Embracing Summer

By Ashlee Bishop

City living comes with its perks; accessibility, more people and vast varieties to choose from, on practically anything. These perks can be enjoyed by anyone willing to try. Summer in Wisconsin finally arrives, and while the weather has been tricky, it still beats the mildest winter night. It’s a no brainer, that when the sun is out we all want to soak it up! Outside of work, school and family there is ample opportunity; seems like the distance/commute and probability are all that stand in the way.

You find the park you want to visit but chances are it’s more than 10 miles away. That’s it; you’re taking the trip! You load up the car; food, friends and fun are all on the agenda. Cruising along the way, you notice the potholes that winter has left. Attempting to reroute and dodge the “roughed up” roads, you are eventually engulfed in traffic as far as the eye can see.

Or, let’s say you found a peaceful pluck of nature befitting of your needs and personal agendas. Chances are so have others. So, as you were taught in kindergarten you must share. Fair enough until somehow it’s ruined; this is no longer a place of rest and it only makes you uncomfortable. Ingeniously these two scenarios have kept you from the happiness that comes with sun shine.

Here’s an easy solution; this summer forget planning, comfort and otherwise sound logic. Go out in the rain, stay out past dark and dress for comfort instead of for fashion. The Wisconsin winter was brutal enough to us this year; step into nature ready to receive rejuvenation. Open yourself the simple beauties of the summer. Go on trips “Spur of the moment”: go alone even. Use the time you will spend outside to reflect, meditate and unwind from the constant every day.

Mickey Mouse Stuff Related to Engineering and Marketing

by Eileen Mack

Engineering and marketing come together quite often in the consulting design business. Thankfully for me that is the case, as marketing and graphic design is what I do for GRAEF. I began thinking about this blend of relatively divergent services, and if we’re honest, personality types, over the summer as my family and I found ourselves packing up the SUV and heading south during the truly HOT days of 2012.

My husband, two daughters, and I were taking the ultimate family vacation. We were road tripping to Disney World in our own little version of the Griswold’s National Lampoon Summer Vacation! It has been nearly 25 years since I last stepped onto the hallowed grounds, and then it was just for a day with college friends on spring break. Before that, well, let’s just say it was a smidge earlier when I was in grade school!

The comparisons between then and now are stark. My first trip to Disney World offered, well, Disney World. It was only the Magic Kingdom.  That included stuff like Mickey Mouse, the big Cinderella Castle, the singing children in a Small World, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. There was no Epcot, no Animal Kingdom, no Hollywood Studies, no Blizzard Beach, and no Typhoon Lagoon!  Today, it is almost as stressful deciding which park to go to each day as it is routing the perfect path through the lucky winner so as not to miss a single, really good attraction!

The Tree of Life in Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Finally you arrive at your park of choice. Let’s pick Animal Kingdom, my personal favorite. Everything is perfect! The trees look real, even if they aren’t. The buildings are clearly designed to the minutest detail, and where else can you stand in sweltering 98 degree heat looking at Mt. Everest. Watching the show “It’s Tough to be a Bug” takes you on a multi-sensory entomology tour, and even waiting in lines is made tolerable because of HVAC magic and visually interesting everything. The work of the thousands of Walt Disney

Mr. Everest on a sunny day in Florida.

”Imagineers” (those responsible for the design and development arm of the Walt Disney Company, responsible for the creation and construction of Disney theme parks worldwide) is incomparable. According to one internet source (Wikipedia – I know, not a scholarly source), “Imagineering is responsible for designing and building Disney theme parks, resorts, cruise ships, and other entertainment venues at all levels of project development. Imagineers possess a broad range of skills and talents, and thus over 140 different job titles fall under the banner of Imagineering, including illustrators, architects, engineers, lighting designers, show writers, graphic designers, and many more.” Now that is a cool job! It is especially cool when you consider that the following is one of their core philosophies: “… there is the principle of “blue sky speculation,” a process where Imagineers generate ideas with no limitations. The custom at Imagineering has been to start the creative process with what is referred to as “eyewash” – the boldest, wildest, best idea one can come up with, presented in absolutely convincing detail. Many Imagineers consider this to be the true beginning of the design process and operate under the notion that if it can be dreamt, it can be built.

The iconic Epcot “golf ball” in Future World.

What is clearly evident as you travel through any of the theme parks is that in addition to the imagineers, there is a crew of equally amazing marketing geniuses at work. Every detail is thought out, making the experience both emotionally and physically wonderful. The music in each distinct park area subtly infuses you with the appropriate spirit. You bounce along the pathway to rhythmic African beats in the Animal Kingdom, patriotically stroll down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, and hear the cosmically futuristic buzz of space travel at Epcot. To a person, everybody that we met was friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. In Epcot’s World Showcase, they were not just costumed in ethnically appropriate outfits, but most service personnel, or “cast members,” were native to the “country” you were “visiting.”

In a seemingly simple, but demonstrative show of marketing genius, guests even get cute little towel animals in their rooms upon arrival at the resort. The cast members responsible for making up guest rooms take detail to the extreme and make everyone’s stay extra memorable.

It would be wise for us to consider how the perfect blending of engineering and marketing has combined for success throughout Disney’s mega-empire of entertainment. It has a lot to do with details, details, and more details. But those details are thought of by creative, collaborative teams that understand that technology without marketing might become just another technology.

Gazing at Galaxies Far, Far, Away from GRAEF…

By Jason Jacobson

Saturn 2012-05-18

Saturn 2012-05-18

Last night, as the skies cleared and the stars shined brightly, I was able to look up in the north sky and see the International Space Station fly through the sky for a brief few minutes.  It is amazing to think about all we have learned about space flight and our universe in just the past century, and even more amazing to think about what still lies out there to learn.  Life is GRAEF is about the people that make GRAEF the great company that it is to work for.  But what do the people of GRAEF like to do when they need to clear their head and just get away from work for a while.  Something that many people don’t know about me is my interest in astrophysics and astronomy in general.  When away from work, it gives me time to free my mind and learn about our incredible universe and what role our tiny planet plays in this vast space that surrounds us.

My interest in astronomy started early in my life.  Like many kids, my brothers and I received a small telescope as kids and spent the nights upstairs at the farmhouse that we grew up in gazing out the window at stars thousands of light years away and observing the moon which as kids looked so close to us through that lens.  Later on in grade school I had the assignment of doing a report on a constellation.  My report was on the constellation Orion.  Writing that report on “The Hunter” and talking about the thousand year history of observing it and describing the stars that make up its belt was something very exciting for me to research.  To this day I still love picking out Orion in the winter sky and thinking back to that report that I did many moons ago.

Jacobson Observatory

Jacobson Observatory

In my adult life I started to study and read books on Astrophysics.  I know, you must be saying to yourself “how boring”, but this led to my renewed interest in astronomy and my purchase of a new telescope.  Looking close up at craters of the moon, observing Saturn and it’s rings, spotting Jupiter and its moons made me feel like a kid all over again.  You can see some of my crude smartphone pictures of Saturn and Jupiter inserted in this post.  My astrophotography skills are still in their infancy.  But gazing out in my telescope at galaxies far, far away (thousands of light years) and nebulas and star clusters makes you think about the small part we play in this universe.  I like to watch meteor showers and observe those comets that have come out of deep space and zoom past us thanks to the gravity pull of our sun.  It’s amazing to think about the destruction that these comets can cause when colliding into a planet in our solar system, but equally amazing to think about the life giving elements that these comets possess.  There is a current NASA mission ongoing right now that will land on a comet in November 2014 and examine what elements lie inside these life giving masses of ice and rock.  It might answer a lot of questions about life while also creating more questions to be answered.

Jupiter 2011-10-14

Jupiter 2011-10-14

I find continuing exploration of our solar system and the entire universe to be critical in advancing our education in this country and around the world.   The most important thing I see in advances in astronomy and space exploration is that kids in the future can continue to fantasize about universe exploration and dream about what they can find and discover.  Our planet is just a very small part of this universe, but it takes all those planets, stars, galaxies and the binding space between them to make up our complex but astonishing universe.  Just like the people at GRAEF, it’s the individuals who combine their skills together to make it all come together and create a company that does astonishing and wonderful projects around the country to benefit all.