30 June 2008

[typography] Wordle - Everything Is A Found Object In A Word Cloud


Just stumbled on a fun and quick little spree that was generated by a brilliant little web app called Wordle.

You all know what tag clouds are, yes? Wordle takes a block of text you input (or an RSS feed of your blog, for example) and generates a word cloud, where the most frequently-used words are largest. You can play with font, arrangement, color palette ... et voila! ... you have semi-accidental art upon which you can impose your own truth (or just enjoy the jumble and type play).

Plugging in my URL gave the following (clicky upon to go to the Wordle site and embiggen):

Utter coolness. Color, type. And, an FHWA-oid type face ... very appropriate!

Make yours here: Wordle.net

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28 June 2008

[street_blades] Maywood Park – Branding With Street Blades


Maywood Park, Oregon, is a city ... but I'll bet not many know where it is. This is something that's in the process of changing.

It's likely you've driven past it on NE 102nd between Prescott and Fremont without noticing. That's not for lack of beauty – it's one of the most pleasant areas we know of. To those not in the know, though, it could pass for another Portland neighborhood – with a high quality of appearance, to be sure.

Latterly, passing though the area myself, I noticed something new at the traffic signals at NE 102nd and Prescott and NE 102nd and Fremont ... new overhead street banners, mounted next to the signals. And they don't look like the standard Portland design.

Taking a closer look, we see a blue seal on one end. This (though It may not be too discernable in the resolution provided) is the logo for the City of Maywood Park.

We also notice that, unlike the overhead banners for Portland city streets, there are two other main differences: One, the mixed case of the type (Portland's is all majuscule) and two, the lack of a directional (all these streets wear the NE directional, of course)

The question of where the city line is most likely to be seems to be answered by observing the banners on the opppsite sides of the street from these pictures. They are just like the ones you see here ... but with no City logo. As we've noted elsewhere, with sign designs being so similar in many locales, a quick way to identify the jurisdiction you're in is to slap a city logo on. It also provides for an interesting-looking street sign, we think.

You might realize next time when you're passing alongside the pleasant city of Maywood Park, Oregon.

Just for kicks, here's some interesting facts about Maywood Park, gleaned from the Oregon Blue Book and the Wikipedia entry:

  • The city of Maywood Park covers 0.2 square miles

  • It has a population, at last estimate, of 777.

  • This results in a density of about 4,572 people per square mile. By way of comparison, Chicago has a density of of 2,123/sq mi, and Saint Louis, MO, has 5,717/sq mi.

  • The city was founded in 1967, primarily as a way of preventing I-205 from being built straight through. Resistance to the freeway by the city is the reason it swings west before curving NE again to go past the airport.

  • The median age is 44 years.

  • There are 314 housing units in Maywood Park. 92% are owner-occupied.

  • As of the 2000 census, the median home price in Maywood Park was $225,000.

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27 June 2008

[bike_diary] Ron Tonkin and The MIlestones Of Stark Street


Yeah, I keep going off count. This is post number 1640.

Anyhow, today's ride was early in order to avoid the heat. It is both harder than and easier than I thought it was going to be. Leave it at that; I don't think I could make it any clearer.

I enjoy living out near 122nd Avenue. Geographically-speaking, I just dig on numbered avenues and especially when those numbers get big. You just don't get that in Salem. And when growing up in Salem, the catchphrase counterpart to Canyon Strip Auto Row ... It's the only place to buy (remembering Barney Keep) for the proletarian heavy east side was simply "... out 122nd way!".

Well,  now I live out 122nd way. And it's not the same place it was when I was but a neat thing, but some charming things are still left.

Ah, yes, Ron Tonkin. Sure, Marv (a little more than a mile up the street and on the other side ... Courtesy Ford is there now) had the cool jingle, but Ron had the sign. Still does have the sign. This sign is gorgeous at night.

Backing up, we have a better view of 122nd and Stark, this time, not on Macro. Much better. Sadly, Soobie's strip club is still there. It's not a perfect world.

Now, going back toward home took me by the corner of SE Stark and 117th and ... what, ho ... what's this little thing, at the corner of Ventura Park, with my machine parked alongside for size comparison?

What it is, is a small milestone, marked with the inscription "P7" ...

And a plaque alongside with the following explanation:


Sometime after 1854, stone obelisk
Markers were set along Baseline Road.
They were engraved P for Portland,
and numbered for each mile from the
old Multnomah County Courthouse
to the Sandy River.

Mileposts 1, 3, 8, 10, 11, 12, and 15
have been lost.

Mileposts 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 13, and 14
can still be seen along
Stark Street – originally called
Baseline Road.

Now, we already know what baseline we're talking about when we talk about the baseline of Baseline Road (today's SE Stark Street) ... we're talking about the Willamette Baseline, which starts at the Willamette Stone, in the West Hills off Skyline Blvd near the big cemetery.

What I didn't know was that the county put up milestones along the base ... which is pretty nifty, moreso that so many of them are still extant. This'll be worth another photodocumenting project!

And, last but not least, a hand-done sign from the other corner of 117th and Stark. I'm sending this in the Blog of Unnecessary Quotation marks so they can ignore this submission too.

Bed time ...

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[design, teh_funnay] Donnie Hoyle Returns To Abuse You: You Suck At Photoshop Season 2 Begins!


Donnie Hoyle is back. Just accept it. NSFW unless your boss is one of those "cool" ones.

You Suck At Photoshop Episide 11, the first epi of the second season (by popular demand) deals with smart objects. And spermatazoa. And child support.

Oh, yes, he will abuse you. Here you go:

Meanwhile, Grace does Method. She's pretty good at it, actually:

MyDamnChannel, y'all.

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26 June 2008

[bike_diary] Baja Gresham in Macro Focus


More bicycling fun, in the cool before the heat. And see how fuzzy everything is when we forget to switch the camera out of Macro?

This pic shows a street sign that dates from when this whole area was in Multnomah County. Quite a few of thises still exist. I find them very charming.

Another sign, this on SE 117th at Washington. Hard to say if the parking prohibition is still in effect ... or, if so, when it applies. But it's charming in the way the last sign was.


I love the corner of SE 122nd and Stark. There's nothing particularly amazing to recommend it ... except maybe the Burgerville ... but you know how some corners of your life make you feel like you're home? That's 122nd and Stark to me.

Just before you get there, though, there's the first place you won't see after the last thing you do see. I always thought a funeral home named "Omega" was just a little crass, but that's me for you.

This view of SE 122nd is looking south from SE Main Street, just a touch south of the Midland Library. That dropoff in the distance is more important than you'd think. Where I was standing drains (watershed-wise) to the Willamette. That crest you see in the distance is a divide; water off that direction actually runs to Johnson Creek.


... As this sign just south of Market Street on 122nd will tell you.

And if it's Hispanic, you'll find it at the strip on the corner of 122nd and Market. For those who don't know, tienda is a regular corner store, carneceria is a meat market, panaderia is a bakery, and muebliera is a furniture store. There's also a clothing shop there that will sell quinceñera (XV Años) dresses for the young ladies.

And, at SE 125th Ct and Market Street, there's a sign for a private drive. We've seen others, but this one is not only privately funded, it's privately manufactured as well.

Good thing this is habit-forming. With the price of gas (and the need to reduce the width of my wide load), this is going to be essential pretty soon. We plan on enjoying it. There was a time in my life that I went everywhere on two-wheels ... for many reasons; to be smug about it, because I liked being in shape, because I just love being on two wheels.

Bikes are cool.

But I find myself having to get my bike legs back. Of course, I still remember the first lesson of riding (forget how to fall down), but the rest is a little slower in coming. But not for long.

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[font_design] Work In Progess: Nodoni


The newest font (by way of FontStruct) from my very brAnE is something I'm calling Nodoni.

It was inspired by Bodoni ... but it's not Bodoni. Not ... Bodoni ... Nodoni. Get it?

Well, this font so far has lower case finished and I'm working on the numerals. Here's a look (you can even download the semi-completed font as TrueType if ya wanna:

Now, something I haven't mentioned is that these FontStruct windows update as the font is changed and completed. Come back to it later, you'll get the latest version.

(I'm not naming them Zehnkatzen 1, 2, 3, 4, etc anymore except as working names ... )

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[liff] Rotoscoped Rhythm By Dustball: "Play"


Woke up on the bitter side of the bed today, and when that happens, we need something that makes us happy. We found something that makes us happy. You must watch it. It's called "Play", and it's by an artist calling himself "dustball":

This is brilliant. He made the "Stomp" style rhythms, took movies of himself making the motions, and then rotoscoped the outlines in. Almost hypnotic.

You can see it even better if you follow this link.

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25 June 2008

[bike_diary] Scenes From A Fine Afternoon Ride


A few from my neck of the woods.

This one is from the unfashionable part of Hawthorne Blvd:

This next one is a very charming old sign in what amounts to the right-of-way that SE 115th Ave would be in between SE Salmon and Main Streets ... if it had ever been built. There's a path that goes through there. I was probably trespassing, now that I think about it ... but I got right back out of there.

I've already gone on at length about how much I love looking at Wy'east. I just wish my camera would return the image my mind actually sees. My eyes see something much larger. SE 117th at Division.

The Gethsemane Lutheran Church at SE 117th and Market. It's funny to see a Christian church that looks like a pyramid. Of course, that could be just me.

And another right-of-way for SE 115th Ave, going from SE Hawthorne Blvd through to SE Market Street (that's Market Street in the distance. Lots of maps show this as a street open for travel. It's a lovely shortcut, very peaceful and nice.

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[tech] The Bill Gates Email? Something's Funny About That.


The now-famous billg email ... the one where MSFT's Chief Software Architect complains about how he can't download Moviemaker ... is kind of bizarre.

Just like every other tech geek on the planet, I read it with great interest when word started to go round the world about it. The PI, of course, broke it here. From there it went to BoingBoing.

Now, we'll be the first to admit that we could possibly be wrong about it. But at least one or two things just hit sour notes here. They bother us like a stone in the shoe that's not big enough to bother stopping your bike ride to get out but too big to ignore.

Early on in the email, we read this short paragraph:

I decided to download (Moviemaker) and buy the Digital Plus pack ... so I went to Microsoft.com. They have a download place so I went there.

I've known a few store owners. If they want or need something small out of their store, say a bottle of Fantastik to clean a counter with and they're out, many times they'll pull it off the shelf and make a note on the inventory. They don't necessarily belly up to the checkout stand and have someone work the register for them. They write it off as Store Use or spoilage.

Does billg really need to tell his subordinates that Microsoft.com has a download "place"? I've always assumed that his tech mojo would lead to a more jargon-y approach, if only to call it a download "site".

I've been privileged to be involved in a couple of tests of beta release software from some of the big boys, as part of my technical editing remit. They set up a site where you can download the goods without having to go to the corporate site and do the purchasing rigamarole. Major companies send out very expensive software for review on a regular basis. I have trouble believing that billg wouldn't simply be able to download and just use the software his own company produces at will. It just doesn't make sense.

Yes, I assume that billg should be able to acquire software produced by his own company simply for the asking. No, it doesn't bother me that he can.

The rest of the email hits a similarly sour note. Regardless of the quality of the software MSFT produces, one thing billg isn't is a tyro. He and Paul Allen knew enough coding to create Microsoft BASIC and to adapt QDOS into the first MSDOS. Derivative, maybe, Stupid, no. I tried convincing myself that the writer could come up with something more complex than the Hello World program ... and I just couldn't. The litany of bemusement just doesn't square with someone with as much tech savvy as billg's supposed to have.

Like I said, we could be wrong here, and wrong as 7734. But this email just don't look right, somehow.

We seriously doubt it's the real deal.

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[design] InDesign Is the New ... ?


One of the bloggers with Fenix Workshop penned an entry that, despite its brevity, is meaty, chewy food for thought. It involves my favorite program in the world, Adobe InDesign, with an equally provocative title, InDesign Is The New Microsoft Word.

The subject isn't as incendiary as the attention-getting title would suggest, but an intriguing crystallization of what the blogger sees as a trend:

In the last year or two many office support staffers are being required to learn InDesign, as budgets tighten and companies no longer want to outsource work to freelance designers. Employees with little or no design training are being required to navigate the complexities of typography and information architecture and create publications that look professionally designed.

Not only are design and pre-press pros depending on what I can't resist calling "Indy" to create publications and such. Now support staff ... those who were once expected to do their work in MSWord ... are now expected to crack open Indy and get it done.

It's an interesting observation, and one that leaves me, as a trained graphic designer hoping soon to find a regular gig in design, with decidedly mixed feelings.

Now, most of us know that Indy is no less than a Swiss Army Knife. It's come a long way since 1999, when Indy 1 came out. They whispered that it was the Quark Killer then but version 1 was decidedly weak. I began learning Indy with InDesign 2.0, which was a keen experience. I had known QuarkXPress and enjoyed using it, but I kind of fell head-over-heels in love with Indy. And Indy's just gotten better since. QuarkXPress still exists, but it's kind of off in a world of its own; what work I have been able to find, I've done largely in Indy. I also own a copy of QuarkXPress 6.5. It never sees any use. Indy may not have 'killed" QuarkXPress, but Indy has improved so much that comparing it with Quark really isn't necessary anymore, in my opinion.

I'm encouraged by the attitude of the blogger, who mentions how they weave typography and design principles into the instruction. That's the way it ought to be ... there's plenty of dog's breakfasts out there generated by people who get hold of a copy of a layout program such as Indy and assume that mere posession of such a thing makes them a designer. If you're going to do layout, then you should do it right, whether you're a professional designer or office support staff.

But the pleasure I feel at the thought of competent Indy training for the non-designer is mitigated by the thought that instead of using an in-house (or even an independent designer – I prefer the word independent over freelance) designer, companies essentially "level-up" their office staff. And I wonder how much of the difficulty I've found in finding chances at a gig is generated by that trend.

Heaven-on-earth to me would be to find a steady gig where I'm paid to play with Indy all day long.

Any other designer want to chime in on this one?

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24 June 2008

[type_design] Indiana Jones and the Anachronistic Fonts


(Title uppdated @2222 PDT. I seem to be having a great deal of difficluty with mai sepilling today)

(Via Mark Simonson Studios) This one from the newsfeeds:

Whenever Indy is traveling great distances, which happens in all the films, there is a montage of the airplane or boat superimposed over an animated map showing the route. It’s an old-fashioned convention, an homage to the movies of the Thirties and Forties. Unfortunately, the typefaces would be more at home a few decades later.

Long Story Short:

  • Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981): Set in 1938, used ITC Serif Gothic, which was created in 1972.

  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984): Set in 1935, used Helvetica, for gosh sake ... which didn't exist until 1957.

  • Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (1989): Set in 1938, used ITC Serif Gothic again.

  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of The Crystal Skull (2008): Set in 1957, used Century Gothic, which didn't happen until 1989.

In case it seems nitpicky to obsess on a font this way, consider: first, the production design of all the Indy films, outside of this little thing, is immaculate. We have no complaints about it. Moreover, all the type in all the other scenes we can think of are, as to period ... well, letter-perfect. Secondly, and more importantly, type – just like any other art or artifice – is a product of its times.

Or, maybe, Times. Anyway.

Here's an example. Look at ITC Serif Gothic there. Doesn't that remind you more of Disco than Glenn Miller? And Helvetica, that ubiquitous, adored, hated font, hit it big during the glory days of the so-called "Swiss School" of design ... a school of thought that adored simplicity and cleanliness in design almost to a fetishistic degree.

These are all strong signatures of certain periods that stand tall and uniquely apart from the days of the Indy films. Ironically, if they would have went with Helvetica in Kingdom, that actually would have been historically appropriate.

And so it goes. I'll be FontStructing if anyone needs me.

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[design] Graphic Design Nuts & Bolts: Figure/Ground


A quick and nifty tutorial that will teach you about figure/ground, from the Vector Art blog.

h/t: Yahoo! Grahic Design group

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[toons] Terrahawks: Obsessed By A Show We've Never Actually Watched


Once upon a time, in Geek TV Land, there was a husband-and-wife team; they ruled Kidland with a benevolent hand. The Andersons, Gerry and Sylvia, created a bunch of oddly compelling and geekily-popular series that remain fond memories; Captain Scarlet, SuperCar, Joe 90, and, of course, Thunderbirds.

The puppetry animation system has gone down in history as Supermarionation, of course. The thing about this process is that it livened up the traditional marionette by augmenting it with electromechanics; the puppets responded more realistically to the voices. The solenoids required for this, however, made the heads a little out of proportion to the bodies; they were larger than they should have been, but not so much that you could put your finger on it. So the Tracy family were inspiring, but a little creepy. But we couldn't stop watching, because Thunderbirds in particular were ripping good yarns.

Then came the Anderson's era of Live Action. You may know it well. UFO and, of course, Space:1999. Space:1999 was notable for its being an oasis of geeky televised SF in the droughty era between the original Star Trek and Star Trek of the Latter Day Saints. No, it wasn't great, but it wasn't bad, and hey, you got Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. What's not to like.

Sadly Space:1999 ended quite a few things, most notably the marriages of both Landau-Bain and the Andersons. So, for the first time in decades, Gerry Anderson was without a wife ... and without a show. But Gerry's a survivor, though it was until 1983 before he found a new creative partner (Christopher Burr) and came up with a strange, quirky gem ... Terrahawks.

Here's a mashup of the extended-length theme tune and the opening titles. Watch, and wonder.

Gloriously weird, no? I've never seen this series, and now I want to. I can't get the tune out of my head! And there's such glorious bizarreness in the post-Supermarionation figures.

The look of the titles is compelling. It's another one of those sequences that look CGI but actually aren't, not at all. Just as many of the scenes in Tron are actually rotoscoped and not CGI at all, this entire sequence was hand-rendered cel animation. There isn't a stitch of CGI in this one.

The backstory is tellingly Thunderbirds-esque. Just as in Thunderbirds, we have a small elite group doing the good-guy job, each solidly identified with their corresponding signature hardware. They have a secluded (in the Terrahawks case, secret) base (the Hawknest) is apparently located in northwestern South America, somewhere near the Ecuador-Colombia border. All the hardware is secreted into secure spots: the SSTO Treehawk launches from a tree which splits open; the Battlehawk launches from a silo capped by a mansion; the hybrid Hawkwing is catapulted down a long tunnel under the ocean's floor and exist via a vortex generated by a huge undersea rotor. All gloriously overdone and a lot of fun to watch. The Terrahawks work to protect earth from invaders from the planet Guk (yes, seriously), let by the cyborg Zelda and a crew of grotesque and sometimes downright gross allies who have taken Mars and are using it as an attack platform for Earth (because in the world of such shows, planets are never more than a few million miles apart).

The whole thing is a glorious mishmash of bizarre invaders, virtuous heroes, and technology that regularly violates every known physical laws (the Zeroids, for example, can increase thier mass to that of a black hole somehow without destroying Earth, and one of Zelda's ships can assume pretty much any size it wants in a literal flash).

The characters were a bit odd, to say the least. The leader of the Terrahawks, Dr "Tiger" Ninestein, is one of a set of nine clones of a shadowy figure, Dr. Stein (we never learn his first name, if he has an actual one). If Tiger is lost, one of the other eight Stein clones can be dispatched within a day. While the series didn't take itself as serious as some of the other Anderson productions, some of the humor was gratuitous; the thick Japanese accent of Lt. Hiro (in and of itself a rather silly joke) was continuously mocked by everyone, including the Zeroids (when departing for the Spacehawk, Ninestein wishes that Hiro have "a nice fright")

The animation process – an evolution called Supermacromation - solved many problems that Supermarionation couldn't avoid – such as much more realistic walking – being a cross between latex puppetry and Muppet-style motivation – but the limited range of response of the face combined with the soft matieral made them look Botoxed to the max.

But still, there's something compelling about the goofiness of it all.

I've got to see if Movie Madness has these. I'll bet they do.

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23 June 2008

[modren_life] The Real World Is Just An Abstraction Layer Of Homestar Runner


So help me cats, I don't know how I stumbled on these two culture points or what bizarre wild chance made it so that I saw one and thought of the other.

16 June 2003: The Brothers Chaps release sbemail #77, "Suntan", in which Strong Bad endeavored to get a tan ... and hit upon the invention "Ab-Abber 2000", which grants one a six-pack with the simple expedient of a Sharpie marker upon the stomach (don't forget the hatching):

Watch the whole sbemail here.

18 April 2008: The fashionista proprietrix of the Pursebuzz channel on YouTube (not necessarily NSFW (she's wearing a modest bikini), though your boss might wonder whatever it is you're doing watching a video of a 20-year old woman applying makeup to her belly, and it might just give you the "uh-oh" feeling) posts a video about how you can simulate toned abs with cosmetics:

I guess it caught my eye because I thought Is this the same thing as the Ab-abber? And then I realized ... it kind of was.

It's Strong Bad's world ... we just live there. Here's your proof.

(Important Disclaimer: no judgements on anyone using makeup (or Sharpies) to markup illusory abs is intended nor implied. But maybe Jung was right about synchronicity, although mine is on a tape delay).

Oh, also, "Sharpie" is a trademark of Sanford, Inc. There you go.

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22 June 2008

[design] A Cool, Simple HowTo - Making Maps With Adobe Illustrator


Illustrator can be a mad powerful tool ... actually, that kind of goes without sayting. Making maps is easy, if you know the tricks ... And have the brushes.

Isaac's tutorial here at tutorial9.net shows you how to do it. It's quick, simply explained, and opens up the possiblities.

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21 June 2008

[net_life] Firefox 3: About the About, And An Easter Egg Too


By now a metric buttload of folks have downloaded Firefox 3 and are cogitating about what they think. We think it's flawed but nifty. And, of course ... the easter egg, it haz it:

Go to your address box and key in about:robots to find out some neato facts about robots:

Anyone sufficiently evolved to know about the about: in the address box also knows that about: is one way to tinker under the hood.

About: can do a hell of a lot though. Surf this post to find about whatall. If you want to be a Firefox power user, you'll want to do this.

The button reads Try Again. If you click it, it changes to Please Don't Press This Button Again. If you do, it disappears.

Also, they have a plan. Whether this is a time to worry is not at all clear.

Also, George Kelly has a pretty cool technojam about about:robots.

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20 June 2008

[teh_funnay] Big Fat Brain Clears the Deck For Donnie


... by posting the season finalé of Sn4tchbuckler's Second Chance on My Damn Channel today.

This is an episode with leaves some questions open, but we do know what finally became of Donnie. And Sn4tch has a quest now, it would seem ... for a further season. But watch:

Why should you watch it? To see what Donnie hath wrought. To see Sn4tch rise to his mission. Also, because Grace told you do. Do what Grace tells you to:

And remember ... New You Suck At Photoshop on the 27th. My Damn Channel, yo! Strap on your stupid!

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[liff] Seattle Sign, Properly Punctuated, With Attitude


Thank you to all the BoingBoingers who's stopped by. This modest piece isn't my best work, however; I like mashing up signs with words that don't belong there. Might I also recommend this sequence of images, which I understand, are quite guffaw-inducing?

The picture herein was ripped off of Boing Boing because the article's author suggested the punctuation, which I added.

The sign is located along the Lake Washington Ship Canal in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, and is apparently in an effort to prevent it from becoming the Lake Washington "Schmit" Canal.

The original article and photo is here; I added the punctuation and the more attitudinally-appropriate punishment. Just imagine a record-shop employee with hipster-glasses writing you the ticket.

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18 June 2008

[liff] Optional Illusion


Is it Albert Einstein ... or Marilyn Monroe?

It depends on how far back from this graphic you stand ...

And that's the optional part. Up close, Albert. Stand back a few feet ... Marilyn.

While I have no frigg'n idea how they did it, one suspects it's the same property of human eyesight that makes a big funny mosaic of pixels become a detailed, delicately-shaded desktop icon when viewed at size.

Also can't figure out where it's come from. But it's all over the intarmets.

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[design, teh_funnay] Didn't Get Enough "You Suck At Photoshop"?


Neither did we. But never fear ...

Donnie Hoyle is set to make his triumphant, self-loathing return to teh_funnay when the new 2nd season of You Suck at Photoshop on the 27th of June on MyDamnChannel.

Be there. You all know what to do.

Also, view the Donnie's Special Place Shrine, yo. My work's there, you bet.

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[liff] This Being Said, I Really Wasn't Terribly Invested In The NBA Finals


What's most important to me isn't so much that the Celtics won, it's that the Lakers lost shambolicaly.

The Lakers have been far too smug for far too long.

Double that for Phil Jackson.

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[font_design] ZehnKatzen 5 - A Funky, Retro, OCR-Style Font


So, I had FontStruct open and I was worrying around with ZehnKatzen 4 (the Oregon-shaped font) and was wanting to try something else out. I get bored easily sometimes, and ZehnKatzen 4 turned out to be quite a bit of work (more on that perforce).

I was thinking about the way me and my friends used to play at OCR-style fonts, like what you still see these days on paper checks (you remenber these, yes?). FontStruct is ably suited to this particular task:

So you have a nice display font to evoke those memories of computer-y style Sci Fi book covers and things of that nature. Since Firefox 3 has fits displaying the Flash that gets generated, if you can't see the above, follow this link to the display and download page.

It has A-Z twice (the idea of designing a minusucle scared me a little just now, and I may revisit this) complete numerals, and an incomplete set of punctuation which I intend on fleshing out to completeness

Latterly I have found that FontStruct has its limits, which seem to hinge on how many bricks you're using in the FontStruction. To generate a realistic Oregon outline, I used quite a few bricks, and copied and pasted and then carved the letter out of the state shape. But as more information became retained by the interface, after a while, a curious thing happened regardless of which browser I was using: the browser would 'hang' for just a few moments while the save was attempted, then came back from the process actually not having committed the change.

I'll be dashing off a letter to FontShop asking them about this problem. Maybe nobody else has come upon it. But some of them seem quite complex.

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17 June 2008

[net_life] Firefox 3 Is Giving Fits With Flash


Firefox 3 very nearly hits it out of the park.

Sadly, it doesn't seem to like the taste of my Adobe Flash 9 content at all. Won't display it. Forget about using a Flash-based web app like FontStruct for now.

I'll see about retrograding to Firefox 2 and file a bug report ...

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[font_design] Fred Font "ZehnKatzen 4" has Four Fans


I'm still not taking the font world by storm (do I take anything by storm? Allow me that complaint ...) however, I note the happy thing that four people have downloaded it from FontStruct.

I'm busy coming up with more font ideas for, yeah, this is kind of fun, y'all.

Get yourself a preview of the Oregon-shaped font ZehnKatzen 4 here. It's TrueType. Download link provided.

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[biketopia] Fixie=Xanadu?


I must admit, we've never understood the allure of the fixie. I love the good old-fashioned 10-speed ... and since I'll have to get back on one real soon now, for commuting and for reducing the wide load I'm currently carrying, I like having the lower gears.

That first few weeks back in the saddle are going to be hell on two wheels, man. Thank geography I'm only three miles away from work. Some of those hills worry me but ... I digress.

Like Jonathan Maus over at BikePortland (which I read a lot less than I ought to, yo) seems to amusedly note, the fascination over fixies is rather inscrutable. But there, I notice, he seems to be wondering whether or not the fixie fascination is a fad ... and whether or not that fad is about to peak.

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[liff] Niven's Laws


Larry Niven is one of the greatest living SF writers today. I always felt as though he was my generation's Robert Heinlein and Frederik Pohl all rolled into one iconoclastic-y guy (his Known Space futhistory cycle is part of SF canon today, but back in the '70s it was category-defining. And Ringworld is one of the great ones).

As SF writers are wont to do, he too distills his wisdom into a set of witty axioms (and in that observation, to be sure, is perhaps a great grand unifying Law of SF Writers). I find Niven's Laws particularly entertaining, because they seem to come from a place that gives Larry Niven his value: he differs with you without making you his adversary. Everyone fancies that their observations "make you think"; most of those people are just obnoxious boors looking for an excuse to be blunt and angry at you without having to account for being a twit. Niven's observations are the kind of actual "think-making" that everyone thinks they are doing but really aren't.

Niven's Laws, updated in 2002 in Analog magazine, run as follows (if you wan't the author's equally-witty (and equally-required reading) commentary on his laws, go hither):

  • 1a) Never throw crap at an armed man.

  • 1b) Never stand next to someone who is throwing crap at an armed man.

  • 2) Never fire a laser at a mirror.

  • 3) Mother Nature doesn't care if you're having fun.

  • 4) Giving up freedom for security has begun to look naive.

  • 5) Psi and/or magical powers, if real, are nearly useless.

  • 6) It is easier to destroy than create.

  • 7) Any damn fool can predict the past.

  • 8) History never repeats itself.

  • 9) Ethics change with technology.

  • 10) Anarchy is the least stable of social structures. (It falls apart at a touch)

  • 11) There is a time and place for tact.

  • 12) The ways of being human are bounded but infinite.

  • 13) When your life starts to look like a soap opera, it's time to change the channel.

  • 14) The only universal message in science fiction: There exist minds that think as well as you do, but differently.
    Niven's corollary: The gene-tampered turkey you're talking to isn't necessarily one of them.

  • 15) Fuzzy Pink Niven's Law: Never waste calories.

  • 16) There is no cause so right that one cannot find a fool following it.

  • 17) No technique works if it isn't used.

  • 18) Not responsible for advice not taken.

  • 19) Think before you make the coward's choice. Old age is not for sissies.

  • 20) Never let a waiter escape.

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[net_life] Firefox Download Day hoHAH!!!


Firefox is out in multi-cool version 3.0! Yay!

Firefox wants to set a world's record! Yay!

Firefox gets Slashdotted! Yay!

Firefox gets Dugg! Yay!

All within an hour! Uhhh ... okay, yay!

Mozilla.org stops responding under the onslaught! Ummm ... yay?

Still trying to download after forty minutes? Ya, sure, youbetcha.

Our recommendation? Get Firefox 3 ... when you can.

Update at 1143 PDT: Finally started downloading after 45 minutes of trying. Firefox hits it out of the park, yo, but man ...

Update at 1146 PDT: The download proved to be Firefox 2! WTF? Trying again.

Update at 1152 PDT: Finally, it's starting ... And it is FF3 this time.

Update at 1156 PDT: Firefox 3 is online here at home. Yes, it was worth the struggle.

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16 June 2008

[design] Free Photoshop Light-Writing Action!


Free is a very good price, and today at Creative Curio, the estemmable blogger there has come up with a FREE FREE FREE! Photoshop action that will render the 'light graffiti' effect that is somewhat popular right now. You can download it from this link. How to do it after the example picture:

Here you go:

  1. Download and break open the archive.

  2. Double-click the action file. PS will start up automatically

  3. Open a Photoshop document.

  4. Make text on its own layer. Make it 300 points.

  5. Create a dark background (not black, but dark. A range of tones makes the effect especially tasty)

  6. Run the action from the actions palette.

  7. Enjoy.

Should work with both CS2 and CS3.

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[font_design] FontStruction ZehnKatzen 4 Now More Complete (Free Font, Yo!)


The Oregon-shaped font moves toward completion. The full range of A-Z in both lower and upper case now exist. Of course, this is a display sort of thing and lower case isn't really appropriate for the font, so I've repeated the upper into the lower case spots. If I'd not done this, you'd have to type it with CAPS LOCK on all the time. Next come the numerals (and a blank state outline)

Click on the image to go to the download page. If the image don't open it up for you, click on this link right here.

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[news] Cedar Rapids: 438 City Blocks


The metric mentioned most often to give people who don't live in Cedar Falls IA an idea of how much of the city has been inundated by the Great Iowa Flood of 2008 is 438 blocks on both sides of the Cedar River.

In the past, without knowing how big a city block is in other cities (about 220 feet on a side in Portland, 1/8th of a mile in Chicago, extremely variable in Salem, &c) it's actually not all that helpful.

Thank silicon wafers we have the Google, and intrepid Google Maps mashers who made the following happen for the Cedar Rapids local paper, The Gazette: (use that textual link – I tried to link to the image and it just. wouldn't. work.)

Cedar Rapids is a city of about 120,000, just a little smaller than Salem or Eugene. That pool looks like it's about eight miles long, and as wide as 1.5 miles in some places.

A comparable flood in Portland would probably have to submerge downtown and the Pearl as far back as about 10th Avenue, and go east at least as far as Grand Avenue or maybe 6th or 7th, to get the same sort of spread.

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14 June 2008

[font_design] FontStruct = Prototyping Anywhere


One thing I was thinking that FontStruct was good for was protoyping on-the-go. Say you have an idea for a font ... one made of Oregon outlines, for instance – and you have a My-T-Fine program linke FontLab Studio, but you just want to goof around, and hey, you have a intermets connection available.

Get out the FontStructor:

... click on the download link, break open the resulting ZIP file, and load the .ttf file into your trusty FontLab Studio:

Good to go! including nifty and necessary vertical and horizonal font metrics!

A FontStruct logo is even in the .notdef character space, which is a classy touch.

When you're compelled to create and you have you a net connection and a few minutes on your hand, log into the FontStructor and toss some blocks around. When you're near your good friend FontLab Studio (and presumably, TypeTool as well) load up and get going!

On a related matter, this particular font, ZehnKatzen 4, which is made (as was earlier established) of just outlines of the state of Oregon, has been downloaded 2 times. And it's not complete! Nifty!

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[font_design] FontStruction: ZehnKatzen 4. Because You Need A Two-Character Font That is The Outline Of The State Of Oregon.


Like I said, here it is (click on the image to be of the download):

Right now there are just two characters in it. Capital A and small A. And they are both, at this time anyway, an outline of the state of Oregon, which is pretty much the best place there ever was.

This will be expanded into a full font and I'm also going to come up with a full range of outlines for the 50 states (some might be pretty tough, but that's why you push yourself).

And let's just take a minute to enjoy the mere shape of the state of Oregon. It's a very pleasant shape, no? There's a rightness to it, a balance and a visual feel that is just satisfying.

Not hatin' on any other place, but Oregon is the best place ever, yo.

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13 June 2008

[font_design] FontStruction: ZehnKatzen 3


My third font made via FontStruct, ZehnKatzen 3, is a play on the isosceles triangles and bevelled blocks that the FontStructor offers. This one includes only minuscule, no majuscule yet, complete numerals, and some symbols and punctuation.

Every FontStruct FontStruction announced here should be assumed to be somewhat incomplete when first released unless announced otherwise. I get bored easily with one design alternative and tend to jump to another. But I'll get them all filled in eventually.

Share and enjoy:

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[font_design] Fontstruction: ZehnKatzen 2


I'm playing with FontStruct and coming up with designs as I get to learn the way the bricks can be done. Here's a font I call ZehnKatzen 2 (I'm going to be numbering them like Chicago albums because it pleases me, except for the thirteenth, which will, of course, be called ZehnKatzen Hot Streets):

Enjoy to download. Majuscule only at the time of posting; no numbers, minuscules, or symbols. Those are TBA.

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12 June 2008

[graphic_design, or_politik] Gordon Smith Fontgate!


Just a few more thoughts on the UO/El Gordo Logo imbroglio. Promise.

We found that, happily, we've recieving inbound linkage from The Big O's "Playbooks and Profits" web column by Brent Hunsberger (look for the words a design blog) and The Big O's Ducks blog (where a link to this missive appears in a sidebar box) in an entry by Rachel Bachmann.

Thanks for the links, folks. Prepare to see your inbound traffic increase by as much as half a visitor a day. But, moreover, I'd like to give due thanks to The O for calling this humble establishment a design blog.

You see, people.I told you this was a design blog! I told you!

Anyway, this may or may not be the proverbial intersection of tempest and teapot (or, in American, a cyclone in a coffemaker). But as a type geek I'm not allowed to let this pass without making a few more comments. Here we go:

Whose IP Is It, Anyway?

The word copyright gets thrown around quite a bit these days, and sometimes gets used in situations where it doesn't belong. I, as they say, are not a lawyer, so I doubtless have contributed in my own tiny way to that confusion.

One thing I don't think I'm confused on, though, is the issue of licensee rights, at least as far as the general concept goes. When you use a font on your computer or in your design, you have to have the right to use it. And, as will no doubt surprised a great many people, just like the software you run, you don't actually own the file. You've purchased the right to use them. You are a licensee.

Most font licenses extend rights for use to the user. When a designer uses a typically-commercially available font, they have a right to use it to create their designs and, when necessary, send a copy of those files to a service bureau so that they can use them in the printing. InDesign and QuarkXPress both have warning dialogs you must dismiss to remind you of this.

What I can't do, as a designer, is, say, give away my copy of Adobe Garamond Pro for someone else to use at will. They have to buy the font (that is to say, the right to use it) themselves. If I send someone project files with the fonts is a service-bureau-type relationship, they are probably okay to use it only as far as the scope of the project goes, but they can't copy the font files, install them on their systems, and use them for whatever they want to.

Let's assume, for the moment only, and only for the sake of argument, that the font in Senator Smith's "OR" logo is the Belloti font used by the UO and designed for them by Nike. The University of Oregon owns rights to the font, according to Jay Jones at the Duck Sports News Blog:

You see, here’s the thing about this logo: the University of Oregon owns it. Even though the “Mike Bellotti” font (”Bellotti Bold” might be its proper name), as it’s called within the Athletics Department, was designed by Nike, it belongs the the UO. There might be others out there like it (Eurostile, Blair, Bank Gothic, & Serpentine), but there’s only one “Oregon” font.

If the Smith logo font is the same one as the Ducks' then the Smith campaign could use it ... so long as they bought the rights to using it from the UO. This is exactly the thing that happens when you buy fonts on line. However, UO is famously restrictive about who helps themselves to that identity:

Here’s one other thing about the font: for designers working with the UO, getting it is a bit of a Holy Grail. Only a few at the Casanova Center have it. Just try getting a hold of it. Good luck. Believe me. Because I’ve tried. And then try using it and see if you don’t get a call from the Trademark Management office.

So, if it is UO's proprietary font, then Smith's campaign would be in a civil liability zone. There's been speculation that the University should bring action against it. The likelihood of UO doing anything about it, however, is low, as The O's Rachel Bachmann reports;

Matt Dyste, Oregon's director of brand management, seemed neither flattered nor flummoxed by the campaign's choice. He noted the similarity in Smith's lettering to Oregon's typeface but said it "probably isn't" an issue for the university.

The thing about a perceived transgression like this is that, if the party perceived as damaged here (the UO) doesn't particularly see a problem or a big deal, they probably won't take it to court. In a society where everyone can sue over anything, sometimes, nobody is particularly obliged to sue. If there is damage, there's probably not enough for the University to care or worry about.

But is it Belotti Bold?

What Font Is It Anyway?

A casual glance at the Smith logo (here's where I've posted it) sure does suggest that it's the same thing ... or maybe very very close. Maybe the one informed the other.

A commenter in the Blue Oregon comment thread suggested it was a font called Handel Gothic. I looked at it too, and I have to admit ... it's close, very close ... but, as they say, close – but no cigar. Compare the capital Rs. The leg on the front of the R and the stroke on the middle cross stroke display an almost Gill Sans-like curving. Those parts of the R in the Oregon logo and the Smith logo are both very straight – no curves, and make the strongest case for a design ripoff.

Moreover, there's a straightness to the sides of the O that neither the Smith logo nor Handel Gothic share.

I also tried uploading this to the public service site What The Font?, but results were inconclusive. WTF? suggested five fonts, clearly none of which were the font in question.

About the only thing we can say for sure of the font used in the Smith branding is that we can say what it looks very much like, but we can't say for sure exactly what it is.

So What?

This would just grace the pages of reader-hungry design blogs if it weren't for the fact that Senator Smith's branding belongs to a republican US Senator whose hold on his seat is perhaps not as solid as he'd hoped. Since it's a facet of a political campaign, however, an enormous amount of motives have gotten read into it. Some feel that it's an insincere attempt to moderate up Smith's image; some find it a succinct statement of the way he does his business.

So a lot of us comment on it, and cast our aspirations thereon.

I often quip that a little design goes a long way. See what this little bit of design has done for all of us? This is one reason why design is so much damn' fun.

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[type_design] Bespoke Font Follies Take In Both Oregon And Britain



Copyright and font licensing questions compel a British "quango" to pay for a custom job and raise eyebrows here in electoral-season Oregon.

(Microsoft Typography, et. al.) The word bespoke in the term bespoke font refers, essentially, to a custom job. We borrow the term from British English, where the word originated on Savile Row; a bespoke suit is male couture custom made for the customer, not from a pattern. If a group pays for a font to be made, that font belongs to them.

Why would an organization pay for a font to be specifically made for them? It saves money, for one thing.

In the UK there is a Quasi-Non Governmental Organization (or quango) called the British Council. They recently commissioned, as part of thier branding strategy, the creation of a specific font to be owned by them and to be used in their identity. This font, called "British Council Sans", looks something like this:

It looks a bit as though Gill Sans and Myriad got together and had a kid. Not all that bad looking really. Now, this font cost the British Council (which is involved with promoting Britain somehow ... which seems strange, if you ask us, Britain's always just kind of sold itself. Worcestershire sauce, I mean, what else do you need?) the rather royal sum of ... GBP 50,000.

That's almost $98,000, kids. Wish I could have gotten that contract, let me tell you.

This has of course caused a bit of a row (as they say there) amongst some critical groups which say that there are plenty of good fonts available for free, which shows what they know about design (not much) and font licensing (even less). Because, as a spokesman for the Council put it:

The decision to commission a bespoke font saved the British Council over GBP 500,000. 'Without a bespoke font, every user and every supplier in the 110 countries we operate in worldwide would have had to buy legal versions of the Century Schoolbook and Univers fonts previously used.

That's nearly a cool US million (at today's rates) saved, kids. And the fellow isn't just blowing sunshine up your skirt. Just because, for example, I have a license to use a font, if I subcontract with someone to work on a project with me, they are not necessarily authorized to use it. They may have to buy it too.

Send a treasure token, token / Write it on a pound note, pound note, as the noted philosopher Adam Ant once said.

Here in the Beaver State, what may well be the use of a similarly bespoke font has become something of an embarrassment to a certain republican fighting to retain his US Senate seat right now. Senator Gordon Smith's campaign logo and materials have used a clever visual trick where the OR in the name GORDON is reversed out from a green Oregon outline.

The trouble is, the font used looks a great deal like the distinctive font used by the University of Oregon for its athletic programs ... but, as Kari Chisholm over at Blue Oregon asks, you be the judge:

Well, you know, we report; you decide. The Smith campaign denied it out-of-hand, of course, but none the less, the front page of his site at GordonSmith.com looks like this now:

The news broken at Blue Oregon has been tipped in the newsfeed over at Microsoft Typography, so, good on you guys.

All of which should reinforce the idea of font licensing. It's not just a good idea; it's the law. If you're sloppy about it, it'll cost you; if not a ton of money, at least a bit of embarrassment.

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