Joe Crawford is a web developer in Roanoke, Virginia. joe@artlung.com

February, 2011: 18 posts.

The Business Cycle

Sometimes I took really, really pretty notes. Here’s “The Business Cycle” from the marketing class I took at Mesa College. It was held in one of the rooms in building B-100. I think I learned a fair amount in that class. For a seventeen year old, I think I did well.

I really like the letterforms.

Filtering a Podcast Feed with Yahoo Pipes

I like podcasts quite a bit, and one of my favorites for many many years (at least since 2004) has been IT Conversations.

If I loved all their stuff, all I have to do it load up iTunes and subscribe. If I’m old school I can get the RSS feed link and do Advanced -> Subscribe To Podcast... inside iTunes.

If, however, I don’t like all of it, if there’s one particular host whose voice has consistently annoyed me, I might have to customize the feed so I never ever have to listen to that host ever. So I fire up Yahoo! Pipes and create this recipe. The recipe is very simple, it takes the existing feed, then runs it through a Filter that blocks any items that include the terms that annoy me.

And after that, I need not listen to cloying interviewers who talk over their guests and think they are funnier than they are.

Professor Pidgeon

Patrick Pidgeon was my Philosophy Professor at San Diego Mesa College in 1987. It was a great class and still ranks among my favorite in-class learning experiences. Pidgeon had a way of dissecting philosophical material, and especially language in a way that was challenging and engaging. It was such a good experience for me that I recommended my Mom take his class. She did, and she very much enjoyed it. In fact, in the year since Leah and I have been back in Roanoke, my Mom probably mentioned Pidgeon and his class half a dozen times.

I have no idea what “tomocracy” is in this drawing.

“Tomocracy” I think would be “governance by drinking” — I’m thinking that the word I missed was actually “autocracy” maybe. And here’s what looks like notes on Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave:”

And here’s a cartoon of what was one of Pidgeon’s explorations of the origins of words and how they apply to meanings now, ruler as a measuring device, ruler as the “standard:”

Notebook Cover, 1984

More messy doodles from High School. I like some of the ink work here, as spot illustrations I really like them.

I wonder, is anyone reading this?


Made with the Brushes app for Mom’s iPod Touch.

It is rather small and awkward to work on, but I’m starting to get a sense of how to use it creatively.

Update: I’ve added the Brushes video export to the New City blog: making of. It’s really fun to see the strokes.

Leah’s Messenger/Laptop Bags

Messenger/Laptop Bags

Leahpeah has been making some really, really wonderful items in her etsy store.

Virginia Landscape

I have a lot of old images on my site that are unseen. Here’s one that I upsized from an older version. I remember making it in the late 1980s and scanned it in the 1990s.

I also found pieces of what were old headers–from September 2002. I’ve recreated them from the images as 9/1/2002 and 9/4/2002. In my next post I’m going to discuss the changes I’m making to this site.

Visualizing and Emerging Blog Content

As I mentioned, I’ve been doing extensive reclamation of my blog archives in such a way that old headers get displayed. So you can see that in action for the Blog Archives from September 2002.

The first row is is a set of buttons: back one year, back one month, archives for the current year, then 12 buttons representing each of the months of the current year, then forward one month, and forward one year. If any of these are outside the range of content for the blog, the buttons are disabled.

The second row is a set of buttons which are actually screenshots for the available headers I made in that month. In the screenshot below you can see there were three headers for that month. These buttons show the appropriate header dynamically with JavaScript on click. The buttons only show up if there is more than one header available. If there’s only a single header for that month, no buttons are displayed, if no headers were made in that month, what is displayed is the most recent header that was made. For example, in 2005, only two headers were made, and you can see as you visit each successive month, the headers scarcely change.

For annual archives, I show the current header, though I’m not sure that’s the right approach. Now that I’ve gotten to the point where I have so much content that it’s hard to make it available, except with search, and it begs the question, who would want to read all that stuff? In any case from a design and user experience perspective I want to make it possible to get at that stuff if they would like to.

The next row is the header itself, which is self-explanatory.

And finally, the primary navigation is displayed, with a set of links representing what I think are the main parts of the site: blog, resume, drawings, portfolio, tag cloud, “popular stuff,” flickr & twitter (both are outbound links and get little color circles representing the branded colors of those sites), then a link for contact.

The WordPress Graphical Post Count Visualization tool I built last year was a similar effort to give people a sense of how many posts there are.

WordPress Graphical Post Count Visualization

Another idea I have is some kind of graphical way to communicate about what kind of blog content is contained. If I were to create a tool to read blog posts and then graphically represent the content therein, that might be a great thing to add to the annual archives. If we take a word count of a post, that may represent say, a block of a certain size. More words is a bigger block. If there are many anchor tags, what we may actually have is a giant list of links. If there are fewer, but still a long word count, that is more likely to be an essay. If there are many img tags, then perhaps what it is is lots of photos. If this could be condensed in such a way that’s clean, you could quickly find longer essays of mine. Let’s say we also have a metric for the number of comments and inbound links, perhaps adding a color, you might be able to find interesting conversations. I have not done research on tools to help visualize blog content, but I think of it a bit like Edward Tufte’s sparklines.

On pages for individual blog posts, there is an additional row with “next” and “previous” links. If you view this post itself, you can see the previous link show up. Once more posts appear on the site there will be a “next” post link as well.

My personal site has languished for several years. I’ve fought with myself about what the purpose of this site is, and this set of links represent a shot at that. As always a chance to create in PHP, JavaScript, and WordPress is a great learning experience.

Notebook Cover, 1985

YET. ANOTHER. COVER. From High School. The kid in the uniform is called “The Punk” and I have a few drawings of him. Not particularly interesting in retrospect. The backstory for The Punk was something rather like Kick-Ass. Basically, a teenage kid, trying to be a “realistic” superhero. No powers, some cool gadgets. In some versions I believe he had some electrified brass knuckles. I never wrote any actual stories, mind you. But I made lots of spot illustrations.

Reagan in a concept car.

President Ronald Reagan (born February 6, 1911) driving the GM Citation IV concept in 1984.

via New City, a blog my friend Chris and I co-curate.

Batman, 2011

New sketch: Batman.

Strange Landscapes #4. The F-clef misses her contrabassoon.

The F-clef misses her contrabassoon.


Reading on the web

Back in November I talked about using my Mom’s old iPod Touch.

In 2009 I got a second generation Kindle as a gift for my birthday (I asked for it) and that got me reading a bit more, but not as much as I thought it was.

I’m an avid Podcast listener, and I kept hearing people mention Instapaper. Around the same time as MAS talked about it (Using Instapaper for Web Legibility) I acquired the app for the iPod touch. I’ve found much the same thing: so many websites have become laden with ads and sidebars and nonsense that it’s hard to simply read. The computer is losing as a place for quality reading experiences. The rise of phones and tablets and e-readers shows us this. The form factor is better–more portable.

Reading at length requires focus. Computers don’t offer that.

What’s interesting is that there’s a flipside to distraction-free reading. Distraction-free writing. I talked about that in 2007 in a post called JDarkroom and focus.

I had never thought about the symmetry of reading and writing at length requiring focus, but it’s a moderately insightful thing.

Although the insight that things with any level of complexity might require some concentration, and so, require focus, might be a tautology.

Summarized: Instapaper is worth looking at if you like to read.

I cried when these people died.

Which is to say, I cried when the following people who I never met in my life died. I’ve been thinking about this for about a week and this is my list:

Stanley Kubrick.
Andy Warhol.

It’s a shorter list than I would have thought. I can’t remember specifically crying when any politicians died. For some reason I vividly remember Anwar Sadat‘s assassination, possibly because I watched it live on television (old-fashioned 3-network television). I also remember the killing of Benigno Aquino, because of my keen interest in the dissolution of the Marcos dictatorship, which we lived under for a few years. I was 13 years old and interested in politics, and the brazenness of the killing shocked me.

I may have cried when I heard about Challenger exploding. I was 16, and I think I was at work at Citizen’s Western Bank, after school when I found out. But I’m not sure how that is possible as it happened in the early morning on a Tuesday in January. Could Uni High have been out of school that day for me?

I don’t remember crying about the incidents of September 11th, 2001. I remember feeling profound and intense nausea and unease, but that’s not the same thing. In contrast, when I watch the film United 93, I always cry. I don’t think that film is much of a melodrama–designed to provoke an emotional response–but the events are so harrowing, and the way it puts you into that context is intense, and so, crying.

I’ve been stunned, dumbfounded by the deaths of real people I found out about after the fact. My life post-dates the assassinations of the 1960s. I’ve cried at movies about the deaths of people, but that’s at a remove. I cry during the film Gandhi fairly reliably. I cried during the recent film Another Year, there’s a funeral sequence there that evokes the deaths of my grandfather Joe and my mother Phyllis and suddenly I’m crying. But that’s sort of a proxy, I’m projecting my own experience into the fiction onscreen. I can mourn JFK, RFK, and MLK, despite the fact that I was born after the 1960s. In fiction, I do tend to cry when huge-scale disasters, particularly nuclear war happen.

I’m an American male, and perhaps I’m wrong to use crying as a measure of emotional impact. There is a cultural taboo against excessive crying, I think. The past few months are an anomaly, the death of my Mom has clearly evoked more crying than I remember, ever. My father says that he does not remember me or my sister crying much. My mother told the story of my grandfather, her father, being worried about me as an infant because I didn’t cry much. My grandpa was in a position to observe me quite a bit because my mother and I lived with my maternal grandparents for some time when I was first born, as my father was serving as a corpsman in Vietnam.

So why Kubrick and Warhol? Why did their deaths impact me so much that I cried? I vividly remember driving through Marina del Rey and hearing about Kubrick and instantly crying. I think it was because of the impact of 2001: A Space Odyssey , really. Kubrick operated at a level that I aspired to. It was the same with Warhol–I felt like I understood his character–peculiar, quixotic, but a kind of genius. And I suppose I was crying because their aesthetic choices, their iconoclasm, moved me and drove me. The snuffing out of the universe of possibilities they represented was a great loss.

As I’ve learned more concretely about loss and grief, I’m moved to consider what the deaths of strangers can mean. The death of hopes for the future is a huge component. I wanted to see what Warhol would do next. He was delightfully unpredictable. Kubrick too, was incredible at defying expectations and creating works that surprised. I suppose it’s selfish in a way that my crying was not primarily about the loss of the person himself, the incredible impact of a death on their family and friends–it was for myself, and not being able to view the world through their future works of art.

Headline of the Day: “Microsoft Buys Nokia for $0B”

Sat. Sketch.

This morning I was playing around with Brushes App on an iPod Touch. I just found out that the Brushes Viewer can export existing drawings at higher resolution, or even a stroke-by-stroke video. Play it below or watch it on Vimeo: Sat. Sketch..

Sat. Sketch.

RoboCop Valentine by Dresden Codak

Crossposted to New City.


As of today I have been blogging for 10 years. Here’s my first post.

I’ve had a website for 15 years now.

In that time a lot has happened. I’ve gotten divorced. I’ve gotten married. I’ve been on the radio, twice. I became a stepfather. I’ve moved several many times. I founded several blogs and websites, sold several blogs and websites; I am very proud to have created the websandiego mailing list in 1999. In 2009, my grandpa died. At the end of 2009 Leah and I moved to Roanoke. At the end of 2010, my mom died. And tomorrow Leah and I will be moving back to the west coast, with the goal of landing in San Diego.

This is my 3,518th published post. The last comment made was the 1,917th. The next one will be the 1,918th one. I also have a bunch of other stuff on this site unrelated to the blog. For example, old writing. Some popular items are here.

I would like to thank you for reading, and for being a part of this adventure in all that time. This blog started on blogger.com with no comments, and I liked it that way.

Thank you to all who have commented and materially improved my life by reaching out by comment, email, twitter, and phone.

I remain mostly engaged with grief these days, but I’m coming out of it in the course of time.

Thanks, and, onward.

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