Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sylvan Esso, Empathy & Sunny Patios

Weekly Update 2017-21: Big sounds from a little lady (and a man), what to do when you feel wronged, and how to find Toronto's sunniest patios for a day beer.

Music: Sylvan Esso
Never before had I heard so many musical styles come out of the mind of such a small person. Sylvan Esso is singer Amelia Meath along with producer Nick Sanborn, a duo out of California. They combine her soft voice against brash electronic beats to create something that makes you feel weird, perhaps a bit uncomfortable, while tapping your toes at the same time. I saw them play a show at Wayhome, and Amelia is so short that she wore 4-inch platform shoes (while she danced around as though barefoot, I should mention). Listen below:

The band will visit Toronto tonight at the Phoenix Concert Theatre.

I've got a somewhat-finished template of a post page for my blog! I didn't get as far last week as I would have liked, but I really want to get this right so I can reuse it for my portfolio project pages, so I don't mind taking a little more time. I actually spent a bit of time looking into templates to borrow from, but I realized I could make a good template myself. When it's finished, I'll be posting it to GitHub to share with others, in case anyone else is looking for that. Sharing community and all that fun stuff.

I also made a list of design firms to visit, organized by region. Portland is wonderful because every street address includes a denotation to tell you which of the four/five quadrants it's in, so you can never get too lost. I'm hoping to email some of these places within the next two weeks so they can let me know if I can come by to visit.

This week I'll be finishing the template for the post page on my blog, and then testing out the font pairings live to see how they feel. And of course, I'll be using a real blog post (gotta use real content) so there's nothing better than this fresh post hot off the press to test with. So look out for some meta repetition of this content in some screenshots I'll be sharing with you soon.

Now that I've got all my design firms mapped out (that was the important thing for sure), I'd like to start planning some Portland activities that correlate to the areas of the design offices. Since the city is divided into four quadrants, it'll be easy to plan each day around one planned activity. As I mentioned in my posts about Munich, I love to create a general list of one or two things to do per day, and let the rest flow naturally. You've got to allow for some spontaneity, especially in a city with which you're not familiar.

Random Thought:
If anyone's ever wronged you, which I sincerely hope they haven't but more likely they have, you may have felt the common feeling that they should meet the same fate as they plagued upon you. This feeling is related to the idiom “eye for an eye”. If you pluck my eye out of my head (I assume in the style of Kill Bill), I should then be allowed to pluck an eye from your head and then we will be even and everything will be right in the world. But of course, the second part of the idiom is that if everyone were to follow that rule, the whole world would be blind.

Of course, this fact rarely keeps people from feeling that the “eye for an eye” process would give them satisfaction. I think people find comfort in this thought because it would force the person who wronged them to feel sympathy for their situation. All we ever really want is to be understood, right? Of course, if the person who wronged them had felt empathy in the first place, then the eye-plucking never would have happened. To me, that's the meaning of empathy.

Sympathy = agreeing with someone's point of view
Empathy = understanding someone's point of view without necessarily agreeing

Empathy is much harder to master, but its dividends are much greater in the long run. You might feel pain from losing an eye, but it should be much easier for you to take a second and realize that, just like you, others would not want to feel the pain. So why continue an endless cycle of pain until everyone is hurting?

Inspiration: Every Sunny Patio in Toronto
My favourite kind of data visualization. Using the open data revolution (Toronto City Council's decision to make data open source for people to use as they please), Licker Geospatial Consulting has created an excellent map of all the sunny patios of Toronto at any given time of day. Their ingredients:
  • 1 Massive buildings dataset with heights that is reasonably up-to-date;
  • 1 digital elevation model of reasonable accuracy and precision;
  • 1 list of every patio in town;
  • and the capacity to build a solar shading model for an entire day at regular intervals; and
  • some GIS wizadry to put it all together!

I love this idea, simply because I believe it never would have happened if not for the open data revolution. I think there is no greater joy in life than analyzing some various datasets and finding a cool link between them that allows people to make data-driven decisions in life. I mean, sure, no one asked for this visualization, but that doesn't mean no one wants it. And if you look at the comments section on the page, you'll find that actually the opposite is true.

Check it out for yourself here.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Real Estate, Colour-Blind Interfaces & Vice Creators

Weekly Update 2017-20: Grooving to the smooth sounds of New Jersey's Real Estate, designing for accessibility in colourblindness, and inspiring content from Vice's Creators offshoot.

Music: Real Estate
After attending an amazing concert opened by Frankie Cosmos at the Danforth Music Hall last week, I am smitten with this band. I had heard most of their discography in passing, and was more excited to see Frankie Cosmos if I'm being honest, but the band honestly killed it live. Their easy listening tunes had the crowd mesmerized, and there must have been something about the lighting, the way the members were illuminated from the side, that glued my eyes to the stage. It was just one of those shows that exceeded my expectations and made me an even bigger fan than I had been before. Listen below:

I have created a Trello Board for my blog, which I hope will keep me organized and on track. You can view my updates live here. Each of the white cards is a task, while the grey surrounding cards is the status. Tasks start on the far left, and move toward the right as they are completed. As you can see at the moment, I'm focusing on the second of four phases (denoted by colour). Breaking things down into manageable chunks is the key to keep this train rolling.

This week, I'd like to finish the three items in the "In Progress" card - selecting fonts, finding a good responsive template so I don't have to start from scratch, and finalizing the visual comps that I designed a few months ago.

Random Thought:
I've been noticing that a lot of products do provide accessibility for colourblind users, which is awesome, but that accessibility is hidden behind switches that are hard to locate. Take Trello (mentioned above) for example:

A user must find this mode and turn it on, but perhaps the originally chosen label colours could have been colourblind-friendly from the start instead.

Another example that comes to mind is the setting in a popular mobile game called Two Dots. While I am not colourblind (to the best of my knowledge), I actually find that the colourblind mode makes the game easier to play. Instead of relying on colour alone, the colourblind mode allows me to rely on shape in addition to colour to make my next move.

The setting, found in the side menu (not terrible).

I find the right side much easier for noticing patterns that will help me play the game.

While ensuring an interface is always accessible to colourblind people can be a challenge and creates visual tradeoffs that have to be determined by the designer, it's arguably a better way to go than forcing colourblind users to locate the settings that work best for them, often having to trudge through interfaces that are especially difficult for them to navigate.

Inspiration: Vice Creators
Always a fan of the weird and creative, it's not often that I come across a news source that scratches my personal itch for art-related news stories. I came across Creators by chance on Facebook and, after looking through about four of their posts, I knew this was a great new addition to my daily creative inspiration.

I actually used one of their stories, on sushi shoes, in a blog post last week, and the interesting content keeps on coming.

A random screenshot from today's selection of articles. The Mickey Mouse is especially disturbing.

While I realize that Vice doesn't have the greatest rap in the media and/or fact-based worlds, I imagine that if one takes everything with a grain of salt, there really can't be much harm in spreading art-related news. As with all content on the internet, readers have to know how to separate fact from opinion and draw their own conclusions. So go ahead and keep doing that :)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Review: "Eames: Architect & Painter"

I watched a wonderful documentary on two marvels in the earlier days of industrial design: Charles and Ray Eames. The limited knowledge I had of them before watching was this: they were a prolific team in the world of design, starting with the production of cheap, accessible and beautifully designed chairs that were a marriage of form and function. The Eames Team (forgive me) had their heyday starting in the 1930s (when a need for cheap furniture was prevalent), and carried their success on to all sorts of different projects like film, puppetry, architecture, and more.

Title: Eames: Architect & Painter
Director: Jason Cohn/Bill Jersey
Year: 2011

Surprisingly narrated (somewhat sparingly) by James Franco, the film takes an in-depth look at more than just their well-known and staggering works, but also at their personal life (to a tasteful level) and the social/economical setting of their success.

You may recognize this - the famous Eames lounge chair. So amazing, they named it after themselves.

Like many others, I mistakenly thought that Charles and Ray were brothers; when in fact they were a married couple. As was customary in those days, Ray was often left in Charles' shadow due to their gender roles and the attitude of the day. I found this to be extremely unfortunate as the documentary outlined the fact that the two perfectly complemented each other in their skills and specialties. As a classically trained fine artist, Ray was particularly gifted in selecting colour palettes, to a degree that Charles never could.

That said, their skills did anything but define them or place them in a box. Architect, designer, painter, filmmaker; these were not job descriptions or titles, but more of a toolbox with which they would creatively solve problems. This is the sort of thing that resonates most with me; not confining one's design practice to a specific honed skill but embracing change and need with time. Maybe yesterday I was an illustrator, today I am an animator, tomorrow I am a coder.

Even the way Charles and Ray designed their home in California was awe-inspiring. They chose to hang paintings on the ceiling, which I thought was truly ingenious. It makes them fresh, and invites you to deliberately look at them.

I also got the impression that they were early believers in the comfort and joy of a workspace that matches the worker's needs (rather than the other way around). They really took a person's shape into account when designing a chair. It must be as comfortable as it looks. This is akin to a straight-shooter that you can trust, which is a great thing to be as a designer.

In fact, huge corporations not only trusted, but relied on Charles and Ray to solve big problems for them. Polaroid entrusted them with making a camera that could be folded down flat, and IBM entrusted them to use film to explain relational distance between humans on Earth and outer space (something never before considered in its day).

We cannot truly understand the present (much less the future) without knowing where we came from. If you have any passion for design and a true renaissance in the middle of the 20th century, I urge you to watch this documentary.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Bird World, Productivity & Sushi Shoes

Weekly Update 2017-19: Music for a video game that doesn't exist, how to make myself more productive, and tiny Nike shoes made of sushi. It's been a long week, so please excuse my tardiness in publishing this post.

Music: Bird World by Leon
I love video game soundtracks. Often overlooked during gameplay, the music does so much to set the mood of the game. Similar to movie soundtracks, video game soundtracks often become a genre in and of themselves by following similar patterns. When I think of the music in video games, I tend to think about chip-tunes and 8-bit music. While somewhat limiting, I think the beauty of the genre is found in the amazing things composers can do within the limits. And so, a composer from New York by the mononym of "Leon" has decided to create an album based on a video game that doesn't exist. Yep, each song would work wonderfully for a different level of what appears to be a bird-based RPG, but the game simply does not exist. And why should it? We already have the best part. Listen:

I've been working hard this week on designing and typesetting an application for my company to submit to this year's Canada's Top 100 Employers contest, and I am happy to say it is finally complete. From getting back into the groove of using InDesign to pasting the text extremely out-of-order from a poorly designed PDF application form, to sourcing images and organizing an extreme amount of content, I am happy to be on the other side of this project. Check out my cover:
I also went to St. Catharines last weekend, hence not much other work done. But I will say that catching my Megabus on time was an accomplishment in and of itself because the Greyhound worker directed me to the wrong place with only a minute to departure.

This week, I am continuing to practice chanting torah, which is actually really fun. I mean, who doesn't like singing? This class is really cool and has taught me a lot about why people sing when they read the torah. Since the Hebrew language consists of only about 800 words (each of which has many meanings), we use singing to help in proper pronunciation and to provide the correct meaning to the words. So utilitarian!

I'd also like to use some time to work on FriendCanoe, especially different ways to visualize the health of your friendship. There probably isn't any problem that a data visualization can't solve.

Random Thought:
I've been doing some thinking about how to better understand what motivates me to do work. I've been struggling with the balance of working a full-time job and personal design work, and what will actually get me to sit down in a chair and do some meaningful work beyond my job.

I've realized that I am more of a starter than a finisher; I have a lot of motivation at the start of a project and find it challenging to get back into the project after time has passed. So I wonder if the best way for me to follow through on something is to do as much of the task preparation as possible when I think of the project. If I can provide myself the most momentum to do as much as possible now, and have less to have to do later, I'll feel more motivated to pick it back up. Or, in a better scenario, since my momentum will keep me going longer, perhaps I can finish the whole thing in one fell swoop.

One example of this is to start blog posts as I think of an idea, rather than dump them into a google keep note. In this way I am reducing the barrier to completion by getting as much done upfront as possible. And yes, Blogger's mobile app is good enough to do this, though it certainly leaves much to be desired. Along this vein, I wonder what other ways my phone can aid in this venture. Since I'm trying to complete work on-the-go, what apps can help me to be productive away from my computer?

Inspiration: Sushi Shoes
You may know my love of miniature items. Well this one takes the cake: tiny classic Nike shoe designs, made of sushi!

Sushi chef and illustrator Yujia Hu is the creator of these tiny delights, using carefully cut pieces of seaweed and fish to model the rice base of the shoes.

Yeezys don't even need the nori for you to know them by their iconic shape.

I think what I love most about this project is that it's obviously done for the pure fun of it. There's no reason or function for these works, except that they're lovely to look at, and to imagine eating. Red, white and black is such a classic colour palette, and lends itself so well to all sorts of things. I wonder what else could be made miniature from sushi?

See more on Yujia's instagram.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Little Dragon, Bus Seats & Church Sales

Weekly Update 2017-18: Swedish electro-pop band Little Dragon, getting that coveted seat on a long bus ride, and waking up early for great finds at a church sale.

Music: Little Dragon
After an honourable mention from a post in 2015, I thought it might be time to give Little Dragon the attention they deserve. Formed in 1996 (over 20 years ago!) in Gothenburg, Sweden, this band has been a long-time favourite of mine. They're labelled as electronic, but that genre simply doesn't cut it here. I'd call them a rock-pop-electronic jazz fusion band. Yay for genre-bending! Lead signer Yukimi Nagano has an extremely recognizable and unique voice, adding an air of lightness to their already ethereal-sounding music. She has also collaborated with ODESZA, Gorillaz, SBTRKT and more. Listen below:

You can catch Little Dragon with Abjo and Goldlink at Danforth Music Hall this Thursday.

I've done a bit of work on FriendCanoe, mostly trying to sort out how to organize one's friendships without adding too much judgement or ranking. Cold hard facts provide the user with the information to understand and manage their friendships, but they can also be, well, a bit hard and cold. Finding the right balance of information and warmth is a bit of a challenge for this project. Anyway, here's a sketch:

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I also held my third semi-annual bonfire this weekend, what a success! So many of my friends showed up to delight in the firey glow and roast some marshmallows on my new artisanal marshmallow stick (which fits eight marshmallows on it!). I was alarmed to notice that there were three other bonfires going on around us (on unsanctioned grass) and hoped we wouldn't get shut down by police, which, we did. Still, four hours of fire is awesome, and I have lots of firewood for the next one.

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We got the fire going all by ourselves! Not too bad for some city slickers. Erika also had the amazing idea of using a dustpan to angle water from the public bathroom near the fire pit into the bucket (which we used later to put out the fire).

Last Wednesday I biked 9km in about 30 minutes to complete three Bunz trades during rush hour. It was hectic and sweaty but totally worth it.

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This week I'd like to try out some solutions for the graphing problem with FriendCanoe, write a non-"Weekly Update" blog post (the ideas have been piling up), and plan my trip ti St. Catharines this weekend to visit my friend Chelsea.

Random Thought: Sitting on Public Transit
I thank the heavens for every bike ride I take, which directly translates into saved money and time, weight lost, and overall replenishment of my sanity. Of course, taking the TTC results in the direct opposite of all of these things. I am still regrettably forced to use TTC in the summer months, when I have time to contemplate my life as a way of ignoring my internal screaming. The other day while trapped on a smelly, packed bus, I was thinking about the value of getting a seat versus having a short ride. How do the two factors play into productivity, sanity or happiness while using transit? Would I opt for a longer trip so that I could have a seat?

Back when I used to work at College and Spadina, I would certainly opt to go southbound at Queen's Park (and take the line all the way around to Finch on the other side, rather than take the Bloor line east to catch the subway north at Bloor station. The difference was about ten minutes, but it guaranteed me a seat all the way north to Finch. This feels like an obvious choice for me, but perhaps others don't mind standing as much as me? The advent of sitting meant that I could work on my laptop, sleep, eat without making a mess of myself and others around me (it's happened before) and be a more sane person overall. So what's the real value of time versus waiting a little longer to have a seat?

Inspiration: Church Sales
It's become somewhat of a tradition for my family to line up for hours each year outside the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Richmond Hill, waiting for the popular church sale to begin. The congregation donates gently used items which are sold at the sale to raise money for women's and children's local charities in the area. Each person in my family likes to find different sorts of treasure, from the housewares and antiques to books and records, to the huge room where you can fill a garbage bag with clothes for only $7.

I love the idea of finding renewed use in items that have seen very little wear, and of donating to charity in the process. Not to mention the thrill of the find. This year, I found a lovely pair of black patent rubber boots with a cute almond toe, a vintage red double-breasted high-waisted skirt, a pair of fetching green silk pants, and a beading loom (so I can get rid of the one I made from a kleenex box). And yes, waiting for over an hour in the cold of 8:00AM on a Saturday was worth it.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Weaves, Hand Reminders & Trash Pandas

Weekly Update 2017-17: Another confirmation that Weaves is an amazing band, the newest advancements in writing on your hand, and trash panda (a.k.a. raccoon) terrariums.

Music: Weaves
I remember one of the first bands I happened to catch at WayHome's first year was Weaves. They were a party and a half, considering it was something around 3:00PM on the first day of music. There weren't many people watching them at the stage, but the people who were there were really, really into it.

Fast forward to the Toronto Reference Library, Jewel of Bloor as it were, and Weaves was playing a show on the main floor stage in 2016. This band is a wonder. Not only was their Lee's Palace set amazing, but I also got an awesome selfie with lead singer Jasmyn Burke. She's a jewel herself, to say the least. Check out one of my favourite songs:

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Last week I biked around quite a bit, 44.4 kilometres according to Runkeeper. I've also been forcing myself to bike in tight spaces and make tight turns though it scares the living shit out of me. It's one thing to be able to bike in a wide open space, but quite another to fit between a right-turning car and a curb at Bay and Bloor (secret: they don't leave enough space). I'm also 100% confident in standing while riding and riding one-handed (no-handed, here I come). It's amazing to think I've only been biking around for about a year now. It's such a big part of my life and I miss it dearly in the winter months. Maybe I'll bike around further into winter this year.

I biked to High Park to see the Cherry Blossoms. Here's a cute pic of myself and my friend Dmitry.

I also took in a lot of culture attending an Earth Day clothing swap, the yearly grad show of my university program, touring the office of Monnet Design, and taking in the lovely installations at the Gladstone Grow Op art exhibition. In addition, I attended a campfire storytelling event on Tuesday, and attended two concerts (Friday - Wolf Parade and Saturday - Weaves) at which I was lucky enough to chat with the lead singers of both bands. How can I be so lucky?!

I also need to give a shout out to the fact that I finally bunz traded for a good vacuum! It's bittersweet because I don't know what to do with my grandmother's old vaccum that's basically gone kaput. It all seems somewhat coincidental because this week is the anniversary of her death (yes, we commemorate that in Judaism). Perhaps I can find someone to pass it along to as part of her commemoration.

Thank goodness my FriendCanoe partner is on a trip to Japan right now, because I had no time to work on any of that last week. I'd like to get a little bit of it done for when he gets back, but I'll also be planning my birthday bonfire for this weekend so I'm going to keep it light.

Random Thought: Hand Reminders
I was people-watching on streetcar as I often do, when I noticed a girl had written what I presume is a reminder for herself on her hand. I remember that I used to do that in high school. Especially for forgetful people, the best method to remember something is to keep it close at hand, literally. That said, I imagine pen ink is at least a little bit toxic and can't be good for your health. So how about this: a pen made of biodegradable and safe-to-consume ink, made especially for writing on your skin. You can make a list of things to do and lick each item off as you complete the task. I should take this on Dragon's Den.

Inspiration: Stamen & Pistil Botanicals
I am quite obsessed with plants lately. Between doing major bunz trades for plants, the onset of spring itself and Cherry Blossoms at High Park, it's no wonder I've got greenery on the brain.

I came across an awesome little company based in Toronto that creates lovely plant arrangements, including realistic-looking terrariums with trash pandas in them. So cute!

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I guess what I really want is to live outdoors like a nomad, but if I can't do that, I'll settle for turning my apartment into a jungle instead.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Chastity, Clothing Swaps & Enamel Pins

Weekly Update 2017-16: A little hard rock from Whitby's Chastity, swapping items around Toronto instead of buying them, and the allure of enamel pins.

Music: Chastity
Granted the honour of opening for Wolf Parade on Friday (can't believe I get to see this band again!) is an indie rock band out of Whitby called Chastity. I sorely hope I found the correct band on Spotify as they don't have a lot of info on the internet. But anyway if this is the right band, I'd say indie rock is a bit soft of a description. I can see people moshing HARD to this music which makes me worry about wanting to stand at the front. We'll see what goes down. It's certainly full of energy. Listen below:

I survived the Easter Parade! I totally understand how many of the parades my drumming band has played haven't been quite the best fit for our performing style, but this was insane. We basically spent half the time running and playing with one hand while holding our drums in the other hand as we tried to catch up to the float in front of us. Honestly this parade could have gone at half the pace and been a good speed for us. Lots of bruises and scrapes on my hand. but I'm otherwise okay and happy to have been part of the parade. It was really fun to perform outside again!

FriendCanoe congregated for a meeting last week, where we made some good progress regarding the meaning of old friendships and the value they still carry. This app is going from technical to extremely sentimental pretty quickly!

I also attended my first trope class on Thursday, as I am learning to chant the torah instead of reading it monotone like a chump. The lessons run weekly, and since the weather is nicer, I don't mind taking trips up to North York as much as I did in the winter.

Hello@chloesilver.ca is now fully functioning from my other email address, which is awesome. I could only manage to make it work on desktop for now, but I'm working on the iPhone part (which is less important anyway). This all makes me wonder why I put so much importance on looking at email from my phone. It might be time to move that icon off the dock of my Home Screen.

Finally and most importantly, I got the permit for my bonfire happening in a couple of weekends. This event always marks the seasons for me, which I'm happy to celebrate with my friends. Next up is patio day-drinking and lying on the hills in Christie Pits watching movies in the park.

This week is pretty packed for me, but I'd like to work on FriendCanoe. There are some simple UI changes we've made, and I want to iron that out.

Almost as a reward for agreeing to take on an extra project at work, I have been granted access to the full suite of Creative Cloud for a month. This is an excellent opportunity to finally finish the WayHome video I created last year.

I've also noticed a bunch of clothing swaps happening this weekend around Toronto (must be the season of Spring Cleaning) so I'll be attending (at least) one to get rid of the piling corner of Bunz crap in my apartment (and whatever's leftover at my parents' house too). It feels AWESOME to get rid of stuff you don't need.

Random Thought: Clothing Swaps
It's no secret to my readers that I am obsessed with Bunz. With the advent of all these clothing swap parties cropping up all over the city like the Annex, Parkdale, and Evergreen Brickworks, I wonder if they're taking a page out of the Bunz book or if these sorts of events have always been around. Regardless, I think it's all great. I feel like movements like this always start from the bottom up: when consumers make decisions with their wallets NOT to buy new things but to trade for them instead, the world gets a little better. It's like ripples in a pond, hopefully reaching outward to big box stores and the like, reducing waste and production of items no one asked for and no one needs.

Inspiration: Enamel Pins
God damn, I love enamel pins. Ever since I was little, looking at my dad's button collection on the walls, I was always enamoured with the tiny little enamel-filled metal pins that just had a handmade quality with which regular circular buttons just cannot compete.

Ever since I found out about Pintrill, a pin lifestyle brand based on Brooklyn, I realized there are other people out there like me as well. Since then, I've been following them and keeping up with my pin trends.

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Yes, that's a ChocoTaco pin.

I also had the opportunity to source, design and create some enamel pins during my short stint as a design intern at the ROM a couple of years ago.

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My pins (not pictured above - those were inspiration) became the 5, 10, 20, and 25 year commemoration pins for years of volunteer service with the museum. Yet another reason to love pins.

Fast forward to my birthday last year. After finding a friend to confide my enamel pin dreams to, the beautiful Tess Reid bought me some lovely pins to start my collection.

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And now, a year later, I am happy to say that most of my belongings have pins attached to them.

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Did you know that enamel pins can also be used as zipper pulls? Probably obvious in hindsight but still a great idea.

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I found this one face-down on the southbound platform of the Bloor-Yonge Subway. I have lost pins before, as I am no stranger to the fact that they are as flimsy as they are beautiful and their backings are usually really loose. I had lost a pin just before finding this one, so I feel like the whole city is involved in an involuntary swap meet all the time, constantly in a cycle of losing and finding enamel pins on the ground. On the plus side, they're shiny (and usually fall sharp-point-up) so they're easy to spot (with your eyes or your ouchy feet).

Monday, April 10, 2017

Moss of Aura, Shirt Buttons & Paper.io

Weekly Update 2017-15: Moss of Aura (Future Islands side project), button position deciding the gender of a shirt, and an addicting new phone game.

Music: Moss of Aura
After purchasing tickets to Buffalo's Kerfuffle Festival (featuring Future Islands), I've been noticing traces of Future Islands everywhere. First, vocalist Sam Herring was featured on one of my favourite BadBadNotGood tracks, and now I realize that a great indie one-piece I've been getting into is the brainchild of another member of Future Islands, Gerrit Welmers. The music reminds me of Discovery's LP, also an offshoot of a great indie dance band (Vampire Weekend). It's got great synth beats and just makes me happy. Listen:

Somehow, after four months of toil, I got my custom email address back up and working. And just in time, because the Analog Contact show was this past weekend. My business cards were up on the wall for everyone to see and collect at an art gallery in Parkdale. It was quite a nice thing to see.

I've also started planning my trip to Portland/Vancouver, most likely for June. I follow a really cool art gallery in Portland called Nucleus, and on a whim sent them a message asking for some cool design-related things to do in Portland. A nice lady named Stella responded and is currently compiling some stuff for me! So excited.

Passover begins tonight at sundown, though my family cheated a little and had our Seder last night instead (don't tell Moses). This year a couple of cool things happened: I gifted my sister with the special Passover Haggadah I had secretly bought for her on Amazon about six months ago, and added a few footnotes to our usual scripture. I spoke about the addition of the orange to the seder plate, which signifies inclusion and acceptance of all kinds of people. Since Passover (and really all holidays) act as an excuse to bring friends and family together to share and celebrate together, it seemed fitting. Further, we also discussed our feelings about eating kitniyot (foods which are closely-related to Passover-prohibited foods but are technically not forbidden). Considering my family are not big into the whole song and dance of the holiday, I think we made good progress.

This week, I'd like to figure out how to send email as hello@chloesilver.ca from my Gmail. I had it set up before, but the whole domain/hosting switch kerfuffle messed it all up.

I'll be working on the FriendCanoe branding for my meeting tomorrow with Sasha.
I'll also be continually reminding myself not to eat bread, which is a task in and of itself.

Random Thought:
I was buttoning up a shirt I had just traded for on Bunz when I stopped and wondered if it was a ladies' or men's shirt. I then remembered that women's shirts have the buttons on the left side and men's have them on the right. I wondered if there was any reason for this, other than the obvious issue of getting the proper-cut shirt. Since doing up your own buttons (by looking down) is actually reversed from doing up the buttons on someone else's shirt, I had a really weird thought that perhaps this would draw a similarity between a person buttoning up their own shirt and buttoning up someone's shirt of the opposite sex. In the case of the most common couple (a man and a woman - at least in this stage in society), for one person to button up their own shirt and that of their spouse, the reverse design means that the buttons would run the same way and the person wouldn't have to learn a new muscle memory. Yep, that was pretty weird. You can read a more factual approach to this mystery here.

Inspiration Paper.io
I was standing on a crowded subway - sadly no elbow room to play any iPhone games. But luckily, standing over sitting riders allows me a good vantage to see what they're doing on their phones (hey, it's the price of getting a seat, ok), and I happened to see a very addicting-looking game called Paper.io.

You're basically a snake leaving a trail like the classic game, but you're competing against other people who can kill you! It's very addictive.

The onboarding (four simple panels) is pretty good, though I feel that the game is so simple that you don't need to read through a bunch of static screens. But to each his own.

It's been a while since I have found a truly addicting phone game (been playing Solitaire for quite some time now), but this one may make the cut.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Joel Plaskett, Passover & Manhattan Sundays

Weekly Update 2017-14: Canadiana strummings of Joel Plaskett, deeper thoughts on Passover, and a look into early Sunday mornings on the streets of Manhattan.

Music: Joel Plaskett
First mentioned way back in the beginning of my blogging days, Joel Plaskett has been a staple of Canadian music in my parents' home. Since I first heard his song featured in a Zellers commercial (RIP), my whole family has been obsessed with his music. Hailing from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Plaskett is near and dear to me because he plays in an eclectic array of genres, from blues and folk to hard rock, country, and pop. But at the same time, you can hear the Maritimes ooze out of the speakers with his songs, and I love him for that. It's just so, quintessentially Canadian. Check out one of my favourite songs off his album Three.

You can see Joel play Massey Hall on Saturday with his dad Bill. What a great family affair (for him and for my family).

This week was ripe with accomplishments - the best of which being that I got my bike tuned up at a good bike shop (unlike last year), complete with new rubber handbar grips that are a delight to squeeze. On top of that, the mechanic at the shop named my bike the “bumblebee” because it's black and yellow. What a lovely idea! After I retrieved my bike, I managed to bike from Ossington station all the way to my friends' house near Jane station. If you thought the hills at Lansdowne and Keele stations were bad, you haven't even SEEN the hills around High Park. I though my legs might fall off. This weekend provided me with 16.2km of biking, and I also biked to and from work yesterday (even though it was raining).

I also finished my Passover questions, which I'll be discussing at my Passover seder this year. Why not use the holiday to delve deeper into some issues and interesting thoughts with family? More on that later in this post.

Finally my work's dodgeball team was given a timeslot for a game early enough that I could play, which I did. I realized I am really good at dodging, but terrible at catching.

I also managed to find five friends to join my Spotify family, which means we will all pay $3 per month for Spotify. Peanuts!

This week, I'd like to read up on the actual story of Passover, especially since I'd like to start a good discussion around the holiday next weekend.
I also got my coworkers to critique my blog visual comps, so I'll be making a few changes to those.

Random Thought:
With all this studying of Passover, I have begun to realize that while holidays represent stories of the past that we can learn from, they are just as focused on the present and future. They give us a lens and a setting with which to analyze our current ways, and decide if they should change. It also provides us with the ability to do this with our family (both by blood and by friendship). Of course, there is so much more that others may place on the holidays, but to me, simply using it as a time to bring family together and reflect on our lives seems like a great way to be.

Inspiration: Richard Renaldi's Manhattan Sundays
Imagine the party-filled streets of Manhattan on a Saturday night. People are out in their fanciest, furriest, most sequinned clothing, laughing and having a good time. Fast forward to the quieter hours of just before sunrise on Sunday morning. Those same people who went out and had a good time are not making their slower, less energetic journeys home. They may seem a bit dishevelled or worse for wear, but they had a great time.

Richard Renaldi's Manhattan Sundays are a photographic diary from 2010 to the present, chronicling those wondrous hours in the wee part of Sunday morning.

These snapshots reveal so much about the people who live in the bustling city. It's almost like Humans of New York but with a darker edge. Check out more here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spoon, Home Screen Icons & Bunz Flea

Weekly Update 2017-13: The talent and awesomeness of Spoon, wondering how to arrange my phone's home screen icons, and trading up a storm at the Bunz Flea.

Music: Spoon
I honestly can't believe I haven't blogged about one of my all-time favourite bands, going on ten years of fandom around this point. Straight outta Austin comes this rock band with a lovely range of sub-sounds within the wide genre, and led by frontman Britt Daniel (who also once sang for a since-deceased supergroup called the Divine Fits - RIP). They have a new album out and with each passing listen, I grow more fond of it. Think, pop music that has enough of an edge not to be a guilty pleasure and makes you feel cool when you belt out the lyrics. Listen:

If you love them as much as me, you can catch them at Massey Hall in July with Cherry Glazerr. How nice!

I've been hard at work on my Chai Mitzvah studies, especially thinking about what Passover means to me. I also enrolled in classes for Chanting Torah, so that I can sing as I read and really do the prayers justice. It's basically the next step in learning Hebrew, which is awesome!

I also went for a run yesterday since the weather was so lovely out. Unfortunately I realized that my running headphones are busted on one side (big surprise - this is always what happens to my headphones) so I'll have to get a new pair.

On a whim, I submitted my personal freelance business card design to a design show celebrating the analog process of exchanging business cards. This is definitely something that appeals to my sensibilities and love of analog processes (even if googling someone is technically easier to do). Business cards are such a fun way to express creativity and provide a nicely structured (and deliciously limited) format for self expression. I only heard about this event on the final submission day, and submitted in a slight panic, but I was accepted!

So feel free to come out on the opening night: Thursday April 6 from 7:00-11:00pm, and see all the wonderful cards! It's even promoted on BlogTO :)

This week, I'm going to take my bike in for a spring tune-up (yay!), drop off my business cards for the show next week, finish the research on Passover for my Chai Mitzvah, play a dodgeball game (finally one early enough that I don't have to miss drumming), book a bonfire for my birthday, and create a Spotify Family account so my five closest friends and I can all save a little money on music.

Random Thought:
You may be familiar (in theory or more likely in practice) with the areas of your smartphone that are easier to reach than others. This is actually a theory that was first researched by Steven Hoober, who came up with a sort of hotspot system to display the best way to use screen real estate when designing apps for the best usability. In other words: don't place highly-used items or touchpoints in areas of the screen that are hard to reach.

Image courtesy of Luke Wroblewski

I was looking at the setup of my friend's iPhone home screen the other day, wondering how much thought he'd put into the placement of all his app icons. It seems that from user to user, I haven't been able to find much consistency in app icon placement beyond that of the dock at the bottom. Of course, I could test out a bunch of different arrangements for myself, but I feel like there is so much data of iPhone users already that if only Apple would scrape that data to find the best placements, life would be so much easier. Yes, I know this is such a seemingly arbitrary thing, but it's really the design of the little things in life that make it joyful. And who doesn't want more joy?

Inspiration: Bunz Flea
It's no secret that I have an unending love for Bunz Trading Zone. They host some organized events from time to time, just to further ease the process of getting rid of your old crap in favour of lovely new (if gently used) things. The Bunz Flea is one of those events, held at the Gladstone every so often. Artistic and craft vendors come to set up booths of their lovely handmade things, and will even post about items they'd like to trade for ahead of time so that you can be the owner of these items in exchange for your own random crap! So it's just like Bunz, but all centralized to one location and with cute artisanal items. And a bar.

To my extreme joy, a man who makes lovely handmade earrings and pendants was in search of NES games in exchange for his wares. I had been having some emotional trouble in parting with my extra copy of M.C. Kids due to its rarity and general special-ness to my heart, but as soon as I met him I knew he would be the right person to trade it to. He told me about how his mother at home in Newfoundland keeps his NES console so that when he goes to visit in the summer, he can relive his childhood much like my (somewhat shorter) pilgrimmage to Richmond Hill to do the same.

And so, Gavin and I made the trade. He gave me some lovely handmade earrings in exchange.

I also traded a beer for a lovely vintage ombre plant pot, a bag of loose tea leaves for a vintage letterman sweater, a pair of Apple Earbuds for two excellent enamel pins, and some tokens for a “Nasty Woman” patch. Because everyone has to know.

I would recommend the next instalment of this event to everyone! I don't know the exact date but you can find out more and stay tuned by checking out the Facebook event page.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mount Kimbie, Green Beer & Arcade Games

Weekly Update 2017-12: Mount Kimbie pushes music boundaries with their carbonated electronic sounds while I drink carbonated green beer and try to get a little silver ball through a cartoon beer bubble hole.

Music: Mount Kimbie
I found this band while listening to a Spotify Album Radio for BADBADNOTGOOD's album IV, which is a masterpiece in and of itself but also provides excellent suggestions for other musical discoveries. Mount Kimbie is an electronic duo out of England with an interestingly eerie sound. They have some elements of pop mixed with dance beats, but also some weird ambient stuff and sound really pared down at times. I'd say their music is really experimental but somehow always works really well. They even have a song called Carbonated that samples either the sound of soda fizzing in a glass, or something that sounds exactly like that. But I really want to show you the song that got me into them:

It's been a long time since I've made “chlasserole,” probably the easiest and most delicious thing in my cooking repertoire, so this weekend I pretty much ate an entire casserole to myself. It definitely felt right.

A post shared by Chloe Silver (@chloesil) on

I also played my very first live show with TDot Batu on repique, and I have to say I killed it. I definitely made a lot of mistakes, but the parts that I actually knew how to play were solid. And I found five bucks on the ground at the venue, so technically I got paid! Why do I always seem to find money on the ground when I play shows with this band? It's really weird.

I've actually begun a critique session at work with the other two designers in my department. We take an hour every other Friday afternoon to discuss personal work unrelated to EventMobi. There are many benefits to this (including for EventMobi as well). We already work so well together that I thought it might be nice to see how each other work in other media beyond product design (or even just beyond the constraints of EventMobi). Other than the obvious benefits of taking a refreshed look at design, building our critique skills, and improving the pieces themselves, we learn more about each other as people and grow even closer as a design team. Which, in turn, allows us to produce better work. We are a well-oiled team.

Knowing that this critique session was looming actually gave me the motivation to work on the colours and branding of FriendCanoe. Here's a sampling of what I have right now:

Complete with new face empty states from last week! Still needs some work though...

And finally, I really went outside my comfort zone this week and attended the drumming practice of one of the other Brazilian drumming bands in Toronto (yes, there are at least five that I know of!) to see what that was like. They're all really nice and talented. This band is called Bloco Loco, and they play a Samba style of music which is different from TDot Batu's Bahia-based style of Samba Reggae. There are certainly some similarities, but this music includes my new favourite instrument: the tamborim.

It's kind of like a tiny American-style tamborine, but uses a stick similar to a kit brush to hit it to make sound instead of your palm. And there are no little cymbals. I feel like it almost acts as the repique of the Samba band because it has such a high-pitched sound that works really fast above the low beats of the surdos. But alas, I was not skilled enough to try the tamborim (this band is incredibly skillful) so I played segunda (a big surdo that acts as the base beat for the rest of the band to work over). It was awesome but another difference with this style is that all the drums are played over the shoulder, and my drum is HEAVY so I am feeling the pain today. Better stick to a nice, light repique for the time being.

Other than continually studying the new repique parts for TDot Batu this week, I'd like to get some work done for my Chai Mitzvah class. Specifically, I'd like to finish the Shabbat and Passover content of my research into something polished for the book I am making. Eventually, when all the content for all five holidays is done, I'll start thinking about the visuals and layout of the book. Gotta lay the groundwork first!

Random Thought: Green Beer
What is it about St. Patrick's Day that makes us want to drink green beer? I mean, I know the obvious answer: everything has to be green (and sometimes orange) themed for the holiday. Makes sense that far. But for all the beer that some people drink on the holiday, and the amount of food colouring it takes to turn beer the correct emerald shade of green, that's an insane amount of food colouring.

A post shared by Chloe Silver (@chloesil) on

I thought about this as I drank the beer you see above, with so much food colouring in it that it turned my friend's hand green (and he wasn't even drinking green beer – it gets everywhere). There's just something so satisfying about a holiday you can consume, I suppose. I feel much the same way about Passover (which is coming up soon!), a holiday that is closely tied between the story and the foods we eat. I suppose a good way to celebrate a holiday is to internalize it, and what better way to internalize that the literal act of consuming. In any case, let's just say I was reminded of this ONE glass of green beer for many bathroom visits over the weekend. Sorry.

Inspiration: Ice Cold Beer
After a somewhat dizzying first venture to Tilt, Toronto's newest in a slew of arcade-themed bars, I was tricked into a second visit to the place on St. Patrick's Day. I must admit that perhaps the trick is to not become too inebriated before entering the bar, but rather to adjust slowly to all the dazzling lights and sounds so that one can become accustomed to, and perhaps even empowered by all the distraction and finally win that game of Bobby Orr-themed pinball.

But I digress, amogst all the pinball gams and digital arcade games, one reigns supreme over them all. And it's deceptively simple. It's called Ice Cold Beer, and involves two joysticks each controlling one side of a horizontal metal bar. Balancing on the bar is a ball bearing, which two people have to work together to angle properly into the correct hole on the backdrop. As I said before, deceptively simple.

I absolutely love the simplicity of this game. Not only is it deliciously analog, it's so charming I could die. Anyone can understand how it works within the first time playing it, and it's extremely addicting. And, best of all, it's inexplicably art nouveau-themed!

Just after we made it to the 5-hole. When you lose all your lives, the little screen flashes “OOPS”. So charming!

I can't think of a better way to spend my St. Patrick's Day than drinking beer and playing beer-related arcade games with my friends!