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A bookcase that resembles an obsolete British police call box

Late last year, I saw an ad on Craigslist for a custom bookcase made in this iconic shape: Spoiler alert! I have clearly crossed the line into the realm of the Whovian. I clicked "Contact" and a few weeks later I met up with Mathew Foster at Parka. Over coffee, he told me that he'd made one of these for his girlfriend as ...

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PopUpRecordShop

Obsessed with vinyl since age 3, I've been selling records online for many years now; recently I've been doing more of it in person at record shows and other events. The Twin Cities is an amazing town for used vinyl, with new indie shops springing up every month it seems. On the other hand, last year, one of those shops (Yeti ...

More...

Signs, Signs, everywhere signs...

GoJohnnyGo has opened a record store in White Bear Lake MN, on the northern edge of the Twin Cities metro area. The space had been a barber shop for years (it's still too cold to paint out the word "SALON" on the side of the building). This was my first opportunity to make permanent outdoor signage; John wanted one side to ...

More...

Sing Out! Site Update

Sing Out! is a folk music magazine that's been publishing since 1950. I met editor Mark Moss some years ago at a music conference, and we've been working together on the magazine's website ever since. On its previous makeover back in 2008, the site was hand-coded using a Dreamweaver template, but that sliced home page was getting harder and harder to ...

More...

A bookcase that resembles an obsolete British police call box

Late last year, I saw an ad on Craigslist for a custom bookcase made in this iconic shape:

TARDIS2

Spoiler alert! I have clearly crossed the line into the realm of the Whovian.

I clicked “Contact” and a few weeks later I met up with Mathew Foster at Parka. Over coffee, he told me that he’d made one of these for his girlfriend as an anniversary present, and that he’s been making “whimsical furniture” and “all sorts of custom stuff” for some time now. With experience as a theatrical set builder, he’d already spec’ed out the entire piece in Google SketchUp – there were pages and pages. We struck a deal and he got started building version 2.0. Over the next weeks, I started to get pictures such as:

DSCN0229and…

DSCN0279

Finally, a February thaw melted the snow enough for Mathew to dig out his trailer and make the delivery. The bookcase is constructed in 5 pieces, plus the doors. The shelves are adjustable, and (per my request) strong enough to hold vinyl records.

animation-small-2

Click the picture to see the construction process

The top has a light inside to illuminate the “POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX” sign with a slot cleverly cut to light the top shelf below. Special stuff has begun to accumulate there.

top shelf IMG_2736

At night, it faintly lights up the entire room. I didn’t expect it would be so comforting to walk into my office at night and see the glow. “Oh, the Doctor must be here… everything’s going to be all right.”

tardis-night-IMG_2733On the other hand, as a friend commented: “..the Doctor tends to arrive just in time for universe-threatening disasters, so, um, it’s both “Oh, good, the Doctor is here,” and “Oh, shit, the Doctor is here!”

tardis-IMG_2731

If you’re interested in having anything like this materialize in your universe, contact me and I’ll put you in touch with Mathew. Now I’m interested in adding some electronics so I can push a button, flash the lights, and hear this:

or perhaps this:

My father: Pat Miller (1931-2014)

My dad passed away on Saturday January 18th, 2014. His “death notice” was published on January 26th, but his life was so much more than those two column inches of data points. While staying in Maryland supporting my mom in making arrangements for his memorial, and faced with the task of eulogizing him. we found the notes for the eulogy he gave at his own father’s funeral in 1979. He taught me so much about writing (alongside a lifetime of experiences) that I decided I should read his words, rather than write my own. They’re quoted at the end of this piece.

This is the biography of an extraordinary life. The quotations are his:


pat miller

Morton S. “Pat” Miller was born in Washington, DC on March 17th, 1931 (St. Patrick’s Day) hence the nickname “Pat.” Descended from five generations of Baltimore County MD farmers, he was the only child of Joshua A. Miller and Jewel C. Miller. He was raised in College Park, MD, which was then a small university town. Of that time, he later commented, “My dogs could run free, and nobody locked their doors.”

He attended Sidwell Friends School in Washington, graduating in 1949. Then on to Swarthmore College, PA, graduating in 1953 with a BA in English Literature. “I acquired, in order of importance, a wife and a bachelor’s degree.” He married his classmate Carol Martin on the day after their graduation, at the Friends Meeting of Washington.

Pat and Carol began their family in 1958 with Andrew, who, after graduating in English Literature from Carleton College, MN is a musician and technology consultant in Minneapolis MN. Drew married Jeanne Chiaravalli, now a clinical operations health care manager, in 2001. Daughter Laura was born in 1961, graduated in History from Wesleyan University, CT, and went on to an M.D. from Harvard. Now the assistant medical director of a health care center in Oakland, CA, she married John McHugh, a hydro geologist, in 1997. They have two children, Gabriel and Sophia.

In the summer of 1953, Pat enlisted in the US Air Force. By luck of timing, “Twice a year the Air Force chose 300 people out of the normal basic training cycle. They were taught Chinese all day, tested twice a day, and when they had whittled the group of 300 down to 30, the survivors were sent to Yale University…” where Pat was trained to intercept and translate radio communications from Chinese Air Force pilots. He attended USAF Officer Candidate School, commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in March 1955. After a short time in Japan, he was assigned as Operations Officer at an island listening post off the west coast of Korea.

Returning to the US in 1956, he joined the National Security Agency in Fort Meade MD, continuing there after leaving the military in 1958 as a civilian intelligence analyst. During this same time period, he did graduate work in English Literature at George Washington University, completing all but his thesis towards a Masters degree. A variety of managerial and staff positions over the next 16 years included duty with the Inspector General, assignment to intelligence staff of Commander-in-Chief US Pacific forces in Hawaii during the Vietnam War, and as a cryptologic program planner. He attended the Armed Forces Staff College in 1975.

In 1977, Pat was “loaned out” by NSA to the Department of State to provide cryptologic expertise to the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and transferred permanently to State in 1979. When the Carter administration indicated its intentions to link US arms sales to human rights policy, he became the Department’s first intelligence analyst charged with analyzing and reporting on world-wide conventional arms transfers. As such he was a senior independent analyst, reporting to the Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research, and representing the Department on several National Intelligence Estimates.

“Intelligence analysts generally publish their work without a by-line, and must not keep personal files of their classified publications outside the office. I probably wrote at least 1,000 long and short intelligence reports over the years. My only appearance in public print was a State Department white paper on the international arms trade.” (link1 link2). During this time he created a unique program for student interns and mentored one or two undergraduates each semester. He retired in 1987, receiving the John Jacob Rogers Award for 34 years of “dedicated and valued service,” citing his “wide knowledge of substance and procedure,” “important contributions to the analysis of patterns in the world arms trade” and his “time, guidance and wisdom” as being “instrumental in the success of the Intern Program.”

After retirement, he “attempted to sell real estate in a down market,” owned and operated two small student apartment buildings, and attended the University of Maryland graduate school studying architectural history.

While living with Carol and raising their children in University Park MD for 38 years, he became affiliated with Riversdale Mansion, a National Historic Landmark, where he was weekend house manager and trainer of docents before he and Carol moved to Buckingham’s Choice, Frederick MD in 2000. A skilled woodworker, he built multiple shelves and cabinets for his own home and for others in the B.C. community. He found additional satisfaction in gardening, especially selecting plants of varying and contrasting textures and colors. Azaleas were especially dear to his heart.

At B.C. he continued his passion for architecture and history by volunteering as Senior Master Docent at the Schifferstadt Architectural Museum. As in his days at Riversdale, he loved talking with visitors, using his talent for remembering historic details and weaving them into fascinating stories. He wrote, designed and published a book about the house, “Schifferstadt 1758: A German Home In A New Land,” donating all proceeds to the museum. In 2007, he was honored by Frederick County Landmarks for his “exceptional service and generosity.”

In the B.C. community, he served four terms as chair of the Communications and Technology Committee and two terms as Member-at-large of the Resident Association Board of Directors. He co-edited the B.C. Bulletin, the literary magazine Buckingham’s Voice, and managed the in-house communications channel 970.

He died peacefully on Saturday, January 18, 2014, with his family by his side, at Buckingham’s Choice Retirement Community.


On the occasion of his own father’s death in 1979, he wrote these words, which also describe his own life rather well:

“My Dad came to the end of his life as he had lived it – he played no games, took his fences straight on, and used the time from… (when he was diagnosed until) when he died in looking back on and celebrating a life he knew to have been good and full. What more can you say of a man’s life than that?”

Sing Out! Site Update

SO! screenshotSing Out! is a folk music magazine that’s been publishing since 1950. I met editor Mark Moss some years ago at a music conference, and we’ve been working together on the magazine’s website ever since.

On its previous makeover back in 2008, the site was hand-coded using a Dreamweaver template, but that sliced home page was getting harder and harder to maintain. In addition, the site has hundreds of active hand-coded pages based on a template, with no compelling reason (or budget, or time…) to change them.

So how to bridge the two? First, we developed the new front page design by adapting graphic elements we already had in the hand-coded site. The old and new pages aren’t exactly the same, but not so jarringly different as to be confusing. The old site’s drop-down menus were made with AllWebMenus; and those developers have a WordPress plugin. To make it work, we had to generate two versions of the javascript; one for the hand-coded side and one for the WordPress, but after some tweaking we got everything positioned. The new site uses the Weaver II Pro theme with features such as “pages with posts” and multiple page layouts.

so-broadsideSO! now posts music and video reviews to the site on a regular basis (outside the quarterly print cycle), has incorporated its folk music news service into the site (from a standalone blog on wordpress.com), lists all the folk festivals and camps nationwide (this feature migrated away from the paper magazine a couple of years ago) and is in the process of adding the complete run of the topical folk song magazine Broadside (started in 1962) to the site.

SO! is worth your time to check out the site, as well as your support of their mission over 60-plus years of sharing songs, stories, and resources about the world’s folk music traditions.

PopUpRecordShop

purs-logo-v1

Obsessed with vinyl since age 3, I’ve been selling records online for many years now; recently I’ve been doing more of it in person at record shows and other events. The Twin Cities is an amazing town for used vinyl, with new indie shops springing up every month it seems.

On the other hand, last year, one of those shops (Yeti Records) decided to close its permanent location and move to a “food truck” model, popping up around town at different locations. Now records can come to the people, instead of the other way around.

The established record shows usually put out flyers in stores and at prior shows… fine enough, but what would a modern version look like?

Last year, GoJohnnyGo and I started PopUpRecordShop. Nothing fancy, just a dot org, a Tumblr and a Twitter account. As of now, I’ve got posts scheduled through August — to add your event, contact me with info text, an eye-catching pic, and a web link.

PS I’ll be “popping up” with a vinyl booth at the Memory Lanes Block Party May 25 & 26.

popedit

 

Records at Memory Lanes Block Party

Signs, Signs, everywhere signs…

gjg signs IMAG0492GoJohnnyGo has opened a record store in White Bear Lake MN, on the northern edge of the Twin Cities metro area. The space had been a barber shop for years (it’s still too cold to paint out the word “SALON” on the side of the building).

This was my first opportunity to make permanent outdoor signage; John wanted one side to be an LP and the other a 45.

amm-gjg-signageJon L. at Alternative Printing did the reproduction; the primary font I used is VAG Rounded (developed by Volkswagen and used by them through the 1990s); we wanted to go for a less spiky, more suburban-friendly look than any of the previous GoJohnnyGo logos, and most important, have it be readable from a distance.