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Three Cheers to the 2014 Local First Award Winners

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Local First hosts its Local Motion awards at its annual meeting each January. These awards honor successful, sustainable local entrepreneurs and businesses in West Michigan.

Atomic Object has sponsored this event for the last three years, and we were the proud recipient of Local First’s Change Agent award in 2011.

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Atoms Mary O’Neill and Terri Vruggink at the Local First Awards.
(Photo Credit – James Richard Fry – jamesrichardfry.com)

The 2014 Local First award winners are an incredible group of entrepreneurs and agents of change within our community. They define sustainable local business. Thanks to Local First for sharing their descriptions of the awards and the award winners: Read more on Three Cheers to the 2014 Local First Award Winners…

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Grade School Math – I’m Doing It Wrong?

It might come as a surprise to many of the readers of this blog that the way you learned to multiply and divide in elementary school isn’t necessarily the way students are learning it today. I know it came as quite a shock to me when my son told me, while I was trying to help with some simple multiplication problems, that I was “doing it wrong.”

So I am writing this post as a service to those readers whose children have not yet reached the elementary school grades when multiplication and division are taught. I will introduce and explain two of the techniques that are currently being used to teach multiplication and division in elementary schools: Lattice Multiplication and Partial Quotient Division (also known as Chunking). Read more on Grade School Math – I’m Doing It Wrong?…

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Product Review: Nest Protect

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In 2011, Nest Labs released their first product called Nest, a learning thermostat. The reviews were good, and Nest Labs was congratulated as being the first company to innovate on a product were little to no innovation has recently existed. In 2013 they did it again, releasing the Nest Protect, a smart, wireless-connected smoke and carbon dioxide detector.

Upon hearing of the Nest Protect, I ordered for my house immediately. My house, built in 1900, is not wired for inter-connected smoke detectors. Nor did it have working smoke detectors on every floor and in the bedrooms, which is the recommended home configuration. Nest Protects are not cheap, they’ll run you around $130 a piece. However when pricing out the labor costs of wiring my old house for smoke detectors, the $130 price tag started looking better and better.

Once installed, the Protects have a few new features beyond what a normal smoke detector provides.

Read more on Product Review: Nest Protect…

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For the Love of Math


My background is in workplace design and architecture, and my skills tend toward the visual, spatial, and intuitive. I haven’t always held a love of math, and I struggled with its abstractions in school. But I’ve always had this intuition about its beauty.

Like many people, I browse the news at breakfast, and one recent morning the article How to Fall in Love with Math caught my attention.  While I was sipping my coffee, I read the article from author and mathematician Manil Suri.  I was drawn in by his examples of math’s broad appeal and he prompted me to “contemplate the elegance of infinity” instead of obsessing about my to-do list. Read more on For the Love of Math…

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Jawbone UP Review

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photo 1-1Six months ago, I received my first UP wrist band, by Jawbone. UP is worn daily and keeps track of your movements as well as your sleeping patterns. Over the last six months, I’ve had the chance to give the band a true test.

Generally speaking, the UP band is a great product. It’s comfortable to wear and has a unique look compared to similar products. The iPhone app is very user friendly, and many of the features I wanted have been added in updates.

Here are my thoughts on the UP’s main functions. Read more on Jawbone UP Review…

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Creative Spaces & “Third Places” in Grand Rapids


For most of us, our best work gets done in a distraction-free environment; and for many of us, that’s not our desk. Finding a welcoming, accessible, free place to think and be creative is probably going to require you to get up and move.

In the book The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg calls this alternative place our “third place.” He defines the third place as:

  • Free or inexpensive
  • Food and drink
  • Highly accessible
  • Involve regulars
  • Welcoming and comfortable
  • Both new friends and old should be found there

I have 3 third places in the Grand Rapids area:
Read more on Creative Spaces & “Third Places” in Grand Rapids…

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Cruisin’ with Divvy

Visit Chicago this year before the weather gets too cold, and you’re likely to see people riding around on some new light-blue bikes. A new bicycle-sharing system called Divvy has spread throughout the city and allows riders to check out bikes from around a hundred different stations.

Read more on Cruisin’ with Divvy…

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My 3 Favorite Places to Bike in Downtown Detroit

I’ve frequently spent time at Atomic’s Detroit office this summer, and I’m excited by downtown Detroit’s cycling opportunities. So far, my 3 favorite places to ride in downtown Detroit are:

1. The RiverWalk

I’ve been rinding the RiverWalk between 6am-7:30am. During that time period the RiverWalk has light traffic and the early-morning crowd is usually cheerful and friendly. The RiverWalk has been a great place for cruising, warming up, or easy spinning.

Riding Detroit RiverWalk

Cycling Detroit RiverWalk

Read more on My 3 Favorite Places to Bike in Downtown Detroit…

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Access Travel Documents Offline with Evernote

The following is a quick description of how Evernote can be utilized to gather all of your information and paperwork before a vacation and access it offline. It’s quick and painless!

iPad ScreenHere’s a glimpse of my Evernote Notebook that I’ll have offline access to, as seen on my iPad (click for a larger version). You can see it includes driving direction, ferry schedule, etc.

This is a camping trip in a remote part of Michigan — cell service will likely be sketchy. Because this information is stored directly on my iPad, there is no worry about connectivity, and everything loads especially fast.

These are my essential travel documents:

  • Driving directions
  • Tickets
  • Schedules
  • Tour maps
  • Reservation emails
  • “Touristy” stuff – interesting articles, restaurant lists, blogger recommendations, etc.

Read more on Access Travel Documents Offline with Evernote…

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UX Lessons from Ford’s MyFord Touch Fiasco

Earlier this summer, it was announced that in response to customer feedback, Ford is bringing back buttons to its MyTouch in-car infotainment system.

My response: Well, Duh.

I’ve written previously about about my appreciation for Ford’s UI design, featuring my ’01 F150 pickup. Since then, I have traded in my old truck for its younger, sexier sibling, a SYNC-equipped 2010 model. I love the user experience in my new truck just as much as my old one. The voice recognition, while quirky sometimes, is perfectly adequate for everyday calling and bluetooth audio playback. The buttons and knobs are well-placed, the cluster is satisfyingly designed, and the LED display, while not as fancy as an LCD, is bright and absolutely useful in its simplicity.

Read more on UX Lessons from Ford’s MyFord Touch Fiasco…

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