Friday, January 22, 2010

Amazon/Seattle Public Library bookmarklet

Amazon pages are a common way to pass around book suggestions, but what if you want to check the book out before you buy it? If you're in the Seattle area, you can use this handy bookmarklet to go straight from an Amazon book page to that book on the Seattle Public Library's site. Just drag this link:


... to the bookmark bar on your browser, then next time you're on an Amazon book page, hit the bookmark. It should take you straight to the library's version (if they have it).

Yes, I'm having a productive first week of freelancing... why do you ask?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Threshold

Friday was my last day at Microsoft, Monday is my first official day of freelancing, and today is a soft, quiet limbo with rain outside and cozy inside, where I get to recover from all the going-away festivities and prepare for the next thing.

Caitlyn is used to her mother working at home, but now she gets to get used to me working from home as well. Today we're all working on various projects, stopping from time to time to share things with each other or collaborate on something, but otherwise in full parallel play mode. It looks a lot like my childhood; both of my parents worked at home, so while they were there if I needed them, I was mostly on my own. I filled my days creating things, a habit that has continued ever since.

I still don't know who I'm working for next week. I've got maybe half a dozen likely clients, plus a couple dozen more vague possibilities. Many of the people I'm talking with want me full-time. It's great to be wanted, and I don't want to seem flighty, but I'm just not ready for that kind of commitment. I just came off five years of focusing on a single technology; I need to wander a bit.

Well, one way or another, here we go!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Caitlyn Plans Ahead

This evening Christina wasn't feeling well, so I informed Caitlyn that I would likely be reading the bedtime stories tonight. Of course Caitlyn prefers Mama, so she insisted that she would ask her if she could do it, and if Mama said "no", then she would "kiss her and hug her and cry". I surely said something flippant about how it's nice to have plans...

Half an hour later, jammies on, teeth brushed, room clean, she went downstairs to where Mama was resting on the couch and asked her if she could read stories tonight. Mama said "no", and sure enough, Caitlyn first kissed her, then hugged her, then teared up. She told her mama to get better and that she loved her. She then turned around and headed upstairs for her stories with Papa, while I stood there marveling at her follow-through.


Saturday, January 09, 2010

Creativity & Ownership

It's a week until the start of my new adventure, and suddenly I'm feeling more creative than I have in many months! Perhaps it's just the impending change of scenery, but it's causing me to muse about one of the great creativity drains I found at Microsoft: the fact that they own all of your ideas.

Your employee agreement clearly states that the company owns everything you dream up on the job, but nowhere does it say that they have to do anything with it. It's like an idea black hole; you lose your ability to pursue the ideas, and in all likelihood the company won't bother. So you start to not share ideas you don't think have a good chance of making it, and eventually you stop having those ideas, until you just stop having ideas at all.

What if, instead, the company you worked for had "right of first refusal" to all of your ideas? If they utilize your idea, then it's all theirs. If they don't do anything with it within a certain time period, it's yours to pursue as you please. The company gets happier employees and the pick of the litter of a greater outpouring of ideas -- everybody wins!


Sunday, January 03, 2010


I finally got a chance to see Avatar. Man, it's good to have James Cameron back!

I'm a bit dismayed by all of the "forget the story, watch it for the visuals" reviews the movie's been getting. The visuals certainly are great, as Cameron continues to push the technology of filmmaking forward, but it's also great storytelling. It's the story, in fact, that gives the visuals their resonance.

Of course maybe I just like the story because it's laced through with some of my favorite themes: the perils of corporate greed and military fear, the beauty and wonder of the natural world, standing up for what's right, etc. In fact, all of Cameron's films are filled with themes such as these; they're basically message films with mass-market appeal. As an activist myself, I love that combination. After all, it's easy to make a message film nobody wants to see, and plenty people make meaningless mass-market movies; it's hard to get both right in the same movie.

So go see Avatar, and enjoy the visuals, but don't forget the story!


Friday, January 01, 2010

Going Freelance

It's a new decade, time to turn over a new leaf! After four and a half very rewarding years on the Seadragon team, I'm moving on. We've accomplished wonderful things, and I'm sure the team will continue to do so without me, but it's time for me to stretch my legs.

Starting January 16, I'll be going freelance, contributing my many and varied skills towards the creation of whatever interesting websites, applications, and even films that cross my path. I stand on the threshold of a new chapter; what awaits?

May the new year bring us all great joy and delightful adventure!