Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I started my new job yesterday. Besides still feeling a bit shitty (I either had a cold or an extreme allergy attack on Saturday night/all day Sunday and it was really ill timed), here's other things I could say:

  • As far as I can tell there are 3-7 other ladies on the floor total at any one time. This means that the ladies bathroom is a palace because it is almost always completely empty.
  • The office was recently completely renovated. This means it's a super modern floor plan (rows of open desks, phone booth offices, conference rooms of all sizes) with bright colors that quadrant the floor (orange, blue, green, yellow). I'm in blue this week. It also means the kitchen is insanely nice and there is a living room area with an XBox and "at cost" vending machines. Probably things I will never use but I appreciate the effort.
  • Speaking of that renovation, as far as I can tell, no one except fairly high management has an office. This means my manager and location lead both sit in the rows like everyone else. I love it. Also, the cubes are pretty much unassigned except for the management (because the rest of us are in sporadically).
  • I'm going through a week long orientation and so far my insight is: holy hell, I have an actual "roadmap" for my career trajectory. Some of which I choose and some of which they advise/require of me. This is novel to me and pretty delightful.
So I'm gainfully employed again, here's hoping I get put on a project sometime in the future so I can freak out about being a consultant. Fingers crossed I like it. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Have you guys ever heard of cakestyle? If you can believe it, yesterday I spent even more money on clothes (seriously, these two shopping trips make up for all my years of clothing indifference in one expensive swoop). When I was trying to figure out how to beef up my wardrobe, I knew I needed help. So I searched "personal shopper chicago" and read around a bit. That's what led me to Macy's personal shopping.

But I hate shopping...and the idea of having to go to the store to buy new clothes every few months or a couple times a year is just..urgh. So cakestyle immediately appealed to me: the idea is that you get a personal shopper who sends you a box full of outfits that you try on. If you like anything, you buy it. If not, you ship them all back, free of charge. The company is an infant, super new and growing into itself. But man it appealed to me. My only concern was that I am a weird fit. loml frequently calls my body a mutant. So I contacted them and asked if they ever do "fitting" appointments. And it turned out, of course they do.*

This appointment, with Beth, was honestly exactly what I wanted out of a personal shopper. She had an insane rack of clothes picked for me based on what I had put into my cakestyle settings. I went through and tried on outfit after outfit. No trolling through a store with a cart or anything like that. And she did a pretty fantastic job overall with fit.

I think overall, with the Macys stuff + the cakestyle stuff, I now have a super insane new wardrobe. I'm pretty excited. And I hope that moving forward this is a step toward me staying more current. I can request a box from cakestyle whenever I want. I can say "I need a cocktail dress, send me some!" or "I just need summer pieces" or "I'm going on a cruise, I need cruise clothes" and a box will whisk itself to my doorstep full of clothing from my stylist. It comes with a video explaining the choices too.

This all sounds like an ad, doesn't it? I am definitely not important enough to be paid for writing this, that is honestly laughable. I think there are like, 10 of you out there reading this? I am just really excited about what happened yesterday.

*Note to anyone who really might be considering this - they just stopped doing appointments for the short term as they are looking for a new office building/studio space. They currently share office space with other VC companies and rent a small studio space for appointments. They want to move to a solo office space/appointment space combined. Hopefully it won't be too long before they are offering appointments again.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The life of the short-term unemployed has been pretty up and down so far. Mostly just a bunch of reading by a pool and relaxing with my game obsession (Tropico 4). I am lucky enough to have a retired father in Florida who opens his house to his children selflessly. It was fantastic.

But it was also fraught at beginning and end. Beginning...we left on the day of the insane, torrential storm in Chicago. Our morning, pre-flight, was spent with towels and buckets in our basement. We were lucky enough to not have sewer back up (oh flood control, I love you completely). But we have an issue with our back door being too low and a clogging drain right outside of it. And a newly found crack in our foundation (or brick wall, as it were). End...we came home to super delayed luggage handling and loml's (I guess our?) car stalling in the cell phone lot (his parents were driving it to pick us up). We wound up taking the L home and leaving the car with his parents.

All that being said, relaxation was great and I have completely let go of my old job. The last day was weird. Saying goodbye to my project coworker who was also my work bestie was weirdly anti-climatic. I'm feeling sure I may not have the best of luck keeping in touch with him and he was a huge part of my life for the past three years. Work friendship is weird. Wiping my computer was the saddest moment (which is kind of sad in and of itself). But ultimately I left at the end of the day like any other day at work. Except I left with stuff:

That's it. That is five years of desk flair and two presents from coworkers. It's not much. I had to spread it out for effect.

I'm getting excited to get on to the next thing. Next Monday is my first day at the new job.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tomorrow is my last day of work at a place I've been at for seven years. I would have expected to be writing a post here about how it's bittersweet and how I'm sad but also excited.

But instead, I'm here to tell you that I'm not sad. I'm surprised that I'm not sad but I'm definitely done. I think three and a half weeks of notice was too much. I think I "left" the job on Friday of last week and this week I'm just meeting with some of the people I like to say goodbye and good luck. And not a single one of those meetings has made me feel choked up in any way.

Maybe tomorrow will be different. But I think I'll most likely just leave with a spring in my step and my eye on the prize (the prize is a trip to Florida and some days at home to just de-stress before the new job).

Not sad. Not excited yet either. Just ready to be done.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


This month was kind of a weird hodge podge box. And my pictures are terrible, so here's hoping I can find some pictures on the internet to borrow!

First, luggage tag. Pretty lovely and the best thing in the box in my opinion. And sadly, you do have to see my picture.
Dreadful photography, really lovely product. Gray and white chevron luggage tag from Lovell Designs.

Postcards (again, have to use my image, I am so sorry).

Ahoy from Maple & Belmont. Other from Sarah Doriani. Sarah has no link in her little Umba descriptor so I can't send you her way.

Lotion skin stick. Image borrowed from company.

I actually have one of these already. Umba running out of fresh things or just really loving these products? I do like these skin sticks. Lotion on the go. From Rinse.

Shampoo bar!

Kind of excited about this one. It came with instructions and does have a warning about hard water (eh oh). I honestly would like to steal a picture from the site but the freaking website is in FLASH. -10. From Scum Soaps.

And lastly, granola. Worst pic in the lot (though the shampoo bar gives it a run for the money with my centering). I need to take these pictures during the day.

My least favorite thing in the box. I don't eat granola. Loml ate a piece of it and was like, eh. Not a hit in the household - but we're not granola eaters so our review means next to nothing. From SoSoft 7nola.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Event Apart: Boston. June 18 & 19th 2012

In June of last year I went to An Event Apart. I wrote up my notes on my current workplaces knowledge base. I want a copy of those notes now that I'm leaving. So here they are:

Information about the conference can be found here: http://aneventapart.com/

Upper level thoughts: highly recommend. This is a well curated conference populated by passionate, innovative speakers. Insanely impressed by the content and quality. I would say the main, driving point in all of these presentations (besides a death star joke) is content first. Designers and developers are there to SERVE the content. CONTENT FIRST!

I'm going to break down the presentations individually and do a note/link dump. Many of these notes may not make sense without referencing the slides. But I want to stress to please feel free to ask me any questions in person or in comments. The slides themselves can be found here: [redacted] Please do not publish that link or share it outside of the office, An Event Apart has asked that we share responsibly.

Monday June 18

Content First! - Jeffrey Zeldman

Main point: designer/developer does not truly have control - our job: to connect the right user with the right content at the right time. Inherent conflict in the ebb & flow of the web and what our bosses want.

Concepts of note: contingency design (helpful errors, coding for the possible future needs), scent of information (we're hunters by nature, so even if something is buried in the site as long as the trail leaves a smell/is capable of following, we'll dig deep) and orbital content (that the content revolved around you and not the other way).

Book recommendations: Steve Krug - Don't Make Me Think, Aaron Gustafson - Adaptive Web Design

Sites to look at: Zeldman himself : with his very obviously CONTENT FIRST! web site. Text, text, text! Knowbility: accessibility organization with good resources

What s Your Problem? Putting Purpose Back into Your Projects - Whitney Hess

Main point: we are bad at defining what the problem actually is - and therefore are incapable of solving it. More emphasis should be put on understanding the problem before we design/develop a solution. Get to know the people you serve, otherwise you'll end up with a band-aid solution that will eventually fail. High emphasis on interviews/observations of the user.

Concepts of note: empathy for the problem owner is important, use empathy maps or personas to approach that (also, side note: make personas psychographically not demographically). 5 whys diagram. Fishbone diagram. Both help to get to the root of a problem.

Sites to look at: Whitney Hess

On Web Typography - Jason Santa Maria

This guy loves typography and hates helvetica, papyrus, comic sans and many other well known fonts. He doesn't hate Verdana.

Main point: Type can unify as it communicates. Contrast is super important. To pick a font, write down feeling words (bold, simple, sassy, gentle) that apply to your site and these will lead you to a font. Take note that there is a difference between display faces and text faces. Try to find workhorse faces that can do both.

Concepts of note: Contrast. Saccade (the way your eyes move as you read).

Book recommendations: (second for Steve Krug, see above).

Sites to look at: Typekit: a way to use fonts on your site, lettering.js: a jquery plugin for impactful typography,FitText.js: jquery plugin for flexible font sizes (headlines, not content text), Typedia: an encyclopedia of types, Mighty: Jason's design studio, Jason Santa Maria, Lost World's Fairs: beautiful example of Jason's work

The Five Most Dangerous Ideas - Scott Berkun

  1. Everyone is a designer: everyone is a maker, even the least technical of us. If you cast yourself in the role of mentor, you are an ambassador for design. A change of perspective is everything
  2. You have no power - you have a very small circle of control in your larger project (or organization). This causes people to get defensive and "hunker down" to protect that which they feel is in their power. This is not an effective strategy to gain any further control or to inspire others to listen to you. Whoever uses the most jargon is the least confident in their ideas and he's noted that teams that use the most jargon output the lowest quality work. There are three kinds of power - granted, earned and claimed. As a note of how to claim power, go to the white board first in meetings to clarify someone's thoughts. Immediate shift.
  3. The generalists are in charge - specific knowledge is our domain. The generalists oversee those of us with specific knowledge. In a meeting with more than 5 people, where decisions are supposed to be made - generally is not really where the decision is made. Catching the decision maker on the walk out or alone in their office has way more sway than being compelling in a large meeting (this is the gist of in-room power vs. out-of-room power). We have to own our ideas, if we won't put our all behind an idea, why would we expect our overseeing generalist to? Some percentage of our time (but admittedly not all) should be championing ourselves.
  4. We work in sales - nearly everything we do is a pitch (prototyping, meetings, presentations) so we need to accept that we are salesmen, that we need to be able to persuade and talk to people. Soft skills are insanely important. "if people think you are smart and useful, your job title is irrelevant"
  5. Creativity is risk - go out on a limb, take chances, be willing to fail. Because it will sometimes fail.

As a side note (i don't remember which point this was about - I think it might have been during Q&A) - trust is super important for anything/a team. Whoever is most senior in a room is responsible if the team doesn't trust each other - probably because that person doesn't trust everyone.

Sites to look at: Scott Berkun

Adapting Ourselves to Adaptive Content - Karen McGrane

Main point: Content first! Seriously. We should, in a perfect world, work with chunks of structured content that are wholly independent of design so that they can be consumed in whatever medium is desired. Most of our CMS's are coupled (content entry intricately tied to the design layer, think wysiwyg). There is a notion in most businesses of a "primary platform" that the content is made for (in a lot of industries this is still print. For the rest of us, even if we don't mean to, it's web pages) - this is bad. Everything should be written with a multi-channel viewpoint. Case study: NPR's content API.

Concepts of note: Blobs vs. chunks. Blob = "i just want to put all of my content into one big text area". Chunk = properly structured/metadata'd content. We should ALL be on team chunk.

I wrote two personal notes on this note page: 1) this presentation made me sad. giving in to blobs - content editors who just want to create a word doc. This strategy will never support multichannel publishing. 2) The structured content web part base is eerily close to a CMS within a CMS. If we do eventually build it to save to/pull from a list, we have essentially done what Karen wanted for part of our content - structured chunks that are independent of view markup/style.

Sites to look at: Karen McGrane, ftrain

Rolling Up Our Responsive Sleeves - Ethan Marcotte

Main point: Content first! We're not designing pages, we're designing systems of networked content. If something isn't valuable to your mobile readers, is it valuable to any readers? We are putting too much focus on columns. Possibly give some of the control back to the user (options for display).

Sites to look at: Starbucks styleguide: they went responsive and are sharing all their patterns, styletiles: design sales without webpage mockups, The Great Discontent: Ethan's favorite responsive site if he had to choose,responsive images: worked until browsers changed to asset pre-loading, picturefill: polyfill (sort of) to load pictures based on media size, responsive tables: choose which fields to show

Tuesday June 19, 2012

The Future of CSS - Eric Meyer

Very technical presentation about css3. My notes verbatim: labels & inputs: put label surrounding input. Math angles in prefix gradients, compass angles in CSS3 gradients (non-prefix). color stops = . (note, i literally just wrote color stops = blank...not sure what i was going for). Transparent = transparent black (in most browsers). Look up data-url as background images. GRADIENTS ARE IMAGES (creating images with css, not visual effects). text-rendering: optimizeLegibility.

Sites to look at: Eric Meyer

Interacting Responsibly (and Responsively!) - Scott Jehl

This dude is writing everything we should be using to make a responsive site. INSANE and awesome. See South Street on git.

Main point: We are not responsibly coding for all users - we are putting a heavy burden on the bandwidth of the user. We presume/assume that the network is solid/reliable. The average amount of js on a page is equivalent to six times (6 X!) the code that sent apollo to the moon. At the cost of the users. So we need to reconsider how we load. At the south street project, all of the following:

  • ajaxinclude - modular loading of content (every place we use this is a new http request, so....not great on its own)
  • quickconcat - combines many files into one request (pair with the above)
  • append arround - css moving of elements
  • ecssential - only loads the required css in a blocking manner (ie, in the head, blocking load of other items), otherwise the css lazy loads (or doesn't at all)
  • picturefill - images load based on media. picture element not supported in html5 specs at this moment, so use with divs. However, consider if we want to be loading HD images even if we can. Still a burden. A huge one.
  • enhance - help devs decide which scripts need to load on devices
  • wrap - a dom utility. Seems like an alternative to jquery.
Read recommended: Paul Ford - 10 Timeframes

Sites to look at: Scott Jehl, Filament Group

Buttons Are a Hack - Josh Clark

Touch presentation. We need to be as future friendly as possible - gestures are shortcuts to buttons. Windows 8 very much a topic here - the fact that it appears that "desktop" apps in windows 8 are written with web technology (html, css, etc). Embrace your metaphor - if your app/site looks like a physical object, people will try to interact with it in ways they know (ie, if it looks like a book, they will try to turn the page). Active discovery - learn something from games here, people learn how to play a game by coaching, leveling up and power ups. This should apply to apps as well. Saving the state of progress of what people have learned could be revolutionary. User interfaces are an illusion.

Sites to look at: Josh Clark

Mobile to the Future - Luke Wroblewski

I have a note on this one that I found the presentation awesome and that I'm not sure why my notes were so sparse.

Main point: mobile is the newest form of mass media, not just a branch of the internet. We should treat it as a different medium. Login and checkout are broken on most devices - why are we perpetuating an old, old pattern (a lot of case study here).

Sites to look at: LukeW

Handcrafted Patterns - Dan Cederholm

Main point: learning follows the pattern 1)imitation 2)repetition 3)innovation. Dan walked through some patterns he feels we need to start repeating now, since html5 is new, we can't keep feeling like we should always be innovating. Specific emphasis on html5 placeholder attribute, aria landmark roles, slats.

D on't

R epeat

Y ourself

concept in CSS - leads into an indepth talk about SASS, a CSS preprocessor.

Sites to look at: Pears: wordpress theme full of html/css pairs, SASS: css preprocessor, LESS: css preprocessor, Dan Cederholm

The Curious Properties of Intuitive Web Pages - Jared Spool

Unintuitive - easy to use once you know how. Unintuitive pages shift our focus from something we're interested in (content) to something we're not.

Used the magic escalator of acquired knowledge to illustrate the point. The top of the escalator is all the knowledge they need, bottom is no knowledge. Our users are somewhere on the escalator with current knowledge and we're trying to get them to some target knowledge. In order to do that we either train them or simplify. And by simplifying we're basically just making the site intuitive. The knowledge gap is the difference between current and target knowledge. Very interesting presentation about how a lot of patterns we're used to are learned/not intuitive. Also, re-designs are a really bad idea (his words) as you lose the knowledge people feel they have built up about your site. Gave stats on how bad (see slides).

Sites to look at: Hipmunk: example of intuitive flight site

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

I went to Macys and worked with a personal shopper yesterday. Before you think snotty thoughts about me please note that this is a completely free service. No strings attached free. Basically Macys hopes its personal shoppers are good enough to get you to buy stuff that you normally wouldn't. It is a brilliant scheme if only people actually knew about it. I am not a richer who paid to get pampered. Nope, I am a normal who just called Macys.

I have opinions and vague aspirations at a style but I absolutely never exhibit this style. I think on most days you might look at me and think, hey, look at that schlubby student over there. I just...don't try. And a hoodie, tee and jeans is easy. I also loathe shopping. To the tips of my toes I loathe it. But I'm starting a new job and I have a chance to have a clean slate with people - they don't know how I normally dress so if I suddenly change quite drastically...no one is the wiser. Obviously in my social life I'll get a lot of raised eyebrows - but these people love me as a schlub so they will hopefully continue to love my slightly better appointed self. So how did it go spending time with a personal shopper?

I loathed it at first. Just absolute horror that I had actually followed through with this harebrained idea. We walked around the store with a rack on wheels and looked at clothing. I was invited to give opinions that most of the time were "I don't hate it" or "I do hate it" but very often were never "I just love that". Because I don't shop for clothes nor wear attractive clothing I don't have a very refined sense of what I like. I know what I don't like. For example: this jacket. I do not like this jacket. My personal shopper loved it. Walking around with her felt like...public shame somehow. Look at the shlub shopping! It was all in my head. I knew that then. But in the moment it was not very fun.

Eventually, when we got back to the room, the shopper left me to my own devices for a while (I'm not gonna lie, she was a bit...flighty. She'd disappear for a while and just come back empty handed. Then she'd disappear for much less time and come back with five pieces of clothing. She was an enigma). I got to try on a bunch of pants on my own and formulate what I thought, namely that my body is an asshole who sits super firmly between two sizes. I found 3 pairs that I liked out of about 20. Success. I started to feel like it wasn't all that horrible.

Then the shopper showed up again and we started putting on tops. And tops. And so many tops. Most of the pieces were from one particular brand and eventually the brand consultant came in too. That person doesn't even work for Macys. It became a little circus in the room. A circus of opinions and urging me to broaden my horizons. Skinny jeans? Yeah, alright, they don't look as bad as every other time I've ever put them on. A blazer? Black and white, white, navy, green. All the blazers. They wanted me to buy a blazer so badly but I just could not feel comfortable in one. I get how versatile it is, truly. But I feel like a little girl playing dress up. Maybe some day...

For someone who hates shopping this was like immersion therapy. And for someone who hates shopping I came out of there with enough clothing to not have to shop again for quite some time.

I ended up spending three and a half hours with them and buying a lot of clothes. I'm probably going to return one thing. But I'm about to try to have style guys...so be kind.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

In my dream last night (worst post opening ever?), I prepared a revolutionary party punch for the guests coming to my birthday party. This punch was equal parts sprite, red sprite(?), ice and legos. In other words, the ratio of ice and legos to liquid was troubling. I was very excited about this punch and thought it was going to dazzle everyone. I urge you to never drink any punch I prepare as you will likely choke on legos.

Also at this party, my loved ones (whom I had invited) insisted on gathering in a room together and making me walk in while they yelled surprise. The surprise turned out to be a bright orange cat. Neon orange, not real cat orange. Good job loved ones.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

I just finished reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. And I saw her speak last week. In order to understand where this next bit is coming from, I'm going to go ahead and quote myself from this blog. 8/17/2005:
To be honest, I don't think I have very much ambition in life
I have never seen myself as someone who wanted a high power (or responsibility) career. And reading Lean In and hearing Sheryl talk...for the first time ever I'm wondering if that is really me or if that is societal pressure. That sounds silly but - I don't want to be a C-level executive (CEO, CIO, COO) and never have - I just want to do a solid day's work and not hate it. If I can enjoy it a little - bully for me. And if I can get paid enough to live a cushy life - bully for us. (totally off track: how is bully an adjective that means super good but also a noun for jerks who taunt others?). But do I feel that way because I was really just meant to be a cog or do I feel that way because I inherently know I'm a woman and have strong, ingrained stereotypical rules for what women should and shouldn't excel in?

Clearly Lean In was really thought provoking for me. I'm totally guilty of trying to plan my career around whether or not we're having kids - before we have even gotten near having a baby. I'm 1000% guilty of wanting to be liked - I think it's the only way I've ever gotten anything done at work. And on the flip side, I think it's one of the main reasons some of my coworkers slough off my opinions or ideas sometimes. I'm trying to be nice rather than presenting my idea forcefully.

I'm a lady and nearly every single thing she listed as ladies doing to prevent themselves from succeeding, I've done and do on a regular basis. So great, now what? I guess I just hope to be conscious of my wanting to be liked, start to attribute my success to myself, try to speak up, etc.

I didn't expect to vibe on the book as much as I have. I have seen Sheryl speak on many shows (and in person) now and her message is pretty solid (though boringly similar - book selling tours! Talking points! Boring). Do recommend.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Most of my brain lately has been spent going through to-do lists and trying to figure out what life after new job looks like. In some ways, there's things I will never be able to truly plan for - as a consultant I'll be travelling to various client offices around the Chicagoland area all the time. So my commute will vary wildly. I can't find a gym close to the office because the office will change. I can't even really plan a wardrobe since every client is going to be different.

Here's my current brain:

I need to get a new phone (I believe I should go full bore into a microsoft wonderland and get a windows phone). I need to cobra my healthcare. I need to cancel my bank accounts. I want to set up a home office (as there is always a possibility I'll be working from home sometimes). I need to return the duplicate and/or unwanted wedding presents. I need to spend some of our gift certificates on stuff we really want (trash can! couch!). I kind of want to get some new pants/skirts just in case. I want to go to Florida and lounge. I really, really, really want to transition some of the knowledge to another developer (at my current soon to be former job). Really want that. Am feeling hopeless about the possibility of that happening.