It’s a process

After finishing her late-night snack, she left the empty bowl beside her in the bed “for Emile’s spirit to nibble on.”


Choose Death


When I returned from Boston, my little white dog was much sicker. It’s the lungs. There’s a constant honking gasp, except when he’s sleeping. The doctors said this would happen, they just didn’t say when. Despite the constant meds and steady love, there comes a time when the animal can’t breathe—and nothing medical can be done, other than the merciful horrible.

So today is the day. I feared it on the afternoon I came home and I knew it for sure last night. Where there is life there is hope, until there is no hope. It’s time for Emile to go gently to foreversleep.

If my daughter wasn’t with me, I’d have taken him in for the procedure yesterday. As it is, to minimize my daughter’s trauma, I’ll have to squeeze it in today, while she is at school. Death on a schedule: between my workout at 9:00 and my first business appointment. Tears at eleven.

At this second, little Emile sits comfortably on his dirty red cushion, cleaning himself after a hearty breakfast of flavorless hypoallergenic food stuffed with pills. His breathing is normal enough to fill me with guilt, hesitation, and denial. Is there still hope?


Boston Bound

Plane travel versus train travel, that sort of thing.

Morning finds me bound by train for Boston, capital of Massachusetts, land of Puritans, patriots, and host of the original Tea Party. Center of high technology and higher education. Where the John Hancock Tower signs its name in the clouds, and the sky-scraping Prudential Tower adds a whole new meaning to the term, “high finance.” Beantown. Cradle of liberty, Athens of America, the walking city, and five-time host to An Event Apart, which may be America’s leading web design conference. (You see what I did there?)

Over 500 advanced web design professionals will join co-host Eric Meyer and me in Boston’s beautiful Back Bay for two jam-packed days of learning and inspiration with Dan Cederholm, Andy Clarke, Kristina Halvorson, Jeremy Keith, Ethan Marcotte, Jared Spool, Nicole Sullivan, Jeff Veen, Aarron Walter, and Luke Wroblewski.

If you can’t attend the sold-out show, which begins Monday, May 24, you can follow the live Tweetage via the souped-up, socially-enriched, aesthetically tricked out new version of A Feed Apart, whose lights go on this Sunday, May 23. Our thanks to developers Nick Sergeant, Pete Karl II, and their expanded creative team including Steve Losh and Ali M. Ali. We and they will have more to say about the project soon. For now, you can always read our 2009 interview with Nick and Pete or sneak a peek on Dribbble.

There’s also a Flickr photo group and an interstitial playlist, so you can ogle and hum along from your favorite cubicle or armchair.

See you around The Hub or right here on the world wide internets.


Web Design and Fitness

Three times a week I work out hard with a trainer at a gym. It’s like sex. I don’t mean it feels good. On the contrary, it hurts. And I don’t mean there’s cuddling after. What makes my hard workouts like sex is that they’re followed by a spacey bliss in which there is no atom of desire. When I’m lying on that post-workout stretching table, gazing vaguely at the ceiling, Christina Hendricks could sashay by wearing a G-string made of thousand dollar bills and carrying a plate of spaghetti, and there’s nothing I would want from her.

Our industry rewards long hours in the cubicle and for many of us, it shows—especially as we get older.

Sometimes I wonder whether I became soft because of what I do, or chose what I do because it suits a lifestyle in which “physical activity” means answering the door when the pizza guy arrives.

For years I worked out three times a week, but with no results—partly because I didn’t know what I was doing, and the rest because when it got tough or boring, I quit. Hence the trainer.

The good client

My trainer tells me what to do next and I just do it. She’s the expert, I’m the client. I value her wisdom and experience and try to make each session a learning experience as well as a cardiovascular one.

I’m fortunate to have had good and bad clients. I know how to be a good client. The real value of a client services relationship isn’t what happens during the hours when client and consultant work together; it’s about what happens after. Like everything meaningful in life, the client services relationship is about change.

We don’t create taxonomies, layouts, content strategies and templates as a one-time deal, so the client’s content and design can be frozen in amber. We create them so the client has a framework for continuing to evolve their website into the future, with or without our help. Good clients know this. And they also know that, regardless of time and budget, we can’t do everything for them.

They know that it’s better to concentrate on getting a few things right than to try to cram every conceivable wish and feature into their time with us. Trying to do everything is a way to achieve nothing. Focus, concentration and form are what’s important. Consistency is what’s important. It’s all about the process. As in client services, so at the gym. End analogy.

Modest goals, steady commitment

I’m never going to look like Arnold, and that’s not my goal. My goal is to live a bit longer, and to enjoy life more. I already enjoy walking upstairs a lot more than I used to. Even when I’m alone on a Sunday afternoon, I’m more likely to do something physical (even if it’s just taking a photo walk instead of sitting at the computer) than I was two months ago.

And when I do sit at the computer, I’m more alert, more focused, less likely to need an artificial stimulant to get through my day.

There’s nothing special about what I’m doing, except that I’m doing it. Some old friends and some people I work with inspired me by their example. To them, thanks. Also to my ex, who advised me to give myself this gift.

Starting this weekend, I’ll be in Boston for An Event Apart. Travel usually translates to bad (i.e. overly rich) eating, which can undermine a fitness regime. Between creamy Boston clam chowder and the piles of candies and cakes with which our event planner Marci punctuates An Event Apart sessions, temptation will be everywhere. And while I can’t promise to be perfect, I will strive to put my heart before my sweet tooth.

Life is Beautiful

I haven’t slept. For much of last night, my daughter Ava cried out in her sleep with nightmares. Eventually her cries would wake us both. Instead of going back to sleep, Ava would chat with me about her day. I wish I could remember all the amazing things she told me at 2:00 AM.

Around 3:30 or so, we were both asleep when our little dog Emile began barking to be let down from the bed. (He’s too small to hop down himself.) I groaned, rose, and set him gently on the floor; off he trotted to relieve himself on a Wee-wee Pad™ I’d left in the front hallway for just such a contingency.

Moments later we heard an unearthly shrieking. The dog has progressive, incurable, pulmonary fibrosis. The attacks come on suddenly and unpredictably (except that they often most occur after he has relieved himself in the middle of the night). His lungs stop pumping oxygen. He falls over, typically into his own excrement, and goes into what appears to be cardiac arrest. Uncanny shrieks testify to his terror and pain.

Typically I can bring him back by throwing myself on the floor, talking to him, and patting his ribs to get the lungs working again. I did this and my five-year-old was right beside me, helping, and asking if the dog was dying.

“He’s not dying,” I said, confident that this was not the moment. (And luckily, I was right.)

We cleaned the dog and put him back in bed.

“Dad, there are poopy turds on the floor,” my daughter said.

“I know, I’ll clean them in the morning.”

“Dad, there are poopy turds on the floor.”

“I’ll go clean them,” I said.

Around 4:00 AM the three of us cuddled up and my daughter carried on a delightful conversation, mainly by herself, for at least half an hour. Then we were all asleep. And then the 6:00 AM alarm rang.

Kids can keep you up all night but it’s all worth it. Domestic animals give love freely to the least deserving, but their lives are short and their ends are often brutal. And it’s worth it. It is all worth it. Every day, even a sad day blurred by headaches and filled with business meetings, is magical and infinite. This dance, this particular proton dance, will never come again. This tune we’re too busy to hear will not be played again. Never forget to be thankful for your life.


Letter to My Trainer

Dear Hannah:

I am having my second major gout outbreak since I was diagnosed with the disease two years ago.

An angry red ball filled with uric acid has disfigured my right toe, pushing it out of alignment. It hurts to walk. It hurts to lie in bed.

I’m walking like Walter Brennan in To Have And Have Not, only slower.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to get my gym shoes on, and I know I won’t be able to do exercises that require pushing from the toes or the ball of the foot.

Nevertheless, I will see you at 9:00 today.


My glamorous life

My small old shi’zu watches intently as I embed the five pills that keep him alive in little balls of hypoallergenic canned food—a process that takes five minutes and must be repeated three times a day. As I work, I smile down at him and sing, “Daddy’s makin’ meatballs.”


Sleep never sleeps

Dreamed my parents were getting divorced. I’d be asking my momma why, and she would turn into my wife.

The conscious mind deals with what is in front of you, the unconscious processes what has yet to be behind you.


The dog ate my bookmarks

Disappearing bookmarks bug.

It’s been years (or is it weeks?) since something odd, implausible, and inexplicable happened to one or more of my Apple computers that doesn’t happen to anyone else’s. You know you want to hear this.

So yesterday morning I’m in my hotel, finishing some work on my laptop before leaving for the airport, when MobileMe alerts me that in order to sync the bookmarks on my laptop, it will need to delete some and add some. I click OK. A few seconds later, I have no bookmarks in Safari.

That’s strange, but it’s a bit liberating, too. I feel lighter. That kink in my neck is gone.

Heck, I can re-create the few bookmarks I really need and do without the rest, right? (Besides, I imported my Safari bookmarks into Chrome a few weeks ago, and I sync Chrome bookmarks via Google, so the bookmarks aren’t really gone, they’re just gone from Safari.)

I re-create five or six bookmarks in my laptop’s Safari bookmarks bar, close my laptop, and fly home.

Here’s where it gets weird.

At home, after midnight, sleepless, jetlagged, I turn on my iMac. MobileMe wants to sync my bookmarks. It says it will delete quite a few of them and create a handful of new ones. There is no option to send my iMac’s bookmarks to MobileMe instead. There is no option not to sync. I can skip sync for now, but eventually I’ll have to sync, and that means I’ll have to let MobileMe wipe my many old Safari bookmarks off all my computers. No sense delaying the inevitable.

I click OK.

My old bookmarks are gone, but the new ones I created on my laptop have not been sync’d. I have no bookmarks.

I start re-creating them from scratch, and as I create them, they disappear.

I create a Flickr bookmark. It works. I create a zeldman.com admin bookmark. When I look up, the Flickr bookmark has disappeared. I create a Twitter bookmark. When I look up, the zeldman.com admin bookmark has disappeared. A moment later, the Twitter bookmark has disappeared.

I begin quitting Safari immediately after creating a bookmark (in order to force Safari to save it). This seems to work. When I re-start Safari, the bookmark I just created has been saved. I do this six times in order to create and save the few bookmarks I really need in order to work.

I don’t bother re-creating the dozens of JavaScript bookmarklets I use daily. I figure I can do those in the morning. I verify that Safari now contains six bookmarks. I run a backup via SuperDuper and go to bed.

In the morning, my bookmarks bar is blank again. Overnight, all my bookmarks have disappeared.

It can’t be from syncing via MobileMe, because the computer should have gone to sleep as soon as the backup finished (and it was asleep when I woke up this morning).

At this point all I can figure is that Apple wants me to switch to Chrome.