Stuntman And Lover Of Cheese

by Dan Bostonweeks

Mossy Bench

Taken by my lovely wife, Jo Boston.

Man Made Fire and Dared to Dream

It’s been a big three weeks for me lately.

Let’s rewind a little, I left my job at ngmoco about a month and a half ago. I didn’t have a plan other than to clear my head and work on what I wanted to work on. So far it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

A couple of months before I left I attended a story night at a local startup called Madefire. Madefire were working on a new digital comics reading experience. It was like nothing I’d ever seen and I wanted in. I kept working and after quitting my job I went to another story night. Not too long after I agreed to do some contract iOS work at Madefire, sort of a trial run to see if I fit with the team. That would have been impossible to do if I still had a full time job, but honestly it was the best for both parties.

I’m excited to announce that I have joined the team at Madefire full time now. Even better news is the iPad app is out! Go and get it on the App Store!

I’m excited for the future and I’m happy I’ve found a great place to work and contribute.

Good Enough Is the Enemy of Better – @ctp

Chris Parker said the following in a Twitter conversation today

@ctp via twitter

Good enough is the enemy of better.

Chris Parker (@ctp)

It’s a perfect extension of the Voltaire quote. I know I’ve been guilty of doing “good enough” at times. It’s shameful. This quote should be repeated daily for maximum effect. Here, have it again…

Good enough is the enemy of better.

Chris Parker (@ctp)

Let it go to your head, you’ll be a better person in whatever you do.

Personal Heroes

Into every life a personal hero or two will hopefully fall. Sometimes you’ll discover them very early on. For me I always had amorphous ideas about people that inspire me but I had never really thought about who is a personal hero of mine. Now that I’m older I’ve thought about it some, but mostly these two fine gentlemen have come to me recently.

Kurt Vonnegut

I started reading Vonnegut in high school. I love his fiction. I can’t point to any one thing but it just grabs me. His way with words and expression have turned him into a personal hero of mine. Recently there was a letter published from Mr. Vonnegut to Charles McCarthy after the burning of his book, Slaughterhouse-five. It’s filled with humanity and passion. Things that Vonnegut brings to his books in spades. Things that make me respect him and make him one of my heroes.

Neil deGrasse Tyson

What can one say about Dr. Tyson? For those of you that don’t know who Dr. Tyson is, he’s the head of the Hayden Planetarium and a very, very smart man. Dr. Tyson brings a passion for science and education that I’ve not seen from any other public figure in a long time. His passion comes out every time I hear him talk or read his writings. That passion is infectious and inspiring. Here are a selection of video with him giving talks or his voice.

Follow him on Twitter at @neiltyson.

FESSolarCalculator: Sunrise, Sunset, and Twilight Times for Cocoa

Recently I sat down to think about how I would improve on RadioMaestro. I’ve let it go for far too long without an update. One thing I left out when originally developing RadioMaestro was the ability to change the list of AM stations at night. In AM broadcasting many stations are forced to reduce power or suspend operations at night. It has to do with changes in the ionosphere and the radio waves traveling farther at night.

Rather than just having an arbitrary time to pick between day- and night-time AM stations I also thought about interfaces that should change when it’s dark. Reading apps like Read It Later have a night mode. Camera apps might have saved settings for day and night shots. A desk or night table clock app might have different modes for day and night. It even extends to audio, an app may want to have lower volume at night on startup. There’s no reason those apps can’t use the geolocation of your device, the date, and know within an acceptable precision if the sun has risen or set or is up and shining.

I looked around a bit but I didn’t really find anything that hit the right spot for what I was envisioning. I just want something simple that I pass an NSDate and a CLLocation and it does it’s thing. I can then grab whatever times I need out of it.

I sat down and started to dig on the math behind the calculations and fortunately there are a lot of really great explanations by people far smarter than me. It took me a bit to make sure it was working correctly and now I have written a class, FESSolarCalculator, that does exactly as my requirements listed above.

The FESSolarCalculator project is hosted at GitHub. There are currently two issues that I know about and I’ll get to those in the coming days. Pull requests are welcome as is all manner of criticism. Thanks to Rob Rix for a sanity check and for talking about approaches to a better, more streamlined approach from my initial implementation.

The source is MIT Licensed so go nuts with it. I hope you find it useful. Drop me a note if you do.

Seth Godin: Sight Reading

We often test sight reading skills, particularly in job interviews. In that highly-charged encounter, we test the applicant’s ability to think on her feet. That’s a great idea if the job involves a lot of feet thinking, but otherwise, you’re inspecting for the wrong thing, aren’t you? Same with a first date. Marketing yourself to a new person often involves being charismatic, clever and quick–but most jobs and most relationships are about being consistent, persistent and brave, no?

I can’t agree more with this. For a long while I’ve hated the gauntlet of interviewing. At Pixar I had to do a lot of white board code and database queries. It was pointless. I never did anything remotely like the exercises in the interview. They weren’t even close to exposing how I would end up working on projects at Pixar, and that’s a shame, it was essentially wasted time.

In my own interviewing of candidates over the last half a decade or so I’ve gone pretty far away from white board interviews. I did try it again with one recent candidate and realized what a folly it was and stopped. It was easier to talk to him, have a back and forth conversation, and be able to dig deeper into answers while he was comfortable and not sweating it out at a white board.

Single day interviews are too small of a glimpse into a person, but it’s mostly all we get. There has to be a better way and I know I’m still searching for it. The only way to build a good team of competent people is to hire those consistent, persistent, and brave individuals you find while weeding out those that need more training.

Count Me Out for the Downloading Game

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about how media companies don’t provide enough online digital formats to match users wants for how they consume videos, movies, and episodic programming. A lot of the time I hear people justifying downloading content from torrent sites as “the companies won’t take my money how I want to give it to them so I’ll just download it.” The Oatmeal even posted a comic about this that I saw repeatedly linked with positive comment.

My entire career has been built on working at places that work very hard to create content to sell. It’s the lifeblood of the animation, visual effects, and game studios I’ve worked at. Without sales they can’t go on to create more and better content for people to consume. When I see otherwise reasonable adults acting childish and resorting to theft it makes me sad. I’m not going to mince words here: downloading content without paying for it is theft, plain and simple. You can try to justify it all you want in that the media companies don’t make it available in the format you want or for the price you want to pay, but you’re still stealing. As content owners it’s their right to say how it is distributed or how much it should cost. If they’re leaving money on the table by not having it everywhere for an affordable price then that is their business decision, you don’t get to break the rules because you don’t agree.

The most rational rebuttal to the Oatmeal comic is from Andy Ihnatko with Heavy Hangs The Bandwidth That Torrents The Crown. I mostly agree with what Andy says. I don’t download. I’ll wait for DVDs to come on Netflix if need be before I see something. I purchase content when it’s available on iTunes or other outlets.

I’m not saying I’m better than anyone else. I’ve shared music from friends, but every album I get I go and purchase it (directly from the artist if possible). I’ve made my decision knowing where my livelihood comes from and knowing that by not supporting the things I like I risk them going away. If you’re an adult you have to make your own choices and be ready for any consequences. If you decide to download content illegally I will look down my nose and cluck my tongue at you and then remind you that every time you steal content you’re playing into the hands of the media companies when they try to get laws like SOPA and PIPA passed. Every time you download content illegally you should think about it as a tiny cut in the fabric of your freedom. You feel like you’re sticking it to the rich fat cats at media companies, but in the end you’re just helping to hurt yourself.

Offices Change and Get Better

For a while my company was spread out across two floors in one building and then had other teams in a second building a few blocks away. This was wholly inconvenient and as such our management decided to bring all teams back under one roof.

You may recall my screed about a dis-satisfactory workplace last month. With this move we’ve made a large change as is expected. Rather than pods we now have a large area, still open mind you, but it’s only the engineering teams together. No other groups and so far fewer distractions.

We also were able to get sit-to-stand desks for everyone in engineering. A much needed improvement. It’s good to see things change and to know that the leadership was listening about the desk situation in planning this move.