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Entries in Milwaukee (36)


BarCamp Milwaukee 2006 is Tomorrow!

d334.jpgI can't believe the weekend is actually here — BarCampMilwaukee kicks off Saturday September 30th through Sunday October 1st, 2006, at Bucketworks 1319 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

I'm looking forward to meeting many other interesting Milwaukee people, since much of this event is geared around creating a local community and sharing ideas with each other. I'm very excited about sharing on my logo design process, demoing how to create a custom Moleskine planner and facilitating a round table on working remotely with global clients and colleagues.

There are many other sessions being presented, ranging from videoblogging, sharing gadgets and self-publishing, to Drupal, Linux and Thermonuclear Fusion!

If you're near the Milwaukee area and are looking for a way to connect with other technical people, sign up at the Barcamp Milwaukee's Camper page, find a way to get involved and come on down! It's not too late! :-)


BarCampMilwaukee 2006

d334.jpgAbout a month ago, fellow Milwaukee Web Design Meetup Group member Pete Prodoehl happened to mention something called BarCamp in one of our conversations.

Turns out Pete is one of the organizers of BarCampMilwaukee, happening on Saturday September 30th & Sunday October 1st, 2006, at Bucketworks 1319 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

What's BarCamp Anyway?
Now, I'd heard the term BarCamp before, but had only a vague idea what it was. I figured it was another geek conference, sponsored by a tech company, complete with expensive entry fees, well-known presenters, hosted in a pricey hotel in San Francisco, or New York City.

Wrong! I've since learned that BarCamp is an "un-conference" — BarCamp are started by local people who want to attend one, in any city where other interested people will come and be part of the event.

In many ways BarCamp is an open source conference — the "campers" create the event, attend the event and even present at the event for other attendees. In fact, every BarCamp attendee (campers) should share in some way about their passions with other interested campers, or at least help setup/cleanup.

I'm Not a Super-Nerd, Can I Come?
Well, I figured a super-nerdy un-conference would probably exclude me. I can't wax poetic about arcane perl commands, lecture on proper PHP syntax or discuss the inner workings of the latest Linux distro. What technical demonstration could I offer that geeky campers wouldn't know 50 times more about?

Wrong again! Pete told me BarCamp is about sharing your passion on a subject, not being a super-nerdy technical expert. Of course, good technical presentations are welcomed, but not required. If you have a passion, you can share it with others at BarCamp. Cool!

So, I asked Pete: could I share my logo design sketch process? Or maybe how I created a custom Moleskine planner and hacked a G2 mini to use a Uniball cartridge?

"Heck yes!" said Pete.

He thought both would be great topics, so I've added my Logo Design Process and Custom Moleskine Planner & G2 Mini Pen Hack Demo to the sessions page.

Come to BarCampMilwaukee!
If you live in or near Milwaukee and have interest in meeting other people, and being a part of BarCampMilwaukee, I encourage you to sign up as an camper and come on down Saturday, September 30th through Sunday October 1st. It's going to be a blast!

If you decide to become a camper, please let me know in the comments or via email. I'd like to meet fellow BarCampers and talk over a coffee.

Related Links:
JSOnline: BarCamp stuffs tech ideas into 24 hours
Wisconsin Technology Network: BarCampMilwaukee promises a tech-focused event


Cranky Al's & Mrs. Java

Suzy & Al BrkichThis weekend, my wife and son visited Cranky Al's & Mrs. Java, our favorite local coffee and donut shop. Of course we had a great time in their little storefront shop, sipping good coffee, eating hand-cranked donuts, and interacting with fellow visitors.

Al and Suzy are quite the fixture in the small community where they operate and they have done this in just a few short years. Its as if they're a community gathering spot, offering a welcome place for kids to grandparents and everyone in-between — even hip young singles and couples in the area.

It has something to do with good coffee, donuts an pastries, but it also has something to do with their real personalities and the environment they've created at the shop. They are active participants in creating this friendly, homey environment, which is quite different from a more corporate setting of a Starbucks. It's something more like being in a small town bakery, coffee shop or greasy spoon diner.

For instance, it's not unusual to walk into the shop and have Cranky Al bark some friendly, yet cranky comments at you. If someone orders an espresso drink, Al will shout "FANCY COFFEE!" and immediately move to the next customer, letting the barrista handle the lattés and cappuccinos. To the kids he might offer, "Hey, line up along the counter and have your choice ready, this is a donut shop, not K-Mart!". In between friendly jibes at customers, comments pop out such as "Cranky Al's donuts, they're Krispy and Kremey!"

On the surface it sounds cranky, but you immediately know it's an endearing welcome, similar to the crankiness waitresses feign at Ed Debevic's 50's burger shops. Of course you have to have a sense of humor to detect this — which I imagine might be a problem for too-uptight, literal visitors. :-)

As a final example of this cranky yet funny and friendly humor, this is the text of sign posted on their donut counter:

"Unattended children will be given two shots of espresso and a puppy"

I think it's wonderful that a place like Cranky Al's and Mrs. Java exist for people to visit. In a world where chain stores and corporate attempts at homeyness are so prevalent, a genuine instance brings a smile to my face and my tummy. :-)


A Gray Day at the Café

The sky is a muddy blend of pale blue and battleship gray today. It seems to draw the brightness off of shiny metal surfaces and even seems to dull the headlights of passing cars. Strangely enough, even the yellow gold warmth of the café's hanging lamps is absorbed into the grayness of the sky outside as it reaches the expanse of windows. Like a big gray sponge.

Cars come and go. Beemers and beaters. Pickup trucks, SUVs, minivans, compact cars. Sometimes I'm surprised by the drivers of cars that arrive. For instance, a small asian woman who seems no more than 13 or 14 years old, driving a new VW Passat. A rough and tumble tradesman jumps out of a utilitarian white pickup truck. A well-dressed middle aged woman with funky glasses climbs into a seemingly appropriate BMW. A group of three commuters, lattés in hand, converge on a single car and climb in, sharing the ride to work.

Inside the café, patrons enter and order, following the signs to the pickup station, grab fancy coffees and leave again. Caffeinate and repeat. Espresso machine whooshes in the distance, turning milk into a hot foamy substance. Large skim almond latte! Small chai tea! That'll be $17.02 please. Have a great day! Get back on the road. Go, go go. Get to work. Sip, sip.

It's an interesting mix of customers. At the counter, a Middle aged woman with short, slightly burgundy spikey hair and a red scarf waits in line. A tall, slim, red-haired man in army pants and cross trainers (who looks like a vertically stretched version of the guy who visits Neo's apartment for a disc in the first Matrix film) leaves the café for his car. A Business man in a tightly wrapped brown trench-coat, leaves with his drink... he's in a hurry.

Near the coffee pickup station, a woman who looks like a living doll waits for a chai. She sports a head of jet black hair, perfectly trimmed to the shape of a black olive. Her dark locks provide a stark contrast to her very fair skin. The unnaturally pink wool coat she wears completes the look perfectly. A businessman in a tidy dark gray pinstriped suit and close shaven hair, sits in one of the leather easy chairs by the fireplace, sipping at his white coffee cup, reading a novel.

As I walked to the café earlier this morning, I noticed that the mechanical billboard across the street was getting a bit stuck in the 15 degree cold. It's still not working right. Tall, thin triangular bars, each one with a narrow sliver of the billboard applied to it form the surface of the billboard. These bars are mounted tightly together to look almost like a single surface. Every few moments these triangular pieces rotate in unison, displaying one of three billboards encoded on each of side of the triad surface. But a quarter of the left edge seems off by just a few degrees, leaving a strange sub image in place. The slacker quarter.

Now the sky is a lighter shade of gray, but it still cancels out the warm yellow light. It's one of those days when I wish for a sunny, green, late spring day. Oh well, I've got a few months to wait for that. Sip, sip.


Harley-Davidson 100th Celebration Parade

Harley ParadeSaturday morning we awakened to a constant rumble of motorcycles that has become quite normal around Milwaukee since mid-week, when riders began rolling into town. It's hard to explain how the rumble sounds, because bike engines are sometimes close enough to the house to clearly hear them, yet most of the time they sound more like a collage of bike engines that blurs into a hum. The rumble is pretty loud too... even down in our basement we could hear the constant hum quite clearly.

August 30th was the big day when 10,000 Harley-Davidson motorcycles paraded across town in celebration of the company's 100th anniversary. Since we didn't live far from the parade route, we decided it'd be a fun experience to walk down and see the parade as a family. So, we had breakfast and dressed for the occasion in our Harley-Davidson t-shirts.

Nathan was sporting a home-made shirt with Harley-Davidson logos ink-jet printed and ironed on Friday night. The front of his shirt had a 100th anniverdary logo while back had "Harley Lovin' Half-Pint Hog" encircling a Harley-Davidson logo.

Harley T'sGail and I wore t-shirts from a Swedish Harley-Davidson dealership we visited in 1998, on the outskirts of Uppsala, north of Stockholm. It was great fun meeting the owner of he store, Kjell, especially when we mentioned we came from Milwaukee. We chatted with him a while, talked about the upcoming 95th anniversary celebration taking place in the summer of '98 and bought two dealer t-shirts (he even gave us a Milwaukee discount!). As a small thank you, we gathered 95th anniversary items and sent a care package to Kjell, which he really loved.

Once we were packed up, we headed off to see the show. Milwaukeeans were already streaming toward the start of the parade at the Milwaukee Zoo. As we approached the exit point of the Zoo parking lot, we could already hear bikes rumbling past us, but couldn't see a thing because the crowd was about 8 to 10 people deep! We kept walking east, until we were able to find an opening in the line of spectators.

The crowds in general were amazing! From the reports I heard, spectators filled the entire 7.5 mile parade route 8-10 people deep and 15-20 people deep at intersections and corners on the route. One rider in the parade interviewed on TV said "I don't think anyone in Milwaukee is home today!"

Harley Parade FlagsOur spot was pretty good, but because of the crowds and the narrowness of the road, it was very difficult to see bikers coming more than a few feet ahead. I was looking in particular for international riders and flags they might have mounted on their bikes. Fortunately, many of the flags were large enough to see above the heads and shoulders of the crowd. I saw quite a variety too: Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Ireland, Wales, Honduras, Sweden, Germany, France, Netherlands, Japan, Canada, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, South Africa and there were probably some I missed. This for me was the coolest part -- seeing visitors from around the world coming to Milwaukee with their Harley-Davidsons and being welcomed so warmly.

The riders cruised down Bluemound road two abreast, and at a reasonable speed so that we could see them as they passed by. Many in the crowd cheered, waved or gave thumbs up signs to passing riders while others held signs like "Welcome Home" and "Come as Visitors, Leave as Friends" which the riders would wave, beep at or cheer to.

On occasion, a backup would occur ahead of our position and the group of riders would bunch up and come to a stop. When this happened, riders would rev their engines to the cheers of the crowds.

Gail knew a work colleague who lived a bit further east of our first stake-out spot, so we decided to continue east and look for him. It actually turned out to be a much better location for viewing the parade, as the crowd was much less compressed. We spotted Gail's work colleague across the street but couldn't yell loud enough to get his attention. A reunion would have to wait until after the parade.

Swedish RidersMeanwhile, bikers just kept coming and coming and coming... At one point I saw a huge blue and yellow Swedish flag coming towards us and pointed it out to Gail. The parade slowed down and the Swedish rider and his wife came to a stop right in front of us. Thinking quickly, Gail jumped into the road and turned her back to them both, pointing at the 'Uppsala, Sweden' on the back of her Swedish Harley shirt. After a moment of reading and realization, the Swedish rider's eyes lit up, a big grin spread across his face and and he screamed "UPPSALA!!!" His wife yelled "Yea!" Gail and I just smiled and waved. The parade of bikers began moving again and the Swedish riders were off with big smiles and a great story for their friends back home. For us, that moment was the highlight of the parade. :-)

As a designer, I was impressed with the variations of bikes we saw. Each Harley seemed a uniquely customized bike. I suppose a few riders may keep their bikes stock, but the vast majority seem to modify them with accessories or paint. We saw nearly every model Harley represented, including classic Fat Boys (like the one Arnold Schwartzenegger rode in Old TimerTerminator 2) to the new high performance V-Rod, which I think looks very cool. Some of the bikes had gorgeous custom paint jobs while others sported flags. One bike from Oregon was covered with animal skins. Eewww.

We were a little concerned about Nathan and his reaction to the noise, because he didn't do well at the July 4th parade this year with fire engines' sirens. However, he did just great! As long as we were nearby, he was enjoying the rumbling bikes. In fact, near the end of the parade, he became overloaded with all of the people and action, and fell asleep in his stroller. Pretty amazing.

Nearly 2 hours later, all 10,000 bikes had rolled past. Three Harley-Davidson semi trucks finished off the parade, beeping their air horns as they lumbered past us. What an amazing sight. We crossed the street and visited with the friends we'd spotted earlier and then began the walk back home as spectators and bikers alike, packed it up for the 100th parade.

HD SemisOn the way home I thought about how cool it would have been to ride in the parade. Just imagine, you're a regular person who's chosen to ride a Harley-Davidson. You've come to Milwaukee with your bike, an entire city welcomes you for the 100th celebration of your cycle's company and cheers as you ride through town. Man, that must have been an amazing, emotional feeling for the riders to experience.

Overall, I think the 100th celebration went very well. I've heard of no problems in the city and that the events were all well organized and attended. Bikers and residents of the city seemed to have high respect for each other, with many business offering special deals and freebies to visiting riders. This is probably the biggest event ever to occur here in Milwaukee, and I'm really proud to have been part of it.

If you happen to be a Harley-Davidson rider who was here in August 2003: thanks for coming! We'll see you again in 2008 for the 105th! :-)