31 March 2008

[liff, teh_funnay] An Experienced Convention-Goer


Picture of  Ozymandias sculpture nicked from here.

Idea for joke stolen from the great Tom Weller. I have a copy of Science Made Stupid and Cvltvre Made Stupid. And it's mine. Ha!

Sticker-badge made by me with Photoshop. Look upon my m4d s|<illz, oh mighty, and despair.

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[us_politik, zeitgeist] One Thing Some White People Apparently Don't Like, Part Deux

1456. (Via the invaluable, freedom loving TPM) Back here, when we opined on some whiny white people who were crying because they didn't get to call black people what they wanted to call black people (hint: it's brought to you by the letter N and the history of slavery in America).

I thought it would be a one-off. I, you see, penny-ante lumpenprole philosopher that I am, figured I'd get my irritation off in the comparative (well, net-wise anyway) obscurity of this, The Most Underrated Blog on the Intermets. Then it would be done, done, done.

Boy, was I wrong.

Maybe it's something in the air or the water (quite conceivable, given the Federal government's concern for the environment) but, all of a sudden, up pops ...

Watch as Lou Dobbs work up to a near-blood-vessel-bursting apoplexy over the suggestion by one Arroz de Condoleeza that maybe we still have some American-style trouble with the race-thingy:

Note the self-edit after the word "cotton". Priceless!

Lou! Calm down! Dude! Chill that thing down! That aneyurism! She's gonna blow!!! (Speaking of aneyurism, I'm evaluating one after realizing that me and Condi agree on something)

Now, breathe deeply, Lou ... close eyes ... happy place, yes, happy place ... and repeat the following liberating mantra: It's not about me, it's not about me, it's not about me ...

(We hasten to point out that the self-checking of the term cotton pickin', while righteously hilarious, isn't the point. The point is this bizarre tendency of my fellow off-white man to get huffy and pouty and whingey whenever they think they're being scolded by people of other color and condescended to about 'how to discuss race'. While being incredibly funny, it's also incredibly stupid, and just kind of needs to stop. Just pointing this out).

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30 March 2008

[net_life] ArtBistro: It's a Big, Fun Game

1455. A few missives back I described how I was starting to play on ArtBistro (artbistro.com) after having a login there for a while. It might be turning into a habit.

ArtBistro is actually very clever about getting people involved in community there. You get points for playing. It's kind of a game.

There are a lot of ways that you can take part. It's a place that you can post your work to be seen, and there's a lot of value in that. But it's also a place that rewards active members for providing content and helping build community.

You get points for doing things; uploading videos, contributing news, contributing commentary on other artists' work, starting discussions, building your online profile. The verbiage at the site promises eventual real rewards (increased reputation and status begins to pay off in receiving materials for review, moderation privileges, and suchwhat).

But the idea of having feedback on my involvement is better than getting any tangible reward for it. I always get a sort of charge from finding out how much of the common weal I've contributed to.

Well, in short, it's fun anyway.

And, hey, I did start a group on ArtBistro for PDX Graphic Designers. Come by and check me out if you want.

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29 March 2008

[zeitgeist, or_politik] I Do Not Fear Teh Gay

1454. I grow weary of the ongoing demand of certain elements of our culture to despise gay people. And I've gone through a whole range of emotions as, time after time after tedious time we are demanded to go to the polls and vote on it.

Look, good peoples, I know that some of you are utterly utterly convinced that letting gays be and letting them have those civil unions are somehow going to undermine the fabric of society as we know it and are just as utterly obsessed with preventing it from happening, regardless of how much hurt, pain, and misery it inflicts on others. And to some of you, this problem is so important that you fixate upon it to the exclusion of all else, especially things that are actually problems that are currently threatening us.

I mean, you'd think if a rogue planet was bearing down on the earth and was going to smash us into oblivion tomorrow, you wouldn't help out with the evacuation because you just have to make sure that teh gay can't get married first.

Like I said, maybe it's me. Maybe I'm not getting it. But I don't see preventing civil unions (or, yes, even marriages) between gay people to be the defining crisis of our time.

Moreover, preventing people from forming mutually supportive unions isn't doing anything but doing harm to them. It is breaking up their family units, causing upheaval in their lives. We actually shouldn't have the right to tell other people what to do this way. It amuses me (in the wrong way) that we actually give ourselves the right.

But then, it's a mean time, not a gentle one.

And those in this world who just can't be happy knowing that somewhere, somehow, gay people are living happy lives and not bothering anyone and being good to each other and their neighbors just because they're gay. And they'll wave their arms and work like hell to prove that this cruelty is justified and good.

Well, I'm not with you. Just like all the other times you've demanded I answer this question, I'll say no to you.

Of course, the re-re-re-requestioning may pass. But before we start trundling out The Will of the Voter, remember, just because something won an election doesn't transform it from a bad idea to a good idea.

If you want to be afraid of teh Gay, well, good luck with that. Here's a therapy you might try though; close your eyes, breath deeply, go to your Happy Place, and say to yourself, over and over It's not about me. It's not about me. It's not about me ... .

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28 March 2008

[Address_Nerd] Reader Question: Why Does The Washington County Grid Do That?

1453. A couple of days ago, in email, I recieved the following question from a reader named Alan. Here it is:

I've noticed that the Washington county grid doesn't seem to line up with the origin where I thought it did. I always thought that the origin was in downtown Portand at Burnside and the Willamette river. But recently I've been playing around with Google Earth, and have noticed something different. The Washington county north/south dividing line appears to line up with W Stark Street and possibly the Willamette Stone, but they aren't at the same latitude as W Burnside at the river. Also, if I extrapolate the Washington county numbered avenues, zero doesn't line up with the Willamette, but a few blocks west. In essence, it seems like the Washington county grid has an origin around SW 5th and SW Stark downtown.

That is some very thorough looking, and good on you. Readers may remember that for a time I found it odd that the mere name of the official Washington County n-s divider was West Stark Street, rather than West Burnside Street (extended). Then Isaac Laquedem (I think it was) pointed out that the street on the west side lined up with the street on the east side (which both so happen to lay on the Willamettte Base Line) so there was a logical rationale for why the street name Stark was preferred over Burnside.

There are also a handful of Portland-origined street names that pop up as little extensions in greater Beaverton, but that's for another post ...

Anyway, the first part of the question seems to be why it is that the line dividing NW from SW in Washington County does not line up with the line on the ground in Multnomah, which is Burnside Street in Multnomah. A casual glance may not make that clear because the lines are pretty close and most of it in Washington Co isn't marked (there is very little of Stark Street).

Regrettfully, there is no record I've been able to find as to why this is. I do have some assumptions I've drawn from years of looking at the map and wondering what decisions I'd make if it were up to me to define the greater metropolitan address system based on what was already extant when the time came.

I think the best way to espy all this would not be to look from Washington Co inward but consider the grid from its origin (Burnside Street and Willamette River) and think outward. That's the way Portland grew in general, and the address grid being based on the Portland axes was governed my a few early (and very possibly arbritrary) decisions.

I've always found it coincidental that the original town's Donation Land Claim owners, Couch on the north and Lovejoy and Pettygrove on the south, surveyed the boundary between the two DLCs right about the point where the Willamette makes a notable dogleg. I've the very strong feeling that they saw that physical feature and thought that it would just make a good starting point. Now, also for reasons only known to the original planners, Couch thought that the blocks on his plat should be aligned to the North Star (take a good look and you'll see that that area of town is rotated ever so slightly to the left of cardinal north) and Lovejoy/Pettygrove thought that it would be nifty that their bit should align to the river.

These decisions were likely make independently of the laying out of the public land survey system, which is dependent on the Willamette Stone, which so happens to lay on a line that would be right in the middle of Stark Street.

Now, as the town grew west, a road formed by what we now call West Burnside Road developed to provide access to the Tualatin Valley. This road so happened to come very near the Willamette Stone, before (in the current time) shedding its name and becoming the modern SW Barnes Rd. The people laying out these roads at the time doubtless couldn't have forseen the pattern of growth nor the need of an address system covering hundreds of square miles to facilitate the mails and modern emergency service.

However, as development spread west and the need arose for a more sophisicated system than the old fashioned rural route mail delivery system, it no doubt occurred to someone that basing the N-S division extension on an already well-surveyed and established line would simplfy things a great deal. I don't think it was missed that the line of the Willamette Base Line and Start Street was five blocks south of the line of Burnside if it was extended, rather I think it was seen as an acceptable tradeoff, especially inasmuch as there was no surveyed or built logical extensions of Burnside west from the Willamette Stone itself.

Or, to be less wordy, it was a convenient way to solve the problem.

Now, as far as extrapolating the Washington County pattern back into Portland goes, since the decision that ruled how the original streets of Portland ran was (I am assuming) made based on certain human points of view (aligning the streets with the river was convenient and functional for a river town whose frontage street handled all that river traffic), it seems that the logical thing to do would be to consider where it all started and how it all grew. Even in Portland proper, allowances had to be made; while the river is a great human reference point, the river has had a mind of its own, not running straight N-S as we move south from the city center while the streets maintain a rigid grid. The result – a long sliver of land between the 00 address block and the riverbank itself – required a bit of creative thinking. Thus, in the Johns Landing area and the new South Waterfront districts, addresses actually count up as you close on the river but are still prefixed with the SW directional. The solution was to prefix addresses on the E-W streets with the number zero. This is why locations such as the Old Spaghetti Factory (at the foot of Bancroft) is addressed at 0715 SW Bancroft St.

Increasing SW addresses as you go toward the river is counterintuitive, but makes sense when you consider the problem that had to be solved.

And that's why things like Alan noticed not always jive, though they work in the greater sense. We are imposing a human exactitude over a natural and irregular form, and things do tend to give in places.

But considering the thing from the proper POV may not completely resolve the question, but it can suggest an answer that might make everything make sense.

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[liff] Snow. Oregon. Almost April.

1452. The view of the south portico of the SunDial Manor at 0830 approx today:

Nice, huh?

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27 March 2008

[liff] The End Of The Innocence

1451. I'm reading alt.religion.kibology in an RSS browser now.

I don't know why, but this is a bittersweet thing.

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[design] Photoshop Expressed

1450. Just uploaded and tweaked a photo we took sometime back of the Willamette River and downtown from the Sellwood Park dock in Photoshop Express.


This was put through Pop Color and sketch from the Effects menu, Fill Light from the tuning menu, and Saturation from the Basics menu. Not too bad really.

Photoshop Express won't replace Photoshop. You'll need Flash 9 for it; and if you have an underpowered computer or dialup, it'll be a stone pain. But if you can use it, it's a neat new tool that'll give you a few funky effects you can pop into your photos and take, say, blog photos and make real illustrations (I trust the design minded will know what we mean here) out of them.

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[design] It's A Busy Day Down In San Jose ...

1449.  Just signed up for Photoshop Express, the new online version of Photoshop. Want to give it a test drive, of course ... and with the 2 GB of free online storage, hey, ain't no bad thing.

Got this message from the signup page:

Due to the extremely high interest in creating new Photoshop Express accounts today, you may experience a delay of 60 minutes or more in receiving your account verification email. Thank you for your patience!

Well, you know how busy the State Fair is on opening day.

... update: I got my verification emil within five minutes. Well played, Adobe, well played.

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[modern times] With An Automated Mortgage Program Called ZiPPY, Maybe We Should Have Seen It All Coming

1448. Item, The Big O, Dateline today (Link (goes behind the pay wall in 14 days)):

A newly surfaced memo from banking giant JPMorgan Chase provides a rare glimpse into the mentality that fueled the mortgage crisis.

The memo's title says it all: "Zippy Cheats & Tricks."

It is a primer on how to get risky mortgage loans approved by Zippy, Chase's in-house automated loan underwriting system. The secret to approval? Inflate the borrowers' income or otherwise falsify their loan application.

[Fade into mortgage borker's office, where Underwriter Jones is logging into ZiPPY, Chase's in-house mortgage-loan undrewriting system]

Mortgage Underwriter Jones: [Logging into Zippy, Username: mjones, Password: YOW!]

Zippy: Good Morning! Are we having Prime Rate Cuts yet?

Jones: Zippy, please underwrite this mortgage for Joe Schmoe.

Zippy: Yow! I can see clearly now the income is gone!

Jones: Well, how about if I change this three in the yearly income to a six.

Zippy: When Bubblicious is outlawed, only outlaws will have Bubbllicious!

Jones: [Enters cheat code GREENSPAN IS GOD]

Zippy: Yow! It's like that Deep Impact movie, only I'm Elijah Wood and you're Leelee Sobieski!

Jones: And the debt to income ratio is really 20 percent lower.

Zippy: You have your loan. You move like a NINJA!

[... aaaaand, scene! ]

Once again, why are we all surprised things have turned out the way they did?

If there's any indication how Bill Griffith feels about all this, we don't know what it might be. But we can guess!

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[art, toonage] Funky Winkerbean: Well, My Head Asplode ...

1447.  Does anyone around here remember the hi-school comic strip Funky Winkerbean? It hasn't run around here in the Portland market for ... what, twenty years or more?

I read it and remember it as one of those eternally-unchanging comic strips, like Blondie, where the characters were funny for a very long time, but since they never changed, the jokes slowly got old and, just like a lot of people whose graphic tastes evolve, eventually, I put away my childish things.

I also remember the artist's (Tom Batiuk) recognizable style across more than one or two spinoffs. Crankshaft (the original curmudgeonly senior-citizen school bus driver) we enjoyed during our time in Corvallis, where it ran in the Gazette-Times. There was also a strip set at a television station called Chuck Darling, IIRC.

Well, as I mentioned, I moved on from ol' Funky and by the by the strip was dropped from The Big O. Didn't think a thing about it. But now, for some weird potrzebie reason, I hit the strip's website.

Well, the first shock was that Funky still had a website. I'd assumed that the strip just kind of rode off into the sunset.

Secondly, well, Funky's gone all adult on us. Kind of like a soap-opera-y Luann. All original characters are fortysomething adults with real lives of triumph and defeat now:

  • Funky Winkerbean (pictured above right) has been married and divorced and married again, is a recovering alcoholic, and now co-own's Montoni's Pizza (where they all hung out as kids).

  • Cindy Summers, his first wife, is a telejournalist with ABC.

  • Les, the geeky, dorky hall monitor (remember the primitive machine-gun he had bolted to his hall monitor desk?) has become a history and English teacher as Westview High. He has a daughter and a rather cool Van Dyke beard.

  • Les's wife, Lisa, fought breast cancer twice, losing the final bout. Les now raises his child as a single parent.

  • Mr Dinkle, the "worlds greatest band director", much as BD in Doonesbury no longer has that silly helmet on, no longer wears his band regalia 24/7/365 (of course, it may be because he's retired, but still).

The style has grown up, just as other funny-page staples have. The characters look more interesting. The eye wants to linger a bit more. Paraphrasing Charles Schulz, for a comic to really succeed, to really be good, it has to look interesting. You have to like the way the characters are drawn. The characters are much more likably drawn, with just enough realistic touches to be believable, though not quite going as far as the paradigm-shifting redesign of the Archie Andrews universe via Betty and Veronica back in 2007.

After getting over my initial head asploding, I've decided I quite like it. It's nice to see actual time being represented in a comic strip – that's why we like Luann and Safe Havens (actually, we think Bill Holbrook is genius anyway, but that's a sidetrack).

Sit down, strap in, hold on ... if you remember Funky, maybe it's time you got reacquainted.

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[liff] Beware of Static Electricity at the Gas Pump on Bloomsday


26 March 2008

[design] Client Meetings; I Haz Them

1445. I had one yesterday, I'm having one today.

While I haven't arrived where I want to be I do have a couple of very interesting leads right now. Actually I've contracted one and written about it; there is a logo being developed. The illustrations indirectly reference what I'm doing but, just to be maddening, I'm not saying anything about them yet. So they mean nothing to you, the reader. Neener!

The thing about a good client meeting is when you present something and it resonates. I'm looking for a response where the other person answers emotionally. Design connects on that level. It moves us.

The other lead I have has to do with writing actually. Someone was impressed by my bloggage (both frequency and quality). It looks intriguing and I love to write (and, hey, it shows) and I'm hoping this will work. It seems adventurous.

I'll write what I can about the actual content of these things when I can. But I've run into some really cool people of late. And I'm enjoying that.

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[liff] Actually German/Actually Not German

1444. Welcome to the first (and actually probably only) installment of Actually German/Not Actually German, a what-looks-to-be extremely occasional series where we find one thing that we thought was red-white-and blue American but is actually German, and one thing that people think is German and is actually American, sit the two ironically beside each other, sit back, and smile knowingly.

Still with us? Yes? Alright then, here we go:

Actually German: Bayer Asprin.

We don't know about you, but when we were growing up, the aspirin in the house was Bayer. Good old, "wonder drug that works wonders" Bayer. America's aspirin. Good for what ails ya, provided what ails ya isn't the plague or the loss of a limb.

There are actually some things Aspirin can't do, as it happens.

Born and bred auf Deutschland. Born in 1836 in a suburb of the Rhineland town of Wuppertal, in Germany's Second Empire, Bayer successfully marketed the then-now acetylsalicilic acid to great success. The concern itself, Bayer AG, was founded by Frederich Bayer, whose last name derives from bayerisch, or, "Bavarian", which is at the other end of the country, which further complicates things.

But good old Bayer aspirin is actually German.

Trademark law fun fact: Aspirin is actually a registered trademark of Bayer AG. Through a long chain of happenings beginning the seizure and sale of foreign-based German assets after World War I and a ruling in the late 20's that the term had been genericized due to the immense number of aspirins on the market, Bayer's sole right to the name no longer exists in the USA. It does in other countries, , e.g. Canada. Still, Bayer's aspirin page lives at http://www.aspirin.com.

Actually Not German: German chocolate cake.

With its rich chocolate taste and fudge frosting with a topping of coconut-pecan glaze, German chocolate cake sure seems to resemble a downmarket Schwartzwälder Kirschtorte, but, as President Morgan Freeman gravely advised crusading MSNBC reporter Téa Leoni in the first act of Deep Impact, "It only seems that way".

Modern bakers are familiar with Baker's Unsweetened baking cocoa and chocolate (it's the kind you don't eat straight, regardless of how much it looks like candy. If you don't know why, then try sometime ... it's an adventure in dining. And the brand was named after a man named Baker. Eerie). As it happened, sometime in the 1950s an enterprising housewife whose name seems to be lost to time sent in a recipe for a kind of chocolate cake to a Texas newspaper. One of the ingredients was Baker's "German's Sweet Chocolate".

Wheels within wheels within wheels: The German of the name above was Sam German ... who was an Englishman.

The company that marketed German's Sweet Chocolate also made things like coconut, and the recipe became quite popular, so at that point Marketing took over. It really was a match made auf Himmel. As time went by, the 's atrophied and dropped off, and German's chocolate cake became German chocolate cake.

Born in Britain and America, but with enough layers-on-layers that even a member of the Illuminati should love it.

German chocolate cake – marketed by a Baker who wasn't a baker, using an ingredient created by a German who was an Englishman ... it might be Deutsch-a-licious to be sure, actually not German.

Please join us next time on Actually German/Actually Not German, when we do two other things entirely. We wouldn't do the same things again, because that would be silly, and this is silly enough.

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25 March 2008

[art, design] My Public Portfolio on ArtBistro (Updated)

1443. I've had a login at ArtBistro for a while. I've finally started to use it. ArtBistro, as it turns out, is a marvelous way of keeping work-samples on line.

Which I've done. You can see the full version of that hawt chyx0R in the illo in it as well as some layout and design that I've done.

It's all here:


And An Update: I've opened a disucssion group there for PDX Graphic Designers called ... well, PDX Graphic Designers. Signing up for ArtBistro is free, so, hey ... think about it you guys!

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[art] Catching Up with The Year Of Stan

1442. Stan recently went through a period of upheaval moving from Carthage, MO, to Oronngon Oregonniang Oragngjello Orangutan some neighboring town in Missouri, so his output was disrupted. Similarly, we started mashing up warning signs to generate teh_funnay, so we were similarly distracted by that and some design work. Stan's been back on the clock now for several days. Let's catch up with him, shall we?

This one looks like a job for a VMRS graduate. I hate it when this happens:


Now we have someone who's a trifle unclear on the concept.

Could be either one, when you think about it (but wouldn't general contracting have sort of a different reputation if they all dressed like that?):


 As a native Oregonian, I have a bit of perspective on how California can be all arrogant on us hinterlander berks. Don't feel bad, Colorado; you know that Cali wears high-heels, and with that shape, it'll have nothing but back problems when it gets old. And Texas's ass looks huge in that number (technical note: Stan says the shading was quite an effort on this one, and was worth the effort. We agree.)


Looking at the pic, we can only say the part we hope the good Lieutenant is clear on is the at 2:00 part. If he's unclear on the bogey part, this could go from messy to really ugly plenty-quick.


This next one just brings to light a heretofore-unknown tragedy some of our friends and neighbors suffer from. Do you know someone who has no humor? They might have funny bone cancer:


Herewith, the seven signs of funny-bone cancer. Be aware!:

  1. When you open a knock knock joke, the sufferer goes to the door.

  2. When told the refrigerator is running, checks to make sure that all the doors are properly locked. Schedules trip to Home Depot for extra security bolts.

  3. Sufferers wonder why those nice comics on The McLoughlin Group can't get more stand-up work.

  4. Sufferers think those LOLCats are really saying all those things.

  5. Plans day using The Onion's weather reports

  6. Wonders which one of those British comics was the actual Monty Python

  7. Wonders why Pauly Shore hasn't been given that award the French gave Jerry Lewis

Yes, funny-bone cancer is a tragic disease. Please give and give generously – you'll be laughing until you stop!

Anyway! Moving, on, the next wave in surreal television:


Astronomical fun fact: the planet Saturn has a lower average density than water. That means it could be seen to float ... if you had an ocean big enough, and a berk foolish enough to hang out for the splash. 'Strewth!

And staging such a show would actually destroy the Earth ... Paging Michael Bay, there's a movie to be made here!

Now, for our occaisonal exploration of the famous "uh-oh" feeling, let's meet Katie. Katie has a little dream. But, with treatment and proper medication, she might well get over that:


Let's all send good thoughts Katie's way. Next, let's check in on our Things I Didn't Know I Wanted To Know That, Now I Know Them, Don't Want To Know Them Any More (I Can't Unsee What I Have Seen) Dept. where we get another version of the "uh-oh" feeling:


Fortunately I use pen and ink. and no, Stan, I don't want to know where ink comes from. Or sausage. Or whatever goes in hot dogs. Of this next pastoral scene, I can only say that I'm glad I don't have this problem pretty much ever:


And now, due diligence:


Pays to check these things out. In the critiquity dept, I notice that Stan's figure drawing is really improving. That chyX0r on the far left is kinda passing modestly hot. Seriously, the practice will tell, and it's beginning to.

Next, in our That's A Poser segment, we explore the far side of sharing a bed with your wife:


Good question, Stan, good question. Too bad Robert Stack is no longer with us; he could checkt that out.

And here we pull even with Stan, as he explains indirectly that indeed, we get what we pay for:

Go, little escargot! Oh, look! Here comes a gourmet ... looks like this little guy's headed for the dead-letter office ...

Stan's continued self-discipline, self-refinement of his technique, and barnacle-like resolve to stick to it, is an insipriation to me. I'll put up his stuff as he does it because I like it. You all should follow it too. Here's the link to Stan's album.

Or just link to me.

Yah! That's it! Link to me!

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[art] Warning Sign Mashups: Yet Another Place for My Stuff

1441. I have had mad fun mashing up warning directional signs with famous lines from literature and aphorisms. I've created an album on Art Bistro wit the ones I've done so far.

It's here:


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24 March 2008

[lolz] Meanwhile, In The Nation's Capital ...


He's no Jimmy Stewart, but who is these days?

If you don't want to break your fingers googling pooka, here ya go.

(photo insolently ripped off from the Merc!)

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[liff] The OSHA Case of Nat Turner (W. Styron, Investigator)


[or_life] Northwest Trivia: Shari's Restaurants

1438. Shari's has been a dependable friend-of-the-family since before I was married to The Wife™. Courtesy the corporate website, I found out some things that I didn't know, that I didn't know I always wanted to know:

  • The chain was born in 1978 in Hermiston, founded by Ron and Sharon Bergquist.

  • The second location was opened in Sherwood within a year when the Hermiston location came a success.

  • The distinctive floorplan with the hexagonal footprint is actually patented. with the kitchen in the center it is meant to provide for very efficient workflows, ease of overseeing for the wait staff, and the maximum amount of window-seatage (yes, "seatage" is too a word. Says me.)

  • The chain recently opened its 99th location ... in Roseburg.

  • Shari's is largely in Oregon and Washington but has locations in California, Idaho, Wyoming and Nebraska.

  • The chain is named for the founder's wife, Sharon, who goes by the nick of "Shari".

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23 March 2008

[design] We're Doing It ...

1437. Just not writing about it latterly.

But we will be again very soon.

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[us_politik, zeitgeist] One Thing Some White People Apparently Don't Like

1436. The perception that they "aren't allowed" to use a certain condescending famous racial pejorative for black people beginning with the letter "N" when they see black people use it.

I just don't get it. WTF is it with you people?

Naturally, the use of such a word depends on context and has everything to do with the Gordian knot that is the history of racial relation in this free-ish country of ours. Nevermind that. Black people get to do it, and some of us Caucasians don't, and that's just not fair dammit, and I'm going to whine and moan and slander people with dark skin who we don't understand and who scare and bother me. I mean, is that it?

In the Greenwald Salon article perforce linked above (some of the excerpted text is not really for the squeamish), it was indeed hard to sympathise with the whinging of the so called "Instapunk" (who's working real hard on "Instadumb@ss", though I'm betting he's worked his whole life on that one), whose panties are in such an unbelievable knot that they're going to require surgical intervention for removal.

Is the quality of his life that diminished because he can't call black people that?

I personally talk to black people all the time. I use this amazing device thought only to apparently exist for Caucasians. It's called a given name. You have one, and, hey! it's been recently discovered that black people have them too!

Don't know what the nearest black person's name is? Here's an advanced technique just discovered: Ask them what their name is. Most of the time they'll tell you.

You won't be able to refer to a whole group with an impolite term, so it might get a little edgy for you and a little tough. You might have to "think outside the box" and treat black people as actual humans ... but hey, live on the edge!

What follows is an open letter to "Instapunk" and anyone who might agree with him, who, I'm betting, are almost completely white (I kept it short), and who can't stop getting hung up and intimidated on modern hip-hoppish urban fashion:

It isn't about you. Get over yourselves.


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[design, tutorial] You Suck At Photoshop #9 (NSFW)

1435. ... in which we find Donnie Hoyle is actually a frustrated vegetarian (at least that's what you tell the kids).

Also, this is about The One Essential Photoshop Tool ... Curves.

NSFW, unless you're a work-at-home type or your boss and crew is down with the adult humor ... let's just say that the relationship with Sandy isn't maybe going as hoped.

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[liff] If The Martians Had Read The Instructions, That Movie Might've Turned Out Differently.


19 March 2008

[art] Draw Me!

1426. Integral to the memories of some smokers (at least those who have still survived) and comic book readers (same, come to think) of the middle of Le Vingtième Siècle would be ads repeated ad nauseum on matchbooks and in comic books, with a rather feckless-looking hobo and the entreaty Draw Me!

I also remember seeing a little cartoon fawn's head in profile. That was Art Instruction Schools, IIRC ... they even had commercials.

The ads marketed the Famous Artists School, one of the grandaddies of the correspondence courses. Unlike many correspondence schools, this delivered the goods, for as Wikipedia will tell you, many successful artists (commercial and otherwise) began as FAS students.

Surprised to find that the old "Draw Me!" school still existed (in considerably more sophisticated form), I surfed on over to their page and found a link at the bottom that connected me to the interactive on-line art quiz. Intrigued, I dove in.

Now, cards on the table, I offered myself up as a ringer. While not a graduate of any prestigious school I have had enough formal training and a lifelong love of art so that the answers to the questions came easily to me. I wanted to see what my score was. They ask your name and a return email address at the end and the answers are emailed to you in pretty short order.

My score was 100%.

The verbiage I found on the three grading levels was curious, however (all verbiage is copied directly from the e-mail grading explanation:

  1. 80% or better: This excellent score indicates that you have an innate sense of art and design, and would certainly benefit from the comprehensive and personalized instruction that is the hallmark of our Famous Artists Courses.

  2. 40% to 79%: Along with your strong interest in art, you already have a good eye for important elements of design, composition, and color. Think of how much you would benefit from the comprehensive and personalized instruction that is the hallmark of our Famous Artists Courses.

  3. Less than 40%: Your strong desire and interest in art indicate that you will benefit greatly from the comprehensive and personalized instruction that is the hallmark of our Famous Artists Courses.

So, no matter what level of score you made, you'd make an ideal student.

Now, before anyone gets me wrong here, this is not an exposé; moreover this is not an attempt to cast aspersions on FAS. They do have apparently a solid repute for educating artists via correspondence. I went so far as to check out the courses and the products (there are four courses – Watercolor and Oil Painting, Illustration and Design, Discovery Art, and the Course for Young People) and they seem pretty reasonably priced compared to some of the high-flying tuitions one sees in the world of art instruction.

But if you're going to take an aptitude test, one would think that an honest, credible report would tell you – nicely, mind – that hey, Sparky, you got 10% on this quiz ... maybe art just isn't for you? That maybe you'd suck as an artist. I mean, I know everyone can benefit from art instruction – but if you're paying for a course, seems to be part of the point would be to take on students that have a chance of passing.

No shame on the FAS otherwise, though, seriouslys! Just struck me as funny.

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18 March 2008

[bloggage] Getting the Meta Outa My System

1425. I don't do meta posts much. I think the most self-indugent thing a person who's blog isn't exactly the most popular around is opening a post with "In case anyone's noticed I haven't been posting so much lately", mostly because – in my case – nobody really has, or has cared.

(I'm not going for sympathy here, just stating the obvious, and making this post as self-indulgent as I claimed I hated. Well, bear with. I am, as I said, getting a bit of meta out of my system. That said, anyone who wants to link here, gets a link in return. And I gots buttons!)

Over the past year my number of hits-per-day have been steadily building. In some sense, I'm getting this blogging thing right. 100-visit-per-day days used to be very rare. Lately, they've been a bit more common. But the biggest thing I've noticed latterly is BlogShares.

Now, I don't play BlogShares, but I noticed a long time ago that my blog was listed and I thought it was fun. Recently, the valuation of this hyar blog went from about B$ 19,000 to over B$ 2,000,000. As apparently did a lot of blogs. There seems to be some sudden and bizarre superheating of the blog market. It's touched on in the BS blog.

I can't make sense of it myself, but I'm finding it interesting nonetheless.

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[net] Gabe and Max Have an Internet Thing

1424. ... but I think there's a cream they can get from a doctor that can take care of that now.

Well, actually, that dreamlife thing is just what I've been after.

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17 March 2008

[liff] Portland to Sacramento, The Coming Back Part, Part II; Stalking Mount Shasta

1423. In the last part (go there first if you started here), we detailed our attaining of escape velo from Sacramento and flirtation with the Sutter Buttes. 

As we passed Shasta Lake, I got a better view ... I was on the good side of the car this time.


We prepare to get pictures of Shasta. We love volcanoes, you see.

Recall that, on the way down. Shasta had her head in the clouds on a steel-gray day. The pictures even looked cold. Back the other way:


... quite the opposite. The area was feeling kind of arid, but no less beautiful.

Here's Black Butte, from the south side:


Indeed, in the sunlight, Shasta and Shastina showed themselves off to best effect:


And as we came back around north of the mountain, we had earlier images in a new light:


As the sunlight finally left us, we passed Hilt at Exit 796 ...


And thence into Oregon, home again. Interstate 5, Exit 1. Up the road a bit, it was back at the Sonic for a snack, contacting and being contacted by loved ones, and then into the Siskiyous at night (where all the lovely scenery disappeared).

We weren't back in Portland until after midnight. Exhausted but happy; it was just a car trip, true, but it was something we'd never done before.

And we're wondering when we can do it again.

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[liff] Portland To Sacramento, The Coming Back Part, Part I: Palms and The Marysville Buttes

1422. Important Disclamer: No Hoffs were hassled in the production of this discourse. Though, even now, we'd still like a chance at Suzannah. We digress.

The party over, the Hoffs hassled, we embark on Sunday (a bit later than we'd hoped; my colleagues demonstrated an inexplicable compulsion to attend the Matins herald meeting), intending to try and at least make the Willamette Valley before sundown. We only got as far as the Sonic at Central Point, but never mind that now.

It's important to point out that we were in fact, in Gullyvornia, the real place. There's one thing that just can't be faked (take my word for it, in this age of digital photos); and thats ...


Palm trees. Palm tress along Date Avenue; palms in front of a trailer park on Madison Avenue:


Palm trees in the distance over the (would you believe it) Les Schwab Tire Center.


Yes. Palm trees; we haz them. And you can depend on it that we were actually in California. Why, my digestion was so knocked out of whack, I came back with a case of Schwarzenegger's Revenge that only now am I getting over. This was over a week ago. My crack is just about to forgive me, which takes us into "uh-oh" feeling territory, so we'll move on.

But that Les Schwab Tire Center with palms in the background will always have ironic punch to me.

From the Madison Avenue exit, we proceed west on I-80, which curves in an arc not unlike that described by Geraldo Rivera's hairdo over the north side of Sacramento. That was the idea, anyhow. But me, the master navigator, panicked at this point:


Gah. Which way to The 5 north? Well, were not going to San Fran (sadly), so stay in this lane, Ciaran, says I.

Wrong. The "Capital City Fwy". goes south into central Sac. Now I'm torn. I'm looking on the map for the right cutoff while a corner of my mind is thinking maybe I'll get a snap of the Sacratomato skyline! That cutoff came in the form of a trafficway that started out as Arden Way and became a link with the trippy name of the Arden-Garden Connector. Long story short; it did the job. I did get to see actual Scacramento streets, but no stoplight got me into the position to snap any street blades, though I did get this gantry sign:


Which is a good idea of how a normal Sacramento blade looks but withough the arrows.

As the trafficway swung closer to the park on the north side of the American River, there was a overpass and then ... the Sacramento skyline.


Not destined to go down in the history of great skyline pictures. Actually, for a city of 450,000 (give or take), it's kinda ... well, tame. No hatin, my Sacramento bretheren and sistern. Just sayin'.

We were back on The 5 in short order, and not too far out of our way really:


We're on the way. Home is far over the horizon, but it's that way.

The Sacramento Valley impressed me as just like the Willamette Valley, but much more muscular. The Valley floor seemed wider and flatter; Cali's Coast Range seemed more massive; the Sierra Nevada seemed farther away from the freeway and much more massive than the Cascades.

The course of The 5 also seems counterintuitive. After going NW out of the center of Sac it turns dead west after passing the Arco Arena and goes for about 10 miles. Past the Sacramento River:


and along a very long bridge over the floodplains:


That line of hills in the distance is the Coast Ranges. As we passed Woodland, CA, the road angled northward and began doing the logical thing.

We passed field after field, silo after silo. The Sacramento Valley is relentlessly agricultural, even more so than the Willamette Valley. But my eyes were cast off to the east, for I was advised by a hale fellow herald that a sight to see was something called the Marysville Buttes ... with the repute of the smallest mountain range in the world.

They are also called the Sutter Buttes. Wikipedia has this to say about them:

The Sutter Buttes, also known as the Marysville Buttes or Histum Yani (Maidu), are a small circular complex of eroded volcanic lava domes which rise above the flat plains of the California Central Valley, USA. The highest peak, South Butte, reaches about 2,130 feet (650 m) above sea level. The Buttes are located just outside of Yuba City, California in the Sacramento Valley, the northern part of Central Valley

And, significantly, this:

The mountains are about 10 miles (16 km) across from north to south and east to west, and are the smallest mountain range in the world

They hove into view within the hour from the picture above.


The valley after this was a two-edged blade; beautiful yet dull. I do now know where most of America's olive trees and almond trees are.

Qumana is starting to complain about the length of this post, so this well be part one. Read the next entry for part 2.

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16 March 2008

[bloggage] Sunday Is A Day To Give Thanks ...

1421. ...for Little Thom (someone I've admired and linked to for a long time) has linked back to me.

Anyone with his opinions who understands just how important Albrecht Dürer is will always be aces in my deck.

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[liff] Portland to Sacramento, The Going Part, Part III. California and The Top Of The World

Nota Bene: This post was submitted as part of this weeks Sarcastic Mom's Weekly Winners, which I stay far too aloof from. Or maybe my life doesn't have such notable occurrences – who else would make of a drive to Sacramento the stuff of The Odyssey? But that's me for you.

1420. In Part The Last I spoke of the wild, wide, beautiful spaces of southwestern Oregon – an area that's a part of my home state but oh, such another world. I've been through a few states, and states like, say, Illinois are one sort of thing all the way through. But Oregon is hills and mountains, forest and flats, deserts and seas capped off with these amazing volcanoes.

It's no wonder people want to come here.

But I am Oregonian, native-born. Raised on a diet of the original Bottle Bill and Tom McCall, I was raised to be smug about being here; being a native Oregonian means this place is my birthright. I have always thanked whatever force caused this happening to have made it so.

This means that, at least once in my life, I've done my share of California-hating. The thing about growing up in Oregon when all the Californians were coming here back in the fin de sicele days of the 20th Century, the typical import came to Oregon with the idea that Oregon was nice, but their way of life was going to illuminate the bumpkins. So, being from California became a point of scorn.

As time passed and all of us grew up, we realized together that we had something pretty damn special in Oregon. Those who moved here opened their minds to that of the locals and didn't try to remake their new home into the image of the place from whence they came, and those of us who were already here appreciated that.

The reason I say all this is because I want my cards on the table. I, a native Oregonian, one-time California hater, had, until this time never ever been to California. Moreover, I'd always wanted to visit. So, I may not have known what I was mocking in the Cali; but there is home town pride.

I-5, Milepost 6

So, there I was, zooming down I-5 past Ashland, with terra incognita Californica in my face. Actually, I'd not even been south of Ashland, and so I was astounded by the change in elevation – some 2000 feet in less than 5 or 10 miles, or so I'm told. But after we passed Ashland, the road went almost straight up ... and before we knew it, we were crossing the California frontier.

Oregon thanks You

Yes, those hills in the distance are, by arbitrary human fiat, in the State of California. I swear, I can smell the celebrities from here.

Seriously, of course, not. At this point, however, it's a brisk world; it's cold, you're about 4,000 feet above sea level. Bracing.

The next amazing thing I saw was the first exit south of the border. If this was an old-fashioned road, it would be but a wide spot in it; Hilt, California. Exit 796.

Exit 796. That's a big number for an exit. Sadly, I missed it, but as we closed in on Mount Shasta, there was another exit whose sign I did catch:

I-5 Exit 766 and Shasta

Thus we can see that somewhere in the vicinty of Shasta roams the Grenada gazelle, whatever that might be. There seemed to be none to see today.

It's said that, prior to 2002, there were no exit numbers on any California highway. The exit numbers on the signs had this afterthought-y look on them, but everything was readable. There still were no mile markers; if I forgot what was the last exit number there's no way to know where you are really. But the scenery was beautiful, despite the steel-gray Oregon-like sky.

The highlight of this phase of the trip was indeed Mount Shasta. Some hold that it's the home of elves and hobbits. Some others hold that UFOs have a base there. I just think its a striking mountain, reaching 14000 feet in elevation from a knobbly plateau 4000 feet ASL.


The interstate offers, as locals know, numerous opportunities for views. As I mentioned, I was staggered to realize just how close we came to the base of it. If there was any mythological touchpoint for me, it was the idea of the Lonely Mountain that Smaug inhabited. I bet Tolkein would have agreed that it looked much the same.


I had heard that Shasta had this big ol' parasite cone, Shastina, but from this angle, you're viewing the two peaks in-line, which means that Shastina seems to form the facing flank of the mountain.

A satellite cone is a hill called Black Butte, and if The 5 seems to come right up to the base of Shasta, it in fact comes straight up to the base of Black Butte.


Black Butte is a handful of miles west of Shasta.

On we went, in and out of steep narrow valleys with views of the upper Sacramento River, past towns like Weed and Yreka ...


... and Dunsmuir. It was like southwest Oregon, only moreso.

Eventually the road lowered a bit, and I got my first look at something I'd always wanted to see, Lake Shasta, with it's bathtub-ring:


It seemed low to me. The bit of face on the left there belongs to the owner of the car, known in the SCA as Ciaran Cluana Ferta, and a very valued friend.

Next stop; Redding. There was a Shell station about a mile west of The 5 on CA 44, a place where I saw this sign:


Damn you, California, must you always be so stylish? Hey, ODOT, take a hint. We can do so much better for our state highway shields ... if California can put the state name on with a jaunty arc ... c'mon you guys, get on it.

Or you can contract me to do it. Just puttin' that one out there.

Another interesting difference is the word "CALIFORNIA" in the I-5 shield. At one time, all Interstate shields were this way for every state. One delightful point is that on the interstate shield and arrow, at the bottom, is a little boxed notice (which you can barely see in this photo) that says that the Interstate signage belongs to the State of California.

This is what the lottery looks like in the Cali:


And this was gas prices when we were there:


This is where I saw my hoped for liquor-at-the-checkstand. Big plastic bottles of Jack and Smirnoff. It's still weird to me.

Back on the road, and south. After Redding, the Sacramento Valley floor opens up in earnest. And with this photo, I got a real gut sense that the valley was opening up in front of me:


That sinking grade in front of me there felt like the end of the hills. By this time, we were going under 1000 feet in elevation, and the big wide Sac Valley was in front of us.

Regrettably, by this time it was nearing 5:30 pm, the light was failing, and our driver had to pull over so that I could take over (he has limited night vision), so no more pictures from here on out. The 5 from Redding and Red Bluff to Greater Sacramento is long and fairly boring in the twilight; as we closed in on Sacramento I felt rather as though we were space travellers. For a bathroom break we stopped at Maxwell, a Califnornia farm town that must have been all of eight blocks by seven.

After departing PDX around 0730 and with attendant delays, we finally pulled into Sacramento around 1900. Twelve hours on the road.

Now, there's a bit of sardonic comedy here. Being an Oregon bumpkin, I have images of California engendered by effectively decades of TV consumption. California, for example, is the sort of place where one can find oneselves, at any time, strolling by a hotel pool with a mixed drink in hand. This sort of thing never happens in Oregon.

Let it be said about West Kingdom Heralds; they know how to throw a party. There was a meet-n-greet at the conference hotel which we went directly after offloading our carp; there was coconut rum there. I met some good folks and some legendary folks and some very ebullient folks (actually, that last on is pretty much true of SCA Heralds everywhere you go).

And, before I knew it, I was strolling by the pool with a mixed drink in hand.

So, see, some dreams can come true.

Next Chapter: the return. Stay tuned.

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