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Friday, May 28, 2010

Why Buy an iPad? Just get one for FREE!

Admittedly, the iPads are cool, even if they are made by an evil corporation. Why not try to win one?

Do you know of any good contests? Comment! I want to add them!

Gary Coleman is dead

It looks like Conrad Bain has finished his vendetta against the kids from the beloved NBC series of the 1980s. After years and years of planning, he has finally knocked off the third kid from Diffr'ent Strokes. In a drunken tyrade in 1984, Bain declared that he would "Send all of those bastard kids STRAIGHT TO HELL!"
This from TMZ:
"Gary Coleman has died as the result of injuries he suffered earlier this week, the hospital tells TMZ.

We've learned Gary's wife, Shannon, made the decision to pull life support early this AM. Sources could not confirm if it was actually Conrad Bain who literally "plugged the plug."...
Charlotte Rae has not been questioned by police at this time, though some people say her involvement has not been ruled out.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Please don't kill me just because I'm a pedestrian

Are you tired of dodging cars and bicycles? No More!
Here's my call to the police via their contact form ( and I would invite you all to draft similar for the intersections and crosswalks of your concern:

We have been seeing a lot motorists completely ignore the laws regarding the pedestrian crosswalks on [problem street]. Of note is the crossing [your favourite hard to use crosswalk], especially in the [time of day]. Would it be possible for there to be a spot check of motorists by our police force; and the potential to cite motorists who do not adhere to the relevant laws? I think it would go a long way to deter motorists' practices.

Thank you,

[your name]

Get "The Man" to harsh their buzz (and collect fines).

Monday, May 17, 2010

I'm Coming Out

Of Hiding. I'm coming out of hiding.
Up until seven years ago, I did a lot of networking-- into the business community and into the technical community. Then I went to work for one place that was so secretive that I had two sign TWO non-disclosure agreements. Worse than that, I had to beg to attend anything during work-- even meetings and get-togethers that would have directly benefited the company. The next place I worked in was in a state of perpetual panic. I tried to walk my daughter to school before work (a good remedy to my expanding waistline): no dice-- frequent panics and crashes (usually spawned by the people who were panicking). We eventually got a sliver of room to attend Drupal meet-ups. The good news was out reach to the Drupal people in town, compare notes and learn. In information technology, if you're not gaining information and updating your skills, you're dead in the water. Unfortunately, it was held at a diploma mill that sits on the dark part of an ethical divide.
I applied for a couple local jobs and it's an odd dynamic. I've been working in the field for longer than a lot of local companies have existed. Yet, I'm almost unknown. It's little wonder I'm unknown-- I've bailed on countless meet-ups and places where I could hang with my peers.
Last month, I was able to go to Drupalcon in San Francisco (a terrific experience but the timing career-wise came at an awkward time). People said that they've been with Drupal quite some time-- like since 2008. I've been actively developing with Drupal for the last three years; when I was tapped to co-author a book for Manning Press, my editor suggested that I try out Drupal then (in early 2003)-- nope, I continued with my topic: PHPNuke... P H P Nuke... (Seth and Amy said, "really?").
This past weekend, I went to the Victoria WordCamp. It was a wild and cool experience. The speakers were good-- some were very good.
Why wasn't I up there doing the talk? I know stuff. Like lots of stuff. But the reasoning for being the old guy in the audience instead of the dynamo on stage is good:
Noteworthy people and leaders in the field were talking. I've been in the spider-hole that Saddam Hussein vacated way back when. I'm not a noteworthy person. I'm a shut-in with some blogs.
Public speaking takes energy. Up until the last couple months, I've been running on an empty tank of gas. Most days, I would finish work, eat dinner and go to sleep. How could I attend a meeting at 7PM-- that's sleep time. Where could I get time to do prep work for a talk? When could I blog with my expert hat on?
Innovators innovate. In my last job, I was supposed to churn out website after website about wiring and electrical supplies. In my current job, I've been told that I innovate but I really don't feel that I do. If I innovate, I have to hide it. Many advents of mine get one of two reviews: a) It doesn't "work"-- which I discovered was not a technical problem that I needed to remedy; but that they didn't like what it did and thereby did not "work." Or, b) It worked and I was directed to change almost every detail so that it failed to work.

So, I have quit my job to go work for a start-up. I'm attending more local meet-up of people who are in the fields I want to till for cash. I've been in this industry for a LONG time-- since late 1996-- and it's time I participated instead of sitting in my spider hole and whining.

What do you think? What would you do to kick-start your career and your sense of worth?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Elections: When Morons Make Big Decisions

I have worked as a polling officer. My favourite moment:
A family trucked in their elderly relative to vote for a candidate. She spoke no English, she seemed largely unaware of her surroundings. But, she had valid ID and was in the registry. They muttered to her. Non-handicapped people cannot be accompanied by others to the actual poll booth, so she went by herself.
I waited. The poll booth shield jumped forward a tiny amount. Meh. She returned, muttered to her family, then folded up the ballot and popped it into the box. Done? No.
She muttered some more to her family. They went to the poll booth and came back and to alert me to something. She marked her X-- she had marked it on the example printed on the wall of the poll booth. Then, she submitted the blank ballot.
With ballot already cast, there wasn't anything I could do. Darwin had voted.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

My Muse Is a Lazy Magical Bitch

muse: (as used by Tim Ferriss in his book) is nothing more than a business that can generate income without consuming time. It’s at least a partially-automated business. I think of it as more like a side business to whatever else it is you do during the day (be it work or relaxation). In other words, working in a manufacturing plant is probably not a muse. However, starting a website that sells t-shirts for dogs could be considered a muse. For my purposes, most muse ideas will be internet-based, because this is where you can run with an idea at the lowest cost and probably have the highest chance for success (without risking your life savings).

I've starting working through what may be the ultimate solution or ultimate mirage: the 4-hour work week. The book is a combination of time management, demeanor tuning and business management.
Time Management: It talks about ignoring "emergencies"-- On the Internet, where nothing is real, no emergency is real. The author talks about checking email less frequently (twice a day). He talks about batching jobs (like bill paying once every two weeks). And, deferring time-wasting meetings. I do some of this stuff already. Since putting it into practice, it has saved me some time and some sanity.
Demeanor Tuning: These tips verge on the airy-fairy. Keeping eye contact. Asking strangers for their phone numbers. I know the goal of the process: to be daring. Most of our world is shaped by social constructs. Money isn't a physical law. Getting a girlfriend is only partially governed by chemistry. Wealth, access and good social interactions are social results-- output from the social machinery. If you learn to ask and ask in a way that yields your intended results, then you're making the social construct work for you-- like Neo bending the rules of the Matrix. If you never ask, the answer is no.
Business Management: This is the weak link in my chain. My muse won't flap her wings, play her harp or whatever she's supposed to do. No muse: no money: fabulous (pronounced fa-HABU-lous!!!). Our projects hide in stealth mode. Why? WHY!?! is getting some attention, but saving money and doing stuff for free should have widespread (like thousands of visitors a day) worth of appeal. Some Experience Required should be the tonic for people eager to build job skills and climb into better paying gigs after proving themselves. But it languishes. This is where the value of this book may come for me. A lot of the "self-help" (aka "get rich quick") books, blogs, etc. miss the intricacies of how to manage your business-- how to offload work, manage customer service and become scalable. Scalable is tricky. I've been fighting with it in Drupal. If I take up doing web pages for clients, I will hit a personal version of scalable: I will only have so many hours in a day to earn money-- I will hit this limitation of earning 1.0 wages. The 4-hour Work Week does cover how to make offshoring (aka geographical arbitrage) work for you.
The next goal: get my muse to kick into gear.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Half A Post Down-- More Later

I've been mulling big ideas for the last few weeks. We did do a road trip to San Francisco. That was 20 hour-plus drive. Plenty of room for talking, social juxtaposition and audio books.
Free - The Chris Anderson book about the concept of giving and getting at zero cost up-front. It was a powerful and interesting book. He draws on examples of the phenomenon of Free in our day-to-day world. He even peers into the future via SF to talk about how sci-fi deals with a post-scarcity and that SF makes scarcity into a source of conflict to drive stories. Really: the post-scarcity will change our way of thinking. There will be an all-you-can-eat buffet at the End of the Universe, but you will have to learn how to pull back from the table. The challenge of free will not be abolishing scarcity, but abolishing gluttony.
Super Freakonomics - Friends hacked Freakonomics. I think their math holds water and makes for some fascinating concepts. The SuperFreakonomics book covered how the Mt. Pinatubo volcano spewed sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere and dropped temperatures worldwide in the early 1990s. As we were listening, Iceland's volcano was spewing ash into the atmosphere. Snow in California changed our route home. Windstorms are ripping through our area. I have to wonder if we're in the opening volleys of the same thing as Mt. Pinatubo, but it doesn't exist as a problem because the hairdoes at CNN haven't figured this out.
4-hr. Work Week and Monetizing Drupal - I didn't know what I was going to discover at this talk, but it was interesting. People had started these websites to turn Drupal into a business. One of the people was motivated by the concepts of the The 4-Hour Workweek. For years I have been searching for a way to get rich via the Internet. If I was trying to get rich quick, I totally failed. It's been years and I'm not rich. Maybe it's a matter that you get rich quick, or not at all.
Being Fed-up - I listened to the different talks about Drupal at Drupalcon. I also listened to some of the employers put out calls for new employees. I suck at customer follow-up, so I doubt if I should be one-person shop. At work, I don't endure what I would call "antics": a situation where I get initial details at-- or after-- the deadline. The development period is usually started at the deadline, leaving at panicked and buggy end-result. I went to one swell talk from Palantir called The Magic of Teams. They were into a bit where they said that the client was part of the development team: with expectations and things they had to bring to the table. I thought "THAT'LL NEVER WORK" (well, with the place I work with): there are walls of insulation between me and the clients; as well as me and the people who I work with. Accountability doesn't appear to exist. Lots of places pull this. If I get fed-up from my current place, the next place may have the same practices. So, what I am holding out for? Is this like jumping phone carriers? Bell sucks, so I'm going to try Virgin (note: Virgin uses Bell's infrastructure)?
Externalities - I've been looking for a unified field theory for success. I read through Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success (great book). He broke up the elements of success and found that there isn't a lot of mystery but more a matter of hard work and statistical clustering. I see marvelous mess-ups who succeed. They are the toast of the town. How do such morons succeed? Externalities. They offload their problems to other people and make them their problems. So someone else has to generate a solution that they share in. It's like these fabulous f-ups are problem farmers: planting chaos and reaping rewards. There was a swell (read: horrific) post from someone who was tapped to do freebie work for someone-- someone who was being paid part of $60,000 to collect the material. Success is all about externalities. Every worker generates about 1.0 people-loads of work and income-- enough to pay for their lifestyle more or less. How does Bill Gates turn his career into an engine that generated billions of dollars while lots of people his age generated maybe a house, maybe just a collection of baseball cards? He leaned on the hard work of others to generate his own wealth.

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