31 July 2006

[design] Notes From the Job-hunting Fray

The job hunt continues. This bit is a bit personal, but you really can't have the good with out the, maybe, not so good.

Getting asked for a an interview for a position as a designer sometimes can entail a stage that many other professions don't countenance. Typically this takes the form of a second interview where the interviewer supplies you some art and some copy and sees if you can throw together something. If they want to see how you operate under pressure, they'll email it to you and ask you to come up with something and see them in a few hours.

I don't have a problem with this. It makes sense–and I'm eager to show off my mettle.

It's energizing and exciting, at least as long as you think you have a chance at the job. Recently I've had two interviews that expected me to do just that. There were two different experiences.

The first one (no, I'm not going to name names) was a local company that produced machines used in the construction trade. Web design, ad design, catalog layout, nothing I couldn't handle. The rapport in the interview was quite good and I felt I made a splendid impression. It was mentioned to be that I was short-listed and could expect some materials to put together two ads. How? FTP? Email? No problem...I can handle anything that ya throw at me.

After a week, no email, no FTP download...nothing. I contact them. Gosh, are you sure you didn't get any communication? Yes, yes, I'm sure. Another week with no comms. At last, after a bit more pestering, they come via Gmail: I download them and get to work. A day later I have two spiffy ads via InDesign, get 'em into PDF form, email them out. A day after this I email to see how they liked them.

They liked them fine, but chose someone else. This, they got back to me right away on. That...well, that kind of stung. I'll be honest. No, that really stung. Here I'll indulge myself to the world justt enough to wonder out loud if they were really serious about giving me a chance.

The second one came in on the heels of that experience, which gave me some hope. The position was for the in-house designer for a firm in the hospitality industry. Whole lot of layout. I am incredibly passionate about layout; you should see me get engrossed in doing the Overlook.

The interview went well, very well indeed. Again I established a rapport early and think I communicated my passion and desire. Again, yes, a second interview...yes! Do a poster ad? Certainly! In three or four hours? I was born for this. Download huge graphics on my crapass dialup connection from Gmail? You bet! Tile for output on my not-quite-adequate-to-the-task HP Deskjet 6110? Try and Stop me! Good second interview? Yes!

Did I get the job? No!

I'm still kind of deflated from that. I really thought I had that nailed.

So, I'm back to shooting resumes out and hoping one sticks. I've got Designorati to keep my hand in, and a Gentle Reader has actually contacted me to do a logo; I'll announce what when the time is right (which should be very soon) and I'm taking this out in kind (it's something I can use and the asker is a really super fellow, of whom the cut of his jib, I like.

I'm still looking for that regular paying gig, however, and right now I'm getting back up on the horse.

In the meantime, if any of you know anybody who's looking for an eager graphic designer who wants to work in-house...well, here I am.

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27 July 2006

[distractions] Hell's Kitchen, Epi Seven

They've been through the wringer and, at last, we're down to four chef wanna-be's.

On the down side, Sara is still on board. But I get ahead of meself.

An Aside About The Opening

I am absolutely addicted to the opening. I swear, this must have been done by Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer. I especially like the way an image of The Ramdog emerges from the flame of the gas cooker with his signature glowing behind him in neon-blue, then turns into a kind of flame sprite zooming around the kitchen as we see images of the contestants.

Sometimes, so help me, we play it over. I lurve special effects.

Anyway, on to the show.

We Two Are One

Heather, playing the role of Captain Obvious this time around, karnaks that the two teams will be melded into one. I don't see why; with the distraction of Maribel gone, doesn't that mean that the two remaining Reds, Virginia and Sara (hisss!), will consume each other whole? We certainly hoped so.

But it was not to be. The morning after, Chef combined the two teams. Gone were the Red and Blue jackets to be replaced by the black jacket. Yes, one jacket to rule them all, one jacket to find them, one jacket to bring them all and in the kitchen bind them (rim shot). This generated interesting and bizarre reactions from some participants; Virginia enthusing about how they were all soldiers now, and Garrett latching on to the team fusion with all the desparation of someone who knows they are on the bubble.

Another Creative Challenge

The challenge of the day involved choosing from amongst ten proffered ingredients to create something memorable. The ten ingredients are: baby spinach, fresh Prawns, loin of Veal, lentils, saffron, truffles, Jerusalem artichokes (which aren't from Jerusalem and aren't artichokes), turnips, mushrooms and white beets.

These are collectively known, from where I come from, as say what? Always said I was a gourmand...I feel so inferior sometimes. Let me tell you, you know the joke about the town where Spam was found in the gourmet section at the store? That was invented when someone passed through Silverton, Oregon.

Anyway! In general, the chefs all commended themselves rather well, considering. The pressure conditions seem really to be honing the skills of the remainder. Chef Ramsay was pleased with all the dishes in general, though you could tell the ones that didn't quite make the standard–Chef complimented the dish and then said "however"...

The standouts were Virginia's dish (something called Chiffinade of Spinach and Beet Tops and Poached Prawns garnished with truffles) and Keith's (Veal Chops stuffed with wild mushrooms and spinach over a prawn salad). Chef called Virginia's dish "vibrant" and Keith's had "great color".

Now, I'm not all that impressed with Keith's style, but I'd eat his food. He seems to understand haute cuisine that my own lumpenself can get on board. 'Cause, hey, veal chops, eh?

It was a tough choice for Chef, but he decided on Keith's dish. For once, one of the men won the challenge. It was kind of neat, at that.

The prize was a day in Vegas and a tour of the (then-)still-under-construction space in the Red Rocks resort, where the prize restaurant–T-Bone's Steak and Chophouse–was going to be installed. Though I personally don't get the point of showing people an undone space (the words "undone foccacia" come to mind), Kevvy and Virginia seemed to make the best of it, and then were off to enjoy Vegas.

Kevin put his inimitable (not that it ought to be repeated) big K-Grease slammin' money style on display, in dress and in conduct, which hit its nadir when, across the street from New York New York, pointed out the miniature Tour Eiffel and wondered if Jean-Phillipe was over there, 'cos it was Pareeee!

"He's Belgian, stupid", said Virginia in the most intelligent thing she's said all series.

But Wait...There's Drama!

To say that Keith has an unimpressive style is one thing. I wouldn't trust my backstairs intrigues to him if he were the only schemer left on the planet. He just couldn't quit backstabbing Garrett.

Before the challenge, Keith assured Garrett that they were brothers in arms, thick and thin, and all that. Once he won the challenge and could take one other contestant along, after all but promising Garrett that he was in like Flynn, took...Virginia. Said she ought to go since she had essentially come in second in the challenge.

Garrett stewed and seemed to go quietly mad, just a little. You know those wierdo types who play with knives and talk to themselves about what they were going to do to you, but out loud so everyone could hear? Garrett got just like that. His anger pretty much scared everyone and freaked out Heather.

Earlier that morning, while getting ready for the day, Heather also sat down next to Keith, let him put his arm around her, and joked "This here's my baby's daddy!". Get. A. Room.

But What Was the Penalty?

The three losers of the challenge had to make the kitchen ready for fumigation–taking sheet plastic and wrapping everything, and we mean everything. But once they got done with that, were they done?

No, they were the fumigators, too. On went the bunny suits and out came the canisters. And Sara actually said a couple of things that were funny–doing the Darth Vader when the masks went on, and noting that she usually had four eyes, and now she had six.

More Props for Keith

Keith's star is rising, that much is certain. During preps work for the night's dinner service, Jean-Philippe let Kevin know that his veal dish was going on the menu and how should it be described?

Did he call it Slammin' Money Cha-ching Veal, Baby? No. He stepped up to the abyss and turned away. Had it called just what it was. Good on ya, boy...there's hope for you.

But Are They Being Served?

The evening's dinner service didn't go off without a hitch, but they are getting better. They still aren't working as a team though, and it was obvious, especially when Sara and Heather were working to make appetizers.

Sara made a particular fool of herself, cooking with her head up her backside, which would be impossible for you or me, but since she does it all the time she's fairly accomplished at it. First she's cooking too many scallops, then has a discussion with Chef over how big they are, then not cooking them in a non-stick pan, which led to an exasperated Chef screaming the most memorable line of the night:

Sara, if you sauté scallops in a nonstick pan, they won't stick. That's why they call it F***ING NON-STIIIIIICK!! I don't know what nonstick means in Texas, sweetheart, but F*** ME!!!
The way his voice nearly cracked when he said NON-STIIIICK! was priceless.

And, on a show that's addicted to the phrase "and for the first time", for the first time on HK, they were going to be serving a 12-top. The superlatives get a bit silly sometimes, yes?, but the point here is that the crew has to make sure everyone gets thier stuff together, and with Sara and Heather doing the appetizers, that was no small feat. But despite Sara's thickheadedness, it happened.

Things just looked bad and worse for poor Garrett. He rushed some chicken to the pass...so rushed, in fact, that it was raw. Bad, bad, bad Garrett. Chef patiently explained (well, as patiently as he could) that that could be the surest way to kill a customer. This caused a station shuffle, and Keith was on the meats. Keith has probably forgotten more than Garrett has ever learned about meats, so it was back on an even keel after that.

And Now, The Endowment

Much is made of the patrons of HK, who are, it is buzzed, out of work actors who are getting thier food for free. And in the beginning of the show a man whined about the lack of pumpkin in his risotto and was handled in Big Ramdog Style.

This night a woman who was...well, endowed...decided she'd had enough waiting, and the three of her (her and her chest) were nobody to be trifiled with. Proceeding to the pass and setting her endowment on it for all to see, she demanded to know how much longer she was to wait. When it was clear the Chef wasn't going to give the three of them the respect they deserved, she pitched a waiting plate of food back into the kitchen, which caused Chef to call security.

I know...WTF is it when these HK patrons, anyway?

Bachelorette number one...

The occupants of the twelve-top showed up just at that time, fashionably late but that's okay...it was a bachelorette party. And a show that seemed happy to make trouble where there wasn't any seemed strangely loathe to milk the dramatic potential of the trouble a bunch of LA bachelorettes could have made.

But they did make Jean-Philippe look foolish. Chatting the ladies up, he was in full flirt mode for quite some time when Chef called him over to the pass and asked him if he was trying to lose his virginity.

Enough of that! We have a fake restaurant to run here!

The Last Passion of Garrett

The dinner service was completed successfully, and everyone (except Keith) had something to answer for; Sara's ineptitude, Heather's inconsistency, Garrett's attempt to serve raw chicken, Virginia's inattention. Keith was to select two noms for elim.

Everyone lobbied, of course. Keith promised Garrett that he wasn't going (giving hope to those of us who hate Sara (which is pretty much anyone with a soul)). Back in the dining room, Keith was asked for his two. They were...Virginia (again-she's up on the block every time)...and...


Put the knife in, Keith, and twist it this time, willya?

Each stated thier case. Garrett was particularly emotive, leading Chef to remark, "You're hungry for this, aren't you". He seemed to be winning Chef over.

After listening to Virginia's bit, Chef then proceeded to yank the audience around....


Yay! Garrett! You made it!

"...is staying."

Gubba 'scuse me? Guess you must absolutely not ever, ever, ever, serve uncooked chicken (actually, you shouldn't; the salmonella that you might ingest could very well kill you). This is something every single person who's ever held a food handler's card should instinctively know. And this prevents me from believing my own consipiracy theory; Garrett did give him something to hang himself on.

Our Predictions

Garrett, we must say in retrospect, was due. He had the drive but he was overwhelmed and in the end, he did something that not even fast food cooks would do, and it cost him. We think this pretty much followed our predictions so far although, in the end, we were rooting for Garrett to hang on a little more.

We're down to four:
  1. Keith: He's still the Golden Child. Right now, about the only way he could piss Ramsay off is to kill him. We still wish he'd ditch that dumass Big K-Grease Style, because, lets face it, it's stupid, but he's got the culinary brain to ascend to actual Chefdom. Some commentators aren't too impressed with his skills, but when you have Gordon Ramsay actively encouraging you, you've got to have it where it counts.
  2. Heather: She's still our pick to be the other in the final two. Her problem is consistency. In the early part of the show, she was never not in the zone. These days, the least little bump and she's right off her game. But she wants it more, and she's got the smarts.
  3. Sara and Virignia: Which one of these get the axe next epi depends on who wants it more. My money's on Virginia because she's demonstrated improvment, when she's on she's on, and her strategy seems to be to try harder. Sara's strategy seems to be just to endure everyone out, which should have elimmed her already–fortunately, someone else is always worse than her, or makes a bigger mistake.
Next week will be Sara or Virginia's turn to go. It depends on who's the bigger bozo.

Until next week then, diners.

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21 July 2006

[logo_design] Here Comes The New Payless Shoes

Payless Shoesource (which some of us old-timers still think of as Volume) has been looking at its corporate identity and getting that not-so-fresh feeling.

Actually, that's kind of understandable. The look has been around since the 1980's. Many people look at the following design and think of harvest gold and avocado kitchen decor, and t-shirt shops at the mall:

The design does seem kind of dated. I look at it and the tapes in my mind start playing Disco Duck.

But times have been a-changing at Payless lately, and what with the addition of celebrity brands backed by Shaq and Star and Stanley tool-branded workboots (actually I have a pair of these, they're quite good), what else is in the offing but...an extreme logo makeover. And here that is:

Well, it is an update, yes?

It does have some sound principes of logo design backing it up. The orange color from the old logos is meant to connote continuity–it's a change of outlook, not a change of philosophy. The portmanteau shoesource still is there, though diminished. The type looks modern, and the sans-serif font is a good choice, I think. It looks very curreent.

The glyph is funny. The stated goal of it is, by heavily stylizing the P (that's what that orange curlicue thing is, BTW), they communicate the new, "fun style-conscious family fashion" attitude of Payless, and by keeping it orange, they forward the tradition of the old, accessable Payless. The blue swipe that completes the circular form is meant to communicate dynamic tension–it gives a rotational feel and contains energy.

Now, I like logo talk just as much as anybody else who talks logo talk likes logo talk. Is it just me, though, or is it getting just a teensy bit deep around here? After all, Payless got along for a great many years without having a graphic logo.

My favorite bit is to call the P stylized. This is stylized in the way the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake revised San Francisco's Marina district. It's no longer a P, is it?...what it is now, is a backward 9.

I also wrote about this at Designorati.

And if anyone thinks I'm just making up the logo talk, peep this item on PRNewswire, which goes even deeper than I did.

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19 July 2006

[distractions] Hell's Kitchen, Epi Six

Welcome to your ongoing, two-days-off review of that cookery TV FAUX phenom, Gordon Ramsay's Flying Circus.

But First, This Tedious Correction

Last week I cited the "shut it down" moment as when Garrett came up with the lllllammb sauuce!!!. That was in fact not correct; it was Rachel's completely brain-dead attempt to pass off a well-done Wellington as rare, though Garrett's event did give Chef the chance to bestow the never-before-given "Yankee Dankee [blank]ing Doo" award. This was no doubt what tipped the scales on sending Rachel home, despite Sara's obvious need to be sentenced to a year in a supporting role on Yes, Dear, restitution, and community service.

Naturally, regardless of the dinner service, the result was the usual dog's breakfast.

The Times, of course,regrets the error.

And Now, The Continuation, As Opposed To The End, Of Hell's Kitchen

The teams retire to the dorms; Red in serious disarray, Blue starting to evidence the tangible signs of an actual esprit de corps; the emergence of an "us against them" dynamic. And, of course, Heather is somewhat bereft over the loss of Rachel, and Maribel shows resentment over being nommed for elimination. The two dudes–Keith and Garrett, naturlich–are bonding with Heather (in the good way, people, come on now, none of that).

A little decompressing from the day, a few Heinekens with the labels taped over, and it's off to bed for more than a little needed sleep. But it will be an early and challenging morning for the intrepid crews...

An Inspriational Challenge

The teams are woken with bullhorns and kitchen pans by the sous-chefs about four or five hours after turning in. They are promptly bundled into two waiting black SUVs and whisked off to LA's Grand Central Market (which looks like a Whole Foods with a severe gland problem), and given a mere twenty minutes in which to let the muse move them about the aisles to procure the ingredients for a single complete three course meal.

The idea here seemed based on the general topic of inspiration, but we saw other survival skills as well; thinking fast and reasoning on one's feet. The Blue's Heather showed some indecision on the choice of fruit to use for the dessert (which turned out to be her remit), so she bought both the ones she was considering.

Virginia, on the other hand, seems changed by the events of the recent past, having gone from having, at best a wishy-washy presence in the Red team, suddenly surge to the fore with unexpected intensity. She suddenly developed gumption, leading the Red team around the market whether they wanted to be led or not. I know not what Sara was thinking all this time, but she must have been about as stunned as I was by Virginia's drive.

Then, after twenty minutes of running it, was back to the kitchen to cook under a 60-minute time limit, to create the meals they were formulating on the go in the market. First course was a soup; for the Red a roasted pepper soup by Sara, the Blues, a bisque with shrimp in by Garrett; main course was the meat; Reds, a stuffed chicken breast by Virginia, a steak dish by Kevin; and dessert was, for Red, a nouvelle-y looking strawberry shortcake by Maribel and a fruit-filled crepe by Heather.

The verdict? Soup, faults with each; the roasted pepper soup tasted burnt (which must of brie'd off Sara no end in as much as Virginia told her to roast the peppers to the point of charring) and the bisque, while tasting good, had a full shrimp tail with sharp scales on. Main; both were reviewed very well–Virginia's chicken breast (wait for it, people) was well prepared and unexpectedly generous given only one breast was used, and while the steak's presentation was a little lacking this was more than made up for by the perfect cooking of the cut.

After sampling the first and second courses, then, the perception was that the teams were approximately equal. The decider would be dessert. Again, each had its flaw; the fruit in Heather's crepes were soggy, and the fruit in Maribel's shortcake was sparse, to say the least. But, another point of the excercise was to drive home the point that the most memorable cuisine is produced with the freshest ingredients, and recall that barely an hour and a half earlier these meals existed as separate ingredients in the market. The crepes were soggy, and the shortcake, while uninspired, was apparently delighfully tasty...

...tasty enough, apparently, that the Red team won the challenge, again. This, without going to the numbers, makes only one of all these challenges having been won by the Blues–and that one was lacklustre compared to the classy prizes won by the Reds.

The Blues charge favoritism. We're not necessarily prone to agree–quite. But we are left left to wonder, with that eternal internets-enabled query, WTF?

Virginia, Up on the Rack

The challenge wasn't so intense that we couldn't be entertained by the numerous references to Virginia's most obvious endowments–at least, it sure seemed that they were trying to make a "meal" (sorry) out of it. Being the most buxom of the female contestants, buzz about her figure has been one of the ongoing themes of the fora buzz we've seen–think the endless ST:TNG chatter about whether Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar) wore a bra and you'd of just about got it.

There were many remarks about Virginia's dish–about how her breast was large, about how she'd got a lot out just one of her breasts, that her breast was the biggest one they could find. Meanwhile, the comparatively-willowy Maribel had no comment, and Sara was, of course, a boob anyway.

And then, Virginia took her shirt off.

No, not really. But that might get the attention of some of the regulars over at TVgasm, and they've not posted a recap yet.

The Blue Meanies

The prize for winning the challenge was for the Red team to spend a serious night on the town with The Ramdog. The penalty for the Blues was to hang around the restaurant all day, waiting for the delivery bell to ring, perforce to drop whatever it was they were doing and run to the loading dock.

This happened several times that day, with the members of the Red team rubbing it in the faces of the Blues by sunbathing and lolling about whilst the Blues had to remain in restaurant kit and jump up whenever that bell rang. They weren't small deliveries, either; truckloads of food, produce, and a brobdingangian amount of wine all had to be offloaded and stored.

Anon the time for the Reds to depart on thier Big Night Out arrived; the girls gussied up real pretty (the short brown number that Virginia wore was actually quite fetching) and off they went, passing a stewing Blue team in the midst of unloading a truck. Garrett, with his typical flare, let them know they were number one with him by holding up a certain finger as they departed in the limo–which was noticed by all, including Chef. FUD was experienced by the Blues when it suddenly occurred to someone that, yah, Chef probably saw that, and it probably didn't go over too well, yes?

Night Out/Night In

The night out with Chef went swimmingly for the girls of Red, who were pretty much eating up Chef to an embarrassing degree. The most embarrassing was Virginia (no, strangely, not Sara) who proved to be The Mouth That Would Not Stop. At the place where they had dinner she asked the proprietor (who dined with them) what he's learnt since opening the eatery, but approached it like a jet pilot on a particularly difficult approach; the leadup to this simple question nearly crushed the life out of the question itself.

Virginia may or may not win the restaurant; she certainly has a love affair with her own voice that transcends time and space.

The night in for the Blues was predictably dreary but they continued to bond as a unit. Heather is no longer "one of the girls"; by now if you cut her, she'd bleed blue. She held her own with the boys in unloading the seemingly unending stream of deliveries, being dubbed "one tough bitch" by Garrett. She accepted it as the rough-and-ready compliment it was intended to be. The trash talk about the Red team was unending; by the end of the night they resolved that the three currently on the Blue team would be the last three surviviors going into the end.

The DIY Menu

The challenge for next night's dinner service seemed derived from the challenge from the day before; each team was to divise a menu for that night's dinner service. The diners that evening would have a choice of Red or Blue menus to choose from.

The interpersonal dynamics of the two teams in conference told a lot about who's currently strong and who's currently weak. On the Red side, Maribel faded between the stronger personalities of Sara and Virginia; the Blues froze out Garrett in almost similar fashion.

The true leaders are emerging now. Remember that the prize is an executive chef position at a very upscale Vegas hotspot; the executive chef is a department head, as likely to be hiring, firing, promoting, and designing the menu as he is to be in the kitchen cooking. Like them or hate them, we're down to the most driven, leadership-oriented professionals we're likely to see this series.

Each team played to what they thought were thier strengths–the Reds came up with a complicated rack-of-lamb entree and a complex sea-food item that we can't even begin to remember well enough to discribe supported by a seared-tuna sashimi appetizer. So bewildering was the Red menu that while I remember something having to do with . The Blues offered up what was termed by the narrator a menu based on "simple, classic" things, though Garrett, disheartened by the inferior status imposed on him by the interpersonal dynamic in the conference, had no contribution to make.

The Blue route turned out to be the smart way to go. The Red's menu was over-ambitious, perhaps insipred by the success of the challenge of the day before. The Blues hit thier stride early, firing appetizers over the pass like the Blues were set of semi-auto.

Does everything go swimmingly? Might we remind you this is Hell's Kitchen, a/k/a Westworld?

Though the Blue side really clicked, there were several misfires. Garrett couldn't get his duck cooked, causing Chef to actually come over to his station and show him how. Garrett allowed as, if Chef was hanging out at your station, that probably wasn't the ideal thing to have happen.
Heather assumed the meat station, and began turning out letter-perfect steaks...but she was still stung by the chewout she got back an epi or so ago when she tried to prepare spaghetti ahead; when Ramsay wanted to know who cooked the steaks, she hesitated, sure she was going to be laid into.

The frustration visible on Chef's face when he had to work overtime just to deliver a compliment was priceless.

The Red kitchen was a disaster area. The "simple" sashimi appetizer Viriginia was trying to produce–she could scarcely slice the fish, citing it as "wiggly". The lam that Sara claimed to be an expert in? The only thing she was an expert in is messing it up. She even lipped off of Chef about it and got the round chewing she so richly deserved.

How bad did it get? Here's how bad: by the time the desserts had gone out on the Blue side, the Red side still hadn't sent out one entree...and the Blue team had to go over to the red side to help them. This was after Chef took lamb off the menu because of Sara's appalling performance.

Did I say that they finally complete a service?

Yes. They finally completed a service.

The Leaving

There was no best of the worst–the entire Red team was sent to nominate one of thier own. But when the ceremony happened, Chef called all three Reds up–each one of the ladies were liable to go home.

We all rooted for Sara.

Alas, it was not to be. No matter how much of a creep Sara is, Chef was looking to keep the leader-sort, and Sara could be one. Maribel, being the third-wheel of the Red team, was the most obvious choice, no matter how much Sara deserved to get kicked to the curb.

Well, at least the homesickness is going to be cured.

Remarkable Moment of the Epi

In the middle of the dinner service, with the Blues smoking the Reds, what should happen but...a delivery?!?!

I'm no restauranteur, but the few foodies I've talked to say this is vanishingly unlikely to happen. Credit the producers for this little one. Maybe they thought Red needed a chance to catch up. Not, of course, in the end, that it did any good.

Pity Poor Jean-Phillippe

That guy took so much grief from the customers I swear he was about to cry over it. In as much as tables ordered from two menus, some tables' occupants began to tuck in before thier tablemates, the tension was unique. Pity they didn't subtitle his words. I'm sure they were interesting, but I couldn't understand them.

Again, We Predict

The judgment we made about Keith and Heather, that they will be the final two, we'll be happy to stand by. We will, however move Virginia up, as she's showed unexpected gumption.

Next week, as the teams will be merged, the dynamic will be such that the weak players from each team–Sara and Garrett–will be much at risk. Sara is more ambitious at this point, so I'm betting that on next week's show, unless Virginia flames out or Sara finally screws someone over so that it can't be ignored, Garrett will be the next to go. He's fading.

On Next Week's Epi

We're sure something's bound to happen, but can you really trust the teasers anymore?

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18 July 2006

[distractions] What I Think Will Happen On Hell's Kitchen This Week

This week, of course, is epi six of Hell's Kitchen. Due to the vagaries of my current (third-shift) schedule I've not watched it yet.

I've had to tread lightly upon my searches.

But, based on the last several epis, here's what I think will happen:
  • In a highly unexpected plot twist, Keith and Heather will marry. Nobody will be more surprised than Heather.
  • Tom will return, only to eat Garrett, then be elminated once again. Yes, there will be sweat.
  • Viriginia will at last satisfy the regulars over at TVgasm by taking her shirt off.
  • After this, devoid of any remaining personality, Virginia and Maribel will merge into one gestalt entity, MariVirginiaBel, who will improve slightly before elimination.
  • An actual donkey will be employed by Chef Ramsay. Ironically, because of that donkey, Hell's Kitchen will get its first completed dinner service out.
  • Giacomo will return to get given the million-dollar restauarant, having learnt how to channel Julia Child.
  • Chef Ramsay will barbecue the backside of the man who came up with the deep-fried Mars bar.
  • A confused Heather will inadvertantly solve the conflict between the Israelis and the Lebanese.
Gosh...I can't wait to see if I was right!

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15 July 2006

[blog] Liz Called Me An SOB!

A few posts ago I mentioned Successful-Blog, a place where Liz Strauss and regulars hold court on how to (in short) turn your 'blog from something self-indulgent (not that that's necessarily a bad thing, now) into an effective tool for self-promotion and information–adding value to what you do on the 'web.

I found it inspiring enough that it caused me to write my recent two-parter on how to hand-code Blogger links. I'm thinking a little differently about things now, and taking some things a little more seriously than I used to.

Anyway! In doing this, I must have fulfilled Liz's dictum that I take the conversation forward and make it valuable to my own readers (however numerous that you are), as I have been named a SOB and have been duly enshrined...remembering, of course, that that means "Successful (and Outstanding) Blogger".

Liz's blog is an interesting read assembled by someone who's always thinking and whose thinking is fun to watch. She doesn't stay still for long. She has passion for what she does, and that, as I've pointed out elsewhere, is inspiring.

Successful Blog is a valuable resource, if you want your 'blog to do more than just be an online diary. A definite must-read.

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13 July 2006

[blog_world] Not Scary. Not A Duck. Funny As Hell.

Scaryduck: One British person who had me laughing out loud.


(Warning: not necessarily for the kiddies. Some frank language. Discretion advised.)

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12 July 2006

[distractions] Hell's Kitchen, Epi Five

We find ourselves, while pleased that the story is progressing, fairly irritated by the mix of promo teasing and editing. Please someone correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the narrator say, of this weeks epi, that there "would be celebrities in the restaurant–but Chef Ramsay would be all business?"

Where were the celebrities? Can I believe anything the teasers tell me? Did I dream that?

Anyway! It's fun and frolic and multiple donkey-whipping in HK this last time. Virginia comes into her own but acts like a complete boob, and Kevin surges to the front.

And did Sarah get booted? Sure should have...

But first, this word about Keith

He may have it in the kitchen but he ain't got it in the style department. Last epi, when everyone was tearing back to the restaurant to get ready for Hell's Kindergarten, he loped far behind everyone else, stutter-stepping it. In an interview, he opined that "that's how K-Grease rolls".

Now, cards on the table: I'm not the most fashion-platy person on earth, it's jeans and polo shirts for me most all of the time, and I could stand to lose rather a few pounds; as far as looks, I'm hardly preposessing. That said, someone of Keith's physique and looks should never accept the nickname "K-Grease" and should never, ever, say that "that's how he rolls".

That, and get rid of that damn' Kewpie doll hairstyle, and his creep-out factor should decrease by at least a little.

There. I've said it. I feel better. Or, at least I will, until I see Keith's twisted visage again.

And, now, as the dude likes to say, the continuation

In the dorms after the disaster that resulted in Tom's going home, Virginia tries to ring Sarah up for hanging her out to dry in The Turbot Incident, but Sarah wasn't having it, and Virginia's passive, wishy-washy way of pushing her on it was making no impression other than Virginia doesn't know how to get agressive when someone gives her the shaft. Sarah saunters out of the commons muttering "Oh, well, I'm not popular again." Again? This is her MO?

What a creep.

The teams awake next morning and proceed to the dining room for their challenge of the day. Arrayed before them is a small morning buffet of haute cuisine appetizers: caviar, kebabs, pate, and fondue. Quite a breakfast, yes?

Actually, no caviar or pate for me before noon. Or, for that matter, before 8pm. Or, for that matter, at all. But this gourmand digresses. Anyway! The chefs dine and taste and find most of it quite okay, with Virginia tellingly commenting on how the last time she'd had caviar (ewww! Lips that touch caviar will never touch mine!) it was all fishy and awful, and this stuff was quite amazingly good.

Of course, nothing here is ever as it seems, and this is no exception: we find the Ramdog has set up them the bomb. The pate: ground up and formed hot dogs. The kebabs: fashioned from a single TV dinner (looked like sliced turkey-n-gravy). The caviar: "fake" caviar harvested from a catfish (still, ewww. WTF is it about gourmets and fish eggs? Is it sort of a rich-person club badge to eat really horrid stuff with a straight face?) The fondue: aerosol-can cheese. Most of the chefs laugh about it except Virginia, who got in a snit about it in the one-on-one.

Yeah, it smarts when your idol disses you, I guess.

And now, the daily challenge: Get Tasty!

This is a lead-in to the challenge of the day; the taste-test. The two teams go head-to-head to identify, blindfolded and ear-plugged, a variety of ingredients, that go from the sophisticated (sea urchin) to the mundane (hot dogs, potato). This was Virginia's moment in the sun, where her relatively accurate palate (identifying four of five at her go) assured a win by the Red team.

Oh, and Keith? Hot dogs, as it turned out, are slammin. He should just stop talking. Really.

The prize: a photo shoot for TV Guide and pampering beforehand, complete with The Ramdog. The penalty? Remember how everyone was simply sent off to the dorm at the end of that last dinner service? All that cookware was allowed to sit out and season for a night and get really nasty. The kitchen needed attention at the end of that night; it really needed it now. Have fun, Blues.

While Blue gets busy (grimly but determinedly; you've got to like them for that) Red enjoys the attention. Just to rub it in, however, when they run out of champagne (another Rich Person Food I Just Don't Understand) Garrett is made to run some more bottles to them–and by run, we mean on foot. He tried to hang about for a few minutes after the delivery was made, but Chef was having none of that.

During the shoot, Sarah proves her class to us by letting one rip: yes, she farted. Full of the gas she's been a-cookin her sinister little plots with, no doubt. And, of course, in true Sarah style, was proud of it: "Yeah, I lifted a leg and let one go". Creep.

Just one more digression before I move on: What is it that when Reds win they get high-class and face time with the Chef, and when Blue wins they get dropped off, all by themselves, at the amusement park like the stepkids? Just what is up with that?

The Dinner Service: Will They Finally Get One Completed?

I'm a johnny-come-lately to HK, it's true: we only watched the last few epis of the last series and missed the climax. We are invested in this one, though, so could someone tell me how much of the last drama went by before the teams actually connected and did what a restaurant's supposed to do?

Are these people that sad?

On the Red side we got to see Rachel tank big-time. All the night long–even after a heavy pep-talk by Chef–she was like a deer caught in the headlamps, paralyzed and overwhelmed. After all-but-burning a quail and sending it out anyway, it became Communications Breakdown all the way around for her. Afraid to tell Chef she'd misjudged the time on a Wellington, she didn't communicate, and by the end, with only three tables remaining to complete the entree service, she attempted to doctor up a well-done Wellington to make it look medium-rare.

Big mistake. Chef can tell by touch that the meat is done properly. And this was after the heartfelt pep-talk.

Another Red low point was a big black hair on a foie gras which caused it to be returned to the kitchen. Prime suspect: Maribel, but that plot thread (sorry) wasn't followed up.

Virginia got kudos, for communicating. She got an actual compliment from Chef, which sent her into waves of smugness that almost resembled orgasm. In the one-on-one all she did was grin like a lobotomized cherub (with harp backing on the soundtrack, indicating that someone over there has a definite sense of humor). Well, she's back in the good books of her BFF Chef Ramsay, I guess.

Sarah just stayed in the background, cooking up more nefarious schemes, I don't doubt.

The Blues were better, but today it wasn't because of Heather, it was because of Keith. Heather got knocked off her stride early, when she moved to start preparing pasta way too early and Chef rang her up on it. All that focus evaporated like morning mist, she fell out of the zone, and didn't get back in the entire night. All she could do was, first, chew on Garrett for talking to her and then invade Garrett's station to try and help him get his job done.

Heather wasn't just off her game; she was so far away from it she'd of had to have made a toll call to it.

Keith pulled the Blue team though the night but he wasn't without his flaws. When a dish was returned to the Blue kitchen he started shifting and shuffling about and wouldn't look the Chef in the eye and he kept fidgeting so much even I wanted to get in there and smack him one. He acted just like a kid caught doing something he should have known better about.

Between Heather's crisis and Keith, Garrett kind of moved into the background. I don't think he had much of a chance to screw up.

Chef was impressed enough with Keith's gumption that he gave him the most honestly sincere pep-talk we've heard yet. Chef sees the culinary professional hiding out behind the "Cha-ching" and the "Slammin" and the "K-Grease". We sure wish he would.

The Shut-it-down moment

It was the silence of the lamb...sauce. Someone forgot it. Garrett got it up to the pass. Chef insulted him for it.

All but three Red tables served. So. Damn. Close. With this group, you didn't actually expect them to complete anything now...be honest with yourselves.

Sappho Must Not Be Denied

Of course, little as I want to, I've got to mention the cheapass way the show tried to make the friendship between Heather and Rachel into The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name™. This was even more hackeneyed than the "Battle Between The Sexes" subplot which was put out of our misery by the expedient of the men dwindling so fast.

To be honest, I was inspired by seeing such warm, human affection between two colleagues who clicked.

Which, of course, Sarah had something to say about; she thought thier behavior 'unprofessional'. I mean, look who's talking?

The Elimination, or Virginia Makes An Ass Of Herself

The Reds were tonight's losers, and no surprise there. Despite another dinner service not completed, the Blues served every entree, and this with one less chef than the Red team, who left three tables hungry. Virginia, being the best of the worst, is given the task of nominating two of her Red colleagues for elimination.

Heather, in what has to be a bizarre attempt to score gravitas points, pipes up and speaks for the entire Blue kitchen in saying that nobody performed up to potential and all Blues really deserved to be on the chopping block. Sa'what, Keith's look seems to have said. This is a strategy I think of as tearing down your colleagues when you're having a bad day to make yourself feel better. This was Heather's low point.

After Red sturm und drang, Virginia made her noms: Rachel, which nobody was surprised at, and Maribel, on the basis of the hair, which did surprise everyone, especially in as much as Virginia delivered a long, (picture Garrett yawning), pained (picture Chef massaging the bridge of his nose), somewhat self-indulgent speech about why she considered nomming Sarah.

To nobody's surprise, Rachel was 86'd. It was a particularly heartfelt sendoff by Chef, who gave her props for working her ass off in that kitchen.

The State Of Play

The original field of twelve has been winnowed to six: on the Red side–Maribel, Virginia, and Sarah; on the Blue–Heather, Keith, and Garrett.

I'm sure that the teaser had something tittilating about next weeks show but I don't remember it and I don't trust it anyway. Altho I do remember that we are having a redux of last season's Red vs Blue menu competition...at least they had pictures of it. And something big's gonna happen...altho they've said that in weeks past, something big's always gonna happen.

The Smart Money

I'm still, despite Heather's shabby performance this epi, expecting Heather to make it though to the final two. Keith's gumption stood him in good stead; despite his endlessly-irritating 'white rapper' style, he's got the passion and the smarts, and I think it just may be Heather vs Keith in the final.

Garrett is fading, just a bit. He's got the drive but seems to be weakening. He does strike me as smart enough to win though, so while I don't see him winning out I'm not going to count him out just yet. He could yet surprise us.

I've just about written the three other women off; Virginia came up strong but she's got to have more than communication skills to make it there, and the school-girl crush thing has gotten way old. Maribel; is anyone else getting tired of the homesick-shtick? Did nobody explain to her that she'd be away from home for a while? Did it not occur to her? This is the most exciting thing she's likely to do, with the possiblity of the payday of a lifetime at the end, and she can't focus. I think her husband and family will be there when she gets done–in the meantime, if she doesn't focus, she's doomed. I don't get the idea that she has a vision of herself as a chef. And, of course, Sarah. I'm starting to think they are maniuplating her appearances for maximum Omarosa; otherwise why do I have this sinking feeling she won't soon get the comeuppance she so richly deserves? Of course, don't get me wrong; I still think she's a creep.

Best Remark of the Epi

This one goes to Chef Ramsey: Donkey's Kitchen! Should we change the f***ing logo? DK???

Next week, then, everyone.

Recommended extra reading

The snarky, sidesplitting recap of the show over at TVgasm.com. Just go, read. It's the sort of stuff that the abbreviation ROFLMAO was invented for.

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10 July 2006

[blog] Zen and the Art of Hand-Coding Links 2: Image Boogaloo

In this recent post, I went through the process of taking your Blogger template and self-customizing the link roll, and why I think it's important that, despite (or maybe because of) the availablility of tools that will do the job for you, that one should have some idea of how to code the links themselves.

Note that my own Contact directory has sprouted images where the text links used to be. I had been satisfied with the text links for a long time but as a visual person I wasn't to be happy with them on a permanent basis. I also got a bit of a designing jones on and thought this was an apt outlet.

Note that, about all my contact link images, they are the same dimensions–200 px by 42 px. This was sheerly subjective, a dimension suggested by the width of the Designorati and QVI buttons above and arrived at by experiment; as it happened, a 200 pixel width seemed just right for the sidebar, and 42 pixels height just kind of happened–any coincidental parallels with Hitchhiker's Guide are just that.

Here's the way I got it done.

First: An Angle Of Attack

I approached this as a design challenge. Actually, I didn't sit down and say to myself, "Self, lets design up some buttons"; it was rather a sense of staleness that caused the idea to bubble up and from there it evolved. Once I got on the track of this, I asked and answered the questions of how I wanted it to look overall, what sort of 'attitude' the buttons would have, and as mentioned, such things as width and height.

I also decided I would keep to colors related to the colors in my logo. This, and the repetition of the logo in the buttons, contribute to a unity of theme and form which reinforce the story the buttons tell.

The font was a natural: the civilized being's font, Gill Sans. Repeating the font of the blog itself as well as the one in the head image, reinforces the design unity.

Second: Pictures Tell A Story

In the human interface design guidelines for Mac OS X, there is a paradigm touched on about "telling a story". Take, for example the icons for Preview (a photo with a loupe), iPhoto (a photo with a digital camera), and TextEdit (a stack of paper with a mechanical pencil). Each expresses not only what the app does but what you would use IRL to do it with. It's a very elegant paradigm that, in the typical Apple style, eloquently compels.

I didn't actually realize it at the the time, but this paradigm was probably informing what I was doing with the buttons. In all, my logo makes a background, supporting appearance–soft, but there.

In the agora email link, I felt the logo was all that was needed. The Gmail logo was added to the Gmail contact button, for an obvious reason. The logo got together with a file folder to make you think of a folder you can look in to find my designs and such; the homepage reference is obvious but I had fun with it; the Wish list, AIM, YIM, and newsfeed all carry it though. The images in the background support and lend punch and artistry to the message of the type without overwhelming it.

Third: Install the Dam' Image Already!

Okay, okay. Let's get started.

The key to getting an image in your HTML is the img tag. A typical, basic image tag looks like this:

<img src="http://host/path">

And that's really all it is. Tell the browser you have an image; tell it where to find it. The attribute src means "source", and points the browser to the...well, the source file.

There are a three additional attributes that the basic HTML coder should grok. These are:
  • height: defines the number of pixels high that the graphic will occupy;
  • width: defines the number of pixels wide that the graphic will occupy;
  • alt: allows the coder to define a text string that will show up if the image doesn't load or if you mouse over it, and also for visually impaired websurfers who depend on accessability features.
Let's say that my emal button graphic is, as mentioned, 200 px wide, 42 px tall, and I want the phrase "Mail me at agora" to pop up on mouseover or if a visually impaired surfer needs to locate it. Further, let's assume that the image is housed at the location http://www.foobar.com/images/email.jpg. The img tag will look like this:

<img src="http://www.foobar.com/images/email.jpg" width=200 height=42 alt="Mail Me at Agora">

This tag, when added to an HTML file which is loaded into the browser, will display the graphic. But we don't just want to display the graphic, we want to tie it to a link. Recall that the link

<a href="mailto:eagle@agora.rdrop.com">Mail Me at Agora</a>

Will result in the following:

Mail Me at Agora

All we have to do to make it a button is substitute the textual string with the img tag:

<a href="mailto:eagle@agora.rdrop.com"><img src="http://www.foobar.com/images/email.jpg" width=200 height=42 alt="Mail Me at Agora"></a>

Which should result in this display:

contact via agora

Which is much prettier. Man cannot live by type along (even if type is teh cool).

And here's a slick thing to do that will simplify your tag and improve your display: use your favorite photo editor to size the graphic to the size you want it to display. This way you can omit the width and height attributes and the image will display better–letting your browser size the image usually makes it look poorly.

Fourth: Where to Store The Piccies

Notice of course that to have images, one has to have them stored somewhere. You don't have to get yourself an image host to get this, though; the quick-and-dirty (but mad effective) way is to use Blogger itself–store the images in blog post drafts.

When you upload your graphics to Blogger, it gets stored on a server called photos1.blogger.com. Once uploaded, each graphic has a unique URL that can be copied and pasted. Images saved in a draft post are just as uploaded as ones in a published post. I have an armful of draft posts that contain nothing but images and discriptive titles to that I can find them easily. This drafts have become an online image library that I can take from at will.

To use your uploaded images, open the draft post, control-click (right-click) on the graphic and choose "Copy Image Location" from the contextual menu. Then, go to your HTML and paste in the copied URL into the src attribute of the img tag.

And there you have it: links with illumination. Much more visually exciting, and all you did was basic HTML, copying and pasting. There are a lot of details, but let them sink in, and you'll find that it really is quite simple.

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07 July 2006

[blog] A Change of Header Image

Just a little self-indulgence here. The Zim's ball is unique but I thought it was getting a little stale–but worry not, it exists as an image in a draft and can be recalled at any time.

The current one is brought out of one of my personal favorites. One of the ironies of the Marquam Bridge is that it's got just about the best view of downtown Portland there is to be had. With nowhere to pull over, you've got to get it in flight, hurtling over this very harrowing bridge at traffic speed...whilst always having to worry about someone pulling between you and the view if you aren't in the extreme left lane.

A little photoshoppery and...bingo...a new attitude.

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06 July 2006

[blog] Dreaming of 10,000, part 2

Just about 20 minutes ago, my chronicle noticed, by SiteMeter's books, it's 10,000th visitor. It was someone who may have generated a search hit on that last article. It was someone from Rego Park, Illinois, who followed a link from Technorati (glad I started adding post tags).

Also, this last day, thanks to the Ken Lay post, was my highest traffic day ever. The Zeitgeist is a spooky thing sometimes.

I don't care what anybody else thinks; I'm thrilled. From little starts do big things come, and I appreciate every last visitor I get. Sure, I'm far enough from any sort of notoriety it's still a toll call, but if I'd not have tried, I'd not have gotten this far.

So thanks, whoever it was you were. I appreciate you stopping by (as well as anybody else who did).

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[us_news] Ken Lay Is Dead...Or Is He?

My God...They've killed Kenny...you bastards!

It's no secret that Ken Lay, potential source of future income for a flock of legal eagles, has shuffled of this mortal coil, ironically avoiding sentencing on that Enron spot of bother.

In some cases, someone once told me, death can actually be a smart career move.

The medical examiner in the county where he expired has publicly stated, with no equivocation, that it was advanced coronary disease. Later it was disclosed on the TV that he had a 10-year history of heart problems.

But there's just something so–well, timely–about the demise that it couldn't stop tongues from wagging. Did he know too much? Did he decide to take the quick way out rather than spend the rest of his life in prison, sparing his family? We find it ironic that while Mr Lay wasn't noted for exhibiting any symptoms during the rather stressful trial, whereas his attorney was sidelined with heart complaints. So, was it a set up?

We think not; we're willing to believe that he really did legitimately pass on. Oftentimes things that look like a conspiracy only look that way. But we notice a certain undercurrent of conspiracy-talk that just seems to us to be louder than usual, garnering commentary in various major news organizations. We find this amusing–darkly so, to be sure, but amusing nonetheless.

Our guess is that it's public cynicism and bitterness writ historically large. Your mileage may vary.

But perhaps the most amusing note, casting an almost surreal light, comes from the rapid-fire updating of the Wikipedia entry on Ken Lay. MSNBC filed an online story about the whole imbroglio, but here's a thumbnail (all times Eastern):
  1. 10:06 AM–death was "an apparent suicide".
  2. 10:08 AM–death was "apparent heart attack or suicide".
  3. 10:08 AM–cause of death "yet to be determined".
  4. 10:09 AM–"no further details have been officially released".
  5. 10:11 AM–"The guilt of ruining so many lives finaly led him to his suicide".
  6. 10:12 AM–"According to Lay's pastor the cause was a 'massive coronary' heart attack".
  7. Right Now–"While vacationing in Colorado on July 5, 2006, Kenneth Lay died from coronary artery disease. The Pitkin Sheriff’s Department confirmed that officers were called to Lay’s house in Old Snowmass, Colorado, near Aspen at 1:41 AM MDT. He was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:11 AM MDT."
Here's to Wikipedia: shedding the cool light of unintentional absurdist humor on our darkest moments. Good job, guys.

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04 July 2006

[logo_design] Stark's Vacuums

The logo in the illustration should have instant associations for anyone who's either a)Painfully Portland, b)grew up during the glory days of heavy metal home appliances, c)has a good vacuum cleaner, or d)any combination.

In the Portland commercial landscape, Stark's is a stalwart. We don't know if it has any connection with Benjamin Stark, for whom Stark Street is named, but it wouldn't surprise us.

We wanted to hold off on this for a few more days until we were able to visit the building and get a few piccies of that, but figured our all-Gordon-Ramsay-all-the-time approach needed a bit of (dare I say) leavening. So, back on the design train it is.

Stark's sells vacuums, of course. It does it very very well indeed, since 1934, as a matter of fact. There are eight stars in the Starks constellation, but the flagship at 107 NE Grand Avenue in Portland deserves special attention, if only for the whimsical mural on the Grand Avenue side, but it does boast the only Vacuum Cleaner museum that we know about (and, sadly, have not yet visited, but that's on the short list).

The logo is genius, and we know it's easy to throw that word about, but look at it! What else can you say? The script is reminiscent of that time, in the 50s, 60s, and into the 70s, which I think of as "The Golden Age of Heavy Appliances". It was a brave era, on the edge of the Space Age, when women used appliances but men moved them. They were built heavy but they were made to run for, seemingly, hundreds of years.

Its retro hook recalls the industrial style of the Hoovers and the Kerbys as well as the script badges of old classic cars from even earlier, somehow avoiding the quaint dating that such design moves can sometimes produce. The visual coup de grace is the extremely clever working of the stem stroke of the minuscule t into–what else–an upright vacuum cleaner. I think we actually had that model when I was but a neat thing.

What this does is deftly plant the idea of "this is the place to go in Portland for a damn fine vacuum cleaner". Where else? The logo is also well-done for a variety of functional reasons, the most important of which being that the simplified shapes and strong line thicknesses will look good at just about any size, from on the side of a building to a salesman's business card. This is one of those designs I wish I'd thought of.

The simple yet sophisticated design style is continued at Stark's website (http://www.starks.com–one wonders what they had to go through to get that gem of a URL) that replicates the feel of the logo throughout the page headings (a similar-feeling though not identical script) and over all apt design–navigation clear and quick, even for dialup customers, apt font and illustration choices through out. There's nothing about thier web presentation that doesn't just work. I don't know if there's a web design competition, but if there is, they ought to submit.

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[pdx_life] "PCC Kicks Ass"

Too true. Too true.

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03 July 2006

[distractions] Gordon Ramsay, Straight Up

In search of something to satisfy our Chef Ramsay jones generated by the lack of a Hell's Kitchen epi this week, we stumbled on this interesting little item.

One of the criticisms we've heard of the Chef is that his act is just that–an act, some version of himself amped up just to give the public what it wants. It's a charge that's been levelled at home as well as here in America.

Last November, according to The Associated Press, a leading UK daily, The Evening Standard, made the accusation that another Ramsay media effort, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, a show in which the Chef steps in to ailing restaurants and puts them to right, was faked in many ways; the restaurants and kitchens were, contrary to appearance, within code and actually adequately run and were faked up to look bad. Moreover, the publication accused that, in one instance, the production had actually gone so far as to install a substandard chef in a failing English bistro called Bonaparte's.

According to AP's account, Chef Ramsay won his libel suit against the paper in late June, garnering USD 138,000 in damages and printed apologies in The Evening Standard as well as an apparent public acknoweldgement of error.

The AP gave Chef the last word, quoting him as saying: "I won't let people write anything they want to about me. Even I have limits and on this occasion the line was crossed."

As far as we go, we're hoping to find Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares on DVD somewhere.

(References: Slashfood.com, The Cincinnati Enquirer. Image reference: Slashfood.com.)

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[distractions] Hell's Kitchen, This Week

We'd like to say something about Hell's Kitchen.

Truly. That is what we'd really like to do.

However, FAUX is under the impression that what we really want tonight is some sucky Adam Sandler movie. Well, wait one; they're all sucky (except for Happy Gilmore, where at least Bob Barker beat the daylights out of him), so if you're unclear on which one, let's just say that Frank Capra did it better first, and it was even sappy then.

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02 July 2006

[metro] The City of Bull Mountain, Oregon?

One item we're tracking in the background around here is the ongoing tussle over the future of the Bull Mountain area and, such as it will be, its future.

It will be recalled that we followed the establishment of the City of Damascus with a similar interest. Greater Portland, regardless of its small-town feel, is changing over time, and we feel little fear of contradiction if we note that the various communities (however they define themselves) are either seeking to change with the times or finding themselves forced to do so if thier individual characters are to survive.

Who, 15 years ago, would have thought a City of Damascus, Oregon was feasible? Today, it's a reality.

Tigard's desire to bring the Bull Mountain area (generally speaking, west of SW Pacific Highway, south of SW Scholls Ferry Rd, north of King City and the Tualatin River, and centered on SW Beef Bend Rd and Bull Mountain Road) into its civic sphere were well-documented by The O over a series of months. The drama climaxed in an election which found most applicable voters within the bounds of Tigard approving but an even greater number of voters in the County area of Bull Mountain saying no and, as a result, dooming that effort.

Now, a movement is afoot to create the area a city. While we haven't, at the present time, been able to find a map of the proposed city limits, but the Tigard Times reported it is article of 1 June 2006 "Bull Mountain May Need A Mayor In November", by Barbara Sherman, that "Its boundaries would be the Tigard city limits and Scholls Ferry, Roy Rogers and Beef Bend roads." Lisa Hamilton Treick, a member of the board of Friends of Bull Mountain, expressed the area thus (as also reported by the Tigard Times on 1 June 2006):
And you know the beauty of this effort? No more annexation issues. The City of Bull Mountain would butt up against King City, Sherwood, Tigard and Beaverton. It’s a known quantity.
We don't quite see how this new city would butt up against Sherwood unless it subsequently leapt across the Tualatin River and took in at least two or three lineal miles southward, but the rest of the comment makes perfect sense, and leads us toward our point, as does the following remark, als by Hamilton Trieck, and also reported by the Tigard Times:
I firmly believe they’d [meaning Washington County–ed.] like to see this resolved, especially since the county will be doing the planning for the area (when its urban services agreement with the city ends July 1). There is no way we can work with the city of Tigard.
Now we get to the nut of the thing. Recall in our commentary about the Damascus process that we felt a defining issue was the one of local control. The Damascians didn't care for someone down on Grand Avenue telling them what to do; they've solved that essential problem (and are now experiencing, perforce, the growing pains). The Bull Montaines are perhaps justifiably tired of being batted about by Tigard, and with the political power of a city government, they will have to deal with the area as a peer.

With power comes responsiblilty, of course, and that means city services. As a new town of about 8,000, Bull Mountain will contract with various local authorities to provide police, fire, and utilities, which is a smart way to go if you want to keep your city government small. At least as far as water goes, Tigard will lose a potential part of the city, but gain a customer, which may be better for the cities in the long run.

Tigard is supportive of the effort, in a fashion that makes us think they've got some jiu-jitsu movement up thier sleeve, but we're not quite smart enough to go there...though it does leave us scratching our head.

In any event, we'll know in November. It looks like they'll get this one on the ballot.

For more information, you'll want to go here:
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01 July 2006

[blogs] Toward being an SOB

It's not what you think.

Liz Strauss writes, edits, and has worked in publishing. She currently bills herself as a "writer, career coach, and strategic planner with a focus on corporate blogging and strategic marketing."

She communicates. She solves problems. She wants to encourage the growth of SOBs. Just what are they? Successfull (and) Outstanding Bloggers. In her own words, they are bloggers who:
Offer a great feature, post, idea, or an article that will shed new light for the blogosphere. Add an outstanding idea, insight, or spark to the conversation going on at this blog or start one on your own and share what happened here. Contribute something that demonstrates that you think like a Successful and Outstanding Blogger. Find a unique way to “add value” to the conversation going on in the blogosphere to make it grow stronger
The goal of her endeavor in this area, "Successful-Blog" (http://successful-blog.com) is kind of like a combination between salon and idea marketplace. She (and the fellow-bloggers who convene there) chat and share ideas on how those of us who use blogs as part of a business strategy (whatever that may be) can make those blogs true resources.

I find it a compelling resource, one which inspires me to do more than just put my opinion up. Certainly I want to do that, but if I do just that, why should anybody care (or more importantly, why should I bother?)? The influences in my own life (including some notable current ones) suggest that one of the highest aspirations in a life is to help others in your community (however that's defined) become able to do what they do in a better way. I try to integrate that here, most notably recently about two posts back, where I described how to hand-code links in your Blogger blog.

Successful-Blog has joined my linkroll. Depending on what you want for your blog (higher traffic, interesting commenters, or whatever) maybe it should be in yours, too.

Forward the conversation.

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