Michelle Goodrich, Mandarin Designer Intention

Michelle Goodrich, Mandarin Designer

Intention is the core of all conscious life. It is our intentions that create karma, our intentions that help others, our intentions that lead us away from the delusions of individuality toward the immutable verities of enlightened awareness. Conscious intention colors and moves everything. – Hsing Yun

Earlier this month I learned that my friend Michelle Goodrich was going to have knee surgery.  In a couple of clumsy emails, I managed to convey the following: 

Sandhill Trek:  “The traffic from Mandarin Design is up over here at Sandhill, and I’m guessing it’s because our lovely crane is the top left thumbnail on the Quigi Board.

“So, you’re going to have knee surgery!  Best of luck and much as I hate to suggest this, maybe you better stay away from the blog while you’re medicated.  Here’s my thinking.  The meds may make you pain free, but blogging puts you in a sedentary position that might not be great for the knee in the early days.  Anyway, take good care of yourself and I’ll be thinking about you as you go through your knee tune-up.

“While you’re convalescing, how would you like to be featured in the return of the “Sandhill Trek Interview?”  I think it would be fun to pull out background stories and personal information on Mandarin Meg.   

“Maybe you would find time to answer a flurry of emails that I would then assemble into a fairly lengthy blog posting.  Would you do this with me?  Please.”

Michelle is one of the more gracious people on the planet and she kindly consented to the interview.

Michelle E. Goodrich (Meg):  I didn’t realize that you interviewed blondes, but it could be interesting, especially if I take a pain pill first.

ST:  If I had a choice, I think I would interview blondes exclusively.  And a few redheads, brunettes, Sinead O’Connor types if it came to that.  But indeed, I DON’T DISCRIMINATE AGAINST BLONDES.  Quite the contrary.   Tell me more about this knee surgery.  What’s going on?  I’m grateful of course that we have you slowed down enough to take the time to do this interview, but what laid you up?

Meg:  Well, Chris Webber of the Sacramento Kings has the identical injury right now but I wasn’t playing basketball. A cabinet fell, damaged the spine, and then the knee.

ST:  Your spine was injured too? What have the doctors said about that?

Meg:  The plan was a three-disk fusion. But they recently decided that the surgery would ensure that I wouldn’t be able to walk at all within about 3-5 years when the next three would need to be fused. It’s been a long process and Doc is in Baghdad right now but the last message he left is that the surgery is a no-go. That’s OK. I want to detach from all of the doctors and get on with rehabilitation my way.  I use a cane or a chair but either one may go away sometime soon. I get around pretty good. 

ST:  You’ve mentioned your interest and your husband’s business relationship to F1 in your blog. The details escape my memory, but it seems like an interesting slice of world culture to have had passage through. What can you tell me about all that?

Meg:  More than you want to know… Rob works for a company that sponsors race teams, from Toyota Atlantics to F1. Part of the deal is hospitality suites for entertaining customers. In corporate America there are some heavy hitters that Rob entertains. These are folks that turn donw free trips to Hawaii, NBA Playoff tickets, and more. The company sponsors CART and F1 so part of his job (“our job”, in corporate America one has to have the corporate wife) is to invite customers to join us in pit row suites, dine with the drivers, golf with the drivers at Pebble Beach, and more. Basically, whatever they want to do. When we arrive a full weekend wardrobe of team gear including dress shirts, golf shirts, coats, backpacks, hats, instant cameras, sunscreen, sun glasses (you get the picture) are in our hotel rooms. Laid out for a queen. None of the funky limo drivers at the airport holding signs, we are greeted by folks in full team gear and leave in the Team van. Photographers record the entire event. Details details, I was at a race weekend for a moment there in my mind…

Michelle on the track

That’s our CART racing world, some customers need more — the full race weekend at a Formula 1 race. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. We’ve actually only done two F1 weekends, both in Montreal. We watch it on TV of course, but being there is spectacular. No wake-up call needed, the cars are loud. F1 is the epitome of racing. Difficult to describe in words. I sit alone mesmerized by the sights and sounds. F1 is like that. The customers don’t feel like I’m ditching them when I ditch them.  Sometimes they go off alone. It’s not a social event. This one you savor alone, every second, every turn. So we got to know drivers and other folks and miss them all now. The company pulled all sponsorship.

Rob, the genius, was able to fit our racing interests into entertaining customers. Like how can we go to the race car driving academy for free with free time off work? Take customers! Ten at a time. Ten drivers to tend to us with a professional photographer to snap every turn of every car.  The boys who sit in the big kids chair are all over this one. That C-level formality at the dinner the night before at Mortons turns into “can I take your turn around the track again, please, please, please”. By the second day we are all best friends and everyone agrees that this is better than thier honeymoon. The all turn into little boys again who want to drive race cars. It’s a kick. Wow, can you tell where the real fun is? Love it.

Speaking of F1…there are a lot of wheelchairs at races.  I always wonder, is it because they race too? You don’t have to be able to walk to drive. Mobility. And some are probably drivers injured along the way. Either way, the handicapped section at Montreal are the best seats at the track (smile).

ST:  The closest I ever got to the racing life was cruising Main Street in Walnut Creek in 1964 in my friend Bob Stone’s ’40 Ford with the Chevy 286. Oh, and we went to the drags at Vacaville a few times. I wonder if that dragstrip is still there. There was a less formal event at an old airstrip near Dupont Chemical in the Pittsburg/Antioch area. The percentage of blown out engines to successful drag racers always baffled me… I was always too poor and too cheap to play those fast toy games!  Listen to me, comparing teenage dragsters to Formula One race cars.

Meg:  Uh, I think it’s about the same Frank. The race bug bites and it doesn’t much matter what kind of car it is. Right?  I wonder too about that Pittsburg track, I heard about it from a ex-driver somewhere along the way.

ST:  Tell me more about the philosophy behind Mandarin Design.  Are you making any money with it?  Clearly you’re staying up front with the CSS2 stuff and all. I sense that’s what it’s for – just staying involved in forward tech, but the work you put into it seems like it should have a payoff in US dollars.

Meg:  “…it should have a payoff in US dollars.”  No, you don’t believe that. I can tell, you are like us.  None of this is about money. Nothing we do is about money.

The idea in the beginning was to have a job to fall back on where we could work from home and from any place in the world. When money is exchanged things get complicated and I realized later that none of it was really for money.  It’s for stimulation and just plain fun. We don’t need money right now. There’s plenty from the day jobs and we both prefer a humble lifestyle. The things we like to do are what companies pay us to do (races, conferences and other travel). And, Rob’s territory does include Hawaii.  Doesn’t this all sound too good to be true? Our life is like that and we appreciate every minute of it.

ST:  I gathered from your blog that this is a second marriage.

Meg:  The teenage marriage lasted ten years and we are still best friends. We just moved on once we grew up. He needed to pursue his musical career. No, he’s still is not a rock star. His kids call me “Aunt Micki” and don’t have a clue that they are not actually related to us. We have a large extended family. Dennis (the first) and Rob (the best) are best friends now. Dennis calls from Atlanta, always visits when in Sacto, and we are just one big happy family (or famdamily as my daughter’s mother-in-law calls us). We are all very family oriented.

ST:  Michelle, I’ve been talking around some deeply personal stuff that I read on your blog.  And last November in an email you shared with me that things were different “since the stroke.”  I don’t want to open any wounds, and I’ll respect your privacy to the extent that you require, but can you share with me some of that dark, perhaps tragic undercurrent that informs your life and your work?

Meg:  I trust you with this information and you are welcome to use whatever you can.  Not to bore you with the details but to summarize: My mother was brutally murdered and psychologically tortured by a young man and Sis and I sat through the trial where he was sentenced to life (three jurors wanted the death penalty).

A few years later I found the perfect man to marry (a real marriage, not like the other marriage at age 16). I suffered a brain event before the end of our first year of marriage. The recovery was slow and is not complete. I relearned how to think and am about one-half as productive as the pre-stroke; luckily only two people at work even noticed.  A friend who was also my boss at the time remarked to the only other person who had noticed the change in me, “It’s too bad what happened, she was a good programmer.”

Actually, it is this same friend, the genius, who thinks that I have now developed a method that is more precise,user-friendly, and works well (he tells the other person, not me). It’s a slower method. For all in-house apps they ask “has Michelle approved this?” which tells me that upper management does think that all Internet applications need to have my blessing. That feels good and makes me know that I have improved.

Then there was a spinal injury and the knee injury that was secondary to the spine injury. I pretend that all is well here in the wheelchair but my world is filled with obstacles.   The point? I lose that…what I’m trying to say is that while I was once a person who people asked “what are you always so happy about, you always have that smile”. And, I still smile but also [feel from time to time] that the animated part of the personality is gone.  The part of Michelle that is left is…well, that changes from day to day. But the Michelle in these pictures is also me

The guitar is my friend. Growing up married to a musician brought pain and at the same time allowed me to find and explore music. I started writing songs as a teenager, singing (on recordings only, too shy for the stage). The guitar became my best friend. I had a knack for melody and words hardly mattered. Those who would play my songs never understood what they were about. It’s like when you write and go back and do not recall if that is your own writing or if you copied it.

For one fellow who asked (back in the old days when a recording meant a professional recording and wasn’t something every band did) my husband if he thought I would mind if he used a particular song he had heard that I had recorded the day before on his album, Dennis said “here take the tape and I’ll make sure tonight”.   Ah, I had written five or six songs that night and all were up for grabs. You get it, right? Prolific song writer and some were good. Actually, when that fellow married later he and his wife started doing duos. He said he had never forgotten how Dennis and I sounded together. At one event they sang “Danny’s Song”, the song he heard us do together. Lew (still a professional musician) and I are lifelong friends. We practiced Buddism together.

The Day Job
My work persona has changed dramatically. I no longer lead multi-million dollar projects which is fine with me. I work alone. There isn’t anyone to tell me what to do, I make up my work as we go along. When folks need something (information, design, development, integration of multiple products, etc. they ask if I can do it and then I do.

Again, what is the point?  There was a time when I was somebody. Conferences are avoided now and I’ve turned to doing this puppy-chow site to keep up with some of the aspects of Internet-related development, and to help others who learn by doing (the only way that I can learn now).

It’s a new life now.  I sort of “bragged” once in the blog about the people we know, the movie stars we get to meet, the famous drivers, etc. Most of that is just to let folks know that I am OK. It isn’t intended to be bragging, just portraying what our real life is like and that while there are deficits here and there we do live a good life, the high life. We live in a humble home, earn enough money and we will live happily-ever-after. Rob left early this morning to work in Hawaii for the week so, as you can see (or read), I have way too much time to type.

ST:  Where are you from originally?  Where did you go to school?  As a little girl, what were your favorite things to do outdoors? Indoors? 
Meg:  Floridian by birth but grew up in Sacramento, California.  The folks moved here so that Mom could attend UC Davis.  They returned to Florida when I was sixteen. I stayed here with my (first) husband (he was older, age 17 *smile*).  I’ve attended every school and training center in driving distance, and then some. Like my mother, I still take classes at UCD now and then (she was a teacher and a student until the end of her life).

Growing up we camped at Muir Beach and in the mountains exploring most of Northern California in a panel wagon truck. We would hunt right here in West Sacramento and that’s still how I see the fields, as places where pheasants, dove, and quail hide. I had a horse, played Bobby Sox (catcher, not pitcher), took dance lessons, all of the normal kid stuff (except that other girls didn’t shoot or hunt). I didn’t kill anything, just carried the gun and enjoyed the outdoors. Now I hunt with a camera. It just wasn’t cool to walk through the fields back then without a gun.

We weren’t indoors a lot. That’s where we did our homework and slept. We weren’t a big TV family. In the evenings Mom graded papers while I did my homework.   Or vice versa. Some nights she would do my homework (if it was interesting like a book report on Wuthering Heights)  and I would grade the papers. Essays from six English classes were boring to her, Wuthering Heights was boring to me.

Nothing changed much by the time I was in my twenties.  Still love the outdoors and don’t do much TV.  I started work for the State of California at age 18, my husband for Ma Bell age 18. We got him out of the draft (Vietnam) raised our kids while I went to college and well…we didn’t have the same experiences that most have in their twenties. We were planted firm with our own home and good jobs with benefits at an early age.

ST:  How long have you been programming?  Where did you get your start?  What kind of work are you doing these days?

Meg:  I started programming in about 1985. Labor Market Analysts were being laid off due to budget cuts so I sent out 50 resumes a day and landed a job as a Programmer II within two weeks of the layoff. The pay was the same and I needed a job. They needed experienced Analysts for an intensive programming training program. The job included mainframe programming,installing Datapoint LANs (minicomputers), and coding operating systems. The next job at Fish and Game was more interesting. A mainframe and PC position where I set the statewide PC standards, wrote feasibility studies, and mostly built custom PC-based applications.

I work at a Data Center now where I specialize in Network data. I torture data and build Internet and Intranet applications. There is still mainframe work involved too, but I prefer the PC work. I’m a rogue who swims alone. My boss vaguely knows what I do. He sees only the end product and doesn’t see everything I do of course.

They know that independence is a good thing.

ST:  Can you send me a couple of pictures to dress up the interview with?  Shoulder shots are fine although the full frontal nudity ones would make wonderful screen savers… oops.  Let’s stay professional here.

Meg:  Sure. I’ll send the one Computerworld spent $1800 for.  Nah, I’ll find a better one. For $1800 they could have photoshoped it and made it look good don’t you think?

ST:  It was recently reported that Microsoft had produced the world’s first Wi Fi enabled toilet… A reputable publisher put this forward.  Now, it’s been revealed that the whole thing was probably a hoax.  How do you feel about that?

Meg:  It’s just the sh..ts when my perfect hoax is revealed. We better start working on another one.

ST:  I have a personal question about sex in a wheelchair, but I don’t know how to frame it.

Meg:  Step 1. Get out of the wheelchair

ST:  I don’t want to pry too deep, but I can tell from the pixels on my screen that you smell great!  Where do you stand on fragrance?  Do you use perfume?    Scented bath smellies?  A shampoo that gives off a signature whiff?   Was it de Niro in “Scent of a Woman?”  What would that blind guy have said when you walked by?

Meg:  Tresor with a hint of Gap Heaven.

ST:  Thanks, I needed that.  Here’s a political question or two… I know you supported the young people in the US armed forces who have seen service in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 18 months or so.  I wonder how you feel as it becomes more apparent that the administration lied to us about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? 

Meg:  Everyone lies but you and me.  Peace dude.  I respect people like my spine surgeon Dr. Matthews who is still in Baghdad.   I feared for the young and hoped they would never have to come home to the angry mob. My friend was killed in Vietnam at age 19. He didn’t know what Vietnam was about. He came home in a box. Others came home to those of us who failed to give them proper respect, me included.  With yellow ribbons I will greet them now. My yellow ribbon today is for Dr. Matthews. Even if he can’t help them he will help them.

ST:  Are the tech types in Sacramento suffering reduced income like they are in many other parts of the country?  Has the state lowered the rates that they’ll pay contractors?

Meg:  Our pay is going to be reduced by 10%, but that isn’t a lot of money. We’ve hired some of the private industry folks who are happy just to land a job. Our contractors are paid $160 – $260 hour. They are generally hired for long term projects (most that I work with have been with us at least a year). The pay doesn’t  change and their fees haven’t changed that I know of. We have not noticed any decrease in the number of contractors.

For any one meeting I attend there will be at least one or two who are contractors. Some stay on for so many years that we don’t know who is under contract. Alex stayed with us for nearly three years at $160 hour. Todd who just left us was on for a few months for $240 hour.

ST:  Has any of that affected Mandarin Design?

Meg:  We are non-profit by design.
ST:  Food groups -  What’s your favorite healthy meal? 

Meg:  McDonald’s Happy Meal with a strawberry shake and a boy toy.

ST:  What’s your favorite unhealthy meal? 

Meg:  McDonald’s Happy Meal with a strawberry shake and a boy toy.

ST:  Would you rather dine out or eat at home, even if it meant fixing the meal yourself?

Meg:  Restaurants feel too much like work. We never go out to dinner unless it is a work obligation.

ST:  Who are some of your favorite bloggers and why?

Meg:  You are my favorite blogger.

ST:  And you and I don’t lie!  Would you rather camp out or go to a four star resort?

Meg:  I prefer to camp in the backwoods, trailblazing, no facilities, by a mountain stream. Rob thinks camping is a Hyatt on the water. Mostly we stay at 5 star resorts (some only have 4 stars). But we do frequent a little motel on the water in Florida that is a dive. They greet us with a hug and a “gimme some sugar”. We wear old clothes, use faded beach towels, and sit at night and talk with all of the new friends we make each day.

ST:  Jet ski or canoe?

Meg:  Sailing

ST:  What online and/or mail order catalog serves you best in the search for clothes you can wear to work?

Meg:  Fredericks?

ST:  That’s what I’m talking about!

Meg:  Stop it!  I meant to say Gap and Talbots.

ST:  Tell me about Mandarin Design’s hardware and software… what kind of computers do you have around the house and what do they have running on them?

Meg:  Here I have the usual setup, the only difference is the 21″ monitor and dual flat screens at work. Software includes Apache, MySQL, PHP, ColdFusion, Adobe, Visual Studio, and more.  For Web development I use notepad. Fast typist, slow clicker. Have the WYSIWIGs but don’t use them.

ST:  Do you think blogging and/or wikis will find their way into the workplace?  I tried to get our State Division of Public Health into it a year and a half ago and they just sort of sat there with empty expressions.

Meg:  Empty expressions? I suppose that means you were meeting with the highest level staff. 

There is a tremendous opportunity in blogs that are being overlooked or not taken seriously.  For example, we have about 2024 customer sites that serve about 150,000 – 200,000 people.  Naturally, Disaster Recovery has been stepped up since 9/11 and teams are working on it as much or more than for the Y2K effort.

A simple suggestion that I keep throwing out is to create a site (blog) where the servers are not located in California (earthquakes and floods). On a daily or weekly basis we could attract our customers to the “communication” site by listing current outages and ETAs, post tips, tricks, treats, and more. Get our customers used to going there and remembering the URL or some good search terms.

With this site/blog we all have a place to go to communicate with one another in the event of a disaster.  Some folks might be up (Los Angeles)  while others (Sacramento) are down. We have to have a physical location to meet but that can’t be determined until the actual disaster. The blog could be used to communicate among ourselves and our customers.

Everyone that I mention it to thinks it is a great idea (the “site” with servers located in another state) and they expand on it. Most don’t know what a blog is so I try to sell the idea referring to it as a site that would cost very little to operate and everyone could use…. No heavy training….  Access to the blog to various geographical areas, etc.

Right now I think the idea doesn’t actually get to Exec staff because they can’t dabble in small successes that cost very little. Our multi-millon dollar projects apparently need solutions that are comensurate with the cost of the project. Seriously. If they charged us, the State of California, at least $500,000 then the idea  would  get passed up the food chain. Our Director reports directly to the Governor. Now, how can the Governor say “we are going to have 30 bloggers in the State working on a Disaster Recovery site disquised as a Communicate with the Customer site”.

ST:  It hurts to close this conversation.  The material is so deep and rich.  Michelle shared everything with me, and I’m humbled by own linitations.  Mandarin Design has tips tricks and cheats for bloggers to make our sites look better. I have all these good intentions of someday tidying up by using the information Michelle shares freely on what she CALLS a “puppy-chow” site, but is actually a rich resource for the HTML novice like me.

She sent me links and pictures that time constraints prevent me weaving in here tonight.  And a blog is a blog and i’m not prolific like Golby.  You’ll just have to hope she reposts some of them on Mandarin.  I’m still hoping she’s going to send me that screen saver. 

The Parts that were

The Parts that were left out of the Ryan Irelan Interview

Golby:  What is it about bloggers, Frank? Who is this Irelan guy? I feel I’ve known him a hundred years.

From his music to movies to attitude to learning… yep, it’s a real privilege to read this, Ryan. One thing strikes me. While giving so many straightforward, clear answers, you seem to be asking more questions than Frank.

Springsteen’s song’s circling my brain. “No retreat, baby, no surrender.” It comes across pretty strong, especially with Dylan and Petty backing. I guess my motto was a bit closer to “We busted outa class, had to get away from those fools”, but there you go, it’s the same song.

With the shift in emphasis, I guess you’re about seventeen years more mature than I am :) .  
Ah, yes, this is the better part of blogging. Thanks to both of you.

Irelan:  I’m all questions, Golby (if I may call you that). Here’s some music stuff that didn’t make it into the final draft:

Harry Nilsson. That is where it’s at.

I have a list of people I would like to see in concert before they die. No, really. Dylan, Petty and The Boss have already been checked off the list. Who else? Let’s see… Neil Young, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. Of course I would also like to see Elvis Costello, Lucinda Williams, Radiohead (I had a chance to see them but missed it — for a girl — I promptly broke up with her and to this day do not forgive her), the Stones and I’m at a loss at moment as to the rest.

A few I sadly missed – Jeff Buckley, Garcia, Harry Nilsson and Zappa.

I listen to almost anything except new country (old country is okay), christian music, and anything that is either equally or more annoying than Jennifer Lopez. An easy way to describe my taste in music would be “good.”

Most recently I’ve rediscovered Neil Young’s latest album “Are You Passionate” (2002), which, despite the awful artwork, is an excellent album. Track 9 “Two Old Friends” is oh so good and oh so Neil Young.

“‘I’m dreamin’ of a time when love and music is everywhere.’ ‘Can you see that time comin”? ‘No, my son, that time is gone. There’s things to do.’”

So, what’s my favorite song? Well, it’s so hard to choose, but if I had to I would say “Born to Run” by Springsteen. But that could change tomorrow. Ya never know.


Golby:  With a career almost as long as Dylan’s and classics spanning the years from Buffalo Springfield to today, Neil Young’s probably one of the most under-rated musicians in modern music. With the price of music being pretty steep here, ‘new’ stuff is hard to come by [unless it's for the kids - who have good taste - my little 11-year olds just completed her collection of Nirvana] and TV doesn’t offer much. Hence, although I know his music, I’ve not seen or heard much of Johnny Cash besides the time-worn classics. Both he and Young sang about a hell of a lot more than they sang about. Somehow, Willie Nelson has slipped through our paucity of televised sound and, yes, Wendy and I sit and chuckle at the old bastard tossing out his classics. There’s a throwaway class about greatness and Nelson has it in spadefuls [I think the last thing we saw was a tribute concert where, as with Dylan's 30th, he showed the new kids on the block how it's done]. If Dylan came out here? I’ve said it before. I’d probably crawl the 1,000 miles to Jo’burg on bloodshod knees, without expectation. I’ve met some great people in my time and I’d just like to see if old Bob really carries all that he gives with the paradoxically self-conscious, diffident nonchalance and self-conscious, staged mastery he shows on stage. Never was a Dead Head (that was an American phenomenon, I think) but, yes, we grew up listening to Zappa. I’ve had ‘No Surrender’ on my mind for a while now and I think, running through most of Springsteen’s great songs (Born in the USA as well), and these other guys – with the possible exception of Petty who, to me, has always been a fellow cynic in a brotherly way (although…), is the notion of ‘follow your dreams down’. I’ve always been a sucker for that and expressed well in music or song and perhaps played out with a keyboard or pen rather than drums or guitars, it’s an unbeatable feeling.

Sandhill Trek Interview:  Ryan Irelan…

Sandhill Trek Interview:  Ryan Irelan… Becoming

A few weeks ago, Ryan Irelan wondered when there would be another Sandhill Trek interview. I asked him if he’d like to be the subject. “Only if I can write it off as a business expense,” he said.

“That would be between you, your conscience and the Internal Revenue Circus. We are, after all, professionals,”

I replied.

“Alright, Frank. I’m only doing it as a major publicity stunt (that and because you linked to my cat)… I’m unemployed, so I have nothing but time.”

And we were off and running.

Sandhill Trek:

On April 28th Steve Jobs quoted Hunter S. Thompson as follows, “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

I understand people are lining up to trade little green pictures of George Washington for bits that when properly rendered sound a lot like music. Was Jobs trying to be funny do you think, or was he just telling it like it is?

Ryan Irelan:

There’s nothing funny about the music business. But I am sure I do not have to convince anyone of this. DRM and the alienation of customers by the RIAA is enough. The “war on piracy” and the other doings of the RIAA only scratch the surface of a severely corrupt and wretched industry.

I have had some very good friends get baited, hooked and clubbed by the music biz. They worked hard to make it and eventually signed a record deal with Elektra Records. A bundle of money was thrown at them and they lived the hard, edgy rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. While they were never really required to repay the money the record company advanced them, it wasn’t for free. They, much like hookers, gave up a bit of their freedom to the record company, the pimps, with great hope of making it “big time.”

I’ve been pimped out myself. In between my first stint at college and my time in Germany I worked as a sound engineer for a few local bands, some of which were signed to an indie label. The label folks always stalled on paying me for my work, holding the metaphorical carrot in front of my face, wanting me to sacrifice for the good of the band, which would ultimately “benefit” me (Side note: it never did). I cannot even count how many times I worked for free; sometimes it even cost me money. I often traveled at my cost, many times not even receiving a per diem to cover my meals. One trip to SXSW cost me hundreds of dollars. Sure, I was dumb. But I was also young and willing to take a risk. That’s where they get you, in your youth.

(But a few of those risks also brought some unique opportunities. Most notably the time I met D.J. Fontana and Scotty Moore, the original drummer and guitarist for Elvis. I will never forget sitting in the dark, plush control room of a Nashville studio watching Scotty Moore play the historical guitar lick from Heartbreak Hotel. Only earlier to have listened to D.J Fontana, during an interview with a reporter from Drummer Magazine, tell hilarious stories about Elvis. It was amazing.)

In short, the music biz isn’t just corrupt at the upper levels in LA or NYC. It’s clearly infected all the way down to the roots, because everyone will do anything to move up, make more money and get better coke. It’s really all about coke.

There’s only one thing worse than the music industry, the Christian music industry. Just take my word.

(For an interesting, though somewhat predictable, take on the music biz pick up Tom Petty’s latest album “The Last DJ.”)

But back to Apple and their music store.

I think the interesting question is why did the record execs work so willingly with Apple in setting up the music store? Why does it appear that the labels have had a seemingly sudden change of heart? It’s simple. Mac users aren’t “pirates.” They figure that anyone who will pay so much money for a computer and then for the software has to either a) be an idiot or b) be a honest hard working person who is willing to fully participate in the capitalistic wet dream of big corps.

You pick the answer.

Mac users are the perfect audience for this type of service and its no surprise that is has been so successful. They are willing to spend gobs of money on anything that Steve Jobs personally promotes, citing it as “the next best thing.” Sure, the Mac community is very cultist-like but I’m sure any user group that is only 5% of the overall pie would also seem cultist. Look at the Southern Baptists, for example (ooops, did I say that?). So, the success of the Apple Music Store (over 1 million downloads in the first week) seems a no-brainer.


I understand that school’s out and the job market is a little bleak… what did you study? What degree did you take? Any plans to leave North Carolina? When did you marry? Any children?


Let’s start with the basics, shall we? I was born on April 26, 1975 in Newton, New Jersey to a large family (I have 4 sisters and one brother). Yes, I am the youngest. I had the exhilarating experience of growing up in Freehold, NJ, the hometown of Bruce Springsteen, living what I like to call a Leave it to Beaver (or maybe even Brady Bunch) life. I have a fine family and some very tolerant parents. I would conjecture that I was not the easiest kid to bring up, what being the youngest and all.

I was very different than the rest of my siblings and always took the “path less traveled,” which more times not was also the most difficult. All of my siblings have at least a bachelor’s degree; the youngest sister has a master’s of divinity and is an ordained pastor.

After a less than stellar high school career, I enrolled in the local community college with a major in music theory. I learned my theory and clapped by rhythms and then, after two semesters, transferred to Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) in Murfreesboro, TN, which is about 30 miles outside of Nashville. At MTSU I studied (in this order):  Recording Industry, Photography and German.

Recording Industry was, much to your surprise, I’m sure, a complete farce of a major. Recording engineers are smart, skilled folks. However, the university attempted to train students how to be a perfect ear, while at the same time holding them to many traditional college requirements. The mix didn’t work for me at all. So I ditched it and moved to photography, where I could actually get hands-on quickly and hassled less. As a photography major I spent countless hours in the darkroom breathing in chemicals and the like, going through expensive print paper by the boxful. It was fun and I was pretty good at it.

This was an incredibly impressionable time for me and I, like many, defined my life with the lyrics and musical genius of Springsteen, Dylan, Petty, et al. One of my mottos was the Springsteen lyric that went thus: “We learned more from a three-minute record than we ever learned in school.”

After two semesters of photography I quit school (but not photographing) and became a full time pizza delivery engineer. I survived the hot and humid Tennessee summers in my ’85 Nissan pickup truck, with no A/C and sticky vinyl seats. Oh the goodle days. In the evenings I would “run sound” for local bands in any number of smoke-filled, beer-spilled bars in Murfreesboro and Nashville. I had a few opportunities to travel with the bands; once to CMJ in NYC and to SXSW in Austin. Despite the lack of funding and a real over-anxious prick for a road manager, both trips were great times. In NYC the label actually put us up in a nice hotel off of Times Square. We thought we were living the high life. Ha!

So the life of a pizza boy and music moonlighter went on until December of 1997, however my focus changed in February of the same year. That’s when I met a girl.

I always told my friends that the last place they should seek a mate is in a bar. I won’t get into the intricacies of my theory on bar chicks, but suffice it to say that what goes around comes around; again and again and again. I bring this up because I, the preacher of the anti-bar girl gospel, met my wife, Alexandra, in a bar. But wait! This was different.

She was in the country (she’s from Germany) visiting a friend who attended the same college I did (although at this time I was well into my dropout phase). Consequently we also shared some common friends, so we were introduced during the show. The first thing she said to me was “what are you doing?”; referring to the large mixing board in front of me. I fell for her immediately and we started dating about a month later.

Alexandra stayed for three months, but returned a month later to visit again. I then visited her in Germany and a few months after that we met in Miami Beach. Exhausted from the long distance relationship, I sucked in my gut, packed up my stuff and moved to Germany. Best damn thing I ever did.

Ah, but there was a slight problem. The only thing I knew how to say in German was that I like to bite my fingernails. That, I told myself, would not get me very far.

I enrolled in an intensive four-day a week German class at the local adult learning school (Volkshochschule) and less than a year later I was fluent. Yeah, it shocked me as well.

While living in Germany I also worked a few odd jobs. I worked at an American Sports Bar, a popular fast-food establishment and, my favorite, as part-time freelance photographer at a regional newspaper.

A little more than a year and a half after I moved to Germany, on July 16, 1999, Alexandra and I were married in a small, stone, 400 year-old chapel across the street from the house that her grandfather built after returning from WWII. A few weeks after the wedding I returned to the U.S. to reenroll in school, majoring in German, and Alex joined me in October after her paperwork with the INS cleared.

I took two years to finish up my bachelor’s degree and applied and was accepted into three graduate programs in German literature (UNC Chapel Hill, UW Madison and UT Austin). For various reasons I chose Carolina for my graduate studies and began in the Fall 2024.

I just completed my M.A. in German Literature at UNC and, as you correctly write, am looking for a job. We will be staying in North Carolina for at least a year, as Alex has only been at her job for a year and would like to stay for the time being (not to mention she has great health insurance).

Alexandra and I are avid travelers and with her working for an airline with all the perks and privileges, we’ve been enjoying visiting different cities, one of most favorite being Chicago. Because of hellish schedule during grad school, she’s taken much more advantage of the flying privileges.

So, you want to know if we have kids? Last August we adopted a kitten from the shelter, named Marley, and he’s been our only venture into parenting as of yet. Marley has had some fairly serious medical problems this year which has been difficult, to say the least, but eased somewhat by the kindness and generosity of webloggers, with many of whom I had never previously corresponded. It was a truly awesome outpouring of generosity.


Analysts suggest that for many years a religious war has been fought on the frontiers of information technology — Apple advocates versus IBM fanatics. If you had to pick sides, I imagine you’d be posted out in the orchard somewhere. My question is, does one have to pick sides, and if so, why did you pick Apple? (This is a trick question… see the Book of Genesis for historical context).


Regarding my choice in computing devices, you should know that I purchased my first Mac only last February and I still own a rather bulky, ugly, beige, loud Dell desktop computer. So, you can attempt to paint me into the corner of avid Mac fan (which I no doubt am), however I am no Mac groupie, hanging on Jobs’s every word. First of all, I ain’t got the freakin’ cash and secondly, I refuse to turn into whiney old bastards like the mid-lifer’s at my local Mac User Group meeting. They’re totally pathetic at times.

But if I had to really choose? I would pick my iBook. I’ve never been much of saint, so why start now?


Ryan, the new Dells are black and they run fast and silent. I have a Dimension 4550 looking at me from the corner, waiting for me to get the monitor sharing switch hooked up. The old monitor I’ll be sharing remains quite beige.


A good friend of mine also has a slick new Dell. They are pretty nice. Thanks to Apple for leading the way. I have to say, I’ve had my Dell for almost three years and it has only had one issue with the power supply. It has been a reliable machine.


SXSW… did you go down there for the music and possibly stay for the tech? Or not. I’ve wanted to look into that event for years, but I either have the time and no money or vice versa.


I went to SXSW purely for the music. This was in 1997, so I don’t know if the tech portion was already underway. From what I’ve heard the tech portion of SXSW is very cliquey and high schoolish. If you do go, hang around the music scene. The people are most likely much cooler and who could pass up some great music?


I’m thinking that now must be the worst possible time to be job hunting in the pop music/German/photography fields. Have you thought about abandoning the job hunt and plowing on for a “terminal” degree?


Yes, it is a horrible time to look for a job. I originally planned on getting my PhD but for a variety of reasons decided not to continue. I’m somewhat worn out from the rigors of graduate school and was not completely happy at the university. Perhaps one day I will continue and earn my doctorate, however first I will take a break and explore some other options.

I don’t plan on working as a photographer or in music. I also have no plans to continue teaching German.

To be honest I have a pile of other things I’d rather do right now than continue on into a PhD program. I have not ruled it out completely, but it’s no longer a priority.

My experience in grad school has really cut me off from many other things and people I enjoy, and it has narrowed my viewpoint or angle, especially when reflecting back upon my own accomplishments and myself. The whole nature of graduate work (I can only speak from personal experience) has squelched my creativity, strained relationships and just made me simply less happy than I was before.

For me grad school was all consuming. I lived in a very tiny world and everything I said, wrote and did was judged only within the context of the graduate program. It is a suffocating life.

But I’m glad I did it.


I’ll be in Chicago for the Digital Genres thing. I hope I get to meet you there. You might want to sell this to your accountant and CEO as a job search opportunity with some get-away time for the two of you!


I hope to return to Chicago at the end of this month. The only two things that might prevent me from attending Alex Golub’s Digital Genres conference are a possible job and not having a job. I can fly there for free, but the costs of staying the weekend may be more than what my accountant (read: wife) deems acceptable for my unemployed arse. So, we’ll see. It would be splendid to be in Chicago again and meet some of the interesting people that are attending the conference.

ST: I see you blogged recently about the purpose of academia being higher, nobler, than the commonly held vision that a University exists to improve markets… train the engineers, the product specialists, the businesspeople. A University you think exists also to cultivate some higher understanding. Would you care to elaborate on this… to put into your words instead of mine? I generally agree with the idea, but there has been a real and growing polarization for decades.


I almost pulled my post about the role of the university because I think it’s, well, crap. I have a very naive view of the university. I’m an educational idealist, if that makes sense. Basically what I wrote in that post was very unfocused (which is probably why you are asking me about it) and I still have no idea how to express my thoughts on it except to say that no matter what people say or do to pervert the university system, higher education will always serve a greater purpose, almost as if it is inherent in its nature to do so. It happens automatically, almost by default. Oy, I’m treading on some dangerous philosophical ground here.


What do you want to do when you grow up?




I read on a bumper sticker on the way home tonight: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” How do you, a freshly minted scholar, feel about that? Or rather perhaps, what do you think about it?


I think it’s complete crap. That statement is also saying that knowledge and imagination do not coexist, which is a something of a logical fallacy, don’t you think?


Yup. I think knowledge fuels imagination which is why I am very glad that I know everything! I’m wondering about the prospects for sushi in Chapel Hill? Seems like the weather may be a little warm for raw fish, but do you find it so?


Ahhh…Sushi. Off the top of my head I can count about six different places to get sushi (none chain restaurants) within 3 miles from my apartment. My favorite place to eat sushi is Kurama Sushi and Noodle Express, which boasts a rotating sushi bar and is packed full during lunch hours. I’m not sure how it is elsewhere, but here you can buy fresh sushi at almost any quality grocery store or market. I routinely pick up a mixed box of sushi when in the grocery store. I’ve even converted the traditional German palette of my wife to sushi, although she doesn’t venture into the raw fish area.


I’m curious regarding your sense of the commercial value of your photography. Have you made any large prints of the Luebeck architecture and peddled them in art houses and art fairs and such?


The only time that I have ever earned money for my photography was as a freelancer in Germany. I have naturally toyed with the idea of peddling my work but have never really put the effort into it. Perhaps this is the time to do such a thing. I’m assuming you’ll want to place the first order?


I was just over at Turner’s voice mail and I heard your telemarketing message for the “Blog Wonder” product. I wonder if you can tell me a little more about how this product has helped bloggers world-wide to reach out to dozens of like minded people with the skill of actual multi-media professionals? Also, are there any multi-level marketing opportunities here? I might want to get in near the ground floor.


BlogWonder is an all-in-one, all-in-wonder, weblogging tool that can turn your weblog into a international hit. There is no technical expertise needed because BlogWonder comes ready to roll and you’ll be online and publishing the next Scripting News in less than 30 seconds. Can you believe that?

In the interest of moving product I have to remain vague regarding the details. If not you will catch on that the package only contains pigeon poop, an AOL CD and assorted Jolly Ranchers from 1985.

I never thought about making the BlogWonder phenomenon a multi-level marketing scam opportunity. If I do initiate such a deal, you’ll be the first to know. However if you would like to help out BlogWonder Inc. is searching for financial backers. I envision a first round of funding to consist of a twelve pack of Dos Equis, an extra large veggie pizza and two boxes of honey butter microwave popcorn. Oh and 4 lbs of Peet’s Major Dickason Blend.


Tonight there’s a total eclipse of a full moon, David Weinberger is waxing virtually epistemological at AKMA’s school, and the Matrix sequel is opening. Three splendid entertainment opportunities and yet Beth and I are going upstairs to read in bed. (We’ll go look at the moon from the balcony from time to time though).

Do you plan to see “The Matrix – Reloaded?”


Eventually I will go see The Matrix – Reloaded, although the initial reports from the Blogosphere are far from glowing. I very rarely go see films on opening night. I like to see them on a Monday matinee when the theater is empty. As a kid I waited in line to see Karate Kid 2. In hindsight I realize what a terrible decision that was.

Last year I was in LA and I went to Universal City Walk and saw Austin Powers 3 on opening night. It was crazy. The theater had about twenty theaters and 15 were playing Austin Powers and you still had to go a couple of hours ahead to get a ticket. We got there a bit late and had to sit close to the front. Then about 20 minutes into the movie this guy and girl in the row in front of us began to argue (they didn’t know each other). I later find out that she told him to stop laughing so loud and that set him off. It was quite a scene. It was a good movie. I bought it on DVD and watch it when I need a good laugh. Have you seen it?

It’s raining and cloudy here tonight, so I don’t think I’ll be able to see the eclipse. Damn shame too.


If you had to pick a movie or two that provide references for your real life, what would they be?


That’s simple. Easy Rider, The Big Lebowski and High Fidelity. This is subject to change.


I’ve heard it said that the Chicago Cubs can’t have a website because they can’t put three W’s together. Have you heard that?  maybe it wasn’t the Cubs… maybe it was UNC.


Huh? But I’m laughing only because I think it is supposed to be funny.


I’ve been stewing over the post-Modernism complexity that so many of the heavy thinkers whose opinions I value are stirring into our soup. What do you have to say about this topic that will make it easy for me to understand?


I’m still on the exit ramp from a rough and tough semester writing a master’s thesis on eighteenth-century German theater, so at the moment I am not in the position to enlighten anyone on the finer points of Post-Modernism. However, I do have a book on my desk on the very subject matter. I plan to read it this summer. It’s called “After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism” by Andreas Huyssen. It was given to me by a professor. We had plans to work together on technology and German literature. It is still a project I’m interested, but I will now do it on my own. I’ll always have library privileges.


How did you and Alex celebrate your most recent anniversary?


I surprised her and took her to the North Carolina Zoological Gardens. She always wanted to go, even in Tennessee, and for some reason we never made it. This year is our fourth anniversary and I’ve yet to figure something out.


And if the earth really rests on the back of a turtle and that turtle stands on a turtle is it safe to assume that it’s turtles all the way down?


No. I would have to see a pattern of at least 6 turtles.


That’s pretty definitive. I hope you’ve enjoyed this exchange as much as I have!