The Hess Report


Monday, March 27, 2006

Working at the New House 

There are a bunch of things to do at our new house. Some are difficult; some are easy; some will just take a long time.

One of the nastiest looking thing at the house is the old mailbox. It was an old steel one, sitting on an L-shaped of rusting heavy gauge pipe. The box itself had been partially crushed, and from the angle the whole thing rested at, I guessed it had been clipped by a passing motorist who had, I'm certain, stopped to make restitution to the previous owner.

A few minutes with a spade and a bit of exertion had the old box out and away.

The new mailbox will be on a pressure treated wooden post, which will look much nicer. But it's not just going to set in the ground. The post will be pre-cemented into a bucket, which will then be dropped into the hole I dug yesterday. I'm putting a 2' x 2' form around the hole, and will be filling that with about 9"-12" of concrete. As the concrete is setting up, I'm going to surround the post with a first course of stone, inset maybe 3"-6" from the edges of the concrete slab. After that all dries (probably about a day), I'll use some more of my stone to build a nice little stone base for the mailbox, probably about a foot and a half up the post.

The purpose is twofold: 1. It will make it look a little nicer than a bare mailbox, and (hopefully) fit in with the stone on the house, tying the front of the driveway together visually with the main structure. 2. Present enough of a barrier so that if someone clips the thing while they're driving past, they won't have a choice to not stop and make restitution. It'll rip out a portion of their car.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

90% of Apple's Revenue Comes From Hipsters 

A couple of months ago, I was doing some work on an IRC channel (Internet Relay Chat) when someone from far far away realized I was from Pittsburgh, and asked if I'd ever been to the Apple Store there. There's an Apple Store in Pittsburgh? Clicky clicky... look look... hmmm. Not only is there an Apple Store in Pittsburgh, but it's in Shadyside, which is a mere five blocks from our shop.

And it's a good thing that I learned that, too, because just last week, the beautiful, wicked-fast Dual G5 that I work on went to the crapper. It was pulling hard freezes, random and frequent. I put it back in its original box, lugged it up to the loading dock (it's very heavy -- the guys at the Apple Store call the Dual G5 the "Big Iron"), and drove it to the Store.

An Apple Store really is a masterwork of consumer and industrial design. It manages to be upscale without being snootily intimidating like Pottery Barn, and has lots of high tech everywhere while avoiding the junk yard vibe of Radio Shack. The embedded monitors on the walls, giant beautiful and bright, display a constantly shifting demo of the latest Apple magic, in sync with all the idle monitors in the Store (Apple Genius secret: those wall displays are neither made by nor obtainable from Apple). Every currently available Apple product is on display here, as well as a lot of third party accessories.

The staff is large, and the two times I've been in the Store in the last week, they've been needed. The place is always packed. I'm not going to even go into the marketing tour de force that is the Genius Bar (in-store free Tech Support), because telling Apple they know what they're doing isn't the point of this.

The point is that I hate hipsters. What, you say? Where did that come from?

By informal count over the three hours I've spent inside the Apple Store, Hipsters (people who wish they had been young during the Hippie Era, or who actually were and had missed the PSA that the aforementioned Smelly Era was over) outnumbered Normals by about forty to five. I guess Apple's "Think Different" campaign really worked its magic on a certain segment of the population.

The hipsters I spotted fell into three main categories:

1. Stereotypical disheveled older male college professors, utterly befuddled by their Mac laptops, complete with cruddy tweed jackets, rumpled greying hair and a tone of voice that lets you know that they've read all the classics and liked them too.

2. Neohippies: peasant skirts, weird knit caps, silly configurations of facial hear, multiple sweater/vest/layers tending towards browns, avacados and rusts, filthy jeans and those crazy shoes they love so much. And yes, many of them reeked of patchouli oil.

3. The PseudoHomeless: manner of dress and level of personal hygiene would ordinarily suggest someone of the mentally ill, street dwelling variety, if it weren't for the iPod buds dangling from the necks of their shirts and the 20" iMacs they were carting.

There was even an older guy sporting a Marx beard and hat, and wearing the full communist outfit. When I saw him, I thought I was about to be in the middle of a live Monty Python sketch about communism.

The five normal people were: myself (ha!), a young female lawyer who obviously cared about her appearance, a young black dude in a Slippery Rock track sweatshirt who was heading to the NCAA national track finals, and a couple in business attire who were equine photographers (hopefully not of the Oregon variety). How do I know this stuff about these people? You thought I was antisocial! Nah. It's just that part of the job of the guys at the Genius bar (I think) is to get people to chat about themselves so they feel special, which everyone obligingly did.

What is it that bugs me about the Hipster lifestyle? I think it's a combination of seeing people who are trying way too hard (which is embarrassing), the "I'm an individual -- No! Really!" thing (which is equally embarrassing), and that notion of Don't Look At Me Because I'm Different (But Really, Look At Me! I'm Different!). All together, it makes me want to slap them, spray them down with Lysol and politely informing them that "Using a Mac is not sticking it to The Man."

Actually, I also found myself wondering how many of them a stray .308 would go through before it stopped, but that was just my genetic heritage of horribly inappropriate thought patterns coming to the fore, and I dismissed the thought (almost) immediately, for fear of setting off the Apple Store's hidden less-than-mellow detectors.

So my Mac's in the shop, and it may be dead, and I hate the Hipster lifestyle*. The Dual G5 is a good machine, and I hope it makes it through. Even though a new machine would be faster still, I like this one just fine. But a part of me is wondering: do I really want it back if it's going to smell like bong water and unwashed hair?

*That's right -- I don't hate the Hipsters. I love the Hipsters and feel for them the same way I feel for kids who grow up trapped in the gang lifestyle. In fact, I'm thinking about pitching a show to TLC called "UnHip", in which myself and a small cadre of conservatives mug Hipsters off the streets, cut their hair, give them a bath and some real clothes, then put them in an office environment and try to have the managers guess which of their new employees used to be Hipsters and which ones came from business school. If the Hipsters pull it off, they win, like, a bunch of polos and oxfords, several pairs of khakis, an iron, a minivan and a Dell laptop. TV magic!