I love my new Apple keyboard

“Apple Keyboard Kit” (Apple Computer)

I’m fixing up my home office a bit, and I was using a dirt cheap eMachines keyboard with my MacBook Pro. That keyboard had a PS/2 connector which I ran to a KVM switch (I did have two computers hooked up at one point). So, the first problem was that that keyboard was contributing the my overall cabling mess because of the KVM switch. The other problem was that my current desk, which I bought a few months back, has a much smaller keyboard tray and I’d have to peer under the edge of the desk to see the function keys. It’s also kind of annoying having the wrong meta key arrangement… I’ve been a Mac user for years now, and it would be nice to use a keyboard with Mac keys.

So, I went out and bought an Apple keyboard. It obviously fits much better on my desk. I have no problem seeing all of the keys on this little guy. Additionally, I’ve got to say that I really like the feel. I wasn’t sure that I would, but the keys of this keyboard have a nice tactile response while still requiring very little key pressure or finger travel.

Of course, the Apple keyboard is still a conventional layout keyboard, rather than an ergonomic one. I might be better off with an ergonomic keyboard layout, but for a standard layout keyboard I’m much happier with the feel of this one.

Seth Godin’s The Dip

This past Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending Seth Godin’s The Dip talk at the Michigan Theater. Here’s a photo from Seth’s blog:

It’s been a busy week, so I haven’t had a chance to write about this until now.

The first thing I want to say is this: if you’re still doing presentations with bullet points, you need to see someone like Seth Godin speak. It will give you a whole new appreciation for how best to present material. Bullet points ain’t it. If you’ve ever seen me present, you’ve probably noticed that I don’t use bullet points. I’m definitely still honing my technique, but Seth has achieved master level. If you can’t catch Seth live, I’d recommend checking out An Inconvenient Truth. Al Gore’s presentation in that movie is bigger budget and less readily attainable than Seth’s technique, but it will still give you an idea of what to shoot for.

I’d imagine that Seth would consider himself a failure if I just wrote about his presentation style and not the content he was presenting. After all, it’s not a very effective presentation if the flash gets ahead of the substance. I read The Dip before seeing the talk, and the talk was a nice companion to the book. The Dip is a small book (under 100 pages), which I appreciate. Many business books have an idea that can be readily condensed into a 5 page summary, but they carry on for 200, 300 or more pages just repeating the same idea over and over in slightly different styles with or without actual supporting evidence. I often get the feeling from business books that they’re trying to perform “proof by repeated assertion”. At 100 pages, The Dip felt about right in terms of size. The one thing that I felt was missing was personal anecdotes. It’s the perfect kind of book for stories about how Seth himself has tackled “The Dip”, but instead we get stories about how well-known others have successfully tackled The Dip.

So, what is “The Dip”? Don’t worry, I’ll get there. This is one of the other interesting aspects to Seth Godin in general: he likes for his ideas and terminology to spread. Whether it’s a purple cow or an ideavirus, Seth wants people to learn and use these terms. To that end, everyone who attended The Dip (live!) received 5 copies of The Dip (book), to pass around. Each copy of the book includes a page in the back where you can put a list of names to try to get a group of people to pass it around. I have no idea if that technique works, but the 5 copies per person idea certainly does. People will inevitably think of friends and colleagues who might benefit from The Dip and pass it on. Thus, Seth’s ideas and terminology claim some more vic—-, I mean supporters. If you Google “The Dip” or just “dip”, Seth has the #2 link. The idea has spread.

At last we get to the point where I contribute to the spread of the idea. “The Dip” is the point in an endeavor where the going gets rough. Seth makes the point that quitting in The Dip is what most people do, and it’s exactly the wrong thing to do. You should anticipate the Dip. If you’re not going to put forth the effort to get through it, you shouldn’t even start the undertaking. But once you make it through the Dip, you’ll be among the best in the world. And that is what the book “The Dip” is truly about: quitting the things that you aren’t going to master and becoming the best in the world at the thing that matters most.

For me, personally, The Dip’s message about quitting excess things is timely and relevant. I’ve had so many things going on and so many things vying for my time outside of work, that maintaining focus is important. Some post-The Dip reflection has identified a couple of things that I’ve been able to quit. And it feels good.

While Purple Cow remains my favorite among the Godin books that I have read, The Dip is a potentially more broadly useful quick read for stories and thoughts about being the very best. Your investment in time in reading the book will be well worth it. I’d also highly recommend seeing the live show if Seth will be coming to you. (And a big “thanks!” to the folks who organized the Ann Arbor event!)

Luxury Chair.com: use caution

If you do work that requires a lot of sitting, you don’t want to skimp on your chair. The cost of a good chair is small compared to the cost that bad ergonomics can extract from your body.

Of course, not everyone will agree on what the perfect chair is. I’ve spent about 3 years working at companies where my chair was an Aeron. It’s a shame that the Aeron was one of the symbols of dot com excess. The fact of the matter is that it’s a darn good chair. I’ve been using computers for a long time and the Aeron is the most comfortable chair that I’ve sat on. Though it’s always good to take frequent breaks and move around, the Aeron always felt great to sit in, even for long stretches.

Given that I’m still in the startup phase of my business, buying an Aeron seems extravagant. But, my current chair is old and makes my rear end hurt. So, I bought an Aeron, but I did shop around.

I took a chance and purchased from Luxury Chair.com. They sell new condition, open-box chairs. At the time I ordered, their website was fairly sparse. The page described the “highly adjustable” model of Aeron, with the leather arm upgrade, for $599. That may sound like a lot, but when you shop around, that’s a good deal! Sit4Less charges $968 for the same thing! (Note: Luxury Chair charges $75 for shipping, sit4less offers free shipping. Even accounting for the shipping difference, Luxury Chair is still much cheaper.)

When the chair arrived, it was indeed in excellent condition. However, the chair I received was an Aeron basic, not the highly adjustable model. That would not have been a good deal. Sit4Less charges just $649 for the Aeron basic with free shipping.

Mistakes happen and the important thing is what is done to take care of the mistakes. Without fuss, Luxury Chair paid the return shipping (thankfully including pickup, so I didn’t have to haul this 55 pound chair to UPS) and then sent me the correct chair which arrived today. This second chair is the correct model and is also in excellent condition. My only complaint would be that it took two weeks between the time they received my returned chair and I received the new one. Otherwise, though, Luxury Chair took good care to ensure that I was happy with the product. I should also note that they’ve improved their website to highlight that they have both basic and highly adjustable models of Aerons, so this type of mistake is not as likely in the future.

One thing to be aware of is that Luxury Chair is not an authorized Herman Miller dealer. This means that the 12 year warranty is provided by Luxury Chair, not Herman Miller. (The tag on the bottom of the chair that reflects the chair’s date of birth has been removed.) I haven’t noticed troubles with the Aerons I’ve used, so I was perfectly comfortable with this arrangement.

All in all, Luxury Chair came through with the product as advertised at a price that was significantly less than anyone else, including other open box deals that I saw. If you’re considering an Aeron, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Luxury Chair.

Update (5/8/2007): This post has been a magnet for comments about LuxuryChair.com. The comments are almost universally negative. The original title was “A Good Deal”, but I’ve changed it to “Use Caution”. They worked out fine for me, but apparently they haven’t for others. YMMV.

Review: Weird Al Yankovic’s Poodle Hat

Hard to say whether this is a music review or a comedy review… either way, it’s a review of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s latest, Poodle Hat. Poodle Hat, Al’s first album in 4 years, follows the exact same formula as his ’90s albums: mix in about 45% parodies, 45% originals, and a polka medley of songs for good measure. If you didn’t like this formula in the past, I don’t think you’ll start liking it now. This review also covers the latest AL-TV.

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Movie Review: Finding Nemo

I didn’t have particularly high expectations for the latest Pixar flick, Finding Nemo. What little I knew of the plot didn’t seem to have the same wacky, fanciful quality shared by the other Pixar films (Monsters, Inc., Toy Story). But, the 99% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes told me that maybe there is something going on here. The movie turned out to be excellent.

Since I don’t get paid to write reviews, I’m not going to rehash the plot, beyond the very basics. A clownfish named Marlin’s only son, Nemo, is snatched up by some humans and Marlin won’t stop until he finds Nemo. The characters were well-defined and well-acted. The graphics were fantastic, with all sorts of underwater creatures and things coming to life in vivid color. I think Pixar tried to make the sea creatures realistic overall. Had this movie actually been shot under water, it would have taken many lights to make this as colorful.

Pixar has had a string of greatly entertaining, visually appealing movies and Finding Nemo continues this tradition as well. A preview for next year’s The Incredibles makes me think that Pixar’s winning streak is not yet over. The short film before the main movie (I forget what it was called) was a nice bit of entertainment and was quite impressive for 1989.

Since I’m writing this on Monday morning, I’ve had a chance to see the box office receipts for Finding Nemo. $70 million+ in its first weekend, a new record for an animated movie. The remarkable thing about this is that many of the admissions were at matinee and kids prices (unlike a more adult-oriented movie like Matrix Reloaded). Very cool. We’ll see if it has the same kind of mighty dropoffs that Reloaded and Bruce Almighty have had.

Product Review: Line6 Variax and PODxt

After too long a time away from music, I’m finally getting a little bit of time with it. It’s been 10 years since I bought my first guitar, a $200 Yamaha electric strat-style. For a while, I’ve been thinking that I’d like a new guitar, and now I’ve finally found the guitar for me: the Line6 Variax. I also decided to upgrade my guitar effects to the Line6 PODxt.
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Matrix Reloaded Meta-Review

This article has no spoilers beyond what is shown in the previews for the movie. Besides, does it really matter now that the movie has made more than $135 million? Short review: I liked Reloaded, a lot. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would say that my favorite scene was the Burly Brawl (the fight between Neo and the many Agent Smiths). I also thought that the movie did a good job of continuing forward movement of the story and bringing some new depth to the world of The Matrix. We get to learn several more bits of “just how deep the rabbit hole goes”.

The meta part of this review: I read the Entertainment Weekly review of Reloaded this weekend. The short form of that review was that Reloaded is a mediocre movie that was raised up because of its stunning visuals (grade: B). They found the plot pretentious and didn’t particularly care for the acting of Keanu Reeves and Lawrence Fishburn. They also didn’t seem to care too much for the script. Now, I’ll grant that movie and music reviews are very subjective, which is why sites like Rotten Tomatoes are helpful. But, I wanted to specifically comment on the plot of Reloaded. The Matrix was great because they had to do all of that exposition and they were introducing us to a new and interesting world. Reloaded couldn’t have that same sort of magical quality, because we’ve already been introduced to the world. But, I was happy with how many more ideas we were exposed to and where they let us off before making us wait for Revolutions. The Wachowski brothers have a lot to live up to for that third movie, but I’ve got faith that they know what they’re doing (much more so than for certain other filmmakers).