I had been thinking about my next move for a while – I suppose you could call it the two-year itch, the one that young professionals seem to get early in their careers. For the first time in my life, I was being actively recruited by various organizations looking for front-end developers (or back-end engineers, for which I was not the right fit). Recruitment is a funny thing. It’s nice to start practicing what it will be like when you put yourself out there for new positions, as well as potentially open an opportunity that you may not have come across otherwise.
Joyent came to me through a more old-fashioned method: in-person networking. Instead of a recruitment email, it was me sitting at the hotel bar after the first day of O’Reilly’s Velocity Conference and talking to a potential new friend about ourselves and our goals for the conference. I did a good enough job convincing this gentleman that I believe in the importance of documentation for developers, so much so that it sent me down a path of phone calls and interviews about a role they were just creating for someone just like me.
At first, this opportunity looked felt like it would be a huge career shift. Despite the fact I’ve spoken about the importance of technical writing for developers on multiple occasions, formally and informally, I never assumed I’d take a job doing it full time. I always assumed I would keep on building new things, possibly for a new company, probably for many more new companies. It’s likely that I never would have applied to a technical writing position, without it coming to me.
I made a long pros and cons list, thinking about the many reasons why this opportunity could be just too good to pass up, as well as the many reasons I was scared to make the jump. And even with my acceptance and my enthusiasm for this opportunity, I am still a little scared. Not only is this a new role in a field I didn’t think I’d pursue, but it’s also a remote position. My boss and many of my colleagues will be on Pacific Time.
But with that fear of being remote, also comes amazing opportunity. A remote job allows me the possibility of traveling all over the world and working from anywhere (as long as they have strong wifi). If you know me, you know I do a lot of that (see Japan, see Poland, see the UK). There are so many more places that I want to go and not enough vacation time in the world to fulfill that desire.
Yes, it will be challenging. I know I’m going to learn a lot about who I am and who I want to be. I’m a social person who will no longer sit amongst her colleagues, but instead be tied to them via chat apps and video hangouts. I’m going to have to pick up the new languages quickly so I can start turning around meaningful content.
But fear should never be the reason to say no to a new adventure. So here goes everything.
Often when we create our WordPress themes, they come with a small theme options page built using the Settings API. This page could have inputs for everything from social media handles to uploading a new logo or picking a homepage layout. Having these options makes it easier for non-developers to make important changes to their websites, or give it minor refreshment.
Here’s a pretty straightforward example of how we use it on Chasing the Dream. Administrators can update the links for social media icons, enter the unique Google Custom Search Key, pick a homepage grid, and even update the footer text.
Having a theme options page is a good way to set global options, such as a font or accent color. Instead of having to find all of the places within the CSS every time a client wants to try a different shade of blue, instead they can have the power to update it themselves. Read more
Back in October of 2014, I had a bit of a dry spell at WNET. There weren’t as many new projects coming in, and I was still green to the way our more complex web properties work. Instead of sitting around and reading the various internet news aggregates, I decided to attack a problem I knew about even before starting my job that August.
The Interactive Engagement Group (IEG) website was a flat, two-page piece of brochure ware. It was built to appease the powers-that-be, but was in no way indicative of the type of amazing work that the department was capable of doing. I wanted to take this project head on and lead the way to a beautiful, responsive, and informative website that would not only show off what we could do, but show off the expertise of our team. To do this, I needed buy-in from my boss, head of the technical team, and from the head of our department.
To Get Buy In, I Came Prepared
Though I talked about why I thought it was important with my boss and with the developer team, I knew I would need a lot more than a “good idea” to get department funding to build the site. I put my professional writing skills to work and wrote a content strategy. Read more
Two weeks ago I was presented a new challenge: build a bingo card for Antiques Roadshow that randomly populated with icons on refresh and on-command (by a “refresh” button), make those icons clickable, indicate a win if five in a row are selected, and last but not least, allow the user to share if they do indeed win. The bingo card was released today, just in time for tonight’s episode.
This was the perfect opportunity to build a WordPress plugin. If done right, bingo could be played in multiple posts at the same time, instead of just played for a one-off event.
The plugin itself is fairly straightforward. Content administrators add two shortcodes to the post they hope to Bingo-fy. 24+ randomized images should be uploaded to that post (not including the image for the free space, winner images, a bingo header, or anything else). All additional images used should be uploaded to the media library but not attached to the post.
The first shortcode, [bingo_gallery], adds the images to a hidden div within the post. This will allow the shortcode [bingocard] to refer to said images to populate a table, as well as to a set freespace image, winner image, and header image, all of which are set on the Bingo Settings page. The actual order of these shortcodes within the post doesn’t matter.
At the moment, the plugin is built for three posts with Bingo cards but can be scaled up depending on the user’s knowledge of PHP. I hope in version 2.0 I can more easily add up to ten bingo cards in the back-end so that PHP/jQuery knowledge isn’t necessary for those wishing to add more bingo cards.
Back in November, Jeanne Brooks (fellow member of Tech LadyMafia) reached out to me to ask for me to speak at an upcoming hackathon for Fusion RiseUp. Though I’ve spoken at events before, for the most part it had been through JCC Association and JCC events. I had never been asked to speak as me, as a professional.
To be honest, I was surprised. I couldn’t help but wonder, in the pool of amazing women that we belong to, why would she ask me? Of course, that may have had something to do with a bit of my own confidence issues in the moment, but what came back was a list of reasons as to why I was indeed more than qualified.
As nervous as I was, I said yes. This was not an opportunity that I could miss. And boy, am I glad I did.
Instead of speaking about development or hacking in a traditional sense, I spoke about building community. Back in November 2012, I attended NASA Social Final Journey of Atlantis. As you may (or may not) know, even getting to Orlando was an adventure (thanks Hurricane Sandy). Community building carried on long after the event ended, and there is now a group of individuals that are a part of my extended network with a shared love for all things space. Read more
Two years, six months, and seventeen days ago I got off a plane at LaGuardia Airport with a backpack and two giant suitcases. I got in a taxi and we sped (well, probably no more than forty miles an hour, but you get the point) towards Brooklyn. I moved to New York less than two months after college, two weeks after returning from traveling abroad solo, to start my first job as Digital Marketing Associate at JCC Association.
After two years, six months, and three days as a working professional, I hugged my colleagues goodbye and took my cubical decorations and paperwork home. The very next day, I took my Michigan oven mitt and a three legged chanchitos figurine (thanks Alex, Sarah, and Tom) to my new job at WNET (also known as Channel Thirteen). I accepted a position as Associate Web Developer (sometimes in official paperwork known as Web Engineer), beginning the day after I left.
Over the past year, I had decided I really loved building for WordPress and wanted to focus on becoming a better developer. That being said, my resume still spoke volumes to my marketing and community management abilities, more than my technical skills. While I decided in the spring to start looking for a new position, I decided I would apply on both sides of my skill spectrum. I knew my next position would probably help steer the rest of my career, which was extraordinarily nerve wracking. I knew what I wanted, but I also knew that without a computer science degree or a host of previous developer roles I was at a huge disadvantage. Read more
When I graduated from Michigan State University (was it REALLY two and a half years ago?!), my resume felt like a jumble of skills. I can build you a website AND write your tweets AND write instructions for using software AND build you an elaborate stage set. I have the skills to design a basic logo AND create communications strategies.
Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers suggests it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert (though a recent study disagrees). So how can one call themselves a specialist in something or an expert if they focus on so many different things? How do you communicate your expertise?
Take pride in being a generalist.
There’s a huge benefit to having a list of skills that are related. Particularly when going into a non-profit or a smaller company which may not have segmented out certain responsibilities, being able to say, “I can help you with your web communications AND your print” is hugely beneficial. Being “the best” can be nice, but tout your other skills as an added bonus. Read more
I was first assigned the task of “build a website for JCC Camps” back in July 2013. When this happened, the talk was mostly emulating our existing directory website for JCCs, DiscoverJCC.com. That website was built before my time, using a software from our Preferred Vendor, Accrisoft. My boss would take the lead on the design, and we would create a modern website that tested the limits of our brand standards.
My goal was to create a customized directory profile that was broken up by lots of small pieces of meta data, with a lot of possibilities for searching. My boss created two mockups: the homepage followed the trend of the single page website, with four sections, and the inner profile page highlighting various pieces of information. It was my task to realize this design.
The Building Process
I began building a custom WordPress theme for the JCC Camps website in August 2013. The most arduous task was creating a filtration system that not only worked, but that was actually useful for our intended audience, potential parents of campers. There was no point in having eight different options for searching, if parents only cared about location, type of stay (day or overnight), and specialized activities. Read more
I’m going to start this conversation with a bold, inflammatory statement: I hate networking.
People who know me often respond to that sentiment with, “But you’re so good at it! You’re friendly, and you talk to everyone. How could you hate talking to people?”
I’d say I’m halfway between an extrovert and an introvert. I love parties and events where I know people in the room. It’s invigorating to be in a space where I’m comfortable, and talking about the things I care about. But the moment I step into a room where I don’t know people and the room is full of experts in my field, I’m intimidated. It can be exhausting to have to be “on” for several hours, trying to meet new people and either make friends or business contacts (or ideally, both). Read more
This week, I had the pleasure of attending the Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco. I’ll be honest: I knew little to nothing about Lean Startup practices and their terminology before I hopped on the plane from New York this past weekend. Now, I’m a convert. I’ll go back to my office, and hopefully be able to get some of the practices going within my department.
A bit of background, for those of you also unfamiliar with Lean Startup. Lean Startup is a business and product development methodology developed by Eric Ries (co-host of the conference). His theory is that through experimentation (think the scientific method for business), iteration, and early customer interaction, businesses can reduce risks and initial funding costs. This is based on lean manufacturing, production practices streamlined by Japanese automakers. There are a lot of big buzz words thrown around to help the concepts sink in to measurable action:
Minimum Viable Product (MVP)‘s are versions of the end-product which allow maximum data collection with the least amount of money/time. For example, starting with a landing page of a website to gage interest and find out if your hypothesis is correct before building out the entire database.
Continuous Deployment of code, so that small changes are adopted quickly. Why spend hundreds of hours on a huge single launch? There’s a greater opportunity for failure and to not know what piece of the puzzle didn’t work.
Actionable metrics versus vanity metrics. I’m perfectly guilty of subscribing and using the vanity metrics (the numbers that paint rosy pictures but may not reflect accurate engagement) for certain documentation. But, the actionable metrics are the ones that can paint a better picture and lead to smart decision making. Read more
When you live on campus, you have a variety of services that offered to you for help and fun. Many of these services are free! (Or, as my father would say, “included in tuition”)
Feeling sick? Olin Health Center is located on the most northern part of campus, right on East Circle Drive. You can take the 33, 31, or the 1 bus in order to get there. In addition, if you’re extremely ill, they do have courtesy shuttles that take students back and forth. You get 6 free visits a year, and they have a pharmacy right inside to take care of any prescriptions. Honestly, it gets a bad rep. People tell you to steer clear. The one experience I’ve had, I had been losing feeling in my left hand. Turns out I had carpal tunnel syndrome. From setting up my appointment through the pharmacy, it was a highly professional environment. In addition, Olin has a satellite in Hubbard Hall and the Brody Complex.
Feeling blue? The Counseling Center is another fantastic resource. With 8 free visits a semester (and a small fee for extended counseling) and a versatile staff, there is a counselor for anyone. They do take walk-ins, and you can also schedule appointments in advance. This is a resource that I’ve taken advantage of as well. At the end of my sophomore year, I was feeling anxious. It felt difficult to reach out to friends, and I started having panic attacks. Read more
For the past few weeks, I had been going through a life crisis revolving around graduation:
When should I graduate? How will I get a job? What if I DON’T get a job? Can I afford to move back home (mentally)? Can I afford to stay in East Lansing (financially)? I’ve never been to Europe, and it seems like I’ll never have the time again, would it be irresponsible just to go? I’ve been crazy this summer working a billion jobs, can I keep that going?
All of those questions and more had been swirling in my mind for weeks, when I decided: I need to see my adviser(s).
I’m lucky. In my department, I not only have a top notch adviser, Danielle DeVoss (who, anyone will tell you, they leave their office with “stars in [their] eyes”), but I also consider her my friend. Furthermore, I also have a great relationship with the head of PW, Laura Julier. I know that if I need life advice, they’re both more than willing to help.
The total of three hours I spent in their respective offices last week (2 and a half of which, were after 5PM) were the most enlightening and helpful hours I’ve had. I had my feelings justified and left with to-do lists of how I was going to accomplish all of my goals. Although I had spoken of my life-fears to friends, they could only do so much to help me.
Finding a good adviser is not only essential to your college career, but can completely change the decisions you make. When I was a theater major, I never quite developed a rapport with my advisers. Perhaps it was because my focus changed from acting to theater, and then I decided to get a BA not a BFA, which puts you at an adviser disadvantage. Because of all of that, I was off-track and un-happy. Read more
So far, you’ve gotten to read about shopping, music, free entertainment, and more. What’s left? I a series of 9 blog posts, there is no possible way I could cover all Lansing has to offer. However, before I move on to another series of posts (including a countdown to move in), I figured I’d wrap it up with some final words of wisdom.
If you have a car (or a friend with a car) take a trip down the road to Uncle John’s Cider Mill. There are a variety of activities for all ages, including hay rides in the fall, a corn maze, delicious apple cider and donuts, and even a winery. It’s a great place to buy local produce and sweet treats, as well as spend a fall afternoon just exploring.
Stop by the Michigan Historical Museum for a lesson about the development of Michigan, from prehistoric times to the 21st century. It’s located right in downtown Lansing, on Kalamazoo St.
The Grand Fish offers a variety of boat rentals, offering residents the chance to Kayak down the famous Red Cedar. They also provide music in Old Town Lansing, with local artists without amplifiers.
Speaking of which, Old Town is possibly the most exciting and eclectic area in all of Lansing. It’s home to Golden Harvest (remember? Make breakfast plans), art galleries, dining, several festivals, and so much more. There are historical walking tours offered to take advantage of. In a couple of weeks, the Renegade Theatre Festival will be taking place, with free theater with a variety of performances. Learn about the rich history of Lansing, and take in the beautiful architecture.
Lansing is also home to several non-profits. Get involved, make a difference, and have a ton of fun. In March, there is an event called Lansing Give Camp where over 100 volunteers come together to help bring 10-15 non-profits to the digital age. I attended last year and helped re-vamp the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council website, along with their social media. It was the most fun weekend I had in the Spring, making a difference by doing something I loved. No matter what your passion is, there is a way to fulfill it in outreach in the community.
I was scared of Lansing when I moved here in 2008. Now, I’ll leave knowing only part of the wonderful opportunities offered. Venture out into the community and make the most of your experience at MSU. Take advantage of all of the opportunities you’re offered here. Trust me, you’ll regret it if you don’t.
Feel free to tweet me at@DesignLightning with any follow up questions or conversation!
My past seven entries have mostly featured things to do for some form of a fee. However, we can’t always afford to go out and do things that cost even a bus ride. Sometimes it’s nice to know that you won’t spend a penny to have fun.
Campus Center Cinemas feature movies every weekend, Thursday through Sunday. They generally run 3 or 4 films, all of which were released in the last 6 months (you can expect HPDH pt 2 in late November). All you need is a student ID for access, and it’s free for students who live on campus. Other students can come as well for the ticket price of $2. They also provide free popcorn at their main center in Wells Hall (which wasn’t open last year, but should be available this year). It’s a great way to catch up on those movies you meant to see on a big screen. Posters are put up at the beginning of each week that list all of the movie times, as well as other events going on that week.
Or, if you fancy a movie without leaving your room, rent one from the RHA movie offices. There is one in each neighborhood and they have everything from the Lord of the Rings trilogy to Amelie to The Sound of Music. All you need is your student ID.
The Botanical Gardens are located behind the library, and are a beautiful place to take a walk. Explore various fauna and flora, some of which is endangered. You can visit it right behind the library (take a study break!)
Get active. You can play volleyball at a sand court located by almost every dorm. Play ultimate frisbee in one of the fields. Go running on a track in one of the IM buildings, or take a run around campus. There are also outdoor soccer fields and basketball courts that you are free to use.
There is free bowling and pool once a week at the Union. For the 2010-2011 school year, this was featured on Thursday nights. Be sure to get there early, because everyone wants in on the fun!
If you want to help plan many of the events offered on campus, head to a University Activities Board meeting. They’re the ones who bring you free movies and free bowling. They also help plan several concerts that happen through the year and Sparty’s Spring Party.
Several dorms and locations have media lounges with big screen TVs and game systems (Sparty’s in Holmes or the Pillar Room in SnyPhy). Friends can lounge on the couches and play video games or watch TV. There is a rumor that they’ll be building a lounge in Linton Hall for College of Arts & Letters students, so be sure to listen up to any upcoming news.
Every semester, MSU takes part in Humans v Zombies, a two week long event where students fight for survival. Hundreds of students participate (as noted by their bandanas and nerf guns) and it’s completely free to sign up. Think of it as a giant game of moderated tag. A Facebook event is created closer to the date, but in the meanwhile, check out the main website. Several of my friends have played and love it.
Later this week, I’ll have my final series post about Lansing entertainment. Feel free to tweet me at@DesignLightning with any follow up questions or conversation!
Two posts ago, I spoke of things to do in Downtown East Lansing, in which I featured several shopping option. Well, those aren’t your only options. There are lots of places in the greater Lansing area for all of your needs.
If you’re into malls, there are two I recommend checking out: The Meridian Mall is located at the end of Bus 1’s route towards Okemos. This mall is open 10-9 Monday through Saturday, and 12-6 on Sunday. Store sales are featured on their website, and they boast several department stores: Macy’s & JC Penny’s are your standard national chain, as well as as smaller midwest chain, Younker’s. Meridian Mall is also across the street from Target, Marshalls, and the makeup store Ulta. Finally, their is an AMC theater behind it for all of your movie desires. Read more
There are so many options for food in and around campus, it’s overwhelming. I couldn’t possibly mention all of them here (and look for a better restaurant review in a future blog post). However, I can note some of the local highlights:
Woody’s Oasis Bar & Grill: There are several Woody’s around campus (one in the International Center, one off of Trowbridge, and one on Grand River). The one on Grand River is by far the best, with an extensive menu and a good amount of seating. They have a good balance of Middle Eastern cuisine and Western food, for the internationally timid diners. It’s not exactly what you’d get if you were to go to a Middle Eastern country, but it’s pretty delicious regardless.
If you’re a fan of Sushi, there are probably 8 or 9 options. Do NOT go to Sushi Go. Trust me. Also, NEVER EVER EVER order delivery sushi. I know you were considering it. It’s ALWAYS a bad idea. If you’re looking for delicious sushi, check out Sushi Ya. It’s located next to Espresso Royale on Grand River (and they have some pretty awesome tempura rolls). At the end of your meal, your table is served tempura fried bananas that are to die for. If you have a little more money to spend, try Sansu in Hannah Plaza. It’s a little higher class with a larger selection and a slightly larger bill at the end, but it’s worth it. Take your parents. You can also head there on Tuesday with your Student ID for a discount.
If you’re a fan of Indian cuisine, check out Sindhu’s in Hannah Plaza. They have a lunch buffet with a large amount of options, or they also have a large menu of choices. It’s hard to be disappointed at their authentic cuisine.
A lesser known restaurant is What Up Dawg?, a hot dog spot on M.A.C. They have beer for $2 and a variety of dogs and toppings. If you’re a Chicago hot dog fan, definitely check it out (and get the poppy seed bun. Mmm mm). They serve chilli and fries, too!
My favorite restaurant of all time happens to be located in Old Town, Lansing. The magical, the mythical: Golden Harvest. The food is so good, it’s almost impossible to go without a line of people waiting outside (whatever the weather looks like). They have new specials every day, open from 7am to 2pm. It’s the best breakfast you’ll ever have. Furthermore, the atmosphere is so fun. It’s a very small restaurant with tattooed cooks and loud blasting rock music. The wait (which may be 30 minutes or more) is 100% worth it. Technically, it’s not East Lansing. But it’s too wonderful not to mention now!
Are you looking to get some work done and enjoy a variety of tea options? Check out Wanderer’s Teahouse on Grand River. With several options for tea, unlimited refills of hot water or iced tea, and a selection of homemade crepes, sandwiches, and salads, it’s hard not to love this place. It gets pretty packed during the school year with students studying, but there’s always room for more. They also are often hosts to open mic nights for a fun evening activity!
Other places to put up your feet and enjoy delicious caffinated beverages include the original Biggby on Grand River (open 24 hours) or the Biggby in the Union, Espresso Royale, and Starbucks. Whatever coffee floats your boat, we have it. We also have several Sparty’s cafes around campus, which boast Combo X-Change (your future best friend).
For the 21+ crowd, there are numerous bars located in East Lansing. There are so many, I could hardly amass an appropriate list, so check out this website instead. Woody’s always has great drink specials and the Peanut Barrel is famous for their cheap & delicious Long Islands. They do, however, cap you off after two. Harper’s offers a selection of homemade beers, stouts and ales. Crunchy’s is known to have great pizza and karaoke on weekend nights; July is also Michigan Beer Month, where they’re featuring local craft brews.
Ok, so that’s great. But sometimes, we want to stay in and not worry about going out. Good news! Get delivery from some of your favorite restaurants, straight to your dorm or apartment! Check out Campusfood.com and register to collect points (which lead to coupons) every time you order.
Feel free to leave a comment or tweet me at @DesignLightning with any follow up questions or conversation!
Not everything you do has to require a bus ride, heading to Lansing or one of the surrounding cities. There is plenty to do right in our own little downtown. Check out our the City of East Lansing’s website for more information.
We do have the American chains American Apparel, Plato’s Closet, and Urban Outfitters on Grand River, but I encourage you to head to other East Lansing shop for better deals and a more unique experience. On the lower cost end, there’s ReThreads, a new used clothing shop. Get vintage threads and gently used clothing at a lower price. Pitaya is a cute store for dresses.
Exlusively in EL: Jeaniologie features higher end designer clothing, and is very new to the scene. Mad Eagle is also slightly higher end, with real silver jewelry and a variety of clothing options. They feature the clothing of lines such as Free People. If you’re interested in vintage clothing, check out Scavenger Hunt. They have recently limited their hours (the website is completely off base). Be sure to check out the sign posted on their door for updates. Read more
Funfact: I spent my first year and a half at Michigan State University as a Theater major. I had come in thinking that I either wanted to be a performer or work in costume design for the rest of my life. This changed when I discovered Professional Writing (and met Professor Danielle DeVoss), but more about that later. In my time in Theater, I learned a lot about what we have to offer at MSU as far as live entertainment.
Every semester, the Theater Department puts on at least three major plays. In my time here, they’ve had The Wizard of Oz, the Rocky Horror Show (for which I was the Costume Crew Head), Hedda Gabbler, Tommy: The Rock Opera, Love’s Labours Lost (for those Shakespeare fans), and other plays and musicals you may or may not have heard of. In addition, there are also smaller shows put on entirely by students; in January of 2010, we put on Reefer Madness, with the help of grants and a completely student run production. These tickets cost anywhere from free to $16, but you often get to see shows that have wonderful quality. They are presented in the Auditorium or at the Wharton Center, depending on what the department rents out for the show.
The Wharton Center is another entertainment venue on campus. They actually own not only the center itself, but the Auditorium and the Fairchild theater. Several Broadway tours come through every year; this year, Jersey Boys, Les Miserables, West Side Story, Seussical, and Wicked will be coming to the Wharton. In addition, many major concerts and other events are held in their theaters. Check out their website in order to see show dates, and buy tickets online.
For less expensive options, try your hand at community theater! Riverwalk Theater is located in downtown Lansing, about a fifteen minute drive from campus. It’s also possible to hop the CATA 1 bus to Lansing and walk. They are a local community theater who puts on several shows every season. In addition, they often have student actors from MSU take part in their productions. Check out their website for more information about the 2011-2012 season.
Williamston Theater is a little more difficult to get to, but has a wonderful season lined up. They are also a local community theater that often uses actors from MSU. They just announced their next season, featuring The Understudy by Theresa Rebeck and directed by MSU Professor Rob Roznowski. They have a wonderful tie with MSU and Director Tony Caselli has come to direct several shows at MSU, including Hedda Gabbler in the spring of 2009. Their smaller stage creates an intimate view of the actors and audience, so much so that you feel you are actually a part of the show. Check out their website for more.
A lesser known theater group is the Peppermint Creek Theatre Company which performs at the Creole Gallery in Old Town Lansing. They have put on stellar performances, with very few actors in a limited space. I’ve had the pleasure to see just one performance, but I look forward to seeing more in the future. Read about their season on their site or buy tickets!
Finally, the Stormfield Theater is located in the Frandor Shopping Center, a short ride from the MSU campus on the CATA 1 bus. I have never actually been to this theater, but if they’re anything like other Lansing community theaters… they’re going to have some serious talent. Check out their siteand read about their upcoming shows.
In addition, Lansing’s City Pulse has an annual Pulsar Awards show where they nominate performers of all ages and give awards to the best shows in the area. Last season’s awards have been given out, but who knows who will be up for grabs next year!
My next blog will talk about Downtown East Lansing, and what you can do in walking distance of campus.
Feel free to leave a comment or tweet me at @DesignLightning with any follow up questions or conversation.
Now you know some great places to check out music on an average weekday. That’s wonderful, and much more practical. However, that’s not all the Lansing area has to offer as far as music. There are a ton of great events and music festivals coming up in the next year.
Right now (yes, right now!) one of the biggest festivals in the area is happening. Common Ground features many artists, including some really big names. This year, some of the featured artists include The Verve Pipe, Lynard Skynard, LL Cool J, and Melissa Etheridge. It’s happening every day this week, starting at 5:30PM in Adado Riverfront Park, right on Grand River.
Middle of the Mitten happens at the end of January, and is the anniversary show for The Record Lounge. Typically around 20-25 local bands are featured, with an acoustic stage and a larger stage to accompany various types of entertainment. Last year, bands such as Elliot Street Lunatic, Your Best Friend, Life Size Ghost, and Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers all came out to play at the Loft in downtown Lansing. In addition, it happened to be my 21st birthday, and Life Size Ghost sang “Happy Birthday” at midnight (can I say this is my favorite show?).
In August, the annual Great Lakes Folk Festival takes place, featuring local music and artists from around the world. This event is also completely free and in downtown East Lansing! Get your folk on.
Also in August is the Lansing Jazz Festival. This is another completely free event, also featuring vendors from local restaurants to get yourself dinner or a snack. For the 21+, there is free admission to the drinks tent during happy hour (4PM-6PM) on both days.
None of these events have an minimum age! No excuses. Get out there and enjoy the music. In addition, this is just a sampling of some of the events that Lansing has to offer. Check out a list on Lansing’s very own festival website.
Next week, I’ll stick with entertainment: local theater, Broadway, and other performances.
Feel free to leave a comment or tweet me at @DesignLightning with any follow up questions or conversation!
Last week, I wrote a blog entry about finding things to do in the Lansing Metro area, including one of the Lansing hot spots, Impression 5. This week, I’ll be posting about where to find local music. This post is about venues, and the next post will be about specific concerts, festivals, and events.
When I think of music, to be perfectly honest, the first locations I think of are Los Angeles and New York City. Those are music capitols not only of the United States but of the entire world. Great artists from all over flock to these cities to make it big and record their music.
However, this does not mean other towns are without talent. There are a lot of local bands and artists playing music in Michigan, particularly in Lansing. Some of these bands record out in LA in a studio, but often they come home and play in Michigan. I have a few personal favorite local bands including Joe Hertler, Life Size Ghost, The Blue Effect, and Liz McDaniel. I often refer to one of our local record shops, The Record Lounge, for new artists in the area (who, all summer, has free concerts every two weeks featuring four or more artists a night).
There are a lot of ways to find local music and listen. Often, musicians will start playing at Espresso Royale right on Grand River. There are also several venues (easily accessible using CATA for bus transportation) that have live music. Some are 21+ and some are 18+.
The Loft is located on Michigan Avenue in downtown Lansing. Concerts vary from 18+ and 21+, so it is suggested you check out their website to see when bands are playing and who can attend.
Mac’s Bar is located on Michigan Avenue, directly after Frandor. It is always 18+, and they have special nights for electronic music (Neon Tuesdays). Check out their website to see the calender.
Gone Wired is a cafe in Lansing on Michigan Avenue, which often doesn’t have an age restriction on any of their events. Their website is currently down, but you can check them out on Facebook. It’s also a great place to go and get studying done with a nice cup of coffee.
The Green Door is a 21+ bar after 8PM on Michigan Avenue, featuring local music in a variety of genres (from the 80s to blues). They have a website that lists all of their concerts and drink specials.
In addition, you can also catch concerts of local and national artists at The Wharton Center, the Auditorium, the Union, and the Breslin Center on campus! The Wharton Center also features Broadway touring shows (next year including Jersey Boys and Wicked). The tickets are more expensive, but if it’s an artist you’re dying to see, it’s worth it.
Keep in mind, almost all of these venues have a cover charge. The charge is often notated on the website, but it never hurts to call and confirm. Always be prepared with more than you need, just in case.
Look for more later this week about different concerts and events all over Lansing!
If you’re looking to buy music, check out The Record Lounge or Flat, Black, & Circular (FBC) on Grand River. Both offer collections of records and CDs from local musicians. FBC also has a collection of tapes (if you’re into that sort of thing).
Feel free to leave a comment or tweet me at @DesignLightning with any follow up questions or conversation!
I’m going to begin a series of blog posts about things to do in the East Lansing and Lansing area. It’s something I was truly unaware of as a freshman, and I wish I had more of an opportunity to take advantage of the wonderful local events.
I won’t lie to you. My first experience in downtown Lansing was terrifying. I hated it and vowed never to return. I had ridden the 1 bus (which is a straight shot from the Capitol to the Meridian Mall, down Michigan Ave and Grand River) all the way to the main bus station in Lansing to meet a friend who was getting off a Greyhound bus. It was dark and gloomy outside, and I had no knowledge of the area. I’m pretty sure I saw some shady business go down in the bus station. The city looked cold and uninviting. I did go back briefly a few times, in the year that followed, but only to deal with taking the Greyhound home to Metro-Detroit. Never to actually go to Lansing.
I decided to attend Silver Bells, Lansing’s annual Christmas tree lighting and parade, with a friend in December. We took a shuttle school bus with MSU students, and arrived outside of the CATA station. Along with our hoard of people, we walked downtown. I was amazed at what I saw.
That gloomy city seemed like it had never existed. The streets were brightly lit, packed with people of all ages watching the parade. Local vendors set up stands for hot cocoa and popcorn. At ten, we all gathered in the public square, and watched the Govenor light the tree. After the tree lighting, the sky was lit with fireworks. It was incredible. From then on, I vowed to give Lansing a chance.
At first, it seems as if there is nothing to do for the under 21 crowd. Don’t be fooled! There are things for you to do, and you can even get there using our public transportation system!
You’re first impression is right. It is definitely geared toward children. That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable and exciting! It costs just $5 for students to get in and start to explore. Many of their exhibits are interactive, allowing you to actively participate in science. It’s a cheap and fun thing to do on the weekdays or weekends; just take the 1 bus right past Larch Street, and take a walk down Museum Drive.
If you love the things you see, Impression 5 also has several internships available, including graphic design. It’s great to experience the museum like a patron before going to work for them. Let your inner child out, and go have fun at Impression 5.
Next week, I’ll talk about music venues in Lansing, as well as some of the great places to go hear local musicians.
Feel free to leave a comment or tweet me at @DesignLightning with any follow up questions or conversation!
After asking my Twitter network for the most useful tip for new students at MSU, the unanimous advice given was this: Know where your classes are before the first day of class.
MSU is the largest land grant university, with the largest capacity for on-campus living in the US and the largest campus. Here are some statistics: Today, MSU’s contiguous campus consists of 5,200 acres, 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) of which are developed. There are 556 buildings: 100 for academics, 131 for agriculture, 166 for housing and food service, and 42 for athletics. Overall, the university has 22,763,025 square feet (2,114,754.2 m2) of total indoor space. Connecting it all is 26 miles (42 km) of roads and 100 miles (160 km) of sidewalks. MSU also owns 44 non-campus properties, totaling 22,000 acres (89 km2) in 28 different counties.
That’s pretty big.
When signing up for classes at AOP, you’re not always aware of the layout of the campus, where you’ll live in relation to where your classes are. Once you’ve signed up, it’s possible to change your courses on WebEnroll, which can allow you to craft your schedule to make your classes closer to each other (or at a more suitable wake up time). In the meanwhile, figure out where your classes are to begin with.
MSU has an interactive map of campus. Look for your buildings, and mark there locations on a physical map. In your few days before classes start, try to find your class rooms on campus. That way, when it comes time to actually getting to class, you’ll be sure to be on time. You can also use CATA, the bus transportation service, to map out your transportation to classes if you don’t plan on walking/biking.
In addition, don’t be afraid of asking people where your classes are. People are always willing to help, although not everyone is aware of all building locations. Don’t feel embarrassed. We’ve all been there.
It may be scary at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. It took me about a month to really get settled in and be able to know how to get to where I needed to be. When I had a class in a different building this year, I still had to map it out before classes started. My understanding of the streets helped me navigate without having to look for landmarks.
Feel free to leave a comment or tweet me at @DesignLightning with any follow up questions or conversation!
Now that you’re in college, it’s time to start thinking about your online identity. I think about this topic a lot, and I have done a lot of research on the subject.
As kids, we really don’t think about the consequences of our online adventures. How many of you signed up for accounts on gaming sites or other sites that you subsequently forgot about? I did an experiment, where I looked up usernames I had created when I was younger, and found over 60 various online accounts. At least 30 had not been used in several years.
I was a candidate for research at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and was asked to create a presentation about youth and the world wide web. View the Prezi presentation here. I discussed a possibility for an online solution, as well as what the common problems were as seen by Berkman and Internet researchers. Although the solution is geared towards children, pre-teens, and teenagers, we are still susceptible to the same problems. We have the opportunity to make better decisions about our presence online.
When you apply for jobs, human resources will look at your online history. Those pictures from your 21st birthday party on Facebook could be found. That post with un-friendly social commentary on Twitter can be tracked. Even if you have privacy settings, it’s possible for other people to share your information publicly. Basically, nothing is ever truly private on the internet. Once it’s out there, who knows what can happen.
We’re adults now. It’s time to start taking responsibility for our presence online. Mashable (my favorite source for news about social media) wrote a great article in 2009 about centralizing your identity. Read it here.
Feel free to leave a comment or tweet me at @DesignLightning with any follow up questions or conversation!
If you reside on campus, there is one primary rule that resides overall in your housing contract: The right to sleep and study.
What does this mean? You are afforded a lot of rights by living in University Housing. You share a space with up to four people; an unlimited meal plan (excluding Van Hoosen & University Village); access to your dorm 24 hours a day; the right to bring guests over; etc. You can play music in your room; watch TV; attend events planned by your mentors; and so much more. But above all, you have the right to sleep and study in peace.
As a mentor, it is my job to make sure that this is being upheld. That doesn’t mean I am constantly policing the floor for noise. That also doesn’t mean that you have to worry about watching a movie at any time of the day. What it does mean is, if someone asks you to quiet down in order to protect those rights: you have to agree. Or face the consequences.
We want there to be a positive atmosphere, where residents can talk with each other and have fun. However, it shouldn’t be at the cost of someone else’s rights. If you have a roommate, respect their rights. Perhaps that means going accross the hall to a friend’s to watch TV while they study, or turning off the lights at 11pm so they can go to sleep.
Mutual respect is the only way to go.
In addition, some halls have “quiet floors.” This means there is a “quiet” rule enforced 24 hours a day. Some people request to live in those situations, and others are placed there because of housing needs. That doesn’t mean you can’t play music on the floor; it just means that you have to be aware of the volume level (particularly of the bass). There are people around you. Even if it’s 5PM on a Saturday, everyone has the right to take a nap or study.
You may be thinking, “Seven jobs? No way that’s possible.” Well, ladies and gentlemen, you are looking at the one and only ridiculous person to have and maintain seven different jobs at once. Granted, two of the jobs are on hold for the summer, but will pick up once the fall begins.
What are these jobs, you ask?
Resident Mentor in McDonel Hall (to be continued in the fall)
Peer Writing Consultant & Social Media Coordinator at the Writing Center (to be continued in the fall)
This has taught me a lot about myself. I am someone who hates being bored. Sitting all day and doing nothing does not appeal to me. At the same time, all of my jobs are things that I have found a deep passion and interest in. Everything will help me towards whatever my future career is. Furthermore, I’m not being paid for every job; the unpaid jobs will just further help me develop my skills.
Another really important skill this is teaching me: Time Management. That is something I have always struggled with, and I have a pretty horrible memory. Although I tried to use the planner we are all given Freshman year, or the mentor planner I am given at the beginning of the year, I realize that just writing it down in one place is not useful. I am now an avid user of Google Calender. Having my calender in a digital form means that I can take it everywhere: it’s on my laptop, my smartphone, and my tablet. I can check it on any device with access to the internet.
I’m not saying that is the right choice for everyone. Some people are better physically writing down their schedule. I also don’t advise taking on seven jobs without being fully aware of what you’re committing to and what you’re sacrificing. It means that I don’t necessarily get to have that extra hour of sleep. In addition, I didn’t work my first year at school. However, I did participate in three theater productions each semester. I’ve always kept myself busy.
I love every minute.
The most important thing to get out of this: do what you love to do. Don’t be afraid to take on a few extra responsibilities, because it’s possible to learn how to juggle it. On the same note, don’t overwhelm yourself with jobs that won’t make you happy. I have the habit of wanting to help people whenever I can, and therefore I take on too many responsibilities. It’s good to know when to say, “No.”
It’s summer time in East Lansing, and all I can think about is how excited I am for the fall semester to start. Since arriving at Michigan State University, my life has changed (for the better) and I’ve really come into my own identity. This didn’t happen without some bumps along the way. As this is my first blog entry, I suppose I should introduce myself.
Hi. My name is Alexandra White, but my friends and colleagues call me Ali (like McBeal, not Muhammad). I will be a senior in the 2011-2012 year, getting a BA in Professional Writing, a minor in Theater, and a specialization in Digital Humanities. In addition, I am currently the Social Media intern forTechSmith; a Resident Mentor in McDonel Hall (for the 3rd year); the Social Media Manager & a Peer Writing Consultant and MSU The Writing Center; Graphic Designer for Middle of the Mitten; PR Coordinator for Spartan Web Authorers; and the Social Media Coordinator for Writers’ Bloc.
If you’re going to be new to Michigan State this year, I have five tips:
Keep your door open. I can’t stress enough how many opportunities you find on your floor and in your hall, just by having your door open. Even if you’re coming to MSU with friends, the people who you live with are great to go get dinner with and helpful for close by study buddies.
Don’t be embarrassed on your map. You need it. I know people in their second, third, and even fourth year who still couldn’t tell you where buildings are on campus.
Speaking of which, MAC stands for Michigan Agricultural College. It is not pronounced “Mac” like Apple products, but each letter is pronounced: “M” “A” “C”. I made that mistake in my first week and was corrected by an upperclassman. You will never have that embarrassment.
Take advantage of the roommate contract. If your roommate is your best friend or a new friend, it’s easy to let things slide at first that may bother you. If you set the ground rules early (bed times, trash duty, suite responsibilities), it is much easier to stick to than rules introduced after there is a problem.
The cafeteria is your best friend and worst enemy. It’s really exciting at first to have unlimited ice cream, french fries, and pizza. But over indulgence leads to bigger problems. Don’t completely restrict yourself, but remember the healthier options. Eat at State also provides nutritional facts for most of the meals that we’re offered.
As I said earlier, I didn’t get this knowledge without some bumps. When I was a freshman living in Emmons Hall, I never kept my door open. The girls were very welcoming; I just never gave them a chance to get to know me. By the time I realized my mistake, the year was almost over.
I’ll be living in McDonel Hall for the third year in a row as a mentor, and can say it is truly a unique experience. We are residence hall that is home to a large population of international and transfer students. We also have the living-learning community La Casa, a Spanish speaking floor with special opportunities. The age of residents ranges from freshman to seniors, and the programs we provide match those needs. It’s relatively quiet and low traffic, meaning residents put higher priority in our rights as residents: sleep & study. I love McDonel, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
My success at MSU came from finding out what I loved to do (with amazing people and opportunities). I realized I wasn’t happy as a Theater major, and Professional Writing (PW) sort of fell into my lap. I took Intro to Digital Humanities (AL285) with Dr. Danielle DeVoss, and realized that I wanted to do everything in that class for the rest of my life. Once I found the right major, I had the motivation to participate in our student groups. I got an internship in New York City with Swagger New York my first summer out of PW. I have made amazing friends, who have not only supported my work but also will be great contacts for later job hunting.
I’ve been here for three years, with just 11 months before graduation. It’s hard to pinpoint one moment as “the best,” as each have impacted me in different ways. Recently, the biggest smile was put on my face in the last week of school. My advisor, professor, and friend, Danielle DeVoss, asked me to join a brainstorm group for creating a video about the 50th anniversary of the College of Arts and Letters. Upon leaving the meeting, she said, “We need you. We need your ideas and your creativity.” Nothing means more than feeling you have made a powerful impact on your program. The connections and friendships you make will change your life.
I look forward to future blogs. Feel free to send me a message, comment on this blog, and/or follow me on Twitter. Go Green!
I decided to re-vamp the entire web design for Tom & Joanne The Wedding website. I experimented with different CMS’s (WordPress and Staceyapp), as well as the idea of a static web page. I wasn’t happy with the work that I had created. You know what they say, if you’re not happy, then fix it. I wanted it to be more dynamic and exciting.
That’s where jQuery came to the rescue. I have had little experience with jQuery in the past, but I made it my goal to learn how to use a couple different features before the end of the summer. I used two different jQuery attatchments: one to move between the navigation, and one to create a slideshow of the wedding party.
So here it is. Presenting Tom & Joanne The Wedding (website). Enjoy!
**Disclaimer: I am a proud employee of TechSmith Corporation, and this blog post is reflective of my personal views. It does not necessarily reflect the views or beliefs held by TechSmith Corporation. This is an extension of my personal identity, not the company brand.**
Today was my first day at TechSmith Corporation. I have been hired as the Social Media Intern, working directly with Daniel Foster. I am not 100% sure as to what work I will be doing, but I know that I will be communicating via our social media presence, blogging, and creating analytics.
Immediately upon arrival, I felt welcomed and engaged. I met with Daniel, who gave me a lowdown on the company. Afterwards, he left for a meeting and PR/Evangelist Intern Josh Emington took me on a building/TechSmith tour. We met several people within the Marketing department, as well as in other departments within TechSmith. He explained many of the day to day tasks that he completes, as well as some of the work I would be expected to perform. His friendly demeanor and enthusiasm for TechSmith was a wonderful way to start my life at the company. We had met several times before, in relation to his girlfriend, but had never actually spoken. It was great to know that he is such a powerful leader in the TechSmith community, even just as an intern.
A lot of my time was spent reading a ton of documentation. There was the employee handbook, tons of paperwork, and a giant wiki that was composed of all of the need to know (and not so “need” to know) company information. I took the time to really read instead of skim, trying to absorb everything they threw my way. Following my read through, I had a chance to watch some of the videos on TechSmith’s YouTube channel. It was great to see consumers using the many different products that TechSmith creates to form projects and videos for different audiences.
I feel like I learned a lot in Day 1. The next few days will probably consist of more reading and absorbing information, really becoming familiar with the TechSmith products. Hopefully soon, I’ll become a part of more of the engagement. I can’t wait to get my hands “dirty” (so to speak) with social media.
To think… my job position didn’t really exist three, perhaps even two, years ago. Social media is ever growing and evolving. Who knows how my job requirements with change and develop over the course of my time with TechSmith. I can only assume it will continue in a positive way, as my experience so far has led me to believe.
I work in the Michigan State Writing Center for about 13 hours every week. In this time, I generally see about 8 or 9 different clients (in earlier weeks I see fewer, during finals week I can see upwards of 15). I enjoy working with students from so many different backgrounds, and helping them achieve better writing skills.
At the Writing Center, our goal is not to improve a single paper; it’s to improve the writing skills of our clients, who therefore improve their own papers.
Today, I met with a girl about a research paper on problems with prison release in the US. She was very insightful. Although the paper was not yet complete, she explained about the difficulties of bringing ex-prisoners back into the world and re-emerging them back into society. Some states have created programs to try and help this re-emergence, such as half way houses. Others just impose stringent laws that prohibit prisoners from participating in jobs that require licensing and make it difficult for them to receive housing. It’s no wonder that felons without a strong support system outside of prison sometimes re-offend, and go back to a place of free housing on tax payer dime.
She explained two of her own ideas to help solve this problem, with an educated and well supported documentation. I talked about transitioning between paragraphs and making sure that all of her cited evidence is supported by her own ideas. In the end, the consultation took less than 40 minutes, a rarity for hour long consultations. She made notes as we continued through her paper that marked where she should improve her transitions. It was like watching a writer evolve over years of school training.
As she got up to leave, she said, “Thank you so much. I felt like last time I came here, my problems were fixed but not explained. This was much more helpful.”
I’m glad to know that even though she came in with a paper with well thought out ideas and structure, I still could help her become a better writer.
On Saturday, April 16th, the day finally came: International Record Store Day. This was no ordinary IRSD, as this year I co-developed an event with East Lansing’s The Record Lounge for live music and tsunami relief for Japanese victims called Jamming for Japan. I created the graphic design elements for the event including posters, flyers, and t-shirts. It ate up all of my spare time since early March, when Joel Heckamen (the Creative Director at the Record Lounge, and fellow MSU PW undergraduate) asked me to get involved. It all culminated down to one day of music and donations.
We worked hard to get access to three different locations in East Lansing. Everything seemed to be falling in to place, when the one uncontrollable element decided it did not wish to cooperate. The weather was atrocious, and we were forced to relocate to just one of the original locations and The Record Lounge. However, rain could not keep down the spirits of the musicians or the generous people of East Lansing. We raised over $300 for the American Red Cross’s fund.
It was an incredible experience to work with Joel Heckamen and another PW student, Dan Nufer, in order to make such a major event happen. We received publicity in the Lansing State Journal, Lansing NOISE, and other local publications, as well as time on the student radio, The Impact. It seemed everyone really wanted to help the cause. We greatly appreciate all of the support and sponsorship from the community.
I hope that this only sheds good light on my next graphic design project with The Record Lounge, the 4th annual Middle of the Mitten in January of 2012.