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I’ve finally gotten around to reading Onward by Howard Shultz, ceo of Starbucks. I actually preordered the book and it’s been sitting on a shelf for many months. I’m reaching the end of the book and have really enjoyed reading it. He explains step by step how some critical and difficult decisions were made.

One of these included removing, then bringing back breakfast sandwiches from the cafés. The below photo was on display at a Starbucks in Bloomington, IL. We were on our way to St. Louis and seeing this seemed like a little IRL easter egg.



Ford Focus

I bought a new car back in September and have thought about writing about it for some time but also don’t really think I need to tell the whole world about what car I’m driving around. It was a big deal for me to make the purchase and I got a car that I felt was practical and fuel-efficient but also fun to drive and technologically advanced.

It was what I like to call my quarter life crisis and I wanted to get something that was more than the bare minimum of what I needed. The 2012 Ford Focus fit the bill perfectly. It’s fuel efficient and fun to drive. The center console tech is probably the best available in a non-luxury car. The doors unlock when I touch the door handle from the outside and it has push button start (no need to ever remove the keys from my pocket), LCD display with MyFord Touch, and a few other things I won’t go into detail about. I also went with the 5 door hatchback which is great for when I take my bike on a trip (it fits inside the car with the rear seats folded down)1.

When I started driving it I saw very few other new Focus on the road. Now I’m seeing more and more. In March Ford sold almost 6,700 more Focus units (28,293 total in March) than GM sold Cruze units, its nearest competition. For both of these vehicles it marks a shift for the domestic manufacturers beginning to take over the lead of the small car market.

I share this because I can’t help but feel like I made the right bet. Not only do I really like the car, but it’s also leading the market. Feels good to see Detroit gain it’s strength back and produce vehicles that people want to buy.

  1. I plan to put a hitch on it this summer and add a bike carrier to the back.

Coffee Common

Coffee has become an increasing routine for Dani and I. We brew at home every weekday in the morning and sometimes on the weekends too. This was mostly spurred by Dani’s gift to me last year, we participated in Intelligentsia roasting house tour and she arranged for a private At Home Brewing class. Before the class the most elaborate we got was using a french press. By the end of the class we realized we much preferred a pour over method.

The class and tour gave me a better appreciation for coffee and what it can be. I’ve started to follow a few blogs about coffee and sometimes go through Youtube playlists of brewing method videos.

There is an interesting group calling themselves Coffee Common that is gathering at the TED conference this year that is bringing together independent roasters and baristas from around the world to serve and brew excellent coffee at the event. Photo’s from the event here.

Coffee Common brings together world-class baristas and roasters with shared values, to create unique experiences that introduce people to the nuanced joys of exceptional coffee. We believe that great coffee is, at its best, a collaboration of an empowered coffee farmer, an artisan coffee roaster, a dedicated barista, and an enlightened consumer. We believe that great coffee requires study, experimentation, craftsmanship, and humility. These diverse roasters and baristas, who by most definitions would be considered competitors, come together as a community to proselytize the simple truths around coffee. We look forward to pouring you a cup of the most complex and extraordinary beverage in the world.

This is the ethos of what Intelligentsia was preaching during the roasting Tour. What we sip from a cup is more than the end product but the sum of the roaster, world-wide trade, and the farmers. It’s an interesting way to engage a conversation about world commerce by starting with coffee. Plus I love getting a little geeky about brewing devices.

Pixels Matter

When the news came out about Mountain Lion I went to Apple’s site to read about what is to come. Some of the graphics on the page stuck out as not quite right. I was reading on a XP machine with IE 8, the borders around these buttons did not line up right.

Notice the thin grey outline around “Overview” creates one side that is thicker than the other.

When I got home I checked it out on my Mac’s Google Chrome browser.

Sure enough the graphic is displayed as intended, with rounded corners and an even border all the way around. I know Internet Explorer is not a modern browser. But its lack of support for web standards is eye twitchingly bad. It hurts every time I have to open IE up.

Chrysler Super Bowl Ad

Since last years Imported From Detroit Chrysler Super Bowl commercial I’ve paid close attention to their advertisements throughout the year. The Imported From Detroit tag line resonated with a lot of people especially Detroiters. That day I changed my Twitter description to include the line. The line feels like it reminds others that Detroit’s the place where people can take flat sheet metal and turn it into dreams on wheels.

Back to the commercials.

The 2011 commercial set the stage for a years worth of advertising. It featured seemingly non-sequential sweeping shots in slightly muted colors. Nothing was poppy or too bright, with the exception of the cars. It also exclusively featured scenes of Detroit.

The same styling was applied to a few other commercials released throughout the year. They we again primarily or exclusively shot around Detroit. I had to do a few searches to confirm locations. One of which includes a Frank Lloyd Wright house.

The styling changes stuck out to be when comparing the 2012 Super Bowl ad to the 2011 ad. This years ad was much less Detroit centric, it focused on a broader swath of America. It was also a bit more dramatic. The production values felt a little cleaner and more produced. It was also not in a 16×9 aspect ratio (typical widescreen TV), like in 2011. In 2012 they used a cinematic aspect ratio.

Maybe the cinematic nature was fitting for using Clint Eastwood as the actor and narrator. The more universal imaging was probably also used to better relate to a broader audience too. The focus of other Chrysler brands was probably a good idea too. A Jeep or Dodge vehicle is probably more of a family car than the 300. The post production effects did not go unnoticed too.

I like both ads. In fact I’ve downloaded the source files from Youtube and have them sitting on a hard drive as a kind of historic archive. I’ll have them ready to share with future generations, when I just want a Detroit pick me up, and just in case things get pulled down.

My friend David also shared his take on the commercial here.

2012 Chrysler Super Bowl Ad

2011 Chrysler Super Bowl Ad

Friends – Teach For America

I’ve had a handful of friends from college become core members in Teach For America. At least three that I’ve kept in touch with and discussed their experiences. They give two years of their lives to work in underperforming schools. Some have worked in urban cities and others in more rural communities.

They are beyond intelligent people and give so much of themselves for an adopted community.

It has been really interesting to follow the different experiences each has had. They all have modestly said that they miss the mark some days in the classroom. I’m sure their schools would argue differently. None of my friends in TFA went to college for education, but they become certified teachers in their respective states in order to be in the classroom. Their preparation is intense the summer before starting their first positions and that intensity carries through their TFA careers. They are full fledge teachers employed by the school they teach in and on top of that work for TFA meeting all their additional requirements.

Another common point is that they have all talk about being in positions they would not have expecting when signing up.

My friend Caroline1 shared a moving story this week about her class. For background, here’s a quote from her post.

I’m friends with a chunk of TFA Detroit, and as a result my kids are pen-pals with a nice bunch at a charter. Yesterday talking with a Detroit CM, I learned one of our pen-pals died Tuesday evening. She was at home, inside, when three bullets came through her door and into her “skull and ribcage” as stated in the news. While the CM is understandably numb, I started crying immediately.

These are the kinds of real life events that you never wish to happen to anyone. Yet this is just one of those stories I’ve heard from my friends in TFA. Caroline teaches in the Mississippi Delta. So I would imagine Detroit is a distant place in perspective for her students. She decided to tell her classes about what happened.

I decided to tell all my classes (she was one of my student’s pen-pal, after all), and ask them to donate anything they want to so I can send flowers to Detroit, and maybe send some cash to the family. All classes were visibly shaken, but after 4 minutes of processing, we moved on tI decided to tell all my classes (she was one of my student’s pen-pal, after all), and ask them to donate anything they want to so I can send flowers to Detroit, and maybe send some cash to the family. All classes were visibly shaken, but after 4 minutes of processing, we moved on to other things.

Letting these kinds of conversations fall into the classroom feels dangerous. It’s filled with emotional liability, skipped standards, and irresolvable issues. But what is school teaching if we’re not teaching how to cope with arguably the one certainty of life? Death is guaranteed to everyone, and when asked, about 80% of my kids can tell you they’ve seen quite enough of it already, at 12.

Second period was not done in four minutes. Second period was the first class I told, and it was hard for me to not cry, which incited an emotional response. Students volunteered to tell the class that they wanted to send cards, that they have felt death, too, that they had had hard times…

It is worth the time to read the post in its entirety here.

Those brave enough to commit themselves to TFA, get involved, and try to make the possibilities of life a little more attainable for our youth by both teaching what is in the text books and what is not. What I’m continually amazed by is their ability to deal with real life difficult situations that you can’t imagine or ever be fully prepared for.

  1. As a side note, I’m pretty sure I could write a small biography on Caroline just through her writing. She’s prolific and as reader I would say writes with a very honest voice. If you follow her TFA blog she will sometimes post a list of what her class needs and request donations. Please support, if you can. 

Restarting Blog

I’ve been reading blogs as a daily routine since I entered college and had my own PC. First it was just a bookmark list that I opened up every day across multiple tabs, drilled down the pages, and looked for anything new. That soon evolved into adding the RSS feeds into goggle reader.

I guess it was harder to build your own website 7 years ago, but blogger was popular and I learned how to embed a blogger blog on to the servers the university provided. From there I learned just enough HTML to create my own site. I had no idea what I was doing and really only wrote to update my family.

Now, I have mostly abandoned a personal blog. With this post I hope to get back into it.

Friends have been really good at keeping a blog. People I admire for the commitment to blogging are Caroline (here and here) and another friend David (here). My brother has been more sporadic but when he does write he does it well (here).