So my days usually start with a quick scan of craigslist--specifically, the "computer gigs" sections of major US cities (NYC, DC, SF, etc.). This is where people post requests for websites, or web applications, or desktop software applications. Going through it every day, you grow used to seeing quite a few annoying posts. There are myriad sub-genres, but they all fit quite well under the general heading of "retarded". People requesting completely unrealistic applications; people requesting a $5000 website who, unfortunately, can only pay $400; or, my favorite, an "exciting new startup" in the "first rounds of VC" who have planned the "next big social networking site"--they can't offer any pay, but they can offer you "an exciting opportunity getting in on the ground floor" of the Next Big Thing. Never--I mean never--underestimate the self-delusional capacity of an MBA.

Lately I've been seeing more "rally cry" posts from knowledge workers who are fed up with sifting through so much bullshit. While often snarky, they make for great reading. In the world of digital freelancing, it's the equivalent of bitching about the boss in the break room. A post from today's DC board is the best I've seen:

If you want to hire a developer DO NOT request work samples. Doing so indicates that you have absolutely no idea about what is involved in programming an application and you identify yourself as potential employer who is unaware of the actual time requirements and cost of completing the task.

IF AND ONLY IF you are ready to receive gigabytes of source code to analyze, configure a development including web server, databases etc, build / compile and deploy several software applications then DO ASK for work samples. If you actually expect to receive URLs to websites than you are confusing a programmer with a graphic designer and you should NOT ASK for work samples.

It is just as banal as asking choosing a heart surgeon based on pictures of faces of his previous patients. A website will tell you NOTHING about the skills of the programmer. It won't tell you if they can make the site secure (unless you are ready to do penetration testing but will likely go to jail for hacking).

It won't tell you if their code is stable, efficient, well documented, scalable and you can't even tell what language the server side components were written in. What is the point of asking a java or php developer for a URL? There isn't one.

So as not to be a complete ranting troll, I will offer a suggestion as to how you can really evaluate potential developers. The best way is to have them questioned by someone who knows what they are talking about to evaluate their technical skills. You should also evaluate their work ethic and reliability by requesting (and actually following up) reference. This does not have to be always references for related jobs since you want to find out from some source if the person is reliable, committed and won't flake out on you after 3 weeks so that you have to start all over. If you don't have any way to evaluate their technical skills then ask for references for technical jobs so that you can get a 3rd opinion.

Finally, PLEASE - have realistic expectations. Don't expect someone to make a site similar to facebook by next Wednesday for $300. If you get 6 responses for your project and all of them quote you $3000 for some project and one guy quotes you $750 than DO NOT Go with that guy. The cost savings will mean that basically you are going to pay $750 for something that doesn't work and will be unusable by future developers you will eventually hire after he doesn't call you back for 7 weeks.

Amen, brother. Amen.


friday funnies

Last night, after watching this talk between Douglas Rushkoff and Daniel Pinchbeck, I attempted to sketch out a future blog post discussing potential ways for spiritually-minded people to engage others without sounding like complete fucking hippies. Or, how does one discuss the entheogenic experience--an ordeal that most often completely transcends linguistic descriptions--without sounding like a Coloradan new age book shop employee? I'm still working out the details, but the prognosis looks negative. To wit, the following craigslist post. Enjoy:

DC-area jam band seeks patchouli-smelling, technically-proficient individual to tape its live shows and post them to archive.org.

we've got a digital recording device you can use, and for the last year we've been slicing up our recordings in audacity and posting them to archive.org. we would really like to outsource this work to (or supplement it with) somebody who can name at least 10 instrumental originals by the dead, phish, string cheese or a similar band whose name i'm way too high to remember right now.

we play 1-4 shows per month: mostly bars and clubs, but would be willing to play cornfields and other outdoors venues if candidate requires overnight stay for "a more authentic experience" or whatever.

if you're too much of a sell-out to not just do it for the music, we might be able to pay you depending on your resume and how many tie-dyed articles of clothing you can confirm owning -- that is, if you believe in material ownership in the first place (if you're not, we're cool with that, too).

rock on,

local jam band


where's waldo?

i've lost count, but i've sent out at least 42 copies of my resume over the last month. i've heard back from exactly three people. now, i realize my resume is nothing to write home about, but a seven percent rate of return? ridiculous.

while thinking of unique ways to fallaciously pad said resume, i got to thinking of the prevalence of the middle finger in my facebook profile picture. sure enough--i google my name, and wham! the big fuck you.

i suppose the straightforward solution would be to change my facebook picture to something a little more congenial. but, given the pride i take in bird throwing, that really didn't sit well with me.

so the next step was google. or, more to the point, why the hell is my facebook profile showing up in google results? basically, google works by crawling the web, going from webpage to webpage, following all the links on any given page. by following link after link after link, google constructs its view of the internets. it keeps an indexed record of the contents of every page it lands on, and through this mechanism it is able to serve your search results. but a page like facebook is a little different; google can't just start at facebook.com and crawl its way to every profile page. profile pages are not linked back to a central locus; therefore, for a profile page to show up in google search results, facebook must be proactively publishing user profile pages so that google can easily index them.

after a little digging, i discovered that this is exactly what is happening. from your facebook home page, go to "settings" --> "privacy settings" --> "search". at the bottom of this page there is an option to create a public search listing for your profile. deselect this shit.

without going into a winded privacy diatribe, it's pretty shady of facebook to enable this option by default. privacy options should default to the most restrictive, not the other way around. it would do the engineers at facebook well to review their CS1 course notes; apparently they've forgotten about the principle of least privilege.

anyways, my profile picture does not currently feature my middle finger, but you wouldn't be able to figure that out via google.


real before everything

(following drew's lead, i've abandoned capitalization. potential exceptions for Proper Nouns and camelCase)

in the beginning, after all, were the words, and they came with a tune. that was how the world was made, how the void was divided, how the lands and the stars and the dreams and the little gods and the animals, how all of them came into the world.

they were sung.

the great beasts were sung into existence, after the singer had done with the planets and the hills and the trees and the oceans and the lesser beasts. the cliffs that bound existence were sung, and the hunting grounds, and the dark.

songs remain. they last. the right song can turn an emperor into a laughingstock, can bring down dynasties. a song can last long after the events and the people in it are dust and dreams and gone. that's the power of songs.

there are other things you can do with songs. they do not only make worlds or recreate existence. fat charlie nancy's father, for example, was simply using them to have what he hoped and expected would be a marvelous night out.

- neil gaiman, "anansi boys"

so i'm presently living with johnny la in dc, enjoying life and doing my best to wrap my country head around the city life. save for the hours i spend looking for freelance software development gigs, it's just tops. (sidenote: if you are a straight male, craigslist has little to offer you. skip it. however, if you are a female of any stripe, craigslist can afford you the opportunity to never work another day in your life) on sunday i was paid to teach a masseur how to use pro tools and ableton live. i guess craigslist worked.

when i first got here, john was playing a lot of chris garneau. it was tolerable until i found out that chris was a dude. really, though, it was just really depressing music. it was a bit of a blessing, admittedly; given the litany of saddish music i've been coming back to in the last month, mr. garneau was the straw that broke my back.

i've since insisted upon a strict no-bummer-music policy in the apartment. draconian, perhaps, but it should be remembered that remembering a song can often get in the way of forgetting something that might best be forgotten. but frightened rabbit does get played from time to time.

songs i'm glad to be hanging out with:
"astral weeks" - van morrison
"graceland" (as in the whole album) - paul simon
"vogt dig for kloppervok" - the books
"luckiest man" - the wood brothers
"if work permits" - the format
"priority" - mos def

songs i'll meet again, another day:
"the blind leaving the blind: 1st and 2nd movements" - punch brothers
"i was only going out" - loney, dear
"suite: judy blue eyes" - crosby, stills and nash
"lack of height" - caroline smith & the good night sleeps

"i feel it all" - feist



I'm still working out the specific details, but I'm fairly certain the key to life is hidden somewhere in the intersection of these two quotes:

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
- John Lennon

"Enjoy your worries, you may never have them again."
- The Books

The simplest of truths are often the easiest to forget.


the rise of the hedonistas

From time to time in life, I experience something that restores my faith in the human race, if at least temporarily. Situations in which it seems possible--just maybe--that humanity might not be the long march towards entropy that Nickelback's popularity might suggest. This happened last year at RAGBRAI; it happened again this year.

To wit, Wednesday's leisurely 44 mile ride from Indianola to Chariton. About 2/3 of the way in, we happened past an unassuming farm pond that was slowly accumulating riders. We pulled off, stripped down, and jumped in. The water was cold, murky, and smelled of clay and cow shit. It was perfect.

Some tossed around a nerf football, others practiced their deep-water treading, the majority practiced the time-honored tradition of diving-board one-up-manship. For forty minutes under the hot Iowa sun, we were all eight year olds at the local swimming pool, blithely savoring the taste of life without concern for the number of calories.

This is what RAGBRAI is all about. Enjoying the ride more than the destination. We've already got a Slow Food movement; RAGBRAI is a clarion call for the Slow Life movement. I declare myself a member.


Moderate SafeSearch is off

Note to self: when working on a flyer design at the coffee shop, be careful about doing a google image search for "swallow".


(new) noise

full disclosure: this is a cross-post from the western front blog...

I'd half-forgotten one of my all-time favorite youtube vids, but I happened to think of it the other night; this live performance of "New Noise" by Refused just floors me every time I watch it:

While watching, I noticed the link over on the side to a cover of the song by some band called Crazy Town; I didn't know who Crazy Town was, but I had a vague notion of them as being a band that would play OzzFest (which, by my admittedly stereotyping logic, gave them a 90% chance of being as-bad-as/worse-than Nickelback). Skeptical, I checked it out:

While watching, I found myself experiencing some strange amalgamation of anger/horror/disgust/sorrow. I think it was mostly sorrow; I felt bad for every kid that had ever heard this pathetic caricature of a monumentally important song (maybe I'm going out on a limb here, but I submit that Refused's "The Shape of Punk to Come" presaged later punk/hardcore music in many of the same ways as Ornette Coleman's "The Shape of Jazz to Come" would influence the avant-garde/free-jazz movement). Reading some of the user comments restored my faith, though; it seemed just about every comment was negative.

I think what disturbed me most about the Crazy Town cover was the manner in which the raw energy of the original had been co-opted and distorted into some sort of steroid-fueled locker room aggression. The rhetorical question "Can I scream" was no longer a statement of rebellion--a rejection of "ugly actions" and "bad paintings"--but one of blind rage. I suppose it's this delicate dichotomy that bothers me about contemporary hard-rock/metal. It would be short-sighted to deny that the energy and aggression of punk music never flows from the fount of rage; however, I think that punk/hardcore is more adept at bridling and directing this anger--it is able to give it a name and a direction (in this instance, the targets of institution and complacency). Popular metal, on the other hand, seems perfectly content to conjure this primal energy and allow it to flow where it may. To perform this magical act in the presence of a crowd full of young men and not give it a positive outlet is sheer recklessness.

Of course, the definition of "positive outlet" is a highly contentious proposition. But that's another post altogether...


fuck the police

Joe and I had just left Donnelly's--immersed in the ped-mall and all of its St. Patrick's day glory. Bound for the Mill, we rolled the 15 yards to the street. He intercepted our path like a troll guarding a bridge; one of Iowa City's "finest" was incensed that we were rolling on his sidewalk (his words, not mine).

"Now, do you know why I stopped you?"

No, but I have a feeling you're going to tell us...

"Look, I really don't care that you're on the sidewalk--that doesn't bother me, but look, there are all these drunk people around, and if you're not careful, BAM! you just ran over some meathead's girlfriend's toe, and then there's gonna be a fight. I just don't want you guys to get your ass kicked."

Thanks asshole, for looking out for us poor, weak cyclists. Thank you for protecting us skinny effeminate nancies from the hordes of drunken Todds. I feel so stupid; here I was, thinking you were breaking our balls because we somehow transgressed your turf or inadvertantly challenged your authority. Here you are, protecting us!



the you tube

Unlike many of the recently disappointed, my personal honeymoon with president Obama ended quite a bit sooner; my dreamy vision of him melted away with his support for FISA legislation. Of course, he really didn't have much of a choice in the matter; it was--politically speaking--his only option. Regardless, it was a disappointing day.

My hope had just a bit of its shine restored after reading about the Obama presidency's decision (after much criticism) to ditch Youtube as Obama's online vehicle of choice. Admittedly, this was an issue that probably would never have occurred to me, but I was fortunate to stumble upon this great article from Chris Soghoian. Mr. Soghoian lays out an excellent argument detailing the privacy concerns implicit in the president using Youtube to deliver his addresses. I got really worked up about the article for a while, telling all my friends about it. This was usually met with blank stares that landed somewhere between "what the fuck are you talking about" and "do something better with your time". Then I would log in to my Google Analytics account and give them a crash course in all the spooky shit you can learn about a person that visits your webpage. If I was lucky, their initial apathy changed (if at least a little) to concern.

The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me. Of course, I've never had a helicopter before. - President Obama

What excites me about this move is that it is the first time in my life that the president listened to his constituency. Holy. Shit. People complained about something the president did, and he rectified the situation. Of course, in a perfect world, this would go without saying. But, my friends, we do not live in a perfect world; we live in a world where cops beat 15 year old girls and Nickelback sells tickets. So, in lieu of utopia, I'll take this as a start. Just last week, under fire from John McCain, it seemed as if Obama was willing to consider canceling the upgrades to the White House helicopter fleet. Political posturing or not, it seems that this presidency is willing to admit (or at least quietly accept) that it isn't, as a matter of course, always right. That decisions can be changed in light of new information. If previous administrations had been willing to admit their own fallibility, we might not still be sacrificing our soldiers to the god of war in Iraq.