Attention nerds; this incredible depository of brain dumps is moving to Tumblr. This means very little for those of you who visit, because (A) www.natesullivan.com is still going to take you to the new-ish looking full screen vanity project it currently does, and (B) clicking on “Posts” will still display a bunch of gobbledegook about me playing in basketball tournaments organized by space aliens. The only things you may need to know are :
1. None of the old content is going away, you just won’t be taken there from “natesullivan.com” anymore.
So, why am I doing this? Mostly because I’m doing a ton of web design at work, and no longer need an open, self-hosted, somewhat high maintenance WordPress installation to get my amateur HTML jollies in my spare time. I like changing the look of the site every once in a while; in WordPress, that’s more of a pain than I’m willing to deal with (nothing against WordPress, it’s just TOO flexible that way). Also, as I get frighteningly old, and my job/hobbies appear to be converging somewhat, I’m working on consolidating everything into one place, in the hopes of someday living in a world where all the stuff on my site might actually be an asset to my career (whatever it ends up being) instead of something I’d secretly rather people didn’t find. I’m getting closer, but I’m not quite there yet, and moving to a site that includes my resume and some of my work is a good next step.
And hey, you might laugh, but we’re a lot closer to that world than you think. For example, I turned down — with great hesitation — a job at a really, really cool public, profitable company a few months ago, after several interviews with some of the more important people in the company (why they wanted to talk to me, we’ll never know). It was partially humbling, and partially emboldening, but one thing I found somewhat shocking was how everybody I met with, as high up as the COO, seemed to have an online presence, with their name on it, that was a public reflection of the kind of cool, interesting person they actually were. They didn’t hide from their interests, hobbies, and sense of humor — they built it into their professional profile, and it made them better and more comfortable with their jobs.
This is a huge, huge mental leap for somebody like me to take, given the fact that I’ve spent most of my life assuming that people would think LESS of me if they found out I was in a band and had a crazy person’s sense of humor. But I think it’s the right move, and because of that, the new Tumblr feed is going to be Google indexed and searchable by the (shudder) general public. Now if I say something stupid, not only will my name be on it, but random internet trolls will be able to call me out when they inevitably stumble on it (not unlike the guy from my old, anonymous site who I got in a fight with about Mike Bibby and the Atlanta Hawks).
Anyways, I’m going to throw the switch at some point this weekend, and life will go on, and Jeff will still leave comments, and I will still write about the same things, and now it won’t take me five minutes to format a picture correctly. Hooray for technology.
Let me give you a completely ridiculous, totally implausible scenario.
While you’re sitting in line at the DMV, or in some other scenario with a fairly representative cross-section of society, aliens abduct you and everyone else in the room/mall/town/whatever. The aliens have been watching the NBA playoffs, and they are now totally infatuated with basketball, but they can’t play because they’re gaseous, or they have no hands, or something sufficiently debilitating. So they take all these random humans (since they don’t know how to evaluate talent for this kind of thing, they just know to find humans), and they whisk them off to this faraway space arena, and they set up a tournament. Let’s say they abducted 1,000 random people, so they form a hundred teams of ten, completely randomly, and they give you cool uniforms and set up a schedule and all that. Your motivation is this; if you lose before, say, the third round, they eat you, or launch you into space, or if you’re turned off by the morbidity (and randomness) of that, assume that you just end up living relatively crappy life as a human refugee who’s viewed as not good at the one thing humans are known for being good at. In short, it’d be really, really good for you to get past the third round. There’s no prep time. One minute, you’re looking for a Cinnabon, and the next, you’re in the arena, getting ready to play your first game. It’s single elimination. You’ve never spoken to any of your teammates, who are totally random people (let’s say Americans, just to keep it somewhat simplified) of wildly different ages, physical makeups, and backgrounds.
I wonder how I, and other people I know, would fit into this scenario. I mean, I spent a lot of time playing in basketball games where I’m average, or slightly below average, but at the same time, I spend a lot of time playing in basketball games. I’m 29 years old, just under six feet, 175 pounds, and I can jump pretty high — don’t all those things put me at a distinct advantage against my typical opponent/teammate? Sure, there are lots of people — total — who are better than I am despite being older, or fatter, or out of shape, but out of the entire world population? The odds can’t be that high. Look around you right now; are you the best basketball player in the room right now? Top three? Top five? I think it’s very likely I’m the best basketball player in my entire office. That’s simultaneously saying a lot, and not saying very much at all at the same time, which I suppose is really the point of this whole exercise.
We spend a lot of time being informed, through analysis, competition, or conversation, of how good we are at different things compared to the best people on Earth. That’s what we aspire to, in general. But almost none of us actually live in that aspiration-based world; we play in rec leagues, record CDs, we write witty e-mails, we try to make our spouses and kids laugh; we try to be the best looking person in the bar (okay, some of us do; I try to not be at the bar, but I’m trying to be as inclusive as possible here). We THINK we have a good sense of where we are in this giant life pyramid, from things like high school — but despite the cliche, life is really almost nothing like high school (or any other school). How many of the people who were good at basketball in, say, 6th grade, still play basketball? How many kids who were great writers became engineers, or discovered World of Warcraft, or beer, or just got bored with it, and watched their skills erode? Is anyone still good at “Magic : The Gathering”?
And then, take that weathered, diffused bunch of students, and throw them into a pot with the other generations of people who are still around, or just now entering the real world. Where does everyone stack up now?
You don’t have to do this with basketball, obviously, or even something you’re relatively good at. What if the aliens liked soccer? I’d still have some advantages — big ones, even — over the elderly, and the especially unathletic. I probably know more about soccer from video games than, say, the average mom. I have, technically, played soccer against other people, even people who were pretty good (I didn’t say it went well). When my team assembled, would the crappy people look at me hopefully, expecting me to be “good” at soccer? Is it possible, or even likely, that a team composed this way would be so bad, that I might still be the best player on our team? What would that experience even be like? What if it was a giant Halo tournament? Or some competitive version of a random craft activity, like weaving? My Mom would end up getting all these endorsements, and I’d be like Mark Madsen, running out and high fiving her during timeouts, hoping I’m never actually called on do anything important.
The possibilities are endless. So keep practicing whatever it is you do — just in case the aliens come.
I didn’t grow up in a traditionally religious household, but I did grow up in what I always felt was a fairly spiritual one, in so much as that “balance” and “harmony” were pretty core concepts. It wasn’t explicitly stated or anything (no crystals, no auras, nothing like that), but when I look back on it, it seems obvious. My parents loved a different thing about each season, each part of the day, and each part of their lives. They didn’t complain about being old, and they ignore what I thought because I was young. My dad read books about taoism and eastern religions, and my mom preached moderation so strongly, that once, after tirelessly nagging me to read a book for about two weeks one summer, actually made me stop and go outside when I got hooked on this as a little kid. It was all about moderation.
LeBron isn’t making rooting against him any less fun:
Left threadbare, all James could do was deploy his defense mechanisms.
“All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before,” James said. “They have the same personal problems they had to today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.”
Yes, James could leave in his Bentley or Rolls Royce or Maybach or whatever vehicle he chose to drive. He could, indeed, go home to his mansion where his personal chef might have a five-star meal waiting. Then off to his plush bed with 1,500-thread-count sheets. In a few days, it’ll be off on a private jet for a needed vacation.
The vast majority of those who toasted his defeat will wake up and go to work on Monday morning.
OUCH, LEBRON, YOU GOT ME. I HAVE A JOB. Seriously, those are our options? Idolize him, or…” f*** you, you’re poor”. Who is giving this man PR cues, Charlie Sheen?
Anyways, biggest surprise to me about Miami this season; it doesn’t appear that LeBron is interested, or knows how, to get any better than he already is. It’s why he still has no post game, still has an inconsistent — dare I say Sullivan-esque – jump shot, and expects his teammates to carry him to a world of photo-ops and championship parades. For all of Kobe Bryant’s faults as a basketball player and a teammate, (and there are many) no one will ever look back at his accomplishments, or his famous defeats, and wonder how good he could have been if he had really wanted it.
I know LeBron is only 26, but really, the guy randomly turns into Lamar Odom 2.0 at this point, even in the biggest moments. I’m not convinced that’s something you grow out of when you turn 27. Maybe Wade can beat it into his head this summer during the lockout, before he (Wade, I mean) hits 30 and completely falls apart physically.
So, I bought an iPad. I only know a few people who own them, but everyone seems to be pretty happy with them, and more importantly, I don’t own a laptop, and don’t feel like getting one. And who wants to come home in the summer and read the Internet in the basement when you could be sitting outside in the hammock?
At any rate, as Vice President of Creative Accounting at AIG, I obviously received a huge quarterly bonus a few weeks ago, so I decided to give half of it to The Human Fund and spend the rest of it on gratuitous consumer electronics, as my generation tends to do. First reaction? This thing is awesome. It’s almost frighteningly well designed. I’m writing this entry in the WordPress app with this imaginary keyboard, and I’m actually not really having any trouble, despite having owned this thing for all of three days. The integration with our other Apple stuff is phenomenally smooth, it’s easy to carry around, and the form factor is great for reading and browsing. It’s definitely a luxury device, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a totally awesome, useful luxury device, and it absolutely is.
Look, I’ll take a picture right now.
I just did that right now, and it took me like, five seconds. Damn. Okay, how about a movie?
Geez, this thing is great. And by saying that, I don’t mean to upset the motorola zoom people or people who hate Apple or anything like that. I’m just saying I like my new toy.
I’ve probably said this three hundred times in the last month. I’m not sure what the scarier response is — disbelief and confusion, or a grudging acceptance followed by an immediate re-direct to the same concept with a different name.
I get the feeling someone was probably yelling this a few years ago in a “financial products” division at some giant bank. I hope I have better luck.
There are too many numbers for me to really go through this, so I can’t really make many empirical criticisms. But I live in exactly the kind of “high-tax, high cost of living” areas this article refers to (I mean, literally, one of the places they list), and this flies completely in the face of my everyday reality. My household makes well under half the threshold they’re discussing here, and we feel much, much better about our finances than we probably ever have before.
So where’s the disconnect? I can only think of a few things :
1. We don’t have any kids, which leads me to suspect this model assumes you are spending a crapload of money on two kids. Now, I’m not under the impression that kids are cheap, but I’m also well aware of the tendency for rich people to describe luxuries for their kids as absolute necessities. I mean, it’s a small line-item, but four thousand bucks for “after school activites/camp”? After school activity = pour yourself a bowl of cereal and watch cartoons. Done, and I just saved your four grand.
2. This implies that everyone has to own a home, and from these numbers, an expensive one. The people in this model are paying over forty thousand dollars a year, total, on their mortgage, mortgage insurance, and “maintenance”, which comes out to about $3473 a month. But for just $2,300 a month, you could live in this awesome three bedroom, two bathroom townhouse in one of the nicest parts of one of the richest counties on planet earth. “BUT WHERE WILL CASSIUS, OUR GOLDEN LABRADOODLE, BE ABLE TO CHASE WILD RABBITS????” No, you won’t get the crazy mortgage interest deduction (which probably shouldn’t exist in the first place), but you will save thirteen grand a year. Again, is this BETTER than owning your own McMansion? Not necessarily, but it certainly doesn’t push anyone’s lifestyle into an area where I feel like they desperately need tax relief.
3. These people pay $7600 a year in car loans for two cars. My brand new car costs me $3,120 a year, which means you could get two of them for less than what these people are paying. Or you could get a used car (or at least not two brand new ones), and probably pay significantly less than this. Or, once you pay off a car, you could maybe not go out and immediately buy a new one. You know, like the middle class people you aspire to be.
4. To the guy in this model paying $5,000 a year in parking — it’s called a park & ride, good Lord. Learn it and love it.
There are probably other quibbles in here, but it’s hard for me to quickly break down $13,000 a year in “staples” and know if that’s realistic. But even if all that stuff is fine, what’s the lesson here — the good life is expensive? The kind of security most Americans don’t have, and will never have, costs a lot of money? That’s not news to anybody living in a house that brings home anything closer to the $50k-ish median income, and you’re not going to generate a lot of sympathy from the salt of the earth because two brand new Toyota Camrys and a place to park them so you don’t have to take the dirty, dirty bus is expensive when you live in Huntington, NY.
Plus, for the twenty billionth time, if you increase the marginal tax rate for a house earning over $250k a year, you’re only increasing the taxes paid on every dollar over 250k. It’s still much better to make more money. Likewise, if you cut it, your tax bill barely changes unless you’re making more like 350-400k, in which case you’ve obviously got a lot more to work with.
Finally, the idea that living in Fairfax County or Greenwich, CT, or any other beautiful, high-tax, high-service suburban enclave within earshot of a huge city has some unbearable cost attached to it that makes every dollar worth a quarter is just the latest load of crap from rich people to try to justify their totally awesome lifestyles, which I don’t begrudge them at all, because I am totally trying to get in on it. Seriously, I don’t think I could possibly be a better example — I moved from Cleveland, Ohio to Fairfax County,VA in 2008. My rent immediately doubled, yeah, but I also started making WAY MORE MONEY, and living in a place with amazing services, good schools, low crime, amazing parks that have swimming pools instead of crackheads, freaking subways that actually go useful places, and other stuff funded by all those pesky taxes that make this a “high tax area”. My life is twenty gabillion times better here than it was in Ohio, and it’d take me years to make $250k. And yet, since I moved here, I’ve watched people tell me over and over again that not buying a home is “stupid” because I’m missing out on the mortgage interest deduction, while simultaneously complaining about how impossibly high their property taxes are, and how it’s unsustainable for them to maintain their standard of living. Well, which is it? Are you living beyond your means or not?
If the only point being made here is that making a quarter million dollars a year doesn’t necessarily give you the ability to spend recklessly, or to get whatever you want, then fine. But that’s not much of a point, since that’s true of pretty much anyone who didn’t negotiate syndication royalties for “Two and a Half Men”.
The Lavender-Sullivan acoustamatic drum-box has gone through a lot of changes over the last couple of months. Weirdly enough, even in its pre-drum-room state, it was pretty useful for recording vocals and guitar, in part because it had an interesting little reverb sound to it, but more importantly because it let the singing members of Elementary get their work done without being distracted by my visual shenanigans.
But lest we forget, the original purpose of the box — and moving to the semi-suburbs, honestly — was to play drums, and that’s still the goal as we head into the late spring. To wit, we purchased some sound absorbers from Audimute (a company located, of all places, about ten minutes down the road from my old house in Cleveland) that arrived the other day while I was home from work eating lunch.
Now, Steve and I were a little skeptical about how well these things would work. To the untrained eye (i.e., mine), they look like glorified moving blankets. And once I took them out of the box, they didn’t seem a whole lot different; they were decently hefty, and didn’t seem cheaply made, but I didn’t feel like I was holding state of the art technology in my hands or anything like that. Still, we put them up inside the box, and I have to admit, they definitely work as advertised. They absolutely suck up the reverb of the room, and the result is a much quieter environment both inside and outside of the box. They don’t do much with bass frequencies, but of course, Audimute pretty clearly states exactly that in their promotional materials. With the blankets (including one in front of the door), we’re at about 75% of where we need to be for happy drumming with happy neighbors. They can hear us in their basement, but not in any other part of the house — and I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that it’s mostly the kick drum they’re hearing.
There are a couple other changes, but most of them are logistical or cosmetic. I threw up some weather stripping to try to create a better seal on the door, but to be honest, the door is kind of a joke and has so many fundamental issues that I’m doubtful it can be improved around the margins. I may need to rip it off at some point and just build a real door based on what the box ended up actually becoming. On the other hand, I did add an interior handle, which makes it a lot easier to shut that pathetic excuse for a door without jamming your hand in it.
The other kind of funny part of this is that I finally cut out the stupid beam that bisected the doorway, although it wasn’t easy correcting this very poor design decision. Having had enough of extended use of hand saws from my days reconfiguring Feathers’ old garage a few years ago, I broke down and bought a circular saw for about forty bucks. On the plus side, that’s not a lot of money, and it works really well. On the negative side, I’m terrified of it, although I managed to make a few cuts without disemboweling myself, and that’s been good for morale.
At any rate, here’s a look at what the box looks like today.
I’ve been looking for a new cell phone for… about three years. My latest is about five years old, and barely qualifies as a “feature phone”, let alone a smart one. More importantly, it’s started to physically fall apart. That unfortunate reality, combined with the fact that we managed to negotiate cheap unlimited data plans for Verizon, has been pushing me to look at getting something cooler for a while, but without any success.
Here are what my options were :
1. iPhone: I have a 1st generation iPod touch, and I’m very fond of it. It definitely has its quirks, but there are tons of awesome apps for it (even though I’m less of an app guy than you might think), my house is already pretty much wired for Apple products, and obviously a brand new iPhone comes with a lot of cool things (amazing build quality, beautiful screen, great camera) that my old iPod doesn’t have. That being said, I’m on Verizon, so I couldn’t get one until recently, and even now, Verizon’s been trying to get me to pay some kind of made up iPhone tax on my monthly bill. Top that off with the cost of the phone itself, and this would definitely be an expensive option.
2. Android: I hate to rain on everyone’s parade, but personally, I think Android kind of blows — and I definitely think the way Android is utilized by most manufacturers blows. We went in to the store a few months ago, totally ready to get HTC Incredibles, but found them extremely underwhelming. The raw capability was cool, but the phones seemed excessively big, clunky, occasionally unstable, and inconsistent in how features were implemented. I totally get the Android “you can do literally anything, no matter how stupid or useless it might be” model for hacker types, but frankly that’s what my desktop PC is for. I don’t plan on doing that much tinkering on my phone. I want the core things I’ll actually want to do with a phone on a regular basis — messaging, photos, calls, e-mail, and web browsing — to be consistent, well-integrated with each other, and fast. This is probably why I’m less of an app guy.
And guess what — that was it. So, I kept not buying a phone for years. Fortunately, a few weeks ago, I found something that actually looked like it might be the right mix — for me — of cheap and useful… the Palm Pre 2.
Phone dorks will laugh at me for this, and I understand why. The Pre is not especially popular, the OS it runs is in flux, there’s a relatively small collection of apps, and the phone has a number of limitations, especially when compared to the big two listed above. But here’s the thing… what the Pre 2 actually does, it does really, really well. And, out of the box, it basically does everything I regularly do on a phone. Plus, it only cost fifty bucks, with no change to my plan.
I’m still figuring the thing out, but so far, it’s fast, smooth, and most importantly, has fantastic management of messages, contacts, and processes (you know, like when you are looking at a map while opening a web page and keeping an eye on your inbox). Perfect example of how it’s so good at being “useful” — you can just start typing anything, be it a name, number, place, app, e-mail, whatever, and it brings up a menu of things for you to do with it. When I start texting Jeff-tron, I can just start typing my message (and then say “new message”, and send to jeff), or I can type “Jeff”, and choose to start a new message… or call him, or email him, or whatever. And the whole thing — unlike the first Pre, from what I hear — is super smooth and crazy fast. None of the inconsistent scrolling or choppy animations I saw on a lot of Android machines.
I really, really like this phone. The biggest complaints/criticisms I hear from people about it are (1) the battery life is poor, (2) WebOS isn’t popular or well accepted, (3) the hardware is bad. Well, the battery isn’t great, but it gets me through the day and it charges with USB — which isn’t new to most people, but is new to me, so that’s cool. I don’t especially care if other people use my phone’s operating system, as even though apps are fun and useful, the phone’s core functionality is outstanding and that’s what I use 95% of the time. And finally, the hardware is kind of plasticky, but the screen glass is very nice, the phone seems generally solid, and the touch interface and overall speed of the phone is fantastic from a user experience point of view. I don’t need the thinnest phone, and the small, slightly stubby nature of the Pre is a lot less of a handicap for me than the sheer giganticness of the high-end Droids, even if they have beautiful, bright displays.
Anyways, that’s my phone. I like it, and I expect to have it for a while… but hopefully not as long as the last one.
I can post from my new phone. Still, that is not the most interesting thing to have happened this weekend.
Neither is this silly picture of the cat, but I felt obligated to include something from the new phone. Boy, these keys sure are tiny.