Category Archives: Life

Joy of Audiobooks

Audiobooks, for me, are the one thing that help me keep my sanity through my long commute in DFW traffic. Audible.com is a perfect solution for me. It gave me enough credits to burn on audiobooks, and I would go through about 2-3 books a month. 

After I quit my job in pursuit of the dream of “going indie,” I forgot to cancel my Audible account until five months after the fact. This meant I had built up a lot of credits to burn through. So, I went on a shopping spree before canceling my account. After finding books that I knew I wanted to listen to, I started going through the best-seller lists and tried to find a number of books with good reviews that sounded interesting.

Now, I’m working full-time again, and unfortunately, I’m back to my long commute. I’m finally able to work though my stockpile of audiobooks. The only thing is that for a lot of these books – I’m more or less surprised about the contents of the books. I picked them months ago, and since they’re basically just on playlists on my iPod in the car, I have no visual cues about what methodology I had gone through to pick the books.

Regardless, I thought I would start writing reviews about the books after I listen to them. I’m a few books behind, so I’ll have to get started quickly. The reviews won’t be in order, or most likely, they’ll be in order from most recent to not so recent.

We Stopped Dreaming

First of all, if you haven’t watched this or support the government cutting NASA’s funding, you should watch this video

Neil deGrasse Tyson – We Stopped Dreaming

The video makes a couple of points that apply to everything, not just NASA.

Han Shot First (aka The Madness of King George)

Last week, there was a great disturbance in the geek world. Millions of voices suddenly cried out in anguish, and were silenced.

George Lucas had done it again.

Continuing his revisionist history of his own films, Lucas announced last week that he had always intended that Greedo shot first in that pivotal scene between Han Solo and the bounty hunter in the original Star Wars.

Star Wars fans everywhere, of course, went ballistic. I saw a number of stories that came out over the next couple of days showing “proof” that no, no, Lucas was wrong. Han shot first.

Honestly, though, this has been brewing since the “Special Edition” came out in the late 90s. It’s even spawned a couple of “Han Shot First” t-shirts.

Most Star Wars fans have seen the clips. The original version of the movie clearly shows Han shooting first. Lucas, not happy with this, tried to tweak it in the “Special Edition” of Star Wars in the 90s. The updated version shows Greedo shooting first, with a badly edited image of Solo jerking his head to the side, then returning fire.

But in the end, why does it matter?

Yes, it takes away some of the initial “unscrupulous” tones that defines Han Solo in those first scenes. Those of us who have seen and/or own the original movies can enjoy the movie the way we remember it. At least, we can enjoy it until Lucas seeks and destroys every last copy of the original movie.

But, in the end, Han Solo is still a smuggler, and he’s still a mercenary. Even with the scene altered in the Special Editions, the story of Han Solo over the course of the three movies is unchanged. He’s still a scoundrel in the beginning. He’s still a hero in the end. He still gets the girl in the end.

Give the man credit. The original Star Wars movies created a universe that captured and continues to capture the imagination of millions over the last 30 plus years. The universe spawned six movies, numerous video games (including the current big MMORPG – The Old Republic), a cartoon series, and dozens of books.

I have no idea why Lucas continues to tweak the original movies and is now content to sit back and lash out at his fans over the universe that he created.  It sucks that he seems to feel the need to change what’s already been done. It makes me think of Michelangelo taking a look at his statue of David and deciding the statue “really need some pants.”

As we all have seen, the second trilogy of movies were simply not the same. Lucas had full control over these movies, and there was simply no one there to provide any opposing viewpoints to any aspect of the story.

I could go into detail, but I think there’s a set of videos that cover it very well.

You have to get over the serial killer “it puts the lotion in the basket” voice of the narrator, but the epic Phantom Menace review along with his equally long reviews of the sequels by RedLetterMedia are worth watching. He picks apart the movies in great detail.

Red Letter Media – The Phantom Menace Review – Part 1

Warning: There are seven parts to this review, roughly 70 minutes total.

Even better, if Lucas tampering with Star Was wasn’t bad enough, Red Letter Media has an equally great review about the last Indiana Jones film.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Review

Even if you have to sit down and watch these videos one part at a time, they’re great to watch. If you’ve ever wanted to learn something about writing a story, these videos go into great detail about what’s wrong with the story in all of these movies.

The best news about Lucas that Star Wars fans can find solace in is that he’s talking about retiring from making movies altogether. Since fans continue to bash the last three movies (Episodes 1-3), he’s not going to bother to make the last trilogy (Episodes 7-9).

I think most Star Wars fans can live with that.

 

Time for Audiobooks

I can’t really go into much detail about my job here, but this time of year is considered to be our “busy” time of year.

Part of that involves putting in longer hours, including having to get into the office earlier in the morning.

For me, this seriously extends my morning commute. The drive from McKinney to downtown Dallas is bad enough in normal traffic. In rush hour traffic, it can really test a person’s patience.

I learned a couple of years ago one of the few things that helps me get through this time is to listen to something other than music. Anything that helps to take your mind off the fact that you’re going to be stuck in traffic for the next hour and a half or so is very helpful.

I tried podcasts, and they’re okay.

But, as with long road trips, I really prefer audiobooks. Like listening to music, it allows my mind to wander, but it’s a more focused type of wandering – as opposed to just thinking about bits of everything that comes to mind while listening to music.

Plus, in other goals, I’m really trying to make more of an effort to read more books overall. I have plenty of books to read in the evenings. Listening to audiobooks helps me towards that goal.

In four weeks, I’ve already gone through four books, and I will probably post reviews of them here at some point. They’ve all been a bit different. Three were new. One was an audio version of a book I’ve read 20 years ago.

I can’t recommend audible.com highly enough for finding audiobooks. The website is still a bit clunky for just browsing through books. Sometimes, I find Amazon easier to search for books, and then switch to Audible once I have found something that interests me.

 

RIP Steve Jobs

Well, fuck…

Steve Jobs is dead…

I can’t even begin to express how I feel about this. Numb, really. I know how much of an impact this man has had upon me, even though I have never met him or even had a chance to attend a live “Stevenote.”

If you don’t read beyond this point, please take a look at this video of Steve Jobs giving a commencement speech at Stanford in 2005. It’s one of the most compelling things I’ve seen in a long time.

Steve Jobs 2005 Commencement Speech

It’s so weird to be this distraught over the loss of someone I’ve never met. Yet, unlike so many people, I have at least some inkling of just how much Steve has made an impact on my life.

I know because I own many of the very products he created. I know firsthand that the iPhone is simply one of the best smartphones out there, and it has been and continues to leap ahead of its competition. I’ve experience the “magic” of the iPad. I’m typing this on one of the Macintosh computers I own.

Don’t believe it? There are several sites that have images of smartphones “Pre iPhone” and “Post iPhone”; look at those images and try to tell me that Apple and Steve Jobs have not had an impact on the market.

Don’t believe it? When was the last time you bought a music CD? How long before you ripped said CD to MP3 or some other audio format in order drop onto an iPod, iPhone, or other device?

Don’t believe it? Look at the success that Apple has had with the iPad in 18 months. Apple used this quote in yesterday’s press conference from someone (I forgot who) ” There’s no such thing as a tablet market, only an iPad market.” Look at all of the companies trying to jump on that bandwagon.

I’ve seen how Steve’s influence on others, both meeting people who have worked at Apple and who have gone “indie” and have abandoned the “safe, secure” jobs in order to develop software for these products.

It’s hard to describe. I guess the best way to experience it would be to spend a week at Microsoft’s Tech Ed visiting with people, then go to Apple’s WWDC. Hell, just go to any one of several iOS or Mac developer conferences that have been springing up outside of WWDC.

People at TechEd are there largely because their respective employers paid to send them there. WWDC attendees are people spending their own money, their own vacation time in order to be there. Others are already indie developers, and attending is part of the business, but it’s also a chance to spend time with other like-minded developers both during the conference and after-hours.

Spend thirty minutes talking with these indie developers. Spend thirty minutes talking to developer Mike Lee about Appsterdam. All of these guys have been “touched” by Steve. They don’t want to just make software, they want to make GREAT software. They aspire to make products that live up to the high standards that Apple sets, both through its guidance to developers in documentation, but more importantly, through the amazing applications that they build in-house.

The iOS/MacOS developer community is a great community of people always willing to help others with their problems as well as help encourage others on their own trek to indiehood.

Losing Steve Jobs so suddenly and at such a young age ( or, more relevant, an age that is a lot closer to my own age than I’d care for) makes you wonder what it is that you’re doing with your own life.

I want to follow my heart, but as much as it is easy for someone (even Steve) to say it, it’s not so easy to do. Maybe part of it is simply not knowing. For me, maybe the problem is that I’m not taking the time to stop and listen to what my heart truly wants. Whose dream am I following? Mine? Or someone else’s?

To an extent, I am so deep into this rut professionally that I’ve been digging for myself for longer than I care to admit, it’s hard to see above the rim.

But… I want to get out. I need to get out.

Why? Because that’s what Steve would do.

Thank you, Steve, for everything you’ve done. You’ve found a way to capture the future and put it into our hands.

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

 

Fear of Failure

I’ve seen this before, but I just stumbled across this again.

Milton Glaser is one of the big names in moden graphic design. Have you seen the “I (heart) NY” logo? Yeah, that was him.

http://www.clusterflock.org/2011/07/milton-glaser-on-the-fear-of-failure.html

 

The Curse of NaNoWriMo

Yes, it’s already November, again. And, you know what that means…

NaNoWriMo is upon us again.

Every year, I think about starting a novel, and most of the time, I give up before I ever get started. Most of it has to do with the fact that I have a whole hodgepodge of ideas scattered around notebooks, note-collecting apps, post-it-notes, etc, that I can never get myself focused to just one story.

This year, I’m even less prepared than ever, but I’m focused on a single idea. I would prefer to be more prepared, but this year, I’m taking the chance regardless.

The timing has just been bad for me. I had the idea, but I have been working a lot over the last month or so. I’ve never had the time to let the idea gel properly (at least, for me).

And that’s the biggest danger for me. Without a focused outline or some structure, it’s easy for my mind to stray off to other more fantastical ideas.

Now that I’m trying, I can easily find other distractions, ilke this blog, to keep me away from my task.

Fortunately, I’m taking a lot of vacation time on the last half of the month, so I am hoping to catch up then.

Progress so far?

Eight days in: only 1300 words

But, I also have some back story going and a better idea of who my main characters are and how they relate.

Still a long ways to go…

Too Fat to Fly (Southwest)

In one of the crazier things that have happened this week, Kevin Smith was kicked off a Southwest flight last weekend because he was determined to be a “person of size.” He stated that he complied with their guidelines, and was still asked to leave the plane.

Here’s his take Smodcast Final Words, and it’s definitely worth watching. You may also want to listen to SMODCast 107, where Mr. Smith talks to Natali, a young woman who was on his return flight that had an incident with Southwest over this policy.

If you look on Southwest’s website, buried under the customer service section is a single link that describes their person of size policy.

According to their Customer of Size FAQ, it’s not “just about weight.” Of course, I’m not sure if this document has been recently updated after everything that went on with Mr. Smith this week, but it seems like it’s a recent update since it goes to great lengths to cover their policy.

The problem, though, is that the policy says that the definitive guide is whether or not the person can fit between the armrests of the seat. Mr. Smith states that he had no trouble putting down the armrests, and that in spite of that, he was asked to deplane.

Neither the policy NOR the FAQ state anything that outside of the “definitive guide” that any Southwest employee can make a judgement call on who is a “customer of size.”

Continue Reading →

Tempted by the Fruit of Another (iPhone)

Yeah, I’ll admit it. I was going to buy an iPhone 3G today.

I was going to buy one at first. But, then, when it turned out AT&T decided to up the rates to compensate for the cheaper phone, I had second thoughts. Plus, what I really wanted was a phone with 32GB of storage like the largest iPod Touch.

So, I’ve gone back and forth for a few weeks now about whether or not to buy one. I was leaning towards not getting one, and had just about decided not to after spending yesterday playing with the 2.0 software and downloading/buying my first iPhone apps.

But, then, this morning, I thought, “what the hell.” I can offset the new AT&T rates with my corporate discount. If the lines aren’t too bad, maybe I’ll stop by and pick one up.

How bad could the lines be, after all? Many of the naysayers have been saying the new iPHone won’t sell. Don’t buy one. It’s missing the same lame features that only a few pundits are desperate to have (which they bitched about last year). Everyone that wanted an iPhone in the US already has one. No one will upgrade. It’s still to expensive. And so on…

So, I thought, I’ll drive by the local AT&T store and see how bad the line is. If it’s not too bad, maybe I’ll stop and pick one up.

Heh…

There were at least 50-100 people standing outside the local AT&T store in McKinney at just after 8 am. On the way to downtown Dallas, I could see at least 100 folks outside another AT&T store in Allen.

So, okay, maybe some people wanted the phone after all. But, Apple & AT&T have their act together, so it should be smooth sailing for everyone to buy a phone. Maybe I’ll just swing by an Apple store on the way home from work and pick one up then.

Right?

During the day at work, I saw the initial reports of people having major problems with getting their phones activated. In fact, if you were unlucky enough to try to update your original iPhone to 2.0, you were now equally screwed. The Apple/AT&T system that iTunes used to activate phones couldn’t handle the load.

But, by mid-afternoon, things were looking up. One of my co-workers who bricked his phone before lunch was back in business, and another who spent the morning in line was able to activate hers. So, I thought, I’ll hit an Apple store on the way home and pick one up.

I walk into Willow Bend and saw people walking out the door with their new iPhones, and didn’t think anything of it. Once I got closer, I was not surprised to see a line in front of the Apple store. But, the line didn’t stop there. It wound around the elevator/stairwell couch area like it did last year. So, now there are several hundred people in line just like last years launch. The problem was, this line wasn’t moving.

So, I thought, let’s see how long the line takes to move…

Thirty minutes later, I had moved less than ten feet from where I started. An Apple store guy finally made an appearance, so I asked him how long the wait was. He said to order some pizza and get comfortable. I pressed him, and his best guess was that it would take at least two hours to get into the store from my place in line.

Thanks, but no thanks, I said. I stood in the lines last year, and although it might be nice to have the 3G and the GPS goodness of the new phone, I was not about to spend the night standing in line for it.

So, now I’m home a little disappointed that I came home empty handed without a nice shiny new toy to play with.

I don’t really “need” the phone. My iPhone has all of the 2.0 goodness of the new one. The GPS and 3G are “nice to haves,” I told myself. And, there are a lot of other things I would probably be better off using the money on instead of another new gadget.

Does that mean I won’t be in line first thing tomorrow? Maybe…

Why Cats Are Better Than Dogs…

Apparently, a new study has shown that cat owners are less likely have heart attacks.

Cats Help Prevent Heart Attacks

This probably isn’t helpful for the Garfield minus Garfield guy.

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