Yearly Archives: 2009

Target marketing for the win

The way I live? How would you know?

The way I live? How would you know?

Many, many months back, I received this advertisement in the mail.

t first, I thought, "How the hell did I get this?" If these marketers paid for my credit report, they'd see I wouldn't have the income to afford a stay in New York City, let alone at a private club. Then I saw the photo, and thought, "That's pretty gay."

Then I looked closer at the text.

"Manhattan and diversity go hand in hand. From Broadway shows to Lincoln Center performances, chic restaurants to matchless shopping."

Huh. Those are all the gay keywords all right.

"Located across the street from the newly opened Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center."

OK. Now, that's eerie. I saw Kronos Quartet at Alice Tully Hall twice when I lived in New York City from 1992 to 1993. I also bought tickets to a concert at Lincoln Center in 2005. I didn't look at the date of the concert closely, and it turned out to happen the week after I visited.

Lincoln Center. "Diversity". New York City.

As it turns out, the marketers for this private club did indeed do their research — and very well. It made me wonder who sold my information to them, but it probably wouldn't have mattered.

They knew I live in Austin, Texas.

They knew I visited New York City.

In fact, they knew I have an interest in the events of Lincoln Center.

They knew I have a history of patronizing gay-targeted media.

And they want to tantalize me with the idea of staying in New York City at their club.

What's worse? It worked. Of course, it was a pipe dream to stay at a club, but I had to admire just how narrowly they pinpointed me for this mailing.

I see what they did there. Well played, Phillips Club. Well played.


It's done.

The trip that has caused so much ambivalence has been completed. I can now say I've been to Japan. And yes, I would like to return.

I really only wanted to go there to shop, and shop I did. I didn't want to go with inflated expectations. Too many people think Hawai‘i is all grass huts and hula skirts, not realizing Honolulu is a major city like any other city on the Mainland.

I had some notion of what the topography of Japan would look like from media — music videos, anime — but I kept my mind open about everything else. And I'm glad I did.

On a more personal level, this trip really demonstrated the stark differences between my brother and me. At the very least, my efforts at more healthful living have paid off. Also, it would really be nice for everyone in my family if dad could just let go and shuffle this mortal coil. (Yes, I said that out loud.)

So, how do I proceed? Report on the sequence of events as they transpired from day to day? Summarize the experience in more general terms? There's the trip to Japan, and there's also my current stay in Hawai‘i. (I return to Austin on Dec. 2.)

The flight to Hawai‘i managed not to piss me off as badly as it usually does, even with a four-hour layover. I think I've discovered the secret to make it tolerable — alcohol. I had a pair of margaritas at a Mexican restaurant in LAX, and it made me sufficiently tipsy to sleep on the plane. I know what I'm doing on my flight back to LAX.

Before leaving for Japan, I spent five incredibly uneventful days in Honolulu, just watching TV or surfing the web. I paid a visit to Ala Moana to see if I could get some items on my shopping list before heading to Japan, thereby allowing me to get more things there. I was unsuccessful. I did, however, get my ABC Store Men of Hawai‘i calendar.

It got a bit boring, but it just feels nice to be away from Austin — from the angst about money issues, from the disillusionment of living in a city of which I've grown tired, from work. I would get restless, but then I would pull back and realize I keep myself busy enough when I'm in my own place. Why not relish this time to do absolutely nothing?

The trip would be activity enough.


Five Things that Would Draw Me to Living in the Bay Area

  • A chance to catch the Mythbusters at work.
  • Easy access to Kronos Quartet concerts.
  • Kinokuniya and Book Off. Have yet to see how Amoeba Records compares with Waterloo, though.
  • Teh gay
  • Work

Five Things that Make Me Sick of Austin

  • Longhorn Football
  • Rednecks
  • 70 days of triple-digit heat
  • Allergy seasons
  • Texas self-aggrandizement

Impulse purchase

I bought a guitar today. No, I can't really afford it.

Guitar Center was offering 12-month no interest on their store card, which I have. I thought about getting some bass traps, but I don't want to install anything in the studio if I may have to uninstall it, should I relocate. I could have gotten a Shure SM58 dynamic microphone or some Sony MDR-7502 headphones, but I don't really use the dynamic mic I already have. The Sennheiser HD280 headphones I already have are good enough for monitoring.

So I got a guitar. It's not even a priority purchase. (I would like to get a Nord 2 synthesizer, for the time I may want to start playing live.)

But it's one that's reasonable when spread over a year.

Also, the acoustic guitar I bought back in 1998 is … OK. But I could never really play it. I always chalked it up to my deficiencies as a guitar player — piano is my primary instrument — and I put up with the too-narrow bridge for my thick fingers. I never really got as much pleasure playing that guitar as I did playing my piano.

Then a few weeks back, I started browsing Ask Metafilter for pointers on how to buy a guitar, and the advice I saw was to audition as many guitars as possible. A cheap guitar that feels comfortable will trump an expensive guitar that doesn't, the consensus seemed to say.

So yesterday, I decided to cure my cabin fever by going to the Guitar Center down south. I played on a few guitars but didn't fall in love with anything in particular. I aimed for instruments in the $250-$400 range, and I could tell they felt different than the one I have. I got there late enough that the store closed half an hour later.

Today, I went to the store up north and played another few guitars. The salesguy pointed out a few models, and I checked them out. I was leaning toward a Seagull guitar, but then I was shown a Breedlove. I'm no good with barre chords, but on this guitar, I managed to make them without much effort. The action felt comfortable, the sound was great, and the neck was wide enough to accommodate my fingers.

Yes, I connected with the guitar, and I wanted to bring it home with me.

So I put it on the Guitar Center card, and for the next 12 months, I'll be chipping in approximately $32 to pay it off.

With trips to Seattle and Japan coming up, plus trying to square away my credit card balance, I haven't let myself get anything fun. I spend all my money on bills and food. I haven't bought any CDs, and last week, I agonized whether to get both a haircut and an oil change for my car. I was about to buy Please Understand Me II from the bookstore, but I put it back on the shelf.

All this self-control, and I lose it for a guitar? It's not inconceivable, but in reality, I'm tired of waiting.

I'm tried of forecasting my finances and discovering that, no, I cannot renew my Flickr account, and no, I cannot get a replacement for the wireless access point just yet. No, I cannot go CD shopping this weekend, and no, I cannot go to Oilcan Harry's and ignore guys who may want me.

I'm tried of waiting to make myself happy. I'm tired of waiting for the trips to see how much is leftover. I'm tried of breaking even. I'm tired of getting paid half of what I should be making. I'm just fucking tired.

I can't afford this guitar — and I am seriously considering selling the old guitar to help pay for the new one — but I don't want to just maintain my vital signs. I want to live a little, even though I know full well a little is a lot to ask right now.

How do you manage?

I went out to Oilcan Harry's on Thursday night with Skitzfiggitous, and she asked me what I've been doing during my vacation. I told her I spent one day reading a book about … management. Her reaction was the same as mine — surprise.

I told her about a prediction Kramer made last year. He told me to look into taking a management class, or to read a book about management. He sees management in my future. I made noises to Skitzfiggitous about how I don't consider myself management material, and she said, "Yes you are."

Oh crap.

Maybe I'm revising history or something, but the last time I tried my hand at management, I sucked at it. First, I was the features editor at Ka Leo O Hawai`i, then managing editor. It didn't take me long to develop the reputation of bad cop, and I struggled with filling my section with copy because, well, I scared the hell out of my writers. I felt a lot of frustration because I wanted to do some ambitious things without having to provide instruction first. Hell, I thought that was what classes were for. I wanted writers who were ready to do the job. They weren't. Not till after I was done with them.

(The conventional wisdom, of course, was that the paper was the real learning experience, and classes were something you did to get the degree.)

After college, some supervisory positions opened up at Austin 360, and I was passed over for them every time. It turned out for the best, really, because I probably would have gone through the same kind of power trip I did at the student newspaper. Those votes of no confidence, however, spurred me to think more laterally, and I learned web development. Goodbye, editorial! Fuck the corporate ladder!

So back to last night with Skitzfiggitous telling me I was manager material.

I told her to explain to me just what I was doing to give off that impression. I know what kind of manager I am — one who rules with an iron fist and is just as willing to rain shit on people as shit was rained upon me. She had a laundry list.

First, I'm opinionated about things about which I know, which, to her frustration, is a lot. That kind of expertise gives off a manager vibe, I guess. She also said I have a better understanding of big picture stuff than some managers she's encountered. I'm also not the kind of person who takes shit from anyone, but I'm not inaccessible either. I understand the former; the latter, I still don't get.

Skitzfiggitous said she pictures me in a managerial role but not at our workplace. I don't picture that either.

I've designed my career in such a way to avoid management altogether. I consider myself a tool, something you use to make a job easier. You want what to do what? Sure, I can script something to do exactly that. Just … leave me alone.

Before the new year, I was one of two people in charge of a committee to update a specific web tool. I've mentioned it before. Something tells me that's my leadership style.

Deity save us now.

Patience, grasshopper …

(No, this entry is not about David Carradine.)

Along with being driven, I'm also impatient.

When I first started exercising, I felt anxious to get to where I wanted to be. In August 2007, I was 215 pounds, and I wanted to be 160 right then and there. But I knew at a rate of one pound a week, it would take about a year to get within striking distance of that goal. I didn't want to wait, but I had to. My anxiety subsided by the end of September, when I registered a 10-pound loss. By October, my pants were falling off my waist.

When I started recording vocals for my demos, I hated how terribly everything came out. The recordings clipped, I was out of tune, and the sound was dull and dead. I knew it would take years — especially when I could only do any real work during vacations — before I could turn out vocals I didn't hate. Along the way, I learned the ins and outs of my pitch-correction plug-in, and I invested in a number of effects processors that got me the sound I want. Now, I don't mind hearing my own voice so much. (I still think I suck as a singer, though.)

When I felt the urge to leave my very first job, I knew I couldn't do it without some serious retraining. I had wanted to quit in 1999, but I held myself back from doing anything rash. I took classes in scripting in late 1999 and delved into coding my first web sites in 2000. It paid off when I finally was hired first as a web engineer — someone who could stick static content within dynamic scripts — then eventually as a web software developer. I've now been a web developer longer than I have been a content producer.

I'm starting to feel resentment toward the trip I'm taking to Japan in November. I've been setting aside money for this trip, and now that I have this definite goal of relocating, I would rather divert those savings to that goal. The trip now feels like something that I need to get out of the way instead of something to which I can look forward.

But that's just impatience. I have no intention of moving till I have a job lined up, and I don't anticipate the job market improving till the latter half of 2010, if then. I also don't have enough savings to pay for first and last month rent and a deposit. This relocation is a long-term goal, even though I would very much like to avoid the next Texas summer. Objectively speaking, I could get better results by waiting till after the trip, by which time perhaps the predicted economic recovery may be on its way.

I have this paranoid notion that things change in the time that I'm pursing these goals, and the only instance where such a long wait backfired was with learning web development — by the time I got good, the bottom fell out of the tech industry.

So I really need to calm down. I can still do some things to get me toward my goal, but I have to stop myself from shooting myself in the foot.

Still, I don't like waiting. Never have.

Help yourself

I don't think I realized till recently just how much of a determined person I am. I've tried doing the go-with-the-flow method of charting my life, and I can't say it's done me any favors. The best results seem to happen when I've made a decision about something, and I get single-minded about making it happen.

I'm not the personality type that attracts opportunity. I'm very private and very closed. Gay Friend-Drinking Buddy is the kind of person who's so self-effacing, good things just happen to him. I'm not that type of person. If I want something, I have to work for it. It doesn't help that I also tend to be lazy.

But when I stop being lazy, watch the hell out.

In 2007, I finally got sick of being overweight, and when I discovered my scale was lying to me, I adopted a diet and an exercise regimen that allowed me to shed 45 pounds. I've stuck with this regimen mostly because I don't want to end up in the same kind of ill health as my dad when I get to be his age. I also had this odd goal of being my sexiest by the time I turn 40, which is three years away. But I worked for it when I made the decision to do so.

In 2005, I decided I didn't want to wait till I'm financially solvent to continue building my studio. So I blew a lot of money I didn't have getting software and gear. It's taken four years, but I've learned and practiced how to record my own material. I even went so far as to build a bare minimum label and publishing company. Maybe there was a little bit of go-with-the-flow in getting this studio off the ground, but when the momentum happened, I took it far.

In 1999, I decided I didn't want to climb the content management ladder. I didn't want to be the online equivalent of an editor, and it was aided quite a lot by being passed over for numerous positions. Fuck it, I thought to myself, content production is a dead end, and I like programming. I like making things streamlined. So I took a year to take some continuing education classes to learn web development. By 2000, I was working as a web developer, and I've been one longer than I was ever a journalist.

Going with the flow doesn't work for me. If things are going to happen in my life, I have to make them happen. It can be a hassle to have this sort of "me vs. the world" mindset, but history seems to indicate that it actually works for me.

That's what I have to keep in mind as I go through the process of relocating. For too long, I was hoping some company somewhere would find me and think, "We need to bring this guy to [San Francisco | New York City | Seattle | Portland | Chicago]". I was hoping to go with the flow that brought me to Austin. Lot of good that did. (Yes, that's another entry: ways in which Austin has been detrimental to me.)

If older me could back in time to have a conversation with younger me, I would tell him, "You've got a lot of will power. You don't have to settle for Austin as your escape route out of Honolulu. The fact you've always been determined to leave has never been in question. That you have the strength to choose and make it happen is something you should know now."

But that isn't the case.

I also have very good instincts. My instincts tell me this relocation is going to happen. It's the same instinct that told me web development would be a very good career fit. It's the same instinct that told me would at some point work at record store.

I think I should be a lot more permissive with my instincts and match them up with that determination.

Destination unknown, or Texas weather has me quoting Missing Persons WTF?

In 2008, August weather in Austin started in mid-May. This year, it's starting in mid-June. I've fucking had it.

Yesterday, I did some web searches about moving to Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City and Seattle. Today, I went to the bookstore to find some books on the same subject matter.

I've been forming some mental checklists about the pros and cons of moving to those locales. Those destinations are primarily west coast because I'm tired of long flights to Honolulu. Here's what I've figured out so far:

Los Angeles


  • Major music town
  • Significant gay community
  • South enough to avoid the cold but north enough to escape the heat


  • Car culture (I'm tired of owning a car)
  • LAX

Network connectivity

  • Slight. I know one former co-worker, but we never really hung out. I also have a college friend I haven't really seen in more than 10 years.

Likelihood of moving: Low

San Francisco


  • Significant gay community
  • Kronos Quartet


  • Expensive enough to make Honolulu and New York City look like amateur hour
  • Parking (from what I gather)

Network connectivity

Practically non-existent. The friends I might have in the area don't actually live in San Francisco.

Likelihood of moving: Low to medium

New York City


  • I've lived there before
  • Mike Doyle
  • Kinokuniya, Book-Off
  • Lincoln Center
  • Ess-a-Bagel
  • Major music town, especially new music
  • Subway system == no car!


  • Expensive. Holy fuck expensive
  • Cold

Network connectivity

Promising. I have a cousin who moved to the area recently, and I know at least one former co-worker from Waterloo Records.

Likelihood of moving: Medium to high



  • Wayne Horvitz, Robin Holcomb and Bill Frisell
  • Big community of former Hawai`i residents
  • No state tax


  • I've never been there before, so I have no idea what the city is really like
  • North enough to be cold, but not as cold as Chicago or New York City

Network connectivity

High. Two former co-workers live in Seattle, one of them the former personnel manager of Waterloo Records. A colleague from the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund lives there as well.

Likelihood of moving: Medium to high

If I weren't traveling to Japan this year, I'd be visiting each of these towns to get a feel for them. I've never been to Seattle or San Francisco, and I've only ever seen Anaheim in Los Angeles. I'll have to save those trips for 2011 — assuming I don't blow all my cash before then.

I just know I can't endure very many more Texas summers. And I find Austin tiresome. The novelty has worn off.

Experiment, or look but don’t touch

This past Saturday I tested a hypothesis informed by experiences from 10 or 12 years ago — that I do not turn heads in a gay bar.

Back when I thought I actually enjoyed going to gay bars — ca. 1997-1998 — I never got the impression I made an impression. Looking back on it now, I didn't have a semblance of fashion sense, my haircut wasn't much of a cut, and I probably gave off a vibe of desperation, of an introvert who desperately wants to be noticed.

I still don't have much fashion sense, but I do have a far better haircut and that vibe of desperation has been replaced with an absolute lack of caring. I've also been working out, and while I don't have the stereotypical physique so prevalent in gay magazines, I'm probably not as dumpy as I was in 1998. Given those revisions, I still thought I could walk into a gay bar, chat with Double-A and down a few drinks without attracting attention.

I was mistaken.

Our first destination was Rain, a place that didn't exist when I first moved to Austin. Within a few minutes of our acquiring drinks and setting up at a table in a corner of the back patio, the hypothesis was in trouble. I caught a guy standing by the bar looking at me. He was … all right but a bit too well-coiffed. I pointed out to Double-A a guy who I would remotely consider talking to, and she reached the conclusion the kind of guy I like doesn't look like he's trying too hard. That would be litmus test for the rest of the night. Rain soon got packed enough that our vantage point was not very useful. So we moved on to Oilcan Harry's.

We set up on a bench in the back patio, the only places in Austin bars where smoking is allowed. I spotted a guy in a maroon polo shirt who didn't look like he was trying too hard. When I pointed him out to Double-A, she caught him looking at me. One result was not conclusive, but two definitely points to a failed hypothesis.

Double-A ran out of cigarettes, so I went to a vending machine and bought the wrong brand. On the way there, I saw the guy in the maroon polo shirt and made eye contact. Yeah, he was interested. I'll admit I was interested myself, but that was not the purpose of the evening.

As Double-A and I lit up our cigarettes, a guy came over to bum a smoke off of us. He introduced himself to me and said he would be spinning later. I made the usual noises of approval and interest. Three results? He was pretty much three sheets to the proverbial wind by then, and he put on a little show, prancing around to the music with his friends. Yeah, three results. But he was trying a bit too hard. He was the only one with the gumption to introduce himself to me, though.

After the DJ guy wandered off, Double-A pointed out a guy standing close by who was looking over his shoulder every so often. She said he wasn't looking at her. I caught one of the guy's furtive glances and confirmed a fourth result. I told Double-A, "That's exactly the kind of guy who would have ignored me 10 years ago." He had on a white shirt, and his hair was beautifully styled, an earring on one of his lobes. In other words, really, really trying too hard.

Then there was an incident of my spilling some guy's drink. I bought him a new one. I could have used that opportunity, but I didn't consider it part of the experiment. Double-A and I left shortly afterward.

That was probably the most attention I received during a night out, and I probably should not have squandered it. But I've been running on assumptions from a decade ago, and I wanted to see if they needed revising. I guess they do.

Of course, an experiment is no good if the results aren't repeatable. That most likely means a follow-up study in the future.

I want (eventually) …

I would like to be a good American, really I would. But at the moment, I can only break even — I'm paid just enough to cover the bills, feed myself and pay down debt. After that, I might be able to afford a CD. But if I want something with a price tag exceeding $50, I have to get creative with the fund allocation.

I've been trying to save money for a trip to Japan I'm taking in November, and for the most part, I've been successful. My savings account has a decent balance — certainly not anemic like my checking account balance — and it's incredibly hard not to touch it. Truth be told, I haven't.

Back in March, I bought some external hard drives. I paid with a credit card, then used the savings to pay what put on the credit card. Then I paid back the savings in installment. In short, I've set the precedent to use savings as a lender. I bought a new printer on my birthday, and I have to pay savings back again for that purchase.

I can't keep doing that, and yet, I'm already creating a list in my head of things I would like to get. In some cases, I really do need to upgrade a few items. But most of it is just plain old coveting.

If I didn't have such a narrow spending margin, I would be that good American and spend my way out of these economic doldrums. Instead, I'm being fashionable and scrimping. How proletariat of me.

Still, at some point I want to get …

  • A flat-screen computer monitor. This CRT model from 1998 takes up too much real estate on my desk, which is already crowded with a bunch of audio equipment.
  • A desk suitable for recording. I need a second tier on which to place either the monitor speakers or the computer monitor. These kinds of desks also have slots made to house audio hardware modules, such as my compressor/limiter. It would also be nice not to have my external sound card and MIDI interface perch periously on the desk.
  • A living room chair. The nicest chair in my apartment is the office chair in my studio. I would like something for the living room so that I can read. If I read on the futon, I eventually end up napping.
  • A new TV. I don't care what … just something that isn't hard to pack during a move.
  • Pants to match the suit jackets I bought from Goodwill. Also, the dress pants I have right now are for size 38 waist, and I'm down to size 36. (More likely size 34, but I haven't shopped for any new pants to confirm.)
  • Adobe Flex Builder. I've been experimenting with Flex for the past week as a career preservation tactic. I've hit a wall with LAMP stack web development the same way I did with front-end content production back in 1998. I should probably work more with JAVA to demonstrate some enterprise-level skill, but I think Flex and Flash development might be more applicable to what I do with Eponymous 4.
  • More string quartet scores. I need to do some homework before I can tackle another string quartet.
  • Celemony Melodyne plug-in. I've managed to do some convincing work with the V-Vocal plug-in in Cakewalk SONAR, but that interface can get tedious. It's been mostly stable for the last few work sessions, but when SONAR crashes, it's usually because I'm working with V-Vocal.
  • iZotope Ozone mastering plug-in suite. I like the Mastering Bundle that came with Sony Sound Forge, that I wouldn't mind being able to use it within SONAR.
  • Various software upgrades. I could justify these as business expenses, because these programs figure signficiantly in my work flow. To wit: Ableton Live 8, Adobe Photoshop CS4, Propellerhead Reason 4, Microsoft Office 2007. I'm still using Office 2000.

I will be very impressed if I manage to acquire the items on this list without going fiscally belly up.