My Top 20 Albums Of All Time

In no order, not including compilations.

  1. Van Morrison – Astral Weeks
  2. Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska
  3. Radiohead – OK Computer
  4. The Cure – Disintegration
  5. The Velvet Underground & Nico – The Velvet Underground & Nico
  6. Tom Waits – Rain Dogs
  7. The Violent Femmes – The Violent Femmes
  8. Paul Simon – The Rhythm Of The Saints
  9. Ryan Adams – Love Is Hell
  10. Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True
  11. David Bowie – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
  12. Peter Gabriel – So
  13. Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight
  14. The Pogues – If I Should Fall From Grace With God
  15. Iggy Pop – Lust For Life
  16. The Jesus & Mary Chain – Honey’s Dead
  17. Tricky – Maxinquaye
  18. Mike Doughty – Skittish
  19. Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine
  20. Talking Heads – Remain In Light

(If you were counting compilations, there’d be the best of the Clash, Leonard Cohen, Massive Attack, a few others.)


Dbasr is live.

I’ve officially announced Dbasr. It’s a content management system for musicians and other rich media artists. For more info, check out the home page. To contribute, go to our IndieGoGo project page.


Twitter vs. RSS vs. Web

I don’t post here much very often these days, mainly thanks to Twitter. (I also haven’t really felt like I had much to say, this past year or so.) Twitter is quick and simple, and unlike a blog post, I don’t really have to think about what I’m trying to express. (Not that I have to do that with a blog post, but I’d rather write something coherent than not.) Twitter has become my dominant Net experience these days. For years, my day began with Google Reader. I’d open it up and surf through my feeds, my equivalent of picking up the Times. But nowadays, I hit Twitter first, starting with the newest tweets and working my way backwards to the last tweets I saw. Only then do I go over to Reader — or, more often, Reeder, the iPhone Reader app I picked up a while back based on Warren’s recommendation. Alan Watts once said something along the lines that each of us is a node through which the universe looks at itself. That’s what Twitter feels like: watching the universe watch itself through different eyes. It’s a way of immersing oneself in the collective experiencing of a given moment, in a much more immediate way than reading structured news or even blog posts. You open Twitter and you see what a thousand people are doing at any given moment. It’s like a downmarket version of Professor Xavier‘s Cerebro. It’s instant and ephemeral (no matter whether it’s archived or not). Twitter, for me at least, belies the notion that mediated networks are isolating. I feel more connected to the world around me with Twitter than I did before — particularly as I get older and my face-to-face relationships with people become less constant and more scattered, as my friends get married or work jobs that keep them from socializing constantly and as I myself undergo that natural withdrawal that happens when you reach your thirties and no longer feel the constant need to expand your social circle. And yet, my circle is expanding, with every new day and every new person I follow on Twitter and who follows me. I probably spend more time talking to my Twitter friends than I do to my local friends (and often I talk to them via Twitter). Maybe that sounds sad, but I don’t feel that way. It makes me happy. And perhaps it would be different if I lived in a different city. Las Vegas is a terribly isolating place, both socially and environmentally. When it’s 110º outside and you can get third-degree burns from putting your hands on the wheel of your car, nobody wants to leave the house to congregate. The fact that I don’t drink often anymore is also isolating, as Las Vegas is a city whose socializing is predicated entirely upon alcohol. Which makes me think that what I’m really trying to say is that I ought to get out of here.


At A Crossroads

So I’d like your advice, my dear Internet.

I have a software project called dbasr that I’ve been working on for a while — several years, on and off, in fact. Weirdly enough, it’s actually probably more relevant and useful now than when I started it.

I’ve rewritten the code base several times, but I think I’m on the final iteration for a beta release now. There’s nothing really to look at unless you’re a coder, but I’m literally working on building the UI right now.

I’ve been keeping the exact nature of it under wraps, because I wanted to simply drop it on the world. Not that it’s a secret — I’ve told a few people about it — but I’d like to be the first to market with it. (I can tell you it’s a combination of a web application and a service. If you know me and my interests, you might be able to fill in some gaps from that.)

Unfortunately, it’s a pretty substantial project for one person, and the reason I haven’t finished it is because real life intrudes. It’s a lot of code and a lot of UI design and there aren’t enough hours in the day. I’ve tried to get other people on board, but understandably nobody’s been particularly willing to invest themselves into a project with no immediate paycheck.

I’ve talked to a few people I know about securing investment money — going the traditional angel-funding route. But after a lot of consideration, I’m not sure I see the point of doing so. I don’t need a lot of money — really just enough to pay my expenses while I finish writing the software, and a very little bit of hardware and running costs.

I also don’t trust anyone else to run this. My experience tells me that if I get money from angels or VCs, they’ll expect to direct the company’s business decisions, and I don’t think that’s a good idea in this case. In fact, the reason that dbasr is such a unique concept is not because I’m necessarily that smart, but because everyone who’s ever tried anything similar has ended up letting money people make the decisions on how it ought to work. I won’t do that.

I keep looking at tools like Kickstarter and Indie Go Go, which several people I know have successfully used to fund projects, and I’m thinking about using one of these for dbasr. Doing so means telling the world what it is and committing myself to a particular set of features, but I’m probably okay with that right now.

What I’m afraid of is somebody else running with the idea. In this case, I think it’s a cool enough idea that I’d be happy to simply see it out there…but I’d also like to make some money from it, and I think I’ve figured out ways to do that which are completely non-evil.

I’ve run the numbers and done my homework and I don’t think I can reasonably expect to get super-rich off of it, but I do think it will be profitable pretty quickly and make me enough money to live comfortably, and possibly expand into a thriving little business. “Little” being the key here. It doesn’t need to be a megacorporation. It’s a simple software platform that can be maintained by a small team, maybe even just me by myself to start.

I think it’s a tool that could seriously affect the way a certain subset of business in the world is done. Certainly the people who know about it have all seemed enthusiastic.

Look, whether you like me or not or think I’m a windbag, you have to admit something: I’m good at understanding where holes in the market exist. I’m neither capable nor interested in filling most of them; when I came up with an idea for an augmented reality device in 2003, I ditched it because I didn’t have the faintest idea of how to actually build something like that, even though I had most of the broad strokes of an iPhone in mind (digital compass and GPS with gyroscope, camera on opposite side of screen).

But this hole I can fill. And it might change the world, at least in a little way. It won’t cure cancer or feed starving children or teach Beyond Petroleum how to build an oil rig…but it’s pretty goddamned cool, nonetheless.

So here’s my question to you: do I go for it? Do I make some UI mockups, set up a Kickstarter fund, ask for money, share my idea with the world even though it’s not even ready for internal testing? Or do I keep soldiering away?

If I could just work on this 8-10 hours a day, without having to worry about paying rent, I’d have it done in just a few months. And it would be amazing.

Tell me what you think, in the comments here or on my Twitter @jzellis.


VGrid for CSS nerds

Here’s a little something I just whipped up for my own uses, but you might find it useful as well: vgrid.css, a CSS style sheet for handling vertical height of objects by em, as a sort of companion to the 960 grid. It’s got vgrid_x classes from 1 to 100; if you’re assigning onscreen elements to be more than 100 lines high, this probably isn’t the tool for you.

I mainly whipped it up for use with input forms with textareas, so that I could easily assign a height to textareas, but it’d probably be useful for other sorts of line-by-line layout as well. I just thought someone else might find it useful.

If you’d rather just cut and paste, the CSS is below:

.vgrid_1{ height: 1em; } .vgrid_2{ height: 2em; } .vgrid_3{ height: 3em; } .vgrid_4{ height: 4em; } .vgrid_5{ height: 5em; } .vgrid_6{ height: 6em; } .vgrid_7{ height: 7em; } .vgrid_8{ height: 8em; } .vgrid_9{ height: 9em; } .vgrid_10{ height: 10em; } .vgrid_11{ height: 11em; } .vgrid_12{ height: 12em; } .vgrid_13{ height: 13em; } .vgrid_14{ height: 14em; } .vgrid_15{ height: 15em; } .vgrid_16{ height: 16em; } .vgrid_17{ height: 17em; } .vgrid_18{ height: 18em; } .vgrid_19{ height: 19em; } .vgrid_20{ height: 20em; } .vgrid_21{ height: 21em; } .vgrid_22{ height: 22em; } .vgrid_23{ height: 23em; } .vgrid_24{ height: 24em; } .vgrid_25{ height: 25em; } .vgrid_26{ height: 26em; } .vgrid_27{ height: 27em; } .vgrid_28{ height: 28em; } .vgrid_29{ height: 29em; } .vgrid_30{ height: 30em; } .vgrid_31{ height: 31em; } .vgrid_32{ height: 32em; } .vgrid_33{ height: 33em; } .vgrid_34{ height: 34em; } .vgrid_35{ height: 35em; } .vgrid_36{ height: 36em; } .vgrid_37{ height: 37em; } .vgrid_38{ height: 38em; } .vgrid_39{ height: 39em; } .vgrid_40{ height: 40em; } .vgrid_41{ height: 41em; } .vgrid_42{ height: 42em; } .vgrid_43{ height: 43em; } .vgrid_44{ height: 44em; } .vgrid_45{ height: 45em; } .vgrid_46{ height: 46em; } .vgrid_47{ height: 47em; } .vgrid_48{ height: 48em; } .vgrid_49{ height: 49em; } .vgrid_50{ height: 50em; } .vgrid_51{ height: 51em; } .vgrid_52{ height: 52em; } .vgrid_53{ height: 53em; } .vgrid_54{ height: 54em; } .vgrid_55{ height: 55em; } .vgrid_56{ height: 56em; } .vgrid_57{ height: 57em; } .vgrid_58{ height: 58em; } .vgrid_59{ height: 59em; } .vgrid_60{ height: 60em; } .vgrid_61{ height: 61em; } .vgrid_62{ height: 62em; } .vgrid_63{ height: 63em; } .vgrid_64{ height: 64em; } .vgrid_65{ height: 65em; } .vgrid_66{ height: 66em; } .vgrid_67{ height: 67em; } .vgrid_68{ height: 68em; } .vgrid_69{ height: 69em; } .vgrid_70{ height: 70em; } .vgrid_71{ height: 71em; } .vgrid_72{ height: 72em; } .vgrid_73{ height: 73em; } .vgrid_74{ height: 74em; } .vgrid_75{ height: 75em; } .vgrid_76{ height: 76em; } .vgrid_77{ height: 77em; } .vgrid_78{ height: 78em; } .vgrid_79{ height: 79em; } .vgrid_80{ height: 80em; } .vgrid_81{ height: 81em; } .vgrid_82{ height: 82em; } .vgrid_83{ height: 83em; } .vgrid_84{ height: 84em; } .vgrid_85{ height: 85em; } .vgrid_86{ height: 86em; } .vgrid_87{ height: 87em; } .vgrid_88{ height: 88em; } .vgrid_89{ height: 89em; } .vgrid_90{ height: 90em; } .vgrid_91{ height: 91em; } .vgrid_92{ height: 92em; } .vgrid_93{ height: 93em; } .vgrid_94{ height: 94em; } .vgrid_95{ height: 95em; } .vgrid_96{ height: 96em; } .vgrid_97{ height: 97em; } .vgrid_98{ height: 98em; } .vgrid_99{ height: 99em; } .vgrid_100{ height: 100em; }


An open letter to BP’s PR department

Dear BP’s PR department:

First of all, let’s get one thing very, very clear before we go any further: your company has fucked up. Not “made a regrettable error” or “inadvertently” anything. You have caused a massive unnatural disaster. Right now, pretty much everybody on the planet hates your guts. There are guys in caves in Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden, sitting around a radio playing the BBC World Service, going “Dude, seriously, fuck BP.”

I can’t imagine there’s anybody who doesn’t actually sit on your board of directors who doesn’t want to kick your asses right now. And by “you”, I mean “everybody who works for BP, including the PR department, the receptionists and probably the janitorial staff”.

So, now that we’ve got that out of the way….

I understand that it is your job to try and make BP’s relations with the public as optimal as possible. You want the public to love your company, to want to consume your products and make everybody a lot of money. You do this, by and large, by figuring out ways to make BP look like the coolest, most environmentally-conscious company in the world. This is a very difficult thing to do when you’re dumping gazillions of gallons of death sauce into the Gulf of Mexico. So you’re probably very busy right now.

One thing you might want to do, however, is to recognize that you’re going to have to ignore one of the basic tenets of public relations: what I mean is, you have to admit you’re wrong. Really, really wrong. Like, the only thing you could have done that was worse was to basically just light the fucking planet on fire while raping babies.

You also need to admit that you were completely careless and ignored your own engineers, who told you this was probably going to happen. You also ignored the fact that your oil well starting actually falling apart like Lindsey Lohan on a mescaline margarita in March, which might have alerted you to a problem.

We know why you did. You’re a corporation. Your job is to make money. And you were afraid you were going to not make as much money if you stopped and actually built an oil well that could actually do the job it was intended for. Let me underline that: there was never, ever any chance you’d lose money on this. You just might have made less money in the short term.

Look: you sell petroleum. You sell the one thing that every nation on the planet is willing to go to war to possess. You’re like Nino Brown in New Jack City, if the entire world was Chris Rock. You’re our momma, you’re our daddy, you’re our nigga in the alley. You’re our pusherman.

The worst that might have happened was that you spent a few million dollars shoring up the Deepwater Horizon, and then you would have gone on making lots more money because it wouldn’t have blown the fuck up. As far as the world is concerned, the only good thing about this spill is that every barrel of that oil is one less barrel you can make a profit on. You’re losing billions of dollars here.

Not that anybody feels sorry for you on that account, so don’t try that tack. It won’t work. In fact, there’s only really one strategy that will be at all effective in saving your company from a planet-wide boycott and bad press the likes of which the world hasn’t seen since Adolf and Eva did their William Tell routine in the bunker in 1945.

It’s very simple. It will work. Nobody will like you, but at least they won’t hate you to the point where they might actually pressure their governments into hounding you into bankruptcy and madness.

Just write a letter. I will even draft it for you. It needs to read something like this:

Dear Earth,

We fucked up. Badly. Very badly. We are completely and utterly horrified by what has happened. Every time we think of what our company’s greed for profit and carelessness has caused, we run to the toilet and puke. We drink a lot these days. Every time we see another picture of an oil-covered bird, we think about doing a full-on Jonestown thing here at BP HQ. Just put the toxin in the air vents and pump it into every office so we don’t have to live with the total horror and guilt for the incredibly awful thing that we specifically have caused to happen. Not to mention the people who died on the rig. That makes us sick whenever we look at ourselves in a mirror, which is why we’ve had all mirrors and reflective surfaces removed from BP HQ until this all gets resolved. We just can’t look at ourselves.

We have no excuses. We have no spin. We take full responsibility for this spill. It was our fault, nobody else’s. It was a completely avoidable accident, and we let it happen because we didn’t really give a shit. We figured that there was a pretty good chance this wouldn’t happen. We were so incredibly wrong. We are thoughtless and careless and greedy. We are grubby little pigs rooting at the teat of 21st century capitalism.

Here’s what we’re going to do to fix this problem: whatever it takes, whatever it costs, as quickly as possible. We are not going to try and save our own equipment or our revenue stream from this oil well, if doing so means that a single extra gallon of this shit burbles up into the Gulf. We know we’re simply going to take a massive loss here. We don’t care. Plugging that hole is our first priority. Everything else we do, all our business, comes second to this.

And once we finally do that, we’re going to spend as many billions of dollars as it takes to clean up our incredibly massive mess. We don’t put a limit on how much we want to earn, so we’re not going to put a limit on how much we’re going to spend. We’re going to usher in a new century of corporate responsibility.

In return, we hope that you understand that we fucked up, and that we’re going to do better in the future. We’re not going to cut corners, we’re going to be careful, and we’re going to keep bringing you this substance that you all rely on in a safe and ethical fashion. We hope that if we can make you truly believe that we’re doing everything we can, you might still buy our product.

Your friends, Beyond Petroleum

So, uh, yeah. I’d go with something like that.