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Jason McDowell is also known as Little Tiny Fish. He is the Creative Director for OnMilwaukee. Occasionally he freelances. Mostly he rides bikes.

littletinyfish.com is not a cohesive blog, but a repository of musings on an assortment of topics, such as design, art, cycling, Milwaukee, and other personal experiences.

Every year since the very first Riverwest 24 in 2008, the team has introduced a new tattoo design that bestows 5 bonus laps onto ride participants. The designs have ranged from cool to tacky and upon first glance they’re almost always questionable. The quality of line varies tremendously, but that’s arguably either the aesthetic or not really the point.

In my eight-year history with the race I’ve been too picky about the designs and have so far only gotten one tattoo, but it’s clear that, taken as a whole, you can’t really wait until “next year” for “the good design;” they’re all going to be bad. Regardless, no matter which one(s) you get, you won’t regret any one of them. Continue reading ›

The following is an open letter I sent to license@milwaukee.gov to get a more accurate bicycle license application page.

I was talking with some of my cycling friends lately and I’m all about registering my bike. As a representative of the Milwaukee Bicycle Collective I make sure to tell everyone to get their bike registered to be a legal rider in the city.

However, I feel like the registration form is a bit lacking as far as bike description goes. For instance, it asks for the tire size, when really you should be asking for the rim size. Furthermore, the tire size only uses inches while today’s modern wheels follow European standards. And even the archaic “inch” measurement doesn’t include larger wheels, like 28” wheels.

It may not seem like such a big deal to just use a close estimation (700c rims are only marginally smaller than 27 inch wheels) but some cyclists are afraid of being caught between a technicality.

Rim sizes should include:

  • 29”
  • 28”
  • 26”
  • 24”
  • 20”
  • 17”
  • 16”
  • 12”
  • 10”
  • 8”
  • 700C
  • 700D
  • 650A
  • 650B
  • 650C
  • 600A
  • 550A
  • 500A
  • 450A
  • 400A

The bike type is also pretty lacking. Instead of men’s and women’s, which is a very generalized (and increasingly sexist) delineation I would recommend something more descriptive:

  • Mountain
  • Dirtjump
  • Comfort/Hybrid
  • Road/Racing/Track/Touring
  • Folding
  • Electric
  • Traditional/Cruiser
  • Recumbent
  • BMX
  • Chopper
  • Tandem
  • Tall Bike
  • Penny Farthing

As you can see, it would be hard to classify a BMX or Folding bicycle as expressly male or female. Add a final option for the technical “sex” of the bike and include a “Not Applicable” for those that don’t apply.

  • Men’s
  • Women’s
  • Boy’s
  • Girl’s
  • Mixte
  • Not Applicable

Here it is all coded up:

<!-----BEGIN CODE CHANGES----->
<td width="13%" height="28" align="center">
<select name="RimSize" size="1">
<option selected>Size...</option>
<option value="29"">29"</option>
<option value="28"">28"</option>
<option value="26"">26"</option>
<option value="24"">24"</option>
<option value="20"">20"</option>
<option value="17"">17"</option>
<option value="16"">16"</option>
<option value="12"">12"</option>
<option value="10"">10"</option>
<option value="8"">8"</option>
<option value="700C">700C</option>
<option value="700D">700D</option>
<option value="650A">650A</option>
<option value="650B">650B</option>
<option value="650C">650C</option>
<option value="600A">600A</option>
<option value="550A">550A</option>
<option value="500A">500A</option>
<option value="450A">450A</option>
<option value="400A">400A</option>
</select>
<script language="JavaScript1.2">
<!-- //Validation description for title
arrValidationDesc[idx++] =
[
["dontselect=0","Please select rim size"]
];
// -->
</script>
</td>
<td width="37%" height="28">
<select name="Type" size="1">
<option selected>Select Type...</option>
<option value="Mountain">Mountain</option>
<option value="Comfort/Hybrid">Comfort/Hybrid</option>
<option value="Road/Racing/Track/Touring">Road/Racing/Track/Touring</option>
<option value="Traditional/Cruiser">Traditional/Cruiser</option>
<option value="BMX">BMX</option>
<option value="Recumbent">Recumbent</option>
<option value="Tandem">Tandem</option>
<option value="Folding">Folding</option>
<option value="Electric">Electric</option>
<option value="Chopper">Chopper</option>
<option value="Dirtjump">Dirtjump</option>
<option value="Tall Bike">Tall Bike</option>
<option value="Penny Farthing">Penny Farthing</option>
</select>
<script language="JavaScript1.2">
<!-- //Validation description for title
arrValidationDesc[idx++] =
[
["dontselect=0","Please select bicycle type"]
];
// -->
</script>
</td>
<td width="37%" height="28">
<select name="Sex" size="1">
<option selected>Select Sex...</option>
<option value="Men’s">Men’s</option>
<option value="Boy’s">Boy’s</option>
<option value="Women’s">Women’s</option>
<option value="Girl’s">Girl’s</option>
<option value="Mixte">Mixte</option>
<option value="Not Applicable">Not Applicable</option>
</select>
<script language="JavaScript1.2">
<!-- //Validation description for title
arrValidationDesc[idx++] =
[
["dontselect=0","Please select bicycle sex"]
];
// -->
</script>
</td>
<!-----END CODE CHANGES----->

NOTE: You’ll definitely want to have a programmer check through my code to make sure everything is proofread and sound.

Make these changes and we’re one step closer to an even more bike–friendly Milwaukee. Thank you very much.
–––Jason

I’ll post an update if I hear back from them, but in the meantime if you agree with these changes and care enough to send a quick note (you can simply direct them to this blog) please do.

According to JSOnline’s Mary Louise Schumacher, Janet Zweig’s public art project, which has been in the works for three years, has come under scrutiny despite receiving “unanimous support from an advisory committee of business leaders and art experts.” Zweig’s installation would essentially consist of five kiosks that would contain flipbook–style animations mounted in retrofitted transportation flap signs that one might have seen in train stations before everything started going digital.

But several of Milwaukee’s Aldermen don’t seem to understand the goals of the work. Alderman Wade said he was “not impressed with [Zweig’s concept] at all” citing the outdated technology used to imbue the quietly animated scenes with life. Alderman Joe Dudzik agreed. Alderman Robert G. Donovan walked out early (classy) refusing to have his name attached to “something as ridiculous as that.”

Okay, so here’s a related tangent. I stumbled across a website called Virtual Stapler that contained a mini flash app with three staplers to choose from. They ranged from heavy duty down to a cheaper plastic. A user could select a stapler and when the mouse cursor ran over the top, the stapler was lightly pressed so that it just touched its opposing side, clicking with the sound of metal on metal contact. When the mouse was clicked, the stapler let out a mechanical “KA–THUNK” as if a staple were forcibly pressed from its group and spat through the opening with its ends folded inward. When the mouse was released the stapler let out the expected guttural vibrations as its springs returned it to its open, natural form.

Stapler in Spotlight by
Stapler in Spotlight by


Stapler in Spotlight by InsideGift

It was a simple application with very simple animation with only a few seconds of sounds, and while I played at the site for several minutes, going down through the staplers and then back up again, clicking them slowly and then quickly, reveling in this simple joy, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that this visual representation, well, it just wasn’t good enough.

I could hear the noise, but it was detached from the feel and the force it takes to operate a real stapler. It was a decent replication that brought back a flood of memories of trying to manipulate the teacher in letting me staple all the kids’ assignments. But this didn’t have that visceral feedback. Tik, press, SLAM, spring. SLAM spring. Tik, Cluuuck, spring. Mmm…it’s a treat for your ears. But I was missing the release of the gears and the pressure of the springs. The feeling of durability, and the delight of metal sliding in and out of its housing. I wonder, if we’ll be feeling the same way twenty years after the iPod?

Anyway, I first found out about Zweig working in Milwaukee about three years ago when the project was just barely coming into fruition. I was curious. When I went to her site to check out her previous work I was particularly intrigued by her New York subway piece, “Carrying On.” It looked cute and I thought it was easy enough to understand: icons of travelers in the subway. Simple enough. Two years later I visited New York, and by that time Zweig’s work was a fuzzy memory; I wasn’t particularly there to look at it, nor could I say was I expecting to run into it. New York was big. Dazzlingly big. It’s as fast paced as a busy ant hill but when I rounded the corner of Prince Street Subway station I was bowled over by the sight of her work. There it was. I stopped my conversation and the world around me fuzzed out while Zweig’s work became more clear. These weren’t representations of New Yorkers, they were New Yorkers. Each of these avatars was a person from the city, and every person in the city was living on the walls. No, there weren’t 19+ million people on the walls, but if you were to ask each citizen in which silhouette they saw themselves, each person would have an answer.

They were New Yorkers in two dimensions. Each quietly living out their lives on the walls. Each cut from steel, marble and slate, materials that have existed for at least 4,000 years (steel being the obvious youngest). Each material was sitting in the earth, waiting patiently, some even traveling hundreds of millions of years through time so that its lifeless mass could make a meaningful connection, could make someone stop in their tracks. Art is not necessarily about being at the cutting edge of technology. In fact, given the scope of artistic endeavors in general, it rarely is. Zweig’s work is about finding the right materials that represent the humanity of our city, and if there is one thing that’s always said about Milwaukeeans, it’s that we’re down to earth.

Think of those times when you plunked a quarter into those giant, metal tourist binoculars, listening to the ticka ticka ticka as the time counted down while you gazed at a skyline or monument through 20 pounds of steel and glass and the finality of the “THWACK” as the time ran out and the lenses went dark. Now imagine watching a high definition video on the newest technology of the exact same view; you could see the clouds move, the sun set and the cars pass in either of them, but it won’t hold the same meaning.

Moving this project forward digitally would absolutely kill the beauty and personal investment in the project. Milwaukee’s public art should bring its citizens to it, not let them passively watch it happen. The TV screens in our buses and cars have disconnected our neighbors from ourselves. Zweig’s work is not a DVD to entertain the kids. It is a flip book to entertain the kid in all of us. Imagine the quiet buzz of the paper as it speeds through your fingers. The breeze on your face. The smell of the ink and fibers and glue. Think of the imagination that it takes to imbue the characters from these brief stories with life, history, and personality. These works are built on physical, tangible properties, not lasers and pixels and light.

This installation is real in the way that Milwaukeeans are real and Janet Zweig has proven that she understands the subtleties that resonate with its inhabitants.

Please take a few minutes to send a note to the Aldermen in charge and let them know that this work is an important investment to the city’s public image. It’s not as loud an press–worthy as The Bronze Fonz (sad, but unfortunately true) but it shows a simple sign of sophistication beyond beer and cheese. (It’s easy. Write one note and CC everyone)

Dragon Viewer by Code Poet
Dragon Viewer by Code Poet


Dragon Viewer by Code Poet

Archived Comments

These comments were pulled from the archives after a site failure in mid 2014. Though I no longer accept public comments on my site, I’ve included them for posterity. If you’d like to submit a comment, send one to littletinyfish@littletinyfish.com.

  1. To add to your “the feel of real” argument, why do you think so many digital cameras make a shutter noise? Because we like the mechanical sound of it. And as much as I like my digital camera, my film cameras feel really nice sometimes. You’ll even hear people complain that their digital camera feels “cheap” because it’s light. In a digital world, humans still have an affection for analog.

    Sara · 2009-04-03 12:10 · #

  2. Sounds like a really cool project. Why do some politicians feel the need to crush anything delicate and beautiful? It’s a mystery.

    Dottie · 2009-04-05 17:57 · #

I just got back from vacation in Austin, Texas and I have a few thoughts. Some might be wondering “What? Vacation in March?” Yes. Last time I “wasted” my vacation days towards the end of summer, just visiting my parents and my brother. I don’t want to say wasted per say, because I love my family, but it’s not a very exciting vacation. Also, in the meantime, I had missed two or three Milwaukee events that I wanted to attend, while I was away.

My idea, this time around, was to take vacation at the end of February or beginning of March, when the temperature is equal to the events being planned: zero.

Temperature

The temperature in Austin in mid-March was close to the summer in Milwaukee in mid-July: 70-80 in the day, 30-50 at night. The couch surfing hosts with whom we stayed were quite gracious, but just like I believe air conditioning in Milwaukee is unnecessary, they believe a heater is equally so. Nights got a little cold for us, but the sun helped the temperature bounce back up.

Milwaukee has sub zero streaks in the winter, while Austin tackles 100+ streaks even longer in the summer.

Bike Friendliness

The first thing we did after getting in to Austin was eat, lie in a park, and then check out the city’s Critical Mass. The critical mass in Austin is ten to twenty times more populated than in Milwaukee. Curious, I Googled “Critical Mass Milwaukee” and came up with articles at least three years old. Part of Milwaukee’s participation problems might be because of the lack of information (or the historical tenacity of the police), so I set up CriticalMassMKE.com when I returned from vacation.

Austin’ streets are also more bike friendly. More drivers get out of the way, pull in to the other lane, or just simply let you go first no matter what (which can actually be more confusing and dangerous, but the thought means something). There are bikes attached to every rack and everybody seems to own one, even if just for casual riding. Of course we were very close to downtown, which is also close to the University of Texas’ campus, which naturally means many more pedestrians in general.

Public Transportation

The buses on the main streets run just as regularly as those in Milwaukee, but they appear to be much cleaner and less vandalized. Fares are also significantly cheaper. Just $0.75 per ride, or $1.50 for a 24 hour pass. If you buy a ticket at 9:30 at night you can go to sleep for the night, wake up, run some errands, eat all your meals, walk your dog, go on a dinner date, and still be able to get on the bus by 9:30 the next night and not have to pay an extra cent.

The buses are also equipped with bike racks which are beautifully designed. They fold up when not in use and take only seconds to prepare if one is needed. The only downfall is that they are large enough to fit only two bikes.

The one problem we ran into with the bus system is not realizing how early they shut down on Sundays. An evening movie caused us to miss the last bus by mere seconds at a paltry 9:00pm. We were forced to take a taxi, which more than made up for the amount of fare we saved on their cheap daily passes.

Oh, and the roads, in general, are nigh–immaculate. They don’t have to deal with the cold, the salt trucks, and the plows on a yearly basis.

Vegetarian Food

There were tons and tons of vegetarian and even vegan friendly establishments. Milwaukee has only one totally vegetarian restaurant (the Riverwest Co–Op), while Austin is home to several. We also visited the Wheatsfield Co–op, whose selection was so daunting that I was paralyzed by choice. However, I am certain Austin has no bar/restaurant that can compete with the Palomino.

Overall

There is a lot of great things that Austin has to offer, but it almost feels like a fantasy land where the work is already done. Milwaukee hasn’t reached that point, but over the last 9 years I’ve seen it change for the better. Not only are people moving back into the city, but the city’s structure, neighborhood, and crimes are improving too. Sometimes we have potholes that turn into sink holes, but sometimes we get an expanded bike lane. I feel like Milwaukee needs us. It doesn’t need it’s creative, progressive individuals to move out. It needs them to fight to move the city forward.

Archived Comments

These comments were pulled from the archives after a site failure in mid 2014. Though I no longer accept public comments on my site, I’ve included them for posterity. If you’d like to submit a comment, send one to littletinyfish@littletinyfish.com.

  1. Nice review of the city! I had a lot of the same thoughts after visiting SanFran and Portland last summer. And yes, those cities seem to be lightyears ahead of where Milwaukee is, but I’m starting to see momentum grow for good, local, vegetarian/vegan friendly food, the bike culture getting more inclusive and ever-present, and the neighborhoods are becoming more lovely with every passing season. So, while these other cities look so amazing, I totally agree with your last paragraph. I’m loving Milwaukee and I want to do anything I can to help bring it up to par with the others. People are starting to notice us and we need to snatch all opportunities to shine.

    Sam Dodge · 2009-03-06 17:58 · #

  2. This was a really interesting read. I’ve never been to Austin, but go to Milwaukee often for work. Downtown has a lot of potential and I always wonder why more people are not out and about. Maybe I have unreasonable expectations for bustling streets, coming from Chicago, but Milwaukee’s downtown seems to be under-utilized. You’re the type of person the city needs more of!

    Dottie · 2009-03-15 19:59 · #

  3. I’m in Austin right now. I think I follow in your vacation footsteps, whether that’s Iowa or Texas.

    Tim · 2009-03-16 22:59 · #

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working with a couple of different people regarding logo design: Tim Cigleske of Teecycle.org and Steve Glynn of Spreenkler.

Teecycle.org

Teecycle.org’s old logo was in need of an overhaul. The green in it was a bit dark and overbearing and it was improperly sized on the site. The chosen font wasn’t particularly strong or representative of anything. When I set to work on the new version there were two requirements for the new Teecycle logo: It had to have the universal recycle symbol in it and it had to use the color green.

I started out with a three-color logo, using blue, red and green, but eventually we decided to knock it down to two colors. I preferred the red, but fearing a too-strong association to Christmas we ultimately leaned towards green and blue.

Two fonts were used. Clarendon Black was chosen for it’s sportier, stronger look while Candice was used make the mark a little more lighthearted with a nod towards retro. The swoop underneath helps with this as well.

The swoop is also representative of a nature trail or a green river since the organization donates $1 from every purchase to River Revitalization projects.

A square, or vertical logo was also included, as well as a Favicon, however current WordPress restrictions don’t allow for the replacement of the Favicon.

ThinkMKE

The Greater Milwaukee Committee was looking for a light–hearted, more adventurous design for their soon to be released blog, ThinkMKE which is located at thinkmke.com. Since this is an offshoot of the official committee I did some research into the goals of the GMC itself. Their biggest ideals are Leadership, Community, Diversity, and Development.

The typeface is highly representative of the strength of the organization. The letters are bolder, thicker, and stronger. They are accented with thicker slab serifs yet those serifs still hold a bit of a curve and grace to them.

The varying letter heights and blocky forms are reminiscent of a panoramic skyline view of Milwaukee and the letters are spaced tightly together to bring home the essence of a tight knit, supportive community.

The colors of the letters vary between the three primary values: red, green, and blue. These colors are foundational in design, echoing strength, diversity, and possibility. And while these colors are at their essence primary, they are not perfect representations. The red is slightly warmer, the blue is a little more crisp, and the green is brighter, more welcoming.

The logo itself springs from the page positively moving forward and rising upward.

Finally, the logotype is set on top of an abstract thought balloon. ThinkMKE.

As far as it’s target audience goes, this logo is certainly a radical departure from the very corporate GMC site. It’s more fun, more active, and more exciting.

Ultimately this is not the final product. While the blog has been set forth and is currently being updated, the identity project was unfortunately halted.

Archived Comments

These comments were pulled from the archives after a site failure in mid 2014. Though I no longer accept public comments on my site, I’ve included them for posterity. If you’d like to submit a comment, send one to littletinyfish@littletinyfish.com.

  1. I’m more than happy with my new logo. The ThinkMKE logo is really sweet, too.

    Teecycle_Tim · 2008-10-30 12:06 · #