Killing the addiction. Stab! Stab!

De Niro kicks the habitWell, after my brief relapse yesterday, I think I’m coming to my senses and going caffeine free, cold turkey. Combine that with my latent jet lag and I should be a peach to be around today. Heh.

Ed asked a reasonable question about my-so-called addiction. Yeah, one or two cups of coffee a day really isn’t much. Especially going half-caff. But that’s not really it, see? It’s all in the eye of the consumer. Blame it on my upbringing in Puritanical New England. I dunno. I just don’t like feeling dependent on or controlled by some substance. Call me crazy, whatev. Must be that New Hampshire Libertarian-thing coming through again.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m a coffee fiend. I love the stuff. I’d drink it all day if I could and I almost usually do. If I had a country, the national past time would be coffee consumption in all it’s glorious varieties. Oh wait. Hrm.

But yeah, it’s back to tea and Superfood for now. And yes, it really does make a difference in keeping me from biting my nails. Heh, what a perfectly imperfect specimen I am.

Back on caffeine

Too Much Coffee Man

I have but few vices and one of them is coffee. I’d switched to decaf for the past couple weeks but after coming back from Paris, I’ve been back on the agitator of agitators and chewing my nails again.

While it definitely gives me a good kick in the ass and keeps me going, it also makes me more aggressive than I think I’d otherwise like to be. So just a heads up. I’m gunna try to kick the addiction again later this week, but the gaunlet’s been thrown down here at work and I’m looking to crush some bones and get my work done. Nothing like someone questioning my commitment to my work to push me into overdrive.

Heuer suggests that anger can be a positive motivating force. Alright, well let’s see what a little caffeine recidivism and Disturbed can do for my productivity.

Hold on while I pull out the cluebat once more

Someone get American Airlines the Cluetrain Manifesto, stat!

Compare this:

Corporate Press Release: Updated: Statement On Miami International Airport Incident

Fort Worth , Texas – There was an incident on the jetbridge of flight 924 scheduled to depart from Miami to Orlando. The incident involved a Federal Air Marshal who had been onboard the aircraft, as well as one male passenger who had also been onboard. That passenger had deplaned the aircraft and was on the jetbridge when he came into contact with the Federal Air Marshal and the incident occurred. None of the other 113 passengers onboard were affected or were ever in any danger. This was an isolated incident. Any further details should come from either the Miami Dade Metro Police or the Federal Air Marshal office. American will not have any additional comment at this time.

Note: This press release was accurate at the date of issuance. However, information contained in the release may have changed. If you plan to use the information contained herein for any purpose, verification of its continued accuracy is your responsibility.

Updated: Statement On Miami International Airport Incident

With what really happened:

…marshals fatally shot Rigoberto Alpizar, an American Airlines passenger at Miami International Airport. The Federal Air Marshals Service said Alpizar had claimed to have a bomb on a jet before running from the aircraft and up a jetway. The Homeland Security Department said the shooting was the first by an air marshal.

USATODAY.com – Air marshals thrust into spotlight

Yeah, my degree of trust for American Airlines just went negative. We all know what happened here, we have other sources, y’know? Why can’t you just speak the truth of what happened? Don’t your customers deserve better than “came into contact with the Federal Air Marshal and the incident occurred”? Ugh.

Stuck in Dallas, or Everything old must be made new again.

American Airlines is Kaput!I’m stuck in Dallas at a Clarion hotel (with crappy wifi to boot), the victim of a freak ice storm that’s caused all out-bound San Francisco flights to be cancelled for the day. Odd turn of events, but hey, it happens.

So a couple things on my mind. First, American Airlines has one and only one thing going for it and otherwise, the airline should go bankrupt along with its ailing competitors; time to bow out gracefully, exit stage left, making sure the door doesn’t hit’em on the way out. Just get over it and let the next generation of airlines like Southwest, JetBlue and Song pick up the mess of the industry you’ve left behind.

Anyway, the only thing American Airlines has going for it are shapeable headrests. And that’s it. I love these things. You bend in the edges so you can sleep without having your head swivel as if it were mounted on a ball-joint. A decent touch, and evidenced by the condition of the rest of the plane’s interior, I’d say an innovation that’s been in place for 35 years. Or at least that seems to be the last time they considered the design of their Boeing fleet.

Everything else about the airline is mediocre at best (and note that I’ve got nothing against the good people who work for the airline — I’m ranting against the inertia within the corporation that’s lead to a lack of keeping up with its younger, more sprightly competitors — a decision which obviously has had dire consequences on the customer experience AA offers).

Perhaps if I thought of AA as a discount airline, I might give it a break (my round trip to Paris from San Francisco, for example, came in at a reasonable $560.) But I see the airline itself as a 1970’s holdout: living in the past, an aging relic from a time when having a “business class” separate from “economy” somehow made sense and wasn’t insulting to the people in the rear. (“Where was Rosa Parks of the air?”, I wonder to myself.) Nowadays, after my repeatedly positive experiences with JetBlue, any airline that continues to segment its flyers into upper and lower classes strikes me as a divisively elitist corporate cocksucker (pardon my French).

So that’s not the least of it. My issues really come down to the decisions that the airline has made about what’s important to them with regards to their customers’ experience. They actually don’t make anything better or easier, so I really wonder what value they think they do provide. The sense I’m left with after flying with them, however, is that they’re stuck with an aging fleet of planes that weren’t built for retrofitting and they’re far too cramped for cash to be able to make the necessary investments to improve their offering. I mean, here I am, my flight cancelled, and the best they could do was give me discounted hotel accommodations for 38 bucks. That’s $38 more than I should be spending to get back home plus whatever it’s going to cost for wifi, dinner and being late tomorrow. Bitch bitch, moan moan, but hey, other airlines I’ve used have done so much more to make sure that everything is taken care of when weather or other minor calamities intervene.

So yeah, sucks to be them; no surprise, but from this point forward my money’s on the tiny upstarts takin’ over and making flying enjoyable again. If it’s really all about the destination and not the flight, you’d think that they’d be making the flight part as painlessly wonderful as possible. Like Kayak does for booking flights. Old guard holdouts like AA ought take heed; with choice as readily available as it’s become, the Clueparade marches not only towards better price but better experience as well. Consider yourself on notice.

Wisdom from The End of Emigre Magazine

The EndThough I’d been less interested in Emigré since it changed formats and turned into what I might consider a “design theory book”(mostly a bunch of high-falootin’ words — not pictures! — about visual forms), I decided it might be worth my while to order the final issue of the magazine. After all, it’d always been somewhat inspirational and aloof in the design space. And as a font geek, I really appreciated their many contributions to the typographic world.

So I’m reading through the final issue, which is essentially made up of 69 short stories (not love songs) by the editor, Rudy VanderLans, about the story of Emigre, and I come upon a couple really interesting passages from 1990:

I’m sitting across the table from Piet Schreduders in his home studio in Amsterdam, and I’m struck by how quiet and shy he seems. This is the man who published a small book in 1977 entitled Lay In, Lay Out, in which he accused the graphic design profession of being a criminal enterprise and that it should really not be allowed to exist. According to Schreuders, designers are vain and self-important charlatans, while their theories are no more than bubbles to be popped. Despite (or because of) Piet’s position as an outsider, a self-taught designer no less, the statement infuritated professional graphic designers. Their heated reactions revealed more about graphic designers and their motivations than anything they might have said in the absense of such provocation. I wonder if I could bring such outrageous statements to the table when interviewing designers for Emigre.

…and 1991, about Henk Elenga:

I’ve often wondered what attracted me to designers like Henk. They had no agenda to clean up the world, to streamline communication, to create crystal goblets, to attain perfect clarity. Yet the work they produced functioned beautifully in the world. It looked as if it were pulled up from within, as opposed to applied from without. It seemed alive and vibrant and fit perfectly within Dutch society. Could it be possible that through their own humanity, through their use of everyday materials, and through the pride and pleasure they took in their craft, their work made a connection with their audience in spite of its individualism and expressiveness? Could it be that their work attained a kind of universal appeal simply because it was so vibrant, so human? Was Piet Schreuders right about designers and their charlatan theories?

So this get me thinking back to my days at school. Man, I tell ya, I’m a real hack designer. And I know I’m as hard as anyone on myself, but this stuff really gets me back to where my original motivations come from: i.e. to simplify things, to make them easier, less abrasive; to strip things down to their root essences so that simpletans like myself can actually understand them and make use of them.

Bah, it sounds so amateurish (though there’s nothing wrong with that). Shouldn’t I be spinning tall tales and theoretical justifications for the decisions and designs going into Flock and elsewhere? Shouldn’t I be relying on science to substantiate my ideas?  And gah, user testing, user testing.

Well, perhaps. But this stuff from Emigre suggests that there is something to be gained from original vision — and from staying true to original intentions. Something, I’m not sure what. I mean, I’d feel more certain if I were welding the interfaces in Flock… Or maybe if I were molding the buttons in clay. How about chiseling the topbar out of granite? Yeah, that might really transport me back to original, hands-on design.

But damn, there’s something disingenious about that.

Why the hell can’t interface design be as original, as innate, as natural if it comes out of Photoshop as it would if I were doing this all with pen and paper? The medium is not defining my message, I am. Yet there’s something impossibly new and forbidden about this kind of design that I can’t quite put my finger on. How does one achieve innateness, naturalness, humanity! when one’s tools are necessarily digital, remote, cold? There’s the crux: how do I, the lowly designer, infuse that same human vibrancy into the machine, confront its limitations, force this thing to breathe god dammit , god dammit and give it the wings that Elenga and Scheuder did in their work back in the 70s when computers, geekery, digits … gah, these boxes! … lived large in city-block sized rooms? There’s a soul in here, not in the machine — it’s elsewhere — ahh, but to tap into it, bring it in. Something, hrmph, it’s in here somewhere. Finding, finding. Just. Finding.

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Eat your heart out Gatsby, or: Web 2.0 was started by the Illuminati

Web 2.0 is a conspiracy by the Illuminati

We drank and hung out until after midnight, then a bunch of peeps went over to Cassanova (in several waves) and proceded to shut that place down like the Internet RockStars we are.

Supr.c.ilio.us: The Blog

Supr.c.ilio.us, the site for tagging tag sites or social social tagging site tagging, held its launch party in grand style last night at Annie’s in SOMA. Even though I was too late to make it to the festivities, I hooked up with the long-tail of their launch party for drinks at Cassanova.

Turns out that the Supr.c.ilio.us dropped a big announcement during the filming of their worldwide exclusive Geek Entertainment Television’s interview. What you are about to read may shock you (unless you read the title of this post) but in fact Web 2.0 is a conspiracy by the Illuminati!

This of course makes perfect sense when you think about it. For one example, consider the phrase “Novus Ordo Seclorum“. This means “A new order of the ages“. And there it is, on the American dollar bill — of all things, the currency most often used by Silicon Valley venture capitalists. I think the Supr.c.ilio.us boys are definitely on to something here.

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Webzine2005 Pimpage

Webzine2005Matt beat me to pimping the upcoming Webzine2005 event happening this weekend, but I wanted to go ahead and spread the meme.

…That and Andy, Matt and I will be presenting at 12 noon on Sunday in the Valhalla Room on “Making Media With Open Source Publishing Tools”. Hmmm. Wonder if that has anything to do with anything.

Oh, and yes, they have a wiki and IRC room, reportedly inspired by Bar Camp… Nice!

Why we went to OSCON and ended up with XXL and XXXL shirts

Flickr PhotoIn the interest of eating more dogfood and possibly blogging more often, I’ve fired up a nifty new gadget we’re calling Flock to write this entry. We launched Flock in private beta at OSCON and are now pushing through our second private release. If you want in, hop on over to flock.com and signup for our invite list. We’ll be handing these bad boys out in the weeks to come — so the earlier you get in, the sooner you can get your hands on our hot new property.

So back to the lecture at hand.

Here at Flock Flock World Headquarters, I’ve been getting a lot of grief lately for the fact that we ended up with so many XXL and XXXL shirts after OSCON. I felt compelled to set the record straight or forever live in shame. Here’s a transcript of the actual dialog that lead to this predicament between me and Ken Mickles of GiantRobotPrinting.com:

11:31:39 AM ken: want to do these flock shirts 20 s, 40 m, 30 l, 10 xl?

11:32:36 AM chris: damn, ok i guess i’m wrong about this

11:32:44 AM ken: hmm?

11:32:51 AM chris: i’m getting interesting feedback

11:33:15 AM chris: ok damn

11:33:22 AM chris: lemme rework this for you

11:33:28 AM chris: because i was totally off

11:33:37 AM chris: first, we want 150 shirts

11:33:37 AM ken: ok. about which part?

11:33:43 AM chris: for flock

11:33:49 AM ken: haha, ok

11:33:52 AM chris: and then

11:33:55 AM chris: we want…

11:34:23 AM chris: ok, calculations being made

11:35:06 AM ken: ok

11:35:08 AM chris: do you have xxxl?

11:35:18 AM ken: yeah

11:35:21 AM chris: ok

11:35:27 AM chris: apparently geeks are bigger than i thought

11:35:42 AM ken: haha, they tend to be very small or very large

11:36:02 AM chris: apparently

11:37:25 AM chris: 10S 20M 35L 55XL 20XXL 10XXL (PLUS girlies)

11:37:41 AM ken: ok

11:46:50 AM chris: cool

11:46:53 AM chris: drupal quote?

11:47:33 AM ken: i’ll get you that in a second, just wanted to make sure the sizes are solid on the flock stuff so i can get the order in before 3

11:48:23 AM chris: ah

11:48:24 AM chris: yes

11:48:29 AM ken: ok, cool

11:48:32 AM chris: what i just gave you came from the CEO

11:48:40 AM ken: ok, sounds good

12:15:27 PM chris: OMG

12:15:33 PM ken: hmm?

12:15:38 PM chris: drupal wants 100 shirts…

12:15:42 PM ken: haha

12:15:45 PM chris: is it too late?

12:15:49 PM ken: nah

12:15:51 PM chris: awesome

12:16:01 PM chris: so maybe do a similar ratio to the flock shirts for sizes

12:16:04 PM chris: but no XXXL

12:16:07 PM ken: ok

12:16:47 PM chris: ok, so that should be it then… sorry about all the back and forth!

12:16:56 PM ken: no problem

12:16:56 PM chris: but we’re good on 100 shirts for drupal?

12:17:15 PM ken: yeah, i’ll give you the price in a minute

12:17:24 PM chris: k

12:17:26 PM chris: awesome

So now that my name has been cleared and the truth is out there, does anyone want some Flock schwag?! No really, lemme know and we’ll see what we can do to hook you up.

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Living the vida cognito

The Vida Cognito

It’s been a fairly gradual transition for me, and certainly many many have come before me, but I’m getting the hang of living dangerously in the open, or at least letting more “meta data” about me intentionally slip into the ether, even at a time when one’s identity and data are in increasing peril.

For example, I’m now sitting in a cafe somewhere in California. Like I’ve done many times before. The difference is that when I arrived here, two very interesting things happened.

First, I signed on to Plazes. As it turns out, no one had yet identified my geolocation to the service, so the little app was smart enough to know to take me to a “discovery” page so I could fill in info about where I am… here’s the result and a detailed map (in case you wanted to order a bombing run).

Next, I signed on to Adium. As Adium connected, a little AppleScript ran in the background and set my away status to the Plaze that I had just identified. Now my friends know where I am, in real time. Freaky!

So the other thing that happened occurred as I googled for a link for the Arc Cafe (apparently it doesn’t have a website of its own yet). The first result lead me to a review on a new service called Yelp. Ordinarily, I’d take the info that I need and go, completing the Plazes profile, content to have left some meta-breadcrumbs behind for the next Plazes participant to stumble upon.

But Yelp hooked me in, got me to create an account and even poke around a bit, leaving my first review! It seems only a matter of time before more and more of me will be trickling out in the web in interesting ways.

Consider this: even without Google, you can see my photos, read my blogs, see where I’ve been and what I’ll be doing next, read my reviews (more coming soon, I guess), see who’s talkin’ about me… what I’m listening to, what sites I’ve bookmarked… man, the list goes on and on!

Someone else has already made a page cataloging their extensions into the web. Perhaps it’s time I did the same…