This has been a week of very intense work, in terms of both quantity and scope — identity development for two companies, a backend administration design, business cards, two proposals, three wireframes, and four websites under different stages of development.
Thus the less than stellar posts. In this vein, I found that the new (beta) Yahoo! Search to be pretty fascinating for a number of reasons:

  • It uses side tabs, which are typically implemented very poorly. I predict that this will be a new feature of websites that feature forms and form data. It’s nicely designed here and pretty unusual as interface device.
  • The tabs themselves (and other features) are customizable, even though one doesn’t have to be logged in, registered, or otherwise beholden. (It’s a Javascript thing.) This is a nice feature for a search portal; there are times when I feel like My Yahoo!, which I use religiously, is capturing a bit too much about how I use it’s portal interface. On the same hand, it sometimes feels like Google is too selective, too aloof to allow personalization.
  • While this site mimics the soon-to-be $3.34 billion monstrosity called Google [page “not yet ready”], the interface is actually slightly nicer, warmer, more thoughtful and less technologically in your face. Oh, and Yahoo has a better logo.
  • Job openings are listed right from the get-go, on the home page. Are there actually job openings in today’s economy? It’s good to know.


Douglas Bowman, pretty much the design and development leader in creating beautiful Web standards-based sites, wrote an interesting little piece called Throwing Tables Out the Window, with an obvious reference to the application made famous by Microsoft.
Bowman writes that if Microsoft would take out the fat, overloaded, non-semantic and inaccessible tables burdening its site, the company could reduce its file loads by 62%. What this means in “real” terms is that the company, getting 38.7 million page views per day, would save at least 329 terabytes per year.
How much data tranfer is this? Well, a terabyte is 2 to the 40th power which is about a thousand gigabytes, which is technically 2 to the 30th power or about 1 billion bytes. I recently purchased a harddrive with 80 GB on it. This means that a terabyte is about 12.5 of these hard drives, full. 329 terabytes is about 4112 of 80 GB harddrives — a large amount of data indeed. But what is the true cost of this data bloat?
For Microsoft, it’s very little. Their huge servers chug along quickly and quiety, regardless. The cost is to Web users more generally, who need to put up with downloading junky, wasteful code that reminds me a little of the operating system software the same company happily sells. (Truth: I’m actually not a Microsoft-hater. I use Word, Entourage, and other Microsoft apps as needed. But every time I visit a client who has Windows installed, the viruses, trojan horses, spy-ware garbage and crashes are the first things I undoubetedly see.)

Music Plasmosis

Every so often there’s a little surprise out there on the Web, this time it being musicplasma, a superfine Flash-based interface that takes any band and maps out the most minor and most recognized relationships. I typed in “Trail of Dead” and it noted that The Postal Service, Interpol, and Broken Social Scene are in the mix (as they indeed are for me) but on the outskirts are Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, TV on the Radio and Deftones (who are not).
The interface is most likely based on Thinkmap‘s far more robust and supremely elegant Visual Thesaurus, a product which I was invited to work on in 2001 but turned down for a variety of reasons. (Thinkmap used to be Plumb Design, an innovative web development company located a few blocks from the World Trade Center). Long before Thinkmap was a fascinating “knowledge” interface called The Brain, which I used in one of the first sites I developed back in 1998. The Brain was started by Harlan Hugh, whom I also met; Harlan never sought to support his product on the Mac and he’s still true to form — the whole applet falls apart in Safari.
In any case, it’s good to see that the spirit of visual relationship mapping has a few feet and I’m sure that many government agencies are trying this technology to study terrorist subjects.

Against the iPod

It’s so completely uncool to not like the iPod. But I’m putting myself out there as someone who feels very ambivalent about it. It’s so very easy to call our the typical adulations for the product — it’s sleek, it’s fast, it works, it’s Apple.
But here are my summer-cold-fueled negatives on the product — negatives which I have never seen previously:

  • The iPod separates us from the very physical reality that we inhabit. It’s similar of course to the now 25-year-old Walkman but the iPod makes it far too easy for a person to ignore, or worse, sneer at, the concrete.
  • The iPod holds too much music. I know that more is more when it comes to technology. But no one should have access to that many songs in one’s pocket; there’s something grotesque about the millions of hours of musical arrangement and production being reduced to a tiny replay apparatus.
  • The iPod, despite Apple’s best attempt at creating an integrated and legal music store, by its nature encourages the illegal downloading of music. ‘Nuff said.
  • The white ear buds on the iPod are ugly, inhuman, and unworkable. For some reason, the white color of the buds on any skin color looks horrendous, fetid, silly.
  • The iPod’s streamlined design and button functionality has nothing to do with music, musical instruments, or the history of musical recording, playback, or re-authoring.

Boy, I’m glad to get that off my chest. Now if I could just do the same thing with this cold.


When I saw the film Zelig in 1983, I saw myself. And probably so did everyone else who watched it. It was shown again late the other night on PBS and I caught the last and most outrageous 15 minutes. The movie struck me as more rich than ever.
In the movie, Woody Allen becomes a chameleon-like figure who traipses through 1920s and 1930s American and European “society” while contemporary commentators like Susan Sontag speak on his changeability and historical relevance. The movie, pre-Forest Gump, pre-Truman Show and pre-FX, was a fake documentary that I predict will be of import in the near future as we look back on a presidency and a culture that feel unreal, mocked up, and yet strangely insulated from the exigencies of “modern” living.
Documentaries, like F 9/11 and the host of others, are key components of a culture in crisis. Mockumentaries like Zelig, This is Spinal Tap, and The Blair Witch Project seem to come at a time of cultural stasis, when the most riotous times are forgiven and life is better lived than feared. P.S. Friend V.S. rightly adds Being There to the list; there are of course many other appropriately apolitical (except for the brilliant Bob Roberts) mockumentaries.


I was into Sonic Youth so long ago that it almost seems decadent or (decade-ent) to be speaking about them at all; I essentially grew up on the band. I probably saw them in concert three times and own everything, gut and but. But here they are again, the Grateful Dead of our time, releasing Sonic Nurse. My notes on the album:

  • screeching is good both for the ears and to refresh the soul
  • stealing from Godspeed You Black Emporer is good even if they stole from SY
  • the song “I Love You Golden Blue” must be about the sun in the daylit sky
  • SY is deliberately political in an arcane way, which I adore – the last song on the album, “Peace Attack,” speaks the line “nature sucks” which is funny and sad and the bass line is pure 1994, the end of our last (R) government
  • Kim Gordon can still screech like the best of ’em


In my futile search for our landlord’s cat a few days ago, up the street and around the corner, I ran into a person who I have run into numerous times before. This time I learned that his name is George and he lives on the next block over. He’s lived in the neighborhood for twenty-some years and he had his large dog with him. In the past he helped me dig my car out of the snow with his gas-powered snowblower.
He helped me try to find the cat in the dark (as it was 10:30 pm) and he thought that his dog would be of assistance. Neither he nor his dog were of assistance.
George is a floorer. He refinishes, retouches, and lays down floor in old houses in Brooklyn. He said his back is gone, his knees are shot, and he is now being priced out of the market in Brooklyn because he charges $3.00 per square foot while others, who do unprofessional work, charge $1.75 per square foot. George sands the floors down just enough so that he can put three or four layers of oil-based varnish on the floors; he takes superb care to make sure that dust does not settle during the varnishing and ensures that the finished floors are perfect in every way.
I said that you would think that with all of the wealthy newbies coming into the neighborhood, they would want a quality restoration job done on their fine wood floors. He said that they were invariably cheap and that they just wanted it done fast and prettily without regard for the historical or functional nature of the flooring. He and his partner may move to Lancaster County so that he can afford to live and ply his trade.

APB (Aunt Pearl Boardman)

APB Aunt Pearl Boardman
My grandmother passed away early Friday morning, at the birth-and-death time of 4:33 a.m. I miss her dreadfully.
Aunt Pearl, so-called by me and my cousins because she is my step-grandmother, was a passionate, active, beautiful, and well-opinionated woman who would walk into a room and you immediately knew she was there. I remember coming to her house or to the “Club” so many times for Passover (about 35 times in my life) and, as I walked through the doors, there she was, arms outstretched, dark glasses on, long sleeves draping down, saying, “Hello, Bubbelah.”
Aunt Pearl was not an easy person and she would often say things that would hurt you, even if that was the last thing she wanted. But mostly she had an uncanny ability to know exactly at what station in life you were and she could, in just a few seconds, gather what was bugging you and immediately jump to your aid. In college, she urged me to not worry so much. In grad school, she sent me a generous check for money to buy pans and furniture. Most recently, she advised me about business, parenting, real estate, life.
A heavy smoker, she succumbed to some form of small-cell cancer, which devoured her body in a little less than three weeks. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in September 2003 and the chemo given six months ago gave her the life she needed to die with dignity, ordering her life so that others may live more orderly.
I’m struggling very deeply with her absence. I know I should have called her more over the past eight months, when she was sick yet living. I miss her advice, both requested and unrequested. She was one of those people that seemed so invulnerable, who projected an air of certainty and elegance, who never seemed to be in pain, that, even until three weeks ago, I thought she would continue for a long, long time.
I wonder if she was ready to die. Friends and family at today’s funeral said she had prepared herself these past few months — probably in ways that few of us could ever enjoy.
But here’s the harder part for me. As one eulogist more eloquently noted today, her life was a dedication to the family’s continuity, to compassion for others, and to leaving the world a “better place than it was when one inherited it.” As the matriarch of the family (her husband and my paternal grandmother died in 2000), she always put others before herself. But now there is no one ahead of herself. There is, in fact, no one ahead enough to take ownership of the family, to lead its gatherings, to create its ritualized Passovers, to organize its occasional occasions.
She stood alone because she was the head of the family. She now resides next to my grandfather, who she disinterred only a few weeks ago in preparation for her passing. They are head-to-head, feet apart. Their two souls, from which our small family gained so much love, sustenance, assurance and stability, are together. And I mourn.


Some of you by now may have noticed the new MSN Search, which looks so much like Google.com’s homepage that it’s hard to believe there’s no copyright infringement. As the New York Times’ David Pogue puts it today Microsoft is always most serious when it comes to beating its competition. Visually, the no-nonsense efficiency of the new MSN search represents a full-on business rampage of one behemoth against another.