Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Goodbye, Y! Mail. Hello, GMail...

The title really says it all. But the long of it is...

I liked Yahoo! Mail. It was fairly fast and straightforward and suited my lite email needs perfectly. Plus I started out with a Y! Mail account, so there was a lot of history and inertia.

When the new beta launched recently I tried it out and immediately disliked it. Not because of any UI issues - Outlook interface is perfectly fine. But I nixed it due to performance. It was sloooow. Whatever happened to Yahoo!'s committment to performance?

Which brings me to Gmail. I'm not in love with the way it does threading/conversations, it's no big whoop either way to me, but it is fast. Really fast.

Over the past few months I've slowly started to use my Gmail account more (fredland@gmail.com) but lately I've been having issues logging into my Y! Mail account, so I've made the complete switch this week.

So long Y! Mail. (But My Yahoo! is still my homepage.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Aptos / Santa Cruz / Capitola / Monterey , CA

We had a wonderful vacation just an hour and a half’s drive south of the city. We rented a house in Aptos, CA. It was spacious and clean, in a quiet neighborhood and located right next to the beautiful, tree-lined, path down to the beach.

It was a beautiful beach. It had a single pier off of which sat a half submerged ship, the Palo Alto. The Palo Alto was a ship of war made of cement. The war ended before it was finished so they brought it down to Aptos and let it sink off the pier into what must be a lively reef of sealife acivity.

The ocean was fairly tame but by the second week I was able to surf some decent sized waves on a boogie board. The water was still pretty cold, but I found it refreshing. The boys didn’t ever get in the water, more than happy to just play in the sand.

We would often see dolphins swimming by, pelicans diving for fish, and the odd sea lion or two just off the beach. On another trip, Merritt and I saw what we’re pretty sure was an orca. It’s dorsal fin was way too big to be a dolphin’s but it was also quite close to the shoreline.

One of our first trips was a 45 minute leisurely drive to the Monterey Bay Aquarium which is always a big hit with the boys.

Only a few minutes drive away was Capitola Beach which is even more calm for the kids. We met our friends Esther and her daughter Lotus there for a playdate. Esther had grown up in Capitola which is a very cute little beach town.

We also went to Santa Cruz and hung out on the boardwalk, caught some rides and ate some food. The boys liked the spectacle and it was a lot of fun.

We hiked a few trails, and visited some tidepools, almost every day started with an adventure in the morning, followed by some downtime at the beach near our house. Or a dip in the hot tub at our house, or should we say luke-warm-kid-friendly tub. Seth, Mia and their son, Strider, joined us one Saturday afternoon.

Merritt planned the vacation close to home knowing that I dislike to travel. She really wanted sun, sand and water. This area of Santa Cruz fit the bill perfectly. It was a great vacation.

Monday, August 27, 2007


In 1988, I went to Andover Summer School. (Yeah, so what if I did? Huh? HUH?) In my English class I met a girl named Alysia. She was cool. We were buds.

Jump to two years later and I’m at Penn (Yeah, so? So?!) And I bump into Alysia on campus. Except it’s not Alysia, it’s her twin sister Beth. She was cool. We were buds.

Jump to two years later and I learn that my cousins, Eugene and Stephanie are her cousins too. So we’re related by marriage, I think that’s called first cousins once removed? Anyway, we sort of keep in touch. It’s cool, we’re buds. She’s a writer in NYC, I was in NYC but moved to SF.

A few years ago, we get back in touch and she sends me her personal newsletter titled, “BKNY”.

It’s hella funny. She writes real good.

But get this, it’s printed on PAPER. And distributed via the United States Postal Service. How quaint! How 20th century! How often do I receive said newsletter? Not very frickin often.

So I says to Beth, I say, “Yo cous’, there’s this thing called the Internet. And something called a Blog.” And she says, “Yeah I know but privacy concerns, yadda yadda yadda, I’m a luddite yadda yadda yadda, I’m afraid of the boogeyman yadda yadda yadda.”

A few weeks ago, out of the blue, I get an email from Beth announcing that she now has a blog. I read it. She still funny.

And now she puts up like 200 posts an hour.

Duck, Water. Water, Duck. Finally. Sheesh!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

workshop cont...

Wiki Wiki

Sometimes I wish there was a cliffnotes version of a popular book that I just don’t have the time or motivation to read.

For example, I read the first Harry Potter book and thought it was ok but didn’t feel motivated to keep reading the series. But I still am interested enough to know how things turned out.

Wish there was a cliffnotes for it… but wait! There is! It’s called Wikipedia.

Thank you, Wikipedia, you just saved me countless hours of wading through mediocre writing and giving me the story in a nutshell. Wikipedia – cliffnotes for the world.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Today I was eating something in the kitchen in my usual manner - filling my mouth until my cheeks are abundant with surplus.

It's efficient.

The wife took one look at me and said, "You are just barely housebroken."


Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Previously I had sung the praises of Google Calendar’s UI Design. Well there’s a new prodigy in town, one that impresses me even more and its name is Facebook. Its UI is clean, consisten, simple and powerful.

Often times the best UI is the one you don’t even present to the user, where the app does it for the user. Facebook is all about automatically presenting information in useful way that doesn’t force the user to hunt or search. I have wasted oodles of time on that site. Great site.

Monday, August 06, 2007

AAU Fall '07 (Semester 4 of 7)

It's been a while since I wrote about my ongoing schooling at the Academy of Art (AAU) in San Francisco. I'm studying to be a Story Artist in the Animation Program. Below my take on the courses I took in the Fall of last year...

Advanced Storyboarding
This class was a little frustrating in that the instructor didn’t have much structure to the semester as I would have liked. Most classes were spent listening to him talk about his experiences and opinions. Some days we didn’t have any homework assignments or exercises. It was useful but could have been better.

Every storyboarding class is completely dependent on the instructor and there’s no higher or lower level of instruction to a course. Next semester’s Storyboarding class would prove to be entirely different than the previous two.

Clothed Figure 1
This was an interesting class. The illustration courses have on the whole been stronger than the animation courses if just for the structure and curriculum of the semester.

Learned to recognize and draw different kinds of folds that wrap around and define the body underneath it. Very difficult to do. It’s like learning to have x-ray vision, to see through the clothing in order to know how to draw body and the clothing’s reaction to it.

Acting for Animators
In feature film animation, the real actors are not the people who give voice to the characters but those who make the characters PHYSICALLY MOVE to those voices – the animators. Animators study acting and take acting classes, like this one.

There were days when I thought we could have done more and the instructor was distracte. But it was a lot fo fun, and there were a few very valuable things I took away from the class.

The first thing was make it physical: touch, punch, shove, pull. Once you do that it’s easier for your acting partner (or other character in the scene you’re working on) to react. The second was reading the book “Impro” by Keith Johnstone – the entire book is a must for any storyteller. The book "Acting for Animators" by Ed Hooks is also highly recommended.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Vegetarian Redux

I'm rethinking a storyboard I'd created a while ago called "The Vegetarian" where a little girl is a heroine of the title name, who saves livestock from being eaten.

The bad guy in the first version was a chef about to cook a crab, but now I've made it a butcher about to chop up a chicken. He also loves his lone decoration in his butcher shop, a leafy green plant.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Office Space

I have a new office space. I’m sharing a basement room in an apartment building between Haight Ashbury and Cole Valley. It’s perfect. It’s quiet, cheap, carpeted and clean. My officemate is a graphic designer and plays in his own band called The Matinees.

The location is a 7 minute bike ride from my house. It’s a place away from home that I can focus on work. And most importantly – there is no internet connection and no TV and no kids. Disconnected.

I set up my drafting table and put my old desktop computer in place. I’m doing a lot more writing than drawing - outlining storyboards before I thumbnail them.

I listen to my Sansa, usually to podcasts like RadioLab or This American Life. Both the Haight and Cole Valley are great neighborhoods to walk around and find something to eat. My new vice is a soy latte.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Media Review

The Prestige
This is a very good movie, so good in fact that it illustrates my frustration with the Netflix star rating system. I’m always torn with Netflix’s star system. One star clearly means the movie blows. Two stars means it’s not a total loss but not recommendable. Three stars means it’s good. Four means it’s excellent. And five stars means it belongs in the Canon of all time great films which must be seen.

I rate based on percentile, meaning there should be relatively few movies that get four stars and even fewer that make it to five stars. This results in a high number of 3 star movies. But there are quite a few films that fall between three and four stars – especially good movies but not necessarily excellent movies.

But you can’t rate something three and a half stars. This is one of those kinds of movies. So I have given it just three stars on Netflix but I do highly recommend it. The less you know the better, so I won’t give any details.

Casino Royale
I had heard a lot of good things about the relaunch of the James Bond franchise with this film. I was one of the few who thought from the very beginning that Daniel Craig would be good. And he was good. The movie is smart and not outdated or ridiculously cheesy. It was sexy and thrilling.

It does have a flaw that all James Bond movies do in that there’s a significant lag late in the second act. But you could argue that it’s what makes it a James Bond flick. Overall, I’m looking forward to the next one.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

"Once" Movie

I don't like cheesy romantic films. I'll only see them when I know they're 4 star films or if my wife insists. But in general I don't dig chick flicks. Not that chick flicks are bad films; Steel Magnolias is a really good movie, Terms of Endearment is a great movie - both chick flicks.

I have a good bud named Geoffrey Pay who is a media-head like me. He and I always talk movies and our tastes rarely diverge. But he would never spam an email list to promote a film unless he was sure about it. Last week he did, it said go see the movie, "Once." So the wife and I did last night, caught it at the Embarcadero in SF.

Best movie I've seen in a theater all year.

It ain't Shakespeare, it won't be compared to Citizen Kane. But it's the most moving film I've seen in a long time. It's honest, it's intimate, it's different... it's a musical. Yes, a musical. But not like West Side Story or Guys and Dolls but more like 8 Mile or Hustle and Flow (not that I've seen either of those films.)

I recommend not knowing anything more about it. Go in blind. Take your significant other. Take a date. Take both! They'll love it and so will you.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Hybrid Bus

I just saw one of these on the street the other day. Although it's debatable whether they're truly "green" or not, it's still pretty cool to see.

Monday, June 04, 2007

I Shouldn't Be Alive... the tv show

I found this show called "I Shouldn't Be Alive" while flipping through cable about a year ago. Discovery has some serious gonads if you ask me. This show is not for the weak. I found it absolutely gripping and intense. Like a car crash that I can't help but rubberneck. And the whole time I'm watching it I'm telling myself "change the channel change the channel turn off the tv run away!"

And they have a similary show now called "Man vs. Wild" also well done but not as harrowing.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Switched from iPod to Sansa

For the longest time I resisted owning an mp3 player. But then a former employer gave all the employees an iPod as a Christmas gift. So I returned to the land of Apple albeit only with iPod use, still use a pc at home. I like iTunes ok, but not a big fan of how it's so proprietary. I love the iPod as a product both in industrial and user interface design. The UI is so simply brilliant; Apple is just so damed disciplined at eliminating EVERYTHING that is unnecessary. Subtracting it to the bare essentials. It's a product conceived by a single design team from software to hardware and it shows. It's a single concept of ingenuity, not a hodge-podge of chefs from different kitchens.

Before iTunes I was a Rhapsody user. I really liked the service but would cancel my subscription on and off again since I wasn't using it very much. Then I started having technical difficulty with my iPod and the battery was dying, so I started to think about switching back to Rhapsody and their Sansa player. I got the kind that plays iTunes-purchased music files, e260 I think.

I still love the Rhapsody service. It's so easy to discover new music, or sample a new band or their new album. I really like having their entire database available at my fingertips. Sure the prescription model is pricey but I think for music consumption it makes a lot of sense.

But the Sansa... I really hate the Sansa player. I think it's because I got used to the simplicity of the iPod's interface. The Sansa is just awkward in comparison. And it's so slow, there's significant delay time to all the operations. All in all I think I'm probably happier now, but navigating the sansa is pretty annoying.