Monday, March 31, 2008

Musician Websites & e-commerce...

Musician websites are definitely a growing part of our business and I'd like to take a moment to thank Dave Binney, Jen Chapin, and Chris Tarry for helping us to develop a product that goes right to work for our friends in the music biz.

Today, we're perfecting the record label website, introducing the concept of multiple artists and a single store for:

Plunge Records - nearing launch just need to tie up the e-commerce integration. Our latest Canadian client, Simon Fisk is always good for a quote -
" blown away man. Fan-f'in-tastic! pardon my canadian! HA!"
Simon is a cool cat and a pleasure to work with.
He's enlisted NOVA as the payment processor and they're a bit odd, putting the cart before the horse - they need to see the website live before they will approve his account. So, they need to see his store live without any way to pay for anything. Ummm...okay. So we'll give them a quick look and pull it down quick so Simon can finish uploading the content.

Nineteen-Eight Records - Also working on a new site with e-commerce (Chase bank and and a custom content management system for Nineteen-Eight. Hoping they push some music our way as well. Henry and Anthony are good guys too and they know what they want. The site should drop in a couple of weeks - not long after Plunge goes live. Links to come for both when they are officially public and open for business...

Also heard today from another client who says Sovereign Bank has a one-stop-shop deal with YourPay...

3G in Q2

Analysts predict Apple will start shipping the faster 3G iPhone in June.
In addition to the speedier network, it's expected the phone will also include GPS navigation.
Let the drooling begin!

AAPL - 144.20

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Late, Late, Late Show...

Unbelievable comeback.
And to think I almost missed it.
The match wasn't televised here so I was watching a spanish streaming video channel on my laptop (thanks for the link, Danny).

By halftime, Arsenal were losing 2-0 to a Bolton team who hasn't lost at home to Arsenal since 2002.
And Arsenal were playing a man down after a deserved red card sent Diaby off.
And they were playing in the driving rain.
I must admit, I was sure I was watching the horrible end and I turned the match off to get on with my day.

But something made me turn it back on.
It looked like more of the same at the restart.
That's when Wenger decided the only way back was through all-out attack.
In the 60th minute, off came Bendtner and Senderos, and on came Walcott and Adebayor.
10 minutes later, the match was tied.
Remarkable in itself, we all knew a tie wasn't good enough.
It would take every ounce of effort and a little bit of luck, but somehow in the 90th minute, a Fabregas shot bounced off a Bolton player and into the goal and the unbelievable comeback was complete.

Absolutely brilliant and just what we need going into the CL this week against Liverpool.
So proud of the fight they showed today.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Piermont Pier

Steve snapped this in a very patient shoot at the Piermont pier in Rockland.
Great detail at original size but still nice scaled.

Monday, March 24, 2008

G5 - freezing

Figured it's time to add some Apple to the blog...

I have a five-year-old G5 at home (along with a Powerbook, Macbook, Ruby Red iMac, & a Dell Inspiron laptop) that started freezing up only weeks after I backed-up the system to a new external Lacie drive and added a new keyboard and Wacom tablet. It's important to note that Lis also purchased the same machine at the same time and hers recently bit the dust (unusual I know, but as much as I love Apple - it happened) - so this is cause for real alarm. After troubleshooting and re-installing the system, it was still freezing so I made an online appointment at the local Apple store and walked the machine in. Now, when I say I walked the machine in, what I really mean is I lugged the machine in. And while the G5 appears to have two handles made for easy transport, these are actually stylistic features that serve little purpose in practice - there really is no easy way to carry this beast.

The Apple store is bustling as always, but my wait is short because I've got a reservation. When called, I take my place at the counter within earshot of a young, sort of trendy woman who is getting a lesson on the usefulness of playlists in iTunes. My Mac genius takes charge immediately and I see that he's relieved we've already done some of the work with a clean system install (when I say, "we", I mean my wife). All he has to do is run a diagnostics test from a disk - the process takes about a a half hour and it's not very entertaining so I go and hang around the mall with my wife and son, who is very entertaining.

Of course, when I return I see immediately that my machine has passed with flying colors.
I also see genuine disappointment in his face - we'd both prefer to get at the cause. We decide to test the memory cards. Meanwhile, he's checked to see if I'm covered but I'm nearly two years out of warranty, so he tells me if we can't figure it out I should take the machine elsewhere for more tests because Apple will be too expensive. Gotta love the honesty.

Memory test also passes - he tells me to take it to Tek Serve in the city or Computer Super Center in Greenwich. He asks me if I'd like some assistance lugging the machine back to my car but I decline because my knee and hip are already bruised from the walk in and what's the point in punishing him. Side note - a client tells me that while she was at the same Apple store, she saw a woman accept help getting a 12" MacBook to her car. I wonder if they'll carry an iPod to your car?

I take it to Greenwich and immediately they say they've seen a few macs with the same problem - they think it's probably a bad video card but they'll test to be sure. They seem confident and competent and things are suddenly looking up...

A few days later, they confirm it is the video card. After some debate about adding storage and replacing my DVD drive (which refuses to read burned DVD's or mini-DVD's), we decide to just replace the video card and be on our way. $700+ later, ($400 video card, $169/hr labor, $130 OS X Leopard).

We've had the machine now for two weeks and it's humming along.
Installed Leopard (slick!) and digging it so far (except for one small glitch with iPhoto - another post)...

Lesson - even geniuses fail sometimes (or at least their diagnostics tests do)

AAPL - 139.37

Sunday, March 23, 2008

It's over, Johnny...

The match ended only moments ago - Arsenal lost 2-1 and in all probability, any hopes of winning the league are gone as well.
Since I started following Arsenal five years ago, Chelsea has been a constant thorn in our side and today was no different.
Not much else to say except that it was a hard fought battle and it just didn't go our way.
Glad to see Sagna get a goal - he deserves one for his efforts this year.
It's important to remember we weren't supposed to be here at all and we were treated to some fine football along the way.
Maybe now we can shake off the baggage of a grueling season and concentrate on the Champion's League.
A win there would be a massive lift and just the tonic we need to refuel for next season.
And Adebayor can concentrate on growing his hair back.

In other news, Siena is also out in the cold after losing to Villanova 84-72 - a nice story while it lasted.

What's for dinner?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Saints Rout Vanderbilt in NCAA First Round

Go Siena! (I still have trouble with the Saints - I remember when they were the Indians)

Good for Siena.
Good for my dad.
Good for Albany.


I caught a little bit of a show last night on Sundance, "Iconoclasts", that had surfer, Laird Hamilton, and Pearl Jam frontman, Eddie Vedder, hanging out together. I know Hamilton from "Riding Giants", an awesome documentary movie about the history of big wave surfing. Strange pairing, to say the least. It took me a bit to figure out that the guy with the long hair and scruffy beard was Eddie Vedder and not just some tag-along. The two paddle-surf together (who knew Eddie could do this stuff?), ride jet-skis and basically pal around while discussing the meaning of life. I'm not a big fan of Peal Jam, (especially, Vedder's surfing song - I think Laird was just being kind) but I like Vedder more after watching this. There's a funny scene where Laird visits Vedder in his dressing room right before he takes the stage for a Pearl Jam show, and the two hug, and Vedder, who is much smaller than Laird, looks like he's in love.

Seeing Laird Hamilton reminded me of a cool moment back in October when were were exhibiting our CMEpilot products at the AMA CME conference in Virginia. It was near the end of the show and we had some time to kill between crowds so we hooked up my video iPod to our 50-inch plasma display and threw on Riding Giants. Before long, we had a small audience watching with jaws on the floor as these daredevils surf 60-80 foot waves - just incredible.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Do or Die...

Here's how it all shakes out now that we're all even in games played:

Man U won easily last night, beating Bolton early with two Cristiano Ronaldo goals. Hats off to the prolific Portuguese winger - he's on fire with 24 goals in 24 matches. The win takes Man U three points clear at the top. No word yet on where the team bus is so there's still hope...

Third place Chelsea found themselves in an unexpected street fight with Tottenham, where they lead 3-1 at one point, but the Spurs fought back tooth and nail, and ended up equalizing in the 88th minute! Final score: 4-4. Sounds like it was a match to watch.

So Chelsea's stumble obviously works to our favor but they're still breathing down our necks, only two points behind us, as we approach our do-or-die match away with them this weekend. Of course, Chelsea hasn't lost at home in four years, but then AC Milan had never lost to an English team at home until they met Arsenal and the last team to beat Chelsea at home was...Arsenal.
  • Simple - Arsenal has to win this weekend to stay in the PL title hunt
  • We need Man U to lose once and lose or tie again, and we have to win all eight of our remaining PL matches
  • Man U plays Liverpool this weekend (if the bus makes it)
  • We play Man U right after we finish our three match Liverpool marathon in April
C'mon Arsenal! It's still in our reach.
Someone give Van Persie some human growth hormone and let's get on with it!

In other news, Walcott made the English team, and they better lock up Flamini now!

And I sympathize with all the Roma supporters over the loss yesterday - I do know how you feel...

One more thing - go Siena!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Adebayor's hair and the Premiership update

Man U and Chelsea both play today while Arsenal gets some time to think about how it all went so mediocre. I don't think it's too much to ask that they both LOSE! Even better, I hope that the Man U team bus makes a wrong turn and gets horribly lost for the next eight weeks or so, forfeiting all of their remaining PL matches (only to re-surface briefly for their CL matches against Roma because I really want to see that).
I was going to post on this a week ago - here's a good article speculating on how Adebayor's recent haircut is responsible for Arsenal's dip in form.

Also, talk today that Theo Walcott may be called up from the Under-21 squad to play for England against France on March 26.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Another Satisfied Customer...

Working on a new website for Plunge Records - should be live in a few weeks or so...
Musician/Owner Simon Fisk just had a look at his custom CMS and had this to say:

"I finally checked out all the admin stuff, it is, pardon my french, Fuckin awesome!!
It's fantastically simple and user friendly. I thank the universe that I found you guys! Thank you!"

Your french is fine. 
Thanks, Simon

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ethical Treatment of Websites

I answer the phone.
The voice on the other end says "I need a website but I'm not sure who I'm going to offend..."
"Try me," I say.
"It's porn" he says, then quickly laughs "No, I'm just kidding...I'm a hunter."
And there it is - in over six years as Artgig Studio, it's the first website I have to turn down because someone has finally crossed our moral/ethical line.
I imagine what pictures he'll want to showcase in the design...
Simply cannot do it.

I'm off-balance but he gives me an easy out.
"I need something quick."
I explain that we're a custom interactive shop & we're booked solid for the next four to six weeks - this is entirely true.
He tells me we were recommended and goes on to say he's been looking around and he really likes our stuff.
He sounds disappointed when I don't budge.
We end the call with him looking for a short-term quick fix in the hopes that our schedule might open up down the road.
I hang-up the phone.

I call him back.
"Look, I don't think we can do this job for you" I say, "and I just want to be clear why..."
He says he appreciates my honesty.

So, if you're a hunter, sorry, out-of-luck.

Porn is another story...


Here's the draw:

  1. Arsenal v Liverpool
  2. Roma v Manchester United
  3. Schalke v Barcelona
  4. Fenerbahce v Chelsea
That Roma Man U rematch sure looks tasty.

Champion's League Draw This Morning...

The Champion's League Draw for the Quarter-Finals is this morning.
For the first time in tournament history, four English clubs are in the mix:
  1. Arsenal
  2. Manchester United
  3. Chelsea
  4. Liverpool
I'd rather not draw another English club but I'll take that over drawing Roma.
I'm not sure my friendship with Danny could stand it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I'm going to Iceland.
The only question is when?
Ever since I read the Iceland chapter in The Geography of Bliss, I've been thinking about it.
Steve, Artgig's Chief Programmer and resident photographer/drummer, sent me this link to photographer, Josef Hoflehner.
Beautiful images.

There Will Be Blood...and Dalmations

I saw There Will Be Blood over the weekend and I was talking to Lis, the Creative Director here at Artgig, about it during our morning update. We both agree that Daniel Day Lewis knocked it out of the park with his performance of Daniel Plainview, a very real and very flawed oil man at the turn of the century. Another strong performance was that of Paul Dano as Eli (and Paul) Sunday. Who is Paul Dano you ask? He also played the silent older brother in Little Miss Sunshine and I had no idea it was him while I was watching TWBB. Performances aside, we both agree the single most important scene in the entire film was a little bit of very real-looking home movie footage of Plainview's son, H.W., and the girl he would one day marry, Mary Sunday, just running about and playing as kids do. Daniel Plainview also appears in this sequence and he is so obviously happy - you can feel how much he loves his son. It was just so natural and it made me believe everything else about the film.

Last night I came home to my son and his cousin watching "Meet The Robinson's" which I watched for about 45 minutes and I still can't make any sense out of it - typical plastic CGI animation and I can't stand it. Then, we watched the 1961 Disney classic, 101 Dalmations. I didn't remember the film from my childhood but I have to say it was a breath of fresh air after the Robinson's. I'm not talking so much about the story - I still can't believe that Cruella de Vil actually intends to skin puppies to make a coat - fun for the whole family! But the artwork is absolutely fantastic and I love the style, from the line quality in the characters to the color and detail in the London backgrounds - it all adds up to great looking animation. I looked it up on IMDB and it turns out, this movie was the first Disney film to use automated xerox inking technology (replacing inking by hand) to cut down on production costs after the financial failure of Sleeping Beauty. That probably explains why I like the look so much - it's not as "clean" as most Disney films.

In case you were wondering, Arsenal tied Wigan over the weekend, 0-0.
And for those of you keeping score, that gives Man U a one point advantage if they keep winning.
Frustrating doesn't even begin to sum it up.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Arsenal - inspiration strikes!

(Alternate title - the longest blog post ever)

On Tuesday, March 5th, 2008 Arsenal did it.
They beat the Champion's League title-holders, AC Milan, on their home turf in Italy.
No, it wasn't the final or even the quarter-final (that comes next), but it sure felt like it.
And boy, does it feel good.
To understand this moment, the arrival of a young Arsenal team on the greatest stage of European soccer, one must understand where they've been over the last 17 days - as I'm typing this I can't believe that's all it's been. Five matches in 17 days. If you've never seen soccer played at this level, the European game I mean, that amounts to a hell of a lot of running with people chasing you for nearly ninety minutes straight.

Feb 16 - Arsenal leads the English Premiership by five points (a win counts for three points, a tie one, a loss zero, and the league winner is the one with the most points at the end of the season) when they meet Manchester United in the lowly FA Cup. The match counts for zilch in the grand scheme of things and the Arsenal coach, the one they call the Professor, Arsene Wenger, makes a tactical decision to rest some key players in preparation for their upcoming Champion's League match against AC Milan. The decision backfires almost as soon as the first whistle blows, Manchester United romps to an easy and humiliating victory, scoring three goals before the half. I'm watching the match in a dark Irish Yonkers bar full of Manchester United fans at 12 in the afternoon with two of my friends, one who is willing to be persuaded to root for the right team if i can convince him Arsenal is worth the effort. I can think of no less convincing performance than the one Arsenal delivers in this match. To top it off, before the match he bets my other friend $50 that Arsenal will win "to make things interesting." We decide the 50 bucks is his Manchester United fan club initiation fee.

Feb 20 - Arsenal plays AC Milan in the first of two Champion's League matches
(in Champion's League each team plays a game at home and the winner goes through based on aggregate points. An away goal counts as two points) - the winner goes on to the quarter-finals. After the timid display at Old Trafford against Manchester United, I'm hoping and praying that Arsenal can step up at home to meet the Italians who are said to have Champion's League in their blood. This is the same AC Milan team, led by World Player of the Year - the masterful Brazilian, Kaka, who so easily dismissed Manchester United on their way to glory last season. The build-up is intense as the young Arsenal Gunners take the stage against the more experienced Rossoneri. I leave work early and head to a local bar/grill (who serves beer in the coldest mugs I've ever laid hands on) to watch.

The match lives up to the billing, and both teams play a brilliant game - it's class versus class. This time, I'm the only one watching - it's the middle of a weekday in a suburban strip mall bar - not too many soccer fans about. I'm happy to see Arsenal shows no psychological scars from their weekend beating but they also can't seem to find the back of the net. In the end, they run beautiful circles around Milan but have nothing to show for it. Arsenal's leading striker - the big African, Emmanuel Adebayor, heads a sure goal into the goal post at the last second. The game ends tied at 0-0. So Arsenal visits Italy in the second leg and will play AC Milan on a field where no English team has won before. I should feel optimistic, but the one-two punch of the beating by Man U and the lack of killer instinct before the net against Milan have my guard up. My friend Danny, a Roma fan who I credit with bringing me back to soccer after many years away from the sport, puts it in the right perspective - at least they didn't give up an away goal.

Feb 23 - Back in the Premiership, Arsenal plays away at Birmingham. It's a match Arsenal is expected to win - especially if they want to keep their five point lead
at the top of the table ahead of Manchester United. I didn't see the game but there's no shortage of news about it. Three minutes in, Eduardo "DuDu" DaSilva, a Brazilian-born Croatian national who is one of Arsenal's brightest upcoming stars, suffers a compound fracture of the leg and complete dislocation of the ankle, one of the worst injuries in world soccer history, as a result of a bad tackle. The entire team is visibly shaken by the incident and Arsenal falls behind 1-0 in the first half. It takes 18-year-old Theo Walcott to light a spark in the second, scoring twice in five minutes, to take the lead, 2-1. Just when it looks like Arsenal has managed a victory on this gloomy day, a questionable penalty is awarded to Birmingham in the dying seconds, and they hit the back of the net to end the game in a tie, 2-2.

William Gallas, Arsenal Captain and moody Frenchman (Danny really dislikes Gallas - it's a Italy/France thing) literally walks off the pitch in tears as the game is still being played, and has to be restrained from kicking the advertising billboards on the way out. He knows how valuable each and every point is at this stage of the season and one point can mean the title, especially with Manchester United storming up behind you (they stomp Newcastle 5-1 later the same day). I appreciate the passion of Gallas but at this moment, Arsenal looks like a team who has lost more than a couple of precious points at the top of the table - they look like a team who has lost it all.

March 1 - Back at home, Arsenal plays another Premiership match against Aston Villa. Villa is a scrappy side and the test is not expected to be easy, especially considering the swiss cheese psyche of the Arsenal team. The best news of the week is that Eduardo has had a successful surgery and is recovering after the horror of the the Birmingham match. The doctors are even saying he may play again in nine months time. After seeing the injury on YouTube (I can only imagine how awful it must have been on the field), I think hopes of a professional European soccer career are optimistic to say the least, but I wish him all the best. By all accounts, Eduardo is just a decent young guy who was plucked from the minnows of Croatia to play for one of the biggest teams in one of the most competitive leagues the world and he just walked in and started playing - pure class. It goes without saying that a win against Villa would go a long way toward recovery, as the team will need to be at their best when they travel to Italy for the second leg of their Champion's League match against AC Milan. Unfortunately, I have plans to work on this Saturday and I'm taping the match but I get to watch the first twenty minutes or so live before leaving.

Here it is, a do-or-die match with everything at stake in the Premiership, a real opportunity to pick the team up and "do it for DuDu" and I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for the first goal to come so I can exhale...and when it comes it is as if fate has some sick and twisted sense of humor, because it is Phillip Senderos, the big, bald goofy Arsenal defender who I just cannot muster any faith in because of his perpetual deer-in-headlights expression, who accidentally knocks the ball into his OWN GOAL! I turn the TV off. I bury my head in my hands. I cannot believe what I just saw. I turn the TV back on - yes, it really happened and there's the score to prove it, Aston Villa - 1, Arsenal - 0. I turn the TV off again. It's time to go to work.

I find out later that Arsenal escaped complete pants-pulled-down-to-the-ankles embarrassment by scoring with the last kick of the game in extra time to tie, 1-1. So they came within a hair of literally beating themselves but with a last gasp managed to tie themselves. Honestly, you don't even need another team on the pitch when you're playing this bad. And just in time for Milan...Wenger tries to spin it as a valuable point and a valiant team effort despite the Eduardo hangover - I'm not buying it. Not for a second. This team is falling apart. The young guns, who started the season with such wonderful promise in what was thought to be a year of re-building are finally...running...out...of...gas. And by the way, Manchester United crushed Fulham 3-0 to come within a single point of Arsenal at the top.

March 5 - Champion's League in Italy, second-leg, winner advances and the loser goes home. It is a rainy Tuesday here and I simply cannot think of anything but the match ahead. Fortunately, my clients are on to other things today and I'm able to arrange my schedule to go home to watch the match and keep up with the office via email. Everything goes according to plan until a last-minute tweak comes up on a job and suddenly, I'm running late for the 2:45 game time. I have to remind myself that it's not worth dying over as I struggle to maintain a reasonable speed on the stormy drive home. I curse XM radio for not having a station that will even acknowledge the existence of soccer. It is 3:00 when I finally pull into my driveway. I race inside and turn the TV on - the match is already in progress.

There is no score yet but Arsenal is under heavy pressure from the Italians and look to be on the back foot. The commentators catch me up and it seems Arsenal has been backed-up since the start. It's not surprising that AC Milan are attacking because an Arsenal goal is worth two but it is surprising that AC Milan are attacking with such confidence and getting so many chances. My heart is racing and my palms are actually sweating, I can't sit still. At some point my wife arrives home with my two-and-a-half-year-old-son, who sits on my lap, joining me in cheering Arsenal on as they slowly and deliberately turn the momentum of the game. But the wicked signs of cruel fate are still there: Alexander Hleb gets dragged down at the edge of the box while driving to the net which should result in a penalty kick for Arsenal but instead Hleb is carded for diving. It is an awful call that has me screaming at the television and wondering aloud if the ref is Italian. Not long after, the brilliant Cesc Fabregas fires a screamer guessed it, hits the goal post. I can't help but think this is going to be another long night. At some point, my son decided he'd rather be playing with his cousin next door so I'm left alone to pace my living room, walking laps around my coffee table, as the first half comes to a close with Arsenal looking dangerous but again nothing to show for it. I spend the brief halftime break frantically checking email and I am relieved to find that all is generally well back at the office.

I spend the entire second half on my feet. And what a second half it is. Almost immediately after the restart a golden opportunity lands at the feet of Phillip Senderos, "the "deer," who botches the shot badly, handing it straight to the keeper. I can't take much more...The Gunners are firing now and it's clear they are methodically breaking down the older Italian side. Kinks begin to appear in the wall of the AC Milan guard, and even the great Kaka appears flustered by the swarming Arsenal players who attack the ball like lasers and refuse to share possession. This is the best I have seen Arsenal play all season and they are getting better as they go - a true masterclass. But still, they have nothing to show for it. The clock is ticking and the score remains 0-0. And I know, a goal can come in a flash and change the entire game and it doesn't matter what has happened to that point. I've enjoyed the inspired Arsenal team play so much in this half that I actually forgot they still needed to score and that's always the knock against Arsenal - they play such beautiful, technical soccer but it's always one pass too many, at the expense of goals. With only ten minutes to play in regular time, I'm beginning to sweat again and the doubt is creeping...will AC Milan steal this? Will the mystique of the homefield, the fortress at the San Siro, prove too great a force to overcome? I don't want this to go to penalty kicks - I'm not sure I will survive that.

And then it comes. In the 84th minute, Cesc Fabregas weaves through the defense and just when it looks that he's searching for a pass, he blasts a surprising long-range shot from 25 yards that skips across the turf and just
past the out-stretched hand of the giant Milan goalie and inside the corner post. It doesn't register at first, because the shot also took me by surprise and the camera angle wasn't clear, but there's Cesc racing across the field to hug Wenger and yes, it really happened and there's the score to prove it, Arsenal - 1, AC Milan - 0. At this stage of the game, it's unlikely that AC Milan will get the two goals they need to tie (Arsenal's one away goal is worth two) but just to be sure, Wenger sends on the speedy Walcott who makes a nice run down the flanks and feeds Adebayor a perfect pass that he easily puts away for a final score of Arsenal 2, AC Milan - 0. I am elated and exhausted all at once. And proud. So strange that I am so proud of this English soccer team made-up of mostly non-English players, who I watch from a distance. Even the Italians are clapping for Arsenal as they soak in the glory and live on to play another day.

Unfortunately as of this post, virtually all evidence of the match has been pulled by YouTube due to copyright infringement claims by UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations, so you'll just have to take my word for it - it was something.