Friday, September 26, 2008

Ike'd in Ohio



What was left of Hurricane Ike barreled through Ohio on Sunday, September 14, 2008.

Sunday, 9/14/2008: Day One
I went out in the morning and weed whacked and took care of my lawn. It was windy, but nothing too unusual, that is until about 1ish. That’s when the winds kicked up. These were the scariest winds I’d ever experienced. They gusted to 60 to 70 miles per hour from about 1pm to about 6pm. I brought mom her lunch about 2ish and noticed that my car shook when I was idling at the stoplight and that leaves sounded like pebbles pelting my car. Then I wen to my cousin’s house where I saw a large tree down that blocked their street at one end. As I was leaving, I saw a couple walking and had the woman be a tad slower, she would’ve been killed by a large branch that crashed down on the sidewalk right behind her!

I got home to find my cable was out and as I was chatting with my buddy on the phone about his lack of power, I lost my power just after 4 pm. I figured since the winds were so bad that they wouldn’t start repairs until at least 6 pm when they were supposed to subside. So I took advantage of the time by taking a nap. I thought I would be in luck for dinner since I had a gas stove so I got up from my nap and poured a frozen skillet meal into the skillet and turned the gas onto the stove and remembered that I had electric igniters on my stove. So much for a hot dinner, I ended up having dry Frosted Cheerios.

As the winds pounded my neighborhood, I worried how my new roof (installed in May of this year) would hold up). I think I ran outside every time I heard a crack! sound. Luckily, my roof made it through just fine. The only damage I had was minor. A large loose limb that I needed to trim off my peach tree came down as did a ton of branches. My landline snapped off at the pole. But I don’t have landline service, so that didn’t bother me at all. Well, almost, as I chatted the evening away on my cell phone, my battery was getting quite low. My hope was that I could charge it up at work the next day.


Monday, 9/15/2008: Day Two
So I wasn’t able to set my alarm clock since it had no power. I wasn’t able to set my cell phone because the battery was low and I turned it off for the night. So I got out my old Timex watch and used that to tell the time overnight and somehow I was able to wake up on my own a little before 8 am (my normal work day getting up time). I got dressed for work like normal because as an upscale grocery store, my day job never really shuts down. So I figured it would be business as usual. I went out and picked up all the sticks and collected them into a pile to break down later and did a bit of sweeping up. As I was sweeping, a neighbor passed by and we chatted and she said that she heard that it would take 2-5 days to get everyone’s power back on. I was in disbelief! “Nah, don’t tell me that!” I joked. If only I knew.

I was running a bit late for work now, so I hopped in my car and remembered that my cell phone was off. I turned it on to find a text message from work telling me not to report, no power. So I turned my car around (I was almost at work by this time) and headed to Meijer to pick up a car charger for my cell phone before it completely died on me. The first thing I noticed (other than the fact that 90% of the stoplights I had encountered so far did not work) was that the Meijer sign was gone, another victim of Hurricane Ike. When I arrived at the electronics department, I saw quite a few people milling about and discovered they had all plugged into the power strips to charge their electronics. Very clever, but I didn’t want to hang out at Meijer for 2-3 hours while my cell phone charged. Luckily, they still had a charger for my phone in stock. I bought a newspaper for the first time in years. From first glances, it appeared that the newspaper had lost power too since the paper was smaller and on the front it appeared they consolidated all the local papers into one edition. When I left Meijer, I noticed the line at the nearby McDonald’s was HUGE. I’ve never seen a line like that at that McDonald’s.

I had decided on my way over to Meijer that since work was closed today, I would drive around (while my cell phone charged) and take photos of the damage. So with my trusty camera in hand, I snapped some shots of the missing Meijer sign and the line at the McDonald’s and headed out for more shots.

As I drove around, it appeared that overall the damage was mostly trees, at least in my part of town. I also noticed the most of the stoplights appeared to be out across much of my area. It appeared to be very random, one block the stoplights would be on, the next they would be out. It was kinda eerie/odd driving around. The cloudy day also added a very somber mood. I drove past the Meijer again and saw that the lines for fas were pretty long and I was low on gas. I held out, though and found a gas station with pretty short lines.

I noticed that hot items were ice, flashlights, lanterns, D batteries, and coolers. The shelves at all of our local stores were wiped clean. The other thing I noticed was a distinct lack of utility trucks.

After driving around for awhile, I was getting hungry and my phone was pretty well charged so I headed back home and ate while trying to think of what to do next. Then it hit me...I could see a movie if the theater had power! So I headed over and sure enough, my local movie theater had not lost power! I saw the excellent move, Burn After Reading, which helped to brighten my mood on such an unfun day.



On the way home, I gave up and took the easy way out, I stopped at the still packed McDonald’s and got dinner. Once I got home and the darkness was settling in, I was running out of ideas on what do to. Then it hit me, I had a wooded train kit that I received at the Creative Freelancer’s Conference in August. My friend and speaker and all around awesome logo dude Jeff Fisher had been kind enough to give me the last one at the conference. So I decided now was a great time to put it together!


Tuesday, 9/16/2008: Day Three
Well, work was still without power on Tuesday, but I volunteered to come in and help prep the store for re-opening. That meant throwing way a lot of food that had gone bad as well as helping clear some tree limbs. As I was helping with the trees limbs, a co-worker used his truck to pull off a big limb. We hooked his truck up for limb number 2 and he drive forward and the back of the truck actually left the ground like in cartoons! What I wouldn’t have given to have had my camera handy. I told him to stop because I noticed that he was starting to pull the whole tree down into a power line. Luckily disaster was averted. While at work, I got a call from some friends who invited me to dinner that evening. How could I resist dinner with people who had power? (Literally, they had electricity, what a treat!)

Thanks to a very kind neighbor, she gave me what was left of her large bag of ice and it was such a treat to have a cold drink.

My friends offered me their washer and dryer and at this point I took them up on it since I was beginning to feel as if power might not return. It was great to visit and see my friends as well as to check my e-mail and to have lights after dark. It was also great to spend time with my godson (one of my friends’ three children).

Then I headed home, hopeful that I might have electricity. My hopes faded the closer I got to home as the same exact street lights that had been out on Monday were still out. And then I turned onto my block. Pitch black. I had to use my brights to navigate my own street! I admit, it was a bit depressing to return home.

My house and neighborhood were so very quiet without power. It was kind nice. I continued work on my wooden train. I realized that it must have been something like this for the pioneers. Dark nights in their homes with a bit of light to work by after nightfall and just so very quiet. What a disruption it must have been when the first electric light appeared. And the telephone. That must have scared a lot of people. If you were used to this dark, quiet world after dark, the sound of a telephone ringer in a lit room must have been shocking and awe inspiring at the time.



Wednesday 9/17/2008: Day Four
Work finally had power restored, so I went into the office for a full day. Still no power at home, so I took my cellphone and ipod to charge. It was nice to get back into a part of my normal routine. And it was good to hear from people that had lost power and had it restored, it gave me hope that they were really working on the problem. I was still a bit depressed about the thought of going home. I ended up running some errands and eating out to postpone going home (and to get something done). I was getting pretty frustrated at the lack of power at this point. But I kept working on the little wooden train, it was almost done now and that helped make it all better. I also stared writing down my to-dos for when power would be restored so I could get back up to speed quickly.



Thursday 9/18/2008: Day Five
Another morning without power. I got up and went to a full day at work. I was feeling more confident about power being restored since areas all around my neighborhood were getting power back. I got home and tried the automatic garage door opener. It worked! I had power! I was so thrilled!

Boy, what an experience it was to not have power for so many days. It was frustrating, but at least my house was still there and not flooded out like the folks in Texas. I did find ways to occupy my time. And I discovered that although I didn’t feel connected without power and the internet, I was. I spent a lot of time talking to people: in person or on the phone. I did things outside. Now a power outage of a few hours won’t seem quite as bad ever again.

BTW, a nod here to Coleman. I bought their Compact Flourescent 4D Battery Lantern and it rocks! It went the whole time of my power outage on one set of batteries. The light output was great enough to light up my living room, not exactly daylight, but very nicely from such a little lantern. I highly recommend one! (This was not a paid advertisement, just giving due props to a great product.)

View my complete set of Hurricane Ike in Ohio photos and videos on my Flickr page.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Excuse me while I do a bit of tooting!

I have been getting around the web recently!


My photos and blog review of the 2008 Creative Freelancer Conference was mentioned on the Creative Freelancer’s blog. (hint: look for Nicholas Nawroth)



I contributed a photo of the Creative Freelancer Conference to the HOW Blog about the conference. (For a complete set of my photos from the conference, check out my Flickr page)



I contributed photos of Esquire’s 75th Anniversary “e-ink” cover to the HOW Blog.



About the Creative Freelancer Conference:
If you're a freelance designer, photographer, writer or anyone else in the creative arts trying to make a living at it—or wanting to make a better living at it, with more time to actually enjoy the rest of your life—the Creative Freelancer Conference is for you.
*as quoted from the CFC website.

About HOW magazine:
HOW strives to serve the business, technological and creative needs of graphic-design professionals. The magazine provides a practical mix of essential business information, up-to-date technological tips, the creative whys and hows behind noteworthy projects, and profiles of professionals who are influencing design.
*as quoted from the HOW magazine website.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ike'd

Hello all, as you may have heard, Hurricane Ike barreled through Ohio on Sunday, September 14 and hit us pretty hard. I was without power until today (Thursday). I've got some photos and notes from this experience that I'll post as soon as I can! In the meantime, I'm catching up on things here...stay tuned for more!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Fun!

I've seen this "cow car" driving around town for a couple of years now and I was finally fortunate to park near it one day while I was out running errands. Not my cup of tea, but it is creative and unique, and I'm sure it's quite the conversation starter!



Thursday, September 11, 2008

Awesome Cover for Esquire's 75th Anniversary



I'm sure many of you have seen or heard about Esquire's super-cool "revolutionary" cover for their 75th anniversary issue. If you haven't, they have partnered with E-Ink to develop the world's first electronic ink magazine cover. Limited to 100,000 newstand/bookstore copies, it shows how print might look in just a few years.

As soon as I saw the cover displayed on the Today Show, I absolutely had to own a copy. I found out that they had hit newstands and went out as soon as I could and found a plethora on the shelves at my local Barnes & Noble. They lady at the checkout said that they only got a few the day before and they sold out quickly.

So I took my new prize home and examined it more closely. It is definitely not paper thin yet, but it is close: maybe more like a couple of cardstock weight sheets slapped together. The batteries and guts of the "power supply" are wrapped up. I'm considering buying a second copy to open up all the way to examine it more closely.

As for the display itself. It's not bright like and LCD, it really does have a more "paper" look to it. The letters have good contrast, even in low lighting conditions. I didn't notice any angle that prevented you from seeing the e-ink on the page. While the blinking is nothing fancy, I still am fascinated by the cover. Everytime I walk by it sitting on my coffee table, I stop to check it out.

I for one, am excited about "e-ink" and I'm looking forward to the amazing things that will follow today's leap forward. Check out more of my Esquire cover pics on Flickr.

If you'd like to see a 6.5MB Quicktime movie I made of the cover in action (just in case you don't buy the slick one done by Esquire...), click below.

video

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Suggestive Selling Gone Awry

So I was browsing Amazon the other day, looking at Weed Whackers (or edgers). And I'm sure you are familiar with Amazon's "People Who Bought This Item Also Bought" feature.

Well, I gotta admit, I never thought of buying an edger and TP in the same purchase. Is it to wipe the edger when you're done? Or maybe we're all better off not knowing…

Monday, September 8, 2008

What The…

I was headed to another store in the shopping center and noticed this store sign:



Vacuum and Gifts?! Yeah, those are two things I always thought should go together, kinda like peanut butter and chocolate, er, wait, bad example… Since I didn't go in (I was pressed for time), I'm curious if all of the gifts are vacuum related?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Creative Freelancer Conference 2008



I had the privilege of attending the first ever Creative Freelancer Conference, the creative brainchild of the folks at HOW and Marketing Mentor (Peleg & Ilise). How could I resist this write-up: “If you're a freelance designer, photographer, writer or anyone else in the creative arts trying to make a living at it—or wanting to make a better living at it, with more time to actually enjoy the rest of your life—the Creative Freelancer Conference is for you.”

I’m not a full-time independent designer. I’m an in-houser and I went to see if I could learn how to become an independent designer full time. Chicago is only a 5-6 hour drive for me and the price of the conference just fit in my budget, so I decided it was a worthwhile investment.

Having been to four of the “big” HOW Design Conferences (about 4,000 people), I was curious as to how a smaller conference would work. I had been to the Hyatt in Chicago for the HOW Design Conference in 2005, so as I walked the familiar halls, it was oddly quiet based on my memories of last being there. As I was standing in line, I struck up a conversation with 2 of the people ahead of me and we started talking.

And we kept talking as we entered the hall where the conference was being held. The first thing I noticed were the round tables. It looked so much cozier and comfortable than the big HOW conference and I immediately felt comfortable. My new friends and I sat down in the back of the room and continued to chat. With a few minutes to go until the opening session, a smiling Peleg came up to our table and said “Hello. I’m Peleg. I’ll be speaking in a few minutes and I wanted to be sure I could see you, there are plenty of seats up front.” How could we resist? So we ended up in the front row, and it was worth it!

Peleg and Ilise’s opening session about “Secrets of A Successful Solopreneur” had me hooked. Both were articulate, funny, and had great information to share. They had been where I wanted to go and were showing me the way. It was the perfect way to kick-start the first-ever conference of its kind.

Next up was Dyana Valentine (“Creative Collaboration Workshop”) who developed a brilliant worksheet to engage us and get us introverts talking and solving problems. It didn’t even feel like networking as we each shared with the other creatives at the table and helped each other to solve their challenges. In fact, the folks at our table almost completely missed the happy hour that followed because we stayed and continued to work on the challenge!



When we did finally make it to the happy hour, I found friends from my previous HOW Conferences there to chat with along with new friends I had met along the way that evening. We mingled and chatted about design and just life. We chatted so long that I almost missed my dinner plans with some friends I had met through the online HOW forums.

I did make the dinner, though, and got to meet two members of the HOW online forum at Athena’s in Greektown (Hi Lauren & Joe!) and chat more about design and life and the conference. When I finally got back to my hotel room about 11ish, I was beat.



The next day started about 7 a.m. for me. I showed up at the breakfast roundtables at 8 a.m. and thought I would be one of the first people there. Boy was I wrong! There was already a large gathering of people getting their breakfasts and scoping out which roundtables they wished to participate in. The roundtables were a great way to both network and start the day, even for non-morning people such as myself.

Joan Gladstone kicked off Day Two with “How to Get Your Clients to Fall in Love With You (And Be Loyal Forever)”. Most of it was common sense, but there were some great tips on how to do little things to go above and beyond without investing a lot of time or money to make your client happy.

Colleen Wainwright and Ilise followed with the next session, “Building A Well-Oiled Marketing Machine”. They focused on how to create a Marketing Machine with 5 elements that once you put into motion, should sustain itself. They broke each element down into tangible steps that should get you off to a good start. I would have liked to have seen more info for beginners here, but they were speaking to a diverse level of experiences, so I can see where those who are determined will probe deeper post-conference. What really got me thinking this session was the 10-Word Blurb to describe what I do to others.

I’d like to take a moment here and give a shoutout to Jeff, Steve, Scott, and the 2 guys from Emma that I forgot to get business cards from for a great Thursday lunch!



Peleg started the afternoon off with his session on “How to Talk to Your Clients About Fees.” And while I was skeptical of his “don’t tell the client the hourly rate” philosophy, I listened and learned. And did I learn. Peleg offered great advice on how to answer he most common questions about rates and how to breach the conversation about money in a non-threatening way.

Lloyd Dangle made what could have been a boring presentation on proposals and contracts interesting and informative. “A Quick and Dirty Look at Proposals and Contracts” was just that. He used his own contract and experiences to liven up the discussion and even though you do have to have some legalese in your life, Lloyd showed us how it was beneficial to all parties.

After a delightful dinner with Melanie, Carla, Jody, Dawn, and Roxy, we headed back to the room for a presentation by Idea Blob. It’s a new way for ideas to be born through online collaboration. It’s kinda like having your own peer think tank from around the world helping you work through your idea to make it better and take it out into the world. Each month, the members of Idea Blob vote on the best idea and the winner gets $10,00 to put their idea in motion. This interactive presentation from Ami Kassar was short, but fun!



Next up was the Business Review. Creative business experts go over your portfolio, marketing materials, what have you, from a business perspective to help you improve your materials so you can attract the types of project you are seeking. I admit, I chickened out from signing up. The old school critiques ringing too painfully loud in my head. But as I watched (hovering was encouraged), and I saw how much fun they were and how safe and supportive the experts were in giving their advice, I ran upstairs to my hotel room and picked up my portfolio. I asked politely if I could take any open spots, and luckily one did open up. I’m so glad I did it. I learned that with a few changes, my portfolio can rock!

After 12ish hours in the same room, we all went out to celebrate, but by about Midnight, I was tuckered out and ready for bed so I could be fresh for the last few sessions and a 6ish hour drive home the next day.



Friday already? Wow. How time flies when you are having fun! After another rousing roundtable with Peleg on “How to Find Clients”, Lee Silber gave some inspiring tips and an awesome display of humor with a bit of magic in his session, “How to Find the Time to Build Your Freelance Business”. Which might have been better named “How to Visualize Your Biz & Run It Your Way”. Regardless, Lee offered up great tips on how to organize and run your business that is in sync with your particular style of doing things so that you can have actual free time to enjoy the rewards of being a freelancer.

Last but certainly not least is my HOW friend, Jeff Fisher with his session “Reaping the Rewards of Creative Independence”. Jeff, who I believe is always on vacation, offered excellent examples of how to enjoy being independent, doing the work you love and not sacrificing anything in the process (including your sanity!)

After a nice lunch with a fellow Ohioan, it was off to my six hour drive home. Truly, this was a spectacular investment in myself and I’m very glad to have been a part of the first Creative Freelancer Conference “Class of 2008”.

Some closing notes about the conference as a whole. The small size was a great advantage for this conference. The round tables really helped with the networking. Everyone I met was fantastic, open, happy, and a pleasure to meet. Not once did I hear griping about bad clients and/or experiences. I head about the rewards of being independent: freedom, variety, and a sustainable career.

I noticed that nearly everyone, about 200 introverts, were connecting and networking and it was darned near impossible for us to stop. I have 3 pages of to-dos and so many business cards, my mind is spinning with what to do next. But most of all, I’m excited.

I was truly inspired and informed and my new goal is to change my “i” from “in-house” to “independent.” I gotta admit, I’m nervous about this change. I’ve given myself until next year’s CFC to achieve my goal. I’ve got a CFC “buddy” in my fellow Ohioan as well as the small “tribe” I’m building to keep me on track and to cheer me on to success. I have the determination and skill. Now I just need the clients…

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Designing for Good

This is a wonderful example of designing for the better good: Chueh Lee @ Samsung in China has developed an ingenious camera for the blind. I'm not sure if it will ever catch on, but I hope it does. This is why I became a designer, to help people, and I don't get to do it nearly enough. I think we all can learn from Mr. Lee (and Samsung) to step back and help folks out and still make the company a profit.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Behind the Zines: HZ-13, Phobias

“HOWiezine is a limited edition, handmade collaborative book project created by HOW forum members, also known as HOWies. There is a theme and participants create two pages based on their interpretation of that theme. Only participants are eligible to receive a copy of the HOWiezine, and when they're gone, they're gone.” (quoted from www.howiezine.com)

As soon as I saw the theme for this zine, I knew what I would be doing. In 2002, I had written a poem about a bird that had acrophobia (I have it too, the poem was cheaper than therapy). And that vision was still strong in my head, so I had to illustrate it for this issue.

I also wanted to do more of a “sketchy” style that is truer to my pencil on paper thumbnail images. I felt this would convey a bit of the nervous energy that usually accompanies any particular phobia.

I tried a few different thumbnails before finding one that seemed appropriate and conveyed the idea of being acrophobic. I created the bird and tree separately from the background, as I wasn’t sure at this point how I wanted to do the background.



Once I scanned in the bird and tree part, I masked out the white areas where the background would show through on the final image. I then scanned the background image and then started to add color. The original plan was to simply give the image a watercolor look with my pencil sketch overlaid to define the outlines.



As I started laying in the color, I quickly found that the image in my head of a light watercolor/wash with pencil-like outlines was not going to cut it. So I amped things up a bit and tried various blend modes until the pencil lines blended into the colors better and it appeared more oil painterly. I did short, quick strokes with my Wacom to convey the energy and heightened nervousness usually associated with phobias.



I originally tried the background blurred and upside down. And I was content to leave it as that. But as the image progressed, and as I found a way to create a beautiful grainy texture that worked well with the image, it ruined the blur. So I thought about what it was like to be up high and how dizzy one feels when they are acrophobic and they are high up. So I started experimenting with how I could “swirl” the background like a person with vertigo.



For the poem side, I gave the background from the first page a watercolor look and added the bird flying away. I keep the text simple and solid, grounded if you will. For the title decided to put “phobia” lower (on the ground) than “acro” (up in the air).



I intended to give more of a perception of depth between the background the foreground, however as time grew short and I was not coming up with the answer, I had to leave it be. I’m not sure now that I look back that I’m completely happy with the end result. I feel that I could have done more to convey depth/height within the image that would have give people more of a feeling of what it is like to be acrophobic.

I am pleased with how the “sketchy” look turned out and I believe that I will explore this aspect of my style to see where it can lead…

For your viewing pleasure, the final images are below. And if you like what you see, you can purchase them over at imagekind.