Monthly Archives: August 2010

Dungeons & Dragons as it Applies to Web Design

Last friday at Tuttle Club LA, in two separate conversations, one with Kelly Sims and one with Luke Dorny, we discussed the challenges of having a career as a freelance web designer.
Out of that set of conversations, Luke and I decided to meet up today to refine the topic and work out a few kinks on the rocky road to growing one’s own business. The best part is that as we worked through a list of skill sets and discussing what was important for a web designer to have, Luke suggested that we rate skills as one would have levels of power or talents in Dungeons & Dragons.
Luke is a 13th power typographic visual wonder Elf Mage. I am design developer mobile hybrid Warrior Princess.
As you can tell, I have never played D&D or WOW, only picked up, vaguely, enough from others to be dangerous…

On Being a Spaz

I am a spaz. I am not insulting myself.
My hands shake. Almost all the time. Sometimes it is hard to hold objects without pain & tremors and it is getting harder recently to hold a pen or other small, thin objects.
I have essential tremor. My dad has essential tremor, his hands shake. His father had essential tremor and his hands shook. It runs in the family.
I have had a noticeable shake in both of my hands since I was 12 or 13. My biology teacher in high school said after watching me dissect a frog and a shark’s brain that I should be a brain surgeon as I made the cleanest cuts he had seen in 30 years of teaching but I would make all the nurses nervous due to my hands and the scalpel shaking all the time.
I had a formal diagnosis of Essential Tremor when I was in my mid-twenties by a Harvard neurosurgeon, who told me that it will get worse over time and when it gets too hard to write or hold a fork that there are medications that I can take. He also told me that I was lucky that I didn’t have the ‘head bop’ version of ET.
Nearly 14 years later, while I am not at the point where I need the ET meds, it is getting harder to do certain tasks. I can’t put on mascara without using both of my hands – one hand to hold the mascara wand and one to hold the wrist of the hand holding the wand.
Yesterday, I was out at lunch and went to take a photo of my lunch, when I heard the folks at the next table talking about me in Spanish. While I can’t talk back in Spanish, I do understand. The conversation started by talking about my hair, then they moved to the fact I was shaking. The woman doing most of the talking about me kept saying that if I was an alcoholic, I should just order a drink to stop the shaking. Then they all laughed.
First I was appalled, then a bit angry, but I let it go quickly, as I did not even want to get into a conversation with these folks about what Essential Tremor is, why I have it, why it makes my hands, fork, & camera shake, and no I am not an alcoholic, as well as explaining why I can understand Spanish but can’t speak back.
I quickly forgot about this, as I will be the first to call myself a spaz. In the common California version of English, a spaz is a person who shakes with excitement, it has nothing to do with mental illness and only vague relation to people with MS or Cerebal Palsy but it is much more informal in its usage. I have been called a spaz all my life by many people due to my hands shaking, my voice, and my general excitement about life.
I am more than OK with being called a spaz as I don’t see it as an insult, but merely a concise description of true statements about me – I shake, I have an unusual voice that gets more unusual & fast with excitement, and I am a bouncy and overly cheerful human.
Why am I even writing about this? A web designer, developer, and blogger that I like and respect from the UK, Ann McMeekin, has written a blog post that to use the word ‘spaz’ is an unacceptable term. I see the argument she makes in her post and in her reply to Christopher Fahey (commenter #13) who tried to explain the American usage of the term, but I do think that it is very hard to keep up on the usage of English words across the world as they are used in lcoal parlance even if the writer or speaker may be speaking to a non-local audience.
The more I meet and get to know folks who are native English speakers from various countries across the world the more I realize that each country or sub-section thereof ascribes different nuances or even full meanings to words that we would all call common to English.
I am always terrified to ask for a napkin when dining in the UK, as I was told that it meant a feminine hygiene product, not a paper or cloth square of which to wipe one’s hands with when eating. I have perused whole lists to figure out what the differences are between UK and US English and do my best to keep up on different usages, but that does not take into account states or counties with in each country or even other countries that have English as a native language.
Nor does it take into account all the subtle cultural meanings that may be attached to word or phrase usage right now that weren’t the case ten years ago or many not be the case ten years from now.
When I was fresh out of college, I spent three months in Amsterdam and then two months in Budapest living with and in community with a set of folks from all over the world. One of the things I learned fast is how words that may be innocuous to you will be highly insulting to another. My English friend said fuck like it was going out of style, but if I used the word ‘bloody’ she would be insulted. My friend from Australia damned everything, but if I say I was ‘pissed off’ she would bawl me out.
The best is when our very innocent friend from Germany had a long conversation with a missionary group from the American South at the youth hostel we were staying at and she kept telling them about her problems with shit. She needed shit massage as she was constipated and went into great detail about how the shit needed to moved out of her bowels. The best part was watching the faces of said missionaries, at first they were very interested in listening to her, then I could see that they were determined to save her from her sinful swearing ways, and finally they got up and left as they were so insulted to be treated to a conversation that went for a half hour about shit.
My German friend was baffled by the missionaries abrupt departure, another American friend and I tried to explain to her that in the US to talk about shit was really taboo that one only talked about one’s ‘bowel movements’ briefly with very close friends and family and even then only used a euphemism. The concept of a euphemism for shit was unknown to her as German does not have gradations of delicate terms for going #2.
If you are American, you many be quite uncomfortable right now that I just said fuck and shit in a blog post. If you are English, it may be seen as unprofessional but not uncomfortable. And if you are from a culture that does not have shades of delicacies for such words, then you may be plain baffled that I have to write this paragraph at all.
All of this to say, that I agree that Ann is right about the global nature of the internet. Yes, we do need to be aware that our readership is not just from our local area who may understand the finer subtleties of our word usage or even of the words we just use without thinking. But on the other hand, it would be a whole study in and of itself to keep up with the thousands of common English words and how they are used both in formal writing and common speech in hundreds, if not thousands, of cultures and sub-cultures around the world.
I understand that it is important to not insult, I would like to call for giving each other a bit of grace and then if one is still bothered then to discuss the terminology with the person in question what was meant by its usage, and then still extend grace for the fact that even though we are global online we are still local in our daily lives.

A View from My Recession: No Lifeguard on Duty

Huntington Beach Lifeguard Tower Number 24

Photo taken by Ms. Jen on 08.28.10 with her Nokia N86.

Sat 08.28.10 – Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish has over the course of the last two years an ongoing series of posts called “The View from Your Recession“, where readers write in about how ‘The Economy’ is affecting their lives either directly or indirectly.
Even before the economic downturn in late 2008, California has had budget woes, particularly in the summer when the legislature has been chronically unable to pass a budget before July 1st. The last 4-5 years has featured July and August as a monumental struggle between the legislature and Arnold, of which Arnold has turned off the budgetary taps to get the legislature to talk to each other and resolve their issues. The result has been steep budget cuts year round and a frozen budget in the summer months.
Last summer Bolsa Chica State Beach tried to save money by turning off fresh water in the park, thus no showers, no drinking fountains, etc. The local surfers revolted, as they all pay $125 a year for a parking pass which supposedly supports the state beach, and went to the State Beach commissioner’s house and threatened to turn off his water all while they demanded their parking money back. Water got turned back on the next day and has remained on since. It does help that Bolsa Chica State Beach has the greatest revenue and attendance of any state beach or park in California, so the commissioner can make an argument to Sacramento that the surfers are paying for their post-ocean showers with their parking pass fees.
[Disclosure, I have a State Beach parking pass and use the shower to wash my feet off and give the dogs a drink post-dog beach.]
Most years at Southern California beaches the lifeguard towers are only open for business during the summer when the kids are out of school and the tourists are out in force, during the school year most of the lifeguard towers are closed up and the only the ones at nearest the main piers are open. Most of the SoCal beach communities do have full time rescue and lifeguard staff that is augmented by trained young lifeguards in the summer time who staff the towers.
The past few years Huntington Beach has all the towers staffed with lifeguards during the summer months from the HB Pier to the Santa Ana River to the south and to Bolsa Chica State Beach to the north, as well as roving lifeguards on red four wheel all terrain vehicles & red trucks patrolling between towers that are spaced at a greater distance, like towers 28-24 at Dog Beach on the north side of town.
Early this summer, I noticed that the 3 lifeguard towers at Dog Beach had fencing placed around them with signs saying “No Lifeguards This Area”, and as the summer progressed the towers were not opened at all not even on the busy weekends like the Fourth of July. Even more surprising is that I have not seen the roving lifeguards in trucks or all terrain vehicles patrolling the areas with no staffed lifeguard towers.
The most active surf, the most amount of rocks, and riptides in North Orange County are right in front of Tower 24 and Tower 26 at the Huntington Cliffs. This is a highly trafficked area with surfers clambering down unofficial paths of the Cliffs to get to the surf, dog owners trying to get themselves and their dogs to the beach, as well as random Angelenos and tourists wanting to experience the beach.
Either the City of Huntington Beach consulted with their lawyers and determined that big signs warning folks of no lifeguards and that folks were taking responsibility for their own lives by swimming was sufficient to repel any lawsuits in the event of child whisked out to sea by riptides or the budget cuts plus decreased tax revenue due to ‘The Economy’ really has taken a toll on the Huntington Beach lifeguard and rescue budget.
Anyone know what the real story is on the lack of lifeguards at the towers?

TuttleLA Photo Comparison: Nokia N97 v. N86 v. E73

Nokia N97, 5 megapixel camera phone: Geoff & Al Nokia N86, 8 megapixel camera phone: Geoff & Al Nokia E73, 5 megapixel camera phone: Geoff & Al

Photos taken by Ms. Jen with a Nokia N97, a Nokia N86, and a Nokia E73.

Fri 08.27.10 – At Tuttle Club LA today, I found myself in possession of a Nokia E73 (trial phone), my Nokia N86, and a Nokia N97 of which I was testing out Foursquare via Gravity (works) and Gowalla mobile (doesn’t work).
When I first sat down at our table, I loved the contrast between Toorak Coffee’s interior orange walls and the green shirts that Geoff and Al were wearing, so I pulled out the first camera phone, the E73, in my bag and took a photo. Then I pulled out the N97 to check in to Foursquare and the like and took the same photo (mostly) from the same angle (mostly). Out came the Nokia N86 8 MP to take the final photo.
When Matt and I looked at the phones’ screens, the N86 rendered the best photo where the colors looked as they actually were, the E73 the second best, and on the N97’s screen the photo looked washed out. But now that I have them transferred to my computer, resized to 800×600, and posted to this blog, the N86 and the N97 look better but the real color was somewhere between the two with the N97 being a bit washed out and the N86 being a bit dark/saturated, and the E73’s photo is a bit blurred and the color a bit light/bright.
The interior of Toorak is a good challenge for a point and shoot camera or a camera phone as the ceilings are high with big halogen/fluorescent lights and orange paneled walls with dark wood furniture. It is a gorgeous interior visually but a bit stressful for a camera, then add on Geoff & Al’s shirts…. A comparison waiting to happen.
What do you think?

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Catching Up

While I had a wonderful time having all the WomWorld/Nokia folk and E73 Mode party attendees in town and around to hang out from Friday through Sunday/Monday, I got quite behind in a number of things, one of which was blogging on time.
So let me get a bit caught up here:
Mon. 08.23.10 – Have a late brunch with Donna, James, and Adam of WOMWorld plus Jeb Brilliant at the Harbor House Cafe in Sunset Beach. Drop off the remaining suits to the charity drop off. Go home & work.
Tues. 08.24.10 – Work before driving up to Los Angeles for Eoin’s Birthday Party. Have fun at the party. Happy Birthday, Eoin G!
Wed. 08.25.10 – Have a good time, yes, a good time, packing everything (remaining party stuff for the @womworldnokia crew) up in two boxes, then drive to the Good DHL in Irvine to have it shipped back to London. Realize that I really get the most satisfaction in life from helping others, realized once again for the 17,647th time this summer that I need to apply for a job where I work in a team and not in my living room. Make self an interesting dinner* while prepping a client’s website for moving.
Last but not least, today a florist delivered lovely flowers from Donna, Adam, and James. Thanks for being so sweet!
* An interesting dinner is the kind where you look in the fridge and pick all kinds of odds and ends, cook, eat, and later think – WHAT WAS THAT I ATE?!?!?!?