Aspire to Greatness

I know I’m a little late to the blogging party on this one, but much like Robin Williams’ passing, this one really hurt. I mean, I didn’t know the woman personally, but her humor and outrageousness has been a part of my life since I first heard What Becomes a Legend Most back in 1980. I don’t remember now if I’d heard of Rivers prior to this or not, but once I heard that recording I was hooked.

As the years progressed and her very vocal LGBT advocacy became more and more pronounced, culminating with her famous, “Oh grow up!” line in the midst of the AIDS crisis, she endeared herself to my soul. I still have a copy of her “Can We Talk?” AIDS pamphlet somewhere.

While her humor in these later years at times seemed more pointed, nasty and some may even say—tired—than in the past, I remained a fan. Yes, there were times when I turned off Fashion Police simply because the manufactured venom (obviously jokes written for her, not by her at that point) crossed the line even for my libertine sensibilities, but I never stopped respecting her for all she’d done for the gay community.

You are missed, Joan and gone too soon.

Dear Denver Drivers…

I know it’s a problem worthy of a degree in rocket science, but a solid line on the pavement means DO NOT CROSS OVER. It does not mean DO NOT CROSS OVER…unless you’re in a hurry, or DO NOT CROSS OVER…unless you have to get in traffic ahead of someone else, or DO NOT CROSS OVER…unless you weren’t paying attention and need to get off now, or DO NOT CROSS OVER…unless you’re high and don’t even know what the fuck you’re doing.

It means DO NOT CROSS OVER. Period.

Thank you.

♫ Can’t Stay Away, Can’t Stay Away♫

Call me a glutton for punishment.

After my initial foray into beta testing Yosemite and having too many issues with the mouse dropping its connection, I returned to Mavericks a couple weeks ago. Yeah, Mavericks was stable, but having seen the beautiful new future Apple was teasing us with, I reloaded the Yosemite Beta, ran the updates and have been using it since. I have to say that the latest release has cleared up most of the problems I was having. I say most because occasionally the bluetooth will still just say, “No, no, no…” and the mouse will disappear, but nowhere near as often as it had been happening previously. Also, the myriad other little bugs I had reported over the course of my testing seem to have been squashed up by the folks at Apple.

An endless source of amusement for me during all this has been the OS X 10.10 forum at MacRumors. Folks are falling into two camps: Yosemite is beautiful, and Yosemite is UGLY.

Personally, I think it’s stunning—and it was the main reason I couldn’t stay away. By comparison, Mavericks now looks old and dated to me.

The ones calling it ugly seem to have no good reason other than the user interface has changed from what it was. But it’s not like Jony Ive took a steamroller, wholesale, to their beloved skeumorphism; there are still plenty of three-dimensional, real-world icons throughout the OS. And ironically, the same ones who are decrying the loss of dimensionality are the same ones who are bitching about the new translucency of certain windows. The ones I really like are the folks who say, “If this is Apple’s view of the future I’m going to Windows!”

Buh-Bye. Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out.

Amen, Sister!

“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me. I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.” ~ Meryl Streep

Are You There, Universe?

It’s me, Mark.

I need a new job.

Seriously.

But I guess I that’s not going to happen if I don’t spell out exactly what I want now, will it?

While I had complaints about my last job in Phoenix, the mere fact that I stayed there nearly eight years (and would probably still be there in some form if we hadn’t relocated) says a lot about what works for me. Unforunately, my work situation since we moved to Denver has been—how shall I say this? Unacceptable.

I’m looking for a smallish-firm, maybe 250-500 employees or so. But not so small that I’m the only I.T. guy. I don’t mind being the only desktop guy, but I don’t want to handle servers, connectivity beyond basic troubleshooting, dealing with telecommunications vendors, purchasing, receiving, or anything that is—as my former boss used to call it—”behind the wall.”

My first job in Denver was pretty much like this, but upper management maintained a continual adversarial stance toward I.T. in general, which meant that during the two years I was there we went through three I.T. directors with an average gap of six months between each one, during which time  I was expected to handle everything, and given copious amounts of attitude when I failed to meet their unrealistic expectations.

As I said, while I had complaints about the Phoenix job, the basic mechanics of it were nearly ideal. We were a large firm, but since each desktop guy had their own facility to support with anywhere from 250-400 users, it seemed much smaller. The workload wasn’t horrific, but it was enough to keep boredom at bay and allowed for occasional goof-off down time. The entire I.T. department was very close-knit, and while I rarely socialized with any of my colleagues after hours, I still came to view them as friends and not just co-workers.

And while I didn’t mind driving between facilities to help out my peers in Phoenix, a single location is a must in Denver—simply because of the winter weather.

Pay? $50K a year would be nice. I’m worth more than that and was making more in Phoenix, but I’m trying to be realistic considering the depressing pay scale here. As it stands now, I’m making significantly less than that; pretty much what I was bringing home in 2006. Considering the cost of living in Denver is actually higher than Phoenix, it hasn’t been easy.

I’d also like receive a modicum of respect from whatever company I work for and not be treated like an I.T. Janitor (or required to wear a requisite uniform) as I am at my current place of employment. And while I enjoy a fun work environment as much as anyone, there’s a fine line between fun and frat house.

As far as the industry? I miss Healthcare, but getting back into it isn’t an absolute.

And lastly, I need relatively easy commute via public transit on snow days.

I don’t think I’m asking that much, but if I don’t put it out there it’s gonna be kind of hard for it to come my way.

Back to Mavericks

So much for my mouse problems disappearing. There are dangers to being an early adopter.

I considered myself lucky that I hadn’t suffered any of the truly horrendous game over problems being reported by other Yosemite Beta testers in the MacRumors Forums, but the mouse issue I’d previously reported had become intolerable. It had reached the point that not only would it spontaneously disconnect, it was often taking two or three reboots to get it to reattach itself. Way too much trouble.

Time to abandon Yosemite in its current state and revert back to Mavericks.

The reversal process wasn’t a walk in the park. Even though I’d dutifully backed up my Mavericks installation to Time Machine before I loaded the Beta, for some reason after wiping Yosemite and reinstalling Mavericks from scratch, Migration Assistant couldn’t actually use the backup. “No valid volumes found.”

Ugh.

Thankfully I’d used Carbon Copy Cloner to create an image of the entire Mavericks drive around the first of July and was able to successfully restore from that. As for data that’s changed since then, I was able to manually transfer everything back from my latest Yosemite Time Machine backup.

I’ve learned my lesson. I can wait for the general release. October isn’t that far away.

Aspire to Greatness

Depression is something so profound it transcends being a comedian (or even happiness itself). It may even be correlated with the profession. But hearing that Robin Williams—who if only unconsciously we all expected to always be with us—took his own life, does make you step back for a moment and ponder the entirety of the human enterprise.

Microsoft’s New Mac vs. PC Hyperbole

From Rene Ritchie at iMore:

Microsoft has three new Surface Pro 3 ads out today that, as promised, switch from trying to attack the iPad to trying to attack the MacBook Air. Given how heart-breakingly, bank-breakingly unsuccessful Surface has been to date, it’s hard not to sympathize. It’s also hard not to think repeating past strategic failures will only result in more failures. Instead of shifting from iPad to MacBook, maybe Microsoft should shift from attacking Apple to attacking the PC market?

Mac sales were up 18 percent year-over-year last quarter. The Mac has grown 32 out of the last 33 quarters. That’s against Windows PC sales that continue to be on the decline.

It’s incredibly tough to imagine anyone would leave a MacBook Air for a Surface Pro 3. More specifically, that they’d leave the ability to run OS X on hardware of that caliber for Windows 8 on anything. Especially because the MacBook Air can run OS X and Windows 8. Putting Windows on a tablet turned out to be a liability not a feature and it looks like the same is going to hold true for hybrids.

People who use Macs use them intentionally. We love not only the quality of the hardware but the experience and workflow enabled by the software, by OS X and iLife and iWork and all the OS X-exclusive apps by Panic and Flexibits and Tapbots and Aged & Distilled and SuperMegaUltraGroovy and The Iconfactory and, many more. That’s simply not attainable by PC hardware, and certainly not by the widely-maligned Windows 8.

It’s telling that “run Windows instead of OS X” wasn’t even suggested as a benefit in any of these three new ads. When Apple ran their famous “Mac vs. PC” series, OS X being better and preferable to Windows was almost always front-and-center.

Microsoft does mention running Office and Photoshop, but both of those apps are available on the Mac. Office is available for iPad now as well, as are really great detachable keyboards. They also suggest you need a paper note book to use a pen with Apple products, which, given the stylus market for iPad, is either ignorant or deliberately false.

I’m almost tempted to suggest Microsoft would be better off running an ad encouraging OS X customers to buy a Windows license for their Macs, to get the “best of both worlds”, but again, given how poorly Windows 8 has been received, that probably wouldn’t help very much. Maybe focus on Bootcamp and gaming?

I’m even more tempted to suggest Microsoft shouldn’t focus on Apple at all, and go gunning for Dell, HP, Lenovo, and other PC vendors instead. People who buy PC laptops and hybrids are already Windows-only customers. All the things Microsoft is actually showing off in their ads — great specs, capacitive touch, pen input, etc. are probably something Windows-only customers would be really interested in. Hell, for anyone used to the creaky plastic and gaudy stickers of many Windows laptops, Surface could be a welcome upgrade. Even for people with higher end PC ultrabooks, getting something not painfully, slavishly derived from Apple design could be a breath of fresh air.

Given the politics involved in Microsoft’s OEM partnerships, however, I don’t think we’ll ever see that happen.

More…

The Absurdity Runs Deep

“The absurdity runs deep: America is using American military equipment to bomb other pieces of American military equipment halfway around the world. The reason the American military equipment got there in the first place was because, in 2003, the US had to use its military to rebuild the Iraqi army, which it just finished destroying with the American military. The American weapons the US gave the Iraqi army totally failed at making Iraq secure and have become tools of terror used by an offshoot of al-Qaeda to terrorize the Iraqis that the US supposedly liberated a decade ago. And so now the US has to use American weaponry to destroy the American weaponry it gave Iraqis to make Iraqis safer, in order to make Iraqis safer.
 
It’s not just ironic; it’s a symbol of how disastrous the last 15 years of US Iraq policy have been, how circuitous and self-perpetuating the violence, that we are now bombing our own guns. Welcome to American grand strategy in the Middle East.”

- Vox: The US bombing its own guns perfectly sums up America’s total failure in Iraq

A Little Over Two Weeks In…

And so far, so good. A few little glitches here and there (all of which I’ve dutifully reported back to Apple) but overall Yosemite has been much more stable than I’d anticipated it would be.

The biggest problem I’ve encountered has been the spontaneous dropping of the connection to my Bluetooth mouse and the subsequent refusal to reconnect, requiring a complete reboot. I’m not a hundred percent sure this wasn’t a problem with the mouse itself, because it the poor thing was four years old and this behavior had been happening occasionally under Mavericks, but to rule out the mouse itself we bought a new one and the problem has disappeared for the most part.

Other issues have been mostly graphics related: items not aligning properly, text overshooting other elements in windows or being cut off, inconsistencies in what is translucent versus what is not from application to application; things that don’t prevent me from productively using the OS, but definitely need to be addressed before this is shipped.

In short, I’m still very impressed what Apple has done here.

What Does It Mean?

Last night I dreamt that I met George Takei and Elton John (although not at the same time). I think William Shatner was also there for a moment, but only making bitchy comments toward George.

Elton was working as a waiter in a restaurant to raise money for some charity. He gave me his phone number and told me to call him to talk about music.

Desert Breath


Located near the Red Sea in El Gouna, Egypt, Desert Breath is an impossibly immense land art installation dug into the sands of the Sahara desert by the D.A.ST. Arteam back in 1997. The artwork was a collaborative effort spanning two years between installation artist Danae Stratou, industrial designer Alexandra Stratou, and architect Stella Constantinides, and was meant as an exploration of infinity against the backdrop of the largest African desert. Covering an area of about 1 million square feet (100,000 square meters) the piece involved the displacement of 280,000 square feet (8,000 square meters) of sand and the creation of a large central pool of water.