Friday, 25 March 2005

I did a bit of housekeeping today too. The main thing is that I added the icons on the left and bumped in the text a little bit.

One thing that’s always bothered me about this layout is the text size. It’s not so bad on the main page, but when you get in the stories it gets a bit dense. I keep playing around with the design on my development server, but can’t decide what to do.

Some time ago, on a private mailing list populated by several friends and acquiaintances, my friend Patrick brought up an interesting idea.

On two separate occasions he had run into friends of his father and they each told a similar story. Each had emigrated to the United States, leaving everything behind and starting over once they got here. One was Somali, and arrived in the US just a couple years ago. The other, from Nigeria, moved here in the early 90's.

After they got settled, they joined with several men from their respective countries to form a club of sorts. The groups were intentionally kept small. If it got to be more than 8 or 9 people, they'd split into smaller clans. They’d rather have 3 groups of 8 rather than a single battalion of 24 members.

They agreed to meet once or twice each week, promising to be there no matter what. No other appointments came before this meeting. Much like any other group, they would talk about their families, share stories from their lives back home, and share their goals.

But it went much deeper than that.

Together they would decide which goal came fist and contribute $50 each week toward attaining it. Once the first goal was reached, they'd work towards the second, then third; until each person had what they wanted.

The contribution wasn't always financial either. If the first goal was to get someone their taxi license and lease a cab, he might chip in with rides for the families of other group members. If one goal was to own a coffee shop, they'd all work towards it and reap the benefit of free coffee and a place to meet while they worked toward the next project.

In this way, they were all able to to grab their share of the American Dream—to prosper despite being a long way from home and starting with nothing. Just by sharing their dreams, working hard, and bonding together in a true community.

Patrick brought this up because he was hoping that we were the right size group and might adopt the same kind of arrangement. We even had one opportunity, chipping in to get Daren a Mac. Patrick or Tomas could help find the best deal and the return on the investment would be free Linux assistance—Daren being quite good at it.

Unfortunately it didn’t come together. As a group we didn't seem to gel in that fashion. Nobody truly stepped up to the plate and the idea just died. One example of why might have come from Bill, who quickly replied, “Me first! Everybody chip in $50 so I can get a somethingorother.”

While I’m sure Bill was joking, I’m sure we all had similar thoughts, “What’s my dream and how can I get it to the top of the list?” He was just the first to vocalize it.

Then I started adding it up. Even if we met once a week, that would be $200 per person, per month. Not many of us have $200 to spare in a month; I’d certainly have a hard time of it. But if we could, imagine how fast that could work with 6 or 8 people in the group.

And don’t forget that the contribution doesn't have to be in the form of money.

Each of us could offer our expertise among a broad range of subjects. For Daren it would be Linux administration and networking. Hjalmer could offer music and Windows advice. Patrick would bring Mac and music to the mix. I'd add Web design, networking and databases. And those are just the people I know the best and their technical abilities. I'm sure the others would have something to offer.

There is another handicap, perhaps more cippling than the cash outlay; our complete inability to agree on a time and place for dinner, even as a one-time event. Herding cats would be easier than trying to coordinate a recurring meet-up. To plan a single gathering requires at least a week of email exchanges to decide the meeting time. Then it’s another week to pick the place. Once everything settled, someone invariably comes up with a conflict and a third of the group no-shows.

I just don’t see the group of us actually making the time commitment and truly honoring it.

The problem may lie at a more fundamental level too. For some reason it's hard to see the good in contributing to a community. I think it comes from growing up in America, largely without want. We have evolved into a competitive society that encourages short-term goals and looking out for our own interests rather than working toward a common goal.

I still believe it’s possible, in spite of the problems and the cultural shift.

One reason I hold out hope: there were several years where I didn’t drive. I was totally dependent family, friends and mass-transit to get around. In return for rides and the occasional assist in hauling a large load, I'd never turn down a request for help with something else, especially building something.

When it came time to drive again, my dad gave me his old truck. Even though he didn’t ask for anything in return, I’ll help him haul anything he needs, provide computer support and other projects if at all possible. I did it even before the gift of wheels. It’s just how we operate as a family.

In a sense, my family does exactly what Patrick is talking about. It’s not that hard—painless really. It starts with the realization that the world doesn't revolve around any single individual.

Why can’t it work for a half-dozen guys connected through long-term friendships? What’s to stop us from pulling this off, each coming up with attainable goals and offering something back to the group?

Thursday, 24 March 2005

Israeli designer Michael Levy offers up Coltrane like it’s never been seen before.

Levy says in his introduction, “When I listen to music I see colors and shapes and when I watch visual art I hear sounds.I wanted to express my sensing of shapes colors and music in this short movie…

“The structural approach of John Coltraine to music is associated with architectural thinking. The musical theme defines a space and the musical improvisation is like someone drifting in that imaginary space.”

Wednesday, 23 March 2005

Found some extremely cool pictures of an abandoned Japanese Island. (Found via Satan’s Laundromat — Itself a very cool site.) Ignore the not-so well-designed index page and click through to the slideshows. Absolutely stunning.

Tuesday, 22 March 2005

Just today I finished putting the archives of the main page notes on-line. Not that it’s interesting reading, in fact, precisely the opposite. I wouldn’t really recommend going back and reading through it all unless you have trouble sleeping.

Friday, 11 March 2005

There are still some quirks to figure out, but I’ve installed Movable Type to handle the notes on the front page.

Until now, I was using a custom script and manually updating text files that contained each comment itself. It was a pain in the butt, so I rewired it.

Templates and archives are still to be done, but the biggest thing was getting the main page going.

Wednesday, 09 March 2005

The Onion this week is carrying a good interview with one of my musical heroes throughout the years, Thomas Dolby.

It’s interesting what he has to say about his career in music, electronic music in general, and his current projects.

Wednesday, 02 March 2005

Friends, family, and even co-workers have heard me rave on about Kaki King. She’s #1 on my Top CDs list for both 2003 and 2004. So you can imagine how delighted I was to learn she was playing two nights at the Dakota. Yes, I went both nights.

I had never been to the Dakota before. They were originally in Bandana Square, but moved a few years ago into a space downtown. It’s a nice layout and has a feel suited to Jazz performances. I think the food is a bit overpriced (or the portions are too small), but it’s done well and suits the tenor of the club.

I loved the show, but was at the same time disappointed. Kaki was the opening act and, with two shows each night, she only got a 30-35 minute set. I was really left wanting more. She’s a very dynamic guitar player and I can’t say enough good things about her music. I even managed to get her autograph after her set the first night. I can die happy now.

Matt Wilson’s Arts and Crafts (warning, the Web site is pretty awful—thankfully the music was better.) was the main act. A quartet with Wilson on drums, Ron Miles on trumpet, Larry Goldings on piano and Hammond B3, and Dennis Irwin on contra-bass. They played what I call noodly-jazz. Creating music through seemingly random playing and apparent discord.

Here’s where I’m not sure what to think. The audience seemed to appreciate the show, which left me feeling somewhat left out. I guess I don’t understand this sub-genre of Jazz. To me Doc Severenson plays Jazz. Regina Carter plays Jazz. Benny Goodman played jazz.

What struck me is that if I had stuck with banging on my mom’s kitchen pots and flailing at my grandparents piano and organ, I could be a touring Jazz musician.

I realize it’s a limitation in my musical taste, but there you have it. At least I got to see Kaki King play live. I just hope she comes back for a headlining gig soon.