Monday, February 26, 2007

Greg Patillo

This guy is just plain amazing! Last week I went on to You Tube looking for something specific. I can't remember what it was. But there on the front page, in their most popular videos section, was this "beatbox flute player". The concept was certainly intriguing. I couldn't imagine how one person could do both: beatbox and flute. Then again I felt the same way about a lot of wind instruments before I first heard Rahsaan Roland Kirk. It turns out this guy has studied Kirk as well.

The video starts out pretty normally: he's adjusting his shirt, his trousers and his shirt again and then he's playing the theme song to Inspector Gadget. This is not exactly high-brow entertainment. Then, about 30 seconds in, everything changes. My head started bobbing and I knew I was in love.

I proceeded to find everything I could that this guy's done... first on You Tube:

I then realised I somehow had to add these tunes to my music collection. I would gladly buy and download these if I could. I looked all over and could not find him anywhere on iTunes,, Napster or anywhere else for that matter. I listened to the tunes a few times and realised I had to do something. I Googled and found a system for converting You Tube videos to MP3 files: Vixy. They also convert the videos to video files (AVI (DivX) or MPEG4). But that's not what I was interested in. I can't play videos in my car for example. I converted all 4 of his Youtubes to MP3 and added them to our music server and I've listened to them over and over and over since.

I wrote to him to find out if there's anywhere one could find his music either electronically or commercially. I didn't mention that the quality of the You Tube video converted to MP3 is pretty lousy. Unfortunately I haven't heard back from him yet. Looking at how popular and famous he has become on You Tube it's unlikely I ever will hear back from him.

I then went looking for more. His My Space page has a couple of more tunes which are also quite good. But I can't figure out how to download them...

Googling his name again and getting past all of the You Tube references I found what felt like a gold mine: Aoka. This is a group he performs with and they've got 5 tunes on their web site which I quite enjoy as well. Haunting I guess is the first adjective which comes to mind. Again I can't figure out how to get the music from the site and on to my computer...

I wrote Aoka professing my love and adoration of their music and begging for some way of getting their music... I haven't heard back yet but I'm more hopeful...

These are exactly the sort of discoveries that I've always felt the Internet was developed for!

Stumble Upon

I was using Meebo the other day to talk to my kids. The only way to get through to my daughters is through IM and Meebo is a totally online solution which works with just about all of the IM clients (MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, AIM, ...). I used to use Trillian but that requires software running on the computer itself which I like to avoid.

All of this to say that within Meebo they had a link to an article about the 25 Startups to Watch. Obviously the article was linked from Meebo because Meebo was one of those 25: number 4 to be precise. But I also checked out the others. Number one was a site called Stumble Upon which I have to admit looked interesting. I checked out the web site, signed up for my free account, installed their toolbar (talk about confidence! I never do that!!) and started playing around. Within about 10 minutes I was hooked. I did my part by going to all of my favourite sites which I visit regularly and giving my "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" where appropriate. This was fun and a bit ego-boosting. The Roman emperor gives his opinion which will change the world {vbg}.

But this actually became quite interesting, and actually useful, when I started clicking on the Stumble! button on the toolbar. I would choose one of my favourite topics and then it would stumble upon a site which fit that topic or tag. I wound up finding quite a few very interesting sites which I probably would not have found otherwise as well as hopefully steering others away from some I found and didn't like.

I find the concept quite interesting and because they have made it so easy to use I think it can work for the masses.

This does not replace search engines but it certainly compliments them in a way I had not anticipated.

Highly recommended!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Wha'd I eat??!?!?!

At about 5:30 in the morning I woke up in a sweat and feeling nauseous. I knew what that meant and I think the psychological dread was more painful than the physical pain. I went to the downstairs toilet, so as to make the least amount of noise while everyone else was sleeping, and spent the next couple of hours. First one end and then the other. As my family, and especially my wife, chide me for I am extremely loud when I throw up. We're sure that the entire neighbourhood was aware. The kids 2 stories above, through several closed doors, were aware. Finally I finished and crawled back in to bed. I don't have a fever or anything else so I don't think it's a gastro. I think I just ate something I should not have and my body said "Everybody out! All exits! Immediately! No stopping to prepare or grab your belongings! Everybody out!!!"

Today is therefore probably going to be a write off. I can't bring myself to eat and I have just about zero energy. The worst is of course my throat which most definitely did not appreciate the constant flow of stomach acids going the wrong way. My throat feels like I have just gone through 3 x-ray radiation treatments in one day.

Everything's relative... I've been through a hell of a lot worse... this is just a time and energy waster...

This too shall pass...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

It was supposed to be a surprise...

The best laid plans...

Last week I decided I would try and do something a bit different for Valentine's Day this year. I rarely do anything special because it's only 3 days before Desney's birthday and it gets overly complicated and such...

So this year I thought that instead of the annual bouquet of flowers, which is always incredibly difficult to get properly delivered, I would take my wife out for lunch. I thought it would nice to surprise her with some time for just the two of us and break up her busy and stressful day.

I started looking around for restaurants near where she works (La Défense) last week and had difficult determining if any of them were a fancy restaurant or a simple café or anything in between. Finally I decided to ask for some secret help and I spoke to people I know who work in the same building as her and asked them to recommend a really nice place which was really close. After quite a lot of suggestions I decided to go with La Safranée which is a very fancy-looking place specialising in sea food. Desney mentions that we don't have fish that often so I thought this would go well. I gave them a call and reserved lunch for the two of us for Valentine's day at 12:30.

Then Monday night, over dinner, Desney just happens to mention that she's having lunch with a friend of hers on Wednesday. "Wednesday?" I reply. "Valentine's Day???" I add trying not to seem overly interested. However it's obvious that she's made plans and that she's not going to be available. I decide the only way to get out of this is to blow the surprise and just go for whatever it takes to get the same final result: a lunch for just the two of us on Valentine's day. After a bit of discussion she says she'll let me know if she can reschedule. Finally last night she confirmed that she has rescheduled her lunch with her friend and she's available.

Of course the photos of the place look beautiful, the terrasse looks peaceful and green and everything is just inviting. In reality the restaurant may be lovely... but the day itself is just plain grey, wet, cold, wet, windy, wet, cloudy, wet and just plain wet. Luckily our table was indoors.

We had a very nice lunch and it was a great moment to sit around eating and talking as just of the two of us adults without having to be hosts, or polite friends or parents.

A Valentine's moment which I'm sure you'll see in a Hallmark advert some day...

PS: I apologise for the overuse and abuse of the word "nice" in this post but I was simply not inspired...

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Jessica wanted to watch a classic film that she hadn't seen yet. There are so many "references" that she hears about that she knows I've seen and that we have on DVD and that she hasn't seen (yet). Often this is because there are quite a lot of films that we have, that I watch, that will not work for a family Friday night film. Either they're too violent for Alexandra or there isn't enough action or one-liners in them for Desney. Films made from plays, for example, are generally considered to be way too boring and romantic comedies rarely make it to our Friday night cinema productions.

Jessica wanted to watch Apocalypse Now as that is definitely a film we would have to watch just the two of us as it's too violent for both Alexandra and Desney. However it is just too long to be starting on a Sunday night after dinner.

After perusing our rather large DVD catalogue of movies on the shelves Jessica decided upon Cabaret which we watched until rather late as it turned out to be not that short either.

I hadn't seen the movie in years. I remembered that it's probably one of the best, if not the best, things Liza's ever done in her life. I remembered that Michael York was wonderful. But I had forgotten just how much of a classic Bob Fosse masterpiece this was. Absolutely all of the dance numbers are just typical Fosse style down to being almost stereotypical. It was a real pleasure to watch.

They just don't make musicals any more...

Friday, February 09, 2007

Yo ho, Yo ho, A pirate's life for me

Pirates of the Caribbean II - Dead Men's ChestAll week I knew what we were going to be watching on Friday night. I had pre-ordered Pirates of the Caribbean 2 - Dead Men's Chest long before it was released here in France and it arrived on Tuesday morning.

I had seen it in the movies, on my own, in London when it had first come out. Jessica had seen it in America, before the rest of us, last July. Alexandra had seen it in the movies and Desney had never seen it.

I must say that, although I always love Johnny Depp in everything he does, this was a very disappointing second showing. I think it's because we all remembered how wonderful the first episode was back when neither we nor they knew that it was going to become a trilogy. This episode was fun... but nothing more than that and very very very long.

After the film was over, and the kids had gone to bed, I watched the bloopers and the making of. Both of these where much better than the film itself.

Regardless of the film it was wonderfully relaxing to kick back in the living room, just the four of us, with some Chinese takeaway and watch a movie and laugh.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Dance Class

There are basically two things I look forward to every week: Friday nights when the family and I just kick back, watch a movie and eat takeaway and Wednesday night when Desney and I go to our bebop dance class... just the two of us.

Now that I will no longer be going to London every month for 3 days we should no longer be missing one Wednesday a month and hopefully I can remember the routines better. No matter what it's still the most fun I have in the week and precious moments out with my lady. Sometimes we do really well and sometimes we make a fool of ourselves... as I'm leading however the foolishness tend to be very one-sided... nothing new.


Ever since I started feeling better, which is for quite some time now, I've been learning to deal with the tiny handicaps which I've been left with and which may be temporary or permanent... only time will tell:
  • Hyposalivation is obviously the most annoying as it prevents me from enjoying eating as I used to.

  • The constant fungus on the rear of my tongue which persists.

  • The soreness and tightness of my neck around my scar as well as the occasional weakness of the left-hand side of my body

  • and the last handicap which I am only barely starting to accept and admit I have symptoms of: chemobrain.

Chemobrain is apparently a generic term for the basic symptoms as regards memory problems following chemotherapy. The descriptions can get quite technical and long and I have only starting looking for information on the subject. But it's actually quite reassuring to see that there is at least a good reason for it. For a while now I've been having difficulty, every now and then, remembering things I know I should be able to. I was thinking it was just part of the aging process, as I'm certainly in the second half of my life if not the final portions, especially since I know that this sort of thing runs in my family... even if some family members tends to forget this every now and then (pun intended). The symptomatic situation is actually almost more frustrating than the hyposalivation problem as it doesn't happen all the time. I can remember things very well very often and then all of a sudden there's just this grey hole in my thoughts and that moment is just gone... like it never happened. Luckily this does not seem to happen to me as regards technical work (yet?) as my memory and thought chains appear to still function wonderfully in those areas. But it definitely happens in my non-professional life which is both annoying and sad. All of this to try and blame the simple fact that I am having difficulty remembering our dance routines from one week to the next on chemobrain and not my own mismanagement of my thoughts and priorities.

This too shall pass...

Monday, February 05, 2007

Super Bowl Monday

Last night was Super Bowl Sunday and for me and the guys it was our annual guy's night out. I will not go in to too much of an explanation as I already wrote this all down last year. Go to last February's archive and scroll down to Super Bowl XL and you'll see what I mean.

This year was an improvement in so many ways that I should just be overjoyed!

First of all the guys all arrived on time so I didn't spend. Then we got excellent seats upstairs right at the bar directly where the strippers pass. Then we got really good, and even comfortable, seats downstairs in front of the giant screen for the game itself. The place was not as packed as last year so this may explain that.

One thing that was really enjoyable for the game itself was this year they ran it on NASN (North American Sports Network) which means it was all in English and no one was trying to translate the game. Unfortunately they can't show the American adverts and we got really sick and tired of seeing the same cut-ins over and over again and the station's jingle really got on our nerves after a couple of hours.

The game was a bit of a disappointment both in the quality of the game itself and the fact that the team I was rooting for did not win. But then again they truly did not deserve to even come close to winning. Their quarterback was just ridiculously bad. It made for a very long game.

It's always good for me to read entries from a year ago to try and appreciate how things have improved. I could anything and everything, except for the chips/fries of course which I'll probably never be able to get back to, and I could drink glug glug glug glug as I wished. Everything tastes great! And I could almost scream every now and then. I certainly tried quite often and by the end of the night, and today, I have very little voice left. No pain... just no voice. Actually quite a good feeling when I think about it.

No matter what a night out with Robbie and Jean-Philippe is definitely one of the most precious moments for me and I am learning to appreciate it more and more. I had just a great time and forgot about just about everything else for a while...

As I mentioned last year this used to be my one night of smoking per year. Many people found that an extremely strange habit. But then again many people find a lot of things I do and say to be strange so that never really bothers me. There is no way I will ever be able to smoke anything ever again obviously. But I have to admit that somewhere around 2 o'clock in the morning after a few beers there were these ever so slight pangs of desire... Luckily, for some strange reason, people smoking around me still doesn't bother me or my throat to a great extent. But if I stupidly inhale too much when someone's smoking near me I obviously start to choke and the pain that burns down the inner walls of my throat obviously turns me off the idea of puffing anything. The reason all of this is interesting is that this is probably the last year that this will even be a discussion. Now that France has, slowly but surely, started to catch up with most other European countries and started to ban smoking in all public places this is probably the last year that there will be any smoking at the game at all. France has, in it's infinite wisdom and standard exception française, granted bars, clubs, restaurants and such an additional year before imposing the final absolute ban. Therefore although one can not smoke in public places any more one could still smoke at the club last night. But next year, probably just in time for the Super Bowl, this will no longer be possible. I can't possibly imagine sitting at a stripper bar with a beer in front of me, girls dancing on the poles on the bar and no smoke in the air. It will be an interesting and noteworthy experience and yet something else to make me look forward to next year!

I'm still here!

I know it's been a really long time... but I've been very busy.

I have gone from living each day with the idea that it might be one of my last to trying to live life as though nothing ever happened. I'm not sure it's the "right" approach or even the "best" approach for me. But I have definitely fallen back in to my workaholic ways for better or for worse.

Actually, after falling back in to these habits, I've been going through a bit of depressing times for a while. It's not that I haven't learned anything from my experiences. I still consider everything after September 2005 as Life version 2.0. But it's that the old habits I've gone back to are not that great and tend to show me that I hadn't really gotten life down that well in the first place.

I had some serious problems with my banking accounts for a while which I am only just now pulling out of. It's not the bank's fault. But I do have an awful tendency to spend money that's coming long before it arrives. Then by the time it arrives it's already spent and it only goes to fill a cash-flow hole rather than actually producing something productive. I'm hoping that the concept that the bank doesn't want me to be overdrawn again will force me to learn how to keep my professional and personal bank accounts in the black rather than always in the red. Only time will tell if I've figured out how to change my lifestyle to allow for this.

Every now and then (actually daily) I briefly contemplate what I would do if the disease came back in some other form one day. The fact is that if it does and my cash flow is negative I'm not going to be able to survive financially through the battle and I'll be fighting two battles simultaneously which will only make things more difficult. If I can get my act together and keep my cash flow positive rather than in debt than it should reduce the battles I might have to fight in the future. Sounds great when I read what I'm writing...

Imagine me standing in front of a room of bored and tired men and women like me. I start with "Good evening. My name is Derek and I am a workaholic." and I believe everyone replies with "Hi Derek" or some other such nonsense.

The fact is I am a workaholic and probably always have been from very early childhood. Again Life v2.0 should be different. I should have learned something from all of this. But here I am back in the same old routine of working most waking hours of the day and not much else. I should be spending more time with friends and family... especially my family. I would love to sit around with my wife and kids in the evening and talk or whatever it is that families do in the evening. But there I am back down in the office in front of my screen trying to get yet something else done for the next morning as the entire world will collapse if I do not.

I still haven't got this one figured out and I'm not really sure I can. I love my work, and always have, and I love my friends and family. I just can't seem to get my priorities straight. I think part of it comes from no longer being an employee and the feeling that I just have to constantly give that extra bit to keep my clients for if I lose my clients I lose everything. Every now and then I also realise that working all alone in my little office in my home is not always the healthiest of options either psychologically or physically. Every now and then I miss the days when I had other geeks working with or for me. At least I had someone to talk to, show off to and who understood...

Money and Time
This is where I've really just gotten everything all wrong. Although I have a very bad habit of spending money I don't (yet) have, which doesn't help, I certainly don't manage my business as I should. I am a genius technician, and ever so slightly self-confident in that area, but I am probably a lousy businessman. It's tough having to be both the salesman and the technical expert especially when the only thing I sell is my technical expertise. With the amount of hours I work and the complexity of what I do I should be a bloody millionaire by now or I should be earning a hell of a lot more money per annum than I do... several times as much. I work probably twice as many hours as most employees (70 instead of 35 per week) and yet I earn less money than most employees and certainly less regularly. This is mostly due to bad management on my part as I don't have actual contracts with any of my clients. There are no guarantees and there is no set down rules as to how they should be billed for my time. It's a tough call as I always want my clients coming back for more but I also don't want them worried to call upon me as they would a lawyer or another type of consultant even though my function is almost exactly the same.

I guess like everyone else in the world, spoiled as I am or not, I just wish I had more time and more money. There were a lot of bugs in Life version 1.x and a lot of them are reappearing in Life version 2.0. I need to start thinking about Service Pack 1 to create an entirely new and improved Version 2.1 especially if life itself forces me to have to work towards a Version 3.0 some day.


I will not try and write about all that has happened since my last entry as I just don't have the time, or the memory, necessary.

I'll just start with today and move forward whenever I can.