wintergr3y: (batman)
If you follow comic books at all, you're probably aware that DC Comics, publishers of such famous heroes as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern, started a "reboot" of their comics continuity this month. We're three weeks in, and I'm confused.

For those of you not familiar with the crazy world of comics continuity, one of the industry's problems is that people love the iconic versions of the characters so there's a drive to keep them young and healthy enough to fight crime instead of the grey-haired cripples they'd probably be by now. That's why Batman/Bruce Wayne still looks like a thirty-to-fortysomething despite the fact that he's technically been fighting crime for several decades.

This gets compounded by the fact that the creative teams working on a comic book typically only work on a title for a few issues before they shift over to work on another book. I suppose it helps keep things fresh and it gives the creative people variety. The side effect of this, though, is that the plotlines get so twisted into spaghetti-like knots that it makes the outline for a soap opera look linear.

When you combine these two factors you get one great, big mess. DC Comics has traditionally solved this problem every few years by hitting the reset button: some universal crisis causes a reality wave to sweep across space and time that magically unties the spaghetti. All the heroes' and villains' lives get all the wrinkles flattened out on some great cosmic ironing board. The writers get to start over again, ignoring lots of the crazy old continuity problems and telling new, complicated stories. And thus the great cycle repeats again and again: every decade of so when the continuity gets too complex for anyone to handle  the slate gets wiped clean again.

DC's latest reboot is caled "The New 52" because the company is taking 52 of their published books and starting them all over again with issue #1. So in one month we've got 52 new comics supposedly affected by the latest reality wave, and everything's supposed to be simpler. At San Diego Comic-Con, the DC execs billed this as a younger, simpler version of the DC Universe (aka the DCU) which would keep in the important beats from the characters' pasts (like Batman getting his back broken by Bane or Superman's "death") but would put a modern spin on these events. Also, the public emergence of superpowered beings only happened a few years prior to this reboot, so superheroes and supervillains in the public eye would be a recent phenomenon post-reboot.

Things got off to a great start in Justice League #1, a special story line which takes place approximately 5 years before the "current date" in the reboot, which told the story of Batman and Green Lantern meeting for the first time. Green Lantern exclaimed "Batman? You're real?!?" It felt fresh and young. Things were looking good!

The problem, for me, has been that the reboot is getting applied unevenly. It's like the writers aren't consulting with each other, and the editors aren't making much effort to ensure the rules of this reboot are applied to all the titles. I'm super-confused in this brave new super-world and I want DC's editors to draw me a map. In short, some stuff is clearly 100% rebooted, and in other stuff nothing has changed, and these two states don't work well together. For example:

- The Batman titles: It doesn't look like anything has changed. There are still 4 Robins (3 of whom have moved on, 1 currently wearing the red tights), Batman still recently "died" and then came back to form Batman Inc. Clearly this Batman has been on the job for years and years if he's gone through 4 Robins.

- Supergirl: Obviously a reboot. It's a fresh retelling of Supergirl's arrival on Earth and completely changes a lot of the origin story.

- Green Lantern: Absolutely zero change from the previous continuity. Hal Jordan still just got kicked out of the Corp. Sinestro clearly just got a ring and is the Green Lantern for Earth's sector and he doesn't want it, he wants to go back to being a villain. It's so in-line with the previous continuity that I don't know why they even bothered renumbering this one. Worse, there's practically no way that this jives with the Batman/Green Lantern meeting in Justice League #1 I described above.

- Superman: Clearly a reboot. He's younger, less experienced, and less powerful. His marriage to Lois Lane has been undone. He's only been a hero for a few years.

- Static Shock: He's a college intern now so apparently his life is moving along. Not obviously a reboot, merely fast forwarding his life a bit.

- Blue Beetle: A reboot because he gets his powers in the first issue, so they've got to be resetting this character.

The summaries I'm reading of the issues I haven't picked up seem to have this same problem. So which is it DC? Are you rebooting or not? At Comic-Con you promised us you were all in, but it feels like you're only halfway there. Go big or go home. Please.
wintergr3y: (ireland)
You may have seen an announcement today from Google about some new social functionality. I'm proud to say I was involved with the Google+ Project.

Between my time working on iGoogle and my current work on Google Mobile & Android, there was a period of time where I wasn't telling my friends what I was working on. Well, this is it: the Google+ Project. I was closely involved with the Circles team, and did a lot of behind the scenes work with other teams on preparing to support this effort.

Today's press coverage on the announcement is fun to read. My favorite article so far is the coverage from Wired. It's a great look inside the development of the project. I've never worked in a start up before, but I imagine it feels a lot like working on Google+ did: crazy, scrappy, and speed-of-light changes.

I'm really happy to see this out in public now, and I can't wait for my friends and family to start playing with it. Right now it's only available to a limited group of people and I can't send invites at this time. A few of my friends should get invites later today, and the rest of you should hopefully make it in soon.

I'll be spending the next few days helping gather feedback about Google+ on mobile platforms, a perfect combination of my recent Google experience. :-)
wintergr3y: (colossus)
Due to the fact that I'm currently getting ~1 spam comment per week I've switched this journal's comments to friends-only. Sorry non-friends for the inconvenience. Spammers: die die die.
wintergr3y: (jasper)
In case some of you haven't heard Karen, Crystal, and I are buying a house together. We'd expected to be searching for weeks, but came across the perfect home after only a couple of weekends out house hunting. We just signed all the paperwork and should have the keys in a few days. There's tons of work to do to get out of our old places and into the new house, but we're really excited about this new home together. The whole process has been amazingly fast.
As part of the loan approval process we had to write a letter to the bank explaining why the three of us wanted to do this. I'm really proud of what we came up with and thought it would serve as a good explanation to all of our friends. And so, without further ado...

Motivation Letter, May 13, 2011
Paul, Karen, and Crystal are purchasing a house because they want to live together in a home that is big enough for three adults and close to work, friends, family, and amenities.

Over the past eleven years, Karen and Crystal have made a life together. As best friends, we decided years ago that we wanted to travel the world, cook, sew costumes while watching historical and sci-fi movies, drink fabulous wine, and grow old together while living the good life. To that end, we rented an apartment together for three years, then purchased our townhouse where we have been for almost eight years.

About nine years ago, Paul and Karen started seeing each other. We met during Irish dancing lessons, but quickly learned we shared not only a love of dance but of science fiction movies, fantasy novels, technology, travel, fine dining, wine tasting, and more. Our relationship blossomed quickly, and we’ve been a solid couple for years. We also work at the same company, having both acquired jobs at Google before the company went public.

Paul and Crystal became great friends independent of Karen, and all three of us spend a great deal of time together. Paul quickly realized that one of the most beautiful things about Karen is the special bond that she shares with Crystal. This presented a unique challenge: how to grow the romantic relationship without disturbing Karen and Crystal’s friendship? We decided we wanted to explore how we all could live together.

We’ve been working toward this goal for a few years. We needed to save up the money and Google stock needed for the down payment. We needed a favorable market so that we could afford the house we wanted (3+ bedrooms, 2+ baths, a living room and a family room) in the neighborhood that we wanted. Most importantly, we had time to be sure that living together would work out - we went on several long trips together to test our compatibility in close quarters and under trying circumstances.

When we saw the property at [redacted], we fell in love with the house instantly. The layout is perfect for us, with spaces for the activities we enjoy together as well as room for us each to have our own space when needed. The location is great as well: it means a much shorter commute for Karen, possibly a quicker one for Paul as he and Karen will carpool, and an easier one for Crystal as she will cover the same distance but without crossing a bridge and paying a toll every day. Additionally, we will be located only ten to fifteen minutes drive from most of our friends as well as Paul’s mother’s house, and easy walking distance to shops and restaurants which we enjoy.

For all of these reasons, we’re ready to buy this house and move our family to the next stage of our lives, finally sharing a home that matches all of our needs and life goals.
wintergr3y: (Default)
Short form: I'm going to be a Community Manager for Google's mobile products!

Long form: read on...

For the last several years, my job in Google's Consumer Operations department has been a sort of user-focused product specialist. Basically I sat at the point midway between Google's users and the people who develop and maintain Google's products. I gathered feedback from the public and digested that into insights the developers could use. And when users needed to understand what the developers were up to -- because the product had a new feature or there was a bug that needed explaining -- I translated that back out to the world.

The skills to do this required a generalist. Over the years I've answered email, written and edited help center content, blueprinted help centers, designed contact flows, built troubleshooters, posted in forums, scoured third-party websites for customer insights, coordinated with the Public Relations and Marketing departments, analyzed products for potential abuse vectors, consulted with lawyers, implemented surveys, policed for content that violates the Terms of Service, written reports, given input into product design, and a gazillion other tasks. When I sat in product meetings, I'd be the guy the room would turn to ask, "What would our users think of this?"

During my several years with the company, I've done this for enough products that I'm starting to loose track. My first and longest love was Google Web Search, but I've also worked on a lot of others including Orkut, Google Finance, Google Reader, Google Video, iGoogle, the Nexus One launch, Chrome OS, and most recently some things that haven't been announced yet.

Our team is building out some new specializations, and I'm taking advantage of this to totally change things up. My process of arriving at that decision wasn't easy. As this specialization process started unfolding my manager asked me which roles I was interested in, and I of course mentioned the Product Specialist gig that I'm already doing. But I also mentioned that I'm interested in the new Community Manager role. My manager passed this on to the rest of our managerial team, and immediately got some very interested pings back. It's nice to be wanted!

When I came into work a couple of Mondays ago, it immediately became apparent that our timeline for rolling out these specializations had been accelerated and I basically needed to make a decision immediately. Further, our managers really thought I'd be great in the Community Manager role and were advising me to switch. This had me scrambling for a couple of days learning what the new job would entail, what my career path would be over the short, medium, and long term, what my place would be in the teams that were interested in me, and basically soul-searching about what I wanted to do with myself.

What would I be getting myself into? After all, Google's been participating in conversations with the community for years and years, and my own department has been a big part of that for a long time now. What I would get to do is a lot more of that than's currently possible. Spend hours each day in our own forums as well as out in the great fan sites, possibly blogging and tweeting, maybe running live events, etc. Talking to people, listening to people, evangelizing, communicating.

Ordinarily I'd take weeks to agonize over a major decision like this as I became familiar with all of the facts and had time to let it all sink in. I didn't have weeks, only days, but I did get all the facts. Once I recognized that, and had weighed all the pros and cons of staying on the path I was on vs. switching, I realized that I could make the decision immediately and then let it all sink in later. Ultimately it's why I took this job in the first place years ago: because I love communicating with people about technology. So I took the plunge.

And what a plunge it is! I'll be a Community Manager for Google's mobile product suite. I'm diving into the universe of Google's mobile products, and I'm going to put myself out there in the world to participate in the global conversation about the massive effect mobile computing is having on lives. The Android operating system is obviously a big part of that conversation, but so are other great products like the iPhone and iPad, as well as the services that run on mobile devices like mapping, email, SMS, and entertainment. I can't wait to get started!

Why am I joining the mobile team? Well I stood in line on launch day for the first iPhone, and quickly realized what a game-changer smartphones are. I stood in line on launch day again for the iPhone 3G. When the Nexus One came out I fully switched over to Android as my phone OS of choice. As much as I've lusted after a tablet I haven't picked up an iPad yet because I knew Android-based tablets were on the horizon, and I'm absolutely salivating at integrating the Motorola Xoom into my life when it comes out in a few weeks.

So mobile world, I look forward to joining the conversation soon!

PS - We're hiring! All departments at Google, including my own, are expanding. If you're interested check out our jobs page. If you're reading this and you're a friend of mine, DON'T submit your resume on your own. Go through me or another Googler you're friends with and we'll be happy to help -- it makes a difference.
wintergr3y: (storm)
Happy birthday [ profile] fresne! May the day be filled with debauchery and the year be filled with joy.
wintergr3y: (squirrel)
Happy birthday to my dear [info]capricious_k !

I've certainly enjoyed having you around for the last year  -- and I'm looking forward to the next one! ;-)
wintergr3y: (jasper)
My old laptop is old -- it's a Sony VAIO that I've had for at least a decade (a light purple color, and therefor named Cortana). It came with a partitioned hard disk, and I kept Windows XP on the smaller C: partition. The problem is that Microsoft has patched Windows XP so many times the C: partition is actually out of space. I think there's less than 100 megs open and the OS has a hell of a time just caching stuff.

And so I began a quest: a quest for a netbook. Why a netbook? Well they're small and portable and cheap, and they often have batteries that last all day. I'll pretty much be using it for casual web surfing and email. As [ profile] fresne told me, netbooks are so cheap that they're practically disposable; if you take one on vacation and it gets stolen, $300-ish isn't too big a loss to absorb on my budget.

Why not an iPad? They're great, but I want Flash and I don't want a portable device that's ultimately tethered to a computer, I want it to be an independent system. Such devices will probably be available in a year or so when Apple's true competitors start getting quality devices out. In the meantime, a netbook would hold me over quite well.

As I learned about netbooks I concluded that there were 3 main factors I wanted to consider:
1. Price of $400 or less
2. Battery life 7 hours or more
3. Good screen resolution

Weeks and weeks I spend pouring over review after review, spec sheet after spec sheet, and I came to an unfortunate conclusion. Essentially, #2 and #3 are mutually exclusive. In the current generation as soon as you kick the screen resolution up a notch (in almost all cases by increasing the screen size from 10 inches to 11 inches) you halve the battery life. The only exceptions to this I could find, a Dell and an HP, were butt-ugly with severe physical design flaws.

So I did a bit of soul-searching and decided that battery life was ultimately more important to me than screen resolution. With that decision behind me, the pool of qualifying netbooks opened up considerably. As of last night, I'm the owner of a pretty blue Toshiba NB305. I've named it Johnny Johnny.
wintergr3y: (Default)
I know it's been forever since I've posted on LJ, I've fallen victim to the demon microblogging. But [ profile] deirdremoon was bugging me about my lack of LJing a couple of weeks ago and I realized I hadn't posted my photos from Italy here yet. There's a little more than 300 of 'em, and they should provide a good narrative of our trip. We had such a good time, I'd love to go back again!

You can find larger versions of the photos in my album.
wintergr3y: (Default)

Happy birthday cheer today for my dear [ profile] capricious_k -- may the coming year be even more fabulous than the last!

And congrats on keeping up the tradition of spending your birthday away on vacation. I'm writing this as we've just finished our exploration of the old Columbia Gorge highway including several waterfalls, good hiking, great company (waves to [ profile] miss_emelia. And of course the Browcoat Ball in Portland has been a great time, as well as visiting with Portland friends and relatives.

Cheers to Portland and cheers to your birthday, [ profile] capricious_k!!

Posted via

wintergr3y: (blue)
I'm about to head out to the Big Apple with [personal profile] capricious_kand [ profile] fresne. This trip will definitely be full of awesome!

It'll only be my second time ever visiting New York City. The last time we went was in 2006, and I had an absolutely magical time. Perhaps the thing that struck me the most was that I'd been seeing that city in so many movies, comic books, and TV shows for so long that to actually walk around in it gave it an almost Disney-like feeling. I can't wait to recapture that sensation. And as a bonus, [ profile] fresne's never been before so I'll get to watch her head go all 'splody the same way mine did.

We'll be gone for a whole week this time too, which will give us more time to explore more nooks and crannies. Our plan is to do lots of touristy things, take a ton of photos, drink a lot of cocktails and eat at a ton of great restaurants.

What'll be different about this visit from the last time I was there? This time I'll have an iPhone. :-)
wintergr3y: (gaskells)
I attended the So You Think You Can Dance performance finale last night!

With last minute invitation from [ profile] kevbot and his wife to [personal profile] capricious_k  and I, and a lot of last minute scrambling, we managed to pull of a day trip down to LA for the show. It required a lot of things to go right, but the stars aligned and we had a blast.

Kev had signed up for tickets a while ago, and only just got notification that some vouchers had been assigned to him. Mind you, these were vouchers, not tickets. The FAQ explained that you had to go stand in line to pick up tickets, and getting a voucher was not a guarantee of a ticket. It seems that much like airlines overbook flights, SYTYCD overbooks shows.

We got up early on Tuesday morning and with just the clothes on our backs (thanks again ScotteVest!) and a nice shirt in my patented disposable dress shirt transportation system (aka a plastic bag from the supermarket) we drove to the airport. Kev and Rachel had some upgrade coupons for the airline that were about to expire, so to make the day even better they upgraded us to 1st class airplane seats (which is also the first time I've ever done that).

Short hop down to LA and a taxi ride to Hollywood got us to the Kodak Theater (the same one they do the Oscars in). It was also my first time in Hollywood; I'm not sure how I managed to go this long with out ever stopping there. We stood in line, which was thankfully in the shade, and got pretty good seats. We actually had a couple of extra passes, which Rachel conveniently had organized to give away to some folks she'd only communicated with via FriendFeed. We all sat down for an early dinner, and got prepared. Part of that preparation was ditching our cell phones -- no phones or cameras were allowed in the theater -- which Kev took care of by slipping a few bucks to the concierge at the hotel next door.

Into the theater we went. First off, the Kodak theater is huge an gorgeous. Needless to say, there were a lot of teenage girls and the staff definitely sat a lot of them in the front of the orchestra section. That turned out to be not so great for some of them; the staff had a mandate to keep 100% of the seats filled at all times so no empty seats ever showed up on camera, and when they led in all the choreographers, competitors from earlier in the season & earlier seasons, and special guests the teenage seat-fillers were booted out (and I think banished to the upper mezzanine).

The whole experience took about 4 hours: 1 hour to seat us all while they performed some final technical checks, then about 3 hours to tape a 2 hour show. They taped it almost as you see it, with occasional re-dos when there was a technical boo-boo. Needless to say, it was fantastic to see the dancing performed live instead of edited for TV, so you could actually take in the whole piece (and the dancers' whole bodies instead of occasional close-ups of feet or heads).

All of the dancing was great, but the real stand-out was Jeanine. She's always been an underdog and isn't my favorite, but her solo was the best she's ever done and won an instant standing ovation. There's also a paso doble at the end that's amazingly good. Other highlights included the whole theater shouting "EVAN! EVAN! EVAN! EVAN!" right after Nigel gave him a bad review, Cat's funny improvs, all the children they interviewed in the audience during the "commercial breaks," and Phillip getting up on stage to do a spontaneous performance during another of the breaks.

We rushed out of the theater as they wrapped up. Kev had ordered a car for us to get us back to LAX, where we made it in plenty of time to catch our flight home. A very long day, but well worth it.
wintergr3y: (colossus)
Comic-Con was once again a blast this year. We took the whole week off, spending two days on a leisurly drive down replete with nice wine tasting in Paso Robles. Then we  spent a couple of days bumbing around San Diego. We hung out on the beach, I visited my sweet 3-year-old nephew, and I even re-connected with a college girlfriend whom I hadn't seen for probably a decade. Oh, and instead of a normal hotel room, this year we slept on a yacht. :-)

The con itself was overwhelming as always. We started out on preview night, where they open the doors to early attendees before the con truly begins. This year [ profile] fresne , [personal profile] capricious_k  and I were joined by one of our co-workers who's been a closet geek for some time, and took the plunge into the grandaddy of all pools. :-) She was immediately shocked at the size and density of the dealer's room, and fell in love with some tribbles she found at one of the booths.

The next four days were a whirlwind of panels and shopping. One of the great highlights for me was the iGoogle Comics Themes launch, which I've already blogged about. Shortly after I posted that blog entry, I met up with several other members of the Comics Launch Team at the Marvel booth and we handed out free posters to the crowd. It was amazing being on the other side of the great schwag frenzy and was definitely one of the highlights of the con for me this year. You can find a photo of it here.

Other con highlights included Edward James Olmos at the Battlestar Galactica/Caprica panel (he's a really intense and funny guy!), seeing Alice on a horror panel, laughing at the gaggle of teenage girls trying to catch a glimps of the Twilight stars, and hearing Kevin Conroy moan in a highly suggestive manner to Andrea Romano. And of course, the amazing costumes and energy you get just from wandering the enormous dealer's room floor.

Needless to say, we've already purchased our tickets for next year.

wintergr3y: (Default)

Today I'm giddy with one of my proudest moments working for Google lo these 5 years. I've been working with the iGoogle team (mostly in an advisory capacity) to prepare Google's participation in Comic-Con and comicbookdom in general.

First off, we've partnered with lots of comics producers who've created 50 gorgeous comic book iGoogle themes. You can find them at

Secondly, today's homepage doodle features DC Comics heroes drawn by the legendary Jim Lee. Probably my most favorite homepage doodle ever. It's found at the Classic Google homepage at

I was the guy on the iGoogle team that new the most about superhero comics, so this was a ton of fun Never before have I contributed to something that does such a great job of combining one of my favorite hobbies with my favorite job. I hope you enjoy them.

Posted via

wintergr3y: (green lantern)
Actually we're doing the beyond part first, then proceeding to the con. But no matter what the order of operations is, [personal profile] capricious_k , [ profile] fresne , and I are about to depart on our annual pilgrimage to San Diego Comic-Con, the largest geek convention in the world.

We're going to take a couple of days to drive down this time, so hopefully we'll get a little wine tasting along the way. We're actually staying on a yacht in the marina which I'm very much looking forward to checking out even if it is a little far from the convention center. We'll spend the first couple of days bumming around San Diego seeing the sights, visiting with friends and family, and generally having a lazy time of it.

Then the 4 day geekfest begins. For those of you not familiar with it, SDCC is far more than just a comic book convention. It's also where Hollywood comes to showcase all their movies that have big special effects budgets coming out in the next year, upcoming scifi/fantasy/horror TV shows, cool cartoons, etc. Lots of stars come out to play. Fan groups like the California Browncoats have a great presence, tons of people dress up in amazing costumes, video game producers show off their latest wares, and so on. And then there's the shopping... oh the shopping! The entire main convention floor is turned into a gigantic nerd mall for all your geeky needs -- action figures, tomes on the philosophical relevance of comics as a medium, pirate costumes, imported anime... you name it, it's probably out there somewhere.

Also, this year [personal profile] capricious_k  and I have an extra treat because one of our coworkers, who I think of as a budding geek, is coming to join us for the con and I'm really looking forward to watching her head go splody as soon as SDCC starts to overwhelm her. Trust me, if you've never been to SDCC before your head will go splody.

For those of you I'm expecting to bump into in San Diego, I look forward to seeing you there!

I'll try to post an blog update or two from San Diego, but I expect more timely and relevant (if shorter) updates to be on my Twitter feed @wintergr3y.
wintergr3y: (Default)

I'm sitting here in downtown Redwood City enjoying the Celtic rock of Tempest. Sadly I've been so busy the last couple days that I haven't had a chance to give. Shout out to see if any of my Irish dancing peeps could join the fun - but if you can make it down here in the next couple of hours please do!

No Friday Night Waltz for me tonight - too much laundry and packing to do tonight before heading out on vacation (more on that when I get a chance to post those plans).

Posted via

HBD Kev!

Jul. 4th, 2009 08:40 am
wintergr3y: (Default)

Happy birthday [ profile] kevbot. Hope you're enjoying your vacation, and here's to another year of travels and friendship!

Posted via

wintergr3y: (Default)
Last Friday I was introduced to "Rap Chop," the Slap Chop remix:

And then today, I stumbled across Auto-Tune The News. They're all brilliant, but this one was my favorite:

wintergr3y: (blue)
Ooo, this looks interesting! When Vampires rule the Earth...

wintergr3y: (Default)
This morning [profile] miss_emelia  called me up to ask a favor. A co-worker of mine had borrowed a petticoat from her for a costume event, and I was well-positioned to facilitate its return. So the co-worker and I just started an email conversation about the logistics of returning said petticoat.

Of course, our email conversation was taking place via Gmail, which includes automatically targeted advertising based on the content of the message. Imagine my surprise when I see this alongside our conversation:

Well yes, I am a man and yes, the conversation was about ladies undergarments. So technically this is a well-targeted ad. But, ummmmm, no.
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