Plugging back into the matrix

Dear Internet,

After almost 10 years of working as a freelancer, I’m plugging back into the matrix. I will once again be an employee.

The company is iQmetrix. Today, they mainly make POS systems for mid-sized retailers of mobile phones, but they have an eye towards much bigger things. I will be joining them as a Senior Interaction Architect, and I start tomorrow (Tuesday, April 4th).

I look forward to working with a team of very talented people on a consistent and long-term basis. The chance to work on a software product from inception to launch, and improving that product over its lifetime – this is not typically available to a freelancer. It is something that I feel will round out my skills as a UX professional.

I’ll be downtown, so let’s have an after work beer together.

Back to the grind
Just another working stiff
Like a chump


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That YouTube movie: Life in a Day

Did you watch it yet? You should.

First thoughts:
It is life affirming.
It affirms my faith in humans.
It makes me want to create things.
It makes me want to become a better storyteller.
It makes me want to hold my kids and wife.
It made me laugh out loud more than once.

About that “What do you fear?” section:
I found it funny that the soundtrack over the fear section made riding a roller coaster, and being in a limo full of hot girls, and watching cheerleaders at a football game seem like seriously scary propositions. But there were legitimately creepy things there: like those monkeys in masks begging on the streets… creepy.

About the music:
The soundtrack for the whole thing was fantastic. It played perfectly against the images, and sometimes it twisted what would otherwise be a banal scene into something completely opposite (as in the fear section above).

About sentimentality:
There were moments that I was on the verge of tears (of both joy and sadness). Maybe it’s because of fatherhood, or maybe because I’m older. I am more sentimental now than ever – and every year seems to make me more so. These moments stick out:
– the photojournalist in Afghanistan clips interspersed with the army wife clips
– all those babies
– the shoeshine kid
– the gay guy coming out to his grandmother over the telephone

About more information:
For me (because I’m an info junkie) the film begs to have more layers of information. I would have loved to see where on earth each clip is taken, and what time of day, and some subtitles for some scenes. Perhaps it’s already planned for the film’s future, or perhaps some enterprising young creative mind will take it on.

The film moved me. Thanks to the filmmakers, and thanks to the people of the YouTubes.

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Mule Design Studio’s Blog: Giving Better Design Feedback

Mule Design Studio’s Blog: Giving Better Design Feedback.

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Whip My Hair cover by Jimmy Fallon (as Neil Young) and Bruce Springsteen

Ridiculous and awesome is the cover by Jimmy Fallon (as Neil Young) and Bruce Springsteen.

The original Whip My Hair video is more ridiculous and less awesome.

Less ridiculous and still awesome are the clips of the other two songs Bruce did on Jimmy Fallon.

Bruce is epic.

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Hey hippies, please help me understand something about those plastic bags

OK, I understand the benefits of using reusable shopping bags. I use them most of the time, really I do. But let’s say that, in the past, I reused them for groceries, and then eventually I used them as garbage bags. In fact, all of our household garbage bags used to be those plastic grocery bags. They were a handy size for our bins, and they cost me nothing. Now I purchase plastic garbage bags instead.

I am having trouble seeing where I am saving the environment by using reusable grocery bags, yet purchasing plastic garbage bags. There might be some argument made that the total volume of garbage in a somewhat larger garbage bag saves some amount of plastic, but the total savings seems so minimal that it approaches no plastic savings at all. Moreover, I now spend money to purchase new plastic to throw away; my garbage bags are no longer free.

Is there something about my situation that I am not seeing?

And by the way, in an effort to boost my green credibility – we compost plus we recycle everything the city allows us to.

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Notable 2009 music, the first 6 months or so

Hemmes sent me an email this morning asking for new music. Naturally, I wasted a bunch of time on this task (Getting Things Done cannot protect me from my musical obsessions apparently). Here is an excerpt from my reply to him. I put enough thought and effort into that it was worth sharing. In no particular order (well, by iTunes Album by Artist order actually), here are my notable 2009 musical additions:

  • AC Newman – Get Guilty: Just plain good stuff if you liked his old stuff and New Pornographer stuff. This album sounds like progression of his music.
  • Animal Collective – Merriweather Pavillion: I never really was into their other stuff, but this seems a bit more accessible to me.
  • Anthony and the Johnsons – The Crying Light: cross dresser sings depressing songs. Distinctive Voice.
  • Doves – Kingdom of Rust: A bit of depression pop music. Sounds a bit like U2 on downers, sometimes reminds me of older Radiohead, sometimes sounds like Coldplay. I have not made up my mind on this one just yet. I would be interested to hear your take.
  • Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications: The front man for Pulp releases a solo album. It sorta sounds like Urge Overkill sometimes, remember them?
  • K’naan – Troubadour: I like rap, so I like this one.
  • Mastodon – Crack the Skye: new metal
  • Metric – Fantasies: Probably my favourite Metric album. I found their older stuff a bit boring and this one sounds more interesting.
  • Neko Case – Middle Cyclone: Not as good as Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, but she’s still awesome and sexy.
  • Peter Bjorn and John – Living Thing: There are probably 3-4 gems on the album, but the rest is simply OK or strange. But this video and song rules:
  • Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix: 80’s new wave derived, in a good way. Kinda reminds me of the band Cut Copy from last year.
  • Thunderheist – Thunderheist: Canadian dance music. I think the album is kinda light as a whole. But this video/song rules hard:
  • Dark Was the Night compilation: but you already knew about this one
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz: you know this one too I assume
  • Lily Allen – It’s Not Me It’s You: she’s not for everybody, but I like her brand of foul-mouthed pop music.

As always, this is just my opinion. You don’t like it? Tell me so, then make your own list.

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Media Temple and Customer Service and Transparency

This blog post is from the company that hosts my website(s). They are basically saying ‘We messed up. We’re sorry. This is why it happened. This is what we are going to do to ensure it (probably) will not happen again.” The essence of the post, while full of technical details, is not out of reach for the non-technical person.

And this is a prime example of why I love them so much. If every company showed this much respect and transparency to their customers, the world would be a much nicer place. If you are looking to get a web host, I recommend Media Temple. They did not pay me to say any of this.

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Beer Advocate: Respect Beer

So much beer, so few I have tasted. I particularly like the top beers lists.

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Bus Etiquette – 6 rules

My list of simple rules that will ensure we all get along.

1. Don’t take the aisle and hope that I will not ask your ass to move over or let me in. Take the window seat.

2. Don’t leave your bag on the empty seat beside you and hope that I don’t ask your ass to move it.

3. If you’re young and able-bodied, don’t sit in the front seats. Who raised you to do that?

4. If you can’t bring yourself to follow rule 3, then at least get up and move when a senior or a disabled person or a parent with a bunch of kids gets on. Don’t even wait to be asked. If I have to ask you, I will do so impolitely.

5. Nobody wants to hear your story about ‘how totally fuckin’ wasted you got last night’ or ‘what a total bitch she is, and you can’t even deal’. Not even your friend on the other end of the phone. So stop yelling about it.

6. Don’t fart. Tighten your sphincter until your stop.

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Good design: The ten commandments of Dieter Rams

Good design: The ten commandments of Dieter Rams. He was a designer at Braun forever.

Read these and obey. It’s mostly relevant to industrial designers, but designers of all things can take stuff away from the fundamentals of what he’s talking about here.

via Kottke

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Influential Books

These books have significantly impacted the way I look at the world.

Guns, Germs and Steel (by Jared Diamond) – Describes why white people have ruled the world… so far.

Freakonomics (by two guys named Steven and Stephen, seriously) – Reinforces the major role that genetics plays in determining your path through life.

Mythical Man-Month (by Fred Brooks) – Throwing more people at a late project only makes it later. Did you hear that China? Not everything can be solved by throwing more people at it (Olympic opening ceremonies notwithstanding).

10 Lessons in Clarity and Grace (by Joseph Williams) – If you have something to say at all, it’s better to say it simply. I had to buy this book for an English class and it turned out to be the most valuable thing I read in university.

Visual Display of Quantitative Information (by Edward Tufte) – He is the king of information design. When I do my job, I try to be more like him; however, I often come up short.

Update: I forgot to include the Design of Everyday Things

The Design of Everyday Things (by Don Norman) – This book taught me that the small stuff matters because too many little annoyances can add up to make people grumpy. It’s full of smart ideas like affordances.

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3-2-1 Contact

This is one of the most beloved TV shows of my youth. It made science cool for me – and I know I am not the only one. I especially enjoyed the Bloodhound Gang.

So here is some nostalgia for you.

The opening sequence:

Bloodhound Gang: The Case of the Thing in the Trunk – Part 2 (part 1 was on YouTube for a bit, then removed)

Bloodhound Gang: The Case of the Cackling Ghost – Part 3

Seriously, how awesome is that?

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Another test post from iphone

The first one did not get pushed to facebook for some reason. But normal posts seem to.

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Here is test iphone post

Just testing mobile blog app. Carry on.

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WordPress is back on, now with more Wordbook

The Wordbook plugin for WordPress is installed now. This post is just to test whether it actually posts to Facebook and what that post looks like.

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Awkward Facebookness

I think it’s a bit strange when the stream of status updates puts some heavy shit (like updates about sick or dying people) beside some completely asinine shit (like the stuff I put up).

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It’s a blog again

So I decided to start writing again. Twitter and Facebook are fine for what they do, but this format just has some more stuff I can do. Plus, it keeps me active with WordPress and that’s important to me. Stay tuned folks, I might have some stuff to say, or I’ll outsource it all.

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New Host

Now powered by MediaTemple.

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It’s Late

And I’m sleepy.

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Camino 1.0.3 vs Firefox 2.0

I have always had Firefox on my computer and used it for development, but it always felt too slow for everyday browsing. So I gave it up for Safari, then I gave Safari up for Camino (a while back I raved about Camino and listed reasons why I switched), Firefox 2.0 was released recently and I started playing around with it yesterday. Well, I just might be switching again. Why?

1. Speed: Firefox 2.0 still felt a bit bloated when loading, but once it’s up it seems faster than the older version. I then did a completely unscientific test by loading the page as simultaneously as I could. I clicked the Firefox(1st) and Camino(2nd) icons in my dock (I put the icons right next to one another to waste less time between the two. To my surprise Firefox won by about five “Mississippis”. I even made sure that ad blocking (built-in with Camino while Firefox uses an extension) was on in both.

2. Reorder tabs: You can drag tabs to reorder them. I often have more than two tabs open at once, and I like to use my keyboard to navigate to the next or previous tab quickly. This comes in very handy when I am developing and comparing static designs with my pages. If I don’t open my tabs in the right order, then I have to click multiple times to get to the tab that I want to see. And when I just want to flip back and forth between two tabs to compare designs, then it becomes annoying. It’s better if the tabs are right next to one another. Camino and Safari do not yet have this feature.

3. Extensions: most of the time I did not miss the Firefox extensions while using Camino. Like I said, I used Firefox for development, so the main extension that I use – the Developer’s Toolbar was ready when I was. But there are other extensions that I have been curious about, so this makes it handy. And although I thought that Camino would have a whole bunch of extensions and themes developed for it, it pales in comparison. So I will look forward to applying all sorts of themes to Firefox again.

4. Close tab buttons: Then there is this little thing where Firefox has caught up with Safari and Camino like close button on the tabs themselves.

5. Suggested searches: In the search toolbar, it does some search suggestion and it work very fast. It seems to get it right half the time.

Firefox is not without annoyances:

1. Different keyboard shortcuts: So far, I have had to add or change keyboard shortcuts to do stuff in the same way across Safari, Camino and Firefox. Although I wanted to just add these new shortcuts to one program (Firefox preferably), Mac OS does not allow you to alter keyboard shortcuts to items that are not in the existing text menu of the application. So far, I have had to change how I navigate from next/previous tabs, load my home page, and open the downloads window. Honestly Firefox developers – what does cmd+J have to do with downloads?

2. Too much chrome: There seems to be too much spacing left for the browser chrome. This is especially evident in the tab area. I could do without the amount of padding above and below the titles in the tabs.

I should have more to say about all of this, but it’s time to do some work.

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betamale is finally

I started using a few weeks back. If you want to know what I am looking at on the internet, then keep up with this page.

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Am I still here?

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Link Roundup

It’s been a while and I had some internet to catch up on (thanks to the mailing list). Almost all are videos, except the game:

Learn English through Song

Scruffs Workwear – Blue Collar meets Blue Movies

Big Deck – Starts slowly, but it builds

Special Massage Chairs

Real Riding – Moto Game play the game

Water Trap

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Watch this and laugh.

It is made by the same guy that directed Thank You For Smoking (not yet seen, but on the list). Thanks to Maria for the link.

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Redesign: Where to put post dates and categories?

One of the little decisions I get to make is where to locate the date and/or time of a post and its corresponding categories.

One option, place all that meta-info near the top/title. A second option is to put all that meta-info after the main text of the article – at the bottom. Another option is to place the date near the top of the article while the categories are written out beneath it. And the fourth option (if I decide to use a post’s time stamp instead of just the date) is to have the date at the top, the time and categories at the bottom.

I took a quick survey of sites that I visit regularly and are written by people I respect. Here are the results I came up with. I tried to be consistent with my descriptions of where the meta-data lies, especially when the location of the data changes. For example, I used the “&” symbol to separate where the data lies first on the home page, then where it lies when viewing a full article.

Site Date Time Categories Notes
mezzoblue top & bottom none & top bottom He does not put the time in until you go to the full article. And in the full article, Dave has a meta-data blurb at the bottom which repeats the date in a sentence.
zeldman top top bottom if two posts are on the same day, he does not repeat the date for the second and subsequent posts top bottom bottom bottom none bottom
wasp top none bottom & top When you go to the full article, you get the categories at the top of the article. none none none none of it – strange for a usability site.
dooce top none bottom – cultofmac top bottom top category on top?
joelonsoftware top none none no categories
simplebits top none bottom
kottke bottom & top & sidebar none & top none & sidebar near the top when looking at a detailed article, a sidebar appears on the right with category and date, but time stays near the article title.
anil dash top & sidebar near the top none & sidebar near the top none
alistapart top none none & top/bottom when in detailed article, category appears both on top and beneath article.
bigger in japan top none do not know The friends’ blogs I looked at did not use categories, but I am not sure if that was only because they chose not to use categories, or where categories would be if they used it.
slashdot top top top using icons floated right
cnet top top bottom only when viewing the full article do any of these things appear. The front page only has title and teaser text.
cbcradio3 top none none
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Redesign: Wireframes: Not Done

It seems that applying the traditional site building process to my own microscopic piece of the web is proving difficult. I am finding that I alone have to make the multiple little decisions that go into every site. This should not be a suprise to me, but it is. I thought that this process would be quick and easy, but it’s harder than I thought.

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Rented and watched Spanglish last night because Caitlin is at Grandma’s for a sleepover (insert my obscenely large smile here).

The movie? Good performances. Charming. Recommended. 8/10.

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So I have had the urge to redesign this site again. I am using WordPressdefault theme (Kubrick) with my own banner image and some small changes for Flickr and the location of the main blog’s name/header. I am not sure what compels me to do this. I have only limited time, and my time will only shrink once the twins arrive. We’ll see how far I get in the process. Speaking of process, I have decided to subject this particular redesign to an actual process – one that I have learned from my time working the internet.

The first task is usually to do the strategy and planning. This site has always fallen on the more personal side of the work/personal balance. It will continue to do so. That said, this redesign and the accompanying process begins to introduce a more professional aspect to the site. Here is a list (in no particular order) of some stuff that the redesign should accomplish:

  • Continue allowing me to talk about whatever I want and allow or disallow comments on those items
  • Give more focus to the music, books, and movies that my opinionated ass thinks the world should or should not hear.
  • Act as an example of whatever web-building skills I have under my belt
  • Validate as XHTML 1 Transitional
  • Validate CSS1/2
  • Let me tell people what internets I feel are important through the blogroll
  • Allow people to browse the posts by category and by date (pretty standard stuff)
  • Let potential employers find a link to my résumé

That is about all the strategy and planning for the site that I can muster. Plus, Caitlin is waking and up and I have diapers to change.

Next time, the planning continues with the wireframe (aka Interaction Design Document) (aka Boxes and Lines).

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We can, we can, demolish forty beers

They are the UBC Engineers.

And they can build a damn efficient gas-powered vehicle somewhere in between drinking binges too. Vancouver to Halifax using about a gallon (3.79L) of gas.

via Slashdot

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Cheer Up

I am on the cusp of turning 33, and yet I will still howl with laughter at stuff like this. I don’t care if I can’t hear them fancy teenster ring tones. This makes me feel young and stupid.

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