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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.

“Please find attached a current photograph of the switch back, just beyond the Marsupial Bridge at Kadish park.

I have often had to put forth a request to have the bike paths and recreational trails cleared after a heavy winter storm. When make the request I always ask why these trails are not cleared in an immediate way, considering how vigorously the streets are salted and plowed (though I could go on about the state of the bike lanes every year).

The response I usually get (if any) is that the city doesn’t plow the paths because they assume it is too cold for anybody to want to use them.

Well, here I offer you undeniable proof, in the form of rutted, iced over foot prints and tire tracks. Continue reading ›

The Scarring Party has been one of my favorite bands from its inception. Lead singer Daniel Bullock has managed to combine folk, old-timey, and punk ethos into a sound that isn’t duplicated anywhere else. And really, I’m not just saying that. Please let me know if you’ve heard anything remotely similar anywhere else.

There are bands that lean more Waitts-ian, or bands that tilt more accessibly (i.e. weird instruments with a more recognizably modern sound), but The Scarring Party sound like an off-kilter version of something you’d have heard crooning out of a giant radio box in the 30’s, in between episodes of The Shadow and Little Orphan Annie.

Swirling this audio aesthetic together with an accordion, tuba, and other homemade instruments might sound like a gimmick if it weren’t for Bullock’s understanding of music and ability to write a solid pop song that could stand under any genre.

The Scarring Party’s newest album, Losing Teeth, will be released on August 13, 2010. Ray Cesar gave his blessing to use one of his paintings for the cover, while I was responsible for incorporating the logos and track listings, as well as designing the disc face and accompanying lyrics book (images coming soon).

I also worked with Daniel to conceive of this t-shirt design. The Scarring Party has released a few t-shirt designs, but have found that most people will only buy black; any design that works optimally on a colored shirt, no matter how clever it is, will reap approximately an eighth of the sales.

On the other side of the pop coin is a one woman band that goes by the name Pezzettino. She, too, employs an accordion, but to a much different effect, with an indie pop sound. Her latest album, Lub Dub, is a break up album that starts with the sugar high of a fresh relationship and follows through to the inevitable crash.

I had the honor of conceiving and illustrating a candy coated cover for this project. Working with Pezzettino has been a great experience; I have felt confident throwing her several designs, knowing that she would make the best choice regardless.

And for the record, I wasn’t going for the whole Pez Candy to Pezzettino thing. That wasn’t something I had considered until after work on the illustration had begun.

Her album is basically all set to release, digitally speaking, but she wants to see it on vinyl as well. I, too, would love to see my work on a 12” cover, so run over to her Kickstarter fund and toss some cash her way. (Besides feeding my ego, there are more good reasons to support artists through Kickstarter, too.)

Look for Pezzettino’s official release to happen sometime in September of 2010.

I started attending meetings for a new Milwaukee group that, at this moment is called “Milwaukee Businesses by Bike” or MBByB or “Embibe” (which is a little iffy since it’s mixing alcohol and transportation…even though it’s not about alcohol at all). At any rate we need a name, a logo, a mission statement and a checklist of what makes a bike friendly business.

The League of American Bicyclist’s have put together a basic list of how businesses can become more bike friendly, but personally I feel it’s not ambitious enough. So I started brainstorming more options and expanding on ideas they already presented. It should almost be a non–stop, always developing list.

Some stuff should be relatively easy just to make the barrier of entry a little lower. The idea is that businesses could figure out how friendly they already are and gives them something to aspire to be. For instance they could check off that 1% of their office commutes to work and aspire to reach 2%. The higher the percentage the higher the poins. If you have a bike rack, you get a point. If you have a covered bike rack, you get 2. If you have secure bike parking you get 3 points.

The higher the points, the higher your business would rank. Brown, Bronze, Gold, Silver, and Platinum. As businesses reached Platinum you could add more ideas and rank double Platinum, Triple Platinum, Unnllquadium, Unnlhexium, Unnlennium etc.

Some of the requirements might seem unobtainable, but it’s good to shoot for the moon. If you can’t improve further in that direction you can gain more points in other categories.

So here’s the list so far. If you think of any other great additions (or subtractions…it’s a very loose list at this point), please leave a comment and I’ll add it in there and present it to the group the next time we meet.

  • Talk with your aldermen or district representative and let them know you want bicycle facilities (off–street bike paths, lanes, trees, other traffic calming measures, boulevards, etc) in your area. (+1 pt)
  • Talk with your aldermen or district representative yearly. (+1 pt)
  • Talk with your aldermen or district representative twice a year. (+1 pt)
  • This might have to be adjusted for business size. Businesses with 10 employees could gain an unfair advantage.
  • Get 10% of your office to commute by bike. (+1 pt)
  • Get 9% of your office to commute by bike. (+1 pt)
  • Get 8% of your office to commute by bike. (+1 pt)
  • Get 7% of your office to commute by bike. (+1 pt)
  • Get 6% of your office to commute by bike. (+1 pt)
  • Get 5% of your office to commute by bike. (+1 pt)
  • Get 4% of your office to commute by bike. (+1 pt)
  • Get 3% of your office to commute by bike. (+1 pt)
  • Get 2% of your office to commute by bike. (+1 pt)
  • Get 1% of your office to commute by bike. (+1 pt)
  • Follow up with those businesses. (+2 pt)
  • Talk with other local businesses about becoming bike friendly. (+1 pt)
  • Showers and private changing rooms are ideal. (+5 pt)
  • Arrange for shower use at a local health club for your employees. (+2 pt)
  • Hanging space or a standing wardrobe will provide ample storage for work clothes. (+3 pt)
  • Provide an iron and ironing board. (+1 pt)
  • As an alternative to installing expensive showers, allow bike commuters to dress casually in the office. (+1 pt)
  • Provide sanitary wipes for sweat removal. (+1 pt)
  • Offer subsidies for bike commuters who don’t use car parking spaces. (+3 pt)
  • Provide lunch for bike commuters. (+1 pt)
  • Offer extra vacation time for daily bike commuters. (+5 pt)
  • Appoint a bike commuting coordinator to procure local bike route maps. (+1 pt)
  • Help employees plan routes to work using low–traffic but direct roads and paths. (+1 pt)
  • Start a Bike Pool program. Having a cycling partner increases the joy of riding dramatically. (+2 pt)
  • Post an outline of local traffic laws and how they apply to bicycles. (+1 pt)
  • Encourage cyclist education among employees; educated riders are safe riders. (+1 pt)
  • Send regular safety and ettiquette notes through the office. (+1 pt)
  • Offer even more vacation time to those with no excuses. (+3 pt)
  • Offer even more vacation time to those who commute below 20 degrees. (+2 pt)
  • Offer even more vacation time to those who commute below 30 degrees. (+2 pt)
  • Offer even more vacation time to those who commute below 40 degrees. (+1 pt)
  • Offer extra vacation time for bike commuters. (+1 pt)
  • If on a narrow arterial, sharrows outside the business. (+3 pt)
  • If on an arterial, bike lanes outside the business. (+3 pt)
  • Partner with a local bike shop to offer employee discounts or maintenance clinics. (+2 pt)
  • Have a professional bike fitting as needed. (+1 pt)
  • Have a professional bike fitting twice a year. (+1 pt)
  • Have a professional bike fitting once a year. (+1 pt)
  • Have loaner bikes in the office for people to use over their lunch hours. This gives people a chance to get their toes wet to let them know that commuting is not only possible, but easy and fun. (+1 pt)
  • Have high quality loaner bikes. This shows people that investing in a good quality bike with the right weight and fit is a good idea. (+3 pt)
  • Get the loaner bikes from a local bike shop, not a department store. This increases awareness and supports local business. (+2 pt)
  • Bike racks outside the office. (+1 pt)
  • Bike racks in a visible area. (+1 pt)
  • Adequate bike racks available to the public. (Enough to serve the office AND the public). (+1 pt)
  • Covered bike racks. (+2 pt)
  • Secure bike storage within the office building. (+3 pt)
  • Secure bike storage on the ground floor. (+1 pt)
  • Provide bus passes on rainy days. (+1 pt)
  • Provide washers and dryers for rainy/muddy days. (+5 pt)
  • Provide dryer sheets. (+1 pt)
  • Provide closets and hangers. (+1 pt)
  • Participate in the Bicycle Commuter Act. (+3 pt)
  • Submit your name to the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin and post a “We are a bicycle friendly [Color] Standard Business” on your website. (+2 pt)
  • Promote bike teams for charity rides.  (Trek 100, UPAF Miller Lite Ride for the Arts, Riverwest 24, etc.). (+2 pt)
  • Form a company bicycle club or race team; increase your own exposure locally. (+5 pt)
  • Organize a lunchtime race. (+2 pt)
  • Ask the local bike shop to showcase new bike models during lunch. (+2 pt)
  • Get local news media to cover your events. (+1 pt)
  • Encourage employees to help co–workers make the switch to bike commuting. (+1 pt)

There are over 100 points to earn so far, so for starters I’m thinking:

  • Brown: 20pts
  • Bronze: 50pts
  • Silver: 70pts
  • Gold: 90pts
  • Platinum: 110pts

If you have any other ideas of what should be included in the list, leave a note in the comments. I’d love to see this list grow larger and larger with more creative ways of promoting cycling.

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. this is all like a dream true. At my current job, for OVER A YEAR they said they were putting in a bike room and recently, a coworker saw a room near the loading dock full of racks. Yet they claim they are still working on the room. ugh.

    Hails · 2010-02-05 05:31 · #

  2. I’m not sure if it was listed, but in Portland they have on-street bike parking… Very slick.

    Dave Reid · 2010-02-05 08:41 · #

  3. Two more ideas:

    1. The company provides use of a company car for those who need to entertain clients.

    2. The company uses bicycle friendly services such as Breakaway, Milwaukee Courier, and Cream City Rickshaw.

    littletinyfish · 2010-02-06 09:16 · #

  4. 1. The company contacts not just their district alderpeople, but those higher in the political chain as well, from mayors to governors, to senators, etc.

    2. Businesses provide small discounts to cyclists.

    littletinyfish · 2010-02-09 15:27 · #

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 · #