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, April 28, 2005

Invasion of the little people

There were all these little people at work today.

Am I being politically correct? What's the correct term? Age-challenged individuals. Rugrats. Kids.

It was Bring Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day (their emphasis) at CNET, so a slew of kidlets were being ushered around my floor, where all the funtime activities were happening. Pizza lunch and a screening of The Incredibles (I would've gone, but I possibly would've felt slightly out of place).

Interestingly, most employees who brought their kids brought very small children. It seemed to be a lot of toddlers, a few tweens, and one girl who was maybe 11.

I remember when I was a kid and I used to go to my mom's work when there was a school holiday like Parent-Teacher Conference Day or whatever. Or spring and winter breaks.

I used to look forward to it so much. I'd help around the office, filing and stapling and doing lots and lots of copying. I always loved doing the copying, maybe because I got to use this big ol' machine, and whenever it jammed or refused to work, the adults seemed amazed that I could actually unjam it.

When I was a bit older I had an ulterior motive. By the 7th grade I had started my first publication, an Ozzy fanzine called "The Fellowship of the Blizzard." I hadn't even read The Fellowship of the Ring, but my friend Rocky Mullin suggested the name, and I thought it was awesome.

I was collecting scads of Ozzy ephemera. Clipping photos and stuff out of magazines like Circus and Hit Parader, and writing everything for the newsletter myself, and "typesetting" it (it would be years before I'd hear that term, though) on a typewriter at the public library after school, where you had to put quarters into a timer to rent the IBM Selectric.

I'd take the magazine pictures and the cut-into-columns articles and paste (well, sellotape*) all of them together on a sheet of letter-sized of paper. I had no clue what a halftone was, and no idea about any other production techniques (like not using tape, for example) until much later in my "career."

After a couple months, I'd have enough pages put together and I'd be anxiously awaiting my next school holiday, when I could go to work with mom. I'd spend half the day photocopying my little newsletters, collating, and stapling, and at the end of the day I'd head home with mom, my backpack bursting at the seams.

[image to come]

I did this from 7th grade through the middle of high school, and I think I made about 40 issues. I actually had a few subscribers, and I had a couple of stores that actually sold them. "Rock shops," as we used to call them. Not where you buy crystals. That craze came (and went, thankfully) later. A rock shop was where you got your Def Leppard T-shirts and your Whitesnake bumperstickers. Don't laugh. I was 14.

Anyway, The Fellowship of the Blizzard was the precursor to my eventual four-year career as an indie newspaper publisher of Western Front News. But more on that some other day.

All I can say is, I seriously doubt that my mom's places of employ ever knew how instrumental they were, being patrons to my burgeoning career as a self-styled newspaperman/boy. But they definitely foot the bill for a decent amount of paper and copier toner over four or so years. And for that, I thank them.

(* So disappointed that my xPad spellchecker doesn't recognize the word "sellotape". Not to mention "bumperstickers"!)

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The caffeine plateau

How can I have a double espresso and still be tired and unable to focus? WTF is wrong with me? Don't answer that...

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I guess it's over then

On my way home I biked past a fat lady singing opera on the corner of Harrison and 13th.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Photo of the Day: 16th Street clouds

Photo of the Day | 16th Street clouds | March 20, 2005 Music turns 1 Music, home of 50,000 free and legal MP3s, turned one year old this week and today we celebrated with a free lunchtime mini-concert by The Court and Spark in front of our building on 2nd Street.

If you like roots rock or alt-country, you'd probably like this popular SF band. Download two free songs here.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Photo of the Day

untitled | dirt alley behind CNET | February 22, 2005

Friday, April 22, 2005

Quote of the Day

"Professionalism has no place in art, and hacking is art. Software Engineering might be science; but that's not what I do. I'm a hacker, not an engineer."

? Jamie Zawinski, 1998 (one of the original Mosaic team)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Jeffrey Archer's The Fourth Estate

Slightly related to the previous post: If you like political thrillers, the 1997 Jeffrey Archer novel, The Fourth Estate, is a good tale whose fictional characters are thinly veiled versions of real-world media tycoons Robert Maxwell and Rupert Murdoch.

Archer is a good writer, as well as being a former member of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Most recently, he spent some time in a UK prison, which he chronicled in a book titled A Prison Diary (which I haven't read).

In a spectacle hardly noticed in the States, the 62-year-old Conservative Party member sued a newspaper for libel when it published a story that he had paid �70 to sleep with a prostitute and then paid her �2,000 to keep quiet. He was sentenced to four years in prison when a jury found that he had lied in court and had faked a diary to create an alibi for his case.

His crimes aside, in fiction Archer spins intrigue like Grisham, but is a far better writer. Not as good as Le Carre, but certainly in the tradition of that master and Forsythe. If you like any of these fellows, head over to your local used book store and pick up something by Jeffrey Archer.

I quite enjoyed Honor Among Thieves, a 1994 story about the theft of the Declaration of Independence by a President Clinton impersonator, backed by the mob, and financed by none other than Saddam Hussein. I know how it sounds. But Archer is simply a master of making even this sort of absurd plot seem entirely plausible.

Will we one day ask, "What was a newspaper?"

"In the year 2014, The New York Times has gone offline. The Fourth Estate's fortunes have waned. What happened to the news? And what is EPIC?"

Apparently a Georgia Tech student project, EPIC 2014 [requires Flash] is an interesting visualization of what the future might hold after the convergence of traditional Fourth Estate media, technology, and social networking.

Some of the conjecture seems a little unlikely at first, but then I had to remember things like AOL buying Time Warner (btw, I'm telling it like it was, not the revisionist history that we have now, whereby the parent company has reverted to being called Time Warner and AOL is a subsidiary; let's remember that, yes, as bizarre as it seemed, it was AOL that bought Time Warner, not the other way around.)

EPIC 2014's vision of a future where traditional media has been supplanted by "participatory journalism" is not entirely unlikely. Social networking and alternative media have taken the world by storm, and it isn't likely to revert, only to continue to evolve in ways that most of us can't imagine.

EPIC 2014's vision is an interesting peek into one possible future.

I have this big red bandage thing on my arm

I gave blood for my second time ever today. Considering how easy it is when your company sets it up for you, brings the blood center people in and sets them up in a big conference room all day, I can hardly think of a good excuse to not donate. I used to be pretty squeamish about needles, but I guess I'm over that.

I never knew my blood type but after the first time I donated, they sent me a donor card. Apparently I'm a rare blood type, so now I feel even more obligated to donate whenever I can.

Jerry, my doc, was a chatty fellow with an amiable smile who noticed my address on my paperwork and said he'd lived near there when he first moved to The City, and asked if I'd ever been to City Art. Which of course I have. It's a great little cooperative gallery, owned and operated by local artists. Apparently Jerry is one of the organizers/owners, and also one of the artists. Looking at this stout man with his nearly bald pate and white lab coat, who'd ever have thought he was an artist? Not I. Just goes to show you (me anyway), that anybody can be an artist.

Anyway, donate blood [1] [2] if you can. It might save somebody's life.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

An awesome Google-craigslist hack

Paul Rademacher has created a Google Maps- and craigslist-powered page for viewing rental and for-sale listings across the country.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Ho. Ly. Crap.

I'm not sure I welcome this news. No, it's not April Fool's Day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Photographer: Timothy Fadek

On a slightly different but semi-related topic: I came across these interestingly telling portraits of people protesting the fate (for lack of a better word) of Terry Schiavo.

The photos are by Timothy Fadek, who has some other excellent work in his online galleries from the Iraq war, Haiti, and several other topics.

I especially like the portrait of Bill Clinton. I was never a huge fan of William (although I'd take him back in an instant today), but I view portraits with a relative detachment from my emotional responses to the subject.

Just stop your ridiculous whining about her soul

I refrained from bitching about the uproar over the Terry Schiavo case, mostly because I simply get gruntled every time I think about it. For starters, 99% of the press coverage neglects to mention that she became brain dead because of an eating disorder. She was bulimic to the point that she suffered a cardiac and severe brain damage as a result. But does anyone ever raise the question, "Why was Terry bulimic?"

If the media focused for a change on issues that might actually inform the public debate, rather than fomenting the furor by only focusing on whatever issue is most incindiary, we might have a more cognizant American populace, rather than the overabundance of mouth-breathers who brought us an all-new Four More Years.

Ack, I got started bitching.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Makin' a million. Well, not really.

Astrid Bin's attempt at retiring her debt in a year via her website seems not dissimilar from several other websites like this, except that I actually like her performance art.

Too bad her current collection sits at just over $2,000. And that's Canadian dollars.

Peeking inside the Changing Room

Yesterday I went to see the premiere screening of Changing Room, the first short film by my friend Holly Million (n�e Kaslewicz).

It's a comedy about serious issues. It's mostly about women's body issues and the Western cultural image of "perfection." But it also touches on issues, such as the effects of breast cancer and how toxins in our environment are actually carcinogens that lead to cancer (picture: A plastic surgeon fantasizes about a breast augmentation gone awry).

Holly's been working on this film for seven years I think (I remember reading one of the earliest scripts in 1999, I believe). Back in 2000 she asked Flux51, my former design company, to produce some props for the film.

We made fake magazine and catalog covers that parodied the sort of image-peddling publications we are all-too familiar with these days. G skewered GQ by featuring a picture of a woman whose dress had a dramatically plunging neckline. Veronica's Secret featured a model with an impossibly small waist (and was also a nod to Holly's longtime friend Veronica, although not intended to infer that she looks like the overly dramatized photo). And the San Francisco Conical was a bosom-buddy to the well-known daily newspaper. Yes, on these parodies, all puns were definitely intended.

I'll have to dig those files out sometime and post the designs.

During the screening, I was surprised that I even teared up a couple times. Not so much because of the messages, although I admit they're powerfully important, but because there was so much of Holly's personality and her own personal experience up there on the screen.

Interestingly, I had a more personal reaction to the story not because of the struggles of the characters, but because I know several of the real people behind the characters. I know that parts of the story are true. At the same time, I was incredibly proud to see how well it turned out as a piece of film, how much Holly had accomplished, knowing how very long she's worked toward its completion.

In fact, during the brief question and answer period following the film, I marveled for the first time about something I've always known about Holly, but had never realized in such fullness until that moment. She is a true renaissance woman. Fundraiser, filmmaker, nonprofit director, writer, editor, wife, friend, singer, surfer, and assuredly dozens of other things I don't even know. And don't even think about going up against her in Trivial Pursuit. Not to mention any game that involves knowing tons of movies! She'll whip even Ebert's fat ass.

Holly's got numerous other film projects planned, but Changing Room's not just going on the shelf. The plan has always been to show the film to women young and old, but especially in classrooms, which is why it runs a short 25 minutes. If you know any teachers or school districts that might be interested, please contact Holly.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Subscribing to the blog

I forgot to mention that, at the same time Mike told me about his new internship, he asked...

"Forgive my ignorance but is there a way to subscribe to your blog? I didn't see one. You post a lot of kewl stuff but out of site out of mind, ya know."

Well, pretty soon there will be a couple of ways to "subscribe," as I continue the move from Blogger to Movable Type. You'll be able to: 1) be notified via email when a new post is made or a post in a category you like, i.e. "Design" (so you don't have to be innundated with emails about what I had for lunch), and/or 2) subscribe via RSS.

But at the moment I'm still reading the MT book and haven't implemented the new features. So for now, if you want to be notified about updates I can just emial you once a week or so. But more importantly, I'm already planning to spam everyone I know when I've got up and running on MT, because it'll be so much more interesting and useful to people then.

Mike Kahn

My friend Mike Kahn has landed an internship with Free Range Graphics, a politically left leaning ad agency / design firm with offices in Washington DC and San Francisco. I first learned of Free Range about three years ago when I saw one of their Flash-based viral email campaigns, one about BushCo's wonderful forest policy (it's on their website, but impossible to link directly to [don't get me started about this being a longtime problem with Flash-based websites, or Jason and I will be at each other's throats all over the comments]).

Mike's a good photographer and was influential in my decision several years back to purchase the Sony digital camera I bought and enjoyed so heavily until it died last fall. Mike's been living in SF a little longer than I have, attending the Art Institute and building his skills and his multimedia portfolio (he also does video, Flash, etc.).

Mike has some helpful basic photography tips and tricks on his website, as well as a very cool Flash photo essay on Rigo, the artist whose arresting large-scale murals are now a well-known part of the downtown San Francisco skyline.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Those nutty eastern europeans

Besting "America We Stand As One," this music video is possibly the best cover song ever recorded (WMV). I can't decide if the best part is the ass-pants or the fact that 2/3 of the band is playing a kitchen.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Google Maps adds satellite photos

The already way-cooler-than-Mapquest Google Maps beta has just added satellite photos. You can look down from above on places like the White House or Headwaters Forest, or see how many planes are on the runway at JFK.

Are you a Yankee or a Rebel?

Apparently I'm 44%, which is "barely in the Yankee category," which seems impossible to me. But whatever.

� Take the test...

Honey, I sunk the yacht


Note to self: Go back to MOMA before June 5

Headed over to the MOMA for about 30 minutes today, since today is free first Tuesday, and Stellah wanted to take another look at some paintings by Marilyn Minter she had seen earlier.

I've been seeing the posters for the Robert Bechtle retrospective around town for months, but had never been that impressed with his work. However, in the brief walk-through we took of part of that exhibit, I was reminded that posters and books -- no matter how good the reproduction -- simply cannot do justice to truly great paintings.

I have a newfound respect for Bechtle's work, and I definitely need to go back and see the entire exhibit before it closes June 5.

I'm putting the first Tuesday of each month on my calendar right now.


Yelp is a cool social-networking/shared-reviews type site that I just heard about from Stellah, who is seemingly one of the site's most prolific reviewers. Good place to find recommendations on bars and restaurants, as well as other things.

Most amazing rock video ever


Monday, April 04, 2005

Does anyone ever check your credit card signature?

They're supposed to, right? Every time you sign a credit card receipt, they're supposed to check your signature versus the one on the back of your card, to make sure they match and therefore to ensure you are the authorized cardholder (or at least a good forger).

John Hargrave decided to experiment. Even if you don't read it all, at least skim through to the final outcome.