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Friday, February 27, 2004

Watercolor Gesture #2 & #4 It was good to be back at the watercolor gesture class this week after a two week hiatus. Missed last week's class while in Jacksonville, helping out the parents. I usually love the one minute gesture warmup exercises, and often do what I think is my best work. Of course there are times when they turn out awful, but there are often a couple of decent, action-oriented renderings. When I slow down and think too much is when my work tends to fall apart.

Thursday was an interesting day. The long round trip bike ride to class at the Torpedo Factory just about did me in. While I've been riding the 3 miles to and from work most of the winter, there was a long, two to three week stretch when there was too much snow and ice for me to feel comfortable riding. I felt as if I were bonking on the return trip, but I eventually realized that I was merely terribly out of shape. Home never looked so good. The trip was productive, inadvertently turning up two job prospects. I guess one just needs to be open to the possibilities that life presents. More later.

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Thursday, February 26, 2004
Hivelogic amusingly describes chance encounters with interesting people. I'm tempted to make my own list:

  1. Gina Lollobrigida, 1956 signing autographs in Disneyland. As an adolescent boy, I remember being impressed with the amount of cleave, and perhaps areola, that was on display, in Disneyland no less.

  2. Eric Burdon, 1965 of the Animals, walking through an exclusive London nightclub where my friend Chris Shaffer had somehow talked his way in.

  3. Bob Dylan, 1966 filming Don't Look Back in London, trying to film in Speaker's Corner and being told that it's illegal to film in this island of total freedom of speech. Dylan then hopped on a passing double-decker bus. I was standing next to him for much of the time and was tempted to follow him onto the bus but chickened out at the last minute. He was later seen at Heathrow Airport as we were seeing friends off to the States. I shamelessly chased him through the terminal.

  4. Jimi Hendrix, 1967 and Mitch Mitchell waiting for Noel Redding at the Sacramento Airport. I was visiting some friends who had just returned from our Londong high school, sitting in the coffee shop awaiting my flight, when we heard Jimi's name called on the intercom, back in the pre-cellphone era. One of the friends kept asking Jimi for his autograph "for my brother" to which Jimi replied "Quite acting so funky". After about 20 minutes he piled into a stretch limo, minus Noel.

  5. Eric Clapton and Cream, 1967 in another airport terminal. Don't remember where or exactly when, but he Eric was paged, and sure enough, he and the group showed up at the designated spot.

  6. Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young with special guest Joni Mitchell, 1972 leaving their limos and entering the backstage area of the Masonic Temple in Detroit. We had tried to get tickets but the show was sold out. We decided to try to sneak in and walked around to the back alley. After the celebrity encounter, we entered one of the entrances and found ourselves in the bowels of the temple, feeling a little like actors in an old Laurel and Hardy meets dracula film. After exploring a bit more we found an entrance into the theater. The seats we chose were of course later taken, so we spent the evening sitting on the steps in the balcony. It was one of the best concerts I've ever seen.

  7. Steve Martin, early ‘70’s telling us what good seats we had for his performance at a small comedy club, before he hit it big.

That's enough for now.

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I've got mixed emotions about the Gray Album, the remix of Jay-Z's Black Album and The Beatles White Album. The controversy is described in Jay-Z, Beatles album: An unauthorized Web hit on CNN. It's an infectious mix, and the creator, DJ Danger Mouse, has done a great job of melding the two works. However, the original creators should have some say in how their music is used.

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Here's a good analysis of the effect of Nader's run for president that appears in The Nation. I'm not real concerned about his attempt to disrupt the race; he's got every right to try to run for president, but like anyone else who tries with little support, he should get the coverage he deserves, which at this point ain't much. It's too bad he's chosen to spoil his already tarnished reputation.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2004
The Rising Tide of Macs - I found it intersting that Dan Bricklin recently purchased a Mac. Bricklin is the inventor of the first computer spreadsheet Visicalc, Dan Bricklin's Demo Program, and a devoted PC person. He said that he once owned a Mac, the old SE. My computer history is similar, having once owned a Mac Plus. When I purchased my latest machine, the Dell 4600c, I was tempted to switch platforms, but there is one program that I use often, ArcView, that doesn't not run on Macs. I've been happy with the Dell, but think the Mac is now a very powerful, unix-based alternative to Windows. Long live the Mac.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2004
The FlipStart from Vulcan appears to be a step above vaporware. There doesn't appear to be a release date but I've heard it may be out by the end of the year. The innovative concept, other than the small size and full keyboard, is the option of a low power mode for checking email and listening to music. This overcomes the long startup time of Windows, and reduced the power consumption. Brilliant!

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Monday, February 16, 2004
Hybrid SUVs I'm glad to see the advent of hybrid SUVs, but 27 to 40 mpg isn't that great. If they weren't SUVs they would probably get twice that mileage. Nevertheless, it's a step in the right direction by Ford and Toyota.

Scarlett Johansson It was a Scarlett Johansson weekend that started off with a viewing of Lost in Translation on DVD. I was surprised the film was already out on DVD as it is still showing in many theaters. It's a good film, one that sort of sneaks up on you. Bill Murray is so deadpan most of the time that he doesn't seem to be acting.

Girl with a Pearl Earring was not available on DVD. It's an OK film, the most interesting part being Scarlett Johansson, who has a wholesome beauty and is fascinating to watch.

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Friday, February 13, 2004
Read an excellent article on SUV safety, or lack thereof, in The New Yorker. Unfortunately the article does not appear to be online. There is an interview with Malcolm Gladwell, author of the article, and a commentary of the article at how to save the world.

The basic premise of the article is that many SUV owners buy their vehicles because of a perception that SUVs are safer than others vehicles. According to Gladwell, the accident statistics indicate the opposite, that many SUVs handle poorly, take longer to stop, and are not properly designed to withstand side impacts. Smaller vechicles are more maneuverable, which is often the difference between hitting and being hit by other vehicles, not to mention being better able to avoid pedestrians.

When searching for info about the article, came across a criticism of the article by the SUV Owners of America. Not having heard of the group, I looked a little deeper and discovered that SUVOA's headquarters is in the offices of a DC public relations firm Stratacomm. According to disinfopedia, SUVOA is an industry funded group that dispences pro-SUV information. Stratacomm's clients include the big three automakers.

Looking further, the What Would Jesus Drive site discusses the connection of one of Stratacomm's principals, Ron Defore, to Andrew Card, Bush's Chief of Staff:
DeFore and his partner Jason Vines, who works out of Stratacomm's Detroit office, were perfectly positioned to bring SUVOA into the spotlight last summer. Vines, a former vice president for communications at Ford, also oversaw public relations for Andrew Card, now George Bush's chief of staff, back when Card was president of the American Automobile Manufacturers Association. Until last year, DeFore handled communications for the Coalition for Vehicle Choice, a short-lived lobbying group run out of Stratacomm's D.C. office, which was set up by automakers and related interests to fight Congress' attempts to raise federal fuel-economy standards. All three major domestic automakers--Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and DaimlerChrysler--as well as the industry's two trade associations, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the National Automobile Dealers Association, are current or former Stratacomm clients.

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Thursday, February 12, 2004

Portrait of Brandie. Moving from doing pencil and pen and ink sketches to working in color is such a huge leap that it can be very frustrating at times. When color is done right, it can have a more emotional impact, but is much more difficult than doing a sketch or wash.

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Shorter songs on CDs? Back from a quick trip to Jacksonville, Florida. While travelling and listening to music on my PDA I had time to ponder the future of recorded music. Now that the cost of downloading a song is 99¢, I wonder if there will be more songs per CD.

Historically the length of most singles has been dictated by the three minutes preferred by radio stations. However, many other CD tracks are often longer, especially on jazz recordings. If songs are shorter, and there are 12 or 13 songs per CD vs. 8 or 10, the recording company will make more money. Unless most people will continue to buy and download the entire CD, in which case the song length wouldn't make any difference. Seems like I've heard that isn't the case, that most people are buying songs not CDs.

I took a quick look at CDs displayed at a local record store (are they called CD stores now?), and most CDs had 12 or 13 songs.

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Saturday, February 07, 2004
There were six or seven robins in the yard the other day, picking through the few leaves no covered by snow. Spring can't be long in coming.

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Finally got around to posting a series of articles on bicycle commuting that I wrote for our local bike club newsletter a while back. It's not too early to get ready for Bike to Work Day on May 7 (at least that's when it is celebrated by us).

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A List Apart is a great resource for web developers. There is nearly always interesting, informative content presented on a regular basis. Both current articles are excellent: Javascript Image Gallery is a simple way to present images, and Exploring Footers explains how to position a footer using CSS. Browsers that don't support standards make life miserable for concientious web developers who want to use CSS standards. They're forced to write workarounds for the various flavors of browsers. This was supposed to go away with the advent of standards and newer versions of browsers, but that doesn't appear to be the case.

I simply don't worry about it. I write a CSS file that works in my browser (IE6), and if it looks OK, that's good enough for me. At least with CSS, the content of the file is usually accessible with just about any browser.

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Friday, February 06, 2004
Let me get this straight; Pakistan sells nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea, and Libya. The main culprit is pardoned by the Pakistani president, who is implicated in the sales. This is what the Bush administration has to say about all this according to the Washington Post today:
We value the commitments Mr. Musharraf has made to prevent the expertise in Pakistan from reaching other places," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday.
If I'm not mistaken, we just invaded and are now occupying a country that we thought might have tried to buy some nuclear-related materials. We were wrong, but just the appearance of a possible threat caused us to go to war, kill many people, incur the deaths of hundreds of Americans. Isn't there something wrong with this picture?

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Wednesday, February 04, 2004
The Sierra club has a good daily environmental news site, the daily scoop. I was checking out their site to find out more about their victory over the EPA regarding ozone levels in DC. EPA had given the DC area until 2005 to clean up their act, a six year extension of the original 1999 deadline, six years in which we've been damaging our lungs on the many code red ozone alert days. The suit filed by the Sierra Club argued that what EPA did was illegal and the court agreed. Oddly enough I couldn't find any references to the suit on the Sierra Club site.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Copy of a Charles Reid sketch.

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Finally got around to posting my Bike Commuting articles that I wrote for our local bike club. Starting to plan for the 2004 Bike to Work Day event here in Reston. The layout uses a simple 3-column css style. Now that most people use modern browsers, it makes sense to use css.

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Monday, February 02, 2004

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Sunday, February 01, 2004

Another exercise from the book The Natural Way to Paint by Charles Reid. I wasn't going to post additional daily drawings, but since I've done one, I figured I'd post it.

I now have a better understanding of why I dislike wallpaper so much, after having spent several hours removing a few square feet of the stuff. It doesn't make any sense to put it up, knowing that some day in the future it will need to be removed. After removing it, the wallboard beneath will most likely not be perfect and will need spackling to cover those flaws.

The alternative, a painted wall, usually only needs another coat or two of paint when the color needs changing.

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