It’s off to NYC and DC for the next week and change. The most exciting part? I’m flying Virgin America! I mean, who has a check-in counter like that? And gate desks like those, separate from the gate to prevent crowding? Keen!
Also, this isn’t really the most exciting part of my trip. The trip is filled with exciting parts.
I’ll probably be tweeting more than posting, but I hope to get most of the pictures here on the Forum. We’ll see how well that works in practice.
Click the pics to see them bigger.
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?
The inspiration for this…
…came from this…
Sorry for the punny headline. But not as sorry as I was to see this when I got home from work today:
What exactly that is, I can’t say. I can say what it looks like, but I will not. Why bother? A picture’s worth one yucky word.
Aside from the ________ in my sink, my floor was covered with water. Luckily, my bathroom seems to have sunk into the floor over the years, so none of the water ran out of the bathroom; it just pooled around the sink and toilet.
The sludge did not smell nasty, just loamy. Yes, loamy. I said “loamy.” Do I get points?
The upside of this is that, since I was going to clean my bathroom anyway for my parents’ overnight stay Sunday, I just had to clean it a little better than I was planning to.
LFTI episode 8 is just a week away! I think it’s about time. Really, it took too long. I’ll have to have a word with the producers about that.
I have posted a few interesting (read: not really) facts about the new episode over at the LFTI blog. Time to go read it!
I came up with an idea about two weeks ago that sounded pretty interesting: use Twitter to post little stories that fit within the 140-character Twitter limit. It was both gimmicky and challenging, so I decided to give it a go. Besides, my mind felt uncreative, I’m almost 40, and I needed my version of a mental sports car.
I created a new Twitter feed called Tiny Stories (@tinystories), and I posted my 7th story there today. (Actually, thanks to a Twitter outage yesterday, I just discovered that #6 did not get posted, so I have to post that one again.) Click the link to read and follow the Tiny Stories tweets.
A few of the stories so far have been difficult to write, but certainly a lot of fun. Today’s was one of the difficult ones. Here it is, all 140 characters of it:
Amid the dead they are forcing me to bury is the old tutor who made my young life hell. Now, by the pit, his still, gray face echoes heaven.
This one was a huge struggle. There was a lot to convey. Though the final story has a slight grammatical awkwardness, I think it is a good compromise.
The inspiration for this story was a feature at The Big Picture regarding the trial in Cambodia of former Khmer Rouge officials.
I have always been fascinated, in a terrified way, of how so many “revolutions” target intellectuals. I understand, theoretically, why this is done, but the logic of it beyond ideology is insane. The Killing Fields was my first significant exposure to the Cambodian tragedy. Seeing the new pictures last week reminded me of this failing of humanity. The pictures of the skulls, the man piling up the bones, and the mass graves that are now pits filled with stagnant water are deeply shocking. Aside from the usual question of motivation is one of result. What would it feel like to be one of the “intellectuals” swept up and slain for a governmental cause? What was it like in the camps, with so many people from so many different backgrounds becoming nothing more than animals waiting for slaughter? How does one live through such a time? When those with whom you’ve had differences are placed in the same horrifying circumstance as yourself, how do you see them then?
I wanted to see what I could do with those ideas in 140 characters. Yeah, I know.
I started with a sentence that I would have ended up changing very little if I hadn’t needed space, since I think it set the scene, the characters, and the situation just the way I wanted it to.
Among the dead they were forcing him to bury was his old teacher, who’d made his life hell so long ago.
My first try at the second half made the story about the true hell of the present erasing the mild hell of the past.
He had no idea what hell was back then.
I decided I liked another idea better, though, where people are all the same in these camps, whatever their pasts. Whatever strife there was once between people is erased by the horrible present. How better to do that than to counter “hell” with “heaven.” I had very little space left, so what was the most efficient yet effective way to end the story?
The gray face now reminded him of heaven.
Now the gray face reminded him of heaven.
Now the gray face was that of heaven.
Now the still face was that of heaven.
What I really needed was more space so I could try to create a stronger image of the dead man. I had to shave letters out of the first sentence.
…who’d made his life hell as a kid.
…who’d made his young life hell.
…was his old tutor…
I liked the reference to the main character’s youth, especially if I used “old” to describe his teacher, meaning both age-wise and time-wise. “Tutor” was shorter than “teacher,” and it also suggested that the main character was once upper class, and that the dead man was a step above a teacher… more “intellectual.”
…forcing him to burn…
“Burn” was no shorter than “bury,” but it sounded more brutal and violent. However, in my head, I had the image of the mass graves filled with water, and what digging up those graves must have been like when the Khmer Rouge was out of power. Graves ended up seeming more brutal to me, so I kept “bury.”
“Among” was long, but it was exactly correct. The dead man was, physically, among the dead. “Forcing” had to be used, since it, too, was exactly what I meant. I wanted to add something about soldiers or gunpoint, but I did not have space. Saying the main character was forced to do this hopefully implies soldiers and guns, or at least someone or something cruel and heartless. I did not have room to replace “dead” with “slain,” which would have clinched the murder image.
Back to the ending, I wanted to make the realization of “heaven” more personal for the main character.
…became his heaven.
…is his heaven.
I could not get that to sound right without expounding a little bit more. I had no room, though. Instead of making it obviously personal to the main character, perhaps I just had to find the right word to give a sense of such. I found “echoed” in the thesaurus, which was a good word to describe the heaven the character sees in the dead man’s face.
Today, the still, gray face echoed heaven.
Now, the still, gray face echoed heaven
Now, by the pit, the still face echoed heaven.
Now, in the pit, the still face echoed heaven.
I had come up with the pit as a dramatic counterpoint to “heaven,” to see if I could create a more tragic image at the end. I liked “by” instead of “in,” since I pictured the main character musing this before pushing the body into the grave. I also played with putting “old” at the end to describe the face, instead of at the beginning to describe “tutor” or “teacher.”
Today, the old, still face was…
But “old” fit better where it was, helping to give a sense of past and age to the dead man.
I was always 4 or 5 characters over the limit. One way to shave off extra letters was to change the voice of the story, making “him” “me” and such. I wasn’t sure I’d like it, but I gave it a try.
Among the dead they were forcing me to bury was my old tutor, who’d made my young life hell. Now, by the pit, his still, gray face echoed heaven.
Four characters over. Maybe the present tense would work better?
Among the dead they are forcing me to bury is my old tutor, who’d made my young life hell. Now, by the pit, his still face echoes heaven.
I wasn’t completely sold on the change of voice, but I liked it enough. And I now had 3 spare characters! Could I get one more word into the end? I wanted to use “still” and “gray.”
Among the dead they are forcing me to bury is my old tutor, who made my young life hell. Now, by the pit, his still, gray face echoes heaven.
One character too many.
Among the dead they force me to bury is my old tutor, who made my young life hell. Now, by the pit, his still, gray face echoes heaven.
Among the dead they forced me to bury was my old tutor, who made my young life hell. Next to the pit, his still, gray face echoed heaven.
Five and 3 spare characters, respectively. But present was better than past in this case, and “force” didn’t work as well as “are forcing.”
Among the dead they force me to bury is the old tutor who made my young life hell. Now, by the pit, his still, gray face echoes heaven.
Five spare characters, but “force” still is no good. Changing “my” to “the” saves a comma but gains a letter, so it’s a wash, yet I liked it better in the end.
With the change in voice, the grammar of the opening was sounding muddy. Many people might insert a comma with their mind, reading it as, “Among the dead, they force me to bury is….” I did not have room for it, but I tried:
Among the dead, which they are forcing me to bury, is the old tutor…
Too long, and too parenthetical. By the way, they were forcing me to do this…
Could I fix the problem by re-organizing the first part of the story? What if I got rid of a few commas, too?
My old tutor, who made my young life hell, is among the dead they are forcing me to bury. Beside the pit, his still, gray face echoes heaven.
The old tutor who made my young life hell is among the dead they are forcing me to bury. Beside the pit, his still, gray face echoes heaven.
While being forced to bury the slain, I find the old tutor who made my young life hell. Beside the pit, his still, gray face becomes my heaven.
Sure, I got “slain” in there, but the flow of these stories did not have the correct impact. Even though the original arrangement was a bit sloppy, it was best. Maybe the first person POV would allow people to forgive the sloppiness.
Now, I was only 1 character over the limit. I could not get rid of any commas. “…His still gray face…” has completely different meaning! I had to lose my beloved “among” and go with “amid.” “Amid” is not the better word in this case, because “among” sounds more physical and tangible than “amid.” But “amid” would have to suffice.
There was no more tweaking or experimenting to be done. Time to post!
Amid the dead they are forcing me to bury is the old tutor who made my young life hell. Now, by the pit, his still, gray face echoes heaven.
And that, dear friends, is the long-winded story about a very short-winded story. I’m sure the chances are slim of a person reading the story and going, “My god! The Khmer Rouge!” Or even, “My god! The Holocaust!” It might be too vague for any of that. But I hope that whatever images the story creates, the basic meaning and emotion is there. Who knows?
Please read Tiny Stories, and let me know what you think. I hope to keep this going for a while.
I really do love WordPress, and it’s amazing how much it’s grown since I’ve been using it. Unfortunately, since I’ve been using it awhile, fancy WordPress upgrades sometimes cause mild havoc with my posts.
I see the current upgrade has placed a bunch of random Âs in my posts. Why? Only Jesus knows (he’s good with SQL). This kind of thing popped up during a previous upgrade, too, but I disabled some code to prevent it. I decided disabling the code was no longer a very good idea, and now I can just imagine how much more than a bunch of Âs WordPress is now placing in my older posts.
Consider this a warning that, were you to visit older posts, you may find odd symbols now and again. I acknowledge they exist, and I am, currently, powerless to re-edit all 800 something posts to clean them all up. J’apologize.
UPDATE: I was wrong. Jesus had no idea what was going on. But at least he returned my call in a timely manner.
No, it seems this is what’s going on. A database character conversion. Sigh. I’ll be good god-damned if I go through all that. Manually correcting all my entries seems less tedious. Though I have run into old posts where the characters are so crazy, I do not remember what I had originally put there.
It’s been a month since we’ve posted anything over at the LFTI blog. We’ve been busy. Oh, and we’re incredibly boring.
But land ho! Ahoy! Buckle me britches! It’s a new post!
The post itself seems to be rather useless, but something good has come of it: Videos of old Burger King ads! Horrible, horrible ads, these, and ripe for the mocking, even by children. Here they are directly:
I hated these ads so much as a kid, I made fun of them on audio tape. I have those old audio tapes in my possession now, and I plan to digitize them sometime in the next fifteen years. When I do, I shall post my Burger King parodies here.
Mark you calendars!
So there’s Chicken Vindaloo, Chicken Parmesian, Chicken Marsala. How about the following as chicken dish names? C’mon, top chefs! Let’s get inventing!
Less appetizing chicken dishes would include:
The most flavorless dish would, of course, be:
Oh, good! Something very funny from The Onion! This is priceless, and completely true. Oh, except the Sony logo on the wall. Not accurate! But who cares?
Well, how about that. Sony must have helped the Onion folks with this player. It doesn’t work. So click on this instead.
Everyone loves secrets, especially when they are compromised and become public knowledge.
Sorry I have not posted in a while (except on Twitter). This post will be sad for many of you, because I’m revealing some of my Los Angeles driving habits. These are sad habits. Trust me, I could fill a book with my observations on driving in L.A., and I’ve been meaning to do some nice, long, hopefully funny posts about it here on The Wren Forum. I doubt that will happen anytime soon. Consider the below to be but a glimpse into my world of L.A. driving.
The moment I first hit the L.A. freeways in my little green Civic, September, 1994, I’d just driven from Colorado, and could not believe the chaos and congestion in my new city. I got my Disney job not long after, and I have been doing the 34-mile round-trip commute for over 13 years. That’s plenty of time to learn I had to become a different kind of driver if I were to survive.
On the 101 East this morning, as I was coming into work, I saw a big, red Cadillac with the license plate DR AGAPE (license plate holder: “Motion Picture and Television Fund: We Protect Our Own”) ease from the right lane into my lane, cutting off the car in front of me. They practically scraped bumpers. Now, the car I was behind was one of those annoying “maintain 40 car lengths” kind of drivers, and I do my best to not to stay behind these types. Keeping a gap is safe, sure, but there’s a difference between safe and paranoid, in my book. I understand another driver’s need to get in front of such a driver, trust me. But not like this. DR AGAPE did not need to cut so close to this guy, he just did because, well, obviously, he’s the only driver on the road.
So nearing the 134, I had to do my usual lane change to make it to the far left lane. And wouldn’t you know it, there was DR AGAPE, just behind me in the lane I needed. He was an older man, of course, and it turns out he’s one of those inconsistent drivers, leaving tons of space in front of his car, then closing the gap, then dropping back again. So I took the opportunity to change lanes in front of him during one of his gappy moments.
Here’s a truism that all L.A. drivers know, or at least should know: If you signal for a lane change as early as you’re supposed to, you will not be let in. I learned long ago to watch for a space, then signal just as I start the lane change. I know not to try to cram myself into a space where there is no space, so I try to change lanes into a gap where there’s enough room for my car. It does not matter when you signal, early or late; often the person behind will see your blinker and rush to close the gap, so best to already be half-way done with your maneuver.
Since I was trying to make a point to myself, I made sure I had just enough space to get in front of DR AGAPE, but not tons. I was nowhere near as close to him as he’d been to the guy he cut off, but that was my test, and DR AGAPE took the bait. As soon as I started to make my lane change and turned on my signal, he sped up, and then honked his big, blasting Cadillac horn at me. He was justified because, of course, DR AGAPE is the only driver on the road.
I raised my hand up when I’d finished changing lanes, and gave him a nice, long, languid hand wave, a thank you for his participation in my social experiment.
I have to be honest here; I am someone who will not always let another driver get in the lane in front of me. Horrible, I know. I have very complicated rules for when not to let someone change lanes in front of me. Are they heading for an exit or a freeway split, or just changing lanes for fun? Are they already going way, way too slow? Are they a “maintain 40 car lengths” kind of driver? Are they polite driver or an asshole driver? What kind of car are they driving? There’s lots to factor in. I learned that if I let that old mini-van, that Jaguar, that Prius, or that tiny truck with a lawn mower in the bed and three guys in the cab get in front of me, I’ll be behind their slow ass for miles, and as other cars fill the lane in front of them, they will maintain that huge gap, letting even more cars in front, and so on. It’s less about the minimal time I’m wasting behind such a driver, and more about how incredibly stupid such driving is in a region with over 10 million people. If everyone drove with huge gaps in front of them, no one would get anywhere. It’s incredibly sad, but true, and I hate it.
There was the chance that DR AGAPE had cut that guy off because he has similar rules of the road, and wanted to make sure he was not caught behind the slow guy. I guessed that was not the case, based on his car, his age, and the really self-absorbed way he changed lanes, slowly, ignoring the guy he was cutting off. He had no reason to cut so close to the other driver. But maybe. Maybe he doesn’t like getting caught behind slow drivers.
Once DR AGAPE and I were both on the 134, where traffic was flowing, I expected him to change lanes and speed by me. But he did no such thing. Instead, now that we were out of bumper-to-bumper traffic, he drove slowly, holding up his lane, and I was a quarter mile ahead of him by the time I hit my exit. And thus was my experiment a success. I had proven that DR AGAPE is a shitty driver, a clueless driver, and, without a doubt, the only driver on the road.
There is something I realized for the first time not long ago regarding Apple and their excellent sense of design, and I wanted to put it down here, now, on paper. As it were. My revelation is this: Apple does not use ® and ™.
I just got an e-mail from my sister. She uses Hotmail, now part of Windows Live. At the bottom of her message was a text-only ad saying, “Windows Live™: Keep your life in sync.” Now, I ask you, for whom is that ™ included? No one. No. One. Er, okay… maybe it’s there to alert that poor sap who’s almost finished setting up a new service for designing window treatments she intended to call Windows Live. Oh, no you don’t! See here in this e-mail footer? We already ™ed Windows Live, so hands off!
What a waste of time. What legal nonsense. And how ugly. Uselessly ugly.
Apple does not do that. Just go to their website and take a look around. Do you see a single ® or ™? Oh, well, sure… in the store, on the Microsoft® Office page, where you can read about Entourage® and PowerPoint® and Excel®. And Windows®. But Apple’s equivalents of these applications? It’s Keynote, not Keynote®; Pages, not Pages®; iWork, not iWork®.
iLife is not iLife®, Garage Band is not Garage Band®, Bonjour is not Bonjour™, QuickTime is not QuickTime®, Mac is not Mac®, iPod is not iPod®, iPhone is not iPhone®, MobileMe is not MobileMe™…
To be fair, Microsoft’s website does not have many ™s and ®s in the product descriptions either. Someone made a good decision to exclude those. Whew. But as soon as you get to any of the logos and packaging, the ™s and ®s make a strong appearance.
I should not pick on Microsoft alone, really, although it’s always great fun. The Adobe® Creative Suite® 3 Design Premium box in front of me right now has those two ®s plus a third, on the Adobe logo. I have a bin of Twizzlers® on my desk, and an unused Contour® Design ShuttlePRO™ v2. An Altinex® Cable Catcher™ is to my right, as is a Pantone®/GretagMacbeth™ i1 spectrophotometer and a butt-load of Sanford® Sharpie® pens. But I also have iLife, iWork, Aperture, Mac OS X, and MacBook Air boxes in my office, and what do I see? Not one ®. Not a single ™. The Apple logo itself, unlike most other companies’ logos, is beautifully unblemished by the annoying ®.
Including a ® or ™ is pointless. I know some lawyers somewhere would disagree, but certainly not for any non-esoteric reason. Once again I find myself thanking Apple for making the world just a tiny bit better.
Today: A gripping tale of T-shirt design! Be sure to make a point not to miss today’s LFTI post!
I took place in my first demonstration Saturday, meeting downtown with about 11,999 others to protest the passage of Prop 8 in the recent election. I just now got to reading coverage in the Los Angeles Times, and I can’t believe how Prop 8 supporters have gotten even more hateful. Take this, for instance, reprinted from the Times:
“They can protest all they like, and it doesn’t change the fact that Prop. 8 has passed and the election is now over,” said Frank Schubert, manager for the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign.
There were many religious signs at the protest, most of them being held by people who were obviously religious themselves. “The same Bible was used to justify slavery.” “I was born gay. You were taught religion.” Even some “Mormon Against 8” signs. There was a lot of humor, as well.
Again, from the Times: “It’s unfortunate that the ‘No on 8’ campaign has devolved into personal attacks and statements of religious bigotry. If they think this is going to help their cause long term, they might want to consider a new strategy.”
It’s unfortunate? Hypocrite! The Yes on 8 campaign was nothing but personal attacks and statements of religious bigotry. Oh, such a twister of words. It’s devious, untrue, and bordering on evil. It’s definitely hate. It makes my skin crawl. Well, when these supporters of segregation end up burning in their hell with those who strung up black people in trees and those kept women from being able to vote, perhaps then they’ll think twice about their treatment of their fellow man.
(Click the pictures to see larger versions. I’ll be putting more pictures of the protest in my gallery soon.) (UPDATE: I did not!)
“When men lose a sense of wonder, there will be disaster.”
—Laozi, 6th Century BC
Space and its vastness, its denizens of rock and ice and gas, its rings and spheres and smudges and wisps, have forever inhabited my mind, creating wonder, taunting, daring me to comprehend the impossible distances, sizes, existences of the universe.
I have not been awed by space much lately, meaning in the last decade or so. I have taken a moment or two here and there to marvel at the Hubble Ultra Deep Field snapshot, or look at the surface of Mars, but the luxury of time to spend imagining space has slipped away from me.
Thanks simultaneously to Sven and VSL, I have discovered The Big Picture, a part of The Boston Globe‘s website. Today, VSL sent a link to these pictures of the Sun. In the midst of a mind-numbing, boring work day, the pictures were a great surprise, and I pored over them for some time.
After subscribing to The Big Picture RSS feed, I saw another space-themed photo set, Enceladus Up Close.
This is a false color image of one of Saturn’s moons, Enceladus, as captured by Cassini. (Click the pictures to see it in a larger size.)
When I was a kid and making up scenarios in my head about space, traveling there, and the adventures to be had, there were no pictures of this clarity. Well, okay, the moon was pretty well photographed, and we had some great shots from the Voyagers and Vikings, sure, but the most detail to be found of anything beyond this limited scope was in movies or paintings or our imaginations. The picture above? Reality! This is a real place. You can imagine actually setting foot onto that surface, exploring those ridges and craters.
In the last 8 years, people’s minds have gotten smaller, and their influence has stunted the imaginations of the world. To me, Enceladus as a creation of a God is such a let-down, a cop-out compared to the magnificent thought that this small world is a product of the universe itself. I think it’s time for me, and for everyone else, to turn out from themselves, shake off the selfishness of recent history, and wake up the boundless, infinite wonders of everything around us, from a micron off our own skins to billions of light years away.
The quote at the top of this post is something I wrote down from a bulletin board at Imagineering one lunch hour maybe 13 years ago, and have carried it in my wallet since. I never guessed it would resonate with me more now than it did then.