Monthly Archives: June 2008

Backyard

It was 80° at 3 o’clock this afternoon. We spent a good chunk of time outside then and I snapped these photos.

Click through to see the whole set.

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Liza kills a red popsicle. See those two teeth? There are finally two more coming in on the top!

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When I ask Eli to smile for the camera, this is what I want and never get.

Bubba, Read to Me

Incidentally, while I was taking these photos and several others off the camera tonight, I realized that the picture’s filenames had gone back to “img_0001.jpg”. We’ve taken over 10,000 photos with our “new” camera.

On Thermostats and Dreams

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been slowly upping the temperature in our house to see what the maximum comfortable temp is for working, playing and just plan ol’ living inside our house.

This past week, I’ve been working on 77°. Now last summer while I was nursing Liza, this place was regularly down to 73° and if I was having a particularly hot moment, 71°. By comparison, 77° is practically desert heat. Well the past couple of nights have shown me that 77° is actually too warm to sleep in.

Friday night I dreamed that I lost Eli and Liza in a mudslide. I survived but they didn’t.

Saturday night Stephen dreamed he punched Eli in the face.

Last night I turned the thermostat down to 76° and I dreamed of moving into a new house with two kitchens and beach access in the basement.

Does being too hot make you have bad dreams too or are we the weird ones?

Search and Replace No Match for SCOTUS

I’ve long rolled my eyes at intelligent design proponents claiming that intelligent design is so very different from creation science. The celebrated intelligent design textbook, “Of Pandas and People,” originally referred to creation science before a search-and-replace operation changed the references to intelligent design. The current US administration’s approach to the war on terror is similar. “Prisoners of war” was replaced with “illegal enemy combatant”; “torture” by “enhanced interrogation technique”. With new shiny words in place, the administration was free to shove people into Gitmo limbo, where they were neither prisoners of war nor criminals.

That may be coming to an end.

[T]he Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign nationals held at Guantanamo Bay have a right to pursue habeas challenges to their detention. The Court, dividing 5-4, ruled that Congress had not validly taken away habeas rights. If Congress wishes to suspend habeas, it must do so only as the Constitution allows — when the country faces rebellion or invasion.

In reading the text of the ruling, Justice Kennedy stated that Congressional branch and the Executive branch can’t “switch the Constitution on or off at will”. I’m reminded of a bit from one of my favorite plays, Robert Bolt’s “A Man for All Seasons”.

Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?

This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down (and you’re just the man to do it!), do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?

Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

Pushing Past Dora and Diego to the Better Stuff

Due to Stephen’s LOLprowess, our site now has enough Diggs or Technorati gold stars in heaven to rate us being approached by marketing firms. The first couple of times we got emails, I was like, “Huh? They want to do what? What’s the catch?” The catch is that these companies want to send us free stuff in exchange for us giving them shout outs about their products or services. Apparently this phenomenon has a name: “Word of Mom.”

The nice part of the deal is that they send us free stuff but we don’t have to talk about it unless we like it, mostly, I’m guessing, because they don’t want the bad word from us moms. But it takes the pressure off of me because I don’t feel obligated in any way. I can pick and choose what is interesting to me and talk about only those things. Isn’t the internet a powerful thing?

Most of the email traffic has come from the PR firm representing the Turner TV channels. The first round of swag was disappointing, mostly because I didn’t read the email carefully enough. I thought she was sending me new shows of Saving Grace and The Closer. I was having puppies over the prospect of new episodes (and early, no less) because I love those two shows. In actuality she was sending me the greatest hits collections of those shows and a few others in the hopes that I might be interested in them and willing to plug them on the blog. Oops, I think I played right into their hands there, didn’t I?

The second round of swag was a book called The Best Old Movies for Families. This book is very cool. It’s funny and well written, and it’s made me want to further my own movie education as well as introduce my kids to a whole range of movies that don’t involve Dora, Diego and the dreaded Disney princesses.

In the intro, Ty Burr suggests to use the book as reference material to get you started introducing your kids to old movies. But I found the book so readable, I was well into the fourth chapter before I thought to get the remote and set up the TiVo to record some of these shows coming on TCM this summer.

I’m excited about watching some of these shows (most of which I’ve never seen) with Eli. Especially the musicals, because I have a feeling he’s going to love those. And it’s always pleasant to think Dora and Diego aren’t the only options.

Selling Nice Cars to Flawed People

I am a compulsive reader. At breakfast I’ll read the backs of cereal boxes. I can’t not read a sign I pass, or even the warnings on the back of a car’s visor about le sac gonflable. That’s why I read the tag on the back of the new car:

SMITHSON’S MOTORS

NICE CARS FOR GOOD PEOPLE

In between was a fish symbol, just to make sure you got their message: hey, we’re Christians, and we want to sell to Christians because they’re good people.

Let’s slide past using religion as a tool to sell, much less sell cars, a profession that consistently is ranked at the bottom in terms of honesty. It’s the “…for good people” part that makes me grind my teeth so hard that I have to wipe enamel dust from my lips.

People aren’t simply good or bad, as if they pick an alignment off of a D&D table and never deviate from it. People are good or bad in the context of what’s going on, both in the world around them and inside their heads. Moreover, a person who’s a Christian is still a person. It’s not as if all of their flaws vanish, never to reappear. Even the ones who are trying their hardest to embody the best ideals of Christianity are going to slip up.

The idea that Christians are automatically good is poisonous. It flies in the face of everything we know about people, and is a yardstick that no one will measure up to, not always. It leaves no room for people to be human. It is an ideal that brooks no deviation, and grinds people flat. If you’re not a Christian, you’ll look at us Christians and say, huh, they say they’re good, but look at all the times when they aren’t. It doesn’t help that Christians have the bad habit of taking the already-flawed logical proposition and incorrectly reversing it, deciding that non-Christians can’t be good.

You want to sell nice cars to good people? Fine. Just don’t tie it to Christianity in an attempt to move more product.

Good Clients

I’ve been doing some form of customer service work my whole life.

My first job in high school was at the public library. It was a very cushy job in many respects. One of the best parts was the people. People who come to the public library want to be there. They are getting a free service and so are usually nice about that fact. In the three plus years I worked there, I can only remember a couple of annoying/crazy people and at least one of those worked behind the counter with me.

In college I worked several fast food jobs in the summers, one of them Sonic. Seriously, people, tip your car hops. Their job sucks and it’s about 110° out there. I went home exhausted from the heat, smelling of grease, and disappointed I’d only made $10-12 in tips for a six hour shift, all of it in quarters and dimes.

When I worked for Apple, I worked out of a CompUSA. A CompUSA. Yes, all the stories you can imagine are probably true, and frankly, I’ve been doing my best to forget that very creepy guy who would not leave me alone. I told him I’d already married one creepy guy who wouldn’t leave me alone.

Now I work freelance as a graphic designer. The up side of freelance work is that you can pick and choose who you work with. The down side is that sometimes you choose incorrectly and end up with a client that makes you want to take them by the ear and give them lessons on how to work with another adult. But those people are not who this post is about.

I have two excellent clients right now. The fact that they are recurring clients is only one facet of why they are excellent. Here’s my list about what makes these two people such good clients. Some of the things on my list pertain only to creative work and some of them apply to any client situation.

Understanding the Way the Process Works.
I don’t know any creative person who is a mind reader. Since none of us can actually read our clients’ minds, we are going to have to create a set of drafts, talk about what works and what doesn’t with our client, and then go back to the drawing board and do it again. We repeat this process until the client is happy. Sometimes it takes two revisions. Sometimes it takes twelve. Regardless, it’s going to take at least a little bit of time.

I like to work from the macro to the micro. At the beginning, I want to get an idea of what my client’s vision is and what they’d like the finished product to look like. If they have definite ideas of what they want, then I start showing them those ideas worked up in a rudimentary form. If they have no idea what they want, then I try to suggest avenues of where to go. If this is the case, I like to present them with a few very different ideas and try to zero in at the first proofing discussion. I’ve had some really nice products turn out from both starting points.

Ultimately, the goal is the best possible finished product for my client. Contrary to the way it looks in the movies, that doesn’t happen with a wave of a magic wand or with a rockin’ montage (although I am known to rock out pretty radically while I am slaving away on the above-mentioned drafts). Believe me when I say I want you to look good. If you are happy, then you are going to tell all of your friends, relatives and business associates that you like my work. Hopefully that translates into more good clients for me sometime down the road.

A small side note to understanding how the process works: since it is a creative endeavor, I might not be the best possible choice for your project. If you don’t like the style of the pieces in my portfolio then it’s best to shake hands and part ways now rather than being mad later because I’m not creating the thing that you need. Designers have their specialties just like doctors, so part of being a good client is shopping around for the right person to do the job you need done.

Trust.
Trust me to know my job and do it. Don’t art direct over my shoulder. There’s a huge difference between, “Hey, I’d like to see these three pieces of art worked up this way and if you think of anything else, I’d love to see that too!” and “Can you use Univers instead of Helvetica? And make it bigger? Then slide it over 3mm to the left…” I don’t work well when all I hear is another chorus of “make the logo bigger”.

A lot of this stems from the fact that everybody has a computer. “I have a computer, so, really, how hard can it be to slap a few sentences of text on the page and run a border around it?” or “My nephew is making my business cards!” If your nephew has taken some commercial art or design classes or possibly graduated from RISD, go for it (and also, introduce me to him so I can pick his brain about RISD). Otherwise, you might want to call a professional.

Pay the Bill on Time.
Do I really need to say this? Unfortunately, yeah, I do. Not paying your designer is a good way to rack up bad karma. We are creative people and we can think of insults like you wouldn’t believe. Also, we’ll put ugly mustaches on all of the photos you’ve given us to work with. Paying the bill ensures prompt service from us. I promise, it works.

I am glad that I have the two good clients. I just finished a lengthy project for one of them and am a bit sad that it’s over. The best of all compliments from me as a designer is that I want to work with you again on a different project.

Eli Tells Jokes

One of Eli’s current favorite websites tells jokes. That, of course, means Eli then tells those jokes to us. A selection of his favorites:

Cinderella and her sports-playing ability
[audio:cinderella.mp3]

Giraffes and their nocturnal habits
[audio:giraffe.mp3]

Chimps and their ailments
[audio:monkeywrench.mp3]

Sadly, I wasn’t able to capture him saying, “Listen! Listen! I have a joke!” and then coughing to clear his throat before he tells it.