Nerd Loveâ„¢

Nerd Love, Day 21: Happy Uma Day

uma heart When I started this series three weeks ago, it was with the very conscious notion that it'd be winding up on one of the most ridiculous holidays in the world to be coopted by modern consumers, Valentine's Day.

Let us make no bones about it: Valentine's Day sucks. Having any designated day to buy things for other people sucks. Not that buying things for other people is bad; it can be excellent, when offered up in the right spirit of freedom, love and joy, just as most things are. But to know which holiday is on the rise two (or three months) out by the color of the merch poking out of the pallets in the CVS aisles as last holiday's tatty crap is offloaded from the "seasonal savings" ghetto to the final dumping grounds of off-price land, well, call me a cynic (as if you haven't already), but that, my friends, is one step away from hailing Big Brother in the streets.

So fuck that flowers and candy shit. Seriously. Fuck it fuck it fuck it. I have a far better way to honor the true spirit of the day, a festival! of love!, and save yourself money and help some people in need at the same time.

My friend, Uma, is in a hospital in New York City, fighting for her life, following a brain aneurysm two weeks ago. She's got people all over the world rooting for her recovery because yes, of course, she's one of those Fantastic People we really, really need more of on this planet. (And for you hopeless romantics who need your gooey icing on the cake, she's 27 and just got engaged.)

Her fiancé and her best friend have been sending out updates daily with news of her health or lack thereof, so we have a way to focus our thoughts. (You can read much of them online starting here.) It's a scary mix of not-good and good right now, with the not-good being about massive stroke and swelling of the brain and the good (the excellent) being about rapid neurological recovery that no one can explain.

This morning's request was a simple one: wear green. Draw a green heart on your hand, if you have no green. Send waves of good, positive thought out there towards Uma.

Uma was no more a fan of the crappy Valentine's Day that's turned us all into February scrooges than you or I. But as her best friend, Erik, points out, Uma is pro-love, and in a big way. And, in her more active times before this fall, was a hell-raisin', law-unabidin' rebel who viewed acts of rebellion small and large with glee.

So I cannot think of a better way to end this series than with an ode to Uma, and a plea for you to perhaps take a moment of your Wednesday to send a healing thought, or a minute to draw a green heart on your hand.

Except, perhaps, to end-end it with this:

uma bird

Uma, wherever your thoughts are at right now, I know they approve...

xxx c

Nerd Love, Day 20: "A" is for alpha channel

alpha channel Some days, you just get by.

Tired Fearful Small and crawly

on no sleep (troubles, troubles) and a too-early dentist appointment made in good faith a year ago kept in resignation and out of more fear (bad gums, the family curse).

And then after a day of throwing down too many cups of caffeine (all flavors)

and an afternoon of pushing through too many scary jobs,

tired and fearful, small and crawly

you straggle home exhausted from An Event (really, it was lovely, we were just fagged out and not in a gay way)

and The BF gives you a tutorial in alpha channels and makes all the bad things disappear.

This is why I love being a nerd

This is why I love being in love with one.

xxx c

Image by Colleen Wainwright and Brenton Fletcher

Nerd Love, Day 19: 10 reasons nerds LOVE the Apple Store at the Grove

apple store at the grove 1. Conveniently located to Los Angeles' fashionable East side. 2. Get to watch Vegas-style timed musical fountain whilst walking to/from personal transpo device. 3. Better porn than Hustler store. 4. Retro-calming, Holly Golightly-esque, "Nothing bad could ever happen to you in a place like this" design vibe. 5. No rats. 6. Close proximity to wide variety of foods legal on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. 7. New! Urban equivalent of Wal-Mart greeter at front door! 8. New! Validated parking with ANY purchase! 9. New! Apple staff can ring up (credit card) purchases via handy/scary device around neck. 10. New! Apple staff can print out receipt on spot or email it to your .mac account.

Which leaves only one question: what is keeping you PC boneheads from drinking the Kool-Aid and getting down with the program?

Silly PC users...

xxx c

Image by Chet Yeary II via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Nerd Love, Day 18: Nerd retirement

Dan's friend Every nerd has her weakness, and I have finally acknowledged mine: I am no longer providing adequate value for my beloved So rather than fuck it up, I'm bowing out to let some young (or old) and vigorous type step in.

It was a damned fine couple of years, and I'll be sad to let it go.

On the other hand, now I can go nuts in the comment section like all the rest of the old cranks.

Maybe that's what happens to old nerds: they don't actually die, or even fade away; they just become full-on, yarnspinnin', pants-to-the-nipples-hitchin' geezers...

xxx c

UPDATE: Just so we're clear (because certain comments lead me to believe we might not be), I'm not quitting this here blog: I'm leaving, the L.A. flagship of the metroblogging empire. They don't need me; you cats just might...

Image by Todd Ehlers via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Nerd Love, Day 17: Offline!

Liz and Robert Plant Yes, when Chief Nerd and Bottle Washer takes a day off, she engages chiefly in elective nerd activities. Yesterday's project was a long put-off expansion and reorganization of communicatrix HQ, adding file cab #2 and getting the G5 back online at full operating power.

This is notable for two reasons:

First, nerds have unaccountable phobias like everyone else. Mine is change. When the G5 had a hard drive cramp way, way back in July of last year, my solution was to move everything onto my 12" PowerBook and ignore the fact that it took me a third again as long to get the simplest task done. Why? Because I was too scared/lazy/stubborn to bring the G5 into the Apple store, which makes no sense because it was still under warranty/not that heavy/no comment. And then, even after it was abundantly clear that there was nothing wrong with the drive that a clean install couldn't fix, I still resisted loading everything back on because...oh, well, because clearly, I am out of my mind.

Second, pulling everything, and I mean everything, apart meant that I was offline for the better part of 12 hours, also known as a nerd eternity.

I could post a photo of my spiffy new setup (or the heinous tangle of wires it seems I am cursed with until the lights go out), but this morning, when I got back online, I woke up to this wonderful photo of my newly 40-year-old sister posing in some parking lot with Robert Plant. It was so random, I had to run with it.

So happy belated birthday, my beautiful Elizabeth, and may this decade be your best 10 years yet.

xxx c

Nerd Love, Day 16: Obsession, a.k.a. Nerd Koan

keys To you, it is a collection of keys (and affinity tags) on a key ring. (Okay, carabiner.)

To me, it represents dozens of man-hours of thought:

One ring or two? Or three? And what diameter? Fob choice? Fob size? What is too heavy? What is too light? What feels good in my hands? What feels so good I'll forget about it? Is that too good? Is that bad? What would be useful? What would be more useful? Is yesterday's 'useful' no longer so? Where to forgo elegance for functionality? What is the nature of elegance, anyway?

The difference between being a baby nerd and a grownup one is that grownup nerds know to enjoy the process or abandon it altogether, because the "goal", perfection, will continue to recede in the distance as you move toward it.

The key ring of my 20's is not the key ring of my 30's is not the key ring of my 40's.

In my 50's? There may not be a key ring at all.

And maybe that is what I am working towards.

If, indeed, any of this is a working towards anything...

xxx c

Nerd Love, Day 15: Nerd Math

math 10:15 am: Nerd gets e-newsletter from Vonage announcing deal for 20% off phone service for prepayment.

10:17 am: Nerd has phone service through 2/7/08 and $59 dollars in pocket.

10:20 am: Nerd mentally spends entire wad on six additional URLs for future blogs...

xxx c

Image by Fatty Tuna via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Nerd Love, Day 14: Stealth Nerd, #2

gretchen rubin Let's review:

Obtains Ivy League undergraduate and law degrees. Check.

Clerks for U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Check.

Chucks it all to do nerdy research and write books. Check.

Yes, Gretchen Rubin is beautiful and polished and living a life of chic Manhattan mommyhood. Don't let that shit fool you! Not only has girlfriend written four books and spent a year researching happiness from all angles, which she is now writing a book about...

...she has a blog about it.

I call nerd.

xxx c

Nerd Love, Day 13: Nerd Wayback Machine

communicatrix-dot-com, 2004 Yes, that's communicatrix-dot-com, circa December, 2004, courtesy of the Wayback Machine.

Just shows what a couple of years and a couple of hundred hours at the computer can do for a girl.

And her blog...

xxx c

Click the image above for rollover commentary and larger sized display of my shame. Or click here.

Nerd Love, Day 12: How to write a bulletproof newsletter

coaster news I've been sitting on this post for what seems like eons. Every time I sign up for a new newsletter, I cross my fingers and hope and hope and hope. And almost invariably, I am disappointed.

It's very hard, apparently, to get a newsletter right, and really, really easy to fuck it up.

And so, in the interest of me, me, me...

The communicatrix's top 10 tips for creating a newsletter people will read every time it hits their inbox:

1. Content is king

I'm a designer. I like things to look nice. My two favorite newsletters? The only ones I will recommend at the end of this post? One is text-only and one is, um, ugly. There, I said it. Who cares? I read that sucker every Friday morning, stem to stern. Like I said, content is king.

2. Leave me wanting more

People who subscribe to newsletters usually subscribe to lots. If yours is too long, guess what? There are others that come just as regularly, and aren't. Of course, there is almost no such thing as too long if your content is good enough. But why kill yourself? You've got 51 more weeks to fill, cowboy. Besides, the point of the newsletter, as I understand it, is to get someone interested in your business. I would think the two greatest ways to do that are to tell me incredibly useful information, thereby establishing yourself as an expert, and to leave me wanting more of your expertise.

3. Watch the ads

Hey, it's your dime and your time. I can understand an ad or promo here or there. Just be careful. No one's content is that good.

4. Be as regular as taxes.

Those "when I feel like it" newsletters? Those are articles. Unless you are one of maybe 25 people whose words I hang on, I'm not interested in your articles. Really, I'm not.

5. Regular means once per week, per two weeks and if you're amazing, per month.

I mean, go ahead and send me that once per month email. But know that there are some people sending me an emailed newsletter with great content every week. Which means maybe consider #1 & #2 and go back to the drawing board.

6. Think long and hard before using that email I gave you to send me something else.

I'll give you one, maybe two shots. Then you're outta there.

7. Keep the self-congratulations for friends and family.

I almost never care if you've won something. Unless it directly affects me, in which case, knock yourself out.

8. An HTML email with links back to your site instead of embedded content is not a newsletter.

It is a pain in the ass standing in the way of me and information. Don't do it.

9. Keep it within your purview, but useful to me.

This is incredibly hard to do, but it's really how you hit it out of the park. One of my new favorite newsletters is Mark Silver's Business Heart. It's all text, has a dopey-ass name and is outstanding almost every single week. Silver's area of expertise is "heart-centered business practice", in other words, how to do business without feeling like a tool. He's focused and passionate about what he does, and communicates simply and elegantly about all sorts of things I find helpful, like how to approach writing a book, how to think about marketing in a way that doesn't make you cringe, etc. He's consistent, respectful, gives openly and doesn't push. Guess who I'm going to refer someone to first when they're looking for a coach like him? (UPDATE 6/17/09: Mark's newsletter is HTML-beautiful and easy to read. Slam dunk, baby!)

10. When in doubt, offer tips.

Everyone loves tips. Well, everyone who subscribes to newsletters, anyway. Rebecca Morgan and Ken Braly's SpeakerNet News gets read first, every Friday, even before I click on my Salon links. I'm not even a speaker, but (UPDATE 6/17/09: I am now!) It's chock full of excellent tips on stuff like self-promotion, marketing, travel, organizing, systems, etc. In fact, if someone has a newsletter for me that is as good as SNN and has only organizational stuff, I will pay you five American dollars. (I must subscribe to it for at least one month before you receive your prize.)



UPDATE: I just found another great point about what makes a great newsletter in, you guessed it, a newsletter!

11. Don't forget outbound links.

This is kind of a corollary of Rule #1, but enough of a good point to bear mentioning on its own. I like goodies! All people like goodies! Give away goodies! Lots of other good stuff in this article, although the newsletter itself breaks Rule #8, so it doesn't make the hit parade.

Nick Usborne in "Four Ways the Best Newsletters Are Like Blogs," from the newsletter (link)

UPDATE (11/30/07): I'm going to start a list here of additional newsletters to add to the canon:

  • Michael Katz's newsletter (bi-weekly) continues to hold up to the test of time. Great writing, good information, highly motivating. It should be: he wrote the book on it. (And a great book, which I still recommend for people starting out.)
  • Robert Genn's newsletter (bi-weekly) is crafted for fine artists, but great for any kind of creative soul (and possibly, inspiring for those who don't consider themselves creative)
  • The Lefsetz Letter (mostly daily) is a different sort of "newsletter", really, it's blog posts, sent out via an email service. But it's addictive in the best way that newsletters are, filled with interesting things to check out. Bob's beat is the music industry, so if you're in any creative industry undergoing upheaval, you'll find lots of great info here.
  • Power Writing (bi-weekly) Professional writer Daphne Gray-Grant has tons of useful things to say about writing more easily and having more fun doing it.
  • The MOOsletter (bi-weekly) Outstanding tips on marketing from one of the smartest companies around. A joy to read and chock full of awesome, week after week.

Image (and headline) by Eammon via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Nerd Love, Day 11: When nerds travel

luggage pickup Nerds want...

  1. WiFi in all airports.
  2. ...more outlets to plug in...
  3. ...that actually work.
  4. ...people on cell phones to use their inside voice...
  5. ...or hang up.
  6. ...maps in the "L" cars.
  7. ...people watching movies on their laptops to use headphones.
  8. be there when rude lady hogging outlet finds out five minutes after her three-hour flight takes off that outlet she was hogging was not getting any juice.

xxx c

Image by caribb via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

Nerd Love, Day 9: Nerd counsel

the best advice Fuck Robert Young. Screw the stiffs syndicated in most mainstream publications. You wanna know something about something?

Ask a nerd.

Giving really good advice is nerd territory, period. Because all nerds (a) burrow deep and (b) are compelled to share. Seriously. Like crack-addled monkeys, nerds cannot resist getting their advice on at any opportunity. It provides a kind of physical release for them.

In fact, the Nerd Advice Trajectory is very similar to that of the perfect bowel movement. It requires a variety of input, the precise application of both internal and external resources, a gestation period, and, after a mild and pleasant interval of anticipatory urgency, provides an ecstasy upon release matched only by orgasm or an elusive sneeze that finally finds purchase.

Here, for your enjoyment and edification (because the highest form of enlightenment is served up in an entertaining way, i.e. a way that will land), a list of Smart Nerds with Good Advice:

1. Randy Cohen (a.k.a. "Ask the Ethicist" from the NY Times)

Yeah. We need religion to be moral. Yeah. Right. (link)

2. Cary Tennis | "Since You Asked,"

No one gives better advice than smart, sensitive recovering alcoholics. Or, apparently, engenders such lively discussion in the comments section. (link)

3. Heather Havrilesky | Rabbit Blog

You may know her from Salon's "I Like to Watch" TV column. She's better here. Link leads to a particularly fine example. You may wander from there. (link)

4. Dan Savage | Savage Love

Hilarious, smart, no bullshit sex/relationships advice columnist. And gay. Whatever. Only a pinhead would see that as his chief identifying feature. (link)

5. Sue Johanson | Talk Sex on

Demystifying sex for the masses. Everyone's favorite Canadian sexpert. Makes Dr. Ruth look like a showboating piker. (wikipedia link) (showtimes link)

6. Carolyn Hax | Tell Me About It, Washington Post

So smart I almost don't hate her for being younger than I am and graduating from Harvard. Almost. (link)

Who am I missing, nerds?

xxx c

UPDATE: D'oh! Forgot...

7. The Car Talk Guys

Excellent advice, expertly delivered (i.e., with humor and sass, thank-you-muchly) each week on NPR. (Thanks, trillwing!) If these guys can entertain someone on her third Toyota Corolla (i.e., someone who could give a rat's ass about cars), they can entertain you. Love those accents, too! Grrrrr... (link)

Image by jamelah via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Nerd Love, Day 8: Nerds on Holiday!

canned goods

Chief Nerd and her hot Nerd Arm Candy are off to Chicago for the next four days, because nerds travel when:

  1. prices are low
  2. they feel like it
  3. they need a break from the relentless taskmistress that is the 21-Day Saluteâ„¢

Kidding on that last one.

There may be some posts of the canned variety until our return. No whining. It is, after all, winter in this part of the world. That's when you're supposed to have canned goods...


Image by never mind her via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

Nerd Love, Day 7: I {heart} Edward Tufte

tufte books When normal people play hooky, they go to the movies or the beach or Vegas.

When nerds take the day off, they go to see this guy, and come home 8 hours later, drunk with possibility, clutching a set of books so beautiful in both thought and execution, you get a little dizzy just opening one up.

I took a ton of notes, which I'll share with the class at a later date, but the topline is this:

Edward Tufte really is "the Leonardo da Vinci of information" (New York Times quote, not mine), and seeing him in person really is worth every penny of the not inconsiderable sum it costs to do so.

You get all of his books, he's up to four, which are impossibly priced at the low, low figure of $40 apiece. I say "low, low" because from the little I know about book production, there's no way you could print these conventionally for that price. (Tufte has his own publishing company, Graphics Press.) They are exquisitely produced works of art so full of wonderful information it will take me months, nay, years to absorb it all. And if you go to the lecture, he uses them as the support material! Makes those crappy PowerPoint leave-behinds looks pretty lame. Which is, of course, the entire point.

Edward Tufte is not as anti-PowerPoint as even he says he is.

The essay that put Tufte on the map with the hoi polloi (he'd been rockstar-popular with the geniuses for far longer) was, predictably enough, the one where he tells everyone's favorite meeting crutch where to get off.

He hates PowerPoint, to be sure, but he was careful to qualify his hatred:

  1. ET says that PowerPoint does not ensure sloppy thinking, it just makes it more likely
  2. ET reserves the bulk of his wrath for those who misapply PowerPoint in "serious" presentations, people who are cutting off feet to fit bodies in beds, either unintentionally (well-meaning scientists who abandon their language of notation and explanation to fit PowerPoint's low-resolution, limited character set world) or intentionally (evil people obfuscating or outright fudging data with visual double-speak, and he hates those people no matter what medium they're using towards their nefarious ends)

If you wanna do a PowerPoint about kitties, I don't think ET is gonna have a problem with it. PowerPoint as infotainment is relatively benign. So my work as a presentation designer is not moral compromise, provided NASA or the Federal Reserve don't engage my services. As if.

Watching Edward Tufte is an exercise in head-exploding newness and, simultaneously, a joyous feeling of coming home.

My brain is still reeling from playing catch-up with some of the finer technical points, but the rest of my body is still vibrating with the shock of recognition. Over and over in my notes, I have little asides with stars and underscores where I realized his points were essentially the credos I've been living with for the past 10 years or so: "Tell the Truth" and "Form Follow Function" and, less pithily, "Figure Out How to Say It So People Will Get It, Asshole."

It's the content, stupid.

'Nuff said.

Now, back to the business of delivering information in an elegant, useful fashion...

xxx c

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the work of Edward Tufte, here are some good places to start:

  • Edward Tufte's website (link)
  • Salon review of Tufte's book, Visual Explanations (link)
  • Jason Carr's notes on a Tufte speech several years ago (link)
  • A brief post by a software engineer on Tufte's relevance in new media (link)
  • Wikipedia entry (link)

Image by unertlkm via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

Nerd Love, Day 6: Adirondack Lily and the Stealth Nerd

lily of the adirondacks Make no mistake: my friend, Lily, is as gorgeous as they come. And I'm not just talking inner beauty; I mean angel face, non-stop bod, the whole ball o' wax.

And yet...

Lily is a nerd. Not an honorary nerd, either: a full-on, piano-playin', pie-bakin', own-clothes-makin', Feynman-readin' N-E-R-D.

The nerds, they are everywhere, you see. That whole tape-on-the-glasses-bridge thing? Dunzo. Lily has a bitchin' pair of high-end ironic nerd glasses, but she can go deep-normie-cover in contact lenses and Hollywood actress drag. You can't tell the nerds from the civilians anymore, friends. Such is the beauty of the nerd camo that has been embraced by the hipster-ati. Who's a nerd? Who's just playing one on TV?

I'm certainly not telling. My ability to make a living depends largely on keeping people guessing.

But here's a clue: check what's in their homes. Check their homes, period. It's a good bet you'll find weirdly obsessive streaks: excessive clutches of stringed instruments, five shelves of South American poetry, too much software, too much hardware, too much, too many, too too too-doo.

How to discern between nerds and their de trop and ordinary Ammurricans and theirs? Nerd-i-mi-bilia is not available on QVC. Nerds are not trend-meisters or herd members; even in their obsessive overconsumption they flit about the fringe. They are gamers, but crazy-smart; they score off the charts in standardized tests but play in jug bands.

Nerds defy classification. This is why previous eras with their rigid strata were a little hard on nerds, and why we are all breathing a bit easier now. Never before in history has it been so sweet to be a nerd.

Even a nerd in deep cover, with fedora and six-shooter, knee-deep in snow and particleboard cabin construction, in the middle of an Adirondack winter...

xxx c

Nerd Love, Day 5: Score one for the Nerds

all my favorite Thanksgiving foods rhyme with d. lee Nerds with a secret are like little kids before Christmas: they cannot, CANNOT, I tell you, wait for the big day.

The big day, in this case, was supposed to be closer to baseball season. Or at least post-Stupid Bowl. But I could not, COULD NOT, I tell you, wait one more second. Because I finally got my old pal, Tim Souers, the genius I blogged about a year and a half ago, to start a blog.

True, there are only a few actual "posts" up there. But he's uploaded two seasons to the image galleries, two seasons, people!!! Hours and hours of chewy, arty goodness.

Of course, the beauty part is, not only have I given this outstanding gift to the world (via, well, you know, Tim's time, talent and effort), but Tim is cool! He is a Cool Person!!! Who has started a blog!!! Which means...

I actually converted someone to the Nerd Side!!!


I will get you all, my pretties...

xxx c

Nerd Love, Day 4: I'll show you mine if you show me yours

I see London I've alluded before to Best Year Yet on this here bloggy, but for those of you who missed class and/or are too f**king lazy to click the links or Google it, Best Year Yet is a values-based goal-setting system which I discovered via Heidi Miller's podcast long ago, and which could just as rightly be called "The Nerdiest Goal-Setting System Yet" except that it'd be redundant.

My friend, Kathy (zen-shiatsu mistress supreme) and I spent four, count 'em, four, hours today going over our plans. We'd both done all of our (nerd) homework and I've been implementing mine since the second week of January, but Kathy's a single mom and, as I understand it, time bends in funny ways when you're situated thusly.

Anyway, I buffed out the scratches in my Best Year Yet plan and, because one of the things that tripped me up the first time I tried doing it was a lack of concrete examples of workable plans, I decided to make mine public.

Via Backpack. Because that's how I roll, baby.

Feel free to check it out (link here), and contact me with any questions or comments. You can do it via email or the comments section of this post. I'd like to keep the process as transparent as possible, to help the most people; so if you email me, I may use your question to work up an FAQ somewhere here on the site, but if I do, I promise to keep your identity a total, double-secret-probation-level secret, should you so desire.

Bottom line: if you're already doing BYY, I encourage you to post somewhere and share a link. If you're not, consider doing something similar with your goals and post a link.

Accountability ain't everything, but it helps.

Later, nerds...

xxx c


UPDATE: I got an email from my pal, Neil, asking why the monthly and weekly goals were missing. They're not: they just get a little too personal, so they're not displayed for public consumption. But rest assured, I have them and am doing them. And it's working!!!

Image by occipital lobe via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

Nerd Love, Day 3: Nerd Accessories

pencil case Quick,

What's nerdier than an olive-green hard shell pencil case from 1973 with...

  • a granny decal
  • two day-glo yellow stickers with your name in "mod" type
  • an "Easy Rider"-esque knockoff sticker in the center

...surrounded by:

  • fake pearls from Forever 21
  • a coaster that actually says "Love Like You'll Never Get Hurt"
  • an Entertainment 07 coupon book you bought from a fellow nerdmaster
  • a picture of you and The BF at an elective Nerdmasters function in which you were inducted as VP of Membership
  • one of no less than 15 affinity program cards
  • which is made out under your company's name
  • which you decided, in your infinite nerdy wisdom, should be "BeanEyes Communications"



opened pencil case

An olive-green hard shell pencil case from 1973 that is still operational.

xxx c