Friday, March 30, 2007

Snappy Copy Gets You Everywhere... Even Into Heaven

church sign
Originally uploaded by alpharat.
Church signs interest me, simply because I've often wondered where they get the ideas for their signs. Some of them are quite thought-provoking, and some are just plain punny.

I'd wondered if there was a newsletter or organization that supplied churches with their marquee ideas. I didn't think that each church had its own copywriter that supplied them with their signs, simply because churches probably couldn't afford a freelancer week after week, and volunteers wouldn't be so consistent either. Plus, if you live in an area with multiple churches, you'll see them start to repeat, and one would hope the churches weren't stealing them from one another, because of that whole commandment thing.

Well, now I know the truth. Apparently there are books on this sort of thing. Here's one. You should pick it up if you own a church. If you don't own a church, there's probably not much use in it, though.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Stabbing the Cat

Cat in a bowl
Originally uploaded by alpharat.
Just after Zilla did this post about getting cats in to the vet, we took the Bean in for a doctor's appointment. She had been drinking large amounts of water and we thought it may be her kidneys or diabetes.

A trip to the vet is no small production when it comes to the Bean. If you don't know Miss Mina, you don't know what a handful she can be, and that's putting it lightly. Several years ago, one vet sedated her just to give her an exam. This was after she lunged at him when he came into the room. She was still swiping at him while she was under sedation. She was swiping veeeeery slowly, but she was technically unconscious at the time. After her recovery, I had to go to the back room to retrieve her after she cornered a nurse.

We have since found a vet that can handle her, but even at this vet, when she went in for bloodwork this time, had her squealing and kicking and spitting. He told us that she was "a strong little girl". Of course, once she was returned to my arms, she calmed down but continued to shoot the death glare at the doctors and nurses, just daring them to try that move again.

The Bean's test came back showing that she is diabetic (which surprised the doctor, who thought she had too much energy to be diabetic, but he didn't understand her capacity for evil), and requires twice daily insulin injections. Normally, the vet would keep her there, to monitor her blood sugar until they got it exact, but her vet confessed that they can't handle that, so they've released her to our care, with weekly visits until she's evened out. It's cheaper this way to be sure, and while I don't relish loading her up to go to the vet once a week, my little princess is going to have an easier time of it, and is less likely to kill a vet while in my presence.

To add further insult, she got so worked up that she peed in the crate on the way home from the vet, subjecting herself to a bath when we got home, and to me calling her "Pee Cat" for the rest of the evening, which only served to further sour her mood. Additionally, as she is wont to do, after her three recent visits to the vet, her first course of action upon arrival back at home is to seek out the dog and punch him in the mouth. I don't know if she is taking out her aggression or simply ensuring that the natural order of things has remained in effect during her brief absence, but it's what she does.

I never wanted a cat, and we didn't seek out Miss Mina. She walked into a party at Nicole's apartment when we were in college and has been a part of our home for the past 13 years. She sleeps in a giant purple bowl in the middle of the living room floor, and is a little ray of sunshine for Nicole and I, even though she would like to destroy much of the rest of the Western World. I don't know what things would be like without her, and I am very attached to her, so you do what needs to be done. The shots aren't bad; she doesn't even flinch. It will put a damper on travelling for the foreseeable future, but this is the responsibility you take on as a pet owner.

So that's where we are with our little "pee cat". Things will return to normal and, like Wilford Brimley, she'll deal with her sugar diabetes and be a part of our life for quite a few more years.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Are you experienced? And if so, is it good? (AKA - the connection between produce stands and Web design explained)

Sunday morning, Westborn Market, Royal Oak:

Have you ever had one of those great grocery shopping days? This was one. After a visit to Trader Joe’s - a must for a wide variety of inexpensive organic foods (Zilla, I even picked up a boxed spelt dish, just out of tribute to you!), high-quality reasonably priced fish and a large selection of very good table wines for under $10 and often under $5 - we had made our way to Westborn Market for produce.

Given the choice, I prefer to go to Detroit's Eastern Market for produce. Everything is fresher, mostly organic, and cheaper. Plus it's just more fun to wander an open-air market, buying your produce from stalls, than it is going to a store. But we didn't have the time to go to the market this day.

It was one of those perfect shopping experiences. There was great music, with Lily Allen and The Decemberists playing on the in-store P.A. There were awesome samples of gourmet cheese throughout the store, enough that we pretty much had lunch there, and the place is just laid out beautifully, with heaps of great-looking produce, and a gourmet deli where we snagged a couple of pre-made chef salads to carry for lunch today.

As I was standing next to the coffee area, smelling the wonderful way the fresh bourbon pecan roast smelled, I remarked to Nicole that this store offered up a fantastic user experience. Her reply, after she laughed at my comment, was, "why don't you improve your user experience by going over there and getting some green onions?"

That's an inside joke that maybe only those in the ad/design industries will appreciate, but "user experience" really is a big deal to everyone, even if they don't realize what it is. Specifically, it's often used to relate to Web sites, but it essentially relates the idea that it doesn't matter how great something is if the people who use it don't enjoy using it, or can't use it easily.

Ergonomics is a similar idea, but less of an abstract ideal than user experience. Think about how user experience works for you. Think about those stores that have great products or great prices, but you hate visiting because you can't find anything or because the salespeople aren't helpful. Or those restaurants with great food but lousy service (or vice versa). The Secretary of State's Office with its long lines and indifferent employees, and even that road that gets you to work or school each day but is always under construction or crippled to a snail's pace by traffic. All of these are things that offer bad user experiences.

I really think that anyone who's in a field that doesn't deal daily with the concept of user experience could really benefit by taking a seminar on the idea (But not a boring seminar. Boring seminars offer a... that's right... a bad user experience). Imagine if more places realized that not only should they offer a service, but they should offer that service in a simple and pleasant fashion? Do you realize how less stressful things would be if that was the focus?

Monday, March 19, 2007

When in Rome...

When in Rome...
Originally uploaded by alpharat.
Do as the... ummm Texans do. In this case, it involves drinking Lone Star ("The National Beer of Texas") and singing along to Gary Glitter on the jukebox.

I'm a stickler.

Apparently I stickle.

That's what I was informed of by the Eats, Shoots & Leaves quiz.

I am OK with this. It's not bad to be a stickler when it comes to punctuation, grammar and spelling, and I got 100% on the quiz.

It's not totally inherent, to be sure. When I am working quickly, hammering out a post in a few free moments, a "to" instead of a "too" will slip by, or a "your" instead of a "you're". That's out of working quickly, rather than not knowing any better.

Which is probably worse when you think about it - committing an error I know better than to do. For example, you'd never ever EVER catch me saying that I "should of" done something. I hate that one over all. So why is it OK for me to make the random mistake?

Because I'm human I guess, and I know that with some extra time and care, it could be perfect. It's something to strive for, and an easy one, too. I'll save that goal for when I'm really down on myself. For now, I've got other stuff to strive for, so I'm not "to" worried about the grammar and punctuation in this blog.

At any rate, you can take Truss' test here. And if you haven't read Eats, Shoots & Leaves, you should.

And yes, we're back from Austin and SXSW. I have some photos and stuff to share for sure, but I've got to work on this site first.

Monday, March 12, 2007

St. Patrick Comes Early To Motown


In a few hours, I'll be on my way to Austin and SXSW, but before I go, I wanted to share a few photos of Detroit's St. Patrick's Day parade (AKA the day they suspend the open intox laws).


Just remember, no matter what planet you're from, you're Irish on St. Patty's Day!


And even the Buddhists turn out to pay respect to the Saint.



All our friends turned up, including the Millionaire.


And this guy was representing my Alma Mater. It made me proud. Go Broncos!


Have a great holiday everyone. I'll update from Texas if I get a chance!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The traveller stops... for a second anyway.

I guess it's time for what has turned into the weekly (or less so) update. Life is just managing to bowl me over with everything that need to get done.

As if there's not enough already going on, we've opened up our home and welcomed a new addition to the family. Isn't she pretty? I think she's pretty awesome. She doesn't have a name yet, but we're open to suggestions.

A Tale of Two Shanes

As many of you know, this is Shane.

What some of you don't know is that he's named after this Shane.

This is Shane McGowen, the original lead singer of the Pogues, one of my all-time favorite bands.

He's also a notorious drunk. He was thrown out of the Pogues in the 90s for it. He then started his own band, Shane McGowen and the Popes. I had tickets to see them on my birthday several years ago. The Popes showed up. Shane didn't. He'd gone facedown on the bar next door.

Eventually the Pogues coaxed him back for reunion tours. But they only play short tours, consisting of multi-night engagements in the same cities. I strongly suspect this has to do with it making it easier to keep track of Shane, but this hasn't been confirmed.

I don't know how much time Shane McGowen has left, although he is the man who said, "The British press have been giving me six months to live for the past twenty years - they must be getting pissed off interviewing me by now." So who knows? I just know that I consider myself fortunate to have had tickets to see him last Monday in Chicago.

They played for two and a half hours, and played most of my favorites. Shane, as always, looked really rough, but actually not as rough as he has looked. He would sing two or three songs, though, and then go sit down, and he passed the singing duties of some of his longer songs off. He doesn't have the staying power anymore.

Here's some Pogues goodness if you have a moment...

Also on that trip to Chicago, we paid a visit to the aquarium... gift shop. We didn't actually make it into the aquarium, because well...

The day started with some killer margaritas for lunch.

Then we got to the aquarium, and as we waited in line for the aquarium, we saw that it was $30 to get in. $30 buys many beers (and it did). So we decided to just visit the gift shop instead.

While we were in the gift shop, I got an idea that, if we were to dress like we worked there, maybe we could sneak in. And who works at the aquarium? Fish and dolphins!

It didn't work though, so we moved on.

But greetings from the aquarium, anyway!

After we got back, it was time to do the Punk Fitness demo for The Hamtramck Blowout. It's funny, it's reaching the point where the annual events are repeatedly... ummm repeating themselves around here.

This year's blowout opened with a performance by Adult. Adult. is an amazing band, who doesn't perform a lot. When they do perform, they bring in MZZO, the world's greatest sound guy from Chicago. He tours with them (as well as with a ton of other bands). He's a good friend of ours; he went to school with The Fabulous Nicole.

So, we got the added bonus of seeing him in Chicago, and then again in Detroit in just a few days.

Rather than take a picture of Adult. on stage, here's MZZO at work. It's where the magic really happens...

Now, once again I am digging in. SXSW beckons, and I've started making arrangements for our second annual breast cancer benefit.

I thought about slowing down once, but I have some stuff to get done first.