Yay! 4th of July Fireworks: 2014

tout-fireworks14

I travel down the dusty road, driving cautiously. Another year. I’m doing this again. I’m taking part in The Gauntlet (45.1 MB), where every teenager in the county is standing by the side of this road, a road that had an impressive 360-day stretch of total silence, each teenager armed with a vinyl sign in one hand and Snapchat in the other, all trying to coax us into one of two fiercely competing fireworks stands. I pull into a gravel lot, past some wheezy bouncy houses, step out of the car, walk inside the store, grab a yellow basket, and get to work. I’m not here for fun, Jack. No way. I’m here for work. It’s my job — no, it’s my thrill — to find the weirdest, awkwardest, worst, clip-artiest, mis-translatediest, shoots-flaming-ballsiest fireworks packaging.

Welcome back, my friends. Happy 4th of July.

To relive some of the glorious photos from my past trips, please enjoy 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 20112012, and finally, 2013.

Let’s get started.

IMG_6640

This year, we had a beautiful smorgasbord, featuring:

Pink Floyd’s Dream Nearly Realized

IMG_6589

An Extraordinarily Sad Elvis Presley

IMG_6611

Uncomfortable Sexism / Racism / Alcoholism

IMG_6609

IMG_6601

IMG_6631

IMG_6616

IMG_6600

Eric Wareheim out of Tim and Eric

IMG_6617

Every Kid’s Favorite Thing: Palace Intrigue

IMG_6614

Super Steroidal Uncle Sams

IMG_6598

IMG_6619

A Video Game I Want Badly

IMG_6615

Copyright Infringement (They Tried To Hide The Hat With Stickers)

IMG_6595

Every Kid’s Favorite Thing: Horseshoe Crabs

IMG_6612

Computers

IMG_6613

A Literal Train Wreck

IMG_6594

RRRRRRRRRRRRR

IMG_6624

One of My Favorite YouTube Videos

IMG_6597

The Best Typo (I Hope)

IMG_6596

The Best Movie Sequel Never Made

IMG_6637

And, Finally, Most Importantly, This Guy

IMG_6633

Yes. Yes. See you next year!

XOXO

tout-xoxo

I gave a talk at XOXO 2013. I’m not very fond of public speaking. I also try to avoid being too personal or too heavy which leaves mostly jokes and new snack foods. But I knew I had a lot on my mind — I jog right past the YU (where XOXO is held) each day and that got me thinking about all of this stuff and talking and it all kind of swirled together. Andy very graciously gave me a speaking slot, and even though I destroyed a dress shirt I made it through and everyone was so kind.

Here’s my story.

(Once you’re done, you might appreciate Jason Alderman’s Sketch Notes.)

Samba de Setup

tout-samba

One of the things we wanted to make truly excellent in our brand-new Status Board iPad app was the setup process. Setup assistants are never fun, always annoying, and kill that “new app” buzz faster than anything. The only thing worse is that giant overlay some apps do that draws arrows all over your screen pointing to all the buttons and things like some demented football coach.

When we landed on the idea of doing a “user manual” — as if you had just purchased a real Status Board and were browsing the instructions — I think Neven said, “And you should hear elevator music!”

And so I wrote elevator music. Here’s the un-tinny-speakerized version. Enjoy?

You can download the song here (M4A, 4.6 MB).

(Thanks for the cover art, Neven!)

Drobo 5D Review

tout-drobo

drobo-fixAt the center of my digital storage universe is the house Mac mini, hooked up to a big ol’ external drive that holds all of the e-things: our music, our photos, old work, emulation collections, etc.

(As a side note, this drive is manually backed up monthly onto another drive — a 4TB Seagate Thunderbolt — which I take into the office and place in my drawer for extra-safe fire-keeping. Backup your backup, mang!)

I decided to try the new Thunderbolt-based Drobo 5D as my vault. Did I keep it?

The Good

Drobo’s best feature — that you can swap out drives at any time to semi-infinitely expand your capacity — works, and works well. It’s always mentally nice not having to worry about ever running out of room and having to clone over large volumes all the time.

And it’s fast. Much faster than my previous Drobo.

That older model, a Firewire 800 Drobo, got a sadness-inducing 20.1 MB/s write and 22.2 MB/s read. By comparison, a LaCie Thunderbolt 2big in a software mirror got 111.2 MB/s write and 114.1 MB/s read.

Here’s the Drobo 5D, connected via Thunderbolt:

Drobo 5SThat’s around 193 MB/s write and 184 MB/s read. So, it’s almost ten times faster than the Firewire 800 Drobo it replaced.

Other notes:

  • You can dim the many front lights, which is nice for media cabinets.
  • The metal enclosure is substantial and feels valuable.
  • It’s surprisingly quiet.

The Bad

The Drobo 5D will not mount until you install the Drobo software. (See here.) The Drobo software includes, among other kernel extensions, DroboTBT.kext, Drobo’s “SCSI Thunderbolt Controller”.

It’s almost a dealbreaker. Every external hard drive I’ve ever used will mount easily without special software. Requiring software not only makes it a pain to hook the drive up to someone else’s computer, but the drive will only keep working in the long-term if the specialized software is well-maintained. (It’s one thing to trust Apple to update their software, which I do, but another thing to expect this maintenance from third parties.)

What will happen when Mac OS X 10.9 comes out and the Drobo .kext inevitably breaks? I’ll have to wait for Drobo to ready an update? How soon will that be ready? You can understand my concern.

But in conclusion, here’s the only review score metric that really matters:

Did I Keep It?

YES

I kept it. Still using it. For now. It’s fast, holds all my stuff, and feels solid. But we’ll see what happens when 10.9 comes out.

tinyicon-amazonThe Drobo 5D is available at Amazon for around $849.00.

Litterplugs

tout-litter3

We all know it’s not cool to litter. If our hands are burdened with the weighty responsibility of an unwanted and snot-spent tissue, or an empty aluminum can that once held some Dr. Skipper, or even a gentle gum wrapper, the worst thing — the worst possible thing — would be to throw it on the ground.

Yes, throwing garbage on the ground is literally littering. But beyond that? Well… that’s where things get a little dicey.

Trashcan? The only limit is your trashmagination!

I first noticed the “litterplugs” (if I may) phenomenon in Japan, ten years ago. This is the photo that started it all, a slightly bowing construction wall by Shinjuku station that immediately became a garbage can:

First

Since then, it was everywhere. Now, I can understand how generalized holes — containers, street light bases, flower pots — become makeshift trashcans. Even if they’re obviously in no way trashcans, and likely will never be emptied or cleaned by any human being on earth, and in most cases there’s a real trashcan mere feet away, they at least share a vague similarity to the raw concept of a trashcan.

Litterplugs - 02 - 2
Litterplugs - 05
Litterplugs - 37

But the best litterplugs take it to a new level.

They raise not-literring littering to an art.

Wedge your peach chunks garbage into a brick wall? Sure!

Back Camera

Make PBR stand for “Perfect Bark Receptacle”? Yes, yes!

Litterplugs - 55

Pop your can in a drywall hole briefly opened up by construction workers?

Litterplugs - 22 - 2

Look around desperately until you spot an exterior outlet? Go go go!

Litterplugs - 52

Somehow calculate the exact horizontal space required for your juice box? Woo!

Litterplugs - 35 - 2

Put your wrapper in the hole left by the missing handle… in a garbage can? Award winning!

Litterplugs - 49

Remember: you’re not littering if it ain’t touchin’ the ground!

Litterplugs, I salute you and your particularly weird blend of doing the right thing.

If you find any particularly inventive litterplugs, tweet me!

Cabel Trivia, No. 1: The Movie

tout-strangedays

Here’s something you might not know about me: I had a major, significant acting role in the non-hit Ralph Fiennes film, Strange Days.

See for yourself:

(I lived near downtown L.A. and snuck into the area where they were filming. I’m wearing a weird party hat. Angela Bassett shoved me very, very hard.)