Design, Personal

So I’m writing a book

I feel like I’ve been talking about this thing everywhere BUT on my blog, but I signed up to write a book, which will be coming out through Microcosm sometime Spring 2016. If you liked my Punk Rock Entrepreneur talk, then you’ll like this book. I’m basically putting in all the stuff that I wanted to shove into that talk, but had to cut for time.

So the first thing is, if you’d like to sign up to receive an update when this book comes out (because fall’s like, a really long time from now), you can sign up right here. I’ll let you know any super important stuff, like if there’s a pre-sale, or if I do an appearance somewhere so you can see my dumb mug in person, but you’re not gonna get a zillion emails.

The second thing is, I’m still collecting some stories for this. I have some information up about this on my website, but I’m basically looking for stories from either musicians or small business owners in a few categories:

• Times that you have found creative ways around obstacles
• Stories about building a network (most of mine involve couch surfing)
• Anything about building a community, or being involved in a community (as it relates to your band/business)
• Creative ways you’ve put your work out
• Failed projects, personal projects, and collaborative efforts that ended up positive experiences
• Times when being small/relatively unknown has been an advantage
• Hosting shows and events in odd spaces
• Finding your audience (can also include finding who your audience isn’t)
• Conflict about money
• Stories about when going above and beyond worked out for you (this is for a chapter called Use Your Whole Ass.)
• Making interesting mistakes and learning from failure

If you think you have a story to contribute, check out the submissions link.

Design, Personal

Why Symple is the best symptom-tracker I’ve ever used

The TL;DR version of this is that if you’re looking for any sort of phone app to track symptoms, for any illness, I very highly recommend Symple. In the interest of disclosure, these folks aren’t paying me anything. I just find it immensely helpful.

I work in design, and I’ve had Lyme Disease for about 15 years. So intersections of tech and healthcare are always really interesting to me. This one isn’t just interesting to me on a theoretical level, though, it’s been really essential to my healthcare, on a personal level, since I found it about two years ago.

As mentioned, I’ve been sick a long time. My particular illness has a pretty subjective treatment plan. When you have something like diabetes, you can get your bloodwork done, check your numbers, and adjust accordingly. With Lyme, all my doctor really has to go on is how I say I’m doing. (This is also common with mental health issues like anxiety, or with migraines, or any number of illnesses where there isn’t a simple blood test you can take to monitor how you’re doing.) At times, it’s difficult to be objective about it, and there’s a tendency to project how you’re feeling that day onto how you’ve been feeling in general, especially when you’re in a lot of pain. So having a system where you can log that information every day can go a long way toward improving your quality of care.

I tried a ton of systems – native apps, websites, good old pen and paper – and I found problems with all of them. Every digital system I found was hard to use, overly complicated, and difficult to customize. Pen and paper meant still having to type everything in somewhere to do anything with the data. When you have something you’re doing every single day, you really need to minimize the barriers to getting it done. Everything I tried felt like a chore, and I never stuck to them.

Symple is aptly named, and incredibly flexible. It’s my little holy grail of tracker apps.

It’s a beautiful app. It’s designed well, so I like using it. The UX is well thought-out, and things do what you’d expect them to. The navigation is super easy. Everything about it is super easy. You’re really only required to set up one thing, and that would be the symptoms that you want to track. Instead of having to choose from an enormous drop-down list of potential things (I’m amazed by how many of these tracker apps take that approach), you can just type in anything you want. I have one that literally just says “Brain.”


I can’t recall if there’s a limit to the symptoms that you can track at any time; I opted to group mine into larger symptom sets because it was easier for me. If at some point you don’t want to track that particular thing anymore, you can pause it – the data is saved, but it no longer prompts you to put in a value for it every day. Once you’ve got them entered, you just have to log them on a scale from 1 to 5. This takes me all of 2 seconds.


Five gives you enough range to be a useful marker, without getting so specific that it takes more than a few seconds to log your stuff. I used to have mine on a 1 to 10 scale, and spent entirely too long deciding exactly where I was that day. It’s basic as hell, which is perfect for this sort of thing.

In addition to your symptoms, you can add something called factors.


This is great for someone with, say, migraines. Where your symptoms are frequently tied to triggers. You can also use it to note if you exercised, if you ate well, or if you used a particular medication that you don’t use every day (like pain meds, or Ambien). I’ve been using them to mark where I start and end different treatment plans – and because they let you type in anything you want, you can use these in whatever way is most useful to you. It’s a binary thing, unlike the symptom range, so you just tick off whichever factors applied that day. (It’d be a great app to track something like running performance – you could add factors that you suspect are affecting you, log your performance from 1-5, and track your results. It’s so flexible, you can really use it for anything.)

It’s incredibly easy to customize, and these types of apps should be. Illness doesn’t affect everyone in exactly the same way – even when it’s the same illness. There’s also a journal option, where you can make whatever notes you need to. I typically use it for things that don’t come up often enough to bother making a factor of, but again, you can put anything you want in there, it’s just a simple text field.

While you have the symptom view up, if you rotate your phone to landscape, it’ll change to a bar graph where you can view different symptoms over time.


This is nice, but not quite as in-depth an analysis as I’m looking for. But Symple has that covered – you can export to a .csv.


If you’re thinking “what’s a .csv?” then this isn’t going to be a super helpful feature to you. But if you love Excel spreadsheets like I do, you can take all of this incredibly useful data the app collects, and you can organize it however you want. I set mine up so that I can see averages for each symptom week to week, or month to month, and an overall average for both. It’s color coded, because of course it is.

Screen Shot 2014-05-24 at 2.47.15 PM

Screen Shot 2014-05-24 at 2.47.33 PM

But like everything that Symple does in-app, they give you a basic structure that you can customize in whatever way you find most useful. They didn’t get caught up with unnecessary bells and whistles, which can be such a hard thing to avoid when designing apps. And the most important thing about any tracker app is that you actually use it (healthcare folks like to use the word “compliance” for this, but my punk kid background makes me cringe at that). No matter how many cool infographics an app can spit back out at you, if you aren’t logging your information, then it’s failed. This is so easy to use, they’ve really eliminated any barrier – it’ll even remind you at a set time every day to log your symptoms. I’ve been using it every day for two years, and I spent 13 years being incredibly undisciplined in tracking anything.

Now when my doctor asks me how I’m doing, I have objective data to give him.

0.5 better than last month.

You can download Symple from the app store, see their website and follow them on on twitter.


Win Signals Midwest’s new album

Apparently, I got so damn excited about Light on the Lake coming out, that I went and pre-ordered two of them. On the upside, you get to benefit from my mistakes, by winning my extra copy (plus whatever other swag I have lying around*.)

To enter:
1. Follow me on the Instant Grahams.
2. Repost that “win a record” image from my feed**
3. Tag me in the caption so I can find you
4. Profit.

Winner announced November 24th, so get it posted.


* Prize includes Signals Midwest Light on the Lake, on clear vinyl. Does not include the digital download, but you can pick that up from Tiny Engines for $8. You’ll also get some stickers and buttons, you lucky so and so.

** There are apparently apps that do this, but you can just screenshot it and repost it to your own feed.

*** Go see Signals Midwest at their record release shows on November 22nd and 23rd. This doesn’t help your chances of winning, you just really should go.


So you’re getting a PICC line.

I’m going in to get my sixth PICC line placed. It is a bummer, but we persevere. I’m basically a pro at this now, but when I got the first one done, I couldn’t find much in the way of personal accounts. It’s pretty easy to Google a walk through of the procedure, but I learned a lot of other tips that they don’t really mention. What sort of tips, you ask? Thanks for helping out my segue, internet people.

How are your veins?
I had no idea how to answer that question, but I’ve since discovered the answer is “shitty.” I have terrible, sad, small veins that make phlebotomists weep. Some things you can do to remedy this situation are drinking a ton of water before your procedure, and keeping warm. This is tricky, because hospitals don’t seem to like keeping their sick people warm. Maybe get some fuzzy rabbit slippers…

Read the rest. >

Design, Personal

Pixel Quilt

So my mother quilts and is pretty nerdy. There aren’t a ton of gift options in that particular Venn diagram overlap, so I went ahead and made her this custom iPad cover.

She’s pretty partial to the log cabin blocks, and apparently this pattern in particular. Setting up rectangles in Illustrator for the pattern didn’t take all that long (thanks, snap to grid!), but making all of the “fabrics” was a little time-consuming. It’s 13 different patterns, that I set up and then saved as swatches in Illustrator. I’ve always been a lot better at fabric picking than I was at the actual construction part of quilting, anyway.



Personal, Photography

Learning GigaPan

Last week, I got to go hang out with the outreach crew, and learn to use the GigaPan set up. You’ve probably seen something on this project before – generally people are most familiar with the inauguration photo. I’ve babbled on this blog about my interests in combining art and science before, so you can see where this project is right up my alley.

We didn’t have much time to play with the gear, and this was the most interesting thing I could find within the confines of the building. I give you an extremely detailed photo of somebody’s bicycle.





I love haunted houses. And for as long as we’ve known each other, Lori and I have spent every October hitting up as many as possible. We’re kicking off this season by heading up to ScareHouse which, despite some apparent drama over their Yelp ratings, is one of my favorites. We generally rate how good a scare house is by how many times I fall down (I startle like a baby rabbit, and my apparent defense mechanism is to hit the deck). Last year, I fell down three times, which is a solid rating.

A few years back, I made a mixtape for our outings. I didn’t have quite enough Halloween tunes to fill it out, but Lori’s a pretty big Weezer fan. Hence, I give you my Halloweezer mix.

This is Halloween // Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack
Paint it Black // Gob
Buddy Holly // Weezer
Dig Up Her Bones // The Misfits
Astro Zombies // Pennywise
Beverly Hills // Weezer
Halloween (of course) // The Misfits
Fall Children // AFI
Say It Ain’t So // Weezer
Mr. Sandman // Gob
Beheaded // Offspring
The Sweater Song // Weezer
Incorporeal // Tiger Army
What’s This // Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack
True Romance // Tiger Army
Pork and Beans // Weezer