Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Hives, Inanimate Feedback & Fake Plants

Weekly Update 2018-21: Working out excessive energy with Swedish rock band The Hives, building a relationship through feedback with inanimate objects (did that sound as weird to you as it did to me?) and fake plants trying to pass as real.

Music: The Hives
I have been listening to this Sweden-based rock outfit since the mid-2000s, and I still have yet to grow sick of them. The Hives produce music that is consistently strong, danceable, well-produced, and just makes me feel good. If you like to shake your empowerment around through music, this is the band for you. From the soul-punching beats to the shout-sung lyrics of frontman Howlin' Pelle Almqvist, their songs are all very, very special to me. I liken the feeling of listening to a Hives song to that of sitting down for a rest at a school dance, only to hear your jam and force your body to shake every last bit of energy you have. The Hives are my jam. And the lyrics are catchy enough to memorize after only a couple of listens. So go ahead:

I recommend literally any song. But Tyrannosauras Hives (their 2003 album) is my favourite.

The Hives are also a large staple of my new Spotify playlist Pop Rock Hammer. More on that below.

This was quite a week of accomplishments! First off, I completed my accessibility audit of my website, and even managed to implement some changes to the homepage to make it fully accessible. I taught myself how to code a skip-to-main-content link so that users with screen readers or limited use of the mouse will be able to skip to the main content of any page without having to tab through the navigation every time. I also added alternative text to all the images, which is great for visually impaired users but also for users who need more context for an image, and also for search engine optimization (so robots know what's in the images, too). I love how inter-related the ideas and principles of accessibility and SEO are.

I also created a new Spotify playlist that I'm pretty proud of already: all the amazing early 2000s indie rock that is simply amazing for expending pent-up energy. Of course my most recommended method for listening and expending is biking - no surprise there. While creating the playlist, I noticed that there seems to be a resurgence in this style of music (fast, loud beats with strong lyrics that verge on yelling but not screamo), so I added some more modern examples as well as some earlier 90s grunge rock to round it out. And of course, it includes a healthy dose of The Hives (which is also a great choice for karaoke, in case you were wondering).

The playlist contains over 150 songs, so there's no shortage if you dig the sounds!

Last Thursday I attended a clothing swap at a co-working space in my neighbourhood called Shecosystem. I was excited to refresh my wardrobe, donate some clothing to people in need, and contribute my admission fee to charity, but I was also interested to check out Shecosystem and get a feel for their impact on the neighbourhood. The space is really cute and they host lots of cool events - I'll be visiting again soon.

On Saturday I attended my first meetup - a hike from Old Mill along the Humber River. It was nice to find an excuse to get outside but my accompanying friend and I agreed that we didn't really think there was anyone we made a connection with. I might try a couple more of the hikes provided by this meetup group, if only for a reason to explore more hiking trails in the city. The weather is so lovely this time of year! It was so lovely in fact that on Sunday, I checked out Sibbald Point beach with some friends. What a lovely beach, only an hour's drive from the city.

And last but opposite of least, I got a new bike!! I am beyond stoked on this and eternally grateful to my father for making this happen for me. Good ol' Bumblebee (my black and yellow early 90s Raleigh Portage) took a spill on that really windy day a couple weeks ago, and has since ridden really strangely and slowly - well, it's because I bent the wheel.

Oh hey - I took the above photo almost exactly a year ago!

With that and the brakes issue and gosh knows what else going wrong with it, we realized that one of the bikes my dad has been collecting from estate and garage sales is actually in perfectly rideable condition. It's super light, has amazing gears and road tires (so I can go much faster), and after riding it around today, I can tell you it rides over streetcar tracks and potholes like a dream. It's actually a Specialized Roadhopper (according to the crossbar), and runs from midnight indigo to plum purple ombré. Check out my aubergine beauty below:

My dad suggested I offer to trade Bumblebee to my local bike shop in exchange for a tune-up on yet-to-be-named [Midnight Plum]. If the bike isn't even worth a tune, I may end up donating it to Bike Pirates (a Queen West bike shop who will use it as a classroom tool to teach people how to fix their own bikes - maybe myself included). 

My goal this week is to accomplish even half the amount of things I did last week. Here goes:

I have another meetup tonight that I am pretty jazzed about. This one is being held at the new location of Biography Design on the hip Geary stretch, and the two creative directors of Dalton Maag (a type foundry in England) are coming to talk about typography use for designers in the modern era.

And of course, this coming weekend marks my first attendance of Anime North, Canada's largest not-for-profit fan festival. I want to check out the schedule and figure out my weekend so I get to see everything I can! I think this weekend is going to take a lot out of me (similar or possibly moreso than a music festival) so I'm going to prepare as such. I also just can't talk myself out of seeing Parquet Courts at the Phoenix on Sunday night (they're currently one of my favourite bands) so it's going to be a tough one.

All I know is there is a panel about my current favourite anime Pop Team Epic so I hope I don't miss that one.

I can't really explain the show so just read this description.

Random Thought: Inanimate Feedback
As mentioned above, I had the amazing fortune to acquire a new bike just as my old bike was reaching its last legs (wheels). Since a bicycle is something I use almost every day and depend on in numerous ways, I have grown an attachment to my old bike. I'd like to build the same relationship with this new bike, which is already proving quite easy in these first 24 hours.

Perhaps best of all, it's so light that I can carry it up the two flights of stairs to my apartment without breaking a sweat. This meant that I would walk by it (and admire it) every time I walked between rooms in my apartment last night. Each time I did this, I had a strange urge to ring its bell. This seemed kind of odd considering I wasn't riding the bike and there was no one to signal to inside my apartment, so I analyzed this feeling.

I think I was looking for a way to begin building a relationship with this inanimate object that I will be depending on for the next long while. We don't know each other very well, so maybe my subconscious wanted to get some open dialogue going. I know this sounds super crazy, but it seems true!

Thinking back to when I spent a couple hours cleaning the bike yesterday, it was a great joy to explore the features and quirks of the bike as I cleaned it. I wonder if the feeling of comfort/attachment caused by familiarizing oneself with an inanimate object is a global one (or just my crazy brain). The act of providing feedback (by ringing the bell or some other form) makes me feel like the bike is communicating back to me, and strengthening the bond.

In user experience design, feedback is meant to do this exact thing: provide comfort in the user by communicating understanding/confirmation of the user's action. One might even go so far as to call feedback design the act of personifying an object or interface; making it more recognizable to a human as a counterpart in the completion of a goal.

I hope this bike marks the start of a beautiful journey together, especially now that the weather is amazing and bike meetups are springing up all over the place.

Inspiration: Fake Plants
Some people have a green thumb and can grow the most beautiful houseplants, my mother and roommate included in such group. I have some real plants of my own that I have managed not to kill, but I am also drawn to the allure of fake plants. I want to be enveloped in greenery, and if some of the foliage is fake (but most of it is real), who will be able to tell?

Am I real or fake?

While I do love fake plants, I find you have to hang them in high places so people can't see them up close to find that they're fake. Otherwise it's pretty easy to tell. 

Actually, the above plant, aptly named The Two Week Vacation, is actually fake. I suppose one way to tell that a fake plant is indeed fake, is to notice its unnatural perfection and lush green colour. Real plants have imperfections (just like real women). 

The story of three men who created a business for slightly browning fake plants that you can buy and fool your friends with:

Slightly imperfect plants are real and remind me of my nature and humanity. It's an amusing juxtaposition that we would try to impersonate this detail in plants that are, at the end of the day, still fake. But why not! There are worse things to spend your money on, surely. 

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