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.