Saturday, December 29, 2007

My Name

It's only taken me 50 years or so to come to terms with it. When someone sees it, they don't know how to pronounce it, and when someone hears it, they don't know how to spell it. When I'm asked how it's pronounced, the smartass in me often is tempted to say "just the way it sounds." and occasionally, I've yielded to that dark side of my personality and actually done so.

For the record it's pronounced Stié-fee. At least on the west coast. Back in Worchester, Massachusetts, it's "Stíff-ee." I owe my grandfather a debt of gratitude for letting the pronunciation evolve when he moved to California around 1917 or so. In Sweden, where the family's roots are, I understand it's "Steef." Teriffic! My name caused me enough grief on the playground as it was!

I've googled my name a number of times. I've discovered that there is a well-known jazz saxophone player in Canada named Roy Styffe and a bassist in the Olso Philharmonic with the name of Dan Styffe. I have no idea how either pronounces it. 

And it is quite possible that I'm related to the two characters which appear on this vintage postcard which I own. On a trip through Nevada in the 1930s, my grandfather stopped at their motel/gas station in Lovelock and it was determined that they had simply kept the Swedish pronunciation and our branch of the family had kept the spelling and let the phonetics fall where they may.

When I was a kid, I envied the Wilsons, Carters, Smiths and anyone else with a more generic name. I dreaded the first day of school, when I'd hear it mangled by the teacher. Now, I appreciate its uniqueness and I've made my peace with it.

I'm just glad I didn't grow up in Lovelock, Nevada!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Did you hear the one about…

A priest, a rabbi and a lawyer walk into a bar and the bartender says, "What is this, some kind of joke?"

The art of joke telling may be dead. One more victim of the internet. I used to belong to a network of friends who'd call someone at nearly any hour to tell the latest. Now the jokes just show up in my inbox looking something like "FW: fw: FW: Too Funny" and with a bunch of >>>>> in front of each line. Occasionally, it is too funny, sometimes it's not. Often, it's a visual thing, so there is no way to share it, but to forward it onward, some horribly photoshopped image of the president in a compromising position or something.

I thought of this recently when I received one of my all time favorite jokes in my inbox. I'd told it a hundred times, so there was no point in hitting the Forward button with it. Still, I laughed at it once more, and I appreciated the gesture.

But before you go to that New Year's party, scroll through your saved messages, find a joke that suits you and your expected audience and practice telling it a few times while driving alone (it's okay, people will think you're on your cell phone) and enjoy being the life of the party.

Yet it's a good thing that we can use that portion of our brains formerly used for storing jokes to remember all our passwords!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Roadside Attractions

As a photographer and graphic designer, it makes sense that I'd want to design and publish a book of my photographs.

And I have…sort of. You can see for yourself if you come over to the house and take a look at the one sitting on my coffee table…or visit my Mom and Dad in Anaheim Hills and check out the one on their coffee table. My Dad's is nicer, and a bit different than mine. Those are the only two copies in print, each one painstakingly printed out on my Epson 2200 printer on acid-free paper. It measures 12" x 12", has 96 pages with 81 photographs, all but thirteen are black and white. If nothing else, I'd like to make four more copies, one for each of my children.

Of course, I'd like to print a lot more than that and sell every last one of them. And then print some more and sell those too. Perhaps Oprah might discover it and it would go to the top of the NY Times Bestseller list. Sure. However, the technology and thus the economies of book publishing are changing dramatically. Currently, there are several service providers such as Blurb and Pikto which will print and bind a photography book along the lines of Roadside Attractions for $75 (Blurb) to $260 (Pikto). The quality of the Blurb books are suspect and with Pikto, I'd be limited to 80 pages. Both services would allow me to market the book in their online "bookstore." With Burb for instance, I could designate a $100 selling price. You'd order the book, they'd print it, send you the book and send me the $25 difference between the printing price and selling price. I honestly can't think of more than a handful of people who'd pay that much for such a book, even if the quality was truly outstanding.

I've also obtained quotes from a broker for having the book printed in the Far East. I could get 1,000 copies printed for $12,000 or so. I'm pretty sure that I could sell 300 or 400 of them over the course of a year and break even with a $50 cover price. Then I'd still have 500 copies sitting in my garage along side the 200 or so copies of Wheels Rolling--West that I have now.

Another possibility would be find a local printer who is using the same digital press technology being marketed by the online book printers and having a reasonable number of books printed and bound under my supervision. But that will have to wait until the house gets done.

Worst Idea…Ever

A story featuring this item ran on page 4 of the Home section in today's LA Times with the title "Wacky ideas, from dance poles to thrones." It contained this image and description of the "TwoDaLoo."

Wacky? I know wacky. I love wacky. This, sir, is not wacky. This is just wrong. Very, very wrong. 

In fact, forget you even saw this and move along.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Christmas Egg Scam

I should preface this to say that we had a lovely Christmas Eve service at church last night. A ladies quartet which included my wife Amy and her sister Luanne sounded like a choir of Angels in "The Star Carol" and the service ended with everyone joining hands around the candlelit sanctuary singing "Silent Night."

The actual Christmas festivities in our household came and went pretty quickly this morning. John, who had been up since 3:30am staring at the Christmas tree, tried to rouse us at 6:00 and was told to wait another hour. After that, it was a half-hour of flying shreds of gift wrap, shrieks of delight and the realization that we had only two eggs in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, I received a heads-up that there was a train in Riverside headed my way with a pair of those new Kansas City Southern "Southern Belle" SD70ACe's in the consist.

Knowing the local supermarkets were closed, I volunteered, "Honey, I'll go find some eggs, but it may take a while."

Don't tell Amy, but a dozen eggs were found at the Walgreens two blocks away…on the way home from Fullerton Jct.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas Eve Story

It was exactly two years ago that I went down the local train station to watch the Southwest Chief roll into town. The weather was similar to today's here in SoCal, clear, pleasant, dry … nice, but hardly conducive to generating holiday anticipation. However the sound of the Chief approaching this station could do that. There are four grade crossings spaced out along the the mile to the east: Placentia Ave., State College Blvd., Acacia Ave., and Raymond Ave. The distant notes from the Amtrak K5LA horn that floated across the east side of the city made a pleasant introduction to the train's arrival.

Since it was Christmas Eve, I imagined that some of the people gathered on the platform were there to meet family and friends arriving on the train. That's always a nice thing to watch. For me, trips to the depot have been about people watching as much as train watching. As it turned out the woman standing closest to the tracks was one of those people. She was there to greet her daughter and infant grandson who she was about to see for the first time.

Considering the fact that I had seen my grandson for the first time the previous June, I had a pretty good feeling for what this would be like. I hung
around and observed the moment. 

This Christmas, I wish for you a moment as delightful as this.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Let's get this show on the road!

It's the day before Christmas Eve. It's the day that I start getting revved up for the holiday. The day that I realize I'm running out of time to get an early start on my shopping. 

It is also the cusp of a year that should be trying. Amy and I are well into the process of starting a whole house remodel. Essentially we will be jacking up the doorknob of our little place and attaching a new house to it. Sometime, six months following the start of construction, we'll have a new place to live. That project will certainly provide some of the material for this exercise. So far the plans are finished and survived the city's plan check with the need for some minor changes. We've selected a contractor, and once we've hammered out the agreement and found temporary living quarters, we'll put the hammer down (so to speak).

While I don't intend to turn this into a family photo album, I thought I'd throw in this image from last Sunday's trip to the "Photos with Santa" shop that my friend Ben Stuart is running this season. 

First up were the grandkids, Jamie and Finn. Finn was no problem, he just snuggled up on Santa's lap and some good pictures were captured immediately. Next, Jamie was asked to join his brother. He was asked again. And again. And again after that. By this point Mom (my daughter Melissa) had put on her frownie face and started speaking in a voice that began raising dark memories from my nearly forgotten past. In their formative years, both Melissa and Jennie learned early on that if they could crack Dad up, they were pretty much off the hook. It's a tradition that seems to have been passed along to the next generation. This is the last shot that I got off before I collapsed in laughter. Mom, who deserves such a son, thought it was pretty funny too. Jamie, having made his point, climbed up on Santa's lap and Ben fired off some good shots. But I like this one better.