5 Things I Love – June 6

image for weekly list of five things I'm currently loving in life, music, art, etc.

1. Irish Brown Bread

Every Saturday a very nice gent from the Brighton branch of Great Harvest Bread Company comes up to our farmer’s market and tempts us all with the lovely aroma of fresh bread. Usually I am able to resist, but I actually needed bread last week and got their Irish brown bread on his recommendation. It’s amazing. I’m not usually a huge straight bread person but for this I will actually make toast in the morning.

2. Mumford & Sons’ ‘Sigh No More’

I fell in love with Mumford & Sons the first time I heard ‘Little Lion Man’ on the radio. Buying the album has just solidified this. Obviously I’m not alone since their US tour is sold out.

3. Elephant Ears

Every June Curwood festival rolls around bringing with it a mixture of trepidation, annoyance, bemusement and anticipation. The first two are easily explained by my living right in the middle of it. My parking lot becomes vendor space, loiterers abound for days before and people behave stupidly. The bemusement lies in the watching of said people. Especially when combined with the People of Curwood site, but this is supposed to be about elephant ears. Every year those vendors come bearing them and, I admit it, I can’t resist. Fried batter covered in buttery, cinnamon sugary sweetness? Yes, please. The best vendor at Curwood is the Lutheran Church’s old trailer. Not only do theirs cost $1 less than the others, but you can literally see them roll out the dough before frying it to golden brown perfection. Well worth the wait for a once a year treat.

4. Firefly

The sadly truncated TV series of course. I was in college at the time that it was airing and so only caught a few episodes at the time, but I remember well my family raving about it. A couple of years ago my brother was kind enough to gift me with the season for my birthday and now it’s a mainstay for those times when I decide to actually use my television.

5. Hatch Show Print

I was talking to one of my lia sophia ladies last night who happens to be in Nashville for the Country Music Festival, which reminded me of my favorite place to go when I’m in downtown Nashville – Hatch Show Print shop. Located right on Broadway just a few blocks north of the river, Hatch does amazing handcrafted letterpress posters and has since 1879. There’s a great 8 minute video about the shop from the Smithsonian that you can watch on YouTube.

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How I got a Honda

close up of the front grill of the 2011 Civic LX

In some parts of the world getting a Honda may not seem like a big deal, but I’m a native of the Motor City. I grew up in the land of the Big 3 where you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have at least one friend or family member in their employ. How then could I perpetuate this blasphemy by buying ‘foreign’?

The quick surface answer is that they gave me a deal I could not pass up, which they did. For $205 a month I am leasing a brand new 2011 Civic LX – less than I was paying on my Cobalt and I come out with no negative equity.

I feel I should state here that my Cobalt served me very well in the 4.5 years we were together. We were everywhere from inner city Pontiac to the back roads of Kalkaska and back again. Often people were amazed at how much I could fit in her (like the Segway in the back seat…) and I can think of many snowy roads that we traversed. It was, however, time that we parted, so back to the Honda.

2011 Civic LX from the front

It wasn’t just the price that sold me on the car. If I had hated it I would have passed for a newer used vehicle, but I don’t hate it.

While approximately the same size as the Cobalt, it feels much bigger on the inside. Part of this is from the longer windshield. It is not only more aerodynamic (as they cite), but it also makes for a deeper more open feeling dashboard.

Speaking of the dashboard, it looks odd at first. Different from what I am accustomed to finding it cars, but from an interaction design perspective it makes sense. Take the speedometer and gas. They’re set further up in the dashboard to be in your line of sight. With a brief change of focus you know and with the change to digital your brain can skip right over reading the gauge to the information itself.

view across the steering wheel in the 2011 Civic LX

Then there are the controls for the radio, heat, fan, etc.

Note how they have been moved up to be on the top and edge of the dashboard. Again, looks a bit different, but when compared with the location of the steering wheel they are a simple swing of the hand away and, again, more in line with the line of sight for driving.

dashboard of the 2011 Civic LX

There’s also more leg room. This isn’t a problem for me. I’m short, but my family is not. Nor are all of my friends. I’m sure they will appreciate this feature, which is aided by the curved back of the seat design.

curved bcks on the seats of the 2011 Civic LX

One last design feature I noted that will work well for me is the low edge on the trunk. For some this may mean that their trunk can no longer be the junk repository because it would explode onto the ground upon opening, but the biggest problem I had with my trunk before was trying to angle in larger items that I knew would fit if only I could get them in. Problem no more.

Opened trunk on the 2011 Civic LX

Yet, in spite of all these, younger me would have been appalled at my decision. Buy foreign? I could never go home again. I would be an outcast in my own hometown – or at the very least I’d have to park a couple of blocks over to hide the shame I was bringing to my family.

Older me knows better than to think that the brand that I drive constitutes whose economy I am supporting. Older me realizes that my dad may work in the Chrysler Tech Center, but it’s for a Japanese company who supplies them and the models he does work for are manufactured in Canada and Mexico.

As my brother sent me via text – gotta love globalization.

You see, my dad is just one example of what older me has learned about the global economy. 20 years ago when I was being indoctrinated into the Great American Muscle Cars it may have been true that American was built in America and supported the American economy (aka my family and friends) but it is no longer so simple.

The ‘foreign’ car that I picked up yesterday was in fact built in Indiana.

Approximately 83% of all parts come from suppliers in the US.

Just two weeks ago Honda Transmission of America Mfg. announced a $70 million 200,000-square-foot expansion project in Russell Point, Ohio, which brings the investment in that particular plant by Honda to over $490 million. It is also creating 100 new full-time jobs.

The salesmen who helped me live and work here, as do the people who will do any work needed on my car in the next three years.

Of course, if you’re really interested in the economics they’ve got all of that information available in the form of 78 page pdf entitled ‘Contribution of Honda to the Economies of Seven States and the United States’ by the Center for Automotive Research. You can download it here.

I could continue, but I have other things to get done before heading off to New Year’s festivities this evening. So, in closing, here’s a full view of my new wheels. Younger me may have had issues with the emblem on the grill, but she would have to admit that this isn’t the rather ugly sedan of the latter 80’s and 90’s (though I am sure that is a matter of opinion as well).

2011 Civic LX in Royal Blue Pearl

What’s in a Name?

I admit it. I have a little bit of an obsession when it comes to names. Behind the Name is bookmarked on multiple computers so I get to it at a moment’s notice. I can tell you the historical route that my name took to achieve the spelling that I have. In fact, I figured out in high school what each part of my name means.

I’ve always been a word nerd and the 4 or more years of etymology in grade school probably didn’t help. So when it came to choosing a name for this blog naturally I had to ponder it a bit. A lot of names were tossed around in my head when one day, as I was sitting there contemplating some notes from the 2010 UX Web Summit, it hit me – Something Magic.

I do not practice magic. I can’t pull quarters out of people ears or escape from locked chains or even pull a rabbit out of a hat. If you’ve come to this blog thinking that you might pick up that kind of magic trick I’m afraid you’ll be sorely disappointed. Instead the reference comes from a presentation by M. Jackson Wilkinson (@whafro) entitled Designing the Product.

Wilkinson had a lot of good things that he covered in his presentation about balancing goals, being cognizant of your objectives and reality, and knowing when and how to change. He even included the quote that graces my mac’s wallpaper (which winds definite cool points):

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

– Douglas Adams

The part of the presentation that really stuck with me, though, and the one from which this blog’s name comes was #7: Sweat the Important Details or, as I have it in my notes, Make it seem like magic. It only has to be one part.

He was speaking in terms of designing user experience with products, but as I thought about it I realized that it really can apply to so many parts of life. As adults we tend to forget to see the magic around us. We discount it as some parlor trick and in the process we can lose a bit of the wonder that we once found. I can’t promise that I won’t take things apart from time to time in my posts as I seek to better understand the inner workings of whatever has caught my interest, but I want to make ‘magic’ in the things that I do and try to find and appreciate that magic in the work of others.

I hope that you will do the same.

A special thanks to Refresh Detroit (@refreshdetroit) and Environments for Humans (@e4h) for making the viewing of the 2010 UX Web Summit possible. It was awesome.