Summer break = Senior project

Last night I began my senior capstone project: a style sheet for For those not in the know, a style sheet is an editing tool used to create consistency in style, punctuation, abbreviations, units of measurement, and formatting.

I already have a rough plan in my head which would be better if I placed it in digital form, and this seems a good place to do so.

  1. Make an alphabet grid for unique words
  2. Add sections for capitalization, dates, numbers, etc.
  3. Determine which style Style Guide I’m using
  4. Determine which dictionary I’m using
  5. Define text layout
  6. Define font styles (this should be in the CSS already)
  7. Define visual layout principles

Once all those items are sorted out, I can begin reviewing the blog and filling in the style sheet. To complete the project, I’ll write up a short paper in which I explain my editing choices for organization, format (both text and overall), and the chosen terms in my grid.

Piece of cake, right?

The Visual Rhetoric of Frozen Pizza


In a business as competitive as the packaged food industry, a fair amount of money must be put into attracting, or persuading customers to purchase your brand. While there are several means of doing this, there is none so persistent as having well designed labels. So while there is certainly a genre style to frozen pizza boxes, I aim to compare and analyze how various companies differently use color, images, and typography to attract customers. I will refer to chromatic rhetoric research by Caivano and Lopez (2010), and Aristotle’s appeals to make my argument about color. I will also touch on Brumberger’s (2003) research to justify my positions about specific typeface choices.

Decisions, decisions…

Aristotelian Appeals

When studying rhetoric, one of the first analytical tools you are given is the Aristotelian appeals triangle. Each corner is a point upon which to hang arguments. And while Aristotle’s triangle is an incredibly old tool, it still proves useful when talking about the means of approaching audiences.

Aristotle’s appeals

The appeals of ethos, logos, and pathos roughly equate to credibility/authority, logical reasoning, and emotional ‘reasoning’.


Explaining ethos in Aristotelian rhetoric is tricky, because it’s not necessarily actual credibility that matters, but rather the appearance of credibility. I posit that the designers of frozen pizza boxes tend to make appeals on the appearance of credibility. Mainly this appearance of credibility takes the form of co-opting various Italian imagery to make brands seem authentic.


In their research into color as a rhetorical tool, Caivano and Lopez argue that cultures associate colors (and by extension groups of colors) to all kinds of things, up to and including nationalities. Just as red, white, and blue is closely related to the United States identity; green, white, and red are likewise related to Italy’s identity. So, in an effort to gain credibility (ethos), pizza box designers have left us with a color palette of green, white, and red in the grocer’s frozen food aisle. What’s interesting to recognize is that beyond using this color scheme, each individual color carries with it additional enthymematic meanings, so designers can “double-dip” meanings. That is, they can gain the association to Italy, and also have other chromatic enthymematic associations:
For example, green commonly carries with it a relation to freshness or nature. We can see the designers of the Newman’s Own label utilizing green to highlight their inclusion of natural ingredients, while also allowing the green pepper in the photos to stand out even more brightly.

Newman’s Own Pizza, a demonstration in pushing the “All Natural” angle

From an Aristotelian standpoint, one could argue this choice falls somewhere between logos and pathos. To illustrate this, I’ll apply deductive reasoning, also known as Aristotle’s enthymeme. Deductive reasoning follows this formula as described by Caivano and Lopez:

  • Rule: all X are P (this rule is omitted)
  • Case: A is X
  • Result: A is P

So for the example of green used in the Newman’s Own box:

  • Rule: fresh vegetables, nature = green (omitted)
  • Case: There is an abundance of green on this box.
  • Result: This box contains fresh, natural ingredients.

This approach should be effective if the audience Newman’s Own has targeted cares about premium ingredients. (Given the amount of visual and textual cues, this seems to be the case.)

Culturally, white carries several meanings. Caivano and Lopez suggest an association between white and purity, cleanliness, or neutrality. However, in relation to pizza, it conjures up images of gooey melted mozzarella.

Gino's East pizza box

Stringy melted cheese, and also note the use of white text on a red background.

And unsurprisingly when white is seen on frozen pizza boxes, it is usually depicting cheese or functioning as a text color. The choice of white as text makes a lot of visual design sense, as white on red offers good contrast and is therefore highly visible and recognizable from a distance.

White text on red background. High contrast for increased clarity and recognition.

As we shift our focus from whites to red, we can see red is the most commonly used color in the entire aisle. Beyond the connection to Italy’s flag, red carries with it other enthymematic meaning. On a subconscious level, red is an alarming color due to its association with blood. Therefore, a box that is predominantly red catches the eye. For the context of pizza however, red is also the color of ripe tomatoes.

  • Rule: delicious tomato sauce is red (omitted)
  • Case: This pizza box has lots of red
  • Result: This pizza has delicious tomato sauce

Additionally, across cultures, people associate red with heat.

  • Rule: hot things are red (omitted)
  • Case: This pizza box has lots of red
  • Result: Hot pizza awaits

I argue that a hot pizza is more appealing than a cold one, I think the pizza box designers are aware of all these associations, and therefore recognize the powerful rhetoric red provides.

grocery store frozen food section

So much red in the pizza aisle.

Another way pizza box designers attempt to prove authenticity and gain credibility is by co-opting things that seems “Italian”, let’s take for example the the stereotypical Italian chef that appears on several pizza brands.

Italian chef images

Rotund, mustached, and cheery. The Italian chef welcomes shoppers to purchase his wares.

He (and it’s always a he) appears a little round (never trust a skinny chef), wears a neckerchief, and sports a large mustache. This seems to be a mixture of both an ethos and pathos appeal. By using a chef that looks like that, the ethos appeal is fairly clear.

  • Rule: Italian chefs would make an authentic pizza (omitted)
  • Case: This pizza box depicts an italian chef
  • Result: The pizza is authentic

However, I suggested there is a pathos claim as well. I believe the enthymeme would look like this:

  • Rule: Italian chefs are would craft a pizza with care (omitted)
  • Case: This pizza box depicts an italian chef
  • Result: The pizza is was made with care


Eva Brumberger’s(2003) research about typography illustrated that people recognize various typefaces as having personalities. That is, the choice of typeface influences the “voice” in which text is read, and that readers identify whether or not a typeface is appropriate for the message delivered. Examples of inappropriate typeface uses include: using Comic Sans for scholarly work, or using Impact typeface for a wedding invitation. Readers recognize these mismatches, so picking the proper voice is important in delivering a message.

I believe that pizza branding shows clear examples of typeface selection designed to match audience expectations. First, Brumberger suggests that “direct” fonts are considered more serious. In her research this included Arial and Times New Roman as “direct” sanserif and serif typefaces, respectively. Typefaces that are more stylized, such as Bauhaus and CounselorScript we categorized as “friendly” and “elegant”.

Fist, let’s examine some “direct” serious typefaces. The choice of the bold serif typeface used on the DiGiorno box shown above is an attempt at establishing the brand as serious, or adult. Similarly, other brands that want to be seen as higher quality, top-shelf pizzas make use of similar typefaces.

However, the frozen pizza market is not just for adults, and as such “friendlier” typfaces are used on those brands. Most notably Totino’s and Tony’s brand pizzas have styles that are considered “script” typefaces. Typefaces that are less serious, and therefore are attempting to reach less serious consumers.

Indeed, both Tony’s and Totino’s are on the lower end of the cost scale as far as pizzas go, and they both tend to appeal to a younger demographic. DiGiorno’s, Bellatoria, and Freschetta are more costly and seem to appeal to an audience with more refined tastes. Thus the typefaces used for those brands follows the expectations one would have following Brumberger’s research.

Closing thoughts

Considerable time, effort, and expense is put into marketing for nearly all products. Convincing a consumer to purchase your product is a goal, but getting the right customer to purchase your product is an even better one. By using visual cues, the designers of frozen pizza boxes can dial in on the audience they want to hook. Designers attempt to persuade their chosen audience via the appearance of credibility with the clever use of color, selecting iconic imagery, and choosing proper typeface.

(my apologies to Gorgias)

By this discourse, I have tried to explain the reasoning behind the look of frozen pizza boxes. I have shown that color, imagery, and even typeface play a role in persuasion. I wanted to write this post; the visual rhetoric of frozen pizzas, and my plaything.


Brumberger, E. R. (2003). The rhetoric of typography: The awareness and impact of typeface appropriateness. Technical Communication(50)2. 224-231

Caivano, J. L., and Lopez, M. A. (2010). How Colour Rhetoric is Used to Persuade: Chromatic Argumentation in Visual Statements. Colour: Design & Creativity (5)11. 1-11

One down, two to go

By this time next week I will have finished my first semester as a technical writing major. I have but two more semesters in this long college run, and I’ll be happy to be done. I have to admit I made a mistake by not taking Dr. Heinsohn’s advice years ago, when she boggled at me when I told her I was a Comp Sci major, and she said I belonged in the liberal arts. I finally feel like I’m at home with this major. After years of trying to make myself love programming and heavy mathematics I have landed where I’ve always belonged.

Gopher is as gopher does

Super short post today: As of yesterday, I am a student at the University of Minnesota.

While I’m super excited at the possibilities presented here, I must admit it’s a bit overwhelming. I spent so long at my previous school, and was probably too comfortable there.

I hope to have enough time between courses to post about them, but if previous experience holds true, I’ll be too damned busy…

Digital Logic Design Project

The end of the semester is closing in, and the final projects have been assigned.

Here’s the one I drew:

Design a sequential circuit which adds six to a binary number in the range 0000 through 1001. The input and output should be serial with the least significant bit first. Find a state table with a minimum number of states. Design the circuit using NAND gates, NOR gates, and three D flip-flops. Any solution which is minimal for your state assignment and uses 10 or fewer gates and inverters is acceptable. (Assign 000 to the reset state.)

Test Procedure: First, check out your state table by starting in each state and making sure that the present output and next state are correct for each input. Then, starting in the reset state, determine the output sequence for each of the ten possible input sequences and make a table.

At first glance, it doesn’t sounds too complicated. Though, as with the first design project, I’m sure there are a ton of ways to get it working and minimize gate counts.

First order of business: Make a Truth Table!
I have omitted the “Don’t Cares” from this table, since my input range is restricted to inputs 0-9.


Next, we need a State Diagram. We’ve spent very little time on these, so admittedly, I expect this part to be a bit more messy.

NZ Trip Part 1

Last spring I received an email of the type that I normally delete:

“Congratulations! You have been selected to attend the 2015 International Scholar Laureate Program (ISLP). As a member of Phi Theta Kappa, you have been chosen for this honor based on your exemplary academic performance and your declared major upon joining Phi Theta Kappa.

blah blah blah…

During ISLP, you will join the world’s best and brightest college students on a journey of discovery to one of the most exciting destinations in the world. You will engage in career-focused study detailing the history and global impact of careers — all while broadening your horizons in a foreign culture. Throughout your time at ISLP, you will also have ample opportunity to uncover your destination’s cultural treasures, explore its modern-day wonders and soak up everything your host country has to offer.

More blah blah blah….”

And then, on the side of the page, I see the words “Engineering and Technology: New Zealand”

Once I saw those words, I knew I was going. It was going to be expensive, basically consuming what little I’d still had saved from my time at the firm. The choice however, was obvious. I’d been thinking for the last 15 years about moving there. I had friends (Shaun, Vanda, and Rob) I used to play EverQuest with years ago who lived in Auckland. Not to mention I’d hopefully enjoy the experience of whatever the heck this ISLP was going to be.

So I paid the tuition, and messaged my friends who then graciously offered put me up in Auckland for 4 days before joining the delegation!

My flight plans were to leave Minneapolis, have an hour or so layover in San Francisco, and off to Auckland on an overnight flight. Unfortunately, the flight out of Minneapolis was delayed about 90 minutes. This meant I may or may not make my connection. Despite being seated in the second to last row of the plane and then having to sprint through SFO’s international terminal (hearing “Final call for passenger Marcus Baker” on the overhead) I made the flight… My bags did not. I would have been more upset about it, had I not landed in a place that looked like this:


Yeah. On the way back to their home, Vanda asked if I’d like to climb up a dormant volcano. I hope she’ll correct me if this is wrong, but I believe we ended up on top of Mount Wellington Domain. Quite a way to “start” the day in a new country: Jet lagged, on 3 hours “sleep”, on top of a volcano.

The next few days were wonderful. My clock was pretty far off and I woke up before dawn the first full morning there. I figured; “Why not take in the sunrise?” and found the closest park that looked good. A couple kilometers away, and I found myself here:

Taurarua, or Judge's Bay

Taurarua, or Judge’s Bay

Later in the afternoon, we took a trip to Muriwai Beach so I could see the Tasman Sea in action.

Yar... these seas be rough, matey...

Yar… these seas be rough, matey…

Spent some time at the New Zealand Maritime Museum where I got to see heaps of nautical goodness.













Rob and Shaun took me on a ferry ride to Devonport, where we had a fantastic brunch and explored North Head. North Head was Auckland’s line of defense from the late 1800’s through the 1950’s. It’s riddled with tunnels and bunkers to explore so of course I had a blast there.



Practicing out bird whispering skills

Practicing our bird whispering skills

From the top of North Head

From the top of North Head [Click for fullsize awesomeness]

Rob and I visited the very cool Auckland War Memorial Museum where Shaun is a curator of things photographic.

I’m sure there’s things I’m forgetting, as those days went by in such a flash. Needless to say I had a fantastic time there, and I’m forever grateful to my hosts for their hospitality and kindness during my stay. Thank you again, Rob, Vanda, Shaun.

It was now time to head to Christchurch to begin my adventures with International Scholar Laureate Program.

Part 2 ISLP in the next post!

I am a dumbass

“Don’t get to being in a hurry.
-Jack Baker

I heard my old man’s voice in my head right after I heard the CRUNCHPOP sound as Serenity fell to the floor of my garage. Despite all our disagreements, I think he’s probably right on this piece of advice. Being in a hurry makes one sloppy, and sloppy breeds chances for failures. Today I was in a hurry, and it bit me in the ass.

The story:
It was a beautiful day, and I was very excited to take my boat out for the first sail of the season. I had just finished my rudder:

All bolted together, stained, urethaned, ready to sail!

All bolted together, stained, urethaned, ready to sail!

All that needed to be done was to transfer the boat from the sawhorses to the trailer. Piece of cake! I’ve done this a dozen times now. A perfect day for sailing, a steady 15 knot wind was calling me. I set about hoisting Serenity the same way I’d done it before… (Well, mostly the same, I was trying to save time and get out to the lake!) So instead of harnessing the bow and stern and hoisting, I only did the bow, figuring the sawhorse it was on would hold it fine. This is what we’d call A Very Bad Idea.

Additionally, there was an old fluorescent light fixture that was resting under Serenity, waiting to be recycled in the Citywide Cleanup. I saw the conduit sticking straight up under her like a punji stake, and thought “That looks like it could be a problem.” But it was such a nice day, who has time to move around all the junk in their garage before heading out for a beautiful day of sailing? Not me! This was another Very Bad Idea.

The saw horse did not hold the stern, and the rear of the craft careened to the floor with a sickening POP. I didn’t even want to look, because I knew that sound meant the hull was likely punctured. I looked. It was.

Right about now is when I almost started crying.

Right about now is when I almost started crying.

After some very, very, loud four letter words, I managed to get her onto the trailer and surveyed the damage. Poor girl looked like she’d been shot.



I was definitely not going to be taking advantage of this very nice, perfect sailing day. On top of that, I’d put a hole in a boat I planned to take on an 80 mile cruise down the Mississippi. Many unpleasant feelings were happening all around me.

Once I’d calmed down, I went about figuring out how to fix it. The general idea when patching a hole in a fiberglass boat is you grind out the area, then layer incrementally larger patches of fiberglass, one over the other until it’s back to the original thickness. I could do that! But I’d need a grinder. There was no way in hell I was gonna try to do that with my sander… After a quick trip to Harbor Freight, I’d picked up a grinder with some 36 grit flap pads. I’ve had my eye on a grinder for a while but couldn’t justify it until now, so yay?

I read to triple the size of the hole to figure out how wide an area to grind out. So I did that.

Circle drawn to grind out.

Circle drawn to grind out.

Inside, post grinding.

Inside, post grinding.

Then, to keep fiberglass from sagging after being wet out, I put a temporary backing of a sandwich bag taped in place to the bottom of the hull. Not pretty, but it seems to have worked.


Next, making concentric patches, starting with the smallest, and working up until it matches the ground out area.

The first of many patches.

The first of many patches.

Wetting the fiberglass out with epoxy.

Penny for scale.

Penny for scale.

I need to find a way to measure out epoxy/hardener in MUCH smaller batches since I currently get about 3 oz. per batch, and I really need about 1 oz. batches. Since I made up a HUGE amount, I decided to try out my silica thickener and fill in the hole in Benoit. It’s ugly, and will need a lot of sanding, but it seems to have filled the void on her.

Should have taken a "before" shot...

Should have taken a “before” shot…

And that’s where I left off. One layer of fiberglass in, with probably a half dozen or so to go. The moral of this story? Dad was probably right. Take your time and secure your gear, even if it’s a nice day and you really just want to get out sailing.

New Boat and Trailer Follies

I’ve been neglecting the blog lately due to classes starting back up. That said, the end of my summer was fairly eventful, and there were certainly things I should have been blogging about.

First of which, I have acquired another boat! She’s a Johnson Boat Works 16′ J-Sailer from 1980. Getting her home was quite the adventure, since I didn’t really have a proper trailer, and used my 8′ utility trailer to get her back home. Let’s just say I learned a lot about proper weight distribution while towing, and managed to terrify myself (and probably every driver around me) in the process.

She’ll be awaiting next summer to get wet, as there were a few repairs that I didn’t have time to complete this summer:

  • Tiller dry-rotted, needs to be replaced
  • Leech line broken, needs to be replaced
  • Small hole in transom, needs to be repaired
  • Two small holes in sail, needs to be patched
  • Sail bag has holes in bottom. Repaired

Nothing too extreme, though I’m certainly glad I’ve had a chance to hone some of my repair skills on the PDR. Serenity has been very giving in that regard. Never a shortage of things to learn and try out.

I did eventually pick up a dedicated trailer for this one, and here’s a few photos of the debacle that was me attempting to get it off the sawhorses and onto the trailer.

Trailer length looks better. It won't be sticking 8 feet off the back end now, anyway.

Trailer length looks better. It won’t be sticking 8 feet off the back end now, anyway.

Step 1: Use blocks to raise the bow up enough to slide the trailer underneath.

Step 1: Use blocks to raise the bow up enough to slide the trailer underneath.




Raising the rear and sliding the trailer further under

Raising the rear and sliding the trailer further under

Beauty. She's all set on the trailer.

Beauty. She’s all set on the trailer.

Eww. Bilge water.

Eww. Bilge water.

Draining the cockpit

Draining the cockpit

Lesson: Do not attempt to drain the water out of the craft by tilting it until the bow is secured to the trailer.

Lesson: Do not attempt to drain the water out of the craft by tilting it until the bow is secured to the trailer.

Front roller WAY too high to be useful.

Front roller WAY too high to be useful.

Adjusted to better fit the bow.

Adjusted to better fit the bow.

Bolted a length of chain to the roller post.

Bolted a length of chain to the roller post.

Huge shackle to hold the bow to the trailer.

Huge shackle to hold the bow to the trailer.

All tucked in. More bungee cords needed.

All tucked in. More bungee cords needed.

Exercises in Murphy’s Law

Tomorrow I’m headed a couple hours north to pick up a boat I’ll be adding to my fleet. Before I headed out, I figured I should do some long over due maintenance and fix my rear brakes. They had been making quite a bit of noise and I knew they were in BAD shape. Fortunately, Amazon had a good deal on brake parts last spring, and I purchased all four pads/rotors for the Subaru. (Hooray thinking ahead!)

I’ve never repaired/replaced the rear brakes, however I just did the front ones, and since these are all discs, it didn’t seem too challenging.

As the car was getting jacked up, I noticed the rear left tire was going flat. After pulling it off, it was easy to see the culprit: A shiny stub of metal protruding from the tread. Great. We’ll deal with you later, little nail…

Once the tires were off, it was clear that removing the caliper was going to be a bear. It was rusted all the hell, but I figured a bit of WD-40 along with a breaker bar would get it open.

Not so much.

Yikes. That was a first. Never blown apart a socket before.

So, less than 20 minutes into the repair the score is: One flat tire, and a broken socket. Marc: 0, Murphy: 2. Oh well, nothing a quick trip to the hardware store can’t fix, right? Right. While out shopping, I grabbed a can of liquid wrench as well.

Once I got home, I realized I’d purchased a 1/2″ socket, when it needed to be a 3/8″. Murphy scores again. Back to the store and home again. (The socket I needed was $0.53 less, so I got some change back.) Marc scores and brings the total to 1 to 3, Murphy leads…

To make an already too long story short, I am proposing a new law… Marc’s Law:

“There is no project so small that it will not allow several opportunities for failure.”

As an aside: I highly recommend Eric the Car Guy‘s videos if you’re thinking about doing any repairs on your vehicles. Obviously, a shop manual is your best friend here, but having a laptop in my garage with his YouTube page open has saved me when I’ve hit snags before. Maybe it’ll work for you too.

Why am I dripping with goo?

The temperatures today made it into the 40’s. A very welcome change, indeed.

I was meeting my friend Mindy for lunch a few miles from home, and thought “With temps this warm, I should take the bicycle out of storage and ride there.” So I did exactly that. When I returned home, I noticed my posterior had been getting splashed pretty heavily from riding through all the puddles. (Can’t really avoid them this time of year, lots of snow melting.)

Behold; A great Blue Dragon!

Behold; A great Blue Dragon!

What was required here, are fenders… Or at least fender. Looks like you can purchase these for $20 at the bike shop, but I’m longer on time and spare parts today than I am on cash. (Besides, I need that $20 for Chinese food later.) It should be easy enough to make something to fit under the rack here that would keep the rain off my hindquarters.


Here’s the harebrained plan as it unfolded:

Materials. What to use? Something lightweight, easy to work with, and that I have laying about the house. Plastic seemed the obvious choice. I scoured the storage area for an old gallon ice cream bucket, thinking that would work nicely. No luck. I eventually noticed that I had an abundance of garbage cans. I think I counted eight of them not in use. I picked the one that seemed least likely to be used again, and headed to the garage with it.

A failed attempt of clamping it to my work bench and using a hand saw to cut it up convinced me to use more powerful options. Enter the DeWalt recipro saw.

Yes, I pieced everything back together for this shot.

Yes, I pieced everything back together for this shot.

As it turned out, the sides were nearly perfect to fit the rack.

As it turned out, the sides were nearly perfect to fit the rack.

Wow. First try, and I didn't even measure!

Wow. First try, and I didn’t even measure!

Now to adhere it to the rack. Bolts could have worked, but that would have required digging through bins… The perfect solution: ZIP TIES!

Marking the holes the need to be drilled.

Marking the holes the need to be drilled.

Ready for installation.

Ready for installation.

Beauty. Didn't even need the middle ones.

Beauty. Didn’t even need the middle ones.


So, it looks pretty good, solid and all that. Time for a test! I grabbed a white t-shirt and put it on over my hoodie, donned some gloves, and went for a quick ride. I hit every puddle on my street at a speed of about 15 mph. (6.7 meters per second, for my physics friends.) And here’s the result of that test:

Huh... Wonder what it would have looked like without the fender?!

Huh… Wonder what it would have looked like without the fender?!

It appears I need to extend the fender further back. I had suspected that might be the case, since store bought ones cover 1/3 of the wheel. Back to the drawing board on this one.