Archive for December 2004

December 31st, 2004

I’m Gittin’ Hitched!

Well, here’s pretty much the biggest news of my life so far: Stephanie and I are engaged. No doubt, many of you already know this, but I felt like I should make an official announcement on my site.

Here are the detailed answers to questions I’ve been getting a lot.

1. “Did you surprise her?”

Yes. And keeping it a secret has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. For some reason, during the past few months, the subject of “if and when we are getting married” seemed to come up everyday when Steph and I would talk. Just in the course of normal conversation, it popped up all the time. “Should we go somewhere for dinner?,” Steph would say. “How about the Rockford. Does that sound good to you? Do you think we’ll get engaged in the next year?”

Maybe it just seemed like this because I already knew I was ready for it. I was trying to play it cool and say things like “I don’t know when we’ll get engaged, Steph. Let’s just take it easy,” while the impulsive part of my brain was banging itself on the inside of my skull, screaming “Do it now! Just blurt it out!” and trying to send messages to my mouth to make it say “I’m going to ask you to marry me on Christmas! And I’m getting a ring made for you. And you’re going to love it!”

Somehow, I managed to keep the secret the whole time, though. She had no idea.

2. “How did you ‘pop the question’?”

I was planning on just showing up at her apartment after she got back from visiting her family on Christmas Day, and asking her…until three days beforehand. Something about this simple, straightforward approach had always bothered me. When Bliss asked me what “wacky scheme” I had come up with for popping the question, I knew what it was: just showing up and asking was too conventional. I needed something different…something needlessly complicated. (With me, big events always involve last-minute plan-changes, panic, and indecision. If it were any other way, it would hardly be worth doing.)

I told Bliss that I had had one idea: Steph loves those gumball-type machines that dispense cheap toys in plastic capsules. She’s put a quarter into one every time I’ve gone to a grocery store with her. I thought it would be cool if I could somehow fix it so she got the ring out of one of those. But this seemed like a risky chance to take with the ring, and since grocery stores are closed on Christmas Day anyway, I had abandoned the idea.

“I guess I could just buy one of those machines,” I said jokingly. Then I had an epiphany: “I could just buy one of those machines!” Why didn’t I think of it before? I’ve see them on display at Sam’s.

I called Mom, who loved the idea, and, fortunately, is a Sam’s member, and we met there. The problem with their gumball machines is they’re just floor models. To get one, you have to order it weeks in advance. Even after Mom appealed to the store manager, telling her how we needed to buy a floor model for a marriage proposal, she wouldn’t budge.

So, three days before Christmas, I was tearing through the Yellow Pages, calling everyone under “Vending Machines”: “Hello, I’m looking to buy a gumball machine and…” And, for some reason, most people reacted like I had just asked them if they carried black-market organs.

“Uh…we don’t sell those.”

“Well, do you know of anyone in the area who does?”


Imagine my elation when, after about 40 cold calls, a voice on the other end said “Yeah, we got one,” like it was a perfectly reasonable question people asked everyday! I was talking to a used video game and vending machine store, quite possibly the sketchiest place on Earth. They did have the perfect gumball/proposal machine, though.

The point is I was able to buy it off of them. Next I had to fill it with toy capsules.

3. “Where did you get those?”

I could only find one machine in town that dispensed the right-sized capsules. They were all filled with those ugly troll dolls, which is not what I envisioned filling the machine. An engagement ring coming out a machine full of troll dolls? That doesn’t make any sense. Unfortunately I was running out of time. All I really needed was the capsules, anyway, so I started pumping quarters in. After about five minutes I had quite a collection in my jacket pockets. The Food Lion employees began whispering to each other and pointing at me. I could see their reflection in the troll-machine glass. But I didn’t care. Just a few more and I was out of there.

I took out all the trolls and replaced them with more interesting knickknacks from around the Witchger house.

4. “Wait, so you now have a collection of hundreds of ugly troll dolls?”


5. “What are you going to do with them?”

I have no idea. I’m open to suggestions.

6. “Were you nervous?”

Not at all. Not until I decided I had to track down this gumball machine and had such a hard time finding one. And not until I had to wait ’til the 23rd to pick up the finished ring. And not until I had to set everything up at Steph’s apartment so it worked like it was supposed to. And not until I had to wait and wait and wait for Steph as she was driving back from New Bern. Oh yeah, and not until I had to call to her dad, 10 minutes before she got back to her apartment, to ask for his blessing. While all this was happening, I was a mess.

Once she put a quarter in, twisted the knob, and that capsule containing the ring came out, I felt much better. I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Steph, and that I’d never forgive myself if I let her get away. I’m pretty sure she feels the same way about me. All I had to do, at that point, was make it down on one knee and say the words (without doing anything klutzy).

7. “Well it’s about time you two got engaged.”

That’s not exactly a question, is it? But as I said I’ve been planning this for a while now. As cliche as it seems, I really wanted to purpose on Christmas Day. Christmas is Steph’s absolute favorite day of the year. She’ll tell you so at least 100 times every holiday season.

8. “So when’s the wedding? Have you set a date yet?”

Whoa. We’re just talking engagement here, who said anything about getting married? One step at a time, people.

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December 20th, 2004


It is so cold in Raleigh today. Right now says 15 degrees with a wind chill of 2. This has to be some kind of record.

I’m sure you yankees reading this are laughing at me and thinking I’m a wimp, because if it were 15 degrees where you are you’d be outside in a swimsuit, laying in a lawn chair, applying suntan lotion. What you have to realize is that 15 degrees with a wind chill of 2 is the absolute coldest it can get in North Carolina, on the coldest day, in mid-January, at night…in a meat locker…

This morning Jack Frost was not “nipping at my nose.” He was beating me with a sock full of quarters. While telling jokes about my mother. All I can do when I walk outside today is talk with a mid-western accent (see the movie Fargo) and shovel my driveway. And I’m not going to let the fact that there is no actual snow on the driveway stop me.

Granted I’ve been demanding some cold weather lately. But I just wanted enough for it to feel like Christmas-time. I know, I know, be careful what you wish for, but everyone was walking around Raleigh in shorts last week. Seriously.

See we may not have –40 with six feet of snow. Or 120 in the shade. But what we lack in extremes we make up for in sheer unpredictability. When it’s raining and hailing at the same time, despite the fact there wasn’t a cloud in the sky an hour ago, and it’s 30 with an expected high of 67, even though we didn’t get out of the 40s the day before, we can gather around the office water cooler, and say “Well that’s North Carolina for you,” “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute,” etc., etc.

Also, we have relentless humidity. And mosquitoes. Giant mosquitoes.

They’re the real state bird. Don’t believe that cardinal crap for a second.

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December 8th, 2004

appy olibAys

Those of you who know me may or may not get a genuine letterpress Christmas card this year.

If you don’t, it’s because I couldn’t get it finished. But it won’t be my fault. If you’re looking for someone to blame, blame German goldsmith and inventor Johannes Gutenberg. He and his stupid movable type.

I recently inherited a 5×8 Kelsey letterpress, which was purchased by my great-grandpa at some point early last century. My grandpa had a side business printing tickets and stationery with it, then my Uncle John took it up and used it all through junior high and high school. As far as family heirlooms go, totally legit.

For the past 30 years now, it has been sitting, untouched, in my grandma’s basement. Until this summer, that is, when she had to be moved out of her house. No one else in the family wanted the press and there was talk of throwing it away. The very idea made me cringe. Dad and Kate were nice enough to make the trip to Michigan with me and help rescue it.

Along with the press I got about 20 trays of type in various states of organization, a cabinet for the trays, a “composing table” (as we “printers” call it), and 30 or so wooden cigar boxes full of miscellaneous letters and other various metal and wood parts that I believe are all involved in the letterpress printing process in some wa. Not that I’d know.

Loading it all up I gained a new appreciation for the expression “heavy as lead.” The family van wasn’t too happy about the extra weight, either. Particularly the front right brakes, which, somewhere in the mountains of West Virginia, decided they had had enough. They were definitely trying to lead a revolution on their way out too. “Join me, fellow parts! Put down your shovels! Rise up against the bourgeois swine!” It was faint, but I heard it coming from that wheel well. It should have concerned me more, but at the time I thought it was just Kate talking in her sleep.

Thankfully only one brake went out, otherwise I probably wouldn’t be here today, wasting your time with my website.

After spending the night in Beckley, West Virginia; getting up the next morning and going to the parts store owned by the one nice person in Beckley, West Virginia; buying a new rotor, pads, and a caliper; and putting them on in the owner’s garage ’round back, we made it the rest of the way home.

It’s been fun cleaning the press up and getting it in working order. I’ve done a little type-setting now, which is a fascinating process. It calls for a lot of planning, and careful consideration as you go. When you know you’re going to be hunched over the form trying to make everything fit together, with tweezers and magnifying glass in hand, you really think about how to get more with less.

Typesetting can also be extremely frustrating. I invite any of my fellow communication-artists looking for incite into what the computer has done for (and, in some cases, to) our field, to come over and try “graphic designing” the old-fashioned way. I guarantee you’ll run into problems you’ve never even thought about.

For example, what if Adobe Illustrator only let you use a limited number of each letter. How do you tell people to “Come See Asheville’s Newest Real Estate Development,” when you only have ten lowercase e’s in the typeface you’ve chosen?

Or say you type in…“Wait I’m a designer. We don’t have to type.” Sorry, you have no choice. There’s no such thing as “copy” or “paste.” Everything has to be reentered manually.

So say you type three lines of text in InDesign then, when you go to save the file, the last line falls straight off the bottom of the screen. It’s the shortest line in the paragraph, but you still have to space it out so it matches the others in length.

So you reenter the line and start hitting the spacebar to make it fit, but that last space over-shoots the line-length of the first two by a hair. Now the bottom line is too long. You get an error message: “Adobe needs to use a different spacing unit here. Go dig through that bulky, heavy, dirty tray, and find the exact space that will make this line-length match the others. It looks like you need a four-to-the-em right there. No, you picked up a three-to-the-em, keep looking. No that’s a five. Listen, I’m just going to go to sleep, when you find the four-to-the-em, wake me up and we’ll talk.”

Oh yeah, and when a 27-character-line goes crashing to the floor, and some of the tiny letters fall down a heat vent, there’s no “undo” command.

Unless you have a time machine.

And in the unlikely event that you do, I’d like to borrow it. If I can’t get these cards done, I’m going to pay a little visit to 15th century. I’m going to tell Gutenberg exactly what I think of his stupid movable type.

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