Signed, sealed, delivered
February 28, 2002 +
The contract has been FedExed back to Birmingham, England, with my signature on it, and my coworker's signature as my witness, and my managing director's signature on a separate license agreeement. The document, down to 16,212 words from a peak around 17,000, will be sent via email to the editor tonight for an initial run-through this weekend. The screenshots, now fully assembled save for one long-lost image from a decade ago, need to be reassembled without croppings, but are otherwise complete.
Ten weeks after initial contact, three weeks after the initial deadline, the legal matters and writing are both done, and I'm on my way to becoming a published author.
I am contributing a chapter to a book called "The Site Speaks for Itself." It is a Web site usability book being published later this year by glasshaus, a new spinoff imprint of Wrox Press. The book uses case studies of content, commerce, and community sites, tracing their design processes to highlight some successes of each genre. My chapter is a case study of Economist.com; as it is written, the chapter asks the question, What makes a content site good? and then answers it in the context of the Economist.com redesign.
Expect more news as the editing process continues, and some hype once the publication date becomes official. I will be posting an excerpt or two on this Web site once the book is published.
Beep! ... Beep! ... Beep!
February 28, 2002 +
Beep! (Pause.) Beep!
That, of course, is the sound a fax machine makes when it calls your voice line, expecting to find a fax machine where your ear is. Every six minutes. After 11 p.m. Every couple of weeks.
Someone, somewhere, decided my girlfriend's phone number was a fax line. Amy used to take the receiver off the hook for the night when the fax service found her. Last night, working on book edits on her iBook, I did one better: I intercepted the fax.
After the phone rang the first time, I disconnected the answering machine, plugged it into the computer, and quickly downloaded some freeware fax software to the laptop (no rebooting necessary!). The next time the phone rang, I switched from Word to the fax software and hit "receive." Bingo bango! Vocus Inc. sent me its latest press release, ostensibly headed for the Journal of Who-Knows-What and not Amy's apartment.
I saved the fax file and sent it to Amy's office email. She called Vocus this morning and got her number removed from their fax distribution list.
February 21, 2002 +
You know when you're walking around a national retail chain like the Gap and they play quasi-trendy music in the background to keep you in good spirits and to keep the staff from falling asleep while they're folding khakis, and you can't find your size in that shirt, but you don't mind because the tunes in the background are vaguely familiar, even though you're not quite paying attention to them, but you know you've heard them before, like probably at Houlihan's the weekend before?
Hence: Gap Music.
Gap Music can include anything that's not terribly edgy but sounds like it is (Sneaker Pimps); cool music that you appreciate but don't really listen to at home, even if you own it (Massive Attack); or bands just on the cusp of discovery that have the right combination of dance-floor beats and sweet midrange melodies borrowed from Dave Matthews Band album cuts (Supreme Beings of Leisure).
Some examples of what is and is not Gap Music:
Air: Gap Music. Light, friendly, welcoming.
Portishead: Not Gap Music. Too depressing.
Everything but the Girl: Gap Music. Gentle and smooth.
Gorillaz: Not Gap Music. Too edgy; scary falsettos.
See how easy it is? Now bolster your knowledge with this Gap Music/not Gap Music Quiz:
Craig David / Dismemberment Plan
Groove Collective / Eminem
Jamiroquai / The Ramones
Next time you go shopping, keep your ears open and hear for yourself!
(Note: Gap Music is a genre classification more than a condemnation. This author happens to own CDs by many of the above-mentioned bands. They are very nice to listen to over dinner.)
February 12, 2002 +
The middle-aged woman working the cash register at my local Duane Reade rang up my purchase.
"That'll be $32.97," she announced.
I took two $20 bills out of my wallet and handed them to her.
"Do you have ninety-seven cents?" she asked.
February 11, 2002 +
How I have managed to write 15,002 words without writing something about writing 15,002 words is a feat the likes of which startles and pleases me.
I still don't have a contract signed for said words, so I will keep the details under wraps so as not to jinx myself. But that 15,000-word milestone—the equivalent of 30 or 35 Ideapad postings—has pushed me just a smidgen into braggadocio.
Full description and de-teasing soon as I sign on the dotted line. Promise.
Monday morning, in the kitchen
February 4, 2002 +
One-sixth of the low-fat Entenmann's cinnamon bun package (170 calories, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber), wrapped in aluminum foil, upon which a "B" is written with black Sharpie marker.
An individual-serving-size bottle of Tropicana orange juice, in the plastic container, which doesn't taste as good as when the juice is in cardboard, but they don't sell the cardboard pints of Tropicana Pure Premium in four-packs.
One individual serving of instant oatmeal in its own serving bowl.
Four slices of white boule bread, a treat from a swing past Balthazar while walking in Soho on Sunday afternoon, two slices of which get slathered with tasty honey mustard spread, more honey than mustard, applied smoothly with a knife.
Seven slices of oven gold roasted turkey, four for me, three for her, placed upon the honey-mustard-stained boule slices, topped with the clean slices of bread, then cut in half with the same knife, now dirtied, extra effort required to tear through the crust, the now-halved stacks wrapped in two separate pieces of aluminim foil.
Forgot to put cucumbers on the sandwiches. Tomorrow.
Two bags of Robert's American Gourmet Pirate's Booty, the old-fashioned, lower-fat kind, not the reformulated ones that have more than doubled the fat content.
A trio of fat-free Fig Newtons, also wrapped in aluminum foil.
A bottle of seltzer, an expensive-looking, heretofore unknown brand, purchased in a four-pack for its more-generous-than-the-8.45-ounce-Pellegrino-bottle size, and because the Perrier was more expensive, and Perrier is nothing special.
And, by 2 p.m., breakfast and lunch for two, with the contented knowledge that the whole day's intake is low in fat, and no one has to spend money on food before dinner.
February 1, 2002 +
I hate the misplaced warmth. It's January. Give me proper winter weather, so I can enjoy sweaters and corduroys and work boots and hearths and hot chocolate and snow and that fuzzy feeling you get when you first come inside and the room is warm but you are not and your cheeks get all rosy as the blood rushes to feel the new-found heat while your face is still cold to the touch.
It's balmy out, 62 and mucky, humid and drizzly, like Pennsylvania in April. It ought to be winter. Give me snow, not rain; let me go out with my wool baseball cap and ski jacket instead of a windbreaker and umbrella. If I wanted a temperate zone, I'd move to Florida. Gimme my winter back.
That kid who made headlines for attempting to blow up my home town's middle school last year was the lead story in the New York Times' Metro section Wednesday.
Also in yesterday's Times: Theft runs rampant at well-furnished restaurants. Go ask a certain friend of mine (name deleted, but you know who you are) where he got his dining room settings.
Look who's on the bleeding edge! New York City Transit has registered—and is promoting in its subway notices—mta.info. (Apparently this has been around for several months, which makes it even more impressive.)
For the optimist.
For the pessimist.
In New York, new restaurants make their money off the buzz of being new. There's no sign on the door. Joan Rivers has been there; so has Hugh Grant. It's the place to be! But no amount of hipster quotient makes up for sneering hostesses, slow service, and mediocre food. Give me a timeless classic any day.
Nice in-depth report on OJR about the Wall Street Journal's site redesign. "Publisher Neil Budde’s not sure personalization is for everyone," notes the article. Notes my brother, "I use someone else's login and I can't personalize her ID." Wonder how widespread that is.
Weight loss 101: Watch your intake. "Larger portions are brilliant marketing," nutritionist Dr. Marion Nestle told Fortune. "There's something about human psychology--if a lot of food is put in front of us, we eat it." Not for nothin', but one of the ways I lost weight last year was by leaving one-third to one-half of my food on my plate each meal.
Confidential to Stressed in San Francisco: Happy Valentine's Day!
FlightView is truly a guilty pleasure. Look, my girlfriend's plane is flying over Nebraska!
I am quoted in the New York Times today (however briefly) in this article on the pervasiveness of instant messaging.
Speedpool2 on Cardhouse. When the world of weblogs gets old and boring and annoying Cardhouse will still be a riot.
Navelfluff.com. This is what happens when I commit the cardinal sin of watching the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Best thing I've seen on TV lately (navel fluff not included) is the Strokes' phenomenal video for "Last Nite". Sure, the retro feel is fun, but pay attention to the music: The audio is a live recording, and when the drummer's microphone stands get knocked over, you can hardly hear the drums for the rest of the song. Gotta love these guys.
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