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Many moons ago, our building instituted a policy where the trash cans in people’s offices or cubicles were not longer to be used for trash, only for recyclables. If you have any trash to throw away, you have to walk it to a common area.

Now, think about that: every time you use a Kleenex, every time you have a small piece of food or a wad of tape or a soiled napkin or bloody gauze, you have to walk that trash to some common area. For some people, that means walking across the building to a kitchen or copier room.

A thoughtful building management company would have thought to do both: empty your trash and empty your recycling. But not our building.

For a long time, the janitorial staff has been just emptying our garbage anyway. But a while back, that stopped. I didn’t even realize it until about a week later. By then, my can was filled with apple cores and tissues and those gross parts of the mini carrot you have to bite off because it’ll taste like stem if you don’t. So I decided that I’d try it out. Maybe I can put my trash can in the kitchen every night to be emptied. Of course, that didn’t work well. My trash can is my last thought as I leave here every day.

So I came in today and had the following polite but infuriating note placed on my keyboard:

Well, that’s it, you jokers. Time for one of my patented rant letters. Here it is. It won’t affect change, but at least they have no doubt that one more person here hates the stupid policy.

Hello.

I know that the Tower’s poorly-thought-out “no trash in trash cans” effort has been more strictly enforced in recent weeks. I was going to try to be okay with the new crack-down and empty my own trash can myself whenever I remembered to do so. However, I found one of the “Oops!” notices this morning on my keyboard, and so I have to get this off my chest.

Recycling pick-up is not an every-day need. Trash pick-up is.

I already walk to the kitchen to rinse out things like bottles, cans, lunch containers, frozen meal trays, yogurt cups, etc., so they can be properly recycled in the blue or green bins. I will not also be walking to the kitchen every time I blow my nose or pull off the non-recyclable top to a food container or dispose of leaves that have fallen from my plants or when a napkin has been soiled or when a piece of gaff tape has been pulled off a box or when a raisin or a cashew or a piece of lettuce from a sandwich has fallen on the floor etc. etc. etc.

Dry recycling—which I assume is really just clean paper, clean cardboard, and non-soiled plastics/glass/metal—does not need to be emptied every day. It does not rot, does not pose a threat of vermin or mold, does not smell. Trash, however, is another matter. It should be picked up and disposed of every single day. Office buildings have been doing this as a courtesy to their tenants for countless decades. (Citation needed, of course, but I think you get the gist.)

The “let’s all recycle!” message The Tower is trying to use for this program comes off as insincere, just some marketing speak wrapped up in a desire to get some kind of tax-incentive building accreditation and to, perhaps, cut costs. If The Tower really wants to “save our planet,” then they should have added an in-office and in-cubicle recycling program to the standard trash service. Two containers would be swell—most of us had two containers anyway! Why not empty the trash every evening, then empty trash and recycling once a week? Say on Fridays? Still a bump in cost, but then the program is truly about the tenants and making our lives here better and not just about other, building-selfish concerns.

Perhaps it’s petty to complain about something that, in the end, takes only a few more moments out of the day. But that could be said about The Tower, too, asking us to do what has been their job. The flawed logic of this program is what gets me so riled. So is the lack of input from the people who actually have to live here every day. So is the inequality of people of a higher pay grade and with nicer offices having their trash emptied without complaint.

So I will not be walking every single piece of trash to the kitchen. I will continue to throw it into my trash can, because that’s what it’s for. If I forget to then walk that receptacle to the kitchen every night before I leave for home, and continue to do so for a week or more, then so be it. I’ll get to it when I remember to do so. If it’s now my job to be a janitor for my office trash, then I’ll get to it when I can, and I’ll thank The Tower for not meddling in what is now my personal business.

Thanks for listening.

–Steve

In the move to get as much exposure and as many fans as possible for our new web show, Vampire Zombie Werewolf*, we are designing a site with a lot of clutter. Lots of thumbnails, lots of links, lots of boxes with text fed from other parts of the site, lots of badges to like or tweet or love or post, forms for commenting… Let’s just say it’s the opposite of a clean and orderly site.

The site will not be bad. In fact, despite the mess, I think it’s turning out to be quite nice. It will certainly be better than most sites out there, especially other video and social sites. But it won’t necessarily be a visual pleasure, serene and welcoming. It will be strident, a salesman wearing a trench coat containing pockets overflowing with goodies. Watch our show! Here it is! You love it you can tell because you want to click on everything here on the page go ahead just don’t leave please no don’t leave!

The practicality of having a site with every possible trick to lure and keep an audience is, unfortunately, more important than a site with a few really wonderful experiences. Robb is right: just look at the most popular sites on the Web. YouTube? Disaster. Facebook? A mess. Google? Noisy. But people love them and flock to them and expect the rest of their world to be like this. Can we have a serene, fun, cool site without all that? Of course we can. But no one knows who we are. If we’re going to have any chance of catching the eyes of the Web-blind, we have to have something they expect. It hurts me to admit that. Hopefully we are balancing noise with style.

I’ve heard of Edward Tufte, but for the first time today, I read about his concept of 1+1=3. I saw it mentioned in a blog post about the design tweaks in a recent update to a program I use often, OmniFocus. Perhaps ironically, I’ve been searching for a replacement to OmniFocus because that application’s vast array of features and the design that has resulted have been factors in me not using the app as much as I should. I don’t think OmniFocus is badly designed at all, I just want something simpler, less busy, faster for me to use.

Alas, the major feature I truly do desire in a to-do app—invisible, automatic syncing among all instances of the app across Macs and iDevices—is only to be found in OmniFocus. And so, for now, I have decided to stay with it and purchase the iPad version of the app. When I can afford it.

Now, 1+1=3. The Omni blog post linked to this essay by Scott Jensen, which contains a design example I imagine we have all had a bad run-in with at one time or another: elevator open and close buttons.

I agree 100% that open and close buttons require too much thinking. It takes too long to decide which button is the one you need to press. I would welcome better buttons in my office building, that’s for sure. However, once Scott gets to the part about removing the close button altogether, to simplify the choice and remove the +1 (and therefore the =3), I start to balk. I do not do so because I think the close button should be there to save a few seconds. I do so because the fundamental design of elevator systems do not allow for a perfect timing of the closing of the doors.

Huh?

Well, here, it’s like this: As with most elevators, the cars in my building emit a piercing alarm when the doors are allowed to stay open too long. Sometimes, as is currently the case here at the office, an elevator’s programming goes awry, and the doors will not close until the alarm has begun to sound. The only way to avoid the alarm? Hit the close button and hold it until the doors shut.

A more selfish case also exists in my office building. In the morning, until about 10:00am, the doors of the elevators on the lobby level are programmed to stay open until just before the alarm sounds. It feels interminable. I assume this pause is to allow each car to accept a maximum allotment of rush hour bodies before climbing into the building. But what if no one is coming? Why wait there like fools? No need to. There’s a close button.

In the non-close button scenario from Scott’s essay, we’d all be stuck waiting for technology to do whatever the hell it’s doing. If the technology is failing, we all get to stand, wait for the alarm to go off, then listen to it for the 3 seconds it takes the doors to close. In the morning, we all get to stand, waiting inefficiently, until the doors’ program allows them to close.

I’d be happy to take the door close button out of elevators, but another design consideration makes the door close button a near necessity: the elevators themselves. Design keeps the doors open a long time in the mornings. Design causes the elevator doors to fail until the alarm rings. Design allows for a pointless alarm in the first place.

And so it is with the Vampire Zombie Werewolf website. If we wish to attract a wide audience of people who frequent the Web, we have to keep the close button. I wish we could be the cool ones who have a stylish, beautiful, and minimal site that wins us millions of adherents by showcasing the quality of our episodes, but we can’t afford that. The current design of society dictates that we keep what others have come to expect.

A website without comments, three ways to get to everything, summaries of stuff from elsewhere, flashy thumbnail directories, and social linky badges?

An elevator without a close button?

Ridiculous!

*At this writing, the VZW website linked is not the one I’m referring to. Our new site will be up soon.

Read this amazing piece by John Siracusa at Ars Technica. This is the latest in a recent series of articles that has given me hope that the standards I put on myself and on others are not unreasonable or impossible, but useful. Am I equating myself with either Jobs or Siracusa? God, no! But in my own brand of criticism, I have some faith.

I could spend my time talking about my “standards” as they relate to the sitcom, but I’m very comfortable with my talents and abilities in that realm, so I’m going to talk about a different project, something that’s a bit of a departure for me.

I have been steeped in the design of a website for work, a vast and daring undertaking of a site that will hopefully make most people’s lives at the company better. This is the third site I’ve been charged with overseeing in some way, and I have come to learn that the standards to which I hold the things I create is much higher than the standards of others.

The first site was an employee portal, a place for the exchange of ideas and documents. I simply had to design the look of the site. To me, that meant pondering a bit of the UI as well. I came up with an idea that people were sold on, and I did my best to get my design vendors and the site programmers to work toward creating that idea. The site was doomed, however, for a few reasons. First, it was being built in SharePoint, a Microsoft solution. “Uh-oh.” Yup. Microsoft. The site tools were limited, and any cool or interesting look or behavior I wanted was going to require re-programming modules and pages and other such nonsense. This is the second reason for its doomage: No one wanted or had the time to complete the extra programming it took to get the site looking really great.

I gave up on the site, since it was out of my control—I was only the designer. The site does not have the traffic it should today because, I believe, it’s ugly and difficult to use.

The second site was to be a subset of the first, a place to discuss and share anti-piracy policies and projects. Knowing what our limitations were, I did not expend any sweat on this one. I spent some time discussing UI ideas and how the site would be used, but I was not passionate about the outcome. I had a vendor design it, made sure the client was happy, and let it go. It’s a bit better than the portal, but not as good as it could have been.

The third site is the big one, a huge chance to get something up and running that people all over the world will not only find helpful, but great. This one I was allowed to design from the ground up, including the UI. The UI is much more important to me on one level than the design because without a great UI, the design would just be lipstick on a Sarah Palin.

We have had long meetings discussing esoterica such as button looks, fonts, drop-down tab bar functionality, and destination indications (huh?). Our SVP even threw a wrench into the works a while back requesting a “simple” interface option which, of course, is much more complicated to design and execute than anything else on the site.

I’m sticking to my guns on this one. I have argued my vision over and over, even to the smallest detail, and have changed my position only if someone has been able to show me that another way is better. (I’m usually that someone. Oh, the arguments I’ve had with myself in my head, and oh, the number of times I’ve talked myself out of one method or style and into another. And oh, the times I’ve talked myself back!)

We are still a very, very long way from any kind of functioning site, but I’m finding its creation to be a new and fun bit o’ business. I also am getting more comfortable with my critical ideas and putting those into a tangible design. I have been adamant that we find new or alternate ways to do the same things other sites do inelegantly. I have been forcing myself and others to make sure nothing on our site is overly complicated or difficult to use. The brainpower and long meetings seemingly wasted on the tiniest of details are, to me, necessity.

Of course, if it ever gets to the point where we’re not making any progress on the site because I’m too stubborn in my demands, I have to hope I recognize such, and move on or fix the problem later. But there can be very little of this. Fixing problems later usually means never fixing them at all, so getting them as right as possible from the get-go is one of my big goals.

If you don’t believe in the idea that how something looks is an important aspect of how it functions, I leave you with this link. We design OCDers are very good at selling our passion, aren’t we?

My boss walked into my office today, saying, “I have a surprise for you!” “Are you being facetious?” I asked. “Maybe.”

He handed me this:

I think my reaction surprised him. “Oh, wow! This was my favorite mouse ever!” “Really?” I was not being facetious.

This, friends, is the Apple Desktop Bus Mouse II. According to Mactracker—an awesome, comprehensive app that gives info on every Apple product ever made—this mouse was included on all Macs from 1993 to 1998. It was only the third mouse design since the Mac’s introduction in 1984. My boss found this one locked in a cabinet in some conference room. It cleaned up really nice, and I plan to keep it.

I began using Macs when they showed up in my junior high school, though it took a long time for me to have one of my very own. Macs were too expensive, so my folks bought a IIe while I was in high school. (I first used a IIe and learned Apple Basic when I was in 4th grade.) I used my Apple IIe to write all my papers in college, but I loved every moment using the Macs at school to create flyers or newsletters or graphics.

I got my very own Mac, an LC III, in 1993. It had the new Apple Mouse II. When I started doing scientific illustration and page layout for books at Birkhäuser, the LC III was quickly replaced with a faster mac, a Quadra 610, that could better handle Illustrator and Aldus PageMaker. (Here’s one of the books I typeset. For some reason, I thought I had put my name on the copyright page. I usually did. Anyway, I want to go on record saying that nowadays, I would never stretch a font like I did in those black boxes!)

I did not upgrade my Mac until 1999, when I got a blue and white G3. I had already been living in L.A. and working for Disney for five years. I got the G3 literally weeks before the brand new G4 towers came out. It was my first introduction to immediate obsolescence.

I got my G3 less than a year after Apple had introduced the bondi blue iMac, the machine that began the rebirth of Apple and the Mac. Perhaps the most maligned thing about the new iMac was the mouse: it was round, which meant you could never tell, by feel alone, if you were holding it upright or not. My G3 came with one of these horrible mice, but I did not mind, because the machine still had an ADB port, which meant I could use my old Apple Mouse II. (I think this was the last Mac to have an ADB port. It was the first pro-level Mac to have USB.)

When I got my 12″ PowerBook in 2003, I could no longer use my Apple Mouse II. I still have not found a mouse I love as much.

The Apple Mouse II was perfect. That seems like a silly thing to say, because it had only one button, used a physical roller ball, and had no scroll wheel or scroll ball. But I consider it perfect anyway.

The mouse was low profile, which meant it sat in the curve of my hand without me having to bend my wrist backward to accommodate its bulk. The button end of the mouse was very shallow, down close to the desk surface, so I never had to strain my fingers up to rest on the button. My hand could relax comfortably. Most mice, especially today, have unnecessary bulk. They force the hand to arch up to unnatural heights, and the buttons are far off the desk, which pushes the fingers higher than is normal. The Apple Mouse II was shaped so that you could plonk your hand down, relaxed, on the desk, and the mouse would just happen to be there, in the cavity, ready to go.

The button had perfect tactility, which meant you could rest your finger(s) on the button comfortably without the button accidentally clicking. It also clicked at just the right pressure, so I never had to strain my fingers to press down. If a button clicks too easily, finger muscles get strained as you hold them aloft, trying not to click. When a button mechanism is too strong, the muscles have to strain harder to click.

The single button that covered the entire front of the mouse meant I could relax my hand in a natural position, even to the very right edge of the mouse, and still move and click with ease. A two-button mouse where the left button is the default button forces your wrist to rotate farther left and your index finger to angle more than is natural, then hold the pose the entire time you use the mouse. Most mice are designed with the buttons inset from the sides of the mouse, so even if you can rest your hand at the very edge, you have to move your finger to click. On the Apple II Mouse, you could just click any part of the front, and you were okay.

All these tiny little alterations, muscle movements, and position-holdings add up over the hours, and, in my experience, at the end of a long mousing day, they hurt. My right hand is sore every day using “better” mice. For sure, hands of different sizes and shapes may require different shapes of mice. A large hand still rests its fingers at the surface of a desk, so the low mouse button works well there. Perhaps stronger fingers would need stronger button clicking, and a wider hand a wider mouse to more comfortably grip, but overall, I posit that the Apple Mouse II was a perfect, average shape.

My current favorite mouse is the Wireless Mighty Mouse. Yes, also by Apple. I have used a number of other brands of mice, and none of them works as well (though the Logitech MX 300, now impossible to find, was pretty decent). With the Mighty Mouse, I get back the low profile and the low, borderless button. I swap my left and right clicking, so the right side of the mouse is my “left” click. This way, I only have to strain my hand or fingers occasionally to execute a “right” click. My hand can rest as it did using an Apple Mouse II. (I tried swapping button mapping on other mice, but for some reason, it didn’t work so well, mostly because the unclickable side border made it pointless.)

The down side of the Mighty Mouse is that I have to be very careful, and therefore strain my hand, to do a “click and pick up the mouse to move it before you unclick” maneuver. This is easy on most mice, but because the whole top of the Mighty Mouse is mostly one piece, the only place to grab and hold is the side-click buttons. I have to move my thumb up to the left side click button (because it does not naturally rest there), then sort of do a squeeze–hold while I click the main button, then do a cumbersome lift… Do you know how many times I accidentally squeeze too hard and bring up Exposé? And then suddenly I’m stuck, hand aloft, mid-click, with all my windows shrunken, and everything has to come to a halt while I repair the mess.

Another issue is the touch-sensitive button. I love the idea in theory, but you have to lift your fingers off the “left” click “button” to make the “right” click “button” work properly. If the mouse senses a touch on both sides, it does not execute a “right” click. This strain does get to my hand by the end of the day.

I could get into my issues with tracking sensitivity, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that the Apple mice have the best tracking algorithmicity thingy I’ve used. Other mice are too sensitive and don’t get the acceleration right.

One could say that I simply like the Apple Mouse II because that’s what I got used to using. It seems a fair argument, but it doesn’t work here because I can just lay my hand down on my desk, let it relax, and see how it comes to rest. The Apple Mouse II fit right into that relaxed posture. I do not imagine other people’s hands lie in completely different ways than mine, all twisted to the left with fingers naturally hovering in the air and wrists bent backwards. Maybe I’m ignorant, or a fool. Or maybe it’s approaching 8:00 on a Friday night, and I’m here in my office writing a blog post about mice.

I have spent a lot of time at work testing mice, trying to find decent ones that haven’t been bastardized by forced progress and redesigned for redesign’s sake. It’s a constant battle. So seeing an old friend walk in the door was a great surprise and, perhaps pathetically, a happy one.

Ever wonder how so much time gets wasted while you’re supposed to be getting work done? Chuck (the NYC Chuck, not the O’Donnell Chuck) said this today:

Well, you’d be surprised at how much time is consumed by attempting to get anything done. (1) You have to find within yourself the willpower to do it; (2) you have to convince your body to do what you have willed in your head to do; (3) once you’ve considered and accepted the inevitable (that you will actually have to do something), you reconsider in hopes that someone else will come and do it for you; (4) a gnat falls in your morning coffee/tea/O.J. and then you gotta go fish it out; (5) well, with all that excitement you gotta tell someone, so you call that girl from high school you haven’t seen in ages to tell them about the gnat in your A.M. beverage…

Really, with all that goes on, I’m surprised any of us get anything accomplished.

This is excellent analysis.

What’s the difference between an Apple app, a Google app, and your company’s app?

Take a look here and see for yourself!

Yes, I am about to upload my first post in a month, and it’s about Microsoft. Sorry, folks!

I am working on an intranet project at work. I am leading the design of the site… the actual graphics and look of the site. I have not yet decided if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that I now have to manage designers instead of doing any design myself. It’s most likely a mix.

This morning, I met with the people who are coding our graphics into the actual site. For our banner, I gave them PNGs with transparency, and they were showing me how the PNGs all end up inside gray boxes. The transparency was not working, so something must be wrong with the graphics. Of course, what browser were they using? Yes, IE6 for Windows XP.

I spat out my thoughts on how inept Microsoft is, then had them open the site in Firefox on a Mac. The PNGs worked fine. More Microsoft bashing from me at that point. Thanks to Microsoft’s ineptitude at supporting standards not their own, we now have to go about designing the banner in a whole different way.

A lot of the Websites I read these days talk about the gradual decline of Microsoft’s power. Building an empire of mediocrity that’s stanchioned by backhandedness and deceit is building an empire that will fail. It just so happens that one site today is discussing IE8 and yet another new kink Microsoft is adding to their already cruddy browser.

The B-List: “Legacy”

While I would love to write paragraphs about this, I’ll let the subject lie for now. And I hope this will be the start of a new string of consistent posting from me. Happy 2008!

I was looking at the card of an acquaintance today, where her contact info was set in a font called Trajan. I thought to myself, “My God. There it is again. Trajan.” It is, literally, everywhere. It’s even used on our new logo at work:

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

And I thought Neutraface was overused! Trajan has it beat, for sure. I love Neutraface. Love it. And yet, now that every ad agency and design studio is using it for just about everything, I’m getting tired of it. Trajan, which is a caps-only font, is elegant in its own way, but it has been overused for years. Yet no one’s picking up on how overused it is. Oh, except this guy:

I think I can blame a few things for this kind of font overuse. One is designers who don’t know what they are doing. These are the people who use the fonts that come with Windows, don’t know that “The 90′s” is wrong (it should be “The ’90s”), and can’t kern to save the planet. Another is designers who do know what they’re doing, but have to design for people who are blind to anything new or creative. “I love that new font Wendy’s is using! Can we use that?” Worse of all is a combination of the two: clueless designer and clueless client.

I got to stop by Trader Joe’s yesterday on the way back from getting my hair cut. (It’s short. I should post a picture!) On the way in, I was stopped by these cute little trees outside the store.

I love trees. I have a ficus in my office that has flourished since I bought it at Ikea years ago. I wish I could have one in my apartment, but it’s too dark. These little Trader Joe’s pine trees were so cute, and I wanted to have some kind of Christmas cheer in my office, and I knew what was going to happen later that night, so I bought one to brighten my pre-Christmas days. Today, I bought little glass ornaments and decorated the tree.

A Little Christmas Tree

How Charlie Brown Christmas is that? It’s so cute. I makes me smile. And since it’s alive, I can keep it in my office year-round. I lived in Boston last time I bought a tiny live pine tree like this, also around Christmas time. I had it for a quite a while. Sadly, it died when I took a trip. Must have been a long trip. This tree, I feel, will be my little Christmas tree for years to come. When it’s the off-season, I won’t even have to disguise the pot; I’ll tell everyone it’s my barber tree.

Ars Technica once again has posted a very interesting article full of wonderful loathing for the industry in which I work. And, of course, I couldn’t agree with that loathing more. The article is about AACS and how it has to be implemented within an OS for that OS to “legally” play back Blu-ray content.

As Ars has also recently pointed out, DRM needs to be circumventable so people don’t end up with useless media. AACS is the messiest DRM yet.

Oh, sorry, is all this too esoteric and geeky? Then this should be more your speed.

Adobe is not exactly good at providing an easy-to-use experience when you have to deal with their multiple licensing site. It sucks. I tried typing the password I was sent, but when you fail 3 times, the account becomes “invalidated” and you have to contact Adobe. After my third failure to log in, I noticed there was a colon (:) at the beginning of the password. Since that was right after another colon as part of the e-mail, I didn’t see it.

After some fumbling with the Contact Us maze Adobe gave me (it wandered through several Web pages and two PDF documents), I managed to get a chat session going with Adobe support. It began poorly.

Ethen: How may I assist you today?

Steve: Hey. I invalidated my password. I did not notice the : at the beginning. Can I get a new login?

Ethen: I understand that you are experiencing an issue while signing into the Adobe Licensing website. Am I right?

Steve: Are you a machine or a person?

Steve: Please see what I already typed.

[A very long pause. I imagine there was no automated response for such effrontery.]

Ethen: I am a real person.

Steve: Good.

Steve: Yes, I need a new login for that site. Is it something you can re-email to me?

Ethen: You need to reset password for your login.

Ethen: Would you like me to reset your password?

Steve: Yes please.

Ethen: May I have your login ID?

[A short pause.]

Ethen: We have not received a response from you in a while. Do you still need assistance?

Steve: Yup.

Steve: The ID is XXXXXXXXXXX

Ethen: Thank you.

Ethen: Please give me a moment while a look up for your account details.

When it took more than a moment for him to look up my info, I started typing, “We have not received a response from you in a while. Are you still providing assistance?” But then Ethen returned with a new password for me.

I’m still having navigation and download issues at the site, but things ended up perfectly cordial with Ethen. We’re the best of friends now.

No, I have not blogged about my car getting hit and then getting fixed, or about the fun-filled birthday day my friends held for me, or about my three-week stint with a gastrointestinal parasite. Nope. Better to post stuff like this:

Some site called Showbiz Notes has posted some amusing, sarcastic “salutes” to different marketing types. Since I bitch about marketing people several times a week, you can understand how much these little trifles made me warm inside. [NOTE: That site is no longer with us (already), but I found some lower-quality versions of the files and am hosting them here now.]

A couple of them are less funny, dealing more with the kind of people you find in any office, but they are still worth a listen.

The link to “Miss I Don’t Know How to View a Rough Cut Lady” doesn’t work right, so I’m just gonna link to all the audio clips here. But do click the link above to read more about these clips.

Miss I Don’t Know How to View a Rough Cut Lady

Mr. Impossible Promo Approval Guy

Mr. Asking Us to Think Outside the Box Guy

Mr. Cutting a Promo for a Lame Show Guy

Miss Small Talk in the Elevator Girl

Mr. Waiting for the Conference Room Man

As an added bonus, here’s a song I think anyone in marketing or design can appreciate: Make the Logo Bigger.

Thanks to Sven for finding these.

Here is Marcy standing next to some giant blocks of foam at Disney Studios. They use these to carve out sets, like caves and cliffs, or to pack and ship extremely large action figure collectibles.

I know, I know… I have not been writing much lately. This can be blamed on several factors:

1. Heavy work on the sitcom. Yes, that’s the first time I’ve linked to it on The Wren Forum. Yes, I intend to add it to my home page. No, I don’t know when.

2. The CCPT benefit, in which I got to play a sneezer, a doctor, and a 19-year-old boy who does not know anything about sex. I am so horribly typecast…

3. Yet another sales meeting, this time with me being more “in charge,” whatever that means.

4. A new boyfriend. Er… man friend. (Thanks for that one, Chuck.) Yes, I’m talkin’ ’bout Fuz, whom some of you have met. He’s great. I have not gushed about him here because I don’t want to jinx anything. I mean, we’re both Piscean actor wannabes. With that pedigree, who can blame me?

So why am I writing today? Well, to provide yet another amusing video for you to watch. Jim Coughlin, with whom I’ve done improv and who was in Food Code, is regarded as one of L.A.’s leading standup comedians. That’s according to a J. D. Powers and Associates poll on the distribution and execution of disaster relief funds in non-hurricane-ready, earthquake-prone southern-Californian states.

See him do a funny bit about feng shui and cockroach birth control. And if you’re following this link far in the future, it will no doubt lead to a page containing more than just one funny snippet for you to enjoy. Or to a 404 page.

Steve Jobs, as is his habit, stirred up the entire universe two weeks ago with his open letter advocating the removal of DRM from music files.

Did you not read it? Oh. Well, where have you been? Quick like a bunny! Go read it now!

As you can imagine, response has been pretty negative from those who make money off music or make money “protecting” that music.

As a mostly law-abiding music consumer, I can only agree with Jobs. And I don’t just agree with him because I’d rather have a dinner conversation with him than with Jesus Christ, Ghandi, and Space Ghost combined. No, I just find that as the entertainment industries get more and more consumed with beating piracy, their schemes have become more and more intrusive.

One of the frustrating things for me has always been getting the music I used to own long, long ago into digital form. Before the iTunes Store even existed, I had to use Napster to go hunt down the wacky 12″ single versions I had of many songs that made up my high school mix tapes. To Napster’s credit, back in the day before it was bought, neutered, and then left to die with a sad, unheard wimper, I found all but one of the obscure versions of my old favorite tunes. Extended version of “Perfect Way” by Scritti Politti? Check! The extended version of “The Sun Always Shines on TV” by A-Ha? Check! Extended Version #2a of the theme to Miami Vice? Nope. That’s the one I never found. I got close, but no banana.

What I’m trying not very hard to say is that I had to go find these things “illegally” because the music industry offered me no way to get them otherwise. I might have paid for the files if they were offered… but I would not have liked it. Just because my record collection is sitting somewhere in the possession of my parents and I have no way to transfer the records I paid good, hard-earned, teenage cash for does not mean I should not be allowed to listen to that music now, here, in my free-wheeling near-40s.

Often, there are songs that I can not get to this day on iTunes. And the Napster replacements have all sucked. If I want something obscure, I can just forget it, unless I’m satisfied with the poorly-transfered, truncated file that is cloned a bazillion times. I’ll be good God-damned if I ever join a music subscription service. Sure, they’re Windows only, but even if I were clueless enough to use Windows, I would not be stupid enough to toss good money at something that, in the end, I do not own. Okay, sure, maybe it’s like renting a movie and then later deciding you want it for good… You just buy the DVD. I could, I guess, go buy the song I found so wonderful in my subscription. If I wanted to pay an astronomical fee and only maybe get to burn it to CD for safekeeping. Or spend $18.99 on the CD, if I can find it, for the one song I like.

So far, for me, the iTunes method has been great. One of the only issues has been the over-registering or duplicate registering of computers to play my purchased music. Both times, this has been easily fixed. The other issue has been trying to use a song a friend had bought in a video montage we were creating for Amelia’s funeral last year, and I couldn’t because it was registered to him. A simple CD burn and re-rip later, and this very legitimate use was accomplished.

As we get into the age of widespread digital movies, the issue of DRM becomes more complex. First of all, music and movies are incredibly different. Music is like fistfulls of MnMs you can scarf down while driving or working or jogging or falling asleep. Thoroughly enjoyable, singable, yummy. Movies are a gourmet meal you need to sit and pay attention to. (Well, okay, I know some people who watch their movies on their computers while multi-tasking, but that’s really not getting the full enjoyment from the movie at all. And, come to think of it, those people aren’t much into enjoying a good meal anyway.) I don’t think movies should be more protected than music, even though my paycheck comes from a home entertainment entity who would fight to the death to prevent me from doing much of anything with whatever copy of a movie I might own. (More parentheses: To be fair, the people at my work who are in charge of things have a more lenient theoretical stance on DRM than idiots like Edgar Bronfman, Jr., who, aside from being a businessman who cares only about money, is also a money-loving businessman who cares for nothing but money.)

Then there’s the DRM surrounding computer software. I asked myself, would Steve Jobs be so keen to get rid of the copy protections woven into his own company’s software? Sure, you can get iLife for free from anyone. There is no registration code. The $79 Apple charges for that is just for fun, really. Try to use iWork without a code and it won’t happen, but it’s also just $79, which is a bargain if you actually use it like I do. Though iWork needs a code, you can simply use anyone’s and you’re fine. The really pricey stuff like Final Cut Studio? That app will sniff out the code and make sure no one else on your network is using it, and it will refuse to launch if it finds a duplicate. Not horrible. It’s definitely made us be sure we have the right number of codes for our Final Cut installations at work. But if you only run it on one Mac at a time, you’re okay.

Once again, software is different than music. Back when I got my first Mac (I had always had to use ones at school or work until then), I was lucky enough to have won a full copy of the app I needed most, Aldus PageMaker. I won it at Macworld Boston. I was such a happy clam. But had I needed to buy it? It would have been a huge burden back then. I would not have been able to pay cash, and my credit card did not have the horrifyingly extravagant limit they seem to toss at us all these days. In essence, I would have found a way to pirate the software. I needed it, I used it, but I was not a rich company or corporation who could afford to actually buy it.

Fifteen years later, though I have a better-paying job and I’m on my 4th Mac (yes, Macs do last that long!), I’m not sure how much I’d be willing to shell out a huge chunk of cash for something I really use. I would consider dropping the $1,300 for Final Cut Studio because I know Apple’s DRM is not horribly limiting. Adobe, however, is another matter. Adobe has become a company run by sales guys instead of actual people and, therefore, their software design and functionality have suffered and their DRM scheme is vile. I’d be very hard-pressed to shell out $900 for the standard version of Creative Suite.

Back when CS 2 came out, Adobe decided it would be a great idea to have the software feed your reg code out to their servers and marry that particular machine to that code, meaning you can not install that software and use that code on any other machine. Right, okay, it sounds perfectly legitimate on the surface, but, really, come now… What a pain it has been at work when we get rid of a machine and find—OOPS!—that we can’t register a new machine with an older code because we forgot to unregister the code form the old machine. And so on. You see how annoying that can be. And unregistering a machine is not as easy with Adobe as it is with iTunes.

If I ever were to have three Macs in my personal service at once, I can install (but not run) Final Cut on them at any time. That’s acceptable to me. Here’s my money. Adobe would force me to have to install three copies of Creative Suite on my three personal Macs. Screw you, gents. I’ll “find” it elsewhere.

DRM is simply commerce vs. use. Edgar and his ilk would love, love, love to charge us all a fee every single time we move a song from disc to computer to iPod to Apple TV. And Edgar would charge something like $2.99 for a “good” song each time, when, really, even asking consumers to do that at the 99¢ iTunes price is a gouge. I dislike DRM because I dislike corporate greed. I get more fed-up with companies in the U.S. every year as I see them change little things here and there that, in the end, build up to more money for them and less product or convenience for those that they purport to serve.

I linked to it above, but I link to it again: Daring Fireball’s amusing dissection of Macrovision’s CEO’s response to Steve. (Sorry for all the possessives.) Slimy, slimy, slimy, this guy. He could give a crap about consumers. All he wants is money.

Similarly, consumers who want to consume content on only a single device can pay less than those who want to use it across all of their entertainment areas—vacation homes, cars, different devices and remotely. Abandoning DRM now will unnecessarily doom all consumers to a “one size fits all” situation that will increase costs for many of them.

Spoken like a true dimwad liar who has no clue what consumers really want. Make’s your stomach turn, eh?

Steve Jobs is right. Music should be free of DRM. Movies, probably, too. See, as I’ve always said, the people who will pay for media will do so. Those who won’t, won’t, no matter the price. If you start to make the price too high and the DRM too restrictive ($4.99 for crappy games for my Nokia… that I can’t backup or save or move to a new phone????), you’ll lose people, like myself, who are willing to pay. But no. In their minds, these corporate leaders see us all as flush with disposable cash that will all be earmarked for their multimedia product! Insane.

I hope Steve Jobs wins on this one. Gosh, what a great day that would be for people who actually buy and enjoy music!

My dreams have come true… It’s gorgeous… (This picture, on the other hand, is decidedly NOT.)

Yes, I’m at Macworld. Yes, I get to see Steve’s keynote tomorrow. Yes, I’m as giddy as a Japanese schoolgirl with a new cell phone charm.

I am off on a short work trip to Paris. This time, because of the duration and the lack of opportunity to see many sights, I’m not going to create a Europe LIVE! or France LIVE!

Nope, now that I’ve got a new gallery, why not put it to use? So I’ll be putting pictures up every (hopefully) day.

In fact, I am posting this while flying up in the air! I am currently over Newfoundland, 35,000 feet up, and the first round of pictures have been posted from the sky!!!!!

How’s that for exclamation points?

Our 747 to Overseasland

The exciting things about this trip so far: I get to finally fly on a 747 again! I get to fly Lufthansa! I have a new camera!

I was offered a non-stop from LAX to Paris, but it was on Delta. Ever since they deleted 28,000 miles of mine, I have refused to fly them. So while I have to stop over in Germany on both departing and returning trips, it’s okay. Besides, it’s Lufthansa! The cool seats we get are… but you’ll see some of that in the gallery.

So go visit the France 2006 album. To make sure you don’t miss a moment, subscribe to the RSS feed for the album, or the RSS feed for the whole gallery (while you’re in The Lobby).

Well, this was a maimed phone posting. But I have come back to fix it, add to it, and include more pictures, the quality for which I make no apologies. These were all taken during set-up for the event, not during the event itself. I mean, you seen one Hollywood star-studded next-gen gaming console late-night launch party, you seen them all.

PS3 Launch West Hollywood Best Buy

Tonight, following my third Walt Disney Concert Hall concert in under 2 weeks, I’ll be at a PS3 launch event in the street behind Best Buy West Hollywood.

PS3 Launch Dave Navarro

I was there for part of the setup, and got to see Dave Navarro doing a sound test. Besides being one sexy mo-fo, he’s also a pretty good guitarist.

PS3 Launch Blu-ray Dome

Disney was in the Blu-ray dome, where four studios showed off high-def movies playing from a PS3. Had the dome been a contest, we would have won, because we had an awesome set-up with costumes and props from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies beautifully displayed amongst plants and netting and all manner of piratey decoration.

PlayStation 3s were set up all around so you could play some of the games. PlayStation play stations, if you will.

PS3 Launch PlayStation Play Station

The game makers had some pretty cool set-ups to show off their games. I have no pictures of those, though, because I obviously took pictures of the most boring stuff. So here’s one of the non-consumer test units, and a trailer with games inside and out.

PS3 Launch Test Console

PS3 Launch Truck

Stan Lee and Tony Hawk were there. I saw Rick Schroder and Kevin Dillon, and Mr. Navarro, now shirtless, played with all kinds of famous people I didn’t really know. Except Slash.

And the food kicked ass. BBQ sandwiches, pie, corn dogs, Jamba Juice, Krispy Kreme, hot pretzels, chili bar…

I played some of the games, but they were all just about normal, and some of them were distinctly not high res. One driving game looked like it was playing off a PS2. (Maybe it was a PS2 game playing in the PS3?) Frankly, the best game I played was Loco Roco, and that was on a PSP in the trailer.

Part of me would love to have a PS3, mostly because it plays Blu-ray movies. But it does not play BD-R discs, which, like DVD-Rs, you burn from your own computer. Not that anyone can do that yet, but it’s a bad limitation that will one day cause distress. It’s being mumbled that the PS3 does not display 1080i. Since my TV is not 1080p, this would be bad. Maybe both these problems could be fixed with firmware updates, but why take that chance?

When the event was done and I took off, about 12:45, I walked by the line of people who had been waiting to get into Best Buy to buy their PS3s. There were still a lot of people there, but they were being let in, one-by-one, to buy their precious box.

Speaking of Steve Jobs, I have always loved how he does the slides for his presentations. Being in the presentation business myself, I am constantly peeved by the horrible amount of bullets and crap that the BVHE folks throw onto their slides. Our sales meetings would be so much more interesting if our presenters sounded more natural, created a story out of their information, and let the slides behind them be their visual support, no their visual crutch.

And so it is observed at an interesting place called Presentation Zen. In fact, there are a few interesting, if older, observations about the presentation styles of Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates at Presentation Zen.

The first is Bill Gates and Visual Complexity. The second is Gates, Jobs, & the Zen Aesthetic.

Bill Gates and his Complicated Slide Aesthetic

Just look at those messy Microsoft slides! The morass on those slides is a wonderful visual representation of the mess of Microsoft software.