Keynote Index Fund

A few months ago I was thinking about Apple’s rise in value after the iPhone and how Steve Jobs does a great keynote every year, and naturally I thought “I wonder if there’s a way to make money off quick investments around the keynotes?” Then I thought “What if you did this every year, for just a day or two of investment?”

I ran the numbers and here they are, on this new 1-page website: Keynote Index Fund

What if cupcakes could somehow become more awesome? HOWTO

I’m a big fan of cupcakes, huge fan. 30lbs overweight fan.

Anyway, a couple months ago, my wife gave her students some cupcakes and someone BLEW MY MIND with a simple hack that solved one of cupcakes’ few failings: sometimes there’s just too much frosting, they’re too tall for your mouth, and/or the frosting/cake mix is all wrong in your mouth.

Behold my illustrated guide to How to eat cupcakes

Layer Tennis this week

I went to the dentist last week and while I was still high off the fumes, I mistakenly said “yes” to doing commentary for this Friday’s upcoming Layer Tennis match. I’ve spent the better part of today reading up on old matches and following Rafe’s excellent guide to judging.

This week they’re doing video with After Effects and since I know virtually nothing about actual motion production, I promise to be a completely clueless flailing treat to everyone.

Impassioned plea

I open my email this morning and there’s a long message from a vaguely familiar name. It’s dozen paragraphs long but I start to read it.

The first couple paragraphs explain that I’ve connected with this person in the past either through some hipster activities in the DC area or through blogging, and the author was going through their gmail address book and writing to everyone. It sounds extremely important; they sound honest and this sounds urgent, so I read on.

They apologize for the mass mail, but explain further that even though the author knows not everyone is politically involved, there’s a bit of a crisis in Washington that they felt was important to share at this tumultuous time. The anxiety in the author’s voice is palpable and I’m right there with him. “What is it he needs us to do? How can we help?” I ask myself as I continue reading.

The call to action comes in the last paragraph. The culmination of the email is that we friends of the author should check out a few youtube videos that will explain everything. I’m dying to know what they are about.

Genital Mutilation story from Africa?

Doctors Without Borders plea?!

Environmental disasters in China?!

I push play on the first video.

Ron Paul campaign ad. It’s fucking Ron Paul. 12 paragraphs to spam every single person the author knows, all for a fucking Ron Paul ad. I look up at the To: line and see about 100 names, all starting with M, like mine. This douchebag sat here and did this by hand all day with his stupid Gmail address book. I’ve heard Ron Paul fans described as “crazies” and now I know why.

2nd curtain sync with a Canon 5D

aka “Merlin’s Rockstar Flash” aka rear curtain flash aka 2nd curtain flash

  1. Hit Menu
  2. Scroll down to custom functions, hit select
  3. Change custom function #15 from a 0 to a 1 to enable 2nd curtain flash
  4. Hook up a flash (if using a 550/580EX, change setting on your flash to enable 2nd curtain, if using a 420/430EX camera controls it)
  5. Change shooting to Tv mode, slow down the shutter speed to 1/30th a second or slower (it won’t work at faster shutter speeds)
  6. Take photo, flash should fire at the start of your photo and again at the end, producing a cool effect of half blurry with some sharpness captured by the flash.

(I’m writing this down because it took an hour of researching down ratholes to find it and I keep forgetting the entire process)

Adventures in $40 eyeglasses

I posted about my experiences buying glasses online over at 43 folders. It may not be a major thing for most people, but when I consider the many thousands of dollars I’ve paid for glasses all my life and the mystique surrounding the production (optometrists make it sound like a highly trained set of monks hand-carve every lens somewhere in the Himalaya), finding out I could buy half a dozen pairs for a couple hundred bucks was huge. I keep reading about opticians freaking out about these cheap glasses sites and whenever I see someone digging in deep to defend a business model that’s worked for the past 40 years, I feel a tinge of joy knowing that wall is crumbling down.

Snigglets 2.0

Sometimes I like to make up words to match situations. Here’s today’s made up word/phrase:

All-You-Can-Amnesia (n)

Common form of memory loss often found in food service industry waitstaff. Especially prevalent in restaurants that don’t write anything down when you order, often resulting in the wrong dressing, wrong drinks, and an entirely missed entrée.

Seriously, when did trying to memorize a table’s entire order become a new parlor trick worthy of higher tips? I can see when it makes sense in a high-end tiny restaurant where you only have 5 options and there are 6 tables in the whole place, but when the local bar and grill starts doing it on busy nights, bad things happen.

Amazon blows for video games

I’ve bought a handful of video games this year and my local Gamestop seems to have trouble getting new games on release day (“sorry, UPS didn’t show up yet, maybe tomorrow”) and for the popular games, they insist on pre-ordering with a deposit. Since Gamestop was a hassle, I started ordering stuff on Amazon instead, usually a month or so before big games came out.

For the most part, it’s worked well except items ship on their release date instead of arrive. I know a lot of games are done and in boxes, ready to ship weeks ahead of release dates and it sure would be nice if Amazon could ship them a day or two before release date so they show up on time. I know that’s a minor problem, but it’s tough waiting 24 hours when everyone online is talking about a game that’s available down the street at a store.

Lately though, Amazon has been a big problem with popular games. I’ve had a couple games delayed by 1 week and 2 weeks respectively and Amazon doesn’t inform you until the actual release date of the game. So if you pre-order a month or so early and you’re thinking you are going to get the game shipped on day 1, you don’t find out until that day arrives that they ran out. It’s really unfortunate, since I guess Amazon has no idea what their supplies will be like when they start taking pre-orders. Today I got this message about Guitar Hero III (PS3), which got released today:

We wanted to let you know that there is an unexpected delay with your video game order you placed on September 11 2007 17:47 PDT. Unfortunately, we are unable to ship the product(s) as soon as we expected and need to provide you with a new estimate of when they may be delivered:

“Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock Bundle” [Video Game]
Estimated arrival date: 12/31/2007

I pre-ordered a month and a half early and they estimated it would take anywhere from 1 to 2 additional months to get a copy of the game sent to me. That’s pretty ridiculous and why I won’t be buying video games from Amazon anymore.

The five minute Leopard review

After installing Leopard on three machines and using it for the past four days I figure I might as well write down my first impressions. Here are the high and low points for me:

  • The installer is a bit buggy in that it doesn’t seem to recognize hard drives with any sorts of special partitions made for previous versions of Boot Camp (made by Apple themselves!). One Mac required wiping out the Boot Camp partition completely before I could proceed, the other asked me to open disk utility and do some sort of GFI Journaling thing or something that I can’t remember and could barely decipher. It took quite a bit of noodling with the installer to figure out where Disk Utility was and in a buried advanced menu was the option I needed. Why didn’t the installer just do it for me with a quick one-button click? I’ve had Microsoft Windows installs go smoother than my macbook install of Leopard.
  • Spotlight is super speedy now, to the point where it works as fast as Quicksilver used to for application launching. I say “used to” because Quicksilver lost its index of my system after upgrading and couldn’t seem to launch very basic apps I use dozens of times each day. I ended up breaking down and uninstalling it today, converting over to Spotlight instead.
  • Things seem a little faster and a little more stable (less beachballs, for sure).
  • Time Machine is a godsend. I’ve been waiting for a transparent backup system with easy retrieval for the past ten years, ever since I worked in a place with nightly full backups saved for months on end (but even then, retrieval was a pain). I rarely have hard drives crash, but I accidentally trash or tweak Photoshop, Textmate, Excel, and Word files all the time. Getting a copy from a day, a week, or a month previous has already saved me once since I installed Leopard and I suspect it’ll be the kind of thing I use for fetching previous versions of mockups and writing drafts often. I really hope they return the network storage feature, since I could easily hook a usb drive to my airport extreme and just have my computers backup to that.
  • The downside of Time Machine is that I have noticed a couple beachballs and my second hard drive spin up around the top of the hour. I figure it’s probably Time Machine since my second hard drive is entirely dedicated to that, and it’s only about 20 seconds of unexplained lock-up, but it’s still annoying when you’re in the middle of something and you have to wait for it to finish whatever it is doing.
  • Firefox is my browser of choice and seems to take forever to launch. I usually leave it open all day, but it seems to take about a minute to launch on my 4-processor machine. Safari pops up in just a couple seconds, so I’ll either prune my extensions and hope for a quicker firefox, or move over to Safari when I’m in a hurry and just want to look something up real quick.
  • Screen sharing in iChat is freaking awesome. I’d finally have no qualms about buying my dad a mac now, since I could give him tech support whenever he needed by just popping in and fixing things over iChat. I also like the new Keynote iChat sharing as that might be a great way to practice my talks for upcoming conferences.

Overall, Leopard looks like a welcome upgrade and I can’t wait to see what application authors do with the new animation capabilities.

The Future of the Music Business

In the age of the mp3, label musicians and the labels themselves are fighting for survival. As the cost of music is driven down to near zero, they’re doing everything they can to reverse that trend — and yet, the trend continues. I’ve been thinking about music costing effectively nothing and the future of the business and my musician friends for the past few weeks, and some half-assed ideas popped into my head.

Classical Music. Classical music is our future so take some time to consider it.

1. People rarely spend money on classical music itself. I bought a Bach or Mozart CD once when I was 19 when I needed background sound while studying. For the last few years, whenever I want to hear some classical, I just put on the one radio station that plays it or I pick any random classical listing in iTunes’ streaming music area and let it play. It’s basically free and plentiful.

2. Old classical music has no copyright, anyone can cover anything by Beethoven and not owe anyone a cut. You can remix sheetmusic from the 1700s all you want and call it your own. If you’ve got access to an orchestra and a recording device you can go nuts making music and never need a lawyer for any of it. Everything before 1923 is in the public domain: it’s like a Creative Commons wet dream.

3. Classical music fans are tech savvy and embrace the internet. The majority of them rip music, and a sizable chunk own iPods and pay for downloads.

Despite these doomsday notions, classical music remains an industry and there are tens of thousands of professional classical musicians worldwide that make a living from it. It’s not all glitz and glamor, but there are classical music labels that are doing alright and plenty of live events generate a decent amount of revenue even in modest-sized cities. There may not be crazy millionaire Kanye West platinum sellers (aside from maybe Yo Yo Ma?) in the classical set, but they’re not all starving artists.

The popular music industry of the future isn’t going to be anything like it is today, but if you’re an indie rocker in 2007 worried about what the future might bring, don’t listen to what the labels are saying, think more about the 2nd chair clarinet in the Berlin orchestra.

update: Andy was kind enough to send more evidence along: NYTimes, NPR, and The New Yorker all on how despite being plentiful and free like I mentioned, classical was the fastest growing segment of music sales last year, thanks in part to the tech savvy listeners paying for downloaded music.