CMXtraneous: This and That

Right on the edge of useful

Creative and fun ad examples

Posted Tuesday, October 31, 2006 8:09:38 AM by Zoe Gillenwater

Zoe Gillenwater
I feel like there are two types of creative people: idea people and implementation people. (This is a gross oversimplification, of course.) I think I'm an implementation person. If you give me a rough idea, I can execute it in a beautiful and efficient way. I don't, however, feel like I'm really good at coming up with ideas. At least not marketing ideas. Check out this blog post of extremely creative ads from around the world. It's great how these advertisers have come up with ways to take advantage of the facilities already in place and integrate their products into them in ways that feel fun, not "Oh my gosh, I can't believe they're forcing another ad on us." I hate the enormous amount of advertising we are bombarded with nowadays, but if all advertisers were as clever as these folks, I wouldn't mind advertising at all and would probably be a much better consumer. Thank goodness they're not all so good, eh? :-)

Category tags: Graphics, This and That

Warning: design hazardous to your health

Posted Tuesday, October 17, 2006 2:28:18 PM by Zoe Gillenwater

Zoe Gillenwater
Yes, design can sometimes have health consequences! The household cleaning products called Fabuloso feature clear bottles with brightly colored liquid inside and slick, dynamic packaging. Unfortunately, the packaging makes them look like sports drinks, and almost 100 people across Texas have drunk the cleaner. This is yet another example of why the purpose and audience of your product matter. Not every type of design is appropriate for every type of product, whether that product be a retail good, print piece, or web site. Design with caution!

Category tags: Graphics, This and That

How to Save a Folder's Contents to a Text File

Posted Thursday, September 07, 2006 4:07:58 PM by David Stiller

David Stiller

I just finished a Flash movie that loads PNGs from a particular site folder.  In this case, the list of desired files is determined by an Array instance.  There are fifty-three files in this folder, and I didn’t relish typing out the names of each file by hand.  Old DOS trick to the rescue!

If you’re in Windows, open a Command prompt and type:

dir folder to list > file to print to

... then hit Enter.  What you get is a text file of the typical results of running dir in a DOS window; in other words, a listing of all the files.  If your folder names have spaces or are long, wrap your paths in quotes.

For example, this lengthy string …

dir "c:\Documents and Settings\<user name>\My Sites\sample\images\" >
 "c:\Documents and Settings\<user name>\My Sites\sample\output.txt"

… puts a text file named output.txt into the root of the sample site.  That text file lists all the files in the sample\images\ folder.  You can copy paths from the Address field of Windows Explorer and past them into your DOS window by right-clicking on the window’s title bar and selecting  Edit > Paste.

Note, the resultant text file isn’t especially edit-ready.  You’ll get something like the following:

09/07/2006  04:15 PM   <DIR>      ..
09/07/2006  04:11 PM     85,143 1111bs-rstand.png
09/07/2006  04:11 PM    125,863 1515rvnt.png
09/07/2006  04:11 PM     95,544 1libsite.png
09/07/2006  04:11 PM    133,780 1libvent.png

So if you want file names only, use something like MS Word to replace the series of spaces between the date/time stamp “column” and the file size/name “column” with a tab character, then convert the text to a table, split on tabs.  Delete the first column, convert back to text, then convert back to a table, split on a space character.  Delete the first column again, then convert back.

Sounds tedious, I admit, but it sure beats typing out all those file names by hand.  If you’re into regular expressions, it can be a trivial matter to select only the file names.

In my case, I used regex to “rip” my file names and convert them into a series of Array.push() lines …

images.push(imagePath + "1111bs-rstand.png");
images.push(imagePath + "1515rvnt.png");
images.push(imagePath + "1libsite.png");
images.push(imagePath + "1libvent.png");

… all in one swoop.

Category tags: This and That

Keeping on drawing

Posted Wednesday, August 30, 2006 11:02:26 AM by Gordon Mackay

In my quest to learn how to draw with more skill in Fireworks I think I have found the perfect method. What I have been doing is selecting a simple object to draw on a daily basis.

Some of the things I have been attempting are:

  • Simple three dimensional shapes, like cubes and cylinders
  • Cartoon faces
  • Cartoon penguins :)
  • Trees
  • Ugly looking houses :(

These experiments have gone rather well, and through my attempts I have picked up some rather nifty imaging techniques that I will be able to apply to more advanced drawings at a later stage in my development.

I said that the experiments have gone rather well, but unfortunately a lot (maybe most) of them would be embarrassing to show here. So I will stick to presenting you with only the PNG files that I'm most proud of :)

Last night I attempted to draw a flower, one that doesn't actually exist in nature :P I managed to easily get the flower looking pretty darn good, and in turn I felt pretty darn good too. So much so that I got carried away and added some sky, then some clouds, then some more clouds, then some grass and ground to plant my flower in.

The amazing thing about starting off simple is that your highly unlikely to be completely disappointed with the fruits of your labor. In fact, in my case it made me more enthusiastic.

So much so that I don't find this picture embarrassing enough to make me want to hide my face for a year if I show you it:

(Download the PNG source file here)

If you're really serious about designing web sites you should consider learning to draw in Fireworks. It's a lot of fun and it's also a great way to create graphics that are unique to your own designs.

I hope that some of these posts I have been making are enough to whet your appetite.

Have fun :)

Category tags: Designing for the Web, Fireworks, Graphics, On the Personal Side, This and That

Boredom, ideas, productivity... and penguins.

Posted Wednesday, August 23, 2006 6:20:36 PM by Gordon Mackay

When I'm bored I sometimes watch TV, I sometimes read a book, but most of the time I switch on my computer and fire-up Fireworks, then iTunes and then start drawing things.

For me boredom generates productivity and ideas. The need to do something during those times normally leads to a PNG with a doodle planted slap-bang in the middle of it.

The images folder on my Mac contains around 500 Fireworks PNG files that consist mainly of random ideas that have poured out of my head and onto a blank canvas. Not all of them are good, and some of them are downright ugly, but that's not the point, the point is that I can go back to them at some time in the future and maybe use them for a project, or for something to tutorialize here at CMX.

Boredom led me to make this post, so I will share with you the product of that boredom.

Here it is:

(Right click to save the PNG to your desktop)

I don't know about you guys, but there is something about penguins (maybe it's a Linux thing, hehe) that makes me happy.

Anyway, please feel free to tear the PNG apart, edit it... use it... do whatever you want with it... just have fun :)

Category tags: Designing for the Web, Fireworks, Graphics, On the Personal Side, This and That

Another worst presentation moment

Posted Tuesday, August 22, 2006 12:52:28 PM by Heidi Bautista

Heidi Bautista

Cast your memories back to the early 80's when guitar music was all the rage in midwestern Catholic churches. I'm around 12 years old and not nearly as good with my guitar as my older brother and sister. Nonetheless, I get roped into playing during mass. Our priest was from the "old school." Definitely liked old fashioned organ music better. Anyway, it's spring in Michigan. In fact, it's time to spring-forward. You know what that means, right? Yeah, yeah, reset all the clocks. Not in my family, though. We always forgot to reset them. So, of course, our family gets to the church late. The priest has already begun and is singing the old fashioned organ music - a capella, no less! My parents "encourage" me to get up there and do my guitar thing. I do. Some of the people out there in the pews respond but the priest doesn't. I don't think he intentionally ignored me. But he was really old! So after a few half-hearted attempts, I slink back down to join my family in the front pew. We never spoke of it again.

Oh, and I'm still scared of public speaking. I did perform music in public again. Never guitar, though. That was it for me.

Category tags: Blogs and Blogging, On the Personal Side, This and That

Worst Presentation Moment

Posted Monday, August 21, 2006 10:20:17 PM by Joseph Balderson

Joseph Balderson

Looking over the Top 10 Worst Presentation Moments on some Microsoft blog, brings back memories... reminding me of a Worst Presentation Moment of mine. Boy was it a doozy.

It's the early 90's, and back then I was big into space advocacy, because it seemed like the next best thing to being an astronaut aboard the Space Shuttle. I'm 21, and doing a major presentation of the latest findings of some unmanned spacecraft, I forget the name now, on behalf of the Mars Society, York University Chapter in Toronto. My co-presenter was a recent astrophysics graduate or something. I've got no university degree, no formal scientific training, but being self taught, what I lacked in education I made up for in enthusiasm as a volunteer for the society, so they gave me a prime presenting spot. Now I knew I could do it, because at the time I managed a small sales force selling security services door-to-door, so I was not shy in front of people, even if it was my first big presentation of this kind.

In the audience were physicists, teachers, students, astronomers, financial supporters for the society, and a few deans of the university. And they were all waiting for the latest juicy scientific details, because we got our info straight from JPL in Pasadena (this was before the internet, so you had to either subscribe to a journal or go to a lecture to get the latest news on this kind of stuff).

I got up to present, confident in my ability to deliver a presentation I knew by heart. But I had spent so much time the previous night absorbing the material, getting all the scientific details down, so nervous about the presentation, that I got almost no sleep. And the next evening, I was so hyped up on coffee and nerves, all that came out of my mouth was:

uh... ummm... and this is the ummm... uhhh...

My mind went completely blank. Three weeks of straight astronomy research completely down the tubes. I froze. I even got heckled to get off the stage by the sixth slide or so.

It was THE most embarrassing moment in my life. I so crashed and burned...

Luckily my colleagues sitting in the front row took pity on me and someone relieved me and did an impromptu presentation in my place, to this day I don't remember who it was, maybe the chapter president.

Prior to this I was involved in the society in a big way, and did a lot of volunteering with them. My embarrassment after that incident was so total that next month I resigned from the society's activities and never went back to a single meeting.

The good thing that came out of it was, I realized years later, I got over my fear of public speaking, for good. To this day I have absolutely ZERO fear of speaking in public, because I know, no matter how badly I screw up, nothing could be anywhere near as bad as that presentation.

What I learned is that no amount of preparation will ever make up for a good night's sleep. And until you screw up real bad, at least once, you never get any good at public speaking.

; )

Category tags: Blogs and Blogging, Education, On the Personal Side, This and That

Bears Beware!

Posted Tuesday, August 01, 2006 2:53:58 PM by Big John

Big John

Burnout is a very ugly thing. That's why I have taken the decision this summer to accompany my brother and his friends on their annual excursion into the high Sierra Nevada wilderness.

It's really neat. 75 miles in 11 days, over hill and dale, flirting with hypoxia at 10000ft and above. Not to mention a planned 20 mile detour cross-country, if you can call a solid rock landscape above 11 grand a "country." At least there are glaciers and former glaciers (called "lakes") scattered about, to break up the rather intimidating mineral scenery.

Of course, death marching isn't our only goal, there's eating too. A whopping 1500 calories a day! Yum. Also there's sleeping, one of my favorite things after a rousing day of death-marching in the statosphere. Technically it's called "comatosing," but that's a quibble.

I suspect that after a day or so I will welcome the attentions of any bears that happen along, altho they may be put off by all that moaning and groaning. Still, the camera will be happy, and that what really matters, right?

Heck, after a few days of far too few calories, those bears may have to look pretty sharp themselves. Even the marmots could be at risk.

Mmmmm, marmots...

Category tags: Midnite Madness, On the Personal Side, This and That

Reflective logos everywhere!

Posted Thursday, July 27, 2006 1:20:30 PM by Zoe Gillenwater

Zoe Gillenwater
Not too long ago I posted about the current trend in web design to make graphics, especially logos, look like they are reflected on some shiny surface beneath them. There's a great compendium of logos of big companies re-designed to have the Web 2.0 look over at flickr, and many of the logos feature the reflective look. They're a brilliant parody of a rampant trend.

Category tags: Designing for the Web, This and That

Celebrity gossip

Posted Friday, July 21, 2006 7:31:58 AM by Zoe Gillenwater

Zoe Gillenwater

I shamefully admit that I read celebrity gossip. There, I said it. I don't watch any of those gossip shows or buy gossip magazines, but I do read the snippets of stuff on That's my indulgence.

So, did you guys hear that Haley Joel Osment, the kid from The Sixth Sense, got in a car crash? I love this story, because:

  1. I learned that Haley Joel Osment is 18. When did he get so old?! Look at the picture of him —  he's a bruiser now!
  2. I learned that Haley Joel Osment drives a 1995 Saturn. I think that is awesome. I'm sure he can afford a much nicer car, but he keeps driving his 95 Saturn because he doesn't need a nicer car. I really admire that. Maybe he'll be one of the few child actors who doesn't turn out to be a drug addict loser. (Although maybe he was driving drunk, but drinking when you are 18 is not such a shocking thing.)

Ok, I'm done now. :-)

Category tags: On the Personal Side, This and That

Ah well, the Junior League does it again (sigh!)

Posted Wednesday, July 12, 2006 9:55:23 AM by Chris Flick

Chris Flick

Well, what can you say? Another heartbreaking loss for the senior league in last night's All-star game. Brought back memories of two years or so ago when the National League had their best closer on the mound at the time - Eric Gagne - and he ended up blowing a save opportunity. I know a lot of people probably enjoy a higher scoring all-star game but last night was an enjoyable game to watch.

At the same time though, it also proved to be exactly why I tend to dislike the American League so much. Last night proved exactly how meaningless the DH is - or, at least, how meaningless it SHOULD be. Big Pappi DH's because, apparently, he can't play defense yet he made a couple of outstanding fielding plays last night and, obviously, he played first base when the Red Sox beat the Cardinals in the World Series two years ago so why does he HAVE to be a DH? That's the thing I hate about the American League - and, with the American league winning the All-star game last night, the DH is going to again play a major advantage in the World Series this year since the American League will have, potentially, more games at home then the visiting National League team.

The nice thing is that the National League certainly has some exciting young players that made the game enjoyable to watch. Just sorry to see Nomar didn't get a chance to play... but that's the negative aspect about "making the game count". Garner had to make sure he had to have some reserves on the bench incase the national league tied the game in the ninth. I'm almost positive Nomar would have played in the 10 inning had the national League scored in their last at bat. I still say, in baseball, if 9 men play the field, those same 9 should bat. Ah well... maybe next year.

And now for a bit of a self-plug...

I've just started an Art Blog over at Blogger. The reason i did that is so I can share a wide variety of my art - not just stuff I've either done or am doing for Community MX. If you want to go check it out, the URL is: Come on over and say Hi or leave a comment on some of my stuff.


Category tags: Blogs and Blogging, CMX Suite, Community MX, Midnite Madness, On the Personal Side, This and That

My 2006 TODCON 8 experience or...

Posted Monday, May 22, 2006 11:03:36 AM by Chris Flick

Chris Flick

You would have thought no one ever saw someone eat 3 lbs. of crabs before...

Hey folks... I've been back from TODCON almost a full day now (got back into Washington DC at 7:00pm last night). So I thought I'd give you a brief synopsis of my trip and what I did, what I thought and what I experienced the last couple of days at TODCON.

Thursday (leaving for Orlando):
My one big purchase for this trip was a Washington Nationals baseball jersey. I promised myself I wouldn't purchase any Nationals merchandise until Major League Baseball got their proverbial act together and named an owner and, since they did that two days before I had to leave, I was good to go with my capitalistic morals still intact.

Got to the hotel a few hours earlier then everyone else, so I got my room and walked around the lobby where I ran into Ray and Danielle Mickey. So, we helped Ray set up the registration table with all the books, t-shirts and name tags for all the TODCON attendees. For the t-shirts, I PROMISE I'll put the t-shirt design up on my web site today or tomorrow (I swear!). While Danielle and I were organizing the name tags, I grabbed Tom Green's name tag and re-inserted the generic name tag sample that comes with all the plastic holders. You've seen them before... they generally have a picture of man or woman with the office supply logo on them. So, in essence, Tom's tag has his name on the front and a picture of some generic secretary-looking lady on the back. I made a bet with Danielle to see how long it would take Tom to discover this. I won the bet with "half a day".

Later that night, many of us went to Roy's - a Hawaiian restaurant where Vicki Berry blinded us with her digital camera. The women is dangerous with a camera, folks! She's posted some of her TODCON pics here.

After the sessions for the day, a group of us went out searching for a good ribs place. Unfortunately, after walking endlessly around the strip mall, we found out the place went out of business so we opted for a steakhouse instead. By that time though, I was too hungry to notice what the name of the place was but they had some gooooooood steak.

One of the TODCON attendees that came with our group was Hassan Ellis. Eating and talking with Hassan is an example of one of the nicest and coolest things about TODCON - it's a chance to meet your peers and "talk shop" in an intimate and pressure-free way that no other conference can. As Paul Davis is fond of saying: You sometimes learn MORE from the "after sessions" then you do DURING the actual sessions. TODCON gives you a chance to discuss and compare each other's working habits, techniques and general advice to one another.

By the end of the evening, we came to the conclusion that Hassan was "separated at birth" from the actor, Richard T. Jones ("Judging Amy) and we all had a good laugh about that as others at the conference told him the same thing (even though Hassan didn't know who Richard T. Jones was).

The morning session, we all got to talk with Scott Fegette and Paul Gubbay (formerly of Macromedia and now Adobe) about all of our "wishes" for all the tweaks, changes, improvements and other things related to the Adobe line of products. My "big wish" was that if we were all going to play "Taps" for Freehand, at least make Illustrator a lot more "Freehand-ish" so it's much more intuitive and easier to use. That and I wanted them to add "bendable triangles" in Fireworks so triangles can be manipulated the same way they currently are in Freehand.

That night, it was decided that seafood would be the place of eats that night. At first, I was reluctant to go since Ray said the place didn't have crabs - imagine that... a seafood restaurant that didn't serve crabs!!! Talk about the horror! But I decided to go any way.

Thankfully, the restaurant did, indeed, serve crabs. In fact, they had three main choices of snow crab legs to choose from: 1.5 pounds, 3 pounds or all-you-can-eat. To everyone's utter horror and shock, I chose the 3 pound selection and casually explained to all the dropped jaws at the table that I come from a long line of crab eaters and in the Flick family, we take our crab eating VERY seriously. Three pounds of crabs is nothing but I chose that instead of the all-you-can-eat selection because I would still be eating there if I did.

I'm telling you... it's like people never saw someone eat crabs before! Amateurs.

Later on, many of us decided to take the Trolley back to the hotel since it was about 5 miles away. Me? I decided to get off 4 miles away from the hotel. Mainly because I had to do some "tourist shopping" to bring back something for my wife and kids.

And... walking four miles wasn't a bad way to burn off three pounds of crab.

Later on that night, I went swimming at the hotel with the Interakt gang where two ducks decided a hotel pool was a nice place as any for a 1:00am dip as any!

Sunday was the debut of the Orlando Jumpstart. I designed the layout while Zoe, Sheri and Jim helped organize and put together. As in Las Vegas last year, we wanted to show a preview of the Orlando Jumpstart and give everyone there a taste of how it was put together and what some of the things you can do with it.

All in all, it was a great session and my first since speaking at MX North a few years ago. Quite a few people came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed my particular part in explaining the design process and commented that they would certainly be interested if I decided to ever do a full session on something at future TODCON. So if you were at this year's TODCON and attended our Orlando Session, what are some things you might like to see from a guy who mainly uses Photoshop, Fireworks, Freehand and Dreamweaver? TODCON 9 is, sadly, a full year away but like I always say, you can never start preparing too soon!

Anyway, that was some of my memorable moments at this year's TODCON. What were yours?

Category tags: Blogs and Blogging, CMX Suite, Community MX, Macromedia News, Midnite Madness, On the Personal Side, This and That, Using the Web, Web Business

My fascination with Gray's Anatomy... or...

Posted Tuesday, May 16, 2006 4:59:02 PM by Chris Flick

Chris Flick

My sudden obsession with Callie (Sara Ramirez)

First off, let me explain that one of the things my wife and I enjoy doing is talking about our "secret" celebrity crushes. She's never made it a secret how much she has the hubba-hubbas for a certain bald Starship Enterprise Captain (Patrick Stewart). And likewise, she's always known about my own hubba-hubbas for Stevie Nicks. But lately, a new celebrity crush has slowed entered my realm. A celebrity crush that appears (mostly) in the background of a certain Seattle Hospital ever Sunday night.

I am, of course, talking about Sara Ramirez' character, Callie, from Gray's Anatomy. I have to admit though that I'm not a long time fan of the show. I only recently started watching it right after the Superbowl (The Bomb episode) but even then, I almost took an immediate fascination with the Callie character - the dark haired, big bodied beauty played by Sara Ramirez (Spamalot). And my fascination has only increased since then.

I'm not sure exactly why I'm suddenly fascinated with Callie though. Maybe it's because I see so much of me and my wife in the George and Callie thing. My wife was Callie when I first met her in art school. She was, on the outside, the one I thought was the most confident, most responsible, most self-assured person there was despite the fact that she wore wild and crazy clothes and obviously - and maybe purposely - didn't "fit in". But instead of turning me off, it was those very same things that attracted me to her. In simple terms, even though she also seemed to try and hide in the background as Callie seems to do, it was her crazy clothes and bold spirit that did the opposite to me.

For me, Callie represents the loner high school rebel chic... the one that secretly probably wants to be cool but knows she can never fit in with the "cool kids" so she puts up that fierce, fake wall of toughness, of general disdain for everything - and everyone - she thinks represents "cool". She's the rebel who desperatley wants to fit in but still fights fiercely for her individuality. Looking back after all these years, that's probably how I first viewed my wife. In my eyes, here was a woman who was working her own way through art school (an expensive art school at that), living by herself and, if push came to shove, definitely not afraid to voice her opinion. While I was a guy who was more worried about fitting in, pleasing all the right people and, generally, doing all the things that were asked of me - especially by any authority figures I thought could influence my future.

Sound like George and Callie to any one?

In the end though, it's only a TV show. I do hope though, that the writers and creators of the show decide to keep her around for a long, long time. My hope is that she becomes the Jimmy Smit of GA. I remember when Jimmy started his stinct on LA Law, he was rumored to only be a minor character and was supposed to be gone after a season or two yet he was so strong and so popular, he became a mainstay of that show. I hope the same bodes well for Sara/Callie too because, for my money, her and George are THE most facinating couple in that show that's all about people sleeping with - and cheating on - each other. Those two seem to have the most genuine things to give to each other - a sense of fitting in and a huge shot of self-confidence.

I hope those two characters are given the chance to expand and grow together even though I know, in TV land - and especially a drama like GA - that rarely, rarley, RARELY ever happens.

But as long as it is, I'm still going along for the ride!


Category tags: Blogs and Blogging, CMX Suite, Midnite Madness, On the Personal Side, This and That

Back in my lovin' arms

Posted Monday, April 10, 2006 11:08:10 AM by Jim Babbage

Jim Babbage

Well my Fuji s9k is back in my hands after a brief visit to Fuji Canada. A few weeks ago, the capture mode just suddenly shut down. I tried changing batteries, but it still wouldn't work. So I hand delivered the cam to Fuji, and picked it up early last week. As it turns out, they could find nothing wrong with it other than possibly dirty battery contacts.

It's working fine now, as you'll see if you drop by Flickr to see some new images.

Being without the Fuji didn't stop me from shooting, however. I have my D70 and it was quite nice to re-aquaint myself with that camera. It really is an excellent piece of equipment. Because it is a true DSLR, the lenses are removeable, so there is always the risk of dust on the sensor. I have to get into the habit of blowing out the interior of that cam before I use it, whether it needs it or not. Inevitably, if I *don't* do this, something ends up on the sensor and I find myself in Photoshop or Fireworks doing some clean up work. (As a side note, the Healing Brush and Spot Healing brush have become *very* good friends of mine.)

The weather is getting nicer so I find myself travelling around more often. For quite some time, I wasn't shooting for myself. I never realized how much I missed doing that. How relaxing and exciting it is at the same time. I've been shooting for myself  much more over the past few weeks and it feels great. A nice break from parking my butt in front of my PC all the time and it also helps sharpen my visual design skills. I have plans to go with a friend to shoot a wind farm that is about 2 hours outside of Toronto. We're aiming to shoot either early morning or dusk (for the added drama). I can't wait to see what we come up with. 

Category tags: On the Personal Side, Photography, This and That

Yes, folks... the rumor is true.

Posted Tuesday, March 21, 2006 1:17:37 PM by Chris Flick

Chris Flick

As you can see from today's strip, I am indeed 39 today (March 21st). Thanks so much for all the kind birthday wishes and e-mails I've received so far. My mom and dad reminded me today that 39 years ago, it snowed in Virginia. That's funny because today - in Virginia - they are calling for snow. Maybe not much but it's still kind of a weird sign, huh? Especially given the fact that my birthday also fell on a Tuesday this year. :-)

But anyway... just the other day, I bought Journey's live version of "Don't stop believing" from iTunes. And maybe the combination of my birthday and listening to that tune have put me in a bit of a reflective mood as I can't stop thinking about the fact that I never got the chance to see Journey live. I've seen a lot of great concerts live but every time I hear a Journey or The Cars on the radio or CD, I can't help but think "man, that would have been so cool to see them live just once"... you know, the big arena rock concerts... hearing the thunderous high pitched sounds of Steve Perry's voice mixed in with the great guitar and pounding piano and synthesizer sounds that were the signature of their Escape album...

But I can't really complain all that much. Although I'm not a huge concert goer, I've seen some really great concerts in my day. Some of my favorite:

Stevie Nicks - young and older.
Stevie Nicks was my first concert. saw her in Baltimore back in '86 when I was still in art school. Some friends of mine had two extra tickets but no way to get there. So, I told them if they gave me one of their tickets, I'd drive everyone there. That may not sound so adventurous but considering I was driving a '78 Chevet with a bad radiator at the time, I still don't know who got the better deal at the time.

Last year, at Nissan Pavilion (in my backyard here in Virginia) I saw Stevie one more time. Yeah, she's gotten older and a little heavier and didn't go through quite so many costume changes as she did back in Baltimore but she can still sing with the best of 'em!

Def Leppard - Hysteria Tour
Saw them while I was going to college at Radford University in southern Virginia. They had a theater-in-the-round so everyone had a great seat. Tesla opened for them and wouldn't quit reminding the crowd "who the hell they were" (even though they only had two minor hits at the time).

I loved Def Leppard so much that I made a pair of my own razor blade cut jeans just like Joe Elliott wore in concert and all their Hysteria videos.

Billy Joel - I've seen Billy live five times, once with Elton John
Billy Joel's The Bridge tour was absolutely phenomenal. Me and my best friend, Jeff, were luck enough to get nose bleed seats at the very top of the old Capital Arena where the Washington Capitals used to play. I remember Billy grabbing a microphone and jumping into the floor seats while he was singing "Only the good die young". As high up as we were, it looked like beans pouring down an hour glass or something as the audience rushed towards him. I can still remember the sounds of the crowd bumping and hitting his microphone as he was still trying to sing.

U2 - Joshua Tree tour, RFK Stadium
I probably would have enjoyed this concert a lot more if I wasn't dealing with a wisdom tooth pushing through my gums at the time AND Bono slipping on the dam pm outdoor stage of RFK Stadium (due to a slight drizzle) and dislocating his elbow. Of course, the following concert in Philly, Bruce Springsteen played guitar to "help him out". But it was still a great time and a great concert even though I wasn't the biggest U2 fan in the world. Again, another concert attended with Jeff.

The Outfield & Jefferson Starship, Kings Dominion, Virginia
The Outfield had just released "Play Deep" and had a co-concert with Jefferson Starship at Kings Dominion - an amusement park here in Virginia. Best moment from this concert was the "older" lady beside us (of course, she was probably 39 or 40 at the time) who swore Jeff and I didn't "know no damn Starship songs" and bought us both a couple of beers when we proved her wrong (of course, I won't say how old Jeff and I were at the time).

KISS reunion tour, Nissan Pavilion
Stevie Nicks may have been my first concert but the first album (ok, cassette) I ever bought was KISS: Destroyer. So, finally getting to see ALL of the original members of KISS in concert together was a thrill of a lifetime - especially seeing and hearing peter Criss (my favorite) sing Beth was the best Father's day present my wife and kids have ever gotten me.

I was able to see KISS a couple more times but without Ace and then, later, without Peter (that was the Aerosmith/KISS tour). I wish Paul and Gene would have the guts to not let anyone else wear Ace or Peter's makeup if they are going to go out on tour again. I'd rather see new make-up designs from "non-members" of KISS then "pretend" the originals are still there. I sort of felt ripped off knowing Peter and Ace weren't there but others were wearing their "faces". Only Superman can wear "the cape", you know?

Aerosmith - KISS/Aerosmith tour, Nissan Pavilion
My wife was and is a much bigger Aerosmith fan than I am - especially when it comes to their older stuff. But I never thought I'd actually see someone out -rock KISS but Aerosmith did that night.

Huey Lewis and The News - The Sports tour
Well, I'm sure this WOULD have been a great concert had I actually gone. I bought Huey Lewis tickets from some "grandma cash" I got one year. And even though I bought the tickets in March, the concert wasn't going to be until the late summer. Two weeks after I bought those tickets, some guys I was playing summer baseball with asked if I would be interested in going to Winter Haven, Florida to participate in week-long baseball camp run by ex-pro baseball players.

It only took me a day to find someone to buy my tickets from me.

So... those are some of my favorite concert memories. What are some of yours?


Category tags: Blogs and Blogging, CMX Suite, Community MX, Midnite Madness, Music, On the Personal Side, This and That

The Names They are A-Changing

Posted Wednesday, March 01, 2006 12:45:16 PM by Jim Babbage

Jim Babbage

If you frequent the (former) Macromedia News Groups, you're going to start seeing a new designation in the volunteers' signatures.

Effective February 27, the Team Macromedia (TMM) designation has been replaced with Adobe Community Expert (ACE). This was not some arbitrary decision on Adobe's part either; TMM members were polled and the popular opinion leaned to this new identifier. We even got a cool new logo. I like the name (although I'm a bit too modest to be completely comfy with the abbreviation)

I think the new name is a good sign of what Adobe thinks of its customers and the developer/designer community. One thing Macromedia always did well was engage its users. It looks to me that Adobe is going to maintain this sense of community and corporate outreach. I think it puts a friendlier face on a very large company.

As Martha would say, "It's a good thing."

Category tags: Adobe, Adobe News, Macromedia News, On the Personal Side, This and That

Almost Famous...

Posted Friday, February 24, 2006 10:51:18 AM by Chris Flick

Chris Flick

Yes, it's finally happened. Someone thought I was worthy enough to be interviewed. That person is Dan Smith. Dan and I got to know each other from being members in Webweavers - a Google Group e-mail list for everything related to web designing (and ruled with an iron maiden thumb by our very own Stef! LOL!).

Anyway, Dan hosts and creates audio interviews on his blog. He thought it would be interesting to let people know what I sound like and had the crazy notion others might be interested in hearing what my thoughts were on the wide variety of topics we discussed. It took a while to get all the logistics worked out, but you can finally hear our interview today.

The interview consists of a wide range of topics such as how I got into web design, information about the two books I helped write with Tom Green, the 'Bots autistic benefit book I participated in (and wrote a blog about not too long ago) as well as some of my thoughts about web comic strips - including CMX Suite! - and a whole bunch of other stuff!

So if you're interested in hearing what I sound like, now your curiosity can be appeased. :-)

- Chris

Category tags: Blogs and Blogging, CMX Suite, Community MX, CSS, Designing for the Web, Dreamweaver, Education, Macromedia News, Midnite Madness, On the Personal Side, This and That, Using the Web, Web Business

The joys - and frustrations - of a Wacom tablet...

Posted Tuesday, January 31, 2006 7:45:11 AM by Chris Flick

Chris Flick

I just thought I'd mention that the stylized self-portrait of myself in the second panel of today's CMX Suite strip ("The CMX Zone") was done entirely on a Wacom tablet. I've been reluctant to use a Wacom tablet because, in the past, the Wacom tablet and I have pretty much had a hate-hate relationship. But I was pretty pleased with the outcome of this particular illustration. It is, by far, the best Wacom tablet illustration I've ever done thus far.

I think the biggest reason that might be is because, in the past, I had always used Photoshop when practicing and doodling with the Wacom. But this time, I decided to see what would happen if I used Freehand. For me, personally, I had found using Photoshop and the Wacom together was very frustrating. I found I had trouble controlling the line width of whatever I was trying to draw. Lines didn't stop or end where I thought they would. I'd end up getting big "paint blobs" when I pressed too hard on the pen. For the most part though, I still couldn't grasp what made the Wacom so "special"... I was finding that it would usually take me two or three times longer to draw something using the Wacom then it would if I had just sketched, inked and scanned something.

But I was determined to see if I could get this thing to finally work for me.

So, for this particular illustration, I already had a rough pencil sketch of myself as a cartoon taken from a previous CMX Suite strip but I needed to add the same kind of pose Rod Sterling was famous for when he was introducing each new Twilight Zone episode. That meant modifying the facial expression and the body arms (and adding Rod's famous cigarette!). I opened Photoshop, imported my original sketch that I was going to use as a guide, and adjusted the opacity to 35% (so it ended up being a very, very light gray). I then imported that illustration into Freehand, locked its layer, created a new layer and then started drawing with the Wacom.

In the past, I had tried placing a sketch underneath the little plastic sheet that's on a Wacom but I found this extremely difficult to look at the Wacom and pay attention to your screen as you "traced" the illustration. I found using the method up above was so much more effective. Here is the result of my initial work in Freehand:

My initial Wacom sketch in Freehand.

After this was done, I converted the file to a PNG format and imported it into Photoshop where I cleaned up and modified various lines. Here are the results:

The results after my Photoshop clean-up.

And then, finally, I added color. Again, in Photoshop (sans the "smoke" effect of the cigarette).

But... if this is in color, why is the cartoon strip in black & white?

Well, for me, you're not really watching "The Twilight Zone" unless you're watching it in black & white. The more modern episodes that are in color don't seem to be quite as spooky or illicit the same kind of "feel" as the "classic" black and white episodes do. And, since I was essentially spoofing these "classic" Twilight Zone episodes, it made sense to convert this illustration - as well as the Ryan Celldisbak one - from color to grayscale.

I never really colored anything in grayscale before so I was reluctant to "paint" with a grayscale palette. I was afraid if I did so, I would end up making the gradient levels way too dark so I decided to draw inspiration from Mel Brooks and the "Young Frankenstein" comedy he wrote and directed years ago with Gene Wilder.

I remembered seeing "behind-the-scene" photos of some of the make-up work from that movie and could never understand why Mel decided to have all the make-up (especially the Frankenstein monster) in colored make-up when he was going to eventually film in black and white. At the time, that didn't make sense but today it does.

By initially coloring all the characters in full color and then converting to grayscale, I got much richer details and the results were much more softer and gentler on the eyes then had I done everything in shades and tints of black.

Anyway, that's my little road to discovery with today's strip. I hope you enjoyed it.



Category tags: Blogs and Blogging, CMX Suite, Community MX, Midnite Madness, On the Personal Side, This and That

Random Sleep, Bad Temperature Sensors in 17" Powerbook

Posted Monday, January 23, 2006 2:18:11 PM by Stephanie


I have just spent the good part of two days trying to figure out why my 17" Powerbook (1.67GHz) has narcolepsy. And an annoying couple of days it has been. I've narrowed the problem down finally, but I still have not come up with a solution. I'm blogging here in hopes that someone has either A) seen the solution or B) can answer a couple questions I have that will lead me to it. C'mon Mac-heads, time to step up here! Imagine my surprise when I logged in to find the last post here was Tom Mucks' post on his dead Toshiba laptop. LOL I haven't had trouble with this one at all until this. And no, I don't have Apple Care and it's out of warranty.

Before someone hops into the comments and tells me to:

  • Repair permissions
  • Zap the PRAM
  • Reset the PMU
  • Repair permissions
  • Boot into single user and run fsck -fy
  • Repair permissions
  • Create a new user and test while running that
  • Check the console.log and system.log

Let me just save you the time and let you know that I've done all that ad nauseum... and none of it works for more than a little bit. However, in doing all that, I found that I do have the error in my system.log that states that the machine has overheated and is being put to sleep. The problem is, after installing Temperature Monitor, and keeping track for a couple days, I found that I don't have an overheating problem at all. What I have is an insanely whacked out Trackpad sensor -- or at least a whacked out reading -- caused by "I don't know what." And that's what I'm determined (hopefully with your help) to find out -- with as little down time as possible. A gurl has to work y'know! (The sensor readings can vary within a two second readout period from -193F to 243F. Likely these are incorrect since I'd either be freezing or burning at either temperature.)

I found two posts (actually more, but two that were somewhat helpful and confirmed my findings) outside the Apple forums. Why am I outside the Apple forums you ask? Well, for one, I found at least three threads there with the same problem -- but no solution. And also, because something is bad wrong with those forums right now and sometimes I have to click and time out five times before a page loads. Forget it. I done quit and gone ta googlin'...

In the first post I found at MacFixItForums, the guy was in Korea and ended up sending in his machine. Apple fixed it and according to him, the way they fixed it was, "Something about two contacts being pressed together under the surface to the left of the trackpad." OK... that's plausible. But I don't really want to take my machine apart to check for such unless that turns out to be the solution with none other.

In the second thread I found, a gentlemen that apparently works on Macs seems to have fixed it another way. He states he "repaired permissions using Terminal and discovered a library widget had the wrong permissions. Once the Widget permissions were fixed, the laptop immediately stopped going to sleep and had been fine ever since." This sounds much more like a solution I would like to try for myself. However, I've not figured out how to use the terminal to repair permissions. I know how to do it using Disk Utility only.

Does anyone have any clues for me? Has this triggered thoughts in your brain you might like to share? Here's hoping...

Category tags: Dreamweaver, Mac, This and That

What you don't know can hurt you

Posted Tuesday, January 10, 2006 7:43:16 PM by Big John

Big John

It's the little things that get you.

The day started normally, as I arose to go fetch a load of horse dung (from a friend who owns several of the big guys), for use in this spring's garden. The air was crisp, the sun was shining low, and all was right with the world.

I arrived on time, and Les was inside his house practicing on his saxaphone. We both play in the same band. Les is so experienced that he sometimes serves as director, and a hard taskmaster he is. Knock knock, and he comes out, insisting on helping me bag. What a guy.

We got straight to work, and commenced to engage in deep intellectual discussions, whilst scraping up the stuff not mentioned in those exciting western epics. The time flew by. Soon there was a big pile of bags.

When we had a full load, I threw the bags in the van. The physical work done, we got down to serious dicussifyin', and then it happened. There was something tiny in my throat, and coughing was not helping. After a while the tickle eased up, but a new problem appeared. I realized I was rubbing my left eye far more than usual. It got worse. And worse. Soon the right eye was involved too.

Not being the panicky kind, I broke in, to "mention" that there was something amiss with my eyes. Mere moments later, you would have seen me, arms akimbo, stumbling into the house to irrigate my protesting pupils in the first wet concavity I could find.

Mind you, this western boy does NOT get allergies! And yet, here was proof positive that invisible airborne "pollutants" could easily lay me low without warning. Oh no! Somehow I pulled it together, and hied on back to town with the goods. There, my wise old landlady applied aloe vera to the affected orbs, and it got a little better. But even now, many hours later, the painful puffyness persists.

Was this a Judgement? Have I become complacent, thus inviting a stern universe to apply some "real world schooling?" Don't know, don't care. All I know is, I'm really, REALLY, tired of this crap.

Category tags: Education, Midnite Madness, On the Personal Side, This and That