Working with the Best

It's that time of year when The Valley Advocate announces the winners of the "Best of the Valley" reader's poll. If you've lived here for any length of time, you know all about this perennial poll and the push it gives to local businesses not only to promote themselves, but to promote The Valley Advocate as well. As someone who handles lots of local businesses' web sites, I can tell you that the flurry of action is welcomed. During the voting period, clients clamor to have banners and call-outs on their home pages to drive visitors to vote. Then once the winners are announced, lucky businesses want to show their pride and thank their loyal followers for supporting them.

I always vote for all my clients because I believe in them, and know that every vote counts, but what is impressive to me is when I realize how many of my clients place at the top of their category. It makes me feel good to know that I get to work with the best businesses out there. Owners and staff who excel in what they do excite me and challenge me to give them the best service I can provide too.

So here's a quick shout out to some of those who are the "Best"

My congratulations go out to all these businesses, and my thanks for the honor of working with the best!

Circumzenithal Arc - the smile in the sky

A Circumzenithal Arc over Northampton, MA November 9, 2009. Not in the picture are two sundogs to the left and right of the sun. This is looking west at the intersection of Rt. 9 and Rts. 5 & 10 (in front of the Florence Savings Bank).

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Do you know That Artist?

I am proud to announce the launch of my latest site: ThatArtist.com, the website for a Brooklyn artist named Mark Parsons. Mark's work in sculpture, printmaking, and collaborative projections sets him apart from many of his peers. His innovation and vision have brought his work to a another dimension. Mark teaches at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, and we launched his site just in time for the Armory Show, a big expo of new and contemporary art taking place in NYC from March 5 to March 8th.

I am very excited about the ThatArtist.com project, because it futhers my experience with building effective back-end systems for my clients. I used much of the ColdFusion/MySQL knowledge that I specialize in, but I also was thrilled to incorporate the FCKeditor into the admin tools for the first time. This gives Mark the opportunity to not only manage text and images, but to control styling, upload files, embed Flash and so many other great WYSIWYG stuff that requires him to know nothing except how to use a browser.

The site includes a galleries management tool, the ability to add pages at will, and the ability to edit the main navigational pages as needed with total control over text and images all delivered through a variable template based on the YUI standards of fonts, grids, and reset.

Instantly Mark took to the tools and began generating content and taking ownership of his site. It was amazing to see a friend light up when he realized that he was released from the prison of his old website that was managed by someone else and he was not empowered to interact with it at will.

I have great confidence that this site will open doors for me as Mark is a networking kind of guy, and he'll tell people how happy he is.

The design of the site is very minimalist... in fact I did not use ANY Photoshop in building this site. It gave me a nice feeling for what can be done with simple CSS and HTML layout that provided Mark with the simplicity that he required. I did not even size the images in PS... I was thrilled to start using ColdFusion 8's native CFIMAGE tag to upload, resize and create thumbnails all on the server... again giving my client the power to know nothing about what dpi his images were or if they were web safe. CF did it all for me!

Coming up next, I have another NYC artist in the pipeline, and we'll build off of some of what I made for ThatArtist.com, but I think we'll do more design, and there are a lot more features to implement. I am truly excited!

Tell Me More this February

Black History Month. Something we don't hear enough about if you ask me. And if we do we tend to think about the obvious parts of "Black History." MLK, Fredrick Douglas, Jesse Jackson, Abe Lincoln, the Civil Rights movement. But there are so many stories of the real black history in this country that we never hear.

This morning during my drive time, my usual listening to the NPR show Tell Me More, a fantastic talk show hosted by an incredible woman, Michel Martin, revealed the truth of what black history really is. Stories of slaves who were abused and tortured. Black soldiers in the Union Army who took up arms to defeat the southern culture that objectified them and stole their flesh and blood from their very arms.

Writer Kai Wright read the narratives of two such histories this morning... and I was faced with the dirty truth that is covered by the fanfare of our "liberated" society. I came to understand how quickly the grand concepts of the Emancipation Proclamation swept the country at the time of the Civil War, and how those high-minded ideals were no match for the human condition of what what happening on the ground in Mississippi, Missouri, and other states in the deep south.

We all need to hear the facts of life that even though freed, slaves lived in refugee camps, had very little than each other, and that what the system left them with was nothing short of hell. Families split apart. People so badly abused that they could never walk or talk or give birth again.

The sadness of our history is that we ever let this happen in a country founded on the concept that "all men are created equal." I want to honor the strength of a people who, after being ripped from the breast of their Mother Africa, and being beaten into a state of near soul-obliteration, have persevered and have risen above the ignorance of their oppressors.

As ashamed as I am about the ugliness of black history, I am hopeful for the black future.

MacWorld Keynote

I may not need to explain this, but for those who don't know me, I am a huge advocate for the Apple brand. I would go so far as to say that I might not be in the technology field if it were not for the Macintosh.

So it was no shock for me to find myself drooling over the "whats new" section of this year's MacWorld Keynote address. Yes the lust for a faster, more eco-friendly laptop that holds a battery charge for up to 8 hours was natural... I just am going to have to live with the fact that my 17" MBP is no longer the top of the Apple line. But the thing that really blew my mind was the upgrades in iLife that they announced. Have you heard about this?

The big wow for me was the upgrade in iPhoto. The additions of facial recognition and facial detection logic in the application are revolutionary. This is why Apple blows the competition out of the water. To think that the program can, with a little guidance, map a face in a photo and then sort all your photos with that person into a gallery is just awesome. What genius! It just makes sense that people would want that. My only reservation would be the thought that the built-in camera on my MacBookPro might be able to look at me and know it is me... it is almost the beginning of real awareness in a commercial operating system.

If the "Faces" feature was not enough, the "Places" feature makes a 1 - 2 punch that is unbeatable. With my iPhone and iPhoto, my photos can be mapped and sorted geographically! Amazing! The iPhone geo-codes a latitude and longitude tag into my photos, then iPhoto uses that information to make maps, and galleries that are so cool and useful. I am considering taking pix of my favorite trails and nature spots just so that I can have a satellite map of where they are an where I have been.

I can't wait to purchase the upgrade later this month!

Inaugural celebrations esthetic

So you're excited about the Obama inaugural? Me too! I wish I was one of the lucky people who get to be there... at the parties. If I was going, I would be wondering about the overall esthetics of the scene. Is it a total A list scene? Would I need a skin analysis and maybe a facial? I might need to find someone from a Massachusetts esthetics school.

I imagine that many of the inaugural party-goers would be well served with some makeup artistry professionals on hand.

I wonder if Barack Obama is having a facial right now... maybe just an exfoliation. Michelle sure is going to look good. I bet she's going to be buffed and polished as always. Do you think she does any wax treatments?

I know an esthetics school in MA where she could use the student clinic to get some cut rate attention. You know... the economy and all!

Well, I hope you are ready to party for this inauguration! I am!

Elementals

The first night of "camping out" at our house had been cozy and quiet, Ma in her kerchief and I in my cap... but the lack of running water is way more of a problem than the cold. But by luck we had the anti-problem.

A gift certificate that we had been holding on to. We went to Elements Hot Tub Spa, one of my web design clients.

We were, as if by cosmic knowledge led to the Water room. A big blue-hued room with a steam shower and a giant tub. One hour of awesome! I'm telling you.... nice!

Water being the connection here, their website design was largely influenced by water. I faded a small mossy waterfall into the background at the top of the page, and it pours down under the page.

It's a whole new world For what it's Worth1000

I have long been a fan of Photoshop and what can be done to illustrate the imagination.

Today, considering that I am displaced from my home because of an ice storm, I found the idea of an ice cream globe fitting, but also cheering to think that maybe I can lick all the ice off the trees in my yard, and get back to normal. The powerlines... I won't be licking them!

This image from Worth 1000.

Knowing how to ask

Okay... I know everyone uses Google to search the web. But how many times have you searched... but not found?

This week, I had to work through some issues with jQuery and Prototype.js. They were colliding on a page I was working on. I had to turn to the web for my answers.

Of course I went to Google, and I spent quite a bit of time looking for the answer.... or I was looking for someone who had the same problem.

Well, it took me a while, but I finally got my solution... and I learned something along the way:

The answer is always out there. You just have to know how to ask the question.

November 5, 2008

This is a great day to start this blog. Today I wept when I actually felt proud of the President of the United States... for the first time ever. I have long believed that Barack was not just the candidate for the U.S. but the candidate for this world. Unity.

As another parent said to me tonight outside soccer practice, "The whole day has just had a glow."

She was right. The sunset tonight looked like a pink aurora around satin pillow-clouds. And people were uplifted by the newspapers. You could see it all around.

I realized that today some kid who thought the system was built to crush him, finally had proof that he could be anything. I saw role models of power and beauty and sincerity. And we all see it.

I feel connected to it. I am high on the energy of it.

We can be sure that there are a few random number generators around the world that were a whole lot "less random" last night about midnight.

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