<$BlogRSDURL$> <

Monday, March 28, 2005

Extended Break from Work -- One Week Gone

My day job has a policy that let's us take a month off after four years of service. It's a fairly generous policy given the type of company that empoys me, where it's headquartered etc. Unlike the "sabbaticals" in academia, this sabbatical is shorter and far less demanding. It's basically a month off.

So, being who I am, and that my wife's work schedule wouldn't allow for her to take a full month off, I really didn't plan to do anyting other than ski (no surprise to anybody who knows me) and start, and maybe even complete a job or two around the house.

Well, so far so good. Been up for a few days of skiing. Though stormy, the snow was good. To get a couple of "good" days of skiing during the first week of vacation, however, required paying a fairly steep price. Like close to 10 hours in my car for trips that should have taken a mere 4 hours each.

I live in the Bay Area and grew up skiing. As a result, I have a reasonably high tolerance for 3.5 to 4-hour drives in the Sierra Nevada which can be fairly serious affairs if there's a storm. Nothing prepared me for Sunday, March 20th. On that day, I left the Cal-Neva loddge in Stateline at 2 p.m. I didn't get back to Redwood City CA until 1:15 a.m. Just under 11 hours for a one-way trip. Why? I don't know. It was snowing on Highway 80 but it wasn't awful. (At least by my standards which have developed over 30 years of either driving or being a passenger in a car headed to or back from a ski resort.) Why the road was "closed" isn't important. What is important is that I was stuck on an on-ramp to i-80 for nearly 6 hours. Didn't move. Couldn't turn around, couldn't go get a cup of coffee. Nothing. Sigh.

OK, I figured this was the season's "bad driving day." I believe that anybody who skis or snowboards regularly has at least one of these days per season. might be an accident. Might be car trouble. Might be a simple matter of too much snow and not enough plows. Whatever the cause, most of us kind of treat it as one of the costs of skiing.

I really did feel this way even after after getting home about 8 hours later than I should have on Sunday the 20th. I felt that way right up until Wednesday, march 23rd. Here again, I was skiing. I was skiing powder with my friend Tom, a man of manifold skills and a truly big-hair skier. Before we started, we knew it would be a low-light day of powder and promised each other that, no matter what, we'd stop at 12:45 or 12:50. Me, so I could get home and cook dinner for my wife and a friend who was visiting. Tom had to do a work-related con-call back at his home office in Truckee.

We ski powder and have great fun. At 12:50, we're at the top of the mountain and agree to head back to the car. I'm in my car at 1:15 p.m. driving home. I"m feeling good 'cause I left on time and the highway looks open and cars are moving westbound -- my direction. I feel so confident in my progress and the road, that as I'm approaching the chain-control guys, I call my wife and my friend, leaving messages that I'm well on my way, traffic looks manageable and that I should be home by 5:45 or 6 p.m.

As I hang up my mobile phone, I notice that I'm only two cars away from the open road. I fully expect to be waved through as I have a Subaru with snow tires. Suddenly, a raggedy-assed gloved hand of the yellow-storm-suited CalTrans worker shoots up in the univeral "halt" sign to the first of the two cars in front of me.

"Hump," I say to myself, "You're supposed to put the chains on before you get to chain control."

Then the first car's brake lights go dark and the driver gets out. He talks to the Caltrans guy. he points up the hill towards the highway. The Caltrans guy points out towards the highway, shaking his head slowly. We wait. I figure we're waiting for a snow-plow to come through and get a head of the line of traffic that's building up.

One hour later, my snow-plow has not arrived. Nobody's moved. The CalTrans guy says there are a bunch of spin-outs and accidents up on the hill. It's closed indefinitely.

I'm not happy. Neither are the hundred or so other folks hanging around. Stuck.

Three hours later, I completely snap. I pull out of line, tell the Caltrans guy to let me out. I'm going to get off at the off-ramp by which we're stopped and go back to the North Shore. He lets me through, warning me not to try anything funny and try to get back on the road a few hundreds yards west of where we are. I promise not to. I get off and immediately disgregard his warning and try to shoot back onto 80 from the on-ramp we'd discussed previously. However, another Caltrans guy in a truck cuts me off. After being threatened with arrest, or at least an expensive ticket, they let me go and ESCORT ME DOWN THE FRONTAGE ROAD to the on ramp to eastbound 80.

Pissed and embarassed, I drive all the way around Lake Tahoe to Meyers where I catch westbond 50. IT's open, but barely.

The rest of the drive home is through weather of biblical proportions: snow, heavy snow, sleet, high wind, lightening (near Meyers, I swear to God), more rain and, to top it off, about 30 miles of low ground fog on 50 between Echo Summit and Placerville.

I got home to RC by 9:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Does Fiona Apple Know Something Big Labels Don't?

Probably. This column regarding the "leak" of songs from an album Ms. Apple finished two years ago is fascinating for a couple of reasons:
a) Damn, fans are certainly an industrious lot. If you've got fans, and you've got songs, and you work for a label that doesn't want to market it, the fans will find a way to get it. Can anybody in any other industry that sells discretionary items even dream of this kind of demand? Can anybody in any other industry even understand WHY Sony execs sit on an album by an artist who apparently has a solid fan base? Are their legal questions? Whatever. Why are Sony execs giving the appearance that they are leaving money on the table?
b) As these sorts of stories proliferate, and artists go quiet (probably because they might be near the end of their contracts???) one has to wonder what the investment community must be thinking about making any bets with current record labels. More to the point, should current investors of record labels be wondering whether or not label execs who engage in such behavior (sitting on albums because they don't think it will sell) are actually working against their interests?
Let's think about this (and accept that Mr. Morford's column is generally correct). Sony doesn't think they can "sell" this album. Of course, they're thinking within the standard label context of justifying millions in advertising, promotional efforts etc. On the other hand, if you've got a fan base that's Internet-enabled, and the fans like the material, why the hell wouldn't you release it online immediately?
Oh, I'm sure a label lawyer would tell me there are many, many, many complex reasons for the label taking such action. Some of those reasons might even be logical -- at least to them.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Mobile Music Opportunity: Part 1

Fight or flight. Only the strong survive. The biological imperative. All those catchphrases we remember from psychology and biology classes. When do we get to start throwing them at mobile carriers? Yesterday.

This item in the Register gives us more evidence. (Not the piece. I happen to think very highly of Mr. Orlowski's particular style. Notice how he cops to a misapprehension in a previous story. Very smoove, as they say...And I like the Register's particularly catty take on things.)

But anyhow. I mean, really. Do the carriers want a piece of iTunes transactions before they approve of the Moto handsets that have a version of iTunes preloaded? Of what transaction? Since this scheme doesn't involve an over-the-air download (from the network directly to the phone) but is simply a reaction to existing consumer desires (many folks have growing libraries of music on their PC hard drives and want to spread some of those songs onto other devices), there's no "transaction" involved. I'm trying to be understanding here, but is this just simple greed?

Look, I know being a wireless carriers is only kind of profitable, but this is silly. And it's just bad business. Why? Because all it's going to take is one of the carriers to step out of line and say "yes" to Moto/iTunes.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Back from Canada Music Week . . .
An interesting couple of days in a frigid Toronto. (For more info, go check out my post here.
Flying back on Air Canada. Perhaps it’s too many flights on too many airlines staffed by fight attendants who have borne the brunt of cost-cutting measures levied by unimaginative management, but Air Canada crews seem much friendlier than the crews for American-based airlines.

Yet, I am not annoyed. I am not harried. I’m just kind of basking in aural whirlpools and eddies. Through the magic of shuffle on the big-dick 60GB iPod Photo I’m toting around, my mellon’s been simmering: Outkast’s “vibrate” into Charlie Mingus’ “Tijuana Gift Shop – Alternate Take -- off the excellent “Tijuana Moods” – thanks, Chris –into Warren’s “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” into Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors” into a tasty “Ramble on Rose” (grateful dead, Redrocks Amphitheater, 7-8-77).

Multiplicity, thy name is shuffle.

My use of the compound adjective as applied to a piece of technology is not mine alone. I must admit that in a prior life, I came to meet and know Penn Jillette of “Pen and Teller.” (He’s the tall, loud one.) I got to know Penn because the company I worked for at the time, GRiD Systems, was considered a design leader portable computers. We made products used by the Department of Defense, U.S. Navy, Marines and various industries that really needed portable computers. And could afford the $10,000 per unit. Anyhow, Penn was apparently a fairly proficient DOS coder at the time. And given his travel schedule, he pretty much needed a portable computer. Somebody at my company was smart enough to let Penn have loaners whenever he wanted. Hey, celebrity endorsements work.
All was going really well for me. I got to hang with Penn at his apartment in New York, he got free machines and was not shy about singing their praises. Then came a radio interview in SF, I believe, and Penn was the guest on the Alex Bennett show (this was back in the 1991, and Bennett had a regular segment on technology.) Penn was giving GRiD products major props when Alex asked him how he would simply describe his latest GRiD product. “Alex, this is a totally big-dick machine.”

Needless to say, the value of Penn’s endorsements suddenly plummeted in the eyes of GRiD’s executives…

Penn also has interesting stories about this guy . . .

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?