U2 and the Rock & Roll Proletariat

U2 - Rock Ninjas, or Corporate Pawns?

I’m seeing outrage all over my Facebook feed – not because of actually outrageous things, mostly because of this illicit U2 album that allegedly every Apple customer received on their apple device. The story goes like this: upon announcement of various new Apple products to finally answer the call of “Hey, Samsung is doing it, why isn’t Apple,” Apple CEO Tim “Not Steve Jobs” Cook also declared that Apple had suavely pushed U2’s new album, “Songs of Innocence,” to all our devices. (I think that’s how it goes. I didn’t watch the Keynote, and I sure as fuck didn’t read anybody’s tweets about it.)

Here’s the thing, though, I didn’t get mine. I saw the news that this happened and went and checked my iPhone, my iPad and my MacBook and NOWHERE did I see any U2. What gives? I thought. Why am I alone here?

So like a fucking peasant, I had to open up the iTunes store and OH MY GOD GO OUT OF MY WAY to download it. It took nearly 45 goddamn seconds, too. Surely, now, here was my outrage manifesting. I will not be left out of the pool of ruggedly outraged individuals who cherish a self-curated music collection of independent rarities.

Interestingly, much of the outrage on social media is now being hailed as a good thing – a sign of life for those who demand a great divorce between corporate global capitalism and good old-fashioned rock & roll. You wouldn’t break into someone’s house and slip a vinyl record onto their shelf, so why is it okay to do the digital equivalent?

A corporate mindset didn’t see a problem with that, but the rock and rollers of the world rejected that notion outright. And maybe, in dramatic denouement fashion, maybe we’re seeing the people rock band together and fight the big white capitol.

But here is the question no one’s asking: how is the new album, anyway? Is U2 still cool? Well, I mean, obviously NOT, but if, hypothetically, this whole download debacle hadn’t happened, would we appreciate the album?

My answer: maybe. The album is good. It’s actually good. Not the best, but not the worst. I’m no U2 scholar. They’ve never really played a huge role in my life, and I don’t over-sentimentalize Joshua Tree. For a long time, I thought all their songs sounded the same. Of course, I know better now, and I like quite a few U2 songs, but still, they’re not my most favorite band and I just don’t know if this lives up to the standards of long-time U2 fans. But it’s a good CD to keep in the car (yes, I burned it to a CD) and it’s nice to see an aging band still throw some hot energy into studio recording.

I guess I’m the luckiest in all of this. It’s a decent album that I downloaded myself, without the stigma of having it forced upon me, and without any loss of money for purchasing an album I wouldn’t have otherwise bought. And all around me, I see the spirit of rock and roll exploding all over corporate America.

I am alone. I am Patrick Bateman.

Bland Car Enthusiast: Tesla’s Patent Promise

Tesla Model S - Bland Car Enthusiast

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk announced yesterday that Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who wants to use Tesla’s patents.

Let me repeat that.


In other words: any carmaker that wants to use Tesla’s patented technology to make righteously awesome electric cars can do exactly that.

They are still retaining the patents, though, so anyone who abuses this generosity for evil purposes can still be stopped through legal action. But basically, they’re giving them away for all other car manufacturers.

Why? To save the world, of course.

A Hero’s Journey

In the early days of Tesla, it was easy to assume they’d fail, just like so many other electric car startups. The problem was that these other companies were aiming for the market of “people who want a sweet-ass electric car” – Tesla’s target market has always been “people who want the best car on the road.”

And to that end, they have endeavored to build the best car on the road, and they have been creating amazing technology to do that. They have been more successful with the technology than others, but this attitude of competing directly with combustion-engine luxury cars is really what has helped Tesla succeed to the degree that it has today.

But Tesla was not started to take BMW down a peg. Tesla was started to help save the world.

The patents were acquired to ensure business security, but since the only real threat, Fisker, has gone down in flames (pun intended), Tesla remains the only real electric car manufacturer. Other major carmakers like Nissan and GM and so on have made half-baked attempts to produce all-electric cars, but sales have been abysmal due largely to lack of interest.

These cars were designed from the get-go as “electric cars” instead of “super-awesome cars that happen to run on electricity.” They were then marketed the same way. They were low-rent economy cars with slow acceleration and dopey looks, and they cost as much as a Cadillac – who would buy that?

Taking It Up A Notch

Hybrid models have been quite successful, especially the Prius, but they still use combustion engines. The first phase of Tesla’s life has been to prove that a company that makes only all-electric cars can succeed, and they have done that. The next phase is to lead the way for combustion engines to disappear from our streets entirely.

Hence the new open patent philosophy. Since no one else is developing attractive electric cars, and since electric research & development is so stagnated at every manufacturer besides Tesla, they figured they’d give everyone else a leg up. This is a smart business decision, because healthy competition is historically good for successful companies like Tesla, and because it will help Tesla appear less like a novelty, and therefore they’ll be able to nudge their way into new markets.

The Future of Bland Cars

Tesla makes the best car on the road. Period. If everyone else catches up, they’ll have to keep improving or fall behind someone else – either way, there will be even better cars than what we see now in the Tesla Model S, and they will comprise a greater and greater percentage of our street traffic.

Can you just imagine?

Can you imagine if the Tesla Model S was the bland car? What a wonderful world indeed.

So get on it, Buick. Get on it, Hyundai. Get on it, Toyota, Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Lincoln, GMC, RAM, Nissan, Infiniti, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Honda, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes, EVERYBODY. Take Tesla’s patents and make a better car than Tesla, I dare you. I double dare you.

Read Elon Musk’s full announcement and explanation here:
All Our Patent Are Belong To You

I’m excited, and I hope you are, too. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

The Week Technology Died

Bil Angry. Bil Smash!

Bil Angry. Bil Smash!

Technologically, the last week has been shitty for me. It was techno-shit. I blame solar flares. Here is a list of problems the solar flares caused:

The Website Redesign That Fucked Everything Up

In the midst of a redesign, I switched WordPress themes. The Yasmin theme nearly destroyed BilGaines.com. I had to download an FTP client, remove the theme from my server, and start again. So I tried an alternate theme, Virtue. Same thing. I tried a third theme, Isis, and it didn’t destroy BilGaines.com, but it did look like bantha shit, so I deleted that one, too.

The iOS Update That Fucked Everything Up

Updating to iOS 7.0.6 broke my goddamn iPhone. I literally couldn’t even restore it to factory settings. The logic board was fried. It was a hardware issue, and the only replacement hardware was a brand new iPhone. I was left with no option to go to the Verizon store and, since I was a couple months away from my contract renewal, I had to finance a new phone.

The Web Host Domain Shutdown That Fucked Everything Up

A client’s web host just decided that they don’t want to host that domain anymore. We had less than 24 hours to come up with a solution. So, adios, good luck, don’t let the door hit your domain’s ass on the way out. Scramble time. We pulled it off, but it was stressful.

The Domain Expiration That Fucked Everything Up

I received an email about a website outage and, lo and behold, it was still out. Gone. Domain parking webpage instead. Apparently the domain expired. My immediate reaction was, “if I pour coffee all over my laptop, then this expired domain won’t bother me.” But I wanted to drink the coffee, so I had to deal with the problem instead.

The Power Backup Battery That Fucked With My Head All Week

The beeping. The incessant beeping. There was some piece of hardware that beeped for days, and that hardware was located behind a refrigerator. You know the sound – the high-pitched chirp of an electronic device crying pathetically for a new battery. Blend that with the frozen hum of the fridge and you’ve got space madness descending upon you.

Technology, you’ve really dropped the ball lately, and no offense, but I’m going to avoid you this whole weekend.

The good that comes from technology failing: I have a renewed appreciation for the non-digital world.

Defending The Hipster

Hipsters are cool. There, I said it. I’m still on the fringe on this one, I think. I like the subculture. I think hipsters are some of the best poets and playwrights living today (whether they self-identify as hipsters or not). They’re like the Beats of my generation.

So it makes me sad and a little angry that the word “hipster” is so commonly used nowadays as an insult rather than a simple, descriptive categorization.

Hipster? Or human being?I saw an article the other day from Mashable, pointing out what they describe as the hipster-est hipster in history. Here’s the link:


It’s actually worth a read, ‘cause it’s sort of funny. And the picture is rather amusing. But the greater social issue here is that it’s a picture of a person just out enjoying himself, and the picture is put up on display with a slew of rapid-fire assumptions.

This is not a fair trial. Let me just defend this guy for a moment, and I’ll preface it with one of my favorite quotes ever, courtesy of Simon Pegg:

“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.”

Now, I’ve seen people who dress up for the Renaissance Fair mock hipsters. I’ve seen a person make glib, insulting references to hipsters while wearing a Star Wars t-shirt. What’s the difference between these geeks and a hipster? Different style choices? Different musical tastes? Different interests? Surface-level shit.

The hipster in this photograph is there with his lady friend, minding his own business, being himself, freely enjoying things he enjoys. He’s listening to some music, and frankly, he’s being respectful to the rest of the café by wearing headphones instead of subjecting everyone else to his tunes. He likes vinyl records because there’s a sound quality that comes with this medium and presumably he enjoys it enough to put up with the inconvenience of it. His vinyl player is portable, which makes sense, because he’s outside his home, enjoying the lovely weather and some beer. Mashable assumes this is during normal business hours, but really, we don’t know. It could be 6:30 in the summertime, or hell, it could be a fucking weekend. (Anyway, even if it is during normal business hours: since when is day-drinking an uncommon and reprehensible thing?)

And here comes this blogging bully from Mashable assuming his coat is vintage, but that’s not necessarily true, it could be a cheap modern coat from anywhere. He makes a stretch and claims that his goatee qualifies as “micromanaged facial hair.” He even implies that the way the subject crosses his legs is a pretention, taken as a conscious decision to look more European. Point one: maybe he IS European? And point two: it’s not necessarily European; evidently the author has never been to the Eastern half of the United States of America.

The author even claims his lady friend is wearing a “retro” dress, but nothing about her screams “retro.” It all looks very modern and in tune with today’s mainstream fashion. Clearly, the author is reaching for anything to make the title of his post seem legitimate. And it’s cheeky and funny, but the underlying issue is that somehow, somewhere, hipsters became the favorite punch line of the uninformed.

Apparently, elsewhere on the web there is a debate about geeks and hipsters happening. I don’t know anything about it, but PBS has a really great video that sort of sums it all up:

So, without rambling too much more, let me just make a few points for all you hipster-haters out there:

Point one: if you hate them based on looks alone, you are only proving their point – or more specifically, the point of any counter-culture movement. If you hate them because of their clothes, then the hipsters win, and so do the Goths, and so do the rudeboys, the emo kids, the punks, the hippies, the skaters, the surfers, the greasers, the beats, and so on. Their looks are surface-deep.

Point two: if you hate them because you think they are assholes, you are wrong. If you claim to know this from personal experience, please partition your hatred only to the individuals you know. If you label an entire subculture assholes because you think the few assholes within that subculture are indicative of the entire group, you are not only mistaken in a general scientific sense, you are mistaken in this particular case. Hipsters are mostly cool. Every subculture has its assholes, and they are usually more outspoken than the cool ones. This is true with mainstream American culture, urban city culture, country culture, sports culture, Hollywood, and Congress.

In any case: prejudice makes you an asshole. Don’t be an asshole.

I would absolutely love to hear anybody’s well-thought-out treatise on why hipsters deserve to be the cultural punching bag we’ve turned them into. You can leave comments on this page, or you can take it to Facebook or Twitter. I’m all ears.

Google Maps And The Absence Of Donuts

Google Maps App

The Google Maps app for iOS finally properly launched this week and I feel it is my duty to point out a glaring error that I cannot overlook, one that Apple Maps does not suffer from.

This is not a full review of the Google Maps app, mind you, merely a response to the overwhelming sigh of relief that so many iPhone users may have prematurely breathed.

There is a donut shop at the corner of Victoria Ave. and Channel Islands Blvd. in Oxnard, CA that Google Maps doesn’t show. There is also a cupcake shop in the same parking lot that Google Maps has somehow omitted. One of the big plusses to Google Maps over the fairly new Apple Maps for iOS 6 was that businesses showed up, whereas on the Apple Maps app, they did not. That was the common complaint, anyway.

Well, here is a case of the opposite happening. Spudnuts and Missy’s Cupcake Creations, two small independent businesses – one a franchise, one a new start-up – are missing out on the cupcake-and-donut-scarfing crowd of young, hip iPhone users who think that Google Maps is automatically better than Apple Maps.

I’m not saying that overall, Google Maps isn’t better. I’m just saying we don’t really know all the flaws. There are exceptions all over the place, I’m sure, and this particular exception may be costing some small businesses some business.


Cupcake & Donut Score
Apple: 1
Google: 0

Google Maps App
Google Map. No donuts, no cupcakes.
Apple Maps App
Apple Map of the same location. Donuts & cupcakes here.



Lessons From Instagram: Hashtags and Likes

The Vogue Indoor Swapmeet in Downtown Oxnard, CA.Sometimes you just have to pull up Microsoft Excel and hand-type some data sets for no good reason whatsoever. This is one of those times.

I decided to answer some burning questions I had about Instagram – namely, what’s the deal with likes and followers?

More specifically: how does one optimize one’s Instagram feed for likes and followers?

How a company can use Instagram to improve their business is something that will vary from company to company, so I thought I’d stick to general but universal advice.

What Instagram data was used?

When I created my data set, I used the first three hundred photos I posted on Instagram. I broke out the photo content by category, so I had subjects like cats, books, coffee, wine, nature, Aliena (my adorable baby) and so on. I also marked how many hashtags were used, and I broke down the hashtags by category as well. Finally, I marked how many likes and comments I received on those photos, and I broke those down by real-life friends who follow me vs. strangers who follow me on Instagram vs. people who liked my photo but don’t follow me at all.

Once I had this data set, it was relatively easy and relatively fun to create charts and averages and all kinds of crazy insights based on the data at hand.

Wait, back up – who the hell are you, anyway, and why do this?

I’m just some guy. I have less than 80 followers on Instagram at the time of this blog post, so I’m relatively inconsequential, and more importantly, I’m hardly an indication of what can be accomplished on Instagram. So, as a case study, my own Instagram feed may not be very useful, but the data is pure and accurate. This data is entirely centered on me and my followers and likes and my photo feed alone.

It’s completely narcissistic, but the better reason for doing this was that the insights gained from this little project will still have value because they’ll be as universal as I can present them. We’ll get to those momentarily, just keep reading.

Okay, so…Do More Hashtags Yield More Likes?

The short answer is yes. I didn’t want to bore everyone with Excel’s lame-ass data charts, so I drew my own on my clunky iPad in order to achieve “more character.” See below.

The longer answer is not necessarily, but pretty much, yeah.

Hashtags on Instagram are like hashtags on Twitter. They provide groupings of different posts from different users’ feeds into one easy-to-see stream. It’s genius.

So then, the point of leaving hashtags on your own photos is to get those photos into different groups. On Instagram, you can have up to thirty (30) hashtags per photo. Each unique hashtag creates its own unique grouping, so singular and plural forms of the same root word will yield two separate groups.

Ergo, the more hashtags you use, the more opportunities your photos have to be seen by others. If they see your photos and like them, they may choose to “like” your photo on your feed. Furthermore, there’s no real penalty for using as many hashtags as you can think of. So theoretically, more hashtags should provide more opportunities for likes.

Is this the case in reality?

Again: yes.

According to data from my Instagram feed, more hashtags tends to yield more likes.
Hand-drawn for country charm.

The data shows that higher counts of hashtags on the photos gets a higher average of likes. This data set is somewhat incomplete, in that I didn’t really get into the hashtags game until close to the 300 mark, so most of this data comes from my early days of Instagram when I wasn’t curious about the data.

Here, I removed clear outliers and worked with averages, meaning six hashtags tends to average the same amount of likes as the photos with nine hashtags. These are averages, and the general tendency is an upward slope from one to ten. Except that I’m so awesome that this graph goes to eleven.

The tendency shows a confirmation of the idea that more hashtags gets more likes. I am confident that if we experimented with even more hashtags and photos, and then zoomed out, we’d see a nice, upward slant on that graph.

Of course, what I expected was that it would be more directly upward with no dips, but the reality is that in my averages, dips are there.

Reality is close to the expectations for hashtags and likes on Instagram.
The green line is green because…I dunno.

The dips in average likes – for example, two hashtags yielding fewer average likes than one and six yielding fewer than five – can be explained by a lot of things that I don’t have any data for. Primarily, timing and photo quality. I don’t have data for timing because Instagram doesn’t show me exactly what time of what day of the week I made those posts, so I can’t speak to the exact science of timing for optimum likes. I also don’t have any data on photo quality, because that’s an intangible. I also didn’t record my subjective opinion of those three hundred photos, because I’m not getting paid to do any of this, so the hell with that.

But there’s something that needs to be said: quality matters. It’s nearly impossible to quantify how good one’s photos are, but if you appreciate photography, then you know what’s good and what’s bad. It’s not hard.

Something that’s trickier is hashtag quality. There are so many factors involved there that I couldn’t even contemplate investigating the various factors for three hundred photos and typing in numbers. So we all miss out, but I’m okay with that.

I’ve been noticing since the initial gathering of the data that timing DOES affect the likes each photo gets. I’ve also noticed that hashtags are good in quantity, but you have to be smart with what hashtags you use. Without actual data, insights have still been made that would be extremely difficult to refute using data, so I will happily record the insights here.

And now, the list…

Important insights:

  1. Hashtags provide the opportunity for people to see and like your photos, and potentially follow your feed. Whether your business is more interested in likes than followers (or something else entirely) is up to you. Followers show brand loyalty, but likes show human engagement. The important thing is that using more hashtags will tend to yield more likes.
  2. Timing matters. I’ve found that around laying out hashtags at around 7:45 PM local time is pretty effective. Further experimentation might reveal a more optimal time to post those hashtags, but further experimentation might also detract from my quality of life.
  3. Hashtags can be added later. You can post your photos any time, and whether you add the hashtags immediately or much later doesn’t matter. The photo gets added to the top of the hashtag grouping when you add the hashtag, plain and simple. It doesn’t automatically get pushed down the feed just because you added the photo hours (or days) prior. So, because timing matters, and especially because of the new “maps” feature, I’ve taken to adding the photo where I take it and waiting till about a quarter to eight to tag it. More on this in a later blog post.
  4. The quality of hashtags matters. Some of the most likeable hashtags I’ve found are #cloudporn and #skyporn – photos of clouds in the sky, or clear skies, or whatever. People LOVE those shots. Other hashtags like #instafood are incredibly popular but don’t automatically produce a bunch of likes. Likes for food shots are incredibly competitive. However, in fairness, food shots are regularly taken in dark restaurants, so higher-quality food photos are rarer than high-quality sky shots. Sky shots look great on smartphones. And this leads me to the most important takeaway of all…
  5. The quality of photos matters. This is the primary lesson of Instagram at work: post high-quality photos. If your photos are crappy, hashtags may get you SOME likes, but if your photos are seriously kick-ass – and if your hashtags are appropriate and well-timed – then yeah, you’ll get plenty of likes.

This feels like kind of a long blog post just to confirm the obvious with half-assed data, but if you read the list above, I’m happy. There will be a few more posts about this data, and if you don’t like my drivel, just look for the list of important insights. When it’s all done, I’ll have one final post of nothing but a list of all the insights together. Then…I guess I’ll move on. Right? Probably.

Maybe. We’ll see.

@BilGaines on Instagram – Follow my feed! See these insights put into practice!
Don’t have a smartphone? Desktop Instagram here.

The Log Cabin Florist van has one bitchin' paint job.
Log Cabin Florist – modern-day flower power!

Digital Photography vs. Digital Design: Technology

Sitting in San Francisco International Airport, staring dumbly at the Ten Winners of the 2011 National Design Awards, it occurred to me that the Polaroid photos that define a previous generation are now widely available for us all in digital form, and that helps us as a generation define those of the Polaroid years.  However, we also use the professional design of those times to define those times.  Everything visual, really.

What I mean is this: in the same sense that the history of the Revolutionary War can be condensed into a textbook for us to read and learn from, so too can the pictures of the past be placed onto a website for our viewing pleasure.  The ease with which we are able to see so many photos that were not intended to be on the internet gives us, the internet users, the power to define the history.  We can reshape it and display those photos as we see fit, and tell the story our own way.

And the design of our times – in all aspects of life, not just casual photography – this, too, is available for us to see on the internet.  The sheer number of eyeballs viewing these artistic endeavors (and the not-so-artistic ones) was completely unimaginable 30 years ago.

And watch where technology takes us.  I’ll bet you in 30 years it will be even easier to see our silly games and passionate efforts, and our children will have the power to define us by the images they see on their chosen media.

And all our graphic design – the professional work of trained individuals – will most likely be lumped in with the impulsive, amateurish photos we take for no other reason than to have fun…pretty much the same way we look at outdated design styles and lump them in with the old Polaroids.

At least, I do that.  I assume others do, too.

Think about it: those orange and brown stripes on the wall at an old bowling alley and the sitcom-esque font used to display the name of the joint.  They could just as easily be in a roller rink where tall people in short shorts and long hair cruised in circles to the dulcet tones of Adam Ant.  But the people who bowled and the people who roller skated were not necessarily the same people, were they?


I’ll be honest: my hope is that thanks to all this digital publishing, future generations will have a much wider scope of their vision of the past than I do.  I hope they are better able to tell that people have always been diverse, and yet we mix together like marbles in a bag.

Polaroid vs. Cameraphone: Zeitgeist

Things learned from my 300 Days of 30 project so far:
1) A cameraphone is no substitute for a high-quality, multiple-megapixel digital SLR.
2) A cameraphone is a totally acceptable substitute for that party favorite of yesteryear, the Polaroid Instant Camera.

It’s not quite right to say that the Polaroids were there to define the spirit of the times, it just happens that now, years later, we look at them with both reverence and a sort of honorific irreverence. But I think with the hyperactive self-awareness we have these days, our cameraphones are becoming something of an attempt to connect with that past, taking poorly-planned shots of ourselves having fun and expecting that our kids will look at them the way we look at the Polaroid shots our parents took. At least on a subconscious level, we’re intentionally creating our own Polaroid-less Polaroid photos.

Interestingly, the distinctive shoot-and-print is coming back to reality, though now it’s more of a retro-flavored gadget for partiers and campers rather than the staple of American existence it was back in the 80’s.  The main obstacles I can see for this product in today’s world are that you have to purchase both the camera itself and then the film.  Also, you have to bring it with you – on purpose.

Only a relative handful of people would be willing to shell out the cash for this fun toy, and fewer still will remember to take it with them wherever they go.  Not that everybody did this in its heyday, it’s just that in Polaroid’s heyday, nobody had cameraphones.  With cameraphones, we take our cameras everywhere because we take our cell phones everywhere.  It’s natural selection at work.

So I’m pretty sure cameraphones will continue to document everyday life.  Future generations will look back on our under-lit, pixelated, out-of-focus snapshots of us with our friends the way that we now look back on washed-out, overexposed, out-of-focus Polaroid shots of our parents and their friends.  It’s that essential piece of human nature that makes Hipstamatic such a delightful and popular iPhone app.

Which brings up another point: cameraphone technology is evolving rapidly, so it won’t be very long before kids look at our cameraphone snapshots and comment on how old the photos look.

Case in point: they’re already shooting music videos on iPhones, and they look good:

So far, my little project, which I anticipated would teach me things about myself, has actually changed something about me: I no longer mind the awful quality of cameraphone shots.  I used to hate them on an artistic level, but now I appreciate them on a cultural level.

The Reality Behind the “Check-In” Hype | Beyond

The Reality Behind the “Check-In” Hype | Beyond.

This is an article from people who know about analytics and social media.  Apparently, despite the supposed popularity of Facebook Places, Foursquare, Gowalla,etc., people just don’t check in that much from smart phones.  Not unless they get a prize for it.  9.3 Million Foursquare users and these guys still they say geolocation services are at a point where they could go away and be remembered as passing fad in the tech history books, or else just tread water until some mind-blowingly superior and lucrative technology makes use of the check-in.


As for me, I full under the category of Don’t-Need-To-Advertise-My-Whereabouts-Because-If-You-Even-Cared-You’d-Be-Here-Too.

However, that’s not stopping me from trying to get Dream Theatre Company set up on Foursquare.  It’s free for businesses.  Why the hell not?

Find us on Foursquare!

The Microwave Finally Died

Microwave HeavenThe history of our microwave oven is patchy at best.  Facts get confused all the way down to the origin of how we acquired him.  Scientists believe we acquired him shortly after we moved to Chicago five and a half years ago.  We probably picked him up for some ridiculously low price at what is believed to be a Wal-Mart somewhere in the suburbs.

We were poor and the microwave was cheap.  We were wide-eyed wanderers in a brand new town, and we had just gotten married.  The microwave was as unknown to us as the life we were just starting.  The situation wasn’t ironic, wasn’t memorable, but it was perfect in its own quiet way.  Our microwave was a reflection of us, and we used that microwave for many meals.

Tonight, while attempting to heat some casserole, I discovered our microwave had died.  Completely died.  He went peacefully, in his sleep.  There was no pain.

…Which was rather inconvenient, really.  I had to use the conventional oven to heat up dinner.

But the timing, however annoying, is almost poetic.  We bought our microwave at the same time as we bought our guest bed linens.  Quite fitting, then, that he should crap out on us now that our guest bed is gone in favor of a baby room.

We’re not going to get a baby microwave, though.  That would be ridiculous.

But our baby will need to grow up with a microwave of her own, and we have some decisions to make.  We may decide to replace him with the old clunker of a microwave that is currently taking up space in our pantry.  How we got that other microwave is even more of a mystery.  I think we picked it up on the side of a road in Boston many years ago.

At any rate, the old microwave was with us through good times and bad times for almost our entire time here in Chicago, and he deserves a proper farewell as we send him off to Microwave Heaven…

Unicorns and Rainbows: My Ticket to USB Glory

Dan Zarella, the world’s preeminent (and possibly only) Social Media Scientist, has announced via his blog and his illustrious twitter feed a contest involving unicorns and rainbows.  Specifically, it’s a poetry contest:

Compose a rhyme about unicorns and rainbows (“Feel good advice based on dangerous and naive assumptions” — not actual unicorns and rainbows) and you can win one of these sweet MIMOBOT USB drives from Mimoco.

I want one of those thumb drives.  I do.  I won’t deny my covetous ambitions.

AND SO, WITHOUT FURTHER ADO…a poem about unicorns and rainbows.

Unicorns and rainbows
Live where this train goes
So everyone, get on board!
We’ll go to a land
Where science is banned
And logic & sense are abhorred.

Sharkblog: The Inevitable Disaster of Roboshark

You can imagine my instant glee and subsequent disappointment when a Twitter pal declared that Roboshark was his valentine.  Roboshark Publishing House & Fuzzy Kitty Emporium, it turns out, is not a robotic shark.  (The glee returned as I browsed this website, though.  It’s pretty fuckin’ awesome.)

This inspired a Google search for “Roboshark” and the most excellent return (below the obvious) was exactly what I was hoping for: an actual robotic shark.  Hydrodome.com/roboshark.html to the rescue.

I had no idea what Hydrodome was, but their website indicates that Roboshark is a harmless robot, built for scientific observational purposes.  So I read up a bit on the rest of the website.  Hydrodome is a watery theme park in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  Roboshark is one of two main attractions, the other being an underwater scooter called HydroBOB.

Concerned yet?  Think this sounds like fun?  Don’t be so naïve.

All of this was created by Andrew Sneath, an engineering genius.  Sneath’s ambition led him to create Hydrodome, a playground for all his underwater inventions.  Sneath was born in England.

Let’s do the math.  Sneath is an ambitious genius; he’s also English, which raises his likeliness of being an evil genius to about 98%.  Sneath has created a place for innocent tourists to come play in the water, and he’s got a robotic shark just lying around.  With an ambitious evil genius in possession of a device such as that surrounded by unsuspecting vacationers, and given that this exists inside an arena with the word “dome” in its name, there is an 87% chance that shit will go down.

But don’t let that deter you from visiting Hydrodome.  Given that in any group of tourists there is inevitably at least one local hero, and given that Sneath’s HyrdroBOB thingamajigs give a human being a sporting chance in the same pool as a mechanical predator, odds are that most of us would survive a sudden attack by Roboshark.  Just don’t let yourself be that first victim.  There’s always one…

Plans & Programs

Not gonna lie. I like this picture.

For all intents and purposes, the NoteSlate looks to be the finest version of a basic digital paper pad we’ve seen yet from the human race.  This is a concept almost as old as I am, and for the last twenty years we’ve seen attempt after attempt, but this one just might be what I’m looking for.  I don’t need an iPad – certainly not for $600 – but a pad where I can literally just sketch and draw and write notes to myself, for only $99?  Yes, I’m interested.

I can’t believe I have to wait till June.

It’s not the kind of technological wonderland that Apple likes to bring us; as far as usefulness goes, the NoteSlate is pretty limited.  But I really only want it for one purpose, and I think it will serve that purpose better than anything else on the market.  It’s a specialization, and I’m excited to be in that narrow category of people who can get excited about this.

So, what specifically do I want it for?  Sketching and drawing, duh.  But I can do that on regular paper, so why spend blah blah blah yeah yeah yeah.  Really, I’m interested in adding some drawings to a book of poetry, a la Shel Silverstein.  Drawing on paper and scanning that paper is, well, just a big pain in the ass.  Really inconvenient.

And yes, I have a book of poetry.  At least, the book is compiled; capped at a hundred pages, thanks to a contest I entered.  If I lose, I’ll be free to add more pages and some drawings.  If I win, I get five thousand dollars and a publishing deal.  Either way, I win.

Because it’s held up in the contest until May, I can’t publish any of the poems I submitted anywhere else, or I risk disqualification.  But I think I can post a few lines from one of the poems, so I want to share this little bit from a poem called Plans & Programs:

Plans & programs map our days, straight and sure as a train on its tracks;
but a map can be torn, programs ignored and plans forgotten, and a train can learn to fly.

So this plan of mine, to add some drawings with this great new sketching tool, is really just a small part of the grander plan.  Book of poetry, book of short stories, series of novels, plays and more plays, even screenplays – I’ve got so many writing projects in the works that it would really be better for me to actually make my living as a writer, instead of in an office, working for someone else.  But I’m not there yet.

2016 is my goal.

I’m taking steps.

I’m sketching out a strategic plan.

I’m working on a plan strong enough to sustain its goals over the next half decade, and flexible enough to bend with what life throws us.

So the book of poetry (with drawings) is one step.  This website is another step.  I’m taking steps.

I’m building.

I’ve got a picture in my head of the next five years, and I like this picture.