Darby Conley is my best friend

As I watched Derek Jeter toss a ball to a young Yankees fan who was sitting front row at Fenway Park this afternoon, I imagined that the kid might go home thinking Derek Jeter is his new best friend. Maybe he’ll get calls from Derek on his cell phone, but Derek will have to suddenly get off of the line before any of his friends can get on and talk to the celebrity shortstop.

It reminded me of the weekly email I get from someone who found my Meet The Makers interview with Darby Conley and needs me to help get them in touch with their favorite cartoonist.

Darby and I talked for a little over an hour one afternoon. His syndicate never gave me his number. He called me and I never checked the Caller ID. The email address I have for him is the same AOL address everyone else has, but if I hear from him, I’ll let him know that you need to get in touch with him. And yes, I had a blast talking to him.

One of the first things they teach journalists (and groupies) is the difference between having a good one-time-thing and being in a relationship.

The second reminder was Niki IMing me today’s Get Fuzzy for a little pick-me-up, laugh-out-loud Sunday Bucky.

Darb? If you’re reading this, please call. I miss you!

The Dune Breakfast and The McGriddle

In November of 2001, I was the best man in a wedding at The Ocean Club in the Bahamas. It was scheduled to be an outdoor wedding, but a hard rain was falling and a hurricane was only days away. The hurricane would hit after we had safely traveled home and wipe out enough of the club that the honeymooning couple would have to relocate to Atlantis.

What do I remember most about that weekend?

Was it Megan dancing with the waiters? No. Watching the World Series in November? Nope. The DJ playing “Mandy?” Guess again. Damien’s never-ending toast? Honestly, if you hadn’t mentioned it, I would never have remembered that he was at the wedding.

Was it The Dune Breakfast? Dude, no fair. You read the subject line. Yes, it was The Dune Breakfast! (Sorry, Megan.)

I ate The Dune Breakfast two mornings in a row at the Dune restaurant. It arrived on a large black plate and consisted of three little mini-breakfasts. One was French Toast with mango sauce. Wow. The second was Eggs Benedict, which on its own would have been a top notch breakfast. The final member of this all-star team of breakfast foods was a potato pancake topped with sour cream and lox. I’m getting teary-eyed just describing it to you.

Since that trip, The Dune Breakfast has been the gold standard to which all other breakfasts are compared and only one breakfast food has challenged its status: the McGriddle.

You know how you go to McDonald’s and you want a McMuffin kind of sandwich, but you also want pancakes and you don’t really want to get the Deluxe Breakfast, which has pancakes, sausage, scrambled eggs, hash browns and one of those nasty biscuits? Well, McDonald’s had this genius idea called the McGriddle where they make muffins out of pancake batter and inject them with syrup. So you’re eating a pancake sandwich stuffed with sausage, eggs and cheese. Brilliant!

I was eating a McGriddle recently and I realized that I now liked McGriddles more than The Dune Breakfast. Was it because two and a half years had elapsed since I had eaten a Dune Breakfast or was the McGriddle really a superior meal?

I started planning an Ocean Club trip. I clicked several levels deep into their Flash-based Web site to find the Dune restaurant. It had some photos, but no details from the menu.

Then I decided to check out the McGriddle on McDonald’s Web site. What a big mistake.

The nutrition facts for Sausage, Egg & Cheese McGriddles reveal some disturbing information about these sandwiches. Based on a 2,000 calorie diet — and best I can tell they’re talking about 2,000 calories for breakfast alone — a single McGriddle only provides me with 86% of my daily cholesterol requirement. How do I get that missing 14% and meet my breakfast nutrition goals?

When I tell you that the McGriddle has taken the place of The Dune Breakfast in my heart, I mean it literally.

I have to get back to building features for our Weblogs, Inc. sites. I have a renewed sense of urgency and a new goal: get more done so I can take time off and visit the Ocean Club again ($450-750 per night) and eat more Dune Breakfasts ($30 each as I recall).

They call it Slappa, Slappa, Slappa…

Slappa HardBody CD Case Grand Prize Winner

Slappa Runner-up Prize Winners

Your rugged, velvet-lined CD cases are on their way!

Happy New Gear!

The Weblogs, Inc. Network (WIN) is built to let me roll out a new weblog in minutes. Adding a new blogger takes even less time (but getting the time to give them a tour of the system and pick their brains about their editorial plans and hidden talents takes me weeks).

Adding an entirely new set of sites with a different root domain name, a different page structure and a bunch of other new features doesn’t happen overnight either. Actually, it does happen overnight — several overnights in a row in fact.

I’m happy to say that Peter Rojas and his Engadget family of Web sites are the latest addition to our weblog network. He’s a fantastic blogger and I’m looking forward to working with him.

All your Basecamp belong to us?

On one of my other Web sites, they’re trying out a new project and communications management system for small teams called Basecamp. Built by the 37 Signals team, Basecamp claims to be “simple, elegant, powerful, fast, and usable” and it is.

Some of the things Basecamp does already exists in a similar form in my Weblogs, Inc. intranet: a staff-only Weblog, contact management and a to do list. Okay, so pretty much all of Basecamp’s major features are in Weblogs, Inc., but you can’t subscribe to Weblogs, Inc. and the finishing touches and details are where Basecamp really shines.

I met Jason Fried from 37 Signals the other day and when he was asked how the data is kept anonymous his response was that they use several different domain names (like clientsection.com) and you can brand the system with your own logo so your clients never have to know that you’re using a 37 Signals service for your extranet. But that wasn’t what the question was getting at.

If 37 Signals’ largest paying client is FedEx and I sign up with Basecamp to manage my huge UPS.com redesign, how does 37 Signals resist the urge to peek over the fence?

Jason assured us that they won’t peek. They also address the possibility of installing a local version of Basecamp on other companies’ servers in their Q&A:

Custom licensed copies of Basecamp will be available shortly for remote installation. Pricing is based on your specific needs, support requirements, and the number of people who will be using Basecamp. If you start using the hosted version, and then want to move to an installed version, we can move your data over no problem.

From what I’ve seen so far, the service is great for small teams collaborating on any kind of project. 37 Signals makes really simple, easy-to-use sites for other companies, so it makes sense that their own Web-based service would be instantly usable without needing a tutorial.

The Bon Jovi Code (or Wanted Dead Or Alive)

I recently had an idea for an international murder mystery in which a noted cryptographer and a famed symbologist untangle dozens of clues that had been hidden in old ’80s songs and I couldn’t decide between my two favorite titles: “The Depeche Code” and “The Bon Jovi Code.”

As I did more research on Depeche Mode and Bon Jovi I discovered that there really were hidden messages in Bon Jovi songs. I talked to several ’80s historians including a guy who used to work out with Mr. T and two people who had friends who used to work at MTV and I found out that it is widely believed that Bon Jovi was working for a secret society — one that was created to thwart Catholic Church plots in the New York/New Jersey area.

Need proof?

Well I always thought that this was one of the worst lines in the history of music:

Remember when we lost the keys and you lost more than that in my back seat

But it turns out that it was a hidden message to his fellow secret society members. Rearranging the letters, you’ll find:

The Pope’s minions will strike in downtown Trenton at midnight on July first

Now I get it! I mean, no one could write something that bad and sing it so sincerely, right?

Speaking with me only on a condition of total anonymity, one of these ’80s historians said he believes that the Catholic Church began to suspect that Bon Jovi had been working against them. That explains why Jon entered the entertainment world’s version of the witness protection program: taking a role on Ally McBeal and starring in movies like U-571.

Hey junior, where you been so long?

Jack is one year old today.

Once I was crazy and my ace in the hole
was that I knew that I was crazy
so I never lost my self-control.
I just walked in the middle of the road.
I’d sleep in the middle of the bed.
I’d stop in the middle of a sentence
when the voice in the middle of my head said,
“Hey junior, where you been so long?
Don’t you know me? I’m your ace in the hole.”

One of my big fears is that he’ll get to school and people will ask his name and he’ll say, “My name is Jack Caleb Alvey dot com.”

It creeps and leaps and glides and slides

Last night was the deadline for entering to win The Onion Platinum Prestige Encore Gold Premium Collector’s Collection. Tonight is the end of the Slappa HardBody Blogstakes. Winners will be chosen for both contests next week.

Stopdesign’s Doug Bowman posted a glowing review of Blogstakes and promises to let everyone know if a free year of BrowserCam is as life-altering as it sounds.

Over on the Web’s equivalent of The Sundance Channel (or would that be Bravo?), Jason is Blogging Sundance. While he posts interviews with all of the directors and movie stars he runs into, I’m building the publishing system that makes his journey blogable — and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Beware of the Blog

I once came across a Weblog that had a single entry. It went something like this: “I am posting this entry to my new Weblog as a reminder to myself to post something new every day and keep this Weblog fresh.”

Ironically, the blog had not been updated in months. That was the only entry ever!

I’ve spent a decade building electronic publishing systems and newsletter delivery tools so hundreds of people could effortlessly broadcast their thoughts and opinions to millions of other people. All that time I’ve been promising myself that when I had built the perfect system I would use it to make my own site — one that covered the topics I was interested in. That fantasy content management system has had many names and incarnations, but it was never a fit for what I planned on doing.

Now it finally exists. It’s called Weblogs, Inc. and you’re soaking in it.

Okay, it almost exists. I’m still adding new features every day, but I’m finally at the point where I can switch to the driver’s seat and take it for a spin along the coast before I put it back up on the hoist to try and figure out where that grinding sound is coming from.