God Knocks

“It’s becoming a bedroom community for people who work on Wall Street,” the Wife says of our beloved Manhattan. While the housing market everywhere else incurs gangrene, prices here are sky-high and climbing. A new condo goes up every three seconds and an angel does not get his wings.

When I moved to New York City in 1988, it was possible to find a rent-stabilized apartment in the East Village, Kips Bay, and plenty of other places—to live an artist’s life, or a drunkard’s, while securing a semblance of middle class security and stability. People moved here to pursue music careers, acting careers, writing careers, anything that didn’t pay. Some even painted. They could live here indefinitely while the market ignored their talent.

Today the city is cleaner and safer, but a small one-bedroom in an indifferent neighborhood costs over a million dollars. It’s not just the poor and the old who are getting priced out. Not just the working class. Not even just the middle class. New York is still a melting pot, but its ingredients are changing as the city squeezes out all but the richest rich.

Brooklyn is where many families have moved and many creative people with or without families are moving, but Brooklyn’s prices are no better. You get a little more space for the same obscene truckload of cash, and you pay for it in subway mileage.

Any reasonable person who does not already own a place and is not fabulously wealthy would catch the first bus out of town and not look back. But if Osama bin Laden could not chase us off this island, neither will the lesser abomination of insanely high and continuously escalating housing prices.

Throwing our first stake in the ground, we have enrolled our daughter in a fine preschool. And when the newly-out-of-rent-stabilization but still-below-market rental lease I have ridden since 1990 finally ends next year, we intend to buy. Don’t ask me how we’ll do it. I only know that we will.

Which brings me to God and the knocking sound.

I awoke this morning to a quiet, insistent, knocking, high-pitched and hollowly wooden—as if a tiny woodpecker were signaling from the back of our bedroom’s bookshelves.

(I actually awoke to our little dog’s barking, something he never does. He also peed twice on the floor, something else he never does. And threw up all over our gorgeous white Flokati rug. But that isn’t part of the God story.)

When a person who has not been particularly spiritual enters a spiritual program, odd things begin happening. Atheists call these things coincidences. For instance, an addict in a big city fearfully attends his first Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Chairing the meeting is the guy with whom he first bought dope. Programs like NA and AA are rife with such incidents.

The Wife is in a very different sort of program, but it is spiritual, and it concerns really living your life. Yesterday in that program, she and a friend focused on the notion of our owning a home, even though it seems impossible here. Before bed last night, she said we could start the process of finding a home by taking an action as simple as reading Home Buying For Dummies.

So this morning, there is this knocking sound. It’s not coming from the bureau. It’s not coming from the desk. It’s not electrical. There’s no big truck out on the street causing the windowpanes to rattle. The sound is insistent. We cannot localize its source or account for it logically.

Doors cover part of a bookshelf. Searching for the source of the sound, the Wife opens the doors. Out falls a book: Home Buying For Dummies.

And as she picks up the book, we both notice that the sound has stopped.

September 12

A gloomy, rainy September 11th in New York City. An eye doctor visit in the morning left my eyes dilated. For hours, I was overly sensitive to light. It was a perfect way to experience this city on that day.

In my apartment building, a woman boarded the elevator going down. About 60 years old, carrying someone else’s clothes to the laundry room. We were the only two passengers.

“Wet Tuesday,” she said. “Hot day, six years ago. Six years ago, my daughter was on TV, running for her life.”

In the doctor’s office, with dilated eyes, I siphoned bandwidth from an unsecured wireless network and read The New York Times on my iPhone, holding the handset close to my face. An article about Gen. David H. Petraeus’s testimony generated hundreds of comments. At least four of them were rational.

At 1:00 I braved a sudden monsoon in Curry Hill to meet a friend who was traveling in from Brooklyn. He told me he’d been somewhat concerned about coming into Manhattan on September 11.

At 3:30 I was home, hanging wet clothes from the shower rod and thinking about Iraq. I cannot stop thinking about it.

At 2:00 am I woke up. In my dream I had been trying to bring the soldiers home.

Comments off.

[tags]9/11, september11, nyc[/tags]

Bang!

Had I known that there was an explosion in midtown Manhattan near where my wife works, and that my wife and daughter were out in the ensuing chaos, I would have been far more anxious during my train ride home from Philadelphia last night.

I had gone to the city of brotherly love on business. One of our party misplaced her iPhone, discovering the loss as we were about to board the train back to New York. The odds against her recovering it would kill a game in Vegas. But it is her only phone and she is about to leave the country, so she stayed behind in hopes of locating it. Anxiety on her account, and some guilt at having boarded the train without her, kept me plenty busy on the ride home.

Like The New York Public Library, the old Pennsylvania Station was a Beaux-Arts masterpiece (photos: concourse and entrance in 1962, two years prior to demolition). An abomination replaced it. Outrage over this desecration gave us laws supporting historic preservation and preventing future desecrations, making the old Pennsylvania Station the Jesus of buildings.

One emerges from the current Penn Station as from a none-too-clean public bathroom.

On emerging from Penn Station as from a none-too-clean public bathroom, I overheard people discussing 9/11. That seemed odd. New Yorkers don’t talk about 9/11; we leave that to politicians. When I reached home, fifteen minutes’ humid walk later, my doorman was also muttering about 9/11. Odder still.

I expected to find my daughter asleep. Not so.

“Can you tell something happened?” my wife asked.

She had seen the explosion while standing about a mile north of it (just as, on September 11th, 2001, she had seen the twin towers on fire from a position on Fifth Avenue about two miles north of the disaster) and asked two firefighters who were also gazing in its direction if the intersection where it had occurred was known. 41st Street, they said. Reassured that our home had not blown up, she went on to the rendezvous where she was to pick up our daughter from her baby-sitter. Our daughter and her baby-sitter were not there. I can imagine my wife’s reaction to that absence. (I knew nothing about it, sitting in a crowded Amtrak car, discussing a client project, and worrying about a missing iPhone.)

Finally our daughter arrived; her baby-sitter was put in a cab; and my wife and daughter attended a birthday party for one of our daughter’s friends—a younger girl who had just turned two. Pizza and cupcakes were served.

At seven, the party ended, and, as at all children’s parties in New York, the guests were shooed out.

Philadelphia is 100 miles from New York. I made it in an hour. It took my wife and daughter two hours to traverse the single mile home. The subways were out, two avenues were closed, the whole world was taking buses or walking north, away from the disaster. Just below the cutoff and oblivious to it, I walked home knowing nothing except that I had had a good meeting in Philadelphia, and had perhaps overdone it on the huevos rancheros at Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat Restaurant.

Here’s how it looks in a newspaper:

A steam pipe installed in 1924 ruptured in a thunderous explosion shortly before 6 p.m. today, sending steam, water and debris shooting outward and sending clouds of smoke and dust billowing through Midtown Manhattan at the height of the evening rush. One person died of cardiac arrest, and more than 20 others were injured. The authorities ruled out any criminal activity, saying the explosion was apparently caused by a failure of antiquated infrastructure.

How was it for you?

[tags]steampipe, explosion, nyc, newyork, newyorkcity, myglamorouslife[/tags]

The Beatles slept here

My body insists it’s 10:30 at night, but the sun tells a different story. That orb has barely begun to set over Puget Sound, whose ripples magnify and fragment its blinding whiteness. The sun and its watery reflection are all I can see from my waterside hotel window. This is Seattle and I’ve come here to put on a show.

[tags]aneventapart, seattle, beatles, pugetsound[/tags]

From Bulgaria With Love

An Event Apart Boston 2007 was the best attended show since Mr Meyer and I founded our design conference scarcely sixteen months ago. Attendees came from as far away as Singapore and India. They hailed from Bulgaria (2), Canada (12), Estonia (1), Finland (2), India (1), Ireland (1), Latvia (1), Singapore (1), Sweden (1), the UK (3), and the US (510).

In all, 546 web artisans descended on Boston for our two-day event. The engagement and commitment of this audience were electric. Rather than waste pixels on my impressions of the show, I submit these third-party posts and artifacts:

Photos and slide shows

Flickr Event Apart Boston 2007 photo pool
Featuring swag, special effects, and the elusive decopus.
Ethan Marcotte’s Event Apart slides
Viewing slides without seeing the speaker’s live presentation is like trying to understand world events by looking at a photo of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Nonetheless, here are the slides from “Web Standards Stole My Truck!”
Dan Cederholm’s Event Apart slides
Beautiful slides (same disclaimer applies) plus a nice little post.

Posts and commentary

Pelennor Fields Day One
Pelennor Fields Day Two
Matt Winckler’s quick summaries and reviews of the presentations. “The goal is to provide a few-sentence summary of each talk, followed by my quick rating on a scale of 1 to 10, followed again by my brief explanation of the rating.”
stevekarsch.com: An Event Apart, Day One
stevekarsch.com: An Event Apart, Day Two
Steve Karsch’s notes make you feel as if you were there.
Chausse.org: Thoughts from An Event Apart
“An Event Apart Boston was a great experience. Whenever I’m at a conference, I get an insatiable urge to drop whatever I’m doing with my life and become an expert at whatever the speaker’s talking about. Anyway, a few notes.”
An Event Apart Boston – from the Aten Blog
Justin Toupin, co-founder and design lead for Aten Design Group, reviews the show: “The conference was amazing. Nine expert speakers presented on a range of topics from the conceptual to the practical. I’ve never been so happy to sit in one place for so long.”
Ed’s Development Blog: Back from AEA
Ed Higgins: “It was the first conference I’ve been to that I’ve been sad about it ending. Typically the last day of most conferences just drags… At AEA, every session was gold and I wish it could’ve lasted longer.”
AEA Boston, Day One: Jeffrey Zeldman’s Writing the User Interface
Cromulent Code: write-up of “Writing the User Interface,” my talk on Day One of An Event Apart Boston 2007. “How text contributes to a site/s usability and branding.”
Grapefeed: An Event Apart
Grapefeed’s experiences at An Event Apart Boston included a nerve-grinding, last-minute scramble to an alternate train station when the Back Bay station was sealed off because of a gas leak. (Same thing happened to me.)
ivantohelpyou: Notes from An Event Apart, Boston, Day
Blow by blow impressions.
impending post explosion
Stellargirl: “Just got back from An Event Apart Boston… I totally feel like the kid in that Far Side cartoon who says, ‘May I be excused? My brain is full.’”
days without a job: An Event Apart – Boston
“First day of a two day conference was great. We were told that there were more than 500 attendees!”
Zeldman Gem of the Day
Hardly a gem, but this excerpt captures part of the thrust of my talk on “Selling Design.”
Cameron Moll: AEA Boston
Highlights from the perspective of a (great) speaker.
Adobe’s Scott Fegette: CS3 Launch at An Event Apart
“I’ve been answering questions all day at An Event Apart about the new CS3 products. Even better, I gave away … three advance copies of CS3 Web Premium to three lucky attendees. An Event Apart is a really great mix of disciplines all centering on site design and development. I’ve talked to educators, government developers, indie web production shops, animators and video pros- just in the last hour alone.” (Adobe was a sponsor of An Event Apart Boston.)
Meyerweb: After Boston
Event Apart co-founder Eric Meyer: “I see the attendees at AEA as the craftsmen and women of the web. Sure, there are shops mass-producing sites, the way a factory churns out cheap clocks. That’s fine if you just want something to put on your nightstand. But if you want an elegant, finely tuned work of art that you’d hang in a prominent place, a clock that is as much a point of pride as a timepiece—you find a craftsman. And that’s who came to Boston. That’s who comes to An Event Apart.”

[tags]aneventapart, aeaboston07, aeaboston2007[/tags]

An Event Apart Seattle 2007

Announcing An Event Apart Seattle 2007, June 21st–22nd, at Bell Harbor International Conference Center, situated smack dab on the waterfront of picturesque Puget Sound in Seattle, WA, USA.

Learn from Tim Bray, father of XML; Google’s Jeff Veen; designer Andy Budd of Clearleft; Khoi Vinh, design director at NYTimes.com and author of subtraction.com; Shawn Lawton Henry of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI); Mint creator Shaun Inman; Newsvine CEO/ESPN redesigner Mike Davidson; and messieurs Jason Santa Maria, Eric Meyer, and me.

Tickets for the two-day event, including meals, goodies, and a party, are $795 (until May 21st). Seating is limited, first-come, first-served; registration opens March 15th. Details are available at aneventapart.com.

[tags]design, webdesign, aneventapart, seattle[/tags]

StarTAC Memories

I’m doing something different for this year’s SXSW Interactive Festival. Instead of giving a talk or participating in a panel, I’ll be sharing my mobile phone with anyone who asks. Call it a micro-meetup.

Dust off your memories. I proudly carry the Motorola StarTAC. One day it will be as collectible as a Bulova watch from the 1950s, or the first-generation iPod. I acquired it before September 11th, 2001 and have held onto it all these many days and nights.

Lots of sleeker phones with richer features have come along over the years, but their interfaces always reeked, and I’m particular about interfaces: I like them simple, clear, and functional. I never felt the need to replace my Motorola StarTAC until I saw the iPhone.

After SXSW I will retire my faithful servant and switch to Apple’s new device.

If you see me at SXSW, whip out your digital camera (or camera-phone), and ask to see my Motorola StarTAC. We’ll commemorate the micro-event with a photo, and share the photos in a special Flickr group.

See you in Austin!

Update: they keep dragging me back in

So I’m on a panel after all.

Get Unstuck: Moving From 1.0 to 2.0

Room 18ABCD
Monday, March 12th
10:00 am – 11:00 am

Moderator: Liz Danzico, Daylife

Kristian Bengtsson, Creative Dir, FutureLab
Chris Messina, Co-founder, Citizen Agency
Luke Wroblewski, Principal Designer, Yahoo!
Jeffrey Zeldman, Founder, Happy Cog

[tags]micro-meetups, SXSW, SXSWi, Motorola, StarTAC, mobile, cell, phones, iPhone, Apple, memes, flickr, photos[/tags]

Register for An Event Apart Boston

Registration is now open for An Event Apart Boston 2007. Enjoy two amazing days of design and code plus meals, a party, and a bag of swag for a mere $795 (reg. $895) while early bird savings last. Attend for as little as $745 with a discount code exclusively for zeldman.com readers.

Learn by day, party by night

On An Event Apart’s website, you’ll now find a detailed schedule describing the presentations with which our superstar speakers hope to entertain and enlighten you. From “Web Standards Stole My Truck!” to “Redesigning Your Way out of a Paper Bag,” it’s two stimulating days of best practices and fresh ideas in design, usability, accessibility, markup and code.

Check out that schedule. I’ll wait.

Lest you be overwhelmed by learning too much too soon, we’ll help you unwind (and do a little networking) at the Opening Night Party sponsored by Media Temple. You might even win a prize, courtesy of Adobe, New Riders, or Media Temple.

Hotel savings

Our Boston Events page also includes notes to help you book your hotel room at a specially negotiated discount price.

Located in beautiful and historic Back Bay, the Boston Marriott Copley Place provides in-room, high-speed internet access; laptop safes and coolers; 27-inch color TV with cable movies; luxurious bedding and linens, and more. Best of all, it’s the site of the conference. You can walk out of your room and into the show!

Save more with discount code

During the early bird period, the price for this two-day event is $795. But you can nab an extra $50 off with this discount code exclusively for zeldman.com readers:

AEAZELD

Just enter AEAZELD in An Event Apart’s shopping cart to enjoy those savings immediately. During our early bird period, you’ll pay just $745 for the two days and everything that comes with them.

After February 26, 2007, when the early bird savings ends, the price goes up to $895, and you’ll pay $845 with the discount. Still pretty good for two days with some of the sharpest minds and greatest talents in web design. But why pay more? Book An Event Apart Boston as soon as you can.

Unlimited creativity, limited seating

An Event Apart Boston will be the best conference Eric Meyer and I have yet put together. It will also be this year’s only East Coast Event Apart. Don’t miss it.

Join Eric and me, along with Steve Krug, Andrew Kirkpatrick, Molly Holzschlag, Cameron Moll, Dan Cederholm, Ethan Marcotte, and Jason Santa Maria, for what we modestly believe may be the most exciting and enlightening show in modern web design.

Hurry! Seating is limited and early bird savings end Feb. 26, 2007.

[tags]aneventapart, boston, aneventapartboston07[/tags]

An Event Apart Austin: Details, Details

Event Apart Austin attendees, this post contains important information about parking, laptops, snacks and lunch, the after-party sponsored by Knowbility, our Flickr photo group, and more. The rest of you, please move along.

About Austin

Austin, capital of Texas, “live music capital of the world,” and the Southwest’s answer to Silicon Valley, is a lively and remarkable town, teeming with history and high-rises, high-tech and dirty low-down blues. Seat of a great university and a million funky taverns, it’s paradise for music lovers and Tex-Mex junkies. Our favorite activity: breakfasting and celebrity-watching at Las Manitas Florist, 211 Congress Avenue (when we can get in). Yes, it’s called “Florist.” No, it’s not a florist, it’s a great Mexican cafe. Welcome to Austin!

Location, Laptops, and Lunch

An Event Apart Austin takes place…

Monday, November 6th, 2006, 9am – 5pm
Alamo Drafthouse Downtown
409 Colorado St. (Corner of 4th and Colorado; Directions and Map)
Austin, TX 78701

Yes, you can bring your laptop. Yes, there will be WI-FI. Yes, there will be chow throughout the day, including vegetarian choices. (Lunch options include veggie pizza, veggie sandwiches and salads. There are plenty of meat options, too.)

The Schedule

An Event Apart Austin runs from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. We have a lot to cover, so the event will start promptly. Arrive early to get a good seat! Doors open at 8:00 am; for best results, plan to show up between 8:00 am and 8:30 am. If you’re driving, leave yourself extra time to find a good parking space. (See the next section for details on parking.)

The day’s schedule is available for your perusal.

Parking

Parking can be a hassle, so come early and give yourself extra time. The Alamo Drafthouse says:

With the ongoing construction and the increased popularity of the warehouse district downtown, parking can be a real challenge. Street parking is still available for the crafty and persistent; we also recommend the parking structure between 3rd and 4th streets on San Antonio. The neighboring restaurants also have valet parking until midnight.

Happy Hour and a Half

An Event Apart Austin will be chock-full of design and code pleasures. But the fun (and the networking) don’t stop at 5:00. Join us after the show for a Happy Hour and a Half featuring complementary cocktails and savory snacks, sponsored by our good friends at Knowbility:

Happy Hour and a Half 6:00 – 7:30
The Belmont
306 W. 6th Street

Entering the Belmont Austin, with its wonderful 60s period decor, is like cruising Las Vegas or Palm Springs with Frank, Dino, and Sammy. Okay, it’s not—but it will be fun, especially after all those hours of brain work. Pull up to a plush banquette, order a free cocktail, and hob-nob with your fellow attendees.

Freebies From our Sponsors

By random drawing, some folks attending An Event Apart Austin will win software, books, or free hosting donated by our wonderful sponsors: Adobe, New Riders/AIGA Press, and Media Temple. Thank you, sponsors!

Join our Flickr Group!

You know you want to! Bring your digital camera and snap away (just be considerate of your fellow attendees). Share your snapshots with other attendees on our Flickr group:

flickr.com/groups/aeaaustin2006

Suggested tags: aneventapart, aneventapart06, aneventapart2006, aneventapartaustin, austin

Disclaimer and Miscellany

Please note that the schedule is subject to change, and that some things are not entirely within our control.

Previous AEA Austin 2006 news

[tags]aneventapart, design, conferences, austin, texas[/tags]