Monday 30 May 2005

Andy Warhol Stepped On Me

THIS POST IS ABOUT FAME. How we brush up against it, how it brushes up against us, and how it can knock us over, step on us, and even trash our house.


Before I write about some of my interactions with well-known people, I think it’s interesting to look within my own family, where a mix of good and dubious fame exists.

The good fame blood relation is Franz Kafka. His mother was sister to my great grandmother. If you look at pictures of him, and then meet my brother Morris and my mom, you’ll find the family resemblance is downright uncanny. My brother Linus has a picture of Morris somewhere that looks exactly like this one of Franz.

The dubious fame comes from my father’s side of the family, where several of his brothers had deep ties to organized crime. Milton Holt, my uncle (not the Hawaii senator, who was also a crook), was indicted many times on racketeering charges and is said to have been one of Jimmy Hoffa’s right-hand men via their activities in the Teamsters Union.

My own father’s history within the organization remains unclear, even if he were alive I doubt he’d talk about it, but the chances he was fairly involved are high. It’s possible my brother Linus knows more about it than I do, and if he happens to come by the blog, maybe he’ll say a word or two about that.

Interestingly, Uncle Milty’s wife Toni had a career as a Hollywood actress and even has a star on Hollywood Boulevard.

Me n’ Howard

Howard Thies was my best friend in high school. We were both rebellious misfit types, very bright and creative. Howard had the most amazing green eyes and long, thick blonde hair which made us a very outrageous looking duo with our wild hair and hippie clothes. We were always making mischief somewhere and giving anyone perceived as authority lots of grief.

picture of washington square park

Howard’s mom was an artist from Germany who ran an art gallery on the edges of Greenwich Village in New York City – more near The Bowery, really. Howard and I would often cut school, take the train out of New Jersey where we lived and go to Washington Square Park. There, we’d hang out drinking cheap beer, getting stoned, and generally being teenage slackers.

Hey, it was the 70s.

When we did go to school Howard and I both did theater work. I started out with an interest in acting and singing and then got pulled into the technical side of theater when I found I had a lot more in common with the geeks running light boards and sound than the thespians. It was the first outward sign of my moving away from being a creatively focused person to a technically focused one. I kept working in technical theater well into college, but eventually moved on to other things. Howard, however, focused himself brilliantly within the field and is now an award-winning stage lighting designer in New York.

We’d go to lots of shows. I was exposed to some of the most influential music of my life via Howard and some other friends within our crew. We’d do anything to sneak into shows at the infamous CBGBs and The Palladium, where we witnessed first-hand the emergence of punk and 80s rock – Patti Smith, The Ramones, Mink DeVille, Dead Kennedys with Jello Biafra, and the list goes on.

With Howard as my partner in adventure naturally some majorly interesting brushes with fame came through my experiences with him. First up, actress Karen Allen, right after Animal House came out. We were hanging in Washington Square Park on the fountain when she came bouncing through the park, flashing us a smile so full of light and joy and friendliness that an easily-impressed 16-year old Howard couldn’t shut up about it for months. We waved at her and she waved back, and then some kid came swooshing up on a skateboard for her autograph. She gave such an aura of being at ease with her surroundings. I remain inspired by her natural way of being.

Andy Warhol Stepped On Me

picture of andy warhol

One night, Howard got hold of tickets to the “Bring Abbie Home” rally at Madison Square Garden’s Felt Forum.

Now, many readers here won’t even know who Abbie Hoffman is, so I hope you’ll read more about him if you don’t. In a very small nutshell, he was a radical social advocate and political activist in the 60s and 70s, and author of “Steal This Book.”

The rally is infamous, largely because rumors abound that Hoffman showed up at the party, which was a call to political leaders to drop the drug charges that had kept him a fugitive from the law for many years.

Many prominent representatives from Beat and Hippie culture were at this event, with a healthy smattering of early Punks.

Howard was leading the way toward our seats when I got caught in a group of people. Some pushing and shoving landed a couple of us right on our asses. So there I was, on the floor trying to get my bearings when all of a sudden a very dramatic man in a cape steps over me and misses clearing my poor teenaged self, clipping my finger with his shoe. He never looked down, not once. He was immediately followed by about three other wildly dressed people, each who stepped over me as if I wasn’t even there. It was a maddening moment, and then suddenly it dawned on me: I’d just been stepped on by Andy Warhol.

Fortunately Howard found me and got me on my feet. Within minutes we got to our seats up front where, I kid you not dear readers, there was Allen Ginsberg holding forth. I was introduced to him, and he was extremely gracious to me, a refreshing salve for my pained hand and Warhol-bruised ego.

My Trashed House

Sometime in 1980 I ventured out of the east coast and came to Tucson, where my grandmother was in very poor health. I lived at her place until she died, after which I had her house for a few years before it was sold.

What my mother was thinking when she let a 17 year old crazy child have an entire house to herself I don’t know, but you can imagine that it quickly became the party house. One summer, I went back east to visit my mom and my brothers, and when I got back to the house, I was absolutely shocked.

Mattresses had been pulled off of beds, there were cooking pots on the floor encrusted with pasta remnants, empty bottles of beer, wine, and hard liquor piled up or broken all over the kitchen, someone had spilled dog food for the dogs in a corner, and god knows who was feeding the cats, despite that I’d left some of my more responsible friends in charge (or so I had thought). This is the desert during the summer, mind, so the place was blistering hot with the cooler going full blast and every window in the house open. Not a soul in sight.

My friends eventually showed up and explained just what the hell happened in that house: The J. Geils Band had been in town doing a show, and somehow they ended up at my place for the weekend for one hell of a crazy party.

And I wasn’t even there. But hey, my house got trashed by the J. Geils Band. If you think Love Stinks, you ought to have smelled the place after they visited for a weekend.

. . . and Others Along the Way

Other brushes with fame are less dramatic but certainly noteworthy. I got to meet Penn & Teller. Teller’s much nicer, but Penn is one hell of an exceptionally bright human. Also, the fabulously funny John Pinette who was a gentleman and a charmer in person and the sexiest fat man on the planet (hell, he makes me laugh, that’s always sexy).

One time I came out of my hotel in San Francisco and chatted on the street about how shitty a city it is to try and hail a cab in with Nicole Kidman who was completely lovely. Later that same night I went for dinner in a local sushi bar. My attention kept being drawn to this rattily dressed guy at the end of the bar who was talking to some slick LA type. I kept thinking “God, who is that?” and finally I realized that no, it wasn’t a slacker friend from Tucson, but the unparalleled Sean Penn. It turns out both Kidman and Penn were in town doing a stage production.

Brushing Up

So, those are my memorable brushes with fame. How about you? Who have you met, run into, been run into by, been stepped on or otherwise met or are related to in some way?

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 04:19 | Comments (49)

Saturday 28 May 2005

Mail Not for You

SURELY IT’S HAPPENED TO YOU. You know, the voice or email that’s not for you. I don’t mean spam, I mean actual things people say on your VM or email to you that are meant for another human completely.

I went back to bed after working most of the night, woke up all blurry and bleah and thought, as I often do “must have a coffee.” So I shuffle off in my old, worn comfy pink robe and fuzzy slippers (sorry if I’m ruining anyone’s fantasies of what I really wear to bed) and pass the telephone, where the message light is, not surprisingly, winking at me.

I shuffle on over and pick it up, only to find that the extremely prestigious wife of a famous local real estate mogul has left a long and very personal voice mail on my voice messaging. As I’m listening, it dawns on my slowly emerging consciousness that the intimate details of this woman’s life and issues are meant for . . .


Whoever Betty is. So, I did the nice thing and stopped listening, but for about a half minute or so there, I got quite an earful of torrid love and sex gossip that had absolutely nothing to do with me.

Of course, similar things have happened in email as well. I’m sure they’ve happened to you, too. How about sharing your strange voice and emails in order to entertain those of us working away here on what is a U.S. holiday weekend.

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Posted by:   Molly | 10:15 | Comments (30)

Thursday 26 May 2005

Article: Linked Style and the Cascade

Article: Linked Style and the Cascade

Level: Beginner

For: Dreamweaver MX / MX 2004 users specifically, but plenty of information for those with a general interest in learning CSS.

From the article’s intro:

“One challenge many Web designers and developers new to CSS face is to understand the various facets of the Cascade. The Cascade is a hierarchy of application and provides us with rules to both apply CSS in a hierarchical fashion if we so decide to do so and to help us resolve conflicts that might appear within our styles.

In recent articles, I’ve covered the various types of style sheets, including user, author, and browser, and then reviewed the primary author styles: inline, embedded, and linked. I discussed what the Cascade offers in terms of how it applies styles in this hierarchical fashion. What I haven’t yet discussed is the use of multiple linked style sheets in a given document, why this can be helpful, and how the Cascade applies in the instance of multiple style sheets and multiple conflicting rules.”

The article goes on to demonstrate how the Cascade determines the application of style sheets and rules when there are multiple linked styles, and when there are conflicting rules within the same style sheet. The article does not address specificity, the next one in the series will.

Note that this is not free content, alas. It’ll cost you $2.99 USD for the article or you can buy a subscription to DMXZone. There’s some really great resources there for Dreamweaver folks.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 07:17 | Comments Off on Article: Linked Style and the Cascade

Sunday 22 May 2005

Finding the Missing Pieces

SOMETIMES I FIND MISSING PIECES OF MYSELF. Some readers here know I once was a serious musician and performer. I haven’t been following that muse lately, though. She still calls, but I’ve been ignoring her, for whatever reason(s).

Sometimes, visiting the past can help us find a missing piece. Today, I’m thinking of a concert I did with Patty Sundberg in our nearly ten-year duo, “Courage Sisters.” (Wow, check out that page for a real flashback, yikes!)

We performed at the Southside Presbyterian Church, home of the Reverend John Fife.

Reverend Fife is a revered humanitarian and immigration rights advocate here in the Southwestern United States:

“My understanding of the church’s role in a community like this and my understanding of the faith is very clear. You look at where the most oppressed and poorest people are suffering, and you try to relieve those — that suffering and those problems.”

The good Reverend heard Patty and I sing at a wedding held in the Kiva chapel, and invited us to hold a concert there. We loved the idea. We also decided that all proceeds beyond cost would go to charity.

So we played inside the Church’s magnificent Kiva, which is built upon American Indian tribal custom. It’s a round building, made of natural wood, stone, and adobe, all gathered from here in the Sonoran desert.

The acoustics are phenomenal.

So, here’s a song recorded live and in the round from that very special night. The song is called “Love’s Immortal Fountain.” Patty Sundberg is singing the beautiful harmonies, and we have Phil Stevens (honorary sistah) on viola. I wrote and arranged the song, and I’m doing the finger-picking on an electric acoustic Takamine as well as singing the lead vocals.

Love’s Immortal Fountain (MP3 format)

I hope you enjoy! And I hope you will share some good things you thought once lost but now again found in your life.

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Posted by:   Molly | 10:16 | Comments (19)

Friday 20 May 2005

Problem Solving in Web Development Teams

ONE AREA OF WEB DEVELOPMENT that continues to cause frustration is how to solve problems in a team work environment. While great ideas have come to rise, particularly from AdaptivePath and from Kelly Goto, there seems to be some disconnect in terms of creating some kind of industry-wide convention upon which to focus team-building and problem solving techniques in the workflow and project management aspect of developing Web sites.

I propose that we are frustrated because we haven’t come up with anything but vague processes loosely based on print or graphic design workflow. At least in theory. But give people the opportunity, and they’ll naturally find a process to solve problems that naturally merge at least three areas of influence: print, programming, and administrative/management.

The other night, Aaron Gustafson and I came up with four real-world development scenarios (corporate merger; educational institution being sued for accessibility issues; ad agency; and government intranet with mass document management concerns) for our Joliet workshop attendees.

We then set up individual team roles according to each scenario and a specific challenge for each team to solve within a certain timeframe.

The workshop attendees broke up into their teams and set up a strategy for accomplishing the goals. After the hour, the teams presented their results, describing any roadblocks along the way, and what they were able to accomplish.

What emerged in each case was a combination of techniques from at least each of these three areas, and quite possibly a few others I haven’t yet defined.

Despite the differences with each group situation, with the type of team members, and with each challenge, the natural emerging methods were ultimately similar and in fact not as disparate as one might imagine.

Programmers and developers suggested ways of managing code and server issues early in the game. Content and design folks offered insight into how to solve the ever-existing issues in organizing and receiving content. Managers and adminstrators looked at overarching goals and workflow, and how to manage team members as well as stakeholders.

What’s clear is that there is a need for us to look to multiple methods in order to come up with some kind of convention that we can all look to as a means for problem solving team challenges.

How do you work to solve problems within team environments? What pitfalls seem to continually occur? What strategies, and from which skill areas, do you employ to improve workflow and manage projects effectively?

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 08:58 | Comments (13)

Thursday 19 May 2005

The Group of Us


The group of us

Originally uploaded by Aaron Gustafson.

Taken at the Empress Casino, Restaurant Alex. The food was excellent, the company better, with attendees from the Joliet WOW Web Standards and Best Practices tour event enjoying a night out. Bill is giving me guff (what else is new?), and as Aaron wonders in his description on Flickr, just what is Kristine demonstrating, pray tell?

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Posted by:   Molly | 12:35 | Comments (5)

Wednesday 18 May 2005

Selfish Selfish Selfish Girl

To be loved by so many but not by one
to know so much beauty
but be tired of the sun
to try much too hard
knowing I’m going to fall
how damned selfish
to want anything at all

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 22:07 | Comments (16)

What You Give Away, What You Take

Philosophical this morning and longing for home despite the hospitality of my Illinois hosts.

I’m asking myself this question, but haven’t fully formed an answer. Maybe you can help by sharing yours.

What do you take from others? What do you give?

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Posted by:   Molly | 05:15 | Comments (12)

Monday 16 May 2005

The Musical Baton

MALARKEY PASSED ME the musical baton, which is going ’round. I really wish I had more time to take with this, but for now here’s a quick answer.

Total Volume

Since I’m not at home where my MP3s reside, I can’t give a precise number, but it’s around 35GB.

Last CD Bought

Not a CD but just a single, “Feel Good Inc” by Gorillaz.

Song Playing Right Now

“Joyful Sound” by String Cheese Incident

Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me:

  • “Bring Your Loving Back Here” by Gomez
  • “Balham to Brooklyn” by Turin Brakes
  • “Sunken Eyed Girl” by Mike Doughty
  • “Can’t Let Go” by Lucinda Williams
  • “On Your Side” by Pete Yorn

Geez, that’s just silly. I have thousands of songs that mean much to me. These are just a few off the top of my head.

Five People to Whom I’m Passing the Baton

If you’ve been passed the baton, leave a comment so we can find yours. If you haven’t, consider me passing you an extra baton: blog it and trackback here, or leave your answers in the comments.

Fun Stuff!

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Posted by:   Molly | 21:11 | Comments (24)

Back in the USA

I’M SITTING HERE IN CHICAGO hanging with Aaron Gustafson and preparing for our three day event in Joliet. It’s nice to be back, but I have a lot of work to do yet so many things I want to say about Japan and my experiences there, as well as getting an overview together of the conference and many of the ideas shared there.

In the meantime, since Aaron is offering me some yummy baked goods while we work on our slides, I figured I’d point you two excellent articles he’s recently written. The first is <select> Something New, Part I , which is an introduction to using the DOM and CSS to create lovely, styled <select> elements within forms. In Part II of the article, Aaron talks about how to make the resulting form more accessible by tapping into keyboard controls.

Finally, and equally interesting, is an example of using JavaScript to show link destinations in a printed page, collecting the links into a footnote to make the reading experience more pleasurable. A cross-browser alternative to generated content.

Time for tea and slides. Enjoy the articles and let me hear how you’re doing, too!

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Posted by:   Molly | 09:45 | Comments (12)

Friday 13 May 2005

I’m an International Girl Now

I’M AN INTERNATIONAL GIRL NOW. Not just because I’m in Japan, but because I am now an invited expert to the Internationalization GEO working group at the W3C!

What’s interesting is I know precious little about Internationalization. However, it’s an understaffed area of the W3C. I met Richard Ishida, now the group lead, back in December when he asked me to get involved. He asked me yet again here in Japan and this time I’ve said yes.

From the geek perspective, this event has been very powerful for me. I have met some of the people that I hold in highest esteem for their contributions to the technology that has given me a career I love, including:

I have to work on my slides for tomorrow’s presentation, so off I go. Please enjoy the Flickr photos I’ve uploaded, lots of conference fun and pics of local interests.

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Posted by:   Molly | 02:18 | Comments (7)

Tuesday 10 May 2005

CSS Jedi Warrior

I AM AGAIN A CARTOON! Thanks to the fabulous Chris Flick, who publishes the CMX Suite over at Community MX, me and my great pal Stephanie Sullivan have been teamed up as a sexy, savvy pair of CSS Jedi Warriors.

I hope you’ll check out the cartoon, and read the full blog post Chris wrote about how he came to characterize me. Here’s a bit:

“. . . as many people will tell you – including Molly herself – she has quite an overcharged personality. And as typical with a personality like that, some love it and some can’t handle it. Me? For whatever reason, I’ve always seemed to be more comfortable around people that have a personality like Molly’s. And when I find someone interesting – like I did Molly – I start drawing them. Or, at least, I start drawing a representation of them.”

What? Overcharged? And some can’t handle it? What’s on earth is he talkin’ about? 😉

In other news, I’ll have an overview of the keynote that Tim Berners Lee presented with incredible energy here in Chiba today, as well as more general thoughts from the Land of the Rising Sun.

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Posted by:   Molly | 18:22 | Comments (8)

Monday 9 May 2005

Greetings from WWW2005, Chiba, Japan

LESS THAN TWENTY-FOUR HOURS in Japan and I’m having a terrific time. I have already taken numerous photos, everything is so fascinating (right down to the computerized toilets) and I will be getting them online as soon as I am able, connectivity is limited to the conference center mostly.

As fascinating as I’m finding my experience of the country so far (I’m sure I’ll have lots of thoughts in the following days) I’ve managed to run into lots of old friends and make some new ones, too.

First, I’m excited to meet Kazuhito Kidachi who is a wonderful supporter of Web standards. “Kaz” has done a great deal to get web standards developers together, creating a group on the Japanese social network, mixi, which now totals close to 650 members. He is also putting together a dinner so we can meet some of the standards designers in the Tokyo area.

This morning I left my hotel and came over to the conference center to get registered. In the line I ran into friends such as Wendy Chisholm and Shawn Henry, both terrific women at the W3C in the area of accessibility. I met Andres Gonzales from Adobe, who also works on accessibility issues, particularly in Acrobat. Andres will be speaking about accessible DOM in just a bit, so I’m looking forward to that.

After getting registered, I went over to heckle Eric during his web standards design tutorial. I was sitting in the back making good use of the wireless here when a gentleman comes in, sits down next to me, leans over and asks “that’s Eric Meyer, yes?” I said yes, and the man says “and you are the famous Molly.” Well, that of course made me feel very wonderful, but the story gets better.

It turns out that Asela Jayarathne, a web designer from Sri Lanka living in Japan, was reading my blog when I asked for ideas to keep me amused during the long plane ride. He followed the link to the www2005 web site, decided he wanted to come to the conference, and then told his workplace he wanted some time off to come to the conference. When they told him no, he quit his job! Well (I think that was already in his plans but it was a good set up, eh?)

So now Asela is sitting right next to me in the Workshop on Web Accessibility, where Eric is giving a presentation, “Is Accessible Design a Myth?” Interesting topic, especially coming from Eric, who rarely presents on the subject. I like his take, he points to problems in assistive technology and has also talked a bit about the role of CSS in accessibility, naturally.

A great lunch with Kaz, Asela, Eric, Tantek and myself in a cafe in the New Otani Hotel, which has a beautiful view of the bay with Tokyo beyond. A day of friendship, fun, and stories rounds out my first 24 hours on this side of the international time zone.

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Posted by:   Molly | 22:50 | Comments (8)

Saturday 7 May 2005

Things To Do On Long Plane Rides

Japan www2005 conference

I’M LOOKING FOR SUGGESTIONS as to what to do on a long airplane ride.

Tomorrow I fly to Japan’s Narita airport in Chiba City, where I’ll be attending and presenting at the WWW2005 conference. It’s my first trip ever to Japan!

It’s a long haul. I’ll not be in a business class seat (although Economy Plus is manageable) alas, but I will have my PowerBook, my iPod, my noise cancellation headphones, two novels, a sketchbook and a pen. I’m not certain as to whether those EP seats have power, if they do, that’ll be good, but if not, I have to be prepared.

As most readers know, I’m a pretty seasoned traveler, but long hauls can get really boring and I’m a crappy sleeper anywhere, much less amidst a crowd.

Any suggestions? Humorous or practical, have at it.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 10:20 | Comments (287)

Thursday 5 May 2005

Look Alikes


Jeremy Keith posted a few look-alike photos, and I just couldn’t resist, I had to pick up the meme. So now I’m wondering what you’ve got.


Jeremy looks like Ed from “Northern Exposure.” I always liked Ed, a lot. He was a quirky and cool character played by the outrageously talented Darren Burrows.

So Jeremy (they could be brothers if you compare that pic) then wonders if Robert Scoble ever gets mistaken for Philip Seymour Hoffman.

me and Ed, Robert and PSH

This is definitely disturbing, but okay, I’ll run with it.


Here’s my “infamous” Molly Scissorhands version.

me and johnny depp

That’s me on the left, Johnny Depp on the right. I think I can speak for both myself and Edward S. at this point: Do you have a garden that needs tending?


Who do you look like? Who looks like you?

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Posted by:   Molly | 00:15 | Comments (33)

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