Category Archives: Media Shame

Renewed motivation

 So after feeling really worn out for more than a week, I am suddenly feeling much more enthusiastic about all of my web projects. 

My current client has given me a deadline to work toward, which, as Andy pointed out, always seems to motivate me.  I’m setting my schedule and hope to get the bulk of the site done this weekend.

Then, I was surprised with a note from my previous client whose site did not work out.  The note was very nice and contained a check for half of the amount I invoiced her with a promise for more later on.  I was touched by her note, and I hope things do work out in the future to finish the site.

My next client is busy setting up his business, and I’m excited that I’ll soon be able to work on his forums.

And the best news of all — — the first site I designed — was linked to from GMA this morning as part of a Mother’s Day gifts segment.  They featured some of the artist’s bracelets, and she sold out within minutes.  It was scary and awesome all at once.  I’m so happy for her, and I’m so excited that my site got so much exposure.

I can’t wait to get down to work.

House on Payne

House on Payne screen shotI am nearly complete with the website for my own business: House on Payne Web Design.

At this point, I’m just tweaking — both the design and the wording.  I’m trying to sell myself and my skills, but right now, I have only 2 sites to point to as examples.  Fortunately, I like them both.

The good news, even though one site I was working on did not work out, I am in the beginning stages of two more.  And I have another potential client that plans to call me soon — probably before summer.  I’m now starting to wonder whether I can make a go of this full-time, although, I don’t plan on making any job changes anytime soon.  I’m happy where I am at the moment, and, although I dream of working from home, now is not the time. My gut tells me I need to stay put, and I learned a long time ago that my gut instinct is usually right.

We love reading

Luke and Cindy I don’t read much for myself anymore — other than a few magazine articles and online newspapers and news site.  Now, I read for my son.

I’ve gotten quite good at reading aloud. I don’t trip over my words quite as much as I used to — the main reason I didn’t want to become a TV reporter.  Hmmm… I wonder if…

No, just kidding.  Reading aloud is just for the boy. While I’ve been too tired and sore lately to want to play on the floor with him, I’m almost always up for reading.  Tonight, waiting for Andy to finish with the chocolate pie in celebration of Pi Day, Luke and I snuggled on the couch and read several books.  Last night, we snuggled up in the bed and read tons of stories.  Of course, every night we also read one of his books as well as a chapter story with limited pictures.

So far we haven’t visited the library.  We haven’t needed to.  We literally have an entire library in our house — between books that Andy and I have bought for Luke, ones from both sets of grandparents, his babysitter — not to mention the dozens leftover from my own childhood. We are overflowing with books.  They range from the classic children’s variety — Dr. Suess, Berenstain Bears — to nature and mechanical.

Luke and Cindy readingI decided a long time ago — when Luke was still a baby — that I would also read REAL books to him.  Not just picture books. Those have their place of course — beautifully illustrated children’s books are a treasure and are wonderful visual examples of art for children.  But as I read some of those books — I got bored.  I wanted to introduce him to more complex sentences and a richer vocabulary.  

I read him Winnie the Pooh — the original, not Disney — Charlotte’s Web, C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, Tom Sawyer, The Jungle Book… but our favorite would probably make his school teachers and some parents shriek.  Harry Potter. 

We’ve read the entire series once already, and we’re not on book 4 of our second reading.  We keep coming back.  It holds my attention as much as his — and even when I try to read something else, he always asks for Harry Potter.  Well, the books ARE well written. And though I worry that some of the books are too scary for him, he hasn’t seemed to become frightened so far.  It’s like he understands that they are just books. And books can’t harm us — they can open a window into other worlds, expanding our imaginations to endless ideas and opportunities.

Rough Friday

 I had a rough Friday.  I came hope on the verge of tears and nearly collapsed.  Thinking about it now, it wasn’t all that bad, but I guess I’ve been feeling more emotional lately, and the day was so busy – I guess it just wore me out.  It started too early and ended too late — and to top it off, I led a conditioning class when I really should have rested my muscles after an excruciating Thursday workout.

I did have a nice compliment.  Our sales director told me they were really happy with the work I had been doing with them — especially the weather snapshot page I designed.  And my boss (the director of Digital Media) and another person in sales nodded as she told me this.  It was really nice to hear that.

Of course, it’s also really nice to hear a little voice tell you that they love you — and I’ve been getting that a lot lately from Luke.  That’s an amazing thing to hear, and it makes me feel wonderful.

Reflections on the road less taken

I often marvel at how different Andy’s and my lives have become over the years that we have known each other. 

He still laughs when we drive by the McDonald’s on MLK near campus and ribs me how I took him there one time to eat.  That was in 1996.  Since then I have swore off “fast food” and meat, and we strive to eat what we used to make fun of as hippie-granola food.  Whole Foods and Central Market are our haunting grounds, and we’re on a first name basis with farmers at the Farmer’s Market.

But it’s not just food that shows how much the pendulum of our lives has swung in the opposite direction.  Our healthy lifestyle extends to exercise.  And while I exercised a little when Andy and I first met — it is a much more prominent part of my life and takes a different form.  No longer do I rely on longer cardio sessions to get in shape.  Strength training is taking a greater role in my life, and kung fu — and now Crossfit — occupy most of my mornings with short, intense workouts.
I’ve seen the most difference in Andy’s training.  He used to shun exercise because it made him bonk and feel bad.  Now he’s lean and growing stronger all the time.
Our behavior puzzles some members of our family who think we’re crazy to exercise so much.  They are baffled because we make it a priority, and they can’t understand why we enjoy it.

But I think the biggest change for us has been with television, and the decision has been the most difficult to reconcile with some parts of our lives.  I used to keep the TV on from morning until night.  I watched everything imaginable.  The TV served as company when I was alone, and something to do when we were together.  The habit increased when we got a DVR — suddenly we had dozens of shows to “catch up” with, and more time with the TV was necessary to do that. 
When Luke was born, I had read all the literature about children and TV, and we decided to keep it off.  As Luke grew older and we found Luke’s school, they encouraged us to keep going with the habit — keep the TV off until at least age 6.  To help in that endeavor, Andy and I removed the TV from our living room, and we downgraded our cable to basic.
It has been hard.
Luke is quite an active boy, with an equally active imagination.  It is tempting to turn on the TV to keep him occupied so Andy and I can breathe for a moment.  But we don’t.
I work in TV, and some of my co-workers think I am punishing my son.  I remember working at the skate shop and a father telling me that his young daughter did not watch Dora the Explorer on TV — I remember feeling sorry for the little girl, thinking that her parents were depriving her. 
Now I feel differently.  I’m confident we’re doing the right thing for our family.  It’s definitely more difficult, and I completely understand others who decide to choose a different path.  But for our family, we chose the road less taken, and it’s working for us.

What I'm listening to

I finally got off my butt and bought some new music this year.  And downloaded it! 

I’ve been a dinosaur when it comes to music — I still have tons of CDs.  But when I got my new iPod Touch, I started listening to digital music more and more.  Here’s what I downloaded from iTunes and Amazon:

Brett Dennen  Hope for the Homeless
Franz Ferdinand  Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
LCD Soundsystem  Sound of Silver

I’m really digging them all. I recently saw Brett Dennen live at La Zona Rosa, and it was a great show.  I’ve seen both Franz Ferdinand and LCD Soundsystem at ACL festivals.  Franz Ferdinand’s 3rd album follows the same vein as their previous two albums, but they’re definitely trying some different sounds.  I hadn’t really listened to LCD Soundsystem until Andy sent me this video link to This is Japan, which has the soung All My Friends.

Recommended books on web design, SEO

 I haven’t been blogging much recently because I’ve been reading and working on the web so much in the past month.  Every free second I have, I’m sitting in front of my computer or a book (with my iPod by my side) trying to read up on the latest and best practices.

 I have read one book and am reading two others that I really like:

 Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug was recommended by my instructor for my Web Usability class, which I’m currently taking.  I found it to be very enlightening, and immediately began working many of the concepts into my work.  There was also a very helpful list of recommended reading, which got me thinking further about web usability.

I went searching for more books on the subject and picked out two that go beyond usability into accessibility and search engine optimization:

Building Findable Websites: Web Standards, SEO, and Beyond by Aarron Walter has been priceless so far in a current project.  I have barely read the first few chapters and already I’m implementing much of it.

Bulletproof Web Design: Improving flexibility and protecting against worst-case scenarios with XHTML abd CSS by Dan Cederholm was another good find.  I have already been using XHTML and CSS, but I wasn’t aware of some of the techniques for scalable navigation and expandable rows.  I’m already thinking ahead to future projects with many of the concepts I’ve learned in mind.


 On Christmas Day I officially became part of a new group of people who reach into their pockets or bags for a tiny device which carries your calendar, contacts and the latest version of connection to the rest of the world.  My husband surprised me with an iPod Touch.

No… not the phone.  Still saddled with a Sprint contract and not able to afford the monthly charge for the service anyway, I knew I did not want one out of practicality.  Maybe one day, but not today.  The iPod Touch — I did not expect, and I was really surprised. It replaces an HP IPAQ I received for Christmas back in 2001, which has generated snickers from my colleagues because of its antiquity and my ire because of its battery and NON-ease of use.

We quickly installed the Facebook application, but it wasn’t until days after Christmas that I truly began to appreciate the device.  I found myself sitting down outside a very busy restaurant, waiting for a table, when I pulled it out, connected to the Wi-Fi and read the paper.


Since then it has followed me everywhere, even around the house.  We grab it first when we want to know the weather or  have a question for Wikipedia.  I glance at the news headlines every few hours or so.  It has synced to me calendar and reminds me of upcoming appointments.  My son has told me to put it down and play with him — but he says that when I’m just drinking a cup of coffee, so I’m not too worried… yet.

Facebook stalking?

 A friend of mine and I were having a discussion at lunch yesterday about “Facebook stalking.”

He argues that following people’s lives on Facebook without ever talking to them constitutes stalking.

I say no.  When you follow people on Facebook, you’re following “friends.”  All the status updates are from people you have specifically added as a friend with their knowledge.  People post to Facebook knowing that their friends can see the updates.  That’s kind of the point — it’s a social media. 

But it brings up an intersting question about social boundaries and friends.  On Facebook, I have nearly 100 friends now. I would add more, but many of my friends still don’t do Facebook.  Of course, I’m talking about people I knew in previous jobs or college, or even grade school.  Are these true “friends?”  Or just acquaintances?

And how much of a role does Facebook play in creating friendships?  I have to say that some of the people who I friended or that friended me, I didn’t talk to very much before Facebook.  Now, because we’re “Facebook friends,” I feel I have a greater license to have real conversations with them.

I have two friends who regularly send me “plants” through this one application.  One friend I used to talk to all the time at Kung Fu, but now I never see her because she lives on the other side of town.  The other friend moved to Philadelphia ages ago.  But still, we send plants — it’s like our connection.

I posted a video of Luke cutting tomatoes with a sharp knife a few weeks ago and more friends commented on that video than any of the others — it was sort of a buzz for a few days. Only my friends could see it, so I felt safe putting Luke out there in front of the world.

So is Facebook stalking?  Nah —  I don’t post anything I don’t mind others reading.  Of course, unlike my blog, there’s more of a chance someone’s actually going to read it on Facebook.

This economy stinks

 Yeah… I said it.  It stinks.  And not because Andy and I have to worry about how much we spend at the supermarket or that we can’t go out to dinner more than once in a while, or even because Christmas will be very small this year. It’s because people are losing their homes and their jobs, and it’s just damn scary out there right now.

It seems like no one’s immune.  I found myself in a position today that I did not want to be in, but I guess it comes with the responsibility that I’ve undertaken.  I’m a professional member of the Texas Student Media Board of Trustees, which means I help make decisions — mostly financial — that directly affect the operations of the student media at UT, including the Daily Texan and TSTV.

Up until today, I tried hard to be reasonable and think about the financial security of the operation as a whole… protecting the financial feasibility of the organization so it can continue to serve students well into the future.  But today, at our monthly board meeting, the issue of the Daily Texas press came up again.  I won’t go into all the details, but basically, the press is old.  It needs to be either updated or sold so that renovations in the TSM building can go on.  At some point in the future, the Daily Texan printing will have to be outsourced — it’s a when, not an if — but there had been some hope it would be later rather than sooner.

Well, it’s sooner, and the executive committee recommended making the first steps toward selling the press.  There was much discussion.  I understood the arguments from the other board members about why it needs to be done, and I was really on the fence… until the TSM director said that voting yes on the recommendation would tell the 4 pressmen that their jobs are not safe and that they will be eventually layed off. 

And then one of them spoke. 

And that’s when, in my heart, I knew I just couldn’t vote yes.  It makes complete business sense to sell the press.  But I just couldn’t tell that man we had done everything we could to protect his position and livelihood.  I couldn’t tell that man that his Christmas and Thanksgiving would be overshadowed by a board that was gunning for his job.

The other board members were frustrated with me… I could tell.  My reasoning wasn’t good enough I’m sure.  But I wouldn’t have been able to live with it.  I thought about being a pansy and entering a “no-vote”… or caving… but I decided that I needed to take a stand.

The vote was split.  The board will take it up again at the next meeting in January.

I ran into the pressman in the elevator on the way to my car, after the meeting.  He thanked me for voting for him, but he didn’t look encouraged.  He told me more about his fears.  He told me about his family.  He has a child not too much younger than Luke.

I knew I did the right thing.  Even if I don’t prevail in the end, I made a decision I can live with.