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Friday, December 29, 2017

When the Customer Really Isn't Right

According to the file name, the brochure art that was forwarded to me was on its seventeenth revision. The client had either fired the designer or the designer had quit, I couldn't tell, but he was hoping I could make 'a few quick edits' to his website.

The designer in question, forwarded the WordPress login info with a note saying she was more than happy to let someone take over the edits, and warning that they were not easy edits to make.

Apparently, once he was more or less happy with the brochure, he then decided to have her do a website, but he didn't understand why the website couldn't be 'exactly' like the brochure. Looking through the pages of the brochure, I could well imagine the difficulty of coding stylesheets that would deliver the mix of fonts, sizes, alignments, etc., on the pages of the brochure.

For one thing, you don't really get to pick exact fonts with HTML/CSS code, you designate a neighborhood of fonts an let the browser render in whatever it thinks is the closest available font. If you've picked an exotic font that most people aren't going to have on their computers, you're not going to get 'exactly' the same result. Getting the complicated nesting of elements in the brochure, too, while I'm sure it could technically be accomplished by a stylesheet virtuoso, but it would be an epic effort.

I won't claim to be an expert on web design, my wheelhouse has always been print, but if he'd started building the website with me I would have told him to forget about matching the brochure exactly. Ink on paper doesn't look the same as a screen shining light directly in your eyes anyway. No the green won't be quite the same, no the fonts might not all match your brochure (depending on whose browser is rendering it). Get over it. Nobody is going to take your brochure and hold it up to your website and compare that shit, only you are doing that.

I'm pretty sure the fired/quit designer told him the same thing but this is not a person who listens to such things. So I gather the designer did the only logical fix: she made PNG images out of the brochure's elements and place those images in the WordPress template. Which is fine, except it isn't.

First of all, in terms of search engine optimization, if your text is rasterized in PNG files, you're invisible to Google. If nobody comes to your site because Google's crawlers can't figure out what the hell you're going on about, it doesn't much matter what your site looks like.

Another reason it's not okay is when you want to just 'quickly fix a few typos,' you're going back to the brochure, making the edits, then trying to figure out the dimensions those PNGs were exported out at so you can replace them. I was facing four pages of handwritten notes about things the client wanted tweaked or fixed and each line he'd written was a time consuming mess.

I was tempted to take the client's money. If the site had been coded in WordPress to begin with in a sensible way, it was maybe a half hour to an hour of work. As it is, it would probably have taken me six to eight hours and there were a couple of things on his wish list that I probably couldn't have managed (I won't say they're impossible, but they might be impossible with my skill set). If he's willing to pay upwards of $600 in shop labor because he didn't listen to sensible advice from the last designer, I'll play.

But my employer decided this was a bridge too far, and that was probably the most ethical decision. Like I say, you might as well leave the mistakes in the site since nobody is going to find it anyway. I always cringe when I see someone still designing websites using tables like it was 1996 or something, but this was by every measure even worse. Plus, having dealt with this client before, let's just say I've already experienced him asking me to do something that's not actually possible, and having him decide it meant I don't know what I'm doing.

And as frustrating as he is to work for, lest you think I'm just trashing my client, I think he's a decent guy. And I think the business he's trying to start sounds like a great thing if he can get it off the ground. Hopefully he'll grow ears at some point.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Tale of Two Cities (Sorta)

So I take Mo to the bar sometimes to watch sportsball, especially the Chiefs. Generally, she seems to like it. Even when the crowd is noisy, sometimes especially so.

I've caught her giving high-fives to strangers when the crowed erupts over a big play. She'll even tomahawk chop.

Autism is tricky, though. Her ability to express a desire to, say, leave, well, that leaves a lot to be desired. Earlier this year, I had taken her to Johnnie's on Seventh, one of my favorite dives. They have the game on, the crowd gets into it, they have cheap draws of light beer (diabetes has made me appreciate that anew) and an astonishing selection of Irish whisky.

The last time I took Mo there for a game, about halfway through the second quarter, she grabbed my pint of beer, and I panicked, thinking she'd drink the beer. She's almost 21, but still, autism, seizures, the meds to control the seizures, I'm not keen to add booze to that mix. My anxiety was misplaced though, she smiled and threw the glass to the floor, shattering it.

I don't know if she knew that would get me 86'd from Johnnies, but it had that effect. I tried to apologize to the bartender and offered to do to the cleanup, but he was like, 'I'm cleaning it up, but you're done here.'

Fast forward to Christmas weekend. We'd had family stuff on Friday and Saturday for the actual holiday, and on Sunday, Christmas Eve, I figured to take Mo to Episode VIII of Star Wars (I'd seen it myself the weekend before, but it's the best since Empire Strikes Back so an easy second viewing for me and she seemed stoked about it). There was a 9:15 showing, and I thought that was perfect because then we could catch most of the noon Chiefs game when the Chiefs stood to clinch the division.

The movie part went just fine, and we got to a bar in Mission in the middle of the first quarter. Mo asked for and I retrieved her art bag from the car. Her favorite beverage, Sprite, was obtained. Quesadillas, too. And just before halftime I heard the shattering of glass and looked down to realize she'd thrown her Sprite behind the bar like she was spiking a football in the end zone.


The difference in reactions of the staff was notable. My local dive, I was kicked out without ceremony. This joint was like, 'accidents happen, does she need another Sprite?' I'm like, no, she definitely doesn't need another Sprite, and I'm at a loss as to how to communicate to her how fucked up it is that she repays me for taking her to a kickass movie and then to get her favorite soda and foods by making someone behind a bar do unnecessary extra cleanup work.

The Chiefs clinched the division on my car radio while I chewed Mo out for what she did. I don't know if I got through, that's one of the things autism takes away.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Plaza Lights

I think I need to go back late at night. Between people walking into my shots and car traffic, it was a challenging thing to get good photos of the Plaza lights this evening.

A person even asked me, 'Are you recording?' I said yes, and then she walked right in front of the camera anyway. Like she was only asking to make sure she was fucking up my shot.

I was shooting with my ultra-wide Tokina 11-16mm. It'll go to f2.8 as far as wide open shooting goes, but for a landscape situation at night, a lot of times the long exposure at the higher f-stop is the winner.

My D7000 doesn't autofocus, generally, in such low light. Which is frustrating. Seems like at one time I was able to get it to do so more often in these situations but that may be a faulty memory. It's hard to manually focus as crisply as the autofocus when it's working. I use the selective focus where I can target a spot in the viewfinder that I want to be tack sharp and let the depth of field work itself out from there. Looking through the viewfinder or chimping after the shot is pretty limiting, you get home and see it big and up-close on your computer and it's a whole different shot.

It's interesting the things you notice when you do these long shots. Fountains that seem like really good subjects until you notice the shit floating in them or the jets that aren't functioning.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

From the Meadery

So I tortured myself over the bottle labels for my Morat, Raspberry Melomel and Pear-Autumn Olive Melomel. But I was making the perfect the enemy of the good, I realized, and I also realized that if I kept putting it off, I was going to end up getting bottles mixed up. Especially the raspberry and mulberry, the color of the wine is so similar.

And it's not like I'm a huge commercial winery with thousands of bottles to label. My morat yielded 20 bottles, I think the raspberry 23 bottles, a couple of which have already been consumed. The pear & autumn olive one, I kegged part of it and started with five bottles, three of which are extant.

The photography here, well, I have two SB-800 speed lights for my Nikon D7000. But my house is a terrible environment to shoot in, and so far my skills with the speed lights, the soft boxes and reflectors, are just not quite up to the task of taking good photos of these wine bottles. So much to learn about photography. And meadmaking.

And like Mr. Carlson after the turkey drop, God as my witness, I thought Mulberry had two L's in it.

Thursday, November 23, 2017


I love Cranksgiving. It's a food-raiser for want of a better term, for a local church's food bank. You can compete in a few ways: be the fastest to get one item from ten different stores, or bring in the heaviest load, or bring in the heaviest load for a team of eight. Oh, and for the individual, there's gender specific prizes, fastest man, fastest woman, heaviest load dude, etc.

My old friend Eric won heaviest load individual with a Y Chromosome.

But it's a fun deal and a good cause. I felt kinda of embarrassed only bringing in 28 lbs. I didn't even try for fastest rider, I got no chance at that. And heaviest load? I've ridden upwards of 100 lbs in this event and that's not enough to be competitive. Financially, I wasn't really in good shape to play heaviest load anyway this year, plus you really need to be towing a trailer to realistically compete in this category. Or like Eric, a trailer towed behind a Big Dummy cargo bike.

So this was the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and it was a really uplifting experience other than my getting another confirmation that my blood sugar gets out of hand when I drink good beer and eat the sort of food that was on offer at the after party (chili, sweets, breads). As much as I love Boulevard Pale Ale, of which I drank several, the feeling shitty and lethargic for a few hours after kinda makes it less tempting. I allow myself one indulgence a week, a meal or dessert or beverage that's just completely out of bounds for trying to manage my diabetes with diet. I still take the Metformin, I still try to stay active on the bike (though I've been missing a lot of rides lately).

So then several factors including my freelance work, transportation arrangements for the holiday with Mo, a nasty cold, I hadn't been back on the bike since Saturday's Cranksgiving when Thanksgiving Day proper came around. Temps in the upper sixties and no plans on the actual day (my family is doing tons of stuff this weekend, just on on Thursday: I think everyone is so afraid to set up something that would conflict with someone else's plans that nobody ends up doing turkey on Turkey Day). So I put on my cycling shorts and sandals and went for a ride.

Sandals. Shorts. Bare arms. On November 23. Climate change is, as we know because or Maximum Leader said it, is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. Quite the elaborate hoax.

Anyway, I realized I was out of test strips for my blood glucose monitor. These things are proprietary, Walgreens, CVS, WalMart, they all have their own monitors and the supplies aren't interchangeable. Bastards. Mine happens to be the Walmart brand.

So I pedaled my way to the Walmart in Argentine hoping they'd be closed. It's Thanksgiving Day for crying out loud. But nope, they were open, as was the Dollar General and Sav-A-Lot next to it.

I asked a worker if she was at least being paid time and a half for working on Thanksgiving. Nope. I'm like, are you fucking kidding me?

If there's a perfect opposite to the warm feelings Cranksgiving inspires in me, it's seeing that WalMart not only doesn't respect families, it doesn't even think it should have to give a little extra for taking one of the last family holidays away from its employees. I think I might switch to a different glucose tester just so I can shop there even less often. Talk about a work force that needs an effective union.

Cranksgiving set a new record, by the way. I believe it was over 10,000 lbs of food (up from 8,000 lbs last year, which led the nation in Cranksgiving events) plus $1000 in cash raised for St. Peter's social services/food bank.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Bottling Day

My diabetes has shut down, mostly, consumption of some of my favorite libations (what makes craft beer awesome is mostly carbs). For that matter, the last mead I kegged up finished with enough residual sugar that I've had to be very judicious about when to have a glass. That keg lasted longer than any batch I've ever made. I love to sparkle the stuff, force carbonation in the keg kicks ass, and the raspberry melomel I bottled today would have been awesome as a sparkling wine, but I bottled it still. In wine bottles. With corks. I have a morat that also needs packaged, and a pear-autumn olive melomel if I can ever get it to freaking clear. Rather than having just one or two meads on tap at a time, bottling gives me some flexibility in terms of spreading out and having some variety in what I drink. Also, if a batch turns out too sweet for my diabetes, I can spread out its consumption (and make occasional gifts of a bottle or two), so there's that.


I've been saving wine bottles. Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joe's (which is really Three Buck Chuck if you get right down to it, but it's the best cheap wine there is). I can buy empty, brand new bottles for like $17 a case, but Charles Shaw is only $32 a case filled with wine. Not great wine, but their Shiraz is pleasant enough, see also Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, etc. I stay away from their Merlot and Cab Sauv, two varieties I generally like, but those are two rough around the edges for me.

Then there's upscale Trader Joe's wines. Old Moon makes some good stuff, I'd had their old vine zin and their Velvet Moon Cabernet Sauvignon. Delightful wines for the price, about half what such wines run in a regular liquor store. But the labels could withstand a nuclear blast, I'll never buy it again if I think there's even a chance I'd want to reuse the bottles.

I only ended up bottling five 750s of pear-autumn olive melomel. 23 bottles of raspberry melomel.

I bottled five bottles of pear and autumn olive (an earlier batch than the one I'm trying to clear, one that I'd kegged and then racked back into a small carboy to see if I could get it to fall clear). It's not really my cuppa mead, honestly, something about either the pear or the autumn olive annoys me. Everyone else seems to like it, but I'm going to pass on doing another batch of that. The raspberry melomel, though, That's What I'm Talking About.

Corinna was processing nuts while I did this project, another high value added deal. Run over the walnnuts with your car to bust the hulls, then crack the nuts and dig the meat out. Mo does a fair bit of walnut processing when she's here on the weekend, it's a task she seems to enjoy, both the crushing of the walnuts and the cutting/digging the meat out. For that matter, she thinks it's hilarious to go get in Corinna's car while Corinna runs over the black walnuts in the driveway. After the first time, Corinna went to do it without her, and Mo put her tablet down and went running out in the driveway to get in the car, didn't want to miss out.

1993 walnut hulling machine

Posted by Rod McBride on Sunday, October 15, 2017

I had some corks that didn't seat flush initially, but I redid them (with fresh corks of course) and a faster motion turned out to be key.

I'm not nuts about the dent my Dad's old corker leaves in the top of the corks. For many reasons, a floor corker is in the future plans. I think I can get Bacchus & Barleycorn to order me a corker that's bisexual, can cork traditional still wine bottles or champagne bottles. Obviously, based on these links I could order the sucker from Midwest, but I try to shop local. Been a loyal B&B customer since 1995. I can count on one finger the number of times they haven't either had what I wanted or got it for me and I can't remember what that one thing was.

So I've got my bottles sitting upright for three days to allow the air pressure trapped by the corking process out and get the cork properly seated. Then the trick is going to be keeping myself out of that raspberry melomel, it really is delicious.

Monday, November 06, 2017


So my local NPR affiliate was having their begathon, and they were offering a pint sleeve as an incentive.

I called in because I'm already donating, but can I get a glass? I've been on an auto-deduct thing for a couple of years, and the person I got on the phone didn't seem sure whether that would qualify me. But I figured they had a few cases of them lying around the station so why not ask?

The person said someone would call me back, which didn't happen. And then I forgot about it. And then the glass came in the mail as a happy surprise.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Topeka Hall of Foamers Competition

I don't get to drink beer like I used to. I'm down about 30 pounds since being diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, but damn I miss bread and beer.

To make matters worse, I'm a National rank BJCP beer judge (with enough experience points I really need to study up on the new guidelines and retest to get Master rank). And on top of the beer, at homebrew competitions, they feed you like hobbits. First breakfast, second breakfast, elevensees, etc.

But while I've largely cut out the carbs in my diet (which means drinking shitty beer when I drink beer because aside from hops, the defining characteristic of good beer is goddamn carbs), I do allow myself a splurge maybe once a week. And this week's splurge was judging the Topeka Hall of Foamer's Brew Bash. It's a small competition, almost 200 entries, which when you consider there's over 30 categories means some creative combining of categories to make flights work out. I hadn't judged in a small competition for a while, and I screwed up just a little.

In my first flight, it was all self-contained. There was no mini-BOS (a best of show for the flight, like when you have 30 IPAs, split it up between three panels of judges, then have the senior judge from each panel sit down and figure out first-second-third). This is the norm for a lot of categories in competitions with 600+ entries.

So after a pizza lunch (talk about off my diabetic menu, I hadn't had a slice since RAGBRAI in July), the second flight gets going and I had a really nice raspberry Berlinerweiss in a 29A. I think I scored it a 47, which is damn near perfect. We're not there to consume, mind you, we're evaluating. But rather than let a half bottle of heaven go down the sink, I poured the remainder of the bottle into a cup to have after the flight.

Then a couple of entries later I realized they had split this category into two sub-flights. Which usually means a mini-BOS, and if we had to pull the second bottle for a mini-BOS, there wouldn't be a bottle for the overall Best of Show judging. I felt like a heel. When I told the organizer, though, he didn't seem to see the problem.

He wasn't planning on a mini-BOS, the size of the competition and number of judges, he was ready to just take the top three assigned scores without one, which is logical, just not what I was used to.

And best of show judging being what it is (and I did judge best of show), the raspberry Berlinerweiss din't really go anywhere anyway.

It's a testament to the overall quality of homebrew competition entries. When I got into this scene over 20 years ago, entries were poison until proved otherwise. Here's a 197 entry competition with an upper 40s beer that doesn't make the Best of Show podium. There's a lot of homebrewers out there with amazing amounts of game.