Archive for January, 2007

One ends, another begins

Friday, January 26th, 2007

I’ve finished up with the music technology gig. I was thinking about staying on in a full-time permanent job, but decided against it.

I now have a job lined up at an e-commerce company in Cool Springs (any local tech people reading this probably already know the company in question by that description, but I’m opting for search engine anonymity) and I start Monday. Some of my friends probably remember me talking about this company back in October when I was first approached for the job. It’s been a long road to making this decision, but now I’m psyched about getting back into e-commerce directly, and dealing with fun concepts again like navigation, conversion, web analytics, etc.

I’m not psyched about the long commute to shopping mall central. I plan for me and Karsten to test-drive a Prius and maybe some of 2007’s other hybrid models, and if we take the plunge on that, it’ll definitely be an extra expense we don’t really need, but I’d just feel much less bad about the environmental impact of the commute that way.

So now I’m spending the day with a big stack o’ library books refreshing my mind on e-commerce concepts and getting ready to hit the ground running on Monday.

Heck, I don’t even know yet what the zip code there is to use for my location tag. So much to do!

To be right more often, acknowledge the possibility you’re wrong

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

I saw an item on Digg about 250 scientists who were asked what they wish everyone could learn about science. My favorite answer is this:

I would teach the world that scientists start by trying very hard to disprove what they hope is true. When they fail, they have a good reason for believing what they hope is true, and can even convince others of its truth. A scientist always acknowledges the possibility of error, and is less likely to be mistaken than one who always claims to be right.

- Antony Hoare Senior researcher at Microsoft Corporation

Competitive grief & grief vultures

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

There’s an article in this morning about dealing with loss, and how people often tend to try to “help” a grieving person by offering their worst stories of loss. In this case, the author was talking about losing a Treo and the article was meant to be humorous, but couldn’t it just as easily be any kind of loss? You know what it reminds me of? Grief vultures.

If you’ve lost anyone really close to you, you know about this. These are people you may have never even met before, but they want to be part of the grief action, too. I know that we never know how we affect people, and so a person who dies may very well have a legion of secret admirers who suddenly come out of the woodwork to announce their devotion to the dearly departed. I’ll grant that. But some of the time it just rings hollow, as if the would-be mourners are seeking attention by crashing wakes and talking about how much they loved the departed.

I remember clearly that in June 2002, when Eppie Lederer (aka Ann Landers) and baseball pitcher Darryl Kile died on the same day, John Kass wrote a column called “So much to say after a death, so little we know” in the Chicago Tribune about this experience, and it resonated strongly with me. The article is archived and has to be purchased to be seen in its entirety, so I gladly paid the $3.95. It’s worth it for this quote alone, which wraps up the column (which I’m probably not supposed to be sharing in this large a passage, but it doesn’t really lend itself to excerpting):

Most likely in these recent accounts, there may have been a few anecdotes from folks who didn’t know the deceased, really, but who were perhaps drawn to the flame of celebrity, compelled to reach for that light as it flickered, and so revealed their own anxious appetites.

You also may have seen that same behavior expressed by folks you know, say at a church, a temple, at funeral homes, while mourning your own less public dead.

In the funeral home, there is that dull humming of mourning. You take a break, walk past the rows of chairs and make for the lobby.

Outside, standing on the driveway in their suits and dark clothes are folks just like you, paying respect, adopting a brief distance from the weight of the survivors inside.

In a group of three or four, someone is speaking with extreme authority. The others listen, nodding, to the explainer of the dead.

The explainer isn’t simply expressing grief or loss or admiration of character.

Instead, the explainer offers histories, a litany of motivations, of successes and failures, attempting to encapsulate something as complicated and mysterious as a life.

There is nothing to do but walk back inside, perhaps to say a prayer.

There are important bits of us unknown, even to those we love and who love us.

I’m not referring to anything dark. Rather, I’m referring to those decent parts of us that can’t be cataloged or touched by the explainers of the dead.

A friend of mine experienced a different kind of grief vulture when her husband died. A few people grilled her to share how it felt, how it really felt, to lose her husband and best friend so young. Apparently these people’s interest didn’t come across as supportive, but rather as if they were trying to satisfy some morbid curiosity.

I don’t have any neat and tidy way to wrap these thoughts up. I don’t know if I can simply say it must be human nature, and leave it at that. Personally, I think there’s some dysfunction in parts of our society that make it permissible to compete when competition is not relevant, like in everyday conversation. But getting into competitive conversation will take me off on a whole different rant, so I’ll save that for another day.

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Brunch view at the Pineapple Room at Cheekwood

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

Though they don’t have their incredible brunch buffet during January, they do still have brunch a la carte and they definitely still have a killer view.

Shouldn’t I be saying something about Netflix right about now?

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

It seems as if I’m the only person on my reading list who hasn’t said anything about the Netflix announcement regarding downloadable movies. There are two reasons for my silence: one is that I’m busier than a three-legged cat trying to cover shit on a marble floor when the only dirt is five miles away, and the second reason is that, to me, this is old news. Oh sure, the arrival of the technology is cool, but this has been in the works in one way or another for over 7 years. I’m happy to see all that work come to fruition, and I know it will be good, but I’m way past the point of being excited about it.

See, a lot of the articles I’ve seen about this announcement make snide comments about Netflix making this move to avoid “obsolescence,” but I don’t see that as much of an issue for Netflix. For one thing, downloadable movies are only going to account for a small percentage of their revenue for quite some time. Most people are still going to prefer the tangible DVD. But the main reason I don’t think obsolescence is an issue for Netflix is that they’re smart. Some of the sharpest people I’ve ever known have worked there, and many still do. The senior management is altogether the best I’ve ever encountered. They’re not going to let themselves become obsolete. They’ve built a strong brand, and they’ll continue to figure out how to use it.

Gettin’ it all done

Monday, January 15th, 2007

I’m a relatively organized, efficient person, but I can definitely stand to improve. So a few days into 2007 I thought I’d take a closer look at the whole “Getting Things Done” methodology, and revisit Life Balance from Llamagraphics. GTD is practically a cult, and I’m not interested in going overboard with it, but there’s certainly some sound project management and time management wisdom there. But the real kicker is that, in the week or so I’ve been using Life Balance, I’ve been having amazing improvements in my productivity.

I tried Life Balance once before, a few years ago. I remember liking it somewhat, but thinking it a bit heavy and clunky for what I felt I needed at the time. Too bad, because if I’d invested the time and effort to learn it then, I’d probably be a billionaire today. OK, maybe not. But I almost surely would’ve been more effective at both my day job and my songwriting “job,” not to mention the other areas I pay attention to.

See, here’s the thing. You know the big rocks analogy? That’s basically the way Life Balance can work. You set it up with your high-level goals and then iterate them into achievable tasks, which you cross-reference with “places” or contexts. And behind the scenes, the software is keeping track of the importance you assigned to each task and the lead time you specified in order to present you with a viable dynamic to do list. It also presents you with a dynamic picture of how well you’re meeting your balance goals by showing you a nifty pie chart of where you’re spending your time.

Anyway, I’m using it now and I love it. It’s expensive as hell, but I’m thinking I really am going to plunk down the money when the trial is up. Here’s my testimonial: this past week and a half at my day job has been incredibly crazy, and I’ve had to manage my already-full task list and add a whole bunch of extra stuff that just came up. Yet somehow I managed to get it all done AND get songs written and pitched AND keep up with household chores AND make progress on my organization projects around the house AND maintain a reasonable social life. I mean, maybe that doesn’t sound like as much as it is: we’re talking about insane levels of productivity here. I just don’t know if it would have been feasible without using Life Balance to keep me focused on what needed doing next.

I don’t know if that makes me sound like a cult member, but whatever. I’m pretty well convinced. I’m getting things crossed off my to do list that have languished there for months, without sacrificing timely response to the current stuff.

Go read this. Please. Go.

Sunday, January 7th, 2007

I can’t help it. Aunt B said it all so well that I have to link to it. If you have any interest in gender equality, size acceptance, conduct on the internet, or just human decency, go read it.

Don’t worry about the backstory. Aunt B explains all.

Even though Sista Smiff accused me of being articulate yesterday, I have never been this articulate in my life.

Amen, Aunt B. Just… amen.

How to experience a wide range of Nashville nightlife in one evening

Saturday, January 6th, 2007

Karsten and I went to the Young Professionals / Brian Ritchey / The Katies show at Mercy Lounge with a bunch of my coworkers last night. (This was after we’d been to Lyrix to see our buddy Joe Hendricks play a writers’ round, which was after we’d been to Cabana with the coworkers for happy hour.) The show was great. All three acts were great, even if I’m especially partial to the latter two who are friends of ours through day job connections.

Anyway, I saw JD of Gypsy Cab Co. rockin’ out with his new haircut and funky vest. Small blogosphere. No pics because it was just too damn dark in there for my Treo.

After the show was over and everyone had had their fill of after-hours dorky dancing to cheesy ’80s pop, my colleagues and I sought drunk-dining options at Hermitage Cafe south of downtown. Wow. I’d never even heard of it, but apparently it has quite a following. Wow. That place was… um… an experience. Wow. You know the kind of dive where the cook is flipping hash browns with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth? Where the waitress looks about 80 even though she’s probably only 40, and she says “hon” a lot? This was even divier than that. When I asked for decaf coffee, the waitress answered that it was Sanka, apparently giving me a chance to back out of the deal. I said, “well, ok” and she cautioned me again, this time more clearly: “It’s not very good, hon.” I reassured her that I would face the consequences bravely and she moved on to someone else’s drink order. My shoes were sticking to the so-called “carpet” which was so worn it looked as if it had become a single trodden-down layer of matted grime and grease. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Naturally, the place was overrun with drunk songwriters. (Including several of us.) Heh.

I’d say more about it but I got so little sleep I think I’ve overstretched my ability to articulate. Off to make dinner and then go see the WJ Cunningham opening at the Estel Gallery. I think it’ll be an early night tonight, though. I can’t imagine staying awake much past 9 PM at this point.

Hope everyone else is having a great weekend.

The bad hair day WILL be televised

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007

Well, it figures. It’s a day off from work, and I’m recovering from yesterday’s recovery from my New Year’s Eve hangover (yowch), so I didn’t bother at all with my hair or makeup. Washed my face, pulled my hair up, and called it done.

Naturally I got interviewed for TV news.

We were riding bikes downtown near the site of the proposed Westin hotel, and rode by a cameraman and anchor dude looking to get man-on-the-street interviews. (Update: It took some digging around on various TV news web sites to figure it out, but it must have been Marc Stewart from WSMV.) The news guy asked us as we rode by if we were from Nashville, and we said we were. He asked if we had any thoughts about the Westin, and I said that, yes, I thought it would be great to add to the tourism downtown but not at the expense of historical structures. He looked relieved and asked if I would be interviewed because I was the first articulate person he’d found.


Well, yeah, I suppose you’d be hard-pressed to find any Nashville residents hanging out on Lower Broad most of the time, unless you were looking for the homeless/busker angle, and it’s a chilly day so the odds are even lower. And not to stereotype, but the 2nd Avenue / Lower Broad attractions aren’t exactly fine culture. So yeah, as awful as I looked, I don’t think they cared about how my hair would look on camera. I cared, of course, but I also realized that it would be a chance to get the issue of historic preservation in front of the news viewing audience, and decided it would be worth my hair humiliation.

Anyway, he asked me the same question on camera with a few follow-up questions, and I tried to make statements supporting both downtown tourism and historical preservation. I worked in a mention of our historic near-downtown neighborhood, but they may edit that out, who knows.

Honestly, I hope in some miniscule way it helps further the dialogue about historic preservation and even the possibility of a downtown overlay, even if it is just evening filler on a slow news day.

Anyway. Nashvillians, look for me: I’m the articulate one with bad hair. :)