oh, i am such a girl.

should there ever again be any doubt– the next time you see me wielding a sledgehammer or reading a bentley manual– just remember that there seems to be no limit to the number of times i can watch ‘four weddings and a funeral’. and i cry every time matthew reads this bit from w.h. auden:

He was my North, my South, my East and West,

My working week and my Sunday rest,

My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;

I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

happy birthday, sarah!

last night i went to “sarah’s birthday party.”:http://www.ovenall.com/diary/archives/000601.php it was quite lovely, i think just the right number of people, and all very nice and interesting to talk to. sarah seemed to have a really nice time. i didn’t order her present until yesterday, so it will be a few days before i can give it to her, but i gave her some thumb monsters to tide her over 🙂

sylvia actually brought me a belated birthday gift as well– a very nice diana ross record from her collection that she’d decided she was ready to part with. i’m starting to realize that sylvia probably has a treasure trove of amazing vintage stuff at her place, and i think she gets it all at thrift stores– not places that cull the thrift stores and yard sales and then mark everything up, like “the untidy museum”:http://www.untidymuseum.com/ and “beggars and choosers.”:http://national.citysearch.com/profile/6125909/ i mean, i love those places, but if i had the flexible schedule and salary of an academic rather than those of a programmer, i’d probably take the time to do the thrifting myself.

although, you know, thrifting (which i used to do a lot of) really seemed to result in me owning a lot of stuff that i couldn’t quite use. like that orange floor lamp that’s terrific– but not terrific in my house.

anyway, i think sarah had a good birthday, and i’m really looking forward to giving her her present when it gets here– i think she will really like it.

i am a designer.

today i, along with many other geeky people in the area, went to a seminar given by “edward tufte.”:http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/ his field is the presentation of information.

i’ve always shied away from calling myself a designer. to me it has long meant, mainly, “artist and decorator”. one who makes things look attractive, who develops a harmonious color scheme and picks just the right font to communicate an appropriate style.

but in fact, designer means finding design solutions to challenging presentation problems. (one hopes they’re challenging, anyway.) and i’ve been doing that for a very long time. i have a knack for it. no formal training outside of seminars and conferences; most of what i know was learned on the job, in a couple of college art classes, or grasped intuitively.

there’s a paper form that was used a great deal in my work when i first started working at sas. i was in the IT division; it was our request tracking form. the first iteration of this form was done on a mainframe, or possibly on a typewriter. shortly after i arrived, we got a mac in our lab, and i taught myself pagemaker. i’m not sure how it came about, but i wound up re-designing the form in pagemaker. my re-designed version became the standard that was used for many years, until the whole process went on-line.

i ran across a copy of that form recently. i’m still proud of it. the level of information crammed onto a letter-sized page is quite astounding. i could do it over better now– i have access to much better fonts now, for one thing– but even without making excuses like, “it was my first try”, i’m still pleased with it.

during the tufte seminar, i started thinking about a couple of the projects i’m currently working on, and how to apply what i was learning. i thought a lot about one of his main points– that high density (or “resolution” as he calls it) of information is _desireable._ when i’ve had my designer hat on in the past, i’ve always thought of this information density as a problem– undesireable. but in fact, he’s right– if the information is all necessary, then the problem isn’t that there’s too much information, but that you simply have a challenging design problem in presenting it.

and i realized that, a lot of times, at work, it’s up to me to come up with that solution. i do sometimes work with someone down the hall whose official title is “designer”, but only on the really big projects. there’s so much day-to-day stuff– user interfaces for all the applications our group develops, mainly– that comes only to me, not an official designer, and i “make it pretty” (as my co-workers have always called it).

i think i’ve long underrated my value to the group, but we’ve recently merged with a much larger group, and now i have the opportunity to work on UI’s that will appear on the company’s external web (until now, i’ve worked exclusively on the intranet). and what has become clear is that no one– not one single person in my department– can do what i do. other people have pieces of the puzzle– programming skills, a knowlege of CSS, or the ability to cook up the way the UI should look, using a tool like powerpoint (oddly). but i seem to be the only one who can design the UI, put it in its correct context, ensure all the menus on the page are correctly weighted, that the links are properly labelled, that the style of the UI fits the style of the site it’s being inserted into, create the CSS to accomplish this, ensure the XHTML is semantic, and, if i’m the programmer on the project, do the database design and write the back-end code for the application.

i’ve focused so much on those last two things over the years, and how i’m not as accomplished in that area as others are, that i’ve ignored the value of all the rest of it. now that i’m working with external web people, the importance of my design skills is thrown into sharp relief. and the nice thing is– it’s what i love doing.

anyway, if you’re a web designer, you really _have_ to check out tufte’s stuff. he’s the leader in his field. he’s got three books, and aside from the seminar, they’re probably the best way to get to know his work. the web site unfortunately doesn’t serve as an introduction– it’s more a sales tool for the things you can buy from him.

i plan to recommend that every person in my department, as well as the folks who produce our internal company news, be sent to a tufte seminar at the next obvious opportunity. they sent a huge boatload of people to “jared spool’s”:http://uie.com/consult.htm seminar in RTP last summer, so i don’t think its out of the realm of possibility.

gorgeous

it’s sad, but i rarely come across sites any longer that i love the design of so much that i want to check out their source/stylesheet.

however, today i came across a site that struck me; appropriately, it’s the site of the “Web Standards Project.”:http://www.webstandards.org/

i love the layout, which has just enough and not too much whitespace between its elements; i love the headers (that’s text, not graphics– Trebuchet with an uppercase transform); i love the subtle colors and the little boxes of info about each post at the top right.

oh, i suppose the content is worth exploring as well, but that’s not what i’m here to write about 🙂

“tape”

“tape”:http://imdb.com/title/tt0275719/ dir “richard linklater.”:http://imdb.com/name/nm0000500/

monday, feb. 2nd, 8pm, “richard white lecture hall, east campus.”:http://www.duke.edu/web/film/directions/Direast.html

lemme know if you’re interested in going with me.

worth noting (and i’ll post this to the links on the right), “duke screen society schedule.”:http://www.duke.edu/web/film/screensociety/ssocietylist.htm i wondered where all the interesting university film programs had gone…

sugar crash

i had a mild blood sugar crash right before lunch today; i think the combination of the chocolate ice cream last night (sugar-free though it was), a light breakfast, and two cups of tea this morning were what did it. (artificial sweeteners + caffiene + chocolate + too little protien and fat are just as problematic as sugar itself.) this probably means that the ice cream needs to be gotten rid of or i’ll continue to eat it every night. dammit.

chocolate. now.

it doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while i have a serious chocolate craving. i had one today; it lasted all afternoon and reached a sort of fever pitch after work. i was really craving chocolate cake, but had to compromise with edy’s no sugar added triple chocolate.

chocolate cravings were a little easier to deal with back when i ate sugar. now i have to be a bit more creative. i could really go for, say, a really high quality chocolate truffle. in fact, i haven’t had any “vosges truffles”:http://www.vosgeschocolate.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen=CTGY&Category_Code=FRIAND in a long time, and that would be so perfect. (if you’ve never had them, and you like chocolate, you owe it to yourself. and be adventurous– wasabi and ginger truffles are better than you might think.)

of course, one day the world will catch up with the needs of the sugar-challenged, i am sure. or maybe i will decide that one little chocolate truffle isn’t the end of the world.

buffy dream

i had my first buffy dream ever last night. i was reading “seven seasons of buffy”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1932100083/ right before bed, so i guess that’s why.

i recall being in a bedroom with angel, buffy, xander, and anya. angel was actually, secretly, one of those alien lookalikes from x-files– you know, the kind with green blood that bubbles out and kills humans. i think buffy also had a secret evil identity– maybe she was a vampire. anya was taking xander to the airport. i went to find a friend to help with this. i am sure i was supposed to find giles, but instead found a young woman. she suggested we hold a seance. since there was only two of us, we had to hold hands across a huge table with candles, which was awkward.

i remember thinking that anya would be in danger because she didn’t know that angel was actually an alien.