I’ve been pleasantly busy. This pleasantness has manifested itself in steady work, side projects finishing finally, and things at my dayjob going relatively well.
Herein I will try and communicate some datapoints which evidence some of this good feeling. Perhaps in expiating these exhibits we’ll actually find that my good feeling is unjustified. That would be quite something! Suppose a person has a generalized good feeling about the world, but when the circumstances of their life are detailed things are not so rosy. Actually, as I think about it I bet that’s quite common. Everything feels hunky dory, but things are really on the cusp of doom. It’s heartening to think that if that’s true, then the inverse state of being can be true as well. One can feel nothing but dread but in reality things are just fine, better than fine even! I think, actually that this is the more common feeling for me. The word I heard from a therapist several years ago was “catastrophisizing” — the tendency to make any event the basis for the feeling that only the worst can happen.
So what are the datapoints in my mind these days?
Last weekend I attended BarCamp LA 4, and had a terrific time. I talked about that before of course.
Last week I went and saw Blade Runner with my friend Chris Greazel. Chris and I have been friends for over twenty years, and Blade Runner is a huge part of our friendship. I remember him borrowing a videocassette copy of Blade Runner from our favorite short story teacher in High School and both of us being not quite sure where we’d watch it. We had to go to my grandparent’s house to watch it because neither his nor my parents had a VHS machine.
Blade Runner was stunning. The modifications to make this cut Ridley Scott’s “The Final Cut” were subtle and welcome. There’s still a bit with the Egyptian that feels wobbly, but the effects were beautiful as they ever were. Joanna Cassidy’s death scene is improved in a way that Chris scarcely noticed the changes. Sean Young is as beautiful as ever, and has terrific hairdos. I wonder if some of my appreciation for the photography in some of Bebe ads has to do with many of them having a neo-noir sensibility? The movie is dated in some ways of course, where are the cell phones, for example? Where is the internet? But Being made 25 years ago, how could it not be a product of its’ time?
A digression: cell phones in movies. A pet thing I’ve been noticing lately is in any older movie whose plot is based on information being known or unknown, or being able to alert authorities to get help — most of them simply fall over if one tries to consider their realism as contemporary movies. I think that the Bourne Movies handle cell phone ubiquity very well. Bourne Ultimatum featured text messages prominently at key plot points, for example.
A subdigression: I’ve ranted several times to people with whom I discuss movies lately that I think the Jason Bourne movies have taken over from James Bond movies in the realm of spy thrillers. I think James Bond, a cold war product if ever there was one, has become as quaintly baroque as tailfins on cars. He’s simply irrelevant. The truth of the matter is that a thriller set today is far too relentless, and the government agencies far too terrifying to take time out for the Required Sexy Scene With Bond Babe. Sure, the last Bond movie did a better job, but compared with the last Bourne movie, I think it was left wanting.
Next datapoint: on Saturday I bought an 80GB iPod. This was a $300 purchase (I also got a protective rubber housing and of course the State of California wants its’ sales tax). I’ve had it all of 3 days and it’s changed my aural life immensely. I’ve talked about my commute before; I’ve talked about my likings of music, audiobooks, and podcasts; but I’ve not talked about the technology involved.
I used to be a major mix-tape maker. Like, very major. My uncle taught me how to check the levels on an audio source and set counters and how to use the levels on a cassette deck to manipulate and simulate a crossfade a mix tape. So the arrangement of sound has mattered to me since I was about 13 years old.
Having nothing but a 1GB iPod required me to ruthlessly edit my music and Podcasts such that I would maximize the use of my iPod for both purposes. I would use the “Only Update Checked Items” feature of iPod synchronization to assure that I was using a balance of music I liked, and a good mix of music, plus the podcasts I had not yet listened to. I got into the habit of using iTunes’ “star” feature to set how much or little I liked songs, I assured that music had Genre set, and then I could use the very powerful “Smart Playlist” feature to get a mix of songs that were really good. I would vary the selection of music I added to my iPod sometimes based on different criteria. Sometimes I used “highly rated, least listened to;” and sometimes “highest rated, most recently added to library” and then other times by “highest rated, order by random.” I learned that how I set this up and how I rated things mattered a great deal. When I set all my Beck recordings and Devo recordings to all have at least one star, I ended up with much more Beck and Devo than I wanted. I love both artists, but there’s nothing worse in a mixtape than to have an artist be disproportionately represented. I can’t help but think of a playlist as a kind of mixtape.
Now, the iPod Classic I bought subverts this whole process entirely. I can have the whole damn library in my pocket now. I can listen to all my Zappa. I can have all my Talking Heads records, including the live recordings and obscura, in my ears in seconds. I don’t have 80 GB of music at this point, and it’s wonderful to have the freedom.
The funny thing I realized though, is I don’t want to put everything on it. In the past I think I’d gladly put every single thing in my iTunes library in it – spoken word, holiday songs, podcasts, videos, one off radio interviews. No, what I learned from my shuffle is that editing rocks. And so I am using criteria to assure that I have all the music I want, but I can leave the dross at home. I still have several weeks of music if I were to listen to it all, but I have a more representative mix of music I like.
The next datapoint in the cavalcade of good feeling is financial certainty. Invoices from my dayjob have been paid with a better and increased regularity. Over the past months it’s varied a great deal. Sometimes a NET-30 invoice would be paid 2 weeks earlier than NET-30, sometimes it would be arrive exactly at NET-30. This made it really hard to budget things like, oh, rent and bills! And sadly, we ended up bouncing checks a few times in the past months. I’m glad of the compensation to me as a contractor, but this kind of uncertainty and unpredictability was rather stressful. “Can we pay that bill? Should we send off that payment? We’ll have the payment for that invoice by then” — then when the due date rolls around, no check, then BLAMMO! the bank gets to charge us for the overdraft, as well as charge us for having a negative balance. Leah and I have spent hundreds of dollars on stupid fees like this this year. Some we’ve gotten reversed, but it certainly falls into the realm of “stupid tax.” Mostly our stupidity. But who wants to tell their landlord that they’re gonna be late? And our current landlord is one of those faceless management companies that basically has no interest in our problems. Our prior landlord would work with us when we were a little late, but the current one, no way. We’re getting caught up with all our debts, piece by piece, and there’s really no other word for it than “blessing” as far as I’m concerned.
Lastly (for this post) I’ve been enjoying work very much. A few weeks ago we released some code that was a rather epic project for me, the FreeStyle Leaderboards. It’s a very nice AJAX application that allows players of the game to vew the top 10,000 players for all the ranked categories. It’s a rather nifty implementation of YUI, and it’s not the last of my AJAXery. I have many ideas bubbling around in my head and I am looking forward to working on at work and perhaps even in weekend projects and experiments in the new year.