Friday, February 29, 2008

Foot in Mouth Disease

My co-worker still isn't talking to me, the one that designed the catalog cover. I'm not sure how he found my post. I'm not certain I wrote it well. I meant to talk more about how what we know gets in the way of communicating. I think I ended up making fun of the cover, instead.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Incredible, Edible Letter G: Three Thoughts on Learning to Read

While we were on the way home from our small group last night, several people started singing the alphabet song. They did so in various keys, rhythms, and meters, and largely without regard for harmony or unison with anyone else. So it took a few minutes to catch on to what they were singing:

a, b, c, d, e, f, EGG!, h, i, j, k, elemeno, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z!

Eggs appeared consistently after F, but in subsequent performances, squares, houses, and big rigs started appearing throughout the alphabet. By the time we got home, the alphabet was so surreal that the kids could barely sing it for laughing.


I was making my lunch this morning, and discussing the magnetic letters on the fridge with Fiona. She was sounding out the letters, and then, with this bright look of amazement, put all the sounds together, and said, "Andy? It says Andy???" I wasn't the one who had put it there, but I was still pleased that my own name was the first thing she had read. (At least as far as I know. Deborah may know differently!) That shining look of wonder just made my day.


Fiona keeps asking me to read my cuneiform mug whenever I use it, but I'm afraid I'm not much help... that dawn of comprehension hasn't come over me yet. I should at least memorize the pronunciation of the Akkadian text, even if I never learn to read it properly.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Fountain of the Curse of Knowledge

It's not my fault.

Maybe it is my fault. Maybe I just seemed too busy to design a new cover once our 30 year celebration was over. Maybe I should have given it a higher priority. Shoulda coulda woulda. But the job was given to someone else, and I only saw this once I was given the nod to post the latest catalog on the website.

The company is paying the equivalent of what I have left on my student loans to print and mail this. They've already signed off on the proofs. It's a done deal.

The thing I actually said when I walked into the marketing manager's office was, "Why is the ibex throwing up into the well?"

It is not, as I found out, throwing up. The ibex (our company's logo is an ibex) is, rather, a "fount of knowledge." Most people don't know what the company logo represents, though. So, supposing that they get the "fount of knowledge," they may not understand why a goat is at the source. Or, if they understand the ibex connection, they may not get the "fount of knowledge" part. Both have to work for the message to get through as the artist intended.

In their book, Making it Stick, Chip and Dan Heath describe this as "the Curse of Knowledge." Try this sometime: grab a friend, and ask them to identify the song that you're about to tap out the rhythm to. Tap away. Unless you picked something with a near-unique rhythm (say, the theme to The Lone Ranger you're probably going to be wondering why your friend is so dense, and doesn't get it. It's obvious what song you're tapping out. You can hear it in your head perfectly.

When we send out our twice-weekly emails at work, one person writes the email, and one person has to approve it before it goes out. (Usually, that's James and me, repectively, although it's gone the other way on several occasions, as well.) A second set of eyes has saved us on numerous occasions. Old Usenet readers used to have a message that would pop up before you posted a message: "Your post is about to be seen by millions of users. Are you sure you've expressed yourself adequately?"

This catalog cover is about to be seen by thousands of customers. I wonder if they'll get it more than I did.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Weekend in Grand Rapids

Some friends of ours invited the Young Couples Flock to come join them in Grand Rapids for the weekend. (We probably need a new name. Several of us have been married for 10+ years now...) We accepted. This all required some explanation for Paul, who stayed with Fiona and Aiden while we were gone:

"Now, where are you going?"
"Grand Rapids, to stay with some friends."
"Oh, they live in Grand Rapids."
"No, Matt and Karen live here in Warsaw. We're staying at their parents' house."
"So you're visiting their parents?"
"No, their parents won't be there."
"And where are their parents?"
"At a hotel, with the kids."
"Whose kids?"
"Matt and Karen's."

Did it make sense? Nah. But it worked out fine, and I suspect that the Williams kids had as much fun at the hotel pool with their grandparents as we had at their house in their absence.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house. (Sigh...)
Architecture aside, it was nice to be able to walk without stepping on any toys.

Be careful of how you pose for your baby photos. People might just remember you that way.

We played games and talked until two in the morning. Rook was fun, but no one ever remembers the rules. Apples to Apples: Bible Edition answers one of my complaints about the regular edition; that is, the preponderance of actors you've never heard of. Yes, I've heard of Greta Garbo, but I couldn't tell you about her personality. The Angel of Death, on the other hand, is ripe for comic matchups.

But mostly, we just talked. It was oddly refreshing to talk and listen without being interrupted by little (and not-so-little) voices. Somewhere during the night, we discovered that my cousin, Aaron, had been in Matt & Karen's wedding, and we all swapped engagement stories. Ours wasn't the only one that hadn't gone as planned, apparently! Since our usual friends weren't due to arrive until the next day, we got to know some of the newer people a lot better.

Breakfast is always better when someone else makes it. Our pastor and his wife dropped in for a few hours, too.

Isn't this a cool mug?

While we were discussing our options for the day, ice skating came up. I don't believe I have ever passed up an opportunity to go ice skating. When I was in jr. high (middle school to you midwesterners) I used to go ice skating once a week with my friend Peter. It's been years, though. There are no rinks around here that I am aware of. I can only remember one time that Winona Lake was both frozen and clear of snow, and I had no ice skates for that occasion. (Although I did make a point of walking to work across the lake.) A few years ago, I got a pair of skates at a yard sale, in anticipation of it happening again. That was the pair I had in the trunk just in case the skating was better in Michigan than it was in Indiana. I was not disappointed.

Well, actually, I was. Those skates were awful. No matter how comfortable they are on the inside, if you can't stand in them, you're not going to skate in them. I conceded defeat after four painful laps, and rented a pair. Total skating bliss. Funny how much difference 50 years of innovation make!

Karen gave Deborah a steadying hand while I worked out my own skating issues.

We took turns playing shutterbug with the marvelously loopy Jeff and Julie Strietzel.

One of these days, I'm going to figure out how to write good endings to my travelogues. I could say, "and then we went home," but that's too abrupt. Or, I could say, "and a good time was had by all," but that sounds cheesy and trite. I thought about that as we drove home, Deborah snoozing against the window while the sunset flickered through the trees.

Maybe one day I'll figure it out.

New Camera at Last!

I won the auction by 83 cents. It was my closest win since my bidding war with QueenOfLeadFeet for an old Chagall Guevara CD. (I suffer from obscure musical tastes.) A week and a few e-mails later, a package arrived on my desk. Yay!

It is the sad duty of old cameras to photograph their replacements.

The nitty-gritty, for you detail oriented folk: It's a Canon A95, 5 megapixel, 3X optical zoom (and a digital zoom that can be turned OFF!) and came with a free 1GB CompactFlash card. State of the art? Not really. Best digital camera to date? Oh yeah!

I'd say it takes pretty good pictures. Wouldn't you?

The upshot of all this, dear reader, is more and better pictures for you!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The results are in

Artwork by Anne Glynnis Fawkes

The results of the 2008 Eisenbrauns Ancient Near Eastern Valentine Contest are in! I was this year's instigator and judge, and I'm quite pleased at the level of participation we got. Go check 'em out!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Injustice Vanquished! (Well, OK, they still have to vote on it.)

If you're not a motorcyclist, you probably wouldn't know that Indiana started a spinal cord and brain injury fund. An admirable thing, yes. Or, maybe you knew about it, but didn't know a source of it's funding: A $10 fee added to the registration of every motorcycle. Without giving the public time to comment on it. And without charging any other type of vehicle a similar fee.

Taxation without representation isn't popular with anyone, but pissing off a stateful of motorcyclists strikes me as a a less than clever thing to do. So it's with some satisfaction that I learned, this morning, that a new bill, HB 1318, eliminating the $10 charge and replacing it with a $0.50 charge for all vehicle registrations, passed the House with a 91-5 vote. That strikes me as something I can support.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

One Candlepower

Better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.

The rains are back. And with the ground frozen, there's nowhere for the water to go — nowhere good, anyway. So, rather than wait for my neighbor's pump to put in an appearance (it's been three days; surely his crawlspace is quite full...?) I broke down and bought a pump of my own. It's nothing amazing — I didn't have the money for amazing — but it's now been running for a good 12 hours, which has brought the water level down two very welcome inches.

I'm planning to pick up a larger-diameter hose for it this evening, which should allow it to clear things out even faster. It just feels good to be doing something, rather than watching and worrying. It feels better to cheer on the efforts of a heroic little pump than to curse the flooding.

The patio is down to an inch here. You can see the crust of ice on the legs of the sawhorses, and see how far the water has dropped.

Monday, February 04, 2008

They'll still forget the breadsticks

Much is being made about Domino's new Pizza Tracking feature, and now there's news that a group of Papa John's stores in Alabama now uses GPS to let you track your pizza delivery driver in real-time.

This is all well and good (and a little silly) but as a former pizza delivery guy, I can see a few pitfalls.

For one thing, are they giving the poor drivers the advantage of the GPS system, as well? It's great to see your pies streaking towards their goal, but watching your pizzas circle the block for the fifth time, looking for your address... that can't be good for business. This is compounded by the fact that a lot of the databases we base our mapping on are terribly innacurate. All the major mapping systems put my boss's house on the wrong side of the lake, for example.

So, perhaps, we need to ditch the navigation systems, and just go with raw GPS data, a la geocaching. Please deliver my pizzas to 41°13'36.62" North, 85°49'28.04" West.

Payment and tip are at 41°13'36.74" North, 85°49'36.11" West...

Always tip the delivery guy, by the way. Especially if you make him swim for it.

p. 123 (Or: tag, I'm IT)

I checked my RSS feeds this morning, and discovered that I had been tagged by James Spinti in a little social-networking game.

Here are the rules:

  • Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more (no cheating!)
  • Find page 123
  • Find the first five sentences
  • Post the next three sentences
  • Tag five people

The closest qualifying book was Icons by Robin Cormack, which I picked up while I was in Chicago observing at the AIA/APA convention. Page 123 gets us into the back of the book (a gorgeous, albeit slim volume) into a catalogue of the icons in the British Museum:

42. Icon with the Mother of God Tikhviniskaya, with metal revetment

Russian, eighteeth century. 36.4 x 31.1 cm

Bequeathed by Sir Frank Kenyon Roberts in 1998

Somehow, the description there seems wholly inadequate. So, I made a quick scan:

There, that's better.

I hereby tag Nathan Eady, Josh Mugele, Mark Grapengater, Mark Harris, and Jeremy Bear