Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Keyboard Meetups, Memory & Randy Cano

Weekly Update 2017-08: Attending a mechanical keyboard meetup in the basement of a craft beer bar near my house, an amazing tofu sandwich, and the unbelievable work of Randy Cano.

Music: Cigarettes After Sex
Quite a provocative name you've got for a band there. Well, I suppose it sort of works, as this band produces a sound that is consistently calming and perfect for listening to on grey, rainy days when you don't want to leave your house. Which actually was not the case for me on this lovely, sunny Family Day weekend, though their sound is excellent nonetheless.

Classified as ambient pop out of Brooklyn, I suppose the draw of the music is that it seems really genuine to me. I feel like I can imagine the people that the songs are written for, and they are people who deserve to have songs written about them. Anyway, before I jump off a huge tangent, take a listen.

I'm so happy to get the FriendCanoe project up and running again. I met up with Sasha last week to discuss our next steps, and I'll be digging back into it this week.

I spent this long weekend exploring not one but two abandoned buildings on a whim, which led to a rather nice set of images in a cold, empty community pool changing room. Some real hipster stuff right there.

I also ate an amazing tofu sandwich while brunching with a friend at Bloomer's on Bloor, which is noteworthy because I would like to eat many, many more of them. I might be becoming a tofu fiend.

On a different sort of whim, I also attended a mechanical keyboard meetup in the basement of Wenona Craft Beer Lodge, which was quite an experience. Imagine a small room filled with nerds (meant only in the most loving of ways of course), showing off their homemade DIY keyboards outfitted with RGB LEDs, custom 3D printed key caps with all sorts of lovely textures and shapes on them, and weird angled keys that are supposedly more ergonomic. It was quite a display. More on that in a future post, as it was quite a time. Here's a teaser:

I also worked on cleaning my hard drive so I can be a real human with good skills. The simple task of organizing all my photos has taken quite a while, but at least they're all in the same place now.

This week I'll be working on a better, less extreme colour scheme for FriendCanoe, and finishing the organization of all of my photos. I'd say there's about another hour of work to do there (the pictures from my China trip are a mess).

Random Thought:
I've been feeling rather low on memory fuel lately. It's been happening a lot, so I started to think about memory and memory loss. I realized that old people like to tell stories because it shows that they're still with it and their brains still work. It's a mini brag accomplishment.

Maybe that's why I like to tell stories? I know for sure that I am a nostalgia addict so perhaps the two are connected somehow.

Inspiration: Randy Cano
I honestly can't even remember how I found this amazing motion designer on Instagram, but you MUST follow him.

A post shared by Randy Cano (@randy.cano) on

Weird, sometimes a little scary, and always wiggly, the works of Randy Cano are the epitome of surprise and delight. They seem like they're real, but really everything is made digitally. Which somehow makes it even more weird? Check out more:

A post shared by Randy Cano (@randy.cano) on
A post shared by Randy Cano (@randy.cano) on

And what's more, his website has even more awesome stuff on it. Specifically, a sort of vending machine for Essie nail polish is quite lovely. And I could definitely see it being used at an airport. The perfect place to try out a new colour while you wait for your plane, and then you have the bottle for touch-ups when you reach your sunny destination.

Genius! Follow him on Instagram.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Vallens, Fidgety Hands & Diana Scherer

Weekly Update 2017-07: Let the powerful sounds of Vallens take you on a journey while I muse over the advent of fidget toys and the beautiful plant-root art of Diana Scherer.

Music: Vallens
It's that time of year again: the Wavelength Series is coming back to town, celebrating its 17th year. I love these events, especially because they feature some awesome indie bands you've never heard of, and also because tickets run as cheap as $3. It's a wonder.

Playing alongside one of my favourite bands TOPS tomorrow night at the Garrison is an excellent dreamy shoegaze garage rock piece called Vallens. Lots of rock explosion and looming bass rhythms on this one, and a healthy dose of strong female vocals from lead singer Robyn Phillips reminds me of acts like Braids, The Julie Ruin, and even Portishead at times. This music is more of what the world needs right now, and I am so stoked to see them live tomorrow.

I have begun prepping notes on my Chai Mitzvah research on Passover (since that's the next big Jewish holiday). During my meeting with my mentor at the synagogue, a member asked us if we would join the evening services to make minion, which I have never really been part of before. That was kinda cool.

I also had a meeting with my Friend Canoe partner, and we will be getting the wheels turning on that project in the coming weeks.

I've also been practicing my repique skills like crazy, so much so that my instructor actually complimented me in class on Sunday! The pride.

I'd like to continue my work on my blog this weekend, and join the city in celebrating the closing of Honest Ed's. I'll be going to a ukulele workshop there on Saturday morning, and exploring a maze in the skeleton of the store in the afternoon.

Random Thought:
On the subject of designing one's life and moving through a process of trial-and-error until the perfect processes to match one's needs are discovered, I have done it again.

Let's rewind to about five years ago: I was sitting on the subway and feeling rather fidgety. I noticed something out of the corner of my eye: a man was playing with what appeared to be a baby toy, all colourful and plastic. At first it seemed strange, but then I realized that it would be perfect for my fidgety hands. I also have an annoying habit of picking at my cuticles when I am stressed, so I thought it might help with that as well.

After some research, I found that the item is called a Tangle Toy and eventually procured my own.

Mine is a little less baby-looking as it is made of a shiny silverish metal. This makes it heavier than the plastic version, and so I was faced with another problem: remembering to take it with me and feeling like the value it provides is worth the weight it possesses. Every ounce matters when you've got a history of back problems.

I can honestly say it took me five years to reach the perfect solution: I realized the other day that I could simply loop it onto the strap of my purse so it would be out of the way but always accessible, look like a cool keychain, and not feel too much heavier than the weight of my purse alone. I know this is a small win, but I'm going to celebrate it anyway.

On the subject of toys for fidgety hands, there is definitely a growing market. A very successful Kickstarter launched recently for the Fidget Cube, which is a similar idea in the form of (you guessed it) a cube. Each side has a different arrangement of buttons, switches, rotators and the like to keep your hands busy. Personally, I am a simple human so I prefer the tangle toy, but to each their own.

Inspiration: Interwoven by Diana Scherer
Every week, I try to find something both scientific and joyful to post to Facebook. It's the kind of content that can break someone free of the monotony of bad news we've been experiencing lately, and it's just plain fun to discuss interesting things that are not political.

Diana Scherer is an Amsterdam-based German artist, currently exploring how the sensitive roots of plants can be molded and shaped into intricate, man-made forms. Some of them are particularly breathtaking.

An entire rug made out of grass roots. I can't imagine how cool this would feel on my toes.

I like the idea of shaping natural processes to better show off the beauty that already exists in them. All it takes is another perspective to uncover the delights in life. We could all use a bit more delight.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Blog Redesign: Visual Composites

After a lengthy post relating to the treatment of the typography in my blog redesign, I got to work on breathing some life into the original wireframe designs. There were many things to consider, even down to the treatment of the drop-cap (or alternative styling) in the first line of each post.

Twelve options here, and these were only the ones I screenshotted!

As for specific typefaces, I decided to go with Montserrat for my headings. It's clean and bold, with just the right amount of personality not to be overbearing. And to be honest, the ampersand grew on me. For the body copy, I'm still torn between Vollkorn and Domine. Check them out:

1) Homepage

The real defining factor here is the navigation. The first thing you see at the top of the page is the most recent posts of all topics, but how do you filter by topic? On the left, you can select a topics from the dropdown menu while on the right side, you select a topic along the nav bar. This will get messy if there are more than five topics or on a smaller screen, so the dropdown seems better. Under that, the right side actually has a featured little area for topics, which is arguably unnecessary.

The other difference is the treatment of the archive. The right side depicts your normal archive separated by month, but the left side is more of a timeline format in order to see the frequency and topics of posts over time. I'll obviously be going with this method if I can get the coding to work properly.

And lastly, I was experimenting with a word cloud of all my posts at the bottom of the homepage, to determine how often a word is used. This can give users a snapshot into what the blog is generally about. Again, I need to see if this is actually technologically possible for me to code.

2) Post Page

As I mentioned before, the drop cap caused me some issues, but I think I've got it mostly sorted out now. Also, I need to figure out some jQuery for some simple interaction on the post page, such as a photo selector, photo viewer, and sharing to Facebook or Twitter with preloaded content, as well as a commenting section. 

A friend mentioned that he doesn't feel comments are necessary on a blog these days, with the advent of social media. There really are better ways to get in touch with me than through a barren comments section at the bottom of a post, but on the other hand it lacks the forum in which readers may interact with each other. Though that has rarely happened in the lifetime of my blog. Perhaps I should disable commenting altogether? I haven't decided yet.

In our next episode: we discuss the perils of coding this bad boy and making everything functional.