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.

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