Things new to me…

10 June, 2011 § 6 Comments

Since moving to Mountain View, California from East Lansing, Michigan, I’ve noticed some things that are different from back home.

  1. At night, there is a large amount of snails that walk across the sidewalk near my apartment. I stepped on one during my first night here, and I felt really bad for the poor guy. Back in East Lansing, I watched out for toads. Here I’ll watch out for snails. I just wish snails moved faster.
  2. East Lansing has a pretty restrictive permit for ice cream trucks, so they are pretty rare. Where I’m living in Mountain View, I happen to see someone pushing an ice cream cart just about every day. The cart has a little bell on it that dings as the person walks behind it.
  3. East Lansing and Lansing are working hard to make their communities more friendly to non-motorized transportation. After a week of living here, I can see that the Lansing area has a lot more work to do (but is on the right track).
    • There are bike lanes on almost every street, and some streets are considered “bike boulevards”.
    • The CalTrain (which is a commuter-oriented train) has two cars on each train that are considered “bike cars”. A bike car has stalls inside for holding bikes while the patrons ride the train. There are also other options like the city and community bus, BART, and VTA light rail.
    • Every establishment that I’ve been to here has ample bike parking located outside. It seems that in East Lansing the city has to fight developers to include bike racks.
  4. The sales tax here is 9.25%, compared to 6.00% in Michigan. There are also other fees related to buying LCD screens, etc. It doesn’t seem like 3.25% would be that noticeable, but it changes the way you think about the dollar menu :P
  5. There is a park near me that features outdoor exercise equipment. It has a chest press, leg press, pull up bars, stationary bicycle, and more. It would be nice to see these included in parks in Michigan.
  6. By law, gas stations in California are required to offer free air and water to patrons who purchase fuel. It would be nice to see a similar law in Michigan, as improperly inflated tires are a major cause of auto accidents.

Designing through a fishbowl

30 January, 2011 § 1 Comment

Thursday night was the third IxDA Lansing meeting, held at Second Gear Co-working space in Old Town, Lansing. Davin Granroth gave a talk on his favorite process for page/design reviews.

The process works in three steps:

  1. The designer introduces the user story and the design that was created to accomplish it.
  2. The reviewers critique the design, while the designer takes notes. There is no designer-reviewer interaction (to the point that the reviewers should pretend that the designer is not in the room).
  3. The designer recaps the discussion and asks for clarification on any of the points.

Demo time!

A couple of the attendees brought designs that they had been working on and asked for feedback. We broke in to four groups of four people and walked through the process.

Everyone seemed to be having a great time, and the designers had a lot of praise for the feedback. They often mentioned that people try not to hurt feelings and thus don’t speak their mind. This type of exercise introduced a way to give feedback without hurting people’s egos.

Next up?

Do you want to present at or attend an IxDA Lansing meeting? Visit the IxDA Lansing website to find out when the next meeting will be and who to contact.

 

Lansing Give Camp 2011

29 January, 2011 § 5 Comments

Earlier this week I signed up for Lansing Give Camp 2011. I’ve always wanted to volunteer for Give Camp, but never felt I had enough time. Based off of Parkinson’s First Law (“work expands to fill the time available”), I decided that if I signed up for it, I would make time for it and finish my other work in a more expedient fashion.

Give Camp is a weekend-long event where software developers, designers, and database administrators donate their time to create custom software for non-profit organizations.

The event runs March 25-27, at Impression 5 Science Center in Lansing, MI. Charities will present their projects and teams will be introduced introduced around dinner time on Friday. Midnight snacks will help keep the volunteer elves burn the midnight oil. All meals will be served Saturday, with demos taking place on Sunday afternoon.

Here is a video from Give Camp 2009:

Ignite Lansing 4.0

27 January, 2011 § 1 Comment

Are you heading to Ignite Lansing 4.0? The event is taking place on February 11 at the Lansing Capital Region International Airport.

Ignite Lansing is a fast-paced, fun, thought-provoking, high-energy evening of 5-minute talks by people with an idea and the guts to get onstage to share with their hometown crowd.

The first Ignite that I attended was held at the old Temple Club in Old Town. Since I attended my first Ignite, I thought it would be cool to have an Ignite at work. I launched the first Ignite at TechSmith in March 2010, and since then we’ve had three more.

I’m always excited to hear where the organizers have picked to hold Ignite Lansing.

So far the locations have included:

  • The East Lansing Technology Innovation Center in downtown East Lansing
  • The Temple Club in Old Town, Lansing
  • Knapps Office Center in downtown Lansing

I know I already mentioned that this year’s event will be held at the airport, but it’s not going to be held in the airport. Ignite Lansing 4.0 will be held in one of the airport hangars! Too cool.

Let me know if you’re attending. It should be a great time!

How LEED is flawed

9 June, 2009 § Leave a comment

In economic development efforts, there are circles that heavily promote “green” building and helping out the environment. To help standardize these efforts, there are a group of standard building practices that developers can abide by. In return, they may receive incentives such as tax abatements, municipal-guaranteed funding. The City of East Lansing and the City of Lansing (both in Michigan), along with other cities, uses LEED to qualify certain development projects for incentives.

LEED, created by the United States Green Building Council, stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED has four different certification levels that a project can attain. They are in ascending order: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Projects receive their certification based on points that they earn through different energy saving/reduction goals.

Many projects that vie for LEED certification truly have the environment in mind when developing their site. The following are local developments that truly deserve their LEED certification:

Christman Company Headquarters, Lansing, MI. The Christman Company bought a vacant building in downtown Lansing and restored it using LEED principles. The building now has a new use and is saving energy that would have otherwise been wasted had it not been developed for LEED certification.

Old-Town Medical Arts Building, Lansing, MI. This development in Old Town, Lansing took the former Cedar Street Elementary School and turned it in to a medical office building. A good reuse came out of a vacant and unused building.

And now for bad examples:

Michigan State University Federal Credit Union Headquarters, East Lansing, MI. MSUFCU moved out of their former headquarters on the Michigan State University campus and left behind a mostly vacant building. They moved their organization off of the campus, 2.9 miles away from campus, to a site that was a former tree farm. With this, they laid down surface parking lots, installed roads, sidewalks, and utilities in an area that never had a need for them before. The project applied for LEED certification and recieved it. How is it that an organization can force their employees to change direction by 3 miles, where there are no neighborhoods nearby, destroy a tree farm, and claim that they are being stewards of the environment?

Michigan Dental Association, Okemos, MI. The MDA is in the process of moving out of their headquarters building in downtown Lansing and in to their new headquarters building on Okemos Road, less than a mile away from a freeway exit. They are building their new headquarters on a wetland and leaving a large building empty on Washington Square in Lansing. They are also applying for LEED certification. How can an organization move from being in a public transportation friendly area (downtown Lansing, only about four or five blocks from the bus station) to a location that only has one bus route service it every 40 minutes and still claim that they are sustainable? If an employee ever considers getting some food for lunch at their new location, their first thought will be to turn their car on and drive to a fast food restaurant, not walking like they would have done at their old location.

This is how LEED should be changed:

  1. When a company moves locations, they should lose points if they are moving away from a business district.
  2. If the company is relocating to vacant land, especially wetlands or agriculture, they should lose points.
  3. If the company is leading the push of utilities to the site, they should lose points.

If all three of the above apply, they should not qualify for LEED certification and should not recieve any incentives. The only way to continue green growth and environmental sustainability is to find good reuse of buildings that have already been constructed and convert current uses to better uses (i.e.: massive surface parking lot to a mixed use building that covers half the square feet, and replaces the other half with vegetation).

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