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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Deep Throat revealed?

Vanity Fair has an exclusive [press advance PDF] on what may be the true identity of Deep Throat.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Postcards from the Ozarks

I got two postcards from the redhead who's in Missouri for the next couple months (although she's probably on the road to Georgia while I type this).

I liked this bit from the one with the giant trike: "...While we were out some young kids stole my purse (w/ glasses + wallet) from the truck. Then we hauled rock -- and I'm sweating again."

Sounds like a relaxing vacation, don't it? Poor Velmer.

Aging parents

My dad's in the hospital and this is the first time I've ever been that worried about him in all the past year's events -- selling the house, moving into a retirement community, knee-replacement surgery, several weeks of recuperation in the on-site health center, then returning to his apartment and an ongoing regimen of physical therapy.

I suppose those were all easier to prepare for because I had warning. I knew he was going to sell the house for like a year, and he told me about the retirement community idea at least six months in advance of moving, and same with the knee surgery, which I suspected would mean a lengthy recovery afterward. I was prepared for all that.

When you get a phonecall from an administrator at the retirement community and she says she's "worried about your dad" and doesn't know where he is and they checked his apartment and he wasn't there, that's slightly panicking.

Turns out he had left me a message on my other phone at roughly the same time I was talking with Cora, and he had checked himself into the hospital on Tuesday because of an elevated blood count and they needed to run some tests. He's alright, although he sounds a little disoriented, or maybe just drugged. But he'll be in the hospital for a few more days.

Ever since my dad's knees went bad and he started having so much trouble walking and stuff, it's made me realize just how old my parents are getting. I looked at his face a year or so ago in the way we usually don't when we're looking at people we've been looking at for all our lives -- and he was just so old looking.

My mom's still in pretty good health and stuff, although her eyesight's been terrible in nighttime conditions for many years, which makes driving at night a really bad idea. But she had keratotomy surgery on one eye quite a few years ago and it made a huge positive difference.

I'd always been pretty resigned to the fact that my parents were a lot older than most of my peers', since they got me pretty late in life, and I know this has had several important impacts on my life. For one, it meant that they were hopelessly incapable of relating to me by the time I reached my teens, and it's pretty much been all downhill from there. Of course, this is the way of the world, so I guess it should come as no surprise. But when I was 18 or so I realized that history would repeat itself unless I myself had kids when I was in my early- to mid-20s (and admitedly I wasn't so dumb as to think I'd still be able to relate to my kids when they were teens, but at least it'd be a little easier). Now, however, in my 30s, I am in eminent danger of repeating history if Velma and I have kids. Oh well. Maybe someone will invent a Parent-Child Relater Device? sometime before 2020.

Another important impact is one that hasn't happened yet. My (theoretical) kid(s) may never know their paternal grandparents. And vice-versa. This would be a shame, of course, because I'm sure that somewhere down deep inside my dad there's something grandfatherly he'd want to pass on. Fishing maybe?

Anyway. I'm a little sad about all this today. But at least I don't have a tumor.

Celebrating (belatedly) Towel Day

At home sick today. Haven't even opened the shades yet because I'm afraid it's another nice day and then I'll want to go outside in it.

I was checking my email in my underwear (nice mental image, huh?) and Ynnej pointed out via IM that Towel Day was yesterday, and I totally missed it. So, being in my underwear already, I decided I had to be more like this guy and so I got my dressing gown (that's a robe to all you Americans -- and I have the nicest robe evah, thanks to Velmer), a nice, steaming hot cup of tea, and sat back down with my trusty towel at my side.

Only problem is, now every time a truck rumbles by outside, I fear they're bulldozers.

Don't have any idea wtf I'm talking about? My god mankind, have you never read the Guide?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

On magazines

Jen E. (hi!) commented on my post, "Somber reading. Or: Why I hate the New Yorker."

I was mostly being a snobby, reactionary designer because of the illegibility of their website, since it reminded me of the year that I subscribed to the New Yorker back in something like 1993 and later felt like a loser because I never had time to read the 30,000-word articles. What a waste.

It might just as equally be the case that I ranted against the New Yorker simply because of a surging inferiority complex brought on by the fact that I'm slowly but surely becoming one of those short-attention-span people you spoke of `,:
Jen, your point about being exposed to ideas that you wouldn't necessarily otherwise be exposed to is the most compelling one to me. It's the same reason I still occasionally tune in KGO AM and listen for a few hours, to remind myself that the things I hear on those talk shows are the way most people out there think (KGO has more listeners by far than any other radio station in the Bay Area), and that not everyone listens to NPR.

Anyway, I still hate the design of the New Yorker. I know it has this style that's all its own, that the magazine in fact thrives in part on this historically backward look. But I mean, this is a totally subjective thing, and whether I "like" it or not means nothing. And whether someone else likes it or not means nothing to me. But I can't read it. It makes me ill to open it. But hey, like I said, I'm a design snob. It's what I do ; )

So, magazines that I like the design of?

Time, although its content increasingly falls into that short-attention-span genre.

Dwell is great, but mostly because of the photos and typography, since the recent switch to using great swatches of cyan, magenta, and yellow throughout is garish (although I know they're just trying to be all pomo). The writing is good too, and I especially like the editorial staff's emphasis on sustainable design.

How was recently redesigned and looks great. But then, you'd expect nothing less from a magazine about design, no?

Computer Shopper was the scourge of tech magazines for years, but was redesigned last fall and now looks great, even though I normally hate the look of all tech magazines. I'm not just saying I like it because it's published by my employer (although I expcet a kickback if anybody subscribes because of this post). They actually pack in a lot of product info and detail on all sorts of tech products, and yet do it with style and make it very readable. I mean, hey, I actually read it! Which is more than I can say for any other Windoze-oriented magazine, considering I only use Macs.

Two magazines that do a much better job of presenting longer articles in a compelling way (putting the New Yorker to shame) are:

National Grographic (of course), and Mother Jones, the latter of which underwent a much-needed redesign about a year-and-a-half ago, which came out fantastic; 100% goodness. Professional, easy to read, great typography. And excellent writing, natch. And I might add, National Geographic excells admirably in melding modern, accessible design within a historically-based brand image (the yellow border, the old-fashioned logotype, etc.), where the New Yorker fails.

On the other hand, a magazine I like a lot content-wise but hate to look at is E: The Environmental Magazine, each issue of which looks like it was designed by an intern taking "desktop publishing" courses at a community college. Too bad, since there's such good information inside.

And that reminds me, Real Simple is also really well designed. The writing is a bit fluffy for my tastes, but I actually learn something from it when I pick it up to leaf through once or three times a year.

Oh, and Jason: I still think the New Yorker's cartoons are funny about as often as I wash my car. I think the last time was about 3 years ago.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Is your nail polish making you impotent?

Did you know cosmetics aren't regulated by any government agency? I had no idea. I thought the FDA handled cosmetics. But the industry is left to police itself. So you could be using cancer-causing chemicals on your face, nails, hair, whatever -- and you wouldn't even know it, because they don't have to put it on the label.

� Learn more...

No, you can't see my ID

Our brilliant representatives have passed the Real ID Act, which will open the door to all kinds of privacy invasions. Do you really want the bar you visit one time to be able to collect your mailing address by swiping your ID's magnetic stripe when you walk in the door? Guess what sort of junk mail you'll be getting in a few weeks. And that just scratches the surface of this bill's problems.

� Read more about this travesty...

Thursday, May 19, 2005

I said "u," not "o"

Velma and I have occasionally discussed a few of the many sticky issues involved in having kids. Perhaps a telling look at how cursory our discussions have been so far is the fact that we've talked at least a couple times about the challenge of what last name they should have.

What? Are there other more important things to discuss about having kids?

Let's face it. Saddling a little 'un with the last name Bult could be considered child abuse. And c'mon, the last name Gentzsch has enough consonants to write a short story and only one vowel!

Both our last names, over the years, have been slaughtered in pronunciation by people who claimed a certain level of (presumably higher) education, such as teachers or other authority figures. I've been called everything from "built" to "butt," and of course the most popular choice being "bolt." How anyone looking at four simple letters with only a single vowel can pronounce it as anything other than "bult" has always baffled me.

Gentzsch seems as simple to me as Bult. I mean, sound it out, people! What else can it be? Absurdly, I still find immense joy in the fact that someone once pronounced it "giznatch."

But, seeing as how traumatizing it can be in 7th grade summer school to be called "Mark Butt" during the first-day roll-call by your (apparently either sight-challenged or retarded) typing teacher, it seems rather unfair to set up one's progeny for the same embarrassment. Not to mention poor little Clara Giznatch.

Strangely, Velma and I both have a certain strange pride in our last names. Her more than me, I would say. When I was 19 or so, I actually considered changing it to something like Black, so at least I could stop having to spell it constantly to people over the phone. "Bult. Mark Bult. B-u-l-t. No, I said 'u,' not 'o'."

No one ever asks you to spell a last name like Black.

More recently, I've decided there are certain advantages to having a name like Bult. Ever googled yourself? Do you have a common name or an odd one? When I try looking up old friends I've lost touch with, it's impossible to find anyone with a common name like Dave Wise. But if someone were trying to find Mark Bult, that's easy.

This has obvious benefits when you're in business for yourself. "Who designed your website?" "Mark Bult." "How do I get ahold of him?" "Oh, just google him." I suppose it's less good when you're on the FBI's Most Wanted List and would rather blend into the crowd. (Luckily, I don't need to worry about that. Anymore.)

What Velma spent the most time discussing was actually what to do about the child's last name. We both dislike (I was going to write "despise," because I do, but I can't speak for Velma -- I'm not sure if she despises it as much as I do) the paternalistic pattern of showing lineage for only the male, i.e. giving the child the father's name. It makes equally little sense to give the child only the mother's last name.

The idea of hyphenating the last name appeals to me the most, but is imperfect at best. What do the children do if they get married and have kids? Pile on more hyphenated last names? Hello, allow me to introduce Clara Bult-Gentzsch-Jones-Hoeffler.

Anyway, all this is why I found this (very long -- like New Yorker length) discussion on MetaFilter interesting. Of course, it brought up even more issues I hadn't even considered yet.

And no, we're not thinking of naming our daughter Clara.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Distractions for the masses!

Here's a massive post of totally irrelevant stuff to wipe out a week-plus of inertia from your Rant's host, moi.

The following links should keep you entertained. Unless, of course, you have a life. Apologies to those who foolishly tune in to the Rant to read about what's actually going on in my life. Hah! What do you think this is? A personal blog? Oh, hmm...

Well, here's a Reader's Digest version of the personal shtuff:

  1. Been very busy at work with the redesign. We've hired a CSS whiz contractor and I'm getting pagetype designs completed and signed-off by the bosses. We aim to unveil the redesign in the last week of June or first couple weeks of July, depending on a few variables that are up in the air at the moment.
  2. Been moving the GF unit into the loft, and spending as much time with her before she leaves for Missouri (which she did yesterday). I will not see her for a month, when I will be visiting the middle of the country myself.
  3. The loft is immaculately clean and tidy. If you didn't attend the Book Crawl, you missed its sparkling cleanliness, and btw, you suck and that's all there is to it, but if you're really nice (bribes gladly accepted) I may give you a second chance and extend an invite to drop by and have a cocktail or a smoke on the roof or whatever turns you on.
  4. In my few "spare" hours at home, I've mostly been hard at work on, the almost-finished website of Velma's dad's specialty yarn business. Announcement coming soon. Just days away, really!

And with that, on with the distractions!

My head hertz

This one's for the math geeks who read this blog (there are at least two of you). Time yourself on this quiz. Post your results in the comments. Winners get a totally awesome prize (bragging rights).


Another cool Google hack from Grant Robinson [requires Flash].

Somber reading. Or: Why I hate the New Yorker.

And now, for something completely different.

I hate the New Yorker because it's overly-referred to by utterly pretentious people ("Oh, did you read that article in the New Yorker...?"), plus it's horribly designed (which I acknowledge makes me a complete hypocrite because I'm such a design snob that I refuse to read a poorly designed magazine). Oh, and the cartoons suck. I know everyone thinks they're so brilliant. They're not. They suck.

I know the New Yorker also features some brilliantly good writing. It's just that I can't bear to look at the magazine long enough to read any of it. So when a colleague recommended this article on climate change on the New Yorker's website, I bookmarked it and decided to go read it later.

When I did, it was infuriatingly like reading an article on the web in 1997. Their website is as poorly designed as their periodical ("I say, let's cram 10,000 words of copy on a single page with not a single illustration or pullquote or anything to break up the monotonous sea of gray, and declare that it doesn't need to be designed well because it's such good journalism." -- See what I mean about pretentious?).

But I was glad I did anyway. But only because the article in question is good. A somber reminder that the world will not be saved by technological advances alone. But I did have to read it in three sittings. Too much text on one page.

Is there a website you hate?

Take out your anger with NetDisaster.

Best. Parody. Evah.

Store Wars

"Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet" - Henry Mancini

What song was number 1 the day you were born?

Look, nobody cares that you're a DJ


Guild Wars MMPG

This one's for Ynnej.


Aaron tells of "...a find I made in high school...of a recording called Raymond and Peter: Shut Up Little Man. This is the story of some kids who moved into an apt. in lower haight in '89 next to the most vile, vicious drunkards ever recorded. After being threatened by one them ('I'm perfectly willing to kill anyone that thinks they're tough. I was a killer before you were born, I'll be a killer after you're dead' is the greeting the kid gets when he asks them to please keep down the noise), they decide to record these rantings in case something unspeakable happens as a record for police. This quickly turns into an obsession, then a global phenomenon... As darkly humorous and engrossing as the record is, the history on their site is even more so. It goes from them being scared to death, to listening parties at their apartment, to a play in LA, NYC, and elsewhere, to a radio show, to a possible movie, and on and on. It's a real page turner."

* rolling on floor laughing (and cowering)

What's your type?

I'm a liberal? Worrasurprise. What are you?

Was' up, migda?

An interesting correspondence between Roger Ebert and height-challenged actor (I'll probably get an angry comment about that one...) Danny Woodburn, about the offensiveness of the word midget.

This hack's a gas (sorry)

Want to find the cheapest gas? This Google Maps and GasBuddy hack is for you.

Friday, May 13, 2005

For the comics-addicted

Ynnej might be interested in this app.

"Comictastic is a Mac software that intelligently reads web comic pages and pulls out the comic image for viewing offline. It does this automically every day. Which is a great time saving app if you have dozens of comics you want to view every day. Kind of like a page-scraper for web comics..." [via]

I'm sure there's a PC equivaent out there for Jason. Or maybe he should just break down and get a Mini. Wait, I don't want to condone Jason buying more stuff; he doesn't need more stuff. Although, it would mean that Jason would have a Mac...

Dag flammit, my desires are at odds!

#1 expert espouser

In doing a little research on other sites that link back to (using this nifty tool), I found something interesting: My blog ranks 4th in Google's results (today) for the word "espouse," 18th for "whine," and, not surprisingly, 3rd for " 'splain."

I come up 236th for "rant," but that's hardly surprising, since that's the other* reason why the web exists.

Why is this interesting to me? In case you hadn't noticed, the title of this blog is Rant, whine, 'splain, espouse...

Just today I had been considering whether to lose this title or to keep it when I transition the site over to Movable Type. But "Rant, whine, 'splain, espouse..." still pretty accurately describes the contents of my little collection of meandering thoughts, so I had decided to keep it.

And that was prior to finding that Google considers me an expert on espousing. Now I'm convinced I should keep it.

* First reason = porn.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Looking for a loft in SF?

My friends Holly and Chris are renting their loft:

One-bedroom, one-bath loft in desirable Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. Parking in basement garage for one car, ample street parking also. Laundry facilities in building. Quiet, grassy backyard amphitheater with fruit trees and flowers. Loft windows look out onto quiet, private courtyard with ferns, redwood trees, and flowers.

Located two blocks from trendy 18th Street corridor with popular San Francisco restaurants such as Chez Papa and Baraka. Have morning coffee at Farley's caf�, browse for books, buy an ice cream cone or a bottle of wine, or rent a video - all within two blocks of the loft. Ten minutes to SBC Park, Downtown, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, and South of Market nightlife. Five minute walk to light rail which connects with CalTrain, BART, and Muni. Ten minute walk to CalTrain station. Easy access to both Hwy. 101 and Hwy. 280 for commuting.

Monthly rent $1,600 includes water, garbage/recycling and landscaping. First, last, and deposit required. Available to view starting May 15. Move in date June 1, 2005.

If you're interested email Holly.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Book Crawl tomorrow

Tomorrow's the first Book Crawl in something like two years, and it's happening right in my neighborhood. The major benefit being that any hangers-on can come home with Velma and I afterward to have a cocktail and rest their weary feet before heading home.

The loft's been cleaned (well, mostly -- gotta finish that tonight!) and we even moved the furniture around a little bit. If you haven't RSVP'd, please do.

The luster has worn off

It's somewhat sad to say, but the exhilarating newness of living in The City has finally worn off.

I'm not saying I don't still enjoy it immensely, because I do. It's just that the luster inherent in any big, new change in one's life can only last so long before it eases away and you settle into a normalcy.

I knew it was bound to happen. And six months is a pretty good high. But within the last month or two, I've felt it waning.

I've explored almost every street and alley around where I work, and many of the ones near home. I can venture further afield, but this takes longer, of course, and it's harder to do on a 15-minute break or a lunch hour.

And there are still plenty of things to do and see. But the exhilarating rush of it all being so new and exciting and different has gone.

Oh well. I guess I just have to move. Topeka, here I come!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Save the High Line

The Friends of the High Line are endevoring to save an unused, 1.5-mile elevated rail line in NYC to turn it into a park. It's an awesome example of urban renewal and an inspired idea for creating public park space.

They have an informative and highly usable website [Flash] showing the proposed design in great detail. The organization's main site is also an excellent example of how to do a nonprofit website well.

Monday, May 02, 2005

I wish I had written this


Sunday, May 01, 2005

Cleanning the loft, H2G2, and Lennon, the musical

Velma and I spent most of the weekend cleaning up the loft in an attempt at getting it in some form of presentability before The Return of the Great Book Crawl next Saturday. Moved stuff around, folded laundry that I hadn't had time to do, emptied some more boxes and recycled a bunch of stuff.

On Friday we saw The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy with Jenny and Hunter. I will reserve my review of the film for later, when I have more time.

On Saturday night I took Velma to see "Lennon," which premiered a couple weeks ago and is playing at The Orpheum before going to Broadway.

The musical is the story of John Lennon's life. Being a huge Beatles fan, I thought Velmer would like it. When I got the tickets, though, I was a little hesitant, since it hadn't premiered yet and I wasn't even sure if it was going to be any good.

But it was great. And that's a lot for me to say. Because I hate musicals. But it really was. Lennon is not portrayed by on particular actor, but by all the cast at different times. As hard as that is to imagine, it is spectacularly well pulled off. Truly effective only because the script is excellent. The acting and singing was excellent as well, but the key to this trick working was definitely in the script.

It was moving and inspirational, fun and rockin', funny and raucous, sad and bittersweet.

The only real low point was the drunk, loud, obnoxious guy in the stairwell who wouldn't shut up during one numbers. Firemen came, cops came, everyone was loud and annoying.

The band, by the way, was fantastic. Two guitarists, one bassist, three horns, two percussionists, two keyboardists...did I leave anybody out? There was only one song that seemed a little too long and boring, sort of breaking the pacing of the show, but maybe they'll shorten it before the musical heads to NYC.