Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

I'm a little upset about Halloween. To me, it is a holiday for children that has been co-opted by adults.

When I was a kid, we agonized for weeks over what we would wear, what our route would be to maximize candy receipt, and what tricks we would play on our unsuspecting neighbors. Adults were only involved peripherally - walking with the little kids and talking with neighbors.

On the big day, we would gear up in our costumes and grab our favorite candy holder. Many of my friends would use a cute plastic pumpkin, but I was a bag man. Capacity was always key for me. I did not want to run out of space.

Having plenty of sleep beforehand was important, as was a good dinner. You don't want to run out of energy early. It was key to have enough energy to keep trick or treating until at least 8pm.

After that, you'd head home to sort your loot into categories - best stuff (chocolate), good stuff (yummies without chocolate), stuff to trade (no chocolate, not desired) and stuff to get rid of (fruit, coconut stuff).

But now, adults have horned in on the fun. Kids still get to go trick or treating, but now there are scary (but not really frightening) adults to deal with. I don't know, maybe I am a weirdo, but I think kids should have their own holiday, and Halloween was it when I was a kid.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

My Favorite Artists

Alexander Calder - Sculptor

Alexander Calder (1898-1976), whose illustrious career spanned much of the 20th century, is the most acclaimed and influential sculptor of our time. Born in a family of celebrated, though more classically trained artists, Calder utilized his innovative genius to profoundly change the course of modern art. He began by developing a new method of sculpting: by bending and twisting wire, he essentially "drew" three-dimensional figures in space. He is renowned for the invention of the mobile, whose suspended, abstract elements move and balance in changing harmony. Calder also devoted himself to making outdoor sculpture on a grand scale from bolted sheet steel. Today, these stately titans grace public plazas in cities throughout the world.

Andy Goldsworthy - Sculptor/Photographer

Andy Goldsworthy is an environmental sculptor in which his use of the natural surroundings create an art form. He explores and experiments with natural materials such as leaves, grasses, stones, wood, sand, clay, ice, and snow. The seasons and weather determine the materials and the subject matter of his projects. With no preconceived ideas about what he will create, Goldsworthy relies on what nature will give him. His transient sculptures contradict the permanence of art in its historical pretense. Because of this mortality of nature, Goldsworthy uses the photograph as a form of documentation to capture the essence of his work.

Andreas Gursky - Photographer

The big, bold, seductive, and surprising color photographs of German photographer Andreas Gursky set forth a stunning image of our contemporary world of high-tech industry, international markets, big-time sports, fast-paced tourism, and slick commerce. Tracking the zeitgeist from his native Germany to such far-flung places as Hong Kong, Brasilia, Cairo, New York, Shanghai, Stockholm, Tokyo, Paris, Singapore, and Los Angeles, Gursky has earned acclaim at the leading edge of contemporary art with a polished signature style that draws upon a great diversity of ideas, precedents, and techniques.

Bill Viola - Video Artist

Bill Viola is considered a pioneer in the medium of video art and is internationally recognized as one of today’s leading artists. He has been instrumental in the establishment of video as a vital form of contemporary art, and in so doing has helped to greatly expand its scope in terms of technology, content, and historical reach.

Gerhard Richter - Painter

Born and trained in Dresden, Gerhard Richter began designing stage sets and working in advertising before becoming a professional artist. In 1962, he began producing paintings inspired by blurry photographs, often times in series that explore the difference between figurative and abstraction. In his later work, he painted very large-scale, completely abstract pieces. Richter is known for versatility, superior handling of his technique, and his influence on modern German art.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

My first fan mail

I am going to write my first piece of fan mail. Author Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club, Haunted, Survivor), a truly wonderful and subversive author, has an unusual approach to fan mail. For one month out of the year, he will answer all the fan mail he receives with letters or, in some cases, packages. Here are the rules:

Letters must be postmarked within the month of October, 2006. I'd encourage people to start writing their letters this last week of September, and then hit the post office the first week of October. Don't do a mad rush in the remaining days of October the way people did last time. The earlier you get your letter sent off, the quicker he'll reply to it.

No packages are allowed! This includes sending him books you want signed. Letters only!

Please type out your letters in a clear, legible font. No hand-written notes. No oddly colored ink or papers. Chuck will toss these letters for the ones he doesn't need a map to figure out.

Return addresses must be made super-clear and be printed on both your envelope AND on the letter itself, and like the letter, be typed out in a legible font. Put it this way, if Chuck can't read your return address, you'll never hear back from him.

Last time around, Chuck asked you all to state your goals. This time around, he'd like to hear more about that, but he'd also like to hear about a recent accomplishment you're proud of. Work, school, a baby...

I am not even sure why I am going to write to him, but I am looking forward to it. As far as the topic, I think it would have to be taking the Leigh HS Wind Ensemble to Virginia Beach last year. Not only did the group play amazingly well, they ended up being the top-scoring group of all the bands that participated in all the festivals put on by North American Music Festivals. Can you tell I am proud of them?

More later...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Top Ten Movie Quotes

I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse.

Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

Go ahead, make my day.

May the Force be with you.

You can't handle the truth!

You're gonna need a bigger boat.

I'll be back.

Striker: Surely you can't be serious.

Rumack: I am serious…and don't call me Shirley.

Here's looking at you, kid.

You talking to me?

My Top Ten Comedy Movies
  1. Blazing Saddles
  2. Raising Arizona
  3. Tootsie
  4. Animal House
  5. Something About Mary
  6. A Fish Called Wanda
  7. Bringing Up Baby
  8. Arsenic and Old Lace
  9. Airplane
  10. Some Like it Hot

Chris Nalls Creative

In addition to my day job, I have a consulting business. I do any kind of creative marketing - messaging, product launches, PR, presentations, product design, whatever is needed.

This week's gig was to put together a short video to illustrate Chinese market opportunities. I have been doing a number of these lately - mostly to illustrate new market opportunities for corporations

Basically, it starts with a script that a writer produces. I go out with my Mac and record the voiceover, coaching the reader to get the right emotion.

Then, back to the lab (actually, it is a comfy chair in my living room) to edit the audio. I edit out mistakes, insert silence whenever they take a breath, and sometimes even change the pitch to make them sound younger or older.

Next, we gather photos to illustrate the story. The person that contracts me usually comes up with the images, and I edit them in Photoshop (my favorite video game).

From there, I put them into a video editor and match the photos to the script. Add titles, music and transitions. Then they get put on a DVD and delivered to the customer (Nestle, Wal-Mart, whoever).

If you would like to look at an example, here is a link to one that I created for my roommate as a demonstration in order to sell clients on the idea.

An Expensive Little Habit

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Just about a year ago, I commissioned a piece of music to be created.

After having used John M. Meehan as an arranger and composer for marching band, I asked if he would be interested in composing a commissioned work for the award-winning Leigh High School Wind Ensemble. John thought this was a great idea, so we got to work.

We started with John's thematic idea, which was the mythological love story of Scylla and Glaucus. I looked on the Internet and found out more about the tale and even pictures that illustrated the story. We worked together to come up with the title, 'Circe's Curse'.

John asked for the instrumentation of my group, and I added the individual strengths and weaknesses of the sections and players. For example, I had a large and talented percussion section, including a top notch pianist, that I wanted to feature.

The first draft arrived, and the band gave it a reading. We immediately fell in love with the passionate nature of the piece, as well as the intricate detailing of the rhythms and how the parts were woven together.

We gave John feedback, and he continued to refine the piece. When we had a near-final draft, John came to town and sat in for rehearsals and final tuning of "our" piece. He returned to his studio and very shortly gave us the final draft for our World Premier.

Working with John was a pleasure, and the end result was spectacular. Being on stage performing a piece in its first-ever performance was a thrill that the entire ensemble will remember for the rest of their lives.

Now the piece is for sale on John's website jksmusic.com. There is also a fairly bad audio sample of my group playing Circe's Curse in rehearsal. I really need to get him a better recording!

One of the highlights of my musical career - conducting the Leigh High School Wind Ensemble in Boston Symphony Hall.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The sound of music.......

The sound of music gives us so much emotions
and that plays a melody deep in our heart greatly
All the sound on the earth are like music
and the music brings love and enjoyment to our life
Music expresses universal language of the world
and brings people together where ever they live
The music is the best gift of God to all of us
where its fills our soul with peace and mind with creativity
Every music has its own rhythm
and it's creates a great sound of music
Music in the mountain brings peace in our heart
and music in the ocean fills our soul with love
When I hear the sound of music
then I begin to write a song as a soul of music
If you don't love the sound of music
then your soul will be unsung
Because music can put life in to a dead man

Ravi Sathasivam / Sri Lanka

Copyright @2006 Ravi Sathasivam

Friday, October 13, 2006

Getting Hired.

Happy Friday!

This marks the end of week 3 at Symantec. I really can't complain - they really know how to treat their employees. This morning, a box showed up with my new Treo Smartphone. Having a phone paid for by the company is this geek's dream come true. Now, if I could just get a car...

One of my fabulous readers asked, "How would you characterize the tech industry in the Bay area these days?"

Well, considering that it took me about a week to get hired, I would say that things are looking pretty darned good!

It is still important to be connected. I knew someone here that helped me out, and there were other companies with former coworkers that were also interested in hiring me.

Here's my Guide For Getting Hired:

1. Who do you know? Think about it - are their people you have worked with in the past that are working at a company that you would like to work for? Call or email them and take them to lunch. Ask about open opportunities. Many companies are offering referral bonuses for qualified leads. If you can't think of anyone, ask your family and friends for connections. You'll come up with a list in short order.

2. Network-Online. Set up an account on Linked In or one of the other business networking sites. Find people you know and link to them. I was offered more than one gig due to my page on LinkedIn.

3. Network-In Person. Find events in your industry and go to them. Take resumes and business cards and give them out. Look for job fairs and go. Be sure to talk to people - force yourself if you are shy. If someone can't help you, ask if they know someone who can. Be sure to follow up and thank them.

4. Get out and interview. If you know someone at a company, but they don't have any openings, ask for an informational interview. In the best case, you will dazzle them with your brilliance and get a job. At the very least, you have an opportunity to practice.

5. Apply for jobs - even if you might not want them. You might be wrong. And again - you will have the experience in polishing your story, even if you don't end up working there.

6. Be persistent. Whenever successful people are interviewed, one of the common threads is that they never gave up - they kept on pushing. Like it or not - it works!

Good luck -and let me know how it goes!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

My Second Career.

Growing up in Silicon Valley, computers were everywhere. While I was in music school, I needed to get a job to pay rent and such, and the position I found was working in a warehouse for a Taiwanese couple who had started the Mini Micro Supply Company, a business distributing computer parts in the area.

As their white guy (that's what they called me), I was mostly responsible for shipping and receiving and making deliveries. The job did not tax my brain, but I had a lot of fun packing boxes! This was in the early days of the personal computer, and it was very exciting to be involved - even as a delivery guy.

All the while, I was involved in teaching Drum and Bugle Corps and Marching Bands. This did not take up a lot of time (other than during the competitive season), so the job helped me live a bit more comfortably. Music (as all musicians know) never has paid very well.

One morning, my roomate Bob Callahan asked if I would be interested in taking on a temporary job in customer service at his company, MacMemory, a manufacturer of memory enhancements for the Macintosh. Being a big fan of Apple computers, I said yes.

I answered the phones and fielded questions about their new product, which boosted the Mac to a whopping 2 megabytes of RAM. Most computers nowadays come with 500 times that much memory, but it was a big deal at the time.

From there, I took a job at a music software company named Passport Designs as a product expert on music notation and printing software. That gave me the experience to land a job at Apple Computer's Claris Corporation as a Tech Support specialist.

On my first day at Claris, I reported to the receptionist, who asked me to take a seat. Right then, a group of employees appeared, leading a cow out of the building. It seems that the cow had been put into the office of one of the company's executives as a birthday prank. I knew then that I had found a home.

I stayed with Claris for almost ten years. From tech support, I identified that I wanted to move into training. You need to know that Tech Support is the kind of job that most people want to move on from after a very short time. People on the phone can be stupid and mean!

Training was a great job. I was able to travel quite a bit, as we had offices all over the world, training the Sales folks to better be able to convince customers to buy our products. We were a close-knit team, and our travels and trainings were legendary.

At that time, I began to notice that the Product Managers (PMs) in the Marketing department seemed to be the rock stars of the company. They led the teams that created the cool software that I was teaching the Sales teams to sell. I approached Mel Badgett, who was my Product Marketing contact, and asked him how I could become a Product Manager.

He told me that it would be easy, and gave me a bunch of his work to do for him! Luckily, my manager was supporting me in my quest to become a PM, and when a position opened up, I made the move.

This was my favorite time in the software industry. I was leading teams to design, develop, release, market and sell great programs. My software releases included ClarisCAD, MacDraw Pro, MacPaint, ClarisDraw, ClarisImpact, and Claris HomePage. My initial impression was correct - I was a rock star at the company, and I was truly enjoyed it.

But all good things come to an end. Steve Jobs decided that he needed to restructure the Apple software business, and one cold January day, Claris was dissolved. WIth almost ten years under my belt, I was looking forward to getting laid off with 6 months pay. But I was one of the folks chosen to stay. I was not happy about it and started to spend the majority of my time looking for a new job.

That new job was at Netscape. In the fall of 1998, I made the move. Netscape was taking a beating from Microsoft at the time, but I didn't mind - I was part of the Internet Revolution. I started as an International PM, and soon moved into the role of leading the marketing team for the Netscape browser group.

The Netscape team was very different than Claris. They were very intense and focused. Not quite as much fun. Or so I thought at the time - I learned that Netscape folks just expressed things differently. We worked hard, and I did some of my best work during that time. But it was not enough. Microsoft won the browser war, and our team was broken up.

During this time, Netscape was aquired by America Online. Many of the developers in our group were very unhappy about the aquisition. Netscape had always been known for innovation. AOL was known as the lowest common denominator of software. So, as their stock vested, people started to leave. My stock still had a few years to go, so I started looking for something new in the company.

My new role was to lead a team called Technology Evangelism. Because Netscape's browser had such low market share, many web devleopers had started creating sites that only worked with Internet Explorer. So, my group was formed to make sure that Netscape was not left behind.

Our charter was simple - to make more than 98% of the top 5,000 sites in the world work with the Netscape browser. We started by making the list, then testing all those sites. Our initial results were that we had a compatibility level of 67%, meaning that one third of the top sites did not work with our browser.

So we got to work.

My team included of 13 of the finest web gurus on the planet. We were spread across the globe, and pursued a strategy of fixing our product as well as fixing customer sites. Some sites were easy and/or cooperative. Others took a bit more time. Some refused to even try, so my guys would fix their sites FOR them. That way, when they told us they didn't have time to fix the problem, we could present them with a solution. For free.

At the end of 14 months, we acheived our goal, with 99% of the top sites in the world compatible with the Netscape browser. As a reward, my team was laid off and I was reassigned to the most boring job I have ever held (except for the time I was a bouncer in a Mexican Disco, but that is another story). That lasted until December of 2003, when I was laid off with about 400 others.

I spent the next few months interviewing everywhere. But there weren't very many positions open. This was a down time for the industry. After narrowly missing out on a dream job (running the team that produces Adobe Photoshop), I realized that my true dream job was to teach music. Leigh High School was the best music program that was open, so I took the plunge. And it was the best decision I ever made.

Except financially.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My Animal Life

I enjoy animals in my life, although I have not spent a great deal of time around horses. Cats, dogs, hamsters, fish - I have had them all. The fish did not do too well - maybe they are not the right pets for me.

When I worked at Netscape, we were allowed to bring pets to work. My brother bought me a Cube Hamster (not a square animal, rather a pet for the office). Buddy was a big hit in the workplace. After he passed, I had gotten my dog, Vinyl.

So Vinyl started to join me at work. He actually grew up at Netscape. It really helped to socialize him and to keep him engaged throughout the day. My new company does not allow this, so I have to sneak home at lunch to take him out for a cruise around the neighborhood.

Vinyl is a rock star. Large, beautiful and with an attitude to match. He can literally stop traffic. When he was a pup, I took him for a walk to downtown Palo Alto. As I stood on the corner of Cowper and University, people came up to tell him how beautiful he looked (he gets that a lot). Within minutes, there were 20 people gathered around, pressing for a glimpse and to pet him on the head. Amazing.

There is also Moon - a sweet little old lady dog that was a rescue. My roomate Terri volunteers with a Samoyed Rescue organization and brought her home as a foster. Moon is such an incredibly sweet dog that we ended up keeping her. Moon is deaf and has athritis, but you would never know it - she has a big smile for everyone. And she hoots with delight when you pet her. How anyone could give a dog like that away, I will never know.

And then there was Lou.

Lou is a true tornado of a dog, a chocolate Lab that explodes into a high speed 4-legged Watusi dance whenever there is a human present. His owner moved to CA from the east coast to take over my job as Band Director at Leigh High School. I offered to house them, and he brought Lou to live with us.

Lou was into everything, stealing food, jumping on the furniture, barking at anything that came within eyeshot of the house. But, he is a true sweetie - just never gets enough attention. He and Joe have moved into a place of their own, which has made my house quieter. But we miss his energy.

My two cats, Reno and Spink, recently became one cat when Reno was struck by a car and killed. We had a nice ceremony in the back yard, burying her in a nice shady spot. Spink walked around like someone who had put their keys down somewhere and couldn't quite remember where - looking for something and not finding it. So sad. But she got over it. Spink is currently living with the mad Canadian, Eric Boudreault.

Current Events

I recently took a job at the Symantec Corporation, working in the Enterprise Marketing group - mainly because I was running out of money (owning a home in this area will do that to you). It is a great company, and I am working for an old friend, and looking forward to doing well.

But I do miss teaching.

For the last two years, I was Director of Bands at Leigh High School in San Jose. My days were filled with conducting a variety of musical ensembles, which I dearly love. Sadly, the salary of a brand new teacher is not enough to make it in the bay area. I was able to make things work by doing consulting work (I am proficient in creating videos and presentations).

As I came into the 2006/2007 school year, I was being told by the district that I had to take a number of classes, which would have forced me to give up the consulting business. Which would mean that I could not afford to live here. And so, here I am, living the corporate life, planning on how to keep music in my life.

And that is the beauty of it. I can have this great job, and still be musical. I am playing in the Ohlone Wind Orchestra, a wind ensemble filled with professional and semi-pro players. And I am still a part of the San Francisco Renegades - the amazing drum and bugle corps experience.