Saturday 30 December 2006
Asked by the fabulous Cindy Li to blog five things you might not know about me, I simply could not avoid YAM (Yet Another Meme). If you know Cindy like I know Cindy, you’ll know she’s not a woman whose wishes one can easily deny.
So instead of writing about how 2006 was the most paradoxical year of my life, with the highs the highest and the lows the lowest, I was going to write five things you might not have known about me. I started to do so, and a memory emerged that is so personal and powerful and important that I’m going to stick with just this one thing about me you might not have known and that is my relationship with a man named Jack.
Having had since childhood a hunger to be noticed, I fancied as so many young people do that I would go to Hollywood and become a famous actor. I can sing, I can dance, I have charisma and presence. Thing is, I am an absolutely crap actress. I can’t act my way out of a paper bag much less inspire people with my flat interpretations of characters.
Besides, I had long noticed that my high school’s stage crew office always seemed to be filled with cute nerdy guys who carried around tools and tech stuff. For some reason, I found this twitterpating.
So what did I do? Naturally, I started working with the stage crew. This then became an interest that brought great new experiences
with the handsome nerdy guys with the cool, more techno-oriented folks behind the scenes. Not only did I have many a new exposure (as it were) but I also learned to wield a hammer, sling a power saw and get darn tricky with the tools of the scene-building biz.
By 20 years old, I had become a skilled stage carpenter, having spent five years honing my honing skills and studying under incredibly capable and even genius set designers, including the great, irreverent international designer Jack Schwanke.
Describing Jack is tough, because he was one of the most unique humans I’ve ever known. I’d link to a bio, but most of Jack’s work has been catalogued in those things we used before the Web: Books and library folios. Jack was what I’d call a true eccentric. He lived his life honestly and loudly and with great passion and humor. He shocked most people and was loved by many. I met him when I was only 17, and we became very fast, very close friends despite his having been nearly three times my age and possibly the most outlandish queen imaginable.
Jack and I climbed pyramids in Mexico. We ate cabrilla with our fingers and nearly ended up in a Mexican jail once when he got into a shouting altercation with a cop. I hunkered down in the truck and envisioned my young life ending in a not so happy way. He designed scenery for opera and theater while I and the crew built and perfected his wild, erotic and visionary work for both U.S. and international venues.
Reinforcing certain loves my father had once shared with me: opera, great coffee, and the joys of a meal shared with friends, Jack became one of my greatest heroes. He showed me worlds I couldn’t possibly have imagined. He was my gay, eccentric father and best friend for some very important years of my life.
One time, he took me, an underage American girl, into underground gay bars in Mexico City. I’ll always remember this one sad handsome man sitting alone in a rather tired but elegant bar literally underground near the Palacio de Bellas Artes looking like the drooping white lily on the table in front of him.
I miss the theater sometimes, but not that much as I’ve been fortunate to find my place on the stage anyway without having to act a bit, much to the benefit of the creative world!
Mostly, I miss Jack tonight. He died alone in a hotel room in Mexico City on New Years Eve twenty two years ago. Somehow, no matter what I’m doing on New Years, my thoughts return to Jack.
I don’t know what makes a Happy New Year, because happiness is cyclical. But I do know this one thing: The people who so deeply touch our lives as Jack did mine make the days of the year, and the years of a life, all the richer for their simply having been.
Tuesday 26 December 2006
I avoided Twitter for all it was worth. Oh, sure, I’d go over and half fill-in the sign up form. Then, I’d think how insane it was to add yet another diversion to my list of all-too-many diversions.
In fact, I was sitting next to Twitter’s dad, Ev Williams a couple of weeks ago when Dave Shea popped on IM with a tagline proclaiming “Abstaining from Twitter.” Ev seemed marginally amused, and there I was, not twittering, with Ev twittering away next to me, with Tantek not just twittering but IMing and IRCing and emailing on not one but two macs.
I gave in. I joined Twitter. And I’m so glad I did. It’s become my personal complaining tool. Talk about firing my therapist!
To that end, I’d like to tell Dave: Abstinence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder, and to Ev, thank you for giving me a place to dump all my woes and have people provide pithy if not useful advice in kind.
Thursday 14 December 2006
On a rainy Wednesday in Redmond, Washington, 14 invited bloggers and industry leaders gathered at building 20 of the Microsoft campus for a full day of discussion regarding Microsoft’s outreach to its communities via the upcoming MIX07 conference. The very interesting and productive meeting was topped off with an hour spent with none other than Bill Gates, during which we had the fantastic opportunity to discuss issues of concern to the industry.
We were asked not to publish any audio, video, or photos (except for the group photo here, which you can also see on Flickr for more detail). I wish I could publish the audio, I think folks would enjoy it, but since I promised not to, I’ll make good on that and provide you the transcript of my discussion with Bill on the issue of Web standards here. I also have some video from earlier in the day that will be of interest to the standards community. The photo that’s on Flickr is tagged with all the attendees if you’d like more information on that. So, here’s my five minutes of Web standards banter with Bill Gates, which I hope you’ll find as intriguing, charmingly stubborn and witty as Mr. Gates himself.
Molly: On behalf of the constituents that I represent . . . standards-oriented developers and Web standards supporters around the world, I think they see a tremendous leap forward in IE7 and the work that has been done as well as the evangelism, the outreach. What would you say to the people that remain skeptical about Microsoft’s agenda in terms of committing to the implementation of standards for the browser and other development tools instead of this paranoia that seems to be out there that Microsoft wants to own the Web. What would you tell the skeptics out there regarding your commitment to the implementation of open Web Standards in your products?
Bill: I don’t know what it would mean to own the Web. It sounds attractive! [group laughter]. We’re a software company, and we write software tools that let people do productivity, content, write applications. You know, we have our track record. I don’t know what date you want to start in. 1993, when we started IE 1.0, or 1995 when we shipped Windows 95, or when we shipped IE 4.0? We have our track record.
Molly: Well that’s the irony. You [Microsoft] were always ahead of the curve until the IE6 issue occurred, and this . . . five year gap really caused some issues for the development world, and that’s continued.
Bill: No, no. Come on! There’s stuff in IE 4.0 that people are starting to take advantage of. I mean . . . script has been there!
Molly: Scripting, yes.
Bill: Well? Now people are finally using it.
Molly: Well, how about CSS support specifically? It comes down to CSS implementation . . .
Bill: Well, okay. That is up to Dean . . .
Molly: [amidst laughter] Oh, I see, passing the buck, Bill?
Bill: No, no, there’s two things. There’s what we expect we’re trying to do; and the state of implementation of the things we’re trying to do. We’ve done the Mea Culpa . . . that yes, we should have kept the browser innovation curve to be a more continuous curve. Believe me, we wish that we’d done that differently. Dean’s group is getting more resources, and so you’ll actually see us not only going back to the state of what we were innovating before but actually innovating at faster speeds than we were before. A lot of that has to do with implementing standards. It also has to do with doing user interface things that make our browser a cool browser and ultimately preferable for people to use.
Molly: But the question wasn’t answered, which is: What is the commitment?
Bill: Who has done more implementation of Web standards than Microsoft? I mean . . .
Molly: I’m not arguing you. I’m asking a question . . .
Bill: No, no but eventually a question has to be answerable. What did we do in 1995? What did we do in 1996? What did we do in 1997 . . . you can skip like three years and say we did nothing. We didn’t do anything proprietary, either! That’s criticizing not our intent, our strategy, that’s criticizing our execution and we fully accept that. But every year for 13, 14 years now we’ve not just followed and implemented standards, we’ve contributed. This WS stuff, . . . we contributed more Web standards than anyone! We have our smartest people who go and work on that stuff . . . we just did the OpenOffice . . . our office XML formats we contributed to them . . . we’ve got XML at the core of all our products. Back in 1996 it was us and a few small companies that proposed XML in the first place. At some point you just have to say hey, look at our track record and if somebody’s track record doesn’t prove something you, then I’ll probably never convince you of something. What is it that we’re not doing? You know if you name some obscure thing and say hey, Microsoft ought to do more on that I’ll probably just send Dean mail and say hey, she said that such and such a thing we should go and do and we’ll go and do it . . .
Molly: That’s absolutely what’s happened, and I’m acknowledging you for that and Microsoft for that. I’m just saying there are a lot of skeptics still out there.
Bill: How can they be skeptical? I guess if your job is to be skeptical, you’d hate to be out of a job!
Tuesday 12 December 2006
Walking through the Detroit Metro Airport a few nights ago, I was tickled to come upon the Light Tunnel. This is a tunnel that connects the terminals to the main concourse, and it provides a psychedelic space-age experience of music and light as you make your way through. The following images were snapped in quick succession to get a feel for the experience.
It occured to me that these are great photos for color inspiration. You can see the individual photos in detail within my Michigan Flickr Set.
Your mission? To create a palette or share color inspiration work of your own for a nice, tasty color treat for all.
Saturday 9 December 2006
I’m looking for a semi-pro digital camera suitable for taking high quality digital photos almost exclusively for online use. Accessories, size and configuration matter: I travel and am hard on my stuff. I need solid cases and fewer moving parts.