Receiving $1,000 From Awesome Foundation Chicago

Last night, I headed over to Hüettenbar to meet up with some folks from Awesome Foundation Chicago to have some drinks, talk a bit about my project… and to receive the actual $1,000 grant in cash.

Walking inside, the bar itself was ideal – low lights, wood everywhere, and a very relaxed feel to the place. There were a fair number of people, but not so much that it felt overly crowded.

I met Chris McAvoy almost immediately on walking in, and we settled in to a comfortable booth near the door. I also met John (the “Dean of Awesome”) and a bit later, Josh Metnick.

Chris is the VP of Technology over at Threadless. I also learned that he gets up crazy early (around 5AM). We talked a bit about being early risers – I used to get up that early, but haven’t been able to do so for the past few months.

In looking at his site again now, I totally forgot to ask Chris about archery. I’ve always had an interest, and wanted to learn more about how he got started.

I learned that as the “Dean of Awesome” for the Chicago Chapter, John was instrumental in getting things more organized – creating more of a workflow for people to review the project applications, and helping to coordinate all the trustees (lots of people, lots of differing schedules). John’s currently in graduate school, pursuing a PhD in Theater, focusing on the funding of theater.

Josh I found out started programming when he was 9, and this kind of blew me away. Around that time, he ended up creating a game called “Mario’s Pizza” that ended up winning some kind of award. Keep in mind that this was apparently also saved onto a cassette (back in the days before there were floppies).

Josh said that as a kid, he was inspired by a lot of Miami Vice episodes, as Mario apparently was selling more than pizza (hint, hint) and needed to be “taken down.” Josh is also currently learning Objective-C, so I said that I was looking forward to his iPhone port of Mario’s Pizza.

I’m only half-joking about this.

Chris, delivering the grant money. I was looking at the camera moments before, but my eyes shifted to the stack of bills. I’m not crazy about this photo, as it looks like I’m obsessed with the cash – honestly, I was in disbelief that they were actually awarding the November grant to me.

At the start of the evening, I talked about how nervous I was and how I approached the evening almost like a job interview. I had this feeling that everyone at the table would say You know… we’re reconsidering this whole grant thing, and that I needed to convince them of the project in person.

Chris was incredibly kind, and put me at ease fairly quickly. Soon after my nervous confession, we ended up just being four guys, sitting and chatting about technology, QR codes, augmented reality and the projects and things we do in our spare time.

Interesting random tidbit: while we were talking, I noticed that Queensrÿche was playing over the sound system. And I’m not talking about the very popular Silent Lucidity power ballad – this was at least two random songs from Empire. Very weird.

When I pointed this out to the others, Chris mentioned having seen my Queensrÿche jean jacket on the blog.. I also talked a bit about the notebook I carried around in high school – green and plastic, and covered with a Queensrÿche bumper sticker. Funny stuff.

John, playing around with the uber-powerful mag-lite app on Josh’s phone.

Outside the bar: L to R it’s me, Josh and Chris.

The full $1,000 grant. Seeing all this sitting on my desk is a bit intimidating, but also incredibly exciting. It’s strange to think now that an idea I had will now become real – very, very real.

I’ve had a lot of personal projects before, and have always gotten some degree of interest in them after they’ve been completed. But this is the first time a group of people have expressed interest in a concept, and gone so far as to give me money to realize it.

I’m incredibly awed and more flattered than I can say, to have this chance. A huge thanks to the folks at Awesome Foundation Chicago for the grant, and in particular for this opportunity.

I Won A $1,000 Grant From The Awesome Foundation!
Felix + Dzintra + Queensrÿche
The Jacket Arrives
A Queensrÿche-Filled Sort Of Day
Visiting Threadless

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