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Archive for August, 2010

Returning to work after a week off is pretty tough for those of us with too many plans and not enough hours or motivation. It makes me reflect on what it means to go back to a 9-5 office versus being an independent contractor or owning my own business. I can’t imagine having a 24/7 responsibility to a client or an install base of users.

Or having fans.

Imagine you’re Terry Moore. What, you don’t know Terry Moore? Well here’s a wiki link to get started. Try to keep up:

Terry is the creator, artist, and writer of one of the best comic serials of the past 30 years, Strangers In Paradise. So he’s got a website for SiP (that’s the common abbreviation form used by us fans) and if you check out the store, you’ll see a LOT of merchandise including lots of really cool things like original artwork pages for sale, books, t-shirts, and other comic related stuff. I bought a signed picture from there a few years back, and it’s one of my favorite pieces.

Oh, did I mention that during the majority of the comic’s run, it was self published? That’s running your own business times a hundred. Did I mention he started it in 1996 which was not a time when you could just Google your way to self publishing resources, distributors, and convention appearances?

Did I mention that the series is heavily interjected with music, including transcribed sheet music and Terry’s own lyrics?

Did I mention the comic ended in 2007? It’s still drawing tons of attention as people discover and rediscover a story that runs across friendship, love, and some occasional mob dealings. Come for the drama, stay for the action, and vice versa. I remembering feeling embarrassed to buy it at first since it was a bit of a soap opera, but it was far beyond any kind of storytelling being done by Marvel, DC, or half the New York Times best sellers. This kind of fervor still makes Terry Moore a celebrity in the comics world, and oh, he’s got a new title called Echo which is another fantastic tale; it’s like a science fiction meets HBO drama series… or something you pray is never ruined by a Hollywood adaptation from Michael Bay.

Now throw in a blog, which has some great features on the upcoming product and project pipeline, and you have to wonder, “HOW DOES SOMEONE NOT DIE OF A HEART ATTACK WHILE WORKING NONSTOP?” I have enough trouble committing to 2-4 blog entries a week.

But it makes me think about MOMENTUM. In a story, on the job, in a serialized comic, you need momentum to keep the fans/boss/yourself happy.  I guess Terry Moore must be the happiest person in the world. And if not…. Terry: I think us fans owe you a vacation now and then. Stop being the best.

(Out of respect to Mr. Moore, I am using the Wikipedia image of cover art from Strangers in Paradise, volume 3 no. 1. Please read more here about the fair use, and go to http://www.strangersinparadise.com/ to see Terry’s art and take a test drive…)

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… but spreadsheets do!

I’ve been doing some work getting ready for my fantasy football draft. It’s a CBS Sports online league. 12 teams, 3 keepers per team, with a 12 round draft. 15 player roster. So you do the math:

12 teams x 3 keepers = 36 players off the board. 12 rounds x 12 teams = 144 players left. So what’s a dude to do? SPREADSHEET IT!

My strategy is to use Microsoft Office Excel 2007 to make a list of the top 200-300 players, subtract all of the keepers, and rerank. Sounds like work? Look at the search results for Fantasy Football Spreadsheets and you’ll see this is indeed a nerdly science in a jock hobby.

So what’s my plan?

First, I was on a road trip recently and put 200 players from Yahoo’s paper and ink football guide and tossed them into a doc on Open Office. This converted perfectly into Google Docs (I’m not hotlinking that, thank you). Google Docs on my netbook has a limited window size, so working in Open Office allowed for more screen real estate, but guaranteed conversion.

Next, I cross referenced it with the 400 players on CBS Sportsline’s rankings. I find their player list is easy to delimit in Excel with stats, but you’ll have to sort the stats and add some columns offsets to line up all the stats (i.e. your Wide Receivers and Tight Ends will be one column over for comp stats if you use the CBS spreadsheet model).  Now if you want to get really crazy, here’s a detailed MSFT formula based sheet you can build.  If you want an offline draft spreadsheet for those of you sit around in a live setting with a big board, I think this is your guy.

But for me, a lot of it comes down to the basics:

1) Best available
2) Needed positions
3) Risky picks
4) Bye week management

The spreadsheet of rankings does a few good things. I added the basic columns of position, player, pick, team, and bye.

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WHAT THIS DOES: You have a very quick guide offline that allows you to filter very quickly during the draft. Here, I’ve highlighted the “keepers” in orange for the existing teams in my league.  In red, I highlighted players who I want to stay away from, including injuries, people I think will have a down year, or headcases like Brett Favre.  The value of doing this in Excel 2007 is that you have a filter by color option. As each player is taken, I highlight in red if taken, green if they are on my team. Then very quickly in, say, the 6th round, I can look at my team, check the available, and see best by position, or BYE WEEK. Bye weeks are huge.  For my keepers, I’m spread already across the weeks so I don’t have my 3 top guys in any conflicts. I saw one person in one of my leagues recently line up 3 players in the same bye week, including 2 players of single use (Tight End, Defense, and Kicker…)

Likewise, you can/should be aware of the heavy bye weeks. There are 2 weeks where a total of 12 teams are on bye. Lots of great teams and players, but lots of potential rosters waiting for catastrophe.

The pick column also allows you to either created a sortable order (i.e. drag values from 1 on down when you’re done) or to rank guys of similar levels at the same number. If you think picking John Carlson vs Kenny Brit is a wash, just rank them the same number so your “Best Available” doesn’t leave you assuming you have to pick one over the other in the heat of the moment.

The spreadsheet is order. The spreadsheet is homework. But the spreadsheet also forces you to read names you might have skipped, and feel better going into draft night.  You want to be cool, calm, and collected to fight the stress and make good decisions. Gee, that sounds like a good life lesson, eh?

And if you’re too stressed to think, just go with Carl.

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Lisbeth! I’m coming!

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Wow that’s some pile of junk.

So here’s the parts (I think) for the junkyard PC. Hmmm. JPC. I think I like that.

– Foxconn D412 Atom D410 Mini ITX Motherboard with Atom D410 Chip. VGA, USB 2.0, SATA supported. Oh and Six Channel Audio supported onboard too.  The Intel Atom 410 is a neat little guy, 1.66 Ghz. Only a 512 cache, but that’ll do fine with the JPC. $64 plus tax and shipping.

– Corsair XMS2 2GB 800 DDR2 memory. I figured space will be tight so I went with a single 2GB stick. 1.8v isn’t bad, and a CAS latency of 5. What’s latency? Get your thinking cap on and read here. $49 plus tax and shipping, minus $10 rebate. Booya.

Total for the mobo and memory was $128 after tax and combined shipping.

-Apex MI008 Mini ITX case with 250 watt power supply. Just under 11.8  x 8.7 x 5 inches. 1 bay of each kind (that’s tight!) $42 including tax, plus free shipping.

-Seagate barracuda 160GB hard drive, 7200 rpms. WHY DID I WIPE THE OS OFF AND REFORMAT THIS? WHY? Sigh. Looking at all the pieces, I scoured my drawers (heh, hey Beavis, I said drawers) and found some miscellaneous software discs for some random drivers and stuff like Roxio. No Windows XP or Vista backups or ghost discs. Nothing. Well, it’s a free internal drive. I can load Ubuntu on it for free to get everything up and running. I also have a 320GB internal drive as my internal backup for my main desktop, but I think 320GB may draw unnecessary power, add some heat, and well, just isn’t necessary for a little JPC. Again, this is “free”.

– Philips/BenQ DVD CD RW drive. Speed… uh… hmm… and the voltage is uh… eh… well it’s free. As long as it reads, it’ll load software.  Also “free”.

– As luck would have it, I also have some extra internal cables of all types, and some dampening gasket material. Also “free”.

-2 extra keyboards. USB style. Sweet. Also free.

– FREE Wireless mouse with $10 year subscription to Wired Magazine. Well, I was due to renew. So I did. Here’s the link. I have the mouse already in hand.  I’m calling this one “free” for my accounting purposes since I was going to renew Wired.

So that’s the parts. I carefully repacked them into a box in a milk crate, waiting for next week when I’ll have some dedicated time to build it start to finish in an afternoon.

I’m looking at $170 for a newly built Desktop PC. Not bad.

Not bad at all.  I THINK I WANNA DANCE!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WNrx2jq184

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So I know no updates in a while but I’ve got some things on the burner. So here’s a quick one:

I was bidding on a copy of X-Men 180 on eBay. Nothing special, but it’s a missing issue in my X-Men run I’ve been working on from #1-200 (Good luck getting #1 but that’s a story for another day).  I won, and as the nice seller was bagging and tagging it for shipping, he ripped the cover.

Thanks to the miracle of eBay’s totalitarian useful seller tools, my seller had already printed the pre-paid shipping label. In order to save face and grace, he offered to cancel the sale and refund my money so he could recoup the auction fees. I agreed, things happen. But out of the niceness of his eBayer heart, he said he’d send it anyway since it was no longer anywhere near “near mint” condition, and the postage was already charged to his account.

SO I got a free comic book. And goodwill.

The next time you’re on eBay, check out http://stores.ebay.com/Drewbizz-Comics-Clothes-and-More. DrewBizz is a great seller, the kind of person you want to be successful. It’s hard to find people to trust on eBay. Even harder to find humanity online.

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http://webworkerdaily.com/2010/08/10/online-convert-com-a-free-web-based-file-converter/

Convert files to other formats with http://www.online-convert.com

Just go read the Webworkerdaily article.

WWD > TTJ.

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Simplify.

It’s a hard thing to do despite what should be such an easy concept: trim the excess, obtain and use only what you need, and find singular solutions to multiple problems. I was reading this grand article on Yahoo about finding happiness with a simpler, less cluttered life and already my mind was exploding with concepts like selling my current silverware set at a garage sale since I have a new unused set in a box under my kitchen cabinet.  But the reality is that the little steps, although they add up, do not address larger issues and clusters of junk/stuff/conundrums I have to deal with everyday.

Which is why I decided to build another computer.

Looking across my “home office” (which some would say looks more like the crypt of Stan Lee and Boba Fett’s common ancestors), I saw some things lying around:

Extra keyboard (2 boxes, actually… but I think only 1 has a keyboard).
Extra DVD burner drive.
2 320 GB hard drives.
SATA cables.

Hmm.

So I found this case over at Newegg.com for under $40 the other day and picked it up:

APEX MI-008 Black Computer Case

It’s a nice small APEX mini Tower that lays flat and has just enough space to make a media center PC or a budget model.  So although I had been thinking about building a home server or a media center PC, I thought about simplifying. The goal: build and sell this bad boy.

I figure I have a few advantages in putting this together:
1) I have Newegg. This site has incredible deals, and the forums/reviews are chock full on information.
2)Free Parts. I have already saved some cash by using leftovers for the HD, disc drive, and peripherals.
3) Student discount. I have that good old Community College active status and might be able to swing a Windows 7 copy at an extreme discount.

So we’ll see. Worst comes to worst, I spend a little cash and don’t make my money back, but it will be a learning experience and a half. And fun. But selling this at break even or profit would be really nice.

So it may seem like a lot of steps to take, with some pain points, but the goal is to simplify. I hope this simple computer will become an Icon for how I hope to change my life towards simplicity.

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Uh… the “All Winners Squad?”

File:AllWinners19.jpg

Ahhh the All Winners were a terribly named squad, consisting of Captain America, teen bullet magnet Bucky, the original Human Torch & his cub scout Toro, angry tuna boy the Sub-Mariner, unstable bladdered but really fast the Whizzer, stock female Miss America,  sex bomb of the 1940s the Blonde Phantom, and the non-superpowered vigilante The Angel.

Now the Angel is the interesting one for me. All these other folks seem to have some kind of superpower, sidekick job, or eye candy value. But instead of those “contributions” to the team, the Angel brings a lightweight name sure to strike fear into the hearts of maybe Corey Feldman at best, and a pencil thin moustache that would only inspire Jimmy Buffet.

File:Angel golden age.jpg

Wow, this guy’s costume must have been stitched together from rejected Superman pajamas prototypes on the floor of DC’s marketing department.

I will say that the recent Marvels Project did a great job at reintroducing some relevance into this suave debonair bored doctor with pistolas, and I am curious to see if they inject any references to the Angel in the upcoming Captain America movie*. If you have not read the Marvels Project and would like a noir-tinged comic retelling of the original Marvel heroes, I highly recommend it. Issues are still easy to come by and a collected edition is also available.

(*Marvel loves Easter Eggs… here’s some homework: watch Iron Man 2, and check out the name of the other race car drivers, especially one of the Brits…)

One of the toughest things about collecting Golden Age comics is that these types of crazy pants vigilante superheroes like the Angel make for some of the most charming reading and most exciting collecting. The Angel appeared in all kinds of titles from the All Winners to Sub Mariner and others under the Timely banner, many of which are priced above my current investing scenario, but then you find something really unique at an affordable price:

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This is the Timely Comics trademark application for the Angel, a small little plank in the foundation of comics history, but went for under $1000 at auction recently. Wow.

So maybe the lesson here is to think of these older heroes as the Expos of the world. Sure, they have terrible names, horrible uniforms, bad facial hair, and are no longer in play, but dang it, nothing’s cooler than having the confidence to rock the throwback once in a while.

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See what I did there? Congrats to the Hawk on being inducted finally into the Hall of Fame… you’re still a Super Hero.

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