Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

I have always wanted to go to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. In fact, it has been on my list at for over 5 years. Then, my dear friend and colleague, Sharron Rush, asked me to speak at the Southwest Conference on Disabilities (which just happens to occur in Albuquerque during the International Balloon Fiesta). I could hardly contain my excitement, as I planned my trip.

I had originally hoped to take a hot air balloon ride with my husband. But at $400 a head, the price seemed too steep (especially when I checked prices locally). My friends told me that just being at the festival was amazing, so I decided to just enjoy the balloons from the ground.

The weather had been very rainy and the balloons had not been able to fly for days. Friday evening we were kickin’ around in Old Town and we met a balloon pilot (Paul) and his “new” girlfriend (Terra). Paul offered to take us up in his balloon in the morning, assuming the weather cooperated. I squealed with delight and it took all that I had not to start bouncing up and down.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

The next morning we arrived at the balloon field before sunrise and helped crew Paul’s balloon, Str-8-Up. The weather was still questionable and Paul made no promises that we would get to go up, but he did decide to at least stand-up the balloon. We helped unroll the envelope from the storage bag and hold it open while the big fan filled it with air. Being a part of the crew as the balloon inflated was priceless.

Paul had been given approval by the zebra (launch director) to take-off at his own discretion. It was the final Saturday of the Balloon Fiesta and the last day for Mass Ascension. Paul’s balloon is twice as large as the average balloons and more difficult to manage. He had been carefully watching other balloons that were already up and decided he was ready for launch. Scott and I climbed in, but Paul’s girlfriend, Terra, had said she was afraid of heights and wouldn’t go with us. I looked her straight in the eye and said, “Girl, get in this balloon with me. I’m afraid of heights too.” She climbed in and we lifted off so gently it was like floating on air.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

The view from the basket was breathtaking as hundreds of balloons were around us. I was too enchanted to be frightened. The experience was so incredibly exhilarating, I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning, only better! I was already in love with hot air balloons…but this first balloon ride forever changed me into a balloonatic. So, don’t say, I didn’t warn you. Hot air ballooning is amazingly wonderful and downright addictive. I can’t believe I waited this long to do it! I’ve got so much lost time to make up for now :)

As Paul began to look for a good place to land, he realized we were headed for sacred Indian ground. Our ballon was descending rather quickly and Paul had to use all his skills to get us up in a different wind current to carry us away. We were still rather low and the next place to land was a cemetery. Paul was talking to his chase crew on the radio to determine if the cemetery was a “red zone” (designated off-limits for landings). Suddenly Scott told me to turn around and look…because Paul was purposely grazing us through the top of a tree.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Right ahead was a parking lot that looked perfect for landing. Our chase crew had just pulled in and Paul was bringing us down gently….gently into a dumpster! You see, Paul is an excellent pilot and a bit of a prankster. He thought it would be funny to drop us a few inches into the dumpster and make Terra and I squeal (which we did) and then expertly lift us out of the dumpster for a marshmallow soft landing in the parking lot. I’ve never laughed so hard.

As we were packing up the balloon, a gentleman approached us and asked for our email addresses so he could send us pictures of our landing. So not only do we have the priceless memory of Paul’s “Trash and Dash”…but we even have pictures to prove it.

Without a doubt, I consider myself very lucky to have my dreams of the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta come true.

Today is CSS Naked Day! How can I resist? I’m gettin’ naked by shedding my css and showing nothin’ but deliciously semantic mark-up. Reminds me of when I look in the mirror with no make-up on and love the bare bones me.

Thanks Dustin for this creative way to strip down, while emphasizing the importance of separating content from presentation.

Come on, it doesn’t hurt one bit. Let your design down, just for 24 hours!

my teddy bear wearing a blue beanie

Do you remember when you first became a web standards believer? (or do you want to know why web standards are important?) Whether it was last week, last year or last decade, it forever changed the way you create for the web. But, when was the last time you helped someone else understand the value of web standards? Until web standards have completely permeated our industry, it is important for us to continue to spread the word while producing content that illustrates the point.

If you haven’t heard, Monday, November 26th is “Blue Beanie Day”. What in the world is “Blue Beanie Day”? It is a great idea dreamed up by Douglas Vort of Detroit, Michigan to show support for web standards and accessibility. Here is an excerpt from the Blue Beanie Day Event Page in Facebook:

Monday, November 26, 2007 is the day thousands of Standardistas (people who support web standards) will wear a Blue Beanie to show their support for accessible, semantic web content.

It’s easy to show your support for web design done right. Don a Blue Beanie and snap a photo. Then on November 26, switch your profile picture in Facebook and post your photo to the Blue Beanie Day group at Flickr.

Next Steps

  1. Make a personal commitment to fight Web Standards Apathy. Show solidarity with the Standardistas on November 26th, 2007.
  2. Buy, beg, or borrow a Blue Beanie (blue hat or cap, even a black or grey one will do in a pinch.)
  3. Take a photo of yourself wearing the Blue Beanie. Or take a cool group photo of you and your friends wearing Blue Beanies.
  4. Post your photo, or photos to Facebook, Flickr, and other social networks on November 26th, 2007. Remember to switch your Facebook profile photo that day. While you’re at it, switch all your social network profile photos. Flickr, Twitter,, iLike, Pownce, you name it.
  5. Promote Blue Beanie Day in your blog or wiki starting today, and tell all your friends to get ready for Blue Beanie Day. Start by inviting all your Facebook friends to this event.

So, what are you waiting for? Go find, make, or photoshop your Blue Beanie. Tell your friends and see how many new people you can introduce to the way the web should will be.

Why are web standards important?

For a quick introduction, I recommend starting with the W3C goals. I swear, every time I read them I get goosebumps. Once you have “web for everyone. web on everything.” as your personal goal, you could head to the W3C’s Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case or read the difinitive text by Jefferey Zeldman, Designing with Web Standards.

Once upon a time
there was a brilliant
(yet humble)
designer named Hicks.
His work was known
throughout the land.
He laughed often
and had won
the deep respect
of his peers.

Then, without warning
a very large
wheel of cheese
fell on Hicks.


Hicks was flat.

What in the world
will Flat Hicks do
in his two dimensional world?

Stayed tuned to find out!

Rick and DJ had been threatening to have a celebration of vinyl…and Saturday night they did just that. Rules o’ the game? Bring whatever vinyl you’d love to hear or if you didn’t have any records, you could wear vinyl.

Results? Hilarious! Just the act of digging out old albums was a blast to the past. Brushing aside the cobwebs on my collection, I realized I would be hard pressed to bring just one album. Do I bring my favorite one, or do I bring the cheesiest one? Heck, I’ll bring some of both!

Stop for a moment and ponder this…what album(s) would you bring to a Vinyl Celebration?

Reviewing my own vinyl, I discovered that the hard rock that permeated my high school years wasn’t in my record collection (although you’ll find them on my cassettes, CDs and iPod): Boston, Cream, The Who, Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Rush, Led Zepplin, Queen, The Ramones, Jimi Hendrix, AC/DC, Rare Earth, Moody Blues, Santana, Three Dog Night, and Aerosmith.

What artists got air time at the party?
Round 1: Kinky Friedman, Journey, The Jackson Five, The Beatles, Peter Frampton, James Taylor, Roberta Flack, Moody Blues, Cream, Carole King and Two Nice Girls.

Round 2: The Beatles, Petula Clark, Johnny Rivers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Barry Manilow, Tom Jones, Gil Scott Heron, Crosby, Stills and Nash, B52’s, Public Image Limited and The Judy’s.

Round 3 was getting started with Elton John as I had to leave. I could have stayed all night.

Notably missing from our vinyl was Jimi Hendrix. I had him on my iPod (and of course had brought my speakers)…but DJ stuck to the rules and wouldn’t let me play any digital music. Damn him and his rules!

Scott and Nique even went in search of Jimi at the local Half-Price Bookstore, but returned empty handed. Guess that means we’ll have to get on ebay and bid on some Purple Haze before the next celebration of vinyl spins around.

So, the ever curious Sims wants to know…what album(s) would you bring to this celebration? They don’t have to be your own…the could be “your friend’s” or “your brother’s” or even your parents. What album for me, you ask? Why, Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass – Whipped Cream & Other Delights, of course! It is my Dad’s, I swear!