I've been "refreshing" the site a bit over the last few days and am quite pleased with the 'final' result; it seems every time I look to redesign the site, I inevitably want to make it simpler, even when that seems impossible.
How much more bare-bones could I get? Well, I found more wiggle room than you might expect. You'll notice that I redid the header and stripped from it both the menu and my name. I snuck the header menu into a side-menu paragraph. Regular visitors will probably find this a little confusing at first, but will obviously figure it out; I think new users will take to it immediately as they're compelled to read the side-menu paragraphs — there's no other place to look!
The impetus behind the 'new' menu consists of more than just my personal aesthetic predilections; it's also drawn from observations I've made regarding visitors to this site. My various stats packages make clear that almost no one clicked on the menu at the top, and after I really thought about it, it kind of made sense. I mean, I hardly ever click on menu items myself. I think the only time I do is when I'm linked to a site I'm not yet subscribed to; if the piece I read is interesting, I may skim the site to see if there are similar pieces to be found, and if I'm convinced the site may produce something I'd like to read in the future, I'll likely add it to my aggregator. Save that, I get in and I get out, and apparently most others do the same.
Please don't think I'm trying to make a case for the Internet-wide removal of horizontal/vertical menus, which are about as common as web pages themselves. In fact, I'll likely re-add the top menu at some point — statistical evidence be damned — but I just thought I'd try something slightly more "conversational," and a little less rigid. At the end of the day, I don't feel I'm sacrificing any real-world usability by toying with the menu's ostensible relevance; if you think otherwise, please let me know.
Quite a few other subtle changes were made, but they'll likely be appreciated only by anal-retentive types. For all you typography nerds out there, the font used for the menu headers on the right is called DIN Schrift MittelSchrift (at 16pt with a tracking value of 25/1000 ems).
The only thing I'd still like to do is work out a way to more effectively funnel visitors to the photography section without detracting too much from the site's simplicity.