Thursday, November 30, 2006

Blue Eyes?

We are less than a month away from the due date, assuming he isn't running late. Our impending parenthood has made me curious about my genetic background. Since I am adopted, I don't have full access to my ancestry, and even the simple things like my relatives' eye and hair color are clouded in mystery. I have met my birth mother on two occasions, and met a few of my half-siblings, but I have never met any grandparents. My birth mother has been rather evasive about discussing the paternal side of my history, and I haven't pushed things, so I really only have half the story.

The other night I phoned my birth mother to ask her some questions about her background. Her grand-parentage was 3/4ths of Italian ancestry. Her maternal grandfather immigrated from Italy to Chicago as a young man. Everyone had wild last names ending in vowels. She herself has very dark features, so I found it very surprising that my maternal grandfather had blond hair and blue eyes. On my wife's side, Lise's family probably has over a thousand years of blue-eyed genes in their bloodline. Oddly, this will put our son's odds of having blue eyes and no worse than a one out of four chance. That takes into account no possibility of there being any blue eyes on the paternal side of my genetics. If either of my genetic father's parents had blue eyes, the odds double to a 50% possibility of our son having blue eyes. I would have never imagined it was even possible that I could end up with a blue eyed child. Of course, it will take months to find out what his permanent eye color is.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Casino Royale

We saw Casino Royale last night-- and I can see why this is such a divisive movie for Bond fans. In my opinion, it was the best Bond in the last 30 years. It was probably the most realistic Bond film ever. Of course, some fans prefer to see the "sharks with laser beams" style of Bond movies, but to me, films like Die Another Day had sunk to be mere parodies of the Bond franchise. It far exceeded my expectations.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Excellence in Packaging Design

As part of my job dealing with high level marketing, I have developed a heightened, yet amateurish awareness of packaging and product design. It all started as I stared at a box of Ritz crackers.
Ritz's design is timeless in its two dimensional minimalism. Observe the hyper-real photographic rendering of the crackers. The stark yellow on black lettering of the inner circle has been stylistically superimposed over the crackers on the bottom half , while the crackers on the top half appear to be cut out above it. This inconsistency is an enigma whose significance keeps my awake at night. The red box screams for attention.

Heinz uses a translucent bottle to produce its red backdrop. Its cleverly shaped white label with a green and gold border to symbolize health and wealth obscure the fact that this delightful condiment contains mostly sugar and salt.

Kraft's Calumet baking powder mixes heavy duty industrial design with the profile of a Native American chief wearing full headdress. To my knowledge, the Native American macrobiotic diet required little use of baking soda. Again, this product uses the color red. I have not determined what is so special about the so-named "EASY-MEASURE LID!" that makes it worthy of an exclamation point.
Lawry's maintains our theme of red product design. Its highly stylized "L" is the focal point of this otherwise informational label, which effectively communicates that this product contains no MSG and is "original."

McCormick uses more fonts than a ransom note in its classic and timeless red and white packaging that communicates with a retro and feel-good wholesomeness: we are not adulterated by trends or fads.

Mr Lee ramen noodles proves that using a 70s font and shallow Asian stereotyping need not adversely affect a packaging project.


I took Monday off to recover from my travels. Tuesday and Wednesday I rode to work in nasty weather. After work I rode to the gym to work out for an hour and a half, then rode home. It is typical November weather here--- rain and wind. Today I drove. I was exhausted, and needed to return our display to the office. It was a quite day-- Thanksgiving in the US. You'd never notice around here.

Blogger Beta

Google will eventually force us to switch to their new blog interface. That isn't such a bad deal, except it forces us to use a gmail account to log-in. I am no fan of gmail. But then again, this is a free service, so I guess I can't complain too loudly. Here is my first post after making the switch...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

CA Photos

Back In Norway

I am awake with jet lag-- reflecting on a great trip. Without going into too much detail, we had a good work trip that bounced back and forth between San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. While we flew to SF last Sunday, I ended up doing all of the local driving-- it didn't make sense to take a taxi to Silicon Valley. Our days were packed with work meetings, and the travel flowed quite smoothly courtesy of our talking GPS. We rented a Corolla in SF, which was nice for the tighter urban driving downtown. Tuesday we flew back to San Diego on Southwest, then drove to Los Angeles at night to stay in Hollywood-- which is truly the armpit of America. I had no clue there were so many homeless people (or adult bookstores.... or tattoo parlors). Most of our Wednesday meetings were down in Ocean County. Thursday evening we drove back to San Diego and stayed back at the same hotel. All in all it was a great trip. I have eaten my fill of sushi. I know the CEO much better (it was just the two of us) and we managed to get along very well-- especially for spending so much travel time together. I am working out spending two months working in the US next year.

I have always loved California, so it isn't an entirely fair comparison to Norway. CA has mountains, dry weather, and we had record November heat (in the 90s). I left with some regret for having lived in the midwest for as long as I did. Then again, this move to Norway has proven that we can live anywhere and do anything. But the reality remains-- we can only really live in one place at a time. If we lived in CA, there would be some other place that I would fall in love with... or perhaps "passing infatuation" would be a better term. While I loved eating sushi and drinking cheap beer nightly, LA had nasty air pollution, and it takes at least a hour to drive anywhere. I can't imagine biking in LA. SF would take at least an hour to bike out of the city, and the weather isn't much better than in Norway. San Diego is a great place to get away, but I wonder what it would be like to live there.

All in all, the US is a country of tremendous opportunity. As passe as I thought I would find it (from a "been there done that" attitude--- where I found the UK and the Netherlands far more interesting for business prospects), I believe my job is perfect for me. I still need to be connected to the US. That doesn't mean that I want to move back. I just like the best of both worlds. I have always been the sort who wants everything both ways.

On a lighter note, despite my liberal and tolerant leanings, I can't help but be mindful of fellow passengers on planes. I had my aisle seat on a KLM 747 from LAX to Amsterdam. Two young bearded Muslim-looking guys sat down in the seats next to me. Both had their heads covered in caps. They seemed a little strange. As we took off, I noticed they were holding hands. I found it strange, but I had seen similar things in India. As the flight progressed, it became clear that these two were more than just friends. If their kissing didn't give it away, they left nothing to interpretation when they entered the lavatory together. I could not have more seriously been wrong about my initial impressions of them.

I slept most of the flight. After The Devil Wears Prada was over, the next thing I knew we were served breakfast and landed an hour later. It was the best transatlantic flight I have ever had. It seemed to last three hours in total. If only I could sleep now.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I Love Southern CA

I spent the day driving all over Ocean County and San Diego County for meetings today. I love this place. I have always loved this place. San Diego was my first experience with "palm trees," and it left an enduring impression. In hindsight, I have no idea why I ever returned to Minneapolis after my first trip to SD back in the early 90s--- when in fact I had absolutely nothing to lose by relocating. Of course, I have a true masochistic streak when it comes to climate, and post-college have move continually north, rather than south.

But then again, this is California, which is nothing remotely related to "reality." I cannot imagine living here. Despite the climate, this seems like a cruel environment to ride bikes.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

San Diego

I am in San Diego-- have been here a few days. I mysteriously lost an earlier blog entry regarding the trip. The first time I was here I stayed in a dirt-cheap hostel. Now I am at the Hotel del Coronado--- an amazing resort hotel on Coronado island. The first time I was here was the first time I was on a plane. How times have changed. I can't even count how many flights I have taken. The temperature has been in the 80s all week. It is beautiful here.

I watched a few movies on the flight here and in my jet-lagged middle of the night insomnia. Here are my mini-reviews:

Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest
I was disappointed. Jack Sparrow is an excellent character, as are Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan... in an excellent "Disney character" sort of way. The trouble is that the special effects played a too prominent role. The "scary characters" bordered on the absurd, and possessed unpredictable physics. Also problematic was Swan kissing Sparrow. I am quite convinced Sparrow plays for the other team. Next time, more Sparrow--- and less dead creatures.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
I generally do not like Will Ferrell, but paired with the most excellent John C. Reilly and, well, it was as close to magic as Ferrell will ever see on screen. Actually, Ferrell is more entertaining and less offensive than he has ever been. NASCAR is such an easy target that I can forgive him for almost anything... except the French-bashing that is somehow pulled off without being completely idiotic. Definitely not a must-see.

You, Me and Dupree
Is it just me, or is Matt Dillon starting to wear a little with age? And can Owen Wilson only play one character? Kate Hudson was almost adorable in this movie, but Michael Douglas was merely phoning it in. Michael Douglas? Either his agent should be shot, or he is donating his salary to charity. Not the worst movie ever, but it seemed to be rather misdirected. As far as it tried to go, it should have gone all the way and descended in complete farcedom.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend
Something about in-seat on-demand video compelled me to watch this Uma Thurman/Luke Wilson "effort." Rainn Wilson must be completely typecast as a dork/loser by this point after almost reprising his Arther/Six Feet Under role. Anna Faris from Brokeback Mountain was the high point of this movie-- for whatever that is worth. I will briefly embed a Brokeback Mountain review, since we recently rented that movie. Actually, Lise and I each picked a movie-- I wanted to watch Donnie Darko, but they didn't have it, so I picked Jarhead. Lise picked the only movie I hoped she didn't rent: Brokeback Mountain. Actually, Brokeback was a very well acted movie-- but not at all what I expected. Knowing it was a "gay cowbow movie" I fully expected that it was set in the 1800s. But I guess I am just like that. Jake's other movie was a bit of a mess-- although it is to be expected for a "war movie" for a war that only lasted four days.

Lords of Dogtown
I spend half the movie trying to figure out if that was Heath Ledger. After I decided that it was, I was wondering what the hell he was doing in this disaster. Dogtown and Z-boys is FAR superior-- and the real deal. Why watch a "movie" when the documentary has far better skate action and character development? Skip it. They could have just as well animated this wreck.

Buffalo '66
I don't know if it was insomnia that kept me up watching this movie, or if this movie kept my up on the basis of its own merit. I had seen this movie in video stores, having no clue what it was about. I watched it simply because it was on at 3am on HBO. I was floored at how excellent his Vincent Gallo/Christina Ricca vehicle is. Simply amazing. Ben Gazzara and Anjelica Huston are priceless as Vincent's parents. I have never seen family dysfunction magnified to this extreme without dripping into absurdity. I have never felt such sympathy for such a loser character. Christina Ricci was practically a child when this movie was made, but truly steals the show, which is no easy feat when paired with Gallo.

The Dukes of Hazzard
I was reaching psychosis by the time this movie came on. It is truly sad that this film was ever made. At least the Charlie's Angels films clearly showed that the filmmakers were in on the joke. DOH took itself far too seriously as being a feature film based on the TV show--- without a hint of irony. Imagine an earnest Weird Al imitator. It just isn't right.

Donnie Darko
For $9.99 I purchased this at Best Buy--- almost cheaper than I can rent it in Norway. This is my new favorite movie, even though I have only seen part of it. It also completes the Jake trifecta.