Business cards

business card front

I’m excited about my new business cards, created with design help by my friend Matt Albacete. Here’s the back:

business card back

My name is set in different versions of the typeface ZXX, all designed by a former NSA staffer to thwart optical character recognition. And yes, it’s purely for show.

But the security suggestions aren’t.

With some 91 percent of American adults keeping cell phones mostly on their persons, effectively everyone’s full-time location data is gathered and stored by your carriers and the government. To boot, sophisticated software analyzes who crosses paths with whom. Unless we adopt practices formerly considered crazy-paranoid, whistleblowing will become a thing of the past.

And the cash-for-transit reference? That’s because it’s hard to be anonymous in a car when automatic license plate scanning is so ubiquitous. Even public transit anonymity is going down the tubes—in Chicago, anyway—with new payment systems that penalize you (75 cents tacked onto each $2.25 ride) if you don’t use the card that’s tied to your identity.

With my journalism work, I’ll have to pay the premium. You should, too.


Serious work a-brewing

You heard it here first: a new journalism outlet in Chicago, in collaboration with…


CivicLab is a new-ish space in the West Loop for folks who want to innovate in the public sphere–their tagline was recently changed to “Making Democracy.” As I understand it—and this is a gross over-simplification—they’re piggy-backing on the makerspace/hackerspace movement to do some good in the body politic.

At any rate, as their first resident reporter, I’ll be host and editor of a new audio show we’re calling “Some Assembly Required.” A show about civics. Broad enough to generate awesome content for years to come. Focused enough to not be a cop-out.

Just don’t call it a “podcast.” We’re having fun, but we’re doing serious work.

More to come.

Scandinavian music, riding in the rain, and restaurants


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.

Chicago: the greenest city *snicker*

Based on the frequency of news coverage about polluted soil or buildings in Chicago, you might think there really isn’t much of that here. After all, only a single EPA National Priorities List site exists in Chicago. But it was tough to get listed because the city would rather not have those blemishes on its record.

And cleanups of pollution happen all the time, all over the city, as the map below shows when you zoom into Chicago. Have there have been any near your house or workplace in recent years? The key below explains the different colored pins.

BLUE: Federal CERCLA (“Superfund”) sites in Illinois that are on the National Priorities List. There is only one NPL site in Chicago, at Lake Calumet on the far south side. (Note: Except for the location of the Lake Calumet site, these pins are approximations based on the city associated with the listing.)

YELLOW: CERCLA cleanups that are NOT on the NPL, whose city is listed as “Chicago.” Exact addresses were used in this case. These cases, as you’ll read below, are interesting.

TURQUOISE: “Non-voluntary” (usually court-mandated) cleanups performed or supervised by Illinois EPA. Again, exact addresses used.

A few disclosures after the break…

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Third Coast FilmLESS Festival Part II

I know it’s 10 days late, but other deadlines—having to do with my academic or professional lives!—hung over my head until now. So here’s a final review of other select pieces from the 2010 FilmLESS festival for radio arts, in downtown Chicago.

Tupperware, by David Nelson and Nikki Silva, aired in 1981 on All Things Considered. (I hear this piece was the debut of the now-infamous “Kitchen Sisters” duo.) The only thing that hinted this was made in 1981 was a bit of sound quality degradation. Otherwise, it was an avant-garde piece if I’ve ever heard it, about the fanaticism and just plain weirdness in the way this product is sold. I can’t believe something with this kind of production was on All Things Considered. Voices drifted in and out of one another, overlapping. There was no narrator. It bordered on noise at some points, but it was relevant—Tupperware parties are noisy things, apparently.

Si Se Puede, by Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister, aired on Latino USA in 2009. This ran longer than the others, at 22 minutes, but it was worth it. The piece chronicled the fight of 300 workers at Republic Window and Door to obtain what their contracts outlined once the plant closed. Republic had no choice but to deny them things like continued health insurance because Bank of America wouldn’t extend credit to the company.

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Third Coast FilmLESS festival part I

The Third Coast FilmLESS festival, sponsored largely by Chicago Public radio, just can’t fit into Twitter posts. Been there, tried that.

So here’s my rundown of my favorite segments so far:

1. Lucy and the Bike Girl, by Hillary Frank, aired in 2007 on This American Life. It’s the story of Lucy, who has cystic fibrosis, making her very susceptible to germs. Every day she sees this girl in red pigtails ride a bike by her house, and when she finds a picture of this same girl on an internet message board for CF, she chats her up. They become awesome friends, better than Lucy’s in-person friends. But she doesn’t tell her she lives right down the street, because they might be tempted to meet. …Lucy’s tempted, though, despite the bike girl’s having a type of bacteria that could kill Lucy.

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