Thoughts

Goodbye, Duke Nukem

When the Duke Nukem series came out in the late 90s, I was a huge fan. There was a time when I played it every day, and I knew almost every trick on each level. I even bleached my hair once to get the Duke Nukem look. Given that I was also working out regularly back then and had some fairly serious muscle on me, it was a pretty good approximation.

As with all such phases, my obsession with the video game passed on, but I still looked forward to the sequel, called Duke Nukem Forever. I waited, along with countless others, since 1997, only to find out last month that 12 years later, in 2009, work on the game stopped altogether.

It was, by all means, an expected conclusion to what had become a game industry joke and cliché. Still, when I see the trailer for Duke Nukem Forever, released in 2007, I still feel regret for the promises made so many times that never came true. I’d have loved to play the sequel, if only for nostalgic reasons. This should have been awesome. Instead, it ended up in the crapper. What a shame.

[Video from Don MacAskill’s Duke Nukem Forever gallery at SmugMug]

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Events

Goodbye, Smooth Jazz

While I’m on the subject of radio, I’d like to say goodbye to a station that I enjoyed listening to over the past five years I’ve lived here in DC: Smooth Jazz 105.9 (WJZW). It’s been in my radio presets for all of that time.

One morning, as I tuned in, expecting a change from the usual sonic assaults found on other stations, I got shocked with a really bad oldie. I’m a fan of oldies (sometimes), but this was a real dud. I couldn’t figure it out. I looked at the station call, and it now said “True Oldies”. Then some annoying DJ’s voice came on, touting the format change and the “return of oldies” to DC. No thanks. DC already had an oldies station, and it wasn’t in my presets. I tuned right out and looked for another station to store in its place.

To top it off, it turns out Don Imus is the new morning show DJ on True Oldies. Yup, that guy. I’ve met and seen a lot of revolting people, but he takes the cake. One more reason to stay away.

Ramsey Lewis, where are you? I will miss your cheery voice and inspirational quotes, not to mention the smooth jazz you played during your morning show. I hope things are okay for you and the rest of the DJs from the station.

Goodbye, Smooth Jazz.

Smooth Jazz 105.9 FM

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Places

Reagan National Airport

As you read this, Ligia and I are supposed to be in Florida. Instead, I’m back at work. We were supposed to fly out yesterday. Everything was set. We were really looking forward to it.

We got to the airport, checked in, went to the gate, and noticed that our flight was listed as leaving at 6 PM instead of 4:50 PM. A few minutes later, an elderly lady came by and asked if we’d heard that the flight was canceled. No, we hadn’t. Five minutes later, the notice was posted — the flight was canceled indeed, because of bad weather in FL.

To make matters worse, there were no other outgoing flights. All were full. The earliest available flight was on Saturday. No thanks. We went around to all the other airlines and checked. They had nothing, unless we were willing to pay Monopoly prices and fly tonight or on Friday. That would have been okay if only we could have paid with Monopoly money…

What were we to do? We could have gotten angry, but that would have been pointless. So I took out my 5D and started taking photos of the airport. I’d always wanted to do it and never got around to it. Isn’t DCA beautiful?

Travelers

The main floor is shown above. I love the pillars and arches supporting the roof.

Repetition

Light

Radiate

The ceiling is made up of repeating cupolas, as you can see above, and each cupola has a skylight in its center. It’s such great design!

Skylight

I think I could spend a few days walking around the airport and taking photos. There are so many possibilities with the light, as it comes through the wall of glass or the skylights and reflects off the floor… It’s just beautiful, and if you get the right mix of people walking through (not too many, not too few), it really makes the place look great!

Arrivals

Steps

Departures

I leave you with an outside shot of the control tower, taken from the Reagan National metro station. It felt pretty painful to get right back to it a few hours after we’d just left it, on our way to FL…

White tower

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Thoughts

It’s about expectations

Many of us have heard this before, but it bears repeating. Customer or user satisfaction depends, in large part, upon the expectations you set, as a service or product provider. Promise something you can’t or don’t deliver, and satisfaction goes right down the drain, no matter what you did right.

A great friend of mine put this another way: under-promise, and over-deliver. It’s plain, simple, and it should be the golden rule that companies use when they think about their products and services. I don’t mean you should set your sights on mediocrity, or that you should settle for the lowest common denominator. But you should ALWAYS make sure you promise only what you can absolutely deliver, and if you do anything above and beyond the call of duty, it’s icing on the cake, and it makes the customer ecstatic in a viral sort of way.

Have you heard of Micro Center? Neither did I, till a couple of weeks ago. Their website is certainly underwhelming — at least it is at this point in time, but I have a feeling that’ll change. I got a flyer in the mail from them, inviting me to the store for a free gift. I went in and was blown away. Their store has the coolest and best floor layout I’ve ever seen! It’s clean, well-lit, beautiful, stocked to the gills with cool technology, and everyone is friendly! Did they promise any of that in their flyer? No, they just promised the free gift and mentioned the new store. They delivered on the free gift just fine, and their store atmosphere was the icing on the cake that left me ecstatic.

And guess what? They have an in-store pickup option as well. I ordered a few CF cards from their site today, and went to pick them up in the evening. But do you know what they did? They didn’t promise a 20-minute turnaround. They actually put some thought into it. Their staff is new, their store is new, their systems are probably new or re-designed, and they knew they couldn’t deliver on something like that. They said the order would be ready for pickup in a couple of days. Was I disappointed? No. I got the price I wanted on the products I wanted, and as long as they were going to make good on their promise, I didn’t care. But I thought I’d test the waters anyway, and Ligia and I got in our car and drove to the store tonight.

When we got there, the same cheery atmosphere awaited us. The people were courteous and smiled, just like the last time we visited. We went to the customer service counter, where the representative looked up our order and explained that it wasn’t ready yet. No problem, I’d expected that. I asked if I could pick up the items from the store shelves and come back to the counter. She said yes. I browsed through the store, found what I needed, brought the stuff back to the customer service counter, and the representative fulfilled the order. She fiddled a bit with the computer system since it was new, but she was courteous and helpful, and I didn’t mind waiting an extra couple of minutes. In the end, I walked out with my order fulfilled, and the kicker was this: the price was the same as on their website.

It’s about setting the right expectations, plain and simple. Do what works for you, and more importantly, do what you know you can do! Under-promise, over-deliver, and you’ll have happy customers. Even if you go just a bit beyond what you promised, it makes a huge difference!

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Thoughts

How many of my photos were stolen?

For the moment, this is a rhetorical question. I’ve been re-thinking the way I publish my photos online in view of the recent and very prominent theft of Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir‘s photos from Flickr. Call me naive, but I really believed, and still would like to believe, that people will wish to stay legal and pay for the right to use my photos, especially for commercial purposes. That’s why I’ve been publishing my photos at full resolution. I wanted folks who weren’t able to pay (developing countries, for instance), or only wanted a nice desktop background, to be able to download a photo of mine and enjoy it without financial obstacles.

But I talked with my brother this morning, and he told me some things that made me think twice about my approach. He’s a professor at a university in Transylvania (Romania), and he does a lot of field research in ethnology and religion. He takes a lot of photos, and shoots a lot of video. When people ask him for copies of his work, he’s very nice about it and does so, hoping they’ll respect his academic work and cite him or ask for his permission when they use it. But he’s been finding out that they don’t. They’ll reuse his photos and his videos, and he won’t hear about it until he sees his work somewhere else. Just recently, someone entered one of his videos in a contest as their own creation, and he found out about it only after that person won. It was very disheartening. He’s now thinking of watermarking both his videos and photos, and of only publishing lower resolution copies on the Internet. He’s tired of constant theft and no attribution.

So I had to ask myself: how many of my photos have already been stolen? I haven’t yet heard of or seen a particular instance, but I also haven’t really looked around to see. It’s probably just a matter of time before I start finding my work in someone else’s portfolio, website or printed materials. When you combine high-resolution photos with people that have no respect whatsoever for someone else’s hard work, you’re asking for trouble. As much as I’d like to believe otherwise, good people, those that respect other people’s property, are few and far between, and it’s best not to tempt the thieves or uneducated ones by making good photos easily available.

I’ve taken some steps already. I used to upload to Flickr at full resolution. Not anymore. Since they offered Rebekkah no help whatsoever, and even deleted the photo where she complained of image theft, along with the thousands of comments that she received there, I’ve lost respect for them. If that’s how they’re going to treat one of their best users, then I sincerely hope they get what’s coming to them, and I hope it’s a wallop.

I may also start to watermark my images. As much as I hate this (it uglifies an image, imo), I’ll do it, just to make it harder to pass my photos around without crediting them properly. I may also start to copyright my photography with the Library of Congress, and pursue damages to the full letter of the law (up to $150,000 per incident).

Finally, I may also stop uploading at full res to Zooomr. I keep waiting for them to push out the Mark III upgrade, and it seems that every time Kris is ready to do it, something happens to stop it. This week was the third time the promised upgrade didn’t materialize, and I’m pretty disappointed. Mark III is supposed to have this really nice image theft prevention built in, so I could continue to upload a full res, but restrict the sizes available to casual visitors or even my contacts at certain resolutions, and only make the full res size available to buyers. But if Mark III doesn’t show up any time soon — and since Zooomr has no photo replace feature like Flickr — I may just delete all of my photos, or make them all private. I do not want to see my hard work go to waste.

It’s a real shame that we can’t function equitably as a society, at the local, state, national or global level. If only everyone would respect other people’s property (physical or intellectual), things would work a lot better. One would think the concept of property has been around long enough for most people and cultures to grasp it…

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