I think 92 year old Big Hy gets a pass:
‘It’s not the right thing to do, but I did it,’ Mr. Strachman said, acknowledging that his actions violated copyright law.
‘If I were younger,’ he added, ‘maybe I’d be spending time in the hoosegow.’
He also gets bonus points for using the word "hoosegow" non-ironically, as only a 92 year old DVD pirated can.
This year we broke our tradition of escaping Philadelphia to the bucolic surrounds of Lancaster County (read about our past adventures in 2010 here and 2009 here) and instead headed to Northampton, MA to visit Becky and Eric (formerly of Philadelphia).
The trip takes about 5 hours (in our sweet new car) but we decided to break the trip up into two parts by stopping over near Beacon, NY so we could visit the Dia: Beacon.
This is the entrance to the museum, and that's the only picture I could because of copyright restrictions on the art itself (who knew?).
The building is amazing, and the art is pretty mind-bending. I think the organization of the collection could use some work. As someone who isn't an expert on modern art the first two exhibits seemed like cliches (though I am sure they were very fine art). One included a room full of canvases painted white, and the other included materials that needed to be "activated." Activated, in this case, means put them on you and look foolish.
After those galleries, though, the art got really interested. Lots of great sculpture and even some crazy pencil drawings done directly on the museum's walls. If you're ever in the area you should check this museum out (though don't bring a big bag because they won't let you in with it.. as Marisa found out the hard way. Don't worry, she put it back in the car and was allowed into the museum).
Once we were done with the Dia: Beacon we made our way to Northampton to be greeted by our generous hosts. Our first stop was the Montague Bookmill which has a great slogan, "Books you don't need in a place you can't find." I picked up some books and a bottle of root beer.
The next day found us at the Northampton Farmers Market.
Where Becky found herself some cheese and Eric tracked down a raspberry bush.
Marisa found herself a big wooden bowl because we need another bowl.
We stopped into this antique store with this rather odd phrase on the window. I still have no idea what it means.
Deals and steals is a local discount organic food store (which is like heaven to Marisa). I bought this big Kitkat from Libya.
We went to a food co-op and Marisa thrilled at the chance to fill a jar with maple syrup (shortly after this picture was taken I drank all the maple syrup with a straw).
The Bridge of Flowers was… just as you might expect: a bridge with lots of flowers on it (which someone from a nearby apartment pointed out to us as we took pictures. They shouted from their porch, "They're just flowers!!").
Marisa, Eric, and Becky look at glacial potholes.
One thing I don't like about living in our apartment is the strict no pets policy. We enjoyed having some quality time with a nice kitty (and Spaetzle enjoyed playing with my iPad).
Spaetzle, caught in a rare moment of silence (she is a chatty kitty!).
Marisa had the bright idea to grill some pizza. We all thought she was crazy, but she assured us that if we plopped some dough on the grill good things would happen. In the face of our unanimous doubt Marisa did some research and found out that one must oil the dough before placing it on the grill.
The pizza was very good.
Eric is a fine grillmaster.
Going down the steps of Bray Tower.
Eric commanded that we think about our ideal sausage the night before we went sausage shopping. Once at the sausage counter I met the sausage I had dreamt of without even knowing it: a chicken cheddar pepperoni sausage. It was mighty tasty.
And here's my final book haul. In a rare occurrence I do believe I spent more money on this Memorial Day trip than Marisa did. Who knew?
Sure, I love eReaders (some might say I have an eReader problem) but here's a dirty little secret: if, by some otherworldly force, all the eReaders in the world disappeared I would be sad. If said force was turned against libraries instead I would weep for humanity.
My drink of choice is a Pimm's Cup. Why? Because I likes it!
I found myself on the Internet the other day, which is out of the ordinary, and I ended up on the official Pimm's website. I poked around and found out about the existence of the Pimm's pitcher (a pitcher in which to make a large amount of Pimm's cups).
I leapt for my wallet, but sadly the store on the Pimm's website wasn't working. Sadness.
Enter eBay. I now own a Pimm's pitcher of my very own (pictured above). Sure, mine is plastic but I'm ok with that. I think I'll break in during my birthday party.
I'm a big fan of digital goods. I buy eBooks all the time, and I can't remember the last time I bought an actual CD. Today, however, I was tempted to break my CD free streak.
As you can see above, Neil Diamond has a new album
out. Since I enjoy Mr. Diamond's work, I wanted to nab a copy for myself. I checked iTunes first, and the MP3 album cost $10.99. I figured Amazon MP3 would have it for a buck cheaper, or so, which they usually do so I headed over there. Amazon had it for $10.99 as well, however, the CD cost $9.99.
I've written before about this phenomenon, though in that case I was talking about physical books vs. eBooks, and I still don't understand it.
As an author I totally get that lots of folks are involved in creating stuff like this, and they aren't volunteers and they need to get paid. That being said, I'm always amazed when a physical product costs less than the digital version.
Oh, and yes, I did buy the digital version even though it cost me a buck more.
I 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:
The two funniest people on the planet at the moment are Ricky Gervais and Larry David. Ricky sat down with Larry David to talk about comedy for a BBC show, and it is as interesting and hilarious as you think it would be.
Below are the six YouTube videos that make up the hour long show (via David Jacobs):
In addition to being a wildly unstable, lonely occupation with an insane income spread, there are other drawbacks to being a writer.
I don't rate myself in the same league as Charlie Stross as a writer, but his blog post is a must read for anyone looking to get into the writing gig. Sure, I'm a tech book author, but generally speaking I'm a pretty successful author and I haven't laid the foundation on Blankbaby Manor just yet.
Short taco-less people are the worst.
I don't know what it is, perhaps because I am getting older, or because I feel more settled... but I've been on a bit of a home furnishings kick.
I haven't ordered these framed posters yet (because Marisa rightly pointed out that I already have lots of art that needs framing) but I'm blogging it to remember them.
Something about this particular style appeals to me. Given my love of Mission and Arts and Crafts stuff, it is clear I was born about 70 or 80 years too late (though, what did people DO at work without computers and the Internet? Seriously, what did they do? Did they mimeograph funny pictures of cats and send them to one another via inter-office mail?).
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?).]
The Wiggles. Kids go crazy for them, and until recently I had very little idea who the heck they were. That all changed last week when I sat down to interview them for my day job (yes, I was in the same room with them even though it might not look that way in the video).
They were nice guys, and I enjoyed chatting with them.
When I joined Comcast I wasn't expecting to interview anyone, but it turns out I quite enjoy it (I'll leave it up to you whether or not I'm any good at it!). Here's a link to the YouTube video if you're reading this in a newsreader or something.
I heart my Kindle, and as many of you know I've in the process of writing a book about the Kindle for PeachPit (I only mention it now because I am fairly certain that it will, in fact, be published at some point next month).
After finishing my last book (which you really should buy, if you haven't already) I really didn't feel like writing much of anything, so I went on a reading binge. It seems like that is my natural reaction after writing a book because I did the exact same thing this time around (though the book isn't finished just yet, we're still in the editing process... but I'm such a fantastic writer that I need little editing. That sound you hear is my editor, Kathy, laughing her head off).
One of the unfortunate side effects of this is that Blankbaby lays fallow, so I thought why not write up a post about the books I've read in the last few weeks? Heck, I'll even link to them on Amazon so that if you want to read them yourself I'll get a little kickback (hey, I need to support my reading habit somehow!).
I haven't finished reading this one yet, but all signs point to it being one of the better books of non-fiction I have read in awhile. If you aren't squeamish I suggest you check this book out (I would lend you my copy, but sadly that is one of the areas in which buying the physical book is better than the Kindle version).
These are the books that I have recently finished reading (all on my Kindle, of course, and the vast majority of them on the Kindle DX).
I had no idea who Steve Hely was before I started reading this book, but I so enjoyed it that I did a little looking into his history. Turns out he was a writer for the Late Night with David Letterman, which explains why I found his sense of humor to be so entertaining (though now he writes for American Dad, which I don't find to be all that funny).
This book tells the tale of guy who gets laid-off from his job writing college admission essays for wealthy kids and decides to write a Serious Work of Fiction. Here's the kicker: he thinks all the Serious Fiction writers are full of crap. He comes up with a list of rules that he follows while writing his book to appeal to the sort of person who looks for the Oprah Book Club sticker on a book's front cover, all in an effort to be a best selling author.
I won't ruin the book for it, but let's just say that it turns out getting on the New York Times Best Seller list doesn't solve all of life's problems.
There is a physical edition available, if you prefer your books to take up space.
These two books (a third is on the way) make up the Charles Howard series of mystery novels. Charles Howard, the main character, is a mystery writer by day and an international thief by night (though he isn't as impressive as the thief character in his fictional series of mysteries. Confused? Don't worry, it isn't as confusing whilst you're actually reading the books).
These books are very entertaining, and very quick reads. I don't know why I don't read more mysteries, but the Good Thief Guides have shown me the error of my ways.
It doesn't hurt that Chris Ewan is a Mac user, has a blog, and uses TypePad just like me (makes me think that I might have a novel or 5 in me as well!). Pick up Amsterdam or Paris (though you should read Amsterdam first) if you're looking for a nice light read.
Oh, Simon R. Green. He is something of a guilty pleasure for me. I've read almost everything the man has written, and I buy every one of his new books without even glancing at the summary to see what they are about... and yet... he really doesn't write all that well. Don't get me wrong, he has some fantastic ideas and he presents them in a very interesting and entertaining way, however, his ideas are often much better than his prose. I will give him this, though, the man has lots and lots of imagination (he reminds me of Piers Anthony in that respect).
Anyway, I'm not going to bother explaining what this book is about since it is the third in a series and none of it will make sense unless you've read them. Suffice to say I enjoyed reading it, but this type of book is the perfect argument for the Kindle. It is fun to read, but you'll never re-read it again so why take up valuable space in your home storing it for who know how long? However, if you want to buy a hard copy don't let me stop you.
So, that's what I've been reading. What about you?
We all know that American car companies (other than Ford) aren't doing so well nowadays. They seem to be baring the brunt of the American public's anger with this financial crisis for a simple reason: people understand what car makers do. They produce cars, it is pretty simple. If people buy those cars, the company makes a profit. Compare that to leveraged buyouts of bundled mortgages (if that's even a thing) and I can understand why people are blaming the car companies.
That being said, it is one thing to blame a faceless corporation and quite another to attack a model hired to look pretty next to said faceless corporation's product at a trade show and say this:
At Auto Show, Presenters Meet a Tough Crowd - NYTimes.com: "One G.M. presenter said a woman told her the company was responsible for the death of American soldiers in Iraq. The logic went like this: if G.M. made more fuel-efficient cars, the country would not need so much oil, and if the country did not need oil, United States troops would never have invaded."
That's pretty harsh, and downright stupid. The car companies kept pumping out gas guzzlers because that's what people wanted to buy (can you say Hummer?).
My point is this: get mad at the company all you want, just leave their models alone.
When I was a kid I wanted nothing more than to be a scientist. I blame that on a healthy dose of Star Trek and Quantum Leap (plus a liberal dusting of popular science books). I went off to Lehigh with the intention of majoring in physics and then going to getting a PhD and then doing some hard science.
My dream was crushed in calculus class. Math always came easily to me, but I found calculus to be completely alien. I couldn't wrap my mind around it (though looking back at it, I'm pretty sure I was just too darned lazy to do the required work) and so I did what any red blooded college student would do: I gave up.
It was clear that the hard sciences weren't for me, and that meant I needed a new major. There were two lead contenders: Classical Studies (i.e. Ancient History) or English. Since I always enjoyed reading and writing (and I was fluent in English at the time; Latin was all Greek to me) I figured I would opt for English (though I ended up taking enough Ancient History classes to minor in Classics, but I didn't fill out the paperwork for the minor, so that isn't on my academic record). That turned out to be a great decision, even though for the last ten years or so it looked like writing would always be a sideline to my 'real' job (i.e. being an IT geek).
Over the last few years I've been lucky enough write about lots of stuff and get paid for it (first at TUAW, then at Macworld and MacUser, and then I wrote a book, which I still think is super cool), and as I was doing all that writing there was a voice in the back of my mind that kept saying, "gee, wouldn't it be fun if I did this full-time?"
I'm no John Gruber or Jason Kottke, so I knew that making a living off of Blankbaby would be difficult at best (the market of people who are intensely interested in what I am doing at any given point just isn't large enough to monetize... plus whenever I hear anyone use the word 'monetize' I want to punch them in the throat). Freelancing seemed like something that might work, but all my friends who are indies (mostly working over at Indy Hall) seem to be working all the time (on what I have no idea). Plus a large amount of your time as an indie is spent making sure your clients pay you. I hate paper work, and talking to people isn't really my forte so being a freelancer just doesn't appeal to me (though I would like to work from home and not wear pants).
As you all know (if you're been paying attention) I am now a happy Comcast employee. When I wrote that post (has it already been 4 months? I've been telling people I've been at Comcast for a little over 2 months! I'm bad with dates) I wasn't at liberty to give out the URL for the blog I was working on. Now that it is public knowledge I can present to you Comcast Voices.
Yep, Comcast Voices is Comcast's corporate blog and I spend my days managing it, thinking about what we should post on it, and generally making a nuisance of myself. Check it out and let me know what you think (I hope you don't think it sucks... well, it sucks as little as any corporate blog can realistically not suck)!
It is pretty funny that while I was in college I wanted nothing to do with computers. I hand wrote all my term papers until my professors, one by one, refused to grade them unless I started typing them up (no one, including me, could read my handwriting). I didn't own a computer until a year after I graduated college, and now I spend most of my time (and make all of my money) on computers, thinking about them, and writing about them.
What a world.
I remember when 'personal brands' were called 'personalities.'
I remember when cult leaders where the only people who had followers, and making friends was a littler harder than clicking a button.
I remember when conversations took place face to face.
I remember when 'user generated content' was just called 'making crap.'
Social media has changed all that, though. Now it is all about 'following your DNA,' and Digging your top ten list while rushing to get into the latest closed beta from yet another company that promises to help you manage your online interactions, or that let's you tag your workout schedules.
Don't get me wrong, I love the Internet. I blog like a maniac, I Twitter with the best of them... but lately the ratio of sensible talk to crap spewing has really gotten out of control.
Alex Hillman who I am a big fan of, is a passionate and smart fellow. I recall when I first met him (well, the second time I met him) all he could talk about was co-working. And then every subsequent time I saw him over the next year all he could talk about was co-working. His focus and drive is very impressive (and you can't argue with the results: I'm a huge Indy Hall booster even though I am a lame work a day dude myself).
Clearly, I wouldn't have said all these nice things unless I was leading up to something less than nice (that's a rhetorical device, kids). Alex recently penned his first post on Mashable (a site which I find almost as annoying as TechCrunch, but not quite) titled "How to Know if You Should Fire Your Social Media Consultant."
He missed one important sign, though: they use the term 'social capital exchange' without a hint of irony (what does it even mean?!). Call me old fashioned, I won't hear you over my phonograph anyway, but what the hell is a 'social media consultant' anyway? Is that like paying someone to find you friends? I'm all for people getting big corporations to give them lots of money for very little work, but when a whole class of people who seem to exist merely to go to conferences and talk about the same things over and over again, with the same people, crops up I know that the party is over.
But who am I to stop you from thinking that Gary Vaynerchuk is a genius for telling people to do what they like, and work hard? If you want to spend all your time making virtual friends rather than actually creating something be my guest. But I, for one, would like it if you did it quietly and without labeling yourself as an expert on anything.
Yep, I'm an Internet Curmudgeon. I can't be the only one out there. Someone else must have to resist rolling their eyes as much as I do when someone introduces themselves as a 'social media consultant,' or suggests that what your small business really needs is a CXO (that's 'Chief Experience Officer'), can I?
As you might recall, Marisa and I went to a Neil Diamond concert on Sunday. Through the magic of technology I was able to file a report live from the concert itself showing off my swanky new t-shirt. That post inspired both Geoff and Glenn to opine that I shouldn't be 'that guy,' you know... the guy that wears the t-shirt of the band to said band's concert.
There is one big assumption in that line of thinking though: that I wore said Neil Diamond t-shirt to the concert (which also assumes that I owned that shirt before the concert). Now, I'm a fan of Neil Diamond, I'm not ashamed to admit that. His music is catchy, upbeat, and entertaining. He enjoys being himself (no matter how schlocky or uncool his persona might be, which has had the effect of making him kind of cool once more. I like to call this the 'Shatner effect'). All of this is to say that Mr. Diamond is aces in my book. However, I never felt the need to own a Neil Diamond t-shirt and didn't own one before that fateful Sunday.
How then, you wonder, did I end up wearing a Neil Diamond t-shirt at his concert? I'll tell you:
Marisa and I are two very different people. I'm a bit neurotic about being on time and feel the need to leave for various events (movies, concerts, flights) several hours early. Marisa doesn't mind being a little late so she tends to leave later than I would like (a lot later, actually). Since this concert was my idea (though Marisa made it possible) we left when I wanted to leave (that's how we handle our incompatible time tables: if we are doing something that Marisa planned we leave when she wants, and if is something I planned we leave when I want to). That meant that we had to hurry out of the apartment (evidence to this fact: Marisa wore two different shoes). While we were leaving we noticed there was some light rain so we brought along Marisa's tiny umbrella.
We hopped onto public transit (because we're cool like that) and emerged to find that the area of Philadelphia in which the stadiums are situated, and in which the concert was being held, was being buffeted by some sort of monsoon. Rain, rain, and more rain was everywhere. We waited for a bit in hopes that the rain would slacken (we were 30 minutes early thanks to my mania) and we dashed out when it looked like the rain was letting up. As we walked across a large parking lot, huddled under a tiny cocktail umbrella, the skies opened up. Half of my Hawaiian shirt (washable silk, luckily) was soaked, as was my t-shirt underneath. Marisa also got a little damp, but thankfully she was better shielded than I.
We arrived at the concert venue (the Wachovia Center, for those in the know) and I had a choice to make as Marisa used the lady's room: I could sit through the whole concert wearing a very wet shirt and not have any fun or I could buy a new shirt. Luckily, when you're at a concert there are plenty of shirts to be had that are both concert appropriate and dry! I headed over to the t-shirt hut and looked at the offerings. I thought the 'So good. So good.' shirt was hilarious and my choice was made (though really, I think the t-shirt should say 'So good.' three times, but who am I to tell the Diamond people how to make their t-shirts). $35 later I was wearing a dry shirt, and letting the world know that Neil Diamond is, in fact, so good, so good.
I hope this clears up the matter of the t-shirt, and that this incident hasn't caused anyone undue stress.
The concert itself was a hoot. Marisa had snagged some free tickets that happened to be in the last row of the upper deck. We were pretty far from the stage, but I figured you only really need to hear the music, and they had large screens set up so I wasn't concerned. The place wasn't sold out (though the concert on Saturday was) so there were lots of empty seat around us, which was nice too.
A few minutes before the concert was about to start some dude walked up to Marisa and myself and asked me, 'Is it just you two?' I said, 'umm.. yes.' and he said, 'Well, today's your lucky day!' And he handed us two tickets for seats in the 7th row of a section right off the side of the stage! It was pretty darned cool, and we had a great view (and you can't beat the price).
Marisa had fun too, though she told me that she didn't really get the rabid fanbase that Neil Diamond has. Oh, the unbelievers.
I did feel a little sorry for Neil Diamond though. Sure, he gets to sing his songs in front of lots of people and make a good living doing it which is great. That being said you go to a Neil Diamond concert wanting to hear songs that he wrote, and sang, for the first time 30 years ago. I am sure he's aware of this, and the concert was full of all the hits you would expect (and they sounded very good) but I got the sense that he enjoyed playing his new material more (though the crowd certainly didn't enjoy his new stuff as much as say... 'Cherry, Cherry').
I actually like his new album, and I enjoyed the 3 songs he played off of it... but I can't deny that the highlight of the evening was Sweet Caroline (which you haven't heard until you've heard it in a big stadium with 10,000 people singing along).
Almost 3 years ago to the day, Julie made me a very happy boy by supplying me with both Neil Diamonds tickets (which were free) and a willing concert buddy (Becky and Eric went with us too but this was way back when Becky was blogging). Ah, Neil truly did rock my socks off.
Neil is making his way to Philly once more, but I forgot to buy tickets when I had the chance. I figured I would just forgo the Neil this time around, and just listen to his new album while other people were enjoying him live and in concert.
I was sitting at my desk at work today, trying to forget that I wouldn't be seeing Neil Diamond's concert this week when Barry asked me if I was going to the Neil Diamond concert. Sadly, I said, I would be Diamond-less this year. I was crestfallen, but determined to live my life to the fullest. Not an hour later I got an IM from a lovely young lady (with whom I happen to live). Marisa had some news to share: she managed to get two free tickets to the Neil Diamond concert this Sunday.
Clearly, the universe loves me.
Below you can see where we will be seated:
Sure, we'll be a little far from the stage, but these tickets are free and hearing the music is the important thing. I can hardly wait!
Blankbaby is known to his friends as Scott McNulty (though he is @blankbaby on Twitter). He writes this blog, used to co-host (with Marisa) Fork You, infrequently contributes to Macworld, and authors tech books.
Everything on this blog is Scott's opinion, and his opinion alone. It in no way reflects the opinions of his employers, friends, concerned passers-by, or anyone else for that matter. But you're smart, you knew that already.