Friday, October 30, 2015

Weekly Update: Busy Bee

As you well know, even when life gets busy, I always make time for a weekly update. This week has been incredibly busy, with a crazy amount of work and social stuff happening. So it's a little late, but at least I didn't hit the Sunday mark! So here goes:

Music: Long Distance Runners
My friend is an avid listener of CBC radio 2 (which is a nasty habit that I think I'm going to pick up soon). It's full of new Canadian indie music, which has been missing from my life as of late. I've been very invested in SoundCloud, which doesn't do well for indie music.

Coming out of Newfoundland, Long Distance Runners are a psychedelic/rock mix that is really unexpected and cool to hear from our east coast. I haven't heard much, but they have three albums under their belt and I hear that they tour Toronto pretty often so I'll be on the lookout for them.

I realized that it's been taking me so long to finish this Skillshare class because I've been losing interest in it as I keep going. So I am making the executive decision to put it on hold and try something else. There are lots of hand-lettering classes, so I might try one of those next.

I also found that you can use squash as an alternative to tomato sauce, which sounds super delicious. My search inspired me to add that and other recipes to an on-going google doc of recipes. I think it will be good to keep them all in one place, and to make shopping lists to prepare for each week.

As I have mentioned before, I love finding new music through DJ mixes on Soundcloud. I posted a link to a great mix by Harrison, but it was unfortunately not accompanied by a track listing. This weekend I'll be Shazamming each track to the best of my ability, and posting it here. If I feel confident enough about it, maybe I'll send the link to Harrison himself to see if I'm right. Oh, the ease of communication that SoundCloud provides.

I'll also be attending the Taves Consumer Electronics Show this weekend! Yep, I finally received my prizes from Startup Weekend in September.

Random Thought:
One of the prizes I also received was a DataWind tablet. Apparently this tablet sells for $35, and is marketed in third-world countries as a cheap way to access the internet. I suppose a lot of people around the world (and at home) opt not to own full computers or laptops, but go with portable and cheaper tablets and smartphones. This is all well and good for browsing the internet or checking your email, but what about people like me, who need full computers to create...well, stuff?

I know that Photoshop has a mobile app, and I haven't used it. I don't know a lot of designers who would opt to use the mobile version instead of the full desktop version, but that may just be a source of familiarity. And as mobile apps and phones develop, maybe designers and other creators will find mobile versions to be their weapon of choice (design on the go!). It's an interesting time that we live in.

Inspiration: Brandon Van Lare
I am surprising myself these days as I become a more active member in the Toronto Rave Community group on Facebook. I originally joined in the hopes of finding cheap concert tickets, and was quickly annoyed by the dumb posts about girls and drugs. Then, as I mentioned last week, there was a big hubbub about the stolen coats at the Disclosure concert, which was followed by a massive act of goodwill as multiple people in the group offered up their old winter coats for free.

This week, I was again inspired. This time, a poster designer named Brandon Van Lare was plying his wares by displaying a work-in-progress of the first poster in his series chronicling the last concerts at the Guvernment (a downtown Toronto venue that is now closed). Check it out below:

It's DeadMaus! The style reminds me of Shepard Fairey mixed with a bit of Alphonse Mucha or something. I can't wait to see how the final turns out.

But the important thing that I want to impart here is that a lot of people in this group (which I previously thought was the dumbest thing ever) are really kind-hearted and very talented. Inspiration truly comes from the weirdest places.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Weekly Update: Disclosure

Music: Disclosure
The day finally came. I got to see Disclosure live! And front and center of course. They were so spot on and the acoustics were so good, it was ideal. Not to mention the insane light show. And as you can see below they each had music 'stations' with all of their instruments around them. I had never seen something so crazy. Especially for an electronic act?! Okay, just watch this. It's an excerpt from When A Fire Starts To Burn.

The light show was SO COOL, I have so much inspiration for my Processing stuff. And it looked like it was all very doable in Processing, since it was flat colours and shapes (which Processing loves). Amazing.

I rode my bike to the store and got some groceries on Sunday. It was awesome. I used my bike lock for the first time, so I know I can do that. Now it's just those dang busy Toronto streets I have to contend with. 

And why did I ride my bike to the store, you may ask? Because I made a simple dinner from a recipe from Sobeys. Only five-ish ingredients and one pot! Too bad the main ingredient was tomato sauce. I wish there was an alternative to tomato sauce that was marginally the same. What about, like, mashed squash? Is that a thing? 

Alternatives to tomato sauce will be something to look up this week, along with two more easy recipes. I want to cook on Sunday again. I'd also like to buy a pork shoulder to make some pulled pork. Because it's been a while since I've done that!

I also didn't get a chance to finish Joshua Davis stuff, so I'll be attempting to finish that on Sunday. There's a lot more left than I thought, though, so I may not. But I want to finish it soon or take a break from it and go on to the Processing video stuff.

Random Thought:
Speaking of the Disclosure show, it was at the Direct Energy Centre in the CNE, which I did not know was a music venue. The acoustics were awesome, the floor area was big and airy (probably from the middle backwards, anyway), and the feat of putting on a big light show was definitely more reachable in a space like that, with lots of big doors to fit equipment through quickly.

I really didn't like watching uber-famous musicians play shows before, because you could never get close enough to musicians to really feel their presence (which was still the case here – they were so high up!), but the space was impressive for what it was. Even in spite of the fiasco (read below), I would still probably go there for another show. But only in warmer weather, when I know I can be close to the front. The room is so big that it's probably pretty hard to see the band from the back, especially behind so many girls on their boyfriends' shoulders. 

Another Disclosure one for you: the jacket fiasco. You may have seen on CityNews(!) that for a crowd of 10,000 attendees, only six people were staffing the huge coat check. Bedlam ensued, people broke into the coat check area, and a huge amount of coats were stolen from people who paid $4 for coat check. Not cool.

The Toronto Rave Community Facebook group, usually full of posts about 'hot' girls at shows and how to do drugs, was this time full of posts from people offering their old winter coats to strangers for free. They had heard about what had happened to these poor people and realized that they might not have the money to replace these winter coats. Especially with last winter being so cold, I can understand why they felt that these people were in need.

Of course, it would have been better if the coats had never been stolen in the first place, but I am sure those people will get what's coming to them eventually.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Weekly Update: Not Miniature!

Music: Harrison
As I probably mentioned before, I am in love with SoundCloud. I use it to find so many amazing artists that just aren't big enough to share their sounds anywhere else. One of the many awesome things about the product is the extended DJ mixes. They are an exponential way to find new music (a newfound artist for each track on a mix), and I am currently obsessed with the Harrison's guest mix for Plastic Platform. It has the perfect mix of soul and dance and house music. I love every song. And it ends with a sped-up version of Washed Out's Feel It All Around.

There is no track listing, so I will be Shazam-ing every song and trying my luck that way. I'd also like to find more mixes by Harrison, which is proving harder than I thought. Sometimes, artists are so small that their music is almost impossible to find!

Today, I did the unthinkable and sold my limited-edition Starbucks Barista shirts on Kijiji. As you may know, every once in a while Starbucks will award its baristas with a t-shirt they can wear in place of the uncomfortable collared shirts that are the usual uniform. All the cool shirts seem to have been from pre-2010 (way before my time), so I was happy to sell three shirts for $50, considering I will never wear them again. Now a new barista can gain some street cred with some shirts from 2013 and 2014, even if she was just hired.

I have been riding my bike as much as I can lately, to get used to riding at night, on uneven ground, and going very fast to feign keeping up with traffic. I found a wonderful WikiHow article on riding one-handed (to be able to indicate turning hand signals), and scored a cool red light for the back of my bike that unclips easily (so as not to be stolen).

I've been meaning to do a product analysis of SoundCloud, which will be happening on Saturday. I am also going to do a bit more of the Joshua Davis Skillshare tomorrow night, and since I don't have much left to do, I'll be finishing it on Sunday. I'd also like to take some time to find some simple recipes with fewer than six ingredients, and I'd like to try making one of them for dinner on Sunday.

Random Thought:
It's that time of year again. Halloween is upon us, and events everywhere are littered with 'fun-size' chocolate bars. I was eating a fun-size Kit Kat yesterday and thinking about how it compares to the big version. I am a big fan of miniaturized versions of things, but never really thought of fun-size chocolate bars as miniatures of their bigger counterparts. Is it because these smaller bars have been ubiquitous for so long that we have begun to disassociate them from the big versions?

That may be the truth of it in some part, but I realized that a true miniaturization of a Kit Kat bar would actually still contain four sticks and remain the same shape as the big version. And yet, the fun-size bar is basically just a cut quarter of the full bar. It's not miniaturized, just less. Same with a Snickers. It's actually the same height and width, only not as long. I wonder if this is because mouth feel and texture relate to ratio of size and taste, and if that is something that chocolate bar manufacturers take into account. How about those mini M&M's? The tiny ones. Those are miniaturizations of big M&M's, unlike the smaller packages of M&M's that individually are the same size as the big version.

So here's the true test. Compare a BITE of each fun-size bar with its bigger counterpart. Kit Kat, Snickers, Coffee Crisp, and Smarties are all identical. Therein I give you: not miniature.

Why is it that I am surrounded by people at concerts who are taking crazy long videos in portrait format? I mean, obviously you should be enjoying the show through your own damn eyes, but the video you're producing is going to be terrible because computer and television screens are not portrait layout. They're landscape. Every day I see another dummy filming something without turning their phone 90 degrees. It's so simple and it makes me so mad!

I should note here that it is completely acceptable to film Snapchats in portrait mode. If the final outcome is going to be viewed on a phone, the ONLY device that can be turned to suit its content, you may film in the orientation that is best suited to the content. I even saw an ad for it on the streets of New York this weekend.

I don't know what this ad is for, but it seems like a public service announcement to me. Go90!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Weekly Update: Battles

Music: Battles
I had the pleasure of seeing a New York-based experimental rock band called Battles on Thursday night. What a show! I had been following the since 2007's Mirrored, and always loved the second track, Atlas. Being able to hear it live was nothing short of wonderous. And even though they're the type of band to use gibberish and made-up words as lyrics, everyone was singing along anyway. My only gripe was that I had arrived early to be at the front and was met with a drum kit right in my face. The earplugs I had with me were decidedly not going to save me from a bass drum being smacked just inches from my nose, so I was forced to move back. But still, a great show with lots of energy. Check out the video I snapped of Ice Cream below:

The bike has been ridden (twice!) and Joshua Davis' second Skillshare has begun. I love his crazy personality, it really makes the lesson all the more watchable. And since this lesson uses Processing to make animations as opposed to static sketches, I am loving the hypnotic patterns I've been creating. Here's a gif!

I'll be doing some more of the Skillshare class tonight and tomorrow, since I'm going to New York on Thursday! I'll also be riding my bike tonight since this is the only chance I'm going to get this week.

I've been thinking that I'd like to at least start some experimental visualizations to music with Processing. It may not be the best tool to use, but at least I know the coding language and it is possible. Then, after that, I might try to find software that is more of an industry standard. All this will be highly related to the Skillshare, so it's coming up after that.

Imagine if the gif above was synchronized to a weird drum beat! So cool.

Random Thought: The New TTC Streetcar

I was riding on one of the new streetcars the other day (how fun!) and I was lucky enough to experience an enlightening social phenomenon. While these new streetcars are quite a bit larger than their old dusty counterparts, rush hour cannot be vanquished so easily. And so the streetcar was packed. As you may or may not know, a rider can enter the streetcar at any door (at least on a proof-of-payment route such as this one), and pay at a machine by inserting their token or tapping their presto card and receiving a paper transfer in return. But as I said, this was a sardine-style streetcar. As people got on, they could not hope to manoeuvre their way to the other side of the streetcar where the payment machine lives.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Why is the payment machine on the opposite side of the streetcar from the door? Everyone without a Metropass has to use it to pay! But it actually alleviates a blockage at the entrances of the streetcars, and allows for the wonderful phenomenon to which I referenced one short paragraph ago. A man got onto this packed streetcar with a token in hand (one of my favourite things to witness – he didn't have to dig into his pockets or man-purse while elbowing other riders), and simply asked the man closest to him to pass the token along to a rider near the machine. I believe about four or five riders assisted the man by passing along the token, and subsequently passing back the transfer. It was a wonder to behold. Everyone was smiling as he got his transfer back, and if there had been room to move our arms, we might have broken out into applause.

Isn't it wonderful when design (intentionally or not) allows for the opportunity to make our lives better by forcing us to interact with each other? Team building exercises on transit! Maybe I'm onto something.

Inspiration: Augmented Reality Colouring Books

Disney has created a new experience in our favourite childhood activity. While kids these days seem to be more interested in screens and digital toys, Disney's team in Zurich notes that colouring books are one of the best ways to ignite a child's creativity at an early age. So, how do we get kids interested in what now seems like a boring, drab activity without any screens or digitization? We add screens and digitization!

From FastCo:
As a child fills in a cartoon character on the page, the app—making use of the camera on a smartphone or tablet—scans the colors and patterns they create to fill in a 3-D animated model of that same character within the app. Since a drawing is 2-D, the algorithm can also intelligently extrapolate patterns and color to parts of the 3-D model otherwise unrepresented in the drawing—for example, by coloring an elephant's back the same color as its front.
What a great idea – and something I would want to use, too! I just wonder what happens if you colour outside the lines. Maybe you want to give the elephant a sword or a lollipop! The technology will have to catch up to our imaginations (which might be impossible).