Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sure, it's been crazy again.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday was the big Garage Sale - hours and days of prep work all came together with this. Pamela worked her TUSH off, being there for 8 hours each day, plus setup and tear down, PLUS the craziness of a flash storm on Thursday Afternoon which soaked EVERYTHING. Pamela was working on this til Midnight Wed-Thurs-Fri, and by Saturday 7pm, all was done, and we were all comatose. A lot of work for $800, but it felt good, and that'll help pay for our vacations!

I think the lesson, however, is to just do one day: Thursday. We made almost twice on Thursday as we made on Friday and Saturday combined. Still, there was camaraderie, and by Saturday afternoon, the mimosas were flowing. A good time was had by all. Still, that did put us well into tired territory for today. We were/are SLOW MOVING. Pamela and Isaac are napping now, Bella's out playing, and I'm about to go do some yard work in the hot hot sun.

Isaac's chiclets are finally breaking through: one of the big front teeth finally cut through, and he seems much happier. If that second one doesn't follow suit, we'll have no choice but to call him "Fang". He's also eating a LOT now - but still mostly bottle. I'm having some better luck getting him to accept a FEW bites of other food, and I'm not pushing it: I don't want him to create any more negative associations with non-bottle-food. Pamela reminded me that bottle was a part of Bella's diet well into 16-18 months.

I'm having a great time with a book: The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. It's a multilayered blueprint for: De-prioritizing work and making yourself not available 24/7 to people, being MORE effective during the hours you ARE working, starting sideline businesses for low maintenance cash flow (using outsourcing, websites, etc), outsourcing things - using concierges, babysitters, assistants to let you focus on what you need), reducing your need for STUFF in your life, and having set things up that you don't have to work SO much, how to escape and travel for now very much money at all.

The guy is young and cocky, and frankly while he's made this work for about two years, there's nothing saying this way of life will stick for him. He is also very "young guy" focused, with only cursory words for those of us with kids. BUT it's filled with very good resources for everything I listed above, so should I want to create a product, say a multi-CD course in something I know about, there are contacts for outsourcing call centers, fulfillment, card processing, and everything else... as well as strategies for test marketing. Suffice it to say, it's got me thinking along some new lines...

PS: There's a misconception that the guy is all about India outsourcing: That's not true - while he has used Indian resources, most of his oursources are domestic businesses.

And what about Bella? She remains a total sweetheart, observant to the end: She is VERY worried about people littering, and picks up trash as we walk along. She is very concerned about people on cellphones while driving, and won't let us do it (which is probably good). She remains observant about cars: Pointing to Dave and Amy's Audi A4, she said "There are a lot of those cars around. Lots like Grandma's too. Not so many like Papa's though!" She's also been pretty cuddly - when she comes down the stairs in the morning, her first move is to climb into my lap and curl up. It's pure magic, and better than coffee as a way to start the day.

Monday, July 23, 2007

PS - More Potter

No spoilers here:

As I have mused about book 7, little details keep popping up in my head, and I marvel at how Ms Rowling tied up all of the loose ends. Pretty much anything you were wondering about, she answers.

Why was so-and-so such a jerk? Why did X win over Y in duel Z? What is Q's motivation? Is D good, or bad... REALLY? It's all there. And more.

One thing I'm working on but will not post for a week is a critical look at Voldemort's management style: There are some things he does well, setting clear expectations of his employees. Some things, not so well - delegating and outsourcing don't work out so well for him. That's as far as I want to go now... but as you read think about Voldemort as CEO, and gauge what he does well and not well.

Back to the book: I've looked at some online forums, and I think most readers are in agreement with me on most points: There are some spoilsports who don't like some things, and see loose ends where none are needed - usually complaints about unresolved threads involving third-tier minor characters (I don't think there is anything really unresolved about Gilderoy Lockhart that NEEDS to be included...), or details we never got (What sort of broom did JAMES Potter prefer?????). Those are the nitpickers of the world, who will never know true pleasure in reading. Add to those the people who claim to have finished the book but then post 5 questions that would be obvious if one had actually READ the book. I need to stay away from these forums. I am done with them.

For my money, the book SATISFIED.

The New Gig

Some observations from my short time of full time at the new gig.

1) People are either available immediately or in 3 weeks. I have had people from the CIO on down either say "well, come on up - I'm open", and if not that, then "We're looking at November for that".

2) We are empowered to DO things. We need to cram a computer in a conference space, and we started down the path of looking for tables in the common areas to hijack... I suggested getting a wall mount with extendable arms like I've used in ORs in years past... my boss went to the website, said "cool" and directed me to configure it and get it ordered. Everywhere else I've worked, this would have taken a committee to decide on this.

Similarly, it was noticed that I don't have a printer in my office. So they gave me a catalog and told me to order one up. I did go for color laser, but decided for the cheap model.

3) We are an excuse for people getting things done they've wanted to for years: One manager finally moved around 6 cubic feet of old video equipment out of a room (not even in an area we were going to use) to get "ready" for our install... Another area is knocking out cupboards they've never liked to make room for our system... again, a place they asked for, but we doubt will be well used. But they're happy.

4) Though they are a big place, they are one person deep on ANY decision... but the key is to find the right person. It's possible to send an email to the wrong person and get no action, no forwarding and no love for weeks. But an email to the person right next to them will get you what you need within minutes. This is an institution that thrives on the "it's who you know" system. Fortunately, I am pretty good at navigating the who you know networks... and usually I become a who you know nexus point. So we'll just see how I do here.

5) Nobody, and I mean nobody really knows what my job is - but they're glad I'm doing it, and think I'm doing it well.

6) I love being in downtown again. Even though it's 6 blocks to the heart of downtown and it's a little hot on the street, it's still great to take the walk to be in the thick of people, and to feel like part of a city.

And that's my report on the new gig.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Crazy Children

1) As we drove someplace last week, Bella remarked "I guess tomorrow will be Fall." Why? "Today I saw a tree with yellow leaves."

2) Pamela has been working hard to get things ready for the big Garage Sale this week coming up. As a result, in between reading, I've been the primary child watcher all weekend. And I've said it before, it bears repeating: These kids can be exhausting. Isaac is a very busy, very intense little guy. We did a lot of wrassling this weekend, which he loved. Bella had playtime pretty much nonstop all weekend with friends, until Jenny crashed at 1pm Sunday... then we got her back.

3) We all went over to Auntie Carrie's for a burger bar: This genius idea: Make little burgers the size of hard rolls, and have tons of gourmet toppings: Everybody's got room for two LITTLE burgers, and there's no chance of topping regret, since you have two to work with.

Isaac started shrieking with delight the moment he arrived, and really didn't stop for 3 hours... walking, crawling, being held, it didn't matter: He was giving out that banshee wail with a huge smile on his face, and we all felt like we'd been the victims of some sonic attack. He was also the grabbiest guy ever: He beelined for the dvd player, pulling out the movie somehow! Every glass, every plate, every utensil within reach, he was after it. By the end of it, Pamela and I were spent, as was the rest of the family who had been chasing him.

I think that he's totally ready for his first airplane ride. Can you even imagine? The plus side: Freddie the Boston Terrier and Isaac got along great, with Isaac laughing as Freddie laid down layer after layer of dog drool on his face. It was only the jumping and knocking over that got Freddie exiled for the party.

Bella took a while to warm up - I think she was crashing like Jenny, but not being as obvious about it. And hook nor crook could get her to try a burger: "You like bread? Taco Meat? Cheese? YES. And here are all three put together. What's not to like?" We'll never know, because she flat out refused. Later in the evening, she was crawling all over Papa, being very silly... but perhaps a little to liberal with the kick moves. It was time for bed.

4) One consequence of stuffing 750 pages into one's head in 24 hours, the brain takes a while to recover, and I am flat out exhausted. I am off to a very early bedtime, and wish you all the best.

Thank You Ms Rowling

I have just finished the 7th Harry Potter Book, and it was fantastic. So many puzzle pieces put into place, so many things resolved. It was very well done, and well worth the wait.

I shall speak no more of it, save to tell anyone who is starting or holding off... it's a good one, and you'll be richly rewarded.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The end of the week

Well, my first full week at the new client went well... and my first mostly full week away from the old one went well too! I only got a couple of little emails - mostly very detail-level questions for followup, and nothing that would indicate that they don't understand what's going on... so I'm pretty happy about THAT!

At the new client, I've decided to try to learn a bit more about the business of the Cardiologists... so I'm doing some looking at online resources to learn about the ticker. I now know more about what MI is, what bypass surgery is, how CV imaging works, now echocardiology works, what stents look like, what they're looking for in EKGs, and so much more. It's very cool... It definitely makes you want to take care of the heart - it's actually pretty important to your health. ;->

Actual Work is pretty mellow: I've been doing mostly research in exactly how the budgets were put together, what was promised before my arrival, and what they really expect to see in the next year. It's very self-directed - I'm expected to figure it all out and am empowered to make it happen. So there are times when I'm feeling a little unproductive, because I'm THINKING, not DOING. But this is a critical stage and I should not skip over it.

In sad news, Mister Jaguar has a pretty big dent in his front fender, and we'll definitely have to go to the body shop (unlike the other nicks and scratches, this one will need to be resolved sooner than later). Not money we were looking forward to spending, but so it goes.

This morning, Bella was talking a mile a minute, and gave us very clear signs: SHE NEEDS TO GO PLAY WITH ANOTHER KID. So Jenny was up to the task for an hour until she needed to go to a party, and now Bella is with Lauren, an 8 year old up the block who is so very sweet. In between playdates, we lolled on the back porch and watched a Bee and a Butterfly float between flowers in our garden. Bella was transfixed. The girl loves the nature, I tell you.

I'm watching out the window for owls (or UPS trucks) who are to bring me my copy of Harry Potter 7. The plan is to stay engaged with the family today, actually participate in life. But tonight, I'll read... while Pamela watches a movie she's been planning to see: It'll be a night of Miss Potter and Harry Potter. In the meantime, the rice is cooking for leftover thai, and Isaac is 90 minutes into a good morning nap. The doors and windows are open and there's a nice breeze. Ahhh.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


So I've heard nothing but good about the Music With Lyrics movie... well actually just the PoP goes my heart video. So I watched it and enjoyed it... but something stuck in my craw:

The video purports to be from 1984. Hugh is playing a Roland D-50 in the video. The D-50 was released in 1987. A more accurate keyboard would have been a Jupiter 8 or Prophet 5.

WHY do they not do this sort of VERY BASIC checking? It drives me nuts.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

An evening with Bella

Yesterday, after a few very jam packed days, Bella took a personal vacation: She exploded in the AM at Pamela, crying for over an hour, and when Grampette picked her up for swimming, she was clearly in no mood. But she took her home, where she and Bella had a very quiet day in the garden, and midway through the afternoon, Bella conked out and took a long nap. When she returned to us after 7pm, she was transformed - much more relaxed and all smiles.

Pamela and I have been trying to think of how to help her: She's having a hard time hearing every single stranger in the world coo about Isaac, and see how much time he takes up of our waking lives... so I decided to take her out on a date for tonight - just us two.

I picked her up right after work, and naturally we headed out to the burrito store. Her new favorite one is out near Southdale, and she likes sitting on the high stools by the front window. Clearly starving, she ate her full burrito bowl without a fork - it was chip dipping time.

Afterwards, she insisted on going to Guitar Center... Now, usually our Guitar Center visits have been more a tour of the rooms with her going "round the world" on the instruments. This time, she was really diving into individual ones, spending extra time PLAYING them. This was very new for us and I was fascinated.

In the digital piano room, she asked "Why do these all make this same sound?" I explained that it's a "piano" sound. She said she prefers keyboards that can make ALL kinds of sounds... But she sat there and played the piano for 10 minutes, picking out small melodies. She stared at sheet music, and was kind of playing along with it - playing notes up when the notes went up the stave. Not really READING it, but understanding there's a relationship between the page and the keys. It was very advanced.

In the synth room, she was fascinated by a vocoder: This is a synth that you hold down keys, then speak into a microphone, and the sound follows your voice: It can sound like angels or robots or other things... like ants and turtles and ghosts. Bella had me changing notes and program settings, and kept on saying "I AM A TURTLE" (or Ant, or Ghost, or Robot) while I played. Again, it was maybe 10 minutes of very focused activity.

In the drum room, she was a bit more of a tourist, but really liked the hand percussion... but no breakthroughs in there. The previous visit, she did spend extra time in the cymbal room, giving every single one a good whack to see what the difference was.

The really wild thing was Bella in the acoustic guitar room: She wanted to see the 3/4 size guitars, and sat with a peaceful faraway look as she strummed them: Really going at the strings, making big sounds. She tried some full size, some ukeleles, and even an acoustic bass. I showed her how the tuning pegs worked and tried to sort of explain how the sound is made by the vibrating string... which is why when you shorten the string, it gets higher sounding... that may have gone over her head.

But it's telling that for the FIRST TIME she asked when I was going to buy her something - a guitar. She's never asked for anything from Guitar Center before. Now, this could be because Jenny has a guitar. In fact that's very likely. But I also think that sometime in the last few weeks something has started to click with her and she's looking at instruments as something to PLAY and not just to make noises with.

We spent well over an hour there tonight, and I only left because I caught a glimpse of a clock... it was such a nice time. As we left, she saw people going in and said "I think they're returning some cymbals. I see they have a bag and there were two cymbals in it. I bet they play drums!".

As we drove, we were listening to Kraftwerk's Computer World, and I told her about how they liked to pretend they were robots. She liked the music a lot. Later, during "Computer Love", she broke in with "One-Two.... Four" in a robot voice... mixing in stuff from the earlier "Numbers" track. The girl is clever. Of course throughout the night, she was dropping crazy memorable quotes which hours later have slipped my mind... save one: But she made me promise not to tell anyone, so this one is going into my personal files... maybe later. On a good night like this, I must keep confidences.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Semi JimVention - The Best of the Best

Way back in 1994, I was working at Ameridata, which was a computer reseller. There was a consulting business in there too, but I was steadfastly in the reseller side: They did corporate computer configuration and support. Which is sort of funny to think of in a 2007 mindset, but back in 1994, it was a thriving business - you called "your computer guys" to come in and set things up.

In the future, I will have some amazing corporate hell stories about my days at Ameridata, but today is not that day. Today I tell you about my friend Eh Xiong and the JimVention that almost was. I should also remind you that Eh was also a conspirator in the "Get me out of" idea from that time (JimVention Post: HERE)

Eh was (I use past tense only because I have not kept current with Mister Xiong, not because he has passed) a first-generation Laotian immigrant, coming to America in the late 1970s when he was less than 12 years old. His name is "Eh" because that was his nickname, and his big sister told the immigration people to use that. He was doing Access programming on a system I had no idea about, but we sat near eachother, and identified ourselves as allies in this hostile environment. There were two other allies - Jason the DBA, and Karen the Project Manager. My dad also worked there, but gave us kids some room... and that was pretty much it. The rest was horror. But that again is another story. We stay with Eh.

Eh and Karen and I would frequently go out to lunch, and Karen was sort of a "gee whiz" megasquare girl who loved to hear MY stories about working nights in nightclubs and my band days. And Eh was full of stories about "His Culture".

See, in almost ANY situation, Eh could listen to an anecdote, and then would tell one even better with the preface "In my culture..." This is how I learned about the Hmong focus on owning four-plexes, the new year celebrations, dating rituals and the importance of chaperones, the "locked door rule" which can lead to marriage (you REALLY don't want to bring a traditional Hmong girl home late from a date - her parents MAY lock the door, and if she isn't let in for 3 days, she's YOURS.) He also told us about his childhood in Laos - chasing monkeys, eating monkeys.

It's ENTIRELY possible that Eh was having a lot of fun at our expense, because as he would tell these stories, Karen's eyes could turn to saucers and she'd gasp.... Lunch with those two was always memorable.

Eh and his brothers are big fans of computer games. This was 1994 I remind you, so gaming was pretty much Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and PC games. Doom had just come out for PC. PCs were still very expensive for the sort of unit that would run games well. It was a high geek realm.

Eh and I would talk about games, and honestly I wasn't much of a player at all (I never cleared the first level of DOOM, and have remained fiercely luddite in gaming lore ever since... with the exception of Nintendo Mario games). But Eh was a big fan. The internet was only just getting started, multiplayer via the net wasn't possible, but Doom did have a feature: If you networked two computers, you could play against one another. It was called "Deathmatch Mode".

We hatched a scheme: What if we had a video arcade, but instead of arcade games, it was a room full of GOOD computers, and they were loaded with EXCELLENT games? And as you played, your score would be saved, and we would keep a big bulletin board with the names of the BEST players - the "Best of the Best" as Eh liked to state, sometimes shaking his fist for emphasis. I think there may have been something cultural there. But even better, we could set up a NETWORK, and have head-to-head deathmatches in the DOOM games, which would REALLY show who was the best of the best. We would have the big board of our rankings for the deathmatch champions.

We would then hold contests with prizes. We'd run extra monitors off of their computers so people could stand around and watch the deathmatches in progress. This would be a destination for people.

Eh and I got pretty far with this scheme: We priced out the necessary hardware (with the need to upgrade frequently to make sure we had the best of the best for people), got initial rent prices for a strip mall, ran a few models on how much we'd have to charge per hour to make it work.... And at that point we realized this just couldn't work. We'd have to charge more than $15/hr to make ends meet, and would gonzo gamers really invest THAT kind of money just to say they were the best?

Stymied by the lack of a viable profit model, our plans fell by the wayside. We didn't pursue the concept.

BUT... Let's take some 20/20 hindsight. In 1994/1995, the internet was only JUST starting to take off. Assuming we had opened a place with 12 networked computers with a T1 internet connection. What OTHER business could we have actually been running?

An internet cafe. We would have been the first Internet cafe in the area, and yes, we COULD have charged $20 an hour for computer usage on a high speed internet line - that was the going rate. And we could have built a brand and ridden that sucker HUGE for at least 8 years, until 2002 when bandwidth became so ubiquitous that charging for connectivity just seemed mean spirited (I'm looking at you Starbucks). The gaming component would have been an add-on, but the core business would have been Joe and Jane "want to use the internet" people.

So sometimes, a JimVention is a good idea in itself that I'm not able to see the appropriate context for. I don't REALLY think I missed a big opportunity here, but it's an interesting story. AND I got to tell you a bit more about Eh.


Oh poor Isaac, he's decided to cut a few more teeth this weekend. And they're his top front ones. When he smiles, there are two bulging chiclets looking back at us, planning their escape from the inside of his gums. While he maintains a good attitude, he's requiring regular doses of Motrin or Tylenol (alternating, for the sake of his tummy), and needs a few extra cuddles.

Knock on wood, but we seem to have avoided the horrors of the stomach flu that ravaged the family reunion last weekend (that we didn't attend, but Bella was our emissary). So chalk one up to clean living!

A final note: I saw a movie the other night that literally broke my brain: The President's Analyst starring James Coburn. It was one of the silliest, most random movies ever... from 1967. It had strange moments of seriousness (one person recalling a horrible moment of becoming aware of racism as a child) followed IMMEDIATELY by completely madcap chases... and with one of Lalo Schirfin's most surreal scores. I'm still processing the strange information that was inserted into my brain from this movie.

I think my mother recommended it. Hmm.

Off to do chores - a little mowing, a little de-trashification of the yard, who knows what else?

Friday, July 13, 2007


Today was my last full day at the old client. Yes, the upgrade did in fact go VERY VERY well: We reverted to standard support by Tuesday evening. We ended daily status meetings Wednesday AM. We had no help desk calls Wednesday night... there were no major bugs that didn't have workarounds. We really nailed this upgrade: The hospital didn't lose a minute of work, and we were all walking around wondering if we were about to wake up and realize it was all a dream. But it really worked, and we kept today as my last day. (The CIO noted that only I could get away with picking Friday the 13th as my exit date - it's just too JimB-style)

I scrambled all week to make sure that the five people they're replacing me with were all comfortable with their new roles. And we had some good tests - some tricky situations that I usually handled, my new people took on and muddled through... learning how it all works. And I actually feel pretty confident that things won't fall apart Monday.

I was going to make this farewell, but the client wanted to fete me, so I'm coming back for 2 hours on Tuesday for a farewell pizza party. In a semireluctant move, my old consulting firm (who I'm also breaking with) grudgingly decided to pay for HALF of the pizza party. They'll pay half? Crazy. But Monday, I get to move in to the new client full time... and hopefully sit in on a few more procedures....

I had a parade of well wishers today, which got me misty eyed. Some people took me to Crazy Buffet (see earlier blog postings, late 2006), which was "wonderful" as always. There are a lot of people who are very sad to be seeing me go, and I am sad to not be working with them. I am GLAD that I have done good work and am REALLY psyched to be going to the new gig full time, but there are people who I have really liked working with who I will miss. Some of the comments I have got have truly made me blush... one said "you're one who shines bright in the world, and we'll be a darker place without you".

One person who I will not miss was something of a manager-nemesis: He was really good at not taking on responsibility for his team, and his team left my project high and dry a few times, undermining me in meetings, etc... well, yesterday he got demoted - I mean "decided to take another position under his existing one in the same department". So that was a nice going away gift. I don't celebrate the misfortunes of others, but I do appreciate a nice comeuppance now and again.

As it was a day of passages, Paul and I came to an agreement to part ways on our Brain Stuff today. We had never been able to really gel on a way to make it profitable, and it was stuck at the "hobby" level for too long. We also had different ideas on how to take it forward. So we agreed to disagree. I'm taking my books, and he's keeping the website and the podcasts, and we're keeping it friendly. And I'll figure out if the books are something to push further out into the world. In truth, I haven't heard much real feedback about the books from anyone, so I'm curious if I should just walk away from them. If any of you have read them and found them valuable, please do let me know... I could use the feedback!

And just yesterday, I had lunch with another Paul, and started talking about a business idea we had a couple of years back... and I was thinking that it might be a workable idea. So perhaps there will be another thing born of this time of flux.

I'm out on the front porch typing this. A blueish small bird with a small crest and a big orange beak is watching me blog and is making lazer gun blips and whistles. It's a beautiful night, and things are good in my world.

Monday, July 09, 2007


The big upgrade has been installed. I spent over 15 hours at work yesterday, starting at 2:30am, and around 11 today... My team is tired, but the signs are very clear: We did a good job. We're dealing with a mere handful of issues, most of which we were able to clear up within hours. Hospital operations were back on track without a blip. We're only the third client in the country to upgrade to this version of the software so far, which was a bit risky, I admit. But almost every other hospital in town who runs this software will be upgrading in the next 12 months... and we've proven it can be done well.

I've resisted posting before now to ward off any jinxes... but as we're over 36 hours with no major bumps, I think I might be justified in giving out a whoop and a holler.

People had thought I was crazily optimistic to plan my exit from the client only one week into the upgrade - that we'd be chasing issues for weeks. And we may still find issues, yes. But Friday is sure looking like a fine day to make my way off to the new client for full time.

So it's off to an early bedtime for me... much sleep needs to be caught up on.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


5am and all is well. Not really - things got off to a rocky start here: A last minute change in upgrade procedures threw the techies for a loop and we didn't get to the "meat" of the upgrade until an hour had passed, eating up my contingency time. So we'll have to see if I get done in my window of opportunity. Now that it's running, maybe we'll make up some time, since the production system is so much more powerful than the test system we did our 3 dress rehearsals on.

Happily, the end-users seem pretty comfortable with the downtime: There have been no help desk calls.

We're either the first or second client ever to go up on this software release (one smaller hospital MAY have beat us to the punch by a couple of weeks), so this is pretty fingernail-biting. We did have some very good runthroughs, and there's no reason to expect a problem other than... well... problems happen.

I'll be heading out soon to get donuts for my developers who'll show up in an hour... though they'll probably be bored since we're behind schedule. All the more reason to make sure donuts are here. Tired cranky is better than tired cranky hungry.

I was going to bring in my espresso machine, but decided that while it's pretty easy to use, I'd have to be parked in the lunchroom with it, and I have more important things to be doing than being a Barista at 6am. So I made a few extra shots this AM to get me going... and my developers will just have to make due with regular coffee. (and truthfully, I believe I'm the only espresso-head in the bunch anyway!)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

On the beach...

I think that was the title of a book where there's been a nuclear holocaust and people in New Zealand are just waiting for the fallout clouds to come their direction... I could be wrong, but that's the image I'm looking for:

We sent Bella off to the Family Reunion on Thursday, and had been hearing amazing stories of her swimming, fishing, playing with cousins, having a great time. BUT... an unwelcome visitor came to the reunion: A particularly virulent strain of stomach flu has been pulling an "and then there were none" routine on everybody. Bella got it at midnight last night, and seems back on her feet this morning. It takes 2 at a time, makes their lives miserable for 8-12 hours, then gives them their lives back.

One branch of the family heard about this and wisely decided to cancel the trip (they were going Sat-Mon, the bug first hit Thursday Night)

And so we sit here in Minneapolis, wondering if our little daughter will be returned to us as a carrier of this virus, if we'll all wind up with it next week... we're preparing the buckets now.

Just a quick update - many things to do today AND I need to rest up for my big Golive at 3am Sunday AM. Whoo HOO!!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

JimVentions Redux - GRAZER

You may recall my JimVention of the "get me out of here" pager service. Here's another JimVention for you:

Around 2 years ago, I was writing back and forth with my friend in Seattle, Paul. We were batting around ideas for "Web 2.0" concepts that might lift us up and out of our day jobs into the fun and excitement of venture capital fueled startups. He had started with an idea of a web image aggregator - something that took a feed from "Amihotornot" and played them in a little window on the side of the screen. Strangely, I didn't flat out tell him that was ridiculous - I can be quite indulgent.

But I thought - what about if you took those images, but then could at a moment, link directly to where they came from? Or what if we built in something to automagically track your preferences for pictures, and served up more pictures in the vein of what you liked?

Now - as I write this, you are probably thinking I am describing something with adult entertainment as its target market. With the Great Spirit as my witness, throughout this whole thing that was never the goal or even thought of: The idea was for something you could have in a window while at work... so raciness just wasnt in there. I just wanted to say that.

Anyway, why stop with pictures? I said ANY media could work this way: You start tagging things you like, and the browser... the Grazer brings you more of what you like. Music, cartoons, pictures. But the secret has to be in these TAGS - you'd need to have a totally extendable set of tags attached to the media.

Then, a file could have not just the name, and some tags describing it for your preferences, but it could have embedded links to take you to the artist's website, or some tags for similar artists - if you like this, you might like...

Well, you can't just cram an infinite amount of data into the spare spaces inside of a media file: At some point, the file will be too bloated. Also, you'd run into the version problem: One file of a song might have a few tags, another of the same song would have a bunch - there'd be no consistency. And what if you got a file with some INAPPROPRIATE tags attached - like a link to a virus site?

So what if you took an idea like Wikipedia - a public "contribution site" for a global set of information: Artist links, reviews, things like it you might like, biographical info, additional artwork, links to where to buy it, where to see him/her live... all in a user-moderated context... and the file only has a single tag that refers to this online repository? A single GrazerTag?

So then you're in iTunes, playing a song, and there's a Grazertag embedded: You click on a "find out more" button, which contacts the nearest GrazerServer, which points you to the proper archive for this work, which then downloads the appropriate content down into your viewer... like a website.

And similar to a Wiki, there could ALSO be a PRIVATE, COMMERCIAL aspect to this: Some files would have a grazertag that points to Sony, or Getty Images, where the additional information is moderated by the content owners, where the experience could be more controlled. That's where the idea could actually make some money for the people doing it! But you start the thing as a non-profit, something to build a community around, so that the geeks adopt it first, build the content, and only THEN can the private side appear (much as there are Corporate Wikis out there). I had a plan to entice the BoingBoingers, and THEN actually make a little money.

Now, this is just the very high level view of the idea: I wound up with a marketing plan, detailed technical designs, and a much more geeky level of explanation of how it works. So why oh why would I be putting this out on my Blog, people?

There are a few reasons: First, as we put it together, it because obvious that outside of the technical architecture, the hard work here is that of being a LIBRARIAN. And to be successful, you'd need to moderate the heck out of it, and over 90% of the content would be stuff I just don't have the passion for. Oh, yes, I could have created a KILLER Grazer library for 1980's synthpop. But I would have stopped well short of Michael Sembello, and even Real Life. I'm too much of a snob to even review those entries.

So the way to do this would have been to employ/engage a lot more people, and to do that would have involved a lot of work. Let's put it this way: I could have built the hotel, but I would not have been able to run it... and in short order, it would have been a smoldering ruin, laid low by Russian hackers intent on placing corrupt links to nastiness in corners of data about Kim Wilde and Alphaville. Not my idea of fun.

And fortunately, it DOES appear to be somebody ELSE'S idea of fun: The MetaBrainz foundation (with BoingBoinger on board) has a project called MusicBrainz, which is almost exactly the Grazer concept - restricted to music of course. They have a proprietary browser, and are inviting people to help them tag media. Their commercial angle has already emerged, with a partnership with BBC... I'm not sure how far along they are, but when I read their press release, I said "ah, someone's doing Grazer". Absolutely no hard feelings - as I said, I dropped the idea almost 2 years ago with no intention of pursuing it, so I'm just glad it's out there getting done. Plus, they have some MASSIVE investors, which I just didn't have.

It's further proof to me that sometimes there are just ideas flying around, and our minds can be antennae picking them up. And if we don't act on them, someone else may be listening in on the same transmission... and might just act.

And so, thank you again for visiting the mind of Jimmy. Please come again.

Delightful Daffyness

Three things to mention today:

1) I got to do one of my very favorite things in the world today: I got some old friends set up with a spanking new Macintosh, set up their email, set up iTunes, ripped a CD, got their printer working, showed them the web, and left them to discover the fun. I had helped them get Mac-ified over 5 years ago with a candy iMac, but they had never hooked it up to the big web. Now they're out there. My mom set them up with their first incoming email, and their first internet meme: The "Dramatic Chipmunk". I couldn't think of a better inauguration.

2) Speaking of Mom: It is no secret that we have had our differences throughout our lives - things are up, things are down, and we adapt. I am happy that recently things have been pretty up. But through it all, one thing that I have always been able to rely upon has been a movie recommendation from her:

It was she who had us over for Christmas one night and showed us Die Hard - a fine christmas movie if there ever was one. It was she who took me and my best friends to see "Car Wash" for my 10th or 11th birthday. She showed me the genius of Val Kilmer in Real Genius, a role he still has not done better than. She BOUGHT me Repo Man so I could watch it 20 times with friends and annoy the world by quoting it. And it was she who said "you will enjoy Ghost Rider".

I have just spent two delightfully daffy hours watching Nicolas Cage go "Awww GAWRSH" while turning into a flame headed demon, going after someone who looked like a goth Cory Haim (the internets say it's Wes Bentley....) and avoiding a very creepy Peter Fonda. It was far more fun than it had any right to be. And yet.. do I recommend it? I'm not too sure there are many with my exact movie DNA who would get it the same way. It may just be a family thing. And yes, Nic Cage is looking pretty good these days. It is true.

3) As I ate dinner tonight, I had a dessert of a nectarine. As I ate it, the following statement came to mind: This thing is so dang juicy, I'm considering pressing charges.

I don't know exactly what that means, but it came through loud and clear, and I felt like sharing it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Quick before bed

It's 9pm and I'm about to fall asleep... it is time for rest. But before I nod off, I must tell you that I have seen an object FROM THE FUTURE. The iPhone.

People, the hype is entirely deserved. This is one of the most beautiful objects in form and function I have encountered. As I flipped through pictures, surfed the web, and placed a call, my mouth went dry and my heart started racing. I started to think of how, just HOW this could enter my life.

Which is not to say I need it: I have a phone. It syncs with my email and my contacts and my calendar. It works. I have an ipod or five and they all play beautiful music, and one even does videos for me. What the iphone can do is not something I cannot do now. But it's something I could do BETTER with an iphone.

And so, as I rest, I will dream of this technology... of this amazing object that has fallen through a rip in space and time, out of a fabulous future where our tools are sculpted extensions of our minds...


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Things to remember about the Kids

When she is humming idly during a project, almost always does "Jingle Bells" over and over again.

When she is pretending to be a big girl, her name is always "Annalise", and she's always 7 years old, with her birthday being either today or tomorrow.

When she's at the Arboretum, she's calm, focused, and happy from the moment we arrive to the moment we leave. We went again today, and she was a sight to behold.

She is still having some sharing and territory issues with her little brother.

Today he climbed the stairs. All of them up to the second floor without a pause. He then made a beeline to the toilet. He also walked a little today... just a few steps here and there. But he has the skill.

His new development was that today he started wrassling with his sister: She was dragging around a white comforter, which he decided he loved. He was diving down into it, and rolling around giggling. When Bella tried to establish territory on the blanket, he rolled over her, climbing over her, and teasing her. She got very frustrated, but he was having a great time.

He loves his big sister unconditionally.