Saturday, January 31, 2009

Helpful or not?

This site may harm your computer? Having recently gone through a McAfee security scan, I was a little put off by Google impugning my site’s good reputation this morning. It would appear, however, that Google is being rather even-handed (if overly paranoid) in distributing this warning:

Update: Google found the stray "/" and fixed the problem in fairly short order.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Closing the Rose

In a colossal failure of public relations, donor cultivation, and fiscal management, Brandeis recently announced their intention to close the Rose Art Museum and sell off their entire collection of art. At least they haven’t yet torched the collection for the insurance money, though they may consider that when they discover that potential buyers live in the same economic climate as Brandeis, and aren’t eager to pay anywhere close to the inflated appraised value of the collection.

Now the Brandeis COO has come forward to explain that the only other choice is to cripple the university. After all, they only have $530 million in their endowment, and a fictitious law prevents Brandeis from using it for anything. These false cries of poverty and pantomimed acts of desperation mimic the North Shore Music Theatre, which is still raising money despite having basically closed down, all the while refusing to refund subscribers who already paid for a non-existent next season. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum claims the museum will die from overcrowding if they are not allowed to fully break the terms of Mrs. Gardner’s will, proving that even long-lasting financial success is no protection from the idle whims and compulsive attention-seeking of those who deign to run our cultural and educational institutions today.

Deaccessioning is not new, theaters have never lasted forever, and the insult to the Gardner’s architecture will not ultimately destroy everything charming about the place. But this string of news is destroying the trust that we should be able to have in our cultural and educational institutions, because the institutions no longer even pretend to respect their supporters and patrons. Just ask Lois Foster.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Visiting San Francisco

72 hours is not enough time in San Francisco, particularly if you have to work for 24 of your waking hours during that span. We stayed at the Hilton in Union Square, which turned out to be a fine location and the quietest hotel room I’ve ever had in a city (or maybe anywhere). The public transit routes are numerous, and the 3-day pass for $18 encouraged us to take full advantage. We didn’t get to go to the Cable Car Museum, but as Lisa pointed out, the range of old cable cars and streetcars in use make the city feel like a living transit museum. Fisherman’s Wharf and the sea lions at Pier 39 were a single cable car ride away, plus a few blocks walking on either end, and we had a couple of excellent simple seafood dinners at Pier Market on Pier 39. We rode around the city a lot just to look around, and Lisa made it to the beach at the end of Golden Gate Park one sunny day to dip her toes in the Pacific.

Photo by Lisa

Photo by Lisa

The highlight for us was the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturday morning. Right at the water (because it is at a ferry terminal), with dozens of great booths to look through and taste through. A raw foods vegetable “burrito” for Lisa, smoked white salmon and peach conserves for me, local honey, great baked goods, and a huge range of all sorts of produce. There were plenty of options for a hot meal as well, and we spent a blissful hour there shortly after they opened. Lisa went back later on Saturday after the huge crowds arrived.

The conference itself was almost as much fun, which surprised me. We were displaying a lot of fun items along with our books, and most people left our booth grinning. Our room was in Tower 2 very near the elevator, as was the hotel ballroom I was working in, so the commute was about 50 steps (plus an elevator ride). Not a whole lot longer than the commute when working at home, though we have no elevator at home. I saw a lot of old friends, talked to a lot of customers, authors, and folks at other presses, and received a number of unprompted and much-appreciated compliments about how we run our business. I wish all conferences were like that, and I wish that more of them were in San Francisco! I’m sure that coming to a fun and warm place in January contributed to everyone’s general good mood.

We left San Francisco on Sunday to spend a couple of days at Jed’s, which was some great downtime and an opportunity to learn Wii Tennis. Jed took us on a tour of Google (flying cars, jetpacks, and 9-foot-tall children), but we signed an NDA so we can’t talk about the Big Secrets (laser rifles, smell-0-vision, and cylons) we definitely did not see there (dinosaur, hoverboots, and zombies). Cool place to work, though! (And there really is a cylon dinosaur.)

Photo by Jed of Google dinosaur and the hand that feeds it

Jed’s guest room is comfortable and far better appointed than ours, but we had a plan we were following, so on Tuesday morning we got up early, took a bunch of ripe lemons from his lemon tree, and stole his car to head down the coast.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Thornton’s Fenway Grill burned last night. The lifespan of eateries around here feels really short—I’m more likely to be able to eat at a restaurant I remember from 30 years ago in New York than at a place I ate at a few years ago around here. Soleil Cafe, which was our other breakfast joint when they were open for breakfast. M&M Roast Beef, whose print menu I redesigned in 1995. Boingo, with their excellent chai and the sandwiches they imported from Malden. The place in Malden that made those sandwiches. Giovanni’s, where I went for lunch every Wednesday like shul. Sesame, the only Chinese restaurant in the US that’s ever replicated for me the battered shredded beef dish that I always order in England. And all the others, and now Thornton’s, which was always more about the cheerful company than the food.

Monday, January 5, 2009

What will you remember from 2008?

Far away

I’m off to the Bay in a few days—a new shoreline, and another life for a week. Maybe that’s why this Ingrid Michaelson tune has such a hold on me right now.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

342,000 files remaining

For the coming year, I resolve to implement a better backup process. Journalspace has provided the requisite motivation.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

And to all a good night

For years we’ve performed the lighting dance every evening when we retire to our bedroom: turn on the bedroom light switch as we enter, turn on the bedside light from our headboard, and go back to turn off the bedroom light switch. This has always struck us as silly, but seemed to have no good solution. Until Monday.

On Monday, I replaced our bedroom light switch with a dimmer that includes a remote. Now we can turn off the bedroom lights with the remote. We can also turn the lights on and adjust their brightness with the remote. All it cost was $35, and installation was as easy as any light switch.

I wonder how many other household absurdities have easy technological solutions. I suspect there are many problems that I don’t even recognize as problems because I don’t know about the available solutions.