; I’m guessing (and hoping) that most of that went on during Jobs’ presentation. The new iMac and not-Powerbook-anymore are impressive, sure, but there’s not the same kind of holy-shit-I-have-to-buy-that-right-now compulsion to them like there is with the new iPods.

But I admit I did buy the new iLife as soon as I got home. It was pretty standard stuff, there Apple goes again charging almost 100 bucks for a point upgrade, until they got to the iWeb demo. It does exactly the kind of stuff I’ve wished a million times over the year that somebody had already written. I’m sure that there are going to be all kinds of limitations with it that are only going to become apparent after I’ve played with it a while, but it made a great first impression.

Of course, GarageBand made a great first impression as well, and I used it for about a week and then never touched it again. But that was before I could make a podcast! Actually, I’ve got to say that the podcasting stuff in GB was the next most impressive part of the demo. I’m about as un-interested in podcasting as anybody (at least anybody self-absorbed enough to have an internet blog), but the support they have in there is pretty neat. For instance: if you set up a vocal track and a background music track, it automatically fades out the background music as soon as the voice starts, all NPR style.

Not at CES

That last post turned out to be all about “Arrested Development,” so I guess this is the one that’s posting just for the sake of posting.

I made a post at SFist yesterday about all the rumors around a Google PC. The story itself is kind of lame — even the rumor sites were saying that it was unlikely, and by the time I got home to write the post, the rumor had already been officially denied.

But what was more interesting to me was the whole “meta-story,” how the thing got so wide-spread so quickly, even though there was really nothing to it. As far as tech rumors go, it was actually kind of approaching compelling. It was a wacky idea (not only a line of cheap PCs, but they’d be writing their own operating system!) that had a little bit of validity because it was printed in the LA Times. And it had the whole “black fiber” angle that I still don’t quite understand but puts an X-Files spin on the whole thing. It’s just amazing to me what a phenomenon the company’s become; Google is building a public perception kind of like NASA’s during the space race. Or seeing as how it’s trading at over $400 a share these days, maybe it’s more like the Tyrell Corporation or SKYNet or Arvin Sloane’s OmniFam.

So I keep hearing stuff coming out of CES, but none of it’s really sticking as particularly interesting. I’m curious to see how Windows Vista looks; I keep seeing articles mentioning that MS is demoing it at the show, but nothing with real details. This eBook reader mentioned on Gizmodo looks pretty cool, and I’ve always liked the idea but don’t think I’d want to be an early adopter of the technology unless it gets a lot cheaper; both for the device itself and the content. Especially since the thing doesn’t have a backlight; what’s the point of an electronic book that you can’t read in bed?

Next week I’m going to be at the MacWorld Expo for at least one day. Maybe that’ll get me all geared up to be Geek Republican again, spending way too much money on disposable electronics and consumerism. At the moment, I’m worried that something’s wrong with me — I’ve got gift certificates for the Best Buy but when I went to the store Tuesday there was nothing I wanted!

Two Thousand Six

Only five more years until VH-1’s “I Love the 00’s”! I can’t wait to hear what wacky things the irrepressible Hal Sparks and Michael Ian Black have to say about iPods!

I spent New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas! For a couple of hours, on a layover from my flight. But that’s still cool! And my luggage is still enjoying Vegas, because it didn’t make it to San Francisco! Totally awesome! Damn I’ll be happy when I never have to fly again!

Other than that, New Year’s was fairly low-key but fun. Mac and I were playing Trivial Pursuit with a bunch of his friends, and we were of course failing to get any of the answers in the sports and games questions. Until the crucial moment when we needed the final Sports category piece, and the question was to identify a 20-sided die. If that’s not an omen of good luck in the coming year, I don’t know what is.

I made out pretty good with the Christmas loot, too: a Wallace and Gromit art book, a MST3K DVD collection (times two), Serenity, “The Clone Wars” on DVD, a book and CD on how to play the banjo, and gift certificates to iTunes and Best Buy. I also got some martini glasses from Club 33, and a Voice-Activated R2-D2 robot to fight it out against the Roomba. And when my luggage finally gets delivered, and my repaired hard drive comes back in the mail, it’ll be like Christmas all over again!

I think I’m supposed to put New Year’s Resolutions here or something, but I’ve already smoked half a pack of cigarettes, ate about a pound of brownies, and slept in until 2pm on January 1st, so they’re pretty much all broken.