Sunday, November 30, 2008

Yes You Can Make Money Making Art

Here's a great article in the NYTimes this weekend. I wish somebody handed me this article when I was 20.

Transforming Art Into a More Lucrative Career Choice

Here's an excerpt:
Mr. Niles and Ms. Hellmuth have learned on their own what Elliot McGucken teaches in his course, Artist Entrepreneurs, which he developed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a grant from the Kauffman Foundation. Mr. McGucken’s course, now taught at Pepperdine University, rests on the principle that those who create art should have the skills to own it, profit from it and protect it.

(I wish I got royalties for all the interfaces I designed... I'd be retired right now)

Now, to hell with the intellectual property slavery of your day job! Ignore your parents, quit, grab your pencils, and blaze your own career.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Touring Baltimore Rehab Houses - Photos

I've been dreaming about houses. It's a mystery how many beautiful old victorians stand vacant in Baltimore when it lies just an hour up the road from Washington DC. Sure this is an old rust belt city but it's not like Detroit, it's close to Philadelphia and New York, there's a lot going on. We have Michael Phelps and Ace of Cakes, a symphony, opera, and one of the biggest ports in the USA. So how come there are hundreds (perhaps thousands) of vacant houses in Baltimore?

I explored a few rehabs last weekend in an attempt to learn if they are worth it, I'm sharing some thoughts and photos here with you. I looked at 10 different houses from a 7 bedroom mansion-townhouse in Reservoir Hill (for $200k) to a small but charming house actually in a good neighborhood, Mount Vernon (also for 200k). These homes however are in fairly bad neighborhoods and are as cheap as it gets.

North Avenue Nomansland for $60k
From Baltimore Rehabs Pt.1

From Baltimore Rehabs Pt.1
For seemingly nothing, $60,000, you can be the proud owner of a four bedroom row house right across the street from Greenmount cemetary. Actually, we saw two townhouses, right next door to each other, and they are not as terrible as you might think, but after you sunk another $200,000 in rehabing this place, you would be lucky to sell it for a loss. I LOVE the 3 story townhouse, but I love having neighbors even more. This is one of the worst neighborhoods in Baltimore, it's a shame, there are so many potentially great houses. There's so much potential.

Another Neighborhood with Few Neighbors for $90k
From Baltimore Rehabs Pt.1

From Baltimore Rehabs Pt.1

From Baltimore Rehabs Pt.1

From Baltimore Rehabs Pt.1

From Baltimore Rehabs Pt.1

This 4 bedroom townhouse (the red one in the first photo) is in pretty good shape! It is very similar to the North Ave. houses, but better. Still it needs at least $100k in work including a new kitchen, 2+ new bathrooms, roof, windows, and who knows what else. But for $90k it's a big, beautiful house the likes of which never gets built any more. One major problem (see last pic) most of the neighbors are vacant buildings and shells.

Bolton Hill Beauty Past Her Prime for $160k
From Baltimore Rehabs Pt.1

From Baltimore Rehabs Pt.1

From Baltimore Rehabs Pt.1

From Baltimore Rehabs Pt.1

Even bigger and more fabulous than any other townhouses we saw that day, this house is seriously worth buying, if you can afford it. This is the worst house in the "best" neighborhood we saw, Bolton Hill. However it will take at least $150k just to fix the damage of time and water. Similar to the other townhouses pictured but even bigger, this place had been subdivided into apartments in the past.

Competing Against Time & Newer Homes in the Suburbs with Parking
I concluded at the end of my tour-de-rehab that the problem with Baltimore is the suburbs. Why would anybody abandon such nice architecture? Because they want to eat fast food all the time and shop at chains? No, because people are lazy and houses need money & maintenance all the time. All the places we saw lacked modern features, they all had oil heat (or nothing , horrible), and they lacked garages. They were all an efficiency nightmare. But all this stuff can be corrected. Another huge problem is the neighborhoods. To make buying a Baltimore rehab worth it, there needs to be a LOT of people interested in living in those neighborhoods. Nobody wants to go to sleep every night on a block of abandoned homes. Even still, it's not too late for a lot of really interesting people to take control of their city lives. Buy a rediculously affordable house, spread out and make a dream a reality.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Anybodying Getting Federal Handouts Should Be Drug Tested, Including Bailed-Out Wall Street

I got this funny message over email and it made me think... Since the fed has dumped so many billion$ into the banks, why not drug test all those Wall Street guys?! Somehow I have a sneaking suspicion that there would be a lot of positives among the fattest cats in finance. Might explain how the banks messed up so much over the past few years.

Thanks Jen for forwarding this.

(Whoever wrote this one deserves a HUGE pat on the back!) Like a lot of folks in this state, I have a job. I work, they pay me. I pay my taxes and the government distributes my taxes as it sees fit. In order to get that paycheck, I am required to pass a random urine test with which I have no problem. What I do have a problem with is the distribution of my taxes to people who don't have to pass a urine test.

Shouldn't one have to pass a urine test to get a welfare check because I have to pass one to earn it for them? Please understand, I have no problem with helping people get back on their feet. I do, on the other hand, have a problem with helping someone sitting on their ass doing drugs, while I work. . . . Can you imagine how much money the state would save if people had to pass a urine test to get a public assistance check? Pass this along if you agree or simply delete if you don't. Hope you all will pass it along, though. . Some thing has to change in this country -- and

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Does Technology Weaken Everyday Real Life Experience?

Example no. 1 - The Grocery Store
The Giant grocery store near my house has a bunch of those automatic checkouts where you scan, and ring up all your own purchases and even bag your own stuff too. While Giant might be saving some money from these machines replacing people, I wonder why this is good? It's certainly not an improved experience for me as a shopper. Compare this with Eddie's around the corner where they unload your basket for you, ring you up with a smile, and will carry your bags out to your car. Hands down Eddie's wins more of my dollars just for better customer experience.

Here's the article inspiring this blog post:
Stores Count Seconds to Trim Labor Costs
I can't think of worse customer experience than this. Food is supposed to be a happy social experience. Why would any retailer actively destroy the fun already in shopping?

Example no. 2 - A Walk in the Park
Simple things have become overly complicated thanks to another kind of technology. The automobile has literally changed the landscape everywhere, in so many complicated ways, it has had a compounding negative effect on everybody's quality of life, and the environment. Just trying to get some exercise I need a car. Just trying to get some exercise I have to dodge some cars. Just trying to earn some money, I have to first spend a LOT of money to maintain that piece of technology that has been like cancer to the Earth. That landscape I mentioned used to be green and full of life, now it's coated with asphalt and concrete. Once roads are built they become a permanent part of the environment. People then accept more of it, even though we would all prefer to be living in a green park. I don't understand why cars and their detritus (roads) can't be thoughtfully planned AROUND human life instead of treading upon, and destroying it?

The Compounding Effect of Bad Experiences Means Life Sucks More for Everyone!
These are just a couple of examples of very common experiences that need a lot of improvement. Any piece of architecture, infrastructure, any consumer product or software ALWAYS needs to be carefully planned. What I think is shocking is how many people think these negative destructive systems are OK. Why is it OK to commute for two hours a day? Why is it OK to be robbed of sleep simply by using your cellphone too much? Why is it OK to rush little old ladies through grocery store lines? I for one simply refuse to accept these intrusions on quality of life as OK.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Not in New York

I recently finished a successful business trip to San Francisco and I want to remind everyone that, while I don't live in New York, I can and do travel to New York, and places further away, ALL THE TIME. So yeah, I don't live in New York. I had every intention of settling into New York city when I moved back east this spring, but it didn't happen. Since I never ever want to rent again, I'm not really worried about it. I am in Baltimore, also known as "the Washington DC Area"... Also known as the only metropolitan area in the country who's economy never gets that bad because of the big employer here who never goes out of business.

I feel like an idiot for having to write this but enough already with DC and Baltimore bashing! Stop being a location hater! I hate it that LinkedIn and other job websites filter me out of talent seaches just because of where I live. It shouldn't matter, I work on the internet and I should live wherever I choose!

Since I've been here, some folks have been very supportive. These people know how to work with remote consultants. Thanks Fabio, Andrea, Greg, Megan, Anu! For everybody else please bear in mind that I can be very easy to work with, and offer way more compettitive rates than a New York or San Francisco based designer. If you need a website, a usability audit of an existing website, IA information architecture, web product design, or just graphic design, I'm your gal. Just contact me at design (at)

P.S. I just set up a brand new desktop system installed with a rockin' new Adobe Creative Suite 4. I'm so ready to solve your design problem it's ridiculous.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Trying to Buy A New Apple LED Cinema Display With Porn

I'm starting to become annoyed with Apple as all my shopping experiences with them are tainted by simplistic marketing that never really helps to inform. Last weekend I visited the Apple store in San Francisco for the specific purpose of looking at the new LED cinema display I'm thinking about buying. This is obviously one of those things that I actually need to VIEW WORKING in REAL LIFE.

Here's my experience at the Apple store. First they only had one of the new LED displays out. I had to get an employee to point me to it out of the hundred or so old displays they had out, because it was hard to find in a crowded store (with a band playing) and a couple hundred people surfing the net like a bunch of students. Gee, I guess the LED display must not be that special. The nice salesperson led me to the display tucked away in a corner of the store already in use, by some guy actively engaged in about a dozen porn chats. Here it is, said the sales person, and quickly left me with the pervert, who didn't look up from his chats. I just stood there and watched this guys's screen trying to accomplish my task of evaluating the display. I caught phrases like, "Anal slut" and "hardcore this" and a lot of other things which I really cannot repeat in my blog. It was ridiculous. The guy at the computer there looked like a scum bag and he should have been escorted out by security, but no, nobody did anything. For christ sake, this was on the ONLY LED DISPLAY IN THE PLACE.

Honestly, I don't really care if people look at porn or what, but it is soooo not appropriate in the Apple store. If I wanted to see that shit I'd go seek it out in private. I cannot think of a better way for Apples competition to tarnish their brand than by sending malicious agents into Apple stores and take advantage of their liberal operations by bringing up porn.

Yes I was a little offended. Not by the porn itself but by how appathetic I felt the Apple store was to me as a legitimate customer. Now instead of a new Apple laptop/display combo I'm considering a HP Touchsmart instead.