Thursday, May 28, 2009

My favorite indulgence will save the world

It's brunch. I won't keep you in suspense, like some people. My favorite indulgence is brunch. Lots of people like brunch. What's not to like? I mean, everybody likes breakfast food already, except for those few heathens that hate eggs.

But why do people really like brunch? Let's look at the facts: tasty breakfast food, waking up late, drinking about one million different types of beverages, having a large selection of types of food you can eat, and HOLLANDAISE SAUCE. I probably could've truncated that list to just hollandaise sauce and about 80% of the population would be nodding in emphatic agreement. There are also other great things about brunch besides being buzzed at 11am.

Brunch is a time when you choose to wake up (almost) whenever you want, and whoever you have brunch with, you are saying to them, "I choose to dedicate the genesis of my day to you." This time when the sun is flaring off of everything and you're content to be awake and fuzzy-headed and every cell wakes up with the sensation of bubbles from your mimosa pricking your tastebuds, that is the time you're choosing to share with yourself and others. You're awake enough not to act too dumb, but asleep enough to still share the nonsense of your last dream. You don't have to give up the salty for the sweet. You can share food or hoarde it all for yourself. In front of you, you might have a water, a coffee, a bellini and an orange juice. It's ok to have dessert even if your main course was a ridiculously loaded waffle. Excess is ok. The amount of food you eat at brunch is directly proportionate to how much of your soul is available to you. It's ok to laugh at brunch. It's ok to talk with your mouth full at brunch, but don't spit on anybody. It's ok to cry at brunch, you will feel better by the end of it. Don't be selfish; allow yourself to be kissed by someone who's just had a bloody mary. If you are in a place without windows, it is not a good place for brunch. Light filtering through the different glasses on the table summon the image of stained glass windows. Your table is a church, a holy place where all thoughts are of praise and joy.

Every time I gather with friends, I end up going to brunch with them. We walk to brunch, we drive to brunch, we shuffle to brunch. We eat brunch, we devour brunch, we savor brunch. We wake up, we dream, we float in between. We are happy, we are elated, we are bittersweet. We enjoy the fresh warm air, we enjoy the fuzzy applause of rain, we enjoy coming out of the cold. We drink to refresh, we drink to wake up, we drink to mellow out. We feel whole, we feel infinite, we feel like puzzle pieces. We wear soft shirts, we wear flowy dresses, we wear fluffy mittens. We share memories, we share food, we share plans for the future. We save photos, we save each other, we save the world.

We do not save cake for later.

Rule: Have brunch.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It's everywhere, but it's still hard to find.

Just this weekend, when I was helping a friend do some yardwork, she pointed out to me the ingenious design of a jug of grass seed/growing material. The idea was to pour the seed mixture all over to grow new grass. On the flip-top lid were three pegs that scattered the seed mixture (which reminded us both of those plinko games) instead of emitting one long grass seed snake. Which, in retrospect, might've been kind of cool. There are lots of things around us that have good design, and I happen to respect thos things. Of course, it could've been a prettier jug, with a more ergonomic handle, but cost is a factor as always. In the same afternoon, the boy and I had just bought a hoe to help with turning the soil. I was pulling at a root when the whole top of it snapped off because it was made from aluminum (demerit number one... it's a gardening tool!) and the joint where the actual head met the handle was not reinforced (demerit number two). Dumb, dumb, dumb! I was incredulous. I'm not tiny, but I'm not supposed to be able to break the head off of a hoe.

Anyway, for me, nothing matches the satisfaction of really taking a look at the things around me and see good design (my budget doesn't allow my entire life's physical inventory to be this way, but still nice). Aesthetic, function, satisfaction of the tactile interaction - I guess it's part of aesthetic, but I just really like textured surfaces and sturdy buttons, ok - are subtle things that people are just now starting to place more consumer value upon. It's great, because this means now we will have more products that are better-designed and affordable, but it's also sad because we can take them for granted... And also I don't get to feel like a special hipster for appreciating good design. Opportunities to self-aggrandize aside (this is a blog, isn't it?), I'd like everyone to take a moment and find something that they really admire the design of. Feel free to post a comment, I'd love to read about it!

Also: appreciate this sexiness:

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dear website: why do you suck?

Some websites have an excuse. Websites I design and create, for example, have no choice but to suck kinda hardcore, because I know nothing about back-end website design (tee hee, back-end). Similarly, I don't really expect anything created on geocities or associated in a "web ring" (remember those? old school.) to be all that good. No offense. There might be some out there that are good, but I don't expect them to be.

However, if you're a large company that everyone knows, I expect that you have at least enough cash to create a functional website. Nay, a *usable* website. EGADS WHAT A CONCEPT. Let me start by saying that I may be a bit too retarded to use websites and maybe I'm just completely blind to the ease of their use. However, I'd consider myself to be at least mildly technologically-literate, so let's pretend that most people might make the same mistakes I did if I'm just missing something. Or we can pretend everybody should be able to use websites even if they have a hangover. Just sayin'.

To the point: let's say you're a company that sells insurance. Your goal: to get everybody to insure their everything with you. You want them to have different policies for their home, boat, car, motorcycle, anatomical monstrosity, compost heap all with you. That's great! Let's say I've signed up. Let's say also that I want to use the internet to keep track of them all and make changes. That's great for you too; you have a record that doesn't require a lot of gross filing and paper cuts etc. as well as the ability to back it up real easy-like. GUESS WHAT NOW I HATE YOU. Why? Because you've forced me to create a new login/pass combination for EACH policy. (And your site also has cookie/login/logout problems, I might add)


Yeah not only am I not creative to come up with that many distinct login/pass combinations, but I'm not nearly awesome enough to remember them all (Which letters did I capitalize in aZNinvAzN2002n00bsluLZ567?). Why on earth would you do that to your customers? Do you want to drive them away? But that's not enough; no, most certainly not. That's an easy problem to solve. Here are some suggestions: Forgot your password? Send it to me. Too much of a security risk? Send me a randomly-generated temporary password that expires in 4 hours with a captcha required before submission. Still too much of a security risk? Force me to go through an awful voice-activated/touch-tone system only to have it assess after 10 minutes that I need to talk to an operator to reset my password. Oh... you... want me to reset my password by mail?

...Yeah f*** you.

No joke. This website - as its first suggestion after my unsuccessful attempt to answer security questions (another story altogether) - suggested only I reset this password by mail. No other suggestions. That's a problem. You're basically suggesting to me that not only does your website suck, but that you don't trust your phone system to solve my problem and so you want me to WRITE IN to reset my password. Now I understand somewhat, because it seems given this tribulation that the folks who work at your company are ILLITERATE, but see the reason why I was using the internet as opposed to, say, smoke signals, was not because it had just rained and there was no dry tinder. Interestingly enough, i just wanted things to move a bit faster than that.

Now maybe I'm entirely in the wrong here. Maybe there is a way to have one online account at your website for all these policies. And maybe I could've figured out my obscure reminder as to what my other passwords are. But I don't see a way to do it on the site. Seriously, the link should be able to slap me in the face somewhere in my account management section or whatever it is. As should the "login/logout" section. Not only is the login/logout placed in different places depending on what page you're looking at, sometimes I really can't find it. But hey, maybe I'm retarded, and I'll just have to write you a letter and then you can laugh at me and call me an idiot, but somehow I get the feeling that

"Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!"

isn't quite so effective through the mail, especially after it takes two weeks to arrive and I've already replaced you.

Rule: Have people test your site for usability.

Monday, May 4, 2009

You're cordially invited to share your thoughts

Rule: Share with me a moment. Leave your moment in the comments, or, if you're shy, email it to me at thatgirl [dot] sandy [@] gmail [dot you-know-the-rest].

Here's mine. This is from January.

I am in the kitchen snapping string beans under the ugly fluorescent light. All beautiful things and ugly things are visible under this light. There is soft music playing in the living room, and I can hear artists talk about tools and technique. Over this, there is the rhythmic sound of the string beans popping their green, wet noise in the harsh light. I am going to put the beans in a pan with salt, pepper, and olive oil. I'm going to roast them in the oven, and I will savor their exquisite crunch in my mouth. This is a clean, honest, and pure dish. This is a clean, honest, and pure moment.