Let’s face it, it’s not easy to make a list of great things that happened in 2001. My mental list of bad things probably could stretch for days, but I dug up a few highlights in an otherwise dreadful year:
– I got to broaden my skills at a variety of employers and client projects this year. Although it wasn’t as peaceful and stress-free as working steadily in a single place, being forced to do several different things (usually new things with each new week) has broadened my skills further. I’ve gotten a lot of new opportunities I wouldn’t have gotten unless I was branching out and doing new things.
– Without trying at all, 2001 turned into quite a press blitz for me personally. A phone call out of the blue in January turned into an interview which became the feature article which became me on the cover of a national magazine in May. A few weeks later, my first mention in the New York Times. The month after that, an interview with me and a picture in the NYT. One July morning, the phone rang and CNN wanted to come over 45 minutes later, resulting in this. August brought my third mention in NYT this year, and finally in December, another interview came out in a magazine. I’m not one to brag and boast, but I must say I’m surprised I got that much coverage in a year. There’s no secret to it, I just kept toiling at something and one day the random emails and phone calls from reporters started.
– In total, I got to spend almost half the year working from home, instead of a stuffy office. There’s added stress with freelancing much of the year, but there’s also something to be said about taking a bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge on the few bright, sunny days San Francisco has to offer, getting daily errands done sans crowds, and getting myself to finally start running, biking, and walking again.
This year’s xmas, or as I like to call it “that magical time of year when every commercial on TV is for electric shavers,” was a good one. I got a warm coat for San Francisco’s cold winters (and summers), a fantastic book I didn’t know existed but one I needed for research, a nice sweater, and various other small useful trinkets.
I also got to visit my dad, who is doing a little better. He’s moved to a rehabilitation hospital, and for the next couple months will be undergoing daily therapy to try and get some movement back. He’s got feeling on his left side, but no voluntary movement of his arm or leg. He can speak clearly now and eat solid foods again. It’ll be a long road ahead.
Cory has a great article (it sounds like it could/should be a conference keynote address) at O’reillynet about the intersection of internet reliability and the business world. I remember at KnowNow, we used to have a lot of arguments about what the term “reliable” meant to users and potential customers. The people that matured during the age of the web figured “works most of the time” was sufficient uptime for an internet or intranet service, while the people from the software age argued that everything the company did had to be “enterprise class” and it meant paging four people if the network response time varied by more than 100ms. Cory’s article discusses the folly of such an attitude.
It also reminded me of an old mantra that could also explain why napster worked, why buggy implementations win out if they work most of the time, and why windows became the dominant OS on the desktop: Worse is Better.
During the whirlwind couple of days we worked on the megway site, we took so many photos and movies, we could almost create a complete documentary of how we did each step. One of the throwaway shots was this one, done in a big security mirror.
I finally got to see The Royal Tenenbaums yesterday and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a dry, witty comedy much in the same vein as Wes Anderson’s other works, and compliments Bottle Rocket and Rushmore nicely.
In the Wes Anderson universe, Bottle Rocket was set in a fairly everyday world, populated by everyday interesting characters with the central one, Owen Wilson’s character Dignan, being occasionally absurd while appearing so delusional he doesn’t know how absurd he really is. In Rushmore, again it is set in an everyday setting, with everyday, interesting characters, but at the center is Max Fischer, a 15 year old that says everything and does everything in absurd ways, essentially taking the delusion to the next level. I think the differences between the two movies are having Bottle Rocket’s character being occasionally absurd, and Rushmore’s character regularly absurd, and when you compare the two to The Royal Tenebaums, it’s basically in the same vein.
You’ve got the same everyday setting (this time in NYC instead of the previous two being set in some nameless Texas town), with a sizable cast of interesting characters, but instead of a single absurdist figure, there’s a whole family of them. Imagine Rushmore with three or four Max Fischers, surrounded by three or four more Dignans, with the central character (Gene Hackman’s brilliant Royal Tenenbaum) being like Max Fischer to the n-th power.
The comedy is completely dry, usually subtle, and far from the typical “laff riot” comedies that get made these days. If you didn’t think Rushmore was a funny movie, you won’t like this one. I don’t know what Wes Anderson will do next, perhaps he’ll try putting his absurd characters in more absurd situations or places, but his current work stands as probably the funniest thing I’ve seen all year (although, I don’t think this has been a good year for comedy).
Lord of The Rings was pretty good. I hadn’t read the first book since sixth grade, so I had forgotten almost the entire story, and yet most all of it made sense. The computer graphics were good, but not great. About 3/4 of the shots look computer generated, and the lighting is pretty bad on a few scenes, but overall it paints a rich tapestry of a fabled land. Of course, it helped to have a level-5 Tolkien geek at my side (Kay) to explain what minor differences existed between the book and the film, and what to expect in the next film.
It was even good enough to get a MIT hack done in honor of it.
Tomorrow I’m off to see Frodo and Bilbo in the most anticipated movie of the year. I’m have high hopes, but I don’t think it will disappoint like that other blockbuster did.