Tuesday, May 29, 2012

D.C. Trip Report

The fearsome heckler did not materialize at my workshop last week, but the Thursday-night switch to the far distant hotel triggered a chain of events that led to the destruction of my beloved Ricardo roll-aboard suitcase. I'm still not ready to talk about it.

When we returned home, I ordered two High Sierra roll-aboard suitcases at deep discount from Sierra Trading Post. They arrived today and, while not quite as capacious as the Ricardo, they seem sturdy and well designed.

I had the two new suitcases, one blue, one gray, standing side-by-side in the living room when Zoe, our big tabby, came yowling into the room with her puff toy. She dropped the toy, lay down, lowered her head, and glowered balefully at us. Zoe has an extremely expressive, almost clownish, face, but I had never seen her with such a glare.

"It's the suitcases," Tom said. "She thinks we're leaving again."

We rushed the suitcases upstairs and put them into the attic. Zoe raced upstairs and looked around to make sure they were gone.

Fortunately, she does't know we're going to Minneapolis in June.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Signposts on the way to conference hell

Last fall I was invited to give a workshop on websites at a writers conference on the East Coast. I accepted because this would force me to marshall a lot of materials that I use in client presentations and shorter talks into workshop or ebook form.

The more work I did preparing this seminar — including surveying the people who've signed up to take it — the more I became convinced that there's a tremendous market for the material. The workshop is an attempt to span the huge gap between what small business owners want to put in their websites and what web users want to find on those websites.

Most web designers are forced to go along with what the small business owners want because the small business owners are paying them. People like me, who advocate for the website user, rarely get a chance to present our side of the picture to the website owners.

In the process of designing my presentation, I looked at hundreds of websites that belong to award-winning writers. I didn't look at the people who write best sellers — I looked at the mid-list folks.

I'll write on my public blog in the next week or so about the disasters I found at every turn — like the site with gorgeous graphic design that forgot to mention the writer's name anywhere on the homepage. And, yes, there are still sites out there that blast you with tinny MIDI music files.

Suffice it to say that this has been a huge project.

So...today I got a phone call from one of the conference organizers. The hotel is overbooked for the night before the conference begins, and they're asking attendees they know well to spend that "pre" night at another hotel. Which turns out to be miles away in Outer Slobovia.

This is a huge stressor for me because we're landing at 10 p.m. tomorrow night (after 11 hours in planes and airports) and were planning to take the hotel shuttle, get settled in our rooms, and get as much rest as possible — we're involved in an 8:30 a.m. program Friday and I present the workshop in the afternoon. Instead, we'll be landing, finding a cab to Hotel Outer Limits, checking in there, getting up at the crack of dawn, repacking all our stuff, and taking an expensive cab trip to the conference hotel, where our luggage will have to be stored (so I can't get at any of my clothes or toiletries) until we can check in to a room in the late afternoon after the workshop.

I was gritting my teeth in anticipation of this when the conference organizer mentioned that I should be on the lookout for a man who had registered for my workshop. She said that at last year's conference he had harassed the presenter of a similar website workshop, arguing with every point, querying the presenter about obscure and arcane web technology and protocols and, in the end, derailing the workshop for the attendees. He was specifically told he could not attend my session this year, but signed up anyway.

"If he shows up and causes problems, just let us know," the organizer said.

I've been mulling this over, and contacted a few people who know the man in question. They confirmed the guy's a horse's behind.

I've decided to save all my deep annoyance about the hotel situation for him. One peep out of this dude, and I'm calling in the big guns. And on the plane ride tomorrow I'll be practicing my Zen stare.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Getting a grip

Spring in Seattle: Cool, wet, green, and conducive to migraines.

I'm just now recovering from one. Since Excedrin Migraine is off the market for several months due to assembly line contamination (is that any way to run a business?) I concocted my own substitute using Medaglia d'Oro powdered expresso 65 mg caffeine, one 250 mg Tylenol, and one 250 mg aspirin. Took a bath, went to bed, and two hours later the "home brew" had worked. (For some reason, when I have a migraine I can take caffeine and sleep.)