I really haven’t been writing much around here lately. I don’t know what to attribute this to—summer blahs, lack of free time, nothing to say, scattered brainwaves—but there is stuff going on right now. In the spirit of my old weblog, which used to feature myriad lists of random things, a sample braindump:
- Books to buy: Information Architecture For Designers, by Peter Van Djick: I peeped this at Borders today, and I need to own this book. It’s got a lot of things that I know, but a whole lot of things that I don’t, and some excellent suggestions for building larger sites. Designing for Small Screens, by Studio 7.5: Lately I’ve been pecking at the edges of design for wireless handsets, and I think there may be a larger project for me on the horizon. I’m going to hold off on buying this until I have the official go-ahead on that, but this book is full of meaty goodness—screen sizes, font selection, UI best practices, and colors.
- Vehicle Update: The Jeep is officially in the shop for repairs to the left butt-cheek. Apparently they’re going to pull the bumper, see if there’s any damage to the body, and straighten out the mount points before respraying the tailgate and adding a new endcap. It will be wondrous to be able to open the rear and haul stuff once again—the trusty Saturn has been doing yeoman’s duty hauling
dead bodies mulch, garbage, potting soil, etc.
- From Batteries.com, a 5-watt trickle charger. I need to read up on solar power and figure out if something like this would provide enough power to run a laptop, or if I’d need something much bigger.
- My PC laptop has been raised from the dead and hurtled into the new century; it’s now cheerfully running a clean copy of XP Home, and life is rosier in the studio. Simple shit like screen refreshing, peripheral support, modern drivers and the ability to load and use current software is really swell. Thanks for the assist, Pop. (sidenote: in re-organizing the office this week, I found an old copy of Virtual PC from the late 90’s in its original box: inside was a fresh Windows 98 install disc with the Microsoft packaging and serial number. Did you hear me slap my own forehead sometime Monday night? It was pretty loud.) After a long and noble career, the Celeron 466 clone with four cooling fans has been mothballed in the attic until further notice.
- The studio here at Lockardugan Industries has gone through some desperately-needed renovation. We bought $50 worth of modular shelving and installed it in the closet this past week, replacing a wobbly chipboard cabinet and acres of wasted space with wire racks and a Teutonic sense of order. $30 worth of IKEA plastic bins enclose most of our debris and get it up off the floor and out of our hair, which lends to a better working relationship. Jen also scored the Biggest Desk In The Universe, a slab of Swedish wood the size of a aircraft carrier, on sale—finally replacing the Doctor’s ancient oak desk with something ergonomically functional. She now has workspace to breathe, although we will have to install warning lights to prevent planes on the glidepath to BWI from entering the office window at high speeds. I also bought some RJ-45 connectors (note to self: Belkin sucks donkey dicks) and replaced all our ancient patchcords with modern Cat 5e wiring, something that improved our network speed one hundredfold (I’m not kidding—There were at least two 10baseT wires in the office hooked up to a 100baseT switch. D’oh!) and makes printing so much better.
- Effective immediately, I’m going to be requiring a 30% down payment on acceptance of contract from my clients so that I can afford to keep the doors open. This net-90 shit is getting old.
- We will be buying an electric pet grooming clipper to shave Penn down to the skin at some point this month. This cat sheds more than a Siberian yak on holiday in Havana, and his hair is everywhere. It’s shedding so fast that we cut mats of it out and more appear the next day. Pictures to come.
- Our garden seems to be producing some healthy plants. We have two tomatoes already growing, and the cucumber vines are five times the size of the anemic-looking stubs I grew last year. This weekend we have to build and install some kind of cage or ladder for them to climb, and then enclose the whole garden to keep the varmints out. (Mr. Squirrel, I’m looking at you.)
There’s probably more, but I can’t think of anything right now.
FWIW: the little web design firm we use requires 50% up front. They send the first invoice with the initial bid/proposal, and they don’t start the work until the check clears.
With only one major exception, I usually charge a third up-front. It’s pretty much the industry standard, for one, but for two, clients value you more when they’ve already paid you something to begin. Additionally, it’s nice to pay the mortgage while you’re slaving away for the other 70%.
(I’ve been preaching this for the last few years, so hopefully it will stick in the new regime!)
Yeah, it’s something I didn’t do as a business practice when I was freelancing beyond my 9-5 job, but now that I’m not seeing steady monthly income, it just makes sense.
The friend I do some contract stuff for does that. He’s got regular employee overhead to float as well as us freelancers, so it gives him a relatively steady cash cushion.
You could see some minor monthly income by selling me the massive oak desk on the payment plan…of course, that would require getting it up the stairs of the gnome home. Hm.