Arizona · Life

Freeloader

I’ve been meaning to write. Really.

The excuse is the same; I’ve just been busy. This time though, the twist is that I’ve been busy learning. Partially about home ownership, but for the most part I’ve been learning about myself.

I used to think that the people who complained about how hard it was to own a home were lazy or complainers or maybe just not that handy around the house. Now, at the expense of my free time (ha!) and my last shred of dignity, I realize that it’s true. The very act of owning a home turns people into exhausted, cranky, bleeding and broken lumps.

I don’t mind doing little home repairs like filling holes or repainting, or even the occasional job like installing a ceiling fan or light switch. However, since last week, I’ve installed track lighting in the kitchen, replaced the recessed canister light over the sink, swapped out the tub and shower fixtures in the two bathrooms, and the faucet and drain fixtures in the guest bathroom. Still on the list is the stack of ceiling fans with add-on lighting kits, replacing the hallway and bathroom lights, and installing the faucets and drains in the master bathroom. All, of course, done after the day job.

I’m pooped.

I remarked to my wife that it was nice to be back at the office after the weekend to give my arms a rest. The bad thing is that now that I finally have a chance to sit down I tend to fall asleep.

Since I replaced the shower fixtures yesterday, I was really listening to the water during my shower, just to make sure it wasn’t leaking down into the wall when I heard a foreign sound.

It sounded like buzzing.

I looked around the bathroom windows, thinking a fly was just trapped inside, but nope, nothing there. Turning off the water and listening closely, it sounded almost like the buzzing was coming from inside the wall.

“Great” I thought. I’d been in a home once where the walls were taken over by a hive of bees, and they basically had to tear down one wall to remove the hive. After dressing, I went out into the back yard to see if I could spot the tell-tale signs of bees or wasps setting up a sub-let in my wall.

Nothing.

I did see a place where, if I were a bee, I would totally build a hive. Easy access, shielded from the sun, no danger from below because of the awning. Thing was, there were no bees flying in and out. Actually, no insects at all.
I pulled over a patio chair and climbed up on it, peering into the crack in the stucco. “If there wasn’t a bunch of bees in there yet, there will be if I don’t repair it,” I thought. “Better add it to the list” I muttered to myself.

While standing on the chair, I saw what looked to be a little spider web in the upper corner of the bathroom window. Wondering if a spider could create a buzzing sound, I leaned in to try to hear over the sound of the morning traffic. About a foot from my face I saw something that almost made me fall off the chair:

A leg.

At least I think it was a leg. At first, there was just the one, descending slowly out of the shadow in the space in between the window frame and the stucco wall. “Chill out, it could be an antenna” I thought. If it was actually an antenna, it could very well be a large wasp, and easily responsible for the buzzing sound heard from inside. Whatever it was, it was big. It was smooth, and close to half an inch between digits. Very deliberately controlled, it dropped down and hung there, almost as if to say, “Occupied, move along.”

Since I was standing on a chair, I could only back up so far, so I stood there in my dress clothes, holding a cup of coffee, fighting back the heebie-jeebies. Something with a limb that size, whatever the protuberance was, had to be big.

Trying to figure out what I was seeing, a second probe unhurriedly dropped into sight. Now that there were two, I briefly felt a little better since they had to be antennae, right? Maybe a tarantula wasp or hornet shacked up in the crevice for the night. I leaned in again to try to see the owner.

That may have been the last straw. A third appendage extended slowly towards me, resting on the glass below it, showing me, without question, that yes, these were legs. My thinking is, if there are three legs hanging down, there were still plenty out of sight holding this sucker to the side of my house.

I decided now was a good time to get off the chair and out of the face of whatever was staring at me from the shadow.

Growing up in the Arizona desert, one of the things you learn pretty quickly is that most of the things out here can do a person serious harm, and the rest can kill you. Here, either you learn to live with the critters or you stockpile the goods to protect yourself from them. We fall someplace in between the two extremes. We don’t have any bug spray, and if we did this thing was over my head so I’d be loath to spray it anyway.

Deciding that this behemoth will be here when I got home from work, I left to meet my car pool, frantically brushing away the imaginary bugs from my face the whole way to work.

We shall resume our conversation this evening, you eight-legged freeloader.

Design

Bang Head Here


I’ve had one of those weeks. Unfortunately it’s lasted about a month.

Besides the gravity of home ownership settling in after the new purchase (mostly brought on by a steady stream of problems), I then managed to get sick and miss two days of my 9-to-5 gig. Which, incidentally, runs from 7AM to 4:30PM.

On top of it all, I’ve been dealing with a new client regarding a design job. If you’ve been following my random 140-character mini-rants on Twitter, you kind of know what I’m up against. For those of you who aren’t yet addicted, here’s a synopsis:

Client hires me to create a full identity for a new company. Business system, collateral, web site, the works. Down to mailing labels and email signatures; we’re talking the whole package here. And it has to be done now. Immediately. Like, yesterday. And for that extra bit of a challenge: they won’t actually let me design it.

After 72 rounds of logo thumbnails, a direction was finally decided. The brochure was printed, along with a short run of business cards. Then the brochure was edited. And yes, this order of events is correct.

We printed the brochure when version 8 was approved. Copy, layout, imagery, the works – it was all approved. Then, the email came in to the tune of “We have some edits to the brochures. And we have changes on the business cards.” Fine. It’s their project and their money, and in this world of on-demand printing it’s not uncommon to do a short run first.

However, we are currently on version 16 of the brochure, and I just got the email “We’d like to meet to give you the changes.” Evidently email isn’t getting their point across. I’m beginning to think it will never be done. Somewhere around brochure version 12 the logo was changed, which, of course, dictated a change to the business system. Which was already on press.

Skip ahead to the web site. Well, not so much skip ahead as skip over to it: the web site has been developed simultaneously. Anyway, the clients found a web site that they liked and said “copy it.” I told them no, that’s not how it works. And it went downhill from there:

“No, it’s easy, all you do is right-click and you can see the code. Try it.”

“I understand how to see it, I just won’t do it. That’s not how we work.”

“No, I see it on the internet all the time. All the sites are the same anyway, just make ours look like this one.”

“There’s a difference between being inspired by a site design and stealing it. We can develop a look that captures the essence of the example site, but I’m not going to steal their design.”

“Well, I don’t care about that. Remember, when in doubt, copy, copy copy!”

“What? No. And not that this matters, but their site is all done in Flash. The PowerPoint mock-up you gave me implies a Flash-based design, but we agreed we’re not doing Flash.”

“I know we’re not doing Flash. Just make it look like we did.”

“There are some limitations to what HTML can do…if this isn’t in Flash we can only get close…”

“No. Make it look like I like.”

“Like you like?”

“Yes, like the sample. I like that web site. Make it look like that.”

“Fine. I’ll see what I can do.”

“And content-rich. Our site has to be content-rich.”

“Where did you pick that up? Do you even know what that means?”

“And put a credits page in there too.”

“A credits page!? Why?!?”

“So you can link back to your web site.”

“Um, no, thanks.”

“Why not? That site has one, I want one on ours. Put your information on there.”

“Firstly, their site is filled with custom photography, and the list of credits is all photographers. We don’t have, well, anything like that. Secondly, I’m not going to put my name on a site that I’m being forced to design in such a way that it looks like I stole it.”

“You’re not stealing it. This is how the web is done.”

*Sigh*

So, in case you had any questions about how the web was done, now you know.

Life

The web is still wild

Last night, I received a panicked phone call from a client regarding their web site. The weird thing is that it wasn’t because the site went down, but rather it was because the site was doing exactly what it was supposed to be doing.

See, their web site, like so many others, has an upcoming events page with a calendar on it. And on this calendar were events. Dates, times, places. Standard stuff.

But with this particular client, I’ve begun using Google Calendar to create and maintain their schedule. Why not? It works beautifully; I can update it from anywhere, and even sync it from my own iCal using BusySync.

For the first time, their calendar is actually seamlessly integrated into their site, and into the lives of their users.

So what was the problem? Why the 10PM call into the dark?

Well, for that, we need to time travel two weeks back to the installation of the calendar, where we discover that the answer lies in just how well the Google calendar works. When you create an event, you have the option to list the location. The first few times we added events, we kept them generic: the office, or Applebee’s. People knew what we meant, so there was no reason to get more specific.

Then one particularly fastidious user clicked on the map link, and, of course, he got a page with the Google equivalent of WTF:

Nobody likes to get WTF-ed when they’re trying to find directions to Larry’s house, so he called the client, who in turn called me.

“Can’t you put real addresses into our calendar so people can find our events?”

“Sure, if you want. Keep in mind that…”

“Do it!” was the eager reply. “That way I can get the address on my iPhone while I’m out!”

And so it was done. Every new calendar event had an actual address associated with it, and the users were happy. The client was thrilled. Attendance was up, phone calls for directions were down, and life was good.

Privacy is still king.

That is, until last night. When someone showed up at the one of the owner’s homes at 9:30 insisting that they should be a part of the event that was taking place there. After all, the event was on their web site, and had a date and time, and now a map of how to get there. How could it not be an open invitation?

True, there was an event, but they weren’t invited.

And that was because nobody knew who he was, other than the “angry crasher who showed up and scared everyone.” The client was shocked: “But, how could he have found my home?”

“Because it’s on the organization’s web site. Like you asked me to do.”

Connect with me!

I spent much of my Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning removing non-company building addresses from the calendared events, past and present.

Which gave me time to think about all this information we’re so willing to put out on the web. There are still people who are out there who either don’t understand the rules of social networking, just like there are people out there who understand the rules and know how to manipulate them. How often do we post via Twitter that we’re at the coffee shop on Central, or headed to the store at X intersection?

Of course, it didn’t start with the seemingly-innocuous Twitter, where we spell out the minutiae of our lives, our goings-on, where we’re eating, or what we’re watching. It sure didn’t help. What could go wrong within 160 characters? But now, we’ve added GPS to the mix with BrightKite. But honestly, that makes me a little nervous. Not so much because someone could find me, but more that if people know where I am, they also know where I’m not. I’m sure it won’t be long before we hear about a burglary or assault where the only tool the criminal used was the web, and it didn’t involve stealing someone’s identity.

Stay safe out there.

Cheers.