Congratulations to Tim and Angela

2008-08-31 Boutineer
I spent Sunday at a wedding in Hurst, TX. And Monday morning I hope to fly out before Gustav start disrupting DFW traffic.

The wedding was fairly small and everyone seemed to have a good time. Or at least they managed to laugh at the jokes in my Best Man toast, which is all that really matters. And no, I didn't throw the groom under the bus. I don't quite understand why people do that.

The happy couple looked good. And happy. The little kids carrying the rings and flowers did their jobs flawlessly.

I did manage to catch the garter, if by catch, you mean "have it hit my chest and drop on to my shoes where I picked it up."

The single women there seemed just as excited by the prospect of catching the bouquet.

But tasty food, good people, a happy couple -- what more could you ask for? It was good day.

2008-08-31 Garter


X-Men 3 audio commentary of an audio commentary

The newest Play Cole audio commentary is now available here.

Prior to directing the third X-Men movie, Brett Ratner's credits included Rush Hour, Mariah #1s, and Madonna: The Video Collection. Thus he was well prepared to direct this superhero blockbuster.

In this Play Cole Podcast, Jon Clarke, Mike Drucker, Mark Normand, Alex Grubard and Billy the Kid watch Brett Ratner go through Bryan Singer's X-Men franchise with a fine-tooth pickaxe.

You know it's a flashback when Patrick Stewart has creepily smooth skin.
For the full Play Cole experience, listen to this pod casts while watching the director's commentary on X-Men 3.

Language me be NSFW.

You can download the file here or you can stream it here. I'm not on this one, but it sounds like they had a lot of fun.

You can find more Play Cole podcasts here.


One of the advantages of being a guy is easily finding clothes that fit off the rack. My GF is still shocked that I can walk in to a store, locate my size, make my purchase and walk out before she has even begun to decode the random numbers that seem to apply to the sizes on women's clothes.

I am not a fan of the straight pins, however. Men's dress shirts often come with a seemingly random number of straight pins in them. I always seem to find all but one. That last one might surprise me in the washing machine, or it might surprise me in the back. Regardless, is it alway lurking there.

If I do manage to find it quickly, it's not done. It will jump out of my hand and hide in the carpet. Then it will wait. And plan it's next attack.

2008-08-29 straight pins

So I was thrilled when I got home with my latest haul of Eddie Bauer dress shirts last week. Instead of the stunningly simple, lightweight, and sinister straight pins, my shirts were held together with these new fangled paper clips.

2008-08-29 Eddie Bauer Pins

Fancy, huh? They were easy to remove, hard to miss, and they didn't even try to sting me. I think these clips might actually like me.

Unless they're planning a late night choking.


The Legend of Neal

This series on Atom Films is surprising funny.

A guy gets drunk and nods off in front of his TV. When he wakes up, his is in the well known Nintendo video game, The Legend of Zelda.

It's a live action comedy. Each segment runs about five minutes.

The first segment is below; you can find the others here.

Content and language may make it NSFW.


Online Kaleidoscope

This is a pretty cool Kaleidoscope maker. Draw in the big box and watch your creation in the little box. It's surprisingly fascinating.

Online Kaleidoscope -- http://www.zefrank.com/dtoy_vs_byokal/

I stumbled across this link using StumpleUpon. You can find my other Stumbles here.


Weird Al at the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe, WA

It was wet. Very wet.

Last week, my GF and I saw Radiohead at the White River Amphitheater. This week, we basically did the opposite.

On Tuesday night, my GF and I went to the Weird Al concert at the state fair. Al puts on a great show.

The show is mostly newer material (from the last 15 years). The only songs he did form the early 80s were "Yoda" (to the tune of Lola) and the classic "Eat It" (to the tune of Beat it). I would like to have heard more stuff from that era. It has such classics as "Dare to Be Stupid," "Like a Surgeon," "Nature Trail to Hell," and "One More Minute," but it is just a two hour show.

Every few songs Al would take a few moments off and show clips from Al TV, where he "interviews" celebrities and edits in their responses from other interviews. The clips were often hysterical, but I didn't go to a concert to watch video. I would have preferred more live Al time on stage.

At the same time, he did need to take the breaks because he must have done about 10 costume changes. The way he adjusted not only his look, but the look of the band, throughout the show was impressive.

This was a highly geeky show. Which makes perfect sense since this tour is really the "White and Nerdy" tour (yes, I did get the White and Nerdy hoodie). How geeky was it?

During "The Saga Begins" he had 8-10 Storm Troopers on stage (two of them appeared to be scout troopers) and the band it self was dressed up as Jedi. There was also a Darth Vader on stage. The storm troopers adopted action poses. It was awesome.

The crowd naturally went wild when Al rolled out on stage for "White and Nerdy" on his pimped out Segway. Because it's a Seattle crowd, they also went wild for "Smells Like Nirvana". "Amish Paradise" and "All About the Pentiums" were also big hits.

For an encore, Al did "Albuquerque."

So it was a good show.

I would have like to see Al interacting with the audience more. That may be tough with all the costume changes, but it would definitely have improved the show. As it was, Al didn't really connect with the audience. He did a great job performing for us, but it was more like musical theater than a show the audience can be part of.

He didn't talk to the audience between songs like I would have expected. There was little about it that screamed "This is a live show!" When I saw Billy Joel in a significantly larger arena in Vegas there was more interaction.

At this show in particular, that would have been more important. I mentioned earlier that it was wet.

The show began at 8:00 PM. The rain began at 7:15 PM. It started as a drizzle, and then grew. Did I mention this was an out door show? All but the cheapest seats were in the open. The rain came down, and people stayed for the show. They sang along. They clapped. We were all soaked to the skin after 2.5 hours in the rain.

I'm not blaming Al for the weather. And at the end, he did thank the fans for sitting in the rain for the show. And, sure, he mentioned Monroe, WA a couple times, but there was very little of that. He can be a great story teller, but he didn't do that.

A great concert isn't just about the songs; it's about the context the artist puts them in. It's about the stories the artist tells. It's about the way they not only perform the music but present it.

And at this show, there was just too much of a fourth wall in place.

I'm sure the crowd wasn't quite what Al would have liked either. We weren't as rowdy and exuberant as some of the shows he's done, I'm sure. Then again, we were cold and wet, and getting colder and wetter by the minute, and yet we stayed. And we sang. And we had a great time.

In summary, I would like to see some of the older material, and I would like Al to talk to the crowd more. I'd like him to spend less time showing videos. But it was still a good show, and I would definitely go again (probably with a poncho).

And the traffic situation was a hell of a lot better than the mess that was Radio at the Whiteriver Amphitheater.

If you are a fan or close personal friend of Al, go to the show. Enjoy the songs and sing along with them. And celebrate your nerdiness.

And the next time he comes to Seattle, I'll be there, too -- rain or shine.


What font are you?

You Are Comic Sans

You are a nothing but a big goofball. You're quite playful and fun!

You're widely known for your zany personality and your vivacious attitude.

To say that you stand out in a crowd would be a definite understatement.

Remember that you are overwhelming at times and that people appreciate you best in small doses.

Does mean I should start posting in Comic San?

A big goofball? I don't know. I've always thought I blend into the background until it's time for me to stand out. I like to think of myself as one of those quiet weird one, who shocks you once he gets on the stage. But tomorrow I'll probably feel differently about this.

So what font are you?


Hiring Tips in the Seattle PI

In a recent column in the Seattle PI, Maureen Moriarity offers 10 common mistakes when hiring people.
Many green managers simply don't prepare or spend enough time on the hiring process.

They often succumb to the short-term pressures of "needing to get someone in the chair" right away versus taking the time to determine what skills, talents and abilities they need and then finding the "right fit."

Seasoned managers, on the other hand, know the pain and cost firsthand of a bad hire (experts estimate that it can cost two to three times an employee's salary to rehire someone).


One thing I would state a little more strongly is the importance of not hiring.

When reviewing candidates it's important to be positive, but it's more important avoid hiring the wrong person. When looking at candidates, give them the opportunity to show and explain how they can meet your needs and do the job. In doing so, look for all the reasons you shouldn't hire them.

If the reasons are serious enough, pass on the candidate. It may seem harsh, but a good manager must avoid a bad hire.

Hiring the wrong person means:

  1. The work you are hiring to get completed will not be completed well.
  2. You will have to spend excessive amounts of valuable time correcting the person.
  3. You may have to spend more time in the disciplinary process than you want.
  4. You may need to rehire that position again, soon, and start the interview process from scratch.
  5. A bad hire can cost you head count if you have to fire them at a time of corporate layoffs.
  6. A bad performer will make your effective performers have to work harder to pick up the slack.
  7. A bad performer will have a negative impact on morale and encourage your star performers to seek greener pastures. After all, who wants to work with poor performers?

A bad hire is never worth a short hiring process. Spend the time and find the right person. It will be worth it in the long term.


Mt. St. Helen's is great on a sunny day

Note: Click the images below for larger versions, or see them all here.

In May of 1980, my father worked for AT&T. This was in the early days of transmitting news photos across the country electronically. It may have been part of the wire service; I'm not sure.

In the middle of the month, he began bringing home pictures of some mountain in Southern Washington, that was about to rock the world. Those 8 x 10s showed the early stages of the infamous Mt. St. Helen's eruption.

A few days after the volcano erupted on 1980-05-18, we put a piece of white styrofoam, half covered in plastic wrap, on the back patio. Gradually ash from the volcano accumulated on that little tray in New York City.

(I guess it's possible that was regular NYC soot and not actual volcanic ash, but the ash cloud did circle the world so I'm sticking with the idea it was ash.)

I've posted aerial pictures of the volcano in the past (here and here), but on Friday we actually got to see it from the ground. It really is an amazing spectacle.

The weather was perfect today. The sun was out and it was about 70 degrees. Interestingly the best weather to see Mt. St. Helen's is pretty much the opposite of the best weather to see Northwest Trek.

The drive up gave some hint about the kind of views we would get.

2008-08-22 post candidates Mt St Helens Bridge

This view is from the edge of the 1980 blast zone. All the green vegetation in this picture grew on the blank slate the 1980 eruption created.

A few miles up the road at the Weyerhaeuser forestry learning center/rest area we had a nice, clear image of the volcano in the distance.

2008-08-22 post candidates Mt St Helens mountain (1)

When the mountain exploded that morning, it blew off its north side and 1,300 feet of the mountain top itself. Most views focus on the gaping crater. What I like about this one is that I can see the jagged edges at the top. It looks like a broken mountain that had the top ripped off. I can visualize the summit that used to be there, but is now spread out across the valley floor.

We continued up the road to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. The facility is named for David Johnston, a vulcanologist who perished in the eruption. It's one of the most popular Mt. St. Helen's tourist facilities.

From there I had views like this:

2008-08-22 post candidates Mt St Helens mountain

Mt. St. Helen's isn't done yet. It's still erupting. After being fairly quiet from 1986 to 2004, the mountain started growing again. According to rangers at Johnston ridge, it shot up 7 new spines (rock formations), some growing as much at 30 feet a day.

You can see the dramatic landscape inside the crater here:

2008-08-22 post candidates Mt St Helens Crater (1)

2008-08-22 post candidates Mt St Helens Crater

That's not fog in there; it's steam escaping from molten magma below the surface.

The 1980 blast blew out the mountain, killed 57 people, created the largest landslide in recorded history and flattened trees for miles around.

Thousands of monstrously old trees were simply blown over like blades of grass. You can see them here, all pointing away from the mountain.

2008-08-22 post candidates Mt St Helens Dead forrest (1)

Obviously, if that blast happened today, the Johnston Ridge Observatory would likely be destroyed. The parking lot is right in the heart of the blast zone.

Trees that survived being knocked down were killed where they stood. The rocks, debris and superheated gasses blasting through the air seared the wood and stripped them of all their vegetation. These ghost forests still stand today.

2008-08-22 post candidates Mt St Helens Dead forrest

But these dead trunks are remarkably beautiful

2008-08-22 post candidates Mt St Helens Tree Trunks

2008-08-22 post candidates Mt St Helens Tree Trunks (1)

One of the most striking thing about the landscape is not how desolate it is, but how life has found a way to come back.

2008-08-22 post candidates Mt St Helens Flowers (1)

2008-08-22 post candidates Mt St Helens Flowers

2008-08-22 post candidates Mt St Helens barren landscape coming back to life

As Dr. Malcom said in Jurassic Park, "...life, uh, finds a way."


Northwest Trek near Tacoma is awesome

208-08-21 Northwest Trek Owl
On Thursday, my GF and I visited Northwest Trek in Pierce County.

Northwest Trek is, for lack of a better term, a zoo. But it's not a traditional zoo. The highlight of the park is the free roaming area for large large animals native to the northwest. Bison, moose, deer, elk, sheep, and goats share 400+ acres where they roam freely. Smaller animals live in the areas as well. Some of them were brought in, and others wandered in to the park on their own from the neighboring forests.

I have been to a lot of zoos and animal parks, and never have I gotten as close to as many animals or seen as many of the featured animals as I did at Northwest Trek. At most parks, you might get a glimpse of fur. Here you get the whole beast. And admissions is only $15.

Admission to the park includes a tram ride. For about an hour, the tram driver takes park visitors on a drive through the free roaming area, answering questions, talking about the animals, pointing out interesting features, and telling jokes.

The animals are used to the tram and will often walk right up to it as it cruises through the park.

If you ride the tram, I recommend sitting in the middle or back of it. There are excellent views no matter where you sit, but because of the way the angles work out in the vehicle, it will be more difficult to take pictures and see the beasts from the forward rows of any of the tram cars.

These are some of the pictures we shot from the tram:

2008-08-21 Tram Animals Northwest Trek (2)

2008-08-21 Tram Animals Northwest Trek (3)

2008-08-21 Tram Animals Northwest Trek (1)

2008-08-21 Tram Animals Northwest Trek

After the tram ride, don't miss the exhibits along the trail.

In these they highlight different animals in large enclosures. I guess they'd rather not mix the bears, bison, coyotes, and lynxs in the free roaming area.

These enclosures are amazing. In the bear exhibit, for example, the only thing separating the viewer is a ditch that looks a lot smaller than it likely is. One of the bears came within 15 feet of us.

2008-08-21 Northwest Trek Bear enclosure

The wolves stayed further away, but still checked out the crowd watching them.

2008-08-21 Northwest Trek Wolf enclosure

We tried to see the big cats, too, but they acted like cats do, and decided to ignore everyone who was watching.

2008-08-21 Northwest Trek Cats (1)

2008-08-21 Northwest Trek Cats

There was a coyote enclosure as well, but he was nowhere to be seen. He was probably busy with an Acme deposition.

In an area focused more on the small critters, we did see come beavers as work, and some wolverines. The Wolverines make Logan look positively mellow. One was intent on breaking a branch, and another did nothing but run back and forth like he was doing laps.

2008-08-21 Beaver

2008-08-21 Northwest Trek Wolverine

The park feels small. It doesn't try to show every kind of animal in the Northwest, and you can comfortably see they whole thing in a 3-4 hours (less if you hurry). There is some walking among the enclosures, but the walks aren't nearly as far as the seem to be on the maps.

We had ideal weather conditions for viewing the animals. It was cooler today, overcast, and occasionally rained. If you come on a really nice day, the animals are likely to stay hidden in the brush. But if you have a cool summer day, be sure the check out Northwest Trek.

2008-08-21 Northwest Trek Moose Statue


Thoughts on Radiohead at the White River Amphitheater

You know what's depressing? When you are staying at a hotel so you can get a good night's sleep instead of doing a long drive home, and you get back to your room late at night -- due to traffic -- and the USA Today for the next morning is already there.

I saw Radiohead at the White River Amphitheater tonight. I planned some more in depth comments, but that was before the traffic.

The opening act (The Liars) came on promptly at 7:30 and played for 35 minutes. At first I hated them because they had this goth-y/emo-y/angst-y/overly self important attitude in their music. But as the set went on the lead signer began doing weird rythmic things with his guitar. I don't think he was making a parody of his genre but I can't be positive. Regardless, he stopped taking himself so seriously, so I grew to respect him. I still didn't care for the music, but that's another matter.

Before he started his last two songs he told people to go get their popcorn and snacks now so they wouldn't miss Radiohead.

Radiohead came on at 9:05 and played for almost an hour and a half. Then they did two fake encores (more on fake encores in another post). They played all the way to about 11:05.

The light show was awesome, relying on LEDs, LASERs, and Fiber Optics. It wasn't just slapped on the show. It was an integral and impressive part of the music. The light show is reason enough to see the show. Here are some lousy pictures I tried to take.

The sound quality was excellent. It wasn't too loud, or at all muddled, which is impressive in an outdoor venue.

Unfortunately, the experience leaving the venue tainted the entire show for me. It also nearly guarantees I will not go to another show at this facility. The traffic was appalling.

Whoever desinged the traffic flow and plan for the White River Amphitheater should be ashamed on them themselves. It's truly disgusting.

I was in the car by 11:50 PM. It took until 1:30 AM to exit the facility.

Then they dumped us on to side roads in the area and directed people to follow specific roads to get around. Traffic still sat there. At about 2:15 I decided to ignore their ridiculous directions and take some back roads. If I hadn't made that decsision I would probably still be stuck in traffic instead of ranting here.

So in summary:

Radiohead = good
White River Amphitheater Civil Engineers = bad



I've been playing with Twitter for a few months now, but I haven't been able to use it from my basic mobile phone. I now have a new Windows Mobile phone, so I can take better advantage of it.

Twitter is a free, subscription based, micro-blogging platform. Users can post messages up to 140 character long. Who reads those messages? Your followers. When you choose to follow someone, their messages appear on your Twitter home page, or mobile device (if you choose).

That's a terrible explanation, so you want to know more, visit the Twitter home page.

My plan is to use Twitter for quick thoughts that might not merit a full blog post, or for ideas I come up with that I want to turn into full blog posts. And I expect it will be useful for chronicling my misadventures in airports.

If you would like to keep up to date of my Twitter activities, you can follow me on Twitter. Simply look for "Cromely".


Book Review 31: Business, Technology, or Biz-Tech Erotica?

What about physical media?

"It'll all go away. Eventually. I think burning CDs is passe already. Why would you burn a CD anymore? Just plug your iPod into your car! And I think the transition from portable CD players and all that stuff to iPods is going to happen in the next 3 to 5 years. The majority of the music in this country to be bought online will happen over the next six to eight years."

Page 111
Steve Jobs in a 2004 interview with Steven Levy

When the iPod first hit the market in the fall of 2001, people who used one knew it would be successful, but no one could have anticipated how thoroughly it would transform the entire music industry in such a short time.

In the last seven years, the iPod has become synonymous with Portable Music Players. Competitors just don't have a chance. Legions of teenagers think low quality MP3 are the epitome of music; many haven't listened to a CD in an actual stereo in years. Cars are now being designed to specifically accommodate this piece of consumer electronics. When has that ever happened before?

The iTunes Store, introduced in 2003 is now the number two music retailer in the entire country, behind only Wal-Mart. More than 20% of all music purchased in the US is purchased from the iTunes store.

The entirely new grass roots medium of internet based programing -- podcasting -- is named after this product.

And now, Apple is trying to do the same thing to the mobile phone industry.

I picked up Steven Levy's "The Perfect Thing" to learn more about how the iPod came into exisitence and how it came to completely transform the music business. It seemed like the perfect book to tell the story of this product. Unfortunately, the book did not measure up to my expectations.

It's a love letter to Steve Jobs.

There is some good material in here, but it doesn't go very deep. The author spends more time talking about how beautiful the iPod is and how awesome Steve jobs is, then he does talking about the history of the product.

Levy is clearly in love with the iPod. Some passages read more like excerpts from a teenager's diary than a passage from a journalist's book.

So it's official: the iPod is the coolest thing in the world, a fact that in itself isn't so illuminating. (Just look at that little puppy -- what's the first word out of your mouth?) The bigger question is how much of the iPod's coolness is responsible for it's commercial success , as well as it's place in the culture and in our fluttering hearts. What's more, since the iPod's status is now so beyond dispute, by understanding why, we can learn not only about the iPod, but about coolness itself, and what it says about ourselves.

Page 49-50

There are other passages in the book where his description about the iPod seem like they're straight out of a bad romance novel.

I also began to cultivate a nice relationship with the actual device. It felt very good to hold. Spinning my thumb on the scroll wheel was satisfying. The smooth silvery back felt so sensual it was almost a crime against nature. And it didn't hurt that at least until November, when stores began selling the iPod, I possessed a valuable, hard-to-get little wonder.

Page 18

Fall and winter 2001 was a trying time. As the author was coming to terms with 9/11 -- Levy turned to his iPod.

Something odd began to happen. As the days passed and I bonded with my iPod, my spirits lifted somewhat. Maybe it was just a recovery process that would have happened anyway, but it seemed hastened by the daily delights of the music that appeared on my iPod. President George W. Bush, whom I disagree with on almost everything, would say something very similar almost five years later: "I'm a bike guy," he remarked, "and I like to plug in music on my iPod to hopefully help me forget how old I am." I wasn’t exactly forgetting about 9/11, but I was getting excited -- once more -- about technology and its power to transform our world.

Page 18

He doesn't reserve all the book's laurels for the iPod. He also talks with Steve Jobs about the Mac cube, whose designer would go on to design the iPod.

"This is the coolest computer ever made," Jobs told me. "It's our vision of what technology should be and how it should work and what it can do for you. We make progress by eliminating things. It's a much more courageous approach, much harder than living with all this [cheaper] stuff that most people live with. Saying this is not necessary, we can take this out. And you're left with just the essential thing."

Page 70

When Levy isn't talking about how beautiful the iPod is, or how wonderful it feels in his hand, he talks about what he sees as the most important feature -- Shuffle.

Shuffle allows a user to play all the songs in a group, an album, or even all the songs on the player in a random order.

I often listen to my iPod on full shuffle, but Levy takes it a bit far.

To begin with, he decides to shuffle the chapters in the book. If you wonder why my page numbers don't match up with yours, it may be because the chapters appear in different order in different copies of the book.

But after that, just like the playlist or whole music library when the iPod's shuffle mode is selected, the other eight chapters would be mixed -- and mixed several times -- to create several "shuffles" of this book. The book you are holding in your hand may be ordered differently from someone else's copy.

Page XII

I suppose it's a cute idea, but it seems a bit pretentious. It's like he's trying too hard to be cool and hip.

Levey devotes a great deal of time to the concept of the shuffle. He tells us that even Steve Jobs didn't appreciate the shuffle when he introduced the product.

With the benefit of hindsight, the launch was remarkable both for what Jobs emphasized and for what he did not. He was directly on the mark with its core concept. "The coolest thing about it," he said, " is that a whole music library fits right in your pocket." But the implications of what that meant were barely hinted at. The idea that it could let you shuffle your whole music collection was mentioned once, but casually, in the context of a laundry-list recitation of features. Jobs also hit the mark with how easy it was to synchronize the iPod with songs on your computer and how quickly these songs could move from the computer to the device -- in mere seconds, because of the high-speed FireWire cable.

Page 16
Levy explores what shuffle means for customers and the apparent serendipity when just the right song comes up at random.

This was something that my e-mail correspondents (still mystified by iPod doesn’t-seem-random behavior) had wondered about as well: "Why," asked one, "decide to play Neil Young's 'The Loner' followed by Bruce Cockburn's 'Loner' yesterday?" Yes I know the correct answer is that the iPod didn't "decide" anything, that the software just got lucky. But that seems an unsatisfying resolution.

Page 247

Levy has discussed the question of randomness with Apple engineers and has written about it for Newsweek. In this book, he discusses the issue in depth. He introduces it with the concept of LTBSD (length of time before Steely Dan) to illustrate how Steely Dan songs seemed to come up just too often in a random shuffle.

The LTBSD factor was always perplexingly short.

Page 227

Apple assured him it was random. The iPod may seem not to be random because the human mind strives to find connections.

My theory is that a full shuffle creates a subset of all the the albums on that iPod and then plays tracks from that subset in a random order. Once that subset is mostly complete, it pulls in more albums. But that could all be my imagination. There is nothing in this book to indicate that is what's happening.

The social nature of the iPod is also interesting. Levy talks about strangers showing each other what is currently playing on their iPods to see who has the coolest music.

People meeting one another will now hand over their iPods so each can see what the other has on there. It's like the way many glasses wearers will often trade glasses to see who has the worse vision.

But it's a big step for some people:

As Dr. Jennifer Heartstein, a child and adolescent psychologist in New York City, explained to a reported for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, revealing playlists to someone can be an emotionally risky act. "It might let you learn more about me than I want you to," she warns.

Page 221

Sharing playlists often goes beyond physically handing over iPods. Apple makes it easy for users to share their music libraries (sometimes unknowingly) with other users.

Another iTunes feature works on a network of connected computers by allowing you to expose your entire music library to anyone on your local network, or "subnet." (It's up to the user to determine whether he or she will block this feature, but lots of people don't realize that sharing is the default option.) Using a special, Apple-designed wireless protocol called Rendezvous (the name was later changed to Bonjour), you can scan the libraries of total strangers who just happen to be within a few hundred feet of you. By clicking on a song from the list, it's also possible for a free rider to stream that song from someone else's computer to his own. And they can't see you looking. It's like rifling through someone's music collection while they've stepped out to buy milk for the coffee. For the past few years, whenever I'm at a tech conference, I flick on iTunes to scour my immediate wireless neighborhood, trolling for interesting tunes. In my experience the wireless connection is usually insufficiently robust to stream songs without hiccups or dead stops, but I'm fascinated to see what other people have loaded into their libraries.

Page 218-219

While he wasn't the engineer behind it, Jobs was responsible for the iPod. Levy makes it clear that Jobs is the only one who could have brought the iPod to market.

During an iPod launch, Jobs wanted to use a clip form the Jetsons in his presentation. Apple couldn't get the rights to it, however. Jobs made them use it anyway.

The Jetsons moment, while in a sense unsettling, is also illustrative of some of the attributes behind Jobs's success: his unwavering focus, his insistence on excellence, and his belief in his own vision. These were all in play when Apple developed the iPod. Jobs did not invent the device, but he created the conditions that made it possible and focused on ensuring that the end result would meet his exacting standards. It may not be accurate to say that only under the leadership of Jobs and the culture he created could the iPod have been devised and only under Jobs could it have further evolved into its current dominance -- but there is the undeniable fact that no one else did it.

Page 177

Jobs was deeply involved in the process.

The PortalPlayer team was getting similar feedback from the CEO. "They'd have meetings, and Steve would be horribly offended he couldn’t get to the song he wanted in less than three pushes of a button," a PortalPlayer engineer, Ben Knauss, later told Wired News. "We'd get orders: 'Steve doesn't think its loud enough, the sharps aren't sharp enough, or the menu's not coming up fast enough.' Everyday there were comments from Steve saying where it needed to be."

Page 168

But Jobs, obviously convinced that this two-way sync would make it too tempting for people to plug their iPods into a friend's computer to download entire collections of songs, mandated that the syc would work only one way. Likewise, one day Jobs announced that iPods would come packaged in an outer wrapping that said, "Don’t steal music." What about other languages, he was asked. "Put multiple languages on it," he said.

Page 171

There is some interesting information in here about the history of the Sony Walkman, the iTunes music store, and the cultural impacts of the iPod. But it lacks depth.

Had Levy spent more time getting into the nitty-gritty details of the iPod, modern music development, and the inner working of Apple, he would have had a winner here. The seeds of it are here.

Those seeds are overwhelmed by Levy's Jobs/iPod fawning. In many cases it seems like the book was written by an Apple publicist instead of a Newsweek journalist. And what could have been a great book chronicling one of the biggest shift in the music industry is instead likely to be forgotten in 10 years.

If you are looking for some light reading, or want a glance at Apple and the iPod, this may be a good book for you. It's entertaining, and it's mostly a fun read although some of his sensual descriptions about the iPod get a little uncomfortable. It's good beach reading.

But if you are looking for a history or analysis of the iPod and it's impact on our culture, especially one with some depth and meat to it, The Perfect Thing is probably not the best choice.

For more of my book reviews, click here.


Life in the Garden Part 06: Discount Trees at Ikea

Ikea is almost awesome. Much of the furniture is designed in a way that I almost like. There's usually one thing I just don't like about much of their furniture, or one change that would make it just right. But it's not quite there. For example, very few of the Billy bookcase components are available in Black.

There are lots of other pieces I almost want but don't quite fit with what I like.

Regardless, I keep looking because 1) my GF like some of the stuff and 2) it's inexpensive.

Last night we went to Ikea because I my GF needed a new vase for her office. She didn't find anything she liked, though she came close (of course).

But I did finally find something I wanted.

In the garden section, they had trees on discount. I picked up a new Yucca plant and a Weeping Fig for just $6 each.

Here's the Yucca in it's new home.

2008-08-14 Yucca from Ikea (1)a

That's three trees in one pot. Which means they were $2 each.

I've had good luck with this kind of plant. Here you can see it in the foreground. My Draceana is in the background.

2008-08-14 Yucca from Ikea (2)a

I got that tree in the background 14 years ago from a friend when she graduated from college. It was about 2.5 feet tall. It's grown a bit since then. I wrote about it here. (BTW if you are are familiar with Dracaenas, I could use some advice about it's health and propagation)

The other $6 tree is a weeping fig. I believe it's a part of the ficus family. I imagine this one will be more challenging to keep healthy. These types of trees are known for not dealing well with stress and are likely to drop most of their leaves when confronted with a change in environment (like Pearl from Finding Nemo).

So if you have a Ficus, and it loses all its leaves, it might not be dead. They do that from time to time when they're not happy, but often they come back.

The top is full of healthy leaves and the bottom three quarters is mostly wood at this point.

You can seem my watering hose in the foreground. I need to find a better way to connect the hose to my kitchen sink, but that's a post for another day.

The trees now are well watered, in Miracle Gro soil, in indirect sun. What else can I do to keep them healthy?

Gnomes. Lot's of gnomes.

2008-08-14 Yucca from Ikeaa2008-08-14 Weeping Fig from Ikeaa



Oh, no! A giant grass hopper is attacking that plane!!!