Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sometime Around Midnight

January 11th, 2009
Sunday Morning, 10:51

It's been over a week since my last post, sorry for that, I needed to let 2009 sink into my bones, work its way through and become reality.

I rang in New Year 09 in Barcelona, Spain, with family and new friends, at a hip little restaurant called Taxidermista (translation: The Taxidermist, I guess I needed to freeze 08, stuff it and put it on the shelf or wall). Sometime around midnight, with the bang of a gong from the restaurant owner, that arbitrary date, January 1st, washed over me and began a new chapter in my life. I subscribe to the Gregorian calendar and its random dates, (do I really have a choice?), but this time I let the lunar cycle take hold and I absorbed its significant meaning. I had a very challenging 2008. It was the type of year which makes one think about the choices they have made, their mortality and it made me think long and hard about what I want to do with the rest of my perceived time here.

This post isn't going to give any answers to that last statement, this post is simply here to get you up to speed on my current wave of thinking. I will be writing about that last paragraph through out the course of the year I suspect. Most importantly, I believe for the first time in years, I have made concrete choices, have chosen a path and I am prepared for all that follows. 2009 is about taking control, understanding there will be landmines and pratfalls, but knowing, that if I focus, I can preserver. (At least that is what I am telling myself today....)

Today, today is about the future and tools that will help me get there. I was inspired by some end of the year articles I recently read. I wanted to write about the tools on the web that I use everyday, the applications and the gadgets that help to make my life easier. I thought about this more profoundly once I landed back home from my trip to Barcelona. I didn't have my laptop with me for that trip, the hotel had a tech cafe and if I wanted to stay connected or make a post, I could. I was on a fraction of the time I normally would be, not constantly wired. What impressed me the most once I returned home, was that in about the span of 30 minutes, I was up to speed on everything I missed for five days. I mean everything; where the TARP stands, how the market is still red, what movies are worth seeing that came out while I was away, what friends did for New Years, how friends felt, what tech gadgets I didn't receive for Christmas that I should add to the list, what were the top 25 songs of the year, how my Eagles were preparing for the first round of the playoffs, what was funny and what was not and what I missed during the New Years Rocking Eve. That was a powerful revelation.

So I will share with you today the tools, sites and gadgets I use every day that keep me in the loop and prepared. The list expands almost daily. Some tools come off and some come on the list. During the time of recession and depression talk, its great to see and read about the impact the true innovators are having everyday. America is rebranding and rethinking and will be forced to get smarter, smaller, faster. The Europeans I met in Spain still want us to innovate and invigorate and they want us to share our culture (just not force it in their faces).

Hunker down for 09, save more then you spend, look for the tools that will help you become more efficient, for life, work & play.

Here are B's top gadgets/sites for 09:

Gadgets (nothing earth shattering here):

1. iPod - This has to be my favorite gadget of the decade, and outside of the automobile, the most important to me. I remember a conversation I had with my brother-in-law early in the decade when he told me how great the product was (we bounce these type of things off of each other all the time) and said I didn't like the sounds quality of Mp3s and that I would stick with CDs. This might be the most idiotic comment I have made in my entire life. This tool goes with me everywhere, mainly for music and TV shows, always on the road for travel and at the gym for work outs and in the car for blasting the soundtrack of MY life. I have about 4,000 tracks on it to date and each time I turn it on, it's a joy and a new experience. There have been business trips I have taken where I forgot the iPod back home and I can tell you that the trip was not as satisfying as one I had the week before with it. The iPod just keeps on giving and the Apple Engineers just keep on adding. The new Genius feature is a blast, factor in the Nike Sport option and the evolution continues.

2. GPS - My GPS is embedded into my car; I call her Fraulin since I have a German car. Fraulin is around the 6th most important woman in my life. If you are driving everyday without a GPS run out and get one now. I have not been lost in 5 years. Do you have any idea how efficient that is? When I am trying to get somewhere I just ask someone for the address (or look it up on the web) and Fraulin gets me there faster then anyone ever would. She gets me there via major roads and highways, she tells me how long it will take and she does it with colorful pictures. You can tell a non-GPS user in a second. It generally happens when I ask for the address and they start to give me directions or start to spout out landmarks or those damn route numbers that I never pay attention to. I cut them off politely, and tell them I just need the address. 9 times out of 10 they continue with landmarks and I say every time, "I have a GPS, those things don't matter to me anymore..." And did I say I am always on-time.

3. Laptops - I have two laptops now. A Dell Latitude D430 which weighs like 2 lbs. I call this my Microsoft computer and a Thinkpad x61 which weighs a a couple lbs. more and this is for work. Both are great to travel with and get they both get the job done. Side note: There really is no reason to have a PC anymore, unless you are doing computer graphics and work for Pixar or something. They take up too much space, they are out of date the second you buy them, and they are not portable in a portable world. Buy a pimped out laptop, a My Passport, some good speakers and enjoy the ride. The interesting thing about my new laptop from work is that since I work for an Open Source company (Red Hat), it has "freeware" or Open Source programs on it. Not one Microsoft app or paid proprietary software runs on this laptop. At first, I thought this would be an issue, since I have used Outlook and MS Office since the first days that I have used a PC, but you would be surprised how much quality "freeware" is out there and how much it has not impacted my working ability. Its made it easier. Most of you use FireFox for your browser and or ThunderBird or Gmail for mail now or use free apps on your iPhone or download free MP3s. Think about it, you have been doing it since Napster, give it a try. Gates can't be happy.

Sites: As you see on the left column of my blog, I have posted my favorite everyday reads and blogs. These are sites I check multiple times a day either from my laptop or blackberry (sorry no iPhone yet. I support my customer Verizon and will wait for the product to get on their network, they helped pay for my house, it's the least I can do) and these are sites I can not life without in no particular order....

1. - Jeffrey Wells is the writer and mastermind behind this utterly enjoyable daily read. Jeff is what one would call a Hollywood insider; he has been writing about the industry for over 30 years, he has worked for all of the major MSM pubs and he has been writing an online column for the past 10 years (that's like 70 years in tech years). Jeff brings an East Coast sensibility to the madness of Hollywood (he grew up in and around the areas of Westfield, NJ), he rants in a stream-of-consciousness manner like myself, writes about his likes, dislikes, loves, lost loves, his children, politics (really coming out of his shell this year with the election), takes some killer photos, and speaks in a man-against-the-machine voice that makes you want to root for him. When he gets behind a film (i.e. Che this year or Zodiac or Once last year) you want to join forces with him, run out, see it and tell your world of friends just how amazing the experience was. In my mind, Jeff belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of Internet Bloggers.

2. - Andrew Sullivan has one of the best political minds on the planet IMHO. He is a Brit who came to the the States via a Fellowship to Harvard. Like Wells, he has been part of the MSM for the better part of the past 25 years. He started blogging early in the game, around the year 2000. He is a Conservative who backed the Iraq war and our right to protect ourselves. He was one of the first Conservative writers to call out the Bush Administration on the torture techniques used during the war and he was one of the first Conservatives this past year to support President-elect Barack Obama (way back in the early Spring.) He updates his blog at least 20 times a day, offering a view from both sides of the discussion. For someone born outside of this country, I am amazed at how much he loves this country and how much he wants us to strive towards being the best we can be. Catch him on TV if you can (Hardball, Real-Time, CNN). I would hate to go toe to toe with him. Fierce and wise, he always wins the argument. Plus, the British accent helps....

3. - Facebook is a drug. I can not think of an another analogy for this thing. For the past 3 months, I have been going to this site at least 30 times a day. Right next to my gmail account (thanks Google for making email easier and more flexible), Facebook is one of my first stops when I port up my laptop or log into my phone (love the Facebook app for my Blackberry). Facebook has become a verb in our culture, officially replacing Tivoed. I go there each day to see what friends are up to, to get a sense of their mood, look for something witty they might have said, get well wishes from family members, connect with a long lost friend from High School or College, express my moods or feelings for the day, share pictures in real-time, talk trash and just be. If you are not on this thing, you should consider it and make it happen. Once you get the hang of it, you will be hooked and you will thank me you did.

4. - The Hype Machine is the present and future of the music business. As one blogger wrote this past week, it is what MSM's Rolling Stone was for the music business in the 1960s/70s. You will get no arguments here to that claim. The model is a smart and simple one (like all successful blogs). One day Hype Machine creator Anthony Volodkin wanted to create a site that would compile all of his favorite music blogs into one portal. A "one-stop shopping" of postings from thousands of MP3 blogs around the world, if you will. Since 2005, The Hype Machine has been the pulse of what's new and hot in the blogger rock/rap community. How does it work? It's easy. Didn't I just say that? Go to the main site, type in the song or artist which you would like to search for in the search blog field, and wait for Volodkin's magic to happen. Within seconds you will see search results from around the world. From there you can read the blog on which that song appears, play the song (download if you like) and find a series of songs from that respective blog and artist. This past week THM unveiled the Music Blog Zeitgeist for 2008, it's like an end of the year Billboard list for the 21st century, dynamic, not static. The top artist on the Zeitgeist list was MGMT. You don't know who MGMT is? You probably will read about them then via Billboards or Rolling Stone in 2009...

That's all I have for this Sunday Morning. I will be sharing more sites and gadgets over the year (my birthday is in February and I would love to get my hands on the Kindle, hint, hint....) with you all. Happy reading and go Eagles.

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