Friday, July 29, 2005

This is just to say...

I put up a new profile picture. But on closer inspection, I think it makes me look evil. It didn’t look so dark on my computer at home. So I might have to change it again. In which case, there goes an hour of my life I can never get back.

I was supposed to go to a Jewish Seder last night. Well, that’s what I thought. Turns out I was completely wrong. Good thing I left a message on the answering machine of the host letting her know that I’d be late. She called back and explained that it would actually take place on Sunday. Why did I think Thursday? In fact I was CONVINCED it was Thursday. So much so that I had planned my week around it. Altered my life plans. Structured the very fabric of my being around the fact I would be eating unleavened bread on Thursday night.

But Sunday makes much more sense. It’s a religious dinner. Of course it would be Sunday. So, my plans cancelled, I did what anyone would do: I took pictures of myself. And now I realize the picture I’m using for this blog is freaky. Thanks a lot, last-night-Jeremy. If I had a time machine, I’d totally go back and bitch-slap myself.

EDIT: I lightened up the photo quite a bit and it looks less creepy-internet-pervert-out-to-molest-your-daughters. This is good.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Marriage-a-Thon (and on and on)

It’s that time or year again. Seems like everyone I know (and their poodles) are getting married. That’s what happens when you live in Mormondom, where the wedding punch flows like cheap liquor at a frat party. A never-ending flow. And I’m stuck in the middle of it, attending reception after reception, carting around gift registries, filling out cards with good advice, dressing up, dancing to the caustic thump of bad DJs.

I’m used to it now, and it’s really not all bad. There have been some enjoyable weddings. Yesterday was an all-day affair. I took the day off work, got up early, and headed to the Logan temple. My good friends Stephanie and Robert were tying the knot and I was to take photographs outside after the sealing ceremony. If you ever have a chance to go to a Mormon temple open-house (the free tour before they’re closed to the public), I would highly recommend it. The sealing rooms are breath-taking: the luminous chandeliers, the alter, the mirrors that reflect everything a thousand times.

Robert is from the Czech-republic and had to translate for his mother throughout the ceremony. She just sat there and beamed. I had stopped by their house the day before to show Stephanie the wedding slideshow I was making for them. Robert’s mom, who was seeing all the photographs for the first time, kept gasping with delight. Made all those hours worth it. Later, when I was going through the line at the reception, she held on to my hand tightly and kept thanking me in Czech. You can’t not like the woman.

Of course there are bad parts. Taking photographs in the hot sun when it’s over 100 degrees outside is akin to chewing on jagged bits of scrap metal. Then, racing back to my house to insert the photos and videos into the slideshow in time to make the luncheon... well let’s just say that was also “fun.” As the DVD is burning, I’m trying to throw on fresh clothes but foolishly answer the door and have to spend time shooing away a man trying to sell me coupon books. Then I’m on the phone trying to convince a caller that no, I’m not selling my house, despite my number being printed in the newspaper. I’m not looking forward to the calls I’ll be getting with that screw-up.

Finally, at the reception I can relax, my only concerns are to restart the DVD when it runs its course, and take a few candid photographs of the goings-on. The reception hall is classy, tastefully decorated and completely void of lame DJs. There is a large chocolate fountain with platters of fresh fruit. I enjoy myself.

Of course, the wedding season is far from over. Just the night before I was at my cousin’s reception and in a month I will fly to California to see my younger sister married.

Myself, I’ll probably spend a good many years waiting to catch that garter. I’m nowhere near marriage-ready. That requires dating someone for more than three months. Hah! One obstacle at a time.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Can I tell you how much I love Podcasts? They make my everyday existence so much nicer. I spend 8 hours a day in a cubicle, mouse clicking away, headphones blaring some kind of audio distraction. Sometimes it’s books-on-tape, sometimes NPR, sometimes SomaFM, and sometimes MP3s. I’m always looking for some kind of new audio distraction to make the day less monotonous. Sure the design process itself is intriguing, but when you work on books, some pages are a lot less thrilling than others.

Enter podcasts. Apple recently released iTunes 4.9 which has podcasting built in. Now it’s really easy to subscribe and listen to all kinds of interesting shows. For a phenomenon that started just last year, it’s amazing the diversity of what’s out there. I’ve decided to list a few of my favorite shows for y’all. Even if you’re stuck with an IBM PC, you can still use iTunes (or a straight RSS feed) and enjoy this stuff.

Cinecast - Movie reviews and such. Updated weekly.

Tips from the Top Floor - Helpful advice on digital photography. It’s not all techie, so it’s easy to understand. Produced three times a week by some German guy.

Earthcore - a Podcast-only novel, read by the author. It took me a while to get past the author’s annoying character voices. His women just sound creepy. Plus, he tries a bit too hard to sound badass. But the story seems interesting enough, Crichton-esqe with a sci-fi theme. New chapters come out weekly.

EDIT: I just finished this one. DON'T BOTHER with it unless you like pointless horror novels. Bad writing, bad plot. Don't waste your time.

Engadget - Weekly news and discussion about technology and new products. I find it entertaining. It speaks to the nerd in me.

MacCast - Like engadget but focuses solely on Mac-related stuff.

Science@Nasa - all kinds of space-related news and stories. Interesting stuff. The male host’s voice can be a bit distracting, however.

Accident Hash - great mix of “pod-safe” music (not owned by a record label). Some real gems in there. Updated frequently.

And for a good directory of podcasts: Podcast Alley

Monday, July 18, 2005

Hotter Than Yo Mama

The high in northern Utah is going to be a mere 90 today. You have no idea how happy this makes me. I am crying tears of joy as we speak. Crying like a diseased orphan who has tasted chocolate for the first time. You see, it's been over 100 degrees for about a week now and my evaporative cooler is broken. That means the temperature inside my house is only slightly cooler than the surface of the sun. Why does it have to be so hot? I blame global warming, because I like to make outrageously misinformed statements when naturally occuring weather cycles anger me.

I've been camping out in my basement, where it's much colder than the rest of the house. I have multiple fans going and have established laws banning the wearing of clothing.

Come Wednesday, a repair man will be stopping by to fix my defunct cooling system. By then, I expect I will have lived so long in my cave I will have forgotten how to interact with the outside world. I will wonder where this strange, uniformed man-ape came from and whether or not he is edible. When he makes the cool air come back on, I will surely think he is a powerful god sent to bring back the great snows. Perhaps I will have established a successful maintenance-man centered religion, complete with clergy and virgin sacrifices, before I finally regain my senses.

Yes, it is THAT hot.

Luckily, over the weekend I escaped some of this heat by fleeing to the mountains. Brighton, a popular Utah ski resort, is pretty magnificent this time of year. I was waylaid at one point on my trip when a large, shaggy horse stopped in the middle of the road. Then I noticed there were people all around this ugly horse taking pictures. Then I realized this horse was a moose. And not an intelligent moose. She was standing in the middle of the road eating gravel! Who does that?

I saw several other moose on that trip, meandering about like they own the forests or something. I think the plural of "moose" should be "meese." It works for geese, don't it? I am so sick of these mother-effing grammatical exceptions.

Back at the resort, we (friends and I) had an entire manor to ourselves, thanks to these friends' string quartet performing for the manor owners. But it all ended too soon. It was a sad, sad time when I drove back down to the sweltering city. I contemplated doing a 360 on the freeway and starting a few head-on collisions. You know, kill everyone for their own good.

Yes, it is THAT hot.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Two Down

I'm all giddy-like. My second book came in today, hot off the press. It's just so tremendously satisfying to flip through 10 months of hard work. I'll look at certain pages and remember exactly what I was thinking or doing when I designed it. That spread on Ben Franklin -- I was listening to NPR. That sidebar on labor unions -- I was eating a fat, delicious taco. Which makes me wonder why I have a hard time remembering other things.

Because you're all visual learners, I grabbed the camera here at the office, made sure no one was looking, and snapped a photo of me and the book. I would look happier but at the time I was wondering when the stupid self-timer would go off. Oh, and the plant from my cubicle somehow got in the way. You get the point.

Two books on Pennsylvania out of the way. I'm so glad I've moved on to other states. I was so sick of it. If Pennsylvania and I were dating, we would totally have had a long, painful break-up. Now the wretched state is no longer my problem. All I have to say is that those middle-school kids better learn from this book, or so help me, I'll hunt them down and beat them with it. Beat them senseless.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Porch Fruit

I found a severed head on my porch this morning. I had opened the door, expecting only to retrieve my weekly delivery of delicious hormone-free milk when I first spotted the head. It wasn’t your ordinary, run-of-the-mill decapitated head. The insides were stuffed with jellybeans, tootsie-rolls, and lollipops. Also, the head was a piñata.

I had to think back. Who would murder a piñata and deposit its remains on my porch? About fifty people sprang to mind. After narrowing the list down to people I actually know, I figured it out. I remembered getting a call last weekend while I was driving to Wyoming inviting me to some Mexican-themed party. I had to decline the invite because I was on my way to spend a few days attacking the Snake River with raft and paddle. The party-goers must have messed around with some piñatas and then, drunk on the fiesta spirit, decided to cast their leftovers on my porch.

The piñata looked like it was hand-made at the party -- yellow with two black spots for eyes and one large, black gaping mouth. Pretty shoddy craftsmanship. It is times like these when I wish I led a secret double-life as a homicidal maniac. Then I could procure a REAL severed head and leave it on THEIR porch. Maybe I could even stuff it with candy.

But the head is not important. In fact, what I really wanted to write about was the river trip. Three days of rafting, camping, and general outdoorsy activity. Very satisfying. The Yellowstone corner of Wyoming is breathtaking. Nothing better than floating down a river with densely packed pine trees on rolling mountains, visited frequently by deer and bald eagles. Plus, the Snake has good rapids.

On the second day, the layers of sunblock, sweat, dirt, and bug spray got to be too much. For the first time in my life I grabbed some soap and bathed in the river. It wouldn’t have been so bad if a raft hadn’t passed by with leering onlookers just as I was shampooing my hair. I felt like a dirty hippie.

But who cares, camping is great. Two weeks ago I camped with some friends at Bear Lake, which straddles Utah and Idaho. We enjoyed a 1 a.m. swim in the freezing lake water. Nothing so refreshing as not being able to feel your limbs. We were looking for the Bear Lake Monster, which is rumored to frequent the waters. I swear I saw a glimpse of it, although the blurred splotch I saw was more than likely just an artifact of hypothermia.

I love the summer. I love the sun. I love sleeping under the stars. Much better than the 8 hours a day I spend in this freezing office. It’s 97 degrees outside and I have to wear a jacket. They have the air conditioning pumped way up so the warehouse workers downstairs don’t get too hot. It isn’t natural. I come in and freeze and go out and sweat. One of these days I’m just going to lose it and heads are going to roll.

Keep your eyes on your porches.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Purple and Red and Yellow

Anyone remember Orbital's, "Little Fluffy Clouds"? I think it got some radio play in the early 90s. There's this line: "The sunsets were purple and red and yellow and on fire and the clouds would catch the color..." It keeps repeating over and over again in true classic techno style. Anyhow, it kept running through my head over the weekend after I hiked Ensign Peak (above Salt Lake City) to see the sunset and watch fireworks. Amazing sunset. INCREDIBLE sunset. And we could see firework shows from about 6 cities at once. Hurray. Now enjoy the photos.