Typography matters

At the community center where we swim, a poster from the neighboring junior high school described the school’s four goals for developing character. The poster was pink, with the lettering in white, except for the first letter of each characteristic, which was black.

The first characteristic was “Self discipline”, except the black S didn’t contrast enough with the pink background, so all I saw at first was elf discipline.

“Elf discipline!” I thought. “This is my kind of junior high school.” Followed by the inevitable disappointment.

Color drawing of Santa Claus paddling an elf.
The naughty list


While reviewing some old posts I was dismayed to see how much profanity I use in this blog. In case you are wondering, “shit” and “fuck” (including all compound words and verb tenses) appear in 18 posts apiece.

Now that I think about it, that’s not so bad out of 945 published posts. In his book On Writing Stephen King said he did not have a big problem with writing profanity if it was “truthful.” He was referring to writing fiction, though. And while I am being “truthful” with my use of these words, I can probably do better.

And yet, here are the final standings, excluding this post:

Shit: 18 posts
Fuck: 18 posts
Bitch (in a non-canine context): 3 posts
Dick (in a non-Cheney context): 3 posts
Asshole: 1 post

New contact form

I noticed I hadn’t gotten any e-mails through this site in a long time. This is probably because my readership is nearly nonexistent, but also because the form on the Contact page no longer works.

I’ve installed a new contact form. I know it works with Firefox 3.5. If you have trouble with the form in Internet Explorer 8, try viewing the page in compatibility mode. I’m still working out some kinks.

I apologize if anyone tried to contact me and wasn’t able to or didn’t get a response. If the contact form still doesn’t work, please let me know using the comment form for this entry, below.

Thanks for your patience.

Meadow vole

Walking along one of the roads at work, I nearly stepped on a small rodent: a meadow vole.

I’ve seen meadow voles before in pellet form, that is, after owls were done digesting them. This one ignored me as it foraged inches from my feet. Insulted that I did not inspire fear in this insignificant beast, I stamped my feet couple of times but it did not scurry away. When I mentioned this to our biologist, she said that voles spend most of their time burrowed under something, and so aren’t as skittish as mice or other similarly small critters when out in the open.


Books on leadership and management are a dime a dozen but occasionally I’ll read one if someone gives it to me. Actually, I’ve read two recently.

The first was “Leadership on the Line” by Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky. They are a couple of Harvard professors and some of the things in this book make me wonder what planet these guys live on. They cite tyrants like Augusto Pinochet and Lee Kwan Yew as examples of good leadership. Imagine all you could accomplish if you could throw your opponents in jail. Then there’s this horrid passage where one of the authors describes a heart to heart talk he and his wife had in a bathtub.

My boss saw that I was reading “Leadership on the Line” and offered to lend me “The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell” by Oren Harari. This is a little more fun to read, though Harari seems to think Powell can do no wrong. In fact it’s a little embarrassing how in love with Powell the author is. Harari is good at distilling Powell’s common sense, mission-based, personal values approach to leadership.

Examples are good, and both books are full of them, but there isn’t any scientific control; there is no way to tell if the same person or method would succeed in another situation. Harari identifies one of Powell’s rules as “The situation dictates which approach best accomplishes the team’s mission”. Heifetz and Linsky seem to miss this point.

Leadership methods probably can be taught, but selecting the methods requires good judgment and I suspect that is learnable only by trial and error, if at all.


I don’t make New Year resolutions–you could say the last resolution I made and kept was not to make them. There are things I need and want to do, whether I resolve to do them or not. Despite my growing punch list for self-improvement, 2009 was a pretty good year. I married my awesome wife, and I have a new nephew too.

In 2000, I spent New Year’s Eve with my friends Jeremy and Megan in Manhattan. We ate at an Indian restaurant on Curry Row, then went back to Jeremy’s apartment in Brooklyn where we watched some weird cable access show before watching the ball drop in Times Square. I even drew a cartoon about it.

Rough pencil cartoons of a night celebrating the new year.
Adam at the milennium

Stainless steel shelves with assorted pots and pans hanging from it. Also pictured are Evrim's happy-face potholder, the kitchen fan, and a stylish black outlet plate.
Evrim's kitchen complete
For a few years after that my New Year ritual involved attending Evrim’s informal but intimate parties in New Jersey, which also involved helping him shop and clean the apartment to get ready. One year, he still had to install shelves and other fixtures in the kitchen. The good old days.

This year Lore made a nice dinner of beef with mushrooms and potatoes in cream sauce. We watched “Revenge of the Nerds” and then drank wine at midnight. The new good times.