Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Last blog-post of 2008

They say that ice and snow are snarling highways and airports around the country as winter storms blow from west to east, which makes me appreciate all the more the opportunity I have to enjoy a quiet and peaceful holiday at home with Jenny and Vienna.

We've mailed our family newsletter, strung twinkling lights, baked Christmas cookies, and played holiday tunes, and today we'll trim the tree (a bit late). We also have just enough time to finish wrapping presents before settling in to watch It's a Wonderful Life and drive around nearby neighborhoods looking for our favorite lighting displays tonight. The cats are remarkably friendly these days as they prefer our company to the cold outside. In short, all's right in Woodland.

I need not overestimate the gap between our present calm and the stresses awaiting in the new year. It's almost as if we're taking a pause, all of us, holding our breath before leaping off a tall diving board. We hope there's water in the pool, but we're not entirely sure. The economy, the war, the unknown... Today we enjoy a respite, but we know that the future will be tough.

So we draw inward a bit, closer to friends and family. We require fewer things and more meaningful moments. We celebrate all manner of holidays this season but generally agree that this time calls for each of us to commemorate love above all things, love for those who have guided us to this point, love for those who share our joys and woes, love for those who stand with us when the winds blow.

I hope you have happy holidays and a prosperous 2009.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Drift Tiki Lounge

Last week, I came to the Phoenix-Mesa metroplex to write about Waffle House (it's a long story) and, along the way, I thought I'd check about area tiki opportunities. I came across some positive reviews of the (apparently revamped) Drift in Scottsdale with low expectations. Wow, was I delighted to be wrong.

The folks who designed this place - definitely a nouveau tiki place - get a lot right. Dark and exotic interior? Check. Grand tiki idol? Check. Aquarium in the bar? Check. The only disappointment: Hipster music pumped loudly, even on the outside porch. A big fat minus on the island vibe. But not a buzzkill, given the deal on Mai Tais.

I showed up during happy hour and ordered one, getting a second one for free. Uh oh. I decided to find a comfortable place to chill, knowing it'd be a while before I could drive; I don't want to experience Arizona law enforcement in any other manner than a rerun of Cops. The Mai Tai itself was standard bar-fare: nondescript rum in a plastic decanter, not the sublimely sour concoction of Hawaiian memories. No matter. The price was right.

I sat outside on the patio, the chill December air banished by a fireplace and overhead heaters. While I'd spent the day eating Waffle House grub, I somehow found room to down some free Happy Hour pupus. Amy (the manager) dropped by, and we chatted about my trip. She kindly offered another Mai Tai . No thank you, I replied. Driving. But if you're in town, stop by. It's a swell place.

Here's my revised list of top tiki experiences.

10. Castaways in Colorado, CO
9. Drift in Scottsdale, AZ
8. Thatch in Portland, OR
7. Forbidden Island in Alameda, CA
6. Trader Vic's in Chicago, IL (closed)
5. Tiki-Ti in Los Angeles, CA
4. House Without a Key in Oʻahu, HI
3. Hula's in Santa Cruz, CA (ranking skewed by homefield location; ask for the Tiki Room)
2. Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale, FL
1. Kahiki in Columbus, OH (closed)

For 'completists' only: Kon Tiki, in Tucson, AZ, Tonga Room, CA, and Alibi in Portland, OR

Of course, you've got to see the Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland (CA) at least once.

Next stop: Hala Kahiki in River Grove, IL

(Photograph by Andrew Wood)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mesa Motels

During my recent trip to Phoenix, I spent some time in nearby Mesa. Happily, Main Street contains some fine motel architecture - like the Highway Host (above) and the Kiva Lodge (below) - and a sublime sunset on my last day in town.

The video (below) celebrates a terrific motel, the Starlite, which features one of the truly great animated motel signs in the country.

Trouble seeing the video? Point your browser to this link (click "watch in high quality" for best view):

(Photographs and video by Andrew Wood)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Update on Blogging Schedule

I'm taking some time away from the blog until next week, spending a few days in Phoenix to write an essay on (and at) Waffle House.

I plan to blog for a couple of days before Christmas before taking my end-of-year hiatus until soon after New Years Day. Then it's back to normal.

I hope the holiday season finds you well...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2008 Wood Family Newsletter


I've uploaded the 2008 Wood Family Newsletter. If you'd like to take a look, click the link below:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Highway 9 - 500th post!

Ah, the Highway 9 detour, adding an hour to an already hourlong commute about twice a year. A wreck earlier this morning on the 17 stopped traffic in both directions because, after all, you know, it was raining. So, it's a morning of drizzly, hairpin turns for me.

We're taking the windy road through Felton and Boulder Creek, passing hut tubs covered with fallen leaves, passing the houses that look like they were built in the seventies by stoned buskers, passing the redwoods that have stood for centuries.

And I'm sitting by a guy who gave me the stink-eye because I dared to sit where he'd placed his luggage. A line of people behind me, some who may end up standing for hours, and he's feeling territorial. I offer to help him move his bag, but he chooses to hold the case on his leg, seething.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Barking Dog

Today I found myself standing once more at the Highway 17 bus station, waiting for the predictably late coach to arrive. Today it would be filled with dozens of extra passengers than normal, UCSC kids heading home for the holidays, hauling their gear to the train station. I boarded to a smell of pot smoke and cat pee. I had to smile.

Just a moment before, I heard a loud bark, followed by another and another. I looked down the road and saw a huge dog, a livestock dog, sticking his head out the window of a SUV. This dog was barking at the passing trees, barking at the passing cars, barking at the passing birds. His tail was awag and his eyes were bound open with excitement. This was one happy dog.

Ah, heck, the ride won't be that long.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Starbucks Bucking the Economy?

An update from the Starbucks-Dunkin' Donuts-McDonald's wars:

As the economy sputters, McDonald's is expanding its brand of espresso and posting billboards in Starbucks home-turf of Seattle. One announces, "four bucks is dumb." At the same time, Dunkin' Donuts continues its efforts to move into higher-end coffee. Here's a snip on the Starbucks response:
"I think the way we deal with that is not to respond to something that's that frivolous," [Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz] said. "Are you going to say to your friend, 'Let's go meet at Dunkin' Donuts?' Are you going to say that?"
Read the entire story: Starbucks won't slug it out in ad wars

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

2009 Summer Diner Tour

I think we've settled on our summer travel plans: The 2009 Wood Family Diner Tour!

We so enjoyed our 2007 Wood Family Southern Routes BBQ Tour, we thought we'd try a similar approach this year - only this time visiting diners in the northeast.

Any ideas of necessary places to add to our itinerary? Please feel free to post a comment.

(Photograph by Andrew Wood)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What I wish I knew

At 40, hardly a ripe-old age, I've made a sufficient number of mistakes, and studied those who don't, long enough to offer a beta-version of my top pieces of advice ("Mine goes to eleven"). This is stuff I wish I knew 20 years ago (note: this list is also accessible via

Friends who are friendly at their convenience are best reclassified as "acquaintances."

When choosing between two options, do what you will remember in five years.

Some battles aren't worth fighting (most of them aren't, actually).

Everyone lies, and usually not as well as they imagine.

"Hard working" almost always beats "smart."

You will lose every thing, not everything.

Pack only what you can carry alone.

Kindness is a lifeforce multiplier.

It's rarely as bad as you fear.

See the world.


Monday, December 8, 2008

End of Semester Update

I'm wrapping up a long semester over the next week and a half.

My second year as director of the SJSU Peer Mentor Program has contained its share of unique challenges and opportunities for growth, highlighted by our successful hire of a new class of PMs. I so enjoyed meeting these fascinating and dedicated folks, but it was difficult to identify a cohort of 20 from our 49 applicants. The PMs helped - heck, we sometimes had four or five veterans interviewing with me! - but I alone had to make the final call.

At the same time, movement of my promotion dossier through the department and college marked an important milestone. I know many of the folks evaluating me on a friendly basis, some are in fact quite close to me. But ultimately they are required to assume a certain clinical detachment when reviewing my teaching, writing, and university service. I imagine that it's no more fun for them to make these decisions, particularly the painful ones, than it was for me to carve out a new class of PMs from a number of promising candidates.

Over the semester, I've also savored the opportunity to review page proofs for the omnitopia book, feeling no pressure from the press to rush the process. This is a strange turn, since every other publisher with whom I've dealt has instituted draconian deadlines from page proof to final edit, and I know that I've made mistakes in those rushed periods. In contrast, Hampton Press and the book's composer, Sue Morreale, have patiently endured my constant tweaking -- even allowing me to make changes only to change them back -- without so much as a "hurry up!" email. Now, I think we're ready to go to press (as soon as I receive the author index).

Elsewhere, Jenny and I have been making the transition to the status of empty-nesters, with our daughter off to college. All three of us have found this time to be remarkably challenging. Vienna faces a stressful workload and an understandable desire to be closer to her friends and loved ones back home. Jenny struggles to make sense of a life in which her primary priority and concern, being a mother, is rendered abstract by the miles. And I find myself stumbling in my own efforts to figure out my own role in this time of change.

And work and at home, It's been a busy few months. I have made some mistakes, but I feel that I've come through a difficult time more or less intact. I'm now counting the days until I leave for a solo roadtrip to Phoenix, writing an essay about Waffle House. I've been given a wide berth on how to approach this piece, but I still don't know exactly what I want to say. I'm hoping that a couple of days in the nearest Waffle House to my home will give me some ideas. Given our planet's ongoing economic crisis, I wonder if this opening line might work: "I'm sitting in a Waffle House in Phoenix, waiting for the world to end."

(Photograph of 2009 Peer Mentor training class courtesy of Amirissa Mina - I added the pic after the end of the Spring 2009 semester)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Fun Post: Yip-Yips

Gen-Xers: If these dudes don't bring back some happy memories, you've got a heart of stone.

Difficulty seeing this link, point your browser here:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Iran Update - December

Here are some recent rumblings in the slow-motion train wreck called the Iranian nuclear program. A snip:
Israel is drawing up plans to attack Iran's nuclear facilities and is prepared to launch a strike without backing from the US, it has been reported.
Read the entire piece: Israel 'prepared to attack' Iran nuclear plants

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I don't wish to sound like a twit, but...

For the life of me, I don't yet "get" Twitter.

I was thinking about this as I read an story this morning about how Facebook and Twitter have attempted to work a deal to combine their companies: Facebook, the increasingly ubiquitous social networking platform that must be making money hand over fist thanks to advertisers who yearn to connect with 40 year old male Ayn Rand fans, and Twitter, which has yet to figure out how to make a dime.

Certainly, Twitter provides an elegant application, the means to convey 140 character missives to "followers" via web and mobile phone. And the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai showed just how much information can be shared in 140 character bursts as Twitter-users updated friends and family around the world with eyewitness accounts of the assaults as they unfolded. Twitter, I'm told, is coming of age in a world when we don't seem to have much time or inclination to send long messages.

Ever willing to experiment, I started a Twitter account sometime last year, even though none of my friends seemed to be interested in receiving "tweets." It wasn't too long, though, before strangers started asking me to follow them and for them to follow me. And, yes, I did follow Mad Men's "Don Draper" for a while too. But nothing about the experience resonated with me.

Perhaps I'm using the wrong platform.

I carry a MacBook with me most of the time. It's thin enough to fit in an interoffice envelope, and its battery-life lasts long enough for a medium-sized airplane flight. I like the click of the keys and the size of the screen. My mobile Mac is my primary window on the world. When I want to check the web (which is pretty much all the time), I use a web browser. Heck, I even send regular "status updates" though my Facebook account. And when I want to write something more developed than that, I use a word processor. Thus I tend to write in paragraphs, not in "tweets." I have an iPod touch, too, and it comes in handy in a pinch - as long as I'm in a wireless hotspot. But I'm used to using a full sized and full-powered computer.

That said, I get the sense that Twitter is best used on a mobile phone. And I can see why.

These days on campus, I must navigate a shifting maze of phone-tapping students who shuffle from class to class, eyes locked on those tiny screens. I can't imagine one of them reading this blog post on her phone; she'd walk into a wall. But mobile telephony is how younger folks seem to stay connected to each other and to the world. Twitter was made for those phones. I so want to know what those messages entail, whether they are Tweeted or simply texted. What do people tap on those tiny devices? Are the messages anything more than a ceaseless flow of updates? "Leaving class." "Hungry. "Bored. "Lonely."

Here's my concern: I fear that those short screens and short messages lead to short attention-spans, the same kind of limitation that produces panic at the prospect that someone will actually answer us honestly when we ask, "How ya doing?" in passing. We've been practicing Twitter-speak for a long time; the technology is finally catching up.

Now I hear that Twitter is best understood as part of the micro-blogging phenomenon, sending bursts of witty repartee everywhere at once and processing an endless stream of witticisms, rejoinders, and bon mots in return, each of us wandering amid our own private Wordles. In this world, an essay of multiple paragraphs might seem as archaic as a thank you note. Readers who still write thank you notes may therefore share my unease at Twitter and what it represents.

Here, I should note my own diminishing horizons of thought.

I write blog-posts mainly while riding the bus. It's a nearly one-hour trip. Thus, I dedicate about one hour to my most developed entries. Sure, I'll do some editing later, and I'll add updates as events warrant. But I can hardly presume to write a meaningful essay in an hour. And if that's so, how can I censure Twitter and the whole micro-blogging craze? All of us have come to tolerate ever more constricted bursts of data, we who drown in the stuff. Maybe Twitter is an inevitable next step.

Moreover, my tech-geek friends will admonish me to avoid writing in generalities, "Twitter leads to short attention-spans, blah, blah, blah." One may write books, compose articles, whip out blog-posts, and jot tweets, each medium fit for each message, they'll say. Twitter does not kill thoughtful prose, it simply augments our day-to-day lives. This seems reasonable to me.

But around campus, on the bus, in airports, in coffee shops, and elsewhere in public life, I see fewer people reading books or even perusing newspapers. I see more folks tappa-tappa-tapping on their phones. Maybe they're reading War and Peace. Maybe they're writing something equally dense and meaningful. Maybe they live lives of thoughtful inquiry and deep reflection.

I just don't quite see it yet.

Follow-up: OK, I kind of get it now

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Omnitopia Index

Awaiting the author index (currently under production by Hampton Press), I've gone through the page proofs one more time - and yes, I managed to find a couple more typos.

Along the way, I've been reviewing the subject index, which took a couple of weeks for me to construct. I had to smile after finding a few entries that are unlikely to appear in other books.

Apple, Reality distortion field, 178-179
Armpit of America (See Battle Mountain, NV)
Cellphonies, 2
Googie, 145
Honkey tubes, 123
No-tell motels, 114, 127
Office Space, 6, 183
Soul-patch poseurs, 2
Winchester Mystery House, 145, 146
Zombies, 101, 131, 146-148, 166
The book is scheduled for release in January. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Shameless Media Plug - Wisconsin State Journal

Last week I was interviewed for a newspaper story about the closing of a Mom and Pop motel in Wisconsin, the Colonial Motel, another roadside lodge lost to development. Here's a snip:
Andrew Wood, a professor of communication studies at San Jose State University in California, has also studied the nostalgia of motels. The age of the properties and their owners has led to the decline of the classic, small, road-side motel, he said.

"Hearing that these pieces of architectural Americana are declining saddens me greatly," Wood said. "Many of the old-timer owners, folks who bought after (World War II) have passed on, and a second generation of their children or close associates are now looking to retire. A potential third generation likely doesn't look with confidence toward a life of motel ownership."
Read the entire article: Middleton's Colonial Motel to take a room in history

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

40-Something Facebooking

A lot of folks in my age group are sharing this piece to their friends, and I wanted to join the party. In this Forbes piece, Tunku Varadarajan describes an age divide in Facebook "friending" between Gen-Xers and younger folks. Here's a snip:
We don't take Facebook for granted the way our children do, with their unthinking postings on each others' walls, their casual use of the F-word on what is effectively a quasi-public forum, their postings of their own photographs in varying states of sobriety and decency. Facebook is a forum that we wish we'd had when we were much younger; so now that we have it in our 40s, we treat it with a certain self-conscious formality, a calibrated theatricality.
Read the entire piece: Forty-Somethings On Facebook

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


One of the highlights from this year's trip to NCA was a brief jaunt to Los Angeles and a stop at the famed Tiki-Ti. Located on West Sunset Boulevard (about 2 1/2 miles from Hollywood and Vine), Tiki-Ti is an original survivor from the Polynesian craze. I'd wanted to visit this place for years, and (without knowing the bar's calendar) we arrived on the last day before the owners shut down for a winter break.

Feeling lucky, I tried the favorite drink of the house, Ray's Mistake, and I also quaffed a "Grand" Mai Tai. Both were superb (and generously poured). I'd brought some friends (who kindly added the stop to our LA itinerary) and we all thrilled to the locals' incantation when someone ordered an Uga Booga. Looking at the place from the outside, you'd never guess the good times to be had within.

(Photographs by Andrew Wood)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Facebook Un-Friends

I recently read a fascinating MSNBC article about the awkwardness of electing to accept - or reject - Facebook friend requests. Here's a snip of some useful numbers:
Social networking sites such as Facebook have experienced phenomenal growth in the past year, according to market researcher comScore. Facebook is now the No. 1 social networking site, with more than 120 million active users, and its fastest growing demographic is those 25 and older.
And here's a snip of some insight on the value of weak ties:
“People who are ‘weak ties’ (friends of friends) are more likely to be different from you and more likely to provide you with new information and different perspectives than your close friends,” [Nicole Ellison] said. For example, you’re more likely to find a job lead from a friend of a friend.
Read the entire article: When you don't want to be Facebook friends

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Fun Post - Garfield Minus Garfield

This may be old news to some of you, but if you haven't yet checked out Garfield Minus Garfield yet, you should.

I'll admit that I haven't enjoyed Garfield for years. I thought it was boring, predictable, and worse: just not funny.

Turns out that the problem with the strip is...


Remove the cat and the strip means something else entirely.

See what I mean?

Best of all, Garfield creator Jim Davis is being cool about the whole thing. While he could have sent forth a flurry of C&D letters, he recognizes the brilliance of Garfield Minus Garfield.

Or maybe he just feels guilty about all those "I hate Mondays" cop-outs.

Learn more: When the Cat's Away, Neurosis Is on Display

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Heading for San Diego

I'm preparing for another National Communication Association conference in San Diego, heading out this morning.

My last San Diego NCA was memorable, but not too pleasant. I discovered that cigars and beer can make an awful combination. And the less said about Tijuana the better.

Even my paper presentation crashed and burned.

I was presenting some fairly undercooked analysis of a website maintained by the spouse of a guy who was being held prisoner in Iraq, talking about the site's use of metaphor -- in a visual communication panel. Other folks were talking about clearly visual artifacts: album covers, comic books, that sort of thing. And I was rambling on about metaphorical imagery, the "sense" that the Web might be likened to some sort of quilt. It made sense at the time.

I knew my presentation had been a bust when absolutely no one made a comment or asked a question. Worse, no one picked up a copy of my paper (that was when we brought dozens of paper copies for folks to peruse on the way home). I brought something like 30 copies, and I left with the same amount.

I was dejected.

So I went back to my cheap motel room and dropped the copies in the trash, telling my roommate (and still great friend, Ty Adams) that I was leaving early. I'd rather hang out at the airport than stay another moment in San Diego.

And that was that, I thought.

A few months later, my pal called me with the good news. Our paper had been accepted for inclusion in an edited volume. Maybe he and I had mused about collaborating on a revision, but I'd forgotten all about it.

Suddenly we were set to publish an updated version of the article as a book chapter because my buddy had picked a copy of my essay from the trash and said, "hell, this could work." He added some really cool stuff and we worked on cleaning up the cobwebs of my initial inquiry. A fruitful collaboration borne of a bad trip.

So I'm heading back to San Diego, ready to catch up with some of my other close friends. Ty won't be there, and I'll miss him. But my visit will be fun all the same. This time I'll stay away from Tijuana, I'll avoid too many cigars, and I'll be sure to ask a question of the lone presenter ignored by the others.

You never know...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

City Beat

I'm not entirely sure why, but this advertisement bugs me. It's a pitch for a downtown (San José, CA) condo. And it's meant to appeal to hipsters who live life via their mobile phones.

That's living the city beat?

(Mobile phone photo by Andrew Wood)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Next Depression Will Be Televised

I recently posted a link to this Boston Globe piece to my Facebook page and moved on to other reading. Yet I cannot quite forget one aspect of the piece: a key distinction between a potential "new" Depression and the "Great" Depression of the '30s.

Drake Bennett (who must have been named after a soap opera character) writes that, unlike Great Depression-imagery of block-long bread lines, Dust Bowl storms, and other public displays of poverty, a new Depression would be notable for a general lack in public suffering. Here's a snip:
[A] depression circa 2009 might be a less visible and more isolating experience. With the diminishing price of televisions and the proliferation of channels, it's getting easier and easier to kill time alone, and free time is one thing a 21st-century depression would create in abundance. Instead of dusty farm families, the icon of a modern-day depression might be something as subtle as the flickering glow of millions of televisions glimpsed through living room windows, as the nation's unemployed sit at home filling their days with the cheapest form of distraction available.
There's something eerie and profoundly sad about that image, a Depression marked by increasing isolation and media anesthesia. I can't seem to get that image of flickering television screens off my mind.

Read the entire piece: Depression 2009: What would it look like?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shameless Media Plug - KPIX

Last week I was interviewed by KPIX (San Francisco) about the rush to profit from Obama paraphernalia (you know, buttons, pins, and the like). I enjoyed the chance to chat with reporter Thuy Vu, (even though they went with my most boring quote).

Difficulty seeing this video? Point your browser here:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Worse than the Depression?

Here's a little reading that illustrates our current economic fears. A snip:
"The economy faces a slump deeper than the Great Depression and a growing deficit threatens the credit of the United States itself."
Read the entire piece:

Friday Fun Post - Keith Olbermann in a Minute

A clever collection of Keith Olbermann special comments

Trouble seeing the video? Visit this link:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Starbucks and Omnitopia

One of the primary themes of omnitopia is the conflation of the entire world into a miniaturized enclave. At Starbucks, an enclave of privilege in a time of increasing economic angst, the "world" becomes "a comfy chair."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Safeway Googie

Think of this as a placeholder post for some forthcoming work I want to do, photographing googie shopping centers.

I grew up in the land of Publix, back when they had those bold V-arrow signs at the entrance, practically daring you to ride past the door.

South Beach Miami still has one of those glorious sites, but most of the rest of the Publix where I grew up have been dulled into submission, their googie accents homogenized and muted to oblivion.

So I was particularly delighted to spot this Safeway in Portland. Not like a publix, of course, but this Safeway is pure googie: streamlined swoops and plate-glass, a building set to fly.

I borrowed my daughter's camera, one not notable for its night-time shooting capabilities, and snapped a few shots.

(Photographs by Andrew Wood)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Day Off

...Taking the day off, enjoying Veteran's Day.

Don't forget: Thank a vet.

Monday, November 10, 2008

November Reed Visit

Jenny and I returned last night from a trip to Portland to visit our daughter at Reed. We got such a charge hearing about Vienna's adventures at college, and we even had a chance to sit in on two or her classes.

The intro humanities class focused on a comparative analysis of the historical biases toward morality in Herodotus and political ethics in Thucydides, and yes they're reading the original texts. The psychology class discussed some physiological dimensions of perception, using optical illusions to demonstrate how the brain relies on a network on senses to process visual information. It was fascinating, heady stuff.

We also toured Portland a bit. Jenny and Vienna toured the shoppers paradise of the Saturday Market, we grabbed doughnuts at Voodoo, we wandered the funky shelves at Cargo, and we drove back streets to get to know the City of Roses a bit more. Perhaps our favorite discovery of the trip was Nick's Famous Coney Island Food in the Hawthorne district, which serves gooey, spicy mac and cheese.

Beyond spending time with my family, my favorite part of the trip was the chance to see fall foliage. We don't get much color to our leaves in this part of California, so it was a delight to wander the streets and sidewalks of Portland in search of gorgeous bursts of yellow and red.

The falling leaves covered spun through the air, dancing in the Autumn breeze. Days after Halloween and anticipating Thanksgiving, our Portland visit was a reminder to me of how much things have changed in the past few months. Happily though, we anticipate Vienna returning home in a couple of weeks, and we look forward to her longer stay during the winter holiday break.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday Fun Post - Election Won by Coin Toss

In one town, two write-in candidates for mayor had to resort to a clever form of coin toss to determine the winner.

Read the entire story:

Thursday, November 6, 2008

So, what now?

This afternoon, I enjoyed a meeting with SJSU peer mentors, a chance to chat about our reflections on the Obama victory. I was struck by the number of students who talked about the feeling of hope they have. I'm not talking about slogans or bumper stickers but rather a visceral awareness that something has changed, that things can improve.

This has been a rough decade for us. We've had several "everything has changed" moments, and none have been for the better. Terrorist attacks and economic turmoil have threatened to quash our native sense that tomorrow will be better than today. We watch television shows like The Daily Show and The Cobert Report, laughing at the inanity of our political leaders, but many of us recognize that something has gone terribly wrong in America. It's not funny.

And then we manage to elect Barack Obama. Despite the so-called "Bradley Effect." Despite crooked congressional districts. Despite robo-calls. Despite fear-mongering. Despite pamphlets reminding Democrats to vote on November 5th . . . We manage to get it right.

This Obama guy is no superhero. He's the first to admit it. There are no guarantees that he and his administration will set things right. Moreover, we face a range of emerging threats that may yet dwarf the problems already besetting us. Still, there is hope today that we didn't feel before the election.

Perhaps we can get it right.

For me, the feeling of the Obama victory is something like the optimism that many Americans must have had when we elected JFK: the torch being passed to a new generation. The Cold Warriors and Me-Generationers had their chance.

Change is coming.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

That didn't take long!

Mere hours later: Does Drudge ever stop being an ass?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

At last

Election Day: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Did you hear the one about Starbucks running afoul of election laws with their "say you voted and get a free cup of coffee" promotion? Turns out, you can't offer gifts for voting. As they say, "No good deed..." So now they're offering free coffee to anyone who asks for it.

So go out, stand in line, vote, and grab a cup. It's been a long campaign!

Learn More:

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween 2008

Here are some pix from our 2008 Halloween. This year's theme: Dr. Freightmarestein's Haunted Laboratory of Horrors (scroll down for the video).

Check out the video!

Difficulty seeing the video? Click this link: (select "watch in high quality" for best view).

Previous Years

• 2007: Psycho Circus

• 2006: Alien Autopsy

• 2005: Just Buried

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Here's a trailer for one of those old-timey movie theater "Spook Shows."

Trouble seeing this video? Click on this link:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The First Day of Rain

It's been a while since I've used this blog to rant, but today seems like a good time.

After all, today marks the first rain of the fall season, which means...

Everyone forgets how to drive.

Why is that?

Why is it that the same road, the same traffic, the same curves, produce such drastically different results with a few drops of rain?

I'm not talking about a squall or a storm. I'm talking about the kind of semi-drizzle that makes you feel embarrassed to use an umbrella.

Of course, I had to use an umbrella because the Highway 17 bus driver - who arrived ten minutes late - decided to park a block away so he could take his break.

While we stood in the rain.

No, he couldn't allow us to board "early" - which actually means late. So we stood and waited to board the bus.

The driver smiled and laughed. "It's going to be a long trip," he promised as he lurched us onto the highway, regaling us with tales of endless traffic to come.

On the road, we confronted the threatened convergence of a few drops and a few clueless motorists, the promise of wrecks in both directions over a mountain that separates work from home. And we found...

A smooth ride with no delays.

I hate the first day of rain.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


For some reason, I never get tired of this South Park bit...

(Image borrowed from Eric Cartman's Iron Fist of Authority Photo Gallery)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Memories from an endless campaign

Only one week to go, thank God. Looking back on this endless campaign, I can't help but feel a bit nostalgic.

Can you remember when...
  • John Kerry seemed like a viable candidate for '08?

  • Pundits thought Newt Gingrich might actually run?

  • Rudy Giuliani took a phone call from his wife while giving an NRA speech?

  • People cared about what Iowa voters think?

  • Hillary Clinton (sort of) cried in that New Hampshire diner?

  • Mike Huckabee seemed like he might just pull it off?

  • Fred Thompson asked, "Can I have a round of applause" - for himself?

  • The media endlessly looped Reverend Wright shouting, "God damn America"?

  • Joe Biden challenged Barack Obama to try and take his guns?

  • Barack and Michelle shared a "Fist Bump?"

  • The media first described Sarah Palin as a "Hockey Mom?"

  • The media first described Sarah Palin as "going rogue?"
And now some personal reflections. Do you remember when...
  • You first heard of the "my friends" drinking game?

  • You first realized that Sarah Palin reminds you of a girl you couldn't stand in high school?

  • You started saying well-worn speech lines like "There's no Red America. There's no Blue America. There is only the United States of America" right alongside the candidate?

  • You thought that November 4, 2008 seemed like a long time to wait for an election?

  • You first heard folks talking seriously about the 2012 race?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Fun Post - "Take On Me" (Literal Version)

Child of the eighties? You'll love this post: Has to be seen to be believed.

Difficulty seeing this video? Visit this link:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Minneapolis Posters: Gender and Sexuality

This is part three of my collection of posters (again: technically, they're fliers) collected during a 1991 visit to Minneapolis, following up on two previous posts (one focused on protests against the first Gulf War and one concentrating on the Minneapolis music scene). Today we focus on gender and sexuality. As stated previously, I'm sharing them as examples of protest rhetoric and visual communication.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Signs of the Proposition 8 Debate

I submitted this letter to the editors of the Santa Cruz Sentinel and the Scotts Valley Banner, and I figured that readers of my blog might want to read it as well. NOTE: This letter refers to California Proposition 8, which changes the state constitution to define marriage strictly as the union of a man and a woman. Reading between the lines, you'll catch a hint of some of the debates (and some commonality, too) in my own home on this contentious issue.


To the editor:

I have observed the public response to Jenny Wood's Santa Cruz Sentinel article (Prop. 8 does not take rights away from gay couples -- see also comments) from a unique perspective, as her spouse. At the outset, let me provide just a bit more context. I know Jenny, I love Jenny, and I disagree with her entirely.

Government should no more define marriage than a church should define municipal boundaries. The spheres are, or ought to be, distinct. And given the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, neither federal nor state governments should set about defining social relationships -- say "marriage" vs. "civil unions" -- as being separate but equal. Therefore I stand with those who will vote against Proposition 8. But only to a point.

Where I differ from my friends who resist Prop 8, beyond my disgust at the occasional vitriol heaped (usually from the protective anonymity of the internet) upon my spouse, a person of good will and good character, is the choice by some partisans to tear down Pro-Prop 8 signs. I see it on a daily basis. Pro Prop-8 signs put up in the morning are stolen, torn, shredded, or just knocked over within hours, while adjacent signs are left standing. And not just in one spot, but in several places near where I live. This happens each and every day.

Hey, you, tearing down the signs. What are you thinking?

You advocate understanding, and yet you tear down a piece of political speech because it offends you? You resist a government that would unreasonably restrict the most personal form of expression, a declaration of marriage, and yet you would deprive a fellow American her or his right to express an alternative opinion? Where's the much vaunted open-mindedness in that?

Here's what those of us who reject Prop 8 should do: We should march, we should protest, we should write letters, and we should passionately argue with those on the other side. And on November 4th, we should vote this proposition down. But we should never, never attack their signs, any more than we would attack their bodies. After all, tearing down a campaign sign isn't "freedom of speech." Quite the opposite, it is theft of speech. It's as entirely wrong as those who would deprive some people the right to marry simply because of their sexuality. It's un-American.

If you really believe in tolerance, leave the signs alone.

(Photographs by Jenny Wood)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Minneapolis "Scene" Posters

Following up on yesterday's collection of Gulf War Protest Posters, here's a series of posters (again: technically, they're fliers) collected during a 1991 visit to Minneapolis. These depict some aspects of the musical scene back then.

Monday, October 20, 2008

1991 Persian Gulf Protest Posters

Recently I came across a small collection of posters (fliers, technically) I gathered during a visit to the University of Minnesota in 1991. I'm sharing them as examples of protest rhetoric and visual communication. Later on, I may upload some other posters from the same visit that represent different genres.

Want to see more? Check out my trio of Minneapolis "scene" posters and my collection of posters concentrating on gender and sexuality.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Recently I came across an MSNBC article headlined, When has a video game ever made you cry?. Recognizing that well-known challenge for a game to evoke the kind of emotional response of a book or film, I eagerly read the piece.

From there, I found Jason Rohrer's game, "Gravitation." I cannot say that the game made me cry, but it made me think. As a father, I was, let us say, "attracted" to the game's subtle illustration of the choices one makes between personal advancement and one's identity as a parent.

"Gravitation" is disarmingly simple. You are a dad (or a Mom, I suppose; the 80s-era graphics allow for plenty of discretion) bouncing a ball with your kid. That's it, at first...

Download the game (for Windows, Mac, or Unix) and see what happens.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Madonna Inn

Following up on Monday's post, here's a video of the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo.

Trouble seeing this video? Visit this link:

Select "watch in high quality" for best view.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Live Blog: Third 2008 Presidential Debate

I live-blogged the third presidential debate, and I surely made some mistakes in grammar and spelling (and even fact) as I attempted to follow the exchange. As needed, I'll revise this document later.

6:00 (Pacific): At last, the third debate begins. By most accounts, McCain needs a clear victory -- it would help if Obama announces that he's the Antichrist -- to have a chance in hell of winning in November. You've got to imagine that this election drives McCain nuts: "I'm losing to this guy?" And now these two men prepare to sit at the same table. I wonder whether the candidates' proximity will inspire a civil debate or end with thrown chairs.

6:02: Bob Schieffer starts with today's lousy news from Wall Street.

6:03: McCain bemoans Americans as "innocent victims" who are angry, angry, angry, angry.

6:04: McCain promises to buy bad home mortgages.

6:05: Obama starts (again) with a comparison of our current woes to that Great Depression.

6:06: Obama starts with the need to protect U.S. jobs and reduce taxes before agreeing with McCain that homeowners need help. Problem? Does not want a giveaway to banks.

6:07: Bob Schieffer: "Would you like to ask him a question?" McCain: "Uh, no."

6:08: McCain promises that he's gonna help "Joe the Plumber" live his American dream, pointing at Obama when spitting out the phrase "tax increase."

6:09: Obama attack's McCain's tax breaks for oil companies.

6:10: Good 'ol Joe the Plumber is getting some lovin' tonight!

6:10: McCain claims that we're gonna take Joe's money to spread it around. "Class Warfare" is on. The tanks are taking the streets.

6:11: Obama reminds us that Warren Buffet can pay a few more taxes. Mine would be a good place to start, but it looks like Joe the Plumber is first in line.

6:13: McCain reminds us that the tax rate for businesses is 35%. I'd like to see one big business that actually pays that amount.

6:14: Bob Schieffer asks what programs must be cut during our current economic crisis.

6:14: Obama drifts past the question, talks about pay-as-you-go. No sacrifices at first.

6:15: Obama talks about "investing in America." Yeah, but about that pesky question.

6:16: McCain agrees: Stupid question. Let's talk about the government buying homes!

6:17: McCain plans to create millions of jobs - and launch an across the board spending freeze.

6:18: McCain: "I know how to save billions."

6:19: Obama: Across the board spending freeze. Nice idea. It'll never happen.

6:19: Obama: Earmarks count for one half of one percent of the federal budget.

6:20: McCain: "Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago." Line of the night (so far).

6:21: McCain: Points at Obama, mocks "goodies" for the oil companies.

6:22: McCain: "You have to tell me one time you have stood against the leaders of your party."

6:22: Obama responds with tort reform. "An overwhelming vote," McCain mocks.

6:23: Obama: "Even Fox News" disputes a claim made by McCain.

6:23: Obama: "Essentially what you're proposing is eight more years of the same thing."

6:24: McCain: "I've got the scars to prove it." That line represents so much of how McCain has sought to define the "body" of his campaign.

6:25: Bob Schieffer calls both candidates on the tough tenor of their campaign. Then offers a chance to bring it on!

6:25: McCain: If only Obama would have come to my Town Hall debates!

6:26: McCain goes after John Lewis. Hard core! "Senator Obama, you didn't repudiate those remarks."

6:27: McCain: "You didn't keep your word" on public financing. "You didn't tell the American people the truth."

6:28: Obama: "100 percent of your ads have been negative." American people are less concerned about "our hurt feelings" than their pocketbooks.

6:29: Obama: "I don't mind being attacked for the next three weeks," but the American people can't afford four more years.

6:29: Obama is playing it cool.

6:30: McCain may get only one vote, but if it's Joe the Plumber, he'll be OK.

6:31: Obama reminds viewers that Republicans ought to at least shush their supporters who shout "kill him."

6:33: McCain is proud of the folks who come to his rallies. "There's a lot of things that have been yelled at your rallies, Sen. Obama."

6:34: Obama: "We can have a debate back and forth." Um, yeah. That's the idea. Dude, you may be right on ideas, but you're getting your butt kicked by the old fighter pilot.

6:36: Ahhh, time to drag William Ayers into the fray. Have you noticed how many times McCain has said in previous interviews that he doesn't care about some washed up terrorist as much as he cares about Obama's judgment? Personally, I think a real live terrorist is somewhat more threatening to our country than some political candidate (excepting, of course, Sarah Palin, who seems plenty dangerous to me).

6:36: Obama: "Mr. Ayers has become the centerpiece of Sen. McCain's campaign over the last two or three weeks."

6:37: Obama associates Ayers with folks worse than Weathermen: Republicans!

6:38: McCain has a look like he's eating Obama's lunch. The question will be determined according to whether viewers are listening to words or to volume.

6:40: Bob Schieffer asks about the people the candidates will bring into the government. Let's talk running-mates. Tosses a softball: Why is Biden better than Palin? Hmmm. Do you have an hour?

6:41: Obama cites "workin' family." The first Dropped 'G of the night?

6:42: Obama chooses not to mention Palin.

6:43: McCain on Palin: "It's time we had that breath of fresh air."

6:43: McCain: "She's ignited our party." Yep, it's burning down, alright.

6:44: Obama: Yeah, she's a capable, well, she's...hmmm.

6:45: McCain dumps on Joe Biden's "cockamamie" Iraq separation plan.

6:46: McCain: Obama the tax raiser.

6:47: McCain says that only "extreme environmentalists" are concerned with nuclear power being safe.

6:49: Obama is counting the minutes until this debate is over. McCain is dropping the hammer.

6:51: Is talking about the problems with free trade agreements. McCain: "I admire Obama's eloquence." Except for everything he says.

6:52: McCain: Senator Obama, "who has never traveled south of our border," opposes free trade with Columbia. "Maybe you ought to travel down there." Rawr.

6:54: Obama returns to the arms of the auto makers. Time to bolster the Michigan vote. Things didn't go so well when discussing Columbia and Peru.

6:55: McCain brings out the "without precondition" bat, starts swingin'.

6:55: McCain compares Obama to Hoover. Them's Fightin' Words.

6:56: Bob Schieffer asks about controlling health care costs.

6:56: Obama discussing people losing their health insurance: "This will break your heart." No, Senator. This breaks "my" heart. Say it. Feel it. Show that you get it.

6:58: Obama walks through his health care plan. Again.

6:59: McCain inexplicably starts with putting health care records online. Yeah, that'll help those folks who lost their insurance.

6:59: McCain returns to "my old buddy, Joe." This guy ought to get a talk show!

7:00: McCain: "I don't think that Joe right now wants to pay a fine."

7:00: Obama responds to Joe: "Here's your fine: Zero." Nice.

7:01: Wouldn't it be amazing if we just turned this election over to Joe?

7:02: Obama goes after McCain's $5,000 credit. Senator McCain will tax health benefits. "This is your plan, John."

7:03: McCain is waiting. His smile reminds me of that old song, "Mac the Knife."

7:03: McCain: "Hey, Joe, you're rich, congratulations."

7:04: McCain admits: Yes, health benefits will be taxed. Obama should simply repeat McCain's admission over and over again.

7:05: McCain accidentally (?) calls Obama "Senator Government."

7:05: Obama: "That's the choice you'll have," running the risk of losing the employer-based health care system.

7:06: Bob Schieffer asks about Supreme Court nominees and Roe v. Wade.

7:07: McCain sticks it to Obama: "Because you were 'afraid.'" He even uses finger-quote marks. Snarky!

7:08: McCain: Anyone who supports Roe v. Wade is clearly not qualified to serve in the High Court, but he promises no litmus tests.

7:09: Obama walks into abortion quicksand. McCain looks at his opponent with disdain.

7:10: Obama catches a vine out of the trap and talks about equal pay for equal work.

7:11: McCain goes after Obama's "present" votes in Illinois.

7:12: Obama: "If it sounds incredible that I would vote to withhold lifesaving treatment from an infant, that's because it's not true." They were (and presumably are) still protected by law.

7:14: Obama returns to abortion-land, searching for common ground. Sure, you'll find that in a one-minute answer.

7:15: McCain puts "health" of the mother in finger-quotes. So much for common ground. Congratulations, Senator. You just jumped off the cliff.

7:16: Bob Schieffer asks about education funding: Why aren't we getting our money's worth?

7:16: Obama answers by restating the latter port of Schieffer's question, before shifting to the money/reform debate: "We need both."

7:18: Obama offers a $4,000 tuition credit for student service to the nation.

7:18: McCain: "There's no doubt that we have achieved equal access to schools in America." Watch out. I think you built a landmine and then stepped on it, Senator.

7:19: McCain whips out a bumper sticker. He's against "throwing money at the problem."

7:20: Schieffer asks about the appropriate role of federal government in education spending.

7:21: Obama notes that the feds "left the money behind" for No Child Left Behind. Clever.

7:22: Obama agrees with McCain on some points. McCain blinks and blinks.

7:23: McCain to Obama: I'm sure you're aware of the school voucher program in D.C. "I'm frankly surprised you didn't pay more attention to that example."

7:25: For some reason McCain is talking about autism again.

7:25: It's a Chinatown moment: Vouchers! Charter Schools! Vouchers!

7:27: McCain: "America needs a new direction." Does anyone remember when it first seemed laughable that the GOP was stealing the mantle of "change" from that upstart Democrat? Seems like a million years ago, doesn't it?

7:28: McCain drops the trust-bomb.

7:29: Obama: "The biggest risk we could take right now is to adopt the same failed policies and the same failed politics that we've seen over the last eight years and somehow expect a different result."

7:30: Obama calls for a spirit of "sacrifice and service and responsibility."

7:31: Debate concludes.

Who won? That's hard to answer. Let's approach it this way: "Who won more for his candidacy?" I'll take that approach because tonight's debate was more about exigency than policy. The exigency, the problem to be overcome, was that McCain had to breathe more life into his candidacy. Obama, in contrast, needed to hold the line against McCain's attacks and maintain his command of the high ground.

From that perspective, I believe that McCain met his goal somewhat more than Obama; he got more out of the night -- at first. In the long run though, he may lose ultimately because of those "quote marks." As folks parse those moments over the next few days, particularly the "life of the mother" issue, McCain may have done more harm for himself than good.

One final thought: I hear that Joe the Plumber is generally supportive of McCain. But think about it: What if Joe the Plumber (Joe Wurzelbacher) had come out after the debate to say that he's voting for Obama? Maybe, just maybe, McCain ought not hand his entire campaign over to one guy.

Dive Bar

This is a local drinking establishment in San Jose that has adopted the famed Jantzen Girl motif toward its clever name, "Dive Bar."

If you'd like to see more diving girl imagery, check out my Diving Girl Motel Motif page.

(Photograph by Andrew Wood)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fremont Theatre

Following up on yesterday's post, here's a video of the Fremont Theatre in San Luis Obispo.

Trouble seeing this video? Visit this link:

Select "watch in high quality" for best view.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Weekend in SLO and Morro Bay

Even though we're both swamped with projects these days, Jenny and I spent much of this weekend visiting San Luis Obispo and nearby Morro Bay. It was a lovely way to mark the beginning of weather that finally feels like fall. Friday evening was dedicated to the drive, stopping only to enjoy some Central Texan BBQ in Castroville. We grabbed a quiet room at the Peach Tree Inn and called it an early night.

The next morning we woke late and headed off to Morro Bay. The skies were blue and the weather was brisk. Jenny and I enjoyed the chance to watch rock squirrels scamper near the water, even though we annoyed them a bit. The brave creatures would climb up our pant legs in search of treats before leaping away once they knew that we'd brought no food.

Jenny also loved watching the seagulls squawking nearby and the pelicans diving for fish in the bay. Naturally we walked as close to the Pacific as we could, even climbing over the breakers to get a good look at the ocean. The waves crashed against the other side, sending explosions of spray into the air that would burst over us in slow motion.

Jenny convinced me to scramble up the rocks with her, and we both felt safely distant enough from the pounding surf. Only when I began to descend did one particularly powerful wave pound nearby, sending a drenching splash my way. I had to remove my shirt for a while, placing it on the rocks to dry a bit, but I didn't mind a bit.

For lunch we got combination plates of fish, scallops, shrimp, and squid at Giovanni's, standing in line before finding seats next to barking sea lions. We got a real kick out of watching more than a dozen of the animals sunning themselves, taking swim breaks, and squabbling over prime placement on the dock below. The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to strolling the shops, buying some souvenirs, and enjoying a nap back at our motel.

Our evening was spent in San Luis Obispo, enjoying ribs at Moe's and catching a movie at what must be the nicest Popcorn Palace on the central coast. Even though the show, Eagle Eye, was not too great a flick, I could also stare upward at the remarkable theater ceiling that glows in swirls of purple. It was a relaxing end to a mellow day.

We returned home this morning, ensuring that Jenny could attend church in her local ward. I'm spending much of the afternoon reading page proofs and anticipating a busy week. At least I tackle these new challenges with happy memories of a terrific weekend.

(Photographs by Andy and Jenny Wood)