Bah F’ing Humbug

Not sure why really, but I just couldn’t get into the holiday spirit this year.  I generally love the Holidays and the time leading up to it but this year I just went through the motions.

It could have been the fact that it’s been an incredibly mild fall and early winter so far.  We’ve barely had any snow, and temps have been really warm for Chicago.  It’s been rainy and grey and bleak.  So the season didn’t feel like Christmas.

In addition, I love to give gifts.  I love to surprise people, and try to get that perfect gift that makes them go wow.  But this year, things have been much tighter money-wise and so we scaled WAY back.  In fact the wife and I pretty much knew what we were getting each other, and it wasn’t much.  So I didn’t get that feeling of snagging the perfect gift. I know that’s not the reason for the season, but it’s a fun piece that I felt I missed out on a bit.

Work has been high stress at the moment too, and it’s for a good reason, but the normally relaxed holiday season has been a million miles an hour.  A major office move, and a major project all aligning at the same time meant glitches.  Glitches that normally aren’t a big deal, but when you are on a deadline, things change a bit.  Some of glitches are out of our hands too, and I hate that feeling of being responsible for something yet not being able to fix it myself.

Next, my kids are at an age where they are constantly at each others throats.  So it seems every time we are in a car, or spending time together as a family, they are fighting like cats and dogs.  The eldest is constantly neglecting the youngest, and the youngest is purposefully being annoying to compensate.  In addition, the youngest is hypoglycemic, so she needs to eat right and watch her sugar intake.  But she’s been horrible about not wanting to eat anything that might be decent for her.  So THAT has been a struggle.  Then she spent all of Christmas with a horrible cold that blossomed into nasal and ear infections. So she was completely miserable for the holiday and it sucks to see her this way.  After the doctor’s visit today, hopefully that improves.

It also seems like forever since the wife and I have had a date night.  We don’t do babysitters, so it’s always generally my in-laws that take the girls for a night when we need it.  But, we’ve been so busy for the last several months that we just haven’t had time to get away for a movie or dinner.  So I’m missing that.

So fuck it, I’m in a shitty mood.  And today’s work glitches (that we couldn’t control) did not help matters.

But all of that said, I think everyone is entitled to have shitty moods once in awhile.  So I can wallow a bit and not feel the least bit guilty.  But, I’m not going to take it lying down.  It’s time to reverse the mood, and here are some reasons why.

For one, I’m speaking at Lotusphere for the first time ever.  That kicks ass.  For those of you who aren’t part of my Lotus circle of friends, Lotusphere is the annual IBM conference that talks about social software.  It’s a honor to speak, and I’m thrilled to be a part of two sessions.

Next, I’ll be attending the Consumer Electronics Show in a couple of weeks.  The company I work for does a lot of work for that show, so I wanted to see some behind the scenes, and I’m just a huge gadget nerd too.  So even though it’s work, I think it’s something I’ll really enjoy.

Most importantly, my family has their health (minus poor youngest’s cold), I have a job that I really do love, I work with people whom I trust and admire, and I’m blessed to have family that I actually like to be around and see on a regular basis.

So as I sit here in my kick ass man cave, listening to music on the Sonos, smoking a cigar and drinking some Scotch while typing this blog, I just have to say to myself “Suck it up you pussy.”  So that’s what I’m going to do.  Time to harden the fuck up.

So today, Bah Fucking Humbug.  Tomorrow, I reign supreme.

R.I.P. Napster

Today the Napster service was absorbed by Rhapsody in the United States.  I’ve been a long time user of Napster, and am really sad to see it go.

For those of you unaware, the original Napster program was basically a way to get free music.  You would connect to others and share MP3′s.  The MP3 format basically made it easy for anyone to rip a CD and make it available to the world.  So you could try any music you liked, but it also lead to rampant piracy.

Now instead of trying to embrace and extend the MP3 concept, record companies sued Napster into oblivion. It took a long time for music companies to come around.  And a lot of it had to do with Steve Jobs and Apple requesting that copy protection be removed from songs.  Once that happened, many services started to emerge.

Napster itself rose from the dead as a pay service for music subscriptions.  It had a better library than others as well as higher quality music files.  It also had the ability to download tracks for offline listening.  So I jumped back in, and got a subscription and have been a happy customer ever since.

But, alas, Napster sold its US assets to Rhapsody, so now as of today, I’m a Rhapsody customer whether I like it or not.  I’ll give it a fair shake as it’s been a couple years, but Napster has historically been a much better service.  We’ll see if Rhapsody has finally caught up.

If not, many other services have emerged.  Spotify, MOG, Rdio, Slacker and others are just waiting to fill my ear hole with tunes.  We’ll see which way I go.

Why I cancelled SiriusXM

Yesterday I finally cancelled SiriusXM.  For those unfamiliar, SiriusXM is a satellite radio service.  It has tons of really good commercial free music, talk radio, and sports.  The NFL, MLB and Howard Stern all call it home.  I love the content, but I’ve grown increasingly annoyed with the service.

You see, Sirius and XM used to be competitors.  I was an XM subscriber from the beginning, and the switched to Sirius when they got the NFL and Howard Stern.  So I’ve been subscribed to one or the other pretty much from their inception.

When the merger was proposed, there were a lot of people opposed to it.  I wasn’t, I thought it was a great idea.  It was supposed to keep both carriers in business, while lowering costs for consumers and providing a la carte content.  It was also supposed to combine the two so no matter if you bought a car with XM or Sirius, you could be assured that you would get the same service.

It was an uphill battle to get approval, but it went through.  I actually wrote my congressman in support of it, that’s how much I believed that the benefits would be a big deal.

Well, it’s been four years, and while they’ve JUST combined the Sirius and XM websites into one, the services are still separate with some separate content.  We have Sirius in our mini-van and XM in our Prius.  I still have to have separate logins to each.  One website, one billing address, two separate logins. This means that I don’t get the multi-radio discount either.

In addition, prices have not gone down, but rather have gone up.  I used to have access to more stations for the price, and in May they changed plans so I lost some stations that I had been listening to.  A la carte has NEVER materialized and quite frankly choices are now limited.  I also noticed that the streaming internet radio of SiriusXM is raising it’s price on Jan. 1st as well.

So now, in a time where I’m trying to save money by cutting out unnecessary expenses, I just don’t see this as a good deal.  To really get the plan I want, I now have to increase my spend.  It’s still a separate account because the vehicles I happened to buy didn’t have the same service.  I’ll miss the Jason Ellis show, and Faction, Octane, and the Morning Mashup. I’ve missed Howard Stern and the NFL for awhile now.

The tweet that you see above is from the Customer Support team from SiriusXM.  I know that they truly want to help, but I think the problems are too deep and ingrained now for them to make much of a dent.  And I think this doesn’t bode well for the company as a whole.  If I’m leaving, I’m positive others are as well.

Why I support #suckforluck

I’ve been a hard core Miami Dolphin fan all of my life.  Much of my youth was spent watching a consistently good Phins team make the playoffs year after year.  My man cave is adorned in aqua and orange, I have tons of signed Dolphin memorabilia, I listen to (or watch) every game every weekend.  If the Dolphins lost on Sunday it used to ruin the start of my week.

Not any longer.

You see, since the retirement of Dan Marino (where the organization basically forced him out) this team has been nothing but a middle of the road team year after year.  In fact, look at these links:

Miami Dolphin QB’s Since Dan Marino
Coaches Since Don Shula

So yes, SEVENTEEN QB’s and SIX coaches in 12 seasons.  How pathetic is that? Yeah, that’s a rhetorical question.

This organization has now pretty much sucked for a long long time.  And as of today, the team is now 0-7. We suck, plain and simple, and despite that, I still watch or listen to every game.  It just doesn’t bother me when we lose any more.

Part of it simply because I realized that I should “let go” of the fanaticism that comes with being a football fan.  The other is the prospect of landing Andrew Luck as our QB of the future in the upcoming draft.

Andrew Luck is regarded as the best QB to come out of college since Peyton Manning.  He’s the type of player you can build a team around.  It’s become increasingly clear that to win in this league, you need an elite QB.  Someone who can lead your team to victory.  Luck is that type of QB.

So now, there are many Dolphin fans that are all on board the Suck for Luck train.  They want us to suck so bad that we get the first pick in the draft and we can draft Andrew.  It goes against everything a fan should want, but at 0-7 I’m firmly ensconced on that train.

I don’t want another semi-shitty middle-of-the-road season that allows us to draft some kid with a “good motor,” I want a leader.  A killer of a QB. I want Andrew Luck.

Wouldn’t it be a fitting if we could draft Luck in the 13th draft after we forced out Dan Marino?  I think so.  Let the misery end, let us rebuild.  All hail #suck4luck.


iPhone vs. streetsweeper

Earlier this week an employee at my office couldn’t find his iPhone.  So we pulled it up on Find My iPhone and saw that it was at our office.  So we started looking around for it, and then a curious thing happened.  It started moving down the street.

We figured that someone picked it up and made off with it, so a couple of folks jumped in a car and started after the blip on the GPS screen.  When they finally caught up with it, they found a Chicago City street sweeper vehicle.

The iPhone had fallen out of a pocket, was swept up by the street sweeper and then dragged for blocks.  The entire time it was still giving out its signal for Find My iPhone despite the fact that the handset itself was fairly destroyed.

So Find My iPhone is a pretty cool feature, and can stand a beating to the phone itself.  Good to know.

The Good, The Sad and the Meh

This has been a rather interesting week for me from a technology perspective.

First, at the day gig, we are launching a new piece of software that effectively runs our entire business.  It’s a big change, so myself and Declan have been traveling and helping answer questions during training.  It’s the largest software launch that our company has probably ever done, and it’s all written in XPages.  Yes, XPages.

Declan has put together an incredible application and I’m very excited for it to go live.  It requires Lotus Domino 8.5.3 for some of the functionality, and lo and behold, that was released by IBM on Tuesday.

We’ve been testing 8.5.3 for quite some time, and actually wrote this application in all of the betas.  So we’re confident that 8.5.3 is going to work well, and very happy that it finally shipped. :-)  That was the good…

On that same day another company in Cupertino, California announced a product of much speculation.  The general consensus on the iPhone 4S was “meh” but it’s still a pretty damn cool phone.  I’ve already gotten floods of requests for the new device (especially since it is now on Sprint) so that’s going to take off quite a bit I think.

Lastly was the sad news of the death of Steve Jobs.  I know there have been tons of eulogies out on the web, so I don’t have too much to add other than it does make me sad to see such an innovative person leave us so young.  56 IS young folks.  And cancer… well just fuck cancer.

Anyway, think of how profoundly Steve Jobs changed everything about computing.  From creating the first truly “personal” computer to revolutionizing the phone and tablet market.  There was no smart phone market five years ago.  No portable music market ten years ago.  No real tablet market two years ago.  No app stores.  Sure these things existed in small pockets, but no one ever really got them to work, and to take off, and be as wildly successful as Apple made them.

Jobs got the music industry to sell unprotected DRM-free music.  Got movie and TV studios to rent movies digitally.  Got periodicals to create digital versions.  Hell, they even got Adobe to create tons of support for HTML 5.

Let’s not forget his time running Pixar, the most successful digital movie creator in the world.

Steve Jobs was a one of a kind individual.  And one that I admired, and try to emulate on certain levels.  It was a sad day for technology, and a sad day for me personally.

I wore a black turtleneck and jeans today.  My little way of paying homage to someone I admired.  RIP Steve, you’ve made a huge impact on me, and how I compute on a daily basis.  Thank You.

 

Kickstart My Heart

Recently, I’ve supported a couple of projects on Kickstarter.com and I realized that it’s possible that many of you don’t even know what Kickstarter is.

Kickstarter is what is called “crowd-funding.”  Simply put, inventors or artists or anyone with a dream can try to raise money for their dream via Kickstarter.com.  They place the project online, and let people know how much money they are trying to raise.  People can then donate to the project and help to make the project a reality. If enough money isn’t raised, then you aren’t charged a dime and project doesn’t get made.

I’ve helped two projects recently.  One is for my favorite lounge music cover artist, Richard Cheese and Lounge Against The Machine.  Richard covers contemporary songs in a lounge style, and he’s quite funny as well.  I’ve purchased all of his albums and even seen him in concert.

Well it takes money to make an album, and they weren’t sure they were going to be able to continue making music.  So they decided to try to raise money on Kickstarter to pay for the recording of the new album.  If you donated a small amount of cash to the cause, you would get the album, a little more and you would have it autographed all the way up to paying to get your name said in a track on the album.  So you weren’t just donating, you were getting something back too.  Needless to say, they raised enough money to make the album and I now have an autographed copy featuring awesome new lounge covers like Tik Tok, Like A G6, Boom Boom Pow and even Rebecca Black’s Friday.  :-)

The other project I donated to will probably get it’s own blog post because it’s a pretty cool new piece of tech, so I’ll hold off until then.  That said, I wanted to clue everyone in on how cool Kickstarter is.  Go check out the site, and you may be able to help some really cool ideas come to fruition.

Smelling my roses

What a wonderful weekend this has been.

I started off Friday night hanging at a cigar event with a good buddy. It’s always nice to hang out with friends, and it’s always so relaxing in a setting like that. I need to continue to make time for those types of nights.

On Saturday, my eldest had dance practice and afterwards we went out as a family for sushi, one of my favorite meals. We had a nice afternoon, and then in the evening the wife and I rented a movie from one of my favorite directors. It was another nice relaxing evening.

Well this morning, the girls let us sleep in a bit, and then my youngest woke us up. She lead us into the living room where she had set up breakfast for us. Waffles and coffee made to perfection. We had a wonderful family breakfast, and then all hung out in the living room doing various projects.

Before lunch I headed out to our deck and lit up a nice cigar. The sun was shining, it was a perfect 68 degrees, nice breeze. I checked Twitter and Facebook on the iPad while listening to music and enjoying the calm.

We had a nice family lunch, and then lounged around watching some TV. The youngest headed off to gymnastics practice, and here I am back on the deck. I have a cigar on one side of me and a pumpkin spice coffee on the other. Music once again floats by on a beautiful breeze as the sun warms my face. It really cannot get much better.

This is Labor Day weekend here in the States which is a national holiday commemorating all the hard work people put in all year. It’s a time to relax and enjoy life a bit, and I’m trying to do just that.

I’ve been insanely busy at work as of late, so this weekend was just the thing I needed to recharge a bit. In addition, I’m using it to realize how very lucky I am.

I have a great, supportive, beautiful, caring wife. I have two highly intelligent, motivated, loving children. We all have our health. I have a job I truly love with employees of mine I trust and enjoy working with. I have a few good close friends whom I care deeply about. I have a place I live that is truly a home, with history, and quirks and all. I have the dog at my side, and I have a smile on my face.

Sometimes you have to stop and take stock of all the good things. I’m stopping to smell those roses right now.

Here’s wishing you all the same happiness I’m currently enjoying.

Recommending: Tyrone Wells

Tyrone Wells

Metal & Wood by Tyrone Wells

I haven’t recommended music here on the blog in a long time, but recently I started

listening to a singer-songwriter by the name of Tyrone Wells.

I heard him on a Pandora mix based on Jason Mraz a couple months ago, and thought I needed to look him up.  Well I checked him out on Napster and became an instant fan.  His most recent album, Metal & Wood, has been in constant rotation on the Sonos and in car for months.

Admittedly I’ve been on an adult-alternative singer-songwriter kick lately, so he just fell into that perfectly.  That said, he’s able to encapsulate emotions in his songs so well, and many of his lyrics tend to fit my hippie sensibilities quite well.  For example:

Take all the Metal and Wood
Used in the waging of war
And teach the men that make those weapons
To build shelter for the poor
 
Take all the money we spend
On the way that we appear
Find the ones that die of hunger
And help them see another year
 

He also has songs of happiness and hope, like is expressed on And The Birds Sing:

Poor man and a millionaire
Both under the oak tree’s shade
Not stressing over money made
 
Preacher and the Atheist
Both jumping in the ocean waves
Today they both feel saved

If you see some of his earlier work, you can tell he’s a religious guy, but I like the fact that he’s not judgemental and actually includes an Atheist in his song.  :-)

Lastly, he can really touch a nerve on love lost too.  Songs like Let Go and Give Me One Reason are so packed with emotion that you can sometimes find yourself tearing up when he sings them.

Today, so many artists lack that emotion when they sing, but Tyrone Wells really draws you in, and that rare quality is to be rewarded.  Pick this album up, you won’t be disappointed!

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