"Don't Forget to Play"    [ 11 ]   
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June 2010

 Flashbelt 2010


"Take pictures of things that are green!" implored my children as I packed for Minnesota. It took a while to discern what they meant by this. Dire is the environ causing children to beg for greenage!

Dave Schroeder

 Dave Schroeder

"Flashbelt" is one of the many Flash-centric conferences held annually around the world. Many believe it to be The Best in the United States, if not all of them.  Why?  I believe it's primarily because of Dave Schroeder. He is the heart & soul of the thing, organizing and running it for 7 years straight now, and just one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet in the industry .. or anywhere, for that matter. His easy-going manner attracts the very best of multimedia speakers and presenters from all around the world. His hometown sensibilities foster such a unique experience that Flashbelt, even over the more 'Flashier' conferences (sorry!) is not to be missed. The 'vibe' of his conference invites attendees to relax in the warm blanket of camaraderie found in the presence of other like-minded coders. Here at this conference you see a lot of flannel shirts, coffee, laptops and flip-flops . .. and that's often the presenters!

I typically arrive in Minneapolis lugging a single overstuffed backpack that I have learned to crowbar into and out of the overhead compartment on most jet airliners. Then it's a $1.75 toll to catch the light rail to the heart of the city. Jumping off in the shadow of the Metrodome, it's just short of a mile up Washington Avenue, across the 35W freeway, and to the Holiday Inn where this conference lives each June. This time, however, I followed the streets around the Metrodome to visit Bethlehem Baptist Church. The Senior Pastor is none other than John Piper, a genuine Christian scholar of our times. Think of a contemporary Americanized version of C. S. Lewis, and you've more or less got it. I figured that since Sunday was scheduled for an all-day workshop, I may as well attend a Saturday service here in a church not far removed from the non-Denominational church I call home back in Phoenix.

I arrived soggy from the rain just as the singing began, but happy to be in familiar enough digs so soon off the plane. I took a spot up in the balcony and dropped my backpack into a corner. Since this trip was about Flashbelt and not about going to church so much, I will say this much and then let it rest: Interim Pastor Kenny Stokes [??] preached a good sermon from 1 John 5:1-5, underscoring his message with Jeremiah 29:11 (of all verses!) talking about how just Incredibly MUCH God desires to communicate His love toward us, toward ALL mankind, all for the purpose of eternal fellowship in His Awesomeness! Sometimes I take myself and my life into consideration, and kind of question His choice in 'friends' . . But soon the service had ended, and I stepped through the kindly crowd back into the tender coolness of an early rainy evening in Minnesota. Just outside the foyer, I found this prolific tree just *bursting* with green so I took a photo for my chicklettes. A drizzly view of downtown follows:

~  GREEN  ~
 ~ GREEN ~
Minneapolis on a drizzly evening

It seems a tradition now I should arrive at this Holiday Inn good and soggy after landing in Minneapolis, though I believe my condition was wetter last year. I checked into my room, cleaned up a bit, caught a burger at the next door restaurant, then unpacked properly and prepped my laptop for tomorrow's all-day workshop.



 book: "Learning ActionScript 3.0"

Rich Shupe and Tom Bryant
 Rich & Tom

Rich Shupe, author of "Learning ActionScript 3.0" and all-around coolGuy , hosted an all-day workshop by the same title. Though I have dabbled in AS 3 since 2006, it finally came together and actually Made Sense for the first time today under Rich's guidance. Having a laptop on hand made all the difference in the world! Gotta give a big Shout Out to my I.T. crew who scrambled to hook me up with one a few days before I flew north. [Note to self: make sure to install WinZip on laptop next year, genius]

Rich demonstrated how to build CLASSES, and cast about so many Best Practices I could hardly write notes fast enough. I understand now the difference between 'capturing' and 'bubbling' events in the Display List, and why dynamically-created objects should always be positioned within themselves at 0,0 - naturally. ALWAYS end your eventListeners with "false, 0, true" because it makes for easier 'garbage collecting' (ie, cleaning up your code and loops so your viewer's CPU power is not squandered, which ultimately bogs down your carefully-timed Flash content). When architecting your code, encapsulate only areas of functionality. And best of all, we tied everything he taught us today together into a particle generation engine that pops out randomly-colored orbs from a point in the center of a black screen. This may seem esoteric at first, but the principles behind this *really* answer a lot of fundamental concerns that tend to plague new AS 3 coders. To commemorate this great achievement, I made that blinking steampunk-looking handle to simulate the electronic generation of those ghostly particles. And I figured out how to make it so you, The Viewer, can change the flow rate by clicking the mouse anywhere in the dark area, or by pressing [1] [2] [3] on the number keys above your QWERTY letters. For this exercise, I did not bother programming it to work with the number pad to the right on most keyboards, since I had already learned what I needed from this little experiment. "Fling"= high, "Fount"= medium, "Flow"= low.  Go ahead, check it out.  It's fun!


AS·3 Particle Generator  —►  click Mouse to change flow rate [or press 1 · 2 · 3 ]

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THANK YOU, Rich, for the great springboard into AS 3.0 Comprehension!

I decided to celebrate the day's success by hunting down a restaurant I had found last year on Hennepin Avenue: $25 for all-you-can-eat steak and sushi! ~ It takes approximately 30 minutes to stroll from the Holiday Inn to the downtown Barnes & Noble. And I think I found where that restaurant used to be - signs in the doorway and windows declaring a business had gone bust. So I continued on, a bit surprised to find a crowd of people standing on a nondescript curb holding Steve Martin albums, CD's and things. Parked at the curbside was an expensive looking tour bus, its windows tinted dark. They were lined up waiting for Steve Martin to enter the backstage door for his show tonight, hoping he might sign their stuff. Wow.! I walked around front and checked on tickets - all sold out. But this scene reminded me so much of the cover for Styx's 1981 "Paradise Theater" album I had to take a snapshot. No, I didn't stick around to see The Man himself.. the crowd seemed like hassle enough for the guy just to get to the backstage door . . so I did Steve Martin a huge favor by diminishing the pressing crowd by: one. I hope he appreciates my sacrifice.. I ended up at Applebee's for dinner, followed by the new "Karate Kid" movie. It's OK (the movie), and really shows off Jaden Smith and all (eight) good things about China. Then I cruised back to the hotel & emailed my chicklettes back home before turning in for the night.

 State Theater


Adobe guys Rich Galvan and Mark Anders opened the conference with their keynote presentation highlighting Stuff You Probably Already Knew About CS5. But I will say this about the just-released CS5 lineup:  Wow!  What these apps will allow developers to accomplish now, and web-based vidiots, and production teams seeking optimum workflow integration . . it just really blew me away!  Historically, I tend to wait a while after each new release of Flash before scoring a copy. Not this time! I can't wait to (figure out a way to) get my hands on Flash 11 for home use and match up with our tech-upgrades at work.  :-)

Of the three different conference tracks available, I leaned toward the more Creative side this year, checking into a few Tech talks in hopes of picking up some trade secrets for, say, optimizing video delivery on the web.

The ever-delightful Tali Krakowsky carried on last year's crusade (her life's passion) which is to create profoundly innovative interactive communications spaces that foster wonder, community togetherness, and just sheer fun. She continues to inspire by launching apologue, a creative force dedicated to the design and implementation of immersive storytelling environments.

I didn't really mean to "meet" anyone at the conference this year so much as just knuckle down and focus on honing those AS 3.0 skills. Along the way, I circumstantially met Anne, Amy, and Tali (collectively representing some 40% of the conference's female demographic) . . and Chuck. Let me tell you about Chuck. A local here in Minneapolis, he's a bit older than I, super-friendly, and just always ready to meet simply everybody! He's like the center pin on the Flashbelt networking plotboard, apparently knows everyone, and everyone knows him. He has attended every single Flashbelt since its inception, and is just a really nice guy. With only 400 or so attendees at Flashbelt, it's a wonder I didn't run into him last year, but now I too can say that I Know Chuck . . so I think I get an i♥MPLS t-shirt or something, eh?

Next, I checked out Charlie Whitney's presentation about . . mazes.  If there was some grandiose point he was trying to make, it was lost on me. I guess the real value was found by programmers in the room who are seeking ways to build semi-randomized game environs. [??] I am not one of those programmers.

I spent lunch fiddling with code to start tweaking my Rich Shupes' way-cool particle generator . . . stepped into Val Head's overview of After Effects just long enough to conclude it seemed too academic for my current ambitions, and slipped out to continue doodling with AS 3.

Lisa Larsen-Kelley seems like a really likable person - but her presentation entitled "Unraveling the Mysteries of Flash Video Delivery" revealed no mysteries I haven't already unraveled through my daily responsibilities at work. ~ I'm beginning to wonder if I actually know more about such stuff than I've suspected of myself to date..?

To close out the day, Jared Tarbell (another cool guy) shared a bunch of photos of lichen on rocks with all of us. No, I am not kidding. I flew all this way and sat there with laptop at the ready to look at close-ups of lichen. Some in attendance, I am sure, found this inspiring, or so I have read in one or two event reviews. I 'get' where Jared's coming from, I really do . . but finding such design in nature (and fabrics, architecture, whatever) is just a natural by-product of Being A Programmer, isn't it? I mean, aren't we all, all the time, finding designs and patterns in any number of unexpected resources? . . or is it just me.. and dudes like Jared?  Maybe some of us stared at those rocks from Jared's back yard and gained some revelatory creative insights . .. I dunno. I strongly doubt Jared (or anyone else) would get all fired up about viewing my own stylin' photos of railroad ties along the Mississippi river banks, or curious cloud formations during a summer hike up Mt. Humphreys last year –– . Pictures of rocks .. . I found myself almost wishing Hoss Gifford were back just to shake things up a bit.  [ For the record, I am not endorsing his FB`09 content so much as his zeal to challenge conventional norms ]

Head swimming in code, I took another stroll downtown to check out some music and more books, and found a little grocery store that had just opened up right there on Washington Avenue, run by Jim. So on my way back, I stopped to pick up some fruit & snacks. This, coupled with the de rigueur coffee found each morning outside of the lecture halls, would make breakfast a snap tomorrow. For dinner tonight, I stopped by the old Spaghetti Factory just down the street from the hotel.  Great digs .. meh food ..

Spaghetti Factory foyer
 Spaghetti Factory
SpagFac interior
 Spaghetti Factory

If you have never attended a conference, a choice part of the experience is found in an entirely different social arena than chairs lining the lecture halls. I speak of the after-hours events and parties funded by the conference promoters. Drinking isn't really my thing, but these parties are a great way to mingle with the living legends of your chosen industry, and lose yourself in a sea of other code-geek wannabe's  just like you!  Unfortunately, I missed every one of these events this time around. This first night featured a get-together at the far end of downtown . .. from where I had just hiked. Had I taken the time to study my conference booklet map beforehand, I might have planned for this and just remained on the west end. I thought it was going to be somewhere near the hotel. As it was, I arrived just as they were loading a bus to zip back down Washington Avenue for some fun and Minneapolis Art on Wheels, which I was really looking forward to checking out. But I had to drop off some stuff first, so I cranked up the elevator to the 13th floor – yes, they do have a 13th floor – and then quite literally 'missed the bus'.  So, next year, I'll be sure to get a room on a lower floor and examine the schedule/map a little more closely -- lesson learned.



Nice stroll from Holiday Inn to Dinkytown

 map to Dinkytown

 Jen Shiman

Today's stand-out session was definitely Jen Shiman's "Flash for Independent Cartoon and Comic Projects". For those who don't know her by name, Jen is the creative force behind "The 30-Second Bunnies Theatre" showcased at angryalien.com. (PARENTAL WARNING: some racy themes and/or strong language can crop up as she stays relatively true to the movies she parodies) With her trademark mop of curly hair and ready smile, she comes across as a bit of a reserved soul, but laughed along with the rest of us as she demo'ed a few of her 68 bunny `toons before outlining how to make a go of it as a freelance animator using Flash (Flash 8 to be precise, for optimal export-to-video performance). She even detailed how to structure Library elements for best reusability. I've read of such things before, but to see a FLA file cracked open like this and displayed 'in a real life' was really enlightening. I couldn't take notes fast enough! Then a day later, I happened to meet her in person during an afternoon mixer. She is very approachable and just super nice, but it seems she is done with bunnies for a while. Her contract with "STARZ" (TV network) concluded with her 68th short, so she means to hang up the bunnies for a while and try something new for a change . . must be nice — Over the years, I have met a number of Flash animators... the JibJab guys, the talent driving Hoops and Yoyo, the Brothers Chap with Homestar Runner, and Sandro Corsaro, just to name a few. They all speak the same language, inspiring us wanna-be's with their passions and dedication to 'just give it a try'. I am very glad to have met Jen at this year's conference.

At a different session today, I also learned that the New And Exciting *HTML5* is really nothing so much as HTML 4+ as adopted by the world at large a few years back. ("Wizard feels more experienced!") Simply put, HTML5 is the next version of HTML with some new <EMBED> tags. Yes, these tags allow an easier means to drop a video onto a web page if that is your goal; however, HTML5 is not a development environment on the scale of Flash. It's HTML with perks, or if you prefer, HTML that has been updated and modernized for today's web experience. Everyone in the world will be encountering more and more HTML5-based web pages as new browser technologies and versions "invisibly" implement it exactly the same way as previous versions of HTML. The recent 'fruitalicious' hype surrounding HTML5 is nothing more than Apple sewing "HTML5" onto their Down With Flash banners for the general non-techie populace out there, causing them undue angst in hopes that the masses will react by throwing their money at Uncle Steve to 'make the bad go away'. On a personal note, I will likely employ HTML5 to build whatever my next web pages will be, which (as always) will serve the purpose of framing the variable-rich interactive content developed in Flash.

Then there was Jared Ficklin's closing presentation showcasing his latest experiments with sound-generated patterns through fire.  Yes, fire.  If you haven't seen Jared in action .. well .. you just have to see this guy . . . He's like a 9-year-old pyro with his scientist Daddy's resources and a garage full of combustibles!  Great stuff!  :-)

 Minneapolis skyline

This night, I knew when and where the party was, and resolved to make it after a while. So I caught a quick dinner at a ▒blecchy▒ Chinese stop around the corner, then returned to the hotel to read a chapter in a book . . . and passed out listening to the Cure.

I awoke with a start well past the time I had wanted to make the party. —— perfect.

So I decided to cruise around with my digital camera and see if I could snap some night pix of the Minneapolis area.. it gets dark really late here in the summertime. I left the hotel, headed north, crossed the Mississippi over some freeway bridge, and eventually stumbled upon 'Dinkytown': University of Minnesota's answer to Phoenix's Mill Avenue. It's a handful of city blocks catering to the college set (though I passed plenty of families and suit-&-tie types) with decorative storefronts and dozens of hang-out spots for pedestrians & bicycle-gliding students. Some entrances are marked by nothing but a gritty stairwell plunging into some cavernous deli hunkered directly beneath the storefront before you .. It's weird... cool, but almost obscene, like diving into a vast underwear drawer stowed beneath a jewelry shop. We don't really have that sort of thing in Phoenix, see.. I eventually found a book store and one (1) copy of the unaccountably hard-to-find "Lord of the Flies" for Jessica's Freshman summer reading assignment, then ended up chillin' at a wobbly metal table outside of the Espresso Royale Caffe, sippin' some caramelly brew.

The walk back across the foot bridge (below) was nice. The summer weather here is spectacular. I can literally feel the moisture in my skin, which is quite a freakish experience given the customary cracking dryness of Phoenix. Back at the hotel, ERC's crazy-strong coffee had me climbing the walls, so I watched a movie I'd brought along from a few I'd been meaning to see again. I am here to tell you that "The Right Stuff" is a looooooooooong movie... what with the dancing feather woman of Houston, and the Australian aborigines fanning bonfire sparks up to John Glenn's orbiting capsule [??] What's up with that?? The thing weighs in at a hefty 193 minutes . . That's 3¼ hours to you and me... and I started it well after midnight . .

The walking bridge
 walking bridge
Out front of the Espresso Royale Caffe



 Love to Learn

Last day of the conference: After Rich Shupe's all-day workshop on Sunday, he hosted his official all-bulletins session this morning, demonstrating even more Coolio ActionScriptonia, including a dream-come-true preloader machine called "LoaderMax".  I'll have to download that and get jiggy with it sometime . . .

 no AS programmers

Seb Lee-Delisle showed off some nice real-time sound/video-mashup techniques, and encouraged us all to Learn to Love to Learn. I suspect this comes rather naturally to most everyone in attendance, but it's always nice to hear. He also had some refreshing wisdom to share regarding the whole Apple thing. "I still have an iPhone," he said, and then ducked behind his podium. Opinions about Steve Jobs varied -- mostly sour -- but nobody I spoke with seemed in a panic about it. Many of these industry leaders did indeed drop their Apple products as soon as Mr. Jobs laid down the heavy a couple months ago, citing how everyone they know in their professional circles are doing the same, with no intention of upgrading residual Mac products as they age. These same professionals aim to pour their ample skillsets into All The Other Flash-Supporting Products and Platforms (ie, the rest of the world market) that *do* work with and support Flash technology. However, Lee indicated that he is keeping his iPhone, and pointed out how "we are not ActionScript programmers" but are simply "programmers". His reasoning is that before ActionScript, we developed products in other programming languages.. HTML, Java, JavaScript, Visual Basic, C++, etc.. Someday when Flash and ActionScript are a distant memory, we will still be plying our trade in this niche, developing applications in Some Other programming language to suit the need. He intends to work in as many mediums as he can. Except for the 'jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none' trepidation that comes with trying to cast one's net across an ever-expanding palette of programming languages, I agree whole-heartedly with Seb's position. Most people I talked with just rolled their eyes at Steve Jobs' flat-out lies. One presenter spent a few minutes illustrating, point-by-point, where Apple's propaganda veers from the Facts, or mis-represents matters to the unsuspecting, non-coding public. It seems that everyone is taking a wait-and-see approach to this whole mess Apple has spawned by its choice to NOT support Flash in their apps and platforms.. unlike the rest of the Cosmos. The bottom line is, I think, that Apple devotees will continue to slurp up every word tumbling from Steve-the-geeks' marketing campaign, while he seems content to saw off a devoted (until now) corporate leg by insulting 90% of the world's developers. In my humble opinion, he really screwed up by taking such a hard approach, brazenly attempting to force the world to Mac-ify or die. Some developers are *really* angry about this. . . seriously.  Apple lost a lot of street-cred by doing this which, in turn, will be augmented by the decisions multimedia developers will make around the world in the months/years to come. VHS vs Beta .. HDVD vs BluRay .. Apple vs Adobe . .  As always, time (and the tech-world's spending base) will tell in the end.  (IBM vs. Apple, anyone?)

 Branden Hall

Moving right along, Branden Hall picked up Seb's creative thread and spoke of the value of *playing* while programming. He heartily encourages experimentation and test-tube shattering mistakes, sometimes resulting in happy accidents, all the while celebrating those little victories when your code hops through the right hoops and actually WORKS! (it's alive.. it's ALIVE!!) He introduced HYPE – a coding framework built on top of ActionScript 3 – designed to allow creative programmers (beginners and veterans) the ability to develop their Creative Inspirations more rapidly, all while learning more AS 3 just in using the Hype framework.  Truly Inspired!  Another resource I must investigate soon with shameless abandon . . .

After attending a polite and informative Q&A panel (Tali Krakowsky, Jared Ficklin, Caroline Oh, Philp Visnjic), I remained in my seat for the next session showcasing Mario Klingemann's latest inspirations. Keep in mind, Branden Hall claims Mario as his #1 Flash inspiration .. How surreal, then, to be seated two meters away from Mario during his presentation, Rich Shupe and I jostling each other in the glow of Rich's twittering laptop, Jen Shiman seated just behind us, and Chuck nearby, all of us at the front of the crowd taking in Mario's latest visions . . . Afterward, Jen and I chatted about frame rates (she prefers 15fps) and other animation techniques. Just truly cool stuff whatever way you slice it! Anyway, one of the projects Mario showcased called "Scribbler Too" actually stands on the shoulders of a previous work imagined and realized by the legendary Ze Frank.

~   Ze Frank   ~
 Ze Frank

For those of you unfamiliar with Ze Frank's online stylings... if you know the sacred words "Ni" "Peng" and "Neee-wom" and find that you still have a soft spot in your heart for John Cusack's "One Crazy Summer", then do yourself a favor and check out Ze's website ... in particular, his 'The Show' which he produced and released each weekday for an entire year (March 17, 2006, to March 17, 2007 – PARENTAL WARNING: he often seasons his material with Questionable Verbiage, and has a wicked dislike for babies who stare.. you've been warned) He's kind of this one-man Force To Be Reckoned With in the www frontier, a hyper-cutting, non-blinking, online mashup of Dave Barry at his sauciest, with the stage presence of Steve Martin. That's a good thing, in case you're wondering. He dances, he sings, he interacts fanatically with his audiences. In fact, it's a wonder we haven't seen him at a Flashbelt lately. NOTE TO SELF: Recommend in Dave's after-belt survey he should invite Ze for as a speaker for next year –and what the heck, let's shoot the moon and see if we can shake Adam Phillips from his trailer down under to come on over and blow the minds of some of these American Creative Types .. .


Rounding out the day was Jeremy Thorp's nostalgic look back at how 'HyperCard' set the stage for two branches of current RIA coding languages: HyperTalk led to HyperText which has now evolved into HTML5. One may argue that HyperCard also inspired Lingo (in Director.. remember that app?) which led to ActionScript 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. Time would not allow him to wax poetic on JavaScript or C++, but I appreciated his presentation nonetheless.

Another absolutely fabulous side effect of multimedia conferences are the t-shirts. I'm not talking about the ones traditionally lobbed from the stage by willing speakers and sponsors .. which by the way have become anemic in the extreme lately. When did it become so conference-cool to design "fun" t-shirts consisting of some base color and a shapeless blotch to one side of the neckline? I must have missed that memo. A couple of the good ones found wandering the halls just floored me - I had to stop and ask their owners where/how they came across two of the best I saw this week (woot & threadless of course):

Flash and the poison Apple
Flash and the poison Apple

Chuck insisted that I make it to the after-hours party at Nye's Polonaise Room tonight (featuring the World's Most Dangerous Polka band) so I dumped the last of my conference stuff upstairs and, after consulting my schedule and map, made ready to stroll downtown and Be Ready this time for the Party! ..But not before recording some final thoughts about this year's Flashbelt experience:

  • No Hoss this time, but plenty of cornstarch

  • To wit: non-Newtonian liquids are super cool and kind of creepy all at once

  • You will be hard-pressed to find anything hipper these days than a woot or threadless t-shirt

  • Catching up with the Rich & Famous: In addition to photography, Aral Balkan has kept himself busy lately developing 'Feathers' for Twitter and FaceBook

  • CodePunk: dirt-style steampunk webDev ROX!  /  but dull pro·work pays . .

Ridley Scott directed "Alien", "Blade Runner", "Legend", and "Gladiator" so I thought his latest Russell Crowe vehicle would be a sure-fire hit, but I was wrong. I cruised downtown and caught "Robin Hood" and kind of wished I hadn't. How could one of the world's greatest directors working with a star like Russell Crowe miss the mark so badly? I can barely remember *anything* from it . . whereas moments from the aforementioned movies remain as arrestingly fresh in my imagination as the first day I viewed them. ~ anyway . . .

Downtown Groundskeeper
~   der Phoenix in Minneapolis   ~

By mid-evening of this last night in Minnesota, I had called my children at home and strolled up Hennepin Avenue to Nye's, but didn't recognize any Flashbelters there, which is strange because I thought the party would be hitting full swing just about now. So I continued further up Hennepin to the Pink Hobo art gallery. Maybe a few might still be hanging around there at the pre-Nye's exhibit. I recognized no one there either, and began to doubt my conference map. Last year, Pink Hobo hosted a variety of artists and all sorts of different exhibit types, including a captivating fuzzy-critter light show interacting with real-world objects (very cool). This year, instead of presenting something so blasé as Actual Art, large framed QR codes were spaced equidistantly all over the place. The promo for this exhibition read: "At Pink Hobo, cell phones with QR code apps will be able to 'read' the artwork. When scanned properly, smart phones with the proper programs installed will be redirected to URLs where they will find original artwork, music, videos, and other creative ventures that they can take with them and share with others." Since my government-issued mobile phone was not a smart phone "equipped with the proper program", I could not partake of the prime-colored squares lining the walls. Of course, I could have just found someplace to surf the web for 'original artwork, music, videos and other creative ventures' but that would subvert the entire gimmick . . and where would the fun be in that? — I know, I know .. I'm missing the whole point because I failed to secure the latest techno-contrivance for this event. Man, I was lucky just to get a laptop, let alone download/secure/install more 'proper programs' for something in which I may, or may not, have found any lasting value. -- I think this whole Apple fiasco just made me a bit more punchy than usual over something as innocuous as this.

 Pink Hobo
QR code 'art'

I decided to cut along the northern side of the Mississippi and "Take the Long Way Home", 4th Street south-easterly .. and unexpectedly found myself back at Dinkytown! So, 24 hours after I had found it, I was back at the same rickety table with another one of those caffeine bombs in hand. Only this time, an acoustic 2-guitar band played through open windows at Blarney's pub across the street. I could heard the small but enthusiastic crowd singing to their setlist of standards . . Eagles tunes, some Springsteen, John Mayer's "Waiting on the World to Change" and "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson. Of all the catchy danceable tunes unleashed by MJ during his 50 years with us, it surprises me how the world has apparently selected this one song as the defacto MJ tune. In the past 12 months, I think I've heard it more than all of his other classics combined. I guess with everyone Going Green these days, and him being kind of the unspoken Emo Prince of the world, it was a toss-up between "Earth Song", "Heal the World" or "Man in the Mirror" . . .  and this one prevailed.  Not that this is a "Bad" thing -(heh)- I just never suspected the King of Pop to be memorialized by this chugging anthem rather than his more genre-defining hits, you know?



Got up · checked out · caught the hotel shuttle to the light rail platform with none other than Mario Klingemann. Awkward post-conference encounters occur when the buzz is gone and globe-trotting speakers have Home (or Destination: Next) on their minds. We exchanged a pleasant "hi" and I scooted back so he could climb into the van. He dresses impeccably, this guy, stylin' suit & all.. so European Travel ..very nice indeed. I, being Phoenix-bound where triple-digit temperatures awaited me in the shade, already glowed like a whitecicle in the back of the van.. all skinny white legs, jeans shorts, trademark Hawaiian shirt, topped off with a Pirates of the Caribbean ball cap over hair I didn't care if I had combed. Like I said, I didn't bother the man. I'm sure he preferred it this way. Strange to be older than the cats I admire in our professional circles .. .

I remained on the train while breezing through the airport, bent on some quality time in the ridiculously enormous Mall of America, and read this inevitable headline in 'USA Today':

Steve Jobs vs Flash

AT&T, Best Buy suspend early orders as
hundreds of thousands seek new model

Apple's moment in the sun, twisting gleefully into a self-congratulating corporate pretzel for successfully executing a 'Job' well done, per iPlans A-through-F. How much money, I wonder, have they pumped into the mainstream media for 'leaked' devices, blatant product placements, and fawning reviews? Quite revealing how, a couple weeks later, Apple released one public statement after another first denying iPhone4's dodgy connectivity issues, then claiming to be "stunned" about their findings, then claiming that, OK they really did know about this problem, but oh-my-gosh their formula for displaying signal bars has been faulty for all these years in iPhone products .. But instead of offering their not-so-adoring-anymore public tangible condolences in the form of, oh I dunno, a free rubber bumper to remedy some of the signal degradation, or (*gasp*) maybe a viable technical solution someday, the indomitable Mr. Jobs ordered his sales team to charge any complaining customer $30 for said bumper, and then he topped it all off by insulting, of all people, Apple's loyal fan base by saying, "You're just holding it wrong." - A cell phone, we're talking about, here .. .

~   Unbelievable.   ~

For what it's worth, I have never heard anyone say, "Just stop clicking with the mouse - you're just clicking it wrong," when activating a button in a Flash app, say... or offer to sell a prosthetic to place over one's mouse to help it 'click better' . .  ~  What a tap-dancing, flaming-tennis-ball-juggling joke bag of excuses. "Oh, we didn't know..." Again, just for the record, I entirely agree with and support a market system of free enterprise and competitive trade. It's the deception of a trusting consumer base that really shorts my circuits. That is not the way an honorable man/corporation conducts business . .. but apparently it's good enough for Apple. Ironic, isn't it, how they have become the new IBM powerhouse forcing their own brand of Assumed Control upon the globe..? At first I felt really upset that such a prominent leader in our cutting-edge industry would stoop to such low schemes. But now, while Apple grudgingly owns up to one deception after another (just a couple of recent articles for instance) and staggers forward with egg accumulating on their once smooth-finish face, Google/Android is busy Getting It Right.  Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO of Google, had this to say about their method and manners: "We don't have a plan to beat Apple, that's not how we operate. We're trying to do something different than Apple and the good news is that Apple is making that very easy."   . . just . .    wow, Steve . .  we won't taze you bro, but . . .

Caribou Coffee


So I skittered into the engineering brainiac explosion that is the Mall of America, found a Caribou Coffee (best in the U.S.) and spent some time at the f.y.e. music store collecting rarities onto a U-burn-it CD. Then back to the airport where my flight had been delayed an hour or so. As it turned out, we flew out from Minneapolis just ahead of a wicked tornado storm front that just dropped out of the clear blue sky. I spent the next three hours sandwiched between two businessmen jabbing at their laptops, the one to my right preoccupied with picking his left nostril all the way across the nation - deeply, imploringly - wiping the fruit of his efforts upon his opposite sleeve . . then reaching precariously close to my little cup of Diet Coke while I read, quietly, trembling. We couldn't land soon enough, but then . . . well . . Phoenix.  Dusty, 100°+ sun blazing down upon the hard-packed dirt land - instant sweat.. a mean, pervasive sweat in mockery for daring to lug a backpack under the sun's unceasing gaze. And this was a 'cool' June day in Phoenix.

An hour later, I stepped into our home to be greeted by my daughters - like a bed of fresh blooming flowers, pedals reaching out for hugs and smiles beaming in welcome. Even in a valley-sized oven, such homecomings are blessed events indeed!  -  I slept 12 hours.

The next day, to my astonishment, I discovered that Phoenix — sickly hot, sweaty, dust-devil and trash-swirling Phoenix — hosts some multimedia mixer events that I, ever questing to escape the desert city, never noticed before. And they are right here in town . . .


  •  TEDx Phoenix

  •  Ignite Phoenix

  •  Pecha Kucha Night


just Play

  Still apologizing to Robert Smith
10  (2010)
(2010)  12