So cubicles are everywhere now. They just make sense. Why put up a million walls, when all we really need is a desk? I get it. But here’s the thing: the person in the cubicle next to you… yeah, they can hear you. And smell you. And sometimes, see you. So straighten up, and stop being an asshole.
Here are some simple rules to help you get it right.
Rule 1: Shut. The Fuck. Up.
Don’t shout conversations across cubes.
Don’t talk on your speakerphone. Ever.
Turn your Air-Raid Siren cell phone ringer off. Put it on vibrate, put it in your pocket, and don’t answer it at your fucking desk.
Don’t have meetings in your cube. Or in the corridors. Get a conference room, that’s what they’re for.
Stop shouting. Everyone can hear you. And when you’re on the phone, the person on the other end of the line has a volume control. Also, they can fucking hear you too, because you’re fucking shouting.
Rule 2: Don’t Stink up the place.
Look, we all have to work here. We’re in this together.
So when you heat up last night’s halibut with vinegar and garlic sauce in the microwave and then loudly slurp it down at your desk, it makes us all want you to die. Leave the pungent cheeses, garlic, aromatic fishes — and whatever THAT is that you’re eating right now — at home. Or go out to lunch. Or just go out. Often. Please.
Rule 3: You are not at home
Your desk is NOT your house. No one wants to hear about your colon test, your arguments with your crazy mom, or how your kid is selling crack to your other kid. Take your personal shit out to the lobby. Oh, feel self conscious out there? Go home. Even better.
Don’t take off your shoes. No one wants to see the disgusting feet that you NEVER walk on. You sit there all day, dripping sweat into your orthopedic shoes, and guess what, it’s gross. So leave them on.
That’s basically it. It’s not an entirely difficult process to act like you’re in public when you’re at work. Practice a tiny bit of cubicle etiquette, and people are way less likely to punch you in the brain.
Someone recently told me I had a “rockstar mentality” for turning down a show that didn’t want to pay us at all to play. I have to say, I take serious fucking issue with that.
Here’s the thing: I have three musicians in my band, and they’re badass. Now, these three guys come out to rehearse every week, they play hard, they travel to shows and they never complain. That’s worth paying for. So I do. I pay those guys for every single show, no exceptions, even if I have to reach into my own pocket to do it when a venue decides not to give us anything for all our hard work.
Now, that necessarily means that, when a show comes up and the venue tells me outright that they won’t be paying us - at all - well, then I have to weigh to pros of that particular show at that particular place against the money I’m going to spend to pay the band.
If you want to call that “rockstar mentality,” go ahead, but I’d have to call that assessment “pretty fucking ignorant.”
Those same people that say that… I guarantee that they if they showed up to work in the morning, worked all day long, and then at the end of the day their employer told them, “oh hey, thanks for coming out and doing all this work for us, but we really can’t pay you at all. But what you can do is network with all these people here at the office. And maybe one of them will give you a paying job someday,” those people would be like, “Sweet, I’ll see you in court.”
But somehow, when it’s a band or an artist, it’s totally within expectations to not get paid at all. Not only that, but if you raise issue with not getting paid, you get to be labeled as a “primadonna,” with a “rockstar mentality.”
Well I’m here to tell you that sometimes, it’s a little more complicated than that. So tell you what: I’m going to play for people that are able to show their appreciation for what we do in any small way they can. If that means I have a “rockstar mentality,” then that’s fine with me.
Ok, I get it.
You love your iPhone.
You want to marry your Macbook.
You’re interested in having your iPad’s babies.
You can stop fucking telling me about it.
And, not only do I get it, I GET it. I have a Macbook. It’s cool. Is it better than Windows? For some things, definitely. For others, maybe. For other still, not so much.
But where Apple really shines, a lot of the time, is in its mobile OS and products. Your iPhones. Your iPads. Superior to Android? Well, I don’t use much iOS, but from my recent experience with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Android’s new flagship device running it’s most current version, I, as an Android loyalist, must concede. This thing, by and large, is kind of shitty.
Let me just submit exhibit A:
I just received this message when I innocently tried to launch the camera app to take a photo. There’s no special circumstances here. I launched the default camera app the comes preloaded on the phone. And it just… didn’t work. Not only that, but I when I forced the app closed and shut all it’s processes down, (not a trivial thing to figure out how to do, by the way) it still wouldn’t work. I had to reboot the device in order to get it working again. Think about that. When was the last time you had to reboot your iPhone? If that’s not enough, I find myself rebooting every few days because shit doesn’t work. Text edit boxes in emails and text messages just won’t accept text. I’ll type, and nothing happens. I’ll use voice input, nothing happens. Sometimes the phone will just shut itself down even though there’s plenty of juice, and restart for no reason. Honestly, it reminds me of a Windows Vista PC. Sure it’s pretty, with some interesting new features, but when you get right down to it, this is an incremental change over the last version for most users. And guess what… it kind of blows nuts.
The thing about a smart phone, as we know them today, is that, because it’s always with you, it would be nice if it could replace a bunch of devices that you wish you could always have with you. And it does. Camera, phone, email, internet… these things all once required separate hardware for you to carry around. Now they’re all combined in one. But the thing is, in order for your phone to actually replace those other things, those features of your phone kind of have to, you know, work. All the time.
And yes, I get that nothing works 100% correctly, 100% of the time (ahem, traffic ticketing system? I’m looking at you New Jersey). But you pay so much for your device, that it better fucking work most of the time, at least. And when it doesn’t work, there should be a solution for the problem. I should never… NEVER … have to reboot my phone like it’s an old Compaq laptop from 2003. Those fuckers went out of business for a reason.
So hey, Android? Let me give you a piece of advice. Get your shit tight. If you’re going to tout your latest offering as the greatest thing since horn rimmed glasses (goddamn hipsters), than you better damn well make sure that you have the basics covered. Because when you don’t, that’s when people start thinking maybe your smart phones aren’t so smart.
EZPass. For all intents and purposes, an awesome service. Speeds up virtually any trip involving tollbooths in the tri-state area and beyond. There are few things more satisfying then gliding effortlessly past lines of frustrated commuters as they wait impatiently to hand over dirty crumpled handfuls of antiquated cash to get through a toll. EZPass is nerd’s revenge on everyone who isn’t smart enough to embrace the future.
However. Yes, there’s a “however.” Where EZPass falls short (way, WAY short), is in the execution of their web-based account access. And wow, what an incredible, awkward failure it is. Basically they take a service with few flaws in application and completely ignore the back end. The place where people go to view, manage, change and update their account is an absolute cluster-fuck, lacking basic web tech and common sense features that literally every other account-access site mastered a million years ago (or, like, 5). Let’s start with logging in.
Your User Name Is A 13 Digit Number:
Account numbers aren’t going away. A number is the most computer friendly and efficient way to identify anything, and everything in a computer program eventually gets converted to numbers anyway. But with millions of users, come millions of account numbers. With numbers that large, no one is going to remember theirs, especially in a world where there’s so much else to remember, and the user has little or no use for the actual account number anyway. That’s why every website in the world already figured out that instead of making users track their account numbers, they can just associate something the user is likely to remember, user name, email, etc., with the account in order to log in. Everyone accept EZPass, that is. They still require users to log in using their 13-digit account number, or get the equally long tag number off of the device most people keep in their car. Does anyone log into their account while they’re in their car? EZPass apparently thinks so.
The other fundamental problem with logging in is:
You Can’t Log In:
More often than not, even if you have your credentials, you just can’t log in. Here’s the error I got trying to log in today:
Does anyone even know what that means? That error message is completely meaningless. And I got it four times in a row. Then, when I used their “contact us” link to tell them how much their site blows, after I filled in a ridiculous amount of info on myself, all required fields, and hit “send,” I got this:
Oh awesome. Another completely incoherent error message. Home run.
So, to conclude, since this is as far as I was able to get with my actual account today, EZPass is awesome. And, it totally sucks. It’s a paradox. Like going back in time to kill and killing your mom. Worst of all, there’s no way to tell EZPass the many ways in which their account site sucks nuts, because that’s broken too.
If I ever get into my account, maybe I can finish this article. Until then, good luck to everyone else.
I recently received the Logitech Harmony Link smartphone remote system as a gift. Here’s my take:
The Logitech Harmony Link is a smallish round network device that connects to your smartphone over wifi, and bounces commands from a smartphone app to your home theater via it’s built in IR blaster. The idea is that you can basically turn your phone into something that resembles one of Logitech’s superb Harmony remote controls, complete with activities to turn all your devices on and off with one touch, and customization of how the remote works depending on what you’re doing. The idea behind the device is great. As for the execution… Well, read on to find out.
First of all, I’m an Android guy. I have a galaxy nexus android phone which runs Android 4.0, and a Galaxy Tab 10.1 that runs Android 3.0 Honeycomb. For some reason, Logitech decided that the maximum Android version they’ll allow the Harmony Link app to run on from the Android Market is 2.3.7, even though it’s fully compatible with more advanced versions. Conveniently, they don’t bother telling you this before you purchase the device. They merely say that it’s compatible with “Android smartphones.” Now I suppose I can be held responsible for reading that as phones AND tablets, but as far as my actual phone goes, applications are generally forward compatible with new Android versions by default, and a developer needs to go out of their way to specifically prevent the app from being distributed to any particular Android versions. Which is exactly what Logitech did. Regardless, I downloaded the app from a third party source and manually installed it on my phone and it works fine. Logitech put a roadblock in place for me for no reason.
Here’s my main gripe as far as compatibility is concerned: The Harmony Link won’t control my wifi only Google TV box. Even though my Sony NSZ-GT1 doesn’t have an IR sensor or remote, Google TV is an open platform that Logitech has even produced a product for (Logitech Revue), and Logitech even has a separate Harmony app in the android market (which also won’t install to Android 4.0 handsets) that will control the Revue over wifi. The fact that they didn’t bother to fold this into the harmony link app to me just seems lazy. First they produce a wifi connected Google TV product with a wifi remote app, and then they release an all-in-one smartphone based remote system but leave that functionality out? Doesn’t make much sense to me. What this means is, instead of having one unified remote app, I have to use the harmony link app to control most of my system, and the Google TV remote app to control my Google TV. And that, for me, defeats a lot of the purpose of having a smartphone remote system. Now, I understand that this is a niche complaint, but doesn’t it stand to reason that the target audience for a smartphone remote system might have strong overlap with the alternative set top box audience? To me, it does.
My only problem with the performance of the device is the distance from which it will accurately deliver the IR signals. The IR transmitter on the actual core unit is too weak to accurately and consistently control my Xbox 360 from 7 feet away. For some reason, though, if I plug in the included IR blaster extender, everything works fine from the exact same distance. I guess you could claim that since all my other devices work fine without the extender from that distance, it must be a problem with the Xbox… but my old xbox remote control, also a logitech, always worked and still works fine from that distance and farther. So I continue to blame logitech for that.
The setup of the device is controlled entirely by website, with an installable plugin. That means that you can’t change your system setup without an internet connection. Also, good luck if you use Chrome as your main browser. Sorry, logitech decided not to support it, even if it is the 2nd most used browser in the world (3rd in the US). So go download firefox or else use IE of Safari to do your business. Also, make sure your computer is fairly robust, because the Safari and Firefox versions of the setup app are going to suck up about 600 MB of RAM while they’re running, and that number keeps going up the longer you have to tool open. This is almost certainly a flaw in the software, since it really doesn’t do all that much.
In addition to limited browser compatibility and performance, my Harmony Link decided to stop communicating with my computer (or at least with the setup web tool) after the first setup. So when I went back to change my wifi settings later, I couldn’t. I had to unplug the device first, then plug it back in, then reconnect it to my computer to get the setup program to acknowledge the connection. And the reason I had to go back into the wifi setup was that, for no explicable reason, the Link stopped connecting to my wireless network. Even though none of my other wifi devices had problems. When I finally did get the Harmony Link to connect to the setup tool again, Logitech told me there was a server error, and logged me out. This happened several more times during my time with the tool. Luckily, toggling the power to the device also fixed my network error. Thank god, I would hate to have to use the setup tool any more than I have to.
I definitely like the idea of the Harmony Link. One device that ties the control of everything in your living room together with your mobile device, on a nice big customizable touch screen. However, the device is clearly not ready for prime time. The remote application is lacking in features and compatibility, the device itself is underpowered and it’s connection software is flaky. The setup tool is clunky and slow, and has lots of problems connecting to the device and to Logitech’s servers. The bottom line is, if you have a very simple home theater system with few device of low complexity, this device might work for you. But, if you want an all in one solution for converting your smartphone into a remote in order to simplify a complex series of devices and rid yourself of remotes once and for all, this is probably not it.
I want to be great, but I fear that my best may be merely mediocre.
I choose to believe that although I am not great, I someday will be. And that’s enough.
Being a musician, or trying to be, can be a stressful and laborious endeavor. In the business of bands, change is bad. New members, replacements, fill-ins… these things are all wildly unpredictable variables in what is already a very fragile and unstable situation.
Unless you’ve been playing together for years, you never feel supremely confident when you step on stage. Once you start playing, you’re in a chain gang with these guys, and there’s always that looming possibility that you’re gonna trip, or somebody else is gonna trip, and you’re all gonna come crashing down.
And when you inevitably do, from time to time, that single event, in that one song, even for just the briefest moment, makes all the work leading up to that performance seem futile.
Well, if anyone’s watching, that is. See, there’s another, even worse possibility. No one is paying attention. And if there’s anyone in the bar, and they’re not listening… well that’s your fault. As an entertainer, it’s you’re job to fucking entertain. And if you can’t do that… well what are you doing in this business, anyway?
There’s a simple fix, of course… bring your own people. Bring people that you know want to hear you play; people that are coming out specifically to hear you play… then you’re guaranteed more than just a crowd. Now you’ve got: An Audience.
Ah, but that’s the rub isn’t it? How do you get An Audience? Hoooo boy, it’s tough. When nobody knows who you are, when nobody’s ever heard of you or seen you, boy it’s like pulling teeth to get people to come out. Friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances… these people are all sick of you asking them to come out to your show. Even if you’re good. Even if you’re really good. See, people want to go to where other people are. You know how everyone claims to find people to be annoying? To hate crowds? Bullshit. People want to go out to be where other people are. They’re drawn to things that they can see other people enjoying. You’ve got to have An Audience, to get An Audience.
Impossible, you say? A paradoxical circle with no beginning or end, you say? Welcome to “trying to be a musician!” So what do you do?
Anything you can. You have to learn to get people’s attention, anyway you can. You need to reach a whole shit-ton of people, just to capture the attention of a few. It’s a numbers game, and the odds are severely stacked, and not in your favor.
But, it’s no one’s fault but our own… us wannabe musicians, we choose this roller coaster ride… we accept the pressure, the fear, the labor, the disappointment, along with relatively infrequent triumph and fleeting success…
Is it all worth it in the end? I’ll let you know.
So I’m watching Colbert, and he has this writer on who wrote a book about people’s fascination with Celine Dion. One of the things he said was that some of her popularity stemmed from the respect her fans had for her because of her ‘rags to riches’ story.
Now, as the name implies, ‘rags to riches’ stories usually involve some person who comes from nothing — no money, skills, education, job, home — and somehow turns their life into a huge success story, usually involving fame and fortune, and a lot of times, in the entertainment industry.
Now here’s my point: who cares? I mean, to me, a rags to riches story really isn’t that impressive. And here’s why:
Say a person has nothing… well sure, it takes a certain amount of resolve and determination just to survive in that situation, let alone excel… but it also means that there’s not much risk involved in their decisions. Historically, it seems like people who strike it rich in the music industry or in movies generally are people that take the big risk. They pack up all their shit and just move out to California, or New York, and they work some bullshit job waiting tables or cleaning toilets while they try to find a way to hit it big. So my point is, it’s really easy to take that huge risk, to leave everything you know and have for some crazy dream, when that crazy dream is really the only thing you have in the first place.
If you have nothing, then you have nothing to LOSE. It’s a no-brainer. See, to me, what would be more impressive, and what you never really hear of, is somebody that went from decently successful to huge stardom. A sort of ‘kind-of-doing-0k to riches’ story.
To me, that’s way more unlikely and worthy of respect. I mean, think about it. Say you grow up in a middle class family, you get an education, a job, maybe buy a house, are doing ok, and then you decide to throw caution to the wind to go out on the road and try to be a rockstar. Think about what you’d have to give up: job, car, house, retirement plan, health care, benefits… to go taveling around the country on some little record company’s dime, or your own dime, somehow, going town to town making little to no money for possibly a long time just for the remote chance of someday hitting it big — maybe. Now THAT’s impressive.
Plus, to me, it seems like a huge part of making it big, is pure dumb luck. Being in the right place, at the right time, playing the right show in front of the right people. For every Coldplay or John Mayer there are a thousand bands and musicians that you’ve never heard of, and that in all likelihood you’ll never hear of, that are as good or better. But they’re not the ones that made it. And why?
That’s all. Sometimes that’s all that separates the famous from the anonymous. But the thing is, the acts that take those huge risks are way more likely to find that right place at that right time. It’s just a numbers game. And it’s way easier to take that one show 2000 miles away for no money at that place where that record company guy sometimes hangs out when you have no rent to pay, no mouths to feed, no job to be on time for and no money to lose.
So if Celine Dion wants my respect, then… actually I don’t think there’s anyway Celine is getting my respect. But you get my point.
Well, yeah. I mean, I guess they do. ‘Cause if they didn’t, you wouldn’t be able to take them seriously.
Isn’t that right, Radiohead, Prince and Trent Reznor?
Well that’s what an agent from an unnamed music management company told me tonight. He said that I would never be taken seriously as long as I gave my music away at shows. That until I start selling something directly to fans, I’ll never be able to gain any real traction as a professional musician, that people don’t value something unless they have to pay for it.
Now, maybe that’s true… and, after all, this was an agent at a *seemingly* legit company, although as far as I can tell, they only have five clients, and I’ve never heard of any of them. But for my money, it seems like thinking like that never really got anybody anywhere.
If the rapid evolution of technology has taught us anything, it’s that companies need to find new, fresh ways to make money, because more and more and more… content is free.
It’s free. Simple as that. Not subscription-based free, or pay-as-you-go free… it’s FREE free. As in, no cost to you, the consumer. BUT, if I can use that content to, say, peddle advertising… well now I’m getting paid, right? But not by you. No, you, as the end user, you get my content for absolutely nothing… but after listening to my FREE music, on my FREE website, maybe you suddenly have the urge to go buy a pair of pumas, or a carvin bass guitar, or you remembered suddenly that you need to go to Sam Ash. Now, how did that happen? And, oh yeah, maybe you wanna buy a ticket to one of my live shows…
Free content is the way of the future. If you’re writing, singing, playing an instrument, or whatever, selling those recordings to people is getting harder and harder. But there are more ways than one to skin a cat. Or, a record.
Look, the point is, as much as this guy was peddling himself as being from a ‘cutting edge’ company who’re ‘lightyears ahead’ of everyone else, he was just talking the same old trash. Or, at least, I heard the same old song and dance… and I wasn’t about to pay for it. When someone approaches me with a truly creative and unique way to make music make money, I hope I’ll have the presence of mind to pay attention. In this case, I’m pretty sure I didn’t hear anything ‘cutting edge,’ but hell… if it were free, I think I’d have considered it.