Tag Archives: app

The Evolution 
of Pop Music

April 15, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Admittedly, 34-year-old Omaha native Jonathan Tvrdik doesn’t sleep much. Between co-owning Benson’s Krug Park, working as a consultant for his wife Sarah Lorsung Tvrdik’s business Hello Holiday, being a father to 2-year-old son Hugo, directing music videos and commercials, making music, and holding down a day job as both the executive creative director at Phenomblue and head of product design at Rova, there’s not a lot of room for much else. It’s a path he can trace back to childhood.

“When I was a little kid, I played by myself and was always building things,” Tvrdik recalls. “I’m an adult version of that kid who is constantly making new project—like a band, bar, new app, or music video. I’ve always been a goal-oriented person with lots of irons in the fire.”

Ironically, that’s where the inspiration behind the name of Tvrdik’s upcoming solo album came from. Titled Irons, it’s a project over two years in the making and one that took careful crafting with the help of longtime friend and drummer for The Faint Clark Baechle. Busting at the seams with heavy themes of introspection and emotional growth, Irons illustrates a tumultuous period in Tvrdik’s life.

“For better or for worse, that’s where I’ve always been—busy,” he says. “I don’t even know what that has created in me—like who am I as a person? I’ve always been a workhorse, but who am I really? Each song dissects a different thing I am doing or interested in, or a certain vice I have as a result of all the stuff I am working with. It’s a very self-analytical sort of record.”

Beginning with “Something Better” and culminating with “Star Stick,” the 11-track album is like Joy Division meets The Faint, or as Tvrdik describes it, “Frank Sinatra on top of electronica-goth.” It was a true labor of love and Tvrdik really trusted Baechle’s expertise. Some tracks he thought were polished and ready to go; Baechle would hear them and mistakingly refer to them as “demos.” It took the experience of his fine-tuned ear to sew up any loose ends.

“We’ve made a lot music together over the years from a musician and engineer standpoint,” Tvrdik explains. “For this one, we started working through the process of what it was going to look like. I always knew when I was done mixing and recording it on my own, I would take it to him to refine. My producorial technique is very raw. For songs I thought were done and perfect, Clark would be like, ‘I got your demos’ [laughs]. I’m very right brained and he’s very left. I wanted his brain to go through it with a fine-toothed comb and nit pick the hell out of it, which he did. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.”

Although Tvrdik’s music background goes back to The Cog Factory days, where Omaha staples like Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, Cursive’s Tim Kasher, and The Faint’s Todd Fink (Baechle’s older brother) got their start in the early ’90s, naturally he’s experienced plenty of evolutionary changes in terms of his musical output. At one point, he was in a hardcore band, and later a noise-based outfit. While he felt he was still emotionally expressive in all of them, it’s with the forthcoming Irons he felt he was truly able to effectively communicate to the listener exactly what he was experiencing.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Encounter.

Uber and Lyft

March 26, 2017 by
Illustration by Matt Wieczorek

With the post-millennial rise of ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft, a generation weaned on digital technology could suddenly tap a smartphone app, summon a private car driven by the owner, and pay for the fare electronically. Easy peasy.

Uber and Lyft can thank their younger demographics for pushing revenue into the billions of dollars.

But guess what? Both transportation companies have figured out that profitable fruit doesn’t only come from young trees. The push to make ride-hailing easier for retired Americans looms on the horizon, and that horizon can’t come into focus soon enough.

“Transportation has always been one of our greatest challenges,” says Erin Endress, director of sales and marketing at Remington Heights, a retirement community in Omaha. “We have vans, but getting residents to and from medical appointments takes priority, which it should. That leaves little opportunity for trips just for fun. We could definitely use a transportation alternative, as long as it’s safe.”

And for those who still live at home but whose eyesight or reflexes may not be the best?

“Personally, I think Uber and Lyft are going to make a huge difference for folks as they stop driving or don’t drive as much, or as far, on their own,”  says Cynthia Brammeier, administrator of the Nebraska State Unit on Aging. “I’m looking forward to getting to that point. It’s awesome!” she exclaims, having personally experienced the buzz surrounding Uber while visiting another state.

Nebraska came late to the party, approving Uber and Lyft operations in July 2015, which may explain a lack of awareness among Omahans in general.

The necessity of a smartphone to summon a ride excludes many seniors from ride-hailing apps. According to the Pew Research Center, 70 percent of those 65 and older don’t own a smartphone, instead preferring cheaper, old-fashioned flip phones with limited data capabilities.

One segment of the senior population did benefit immediately from having the transportation alternatives in Omaha: drivers.

“I’ve been with Lyft for over a year. It’s my only job now, “ says Dave*, 68, who prefers to remain anonymous. Working about four hours a night, the Dundee resident brings home “between $400 and $500 a week working the entertainment district and trips to the airport. But that’s not counting my car payment, gas, and insurance.”

The insurance question explains why Dave doesn’t want to be identified. Both Uber and Lyft have up to $1 million in liability coverage. But if a driver gets into an accident on the way to pick up a passenger, how much his or her personal insurance carrier will pay out becomes murky, since the driver uses the car for profit.

The advantages of ride-hailing services, previously called ridesharing, seem pretty clear.

“We’re half the cost of a cab,” Dave says. “We pick up passengers within five to 10 minutes. The cars are newer, clean, and have to be four-door. No cash exchanges hands, unless the passenger tips me in cash.”

The advantages for Dave include setting his own work schedule, meeting “wonderful people,” and showing off his hometown to visitors. “I love Omaha and I consider myself an ambassador for this city,” he says. “Nearly all my passengers say how friendly we are here.”

But why would someone in their 80s summon a stranger to their home to pick them up?

“[The companies] check us out pretty good,” Dave assures. Both Uber and Lyft conduct extensive background, criminal, and DMV checks. Lyft sent an employee to inspect Dave’s Toyota. “Believe me, we’re safe.”

The opportunity for seniors without smartphones to utilize Uber or Lyft as passengers depends greatly on a “no app required” platform. One such service recently appeared on a list of transportation options compiled by the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging.

“It’s called GoGoGrandparent,” says Taylor Armstrong of the ENOA. “We’re told you don’t have to use a smartphone. People just call a number.”

The brainchild of a California man whose grandmother couldn’t tool around San Diego anymore, GoGoGrandparent uses a toll-free hotline to connect seniors with an operator, who then summons an Uber car for them.

“We’re not recommending this service over all the other transportation options ENOA offers,” cautions Jeff Reinhardt of the public affairs division. “We haven’t gotten any feedback yet on GoGoGrandparent.”

Lyft’s contribution to creating easier access involves senior-friendly Jitterbug cell phones and smartphones. When paired with a 24/7 health care provider, a registered user simply dials “0” on the Jitterbug phone and books a ride through the operator. This pilot program has yet to find its way to Omaha.

“We’re going to be top-heavy in seniors in the next 10 to 20 years,” Endress says. “There’s a huge need for entrepreneurs who want to make a difference in someone’s life.”

As evidenced by the rapidly changing technology that grants the gift of mobility, the difference-makers have arrived.

Visit uber.com, lyft.com, and

gogograndparent.com for more information.

* Dave is not the driver’s real name.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of 60 Plus.

Time to Get LinkedIn

August 26, 2013 by

I like Facebook. I entered this social media space with a passion, thanks to the Creighton students I was teaching at the time. I have more than 1,000 friends, including my four teens, because I bought their computers and iPhones and because I want to embarrass them.

But my teens have actually moved on to Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine, and I feel the need to move on myself, with a renewed passion, to LinkedIn. There are a few reasons I recommend you do the same.

The first is that it’s important as a professional to separate your personal and business lives. Facebook can make that a little dicey. The second reason is opportunity. LinkedIn is now the world’s largest professional network. It limped along for a time, being one of the world’s “older” social networks, but it’s cracked the code on changes in technology, target, and services for professionals that make LinkedIn the ideal place to connect.

With more than 225 million users in 200 countries, LinkedIn gives you access to 2.7 million business pages, 1.5 million groups, and your share of 1 billion endorsements. How you leverage all this is up to you. My advice: Spend more than the average 17 minutes per day on the site to get your profile up to speed. Follow industry leaders, post so you get followed, and enjoy the ride! Here are some specifics to get you started:

  • Download the LinkedIn App for your mobile device (Android, Blackberry, iPad, iPhone, Windows Phone).
  • Complete your profile. This helps LinkedIn connect you with people you used to work with and people in industries similar to yours.
  • Build your network. Import contacts from all your other channels. Invite people you know to connect with you. Add a personal note about how you know the individual and why you want to connect. Go further than the typical template invitation and make yourself memorable.
  • Join groups that interest you. Look for groups that you’re marketing to or that may help you move your business.
  • Consider forming a group. Lead the way and post. Refer to articles.
  • Build a Company Page, especially if you are an entrepreneur.
  • Check the Channels (business news topics) on LinkedIn Today, the site’s e-zine. LinkedIn will recommend Channels, but you should check in regularly to follow Channels that help you improve in your career.

Wendy Wiseman is Vice President & Creative Director of Zaiss & Company, a customer-based planning and communications firm in Omaha.

A Square Deal

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Café 110 opened its doors at the corner of 13th and Farnam in March 2012. Owner Allan Zeeck had been at the Benson Grind in the hip Benson neighborhood for about eight years before he closed shop and headed downtown with his eyes set on a space in the Old Market’s business district.

The business, which is known for its catering and live music weekends, serves delicious foods and drinks to its Old Market customers from 7am to 5pm Monday through Friday and 9am to 2pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Breakfast and coffee are the main attractions, in Zeeck’s opinion, but Café 110 also has an assortment of pastries, a healthy soup and salad bar, and fresh sandwiches.

But it’s not just the food that has Omaha buzzing about Café 110. It’s Zeeck’s implementation of an electronic payment service called Square.

Similar to the Passbook app, which stores coupons, boarding passes, event tickets, and more on a smartphone, Square is the new-age system of business transaction around the country. Rather than using the traditional cash register, businesses that use Square can have their customers pay either by swiping the card through a reader attached to a portable device, like a smartphone or computer tablet, or through the Square Wallet app.

“[Square] keeps track of my inventory, taxes, gratuity, credit card statements—it has a whole library of my entire history that I have access to any time I need.” – Allan Zeeck, owner

With the Square Wallet app, customers can set up a user profile on a smartphone, linking their name, a photo, and their credit or debit card information. When it’s time to pay, all customers need to do is open the app and make a quick payment with the touch of a finger. Receipts are then sent directly to the customer via text or e-mail. The app also allows customers to pay with gift cards and coupons and keep track of business punch cards.

Zeeck, who began experimenting with Square four years ago and has been using it ever since, has nothing but praise for the technology. “The process is very efficient,” he says. “It keeps track of my inventory, taxes, gratuity, credit card statements—it has a whole library of my entire history that I have access to any time I need. It [also] lets me know what sells and what isn’t selling.” He adds that the best parts of using Square are that each swipe is only 2.75 percent with no additional fees and that the money is in his business account the next day.

Though he’s heard some mixed reviews about the Square technology at his café, Zeeck says overall, his customers have received it very positively. “People like that it’s so snazzy and modern. There’s no pen or stylus to deal with; you just use a finger and a phone…It’s easier to retain records of the purchase, too, so if there’s ever any kind of misunderstanding with a purchase, I have the ability to go back and refund without the pain of the bank.”

Zeeck knows there are other systems similar to Square available, but he’s certain that he wants to stick with Square. Down the road, he even hopes that his customers will be able to both order and purchase from their phones with Square. “You always worry about minimizing the personal communication with your customers, but I think as long as [Square] continues to progress at a rapid pace and continues being so efficient, I’ll keep using it.”

Café 110
1299 Farnam St. #110
402-932-4040
cafe110omaha.com

Instagram Builds Brands

November 25, 2012 by

Instagram is this non-assuming app that is a snap to download and use on your iPhone or Android. It helps us makes the most of our increasingly busy, visual, and social lives. And people love it. According to a recent Forbes article, Instagram saw “remarkable growth” in the first half of 2012, going from 15 million users early in the year to 80 million in July. That’s a 400 percent increase in users.

Founded by two Stanford grad geeks who majored in Management Science and Symbolic Systems with a focus in Human-Computer Interaction, the inspiration they got from working at Google, Microsoft, and a few start-ups led to the big idea—an easy way to take a photo, give it a cool effect, affix your location, tag your friends, and share with the world (or at least your world) through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and more. With Instagram, you can broadcast a visual experience to thousands in a matter of seconds.

That’s what the world’s major brands like about Instagram.

The Starbucks and Redbulls of the world may be obvious early adopters of the cool Instagram technology. Performers, fashion companies, and sports teams use Instagram to showcase what they do best. But savvy marketers in the halls of General Electric and other corporations are leveraging this tiny tool to make big waves in building their brands. Here’s how GE did it:

They birthed their Instagram account by sharing photos of their innovative jet engine and health care technology as “art.” Then they launched a contest inviting Instagrammers to share their photos of items that illustrate any of GE’s four main areas of innovation (moving, powering, curing, and building). Contest photos were marked by a hashtag (that groups and feeds similar photos to users) “#GEInspiredMe,” and shared on GE’s Facebook page. This allowed other Instagrammers and Facebook fans to see and vote for the best photo. The winner was flown to Germany to photograph a world-class jet engine plant. A little ingenuity and a lot of creativity helped GE emotionally engage thousands of prospective customers and  grow brand awareness and sales.

To see the more than 4,000 user photos submitted to GE, search “GEInspiredMe” from your Instagram account.