Archive for 2004

A Pile of Pennies

Two co-workers of my wife had made a bet before Wednesday night’s amazing game. The bet was $5, and it was paid from one Yankee fan to one Red Sox fan promptly on Thursday morning… in pennies. Not rolled, mind you — but in a large pile. If that doesn’t sum up the severity of this rivalry, I don’t know what does.
It’s been two days, yet I still can’t believe that the Red Sox will be facing the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Here it is, getting cold up here in Boston — and I have to admit it doesn’t feel right that baseball is still being played. Like other fans, I attribute this to a “biological baseball clock” that, for my entire 30-year life (save 1986), has been trained to shut down regarding anything Red Sox related by mid-October. This year, it just feels odd. We’ve beaten the Yankees, and after that gigantic victory, there’s still four more games to be won. And it won’t be easy.
For now, it’s all about savouring the moment. Reversing the memories of last year, when the World Series logo had to be removed from behind home plate at Fenway after it had been prematurely painted before Game 7. And hearing about how the carts of champagne were wheeled down the hall to the Red Sox clubhouse, only to be turned around and wheeled to the Yankees clubhouse after the lead was squaundered in the 8th inning. This year, it’s all different.
I’ll close with a question regarding Pedro Martinez going into Game 7 on Wednesday in the 7th inning. Did this have anything to do with retribution for last year? Here is the guy that was on the mound in the same situation when the game was essentially lost. He had to have wanted to be out there for the rematch. It unfortunately gave the Yankees and fans their only momentum of the game — but I have to wonder if part of him going out there had anything to do with last year.

What If?

Today is a good a day as any to post an entry in honor of our beloved Red Sox. I’ve been afraid to mention it here up until this point. And here we go again: Game 7. In NY. World Series on the line. It just doesn’t get any better than this, and it’s safe to say that SimpleBits headquarters has been entirely consumed by all of this for the past week.

sox capLike any Sox fan, I relate the greatest comeback in baseball history directly to what I was wearing on those game days, the spot on the couch I was sitting, the brand of beer, and so on. We all know that these factors mean something. We can only hope that the ghost of Babe Ruth is tired tonight — tired of spoiling his former team’s 86 year-old goal.

Regardless of the outcome of tonights game, it’s been an incredble ride — one that few will forget that follow American baseball. Go Sox.

Update: Holy crap! Absolutely amazing.

Televised Backward Compatibility

Having only had HDTV in the house for roughly 48 hours, I’ve already found something interesting to note. While watching “the game” last night (the second in a series I won’t talk about until we have some good news) I was amused by the little tricks that the designers use while serving screen elements that’ll work with both normal television and HDTV screen widths. Sounds sort of familiar, doesn’t it?
figureWhen FOX needed to show an informational banner across the bottom of the screen (see figure), the sides would fade out in a gradient while watching in HD. My guess (and I didn’t check) is that normal TV viewers don’t see the gradient at all, rather the banner just flows across the entire screen. The gradient edges are probably there — but only appear if you have a widescreen HDTV.
The parallels here to web design are obvious: that steps are taken to ensure a usable experience, regardless of screen size. Now aren’t the television designers lucky to have just two, predictable widths to deal with?
I’m also beginning to notice other design choices that reflect the growing number of HDTV customers. Many commericals are presented in 16:9 format, and some add colored bars on top and bottom that seem to purposely mesh visually with the black bars on left and right that appear when a square image is shown on a widescreen.
Having to support two viewport sizes must be challenging — but like the web, designers are finding creative ways to make both experiences work.

Stockholm Icons Now in Two Sizes

I’ve just finished an update to the Stockholm set of royalty-free web icons. Each icon now comes in two standard sizes: small (16×16) as well as large (32×32).

Stockholm icons

A few new icons were also added to the set: folder box, and clipboards.

The price will remain the same (just $45 USD), and I’ll be emailing those that have bought the icon set before today’s update with instructions on how to get a free upgrade. Any future updates to the Stockholm set will continue to be free as well.

Update: The upgrade email has just been sent to previous Stockholm customers. If you haven’t received the email, please contact me to receive instructions on receiving the new icons. Thanks!

I Wish to Appear in a Major Motion Picture

I wish to appear in a major motion picture. And I have since I can remember. I’m continually fascinated by movies (or I should say talkies) and it’s been a lifelong goal to be immortally portrayed in a large Hollywood production.
Oh, I can’t act. I’ve never tried — but that’s not the point. I want to be in a movie. I don’t want to be the movie.
I’m estimating that three seconds is the optimal amount of time in which to grace the screen. Anything less than three seconds and no one will recognize me. Anything more than three seconds and I’ll have to actually act. Three seconds is the perfect amount of time to be a “passerby” — or someone sweeping up the sidewalk. Perhaps delivering a pizza behind a foreground of some dramatic scene.
I have to confess that I haven’t done much to achieve my goal. Although I did audition for the film Moonlight Mile three years ago, which was about to film in Marblehead, Massachusetts, where I happened to live at the time. The audition went extremely well (or so I thought). After waiting in a long line, a Polaroid was taken that turned out to be the worst photo ever taken of me. So bad, in fact, that the casting person took a look at it and said Oooooh. I’m putting this one on top. This got me thinking I actually had a chance for at least a three-second role in this film. I never did get a call.
So now, I continue to dream. Perhaps there’ll be more auditions, more horrible Polaroids. And maybe one day, I can have my three seconds of fame. I’m curious, have you ever appeared on film?

Mountain Climbed

Mt. MonadnockWe climbed a mountain this past weekend. This photo was taken near the summit after a long hike. A few observations:

  • Mountains are tall.
  • Mountains are cold and cloudy at the top.
  • It seems that people generally enjoy walking up a mountain, then walking back down.
  • You should wait to eat your lunch on the way back down, rather than at the top, where it’s cold and windy.
  • The first 20 minutes of walking up an incline are the worst.
  • Hiking up a mountain with dress shoes and a tucked in button-down shirt is insane (I did witness this).
  • Water. Yes.
  • When you reach the bottom of the mountain, the feeling is so great that you forget how hard it was going up. There is even a casual mention of “doing this again”.

BBBetter

For me, BBEdit is one of those applications that I just have too much time invested in. What it does is rather simple, and there are dozens of similar apps out there that accomplish the same thing. But having used BBEdit for so long, exclusively — it’s like an old baseball cap that fits just perfectly after years of wear. It’s just comfortable.
Documents drawer screen shotThat said, I finally upgraded to version 8.0 and have found the single feature that made it worth the purchase: the Documents Drawer. Instead of having multiple windows (one for each file) scattered all over the desktop, they’re now contained in a single window. Toggling between or closing each file is handled in the new drawer that sticks off the side. This is good.
Now, I know what most of you are saying — this feature is in every other text editor out there. And it probably is. Nothing ground-breaking being introduced here. But if you’re a BBEdit user, there is reason for celebration.
I’m sure there are many other new features to be discovered, but this one makes it worth the upgrade alone.

Oops I Quit It Again

Here’s something that’s more than a just a bit annoying. Have you ever quickly shot the mouse up to the upper left-hand corner of the browser window in Safari to hit the back button, only to have clicked the “close window” button instead? I’ve been making a habit of this lately. And it’s awful.
Safari closeupThere’s just not enough space between the back/forward buttons, and the close/minimize/maximize buttons in the interface. You’ll notice that the back button (an oft used task) sits just a few pixels below the close button. Clicking the close button unintentionally when you have several tabs set up with whatever you’re working on will ensure certain anger, swearing and regret. Whenever I click it, for a split second I wish for an “undo” keystroke to cancel my missed mouse target. Sadly, all my current sites disappear and I’m back to square one.
Firefox closeupNaturally, you may suggest that I use a different browser — and indeed Firefox has a larger target for the back button, reinforced by a further separation of the browser’s controls from the window options. And I’ve also heard there are ways to strip Safari of it’s “chrome”, perhaps changing the spacing between the buttons. But I’m just here to complain about the initial design choice that Apple chose to make.

TOevolt

I’ve just returned from TOevolt in Toronto, where I spoke on “Bulletproof Design”. Joe Clark, Javier Velasco and Adrian Roselli also gave informative talks yesterday on the 3rd floor of a large building on the University of Toronto campus.

roof photoIt was a quick trip for me, and luckily I was able to squeeze in a two-hour power tour of downtown. The picture to the right was taken of a roof of a clothing store in the Kensington (I think) (thank you, Suzanne) neighborhood of Toronto.

Many thanks to Tara Cleveland for organizing the event, and to my many tour guides this afternoon. It was a pleasure meeting everyone north of the border.

If you’re interested in hearing more about the event, check out writeups by Mathew Hoy (with photos), and Frank Manno.

Items carried in the BP:

  • Passport
  • Airline tickets
  • Customs forms (one of these was slightly too wide)
  • Maps (folded)
  • Taxi receipts
  • Train ticket

Needless to say, the BP was invaluable on travel days this weekend.

Double Meanings and Search Terms

From the SimpleBits inbox just a few days ago:

I enjoy your Skoal Classic product, but 4 times within a 2 month period I recieved mint Skoal in a can marked Skoal Classic, at 7 dollars a can, living in Canada, this can add up rather quickly. I am a loyal consumer but not knowing what is inside a can of Skoal Classic does make me look for an alternative. Wondering what your organization will do.

At first glance, I’m a little confused. So I run a search for “skoal” and sure enough, result #7 makes everything cystal clear.

Skoal means “cheers” (or equivalent) in Swedish, and was part of the title of a notebook post I had written about a recent trip — but it’s also a popular brand of chewing tobacco. The double meaning was compounded by the fact that a comment on the SimpleBits entry had actually mentioned the words “chewing tobacco”. Perhaps an odd coincidence.

Seeing how people search for, and assume credibility from, those results is what’s interesting to me. It’s apparent that some may not look closely at the results, but rather, if a site appears near the top — they must know what they’re talking about. And they will solve my problems.

I’m afraid I can’t help those that are receiving mint Skoal in a can marked Skoal Classic. But I sure wish that I could.