Collectivo Lakefront Café

What a beautiful afternoon in Milwaukee today!  Perfect weather for coffee at Collectivo’s Lakefront Café with two of my favorite MSOE colleagues, Jim and Jan.  These colorful chairs and rain barrel were right next to our outdoor table.


After hearing Jim talk about all the cool photographs he took at a creativity conference last month, I was inspired to snap a cool photo of my own :)

I’d never been to the Collectivo at Milwaukee’s lakefront before today.  But for years I’ve admired the building, which houses the “works” of a 126-year-old engineering marvel.  Built in 1888, the Milwaukee River Flushing Station pumped water from Lake Michigan down a mile-long tunnel to the North Avenue Dam, where it poured into the Milwaukee River.  The fresh lake water literally “flushed” human waste downstream through the river’s downtown Milwaukee channel and then discharged itself back out into the lake.

(A much better solution in my opinion than Chicago’s Sanitary and Ship Canal, known historically as the “Drainage Canal,” which famously reversed the flow of the Chicago River and diverted Lake Michigan water to the Mississippi River.  Drainage, indeed!)

The Milwaukee River Flushing Station was designated a National Historic Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1992.   According to an article in the Milwaukee Sentinel that reported on this recognition, the Milwaukee River had become “a cesspool” by 1888, and “the station was the only equipment that cleaned the river until the sewage system was built in the 1920s.”

Once the Jones Island wastewater treatment plant was built in 1925, the Milwaukee River Flushing Station became unnecessary in terms of its original purpose.  However, the pump is still activated occasionally to retain its functionality and to provide additional water flow during periods of hot, dry weather.

Despite the fact that the building was never truly abandoned, it always looked that way to me.  Enter Alterra Coffee, now renamed Collectivo, which converted the Flushing Station to a restaurant a few years ago.

Kudos to the popular Milwaukee coffee chain for restoring and maintaining this historic building!  Not only has Collectivo rescued a decrepit public utility, but the Café has added greatly to the life of Milwaukee’s lakefront.  It’s a fun place to grab a cup of coffee while running, skating, biking, or walking, but it’s also an attractive destination in itself.

The photo above is from Collectivo’s website.  The Lakefront Café has great food and coffee, with indoor seating on its multi-level lofts and outdoor tables with a view of Lake Michigan’s sapphire-blue water.  One reason I’d avoided the Lakefront Café before today is that I figured parking would be impossible.  Fortunately that really isn’t an issue.  Although parking available behind the building is limited, there’s a large surface lot (with plenty of free parking) at the marina just across the street.



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Does penmanship matter?

Two handwriting stories.

One:  After I got a D in penmanship in third grade, my parents made me sit at our dining room table every night practicing my handwriting.

The reason I’d gotten a similarly bad grade in arithmetic was that my “8″s were so sloppy.  The upper loop of my figure-eight was large, while the lower loop was very small, a hurried and barely discernible afterthought.  Although I could clearly tell they were “8″s, my teacher claimed they looked like zeroes to her and marked all my answers wrong.

I knew she could read my numbers, but she didn’t like tolerating my individual “style,” as it were.  School was already too full of rules, and I felt embarrassed and angry that even my handwriting should be wrested away from my control.

Today I make my numeral “8″s in the form of two separate circles stacked atop one another instead of the usual single-swooped figure-eight symbol.  No chance of anyone mistaking my “8″s for zeroes now.  And my handwriting is pretty neat and attractive when I’m not in a hurry.

Two:  My college diploma is in an envelope somewhere in a filing cabinet or box in my house.  I’ve never even considered framing it.  Why?  I graduated as a “University Honors Scholar” with “high honors” in political science.  That distinction was added onto my diploma.

In the sloppiest calligraphy I’ve ever seen.

Whenever I looked at my diploma, I felt sad.  Embarrassed.  Ashamed.

I know that makes no sense.  But it’s how I felt.  After working so hard to achieve the University Honors Scholar distinction, my ugly diploma felt like a scornful slap in the face.  I would rather have received a plain, attractive diploma than such an ugly one with my so-called “honor” so carelessly acknowledged.

So back to the question of this post’s title:  Does penmanship matter?  Well, no.  And yes.

As this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Cursive is an Endangered Species,” points out, public schools no longer really teach cursive handwriting.  “Keyboarding” is the far more important skill.  Although cursive is introduced in the lower grades, significant classroom time is not devoted to it.  And soon, those lower grades may be taught by teachers who have never learned cursive themselves.

I’m a fast typist (er, “keyboarder” :) ), but I can take notes MUCH faster in cursive handwriting.  If I were a student in a classroom lecture situation, I know I could take more and better notes by hand than other students could by keyboarding.  Students who can’t write fast in cursive, as the article points out, won’t take notes as well.

As a writing teacher, I also know that studies show a connection between creativity and writing in longhand that is different from what happens in composing at the keyboard.  Although I personally draft texts at the keyboard, all of my planning and outlining is done by hand.

But one thing that really intrigues me about the Chronicle article is the idea that manuscripts written in cursive might become impenetrable to future generations.  And just think of all the insights that are gleaned from handwriting analysis; studying keyboarded documents just won’t be the same.  Handwriting is personal, which I realized after reflecting upon my two past experiences that opened this post.

The handwritten lyrics to Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” just sold for $2 million at Sotheby’s auction house.  John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics for “A Day in the Life” sold for $1.2 million in 2010.

I doubt a Word document printout would fetch quite that much.

Posted in Creativity, innovation, lifelong learning, Higher education, Life, Music, Popular culture, Teaching, Technology, Writing, blogging | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Casey Kasem: Keep reaching for the stars

I was on I-65 driving south from Chicago Sunday when I heard the news that Casey Kasem had died.

Because I’d seen recent news stories of family drama pitting Kasem’s wife against the children from his first marriage, Kasem’s death came as no surprise.  Shortly before I left town for a conference in Indianapolis, a judge granted Kasem’s daughter’s request to stop administration of food and medication.

Here’s an irony: when the news broke Sunday, my car radio was tuned to a rebroadcast of one of Kasem’s 1970s “American Top 40″ episodes on Sirius.

One of the strongest memories of my teenage years is listening to Casey Kasem’s show every Sunday afternoon on WKEE radio out of Huntington, West Virginia.  Every week I sat at our kitchen table, studying the weekly grocery flyer and planning out our family’s meals and shopping list.  This was my job.  My mom was in nursing school full time, and we all pulled together to keep our family functioning as normally as possible.  After I finished planning the most cost-effective, delicious menus I could think of using that week’s specials, Mom then took my list to do the actual grocery shopping, and one of my sisters cooked the meals every night.

Since getting my new vehicle (along with satellite radio) last fall, I’ve listened to “American Top 40″ on the 70s on 7 channel whenever it’s on.  Kasem’s warm, raspy baritone instantly transports me back to those Sunday afternoons at the kitchen table.  My ritual of listening to the radio with my can of Diet Sprite made meal planning an enjoyable task.

In the pre-iTunes, pre-YouTube days, Kasem’s show was my guide to popular music, but it was also SO much more.  The long-distance dedications reinforced my conviction that nothing is more powerful than love.  And Kasem’s sign off each week was both practical and inspirational.  As a teen facing the confusion of my “future,” I took his message to heart because it seemed to reconcile two of my most important, yet highly incompatible desires: to at once play it safe and pursue ambitions so unrealistic that even dreaming about them felt ridiculous.

“We’ll be back next week,” he’d promise.  “Until then, keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”

Posted in Art and music, Creativity, innovation, lifelong learning, History, Life, Music, News, Popular culture | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Canary Yellow

I accidentally took this photo while waiting to pick up my daughter.  I kind of like it :)

Canary Yellow Spiral Steno Pad

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Springtime blossoms

Springtime has finally arrived in Milwaukee.  Just in time for Memorial Day :)

Our crab apple tree is blossoming, although the show this year is a little sparse. I’d forgotten that it seems to have an alternating cycle, producing lots of blossoms (and crab apples) one year and then taking a rest the next. Despite missing the luxuriant pink froth of an “active” year, at least we can look forward to fewer crab apples on the ground come late August and September.

crab apple tree in blossom

Even with fewer blossoms, the pink branches are so cheerful. The bright rays of sunrise this morning reflected a soft pink light that filled our kitchen.

more crab apple blossoms

Here is a mystery bush.

mystery blossoms and berries

At some point last summer I noticed berries on this bush in our backyard, and I remember thinking how strange it was that I’d never seen them before.  Then again, maybe not so strange.  The next day every single berry was gone!  Whatever they were, I guess the birds or squirrels or chipmunks must really love them.

Does anyone recognize this mystery bush by its blossoms?  The berries were sort of like tiny grapes, growing in an elongated bunch with one berry per each individual stem jutting out from the long stem going down the middle.

If the berries are safe to eat (for humans, that is), I’m curious to see what they taste like before the critters get them all.

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Three Memorials: The 32nd Infantry, Patrick Lucey, and Dontre Hamilton

On my Starbucks run while taking a break from making up the final exam for my political science class, I was struck by this sight.

Three Memorials: 32nd Infantry, Patrick Lucey, and Dontre Hamilton

The granite arrow honors the 32nd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army National Guard, made up of units from Wisconsin and Michigan with roots dating back to the Civil War’s famous Iron Brigade.  The “Red Arrow” nickname and insignia were derived from the unit’s distinction during World War I as the first Allied division to pierce the Germans’ Hindenburg Line.  Milwaukee County’s Red Arrow Park, where my Starbucks is located, commemorates the legacy of this unit’s service.

The flag at half-staff honors former Wisconsin Governor Patrick Lucey, who died a week ago Saturday (May 10) and will be buried today.

And the stuffed animals and votive candles around the base of the Red Arrow monument stone are memorials to Dontre Hamilton, a man with schizophrenia who was shot and killed here by a police officer April 30th.  There are many questions surrounding this incident, including what happened between Dontre and the officer immediately prior to the shooting and whether Dontre’s access to medications may have been blocked by or negligently delayed by a lack of availability through the county’s mental health services.

All lives are precious.  Each of us matters to somebody else.  If we’re lucky, each of us is also loved by somebody else.  Seeing these three markers just now reminds me of this universal truth.

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Desire, Believe and Achieve

Katherine Wikoff:

Something about this post rings true. A simple goal can represent so much more. So you set that goal. You reach it. And you’re on your way to what you really want! This picture made me smile, and the text accompanying it made me happy. I guess there’s a lot here I can identify with :)

Originally posted on OdesIsPro:

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When you set a goal you can reach a goal.  My only goal was a happy picture.  A picture where the bit of scene made me smile.  I recognize that as of late I can look at my pictures and say they have been dark.  I do not like the feeling at all.

Desire, believe and then you can achieve.  These are potent words if you let them work for you.  It taking a look back I realized my fight had disappeared.  The fight is back in me.  I found my mojo again.  I have goals.  I am unstoppable when I have goals.

By being true to who you are at the core you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.

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