The BlackBox Case

Back In The Day™ I went to college with a kid named Lance Atkins. We shared many interests, including eating spaghetti every other Wednesday night. We were also lab partners in Machine Design, “an introduction to the principles of mechanical design [where m]ethods for determining static, fatigue and surface failure are presented.”1 We had fun. And we then we graduated. Lance declared his retirement from engineering and then went off to go fly planes — which I find interesting considering I work for an aerospace company and which Lance blames on Top Gun.

Then Lance had a crazy idea:

From www.blackboxcase.com:

What do you want most? Start a business? That pretty girl on the subway? Ride a wild ostrich? Believe you want it and do it. We promise, the freedom is wonderful.

As Lance noted though, “…There is one caveat to your dreams, though. You have to risk that which you fear most: failure. So we set before you our risk. We have been working so, so hard to perfection. There are jobs that have been quit, money invested, and a few cuts and criticisms along the way.”2

And thus was born BlackBox Case, a better, stronger kind of protection for MacBooks, and “a product of curiosity, experimenting, and the hard work and obsession of some friends.”3

Andrew: First things first, I remember a very distinct comment from you the day after graduation where you declared that you had retired from engineering (having just graduated with a Bachelors in Engineering, Mechanical Specialty). Does this mean you’ve come out of retirement?

Lance: Aha! You may have caught me… I definitely am using my engineering skills. I’ve always been a builder, so I guess Blackbox Case is a natural extension of that. I enjoy that I get to be an artisan, craftsman and businessman, as well as engineer. Variety is the spice of life, you know.

There have been a variety of cases for MacBooks: neoprene sleeves, hard-shell plastic coverings, shoulder backs. Your case seems pretty unique, though maybe not the first to use wood; what was the motivation to create a different kind of case and what sets this case apart from the rest?

My laptops have always had a rough life. I just hated how they would get abused and develop cracks after a year of traveling around in a backpack. So I guess the idea started with a hardshell case that could isolate the laptop from that compression abuse. The next priorities were light weight and aesthetics. I checked into many materials, costs, and even did some finite element analysis to calculate what it would take to protect a computer from everyday life. I ended up being pleasantly surprised by wood, specifically oak, and it’s perfect properties. It’s stiff, light, and hard but not brittle. As a bonus, it’s pretty darn cool looking.

Is this case just for show or does it actually provide protection? What happens if I drop the case with my MacBook inside?

I’ve already talked about the “crush” protection it provides in a bag. We also expect a MacBook to survive a drop much better inside of a Blackbox Case. The case may be harmed, but a bicycle helmet breaks to protect your head, too.

Right now, the only way to get a BlackBox Case is through BlackBoxCase.com. Do you have plans to expand your distribution channels? Might we see the BlackBox in the Apple Store (online or brick and mortar)?

For now, we will sell only online. We may go retail in the future, but for now we are most concerned with turning out really amazing handmade MacBook Pro cases. We have a few tricks up our sleeve too. New products, new materials, you never know…

BlackBox Cases are currently made in Golden, Colorado, which I’m sure has an effect on the price. Will BlackBox Cases always be made in America?

Yep. We wouldn’t have started it here if it won’t stay here. I love the idea of employing local and buying local. I love designing products and the smell of sawdust, so I think we shall keep it that way.

15 Percent, that’s an awesome idea, one which I really like…almost more than the case itself. Tell us a little more about 15 Percent and what you hope to accomplish with it?

I think giving is, for me, a great way to let go of something I hold onto too tightly. It has the opportunity to do some creative good in this world too. We are challenging everyone to give us feedback about where the money should go, because we want this to be a community effort. What do I hope to accomplish? If we are to dream big, I want to give away $100,000. I don’t know where yet, that’s where you readers come in. I’ve done a lot of studying on the side effects of big money donation, so we seek to give to programs that are set up with wisdom and sustainability. Maybe you know someone who needs a hand up?4

Who else is on Team BlackBox? What’s their story?

My main man is Anthony. He was formerly a professional hardwood floor guy. He’s the chief of production. Austin used to work construction and is a web developer. We have also teamed up with some old friends to make this happen. Evan is a graphic designer, Mike is a business guru, and AK is a videographer. I have been really surprised at all the help and counsel we have gotten from other people. They’re coming out of the woodwork! (pun?) We’re having fun and learning a thousand things a day.

Oh, awesome — I love Anthony, he’s a good guy! Lance, thanks so much for sharing about BlackBox Cases, hopefully I can stop by next time I’m in town (some guy I know is getting married). And while I don’t have a MacBook (yet), you can bet I’ll be talking with you when I do get one.


  1. http://engineering.mines.edu/undergraduate-program/mechanical-engineering/courses/detail/?cid=EGGN411 

  2. http://www.blackboxcase.com/blogs/news/2321922-dream-big-or-else 

  3. http://www.blackboxcase.com/blogs/news/2321922-dream-big-or-else 

  4. NB: Link added by Andrew 

Three Ladies Bored on a Sunday Night

About a year and half ago, when I was still in college, I came across the following ad on Craigslist:

Three ladies bored on a Sunday night… – 23 (Denver Metro)

So as we were searching Craigslist for new places to live, we decided to check out the personal ads. After looking at countless ads, we decided to make our own. We are three very different ladies with equally different interests in guys. Please read below and respond with a picture and info about yourself if you’re interested.

Far left, brunette (let’s call her Jayne): Doing a century bike ride in May (100 miles). Loves strawberry patch picking and hot air balloons. Wants to travel to Italy to drink wine and look at great art. Likes to bake. Loves to laugh. Loves to have game night or invite friends over for an evening at home.

Middle, brunette (let’s call her Penny): Likes hammocks. Likes the smell and sound of rain. Wants to travel the world and learn about other cultures. Shamelessly makes funny faces at little kids in restaurants. Should buy stock in Red Box movies. Loves to take long drives with a good playlist.

Far right, blonde (let’s call her Bekah): Favorite food is bacon. Loves anything the color green. Obsessed with baseball and college basketball. Loves the smell of clothes right out of the laundry or fresh cut grass. Hates cake (but loves chocolate chip cookies). Wants a dog more than anything right now. Loves traveling Latin America (speaks Spanish).

At the bottom was a picture and my jaw dropped as soon as I saw it it.

I knew all three girls in the photo, and not just “yea, I met you that one time at that one party” knew them, but “I hang out with you at least once a week” knew them.

They had cleverly used pseudonyms, but it was definitely them. I thought about responding with an email showing three guys we all knew (probably this one) and writing funny anecdotes to go along with it. But then I had another idea, to reference them by their pseudonym the next time I saw them in person, which would be three short days later at The Feed.

So I waited and waited, filled with anticipation for their reaction. Finally Wednesday came and they didn’t show up to The Feed! I couldn’t wait any longer, so I called “Jayne”:

Me: Hey, how’s it going? Are you coming to The Feed?
“Jayne”: It’s going pretty good. I don’t think I’m going to make it tonight.
Me: Oh, what are you up to?
“Jayne”: Hanging out with the roommates.
Me: Ok, well have fun with “Penny” and “Bekah”?
click

She hung up on me.

I called her back.

Me: Heeeey.
“Jayne”: Andrew, I’m so sorry.
Me: What happened?

“Jayne” went on to describe how her jaw hit the floor when I said “Penny” and “Bekah.” They were, as they described, looking for a new place to live when they decided to make their own posting. However, they had no idea that anyone they knew would find it and was stunned when those words left my mouth, so stunned she hung up in horror.

“Jayne” turned to “Bekah” and “Penny”, who were sitting on the couch next to her, and explained what happened. They immediately pulled the post (but not before I had saved a copy) and we all had a good laugh.

But, let this be a lesson: you never know who’s going to find what on the Internet.

PDF of original: Three Ladies Bored on a Sunday Night

Vacation Time in Colorado

Sweet merciful days of awesome! Vacation is here! This is my first official vacation since starting work (I’ve had a couple of sick days, but no fun days off as of yet). I can’t help but chuckle that as my first vacation destination, I’ve chosen to return to the scene of the crime my alma mater. I worked so hard to get away and now I can’t help but return, must be some form of Stockholm Syndrome.

I touched down tonight in Denver at 8pm. I don’t really have plans for Thursday, so who wants to hang out?

Friday is an awesome episode of The Feed, but I’m free in morning and early afternoon.

Saturday is pretty open, except for around dinner time.

Sunday is open except for after 7pm when I’m hoping to head over to Merge.

I’ll be around Monday, but I’m hoping to hang out with Brother if he’ll let me.

Dear Friends

Dear Friends (and Family) in Colorado,

I’m leaving Colorado tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. Leaving Colorado has been one of the most bitter sweet things I think I’ve ever had to do, even more so than at the end high school when I left Seattle for Colorado. The hardest thing for me has been trying to express how I feel. The deep love I have for all of you. The extreme sadness in the fact that I have to go. The giddy delight that I’m returning to Seattle.

I’m sitting in my grandma’s back yard right now, on one of those rocking benches. It’s pitch black out, save the glow from my screen. The wind rustles though the leaves. The wind chime softly sings. It’s one of those perfect moments of reflection, when everything finally comes into focus.

This past year has been amazing. Being a fifth year senior presented a unique set of challenges, and an equally amazing set of opportunities. Most of my friends graduated a year ago, leaving me and just a handful of others left. At the same time, a spark in my faith set me on a journey. I regularly attended church for the first time since leaving Seattle; not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I found an amazing new set of friends through church (both Merge and The Annex). What’s more, this renewed sense of faith found me challenging my beliefs, which is always a good thing, I think. And when I stumbled, you guys were there.

The biweekly Feed1 was often my cornerstone during the week, grounding me when school, and life, was just to much.

At the beginning of this school year, I very desperately wished for school to just be over. However, I’m glad I wasn’t allowed to sleep through these past nine months, as they have easily been my favorite nine months of the last five years. Part of me wishes I could do the first four years over again.

So thank you. To you. To all of you. Words cannot express the gratitude I have for all of you.

With Much Love,

Andrew

P.S. My hope is that this is not the end. Colorado always has been2 and will continue to be a second home for me. I will be back. And of course, you always have a bed (at least for a few nights) at my place in Seattle.


  1. a bunch of us would get together at Lance’s house (usually) for dinner, s’mores, and company 

  2. both my parents are born and raised in Colorado, and all my extended relatives live in Colorado 

Update on Rain :: Volume II

Some updates on the photography book I’m working on:

Obviously January 31st has come and gone with no book, this means that the release date will be May 8th. I’ve also got an ISBN number for my birthday from my Uncle, so I’ll be joining the Big Boys™! I was actually thinking about this the other day, my desire to play with the big boys. I remember in 2nd grade when we had to write “books”, I tried really hard to make my books look like the real thing. I’d have the blank pages, and the about the author page, and one time I think I even had some sort of coupon you could send in. Some things never change.

Anyway, May 8th will be the date. I’m glad I’m waiting because I think I will be able to put some amazing pictures in that I take this semester. I’m also thinking about preordering some books and selling them at my graduation party.

There’s also a chance that the book may be more than 40 pages. Unfortunately, this will add $5 to the cost. The good news is that I get up to 40 more pages with that $5, so the book could theoretically end up being 80 pages (yikes).

I’ll leave you with this picture of Dan Fluharty that I took a couple weeks ago at The Feed. The Feed is this awesome event we do every other week where we eat dinner and then go roast s’mores outside. If you’ve ever tried to take pictures around a campfire, you probably noticed how they end up appearing white and the glow of the fire is completely lost. Well, I had this idea to use a CTO (Color Temperature Orange) gel on my flash. It’s really just an orange sheet of translucent plastic that makes the light look like a tungsten lamp (which is 3200K…daylight is 5600K-ish). As it turns out, CTO is pretty close to the color of a campfire. The net effect is that I can now use my flash to supplement the light of the campfire. Don’t forget that the goal isn’t to blast the subject, just provide some fill light. I thought the pictures turned out pretty well for this experiment:

DSC_6555
Nikkor 50mm || 1/60 || f/1.8 || ISO1600

As always, check out the rest of the photos on Flickr: The Feed