Saturday, March 04, 2006

A Motion at Dawn

At five o’clock this morning there was a sudden commotion in our bed.

‘Oy veh,’ Tamara sighed quite noisily. If that was not sufficient to wake Marcus up, the punch on the shoulder certainly was.

Instantly with the reflexes of a trained commando, and the speed of a jungle cat, Marcus was awake, sitting up and ready for anything.

‘What… What… What the hell is the matter?’ was his perplexed reaction.

‘I’ve got a great idea! I’ve been awake for two hours thinking,’ Tamara’s overly loud voice was aimed directly at Marcus’s ear - not entirely uncharacteristic of her early morning symposiums.

‘Leave me alone, write it down and we’ll have a meeting about it later.’ He rolled over and tried to pretend it this wasn’t happening, instantly beginning to snore to keep Tamara away.

Fairly useless defence. Tamara cannot be stopped in full flow. She jumped on top of him, ‘Marcus you have to hear this!’

‘No, I don’t!’ he complained. ‘There’s nothing in our marital contract that says I have to listen to you at… what’s the time?’

‘Fivish’ Tamara whispered in a subdued and semi-apologetic manner.

‘Goodnight! Go back to your side, and just leave me alone!’ Marcus hated being woken in the middle of the night and had no sympathy or desire to show empathy - just a need to get back to his dreams. Tamara pressed closer and stroked him on the back of his neck.

‘That won’t work either, you won’t get around me that way.’

This wasn’t true. She always got round him that way.

‘Marcus, just listen for two minutes!’

‘No go away!’ Marcus asserted. Tamara could never explain anything in just two minutes. She had a head crammed with lengthy and complex accounts for everything. You should hear her discussing the relative merits of home-made chicken soup versus the shop stuff. She knows the precise attributes of all commercially-made chicken soup within a 50 mile radius of our house.

The truth was that Marcus knew from the moment she woke him up that there was no going back to sleep. Too many years together, too many sleepless nights filled with Tamara’s ‘good ideas’. He pushed her off, sat up submissively, and said - ‘Go on, get it over with.’

Exactly two hours later, after what might be called a right ‘bull and cow’, during which Tamara even turned her back on him at least twice, Marcus condescendingly conceded that it was possibly the best idea she had ever had.

One of the problems of working with one’s spouse is that one of the two of you ends up sleeping with the boss. The question is: who is sleeping with whom?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Good bye Giovanni

(chapter 2 in an Italian series)

Yesterday, we wrote about Giovanni, the Italian stallion, and how he was blazingly insulted by his client Tamara. She had so belittled him, that he no longer knew who or what he was. A hairdressing client had actually criticised his skills! It was too much! His career was ruined! He had tried his hardest and failed!

Life in the salons was over. How could he face the world? What would he talk about with his friends in Soho at night?

He sat down on the bedroom floor, his head cupped in his rubber gloved hands. He had failed to remove them when he left Tamara in the bathroom.

‘Thata bitch! I never never go near her again! I never wanna know or see disa woman!’

Tamara came out of the bathroom, her hair a radiant blend of ginger and golden-blonde.

‘Why are you sitting here?’ she looked down at him.

He was sobbing, pulling the hairs from his head. ‘Why you so insult me, what I ever do to you, you destroying my life, I never go backa to the salon again!’ he was really upset, or at least appeared so.

Tamara looked at him, ‘I only said: stick to building websites, how was that insulting?

She knew Marcus would extract the maximum from this theatrical performance as Giovanni, the Italian hairdresser, if she played along for a while, gave him room to express himself. She was sure it would end soon. She looked carefully at him.

‘Giovanni, can I say something, something important?’

‘No leave me alona, I must face my life alona. Go away, go away!’ he sobbed again, running his hands through his tangled hair.

Tamara, turned to go into the study. She left him half sobbing, half giggling, on the bedroom floor. She sat down at her computer and called out to him:


‘Who is this Marcus, I am Giovanni the great hairdresser, leava me alona.’

‘Okay’ she said, ‘I just wanted to tell you are still wearing the rubber gloves with the highlighting cream all over them’

‘Shit!’ Marcus was back.

Tamara was relieved. She went back to the bedroom. He was staring into the mirror.

‘Look at my hair!’ he screamed, ‘I’m half blonde!’

Tamara just laughed………..
Marcus and Tamara

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Marcus Goes Against The Grain

There are drawbacks working from home with one’s spouse. Like this morning, when it was decided that Marcus should cease his activities on the website, and play the role of hairdresser.
Tamara wanted to change the colour of her long tresses, and Marcus was chosen as the unlikely assistant to apply the second step of the procedure – the highlights.

Although this was an experience which Marcus had never had in the past, (nor one that he would ever care to repeat), he took to the role like a natural. Donning professional-grade rubber gloves and a protective apron, he evolved into Giovanni, and introduced himself to his client.

Giovanni had no interest in women. He lived his life in a dreamlike state, mostly thinking of the friends with whom he spent all of his time in Soho.

Foppishly he slunk around the bathroom attending to Tamara’s needs, ‘I go tonight to meeta my friends’ he tried to make conversation with his client. ‘We drink lotsa of beer in Admiral Duncan pub, you know thisa place?’ He looked quizzically at Tamara.
‘You have friends lika mine, you know friends you lika so much, you go home with them?’

Tamara, was completely non-plussed, she had experience of Marcus’s talents!
She continued to instruct him how and where to apply the cream on the separate strands of her hair. He had a small brush, rather like a pipe cleaner. The cream stank of ammonia and Giovanni was clearly getting high on it, or at least he thought he was.

Meanwhile, he was applying the white goo far too thickly. The pipe cleaner got caught in Tamara’s long tresses, and Giovanni succeeded in removing quite a number of them, accompanied by Tamara’s whimpers of discomfort.

Having totally written off the brush, it was decided that Giovanni should use his fingers to apply the stuff. He liked this. It reminded him of times past, spent on the terraces of his parents’ home in Tuscany, playing with the soft clay his mother used to create her amateurish pots and things.

He turned to Tamara, ‘Darling, I am kinda lika enjoy doing this to you. We musta do it again some time.’

She looked at him, ‘Thank you Giovanni, now I must let you finish, how much do I owe you?’

‘Its free for you. I donna want your money, it is makes me happy justa to know you are happy!’

She looked at him. ‘Then let me give you a tip, Giovanni,’ she paused, he blushed, looked down, ‘Giovanni, I think you should stick to websites.'
Marcus and Tamara

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Tamara Causes the UK Water Shortage

Well today’s article is a little late. We’ve been in labour since early this morning, suffering serious delivery pains whilst dealing with a particularly complex area of the our web site.

Now would be a very good time to administer an epidural direct into the brain, or perhaps an injection of Novocaine in the posterior.

There must be several thousand pieces of information that must be carefully collated, analysed, and fed slowly into the system, so that each snippet arrives at the correct place and appears on the site when and where it is supposed to.

Tamara has a Midas touch for detail. The only way to describes Marcus’s talent in this area is: ABSENT!

After several years of punishing effort, he has learned to check things over more than once, and still manage to screw things up.

It's not deliberate. Some people CAN, and some people WANT TO very much, but still CAN’T.

It would be interesting to hear other people’s thoughts on this area. The practicality of building web sites with complex data bases, with endless options for the same item, must cause plenty of sleepless nights. One tiny, incy weenie, little bit of information in the wrong place, and when Mrs Jones of Birmingham orders a brown leather chair with legs in oak to match her oak table, and that option does not exist, boy does the shit hit the fan.

Funnily enough, actually committing these thoughts to the computer is relieving some of the anxiety. It’s like talking to a psychiatrist, and off-loading the pent up aggravations of the day.

Tamara retires to a very hot bath and puts on a mud-mask every time the stress builds up beyond a certain point. It is possible, no probable, that she on her own has created the current dreadful drought in the UK, and most likely the energy crisis facing the world.

Well tomorrow’s another day, and has some potential to be better than today. Tamara’s best friend’s daughter from Canada is due to stay with us for the weekend. We will be busy entertaining, instead of working.

That should relieve the water shortage temporarily.

Marcus and Tamara

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Hard 2 Beat

Breakfast was ready when I arrived back from my morning run. 'Eggs my dear?' Tamara called out. As you see them is how I found them!

Out of the frying pan and onto the table. Next to the table was a tripod, and Tamara busy with the digital camera.

Another good idea, or a failure to understand that I like my eggs sunny side down.

'What the shit is going on?' I asked. 'Last week I got ice cream and cheese cake laced with rasberry sauce, plateless. This morning it's eggs a'la mode.' She was so obsessed with the bloody eggs, she refused to let me eat them until some expression of literary genius had escaped my haggled brain.

'Do me a favour, I'm shit wet from sweat and rain, its freezing outside, my lips are blue, my cheeks don't exist and you want me to christen your latest campaign with words of wisdom???'

I left the kitchen, and the temptation of the fried eggs, and went to the shower.

Hot water was my only relief from the chill that pervaded my entire body. Okay, so you try to guess what happened next. Some people get their best ideas whilst standing naked in a stream of hot water (that's why Einstein lived next door to a public urinal).

It came to me 30 seconds after I stepped in. Wives are such annoying creatures. There was no towel near the shower. I ran downstairs, dripping.

'No towels!' I shouted.

She looked at me in amazement: 'The blinds are open - the neighbours can see everything!' Thats the first thing she said.

'Got it!' I shouted.

'What!' she asked, as she drew down the blinds.

'The answer - the copy for your egg ad.'

That's how it happened, but she liked it and laughed, although being Canadian, she didn't really understand the pun, so maybe she was laughing at my wet dripping body, or maybe the fact the cleaner had just emerged from the laundry room next to the kitchen.

Marcus (unsupervised by Tamara)

Telly Support Campaign

Inspirational moments are few and far between. Today, whilst creating a description for a TV/Entertainment Unit, we realised that most Tellies have very poor support. Frequently, it's just a cheap plastic or aluminium set of legs, mostly painted to match the ghastly colors most Tellies are today - sort of luminous grey, or black. If you have lovely wooden furniture, it never matches.

We believe that Tellies deserve better! We believe that if Tellies keep us happy, why then, can we not think of them as well?

So we are pleased to announce a new Against The Grain Campaign, born of necessity, and hope! Born out of the misery of ghastly grey TV legs! Born to put Tellies on their rightful platform! To make them stand out in a world of mediocrity! To fulfill their place in our world!

May this rightful search for justice for our Tellies be truly blessed. May they be granted their proper place in our homes and our lives.

To support our campaign, buy a Telly support from us, and we promise that all the proceeds will go to support us.

Marcus and Tamara

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Cloned Hypertext Retailers

The technology of the Internet, while in constant flux, paradoxically causes confusion while it facilitates social shifts in social, temporal and spatial boundaries as it integrates online and offline culture. One of these shifts is the ability to buy and sell without boundaries.

So along with hundreds of other UK furniture businesses, we decided to open an Internet shop. And here we are, paradoxically pointing out the difficulties of online shopping. Marcus thinks we shouldn’t post it at all – we are supposed to be giving potential shoppers incentives to buy furniture from us, not bombard them with negative verbal diarrhea about it.

We’ve cloned a shop like every other online shop, which is a clone of a bricks and mortar shop. It has a homepage – the shop entrance – a menu which neatly divides our products into categories or departments, a customer service section, a little bit about us and the obligatory terms and conditions. Once the shopper gets to the products, they find them all laid out in alphabetical order, in rows and columns of boxes, and the additional details are long paragraphs of text. We had to accept the limitations of the software – the same software used by countless other online shops. The software which imitates other e-commerce software. Paraphrasing Jean Baudrillard: in our postmodern Disneyfied culture, which is much concerned with cloning, what is real is becoming blurred. In fact, representations of reality are copying reality, and even taking over reality – becoming hyperreality.

The prefix hyper can be applied to varied linguistic combinations. So what’s the connection between hyperreality and hyperlinking? Hyperlinks have the ability to link information without necessary order or hierarchy. We are going to use the term hyperlink as a generic term to refer to any kind of connected information with which a user can interact by clicking on it. Hyperlinking facilitates multiple realities, since links can be revisited from different points each time. Although hypertext allows users to control the web-based environment they visit, hyperlinks may be an obstruction. The potential for non-linear navigation causes disorientation, which means most users who happen to click on a link to our hyperreal, multi-reality shop, will leave without even making an effort to look around, thus missing all the good stuff hiding behind the hyperlinks.

Two of the most used media for hyperlinking on shop webpages are text and graphics. Throughout history, graphic representations have been more popular than text because they are more concrete. But if we just put up images of our products, without explaining them, that wouldn’t give enough information, so we’re in the process or writing reams of textual descriptions. Hopefully our shoppers will not be doomed to a dull, tedious, textual web-based shopping experience – well at least not since Marcus’s humour started kicking in. But they might leave due to technostress - frustrated and frozen by their inability to decide where to start: How to make choices about what to click on.

In order to benefit from an online shopping experience, a user needs to be able to interpret visual clues, be willing to explore, and make choices. Even if Information Architecture is used to support shoppers in navigating the seemingly chaos of hyperlinks, it cannot be counted on. What makes sense to the shop developer may not make sense to shoppers, because it is based on someone else’s reality.

These first few days of initial blogging have put us into an alternative mindset. We are going to avoid being cloned hypertext retailers, but are still fuzzy about how to accomplish it.

Tamara and Marcus


Monday morning work, work, work, again. Nothing designed more perfectly to push us back under the covers.

Well we decided this Monday would be different, so we actually invited a third party into our bed. Now that seemed a good idea, and since we had both agreed to do it, it was okay for both of us.

A decision shared is a situation shared, and the consequences would also be both our responsibilities. So this early morning agreement, and the delicious thought of what was to come, rapidly condemed the Monday morning feelings to the bin.

Tamara got out of bed, left the room, and came back with the perfect partner. She asked Marcus if he would turn on the visitor.

We usually find it easier if one of us does the turning on, it kind of allows the other to prepare the bed. (Obviously we have done this type of thing before.)

Actually this morning, we both leaned over and propped up the pillows for each other. It's much nicer, and actually easier if we can rest our backs against a soft and comfortable backrest. Position is absolutely critical - well otherwise we would strain our necks, and that is definitely a turn off - remember we are not as young as we were once.

In the end we actually argued who would do the turning on, so before a row started Marcus gave in and said that if it was easier, Tamara could do it. She leaned over towards him, and as always knew exactly which buttons to press.

There was a whir, a soft rustling, and a burst of sudden music, which we both heard, and then it was party time. We were both smiling and clearly it was going to be fun.

'Where do you want to go first?' we both asked at the same thing at the same time. 'Let's blog,' Marcus suggested. 'Yes, that's one of my favourites,' Tamara replied, as she moved her finger over the mouse pad, and gently clicked.

Marcus and Tamara

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Why C-lick?

So you want to lick the table clean? WHY?
And when you think about it, where does one start licking a table?

We are lying in bed Sunday morning trying to figure out why so many Bloggers are c-licking on our ad: Maybe we just forgot the 'c' ?

As one gets older thinking replaces other things on Sunday morning.