Thoughts on Pittsburgh

The following is a excerpt from comments I made after someone said it “makes [their] mind hurt” when I talk about the disappointingly racist events I experience in this city.

Many people think Pittsburgh is a fantastic place, and in many facets it is. Some people think this is going to be the next Silicon Valley or the next Portland. Most people here are just so impressed with how much the city has changed and are only looking forward to awesome place it can become. I can promise you that unless we talk about the issues we have surrounding cultural and ethnic diversity and social integration, those things will never happen.

When you look at the community groups, non-profits, and governments,almost no one is talking about these issues and they impact the progress of pretty much every facet of this area becoming a better place.

I’m not sure what I can do to better the problem.  Right now I just try to talk about it until people walk away [or unfollow me] and try to encourage people to do the same.

I can talk all I want, but the issue is really that no one wants to listen.  It’s easy to be complacent and it can be depressing to be continually unhappy with how thing are and it’s hard to constantly try to improve things.


1-Year Anniversary of the Killing of James Price Jr.

Ghost bike memorial for James Price in Pittsburgh

I’ve locked up far too many ghost bikes, but having the chance to meet the families and friends of the victims has really brought to light just how serious these road issues are and how fragile life is. It makes it more than just a name in the paper and a bitter feeling of “it could have been me”. You hear about how he was trying to better his health to be there for his daughter, how he was always trying to get his friends on bikes, and why he had his nickname.

Originally the idea behind ghost bikes was to raise awareness about the deaths and injuries on our roads, but in Pittsburgh these white bikes have become a gesture of the bike community to the families. They say we are here and we won’t forget about your son, daughter, father, mother, or best friend. They share stories about the loved one they lost and we all get to have an open conversation about just what it’s like on the road–everyone leaves with eyes open just a little bit more.

Once the life has been taken, there isn’t much we can do to fix it, but we can unity the community and work towards ensuring that less of these have to go up.

Be safe out there.


Social Media Rules for Businesses

Recently people have been asking me about social media.  Presumably, it’s because Fiks:Reflective has an obscene amount of Facebook fans for a single-person company that hasn’t even been around for two years from product concept.

Instead of talking specific strategy, which can vary between brands, here are some general rules every social media manager needs to follow:

  1. Don’t delete anything.
  2. If you do delete something, admit that you were wrong and apologize.  (You know, because you were WRONG).
  3. Though it can be tempting to rush to retort critical posts, take a deep breath.  Remember that everyone is watching.
  4. Don’t post other’s content without permission.
  5. Be honest.

So there they are.  What did I miss?


I’m not white. (Not that there’s anything wrong with it, I have white friends.)

“You’re pretty much white”.

I get it a lot.  Granted, I do have a Polish last name, white parents and two white sisters.  I was raised in the ‘burbs.  though they weren’t all white, most of my friends growing up were.

However, I also have had bottles thrown at me from moving cars by people yelling, “Go back from where you came from!”  I’ve had the clerk at the post office ask my how I lost my accent, because most of my “people” don’t speak English.  I’ve had a kid try to pull me outside a party to a group of kids with baseball bats and tire irons that weren’t happy about the “chink” in their town.  Walking home from a bar two guys jumped out in front of me to ask the two [white] girls I was with why they were walking with a “chink”.

Was that all because I am pretty much white?


Rustbelt Almanac

First issue of Rustbelt Almanac

The first issue of Rustbelt Almanac. 70+ pages of honest content with almost no ads. Plus, the guy on the cover has some really great hair! [it’s photoshopped]

Back in January, two guys I had never heard of, Mike Artman and Noah Purdy, sent me an email telling me they were starting a magazine and asked if they could come talk to me.  I rarely turn down interviews–I’m always down to meet new people–but after looking at their work [here & here] I definitely wanted to meet these guys.

We got together, chatted about what I’m working on, and had a few beers.  It was lot less formal than the other interviews I’ve had.  We hit it off pretty well.

A few weeks later, I introduced them to one of my good friends, Kris Mortensen, to link them up to see if they could use his help for some video.  Wouldn’t you know they hit it off with Kris too.

Fast forward a bit.  They were telling me about their plans to run a project on Kickstarter, thinking they could raise $1,000-$2,000 to get a few of their magazines printed.  Personally, I predicted that they could do between $10,500 and $12,000–it’s a cool project, and between the beautiful photography, clean design and layout,  fresh approach, and engaging topic, they were definitively on to something.

Now, today.  The magazine is fresh from the printer and their entire print run is almost all claimed.  I keep telling Noah he will have to run another batch, but he doesn’t want to hear it.  What a horrible problem to have.


Inspiration: Eddie Huang

From a Reuters interview, on his New York City restaurant:

“BaoHaus is about owning your identity and dictating the messaging of who you are, where you’re from, and what you represent. I saw an opportunity to use a restaurant to identify a lot of my issues and concerns with being an immigrant in America, and Asian in America, and a young person in America. I wanted to inspire people not to work under a bamboo ceiling. Whatever you are — yellow, black, white, brown — you don’t have to allow your skin to define who you are or how you operate your business. There’s not one face to anything.”


Moab, UT – A beautiful place to break down.

On my way out to Las Vegas for Interbike, the murder-mobile blew a wheel bearing.  The good part–we were 200 feet from the entrance to Arches National Park, it was sunset, and the valley we were stuck in was beautiful.  The bad part–Moab, UT isn’t known for it’s late-night services.

We quickly realized that Moab is also insanely busy in September, and of the twenty-some motels we called, all of them were booked.  We finally found one that just had a cancellation, got some food, and woke up early to make a trip to a parts store to fix the van.

It turned out that not only did the cage holding the rollers break, but the loose rollers warped the inner race and welded it to the spindle.  After seven more trips into the store for a file, chisel, and 8-lb sledge hammer, I finally gave up, bought and angle grinder, and went to work.

Two hours later, we were back on the road and took a pit stop in Arches.

It took a day longer than expected, but we got to Vegas safe and sound.