Monday, April 30, 2001
The current Washingtonian Magazine has a great article on Eva Cassidy. Unfortunately the article is not on-line, but I was able to find the Washington Post article from March. Eva was a truly amazing person with an incredible gift for a voice and heart. I was blessed with her singing People Get Ready to me for my 31st birthday. That was a great gift. Hearing her sing that and True Color in person would choke me up. I have a tough time making it through her CDs now, but there is no other Eva.
I have spent the day in DNS hell!!! I am not out of the hell. It is a game of hide and seek... I can see the site, the site is hidden/not resolving, I can see the site... ad nausium. ARG!!!! I can see the site, I can see the site, I can see the site, I go home, I can see the site, I can not see the site, etc. We need a good DNS manager. Know of any? Please e-mail webmaster at this site and I will get it.
I believe that Macromedia is the home to the Web Development Process Documents that Kelly Goto is working on, which I was looking at earlier in the month.
Sunday, April 29, 2001
Speaking of the Sopranos, HBO has a fan site for the show that is too funny. You must see the Nuovo Vesuvio! mock cable television ad (requires quicktime or real audio). The Sopranos site is a good model for what most shows should aim to match or surpass. Fun.
Trying to balance side projects (fun stuff that seems to be opening many doors), reading, nice weather, and quality time with Joy.
We watched the HBO movie 61* on Saturday night, which was very good. It was a very well made baseball movie that had a very good story with good characters you could get into. I must find time to make it to the ballpark this summer as last summer I did not make it, which broke a streak of 20 years or so. I need to see when the Giants are playing out this way again, they are he this week in Pittsburgh and Philly, but I don't think I can make it. Hmmm, Montreal or Mets? Mets hopefully, as it is really strange to watch baseball on astro turf. I digress (happens all the time, but I usually find answers to tough questions that way), watch 61* when you get a chance, if not you subscribe to the HBO for the Sopranos or Sex in the City, (don't you?) so it is a free feature.
We went to a cookout at a friend of a NYC friend that Joy grew up with and we were reminded how small D.C. really is. We were talking to this guy who remembered us from two or three years ago at a brunch. It was an odd setting because this friend we had in common was throwing a birthday brunch for herself, but never showed up. It turns out he works at the same law firm (which just merged with a San Francisco firm that I knew the founders of when I lived in SF) as the guy throwing the party (hence, why he was there).
Saturday, April 28, 2001
It has been a good couple of days thinking about interfaces and experience. I had dinner with Lane last evening, as he was in town. It was great to chat with him about UI/IA and projects in general. He and the other Adaptive Path(ites) are working on some great stuff. It was so good and refreshing to sit and talk with an actual person, with similar interests and experiences (actually I think I was in blabber - talk-a-dog-off-a-meatloaf mode).
I have been following the IA gatherings, through Dinah's eyes. It sometimes has me feeling like I am living in the wrong place as I miss out on the personal interaction with folks of similar interests. But, I just have to look around and see all the horrible information interfaces and info architectures of government sites, trade associations, and corporations in this area and it looks like a great place to work. I live my professional development life on the Web and interacting with some people I work with here. The lunch at the National Gallery was great the other day, as it provided the same stimulus.
This morning I took our new car to the dealership for its bath (free on Saturdays for their customers). I really was struck by the experience of the auto (Audi) environment. Those wanting their car washed drive them in the service entrance on to a vulcanized-painted floor, which make the tires sound like they are really grabbing as the attendant drives your car back to the wash line. The space really augments the engine growls too. The experience of watching your car get moved out of the enclosure to the back really highlights the German engineering. As your door is shut it really has a solid sound in that room and every movement is augmented, amazing. At one point a new Lexus, just washed was driven past the Audi/Porsche owners and it sounded so different with its higher pitched engine with bubbly noises and less squeaky tires (two-wheel drive has a very different sound on the floor). Those waiting for their car to return watch the other's cars come through and all the cars look great as they are freshly washed. As psychologists note the owner of a new item, be it car or other pricey item, look to reassure themselves that they have made a wise purchase. This washing ritual reinforces "your great decision". I have been wondering all day if Audi/Porsche built that environment to intentionally highlight this attributes.
The car buying endeavor really highlighted the user experiences. We had pretty much narrowed down what we were looking to buy/lease many months ago. But, we stopped by a Land Rover dealership just for kicks a month or so ago. They really have the user experience tightly woven into their dealerships. The first test drive they take you over a 28 degree pitch up and down and lean bridge to highlight the climbing and tipping abilities of the vehicle. The showrooms have an outdoor adventure theme that reminds me of Banana Republic circa 1986. We stopped by a VW dealership to turn in my old Jetta as it came off its lease. It was a more folksy environment with roughly the same cars as Audi (build on the same frames with roughly the same engines), but the dealership's focus was very different. We were also looking at the Passat for a while, as it gave more interior and trunk room (on the same platform as the Audi A4). We chose more quite, comfy, and athletic of the A4 instead.
The A4's interior is great for user experience as everything is softened. The light ease on when you enter/exit the car at night. The dash lights are red, which seems to jump out at you and is somewhat aggressive, but when driving at night the color does not impair your vision at all like other colored lighting. Everything seems to ease open, the lighter, the cup holder, and the visors. Every experience is engineered.
These experiences have had me considering the same affect of Web interfaces on the Internet and other browser-based experiences. This set of ideas will be followed on at some later date.
(On a side note... the project seems to have propagated through the Web in record time, less than 24 hours. More on this later in the week, including the URL.)
Thursday, April 26, 2001
I have made a few additions to the links page over the past week or two. The links page is what I use the most to get back to some of my interests and those sites I find interesting (my links page only covers some of what I regularly peruse). Recent additions are rebeccablood whom I met briefly in Austin and found very bright, sweet, and entertaining, which comes across in her sight and MeFi posts. I added Captain Cursor who covers subjects of interface and information interaction from a different perspective than I am used to which helps me sort through my understandings. I added bryanboyer, which seem to be having episodic digital barfing, as his views of the world around him jump start my own questioning my surroundings (I also use his photos for my desktop images quite often). The most recent addition is elegant hack, which I have found myself reading almost daily over the last two weeks by following other's links and I found myself spending a lot of time reading and exploring.
I had lunch today on the roof terrace of the National Gallery having lunch in their employee dining room/terrace over looking the Mall on a beautiful day. Talking tech, interface development, application development, and server structures made for a great day.
The project should launch on Tuesday, May 1. The site should populate the production server overnight and if that magically happens we should be good to go as of tomorrow, then wait for DNS to propagate. There have been very minor tweaks invoked and lists of functionality and modifications to add too the fuller release in mid-May which will bring into play the mapping/GIS application. This release is only the tip of the iceberg as far as potential of what it can and will be. It will take a lot of work from non-technical folks to get it to where the project should be (based on Web application ability/maturity and the ideal goals that are obtainable).
Wednesday, April 25, 2001
I picked up Information Design a collection of scholarly essays on how to effectively communicate information. I have only given it a perusal at this point, but it seems to be very good. This may be more of a deeper learning experience than other books, which help (greatly many times) solidify my lessons learned experiences in to more cogent theories for daily use.
I was a communication major in undergrad (yes, this signifies I went to grad school - story for another day) and the major has been immensely useful for everyday work and enjoyment. This major, which at St. Mary's College focuses on theory first, is greatly helpful in having a foundation for understanding how information is perceived and used effectively. This is still a very exciting time to be working with the Web (used in a broad sense for any browser based communication medium such as Internet, Intranet, Extranet, kiosk, etc) as the constructs for communicating effectively are still being studied and developed. Communication is a multi-disciplined area of study, which takes into account sociology, art, language, social psychology, and philosophy among others. The electronic medium has changed the method and practice of communication as people spend less time reading on the Web (I have probably lost most of you by now). Conversely the Web has enabled and immense amount and breadth of information to be available at most anybody's fingertips (given the access to the information and the individuals ability to read or have read to them this information). How to best present information and make this information found and retrievable is my daily task.
It is part of my passion that makes me love the Web (the other part is building applications that are not only usable, but used). We all witness so much junk that is slapped together that restrict people from finding the information for which they are searching, or presents it in a manner that is difficult to digest. Must of my found love for the SXSX conference is based on others passion to getting to the same goal. It helps that I am also an economist at heart that truly believes that the best market place is one that provides the free flow of information. I believe that people can make the best decisions when the have all the information before them. This is part of what drove me to communication as a major in college and what keeps me buying and devouring books like Information Design, Jeffery Veen's The Art & Science of Web Design, and Don't Make Me Think! by Steve Krug and Roger Black.
Jesse James Garret has two great resources on this topic area. His A visual vocabulary
I stumbled across Veen's presentations when drifting back through jjg's portal earlier today. I never had run across these great resources. I am also very intrigued by Leslie Veen's observations, which fall into a general observation category.
IBM Developerworks has a decent overview of Perl, PHP, and JSP on its site. Slashdot has a good discussion of the article and the merits of each (these type of discussion can be great on Slashdot, but of late the flame wars on the site are not worth the gems). There is some discussion that would leave one to believe JSP is the only one of the three to connect to databases, when all three connect. Actually the connections between Perl/PHP and the databases run faster as they can use the database's native drivers rather than the overhead laden JDBC that JSP usually uses to tie to databases. Each scripting tool has its best purposes. JSP lets you tie to back end logic in Enterprise Java Beans (EJB), that may already exist, more easily than the other two. PHP is for very quick development. Perl can handle to tough tasks and the server admin needs. The PHP/Perl mantra I read (somewhere, sorry) is, "use PHP where you can and Perl where you have to". Very true words. The nice thing about all three is that they can be built for any OS server and be picked up an moved with very few modifications to another OS server (Win 2k to UNIX, etc).
Q: Hey, does Mister Softee come to your neighborhood?
A: Why yes, Mister Softee does come to my neighborhood. This must mean I live (work) in a good neighborhood.
Mister Softee's arrival made for a great day. It would have been better had the Mister Softee truck had cherry dip.
A good day to laugh.
A good day to laugh.
Last evening I took the first walk after work of the "summer". Occasionally I will walk up through the Mall past the Smithsonian, through the Ellipse, past the White House, to the Du Pont Circle Metro stop. Last night's walk took me past a house built on the Mall (eyemodule photo 1 and eyemodule photo 2), which was built to showcase solar powered homes, past many soccer games and softball practices, on the North West side of the Ellipse there was a pre-show "gathering" of Deadheads for the Phil Lesh show at DAR Constitution Hall (which is a long block or so from the White House side entrance) -- this was completely entertaining (proximity, color, and vibe), then on to a quick trip to Reiters before heading to the Metro. I really look forward to these walks this summer.
Monday, April 23, 2001
My favorite on-line radio station, KFOG has kept is regular programming running on the Web. Many of the stations that I have bookmarked have not figured out how to not broadcast their advertising over the Web. Many actors have demanded payment for each set of ears their voices reach for radio adds, which they seem to figure includes the Web. I can not go to the store that paid for the ad to be broadcast so why should someone demand to get paid for that.
Sunday, April 22, 2001
Be careful what you wish for as... Yes, I got my Summer weather wish. While I was at it I should have wished for the building to turn on the A/C as well. If the air conditioner gets turned on this means we get an other cold snap before the real Summer begins.
We had a wonderful weekend in Philadelphia. We went up for friends' wedding, I wend to grad school with the bride and the groom and I worked at together for a little over a year and a half (we actually started on the same day in a 16 person organization). It was a great wedding in the Morris Arboretum (actually there was a little bit of a down pour during the outside ceremony, but it only added to the wonder of it all). Britt is from Eastern Washington State and José Carlos is from Venezuela. They exchanged vows in each other's native tongue. It was truly amazing. They both were stunning and are truly the best thing for each other.
We stayed near Plymouth Meeting, which is where other friends of ours were married about four years ago in the Meeting Hall. Their Quaker marriage was wonderful and was very different from anything prior or since. We ventured to Chestnut Hill today to wonder around and stroll around a new neighborhood/area we have never been to. Chestnut Hill is a nice area that is very laid back. We spotted Grant Shaud (who played Miles Silverberg on Murphy Brown) wandering the streets also. We are always impressed with the food in Philly and all the bakeries too. We drove through Manyunk (the next trip we have vowed to stop and venture around there). We drove to Mama's (the new car even knew the way) and found a good thing to note, it is closed on Sundays. So we ventured to South Street to Jim's for our cheese steaks. The line was long, hot, and slow. But the steaks were very good, but we still prefer Mama's as they have more cheese and are prepared with more care (I know this is Philly and the guys making the steaks are huge), but we missed our Mama's. From here it was back home.
Friday, April 20, 2001
Thursday, April 19, 2001
A good rather short essay on Web development documentation is posted on shorewalker. (link from Xblog)
As much as I complained about it (it is still relatively slow to load) the San Francisco Giants have a great game tracking tool. It like most of the game tracking tools is Java based, but this has it hands down better than the ESPN site's. The Giants' site still is lacking the inside scoop that the last years site provided, but at least they have brought the Double Play ticket site back (ticket owners can sell extra tickets or ones they can not use to on-line buyers).
The downside of the Giants' site seems to be the reoccurring theme for this year, content is no longer king (or the king can not afford the content). This could not be more backwards, but CNN, the Giants, ESPN, etc. have cut back the breadth of content they provide. Content is expensive to produce for these sites. Brill's Content sites the lack of content in the Letter from the Editor, which points out the Survivor show's official Web site received 254k user on one day, while SurvivorSucks averages about 100k users per day. The non-official site provided more extensive content and coverage of the show than the official site. This is what makes personal weblogs (blogs) and even professional blogs like Xblog often travelled by many, it is fresh insightful content.
Yes, I finally found Brill's Content at my local B&N, five days after its "shelf date".
I am really looking forward to Summer. I don't know why, but Spring never has been my favorite season (that would be Fall). So far the allergies have not been bad, which is usually why I desire Summer (at least on the East Coast this means humidity and the pollen becomes heavy and not airborne). Summer in San Francisco was not hot on my list either, which usually meant frequent trips to Palo Alto, upper Marin, or Walnut Creek/Moraga to get heat and escape the fog. It is tourist season here in DC which conjests everything and makes even my late treks to work crowded on the Metro.
I am looking forward to the brief trip to Philly this weekend just to get out of town (and friend's wedding, of course). Maybe a cheesesteak from Mama's in Bala Cynwd can find its way into my system. I know there will be a stop at Guinardi's for cookies.
Wednesday, April 18, 2001
I found the Kelly Goto piece on Web Redesign and Workflow that I was looking for yesterday. I did not remember it being a presentation, but a web document. This will work for now, as it is only to trigger my minds thoughts.
Just a thought... Microsoft creates products that are "feature" loaded. Does this mean that Ultimate TV will contain things like "auto-correct". This may correct what you prefer to watch, you type in Law and Order and UTV corrects to Cops.
Tuesday, April 17, 2001
Random thought warning :: Still tired from that long night in the ER... It took an hour and a half to get home from work, rat-mazing to cut time did not help... Still can't find Brill's Content on the shelves... Found an article last week on Web Redesign and Workflow by or based on Kelly Goto's work and I now can't find it, HELP (tvanderwal+at+usa+dot+net). I thought I e-mailed it to myself (as I often do) or could use my browser's history, but no luck. Zeldman mentions the book she is working on and Amazon has it in its "to be published". Something in there piqued my interest, but I don't remember what.
Monday, April 16, 2001
I have spent more time in medical facilities in the last couple weeks than I have in years. First the dentist a couple of weeks ago, then the doctor's last week to get a refill on the allergy medicine, a physical today, and all last night in ER with Joy. Seems like food poisoning or some biological warfare out of X-files took over her system last evening. She started getting sick last night about 11pm and we finally got home from the ER at nearly 6am. All without sleep. At first, when she figured this was more than just a little serious and needed real attention, she thought she would drive herself. This was crazy, I had just gotten to sleep 15 minutes before, but she was in no condition to drive and we are in this together. We got to try the new car on empty streets after 1am going, not to the closest hospital, but to one that has a quiet emergency room and a great reputation. We were glad we made that choice, Joy was in the ER getting attention within 15 minutes of our arriving. But there is no rushing blood work. Today we slept a little and tried tracking down the prescribed pain medicine that will not upset her currently fragile system. It seems the medicine is not going to be available in this area until Tuesday or Thursday, can drugstore.com overnight?
I don't remember the last time I was in an emergency room (1991 maybe - broken thumb). It was rather quiet with only 5 or 6 other cases in there. The nurse was wonderful, actually all of them were. The one attending Joy said people will travel from all around the area to this ER as it is usually not busy, the patients are seen quickly, and the patients feel like they are treated with dignity. I can understand the travelling miles to be seen quickly, but it is a sad state when one has to travel to be treated with dignity at a hospital.
Customer service is the key to everything. Treating with dignity seems like it would be a centerpiece of a hospitals focus. Why would people not feel like they were being treated with dignity? A 6 hour wait to be seen and 4 more hours for a result is some what the norm outside this quiet little hospital. The corporations taking over for the Hippocratic oath? Not that the two can not live happily together, but where did the care givers become treaters and nothing more? The oath states to treat the patients as one of their own siblings/blood relatives, this usually entails treating with dignity.
Irony :: I have been searching since Friday for Steven Brill's Content magazine, which has Matt on the cover (whom I met (on the left - photo by chatterwaul at SXSW). Why should something that is being much discussed on Matt's MeFi and elsewhere be so hard to find in the tangible world?
It seems like I donated to a scholarship fund, a server, or was just being kind to Meta Filter. Now we can donate to the MeFi Scholarship Fund directly.
It looks like Blogger will be sticking around for a while longer. This means I can move my Blogger replacement project on a burner farther back. I keep the community tools on the front burner, the content management tool on the burner next to it, while getting back to the Usability, Maintainability, Reliability, and Repeatability essay. A question about the UMRR (the acronym is horrid), which is why I like "The Cornerstones" better.
Sunday, April 15, 2001
I need to write the style guide and coding guide for the project. It was just one or two of use feeding off each other, but now more are jumping in to add components and trying to keep a consistent look-and-feel requires this guide. The CSS tags are now giving others headaches. I dove into the specs, used glish and Scott Andrew as jumping off points, and posted at 9:25 PM  #
It was a rather good weekend. We picked up a new car, which will be great for the Winter treks, Fall color drives, and Summer treks to Spring Lake, NJ. It was strange to see where cars have evolved to, in that when I opened the hood (bonnet to those of you British English speakers/readers) I could see a few caps to bottles, the dip stick, and a lot of molded plastic. It was as if the car is saying, this is really not important, how the car drives is what you should care about, now get in and drive. We had our color decision made for us, black exterior with a black interior. The interior was not our first choice, but it was in stock and there were none of our first choice interiors available in the short term or with out a nice freight charge. It was like Gilbert Gottfried in "Beverley Hills Cop", with "what can I put in this hand to make you forget about what is in that hand". It seems dollars off helped make our decision to drive it away. We have been very happy so far.
Megnut has a discussion going regarding Rebecca Mead's review of books on the "surrendered wife". It was very sad to me to read this is what some believe to be the best way through life. Life has many pains and sorrows as well as joys and jubilations and I have such a better time getting help remembering things and getting another perspective, it seems a waste to choose other wise. I love having someone to share the mundane and banal along with the amazing and rare. Marriage seems to be about helping each other make the correct turns and comforting when the turns become painful.
Friday, April 13, 2001
TechWeb has an article in their SysAdmin magazine on Using PHP and MySQL for a weblog. This may give a kick to my blogger backup replacement.
Thursday, April 12, 2001
I keep losing track of this php-xml-blogger ap. A link at the bottom takes you to learn how to do this.
Blogger has been barfing since early this morning and it was a good day to post. I guess this moves my home grown blogging tool up the project chain. One fun project is still ahead of it, which reminds me, I have not spent much time focussing on that this week. The car is at lease end and trying to sort out the buy out at lease end, return, lease new, buy new. I think it is sorted out, but getting concensus on the new car's interior color is difficult.
Two quick additions have been made to the links page by adding Captain Cursor and Glassdog. I have been following these two pages since SXSW where I ran across the people behind these pages. I was impressed with Taylor's knowledge and expertise and Lance's humor/quick wit and design skills. Is it too early to sign-up for SXSW next year?
Tuesday, April 10, 2001
What a day! No positively a 180 degree change from where things have been. The client is instituting processes that we have been requesting for more than a year. We are getting a freeze on the project 5 weeks prior to a new functionality release, which gives us two weeks of user testing, one week of modifications, and two weeks to bug fix and get things stress tested and released. I believe the freeze comes after we have hit a milestone of some sort, like the functionality is working the way the client wants it to and is the new functionality is stable. We are also getting written requirements, which we can scope properly. The client is encouraging us to keep the iterative (yes, iterative) functionality releases to a reasonable level and have sign-off when delivered. Things are actually getting set in place the way they should. Miracles will never cease.
It looks like we may be able to hit the Usable, Maintainable, Reliable, and Repeatable cornerstones of good product development.
Zeldmand, as in the cult of..., has put up the Exit Gallery. The Exit offers one stop clicking to creative sites, design/developer knowledge, and other goodies.
Monday, April 09, 2001
Today the 88 degree heat and now a thunderstorm, what a nice change. It is feeling like summer in April as I have watched a SF Giants game on ESPN (sans the bit that ran at the same time as the Sopranos).
Work today was somewhat slow as it was moving files off a Sun E3500 to a Sun U10 that's has its only task as a development web server. We can run three or more versions and hammer away. Moving one and a half years of work and what is now four or five builds of the site that will go live (in a much reduced version). Now it is just adding three or four more pieces of functionality and we can tighten it down, stress test and build the help screens. The Apache 1.3.19 and PHP 4.0.4 are working wonderfully and we should be able to move those builds from the development to the test and production boxes in the next week. The pain in building Apache, PHP, and MySQL is getting the MySQL built in one directory so we can test other builds and move whole databases across servers. This always stretches over a couple days. The Apache and PHP build can go quickly if they are pointing to the right database libraries. We learn and we document.
Sunday, April 08, 2001
It has been a wonderful weekend, as a close friend of Joy's got married and we had the wonderful opportunity to join in the wedding by bringing the gifts up to the alter. The was the first wedding that Joy and I have gone to since we were married in October and it was a blast. We were able to remember a lot of what we went through and get memories back of what we only remember as a blur. This weekend's wedding was fantastic the Rehearsal dinner through to this morning's brunch was very well done. It was a great break from work and it was great to meet so many wonderful people and hang out with friends that our frenzied world leaves little time to catch on a regular basis. It was also very nice to dance with Joy pretty much all night.
Thursday, April 05, 2001
It is wonderful to be sitting working from home and listening to the San Franciso Giants game from a KNBR Internet feed. There are a lot of other things missing from the picture, but at least I have this.
Joy thought (I think) she was being funny when she called me at work after 7:30 to ask where I was. I was on my way out the door and heading home. Joy's response was, "Great, I am waiting for you to help me start the laundry and take out the garbage". Now that makes me want to run right home. Marriage from a 1970's sitcom?
The time change has been catching up with me as is a more relaxed week. There is still a ton of work, but the pressure to do more than there is time or resources to get things right has decreased. I have been working on my "fun projects" again which has been helping to keep me sane too. The v-biz site is getting a workout, but nothing ever stays there for long as it moves to more public homes and to other owners. Lots of PHP and MySQL stuff.
Wednesday, April 04, 2001
The tech down turn is becoming more of a reality here in the D.C. area with whispers of Teligent and WinStar falling into the abyss during this year (this saddens me, not only because I have friends at both places and have provided consulting work for one of them, but they are doing amazing work and providing great products and alternatives). The over-hype and turning to "market" funding far too early was seen as dangerous by many two and three years ago. Many tech companies were pushed to grow far beyond their organic growth rates, which their business plans (even if they were profit based) could not support should the markets and investing turn sour for a few quarters. Those of us that were around to watch the 1987 market "adjustment" and the ensuing recession saw this coming. Sure there is room for new an innovative products and growth again, but the get rich quick prospectors should look elsewhere. Those of us that have the Web and technology as our passion will remain, we have no choice if we are to be happy in what we do for our professional lives.
Sunday, April 01, 2001
Anil seems to have mirrored his site today. Very cool, yet very freaky.