McObsessed Much?

I noticed recently that my newsfeeds include what some might call an unhealthy percentage of articles about McDonalds.

It’s not surprising, necessarily. Mickey D tends to pop up as part of larger topics I follow: marketing, retro-pop, foodieism, economics, travel, and even crime. After clicking on a nice McSampling, it didn’t take long for the Algorithm Gods to catch on, and now I’m delivered multiple McStories each week.

As I remarked to a coworker today, though, “news light” has become an important part of my daily mental-health regimen. Relegating news consumption to only the top headlines of the day can easily set any of us off on a bummer trip, and most (though not all) stories about the McEmpire are at least entertaining.

It’s not untimely news, either; McD’s is currently seeing record foot-traffic due to its BTS Meal, for instance, and is at the forefront of the employment crisis, wooing staff with promises of iPhones upon hire.

There are a bevy of homes out there on the market with awesome McDecor, and less awesome McKitch. There’s even a McBarge looking for a home.

In product news, I’m constantly disappointed that the really cool McMerchandise is consistently unavailable in the U.S., not to mention food items. Just this week, I was introduced to a blueberry cream cheese pie, a Samurai pork burger, and a McFalafel — all requiring a passport for tasting.

But, there’s always a healthy serving of nostalgia floating around on the Interwebs to ease the McPain: vintage commercials, throwback toys, and the ever-present resurrected menu item.

All this, and today’s headline is one of Mac’s top PR execs turned in his wrappers… oh, the McIrony.

Fry and McRib photos by WikimediaImages

BTS Meal photo via McDonalds Corporation /PR Newswire

Number of McPuns in this post = at least 11

Wayback Wednesday: Energy Art in Greenfield, Mass.

A call for entries into an energy-conservation-themed photo contest came across my Instagram feed recently, and it reminded me of some photos I took several years ago at the Greenfield Energy Park in Greenfield, Mass.

Greenfield Energy Park is one-and-a-quarter acre of open space created in 1999 from the site of an abandoned railroad station. It’s the product of efforts by the town of Greenfield and the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA), an organization I first learned of when writing about it — also ages ago.

It’s not just a public park, though — it’s also home to myriad art installations, rows of rotating community gardens, a concert series, and a railway museum housed in a vintage caboose. Below are some of my favorite shots with as much detail as I can provide. Leave any Greenfield Energy Park tips of your own in the comments; it’s been more than a decade since I’ve been there.

The Greenfield Clock, a solar sculpture by artist Gregory Curci, was commissioned by NESEA and features 12 passengers in the cars who “sit up” one-by-one on the hour to tell the time.
The rainbow staircase from the park to Bank Row was created with ceramic tiles stained by Catherine Winship.
The Wind Can Take You Anywhere, a wind sculpture by Gregory Curci.
A close-up on the 1944 train caboose museum in the park; I call it McBolt.

Finally, if you’re in the Hudson, N.Y. area in the next few weeks, consider hunting for photos of energy-efficient beauty on its streets, thus contributing to the inspiration for this post — and another very funky city.

The back of a steel sun shaped sculpture with the artists name and 2001 painted in white on it. Artist name is curci.
Artist’s signature I…
Close up of paints tiles on a staircase that are green and blue. The artists name Catherine winship is carved into one of the tiles.
…and II
Close up of two hands holding a phone and a 3D castle is popping out of the phone screen

Sinking my Teeth into Professional Development: Accessibility Edition

It’s been a minute (as the kids-these-days say) since I’ve taken on any substantial professional development.

I’m always reading articles, white papers, and case studies relative to this communicative world we live in, but the professional, personal, and pandemic stressors of today have kept me from enrolling in any kind of course that would add real beef to my skill-set sandwich.

Thanks to the university system for which I work, however, I was able to turn that around and take advantage of a full suite of online accessibility training free-of-charge this month. It was coursework I’ve long filed under “I really need to do this,” and once I got started, I wished I’d done it sooner.

Digital accessibility — the process of making websites, apps, and everything on ’em accessible to all, regardless of disability type or severity of impairment — is a discussion that surrounds a lot of what I do as a writer and marketer. With so much of the content we create headed online as a final destination, checking that screen readers, closed captioning services, and other assistive tech can interact with that content is imperative.

That said, it’s also easy to get lost in the mire of everything that needs to be done to get a message out at all, and fail to check or optimize accessibility. Or, in what seems to happen even more often, we limp along with just enough of an understanding to make a document, photo, or video compliant, but not necessarily ideal for the end-user.

That’s when those “I really need to take a class…” thoughts start creeping in, because we, the content creators, know through both gut and experience that it’s easier to make something accessible upon creation, not after-the-fact.

So finally, I’ve taken the damn class. Offered through Deque University —an off-shoot of global accessibility consultancy Deque Systems Inc. — I plowed through 22 online accessibility training courses and earned four curricula certificates, and I’m feeling much better.

The courses were meaty; I know I’ll use the information in my job immediately, and frankly there’s something to be said for finishing the quizzes and receiving your certificate and continuing education credits. It’s very Pavlovian.

Here’s a run-down of what I was able to bite off by carving time out of late afternoons and evenings:

DeQue University certificate of completion

Document Accessibility Curriculum 1.2 Certificate

This set of courses is probably the most appropriate for a full-time writer or communications wonk like myself. It includes 11 classes focused on ensuring documents are created with accessibility in mind, from Word docs to PDFs to online content.

DeQue University certificate of completion

Accessibility Program Management Curriculum 2.0 Certificate

I think I ultimately enjoyed this curriculum the most, as it presented a lot of new information and taught me some new tricks. It consists of five classes focused on ‘baking in’ accessibility at a departmental level, continuing some of the document accessibility lessons from a managerial perspective, and adding others with a legal flavor. An overview of Section 508, for instance, dives deep into the requirements all Federal agencies and departments must meet to provide access to information and communication technology to people with disabilities.

DeQue University certificate of completion

Native Mobile Apps Curriculum 1.0 Curriculum Certificate

This three-course block focused on accessibility as it applies to mobile apps — managing, designing, and testing.

Jaclyn Stevenson
has completed the courses in the
Customer Service for People with Disabilities
Version 1.0
28th of May, 2021
4 courses, 1.00 IAAP Continuing Accessibility Education Credits (CAECs)

Customer Service for People with Disabilities 1.0 Curriculum Certificate

It seemed like a no-brainer to take this unit, and the four-class run included communications courses geared toward both in-person and remote conversation. It also came with the added benefit of a glossary of accepted and unaccepted terms that can be added to our style guide.

While I didn’t have any particular allegiance to Deque as a training body before, these curricula definitely felt important and applicable while I was taking them; they’re updated frequently, well-written, and appear to be recognized as valuable certificates out there in the zeitgeist.

What are you getting certified in these days?

Cover Image by FunkyFocus from Pixabay

Crystal Visions ~ The Art of Mindy Lam at Berkshire Botanical Garden

As galleries slowly reopen, my list of hopeful weekend engagements continues to grow. It’s one I was worried would start late due to my ongoing injury recovery, but I was able to begin the return to culture this weekend with a show after my own heart: Flights of Fancy: The Botanical and Bejeweled Universe of Mindy Lam.

On display in The Anna and Frederick Henry Leonhardt Galleries at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in West Stockbridge, Mass., the exhibit is an intersection of several different things I already love: modern art, vintage pieces, fantastic elements, haute-couture jewelry… all hosted in the rooms of a slightly ominous garden house constructed in the 1700s.

Lam works with crystals and semi-precious stones, repurposed, vintage costume jewelry, and metal wire — including weaving metal lace out of gold, copper, and steel. Her art is inspired by and reflective of nature, and has been displayed within the clapboard walls of the Leonhardt on moss beds, willow branches, and squares of unbleached linen.

Separated into three rooms, the exhibit includes a selection from Lam’s Homme Couture brooch collection; a “man-made ornamental garden” of twigs and brambles adorned with pins, necklaces, and earrings; and a curated menagerie of pieces created for once-in-a-lifetime events, featuring Lam’s signature metal lace gown: “a wearable sculpture originating with a single, delicate thread of wire,” as described on the BBG website.

The real piece de resistance for me, however, is a cool-metal crown in a mirrored bell jar that appears to be telling an entire tale in-the-round.

Lam is also a decidedly philanthropic artist, working with charities large and small including the American Heart Association, American Theatre Wing, and St. Jude’s Research Hospital. She has extended sales on her website to support BBG’s education and horticulture programs throughout Flights of Fancy’s run, until June 6, 2021.

All photos (c) jcs 2021 ~ view the full set here