Thursday, December 26, 2019

AnTgry, Weekly Updates & Wheel of Lunch

Weekly Update 2019-52: The last one of the year! Listening to Normandy-based city pop from AnTgry, reflecting on four years of weekly updates and removing the indecision of picking a place to go for lunch.

Music: AnTgry
It honestly wouldn't be the last post of the year if I didn't end with city pop. AnTgry, aka Antoine Grenet, is a new-age producer from Normandy, France. I am loving his 2017 album Road Trip with each of its songs (Palm Road, Honey Road, Sunset Road etc) feeling like funky theme music for a level of a chibi racing game (a la Leon's Bird World). I am loving all the amazing city pop coming from all around the world, and AnTgry's particular french flavour is really getting me. It's sort of a mix between vanilla Japanese city pop and Daft Punk circa 2002.

I caught up! Yes, I finally caught up to my blog the last week of the year. This was really the time to catch up, I suppose. Yep, this year has been more of a struggle to keep up with posts, but that's just because I've been really busy socially and professionally. I feel like my heart is more full at the end of this year than it has been in past Decembers, and I cherish that.

More Christmas parties this week, it was nice to hang out with my band and participate in the Secret Santa at work - Dan on my team was my Secret Santa and he got me a really cool adult-looking set of salt and pepper grinders. Siobhan, who works in support and is also his girlfriend, hand drew the card for me which I really appreciated :) She got him the job here and has also become more involved with some of my projects...I think they're so cute together!

The Winter Solstice Parade was wonderful this year. Such a joy to stroll through the streets of Kensington Market with marching bands, lanterns, and beautiful light-up costumes. And it all ended with a beautiful burning of this year's effigy: the sun.

We've got the big band Christmas party this Friday and family hangouts on Sunday - I bought little ugly sweater cookie kits to make! Since I haven't done much in the way of specific Christmas activities I hope this will suffice.

And on Saturday night I'm going to the hockey game with my dad! They always do a little something fun at Christmastime games - maybe they'll dye Carlton red and green or something.

Random Thought:
I can't believe it's been five straight years of weekly updates. I always felt in the back of my mind that if it got to be too much work and I wasn't getting anything out of it anymore, that I would quit writing. And I'll be honest; I did feel that way a bit this summer when I was about six weeks behind.

It was a bit of a struggle finding the motivation to keep writing for a while, but the joy and opportunity for self reflection continually outweigh the time it takes to write a post. Beyond that, in the same way as playing drums does, I find writing to be a healthy outlet for creativity and self expression.

Small goal setting has always been easier to achieve through writing, and it's something I'd definitely lose track of without this blog. I find there aren't enough appropriate moments to celebrate personal wins in life, so I try to do that here and pay respect to the hard work and growth I've achieved in my adult life. Even if it is just the achievement of perfecting my own lasagna recipe.

I plan to keep writing into 2020 and make it six years of weekly updates. Thanks for reading!

Inspiration: Wheel of Lunch
While the neighbourhood of Liberty Village has grown on me since I started working at Vena, I still keep my original opinion that there are no good lunch places. They're all too bougie and overpriced as we witness the winds of gentrification in full swing. I'm seeing the replacment of a $5 sandwich at a mom-and-pop place with a $12 open-faced flatbread (read - one less piece of bread in this sandwich) at a bougie one-off restaurant that only serves five items.

On top of that, the cortex of food establishments only really starts around Atlantic and Liberty, a 12-minute walk from my office. This creates a hefty motivator to stay indoors (or worse, order food from UberEats). It also means that I have no idea what restaurants there are around me, and it seems to be a common problem of deciding where to go for lunch in one's neighbourhood - especially when there are multiple indecisive attendees. May I hereby present, the Wheel of Lunch:

Simply enter your location and radius preference, and the wheel will offer several local choices based on Google Maps and online reviews. Better yet, it can even randomly pick an option for you! Then, either go there, or collectively decide you all hate that option and pick another from the wheel. It's foolproof!

Whether you're a homebody (or workbody) who doesn't know what's good in your neighbourhood, or just can't make a decision on an empty stomach, give the Wheel of Lunch a spin.

Check out the Wheel of Lunch.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Altar, iPhone vs Android & Clean Festival Posters

Weekly Update 2019-51: Spotify's Altar playlist curates those good-good Soundcloud electronic sounds, my latest leap across the line between iPhone and Android and a well-organized music festival poster (almost) offers more hype than any band could.

Music: Altar
Since May of this year, Spotify has really stepped up its electronic music game with a curated playlist called Altar. Digging into some of the indie pits more commonly found on Soundcloud's dubhouse and trance, Spotify is finally starting to scratch my itch for weird, genre spanning electronic music. Updated weekly with over six fresh hours of sound, I am really enjoying the collections.

The playlist was launched in May with a curation takeover by Four Tet during its first two weeks. I try to make a point of following musicians I like, and absolutely adore the ones that take the time to create playlists of what they listen to. Even after the Four Tet takeover, Christie Driver-Snell, Editor for Dance Music at Spotify and her team continue to produce a great playlist that keeps me in touch with my Soundcloud years.

I was finally able to enjoy myself at this year's holiday party since I didn't have to perform. So instead, I got to hang out and get wine drunk with Matt while we tried to locate all the finance people to brush shoulders with to better secure him an interview in their department. We also took some fun photo booth photos with my development team:

I couldn't believe Adrienne was doing coatcheck at the party totally by chance?!

Early the next morning came our most current estate sale, spanning two days of giving a beautiful collection of corningware to a good home (among other items). As always, no one can ever imagine how much stuff you can store in a small home until it's all out in the open and individually priced. Considering this, I think we managed to rehome quite a good amount of items.

Ray showed up for a visit! Here's my dad drying the snow out of his hair with paper towel. BFFs!

And in between, we celebrated Larissa's birthday with some Cosmic Bowling. She believes that there are two kinds of bowlers: those who start out poorly and get better as the night progresses, and those who go the opposite way. I am definitely in the latter. But at least I wore the right pants (totally by chance!)

The holiday festivities continue on with a mini Christmas party with my band, and the secret santa gift exchange at my work.

My family is celebrating Hannukah early before my sister dips to Sudbury, only a day early. And we'll reunite on the last day of Hannukah when she gets back so it all works out.

I'm hoping to hang out with Emilia and attend Kensington Market's Winter Solstice Parade this year, making it a yearly tradition. They burn a nice, big effigy of something different every year, and I must say I am quite drawn to the watching of something big burn to the ground (in a safe, controlled environment).

And gosh darn it, I am going to finally catch up to my blog schedule in the last gosh darn week of 2019. This is my plea to myself.

Random Thought:
It's been two or three weeks of using an Android phone (the second time around), and I have to say the transition has been pretty seamless. The only thing I still can't stand is the fingerprint sensor being on the back of the phone, having to pick it up to unlock it gets old quick. But my battery lasts two full days on one charge which is amazing, and my camera is fabulous - specifically at night which I love.

So many people gripe about the issues and differences between iPhone and Android, and having now used both I think they really aren't as different as people may think. Maybe it's because I had already grown accustomed to Google apps like Keep, Photos and Maps on my iPhone, but it didn't take long to get used to the Google Pixel at all.

My only disappointment is the fact that while Android boasts customizability to an extent that Apple shudders at, not everything can be customized to the degree that I would prefer with a visually analytical mind. Apple (mostly) makes everything pixel-perfect, but nothing can be customized. It's quite a crossroads.

Read my 2016 post on my first foray into Android, why I ultimately switched back to iPhone. Now, three years later, I guess Android finally stuck.

Inspiration: Outside Lands Festival Poster
I'm trying to keep tabs on the evolution of typography through music festival one point, they were the most exciting thing I'd read all year - now I read the news. I last spoke about them at some length in a post from 2016, and I've recently found one that's doing something different.

The hierarchy is so strong, I really have to hand it to Outside Lands' graphic designer for creating what may be the cleanest festival poster I have ever seen. Undoubtedly, the bar on clean is set quite low as most festival poster designs fall within one of two categories.

The first involves pushing the experimental type style evolved from the 1960s psychedelic movement. While low on legibility, it does evoke a certain beauty.

This is a real festival poster. Where to...begin?

The second, less excitingly, recreate the classic "wall of text" that is extremely low on readability but at overall glance gives that good-good feeling of a festival with "so many bands I love, I can't keep track and I'm delightfully overwhelmed". That's the feeling you want to evoke while looking at a festival poster to make it memorable enough to get viewers to actually purchase a ticket. 

Okay, so now you've seen what else is going on in the music festival poster design world. So back to the Outside Lands poster.

The first thing I notice is that it's more mobile friendly than the other two posters. The typography is bigger (and doesn't bother with more than two levels of hierarchy with bands, which is respectful to musicians and their fans) which also reduces visual clutter. It reads like a fancy spreadsheet and I have mad respect for that. Scan across to see more bands for this specific day, or scan down to skip to the next day.

The white on navy blue is such a freakin' breath of fresh air, finally a poster that looks sharp and passes accessible levels of colour contrast for my poor, screen-burned eyeballs.

Though as I mentioned earlier, this bar is set so embarrassingly low that I would like to get on the lookout for a poster that does an even better job of information design and accessibility. Hey, maybe I'll find something worth attending in the long run.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Flight of the Conchords, User Research Notes & Tech Worlds

Weekly Update 2019-50: Legendary New Zealand novelty band Flight of the Conchords, a new way to record user research notes and reliving the tech worlds we grew up in through interactive data visualizations.

Bret and Jemaine are still at it, 20 years later.

Music: Flight of the Conchords
This one is admittedly late to the party, though since this 2000s New Zealand band is touring again in 2019 I suppose it's relevant to talk about them. And so I shall. Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement are two goofy, awkward and extremely talented multi-instrumental musicians, hailing as "the almost award-winning fourth-most-popular folk duo in New Zealand". With hits like "I Told You I Was Freaky" "Hiphopopotamus vs Rhymenoceros" and "Prince of Parties", they manage to make a catchy song out of any genre you throw at them. Big props to their too-soon cancelled HBO show of the same name as well.

I can't believe the International Day of People With Disabilities has come and gone. What an insane amount of planning has gone into this event by so many people at work, and I can't believe what a huge success it was. Our morning accessibility panel was emotional and personal, setting the tone for the day as something to be celebrated and empathized with, the keynote with Jason Mitschele was inspiration and a delightful treat, and our client case study focused on what Venanites have done in conjunction with the American Foundation for the Blind. But most importantly, our new Vena Accessibility Team #va11y is on its way to becoming an official employee resource group. I am so proud of how far we've come, and so excited to bring more accessibility topics to the forefront of Vena's 2020 year.

I designed our new #va11y stickers as well :)

This was also the last class of my fourth semester at BrainStation. This was such a fun class to spend my Thursday nights with, not to mention one of my star pupils Tanya taking the class and editing the slides during her dayjob working at BrainStation. She is a powerhouse!

YAS class!

I've also managed to get through almost all the marking in only four days (my record) so I'm sure I'll finish it all within the week. 

If that wasn't enough, this Sunday was my university friends' Secret Santa. I can finally reveal that Erika was my giftee, and is now the new owner of her very own pair of fish flops (as she requested).

...among other, less fish-related items.

Vena's holiday party is this Friday, potentially my final reason to get dressed up fancy for the season. I'm bringing Matt along in the hopes that he can brush shoulders with some of our finance department and maybe even get a job with me, which would be super cool.

Beyond that, my family is running our last estate sale of the year up in North Toronto. I have taken a preliminary look around the house and noticed that both the previous occupants liked to work with their hands. A plethora of tools and woodworking equipment are accompanied with painting and stained glass craft supplies, so they seem like they were cool people. And now the crafts can be passed onto someone new!

Saturday night Larissa is having a bowling night for her birthday, so I hope the rest of her present arrives on time.

Random Thought: User Research Notes
My co-designer at work has been out sick (so sad) which means I've been filling in for her by facilitating user testing sessions with a product she designed. This has been a huge learning experience for several reasons, spanning throughout her work in the project. I realized pretty soon into the testing that I didn't have a ton of insight into the work she'd been doing, so there were definitely things that were new to me. These came out of the results of the testing, so it'll make for an interesting discussion when she's back in the office.

Additionally, the sessions were booked with two interviewees at a time, which I've never done before. Usually you only want one interviewee at a time to decrease chance of group bias and for the facilitator(s) to focus on one user at a time, but time is tight on this project. While a bit unorthodox, it's been interesting to see how the pairs influence each other in good ways, like helping each other to explain their issues or delights about the test.

I also got to see a new method for collecting results, courtesy of our design manager Sam.

An alternative to the classic rainbow spreadsheet method.

I also have none of the bias associated with testing something that one has put creative energy into. I have no problem "killing the darlings" so to speak, which makes me a more partial interviewer. This has made me wonder if we should bake testing by non-creators into our future processes. It adds an interesting flavour to the test.

Inspiration: Tech Worlds
In 2017, The Washington Post published a really cool article on their website about what "tech worlds" we grew up in. It's interesting to take a look back at how much technology has changed (especially over the last 15-20 years) with these interactive data visualizations.

The really special element is in the dropdown to select your birth year at the top of the article, which then adjusts the content and data to be relative to your age and birthday. This makes all the information feel more personal and relatable to the reader's life, which is a really cool way to personalize the experience.

Plus, it's fun to look back and feel nostalgic about my first "dumb" phone or when my dad first got a computer for the household and started using eBay. I've always appreciated that he was quick to jump on the home computer/internet train, it absolutely shaped my life and put me on the path to the career and passions I've chosen. 

Check out the article for yourself and relive your past tech fancies.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Phoenix, Best Before Dates & Mouldy Art

Weekly Update 2019-49: Dramatic, dripping indie pop beats from Phoenix, not taking best before dates seriously and the beauty in mouldly art.

Mouldy peach by Kathleen Ryan.

Music: Phoenix
I literally had to go double-check that I hadn't already written about my favourite band outta Versailles, France. Phoenix is the indie power pop band of your dreams, with every song on each record becoming an earworm in its own right. I've been lucky enough to see them twice, most recently with an amazing stage I will never forget:

Closeup of lead signer Thomas Mars singing and lying on the stage floor (mirrored).

The band projected their light show onto the floor of the stage, with a gigantic mirror tilted to an angle to reflect the stage floor, the projections and the band. It was insanity.

Music-wise, they use a mix of rock and synth sounds to produce some powerful rhythms, often with big, dramatic buildups to some kind of musical epiphany. This is most notable on Love Like a Sunset from 2009's Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and the fade from Drakkar Noir into Chloroform on 2013's Bankrupt!. This is a band that loves the drama and gives it 1100% live onstage. And as a bit of juicy gossip: lead singer Thomas Mars is married to Sofia Coppola (American screenwriter, director, producer, and former actress, as well as the daughter of filmmakers Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola).

Start with Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, and then go in any direction.

I hadn't cooked a real meal in a little while, so this past weekend I made a cornbread chilli casserole. It was freaking fantastic, definitely adding it to my roster.

I used this recipe.

The only crazy thing was that I needed flour - I don't keep it around the house since I never bake. So I took my clean, empty glass jars and my 1-cup dry scoop to Bulk Barn and did two cool things:

  • I had my jars weighed at the front counter, then filled them, then only paid for the weight of the items inside (no plastic bag waste!)
  • I used my 1-cup scoop (with a plastic bag around it) to measure exactly the flour I needed for my recipe (no food waste) - this was a random thought from my blog post from 2016
I know I had to use a plastic bag to keep the scoop from contaminating the bin, but to be fair I had already used all my glass jars for other items before I finally found the flour in the store, so I would have needed a bag anyway. I would like to think further about how cleanliness and eco-friendliness can play better together at Bulk Barn though. I still think the stores should change their metal scoops to some kind of measuring cup/scoop thing with multiple measurements so people can measure without having to bring their own potentially contaminating scoops to the store.

I can't believe my cousin Michelle is getting married this weekend. I grew up with her, so I still remember when she was a little kid (like me). I couldn't be happier for her and Sam, her amazing husband-to-be, plus they're getting married right in the heart of downtown at Steamwhistle Brewery, where I've never been before.

All of this makes me realize there's not much time before my sister herself gets married next summer. They grow up so fast :')

This may be my biggest week at Vena so far - with the culmination of all our hard work and preparation for the International Day of People with Disabilities and the revelation of #va11y, Vena's accessibility team. I have been going a little crazy keeping track of all the details for this full-company event, not the least of which being that we have to create a completely new event space out of a part of our office that's used for small impromptu meetings. Our current meeting space is only accessible by a staircase (aka NOT accessible) so we had to be resourceful alongside making sure we won't be too disruptive to people who need to work.

Random Thought: Best Before Dates
Once in a while I am reminded that the world is filled with two types of people:
  1. Those who obey best before dates
  2. Those who take life by the horns (and eat 4-day expired yogurt)
Let me be clear and explain the difference between best before dates and expiry dates - which are not the same, as per the Government of Canada.

A "best-before" date, also known as a durable life date, tells you when the durable life period of a prepackaged food ends. Durable life means the anticipated amount of time that an unopened food product, when stored under appropriate conditions, will retain its freshness, taste, nutritional value, or any other qualities claimed by the manufacturer.

Expiration dates are required only on certain foods that have strict compositional and nutritional specifications which might not be met after the expiration date. Expiration dates must be used on the following products:
  • formulated liquid diets (nutritionally complete diets for people using oral or tube feeding methods)
  • foods represented for use in a very low-energy diet (foods sold only by a pharmacist and only with a written order from a physician)
  • meal replacements (formulated food that, by itself, can replace one or more daily meals)
  • nutritional supplements (food sold or represented as a supplement to a diet that may be inadequate in energy and essential nutrients)
  • human milk substitutes (infant formula)
After the expiration date, the food may not have the same nutrient content declared as on the label. Food should not be bought, sold or eaten if the expiration date has passed. It should be discarded. Aka, don't mess around with expiration dates.

Mock me if you must, but I think best before dates on a lot of food are created through a model of planned obsolescense - the earlier the date, the sooner consumers will have to replenish their supply. Yes, it's one part conspiracy theory and one part eco-minded: I simply cannot stand wasting food. Okay, now that you've had a nice fat chance to judge me, let's look at a line I would never cross.

Even though I poked fun above with yogurt - I actually wouldn't risk dairy products (or meat products) more than a few days past their best before dates. Disclaimer - eat at your own risk! Instead of pushing these rules, I'm getting into a habit of freezing (some) food that I know I won't be able to use before its date. 

But know that there are lines I would never cross. I started to think about my attitude toward best before dates after I watched this video:

Feel free to watch on 2x speed, it's 15min long.

If you ever wanted to know what 60-year-old canned food looks like, know that canned fruit does NOT fare well. Even though the pecans fared quite a bit better than the fried apples, I still wouldn't eat them. 

And on that note...

Inspiration: Mouldy Art
I've been getting into the spirit of food mould as art lately. It seems to be a craze popping up all over - one place being (of course) a Facebook group. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm putting myself further and further out of touch with people my own age with all these groups...but I digress.

Yep, it's a group that celebrates the magical "science experiments" of growth we find on old forgotten food at the backs of our fridges. By the way, a "science experiment" is something my mother would mockingly call one of these back-fridge mishaps or the occasional forgotten lunch container at the bottom of a backpack.

This is my most favouritest post.
The fuzzy mould on queso looks like cute little mice!

I really started to notice the beauty of food mould when I came across lovingly crafted art by Kathleen Ryan:

Ryan creates something beautiful and grotesque in her oversized sculptures of mold-covered fruit. The New York-based artist uses precious and semi-precious stones like malachite, opal, and smoky quartz to form the illusion of mouldy fruit. Made from a foam base at a larger-than-life scale, Ryan paints a simple coloured base and individually places each gemstone. I love the way she uses varied shapes, sizes, and colours to create the shift from delicious to disgusting. Lemons are a common recurring theme of her work, but Ryan also works with oranges and pears. I especially love the peach (below). 

Each work scales 6 to 29 inches. “The sculptures are beautiful and pleasurable, but there’s an ugliness and unease that comes with them,” Ryan told The New York Times.

I have always been drawn to the beautiful science experiments created by food that has long since passed edible and left this material world. The way Ryan is able to capture this spirit with intricate bead and mosaic work is mesmerizing.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Moe Shop, Weird Secondhand Finds & Adam Wallacavage

Weekly Update 2019-48: Future funk disco from Moe Shop, the joy of sharing the weird things one finds at secondhand stores and the beautiful light sculptures of Adam Wallacavage.

Music: Moe Shop
What could be better than a mix of two of my favourite kinds of electronic music? Future funk overlaid with anime soundclips from Japan combines with disco/house electro from France to make this fresh electronic sound from Moe Shop. He himself is French, though you wouldn't be able to tell considering the album art, song names and lyrics all looking super cute and anime.

A Google Image Search for Moe Shop reveals lots of pretty anime girls.

I first noticed my friend Sasha listening to Moe Shop on Spotify, so thanks to him for bringing the music to my notice. Sasha likes the tonal differences between songs, a little experimentation in electronic music gives Moe Shop the ability to make his mark in the genre. Plus, collaborations with great vocalists always add to the range - especially on the track Lovesick featuring maisou.

Vena always seems to be hosting some sort of event after hours to get our brand a bit more integrated into the Toronto tech scene. We're nicely located near the Go Train and have a pretty cool office/building space, so it provides for some good opportunities. This past Tuesday Vena hosted WomenHack for a networking and speed-interviewing event. I volunteered to give tours of our office and answer any questions from design/tech candidates.

Setting up for the night!

It was great to meet so many inspirational young people, and as a bonus my friend and past associate instructor Brit surprised me with her attendance. I had just been thinking of reaching out to see how she was doing, and here she materialized right inside my office building. It was a really great evening.

While I don't really celebrate Christmas, I know there are some present-giving occasions coming up soon like Michelle and Sam's wedding, my friend group Secret Santa and Larissa's birthday. My goal is to get all of their presents together this week so I don't have to worry about them arriving late - especially the Secret Santa gift.

This week also brings the second-last week of class for the semester, which is the final lesson-based class. Week 10 is devoted completely to final presentations, and I'm thankful for the three volunteers who will be presenting this week. We'll have enough trouble getting people to stay on time as it is, and there are always technical difficulties as well.

Random Thought: Weird Secondhand Finds
Another in my series of devotion to a niche set of Facebook groups: Weird Secondhand Finds That Just Need To Be Shared. This one contains exactly what its title promises - the weird and wacky (but mostly tacky) finds of various secondhand and thrift stores across the world. They are most situated in the suburbs of America, which is fair due to their love of tacky kitsch and collecting it to the point of absurdity at that.

A beautiful corgi dish

Posts of members trying on their finds are awarded special praise.

Some finds are a bit creepy or haunted...

These are all winners, let's be clear about that. But what I am finding really special is the DIY nature that occasionally pops its head up. Yes, the young millennials are taking to the thrift stores to reduce their carbon footprint and save a buck or two. The results of this additional layer of society to the tacky suburban ephemera gives us a stunner like you see below:

Image may contain: one or more people and indoor

Just to be crystal clear about what you're seeing above: it was originally a kitschy wooden wall handing with some cute (yet arguably square) geese, welcoming you to what would presumably be one's kitchen. Someone most likely donated it to a thrift store in its original inoffensive condition, only to have another person buy it and re-imagine the visage you see above. The geese have seen some things in that kitchen over the years and are now hardened. It's fantastic.

What's great is that the group has 1.4 million members at the time of posting this post, and I've definitely seen people I know in real life lurking around the posts. Geese of a feather flock together, I suppose!

Inspiration: Adam Wallacavage
I do have a penchant for sea creatures, but these lighted works by American-born Adam Wallacavage are simply beautiful.

A post shared by Adam Wallacavage (@octopus_chandeliers) on

Wallacavage's octopus theme as transposed onto light fixtures makes natural sense as all the tentacles make great chandelier arms. He pushes the concept even further and somehow reinvents it with each piece, spanning styles from kooky to chic.

I love the playfulness of the concept, and how it brings nature into the home in an interesting way. Check out more on his Instagram.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Surf Curse, Low Tier Connections & Making It

Weekly Update 2019-47: Bright, beachy tunes from Surf Curse, testing digital products with low-speed internet connections and everything that's great about reality television in NBC's crafting competition show Making It.

Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman are back at it - hosting a reality competition show?

Music: Surf Curse
Sunset was as early as 4:50 or something terrible this week, and it's only getting earlier for a few more weeks. In alignment with my seasonal affective disorder, I need happy, summery music to lift my spirits a little. Surf Curse's sound isn't necessarily happy per se, but it feels like that good California rock associated with the beach and summer rays.

Their 2019 album Heaven Surrounds You is full of bright sounds, references to cult films of the two bandmates' youth, and a lust for life that floats the listener through December and into April (I hope).

I've been switching back and forth between two bikes because the weather can't make up its mind. It's nice to have options to continue biking safely through the gross months of the year, this is now making me feel like I should invest in a fatbike and never have to take days off biking. It's really not the cold that's the problem, just the snow on the ground compacting into slippery bumps in the road. Skinny tires definitely don't like it.

I also made a tuna casserole as a quick pinch dinner food (every ingredient can be stored in a pantry) and when I was heating some up at work, a coworker I didn't know made a point of complimenting it. This made me reflect on how much I've developed my cooking skills since I moved into this apartment four years ago. Tuna casserole is one of the easiest, "cop-out" meals I can make but someone thought it looked so good (three days later, stuffed into a tupperware) that they made a point to say so! :) It's the little things.

I can't believe it's mid-November, which means I get to plan out my DesignTO schedule. Yes, it's true the event is at the end of January but the schedule is always released around now and I get to plan my own series of events over the course of my favourite week in winter. I'm especially excited to see what events are happening in Liberty Village this year - there aren't too many but I can always count on one or two to visit after work on a random day. Who knows, maybe there will be an event IN my building?!

Speaking of my work building, Women in Tech Toronto will be using our big open space to host a women-centric networking and job search event, so I volunteered to help set stuff up and give tours of our office. Maybe someone will drop by who's interested in design as well.

Random Thought: Low Tier Connections
I was poking around in Chrome's Developer Tools the other day, as one does. As a rule of thumb it's always best to test digital work on a variety of real devices to ensure the experience is the same, but I do appreciate Developer Tools' built-in device toolbar in a pinch.

Readers using a desktop Chrome browser can open Developer Tools with these shortcuts:
Mac: cmnd + alt + I (then cmnd + shift + M to open the device toolbar)
Windows: ctrl + shift + I (then ctrl + shift + M to open the device toolbar)

That's all well and good, but I noticed something new in the device toolbar that really excited me...

Test with a low-tier internet connection?!

I personally haven't seen such a testing concept so easily provided before - designers and developers can test their digital products with mid-tier and low-tier internet connections. I find this absolutely revolutionary. It's actually a practice of inclusive design to take the time to provide a good experience for those who may not have access to 4G/LTE service. Whether you're in a spotty service area or have no data left in your plan, it is truly responsible of digital creators to take into account that not everyone will be able to load those fancy hi-res animations or videos (or even simple images).

Since I am a designer and not a developer, I recognize that there are most likely already products that do this sort of testing. Alongside practices of providing alternative, lower-size assets for those with limited internet speeds, I'm sure any developer worth their salt will be testing to ensure experiences are as optimized as possible.

But the magic of having this tool inside Chrome is that it's available more readily and easily to anyone with Chrome installed (most of my readers, from what I gather) and can provide a healthy dose of empathy with only one use.

That said - I dare you to try loading a favourite website on the mid-tier or low-tier speed. You'll be amazed with how little time goes by before you get frustrated that the page is "taking too long to load" - we're talking fractions of seconds here.

This feature puts things into a bit of perspective as well, perhaps we don't need everything to happen instantly, getting into the habit of waiting an extra half a second for a page to load might even be a good thing.

Inspiration: Making It
Reality television is mostly garbage in my eyes (I think its fans might actually agree with me), but every so often I find an exception to the rule. True magic can be found in some creativity-based competition shows, though the amazing completed works are often undercut with a negativity in working against one's fellow artisans.

Somehow, one competition show has at once removed that dark undercut of negativity toward one's competitors and created some of the most inspirational works I have ever seen. And did I mention it's hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman? Yep, the amazing duo from Parks and Rec fame are back at it.

I suppose this confirms my sneaking opinion that they were just playing their real personalities on the 2009-2015 sitcom. The duo treat the contestants with love and admiration as they share their project ideas. In between shots of the crafters, Poehler and Offerman go head-to-head in pun battles and other un-scripted banter.

The design of the challenges is also extremely dear. For example, the prize for each one is a unique handcrafted patch that the contestants can attach to their working aprons.

Contestants are challenged to work with reclaimed materials, and applauded when they craft ideas that viewers at home could easily recreate. Most notably was a wonderful children's playspace by contestant and interior designer Joanna Gick.

The rainbow is made of pool noodles wrapped in felt, which slide on and off a set of wooden dowels to be easy to put away when playtime is done.

There are so many things I like about this show, but the #1 lesson it teaches me is that competition shows don't need to be cutthroat. This show features contestants who share their allotted materials, who help to brainstorm ideas communally as they work, contestants who often finish their projects early and volunteer to help their opponents finish their projects in time. The atmosphere is one of love, and it feels extremely genuine.

Season one is available today, with season two airing on December 2 (Christmas comes early this year!)