28 February 2005

[design, blog_life] Odds and Ends 28.02.05

I Get Great Email Sometimes

So I get email tonight from a surprising young lady. Text follows:
Mr. Klein,
I am a 1st grade student doing a report on the Broadway Bridge. Your site was very helpful. I used a lot of information from it. I am working on my bibliography. I need to know what date you posted this article. Can you please email me back?
Thank you,

Do I need to say that my heart melted just a bit when I saw that? How very cool and, sorry if this sounds patronizing, but I'm just gobstopped that a first-grader writes and speaks so danged well! Either she's precocious or I need to get out more. Heck, not even Your Truly spoke that well when he was six!

Quite an honor. Quite.

The website is still being hosted here.

New Links

Jeff Fisher Logomotives is the commercial website of a local graphic designer. He has a very successful practice and does great work...just look at his site. When we endeavor to enter a new field or get into the place we've always wanted to be, we tend to find examples of the kind of artist we wish to become. This is one of those sites (Pariah's would be another). He's also written a crackling good book you can get at Amazon and through Creative Latitude called The Savvy Designer's Guide to Success, which I"m partaking just now. It's a great read, a great design, fun and energetic. Contributes to the sense of hope. Also, there was an article in the Oregonian a few years back about Jeff which went a long way toward me investigating the field of graphic design, and largely contributed to me taking up the study.

Creative Latitude is a site by experienced designers for all designers. There is a lot of help and inspiration there for those of us starting out, and access to some free and useful tools for plying the trade (how does free Excel spreadsheets with hourly rate and billing and estimating calculators sound?). This is a must-visit if you're graphically designerly inclined.


[pcc_life] You Can't Keep a Good Man Down. Or Me, For That Matter.

Today, registration opened online at my.pcc.

It has been an ordeal (To be precise, I had to deal! Thank you, Thompson!).

Now, I had all my dux in ero, as it were. Checked in with my advisor to make sure whether or not I had to get myself some slips signed. Cece said no, I was in the groove (well, she didn't say that...that was the gist).

So, I make my notes and get ready. At 0700 today, I was in front of the Mac, with my unCalendar open to the page with my info...good to go!!!!

At 0700, Secure Online Services opens for bidness. I go to registration...Hey! Says I can't register until 0800. Great! I'm keyed up as it is and I can't get down to business. So I bide my time untill 0800. Surf some web. Pet some cat. Read some comic.

0800: Bingo! The Add Classes webform loads...get my CRNs from the unCalendar...type 'em in...submit and....

GD 223, Graphic Design 6 ... Department Approval Required.
GD 229, Portfolio Prep ... Department Approval Required.
PT 244, Preparing Files for Print ... Department Approval Required.

I am not registered. Holy Moly. Visions of seats filling before I can get to them and my whole three year study made pointless by one thirty-minute time period. Now, I wasn't tired...I had taken a day off at TCWMNBN, and for no obvious reason slept 14 hours, rising at 0200 approx. But because of this Twilight Zone (cue music) rhythm that I had done, I was feeling decidedly weird. Then, an hour previous, I was feeling weird and keyed-up. Now, I was feeling weird, keyed-up, and about to fly into a panic.

Soon enough, me and The Wife[tm] were on the way up to Sylvania campus (a trip that was supposed to have been rendered...well, academic...by the 'web). Now, I knew it was possible that the last thing I was going to see was my advisor in her office, but that's on me, and it's the chance you take by just dropping in when you can at any time. Instructors are busy people and get called away an awful lot. So, it didn't surprise me when she wasn't in the office. So, me and The Wife[tm] cooled our heels outside the office for a few minutes.

Deciding that maybe there was some fly in the ointment that had cleared up by then, we went to the Computer Resource Center in the CC Building to try from there. I could tell then that Registration was having at least as bad a day as I was. myPCC was in serious trouble. I'd noted this when I tried to reload the page at home before striking out; the load just hung and wouldn't go anywhere. A helpful CRC tutor knew just what I was trying to do, came over, told me to go to the BanWEB main page, click through to the Tillamook Bay CC login page, and go from their server. It worked. But it didn't solve my problem, I was still getting the message that "Department Approval Required".

Back to in front of my advisors office. She didn't come by yet, but her operational peer and organizational subordinate (it's a small department) Linnea Gruber showed up. I told her my problem and the both of us went in to see Deb Schwing in the GD Mac Lab. As it turned out, the college was doing this to all graphic design majors and they were preparing to hand out green override slips to all qualified comers. Linnea had Deb write me out one, seeing as I'd come all that way just for that.

If I ever get a billion dollars, these people are getting a ton of money. Each.

So, hie us hence to the CC Building, to see the registration person. Wait in the line. Slide the green slip across. Tap-tap-tap on the computer keys and....

There's a problem.

Oh, yes. Another problem. I was getting a "Co-requisite" message on the one class I needed most desperately, Graphic Design 6. Seems that there's a course, "Combined Graphic Applications". GD 242. A course that has you use a combination of programs to produce a product...Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign (PCC's gone off QuarkXPress)...It was substituted with a course in beginning InDesign.

FWIW, I'm glad I got to know basic InDesign. Anyway.

The system had flagged that I hadn't taking GD 242, while ignoring the datum that this other class was supposed to be a a valid substitution for it. The regsitrar would not register me for Graphic Design 6. And fall went my crest, again.

"This is turning into a nightmare," I say to The Wife[tm], who is my emotional support system right now, and no doubt knows it. Back to the front of my advisor's office to linger until she shows up. I'm starting to feel like a stalker. This is so not fair.

Eventually she shows up. This is the kind of quality Cece Custforth is: The Wife[tm] is examining a bruise on her leg, and Cece comes up, and I say "There's a problem", and she looks at The Wife[tm] examining her leg, thinking there's been an injury and she needs help. How could you not idolize a person like this?

But I do tell her my problem and she promises There Will Be A Solution. Something about the way she says it calms me down a great deal and I believe her. We go.

I get home and check my registration at PCC and...there it is. I'm registered for all the classes I need to graduate.

I nominate the faculty of PCC Graphic Design for sainthood. I don't care if they might not be Catholic. Also, I have the best advisor in the world. Don't try to compete with her..you cahnt.

Now, all I have to do to close out this term is get that paper on German-Oregonian history done, and design a poster to go with it. I'm breathing again.

And the funny thing is, about halfway through this next term, when I got two projects due and I'm getting by on about three hours of sleep a day because I'm still having to do four tens at TCWMNBN, I'm going to wonder if it was worth it, getting all stressed about it. And I may think it wasn't. But I will be wrong.

When that diploma is in my hands I"ll realize that...it was. Oh, yes. It was.

[meme] Saturday Slant: Urgent Spring

Though only late February, Spring is in the air. Crocus have blossomed alongside the daffodils, and the sunlight clings to day just a little bit longer. About this time of year Spring urges grip our hearts and minds. What are your urges?

Do your thoughts turn to romance and affairs of the heart? Do you begin to long for the beach, bicycle path, or swingsets? Do you dive into your closets, shelves and cubes dancing through your mind as holy crusade of organization begins to coalesce in your thoughts?

What does Spring do to you? In what mind does the warming, brightening days and greening trees place you? What are your Spring urges?

It changes, from year to year. Each year it's very much about how I'm feeling about where I'm going and what I'm doing with what I got.

Many years, I reluctantly let go of winter. I am a big fan of a small world; I love foggy days, I love days with cloudy overcast, I love long nights with warming rum drinks and movies. I often wonder if I'm an agoraphobic who just never got the hang of it.

Latterly I've been looking forward to spring. This one more than others; as I have occaisionally related I've been studying graphic design at PCC. This is it, my friends, the ultimate term. At the close of the Spring session I will at least have a diploma to show for my blood (no lie-#11 Xacto craft knifes are sharp!,), sweat (Photoshop performance-based tests), tears (that one "C" I got for a project nearly mowed me right down) and money (should be self-explanatory).

But will I be able to find a job? Who knows! Stay tuned to this 'blog, where I will no doubt pontificate on at painful length about it.

Anyway, I have a whole new skill set of really exciting tools and things I can do. This really is a halcyon time. It's interesting, but in the good way. I have hope, a possibility of a new career, something I really truly care about. Being a creative professional, I hear, is sometimes brutal. But the possible rewards far outshine the travails.

Also along the way I've met some interesting and inspiring people. I've met people who, as far as I'm concerned, could make the world turn on its axis only for their mere being.

The spring promises new possiblilities, this time around.

22 February 2005

[tech, design] InDesign CS Easter Egg

Bouncy, Bouncy!

(Via the InDesignupdate 'blog)

[geek_life] I Have Ularn! I Have Ularn!

As of a couple of days ago, a long time dream of mine came true. Up until then it was partially true, and that is a good thing.

I have the game of Ularn now, not just on my Palm m130, but also on my PowerMac G4.

Ularn is a game that, maybe, requires a bit of explaining for almost anyone born before, say, 1978 or so.

Netosaurs remember games such as 'rogue', 'hack', or 'angband'. These are early adventure game programs. The aren't the old Infocom "Zork" text kind, though. These were as graphical as the day allowed; that is, they ran on character-based terminals using ANSI escapes to move the cursor around. The game displays tended to use characters such as the octothorp (the "pound" sign..."#") for walls and moving initials for monsters, such as 'K' for Kobold. You were typically a flashing block cursor.

Movement was by the keys h (west), j (north), k (south), l (east), y (NW), i (NE), b (SW), n (SE). Combat was performed by moving into your opponent, making sure you were wielding the right weapon and wearing armor. Spells were cast by typing a command key, entering the abbreviation for the spell, and then indicating the direction of cast (last step omitted for area-effect spells).

There were goals and things to collect. You moved your cursor over something to pick it up. Winning conditions went from simple to absolutely baroque.

Evolution happened in the games because they had a large fanbase of hackers (the old fashioned kind, that made useful things, not the misnomered system crackers) who would gleefully change the sources (usually programmed in c) and recompile. 'Hack' became 'nethack', 'angband' became 'Zangband' (which I have on my home machine).

In 1985 Noah Morgan, perhaps inspired by both 'hacklike' games and similar games produced for such home machines such as the Commodore 64, created 'larn'. Larn had the hacklike feel but gameplay was much simpler and I found it more intuitive.

Here, as they say, is the 'sitch': You have a critically ill daughter. She is afflicted with a malady called 'dianthoritis'. She will die in 400 'mobuls' (game turns) unless you venture into the caverns of Larn, where it is said that the magician Poliinaeus (no, I don't know where they get these names) created a potion that will cure her. Your quest is to venture into the caverns and find it.

Like other hacklike games, there is a town level. Larn's was very simple. There are widely spaced locations comprising: your home, the store, the trading post, the bank, the LRS (Larn Revenue Service) office, the dungeon entry, and the volcano's entry. First stop is the dungeons. You go in and out of that, gathering treasure and artifacts to cash in at the bank and sell at the store, until you have enough to buy the most powerful weapon, which you then take into the volcano, retreive the potion of dianthoritis (guarded by the most evil and meanest demon prince known), take it back to home, and give it to your daughter. If you aren't too late, she's cured and you win.

Some artifacts you use, of course. Potions can be quaffed or saved for later identification, scrolls can be used or saved for ID later as well. The ultimate artifact in the dungeon levels is the Eye of Larn, which allows the bearer to see the demon princes and gods and, if they can't be conqurered, at least they can be avoided. They will end your game.

That's Larn in a rather large nutshell. Evenually, by the hand of Phil Cordier, larn evolved into Ularn (Ultra Larn), taking dungeon levels from ten to fifiteen, and volcano levels from three to five. And that's the form I found the game in.

I've had it on systems from time to time, even to the point of compiling my own version of Ularn on an IBM PC some years back. I never did understand the Borland C compiler, only learnt as much as I needed to know to get the sources to compile. I did multiple versions depending on my mood and humor level, changing monster names as appropriate.

Now, I said that I had my dream realized, didn't I? I stumbled onton Nathan Tenney's variant Ularn page, which is home to his port of Ularn to OS X. Before that, I had found the Ularn legacy site, Ularn.org, which had a link to 'rougelike games for Palm OS' which is where I found the delightful "iLarn", which is Ularn for Palm OS.

The title page of the desktop version proclaims "The Addiction of Ularn". It's true. The source code has a line of comment up at the top of main.c proclaiming "This game is bad for you. It is evil. It will rot your brain." And that is true too. Why, the time I've spent over the years playing larn and ularn could have been spent on my plan to Dominate The World.

So, you better thank God that there's such a thing as Ularn, otherwise, I'd be your emperor now. And I am a jealous, capricious, and arbritary ruler. Oh, yes.

For now, it's "Game on".

20 February 2005

[meme] Saturday Slant: If I Were Paris Hilton

This week's Saturday Slant is a very provocative one for me, for it finds me, as Mark Maron would say, in a "bad head". Here it is:
That’s it. No exposition this time because I don’t want to bias your response. If you were Paris Hilton…what?

Heh. There is a particularly toxic effect that bad celebrity has on my attitude. Paris Hilton, to me, is the current exemplar of the worst of modern Bad Celebrity. Aside from flash and face, she contributes nothing to the world that I coudn't live without.

If I were Paris Hilton?

[imaginary Paris]

I'd put some more clothes on, for a start. My clothing and style epitomize the worst of "Woman as Dumb Object". What the hell was I thinking?

Next, you'd see a lot less of me in publlc. Who needs that much? I want to hang it up before I move from "it" girl to simply "it". Geez.

Next, I'd put the damn Chihuaua down. Did you know that because of what I've been doing, more and more people are using these little inbred animals as accessories? Isn't the doggie worth more than just a skirt or scarf or handbag? That's verging on inhuamane, is what it is.

And, as far as that wealth thing goes, I'd stop flaunting it so much. Take two of my handbags and you've paid for six months mortgage on some poor out-of-work schmoe in Ohio's mortgage. Hell, maybe I'd send'm the cash pay it. I could auction 'em off on eBay. That'd go over big...donno if you all have notice, but there's scads of people around these days who'll buy cast off celebrity crap.

I mean, don't get me wrong...I wouldn't make myself a poor person. I'd keep enough to live on, comfortably. I mean, it's not where I got it, but what I'm doing with it that's such an embarrasment.

Although I would donate a little of my time to something that I'm not gonna get paid for. I mean, people who have a lot less cash than me do it without being asked and it looks like it makes them feel better inside than I look on the outside.

Oh, and one other thing. The Simple Life? I am deeply, deeply sorry. What a pointless waste of your time. Switch over to PBS or something, 'k? Those reality shows are going to rot your brain and keep on confusing you about what it means to be a person. I mean, look at the mess it's made out of me.

It should go without saying that that goes double for that...ahem...sex...tape. So, once again, to summarize, I'm sorry about the disco dance I've been doing all over good taste, culture, the concept of value versus price, and male-female relations.

I'm out!

[/imaginary Paris]

There. I've said it. I feel better.

13 February 2005

[tech] Papa's Got A Brand New Keyboard

The PowerMac G4 (MDD) has a new USB keyboard. This became necessary after The Wife[tm], assisted by a certain Gimel-cat, introduced the wonders of a full-on dose of Diet Dr Pepper to the original equiment..

I liked the original keyboard quite a bit. People scoff at Apple design but, like me earlier, I'm convinced it is because they can't have one. Once you get to compute, day in and day out, on Apple hardware, you understand.

Anyway, the new keyboard is a nice improvment over the old one actually. The casing is the biggest thing. The case on the 2003-vintage 'boards was tough clear plastic, encapsulated all around. It looked good whilst new, but time and too many snacks and drinks at the thing tended to get 'stuff' in and under it in places that not even my tiny vacuum sucker could get at. Cat hair got lodged just under the key openings. Harder to keep looking good.

This one, by contrast, is more like an open-top tray. No plastic uptop to trap things. There is also no curved back with a snap-bracket to choose between lay-flat and angled. I never used it lay-flat anyway. I never saw any other Mac user who did.

Cost: $30.00. And we have the old one to get into and screw around with. I will be looking for a cheap 2nd hand USB keyboard. Also, Savitar comes off this machine....if The Wife[tm] wants to web surf and email, no problem. MUSHing has got to stop, OTOH.

[art, design] I Heart Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Those who pay attention to Da News will not that The Gates are open in Central Park today.

Many people have many opinions on Christo (and wife Jeanne-Claude, since some time now sharing co-credit with his). They leave a lot of people scratching their heads. And that's okay really.

Last term, in one of my art classes, I was priviledged (as many are during PCC courses) to get to see an exhibition at the Portland Art Museum, of pieces associated with Christo's wrapping of the Pont Neuf, in Paris, in 1985. Actually, the titles of his works belie something that's not oft touched upon, and I realized after getting to see the exhibit.

The title of the Pont Neuf work was The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Paris, 1975-1985. I'm touring the artist's website, christojeanneclaude.net, right now, and the works all have the element of time in them.

The pieces I saw at PAM cover all aspects of the execution and staging of the Pont Neuf, from who worked to when they did it, with photos and drawings and documents such as the invoice for the fabric used (which cost DM40,000 IIRC, and IPD). It had bits about when Christo and Jeanne-Claude met with Jaques Chirac, then Mayor of Paris. It hinted at the number of meetings and conferences required to satisfy the municipality's requirements. It, of course, covered the period of the mounting and showing of the work.

I realized then, that Christo and Jeanne-Claude not only asked us to consider a different slant on a familiar thing, or asked us to reflect on at 24-mile-long curtain (Running Fence in 1976, but also in managing to crystallize attention and energy on execting each work, made time itself an essential design element. The workers, the government officials, what they did, how and when, the reactions of the citizens during the process, are all part of the picture. They would not have happened without the presences of the wrapped forms, moreover, not without the activity about them.

When I looked at the exhibit at PAM, I got this four-dimensional sense that I sometimes get when I think of life horizontally as well as vertically. When I think of my own lifespan, I dwell sometimes on the mortality of a single arrow of time, but when I think me being aware of the eight, ten, twelve, and so on year-old Sams, they seem as real as they still exist, and perhaps in a certain way, they do. I almost think of it as a sort of immortality.

But I treat it as a mental perceptive exercise. It's important to step back from somthing like that, because if I don't, I get just a little bit weird...but not in the good way.

Anyway, to halt this digression, as I digested the objects on display I got a sense of time, and people involved, and people impacted, and people's impact on the work (on the Pont Neuf, river traffic was completely unhindered, the bridge was open for bridge traffic, and people walked on the fabric...the viewers impacted the work as the work impacted them). The fourth (time) and fifth (web of people?) dimensions suddenly unfolded and even though I wasn't there, I was at the center of the crystalline web. It became perceptable, if not tangible.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude teach us to connect through a different reality back to this one. Other artists may say or think they use time as an elementt in thier work; this artist actually does, and it's hard to imagine they aren't a little aware of it.

This is why Christo and Jeanne Claude are important.

How have The Gates affected you?

Those New Yorkers don't know how lucky they are.

09 February 2005

[or_history] Mount Mazama, year 5,005 BC

This is one of my favorite paintings ever:

It is a painting, an artists conception. Approximately seven thousand years ago, what would have been Oregon's tallest mountain if it still stood commenced the eruption that would cause its collapse. The remains we know, of course, today as Crater Lake.

While nobody could probably ever be exactly sure what Mazama looked like, clues can be read from the slopes going up to the rim and guesses can be made since scientists have a good idea how natural processes in the area might have occurred, and other peaks nearby, such as Shasta, to compare with.

Quite a hulking mountain, no? It even looks mean.

The painting was created some years back by an artist named Paul Rockwood, and I found it again on this page , which is a USGS fact sheet on Crater Lake and Mount Mazama.

It's a guess. But it's an inspired one. In the scene, the 12,000 foot tall Mount Mazama is just beginning its ultimate eruption.

Quite an inspriation.

01 February 2005

[pdx_life] Ah, How The Mediocre Have Fallen

Good news: Mary Starrett has found work.

Bad news: It's about five seconds worth on Don LaPre's latest infomerical.

If you're normal, you haven't seen this carp because it's on the late^3 infomerical parade. I forget which local channel has it (we get it broadcast, baby!) but, sometime between 15:00 and 20:00, there she was.

I kid you not.

It's LaPre's latest brain spasm, somthing called The Greatest Friggin Vitamin Pill That You've Ever Damn Seen, I Mean, My God, Why Aren't You On The Phone To Me Right Now!?!?!.

Or something like that.

I've had a morbid curiosity about LaPre for years. I've also been a student of dodgy movements, such as LaPre's MLMs. Back in the 90's he got famous by asserting that all you had to do was place little classified ads in papers all over the known universe, and BINGO, you got checks rolling in to your PO Box.

Now they got this sovereign cure called "The Greatest Vitamin In The World". TGVITW is apparently made with the highest quality whatever-it-is, with Don himself marshalling up to one research professional to formulate this thing. For 35 or 40 bucks you can buy this package that includes a website that all people have to do is visit (if they can find you instead of the thousands of other entrepreneurs posting the exact same site) and you get twenty people to just try this TGVITW then...wait, I'm going to gesticulate here, clear the decks...


Then you have to CHOOSE between [sweeping gesture right] $1,000 UP FRONT! or [sweeping gesture left] $200, a MONTH, for LIFE!


Sorry, got carried away there. But wait, there's less! Do I come off as someone who's been burned by LaPre? Cards on the table, I've never tried anything from the mind of LaPre, but then, I wouldn't touch his stuff with a ten-foot battle lance. Go here, to Quackwatch and read about the checkered history of The Great Gesticulator, and you will then see why you should run screaming from anything he's promoting.

But hey, you don't have to believe me. After all, it's a freeish country, eh?

All's I'm saying is, hey, Mary, you've got to choose your friends with more care.

And, postscriptically, I wonder if Don LaPre could speak in public if you kept his arms held to his sides. I'm just wonderin'.