As Far As I Can Tell


The last three days were spent in Michigan, spending time with friends and family for Thanksgiving. I went to Ohio for the first time in years, and it was exactly how I’d left it. King family gatherings are always full of religious zealotry, self-aggrandizing, and figuring out who has either adopted or had a child since the last time we got together. The count this time: one born, one adopted, two foreign exchange students.

I got to hang out with my brother Isaiah, whom I haven’t seen in over two months. Now that I’m in Chicago and he’s in Ann Arbor we’re far enough away that visits are a multi-day affair. He’s busy as hell in the architecture school at Michigan, working on some really interesting projects.

Recently I’ve come to the realization that I have a fear and hatred of new products, or of any nice new things. Why the hell is this? I’m skeptical of anything too nice or perfect, and feel very apprehensive about owning nice things, even if I can afford them. It’s as if I so firmly believe that one shouldn’t try to obtain happiness with products that I view wanting or owning them as negative or false.

It’s not like it’s a crippling feeling that doesn’t allow me to purchase anything that I might need or want, it’s just a pervasive guilt about tension between need and want. Maybe it’s triggered by being asked what I “want for Christmas”, and in feeling like “want” is a cheap and selfish term—that “need” is the only concern I should have.

I guess December always brings out my hyper-sensitivity about consumer culture.

Grandpa's Barn This is my Grandpa’s barn that I played in all day long during visits to Ohio when I was a kid. I’d make forts in the hay, create adventure games in the silo, and swing from a rope off the rafters, landing into a giant mound of corn feed.

Cows The barn is full of cows, most of who can be referred to as “Bessie” if you’d like.




simon. i agree with your comments about wanting. i have been asked so many times about what i want for christmas it sickens me. there really isn’t anything i want and honestly i can’t think of anything i actually need. sure i like getting new things but i feel so uncomfortable asking fo anything. i love to give. by the way, i like your cow pictures. the one with bessie is my favorite.

Posted by: mark on November 30, 2002 10:22 PM

weren’t you and mark the greatest nay-sayers on my christmas boycott adventure? hmhh. interesting.

Posted by: miguel on November 30, 2002 11:07 PM

Miguel, the debate on your weblog was more about if you should give presents or not - while this is more about receiving. I’m in no way saying that I think giving/getting presents is bad. These feelings I’m having extend past the Christmas season, and I’ve been trying to figure out why I feel this way for a while. Should we strive only for needs? It seems like needs get taken care of really quickly. I’m reminded of the Unabomber Manifesto and his talk of fulfilling the power process.

Posted by: simon on December 1, 2002 12:19 AM

A couple of times, people have come over to my house and commented on how nice it was or whatever. One person said that it was too nice, and that it made them feel uncomfortable. The other person commented that we had too much (nice) stuff. I was offended by both of them, because they were trying to make us out to be non-real people, like yuppies. As if we lost our “indie cred” because we didn’t live in a shithole. We have some nice things. They are things that I look at and i still say to myself…”ooh! that’s nice!” So they make me happy…they are worth it. i don’t feel guilty that the dining room table was 300 dollars, because it makes me happier than the shitty and ugly, though cheap one that I used to use that is in the garage. Do what you want! As far as gifts: people are going to buy you presents anyway, so they might as well be some thing that you will like and/or use. But i told my mom that all I wanted was a hot glue gun. I think that they are like seven dollars.

Posted by: allison on December 1, 2002 7:33 AM

I was browsing through online sites, came across yours and couldn’t help commenting. Hope you won’t mind. = ) I am also somewhat distrustful of things that are new, more so if they are over-commercialised. Being content with what you have and not have is a form of discipline. And it’s easy to lose that and be sucked into consumer culture. What’s bad abt consumer culture? Maybe there’s a belief that all shopaholics are superficial and cheap? But, it seems like you’ve got your priorities abt wants and needs worked out.

Posted by: squeakybum on December 1, 2002 7:48 AM

to be fair, i will probably give some presents (my 18-month-old niece is a given). but i’ll be very conscious of what they are. and if i don’t get any presents, that’s ok. it really is the thought that counts more than anything else. i shouldn’t ever have to tell people what i want for christmas. they should know. also, to allison, having nice things is great. i have few things, but i will spend top dollar for the best if that’s what i want. you should never settle. and people that think you’re not “indie” or whatever because you don’t live in a shithole are more superficial—they’re the one’s judging you by material factors, aren’t they? btw, those of you that know me … i could really use a g4 tower for christmas. seriously, it’d be greatly appreciated. oh, but don’t cheap out and not include the studio dislplay monitor.

Posted by: miguel on December 1, 2002 2:12 PM

I think you’re winning the battle just by actually thinking about it, Simon. According to NPR the other day, the average Christmas budget is just about $850. Over 75% of those people, with that budget, spend closer to $1,100. As far as giving, and receiving (and having in general) just think this way: (again, courtesy of NPR) Do you want to or do you want someone else to go into debt so that you can have what you want?

Posted by: eric on December 1, 2002 2:42 PM

$1,100 is NOT going to get me a g4 w/ studio display. but if my loving friends pool their resources together, i’m sure they can make it happen for me.

Posted by: miguel on December 1, 2002 10:04 PM

I think the “nice things” guilt _definitely_ comes out of the indie/leftie/punk culture. My car was recently on the verge of complete crapping out so i looked at my budget and figured out i could afford the new beetle i always wanted. i felt like an ass because i really want to be all “fuck cars!” or at least buy an electric hybrid, but i went for the very fuel efficient diesel beetle instead. still, it hurts when friends call me a yuppie. i can’t shake the guilt, completely—even though it’s great to have a super nice car, especially with all the commuting i do.

Posted by: jim withington on December 3, 2002 8:14 PM

Chicago Thanksgiving

I just got back from Chicago Thanksgiving, a vegetarian friendly feast hosted by Tim and Ivo. Delicious food all around, with lots of old Kalamazoo friends and Chicago people. I guarantee tonight’s meal and after dinner time were much more enjoyable than my official family gathering in Ohio this Thursday is going to be.

Chicago’s first real snow came today—making me dig out my ice scraper from behind my truck seat. I’ve been putting it off, but itís definitely time to bring the mopeds into the basement. I don’t mind the winter right now though; my scarf is warm and Chicago looks good in its snow suit.

Guess what? Meredith has a weblog now.



who looks better in their snow suit, me or Chicago? Keep in mind that mine is from the days of when my mom was in the snowmobile gang “The Driftbusters.” I think the winner is clear.

Posted by: meredith on November 25, 2002 4:45 PM

kudos to meredith for her weblog. it does look on my browser though (ie 5.5 on mac os 10.2.2). the newest entry is on the far right of the screen next to the header (the graphic logo, the second entry is below the graphic logo). not sure if you’re aware of the technical difficulty.

Posted by: miguel on November 26, 2002 1:32 PM

Thanks for letting me know - you’re right in assuming that I’m in charge of the design/programming on her weblog. I’ll have to bust my old 7200 out of the basement and see what you’re talking about.

Posted by: simon on November 26, 2002 2:45 PM

meredith log looks fine on my ibook now.

Posted by: miguel on November 27, 2002 1:18 PM

I do not want to go swimming with Dick Cheney

A few days ago I ruined my DVD player.

I’ve been watching a lot of SVCDs that I download off of newsgroups lately. If I miss an episode of The Sopranos or The Simpsons, it’s no big deal, I just download it a couple of days later.

My Mintek DVD player didn’t officially support playing SVCDs; you had to select the file off of the disc manually instead of it just pressing play. Also, it cuts out 5 minutes before the end of any video, forcing me to watch the last 5 minutes on my computer. I wanted to see if there were any firmware upgrades to fix the cut-off problem, and I found this page.

I did some research and it seemed that everyone had been successful in upgrading their firmware to the version recommended, even though it was for a different brand DVD player. Long story short—it didn’t work, and now the startup screen just blinks on and off without loading the disc. So if you have the Mintek DVD-2580, and you’re thinking about upgrading the firmware, be warned.

I went out and got the Norcent DP-300 for $60 and I’m pretty happy with it. It fully supports SVCDs and has other pirate friendly features like letting you listen to just the right or left audio channel. Lots of pirated movies from China are encoded with Chinese in one channel and English in the other.

I saw a lecture last night by LOT/EK, a NYC based architecture duo that builds really interesting buildings and installations. Their work focuses on re-using and appropriating existing materials such as shipping crates, water towers, oil tankers, and airplanes.

I’m a sucker for the themes of module based system, customization, and multi-program design. I guess that’s why I like their work so much. I’ve actually been able to experience two of their installations first hand: Ret>Inevitable 1.5: Cinema at the Crossroads at Art Chicago 1999 and the listening environment that they created for the Whitney’s Bitstreams exhibition in 2001.



Tell me more and more about the DVD player. I long to know its secret workings and hidden magic. I beg of you sir.

Posted by: meredith jane adams-smart on November 21, 2002 6:56 PM

after looking at the webpage for LOT/EK i started looking at every object and thinking, “what could i turn that into?” that is some wicked cool shit. mark

Posted by: mark on November 21, 2002 11:59 PM

Sea(son) Change

First snow in Chicago, though I wasn’t here to see it. Coming in from Kalamazoo tonight we noticed the white ground outside of Gary. Tomorrow I’ll bring the mopeds into the basement; the snow is always my cue.

For a while I was trying to take a photograph of myself every day with my webcam. It was a simple way for me to keep a visual log of myself over time, but I never did it every day; eventually I stopped altogether. I was looking through the photos that I have today, and I’m sorry that I stopped. I’m going to try and start up again.

I seemed to do it more frequently around the this time of year for some reason. I was able to find three photos of myself from past years at this time. Here they are:







i like seeing the evolution of your haircut.

Posted by: miguel on November 18, 2002 12:29 PM

you seem to look crazier and crazier as the time passes.

Posted by: ivo on November 18, 2002 12:59 PM

i agree about the crazy. i really like the 2002 picture. it has a gritty feel, like maybe you’ve killed someone or are planning to.

Posted by: bay on November 19, 2002 6:17 PM

Spelling Killer Bees

I went to second grade at a small school near my house, located in Fawn River Township, but still technically part of the Sturgis school district. Second grade was great — I sat on a big rock in the oversized playground and whittled sassafras sticks all recess long. At the end of the year, my academic aptitude was evaluated, and sure enough, it proved to be too high to let me wistfully whittle my life away.

So in third grade I entered Congress school, in the “gifted and talented” class. Besides branding us with a moniker that gave us instant and unwanted pretension, they also pushed us to complete roughly fifth grade level work. I didn’t mind, except for the spelling.

These were tough words — spelling bee words. Every week we’d have 20 of them, and every week I’d fail miserably. When I’d had enough, I turned to what every little kid pushed beyond his means does: I cheated.

There were two modes that the desk could be in, slanted and flat. When in flat mode there was a roughly two inch gap between the metal cradle of the desk and the wooden top; perfect for my mischievous plan. I would write down all the words really small, and prop them up inside of this gap. Then, with every new word recited by my teacher I would “relax” a little, and slump down enough to catch a glimpse of the word list. Sometimes I would write with my head down, being able to look over the list constantly during the quiz.

Eventually my conveniently timed relaxation and subsequent eye darting caught the attention of Mrs. Sprowl. I was caught, and my punishment was that I had to tell my parents about it. How they would have enforced this, I’m not sure. Chances are they called my parents ahead of time to let them know it was coming, but to 3rd grade me it seemed like I was letting them in on my secret life of shame. After some crying and apologizes I promised it would be the last time I’d ever cheat.

It wasn’t of course, and I still can’t spell worth shit. Thank god for computers.

I found these spelling tests discarded in a leaf pile outside of my house today. My favorite: “When will you study?”.



For some reason I always picture your second grade school as a one room school house. I also picture you carrying your books in a stack held in place by a belt, all Laura Ingles style. I think it’s because you were Menanite.

Posted by: meredith on November 14, 2002 5:35 PM

I frown upon people who can’t spell, because I feel like I can spell everything. I won’t frown upon you though; you have other strengths that I don’t.

Posted by: allison on November 14, 2002 7:48 PM

what i want to know is did you have your same soft-serve hairstyle then as you did now… because i totally think that would have been cute on a third grader! e. ps: allison is also a grammar nazi.

Posted by: eric on November 15, 2002 9:34 AM

i, too, am a grammar nazi. i often find myself going back to my weblog to edit and re-edit my posts. i used to work as a proofreader … i’m brutal w/ the red pen.

Posted by: miguel on November 15, 2002 12:41 PM

I love the internet- that you can pop these papers you found on the ground outside your house online for me to see in japan. On a similar note- the future is now. Since I was six I conciously wondered when and if the video phone would actually come into practicle use. Of course the trick is that they had to skip the whole landline format. There’s constant commericals for high-rez video cell phones here.

Posted by: bil on November 29, 2002 12:03 PM

just checking in…fuck spelling. i was always good at it, but that’s like being good at standardized tests—what does it really mean?

Posted by: jim withington on November 30, 2002 11:28 AM

Nobody wants to hear you bitch about work

The amount of people that can’t seem to unsubscribe themselves from receiving Moped Owners Directory updates is amazing. For those that don’t know, the Moped Army website will send out an email letting you know about a newly registered moped owner in your area. You define “your area” when you create an account. You can choose people in your zip code, your state, or your entire country. Soon I’ll be changing the zip code choice to be something like “25 miles from you”, which will be more useful than zip code.

Every message that gets sent contains the following instructions:

If you no longer want to receive these messages, or want to change how nearby a person must be before you get a message, please to go, log in and edit your account to change your preferences.

Even if they didn’t read the whole email, you would at least think that people would go back to where they signed up for something in order to unsubscribe. It’s not like these notifications were turned on by default or anything.

Maybe I need to make a link in the email that when clicked will simply cancel all notifications. Yeah, yeah, thatís the wolf ticket.

It’s so frustrating working on design projects at work. There are always a million people involved, but I couldn’t tell you what all their roles are. Their titles range far outside of industry norms, ending up sounding somewhere in-between the heyday of the self appointed dot-com titles, and something that sounds like it was created by a new economy phrase generating perl script. Example: Digital Strategist.

The worst part is that the titles don’t seem to actually dictate roles, or expertise. I have everyone from copy writers to producers to random people walking into the meeting giving me advise on minute design decisions that aren’t in the realm of concrete business nor technical concerns, but more like - “Can we make this red?”. Wrap all of their whims under the guise of improving “brand-equity”, and change the straight forward sounding copy to be a muddle of strung together synonyms. End result: blah.

At the end of the day though, arenít we all happy? Some dude somewhere rakes in major advertising award show entry fee cash while giving an arbitrary award that means little to nothing. Corporation XYZ decides as a committee that indeed, they are happy with whatís been created. Product ABC is now properly marketed to their target age group and demographic, but best of all, that pesky advertising budget has all been spent; whew. And I — well I get paycheck of course, and thatís all that really matters anyway right?

$ell out.



yeah simon, you are a total sellout. you used to be cool. it used to be about the music and the fans. now it’s just your bank account. you disgust me.

Posted by: mark on November 14, 2002 10:28 AM

yeah simon, you are a total sellout. you used to be cool. it used to be about the music and the fans. now it’s just your bank account. you disgust me.

Posted by: mark on November 14, 2002 10:28 AM

i posted twice because that’s how serious i am.

Posted by: mark on November 14, 2002 10:29 AM

no way. sell, sell, sell. asshole website will be made regardless. so at least you can help make them just a tad tiny bit better. but if not. then, yeah, you’re a $ellout. oh, if you feel guilty, feel free to make a donation to the kalamazoo bolivian political scientist foundation. it accepts paypal and personal checks.

Posted by: miguel on November 14, 2002 11:11 AM

i totally disagree about bitching about work… i think if you don’t… then you’re the $ell out. now, i’m not suggesting that you “rage against the machine,” but it’s when you totally don’t care anymore and just do your job blindly that it’s all over. now myself, all i ever do is bitch about work. sometimes, it’s just pathetic.

Posted by: eric on November 15, 2002 9:37 AM

graphic design is not art , it never was and never will be. -its a total sellout of your talent for someone else. i thought you would of learned, stop whinning.

Posted by: karl on November 19, 2002 5:14 AM

Karl - I couldn’t agree with you more; I’ve never claimed that design was art, and have often ridiculed artists that turn to design as the only “art that pays”. What I don’t agree with is that it’s a sellout of ones talent. Design has an important function our society, and can be used to educate, make clear, and provide better experiences. My complaint isn’t that I don’t get free reign for my “artistic expression”, I’m just against design by committee and work that is more client driven than user centered.

Posted by: simon on November 19, 2002 10:23 AM

maybe its the art school graduate degree in me, but i’d say design was art just as much as making sculptures out of chocolate with your teeth is. but that’s just me.

Posted by: jim withington on November 30, 2002 11:31 AM

A beautiful day in the neighborhood

A spam email message that I received last week wins the award for the unsolicited message to least waste my time. It was for a Korean website named Cyber Orange Festival, and although I can’t read a word of it beyond the name, I’ve gone back multiple times.

It seems to be a celebration of oranges, and is very elaborate. There are games to be played (which I can’t play because I can’t read how to sign up), fun illustrations of orange farmers, and my favorite: high-res photos of Korean people in orange groves.

I assumed at first that it had to be a Japanese site. In my face; Koreans can be wacky too.

Last weekend I went and saw Frida. I’m told by Meredith, who knows a lot about Frida Kahlo, that is didn’t represent some key aspects of her life and work. That aside, the movie was visually beautiful, as you would expect from Julie Taymor, the director of Titus. The costuming, the sets and the overall feel of the movie are really high quality. I’d recommend it.

I saw The Black Heart Procession at The Abbey Pub last weekend as well. This is the second time I’ve seen them, and each time they started playing at midnight. The enjoyed the show, but I know I would of liked it more if it hadn’t been so late; their music is too enchanting and slow for that time of night.

That show also more firmly cemented my hatred for cigarette smoke. I go through phases where it doesn’t bother me, but right now I can hardly sit in the coffee shop without having my eyes hurt and skin feel like slime. After the show my throat hurt, my eyes stung, and my clothes smelled terrible. How do smokers deal with not only this, but with the smoke going straight into their body yet too? This is a serious question - doesn’t smoke bother smokers too?

I got a copy of the book that TCUP is featured in last week. It’s really weird to see my photograph in a book next to other projects that I know and respected. I feel like it requires some sort of action or responsibility, though I have no idea what that means.

I’m currently working on some website designs for Kellogg’s - our cereal friends from Battle Creek. I didn’t realize that they own so many other brands, like Morningstar Farms. I’m a big fan of Morningstar Farms veggie burgers and other veggie products. Their grrreat!

I have a teleconference to discuss a concept in 5 minutes; I’m doing the work through Biggs-Gilmore.

There’s something very strange and psychotic about Miguel’s cat’s weblog. While reading it I couldn’t help but picture Henrietta Pussycat from Mr. Roger’s Land of Make Believe: Meow time meow meow to make an entry meow meow to our weblog meow.

Birdie would like to challenge Sophie to a cat fight. Meow.



simon, the cat website is a “concept blog” that is, to be sure, creepy. if birdie wants, she can also post. i can add her to the team blog (i have separate user accounts for annie and sophie). then she can post and become email friends w/ my cats. i want to start a crazy, creepy, psychotic internet craze. at least for a while …

Posted by: miguel on November 12, 2002 4:03 PM

Being an avid smoker, I’ll field your question about smoking. No, other people’s smoke really doesn’t bother me. In most cases, I can only slightly smell that distinct smell when it’s around me. Very rarely, and only in enclosed places (i.e. a car) does somebody’s second-hand smoke give me a headache. Today, while smoking a cigarette and waiting for a class to start I really started to think about how, in many circumstances, my smoking is inconsiderate towards other people. This includes concerts but also standing outside a building, in a coffee shop/restaurant, and even while outside. This was a real conflict for me because as much as I am addicted to nicotine and love the act of smoking, I really hate inconsideration towards people. This may actually prompt me to seriously quit smoking.

Posted by: jake on November 12, 2002 4:12 PM

birdie will kick annie and sophie’s ass. they are overweight, clawless, and more overweight. birdie runs laps she is ready to go. i would like to remind you that i too loved “Frida,” but had had some critical points to make. you are right that visually it was exactly what i was expecting from Ms. Taymor.

Posted by: meredith on November 12, 2002 5:39 PM

Birdie! Don’t mess with Sophie. I’ll sit on your tiny head. I ran Ursula out of the apartment. Grrr.

Posted by: annie, sophie's defender on November 12, 2002 7:40 PM

It is so easy to overpower Ursula, she is malformed, spastic, and covered in dandruff. birdie lifts weights every morning after eating a hearty meal of Sheba and Science Diet.

Posted by: meredith on November 12, 2002 7:52 PM

annie’s been a diet. she’s usually grumpy meow. she might be a match for birdie. but why doesn’t birdie like us? sniff. or is meredith a big instigator? and when is she going to come clip our nails? oooh … car lights in the parking lot!

Posted by: sophie on November 12, 2002 8:53 PM

the cyber orange festival site made me go “oooh!” and my classmates laughed at me.

Posted by: allison on November 13, 2002 8:09 AM

my mom used to smoke and i never realized how badly i stunk until my annual move from home to college dorm. my room had to air out for a day and a half and i would start to realize i needed to wash all my clothes if i didn’t want to smell like it. but because of this, smoke rarely bothers me, but i do think that many chicago venues need to outlaw it (particularly the metro). people smoking at shows deserve a boot to the head.

Posted by: jim on November 30, 2002 11:38 AM

did you know that morning star farms’ veggie patties contain genetically modified soybeans? with the majority of other ‘meat substitute’ product producers striving for the organic lable (a new system was just introduced for organic guidelines), they don’t seem to care. i wonder about them GMO’s. how does your dad feel about all the controversy?

Posted by: Vanessa on December 3, 2002 12:58 PM

I didn’t know that. It’s really odd that they aren’t striving for the new certified organic label. The people that buy their products are much more likely to care about no GMO’s, so you’d think it would be worth their time. I haven’t really talked to my Dad about it. He mainly grows soybeans to be used in livestock feed anyway.

Posted by: simon on December 3, 2002 1:32 PM

John Wagner, hugging



a.) what a freak! or b.) how adorable! or c.) what an adorable freak! you decide. and what’s up with the smooch from brandon, while everyone else seems to be trying their best to ignore or get away from john.

Posted by: Eric on November 12, 2002 2:51 PM

he hugs me too you know. but we don’t take pictures that would be leaving evidence.

Posted by: meredith on November 12, 2002 5:40 PM

I assume that you’re talking about fake hugs.

Posted by: simon on November 12, 2002 5:44 PM

i love the one with dave. it looks like they are a happily married couple. it looks as though dave is about to say “life is so swell, isn’t it honey?”

Posted by: Mark on November 12, 2002 9:10 PM

did anyone else notice that wagner’s expression is the same in every picture? now that’s creepy.

Posted by: miguel on November 14, 2002 11:14 AM


This last week I went to Kalamazoo on Friday, and drove down to Cincinnati, Ohio with 10 other Moped Army kids on Saturday. The Bombardment Society was hosting a moped rally. It’s the first time another branch has hosted an event, so I was pretty excited.

It ended up being as cold as you’d expect the first week of November to be, but we had fun anyway. My favorite thing was riding across the Ohio River in a pack of 20 with a train heading toward us on a parallel train bridge. That’s a really fun city to ride mopeds in.

I’ll have a full set of photos on the Moped Army website soon, but here are two of them for now.

All of the us by the Ohio River before we left to go home

Some of use overlooking Covington and Cinci in a park

On Friday I went to Dan’s opening reception for his show, Boxes of Clay, at Water Street. The work deals with the concept piggy banks, and the idea of things that need to be destroyed to get at money. Each one is displayed inside of an opened and hanging box, which doubles as a permanent storage facility.

The show will be up through the end of November; stop in if you’re in Kalamazoo.

Boxes of Clay piece: detail shot

Boxes of Clay piece: overview



the pictures turned out great on those boxes. Did lots of others turn out? Thanks again for being my promotions manager. dan

Posted by: dan on November 7, 2002 2:25 PM

hey you think sickness isn’t fun too? well let me tell you that it is. in fact i can’t think of anything more enjoyable than having a cold for the month of October and well into November.

Posted by: meredith on November 7, 2002 4:52 PM

I hope you’re not sick forever Meredith. You know like those people who can’t stop hiccupping and eventually have to just live with the fact that they’ll hiccup for the rest of their lives. Yeah, I hope that doesn’t happen.

Posted by: simon on November 7, 2002 5:01 PM

As far as who can tell?

Chicago, IL

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