Sharon Villines

About Design, Websites, Resources, Typography, Writing, and Other Odds & Ends

Category: Pass the Olives: A personal blog

Pass the Olives includes memoirish entries and a few other things. If you don’t like olives, you probably won’t want to read these.

These are more personal, biographical entries with a few other things mixed in. Posts I felt like writing and had no place else to put. I’m in the process of moving these to Pass the Olives.

Rachel Andrew

Rachel Andrew

Start Small and Listen is web developer, speaker, and writer Rachel Andrew‘s advice in Smashing Magazine. No matter how many articles I have read on business, I find one more that protects me from another bad idea. This one is on building successful products. She means moneymaking products, and that I haven’t mastered but I still want people to read what I write. A nice article.

Building a Successful Product: Start Small and Listen

John Radoff

John Radoff

“The goal of a startup is to find the sweet-spot where minimum product and viable product meet — get people to fall in love with you. Over time, you listen to your customers, make improvements and raise the bar on what viable means — making it more expensive for competitors to jump in.”

– John Radoff, Entrepreneur, author, and game designer

If You Don’t Have a Million Dollars

Paul Hawkin

Paul Hawkin

Environmentalist, entrepreneur, journalist, and author, Paul Hawkin author of Growing a Business has similar advice: “If  you don’t have a million dollars, you can lose a million dollars.”


Cake Normalizes Things: The Death Cafe Movement

Photo of Death Cafe meeting in a cafe.

Well, not blood sugar but it does help with death. In 2011 John Underwood, a web designer in London, held an informal meeting in his basement to discuss death. His idea was in the European tradition of informal discussion of ideas and based on that of Swiss sociologist, Bernard Crettaz, who organized “café mortels” to encourage more open discussions of death. Underwood says, “There’s a growing recognition that the way we’ve […]

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Bank Street Bookstore for Children’s Books

Logo for Bank Street Bookstore

The Bank Street Bookstore for Children’s Books at the Bank Street College of Education has an extensive collection of hand-selected quality books and games for sale. When you are looking for research material, just want to read a good book, or need a gift for a child or an adult, this is the place. Many cities do not have independent children’s bookstores and the selections at other bookstores or large […]

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Is Technology Replacing Human Interaction?

Group of Teenagers Texting

What this photo doesn’t show is that many of these kids would probably be sitting there looking bored and not relating to each other at all. Rather than asking “Is technology replacing human interaction” I would ask what it reveals about being human. For me it makes human interaction more probable and more intimate. What Makes Us Human? I think what makes us human is what happens inside each of […]

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Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling

I found Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling today on Aerogramme Writer’s Studio, a blog on books and writing by who knows who because the About page is broken. it must be by a writer (or writers) because the 404 page says “Whoa…You broke the Internet!” These rules were originally tweeted by Emma Coats, then a story artist at Pixar. (She tweets a lot.) 1. You admire a character for trying more […]

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Cohousing Challenges: Communes and Survivalists

Vier of site under consideration for Utah Valley Commons Cohousing

The ongoing challenge of cohousing is convincing town planning boards and neighborhood associations that a cohousing community is not a commune. It is more a cooperatively managed condominium than naked dancers in the woods living on rice and fruit. But in Utah the challenge is even greater. The disclaimer on the Utah Valley Commons Cohousing home page is: We are not survivalists. The full statement is: The Utah Valley Commons has no political or […]

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Spam Watch: Average Spam Messages Per Day

If you are a writer who is out there on the web, you are a target for spam. Even if you are not out there, you are a target for spam. But as a writer who also communicates frequently by email, shops online, and posts in dozens of places, I’m out there. And spam is the result. You need SpamSieve. In spite of my best efforts, I receive hundreds and […]

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Building Codes & Tiny Houses

Book Cover: Cracking the Code

Building codes in towns and suburbs are a major obstacle for people interested in forming cohousing communities and ecovillages composed entirely or partially of tiny houses. Ryan Mitchell who writes the Tiny Life blog and builds tiny houses has now published a book of tips on how to address code issues called Cracking the Code. This guide is designed to help you navigate all the red tape when it comes […]

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Animated History of Typography

Photo of Ben Barrett-Forest

This animated history of typography as succinct and clear as possible. Also an animation wonder in that it doesn’t use computer graphics, just simple paper cutouts and a camera. And time. It took: 291 Paper Letters. 2,454 Photographs. 140 hours of work. Five minutes. Well-worth the time. If you know little about letters or what a serif is, you will have a more appreciation of all things in print. If you know the history, […]

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Website Design Research: What Works and What Doesn't

Nielsen Norman Logo

Jakob Nielsen, of the Nielsen Norman Group, has been conducting website design research since 1995, essentially since there were websites. He is the world expert on what works and what doesn’t. Instead of marketing, he focuses on the user experience. Ultimately that helps market information, services, and products, but his focus is not on how to trick the reader into believing you are saying something when you are saying nothing, […]

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WordCount: How Many Times Is a Word Used?

Image of WordCount Website

Another fabulous gem from the UK. WordCount is a ranking of the 86,800 most used words in the English language by frequency of use. Presented in the same format as a timeline—a beautiful timeline. Very minimalist and elegant. The design itself is worth the effort. From the site: WordCount data currently comes from the British National Corpus (BNC), a 100 million word collection of samples of written and spoken language from a […]

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United Kingdom’s Public Catalogue Foundation Paintings Online

Cover of the National Trust Handbook 2013

An incredible resource and just great fun is the United Kingdom’s Public Catalogue Foundation Paintings online at the BBC website. It’s the first digital archive of a whole country’s holdings—in this case a kingdom. The collections are held by museums, universities, hospitals, town halls, local libraries, and even a lighthouse. It would take years to see all of them in their varied locations. it would take months just to find out when […]

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Effective Viewing Distance for Sculpture

A Chart of the effective viewing distances of sculpture of various hieghts.

During a discussion about placing a sculpture in the small park at Fourth Street NW and Blair Road, referred to as the triangle park, I was sent this diagram of the effective viewing distance for sculpture in relation to its size. It may be from Jan Gehl’s paper “Close Encounters with Buildings.” Apologies if posting it violates any copyrights. Our decision is approaching and this information might be helpful. A […]

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Australian Typewriter Museum

Typewriter Museum Banner

Typewriters are so personal to many writers that they still write on them, even when they have to hire someone to retype their manuscripts before submitting them to a publisher. This site is for those who remember and love typewriters. It includes many photographs of writers using typewriters in the    locations in which they wrote, whether in their study’s or a grass hut out in the field. One of […]

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Discussing Race in Washington, DC

In two generations, the cultural changes in relation to perceptions of race have seen have been enormous. I believe that it is too easy to dismiss them. To carry forward the culture of oppression even when we could let it go. Accept the past as a reality, and even the present as a reality, and focus on that which is culturally rich and nurturing.

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Book Design

Joel's Signature

The Book Designer is another wonderful resource available on the web, free to everyone. I was referred to it by Jackie Urbanovic when I asked about alternatives to Adobe’s InDesign. The new edition is only available via the “Cloud” and is very expensive for those of us who do not use it everyday. Something like $50 a month. Her short answer on InDesign was “no,”but she referred me to The […]

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The Day After My Birthday

Cartoon-Style Drawing of an Angel

Today is the day after my birthday. I turned 70. I had planned to start daily entries partly because I had an artist friend who wrote a book on her 70th birthday and published it in the days when no one did that. No blogs or on-demand printing in the 1980s. I had been planning my big start for days. I missed it because I was on learning how […]

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Domino Toppling

Gretchen's Domino Forest. September 2012.

Domino toppling is a wonderful community and team building exercise. I’ve collected 2,000+ dominos — a small collection by any serious standards—a box of foam blocks, a box of small wooden blocks, realistic animal figures, Disney characters, and finger puppets to build scenes. It helps to have a common house so we can build on the tables. This works very well for all ages, particularly mine. It also helps keep […]

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Diversity of Another Sort

World Bank Meeting 2012

One of the aims of developing cohousing communities is diversity — in age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, household composition, sexual orientation, etc. You name it, we want it. Recruitment focuses getting more but groups feel they have failed if those who come forward are not different from themselves. Both forming and built communities are proud to say, “We have 2 of these and 1 of those and 3 more of […]

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Optimum Line Length

In addition to letter spacing and line height, optimum line length, the number of characters per line, affects readability and user experience. A long line of text produces fatigue and a short line of text can be distracting. Seventy-five characters per line, including spaces, is usually the maximum for a block of text with 50-60 being the optimum range. Unless a line is short for effect, such as emphasizing relationships […]

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Golden Ratio Typography Calculator

The Golden Ratio Typography Calculator addresses one of the most difficult aspects of designing a text: to layout type in such a way that it is most readable and attractive. Most typographers and graphic designers have had years of visual experience that allows them to choose the most attractive and readable font sizes, widths, and line lengths intuitively. Even with comparable experience, however, doing this on the web can be […]

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Against Signs

This is a rant against signs. If you like signs, beware. The origin and purpose of most signs: someone is irked so they post a sign to irk someone else. Give an irked person a wall, or any surface actually, and they will slap up a sign with sticky tape or nails, usually big, and irk everyone else. But the only people who read signs are those for whom they […]

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Steve Jobs Has Died

I turned on CNN expecting back to back coverage of Steve Jobs but there was nothing. I was shocked. That’s how much a part of my life he has been since 1982 when I purchased an Apple IIe. In 1997, it was still working. Though I had moved on to a Macintosh, one of my students who knew how to find adapters for new printers used it daily. In 1997 […]

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Lot Development or Build All at Once?

What are the benefits and detractors for the standard cohousing model where you plan everything out then build it all then move in vs an alternative model of only selling lots to members and then people build their own houses? Developing a community lot by lot isn’t the standard so much as the only way some communities could get started, both because of funding and because of the real estate […]

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Food & Diabetes Type 2

Front Cover of Blood Sugar 101 by Jenny Ruhl

I’ve given the following information to dozens of people carefully typing it out each time. It finally occurred to me that I could post it here and both share it more widely and save myself some typing. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, baker, or Indian chief so take it for what it is worth to you. I have been diagnosed and undiagnosed with diabetes for over 20 years in several […]

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Nonsexist Language More Often Lives On, Kate Swift Dies

Handbook of Nonsexist Writing

Kate Swift died 7 May 2011. As the alphabetically second author of the first popular guide to nonsexist language, she and her partner changed the world of writing. No more could the male pronoun be universal or taken for granted or justified. In 1970, she and Casey Miller formed a partnership as editing consultants and were asked to edit a sex education textbook for junior high school students. The author […]

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My Life in a Harem

Book Cover, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem

Just when you thought you knew everything, I’ve come up with my life in a harem. No, it’s another book. The title, Some Girls, is not as interesting as the subtitle, My Life in a Harem. If all I had seen was the title, I wouldn’t have picked it up and you wouldn’t be reading this either. Some Girls: My Life in a Harem is Jillian Lauren’s autobiographical story about her […]

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