7.31.2009

How To Handle Bores

One of the most consistently awesome Google Bookmarks sharers on my list, Alex, shared this great article written about how he suffers boring people and how sometimes he can't figure out how to handle it.

The funny bit? He bores the SHIT out of me after the first few paragraphs. There's no reason at all to go on that long about people who go on too long. But it did get me thinking about the bores in my life, and why somehow I'm able to escape them, while my wife - notorious for being unable to hang up the phone or end a conversation because she's WAY too polite - always gets stuck in the conversations. And up until this very second, I always thought it was because I was just inantely rude and blunt and able to disappoint people without giving it much thought.

But when I consider it, I realize that no one has ever actually come back to me after I've dodged a long converation of absolutely no importance and told me I was rude, mean, or otherwise impolite. And I realized that I've actually got a talent for dodging boredom.

I think the biggest thing is that I realize there's a difference beteen politeness and placation. Politeness is saying "Hey, I can't talk right now" or "I was just on my way to [x], can we talk in a bit?" or "I've only got a second to talk - what's up?" Whereas placation is sitting there listening for ten or twenty minutes about all the boring bullshit going on in someone's life, simply because you're too timid to tell them to STFU and GTFO.

But I also realize that that timidity is often hard to overcome. You just plain don't want to insult someone, and you lack the tact or talent to effectively pull off a conversational stiff-arm. So here's a few tips:

1) Always - and I mean ALWAYS - keep your phone in your hand. Look at it as you walk down hallways, study it as you traverse the area between your cubicle and wherever it is you're going where you may be intercepted. If someone appears that you know is going to want to chat your face off, say hi and begin talking, then suddenly act as if the phone vibrated. Turn it on, pop to an existing text conversation, and say "I'm sorry, my (sister, brother, mother - someone in the immediate family) just texted, I need to call thiem. Can we chat later?"

2) Learn The Cough. You know the one... The one you have when you have eaten bad mexican or chinese or italian, and you are beginning the very universal process of having to sprint to the john. It's not a sick-type cough. It's more of a gruntish escape of air. Not quite a burp, and not quite a hack. Dent your tummy and let the air escape up your throat, and you'll see something very similiar to it. Learn to do this on command, and say "I'm sorry, can you excuse me?" Don't bother explaining... They already know what this is.

3) Interrupt for Aspirin. "And then, little Suzy was late for her ice skating practice, and the cop just couldn't see past it, he kept talking to me about how I didn't fully stop at that stop sign, and how much of a hazard it was, and I just KNEW I was going to miss Yoga if I didn't--"

You: "Hey, I'm sorry to interrupt you... But you don't happen to have any aspirin on you, do you?"

Them: "You have a headache?" "Yeah, have since early this morning, it's killing me...."

See how simple that is? From here, they will either give you some and you need to excuse yourself for water, or they won't have any and you excuse yourself to go get some.

4) Segue into bodily fluids. No matter what's being discussed, make it disgusting. If it's a guy-on-guy discussion, bring up your wife's menstrual cycle. If it's a chick-on-chick discussion, bring up your husband's low sperm count. If it's a chick-on-guy conversation, this is easy, just mention that time of the month. Conversation over.

5) Learn to sneeze on command. I can actually do this. It's really hard to describe how I do it, but I'll try - I concentrate on any feeling I have in my sinuses or nasal cavity, and begin obsessing on how much it tickles. Even if it doesn't actually tickle, all I think about is how much it does. Then I squint slightly, and boom - there goes the sneeze. Just make sure not to cover your mouth, and the conversation's over.

6) Fart. Yep.

7) Grow a pair. Just say "Hey, sorry, I don't have time to talk right now. Can we pick this up later?" It's simple and effective. Think about how you feel when people do that to you - you understand they're busy, they can't really spend the time, and they ended things by welcoming another opportunity. It's fair and easy and works just fine.


7.30.2009

Something You Don't See Everyday - Frank Miller "Sin City-esque" Poster Circa 1981

So, included in my huge Akira animation cel purchase was this incredibly unique, if not rare, find: a poster done by Frank Miller in 1981, in a Sin City-esque style. This was 10 years before he actually did Sin City. It was apparently a special done in Berkeley, only 1000 prints done. This one is 208 (click image for full-size):




The seller included the poster because he knows I'm a huge Frank Miller fan (or at least used to be, before he lost his fucking mind and did that Dark Knight 2 and Batman & Robin crap, and completely spunked all over The Spirit).

I thought that was really, really cool, and wanted to share.


Dubious Product Names, Vol. 22


I ABSOLUTELY guarantee you there's two young marketing types who are probably exactly like Mike and I, cackling at the very thought that they got away with this one.

(From Mike)

7.29.2009

You Must WANT Spit In Your Drink

I'm at a Starbucks (and if you read my Twitspace or my Faceblah, you know why - what I don't get, AT&T provides internets to Starbucks, and it's up - but my home DSL is out. GOD I HATE AT&T). Anyway, I just saw this complete bitch in a Mercedes be unnecessarily rude to the girl serving her through the drive-thru window.

Now, plenty is known and has been said about why people feel entitled to be rude to the folks who serve them. These people are rude, horrible wretches who get their jollies by lording over others. They're completely pathetic, they have no control over their life and that's how they externally get a hold of things. They're soulless pieces of shit. So on and so forth. But the one thing I never actually got was the simple self-preservation aspect of it:

This person handing you a beverage, obscured by foam with a lid on it, is a few feet from being outside of your field of vision. They could easily spit into your drink. Why the hell would you provoke this? I mean, outside of the whole "just be a decent human to other humans" thing, why the hell would you willingly do this to yourself?

I used to wonder the same thing back when I did balloon animals in restaurants. Families would treat me like a king for entertaining little Johnny for 7 minutes by making a giraffe or a sword, while they sneered and demanded things from their server rudely. They'd tip me five bucks where they'd only tip 3 to the server, on bill of $50.00. It was so strange.

The worst I could do to them was pop the balloon in front of them or call them names. The server, however, had access to all sorts of nefarious shit and was completely out of view, so they could royally screw with your digestive process. Why choose that person to exercise your will over?

I don't get it. Why are people so gross to each other?

Ghost in the Shell Video and Tattoo - Sorry About That

First, this video of Conan O'Brien and Andy Richter voicing GITS cracked me the hell up:

This video of Conan O'Brien and Andy Richter voicing Ghost in the Shell cracked me the hell up:





Next, I didn't realize that a lot of you never saw the live-tweeting of the Ghost in the Shell tattoo back in April. So here you go, the tattoo as it was done by the master Todo, 9-hour sitting, at Hell City in Columbus, OH May 29 2009:












Next time, I'll make sure to blog as well as tweetify and faceybook and whatever the hell else is popular at that time.

7.28.2009

Dear AT&T: For $800+ Dollars You Need To Also Get Deez Nuts

Tomorrow, my AT&T bill is due. I set up automatic bill pay last month. Today, I went into my AT&T account to make sure my automatic bill pay was set up correctly, and was greeted with this:






I have two active lines on AT&T - mine and my wife's. The 3rd number in the list was one the kind-but-stupid woman at the AT&T store set up because she couldn't get the port on my wife's line set up right then, and she assured me it'd be cancelled as soon as the port finished.

Well, it didn't. And it billed me last month as a new line. So I called and complained, they credited my account and assured me that number would be cancelled.

Again, it's not - but apparently, I got an early termination fee tacked on for the supposed cancel anyway - ON ALL THREE LINES.

I'm absolutely livid right now. The guy on the phone is trying to fix it, and can't seem to. And what's worse, I have an automatic bill pay set up and it's supposed to hit tomorrow, and we can't shut it off - so for 200 dollars worth of service, I'm going to pay 800 dollars and can't do a damn thing about it.

I'm about to have a stroke.


***Update***

My customer service rep's name is Reason Phoneix. That name alone is worth all this hassle.

***Update 2***

Reason assures me that the bill will be corrected in 48-72 hours. The problem... The automatic bill pay is still scheduled. So now it's off to the land line department, since my bill is consolidated.


***Update 3***

Reason has stayed on the line with me. What a great guy. We've been teleported from the land line department to the automatic debit department to put a stop to the auto bill pay.

***Update 4***

Auto bill pay has been stopped - but tomorrow will tell the story on that. I don't trust AT&T at ALL on matters of "Okay, we promise this problem we've caused is going to be solved." But I do trust Reason Phoenix, who I am most definitely naming my child after. I get the feeling that there'll be an Update 5 tomorrow when my account is drained by over 800 bucks, or knowing AT&T, double that. And I definitely think there'll be an Update 6 in a month when the bills aren't actually corrected, and instead are now billing me for reactivation fees on top of deactivation fees on accounts I don't even own.




7.27.2009

Feels Like Work vs. Work

- Sketching 12 new faces for your new graphic novel character, Captain WolverSpiderBat, feels like work.

- Pencling panel 1 of page 1 is work.


- Making notes in that notebook you keep called "great novel ideas" about a particularly clever plot twist where the guy on the subway realizes he IS the voice in his own head feels like work.

- Writing the first word of the opening paragraph of page 1 is work.


- Jotting down clever domain names for that revolutionary social networking video twitter site you've got cooking in your head feels like work.

- Typing the HTML to start the page in your code editor of choice is work.


-Making a list of exercises you intend to do starting tomorrow, or later today, or even one minute from now feels like work

-Lifing a weight or doing a jumping jack or taking that first step on a one mile jog is work.


The difference between things that feel like work and things that are work is that, repeated over and over, work gets something done. Enough work stacked end to end will lead you to the end of something. Your item will exist. Your project will be completed. Your fitness will increase. So on and so forth.

Things that feel like work, done over and over, just keep piling up in preparation for that thing you always say you want to do. Not that that stuff isn't important - getting your ideas straight or jotting down ideas or planning your workout routine is essential if you want to do well at it. But it's not work. It's planning, preparation, scouting, sorting, outlining, or about a dozen other words that aren't "work."

To put it very bluntly, no one's ever gotten to the bus stop by thinking themselves there. So if you want to be somewhere, get off your ass and get to work.



7.25.2009

An idea for a video series thing

Last night, I hopped on UStream and did an impromptu web show of the new Akira cels I acquired, as well as some of my older pieces, and people who saw it really seemed to enjoy it. I thought I was just going to show some nice cels and pretty artwork from a legendary animation, and I ended up talking for an hour about the history of the film, detailing the finer aspects of each cel, and why Akira is absolutely without question the most technically complex hand-made animation ever made.

And what occurred to me is that I happen to know a LOT about Akira. But I also happen to know a lot about all kinds of shit. I'm a collector of interesting things. I really enjoy finding the most obscure and rare components of everything I'm interested in - sneakers, transformers, famous designers, albums and artists... It's insane the crap I have in my home. And I started thinking, would anyone be interested in watching a series like that?

So would you? I realize without an example, it might be hard to judge, so maybe I'll do another episode on something else this week (unless people who missed the impromptu showing on Friday want a repeat performance).

Thoughts?

7.22.2009

The Mystery Shipment... (Hint - Akira Cels)

...Has arrived! I don't really have what it takes to do a full blown "unboxing" for you, but here's a quick glimpse at what's made me the happiest boy in all the land (click on any image to see full-size):



What you are seeing here is roughly 1500, if not 2000 original cels, drawings, and backgrounds from the movie Akira. The scale is a bit wonky from this picture, so to give you a better perspective:



That bottom-left stack is about 9 inches high. The box near my doggie Haggis is almost a foot tall. There were 6 boxes like that, full of cels, along with one long box full of extremely-oversized background / book work, like the cel below:



This cel (well, cels, it's actually 4 overlapped to make one frame) is one of the first ones I pulled out of the stack. What's really neat about it is that for a while, I've owned a great image of Kaneda riding through the mob to go face Tetsuo:




My cel:

And now I have the entire sequence... Among several hundred others.

It's going to take months to pour through the shipment I just received. My collection before today was fairly respectable, and it just doubled, if not tripled in size. I think it's pretty safe to say that, with the possible exception of the best cel broker I've ever worked with, Nichibei Anime, I have the largest private collection of Akira production art in North America.

And yes, I'm a total Akira geek, and this acquisition (as well as the others) feed into that obsession of mine, but this whole thing is going to coalesce in a project I've been working on for a year or so, that will take shape and be announced in 2010 - a year before the 20th anniversary of the movie. More details as I work them out.


7.21.2009

It's Just Like You're Really Driving!

What's the perfect accessory for the game console known for retarded "waggling" and hand gestures necessary to play its games? One that has to attach wrist straps to its controllers to keep people from accidentally hurling them at their flat-screen TVs while pretending to play golf? Why, a car kit, of course.



In my day, you sat on your side of the car and annoyed your sister at regular intervals by accidentally scooting too close to the imaginary divider line between you, or threw gum wrappers at her, or played the license plate game. Now, we have severely ADD-addled obese kids so overstimulated that they can't leave home for 5 minutes without playing a game console, "waggling" on the way to the grocery store.

7.19.2009

Security Is Not Common Sense

Every single "computer guy" in the world has read up on the now-infamous Twitter hack and shook their head. The reasons are voluminous and mostly insulting. I assure you, the words "idiot", "moron" and "fucktard" have been uttered. And they've been uttered at the GDEU (Goddamn End User) who wasn't smart enough to protect themselves with strong password / security policy.

It had nothing to do with any of that. It was simply human factors - people being people, and a hacker smart enough to identify patterns in those people.

And yeah, most - if not all - seasoned internet veterans sneer and whisper to themselves about how stupid people have to be to fall into that trap. I know I did... And then I realized, no, it's not easy stuff. It's not even stuff you consider with any logical thought. My personal security policies are all ingrained at this point and happen by habit. I don't think "wow, I don't want to get hacked, so I'll come up with a new password for this service that isn't like any other" - I just do it, because it's what I do now.

And that's precisely what other people do when they do the things that can expose them to risk... Habits are habits. Normal people (read: 99.9% of us on the web) don't have the whatever-it-is that hackers / crackers have that make them insanely good at what they do - finding and cataloging information. So we don't reverse-engineer that particular process and dissect how easily we can be nailed.

I just wanted to offer some tips on how to protect yourself online that extend past "don't pick an easy password" and "don't respond to spam mail scams." That stuff you can find on your local news channel's website under "technology" during one of their quarterly exposes on how easy it is to get reamed online. This is stuff I've picked up along the way that, while being FAR from an uncrackable personal security policy, keeps you from being an easy target. After all, as this XKCD comic illustrates, if someone wants your information... They're GOING to get it:




Your job is to keep from being an easy victim. Here's how:

a) Get an actual mail client for your desktop/laptop and store your stuff there. Thunderbird is a good one. Mail.app on a Mac is another. Don't use Outlook unless your paycheck depends on its' use, and for God's sake, do NOT use Eudora. But whatever you use, DELETE EVERYTHING in gmail, Yahoo! mail, Hotmail or whatever mail client you use, period. Don't archive, DELETE. This includes sent mail. Leaving mail on your server is convenient, but puts access in a public place. Having it on your physical machine limits access to people who can actually touch your computer - and if they can do that, they've got you anyway, regardless of whether it's on a server or on your machine.

b) As the TechCrunch article above points out, the "Secret Question" is simply a single-channel narrowing of possible password guesses for hackers. Don't ever answer hint questions with real information, use fake crap only you'd know (Favorite pet? put in the name of a soda. Mother's maiden name? Put in your favorite car. Substitute something you can remember in all instances for those questions. It's a code only you know.)

c) Different passwords for work stuff and home stuff make life safer - if some hacker targets your corporate environment, they won't get your private info, and vice-versa. Kinda like an LLC for your data. If you can, further break up your passwords into bank stuff, contact /communication stuff, shopping stuff.

d) Make your passwords based on concepts and ideas, not anything that is directly associated with identifying you in any way whatsoever. This includes birthdates and names of signifigant others, but I'm going even further. Don't refer to anything you own - car model, favorite game, etc. And substitute characters all over the place - don't just make an "o" a zero, go a few steps further. Use symbols to replace entire syllables, like "sp@upon" instead of "spatupon".

e) Never Ever EVER EVER EVER fill out a form in email, ever. EVER. I would go so far as to say don't even click links in emails that point to any service at all with potential risk. I never click PayPal invoice links, Ebay links, Yahoo! Auction links or anything that ties back to any service through which money could be tracked. I never click on my bank's online statement links. It's simple - if it's a service you use, whatever they just emailed you about will be in your "recent activity" or "My (servicename)" info... Just open your browser and type the short url and log in there, you'll see what you need to see.

f) Those "fun" quizzes on Facebook and MySpace are actually info-gathering factories. My friend Peter wrote an incredible article on this - I don't know if you can read it from that link if you're not signed into Facebook, but the gist is that the most popular quizzes on Facebook right now actually reveal just about every "security question" you could possibly answer on a site:
1. YOUR REAL NAME:
2. WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother and fathers middle names)
3. NASCAR NAME: (first name of your mother's dad, father's dad)
4. STAR WARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first name):
5. DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal)
6. SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, town where you were born)
7. SUPERHERO NAME: (2nd fav color, fav drink, add "THE" to the beginning)
8. FLY NAME: (first 2 letters of 1st name, last 2 letters of your last name)
9. ROCK STAR NAME: (current pets name, current street you live on)
10. PORN NAME: (1st pet, street you grew up on)
11.YOUR GANGSTA NAME: (first 3 letters of real name plus izzle)
12. YOUR Middle East NAME: (2nd letter of your first name, 3rd letter of your last name, first two letters of your middle name, last two letters of your first name, then last three letters of your last name:
13.YOUR GOTH NAME: (black, and the name of one of your pets)
14. STRIPPER NAME: (name of your fav perfume, fav candy)

g) Beyond online - if someone calls you claiming to be from a bank, collection agency, utility company, etc. and asks for ANY information, tell them to mail you. I can get your name, address and telephone number pretty easily. I call you. I'm from your local area's phone company - it seems that you have a repair scheduled today. "What? No I don't..." Well to verify, I'm going to need to get into your account - do you have your account number handy? Of course you don't... But you can just give me your social security number and I'll look it up. Reading this, of course you're thinking "no way would I do that." But you would. If you think your internet service or phone service was going to be shut down or impacted today, and you have a lot of work to do or need to shop or play Xbox Live, you totally would. Think in terms of reaction, not action. You didn't initiate this. You're just reacting. Be careful when you do.


Like everything else, this list could go on and on with every security tip known to man - but I think those few things go a very long way toward building a personal security policy that goes one step beyond the stuff you're plainly aware of and keeps you from getting nabbed from behind, so to speak. Feel free to share it with the non-internet-veteran in your life.




7.17.2009

Screw Reunions

If you follow me on Twitter or have me friended on Facebook, you probably saw a link to a blog post by Mark Chu-Carroll, a PhD Math guy who is a software developer at Google, on why he won't be attending his high school reunion.

If you were a geek, nerd, social outcast or the target of bullying when you were in school, you read that post, stood up and screamed "RIGHT ON, MARK!" and pumped your fist in the air. At least, I did.

I didn't go to my 10 year reunion. I wasn't beat up in high school, but I really, really hated being there. I didn't hate everyone there, and I certainly don't hold any grudges outside of one toward the entire experience itself. But I don't feel any sense of nostalgia when I think of that place (which isn't often - only when I read things like what Mark wrote, or when my buddy Mike feels compelled to start rattling off the yearbook update to me). All I think of is how little I wanted to be there, and how little everyone there thought of me, except for two very special groups of people - my core friends, and the guys I beat the shit out of when they picked on them.

I was the 'fat kid' through elementary and junior high schools, always MUCH larger than the other kids - but not necessarily fat, just a large child. Didn't really matter, I was still "the fat kid", as it's impossible to convince children of anything once they've decided to label you.

I spent the first 4 years of school in an all-black school, tormented by the older kids in that school because I was white. I moved to suburbia and was suddenly tormented by all the white kids because I dressed and sounded "black" (I listened to mostly R&B and rap, such was the popular thing in the culture I'd just left). I spent the next few years hiding the fact that I actually loved hip hop culture more than I loved white imbred country music and the like, and as most people who have spent any time hiding who they really are will tell you, it was hell trying to keep that secret. And I got my ass kicked by the redneck kids who saw me wearing Starter clothing or British Knights sneakers, just as I'd been beaten up in elementary school by black kids for having white skin or straight hair. Stupidity, it seems, needs little in the way of honest reasons to exist or take action.

Then, around 8th grade, I grew. I went from the mid five-foot range to about 6'3" in a single year, all the while maintaining a near-200lb frame. Some of the common bullies still felt compelled to mess with me, and one day I woke up and smacked one of them real good. Suddenly, the physical violence stopped. In fact, NO ONE except for staff and the coaches talked to me. For any reason.

When I went to high school, I left everyone I knew in that life and entered a brand new social environment. I was a giant of a freshman. I played football and wrestled. And I felt like I didn't have a friend in the world, because the geeks all saw me as a jock and the jocks all saw me as either a) a wannabe black kid or b) a nerd. So, I spent the first year of my high school life to myself almost 100% of the time. Believe it or not, there actually was a time when Joe Peacock was the quiet type... At least, in front of those people.

In 10th grade, I fell in with a fantastic group of guys who were in my same boat - they just didn't fit into any category. We played D&D together, one of them was a "skate punk", one was a mathlete and the other two were art nerds. We were all academics, but hated homework and tests and the rudiments of routine. The "smart kids" hated our smart-ass attitude, the rest of the school thought we were just freaks.

We had a blast together, because we actually got one another. Five guys out of a school of over 2,000 people who actually took the time to get to know one another, because they just didn't fit any other class of people. No false fronts to fit in, no concern about what clothes the other was wearing... We just liked each other for who we were. And as anyone who went to high school knows, in that environment, that's the absolute worst way to pick friends if you want to have any sort of social standing whatsoever.

When I think back on high school, I can't really say anyone truly hated me outside of the super neanderthals who just wanted to beat on anyone perceived as weaker than them. I went out of my way to insult and berate these guys - and I wish I could say it was to teach them some grand lesson, and that I was an instrument of karma. But that's not true. I hated them. I just wanted to insult them and make them feel shame at all times. But everyone else just looked at me with a sneer, or a mild curiosity (not the kind that makes you want to figure something out, but more like the kind that makes you wonder how this person actually manages to feed and clothe themselves because they're so wierd).

I shunned my reunion because all I could think of is how no one would give a shit what I was doing or the person I'd become... The smart kids would still see me as a dumb jock. The jocks would still see me as a loser. The art kids... Well, none of them would show up anyway. But the thing is, I couldn't care less what those people actually think of me. I could walk into a room full of them and be just fine, not giving one shit about anything going through their brains or coming out of their mouths. However, I don't see any reason whatsoever to willingly put myself in that position - and paying actual cash for the privilege of doing so is doubly distasteful. So fuck it.

I have nothing to prove to anyone I went to school with. If we've made contact and become friends these days, it's on the terms that we're both adults who find each other worth talking to. And thanks to Facebook (and the fact that I show up in Google several hundred thousand times), it has happened a few times. But I see no reason whatsoever to pretend that 4 years spent in the same building with someone necessitates a relationship with them.

I've got some great shit going on these days, and I'm proud of who I am and what I do. I am married to the greatest woman in the world (who, funny enough, has an almost identical story to tell about her school days, only she grew up in Europe and cast out when she moved to America because she wasn't a "real American" - funny thing to say about someone who's father defended our country). I have 3 great dogs and too many cats. I write books people like and draw pretty pictures that companies like and have met some of the greatest people I know through my websites.

I love my life. I feel no need to defend it, explain it, or bother with people who wouldn't get it. And that's almost everyone I went to high school with. They didn't get me then. I've only become a more personified and open verison of me than I was then... How would they ever get me now?

7.16.2009

Let Me Talk To You A Little Bit About Heaven

Have you heard the good news?

It's great news, actually! It's pleasing to your immortal soul, and it will truly make your day! I speak of course about Heaven and how you can get there! It's a magical land full of whimsy and awesome and it can be a place you go to if you really really want to! So how do you get into Heaven, you may ask? Well, it's simple! You take a trip to where Heaven is!


It's at Sam's Club! And it's CHEAP!


THAT'S RIGHT ONE FUCKING POUND OF BEEF JERKY! And it's like nine dollars forty nine cents only! At the gas stations it's like 6 bucks for 4 ounces of the stuff, and here I found a POUND OF DRIED COW for less than ten dollars US currency!

Do you understand what this means? Do you realize the impact of such a discovery? I am no longer eating off the food pyramid they taught me about in kindergarten or whatever that shit was where I played with blocks and colored penguins blue and whatever! I'm eating NOTHING BUT BEEF JERKY because that shit is the tits!

A statistical analysis of why I eat only beef jerky now:



7.15.2009

A Little Web Usability Hint...

I make mention now and again that I design things for money occasionally. This is a bit of an understatement - I'm actually a goddamn design genius. And part of being a genius is that you know everything there is to know about everything that could possibly have anything to do with your field of geniusness - in this case, design. And because I'm a goddamn design genius, I wouldn't expect the rest of the world to know this little tip on web usability that I know because of my goddamn geniusness, so I'm going to do all you folks a favor and share with you some FUCKING GENIUS.

If you sell something on a website - let's call it EnergyCircle.com - and you tell me it's "in stock, ready to ship", when I try to order 6 of them, you should let me order 6 of them, instead of telling me my maximum quantity I can order is 0:



The alternative? DON'T TELL ME THEY'RE IN STOCK AND READY TO SHIP IF THEY'RE NOT IN STOCK AND READY TO SHIP.

I know it takes a motherfucking design genius like motherfucking me to know this shit, so I'm okay with sharing my deepest most well-guarded design secrets with you. Now go forth and prosper, and quit being such a night-light cock-tease.

Assholes.

7.14.2009

Nike X Transformers!!!!!!!







































(BIG BIG BIG THANK YOU TO CORNELIUS FOR GETTING THESE!!!!)

Garbage In, Garbage Out

I had a conversation this weekend with a friend of mine who just can't seem to turn the corner in terms of his career. He too wants to be a designer of things, specifically on the web. And since I do that, he was talking to me about his path and the things he is doing to advance along it.

I'll save you the two-hour transcript: the answer is "absolutely nothing." 

He doesn't read Smashing Magazine, Ajaxian, 486 Berea Street, A List Apart, PSDTuts, or even PhotoshopDisasters to see how things SHOULDN'T be done (and no, I'm not linking those - if you actually care to read them, you'll find the links on your own). He owns a book on Photoshop and one on Flash - no design books (or even books with pretty pictures), no catalogs from photography houses or design shops. No magazine subscriptions to HOW or Communication Arts. I asked him if he knew what font Apple used before switching to Myriad, and his answer was a question: "Where would I even find that out?" He couldn't even determine the difference between a typeface and a logo with some text illustrated in. 

His pedigree? Atlanta Art Institute. He took classes in illustration. He has taken no classes in design or layout and doesn't know the difference between the two. His "studio" is his living room in his apartment - lots of illustrations he's done on the wall, but nothing regarding layout or design, just character sketches and some paintings of flowers. 

There's an old programming axiom: GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out. 

For those not willing or able to click the link above, the very basic premise is you get out of things what you put into them. Just like making a cake (chocolate, even): If you start with high quality ingredients, you end with a high quality cake. If, instead, you substitute shit for sugar, you get a cake that tastes... Well, pretty bad, I'm sure. I'm not willing to test it. 

This is true everywhere, in all aspects of life. Surround yourself with confrontational people, you'll be confrontational. Eat unhealthy food, you'll be unhealthy. Hate breeds hate, ignorance breeds ignorance, etcetera. And where my friend is concerned, I feel he's worse than the person who experiments by replacing sugar with shit in his cake... He doesn't even know where to find recipes for cakes to experiment with. 

This is inexcusable. I don't hate the guy, and I don't think less of him as a person... But I absolutely feel no pity whatsoever. Somehow, I found the resources I needed to find to learn the things I needed to learn to do the things I've done, and there's not a day that goes by that I don't find a brand new one. 

It's simple: wanting to do or be something is not the same as doing or being it. You can want all you want - in fact, it's the one thing humans can do to an unlimited degree, as there's no fatigue associated with desire. But I'd argue that there's a clear difference between wanting to be called a designer and being a designer, and it all begins with the actions you take to reach your goal. 

The same goes with being a writer, or being a football player, or getting in shape, or anything else. If your path is paved with efforts, you'll get where you want to go. If it's paved with words, you're just going to end up stuck on the side of the road with a continual string of flat tires. 

Reading a book on Photoshop and thinking it'll make you a great designer is no different than reading the instruction manual for a hammer and thinking that'll make you a great carpenter, or watching a video on how to sharpen a pencil and thinking you're now ready to be the next Stephen King. The art is not the tool. 

Ingest healthy food and be healthy. Research successful designers and good design, and be a good designer and make good designs. Study great writing and produce great writing. Or, keep talking about how much you wish you were what you think you want to be and get unflatteringly honest blog posts written about you. 


7.10.2009

I Am Not A Chocolate Cake

Am I a writer, or a designer? Or a weight lifter? Or a football player?

Because I absolutely love writing, am I a writer who designs, or a designer who writes? Or maybe a writer who designs sometimes and plays football other times?

Or, because right now I make more money with my design work, maybe I'm a designer who also writes, but owns a small company, so I'm also a business owner, but I get to the gym sometimes...

Why the hell does any of that matter? Why does what we do become who we are?

You don't have to be anything. You only have to do things, and if you choose to do only one thing, so be it. But that doesn't make you anything more than a person who does that thing.

I'm Joe Peacock. I do a whole lot of stuff. Some of it, I even do well. But none of it - no matter how much I do it - is who I am, because I am not one or two or five activities... I'm a person. And I do those things... And more. I get bored easily. I fill my hours with learning new stuff, and sometimes something I learn becomes so interesting I want to do it. Hence the writing thing. I love writing. And I wanted other people to read it, so I built a website and put it up there. And when enough people wanted a book, I learned how to lay out, design, print and publish a book. And when people want to hear the stories, I speak and tell them. And when I'm not doing any of that, I'm designing pretty things, or playing football, or fighting at the MMA gym, or lifting weights, or collecting Akira animation cels, or building my own MAME arcade cabinet...

Not one of those things defines who I am. But together, they are the ingredients that make up me.

It's interesting that "chocolate" only makes up 1/8th of a chocolate cake (unless it's one of those insanely rich cakes, in which case it's more like 1/4th... But still, much less than half). And yet, it's always a "chocolate cake." Because the most dominant taste is chocolate, and it looks like chocolate, and it functions much the same way you've always seen other cakes that look like it and taste like it did. So we give it a name to identify it. We call it Chocolate Cake. And now you know what to expect when you make (or if you're lazy, buy) one.

We are not cakes. We are more than the individual ingredients in our lives... Or at least, I hope we are.

Don't settle for being a chocolate cake. Don't be an anything cake. Just be delicious. That's all that matters.

7.09.2009

Which Is Worse: Losing Your Soul, Or Not Having One In The First Place?

Recently, that question has been bounding around in my brain. Well, not just that one, but several regarding the nature of the soul and its place in our lives. It's actually not the first time, nor will it be the last... It's just the most recent. And no, I've not been drinking.

What caused me to actually write up this post about my internal wandering was reading this tweet by this absolute joy of a person yesterday. I have several searches set up in Twitter, one of them is "Fark." Working for Fark and being a fan of the site, it's always interesting to hear what people are saying about it. Of course, if Drew were anything like this guy, I'd get fired just for doing my job. PARADOX!

Now, before we get too far, know that this is not a defense of Fark or anyone affiliated with it, myself included. What I'm about to say actually encompasses Fark, Digg, Reddit, CNN, Fox News, Smashing Magazine, The New York Times, my blog, going for a walk in the park, twittling your thumbs, playing with silly putty... In fact, any activity that isn't a clear violation of the code of ethics or the employee handbook at an organization (pornography, drug advocacy, or any website about Celiene Dion fandom).

And that's where the question of soul comes in. We all work for money... Well, 99% of us do. And some of us love our jobs, and some of us hate our jobs. But the bottom line is that there is always a process to doing what we do, and there's always a way to find a new, better, more efficient, more creative, more interesting or just plain fun way to do what we do. And that way comes from our souls.

The soul I speak about has nothing to do with heaven, hell, good deeds or bad, or any religious anything. I use the term here to define our essence - our core. The thing beyond the mechanical processes of eating, sleeping, pooping, hammering a nail, sweeping a floor, processing a spreadsheet, or sketching out the new iPod. It's what gives who we are meaning. And I believe that for anyone who actually has one, our souls longs for freedom. It begs to be inspired. It seeks out avenues and pathways to new ideas. It wants information and inspiration and stimulation.

And of course, I don't think that Fark or any other website is direct nourishment to the soul. I also don't think that the actual act of lifting weights at lunch or sitting by a pond feeding ducks is, either. But I do think that anything you do that isn't actual labor that helps you open your mind and come up with new ideas and be inspired feeds the soul, and cutting off access to those endeavors is starving it.

So, it occurs to me that anyone working for this guy must have lost their soul at some point during the process, because how could you willingly stay in an environment like that? And anyone who is in a position of power and is clamped down this hard on how his employees spend their time obviously has no soul, and couldn't possibly have ever had one.

And that's where the dilemma takes shape. Which one is worse: losing your soul (willingly or unwillingly), or never having one in the first place?

Part of the time, I think it's losing your soul. Making that sacrifice - either by choice or out of necessity - to trade the free, loving, open, relaxed, artistic or otherwise emotional side of yourself for money. Whether it be millions of dollars or merely an hourly rate... Chopping off access to the open parts of your mind simply because a paycheck dictates you must. And what's even more horrible is that when you constrict the flow from your soul, it's no different than doing it to an appendage - at first, it hurts. Horribly. But over time, it numbs, and eventually the appendage falls off.

When you don't use it, your soul goes away, just like anything else.

Or, even worse, you untie the tourniquet around your soul during off hours and when you're away from that vile and awful place - and you can't help but think of that place as vile and awful once you're away from it, because who is it that's in touch with their soul who doesn't think it's a horrible thing to have to put it away or cut it off? And each and every day you go back to that place, you tie the hose around the soul's vein and kill it off again... Painfully.

But then, what of those who never had a soul to begin with, like our guy up there? I believe he couldn't possibly have ever had soul, not ever. How do I reach this conclusion? Simple - he doesn't think it's important. So he forces those under him to not think it's important, either (there's also the bullshit he put in his profile, about being a "Self-Made Millionaire Willing to share my success secrets with conservative Christian gun owning patriots." A self-made millionaire, focused on gun-owning patriots, who actually passed the bar (Note the "Esq." after his name...). Somthing smells... Well, false. He's probably a gigantic liar who wants traffic to his bullshit Twitter-marketing site. But if it's true, it also it stinks of someone who as no idea what life is actually about, has ever had an enriching experience, has ever created anything worthy of being called art, and probably really, really needs to get laid).

And looking at the way his website is designed, it's very obvious that anyone who's working on it has no soul. The spacing is all janked, the logo is awful, there's no actual art in any of the design. And I'm not trying to be insulting, I'm just stating my evidence that this guy has no idea what a soul is, and never has. And that's such an awful, horrible existence...

But is it worse than having lost yours? The age-old question "Is it better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all?" comes to mind. I want to say it's better to have had never had a soul (or loved). I want to say that never knowing the sweet sense of experiencing art or bliss or freedom or inspiration is marginally better, because you can't possibly know how horrible it is to be without those things.

But that's the view from outside by a person who knows the joys of those things. I have the benefit of experience of both having my soul enriched and having it yanked away from me. The pain of being shut off from it... It's awful and horrible and I would wish it on no one. And therein comes the other side of the argument. Perhaps for the person themselves, it's worse to have your soul removed... But for society in general, I believe that it's far worse for people to have never had a soul. Those are the folks (like our friend above) who subject themselves upon the soulful and stomp them flat. They demand that the soul be cut off from its host. They destroy bliss and remove the wellspring of inspiration.

So I suppose my answer to the question of which is worse is another question -- from whose vantage point, the individual's or society's? From an individual standpoint, ignorance is bliss, but those who know the joy of having a soul know far greater pain when its' deprived of nutrition or yanked away from them. But from a bigger picture view, if everyone started off having a soul, anyone who ever had theirs taken away or turned off would never ever subject another person to that. Only someone who's been without such fantastic experiences could be so cold.



7.08.2009

Calling all NYC Friends... I Need A Favor

Later this month, an event is taking place in New York City that I won't be able to attend. And at this event, something monumental is going to be released and I won't be able to acquire said monumental thing.

It's absolutely paramount that I find a person to go in my place and attend this event in my honor, getting for me the special objects being released that day. I speak, of course, about the Nike x Transformers shoes, being released exclusively at House of Hoops in NYC:





Nike has gone and combined two of my "spend a shitload of money on them" things, making these shoes absolutely irresistable to me. And since I can't get up there, and since I know Ebay prices will be unfathomably awful, I'm willing to pay a premium of $100 extra per pair of size 13 Bumblebee, Megatron and Soundwave shoes.

So if you live in NYC, can get up to Harlem the day these are released, and get me one of each shoe, you'll score an extra $300 bucks for your trouble. Pro-rated to an hourly rate, that'll be about 150 an hour for your services, provided you take an hour lunch between arrival and actually purchasing them.

So who's gonna snag these for me?





7.06.2009

Kinda Back on Track... (Short Verison: First Book Buyers, Your Books Are Finally Here)

I've been at a severe disadvantage the past few days. As you already know, I'm without my laptop - which is where I do all of my 'social' whatever, IM and email and whatnot - I don't even keep IM or an email client installed on my desktop, so I can escape all that stuff when I need to hunker down and work. So it's been a hassle getting my desktop and my wife's laptop up to snuff so I can actually get back to work, and that's a good thing, because the computer guys called and said my issues are way bigger than just the hard drive and have shipped it up to Apple for repair.

It's bad when the Apple Certified Repair Center has to tap out and ship it to Apple proper.

But the good news is that things are finally moving along. The remnant stock of the first MI book has finally started to arrive (I can't believe how long that took!) so folks who bought copies of the first book during the fire sale, your stuff will FINALLY start shipping this week. It'll be somewhat slow, because my order tracking stuff is also on that laptop that died. But I have backups of everything, as does PayPal, so your order's safe.


7.02.2009

Complete Technology Meltdown

Yesterday was one of the most insane meltdowns I've ever experienced.

My laptop's hard drive has been acting a bit crazy lately, but late Monday night, it decided to take a crap all over itself - right in the middle of an iPhone sync, which pretty much destroyed that. Then, my printer asploded, my email server had a bug which marked all incoming and outgoing mail as "abuse" mail (which pretty much shut me down), and my car's electrical whatevers overloaded and fried my ipod dock's lighter connection.

And all of this on the absolute busiest week I've had in months work-wise.

The iPhone's been restored, the laptop has been dropped off at the Apple repair center, the iPod dock was replaced by the store (a bit unwittingly, but nonetheless), the printer's been replaced under warranty, and MediaTemple fixed my email issue. So it looks like the recovery effort is going well... Thank God my desktop still works, or else I wouldn't be able to get any work done, much less this blog po