When I was in college at the U of I, there was a great club in Champaign called Mabels. It’s long gone now, but it was one of the best venues I’ve ever been too. I saw some awesome shows there too.

I started a playlist on Spotify listing some of the bands I saw there between 1988 – 1992.

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DFA Prototyping Workshop 2013 Summer Session

Ideation Space
Ideation Space

I led another prototyping workshop for this Summer’s Design for America teams. As usual, the teams were full of energy and great ideas. This session’s teams were taking on the following issues:

  • Improving literacy among younger children
  • Helping people with dementia stay engaged and attentive
  • Helping young homeless people keep from losing important personal items like their ID, Social Security cards, etc.

I was there to help the teams move from brainstorming to expressing their ideas in more tangible forms. I wanted them to come away from the afternoon with an understanding that “prototyping” is more than just making things, but a whole new way of communicating.

Each team had very different visions amongst their members as to how they could address their constituency’s problems. By the end of the afternoon all the teams had something visceral they can now take to people and validate.

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Recouping lost hours


I think I may have found a way to get 2-3 weeks of my life back since I started using Yeoman to set up projects. Of all the things it does, probably the most useful is auto refresh the web browser. All the other stuff is just icing on the cake.

Some time back, I built my own bash script that built out a decent project layout and fired off some useful templates. It gets to be a royal pain to maintain. While it’s good practice to think ahead like that, I think it’s better to use stand on the shoulders of those who’ve been there before you.

If you’re not already, start using project builders like Yeoman. There’s something nice about digging right into code and design without losing all your gumption in the metawork of getting set up.


Jobs the movie

Last night we checked out the movie “Jobs.” I wanted to see it despite starring Ashton Kutcher. I don’t know if they got the stories right or wrong, but it did have some decent casting.  Ashton Kutcher got the look right, even down to the funny walk Steve Jobs had. Overall, it’s an okay movie, but feels disjointed. The Walter Isaacson book was definitely better, and more comprehensive.

The only person that didn’t look like their real life counterpart was Gil Amelio. Robert Blake would be the best choice, only he’s too old now.

Saturday ride

Got out this morning for a short ride with my buddy Nick. He had to be somewhere, so we kept to two hours. I’m still clinging to my lead on the 1.1 mile stretch near 53. Today, I missed beating it by 3 seconds. I wish I knew, I think I could have pulled it off.

Old ticket stubs

Found some old ticket stubs from college. We had some great shows come through Champaign.

Before they went all adult contemporary

I think this may have been the first time I ever went to Mabel’s. I had to borrow someone’s ID to get in. This was back before they were all adult contemporary.

Look at the price on that ticket, and no service charge!

Look at the price on that ticket. Today, that’s just the service charge! This was before green dreadlocks and nipple rings were mainstream.

Bob Mould Ticket Stub

I found out it was going to be an acoustic set after I bought the ticket. I was so bummed at first. It ended up being one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. My buddy Rob and I leaned against the edge of the stage the whole night. Vic Chestnutt opened for him. I’ll leave it at that.

Future home of SRAM and Google Chicago

1K Fulton is the new name for an old building in the meat packing district of Chicago. Well, they still do plenty of meat packing in the area, but over the last few years, the area has become a hot spot for other businesses. Until recently the building was a massive cold storage building, but now it’s going to be home to Google’s local offices and the headquarters for SRAM the bicycle parts company.

Before, During, and After

Google will definitely be a welcome addition to the neighborhood, but the cooler tenant is SRAM. I can’t confirm where now, but I read they are going to have a velodrome in their office. That will be really cool.

They didn’t tear down the original building. Instead they dismantled it. In the process they uncovered some really cool ice formations. For more than 90 years the building was used as a cold storage building and the build up of ice formed stalagmites and stalactites.

Bike Share Chicago

The other day, I tried out Chicago’s new bike share program called Divvy Bikes. Let me start by saying you need to be really comfortable riding a bike and riding in a densely populated area before you rent one of these bikes. I’m not sure if that’s clear for some people. I have ridden plenty in the city, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect.

The bikes themselves are really durable. They must weigh a good 40 lbs or more. They’re definitely built for wear and tear, not speed. They have three speeds. Well, really two useless ones, and a third gear that you’ll pretty much leave it. Since Chicago is relatively flat, you’d only need to switch down to get going quickly.

I was really pleased with the front basket design. It’s just right for laptop bags because it’s open on the sides and has a really strong bungie cord to hold it securely in place.

You can rent the bikes without a subscription. That’s something I didn’t know and was one reason I hadn’t tried it sooner. The price is right. It’s $7 for 24 hours, but you can only have the bikes for 30 minutes at a time. There are a lot of bike stations, but if they’re full, you have to go somewhere else to lock it up. I really thought a shortage of bikes would be the problem, not a shortage of places to drop them off.

A rider's POV from the seat of a DIVVY bike.
A rider’s POV from the seat of a DIVVY bike.

In my opinion, it’s better than a cab for speed and price. But it’s definitely not for everyone. I would not recommend tourists using them. Chicago may claim to be a bike-friendly town with it’s dedicated lanes, but Chicagoans in cars are not.

Overall, a great experience. The bike stations are where you need them. You can pretty much use it spur of the moment. The bikes themselves are a quality ride.

Summer has blown by

This has got to be one of the shortest, or fastest summers I can recall in a long time. Some of it has to do with it’s late start. Spring here wasn’t worth mentioning. What I think makes time fly more is having kids. Because school starts technically before during the Summer, it seems to end sooner for us.

Summer is also the reason I haven’t been making too many posts. I tend to be busier this time of year, and any extra time I have is spent being outside and not inside writing.

20 Year Reunion of the Newton Team

Earlier this month I attended the 20th Anniversary for the Newton – Apple’s most notorious product. It was pretty cool to see so many people after such a long time. For the first time in a long time, I was the youngest guy at a tech gathering.

Even though the Newton was a commercial flop, the project itself was pretty amazing. It was my first job out of college, and I had no idea what I was getting into. I wasn’t really up on Silicon Valley, or Apple history for that matter. But here I was, a week out of school and surrounded by some of the brightest people around. Folks may joke about the Newton, but back when I started in 1992, it was the hottest thing going on in Silicon Valley.

I had a long chat with John Sculley and his wife. I asked what he was thinking about the upcoming “Jobs” movie. He was actually pretty cool about it, even joked that he’s looking forward to be cast as the villain.

There were a couple guys there with actual functioning Newtons. They were gratuitously beaming information back and forth. I have a three generations of devices myself, none of which still work.

Even though the group was pretty small when I started, maybe 50-60 people, I was surprised how many people still remembered me. To them I was the kid who pestered them to do usability studies and submit handwriting samples.

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