Wednesday, May 31, 2006

MyEyes Hurt Courtesy of MySpace: PSA on Design

Ye gods, some of the kids who use need basic design lessons. Since a bunch of my aging hipster friends are setting up MySpace accounts, I trolled around the site for awhile looking for their profiles. (And, by the way, I felt like a big ol' stalker.)

Anyway, here's a coupla tips for the would-be graphic designers who have set up their very own, cool, unique, hip, aneurysm-inducing spots on MySpace:

1) Background images work ONLY if you (a) lighten them images up A LOT so that you can see text over it, or (b) have a solid block of color layered on top of the background images so that text is visible.

2) Black background + neon font = eyeball explosion. Same goes for a neon background + any color font.

3) Fonts should between 8 points and 12 points.

4) Pictures work best if they are small or medium 'cause the big ones bleed off-screen.

5) This isn't so much a visual thing, but putting music on your MySpace profile is lame UNLESS you change it with some regularity. Otherwise, I will start to associate you with indie goth rock, and you will forever be the chick/dude with a fetish for The Veils. Plus, it becomes fairly obvious when the casual office drone is surfing MySpace when "Lavinia" whooshes from the 'puter's speakers.

6) Don't list everything you've ever liked, ever, under "Interests." When your "Interests" column is longer than your "Friends' Comments" column, it makes you seem less, um, interesting.

7) Don't let Tom chill in the #1 friend spot (um, unless he's actually a really good friend of yours).

8) Tagging other people's comments sections is like slapping a bumper sticker on someone's dream car. They've got everything just the way they want it, and then you come along and smear it with something that sparkles, doesn't match anything, and, horror of horrors, MOVES. You can't look at anything else when one of these things is dancing around in the comments.

9) The use of lots of graphics, pictures, animations, etc. translates into a page that loads about as quickly as, um, the evolution of a species.

10) And finally...I know that this started out as a design critique, but this one's for da kids: remember when you were little and your parents didn't get you any t-shirts or jackets with your name emblazoned across the front? Wanna know why? 'Cause they didn't want strangers to have any opportunity to walk up to you and fake like they knew you 'cause they knew your name. Use the same principle when it comes to MySpace. DON'T post the following information about yourself:
  • Your real, full name
  • Home or cell phone number
  • Address
  • School
  • Work place
  • Schedule (i.e. "Omigod, I can't believe I'm starting in the softball game we're playing against Perry Hall High tomorrow!")
  • ...and anything else that a stranger could use to identify you.

If I have inspired just one person to clean up their MySpace page, then the visual agony will have been worth it.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Da Vinci Code Can Be Found in the 'Fiction' Section of the Bookstore

I don't understand all of the hullabaloo over "The Da Vinci Code." I'm not talking about it's juggernaut residence on the NY Times Bestseller list for 163 freakin' weeks. Or the fact that it pulled in a ridiculous $77.1 million in its opening weekend. These numbers are mind-boggling, but I can wrap my pea-sized brain around 'em. And I can envy Dan Brown at the same time, 'cause I'm a multi-tasker like that.

The hullabaloo of which I speak is the need for some Christian groups to obsessively enumerate the factual errors in this particular tale. As my 8-year-old nephew would say, "No duh." I mean, this book rests in the fiction section of bookstores and libraries nationwide. And I'm pretty sure that I didn't see the word 'documentary' in any of the articles about the film. In fact, Sony is running this disclaimer at the beginning of the movie, "the characters and incidents portrayed and the names herein are fictitious, and any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional."

Could it be any clearer?

I guess some people think it could be. As I was strolling around Towson last week (on the prowl for a crab cake sandwich) a dude on the corner of York and Pennsylvania streets handed me a flyer advertising a rally against "The Da Vinci Code." And posted this article about the story's claims about Christ. I'm sure there are other protests, articles, lectures, etc., about this very same topic, but I haven't exactly gone seeking them out. The examples here landed on my doorstep, so to speak.

So WHY do people waste energy on this stuff? My theory is that the big problems, like poverty, hunger, homelessness, drugs, poor education, war, disease, and a whole lotta other things that escaped from Pandora's box millenia ago are too scary, too big, and seemingly impossible to deal with. But this here is something that can be solved, checked off a list, DONE, so people dive into the cause head first. You see it all the time with issues like flag-burning, building a, uh, practical version of Christo's "Running Fence" along the border with Mexico, and the FBI Porn Squad.

But, you know, as long as people are clear that "The Da Vinci Code" isn't gospel (har har) then society has accomplished something. Right?

One Year Later

Okay, so it's actually been a year and a week since my inaugural post. I have never, ever been accused of being punctual. I'm better than I used to be through much cajoling and hearty sighing by Hubby. But arriving someplace five minutes late still seems worlds better than getting there fifteen minutes early. I mean, have you ever been the loser who shows up for a party before anyone else, and the host scurries off to get dressed for the party and leaves you to greet the other early birds? I have. This is OK if you are fast friends with the host. But not when it's your boss, and it's a work party. Shudder.

Anyhoo, May 18, 2005 was the date, and my post was all about how being a new mother requires the same feats of strength and determination as making it through boot camp (I had a 10-month old at the time, and I was still nursing and dealing with all of the peripheral equipment and nutritional sacrifices that go along with that). Entirely appropriate, I think, for the happenings in my life right now, but more on that in a later post. How's that for a teaser?

Instead of trying to bait you with future posts, though, let's recap for a sec. Since this blog started, I've moved on to a new job (twice), gotten 65% of the way through revisions on a little somethin' somethin' I've been scribing (which will likely sit in a drawer or on a flash drive for eternity), flew to San Diego with the family to attend the International Comic-Con, seen a show on Broadway (huzzah for Spamalot!), organized a 30th birthday party for a pal o'mine, helped a future sister-in-law with minor details in planning her wedding to my Little Bro, contemplated moving (and subsequently postponed the idea for about a year), road tripped to Pittsburgh for a wedding (yep, Pittsburgh), and attended more baptisms, first communions, anniversary parties, and dance recitals than I thought were possible. That and many other things are dissected in this little piece of web-estate.

I'm not sure that I would've had a record of all of this livin' had it not been for the old blog. Journalling, romantic as it is, doesn't quite work for me since my hand cramps up into a crone's claw if I'm writing longhand for more than five minutes. Grocery lists can be torture. So typing is the way to go, but it somehow seems boring if I'm just whipping it up Doogie Howser, M.D.-style and dumping it into a word processing document.

Hmph. There's nothing especially revelatory (or, dare I say it, interesting?) about this post. But I wanted to acknowledge the anniversary, and maybe use it as an excuse to buy some sparkling apple cider and a cake. Mmmm...cake.

Friday, May 19, 2006

I'll Bet Those Moms are Giggling at Me Now...

I'm having a minor identity crisis. In the grand scheme of things, it's not so huge. But in the personal scheme of things, it's bigger than my hair on a humid day. And that, people, is saying something. On a humid day (or, as we call them in the Baltimore-Washington Metro region, "a day that ends in 'y'"), my shadow looks like a dandelion that's gone to seed. Okay, fine, if you want to get technical, my body isn't exacly stem-shaped. So, it'd be more like a potato that happens to have been genetically spliced with a dandelion head. A Dande-tato, if you will.

But I digress.

Today, after I dropped the Boy off at daycare, I glanced in the rearview mirror to check for oncoming traffic before pealing away from the curb. I am a careful driver, after all (quiet, Hubby). Okay, fine, I didn't look in the rearview for saftey reasons alone. Each morning I give the eight inches of myself that I can see in that sliver of a mirror -- the space between my eyebrows and my collar bones -- the once-over. Usually, I'm looking for out-of-control eyebrow hairs or errant streaks of mascara. Little things I can fix en route to the office. But what did I see this morning?

Magenta crayon. Streaks and scribbles all over the collar of my very white denim jacket. The accidental Jackson Pollack homage isn't a fashion statement on my part. Oh no. THESE marks are the artistic expression of a stubborn almost-two-year-old who insisted on clutching his collection of "crays" during the five-minute drive to daycare. Somehow, between buckling and unbuckling his eleventy-seven car seat safety straps, he tagged me.

Why is this causing an identity crisis? Because I DIDN'T NOTICE IT UNTIL I LOOKED IN A MIRROR. I have always prided myself in being aware of things happening in my periphery. But I didn't even catch it when I became graffiti canvas for a toddler. What is happening to my powers of perception? What if I hadn't looked in the mirror? I don't care about the jacket. It was a T.J. Maxx special and El Boyo used washable crayons anyway, so it's not like a precious piece of Prada was sacrified here. But criminy, what's next? Socks hanging out of my pocket? Buttery handprints on my skirt? Milky kiss prints on my cheek?

The mature earth mother in me recognizes these things as badges of parenting honor.

But the teenager from my past, the one who earned her pocket change through babysitting, and who wondered how some of the mothers could walk out of the house with that loose barrette or those jeans with the mustard stain, the one who resolved to always look put together nicely, and, barring that, clean... Well, she's having an interesting time recognizing that she's tumbling over to the other side of the fence. Oof. Well, at least my fall was cushioned by some very cute plush animals.

Okay, I feel a little better. Now, where's that stain stick?

Friday, May 12, 2006

They Don't Put Phone Booths in Bathroom Stalls for a Reason

A friend of mine sent me an irate e-mail. Not about anything I'd done, but about one of her co-workers. To keep the peace in the office, she opted to viciously type her frustration instead of speak them over the phone. Why was she irate?

Because there was a woman having a conversation on her cell phone in the ladies room.


The only time this is OK is when the call threatens to get weepy and you can't get away from the office. Otherwise, that call can happen later, or it can happen outside, or it can happen in your car. It doesn't need to happen in a place that might disrupt someone's, er, business. Public, multi-stall bathrooms are tolerable only because of a blessed veil of ignorance about whomever else might be in there with you. But that's all ruined when someone's casually chatting on a cell phone and sees you enter a stall.

It's not hard to draw the line on where it's improper to chat on your celly. My own personal belief about cell phone etiquette is that they are only acceptable when you are (a) in your home, (b) in your car (only if your local driving laws permit), (c) on a sidewalk or other such promenade, or (d) in public places where you would reasonably find a phone booth. The last one is clutch. Here's a list, though it's not comprehensive, of many places where you can't find a phone booth. Therefore, this is a list of places where you shouldn't be yapping ad infinitum on a cell phone:

1) Tables in resteraunts;
2) Public bathrooms (phone booths are typically located just outside of these places, ladies and gents);
3) Public transportation (trains, busses, subways);
4) Retail checkout lines;
5) Theaters (movie, live performance, etc.);
6) Houses of worship;
7) Libraries;
8) Medical offices;
9) Bleachers at little kids' sporting events;

Darn. I was really aiming for a top 10 list. Alas, I only have nine. Probably because these are the only ones I've personally, er, enjoyed. Do NOT make a call if you are in one of these places or situations. If you receive one, answer it if it's an emergency. And if it's an emergency, excuse yourself and take the call outside.

Phew, I feel better now. Rant over.

Now I get to go to the dentist. Again. Though hopefully this will be the last visit for at least 3 months.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


For the past few days, the Boy and I have been contending with a change-of-season cold. Two weeks ago, Maryland was a sunny spring wonderland, full of blooming flora and temperatures in the seventies. This past week, it's been mostly chilly and gloomy. Regardless of the daytime temps, though, the temperature plummets about thirty degrees at night, and our poor heating system can't always keep up. Think I'm kidding? Both Hubby and I have recently had dreams about being cold. For me, it was walking around in a snowy city looking for a coat, and for him it was being stationed on the moon. His vision of the moon, though, wasn't any kind of Isaac Asimov fantasy. He was basically in a warehouse plunked in the Sea of Tranquility and the heating system was wonky. Space is cold, yo.

Nice little recipe for minor head colds, right? Then, in my case, let's mix in the fact that my side of the office building hovers at sixty-five degrees (you know, to balance out the other side of the office building that hovers at eighty-five degrees). Truthfully, I'm surprised more people don't have colds right now.

Know what's getting a lot of people down lately, though? Allergies. Yep, all of those azaelas and dandelions and oaks are gettin' their pollen on, which means that there's a thick greenish coat of powder slumbering on our cars in the morning. Yummy. Those with allergies are all red-eyed and sneezy. When I worked at Georgetown, this is about the time of year that you'd see students and some faculty bustling across campus wearing surgical masks.

On that note, Hubby has dreadful allergies, but he's manned up under them nicely. However, he, and a couple of other folks I know, have been insisting that I probably have allergies too. WHY do people who have allergies want those of us who are blessedly unafflicted to join the club?

People hear my scratchy throat, ask me if I feel well, and proceed to contradict me when I tell them it's just a little bug. "Are you sure it isn't allergies?" they ask? Yep, pretty sure. Know why? 'Cause I'm not plagued by the Nyquil roster of ailments from March through October. I've only got 'em for a couple of days at a time. My sore throat's already going away. My sniffles are going away. My headache is going away. Does that happen if you have allergies but you're not popping Claritin or Allegra or whatever else is out there? My guess is no...

Ah well, maybe they are just trying to open me up to the possibility because ye olde allergy diagnosis and subsequent treatment caused a big ol' paradigm shift in their qualities of life. Yikes, though, howzabout you believe me when I tell you it's just a cold?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Dandelion Appreciation Day

Dandelions never really held much appeal for me. Sure, when I was a kid, I'd pop off their punky heads. Who didn't? And a little later in the Spring, when they'd gone to seed, I'd blow its gray parachuted seeds to kingdom come in the pursuit of a wish. But that's about all the use I had for them. I didn't like to pick them because the sticky sap would trickle all over my hands, and then I either had to run to the house to wash or wipe the goo off on my shorts. Yick. So, mostly, I just left the scrubby little weeds alone.

Now, though, I smile every time I see them. I hunt down patches of them, and mentally file away their locale for a rendez-vous at a later date. Why?

One of the Boy's favorite things to do is to punt the fluffy gray seeds clear off of their stems. He has just learned to kick, and these little puff balls are perfect for his practice. He can square off against them and deliver the death knell with all of the expertise he has developed in his 22 months on the planet. The best part is, he's helping ensure his entertainment for the summer by spreading the seeds around.

Now, if we could just keep him from doing this in our neighbors' yards...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Guess I Just Have One of Those Faces

A few days ago, I was in a department store picking up some gifties for Hubby's birthday. I was dressed fairly casually -- khakis, black t-shirt, zippy sweatshirt -- and meandering among the finely stitched articles that make up the menswear department. As I'm walking along, I cross paths with an older gentleman and flash a smile at him. He smiles in return and asks, "Do you work here?" I'm not wearing a nametag, a smock, or any other telltale signs of someone whose paychecks are issued by Hecht's. Politely, I answer "No," and we continue down our respective walkways.

This happens to me ALL THE TIME. I don't mind, but I can't figure it out. At least this guy asked me if I worked in the store before peppering me with merchandise questions. I've been in stores where people just stand next to me and ask (without so much as an "excuse me" or a "please") where the shopping carts are, where the dairy aisle is, how to sign up for a discount membership, etc. If I know the answer, I'll share it. On the occasions when I reply that I don't know, folks take a second glance (probably to get my name and report me to my supervisor) and realize that, whoops, I'm just another customer.

So, what is it? Is it that I make unflinching yet deferential eye contact? Is that I smile in a world of frownies? I could cut out all of the friendliness, I guess, but that just wouldn't be me.

I kinda think it's all of the above, plus one very critical characteristic on the part of the other folks: they don't pay attention to whom they are speaking and make assumptions. The alternative is to take a minute and use their five senses (okay, maybe just two, 'cause I don't think that smell, taste and touch should really be used in the marketplace) to suss out employment status of the other person in the aisle.

Or maybe I really do have just one of those faces?