…so far.

The host for this site and my others has gotten a bit slow over the past week or so, and I believe that it’s a MYSQL or PHP issue, but I have been unable to resolve it.¬† I’m working on a home server though, so if I can get that going, I may be hosting myself soon.¬† The site is going to be getting the awesome revamp soon too, so that I have a portfolio up once again for school come the summer.

I’m thinking of either random sketches or little comics or something to put up here.¬† Ideas?

Today the domain for my business website, orangeblossommedia.com, is renewed.¬† That means that the domain is one year old, and also means that I’ve been in business for a year (having had the paperwork done the same day that I bought the domain).¬† A good deal has changed in a year, but a good deal has also remained the same.¬† In that time I’ve been through two jobs and am on my third, all involving computers, but inching ever closer to the goal of my original business endeavor.¬† First it was computer sales and maintenance until the store that I was at closed down.¬† Next was data entry and website update for a rental company, which I left after receiving an offer from my current job doing production at a web design and marketing firm.¬† It’s been a great learning process through all of these positions as well as ones in the past (my main crash course in PHP programming came from a job two years ago doing database management for a radio station), and I’m still in learning mode today.

As far as changes, I’ve moved from the original goal of the business.¬† I was first doing web design for artists and local businesses, but being busy with other jobs left me little time to market my services, and they floundered a bit after a few less than stellar designs and clients.¬† Those at my current job have amazing patience, seeing as they are able to manage clients that I would have become frustrated with on my own, as well as offer a multitude more than I was able to.¬† It was fun though, and got me on a jumping off platform to decide what would be more beneficial to me in the end.

My main focus personally is now on my own projects, where I work at my own slow pace and to my own sensibilities, rather than the whims of others holding the checks, however small that they were.¬† I still plan on making use of the name, but making some changes.¬† That site will soon come down, to be replaced with another geared towards my current leanings, as well as projects that are forthcoming.¬† I know it all sounds rather vague, but I am juggling a few things, and honestly don’t know which ones will pan out and which ones will have been a loss of time.

Technically, this company has turned profit in the past year, though not much.¬† Meanwhile, here’s to hoping that the next year is a bit more noteworthy on that front.

Given a request for some movie suggestions this morning, I thought I’d turn a list into a bit of an explanation as to why I like these films as much as I do.¬† Be forewarned, I choose some movies that I’d get called pretentious or an idiot for, but I reserve my judgments on some of my favorite films.¬† This list is also by no means inclusive, but simply what currently comes to mind.¬† I’m going to start with a breakdown by director, because a lot of my favorites come from certain directors, and I hunt down their other movies to see if they are as good.


Christopher Nolan

“The Dark Knight” – While “Batman Begins” was the start of a new version of the Batman story, it’s in the sequel where the new tale really shines.¬† Done with the obligatory origin story, Nolan can get to the real meat of the story, utilizing storylines from “The Killing Joke” and “The Dark Knight Returns” to craft an excellent tale of morality and to give a satisfactory answer to the question as to why Batman doesn’t just kill the Joker and save countless lives throughout the years.¬† Gary Oldman makes an excellent Commissioner Gordon, and of course everyone and their mother has stated how great Heath Ledger was as The Joker.

The Dark Knight

“Memento” – An earlier film, the beginning of The Brother’s Nolan writing/directing cooperation, this is a prime example of utilizing non-chronological narrative to make a unique film.¬† Alternating between a black-and-white back story and a color story presented in reverse, it is a puzzle that is a joy to decode.¬† Seeing the end of the story at the start of the movie doesn’t give away a thing in this story of an anterograde-amnesiac, and is worth several viewings.

Memento

“The Prestige” – Like “Memento”, Christopher Nolan used the plot of the movie – this time the art of magic – to direct the flow of the story.¬† It is in that spirit that the film has three distinct parts to it, including an amazing “prestige” ending, with an unexpected twist.¬† More amazing performances pulled out of Christian Bale and Michael Caine here, as well as an entertaining David Bowie as the scientific great Nikola Tesla.¬† He gives the best line too: [on following his obsessions] “Well at first. But I followed them too long. I’m their slave… and one day they’ll choose to destroy me.”

The Prestige

“Inception” – Can’t leave this one out.¬† Besides being in love with most everything that Joseph Gordon Levitt’s done, this movie is an even deeper puzzle than “Memento”.¬† Who cares if the top stops or not, the ride there is where it’s at.¬† Somehow he created something more vivid than the infinite landscape of a real dream, and I loved it.¬† Also, that rotating hotel fight is kick ass.

Inception

Rian Johnson

“Brick” – His directorial debut, Johnson’s film-noir is the second on my list with JGL, this time as the main character.¬† A creative homage to old detective films like “The Maltese Falcon”, but set in a high school.¬† The story doesn’t flow completely, but the characters make it worth it.

Brick

“The Brothers Bloom” – His second outing, Bloom is a witty and funny story about two brother con artists and their final game.¬† Rachel Weisz is intriguing as the shut-in “hobby collector” Penelope, and Mark Ruffalo uses his charming presence to make a rather convincing high-class thief.

The Brothers Bloom

Richard Kelley

“Donnie Darko” – A trippy story marking the start of a trippy film making career.¬† Featuring a foul-mouthed Jake Gyllenhaal as the title character, Patrick Swayze as a pedophile motivational speaker, and Seth Rogen in his first film role, this time-travel based film is lovingly crafted to fit the 1988 Virginia setting.¬† Encompassing a larger universe, it makes you wonder what other stories of this nature could exist outside of Donnie’s own superhero story.

Donnie Darko

“Southland Tales” – Taking the oddness to the extreme, this meandering¬† dystopian future/present film concerning America three years after a 2005 terrorist attack in Texas can make you feel lost.¬† Again time travel comes into play, as well as the alternate universes of “Donnie Darko”, visions of the armageddon from a psychic pornstar, and a view of how easily technology could entrap us now with the proper political agenda being pushed.¬† Kelley purposefully cast against type, and pretty much every actor in the film is a big name/face (Justin Timberlake, Mandy Moore, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Dwayne Johnson, Sean William Scott, and a slew of Saturday Night Live alums).¬† There are 3 graphic novels that go along with the movie, comprising the first three chapters of the story, followed by three distinct sections that are titled, giving a sense of a sprawling novel. Plus, there are twins named Ronald and Roland, and I figure that’s good enough for the suggester.¬† Be warned though, this is probably the most divisive of the films on my list.

Southland Tales

That is it for now, though there will be plenty more where this came from.¬† I’ll update you when part two is out.

I am a bad shopper.¬† You would think that comparison shopping would help you get the best deal and gadget, which is true, but at what cost?¬† I’ve heard in the past that shopping around stresses you out, and I agree.¬† Finding something good and plopping down money is the way to go if you want to remain stress-free.
I have been shopping around for a camera to replace the larger model that I just sold on ebay.¬† I wanted a smaller one for travel and every day use, as often I would leave the larger camera at home just because I didn’t want to justify lugging it around my neck when I wanted to use it.¬† It was not a fancy enough SLR to warrant that, and made me look more touristy than the ones with the thousand dollar Rebels with telephoto lenses sticking out of their chests.¬† I decided I’d get a point and shoot type camera, which would fit into my pocket, be good enough for most pictures, and be done with it.¬† I set myself a $150 budget, and got to shopping.

First I was going to try Costco, seeing as I have a membership and they have cheap goods often.¬†¬† I learned two things from that:¬† one, that they close at 6PM on Saturday, which is foolish, and two, that they sell cameras pricier than elsewhere, except for Best Buy.¬† I instead swung by Best Buy to look, and it has to be the most crowded I’ve ever seen one outside of 4AM the day after Thanksgiving. After poking around, I found a model that I was in lust with, a $250 Canon on sale.¬† Yes, I already broke out of my budget, which I should have figured would happen.¬† After getting the attention of a few employees and waiting around a half hour to get one out of the cage and to the cash register, I gave up and hit the mall.¬† Best Buy just lost a sale, but I was better for it anyway when I looked online.¬† At the mall I tried Ritz camera, still invested in that model, to find that they sell tons of Canon lenses, but no Canon cameras.¬† It’s a good thing that I didn’t want that model after reading reviews and testing one at a less crowded location (it worked alright, but had an unbearably slow buffer between shots), because it was on a sale ending that week, and immediately shot back up in price the next day.

I began shopping around on Amazon, finding that pretty much every model that Best Buy sold was to be found new for $30 less than the Best Buy sale prices.¬† I spent hours combing through reviews and models to narrow it down to three, ranging from $140-240.¬† This is where it got tough.¬† Each model had something that I liked best about it.¬† The cheapest had the highest megapixel count, was the smallest and lightest, and was actually in my original budget.¬† The middle one had the best zoom and three programmable modes, useful to set up for specific shooting conditions.¬† The most expensive was from a reputable company (Nikon), had full HD recording, and looked nicest to boot.¬† After hunting around for a good while and asking countless peoples’ opinions, I finally settled onto that model, and went hunting around to buy it.
Amazon itself sold it for the lowest price, at $219, with free two day shipping with my account.  The issue with that was that they were out of stock, so I could order and have no idea when it would come.  The next lowest seller on Amazon sold it for $240, with free shipping in a week, or $20 to get it there in under three days.  Next up was Walmart, which had it for $250, and in stock at a few local stores.  Costco sold it online for $250 with $10 shipping, but tossed in a free case and SD card to sweeten the deal. Best Buy finished last with the  model for $280 and not in my nearest store.  I checked the local Costco by phone, none in the area had the bundle, so after placing the Amazon order to see if it would give me a time, I headed to Walmart.

All of the local Walmarts listed it, but the nearest one did not have any in stock, or really any good cameras in at all.¬† The employee helping me said don’t even bother with the online availability chart, as they count the display model, which they do not sell until the item is discontinued.¬† The next Walmart had it, so I spent the fun time flagging an employee, and paid, then walked out, having spent $265 after tax.¬† Immediately after arriving home I get the notice from Amazon that their model would be shipped out and arrive to me either Friday or Monday (stupid no shipping weekends), so less than a half hour after buying the camera, I was planning the inevitable return, as it will be delivered to my door within a few days for $46 cheaper, enough for me to take it back.

I spent the evening playing with it, and it performs rather well, and made me happy with the picture quality.¬† I haven’t tried video yet, but will today before returning it, to get an idea.¬† My only complaints with it are that it is slightly bulky for a point and shoot model, it uses a rechargeable battery, and the charger supplied needs to plug into the camera, so I can’t use it while charging a spare which I plan on buying as well.¬† Otherwise, I think I made a good choice, though I killed more time than I care to think about researching this purchase.

Sometimes it’s easier to just go in, grab, and leave.

Something that I’ve had to deal with on multiple occasions, and see happen often at work, is “Scope Creep”.¬† My definition of this is a project that, due to excitement on behalf of the client or designer, or not fully formed to start with, begins adding features willy nilly.¬† You start with a website to display cooking products, and end up with a monstrosity that allows users to see pictures of every item in your inventory from ten angles, customize and place orders for spatulas from their cellphones, and read the daily musings of your great aunt who had a recipe in a community cookbook several decades ago.¬† What started as a straightforward problem with a clear solution became a tangle of new problems with no answers.
This is a big issue when it comes to projects with a set budget, both monetary and time-wise. It’s important to keep scope creep from happening, and I’ve found that a few guidelines can help.

1. Have a clearly defined scope to the project in a written contract. Some customers will use poorly worded contracts to argue that the 30 page addition to their site should not only cost nothing extra, but also keep the g0-live schedule in place.

2. If additions are needed, have a plan for that as well. Any additions beyond the original need to have a clearly defined cost and time addition to them.

3. Learn to say no. It’s easy to bend to client pressure, especially when you are not in a position to turn away customers.¬† Be helpful to them, but remember that your time is your money, and extra time spent on one client is time that is taken away from another, or from following new leads.

It’s not always bad to make changes midstream.¬† Sometimes change is what’s needed, and a project will be better for it, and possibly even run quicker and more organized.¬† Being able to recognize when the changes are becoming superfluous, and how to control those situations, will greatly reduce your workload and stress levels.¬† I personally no longer take on a project that does not interest me, and if I need to learn to do something new, it’s on my time, and for my own benefit.¬† In the end, I work more diligently on those that I personally care about, and have new tools in my repertoire for the future.