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, May 24, 2007

Thursday top 5 (+1) pirate music videos

You will love this song by the third one.

Fixed the broken links, thanks to Ynnej!

You Area a Pirate (PG-13)
Features a ninja digging up treasure with a shovel-codpiece. I kid you not.

World of Warcraft You Are a Pirate (PG)

You are a Pirate vs. One Piece (PG)

You Are a Pirate of the Caribbean (Lazy Town vs POTC) Mashup (PG-13)

You Are a Pirate (the original) (G)

Bonus! In multiple languages (G)

Labels: , , ,

Number one on a Google search

A couple years ago I was considering whether to rename this blog. I'm still considering it, but how do you give up being number 7 on a Google search for "splain"?

For "espouse" I've dropped from 4 to number 16, but I guess that ain't half bad. I guess. If you're looking for an espouser.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of other ranters and whiners out there on the Internet (you've heard of LiveJournal, right), so searching for "rant" or "whine" doesn't include me even within the first few pages of results. Meh, with that kind of competition, why bother.

Of course, when you search for "rant whine" I'm number one, and you can't beat that.

So...yeah. That's marketable, right?

My dear reader, I'd be eager to see how many of you even realized this blog had a name. If you already knew it, did you remember what the name was when you started reading this? Leave a comment and let me know. And if you want to suggest a better name, let's hear it.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Has the DMV gotten more efficient?

I had to go to the DMV this morning.

Yeah, I was absolutely thrilled about getting up at 7 am to bike halfway across San Francisco, anticipating several hours of standing in lines and being shuffled from one window to another by petty bureaucrats who would foist their clumsy communication skills and primitive people skills on me while they told me that what I wanted just wasn't possible, or that I had to go to Window 37 3/4 first, or that I didn't appear to be in their database so I mustn't exist even though I am standing right there.

But I had a different experience this morning.

Let's forget that on the way up the hill on my bike I got a flat tire. Let's forget that, once the doors opened, several people cut in front of me in line and I had to cut back in front of them with a loud "Excuse me!" Let's ignore the fact that halfway through my stay at the DMV the printer jammed while printing my registration and I thought I'd be there for 25 minutes just watching round women with puzzled looks shaking their heads and endlessly opening and closing the paper tray as if that would eventually fix everything.

None of those things could affect the fact that I was actually well served by the DMV this morning.

I know, I can hear the collective gasp of my readers as you wonder how this can be. Let alone how am I going to rant about something in my customary way if I have to admit that the DMV actually did well by me today? Well, I'll get to the ranting bit further down, have no fear.

First, let me tell you about the good experience.

I went early, before they opened, which is important if you don't want to spend three hours at the DMV. I stood in line outside, and aside from the aforementioned cutting incident all went well and I was one of the first 25 or so people served.

I had five different things I needed to do at the DMV, so I had every right to expect this to be a tedious endeavor. I had to:
  • Change my address in the DMV's records
  • Pick up registration tags
  • Get a change-of-address form for Velma
  • Add Velma to my car's title
  • Get a new California ID card
The woman who helped me was not overly friendly but not nearly as officious as people in this line of work usually are. Usually I get the Professional Petty Bureaucrat, Grade A. You can guess what the A stands for.

She knew just what to do, even though I needed several things. She was able to do three and a half out of five of them right there without redirecting me to another window yet. That was a good sign. The paper jam didn't take as long as it could have to resolve, and within a relatively short time I had my registration updated, my car title updated, a change-of-address form for Velma, a change-of-address card to stick on my drivers license, a receipt to pick up my tags at Window 17, and a receipt for my new ID and to take to Window B for a picture.

Now, admittedly this took less time because I was prepared. Due to Velma's foresight, I had info pre-filled-in on the the car title, and I had paid my registration online months ago; I just needed to physically pick up the tags since they could not longer mail them to me (since we moved, and the US Postal Service will not forward mail from the DMV to a new address, it just goes back to Sacramento. Tip: You should always make the DMV one of your first change-of-address notifications when you move).

So off I went to Window 17, which only had one person in line (amazing!), and then off I went to Window B to get my picture taken (also had only one person in front of me, I know it's hard to believe).

All in all, I was in at 9:01 am and out at 9:29 am, and that must be some sort of record.

Now, I haven't been to a DMV office in a few years but this all struck me as an inordinately efficient visit. I don't know if this is normal at the San Francisco DMV office or not. I also wonder if people have had this sort of experience elsewhere in California. Has the DMV gotten more efficient? (Leave a comment with your experience.)

Is it just the offices?
Perhaps I should rephrase the question: Have DMV offices become more efficient? Because their website sucks.

The California DMV's website has enabled some important functions over the past few years, but the online offerings are still severely limited. If this was a business, they'd have been overcome by the competition years ago.

1. Online renewal is limited
Some people (not everyone) can renew their license or vehicle registrations online. To do this, you have to have a "Renewal Identification Number (RIN)" on your renewal notice when it comes in the mail. Not everyone gets one. Why not? Why can't everyone use this? The DMV's FAQ does not explain.

2. The things you can do online are limited
The DMV's service offerings are pretty paltry online. If I was the Governator I would have made a campaign promise out of this; it would've gotten tons of votes and would've been a PR line with serious legs: "Everyone hates going to the DMV. In this Internet age where you can do almost anything online, why should we have to go stand in a line just to get a piece of paper? If you re-elect me, the DMV we'll make will be the envy of every other state."

3. The things you can do online are tedious and cumbersome
Almost all the pages are weighted down in cumbersome, unnecessary bureaucracy. They're poorly written and organized. The web's leading technologies (and I don't mean cutting edge) are nowhere to be seen, instead the site uses poorly thought-out forms and many actions require you to download PDFs when they could just as easily be done without it. Case in point: The "New Online Refund Program" is touted with the link "Simple Refunds." But the process begins with "You need Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.0 or above to view/print the instructions. Click the button below 'Get Acrobat Reader' to download this free software." What?! If I have to download something and open a separate PDF, then it's neither "simple" nor "online" at all!

4. The site is built for hopelessly outdated browsers
I quote from one of the FAQ pages: "For Internet Explorer or Netscape Communicator/Navigator, you must have version 4.0 or higher." They even have the old "Netscape now!" button on the page. It's like a trip back to 1997. And I just love that the DMV's logo right next to this has the slogan "Driving change..." plastered across it. *guffaw*

...the list goes on, but I should really be charging them for this usability analysis.

Outsource the DMV website
It doesn't happen often that I'm a proponent for privatization, but I wonder if California's DMV website would be a good case. At the very least, it's evident that the site needs to be outsourced to a competent company. The current offering is embarrassingly inadequate considering this state is home to Silicon Valley.

Labels: , , ,

Towel Day

A few weeks ago I was outside of my office in SoMA/Downtown San Francisco at lunchtime and I saw two different guys walk by, at different times, wearing bathrobes. I wondered if they were celebrating Towel Day, but later I looked it up and it was the wrong day. I still have no idea what these two froods were doing.

Towel Day is, in fact, this Friday. Learn more about the genius of DNA and Towel Day here or here.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thursday top 5

Really well done online photo editor that works with your Flickr account, uploaded photos, photos on the web, or pretty much anything.

"Flagpole Sitta" by Harvey Danger, interpreted by the employees of Connected Ventures
Now this looks like a fun place to work.

I really want one of these cat scratchers but there's no way I'm gonna pay $84 for a chunk of corrugated cardboard.

The Forest in the Winter
This is a really interesting (and slightly disturbing) animation of the Little Red Riding Hood story in Russian (I think) with incredible subtitle translations ("Forest is truly blood-hungry and life-jealous, and violence") and even more incredible commercial breaks (in Japanese!).

Giant Steps
This is a really cool Flash animation based on a Coltrane song.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Books about Headwaters Forest

I’ve been compiling this list for over a year and finally decided to post it. It’s an ongoing list, of course, and I’d love to hear of any other suggestions from people, or your thoughts on these books.

UPDATE MARCH 2010: Added the recently-published Tree Spiker to the list.

The Last Stand: The War Between Wall Street and Main Street over California’s Ancient Redwoods
by David Harris
published by: Sierra Club Books (paperback ed.), 1997; 384 pages
espd’s rating:
buy it

From the Redwood Forest: Ancient Trees and the Bottom Line: A Headwaters Journey
by Joan Dunning (author & illustrator) and Doug Thron (photographer)
published by: Chelsea Green, 1998; 272 pages
espd’s rating:
buy it

The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods
by Julia Butterfly Hill
published by: Harper San Francisco, 2001; 288 pages
espd’s rating:
buy it

A Good Forest for Dying: The Tragic Death of a Young Man on the Front Lines of the Environmental Wars
by Patrick Beach
published by: Doubleday, 2004; 288 pages
espd’s rating:
buy it

Timber Wars
by Judi Bari
published by: Common Courage Press, 1994; 343 pages
espd’s rating:
buy it

Who Bombed Judi Bari? (audio CD)
by Judi Bari
published by: Alternative Tentacles, 2000 (audio CD)
espd’s rating:
buy it

The Secret Wars of Judi Bari: A Car Bomb, the Fight for the Redwoods, and the End of Earth First
by Kate Coleman
published by: Encounter Books, 2005; 261 pages
espd’s rating: This is an error-riddled hit piece published by a right-wing publishing house. Don't bother unless you really want your collection to be all-inclusive.
buy it

Tree Spiker: From Earth First! to Lowbagging: My Struggles in Radical Environmental Action
by Mike Roselle with Josh Mahan
published by: St. Martin’s Press, 2009; 252 pages
espd’s rating: I haven’t read it yet. While this book doesn’t relate directly or entirely to Headwaters alone, Roselle was a co-founder of Earth First! and the memoir covers Headwaters-related territory such as Redwood Summer and the bombing of Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney.
buy it

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The music business has changed for independent artists

When I was 18 I started a rock 'n' roll newspaper called Western Front News which covered local, regional, national, and international music news. This often including industry news, such as the (then-)trend away from vinyl toward CDs, or the latest innovations in CD packaging and marketing.

Some of our focus was also on educating the musicians, the B- and C-list performers, the local rock bands who all too often sent in a demo tape but failed to send in supporting materials like the standard bio and photo. We wrote articles and columns about how to market your band, how to get your demo heard, and who were the top recording studios and engineers in the Bay Area.

I sometimes wonder how the Western Front News would fare today. Back then, the Internet didn't exist. There was no iTunes, there were no MP3s, no MySpace, no online CD or ticket sales, and no blogs or means for someone like me (or the readers, or the bands for that matter) to self-publish to the massive and broad audience that the Web enables today.

If you wanted a T-shirt featuring your favorite band, you had to go to their concert or down to the local "record store." If you wanted to hear their music, you had to hope they were popular enough for radio airplay, or you had to physically go somewhere to buy their CD (or tape, or record). How did small bands, bands nobody'd ever heard of and who didn't have a recording contract, ever get heard?

Today we have online distribution of music (legal and otherwise), hundreds of MP3 blogs that feature downloads from and posts about musicians that you'd otherwise never hear of, and the ability for any band — no matter how big or how small — to create a MySpace page or website and communicate directly with their fans, even cutting out the middleman (record companies) and selling their music directly via downloads or independent CD fulfillment companies like CD Baby.

The music world has transformed. And it's only early days.

Here's a great New York Times Magazine article about independent musicians and how they're innovating and changing the music industry using the Internet.

Labels: ,

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Gap's "4 Kids by Kids" clothing line

Okay, if you don't get it, here are a couple clues:

A) It's the Onion (if you still don't get that, I can't help you, you just have to come out from under the rock you've been living under for the past 15 years and experience the Onion yourself).

B) The Gap uses sweatshop labor.

Bay Area Action's Schools Group started a campaign against the Gap in 1999 and did tremendous work over several years, educating the public about the Gap's sweatshop labor practices and applying public pressure by means of public protests, signature gathering, and more. Eventually, one of the Gap's VPs called up our high school students and invited them to the Gap's headquarters in San Francisco to talk.

Since then, the Gap's been the target of lawsuits and multiple campaigns by numerous human rights, labor, environmental, and social investment groups.

In 2004, CEO Paul Presser said, "When I decided to join Gap Inc. in the fall of 2002, one of the first things my teenage daughter asked was, 'Doesn't Gap use sweatshops?' " Read the article...

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Rick Tharp R.I.P.

Rick Tharp's work made an early impression on me in my design education/career. The cleverness and humor in many of his ideas (did you ever look closely at the clock at the Peninsula Fountain & Grill?) inspired me to try to be clever and humorous in some of my own designs.

I also, inexplicably, found some pride in the fact that he was local to me when I lived in Los Gatos for eight and-a-half years. I drove by his studio almost every day but I never plucked up the courage to go in and meet him.

He died in 2005, apparently a suicide, and I didn't even know it.

A much more detailed and interesting article on Tharp can be found at


Thursday top 5+2

Learning kinesthetically
I liked this story about a mom and her daughter who "works hard to read and write" words).
Aw, man, this is sooo cheesy, and yet it still made me all teary-eyed.

Dice stacking
Amazing! Book this guy on Letterman right away.

"Young Folks" by Peter, Bjorn & John
This song is uber-catchy, but I had to look up the lyrics online because I just couldn't figure out what the girl is singing/slurring.

Music videos by a US Navy carrier squadron
What do bored sailors and pilots on aircraft carriers do? Make music videos, apparently. Here's VAW-116 Hawkeye Squadron's take on Outkast's "Hey Ya."
They also did "Pump It."
»'s weekly picks
I used to work with these people. And now they're doing video podcasts. Awwww, all grown up!

Igor Siwanowicz's incredible reptile and insect photos
I may have posted this link before, I just don't remember. But these are fantastic pictures.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, May 03, 2007

boycott Kleenex

Greenpeace has started a campaign against Kimberly-Clark, the company behind such brands as Kleenex, Scott, Viva, Cottonelle, and more.

Kimberly-Clark uses 100% virgin fiber for its Kleenex products and even boasts about it on their website. Because it's better for "softness." But their oh-so soft products come from unsustainably managed forests, predominantly logged by clearcutting.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


And now, excuse us as we pause your regularly-programmed blog for an important message about digital rights-managed songs.

Labels: , , ,