Categories
Design General

Belong to Universe

Making new friends during a pandemic is a bizarre experience.

For me, the few I have are people I have connected with during unusually raw evening Zoom calls between friends. These are usually scenarios where we all sit, and drink, and muse about the world from our respective desks or kitchens.

There is an honesty and a vulnerability to these calls. When we’re spending so much time in isolation alone with our thoughts, there seems to be a lot less BS when talking with friends, and much deeper topics can be discussed.

This is how I met Maud.

In the little bit I’ve gotten to know Maud, she is a smart, quick-witted, and clever person who loves professional soccer, German culture, and ska music. It’s surprising we didn’t know each other sooner.

The other thing I know is that Maud lost her father suddenly to COVID-19 back in April.

As a way to honor her father, she has worked with JL Murtaugh of NO GRAND to create a mask and soccer scarf combo to raise money for causes important to her.

In her own words:

And so, I started a project. A way to channel my memories of my father, and my father’s memories, and my love and concern for those around me. A way to celebrate what my father loved about me and what I loved about my father. A way to celebrate the people who have been so kind to me, so kind to my family, and so kind to my father.

When my father was taken from his home, on the block he moved to nearly fifty years before, he went to the hospital and came back thirteen days later in a lacquered wood box. In the time in between, I spent hours on the phone with countless medical workers with such depths of empathy in their communication. I am so thankful to them. I hold an immense debt of gratitude to the overwrought funeral director who spoke to me with such honesty and ease. I have encountered immense humanity, and I have been alone, in my own home, for over six weeks now.

I asked JL Murtaugh to help me turn all this sentiment into something tangible. I told him stories of my father’s appreciation for and association with Buckminster Fuller. I told him about my father’s early career as a photographer, developing his own photographs of the Mies van der Rohe buildings on the IIT campus to be published in the Chicago Tribune. I told him how my father would sketch blueprints on scratch paper at the kitchen table and had a concrete mixer in our garage for experiments in Brutalism. Liam had previously created designs based on Betrand Goldberg and Frank Lloyd Wright. I knew he understood how I learned to understand Chicago from my father.

I am truly honored and astounded by what NO GRAND has created.

I can personally attest that the scarves look tremendous and the masks are some of the best we own. You can see some photos below (including one of my dog Marla modeling the scarf) and place your order via this Google form.

I’m grateful that I’ve had the chance to get to know Maud (from a distance.) The artists and inventors that her father appreciated are ones that inspire me as well. I am honored that I was one of the first people to receive a set and, if you’re anything like me I believe it is one that you may appreciate as well.

There are only a few left so don’t sleep on it.

Categories
Chicago Design

Biggles Seizes the Means: Now on Sale!

On New Years’ Eve, my friend Austin Harvey let me know that he and his colleagues were in the process of acquiring the bar they worked at, Beermiscuous, from its owner.

He also told me he had an idea for a beer he wanted to make to celebrate the bar’s upcoming 6th anniversary.

He told me he had recently tasted a remarkable strong ale from a brewery in Ohio and wanted to bring something to the Chicago market. And he already had a collaborator in mind: upstart nano-brewery Bold Dog Beer Company.

The beer would be called ‘Biggles Seizes the Means’ and fulfill his wife Annie’s long-held wish to see their beloved mutt, Biggles, on a beer can. But given the name and the theme, he envisioned it being done in the socialist realism art style.

Having recently completed an original screenprint of Gritty as a parody of an Alexander Rodchenko piece, I told Austin I had to be the person to design this label.

Months later, here we are in the middle of a pandemic, and the largest social upheaval this country has seen since the ’60s, and the beer is now available. I’m happy to report that it turned out to be astoundingly good, and this whole thing turned into a project that I am very, very proud of.

If you’re in the Chicagoland region, you can order it for pickup at either of the two Beermiscuous locations or through Bold Dog directly.

Categories
Pop Culture Technology

Facebook’s GIPHY Acquisition is Evil Genius

I’ve seen a decent amount of bewilderment as to why Facebook would spend $400, 000 on an acquisition of GIPHY.

Honestly, I find it surprising that so many people would be confused by this because truthfully, it’s a brilliant strategic move.

To understand why, one only needs to look at all the ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ buttons that litter the web currently.

Even when you’re not using Facebook, every ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ button on the web uses browser cookies, IP addresses, and a host of other methods to track your behavior. These embedded pixels monitor almost your entire browsing experience and report it back to Facebook, who then uses it to profile you to better target ads at you.

But as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself has pointed out:

“I believe the future is private,”

https://www.wired.com/story/f8-zuckerberg-future-is-private/

This is remarkably prescient and brilliant positioning. Because from a PR perspective, it makes it seem like Facebook is moving towards caring about privacy, when that is not really what he means at all.

In the last few years, we have seen the rise of tools like Slack and Discord to communicate and organize. These are perceived as “private” communities to users. And they represent a challenge for Facebook because our behavior in them is cut off from their data mining.

For Zuckerberg, “the future is private” is a challenge the company faces, not a business opportunity. Facebook’s continued growth requires a way to peer into our private communities.

So how do you find a way to track things that go on inside those walled gardens?

Same way you would the web: Tracking pixels.

And who has a large market share of image files embedded in closed chat conversations and “private” communities?

GIPHY.

Categories
Chicago General Technology

Congratulations to ActiveCampaign on 100K Customers

Today ActiveCampaign announced they had surpassed 100,000 customers and over $100 million in annual recurring revenue.

When I joined the company in 2013, we were a team of 10 in a tiny office downtown. At that point, we were still transitioning from a downloadable software to a software-as-a-service model and had not yet launched the company’s flagship automation builder that would go on to spike our insane growth path.

Something that has set ActiveCampaign apart from its competitors is its dedication to customer care. Although the company has changed dramatically, and not EVERY practice has scaled (at one point, I would designate a half-hour at the end of every day to handwrite a personal thank you card to every customer who purchased an enterprise account) the team’s commitment to being customer-centric has never wavered. I believe if they can keep that as their guiding light, they will continue to find success.

I’m incredibly proud of the product I built at AC, but I’m even more proud of the fantastic customers and colleagues I helped in the process.

The company released this video this morning, which inspired me to write something. The video not only features a photo with me in it but a few that I shot while working there. It made me smile, and I’m proud to share it. Congrats to the whole ActiveCampaign team. Here’s to 100,000 more!

Cheers!

Categories
General

May Day Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Since I was a child, I have loved baking. In particular, I’ve loved chocolate chip cookies. Ruth Wakefield‘s Toll House recipe is an inspiration. Since 2010 I have been playing with Ruth’s recipe to put my spin on it. Amusingly after starkly diverging from it at first, the final product has organically come full circle back to its roots with many similarities to that recipe.

It’s hard to beat the best, but after many test batches and tweaks, I’ve finally gotten it to a place that I feel is ready to share with the rest of the world. I’ll let you be the judge.


May Day Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
by John Morrison

Yield: 48 cookies
Cook time: 10 minutes
Prep time: ~3 hours (including chilling)
Baking temperature: 375°

½ cup bacon fat
½ cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter at room temperature
½ cup wildflower honey
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 shot bourbon (~3 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 ¼ cups dark chocolate chips

  1. Combine butter and bacon fat in a large bowl and mix in an electric mixer on low until creamy and combined
  2. Add honey and brown sugar gradually. Beat until light and fluffy ~3 minutes. Make sure to scrape down the bowl as needed.
  3. Beat in vanilla, bourbon, and eggs one at a time and scrape down the bowl as needed. Add baking soda and beat into the mixture at low speed.
  4. Add ⅓ the flour and mix on low speed. Gradually add remaining flour until blended.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Cover bowl and chill for at least 1 hour in the fridge.
  7. Preheat oven to 375º
  8. Scoop generously rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart on silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
  9. Bake at 375° until golden brown around the edges. (Approximately 10 minutes on a baking sheet ~9 on parchment)
  10. Remove from the oven and place cookies on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.
  11. Arrest the cops who murdered Breonna Taylor.
  12. Enjoy!

Notes: I usually get my dark chocolate from Blommer. I prefer to buy the ‘Alpine Dark’ broken ends and break them up further to use as chocolate chunks, but chips work excellently as well.

As far as the bourbon is concerned, I usually use whatever we have on hand. I don’t usually use Four Roses Single Barrel, but I did for this batch because it’s my favorite bourbon, and this batch is special to me.

You’ll notice there is no salt in the recipe, that is because the bacon fat should supply more than enough salt by itself. If you’re looking for an excellent way to make perfect bacon while preserving the grease I recommend checking out Dan Benjamin’s Bacon Method.

I landed on the “May Day” name because May 1st (aka International Worker’s Day) was the day I finally ‘froze’ the recipe and because I prefer to it with all local ingredients when possible.

I’d like to give shout outs to Gorden Tebo, Weien Wang, Rocco Palladino, Sean Wolter, Kellen Terret, Doctor Susan Brown, and Will Goodwin of Spoken Cafe. Over the years, each of these folx gave me feedback, advice, or inspiration that helped make this into something I’m very proud of.

Finally, a special thank you to my mother, Susan Morrison, for fostering my love of baking and my love of cookies in particular. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Your share will be in the mail tomorrow.

Thank you all.