Obamacare and The American DreamFriday, January 13, 2017
  • I read a post yesterday on a blog by someone I'm a big fan of. I won't mention his name or link to the post because I don't want it to look like I'm singling him out, but here's what he had to say:
    I don’t know what’s going to happen. I fear that we will be unable to insure our son because he was diagnosed with a brain tumor as an infant. I fear that I am going to be in a position where I have to choose between my company and my family.

    That — in no way — is something that I should fear as an American citizen, an entrepreneur or a father.
    I have a few thoughts here. First, exactly where in our constitution does it say that he, "in no way", should fear making that choice as an American citizen? How does he have any right to demand that every other citizen make sacrifices so that he doesn't have to? Life has always been about making those tough choices. I'm reminded of something I've heard John Gruber repeat more than once. He shares a story about how he almost feels guilty for the "work" he does because his grandfather used to work in a coal mine. His grandfather did that work so his children and their children would never have to. His grandfather could have easily said it's not fair that he has to choose a crappy job in order to lift his family out of their situation. And he would have been right! It's not fair that we have to make difficult decisions, but sometimes we do.
    Second, what the writer is asking for is unrealistic. What he's not recognizing is that the legislation that has allowed him to avoid choosing between his company and his family, is the same legislation that forced me to abandon my company. You see, prior to Obamacare, I was providing insurance for my children and running my own business. Thanks to Obamacare, I am now legally required to purchase insurance for myself too. Since the monthly premium is more than my house payment, I simply cannot afford it. I had to make the choice and close down my business and find a job so I could pay for the required healthcare premiums. (Actually, I didn't get to make the choice.) Is that fair? Is it fair to me that I can't own my own business anymore so that this guy can? 
    I know it's cliché to quote John F. Kennedy, but he famously said, "Ask not what  your country can do for you..." We need a lot more people who will stop asking what their country will do for them, and start doing more for their country.
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    The Biggest Winners and Losers from SDCC16Wednesday, July 27, 2016
  • Biggest Winner: Diversity 
    I feel like every day we're being told we're not doing good enough. We don't like cops, black people, women, immigrants, gays, Christians, Jews... You watch an hour of news and you feel like our country is falling apart. But spend an hour at Comic-Con and you'll see something completely different. 
    Was there anyone not represented at Comic-Con? I spoke to black writers, women artists, gay creators, Christian publishers, and the list goes on and on. I spent five days jammed into a building with 130,000 people and didn't see a single fight or really even harsh words. Everyone just got along. We were all part of something... and maybe one guy likes My Little Pony and another likes Minecraft, it didn't matter. 
    If you want to see Martin Luther King's dream, this is it. 
    Biggest Loser: Exclusives 
    I really hope SDCC figures out a way to solve the "exclusives" problem. No one seems happy with how it's currently working. Vendors are mad because people are too busy running around to get in line and not spending time visiting the various booths; Fans are upset because they can't get access to products they actually want to own. I never really cared much for exclusives so I largely ignored it all last year, but this year I saw the situation from several viewpoints. 
    I met someone who was willing to scam disability access and stab a friend in the back, just to get an item she could flip on eBay minutes later for a $50 profit. Some of the "scalpers" like her had items listed for sale on eBay before they even got a place in line. 
    A friend sells comics and comic-related merchandise for a living. Access to an exclusive is a big deal for his business, but he had to choose between standing in an all-day line or viewing panels that actually interested him. 
    Another close friend is simply a big fan, visiting from out of town, and wanted to get an exclusive because he loves the product. Watching a person leave the Mattel booth with four massive bags of merchandise, while being told they're out of the thing he wanted, is truly disheartening. 
    For all three, the exclusives detracted from what the convention is supposed to be about. 
    I heard one suggestion that each badge allowed you a specific number of exclusives. One badge, one exclusive. That could help, but maybe a better option would be to eliminate the exclusives all together. 
    Close Second: Disabled Access 
    Disneyland used to have special lines for disabled people, but they recently had to end it because of the blatant abuse by park attendees. Comic-Con is nearing the same position. Currently, the convention allows disabled people to get front-of-the-line privileges, but it's being over-run by people who are not actually disabled. For example, on preview night I watched a young lady in a wheelchair wait by the entrance, and as soon as they let her in she ditched the wheelchair and ran to a booth to get in line for an exclusive. Each disabled person can also have one "assistant" that gets the same privileges as a person with a disability. It was beginning to look like there are more people with ADA access than without. It sucks for the people I saw who were truly disabled. 
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    Whining About San Diego Comic-ConWednesday, July 27, 2016
  • I originally planned to write a post about this year's Comic-Con and how amazing the event was. I still might, but I feel the need to respond to some complaints and whining about what Comic-Con has become. It started with an email the day before Comic-Con began from Chuck, owner of Mile High Comics. 
    Still waiting for our freight to be delivered to our booth at the San Diego Comic-Con at 6:30 PM. Our 53' tractor-trailer checked in at the convention freight yard just after 8 AM this morning. You would think that our paying them $16,200 to rent our booth would have elicited some measure of competency and concern from the convention staff. Apparently not. 
    I completely understand how frustrating it is to feel ignored. I think everyone can relate to the feeling of helplessness, knowing you've paid for a product or service and getting little or no acknowledgment from the provider. But I try to live my life remembering that I don't live in a vacuum... maybe there's a valid reason I'm being ignored. The convention floor is over 1/2 mile across, and there were over 740 vendors this year! And while $16,200 is no small fee, Chuck is competing for attention with the likes of Marvel, DC, Mattel, and Hasbro, just to name a few. 
    Chuck continued to complain two days after the convention was in full swing. 
    There is no longer any reason to not still attend SDCC even if you fail to win a ticket in the online lottery. Much like going to Downtown Disney can be quite a fun experience without paying the exorbitant cost of going into the park itself, just hanging out in the neighborhood near the SDCC can now keep you quite entertained for all five days of the show. 

    In and of itself this externalization of the convention experience creates some problems, however, as those of us who are paying top dollar to rent our booths inside the main hall (ours cost $16,200) are now finding it much harder to generate enough revenue to cover our costs. 
    (Chuck just loves to remind people how much his booth cost him.) 
    For the past eight years, SDCC has had to cap admission to 130,000 attendees because of the limitations of the convention space. So while there are more people hanging around outside the convention center and being entertained by the free activities, attendance to the convention itself has not shrunk. In fact, demand for tickets to the convention has grown each year. If the convention center could hold 300,000 attendees, there's no doubt that SDCC would sell all 300,000 tickets. Chuck's problem isn't that there aren't enough people, his problem is that there aren't enough people at the convention wanting to buy his comic books. 
    For comics dealers, the effect of this diminishment in foot traffic is magnified by the fact that the online lottery system does not distinguish between fans. This causes enormous difficulties for those of us selling products (as opposed to promoting an upcoming media property) as the percentage of fans winning tickets who are actual buyers/collectors/readers diminishes each year. 
    I think "distinguish between fans" might be the most worrisome statement I've heard someone in the comics industry say in a long time. Should we only allow true comic fans into comic book stores? The beauty of a convention like Comic-Con is that it opens up the comic universe to all people, not just the nerdy comic book buyers from 40 years ago. Does Chuck really want to go back to the convention of 40 years ago when attendance was in the hundreds? 
    Comic book sales last month was the highest it has ever been. Several things contribute to this, like the amazing run of Marvel movies or shows like AMC's Walking Dead... and the fact these things are promoted heavily at SDCC. But, much to Chuck's dismay, the convention didn't prevent an eight year old little girl from coming to the show because she's only into Power Puff Girls and not overpriced variant covers. But with any luck, when she's 17, she'll be a regular comic buyer because of it. 
    Chuck is far from done though. 
    On a related note, the rapaciousness of the local hotel and restaurant establishments has become increasingly vulgar. As they have come to realize that they have a captive audience during SDCC these people have taken to jacking up prices to ridiculous rates. An omelette that I purchased at a cafe in the Gaslamp for a pricy $11.95 on Monday was jacked up to $18.95 on their "special" Comic-Con menu on Tuesday. 
    I don't like paying $20 for an omelette either, but keep in mind that Mile High Comics makes variant covers of $3 comic books and sells them for $20. 
    In a fourth, and hopefully final, complaint email today, Chuck continues his whining about the convention (emphasis his)... 
    Simply put, greatly increasing the size of the show also provided justification for these managers to also increase their own compensation well into six figures. Comic-Con International may be set up as a "Not For Profit" charity, but as the San Diego Union Tribune discovered during their search of public records a few years back, nothing prevents the Board of a non-profit from paying themselves salaries "in line with industry standards for organizations of a similar size." The bigger they make the show, the more that they can justify paying themselves. It is just that simple. 
    I've never understood why a person who works for a living, non-profit or not, shouldn't expect to be paid "in line with industry standards". How else would the non-profit attract the best talent? But aside from that, Chuck started selling comics as a teen and now has the largest comic store in the world. I think it's safe to say that as his store grew in size, so did the amount he put in his pocket. At least I sure hope he isn't making the same amount of money as he was 40 years ago. 
    Comic-Con has grown and evolved; it's no longer a small comic swap meet. If that's what you're looking for, there are plenty of those conventions all over. But the inclusiveness and popularity of SDCC has been good for everyone in the industry, including Chuck. But most importantly it's been good for the fans... and that's what should matter. 
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    Is 2016 the Year of VR?Friday, June 24, 2016
  • I have been interested in Virtual Reality since I was a little kid. The concept of being able to be somewhere I can't actually go, or experience something that may not even exist in the real world, always sounded incredible. When I was young, all I wanted in the world was to be able to drive. I dreamed about having VR to allow me to experience this one thing that was out of my reach. Now I'm not sure what virtual reality would interest me most. 
    What Microsoft previewed with the HoloLens, which offers more of an Augmented Reality experience, seems to offer the most practical and feasible application for VR yet. It's probably the first time I've been excited about Virtual Reality since middle school. But I feel like the promise of a good VR experience is still "coming soon", and it will always be coming soon... never quite here. I do think we're close, but I don't think the price point or the appealing content is here yet, so I'm not really convinced 2016 is going to be the "Year of VR". 
    One thing that I've noticed that causes me pause is the lack of enthusiasm I've seen from "kids" (middle school and high school age). When I was a kid, most people I knew around my age would discuss VR, particularly when talking about video games. We'd talk about how much we couldn't wait for it to arrive and what it would be like. "The future! It's going to be amazing!" I just don't see those conversations taking place. If there's no real enthusiasm for it in that age bracket, I have to wonder how far it will go into the mainstream. 
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    What Do You Do With Your Old Photos in Your Library?Thursday, June 23, 2016
  • This question actually opens up a whole other talk show, which is that I am a digital hoarder! I really struggle with deleting anything. I'm not an "Inbox Zero" kind of guy... I'm much more of an "Inbox 17,691" type user. My phone still has every text message since the first iPhone, and of course every photo I've ever taken as well. These have been carried over since the very first iPhone, nine years ago. I refuse to delete them, even though they're also sitting on my laptop. As a result, I have 5.6GB of space used up on my phone just for Messages, and 30.4GB for Photos. 
    Jason Snell specifically asked, do you actually go back and look at them? When asked like that, I'd have to say no, I don't typically just pull up my old photos and look through them. But I do frequently find myself looking for something specific in my library, and stumble on a few random photos that make me smile from the memories. 
    One thing I do quite often with my photos – and the primary reason I can't delete any of them – is I pull up a photo that is relevant to a conversation. For example, I recently had a conversation with some people about food in foreign countries. I mentioned my experience with good food in China, but also not-so-good food in China. I found that the local Chinese food was amazing, but you should avoid their "American" food at all cost! And then I was able to show off a photo I have of the most disgusting steak dinner I've ever had, complete with a fried egg and "spaghetti" (which was more like ketchup on noodles). 
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