Monday, April 28, 2008

On Marketing

From the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

    The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy defines the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as "a bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes," with a footnote to the effect that the editors would welcome applications from anyone interested in taking over the post of robotics correspondent.

    Curiously enough, an edition of the Encyclopaedia Galactica that had the good fortune to fall through a time warp from a thousand years in the future defined the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as "a bunch of mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


There's a nice new picture on the right nav bar, courtesy of a particularly talented graphic artist. You may recognize his art from the Something Awful forums and the hand-puppet avatars in the comic book subforum there. If you're interested, his site and contact information is here. I'll be plugging him again.

This cosmetic change is the first of several that will take place around the various puppet shows; it will culminate in the launch of a new professional blog, because as much as I'd like to avoid it, I don't think I can get away from blogging as part of my job - because it will ultimately be a necessary networking and platforming tool.

In the meantime, enjoy the new artwork and look for more changes soon.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Long Weekend Road

I'm sitting on a National Express train back to London after a great weekend hiking in North Yorkshire. I needed a little time off, to myself, by myself. Booked three nights in a roadside inn (constructed 1680), grabbed some ordinance survey maps, planned some hikes and enjoyed getting away from London.

The trip originally had three purposes: to relax (done), to write (also done), and to try to figure out a general direction for myself. I'm pushing 30 and feel like I've been drifting, planless, long enough.

But what I realized before I left was that life isn't necessarily about plans. I discovered that I've never really gotten over my aborted plan to go to New York and Make It Big in Publishing, which was the sum total of my plans after college. In retrospect, as the magazine and publishing industry continues to contract and I'm enjoying a fairly lucrative career in digital PR, I'm not disappointed that I didn't Make It Big. But I've felt as though I've spent most of the last eight years adrift with very little in the way of a 'plan.'

My realization was this: life isn't necessarily about plans. It's about opportunities, about recognizing them and taking advantage of ones that are good for you. It's about seeing something that could potentially be good, whether it's for a career or a relationship or a hobby, and just doing it if it's right. Like moving into digital PR, or moving to London. Or taking a long weekend to Yorkshire and cranking out 10,000 words and a bunch of story and novel notes.

For the first time in my life I feel alright with not having a Plan. I regret some decisions I've made, but they have taught me much, and I stand by each one either as being good for me overall or at least teaching me some kind of lesson. And I can get caught in a snowstorm and still be prepared for it and recognize my limits - when it's time to turn back and try the mountain again the next day.

The funny thing about this is that the insight came before the trip on which I wanted to have it. I'm not complaining. I did get a lot of writing, and hiking, and thinking done. And had some really good Yorkshire ale. The black pudding, not as good. But still an experience.

I feel wholly confident that I can make time to do what I love and to separate my personal life from my work life - something I haven't been great at recently. And my Plan? To enjoy it as it comes. To go with the flow. It's funny: in college, if I'd said that, I would reply "that's Taoism, you took an entire course in that philosophy, remember!" And it only took eight years for the lesson to sink in.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Let Us Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Consoles

Yesterday I got up early to pack my 360 and all my Rock Band kit into a suitcase to drag it down Holloway Road, ride with it through the Tube, then drag it into my office so we could do our first planned office morale activity: play some Rock Band. That's doubly-cool because Rock Band isn't out here yet, so no one has had a chance to play around with it. I set up the Xbox, plugged it in, got all the instruments plugged in, ran through a test song to make sure everything was working correctly, turned it off until the session was about to start, came back and turned it on, watched as the menu froze, then watched as the startup screen froze, and then got the symbol you see above.

The Red Ring of Death.

The Red Ring of Death, or RROD, is what happens when there's a critical failure inside a 360 - it flashes three quarter-circles of red light to indicate that it's got a bit of a problem. It also means your console isn't working anymore and you have to send it to Microsoft so they fix it - and wait, console-less, for them to do so.

Now it's no mystery that I worked on the 360 account in my first days at Edelman, initially on the Corporate team and then on the Community team, before moving on to other accounts (and, that takes care of my transparency disclosure too.) I was excited to work on the 360 account because I came from traditional games, I thought the 360 was doing a lot of things right, and I liked the original Xbox a lot. I don't want to say that I was chugging the cool-aid, but I did buy the first 360 I could as soon as I could.

That one lasted about three months before its DVD drive failed, scratching some of my discs.

The next one lasted about six months or so before its DVD failed.

The one you see above is my third Xbox 360.

Additionally, I packed it into a box to ship over here around the first of November, so until recently I had been Xbox-less. It took far longer to get here than anticipated, so it was sitting unused in its box for a good part of the last few months. Since it got here, I haven't put it through any use it hadn't been through before - often I'm very good about turning it off and not playing for too long at any given time - not that I have time to do otherwise.

Now I've had a lot of consoles. I had an NES. It did start to get wonky, because some NES' had problems with their connectors going bad. Fixing it is an easy open-screw job. I have a Genesis. It still works fine. I had a SNES. Going strong. I have a Dreamcast that works like a charm. I have purchased a 2600, an Intellivision, a Colecovision, a Sega CD and Sega 32X, a Jaguar, a Turbo Graphix 16, a Saturn, and and Xbox, all of which work as well as they did when they rolled off the assembly line. I also have a PS2, which I had to replace twice, both times for the DVD drive failing. If I had purchased a piece of consumer electronics that failed three times on me, I would simply not buy it again or replace it after the third time.

Except in this instance I have hundreds of dollars of games for this device, so I'd really be screwing myself. So I will wait, patiently, for my the repaired console to come back.

I offer no judgment on this situation - I leave that up to you, Puppeteers. I'm only neutrally reporting what's happened to me and the fact that I will now likely have to wait two more months to get my console back. I also have to request my specific console back, because it's a US 360 and 360 games are region-coded - meaning if I just went out and got a UK 360, none of my games would work on it. And since I have to send it to the UK repair center (centre), I run the risk of them not returning my console to me at all but instead giving me one that won't work with my games.

In the meantime, as much as I'd love to play Rock Band or Crackdown with my friends back home - sorry guys, I'm going to have to sit the next few rounds out. I suppose you could send game requests to the repair center (centre) - I hear they have a lot of consoles there.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


Orion and MirandaThe cats have arrived and have adjusted nicely to living in a small flat. Well, almost nicely. The Beautiful Competition has discovered that she's allergic to them moreso than she was before - if she pets them and rubs her eyes, she has to take a Benadryl. I'm holding up alright but I can definitely tell the space is smaller.

But the biggest change is the box. I realize I run the risk of turning this whole post into some kind of poop joke, so I'll try to keep it to a minimum. But this is the first time both cats have used one litter box, and the clumping-nosmell-bakingsoda litter we used to use isn't available here. The flat is small, and the space for the box is minimum, so it's in the closet right as you walk in. So if it's dirty, you know.

Now don't surf away so quickly you read skidmarks: it's not as bad as some spoiled chocolate, only that you have to keep it clean. It's really just a matter of being careful, like stepping around roadapples or cowpies, or like you're repeatedly mulching your garden every spring. It's a matter of dilligence really. If you keep it free of floaters and regulate the tootsie rolls to the candy bowl, it's not much trouble.

The smell can get downright horrible however, as you might expect. Sometimes it's enough to give you the runs, and as summer approaches I fear that it will become even more craptacular, especially considering the overall flow of air in the flat isn't real great when we're away at work. We'll have to unplug things so that everything comes out in the end as the temperatures start to rise.