Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Day Two

...and there was evening, and there was morning; it was Day Two. And the Designer came in to find that the top banner had finally finished printing. And the Designer said, "Good grief, I sent this to the printer yesterday morning at ten. I hope they don't all take this long." And the Designer made a mental note to not do an on-printer rotation with an 800MB file.

The Designer looked at the printout, and saw that it was good. He rejoiced, which, for him, meant that the corners of his mouth went up a millimeter or two and stayed there.

The designer looked at the vastness of the printout, and said, "Surely there is some easier way to trim off the white edge of this without having to use scissors or X-acto knives and rulers." And the Designer experimented discreetly with an electric letter-opener, but wasn't impressed with its accuracy.

When he was done trimming, the Designer rolled up the expanse like a scroll, and taped it with Texacro® brand hook-and-loop fastener—but just the hook side. When the Designer realized that he could not stretch forth his hands to a measure of twelve feet, he called upon Marti the Great, and together, the scroll was opened upon the vast expanse.

And many stopped what they were doing to look, and say that it was Cool. And that made the Designer smile just a little bit more.

Monday, October 30, 2006

In the Beginning...

In the beginning, the Skyline Display was formless and void. (My co-workers tell me this is tohu and bohu in the original Hebrew. That's the kind of people I work with.)

And the Designer said, "What do you mean, there's a two-gigabyte file size limit in Photoshop?!" and lowered his expectations to 180 dpi, which got the file size down to a more manageable 1.5 GB.

The Higher Authorities approved the design, and the work began.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Fall Fun

On Thursady evening, we rounded up everyone we could find (including a few MKs from the local Mu Kappa chapter; you get a discount with groups of 10 or more) and took a fun sidetrip to Fashion Farms' Pumpkin Fantasyland. No, I'm not making up the name. There are some things just too strange to make up.

The story of this place is that the founder, one day, picked up two butternut squash, held them together, and said, "Hey, that looks like Snoopy..." Our tour guide demonstrated:

The theme that year was Cute Commercial Characters. So there were things like the Pillsbury Doughboy...

...or the AFLAC Duck:

As well as a few things that are there every year, like portraits of all the U.S. presidents on pumpkins:

A lot of which were very well done. I asked our guide posed beside her own portrait:

There were other activities, as well, such as several mazes. Aiden trundled along with us in the wagon for most of these, and had a great time. This was in the large corn maze.

The best maze, in my opinion, was the crawling maze—it was in a barn, made of hay bales, and it was pitch black inside. You had to work at it, not just guess. Paul and May followed the left edge, and Deborah and I followed the right, which ensured that we hit every dead end possible, but also got out OK.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Friday, October 27, 2006

Take your readers to work day!

From Donuts to Independence

When I arrived at work this morning, I found an email in my inbox from Travis, our programmer:

    The Private Office of Travis Spangle has extended its gracious arm to the break room, if you can handle the sugar ( John ) your welcome to them.

I helped myself to a pumpkin fritter, and replied:

    The public offices of Kerr, Kerr and Kerr extend their thanks for the most generous and altruistic gift of donuts (formerly doughnuts) and declare their intention to file suit of John can't handle the sugar. This display of gratitude does not constitute a binding legal contract.

A few hours later, the following notice was posted on Travis's door (well, it's not his door, but, for now—since the other two people he shares an office with are either sick or in California—it is, by default, his door):

    Declaration of Independence

    The Private Office of Travis Spangle has become stable enough to declare it’s Independence from the Spelling-Oppressive Nature of the Marketing and Graphic Art Departments.

    With the emphasis on other languages ( although computer, i.e.HTML, FoxPro ) there are less resources available for your precious languages, such as English. It will still be known as the Official Office Language ( OOL ), however the only language that is required for spelling and grammar will be Wing Dings. Any other fonts/languages will be spell & grammar – checker free.

    While acquiring my own postal code has become a bit of a hassle (papers, papers, papers ), along with other proofs of Independence. I will expect you to respect my wishes, any trouble with the locals will be dealt with as they come.

    As a courtesy to those who might be confused we find it appropriate to keep an updated list of words that no longer have an official spelling.

    Your– applies to all forms of the word, also the form: “ You’re ” may be used interchangably without excuse or reason.

    Doughnut – Donut, Doenote, diddynut, dizznut

Poor Travis. We oppress him so.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

All roads lead to Rome; All shirts are from Ecuador

Deborah's mother, like all mothers, is concerned that her children are
properly clothed. At least, that's what I make of it. Every time we've
met, each of us come away from the reunion with a shirt of some kind, and
most of these shirts involve Ecuador in some way.

Now, Fiona is learning to read. She recognizes most of the letters
readily, but whole words are still beyond her. So she goes around asking,
"What's that word say?" and we tell her.

Between our disinclination to buy shirts for ourselves, and the number of
shirts my mother-in-law has given us, Fiona now thinks that any shirt that
has writing on it says "Ecuador."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Well, would you go?

This morning in Church, we had Frank Drown come in to speak at the start of our week-long missions conference. If the name isn't familiar, he was a team member with Nate Saint and the other missionaries who were killed by the Auca indians some 50 years ago... and led the expedition to go and find what had happened to them when radio contact was lost.

To say the story was gripping was an understatement. I recall my sisters having a comic book version of Through Gates of Splendor when I was a kid, and was barely able to read (and certainly not up to understanding everything that was going on in the story). I'd never heard the complete account, and certainly not from someone who had been so directly involved.

But it was the decision-making that really hit home.

There are naked, savages who kill regularly, and outside contact is fearsome and deadly. You have a wife and small children.

Would you go?

Your friends are among this group, and are presumed dead; people want to know what has happened to them. You have a family, too.

Would you go?

Your husband was killed by these people. They have only begun to hear the gospel.

Would you go?

I'm no hero. Never have been. But increasingly, I've been thinking,
Yes. Yes, I would go.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

True in 1940, true today

I came across this this morning on another blog I read; a passage from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's in Ethics.

"Already yesterday's concerns are consigned to forgetfulness, and tomorrow's are too far away to obligate us today. The burden of yesterday is shaken off by glorifying shadowy time of old; the task of tomorrow is avoided by talking about the coming millennium. Nothing is fixed, and nothing holds us. The film, vanishing from memory as soon as it ends, symbolizes the profound amnesia of our time. Events of world-historical significance, along with the most terrible crimes, leave no trace behind in the forgetful soul. One gambles with the future. Lotteries and gambling, which consume an inconceivable amount of money and often the daily bread of the worker, seek the improbable chance of luck in the future. The loss of past and future leaves life vacillating between the most brutish enjoyment of the moment and adventurous risk taking. Every inner development, every process of slow maturing in personal and vocational life, is abruptly broken off. There is no personal destiny and therefore no personal dignity. Serious tensions, inwardly necessary times of waiting, are not endured. This in evident in the domain of work as well as in erotic life. Lasting pain is more feared than death. The value of suffering as the forming of life through the threat of death is disregarded, even ridiculed. The alternatives are health or death. What is quiet, lasting and essential is discarded as worthless."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Pam, my supervisor, went on vacation. Unfortunately, she went to Buffalo. If you haven't heard what's going on in Buffalo, they got 22 inches of snow in a very short time, which brought down a lot of trees and tree limbs, and, consequently, power lines. The "October Surprise" is now a state of emergency. When I spoke to her on the phone, she said she was having a good time, but that it took a bit of work. They have a gas range for warmth, running water, and they might have power by the weekend.

Jim, my boss, while driving through the area (yes, my boss is on vacation, too!) observed:

    "Merna and I left Erie PA early this a.m. and drove past Buffalo; there is still evidence of the 22 inches they got--but a lot has melted. But the trees look just devastated, worse by far than the worst ice storm I've ever seen. <every> tree has a pile of branches lying under it, if it isn't itself totally down. It's rather depressing to see. And we saw streams of utility trucks still coming from elsewhere in the state to help restore power."

What's a a vacation without a little adventure, eh?

Monday, October 16, 2006

The things you hear (a.k.a. The Toothpaste Incident)

You hear the most interesting things with kids around the house. You utter phrases you thought you would never say. ("No rhinos in the sugar!" is one of our favorites.)

Sometimes, you'll hear creative grammar, like "Aiden passed two gasses!"  You or I might have said, "passed gas twice" or, more likely,  wouldn't have mentioned gas-passing at all.

And then there's the phrases that seem unremarkable on their own, but fill you with dread the instant you hear them. Last night, the prime example of this was, "The toothpaste is all gone."


There were three almost-full tubes by the sink earlier that day...

We came into the bathroom to find Fiona sitting on the potty (what we thought she was doing) with one shoe off, filling it with toothpaste (which we never thought of her doing) and remarking that we seemed to be running low on toothpaste. She seemed to have missed the third tube, which I count as a small blessing.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The long march to AAR/SBL

Every year, one of the highlights—and underscores, I suppose—of my job is to prepare an amazing number of display items for our booth at the American Academy of Religion/Society for Biblical Literature conferences. There are usually 4-5 book covers to design, a fresh backdrop for the entire booth, about a dozen posters, and often a catalog, as well, all on a very tight schedule. I'm no stress puppy, but I actually do enjoy this time of the year—it's a very creative place to be.

Things get a little more interesting this year. Tomorrow, my main supervisor (I have three supervisiors) leaves to go to New York for 10 days. I get to fill in for her. James, the marketing manager, actually asked me not to commit suicide over the weekend! Right in the middle of a meeting! I was speechless, but I got over that and assured him that I had no such plans.

Or maybe he was worried about the fact that I rode my motorcycle to work in the snow...? Nah... he knows that's normal behavior for me!

Ah, that will help!

Part of the joy in the work I do is coming across some of the most amazing things that are about to go into print. They appear in journals, books, articles... and they make you go "Hmmm." Today's thought-provoking selection:
In Tabriz, the Shaikhis were deemed heretics and ritually unclean, and they were accordingly denied access to the city’s bathhouses.

And I couldn't help but think: "Ah, that will help!"

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Got 'er!

OK, so it's actually Fiona pretending to be a turtle, and Aiden practicing standing up by pulling up on things, but the combination of the two was too good not to get a picture!


I haven't seen Brian out working on the tree for the past week or so, even on the days it wasn't raining, and today I understood why. There was an Autumn Festival of sorts down at the Village, and he was there, finishing it off for an audience. Given that he's got some sort of varnish or other coating on it, I think this is the final product.

Cool, eh?

A voice from the back seat

Tonight, as I was waiting in the car for Deborah to go and find something she had lost at the store, May said, "You know, you don't smile much anymore."

I think she's right.

Friday, October 06, 2006

So cold, I forgot to think

It's getting chilly.

The air is crisp and clear. The leaves are turning. The cat has taken up pole-vaulting so that he can join us for the night on the loft. Mike is reconsidering his aversion to chaps. I come home for lunch to find a tightly-wrapped wad of blankets on the couch that, when poked, speaks with May's voice. It might actually be time to brave the furnace room and fire up the old Chrysler. (Remember when Chrysler made furnaces as well as cars? No? Me either, but there you are.)

I also figured it was time to bring in the plants off of the porch, so I grabbed them on the way to work and stuck them on the piano bench. A few hours later, I got a call from Deborah. She sounded grumpy.

"Did you mean to leave these plants out for Fiona?


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Thursday is Game Day

One of the things that Deborah does with her tutoring students is to have "game day" every Thursday. The student in question gets to invite a friend, and play games which exercise their English skills. It's been a surprisingly effective and very popular technique. A lot of the games are created specifically for the task at hand—here Deborah is creating a soccer field, while I decorate a plastic cap to look like a soccer ball. (I get called in to draw the tricky bits.) You start in the center, and take turns; if you answer a question right, you move towards your goal.

One of the interesting side effects is that this makes the tutored student rather popular—when classmates hear that he gets to invite another person to go play games each week, they all want to be chosen! Having friends to is a great way to learn a language!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A Tour of the Cockpit

One of the things I remember as a kid was occasionally getting to tour the cockpit of whatever aircraft we were travelling on at that time. (Can't do that these days. Sigh.) So we'll have to investigate the cockpits of other vehicles. So we can't tour a 747—how about an SV650?

Here's my daily flyer:

Sunday, October 01, 2006

October 1, 1987

19 years ago...

Wow, it feels weird to write that. It has a different feel than "20 years ago," which makes it sound like ancient history, but 19 makes it sound fresh and recent.

19 years ago, I was sitting on the edge of my bed, getting dressed. I think it was a schoolday, although that didn't really matter, because my school was closed. When you go to Reynolds Christian Academy, and someone named Reynolds dies, it sort of shuts down the whole place.

The floor started to shake.

At first I thought it was the washing machine going into the spin cycle. Then the whole room started to warp like a shoebox. The sound was unreal. And the only thing I could think was: It's happening.

Everything from those little booklets jumped immediately to mind. My mind jumped to where the wrench was hanging in the kitchen, pre-adjusted to shut off the gas main. I knew where the safest place in the house was. The doorway, I had to get into the doorway. I threw my bathrobe around me and wobled dangerously towards the door, flinging it open to find my parents trying to open the back door. Page one of the booklet sprang to mind, and I took charge. I opened my mouth and screamed:

"Don't panic!"

Even as things were still shaking, my parents both turned and gave me this look. I was certainly the greater oddity in this situation, far more so than the earthquake trying to knock us off our feet.

We spent a lot of that day in the backyard.

One lingering memory stays with me of that day: for almost a year afterwards, I woke up at 7:47 every morning. Exactly. To the minute. It amazes me to this day that the mind can be that accurate a timekeeper.