Friday, December 30, 2005

Emojo business card

My friend Tom Emerson is discovering his right livelihood as a chiropractor. His adjustments combine energy, control, grace, and flow into a healing practice that is truly extraordinary. He needed a card that reflected these qualities, and this design fit pretty well. While I was trying to work within our discussed framework, this swooshy thing kept bumping into me, and so I decided to run with it a little ways.

I try very hard to honor a client's budget above all else. Sometimes this means the design is less than it could have been. In Tom's case, however, spending more time would likely not result in a better looking card. I got lucky, and the best design happened very quickly.

One thing: it's an odd-size card. Tom likes that it doesn't fit into people's card holders. When a designer is blessed with the chance to work on a non-standard substrate, he'd better make some use of the extra capacity! So that's one reason I quickly settled on this long, flowing water/fire shape extending the length of the card. I had the space, so I used it for something that wouldn't fit on a normal length card.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Baumbach Electric's new van

I love small, quick jobs and easy-going clients. Bruce Baumbach, electrician, called me yesterday and asked if I would letter his van. Would I! And here it is, ready to go, 24 hours later!

I charged $300 to letter two sides and the back. If I take the time to actually price this out per the letter, plus layout and file prep and all the other "industry standard" upcharges, it ends up being a $485 job. Many of my clients act as if spending $500 is going to send them to the poorhouse. Don't whine-- getting your name out there on your vehicle is the most cost-effective marketing dollar you can spend. How come Bruce saved $185? One main reason: during our first telephone call, I got a tickle that told me he was going to be an easy client. He didn't want lots of designs thrown at him, he just needed letters on his van, with maybe some "contrasting color" to help his name jump out.

He trusted my choice of letterstyle, and respected the fact that if he wanted some "logo design" I was going to charge him my logo design rates. He didn't nit-pick about the color of blue I had in-stock. He has email access and could look at a layout as soon as I finished it. He showed up with the van at the time we agreed upon.

He's clearly been in business long enough to know that any job worth doing is worth doing "good enough." I really respect that. So Bruce got the steep "get the job done and don't bother me" discount.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Art happens

This graphic showed up while I was working on a very different looking design. I'm entertaining the notion of assembling a show of the art that proceeds from my logos. It'd be fun, to see logos as art, stripped of their context.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Sign Install at EMOs

Here's a pic of my sign guy, Ken, 20 feet in the air, installing Sandie and Emo's new sign. I unmounted the previous, 120 pound sign all by myself (with two ropes and a ladder). The new sign went up very nicely. The old sign was installed 20 years ago by Emo and his dad. Oh! I have a pic of how high this is, from the other perspective:

I don't know why that's a big deal to me, but it is. Too bad it was a misty afternoon (felt like 40 degrees); had it been clear the Oakland Hills would have been beautiful.

The most surprising and memorable comment of the day: Ken said to Sandie, "I think Bob must have been my brother in a previous life." WTH!?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Wilmot's Books

Through a chain of those synchronicities that astonish most people, Tim and Mary Wilmot yesterday opened a bookstore in Alameda's West End (it's at 5th Street Station, 5th and Central).

The grand opening party packed the place... until the bagpipe player got going! Whew, I tried to be gracious but he literally drove me from the room! Other than that, it was a great time. We celebrated Xena's birthday (simultaneous event) by buying a raftload of books. Around a mouthfull of cheese and cracker, balancing a cup of wine, I talked with Tim a little as soon as the music switched over to guitars.

"Why a bookstore? Aren't there plenty?"

"Not at this side of town. Besides, what we really want is for people to have a place to come and hang out, to read a little, have some conversation... we want to be the neighborhood gathering place."

"Well, it feels really good in here. It's a nice energy."

"Yes, thank you! The kids come in after school, and while they might not buy much, their energy is just so great that I really like having them here."

I didn't design his logo, but I did clean it up, stick it on the glass, and email him an electronic version which he promptly used to produce some business cards. Do you care to buy or sell used books? Wilmot's has those. I think Tim is also getting new books. Call Tim or Mary at 865-1443.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Alameda town plaza idea

Save the historic theater or bring back the movies? Are the options really that far apart? Do we lose the theater unless we build out an 8-screen multiplex? Alameda's general plan calls for some new gathering space within the heart of the city, so the anti-multiplex group asked me to illustrate a town plaza. Architectural work is not my area of training, but I am able to put down on paper what people describe.

I've lived in Alameda for just 7 years, so I'm a newcomer. I have been able to watch the city struggle to find itself after the Navy left. It's floundering. I'd like to see Alameda rise up to become jewel of community, local business and environmental awareness, with strong spiritual foundations. I'd like us to find ways to apply the best of what our society is discovering about how to be a society. I don't think a multiple screen cineplex is part of that.

Alamedans need to get out more. They need to go to Ashland, Eugene, West Yellowstone, and Olympia. They need to see how other large "small towns" manage growth, density, and diversity. As long as we don't go look for ourselves, then the big-box developers will always be able to push their Sprawl solutions onto us.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Digital "paper"

Remember the Pine Oats box from Minority Report? Siemens has developed the thin-film, disposable display to make it possible. Someone's going to have to update a lot of logos and artwork to take advantage of this new consumer product interface... I wonder if I have the time and effort in me to be an early adopter.

Short Flash animations could play on the things. Yeah, I think I'll keep my ear to the ground on this. I'm really an animator at heart. And while the fact these things are landfill-on-the-hoof bothers me some, I do see some benefit to being able to have moving displays on packages.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Law abiding, don't assume otherwise

Secret codes printed by our color printers?

While I'm all for preventing counterfeiting, I am really disturbed that every piece of paper coming out of my color printer has a printed message with the serial number and date. The people at Xerox, Adobe, and HP who write printer drivers have known about this, clearly were asked by the government to include this protocol, but where's the transparency of process?

I am so appalled I scarcely know where to begin. I think one aspect you can't ignore is that a mountain of people have known about this for at least 10 years, and it's just now coming out. I'm told that a conspiracy is difficult to keep quiet when there are many people involved... but here's an example of something invasive, kept quiet for a long time.

Monday, October 17, 2005


Rocket Racers are on the way. How much of this am I responsible for? At the risk of rekindling adolescent egosim, I do wish to point out that I've worked with both XCOR and Velocity aircraft. I made email and phone introductions between the principals of the two companies. I pointed out the the engineers at XCOR that the Velocity team would be a natural fit to provide the airframe for whatever their next vehicle would be, since Burt Rutan was too busy working on the Virgin Galactic project. I mentioned to the Swings that it would be cool to be part of whatever XCOR was up to.

Who knows? I might have been a mere quantum ripple, less than the flapping of a butterfly's wing. It's a fact that the two groups were already attending the same airshows, but it's also a fact that they weren't talking to each other. Rocket Racers might have become real entirely without me, or I might have been the last bit of oomph that pushed the idea across the threshold. The point, I suppose, is never fear to put out into the Universe what you would like to see become real.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Starting the design

First of all, I had to paste this image together because I couldn't get both of us into frame. So that's why it's artsy.

There are a few methods useful to initiating a design project. One that I use with people who are brand-new to the idea, or more specifically, don't have the vernacular of design, is to assign them the job of gathering up things that strike their fancy. Sometimes I'll use this with people who are too steeped in design, to help them break free of their preconceptions.

"I want you, in the next week, to just notice things as you go through your world. Notice anything that captures your attention: your favorite clothes, your favorite music, a car commercial, a magazine ad, your favorite present... bring these to me, and we'll unravel the story they tell." Sometimes clients don't quite understand and go through the phone book, clipping out all the ads from their competitors. To them I say, "Next week, don't bring me anything from your profession. Bring me your favorite sports team logo, beer bottle label, and hood ornament. But I don't need to see anything else from your industry."

My most successful designs ever, come out of this process.

It's also great fun. We open their bag of stuff, and I listen to the story of each artifact. I'm listening for how this person connects with the world. By creating a design that explicitly relates to their connection, we create a powerful communication tool, helpful for other people to connect to my client. The conduit goes both ways. What attracts my client, relates to their right livelihood. By drawing people into the relationship, the design pre-qualifies my client's potential clients.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

BNI Visitor Day success!

Our local chapter of BNI (Business Networking International, the number 1, one-profession-per-chapter referral group) staged a Visitor Day. We had a letter campaign, inviting hundreds of people we do business with to come and learn how to build their business through word-of-mouth marketing. We packed the room, with more than 100 people (including our team), and we gathered 9 applications!

I want to sent a big thank-you to Dianne Woon, our financial advisor, for all her effort (and success!) at organizing this event. She led us to greatness! I'd also like to mention that Carol Ann Carol initiated the process, and so thank you to her, too.

Our group has about 30 people in it. We pass referrals every week, and actively promote each other's business as we go out and conduct our businesses. It's working very well: we generate about $150k every six months for each other.

Hey: I just realized, that I could have a weekly blog entry about a fellow member! Duh. I suppose being slow on that is because I've been spending all my extra brain cycles on the sustainability project.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

West Alameda Business Association truck

This was a nice, quick morning project. The detailed graphic is a large adhesive-backed print, the letters and pinstripe are good old computer cut vinyl, and Betty Ditmer and Sherri Steig are pleased with the final product. I'm already enjoying seeing this new WABA van driving around town!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Bacci Delicatessen

Opening July 29th, Bacci Delicatessen is a welcome addition to the Pagano's block of Lincoln Avenue. Nick Ratto, a nice young man who should do quite well with this business, worked closely with me to choose colors (his instructions: "It's Italian, but I don't want a red green and white flag. But I do want it to look Italian"). We chose these aquas and tomato soup colors, and when I placed staggered stripes the look is sophisticated rather than tired. Lots of white signals you that this is a clean place to have lunch.

I had chosen a pinkish white for the base color, mostly so people would look nice and rosy when they were in the space, but we went with a pure white instead. I think it's pretty good.

The sign design lent itself to use on business cards, as a logo, so there were some cost savings to the client in that regard.

Finally: yes, that's my electric car, and yes, I can do some small installations with it. I have a day dream of changing the trunk space into a mini-mini pickup bed. However, there are so many projects ahead of that idea, there is only the slimmest of chances I'd ever do such a thing.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Biodiesel demonstration trailer

I like to make signs and create graphics for people who are invested in saving the world. The Berkeley Biodiesel Collective is one of those groups, and I have been fortunate to have been asked to do a couple of projects for them. Alan (Allan?) set up this nifty trailer which is a working biodiesel processor, and I made a couple of small signs to attach to it.

They can drive it around to car shows and alt/green venues and educate people about how simple it is to make fuel from used deep fryer oil.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

West Coast Dance Theater is done.

As proposed

As fabricated and installed

I'm always pleased when the combination of digital photography, some field measurements, a graphic file and some time with a calculator results in a job matching the idea so very closely. Here, I had no real way to measure the space the sign was going to go in, but as you can see, my predictive image is really accurate for size and placement. Over time, the colors evolved to be more classy and less bubble-gum electric. The really critical thing was creating an image so that everyone could see how a 50 square foot sign would look in the available space.

It's pretty amazing how small things get when they are high up. Yes, that's the top 30" of Bob sticking over the top of the building structure. Note that the sign still has its brighter colors. The border and correct colors were applied the following day.

Has this picture been altered?

I used to go to some effort to make my Photoshop renderings look indistinguishable from a real photo. The third or fourth time a client mistook my proposed work for work that had already been completed and photo'd, I stopped. I know it's completely possible to create a forgery indistinguishable from a real image; the forger merely needs to be as smart as anyone who would be trying to detect the forgery. Get the shadows and reflections right, and a good forger has already bested 95% of anyone attempting to ferret out the forgery.
So I'm pretty excited about encrypted electronic watermarking. A "hologram" is embedded in the background noise of an image, and an encryption key will detect whether the image has been tampered with. This way, news services (for example) can verify the integrity of a digital image.
I'm in the business of altering reality. I show people what is possible. I want my news to be in the business of reporting what is real, so I support digital watermarking.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

West Coast Dance Theater

West Coast Dance Theater project is finally nearly finished! More pics later. Here's a method to make window letters that don't have to be replaced if a large window (I think they are called "lamps" in trade lingo) suffers a bit of vandalism. We placed the letters on a $100 sheet of acrylic, which I then hung using some seamless hardware.

Sign people like to attach signs in ways that hide the hardware as much as possible. Even though hardware in plain sight is invisible anyway, like a magician's trick thumbtip, we still endeavor to find ways to make the final product as beautiful as possible. In this case, a metal sleeve hides the attachment point.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Stick my neck out

When I first opened for business, making the transition from designing in my spare time to being an Iddentity brander full time, I spent many, many hours over the course of a couple of years trying to break into the existing business circles here in Alameda. I offered my services in many capacities: as consultant, as vendor, in support of the Chamber of Commerce, in support of the Park Street Business Association and so on.

Not a nibble.

I came to understand that the power network was pretty well buttoned up. West Advertising, Aviso and PSBA had built up Park Street into what it is today, and were so thick with each other and all the merchants that there was no real opportunity for me. In fact, steps were taken to keep me from succeeding! I shifted gears, and went over to help Webster Street. The power block made sure to tell me that they were a bunch of losers over at that end of town, and I should stick to not working with the "winners."

As if I didn't know the power of graphic design, clear intention, and a bright personality.

Anyway, Webster Street is going through its renaissance, I've got several excellent clients, and I suppose I'm feeling very secure, because I've barked in the face of the Big Dog. Here's the letter to the editor regarding this multiplex fiasco which I sent in to our locally owned paper:

"I can't help it if the people in this town who are opposed to (the theater plan) haven't been paying attention."
--Rob Ratto, as reported in the Alameda Sun June 9 2005

Excuse me? I think Alamedans pay very much attention, and specifically, to what makes our town great. We welcome the best of the new, while working to keep the best of the old. Alamedans are keenly aware that our town is the antidote to Sprawl. Multiplexes and parking garages, dwarfing the surrounding architecture, are two of the very symbols of Sprawl. As much as I want to honor the effort Mr. Robb Ratto has spent on this plan, I must point out that this plan does not pay attention to what Alamedans want. Other than him and the deal promoter who will get the no-bid contract for all the furniture and fixtures, I have yet to speak with a single person who thinks the "plan" is appropriately sized for Alameda. I can’t help it that Mr. Robb Ratto has worked so hard to introduce a cancer into the heart of our town. If only he’d worked on a plan more of us could get excited about, one that included a strong Civic Center, for example, or at the very least, a rooftop garden in the parking structure similar to that of the Kaiser Center in Oakland.

To conclude, at no time in the last four years have I ever heard anyone support more than 5 screens. Who has Robb Ratto been listening to? I respectfully submit that it is you, who in characteristic fashion, hasn't been paying attention.

I suppose I'm not that worried about upsetting the apple cart.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Over-size for a small town

Alameda's civic leaders have been working for years to try to get the old Alameda Theater restored. They'd been holding to the wishes of the community for a long, long time, and in the last year they finally found someone who was willing to move the project forward.

For a very, very high cost.

This is a pic of the massing of the proposed parking garage and new cinema space, looking south on Oak Street. This is a view that no one who is involved in the project wants us to see: just how big this thing is. It's not so much about height; it's about volume. You know how you can fool toddlers by pouring a tall glass of milk into a wide, short glass? As long as the develpment and planning staff keeps telling us that the new structure is "Shorter than the historic theater" they are treating us like toddlers.

Our civic leaders are expressing surprise that we don't support this version of the project. My take on that is that for years, as they were working to keep it small and in scale with the needs of our town, our silence was due to the fact that they were accurately representing the will of the people. This plan now, does not, and so "suddenly" they get to listen to us tell them to re-apply themselves to the project's original intent and scope.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Today's new logo

Woohoo! I've made another happy client! And another logo that is different from any I've done prior. This is far more... illustrative? than my preferred style, with an interesting blend of graphic and illustration. This is apparently one of the directions people are headed with their logos. FCF wanted a very busy logo, for example.

Happily this logo isn't as busy as the FCF logo.

A big challenge with this design was the client specificed required elements: the bridge, the palm tree, and that there be lots of colors. I never got to the point of the conversation about what these things mean symbolically, so I could work towards an even more simplified logo glyph. Without knowing the emotive drives behind a request, I have to hit the target with a scattergun rather than a rifle. The "7H6d" reflects this. I keep track of the evolutionary tree of a logo. So this design worked through 7 pages of concepts, A through H for one level of refinements, and finally 6 more and then up to d for further fine tuning.

So it was a bunch of work, and frustrating to the client sometimes, but it resulted in a pretty nifty design.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

"It looks really great."

I love hearing that.

I work hard and with joy for every job. Some of my clients like being in joy with the projects, too. I'll hear "I love how you made it with not quite the standard colors, it looks really sophisticated," or "Wow, I had no idea it could look so great."

This is juicy for me.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

It's okay to kill a bad project.

I've recently had a few clients who wouldn't do their homework.

They wouldn't tell me their preferences. Getting them to talk about what they like and dislike made me wish for Sisyphus' stone. They signed their contracts and gave me money, but didn't seem to understand that design happens within a full ecology, not a vaccuum. Being a helpful person, I tried to do their job for them. I've been down this road, so I know it's often futile. I came up with, and presented, a "catalog" of ideas. And surprise surprise, none of it looks good to these clients. How can it? Birthed in isolation, the ideas have no connection to them.

When I reach this point in a one-way relationship, I know I've already earned my deposit fee. I've put in hours to try to get the clients on their own side and to help them understand the design process. My next step is to risk "losing" the job. I'll send a message that says, as politely as possible, "I can tell you're not ready to take this seriously. Perhaps we should stop now, before you spend any more money."

It's important to be unattached to the response to that message. It's nothing more than a statement about where the project currently sits, and a query about whether to move forward or to abandon it.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Blogger + Google

I have a hunch that Google is rewarding people for Blogging. Why? I check what sorts of search terms people use to get to my website. Some are pretty obvious; "Graphic Design Alameda" has me on page two. But "Sustainability Blog" has me on page one, in the fourth position. "Pixel Graphic Design Alameda" is a search set that puts me in the #1 spot! "Fish Experiments" is another high-ranking set of terms for me.

What gives? I'd be very surprised if these terms are unique, and optimized. I do know a little bit about SEO and I've applied what I know, but... are a legion of people linking to my sites? If you are, then thank you thank you! And if you want a link back, just write me and tell me so!

It's just strange to me that a search on "Fastest Canard" comes up with one of my pages in the first set of results.

Using my powers for Good

Local citizens discovered that one of the big advertising shelter companies was wooing our elected officials into allowing streetscape advertising, through one of those lucrative back-scratching deals that these sorts of companies put together. Well!

Jeannie Graham-Gilliat spearheaded an effort to get local sponsorship of non-advertising shelters. The group she formed called themselves "ARTS, Alamedans for Responsible Transit Shelters." My involvement? I designed a logo and then converted a messy PowerPoint document into a 4-page glossy brochure. Painful work, but PowerPoint is one of those almost-design programs that some people can use to put text and images together. I had to keep it in PowerPoint, so Jeannie could make later changes as she wished.

People seeing the brochure got an instant education about streetscap advertising, as well as sponsorship opportunities, as well as talking points for communicating with our municipal leaders.

The campaign was successful. On a recent rainy morning, I took this picture of one of the first shelters to go up. Do we really need shelters? Maybe on only a few mornings a year. But I'm really sure we didn't need an ad for Sin City, or Popeye's Chicken, right in front of these people's home. By installing a non-advertising shelter, we provided a bit of relief from the constant advertising barrage, and preserved a bit of Alameda's charm.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Iterative Design

My agreements with my clients often include an hourly charge for Iterative Design. What the heck is that? It's the time during which I respond to their feedback, generating more interpretations of the design. Many "artists" get frustrated by this part of a project. The issue is that many designers get invested in a particular design, and forget that the goal is to create a communication piece between the client and their clients.

Truth be told, many clients don't understand this, either, and think that a logo or other communication piece is for themselves. They feel that if they like it, it must be good. These clients are the ones who would benefit from an arrangement with a market research firm.

The main reason I love the iterative process is that language is so subjective. When a client uses the words "flowing lines, shows that we provide personal service, high-tech but old-fashioned" what does that really mean? When I show a couple of samples of a design built from my understanding of those words, I get feedback which guides the next round.

I'm very good and fast at this. It's never "20 questions." Usually by the third or fourth round, the design is very close to what the client needs, and after seeing it, they realize it's what they would have described if they'd known exactly what they were after.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Making Businesses Look Bigger

Janet Savage brought her banner and shocard to a recent networking breakfast. These two pieces, along with her business card, really show how the same elements are used to build up her identity. I often find myself struggling to explain how a theme is different from a logo. I can say the words "We take your logo and expand on it, developing a set of components which, used together, tell the rest of the story," but I'm very aware that seeing it in action is far more powerful.

Wonderful ladies show how branding works on a banner and shocard

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Lots of Possibilities

I've been getting coached by Nika Quirk of The Greater Possibility. My request to her when we started was simple: "Propel me!"

Whew, I tell you what, I had to take a break. I've got so many great things going on, I am so propelled.

We've uncovered my gift of "embodiment." I carry the intention of what I hope to be, and it becomes true. I hope to be gracious, and so I carry the attitude of graciousness for a few minutes, then an hour, then most of the day... and in a matter of a few days, I have the attribute of graciousness. St. Paul calls it "putting on Christ." He knew we have to pretend a thing, before it becomes real.

I've been embodying abundance lately. This is a tough one for me. I goof it up as often as I get it right. I pour out vast amounts of energy on low-return things, and then remember to invest a twiddle of energy in something good. You know the joke about the guy who keeps praying to win the lottery? Over and over, he begs God to let him win, until one day he hears the Divine Voice say, "You gotta help me out and buy a ticket!"

Well, God is doing amazing things with the tickets I am buying.

Friday, April 15, 2005

New face for Lincoln Market

I've reached an interim goal, of being able to lead a team of great fabricators and installers and contractors to get bigger projects done. This store, at Lincoln and Willow, is just about the ugliest thing in Alameda right now. So to have the opportunity to clean it up, to give it a new look, well, that's a perfect fit with my goal of beautifying Alameda. The property owner is looking over the affordability of the job, so that will determine if we move ahead or not. This picture of what the store looks like now, along with my rendering of what the finished project could look like, are part of what I think helps people confidently make the choice to move ahead. They can see already that the investment will pay off.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Janet Savage is a Certified Hand Analyst. I suppose I've become less skeptical as I age, since I see more and more that this is a world of illusion. Why shouldn't our Life Purpose imprint on our hands before birth? What if I, as a pre-birth spirit person, wanted to somehow send my physical self a message? My own hands and fingerprints look like a pretty good way to do that!

Janet interprets these messages, so you can understand better what you are here for. As we work on a design together, the story about bridging two opposites, and the discovery that boundaries are self-imposed, comes up again and again. So naturally, I just had to take the fingerprints entirely off the fingers, to suggest that Individual Expression precedes and informs the cells of our bodies ("Oh!" you say. "Those are fingerprints? They look like something different to me." Well, you are very observant. They are intentionally ambiguous, to recollect other aspects of hand analysis).

The rest is a balancing act of execution. Should the colors be brighter and more playful? What if they are more serious, grounded, earthy? I found a point at which they were too dark and mysterious, too séance-invoking, too spirally hypnotic. I backed off from that, to get the earthy tones of the card on the right. Is the card on the left more or less attractive? Remember, I have to balance fun with serious on this!

Final thoughts: what if the colors are softer? How does that make the card feel? What if the colors are bold (like Janet!), but there is less contrast between field/ground?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Fastest Velocity Build Ever

Click here to get the plans for the fastest building Velocity you'll ever assemble! If you want one that carries people, then click here.

1) Gather your materials. You'll need the plans, a 1/16" balsa sheet, just a mere scrap 4"x12" to 15" will do. An X-acto, some glue (I love Elmer's), and a straight edge of some sort. Oh-- and a surface you can cut on.

2) Cut out all the parts. Don't worry about making the curves beautiful. I just hold the template in place with my free hand; some people like to tape or pin it in place.

3) I use the first fuselage half as a template for the second half.

4) Glue the two fuselage halves together.

5) As the glue sets up, align the fuselage template to the fuselage, and using the straightedge and the knife, cut the slots for the wings. Note that we're doing this AFTER you glued the fuselage together, while the glue was still soft.

6) You want to hold the knife just as straight up as you possibly can. 90 degrees is perfect. Cut the slots slightly small, and they'll hold on to the wings really tightly. You can always open them up wider with a bit of sandpaper.

7) Use the back of the blade to clean out the slot.

8) You don't have to try to cut those crazy small ends, of the slots. The back of the knife will clean them out just fine.

9) Insert the main wing.

10) Slight beads of glue are all that's required to attach the vertical stabilizers. As you line one up on the wing, you'll see there are corners to help you get it into the right position.

11) Checking vertical, sighting along the back. Looks like I held the knife pretty straight!

12) Insert the canard, and you are done! I built this one in 20 minutes, and was flying in under an hour. Elmer's glue sets real fast on balsa.

As you fly it, you'll discover that canards are very forgiving about their center of gravity. This particular model required absolutely no weight in order to fly beautifully. If you are used to flying models with the wing in front, you'll be surprised at how far back you have to put ballast in order to achieve level flight.

That's it! I hope you have fun, and if you build your own, please send me a picture!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Back to Business.

I've broken out the Sustainability Blog so the Pixel Rangers blog will be able to stay on task as an exploration of my business practices.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Further fish experiments

When did this blog change from a business tool to a journal of random thoughts and discoveries? I'll redefine the boundary later. Right now:

More fish perception experimenting!

Following up on my idea to test whether it was familiarity with their habituated "wet space" or if they were following what their eyes informed them, I wanted to test if an external water level would change the fish's behavior. I decide to start very small, rather than go buy a larger tank to set the smaller tank in (Using a larger tank, I could create a surrounding volume, fill it halfway with water, and create a false "top" boundary for the fish to see).

Using a one-gallon pickle jar, I filled it to half as high as the real tank's water level, and set it next to the fish tank. As you can see in the picture, that was enough to convince the fish to swim in the lower half of the tank. Their behavior was quite interesting. They would swim in the entire column of water unitl they got within about 3 body lengths of the outside jar; then they would startle, and swim beneath the level of the water in the jar.

The startle reflex suggests that they could become habituated to swimming "above water." It also makes me wonder about why a fish would even know what that boundary looks like "from above," and why it makes them swim below it.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Fish Perceptions

I wondered if I could add living space to the fish tank by inverting a one-gallon jug filled with water into the tank. Would the fish swim up into it? Could this be the start of Habitrails for fish?

As it turns out, probably not.

My fish "know" when they are about to swim "out of the water." Even when highly incentivized as they pursue food, they duck back under the tank's water level when they swim about in the plastic bottle. I've observed one fish in particular which will swim right at the perceived boundary, but if its eyes lift above the tank water line, it startles and swims out of the wide mouth of the bottle.

Apparently, the perception from the eyes overrides the perception from the mouth and skin. Fully engulfed by water, its eyes can see the boundary of the tank's water level, and this is sufficient to keep it from exploring the greater volume above.

Since the entire fish tank is "above" water, what is different about this extra volume? If I took this tank, and put it in a bigger, shallower tank, would the fish stay beneath the level of water in the larger tank?

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Home of the Future

We live in the home of the future. Built in 1896, with wood harvested from local resources, this house has raised at least four families. It's had some indignities committed against it, but it shows little evidence of giving up soon.

In 1896, did the builders pause to think about the coming era? Otto Lillienthal was experimenting with heavier than air flight, but Orville and Wilbur's flyer was still 7 years in the future. So was the 1939 Chicago World's Fair, spaceflight, and the struggle for equalities of all persuasions.

It's a Home of the Future because it performs the primary requisite task: it limits the ecological footprint of our family of four. In the future, we will all live within the resource budget of the Earth (plus any space resources we learn to harvest!). We'll leave our wild areas wild rather than sprawling in to them, and we'll rehabilitate our urban areas to allow humans and nature to coexist more peacefully. We'll bring a little more wild into our backyards. Driving a motor home with a microwave and TV into the forest for a "vacation" is really an effort to have a wild backyard.

Another thing we'll have to work out is paying for training. How many of us buy new stuff when the old stuff gets a little worn? When the cost to repair an appliance approaches the cost to replace it, don't we go get a new one? The packaging might end up in the recycling, but the old appliance often ends up in landfill.

Our clothes dryer finally gave up a couple days ago, but I had no time to figure out what to do about it. Plus, it's a four-day weekend for some of us, so I really don't feel like solving why the thing doesn't heat up. If I had purchased basic appliance repair training at some point, I bet I could fix it and get back to my life in little or no time. As it stands, I could go to the laundromat. Instead, I pretended I had to solve the problem with what I knew and what I had.

Taking the back off the dryer was easy, and propping the hairdryer into the heating element's housing was easy, and now I have a dryer that's half as good at drying clothes as it was three days ago. I might be burning up the life of the hair dryer too. What I've really done, is to give myself some space to make a long-term choice. Free from the rush to make a decision right now, I can make a choice that uses resources better.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

What else I learned from Dad...

He passed on 8 years ago this February 28th. I miss him, and I miss co-discovering who we are, as I grow and change. I find that I can still mine the recollections of long ago for new lessons, however.

For example, in First or Second grade we were working on our "minusses" and I could see that 3-2 is 1, and 3-1 is 2, so there ought to be an answer to 2-3. I could feel it. Something that "lived," for numbers were alive to me then, on the other side of Zero. Dad was working in the garage, on a car or hanging the garage door or something.

"What's 2 minus 3?" I asked.
"It doesn't have an answer," he said.
"It must have an answer!"
"Nope. You can't take a bigger number from a smaller number," he explained.
"Well, I think there needs to be an answer, so I'll make one up," I told him.

I went away, and came up with a cumbersome system not unlike Roman numerals for these numbers on the other side of Zero. 2 minus 3 was 00 (the first zero is of course zero, acting as a gatekeeper and a sentry, to let us know we've crossed over; the second zero indicates the quantity), 2 minus 4 would be 000, and so on. I wanted something better, but this was the best I could think of on my own. I showed Dad. I don't have any recollection of what he thought about it. That suggests he wasn't terrifically impressed.

I do know that a few years later, when I discovered negative numbers, I was pretty upset with him. He knew about them all along, of course. Why didn't he go into the "teachable moment" with me when I was 8? Why force me to plod along with the dullards? I had a glimpse of something more than the spoonfed information, and he didn't take the time to peel back the curtain a little bit. Grrrr.

Tonight son Nicholas was working on Least Common Multiples, and he asked me if a positive and negative number could have a LCM. I asked if "least" meant closest to zero, or if it meant "lowest." He decided it meant closest to zero. He worked out then, that the LCM for 3 and -4 has two answers, 12 and -12. He was quite pleased that even though it was a two-answer problem, he'd been able to extend his learning into some new territory. I told him that I thought this new idea was pretty cool.

This then, is what this nearly 40 year old exchange between Dad and me teaches me now. To take the time to explore seemingly insignificant questions between a father and son. To help my son think his question through until he comes up with a satisfying answer, and to support him as his mind extends the concepts he's learning.

I'm sure, 40 odd years ago, I'd have wanted the answer about negative numbers more than this lesson. But would I have carried it for so long?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Helping Shelley get to Periwinkle.


I've taken the image from the email and rotated the hue towards the blues. The numerical values correspond to the Hue slider bar in Photoshop. On my monitor, the -20 value looks the most like your business card.

I want you to take some time and look at this on lots of different computers, so you can make an informed choice about which version looks best to you. Then you can ask the web designer to simply rotate the color on the art and repopulate the pages.

The content area looks too saturated, to my eye. Did you want that much color in there? That's a separate issue, but easily solvable. They ought to be able to show you a short set of swatches.

I love the sun, mountain, water and rocks together. Looks nice! Too bad the navigation has to be buttons instead of CSS rollovers (it would be so cool as pale purple text that bumped larger and white), but it's not really that important.

Well, I hope this helps you get what you want.

Monday, February 14, 2005

People LOVE the Misery box!

Yes, I have access and can post pictures again. I had to fiddle with some settings I've never touched before.

My son got into a mindlock while washing dishes, and decided it was going to be miserable. I watched him, and worked with him, and talked with him; I was amazed at how committed he was to having a miserable time. I made him stop working for as long as he was miserable. He got so beside himself that he couldn't go be miserable while washing dishes that he grabbed a handful of hair off of his head!

The poor boy!

It took nearly an hour, but with me, his mom and him all staying present to the emotions and the whatever else you want to call it, we got him calmed to where we could peacefully resume washing the dishes.

I got to thinking about Misery. Why is it so attractive? Happy is simple, and costs less. But look how pretty the Misery box is! And how big! And it costs more! It's gotta be better, right?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Lost FTP

I use a solar-powered service to host my websites. It's a commitment on my part, since it costs a little bit more. But the biggest hurdle is that they don't support Macintosh. So all the web consoles, any tutorials, any scripts, are all for Windows. Most of the time this is okay, since I've got a pretty good handle on what I'm doing.

Right now, though, I've lost the ability to get in to the site to make changes. I can't post fresh pictures to this blog!

Tech support tells me that nothing has changed in the last few weeks, but I know nothing has changed at my end either. It could be my cable service. Sometimes these things get solved all on their own. For the next few days, I'm going to work on paying jobs and hope no one needs me to make changes to their websites.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Evaluating the evening

Ever read a book in which there were really great characters, but you just wished something would happen? That's sort of how I feel about the evening I arranged at SOL. Jennifer Radtke of Biofuel Oasis was there, Geri the "Queen of Alameda" from the Reuse People, and Christopher Shein, one of the pillars of the permaculture movement, too.

My moderator got sick, so I had to run the brainstorm, and I know that she would have done a much better job. I came away with a couple of things though: I really am fed up with using so many of the Earth's resources, and I really have no idea how to use less. I mean, I have ideas, but I have no discernable path about how to get there, without literally jumping ship and starting fresh.

Perhaps it's time to stop fearing the disruptive event approach.

Saturday, February 05, 2005


I have a theory that, similar to spoken slips of the tongue, we can have typed slips of the fingers. These slips can inform us about hidden hopes, fears, and ideas. For example, I might be writing an email to someone who has got me really ticked off and I'm trying desperately to maintain my professional, courteous edge.

Here's a sample without a misstype
Here's a sampkr ejth a misstype

When you read the out-of-place letters backwards, they spell "jerk." I've had backwards writing, transliterative spellings, homonyms, and cryptic license-plate like spellings show up in what I write. They are signals to me, that part of me is not at peace with what I'm going about, or that there is a hidden thing for me to find.

So I typed "Extrepreneurs" and I knew it was wrong, but I kept looking at the eu ue part. I had to re-read it the next day to pick up the "Extre" part.

What is an Extrepreneur? Well, judging by the number of misstypes and their meanings over the last few sentences (I've removed them. They're mine) an extrepreneur is someone who is extremely entrepreneurial. Powerful, undeniable, unidirectional, capable of drawing lots of people and processes into their wake. They concatenate parts until they become a cultural force of social change. They jangle people. Images of trains blasting by fill the minds of those in their wake.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Finding the right flow

I went to the Conga Lounge at Happy Hour to visit with folks from the Sustainable Business Allliance. I couldn't break in to their group. I did have a nice chat with someone else who couldn't break in, either, Tim Duffy of the California Coastal Conservancy. Nice guy. Friendly, upbeat, personable.

He was really tweaked that this table full of women wouldn't give us the time of day. He had a point: he'd gone out of his way to get there, he'd been hoping to make a connection and find some like-minded people regarding conservation and sustainablity, and he was coming up dry. We even introduced ourselves and turned our stools so we could be part of the group, but they really did close ranks and wall us out.

I suppose I've felt walled out so many times, that I take a longer term, more patient perspective. Those people, having such a good time with each other, without me, does that diminish me in some way? Do I need to do something, to become part of the community? Do I really want, or need, to break in? To assert myself?

I can enjoy that other people are having a good time.

I don't have any shared history with them, so all their laughter has no foundation for me. But I can still enjoy it, knowing that they are linked to me through Universal Mind, and they are expressing wonderfully, connections with each other and their collective past. I can't add to that experience. In fact, my meddling can subtract from it!

So for me, the evening was "successful." I got to meet Tim, we shared conversation about some important issues and some non-important ones too, We discovered ways we can be useful to each other, and we got to have $2 beer. I got to listen to a dozen women laughing and carrying on and modeling how to be really great people.

Not every minute has to be about me, afterall.


I've managed to set up a dinner salon with a few folks from the sustainability/green business/permaculture/social equity spheres. We're meeting tomorrow at SOL, a place where a few Slide Ranch "graduates" are living. What will we discuss?

I don't exactly know.

What I've noticed is that the way we live our American lifestsyle is non-sustainable. If 6 billion people lived the way we do, it would require the resources of 7 Earths! Thinking of the Earth as a loan, we've borrowed against her so heavily, that she has almost no principle left. We need to build that up again, and re-learn how to live off the interest.

We've exported our TV and our communication culture to more than half the planet. More than 3 billion people are being taught to want the lifestyle we have. How will they get it? What if they can't? What will they do?

I feel that effects ripple from even the smallest actions, so I'm trying to find a way to reduce an American lifestyle down to an equitable share of the planet's resources. And then, show how that works, so others can experience it, learn from it, make it better and unique to their situation.

How do we create and honor abundance, so that it continues to multiply?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I know what I don't know!

When I start working with someone, I have a "fixed cost" of discovering what their entreprenuerial style is. I do this so I can build exactly the tools they need, and avoid charging them for work they don't need. Over the course of an often lengthy conversation, I uncover whether they go to mixers, whether they like making cold calls, or direct mail campaigns, or deal just with friends.

Nika, my business development coach, uncovered with me that this "backstory" can come to the front, and make the early stages of my work go much more smoothly.

We got to have this conversation because I suddenly realized yesterday what I really do for work. Here's how that came about:

In an email to a prospect and I wrote "think of me as a sort of freelance art director." I wrote a couple more sentences and suddenly couldn't stay in my chair. I jumped up and started pacing. A beat had formed in my head, and was growing stronger, and wouldn't be denied: BIM-bim BIM BIM-bim-bim! What did it mean? Why was I so agitated? What secret was at the fringe of my awareness?

BIM-bim BIM BIM-bim-bim
BIM-bim BIM BIM-bim-bim

I let the rythm continue, and I sat down. I re-read my email to capture where I'd been headed with my thoughts. I read:

BIM-bim BIM BIM-bim-bim
Freelance Art Director

And the drums stopped! Well, folks, that's what I am: a Freelance Art Director for Entreprenuers and Small Business.

Knowing that's my job, now I get to explore how I do that job. Two early realizations are that I do accept the responsibility to archive all the work, so the client doesn't have to, and that I readily identify what is the client contact style of my client. Meet n' greeters need a strong business card, and lots of them. Broadcasters need a consistent email marketing tool and strong identity through their direct amil campaign. Hobby businesses need to offload "sales" onto a website. I know these and the other types, and I already support them in how they want to run their business. Now I have a new tool to initiate our transaction so they know I'm not trying to upsell them, or do work that has little or now value for them.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Huygens lands on Titan!

More later, gotta go pick up the children.

[edit] I lied. I decided not to make more of these. The team at ASU can do it. I can demonstrate patience.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Global Citizenship

Sort of light on posting, recently. Guess I've been putting time in on other things.

I've sent an invitation out to a pretty large group of people, to come to a brainstorm seesion about what a sustainability project could look like. I've had three responses, but I'm looking for about 8 people to show up.

I'm very much in shock over the loss of life from the tsunami. I'm very much pleased with the initial rush of global citizenship. There was a similar rush after 9-11, but then the response to that act by a few bad people got warped into an attack against a sovereign nation. I already see similar twists applied to this natural disaster. I know there are lots of people on the planet who need to point fingers and blame, but why does it seem they end up being the most vocal and able to pull the longest strings?

Friday, January 07, 2005

Iapetus, ring-thief?

The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft sent pics of the odd place, Iapetus. There was a pic last year that showed some odd, equatorial mountains on its far side, and the new set shows there's an equatorial ridge that wraps around at least half the moon. Here's a view:

My idea is that this is a record of an ancient ring-eating event. The scientists are arguing over whether this is a chain of volcanoes, or compression fractures. Someone on the team will propose its ring emplaced, you watch. How tall is the ridge? It has been reported to be 20km high, on a worldlet only 1400km in diameter. If you stood on top of this ridge, you'd see the curvature of Iapetus. You'd be able to look out over 75,000 square km, about 150km in all directions. Something the same proportions on the Earth would be 180km tall (roughly 115 miles, or more than 40 miles higher than SS1's hop).

If there were Saturnian Rings as far out as Iapetus' orbit, they'd be enormous. Viewed from Earth, they would have been about 2/3 the width of our moon's diameter.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Bonfante Gardens

Although she looks weird in this picture in the maze, Caitlan approved this image.

Sustainability also means having fun with less stuff. Sometimes your child needs a new bicycle. But sometimes they need a new experience. Last year I took the family to a concert as my Christmas present to them. This year I took them to Bonfante Gardens for the Christmas themed Holiday Lights. We bring home memories, instead of tomorrow's trash.

We've never been, and it was great fun. A little too gentle, it's like one big Bunny Slope instead of a full ski resort, but with all the pressure that usually surrounds this time of year, it's very sweet to step into a gentler place and wean your body off its constant adrenaline rush.

Memorable moments: discovering the Circus Trees and their story, driving the little cars with children who don't really understand steering, the powerful smell of garlic growing at the spinning Garlic Twist ride; Caitlan's brave embarrassment twice: once on the toddler ride "Artichoke Dip" (oh, so painfully tame, safer than sitting on a log surrounded by cushions) and again when she got caught singing a roll appreciation song in the buffet line, and tried to cover by letting us know there was a roll appreciation dance, too, but we weren't going to get to see it; Nicholas riding the giant Mushroom Swing and really enjoying the Traditional Christmas Dinner; discovering the maze and having a great time getting lost; Xena's smirking grin as she got "lost" and the children called out directions to help rescue her.

And finally, how bitterly cold it becames as the night aged. We were sort of prepared, but if we go again we'll bring mittens and another layer. We window shopped in the gifts shops, just getting warmed up.