The past few months in photos, minus all the computers

Wisdom from people who live in cabins

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Tiny-house construction in the Beaver Brook community in the forest of upstate New York. Thanks to the photographer, Jace Cooke, for the Creative Commons license.

Head over to cabinporn.com for a real show. (Not that kind, you sex addict. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) The folks behind the site, the residents of Beaver Brook, posted this quote recently.

It’s my experience that artist communities are almost always camps because they appropriate space that nobody else wants (at the time), but by virtue of a creative progressive view of neighborhoods they create a demand from others that ultimately marginalizes them, so they are forever transient. – James Lynch, founder of Fforest camp.

Scandinavian music, riding in the rain, and restaurants

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While not much has happened here recently, the same can’t be said for my non-digital life. To wit, a list.

  • Been listening to more and more tunes from northwestern Europe. Soaring digitals and orchestration coupled with a hint of nihilism? Count me in.
  • Visited a couple times at FreeGeek Chicago. Getting to know some of the regulars. Good people; good organization. Oddly, its basement headquarters, with bare bulbs and chainlink fence for “walls,” feels like home. Maybe I should have been a hacker.
  • Riding often. Always, rather. Unofficial goal: 360 days this year. Above, my pants hang dry after a wet ride last night.
  • Learning more about restaurant work every day. So far I’ve kept mum about my part-time employer, a pretty big player in the local-sustainable food scene here. I’m either gonna remain silent or introduce it with a bang. Haven’t decided which yet.
  • Following Matter Magazine, a Kickstarter-funded online place for good long-form science journalism. Or, as they like to call it, “journalism about the future.”
  • Trying to please those editors who like my deep/long work while trying not to scare away those editors who only need me to churn out short ephemera.
  • Eating some really great food. In the past few months I’ve been to Yusho, Mana Food Bar, Au Cheval, San Soo Gab San, Trencherman, Sixteen, Avec, Tavernita. And Lula Cafe, my perennial favorite, more times than I can count. There’s a reason I live down the block from them.

Two nights ago, at 56 glorious degrees fahrenheit, I explored the Loop, Grant Park, and Streeterville by bicycle between midnight and 2 a.m. My new header image shows Streeterville in all its money-soaked sparkle.

The cadillacs of bike accessories

I’m writing this as much to record my wish list as to tell you about it.

Kickstarter helped fund two of these three outrageous-cool bike accessories. From left to right, the Blink Steady rear light; the TiGr titanium lock; the Hövding helmet-as-airbag, which, unless you’re in an accident, looks like a punk scarf.

The light’s all the rage because it eliminates human interaction with it. No more switching modes, turning on and off, or even removing it from your bike to prevent theft. If only they incorporated solar charging; maybe that’s too much to ask. With fundraising successful, the question isn’t if but when they’ll release a front light.

The titanium lock sparked a do’h moment: why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? Stronger than a U-lock and one-third the weight. Not to mention that I carry two U-locks—to protect both wheels—for the job that a single TiGr unit does. Sign me up.

While the airbag-helmet ($600) and lock ($200) are for sale now, the light will be available soon. Pre-orders cost $125.

I can’t see myself spending $600 for a slightly more pleasurable ride… but $125 to save a couple minutes every day? Sure. And $200 to shave nearly a dozen pounds? It’s so worth it.

New city, new (ad)ventures

It’s time I move this site into line with reality. I left Ohio journalism at the end of May, after exactly a year with the Springfield News-Sun and, sporadically, the Dayton Daily News.

Since I had accepted an offer to be Springfield’s permanent city hall reporter only a month earlier, my colleagues were surprised to hear my decision. When I told them where I was going — Chicago — they all smiled. (All but those tasked with ensuring the paper’s coverage.)

It would have been an honor to cover government in a city with such an important past. But after talking to several older friends whose bylines appear in places I covet, I found I had probably taken what I needed from the Ohio position. Anything else was just gravy. I needed to cast a wider net.

It helped that my wife got a job offer in Chicago at an exclusive hotel downtown, and that I scored part-time work in a kick-ass restaurant. More on that later.

But now, as dust settles in a one-bedroom in the Logan Square neighborhood, my desk is coming into shape. My magazine subscriptions will soon roll in. And I’ll be writing about what I want to write, in the timeframes I want to write.

It was scary to leave the pension, the 401(k). But if I was gonna do what would tickle my soul, I had to.

Below is the trailer for a forthcoming documentary produced by some good blokes from nearby Wilmington, Ohio. My sentiments exactly, boys. My sentiments exactly.

I saw the first minutes of an innocent man’s freedom after 20 years in prison

Roger Dean Gillispie leaves a bus with supporters to face his parents’ home, which he hadn’t seen in 20 years. According to a U.S. district court decision six days ago, Gillispie was wrongly convicted of nine counts of rape in 1988. Photo by Teesha McClam, used courtesy of Dayton Daily News.

Though he likely could have gotten out sooner by feigning guilt, Gillispie maintained his innocence throughout his imprisonment. This persistence would seem to make him an even more valuable advocate for The Innocence Project — in Ohio, an arm of the University of Cincinnati law school — which helped free him.

My co-byline appears on Dayton Daily News‘ front page today, above the fold. Here’s the PDF.

An Ohio attorney-turned-politician, Jim Petro, has been behind Gillispie for several years. Petro’s book on wrongful convictions has been making waves in the world of law enforcement and is dedicated to Gillispie.

After the jump I’ve pasted my notes from the initial meeting in the bowling alley. (Edited for space, the article above leaves out the small details of Gillispie’s first minutes of freedom.)

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Mobile tech + democracy = awesomeness

So I’m in this class called mobile journalism, and we’re doing a lot of cool stuff.

Liveblogging Arianna Huffington was only the beginning—we’ve Skype’d with people in Africa and Japan on the same day about how they use their phones, Skype’d with Kevin Thau, a VP of Twitter about (what else?) the future of Twitter, and now we’re designing the mobile presence of Chicago News Cooperative, the new nonprofit heavy-duty reporting outfit that covers the city for the New York Times.

Also my fridge project is for this class. Orion Magazine, whose photo project was inspiration for mine, has tweeted about me TWICE THREE TIMES. They’re my favorite mag and have been called the most important environmental magazine, so you should know I’m psyched. Feel free to follow my prof, Dan Sinker, on Twitter.

But interestingly enough, today I felt compelled to post because of the textbook for this class—Mobile Design and Development by Brian Fling. An excerpt:

The Estonian government will be putting the concept of media context to the test in their 2011 parliamentary elections, allowing citizens to vote for their leaders using SMS. In this case, the government can tabulate results instantly. But imagine a day when citizens can vote on local or national issues in real time, eschewing having to wait for traditional media to report on the effect of their vote, instead seeing the results in real time, as it happens.

There are already many opting to use the mobile media context in order to be heard. On the immensely popular television show American Idol, more votes were cast using a mobile phone in 2009 (178 million total text message votes) than votes cast in the 2008 presidential election (131 million ballots cast).

If that doesn’t deserve an “OMG,” I don’t know what does.

My idea: direct democracy. I think it’s possible with saturation of mobile.

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