June 17, 2008
Now It Can Be Told!
Those of you who only subscribe to this poor, sporadically-updated blog and don't read Shelby's blog may have missed the news (and the update) that when our adopted daughter comes home with us from China (in about three years -- yes, the wait has gotten longer), she'll already have an older brother or sister waiting for her:
May 04, 2008
This One's For Shelby
Another comic from xkcd:
Those of you who know Shelby will not be surprised to learn that her favorite present from Christmas 2007 was a year-long subscription to the Bacon of the Month Club. (Accompanied by a copy of the The Bacon Cookbook.)
Yes, it's totally frivolous and not-good-for-you (although The Bacon Cookbook gamely does what it can by telling you that a two- or three-slice serving of bacon is 'almost a health food' compared to a hot dog, hamburger, or glazed donut), but so far it's brought some seriously goooooooooood bacon to our door. The stuff that you can buy at the grocery store has nothing on the flavor of specialty gourmet bacon. The head-and-shoulders favorite so far has been Burgers' Smokehouse Pepper Coated Country Bacon. Burgers' has a website and an Amazon storefront (gourmet bacon and 3% back with our Amazon credit card!)
Now I know what I can get Shelby for her birthday ...
April 26, 2008
Speaking of movies, are there any Netflix users out there who'd like to be one of our special Netflix Friends? You may not reach the current 81% level of compatibility that we have with our friends David & Chelsea, but it's still interesting to see what people we know have been watching and enjoying.
Long-time friend and local historian (and, until recently, Orange County Archivist) Phil Brigandi has a new blog called Notes From a Lost Valley, about the history of Lost Valley, home to the Boy Scout camp where we both worked. His most recent entry mentions me at the end — I'm a part of history!
- We were in Philadelphia this past week, which gave us a chance to see the circus of the Pennsylvania primary up close and personal. (This was the first time that I saw a commercial for either Clinton or Obama on TV!) While I think that Obama did pretty well (considering that he was down by over twenty percent just a few months before), he could have chopped a few more points off of Hillary's margin if it weren't for this guy driving around downtown:
Yes, it's a Prius with Obama signs taped to the sides and two loudspeakers on top, blasting the music from the "Yes, We Can" video loud enough to be almost completely distorted and unintelligible. Way to play to a stereotype, dude. This is why I don't have any bumper stickers on my own Prius; between our living in Orange County, the car, and the Berkeley license plate frame, anyone who wasn't already on my side would just say "eh".
Movie Review (and Typeface Geekery)
I'm a type geek — and not just the kind of guy who has a lot of fonts installed on his computer. I once took a typeface design class from Sumner Stone; one year for an anniversary present, Shelby and I learned how to set metal type at the San Francisco Center for the Book. Shelby and I made a deal; when we shell out to get her the "Definitive Gold Box Edition" Twin Peaks box set, I get a copy of TypeTool. For a while, I considered guiding my career towards the technical side of electronic type (and later wound up gladthat I didn't, for the code that puts letters on your screen or inside your printer can at times be astonishingly tedious).
So, it was with great anticipation that I waited for Helvetica, a documentary by Gary Hustwit, to arrive from Netflix. And it was everything I expected it to be! Helvetica uses the story of the typeface Helvetica — from its origins to its ubiquitous status, fifty years later, in today's world — as a starting point for a wider exploration into various schools of typographic thought and the usually-invisible-but-pervasive role of type in our everyday lives. Hustwit interviews an entertaining collection of type luminaries whose eloquence and enthusiasm for their field provides an accessible display for 'normal' people as to why the type-obsessed get so wrapped up in this stuff. Highly recommended!
(Hustwit came to screen Helvetica at Adobe's "Technology Summit" back in February; afterwards, all us type nerds got to line up like giddy schoolgirls [or something] and purchase DVDs of the movie from the man himself.)
One pair who was interviewed in Helvetica, Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones of the Hoefler & Frere-Jones Type Foundry, have achieved an unusual amount of fame (for type designers) this year, thanks to the fact that the Obama campaign is using one of their fonts, Gotham, as a main component of its graphic identity. Newsweek has my favorite article on the Obama 'brand' (an interview with Michael Bierut, who also appears in Helvetica), which notes how Hillary's website has come to look more and more like Obama's over time. Gotham has also been mentioned in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe.
Hillary's snooze of a serif might have come off a heart-healthy cereal box, or a mildly embarrassing over-the-counter ointment [ ... ] But Senator McCain's typeface is positively mystifying: after three decades signifying a very down-market notion of luxe, this particular sans serif has settled into being the font of choice for the hygiene aisle.
(Be sure to click through to see Hillary and McCain logos repurposed into serving more appropriate products.) Also good is their compare-and-contrast between newly-announced British coinage and our new $5 bill:
Above, the new face of British currency, announced by the Royal Mint. The striking new designs, selected from an open competition that attracted four thousand entries, are the work of a 26-year old graphic designer named Matthew Dent. They are Mr. Dent's first foray into currency design.
Below, the new five dollar bill, introduced last month by the United States Department of the Treasury. The new design, which features a big purple Helvetica five, is the work of a 147-year-old government agency called the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing. It employs 2,500 people, and has an annual budget of $525,000,000.
February 05, 2008
... totally separate from the question of how our man Obama will do tonight (I was hoping for an across-the-board blowout, but I'll settle for stalemate -- for now). I had been scheduled to work as an 'Inspector' for today's primary election -- basically, the guy who runs the polling place, directing the other volunteers (a job I'd previously performed in 2005 and 2006). That was before my company announced that it would be holding its "Technology Summit" -- a gathering of its worldwide engineering staff, held every few years near corporate HQ in San Jose -- the week of the election. Wanting to do the right thing, I followed directions and called my 'Field Representative' at the Registrar of Voters a month ahead of time, leaving her a message (I never could reach her, just her voicemail) giving my name, precinct number, and a message that I had an unavoidable business commitment and would be unable to work the election. (I tried calling the Registrar of Voters' main hotline number, but got voicemail there, too -- at 3:30 on a weekday afternoon!) I never got a response, but I figured that the field rep was just busy ahead of the election -- and besides, given that I wouldn't be attending the mandatory training or picking up my precinct's election materials, they'd definitely figure out that something was amiss even if my messages never got through, right?
Cut to 6 AM this morning, which is when Shelby got a confused call from someone at the election site, wondering when I would be showing up and whether I had the ballot box. Oops!
I wonder what the penalty for election-worker absenteeism is. Let's really hope that I don't end up doing jail time or paying some kind of massive fine thanks to the fact that the Orange County Registrar of Voters is run like a clown show ...
December 06, 2007
Um, The Rudeness Started When You Came To My Door
Twice in the past few weeks I've been dissed for rudeness by door-to-door salesmen.
The first was some middle-aged yutz in a bowling shirt who was selling something about roofing — I was just coming around to tell you that we're giving everyone in your neighborhood a great deal on yada-yada-yada that even comes with included free blah-blah! I had the door open a crack and was holding back a very confrontation-oriented Digory, who was emitting I-wanna-kill noises, with his paws scrabbling on the wooden floor. Our roof is just fine, thanks, so I started making sorry-not-interested murmurs, which the guy took as a signal to keep talking and try selling harder; at that, I looked him in the eye, said "No thank you, we're not interested", and closed the door. From out on the porch, he exclaimed "you know, you're a really rude guy!", and stomped his way down the steps.
Yesterday, I was in the middle of debugging a particularly hairy problem when the doorbell rang. Digory was already slavering at the door with his hackles up, so I didn't even open the door; instead, I just flipped up the curtain over the window to see if it was our mailman or the UPS guy. Nope; it was a teenagerish male who was selling mumble-mumble for the mumble club -- "if I sell enough, I could win a trip to Italy!" (If you're selling something for a school club, shouldn't you be in school on a Wednesday morning? Gosh, could this be a door-to-door magazine scam?) I shake my head no, say "sorry, not interested", flip the curtain down, and walk away. Again, from the porch, the loud indignant voice: "Man, that was like the rudest thing ever!"
Since when did people who are interrupting my day to try and sell me scamworthy products start handing out judgments on rudeness? If these trends continue, I'll have to become the Grumpy Old Man of our block, yanking in the Welcome mat and nailing up a NO SOLICITORS sign, or install a discreet Curmudgeon Cam near the front door, so that I can know who's knocking without having to get up from my desk.
November 21, 2007
Next Time We're In Cottonwood, Idaho ...
... we now know where to stay, thanks to a link from my Dad: inside the world's largest Beagle! And when it's time to leave, we can take home a wooden Beagle from their chainsaw art gallery and gift shop.
Roadside art has never been this cute before.
(Curiously, the Dog Bark Park Inn's website doesn't mention whether or not their dog is dog-friendly. You'd think that would be a question that they get pretty often.)
November 01, 2007
While I Sit In The Airport ...
While I sit in the San Jose airport, waiting until I can board a plane and leave the land of recent earthquakes to return to the land of recent fires, it's Cat and Girl. (If I still worked in an office and thus had someone to admire my workplace tchotchkes besides Shelby, me, and the dogs, I'd buy this trophy from the Cat and Girl Store.)
Also, from Tricks of the Trade, a blog offering "Professional secrets from those in the know", here are a few tips from a children's librarian. (Tricks of the Trade was created by Matthew Baldwin, who also has a more personal blog called Defective Yeti. I first discovered Defective Yeti through some other blog's link to "Iraqi Invasion: A Text Misadventure" -- a must-read creation for liberal-ish computer geeks who played a lot of Infocom text-adventure games back in the 80s.
Okay, it's just about time to join the crowd of pushy people in front of the Southwest gate. I'm a mere Group-B person, but there are already twenty people in the "B" line, half an hour before our flight leaves ...
October 31, 2007
I've been working up in San Jose this week. Last night around 8 PM, we had a little drama and excitement, courtesy of a 5.6 earthquake centered in east San Jose. Up on the sixteenth floor of an office building, the quake felt big -- the most motion I've ever felt in an earthquake, even though I was reasonably close to the epicenter of the much larger Landers quake (a 7.3) back in 1992. (That summer I was staying in a circa-1917 homestead cabin; that quake woke me up just before 5 AM, where I spent the next twenty seconds or so frozen in bed, praying the whole ramshackle mess wouldn't fall in on top of me.) Our office building, I guess, did what it was supposed to do, rolling heavily back and forth with the motion of the quake. The metal venetian blinds at each window were swaying into the room and then forcefully KLACKing back against the glass; small objects on tabletops were moving around.
The guy in the office across from me wasn't waiting around; as I got up to my feet, he ran over to the doorway, yelled "It's an EARTHQUAKE!!!", and sprinted off down the hall towards the stairs. I think that he was so fired up that he ran all the way down the stairs to the ground floor; I didn't see him again for a good twenty minutes or so. Everyone else who was left in the office was wandering the hallways, doing a routine from L.A. Story: "So how big do you think that one was?" "I give it a five!" "No, didn't you feel that? It had to be at least a 6.0!"
I walked down the hall to a balcony, expecting to look out over a tableau of death and destruction; after an earthquake that big, something had to have happened -- maybe some gas fires here and there, big black patches where the power had gone out -- only to see that everything was completely normal. It was then that I figured out that maybe my swaying high-up vantage point had more than a little to do with my perception of how bad things were.
Later that night, I walked back to my hotel to watch the earthquake-related breaking news: "And now we have a viewer-submitted picture from San Jose's Alum Rock neighborhood, where you can see that a stuffed deer head has fallen on the floor -- in Alum Rock, a stuffed deer head, on the floor. Next, here are some pictures from a business called Valley Hair Salon -- I don't know where that is, but you can see these pictures where hair products have just fallen from the shelves ..." Maybe the most dramatic quake-related after-effect was that my cell phone stopped working for the rest of the night. At first, dialing anything would get you a "fast busy"; later, trying to place a call resulted in a recorded message that "all circuits are busy ... please try your call again later". (A message that I last heard years and years ago, when trying to use a pay phone in rural New Mexico -- someplace where you'd expect to get a message like that.) Even today, cell phone service was pretty spotty. Good thing that this wasn't a real emergency, except for that one guy and his deer head.
[Maybe our office complex sustained some real damage: today the 'skybridge' that connects two of our buildings at the 14th & 15th floors was closed off. It looks like some of the corridor's metal trim got tweaked out of alignment from flexing around the expansion joint where the two halves of the bridge meet. They're calling out the professionals to look at it, just in case.]
September 08, 2007
I Am Posting This From Scout Camp
I am posting this from "my" Boy Scout camp -- Lost Valley, where when I worked here fourteen years ago, we were lucky to have a radiotelephone that worked half the day, and thought ourselves lucky to have that, as we were eleven miles from the end of the nearest paved road. Now, they have an open WiFi access point on the front porch of the dining hall.
I am posting this from Scout camp. That is all ...