Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New Tropic Thunder trailer

OK, so I've been mildy curious about this movie since reading articles about over the summer. Then, I got more interested when photos of Robert Downey Jr in the new film came out,

























now we have a trailer... and if Night at the Museum (which I didn't TOTALLY hate) was worthwhile at all, it got Steve Coogan in another Ben Stiller movie, so there's your other bright shining moment for the day.

Addendum: Comm made a comment and I was concerned he might think that I'm a big Ben Stiller fan. I'm really not. There are a couple of Ben Stiller movies I love, but the only Ben Stiller directed film I'm a fan of is Zoolander. The Cable Guy is beyond painful. Reality Bites, I just never really got into. 

With Tropic Thunder, I'm mostly excited because it looks like a really expensive comedy... something like Ghostbusters... something we haven't seen produced in a long time. Plus, like I said, Robert Downey Jr and Steve Coogan. The fact that it stars Ben Stiller is almost besides the point. 

Hypothesis of the day...

I'm just sitting down in my office after taping the last Tuesday morning men's course I have to do (no more 4:30am days for a while!).

Finished reading a book yesterday called My First Movie: Take Two: Ten Celebrated Directors Talk About Their First Film. I had started reading the first volume a few months ago and have slowly been doling each chapter out one part at a time, but since Take Two was a library checkout, I dove in to it all at once.. reading it mostly in downtime at work.


There were interesting things in all of the interviews, but one of the things I found most interesting had to do with management style and the nature of the role of the director as a type of manager or executive.

In my downtime this morning before the class started, I began reading a book called The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (and their employees) by Patrick Lencioni. I'm only about a 1/3 of the way through, but it got me wondering whether or not film directing could be condensed into some sort of a management class and whether or not CEOs and Film Directors have anything to learn from one another.

I'm going to keep exploring the concept and hopefulyl I'll finally get around to making a little short film soon to be able to put some of the theory into practice, but I'm curious.

If I ever do get around to finishing my bachelors, there's part of me interested in getting both my MBA and my MFA, so maybe it's just something that appeals to me because it would be a way to reconcile both sides of my mind. We'll see I guess.

More later.

Monday, February 25, 2008

another evening, another post...

I'm working late tonight and day job stuff. We've got a website that's supposed to be 'ready to launch' tomorrow and I'm half heartedly working. It's hard for me to focus on day job stuff at night anyways, but my m ind keeps wandering back to 1) an e-conversation I've been involved in and 2) the discovery by my tongue earlier tonight of a hole in one of my molars. UGH. I HATE DENTAL WORK. 

A friend that I used to send letters back and forth with in high school found me on Facebook a few weeks ago. It was nice to see her and catch up. In a way, one of the reasons I signed up to Facebook was to see if she was there. She, and another person who recently found me on Facebook are really the only two people from high school that I'm happy to still be in touch with. Anyway, we've been chatting about life and religion while playing Scrabulous and Saturday night, I spent some time talking about education. Knowing she works with non-traditional students at a private college, I was curious to see what her reaction would be. 

I shouldn't be surprised that working at a university, she thought it ultra-important to go back and finish my degree, but it's still been gnawing at me today. Over the last year, year and a half, I had finally gotten myself to a place where I wasn't consistently thinking about what it would take to finish. Where I felt fairly good about myself... and maybe didn't think of myself as some sort of failure for dropping out when I relocated here. Suddenly, today after this conversation, I'm back to thinking about it. Ugh.

I don't like the game. I don't particularly care about the game. I love the learning. If I didn't have to hop through the hoops I'd go do it. I hate having to pander to a professor. After all, I'm paying THEM out of my own pocket. That's probably the wrong attitude, but as long as that attitude is there, it probably doesn't make sense to go back. 

At the same time, am I being hindered? In her e-mail, she mentioned that he husband worked somewhere that had instituted a policy that they wouldn't look at any resume for a position at his level if they didn't have a degree. He's in IT. Is that such an issue when you have a quality portfolio, a stack of references and are trying to get a design job at a small design shop or in-house department?

As I was shopping my portfolio last fall, most of the people I talked to about it, aside from saying pretty positive things about it, seemed to think that i was in a position to GET a position. I'm getting to the point where I'll need to test that if we're going to move to Austin. If I stay and finish up my bachelors, we're going to be here another 1-2 years.. maybe longer since who knows how many credits I can take at a time while doing freelance and keeping the day job going. If we move, it'll be at least a year of waiting for my Texas residency to kick in. 

Anywa, that's the main thing roiling around in my brain tonight and I figured it might be worth starting to hash it out here before I send an e-mail back to her. 

Tomorrow... pictures of the Oscar Meyer "Weiner-mobile" 

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I love Michel Gondry. I really enjoyed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and I thought that The Science of Sleep was ALMOST a masterpiece... so I've been anxiously awaiting his new film, Be Kind Rewind. In the movie, Jack Black somehow becomes magnetized and erases all of the videos at the video store he works at. He and Mos Def proceed to recreate the movies one by one in a process Gondre calls 'Sweding'. Now, he's sweded his own trailer to the movie...

Monday, February 18, 2008

thanks Lisa

Thanks to Lisa for mentioning that I redesigned her blog. If you're interested in your own redesign work you can reach me here. I'm working on getting a new portfolio site up, but if you'd like to see my portfolio, it's here. Now to get to work on, amid other things, contest winner Nicole's site. I'd really like to have things finished for her before it becomes 'Five' and Counting. Sorry for the delay, Nicole.

yawn...

man, it's been quite a while since I've had one of those nights where I work until some ungodly hour, go take a nap for a couple of hours while my computer processes and then get up and work some more... only to take another nap after the project is finished.

Back in the late nineties or early oughts (heh. now that I'm thirty I can talk about the 'good ol' days') I tried to start a business with a guy I used to hang out with. He was a musician (who later turned out to be the music playing pot head cliche) and business major, and had an idea for an interactive CD-ROM that would teach people about the music business. If we had done this a couple of years later we would have just made a DVD, but DVDs were still kind of bleeding edge and it just wasn't possible to easily make a DVD.

Anyway, we decided that we were going to do it in a combination of Director and Flash, only Flash really didn't have any sort of video support in it yet. It was a mess from the first day we started. We each borrowed money from our parents to start the biz ($2,500 apiece) and we worked pretty much every night. I was going to school and working full time so we couldn't work on it during the day... so around 8:00 every night, Jeff would come over and we'd work in shifts. We'd work until we collapsed, then we'd take a nap and get up after an hour or so and work a couple of more hours before having to take another nap. We did that for a couple of months getting ready for SXSW. We'd paid to have a booth in the tradeshow and we really wanted to be able to show off something.

The redeeming side of the story is that it's how I initially fell in love with Austin. We holed up in the guest bedroom at my friend Lisa's house (the friend whose blog, incidentally, launched today) and had a pretty amazing time.

Post SXSW, my partner started smoking pot and kind of fell off the face of the earth. The Macromedia Lingo we needed to use for the Director project was beyond my scope, and most of the programming ended up getting farmed out to a friend of mine. They made up CDs but I don't know that they any of them ever really sold.

I found this e-mail in the archives of this mailing list I'm on. It tells the rest of the story.


The other little thing I've been dealing with is the finishing off of this past business venture I made with a guy to design a Multimedia project. We had kind of a bitter break and he continued with the business with the understanding that he was going to pay me off my share of the investment because he wanted to retain rights to the product. A year passed and none of the $2500 investment had come back yet, I had written a clause in saying that if at the end of the payment period the balance had not been paid off, then there would be retroactive and accruing interest on the whole thing. That time is just about here, so I needed to sit down with Jeff to get this stuff figured out.

I didn't ever think I'd get the money, and he works at the apple store, so I thought I could make him a settlment offer, 'get me an iMac DVD-R and we'll call it even'. He sent an e-mail back saying that we could definitely talk along those lines and we set a time to meet for lunch.

We meet for lunch (after waiting a 1/2 hour for him) and start to hash things out. He has a lot of debt, he can't pay anything, doesn't have any money, etc. I just tell him that I don't want to do anything that is going to hurt him. I'm very emphatic about this. I propose a big cut in the total $2300 he owes me, to like $1000 and a payment plan, and he says he doesn't want any extra payments and that all he can really offer me is his Apple Store discount. Then, after talking about dropping the amount of money even more, he says that he's selling his Chet Atkins SST on ebay and that I could have the money from that. We both think that's a good idea and after praying and both thanking each other for getting together and sorting some of these issues so that we could build a new friendship we take off our seperate ways. Everything seems really great. I'm actualyl pretty excited about building a new friendship....

the guitar sells for like $900. I think that I would really be able to put that money to use trying to get a Laptop so that I could take it to South Padre, and life still seems pretty good. I don't hear from Jeff though. For whatever reason a week passes, then today, I get an e-mail.

"Brian,

Since we last spoke I talked with a lawyer about our quandary. The first thing we agreed on was it seemed unfair for me to pay back your initial investment when we both went into this endeavor under the same pretenses. Secondly, that it would be ridiculous for me to dip into my own personal "debt" to pay you off, considering I made no money on Music Made Simple.

The problem wasn't the original contract; it was the amendment you made minutes before we both signed. It was a hostile separation and my attitude was basically, "sign it- fine whatever, just sign it." I DID NOT have a clear understanding of the hand written appendage or the words you muttered under your breath.

The fact that neither of us initialed the amendment proves that we had NOT reached a mutual understanding. Furthermore, from a legal standpoint when a contract is revised or changed in any way it must be initialed by both parties to be admissible in court.

Technically the only part of the contract that is enforceable is the typed portion. And I still plan to honor that portion of the contract. In addition to that, if you want to access my personal Apple discount- you are more than welcome to. That is something I can feasibly do.

Thanks for understanding my frustration.

Sincerely,Jeff"


I just don't understand it. It's not like this is $20,000. I really prayed that I would say the right things when I was with Jeff, and that we could work this out. So why this? It's kind of frustrating, and at the end of the day, I'm left more bewildered than anything else. Your prayers about the whole deal would be appreciated. To change COMPLETELY from our lunch meeting to this, just seems really drastic. It's $900, it's not all the money in the world, and for just being $900, all the legal stuff seems really petty.



'Jeff' worked at the Apple Store for a couple more years. He reconnected with a friend who landed him a gig touring with a major female Christian musician. I never found out whether his pot habit disappeared. He's a worship pastor now so I hope so. Things turned out better than they could have. BTW, I did end up getting that iMac, but not how I thought I would.

When the lamp iMacs came out, my friend Terry stumbled into one at a Microcenter. Being that they were rare and quite popular (the wii of their time!), he decided to buy it so that he could sell it on Ebay. I convinced him that it was much more beneficial to sell it to me and, for some reason, he agreed.

I thought that I'd end up using it for freelance... I thought that I'd end up using the little 400mhz iMac DV that I had before that for freelance... and I eventually WAS able to make it pay for itself with freelance work but it took longer than I thought it would. Isn't that the way life is though? BTW, that trip to South Padre that I mentioned in that e-mail? On the way to South Padre Island, we stopped in Austin for the night. My friend Matt and I headed out to this coffee shop he likes on Town Lake and we talked about how the plans I had been making to move to Austin were on hold. I mentioned that I had met this girl and that I thought it was something I needed to pursue.

I wouldn't trade any of that extra time in Austin for Angela. I'm glad that I held off. Several years later, we're still talking about Austin. This time we're in a much better position to be able to make the move. I HAVE a career now. I like to think that I'm a pretty good designer who has marketable skills. If I had moved then, I'm not sure how things would have progressed. I'd like to think that God gives us the desires of our hearts though, and looking back at all of this, He has. Someday I'll tell the story of how Angela and I met. In the mean time, I need to get back to work. I've got a bunch of projects to get done today.

More later.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

an update

... as I struggle back from not really having any real excuse for why I haven't blogged besides being busy. I turned thirty a little over a week ago. I thought it was going to be lousy back a couple of years ago when I first started rolling the concept around in my head but it's actually been alright. Link

What's bugged me though is how easy it is to slip into old patterns. How easy it is to start eating the way I was eating before the fast... how easy it is to get out of doing a little devotional every morning... how easy it is to focus on freelance work over working out. It's kind of depressing realizing just what a shallow, simple creature I am.

I mean, I'm happy that I HAVE freelance work to do. It's, in theory, going to help us get out of debt (as soon as it's going for that and not going towards catching up on another kind of debt; with taxes). Here's one of the things I've been working on, a redesign of a friends blog. I'm hoping that it launches today. I think it's just about ready.

Anyway, off to the normal job. My coworker is out this morning and she only found someone to fill in for half of her duties this morning which means that I get to pick up an extra service. It's fine but it's still annoying when I've get to do more work... silly really, when you think about it. It's not like this aspect of my job is that hard, yet I find a way to complain about it anyway.

More later. I want to run through a design synopsis of that new site and do a simple photoshop tutorial for how to create the appearance of a logo siting behind ice... you can be my guinea pigs and let me know if it's something I could try and post at psdtuts.com

Sunday, February 10, 2008

ugh

I have a couple of design articles that I really want to write but
didn't get around to starting this afternoon. My current frustration
though is just that some of my equipment at work has gone on the fritz
just before our evening service. Basically, I can't control my
cameras. The frustrating thing is that:

A) There's nothing I can do about it tonight

B) It's going to jack with my day tomorrow and our website is
technically launching a week from tomorrow... that means crunch time.

all of that equals: THE SUCK.

AUUUUUGGGGGH.

Ok. I feel better now. heh.

A more restrained and normal Brian will be back later. promise.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The winner...

Hey everyone, sorry for the delay. After a lot of deliberation, I'm pleased to announce that Nicole at As Many As We're Given is the winner. Nicole wrote a really great entry and my friend Lisa and I really fell in love with her blog. She's been contacted and we'll be getting started on her new design really quickly. Stay tuned to watch as we work on her design makeover.

Thanks everyone!

And remember, through the rest of the month, if you'd like 25% off any blog redesign work, e-mail behm.brian@gmail.com

Friday, February 01, 2008

Mini Design Class update

I had a good conversation with the client about some of the printouts I made the other day. We're going to move ahead with a couple of the ideas I had. I'll walk through the design process once I make some progress. Heading off to grab some pizza with my lovely wife... more later.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bloggy Giveaway Carnival - Redesign Edition

Hey everyone, entries are now closed. I'll announce the winner here in the next day or so. Lisa and I have been looking through the entries and there are some really great candidates. Remember, if you didn't win you can still get 25% off any custom work done. For information about hiring me, send an e-mail here.  Thanks to everyone who entered! - Brian


Hey all, just an update. I'll pick the winner sometime on Sunday. If you could, when you leave a comment, make sure that you have a site listed in your blogger profile or mention a specific blog address you want worked on in your comment. That will make it easier for me as I wade through all of the entries.

While you're here, feel free to peruse the rest of the site.

Looking forward to announcing the winner on Sunday! - Brian


My friend Lisa is participating in the Winter '08 Bloggy Giveaway Carnival and I figured that since I just offered a free thing the other day, I should join in as well.

At stake is a free blogger redesign (Nate, you don't qualify. When I get some time you'll get some design time). If you'd like to see some of my work, you can visit my portfolio or view some of these previous entries in my 'Design Class With Brian' series


On average my redesigns take around 5-6 hours, so the value of this prize is in the range of $250-$300. To enter, just leave a comment explaining why your site needs a redesign and what your dream site would look like and I'll pick a winner this weekend. For anyone who doesn't win, I'll give a 25% discount to anyone looking for a blog redesign of their own.

Comment Away!

Wow. Just.... wow.

Defamer called this "The Only Rambo Review You Need to See"... I don't know that I agree with that, but if I ever write a review like this? Shoot me. Don't even ask any questions... just blast me a new one. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A mini design class with Brian


A mini design class with Brian
Originally uploaded by bthemn

All of these printouts are references for the blog redesign i'm working on at the moment. I'm curious to see just how far i can push blogger.

The reference sites my client gave me were a little confusing... Mostly because

a) it doesn't seem like there's a huge common thread,

but

b) they're not AMAZING designs and i want to create something really memorable that will really work for the client. I know it's a free gig but I care about my friend and I want to give her something kick ass.

I printed out the websites so that I could tack them up. I also printed them out so that I could reference them, but I'd be forced to go in and create my own stuff. No cribbing. I like the palette she picked out and I think I can really design with it. I just need to come up with some thoughts.

Need to call another friend back about a separate website a friend called about today. She apologized knowing that I'm not much of a webwork guy. I guess she hasn't been reading the design class with Brian stuff. I've had at least a little bit of a change of heart.

I think part of the problem is that it's pretty impossible to NOT have the web designer feather in your hat now. As I've been researching jobs the past few months it seems that every design position I've seen has some sort of web component to it. Thank God for CSS.

Tuesday

Gotta love those 4:30 am days. I actually got to bed before 10 last night and spent some time reading. Hopefully I'll be able to do the same thing tonight. 

Thank you, Angela, for getting me to get out of the house and work out this afternoon. I feel much better now that I'm back from my jog than I did on my way TO the jog. 50 minutes on the treadmill, 3.58 miles, 645.2 calories... not really all that exciting. My legs felt kind of weak, I'm guessing that mostly has to do with sleep deprivation. 

Picked up a couple of interesting books at the library yesterday evening. A book I had on hold had come in, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver was a book I'd put on hold during the fast. I figured that as long as I was fasting, I may as well learn something about food. Being fairly popular, it didn't actually arrive until after the fast. Oh well. There's still time to read it. It's the story of a family deciding that they were going to try and limit their food miles over the course of a year growing everything they could and buying as locally as possible for everything else. I don't know that it's something I could do, but I think it will be an interesting read. Hopefully I'll discover something.

I also picked up a little thin book (that's almost a pamphlet) called Running: The Sacred Art - Preparing to Practice. The introduction is by Kristin Armstrong, a Runner's World contributing editor. I liked what she had to say in the forward...

At a dark time in my life when I was lacking peace and clarity, I began to read about meditation. I longed to be one of those people who could achieve peace through meditation – quiet my mind, calm my heart by focusing on my breath or repeating a mantra. But I could never quite make that happen by sitting still, my thoughts buzzing around annoyingly like summer insects by an outside light. Bless the person who wrote something that I read someplace that said it was possible to enter a state of meditation by monotonous movement. This is my sacred space when I run alone, this is my ritual, this is my sanctuary! I find God here, waiting for me, matching my pace. As my breath gets less jagged and my stride settles into my unique pattern of effort, I find inner stillness cradled in outer motion. Through that stillness I have found a great deal of peace. After a lifetime of panting, I finally caught my breath.
 I think I can get back to that. I know that when I was training for the Ironman I was able to get there. I don't think running on the trainer with the iPod will let me get there... that means no more workout room, or at least no more workout room when I'm not just trying to get in a couple of miles. 

I'm in the process of redesigning my friend Lisa's blog. I'm willing to redesign another blog for free. If you're interested, leave a comment explaining why it should be yours and I'll pick a winner. Free design, who can beat that?

More later.

Monday, January 28, 2008

01-09-08_1410.jpg


01-09-08_1410.jpg
Originally uploaded by bthemn

This was on the street out in front of my office a couple of weeks ago. My friend Dave and I were mesmerized by the conversion and just stood gaping at it for a couple of minutes. Don't lie... you want one of your very own, don't you?

01-19-08_1438.jpg


01-19-08_1438.jpg
Originally uploaded by bthemn

Shot this at the wal mart a couple of weeks ago. I mean, i'm all into marketing, even a bit of a wonk, but did the world need american idol ice cream? I mean, c'mon... "one split wonder"!?

Augh! My eyes...


Augh! My eyes...
Originally uploaded by bthemn

The return of random meeting photos... Mostly because i wanted to document my coworker's scarred memory of me prepping out for a very short moment. It's too hot in the office for a sweater today so i figured i could at least be humorous with it

Sunday, January 27, 2008

a post before bed

I was putzing around Designers Who Blog and noticed a link to a site by a designer named Brian Hock, aside from having a great first name, the Designers Who Blog link mentioned that he was a triathlete as well. My curiosity piqued, I noticed this video down at the bottom of his page. Man, I kind of get jazzed again thinking about doing another one... and what the narrator says about 'bragging for a lifetime'... truer words were never said. That said, I think there needs to be a shelf life on bragging. I think my bragging rights are just about up. I need to do another one to retain them. (I just keep repeating the mantra "Get out of DEBT first" over and over again.) 

Anyway, links have been updated for the most part, templates have been fixed. It's been a good week. Now to get my running back in shape in the upcoming week. I didn't do as well last week as I'd hoped to. 

More tomorrow.



phew, that was a close one

I finally figured out how to squash the little header bug I ran into this morning that was putting text into the header in IE. I had set the header text size to 0px. That worked in Safari and Firefox but didn't work in IE. Thanks to this page, I was able to figure out a work around that let me delete the actual text instead of just setting it to 0px. Now, everything's fixed. Interested in having me hack a new design for your blogger hosted site? Let me know. (I know, I know... sorry for the shameless plug.)
It's, of course, Murphy's Law that says that the morning after I upgrade my blog, the server the images is on migrates over to a new server. Blah. Hopefully my images will be back today. Otherwise, and this is probably the better solution, I'll move them over to Blogger when I get home.

mornin'

There are lots of thoughts bouncing through my noggin this morning. Thoughts about other peoples posts, and thoughts about the upcoming goals I've mentioned. I've also been thinking about how awful I've been at getting to bed early on Saturday nights lately. I KNOW that I have to be up at 6:30, but for some reason at Midnight I'm still typing away at the computer, trying to finish my 'design class with Brian' article. 

I spent a good deal of yesterday thinking about ways to build up my freelancing. There's a sheet on the wall next to my computer that has our debt snowball listed on it. I see lots of the numbers going down, there's a personal line of credit that has 1562.07 left on it, a Sally Mae loan that has 1986.39 left on it, but there's still plenty left to chunk away at... 11639.19 things to chunk away at. I guess I'm pretty impatient about the whole thing. I want to be done NOW not in 12 months, not in two years. I guess some of that has to do with the fact that we've been battling this debt monster for the five years we've been married. He's always seemed like an undefeatable beast and it seems like I've finally found the chink in his armor. 

More to write but I need to get out the door. I'll continue to let the thoughts rattle around my brain and write a bit more when I get home for the mid-day break. 

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Design Class With Brian #3

Today's lesson is all about this site. I've been meaning to get around to redesigning the site for probably a year now... that's when I had the inspiration for what I wanted to do. Things come up, projects supercede other projects and time goes by without the original project even started. In this months grand scheme of 'cleaning up' I decided it was time to finally try and change the blog.

My original thought was to design something really tabloid-ey and/or pulpy. I was thinking National Enquirer or the Weekly World News. I had been thinking about L.A. Confidential, the Curtis Hanson movie from 1997. In the movie, Danny Devito plays the editor of a tabloid called 'Hush Hush'. Sid's line was always "Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush." From there, I started to think about the new design in very film noir terms. Something similar to, maybe, the Singing Detective poster...



Anyway, that was a year ago. Things change, I forget what I was even thinking about at the time (truth be told, that happens for me within about five minutes of any one original thought). Today, when I started, I headed over to Google Images and searched for Tabloid. There were some thoughts that seemed interesting, but nothing that really wowed me. I played around with the Weekly World News logo a little bit but I really wasn't feeling it. Then, I started to think about pudgy superheroes, put on Michael Giachinno's score to The Incredibles and started to think about pulp again.

One of the first images I saw was this


I knew this wasn't the right image, but I really felt like it was starting to head towards the vibe I was feeling. I dug through some more images and came upon this


I felt like the "All Night Stand" could be a logo so I grabbed a chunk of the lettering, went to What The Font (I love What The Font. I can't imagine living without having it as a resource. Maybe someday I'll have a mind for fonts, being able to pick out a font by just glancing at it, but for now I just have to settle on a piece of software that can do a pretty good job of guessing for me)
I'd post the results of the first round but I think I sabotaged myself. I really meant to save the logo and, for whatever reason, didn't. I did get two things out of the first design though, the colors and the idea to put some weathered texture on top of my logo text.
Not feeling the design, I went back to google and wandered to another pulp covers site.
There, still thinking about the red and yellow colors, I stumbled on this..


I really liked the lightning bolt headline. I wasn't as excited about the fonts, but that wasn't as much of an issue. I wandered over to my favorite comic book fonts site, and came across a couple fonts I really dug; Detectives Inc. and Feast of Flesh!
I pulled the image into Illustrator and started to sketch out the lightning bolt header.

Now, when you're sketching something in Illustrator (or any other design program), break down what you need to do into simpler items. I could use the pen tool to trace along the edges of the lightning bolt, but it's much easier to rotate the image and draw primitives. By straightening the lightning bolt I can draw a rectangle and then select just one of the points of the rectangle to create my angle. Then, I copied the first rectangle and used the reflect tool to create an object that matched up with right part of the lightning bolt. I copied the second triangle and pasted it again. I matched up the bottom part of that object to the bottom of the first rectangle and then adjusted the third object to make the middle part that connects the two objects. Then, to combine everything you just use the Merge tool inside the Pathfinder palette. The other reason for designing the object straight is so that you can lay out your text straight. Then when you rotate it, the text is all rotated to the same angle as your lightning bolt. Are there other ways to do it? Sure there are and, in some cases, I imagine they might work even better, but this is the way I work.

Here's version one of the logo layed into the background I had grabbed for the original logo I mentioned above.



I like it, but I really felt that the header was way too big. I went back to the drawing board and elongated the header and set it up so that it didn't need to be rotated as much.



After slimming down the header I added a little bit of texture and added the blue (I thought it kind of reminded me of the original cover)

I felt the black wasn't working and I thought about what might more appropriately replace it. There was a tutorial over at psdtuts a couple of weeks ago all about creating a 'desktop' from scratch in Photoshop. That article made me think that maybe the warmth of the header would go with the warmth of a desktop. I tried searching shutterstock for 'desktopy' wood and ended up going back to the photoshop tutorial and grabbing the wood texture they linked to there. The image they linked to was much too big to integrate into a weblog background so I chopped a chunk of it off and massaged it into a repeatable background.

I have a quick and dirty trick for creating repeatable background patterns: mirroring. Grab a piece from the top of the design you want to repeat and paste it into a new layer. Flip it vertically so that the top is now the bottom and bring it down to the bottom of your new repeating texture. Create a new mask for that layer and draw out a gradient. With some massaging you should have a texture that's fairly seamless. You might need to massage it some more to make it look less repetitive. To make the left and right side repeat, use the same steps but in the other dimensions.

Here's where we were with the new backdrop



It felt really good, but it also felt like it needed something to anchor the design... enter, the footer



you can also see my first attempt at sidebar headers. I decided that the text needed to be straight to look normal with what would be straight links. I went into Illustrator, copied the text I had created for the header and proceeded to use the find and replace command to change the text on each of the three instances that combine each of the phrases. "Flabby Ironman" had three layers to it. The first layer consisted of the red. A second layer behind it added the stroke. I could have added a stroke to the red but (and this may have changed) in previous versions, when you add a stroke it starts to constrict the inner fill color. By putting the stroke on another layer that's behind the red, the red can stay the same as the stroke grows from behind it. A third copy of the text goes behind that layer of black and down and over a few pixels, creating the pseudo 3d look. By using find and replace I could change all three layers of text in one shot. Pretty slick.

Here's what my sidebar headers looked like when I was done.


bringing that text into photoshop I chopped each of the lines of text up into transparent gifs. A bunch of time later after dealing with messy code, I ended up with all of the elements positioned. I was surprised that it was easy as it was to get everything into place. Things didn't work QUITE like I thought they would, but, aside from the border around everything it looks pretty much like I thought it would.

Off to bed. Tomorrow's another 'fake Monday' morning.

More tomorrow.

Ah, that feels good...

I've been meaning to update my blog template for what seems like months, or maybe even the last year. Today, with Ang out running errands, I decided it was time. I'll write up a design class with Brian tomorrow, but I wanted to post a celebratory post tonight. Now, the next step will be to update my design blog. That can wait a little while though.

Let me know what you think.

Hello, Hello... We're Going To Induce Vertigo...

Ang and i hit the theater Thursday night to see U23D on the Imax. I've ben curiously watching the newest generation of 3D movies to come out in recent years... the advances of polarized 3D versus the traditional red/blue separation method and I've really been enthralled by people using 3D as more of a story telling method than a showy special effect.

When I heard that U2 planned to release a 3D concert film I was more than a little bit excited. When the band appeared at Cannes last year with the first footage, I waited more than a little impatiently. Last week I found out it was opening this past Wednesday on Imax screens across the country and I knew that even though I couldn't be there opening day, I'd be there as quickly as I could.

Now that I've seen it, i have to say that I think I really have seen the future. There have been a lot of people talking about how 3D was going to change things. I saw Beowulf in 3D Imax a couple of months ago, but while it was cool, it wasn't anything that completely wowed me. It was also, I think one of the first modern films to be shot in 3D versus 'dimensionalized'. The dimensionalized movies I've seen (and I think Beowulf was also one these) work by moving pieces of the picture back and forth in the z plane. There's depth, but it's not true 3D... it's pieces of the plane pushed backwards. You see the depth but the pieces themselves are still flat. I'm probably all wrong about the technical specifics, but I never really got that feeling while watching U23D. There was still some of it that felt a LITTLE 'viewmaster', but these subtle shots the director picked up that showed a good deal of the stage and the thousands of people in the audience created a visceral reaction that I just really haven't experienced in a 3D film.

There's one shot in particular that wowed me. Towards the end of the show, U2 broke into a number and the crowd started jumping. The director cut away to a shot that was almost looking straight down on the audience. The crowd appeared as this undulating wave lake mass. Not jumping out at you, but definitely causing displacement on the screen. It was a little awe inspiring.

I have several U2 shows on DVD. I really like most of them in different ways. There's a moment in Rattle and Hum where the film transitions from black and white to color as the band breaks into Where the Streets Have No Name that's a really wonderful moment. There are moments during the elevation tour that are really spiritual... that translates to the DVD... but in the new film there's an emotional component that rose up in me that I think is only attributable to the 3D process. Watching from the crowd as the camera stands next to a guy with his girlfriend on his shoulder. Looking past the guy taking a picture with his cellphone camera, just sitting and watching the 3D of the stage behind the band, it was visceral in a way that I haven't experienced in a concert film before.

I guess the biggest praise I can give it was that it was an experience unique enough to make me want to experience it again. I normally don't see things in the theater more than once, but I know that I'll be back to see U23D again before it leaves the theater. If you get the chance, go. It probably helps if you're at least moderately interested in U2, but it's a really cool experience either way. I'm looking forward to seeing more 3D concerts this way. It's not quite like being at the concert in person, but at $10 a shot, it's a lot cheaper than attending in person.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wednesday Morning

I was actually able to get up this morning and go do some lifting and jogging. I forget how wonderful it feels to get a workout in first thing. It wasn't the best jog I've had recently, but some of that had to do with time constraints. I think I'll need to start working on being asleep by ten so that I can get up at 6 to get my workout in.

Reading an old issue of Mens Health while laying on my office futon yesterday night, I read something that I'm going to try applying here at work. They recommended that you guard your first 90 minutes of the office day with your life because they're your most productive. I'm experimenting with that today. When I got in, I BRIEFLY skimmed my e-mail and dove into an editing project I needed to finish. Now that it's rendering, I figured I'd take a moment to blog.

Nate started to write about his goals the other day and I figured that since he's started to do it, I should probably quantify my goals as well.

I want to lose 20 more pounds of fat before the Red Canyon century in June. I don't care if that translates to 20 pounds off the 230 I'm at now or if it just means that I've added 20 pounds of muscle. In fact, I'd almost prefer to add 20 pounds of muscle. That's going to involve a pretty arduous lifting routine. I'll need to figure out if I have adequate equipment at our workout room (free) or if I need to get a membership somewhere.

I want to finish paying off our debt by the end of the year. If I can bring enough freelance in, I'd like to pay it off by July at the latest. We currently have somewhere around 11,600 left and we're paying around $1000/month. If I can get an extra $1200-$1500/month in freelance, I can bump that up to around $2000. I don't think that's completely unachievable.

Those are the two main goals. Any other races go underneath that because that's where our primary money allocation is going and races tend to be expensive.

Because of the price of entry fees I want to concentrate on just two centuries this year. Buena Vista Bike Fest on May 17 and the Red Canyon Century in Canon City on June 14. Both of those registration together should only be around $100. By budgeting some birthday money next month and buying fewer DVDs, I should be able to achieve that.

If I have another $100 to spend, I'd like to tackle some running races.

There's a series of running events in Colorado Springs called the Grand Prix of Running. Their first event is the St Patricks Day 5k in March. Running their three official events (St Patricks 5k, Take 5 (5k and 5mile) in the Garden (at Garden of the Gods), and the Classic 10k) should only run $60.

If I could find the money, I'd think about doing the Boulder 5430 in August (assuming that is that we don't end up moving this summer which is a distinct possibility)

I'm sure there are some other goals, but those are at least a few of them. If you want to toss some freelance my way in order to help eliminate some of this debt, I'd be more than honored to give you a quality product.

More later.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Time for more 'Design Class With Brian'

Thanks to Mr Martin Luther King I had the day off today. It's weird working for an organization that follows the schedule of a school district. I never used to get Marty Day off. 
Anyway, with the day off, my friend and coworker Hartley mentioned that she was working on this redesign of a Colorado Springs baby and maternity clothier. The site the store owner has now was designed for free and they were having issues getting content added to it. 
Before we look at where we went with it, let's look at some of the issues existing on the current site.
 
Here is the original front page. The designer distorted the aspect ratio of the logo and didn't resize the logo for a dial-up connection. It's not a horrible design but it's definitely very web 1.0.
 
There are several issues with the product subsection of the original store. To begin with, there's no great delineation between product lines. If they'd been able to add the rest of the product that they wanted to add, their wouldn't be a really great way to easily sort through products. Additionally, the original images have been distorted to the square size instead of being resized and cropped. This warps the look of the clothing and makes them to appear wider than they should be, (not an especially great thing for a website aiming at selling high-end maternity clothing to expecting mothers). On top of that, the images being loaded on the page are the high resolution images and not thumb nails... all in all, a real bandwidth hog of a page. 
When you click the images they're set to load the larger image in a new window. Here's what happens when you click a picture of one of the pairs of jeans...
I'm not sure if you can see the resolution of the photo (it's 1280x1920), but that's much larger of a picture than it probably needs to be. In addition to the photos largeness, the page doesn't tell me anything else about the pants... how to order them, sizes they're available in, colors they're available in, PRICE... There's a lot of information that would be really useful. 
So there's our starting point. Hartley was still quite happy with the logo she designed (as is the client, which is the most important part) so we started thinking about what kind of a skeleton we wanted to build the body of the site on. Doing some research at Design Float, a design writing aggregator site I read fairly often, I stumbled on a site  that has free CSS layouts available to design on top of. Looking through the templates, I stumbled on this layout and showed it to Hartley.
With the design chosen, we took a screen capture of the layout and brought it into Photoshop to start to put a skin on it. Before we did any work, we started to talk about what Hartley hoped to convey with the new look. I asked about the motto of the store and she mentioned "Fine Childrens and Maternity" and "European" (you can see the words I wrote down on my little notepad, below)
We started by grabbing the logo and dropping it on top of a newly created white background in the header section. When we dragged the EPS into our photoshop composition the image was much too large but instead of scaling it down, we converted it into a smart object and THEN scaled it down. The benefit of this is that it's almost like nesting the object inside of another composition. When you scale it down, you're scaling it down non-destructively, if you need to go and scale it up later (a no no if you're working destructively) you can scale it up and have it grab additional information from the composition it's nested in. It's a really great way to work and it's really starting to change the way I use Photoshop CS3. 
We tried adding some textures behind the logo to make it stand out, looking at various paisley patterns from shutterstock, and really didn't feel like it was gelling. 
Hartley had also mentioned in our initial discussions that she really liked the tone on tone look. 


Wanting to try it, we tried creating a gradient from brown to white and laying it in the background, then changing the background header color to the dark chocolate brown in the text of the logo. 
We really liked the way that the brown looked but it wasn't popping enough. There's kind of a trend in web design right now to do the 'web 2.0' thing. Glossy buttons, lots of polish. Another one of the sites I read, PSDTuts, posted a link to an article that gave us some inspiration. On my little notepad I drew Hartley some herringbone lines and we decided to try to layer some of those in along with highlites and lowlites on the brown. 


When drawing little herringbone lines, I'd suggest always doing it in a vector program like Illustrator. The biggest benefit is that since it's a vector program, you can select your items, copy them and rapidly paste them until you have enough to grab a couple of them, pull them out to where you want them to end, then select the whole batch and do an 'align and distribute' that creates your herringbone pattern. It's a really great, quick solution. 
The other nice thing about doing the lines in Illustrator was that, inevitably, when I screwed up, I could go back, delete a few lines from the middle, select the whole batch and distribute them again, making the space between the lines a little bigger. I also deleted all but one of my lines at one point, shrank the rotation on it to 20 degrees from 45 and finally pasted that into Photoshop.  After some more futzing we had something that looked a little like this...


With that done, we started to try and figure out what our subnavigation and navigation was going to be. Our original thought had been that we'd use the left hand column to navigate through things... i.e. click the 'maternity' link and you'd go to a page that would let you select 'tops' or 'bottoms'. That works but it's kind of clumsy. We decided that we'd much rather go with dropdown menus. Without going through the whole process, we added some dropdowns that are built into Dreamweaver (which style themselves via CSS... that's cool mostly because it let me use background images for my rollovers instead of just color. )
This is what our pulldown menus looked like after quite a bit of futzing. 


You can see that the blue from the logo has made another appearance, as has the brown (which appears as a 'hover' state when the mouse is over the button)
Anyway... with the main navigation done we had to decide what we were going to do with subnavigation. I love prototyping in Photoshop but I can't encourage sketching enough. You don't have to be the most amazing sketch artist in the world (I'm certainly not), but even just rudimentary sketches have helped me work through lots of design issues. Here's the sheet of notepaper we worked the subnav out on


I know it doesn't look like a lot, but that little piece of paper saved us a lot of time. The first thing we looked at was a straight thumbnail layout like what's on the current website. 


I thought this is a clean layout but Hartley didn't feel that it conveyed enough information. From that thought, I came up with a second 'just text' idea. 



This was also the initial thought for what eventually became the product closeup page. There are a couple of pros to this design. Going just text on the left hand navigation column allows you to convey a bunch of information about different products in a limited amount of space and it allows you to compress that information into a limited number of navigation pages (i.e. the little 1 and 2 buttons down on the bottom right hand corner of the left navigation box). Hartley didn't like that it didn't have ANY visual information though so we looked at a third option. 



Here's our third design. You can see that while we can't put quite as many lines of information (we eventually found out we could have eight items per page) doing it this way meant that we could get a little bit of a balance between the purely visual and the purely textual. The numbering on the boxes was our initial thought for how we'd name the subpages of products with HTML names. We eventually just started naming them by number so instead of there being a boys1_1.html we decided to just go boys1.html, boys2.html ad infinitum. 

After determining that that was the way to do the design we had to figure out how to implement it. My first thought was to do it in CSS. 


The 1, 2 and 3 numberings on the diagram of one of the left hand subnav buttons indicate that I was thinking of creating three CSS divs for each navigation button. Div1 would have been the button container (what the other two divs sit in for organization purposes: think of it like a box) and then there'd be a separate div for the thumbnail and text. That works and I think it would have worked, but in the interest of time, and since Hartley was going to have to implement this on her own for the most part after our design time, we decided to go a quicker and dirtier route. 
I know they're old school but I'm a big fan of imagemaps. I've been using them lately when I put together HTML e-mails, mostly because the code decays much more gracefully. I've had more luck with an e-mail program recognizing my imagemap than I have with some other rollovers and stuff. So, I thought, why not try it with these navigation buttons. It actually worked pretty well. So, the way everything is set up, instead of creating a whole series of thumbnails, we just create one graphic for each set of subnavigation. When someone navigates to page 2 of a category of products they get a completely new image but when they're looking at the first eight products the links are just from one imagemap. That sounds kind of confusing but, trust me, it works. 
Here's what our complete navigation looked like


you can see that we sampled a little bit of the header brown and herringbone for the background behind the text. Size wise, these little navigation images were coming in around 15-18k. Which, for the most part, is sipping bandwidth. 
Here's our completed product navigation page



Hartley has spent a good chunk of tonight working on all of the product imagery and navigation images. Hopefully the site will be up by the end of the week. (pending client approval of course)

Off to bed. I've got the weekly Tuesday morning class I have to tape tomorrow. 4:30 is going to come too soon. 

More tomorrow. 

and back to day 1...

It felt really good to be easing back into food today. Last night was a little rough. I had a salad to break the fast, but I'm guessing i ate too much of it. It sat in my gut and I had a hard time falling asleep because of it. 

This morning I woke up and didn't eat anything for a little while... after about an hour, I toasted one piece of toast, nuked an egg in a ramikin (a neat trick I learned here) and nuked a couple little pieces of ham. Threw it together with a THIN slice of cheddar and ate it slowly. I had some orange/banana/strawberry juice a little later in the morning with my multi-vitamin and then followed it up with a salad that had a little chicken in it for lunch. 

For dinner, Ang cooked up these petite steaks and chopped them up in a bowl of romaine with onion, cucumber and green pepper. Instead of dressing, I added salsa to my salad. 

I know I'm probably going a little faster on the food than I should, but I haven't had any soda or processed sugary things for the most part.) 

It's really odd not having sugar cravings. Maybe they'll come back (it has after all really only been a day), but I'm enjoying the respite while it's there.

Running on the treadmill and not worrying about overdoing it was nice tonight. I've been so fearful of doing some sort of damage that I couldn't repair while I was fasting that I was at least a little cautious when I jogged, tonight, while still not going all out, I threw in some extra sprints. Over 50 minutes I covered 3.77 miles and burned 622 calories. My average heart rate was 160 with a peak of 199, and I was in the zone for 25 of the 50 minutes. 

Tomorrow I'm going to start lifting. We'll see how that goes. I'm fully expecting to be sore. 


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Day 25

It's over. It ended at around 6:40 tonight. Now the next step begins. With some food in me, tomorrow the running begins. Time to dive back into the season and wrestle it back from last years mediocrity. Time to start to evaluate where I've been these past few weeks and where I'm going. 

I hope I haven't disappointed too many people. 

More later.

A tough afternoon

this has been the toughest afternoon so far. a gnawing in my gut
kicked in this afternoon. it's not that i'm ravenously hungry, but
it's made me feel pretty nasty. . . enough so that i'm wondering
whether i should continue. is it hunger? is it my body telling me that
i'm done? is it god telling me that i need to stop as some sort of
lesson in humility? i'm praying for that answer. 

i was thinking about the fast today. thinking about the fact that there's no prize at the
end of it. there's no certificate. it is, after all, a personal thing.
maybe i've learned what i needed to learn. maybe the thing i still
need to learn, humility, i can only learn by 'failing' the same way i
accused my friend of doing. anyway, i'm posting from my cell phone so
i should probably go back to focusing on what i'm doing in the
background. ( multitasking! ) more later.

Day 25 part one

The situation with my friend has been rectified. 

I've actually been putting on weight the past couple of days. I've been intentionally increasing my water intake (with a little bit of lemon juice and lime juice) because my skin was getting to be way too dry. I'm not sure how much I'll continue to go up, but being properly hydrated is really my only concern right now. 

I feel like I need to confess a sin. I've been too focused on counting down the past few days. It's not even so much that I'm hungry as it's just "ok. let's be done. ok. let's be done." It's kind of permeated all my thinking... I'm going to try and re-center myself today so that I can focus on the spiritual side. I mean, some of the books that I've read say that the time of fasting is supposed to be enjoyed as a rest. That's we're supposed to use the time of fasting as a way to revel and relax in the presence of God. I definitely haven't been doing that the past couple of days. 

Have to run out the door. I'll write more later(although also high on the priority list is a nap this afternoon. I'm so tired right now.)

Also, capsule reviews of some of the films we've seen lately. The King of Kong, The King of California, Persepolis and a japanese film called "Love on a Diet".

Friday, January 18, 2008

Day 23... a mess of a post.

I had a little bit of a falling out yesterday with the friend mentioned in my last post. I probably shouldn't have told him that "I was hungry" was a (and I'm not defending this) "F'ing Lame Excuse" (only I didn't say it quite politely). He hung up on me, I called Ang, Ang called him and when I got home, I was on the hotseat from Angela. I haven't talked to this friend yet, but he did IM me last night...

i don't understand why it was wrong for me to stop the fast

i can understand you feeling a bit isolated while you're still doing this, but still...

9:20 PM

fasting is a very personal thing, and you should seek to understand my true reasons for stopping before putting me on the defensive and asking me to give you one good reason you shouldn't think i'm a loser.

9:25 PM

anyway, i'm sorry that i reacted so harshly, but after that text from angela this morning that assumed i had given in to a physical urge, i was on the defensive waiting to hear from you.  anyway, i hope we'll be able to talk about this tomorrow after the situation has cooled a bit.

I don't know that I'm ready to talk. I'm certainly still upset, and I do realize that it's a personal thing, but at the same time, I still think that even quitting before the half-way point is kind of giving up.  He told Angela that he woke up hungry and that that hadn't happened in the previous days. I guess I know I should believe that and  I don't have any reason not to, but I guess I just don't. That's probably wrong. But part of me feels like he quit so that he could eat on his birthday and the Superbowl. That probably makes me an asshole. I don't know where to start dealing with THAT.  

I mean, I started out at 250. I haven't gotten 'ravenously' hungry yet, but it's not odd for me to feel some hunger. I've dropped weight (most of it probably water) but I still have a bunch of fat on me that I can burn. My friend is even bigger than I am. In theory, shouldn't he be able to go longer without food? Like I said, I just can't relate. I can't understand. 

My friend mentioned from the beginning that he didn't know if he'd go 40 days. Maybe not being committed to the 40 made it easier to opt out, made it easier to say that he'd prayed and 'heard from the Lord'. Ugh. Look at how awful I sound. I'm going to post this because I don't want to filter myself. If there's ugly inside of me, I want it to be out there so that I can get rid of it. I know I NEED to get rid of it, even if I really don't want to. 

If I was really telling the truth, I find myself a little superior... like I'm hot stuff... at least a chunk of the time. That's been there for years. Even in High School I had a lot of resentment that I wasn't in the honors group. I could have been if I had applied myself. I only worked as hard as I needed to and, thus, was looking in from the outside. In my head though, I knew I was just as good, if not better. I remember that it used to drive me crazy when I ran into someone who WAS better than me. Probably the best example of that was Jessie Shelton. Jessie was scary smart. She used to nonchalantly brag that she could read a page of text by looking at it. She hung out in the same little group that I hung out with in the AV department and just the fact that she was capable of things that I just wasn't wired for would drive me up the wall. 

It should have made me feel better that I did have gifts in other areas that Jessie didn't have... but I was too stupid to see that at the time. After high school, as I went off to broadcasting school (Let's go into radio! Whee!), Jessie went off to Princeton, then MIT for graduate work and then off for Post Doctorate work elsewhere. I've lost touch with her (we never really got along anyway), but it was one of my first exposures to real feelings of inadequacy. 

Y'know, since then, I've chased after the smart people and I've pretended to BE the smart person on occasion (ok, it's a mask I wear on a regular basis), but I fear that the truth is something different. 

There are all sorts of things I chase after. I enjoy the work that I do, but I work my ass off so that I can guarantee that I make more than my friends do. 

I used to brag (kiddingly) to my friend Eric that just because he'd run marathons (and eventually qualified for Boston) that he still hadn't done an Ironman. 

and why should I even be able to brag about the Ironman ANYWAY? Certainly there have been people that have done it MUCH better than I have. I barely finished. My freestyle was so awful I swam about 2.6 miles worth of backstroke, ruining my legs because I kicked them around the course. 

I had really long transitions because I was just trying to finish. 

I tried to ride the course as fast as I could... but old fatty couldn't do much on the hills. Then, I got to walk with my bike as I looked for a mechanic... holding my chain in my hand as cyclists rode by looking forlornly at me. I remember running into one of the guys that had helped fit me on my bike at Gear West in Minnesota. He recognized me (probably because there aren't THAT many heavy Ironman participants) and just looked really sad.... commiserating that I was in a pretty bad situation. 

Then, I walked the run course... not all of it, but most of it. That's not really Ironman behavior. Truth be told, maybe the Ironman behavior is just sticking it out, but let's let me keep beating myself up for a minute... it might make my friend feel better. :-)

Anyway, I just don't know that I'm in any sort of position to lord it over my friends head, but there's still part of me that wants to. Jim, the senior pastor at work, was preaching over the weekend and used a quote from Luther (which sadly I can't find). He talked about how "the old self is drowned in baptism, but the damn guy can swim!" 

Do you know how often I fear that's the case? 

I don't know where I'm going with this besides taking myself to task for taking my friend to task. Hopefully we can reconcile, one incident shouldn't destroy a friendship, but it's going to take some more introspection for me to get through this. I guess that's what the fast is for, isn't it? I think though that it will probably take longer than that, it will probably take my lifetime to sort all of this out. Maybe that's the lesson I need to learn. We'll see. 

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Day 22

I'm a little annoyed this morning. Forgetting to log out of my instant messenger client at work, I came in this morning to find an IM from one of the other guys doing the fast. Apparently he's decided to drop out, which leaves one of us out of the small group left (I think there are two others still going in other parts of the larger group).

I guess I'm annoyed mostly because 'he got hungry'... he didn't get sick, he didn't faint, he got hungry... in his slight defense he got 'ravenously' hungry, but I still feel like it's a cop out.

I've felt hungry. I've even written about wanting to stop the night I went to Applebee's last Wednesday, but I didn't. I made a commitment between myself and God that I would do this... and maybe I'm just stubborn, but I feel like I need to complete it. Truthfully, I've felt pretty good for most of this and it hasn't been a really HUGE effort, but I guess there's still part of me that has a lot of derision for this person that dropped out. That's probably not a healthy thing.

I know he's working hard, but I've been working pretty hard too. I have a project I need to tape on Tuesday mornings... that means getting up at 4:30am, I had a class I needed to tape last night, that meant being here until 8pm. I spent several hours on the Chili Cook-Off project the other night after I got off work. I spent 5 hours last night and this morning working on a DVD project for another client. I'm tired and I feel like it's been a long week, but I don't know that my friends work load is any harder than the stuff I've been carrying around all week.

I guess I probably shouldn't be comparing. I probably shouldn't say... "Well, I've gone 22 days so far and still feel pretty good... why in the hell can't he even go 16/17 days?"

There's a certain amount of competitiveness inside of me, and it's hard when I don't have someone who's along side me that I can relate to about what I'm going through, someone I can commiserate with, someone that I can push against and who can push me to keep going. I wish I had been around when he was hungry. This friend suggested to me last Wednesday night that I at least give it until the morning to decide if I was going to end the fast and that was enough to push me forward. If I had been around, maybe I could have said the same thing for my friend.

I hope my friend was able to learn something out of the experience that he'll be able to apply to his life... I hope that he doesn't go back to old behaviors. I hope that he's able to build an exercise regiment and get to the point where the weight he still has starts to come off. Part of me fears though that none of that is true. Oh well, I guess the onus is on him... which is where it's been all along.

You're still my friend and I still love you like a brother. If I'm a pain in the ass it's only because I see the potential that you have in you and I want you to achieve that potential.


226 this morning... I woke up tired but with the extra freelance hours this week that's pretty understandable. Hopefully I'll be able to catch up on some sleep tonight. I need to work on insulating the apartment tonight. The January freeze has made our cozy little aboad pretty inhospitable, particularly my office in the den. Maybe I'll pick up a little space heater on the way home tonight.

More later.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Day 21

So two days ago we had three weeks left, now today we have three weeks done. I've felt really good the last couple of days, surprisingly. I don't think that I ever expected it to be this way. That's not to say that I'd like to do this forever, but it's really not as bad as I thought it would be. I'm almost finished with Messy Spirituality. I'd say that I expect to be done tonight, but I have a bunch of freelance to do tonight. We'll see how it goes. 

Weight this morning: 227 in case anyone is interested. I'm really not. Ok I am, but I'm not completely obsessed with it. (Alison my coworker would probably disagree) Lately I've been on a bit of an air-boxing kick at work. I put on the Rocky fanfare the other day and threw air punches around for a minute, mostly to make Alison roll her eyes. That probably means that I need to spend more time on Angela's heavy bag when this fast ends. There's something really therapeutic about beating the snot out of a heavy punching bag. 

I've taken to using my moment of waiting for my head to clear when I sit up from bed (get up any faster and sometimes I fear I'd faint) to pray for the day. It's been a good thing. 

More later.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

what I've been working on this evening...

the past few weeks have been surprisingly freelance free (I imagine it's mostly because of the Christmas season). Two of my clients had projects this week so I've gone back to being a slave to the machine. That's a good thing though because I need to catch up on my taxes and after that we need to throw the money at getting out of debt. Man, adulthood is so exciting. heh. 
Anyway, in lieu of an in-depth post, I thought I'd post some of what I was working on tonight. It's an identity piece for an Austin chili cook-off. My original thought was to have the cowboy riding a kidney bean... but then I realized that that would be sacrilege in Texas. Digging around chili cook off websites I noticed that a lot of them used chili pepper iconography instead of a bowl of chili. New thoughts went through my head and I thought for the "Boots and Hats Chili Cook Off" I might throw a cowboy on top of a big chili pepper.
Round one had the initial combining of the pieces. It was determined that it was probably a good idea but that the chili pepper looked way too placid... it needed to be bucking like some kind of chili pepper rodeo... 


I went back and did some editing and threw in the fire... suddenly we had "El Rodeo de Chili Diablo"... kind of cool, but pretty busy. 



Round three introduced a spoon into our Chili Cowboy's hand. What's better for rustling chilis than a wooden spoon? This round also introduced the text. Since the warp tools in photoshop are better than the text warping tools in Illustrator, I layed my text out there and then went to LAYER --> TYPE --> CONVERT TO SHAPE and then copied the newly outlined text and pasted it into Illustrator. Suddenly, quite easily, I had text in Illustrator that I could mess around with. I spent some time trying to figure out how to separate the red shadow on the text from the main lettering (it was part of the same font) and made some letter spacing and sizing changes. 


Version 4 (officially version 3) 

Some of the people I showed it to thought that the cowboy looked to be a little too hunchbacked. I dug up some other cowboy illustrations and experimented with a slightly different pose. I think this one is actually a little bit stronger. The spoon has moved into this cowboys other hand and is partially hiding behind his head. I think it's kind of a cool, subtle effect. 


Finally, this is a guess as to how the final ad will be put together. It's just a draft at the moment and a lot of the other text that will eventually be there isn't... but for a few hours work, I think this is kind of cool. I think my favorite part is that it's pretty different from all my other work. 

I'd love to know your thoughts. I'm going to be making final changes in the morning. If you have any feedback, I'd welcome it. 

More later. 

Day 20

Yesterday it was making note of three weeks left. Today, let's consider the fact that I'm halfway there. Thank heaven. Although we'll see whether it's easier to count down than count up. February 4 is day 40. I turn 30 the 7th. I didn't get a chance to jog yesterday, couldn't find the access card. I had freelance to work on anyway. More freelance is coming in today, it's going to be a busy week.

More later.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Day 19

Three weeks left. That's kind of heartening. Three more Mondays. Three more Tuesdays. Put in that perspective, I think this is going to get easier. It hasn't been extraordinarily hard, but getting closer to the half way point, I think it will be much easier as I start counting down.

I know I've talked about the spiritual struggles with this, and I still struggle with that, but at this point I have to admit that for me, I guess it's become a bit of a challenge, like I'm relying on myself and testing myself to see if I can do it. That's probably not the healthiest thing.

I don't think I posted it, but there was a chunk in Messy Spirituality that really spoke to me.

A couple of years ago, my wife and I sat across the table from a woman we highly respect, a deeply spiritual lady who had profoundly impacted our lives. This woman spent most of her life resisting the noise and activity of the world to seek God in silence and solitude. She had spent hundreds of weeks in silent retreat. This was a woman so saturated with her faith, you could almost smell God when she came into the room.
We were talking about prayer. "It's embarrassing to be sitting with you," I blurted. "You spend days, weeks, even months in prayer. I'm lucky if I spend ten minutes. Compared to you, I'm not very spiritual, I'm afraid."
Her eyes, flashing with anger, caught mine, and she fired back, "Oh, Mike, knock it off. First of all, you don't spend every day with me. You don't know me at all. You are comparing what you know about yourself to what you don't know about me. Secondly, I battle depression daily, and it has won during several periods of my life. I never told you about it. I don't have a family; I like to be alone and silent. Trust me, I am just as 'unspiritual' as you are."
Then she said gently, "You think about God all the time, right?"

"Well, sort of," I said.

"Thinking about God is being with God. Being with God is spirituality. Thinking about God is praying. So shut up with this guilt stuff; you have been praying most of your life! You are a spiritual person!"

What? I've been praying most of my life? What was she talking about? It never occurred to me that Paul's "pray without ceasing" might actually be possible. It never occured to me that praying could include thinking, that praying could be done with my eyes open, that praying could be done standing, sitting, driving, dancing, skiing, lying down, jogging, working. How could anyone accuse me of praying all the time when I didn't pray all the time... unless my friend was right, unless I was praying without ceasing.

How could anyone accuse me of being spiritual unless spirituality comes in unlimited shapes and sizes, unless spirituality looks like whatever you and I look like when we're thinking about Jesus, when we are trying to find Jesus, when we are trying to figure out what real Christianity looks like in the real world?

Spirituality looks like whatever you and I look like when we're thinking about Jesus, when we are trying to find Jesus, when we are trying to figure out what real Christianity looks like in the real world.

That encourages me. It says to me that I'm not crazy. It wraps Christianity up into my life in a way that Karl Barth and John Shelby Spong never did in the Contemporary Theology course I had to take back at Augsburg a few years ago. (I'll honestly admit that while a good part of the reason I failed that course was because of everything going on in my life at the time, I had a hard time dealing with the subject matter in a way that it probably deserved. I had a lot of derision for the professor, and she of me. Apparently she wasn't fond of the Lutheran church I grew up in, and I wasn't too fond of the Lutheran church she went to where they had just installed a lesbian pastor. I REALLY don't want to go there, so don't dig into it, it's just a statement of what was going on at the time.


Anyway, I feel like even if I don't have all the answers, God is listening and understanding that I'm a mess and can work through me anyway. If that's the only thing I learn during this fast, I think that sense of 'being' is more than enough.

Weight this morning. 229. I thought my gastro-intestinal issues were gone yesterday but they came back this morning. We'll see how long they last. I'm guessing it went away because I didn't drink any of the V8 Fusion juice yesterday and I think the additional fiber in that was acting correctively. I'll drink some more of it tonight.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Day 18 pt 1: Numbers...

Today's weight? 230

Miles walked last night: 2.31

Calories Expended: 396.4

Average Heartrate: 163

Time: 35 minutes

Water consumed last night: half gallon


I can't think of many more numbers to throw out there. I feel pretty good this morning. A little tired, but that's mostly because we had friends over. We watched The Lookout and The Usual Suspects last night. Surprisingly Nate and Angela had never seen The Usual Suspects. We turned off To Live and Die in LA and switched right over to their first experience with Kaiser Soze. What a great movie The Usual Suspects is.

I'm going to go grab some juice and my multivitamin and head out the door. I hate early mornings. Oh well. There's talk of moving to a bi-weekly Monday-Friday, Sunday-Thursday shift. The cool thing about that would be that every other weekend I'd vary between one day off and three days off. I kind of like the idea of a three day weekend every two weeks. We'll see. We're still talking about it. It would be nice to ride down to the Sunday afternoon club ride without being sleep deprived though. That's one of the reasons I've kind of fallen off the cycling wagon... a really weird schedule on Sundays.

Anyway, more later.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My Goals For the Year...

Angela and her friend headed off to the hot tub so I'm going to steal a few minutes and write about what I'd like to accomplish fitness wise this year. 

Last year, my cycling was almost non-existent. I rode one century, not even making it the whole way (here's the elevation profile if you're curious)
This ride SERIOUSLY kicked my ass. Basically, heading out of Buena Vista at 8,000 ft, you climb 2,000 ft over the first 20-30 miles. You get a little rest, then you continue heading up into Leadville. It was one of the more painful experiences in my life. 
One: because my friend Russell ditched me, wanting to climb faster. 
Two: because even though I'd gotten SOME miles under me, I didn't have nearly enough climbing miles in my legs.
Three: I got a really bad rash on my posterior just outside of town and had to stop riding every few hundred meters because my ass was on fire. It sucked. It sucked even more when, upon arriving at the first rest stop, Russell asked me "what took so long". It's been a long time since I've wanted to punch someday. He almost got punched that day. 
After short-cutting the climb into Leadville, we had lunch and turned back around. If there was anything about the ride that made all of the pain worthwhile, it was the view of the collegiate peaks we had on the way back to Buena Vista



On the way down it should be obvious that the wind picked up and negated any downhill advantage I may have had. It should also be obvious that if there's any time for something mechanically to happen to my bike it should be when I'm going downhill. In this case, I lost the cabling to my rear derailleur... I had a hard nasty gear or a way too easy gear. Did I mention that it sucked? 

Also (mostly because I have panoramas left I haven't posted), I should mention that Ang neglected to bring any cold-weather camping gear with her, meaning that I had to give her mine. So, starting the day century morning, I was absolutely freezing. I should also mention that I hardly slept all night because the area we were camping in had a raging snow-melt fueled creek less than a 100 yards away. All night long we were treated to a cacophony of bubbling, gurgling, creek sounds. It was probably as bad a situation as it could have been. 

All of that goes to say, I really want to go back there this year and kick the century rides ass. I REALLY want to ride that thing and make it my slave. Sense some century ride animosity? I thought you might. 


I also want to ramp up my running. Assuming we don't move this year, I'd like to do the list of Colorado Springs Grand Prix races

Long Series - Series runners must run 1 5K, 3 10Ks, and the 5Mile.
5K on St Patrick's Day (March 15)
Garden of the Gods 5Miler (May 3)
Sailin' Shoes 10K (June 21)<>

and maybe a half marathon or two. I haven't looked them up, but I'd like to at least do one this summer. Assuming I'm in town (events seem to conspire against me every year) I want to do the Red Rock Canyon century again this year. Russell and I did it a couple of years ago and it was a great century ride. I'm looking forward to getting back to it.