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.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday Top 5: Election Special #2

Meet Dave the Fisherman

Video the Vote
More info at

Wassup 2008
Remember those terrible but thankfully short-lived “Wassup” ads for Bud? This one’s worth it.

Sarah Palin 1984 Beauty Pageant
Too bad she failed in television.

McCain vs. Obama Dance-Off
The electoral college system sucks eggs, so I think we should decide who gets to be president this way.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

November 4, 2008 – Will this date go down in infamy?

I’ve been voting for 20 years now, and not one of the presidential candidates I’ve voted for has won the election.

And analysts wonder why Americans don’t vote? I could easily ask myself: Why the hell should I? My candidate never wins.

Perhaps I should vote for McCain today, so my questionable luck will work in Obama’s favor.

But seriously, it’s not about luck, it’s that I usually vote purely on the principles of the party, the platform, and the candidates, and I always align way more closely with the Green Party and various independents than I do with Republicrats.

The one time I decided to vote for a Democrat for president, it was Kerry, and I only did that because I would have been ashamed to be an American if we voted for a second BushCo term. Look where that got me.

People said voting for Nader in 2000 was throwing away my vote. To those people: Fuck you. I threw away my vote when I voted for Kerry in 2004. I didn’t vote my principles, I voted for the lesser of two evils. I voted out of fear.

Now I’m going to do it again. I’m voting for Obama out of fear, not because I love him or his party.

I like Obama a lot more than I liked Kerry, but his Senate voting record leaves me very skeptical. He’s just as much a middle-of-the-road Democrat as Bill Clinton was, perhaps moreso. Don’t get me wrong, I think/hope Obama will be 100 times better than BushCo or McPain, but we’re starting at a pretty low starting point. It’d be truly hard for any Democrat to be worse. And 100 times better than Worst Ever President is still not all that great, in my book.

Please America, don’t make me feel like I threw away my vote again.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday Top 5: Election Special #1

I’ve been pretty quiet this election season, but with less than two weeks to go, it’s time to bring up the dirty word: politics. I’m not foolish enough to think a blog is going to change anyone’s opinion, so most of this week’s politics-themed Top 5 is humor. I do hope, though, to inform San Franciscans a little bit about Prop H, which I didn’t know anything about until recently.

Reading Is Fundamental
Linebacker Terry Tate reminds us to vote. [via Jason]

Death Star over San Francisco
This is what life will be like if the Republicans win four more years in office.

San Franciscans: Vote Yes on Prop H
Real clean energy for SF, not more of PG&E’s greenwashing. More info at

Make Your Own John McCain Ad
Paid for by mavericks. Like John McCain. [via Marc]

Palin As President
Click stuff to get a sense of what it’d be like to have Sarah Palin in the Oval Office. [via Ari]

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

On voting for the lesser of two evils

“There may not be someone you want to vote for but there is certain to be someone you want to vote against.”
– Robert A. Heinlein

Don’t get me wrong, I’m voting for Obama–Biden not only because I want to see the Republicans lose the White House and the Congress, but also because I share some of their ideologies.

But I’m not a registered Democrat, never have been, and I’ve almost always been disappointed by the Democratic Party and its members, for my entire adult voting life.

It’s just that I’m always way more disappointed by the Republicans.

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Notes from AIGA Compostmodern 2007 (part 2)

Last January I attended Compostmodern 2008, a green design conference presented by the AIGA SF.

I’ve already written about Boisset Family Estates and DeLoach Wines (“The environmental impact of the wine industry”), and CleanWell hand sanitizer and soap (“An alternative to normal antibacterial soaps”) (which I use and heartily endorse), but I hadn’t had time to write up some of my other notes and impressions.

My pocket journal (an ultra-thin Moleskine) is where I jot down such things while I’m out and about. My electronic journal (this here blog yer lookin’ at) is where I save those things for posterity, and share them with others. So here are a few ideas I heard speakers talking about, which made impressions on me:

Self-Indulgent Design
Designers practicing “self-indulgent design” is equal to driving a Hummer. Examples: Elaborate, unnecessarily long brochures, annual reports, and the like which often contain just three words per page and use fluorescent or metallic inks, plastic sleeves, and other wasteful and nearly impossible to recycle materials.

Low Rate of Paper Recycling
Still only 50% of paper is collected for recycling, and whether all of that actually gets recycled or not is another story. Yet 35% of the waste going to landfills is still paper! C’mon people! I can hardly believe that it’s still so difficult for people to just have two separate containers near their desk, and to be mindful of which one gets garbage and which one gets paper. This is not rocket science. A child can do it. And often, children do it way better than adults.

Electronic Design is Wasteful Too
One big eye-opener for me was something I already knew, but that I hadn’t really processed completely (or maybe I just didn’t want to admit it to myself): Web designers aren’t really polluting and wasting less than print designers. We think of the web and electronic design as a more pure and less wasteful design process, bypassing the pesky problem of deforestation for the pulping of our paper and the nasty chemicals used in the printing process. But in fact, always-on web servers and storage for videos, PDFs, and other files is not free. Servers = energy consumption = oil drilling, coal burning, even *yikes* nuclear energy (and waste). And let’s not forget that servers and hard drives go bad within a few years, all those cellphones and other nifty electronic devices we’re designing iApps for become some Third World country’s e-waste problem (and those countries’ poverty, environmental, and health problems eventually become our problem).

And here are a few links to things I heard about or saw at the conference:
PG&E started a huge publicity campaign a year or so ago under the laudable banner of “Let’s Green This City.” A group of citizens has formed the Green Guerrillas Against Greenwash to unmask the $10 million publicity campaign as mere greenwashing, and offers San Franciscans an alternative in the form of Proposition H.
An independent (not owned or sponsored by any paper companies) database of information that designers and printers can use to specify paper stocks. It’s a paid service ($19.95/mo. or $158.40/yr.), and I haven’t paid for it, so I don’t know how good it is. They have some free paper, printing, and environmental information available too, but you can’t access the paper database without paying for membership.

Encyclopedia of Life is a new project that intends to harness crowdsourcing techniques to create a vast online resource of information about the Earth’s 1.8 million known species.

The Designers Accord
“A global coalition of designers, educators, researchers, engineers, and corporate leaders, working together to create positive environmental and social impact.” I joined earlier this year.

Core77 / BusinessWeek Design Directory
I’d seen a couple times before, but hadn’t bothered to list myself until this year. In participation with the Designers Accord, you can search the directory exclusively for firms/individuals who have certified that they’ve adopted the accord.

Freedom of the Press
In the gallery I observed a single display copy of Freedom of the Press, a newsprint publication by Brian Ponto and Lindsay Ballant. In excellent culture-jamming style, in 2004 they commandeered newspaper racks in New York and inserted their own newspaper with stark observations on American politics and how Americans get their news.
A satirical nod acknowledging how many people (including me) view carbon trading: “Cheatneutral offsets your cheating by funding someone else to be faithful and not cheat. This neutralises the pain and unhappy emotion and leaves you with a clear conscience.”

Compostmodern 2009
Saturday, February 21
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thursday Top 5

The Cat House on the Kings

Animated short by Graham Annable.

Man decorates basement with $10 worth of Sharpie [via Jason]

9 Reasons Your Pet Should Give Up Drinking

How To Use Vintage Lenses with Your DSLR

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lolita Lebrón and others attack congress

No other woman in the Hemisphere has been in prison on such charges for so long a period [as Lolita Lebrón]; a fact which Communist critics of your human rights policy are fond of pointing out.
– National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, in a secret memo to President Jimmy Carter in 1979

When early American revolutionaries chanted, “Give me liberty or give me death” and complained of having but one life to give for their country, they became the heroes of our history textbooks. But, thanks to the power of the U.S. media and education industries, the Puerto Rican nationalists who dedicated their lives to independence are known as criminals, fanatics, and assassins.

On March 1, 1954, in the gallery of the House of Representatives, Congressman Charles A. Halleck rose to discuss with his colleagues the issue of Puerto Rico. At that moment, Lolita Lebrón (b. 1919), alongside three fellow freedom fighters, having purchased a one-way train ticket from New York (they expected to be killed), unfurled a Puerto Rican flag and shouted “Free Puerto Rico!” before firing eight shots at the roof. Her three male co-conspirators aimed their machine guns at the legislators. Andrés Figueroa’s gun jammed, but shots fired by Rafael Cancel Miranda and Irving Flores injured five congressmen.

“I know that the shots I fired neither killed nor wounded anyone,” Lebrón stated afterwards, but with the attack being viewed through the sensationalizing prism of American tabloid journalism, this did not matter. She and her cohorts became prisoners of war for the next 25 years.

Why prisoners of war? To answer that, we must recall that since July 25, 1898, when the United States illegally invaded its tropical neighbor under the auspices of the Spanish–American War, the island has been maintained as a colony. In other words, the planet’s oldest colony is being held by its oldest representative democracy — with U.S. citizenship imposed without the consent or approval of the indigenous population in 1917. It is from this geographical paradox that the Puerto Rican independence movement sprang forth.

This movement is based firmly on international law, which authorizes “anti-colonial combatants” the right to armed struggle to throw off the yoke of imperialism and gain independence. UN General Assembly Resolution 33/24 of December 1978 recognizes “the legitimacy of the struggle of the peoples for independence, teritorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial domination and foreign occupation by all means available, particularly armed struggle.”

Prison did not dampen Lebrón’s revolutionary spirit as she attended demonstrations and spoke out to help win the long battle to eject the U.S. Navy from the tiny Puerto Rican island of Vieques in 2003.

[From the book 50 American Revolutions You’re Not Supposed to Know, by Mickey Z and Disinformation]

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Thursday Top 5

Neutrogena Coin Slot Cream

Behind the Bad: Chapter One
They’re making a Strong Bad game?

Animated short by Graham Annable.

“What a huge knob!”
A streaker walks across the stage behind Ron Wood and Slash as they perform live on TV, and Wood does a classic double-take. Slash, on the other hand, doesn’t even notice.

The Great Puppy Escape

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Hitchin’ site featured in a new book

Just in time for our anniversary (well, a day late, since it was yesterday), I received this book in the mail today. Before we got hitched in 2006, Velma and I created a custom wedding site, Mark & Velma’s Hitchin’ Party.

It was featured on a bunch of CSS design galleries, and now it’s in The Web Designer’s Idea Book. Get your copy from Amazon.

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Bike to Work 1997

I found this email I sent out 11 years ago about a Bike To Work fundraiser I did for Bay Area Action, and I thought I’d archive it here in the journal. I did survive the 42-mile ride. I don’t, unfortunately, remember how much I raised.

A little personal spam from your friend Mark don’t-hate-me-it’s-a-good-cause Bult...


Dear friends,

In celebration of Bike To Work Week 1997 and as a fundraiser for Bay Area Action, I am asking my friends to participate in what I’m calling Mark’s Annual (Maybe If I’m Crazy) Bike To Work To Raise Money For My Favorite Environmental Nonprofit Organization Day, otherwise known as MAMIICBTWTRMFMFENOD.

There is no obligation to participate, and I promise I’ll still speak to any of you who decline, but I can’t promise that you’ll stay on my holiday card list (hey, wait, I didn't send out my holiday cards from LAST year yet).

I’m going to set off on a 42-mile round trip bike to work and back this week or next (depending on how many of you respond right away with huge pledges), and I’m asking friends to pledge a certain amount of money for each mile I cycle.

The cause is a good one. Some of you are undoubtedly familiar with Bay Area Action, the environmental nonprofit of which I am a member. In case you aren’t familiar with some of the great things we do, you can find out more on our website (go to [edit: that archived site is non-active], then check out the projects pages), or I’ve included a brief description of our projects below.

But first the pledge!

Anything you’d like to donate would be greatly appreciated, but obviously the more you’re willing and able to pledge, the more Bay Area Action can do to better our community and our environment. All donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by our gracious IRS, and I pocket nothing (100% goes to BAA).

Pledge levels (or make it up yourself):
(Round trip Los Gatos to Palo Alto = 42 miles)
42 miles @ 50 cents/mile = $21.00
42 miles @ 75 cents/mile = $31.50
42 miles @ $1.00/mile = $42.00
42 miles @ $1.50/mile = $63.00
42 miles @ $2.00/mile = $84.00
42 miles @ $2.50/mile = $105.00
...or surprise me!

If you’re interested in pledging a donation, please email me back with your pledge amount, or call me at my office [old phone number removed].

The route:

The trip will take me on a slightly hilly journey through the western side of Silicon Valley and up the Peninsula. I’ll be leaving from my home in Los Gatos and heading up Highway 9 into Saratoga, where I’ll continue up De Anza Boulevard into Cupertino. I’ll skirt around De Anza College and pass some of the more interesting high tech companies most of you would be familiar with — Apple Computer, Symantec, Power Computing, etc. Then it’s up Stevens Creek and a rather steep but short hill, where at this point I should be thoroughly drenched and in possible need of bypass surgery. If I’m still alive I’ll pick up Foothill Road, heading toward Los Altos Hills, where it becomes Foothill Expressway, then from there it’s all up and down little hills until I get to Arastradero Road in Palo Alto. Then I head toward the Bay, cross Alma and the CalTrain tracks, head north parallel to Middlefield, and then into destination Midtown Palo Alto, where my office is located. Once there I might collapse and need resuscitation, but Stanford Hospital is not far. The return trip, should I live, is much the same route (but in reverse — and I don’t mean I’ll be biking backward!).

The cause:

Bay Area Action (BAA) is a 7-years-old environmental action and education nonprofit organization. Among our programs is the Arastradero Preserve Project, a unique public-private partnership with the City of Palo Alto that sees BAA serving as steward and habitat restorer of a prime 600-acre open space preserve owned by the City (and therefore the citizens) of Palo Alto. Our joint High Schools Group and Youth Environmental Action projects focus on teaching Bay Area youths about ecology and preservation issues through in-class presentations, fun and active meetings, an hands-on activities like creek cleanups. The Urban Agriculture Project operates two community gardens in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, where plots are made available to families and community members to learn about organic gardening and raise their own plants and vegetables. As well, we have an Electric Vehicle Project with two battery-powered pollution-free cars, and a Habitat Restoration Project which coordinates hands-on habitat work in creeks, watersheds, baylands, and mountains. We have a number of other worthwhile projects like the annual Earth Day events and the Forest Action Team, but I won’t waste any more space when you can find out more by just asking me or hitting the website.

By the way, if you’re not already a member, any pledge over $25 gets you a full year of our nifty newsletter (designed by yours truly), plus that warm-all-over feeling of having done something material to help protect our environment.

Sincerely, thanks for your time,

Mark Bult
Western Front Graphics | Bay Area Action

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Friday, October 03, 2008

The trick to eating White Cheddar Cheez-Its

Open the bag from the bottom.

This is true of nearly any food that comes in a bag and has salt or cheese (or whatever) on it which easily flakes off and “settles” to the bottom of the bag.

This is an especially significant problem with pretzels, although opening the bag from the bottom doesn’t help in this case, since the salt granules are so large and there’s no Cheez-It-like sticking-agent on the pretzels to help the salt stick back on. Sadly, this causes nearly 100% of modern-day, health-conscious, too-much-salt-is-bad-for-you pretzels to be unsatisfactory, because there was hardly any salt on them when they were made in the first place, but then the packages have been joggled for days while being shipped across the country, thrown around by careless grocery stockboys, bounced around in your SUV on the way home, until eventually there’s no salt on them at all by the time you finally chainsaw open the ridiculously strong titanium-plastic alloys they now package your favorite once-salty foodstuffs in.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Browser testing your web design

An important part of web design and development is getting the pages to display nearly identically in all the major browsers (and minor ones too). These online services allow you to perform cross-browser and cross-OS compatibility tests.

Litmus (formerly SiteVista)
Definitely my favorite. Excellent interface and functionality. And unlike most others, Litmus offers full-length screenshots of the page(s) you’re testing. Sign up for the free account which lets you try on two browsers. You’ll like it.

IE NetRenderer
As a Mac developer, I often use this free German site to do quick tests in IE. Does not do full-length pages like Litmus does.

Have not tried this yet, but they have an impressive list of OSes and browsers.

Have not tried this.
Have not tried this.

Have not tried this.

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Thursday Top 5

Flying pengiuns

Counting to 4 with Feist and Sesame Street

I’m a PC
Microsoft’s fighting back against Apple’s “I’m a Mac” ads, and so far the ad campaign is pretty good.

I’m a Wii

The real hunt for Red October
Author David Hagberg and former USSR Naval Chief Engineer Boris Gindin tell the true story of the events that inspired Tom Clancy’s novel. Red October’s one of my favorite thriller movies, so I’m definitely interested in reading Hagberg and Gindin’s Mutiny.

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