One hail of a week.

Saturday, May 3rd, 1997

Well, this past seven days flew by, and I find myself looking at a soggy backyard again, just like last Saturday. This is indeed springtime in Atlanta. But there have been a few twists. Take Monday, when we had a front come through with enough force to produce the archetypal Golf-Ball-Size-Hail–and one heck of a lot of it, enough to leave a tattoo of small depressions on our truck and enough to make big chunks of newly-minted leaves come crashing out of the trees that surround the house. I heard somewhere (so it must be true) that it was the worst hailstorm to hit our fair city.

It was annoying at the very least. And I had no sooner raked (yes, raked) the lawn of most (okay, well, some) of the leaves from that storm when another one comes through this morning, with no hail but plenty of wind, so, well, you know (or can suspect) the rest.

And it’s been a fast-paced few days, starting with the rainout of our camping trip. Our guests were nice enough to sit and watch endless hours of slides and video of Mexico. (As we watched, we ate all the 387 kinds of bean dip Sammy made for the trip.)

Then later in the week we picked up Art Murphy and stashed him in our guest room for a few days. This was only fair, of course, because he and Martha made us feel quite comfortable in Oaxaca.

And then, at the end of the week, Sammy took off for Augusta and the meetings of the Society for Georgia Archaeology. Happy Archaeology Week in Georgia, by the way!

Somewhere in between all of that, I experimented with beta versions of all kinds of cool mac technologies (shh, they’re all confidential), rendered some nice-looking animation with Electric Image, and oh yeah, watched the puppy episode of Ellen.

And you wonder why my life is so complicated?

Ready for (a, the) weekend.

Friday, April 25th, 1997

Hi, it’s less dark than usual here in the room where it all gets done, the room that consumes more electricity than anywhere else in the house, the room that is the fount of my creativity, such as it is. I’ve got the blinds up, and yes, there is the back yard, not too overgrown and unruly. There is the neighbor’s cat, who prefers our yard to theirs for her daytime hunting activities. There is the sun. Maybe I should go out there.

(Long pause as I look blankly at the screen.)

Well, actually I’m writing this when I should finish cleaning the house. The downstairs bathroom, for example.

(Another pause as I go do that.)

Boy, is this disjointed! That’s just what kind of day it is. A few minutes of this, a moment of that. Here are the tidbits that are racing through my head, in search of coherence:

Sammy’s meanwhile making about 387 types of bean dip for our friends coming for the weekend. She believes in being thorough, indeed.

Most of the comments I’ve received from youall about the changes on these pages have been positive. Maybe the simple, cleaner look was indeed a good idea. Don’t get me wrong: there are some sites that take every inch of the needed bandwidth (and then some) and uses it well. I’m just not sure anything I have to say is worth that much of the web’s valuable pipespace. It is rather self-indulgent, after all, to have a place where one’s random thoughts can be easily scanned by others. On the other hand, maybe I deserve a dollop of self-indulgence every now and again.

One thing I’d like to work on is a bit of information about my family, all of whom I’ve very proud of. Somehow, now, I find my self more cautious in these efforts. I’ve been advised to be forthcoming in a circumspect manner on the web. "You never know who might read your page," they say. Well, yes, in principal part that is the idea. I’ve gone as far as getting some pictures together.

I’ve been doing some experiments with the DV, DVCPro, and DVCam formats recently. Last night I took our small DV camera on a tripod out at 10:45 last night to shoot some frames in and around our neighborhood. With the AGC turned off, it’s remarkably clean, with noise-free blacks and rich, saturated colors. I’ll upload an image or two from this on Monday.

See what I mean? Chunks of words in search of a common thread. Ah, well, I put them out there for you as an act of clearing off my desk, ready for the weekend. I’ve cleaned up files and folders in my machine, backed up both Sam’s and mine to Exabyte, charged the video batteries, and, oh yeah, the downstairs bathroom is pretty clean.

Enjoy your weekend.

Spell (and reality) check.

Tuesday, April 22nd, 1997

Well, actually I consider myself a good speller, but I’m not always sitting in the correct posture with the correct attention to detail when I’m typing–hence the occasional ‘teh’ or ‘afetr’ that sneak in to my otherwise perfectly rendered words. (As comfortable as it is, sitting with one’s feet propped up on the desk, keyboard on the lap–that’s not necessarily the best way to actually get down and get busy. Sometimes it’s just…comfortable.) I see errors quite easily and from a distance (just ask people whose typos I catch at television stations), but I have to be, you know, really looking for that little trick to work.

Usually, someone will email me (I just typed that ’emil’) and point out the error; often, helpfully, they’ll say ‘don’t you have spell check?’ Well, yes, I have spell check all over the damn place, but that doesn’t mean I always like to take advantage of the raw unbridled power of this computer.

Part of the reason why: I hate to go back, double-check, and clean up after the machine, which often is what you have to do, because inevitably the computer hasn’t lived quite the life you have, and therefore hasn’t collected the precise subset of proper nouns and place names that you hold dear.

And of course, if you type a legitimate english word as the typo (‘ho’ for ‘who’, or the wrong too/two), the darn thing won’t catch it anyway.

Add to that the myriad acronyms and equipment names and techno-gobbledygook that folks in my line of work love to use, and, well, there you are.

There’s something to be said for going back through your work at least once, just to make sure you haven’t said something really, really stupid–especially when one can just flow this stuff in, and, with a touch of the button blast it out there for everyone (even you) to read. Write, then revise. Think, then write.

It’s a rainy or post-rainy Tuesday, and I’m doing what seems to have become my classic morning ritual: checking the email and the web, hitting the dozen or so sites that might have software upgrades for the applications or parts of the system software that might be misbehaving. There are those software folks who update their software actively, getting a new release out there on the net moments after hearing about and fixing a problem. Their stuff sits on my Mac with versions like ‘2.45b7’. Others seem loath to make any small changes until they can make big changes, and we’re lucky if they favor us with one new release a year.

Keeping up with versions is not only my little compulsion, it’s damn near essential when you’ve got a machine loaded up with beta versions of software, odd system extensions, and work that needs to be done.

So it’s my morning surf, done a bit foggily, my head pulsing a bit, fighting off the humidity from last night’s rain.

It’s in this context (if I’ve provided a context) that I realized how little I have actually been listening to NPR these mornings. It’s on, but as a background to me reading the news (off the web) at The New York Times, catching the latest Suck or Salon (heck, maybe even Slate), or making sure I’ve carefully and thoroughly tracked through the latest MacInTouch. It really has to be a compelling feature for me to turn my attention radioward. Of course, sometimes, it’s just a phrase that grabs my attention: the reporter says “a small town just off I-70” and I pick up on a story about Muskingum College, near my old stomping grounds. Or I hear vivid descriptions of the birth process and, somewhat queasily, I turn the volume up. My interest shifts, I begin to type gobbledygook–sometimes characters from the words I’m hearing show up in the words I’m typing. Uh-oh.

Maybe it’s just selective (nicely filtered) memory, but I think I used to be better at multitasking than I am now. Maybe it’s not even a multitasking issue, but one of general focus and concentration. All I know is that while were in Mexico, NPR is the form of mass communication I missed the most. So why aren’t I paying attention?

Maybe I just need to go get some coffee.

Afternoon update: I’ve finally put some actual images on the blatantly self-promotional My so-called work. I’d appreciate your comments, suggestions.

This is Diversity Awareness Day at The Citadel, Morning Edition tells me. It’s Earth Day. It’s also the day after Tom Burton’s birthday. And a happy Tuesday to you, too.

Just what day is it, exactly?

Saturday, April 19th, 1997

Hello on a Saturday where the warmth has finally returned to our little corner of the world, after a week of temperatures that, I’ll admit, would seem tropical to the people of Fargo, but for Atlanta, it was just a bit nippy. But forget that now, it’s warm, sunny, everything anyone would want for a Freaknik weekend.

You may have heard about this on the news. Somehow, Atlanta became the hip place to party for Spring breaking students from ‘traditionally’ Black colleges. Somehow this terrifies some of our fair citizens. Kinda seems silly and overblown to me all the way around.

I just hope everybody enjoys the weekend and approaches the next week with maybe 10% less stress than the week before. (Oh yeah, I’d also like a small order of world peace with that, as well.)

I updated this page because there are now pictures for you to look at, a slice of Real life. It’s kind of an experiment: I think they’d be of little interest unless you were actually in the picture. (They’re tiny, for one thing.) And there’s another page full of photos here called Veto Las Vegas, which probably make even less sense.

I also updated it because the date was wrong on the page–in fact, on all the pages. Somehow (power surge? cosmic rays? Daylight savings time?) the clock on my computer was set 24 hours ahead, an advantage as far as showing up for appointments was concerned, but otherwise, a hindrance. I’m amazed it took as long as it did for me to notice.

The framework of this site continues to evolve. The usefulness of this site…well, I leave that determination up to you. I have this strange sense of becoming less interesting and having less to offer as time goes on. Might just be an illustion of perspective, like the very convincing mirages we saw driving through Death Valley.

A new paradigm sweeps clean.

Thursday, April 17th, 1997

In a town where the arrival of spring often means the descent of all manner of pollen and other organic residue, spread over cars, houses, and passers-by like some protective coating of discarded fairy dust, the idea of spring cleaning carries powerful psychological weight.

Clear it out. Wash it off. Put a fresh coat of paint on it. Pressure-wash that mildew away. And start over again.

And it’s with that impetus at back of mind that I backed up the contents of the old Positively Atlanta Georgia site and did exactly that. Whammo! It’s gone! I remember one station promotion director I worked with had trouble with that concept. He had accumulated so much junk in their stillstore that there literally was no room for the new graphics; further, he would writhe in actual pain at the prospect of deleting anything–so I grabbed the key to the stillstore control panel, and before his horrified eyes, blew about 95% of it away.

“Feel better?” I asked.

I don’t think he did.

But I do. And for me, the problem was way beyond simply ‘updating your damn web page,’ the bane of my existence since I first stuck my toe into these digital waters. Yeah, sure, I could quickly replace the page about us in Cholula–which you’ve seen now for about 2 months–with something new, but the problem of old pages and images, cluttered, poorly-organized, hard to keep track of–would remain.

I read a lot on the web about ‘site management tools’ like WebObjects Fusion, but decided to implement a system based on BBEdit & Frontier, because, after all, I used BBEdit for most of my text editing and HTML creation already, and because I’ve been a fan of Dave Winer‘s–even when I don’t agree with him, which is fairly often.

So I plunged in, and this site is the result. It’s in many ways like the one you’re familiar with. And yet, flying in the face of graphics-clogged, java rich sites all around me, this one is actually a much simpler, low-bandwidth design. I’m not even using frames! The header graphic is smaller!

But on the other hand, there’s a convenient index of subjects down the left side, a Media Rare that gives you the big picture, a renovated look at my work, and just generally a better sense of organization. I hope.

And all this revision happens just in time, too, because there’s lots new to pile on here. Please check out the words and images from our recent trips to Mexico (for archaeology) and Las Vegas (for television) by jumping to the Travels page. And for reasons I’m still not clear on, I’ve decided to include a Frequently Asked Questions page as well.

A quiet night in Cholula.

Sunday, February 2nd, 1997

On the cusp of February, in a town nearly surrounded by volcanoes. Well, this is different. ‘This’ is Cholula, a small town next to Puebla, one of the largest cities in Mexico. They’re both located in the state of Puebla, one to the north of Oaxaca (and about 70 miles from Mexico City, across the mountains) and we’re here for a week or so to give Sammy a chance to learn about the archaeology of this area, which is quite different from the state to the south.

We drove the 200 miles or so up here from Oaxaca to continue our series of day-trips and so that Sam could sit down with archaeo people who work up this way, some of them at the Universidad de Las Americas, a big school located here in Cholula. Walking though campus (a place where you could actually use the phrase ‘¿Donde es la biblioteca?’ you learned in high school), we saw hundreds of kids who–I guess we shouldn’t be surprised–were dressed identically to college students you’d see in the States, Canada, anywhere. Actually, more than a few of them were from that large country to the immediate north, the product of what appeared to be extensive exchange programs. The campus is sizeable, a mix of the modern and the old, and altogether diffferent from its surroundings.

Outside the fence, Cholula is an old town with one very large archaeological attraction–a pyramid, I’m told. I say ‘I’m told’ because what you actually see is one really large mound of dirt, ten stories tall, with a large cathedral plopped atop it. And yes, off to one side, you’ll find a by-now-familiar collection of excavated plazas and archaeo-doohickeys. And right on the tippy-top of this large mound of dirt is a cathedral, plopped there by the Catholic church, all too willing to make a big, brutal impression on the indigenous people. Inside (you enter from a steel door right off the street) is a labyrinth of passages through the pyramid that, when lit with simple bare bulbs, look like the sets from any episode of The Wild Wild West or The Man from UNCLE you’d care to remember.

Other than its too-large-to-miss attraction, the town of Cholula is simple, dusty, and lacking the Oaxacan cuisine we’ve become accustomed to. Not that we’ve been eating that badly, though. We found a ‘vegetarian’ restaurant in Puebla called La Zanahoria Esmeralda–the emerald carrot–that makes a fine breakfast with fresh-sqeezed juice and yummy pan integral–whole wheat bread. We also stumbled on a little place down a dusty road between our hotel and the UDLA campus called Ta’Carbon (there’s a spanish-language pun in there, somewhere) that serves burros estilo Sonora and much more from a family who lived up there–near the Arizona-Mexico border, but who have a kid in school down here so they’ve kind of left one son minding the ranch and packed up everyone else and moved to Cholula.

One of the um…benefits of staying in this cheap motel is that I’m watching a little Mexican TV, from dubbed episodes of the X-Files to the evening’s news, either the stodgy version on Televisa or the slightly tabloidy version on TV Azteca (called ‘Hechos’), which, by the way, has some very clean graphics. Great animation, too, on ‘La Canal de las Estrellas’, which mostly shows novelas, and Canal Cinco has a very hip logo and a lot of After-Effectsy animation based on an old registration chart (I’ve always liked old test patterns.) One of the novelas I’ve watched chunks of for three nights running clearly alternates directors from day to day. On the good day, the quality is incredible…every shot moves, the lighting is subtle, there’s a lot of very hard to get right stuff being done right…and on alternate days, some plebian guy just goes through the motions. There’s a lot of hip stuff on the stations I’ve watched…and some television straight out of the 70s. But I’ve seen that in Cut Bank, Montana, too.

Probably the best part about this portion (I’m tempted to say this ‘chapter’) of our lengthy trip are the daytrips we’ve been taking to various zonas arqueologicas around here. Sammy and I followed some obscure signs up into the highlands to Cantona, a huge–gigantic–site excavated first in 1992 that is an entire city of rock walls, plazas, causeways, ballcourts, and mounds. Incredible. After a while, I begin to see some of the subtleties Sam is looking at. I even occasionally spot a potsherd on the path we’re walking. (Most often, though, it’s probably just a rock.) We take photos, We take video. Sammy takes copious notes in her little red notebook. She looks, thinks, puts ideas together.

And that, of course, is why we’re here.

A new year, one filled with changes.

Tuesday, January 7th, 1997

jueves 9 de enero de 1997

Yes, that does mean the ninth of January, and I extend a Happy New Year and Feliz Año Nuevo to all of you. From where I sit, which today is in front of an annoying Windows-based machine at the Instituto Tecnologico de Oaxaca, it’s hard to tell what day it is, let alone where I am on the planet. We’re about a month and a half into our three month visit to Oaxaca and other places in Mexico, and I’m hanging out at this fancy institution of higher learning to discuss offering a short course in graphic design. I mean, well, why not? And since I’m typing this on a Windows NT machine with a Spanish-language operating system, on a keyboard complete with those ñ and ¡ keys, It’s been a challenge. In fact, it was a challenge just to get the damn auto spell check off so that it wouldn’t keep flagging every word I typed (since, of course, every word I typed was in English, and this machine couldn’t make sense of any of it.) And how do I get it to stop sticking in those smart quotes? At least I’m getting used to typing CNTL-G to save (‘guarder’) the document (‘archivo’).

At this point in our visit, all of our holiday guests–Kevyn and her kids, Kelley, Sammy`s parents, and Gordy and Karny have come and gone, and what we’re left with are the memories, which, thanks to our fancy video camera, are available here for viewing on the World Wide Web, or as they say here, the Red Mundial.

This means it’s a new year, time to go to work, and for the most part, that means Sammy’s work, although I find myself quite occupied by the various computational needs of the various folks we know down here. I’ve got a web page to design, a newsletter to do, and, well, maybe this course to teach. And somewhere in there we have all the tasks of A Normal Life, including grocery shopping, putting gas in the truck, going for 5.3km walks in the morning, and general grad-student-working-on-her-dissertation support. And did I mention that the upstairs and downstairs toilets leak in the little place we’re renting? El lago de sanitario.

There are women in this room cleaning the keyboards of these IBM machines by actually taking every key apart and washing them. That’s a good thing, but the one they swapped out on my machine a moment ago had a not-quite-working space bar. Let’s see. I have to formulate the sentence for quite a while in my head: “El clave de espacio no funcionar bien.” Well, close enough. Folks here are very patient with vistors who mangle the language, and since I’ve never studied Spanish, I subsist on a lean diet of nouns, indefinite verb forms, agreement problems, and a variety of sweeping hand gestures (I’m conscious of the fact that I don’t gesture much up in the states, but down here, it’s one big game of charades.)

Because I’m entering these words using the big and scary Microsoft Word, I don’t have my usual HTML tools and I find myself face-to-face with typing all those damn codes in manually. Ah, well, it’s good exercise, good practice.

Every day we’ve been down here contains plenty of what I’ve heard called The Contrasts of Mexico. Staggering poverty next to satellite dishes. High-tech schools next to garbage dumps. Incredible precision and quality of work done on a timetable that can be charitably called subject-to-change. It’s Chinatown, Jake. It’s Oaxaca, John.

So far, we`ve been very pleased with our PowerBook 5300–in many ways, the fanciest machine around, and a heck of a lot of computing power to be toting around as casually as we do. The one thing I wish for (and occasionally borrow down here) is a color screen, (gee, why would a designer want to work in color?) but that will have to wait until the next extravagant purchase. The irony is, I’m doing all kinds of color work…I find that I’ve more-or-less memorized the color values I use all the time. Boy, have I been doing this design stuff for a while.

So if you have a moment, jump on over to the other server I use and take a look at some images from our trip.

Fasten your seat belt.

Tuesday, September 24th, 1996

They always say that 99.9 percent of car accidents happen within five miles of home. I spose that’s why we got through our 11,000 mile auto trip just fine, only to have some guy run into Sammy on her way out of the Wino Kroger on Ponce here in our fair city. (All the Kroger grocery stores here in Atlanta have nicknames, most for obvious reasons.)

Wham! This guy makes a good deal of the front-left of our truck look like high-priced scrap metal, but his VW Jetta suffered much the same fate. Thankfully, both humans were undamaged. Not-so-thankfully, we have to go through insurance brou-ha-ha again. (Did I mention an oak tree bisected our house in 1991?)

So that’s the big what’s new around here. Me, I’ve been piling up work to be done, and have had some productive spurts, gratefully. I received an upgrade to Electric Image, enabling me to make things fly around in three dimensions with even more alacrity and panache (menu selections I would like to see.) I’ve also upgraded the Mac software to system 7.5.5, as has a large chunk of the rest of the world, and I’m generally getting the techno-end of things squared around nicely.

Our friend Pattie Belle Hastings from Icehouse Design is visiting for a day or two, combining business and pleasure. She’s working on a series of time-management seminars called ‘Creating Time’ that seem like just the ticket for stressed-out techno or creative types who seem to be working more and enjoying it less. She’s got a newsletter that says much the same.

Another celebrity through town (oh, okay, just another good friend from my Ohio University days) Steve Korte came by for some Thai food and conversation. He’s doing an amazing number of things related to DAT, recording, pipe organ music, and audio production—all in his spare time.

And finally, friend and world traveler Jeff Wright flew through for a day or so on the way to Amsterdam to demonstrate a remarkable disk recorder system from Tektronix. Jeff has been known to design a web page or two when he has a moment to spare, and does television production of all flavors in New Mexico, USA.

Gee, sounds like our social calendar has been full, eh? And that doesn’t even include Sammy’s weekend trip to Michigan to see her family (and to pick fresh raspberries), my stroll to the Piedmont Park Arts Festival with James, Rebecca, and Brigid, and my travels to Portland to see the city behind these live skycams from the fine folks at Northwest NewsChannel 8.

In between the cracks, when I should be productive, i’ve been enjoying RealAudio 3.0—stereo live streams to my humble machine, including CBC Stereo. me, I love Canadian radio for reasons even I don’t fully understand. And there’s something cool about very, very high-quality audio issuing from my Sennheiser headphones when I’m writing these words to you. Last saturday night, the CBC’s ‘RealTime’ (that’s a show) had Gillian Anderson of X-Files fame spinning CD tracks and talking recipes with her mother (both with Grand Rapids Michigan accents, by the way.) In stereo. And it sounded clean.

I’m finding more and more of the kind of stuff I hoped I’d find on the web these days, from TV writers extrordinaire Tom Shales and John Carmody of the Washington Post, the AP and UPI wires, a daily update from Advertising Age, a very interesting-looking collaboration between the New York Times and NPR on the issues that are important this election, and my friend Nancy Nall is writing some of the best columns of her (or anyone else’s) life. Oh, and two of our favorite cats (and their multi-Emmy-winning owner) are available for viewing as well. Maybe this fall is going to be just fine, after all. Enjoy yourselves in this brave new world we’re shaping—by accident—every day.

Posts published on February 23