Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Break

I'll be on the road a lot over the next few weeks, so I'm going to take some time off from this blog until early January.

I hope you all have a great holiday season, full of peace and joy... and I hope you have a fantastic 2009!

Friday, December 19, 2008

My Super Power

I've been a fan of superheros for as long as I can remember. Comic books, movies, tv shows - it's all good. Naturally, I often wondered what it would be like to have a superpower, or what kind of superpower I might have.

Well, it turns out I do have a superpower, albeit a modest one. And now, I'm ready to come out of the phonebooth, so to speak, and announce my superpower to the world. Here goes: when people have the hiccups, hugging me makes them go away (the hiccups, not the people).

That's right, I'm a hiccup healer. I'm still working on a super name (I'm open to suggestions).

Now, so far I've only done this for my wife and kids. It's possible my superpower only works if you are married to me or are one of my daughters. I haven't really tested my ability very widely, so I can't say for sure.

But if the world is ever threatened by the evil Doctor Hiccup (you know, the guy who has the ability to induce hiccups in people), I'm ready to thwart his nefarious plans...

Thursday, December 18, 2008


I just checked with Lulu and The Simplicity Cycle has officially bypassed the 1,000 downloads mark!

It's been downloaded 1,002 times so far, to be precise.


Arts & Jobs

I heard a starving artist on a radio call-in show the other day and started thinking about the relationship between art-making and bill-paying. 

I am extremely fond of artists like Summer Pierre who have a day job to pay the bills, and still manage to make art. More to the point, these artists don't look at their day job as an excuse to not create art. They also don't look at their artmaking as an excuse not to get a day job, or not to pay the bills. 

Summer's zine about being an artist with a day job covers this topic far better than I can - go check her out. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Countdown to 1,000!

I just noticed that my book The Simplicity Cycle has been downloaded 994 times! How cool is that! I'm pretty excited to see it approach the 1,000 downloads milestone. I'll let you know when that happens.

It's funny to think there are 1,000 downloaded copies of my crazy little design book floating around out there, presenting my ideas and observations on complexity, simplicity and design. One thousand times someone clicked that download button and said "Sure, I'll take one."

Who are these people? How did they hear about the book? How many of them actually read it? How many of them passed it along to someone else? Did they find the book helpful? Would they still have downloaded it if it wasn't free?

These are questions I know will never be answered (except that last one - I'm sure that even if I only charged 50 cents for the download, I'd be nowhere near 1,000 downloads. Probably closer to a dozen).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sheldon's Shirts

The Big Bang Theory sitcom consistently makes me laugh out loud - more than any other show I can recall ever watching... ever. It's smart, fast-paced geek humor, and I love it.

I'm also intrigued by the t-shirts Sheldon and Leonard wear. So, naturally I Googled it and it turns out there's a website dedicated to Sheldon's Shirts! That's right, is a real website. And get this, they don't sell the shirts. They just track them and point you to the sites that do sell them.

If you don't already, watch the show.

And then buy the shirts...

Monday, December 15, 2008


The other day on the evening news there was a story about a scientific study of happiness from Harvard. It's a fascinating study and the piece on the news was really interesting, but the thing that most intrigued me was my own reaction to one particular scene from the report (I hope you'll pardon my fascination with myself).

The scene was a typical man-on-the-street interview, with the journalist asking the question "What makes you happy?" It's a perfectly logical question, right?

My initial, gut-level reaction to that question was (can you guess it?): Confusion!

Yup, I found that question entirely confusing. What makes me happy? That question doesn't make sense to me. I'm one of those strange creatures for whom happiness seems to be the default state - it's where I start, largely independent of external circumstances. I can't explain it, and I'm not sure I can claim much credit for it. I'm sure it's 90% biochemistry, genetics, luck and how I was raised (thanks, Mom & Dad!). 

The point is, nothing in particular makes me happy - which is to say, everything makes me happy. And really, make is the wrong word. I'm just generally happy to start with - there's no "make" about it.

A question that makes more sense to me is "What makes you not happy?" (Answer: being tired and/or being away from my family for too long).

FOLLOW-UP NOTE: After I wrote this post, I came across an article in The Week that talks about how people have a "default position," a baseline level of happiness. Hey, that's what I thought!

Friday, December 12, 2008


Came across a great question on Summer Pierre's blog. She was writing about being an artist with a day job (i.e. a real artist, with a real life), and almost in passing she tossed out a brilliant, arresting question:

What do I like being good at?

The question is not "What am I good at?" but "What do I like being good at?" It acknowledges the possibility that a person might be good at something, but not like it. I think it's a particularly insightful question. 

What do you like being good at?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lovely Yellow Springs OH

We got to spend some time in Yellow Springs, OH over the weekend. It was fantastic. I would like to go there every day.

I'm sure part of the charm is that we never quite have enough time there. Yellow Springs always leaves us wanting more. But we got some Christmas shopping done, I found some fantastic, warm, soft fingerless gloves for my beautiful bride (an early, non-surprise gift), and just as we were leaving I bought some delicous hard rolls to nosh on as whe drove home (and we chuckled about the time we tried to eat lunch there and were turned away from a pizza joint because they didn't have any dishes. Only in YS!).

Even though we weren't able to stay until the big "Catch A Kiss" event at 3:07 that afternoon and be one of the 80 official kissing couples, Kim and I managed to smooch in front of several "Kiss Here" signs. Like I said, Yellow Springs is a pretty cool town. 

And as previously promised, I snapped some pictures of the knitted covers for various poles in the town. I'm sad to report that my picture of the red and white cover for a stop signwas  mysteriously eaten by my handy-dandy camera phone. I'll try again next time I'm out there.

Once again, Yellow Springs left me wanting more (and someday, I hope to bump into Jafabrit in person!).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More on gas prices (read it out loud)

Thanks once again to my friend Tori, I came across an interesting analysis of the future of gas prices.

Specifically, now you can see what will happen when gas prices fall below zero (right in time for my birthday!).

Gas Prices Are Insane

I've been watching gas prices continue to free-fall with a mixture of glee, amazement, incredulity and (frankly) concern. Anything that falls this far, this fast, is bound to overcorrect. These prices are gonna go up again at some point.

Still, I like filling up at $1.34 a gallon.

What I don't understand is seeing gas for $1.41 at one station, then five miles later seeing it for $1.74. Can anyone account for the 33-cent difference? 

For that matter, can anyone account for anything at all related to the price of a gallon of gas?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Courage & Sacrifice

The Grand Duke of Luxembourg (what a great title!) is the last Grand Duke in the world, and one of the few royals who is not merely ceremonial. He is apparently in the process of losing his executive power to veto legislation, after objecting to a new Luxembourgian law that allowed euthenasia.  

Over at The Distributist Review, John Medaille offers this commentary:
He was a minor prince on a minor throne in a tiny country. But the Grand Duke was right to make one last Grand Gesture in the name of life, in the name of Europe, in the name of his own people... The Duke is accused of violating democracy; in fact he has defended it by attempting to stop its illegitimate use.

There's something brilliantly romantic (in the old sense of that word) about a bold, principled gesture that comes at such a cost.  Long live the Grand Duke, executive powers or not.

Contrast his action with the Prime Minister's. PM Jean-Claude Junker also opposes the law, but he says parliament's authority should override the Grand Duke's objection. Nevermind that the Grand Duke is constitutionally endowed with veto power (for now, that is). The PM apparently does not object to Parliament stripping the Grand Duke's authority. I wonder - in what sense does he oppose the law? In fact, he seems to be supporting it.

Spiegel online quotes the PM as saying “I understand the Grand Duke's problems of conscience, but I believe that if the parliament votes in a law, it must be brought into force."

Maybe he thinks the Grand Duke should have only used his veto on bills which the Parliament didn't pass? I wonder -if the PM were in the Duke's position and was asked to sign a law he did not believe in, what would he do?

If it was me, I hope I would follow the Grand Duke's example.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas & Consumerism

Well, it's that time of year again, when well-meaning people of faith roll out their annual complaints about the commercialization of Christmas. They're not wrong, for the most part, but I think they tend to overlook one important aspect of this whole thing.

The cool thing about the consumerism of Christmas is we also get the Christmas-ification of the Consumer Cathedral (aka The Mall).

Personally, I find it amazing that, for one month out of the year, I can go to the mall and consistently hear the Gospel proclaimed, in song, over the loudspeakers. I'm not saying that's entirely right - just that it's a little bit amazing.

Sure, they play Frosty and Rudolph, but it's not unusual to hear Christmas songs with lyrics about Jesus' mission to "save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray." At the mall. Over the loudspeakers. I think that's really something.

I hardly ever see the reverse happen - people from the mall almost never come to my church and spend a month singing their advertisements. THAT would be something to complain about.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Free Money!

In a blatant example of blog-post-stealing, I'm borrowing some words from Andy Sernovitz' appropriately named blog, Damn I Wish I'd Thought Of That. A few days ago, he posted about's cool new offer: will let you send a free $10 gift certificate to 3 friends each day from Nov. 26 to Dec. 25.  (Yes, there are real $10 good-as-cash gift certificates.)

(In case you're wondering how it works, restaurants provide the discounts to get more business.)

How can you give your customers a reason to tell 3 friends about you?

Send your friend $10 here.

Pretty cool, isn't it? What a brilliant marketing idea!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas...

The other day I heard the song "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas" on the radio. When the singer got the line "...and Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again," I burst out laughing.

My first thought was "What a funny line!"

My second thought was "How have I never noticed that line before?"

Seriously, has that line always been in that song? 'Cause I don't remember EVER hearing it before. It caught me off guard so much that it actually made me laugh. How I managed to make it through 35 Christmases without hearing that line is a mystery beyond my comprehension.

(and it is a pretty funny sentiment for a Christmas song, when you stop to think about it)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bob Charette Interview

Bob Charette wrote the cover story for IEEE Spectrum's latest issue. It's titled "What's Wrong with Weapons Acquisitions," and it's a fascinating, gutsy story.

Yes, I know there are many ways to answer that question, but Charette's take on it is really insightful and authoritative. He was recently interviewed on NPR's Here and Now, and you can listen to the interview here (and now).

Earth Friendly / Tone Deaf

Walking through a bookstore the other day, I came across a calendar with a big green "Earth Friendly" sticker slapped on it. It proclaimed that the calendar was made from recycled paper and soy-based ink.  I whipped out my handy-dandy fuzzy camera phone to take this photo, just for you:

The reason I took the photo is not because earth friendly printing options are so snazzy, new or surprising. No, I took the photo because the calendar was all about combat jets, as the photo below shows. The printing may be "Earth Friendly," but that's not the term I'd use to describe the subject.

The fact that I really dislike the F-22 (which is pictured on the front of the calendar) has nothing to do with my reaction. OK, maybe a little something to do with it. But even if it was a more respectable fighter on the front cover, I'd still think it's a strange choice of wording for that little green sticker.

Next time, maybe they should go with "100% Recycled Paper" sticker instead.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Boomer Sisters Update!

Big news from the world of The Boomer Sisters!

The fourth book in the series, The Boomer Sisters And The Pirates of Lake Champlain, is now complete and ready for sale! It's got adventure. It's got peril. It's got pirates. And not to give too much away, Champy (the local lake monster) makes a little cameo appearance near the end... sorta. Follow the link above to read a preview and order your own copy!

Also, I'm expanding out into Boomer Sisters Merchandise a bit, and proudly announce The Boomer Sisters Coloring Book! It features artwork by the talented Mandy Hoelmer, as seen in all four books.

Of course, all the books are still available at Rogue Press, just in time for your holiday shopping!

It's for the kids...

I apologize for the more-fuzzy-than-usual quality of this photo, but it's compliments of my handy-dandy fuzzy little camera phone, and which seems to get particularly fuzzy when the subject is up close.

Anyway, we were sorting through some of the kids clothes the other day when I noticed the tag on one of the shirts. I thought, this is a very strange brand name, and I therefore must blog about it.

Seriously, who thinks "Anxiety for Kids" is a good name for a brand of clothing? What's next - replacing the Nike swoosh on kid's shoes with the orange ball from the Prozac logo?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Surf Ohio!

The Ohio Surf & Skate shop is just down the road from our house here, and it cracks me up every time I see it. 'Cause yeah, when I think of surfing, I think of Ohio.