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A little plug

Just as a reminder for any of our automotively inclined readers, I have been using Medium as an outlet for my automotive writing. The archive of articles is here. If you like anything you read there, please be sure to hit the "Recommend" link on the article. A recent sampling of articles include:

What God Drives on the Weekend (Jaguar F-Type)

Curve Carver (Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ)

Good Enough (Volvo S60 T6 R-Design)

Doctor Hoon (Mini John Cooper Works GP)

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Dale Franks
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Why won’t they fix it?

About a year and a half ago, I bought a Citizen Skyhawk A-T EcoDrive watch. It’s the really nice one, made of titanium, solar-powered, and calibrated to the Naval Observatory’s atomic clock every day. It pretty much has all the bells and whistles a watch can have.

At least, it used to. The outer bezel fell off less than a year after I purchased it. Now, when you pay for an $850 dollar watch that you sort of hope will be the last watch you’ll ever buy, you don’t expect bits to just…fall off. Then the inner bezel fell off.

Untitled-1

“OK,” I thought. “I’ll take it to a watch shop to have it fixed.” But I can’t. No one is allowed to fix the Skyhawk A-T except the Citizen Service Center in Torrance, CA. “Well,” I thought again, “This is becoming…inconvenient.”

But I really wanted it fixed, so I submitted to the process, which first requires you to go to the Citizen web site and fill out a form to create a work order. Then I packed it all up, took it to the post office, and sent it off to Torrance, insured, via Certified Mail, in December.

Anxiously I awaited. As the dark, cold winter passed, I prepared to greet the warmth of spring with a freshly restored Chronometer. Then, in late March, I received a text message from UPS telling me my watch had been delivered.

Oh, frabjous day!

I raced home from work, ran into the house, and there was the package from Citizen. I opened it to find my watch…in exactly the same poor shape it was in when I sent it. There was an invoice as well, saying that I’d need to buy a new bezel for $60, but they were returning my watch untouched because I’d never responded to their service messages.

Um, what service messages? I hadn’t heard a single thing from them since I’d sent the watch off. No phone calls. No emails. No letters. I was a bit…upset about this.

So, I lovingly re-packed it, but this time, I sent along a $60 money order, along with the repair invoice, and a little note, informing them that I did wish them to fix it, and here was the $60 the had requested.

Two days and $25 in postage later, the watch was off to Torrance again. “This, time,” I thought, “I’ll get my beautiful watch back again, whole!”

Weeks passed. Spring Training came and went. The baseball season started. The Astros worked assiduously to become, once again, the worst team in baseball. I checked the mail regularly, in case Citizen sent me a note about the watch, but, sadly, received nothing. Once again, it was as if I’d sent my watch into a black hole.

Then, today, May 23rd, I received another text message from UPS, telling me my watch was back from its second sojourn to Torrance. I was hopeful, but apprehensive. In what state would my watch be now?

When I got home, there was the package from Citizen. I picked it up and went into the kitchen, where The Lovely Christine was making dinner.

“I love you,” I told her, pulling out my pocketknife in preparation for slitting the packing tape open. “I’m telling you this now, while I’m in a good mood.” I kissed her on the back of the neck, then continued, “Because if I open this package and my watch isn’t fixed, I’m going to be incandescently angry.”

Thirty seconds later, I was incandescently angry.

Once again, my watch was unfixed. Once again, there was a little note saying that I hadn’t responded to their inquiries, which, once again, I had never received. But, my $60 money order had been returned, so I’ve got that going for me.

So, now, instead of wanting to send it back for a third time, I’m wondering how easy it would be to take a hammer and pound a titanium watch perfectly flat.

I honestly don’t know what they want from me. Since they sent my $60 back, it clearly isn’t money. Perhaps I missed some fine print about sacrificing a small animal, or selling my soul to Satan.

I’m at a loss.

UPDATE – 24 May

I got a couple of calls and emails from Citizen today. They say they are sending me a pre-paid UPS packing label, and that they will fix my watch and send it back to me. Free of charge.

So, we’ll see how that works.

UPDATE – 5 Jun

My watch is back from Citizen. Shipped and fixed free of charge. I finally have my Eco-Drive back on my wrist again!


More Quickscript Stuff

If you are interested in some more geeky constructed language/font stuff, I have a new article up at Medium on a revision I made to the Quickscript alphabet. Frankly, the Quickscript alphabet is a bit of a mess, despite Kingsley read working on it for years. In just a few short weeks, however, I have created a revision of it that is vastly superior to the alphabet that Kingsley Read made his life’s work.

Because I am a genius in things that don’t matter.

Anyway, read it if you like, and please don’t forget to hit the "recommend" button at the bottom.

~
Dale Franks
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Personal stuff

A couple of years ago my wife was told she needed a hip replacement.  To say it shocked her would be an understatement.  After finally accepting it, she got on Google.  And she did research.  She found there were two types of hip replacement surgeries – a posterior approach and an anterior approach.  She also found out the difference was like night and day in terms of recovery.

The anterior approach is by far the superior.  But, since it is a fairly new approach and requires a very expensive table, most doctors who do hip replacement surgery use the posterior approach.  Unfortunately, in the Atlanta area there were only two groups who do the anterior approach and neither of them take our insurance.   So she had a dilemma.  She could get the hip replaced but she was stuck with the posterior approach which required the cutting through a number of muscles in the hip area.

However, we’re talking my wife, Ms. “Never say never”.  She got on the phone with our insurance carrier and started pitching the anterior approach, telling them how superior it was to the other approach and how it would save them money, etc.  Finally, the insurance provider told her to widen her search to a 100 mile radius and she found a doctor in Gainsville, GA, about 40 minutes from where we live who does the anterior approach.  After consultation with him, she made her decision and surgery was today.

I’m amazed.  She went into surgery at 7:30am, was out at 9, in her room at 12, and here’s the amazing part, walking down the hallway of the patient floor at 1pm.  She made an entire circuit.  Not only that, they took her by the physical therapy room and she went up and down stairs.  With her new hip.

Phenomenal.  She leaves tomorrow to go home.  Had she had the other approach she’d be facing 2 weeks in a rehab hospital and months of rehab afterward.

Well, maybe not her, but you get the picture.  She’s a trooper, but her experience isn’t at all uncommon with this approach.  Hip surgery was a huge and painful ordeal that took you out of circulation for a while.  With the anterior approach, it doesn’t have to be anymore.  I don’t know if you or a loved one may have that in their future but if so, insist on finding a doctor that uses the anterior approach.

It is well worth the search.

~McQ


The obvious question

I find something really interesting. In my previous post on creating the 2 Quickscript fonts, no one asked what I’d think was an obvious question, which is, "Wait. You made fonts? How the hell do you make a font?"

I find it fascinating that, especially today, when we have daily access to electronic typography, there’s so little interest in what fonts are, or how to make make them. Especially when literally anyone with a computer can make their own fonts. There’s even a free, online bitmap font creation program called Fonstruct. We spend our lives surrounded by typography and almost no one cares about it at all.

Which brings me to a trilogy of fantastic documentaries about design by a film-maker named Gary Hustwit: Helvetica, Objectified, and Urbanized. All three of them are enormously interesting, and one of them is about a font, Helvetica, which every single person in the Western world sees every single day of their lives. You should watch all three of them.

Also you should go read my latest auto review at Medium: Doctor Hoon: 2013 Mini John Cooper Works GP. And you should "recommend" it after reading, to make my Medium stats shoot up really high.

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Dale Franks
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I made some Quickscript fonts. Yay!

One of my personal little personality quirks is a deep sense of privacy, bordering on misanthropy*. I mean, I’m civil enough, I suppose, but deep down, I don’t really trust people very much, and I don’t what them to know much about what I’m thinking or doing. For instance, because I have to attend meetings and take lots of notes, I don’t want people to see what I’m writing. But, I also don’t want to be the wierdo whose obviously guarding his notes from the prying eyes of the other meeting attendees.

So, I taught myself the Cyrillic alphabet, and for years I was able to take all my meeting notes in it. Sadly, last year, our team was joined by a perfectly nice Polish woman who is highly educated and speaks several languages, one of which is Russian. So, she can read everything I write in Cyrillic.

I thought about learning something like Teeline shorthand, which no one anywhere in the world uses but British journalists, who were taught it in journalism school. But shorthand is hard to learn, and I am lazy. Oh, and you have to transcribe it into English pretty quickly or you’ll forget what it actually says. Which seems like a lot of work that I wouldn’t want to do being, as I said, lazy.

Then I learned about Quickscript.  Quickscript, also called the Read Alphabet, was invented several decades ago by a Brit named Kingsley Read. He was really into English-language spelling and writing reform. Over the course of several years, he created the Quickscript phonetic alphabet which uses 40 letters that correspond to the 40 phonemes of spoken English. You can learn all about it here, because I am, if you’ll remember, too lazy to take the time to explain it in any more detail. Anyway, I learned it, and now I use it all the time, and no one has clue what I’m writing about them at meetings.

But, because I also like to play around with techy things, I’ve also created two OpenType fonts for Quickscript. Quickscript Regular is a sans-serif font that more or less is a tidier version of the handwritten alphabet they have at the Wikipedia page I linked above. But I thought there should be a classier, formal version of it, so I deconstructed the universal screen font known as Georgia, and made a type ready book font called Quickscript Georgian. I’ve uploaded them to QandO in a zip file here.

Some Quickscript letters are very similar, like the letters for "f" and "b", but they are placed differently on the baseline, like the English letters w and y. Also, English phonemes like "TH" or "OW" that are represented by two letters in English are represented by a single letter in Quickscript. And there’s a different letter for the "TH" in "thick" and the "TH" in "that", or the "OO" sound in "book" and "boot". So, most of the time, you write significantly less text in Quickscript than you do in English, a boon for the lazy.

Here are some English/Quickscript samples of words that have a letter-to-letter correspondence with English. Note the b and f letter placements in Quickscript:

quickscriptsample2

Here’s a longer piece of text, showing a phrase in English, Quickscript Regular and Quickscript Georgian. After that are the keys I had to type to write in the Quickscript fonts.

quickscriptsample

The "As Typed" bit is weird, I know. Because Quickscript uses 40 letters instead of 26, and some English letters like c and q aren’t used at all, the keyboard mapping is a bit odd. The numbers and punctuation and everything are the same, except for the Tilde (~), which I have replaced with the little dot that signifies proper nouns in Quickscript, in lieu of capital letters, of which, Quickscript has none.

Also, notice what I did with the word "the" in the sample above? We pronounce it two different ways, "thuh" and "thee", and we do it in the same sentence. SO, the same word can be spelled two different ways in Quickscript, because it’s phonetic, and pronunciation, not spelling, rules. Unlike English, when you try to "sound it out" in Quickscript, the way grammar school teachers used to tell us, you really do sound it out.

Here is the keyboard mapping, which is the same for both fonts:

QuickscriptMapping

Basically, I’ve used the lower case for all the regular letters, and capitals for the odd phonemes or long vowel sounds. I’ve tried to make the mappings as logical as possible. For instance, the two TH phonemes are mapped to the T and t keys, SH is mapped to S, and so on. Though, admittedly, I just couldn’t figure out what to do with the OO as in "book".

There are actually Quickscript users other than me, so I thought I’d contribute the fonts to the Quickscript community by making them publicly available here.

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* "Bordering on"? Who am I kidding? I’ve invaded misanthropy, sacked the capitol, and set myself up as President For Life.

~
Dale Franks
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