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!)

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Strange Ranger, NES Mouse & Do Not Touch

Weekly Update 2019-46: Saccharine, melodic appetizers from Strange Ranger, the beauty of 8BitDo's NES Mouse and an epic music video from Studio Moniker that's a joy to watch.

Tell the music video where you're from with your cursor!

Music: Strange Ranger
I got to see one of my favourite bands on Saturday - all-girl sad-rock band Chastity Belt. Their opener, an almost all-male outfit called Strange Ranger, was a saccharine, melodic appetizer. Leaving their earlier aggressive post-rock days behind in favour of a softer, melancholic mood, their sound reminds me of growing up in the suburbs (in their case, Midwestern America) and simpler days gone by. Sometimes, all you need is something simple and uncomplicated.

I attended an extremely inspirational meetup last week hosted by VentureOut - all about Employee Resource Groups. I learned so much about how companies are championing their employees in leading the charge toward acceptance and understanding of all people and all demographics. Intelex, where the event was held, boasts nine resource groups to date. Amongst their groups for women, people of colour and so on, they also champion a group specifically dedicated to allies of all groups. I hope we can fill shoes as big as theirs someday.

Dr. Sarah Saska, founder of Feminuity, was especially inspirational in her principles that ERG leaders should have time carved out of their workday to focus on these initiatives. I sometimes struggle running the accessibility team at Vena in relation to my normal workload, and I do most of the work with the hope in mind that eventually, more people at the company will understand why accessibility is important to their work (and their lives). It's true.

IBM has over 250 ERGs globally.

What a good ERG should provide its members

Shopify has seven ERGs currently. 
Vena has only one official ERG - our Network for Women.

I had a really lovely hangout with Christine, an old coworker at EventMobi. We also included Sasha in the mix as they hadn't seen each other in over a year (and it was his birthday). We got to hear all about his new girlfriend from Japan (my favourite thing ever) and for some reason he got me a little gift (reverse birthday). Christine told us about her engagement to Josh(!) and I took them on a tour of my office.

I noted that it's going to snow something fierce overnight on Monday so I took my last chance on Sunday to bike over to High Park. It rained a little, but the fall tree colours were still in season and all the animals were out at the zoo. Such a lovely ride up and around the paved paths, though I do wish the non-paved trails were a little smoother to bike on. My bike is definitely not suited to them. And so, the trails in the northeast corner of the park still remain a mystery to me.

As a twofer, I visited a Bun to try on a dress she is attempting to trade away. It was simply beautiful but simply did not fit me in the chest. A girl can dream.

With winter fast approaching, I really want to take my thicker-wheeled bicycle in for a tune up to start riding it after the first big snowfall.

My friend Niki is hosting a Murder Mystery party set loosely in the 1920s so I have to put an outfit together in advance of that. I thought I might find something cool on Bunz but it did let me down a little this time. Luckily I have a formal dress in the back of my closet that I've never worn, so it's time to put it on double duty for the multiple parties I have coming up. I believe it was $5 from Value Village a few years ago, so it'll be easy to get good mileage out of it.

Random Thought: NES Mouse
Never in all my days did I think I would see this kind of tech mashup. 8BitDo, a super cool gaming tech company, has somehow taken all the cool things about the original NES controller and turned them into a fully functioning, aesthetically pleasing computer mouse.

The D-pad has been moved over to the side to become a webpage operator (back and forth, page up and down) which makes perfect sense. Beyond that, the black space between the two iconic circular red buttons is actually touch-sensitive, allowing for vertical scroll. So elegantly hidden inside the experience of the mouse, I can't get over how cool this design is.

The design is the brainchild of Swedish industrial designer Daniel Jansson, whose original foam model was covered breathlessly by tech blogs way back in 2009. Ten years later, 8BitDo partnered with Jansson to bring it to life.

What I find so magnetizing about this design is its ingenuity in combining function and form, old and new. I suppose part of that comes from the simplicity in the original NES controller design, using simple shapes and only the necessary elements for easy-to-learn gameplay. A D-pad and four buttons were all that was needed to enjoy a true plethora of games.

8BitDo's N30 mouse aptly captures those memories of hours spent in front of the tube TV trying to beat that super hard level, while at the same time providing a mouse that works seamlessly with the web surfer's needs and habits. It's the best of both worlds, in a compact little thing that just fits so nicely in your hand. I might be in love.

Inspiration: Do Not Touch
I occasionally remember that music videos still exist and even more occasionally actually watch one. It's most often by chance, such as the case with this video for the song Kilo by a band called Light Light. The video is completely computer-interactive in such an interesting way. Check it out here (and then come back!).

Note the video starts with a fake tube TV frame around it.

What a cool way to bring the audience into the experience. The webpage records your cursor position while you watch the music video, and then proceeds to provide cheeky directions that you can choose to follow or not. All while you watch, a bunch of other previous visitors' cursors are also present on the screen. It gives a sort of view to the makeup of society through their actions as related to the scenes in the video itself, playing in the background of the cursors.

What a simple, yet intriguing way to utilize simple technology and allow visitors to become part of the experience. It reminds me of past projects by Arcade Fire for We Used To Wait and Real Estate for Stained Glass. I imagine I'm not alone in my lack of contact with music videos these days now that cable television is a thing of the boomer past, so it would make sense that some bands would want to push their experiences to the internet. In doing so, experience designers have so much more creative possibility with the power of code added to the artistic format of time-based media. What a cool artform!

The music video for Kilo was made by Amsterdam based interactive design studio Moniker - who have made some other equally cool projects I may include in a future post.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Night Music, Nunchi & Double King

Weekly Update 2019-45: Relaxing with the severely underrated soundtracks of the Animal Crossing series, practicing the art of a quick nunchi and the years of toil it takes to make something as cool as Felix Colgrave's Double King.

A still from Double King.

Music: Relaxing Animal Crossing Night Music
Oh yeah, it's time for a YouTube compilation. Amongst the world's best and most accessible collection of Chillhop lies a series of Animal Crossing-themed mixes for calm evenings at home. So many aspects of the game series are amazing, but its music is truly in a class of its own. Each building the characters visit has its own theme song along with different seasons, holidays and even times of day or weather all taking part in shaping the audio soundscape of the game. The simple nature of the tunes, alongside the nostalgia for the game, provides a calming experience that is simply unmatched for me.

This one is a particular mix of relaxing night music overlaid with ambient nature sounds (like being at a campfire) but there are lots of other Animal Crossing Chillhop mixes to pick from.

Halloween round 3 is complete, and I have now worn out my wings as a Halloween costume. They're good for one more photo, though. I especially love the pumpkins in the background.

I attended a movie night at my friend Phil's place after a long hiatus from the semi-annual event. The group has been carrying on well without me, expanding in both audience members and involving a food aspect. His roommate is a graduate of George Brown for culinary arts, and made the most delicious chilli and cornbread. It really inspired me to make a cornbread chilli casserole soon. Tis the season for casseroles.

Ruth-Ann and I had a lovely spot of tea at Kitten and the Bear over the weekend, and I picked out an Apricot, White Cherry and Amaretto jam to take home. I can see whole apricots poking through to the wall of the jar, it's gonna be a good time.

She surprised me as well by having Pop Tarts pre-ordered as an extra treat. Anything made with K&B jam is just 1000x better.

I finally got to do some stuff around the house that always makes me feel more balanced and calm. I installed some insulation film on my window to keep out some of the draft this winter, put away summer clothes, and brought out some heaters. I try to use smart timers and such to auto-control heaters in different parts of the apartment without wasting too much energy. Having a heater auto-start in the bathroom five minutes before my alarm in the mornings is key - no one wants to sit on a cold toilet seat.

This is possibly the most excited I have ever been for a meetup. VentureOut is back with a night of talks surrounding Employee Resource Groups. I would probably attend any event hosted by VentureOut, I really like the topics they focus around, and the other attendees that are attracted to their events all seem like cool, smart and empathetic people.

Employee Resource Groups are voluntary, employee-led groups that foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with organizational mission, values, goals, business practices, and objectives. Other benefits include the development of future leaders, increased employee engagement, and expanded marketplace reach. Vena has one - our Network for Women, and I am motivated to keep that number rising. Specifically, I want to know what other companies are doing and how we can create an ERG for accessibility concerns.

Another EventMobi reunion is planned for this weekend: I get to hang out with Christine and Sasha (first time seeing him since he returned from Japan). It's been almost a year since I last saw Christine, even though our offices are so closeby that we've recently switched a few employees between the two companies. That's tech in Toronto for you. It's also Sasha's big 30 birthday so we've got to make some kind of commemoration.

Random Thought: Nunchi
A friend turned me onto the idea of nunchi, a Korean "secret to happiness and success" that has been practiced for quite some time. As per the New York Times article linked above, the author recalls being scolded as a child by her strict Korean parents, "Why don't you have any nunchi?"
There is a Korean expression, “Half of social life is nunchi.” You need nunchi to get along with people, to get what you want out of people in a purely pragmatic sense and to protect yourself from danger. Nunchi emphasizes speed — if you are a skilled nunchi practitioner, Koreans don’t say you have “good” nunchi, they say you have “quick” nunchi.
To me, nunchi feels like a mix of mindfulness, common sense and spatial empathy. Being able to read a room is a big part of this; from walking into a party that has already started to deciding how to present ideas to a room full of C-level executives who look bored or annoyed.

It can be hard to practice nunchi in today's world full of distractions. It requires a quiet mind in order to open up to the information being presented from the outside. Nunchi feels similar to being a sponge - if you're all filled up with your own thoughts then you won't be able to absorb anything external.

Before I read about nunchi, I had been practicing improving my listening skills. It's so easy to fall into passive listening, focusing on what we want to say next instead of actively listening to our conversation partner. I think nunchi aligns well with focusing on the information others can offer us (through speaking, body language, room position, facial expression) so that we can make more informed choices about our actions.

I definitely recommend taking a bit of your Sunday to read the full article on nunchi.

Inspiration: Double King
It had been so long since I had attended Phil's movie nights that a new addition had been added to the playlist. After two vaguely Sci-Fi-genred film features from the same director, we now enjoy a palette cleanser in the form of audience-sourced YouTube videos. Our friend Alexis suggested a nine-minute animated story by Australian animator Felix Colgrave entited Double King. Check it out below:

Lovingly, painstakingly hand-animated over two years by Colgrave alone, the piece is an animation marvel of its time. From character design to backgrounds and landscapes to the fluid motion of the characters themselves, there is so much to see here. I had to watch it twice in a row the first time I watched it.

Perhaps what I enjoy most about Double King is the cheeky flitting around in the tone of the story from surreal to humorous to extremely dark, perhaps a little tear-jerking at times. Colgrave's dedication to cover so many moods in nine short minutes pays homage to his knack for storytelling, rivalling his excellent illustration and animation skills.

Colgrave has been influenced by animations from a young age, his earliest works found on YouTube date back to when he was only 15 years old. More recently, Colgrave has created animated videos for various musicians such as Nicki Minaj, Fever The Ghost, and DJ Mustard. These music-videos helped Colgrave expand in the community. In 2017, Colgrave released the legendary animation Double King, which sits at 30 million views as of the writing of this post.

Reiterating that such a thing of beauty takes a long time and lots of hard work to bring into reality. This nine minute animation took two years to finish, not including the years and years that Colgrave spent honing his craft before embarking in this project.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Drool, Patch Notes & a11yTOConf

Weekly Update 2019-44: Catchy music from interdisciplinary duo Drool, a rap-king who isn't too big to fix his own mistakes and many lessons learned from this year's big conference on accessibility in Toronto.

Music: Drool
Something a little different this week: interdisciplinary artist Cara Stricker and musician John Kirby collaborate for the second time to bring you a beautifully catchy song and its very own music video for their song End Girl.

It's so rare that I take the time to watch music videos these days, so I figured that a video made specifically with its song rather than being an afterthought would be a good place to break back in. All filmed as a one-shot in California, I found it similar to walking dazed through a weird house party, trying to find a spot to get lit.

Warning: NSFW due to nudity.

Since Drool is a special project with only two songs, they've gotten themselves lumped together in Spotify with what appears to be TWO other bands of the same name (one is thrash metal, the other experimental noise electronica). Keep in mind I can only endorse this song and Down.

I have now learned that class 4 of the UI semester is basically a real-life YouTube tutorial for Sketch. While it certainly is useful to the students' learning, there are so, so many recorded YouTube tutorials that already offer the same information for free. I told this class on day one that they should check out Pablo Stanley's wonderful Sketch Together tutorials, because they're easy, free, and effective. It's how I learned to use Sketch and I have never gone back to Adobe since.

Of course there are benefits for the students; they'll stop me and ask to go over something again or I might let them pick the examples I use to show the skills so it becomes more relevant to them. Like showing them how to create a symbol component, but they choose which component I make. A student did mention to me that my style of tutorial allowed her to finally stick with Sketch after she didn't click with it during previous sessions. What a nice compliment!

I was very lucky to have my work foot the bill for me to attend two days of #a11yTOConf - an amazing lineup of speakers on all things accessibility. More on that below.

After a whirlwind week, I took my mother out on the town to check out a special exhibit on the Masters of Modern furniture design. Works by Mies Van Der Rohe, Marcel Breuer and Florence Knoll, alongside the wondersome textiles of Anni Albers, warmly filled the first-floor meeting areas of the Toronto-Dominion Centre (also architected by Van Der Rohe).

Some of Anni Albers's textile strips.

Foreground: installation furniture.
Background: cheap knockoff(?) downstairs for everyday use.

Some of the Nuit Blanche sculptures from the MaRS building were also hanging out.

Their attention to form and function together as a joint problem to be solved is forever inspirational to me. If we can provide satisfaction in having a product work as expected, why not do the same for its aesthetic appeal? The two aspects forever enhance each other, and just make for a very comfortable chair to sit in. Others agreed, because the exhibit furniture was being used by various business people as we explored through all the iconic pieces.

After that, we walked over to a restaurant called Chotto Matte - a feast for the eyes as much as the mouth. They specialize in Nikkei, the combination of Japanese and Peruvian foods. Of course, both cultures have the staple of fresh raw fish, but the magic is in the mixture of Japan's complex-yet-subtle flavours with Peru's bright spices and prized starches of corn, yucca and potato.

The restaurant didn't look too bad, either. It had a really cool layout with a second-floor bathroom beyond a corridor filled with blacklight abstract art.

The weekend was equally filled: attending a church sale with Larissa and then helping her with her annual Halloween party. The next day I took Emilia and Jess around Kensington for the last Pedestrian Sunday of the year.

In the spirit of cleaning and refreshing with the seasons, I decided to rearrange my furniture a bit again ... and I found a mouse. Having to dispose of it was probably the scariest thing I've had to do in a while, I had to psyche myself up to it for a few minutes so I'll call that an accomplishment, too.

Next weekend Ruth-Ann is taking me back to Kitten and the Bear for another lovely round of afternoon tea. This will be my first visit to the new, bigger location. I can't wait to pick a jar off their wall of jams...all their new flavours always make my mouth water.

Yes, the seasons are changing and I have stuff to do around the house. I want to apply some window insulation film to a window as a test, put away my summer clothes and fish the space heater out of the closet. I still aim not to turn it on in earnest until it gets colder out, but I've already had one weirdly cool October night trying to sleep with a cold nose...not my favourite thing to do.

Random Thought: Patch Notes
Within twelve hours of releasing his ninth album, Kanye West's producers are releasing fixes and patch notes to Apple Music. For an artist who declared himself "the greatest human artist to ever exist," I gotta respect the creative will to strive forever toward an unattainable perfection.

This isn't the first time Kanye has released fixes to his music post-release, which I guess is a thing musicians can do now in the age of streaming music that can't be physically owned by fans. If someone had purchased a physical copy of this release, it would have those mistakes on it forever. I hate to mention Tr*mp on this blog for the piece of crap that he is, but it looks like he got the one with the mistakes...

Maybe you can ask your friend Kanye for a refund on your presidential vinyl record.

Inspiration: #a11yTOConf
There were so many good talks at this year's Toronto-grown accessibility conference. I appreciated the variance in subject matter from applying accessibility to design and development to problem solving, accessibility and government, politics, and so much more.

Tatiana Mac gave a particularly impactful talk on the importance of understanding the power we wield as content creators, building small pieces that combine up into overarching systems - these systems often unwittingly force us to comply for the benefit of the modern-day emperors and kings (the tech CEO makes an average of 287x their worker's salary). We can make choices in our work not to comply with rules set by people who will never experience the negative outcomes of their haphazardly-made decisions. Check out her slides here.

Tatiana's slide showing how exclusionary societies and ecosystems are cyclical in nature - we must break free of the positive feedback loop.

Chancey Fleet's talk contained a total of zero slides - as a person with sight loss herself, she wanted to provide a bit of immediate understanding from the audience about the importance of alternatives to sight-based drawing tools for creativity. All humans need the outlet of creation (the way many of us are taught to draw at a young age) in order to grasp concepts and apply them to new ideas. Chancey explained some really wonderful advancements in technology that aim to bridge this gap, like the Swellform machine that can sense where ink exists on a page, automatically raising it up to give texture and understanding through touch as well as sight.

Chancey onstage with her support dog, as well as a sign language interpreter.

Shell Little gave a Dungeons & Dragons-themed presentation on the underrepresentation of accessibility guidelines surrounding people who are neurodiverse (a range of cognitive disabilities). I tend to find trouble reading through content on a webpage filled with flashing ads or filling out a form when I can see a blinking timer ticking down. Many of Shell's examples felt like underserved areas of user experience design, and gave me further hope that accessibility and usability can be achieved together.

Shell showing us the D&D Roadmap for her presentation.

Shell also discussed the Spoon Theory, the idea that we each only have a certain amount of energy (or spoons) at the start of any day. Various tasks will take away a certain amount of one's spoons until they are left with none. One cannot complete any more tasks until one's spoons are replenished through rest. Yet another reminder that design should be as simple as possible so as not to require any more spoons from the user than what are absolutely required to get the job done.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Juice B Crypts, Nice Design Feels & Menhera Kei

Weekly Update 2019-43: An electrifying, jiggly new album from Battles, how to get those nice design feels for users with a variety of needs and the fashion of bringing visibility to mental health in Japan and globally.

The art of pulling off the perfect cute..."sick makeup"?

Music: Juice B Crypts
Though I have already dedicated a blog post to prog rock kings of the 2010s Battles, their new album got me so excited that I figured it was time to bring them back into the mix again. Their 2019 release Juice B Crypts brings back everything I love about their sound: methodical layering of sounds, weird offbeat drum patterns, irregular time signatures and really cool collaborations with vocalists. Their fourth studio album brings fresh pairings with indie-pop weirdo Tune-Yards, Yes's Jon Anderson, Sub Pop hip-hop Shabazz Palaces and talented wordsmith Sal Principato.

Every song is a banger. I already have my ticket to see them in December at Lee's Palace, in the same venue just over four years since they last toured Toronto. Maybe I'll find a cool band shirt this time.

Ah, the second-longest week of my BrainStation semester is completed. I marked through my students' project briefs and got a feel for their app ideas. Reading through them is always interesting, but it can get a little tiresome to go through them all in such a short time. I compromised with myself and spent my Last Nice Weekend™ marking the briefs on the sunny patio at work. Since no one is around the office on Sundays, I got the chance to play on the drum kit as a little reward.

On the festive side, I got to create my halloween costume for Yuni's annual halloween birthday party this weekend. It was so nice to see all my old friends from working at the newspaper at York back in the day.

This week brings the accessibility conference a11yTOConf, two enriching days of learning to care for the needs of our users as content creators. I'm excited to meet some people, watch some inspirational talks, and bring back some useful content for the accessibility team at work.

Next weekend, Larissa is hosting her annual halloween dinner party. We're going to check out a church sale in the morning and then I'll help her to cook some spooky foods for dinner.

On Sunday, Emilia and Jessica and I will check out the final Kensington Market Pedestrian Sunday of the year. Even without the drumming, I'm sure there will still be some cool things going on.

Random Thought: Nice Design Feels
With a11yTO coming up this week, I've been thinking about my goals for accessibility in the things I design. In my work and the products I interact with as a user, I find the best experiences come from interfaces that are designed in a way that fits the user as closely as possible. This can be achieved by gaining understanding of the problem by testing with multiple perspectives in user research, and then achieving a design that either works for all those perspectives, or can be customized to work for any of them.

And how will you know when you're successful? Ask people and do more testing. To me, designing things to be accessible is akin to the internal sigh you feel when something is just designed nicely, cleanly, and in a way that fits users. It's often subconscious (I've mentioned before that design is a thankless job) but it's the best thing ever when you get it right - for the designer and their users.

Inspiration: Menhera Kei
Fashion moves so fast these days; a lot of stuff passes me by. I just found out about a Japanese based fashion steeped in sickly sweet colours and a love of...mental health? Yep, Menhera (メンヘラ) is Japanese slang for mental health and this has somehow become a fashion trend. I know that when anything from Japan enters the mainstream in North America, it's probably old by now, so cut me some slack if you're already in the know.

Menhera was started to revealed to reveal the 'mask' people use when surrounding mental illness and sickness. I think the stigma we feel around mental illness around the world definitely makes people feel like they have to put on a mask every day to hide their pain or feelings of "otherness" amongst "normal" people. As a sufferer of chronic mental illness, I am starting to see that it is not as uncommon as society tries to convey and this fashion movement makes attempts to normalize it through a "kawaii" lens.

Especially as mental illness is invisible, the use of medical-related imagery and "sick makeup" allows people to visually express how they feel on the inside for others to better understand them. Much as the movement might seem frivolous with cute characters and pastel colours, I think it's an interesting representation of the fact that life is a mix of good and bad. Sometimes we have to take the pleasant pink clouds with the giant, sparkly syringes.