Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Darius, Bike Lane Shaming & Grow Op 2018

Weekly Update 2018-17: Finding focus while listening to Paris-based producer Darius, shaming car drivers for parking in bike lanes, and the natural beauty found at the Gladstone Hotel's Grow Op 2018.

There was so much beauty at the Gladstone this weekend (and good opportunities for selfies).

Music: Darius
Paris-based producer Darius is the next on my future-funk disco journey of April. The absence of lyrics in his smooth, layered sounds makes for great concentration music. It's not super complex music, which I really like. He can do so much with not a lot of sound (or what seems like not a lot). Listen below:

Favourite tracks include Maliblue, Vanyll and Espoir.

This weekend my family took me to Buffalo for the day to do a bit of shopping and eat at my favourite restaurant ever (Cracker Barrel). I also got to witness a server at a Sonic Drive In Restaurant on roller skates, which was amazing. Yes, I guess they still do that! We also attended a church rummage sale (in Canada) where I found some amazing clothes.

If you read last week's post, you'll have seen how I was able to bike to a Bunz trade with a stock pot strapped to my torso. Well, I traded that stock pot for some amazing curtains, that I have installed in my bedroom window. I am beginning to really love this corner of my room. It's got a huge amount of plants and a cute chair that I sit in to look out the window as I put on my socks in the morning. If only I could knock out the whole wall to make a huge sliding glass door, it would be perfect.

Plants, cute curtains, stained glass; all my favourite things.

This week, I am attempting to get out two pieces of freelance to my clients for a first round of review. I've got some time on Thursday and Saturday, but hoping to get it all out in one evening, as there's not a ton of work to do.

Random Thought: I Parked In A Bike Lane
No, not me. I don't even own a car! But I did find an interesting bicycle-related movement that actually has roots in Toronto - though originally found in a global Facebook Group called Two Wheeled Memes for Bicycle Oriented Teens. As a cyclist, it can be really frustrating to go out of one's way to ride along a street with a dedicated bike lane, only to have to swerve dangerously in and out of car lanes because a car has parked in the bike lane.

It happens quite often in Toronto. So this movement has provided stickers that cyclists (or whomever) are encouraged to put on cars as they encounter them blocking cycling lanes. While I would be much happier if these car drivers realized and/or cared about their actions affecting others, I still feel that this sticker would probably only enrage them further instead of inspiring empathy. I am torn.

I would be happy if the stickers were easy for drivers to peel off, since they are already something of  a loud statement...I'd be interested to get more opinions on this actually. Since most of you readers are my Facebook friends, I invite you to drop me a message and let me know what you think of this.
A post shared by #IParkedInABikeLane (@iparkedinabikelane) on

A post shared by #IParkedInABikeLane (@iparkedinabikelane) on

Inspiration: Grow Op 2018
As is my yearly birthday present to myself, I went to the Gladstone Hotel this weekend to bask in the plant-based art and design that is Grow Op. It's an annual exhibition housed inside the hotel rooms of the Gladstone (similar to January's Come Up To My Room exhibition), comprised of all sorts of exhibits relating to nature, plants, humans and sustainability. And it's gorgeous beyond words. Every year I am amazed at the lovely creations in the rooms and along the hallways.

Crazy perforated images laid over mirror. They made these amazing texture.

Good for selfies too, natch.

I love roosters. They're my Chinese zodiac animal, too.

Tiny images inside these sort of telescopes. You could focus your eye on the image or the real scene outside the window, it was very cool.

A hanging tribe of bees' nests (manmade from beeswax) with a hidden speaker humming the tune of the bees. It smelled and sounded wonderful. I literally stood under this for about five minutes.

This tiny dollhouse had a video playing in the room, but it would only turn on if it sensed a face up close in front of it. It invited voyeurism, which was a bit creepy and intrguing.

This woman filled a tiny room with spider plants, explaining the natural good effects of having them around. She also gave out vials of spider plant babies. I planted my baby in the pot that my other spider plant lives in now.

A lovely hanging cocoon for a person to stand within, become enveloped, and reflect. The quality of the natural light of the room added to the effect.

One of a series of "table settings".

This room was filled with interesting decorations and functional objects upcycled from discarded clothing. Our fast fashion consumerism is becoming quite an issue. I learned that Toronto doesn't even have a proper recycling system for garments.

Green gloves as palm fronds! So cute!!

I loved the blacklight of this room. The glowing boards represent the damage caused by erosion.

I already think of nature as the ultimate portrayal of beauty and creativity, and the human lens of nature-related art is such a lovely thing to be immersed in. Check out more about Grow Op 2018 on their website.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Skylar Spence, Multipurpose Simplicity & Accessible Memes

Weekly Update 2018-16: Skylar Spence delights and makes toes tap with future disco beats, the joy of finding multiple uses for simply-designed items, and memes that are accessible to everyone (especially people who have impaired vision).

In honour of earth day, I present two terrariums (terraria?) I made at a friend's birthday party.

Music: Skylar Spence
Isn't it great when a band you've been meaning to look up turns out to be a band you're already into, with a fresh name change to avoid a litigation from a major cola company? Once running with the moniker of SAINT PEPSI now runs Skylar Spence, a.k.a. Ryan DeRobertis. Confused yet? DeRobertis actually picked the stage name Skylar Spence from Drew Barrymore's character in 1996 film Everyone Says I Love You. I guess I've got some visual research to do.

Skylar Spence (the Brooklyn-based musician) is a lovely crooning future disco dance party. One part Com Truise, one part Android Apartment, one part Macross 82-99. The songs are a little varied in mood, but they all work together to make this very defined type of music, which is what I think future funk/disco is kind of about. I especially liked his 2015 album Prom King.

Favourite tracks include Cash Wednesday and Fiona Coyne. 

I know this is a little dumb but I realized my hair is long enough to french braid for the first time since I first cut it short (seven years ago?) so I taught myself to french braid. It's amazing what you can learn on the internet these days, I honestly thought it looked really complicated but ended up with a pretty neat braid after about five attempts. It's funny that when I look up the hairstyle, it's mostly called a "guy's braid" - ah well, I'll just take that as a step toward a fluid gender understanding in society.

It looks really cool to people who are taller than me (which is most people).

We had some crappy weather last week, which was especially badly timed for my coworkers from Charleston, SC to come and visit Toronto for the first time. It was a great couple of days with them despite the weather, and we ended off the week together at a cool bar in the east end. The real accomplishment here is that I biked home in the pissing rain from the east end, just under 8km. Good workout.

Then on Tuesday, in an even more impressive feat, I biked for an hour straight (10km) completing no less than six Bunz trades after work. I was especially excited that most of the items were consumables (tokens and granola bars) that I can use and then be done with. Another benefit of being so addicted is that it tones my legs!

I also presented a small part of a presentation on accessibility to our Southern coworkers - how to design for accessibility. I don't get many opportunities for public speaking, so this was a welcome moment to brush off the rust.

Finally, after some heavy hemming and hawing at all the failed Chia Pet photos online (there are a lot of them), I caved when I found a chia pet on Bunz. It wasn't my #1 choice (Bob Ross's afro is begging to sprout some chia seeds!) but it would have to do. I procured a lovely Uncle Si of Duck Dynasty fame, and elected to grow seeds all over his face, hat, and illustrious beard. This is his look after about five days of growth.

I like the sprouts coming out of his eyes :)

I kind of spaced on my post this week because it was my birthday! So I don't think I'll be able to accomplish much before...tomorrow when I write my next post. I'm slightly upset with myself that I let it go this long, but at least I stayed sort of on track.

I'll give myself a tiny goal of putting up the new curtains I just got in a Bunz trade. Yay!

Random Thought: Multipurpose Items
I received a rainbow-coloured luggage strap in a Bunz trade about a month ago. I wanted it because it was brightly coloured, and seemed vaguely useful to me. I didn't know exactly what I would use it for at the time I received it - in fact I recall a friend seeing it and asking me why I had traded for it - I had no response at the time!

It actually came in super handy when I cycled to trade a stock pot to someone a few city blocks away. I was able to strap the stock pot and lid to my body using the strap - the most protective armour for biking in the city of course. It was a good look. A man even asked me, "what's cooking" as he biked by, which I thought was mildly humorous.

So my random thought is, I wonder if simple objects with an unspecified purpose are best because they can be adaptable to many situations - if you have the creativity to unlock their varied uses. I know that sounds cheesy but I literally had to look at the stock pot every day between the trade agreement and the trade itself to ponder how I would move this pot 2 kilometers on a bike. It didn't fit in my basket or my backpack, so it was a head scratcher for a while.

I hope I find more uses for this strap in the future to justify its rainbow loveliness. Maybe I can make some sort of festival toolbelt out of it for the summer...

Speaking of my learnings in accessibility, I have been noticing lately that there is one thing in life that I enjoy thoroughly, that would be entirely inaccessible to me if I were to ever go blind. There is currently no accessible alternative to enjoy this part of life, it simply doesn't exist for the blind. And it would be so easy to make accessible, too!

What is it? It's memes. I know they're silly, but they bring an undeniable amount of joy into the lives of many people around the world, are easily consumed (and relatively easily created), and are just plain fun. I have spoken of the merits of Wholesome Memes before on my blog, so I really believe they have something to offer everyone. And so, I present the inspiration of the week:

A screenshot I took of an awesome post in a Facebook group I belong to, called Sounds Like You Think You're Not Like Other Girls But OK

It'll take about a paragraph to properly explain the image above, so here goes:
  1. This comic is fully accessible to screen readers (which are robots that read text off the screen for people who can't see it) - you can see that comic strips are inaccessible to blind people without this description
  2. The description, written painstakingly by the OP, is very, very well written.
  3. The content of the comic is cheeky and entertaining in explaining internalized misogyny (something I am trying to unpack within my interactions with others who think this way)
Here's the comic description pasted as live text so screen readers can pick it up (and so you can read it comfortably, too!):
Image description: three-panel comic in primarily light pink and blue
1: a man and woman lying apparently naked in bed. Man says, "you know, you're not like other girls"
2: close up of girl with a more cartoonish expression of displeasure, e.g., small, red, squinting eyes and long, straight line for a mouth
3: girl sliding further under the blanket with the same expression, saying "I've made a huge mistake"
And in another group:

Tag yourself as things I miss from my childhood. From, avocadomin. [I'm trialing transcribing my memes to make them more accessible. Please send a message if I can improve this in any way.] 
Six images in a 3x2 grid on a white background. Descriptions are from left-right, top-to-bottom.
The first is a photo of lunchables with the title "lunchables" and caption "looking like a snacc [three twinkly heart emojis], likes cute lunch dates, little bit salty sometimes."
The second is a photo of a swing set with the title "swings" and caption "mood swings, swings both ways, no inside voice."
The third is an clip art image of a blank doll next to a big red question mark with the title "my dad" and the caption "lmao who knows, commitment issues, good at hide n seek."
The fourth is an image of an old 'brick game' hand held with the title "this thing" and the caption "gets very competitive, the cool kid, misses 90s nickelodeon."
The fifth is the molecular structure of serotonin with the title "serotonin" and the caption "happy lil dude, good in social situations, science nerd."
The sixth image is a graph of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels over time with the title "atmospheric CO2 < 400ppm" and the caption "hates hot weather, worries about the future, gives a hoot, doesn't pollute."
Everyone can appreciate these memes!! Now, I wonder how people tag themselves in these images if they need a screen reader, considering this is a type of meme where you "tag yourself" as one of the six options.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Yung Bae, BTZ & Oh Joy Sex Toy

Weekly Update 2018-15: Portland producer Yung Bae takes us on a future-funk disco journey as we explore Bunz' new cryptocurrency and Erika Moen's revolutionary take on sex education through her webcomic series Oh Joy Sex Toy.

Bunz is now a purveyor of their own cryptocurrency - the BTZ. Cute animations explain the transformation from Polyester Studio. Read more in the Random Thought section below.

Music: Yung Bae
I shouldn't be surprised to learn that Yung Bae is Portland-based after seeing this media photo.
I have no words for this.

Spinning and sampling all sorts of musical styles from disco to R&B to funk and my personal favourite Japanese city pop, Yung Bae creates a dance party that just makes me want to wiggle. I guess it's one part very danceable and happy music, one part nostalgia for songs from 70s, 80s and my personal favourite - 90s and 00s music that reminds me of elementary school dance parties. Plus it's fun to guess what songs he samples and mixes together! Take a listen and you'll see what I mean.

Favourite tracks include It's a Party and Ain't Nobody Like You.

Want more? Yung Bae is playing a set in Toronto at the Baby G on July 28.

I have been hemming and hawing about a lot of stuff lately, feeling like I've been in an excuse-making rut. I keep thinking about doing things and then rationalizing that I'm not ready yet because x-y-z. Looking back on the past year or so, pretty much every time I have decided to say "fuck it" and jump into something before I thought I was ready, it has worked out in my favour. This is the first time I am really realizing that what they say is true - you'll never be 100% ready to do anything, so just do it. I know it sounds so obvious, but it didn't really sink in until I saw it in a meme group last night. Pathetic, I know. Anyway, I learned from it.

As French author André Gide said, On ne découvre pas de terre nouvelle sans consentir à perdre de vue, d'abord et longtemps, tout rivage. Or in English, One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore. I'm beginning to accept the fact that new experiences sometimes scare the shit out of me, but I have been overwhelmingly successful at throwing myself into things without overthinking them and I need to remember that!

Specifically, we had a pretty successful Dungeons & Dragons session last week in which I showed off my high accuracy with a longbow, and I checked out OCAD's Sunshine Eaters exhibition before it closes this Sunday. (You still have time and you should go!)

Shary Boyle's work is so beautiful.

Last but not least, we welcomed a new roommate to the Noodle this weekend - meet our new fluffy boy Ario Speedwagon (or Ario for short).
He is a furry boy and I love him.

This was within ten minutes of Erika meeting him!

The true accomplishment here goes to my roommate Erika, who said she was going to get a dog, and then went out and got one. She did the research and has been putting in the time this week to train Ari and build their bond together! I am just the cool aunt this time around, but I hope to pick up her methods for when I eventually get my own dog.

The weather is (sort of) getting nicer which means it's almost time for Jane's Walks - my favourite series of free walking tours in the city! I'd like to see what's being offered this year and make some picks for the weekend. It's pretty far off (May 5-6) but some walks require reservation, and I just plain can't wait to see what's going down this year.

I'll also be visiting my parents on the weekend to do another workthrough of all the crap we have in our house, for Bunz, donation or our upcoming Garage sale.

Random Thought: Bitcoins and BTZ
Like many others, I have been waving to this trend of cryptocurrency as it passes by. It's not that I think it will ever fully fade away, but I suppose I'm not quite ready to dive into it with my wallet before I truly understand how it works and see a drop in volatility. Meanwhile, instead of me searching it out, a cryptocurrency found me. Yes, my beloved Bunz - the barter system of the future - has taken on its very own cryptocurrency. The BTZ (pronounced bits) is a new currency that can be used to even out the value of item-for-item trades, and can be used in the real world at various goods/services establishments around Toronto. One of such establishments is my favourite bar Northwood, which also happens to be the closest bar to my place. On top of that, Bunz has given every user 1,100 BTZ to start off - which is about $11 worth of real-world goods. I haven't done any trades for BTZ yet, but I am definitely open to the idea. Especially since I already have enough for a free cocktail!

This video explains BTZ.

One definite bonus to the addition of BTZ is that when TTC tokens are phased out in 2019, we won't be left with only tall cans of beer to use as currency. 

Inspiration: Oh Joy Sex Toy
I completed a very worthwhile Bunz trade last week for a couple of graphic novels I have been looking to own for a while. Ever since I visited the sex-positive Portland sex store She Bop last summer and found them on the shelves, I knew these were a very important read.

Erika's husband Matthew Nolan is a recurring character (of course).

Erika Moen's Oh Joy Sex Toy is a revolutionary read that manages to fill in all the gaps (ha-ha) of sexual education that one may have missed along the way in their own journey, while managing to be extremely charming, unapologetic, non-shaming, and just plain interesting to read, no matter what you (think you) know about sex and everything that goes with it. The project began as a webcomic series that Moen still updates weekly, and has now been published in book format (I traded for the first two volumes - I believe there are four total at the publishing of this post).

I suppose I am biased because I already have a soft spot for the comic format, but I think the illustration style and light, celebratory and humourous mood of the project really lend themselves well to soften the stigma around talking about sex that we have developed in the Western world.

I have been hearing about this series for quite a while, many modern sex educators recommend it as required reading (including my favourite Dan Savage of Savage Love). I am about halfway through the second volume and I simply must agree - it's required reading for life.

Check out more about Erika Moen (and buy these books!), or catch her weekly webcomic series - updated every Tuesday.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Softwar, Consumer/Creator Relationships & Winter Stations

Weekly Update 2018-14: The sun is beginning to shine brightly again as the days grow longer and I no longer feel Vitamin D deficient! This week we move softly so as not to miss any beauty. Listening to Softwar while I try to be an active member in my internet community and enjoy some outdoor art at Winter Stations.

A beautiful spring illo by Mary Kate McDevitt (via Portland Lettering Collective).

Music: Softwar
The days are getting longer and I'm feeling the sunshine on my face again. One of the specific electronic genres I have been gravitating toward lately totally matches that vibe - 90s happy house. Softwar is a a duo from Sydney (Myles du Chateau & Jeremy Lloyd) who have been revisiting this merry chapter of music in the last few years. There are very rarely any lyrics beyond hazy, repeated bars of the same unintelligible note sequence, but honestly that's what makes the music so good - for writing, concentrating, or doing repetitive tasks like cleaning. I imagine it would be very good for dancing when one is very drunk and can't handle any sudden changes in music, either. Nice and slow, sunny and breezy music. What else can one ask for?

Favourite tracks include This Time Around, Darker, Believe and One Day.

This week marks my favourite Jewish holiday - Passover. What a way to spring into April, eating tons of matzah balls and beef brisket and potato kugel. And what's even better than all three of the above items were made by my sister, my mother and myself respectively. Yes, my mother is an amazing cook but does not enjoy it as much as her daughters, so we helped out and all made a different part of dinner. It was the first time I ever made kugel:

They're like potato brownies. 

I attended three different kinds of seders this year, which really filled my soul up quite deeply. It was lovely to get a chance to hang out with family and friends that I don't get to see very often. Here's the third “unofficial” Passover dinner last night with my immediate family:

You can see my mother's brisket in the middle - so tasty.

Depending on how good your design eye is, and how long you've been reading my blog, you may notice a few typographic changes. I've been trying to improve little things here and there about the reading experience, and actually had a big aha moment last week. I am really frustrated with how little Blogger has changed in the past few years and how its author-based user interface (my side of the controls) seems to be stuck in a simpler era (2008 A.D.) In this moment of frustration I wondered aloud if Google even supports Blogger anymore, and decided to Google search just that. Give me some answers! Anyway I found some answers: Blogger maintains a highly active Help Forum.

Within about a day of asking my question (about the italics of my blog looking like the screen had just crushed the letterforms sideways), I got several replies, one of which escalated magically somehow to a Google employee who troubleshot and solved my problem for me. So now, you see proper italics!

I'd like to reflect on the seders I attended this weekend and think about how I want to represent them in my Holidays book, and take in some art at OCADU's Sunshine Eaters exhibit. It's pretty close to my office and open until 7:00 on some evenings...and I want to check out Assembly Chef's Hall again for dinner too. Gotta have a full stomach to absorb the beautiful art. I can't wait to check out more of Shary Boyle's art.

We'll be beginning our Dungeons & Dragons campaign at work this week, I'm pretty excited to test out my character. And if all that weren't enough, I'll be roadtripping to Ottawa on Saturday to pick up my roommate's new puppy!

Random Thought: The Consumer/Creator Relationship
I sometimes write abstractly on my blog about a recent hobby I have taken up that's been a growing part of my life. It all started when I joined a Facebook group called Young Urbanists League, which I definitely suggest if you're into new urbanism and/or Toronto culture. Public Facebook groups can often be intimidating places, seemingly over-controlled by members who have too many inside jokes and underhanded references for a new user to ever feel welcome, much less want to make a post themselves.

I mention Young Urbanists League specifically because it created an atmosphere where I felt comfortable to post something, which led to my move from consumer to creator in many other Facebook groups. I know it may seem trivial, but these groups of various topics from human emotions to amateur culinary skills to trains and their enthusiasts (with people from all over the world) have made me feel at once more connected to people who share some of my weird interests, and inspired me to change my outlook on many things. Most importantly, they're actually full of people who don't mirror my opinions and don't make me feel like Facebook is an echo chamber. I've made an effort to see other people's point of view on tons of different things, and it's made me a better person.

I read a statistic somewhere that 90% of social media users are consumers who rarely, if ever, post any content, leaving the remaining 10% creators who provide for the consumers. I have always felt like a consumer throughout my social media journey (I don't count the blog because I write it for myself - consumption) until I joined these groups. I have started to post more and become an active member, which has helped me to strengthen the bond and connection I felt. I give and get advice, learn, ask questions and post photos of food I've made. I've made jokes about the TTC with people from Boston, explained poutine to a European, and I've even invited some of my real-life friends to join and share in these communities as well.

I suppose Reddit is the true, unfiltered version of Facebook groups, but having this interface as a part of Facebook (which I already use to keep in touch with friends) where people don't hide behind usernames is actually a huge bonus in my eyes.

Inspiration: Winter Stations
Outdoor art exhibits are the best. There's something really special about enjoying art in the open air and sky that takes it to a whole new level. Outdoor art is also usually more accessible than indoor art (because there aren't any walls - duh) and is often free of charge. Such was the case for Toronto's fourth installment of Winter Stations - a lovely display of sculptural installations around existing lifeguard stations on Kew Beach. 2018 brought us seven installations that I visited last weekend with some friends. It was a lovely overcast day - great for pictures.

A view of all seven stations (and C.N. Tower!)

A cute little message someone wrote on the installation. Of course I am not for defacing art, but this seemed to fit with the piece's message.

I like taking candid photos.

Pussy Hut by Martin Miller & Mo Zheng

Action shot: skipping stones.

One of the many statues part of the series called Revolution by OCAD University -
Ben Chang, Anna Pogossyan, Amr Alzahabi, Carlos Chin, Iris Ho, Tracee Jia, Krystal Lum, Adria Maynard, Purvangi Patel, Judiette Vu.

Obstacle by Kien Pham - This one was really fun to walk into and be enveloped by.

Wind Station by Paul van den Berg & Joyce de Grauw

Make Some Noise!!! by Alexandra Grieß & Jorel Heid - turn the crank to sound the siren!

As you can see in the photos, this installation brought a lot of people together which was amazing to see. There was even a community piano beside a little beach bonfire that two kids were playing on. So sue me, I took a picture of them, too. It was cute and I had my DSLR.

Learn more about Winter Stations on their website.