Thursday 23 February 2006

How to Sniff Out a Rotten Standardista

JUST LIKE THE STINK OF A THREE DAY OLD FISH the arguments about standardistas preaching to the choir, being arrogant and generally being long past their due date persist.

In many cases, these arguments are useless and wrong. A good standardista works hard to educate as well as advocate. A fresh standardista understands that the world is filled with a wide range of people of different skill sets, talents and circumstances. A committed standardista understands the reasons the Web standards movement exists.

He or she knows the ideal: We must keep the visionary aspects of the Web intact via interoperability, platform and device independence, global access and accessibility to all. We must also know the history that brought us to the movement and the reasons and benefits as to why Web standards advocacy is critical to the solid growth of the World Wide Web.

But to be fair, there are some rotten standardistas in Web standards land. Fortunately, I don’t know too many of them despite my exposure and as some might point out, that I happen to be a big fish in the standards pond, but I do know they exist.

I’ve identified three primary types of rotten standardistas. Hopefully, this will begin to help us identify and clarify the type of standardista we want to avoid, as well as avoid being.

  • The Bitch and Moan but Never Does. This rancid type is akin to those individuals who have the right to vote not voting and then bitching about a current, legitimately voted-in regime. Standardistas who never do can be found ranting about the evils of Microsoft, the fact that CSS can suck, and that XHTML is limited semantically. The rotten standardista leaves it at the rant, unlike the much more savory standardista who might actually share the same feelings. But the unstinky standardista articulates the same upsets to the world in ways that are helpful to others via education, through discussion rather than proselytization, and by means of bridge-building instead of bomb dropping. The smelly Bitch and Moan folk really aren’t forwarding the discussion and largely do not deserve your attention.
  • I’m a Fucked Up Human in Need of a Tribe. Okay, so there are some good standardistas who probably fall into this category, myself included. But the fetid standardistas who float into this column are only calling themselves a standards advocate because for some strange reason, it’s perceived by some that being a standardista is cool! This category of nasty is often related to and has many of the habits of the Bitch and Moan type, but often is far more ignorant and couldn’t be bothered to learn enough to bitch in the first place. They also don’t deserve your attention.
  • I’m Better than You Because my Site Validates. This breed of stink may be the worst of all. You can identify this type, apart from the particularly sulphur-like smell, because they are just plain mean and arrogant. The Better than You standardista finds it pleasurable to insult people who are struggling with the learning curve despite their willingness to learn; berate those who are misinformed by virtue of circumstance rather than chosen ignorance; and who poke fun at people who make decisions based on environmental issues rather than just following Web standards because they think standards are good. A great example of this would be someone who criticizes those hard working designers and developers who can’t achieve validation because of external circumstances such as CMSs and ad servers. You know the kind. Don’t avoid the I’m Better than You types, call them out because they’re doing a lot of harm.

The Web standards movement is necessary for the positive growth and long-term health of the Web. I only hope that if I ever start getting a bit smelly, someone will have the kindness of heart to take me aside and let me know I need to freshen up, or perhaps find another pond in which to swim.

Until that time, let’s help each other reduce the rank, manage the malodorous, and free the foul by supporting each other in positive, productive and inclusive ways as we wade through these murky, muddy days.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 08:01 | Comments (81)

Friday 17 February 2006

Jeremy Keith and the Truth About Ajax

LAST FRIDAY I HAD THE PLEASURE of attending Jeremy Keith’s Ajax Training Workshop. Hosted by clear:left, the Brighton, UK Web design and interaction company run by Jeremy and his wonderful partners Andy Budd and Richard Rutter, the event was a real eye-opener for a non-scripting person such as myself.

It was a lucky break that I was able to be in London for the event. Having seen Jeremy speak at SXSW and @media 2005 and helped out as a reader for some of the early chapters of his fantastic new book, DOM Scripting: Web Design with JavaScript and the Document Object Model, I knew that I was exactly the sort of person who needed this workshop.

My goal? To gain an understanding not specifically of the how of Ajax, rather, the reasons why (or why not) to use it. I needed better context for the subject so that when I am writing, teaching and working on markup and CSS related issues, I can better understand the way DOM scripting and other technologies including XMLHttpRequest fit into the big picture.

Jeremy is a particularly interesting person to learn from. Not only is he extremely smart and very capable of making complex concepts seem easy, but he possesses a unique ability to cut through hype and get to the real heart of a given issue. Add to that a keen wit, and the day was not only informative but quite fun.

“I wrote a book on DOM Scripting but if you can avoid using it avoid using it”

The most important thing I took away from the event has a lot less to do with Ajax and a lot more to do with good practices. Jeremy is all about unobtrusive JavaScript, which is a critical aspect for professionals seeking to create well-designed, functional and more accessible sites.

The perspective here is that JavaScript is an enhancement, not a replacement, for functionality. So, first ensure that your forms and other function-related features work using server-side technology, then add DOM scripting. Always question, and test, whether functionality remains present and usable without JavaScript.

Jeremy spent a good deal of time on related practices including JSON and AHAH, giving his thoughts about each and why and when one might consider using either for a given task. Robert Nyman’s ASK (Ajax Source Kit) was discussed, as was the work of Mike Stenhouse, who happened to actually be in da house!

Wrapping up with an excellent session on accessibility, Jeremy pointed out where the challenges really are, and why we have to be very careful when using any technology, reiterating the importance of thoughtful construction with an eye on usability and accessibility at all times.

When it comes to Ajax and related approaches, Jeremy has an interesting philosophy. He’s focused on the small stuff, the little enhancements that mean a lot. Elegance, intelligence and a light hand in everything we do is the gospel Jeremy preaches, and it’s more than sensible. It allows developers and designers to implement the cool stuff but do so without sacrificing all of the benefits related to Web standards and accessibility.

Speaking of which, there were four, count ’em, four Web Standards Project (WaSP) members present for the day. That would be me, Ian Lloyd, Bruce Lawson, and Jeremy himself. There would have been five, but Malarkey couldn’t make it in quite on time. Driving all the way from Wales and hitting London traffic was to blame, but he was able to join for the after session chats, which were fun and enlightening.

It makes me proud as Mama WaSP to see so many standards advocates, and many supporters and colleagues, present and interested in continuing to further the Web’s vision without compromising quality and professionalism. Professionals in this industry are well aware this is not an easy balance to strike. We face a tangled mess of sites from past years which we are challenged to manage, maintain and retrofit; and we are similarly challenged to design and implement best practices and processes for current and future work.

All in all a fantastic experience. I must add a special note of thanks to Andy and Richard for putting together an excellent day, and of course to Jeremy, who is an unselfish, warm, funny and skilled teacher from whom anyone would be fortunate to learn.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 21:42 | Comments (15)

Monday 13 February 2006

Yahoo! Developers: Setting a Standard for the New Professionalism

In an article published Monday, February 13, 2006, Yahoo! Senior Web Developer Nate Koechley outlines the Yahoo! concept of Graded Browser Support.

The approach is a work of art so beautiful and sensible it literally made me weep for joy. In light of ongoing discussion regarding a new professionalism for Web designers and developers, it’s clear that the approach that Koechley outlines is not only logical and simple, but also profoundly practical.

One of the most powerful aspects of the document is it approaches the entire challenge of browser support for sites from an enlightened point of view. Instead of calling out any given browser as problematic and focusing on how to manage it, Koechley points to the nature of the Web and its evolution, encouraging us to work within that context:

“Expecting two users using different browser software to have an identical experience fails to embrace or acknowledge the heterogeneous essence of the Web. In fact, requiring the same experience for all users creates a barrier to participation. Availability and accessibility of content should be our key priority.”

The report goes on to describe Yahoo!’s definition of browser support, how it approaches “grading” browsers, and outlining a very practical means of addressing quality assurance. Along with the article is a grid that shows grades of support common browsers receive.

That all Web designers and developers seeking to solve difficult browser support concerns should read this article should go without saying.

Putting similar policies and processes in place for any design and development environment, large or small, would be a monumental step forward for not only the cause of Web standards, but improving the quality of the Web itself.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 23:32 | Comments (41)

Thursday 9 February 2006

Targeting Target

READY AIM FIRE! Target – an enormous chain store found throughout the United States and with a significant online presence has been targeted with a law suit from the U.S. National Federation of the Blind (NFB). With enough buzz this could be a turning point in the history of accessibility issues in the U.S. public sector, with repercussions worldwide.

Target’s own diversity statement states:

“At Target, what makes us unique is the diverse individuality of our team members—and the equally diverse characteristics of our guests.”

Oh really?

Fellow WaSP Derek Featherstone writes a very strong overview article on the Wasp site about the issue, and brings up a few good questions, such as my favorite: Who is responsible?

Derek’s taking your comments and I encourage you to make some buzz, folks!

Blog about it, comment away, get those links and trackbacks going. This could be a monumental historical case. And you can help.

Point and shoot.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 10:10 | Comments (65)

Tuesday 7 February 2006

Northern Exposure

NOW I’M IN NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE visiting Meri and Elly, and it occurred to me earlier as they took me about to get a sense of Newcastle that this is the farthest north I’ve ever been! It’s cold, and windy, but we had a great day today and I’m very happy to be here with them, and back in the UK, where I’ve been abundantly blessed with good friends and of course, the love of my life.

I took a lot of pictures and expect to take more as we walk along the beach – the North Sea! I got my first full-on view of it today as we drove by. I’ll post to Flickr as soon as I can get some sleep.

More thoughts about France

I want to take a moment and thank everyone who responded to my expression of upset with what I experienced in France. The responses have all had some very interesting insights and given me much to think about – both how I am in the world, and how others are.

I realize my particular blunt approach to life isn’t comfortable for many people within my own culture, much less others. I still stick by my point that there’s a bridge to be gapped, but it’s clearer to me now what the dynamic is, and perhaps why. One thing I know from here on in is to be careful when traveling on my own. And I also hope that my post about Limoges was very clear in acknowledging the many wonderful people I met within the context of the conference. So long as I was with friends and colleagues, everything was fine – better than fine. My challenges really only occurred when I was alone.

I’m in the UK for a few weeks and go back to France for the W3C Tech Plenary, so I’ll have a new opportunity to visit with a deeper understanding of not just our differences, but what common goals we share.

So thanks again to my wonderful French hosts and colleagues, who most certainly made the experience, and to the many people who posted here and emailed me with insights and perspectives that are certainly serving to open my mind to a broader understanding.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 18:35 | Comments (29)

Saturday 4 February 2006

Limoges, France: The Vision, The Joy, The Pain

I’M IN LIMOGES, FRANCE and have presented on CSS, spoken on a panel with French standards luminaries including the wonderful Tristan Nitot, Founder and President of Mozilla Europe, and did my duty as a judge for the Web design competition that was held here.

The experience has been very mixed, ranging from the fun of meeting absolutely wonderful people to being treated exactly as everyone stereotypes the French in relation to Americans.

The Vision

The International Web Design Festival is a brilliant idea spearheaded by a woman whose name we should all know: Pia Abildgaard.

Pia has worked for about a decade as I understand it to help the Limousin region, the region in central France where Limoges is located, progress economically. Known mostly for its famous porcelain work, Limoges is the capitol city of Limousin, and is at a physical and socio-economic crossroads. With no ocean access, precious little rail traffic, and an airport that isn’t large enough to park an airplane in, Limoges has very little industry left other than cattle. Yet, it’s a perfect central place for travelers moving about.

In order to bring economic development and progress to Limoges, Pia and many others are working hard to create a center for Web design. The vision? To make Limoges as to Web design as Cannes is to film. Is it possible? Well, I think the vision is fantastic because of the outreach factor.

It works like this. The festival offers an opportunity for designers around the world to compete in their home countries. Teams of designers and developers work on a themed Web site in the course of 24 hours. Sleep? Not an option, really. Coffee in abundance, music all night, and food aplenty keep the challengers going. Winners from the International locations then are chosen to meet here in Limoges for the Grande Prix of Web design contests, held the same way. Plenty of good French coffee, but no rest for the weary.

The Joy

Along with the contest, there are several conferences that take place. Workshops are available, and my own role here was to open the Friday sessions with a plenary keynote on CSS. I’m happy to say the session was very well attended and I had the great pleasure of signing more copies of “Le Zen” than I would have imagined possible! My first time signing a foreign language edition more than once at any event in a career spanning over 30 books. Truly an honor.

After my presentation, I sat on a panel with French standards evangelists and supporters, including Tristan, whom I’ve always wanted to meet. I wasn’t disappointed. What a passionate human and a huge mover and shaker when it comes to standards support! I was in awe to be sitting with him and numerous other colleagues who truly made me feel that I was part of the WORLD in Word Wide Web.

My hosts here have been fabulous, despite my lousy French which consists of about 10 words and a phrasebook. Wherever I’ve gone that’s been with colleagues and friends, I’ve been very happy indeed.

The Pain

Okay, this is a two parter as there are two distinct pains that I’m dealing with at the moment. The first has to do with what I saw in the actual designs as I was judging the contest participants.

Code is supposed to be poetry!

Everything, and I do mean everything was done in Flash. Out of about 20 competitors, only one had valid XHTML and CSS along with Flash. Everything else was either pure Flash or table-based layouts with Flash embedded just about everywhere.

The ubiquitous Flash design isn’t unreasonable I suppose, as the standards message is just now getting into this particular conference, only in its second year. And, the main man fostering the competition is Joshua Davis, who is a passionate designer well known for his interest in Flash, and his deep understanding of the Web. That the group even brought out a posse of standards-oriented people and that our sessions were well attended is truly a comfort.


It turns out I wasn’t the only person looking at source code. To my knowledge there was one other judge (yes, that makes a total of two) in the technical jury I was on who did the same, and he was an American.

I sincerely apologize to all those who worked so very hard during the competition. Many of you created beautifully visual designs, but the truth of the matter is what I saw in terms of code literally made me ill.

This is not Web design. It is motion design. Flash design. Interactive design. Any of those things: motion, Flash, interactivity can be a part of Web design, but not one of them stands alone as a means of designing truly usable, accessible, interactive and beautiful Web sites.

We have an uncanny belief in the Web standards community that we have made a bit more than a dent in the presentational domination of the Web. Dent? HA! We haven’t even scratched the surface, oh no.

What was truly interesting was just how fucked the code was. I’m not talking so much about presentational markup and table layouts. Nope! I’m talking about bizarre things like documents with no DOCTYPE written using HTML syntax but with an xmlns attribute stuck in the opening html element followed by a bucketload of JavaScript and unecessary divs.

Semantics? Not one bit anywhere.

And what’s with this mix of HTML and XHTML syntax with no DOCTYPEs. Or, DOCTYPEs included, but a mess of tag soup within.

Fellow evangelists, standards supporters, and colleagues: Have we failed our community? Why is the message so profoundly mixed and messed up? This is not markup generated by tools. This is people. And this is wrong.

Yes, the graphics are great, and some of the Flash design is astonishingly good, especially considering the sites we judged were done in 24 hours. Okay, well and groovy, but hang on my standardista friends. If we think for one moment that our standards evangelism days are soon coming to an end, we’re living a fantasy.

We have a lot, and I mean a lot, of work to do.

Now for the ugly

Now comes the part I really hate to talk about because I do not want to diminish the beauty of the experiences I had and the true friends I made. Consider that the first morning, waiting for the shuttle in the freezing cold, a man came walking down the street looking right at me. He came right up to me and readily began joking about one of the videos I’d done with Andy and before you know it, Jean and I were the best of friends.

I owe a huge debt of love and gratitude to Jean, who was a real gentleman and had no reason but the kindness of his heart to make sure everywhere I went I was comfortable. Jean speaks great English, and since my French is limited to those 10 words, he was my translator as well as my friend. Not to mention he bears an absolutely uncanny resemblance to my brother Morris, which of course made me love him all the more.

Jean, if you’re reading this, thank you so much for helping me find my way.

But again, I say woah. I really tried to not believe the stereotypes of how the French treat Americans. But you know what? When I wasn’t being treated wonderfully by my hosts and colleagues, I have to speak honestly and tell you that I was treated horribly. I have never in my life been to a country where the people have been so overtly rude and hostile.

Now there are a few reasons that the good people, the wonderful visionaries and hard working, passionate French here in Limoges need to hear this. From my heart I want to tell you that no matter your upset with my country’s very wrong actions politically, whatever prejudices you might have toward Americans and perhaps a more specific and personal issue, Jews, you have to understand that if this malicious, unfriendly attitude persists you will never be able to build the bridges to the rest of the world you might imagine you’d like.

If Limoges is to become a center of technology, of Web design, then attitudes will have to change. Yes, there’s a language barrier and that’s a significant problem. I’m not proud that I don’t speak French. I speak Spanish and English fluently, but that’s all. Does that make me bad? I think not! I am a warm person at my best, always making an effort to be polite and friendly and kind in my interaction with others. For the most part it works in this world. But when I asked someone very politely to help me find a building, the man was so impossibly rude he just stared at me with hatred, then made sure to take a nice long look at my cleavage before giving me yet another stare of hatred. Fortunately, one of his friends had more grace and helped me.

It’s one thing to be unfriendly, it’s another thing to invite a woman to a country knowing her ability to speak the language is limited and leave her on her own. If you expect her to get on well when the majority of people outside of the actual event could care less, there’s a big problem.

If Limoges weren’t interested in developing a relationship with an international technology community, fine – be as you are. But when you invite the world in, there is, at least in my mind, an inherent responsibility of the hosts to make certain that the experience is a good one for their invited guests.

Merci Mercy

I want to be absolutely clear. My French hosts at the conference were terrific. I made wonderful friends, and met colleagues that inspired me. I do not want to express any bad feelings about the parts of this experience that were good.

But I cannot, in true Molly fashion, keep my mouth shut at how astonishing it was to me to be treated so poorly outside of that environment.

So to the people of Limoges, I say: If you want to improve your economics and build an international technology center, work on eradicating the pervasive, well-known prejudice toward Americans and others that visit your beautiful country. In all my life I have never experienced being treated so coldly as I have been by certain French people, and it is, in my view, an unacceptable way of being for any society that wishes to progress into a peaceful, bountiful, enriched future.

To the people who befriended me, made me welcome, and cared for me during my stay here, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. France is beautiful, has many passionate people with whom I deeply relate and, to my wonderful colleagues in the cause of standards, I thank you for your special hospitality.

I only hope that I can return again to find a more welcoming people, and to be able to work with you, no matter our differences, in the spirit of progress and innovation. Here’s to that better future.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 23:52 | Comments (58)

Friday 3 February 2006

Comment Spam Conversations

MY COMMENT SPAM just gets more interesting every day. But now I’m starting to talk back to individual comments, and I feel that perhaps I’ve become a bit too reactionary.

Consider these three bits and see what you think:

  • “I looked through Holzschlag very interesting bloog, but your molly is best.” Um, okay. I have never looked through my own Holzschlag much less anything known as a bloog, and while I’m sure my molly is in fact the best, I’m wondering just how a stupid script like you has come to know that, too.
  • “Love your blog!! though I sometimes disagree with you, you really are intelligent. Always good to read you.” Why thank you, you miserable software-selling manipulative spammer. I appreciate that you love my blog and think I’m intelligent. For the record, I disagree with your very existence. Not that you’d care, considering you are a boring, belligerent, bot bastard. Can you please go away now? Thanks.
  • “Java causes that page www long oneself reads carefully.” – So are you saying that Java can lengthen things? Or are you just trying to sell male enhancement products to geeks?

Friends, help me out here. Is my comment spam trying to send me some hidden message and I’m just missing the point or have I just completely lost all semblance of rational and reasonable behavior?

Okay, don’t answer that last part.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 19:54 | Comments (32)

Wednesday 1 February 2006

Four Things: The Commencement Speech

MY DEAR FRIENDS I am so honored to be here today as your meme-free life commences. I look upon your smiling, happy faces and I know of the challenges you have faced, the independence you have declared, the dreams you have imagined for your future.

You have worked hard to rise above adversity, so today I stand before you humbled but tasked with the goal of hoping my life’s experiences will offer some guidance to you through this commencement speech.


Of the many jobs I’ve had in my life, four stand out as strong reminders of how work can teach us many lessons about ourselves, our failings, and our strengths.

  • Diamond running is as, if not more dangerous than espionage. Even if you’re only 16 and look like a street urchin (which is the point), if you’re running diamonds between brokers in New York’s lower east side, you are putting your life in your hands. No matter what your pious Chasidic uncle says. From this job I learned: Don’t trust people with bright shiny things.
  • What I should have learned from that experience but didn’t, I learned later on when another loving uncle (a mortuary owner) paid me and a boyfriend a lot of money to go to every mortuary in the city in which we lived. We had to pretend my father was dying and we wanted to make arrangements, and compile clandestine reports for my uncle such as competitor’s pricing, methods, and products. Here, I learned two very important life lessons: watch out for uncles, and being a spy in a house of death will do nothing to improve your lot in life.
  • Working as a barmaid or barman is hard. You will be yelled at, put upon, abused by people at their hungry, thirsty worst and left small tips for large labors because let’s face it, most people are skint. From the lesson of having worked as a barmaid, I learned to have more patience with people. Also, that serving food and booze will not make you all that much money in most places.
  • Being an exotic dancer will make you money, but your feet and back will begin to kill you from walking on stilts for 8 hours a day while shaking proverbial booty. Besides, what a body looks like at 19 isn’t what it looks like years later, when the hard living takes its toll and you end up chubby and flawed. From this experience I say: Don’t bet your work life on your body.

Find work you truly love, for you’re going to spend a lot of time doing it. Make sure it’s something that enriches you, pays you well enough to support you and yours, and gives something back to your society at large, and you will be a far, far happier creature.

Life isn’t Like the Movies

As you embark on your future, you might want to fashion yourself after a character you’ve come to admire, or specifically make yourself as unlike a given character, situation, or plot as you can be. I’ve done this myself, and here is what I’ve learned:

  • If you meet a Tin Man, give him a heart just like in the Wizard of Oz. People who seem empty may only just need a little bit of love to bring them out of their shell.
  • Pulp Fiction has several characters who can definitely serve as reverse role models. Honey Bunny isn’t someone I want to be, nor is a character like Marsellus. Having faith that others will get you out of tight situations is simply impractical.
  • Whenever I want to remember what I could have become if it were not for the personal courage to get out of a twisted world, I watch the film Spun. When the devil comes to your doorstep, friends, do the wise thing and send the evil beast away.
  • If I ever wanted to be anything completely different from what I am today, I think I would consider charming bees, the way Idgie did in Fried Green Tomatoes. Now there’s a character I admire through and through, and hope my own courage to transcend prejudice and charm the sting out of others can come close to hers.

Shape your life after those you admire, and be reminded that while we all make mistakes, we can take courage from those that thrive against adversity, and learn that strife can make us strong.

Where You Live Matters

I often have wondered why people end up living where they do. Sometimes, it’s economics, but more often, people stay where they are out of fear. Where you live makes an enormous difference in terms of how you experience the world around you.

  • Brooklyn, New York, was to my very young eyes a wonderland. From Sundays on the Wonder Wheel with my Dad, to seeing the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge built while my mother held me to the window each day, it was a great place to be in the early 1960s. I learned that humans can reach great heights, and that is a lesson that remains with me always.
  • Sleepy suburban towns can have an underbelly of disease. That was what I remember Maplewood, New Jersey to be like in my teenage years. Pretty on the outside, but within all too many of its homes lay an abundance of sorrows: Violence, addictions, sexual deviance and abuse. Do not think, my friends, that a white picket fence is the equivalent of happiness.
  • A big sky and vast emptiness can be freeing, as I found in my many years of living in Tucson, Arizona. Just beware that ignorance is not bliss, particularly when it comes in the form of beer-drinking racists living in trailers at the river’s edge. Look up, people, and see the mountains, open sky, and beautiful light, and you will be happier for it.
  • Consider living as a nomad and travel the world. For after all, it is the world that is your real home. I have learned far more living day to day in different places than staying in one place could ever have afforded me.

Wherever you choose to live, find community. It is the interweaving of our lives and destinies that make us stronger in the end.

Television: Diversion, Laughter, Education

This advice is as straightforward as it gets. Seek TV shows that divert, educate, and amuse.

  • Law and Order (all variants) is a great diversion. Besides, Vincent D’Onofrio makes me swoon (but you knew that).
  • CSI (the original) is another great diversion. Just don’t ever, ever recreate any of the plots in your own life.
  • South Park, because it will teach you that irreverence can be freeing.
  • The Simpsons, because that choice needs no explanation at all.

Better yet, keep your hand off the remote’s on button as much as possible. If you do press that little red oval, avoid the news as it will only make you sad; reality shows as they will only make you mad; and talk/shock shows as they will only make you stupid.

Relaxation is Rejuvination

Everyone needs a holiday. Some places to consider should you be lucky enough to have the time and money to take a break:

  • The Hawaiian Islands are stunningly beautiful and full of adventurous as well as relaxing things to do. The people are warm and friendly, just like the sun, and you are in an interesting place between Western and Eastern cultures with much to learn about people and their myriad ways.
  • Climb the Piramide de la Luna in Teotihuacan, Mexico. It’s not as tall as brother Sol, but there’s something extraordinarily spiritual about that particular view of tilted sky and land.
  • Drive as much of the California Highway One as possible. If you have no faith, you will come to believe. If you still want no God, you will be comforted with the knowledge that out of chaos can be born the most beautiful joining of earth, sea, and sky.
  • Take a cruise. It sounded pretty strange to me, too, until I went on one in the Eastern Caribbean. The rocking of the boat, constant fresh air, sun, and daily visits to the mineral bath and spa was absolutely healing. Ports of call are great opportunities to meet a lot of people and study diverse places for future investigation.

No matter where you go for R&R, remember that the best vacation is the rare day you ditch work, school and other responsibility, curl up under the cozy covers, sleep late, make love to your lover, and leave crumbs in bed.

Food is Life

Growing up Jewish, I learned early that food is in fact one of the greatest pleasures life has to offer. Four dishes that bring me comfort, symbolize community, offer up a challenge and replenish my blood:

  • Egg noodles with butter, salt, and cottage cheese. A simple immigrant folk dish from my Polish grandmother, when I am sad this is the food that comforts me.
  • Beef brisket with potatoes and onions. Another European comfort food, smother this in Paprika and if you have some red wine, throw that in too. Cook it for a really long time until the beef is so tender it melts in your mouth, and share it on a Sunday afternoon with family and friends.
  • Venture forth into other cultures and challenge your taste buds! I like Thai food in particular, and in particular particular, Pad Panang Beef, very spicy.
  • A grilled Rib Eye steak served medium rare, a side of fresh asparagus and a baked potato with butter and sour cream. What can I say? It’s my all time favorite.

I eat meat, obviously, but fruits and veg are not to be discounted in this world and even if you’re not a vegetarian, seeking them out regularly is a wisdom for the ages.

Visit Virtual Friends

While keeping up with all the blogs I want to is an impossible task, visiting certain friends regulary is important. While no means a comprehensive list, I stop by Eric’s for insight into both life and work; Malarkey’s because, aside from needing my Mod fix when we’re apart, he makes me laugh as well as learn; MJ’s because she shares so much of her heart (and kisses); and Bruce’s because he’s clearly and ever-so-amusingly insane.

Just as you want your friends to visit you, visit them. We need each other.

Be Here Now

Now It’s pre-dawn in Limoges, France. I’m jetlagged as hell from flying for most of the last two days, and now have two full days of conferencing, schmoozing, and speaking, mostly in a language I can’t speak or understand. Would I rather be somewhere else? It’s possible, but if I’ve learned anything at all to share with you on this important day, it’s that all we really ever have is right here, right now.

So make the best of it.

Moving Forward

I hope these experiences and thoughts have offered up something valuable as we commence this day. I shan’t be tagging four people with this meme, for I believe there were greater points to be made.

Take nothing for granted, respect that other people enjoy things you might not, or have a different opinion than you do, and know that everything we touch and touches us shapes not only our individual lives, but the lives of everyone in turn.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 22:59 | Comments (32)

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