Santa Claws

Santa Claws visits SIGMA clients

Today Beorn donned his Santa Claws outfit and visited some of our clients to deliver Christmas treats. It’s his biggest job of the year, and he handles it with characteristic enthusiasm.

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Another tear-jerker from Apple

“Waaah! Please take my money, Apple!”

It’s not a bad commercial. Not at all. I like how the emphasis is on people doing creative things, and the products (subtly placed) are just the tools that help it along, because that’s what all these neat gadgets are – just tools for doing stuff (hopefully stuff that is useful in some way).

I do prefer last year’s Apple Christmas ad  because to me it’s a bigger surprise at the end; you think the kid is using his gadgets to ignore the life around him, but it’s not that at all. To me, this places the point of the technology in its proper focus.

In the spirit of that last sentence, once again I’m conflicted about Facebook and Twitter and all the other social media we engage in. It’s all so enervating, distracting and seemingly pointless. But everyone is doing it and if you want to be a part of people’s lives, you have to be involved in social media because everyone appears to live there these days. So the question then becomes, “How much do I want to be involved in people’s lives?”.

As a confirmed hermit with the DNA (and hairline) of my hermit father, the instinctual impulse is to answer that question with a curmudgeonly “Very little” or “None at all.” But the fact is there are people (many of whom are far away) that I want to maintain contact with and social media appears to be THE WAY to do it. That is why a couple weeks ago, I culled my Facebook herd, winnowing out the people who were not really engaging with me, or who, for whatever reason, weren’t really “moving the needle” in our online relationship. I cut my Facebook friend list from around 190 down to 75 or so.

That was a drastic cut, but I think 75 is a reasonable and manageable number for a group of friends. If I were selling a product, it would be different – I’d want as many friends and followers as possible. That’s how many people approach social media, because it has turned us all into our own brand – we sell ourselves, our lives, our activities – we are the product.

But for me the world is already too full of stuff for sale. I’m not looking for products, I just want good friends; some laughs; and a modest sense of connection to a larger world. Those are pretty modest goals to be sure, and if technology like social media, the internet, and/or an Apple gadget can help me accomplish them, I guess that’s good enough.

It’s not the technology that’s important – it’s how we use it.

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Is anybody out there?

Some dance like nobody's watching. Others sing like nobody's listening. I blog like nobody's reading, and I'm usually right.

Adventures in Toyota Customer Service

ToyotaTook my truck to the Toyota dealership for some work today in response to some safety recall notifications. I used to be okay taking my truck to the dealership for service because while it was new, the service was usually free. But once the free work ran out, I’ve avoided the dealership because the costs seem higher.

There’s another reason I avoid the dealership service center: They’ve relocated to a spiffy new space just off the main dealership floor. It’s roomy and airy; and I hate it.

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The two that got away

Boris in the woods

I walk the dogs out back every morning. It’s all woods and fields. They don’t wear a leash. They get to run and do pretty much whatever they want. Our walk is just over two miles and up some steep hills that really get my heart racing, so I’m not sure who benefits more, them or me.

Beorn hiding

Today I had a morning appointment in town so I had to skip the walk. Mrs. Sigmadog filled in for me, so the dogs got to fulfill their daily ritual. But I felt something was missing all morning. So at lunch I donned my hiking boots and off we went for another walk. The dogs were thrilled (“It’s a Two-Fur!”). Since the sun was out and it was a gorgeous day, I took my camera bag (actually, it’s more of a backpack).

Beorn and Boris at the top of the hill

I got a few good shots of the dogs. But the one photo I missed happened when we stopped at the edge of a large field. About a hundred yards out I saw two bald eagles flying across the field. It was a beautiful sight and a perfect opportunity for an excellent photo. I looked down at my camera and sighed in disappointment – I had just changed from my zoom to my wide angle lens and there was no time to switch back. Nevertheless I took a couple shots, and looking at them afterwards, it was impossible to recognize the tiny objects as eagles.

Those are the two that got away. Bummer. But it was a nice walk, and I did get some good dog shots (click on the thumbnails to view the full images).

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A quarter-ton of dogs

As you know, we’ve got two big dogs, Boris and Beorn. We’re also dog-sitting a Great Dane pup named Duchess. Yesterday we invited some friends over with their full grown Great Dane, Guinness and sat back and watched all four huge dogs play in our yard.

All in all, we had roughly 500 lbs of dogs running around the yard and in the house yesterday. It was amazing fun!

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Daily Painting #5 – Oregon

Daily Painting 005 - Oregon
This whole “daily painting” thing is pretty difficult to accomplish when I’m this busy. I confess I haven’t had the opportunity to do it for a couple days. The good news is that I’m busy making money, and some of it is even for illustration work! So while I might not be doing formal “daily paintings” I am, in fact, painting daily it seems.

Today I did have some time, however. Here is a quick digital sketch of a storm in Oregon. I took the reference shot a few years back on one of our many trips to that state.

The time on this digital painting was 45 minutes.

Just testing

This is a test to see if Facebook will include the damn image. Yes. I’m getting pissed off…


Cheap logos cost me my pride

I was recently contacted via email by someone just starting a new business who was looking for a logo design and didn’t know where to start. This is what I wrote her in response:

“Price ranges for logos are all over the place. You can get cheap logos on the internet (google “cheap logos” and you’ll see tons of options – though I cannot vouch for the quality and/or professionalism of those services).

“On the other side of the logo design spectrum are design agencies that, from what I can tell, first want to know how much money you have, then charge you that plus 30%. I guess they think you’ll value their expertise better if you see it from the Poor House.

“I’m sort of in the middle, and I’ll be honest with you: a lot of my logo work is better suited (speaking in terms of price) to organizations that have been around for a couple years and are looking to take their identity to the next level. It’s been my experience that most companies just starting up have little to no real budget for logo design (it’s just not something most people consider).

“When you hire me, I give you a range of rough concepts (usually at least six) and I work with you from there to refine and narrow it down to one awesome and amazing logo. Then I provide you with letterhead, envelope and business card designs as well as a master file of your logo in various formats that you can use for other purposes (signage, advertising, packaging, etc.). My fee is for design only. Printing is extra (though we have some very reasonable suppliers).”

That’s what I told her, and I never heard from her again. Is that bad? Not at all. I’d rather work with someone who is interested in working with me rather than someone who is only looking for the cheapest deal.

Helping people you know with a cheap or free logo can be problematic because sometimes the worst clients are family and friends.

Recently I was asked for a cheap logo from a friend of a friend. This person didn’t want to pay my full fee, or even a half-rate fee, she only wanted to purchase two hours of my time. Reluctantly, I agreed.

In the end, I spend about 4 hours on her stuff, but told her we’d keep the bill to the agreed upon two hour cost. Here are a couple of the rough logo ideas:

happy acres logo roughs

A couple rough ideas for two hours of my time.

She decided to not use me any more and went another direction, whatever that means. Ouch. That hurt.

So either I’m not a very fast designer; or not a very good one; or a combination of both. Since I’ve done a few logos over the years, I suspect that forcing me to cut my process down to two (or even four) hours is not the best way to use my talents.

I don’t blame the person who wanted the cheap logo. I blame myself for agreeing to hamstring my design process – I won’t make that mistake again.

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An Oral History of the Epic Space Film The Right Stuff


I am in hog heaven having just read the wonderful Oral History of the Epic Space Film The Right Stuff. Without a doubt, The Right Stuff is my all-time favorite movie, no question.

Watch the movie. Read the book. Check out the article on Wired. Really.

I saw this movie in the theaters at least four times in 1983-84. It deserved to win Best Picture but lost to some piece of shit called Terms of Endearment (which no one ever watches).

The Right Stuff is a film everyone should see.

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Mrs. Sigmadog and I went to see the movie Interstellar last weekend. I thought it was one of the better movies I have seen in a long while. I particularly enjoyed the attempt to convey actual science in the story, rather than the usual Hollywood magical bullshit.

Here is an interview with director Christopher Nolan and physicist Kip Thorne in WIRED.

Also, here’s some thoughts of a political nature on the the movie by Mark Steyn.

You should go see this movie on the big screen.

Tiny Universes are boring

For years we’ve been told we hold an inconsequential place in an ever expanding Universe. Social media changed all that. Now everyone is the center of their own universe.

Instead of expanding, each universe now intersects with other universes in an ever-larger chain of Venn intersections. We don’t expand. We don’t grow. We connect.

Like a foamy cloud of bubbles rolling against one another, we float in a breeze, obsessed within our own bubble of awareness, and ignorant of the larger universe outside our tiny, soapy membrane. Our sensory input of the outside world is limited to what can fit on a tiny retina-screen.

Sure, we live our lives and then report on it to others, but how much more living would we accomplish if we put down our devices?

The Internet was going to expand our horizons and open up new vistas of information and knowledge. Instead it’s become a cesspool of narcissism and compulsive branding. The knowledge and information is still there, but who has the time after watching hours of LOLCats and uploading meal photos?

What passes for deep thoughts in social media often amounts to shallow platitudes cribbed from other sources. We lack the capacity for honesty and introspection because we’re wasting time looking for the perfect Gandhi quote.

Others enlist social media to take the place of needed psychoanalysis. Facebook Therapy is cheap, but it’s also ineffective and off-putting to many.

The fact is the old, expanding universe we’ve discarded is vastly more interesting than the trivial, banal, and noisily intertwined little bubbles with which we’ve replaced it. It’s reality, after all.

Reality is hard. It’s a cold and uncaring Universe. Many instead opt for the familiar and unchallenging comfort of synthetic connections. The great illusion of social media is that these things we do online are real. They aren’t.

It’s all pixels. It’s all advertising. Advertising is about image making; and the image isn’t necessarily true. My Facebook friends don’t know me; they only see the illusion I create. They see my Brand. The brand isn’t me. I keep that for myself and those closest to me (in the physical world).

The world of social media is an illusion and a wast of time. As I get older I realize how little time I have left. Why waste it chasing an illusion?

I choose the real world.

Don’t worry, I am not deactivating my Facebook and Twitter accounts; but I am attempting to refocus my efforts on things that are more important. Art. Writing. Walks with my dogs. You will likely see less of me in social media circles. I will still be here at Almost Daily, blogging away for no one.