The Blog

Idiocracy, Part 3

With the sad news of the death of George Carlin, in honor of his outlook on things, it’s had me thinking of a few observations I’ve had for awhile.

Have you ever noticed that you can, for the most part, build an accurate personality profile of a person based on what vehicle they drive?

First – the minivan. No male with any testosterone left in his veins drives a minivan unless..

1. He is over the age of 60 and driving the grandkids to soccer practice is his only escape in life.
2. Late some evening, when he was asleep, his wife castrated him.
3. His wife purchased it, and he’s forced to drive it, under the threat of never seeing his wife naked again if he doesn’t.
4. It’s all that he can afford to drive – as it was either given to him, or his only other option was a rusted out Yugo.

Otherwise, it’s driven by a woman who equates a car with a refrigerator as an appliance.

Yet, for the most part, the driving behavior of the minivan driver (damn…I sound more like an anthropologist) is usually the same. Whip out into traffic, forcing all oncoming vehicles to slam on their brakes – then drive in the fast lane at least 10mpg under the speed limit.

The closest driver to a minivan driver – is the person driving a Saturn.

I had to keep from laughing today as I watched an elderly couple in a Buick. I know that General Motors has a problem – they want to appeal to a younger demographic, yet not alienate the older population that has been the brand’s “bread and butter” but come on…why makes people over the age of 50 think that driving a large, lumbering, slow, inefficient car like a Buick is the epitome of driving?

Then…we have opposite side of the equation. I was watching an episode of “Top Gear” on BBC America the other week, and the host Jeremy Clarkson – before he would drive the BMW in a car comparison test, insisted on wearing a polo shirt, Dockers, and a Bluetooth headset. Ever since then, every time I look at a driver of a BMW, it’s either a girl who is trying to impress her girlfriends (and her next car is a Mercedes) – or it’s a dude that is wearing a polo shirt, Dockers, and a Bluetooth headset. I realize that I’ve just described every single male under 30 in Scottsdale, AZ. Who has that “uber-cool” haircut that if they ever watched an older movie, would realize it’s the same haircut Pee Wee Herman had 20 years ago!

All of these people usually create more accidents than they actually cause…and have no idea of the nirvana caused by learning how to drive a proper sports car….properly! Europe should be happy that there isn’t a bridge between us and them…or maybe they’d then experience the unfortunate experience of road rage when they get cut off by the minivan, stuck behind the Saturn, who’s car won’t start because they stalled avoiding the Buick taking 30 minutes to parallel park…all while the dude in the BMW looks like he’s talking to himself!

Great Customer Service – Another Reason Why I Love Apple!

I’ve had a number of computers over the years – and since we’ve all pretty much gotten to the point where we can’t seem to live without them (unless your like my mom, who recoils in horror at the idea of even trying to turn one on) – one of those feelings we’d all like to avoid is that burning sensation, deep in your gut, when you turn on your computer and…..nothing happens.

Which then leaves you at the mercy of either your computer’s manufacturer, or a third party repair shop if you’re out of warranty and don’t want to feel like you have to sell a body part to pay for the repair. The problem gets even worse if, like me, you live on a laptop – it’s not like there are many “user-servicable” parts on a laptop except memory and maybe a hard drive.

In the past, when this has happened to me, there is the inevitable fight with the manufacturer (where you would swear they staff their customer service teams with ex-help desk personnel, who’s entire mission in life is to make you feel like your personal development never proceeded beyond “brain stem”), trying to convince them that no, you didn’t break your laptop – it just died.

Well, I switched to MacBook Pro last fall…and part of my decision was based on the reviews of Mac’s being almost completely trouble free. And, I’ve had a bout of “Murphy’s Law” hit me when it comes to my Mac. Like this morning. After an evening of working on my art portfolio for my revamped website (coming soon!) – when I got up this morning (proof that Murphy was working – this happened on a Sunday) – turned on my Mac, and nothing happened. At all. Then…the even worse feeling of following the directions by inserting the Install Disk to trouble shoot – and it ate my disk – couldn’t even get it back!

Now with any other manufacturer – the process from this point forward would involve at least 2-3 hours on the phone with somebody that gives you a fake name (something like “Bill Jones” that doesn’t match the thick Indian accent – which I guess is OK, since I can understand an Indian accent much better than many more indigenous accents here in the States), followed by paying to ship it back to someplace that you’ve never heard of, and then days of wondering when / if it will ever be fixed and returned to you.

Why I love Apple. My process this morning was to use my iPhone, go to Apple’s site, and make an appointment at the Genius Bar. Then, drive 10 minutes to Chandler Fashion Mall here in Phoenix. Wait for about 5 minutes, where they then did a quick trouble-shoot to determine the problem (faulty logic-board). They couldn’t guarantee it would be fixed today, but promised they would do their best. 5 hours later, I get a call from them, saying that they’ve already fixed it and I can pick it up. At no time did they ever make me feel like an idiot – and in fact, even apologized for the 5 minute wait I had in the store!

Now, even though this is the second repair I’ve had, I understand that things don’t always work. For me, the sign of a good company is not just how reliable their product / service is, but also how they deal with things when something doesn’t work as expected.

I keep reading about the trouble the airline industry is in here in the US. Now, not only are we having to pay an upcharged fee for a second bag, but some airlines are now charging for the first! And, since you don’t even have the option of bringing those bags on board, you’d think┬á at the very least, they’d make up for this added inconvenience with better customer service…but you’d be wrong! Now, airlines such as US Airways are now going to charge $2.50 for a tiny cup of flat soda! And, the legacy carriers like United, Delta, Northwest, American and Continental wonder why people don’t want to fly them, and instead fly the low-cost carriers? Well, when your service absolutely sucks – why would you want to pay extra to be treated like cattle?

I just keep wondering – if more companies treated their customers like Apple does…they’d realize that it isis not only more profitable, it might even create a competitive advantage!

New Images Available

Just finished putting together some new images from up at Roosevelt Lake & the Apache Trail here in Arizona – enjoy!

Click Here for Gallery

Idiocracy – Part 2

Hollywood, I believe..is its own, bizzare universe. For the most part, those who produce the things we watch – are so out of touch with reality that it amazes me that anyone makes a living in the TV/Movie industry. Yet, not only do they make a living, those “at the top” live quite well.

How does this happen? Is this due to stellar marketing effort by the top studios? Where multi-million dollar ad budgets, now combined with state-of-the-art viral marketing campaigns via the top social networking sites, build enough buzz to elevate even the poorest excuse of a movie to box office success?

Nope – it’s because we’re all idiots.

Case in point – it’s been announced that there is a new movie now in production, based on a 80’s TV series. OK…this is the first mistake. Rarely, if ever, does a movie based on a successful TV show ever to that show justice. I’m thinking maybe the only one in recent years that’s worked is Sex in the City. Now, I was never a fan of the show (being a guy…I’d have to give up my man-card if I thought it was truly worth watching) – but female friends that I have that have seen it enjoyed it. WIth one complaint, though – saying that it was like the writers/producers tried to cram an entire season into two hours.

Second mistake – is taking this 80’s TV show I haven’t named yet – that was very successful, and not using the original actors. Especially when the lead actor in the TV show was so closely identified with the main character. The 80’s TV show in question – is Magnum, P.I. For eight seasons, we all watched the opening montage – TC’s helicopter over Honolulu, then the shot of Tom Selleck smiling at the camera, then pulling away with spinning tires in a Ferrari 308 GTS. Then a shot of Larry Manetti as Rick at the King Kamehameha Club, followed by John Hillerman as Higgins.

Yet, for the remake, the actors named so far – Matthew McConaughey as Thomas Magnum. Steve Zahn as Rick. Tyrese Gibson as TC. And William H. Macy as Higgins. If you pull Tyrese out of this mix, it’s sounds more like a sequel to Sahara, not Magnum. Plus, now, rather than Magnum, TC & Rick being ex-Vietnam vets – they’re talking Gulf War vets. Now – all these actors are good actors. They may have some chemistry, especially since they worked together on a previous film. And…hell – everybody needs to make a living. But – after 8 years of Magnum – doesn’t the “powers that be” in Hollywood get the fact that people don’t identify these actors with Magnum? Seems that only Lucas / Spielburg get it – after almost 20 years, they bring back Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones (and make his newest adventure 20 years after his last) – they even bring back Karen Allen in her original role – and look how well its done at the box-office!

Finally – if you’re going to make all these other mistakes, you’d think someone would suggest bringing in a writer and director that have experience with this type of genre. Nope – wrong again – instead, you bring in a writer who also directs – and who doesn’t have that much experience – you’d pick a guy with a couple of comedy films and commercials under his belt instead. Just to make sure you can elevate this from “mistake” to “idiocracy”. You’d bring in Rawson Marshall Thurber. Who is that? The writer / director of Dodgeball!

I just don’t get it.

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“The Next Painting” – Progress so far

So, I’ve been working on my next painting…unlike past one’s, I’ve actually been making progress on this one. I’m working off of a photo I shot while about to leave to do my first open water scuba dives, sitting on a dive boat in Lahaina harbor on Maui.

I’ve still got a way to go, but here’s the progress so far:

At this point, the sky, background island & water, and the the boats are almost done. I’ve got a few background boats to add, the rigging on the foreground boats, a little bit of work on the last three boats on the right, and the foreground water (which right now is what will take the majority of time to finish)

Hopefully, in the next few weeks it’ll be done!

Painting Name: TBD
Painting size: 24″ x 36″, Oil
Media: Oil on canvas

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Idiocracy

Watch the movie “Idiocracy”…then go through a Wal-Mart on a Sunday afternoon. You will come to believe the movie was really a cleverly disguised documentary.

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The Difference Between Mac OSX and Windows

Ok…I switched from Windows to a Mac last fall. For years, I always felt that Windows was the best platform. Plenty of software, pretty easy to use, and since my first experience with a computer was on an old MS-DOS machine, as technology progressed, I worked my way up from DOS to Win3.0, Win95, and finally WinXP.

Life was good. Yet, in the last few years, I kept hearing about how much better Apple’s products were. Then, Apple went to the Intel chipset, and now you could run dual operating systems – both OSX and Windows. Since I moved to a Mac – I’ve quickly replaced my Windows software with Mac software. I rarely boot into Windows anymore…my Mac boots in less than a minute, while WinXP takes a good 10 minutes. And, never works as well, either.

So – now I’ve found these videos on YouTube that give a much more graphical description of the differences.

This is how things work on a Mac:

This is how things work on a PC.

Think Apple should use this in their next commercials with Justin Long. ­čÖé

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The Coolest Desk!

I attended the 3rd Annual Phoenix Contemporary Design Fair the other week. (And, yes – this blog posting is not of the most timely nature – I’m sure I’ve been ‘scooped’!). Anyway, this year, the furniture design competition included what might be the coolest desk I’ve seen yet!

Seems that every desk I see seems to be the expression of “bigger is better”. Yet, the bigger the desk I have, the more crap gets spread out over it! Plus, what’s the point these days of a desk? Where in the past, you needed buttloads of room for your typewriter, your big-ole stack of paper-based projects, and a photo of your significant other – now, it’s a place for your keyboard, monitor, and mouse. Oh…and you still need to keep your significant other happy by having room for their photo as well.

Well, of everything I saw at the design fair, the coolest idea was the the example of minimialism. Or, in other words, what would Steve Jobs make if he made a desk? The answer is the OneLessDesk. A local firm by the name of Heckler Design (www.hecklerdesign.com) has build a stainless steel desk – basically a hoop for your monitor to rest on, an out of sight rear-facing shelf that lets you hide our wires, power strip, and external hard drives, as well as USB hubs and small speaker. The shelf is ventilated to keep everything cool. A smaller “hoop” slides out, giving you a place for your keyboard and mouse.

What I like most – is when you slide the keyboard “lower desk” is slid under the “upper desk” – it only sticks out from the wall 12″. That’s right – one foot! Why the hell didn’t this exist when I was in college – this would have been a hell of a lot better than a couple of cinder blocks and a slab of plywood!

And, it’s not wimpy, either. It’s made of stainless steel – and with it’s industrial-clean look, it’s not something you need to hide in your home office!

Here’s a photo of what it looks like:

So, if you are looking for something that is clean, simple, functional – someplace where you could park your iMac and feel proud to have it sitting there – I’d say this is the best there is!

Woopra – Is this the future of blog stats?

Just read about a blog stat program called Woopra. Check it out at www.whoopra.com.

According to their site, Whoopra is a ” robust web-tracking & analysis tool that works perfectly on any website. It is mainly targeted for small to medium websites ranging from few hundreds up to tens of thousands of daily page views. Essentially, it is targeted for blogs interested in the most minuscule details of every single action. In addition, Woopra provides a precise real-time streaming of every single activity on the website.”

May have to try it and see what happens!

Flock – A Great Way To Manage All Your Social Networking Sites

Life seemed so simple when everybody was on MySpace…and nothing else. Now, keeping track of all the different social networking sites one’s a part of can get a bit frustrating. Fortunately, someone came up with a solution. There’s now a “social Web browser” based on Mozilla, the same architecture as Firefox – called Flock. I’d heard a little about it over the last few months, and finally decided to try it out after reading a review in the April 2008 issue of MacWorld. (And, yes – there is both Mac & WIndows versions!). What a concept – a way to easily keep up with not only my social networking accounts, but also YouTube, Digg, del.icio.us, keep my blog updated – all without loosing my mind!

To quote the article – “Billed as a ‘social Web browser,’ Flock 1.0.3 makes it easy to track blogs and social networks, and to create your own content. You can enter lon-in info for Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, and common blogging services. That done, you can click on the browser’s Blog option to launch a pop-up window pre-configured with your blog’s categories and posting options, and then enter text. A panel on the left lets you scan RSS feeds, Facebook updates, Twitter tweets, or Flickr comments.:

The only social networking site not support is, surprisingly, MySpace. Acccording to Flock’s website:

Where is MySpace integration for People?

No, we haven’t been living in a small, dark cave without internet access for 6 years. We are aware that MySpace is one of the largest social networks around, and we, like you, would like to see it integrated into Flock’s People sidebar.

Until early 2008, MySpace had no developer platform available with which to build quality Flock integration. We’re pleased to have been given access to this platform when it launched and have been working to build MySpace into Flock. We previewed an early build of it at MySpace’s Developer Platform launch.

The skinny: MySpace integration in Flock will arrive in 2008.

I’ve been using Flock for about two weeks now – and it has greatly simplified keeping up with what used to be a wild mix of different sites – and I definitely recommend the free download! (And, since it’s based on Mozilla – you can also use it as your regular browser as well!)