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Friday, October 28, 2005


Risks and rewards of beach photography

The payoff: Capturing sand with the camera.

Carmel River Beach

The hazard: Capturing sand in the camera.

pieces of Carmel River Beach on the Mamiya lens


Hardsell the Sea Lion sez: “Buy me now!”

sea lion

“What’s wrong with a photo of a furry animal? Nothing. Who doesn’t love a little nature photography now and then? Nobody. Where can you get some cheap? Right here.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Life goes on, more or less

… so I get out the camera and just keep shooting.

Santa Cruz sunrise
Monday, August 22, 2005


Summer draws to a close

First off: While I am normally a considerate neighbor, I’m currently playing the stereo as loud as I can without my ears hurting. I’m also playing the same song twice in a row, and seriously considering doing a solid hour; it won’t drive me any more insane than the incessant barking next door. In a concrete yard roughly as large as a 20-foot hallway, three hell-sent little throw-pillow dogs yap up a storm 18 hours a day. Sometimes they get into a raucous three-dog tussle, then get a little quieter, and I find myself hoping that one has been killed in the fight. No luck so far, and no luck on getting them to shut the hell up, either. I’d like to talk to the neighbors, but what do I say? “Please throw one or more of your dogs away”? For now, I shall drown them out in a manner consistent with the nature of their barking: annoying as hell.

But back to the titular point: Classes start again on Wednesday, and I can’t say I’m excited about that. I had hoped that leaving San Jose for a month would give me a fresh perspective and a newfound appreciation for the place, but only half my dream came true. Maybe I’m seeing it from a different angle now, but the Hose still looks like a shitty place. Not as bad as, say, most of Nevada, but shitty nonetheless. And while my experience as a student SJSU has been better than my life as a San Jose resident, it still doesn’t win any awards. The only thing that keeps me going is a fading desire to just get it over with, and I hate living life like that.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


Road trip post mortem

If you ever really, really have trouble sleeping, I think a road trip is just the cure. Upon returning home at midnight on Sunday, I slept until 9 a.m. After a quick breakfast, I napped until dinnertime, then skipped dinner and went straight to bed. This pattern repeated for three days, interspersed with some cathartic vomiting.

Back on my feet again, I’m back at the blog desk with a final group of 78 photos. Now here’s the neat part: You can view them as a gallery in your choice of styles, as a customizable slide show, or as a super-cool map, which you should really check out. Under where it says “78 photos,” hit “play” to have the map walk you through our approximate route. Clicking on a thumbnail in the white bubble will show you a large photo, and clicking on a thumbnail in the right-hand column will show you a satellite view of the spot. (Some views, like Niagara Falls and the Gateway Arch, are cooler than others.)

Monday, August 15, 2005


Day 26: Utah --> Home

After nearly a month, more than 8500 miles, some $500 worth of gas, 28 states, the District of Columbia, and Ontario, we’re on I-680 at last. (I figure I should write in the car at least once, since that’s where I’ve been spending most of my time lately.) At Emily’s request, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” is playing. I never thought I’d say this, but I can’t wait to get to the Santa Clara Valley. 26 more miles! Whoo!

Keeping this blog updated every day turned out to be more difficult than I had anticipated. Nonetheless, I have a very good idea of what should have been posted on the missing days, as well as those with lean entries. I’ll be adding those entries using the dates they should have appeared on.

I’ve also got some general thoughts about the country after seeing so much of it, and I plan to write about them soon.

For tonight, though, all that will have to wait. I’ll post this entry when we get home, but we’ve got a cat to reintroduce ourselves to. That, and a place to sleep that’s ours for more than one night.

Addendum 8-18-05: Utah! The state spelled with an exclamation point!

No doubt about it, Utah is a breathtaking place. But by plastering Utah! all over the license plates and maps, the state just sounds breathless. They should let the scenery speak for itself.

The day we crossed Utah was not the clearest, so the scenery, while impressive, did not make for awesome shots. To give you an idea, here’s a formation called the San Rafael Swell, near Capitol Reef.

San Rafael Swell

On the western edge of the state, west of the Great Salt Lake, lie the utterly incredible Bonneville Salt Flats, where land-speed records are set. We were in a rush to make it home, but the sight of cars racing in the distance made us exit the freeway for a closer look. (Admittedly, I had dreams of pushing the Civic to its limits on the salt.) When entry to the speedway turned out to be $10 a head, we turned around, but not before examining the vast salinity of it all.

No salt angels for you

Emily refused to lie down and make salt angels for the camera.

No salt angels for you

Salty? Yes. Flat? Surprisingly not.

Friday, August 12, 2005


Days 23-24: Driving like crazy college kids

Pittsburgh to Boulder: 1494 miles, 27 hours

Night driver

This might have been a bad dream, but since there are mountains outside, I guess it really happened. Leaving Pittsburgh at noon, we drove across West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and part of Colorado without staying the night anywhere. I have never bought so much gasoline in my life.

Gas theft warning

We visited the Gateway Arch in St. Louis at around 10 p.m., and we caught three hours’ sleep in the car somewhere between Topeka and WaKeeney. Breakfast was at 6 in Russell, Kansas, and we slept another hour or two at 10. Getting to Boulder at 3 p.m., we went straight to bed. Now it’s midnight, and I’m awake and hungry.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Day 22: Pittsburgh

PIttsburgh buildings

I am not being ironic when I say this: Pittsburgh is cool.

Like Minneapolis, it looks big for its size. Only about 300,000 people call this handsome city home, but its surplus of bridges, tunnels, stairways, and great buildings suggests a much bigger place.

Walking around and looking at Pittsburgh was oddly satisfying, and it got me thinking about three of my personal criteria for a cool city: Hills, water, and good architecture.

PIttsburgh from the South Side Slopes

Hills are good because they allow a chance to back up from the city and put it in perspective. This shot was taken from Pittsburgh’s South Side Slopes, where the Monongahela Incline (something like an elevator running on tracks) hauls you up a San Francisco-worthy hill.

PIttsburgh at night

So long as it’s impossible to ignore, water adds life to a city. Pittsburgh’s three rivers, including the Monongahela in this photo, churn with pleasure boats, jet skis, and coal barges. Fishermen and swimmers line the shore in spots. Waterfront parks buzz with bikes and joggers.

PPG Place

A variety of interesting architecture can make the difference between a boring city and a cool one. PPG Place isn’t my favorite kind of building, but it sure makes a statement (PLATE GLASS GOOD!). It’s shown here reflected in the mirrored tiles of a sculpture in the plaza.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Day 21: More Niagara

Niagara Falls, Ontario, to Pittsburgh, Pa.: here’s a map, and it took a while.

Still feeling miserable and shedding virus like a madman. Using the little energy I possess to walk around and take pictures. When I return to the hotel, I fall fast asleep, so the posting is continuing to suffer. There are some stories about our time in Ann Arbor and New Jersey that I still plan to add, but right now I’m too addled to relate them in a sensible way. All that goes through my mind are random snippets of overheard conversation (“He was such a handsome Indian, I thought he was from Minnesota,”) and great signs I saw too late to photograph (the Amigone funeral home in Buffalo. Possible motto: “Not yet, but let’s start planning!”).

But back to the photos. At the motel du jour in Niagara Falls, I was happy to see that some fixtures never go out of style.

Command center Blade slot

Not that anyone uses a “safety” razor anymore anyway, but where do those blades go? Are the walls of motels everywhere filled with rusty double-edged Schicks?

Once I finally managed to tear myself away from these stylish lodgings, we took the Civic on its first international border crossing to get a better look at the falls. Conclusion: They are exceedingly wet.


A final note: We stopped in Buffalo because it’s supposed to have great architecture. Meh. One thing it does have is an old drunk who shouts at visitors. “Are you German?”

It's got wings!
Tuesday, August 9, 2005


Day 20: Niagara (not Niagra)

Syracuse to Niagara Falls: 166 miles, 3 hours

Niagara by night

We’ve spent the last few days with family and friends, and net access has been hard to come by in our free time. Today, I’ve managed to post our stops and maps, but it might take a few more days to add all the photos and incisive commentary. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 8, 2005


Day 19: How to get sick

Westport, Mass., to Syracuse, N.Y.: 355 miles, 6 hours

1. Visit the Northeast in August, when temperatures and humidity are both in the 90s.

2. Get accustomed to breathing air that feels like it’s just risen off a boiling pot of water.

3. Spend plenty of time in homes and restaurants with air conditioning so strong that it feels like a February morning after a snowfall. When your skin begins to tingle with the onset of the freeze-drying process, you’ll feel the fog form in your lungs.

4. Repeat the process a few times, and you’ll soon have the worst cold of your life. In August. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to shiver and sneeze for a while.

Sunday, August 7, 2005


Day 18: Juhzy to Westpaht

Franklin Lakes, N.J., to Westport, Mass.: 293 miles, 5 hours

Craig examines the love cuffs

Saturday, August 6, 2005


Day 17: North Jersey and NYC

Rockaway, N.J., to Hoboken, N.J.: 33 miles

The landscape of New Jersey is nothing if not diverse. There are plenty of highways and refineries, it’s true, but there are also sandy beaches, dense forests, and broad expanses of farmland.

And that’s all I’ll say in defense of New Jersey. It’s an overcrowded, overpaved privy pit, and it smells funny. Truth is, I’ve been out of New Jersey longer than I lived there, and I aim to keep it that way.

I realize that deer are about as exotic as raccoons in most parts of the country these days, but it was still impressive to see this faun and its mother traipsing through Scott’s back yard.

Rockaway, N.J.

Emily and Scott were unimpressed.

Emily and Scott
Friday, August 5, 2005


Day 16: Jersey Shore to the NYC burbs

Avalon, N.J., to Franklin Lakes, N.J.: 165 miles, 3 hours

Addendum 8-18-05: Stuff that happened on Day 17, but Day 16 needed punching up

Drove to Hoboken, took the tube to New York to hang out with Peter. It’s a hell of a trip that makes going to Manhattan for a drink look like no trouble at all.

Peter had shown me the Friends exterior at Grove and Bedford before, but I knew Emily would appreciate it more.

Grove and Bedford

Heading toward New York’s George Washington Bridge, N.J. Route 208 crosses over Ewing Avenue near the local high school. Taking that exit, stopping at the bottom of the ramp, and putting the car into neutral yields an eerie surprise: The car rolls back up the ramp. The risk inherent in this activity, of course, is that someone exiting the highway should rear-end you at high speed.

When I discovered the mystery spot, around age 17, I made full use and abuse of my new driver’s license by testing out the weirdness of the haunted exit ramp. Somewhere around the seventh or eighth time, a Franklin Lakes traffic patrol car caught me in the act. Putting safety first, the officer pulled his car straight up the exit ramp, head to head with mine. Had anyone taken that exit during our time together, my car would have been sandwiched between theirs and the cop’s.

Anyway. Cop puts his high beams through my windshield, struts over, and shines his four-D-cell Mag Lite in my face. “Licenseregistrationinsurance please.” I hand over the papers, and he eyes my license.

“Esch, Daniel. Hm. What do they call you? Danny?”

“I go by Dan.”

“Danny, what are you doing here?”

“Well,” I grinned stupidly, like this was the first time, “I heard about this thing where you stop at the bottom of the ramp …”

“Danny, let me ask you something. You go to school?”

“Uh, yeah.”


“Up the road — at the high school.”

“You a junior there?”


“You take physics?”

“Uh … yeah?”

“Tell me something, Danny.”


“Do things roll up hills?”

Not wanting to thwart the cop’s position of authority, I resisted the urge to invite him into the back seat for a demonstration. “No, sir, they don’t.” After a warning and an awkward reverse by the patrol car, I was free to go.

Some 17 years later, I finally returned to the spot in my own car, risking the $75 careless driving ticket for the sake of a few seconds of thrills. Luckily, there were no cops. It still works, pushing the Civic some 40 feet up the ramp. And it’s cool as hell.

Thursday, August 4, 2005


Day 15: The Jersey Shore

Rockville, Md., to Avalon, N.J.: 199 miles, 4 hours

Bridge over the Delaware
Wednesday, August 3, 2005


Day 14: New niece

Once again, there wasn’t enough time in greater D.C. to see everything and everyone that we’d planned on.

Of course, we would have been foolish to miss a visit with my new niece Miriam, pictured here with my brother.

Miriam and Tom

While we were there, my sister-in-law drove us out to Great Falls, Va., where the Potomac kills people on a regular basis.

Great Falls, Va. Great Falls, Va.Great Falls, Va.
Sunday, July 31, 2005


Day 11: Greater Detroit

Today was another break from driving, though we did get rides to the Detroit Institute of Arts and Cranbrook. The former is a fine museum, while the latter is a private school that my mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, and myself all attended for some period of time. It’s known for its ridiculously attractive campus.

Without question, the best part of the DIA for me was Diego Rivera’s massive fresco installation. I positively love his work, and this was the best example I’ve ever seen.

Diego Rivera fresco Diego Rivera fresco

The sun was setting on Cranbrook by the time we arrived, so my photos are few.

Cranbrook Cranbrook trash
Friday, July 29, 2005


Day nine: “If you seek a beautiful peninsula …”

Escanaba, Mich., to Ann Arbor, Mich.: 443 miles, 8 hours

We had planned to explore northern Michigan a little, but we’re learning quickly that there’s always more road than there is time to drive it. We dipped our toes in Lake Michigan and appreciated its Greatness, but there wasn’t time to do much more.

As with Montana, the scenery of rural Michigan lends itself more to a swiveling head than to a still camera. (That’s not to suggest that motion pictures of Michigan would be anything but dull.) There was one highly photogenic monument, though: the Mackinac Bridge connecting Michigan’s two peninsulas.

Mackinac Bridge Mackinac Bridge Mackinac Bridge
Thursday, July 28, 2005


Day eight: Minneapolis. Eau Claire. Wausau. Green Bay. Menominee. Escanaba.

Minneapolis to Escanaba, Mich.: 409 miles, 8.5 hours

Miles so far: 3072

States visited so far: 9

Minnesota and Wisconsin are both surprisingly pretty places. Green, lush, and covered in farms, they’re as vast as the great plains, but not as boring. Wisconsin, in particular, was far more hilly and convoluted than I expected, but given the time to drive the road and study the map, that makes a lot of sense: If it weren’t for Wisconsin’s elevation, Lake Michigan would drain into the Mississippi River instead of the St. Lawrence.

Like Montana and Wyoming, Minnesota and Wisconsin lend themselves to panoramic photography and no other kind. You already know what a barn looks like, and a silo, and a cornfield. Pictures of those things are beyond dull. But surround yourself with a huge homogeneous landscape, and it’s breathtaking.

Lucky for me and my non-panoramic camera, we arrived in Minneapolis, which is one of the most attractive cities I’ve ever been to. Straddling the Mississippi where it’s still rather narrow, the city displays a variety of tasteful architecture that doesn’t try too hard. The frigid city had the good sense to develop an elaborate Skyway system that allows workers, residents, and visitors to walk across downtown without stepping outside. Emily and I walked above ground nearly a mile from our hotel to the riverfront, where we then crossed the Big Muddy on foot.

Downtown Minneapolis Bridge over the Mississippi Downtown Minneapolis Grain Belt billboard

Especially for Max, here are some highlights of the sculpture garden in town.

Richard Serra Sol LeWitt Frank Gehry Claes Oldenburg

Tonight, for the first time, we’re in Michigan’s gorgeous Upper Peninsula, on the north shore of Lake Michigan. More tomorrow as we set out toward Ann Arbor, the whole point of this trip.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Day seven: Corn, cheese, and conservatives

Mitchell, S.D., to Minneapolis: 321 miles, 7 hours

Note: The road map linked above isn’t entirely accurate, since we followed a state road through Minnesota instead of taking the interstate.

“So, you live in San Jose?” Still in an I-90 stupor, I nodded at the motel clerk. “What are you doing in South Dakota?” she demanded.

“Well, we, ahh… ” I began.

Please tell me you’re on a cross-country drive.”

“Oh, no,” I replied, perking up a little. “We drove out here just to see the Corn Palace.”

“You wouldn’t believe the number of people who say that. And they’re serious.

We’re really good at tourism in South Dakota,” she continued. “We get you to come look at faces on a mountain, a drug store, and a building covered in corn.”

Such is the reality of South Dakota. If we hadn’t stopped at that damn Wall Drug, we might have escaped the state unscathed. Instead, we made it no further than Mitchell, and so ended up visting the aforementioned palace in the morning.

Markedly less odious than Wall Drug, the Corn Palace is as wholesome and Middle American as … um … corn, but not half as appetizing. Essentially an awkward cross between a theater and a basketball arena (home of the Kernels!), the Palace spends its off days as a repository for touristy crap. And during the few non-winter months, the building is elaborately decorated with corn mosaics inside and out. Those, I must admit, are the most impressive artwork I’ve ever seen in the corn medium.

Corn Palace artwork detail

I found this freaky-ass bug outside the Palace to be as compelling as anything inside. What in God’s name is it?

Freaky-ass corn bug

Just down the street, there’s proof that Jesus is a very bad mime.

Jesus is a bad mime
Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Day six: Whole lotta Dakota

Gillette, Wyo., to Mitchell, S.D.: 457 miles, 9.5 hours

So much South Dakota, and so little to say. We actually spent the morning in Wyoming making an ill-fated side trip to Devil’s Tower, which was invisible thanks to a rain storm. The same bad weather made it pointless to try to see Mount Rushmore or the Crazy Horse monument, so we just pushed eastward through our first painfully dull state.

If you’ve ever driven within 200 miles of here, you know about Wall Drug. The closer you get to that tourist trap, the more frequent the billboards become, with five or six cryptic Wall Drug signs per mile near the town of Wall.

If, on the other hand, you’ve never been up here, let me give you a piece of advice: Just skip it. It’s an absolute nightmare. The high point of the stop in Wall (pop. 815) was a pair of cranky women behind us on the wooden sidewalk complaining about the slow-moving tourists in front of them. I might have had similar thoughts when I was a San Francsico resident, but at least I tried to keep them to myself. And I never complained about the tourists at places like Pier 39, because places like that (and Wall) exist solely for their enjoyment. All the same, I think we should do the good people of Wall a favor and stop visiting their nasty little burg.

Today we head for Minneapolis. But not before we stop at the Corn Palace! (I guess Wall Drug taught us nothing.)

Monday, July 25, 2005


Day five: Over the Continental Divide

Missoula to Gillette, Wyo.: 585 miles, 8.5 hours

Miles so far: 1875

Gas mileage so far: 34 mpg (Someone asked, OK?)

Big Sky country

Today’s drive was the West with a capital W. Mountains, buttes, and sky were all too huge to fit in a frame. Cattle, bison, and oil rigs are all picturesque, but what’s more remarkable than anything we saw is the vast emptiness that surrounds it. California has its share of lonely patches, but this feels like the population center of nowhere. Statistics support this view: In the nearly 98,000 square miles of Wyoming, there are fewer than half a million people, less than live in the 49 square miles of San Francisco. And Montana, which is more than 5,000 times the size of San Jose, has approximately the same population. There’s a tremendous amount of nothing out here.

There are two images that will stick with me, though. First is the pro- and anti-Indian graffiti in a bathroom in Hardin, Montana, just north of the Crow reservation. I was startled to see that there’s someone alive in this century who would respond to an Indian pride tag with the phrase “wagon burners.” Dude, it’s over. Whitey won. Maybe you didn’t get the telegram.

The second memory is more benign: a man riding horseback on the reservation, talking on his cell phone.

As I write this on Sunday night, we’re in the same motel as a number of competitors in the National High School Rodeo Finals, which is apparently a very big deal in Gillette. Maybe we’ll get to smell it tomorrow.

The red roads of Wyoming Storm in the distance, Wyoming sunset in the sideview
Sunday, July 24, 2005


Road trip day four: back in the saddle

Portland to Missoula: 557 miles, 10 hours

The last time I visited four states in one day, I was in New England, where the states are smaller than the state parks out west. Thanks in large part to the narrow panhandle of Idaho and the generous speed limits up here, we managed to cross both Washington and Famous Potatoes on our way from Oregon to Montana.

As the snowy peak of Mount Hood receded behind us, the lush greenery of western Oregon gave way to the rocky desert that fills the state east of the Cascades. Much of the road was lined with monumental rock formations that, for lack of a roadside geology guide, I’m going to guess are columnar basalt. Or something.

Just as the brown landscape of eastern Oregon bears little resemblance to Portland, the southeast portion of Washington is a world away from Seattle. Treeless, wheat-covered hills rolled into infinity, looking like a classier Nebraska. Spokane looked like Bridgeport, Connecticut, from the freeway.

Idaho, on the other hand, was stunningly green and rugged, and Lake Cour d’Alene looked like paradise. Our Idaho crossing was over in less than an hour, but I look forward to returning.

Now in Missoula, we’ve barely entered vast Montana, and it’s just about the most stunning landscape I’ve ever seen. Like Vermont on performance-enhancing drugs, with 100% evergreen forest. I also like the Montana version of time: The sun dropped behind a tall mountain around 9:00, and the sky was still light an hour later.

With our entry into Idaho, we crossed into territory that’s hard to do justice with a camera … so no good pictures so far. I’ll try again tomorrow as we head for Wyoming.

I-84 tunnel Mt. Hood in visor mirror Rocks in eastern Oregon The Evergreen State

I’m sitting on a sidewalk outside a closed UPS Store in Missoula to post this. Make it worth my while — post a comment, for gosh sakes.

Saturday, July 23, 2005


Day three: Portland

Baggage Dept. Union Station
Friday, July 22, 2005


Day two: Portland

Finally, I got to visit Portland in the summer. My previous visits here were both in December, and I found it to be — like many places in America at that time of year — cold, damp, and unpleasant.

Summertime is a different story entirely. Sure, it threatened rain for a while, but most of the drops evaporated before they hit the ground, leaving wispy traces in the sky. (According to the weatherman, this phenomenon is called virga. Fascinating.) For the most part, the weather is warm, breezy, and pleasantly humid.

We spent much of the day among the Pearl district’s old warehouses, repurposed as cafes, shops, and ad agencies. I made a pit stop at REI to pick up some small camping items, and found it to be the nicest REI store I’ve ever seen, with ridiculously helpful staff. The neighborhood even charmed me into entering a hipster Portland barber shop, where I got my first haircut in about six months. Susan, at Rudy’s on 13th Avenue, did an awesome job.

My favorite part of the Pearl, though, was the buildings. We don’t see a lot of brick structures in California, and I miss them.

Crane Bldg. Crane Bldg. detail Pearl District and Fremont Bridge Pearl District lamp

For fans of The Simpsons, it’s worth noting that the east-west streets in this part of Portland (hometown of Matt Groening) include (neighbor) Flanders, (bully) Kearney, (Reverend) Lovejoy, and (Mayor) Quimby. Excellent.

I forgot to mention yesterday that the entries from this trip introduce a little technical innovation to the blog: Clicking on any photo will show you an enlargment in a pop-up window.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


On the road: Day one

San Jose to Portland: 686 miles, 11 hours

We got a late start, and it was hotter than the hinges of hell, but we had an uneventful air-conditioned drive nonetheless.

Our only real stop was Redding, Calif., where we checked out the Sundial Bridge. The bridge was even cooler than we expected, and is well worth a short detour off I-5.

Sundial Bridge Sundial Bridge

We also got a good look at Mount Shasta, which never fails to impress. Hats off to my friend Chris for summiting this peak recently.

Mt. Shasta

They’re still finding big trees to fell, too.

log truck
Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Hitting the road

Today I’m embarking on a mammoth road trip across America and back. In a way, it’s sort of a long-held dream fulfilled: car + camera + laptop + road.

I’ve got to say I’m pretty excited, from a photographic standpoint, to get out of our broiling-hot back yard. I mean, it’s great here and everything, but how many pictures of the feral kitten can I take?

Answer: at least one more.

Little feral
Saturday, July 9, 2005


Cute ’n’ creepy heads

Little feral Baby head
Friday, July 8, 2005


Ancient 4-track nonsense

My personal organization project has caused me to throw out a ton of stuff this past month, but it’s also reacquainted me with some things I’m glad I saved. One box, for example, contained a number of tapes made on my four-track recorder back around 1990. At that time, the ability to mix audio was incredible to me, even if it involved cassette tapes and questionable sound quality.

The music I made was pretty awful, but this song based on messages from my answering machine still makes me laugh.

Site news

Updates in progress

To be sure, I’m not the only one who hasn’t been cranking out the blog entries lately, but I still feel the need to explain myself a little. I’m still trying to organize my life a little better and generally get my shit together, and that’s been a daunting project. (On the plus side, I’ve uncovered some interesting artifacts, as you’ll see in today’s other post). On top of that, I’m in the process of totally redoing the photo section of this site. The first phase of that project, removing lots of old snapshots, has already happened, and I’m trying to roll out phase two by Monday. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Coiled hose, coiled cat

Hose with cat
Monday, June 20, 2005


Looks like the plums are ready

Fallen plum
Friday, June 10, 2005


Weird SJ

Light tower

The story is just too weird, and I don’t know it well, so I’ll refer you to the entertaining and informative Soft Underbelly of San Jose, which has an exhaustive rundown on the San Jose Electric Light Tower. Only recently did I learn that such a marvel once existed. (Long story short: Wealthy, forward-looking newspaper publisher plans electric street lamps to replace gas lights. Weird part: The electric lights were to sit atop giant towers, illuminating blocks at a time. Weirder part: They actually built one, right on top of a major intersection, with buggies driving underneath. Weirdest part: San Jose charged the city of Paris —in 1989— with copyright infringement for “stealing” the design for their Eiffel Tower.)

Today I visited Kelley Park for the first time, and what did I see but a half-scale replica of the Electric Light Tower, honoring San Jose’s history as the first electrified city west of the Rockies. Even though it doesn’t reach the original’s 237 feet, it’s pretty cool.

There’s been some talk on the city council lately about building a 21st-century version of the tower. It won’t make San Jose a tourist destination, but I say go for it.

(Just so’s you know, Soft Underbelly of SJ is new to me. I started photographing the crazy signs around here before I saw his stuff.)

Monday, June 6, 2005


Farewell to a friend

Joel Oppenheimer

For nearly ten years, Joel Oppenheimer has been one of my best friends. I could write about how great a person I know him to be, but it would come out sounding like Frank Sinatra’s brainwashed dialogue in The Manchurian Candidate: “Joel is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.”

At least I know I’m not alone in liking the guy. A couple hundred folks came out on Saturday to celebrate all things Joel: A performance by Chemystry Set, of which he is a founding member. The performance debut of Deep Dig Ensemble, Joel’s new jazz combo, and the release of their new CD. And, not least, Joel’s birthday.

There were two bittersweet milestones to recognize, as well: Joel’s departure from St. Joseph’s Village Family Center, where he’s worked for years on the front lines of social services in San Francisco, and his return to the East Coast to earn a master’s in social work. Of course we’re thrilled for him, but it’s sad to see him go.

There wasn’t a lot of sadness in evidence on Saturday, though, and I’ve got 20 pieces of photographic evidence. Check out the Joelapalooza gallery.

Saturday, June 4, 2005

Site news

Flood of “danesch.com” spam

Last night, some asshat sent out several hundred (at least) pieces of spam that appear to have originated at danesch.com. They did not. The return address was spoofed. I had nothing to do with it, and I can’t do much to stop it. If you’re here trying to figure out why I’m spamming you, all I can offer is an apology and an assurance that it’s not me. I don’t know "Lucie Mclaughlin," I’m not in the Viagra business, and I hate this even more than you do.

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Neither here nor there

Cached chits


While going through old papers today as part of a massive personal reorganization (more on that later), I saw some little slips of paper drift out of a file folder and onto the floor: A Metro ticket and transfer from Montreal, and a ticket stub from the observation deck at the World Trade Center. I made several visits to both places while I was in high school, but after I grabbed these little slips, I never went back.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005


Sometimes cute is OK

We’ve had a few new visitors to the yard lately — a feral cat no more than a year old, and her adorable kitten. The older cat isn’t too photogenic, but the little one is as cute as it gets.

Tiny cat
Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Fontify your existence

Bad handwriting

At last, you can make your typing as hard to read as your handwriting. Fontifier offers an easy way to turn your handwritten letters into a TrueType font usable in any application. Fonts cost nine bucks, but you can preview them for free. Hint: Keep a consistent baseline, or you’ll end up with too-high letters, like the a in my alphabet.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Careful — they may be Africanized

Yesterday I noticed an awful lot of bees flying around our apple tree, so I went to take a closer look. At the top of the broken-off trunk, I found a ball of bees about as big as my head.

Hella honeybees

They say that honeybee numbers are dwindling, but you wouldn’t know it by looking in my back yard.

Hella honeybees close up
Thursday, May 12, 2005


Welcome to the velodrome

Track racing in Hellyer Park

Speaking of rare urban park features, who knew there was an outdoor velodrome in San Jose?

And why is it that bike racing is so unpopular as a spectator sport, but people can’t get enough NASCAR?

Saturday, May 7, 2005


San Francisco rocks

Rock climbing in Glen Canyon Park

I love a city park that offers more than benches. Glen Canyon Park, in the middle of San Francisco, is such a place. Back in March, I stopped by the park and found Josh climbing on the rock formations there.

Rock climbing in Glen Canyon Park
Monday, April 18, 2005


Signs of San Jose: Neon and on and on

Not to dwell on the negative, but things sure do suck lately.

But while the tide of suction ebbs and flows, these neon signs along West San Carlos and Stevens Creek in San Jose are as glorious as ever.

Westside Billiards neon Western Appliance neon Y not neon Safeway neon

Neither here nor there

A note on fast food

For a long time now, I’ve observed a pretty strict no–fast food policy. The last time I ate crap like Burger King with any regularity was the first couple weeks that I lived in California, in 1993. Oh, and I ate Wendy’s sporadically when I first moved to Oakland in 1994. Since then, I could count the fast food meals on one hand, and probably have a finger or two to spare.

Well, that changed again when I first moved over here to San Hose. Not knowing a lot of dining options in the neighborhood, a nearby Wendy’s provided a quick meal before the kitchen was set up and before I settled into a schedule. It smelled good driving by, and I figured I could allow myself just one supersalty, ultrafatty meal before I got my act together.

And damn if that wasn’t some tasty shit. That burger was as satisfying as it was square. The fries weren’t so great, and I’d forgotten how those paper cups weep all over the place, but all in all, I was a happy fella.

So happy, in fact, that I soon found more and more excuses to stop at Wendy’s on the way home. Not every day, but maybe a total of a dozen times in the seven or eight months that I’ve lived here. Sure I hated myself, and sure it was bad for me, but it was convenient, satisfying, and really inexpensive.

Last month, my habits changed abruptly. On March 23, I saw a report in the San Francisco Chronicle about a severed finger found in some chili at a San Jose Wendy’s. I went immediately to the San Jose Mercury News website to see if their article had a street address for the restaurant, and confirmed my worst fears: That lady? With the chili? And the finger? That was at my Wendy’s.

At least, that was my Wendy’s. I haven’t been back there since a week or two before the finger thing. And it’s not like I’ve sought out another fast food joint to eat at.

At first, I was ready to blame Wendy’s. I mean, hey, man, I’ve read Fast Food Nation, right? I kept thinking about driving up to order some chili con dedos, but then I remembered a lesson from the awkward teen at Krusty Burger: “It’s a felony to tease the order box, sir!”

Even now that it’s looking like the lady with the bad chili is a money-grubbing lawsuit-happy finger-planter, the Wendy’s down the street is hurting for business. I’ve noticed the papers no longer print their address, but the franchise owners claim that business is down by more than half, and employees are suffering with cutbacks in hours.

Now I feel bad for the nice people at Wendy’s. Should I go get a burger?

Friday, April 8, 2005


Ogling Google

Sure you use Google, but do you realize just how much more you could be using it? Forget finding the right specialized dictionary, just Google define:. Calculation or conversion? Google it. Just the other night, I needed area in square miles when I had kilometers. Googled 34km^2 in mi^2, and bingo. “Square miles” or “sq km” works too. Google rules like that.

They aren’t the first to have a map service with aerial or satellite photos, but they certainly have the coolest service yet. Google maps switches quickly between map and photo, and lets you drag and zoom either one around without a lot of slow reloading. This isn’t much of a scoop, I realize — the feature is a few days old, and it’s been in the news. I’m just urging you to check it out.

Here, I’ll get you started with two of the most scenic places I had the opportunity to earn a living: on the San Francisco waterfront in that big wedge-shaped building facing the green park strip, and on the Oakland waterfront under the giant green roof. Google will even draw a pretty line between the two for you.

Thursday, April 7, 2005


Signs of San Jose: Now, that’s what I’m talking about

Alma Bowl

From Highway 87, the VTA light rail, or Caltrain, this one’s tough to miss.

Alma Bowl

The bowling alley, pizza joint, cocktail lounge, and tamaleria are all gone. A stubborn little patch on the north (right) side is all that remains of the paint around the neck of the pin.

Alma Bowl

What a beauty. Too bad the neon never comes on.

Update 2/27/06: They knocked the bowling alley down last week, and with it came the sign. Why not commemorate the occasion with the purchase of a photo print, available in a range of sizes from puny to poster. Act now!

Sunday, April 3, 2005


Signs of San Jose: Part IV

Cambrian Park Plaza

This sign at Camden and Union looks like it’s had some stylistic updates (the disco font, for instance), but that carousel on the top has got to be pushing 40. In case the sign’s gaiety and whimsy don’t lure you into the shopping center, it’s been given the nearly irresistible power of motion, spinning around like a very sad carnival ride.

When the sign’s magic finally draws you close enough to see the carousel in detail, you’re rewarded with some hideous and disturbing scenes. A monkey rides a bicycle and leers at the woman in front of him, and no wonder — she’s flaunting some ass-hugging pants. And who’s that behind the monkey? Why, it’s a foreign dandy bringing fistfuls of cash to the mall! Excellent!

Cambrian Park Plaza detail
Saturday, April 2, 2005


More signs


Another classic San José sign is this example at Camden and Leigh. Though most of the small merchant signs have obviously been replaced, the overall look is still there. It might be as recent as the 1970s, I’m guessing, but it still looks dated as hell, and not just because of the faded colors. Somebody probably once thought this looked timeless.

There were some pretty good signs on the stores themselves, but as I turned to face them, a man came out of the hair salon and demanded to know who I was working for. I told him I was a student of photography, and he wanted to know where. Then he told me I couldn’t just come around taking pictures like this.

Now, I was on private property, and it’s true that the owner could bar me for trespassing or something, so I wasn’t going to press the issue. I was more than happy to leave. But then the man went on to say that taking pictures was against the law unless I got “permission from the city.”

“The city?” I asked.

“Yeah, I guess so,” he replied, confident that it was the role of The Government to protect Regular Folk like him from Evil Doers like me.

What I wanted to say was, “You don’t even know what you’re afraid of, do you? You’ve heard over and over to keep an eye out for unusual activity, so when you see some guy with a camera in your parking lot, he’s got to be trouble, right? Look: I drove up in the middle of the day and parked where you could read my license plate. I got out of the car and stood right where people could see what I was doing. I made no effort to hide or disguise myself. If I were somehow going to do evil deeds with my pictures, however you imagine that happening, do you think I would be so obvious about it? Do you not think that I might come at night? or on Sunday? or stand across the street with a telephoto lens, or drive by in a car, or — how about this? — I could just use one of those damn cell phone cameras everyone has now!

“No? Well, you’re right! You got me! I represent a local association of evil doers, and we were plotting to bring the Silicon Valley economy to its knees … starting with your hair salon! Now that you’ve foiled that plot, we’ll just have to find another symbolic power center, like a thrift store or an El Pollo Loco. Curse your vigilance!”

Instead, I just assured him that my motives were good, lawful, and noncommercial.

“I’m going to need your name,” he said, pulling out a notebook.

Normally, I’m very kind, patient and polite to strangers, so what came next surprised me. I laughed in his face.

The exchange ended there, and I left. He probably took my license number, so maybe he’ll come take pictures of my house. That’s fine. All the same, I don’t feel like disrespecting the guy’s wishes, no matter how nonsensical, so I won’t show his crappy storefront and reveal whatever trade secrets may reside there, such as whether walk-ins are or are not welcome. I also won’t reveal the store’s name or phone number, which the owner divulges only to those who look at a large plastic sign visible from the street. All I was really interested in was the old stock art in his sign, which you see everywhere if you live in 1982.

They've got the look

On second thought, the name is just too perfect to keep to myself. The man’s salon is called Hair Conspiracy.


Yet another sign

Hacienda Gardens

Hacienda? Gardens? Where are the truth-in-advertising people? Not on Hillsdale near Meridian in San Jose, where this stylish yet misleading sign is located.

Thursday, March 31, 2005


Signs of another time

Sands Motel

After about a half a year in San Jose — sorry, San José — I’m starting to develop an appreciation for the place. (There is some effort involved in this.) I’m also learning some city history in school, and certain local oddities are starting to make more sense.

San José had a huge growth spurt in the late 1950s and early ’60s, and they built some great signs back then. Fortunately, a lot of them are still standing, lending a real time-warp feeling to parts of the city — the parts that development has forsaken since the orchards first got plowed under.

The signs are exuberant and bold, playful and weird. But they often turn up in places that are anything but exuberant. The high design surrounded by low rent just screams photo essay. I’m starting to do some work on that, and I’ll be putting it up here.

This gem is on Monterey Road, part of El Camino Real, which was the main highway from the days of Spanish rule until the Eisenhower administration. That would date the sign somewhere between the two.

Monterey Road
Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Earth needs editors

Dude, seriously.

Try as I might to not let other people’s bad editing bother me, certain mistakes still fill me with rage. In this space, I vent that rage without pestering anyone who happens to be nearby. Feel free to skip this entry and come back later for more photos.

Santa Cruz Sentinel

OK, first thing: If you can’t distinguish between your and you’re, you have no business working on any publication of any type. I don’t mean to be harsh, and you’re probably a fine person with other great skills, but if its and it’s trip you up, find something else to do.

Yahoo “News”

Oh, and this one! Temperature … rising! Blood … boiling!
Must! … Correct! … Headline!

There’s nothing like people writing down clichés and spelling them in way that displays an utter lack of understanding of the phrase. Like the “for all intensive purposes” people. You might skate by with that crap in conversation, but write “bears all” when describing a tell-all book, and you’ve proven yourself to be a boob.


Back on 24th Street

3993 24th

A fine entryway in San Francisco’s Noe Valley.

Monday, March 28, 2005


Leaving the dentist’s

Shell Building

One of my favorite San Francisco structures, the Shell Building at 100 Bush Street, reflected in the less fabulous 1 Bush Plaza.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Return of Pinholio


Back when the photography I studied was in the art department, I got intrigued for a while by pinhole cameras. Not really intrigued, because real pinhole cameras are a pain in the ass. What appealed to me was the quick way to transform any camera with interchangeable lenses into a pinhole: Take a body cap and put a pinhole in it. If you’re a dork like me, you might pay a few bucks for a clean pinhole with a known diameter in rigid material. If you’re a lazy dork, you can now buy a ready-made pinhole cap for your camera.

Anyway, in a hideous blend of primitive and modern photographic techniques, I put that old pinhole cap onto the new D70. The results are 6 megapixels of pure pinholistic-icity.

Thie aperture of this pinhole, if I recall correctly, is f/167, which is to say absurdly tiny. It makes sense, then, that the depth of field is infinite. The focus is soft, but everything’s equally soft. Plus you get those cool rays of light for some reason I haven’t learned yet.

Tuesday, March 8, 2005


DSLR, meet 500mm

The D70 has the benefit of being backward compatible with older Nikon lenses, including the 500mm monster on loan from my dad. Because the digital sensor is smaller than a 35mm negative, the focal length is effectively multiplied by 1.5, making this lens act like a 750mm.

I guess that would make this plane look about 15 times closer. Unlike the hummingbird photos, this is the full frame, shrunken but not cropped.

big plane

Below is the same image at 100% (but still greatly compressed for the web).

huge plane

Click here to see the whole photo at full resolution without web compression (4 MB).

Monday, March 7, 2005


DSLR: First photos

Trying out my new Nikon D70, I headed for the fresh blossoms on the backyard peach tree…

peach blossoms

…when along came a ruby-throated hummingbird.

hummingbird perching hummingbird hovering
Friday, March 4, 2005


Breakin’ 2: Photographic boogaloo

Visual Journalism I, assignment 4: Hands.

breakin' breakin' 2
Thursday, March 3, 2005


Hey, is that Jonathan Winters?

Visual Journalism I, assignment 3: Context and impact.

three onlookers scavenger
Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Site news

Record collection + computer = geekitude

Maybe I’m a little too jazzed about this, but it’s my first Applescript project, and I think it’s pretty cool. The script checks in with iTunes every few minutes, sees what’s playing, and puts the info up on the blog pages. That’s already been going on here for a while, but what’s new is the album cover display. (So far, I’ve got about 600 of my CDs on a hard drive, and cover art for more than 500 of them.) If I’m at home and there’s music playing, you’ll see something like this in the left-hand column:

no longer playing

Yes, I am a geek.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


’Allo, stranger! Fancy a snap?

Visual Journalism I, assignment 2: Picturing the other.


This was, without question, the toughest photography assignment I’d ever been given. Not only did I have to do a portrait, which I’ve never liked to do, but the subject had to be a stranger. Not only that, it had to be a stranger that didn’t resemble me.

“Hi, you don’t know me, but I’d like to take your picture because you look different from me.”


Luckily, the first person I approached — a girl named Leatha in my urban planning class — graciously agreed to meet me on campus before our next class meeting. She proved to be a very patient and cooperative model, and darn photogenic to boot.

It was rainy and cold that day, so we headed for the library and sat down in facing chairs. I put the camera on a low tripod in front of me, attached a cable release for the shutter, and got the scene into focus. Holding the cable release, I was able to take the pictures I needed and still carry on some kind of a conversation without a big camera on my squinting face. Changing the framing was easy, because I could just look down into the viewfinder while we talked. This benefit of using a TLR never really occurred to me before, but it really helped the process.


Because I still don’t trust myself with a handheld light meter, I took some backup pictures with the Nikon. One of them came out so well, I had to include it in this series.

All in all, I’m thrilled with the way the assignment turned out. Over three rolls (48 exposures), I got three solid shots. More important than that, I’ll feel a lot more comfortable the next time I have to take a stranger’s picture.

At the root of my dislike of doing portraits is the way I feel about being photographed: I hate it. I feel quite uncomfortable on the business end of the lens, for the simple reason that I look goofy. Nice guy that I am, I hesitate to put anyone else in that position. In a transparent effort to make this assignment as painful to me as possible, my professor also demanded a self portrait.

So in the interest of fairness and completeness, here’s my dumb ass posing with my father’s Nikon and my mom’s Kodak Retina.

Daniel Esch
Friday, February 18, 2005


Some settling is normal

sea glass in a frame

Sea glass is a fun thing to collect, but it’s not easy to display. Fill a glass jar with the stuff, and the cool translucence gets lost. But how can you lay out just one layer of broken glass?

After rolling the idea around in my head until it was smooth and polished, I came up with a plan: Make an 8" × 10" glass sandwich with four layers of thick matboard in between. Cut a 4" × 6" window through all of them, and put the sea glass in that hole. When everything’s assembled in the frame, glue strips of wood inside the back of the frame to keep it all in place.

sea glass in a frame close up

Even though the space between the panes of glass is only about 3/8", there’s still enough depth to make stacking irregular pieces of glass on edge a little challenging. As a result, I couldn’t seem to prevent a gap from forming on the top no matter how I arranged things. Oh well.

Friday, February 11, 2005


On the trail of the decisive moment

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Joint Library

I was up on top of a parking garage getting pictures of the busy crosswalks below when a giant FedEx jet — one of the extra large, extra noisy ones they fly in every afternoon — went by, and its reflection glided gracefully across the windows of the library across the street. It was a perfect scene.

This is not that scene.

Ten planes later, my film was gone, and I hadn’t seen any more huge cargo planes. The silhouettes of lesser planes just weren’t as striking. This shot is the best out of the bunch.


Meanwhile, inside the library

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Joint Library Reading Bridge

If this exposure had been about a half-second later, it would be a good deal cooler. Still, despite the poor lighting, I find it partly satisfying, like an unfamilar regional brand of junk food.

Wednesday, February 9, 2005


In decisive mode

Visual Journalism I, assignment 1: The decisive moment.

A university police officer helps a handcuffed suspect into a patrol car outside the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Joint Library Wednesday afternoon.

I came across this scene, which involved at least three suspects, when this guy was still sitting on the curb. I sat down on the library steps, set up my exposure with a wide aperture to throw the background out of focus, and waited for this moment. Once things started happening, I went to shoot and discovered that the battery in my F3 had died right after metering the scene. With uncharacteristically speedy thought, I closed up the aperture enough that I could shoot at 1/60, the speed of the mechanical backup shutter, and managed to get off a couple of clumsy shots. Given those circumstances, I’m thrilled that this one worked out at all. And as a bonus, with the tighter aperture, the man on the right came into focus.

Monday, February 7, 2005


I’ll explain later

Saturday, February 5, 2005

Site news

Zero padding, begone!

Finally! I’m happy to point out that the above date is not February 05. With all the coding skill of a modern three-year-old, I altered the script that runs this blog, and now all the ugly zeros are gone. (Just the leading zeros, I mean, not this decade. I can’t do anything about that.)

This message was brought to you by $da =~ s/^0+//;.

Thursday, February 3, 2005


At least they were paperbacks — it could have gotten expensive

Five classes this semester.
Eleven books.
Total with tax: $542.74.

Four classes last semester.
Seven books.
Total value at buyback: $58.00

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Neither here nor there

You! Learn something new every day!

Today’s entry is brought to you by Mass Comm 101: Media Law and Ethics, and comes from Don Pember and Clay Calvert’s Mass Media Law.

The concept of the “first freedom” has been discussed often. Historical myth tells us that because the amendment occurs first in the Bill of Rights it was considered the most important right. In fact, in the Bill of Rights presented to the states for ratification, the amendment was listed third. Amendments 1 and 2 were defeated and did not become part of the Constitution. The original First Amendment called for a fixed schedule that apportioned seats in the House of Representatives on a ratio many persons thought unfair. The Second Amendment prohibited senators and representatives from altering their salaries until after a subsequent election of representatives. In 1992, the economy-minded legislatures in three-fourths of the United States finally approved the original Second Amendment, and it became the 27th amendment to the Constitution. (©2005 McGraw-Hill.)

So, the First Amendment came third, the Second Amendment is really fourth, and the 27th Amendment was supposed to be number two. Got it?

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Earth needs editors

Even newspapers need editors. Good ones.

dead wringer
Subject: Spa visit is a trip through a "ringer"?
I'm sure you weren't the one who wrote this headline, which makes this even more upsetting. If this were my story and someone slapped such an idiotic head on it, I'd be livid.
Of course, it should be wringer, not ringer. I'd go into greater depth, but I assume they've got dictionaries over there. Grab one and use it to hit the person who wrote the head for your piece.

Subject: RE: Spa visit is a trip through a "ringer"?
you're right. i didn't write the headline.
it's a really dumb mistake and pretty embarrassing.
thanks for the heads-up--
cheers, eunnie

Sunday, January 30, 2005



like pulling teeth

Going through some old photos this weekend, I found this photogram, made by placing items directly on the photo paper and exposing it to white light. The little bits are sea glass, and the tooth came straight from my jaw. The things I do for art.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


Lame is… western Michigan

This was the logo and tagline for a tourism campaign launched in 2000 by a certain city in Michigan. God bless ’em.

Sounds like hell

Picking on a tourism effort by Kalamazoo is like picking on differently abled children, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


Lame is… part three

Ah, another press release, and I’m sure they wouldn’t bother unless it was about something very important. How ’bout the lead on this one? That’s what we journalists call a “zinger.” Or something stupid like that.

Yeah, don’t waste your money. Instead, “plan to surprise your pet.” Like that takes planning.

Once again, this first appeared on Lame is… in 2001.

You better believe it!
This Valentine’s Day, Say it With Kibbles
Iams Survey Reveals Pets are America’s True Sweethearts
DAYTON, Ohio, Feb. 9 /PRNewswire/ — Don’t waste your money on chocolates and flowers this Valentine’s Day.
Instead, devote your attention to the one creature in your life who gives you unconditional love every day of the year &mdash your pet.
You won’t be alone. In a Good for Life® survey conducted by The Iams Company, pet owners across the country revealed that they had special Valentine’s plans for their pets:
•41 percent of pet owners plan to give their pets a special food treat
•19 percent will shower an extra amount of love and attention on their four-legged friends
•16 percent plan to surprise their pets with a special Valentine’s Day toy
“This Valentine’s Day, you won’t be the only one to whisper those three little words to a furry friend,” said Lara Strazdin, manager of communications, The Iams Company. “In fact, our survey showed that 91 percent of pet owners have said ‘I love you’ to their pet.”

Monday, January 10, 2005


Lame is… part two

This is the kind of garbage that PR people get paid to write and distribute every day of the week. Whenever I got upset about my job at the ad agency, I would read a few of these and remember that things could always be worse. In this case, I was thankful that I didn’t have to a) design menstruation-themed web sites for teen girls, b) write about those web sites as if they were good things or c) carry a business card that says “Vice President, Global Feminine Care Strategic Planning.”

I think this press release is from 2000, and it became part of Lame is… in early 2001.

Ms. Period Face
Teen Girls Have a New Place to Hangout
Always, Tampax and Alldays Launch BeingGirl.com
A New Website Designed By and For Teenage Girls
CINCINNATI, July 26 /PRNewswire/ — BeingGirl.com, a new website for teenage girls is being launched today by Always pads, Tampax tampons, Alldays pantiliners, and Always wipes. The site creates an entertaining place for teens….
The development of BeingGirl.com was driven by an advisory board of teenage girls…. The site offers more than 500 articles on serious topics the teens have said they would like to learn more about…. Just as important, they said they would also like to have fun on-line. To address that, Ms. Period Face and screen savers like the Super Femmes and dancing tampons, as well as having e-mail greetings available, provide light-hearted entertainment.
“As part of our ongoing commitment to women’s health, this site offers information and connections that can help teen girls make important decisions that will positively impact their lives,” said Tom Handley, P&G vice president, Global Feminine Care Strategic Planning….

Sunday, January 9, 2005


Lame is… danesch.com 1.0

It’s been four years now since I started this site, and something got me thinking today about the very first pages in this space. After digging through some old CDs, I found my first web site, devoted entirely to the ridicule of that which deserves it. It was called Lame is….

The name was one I had been hanging onto for years (it was first conceived of as a xeroxed zine, if that gives you any idea). It came to me in a nightmarish vision that combined two bugbears from my childhood: the sleepy-eyed, pointy-nosed naked dwarves of the “Love Is…” comic that were everywhere in the ’70s, and the little French waif of Broadway’s Les Miserables, who was all over the New York–area media in the ’80s. (If the concept still isn’t clear, click on the picture for an explanatory animation.)

Lame is...

Beginning in January 2001, Lame is… delivered excerpts from stupid corporate press releases, bad photos from stock collections and the AP wire, and a small amount of original writing that strived to be funny.

From a technical standpoint, I was largely clueless, so updates were tedious and difficult. Ripping off other people’s content grew tiresome, too. Lame is… ended within a few weeks.

There are a couple of things in this folder of old stuff that still make me snicker, so I’ll be posting them shortly.

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Site news

From the like-you-care dept.

Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!

In another bold yet largely invisible design improvement, I’ve gone back and cleaned up all the code for this site to make it compliant with standards established for the web. These standards exist to ensure that everyone, regardless of operating system or browser, sees the same web page. Like English, the languages that describe web pages can be written many ways, but there are certain well established dialects that offer the best chance of being properly interpreted by your computer.

After getting everything up to snuff here, I ran all the pages past the people who wrote the rules. They describe it like this:

Validation is a process of checking your documents against a formal Standard, such as those published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) …. It serves a similar purpose to spell checking and proofreading for grammar and syntax, but is much more precise and reliable than any of those processes because it is dealing with precisely-specified machine languages, not with nebulously-defined human natural language.

I wonder why this standards-compliance stuff appeals to me…

Anyway, the best browsers, like Firefox and Safari, are designed to adhere to W3C standards. They are the ones that will give you the best results with sites like mine. Microsoft Internet Explorer, on the other hand, seems more interested in its own proprietary standards than those developed by the founders of the web.

This site should still work fine with IE, but it would look better on Firefox or Safari.

Sunday, January 2, 2005


New Jersey place names: a broader view

A comment on the New Jersey town names post made me realize a fault of my analysis: I worked from the official list of municipalities in New Jersey, which excludes non-municipal places like your Basking Ridges and your Wortendykes. For those, you have to check out the state’s page of official localities. There are fewer than 600 municipalities in New Jersey, but more than 3,000 localities. A fair examination of the state’s naming habits would be based on the larger group of names.

And what a group it is. I take back everything I said about an apparent lack of creativity in the names of places in New Jersey.

To the people of Pork Island, Poverty Beach and Nummytown, I apologize and plead ignorance. Until this week, I was shamefully unaware of your localities and others like Feebletown, Scrappy Corner and Lower Squankum. In some 14 years in the Garden State, I never had the opportunity to visit Blue Ball, Chestnut Neck or False Egg Island Point. Foul Rift, Buckshutem and West Chrome simply weren’t on my radar, and neither were Bivalve, Cheesequake and Great Piece Meadows. Hayti and Hacklebarney, Bargaintown and Pestletown, Moe and Mower, Communipaw and Comical Corner — these are all exactly the kind of names we need more of.

All the same, these are just a few names out of a few thousand, and no guarantee that the list as a whole isn’t as unimaginative as the list of town names. As unique as these names sound, New Jersey seems determined to recycle and reuse. Example: In Gloucester County, there is a place called Manunkachunk. Miles away in Warren County lies another place — Manunka Chunk.