Archive for category: Professional Auteurism

Traveling Abroad: A Pre- Pre-Flight Checklist

06 Jul 2008
July 6, 2008
Boat House in Puerto Rico

Boat house with concrete lighthouse for sale. A photo from my last trip to a Spanish-speaking land: Puerto Rico.

Ok, true confession: I am a neurotic traveler. Well, to be more specific: I am a neurotic pre-traveler. With one week to go before heading off to Aranjuez, Spain to give my first international talk (El uso de los blogs dentro de los museos de corte tradicional/New World Blogging in a Traditional Museum Setting), I’d sleep much better if I was entirely packed and ready to go. I’m always afraid I’ll forget something. A MacGyver I’m not.

Spanish translated PowerPoint: check (on thumb drive, on CD, on .mac drive and ftp site –yeah, that should cover it); clothes decisions made (hot weather, casual conference they tell me): check. Laptop: check and already nestled in my new international trip backpack. While not entirely a “light” traveler, I like to travel as light as I can: unencumbered both physically and mentally. Until now I’ve managed never to have taken my laptop on any trip, business or pleasure. But then again, I haven’t traveled out of the country for nine years. Yes, I’ll admit to that too.

When I started to consider international calling plans to keep in touch with the family, I suddenly discovered Skype. For someone who’s supposed to be on the technological cusp this was a long overdue revelation. Free PC-to-PC telephony –a new tech development since my last international trip. That, alone, made taking my computer irresistible. Tested on our laptops, my two girls now think they have an in-house walkie-talkie. It’s not that I haven’t traveled to far-flung places: the interior of China twice, way way off the beaten tourist paths. I’ve just been focused on domestic issues for a while. Yeah, that’s a good way of spinning my isolationism.

Oh yeah, don’t forget your opening remarks in Spanish (although I need to practice). I had fantasies of giving my whole talk in Español but I only got through the first 20 lessons of Coffee Break Spanish. Should it come up I can say with confidence: Tengo dos hijas. I have two daughters. I guess I haven’t come to the lesson “So you’re giving a talk on museum blogging in Spain” yet.

What’s really funny about these language lessons is that I learn more useful phrases when they talk to you in Spanish about the lesson itself. I experimented with Pimsleur a bit and came away remembering that most useful phrase Escuchar y repetir: listen and repeat. Well, they repeated so often I couldn’t help but remember it. And in Coffee Break Spanish I will be able to weave into my presentation: Vamos a empezar: Let’s begin.

So, there’s a pile of travel stuff starting to grow in the corner of our bedroom. And I keep some paper and a pencil next to my bed so I can write down additional items I need to take when I suddenly remember them in the middle of the night.

Forget the excitement of arriving in Madrid. I can’t wait for the excitement at my airport arrival for takeoff. By then I’ll have remembered everything or not. And I can just relax and enjoy the trip. Geez, Jeff, it’s only a week.

Upgrading the DC Metro’s Identity

13 Jan 2008
January 13, 2008
Metro logo treatment

When DC’s Metro unveiled a new concept car last week this logo identity mysteriously appeared. Local officials first billed DC’s proposed transit system as “America’s” subway when it went to Congress for financial backing.

Last week the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) unveiled designs for new subway cars that could make their appearance as early as 2013. Here in DC we’ve been debating seating designs for years. Should we continue with the traditional 2×2 seats? Or should we use more bench seating like New York City’s system, which would allow for greater passenger capacity? The debate continues. Of greater interest these days is the new higher fares when the on-time service has dramatically deteriorated.

However important these issues are, they paled by comparison when I spied a new Metro logo on the side of the new car rendering in the Washington Post. A leaner and more efficient system is one thing; an ugly logo representing it is quite another. No mention of the new identity appeared in news reports nor on the WMATA site. But even if this display was meant only for sketchy purposes, I’d like to nip this graphic in the bud. Even as a concept it’s ugly. I wince every time I look at it.

Using Metro’s present brown-boxed logo as the “M” within the word “America’s” completely undoes the unity of the text. Your eye just stops at the dark rectangle. I don’t know what font they used for the rest of the word but it’s clear its designer never meant it to be used in all caps. In addition, the font is serif while the logo’s “M” is san-serif. Mixing the two styles should be left to a professional (if at all). This logo treatment looks like a bureaucrat did it. A type treatment for DC’s subway should convey a sense of strength, reliability, and speed. It should also reflect the elegance the system’s architecture conveys. This font is too casual and lackadaisical. And it only reinforces the perception that our subway is falling apart with no clear vision of its future.

I have always been mystified with the system’s identity. The ugly brown color used on all station identity is hard to see on the pylons at street level. It’s present logo, a big and bold san-serif “M” looks uninspiring and, I might add, like the system is standing still. I understand the desire for the “M” to stand out and be seen on the street, but surely there is a font that would convey a sense of style as well. There is no sense of movement implied by this treatment. With its mechanical breakdowns, most of us Metro riders would say this indeed represents the Metro today.

a logo comparison

A quick comparison brings up some initial ideas. Left: Metro’s present logo (this block “M” appeared as the logo on the Adopted Regional Map in March 1968, eight years before the system opened to the public). Middle: A simple change would give the sense of movement, something DC subway’s identity desperately needs. Right: A more radical shift to a more elegant font would imbue the identity with a sense of style as well.

If nothing else, change the present “M” logo to an italic to evoke motion. But consider using a more elegant type treatment to reflect the Metro’s modernist take on the city’s Federal architecture. Bottom line: in upgrading the system’s infrastructure, don’t forget to rethink its identity. Yes, big and bold is visible, but a bit of style would make this designer a bit more proud to ride these rails and feel a lot less like I’m riding in a cattle car.

Shipping by Dolce & Gabbana

11 Oct 2007
October 11, 2007
$500,000 for shipping!

The price is right but shipping’s a bear. View larger image.

I love my iPhone. But I was disappointed when my Sennheiser headphone plug wouldn’t fit into the iPhone’s recessed receptacle. Nothing but the earphones that came with the phone would. (And those didn’t even fit in my ears!)

So I waited patiently as Griffin rollout their headphone adapter. It looked to be the perfect attachment for me: small and unobtrusive. And the price seemed right: $9.99. But I think the shipping is just a tad too much, unless I add $40 to my order –then shipping’s on them.

iPhone Lust-O-Meter Bursts!

07 Jul 2007
July 7, 2007
The iPhone Lust-O-Meter bursts

Life Outtacontext’s iPhone Lust-O-Meter Bursts

It was too much to bear. The pressure, as you know, has been building for a week. The outcome seemed inevitable. Yesterday, my neighbor, Mike, offered to “show me his.” And, as we sat in his living room, festooned with techno-goodness, he let me take his iPhone for a spin (the irony of demo’ing that little thing as we sat in front of his large-screen LCD hi-def TV did not escape me).

Jeff demo's his Lust-O-Meter to the Mac Genius

Jeff demo’s his Lust-O-Meter to the Mac Genius. Photo by Mike Lee.

When he offered to drive with me to our local Apple store, that was it. It didn’t take much, just a nudge with his little pinky. Using his iPhone to call the store to check availability we were off. On the way, I thought I’d better call my wife, just to let her know where I was. You know, in case of an emergency.

This morning, with my new life waiting for me right next to me on my night table, I turned over, said “good morning,” and checked my email from bed. Ahh, to be in love.

Related Posts: Initial Lust-O-Meter reading and the numbers from two days ago.

A Modern Father Knows the Code

17 Jun 2007
June 17, 2007

The kids are not afraid to ask questions, but the adults feel an absolute need to provide answers… Rather than say, “I don’t know; let’s find out,” parents feel like they have to make something up to seem smart. We really need to embrace not knowing it all.

Kathleen McLean, former Director, Exploratorium

Father Knows Best?, Washington Post

HTML code

I’m not afraid to say “I don’t know” when my daughters ask the tough questions. Despite the typical timing of these important queries (like when my eldest asked “What’s a virgin?” as I was merging onto a busy L.A. freeway), I go for the truth. After all, isn’t “telling it like it is” one of the legacies we baby boomers have embraced?

My 10½ year old has just completed the fifth grade, and with it that special unit on human sexuality. But those aren’t where the hard questions come from in our family. If only. Last month she came home and proudly showed me a Web page she and her friends had made on their own. Not only had she coded the page but she had embedded a Flash game into it as well. The floodgates had opened.

Surveying her work, I noticed some major problems in her code. In addition, she had hotlinked to someone else’s Flash game. Hotlinking is a big no-no in the ethics of the Web and it was clear she had reached a critical stage in her development (you might remember I’ve had a couple interactions with people who have hotlinked to my images). It was time to step in to make sure she got a proper upbringing.

Kids today are learning PowerPoint in the fourth grade and are expected to use the Web to research their school projects by the fifth. Yes, folks-without-children, it’s quite a different world. My eldest had been asking for her own Web site for a year. But I’ve hesitated, waiting for her to grow into the responsibilities that come with being a good netizen. She had just been rewarded for her maturity with her own email address (to correspond with approved friends only). But was I ready to move her into a higher geek realm? As usual my control over the situation was totally dictated by her meteoric quest for knowledge.

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My Own Wheel of Fortune

07 Apr 2007
April 7, 2007

You know your job is secure when you make it on Wheel of Fortune. Click the image above to start. (Quicktime, 5.5 MB)

Last night: the end of a very busy week. I’m preparing for my first back-to-back business trip (DC-SF-NY-DC) to give a talk and attend some meetings. So I’ve been in pre-flight high gear the entire week, making sure all my projects are where they need to be before my long hiatus. You know how it is, you want everything in order before taking off.

I’m tired as I sit down for a bit of decompression before dinner. Of course, the best antidote: the mindless Wheel of Fortune. Pat Sajak and Vanna White can make you forget just about anything.

All is going well until the third toss-up. Category: occupation. View the video, then we’ll talk…

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