Useful Distractions is JP Cutter's corner of the internet.
After a lifetime of tinkering with computers and online, this site represents a repository of projects past and future. It is still very much under construction, don't mind the rough edges.
Growing up in Los Angeles, JP was always a big fan of technology and entertainment. An early devotion to video games represented the perfect cross section of technology and storytelling.
Open Source Software
I have a big soft spot for the ethos and community behind open source software. Not only does it feel like admirable example of altruism, contributing free work to improve the whole... but I literally couldn't do my job without it. The sheer number of libraries involved in the grunt work of building a modern web application is mind-boggling, it's standing on the shoulders of giants.
Hopefully I can increase my contribution and participation over time.
The first open source library published by Useful Distractions, built to support the Loan Payoff Calculator (returning soon!). Written to easily compare different loan situations, the library generates the amortization table and related details for a given set of terms.
Silicon Valley (2014 – 2019)
- Consultant, Senior Technical Advisor
- 29 episodes
After meeting producer Jonathan Dotan at my Tixr job, he invited me to consult on his new TV project, an HBO show from Mike Judge and Alec Berg called Silicon Valley.
We had a couple of initial meetings, where Jonathan showed me the pilot and we chatted about some of the general tone and terminology that would get thrown around in a small tech incubator. After a meeting where I didn't feel particularly useful, I had the idea to write an in-character angry screed, to demonstrate some of what I meant. Unable to stop thinking about it, and afraid I would forget the bits I liked, I scrawled it down in the middle of the night, and sent it to Jonathan.
It was well-received, and a lot of it made it into Gilfoyle's episode 2 rant. From that point through season 3, I would get occasional requests to offer opinions or generate lists when necessary. While I'm sure I wasn't the only one, I do recall putting "tabs vs spaces" on a list of develop pet peeves that can get out of hand.
L.A. Macabre (2013 – 2020)
- Co-Producer, Senior Technical Advisor
- 46 episodes
- Executive Producer
HotAural Podcast Network
- Founder, Maintainer
- Founded in 2013 with John Veron based around a pair of pop culture podcasts.
Activision (Mar. 2007 – May 2007)
- Game Tester
- Spider-Man 3 (PlayStation 3)
- Quake Wars: Enemy Territory (PC)
Robin Hood and the Power of Free Trading
While retirement accounts and the occasional hobby stock purchase gave me a little experience with the stock market, the brokerage fees prevented me from getting more invested in it for years.
A slow and steady contribution into a brokerage account wasn't a reasonable strategy. Every point gained is a hard-earned win that can't be taken for granted; paying a $15 fee on a small stock purchase already mounts an uphill struggle to break even.
This problem is further compounded when trying to diversify with small amounts of capital. Buying one share each of a few different companies becomes prohibitively expensive. The transitional savings and retirement advice of "set up a contribution and let it steadily add up" broke down because of the fee structures.
The introduction of Robin Hood simplified all of that. The ability to transfer over small amounts of money regularly, and feel like I can freely drip it into various accumulating investments opened up the whole venture.
The ability to slowly trickle money into different stocks provides another cognitive benefit; I don't feel the winner/loser bet mentality with each choice. Even with immediate access to my average price paid for a particular item, it doesn't have the same visceral sense of knowing I placed a huge bet on X at price Y. It blurs my causal responsibility, making it all less emotional.
- Meet JP Cutter of Useful Distractions in Van Nuys
- In June 2020, I gave an interview with online magazine VoyageLA about my career and the creation of this company.
- Instead of focusing on first impressions and whether to see a movie at all, Refried Reviews tries to dig into subsequent viewings and what can be uncovered.
- Started in 2013 with John Veron, the show is currently on a lengthy hiatus, despite the best of intentions to keep it going as a solo project.
- One of my favorite podcasts invited me to sit in during a live show, after much twitter interaction.
- Episode #200: Piling on with Marty & Friends
After graduating UCLA and a brief stint as a video game tester, JP got his first professional programming job in 2007.
When people ask me questions about starting out, like what language they should try to learn, I emphasize the importance of finding a fun project. Some of the earliest hobby projects I remember include a movie fan page for The Matrix, and a "random fun" page that would pull from a database of quotes and links I liked. One of my proudest and most irritated high school moments was when the computer teacher didn't believe I actually made that Matrix page. Despite the inconvenience, it introduced me to the invisible author nature of the internet. Some light tinkering and dedication was enough to overwhelm the person teaching me the topic in question. Looking back, it was an impressive lesson in real-world results.
Focusing on something that matters to you personally is a big deal; it can be the difference between giving up and having eureka shower moments. I've often heard advice to find and do what you love, but didn't understand the most important aspect... that when you love what you do, it'll keep you up at night to do it poorly. Instead of building resentment from external pressure, positive reinforcement is achieved when persistence and care improve the thing you care about.
Tixr Inc. (Feb. 2013 – Present)
- Founding Member
- Lead UI Architect
BlackLine (Oct. 2012 – Feb. 2013)
- Front End Developer
- Lead UI Architect
- The closest I've had to the perfect job schedule, these precious months allowed me to work regular hours and bike to work. It was only the temptation to take a big swing helping for a startup while still in my 20s that convinced me to leave.
Beachbody (Feb. 2012 – Oct. 2012)
- UI Engineer
- One of my briefer experiences was with the company behind such exercise systems as P90X. This experience was watching a successful company struggle with growth. I had to park blocks away from the office and take a shuttle, because they had overgrown their new office so quickly.
- This struggle to grow became a defining part of my job there. Despite a successful interview and job offer, they insisted that I wasn't ready for the senior job title, but it would be reviewed shortly. In less than a year, my two direct reports had quit, and all their work started falling onto my non-senior plate.
FOX Sports (Feb. 2010 – Feb. 2012)
- Software Application Engineer
- Despite a lack of interest in sports, I worked for two years on the FoxSports.com website. This was the first job that was focused explicitly on the front-end interface side of things, and where I began to specialize on the what's happening in the web browser.
- It's also where I met some of my most important collaborators. Addam Driver was a mentor, that I eventually followed to my next two jobs.
Animax Interactive (Sep. 2008 – Nov. 2009)
- Web developer
- One of my most formative jobs, Animax was a studio trying to pull off a mix of animation and casual games. The most recognizable property I worked on during this period was the Beany Babies virtual world for Ty. There was also the Bakugan website, and the now-defunct casual game site FunNugget.
Game Show Network (Aug. 2007 – Sep. 2008)
- Jr. Web Developer
- A subsidiary of Sony, working on the website for Game Show Network was my first corporate gig. The biggest project launch during my GSN tenure was their live Bingo game, where you could print out cards to play along.
BNQT Sports Video (May 2007 – Aug. 2007)
- Web developer
- Acquired by USA Today
- My first real programming job was for an extreme sports streaming video website called BNQT (pronounced "banquet"). Also my first start-up experience, it was a great introduction to waearings lots of hats to solve problems, working crazy hours, and having to quickly shift priorities when things changed.
- There were full stack responsibilities, working on the PHP back-end and custom front-end.
UCLA Capital Programs (Jun. 2003 – Jan. 2007)
- Student helper for the IT department
- My first real job was as a UCLA student assistant to the IT department of UCLA's Capital Programs. It was a short-term job, cataloguing and cleaning up thier old computers systems, so they department could get clearance to sell them. My presence must have come in handy, as the short-term summer job ended up lasting almost my whole college tenure.
- Luckily for me, the job I've had with the most down-time also coincided with the earliest release of podcasts. My own solitary room full of old computer hardware was made infinitely better, by the newfound ability to consume countless hours of audio content while doing data entry and tech support.
What's this site for?
Not much, yet.
Can't promise a quick response, but feel free to reach out...
- Open Source Licenses should go here