Graphic Design and Illustration.

Archive for ‘December, 2012’

The Best of 2012

2012

Well, guess it’s that time of year when everyone gets their year end list. It was a busy time for us this past year, there was the destination wedding my cousin had in the Dominican Republic, the setting up of our first geocache, to the conception (and eventual birth later in 2013) of our child. So it was pretty hard to have a manageable list. Since this blog is mainly about art and design, it tried to stick to things that fit into those categories. I was reaching for a couple of them.

So here goes.

10. Web UI stencils

iPhone_stencil-1_1024x1024

These have been popping up in all sorts of year end gift giving lists. As somebody who grew up playing with his Grandfather’s furniture design stencils, these seem like a cool idea. I might even try making one of my own.

9. Finally Seeing Some New How I Met Your Mother on Reruns

HIMYM

As goofy as this show sometimes gets, it can be a pretty entertaining show. Basically, its a show about a Dad telling his kids the story about his younger days. And how he met the mother of his children. The writers of the show like to tease the audience, leaving little clues and they sometimes find clever ways of telling some fairly off-beat stories, usually with flashbacks and retcons. It is essentially the Lost of sitcoms. Without all the late night researching and theorizing that Lost seems to foster.

Anyways, I find this show is on syndication a lot. Maybe a bit too much? I’m not really sure when current run episodes are on any more. I think it might be on when we’re generally busy, so we only ever catch the re-runs. And since it is always on these marathon-like runs on TV, I think we’ve seen just about all the pre-2011 episodes to death. I like the show, but enough already! It is nice to see some newer episodes entering in rotation.

8. Our Geocache

Cache Contents

I’ve already blogged about this, but this past year, we setup out own geocache. Finding a good location turned out to be harder than I would have liked, but so far so good! It’s already been found, and the geotagged artwork I left inside is apparently bound for parts unknown. Exciting stuff!

7. Alif the Unseen
aliftheunseen

I’ve been meaning to put together a blog post about this book. I picked up the book at McNally Robinson here in Winnipeg. You can find it on Amazon though. I first came across it in the Winnipeg Free Press. Being a Thirtysomething, I don’t really read the paper, but I still get the Saturday edition, mainly for the flyers, and they have a special Books section that I like to look through. The review of the book was quite flattering, and the premise sounded fun. Basically, a modern day Arabian Nights type of story, full of Jinn (genies), magic, and some techno-thriller elements to boot. Grown up Harry Potter fans, and people who read Charles deLint or Neil Gaiman’s work should appreciate this book.

The story has a Middle Eastern flair, as it takes place in some unnamed Emirate near the Gulf Coast. The main protagonist, Alif, is a computer hacker, providing Internet protection for the various factions (both religious and secular) who are against the current corrupt regime that runs the Emirate the story takes place in. He is a realist, and somewhat cynical, willing to help out anyone who is able to pay him. Everything changes for him once a rare and mysterious book falls into his possession. His life is forever altered and he is forced to open up his eyes and reexamine his world and his place in it.

This story should also challenge many Western readers as the story has many Arabic and Muslim people who are quite different from the usual cast of Middle Eastern characters who so frequently populate Western media and entertainment.

The story was well written, with characters who live with you for a while after reading. And despite the fact that the story is fiction, and has many fantastical elements, I felt I had learned a bit more about Eastern culture as well. And you get to find out what the heck this Shawarma thing is all about. You know, that thing that Tony Stark mentions right at the end of the Avengers? And we get to hilariously see right at the end of the credits?

I only have a few small complaints about the book. There is the liberal peppering of Arabic words used throughout the book with no glossary to help us poor Western slobs from easily discerning their meaning. Several minor characters were left dangling at the end. Though it may just be a good excuse for any sequels the author may have in store for us. And my last compliant regards the fact that the one Western characters in the entire book, a convert to Islam, was never actually given a name. All the other characters in the book only ever refer to her as “The Convert”. It would be nice, if there was to be a sequel, if maybe she gets a name. Normally, I would only consider this a minor complaint, since this is not a major character, but she did become rather important as the story progressed. Since the author of the book is in fact a convert herself to Islam, I wonder if there was any autobiographical aspects to that?

Anyways, stay tuned as I plan to post an image that this book inspired sometime in the New Year.

6. Flipboard

Flipboard_Logotype

While I recently had to give up on this piece of software, I felt I had to mention it as it was a very intriguing piece of software with a nice interface. Basically, for those who don’t know, Flipboard is a social media aggregator that gives you one App to view and “flip through” all your posts, pics, and tweets. It also tries to format all the incoming posts into a magazine style layout. Does a a good job of it, but not great either. I guess I’ve spent too many years laying out publications (too picky)! You can find out more here.

Unfortunately, I’m a pretty heavy blog reader, and the App doesn’t have a great way of dealing with the image cache that builds up over time. There is a way to clear it manually, but the program kept crashing on me while I tried to empty it out. I assume the cache had gotten too big. I also noticed my iPod was quite a bit more reponsive once I deleted it. It was pretty good while it lasted though. I might go back to it in a future update.

5. Corrientes Restaurant

Corrientes Logo

My wife Kimmy says I should blog about this place. This little restaurant has turned into our favourite new place. Tucked into the Exchange district, just behind MTC, is a little pizza joint I like to call Heaven. The sign on the door says, Corrientes.

We found out about this place quite by accident. My wife won some gift certificates for Corrientes Argentine Pizzeria at her workplace. I’m still not certain what makes Argentine pizza, Argentine pizza, but I think it might have something to do with all the garlic they use. And most of the toppings are of the gourmet variety. No plain-Jane pepperoni pizza served here!

Anyways, the first time we went, it was a Tuesday. We have season tickets to MTC shows and Tuesday is our regular day. Since the restaurant is right close by, we decided to check the place out. Turns out, Tuesday is the day to go. All you can eat pizza for $15! Pretty good deal. They come around to each table with usually one or two options for you to try. Each time around, it’s usually a new variety. After two times there, I think I’ve sampled all the varieties they have. All of them are fantastic! And lots and lots of garlic! I’m certain we were both really popular with the other people in attendance of the MTC shows afterwards. It also looks like they have pretty reasonable lunch specials too. Anyone reading this and thinking they might want to give this place a try, they should consider making reservations. It’s not a big place and it seems to be catching on with the MTC crowd.

4. Hype

hype

This is a Mac-only program that lets you build HTML 5 animations. It’s basically a Flash replacement. Though I think it has a ways to go for general animation, especially character animation, it does a really, really good job with UI animations. Anything where a animation it triggered by clicking or hovering on things. And it is only good for maybe small sections of a website. You’d be hard pressed to try and build a whole site with the program, unlike Flash.

We’ve used this quite a bit at work lately, with quite a bit of success. Hopefully I’ll have some time to really play around with this in the new year.

3. Evernote and IFTTT

evernote

For years, I’ve been reading blog posts about Evernote. Its basically a catch-all junk drawer for all your notes, to do lists, and all things internet. It was all very interesting but I didn’t really have much use for it. Until now. As mentioned earlier, I read a lot of blog posts. Usually through Google’s Reader. I star lots of items. Be nice to have a backup copy of all the starred items that I can easily search. Enter IFTTT. It’s a service that can combine certain Internet services to work together. In this case a copy gets sent to Evernote every time I star something on Reader. Handy. Evernote will also scan handwritten notes and OCR them, making them searchable. I haven’t tried that… yet. But I am interested as I am always writing things down on notepads and sticky notes.

2. Avengers

Avengers

After years of waiting, and of hanging out in movie theatres until the very bitter end to get any hints on this Marvel Comics super movie, The Avengers did not fail in any way. It was quite a treat to see all my childhood superheroes on the big screen. And it didn’t suck. The last few times a large number of superheroes was put in one movie (or copious numbers of supervillians) it mostly didn’t turn out so well. X-Men Last Stand comes to mind.

Plenty of action, one-liners and plot twists for all. It was one of the few movies I had watched in a long time where I wanted to see it again right away.

1. Baby Pickle

Baby Pickle

Not exactly a finished piece. More like a work in progress! This was a VERY big deal for us, and I know we’re both excited to see just who exactly is growing inside the human incubator that is my darling wife, Kimmy. As for the Pickle part, we haven’t decided on any names yet, and Kimmy found that the usual name of “Bean” commonly being used on online pregnancy forums rather uninspired.

Advertisements

It’s a Mad Mod World!

Mad Mod World

Well, this past November, it was off to another Secret Handshake adventure! This time it was held at the Arkadash Bistro and Lounge. It’s a pretty swanky place. Though it bills itself as a bistro, it is much more of a lounge. Very trendy place. Very cocktails and martinis. Meant I was quite out of my element. And while I’ve chosen a very 60’s retro-beatnik style for the illustration of this post, the place was very modern in its decor. The mod references are a little forced and is really just alludes in sprit to the type of hip, urban style that I think the Arkadash is going for. The only thing retro going on over there was all the bad 70s ‘staches going on in support of Movember and Prostate Cancer awareness. And besides, it was an excuse to totally rip off Shag more than anything else. And a chance to browse through some Tiki symbols buried under the Adobe Illustrator interface.

Not only was I totally out of my element in a hip, urban, downtown lounge, the more lounge atmosphere rather than a pub style atmosphere meant the dinner menu was of a much more lighter fare. And while some of the items sounded rather interesting, (mushroom pate anyone? how about Toenail of a Dog?!) my large appetite (and very empty stomach) said this was going to be a short night out. I work in an industrial park far from Winipeg’s Exchange district, and I take the bus. Most of these Thursday outings, take place in or near the Exchange. Makes sense as the majority of Winnipeg’s finest creatives either work, live or regularly hang out there. So for me, I usually go there straight after work and just order something off the menu as soon as I get there. Not so much this time around. Oh well, if they have it again there I’ll just go home first and grab a quick bite to eat, see my wife (and future child) and THEN head out. Stomach well filled.

The rest of the evening was quite fun. Filled with lengthy conversations regarding Internet security. Mostly surrounding passwords. And their utter failure to protect anyone from the dangerous hacker crowd out there. I just love how we have to create lengthy, complex passwords that I either have to write down somewhere (thus voiding the security of said password) or I have to hand over everything to a program like Lastpass and hope they can do a great job of protecting everything. Or memorize random alpha-numeric strings of ever increasing complexity. Not my idea of fun. Or really all that doable. All I can really say is this, my Dad was a cop for 27 years and he said a “Locked door keeps an honest man honest.” Or in my words, “If I want your stuff badly enough, I’ll get it.” Passwords (or any security measure) are great for making sure that most folk behave themselves. But there’s going to be a certain crowd that for whatever reason, just won’t abide by it. We as a society just have to make certain that we try to treat each other humanely while online, have at least some system of accountability to keep everyone honest, and a way of dealing with people who get out of hand. Dealing with social ills that might make it tempting for people to hack accounts would help too. Otherwise, it’ll be more and more labyrinthine password protection schemes. At least until someone figures out biometrics to prove you are who you say you are.

Whew, enough of that!

Before I left for the evening in search of my dinner, I had one little problem to take care of. You see, there’s quite a few people who come out to the Secret Handshake events now. And the Arkadash isn’t exactly huge. The bar was rather overwelmed. I still needed to pay for my drink. Thankfully I am one of those honest people I was talking about earlier (well, mostly anyways). They guy taking all our orders when I first got there didn’t ask me for any money, and must have forgotten to set up a tab. And while I had only ordered a soft drink, I thought it rather impolite to dine and dash. The hostess thought it wasn’t a problem, but I had her check with the manager just to make certain. The last think I need is to show up some other time with my picture on the wall, marked for refusal of service. Here’s to fingers crossed…

%d bloggers like this: