Blankbaby Zen

on TUAW (or WTF, AOL?)

I never really thought I’d be a writer. In fact, for a long time, I thought I was going to end up being a physicist. Fast forward to freshman year in college when I realized that calculus wasn’t for me and I waved goodbye to my aspirations of a career in the hard sciences.

I didn’t immediately think, “Well then, I’ll just be a writer!” I had to pick a major, so I went with English. I graduated, started looking for careers and ended up in Higher Education (which is where I still work!). I never really thought of myself as a writer until I saw a post by Barb Dybwad on The Unofficial Apple Weblog. They were looking for bloggers (not writers) and since I had been blogging for awhile and I liked Apple stuff I figured why not apply.

I sent off an email and waited. I didn’t hear anything, so I figured that was that.

This was all 10 years ago, mind you, but I still remember seeing that email from Barb asking me to join up with TUAW. I did, and wrote this first post, and after a few years I ended up becoming the Lead Blogger at TUAW. I covered a couple of Macworlds for the site (that first Macworld I wrote something like 25 posts A DAY, which meant that I didn’t talk to anyone at the actual event), “starred” in a couple of videos, and wrote and wrote and wrote (my back of the envelope math shows that for the 3 years I was there I wrote 2.7 posts a day on average, or a little over 3000 posts).

More importantly TUAW gave me the opportunity to meet lots of people: fellow bloggers, writers,  developers, and fans. So many people, in fact, that as I started listing them it grew so long that I decided not to include it with this post.

I left TUAW 7 years ago mostly because of AOL’s incompetence, so it came as only a mild shock to hear that AOL is shuttering the site and waving goodbye to all the talented folks who worked there. There’s some corporate speak saying that TUAW would be “rolled into” Engadget which means, I assume, the content will be absorbed into Engadget’s archives so they can still put advertising around it (and sip on that sweet, sweet SEO juice). A sad end to a fine site. A site that is directly responsible for the fact that I now honestly think of myself as a writer (though I still find it hard to believe that I’ve written books that you can buy in a bookstore! Sure, no one actually buys them, but they could and that’s what counts!).

Since today is the last day of publication for TUAW I wanted to thank everyone who read the site, anyone who was involved with it, and everyone I’ve met because of it. Writing for TUAW gave me my first taste of limited highly specific notierity (there was a time when I was recognized whenever I walked into an Apple Store), and my first realization that somewhere on the Internet there is someone who has nothing better to do than to tell you how whatever you’ve shared sucks (now I just go to Twitter for that).

You can read some more about my thoughts about TUAW in my farewell post (which used to have lot of lovely comments from readers wishing me well, but they seem to have been axed whenever TUAW changed commenting sytems. You can see why I have my doubts about the TUAW posts being around for the longhaul).

Lost and found around Apartment 2024

Sometimes living in a big building with lots of other people (many of whom are elderly) is a drag. I know Marisa would like some outdoor space, and I would prefer never having to engage in small talk while in the elevator.

That being said, there are some up sides to our current living situation: your chances of having something very odd happen are much higher.

My evidence is as follows:

The other day I was going to pick up something at a near by retailer. I doffed my baseball cap and made my way to the elevator bank down the hall from our apartment. In between two of the elevator banks is a small table which usually has nothing of interest on it. That day it had this on it:


A couple of days later the coat was gone and, I can only assume, a little person in Philadelphia was much warmer.

Data point two:

Our building has a bulletin board set up by the mail room where residents can post placards and announcements. I often read whatever is posted because I have an odd sense of humor... and people post some weird stuff.

How weird? Here's the most recent odd posting:


It takes a special person to not only post about a miraculous seat cushion, but go the extra mile and include an artist's rendering to help identify said cushion.

If the cushion is yours let me know and I'll pass along the contact number.

Me in three (well, 60) of your words

Scottwithspatula.jpgA little while ago I asked folks to head on over to a wacky Web site and describe me in three words. Furthermore, I promised to post the results and here they are:

  • anti-fruit & vegetable, moderate, and sharp
  • aloof, witty, and introverted
  • funny, interesting, and scottalicious
  • clever, savvy, and erudite
  • friendly, house-trained, and well-groomed
  • zany, tall, and caring
  • witty, dapper, and techie
  • Gay, Large, and Stupid (I don't think this person is a Scott McNulty fan, but I could be wrong.)
  • fluffy, puff, and marshmallows
  • witty, smart, and conservative
  • funny, smart, and brutal
  • Unique, Hawaitastic, and prescient
  • literate, mancandy, and blankbaby
  • insightful, merry, and kind
  • Philly, Food, and Writing
  • smart, funny, and logical
  • Savvy, Whimsical, and Gentle giant
  • clever, friendly, and e-reader-addicted
  • kindle, nook, and another kindle (This one is probably my favorite.)
  • Knowledgeable, Enigmatic, and Shy

And that makes the top three words: smart, funny, witty. I'm blushing here!

Describe me in three words

I thought this blog was defunct, and I bet you did as well.

Actually, I've just been reading a lot as of late so I have been ignoring my blog readers (I think that the only people who read this blog now are my lovely wife Marisa and my friends Glenn and Julie... prove me wrong Internet!).

Anyway, over on Twitter I came across a Web site called ThreeWords. The idea is you setup an account and people can describe you using three words... so I thought why not ask my blog readers to explain me in three words. Click this link and list the three words that you think describe me best.

After awhile I'll write a blog post about the words that have been used! Won't that be fun?

The last 7 Augusts of my life

I remember a time when people thought I was odd for having a blog (I'm odd for many reason, but blogging isn't one of them). When I started blogging 10 years ago no one knew what a blog was.

Now everyone knows what a blog is, but nobody seems to care about personal blogs. Blog have moved on, become corporate (I should know, I run a corporate blog!), become magazines... have become part of the wallpaper of our lives.

One of the greatest benefits of keeping a personal blog, though, is being able to delve into the archives and recall what you were doing at moments in the past... in your own words.

I thought it would be fun to see what I was doing, and thinking about, in each of the Augusts for which I have a blog archive. For some reason I have archives from August 2000 and then it skips to August 2003 so we'll consider 2001 and 2002 my 'Lost Augusts,' which would make a great title of a book.

August 2000: I saw some nuns, went to the dentist (twice!), and attended an Alumni Relations conference (I still remember the deafening sound of small talk).

August 2003: I'd been living in Philadelphia for about five months, and I was discovering the blogging community here. I was also obsessed with Macromedia (now Adobe) products for some reason.

August 2004: I watched some bad movies, thought about going to Ireland (spoiler alert: I haven't been to Ireland yet, I was excited to get a Pocket PC (hey, this was YEARS before the iPhone, people), and had my boss point out that I had a lot of gray hair (and she thought I was several years older than I actually was at the time).

August 2005: A neologism ('blankbabied') was coined and briefly in Wikipedia before their editors rejected it, was told "You would never be Jesus" which still holds true, looked back at the start of my blogging life (odd that here it is August, and once again I'm looking back at my blogging life), and stated once more my desire to go to Ireland.

August 2006: I went to see a Jonathan Coulton concert (before he got modestly famous), bought some books about libraries, shaved off my beard, and found out I was fat (I was as shocked as you are to here the news).

August 2007: I found that Sour Cream and Onion Quakes are quite tasty, purchased my first iPhone (and posted way too many pictures from it), created a promo video for a Viddler content with Marisa, and called Thad a jackass.

August 2008: I left TUAW, saw Neal Diamond in concert (for the second time), joined up with the merry crew at Macworld/MacUser (and I'll be blogging more over there soon!), and bought a new fridge.

August 2009: I created a blog for the purpose of posting pictures I wanted to Tweet (that blog has been abandoned), read a book, and and received a very cute key chain from Marisa.

Cool posters from Vintagraph

1939WorldsFair.jpgI was born in the wrong era. Well, maybe not since if I had been born in the 30's I wouldn't be able to enjoy all the gadgets (and blogs) that I spend so much of my time obsessing over.

Thankfully, Vintagraph is there to provide me with artwork so I can enjoy both my iPad and WPA produced posters. Isn't the world a wonderful place?

I have my eye on a few of their posters:

Tweet tweet, here's your password

twitterpassword.jpgOne of the many reasons I love OS X is because it includes a tiny little program called "Keychain Access," which does more than one might assume. It is sort of a central place where OS X stores passwords, credentials, and the like.

I use Keychain Access fairly frequently to come up with random passwords for various things. Today, I needed to create a blog account for someone, so I turned to Keychain Access to create a memorable, but complex, password. See that third password option? Twitter!

When the Twitter obession crosses over into password utilities it is clear to me that all the cool kids are using some new, and little known, service. I wonder what it is.

Ambrose, my trusty old PowerBook G4

PowerBook G4

This computer has been sitting in my closet for a number of years, neglected and nearly forgotten. A couple months ago I got it into my head that I should totally put it up on Craigslist and get a couple bucks for it (this is a circa 2003 PowerBook G4 with a couple gigs of RAM and a 1 GHz G4 chip... that's right, Mac users, there was a time when Apple didn't use the same chips as almost every other computer maker!).

I got it out of the closet, slapped Snow Leopard on it and then just put it back into the closet.

Today, whilst avoiding working on my new book, I decided that the den really could do with a little tidying (which it invariably can. The den is 'my room' in the apartment, which means that Marisa generally allows me to keep it as cluttered as I like... within reason. Sometimes it is too much for her and she cleans up a bit... there is only one place in the entire apartment that is off limits to Marisa: my desk. It is generally a disaster area, and that's the way I like it. Marisa tried to convince me that it would really be OK if she just straightened up my desk for me from time to time... but I will have none of it! She even went so far as to clean it up thinking I wouldn't notice. Foolish woman). I spent a few hours recycling paper, shredding stuff, folding clothes, and generally acting outside my normal routine.

As I was putting some pants back in the closet I spied the above PowerBook sitting in its box. I thought, "Heck, I can put it up on Craigslist right now for $100 and be done with it." So I grabbed it, cleaned it up a little and took a few pictures of it.

All systems were go, but I had forgotten if I wiped the drive of all my data, so I plugged the PowerBook in and powered it up. Well, I should say I attempted to power it up since the PowerBook wasn't interested in working.

Dead. A dead PowerBook!

Now I can't even sell the damed thing so I'll probably end up recycling it.

Oddly enough, seven years ago this month I was making ready to move to Philadelphia, and I even wrote a blog post using this very PowerBook on a train to Philadelphia where I was going to sign the lease on my first Philly apartment (and I was totally right about moving my stuff up four flights of stairs. It sucked... and I was about 100 pounds heavier than I am now so I wasn't much help. Sean and Elisa moved most of the stuff for me... though I did buy lunch and dinner for them as I recall).

Also found in the PowerBook box was this:

Wireless card

powerbookg4.jpgI know what you're thinking, "Didn't Apple sell internal AirPort cards for the PowerBook G4?" They did! Since this was several years ago I couldn't afford to get the PowerBook with the AirPort card pre-installed. In fact, the only reason I got this PowerBook G4 was because Apple, in a rare move, decided that they had so messed up with the industrial design of the Titanium PowerBook (which I bought the moment it was announced at Macworld Expo 2001. You can check out Steve wowing the crowd with features like a 5 hour battery life, a built-in DVD player (OMG!), being 1 inch thick and made of titanium. "Like the spies planes," quoth Steve Jobs.) that they had a trade in program. You sent Apple your old and busted Titanium PowerBook (I named mine Timmy) and they would sell you a new, aluminum, PowerBook for a steal.

I sent in Timmy and anxiously waited to see if Apple would send me a new PowerBook (Timmy may or may not have had a run in with a full glass of water that necessitated me leaving the PowerBook off and upside down for a few days to dry out). Luckily, Timmy was up to snuff and Apple sent me Ambrose.

airportcard.jpgI was quite exited to get a new computer, and shortly there after I ordered an AirPort card. The card came, I disassembled the computer to install it... and the darn card didn't fit! I figured out that I was putting it in upside down (I'm clever!) and it slide right in. All that was standing between me and wirelessly surfing the Internet was a plugging in a small cable from the PowerBook to the AirPort card. The cable was pretty snug, and it was JUST a little too short to plug in, so I pulled on it a little. Nothing. I pulled a little more. Nothing. Finally I pulled a little more and, success! If by success I mean I ripped the cable right out of the PowerBook.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is they I bought this external WiFi card for my PowerBook.

Anyway, I'll be recycling Ambrose at some point, but he was a good computer (I'm keeping my G4 Cube though!).

Canada, Tom Brokaw style

I've got to admit that I enjoy the taped segments, like this one explaining Canada to Americans, that NBC puts together for the Olympics a little more than the Olympics themselves (but I am rooting for the USA. I mean, I'm not a god damn pinko bastard or anything).

[via The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century who is a real live Canadian! Who knew they had the Internet in Canada?).]