Sunday, June 24, 2007

Bob Schieffer: wilier than you

CBS News' Bob Schieffer with the morning show money quote for June 24th:
"The truth is I never asked Paris Hilton to be on Face The Nation, and for one reason, I couldn't think of anything I wanted to ask her."
The whole commentary is very much worth the short read time. Bob, you're a lone voice in the wilderness, but you're no loon.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

From the Good Vibes Dept.

The running time of Boston I, at 37:08, is precisely the time required to drive to and from the now-retired FeedBurner offices in clear traffic, starting from my home.

That's just the sort of kismet I can get behind.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Lolcatting Google Maps' Street View

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Desert Denouements

Isn't it more than a bit eerie that tonight's back-to-back The Sopranos and Entourage episodes had endings that involved principal characters shouting a single phrase of vindication into echoing, open canyons at the conclusion of spontaneous, reckless personal journeys?

I'm going with, "Yes, yes it was."


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Chicago gets the bid!

I'm psyched that Chicago got the nod from the USOC to be the USA's applicant city for the 2016 Olympic Games. I think we can do a fantastic job hosting this event (anyone remember our World Cup performance in 1994? Not too shabby) and the excitement factor for the city itself, should it get the ultimate bid, would be off the charts.

Congrats to the team that worked tirelessly, I'm sure, to build and sell the plan and to city government itself for having the guts to take a serious swing at this. A great Olympic showing for Chicago in 9 years could have a 'Barcelona Effect' — raising the city's global stature and proper recognition to great new heights. I can't wait to watch this unfold, especially since it will put enormous pressure on the CTA and hopefully Cook County Government to shape up or else. Two less well-managed entities are hard to come by, and cleaning them out from the top is slightly more likely if something like Olympic success or failure is at stake.


Monday, February 12, 2007

New Yorker Caption Contest #86: My Entry


I usually try to draw it, but the conditions suggest "pincer movement."


Friday, February 9, 2007

How to Write a Movie Review

1) Go here.

2) Drop all your current pretenses and vain, nervy ticks. Write like this.

3) Keep referring back to this any time you think you're starting to get cute.

4) Lather, rinse, repeat.

(Thanks for the link, Mr. Alan Asper, wherever you are.)


Saturday, February 3, 2007

Global Warming's relentless advance meets fierce local resistance


…It's the kind of weather that takes you back to the coldest days of childhood memory (if your American childhood was spent anywhere north of, say, Indianapolis). I remember some walks to the bus stop in eighth and ninth grade — 1984 and 1985 — in central Michigan when it was about –20°F and the snow crunched like broken Styrofoam beneath your feet. It was the strangest sound, and I guess it's what water does when it's moved somewhere beyond ice.

There isn't enough snow here to test that memory very effectively tonight, but the wind is a pretty sharp refresher. The trees creak and clatter like taut steel cabling. We also have that full moon, and it has the silvery menace of a disc of dry ice, held in a clenched fist on a dare.

I think I'll stand on my back porch for a few moments tonight, just to commit this rare freeze to memory once more. When summer's heat roars back, the novelty of it will be something to relish.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

eboy's "Foo Bar": A few million pixels of mayhem

In case you're wondering what things look like during a typical day in FeedBurner's neighborhood on the Internets, it's likely that the best visualization to capture it all is pixel-pushing consortium eboy's "Foo Bar". I've repro'd it below:

eboy image

This is like the best of M.C. Escher, Where's Waldo, and Q*Bert rolled into one. If you should happen to view the real poster in its full-size glory, you'll marvel at the comedic and satirical detail. (Just what is it with the Mouse Henchmen — especially the guy with the carbine in the YouTube sign — and what's their sinister plan?)


Saturday, October 7, 2006

You really can find everything at Sam's Club.

Sure, It looks like a great deal, but don't be fooled: the gas and insurance will eat you alive.


Click to enlarge

...original link sent from my friend Bob Pastore, who works at Wal•Mart corporate and insists this will help his bonus, if he can move a few.


Thursday, August 3, 2006

The Vader Humor Meme

There is an ever-growing library of Star Wars mashup video and audio growing at places like YouTube, as well as virally via plain old blogs and email. There seems to be no darth dearth of Vader-related items, especially. (Oh man. I just slay me with material like that.) But to really deliver the funny with existing material, you need to have a gift for the quick edit. This fellow most assuredly has it:

YouTube - Darth Vader being a smartass

If you're looking for another signature Vader bit, search for "Chad Vader." Hilarity ensues.

(Hat tip to Chris for getting me started on this.)


Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Only "USA Sucked Out Loud in '06 World Cup; Discuss" Post That You'll Probably Need

Coach Mike over at On The Pitch offers the definitive round-up on blogosphere reaction to the US' dismal all-around performance in the World Cup, along with his projection that Bruce Arena needs to go and US qualification preparation schedules need to get a lot more ruthless if we ever plan to succeed at this level. The FeedBurner consensus opinion? Something like "if you guys would actually shoot the ball, you might score." Sheesh.


Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Gonna be a hot one, alright

Spotted in the Chicago Tribune's online weather center this morning:


That's only 4,856 Kelvin.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

46 minutes and 34 seconds less of the running part this time

I've decided to run the Chicago Marathon again. You may or may not know that Dick and I snapped the tape together (had there been any left to snap) in 2001. It was an awesome feeling in the moment, and although it's taken me the better part of the entire five years since to recover, I can still recall just about every mile in episodic fashion.

The race itself is a perfect showcase for the city. As a participant, you cover nearly every neighborhood within five miles of the lake and the Loop that has stories to tell when passing by foot. (A notable omission is Hyde Park, which is nicely summarized by the Chicago Half Marathon. Don't say you don't have options here.) The first five miles are a greatest hits of the famous North Side: from the starting line, a grand criss-cross of the Loop with the body of the race 40,000 strong, stretching wide and thunderous down the glass canyons and buzzing bridge decks of LaSalle Street; followed by a wind through Lincoln Park and Lakeview's streets packed with spectators, jam bands, and the occasional transvestite conga line.
Turning south, the long roll down Wells reveals gentrifying neighborhoods and fast-vanishing public housing; galleries, eateries and lofts lining the sidewalks of River North. A westerly turn takes you through the Old Country; Taylor Street and the venerable Italian neighborhoods. Somewhere here, it hits you that an Italian Ice might be just the thing to boost you into the next pace group. Without any warning, unless you're a habitual split-timer, the 13.1 marker flows past. Good Lord! I'm halfway home and I feel this good? I'm Invincible! Little do you know as a first-timer that this will be the finest half marathon of your life. The trouble is, you get 0' 00" to recover for the very next one.
The second half of Chicago is where the test lies. I suppose that's true of every city's 26.2, but it's especially poignant because of the layout here. The cheering crowds thin; the neighborhoods become far more commercial and far less gregarious (with the notable exceptions of Chinatown and Pilsen, where each's community welcomes the running throng warmly with colorful flags, dragons, and street corners full of cheering children and other well-wishers.)
Put all that drama aside. Somewhere around mile 18 or 19, The Grip sets in. Your legs just don't flow like they did across the river bridges in mile 3. Your breathing, benefiting all along from clean and cool October air, doesn't seem to pull enough oxygen to clear the weight from your chest. And when you get clear of Chinatown, you find yourself in a desolate South Side track that makes you reconsider the entire summer spent running darkened city streets at 5am and meeting your group for the weekend long run. Metabolism shmetabolism -- you're starting to burn organs at this point. Many Chicago veterans I've talked to say that the stretch by Comiskey Park is the worst. No spectators. You can see the returning field curving around the opposite side of the highway from you, seemingly miles ahead and moving at twice your speed. Check your watch for a split: 8:37:53? Crap. Losing steam, from new cracks in old pipes.
Mile 23. Bronzeville -- the modernist zenith that is the IIT campus. Unyielding fatigue, but no way in hell does this end here. You have a 5K to the finish line. In 2001, this was the point in the race at which at guy in a full Captain America suit -- with shield -- passed both me and Dick and lumbered his way to a sub-4 hour time. That's one way to have your expectations reset. You tighten the straps, shorten your stride, and watch your vision narrow to the plodding pair of feet in front of yours. If he can be in front of me, well, Hell...
The final mile. You can't stop, but yet you can't seem to reach the finish. Peripheral vision finally widens. That sprint you seem to always save for the end of your 8K races took a much earlier flight outta town; it's nowhere to be found today. When you finally cross the line, every last dollar in your race wallet spent, you start to suspect that you will reach an impasse with your quads and calves as soon as they get a chance to stiffen up. Everyone around you is wrapped in a reflective mylar sheet given to all finishers; it's a blinding, confusing mass of people who would probably collapse like a domino line if a big push ever rippled through the field.
So, that was my experience in a year in which my goal was simply to participate and test my personal limits. As for posting a 3:30 time — an early goal — clearly, I had my margins outside of the printable area of the page. But my time, 4:01:34, didn't dimish pride in the accomplishment. At some point since then, well after the soreness and any memories of the rough miles had faded, I began thinking, "How much time would I have to shave off to qualify for Boston?"
Turns out that 3 hours, 15 minutes is the time I need to qualify as a 36 year-old. Good thing I waited until I was older than 35; this added 5 minutes to the limit. So, that's my goal in 2006: find ways to cut off that 0:46:34 from 2001. I figure I can erase 15 minutes via improved race strategy, 15 minutes via speed training and better core strength development, and the final 0:16:34 through some undetermined personal sacrifice. (Please, God, anything but the hefeweisen.) Beginning June 24, I start in with my CARA group and hope to keep at it through race day this year, October 22. I'll keep you posted.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Been (Not) Caught Stealing

I have a bimodal commute (not that there's anything wrong with that). I ride my bike to my local train station pretty much every workday morning, unless a blizzard or thunderstorm is currently in progress.

On Tuesday this week, I locked my bike as usual by the stairs at my station. When I returned in the evening, my old U-lock's circular bolt had somehow gotten twisted in such a way that I could no longer fit the toothed key. I fought with it for 20 minutes; I even went home, got WD-40 and a Bic pen (the infamous Kryptonite hack? Could it be my turn to make use of it?), and tried all manner of prying and prodding to force the lock body to turn back to allow the key to work just one more time. No luck — that baby was frozen shut. Chris figured someone had made a weak play at defeating the lock and given up; I certainly can't see how it got twisted and frozen on its own.

So, in a fit of "get 'r done," I sawed that damned lock right off my frame last night. Let it be known that in Park Ridge, IL, a guy with a Dremel tool plugged into his car's 110VAC accessory outlet can throw sparks from a locked bike for ~20 minutes without a single passerby stopping to ask awkward questions. Including an entire outbound Metra full of de-training commuters, which was of course right next to my daily rack choice. Suburbs.

(Thanks to JZ for encouraging me to share this business.)


Sunday, April 16, 2006

New Yorker Caption Contest: April 17, 2006

welcome, shareholders

“Based on last quarter, I say Truth-or-Dare accounting is here to stay.”


Saturday, April 8, 2006

Blistering review of the new Mercedes GL's, um, owners

gas guzzlahFrom the LA Times via the SF Chron:

Need has very little to do with it. This segment is about want, naked and unquenchable. It's well established that the vast majority of these vehicles never touch gravel, never carry more than a couple of people, and never tow anything heavier than the weight of their owner's childhood traumas.

Oh, snap. And that's just the tip of a fleet-sinking iceberg; Read the rest if you need a terminal case of cognitive dissonance over your own recent sub-20mpg purchase.


Sunday, March 12, 2006

Woke Up This Morning, Got Yourself A Gun

I hope you'll join me in saying it: It's good to have The Sopranos back.


Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Of FeedBurner and Fonts

Although we don't get called out directly in The Logos of Web 2.0 (even though we are in Ludwig Gatzke's original compilation image), I'd like to point out that Trade Gothic Bold powers the text portion of the FeedBurner logo, which slots us among The Classics, according to The FontShop's categorization.

Beats Comic Sans seven days a week, I tell you whut.


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Slow news day, indeed

Thanks to our marketing guru Traci for pointing this out: my (first) name is in lights as #3 at tech.memeorandum at this moment. I helped author this post about FeedBurner's second birthday. It's not exactly "blogosphere is going cuh-razy" material, but it's cool to see FeedBurner make the front page of this fast-moving service again.



Sunday, February 19, 2006

The NHL's in a bad way

I'm watching hockey this morning — USA vs. Sweden — and it occurs to me this might be the first time I've consciously paid attention to it since Herb Brooks was pacing the boards for Team USA. The thing is, Olympic hockey seems to have real electricity and energy, both in the stands and on the ice. Every game seems to matter. A lot.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the NHL is trying to bootstrap itself after a devastating strike. Maybe it's just Chicago, where the Blackhawks appear to be mired in a decade-long pool of suck, but hockey seems to matter little, even to hockey people. It's becoming a participation sport again, isn't it? Plenty of prep kids playing, but adult interest at the pro level seems as low as ever. Baseball managed to come back from its own painful work stoppage in 1994, but its importance to American pop culture was never in doubt. But what about hockey? South of say, 41° north, who really gives a rip?


Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Ski Resorts I've Visited

As a sort of follow-up to my me-tooish Most Visited Cities List post, I've decided to start my own self-promotional list meme: Ski Resorts I've Visited (All Time). I know a lot of skiers, and I'm curious to see where else in the USA and elsewhere others have been in their search of the perfect run. Plus, it's always fun to reminisce, isn't it?

Two days of skiing here at Diamond Peak at Lake Tahoe has rekindled memories of faceplants and black diamonds past. I'm also having a lot of fun watching my oldest son, Austin, discover just how exhilarating it can be to learn how to point yourself down the hill and finish with a grin that's wider than a backcountry powder bowl.

Oh, yes. The List, organized by state, with the year I first skiied the mountain, asterisk if skiied more than once, and some commentary:

  • Heavenly (1986*; it's always crowded, and almost always worth it)
  • Diamond Peak (2002*; smallish, but great terrain and never a lift line if the weather's good)
  • Northstar at Tahoe (2002; didn't get a full sense of the place, except for 'packed to the gills with daytrippers')

  • Vail (1982*; my first western mountain. i damn near quit skiing after i lost control on a catwalk and plunged 30' down a side ravine, missing every tree on the way down to land against a hay bail. I mean, really. Come on.)
  • Beaver Creek (1982; its first year of operation. I hear it's a five-star resort now, but in year zero they served lunch at the base in an inflatable dome-tent.)
  • Keystone (1988; senior year of high school road trip with the Furlow sisters. I played the Jack Tripper role.)
  • Breckenridge (1986*; still one of my favorites for sheer mass and variety of terrain. Not exactly a well-kept secret.)
  • Copper Mountain (1992; If this mountain was a car, it would be a Volvo V70. Misunderstood as merely family-friendly, it has a performance-minded core, reliable starts winter after winter, and features that disappoint no one, whether spending time in the front or back.)
  • Snowmass (1997; we stayed at Aspen and somehow I totally bagged on skiiing Ajax or Highlands for that entire week. What gives?)
  • Steamboat (1994; my then-girlfriend Amy passed a critical test: she learned to ski, and more importantly, had a blast doing it. Deal sealed.)
  • Winter Park (1988; see Furlow sisters above. I think this might be the best tree skiing I've seen in Colorado.)

  • Schuss Mountain/Shanty Creek (1981*; first ever ski lesson. 400' vertical feet of adrenline-charged madness, I tell you.)
  • Crystal Mountain(1983*; Another good all-arounder in the northern Michigan scene. Beautiful setting in the Grand Traverse area.)
  • Nubs Nob (1983*; seriously.)
  • Caberfae (1983; I think they boasted of 36 runs then; each was about 200 vertical feet, so they certainly could handle lots of frustrated skiers in parallel)
  • Boyne Mountain (1982*; still a Michigan classic. Surrounding countryside is gorgeous.)
  • Boyne Highlands (1982*; ditto Highlands, which had my graduating high school class' consensus vote as favorite hill in the state.)

  • Big Sky Resort (1997*; thanks, Eric, for letting us in on this one. A first-rate resort that's exactly difficult enough to get to so it stays that way.)

New Mexico
  • Taos (1996*; Their "no snowboarders allowed" policy still holds firm; can't say I care much at all. Some of driest snow I've ever skiied.)
    Ski Santa Fe (2000; a great townie mountain.)

  • Deer Valley (1986; it was just learning how to be posh then; today it's Michael Douglas/Prince Bandar chic. 100% groomed terrain. Not for realists.)
  • Park City (1986; the Vail of Utah.)
  • Alta (1986; the Alta of Utah. Incredible, treeless expanse of dessicated powder with sweeping views of the Wasatch.)

  • Crystal Mountain (1995; Cascades snow quality varies by the week, it seems; good terrain variety here and proximity to Seattle are pluses)
  • Stevens Pass (1995; more predictable snow than southern Washington. I only skiied there at night, but I think they have more lit terrain than any other resort I've visited. Night skiing is breathtaking; I suggest you try it.)

  • Jackson Hole (1990; Utterly awe-inspiring. If you can, save it for last on your life's list. It's a massif that rockets up almost one vertical mile from the valley floor and battles you for every foot you attempt to shed on the way back down. Sadly, I didn't have the stones to tackle Corbett's Couloir. I doubt you do, either.)

British Columbia
  • Whistler/Blackcomb (1996; it's rain at the bottom, pure powder at the top, and almost a mile of seemingly limitless terrain in between. Awesome apres ski village, and probably the best drive to the resort of all of them, mainly because it almost always starts in Vancouver. Best. city. ever.)

Where else should I go? Post your list and gimme a trackback, comment, or somethin'.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Blogs, Feeds, Flares

As my co-founder colleague Steve observed, we "suddenly" seem to have a fresh raft of talented, interesting bloggers aboard here at FeedBurner. This is of course good from the "use what you make" perspective of being a FeedBurner-powered publisher of a subscribeable content feed; we all use our own product and are familiar with benefits and learn from its limitations for future releases. The added wealth of inspired creativity also puts my tired words to shame and rekindles my interest in making I.C.B.B. something other than what it is today -- something of a test aircraft junkyard, where once-novel concepts briefly took flight but now accrue rust from non-use and disrepair.

On to the new: if you haven't seen FeedFlare, you should take a good look at it. It allows readers to more easily take meaningful action on your content, whether it's viewed on your site or in your feed. Find out who's linking to it at Technorati, save it to your delicious bookmarks list, email it to your buddy in Pittsburgh, and more. As Eric pointed out, the real hijinks are coming soon, when we open up the Flare API:
I'm really excited about this new development with FeedFlare, but I'm really really excited about what's coming next. The API is going to be a lot of fun, and I can't wait to see the kinds of FeedFlares that will be created.

The open API we'll be releasing will allow anyone to tie actions and other data to their content in ways their readers will care about. Incorporate Google Maps, Amazon Web Services, the BackPack API, and other popular, powerful web services into your content, using your feed as the core that brings it all together. We hope to provide lots and lots of both concrete and utterly conceptual-yet-suggestive examples to spark your creativity.
Off for a quick ski vacation for a couple of days, then back hard at work on Flare and other good stuff. If you subscribe to my feed, expect a few Flickr photo posts from the slopes shortly!


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My "Cities Visited in '05" List

Thanks to John's post I'm hopping on another bandwagon. Here's my chronological list of cities I visited in 2005:

*I spent more than one non-consecutive night there.

Geeze. Looking back on it, this is the undisputed king of travel years in my personal history.


Friday, January 6, 2006

Ah, the 90s

Ken Kalan's home page makes me nostalgic for a kinder, gentler time. A time before transparency and antialiased text. A time before nested tables and single-pixel GIFs. A time when Pointcast was considered push. A time when email could be read at the command line or in Eudora, and look pretty much the same both places.

Stay tuned: I think I'm going to set the wayback machine for graduate school and makeover this blog according to the web aesthetic standards of 1995. <font color="#000000"> is the new black.


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

My first local media moment since 1985

FeedBurner got a mention on a "Special Segment" piece in the 10pm news on Chicago's ABC Channel 7. "The Power of Podcasting" provided a pretty decent look at a few podcasters in and around Illinois who podcast for personal and professional reasons, and they gave yours truly just enough camera time so as not to frighten children or marsupials. FeedBurner came off reasonably well, although I think they overplayed the advertising bit (we aren't doing any in-podcast advertising yet) and underplayed our role in helping people quickly get a podcast-ready RSS feed put together from just about any ordinary blog. Well, it's on me (and the rest of us at FB) to simplify our message.

It's also got me thinking FanBlogs should have a featured podcast or two, or consider having a conference's major authors try a weekly wrap-up show. I already spend most of Saturday night blabbing on the phone with a regular group of distant friends about the days' scores and results anyway, so why not record the doggone diatribe? What this Internet desperately needs is more content, I tell you.

(Oh, as for the 1985 part: I was featured in the Midland Daily News as a local student who got product review published in Antic, an Atari computer users' magazine. That's as far back in geek time as I'd care to go for a while.)


Monday, June 20, 2005

New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #8: Entry

Boy have I slacked off. Every since my Elizabeth City Doppelganger won out in Week #2, I've had a hard time getting re-motivated. Where did I misfire?

mine: "Unfortunately, I must resign as CEO, effective as of Thirty-third Street."

winner: "This is my stop. Phil, you'll be C.E.O. till Sixty-third Street."

I mean, the similarity is just eerie. Must've been those "as"es too densely packed together. I like to think mine makes more narrative sense; why would the organization pass an executive office around like a floor fire safety marshal's blaze orange vest? There's even more comedy gold to mine in local vs. express. Lewis' caption is a winner, but this New Yorker contest is a black box. And don't get me started on "neither the time nor the place, doug!"

Enough with the bellyaching already. On to Week 8.

I go with: "Henry craves the routine. I just worry about overfeeding."


Saturday, June 4, 2005

Dress Your CEO in Corduroy and Denim

stevejobs.pngThanks to BoingBoing and Eric for pointing this out — Steve Jobs Dress-up! Another most excellent use of Flash for fun and mayhem.

My entry is over there →; it's not much to show for five minutes' work, but the fun's in the creation. Guess I should post mine to this thread, as suggested.


Tuesday, May 3, 2005

New Yorker Caption Contest: Now a Weekly Fix

Last December I blogged a bit about The New Yorker's annual cartoon caption contest and my entry. (I didn't merit a finalist nod, but I was happy to have gotten a fair shot in.) Dick and have since noticed that The New Yorker has elevated the contest to weekly status. That's right -- once a week, it's your chance to caption the funniest single-panel humor going in periodicals. They've modified the original contest format to involve a reader vote on three selected finalists, but I'd venture the competition's as talented as ever.

I'm planning to submit an entry each week until I'm asked to "please stop doing that."


Sunday, April 3, 2005

Font Savant Vindication

Here's solid backup for my late 2004 fontspotting claim on U2's new album cover.

You may all collectively exhale.


Saturday, March 12, 2005

A Red Meat Mash-Up

I had an IM exchange about movies with a coworker the other day, and for some reason a few of my comments struck me as Red Meat material -- more directly, one of Bug-Eyed Earl's observations.

In the spirit of semi-fair use and "I was influenced by their work," I adapted those comments to create my own Red Meat strip (click to pop-up full size):

(Graphics shamelessly borrowed from Max Cannon, but original text is my own.)

If you haven't explored Red Meat before, I can't recommend it highly enough. Eerie, demented, unreasonably entertaining time after time.


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Almost Victorious Yet Again

Looks like I didn't best the competition in the The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest. I like the winning caption; it's got that classically oblique quality that my original entry lacked. What would be as invaluable as it is unlikely is some feedback from the editorial staff -- I'd love to know if I was even close.

Too bad I can't trackback ping the New Yorker, huh?


Thursday, January 13, 2005

Porsche History in Miniature

I've had a thing for old Porsches since I was a teenager and my Dad and I located and restored a tired, un-wired 1977 911S. (By restored, I mean, uhm, paid the right people to fix the hard stuff. I mean, we vacuumed the carpets and washed it at least several times on our own. Honest.) One rebuilt flat six engine later, it ran like it was born to circle the N�ring.

Stumbling around the net looking for some year/model info, I bumped into this fun page:

40 Years with the Porsche 911 - A miniature review

It's a great, quick read and gives you an abridged view of the 911's enduring character and colorful variation through time and car consumer trends.

FWIW, I still think Corgi makes the best-looking small scale miniatures. Just ask any airport gift shop cashier which ones sell best!


Monday, January 3, 2005

Volkswagen: Your next crash is on us

Volkswagen is testing a program that offers free insurance for new car buyers in Wisconsin and Illinois. I expect to see more banged-up Jettas on tow trucks in the coming months around here.

Still, it gets them some PR.


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

New Yorker Caption Contest: My Entry

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the The New Yorker's Cartoon Caption Contest. The contest officially closed yesterday. For review, here's the cartoon:

Here's my entry: "I can't in good conscience recommend the hand rolls tonight."

My runners-up:

"Well, the tuna never takes it personally. Try that."

"Yes, ever since we were kids. Honestly, he hasn't given it much thought."

"Work release program. It was either this, or menace the shipping lanes."

"Extra wasabi? Won't make much difference either way."

"The special requires real teamwork to bring to the table."


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

bad times for st. nick in old londontown

Apparently British high street shops just can't be bothered to provide a proper Father Christmas anymore. A winning quote from this article: "It's no wonder the experience of visiting Santa at Harrods, the luxury department store with a full-fledged grotto, delivers all the cheer of a rugby scrum in the mud."

You can tell this article must've been an absolute gas to write.


Saturday, December 4, 2004

The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest

Thanks to Dick for pointing this one out. If you think you've got the funny, you've got a chance to show everyone (in writing, at least) on the peerless pages of The New Yorker. Their 6th annual Caption Contest is under way and the entry box officially closes on December 20th. I've already whipped up a few entries and submitted my favorite; Dick and I will both post our nominees and final sumissions on the 21st.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Interview with Lindon Leader (the guy behind the FedEx logo)

Thanks again to Eric for pointing another one out to me: The Sneeze interviews Lindon Leader, the designer who architected FedEx's revolutionary identity scheme in the early 1990s. Eric primarily pointed this one to me for the font geekery within (which is tasty, true), but I really found the rest of the backstory of how FedEx CEO Fred Smith gave the designers a simple vision -- "If I�m standing on a street corner, I need to see a FedEx truck from five blocks away" -- compelling. If you think about it, the 5 blocks rule is still working for FedEx trucks today -- and they didn't have to paint their fleet DOT yellow in order to be noticed.

As for the FeedBurner logo? Well, I, uh, see "evolutionary possibilities" there. Ahem.


Saturday, November 13, 2004

Why you shouldn't keep a wifi laptop near the TV

Against all better judgment, I chose to visit Chicken after seeing that mostly-ridiculous yet mildly amusing Burger King commercial promoting two new sandwiches. What you'll find at the site is a remarkably lengthy video of the actual "fight" (don't worry, I wouldn't dare spoil it for you), a gimpy vote-for-your-favorite feature and some legalese that makes the mind wobble:

"No real chickens were harmed in the making of this advertising campaign. Burger King Corporation does not endorse or condone animal cruelty in
any way including chicken fighting. The chicken characters featured in this advertising campaign are just actors wearing a chicken costume."

Isn't Burger King's business, uhm, based on industrialized cruelty to lots and lots of tender, plump and juicy chicken?

Also, does BK really need to run the chicken costume disclosure language? What, PETA's that all up in your heads that you think the costumes are gonna trigger nationwide picketing in the drive-thru lanes?


Thursday, November 4, 2004


I'll be attending BloggerCon this weekend as both a minor league blogger and an official FeedBurner representative. I'll use everything in my power to keep the screechy commercialism to a minimum and I look forward to participating in what looks to be a pretty unusual "unconference."

If you're a FeedBurner user and you want to talk RSS, feature wishlists, or of course college football, seek me out!


Friday, October 29, 2004

Font Savant Makes the Call (No. 1)

The title typeface on the new U2 album? Clarendon.


Thursday, October 28, 2004

ESPN gives Cleveland's (Indians) Curse a proper No. 5 ranking

Hot on the heels of my congratulatory note for the Red Sox, This list of remaining sports curses slots the Indians in cooly at #5. Seems about right. At least they're not the football Browns at #3. Check the list; your favorite franchise might be cursed and you didn't even know it!


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Jon Stewart gives, and gives, and gives

...and what are we really doing in return? Selfish prats, all of us. That said, the least we can do, perhaps, is watch his short, clever promo video (Windows Media) for America (The Book) over at The most we can do? Buy it.


Friday, July 23, 2004

Internal vs. External Perspective

Out here on the mean streets, we all say things like "Yeah, I don't know either. I'll Google it."

Inside Google, is it something like, "I'm not sure. I'll go check Localhost?"


Friday, June 18, 2004

Another test-yer-mettle quiz

The 80's Lyric Quiz is a truly maddening experience for anyone whose teen years were squarely bracketed between 1980-1990, as mine were. This is yet another self-grading pop culture web quiz, but it's especially fun because the lyrics you're asked to recall alternate between obvious and utterly obscure. You'll be tortured not to just cry uncle and reach for the nearest copy of Google. But don't do it, man, don't do it! See what you can dredge from your murky memories of early-stage MTV and the days when you'd closely examine that CD jewel case at the record shop for AAD, ADD, or DDD mastering quality. Like it even mattered on your parents' crappy Marantz living room speakers anyway.

My score? 113. Pretty solid.


Monday, June 7, 2004

The Day Reagan Dropped in on Wrigley

We're all knee-deep in various Ronald Reagan tributes and retrospectives at the moment. This Chicago Tribune "flashback" story (from 1998, free registration may be required) provides a humorous look at what's surely an overlooked moment in the twilight of his final term: the day Dutch took the mound to hurl the ceremonial first pitch of a Cubs game.

My favorite quip?

Minutes later, the president was in the television booth with Harry. Within a couple of innings, he was gone.

Not long after, so was Rick Sutcliffe, the Cubs' starting pitcher.

"He should've stuck around," Sutcliffe said. "Some of the guys said he had better stuff than I did."


Thursday, May 13, 2004

Another "which xxx are you?" personality type poll

If you wind your way through the sometimes-amusing Q+A of BBspot - Which OS Are You?, you'll end up with a badge that proclaims your operating system doppleganger. Infotainment at most, but I guess I could do worse than Palm:

Which OS are You?

I deeply feared a "Windows ME" judgment against my being.


Monday, April 5, 2004

That's a lot of pent-up Cubs Anxiety Right There

And I quote from my Inbox:




April 5, 2004

Dear Cubs Fan,

Thank you for registering for a chance to purchase tickets
for the new Dugout Seats. Over 130,000 fans entered their
e-mail address for this opportunity.

Unfortunately, your entry was not selected for our initial
sale tomorrow. However, should Dugout Seats tickets remain
after tomorrow's sale, we would offer a second purchase period
and you would be notified by e-mail on Wednesday morning, April 7,
if you are selected for the second phase.

Thank you again for your participation.

The Chicago Cubs

Let's see:

a) FAT CHANCE they're not going to sell out tomorrow. 130,000 lottery entrants? I think the expression is, "holy crap." At $50, $100, and $150 a pop (depending on how serious the opponent is) for 213 seats, these are a tidy little moneymaker for TribuneCo.

b) The secondary market for these tickets is really gonna be something if the Cubs have a year anything close the one already primed for collapse under the impossible weight of pre-season expectations. That said, the Cubs are 1-0 as of this writing. Let's play two!

c) I'm not a Cubs fan -- merely a fellow member of the Brotherhood of Lost Baseball Causes (Cleveland Chapter, Local 1948).


Wednesday, March 3, 2004

How you can achieve (temporary) success in amateur video

as dick noted, even the civilian sector can get the unexpected shock and awe treatment [WMV Video] from time to time. This bit of footage is merely chaos-as-voyeurism for the first two minutes, but then comes the Big Finish. Or, Grand Finale. In any case, it's death by fireworks.


Saturday, February 14, 2004

too many dean remixes. time for one more!

You're probably up to your clavicle in Dean Goes Nuts remixes by now (thanks largely to GarageBand, I bet) but for some reason this mix
featuring the incomparable Stormtroopers of Death hits all the right "notes" for me, above all other contenders.


Saturday, February 7, 2004

Why is "-istan" an Asian standard suffix for country naming?

I don't know why no one's made a big deal about this (surely Anderson Cooper has riffed on it at some point -- speaking of whom, is that guy Elven?) in the last 3 years' news cycles, but I wanted to know why countries with so many clashing ethnicities, religious groups, and of course languages/dialects all end their state name with "-istan." To wit:

- Afghanistan
- Pakistan
- Uzbekistan
- Kazakhstan
- Kyrgyzstan
- (the once and future) Kurdistan
- Tajikistan
- Turkmenistan
- Waziristan (not even a country, this "tribal region" wants in on the action, too)

Of course, an answer that credits Persian was right under my nose all along -- in fact, it was even posted just weeks after 9/11, when this suffix suddenly meant much more than a few big, empty territories on the far side of the Risk gameboard.


Tuesday, January 27, 2004

fonts, fonts, delicious fonts.

If you know me, you know i have a soft spot for typefaces. Letterhead Fonts: Rare and Unique Typefaces for Artists really delivers the goods on display type -- the sort of stuff you'd use in signage, logo design, and other spot projects. I think their home page does a brilliant job of putting the fonts they sell into appealing, look-what-you-can-do contexts, such as sample signboards or product packaging designs. In fact, many of them remind me of the finished product you'd find in a Before & After tutorial. Neat.


Sunday, January 25, 2004

"Social networking Backlash." LinkedIn? You're next.

I've been reading The Kicker to get a properly cynical take on pop culture and all things New York. (Working there over the past couple of months has inevitably sparked new interest in this still best-and-brightest city in all the land.) Author Spiers' latest posting has me wondering if LinkedIn, which is really Friendster "Get Me A Job" Edition, is going to suffer by association. If Dick's take is to be trusted, it's got doom scrawled all over it.


Tuesday, December 30, 2003

viruses, urban legends, and you

In the late 90s I recall responding to harrowingly frequent assaults on common sense in the form of forwarded urban legend emails from friends, family, and other bystanders. The problem with these legends is of course that they were written just convincingly enough to cause real concern (and fear, my toilet spider-checking brethren) in gullible minds. About the sixth time someone forwarded me the Microsoft Email Tracking Offer or any of the seemingly unkillable chain emails, I copied a few lines of the offending message and pasted them into search at Urban Legends and Folklore. Inevitably, the hoax had already been caught, skinned and mounted by David Emery and his readers. I'd reply-all to the original distribution list, respond with the debunking URL, and pray that some day reason and enlightenment would again prevail. Something about information in network-delivered form, especially to someone new to the Internet, conferred unimpeachable credibility.

Today I read a Wired feature (last quote) in which George Smith from offered this thoroughly enjoyable wish for 2004:

"I wish people would treat regular virus frenzies like an IQ test. If you convene a congressional hearing in the aftermath of the next PurplePeopleEater Worm, fly 'experts' across the country to purse their lips and utter noises of concern, spout estimates of economic damages that are the same magnitude as a yearly expenditure to reconstruct Iraq and get angry at a Department of Justice flunky over its inability to hang someone, you flunk.

"What I'd like to see happen once would be for someone to have the nerve to stand up in such a national forum and call the exercise good phlogiston, state the electronic infrastructure's not fixable, that more education will never fix our computer virus 'problem' and that we'll all be back in three months to say the same thing for the rest of you nincompoops.

"But it won't happen -- everyone will continue to pretend they have an IQ of 60."

"Phlogiston?" Zowie. Calling anything phlogiston in a congressional hearing is likely to get you bounced out to the cafeteria's Freedom Fries line in short order.

I believe the computer virus defense game is 80% mental -- if you resist your hypothalamus' pleadings and don't click on that "YOU_WIN.VBS" attachment, you most likely win every time. Faith in urban legends and fear of a viral personal computing apocalypse get their power in the same inky pool of straightforward ignorance.

I still disable Norton Auto-Protect every now and then. I need to feel the rush.


Wednesday, December 17, 2003

the "Before&After" treatment returns!

While browsing this why-bother-with-a-hierarchy-when-you-can-have-chaos mess of a site I was reminded of an old friend: Before&After magazine. In its bimonthly pages, editor John McWade would provide invaluable tips to fledgling desktop publishers (like myself) on how to accomplish all manner of things with Aldus PageMaker and FreeHand. A highlight of each issue was McWade performing a sort of Queer Eye makeover on an amateur design project, like a mass mailing, stationery identity system, or restaurant menu. Nothing particularly queer about that, except that McWade's turnarounds of seemingly hopeless designs were frequently as stunning as those realized by the Fab 5. could really, really use the B&A treatment.

...Turns out it might get it someday! Before&After is back in print, and I couldn't be happier. This magazine was a pleasure to leaf through back in the pioneering days of desktop publishing, regardless of whether the techniques or visual problems solved even applied to my own work. I can only imagine that McWade and Co. will have some new tricks up their sleeves to offer the web publishing/graphics community.

I still have back issues of B&A from the early 90s that I never had the heart to recycle, even though it's been a long, long time since I used PageMaker or Quark. I figured that McWade's effortless synthesis of the whys of print design with the hows of publishing software would remain evergreen. Time to go crack open that dusty manila folder and see if the test of time has been withstood -- while i wait for Issue 35 to arrive.


Saturday, December 13, 2003

instant help for any sagging blog

i've been complaining about my blog's lack of spark for some time now. not coincidentally, as the only one listening to this thread, i've been slow to suggest a solution. but the wait is over! deliverance has finally arrived, as i've finally come to my senses and hooked up the rizzle dizzle! compare this page with the shizzolated alternative. It's no contest!

For some reason known only to Snoop's CTO, the shizzolator won't throw down on *.xml (such as my feed). Bummer.


Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Alan Rickman hasn't had a great character role since "Robin Hood"

Then again, he may never be able top Hans Gruber.


Wednesday, November 26, 2003

the campaign trail is getting odder by the soundbite

I've gotta give Clark's people some credit for assembling the pitch referenced here: (QuickTime required to view the clip)

It's not quite Bill Clinton playing tenor sax, but it sure ain't old line NATO brass thinking, either. I'm down with it.


Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Coming Soon: The Public Transportation UI Bake-Off Everyone's Been Waiting For.

Narcisisstically inspired by my own moblog posting, I plan to write up a full comparison of NY Metro's subway kiosk vs. Chicago CTA's equivalent unit. 'Public utility' user interfaces are among the most important, yet overlooked, in modern design because their impact is felt daily, by tens or even hundreds of thousands, and even the most minor flaw in the user experience can inspire untold rage because its victims have no competitive alternative except for non-use.

This also reminds me of a related design topic: the value of physical wear as an affordance. I've often wondered if wear should be modeled on public utility interfaces (touchscreen or CRT) to help indicate where countless thousands have gone before you. The flipside of this is that if something looks, well, worn or threadbare, you may simply perceive it as broken rather than broken-in. I'd love for some HCI grad student in need of a grant project to explore this one.


Monday, October 20, 2003

what the kids today are saying about your favorite games

assuming the egm mag staff isn't pulling our collective legs with these transcripts, the 10-13 y.o. kids interviewed for their reactions while playing classic arcade games sure do come up with a lot of snappy off-the-cuff quips. A favorite: "I'm sure everyone who made this game (Space Invaders) is dead by now."

And yes, i'm going to get around to renovating this blog one of these days soon. As with other, similar projects, inertia's a bitch.


Tuesday, October 14, 2003

relevant to my last rant

From a Salon survey of its own blog community, useful advice for new bloggers on how they might start a good blog and make it even better over time:

Ask other bloggers, not Userland, when you need technical help.
Think about what your 'niche' is going to be before you start posting.
Persevere. Be patient. Write well. Say something unique.
Assess objectively, and strive to continuously improve, your blog.
Don't be afraid to ask questions of other Salon bloggers, that's what the community is for.
Study other blogs; learn from and emulate what they do well.
Read a lot, write a lot, use a spell-checker.
Post often.
Promote your blog aggressively.
Re-evaluate why you're blogging from time to time, and adjust your style and subject matter accordingly.
Be prepared to be surprised at what others find good and interesting.'s in the spirit of these points that my upcoming blog deconstruction will commence (or so I hope).


Wednesday, September 24, 2003

This blog needs help

Revenge of Black Background looks like the full effort of someone who spent 20 minutes borrowing templates from MT and then assumed that it was the Seventh Day and took a breather. Sheesh. Someone make this guy prove he's a from-1994-on veteran of the web, not another shopworn template whore.

(You know, if a blog links to itself, modern browsers probably experience a pang of recursive doubt, but then get on with it. The "throbbing N" vintage Netscape wasn't nearly as indecisive.)

Quasi-Related: I wonder if the grad students in rhetoric programs across this fine nation, from UMaine to Washington, from USC to Creighton, have explored who bloggers consider to be their implied audience/mock reader. Right now I'm pretty sure mine is me, merely content to make movable type's gears emit pleasant clicking sounds. For me to just keep chucking content over a stone wall, I'm gonna need to believe there's some sort of connection between me and some interested peoples.

So, if you found yourself here, stranded in this blog by accident, I bet it wouldn't be the first time that's happened. How can I make it worth your while?


Friday, August 29, 2003

google news alerts

well, of course. surprised it took 'em this long.


Monday, August 25, 2003

undeserved dotcom disrespect

If you believe this NYTimes piece in the IHT, you'd think that every frizzy haired 20- or 30-something who swigged a Mountain Dew while on the job at Kozmo, Webvan, or I dunno, 3Com, is now an unhireable pariah simply because they took some risks and came up short. I'm sure there are a few fresh college grads who thought the hang-out culture of a well-funded startup was the end and not the means, but I think a great many of us who participated in a dotcom of some stripe or another just believed we could move faster and execute more creatively than we did in the last giant place we worked. At least I did, and still do. It comes down to your workplace values, not your environment. Have you been �

  • surrounding yourself with smart people
  • taking responsibility for your own actions
  • delivering what's asked of you, especially when you're depended upon by others
  • when seemingly stuck, making the decision and accepting the consequences if it's wrong vs. being paralyzed by noncommitment

� then I think you should be in fine shape no matter what you do or where you work. Besides, effective job interviews leave you no place to hide, and you'll better understand your shortcomings after the fact.

If anything, someone who can speak nobly about failure and how they learned from the burn-up is the sort I'd rather work with vs. someone who played it safe and took few risks beyond their slot on the org chart.