I’m getting things going with fundraising for my Chicago Marathon team and I want to do something more than just ask for money. To that end, I’m going to offer a couple things a la Kickstarter-type premiums. One is an par-tay in the awesome Crawford-Langenberg Garage Darts and Beer Emporium, and the other is putting my mad DJ music curation skills to work for you.

Beer and Darty Party
The event is going to be a craft beer & darts party in our garage at our home in Oak Park on Saturday June 17th. This is a reprise of a fundraiser we hosted for Irving School a couple of summers ago that was super fun. I’ll provide a selection of beers and food (homemade bbq sliders and a nacho bar). We’ll play as much darts as we can manage before the beer drinking compromises safety.

If you would like to attend, please send me a donation of $25 per person (or more if you like❤️) by visiting my fundraising page at the link below:

http://chicagohomeless.donorpages.com/ChicagoMarathon2017/mattienodj/.

Mix Tape
Okay. Not actually a Mix Tape. I’m just old and continue to call what are playlists mix tapes.

Two  levels here.

  1. Actual Mixed Playlist: For a contribution of $20, I will curate a playlist personalized for you and will make a 60 minute continuous play mix for you which I will deliver to you on a real live actual compact disc. I will also give you a link to the unmixed source Spotify playlist.
  2. Spotify Playlist: For a contribution of $10, I will curate ~60 minute Spotify playlist personalized for you.

If you want an idea of what I listen to, you can find me on Spotify at mattienodj. My most recent playlist is at https://play.spotify.com/user/mattienodj/playlist/2U6B14ZkjTBrbSivSelxa8

Just having a look at some of the heart rate charts from a few runs. Interesting to see the difference some time has made and what changes with pace.

This first is ~ 5K on a treadmill at just under 10 min/mi pace over. I usually have a 1% incline going at minimum for the whole run. This was a fairly casual run.

This below was a faster run. Just slightly over 9 min/mi pace.
And the yellow and red guy at the bottom here was an actual 5K race at just under 9 min/mi pace. The run above was 28m27s and the below was 28m10s. Close enough for comparison for me. The Race was at the beginning of December, the run above was mid-January.
I know I’ve gained a bit of cardio fitness back, but if I was a betting man, I’d say that the major difference between these to runs was the difference made by 16 pounds of body weight. While I had some spikes over 90% (the red), this was a comfortable run. For the race on the other hand, I was busting ass with the help of some good old fashioned race adrenaline. You can see I was at 80% of my max HR right away and just slowly crept up over time. In the run above, I was able to slow down and take a breather and still catch back up to nearly the same pace without overdoing my HR.
So, if there is a point to this post, I think it is that counting calories and dropping some pounds is a pretty solid way to improve your running. It’s good for me to recognize, because typically when I train for distance, I eat like a total asshole cause I figure I can just burn it off. I’ll be interested to see how I can progress with watching what I eat and training.
And here’s a couple more improving on pace. This is from Saturday, January 22nd. Getting on 2 months after the race above which again was a 28m10s 5K. The first 27m45 below is 5K at the beginning of an 8K run.
And this below is a 5K the day right after the above at 27m35s. So pushing the pace a bit and eschewing recovery. Monday was my rest day, so I’m interested to see what things look like when I run tonight. Looking at these charts now, I know for sure that I can push to pace more. I think my goal tonight will be to get things under 9min/mile for the whole run. At 5K, I want to keep pushing down to 8m30s at 5K and then push that distance and pace out to 10K. If I can keep that up over the next couple months, I’m feeling good about crushing my Shamrock Shuffle PR in April.

3719503_race_0.4265620281173096.display


My first ultra relay was a blast. I’m definitely not feeling my best right now, but I’m quite pleased with myself for knocking out 33.8 miles of running with a team that finished the 196 mile relay in 31 hours. It was a great team effort and the whole experience was awesome.

I’m really grateful for my prior captaining experience and the planning I was able to do based on past Ragnars. The van was well stocked with water, Vitamin Water and Gatorade, we had a good amount of snacks and the tailgate grill & camp coffee setup were priceless additions.

The pop-up changing/shower tents worked out super well. I kept the stink off and didn’t get any major rashes.

If I had one thing to change, it would have been to train up to the full mileage. I was training on 3 X 10 miles as my last long runs. My actual legs were 12.6, 11.8 and 9.4. I went with the mentality of training up close to target distance but not quiet and that just didn’t work for the relay. Net time I ultra, I’ll definitely put some more mileage in my training plan.

 

Howdy Folks! I put together this handing list of Google Maps links with the GPS coordinates from the Rag Mag. I hope they come in handy for those of you that can actually get phone signal in rural Wisconsin. 🙂
Exchange 1
Exchange 2
Exchange 3
Exchange 4
Exchange 5
Exchange 6
Exchange 7
Exchange 8
Exchange 9
Exchange 10
Exchange 11
Exchange 12
Exchange 13
Exchange 14
Exchange 15
Exchange 16
Exchange 17
Exchange 18
Exchange 19
Exchange 20
Exchange 21
Exchange 22
Exchange 23
Exchange 24
Exchange 25
Exchange 26
Exchange 27
Exchange 28
Exchange 29
Exchange 30
Exchange 31
Exchange 32
Exchange 33
Exchange 34
Exchange 35
FINISH

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 7.31.27 PMGame Day Monitor is a fun side project I’ve been working on with Eric Bryning who is the volunteer coordinator for our AYSO region here in Oak Park. Eric asked me for help prototyping an application to capture feedback from AYSO games.

It’s a simple form that volunteer monitors can use to submit reports to help gather data about the behavior of parents, coaches and referees at the games. The core values of AYSO are focused on providing a fun, family environment to help instill a love for the game into kids, whether they are brand new to the game or well on their way to a lifetime of playing. I’m glad to be helping with this project because it will help make it easier for the volunteers that keep the league running to gather data and to identify problems with poor sportsmanship or bad parent behavior. It’s a bummer that this thing even needs to exist, but I’m always pleased when I can make a useful tool from what was a email-based or word-of-mouth reporting. Moving forward the league will be able to collect data in a database that they will be able to use more effectively.

We’re starting very simply with a release for the spring season and as we gather data, we’ll start to layer on user management and reporting as needed. I started the project by wireframing the site out in Web Flow. As I’d hoped, by doing the initial design work in Web Flow, I ended up with a responsive prototype that didn’t take much more work beyond wiring up the PHP for the data storage and laying on some CSS to style the form controls. All told, I was able to get a viable tool ready with an evening’s work.

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 9.58.27 AM I’ve been helping my friend Kara Eastman on a landing page and some identity work for her campaign for a seat on the Omaha Metro Community College board. It’s been a great project for me, because it has been a mix of some design work along with an opportunity to try out Stripe payments and Perch CMS together as a lightweight set up for a landing page to collect campaign contributions.

Stripe was very easy to implement. As the rave reviews of my friends have led me to expect, the signup was unbelievably quick. I spent more time getting through the verification process for the SSL certificate on the domain than I did getting Stripe tied to the campaign’s bank account. So cool.

I needed to customize a bit, so I went the route of using Stripe’s PHP library to create my own charges. If you have really simple needs, they have a super simple popup JS implementation for checkout that only needs a line or two of code to implement.

The API is straightforward and well documented. There are lots of examples for PHP, and from what I could tell poking around Stripe’s docs, GitHub and Stack Overflow there is Ruby, Python and other implementations to choose from. Stripe give you Javascript to implement which will generate a token on your page which is then passed to the PHP to create your actual charges.

My past experiences with commerce gateways have involved days of back and forth with support, out of date or esoteric documentation and general pains in the butt all around. Stripe is a dream. I’m hooked for life.

My other new love is Perch. I bought a license for a personal project a while back and never got around to using it. Like Stripe, the thing that hooked me was the documentation and ease of implementation. I’ve been after a way to move past WordPress as a go to for a long time. I’ve long felt that what I want out of a CMS is to be able to start from scratch without a predefined content paradigm and to start from writing some good clean static HTML as a base for my templates. I also want to be able to make the barest minimum of administrative functionality. Perch lets me do all this.

ke_mccFor Kara’s landing page, I started with a simple Bootstrap-based landing page template. Currently, some of the content is static HTML and only a couple areas are managed through the CMS. I’ve only created content managed areas for things that are likely to be edited. I added a custom form for the Stripe integration and set up a Google font that is a close relation to the Lubalin Graph slab serif I’m working with for Kara’s logotype.

This was a fairly quick turnaround to get live, but the pieces are all easy to implement. I expect that the Bootstrap, Perch, Stripe recipe will be my go to setup the next time I need to build a landing page or microsite.

Our first event of the year was a smashing success.The theme for the night was Show and Tell. We featured multiple presenters given 10-15 minute talks about their favorite tools and techniques.

Attendance was great and the presentation format was very well received. I think this is due in large part to some great content that, while well within the interests of the group, covered a decent range of topics.

I kicked things off with an overview of one of my tools for remote debugging and analysis, Charles Proxy (http://www.charlesproxy.com/). Charles has some great features that allow you to observe and manipulate HTTP requests and responses. My favorite features are it’s ability to mirror content to a local directory while browsing a site, along with Charles great throttling and remapping features. The demo is well worth checking out for anyone that is interested in tinkering with server traffic without the learning curve off messing with network config files.

mac_screen_321

My co-organizer Mark Rickmeier presented some of his favorite applications from the ever-evolving landscape of mobile prototyping tools. There are new tools coming to market regularly so depending on your needs, you have lots of options. My favorite of the tools he showed is POP (https://popapp.in) which is a tool the allows you to sketch on paper and then to capture your sketch and add interactivity on your mobile device.

Adam McCrimmon covered old school, low budget prototyping with PDF files. He aptly pointed out that since a lot of folks are already
producing PDFs to present to clients, the barrier to providing at least rudimentary prototypes is pretty much non-existent. This was a reprise of a presentation he gave at Prototype Camp in Chicago. He has posted some resources here http://amccrim.com/protopdf

Mike Gibson from Table XI, who currently holds the #1 spot on my list of favorite presenters cover the Autoprefixer tool for parsing CSS and adding vendor prefixes based on Can I Use data. Check that out on Github – https://github.com/ai/autoprefixer

Matt Wagner also from Table XI, shared some tools and techniques for keeping remote teams working together smoothly including one of my favorite new tools Screen Hero (http://screenhero.com/) and the new multi-user chat client Slack (https://slack.com/)

Our last speaker of the night, Andy Richardson from Kohactive introduced Middleman (http://middlemanapp.com/) a tool for outputting static sites from modern templated front-end coding tools.

Big thanks to Zach Schneider for live tweeting. He posted recap at http://bitly.com/bundles/zachschneider/7

Friends, Chicagoans, Countrymen. On June 6-7 I’m doing something that would have been unthinkable 5 years ago. I know you’ve probably become accustomed to my Ragnar posts over the last few years and it’s likely that you know longer find the notion of a 200 mile running race as shocking as you once might have.

Well, this year I’m taking it up a notch. Actually, 6 notches. For 2014, I’ve decided that running 200 miles with 12 teammates isn’t challenging enough and have instead opted to run this year’s Ragnar team with a 6 man ultra team.

Each of us will run approximately 3 half marathons in less than 36 hours and because we will only have a single van instead of two their will be no opportunity for napping, no showers, no breaks for dinner. We’ll start at 6AM on Friday and will keep going until we cross the finish line on Saturday.

At this point, you are probably thinking to yourself, “Holy shit! That’s fucking crazy! These guys must me total badasses!” and you are absolutely right to believe all of that. You’re probably also asking yourself what you can possibly do to assist us in our effort to firmly establish ourselves as the coolest people you will ever have the pleasure of knowing.

Well, I’m glad you’re asking. One of the requirements for Ragnar teams is that we provide 3 volunteers to help keep things running smoothly. Volunteers do not have to run 39 miles, nor do they need to spend 36 hours in a van with sweaty sweaty men. You just need to yell some number, write some numbers down on paper and make sure that people don’t be parking where they shouldn’t be or running people over with their vans.

Also, I will buy you booze. So, whaddya say? Wanna be a part of this historic effort?

unroll.me provides a service to help users manage subscription e-mail. I signed up over the weekend and was able to take over 270 subscriptions and assign them to three categories; unsubscribe, keep as is and add to my “rollup”. For the rollup, unroll.me takes all your opt-in subscriptions and compiles them into a newsletter format that arrives in your inbox at whatever time you schedule.

I unsubscribed from a bunch of high volume lists and left things like my bank balance alerts and utility bills untouched.

In just a few days it’s been very effective in reducing the volume of mail I get in my Gmail account. I get the rollup email in the morning. It’s really nice to have all the promotions mails, magazine subs and other non-essential email come in as a single message instead of a pile of unread messages.

Adoption of unroll.me is growing. To highlight their accomplishments for 2013, unroll.me created an awards list the compiles data from the unroll.me user base for Most Unsubscribed, Most Rolled Up and Most Popular subscriptions.

The biggest losers are;
1800 Flowers — 52.50% unsubscribe rate
Ticketweb — 47.50% unsubscribe rate
Pro Flowers — 45.10% unsubscribe rate
Expedia — 45.00% unsubscribe rate
Active.com — 44.70% unsubscribe rate

Might be instructive (or perhaps a new biz opportunity?) to have a look at how those companies are handling email marketing.

Check out the full list here:
https://unroll.me/awards

I had a great Ragnar overall this year. Despite being a bit undertrained, I ran well. The team was great. My vanmates were awesome. I had the pleasure of sharing the ride in Van 2 with Jeff Wallichs, Ken Novak, Hilary Klein, Greg Battoglia, Pat Egan and Beth Folkmann. Our Van 1 was April Lasker, Anna Debush, Megan Finkelman and the three amigos Doug Schenkelberg, Rob Breymaier and David Kahlow. We had a bunch of veterans this year, but also expanded our South Oak Park Ragnar gang with some first timers. All of the newbies and veterans were already making noise about running again next year and the ever-enthusiastic Mr. Wallichs was advocating for an ultra team pretty hard.

This year saw some tweaks to the van which were pretty sweet. After seeing some teams with shelving units in the back cargo space last year, I knew I had the answer to the issue of things getting buried and lost. In years past, the back of the van turns into an unmanageable pile as the rush from exchange to exchange goes on. I have typically had to unpack and repack the van at each major exchange. Not so in 2013. The little modular shelving we used allowed us to keep the sleeping gear, coolers and group supplies (first aid, snacks, etc.) separated from everyone’s personal gear. They worked like a charm.

We had great weather and great team spirit. Our only negative was a couple of lost runners. I missed a turn in Racine, WI during the middle of the night which was really unfortunate because in the cool evening air I was a few minutes ahead of my projected time and felt great. In the end, I went a good 1/2 mile out of my way, but only finished a couple minutes late.

The finish line was awesome as always. I nabbed the runner 12 spot this year so I got to run the final leg. Next year, I’m hoping to be runner 1. After three years in van 2, I’d like to see the start in Madison for once.

Hi folks. I’ve made links for getting directions from Google Maps Navigation using the GPS coordinates of each exchange. My site is responsive designed so this list should be nice and readable on any screen size.

The links will give you directions from your current position (assuming you have a GPS signal) or from exchange to exchange. Under each exchange, “Start:” is the exchange you are leaving from, and “End:” is the exchange that is listed. So the start for Exchange 3 Runner 4 Start is Exchange 2 and the end is Exchange 3 and so on and so forth. I put the runner start in because even after 3 Ragnars that whole exchange minus 1 equals runner thing still kills my brain at 2 in the morning. I’ve checked these as best I can, but if something seems fishy, you’d best double check it.

Have fun! See yez on the course. Honk if you see a bald guy with a red Camel Bak.

Start Line Runner 1
Olin/Turville Park
1156 Olin-Turville Court, Madison, WI 53715

Exchange 1 Runner 2 Start
Olbrich Park 3527 Atwood Ave. Madison, WI 53174
Start: 43.057 -89.383 End: 43.089 -89.330
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 2 Runner 3 Start
New Life Church 7564 Cottage Grove Road
Start: 43.089 -89.330 End: 43.088 -89.247
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 3 Runner 4 Start
Fireman’s Park 4116 Villas Rd. Cottage Grove, WI 53257
Start: 43.088 -89.247 End: 43.074 -89.208
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 4 Runner 5 Start
Deerfield Lutheran Church 206 Main St, Deerfield WI 53531
Start: 43.074 -89.208 End: 43.051 -89.076
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 5 Runner 6 Start
Cambridge High 403 Blue Jay Way, Cambridge, WI 53523
Start: 43.051 -89.076 End: 43.006 -89.008
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 6 Runner 7 Start
Lake Mills High School
615 Caitlin Dr, Lake Mills, WI 53551
Start: 43.006 -89.008 End: 43.070 -88.911
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 7 Runner 8 Start
Jefferson County Fairgrounds 503 N Jackson Ave, Jefferson, WI 53549
Start: 43.070 -88.911 End: 43.017 -88.820
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 8 Runner 9 Start
Vetro Winery
1414 Vino Lane, Jefferson, WI. 53549
Start: 43.017 -88.820 End: 43.003 -88.779
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 9 Runner 10 Start
Helenville Bike Trail Depot Helenville, WI 53137
Start: 43.003 -88.779 End: 43.019 -88.695
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 10 Runner 11 Start
Sullivan Trailhead Palmyra St and Front St, Sullivan, WI 53178
Start: 43.019 -88.695 End: 43.012 -88.586
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 11 Runner 12 Start
Cory Municipal Park 140 S Main St, Dousman, WI 53118
Start: 43.012 -88.586 End: 43.014 -88.473
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 12 Runner 1 Start
Wales Community Park
420 Brandybrook Rd, Wales, WI 53183
Start: 43.014 -88.473 End: 42.998 -88.377
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 13 Runner 2 Start
Sunset Park S30 W28452 Sunset Dr, Wales, WI 53189
Start: 42.998 -88.377 End: 42.990 -88.310
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 14 Runner 3 Start
Carroll University
100 N East Ave, Waukesha, WI 53186
Start: 42.990 -88.310 End: 43.004 -88.229
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 15 Runner 4 Start
Poplar Creek Church 17770 West Cleveland, New Berlin WI 53146
Start: 43.004 -88.229 End: 42.992 -88.135
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 16 Runner 5 Start
Greenfield Park Greenfield WI 53227
Start: 42.992 -88.135 End: 43.009 -88.064
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 17 Runner 6 Start
Alan Kulwicki Park 10701 Coldspring, Greenfield, WI 53228
Start: 43.009 -88.064 End: 42.966 -88.046
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 18 Runner 7 Start
Martin Luther High School
5201 S 76th St, Greendale, WI 53129
Start: 42.996 -88.046 End: 42.949 -88.009
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 19 Runner 8 Start
Franklin High School 8222 S 51st St, Franklin WI 53132
Start: 42.949 -88.009 End: 42.896 -87.980
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 20 Runner 9 Start
Oak Creek High School 340 E Puetz Dr, Oak Creek, WI 53154
Start: 42.896 -87.980 End: 42.887 -87.908
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 21 Runner 10 Start
Parkway Apostolic Church 10940 S Nicholson Rd, Oak Creek WI 53154
Start: 42.887 -87.908 End: 42.846 -87.894
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 22 Runner 11 Start
Greater Racine Kennel Club 6320 6 Mile Rd, Racine WI 53402
Start: 42.846 -87.894 End: 42.814 -87.857
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 23 Runner 12 Start
The Prairie School 4050 Lighthouse Dr, Racine WI 53402
Start: 42.814 -87.857 End: 42.775 -87.775
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 24 Runner 1 Start
John Pershing Park 500 Pershing Dr, Racine, WI 53403
Start: 42.775 -87.775 End: 42.725 -87.779
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 25 Runner 2 Start
Jones Elementary School 3300 Chicory Rd, Racine WI 53403
Start: 42.725 -87.779 End: 42.684 -87.817
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 26 Runner 3 Start
Pennoyer Park, 3601 7th Ave, Kenosha WI 53140
Start: 42.684 -87.817 End: 42.605 -87.820
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 27 Runner 4 Start
Anderson Park 8730 22nd Ave, Kenosha WI 53143
Start: 42.605 -87.820 End: 42.547 -87.835
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 28 Runner 5 Start
Christ Community Church 2500 Dowie Memorial Ave, Zion, IL 60099
Start: 42.547 -87.835 End: 42.450 -87.836
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 29 Runner 6 Start
Lake County Community Action 1200 W Glen Flora Ave Waukegan, IL 60085
Start: 42.450 -87.836 End: 42.380 -87.846
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 30 Runner 7 Start
North Chicago High School 1717 17th St, North Chicago, IL 60064
Start: 42.380 -87.846 End: 42.327 -87.853
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 31 Runner 8 Start
Gorton Community Center 400 East Illinois Rd Lake Forest, IL 60045
Start: 42.327 -87.853 End: 42.251 -87.839
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 32 Runner 9 Start
Highland Park High School 433 Vine Ave, Highland Park IL 60035
Start: 42.251 -87.839 End: 42.192 -87.801
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 33 Runner 10 Start
Henry J Kalk Park 298 Park Ave, Glencoe IL 60022
Start: 42.192 -87.801 End: 42.135 -87.757
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 34 Runner 11 Start
Elder Lane Park 239 Sheridan Rd, Winnetka IL 60093
Start: 42.135 -87.757 End: 42.098 -87.717
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Exchange 35 Runner 12 Start
Northwestern Campus 2311 Campus Dr Evanston IL 60208
Start: 42.098 -87.717 End: 42.060 -87.674
Current Location to Exchange
Exchange to Exchange

Montrose Beach, Lincoln Park
Approx. 200 Montrose Harbor Dr, Chicago, IL 60640

My dad and I are both avid sci-fi readers. Over the years we’ve had many conversations about future tech, including medicine. This video below brings to mind a particular conversation we had probably 15 years ago. We both had recently read a futurist article with the premise that (at the time) if you could manage to live another 25 years, chances are pretty good you’re going to live another 100 or more. Watching this video pulled that conversation straight up out of my long term mental storage, sent a chill up my spine and choked me up more than a little (even before the doc at the end). I’ve grown up on futurist thinking. A LOT of futurist thinking. I love space opera and the premise of an enlightened humanity spreading across the Milky Way, but more and more I find myself attaching credibility to the dystopian stuff. The dark ages, end of the world stuff.

When I was a kid, I was all about Star Trek and any storytelling where we as human beings can build tools to solve any problem including but not limited to immortality. All that space age stuff. Now, I’m weary and pessimistic. Maybe this touched me today because I’ve been absolutely gutted by the news of Iain Banks’ impending demise. Maybe watching this makes that seem like all the more of a complete travesty of universal justice. It pains me that a man with such an amazing view of the technological future of humanity is mere months away from being so utterly failed by our present.

But I gotta say. All the sadness I can muster can’t diminish this. Buckle up folks. Whether we can manage to look up from our mundane squabbling and notice or not, I think shit is about to get real interesting.

Fire With Fire | Ross Kauffman from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

The General Motors infotainment team is in town this month. As part of their activities for the Chicago Auto Show, they were kind enough to host the Chicago HTML5 Meetup at the Skyline Loft in Bridgeport, giving the attendees an opportunity for a close up look at an Alpha release of GM’s in dash hardware. It’s early days for the automobile as an application platform, so the event was a unique opportunity to speak with the product managers, engineer and customer support leaders.

GM announced the app framework at CES earlier this year and are working toward completing a release version of the hardware, software and APIs for model year 2014. For the folks that braved a particularly harsh Chicago winter evening, our hosts provided some insight into what it taken to get the new platform ready for launch.

It’s great to see another platform for HTML based applications. I’m not sure that the HTML5 technologies will be the right fit long term, but as we’ve seen on iOS, Android and now the new Blackberry OS, HTML5 web apps can provide a means of transitioning an existing application to a new platform and can allow developers to build and test a market with new functionality. I find this pattern really interesting. Mostly, be cause it allows a broader base of developers to bring ideas to market with a lower cost of entry. Certainly, that is was GM is banking on.

I wonder what other platforms we might see for HTML5 in the near future and I’m curious to see how Responsive Web Design will fit into this as we begin to develop a single application with UI that adapts not just to multiple screen sizes but to multiple contexts as well.

I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough. In the meantime, http://developer.gm.com is worth a look.

With the release of the new Blackberry phones and BB OS 10, there has been plenty of news, reviews and speculation. The hardware specs, software improvements and Blackberry’s viability as a business have been covered in plenty of detail.

As a developer, I’ve found it especially interesting to see the specific attention paid to the Blackberry web browser’s HTML5 compatibility and rendering speed. I think most developers developers are going to welcome any new competition in the mobile browser market as a good thing for feature and performance innovation.

I’m not likely to rush out to pick up the new Blackberry (or Windows) devices based on their browser performance marketing, but I will admit that they have my attention. For a mobile device brand that myself and many of my peers have written off, Blackberry’s effort to get out ahead of the pack with a fast standards-compliant browser seems like a step in the right direction.

Beyond the browser, I’m also pleased to see the effort that the Blackberry team has put into supporting mobile and front-end developers with many of the familiar tools that we use for Android and iOS development today. Blackberry’s GitHub (http://blackberry.github.com/) and the documentation for the Blackberry HTML5 WebWorks platform (https://developer.blackberry.com/html5/) demonstrate the possibilities for developing HTML5-based applications for the Blackberry using open source tools like Appcelerator and Cordova.

This is great to see, because it means near zero investment is necessary for curious developers to try their hand at creating applications for the Blackberry. I would have laughed at the suggestion a few months ago, but looking around the documentation and some of the code in the GitHub, I’m feeling a willingness to give it a try myself. I can’t imagine that I’m the only developer with that sentiment, which probably bodes well for Blackberry.

This week, I had my first knowledge sharing session with my digital teammates at HY Connect. I presented a high-level overview of all the things I like to pay attention to during the course of a project.  I was gathering a list of resources to email to the team and figured  it might be worthwhile to share here on the blog as well. This is by no means comprehensive, but represents what I feel is a good spread of the various aspects of a build where the development team can help drive quality.

TOOLS I LOVE

XScope App

Measuring pixels, checking folds and testing common visual impairments

iconfactory.com/software/xscope

ImageAlpha

Shrinks PNG files with magic!

pngmini.com

ImageOptim

Shrink images by removing meta data and other software and OS file cruft
imageoptim.com

Litmus

Screenshots for quick crossbrowser testing of pages and emails
litmus.com

ACCESSIBILITY

These are the standards. They are deep, but worth getting to know. In 2012, the Justice Department began planning for incorporating UI accessibility into the ADA.

WCAG 2.0: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/glance/

ARIA 1.0: Accessible Rich Internet Applications
www.w3.org/WAI/intro/aria.php

The list of litigation is growing, so I would expect to continue to see a growing interest in accessibility compliance.

Target Settles Accessibility Lawsuit for $6 Million
www.sitepoint.com/target-settles-accessibility-lawsuit-for-6-million/

Accessibility Lawsuit Filed Against JetBlue Airways
lflegal.com/2010/10/jet-blue/

List of several cases
www.karlgroves.com/2011/11/15/list-of-web-accessibility-related-litigation-and-settlements/

PERFORMANCE

Google Speed Labs

developers.google.com/speed

Yahoo YSlow!

Great browser plugin for grading site performance and best practices documentation

developer.yahoo.com/performance/
developer.yahoo.com/yslow/

Performance thought leaders

Tom Hughes-Croucher
@sh1mmer
kid666.com

His presentations are great. I would jump at the chance to be in any conference session he is presenting.

Steve Souders
stevesouders.com
@souders

A bit more technical, but worth following for insight into tools, evidence and interesting real world testing.

SEARCH

SEOmoz

@SEOmoz
seomoz.org

Probably the single best resource on the web.

Search Engine Land

@sengineland
searchengineland.com

SEO thought leaders

Eric Enge
@ericenge

Stephan Spencer
@sspencer

Rand Fishkin
@randfish

Jessie Stricchiola
@Itstricchi

Matt Cutts
mattcutts.com
@mattcutts

Semantic Microformatting

microformats.org

SOCIAL

These are documentation of the Open Graph meta data to turn content into social objects

ogp.me
developers.facebook.com/docs/opengraphprotocol

At this moment, I’m less that 6 hours away from leaving a gang of some of the most brilliant, creative, collaborative and hardworking people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. My 13 year tenure at VSA has been a hugely formative experience for me, and it has been really difficult to articulate why I’m leaving. I think I’ve probably generated one of the largest Pros vs Cons lists ever in making the decision to leave.

I’ve never been a grass is greener kind of guy. Over the course of my stay at VSA, I’ve looked at things my peers have been doing out in the world at large and have seen many interesting, inspiring things, as well as, many, many scary things that I would never want any part of. Where I’ve seen good stuff, I’ve worked to bring things into the fold at VSA.

Most recently, that has been in the form of responsive and adaptive design paradigms along with the workflow and processes to support these new practices. Historically, it has been an unrelenting drive to adopt best practices and standards for web development for our corporate clients ahead of anyone else in the marketplace. It has been the act of making sure that developers are more than just the production labor at the end of a waterfall process, and are taken seriously as creative contributors, collaborators and thinkers.

I’ve been able to work on a staggering amount of high profile work for clients including IBM, BP, Caterpillar, First Data Corporation, Shure, Avery Dennison, AOL, Netscape, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, General Electric, GE Healthcare, GE Energy, Harley-Davidson, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, USAA, Segway, Wilson Sporting Goods, Western Union, Time Warner, MeadWestVaco and others small, medium and large. With only a few exceptions, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with all of these clients. Every new engagement has brought new and interesting technical and design challenges which VSA has solved by partnering with our clients in thoughtful collaborative ways.

The reality is, I’ve spent some really happy and rewarding years here at VSA and if I were to stay here, I’d likely be in for finishing out my career here in a very happy, very comfortable place enjoying the fruits of the labor I’ve put in along side my VSA peeps over the last decade. And that’s the rub. I’ve realized that I’m tremendously uncomfortable with this whole comfort thing. So, I’ve chosen to make the leap away from a hugely successful digital practice at VSA Partners that I have helped to grow over the last decade to a nascent digital offering at HY Connect.

Am I diving into some uncertainty? Yeah. Am I confident in my decision? Absolutely. Those that know me, know that I’m nothing if not pragmatic, but sometimes you gotta look over the edge and step on the crank. When I gave my notice to Pat Heick, the leader of the digital practice here at VSA and my friend and partner of 13 years, I told him that this isn’t about me being unhappy here at VSA, it’s about realizing that at 41 years, I’m not too old to charge once more into the breach for glory and honor.

I suppose that it’s my running that has brought that out in me and racing especially. There’s nothing like looking through race results and realizing how many of those folks that were breezing past you on the course are 10 or 15 or even 20 years your senior. Point being, if you have your health and the wherewithal to chase a dream there is plenty of time to try new things, to face new challenges and to try to do something awesome (again).

Be driven. Don’t be afraid to give up something great to go after something even better. There is so much opportunity here in Chicago right now to build a really great digital marketing community and revitalize the advertising community here. I’m hoping that by joining HY Connect, I can play a big role in that.

Here’s to the future. Cheers!

What a day. I could not have asked for better weather. Maybe just a wee bit of cloud cover, but whatever. 39 degrees at the start for me. My training plan worked. I managed to crush my previous 5h18m personal record with a 4h33m finish. That’s a gain, I’m thoroughly satisfied with, considering I was running only twice a week on average. I made up the training difference with 3-4 days a week of 11 mile bike commutes and two days of weight training. With a strong September half marathon best of just under two hours, I had hoped to finish in under 4h15m but the weather got the best of me because it was just too perfect. In 2010, I ran my first marathon in 5h22m, suffering through temperatures over 85 degrees. My 2011 run was 5h18m with a mildly sprained ankle and 40 mph gusting headwinds.

So, when I saw the forecast Saturday, I decided I was going to go for it and try to stick with the 3h55m pace group. Lesson learned. Stick with the plan. I went out too fast and paid for it later on with a couple 11 minute splits. But still, my walking breaks were limited to taking just enough time to pour a cup of liquid into my mouth without getting all sticky and my legs didn’t bother me much at all. Compared to 2010 and 2011, my recovery is going much faster.

Thanks be to GU, nuun, REI, Camelbak and my trusty Nike Air Triax Structure 16s for helping me get to the finish line.

I’m looking forward to training for the Disney Goofy Challenge where I hope to set a new half PR and a new marathon PR both in the same weekend. After that I’m gonna spend 2013 working on my half marathon speed and hopefully will run some extra speedy Ragnar Relay legs in Chicago and Minneapolis.

This is my new favorite race. Great course along the bluffs of the Mississippi. The usual fantastic group of Rangar runners, volunteers and organizers. Being on a Surly Brewing sponsored team doesn’t hurt either. I ran three fantastic legs and nailed my pace on each plus I had a blast doing it. I’m in love with Minnesota now. Can’t wait to get back there in X-C season. Hopefully we have some snow this year.

I started a post about the Adobe CQ5 Context/Clickstream Cloud last week, but before I get that out I feel inclined to mention the total ease with which we are able to collaborate with our client and our hosting & integration partner. After my team went to training last fall, we got a bit swamped with end of the year client “omigod I’ve got budget left that I need to spend in the next two weeks or I lose it forever” madness. That was followed by a super busy January and February, which I found was leading to some serious rustification of the skills we picked up in training. We managed to schedule some time with our CQ5 vendor partners who walked us through setting up access to their development repositories. They WebExed the process for us and I screen recorded. Today, one of my Lead Developers and I followed along with the video to document the process and to screencap the steps along the way. At the end of it, I was amazed at how simple it is to get up and running.

The beauty of this whole set up for us is that we can now own the look and feel of the UI from here in Chicago, our client manages all the content and product assets from Denver and our friends in Boston handle all the heavy lifting on infrastructure, form processing, Salesforce routing, etc. For the three parties involved, CQ5 is a platform that is going to enable us to collaboratively pursue our individual workstreams simultaneously. At any given time, we have landing pages, microsites, enterprise site updates going on. Over the years, this has been a mix of small static sites, landing pages and a huge CMS-driven product site all working through a cumbersome translation process to support upwards of 60 localized sites.

After working for decades in a world of code freezes and deployment windows, the fact that we’re now set up to maintain all these things inside a single platform with pretty much zero bottlenecks is pretty damn cool.

The other day, I caught a tweet linking to a blog post titled “WE’RE ALL TECHNOLOGISTS NOW: 6 STEPS TO RETRAINING AND REINVENTING YOUR CREATIVE TALENT” from Allison Kent-Smith (@swervshop). This post came on the heels of her appearance as a panelist at SXSW at a session titled, “The New Black? How Digital Ed Is Everything.”

The post delighted me largely because I’m a narcissist at heart and I love it when I find an expert articulation that totally agrees with a thought that I’ve been having myself. It was all I could do to not punch the air and yell, “YES” on the bus. Allison is one of the founders of Boulder Digital Works and currently Director of Digital Development at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. That’s Digital Development as in growing people and through them business. Her current job description reads:

Head of agency L&D, focused on digital and technical programming, curriculum, and content. Hired to launch custom “school within the agency” focused on both employees and clients. Lead design, development, and implementation. ED program includes instruction in Interaction Design, UX, Business Development, Programming, Strategy, Social Media, Mobile and other technical areas. Develop programming, design curriculum, manage (and build) ED department, recruit faculty, concept content, liaison with agency leaders, develop annual programs for clients, and direct digital experiences. Manage classes, workshops, programs, field trips, pop-ups, and other experimental forms of in-house and external education. Design organizational process, structure, approach, and support for L&D agency-wide. Recruit industry leaders “teachers” in respective fields, 70% external and 30% internal.

I recommend reading the post. Here’s the definition of the issue in her words:

Today, agency reinvention continues to be a priority. We adjust agency processes, capabilities, and partnerships, trade talent at record speeds, support a small group of technology leaders, change seating arrangements, and force interdepartmental collaboration. Yet rarely do we invest in large-scale talent reinvention; rarely do we commit to what is arguably our most valuable asset in today’s agency landscape: the digital knowledge of employees.

The world around us is rapidly growing ever more digital at an accelerating pace while the marketing and communications establishment seems to be largely content to plod along and pretend like everything is going to work out differently for us than it did for the music and publishing industries. I’m continually amazed that, upon hearing my title, people will speak out loud the words, “oh, digital, I’m technologically illiterate, I just don’t understand any of that stuff.” I’m also concerned when my traditional leaning colleagues will just assume that their own responsibilities will automagically fall to someone else if there is even the slightest whiff of technology.

At VSA, my team tries to do as much as we can squeeze in. We bring in third parties to present demos. We host the occasional brown bag to cover a new case study or a new technology. That’s really the least we can do and unfortunately our focus on getting work done often means it’s the most we can do. We’re just one team in one small agency, but if everyone else in Chicago is having the same trouble we’re having in finding the time and the will to really have a go at changing the general level of digital knowledge in our industry, what does that mean for our future? Someone is going to be eating our lunch, right?

I think those of us in digital leadership roles in Chicago need to figure out a way to foster more education and community. It has to be more than the LinkedIn or Facebook groups that just become hunting grounds for recruiters. And most importantly, it has to be more than digital people talking to digital people. We need to get our traditional counterparts over their fear or indifference or whatever it is and really start a dialogue around what we can do to move our industry forward.

I’ve said some of this before and admittedly it’s just been talking, but seeing that it’s not just an issue for Chicago and that other folks are working to figure it out makes me feel like I’m ready for some action. So, where to begin?

Last Fall I had the great pleasure of attending Adobe CQ5 developer training in McClean, VA. After years spent, unfunking hulking, bloated, years old web sites poorly built on portal platforms by backoffice software engineers, it was really eye opening to see where the CMS has got to and the product strategy that is unfolding at Adobe. There are some CMS staples in the DNA of CQ5, but it’s completely apparent that the platform has been written from the ground up to be a content-centric delivery mechanism.

As for the new label, Client Engagement Platform might sound like pure marketing bs, but given that Adobe has paired their acquisitions Omniture and Day in a single product group, it’s actually not far from the reality.

CQ5 has the ability to deliver targeted and personalized content on the fly in a way that we dreamed about years ago, but was never technically feasible with the legacy technologies available to us. Now we’ve got volumes of user data coming along with a visitor. Data that we can continue to refine as a user clicks, scrolls and hovers. With that we can target content specifically to that user with no login and no stored personalization while they are looking at the page! And unlike portal systems of the past it doesn’t take the page 10 minutes to render.

There are some key technologies that enable this that can be described as “Enterprise Open-Source” including standards-based JCR, Sling and OSGi.

CQ5 Architecture

Gotta run for the train. More to come.

Gonna catch up on things a bit. I don’t think I’ve had a real post since late last summer and a lot has happened. In the last days leading up to the 2011 Chicago Marathon, I had a great run at the Trails of Naperville Half Marathon. It was hot as could be and I was starting to see spots by the last couple miles, but still managed to shave a few minutes off of my previous record. The mid-day heat training over the summer had really helped and I was looking forward to putting in a good showing at in October. I was feeling really confident that I could at last get a marathon in under 4h45m which was my goal for both or my previous races. In the 2010 Chicago Marathon, that goal was smooshed by the insanely hot weather. In the Chicagoland Spring Marathon it was the freezing rain and 25 mph headwind that did me in. Still, I was happy just to finish both of those races, and despite my time on the day, I had a really solid year+ of training under my belt for my first two marathons.

After running the Ragnar Relay in June and a super consistent summer of training, I was feeling great. No ITB, no PF, no niggling injuries from footie. (yep, playing soccer and marathon training at the same time was probably not such a good idea in 2010).

Unfortunately, just a few weeks before the 2011 Chicago Marathon, I lost control of my scooter while coming to a stop at a traffic light, thanks to a road slicked with leaking garbage from a city sanitation truck. Not fun. I landed hard enough on my knee to bone bruise my patella and I tweaked my soleus, deeply bruised my gastrocnemius, and strained my patellar tendon. I went right into rehab and worked really hard to recover enough to run/walk the marathon, but it didn’t work out. I made it to the expo to pick up my t-shirt and race packet, but I already knew I wasn’t going to be starting.

That sucked a lot, but the silver lining is that this whole experience really opened my eyes to strength and stabilization training. One of the exercises I started in physical therapy was leg lifts with 2 pound weights. Piece of cake right? Being able to run for five hours without stopping means your legs should have the strength to lift a 2 pound weight into the air 10 times right? Wrong. What an eye opener. It turns out that if all you do is run, you are really neglecting a lot of muscle that is super helpful toward increasing performance and preventing injury.

So, joined a second gym, started personal training in December and have since been limiting my run mileage and frequency while still posting some pretty sizable gains in my pace and stamina. In January, I smashed my half marathon PR well enough that I’m going to train to qualify for the 4 hour corral in the 2012 Chicago Marathon. To qualify I’ll need to drop from my current record pace of 9m16s/mi down to 8m28s/mi or 1h50m59s. Totally doable. Yee-haw!

I’m starting my Spring training with targeting a <45m 8K run at the Shamrock Shuffle on March 25 and then training for my three legs in this years Chicago Ragnar Relay which are 8.2mi, 4.7mi and 4.2. I'm hoping to rock my target 8m28s/mi for that first leg and then closer to 8m flat pace for the two shorter legs. The best part though of the Ragnar is that I get to captain not one, but two teams this year. We've got 24 parents on board to raise funds for The Irving Schoolyard Project (http://bit.ly/irvingragnardonate). It's going to be a great time and I'm really looking forward to it. After that, I'll take a week or two of recovery and then will start laying on distance with the hope of hitting my qualifying half marathon some time early in August. Gonna have to find a nice cool Northern race for that one.

The Irving Schoolyard Project team is hosting a public meeting about the plan for the Irving blacktop on January 18th at the school. I’m most excited about the U10 turf “athletic field.”

Greetings, and Happy New Year!

I hope you can join us at Irving School on Wednesday, January 18, from 7:00-8:00 pm to learn about our most ambitious PTO initiative to date, the Irving Schoolyard Project. As you may know, Irving has almost no outdoor green space and we have a vision for something better.

This public meeting will explain our Master Plan for a new schoolyard, which is more than only a playground. It includes outdoor classrooms, a playing field, and opportunities to incorporate environmental initiatives into the curriculum. We hope it will be a place that all Oak Parkers seek out to play, learn and enjoy.

The meeting is open to the public and will be held in the Irving School Auditorium (1125 S. Cuyler). Parking is available in the Ridgeland Ave. parking lot. A flyer is attached. Please feel free to share this information with any friends and neighbors who may be interested.

Hope to see you soon!

Going to add the Google Web Font “Spinnaker” to the site. As I write this post, the YSlow score is 98 and the grade for my home page is an overall A for almost every category with only the lack of CDN dropping to a C. After adding the font to my head with the embed link link href='http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Spinnaker' rel='stylesheet' type='text/css', that overall score drops to 96. The CDN grade drops to D, with expires headers and cookie free domains dropping to B grades. No big overall. Now to play with some of the CSS styling to see if I can give this template a little face lift while I wait for my brain to decide I can go to sleep. 🙂

Cleaning up some old files and found this old Monster.com interview. There was a time as recently as a few years ago, when this article had been copied and pasted and linked all over the web enough that it regularly showed up as one of the top 5 results in any Google search for IA related topics. Sadly, it has aged and fallen into obscurity leaving my SEO juju slightly lower. However, reading it today, I have to say that Mike and I did a pretty good job of articulating the nascent career of Information Architect way back in 1999. The kicker in the whole thing though is the salary range I posited at the end. Remember, this was pre-bubble when anyone with a decent IQ and a computer with Web access could get a job for ridiculous money.

Become an Information Architect
Work as a Web Site Strategist
by Sacha Cohen
Monster Contributing Writer
The birth, development and launch of an engaging, well-designed Web site starts with an idea and a vision. Beyond that, detailed planning and organization, open communication among team members and a common goal bring the idea to fruition. And information architects play a key role in that process.

To find out exactly what it takes to succeed in this intriguing job, I spoke to Mattie Langenberg, principal of the Chicago-based Schema Studios, and Creative Director Michael Brooks.

Monster: First, what exactly is information architecture?

Mattie Langenberg: Information architecture, as the name implies, is basically about taking content and creating a structure to present that content to an audience. Whether the content is intended for a private audience on an intranet or for the public, it is the information architect’s job to ensure that information is well-organized and presented in an easily accessible interface.

Monster: What skills and knowledge do you need to do this type of job?

Michael Brooks: Design and communication skills are essential. The ability to create the structure of a Web site and the ability to explain and illustrate that structure are key. The IA must be able to ensure ease of navigation, simplicity of design and communicate the site design to the client as well as to the development team.

ML: In an organizational chart of a given Web project, the IA is generally found somewhere between the administrative team (producers, project managers and editorial staff) and the development team (designers and programmers). The IA is the major communications vehicle between the two teams. [He or she] participates in the thinking and strategy before a project and the creation of the finished product. Information architects generally wear more than one hat on a given project, so versatility is important. You may be required to be a project manager, a designer or both. If you’re just getting started in the industry, it’s probably a good idea to take on one of those positions, and then work your way into information architecture.

Monster: Where can you learn or develop those skills?

ML: Any book by Edward Tufte will give you insight into the visual presentation of information. For the most part, getting into IA is a matter of experience. Learning on the job and being able to handle multiple aspects of a Web project go a long way toward being able to work as an IA.

MB: The best way to start learning the needed skills is to map out a Web site and see the different ways there are to express how the site ties together. Then illustrate those different paths in a clear and concise format.

Monster: Is a degree or certification necessary? If so, what type(s)?

ML: I don’t think a specific degree or certification is necessary; I don’t even know if there is such a thing yet. However, any education that emphasizes the organization and presentation of information is going to be helpful. For example, a design, journalism or computer science degree with an emphasis on user interface would be a good starting point.

MB: The Web development community is becoming more and more specialized every day. Four years ago, even though the position existed, the title of “information architect” didn’t. Information architects come from many different areas of Web development. Former designers, engineers, producers and HTML coders are now information architects.

Monster: Why is information architecture important to Web design?

ML: Well-thought-out Web design targets a specific user group. Whether you are building a business tool for your users, an e-commerce site or an entertainment venue, you want the finished product to be easy to use and understand. Your product will be something the user has never seen before. It’s important to be able to get into your audience’s head and produce something that they’re going to be comfortable with. That’s where the information architect comes in.

MB: For the client, an IA ensures that the site being developed can be easily updated and expanded — that it is scalable. On the developer side, the IA ensures that the development team has a solid foundation on which to build and can concentrate their efforts on graphic design, strategy and content development. For the end user, the IA designs a navigation system that users can easily move through without confusion.

Monster: What is the general salary range for an information architect?

ML: I’d say about $50K to 100K, depending on experience. If you’re a webmaster or an HTML production person, you’ll probably be on the low end. But if you have a design or project management background, you can expect to start on the high end.

Last week I ramped up big time with a bunch of mid-day runs in July heat. My long run this week was an 8-miler at the super hilly Morton Arboretum. It was a great setting. Tranquil. Serene. Beautiful. I love the Morton and the nearby Danada Woods for training. This was my first go at the Arboretum. Despite the hills, I loved it. The alternating shade of the trees with sweaty sun baked prairie was perfect for some 96 degree heat training. I took it slow and to be honest blew off 2 miles from my original 10 mile goal, but I think I did what I needed to.

Tomorrow begins pre-work morning strength training and short runs. Last year I made the big mistake of doing my mid-week runs on the treadmill and not doing much more than 3 or 4 miles. This week I start with 4 and ramp up to 7 during the week with a Saturday long run on 12 miles. Anyone up for a 7am trip to the Arboretum?

Man. Long neglected blog once again. Really, really need to tone down the Facebooking and come here more often for no other reason than producing some longer form prose that is more than the bitchy work e-mails I crank out all day long. I kid. Sort of. I don’t write nearly enough anymore.

This mid-June entry has me done with the Chicagoland Spring Marathon, the 2011 Chicago Ragnar Relay and closing in on 2 months of maintaining a (mostly) vegan diet.

I’m glad to have completed two huge milestones in my running this Spring. The marathon in May was my second in less than 9 months. The Ragnar was my first and hopefully not last. As I approach my 40th, I’m really glad to have running as an outlet to prove to myself that I’m not dead yet and that I can still do some crazy ass shit that most people can only dream of. As I learned this weekend, there is also a lot of humbling stuff that I will never ever  be able to do. Like run the Ragnar with only 4 other teammates in pink tutus.

With those two runs behind me, and some very sore feet on the ground, I’m taking a break. I’m gonna recover for a few more days and then I plan to focus on my yoga practice with swimming, rowing and biking to keep my cardio training up. I plan on getting my core strength way up over the next couple 6-8 weeks and then starting back on race training for the Chicago Marathon in late July. Which seems far away, but is not.

 

 

Covering all my social media bases here. I’ve already been shotgunning my Twitter and Facebook accounts with requests to support The Soaring Schoolyard Eagles. We are a 12 person team of Irving parents who will running the Madison to Chicago Ragnar relay this June.

On June 10, 2011 a team of twelve Irving parents will run 197 miles in 36 hours to raise awareness and funding for the project. Follow our progress here on irvingschoolyard.com, via our Twitter feed (@SchoolyardEagle) or join us on Facebook (http://on.fb.me/eAptOM). Our fundraising goal for this effort is $5,000, which will be used to further the work of transforming the decades old expanse of blacktop at Irving into a green space for learning and recreation.

If you can to donate to the project, please visit http://irvingschoolyard.com and click the donate button.

Currently, there are two possible grant-funded projects on the horizon which the team is working to support. These are:

Wind Turbine
A roof-mounted wind anemometer– a device to measure the amount of wind at the roof level–will be installed to determine whether Irving could be a site for a wind turbine.

Solar Panel
A one-kilowatt solar panel installed at Irving would generate data on solar power and provide exciting learning opportunities for students.

Last year I decided to give my finances a break, by limiting the number of short races I participate in. The 5Ks were a really essential goal when I was first ramping up from pudgy couch potato Mattie, but now it’s really the longer races that get me out of bed at 530a on a Sunday. And, at $50 a pop, 5K is not enough. I’d rather just donate some dough to a good cause.

All that said, I can’t give up the Shamrock Shuffle. It really has become a tradition. It was the first 8K I ran and was really the one race that sparked my serious interest and started me down the path to 15K to 13.1 and 26.2 and this year 2 x 26.2.

The race is a good practice drill for the cattle call aspects of a 35,000 participant race and despite the ridiculous numbers of runners is a lot of fun after a long winter of bleak, gray, frigid and solitary mornings.

This year, for me, the run was also a test of the speed work I’ve been doing over the winter, and a successful one at that. My hard work definitely paid off. Coupled with a return to yoga practice for strength and flexibility over the winter, I’ve shaved a full minute off of my street pace and remained mostly injury free.

A 47:08 PR in the race has left me a lot more confident of my ability to run the Chicagoland spring marathon in four weeks and the Madison to Chicago Ragnar Relay in June.

Today marks the beginning of my 11th year at VSA. Fitting that it’s a Saturday and I’m going in to the office today. Definitely classic VSA. With roots in corporate annual reporting, February has always been a pretty steep month for the firm. Our offerings and experience are much broader now, but, year to year, Q1 is still full to brimming with kickoffs, project planning and putting finishing touches on projects that didn’t quite make it into the year prior.

It’s been a long 10 years for sure. In my time here, I’ve seen a lot of change. In process and approach and a whole mess of technology. In 2000, we were building sites for Netscape 3 and Internet Explorer 5 for the Mac (shudder. if you think IE6 is bad sonny, let me tell ya). Tabled graphic slice layouts in fixed size popup windows were the favorite design gimmick of the day, driven by print designers who just couldn’t wrap their heads around a media where height, width and even type size were all variable. Remember the 216 color web safe palette? DHTML? Modems?

Now, our toolbox is much bigger and more robust. We’ve got our choice of platforms, devices, frameworks and languages. The line continues to blur between developers and designers, designers and developers, marketing and application development. I couldn’t imagine a more interesting place to be. Year to year, I’ve been fortunate to always have something new on my plate. Some new toy. Something new to learn. New people to work with. I’ve got a great team and great partners to work with and a future that looks set to provide another 10 years of interesting challenges and opportunities.

I hear will.i.am on NPR’s All Things Considered last month. Every time I hear him interviewed, I get the sense that he’s a pretty smart dude, so it’s no surprise that when asked what he saw himself doing in the next 10 or 20 years he had this to say:

I’m going to be performing music ’cause I love music. I’m going to be making music because I’m addicted to making music. But I’m also going to be, you know – I love animation. I want to assemble a group of animators. I want to assemble a group of code writers. I want people to write code. I want to think of concepts, and write applications and programs based on my concepts. But to do that, you need code writers.

I include this here, because he makes a point that is spot on. I feel the intersection of coder and creative has always been very relevant to me. There are a lot of channels for creativity. Photographers, musicians, painters, sculptors, etc. all still have plenty of room to grow and create and do new and interesting things. But there is no greater medium for impacting the world than code. I love that this is where I’ve landed and I look forward to continuing to make new and interesting things.

As usual, I’m starting off the year unable to focus. I have high hopes for getting to know some HTML editing tools on the iPad to enable me to do some coding while on my commute. Those hopes have been dashed by my newly rekindled love of RSS and Twitter thanks in large part to the App Reeder. I’ve been waiting for a mobile version Of Feedly to arrive for a while now. I love having Google Reader as my central content source, and have been really happy with Feedly. Stubbornly, i haven’t even looked at any other tool for feeds on the iPad until a number of forum posts re: Feedly recommended Reeder. Now, I’m hooked. 

The UI is pretty standard fare, but good standard fare. It’s unobtrusive and easy to use, as any UI (mobile in particular) should be. It’s fast and given a decent 3G connection pretty responsive at loading articles.

In my ongoing effort to find time for doing things to keep my development skills unjustified I’m once again looking to my commute as a source of unused time. This evening finds the added boon of a two hour plane trip to Atlanta. This morning I decided I was for sure going to travel Macbookless and prepared for the trip by grabbing a selection of three of the popular HTML editing apps available for the iPad. Despite my intentions, my heavy ass lappie is in the overhead. However, I nonetheless sit here with my third Jack and Coke, my finger begreased tablet and a pretty sweet Gogo Inflight Wireless connection posting for the first time is months while prepping for some real world testing. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Och. Had to post a review on iTunes tonight to balance out all the crybabies.

I am so happy to see that Men’s Health and Runner’s World are not laying on a bunch of overblown interactive gewgaws and are instead focusing on enhancing their content in subtle, platform appropriate ways.

I really appreciate the direction the magazine is taking on this platform. I will say that the price is right over the line on what I’d comfortably pay on a monthly basis. I do understand that the iPad and other devices for rich content delivery represent a whole new game for content publishers. Yes, we’re in a transitional phase in the industry and it may take a little while for a viable, sustainable revenue model that enables Rodale to continue to produce fantastic content to shake out. It’s no different than what the video and music industries have been struggling with.

For now, if 4.99 an issue is really what it takes then I say keep up the great work, but if you could swing something closer to 3 or maybe give the print subscribers a break to ease our transition, that would be helpful. Maybe drop the price on back issues to .99?

This morning, I’m on a train to Milwaukee and catching up on Tweets and Blogs and a whole mess of interesting development arcana. Just yesterday, I was feeling frustrated by a short week with a bunch of travel for work thrown in. In particular, I was once again feeling pangs of guilt over not keeping my promise to myself to keep this blog going and my writing skills practiced.

As I was looking for the holes in my universe that are keeping me from reading more, writing more, learning more and generally just getting shit done, it’s hard to find anything that I would be willing to trade up on.

Over the last two years, I’ve been commuting on two wheels. The 2-stroke fumes and satisfying buzz of my Stella’s engine have become a daily ritual that is occasionally tedious, sometimes frightening, but mostly pretty damn cool. I’ve found close to the perfect route to and from the office, and have got to a point where I’m comfortable riding rain or shine. The only real downside of all this is that I’m now short an hour and a half of reading or more each day. The benefits of spending 8 hours a week on the CTA trains and buses are probably pretty obvious to anyone who lives in Chicago.

For a ravenous, speedy reader like myself, that 8 hours easily represents a pile of blog articles and O’reilly book or two and probably at least one 800 page science fiction novel.

On the train today, I’ve already ready a couple great articles from the Ajaxian Twitter feed and the NPR API documentation @xak posted a link to this morning. This gets me thinking that I’ve got to find a better balance. Work is for the most part non-negotiable, Wife and daughter time are definitely non-negotiable. Gym time is flexible, but tough enough to stay consistent on as it is. That pretty much leaves the commute. Ugh. I think next week, I’ll start an experimental 2 day a week train commute and see just how much I can get done, and how miserable the train experience makes me.

Those of you who are in my Facebook circle that have missed my CTA bitching status updates can look forward to a return to form on my part.

One of the more complex issues we’ve begun to run into with the flurry of requests for iPad and mobile web apps we’ve seen over the past few months is planning for connectivity loss and offline usage. The complexity isn’t a matter of the technology available to us being complicated. Rather, it’s that we find ourselves adding one more planning and development consideration to our production mix. As with any emerging technology, we’ve found ourselves focusing a lot of effort on simply building a vernacular to enable conversations about mobile with clients who don’t always have technology representation at the table.

I suppose it’s a measure of our success that we’ve gotten beyond conversations about the basic differences, strengths and weaknesses of web apps and native app and have now moved on to talking about such meaty topics as CMS publishing protocols and synching tasks.

The Ajaxian twitter feed had a link to a really nice overview of the offline technologies available to us today. http://www.html5rocks.com/tutorials/offline/whats-offline/#introduction

I imagine we’ll be seeing mobile driving a lot more discussion of new technology over the next year. Things like geolocation, checkins, camera APIs, voice-enabled and microformats, microformats, microformats are going to be defaults in everything we build.

It seems like it has only been a year or so since we started trading page-based architectures for accordions and slideshows and overlays and other richer more application-like functionality. I am amazed at how quickly we’ve sped by these new UI considerations and moved right toward a whole new pile of technology to try to grok and bring into the fold.

I’m really excited about offline and our ability to deal with local storage of binary components in particular. Browser caching has never been quite what it should be and we now have a lot more control over storing images, JS and CSS files on the client. I believe that performance is going to be a key differentiator between Web Standards evangelists like VSA and firms that are content to continue to slop together nonsense.

Exactly the kind of hiatus I didn’t want to happen. Work ramps up and overwhelms. Next year, I’m going to split the reviews up with Zack. Fitting writing and face-to-face meetings together with 8 people is tough. I usually feel like it’s a great exercise for getting a handle on what happened in the past year, but this time it felt rushed. On the bright side, I got some major contributions in on some RFPs that have come in, so that feels good. But all in all a whole mess of above and beyond going on this month.

I sat down tonight with the question “where to next?” on my mind and immediately got a good eye twitch going as all of the to-dos in my brain starting swirling to the surface. This basically means that what I need to do is make a list. A roadmap if you will. I am definitely a list maker by trade. Without lists my poor little peabrain would be defenseless against the demands of juggling multiple projects in increments as small as .25 hours with a team of nine full-timers, a regular cast of contractors and near constant scheduling and scope changes.

Even without all that though, I’d still be making lists. I do it around the house for long term projects, weekends at home, shopping trips, you name it and I’ve got an scrap for that or more likely a striped index card size or 1/2 letter sized Post-it. I loves me some striped Post-its.

Anyhoo. It occurs to me that my road map will be something I update over time and there for not necessarily something I want to continue as a post. So we have our first item for the Road Map: 1. Add Road Map page to navigation hierarchy.

Stuff I did tonight: Started the list of stuff I want to do. Wrote way too much about my content ideas. Added a sitemap plugin. Eyes hurty. Time for bed.