Sunday, April 30, 2006

Here's mud in your eye

Believe it or not, this is a photo of a paved road. Highland Way is a few miles east of Highway 17 along the summit of the Santa Cruz Mountains. This particular landslide is about two miles west of the entrance to the best mountain bike spot in the area, Soquel Demonstration Forest. The only other way to access Demo is to either drive all the way around, through Corallitos and up Eureka Canyon, or to bike up from Nisene Marks in Aptos up a grueling 12 mile fire road climb. In short it sucks.

How long it will be like this is anybody's guess...the slide is still sliding and has what amounts to a creek running through it. An old slide area that had the same road closed for nearly a year is about a quarter mile east of this slide and doesn't look so stable either. There's definitely been some slumpage of the hillside. What little vegetation had taken root is now gone, and a couple Volkswagen size boulders have rolled off the old girl and onto the road.

This is a photo of the old slide...the tree in the center of the frame is probably 70 feet tall and looks poised to come crashing down any time.

The county road condition website lists the road as "closed indefinitely," which makes optimism a little difficult. When the old slide was still on the road, bikers, eventually wore in a sketchy hike-a-bike where you could carry across the slide, then ride to the trailhead. I imagine that will happen here too, but with as wet and active as the new slide is, it probably won't be for a while.

While this all bums me out, it's also one of those reminders of how small we are and how powerful nature is. And that's totally cool.

Despite some wether related challenges, our out-of-town guests Lyle (right) and Lisa (middle), along with Troy here, were happy campers.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The return of Jaimé the Burrito Guy

It's a happy day...the sun is out and Jaimé the Burrito Guy is back and fine. He'd just been at the other Chill Out training people in the art of burrito!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Vee-Dub ads (thankfully back) in da haus

Throughout their history, Volkswagen's advertising has been some of the most entertaining stuff on television. Like their cars, the ads have seen some ups and downs over the years. For the last decade, Boston-based Arnold Worldwide has been VW's ad agency of record and initially did some cool stuff.

You may recall a TV spot from the late '90's where a pair of twentysomethings pick up a chair they find on the street and put it in their Jetta. After driving a bit they realize the chair smells and return it. All the while a quirky but memorable song—"Da Da Da" by the German band Trio—plays in the background.

It was a great start for Arnold, but, with a few notable exceptions, it’s been a long gradual downhill slide from there. VW's ads became more about features-and-benefits and less about the quirks that make the brand different. They were always a bit better than 'typical' car commercials, but only just.

Simultaneously, Volkswagen's cars became less distinctive and more bland. Yeah there was the new Beetle which started the flood of retro redux cars, but the rest of their line has remained pretty uninspired…and the gluttonous Touareg SUV is almost as embarrassing for VW as it’s shared-platform sister, the Cayenne, is for Porsche. But I digress…and I’m really not a ‘car guy’ anyway. But the ads…

Earlier this year, Miami-based Crispin, Porter + Bogusky took over the advertising reins and may just give the German überbrand the shot in the arm they need. During the Winter Olympics CPB made their VW debut with the interesting “Make Friends With Your Fast” spots. They were quirky, somewhat entertaining, and a little out there...but likeable. I heard a lot of people talking about how weird these ads were, which is at the very least an awareness.

More recently CPB have launched a new campaign for Jetta that features some shocking crash footage. They definitely get your attention and make you think about safety (though I’m not sure specifically about Jetta). In any case, the ads are memorable and, unlike the Volvos of the world. they actually show real people (or what we are to believe are real people) in the crash as opposed to dummies. Indelible stuff.

But my personal favorite are the new GTI “Un-Pimp Your Ride” spots. Brilliantly lampooning the onslaught of ridiculous car customization reality shows, CPB presents the GTI as the more refined cool car. Less sparkle, more style and, theoretically, ample power under the hood. I laugh out loud every time I see them.

Since I would like it very much if you peed in your pants, I've included links to the spots. Just click on the version of your choice then click 'Preview' on the landing page:

Wrecking Ball



I don’t know if VW’s cars are (or will be) any better, but their advertising is definitely on the upswing. Here’s hoping they keep the German precision under the hood and let the kids at CPB do the driving.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Ode to the amazing Jen Z

My good and dear friend Jen Z will be leaving our place of employment today and I’m trying not to think about tomorrow when I walk over to her cube and find her chair empty. Like normal, I’m sure I’ll have something silly to tell her as she not only has the tolerance for such frivolity, but an enthusiasm for it (we’re kinda like Sponge Bob and Patrick in that way). She will be gone and I’m sure to be sad…but I need to remind myself not to be too sad. And I need to remind her too.

First of all, she’ll still be around. After a month of out-of-state training, she’ll be back, working from home and not too far away.

Second, fate may have just lead her to the job she was put on the earth to do. Ever passionate about animals, she’s landed a marketing job with PETA that gives her the opportunity to channel that passion through her considerable skill set. Making an impact on something of personal importance and making that your life’s work is the Holy Grail of employment opportunities and I can think of no one more deserving of that chance.

Finally, Jen is the kind of friend you just don’t let go of. Distance and circumstance may separate, but our are paths our permanently entwined.

You might be wondering what forges this kind of connection and the truth is, I’m not sure, but I know it when I feel it. I do feel compelled, however, to share some of the things about Jen that I find amazing. So without further adieu:

Don’s Surely Incomplete List of 15 or So Amazing Things About Jen Z:

1) Jen is the analog version of Friendster
I know of nobody who has the ability to recognize the beauty in a person and connect with them both deeply and instantaneously. She’s surrounded by amazing people, which should be no surprise as she is one herself.

2) Her mom can drink me under the table

(I don’t know that for sure, she actually only had one beer.)

3) She rocks thrift store clothes like no other
Actually all her clothes rock. She has an adventurous sense of funky style…especially the yellow pants. Design on a dime that looks like a kajillion bucks. So cool.

4) She’s got the best grazing in the office
What am I going to do without the raspberry dark chocolate? The avocado on melba toast? The dried whatever fruit? I know, I know….back to the vending machine. Sigh.

5) Kitty cats like her

6) She’s crazy athletic, and I do mean crazy
When the rest of us are whining and complaining that the weather sucks, Jen is out there running…up the hill, through the muck, in the rain, through the sewage, around the mountain lions, over the landslides, completely soaked to the bone and always with a smile on her face. I’m such a wuss.

7) She is a Superhero…two, in fact

8) She makes cool custom wallets...
out of magazines and contact paper. Mine has a flying guy on the outside, a close up of French fries on the ID pocket and a map of Chicago for the liner.

9) Jen knows all the good massuses

10) She was the first one to send me Lazy Sunday
And this too.

12) She sends me emails like this:
"Consider it an indicator of my feelings of closeness and trust of you... … that I am even ASKING to borrow the nailclippers that you (hopefully) keep at work! (my fingernails have grown to an unbelievably annoying length in one day, I swear.) "

13) Jen is not afraid to have fun.

14) She makes great snacks (even when it's vegan)

15) She's so money and she don't even know it!

And so this is not a goodbye, but a farewell in the literal sense. May you fare well Jen, much love sister.

4/20/06 UPDATE - Click here or on the pic for photos of last night's festivities!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Last Belly Ache

Reflecting back on my day’s diet, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at my late Wednesday afternoon tummy ache.

Today’s food in reverse order of consumption:
- Hostess Ho Hos from the vending machine
- A Costco Nitrate Dog with a cup of half Sprite/half lite lemonade
- A piece of cake in honor of Sean and Phil’s birthdays
- A bite of Shannan’s gnarly leftover pizza
- A Fruit Nut Crunch Mojo Bar
- An Odwalla C-Monster Citrus Smoothie
- Several handfuls of Trader Joe’s salted and roasted almonds
- A Coca Cola
- A Chill Out #1 Breakfast Burrito with roasted turkey
- A Coca Cola

Non-food contributors:
- The project that is sucking the life out of me
- Too much water from the sky and mud slides and driving

I don’t eat like this. I don’t sit still like this. I don’t let the gray skies and rain, rain, rain get to me like this.

Tomorrow, I snap out of it. Tomorrow, I ride my bike or go for a run or take a swim. Tomorrow, I will write something good.

I mean it. I will be me again.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

It's a Wonderful iLife

Instead of writing something for my blog this weekend, I tinkered with Apple iLife ’06, which was a gift from my friend Jaime (this would be Jaime the Computer Girl, not to be confused with Jaimé the Burrito Guy). While I’ve had, and liked, previous versions of iLife (’04 and ’05), they always seemed to underdeliver in terms of stability (lots of crashes) and speed (lots of spinning beach balls from hell), making me weary of investing much time in using them. While it’s still early, I’m thinking they got it all right in the ’06 edition.

Jaime the Computer Girl likes fried crustaceans.

For the unfamiliar, iLife is a suite of fairly powerful yet easy-to-use creativity tools for the Mac…kind of like a Microsoft Office for the mathematically impaired (i.e. me). Other than being a grouping of related programs, iLife has thankfully little in common with the more ubiquitous Office. With Office you write proposal thingys, make number thingys and get pissed off trying to get presentation thingys to work right. In iLife you make photo albums, edit videos, create web pages, and make songs and podcasts…and get pissed off that it took you ‘til 3 a.m. to finish a two minute production.

The result of my first 3 a.m.’s worth is available here—you can either experience it online or subscribe and download it as a podcast. I’ve always thought it would be cool to meld the old school country sounds of say a Johnny Cash, Roy Acuff or Willie Nelson with glitch poppy electronic beats. My efforts are nothing short of a train wreck, and the country influence is completely absent from this attempt. Even so, I’ve created the alter ego of Cowboy Electron. Consider him the beacon of my utter and complete dearth of talent.