The House of Lamps or Lamp Lust

I firmly believe that expensive and well designed office chairs like Aeron or Mirra make a very good investment. On the other hand my friend, a very successful entrepreneur, tells me that much cheaper 300 dollar chairs are just as good, and that his most prized employees, when asked what kind of a chair they want said that it does not matter. My friend is very smart, very rich, and probably right.

People who have chair lust, like me, sometimes have an even more irrational desire – to buy expensive table lamps. When Joel Spolsky visited me at work, i pointed out to him that everyone at my office had a four hundred dollar Artemide Tolomeo desk lamp. Joel, famous for his office architecture fetish, was not impressed — oh yeah, we have a whole bunch of them too at Fog Creek, — he said.

I noticed that the set designer of the hit show House, MD also has an obsession with lamps. Even more interestingly, I noticed that Dr House’s office has three very interesting lamps.

Lamp A is a paragon of British design, Bestlite, a lamp that I always wanted, and never bought because it’s crazy to spend that much money on a lamp. Designed by Robert Dudley Best and made famous by Winston Churchill, who had one in his office, it’s the Bentley of expensive designer lamps. It’s just crazy to spend over $600 on a lamp, innit?

Lamp B is the Artemide Tolomeo, a floor version of the lamp that I have at work. It’s a beautiful lamp that works very well. The desk version is about half the price of Bestlite, but it’s crazy to spend $300 on a lamp, right? Even if it’s designed by Michele De Lucchi and Giancarlo Fassina?

Lamp C appears all throughout Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital and gets the most screen time. It’s a 25 dollar Antifoni work lamp from Ikea, and the one that I have on my desk at home. Who designed it? I don’t know, it says “Ikea of Sweden”. What does Antifoni mean? According to Nordic Names, a website for translating crazy Ikea names like Bjöberg and Drömma, it means “antiphony“.

By the way, apparently Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad has a Nazi past and chose to name all the furniture because SKUs were hard for him to keep track of due to his dyslexia. Also Gillis Lundgren, besides being famous for designing the Billy bookcase (I have 12 of these in my apartment) , actually invented the concept of flat pack furniture when he sawed off legs from a table that would not fit into a car.

Also on the subject of Ikea lamps:

Pour Your Heart into It : How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time

Since 1987, Starbucks’s star has been on the rise, growing from 11 Seattle, WA-based stores to more than 1,000 worldwide. Its goals grew, too, from the more modest, albeit fundamental one of offering high-quality coffee beans roasted to perfection to, more recently, opening a new store somewhere every day. An exemplary success story, Starbucks is identified with innovative marketing strategies, employee-ownership programs, and a product that’s become a subculture. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a manager, a marketer, or a curious Starbucks loyalist, Pour Your Heart into It will let you in on the revolutionary Starbucks venture. CEO Howard Schultz recounts the company’s rise in 24 chapters, each of which illustrates such core values as “Winning at the expense of employees is not victory at all.”

Business @ the Speed of Stupid: How to Avoid Technology Disasters in Business

Business @ the Speed of Stupid brings to light many of the myths that stymie unwary investors, entrepreneurs, and managers who are seeking to turn a profit in the digital economy. It highlights why smart entrepreneurs buy into dim-witted business beliefs and exposes the “big lies” that have crippled so many companies. With ultimate know-how, verve, and humor, Dan Burke and Alan Morrison reveal why brilliant engineers don’t always make brilliant business leaders, how innovation is far less important than customers and quality, and that, yes, you do need to be profitable to survive on the Web. Bringing realism and experience to the table to counteract the lingering technology industry hype, Business @ the Speed of Stupid explains how to survive and profit in the next phase of our technology-driven economy.

Oy, Again With The Moving…

Using Dreamhost is quickly turning into nightmare. It’s a cheap, full featured and generous web host, except only good for websites that do not matter (and I think that mine do). There is no upgrade path to a virtual private server (which is one step below a dedicated machine both in price and performance), their overall uptime is not something I’d trust, and their blog is just driving me nuts. At the suggestion of a friend I’m moving over to Webintellects.

As a web developer I specialize in content management systems. I have wasted many years of my career on Microsoft technologies, although my personal website was always built using open source tools. In recent years, when faced with the twin horrors of Sharepoint and MS CMS, I just could not go on any more. I just can’t imagine an entrepreneur who would willingly use this stuff to build a business. I quit my job of almost 6 years, took some time off and went on to a job that allows me to use open source tools. We’ve had quite a bit of success with Drupal, a leading open source CMS.

WordPress is a great tool for blogs, but it makes good sense for me to start using Drupal for my own sites, as well as at work. Drupal grows at an astronomical rate, improving in leaps and bounds. I have a couple of modules almost ready for contribution (once I make them a little neater and better documented). Drupal is very scalable, very well designed and has a huge following. I could not be happier with it as a developer.

In the five years that my website existed in blog format I moved 3 times. Livejournal -> Movable Type -> WordPress. Now it’s Drupal‘s turn.

I apologize in advance for any annoying symptoms of the move, like refreshing of the RSS feed where already read articles might show up as new, etc. Please bear with me.

Morning Deadwood

People were filthy and smelly in the olden days. And HBO capitalizes on amazingly good historical dramas teeming with filthy, period authentic characters. First there’s Carnivale, a mystical drama set at the turns of the Century. It has everything : carnies, okies, tarot cards, old cars, Art Deco and Craftsman interiors, mysteries, psychics, telekinesis, Knights Templar, evil preacher played by brilliant Clancy Brown aka Mr. Eugene Krabs from Spongebob and a lot of filthy people. And absolute tivo-worthy show.

Then there’s Deadwood, set during the gold rush. A high quality historical show, Deadwood writers try to stay as authentic as possible, hygiene and all. Famous hacker JWZ is not a fan: “It’s like watching paint dry. Dirty, foul-mouthed paint, but paint nonetheless.” I guess he is just not used to “Milch-speak“, a very peculiar style of dialogue that the show’s creator and writer, David Milch uses for his characters.

Familiar to fans of NYPD Blue, Milch-speak is a rather weird . I real life I encountered Milch-speak being used by often smart people with difficult and important jobs, who although lacking formal education, try to sound educated. It’s rather hard to explain, but I’ll try. First of all, milch-speakers use a lot of long words, meanining of which they more often know than not. They often mispronounce them though. The sentence structure is strange and tortured. It’s almost overly formal, Victorian in nature, and at the same time involves elements of Brooklyn Yiddish. It’s like as if listening to a very profane Victorian Yoda from Brooklyn. The sentence structure often resembles programmer-speak, so many logical twists and turns it has. There’s also lot’s of irony and slang.

Here’s a quote from recent episode: “Bad news or tries against our interests is our sole communications from strangers, so let’s by all means plant poles across the land and festoon the c*cksuckers with wires to hurry the sorry word and blinker our judgments of motive.”

The character who spoke that line, appropriately named saloon owner and master criminal Al Swearengen, according to Entrepreneur magazineinspired David Tufte, a professor at Southern Utah University’s business school to use Deadwood as a source for his students.

Here’s Al staring at me from an ad inside special Deadwood themed subway train:

Subway seats wrapped in special plastic to resemble old-timey leather chairs. Add a lot of filthy passengers and you’ll get a full Deadwood experience.