Monthly Archive for January, 2003

Valentine’s Day

Ashley is already thinking about Valentine’s Day:

I love Valentine’s Day for all the wrong reasons: conversation heart candy, an abundance of pink and red everywhere, lacey lingerie in the window of Victoria’s Secret, making construction paper valentines with pornographic inserts.

Nicely put, and it’s not even February yet. Oh, and Heather has some cool little V-day postcards.

How’s that old Song Go?, Part II

Sometimes someone you don’t know says hi and says her name is meghan. And, it makes you feel strange, since you’ve been going to that very coffee house almost daily for 8 months, and you haven’t got a clue what anyone’s name is.

Snoozing Kitty

Well, I’m having trouble coming up with anything to post on this, the final Friday of January. I so wish to thank God that the thermometer is up above freezing again. And, for this kitten named Katya. She makes all of this jobless stuff bearable.

Internet Radio

I just wanted to share indienow.com with any of you who are interested in listening to good music online. They’ve got different feeds, depending on your internet connection.

Also, I ordered the Shelby CD, after I learned from the Morning News that the new New Yorker fiction editor is married to a band member. Hey, if it’s good, it’s good.

It’s funny too, because in their about page, they describe themselves as The Who meets My Bloody Valentine… if there is anything that the classic rocker Tbone and the modern rocker myself could agree on, it would be that combination. no?

A Kick in the stomach

Yes, so the other shoe dropped today, as I found out that I finished in second place for the BHCC job.

I kind of knew last week, when I called a woman there who was, up until then, giving me terrific signals. She acted very stand-offish, but polite on the phone, and I should have guessed what message was being conveyed. The VP for Communications, the big man, said that they went with someone who had more experience, (yet the person in the position now has no experience, design or technical, in making websites).

I really want to wring some necks, but obviously I am failing to convince people that I can do the job. Either that, or there is a glut of talent in Boston, and too few opportunities. I’ll go with option 2.

Undesign?

This article on Lo-Fi web design, which includes an interview with Jason Kottke, is very interesting. Jason argues that information is more important to weblog writing (why I love RSS readers), than having glitzy, highly-graphical designs. Sites with 60k background images need not apply… I agree, begrudgingly… and I love trend reporting.

CSS annoyances

These past few days, I’ve been intensely working on a weblog site for a friend… using CSS. and it’s frustrating. It’s nearly impossible to do anything advanced layout-wise with CSS. There are always browser inconsistencies to deal with.

So after screwing with that for days on end, I decided to revert to tables. That site will be ready soon. But, I had to do something affirming with CSS, so I updated this site. Not an ounce of <table> code at all. Email me bugs (especially on the macintosh / safari / mozilla side of things.)

Stop Motion in Boston

Anil posted this link to an online photo exhibit — Stop Motion Studies — strange and beautiful portraits on the Red line in Boston.

In these photographs, the body language of the subjects becomes the basic syntax for a series of Web-based animations exploring movement, gesture, and algorithmic montage.

I love these. And, many pictures were taken in the station just down the street.

6 Years <3

Presley and I spent our 6th anniversary at Carlos, little Italian restaurant in the old neighborhood in Allston. It’s a quiant little place with good wine and terrific food. She had an Rigatone with Eggplant roll, meatballs, sausages and chicken, in a plum tomato sauce. I had the lobster ravioli with salmon, plum tomatoes, in a lemon vodka sauce. She gave me the new McSweeny’s package of issues 1-3 (reprint) and the upcoming issue 10. I gave her… um, dinner. I’m poor lately.

Jobs, Followup…

Well, after much calling and emailing, I’ve finally heard that MIT hired an internal candidate for the position I was in the running for. I made it so far, out of a pool of over 100… seems like I was owed a phone call, but apparently not. So, my energies shift to focus on the BHCC job. Options are running out!

The Yes Men

Ok, so it’s 6:30ish in the morning, and I’m watching a video of the Yes Men at work. They’re an arts/political performance group, and they’re convincing impostors, lampooning the GTO, Dow Chemical, or other global symbols… Here, the Yes Men pose as reps from the WTO, and present a modest proposal for solving world hunger. I don’t know what is more funny: the presentation, the graphics, the animation, or the believing students. Why didn’t the professor butt in?

WATCH VIDEO (click login, video, and scroll down for The Yesmen: The Plattsburgh Lecture)

CSS & XHTML

I’ve been building my first XHTML & CSS site today. The benefits are increasingly apparent, though attempting to build a complicated layout without using any <table> tags is daunting. And boy do I love validating along the way!

Beaver RSS aggregation tool

Well, I posted not long ago, extolling the virtues of FeedReader, but I’ve run into some bugs that drive me absolutely nuts. Take this for example. Everytime I restart the app, it tells me that my website has 276 new entries! That’s because the app isn’t properly saving or reading whether a post is marked as “read” or “unread”. Sucky.

I’ve installed all the common windows apps, and none of them comes close to the usable design & features of NetNewsWire for OsX… Apparently, I’m not the only one going through all this, too.

Enter Beaver, a great new app just begun this month. It has all the simplicity and usefulness of FeedReader without all the bugs. And we’re only at v0.3.9! Kudos to Sumod — I look forward to watching the development.

UPDATE: On Dave Winer‘s recommendation, I installed another small RSS app called WildGrape NewsDesk… I was less than impressed. Nevermind that I had to download and install a BETA of the .NET Framework, but the UI is repulsive. For starters, there isn’t a subscriptions button. It’s hard to add customized feeds, e.g. my RSS 2.0, and it doesn’t have a familiar 3-pane layout. Kinda lame.

Zakim Bridge

I was futzing around in Photoshop the other day, in-between working on some freelance gigs… (it’s coming matt!)… and I created this little vectorized version of the new Charles river bridge in Boston. I think it’s fabulous that the city named it for Lenny Zakim, a civil rights activist and community leader—especially given that he passed-away in 1999.

I certainly understand why government buildings and other projects are named for WWII heroes and long-dead (some corrupt) politicians, but I’m encouraged by this choice… It’s a modern, personal and meaningful choice.

Personally, I’m kind of ambivalent about all of this Big Dig stuff. Elevated highways are evil, so I will be glad to see the Green Monster come down. Still, what will be put in it’s place? And at what cost? The current plans call for mostly green “open” space, surrounded by surface roads that might have as many as 4 lanes. Whoa. Wait up. You’re replacing 8 lanes of elevated highway, with 8 lanes of modern, wide-lane surface streets. Not to mention the 10 lanes underground.

It would be a mistake to try and correct the transportation and urban renewal mistakes of the 1950s, by dropping a narrow park in the middle of all that asphalt. This city needs to knit back together the fabric of a neighborhood that was sheared in two. That means moderately-scaled buildings, shops, caf?s, sidewalks and, in the middle of all this: a park. Maybe with a fountain. And, you’ve got to minimize traffic. Make it difficult for cars to move through there.

Downtown Boston burned in 1872, so reinventing downtown is nothing new. I’d hate to think that this scenario would unfold: Developers get to build tall, private skyscrapers cut off from the street; the fire department gets wide traffic lanes; the tree-huggers get the rest as dead “open” space. That’s a recipe for a non-place. This should be the place… the destination.

Temp Site Problems

Had some server problems that caused the site to break today. Everything is back up, now.

W32.HLLP.Handy

So, to go along with the problems Suckahs has been experiencing in the past 72 hours, I’ve got a virus on my computer, and I’m spending my sleeping hours trying to clean it up. I need to purchase Norton Internet Security I think. What a mess.

Gawker has RSS

I just discovered, on a whim, that gawker does provide excepts via RSS 0.91, 1.0. Now I can know instantly when Elizabeth Spiers, Editor, attacks.

FeedReader

So, I’ve heard so much about this NetNewsWire RSS news reader in the past weeks and months, but unfortunately I’m currently confined to a Wintel box. So instead, I installed FeedReader, a very small and nifty RSS feed reader. I highly recommend it if you want to stay on top of news and your favorite internet sites. I’m making my entire most recent archives available, with dates, titles, html, pics & copy in RSS 2.0

Coffeehouse as Office

Every time I’m in the coffeehouse, I feel like each table is a home office… For example, on a given day at the coffeehouse that I frequent, there are at least 5 or 6 laptop users, typing away into Word. Many have library books stacked up on their table, and notebooks handy, each with their own unique scrawl.

Also, sometimes I spy the person who brings all their mail/correspondence/bills from the past month, and proceeds to open each one while sipping their latte. This sort of activity usually results in a huge trash pile. Amusing.

And, then there are those individuals who choose to make networking calls on their cell phone. I fail to see why such a person wouldn’t set his/her phone to vibrate. Or, failing that, reduce the volume to an inoffensive decibel level… but, they really must take this call.

I’m as guilty as the next guy/girl… Throughout college, I’d spend almost every night at a coffeehouse, where I studied, wrote term papers, opened bills, wrote cheques, placed cell phone calls and manufactured little piles of trash.

What do I do there now? I read. The papers, weeklies & monthlies, novels & non-fiction… you name it. So, it really is like a home office for me, too. The relative bargain of our rent, here in cambridge, doesn’t entitle me to an office of one’s own. Why not take it to the coffeehouse?

Albany Dan’s Site is Down Up

NOTICE: If anyone is wondering why the suckahs sites have been down intermittently this morning, it’s because I tweaked some of the MT templates on Albany Dan‘s page, and there is some kind of open loop thing happening. The pages were just hanging, and eventually the server cut everything off. So now, I must rewrite his templates.

UPDATE: Everything is fixed. Just took about 10 minutes of careful review to fix. Also, I got rid of all the DHTML layering that seemed so cool in 2000, and replaced it with good ole’ fashioned tables. I’ve yet to make a site layout in pure CSS. I am not starting today.

Crystal Litter Pearl

On advice from Megnut, I bought our kitten Katya Crystal Litter Pearl cat litter. It’s so wierd, considering I’ve never used anything else but dusty, odor-eater smelling litter in 12+ years of cat ownership. I figured the sooner we switch the 8-month old Katya, the better. So, as soon as I poured the little white crystals into the pan, she was batting them onto the hardwood floors, and having a good time. I hope she doesn’t think this is a game, and not a place to pee.

UPDATE: When I got up this morning, I saw that she had done #2. They’re unburied poops, they look pretty dried up and scoopable. I think I’ll go scoop them out.

You Shall Know Our Velocity

You shall sitI’ve been reading a lot lately, just not talking much about it. I finally finished getting through McSweeney’s Issue No. 5… I had previously just skimmed it.

While visiting Kunta in Brooklyn, we stumbled into the McSweeney’s store on 7th ave, and I found it such an odd, futilely amusing place.

I mean, your typical McSweeney’s reader isn’t inclined to buy and sport a tshirt, is he or she? And as for the other random items they sell, though I enjoyed pawing through them, they aren’t at all desirable to purchase.

I guess that’s not the point: McSweeney’s is as much a brand, or anti-brand brand as any other buzz-worthy commodity. Eggers’ & crew are image-crafters as much as they are writers, and if that means opening a boutique at considerable expense, then hey, do it.

That said, I ordered Eggers’ new book You Shall Know Our Velocity, and it came via UPS today.

First impression, having read 1.5 pages? The incessant self-reflexive posturing in the introduction of his first book is reigned. In fact, the novel begins on the front cover, continues on the reverse of the cover, and takes off from there, without any introduction.

Gimmicky? Yes. Interesting? Always.

Jobs, etc.

I am starting to think I should create a ‘jobs’ category in moveable type… but i’ve got a lot of news lately in that regard.

I had 2 final-round interviews today, at MIT and BHCC. In the very unlikely event that I manage to be offered both jobs, it would be a difficult choice… I like both sets of people very much.

I can walk to MIT, but BHCC is a great opportunity as well. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, though. Wish a brotha luck.

The Power of Little Hand-Written Notes

note-card.gifAl Franken, in his most recent book, Oh The Things I Know…, extols the value Personal Handwritten Notes, as a means of networking. He calls attention to the fact that President Bush (the Elder) made it a routine in his life from the time he left Yale to write thousands of these notes to friends and supporters. And he became Director of the CIA, Ambassador to the UN, Vice President, and President. Let’s leave aside the notion that he might have actually performed any of these duties satisfactorily, and consider Mr. Franken’s point:

It is so easy to send Email these days—click, typey typey, click, SENT! This development has contributed positively to increased productivity—as anyone who had to fiddle occasionally with a fax machine can attest. Yet, there are some very noticeable disconnects even with this most ‘connected’ of all recent inventions.

First, because it’s easy to send messages electronically, it is just as easy to ignore them. How many people are as diligent with their Inbox count as they are with there checkbook balance? Ok, bad example in my case. But the point is sound—which brings me to…

Point two, Email affords very little personal connection, when compared with the written note. You can’t hold a piece of Email, nor appreciate the quality of the paper or handwriting. Instead, typography is standardized to Arial, individual flourish is restricted to the obligatory ‘e-signature’, and you get several hundred junk messages a week, trying to sell you pornography, mortgage rates, and a fake university diploma.

Third, how many people actually take the time to handwrite notes anymore? Margaret Shepard writes in her book
The Art of the Handwritten Note
, that it’s a misconception that you don’t have the time. Ask yourself this: doesn’t it seem more sincere and extraordinary that someone would take the time to send you a personal handwritten note? That’s worth a few extra minutes, and a walk to the post office.

Lastly, how good do you feel last time you sent an Email note to someone? Today, I bought these nice note-cards with a small lithographed image on the front, and I hand-wrote notes to two people that have recently interviewed me for jobs. Now that they’re in the mailbox, I feel positively giddy about these nice people opening their notes. It’s something special and memorable, in an otherwise routine day.

There was something funny about writing these notes, however, because it’s been so long since i’ve hand-written anything longer than a cheque. In recent years, I’ve got quite good at signing my name at the bottom of typed cover-letters, sales inquiries and letters to the editor. My handwriting, once somewhat passable, was atrocious! It took a lot of warming up and practicing until I felt comfortable with the result. Cursive was totally out of the question, so I affected a kind of more stylized printing.

In a bad job-climate, I think there is power in the Little Hand-Written Note.

Holiday Movies Roundup

Ok, I have no desire to truly review all of the movies that I’ve seen in the past few weeks, especially given Tbone‘s new and detailed reviews. But I would like to quickly say a few things about a few movies:

Lord of the Rings
Review: A+

Simply put, the best movie of the year. Viggo Mortensen should be a star the likes of which we haven’t seen since Harrison Ford. Peter Jackson did a much better job the second time around, and I am only looking forward to the third film.

Catch Me if You Can
Review: A

I know I’m nearly alone when I say that Spielberg (or Leonardo Dicaprio, Tom Hanks, too) doesn’t really do much for me, but Catch Me is a fun film. From the opening credits, to the musical score composed by John Williams, you can tell that you’re in for a ride.

I don’t see what’s so great about the dumpy-looking Tom Hanks in this film, but Leonardo Dicaprio is great, and the story is irresistible.

Gangs of New York
Review: B-

Chalk this one up as the disappointment of the year. Of all the holiday movies, I was most looking forward to Martin Scorcese’s realist Gangs. One tiny problem: Marty can’t make movies like this very well– he should stick to the grit of modern-day new york.

The recreated streets of antebellum New York are eye-popping, Daniel Day-Lewis is extraordinary in his role as Bill the Butcher, but it’s the direction and editing that screws everything up. Take the over-the-top symbolism when Leo’s chracter tosses a bible into the river as he leaves on his quest for revenge… Or, the muddled editing during the first nativist/irish gang fight. Save it for the DVD, folks. Maybe then we can see the full Director’s cut.

About Schmidt
Review: A-

The plot is simple, and unresolved at the end, but Schmidt was the most suprisingly good movie of the holidays. Despite some critic’s reviews, I thought Jack Nicholson was the most sincere character on the screen. I didn’t feel as if Jack was giving us the wink wink treatment throughout. Dermot Mulroney, though he got the laughs, almost soured the film, but Kathy Bates provided enough of a counter to Jack’s WASP persona to make the whole thing interesting.

Wish i had more interesting observations…. but hey, I’ve got other fish to fry.