Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

Web design and development for small and large business, e-commerce, b2b, b2c, SAAS, and community websites. User experience design and usability testing.


Sunday, May 30, 2004

BayCon redux



cosplayers = *shudder*

Yeah, there were Klingons, there was the blue opera singer from "The Fifth Element," and there was even a really good Samwise (who, interestingly, was a woman). But nothing compares to the proof positive -- seen here on the Internet for the very first time -- of why Vikings kick ass over pirates any day of the week.

Yes, Ynnej and I survived BayCon, in all its dorkiness (it was nearly unberable by the time the masquerade ball rolled around), and my only real regret was that I dropped Ynnej's last piece of sushi, which I still feel bad about. Ynnej's only regret, aside from the fact that she said "okay" when I asked "can I try a bite of that egg sushi?" was that she didn't get sweaty with Viking David.

This guy lucked out

Ynnej, we should work on your resume...

Saturday, May 29, 2004

So here we are at DorkFest 2004

Okay, so it was my idea to come. But I was being a good and loyal fan of my favorite author.

Jenny's shirt is a hit. She made me write that. She twisted my arm until it hurt. Okay, that isn't really true. But let me show you why it's a hit (see photo).

Reflections on DorkFest (a.k.a. BayCon): Jenny and I both agree that this is a surprisingly and amazingly PC community, for a genre that places a lot value on scantily clad women (see the art exhibit). Examples: The fact that a character noticed that a woman standing in front of him had a well-muscled back was "sexist." Ah huh. And that a billboard that another panelist passed on the way to the con was hawking beer with a stereotypical scene portraying a scantily clad woman dancing in front of a man, with the line "Dancing is a spectator sport." Surprising? Isn't dancing a spectator sport? It is for me. I don't dance. I laugh.

Mark's non-PC reflection: There is a predominance of people here with really terrible hair and very large asses/hips. And kilts. What's up with that?

Jenny pointed out that we are among the more attractive people in attendance. This should strike everyone who's seen me as something of a larf. That's why the photo is of Jenny, not me :)

Jenny is a larf too. She made me write that.

Next on the agenda, after food, is 13 hours of anime. Um, that's not gonna last. Er, at least, I'm not gonna. Will they have couches? That would rock. Of course, then I would sleep through most of it.

Okay, wish us luck...

Thursday, May 27, 2004

More from the Ruski

"...Funny you asked about the place where i lived because I went there yesterday. I went to a museum in the neighborhood and then took a walk to find my old house. And there it was: with the store across the street, with the playground out front. The trees used to be lower than the five story building, now they're taller. And hwen I left in '89, they were still building the nine story apartment building across from teh playground and now it seems old and decrepit. Generally, it all looks the same though. Yeah, there's lots of memories. And I'm hanging out with the kids that i grew up with: one of them is married and is about to have a kid, another quit school and is working and has a serious partner, another is about to get sent to the army, another is a top notch physics student at the same university where his and my parents studied and worked. Anyway, it's all a bit weird. I can't wait to get to grandma's though... I feel calmer when I'm in the country. Here, all I have in common with the kids is history..."

- Olya

Good advice for Mac users

...on security.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Missive from Novosibirsk

"...So far, everything with the visa is okay, but not completed. Based on new regulations (as of May 20th) I have to register my visa in my place of residence, not in Moscow. And that makes things a bit sketchy because I'm travelling on a visa that's unregisterd, when the law says it must be registered within three days of coming to russia. Also, I have to pull a bunch of shit out of my ass about how I'm employed by a tourist agency, and will be working in Biisk, and therefore need to be registered there. All this visa business is half legal, I have found out. And I am not good at lying much, especially about things like this..."

"...This internet time is a bit expensive so I'm outta' here. I love you much! Send everyone a hello (Jenny, Peter, Will, etc),
kisses kisses, hugs hugs! :) "

-Olya

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Read it and weep, Willhelm

Beat this score. I hope you have three hours to kill... heh

Air America Radio on iTunes and iPhone

October 2008 update: A reader called Mr tells us about FStream (free download), which allows you to listen to Air America on your iPhone (he says you need to update your firmware if you’re using a first generation iPhone). Here’s an FStream review/how-to at Mac360.

May 2008 update: A reader alerted me today in the comments below that Air America is no longer listed in iTunes (I confirmed this by looking myself — I have no idea why it's gone). However, the link to the stream, described in the March 2007 update below, still works.

March 2007 update: Air America has changed the location of their stream, and now if you click on it in iTunes, you'll probably get a "loading" bar forever, like I did.

Per Alan's comment at the end of this thread, you can solve this by selecting "Advanced > Open Stream..." in iTunes and paste this URL into the dialog box: http://aarlive.voxcdn.com/live.m3u (see screenshots below).

You can also just download the .m3u (right-click and save as...) and open it in iTunes.





October 2006 update: Air America is available in iTunes under "Radio > Talk/Spoken Word". In iTunes 7x it'll look like this picture. See Rob's comments at the end of this thread for more info. (Thanks Rob!)



March 2006 update: It appears that the WKIZ playlist file is no longer viable. Air America is apparently now charging for their podcasts (info here, tutorial here), and I haven't been able to find an iTunes stream anymore. There are, however, various radio stations listed on this page where you can still listen to free streams using Windows Media Player or RealPlayer.

Original post: Thanks to bitter-girl (hey Velms, and she has a knitting blog [!] ), I learned that WKIZ radio in Key West, FL, has an iTunes feed of Air America Radio. Finally, I don't have to listen on RealPlayer anymore!

So, to use it, download this .pls file (.pls = playlist), then drag and drop its icon onto your iTunes, and voila, you're listening to the radio.

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Oh, and Ynnej

Mac Hall is pretty good too. Although not as good as Apple Geeks.

Oh, and hey Ynnej, I think you should read this article entitled Making Web-Comics Your Day Job. It may be a ways off for you, but ya never know.

I like Mandy, she funny

I like reading random people's blogs. Does that make me a virtual stalker...?

Monday, May 24, 2004

This is beginning to look more like Critic's Corner

"The Insider" shoots to the top of my list of Required Renting/Viewing.

Al Pacino plays Lowel Bergman, the CBS News producer who broke the story for "60 Minutes." Russell Crowe plays Dr. Jeffrey Wigand, the ex-Big Tobacco VP who decided to turn state's evidence against the smoking industry and brought the bastards down.

The film recounts an epic saga, a true story so much in the vein of "All the President's Men" that it could possibly restore my faith that there may yet be some honor among (some of) the Third Estate. In the face of an ever-rising tide of Fox "News" and MSNBS Kens and Barbies, I've found it depressing in the past couple years to even watch TV news. Journalism has never been so distasteful to me. This film has reinvigorated the feelings of altruism that bit me when I was 18 and made me choose journalism as a craeer path (albeit only for a few years).

"The Insider" portrays the power plays made by the bully corporation against the whisteblower. We see the equally monolithic CBS network cave in the face of a legal threat, and we watch the whistelblower hung out to dry, the cracks in his armor begin to get bigger, the steel of his resolved shudder and shake, and it looks like it all might end in disaster.

"60 Minutes" producer Bergman can't let it go. He's never let a source be left out in the cold in the face of a power play by a giant run amok or anybody else, and he ain't gonna let it happen this time either, even if they fire him.

By now we all know the outcome. It has become world history. Big Tobacco lied. They were dragged out by one man who challenged their lies and backed it up by revealing all he knew as an insider to the industry for years. In this movie, we learn it wasn't just Jeffrey Wigand who we have to thank for Big Tobacco's downfall, it was also Lowell Bergman, and the fickleness of the executives at CBS who nearly killed the story -- did kill it, until Bergman pushed back on his own and risked his career and his neck.

I can only hope that there are more Lowell Bergmans than there are Eric Klusters in the journalism world. But I suspect it's the other way around these days.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

A cross between "Fast Food Nation" and "Bowling for Columbine"

Zonk and Ynnej and I went to CineArts at Palo Alto Square on Friday night to see "Super Size Me," which was simply fantastic. This indie film won the director of the film (who is also the star and the guinea pig) the Best Drirector award at Sundance this year, and it's clear why. It's a very promising first feature film.

Director Morgan Spurlock was sitting on the couch at his childhood home in West Virginia on Thanksgiving 2002, stuffed with turkey and all the fixings, when the concept behind "Super Size Me" came to him. He saw a TV news report about two girls suing McDonald's for making them fat, when he thought, "What if it's true?"

If someone went on a McDonald's-only diet for 30 days, would they see a measurable difference in their health?

He enlisted the help of not one but three doctors, including a nutritionist, to measure the progress. In just a week, the results were surprising to everyone -- doctors and patient (/guinea pig) alike. The experiment unravels in documentary style: the ensuing weeks are interspersed with fun, funny, and interesting facts, figures, and statistics about "America's favorite food" and the mega-industry that feeds us so much of it.

I stopped counting the number of audience-wide gasps and waves of laughter went through the theater. I was to swept up in it myself. I kept noticing that I had to close my mouth because my jaw was slack with disbelief at what I was watching.

Like "Bowling for Columbine," this movie goes on my Required Viewing List. See this movie. And yes, it was even worth the theater price (which I rarely deign to pay).

Friday, May 21, 2004

Grrr

I just spent the last couple hours reading several articles, among them these two in the New Yorker and GQ, about the manipulations of foregin policy by the band of neocon pricks in the Beltway. I didn't think I could hate these people any more than I did, but now I do.

Is it just me?

I work with some incomprehinsibly annoying people. But there's one person in particular, who will remain nameless despite my utter willingness to shout her wretched name from the rooftops.

She actually emailed me from the office today, as I worked from home, and asked me where the big banner was.

Now, the idea to hang our 10-foot by 10-foot banner at the upcoming Green Blues concert was indeed a very good idea. I had already thought of it myself, but that's beside the point. I'm glad she had this good idea.

What is completely flabbergasting is that she emailed me -- she's at the office, I'm at home -- to ask me where it is.

Let me point out, for those of you who have no idea how big our office is, that it is approximately 14 feet wide and about 35 feet long. There are no closets. Therefore, there are very few places where a 10-foot by 10-foot banner could hide. Even a rolled up 10-foot by 10-foot banner is rather large.

I was flabbergasted because I was, as I have pointed out, not at the office. I was at home. She was at the office. In fact, she was sitting 3 feet from the first logical place to look (behind the door, where all the other large, unwieldy items are), and could have simply stood up and looked 3 feet to her right.

She was seated all of 15 feet from the next most logical place to look, which was where the banner actually was located.

Have I pointed out that I was not even in the building, and that she emailed me to ask where this banner was?

Ah, but let me not dwell on the sheer laziness of this. Let me not be outraged by the pure absurdity of emailing a guy 3 miles away to ask where something was that was located a mere 15 feet away.

No, let's ignore all that for a moment. But please, dear reader, allow me to point out that what this woman did was to make something an SEP.

An SEP, for those of you who haven't read the greatest trilogy that isn't a trilogy, is a Somebody Else's Problem.

She had a good idea: "We should hang the big banner at the concert!" her quixotic little mind leaped for joy.

"Where is that banner?" her little synapses fired back.

"Hmm. Mark made the banner, he'll know," her little intellect conjectured.

Now, while I am overjoyed to know that I am apparently The One Who Knows All, and that in her mind, if she doesn't know something, well, "Let's ask Mark," the joy I most positively (sarcasm filter=on) gain from this knowledge does not prevent me from feeling a tad consternated that, upon this realization, her first action was to fire off an email to me (not to actually look for the banner herself), thereby taking my time and attention away from my other work (did I mention that I don't work there on Thursdays?), for an incredibly stupid question which, I must calm myself here to not yell it at the top of my lungs, I HAD ANSWERED FOR HER IN PERSON JUST A FEW WEEKS AGO!

I couldn't hold it in. Sorry.

Yes, my dear friend, a few short weeks ago, she asked me, "Hey, Mark, do you know where the banner is?" I thought she was talking about the big banner, and said, "I think it's beside the supply cabinet, over there." She went over, reached in, pulled it away from the wall, and said, "This? Oh, no, I meant the little ones for tabling." The point here is, she held the damn thing in her own hand just recently. We had a discussion about it, albeit a brief one. But this was apparently completely lost to her faulty memory when she got the brilliant idea to bug me with this new little question today, taking up my time by making the problem of "I want to find the banner" into "I'll make Mark find the banner for me."

This is not only the most inconsiderate kind of coworker, this is an intollerable one.

Really. Would a jury convict me?

Thursday, May 20, 2004

bog dammit

I scoured the web like a crawlbot for hours, but I simply cannot find that comic I've been looking for all day. Which I could've sworn (and loudly) was called something like "Angry Boy" or "Dead Boy" or...something. Dammit.

Oh well. But I did find this, which is cool, because I thought I was the only one who did this... and also AppleGeeks, which Ynnej might like.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The Russian has landed

*snip*

To my friends and family,

Hello! Yes, I am indeed in Russia! I am in the city of Ivanova (about five hours drive from Moscow) visiting my Warren Wilson friend Ira. We stayed in Moscow one night and did the whole touristy thing; it was great!

I don't have much time on the computer because it's really expensive so I'm just letting ya'll know I made it to Russia and everything is great.

To everyone that came to my graduation in North Carolina: THANKS A MILLION!!!!

I hope you're well. When I get to my grandma's, get settled in, and get bored, you'll surely start getting letters!

From Russia with love,
Olya

*snip*

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Looky who's back in CA



Dana Street has free wireless. Wheeee!

Monday, May 17, 2004

*stress*

Oh, I really have far too much to do. Why can't I live on a planet where the days are longer?

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Dare to go bare

SF's Bay to Breakers (tomorrow!) is a longtime tradition. So is running it nude, for some people. SFPD are threatenening this year to cite any runners who don't cover up after they cross the finish line at Golden Gate Park. But they wisely declined to chase down runners-in-the-buff during the race. Can you imagine? There were over 200 naked runners last year. The cops'd need a platoon!

Good on ya'! I say to the Bare to Breakers!

There must be a word for it

Y'know when you're listening to the radio or something else auditory, and you're also reading or typing at the same time, and someone speaking on the radio says the exact same word you're reading at that very milisecond? And it's not like it's the or but or floobie or something you read/say all the time. No, it's some word like vernacular or ampersand or something you must say/read about 2 times a year.

There has to be a word for that. Does anybody know? I may have to read The Meaning of Liff again soon...

The best show on radio

Absolutely the best. The funniest, the most sublime, the most interesting, surprising, appalling, brilliant, entertaining, enthralling, and 27 other adjectives radio program on the air. "This American Life" just rules. If you've never heard it, I simply cannot describe it with mere adjectives. Go. Seek it out. Listen. (Yes, you can listen online at thisamericanlife.org. And if you're in the Bay Area, it's on KQED FM on Saturdays (like right now) at both noon and 10pm.

Lame title, great book

When I read that a journalist from the Austin America-Statesman had written a book about the death of Earth First! activist David "Gypsy" Chain in the North Coast timber wars a few years ago, I was intrigued to pick it up at the bookstore. However, when I read what the title was going to be, I thought, 'Well, that's lame.'

coverBut I started reading it last night, and A Good Forest For Dying is an exceptionally good book so far. I am pleasantly surprised.

Somewhat startlingly, the first and only Amazon review that came up when I went to build the link for this book was from Gypsy's mother, Cindy Allsbrooks. She gives the book a top-notch review. From my early email correspondence with her -- in the days and weeks after Gypsy's death when I was still one of the best disseminators of info to the rest of the world outside the Redwood Curtain -- and in the years since, when I have had no contact with her but have watched from afar as she become a mediating and calming influence in the heated debate in Humboldt County, I have been wholly impressed by her seemingly endless well of empathy and spirit. I bow to her.

If you were interested in the Headwaters Forest saga, this is one of four must-have books.

10 days and counting

Hey Ynnej and Zonk, we should totally have a geekfest weekend after King comes out on DVD, and watch all three extended versions. Sleep? Ha! Who needs sleep?

How to avoid Microsoft products

Well, when you're a web developer and graphic designer, you can never totally steer clear of the Microbehemoth, but...there are ways.

I still have to test new website designs in Exploder eventually, but I develop using Safari these days. Willhelm was right when he told me about two years ago that it rocked. But I had no idea until I switched to Jaguar last year, and fell in love with tabbed browsing. So much less window clutter.

And the bane of my existence is MS Word. That bloatware is responsible for more crashes, hangs, hugely overinflated document sizes, utterly unnecessary attachments, printing headaches, cross-platform fuckups, and just plain blasted annoyance than any program I've had the displeasure of using in the past 14 years, and so I avoid using it at any cost. Which is of course impossible. Because everydamnbody uses it, everydamnbody sends their .doc files at you and expects you to be able to read them, and everybody thinks MS Word is on everybody else's computer because, well, hey, doesn't it just come with your computer?

No. And it's expensive.

So I use this. Fuck you, Microsoft. Choke on your bloatware.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Y'know what's cool?

A brand spankin' new PowerBook G4. Y'know what's really cool? Laying in bed making this blog post, via Airport, untethered from the Ethernet and power cord (look ma! no cables!), because I went to check my Airport settings and discovered that someone in my neighborhood has an open wireless network. Hoo-ahh! Thank you!

So I'm totally wireless, laying in bed with my new lover -- a svelte little G4 -- having just finished watching "The Nightmare Before Christmas" on DVD, and now listening to Air America Radio streaming on RealPlayer and surfing the Net. Ah, sometimes life is good...

I am ashamed

The events that have come to light in the prison in Iraq in the past couple weeks should have caused our country to announce its complete and immediate withdrawal. Our so-called "leadership" uses words like "despicable" and "unfortunate" to describe their supposed disgust with the actions of our soldiers. Empty words.

It's fruitless to point out that the actions of a few should not disparage the entire military. In the eyes of the world, the entire U.S. armed forces has been shamed. Each and every American has been shamed. We should have slunk away with our tails between our legs, hoping that in time the world can forgive our utterly contemptible hypocrisy.

I love my country. I hate the people who took it captive.

Write to the Russian midget

Olya will be gone for a year. No way to receive email. I'm not even sure there's a phone at her grandma's, but even if there is, she won't be calling anyone (can you imagine the phone bill?). Send her letters (she advises against sending any packages, since they will probably go astray in the Russian mail system, never to be seen again). Here's her address in Russia. Sorry, it's a graphic. But unless your computer is configured to read Cyrilic encoding (um, get a Mac), you wouldn't be able to read it.

Coooool...

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

What's better than

watching Spike and Mike's Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation while wearing no pants? Nothing, that's what.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Sneak peak

A little taste of what I've been working on for the past couple days, and what I hope to unveil Tuesday or Wednesday if all goes well. That's right, we're havin' a party...

I'm eating cake

Just thought you should know.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Finally a new template

Blogger has updated their site design and apparently added new templates. This one's by Douglas Bowman, www.stopdesign.com. Pretty worthy.

Oh, and BTW Ynnej, I have enabled COMMENTS. Wield this awesome new power with wisdom, my child.

Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory

So a couple weeks ago Olya steals my copy of "The Da Vinci Code," which I didn't mind because I hadn't read it yet. I was already working my way through three other books at the time.

"OHHHH! Have you read this yet?" she enthused in the Russian midget way that only Olya can. "I've been meaning to read this! Can I borrow it?" She grabbed it before I could even answer and disappeared.

A week later she pounds on my door. "You HAVE to read this!" she thrusts the book in my face before she's even through the door. "It's sooo good. OHHH!" she says in that I'm-so-frustrated-that-I-can't-tell-you-why-it's-so-good-because-it'll-ruin-it way.

So, yeah, everyone's been talking about this book for the last year or so, and I ordered it through the Quality Paperback Book Club (yeah, so I'm a book dork. so what?) a couple months ago, but I hadn't gotten around to it. I have this thing where I can't plan what book I'm going to read next. I have to pick the new book right after I've finished the last book, by considering what sort of mood I'm in at that particular moment. A little Adams revival, perchance? Pick up some Heinlein I haven't read since 8th grade? Or something new, maybe? One of the endless thriller paperbacks cast off by my dad and picked up by me, hoping there'll be another Le Carre or Forsythe in there somewhere? Or perhaps something from my stacks of obscure material; books I've picked up over the years because the cover looked interesting, so I read the jacket and thought I'd give it a try. Never heard of the author, usually, but what the heck. Surprisingly, some of my most favorite interest-expanding finds have happened this way...

Anyway, I was presently working up to the end of "The Cider House Rules" ? which, I might add, Olya had also enthusiastically thrust into my hands recently, that time in a dusty used bookstore in San Francisco ? it would be out of the ordinary for me to, upon finishing one book, choose another recommended by the same friend. But out of the ordinary and me are kissin' cousins, so wouldn't you know it, when I finished "Cider" I was (not entirely surprisingly) in the mood to pick up "Da Vinci."

I am not disappointed.

A week later I am finished not only with the book (bleary-eyed at 4 this morning), but I have just spent a further I-don't-wanna-say-how-many hours cruising the Net for more info on Opus Dei, Dan Brown, and a plethora of interesting tidbits from the book. Oh, don't even get me started on Opus Dei...

If you are into a good thriller, a pager-turner, this is a pretty damn good one. A damn sight better than Grisham's good books (both of them), as well-researched as a Tom Clancy but half as annoying and with thankfully more three-dimensional characters, and while maybe not as brilliant as Le Carre (well, not even close, I admit), at least twice as accessible.

But above all, absolutely one of the most FASCINATING books I've read in years. Ooh, I now know why Olya was brimming with even more enthusiasm than usual.

Read it. You won't be disappointed. Or I'll give you your money back.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Changing OS X icons

Ynnej, I think this program may be what you were wanting a month or so ago...

Don't mess with this chick

She's pretty badass. Pretty cool art site, tho.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Good news for people who floob

If you put enough butter on even the most burned piece of toast, it's still edible.

Ynnej, are you dorkly enough...

...to recognize even one of the names on this list? I'm not.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

the anti-blog

This is for Ynnej and all her Hampshire floobies.

birthday rant

Hey, I just realized I missed my blog's birthday. Apparently I've been posting to this here rant more or less regularly (okay, pretty much 'less' there for awhile) for just a tad over a year now. Um, maybe I should buy my blog a cake...?

Well, anyway, today three different people commented on my blog. You know who you are, don't be all greedy for me to name names here, you may regret it one day. But this just confirms something astonishing -- that I have a readership of three. Awesome, the power of the Internet, isn't it?

Hmm. I suppose I could go look at my logs for once, and see if anybody else ever reads this tripe...

coool

Okay, even though one of my best friends is going half way around the world and I won't see her for a year or more, I'm suddenly in a slightly better mood. Why for? Well, duh: "Master Blaster (Jammin')", by Stevie Wonder, which I haven't heard since like 4th grade. This is why iTunes fucking rules the universe.

The Russian is gone

Olya has left the building :(

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

migration=migraine

Currently trying to:
1) move all Acterra.org to a new host and hope all the scripts don't break
2) keep MX/mail records with old host
3) set up e-commerce on new host
4) create entire store from scratch in less than a week
5) create a way to purchase tickets online and do CC processing with our old CC merchant account
...and finally:
6) do this all before next Tuesday, when we've said tickets go on sale for the Green Blues concert we announced last week.

I need more Advil...

Monday, May 03, 2004

The most beautiful woman in the world

cool / not cool

Cool: going 111 down 101, but only for 10 seconds (101+10=111).
Not cool: getting pulled over by the sheriff.
Cool: getting pulled over by the sheriff 10 miles AFTER you've already slowed down.
Not cool: "slowed down" to 83.
Cool: sheriff doesn't give you a ticket for going 83.
Not cool: sheriff still gives you a ticket. for not having a license. oops.

Mark's iTunes index

Number of songs in my iTunes library: 6,003
Number of days I can continuously listen before hearing the same song twice: 17.7
Percentage of songs that were legitimately purchased: approx. 97%
Percentage of my CD collection that I've ripped so far: approx. 60%