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WEB, VIDEO (permalink) 12.20.2013
with benefits akin to compound interest
i'm sure by now you've all seen this video, but still...

this strikes me beyond the well done sentimentality as it points to a gaping hole in my screen policing philosophy, a hole my children are just beginning to discern. the loophole is this: i will allow my children immense access to technology in the name of active creation. and i will restrict, with equal vigor, the time they use technology for numb consumption. as for my criteria of what is creation, they are broad. i'm indifferent if you're plotting out a website, writing a short story, shooting a video or even trying to make a wonky maze in minecraft—if that's the plan, plug in and hack away. conversely, if the agenda is to troll other people's websites, read the stories they crafted, watch their video-making achievements, or play a wonky maze someone else made, time is up, log off, go outside and get dirty.

bella is the first to begin to glean this paradox in her father because even while on restriction from screens, she's noticed any kid with a plan in hand gets greenlit to the machine of their choosing. before you start picking at my methonds, please know one needs more than a fanciful vision to get past the logon screen. outlines, sketches, mockups are the sorts of keys that can make the doors swing wide. lacking that level of planning, a child will be sent off to better collect their thoughts. if they can't get the plan on paper they either weren't serious or they weren't ready.

and if you gave me ten years, i don't think i could have transformed this belief with anywhere near the payload this apple ad achieves in a mere ninety seconds. fully ridiculous. holy smokes are their people good (ahem, creators).

as for me i think i've done about all the creating i've got in me for 2013 so i'll be stepping away to relax by the fire, smile at the dinner table, and tell animated stories with friends and family while lazing on comfy furniture next to lit trees. may your next weeks be rich with laughter, contentment and liesure while we all get a societal kitchen pass to spend time with our friends and families.

see you on january 6th.

p.s. speaking of creating, after entering this post into the database, i noticed that it is the 2,001st entry in the monorail blog. things, good and bad, do have a reliable way of accumalating on us. it's the quiet beauty of the slow drip.

LIFE (permalink) 12.19.2013
an absolute one of a kind
i heard of the greatest christmas tradition this week. the husband of a woman i work with, since the year they got married, has saved a section of the stump from their family christmas tree. he dates the wooden discs, adding significant detail(s) from the year in his custom scrawl. the end result is a rich and personal presentation on their family mantle. this discovery snuck in just before year's end as the idea i most wish was my own. the man to credit for this excellent bit of creativity and foresight is one joe erker. in case it is not apparant, i couldn't be more envious of the thoughtful gift he has made for his family and the future generations it will surely touch.

and, if that large centerpiece stump with the single word POP on it doesn't elicit emotion from you, wether you personally know who pop was or not, you are not properly wired (or you haven't yet lost one of the most important people in your life). powerful stuff. as the movie says, life is beautiful.

click to enlarge

PHOTO (permalink) 12.18.2013
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.

KIDS, QUOTES (permalink) 12.17.2013
broken record
things i say a lot to my kids:

in the morning when i first see them:
welcome to another beautiful day on planet earth.

when i say goodbye to them:
do good.

when i announce we're about to leave:
wheels up in five.

when it's time to go to bed:
shut it down. brush, potty, and bed.

when they do something i deem foolish:
oh c'mon. you've gotta have more sense than that.

when i'm in mush mood for them:
you know i love you big, right?

SCIENCE, QUOTES (permalink) 12.13.2013
and i can barely keep a shirt tucked into my pants through a workday
DNA possesses genes, small snippets of biological instructions, that guide everything from how tall you become to how you respond to stress. A lot of genetic material fits inside that yolk-like nucleus. Nearly six feet of the stuff are crammed into a space that is measured in microns. A micron is 1/25,000th of an inch, which means putting DNA into your nucleus is like taking thirty miles of fishing line and stuffing it into a blueberry. The nucleus is a crowded place.

One of the most unexpected findings of recent years is that this DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is not randomly jammed into the nucleus, as one might stuff cotton into a teddy bear. Rather, DNA is folded into the nucleus in a complex and tightly regulated manner. The reason for this molecular origami: cellular career options. Fold the DNA one way and the cell will become a contributing member of your liver. Fold it another way and the cell will become part of your busy bloodstream. Fold it a third way and you get a nerve cell—and the ability to read this sentence.
excerpt from Brain Rules by John Medina

FAMILY, PERSONAL (permalink) 12.12.2013
now closer to 90 than to my birth, as e-love would say.
i turned 45 last sunday. i took the friday before off work, not so much for my birthday but mostly to prepare for my everyman wrap party happening saturday night, although i snuck some troy-centric things in along the way, namely burnt butter pasta at the old spaghetti factory for lunch. because of the early prep, the saturday party went off anxiety and issue free. sunday offered more leisure-time and some visiting of friends (some who had a new labrapoodle puppy--i'm now deciding between getting one or two for our home). we then went out for my ritual birthday dinner at cafe natasha and their mystically good beef kabobs. because we had leftover mama nat ice cream pie from the party, we returned home for desert (instead of the usual stop at ted drewes). at the dinner table, my family sang happy birthday and marty and boys gifted me a new bike pump to replace the broken one i've been cussing at for over a year. my twelve-year old daughter then handed me a three sheets of type-filled paper and instructed me to read aloud.
Bella will now read the rest of your birthday present to you (please hand this back to Bella).


You're officially 45 (when I first made this list I thought that it was 43!). It's either that or 99 or 100.

This is my birthday present to you. I started making this March 25th (knowing that it would take this long to come up with 100 thankfuls for you). I thought of it the day that you listed off 40 things you were thankful for about our utah ski trip. It was also a day or two before the VOICE VOTED OUT EXACTLY ALL OF THE GOOD SINGERS!, but you'll hear more about that later.

Before I say anything else I must make you promise that if we are fighting or throwing insults at each other, you promise that you will not refer back to this. Promise?

Below is a list of 100 thankfuls I have about you:
while tempted i will not bore you will all 100 items. here are a few from the start and end, with a few from the middle sprinkled about.
  1. I'm thankful that you were able to see right from the first time you met mom that she was the woman you had to marry.
  2. I'm thankful that you didn't give up when mom didn't instantly fall in love with you, or soon, or later, or really later (but she did eventually fall in love with you, it's a miracle).
  3. I'm thankful that your mother picked you to be the child she adopted, otherwise none of this would have happened... wait, no, if your mother's mother never gave birth to her then she wouldn't be alive to adopt you, no wait, if you're mother's mother's mother never gave birth to your mother's mother ... never mind, the butterfly effect ;)
  4. I'm thankful that you thought up the "$15 credit" thing. As I've heard your friend say, it was the best investment and phone call you ever made.
  5. I'm thankful you and mom got married, when she eventually realized that you can't judge a book by its cover.
  1. I'm thankful for all the potty jokes you and the boys share. Mostly I'm thankful for that because then my brothers don't come to me with their potty jokes.
  1. I'm thankful that you would go from one edge of the world to the other for me.
  1. I'm thankful that you're my someone who I get to joke around with and make crude and mean comments to. Everyone needs someone like that in their lives.
  1. I'm thankful that you have the Troyscripts. I know that I have my moments when I probably make you hate that you made them in the first place (like, when I come home and tell you that the kids at my school found them).
  1. I'm thankful that you've helped me develop into the amazing writer I am today ... maybe I'm not amazing, but I'm thankful that you've helped me become interested in writing.
  1. I'm thankful that you gave me tons and tons and tons of advice about boys, maybe a little too much.
  2. I'm thankful you let me get a bikini.
  3. I'm thankful that you're able to look past all my flaws (not that I'm admitting I have any).
  4. I'm thankful that you lived another year, and that you chose to spend it with us.
  5. I'm thankful that you're the man you are today.
  6. I'm thankful that you love me.
if you'll please excuse me a moment. i'll be off crying (again) for a bit.

FAMILY, KIDS (permalink) 12.10.2013
more accurate than a blood test.
sometimes our kids become unglued. when this happens, in our home, they are sent to their room. marty has all these calm, mature lines for such moments like, "kids who need to cry do so in their room, my living room is for happy people" or "you need to go to your room until you're able to make good and respectful choices to those around you". sometimes you have to help a child to their room but mostly they go on their own volition.

i find children claiming to be cured of the evils that afflicted them are not as cured as they might think or say. similar to the other baubles in my modest collection of knowledge, it took me longer to procure this particular gemstone than it probably should have. in defense, let me say you too may have been fooled when a cute pig-tailed girl of four calmly approaches you, says she feels all better now and can she go back to playing. one might even applaud their own parental acumen at righting a world that almost went all sideways and screamy. it is only when the small, adorable child rejoins the others, mostly siblings, calmly sits down, carefully selects a block and then brains the unsuspecting mark in the temple that you know a few bad clouds might still be lurking in the folds of their demeanor.

after being burned by this scenario more than once, i created a test for my recently pardoned children. when a freshly quieted child comes to you and gives the "all clear" sign, ask them to come right before you. when they do, stare into their eyes. the stare begins the test. a child not fully ready will not be able to hold your stare for more than a few seconds. they will try but will uncomfortably avert their eyes before long. this child needs to cook in their room a bit longer. for a child that holds your gaze, wait about ten seconds and then carefully place your three middle fingers on the center of their forehead and give them a gentle nudge, a nudge strong enough to push their forehead back about three inches. the cured child will smile and ask what you are doing and why did you just push them in the head. the un-ready child's eyes will flare with contempt and their miniature frame will lunge at you, their small fingers unmistakably targeting your carotid. this child is not ready.

for what it's worth, i've yet to meet the child who can successfully fake their way through the stare and push test.

WEB, VIDEO (permalink) 12.06.2013
our last homage to photography, for now at least

WEB (permalink) 12.05.2013
it's a wrap
in the third year of the everyman, to thank my judges, i decided to host a dinner for them. early on i only had five judges and could fit my entire judging panel (and their spouses) around my dinner table. so marty and i (mostly marty for sure) prepared a scrumptious home style dinner and we had a dinner party.

now, the thing i hadn't considered in all this (as there always has to be that one pesky unseen) was something about how i chose my judges. early on i didn't want any overlap in the interest or approach of my judging panel. thus, i carefully hand-picked people who were distinct from my other judges, the only commonality between them being a genuine love for photography. it wasn't until they all stood in the same room looking at one another that the flaw in my dinner-party math came to light. aside from this joint interest in photography, these people did not share a single interest in common.

i had a school teacher, an accountant, a graphic designer, an IT manager, and a guy who sold 50's toys on ebay for a living. these people sat in the living room where the long silences were broken only by short one-word answers to desperate attempts at conversation. when dinner was served the awkward stillness persisted but just played out in the dining room. when we all sat and dishes were politely passed i frantically—in my mind at least—tried to get something started but as i scanned the room any question asked of one was not of interest to their neighbor. someone actually commented about the weather. this is the point i physically felt the desperation of the moment. i couldn't believe a dinner party hosted by marty and i resorted, minutes into the meal, to a mention of weather. fingers slipping from the last handhold, i flailed for something.

so, what did folks think about the photo that won landscape?

oh, i thought it was lovely. such a unique take on an often-shot subject.

lovely? unique? it was trash. i can't believe it placed let alone won.

i wouldn't call it trash but i thought it maybe shouldn't have placed as high as it did. the clear winner of the event for me was macro/abstract.

for me it was black and white.

finally. something i can agree with.

and here or shortly after here the table broke out into the most vigorous discussion our dining room has ever seen. the din from multiple heated and excited conversations that involved various combinations of people moved about energetically and held through the rest of the evening. i was astonished both at how powerful this one shared experience between these greatly varied people could be and how sad it was i didn't anticipate the potential sooner. i'm a dolt.

since that initial dinner, the everyman 'wrap' party has taken place every year, save one given a puke-illness my kids brought home from school. i've had judges skype from italy and i've had judges drive in from tennessee (where i paid for their lodging at a fancy nearby hotel, thus making them feel like a for-real celebrity). the annual wrap parties stand as one of our yearly highlights and one of my more favorite parts of the everyman.

WEB (permalink) 12.04.2013
another semi-related story to the everyman deals in the buildup to the contest. in discussing the early motivation to get art, i mentioned going to an art fair and buying some photos for my newly purchased (and bare) home. during the transaction i struck up a conversation with the photog's wife who also served as his manager. she mentioned the newly forming web and their need to get her husband's work online but confessed they were having problems with it. having recently gotten into the game i gave her my sympathy admitting there was a lot of mystery to in using this new medium well, especially in the arts. but i waved my arm towards their wall of photography and said their task was simpler than most as the biggest thing they had to do was stay out of the way of her husband's amazing photography and let the art wash over the user. she conceded to the sense of the approach but gave the oft-used 'easier said than done' in reply. looking over the man's stunning work hanging on the temporary panels of his booth, various treatments for porting the images to the web came to mind. i asked her if she would be interested in an exchange—a web design for some prints (the prints were quite pricey for a fellow who just bought his first home). i added if they didn't like my suggestions they wouldn't owe anything in return. if they did, i would let them determine the quantity and size of prints they felt fair in exchange. she smilingly agreed.

as is the way with true inspiration in a matter of days i had produced a site design i thought would suit them well. i packaged up several screen shots and emailed them to the woman. as is the case whenever you share your artistic creations i sat back and awaited their reaction. none came. not after a day. not after three days. not after two weeks. i obviously took the silence as a solid rejection of my work and will say it injured my confidence in the craft and vigor for the trade more than i'd like to admit. i tried to push the failure out of my mind but the taunting notion routinely skipped through the forefront of my awareness like a teasing classmate.

then on a bored weekend night months later—i said it maimed me to embarrassing degrees—i pulled up the photog's site to try to see what they could like in their present design that my work did not improve upon. after the page loaded i stared at not the faltering design i had looked to replace, but the design i had sent them, albeit a clumsy implementation of it. i stared at the page using my design for several minutes trying to make sense of what i was seeing. i scrolled to the footer and about pages looking for a mention of credit. i found none.

Anger took the Rejection that had been moping around my brain by the collar and threw her out the front door with a flailing kick in the ass. the few times Recognition's bright face dared to knock on the door to celebrate the acceptance of our design Anger turned her away with a rough push in the shoulder.

i talked to marty about what happened. she told me to call them and say that its a sad world when one creative steals the work of another creative and especially after one supported the other by buying their work. i silently listened to marty's prudent advice but instead said things like, "nah, it doesn't really matter" or "if you have to say those words to an adult they won't matter". so i did nothing. well, that's not entirely true. every month or two i'd pull the website up and look at my design and feel the anxiety of emotions that sputtered and flared.

then the email campaign began. every few months i'd receive an email from this photographer announcing his latest prints and inviting me to see them on his newly designed website. to add to it, they even modeled the email campaign using my design. after the third email, i sent a polite request to be removed from their list and the following email exchanges took place.
Tuesday, December 3, 2002 5:13 PM

please remove me from your newsletter.


Tuesday, December 3, 2002, at 10:27 PM

Are you the designer in Kansas City (or maybe it was St. Louis) who spoke to me several years ago about creating a web site?  If you are, I've been trying to find you!  Please reply and let me know if I have the right guy.  Thanks.

Tuesday, December 3 2002 @ 11:01 PM

yes. i would be that guy.

Wednesday, December 4, 2002 11:38 PM

Yea! I'm so glad it's you.  Whit and I have been feeling terrible about losing your information after my brother used your design for our web site!  We would like to compensate you for the wonderful mock-up that led to our site.  Originally you said that you would be willing to trade your work for some of Whit's work.  Is that still OK? We'd like you to pick some images (if you're still interested) and let us send them to you at our expense.

I'm sure you've been steaming over this the past 18 months.  Please know that we never meant for this to happen.  We are really grateful for the design.  We really are good people who would never dream of "stealing" someone's idea and not compensating them accordingly.  Let us know what we can do for you.


Louise (and Whit) Bronaugh
Thursday, December 5, 2002 11:40 PM

well, this is a pleasant surprise. truth told, i was a little uncertain of what to make of the situation. i checked back on your site a few weeks after sending the mock-up and thought it looked reminiscent of my suggestion. your email somewhat restores my faith in the world around, and at a nice time with the holidays and all.

your brother's execution of my vision is to be applauded. your site is very nice, professional and i think conveys whit's work respectfully. hopefully it has proven to be an effective aid to your business. and, in perusing the site i saw that whit went to college at colorado state. i grew up in fort collins, just a couple of miles west of the campus. i used to skateboard on the sidewalks around moby gym quite frequently and worked several jobs at campus west in high school. great place. miss it dearly.

given the time that has passed, i'm somewhat compelled to pass on your offer, but i am hopelessly enamored with whit's work and would love a few more of his photos adorning my walls. last christmas, my brother-in-law bought a whit original for his wife after seeing his works in our home. i'm not sure what's appropriate but will list two and let you decide what's fair.

sunrise, sunflower
delicate innocense

thanks for the email and taking the time to follow up. i appreciate the gesture.

your lost web guy,

the two things i learned from this ordeal are:
  1. every time i get myself worked up over something, it is almost always for naught in the end.
  2. when marty is kind enough to offer advice, i should be sensible enough to use it because it is, also, almost always spot-on counsel.

WEB, PHOTO (permalink) 12.03.2013
a few historical exhibits
in honor of the everyman release, i'm devoting the week to everyman related matters (that add to details missed in the everyman story told a few months back). today i'm sharing two of the most noteworthy bits of history:

1. the original photograph
i can put hands on every single image ever entered into the photo contest, but miserably, i have lost the image that began it all—the image from chris mcgrath's coffee table taken of his brother in law taking a giant bite from a plum. the only remnant i have from what i sometimes call "the original entry" that sparked it all is from the 1st everyman where i used the image in the masthead.

2. the kottke explosion
then there was the post heard around the web. every time i the tell the story i obviously mention how simple and unadorned the mention that brought the everyman to the world was. jason kottke's wonderful brevity allows me to repeat it, verbatim, in each re-telling. what that pithy three-word link did for the everyman speaks to the power and potential of the world wide web which can still surprise when we see it flex its muscles in ways we weren't expecting.

WEB, PHOTO (permalink) 12.02.2013
the wait is over.

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