Category Archives: Uncategorized

Kitchen Renovation

We’ve been renovating our kitchen. It’s exhausting. When I have time, I will come back and add more to this post. In the meantime, if you intend to do a renovation yourself, here are some pieces of advice:

1. It will take longer than you think
2. It will cost more than you think
3. Contracting tradespeople yourself saves you money, but compounds your headache
4. There are things amateurs should not do themselves:
4a. Drywall mud and taping
4b. Electrical
5. Don’t be too proud to ask for help, but be prepared to wait for your favours
6. Having a licensed carpenter in the family is a great boon
7. Get recommendations from your friends for tradespeople, but be ready to have to choose. Don’t take recommendations at face value.
8. The Home Depot will become a second home.

The inconvenience involved is minor compared to the long-term benefit of having a new room in the house (in this situation, a kitchen) Maintain that perspective and try to hold on to your patience for as long as you possibly can.

Anyway, I would like to add to this when I’m finished, but here are some work-in-progress shots.

Plus a little video I recorded for my wife as she and our son waited out our demo at her parents.

Santa Quits

I was sitting with my son when I thought up a couple of lines of a poem

The day after Christmas, in his big comfy chair
Santa sat back thinking, with only one care.

That snowballed into a full story poem about Santa deciding to quit his whole gig. Enjoy.

Santa Quits

The day after Christmas, in his big comfy chair
Santa sat back thinking, with only one care.
He sat and he thought and he thought and he thought.
About all the kids and the toys that he brought.

He started to wonder, “Why do I do it?
Why do I put all my elves through it?
Year after year, hundreds and more.
When parents can get the same toys at the store.”

“The kids that believe are fewer each year.
The naughty list grows longer. And so soon I fear.
That the naughty will be so much longer than the nice.
I’ll only be going to one house. I may have to go twice.”

“So maybe it’s time I hang up my bells.
I’ll park the sleigh, put the bows on the shelves.
Unhitch the reindeer, let them graze in the field.
Sit down with the wife and have a regular meal.”

So he called to Morty, the head elf in charge.
“I have an announcement, Morty. I assure you it’s large.”
And Morty walked off a meeting to prepare.
Worried about the change that hung the air.

All the elves sat in the great room by dozens.
Mrs. Claus sat up front. The whole room was buzzing.
In came Santa, no smile on his face.
The cough he admitted silenced the place.

“Elves, Mrs. Claus, thank you for coming.
As I sat after Christmas, my whole head was humming.
I can’t help but think that maybe it’s time.
To stop this whole operation of mine.”

“Stop all the toys, the building, the trips.
Kids today aren’t deserving, I have to admit.”

And Santa stopped talking with a tear in his eye.
As he’d said the one thing that could make Santa cry.
That’s when Santa saw it, one empty chair.
The chair that belonged to elf Barney O’Dair.

You see, Barney O’Dair was the postmaster elf.
And his job could never be put on a shelf.
So if he was missing, Santa wasn’t surprised.
But he didn’t want any elf to miss this plan he’d devised.

To Barney O’Dair, off Santa went.
Since Barney was busy with the letters kids sent.
Through the door of the post office Santa entered.
When Barney saw Santa, he stood front and center.

“Santa what is it. What’s causing this fuss?
The kids are already writing for next Christmas.”

And Santa looked sadly down at the letters.
“Barney O’Dair, I just don’t know if that matters.”

The gasp that Barney let out was so loud.
He was surprised that it had drawn a large crowd.
“But Santa,” Said Barney. “The kids all love you.
If you stop giving them gifts, what would they do?”

Santa just looked down and said,
“Barney, you know I always think of the kids.
But there are fewer and fewer each year.”
“Who need me to sit there and lend them an ear.”

Barney O’Dair sighed and handed Santa a letter.
“I think you should read this, since I can’t say it better.”
Santa sat down, adjusting his glasses.
And held up the letter for the elven masses.

“Let’s see what this child has written to say.
I don’t see how it will change my mood on this day.”

And so he read the letter he’d been handed.
His full attention Barney O’Dair demanded.

“Dear Santa,” The letter began as all of them do.
“The gift that I want is a gift just for you.
I made you this gift , it took me three weeks.
I could have spent longer just working out tweaks.
So Santa I hope you like what I made.
Signed, I love you a lot, Becky McCade”

And Santa looked up and saw his mistake.
For little Becky had made him a cute macaroni cake.
It wasn’t the kids who were naughty that mattered.
But the kids who were nice, no matter how scattered.

So Santa walked off to get the elves back to work.
And he felt kind of bad, like he’d been such a jerk.
Barney turned with a grin and caught Mrs. Claus’ ear.
“This is exactly what happens every year.”

Creating a wordmark

The above image is the wordmark for a new project I’m hoping to start soon. More on that on a future date.

I thought I’d just do a post on how I came up with this wordmark. Probably because when I started, I asked a designer friend of mine to do it since I was afraid of doing it myself. Have you ever heard the phrase “Throw enough shit at the wall to see what sticks?” It’s used commonly in the advertising industry in brainstorming. They call it brainstorming I call it monkey-poo. They’re the same thing and completely valid, but come on, monkey-poo is funnier.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I’m no designer. However, for the last 6 months, I’ve been playing with design and typography so I wasn’t completely adverse to attempting this.

I digress, here’s monkey-poo;

As you can see, I just typed Influential in different font faces to see if anything stuck out. There are likely easier ways to do this, but I look at a big page with ton of the exact same word in different faces and I can see things that stand out. A curve here, a heavy letter there.

After looking at the above image for a while (I confess to about half an hour) I knew I didn’t like any of them. So I did a quick font look to see if anything pops out;

That’s when I saw it. Bauhaus 93

I liked its weight (it’s heavy, really heavy). But I didn’t want just heavy. I wanted flow. I wanted curves. I also wanted something the word implies: influence. I wanted the letters to influence each other.

So I started looking at the individual letters. Starting with the I. In essence, I grabbed the f and copied its curve;

Then I thought, the L is basically just an uppercase I, right? So I flipped it and voilà! An L!

You might also notice that the I is now thinner. I matched the width of the L.

Then my focus shifted to the n and the u. I knew I’d be flipping the u as an echo of the n, so really my focus shifted to the n. To get what I wanted, I added a triangle to the corner of the n.

So here I am, the I, the L, the n and u are where I want them. The lowercase i is simply a shorter I with the ever-so-important dot.

As might be noticed, I’ve concentrated on what could be considered the easy characters. So I stayed in the vein with the easily solved f and t. My decision is to simply add a second rectangle so the character is balanced, copy and flip vertically. That’s right, once again, I am reusing the character;

On to the characters that legitimately scared me; a and e. Starting with the a. For a, I chose to make two circles and add a triangle. I mean, it took some time to figure out that’s what I wanted to do, but not much and that’s that;

I am so close now I can taste it.

The last letter to figure out is the e. To be fair, this was/is a tough one. I’m happy with it, but not over the moon about it. It is a flipped a with a strike-through, essentially.

And that is that. With some tightening, a lot of tweaking for alignment, I arrive at;

If you want to see the iterations as I progressed, here they are:

The Social Network Moviesinhaiku

A little while ago, I’d done a regular-sized print of the Trigger Street production 21. The producer, Dana Brunetti, wanted to know if I’d be into making a larger version. While I’m all for copying myself, I thought maybe he might like one done for the release of their latest film, The Social Network. Fortunately for me, Dana’s a really great guy and his response was “Go for it.”

After watching the movie (worth seeing, btw), I sat down to think about what I really wanted to make.I’ve never done a large format print. The more I looked into large format printmaking, the more I realized my skills weren’t up to the task. But I do know a thing or two about digital work.

Once I decided I’d pursue a digital route I started thinking about what, visually, I wanted. I looked at some production shots of the movie on the site and thought, “That would make a good background.” or “That’s an interesting composition.” Then I listened intently to the soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Finch. Then looking at both a picture of Jesse Eisenberg and listening to one track (On We March), then glancing over at the IMDB cast list, a light bulb went off.

Immediately I started considering HYPE, the framework developed by two good friends of mine, Joshua Davis and Branden Hall. I made a list what I wanted to do and checked off the list what HYPE could do easily versus what I could easily.

ME. Create some XML files with main cast list, secondary cast list and main production
ME. Load XML, parse it into an array
HYPE. Attach a bitmap as a source for pixel data using PixelColorist
HYPE. Create a BitmapCanvas 4 times the size of my original.
HYPE. Load and start an MP3
HYPE. Start a loop/rhythm to do something
ME. Pick a random position on the x-axis
ME. Pick a position on the y-axis based on the song’s position
HYPE. Use SoundAnalyzer.getOctave to tell me how big to make my text in that x-position
HYPE. Use PixelColorist to tell me what colour to make that text in the bitmap.
HYPE. Copy that text into the huge BitmapCanvas
ME. When the song is finished, stop everything.
HYPE. Encode the BitmapCanvas into a targa format.
HYPE. Save the encoded BitmapCanvas targa file.

Look at that list. A 2:1 ratio of what I didn’t need to figure out because HYPE was there. When we get into discussion about patterns and frameworks, we get caught up on deviation. If you use MVC, that’s all you can use, for instance. I argue that you can use what you want, I’ve always believed that. HYPE, in case it escaped your notice, is built for exactly that kind of mentality. All I wanted was a few classes. But without those classes, I would have been stuck trying to build this from scratch.

Suffice it to say, I finished the prints. Thanks to some added help from the inimitable Branden Hall the images saved out HUGE just fine.

Title: Zuckerberg
Line 1: From geek to elite.
Audio: On We March
Text Content: Primary cast
Source Image: Jesse Eisenberg head

Title: Robe Walk
Line 2: Friends counted, friends discounted.
Audio: In Motion
Text Content: Full cast
Source Image: Eisenberg walking in robe

Title: Fingers Drum
Line 3: When percent matters.
Audio: Carbon Prevails
Text Content: Production credits
Source Image: Hands under table

Due to the fact that this is a commission only four copies were printed. Thank you so much, Dana, for the opportunity. I hope you love your prints!

FiTC Edmonton Done

The 2nd year of FiTC Edmonton is over and I have to say, I really enjoyed myself. Grant and Bobi Skinner are excellent hosts. Although it was a quiet event, it was a single-track event, giving the attendees the opportunity to see every speaker, an impossible task in a multi-track event.

Once again, I co-opted my session time with some moviesinhaiku. My main session was Things I learned in Preschool and concentrated on self-management and being an effective team player. It could possibly come across as “touchy-feely” but I like to think that these topics are atypical at conferences like FiTC. The moviesinhaiku part was extremely well-received. I can’t get over how gratifying it is to have people applaud my little project. Thank you all. I am humbled by your complements.

I was asked if I’d be putting my slides online and at first I just sort of stood there thinking about it. My slides are pretty bereft of copy. I try to distill any message a slide has to a maximum of three points and I think my slides don’t make much sense without me speaking to them. So put me in the “undecided” camp as to whether or not I’ll put my slides up.

Another person asked if I brought prints with me to sell because they would definitely buy one if I did. This is where I need to admit I’m a terrible salesman. It did occur to me to bring some prints to sell but I feel mildly ill at the idea of saying “and I brought prints to sell if you want one.”

So my response is this: if you don’t like the idea of using your credit card or Paypal, but want to buy a print, email me and we’ll work out an email transfer or something. I give prints away at conferences to attendees because I think you guys deserve a gift for sitting all day in uncomfortable seats watching people like me. There’s also a part of me that knows conference organizers might not like me “hawking my wares” at their venue and I don’t blame them.

Many thanks for Shawn Pucknell of FiTC for asking me to come to Edmonton and making it possible, once again, for me to get totally nervous in front of an audience. Thanks also to Grant Skinner, who’s generosity in allowing me and a few others to shack up at his home while he and his amazing wife, Bobi, played host to us. There continues a huge support network in this community I call home and I am privileged and honoured by being a part of it. I don’t have any upcoming speaking commitments for 2011 so this may have been it for me in the public lens. Who knows?

If it is, 2010 was an awesome ride.

I Quit Facebook Today

I don’t feel as strongly about my privacy as it seems a lot of people do. For instance, I didn’t “sign up” at Quit Facebook Day. To be fair, I’m not an up in arms kind of guy. However, I was becoming concerned with the fact that every move Facebook made to alter the privacy of its users was denounced by said users.

Since I have a little boy, and I liked putting pictures of him up to show my friends, I started to wonder “Why do I need to worried about who, potentially, is seeing my son?”

Amber Macarthur, an influential blogger, television personality and social media expert today posted an article stating Top 5 Reason to stay on Facebook. Here are her reasons (at least the title) and my responses (I’d like to preface this by saying that I really do respect Amber. She’s one clever human being and should be listened to);

1. Privacy settings (just) got better

They just got better? My concern is the privacy settings before they got better. Every new privacy announcement appeared to remove one more layer of privacy I may have had until I switched it back on. I never opted in to let advertisers know more about me than I was comfortable. That, to me, is the unfortunate twist. I needed to constantly say that I wanted to stay relatively anonymous in the eyes of advertisers.

2. That’s where your friends are

No, that’s where some of my friends are. I think I can safely say that of the 300+ friends I had on Facebook, I was actually friends (my definition of friend) with about 60% of them. The other 40% of my friends on Facebook were people I’d met peripherally and decided they’d add me. Not the best basis for a friendship.

3. Your mom is a member

No, she’s not. If she were a member, I don’t think she’d find my daily commentary all that funny regardless of how funny those comments may have been.

4. It’s great for business (and customers)

I was most reluctant about quitting because of this reason. As a freelancer, having more than one outlet available to me to find work is a good thing. However, any contact I’ve made via Facebook I’ve quickly moved off Facebook as I’d prefer my email be the way people get in touch with me. I’ll just have to reconcile this, I suppose.

5. It’s free

This is a point of view. I’ll point out again I’m a freelancer (Dead horse? Here’s the stick I’ll beat you with.) As such, any time I spend not working is time I’m not getting paid. Therefore, any time I spent on Facebook was costing me money. Not free. Let’s not even revisit the fact that companies are starting to lament the lost revenue from their employees visiting Facebook.

Here’s my last comment; to the people who link their twitter accounts to Facebook. This may seem like convenience to you, but recognize your audience. I’m surprised I need to tell you this, but spamming your friends with your location via Twitter to 4square then to Facebook is intrusive and self-indulgent. I purposely kept my Twitter persona and my Facebook as two separate identities. I primarily talk about stuff pertinent to my working life on Twitter and my personal life was on Facebook. It’s not that hard, people.

Broken Down on the Side of the Highway

On Monday, my mother flew into town for the week. Then I had to jump on my bike heading to London to help my brother unload his moving truck into storage. I decided to spend the night in London since we finished unloading at 10 pm and I was exhausted. We had a few well-deserved drinks then went to bed.

The next morning, I wanted to get on the road quickly, so I skipped the shower, had a coffee and got underway. Everything went fine until I passed Woodstock. My bike started losing speed and my throttle became unresponsive. I pulled over and let the bike cool down. Then tried to start it back up. It did, but soon stalled out again. Using the toolkit from the bike, I removed the speedo and signals to see that my coolant was empty. On the side of the 401, I called my brother, who was still sleeping. He offered to pick up coolant and drive out to me. When he arrived, I filled the coolant reserve (over-filling, as the case may be) The bike started up, ran a little rough, then smoothed out. Stuart said he’d follow me along and make sure every thing went well to the next rest stop. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it more than a km and a half before the bike died again. Once more, we took to the road and once more, the bike died.

Finally, after this, I called a tow service. He came in good time, meaning it took another hour to show up. So, all told, I spent 4 hours on the side of the road getting a bad sunburn, spent more money than I ever meant to and at this point, my bike still doesn’t work.

However, to look on the bright side, it wasn’t raining. If I’d left the night before as I initially intended, I’d be on the side of the road, in the dark and alone. Stuart would have been drinking and wouldn’t have been able to drive. I also may not have got the same tow truck driver (who turned out to be a really good guy and managed to get me a really good deal for the tow). So… silver lining.