44

April 17, 2013

Tradition continues…

40

April 17, 2009

Happy birthday to me. Variation on last year.

“Sing this with me…this is 40.”

Deliberate steps or just plain stallin’?

March 19, 2009

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flicker photo: Roberto_Garcia

Maybe I’m too close to it. Perhaps it’s a fear of failure. I’ve spent the last year working on this new gig, fairly preoccupied with learning more about instructional design, learning styles, neuro- and behavioral economics, and by no small stretch, bootstrapping and building a business. It’s intense, invigorating, and sometimes in the middle of the night, wholly overwhelming.

So when I’m up at night, scheming, brainstorming, hoping, and praying, I wonder: is all the work moving this thing forward, or is it a convenient impediment that disguises as progress?

What do you think? Got any advice?

No Line Horizon…no thanks.

March 2, 2009

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flickr photo: tammylo

I’ve been streaming the new album, No Line Horizon, from the U2 MySpace page in advance of the release tomorrow. I’ve been listening for a bit more than a week. It’s been heartbreaking.

This is one of the hardest posts I’ve written. I don’t know how else to process the jumble of emotions than through callow pith and…the unpleasant awakening at the end of any long standing relationship is never easy. Especially when you could see the end coming, but didn’t want to acknowledge it. I’m quite sure Bono, the Edge, Larry and Adam will never read this; no reason for them to, but I want to tell my side of the story.

Why? Why this?

I think I’ve fairly well documented my savage U2 fanaticism, but since Achtung Baby, the savagery has been marketly less ferocious. Dare I say that Achtung Baby was their last true adventure. I am conscious that my statements may amount to heresy coming from a U2 fan (for more than 28 years), but if truth cannot be spoken to those we love the most, then with whom can we share the truth?

Up to and including the release of Achtung Baby (minus the exception of the self-indulgent Rattle and Hum), each album was a fresh piece of artestry. Boy, October, War, Under a Blood Red Sky, Unforgettable Fire, Wide Awake in America and Joshua Tree scythed a path through the packaged crap commercial radio and MTV shoved at us. The live performances, like the ones captured on Under a Blood Red Sky, or Wide Awake in America displayed the quartet’s socially conscious center in stark contrast to the sacchrine infused commercial radio of the day. In 1985 when the world paused to notice a famine crisis, U2 towered over the lollipop gang of pop musicians at Live Aid and cemented their place in the hearts of many. It was a springboard to the Joshua Tree. The success of which nearly excuses the overindugent Rattle and Hum movie soundtrack. Nearly.

The first signs of trouble, Zooropa.

Since Zooropa, U2 has slogged in a creative sludge of uninspired sameness.  To be sure, there have been moments of unabashed genius, “Beautiful Day” for instance. But for each notable single, there is a doppledanger. “Beautiful Day’ spawned “Vertigo”, from How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. And for every album there is a fraternal twin Zooropa and Pop, All That You Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Now, if the pattern continues (dear Lord, U2 has become predictable) No Line Horizon can only mean there is more of the same to come.

I suppose I could go into more detail about the multiplicity of the albums and music, but it’s as uninteresting as the albums themselves. U2 stopped experimenting. Stopped growing. From Zooropa moving forward the four boys from Dublin put down their instruments and huddled together over a sequencer in a DJ booth. Please, cut the electronica crap.

So it was with absolute boyish exhuberance and reinvigorated pride I listened to the first track, “No Line Horizon.” Fresh, driving, building in the same vein as The Joshua Tree’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” without mimicry. The next song “Magnificent” took a u-turn to revisit some of the recent filler; I can’t even remember the names of the songs, but they have little for which to distinguish one from the other. You’ll know what I”m talking about when you hear it. And then No Line Horizon disintegrated.

The unspeakable horror

“Force quit/And move to trash” – “Unknown Caller,” No Line Horizon

Now, I call bullshit.

It is indefensible to use Apple OS user interface nomenclature as a lyric of a song. No defensible argument at all. They might as well start wearing hosery and singing Neil Peart lyrics from Rush’s A Farewell to Kings. Or Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance.”

Where is the “One?” Where is the “Stories for Boys?” Where is the “Electric Co?” Where is the passion? The committment? The experiment? The adventure?

That was then…

On April 19, 1981, U2 played at The Agora Music Hall (now the Newport Music Hall) on the Ohio State University Campus in Columbus, Ohio. The show was a stop on the Boy Tour – two days after my birthday. I was in junior high school. Most afternoons I would bike over to campus to the used record stores. I spent hours listening to crazy clerks ranting about comic books and crazy music. The only thing I wanted for my birthday was a ticket to the U2 show. Instead I wound up grounded for heatedly protesting the injustice.

In the years that followed “Bad (Live)” off Wide Awake in America was a personal salvation. I still have the holes in my ears from my sophomoric need to imitate Bono. To stand out. To be heard. To be understand and be understood.

This is now…

“Restart/And reboot yourself” – “Unknown Caller”

Really?

I spent about an hour with “Get On Your Boots.” Something nagged at me and it wasn’t the Led Zepplin “When the Levee Breaks” drum loop, it was something far more sinister that tickled my long dead memories of MTV dross.

I was knocked over when the song echoing in my vacuous skull drug up the 80s melody from Escape Club’s Wild Wild West. The crappy ass song in all it’s glory woven into the fabric of U2′s smash single. I can’t listen to it now.

Not for me. Not anymore.

For the first time since 1981, I’ll take a pass and not purchase the U2 release. I can only hope that U2 is intending to distribute the album similarly to Trent Reznor or Radiohead – either free or let the fan choose how much money to pay for the album.

I’ll admit my sentimental leanings; I’ll give ‘em the benefit of the doubt. I’ll Tivo David Letterman this week and pray that the stage show is more…nah, I have to accept it’s over and let the good times be what they were; good times, great songs.

28 years later.

Man, do I feel old.

Evernote killer app idea

March 1, 2009

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flickr photo: Gene Hunt

This past week I spent working with all my new Evernote notes. It occurred to me that Evernote would be exponentionally more useful for me if it had a mind-mapping plugin that allowed me to create visual relationships/correlations between separate tag groups and individual notes.

For the number of notes I take and make in an 8 hour period while at the Day Job, the ability to manipulate and arrange items would be far more efficient than the linear tag list.

So those are my two cents.

On a related note, I downloaded XMind, the open source mind-mapping utiltity. I’ve not installed it, but I’m eager to try it out. But not tonight; I’m deep into Daemon by Daniel Suarez. It’s completely stolen my attention today. I was carrying it around the house as I snuck pages while the kids played. I was a bad dad today.

G’night.

I’m in the money – unclaimed funds!

February 24, 2009

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flickr photo: peasap

While tying up loose ends regarding my grandparents’ estate, my uncle ran an unclaimed funds search and my name showed up. I got a call Saturday afternoon while walking to the library with my son. I hopped on line when we got home. Turns out Washington State has a web site that makes claiming your unclaimed funds really simple.

The fun/mysterious part are the categories for unclaimed amounts. They’re either under or over $100. Mine was over $100. How much more is the exciting part. From what J and I can figure, it has something to do with our old house in (South) West Seattle. I sent along a copy of our old deed, at least I think it was the deed.

Now if the universe was going to send me a sweet goodie, it would be really handy if the amount coming was in the thousands of dollars. That would go a long way with our New Gig bootstrapping costs.

Here’s to good universe mojo.

Oh, and Happy Mardi Gras.

The talking bits before presenting the Oscars were weird…

February 22, 2009

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flickr photo: xero79

Hi. We turned on the Acadamy Awards just as they were announcing the Best Supporting Actress. The five grand dames of film, past Best Supporting Actress winners, on stage presenting the nominees. Paired, as it were, past winner lauding present nominee. For some, it may have been touching. For me, it was stilted and awkward. Later, for the Best Actor, Adrian Brody presented that actor you’d recognize, but couldn’t name. And Anthony Hopkins appeared awkward, intoxicated (and not by the moment) while presenting Brad Pitt. Very strange; appropriately Micky Rourke -ish.

I missed the recap of the performance. I hope they bring that back next year.

Goodnight.

The joys of Evernote – user review

February 22, 2009

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If you’re like me, you appreciate an independent third-party review of a product or service before making a purchase. And if you’re like me, migrating from Google Notebook, rest easy knowing that once you’ve deciphered the Google Notebook Atom import process – even available with the free version – you’re going to be pretty stinking happy.

This is my second go with Evernote. I dabbled with the application three or four years ago, prior to it’s ability to synchronize across multiple workstations. It was a pretty cool little note taking app back then, easy to learn and use, but I abandoned it in favor of Google Notebook. Google Notebook offered the one feature the old Evernote lacked, a centralized repository for notes. Now, with the new cloud synchronization, Evernote is everything I wanted. I have five computers synchronized, and you can access your information from anywhere with an internet connection by logging into the Evernote website.

I’ve got to admit, I’m a pretty basic Evernote user. I don’t synchronize with a mobile device. My guess is if I were a mobile device fanatic, there is a whole world of Evernote features I would have another bundle of praise. Maybe someday.

evernote_notebook_list

As for the migration from Google Notebook to Evernote, there is a handy little walkthrough that takes you step by step from Google Notebook export to Evernote import. One of the terriffic shortcomings I discovered with Google Notebook was the inability to easily access early entries.

With Google Notebook, tagging items or entries was – for me – not second nature. I had thousands of notes that were not indexed. With Evernote, I was very diligent right from the start. And here’s the bummer. When I imported all my Google Notebooks, they are just as unindexed as they were before. So, I’m back in the tagging hole. That was a disappointment, and I’ve noticed that my tagging since has not been as diligent. I hope to regain my form.

evernote_popupEvernote makes tagging easy. With every note entered, a tag dialogue pop up appears. It’s not terribly conspicuous, nor does it linger until you act.

If you don’t tag, you can always add tags later (which is the process I’m staggering through in the evenings while the television is on). Be careful with your taxonomy, it can get away from you. One tip: if you are tagging at a time after adding the entry to your overall index, use the pop up dialogue box, rather than the comma separated entry field. The comma separated field doesn’t auto-complete tags – so you can have a very similar tag , for instance “list” and “lists” without any indication of the duplication. It’s not a big whoop, but a bit of annoyance. So when tagging, use the “ctrl+shift+t” key combination to open the tag dialogue box.

At this point, Evernote does not have a spellchecker, so if you’re whipping off a quick note for later, such as a note for a blog post, be sure to check the spelling independently to save yourself any undue misspelling embarrassment.

One last thing, and this may be user-error, but I have not found (and to be fair I haven’t really looked), the setting for requiring login at startup. Why is this important to me? Well, I love me the Evernote so much, I have installed it on my machine at the Day Job. I’d really like to set Evernote to keep non-Pete eyes from digging through my notes if they fired up my machine. I’ll check into that.

After using Evernote for four months, I made the switch to the paid version. I upgraded when I imported my Google Notebooks to be sure I had enough space. For $45 a year, I think it’s a great deal for a terriffic app – even if I never come close to using my monthly alotment.

So, feel comfortable using Evernote. The free version is wildly feature rich and offers a remarkable amount of space to collect your thoughts, ideas, inspirations, annoyances, and just about anything else you want to keep nearby.

A inaugral event: the family meeting

February 15, 2009

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flikr photo: sara.atkins

As you may have assertained, we tried something new tonight, the family meeting. It’s something J had known about from her teaching days in Seattle. I was introduced to the concept during my Alfie Kohn parent-license classes. It goes a little something like this: After dinner we each got a little Haagan Daas vanilla ice cream cup – perfect size for our son, 3, and daughter, 5 – just enough enticement to get ‘em to/keep ‘em at the table. We introduced the concept to the kids, and lickety split we were off to the family meeting races. They did great. J even better. She mind-mapped the brief meeting. It was a last minute addition, and I think it was a really good idea. The mind-map becomes the minutes from our meeting that even our kids, F & R, can comprehend. Family meeting minutes? Seriously? It sounds way more regimented than it should or than it is. It was neat to document the conversation, calling ‘em minutes was my label.

The whole thing lasted about 5-7 minutes; a solid first family meeting. I’ll scan the mind-map and post it for reference.

Good night.

Inevitable Detours: Life and the Pursuit of Happiness

February 14, 2009

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flickr photo: alisdair

Hi. Welcome back.

Hopefully, the past year has been good to you and yours. In light of the recent emotional-political-economic roller coaster, I offer a toast: May there be more good days than bad days ahead, and may we learn at least a little something from both.

Yup, I haven’t worked on Strain in a year. About the time the first draft trickled to an end, I got caught up in some new research. It’s Alfie Kohn’s fault. See, I identified some crossover between my attempt to be a better, less-overwhelmed, more-understanding dad and the underlying motivations found in neuroeconomic/behavioral economic marketing. There are some striking similarities between the two approaches towards understanding behavior and influence. But that’s an ENTIRELY different blog. Let’s leave it by saying I was consumed; still am, but now that I’m out of the immersion, I’m ready to get back to a balanced post-office hours evening filled with kids, darling wife, a little Strain, and a little of the new gig.

The New Gig

While we’ve been able to get by on my income alone, it sure would be nice to have a second source of income. For a while now, J’s been talking about going back to teaching. She loves teaching and helping students, but the idea of returning to a school setting was less than motivational: classroom management, school politics, and hours and hours of paperwork at home.

J is passionate about teaching kids. And big on one-one-one, or individualized, instruction being a key to a student’s education and growth. We talked about her working as a tutor and kicked around some other ideas, but nothing really sang the sweet song she wanted to hear. Then it occurred to me: I write interactive tutorials, demonstrations, web seminars, speeches, you name it. I’ve written close to 600 of ‘em for our clients over the last four years…(Is this beginning to sound like her elevator speech? Because if it is, and it’s good, she’ll start using it.)…why not write interactive tutorials for students?

And her little business was born. I’m part of her little team of bootstrappers.

The idea is this: the fundamentals of education are still the same: 2+2, i before e, except after c, etc. Common technological advances make available alternative (supplemental) methods of delivery. So, she’s developing a dynamic learning environment that helps students identify their individual learning style, create multidisciplinary (science, math, reading comprehension) lessons, and adapts the content delivery to the student’s learning style. The dynamic environment monitors the student’s progress and adapts to their skill level, while providing a setting that encourages students to take chances without the fear of failure or embarrassment of being ‘wrong’ in front of their peers. (Notice a subtle crossover with neuroeconomics/behavioral economics? I certainly did.)

J leads the enormous task of developing the curriculum, I’m the typing monkey, and we’ll gather together her team of smart designers, animators, and developers to help us build the thing.

We’re working nights and weekends. It’s exhausting and exciting, and we’re flying by the seats of our pants. We’ve been having a wonderful time working together. I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.

So, I’m starting this new phase of the book nice and clean. We’ll talk about that next time.


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