All posts by draft3

free 2012 wall calendar

2012 Wall Calendar – Take One Please

free 2012 wall calendarHas there ever been a more useful use of digital technology than the calendar/agenda/reminder function? I almost hate to admit it, but I was immediately hooked on Microsoft’s Outlook at work, which caused me to forever abandon my paper agendas. And now with a smartphone, you don’t have to be chained to the desktop; you can get bleeps and reminders and buzzes for everything … from “buy eggs” to “clean out garage.”

But, there is still one calendar function that, for me, hasn’t been replaced by the e-planner. And that is the “Year at a Glance” version. If you work in a field where projects take longer than two weeks, you can find yourself in a conference call where someone says, “Let’s reconvene in six weeks … is everyone available?” and you think, ‘Frak! When is six weeks? Wait, let me open up my calendar … oh, shoot, where’s my phone? Is that April or May?” Maybe you just want to jot down a quick note on the day, and — if necessary — transfer it to all of your online devices. For me, anyway, having the whole year in one view gives me a good sense of the passage of time, and usually how fast it is.

folded calendarSo that’s why I made this “2012 Wall Calendar.” I made it for me, and for anyone else who wants it. The calendar prints out on four sheets of 8.5 x 11 paper. Tack them all up together, and you’ve got the year at a glance. But you can also do one sheet at a time, if space is limited. And if you’ve got no wall at all, fold it into a triangle (or is that pyramid?) and place it just about anywhere.

TV for Ladies – IMHO

Thanks to my ‘On Demand’ habit, I have been able to watch a surprising number of this Fall’s new tv shows. And because I am, ahem, a lady, it seems that most of my chosen shows have been specifically targeted to the ladies. Score, tv marketing people! Although you may not want to have me figured out exactly, it seems you do. As such, this is what I have seen so far:

The New Girl: Starring the adorable and quirky Zooey Deschanel and three dudes, one of which is a Wayans. Deschanel moves into a charming urban apartment with three young guys she’s never met, after abruptly splitting with her live-in boyfriend. (She catches him cheating on her.) This show instantly fell apart for me because it relies on the premise that any three guys in the world would not immediately fall in love with and/or be attracted to Zooey Deschanel. Plus which, she plays a sweet girl, not a crazy person or a man-eating monster, and she dresses cute, and is post-breakup vulnerable. C’mon now writers, at least throw a credible obstacle our way.
Verdict: Almost worth it for the “Aaah OOOgah” bit Deschanel does with her glasses on seeing a hot guy in bar, but not quite. Although sitcom writing has improved greatly since the seventies, this one is still smells like “Three’s Company.”

Ringers: Sarah Michelle Gellar plays identical twins –one a rich, married Manhattanite and the other a SoCal floozy — who are both on the run from the law, significant others, creditors and (possibly) agents who don’t care about them anymore. Of course they trade identities, a la every other movie and soap opera about twins, and no one notices. Although the plot is meant to be intriguing and sexy, it is just contrived and — in the words of a knowledgable ten-year-old — “stoopit”. Making it even worse in this age of fantabulous CGI effects, the show doesn’t seem to have updated its “both twins in the frame” technology since The Parent Trap. And I mean Haley Mills’ Parent Trap.
Verdict: Except for some drool-worthy Manhattan interiors, this one is a total miss. Sorry Sarah Michelle, you know I love you, but better luck next time.

Revenge: A young woman, whose decent middle-class family has been ruined by a wealthy and despicable  “Kennedy-esque” clan, returns to the scene of the crime — the Hamptons — to single-handedly bring down the east coast dynasty. No super-famous stars in this one, though they are all attractive and some do look familiar. Don’t ask me why this show is better than the Sarah Michelle Geller vehicle, to which it bears some resemblance, but it is. Perhaps because it offers us some really good baddies, and we don’t mind at all when they are set adrift in a rowboat in the Long Island Sound, perhaps someday to come ashore in Jersey (eew).
Verdict: Impossible plot in a beautiful location. This one knows what it is. A guilty pleasure.

Prime Suspect: I saw the star of this series, Maria Bello, promoting it on a morning talk show, and I thought “Oh no, this sounds horrible. How could they?” I’m a huge fan of the Helen Mirren/BBC series of the same name, and my reaction was somewhat akin to hearing that NBC had remade — I don’t know what an appropriate analogy would be here — say, ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ with Justin Bieber.  No, no said Maria to the ‘Good Morning Whatever’ host, the new show is quite different;  it’s New York in 2011, not London in the 90′s. And it would have to be different. Because the original series was subtle, it had complex characters that you cared about, very few if any guns and car chases, plus Helen Mirren and her hair that always looked good.

But, like any idiot who drives past a car wreck on I-95, I just had to slow down and look. So I watched the pilot. And it was good. Yes, it’s a different show. Maria Bello”s character, Jane Timoney,  carries a gun that would stop Dirty Harry in his tracks. And there are car chases and fights. And Jane’s boyfriend has been upgraded from an endearingly schlumpy construction company owner to a  white-hot, shirtless carpenter.

But there are still quite a few similarities to the original series. While the sexism that dogged Helen Mirren’s every step has abated a bit, it’s still there for Maria Bello’s Jane Timoney.  In fact, both the old and new Janes get a significant career boost from a colleague’s unfortunate medical event. And then there is both old and new Jane’s weird affinity for children (not entirely believable in the original series either), and her ability to get information out of suspects by getting in their heads,  rather than hitting their heads with the phone book.  And Maria Bello’s hair isn’t bad either.

Bottom line: I’m a fan of the new Jane. Giant gun and all. Not the least because she actually DOES something. She’s not a “columnist” or a “decorator” or a “philanthropist” whose work all happens off screen, and apparently at 3 o’clock in the morning.  I like her toughness – even if it’s a bit of fantasy. Somewhere along the line, someone must have told Jane,”If you want to cry, go outside” and somehow, someway,  she’s been able to pull it off. Gonna DVR every episode and hope they’re all as good as the pilot.

My hotel rating system

We all know about the Michelin guide and the AAA guide, with their four stars and their five diamonds. But I have decided to rate hotels based on the quality of their hangers. That’s right, hangers. The hangers in the closet. The durability, count, and mobility of the hangers is a sure-fire indication of the quality of the hotel. To wit, my hotel rating system:

Zero hangers
Literally, no hangers at this establishment. If you are the kind of person who has clothes that need to be hung up, you probably shouldn’t be staying here. While there may be a  closet, or a metal rod of some kind, in the room, it is unclear for what purpose the device was intended.

One hanger

In this lodging you will find one or two wire hangers — dry cleaner style. Most likely left behind by previous occupants. But at least the housekeeping staff had the common courtesy to leave them in the room.

Two hangers

Here we have the case of the decapitated hanger. An unremoveable “O” ring is fixed to the closet hanging rod, into which the detachable hanger body is inserted with a small “t” bar. The hanger itself is decent, usually substantial and made of wood, but its overall construction betrays the hotel’s lack of faith in its customers. They are quite sure their customers’ main purpose in life is to steal hangers, and are saying to them, “Good luck using this one back home.” Apart from the unpleasant whiff of suspicion associated with this type of hanger, there is also the immovability factor. You can’t even use this hanger anywhere else in your hotel room. Want to steam out wrinkles in the shower? Not with this little stumpy-necked bastard. Want to leave tomorrow’s outfit over the back of a chair in the sitting area? Sorry, suckers! Better get back in the closet.

Three hangers

Ok, now we’re starting to get somewhere. Here we have a fully functioning wooden hanger, maybe with a double bar for slacks or clips for a skirt. And being a one-piece hanger, it can be taken out of the closet and hung somewhere else. But wait! What have we here? The hook of this hanger only fits over the miniature-diameter rod in the hotel closet. Its tiny hook size will clearly render it useless once you have stolen it and tried to use it in your home closet with its now seemingly gigantic hanging rods. Fail! Mistrust fail! However, mitigating factor if the tiny hook also fits on the hotel’s bathroom shower curtain rod for aforementioned de-wrinkling procedure.

Four hangers

Normal-size wooden hangers, with normal-size hooks, that can be removed and hung about the hotel room at your pleasure. Quantity above eight, especially in hotels that cater to couples and families who tend to stay for more than two nights.

Five hangers

Aaahhh, hanger nirvana. About a dozen standard-size, removable hangers. Now here is what separates the men from the boys, the “just fines” from the “outstandings”: there should be a variety of hangers — some with skirt clips, some with slacks hangers, some just for suit jackets, and some with padding for blouses and ‘delicates’. These five hanger establishments have decided that, given what you are paying for the room, you are aware that — should you ‘accidentally’ walk away with a hanger, or a delightful terrycloth bathrobe — you will be charged for it, and you will not raise a fuss.

It’s the unspoken pact of so-called civilized society.

Should I buy a web site template?

Not so Easy WebsitesFor some reason web designer seems to be one of those jobs that lots of people think they could do if they just get through the “Web Magic For Dummies” book. And maybe one of the reasons why web design seems so accessible are all those sites that offer “free” website templates and promise that you can be up and running in a couple of hours.

The “freelancer wanted” bulletin boards are littered with pleas from small business owners who need help making their web templates work. You will not be alone.

On occasion, I have been asked to design a website using a purchased template. It’s not my favorite way to do things, but there are some advantages.  Most templates are well designed and use clean, valid code. And they’re compliant with popular browsers. But editing them is not for amateurs.

If you don’t know at least a little something about html and css, a web template is probably not for you. Even a moderately experienced designer will have to come up with some ingenious work-arounds to adjust a canned template for a real customer.

However, if you’re a bit of techno geek, and you’d like to learn about building websites, and you don’t mind spending long hours at your computer making your template work, then go for it. It’s fun. And you will have a somewhat valuable skill when you’re done.

On the other hand, if you’re not a geek of any kind, here’s my advice: gird your loins, look at your budget, and hire a professional to do the work. Get estimates from a few designers, and be specific about the scope of work. Adjust what needs to be done to fit your budget.

But what if you really have no budget?  Look into a totally and utterly free blog. WordPress is my preferred blog provider at the moment, but there are other good providers out there, like blogger. If you want to brand your blog with logos, backgrounds and customized pages, you may need some assistance.  Don’t expect to be able to do much customizing right away, but a blog will give you a functioning online presence, and a way to engage in dialogue with users.

Perhaps your 12-year-old nephew spends too much time online already, and his skills could be put to use.

Facebook pages and twitter are two more ways to get online and start networking for free. But please don’t confuse the idea of “free” with “guaranteed popularity.” You have got to be in it to win it with social networking, and the constant provision of content and feedback that drive successful social networking can eat up a lot of time. There are professionals today who are becoming experts at marketing with these tools, and their services can be worth every penny.

While I wave most newbies off templates, there is one group to whom I freely recommend them: developers. If you are a developer — someone who makes websites function efficiently and securely using back- or front-end coding — but would be happy with green type on a black background, then you would be smart to invest in a template. You know how the code works, but you just don’t have a feel for design. For you, my brainiac friends, a template could be just the ticket.

Still wondering if a template is right for you? Try this simple test: the Should I Buy a Website Template Decision Tree

And stay tuned for the next article: How do I find a web designer?

Songs from 2010 – Actually

It crept up gradually. I became a person who stopped paying attention to contemporary music. It’s not that I stopped listening to music. I still listen to music. To be sure, I’m not plugged in during every spare moment, like when I was a kid. (There’s too many good shows on tv.)  If I hear something I like, I  ask, “Who is that? When did that come out?” 1997? Oh. Well. Totally missed that one.

After all, I have the i-pod for walking around the neighborhood running errands. And the  gym. But there’s no new exposure on the i-pod. It’s all stuff I already have. Also I play music in the background when I’m working at home. That’s usually internet radio, and there is new stuff there. But I’m usually concentrating on work, so the chance that I will stop and check who the artist is — while I’m in the middle of a sql query — is minimal.

So really the best opportunity for hearing new music is in the car. The satellite radio is tuned into news, blues, ambient, and a couple of alternative and pop stations. I hear plenty of stuff that I like. I glance at the display while driving down I-95. Must remember.  “Sleigh Bells.” Good. And then 15 seconds later: *blank*. Will not remember “Sleigh Bells” until I hear them again. Ooh, I like them. And then I forget again. Will not buy them, will not download them, will not seek them out on MySpace. In short, I’m short-term memory woman.

So this month I made a concerted effort to see if there was anything I liked from 2010.  And here in no particular order, with my memory reactivated by the internet and my ipod, are some of my indie-pop favorites from the year gone by. Unless some of them are from 1997.

And while I’m looking back at 2010, I’d like to give Kanye West credit for being 2010′s most talented tortured artist. With an emphasis on artist. Who else is doing braver, more interesting things? Considering that he could write ring tones in his sleep and just wait for the checks to clear.  I salute you, sir!

My year in review

Most people don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I commend them. Why should you put off your goals, your plans, your ‘making things better’ kit until this one essentially random day? And then, why should you wait another 365 to make more plans?

But, but … if you are not the kind of person who takes stock on a regular basis, January 1 can be a useful moment. So I’m just gonna say this.   2010 was much better than the year before. It had its highs and its lows — for sure. Interactions with other humans were sometimes great, sometimes not-so-great. But that’s another blog entry for another day. My overall plan for 2010 was to travel more. I went to Italy and Chicago, and took a couple of local jaunts, but honestly I coulda done a little more travel-wise.

One unexpectedly good thing that happened this year was that I got really interested in web design. And by that I don’t mean some kind of  machiavellian job advancement strategery. I mean I got interested in my field of endeavor. All by myself. No one was training me, or telling me to be able to do this or that. I just wanted to take it up to the next level. And I think I did.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m any kind of a leading light in my field. I’m just saying that I took it up from a “2″ to a “3″. It was very energizing. What’s funny though, is that when you have those moments of feeling driven to figure out how to do something,  you dream about it, you surf it, you read it, you can’t wait to get home to work on it — and you’re telling yourself, ‘this is the ticket… i’ll be amped up like this forever’ and you forget that these things run in cycles. Sometimes you’re really into it. Sometimes you just want to watch American Idol.

So that’s our story 2010: you and I had a couple moments, and I know there’s lots of work to be done in the year to come.