June 21, 2023No Comments

Big Idea No. 31: The Art Collective [Video]

This is an idea I've had for a while. I hope to be working on it more in the coming months.

May 24, 2023No Comments

Year One: Working in UX [Video]

On May 24, 2023, co-host Megan Riley and I got together with Summer Hannon, Diana Nguyen, and Chase Starr-Kercheval to discuss their experiences inside their first year as UX/UI professionals.

This video is a recording of the live interview.

May 24, 20231 Comment

“I Want A Win For Atari” Atari Research

For my recent article, I Want A Win For Atari, I conducted a survey that received 76 responses. Here is a look at some of that data at a glance, as well as some notes about the questions I asked.

Question 1: What Is Your Age?

  • 18 - 27: 22.4% (17 responses)
  • 28 - 37: 44.7% (34 responses)
  • 38 - 47: 25% (19 responses)
  • 48 - 57: 6.6% (5 responses)
  • 58+: 1.3% (1 response)

Notes: Decided to go with a 10-year age bracket. With more responses, a smaller bracket might give more nuanced results. Asking for the actual number would have allowed me to group the responses however I wanted after the fact, but maybe some people would hesitate to give their exact age.

Question 2: How Familiar Are You With Atari?

  • I am not at all familiar with Atari: 7.9% (6 responses)
  • I have heard the name, but have little or no experience with Atari Products: 34.2% (26 responses)
  • I've played their classic arcade cabinets: 39.5% (30 responses)
  • I played their arcade cabinets and had a home console (eg. Atari 2600, 5200, 7800): 18.4% (14 responses)

Notes: In hindsight I wish I had worded the last question differently to include familiarity with the recent "Recharged" titles, but what this question is really after is who is NOT familiar with Atari.

Using the age data, I found that in the 18 - 27 group, 76.4% had either not heard of Atari at all or had heard the name. The trend towards recognizing the brand increased with age as expected.

Question 3: Which of these video game titles have you heard of before?

  • Adventure: 26% (19 responses)
  • Alone in the Dark*: 21.9% (16 responses)
  • Asteroids: 83.6% (61 responses)
  • Berzerk*: 20.5% (15 responses)
  • Bubsy*: 13.7% (10 responses)
  • Centipede: 69.9% (51 responses)
  • Roller Coaster Tycoon*: 65.8% (48 responses)
  • Yars' Revenge: 15.1% (11 responses)

Notes: Titles denoted with an asterisk here indicate newly acquired IP by Atari. That information was not offered to survey participants. I considered the use of some control questions by including non-Atari properties (eg. Super Mario Bros., Minecraft) and some non-existent titles to see if survey participants were paying attention and/or truthful. For the purposes of this survey though, I really only wanted to know if they were in fact familiar with these Atari properties.

Question 4: Are you familiar with the crowdfunded Atari VCS console released in 2021?

  • Yes: 13.2% (10 responses)
  • No: 86.8% (66 responses)

Notes: In the initial publication of "I Want A Win For Atari" I did not specifically share this finding. Previous data demonstrated that familiarity with Atari is low.

Question 5: Are you familiar with any of the Atari Recharged titles availabe on PS5, Xbox, Switch, Steam, Epic Games, and Atari VCS?

  • Yes: 23.7% (18 responses)
  • No: 76.3% (58 responses)

Notes: I also didn't speak much to this in the original article, but similar story, it shows a lack of familiarity with Atari's current offerings.

Question 6: Which Recharged titles have you played or purchased?

  • Asteroids Recharged: 6 responses
  • Black Widow Recharged: 0 responses
  • Breakout Recharged: 2 responses
  • Caverns of Mars Recharged: 1 response
  • Centipede Recharged: 8 responses
  • Gravitar Recharged: 0 responses
  • Missile Command Recharged: 2 response
  • Yars Recharged: 1 response

Notes: Again, I did not end up sharing this information directly in the article for the sake of brevity. I have personally only played Asteroids Recharged (it is either very challenging or I have become very bad at video games).

Question 7: White statements(s) apply to you? (Check all that apply)

  • I have little or no interest in Atari: 56.2% (41 responses)
  • I have purchased one or more Atari products in the past three years: 1.4% (1 response)
  • I would consider purchasing an Atari t-shirt, poster, or other collectible: 23.3% (1 response)
  • I would consider the purchase of current Atari titles to play on my PS5, XBox, Switch, Steam Deck, or PC: 27.4% (20 responses)
  • I would consider the purchase of the current Atari VCS console: 6.8% (5 responses)
  • I would consider the purchase of a next-gen Atari console if the features were innovative and compelling: 23.3% (17 responses)

Notes: The little to no interest in Atari seems damning at first, but consider the fact that in other product spaces (eg. smartphones) people pick their horse and stick with it. It is somewhat encouraging that people would consider the purchase of existing Atari titles and a next-gen console IF it had innovative and compelling features. The evidence does not look good for the current supply of VCS consoles (I believe the price has already come down significantly once; if there is a physical supply ready to go, I wonder why they aren't trying to stock it in retail stores or Amazon).

Question 8: Do you have any thoughts you would like to share on Atari or video games in general?

Some responses:

"I don't know much about Atari at all, but I'm weirdly glad that they're still around! The name brings up a lot of nostalgia."

"I'm familiar with Atari and Atari games because of my dad. He had an Atari growing up and bought a refurbished one in the last ten years as a kind of nostalgic experience. I've played a few of the games and appreciate them, but wouldn't think to buy an Atari for myself or play the games now. I'm a bit too accustomed to newer games.

However, if the Atari VCS had a similar tact to the Playdate console, I might be interested. A limited console could spur some really interesting game design."

"Other than that this trip down memory lane has made me feel old this morning? :D"

"When I play video games, I prefer ones that are story-based 🙂"

"I like Atari's logo so that's why I would purchase merch from them but I'm not the biggest fan of the games they've created, just not my cup of tea personally. I did look them up because of this survey and I'm happy to know they're still around making games for the people who enjoy them."

Final Survey Thoughts

The nature of this survey was a little rushed. I tried my best to keep it brief since I wasn't offering any compensation for responses. One tricky aspect of this was not coloring the results too much with really avid gamers, although if I were doing this for Atari, I would try to get their input (perhaps in a different way) as well. I predict that avid gamers would have a strong bias towards what they know and love (generally these are the folks who shrugged off the Wii and the Switch initially, both of which did a good job of shaking up the industry).

More data could be extrapolated from this survey by looking at the ways different age groups answered questions, but for the time being I am merely sharing the results as summarized by the Google Forms survey I used.

Competitive Analysis

Console Sales

Nintendo Switch: 122,550,000
Playstation 5: 32,000,000
XBox Series X/S: 18,500,000
Steam Deck: 1,000,000+ (Possibly up to 2,000,000)
Atari VCS: 10,000+

Console Specifications

Atari VCS 800

  • AMD Zen 2 core 2.6Ghz up to 3.5Ghz
  • 4 or 8Gb Ram (upgradeable to 32)
  • Radeon Vega 3 up to 4Gb shared memory
  • HDMI, Bluetooth

Steam Deck

  • AMD Zen 2 4-core 2.4-3.5Ghz
  • 16Gb
  • Linux based
  • Tinkering encouraged
  • Open platform

PS5 Specs

  • AMD Zen 2 8-core 3.5Ghz
  • 16GB RAM
  • AMD RDNA 2 (36CUs)

Xbox Series X and S

  • AMD 8-core Zen 2
  • 16Gb/10Gb
  • AMD RDNA 2 (52 CUs/20 CUs)

Nintendo Switch

  • ARM 4 Cortex-A57
  • 4Gb memory

May 24, 20231 Comment

I Want A Win For Atari

And what does a win for Atari look like?

When I first caught wind of the 2020 crowdfunding campaign to launch the latest Atari VCS I got excited. 

It was the most exciting piece of video game news for me in I don’t know how long, but I was not excited enough to buy one. And of course, for Atari, that’s the problem.

The Atari VCS All-In Package
The 2021 Atari VCS console, joystick, and controller. (Image from Atari.com)

Sales of the VCS consoles are somewhere north of 10,000 units. Compare that to over a million of the Steam Deck just released last year or over 122-million total Nintendo Switch units sold and it’s pretty clear what Atari’s current position is within the industry.

Familiarity With The Atari Brand

During the writing of this article I did some research to test some hypotheses. Am I just old enough to know what Atari is? Is the younger generation familiar? 

When I asked survey participants how familiar they were with Atari, 42% said they had either heard the name, but had little or no experience with their products (34.2%) or had not heard of Atari at all (7.9%). 

That is already not encouraging. It gets much worse if we look at the youngest demographic.

Among participants ages 18 - 27, 52.9% had heard the name, but had little to no experience with Atari products. 23.5% had not heard of the name at all.

This is a prime demographic for video games and 76.4% are have barely or not at all heard of Atari.

Familiarity with the games

When asked about which video game titles they were familiar with, survey participants were a little more familiar.

For the question "Which of these title have you heard of before?" I included four classic Atari titles (Asteroids, Centipede, Adventure, and Yars' Revenge) and four newly acquired IP titles (Roller Coaster Tycoon, Alone in the Dark, Berzerk, and Bubsy). Classic Asteroids was the most recognized with 83% of responses having heard of it, while only 14% had heard of the recently acquired Bubsy.

Who is the Atari demographic?

I’ll be 42 this summer. And although video gamers include an older demographic than they used to, I’m still not the primary demographic. Part of Atari’s strategy has been pulling on the heartstrings of nostalgia, but their original users are mostly older than I am. What’s the market look like for 50-60 year olds buying video game consoles for themselves?

A confession before I continue: I am a very casual gamer, if the term can even be applied. And I’m one of those “Elder millennials” who probably shouldn’t even be as familiar with Atari as I am. I was indoctrinated at an early age by a classic wood grain 2600 at my grandmother’s house. Favorites included Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Missile Command, Adventure, and Breakout. On Christmas of 1987, when my friends were all getting their first NES console (with the classic Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt combo), our family welcomed our own 2600 with Donkey Kong Jr. 

That first console remained a fixture in our home until my sister and I saved up enough for a Sega Genesis 2 bundle many years later.

I’ve had a number of other consoles in my adult life. Right now the sole console in my home, a Nintendo Switch, goes largely unplayed. It is not that I find it unenjoyable, there are just so many other tasks I find myself busy with while maintaining a home, a career, and a life. 

So as I consider adding another system to my home, I have to ask what the new VCS would do for me? How many times can I play Adventure “for old time’s sake”? What can it do for me that I can’t do with another console?

Who Is Atari Selling To?

Is Atari going after their original, aging fanbase? The 50+ crowd? Many of their products seem geared to that bracket. For a time Atari has been selling limited edition cartridges that, while fully functional (assuming you have a working 2600 or compatible system), have been sold as collector items (and, good for them, these items have sold out). These limited editions exist more as collectible pieces of art that might deck out the man cave of the Gen-Xer or younger boomer with the disposable income to decorate their space by celebrating the fascinations of their youth.

It’s a move that generates a tiny buzz and a bit of revenue, but it’s not a move that advances the company’s position in the video game market. Most of the people I talked to younger than myself say, “What’s Atari?”

Did you want to buy a limited collector's edition of Adventure for $99.99? Sorry, they are all sold out. (Image from Atari.com)

I have further concerns about other products being offered. Who is buying a $99 hat with Bluetooth speakers built in? Sometimes I wear hats. Sometimes I use Bluetooth speakers. Never have I said, “You know what? I wish my hat had speakers built into it. And put an Atari logo on it.”

What’s the strategy? Where’s the research?

Atari isn’t making anything that is drawing in a younger crowd, but that's what they need to do. And at least some of their actions suggest that's what they want to do. You don't develop a modern age console from scratch if your primary interest is reeling in OG gamers who are more likely to buy a "Pong" t-shirt than an X-Box or Playstation.

It makes me wonder: Is anyone asking questions about what the users want? Or is it a bunch of guys sitting around talking about what they think would be cool? 

And maybe I will find myself splurging for a $30 Atari shirt (these kinds of purchases used to be more common after a few cocktails), but frankly it feels like Atari has been throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks.

When asked statements about Atari, 56.2% replied that they have little to no interest in Atari.

And once again, the news is much more grim when we examine a younger subset: Between the ages of 18 and 27, 82.35% were found to have little to no interest in Atari.

Bar graph of age brackets and how many of them agree with the phrase "I have little or no interest in Atari." 82.35% of those aged 18 to 27 agreed, compared to 56.2% across all ages.


The VCS Console

Sales-wise it is not a success, at least not in comparison to competitors, but so far Atari is not waving the white flag. A December 2022 report had this to say about hardware at Atari:

The first-half of the year was primarily dedicated to the reorganization of the Hardware line of business which includes the suspension of direct hardware manufacturing relationships, notably with regards to the Atari VCS, for which a new commercial strategy has been implemented as of the end of calendar year 2022 and that will continue in calendar year 2023. In parallel, Atari is considering developing new hardware complementary to the Atari VCS with partners under licensing contracts.

In regards to specifications, the Atari VCS features a 2-core AMD Zen 2 processor versus the 4-core Zen 2 in the Steam Deck and 8-core Zen 2 processors found in the X-Box and PS5. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t capable.

One of the interesting aspects about the system to me is that it features users can upgrade the memory. It is customizable. It can run other operating systems. 

Atari has quietly mentioned the customizable nature of the system. “Unlock a customizable multimedia PC for unmatched freedom and versatility. With everything from retro to indie to modern AAA gaming, there's something for every gamer.”

This is a different and unique feature. You don’t see Sony or Microsoft encouraging users to open up their consoles to add RAM, install other operating systems, or use the console as a multimedia PC. Successful companies disrupt the current scene, and that's where Atari will find their opportunities. 

I’d like to see Atari lean into this space. Some possibilities:

  • Donate some consoles to enthusiastic electronics groups and sponsor a contest to see who can do the most interesting thing with it.
  • Produce YouTube content that introduces new users to tinkering with hardware and software.
  • Encourage the curiosity of a younger generation that hasn’t grown up installing peripherals in a PC.
  • Keep the OS current and evolving. What other functions might it serve in the household besides a gaming system?

A Second Iteration?

I’d like to see Atari develop some more compelling software before it rushes to market with another console. When it does, it needs to be either as powerful as its competitors or feature something that will shake up the industry the way the Wii and Switch did. Maybe that’s integration into home automation. Maybe it’s lowering the entry to VR/AR. Maybe something else.

Research around the possibility of purchasing a next-generation console was a little more encouraging. Across all ages, 23.3% said they would consider purchasing a next generation console if the features were innovative or compelling. It's perhaps not too surprising that the age bracket that have the most favorable showing were the 38 - 47 year olds at 31.57%. We have the right combination of being not quite old enough to give up on gaming, having disposable income, and being old enough to hit that nostalgia mark.

Bar graph of the statement: "I would consider the purchase of a next-gen Atari console if the features were innovative or compelling." Across all ages, 23.3% of respondents agree. In age bracket 38 - 47, 31.57% agreed.


It is difficult to determine what Atari’s current strategy is in games, but it appears to be playing the nostalgia card across the board. Many of Atari’s classic games have been rebooted, or rather, “Recharged”. These new versions feature “Retro Futuristic” graphics and updated gameplay with some power boosts.

And they are not bad games, but none of them are leading us anywhere new. Maybe that will change with the “Pixel Ripped 1978” VR title launching later this summer.

And I’m watching with some interest just what exactly Atari plans to do with all the other IP they have been buying up. Are we going to get a “Recharged” version of all these old games, many of which I never played in the first place? Maybe I’d get excited about a full-length version of Berzap! Is it a first-person shooter? Three quarters view stealth mode game? And what could it do that we haven’t seen before?

The Self-Publisher Publisher?

One thing that has changed for certain in the industry is the number of independent studios and self-published games. Indie games from the last few years have included Cuphead, Among Us, and Minecraft. I’m going to say that last one again: Minecraft. Before it was acquired by Microsoft for $2.5 billion, it was the creation of a small studio in Stockholm.

There are certainly rules and guidelines for making a successful video game, but if anyone else could have seen the success of Minecraft beforehand, they would have made such a thing first.

What better way to get on the ground floor of an indie sleeper hit than fostering its development from the beginning? What are the pain points of independent game makers and how can Atari help in ways that others aren’t?

Non-Games Software

We’re realizing too late some of the negative aspects of inviting more technology into our lives, but some companies are finding ways to use technology to change that. Headspace has brought us the practice of meditation through podcasts, videos, and mobile apps. Lumosity has given us exercises to stimulate our minds. These are spaces Atari should be investigating to set themselves apart.

Other IP

Part of Atari’s strategy seems to be buying up other retro IP, but that only works if those titles are still popular with the primary gaming demographic today. 65% of survey participants reported being familiar with Roller Coaster Tycoon, but only 20% reported familiarity with Berzerk, and only 14% were familiar with Bubsy. All are properties now owned by Atari.

Maybe instead of focusing on old, retro IP, Atari could license an existing property for use in a new story-based game. Pick an an established IP with an audience. When you think you have a good enough product, add two more levels and generously add some Easter Eggs. Under promise, over deliver, and create a beautiful product. Get "the Fuji" logo in front of some new eyes.

"Easter Egg" in the game Adventure for the Atari 2600 showing the name of the creator, Warren Robinett.
The first Easter egg in a video game is credited to Warren Robinett, in Adventure for the Atari 2600 (1980). It is challenging to find. Atari briefly considered removing it and reshipping the game.

Next Steps

Opportunities exist for Atari to make a real name for themselves in the industry again, but they aren't going to do it by clinging so tightly to the past. Hopefully they will put time and effort into research to deliver some powerful experiences. I'd like to put on an Atari shirt someday and not have my dad be the only person who recognizes it.

Survey Results and brief Competitive Analysis available at: "I Want A Win For Atari" Atari Research

April 5, 2023No Comments

No, I Don’t Want To Connect With You On LinkedIn

(But I Probably Will Anyway)

It was morning. I hadn’t slept super well. My tea wasn’t ready. I pulled up Discord, where I’m a member of a few design communities and my grumpy eyes lasered in on one channel:


It was a dumping ground for LinkedIn profiles. Every post is a subtle variation of the last. A simple formula we’ve all picked up from somewhere:

Hey, my name is John. I’ve lived in the greater Chicagoland area for the last 10 years and I’m excited to meet some new people in the industry. Let’s connect! https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-e-morton

"Let’s connect!"

My LinkedIn Banner as of April 4, 2023

I kept thinking about those words, “social” and “chat”. There’s zero exchange going on this channel. We were all just dumping our intro and LinkedIn and moving on.

I went to the beginning of the channel. There were no rules stating this was a repository for LinkedIn profiles. In fact, months earlier, there had been some discussion. And then it just kind of stopped.

And I kind of get it. You want a good job, you want to stay relevant, and maybe you’ve heard this rumor that you’ve got to amass 500+ connections before you’re anybody on LinkedIn. It turns out it’s not a rumor.

In a 2015 article hosted by LinkedIn, 500+ The Magic Number, they pretty much lay it out for you. At 500 the site stops counting (or at least stops showing the count). Employers are ready to take you seriously. The connections argument is all designed to get you to be active on the site and encourage others to be active (or join).

We end up making these meaningless connections to meet a metric. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t make connections. I’m saying we could try and make them less meaningless.

Recently I attended a webinar in which participants were encouraged to drop their name, email, and of course, LinkedIn profile into a spreadsheet. The next week I received a half dozen formulaic requests. I accepted all of them, but with every request I tried to inject a little reality, a little bit of who I am.

“Hey, I have to be honest. That webinar was dragging on and I dipped out early so I could get the lawn mowed before sunset. What did you think? Is it worth me going back and watching the recording?”

Most have been receptive to my candor, and I hope it feels a little more like a real connection. And shouldn’t it feel that way? Or are we going to continue to strip meaning from the words “social”, “chat”, and “connection”?

There are lots of articles on how to grow your network on LinkedIn, but very few on how to make quality connections. These suggestions won’t make you lifelong friends with all your LinkedIn connections, but maybe it will help you remember one another more easily:

Know something about your potential connection

Other than their name and work title. Have you looked at their LinkedIn profile? Or their web site? My web site has an About section, specifically for sharing things about myself. 90% of it is related to my education and work experience, but there are few personal tidbits. I mention that I like The Beatles. Have you heard of them? Are you a fan? Is that an additional point we can connect on? It’s okay if it’s not, but there’s probably something. Even if your question or comment comes off as a little heavy handed, I know it means you took the time to look me up.

Share something about yourself

Where should I know you from? Have you written something that might be relevant to me? Who is your favorite Beatle (if you know who they are)? Please share almost anything other than your name and job title.

Picture of George Harrison.
My favorite Beatle is George. You'll have to ask me something else.

Use some real speak

Corporate speak has this sterile tone and word selection that just feels soulless. We use it avoid offending anyone. Recently I was surprised to attend a webinar titled “UX Fuckups” about major mistakes made while creating user experiences. Maybe the folks in Coppehaggen who organized it have a greater sense of humor than other parts of the world, but it was kind of refreshing even if I wouldn’t be casually throwing F-bombs around LinkedIn myself.

But we’re all grownups here, right? When I’m talking to people I use words like “damn”, “hell”, and “fart”. Don’t be vulgar for the sake of being vulgar, but don’t strip your language of all personality, right? 

Did you go to a seminar in which your “level of interest was low,” or did you go to a super boring seminar? Don’t tell the organizer it was super boring (use the soft side of your soft skills), but one-on-one with another connection, say what you mean.

Be Concise

The real challenge now is taking these things and keeping your message concise. Craft your invitation so that it doesn’t feel like a formula. This will seem difficult the first couple of times, but will come naturally with repetition.

What it comes down to is LinkedIn is a platform. It is only as good as the people who are participating within it. If you want LinkedIn to be more than a thing you have to do to find a job or stay relevant in your field, you have to put some work in.

(50 points if you can convincingly use the word "fart" on LinkedIn in the next 30 days)

February 16, 2023No Comments

Volunteering for UX Research Interviews

Over the course of my UX education I have volunteered for over 50 user interviews. Here are some of the benefits and lessons I've learned to make me a better interviewer.

Read more

September 8, 2022No Comments

Co-Working and the Pomodoro Timer

As I transition from a life behind the wheel of a forklift to a life behind the computer, I've struggled to find ways to stay on task. One minute you're hard at work, and the next minute you're going down a rabbit hole of whatever. Enter Co-Working and the Pomodoro timer.

I'm not going to give a complete history of either of these concepts, just my personal experience. Let's start with Pomodoro.

Image of tomato on wooden surface.
Photo by Miguel á Padriñán


TL;DR: You pick a task. You set a timer for 25-minutes. You work on only that task for 25-minutes. When the timer goes off, you take a 5-minute break.

That 30-minute stretch is considered "One Pomodoro". Every four pomodoros, you swap out the 5-minute break for a 15-20 minute break.

Francesco Cirilo, who invented the technique, named it because the kitchen timer he used looked like a tomato. If you want to know a whole lot about it, you can buy Francesco Cirilo's 130-page book. I recommend this much shorter article from todoist

In Practice

When I use the Pomodoro technique in a co-working session, the general consensus is that 25-minutes is too short. The todoist article mentions a few alternatives. I'm kind of intrigued by the 52/17 split. Longer still is the 90/30 split.

When I do the Pomodoro technique on my own, I use the break time to absolutely get away from the computer. Somtimes it's just as far as laying down on the floor on top of an accupressure mat for 5-minutes while one and half songs play. When that timer goes off, I'm reinvigorated and ready to get back to my task.

There are also sorts of physical timers out there, but I've simply been using the website pomofocus.io. In a co-working session, I'll share that portion of the screen if I'm running a collective Pomodoro session. Also, in a co-working session, the more people who are present, the more likely we are to break a little longer than 5-minutes. I think that's okay, because the more people who are there, the more likely I am to stick around longer and tackle tasks. If my totaly productivity is greater for the day, it's a win.

Multiples pairs of hands working with computers and laptops


I was somewhat familiar with Pomodoro previous to my current work-life shift. However, the concept of co-working is still somewhat new to me. It probably means different things to different people, so these remarks will be limited to my experience.

Presently I'm a user on a few different Discord servers equipped with different co-working rooms. Some are strictly "heads down, no talking" rooms. I believe the idea is that just knowing someone else is there working, that you'll be inspired to do some work, too.

The co-working "rooms" I enjoy welcome some amount of conversation. Sometimes it's "heads down" until someone says something. Sometimes someone (like me) is running a Pomodoro timer and we talk during the breaks. I will admit to some hesitation when I first started using online co-working spaces, but it's been a good way to meet people while staying on task.

My preference is to either run a Pomodoro timer, or to share my whole screen. By choosing to share my screen, I know at any point someone can call me out for what I'm working on. "Why are you looking at used Mustangs on eBay? Are you buying a car?" I know that no one is intently looking at my screen in any one moment, but the idea that they could be watching me keeps me on task. It's a kind of voluntary surveilance. If I have to switch my clothes from the washer to the dryer, I might put a note on my screen that I'll be back shortly.

Join Me!

I put this page together because it has become a Freqently Asked Question when people are making my acquaintance for the first time. "I see you in those co-working rooms. What is that about!?"

Now you know. Stop on in and say, "Hey".

December 17, 2021No Comments

2021 Recap

Three. This will be my third blog post of 2021. I often wonder if I have the wherewithal to be a small business owner. Well, I own a small business. Successful small business owner. Specific enough?

It's December 17. Stuff has happened. I haven't written much about it. The neatandkeen Instagram has really been the place to keep tabs on me this year, but here's some stuff.

I made some bootleg CD things for some friends. This was a fun project. However, not profitable. A good test of skills I guess.

In May, despite working crazy hours at work, I remodeled my kitchen. Being clever, if we don't count the fact that I ended up replacing my broken dishwasher, this was maybe under $300. The fan was $80. Painted the walls and cabinets. Cut up a bunch of thin plywood and stapled it to the ceiling.

At the end of July I finally got around to doing some screen printing. This was a test run for an image of my sister listening to music. She helped me with the photo shoot for this while she was expecting her fourth child, who is now...more than a year old. And since these tests I have done...nothing with it. The paper for a print run is prepared. I'm just too scared, too busy, too full of excuses to get it done.

So. My full time job had been kind of awful all of 2021. Working third shift, I'd be forced to work 10-hour shifts Monday through Friday, then almost always, forced to work another 8-hours on Saturday. And even sometimes we would get forced to work a Sunday (usually to make up for the fact that they gave us Memorial Day or Labor Day off). By October, I had made so much money in overtime, that I'd beat my 2020 earnings. I had the opportunity to go part-time, so that's what I did. I'd hoped to get more freelance gigs, but after a quick flurry of jobs, there were suddenly none. Here's a thing I did for my sister. Sixteen pretend passports for a world traveler's class she was teaching.

One of my personal goals with my time off was to record an album of original music, once and for all. I did not get very far. I did get this little nook in the basement cleaned up for my drum kit. Have I mentioned that I don't play drums?

At the beginning of 2021 I started buying and playing vinyl records in earnest. This fall I came up with these card catalogs for records. I like the idea of keeping track of what I listen to and how often. I may pair this with a journal in which I keep track of albums, films, etc and who enjoyed these things with me. I have thoughts on this, some of which you can read about in Instagram posts. A few people have told me it's a neat idea, but I have not really tried to market it and sell it to others. Yes, you could accomplish the same thing with a lined index card. This looks neat.

This is a thing I'm...experimenting with.

Other Stuff

In November I passed the FINRA Securities Industry Essential exam, which is a co-requisite for obtaining Series 7 license as a registered financial advisor. And you're saying, "But John, you're some kind of artist and musician with a small business, what's that about?" I've long had an interest in helping others with financial concerns. Most people haven't been given the tools they need to make good decisions with their money. It's an avenue I'm exploring.

Maybe it's work stuff, personal stuff, or just the world we live it, but I've had a really difficult time focusing on things I used to enjoy. Most notably, I haven't been able to chill out and draw anything. Songwriting has also been very difficult, but that was never a primary activity for me. Going to part-time was supposed to enable me to do all sorts of projects. However, since time is more abundant it has become less valuable and I wind up wasting more of it.

Pursuing a Series 7 license opens a door for me outside of working in the warehouse I've known for the past six and a half years. In the meantime, I'll likely go back to being a full-time warehouse operator in January.

The title for this recap comes from an episode of Rick and Morty. It's not my new favorite thing, but it often makes me laugh. So I'm going to conclude this blog post in an unconventional way: with some of my favorite Rick and Morty clips. I'm not sure you even need to be familiar with the show to enjoy them. Without further ado, here's some Rick and Morty. Catch Rick and Morty on Comedy Central and HBO Max. (Waits for check in the mail)

"I'm Dying In A Vat In The Garage!"

This has been a theme for me this year. I may steal it and use it in other work. There's like...seven people worldwide who are using it as a hashtag in Instagram posts. We know what's up.

"This guy doesn't have a social security number for Roy!"

Plumbus: How They Do It

"I'm not a cow. I'm a pickle, when I feel like it."

Morty Kills The Simpsons

December 11, 2020No Comments

Bedroom Sessions Vol. 1

Bedroom Sessions is a collection of songs recorded (strangely enough) from my bedroom. It has these great plaster walls the lend to some natural echo and the lighting just looks kind of cool. I've enjoyed the progress from the first video and will continue to add new episodes here as I record them. You can also go straight to my YouTube channel for the complete playlist.

Read more

November 14, 2020No Comments

Should I Build My Own Sofa?

Low arm sofa version shown from front and side.
Mid-centruy modern inspired custom built sofa design

Earlier this year I made a joke that I "wasn't good enough" for a full size sofa (as I currently have a modest loveseat). I could go out and buy one tomorrow, but all the sofas in my budget are "just okay." And who can afford a custom built sofa? From time to time I have searched "DIY Sofa" with mixed results.

Then I found something promising.

Ben Uyeda at Handmade Modern made a leather upholstered Zig Zag Sofa. And even though I like his design quite a bit, the design isn't right for my house. What really caught my eye was his method of covering the cushions. Instead of sewing slipcases, he used brass grommets and laced the bottom sides together.

This is great for me because:
1. Sewing is not a skill I have totally acquired yet.
2. With this method if either the cushion or the upholstery needs replacing, I'm able to do that in the future.

It worked well enough for Ben that he made a second sofa similarly, the DIY Modern Plywood Sofa.

So why not make my own custom built sofa?

High arm sofa design shown from the front and side.
Custom built box sofa with high arms

My idea is to use Baltic birch plywood. It takes waterbased dyes well and typically has fewer voids in the plies so showing the edge is more acceptable than some other varieties. Instead of two large cushions for both the seat and back, I've designed mine with six. However, I may play around with the idea of three seat cushions and one large back cushion.

For the hidden parts of the frame I will use less expensive pine boards and plywood. Current designs show 8 inch tapered legs, but already considering other possibilities.

The color coding helps me imagine how it might go together. It will undergo refinements to minimize materials and reduce weight.

This custom built sofa might be tackled as early as January 2021. For now this is a placeholder for another "Big Idea."

Update: February 22, 2023

I didn't attempt to build a sofa. Yet. Instead, I ponied up for an American made sofa that was delivered to my home from Los Angeles just before Thanksgiving 2022. It is just okay. It has already needed one repair (thankfully covered by warranty) and I feel like it probably won't last as long as I like. This just gives me more fuel to build my next one, because I will over engineer the hell out it, and make it so that individual components can be replaced as they wear out.