Jonathan Field - Maker of Random Stuff

Monthly Archives: September 2006


Today we launched the warehouse. Just the inbound side for now, but real people and real products. It all worked… not immediately and not perfectly, but quickly and well. It was pretty thrilling to see a substantial volume of stuff go all the way through the process for the first time, boxes zipping around conveyors every which way, people using this huge machine that spans 400K sqft at the moment, and that me and the rest of the team have been working on for more than a year.

Tomorrow (well, in just a few hours) we throw some curveballs at it, and we start testing the outbound side. I’m not consciously worried about any of it, but it’s still making sleep difficult for some reason. I can’t wait until we’re past the launch phase and finally in orbit, whatever the orbit may be…

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Zap! Bang! Shortest Concert Ever.

After a busy day testing at the warehouse, Keith, Charlotte, and I met up with Pat (sans overalls, a first) and his wife Marsha in front of the Hard Rock at Fourth Street Live.

Pat had a friend who was competing for front row seats and backstage passes to a Stones concert. The competition was put on by a radio station and the goal was to do the most outrageous thing you could think of on stage to a Stones song. Pat’s friend Tim, a police officer, had called in and offered to dress like Keith Richards and get shot with a Taser gun for five seconds while they played “Start Me Up”. Based on that offer, he became one of the five contestants. We were introduced to Tim. He had the hots for Charlotte’s accent.

Soon enough the MC took the stage and introduced the other contestants; a guy who dressed as Raggedy Andy and would play “Paint It Black” on the guitar while tap dancing, an older lady who dressed in her high-school cheerleader uniform and twirled a flaming baton, and a guy who would eat a bunch of banana peppers dressed in his wife’s lingerie. I don’t mean to disparage the other folks’ fine performances, but Tim won hands down. It was legitimately frightening when the MC shot him and his whole body went stiff. The security guys standing by helped him fall forward gracefully, and then he lay on the ground motionless. For a moment I thought he might actually be dead, but after a while he got back up and the crowd went absolutely wild.

After that an opening act came on that I don’t know. They rocked adequately. And then after a long wait, the headliners for the night came on… 38 Special! Yes, the amazing 38 special, the southern rocking band from the late 70′s / early 80′s came out to rock Louisville tonight. The atmosphere was electric, we screamed ourselves hoarse, and they ripped onto stage with a pumping rendition of “Rockin’ Into the Night”.

About 30 seconds into the song, however, it started raining heavily. Now Fourth Street Live is covered, but it is open air, and there was enough crosswind that we were getting totally soaked, and so was the band. In the middle of the song the keyboard player grabbed his keyboard and ran off stage. Pansy. But the rest of the band stayed on and rocked until the tune was done, even though it was a little scary watching the downpour go right through their lighting rig. I respected that. Then they all ran off stage too. Roadies came out and threw tarps over everything, and we began to wait. And wait. And wait. The rain died down and it was pretty dry for more than an hour. During this time Keith and I argued with Charlotte about whether American bands or British bands were more lilly assed. Charlotte maintained that in the UK bands play in the rain all the time. I fully expected 38 Special to come back out and prove her wrong. I mean, come on, the band is named after a type of ammunition! Are they really going to be dissuaded by a little rain?

Nearly two hours later we learned the answer: yes. The MC announced that due to “technical difficulties” they wouldn’t be returning to stage. I guess they really did line up with their namesake, described by Wikipedia thusly: “by modern standards, the .38 Special fires a medium sized bullet at rather low speeds”. Not too impressive sounding, but whatcha gonna do?

We went in and had dinner at the Hard Rock, then walked through the a raging thunderstorm, one of the heaviest I’ve seen in a long time. We were a couple of drowned rats by the time we got back to our cars. But at least we weren’t duds.

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Monks & Booze

So the day after fishing Charlotte and I went to go check out the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. Bardstown isn’t too far from the New Warehouse, and it’s a lovely drive. This state really is gorgeous.

We got a terribly late start because of the late night fishing. When we got to Bardstown around 2PM we walked down the main street a bit and were very disappointed as there didn’t seem to be much of anything going on. An extra street musician or two perhaps, and a table with some crafts, but overall it felt desolate. We decided to take off to get some lunch at a nearby place Charlotte felt had the best milkshakes in the world, and weren’t sure we’d even come back.

The milkshake place was indeed superb, but the mood was killed by some type of back country motorcycle gang. They were loud enough to cause my milkshake to start separating, and they never seemed to actually go anywhere, just driving around in circles and passing the shop every minute. While trying to ignore that, we came across some literature on a Trappist Monastery that was right nearby. The literature said that they only allow females to visit on alternate weeks. I figure the logic there is to give the monks a week to forget about women before they get tempted again. We didn’t know which week it was, but we figured to escape the marauding motorcycle gang we would check that out.

We got to the monastery right at 5:30 and heard a church bell ringing. We ran over to the chapel and quickly found a seat inside. It must have been a female friendly week, or they thought Charlotte was a guy, because they let us in without trouble. We sat and took in a peaceful service. I don’t think I’ve been to a non-wedding, non-funeral church service in 15 years perhaps? Only slightly shorter than my hiatus from fishing. But I liked it… they sang a handful of hymns, read a brief passage from the bible, and sang a few more hymns. It was simple, peaceful, and personal. And it helped me remember that despite my sometimes negative perception of religion, I do have great respect for people who practice their faith in a personal way. It’s just the evangelizing that bothers me.

After that we walked up a nearby hill and chilled out a bit before heading back to Bardstown. We were ambivalent about going back since we weren’t sure there was anything interesting going on anyway, but I’m glad we did… we stepped right into a regular hoedown. It was exactly what we had been expecting earlier: hundreds of people milling about sampling dirty fried food and meat on sticks, checking out local art, listening to great live music, and getting drunk. A regular Kentucky Fried good time.

It’s funny coming from Las Vegas where alcohol is about as regulated as sparkling water, but even at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival they still won’t let you walk around in public with alcohol. So the drinking was relegated to a couple small liquor courts… you’d buy your drink and had to finish it off before being allowed back out into the public areas. I suppose this seems normal to most people, but it seems pretty odd and pointless to me these days.

Charlotte had never tried bourbon, and despite my warnings was convinced that she wanted to try it without a mixer or chaser. So we got a couple servings on the rocks… Four Roses and Knob Creek (a name Charlotte couldn’t help but be amused by). As expected, the first sip was awful. Charlotte knocked one of the cups over a moment later, spilling all that glorious liquid hapiness in the dirt. She claims it was accidental. In any case we nursed the remaining one and noticed how it gets much nicer as your taste buds die off. We watched the music and the people while sitting on a high wall at the edge of the liquor pen. People watching in Kentucky is more interesting than in Vegas, and probably a little more dangerous too. We moved on to bourbon and coke, which is not only palatable, but is downright pleasant. In fact I’d say I actually like the taste of bourbon in coke. I did Makers and she did Jim Beam. And that was enough bourbon for us.

After that we had dinner at a nearby restaurant… “posh” by Bardstown standards, or so Charlotte said. Then we went back out and a different band was playing. We caught just the end of their show, and they hit us up with 3 British songs in a row; surely because they recognized Charlotte in the audience. They did the Stones “Honky Tonk Women”, and then “Don’t Let Me Down” and “The Ballad of John and Yoko” by the Beatles. They were very good. And they looked very Kentucky. The drummer had, hands down, the best sideburns either of us had ever seen. General Ambrose had nothing on this guy. Not only were they nice and muttony, they were jet white and they stood out from the sides of his head at least eight inches. He was also wearing a dead raccoon on his head, as Charlotte pointed out. I explained that this was a bit of classic American fashion.

And that was it for last weekend. I’m about to head into this weekend, but it’ll be different because this weekend we’re doing our last round of testing before a soft launch of the new warehouse on Monday. I had to ask my KY people to come in on Saturday, which I’m sure they are all absolutely happy to do because they love me and Zappos so. Then hopefully we get one day of rest, like God himself after creation, before all hell breaks loose. Also much like God and creation, I suppose.

The next couple weeks are going to be crazy.

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Something Smells Fishy…

On Friday night I went fishing. I haven’t been fishing in 16 or more years, I would guess.

Pat, the electrical contractor who is doing the new warehouse is about the most stereotypical seeming country bumpkin you could imagine. Born and raised in Bullet County Kentucky, he’s tall and strong, with a sun freckled complexion and crinkles around his eyes. He drives a work-worn Ford pickup truck, he speaks quickly with the strongest deep country twang you can imagine, and he wears overalls. He wears his overalls all the time. Pat’s a good guy; very proficient at his work, smart, and funny. He invited Charlotte and I to go fishing with him.

Before we got out to the lake, we stopped by his house. Now I love it when people blow away stereotypes, and Pat sure did. If you only got a quick glimpse of him on the job site, you’d think he might live in a trailer park. But this guy has one of the classiest, nicest place I’ve ever seen. It’s actually over the border in Indiana; “God’s Country” he calls it. You wind up these lush forest roads to a high point where you can look out and see the Louisville lights. There are rolling hills and trees and grassy plains dotted with gentle ponds and lakes. His house is in a little clearing on an acre of forested land. The exterior is dark brick with lovely masonry detail. It’s an average sized house, but it has the look of a mansion. There we met his wife Marsha, a nurse who, in contrast to Pat, keeps herself extremely well manicured. He introduces her as “his queen”.

He has a sparkling Harley Davidson cruiser in the garage, and a mid 90′s Mustang he needs to do some work on. Inside the house every nook and cranny was set up like a photo from Better Homes and Gardens. The high walls were painted in rich earthy tones, with bright crown molding taking them to the vaulted ceiling. Marsha is a master decorator. Candles, baskets of potpourri, and tasteful ornaments detailed the look, but nothing seemed cluttered. The house smelled lightly of sweet harvest. This fella knows how to live.

Anyways, we soon took off for a nearby lake where Pat has a hunting cabin and a little electric powered pontoon fishing boat. Off we went on the water with a basket of live crickets and a take out container of worms. Pat was good about setting the live bait… a process which made my stomach turn over each time I watched: you slide the hook right up the cricket’s ass (assuming crickets have asses), through the abdomen and out the thorax. The crickets did not seem to appreciate it at all. Charlotte had not fished before and until she figured out how to cast properly, I’d (literally) hit the deck each time the barbed hook came swinging through the air by my head. Within a moment she had caught a fish, though. The first one was quite large (the largest of the night) but in fitting with tradition, it got away before she could land it. She quickly caught another, though, a smallish one. Pat deftly de-hooked the fish and threw it back. It was just fishing “for fun”.

I surprised myself by being able to disconnect from the inherent horror of fishing: dragging the little creatures out from their world by a hook through the cheek, only to be tossed back in pointlessly. I even threaded one worm on a hook myself, and remembered how much I didn’t like doing that when I went fishing as a kid. Charlotte hooked a cricket herself with a grimace. But despite all that, with the quiet, beautiful natural surroundings, good company to chat with, and a cooler of decent beer, it was much fun. I caught four fish myself and handled two of them, though only Pat was skilled enough to get the hook out. We fished for a long time… perhaps from 6 to 11, though all the actual catching took place in the first couple hours. Only one fish died in the process, having swallowed the hook a little too deeply. Pat got it out with a little endoscopy-like maneuver, but the fish only swam for a moment after being thrown back in and wound up floating away. Charlotte and I felt a bit sad about that; such hypocrisy from a couple of avid sushi eaters!

Long after dark we three lay down on the dock, watched the stars, and joked around. We saw a few meteorites and flunked basic astronomy by being totally unable to find the Big Dipper or Orion’s Belt. We could make out a bit of the haze of the Milky Way itself, though. It got cold enough that we all grabbed extra parkas and fleece from Pat’s collection. Fog rolled in and covered the lake eventually, the insect population buzzed, and little fireflies dotted the trail back to the truck. We ended up leaving around 1AM. Climbing into my hotel bed back in Shepherdsville felt uncommonly comfortable.

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Weekends in Kentucky

So of course I miss my comfy home and things like being able to cook meals instead of eat fast food every day, but other than that I can’t say I mind being out here in Kentucky. It’s just so darn colorful.

On Saturday Charlotte and I went on a little kayaking trip down the Blue River in Indiana. $25 a piece gets you all the fixins and a drop off upstream for a 3 hour trip. I haven’t done nearly enough naturey stuff since we all stopped going camping on July 4th, so I really dug the idyllic little scene. Charlotte’s a cool cat who’s always looking for an adventure. She’s the British engineer that has been managing the warehouse project for the past year. She’s been living in KY now (relocated from Manhattan) for the past several months.

On the way back from the kayak trip we came across an unmakred cave which we spent a few minutes exploring. According to an odd fellow we bumped into it was an old salt mine or something, and had been created by blasting. It was impressively large and cavernous, with chambers stretching a hundred yards in and the ceilings 30 feet high I’d guess

I happened to have my guitar in the trunk so I whipped it out for an impromptu performance in the unique accoustics of the cave. It actually had a pretty bland sound, but what was really cool was how damn quiet it was. When we made no noise ourselves, it really felt odd. It made me realize how much constant background noise we hear every moment that we don’t notice. I suppose that was the whole point of John Cage’s 4′ 33″. But when all that background noise is gone you notice that, and feel an interesting sense of isolation. I also noticed that I have more tinnitus that I’d like. After a few moments of true environmental silence, the ringing in my ears was downright loud.

Then there was a week of Zappos work. Did I mention that there’s this crazy warehouse thing going on? At the moment I think I’m in the calm before the storm.

Plans for next weekend include fishing and some type of bourbon festival.

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A month?

Nearly a month since I posted something… and not a quiet month! Highlights include Sophie coming to visit Las Vegas twice… we had dinner at Aureole, Melting Pot, Cafe Babareeba, and Taco Bell. We went hiking on Mt. Charleston. We hit First Friday. We had a spa day. We saw Snakes on a Plane (as bad as you’d expect) and The Illusionist (quite good) and watched a bunch of X-files. Lowlights include all day meetings with patent lawyers.

Oh: we also saw Crank. Wow. Okay: now I don’t think most of the people who read this blog would like it. But I can’t deny that it is basically a movie I would make. From beginning to end it’s ridiculous, offensive, and hardcore. There were about 10 times in the movie where I said to myself, “you know, it would be totally awesome if he did this…”, and in a second he was doing it. So if you want a glimpse behind my low brow, you know what to do.

I went to the Stagr launch party at the Palms. Stagr is the new company that Zappos founder Nick Swinmurn is putting together. They do edgy customized clothing. I think it’s pretty neat. They had a party in the “G” suite during the Magic Apparel Show. Somehow I became the low-rent portion of the evening entertainment. In addition to a pool table, full bar, two person ceiling-mounted swing, and spectacular view, the “G” suite features a slide away wall in the main area that reveals behind glass a complete view of the shower. The shower has a stripper pole in it. And there was me.

Okay, so I don’t know exactly how it got started but Lisa got a pot going for me to do a strip tease in the shower. Mind you there were probably 50 people there, most of whom I didn’t know, the rest of whom I worked with. I laughed it off at first, but within an hour the pot was over $200. Hell, I’ve made an ass of myself for free in the past, so how could I pass that up? I managed to get a couple ladies to come in and back me up like it was a Robert Palmer video. Lisa manned the shower controls, and I went for it. There were several nozzles and so I got sprayed from every angle as I took off my shirt and swung it around my head. I think that was when the girls who were backing me up all took off. The crowd really got into it, and so I did my best to put on a good show, making proper use of the pole and foggy glass. At one point people were clamoring for me to go full monty. So I took off my belt, and Lisa started saying “no. no. no. not a good idea.” She’s always looking out for me. But I wasn’t really planning to do the full monty; I just wanted to spank myself with the belt. So I did. Big reaction. And that was the finale. All in all I’d guess just under 2 minutes. Probably the easiest money I ever made.

There were cameras flashing the whole time, but I haven’t seen a single shot. Perhaps they were too explicit. I’ll post here again if anything comes my way.

And now I’m in Kentucky, and will be for several weeks. Until this crazy $25mm+ warehouse project is wrapped up. It’s looking good… it’s been a long year… I’ll post some pictures of that too when it’s done. It’s quite impressive, really.

Almost there…

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