This came up in an interesting discussion today: What are your top three or four priorities? Everyone had the most interesting responses, and it was really insightful to hear what people had going on in their lives. Such a wide variety of answers, each very dependent on one’s life experiences and current affairs, and sometimes even where someone wanted to go. Here’s mine:

  1. Family
  2. Music
  3. Career
  4. Friends

Putting family at the top is a no-brainer for anyone with a wife and kids. Really, they are everything in the world to me. The interesting revelation for me was where I placed the career entry, below music. Ask me the same question a couple of years ago before I got my bass restored and iTunes rekindled my interest in listening, and music would not have even been on the radar. Ask me thirteen years ago, before I met Yingwen, and music would have been the No.1 spot. I think music has drifted back up to it’s proper place now.

Career means a wide topic actually. A major chunk of that is all that I do – web development, computer technology, programming, design, information, etc. Another aspect of it is simply the primal need to provide for item No.1 on my list. But the part I like the most about No.3 is that I absolutely love what I do for my career – I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And lastly, I added friends to the list. I am by some nature a social person, and I value my friendships with other people. They are in many ways like family, but thankfully I don’t have to worry about them every day. 😉 A big part of my life is conversation, activities, and sharing with others – the list would feel incomplete without some notion of those people that are outside my immediate family but still are very close to us.

What’s on your list?

Pet Peeve: Typos in printed code examples

I swear, this has got to be one of my biggest fur-generating peeves… I just came across yet another typo in a Wrox book on PHP. I am astounded. I think that the plethora of ridiculous errors that exist in most technology books has held back the advance of modern technology by years. I remember a few years ago when I was first learning PHP and it seemed like every book I picked up presented the first example or two with code that didn’t work. I would just close the book and give up right there, because I figured it was either my server configuration being off, or else I was just too dense to get it. But no it was the friggin’ code that was wrong. Now that I understand this stuff much better by learning the hard way through trial and error, I can see the errors in the books right away. Newbies shouldn’t have to suffer through typos in code this much. It is really aggrivating, and they’re not going to go searching through errata to find out if and where any typos exist. No, more often than not they’re going to push the eject button.

Here’s a tip to those that write geek books: Write the code. Test it on your server. Copy and paste the working code into your draft. Have two technical reviewers read the draft and try each patch of code. Don’t commit mistakes to print.

So far, I’ve been fairly impressed with New Riders. The books I’ve picked up by them have for the most part been fairly clean. O’Reilly is fair, but really could be better considering the popularity of their books. The Wrox volumes have proven to be riddled with errors, as have most of the other publishers I’ve picked up. Won’t somebody please think of the children?

Audition Tips

I love this series from hella frisch where he relates tips from Cleveland Orchestra percussionist Tom Freer on preparing for, and surviving, an orchestral audition. This is a great resource for those on the audition trail, and an interesting read for the non-musician that is curious about what the heck this stuff is all about. Check them out:

My best results in the past for getting through auditions and recitals came after spending a good month or so beforehand treating myself well ��� balancing a solid and focused practice routine with eating healthy, exercise, and plenty of sleep. Eating bananas and avoiding caffeine before an audition seemed to help keep the nerves down, and avoiding alcohol helped to keep my joints flexible and my muscles relaxed. Thank god I don’t audition any more and can have all the booze and caffeine I want! 😀

Speaking of caffeine, I once attended a master class with cellist Anner Bylsma and was struck by how much coffee that guy was putting away during the session. His performances of the Bach cello suites are among my favorites, and maybe it’s just me, but when I listen to his recordings I swear I can hear the coffee at work in there. I myself used to hit the practice room with two or three cans of Coca-Cola in my hands, and would start off breakfast, lunch and tea time with a double cappuccino, which really made practicing fun ��� I would obsess on perfecting fingerings, create ten different ways to phrase a line, whittle away at my list of orchestra excerpts and solo pieces, and stay in the practice room for eight hours at a time. Probably it was all a bit much… Anyway…

Auditions can be a brutal process. A strategy of any sort is better than nothing at all, and the more auditions you do, the more you can refine your strategy. (Or the more you go crazy…) Another thing I liked to do for audition or recital preparations is to go and play in front of as many people as I could. For recitals, I’d offer to go play at retirement homes or go grab some people to be my audience for a mini recital. For auditions, we would put a group of people together to do practice auditions once in a while ��� we would take turns playing and the rest of us would be judges. Then we’d discuss the performances and share ideas. It was almost never all bassists; more often it was a mix. We’d hear clarinet first, then maybe a violin, and so on. The main thing was to just get the flavor of what to expect, to practice getting through it all, and to come out of it with a more confident feeling.

Mobile Again

I picked up a new battery for my PowerBook G4 12", this time replacing the stock Apple one that had reached the end of it’s life with a NewerTechnology NuPower model. This one claims 4500mAh and 53.3 Watt-Hours, a tad higher value than the stock 50-watt-hour units that ship with this model of PowerBook. That old battery died after a noticeable decline in performance over the last three months or so. It lived from October of 2003 until then, which is a bit short. Hopefully this 3rd party battery will have a better lifespan.

This battery recommends an initial calibration cycle of letting it fully charge for over 12 hours, and then letting it drain the battery all the way through, and that it may take up to five charges to fully calibrate itself. So I’m on the back patio running photos through filters in Photoshop and listening to iTunes to keep the CPU chugging along.

At any rate, it is nice to be untethered again, to be able to enjoy the full range of the awesome WiFi coverage I’m getting here on the home network. I can sit anywhere in this house, from the 3rd floor loft to where I’m currently sitting in the back patio, and I have full strength signal. It was much worse in the old place too much metal in the walls or maybe a denser floorplan or something.

Cowboy Up

This is me around 1979 (or so it says on the box I found ’em in), riding my horse named Prince:

Joe on horseback

I am going through a huge collection of old slides and negatives and trying to restore, catalog, and archive them. Some of them are quite old, and some are in pretty bad shape. I am using an Epson 4870 Photo scanner and making frequent use of it’s ability to handle large format negatives. Some of these old negatives are hand cut at up to 5″ x 7″, and the scanner handles these nicely. I’ve been doing what I can to quickly clean them up in Photoshop and some of them are coming out quite nicely.