Monday, October 15, 2007

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rickey Henderson's HOF Resume

Key Stats:
  • 25 years in the major leagues
  • Played for 9 different teams, including Oakland four different times
  • Highest salary was $4.8 million for the A's in 1994
  • Holds MLB records for career steals (1,406) and runs (2,295)
  • Has never officially retired
Quotable:
  • On setting the career steals record: "Lou Brock was a great base stealer, but today, I am the greatest of all-time."
  • On being Nolan Ryan's 5,000th career strikeout: "It gave me no chance. He (Ryan) just blew it by me. But it's an honor. I'll have another paragraph in all the baseball books. I'm already in the books three or four times."
  • On referring to himself in the third person: "Listen, people are always saying, 'Rickey says Rickey.' But it's been blown way out of proportion. People might catch me, when they know I'm ticked off, saying, 'Rickey, what the heck are you doing, Rickey?' They say, 'Darn, Rickey, what are you saying Rickey for? Why don't you just say, 'I?' But I never did. I always said, 'Rickey,' and it became something for people to joke about."
  • On talking to himself: "Do I talk to myself? No, I just remind myself of what I'm trying to do. You know, I never answer myself so how can I be talking to myself?"
  • On holding out for a better contract from the A's: "If they want to pay me like Mike Gallego, I'll play like Gallego."
  • Overheard talking to himself after a strikeout: "Don't worry, Rickey, you're still the best."
  • Message left on Padres GM Kevin Towers' answering machine: "This is Rickey calling on behalf of Rickey. Rickey wants to play baseball."
  • On Ken Caminiti's estimate that 50 percent of Major League players were taking steroids: "Well, Rickey's not one of them, so that's 49 percent right there."
  • On whether he had a Garth Brooks album: "Rickey doesn't have albums. Rickey has CDs."
Highlights:
  • Henderson revolutionized the art of the nonchalant snatch-catch in the outfield.
  • In the early 1980s, the Oakland A's accounting department was freaking out. The books were off $1 million. After an investigation, it was determined Henderson was the reason why. The GM asked him about a $1 million bonus he had received and Henderson said instead of cashing it, he framed it and hung it on a wall at his house.
  • In 1996, Henderson's first season with San Diego, he boarded the team bus and was looking for a seat. Steve Finley said, "You have tenure, sit wherever you want." Henderson looked at Finley and said, "Ten years? Ricky's been playing at least 16, 17 years."
  • Henderson once asked a teammate how long it would take him to drive to the Dominican Republic.
  • Henderson once fell asleep on an ice pack and got frostbite - which forced him to miss three games - in mid-August.
  • Henderson broke Ty Cobb's career record for runs scored with a home run. After taking his usual 45 seconds or so around the bases, Rickey slid into home plate.
  • The morning after the Boston Red Sox finished off the World Series sweep against the St. Louis Cardinals in 2005, Henderson called someone in the organization looking for tickets to Game 6 at Fenway Park.
  • The New York Mets were staying in a hotel less than a mile from Cinergy Field in Cincinnati. While some players walked, most took the team bus. A few minutes after they arrived - again it was less than a mile - the last players off the bus noticed a stretched limo that had just pulled up. Of course, Henderson emerged from the back seat.
  • A few weeks into Henderson's stint with the Mariners, he walked up to John Olerud at the batting cage and asked him why he wore a batting helmet in the field. Olerud explained that he had an aneurysm at nine years old and he wore the helmet for protection. Legend goes that Henderson said, "Yeah, I used to play with a guy that had the same thing." Legend also goes that Olerud said, "That was me, Rickey." Henderson played with Olerud on the Blue Jays and the Mets.
  • In the late 1980s, the Yankees sent Henderson a six-figure bonus check. After a few months passed, an internal audit revealed the check had not been cashed. Current Yankees GM Brian Cashman - then a low-level nobody with the organization - called Henderson and asked if there was a problem with the check. Henderson said, "I'm just waiting for the money market rates to go up."
  • In June 1999, when Henderson was playing with the Mets, he saw reporters running around the clubhouse before a game. He asked a teammate what was going on and he was told that Tom Robson, the team's hitting coach, had just been fired. Henderson said, "Who's he?"
  • Henderson was pulled over by a San Diego police officer for speeding. As the officer was approaching his car, the window went down a few inches and a folded $100 bill emerged. The officer let Henderson and his money head home without a ticket.
  • When he was on the Yankees in the mid-1980s, Henderson told teammates that his condo had such a great view that he could see, "The Entire State Building."
  • During one of his stays with Oakland, Henderson's locker was next to Billy Beane's. After making the team out of spring training, Beane was sent to the minors after a few months. Upon his return, about six weeks later, Henderson looked at Beane and said, "Hey, man, where have you been? Haven't seen you in awhile."
  • To this day and dating back 25 years, before every game he plays, Henderson stands completely naked in front of a full length locker room mirror and says, "Ricky's the best," for several minutes.
  • In the last week of his lone season with the Red Sox, Chairman Tom Werner asked Henderson what he would like for his 'going-away' gift. Henderson said he wasn't going anywhere, but he would like owner John Henry's Mercedes. Werner said it would be tough to get the same make and model in less than a week and Henderson said, "No, I want his car." Turns out the Sox got Henderson a Red Thunderbird and when he saw it on the field before the last game of the season, Rickey said, "Whose ugly car is on the field?"
  • Henderson and Bobby Bonilla, upset at Mets manager Bobby Valentine, played cards in the clubhouse as their team lost in Game 6 of the NLCS in 1999.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

In the year 2014....

With this class coming to an end, I think it's time that we take a look into the future. The future Josh? That's right, lets look into the future...all the way to the year 2014.
  • In the year 2014, we will receive streaming television on our cars' headrest flat screens provided by satellite company XSirius. Fox's "Sanjaya: The Comeback Special" will be blamed for thousands of motorists driving off bridges.
  • In the year 2014, there will still be newspapers, but they will be customized for the readers. Subscribers will read constantly updated editions specially tailored to their interests. They will get their personal paper by pushing a button on their home printing device, which will be rented from the newspaper company. Non-subscribers will swipe a card or input their reading preferences at printing stations to receive their own editions.
  • In the year 2014, readership of the specialized newspapers will sharply rise because we will have free time on the way to work in self-driving cars.
  • In the year 2014, all our computers will have video phones so we can communicate face-to-face with each other for free over the Internet. This technology will lead to the rise of eHarmony models, who stand in for you and talk to a potential date for a nominal fee.
  • In the year 2014, we will be able to view the Internet on our aviator sunglasses. This will cause quite a few delightful misunderstandings when people start looking up porn on the beach.
  • In the year 2014, Amazon will have a thriving business selling books that people download for use on hand-held devices for 30 days. There will be no need for reading lights in bed because the text will be illuminated on the screen.
  • In the year 2014, there will be a rejuvenation of sorts for the old-fashioned drive-in movie as portable projection devices allow people to show films on the sides of their houses. Everyone at the family barbecue will be able to enjoy Rocky IX.
  • In the year 2014, everyone will be a paparazzi with a social networking site that instantly beams people's photos and tales of celebrity encounters around the world. Paris Hilton's daughter, Louvre, will become the darling of the amateur paparazzi circuit.
  • In the year 2014, Apple will come out with the iToothbrush, which plays your favorite songs in two-minute bursts to help you time out your brushing.
  • In the year 2014, more people than ever will get college educations as universities offer entire cirriculums online. There will still be plenty of students too hungover to attend class ("Zero-point-zero").
  • In the year 2014, electronic billboards will be the hottest thing in advertising. We will be able to skip commercials on TV and the radio, but there will always be traffic.
  • In the year 2014, I will have retired a millionaire after cashing in my stock in Google, which will have its own government by then.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Twin City News Personas

Photo of persona

Name

Frank Grimes III

Age/education/health

67; College graduate; Good health after having

minor heart attack in 2001

Gender/

family lifecycle stage

Male; Married (Edith) with children ages 38, 35 and 28 – all of whom live separately from Frank & Edith – “New Empty Nests”

Location/housing type

Suburban Minneapolis; Owns 4-bedroom home

Occupation

Former accountant, retired in 2005 with good nest egg

Social class

Upper middle class

Personality

Relaxed but not spontaneous; obsessive planner

Attitudes

Weighs decisions thoughtfully on case-by-case basis; likes a good product; doesn’t need status symbol; serious

Ethnicity/religion

White; Attends church only on holidays; Believes in being a good person, not following every word of Bible

Lifestyle motivations

Principle-oriented; Makes own decisions based on research

Media interests

Quit reading Twin City News when he retired; Still subscribes to Wall Street Journal; Reads Fortune, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic Traveler; Occasionally visits TwinCities.com, CNN.com; Watches evening news (local and national); Watches PGA golf

Type of computer user

Adept; He knows how to surf the Internet, but still has an AOL account; He occasionally types Web address into Yahoo search box

Type of computer equipment

Basic home use; He recently upgraded to a cable modem after years of dial-up

Type of Internet usage

E-mail; News; Travel planning

User status

Ex-user; Used to frequent site when working

Usage rate

Light user; Still checks local news occasionally

Loyalty status

Weak

Usage goals

Wants to be able to plan fun trips to city for events and exhibits; Wants to be able to find out local financial news; Wants to do more than one crossword a day; Wants to read about comings and goings of friends’ children; Wants to read obituaries

Emotional goals

Learning-Wants to gain knowledge about the area in which he lives; Believing-Wants good information/tips about things to do; Entertaining-Wants fun ways to spend his time

Task content

He uses product by himself or with Edith; He uses the product over time in hour-long sessions every other day or so

Accessibility

He has no accessibility issues

Photo of persona


Name

Francine Williams

Age/education/health

57; College graduate; Good health, but has diabetes

Gender/

family lifecycle stage

Female; Married (Henry) with no children –

“Close-in Couples”

Location/housing type

Maplewood, Minn.; Owns older 2-bedroom home

Occupation

Retired school teacher; Henry still works as carpenter

Social class

Working class

Personality

Outgoing and enthusiastic; loves to talk to people and joke around

Attitudes

Glass half-full person; consistently gives favorable evaluations

Ethnicity/religion

Black; Attends church every Sunday, helps cook/organize for church functions

Lifestyle motivations

Action-oriented; Has desire to meet people, go places, learn first-hand

Media interests

Reads Twin City News only on Sunday evening; Reads Oprah Magazine; People; Ebony; Watches People’s Court; Oprah; Girlfriends; Everybody Hates Chris

Type of computer user

Acceptable; Knows how to get around but doesn’t surf much

Type of computer equipment

Basic home use; She still uses a dial-up modem and has a slow computer that has been stricken by viruses

Type of Internet usage

Primarily only e-mail

User status

Non-user

Usage rate

Light user

Loyalty status

None

Usage goals

Wants ways to meet new people with similar interests; Wants to find community events she can go to with Henry; Wants community causes to join; Wants to find ways to save money

Emotional goals

Believing-Wants causes/groups she can believe in; Belonging-Wants to be part of those causes/groups

Task content

She uses the product by herself while Henry is at work; She completes use of product in one sitting

Accessibility

She has problems accessing the site because her computer cannot handle the pop-up ads and webcasts; it frequently freezes and she must restart

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Family Vacation - A Planning Assignment

For this week's assignment, I will be taking on the role of Clark W. Griswold (World's Best Dad) planning a wonderful summer museum vacation for his family. Along for the ride will be Grandma, my son Josh (aka Rusty) and, because I didn't think it was right to leave my wife at home alone, Beverly D'Angelo Griswold.

Rusty, who is 15 years old, is a budding baseball star at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Gary, Ind., in large part because when he was a child, I tied his right arm behind his back to make him learn how to pitch lefty. As a reward for making A-B honor roll, I told Rusty he could pick our family vacation this summer. To everyone's surprise, he chose the National Baseball Hall of Fame instead of traditional favorite Wally World -- where his sister Audrey was killed in a tragic log flume accident. The following is my planning for the trip on June 1-3 from Gary to Cooperstown, N.Y.

Transportation
  • Times have been tough at the chemical company this year, so I was looking for the most cost-effective way to plan the weekend. The first step was to find inexpensive transportation for the four of us. I began by trying to find a flight out of Gary on Orbitz. This was a very frustrating experience. Having booked through Orbitz before, I thought I'd have no problem, but I underestimated the fact that there are no major airports near Cooperstown. After browsing through the hundreds of airport codes on the site, I decided to go to Google Maps to search for airports in and around Cooperstown. The closest was in the county outside Utica, but it was not listed by Orbitz. So, again on Google Maps, I found out that Albany was about 1.5 hours away in driving time and Syracuse was about 2 hours. But after searching for flights to those cities, Orbitz told me there were no flights found and that I needed to change one or more of my search criteria. I had no idea if the problem was that the Gary airport stinks, that the other airports stink, that all flights are booked or that flights don't go from Gary to those places on the weekend. I made one last ditch attempt to get a flight to Buffalo, but once that failed, I gave up on the flight plan.
  • I then went to Plan B -- renting a car. I think the Wagonqueen Family Truckster has seen one too many road trip over the years and won't be able to make it to Cooperstown. And though I've always been fond of red Ferraris, I decided to look for something more comfortable that would be alright for Grandma's bad knees. After doing a Google search for rental cars in Gary, I found out that there is an Enterprise location right downtown on Grant Street. So I went to the sponsored link for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. I did a search for a luxury car to rent on Friday and return Sunday, but because the store is closed on Sunday, I had to settle for returning it bright and early Monday. Unfortunately, there were no luxury vehicles available but Enterprise's site really made picking out a car easy. I was immediately sent to a page that showed all the types of vehicles available for the trip, complete with pictures and prices. I decided to go with a minivan. It will cost just under $200, which is a little more than I wanted to pay but much less than air travel. With room to seat 7, a van will allow Grandma and Rusty to stretch out more than a full-sized sedan would. I selected the van and reserved online with little delay.
Directions
  • After already pulling up a Google map of Cooperstown to find nearby airports, I stuck with it over Mapquest to get directions. I love using Google maps because they give you the point-by-point directions in the bar on the left and a beautiful map in the middle that can be easily manipulated. The ability to grab and move the map with the hand tool, zoom in or out on the map and look at a satellite view really sets Google apart from Mapquest. By zooming in on Cooperstown, I realized that Frankfort, N.Y., is nearby and on the way from Gary. My cousin Eddie just happens to live in Frankfort and though staying with his family of hicks can be annoying, it would save us a few hundred dollars on renting multiple hotel rooms. So I easily rerouted my map to Frankfort and also printed out directions for the 50-minute trip from Eddie's house to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
  • After checking out the map, I realize that we're going to have rides of over 11 hours on Friday and Sunday. The long drive should be fine for Rusty, because he has an iPod to listen to and a PSP to play, and Grandma, because she does not go anywhere without her crochet gear. Beverly, on the other hand, doesn't have any such hobbies and gets very bored on long rides. So I decided to look for some audio books for her to listen to on the ride. I remembered that Cracker Barrel has an audio book rental program, so I decided to look it up. According to the Web site, you purchase a book on tape or CD at regular price ($9.99 to $48.00) and then return it to any Cracker Barrel location to get a refund of the purchase price, minus $3.49 for each week you have it. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me, and Beverly loves some Nora Roberts books. I clicked on the "Closest Cracker Barrel" link in the left navigation bar and quickly found a location in Merrillville that we can hit for a nice breakfast Friday before getting on the road...and boy does Grandma ever love her some country-style breakfast at Cracker Barrel!
Attractions
  • While the trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame is something Rusty and I have wanted to do all our lives, it does present a bit of a problem for Grandma and Beverly. Grandma grew up in Cincinnati and has been a huge Reds fan all her life. The problem is, she has refused to step foot inside the Baseball Hall of Fame until Pete Rose's lifetime ban for gambling on the sport is overturned and he is voted into the Hall. That being said, Beverly hates all sports and would much rather spend her day on a shopping trip than staring at dusty old baseball equipment. So we decided that Beverly and Grandma could drop Rusty and myself off at the Hall at 8 a.m. Saturday and pick us up at 1 p.m. after enjoying a day in Cooperstown together. A Google search of Cooperstown turned up the village's Chamber of Commerce. Apparently, Cooperstown is nicknamed the "Village of Museums," so I clicked the "What to See & Do" link to find out what museums were available for the ladies. The Chamber of Commerce features a very quaint design, complete with vintage post cards of the village, that really creates an emotional small-town feel. But scrolling through the museum list (with entries like the Hero's of Baseball Wax Museum and the Northeast Classic Car Museum), I didn't see anything that would really work for Beverly and Grandma. Luckily, the Chamber of Commerce site had a navigation bar at the top of the page that dropped down to reveal links to many helpful pages, including one labeled "Where to Shop." Below the postcard image, there seemed to be an exhaustive list of all the stores in and around Cooperstown with addresses, phone numbers and links to Web sites if they had them. The one thing lacking on this page was a brief description of each shop. Most, like Sam Smith's Boatyard and Boat Rentals, were pretty self explainatory, but I have no idea what The Owl and Moon is, and there was no Web site listed for it.
  • On the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce site, I found a link to Essential Elements Day Spa and Boutique on Main Street, which looked like a great place for Grandma and Beverly to spend some time. After browsing a complete list of services and prices, I decided that Beverly should get a 90-minute Full Body Massage (which includes Swedish, Deep Tissue and Shiatsu) and Grandma, who is a little more fragile, should get a 90-minute Theraputic Massage to help with those aching knees. The total cost for the two messages will be $175. The font color on the navigation bar made it difficult to see, but I found the "Make an Appointment" link and followed it to a simple form. I filled it out and the ladies were set for an appointment from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. in a manner of seconds.
  • Beverly and Grandma will still have about three hours to kill before getting us from the museum, so after returning to the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce site, I found some shopping they could do. There are numerous craft and antique shops along Main Street that they can explore after their massages. Once they are done with the shops on Main Street, they will have to drive three miles north of Cooperstown to visit Heartworks Quilts & Fabrics, "One of the top 10 quilt shops in the USA!!" Grandma should be able to find all sorts of quilt designs and fabrics, and will be able to bring it all home thanks to the ample room in our minivan. Though the Heartworks Web site isn't exactly the most elaborate in the world, it does tell about products, quilting classes, directions and even a newsletter you can sign up to receive. It also has a lovely quilt theme throughout, with colorful navigation bars made to look like quilt pieces. I was a little bit turned off by the extremely large font size on the "What's New" page, but it makes perfect sense when you think about the store's clientele. Once Grandma gets done picking out her patterns, I'm sure it will be time to pick us up from the Hall of Fame.
  • After getting the ladies squared away for the morning, I began researching what Rusty and I would do. One look at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Web site and I was instantly connected emotionally. Besides the photos of baseball greats like Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gwynn, Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, everything is presented in red, white and blue. The museum logo especially taps into a sense of nationalistic pride by displaying stars and stripes behind the image of a baseball...the only thing more American would be to add a slice of apple pie. Along the navigation bar and on the right side, I was immediately drawn to the "Plan Your Visit" link. When I scrolled my mouse over the link, the star beside it morphed into a baseball...nice touch. One of the first things I noticed on the "Plan Your Trip" page was the hours of operation...it doesn't open until 9 a.m. Luckily, the number to Essential Elements Day Spa was easy to find on their Web site, and I called to push Beverly and Grandma's appointment back to 9:30. I decided to keep our meeting time at 1 p.m., giving the boys four hours to explore the museum. The Web site is packed with information, including a downloadable floor plan with explainations of the collections in each room. There is also helpful advice, like to bring a camera with a good flash because lighting is low to preserve the collections and to bring gloves and a ball to have a catch in some open field areas. After clicking on the "Hours and Admission" link, I found out that we'd have to purchase two adult tickets for a total of $29. The Web site pushes you to become a member at numerous locations, but after reading about all that it entails, membership does not sound cost effective for a one-time visitor. Under the "Frequently Asked Questions" link, I find a question about the average time it takes a visitor to make it through the Hall. It states that a casual fan can make it through in half a day while an extreme devote can spend two days and still not be satisfied. After considering Rusty's ADHD, I believe our four-hour visit should be just enough time. I was unable to find any information on the site about tour guides or audio tours, so I suppose I might purchase the 65-page guide book for $6.95 so we can accurately direct our own tour. Overall, though, I think the Hall of Fame's Web site is a wonderful resource for visitors and I plan on consulting it again before I go to learn more about the specific collections.
Dining
  • In order to find an adequate lunch location for the Griswold's, I returned to the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce site and clicked on the "Where to Eat" link. Though McDonald's of Cooperstown sounded delicious, I was most intrigued by a place called Mama's Kitchen in nearby Roseboom, N.Y. Unfortunately, there was no link to a Web site for Mama's Kitchen. A Google search didn't turn up a site nor a review for Mama's Kitchen, but I did find a brief article about Patty Mallillo (aka Mama) opening up her diner in the aftermath of a blizzard in February. While it sounded heartwarming, I couldn't rely on the article to tell me how good her comfort food really was, so I moved on. Back at the Chamber of Commerce site, I went on to the link for Christophers Restaurant and Country Lodge - no apostrophe. The Web site boasted about the mountains of food and "World Famous Desert," but was lacking a menu link. The reviews at TripAdviser were pretty good, and the restaurant is built like a log cabing with wood carved bears and a "talking moose," so I decided that it's the way to go despite its lacking Web site. The Griswolds should have full bellies after an enjoyable day when they make the drive back to cousin Eddie's house before leaving for Gary on Sunday morning.
Best Web site interaction design
  • Although I was impressed by the Baseball Hall of Fame Web site during this exercise, I'd have to say the best example of interaction design came with Enterprise Rent-A-Car. They seem to know that the only reason most people come to the site is to reserve a car, so the centerpiece of the homepage is a reservation form. When you input information into the form, it is immediately responsive (unlike Orbitz, which took a while to bring back results), producing a new page with results. Because when I searched there were no luxury vehicles available, it was smart enough to return a page listing all the cars that were available...and I trusted that it was an accurate representation of what was in stock. By simply having a bar that featured photos of the available cars and their prices, I had a pleasurable experience. I felt like I knew what I was getting every step of the way, unlike with the Orbitz Web site.
Worst Web site interaction design
  • Out of the sites I searched, the worst for interaction would have to be the one for Christophers Restuarant. I still chose the restaurant for lunch because of the country motif and good reviews on other sites, but its site was totally lacking. It boasted of huge portions and thick and juicy steaks, but without pictures and a menu on the site, how can I trust it? And I don't think anyone would believe their "World Famous Deserts" are actually heard of outside of Oneonta, N.Y. It certainly is not smart, the only thing you can get by clicking on things are 8 (that's right, 8) photographs of the outside of the building taken from different angles. Besides the obvious menu problem, it is a lodge too, and you can't check rates or make reservations online. Surprisingly, they did list a non-toll-free phone number you can call for reservations. There is no real responsiveness because there really is nothing to interact with on this site. Really, the only pleasurable thing is the log clipart that runs all the way down the left side of the page.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Celebration

This post title doesn't just refer to a classic Kool and the Gang song often played at weddings, but also to the word used for announcements at The Roanoke Times' Web site. For this week's assignment on activity-based design, I had to try out a simple activity visitors might do. Because I got married less than two weeks ago, placing an announcement in my hometown paper seemed a good way to go.

Before attempting the activity, I thought the steps would be:
  1. Go to Roanoke.com
  2. Click a classifieds tab
  3. Fill out a simple form with my announcement text
  4. Click submit
Here is how it really went:
  1. Went to Roanoke.com. Because I used to work for The Roanoke Times and am from the area, I was very familiar with the design of the Web site. As I've discussed before, the redesigned site offers much more than just the newspaper's headlines, which can be good and bad. Tabs take visitors to different sections if they just scroll their mouse over, which can be frustrating if you did not intend to look at a specific section. There are also many Webcasts which pop up and start playing on their own. Because I am so familiar with the site, I have no problem navigating past these obstacles, but I imagine they probably give first-time visitors, who are just looking to place announcements or obits, fits.
  2. Clicked Celebrations tab. Unlike most newspapers, The Roanoke Times calls its announcements "Celebrations" ... again, another twist for first-time visitors just hoping to place their announcement. At least the Celebrations link was in a navigation bar at the top of the homepage in a place where it is likely to be seen. The link preceeds the "Obituaries" and "Place an Ad" links at the top right corner.
  3. Selected date to place Celebration. The Celebrations page does not overwhelm visitors like the homepage tends to, sticking just to a square format. The first view you get is of a brief description of The Roanoke Times' celebration policies...such as the deadline by which you must have your announcement submitted in order to have it published. When reading the policies, I was reminded (I'm sure to the RT's dismay) of its old policy of not running announcements featuring black couples...a policy that lasted all the way until my childhood in the 1980s. At the top of the box featuring the Celebrations policies are tabs that show the viewer wedding, engagement, anniversary, birth and milestone announcements that had been placed in previous editions. At the bottom of the box is a drop-down menu with dates (Sundays) listed. After selecting a date, I click the "Next" button to its right.
  4. Select size of celebration, submit personal info. On the next page, sizes of advertisements you can select are shown along with their price and a button to select them. The sizes are clearly marked with the size the photograph should be along with the approximate word count of the announcement. After scrolling down, there is a form that requires information such as name, address, phone number and email address. At the bottom of the page is a note that all announcements must be paid for in advance and a button for how you wish to be contacted. I select that it is for a wedding and click "Next."
  5. Attach photo, fill out announcement form. At the top of this page is where visitors can click the "browse" button and attach their photo. After that is a long form, which requests the names of everyone in the bridal party along with their relationship to the bride/groom. There are also entries for education, work, outfits, etc. of the bride/groom. Finally, at the end of the form is an open entry where you can write your own announcement if you are not satisfied with the RT just using all the above info.
  6. Submit. After filling out the form, you can click submit or reset the form. After clicking submit, a new page comes up telling visitors that they will be contacted by a celebrations consultant within 24 hours on a business day. Here, visitors are finally given a contact phone number and an email address.
Thoughts:
The Roanoke Times' process for submitting an announcement seems designed for internet-savvy people who do not want to talk to a consultant in person or on the phone. Personally, I'd much rather spend the half hour or so filling out forms online than chatting on the phone, but I feel the process probably does not work for most people who place announcements. I can just imagine the problems my mother or even older people would have trying to place an ad. I don't think attaching a photo is quite within their capacity. Infrequent visitors may also have a tough time finding the Celebrations page from the RT homepage, but at least once they get there, it clearly guides them through the process step by step. I think most older people aren't going to bother with filling out all the forms online anyway, which is why it is very important to have prominant contact info. It was not until the sixth step, after submitting all my info, that I learned of the Celebrations phone number and email address.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Flush the Dookies

Carolina clinched top seed in the ACC Tournament and swatted the Dookies in the process! A dirty elbow by Gerald Henderson to Tyler Hansbrough's face in the closing seconds sullied what had been a good, clean Tar Heel whipping. Psycho-T's nose reportedly has a small fracture and he likely will wear some sort of mask for at least a few days.

As the No. 1 seed, Carolina will play the Clemson-Florida State winner at noon on March 9. As the No. 3 seed, the Hokies will play the Georgia Tech-Wake Forest winner at 9 p.m. on March 9. That could be a tough one because the Yellow Jackets have been on fire.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Word exercise

For the word exercise, the choices that caught my fancy were compression and expansion. For compression, I visualized a machine at the junk yard crushing an old car...for that image, I made the "C" and the "N" capitalized and crushing the other letters together. For expansion, I visualized a balloon being blown up...for that image, I made the center letters smaller and closer together, expanding into the outter letters.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New color palate/fonts assignment

The image I chose to select a color scheme from is of a thoughtful Hokie Bird. Some people may say that a thoughtful Hokie is an oxymoron, but I believe that I am one. In the image, the Hokie Bird wears his team colors (Burnt Orange and Chicago Maroon) on his sleeve - actually, his face. The bright orange conveys energy, passion and a will to achieve/earn a victory. The Maroon conveys courage, bravery, heroism and strength. I want to exhibit all theses attributes through my work, along with the thoughtfulness of the Hokie Bird so my energy, passion and courage do not get the best of me. In my cropping from the image, I also snipped a section of the Hokie Bird's eye. I did this mainly so I could use some black or white text if necessary in my blog. I have absolutely no experience with html or css before starting this class, but I began playing around with the codes to change around my colors and kind of taught myself a few things...including how to get the VT logo going across the top of my page!

For the second part of the assignment, I chose BernhardMod BT as the font for my main header and Staccato222 BT for my description. I love the stems on BernhardMod BT and how they move from being very thin to very thick, especially on the capital "T." It certainly is a far cry from the original bitmap fonts described by Kuo. The "T" reminds me of a cross symbol or sword handle that you'd see associated with The Crusades...which seems to fit perfectly with the theme of courage, heroism and bravery coming from the maroon coloring. As for the Staccato222 BT, I felt it added a nice contrast to the main header and the semi-cursive writing fit with it being a description. When I designed at newspapers, we would often make the main headline something standard like Franklin Gothic Book and set it off with a header in a font like Staccato222 BT. I decided to center the header because it looked kind of goofy on the left, but I struggle to find the proper sizes for them. I eventually settled on something that I think works, but then had to go through and change all my blog entry fonts and sizes to match up a little better. Needless to say it was a full day of trial and error to remake my blog, and it wasn't until I was almost finished that I found some pretty helpful instructions in the blogger help forum of all places. It's good reading for anyone not familiar with HTML and CSS. This site also has a lot of helpful tips for us rookies.

By the way, I know I'm really early with this assignment, but I'm getting married March 10 and going on my honeymoon immediately afterwards, so I don't expect to be blogging too much over that span. Hope everyone likes the Hokie motif.

Are we getting dumber?

I love trivia quizzes, so of course I was excited when the new show, "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader" began being produced. I haven't gotten to see it yet, but I have it recorded on DVR, so don't tell me who our first president was or any such knowledge that I may need. I'm looking forward to a fun time. In the meantime, I saw this hilarious video on YouTube that combines the joy of a trivia contest with the pleasure of laughing at stupid people. Using man-on-the-street interviews, the reporter begins by asking Americans to name a country that starts with "U." Check it out. It would be interesting, or scary, if the reporter would just ask these folks if they vote.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Web site critique


Hillman Curtis, Inc.

Description

Hillman Curtis, Inc., is a company that specializes in new media design, specifically Flash advertisements and images for Web sites. The purpose of its Web site, hillmancurtis.com, is to attract potential clients, though the company does not explicitly state that.

The way Hillman Curtis, or actually hillmancurtis, goes about attracting clients is by informing them of the creative elements it can bring to a Web site. The company’s site itself is done entirely in a blue-purple background and is rather sparse with some simple links to company/client information across the top, an object that looks something like a digital heart with a search box in the top left and five descriptive links at the center/bottom to videos/books produced by Hillman Curtis. The fifth descriptive link and a tag that says “Powered by Media Temple” are all that appear below the fold. The focal point of the homepage is a large square in the center that immediately attracts viewers because of its different, dark color and its size in relation to the page’s other elements. The square runs a Flash video on a loop.

The video begins with the image of a little girl, looking off screen to the right. The image is so clear and precise that it gives the impression of a photograph. It is not until about five seconds in, when the girl blinks, that the viewer realizes it is an extremely high-quality video. The video, which has no sound, proceeds to show a number of people’s faces as they hold still and occasionally blink.

Analysis

All the elements on the Hillman Curtis Web site are understated in order to draw attention to the large Flash video in the center. The links are all written in a very small font size and in colors such as pale white, grey, pale green, pale orange and dark blue. There are small bubbles beside the descriptive links, and a red “Y” for Yahoo does tend to stand out a little. There is just one color, however, that really jumps out, a fluorescent yellow that is used for the company name over the heart image in the top left corner.

There are no real patterns to speak of other than the way the links are positioned in four short, spaced out columns at the top of the page. The page overall has a square shape thanks to the large, square Flash video box and the grey corner formed at the top left. The clean, empty look of the page makes your eye continue to focus on the Flash video, the one bright and changing element. The descriptive links directly below the video tend to be ignored because of its overwhelming presence.

Interpretation

This Web site does have a serious leaning towards it, but the video immediately caught my attention and amazed me. Using human faces forms a natural emotional connection, and the video does an especially good job in drawing viewers in by beginning with a young girl’s face. My first inclination was that the center box was just a photograph of a girl, and I was about to close the browser window when she blinked. I was shocked, and I had to sit and watch the entire video to see what was going on.

The appeal of a human face is universal. The faces have no language and no sound, and as long as you have the ability to see, you can be touched emotionally by such a video. It reminds me of some highly artistic photographic portraits in a museum, but the fact that they are moving and breathing makes it even more interesting.

Judgement

I believe Hillman Curtis’ Web site is highly effective in pushing potential clients to find out more about the company and its work. The video is so clear and amazing, like very few other videos on the Internet, that it drives viewers to click on the company links at the top of the page. In the age of grainy YouTube videos and Flash videos on sites like ESPN.com that are the size of postage stamps, Hillman Curtis’ technology really stands out. If this seemingly underwhelming Web site can get me, the quintessential short-attention span viewer, to stop and watch, then it is sure to attract many clients.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Posterized!

I used to feel sorry for Shawn Bradley. Sure he was 7-foot-6 and a multi-millionaire after 11 years in the NBA, but he was also the most-posterized player in history. The fact that he was a tall, white stiff made him the most-appealing target to dunk on ever. So many players dunked on Bradley, including fellow sticks Gheorghe Muresan and Yao Ming, that SportsCenter even had a Top 10 list of dunks on him. But after seeing Dwyane Wade's new Gatorade commercial during the All-Star Game (sorry no link), I don't pity Bradley any more. Bradley, who retired two years ago, took a paycheck to let Wade dunk on him during the commercial. Now I don't even feel sorry for Tracy McGrady's playoff throwdown or Mark Davis bodyslamming and kicking him. Show some pride Shawn!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Designing a better desktop computer




I saw a story on CNN about a company that is producing custom desktop computers that aren't just the standard box design. Suissa Computers has the goal of creating luxury systems that can fit into the interior design scheme of a luxury living room. They're a little out of my price range, but I think they fit in with aspects of this class.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Branded bats




  1. Brand: Louisville Slugger. The Hillerich & Bradsby Co. essentially began in 1884 when 17-year-old Bud Hillerich slipped away from work to watch Louisville’s major-league team play. The Louisville Eclipse’s star, Pete Browning, broke his bat during the game, and Hillerich invited the player back to his father’s woodworking shop to make him a new one. Browning had three hits the next day and the reputation Hillerich’s specially made bats, which were dubbed Louisville Sluggers, spread quickly. Today, Louisville Sluggers are used by 65 percent of major leaguers. In the 1970s and 80s, H&B nearly went out of business when little leaguers, softballers, and college players began using aluminum bats. Today, metal bats are H&B’s biggest moneymakers. The company also sells baseball and softball gloves, hockey equipment and PowerBilt golf equipment. The Hillerich family and H&B employees own the company.
  2. Image: History and specially tailored bats. H&B tries to predominantly feature two images of its Louisville Slugger brand: The historical aspect of the bats and the fact that the bats are specially tailored to each individual customer. Not only is there a Louisville Slugger Museum, but the company’s literature always refers to the past greats like Ted Williams, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, who used Louisville Sluggers. H&B also trumpets the fact that for hundreds of years, it kept cards on every player to note the weight, length, wood and cut of the bats he liked.
  3. Message audiences: Major leaguers, fans, metal-bat users. The Louisville Slugger brand tries to connect with a number of different audiences. Major league players are still one of H&B’s biggest customer bases, so the company tries to play up the individually made aspect of the bats as well as the fact that great players throughout history have used them. Fans are told about the former greats and offered the opportunity to have their own names etched onto a personalized Louisville Slugger. Metal-bat users, meanwhile, are given charts and instructions on how to select a bat that will perfectly fit their swing.
  4. Louisville Slugger’s greatest bit of branding is on every one of its bats. The logo with the familiar oval surrounding “Louisville Slugger” is burned onto every wooden bat and painted on every metal one. This image is frequently used along with the burned-in signature of former and current players to convey the historical aspect. And though the metal bats may not have the same historical appeal, they are given historical appeal in ads by relating them to college baseball championships and dynasties.
  5. This message is strongly related to the culture of baseball, and somewhat America. People in Japan, for example, can relate to the brand if they follow baseball, but those not familiar with the sport would not care if Eric Gagne plays with a Louisville Slugger.



Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Signs, signs, everywhere are signs

The following are three examples of nonverbal signs that work well.

1. Metaphor -- Tar Heel logo. This is a little bit of a different take on the classic Tar Heel logo. Typically it is an image of a Carolina blue footprint with a black tar print on the heel. Despite the fact that this logo is slightly different colored with a pointy tar print, it is still instantly recognizable as the UNC Tar Heels logo. So what makes this a good metaphor for a Tar Heel? Obviously, the logo incorporates tar on the heel of a footprint. Because it is not a photographic portrayal of a Tar Heel, the image can be presented in school colors as well, making it an even better portrayal of the school. Anyone familiar with collegiate athletics should instantly recognize this logo in any form it may take.

2. Signage -- Unicycle Lane. This unicycle lane in Portland presents a whimsical bit of signage. Most everyone has seen bicycle lanes marked with an icon of a bike and its rider, but this sign makes it safe for circus performers to travel down the road. Despite the fact that the sign is just a few white lines painted on the road, the image is immediately recognizable as a unicyclist juggling. It is a good example of signage because even if you've never seen a juggling unicyclist going down the road, you will have no problem knowing that's what this sign represents.
3. Culturally laden signage -- Martini sign. The Martini is the premier American cocktail. It is a permanent fixture of American life, of the American imagination, of America's image in the rest of the world. Invented in the United States in the 1870s, the Martini has gone through many incarnations from the original version with gin, vermouth and an olive to the modern, flavored versions like chocolate and apple. The image of the triangular Martini glass with an olive has remained a significant sign in America. Throughout the country, the neon image can be seen outside of establishments where you can pick up a stiff drink and enjoy the night life. James Bond and others have helped make the Martini an international hit, but it remains biggest here at home. Just seeing the neon Martini glass is enough to bring to mind American sophisticates in tuxedos trading witty barbs..."I must get out of these wet clothes and into a dry Martini."

Here are a few examples of a nonverbal signs that don't work:

4. These three logos were all used by professional football teams. By looking at them, though, you'd have know way to know they had anything to do with sports much less which team they belonged to. The first image seems to be some kind of bleeding Rorschach Inkblot Test. The second logo appears to be a hammer, possibly the kind of wood hammer carpenters use. And the third logo is apparently Pink Floyd cover art. In actuality, the first logo was for the Albany Firebirds of the Arena Football League. The second logo was for the Berlin Thunder of the World League. And the third logo was for our own Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks of the World League of American Football. The lesson here is that logos must actually be recognizable and represent what they intend to represent. For more horrible logos, check out this site.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Emotional designs

Emotional designs often contradict cognitive assessments. Like Don Norman's three teapots, just because a certain design functions better than another does not make it more important or connected to the user. Often an emotional connection will determine an object's worth to a person. The following are some emotional designs that I have found in the sports world:
  • Ugly Throwback Jerseys: Some of the fastest-selling pieces of sports merchandise on the market these days are throwback jerseys. Everyone from the hottest rapper to the most out-of-shape, middle-aged father of four can be seen sporting a vintage look. Companies like Mitchell & Ness have built their business upon the appeal of these outdated uniforms. But what are these jerseys' appeal? For some consumers, it's all about having a unique look that is not seen on SportsCenter every night. For most, though, it seems to be about a feeling of nostalgia. Fans want to feel that connection to a team or a player that they idolized growing up, and they're willing to pay anywhere from $50-$1,000 to feel it. Below you will find the uniform that the Houston Astros began wearing in 1975. The rainbow design has earned the jersey a spot on most people's list of the worst uniforms of all-time, but it also has made a connection with fans as one of the top-selling throwback jerseys.


















  • Outdated Stadiums: Similar to sports uniforms, fans become emotionally attached to arenas or stadiums. The problem is that with ever-advancing technological and design advancements, old stadiums not only become unprofitable, but they sometimes become unsafe. At Yankee Stadium, for instance, sections of the roof have crashed down into the stands in recent years. If a game was being played at the time, fans certainly would have been killed. Yet many Yankees diehards have fought against the new stadium, which will begin hosting the Yanks in 2009. The advent of luxury boxes has also become a major source of income for sports teams, making stadiums without them obsolete. Fans are even emotionally attached to the "cookie-cutter" stadiums built in the 1960s and 70s that don't feature distinctive designs like the Yankee Stadium facade. These stadiums were built for multi-purpose functions, having the ability to host baseball or football games. Their designs make them much less aesthetically pleasing, and horribly out-of-date when compared to the modern throwback stadiums that began being built after the success of Camden Yards in Baltimore. One such cookie-cutter facility that was destroyed last season was the St. Louis Cardinals' Busch Stadium. Despite all its flaws, Cards fans mourned the loss of old Busch Stadium. Below are images of old Busch Stadium (left), new Busch Stadium and a link to a clip of emotional Cards fans that must be seen to be believed.



Emotional Cardinals fans

  • American Indian mascots: One of the most controversial sports issues in recent years has been the use of American Indian mascots. Professional and college teams have used American Indian mascots for years, with the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo, for instance, dating back to 1915. Some teams like the Florida State Seminoles claim they are honoring American Indians while others like the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins use caricatures and terms that some deem offensive. People on both sides of the issue have emotional responses to the mascots. Fans who have supported their team for years, line up to battle those who call for name and mascot changes. Meanwhile, American Indian groups have used boycotts and lawsuits to battle what they deem as racist mascots. Recently, the NCAA instituted ruled aimed at eliminated the use of American Indian nicknames. The following are two of the mascot images that have created the most emotional responses...Chief Wahoo and the Redskins logo.