Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tumblr

I will no longer be updating this site. Please visit me at my current blog on Tumblr.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

iOS 7 Alternate Icons

iOS Icons

I’m honestly not very big into all of the iOS 7 icon redesigns going around since the unveiling of the new OS at WWDC ’13. However, Louie Mantia is a well-respected designer and former Apple employee who has done a fantastic job with what look like the perfect icons for Apple’s new OS. He describes them this way:

Today, I revisited that original task and took about a day to understand the new style. Simpler, smoother, subtler. While I don’t employ the grid they created (and while I instead use the colors I chose), these feel interesting and balanced. Vibrant and bold, but not overbearing.

I have to agree. These are courageous in their simplicity, but not as polarizing as the official icons created by Apple.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Huddle

Kisses - “Huddle” from stereogum on Vimeo.

There’s something endearing about this Kisses video. It has some of the feel of one of the classic eighties teenage movies, but the bits with the kid almost remind me of Wes Anderson. Then there’s the lost love, the demise of a band and the potential of the summer after high school and before college.

Oh, and the song is catchy, too.

Monday, May 27, 2013

AirCassette


I have been making a conscious effort to limit the amount of apps I load up on my iPod Touch. It’s not about spending the money. Sure, that would be a valid reason, but most apps on the iOS platform are cheap and supporting indie software developers gives me the warm fuzzies. It’s about reducing clutter and options. In some cases, Apple’s built-in apps are too simple and lack the feature set I need, so I’ll opt for one better alternative. For instance, I use Simplenote over Notes (don't get me started on the unchangeable market felt font for the Notes web app). If a feature set is good enough, though, like with Reminders, I don’t need to download additional software.

The exception to this is AirCassette. Do I need it over iTunes? Not at all. iTunes has the feature set that I need. Two things about AirCassette draw me in, though. First, is aesthetically, it’s really pleasing. Getting to pick the cassette design and watching the tape reel as you play through your mixes really lends something of the physical to a process that has become in some ways too abstracted. Secondly, the app is actually very utilitarian. The lock screen override and easy controls on the tape are really useful at work, when I may get interrupted five times during one song and I don’t want to have to hit too many combos to pause the music.

This app is now free for a limited time, so there’s really no excuse for not trying it out. Give it a spin and see if it brings you back to the good old days of cassettes without the tape hiss.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Monday, May 20, 2013

Creating Google Island

With Google I/O going on last week, I’ve come back to thoughts about the role this company plays in my online activity. So far, I’ve been trying to replace Messages with the newly released Hangouts and been pretty pleased. It’s smarter about notifications across devices and (thank goodness) it seems more reliable. How much of my computing and online activity do I want to cede to Google, though?

+Rob Boone writes over at SSimpli about his affinity for Google, but his growing discomfort with their web dominance. In particular, he sees the entry of Google into markets well-served by other companies and services that specialize as an undesirable trend. Why use Google Keep instead of Evernote, for example? Boone hones in on music services, cloud file access and social networking, as well.
These things are the identity of their respective companies. It’s what they do. That means something. I will give you my money, Rdio, because you do music, and only music. Dropbox, you do files better than anyone around; therefore, I am a loyal customer. Even Facebook, which, historically, I loathe, retains its place in my habits precisely because social is all they do.
Though Rdio much better than Spotify in terms of sharing and UI, I still can’t get behind the subscription streaming music service due to the disturbingly low amount they give back to the content creators. As for Facebook, well, I’ve avoided that for years and see no reason to change my stance now. Most people I know who are on Facebook still complain about it like devotion to it is a necessary evil. Sure, it’s a burden to check and most of the posts don’t interest you, but if all your friends are there, you are obligated to be, as well.

However

I get Boone’s point. There are some areas that Google simply does better than anyone else. Webmail and search, for instance. Obviously given where you are reading this, I am partial to Blogger, having tried Tumblr, Wordpress and others and not found the same balance of simplicity and complexity that Blogger offers. I even like the much-maligned Google+ for its wonderful privacy segmentation. For those markets where existing services reign, and do so by placing emphasis on that market and what they can bring to customers in that market, though, I would be wary of Google entering the mix.

It reminds me of the Blockbuster Movies model. I lived in several places where Blockbuster competed with smaller, independent video rental stores. While those stores remained, Blockbuster regularly sent coupons that made their rentals cheaper then their competition’s. However, once the competing independent stores went out of business, as they almost inevitably did, the coupons dried up. The question is, how many markets will Google strive hard to dominate and then lose interest in providing the additional benefit that drove the others away from competitors in the first place?

Or, perhaps a more relevant analogy

I used to use Newsgator for my RSS needs. The web interface wasn’t bad for checking feeds while I was on lunch break at work. More importantly, it synchronized well with NetNewsWire, which I used on my Mac at home. Google Reader launched, and at first it seemed laughably simple and really not much competition. As they did with Gmail, though, Google fairly rapidly improved the service in a manner that allowed them to leapfrog the competition. Even though I typically prefer desktop clients to web services, I soon became sucked in by the cleanness of the Google Reader design and the expanding feature set, and switched from NewsGator. It was nice having the same interface anywhere I was, and in that respect, the web service had an advantage. Then came along clients like Reeder, the beautiful OSX and iOS front-end to Google’s RSS synchronization. I was, and still am, hooked on that experience across my devices. Despite the rumors, I really didn’t think Google would shut the Reader service down. Why would they squander the good will of their die hard users for a service that they would have no problems maintaining (financially or technically)? As we all now know, I was woefully naive about Google’s intentions. They never found a way to capitalize on the service they built, and they didn’t see a need to keep up the half-hearted attempts at trying.1

One would think there is always the option of going back to Newsgator. Unfortunately, like the independent video stores, Newsgator is no longer around (at least not in its original form). Bloglines isn’t what it used to be, either. Google ate their lunch, as well.2

The lesson here is

Don’t ditch a company that is committed to a certain market segment to follow Google’s latest passing fancy. Your favorite provider of cloud document storage, streaming music or even social media could end up being trampled underneath the mighty feet of the search giant. In the case that you then find yourself dependent on Google for a particular service, they could lose interest and the availability of the service may disappear altogether. Or perhaps in a worse case, the service could be massive enough to actually contribute to Google’s overall web/world dominance. If that happens, someday in the distant future, we could all find ourselves on Google Island, naked and unashamed.



  1. Google has provided a decent option of preserving your data before the service is discontinued through Google Takeout. Google is probably better at gracefully shutting down services than anyone else at this point (they’ve certainly had enough practice). ↩
  2. Is anyone else getting panicky about the Google Reader shutdown? I haven’t found a suitable service to switch to yet. Thinking about trying Feedbin. ↩

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Dancing Shell



The comparisons to the Talking Heads, though completely understandable, almost kept me from listening to this track. That would have been a real shame.

The intro to the video includes a nice transition from the previous song on the new Empty Estates EP, Data World.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Soundtrack Subtract



This is the first compilation I've put together on Soundcloud and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. These are mostly tracks that have come to my attention over the past few months and that I have developed an attachment to. As always, when I'm grouping together a bunch of songs, I'm concerned with sequencing and flow, trying to expose organic similarities in the different tracks. These songs should pair well with the transition from a cool, damp spring to a hot, muggy summer. Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Swimming Pools and Movie Stars

A band telling their fans to promote a credit card company over the internet to get to hear said band play songs with movie stars and tv characters. Now, this kind of stuff is what indie rock is all about.

If enough viewers tweet reactions to the show using #AmexUnstaged, they will unlock online-only access to Vampire Weekend’s post-show antics, which will include a backstage performance of “White Sky” alongside Buscemi and actor Fred Armisen’s quirky character Ian Rubbish.

I wonder what Ian MacKaye would think.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Chvrches


I suspect I’m like many others in that too much hype actually makes me so annoyed about a band’s very existence that , before I’ve even listened to them, I’ve already passed some sort of judgment and I try to stay away from sampling their music for a while. Even though I was a fan, when Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot came out, I got to a point where I had read so much about it that I didn’t really feel like I needed to even explore it myself. To this day, I haven’t heard more than a couple of songs from that record.

Chvrches almost fell into the category of overexposed bands that I thought I had heard enough about to not even care to investigate any further. Then I read this from Frank Yang at Chromewaves.net:

The hype around Scottish trio CHVRCHES has probably put some off of them entirely already, some six months from the release of their debut album, and that’s a shame. Because as far as I can tell, they’re not being posited as saviours of anything, just a new band with some really good songs.

I didn’t want to be someone who fell in that foolish group of people who never gave the band a chance simply because they were buzzed about. Or, frankly, because their name seemed a bit pretentious, until it made sense (no one wants to do an internet search for a band called “Churches”). So I started with the song above, “The Mother We Share.” My initial impression was kind of the same one I had to hearing Passion Pit’s1 “Little Secrets” for the first time. It’s a bubbly, joyous, synth-driven anthem that could be blasted at full volume over and over again and not lose any of its infectiousness. In fact, I’ve been delighted by the results of testing that theory over the last few days - the song does indeed hold up after repeated plays.

I’ve read Chvrches newest single, “Recover” described as "the ‘Midnight City’ of 2013.” At first listen, I have to admit, I thought, “this is what American Idol winners will sound like in five years.” The sound is almost that glossy and the hooks are very obvious. Not that you can’t love that kind of thing, but I actually thought “The Mother We Share” came closer to earning the M83 comparison (the backing vocals near the end of the song especially remind me of “Midnight City”). In my book, that’s some of the highest praise you can give. I’m glad I didn’t let the hype machine deter me from checking out a promising new band.


  1. Chvrches recently toured as an opening act for Passion Pit. ↩

Sunday, March 24, 2013

At Least The Dark Don't Hide It

Jason Molina of Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. passed away last weekend, due to complications from a prolonged battle with alcoholism. Almost inevitably, whenever someone dies, it seems like people come out of the woodwork to extol their virtues. It’s natural to almost doubt the sincerity of those statements, coming from grieving hearts, pure as the intentions behind them are. It’s as if tragedy obligates the outpouring of emotion.

Well, this is that kind of post. Though I feel no obligation to declare this to the small number of people who read this blog: Jason Molina was probably the nicest musician I’ve ever met. I’d guess it was about ten years ago that I met him, at a Songs: Ohia, Damien Jurado and TW Walsh show at the now defunct Go! Studios in Carrboro, NC. I really wasn’t there to see his band, but the other two that played before Songs: Ohia, who was the headliner. At the Go! Studios, there was a little loft area with a few very worn couches and a relaxed atmosphere. If you got there early enough, and the show wasn’t super crowded, you could grab a great seat up there. You could relax, and even half ignore the band playing, if that was what you wanted to do.

As TW Walsh played the first set of the night, my wife and I talked to Jason. I wanted TW Walsh merch and he acted like he was in charge of it. He was so enthusiastic about peddling T-Dub’s stuff that you would have thought he was part of the band, or had some kind of stake in it. I didn’t realize who he was but he was clearly a fan of Tim Walsh’s music and just stoked to be talking to someone else who felt the same way. I was struck by his kindness. In the years since, before his death, I’ve thought often of him and how easy it was to talk to him. Independent musicians aren’t rockstars, but sometimes they can be just as inaccessible. Jason was just the opposite.

Another reason I remember that night is that we left about two tunes into the Songs: Ohia set. We were tired, unfamiliar with the music, and just feeling the tug of our warm bed which was still a fair length drive away. The side door where you exited the Go! Studios was in full view of the stage, and I remember feeling terrible walking out on this guy who had been so welcoming to us while he was playing his songs. I suppose that’s part of why his kindness sticks in my mind.

I never did get into Songs: Ohia, but I liked what I heard by the time Jason had changed the band name to Magnolia Electric Co. If you’re not familiar with the man’s work, I’d highly recommend What Comes After The Blues. Start off with “The Dark Don’t Hide It” and “Leave The City” and just leave them on repeat for a while. I dare you to not be struck by their simple country-influenced sounds and naked examination of the sadness of living in a fallen world. Then, feel free to grieve with the rest of us for the passing of Mr. Molina.


Update - Another post on the kindness of this man and his commitment to music.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Black is Back



There are times where I just do internet searches to see if I can turn up any news about a new Small Black release. It's been some time since their last proper release, 2010's New Chain (right around when I saw them live). Unfortunately, my searches as of late have been fruitless.

This week, news of a new Small Black release coming in May dropped in by lap, courtesy of the the 'Gum. Yes, Black is back, and they've emerged with a more expansive sound on the "Free At Dawn" single. Absent from this song are some of the blissed-out theatrics that served the band so well on songs like "Search Party" and "Photojournalist" from their last record and the low-fi stuttering cheap keyboard beats of their debut EP. The new track has what feels like a steady slow build, climaxing in hazy, lazy guitar solo over repeats of the of the chorus of "free at dawn". One can imagine a man, emerging fatigued from a third shift at work, in the early morning hours. He squints in the sun as he scans the parking lot for the car that will liberate him from his nightly grind. "Free At Dawn" is the soundtrack to his drive home. A cassette, well worn from use, playing from the stereo in the dash as he makes his way to a good day's sleep.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Defending the Paint



It is my pleasure to share this TW Walsh track that I have been in love with for years and that has just now made it's way to Bandcamp and vinyl. Right in time for March Madness.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Marilyn

Just Natasha Khan, her telecaster, and some subtle percussion. Raw and wonderful. I think my favorite thing about this video is that the vocals are so clear and I no longer think she's singing "Ponyboy, you're touching the stars." Hey, if she sung a song about a Ralph Machio movie character (Daniel), who is to say she wouldn't do the same for a C. Thomas Howell character?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

VHS Dreams

VHS

I miss these guys. ISO50 has a gallery.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

It's Not Dead... Yet

Part of learning to focus is learning how to shut things down. Google has done well at that — but I'm surprised that Google Reader hasn't been shut down yet. Better a clean shut-down than an ungraceful end.

I believe the rumors of Google Reader's impending demise may be a bit premature. The sync issues were fixed, and I haven't seen any evidence that this is a common thing for the service.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Case Against iCloud

Brent Simmons lays out the case against iCloud.

There are three things Apple could have done:

  1. Not provided a syncing system.

  2. Provided a syncing system.

  3. Provided a syncing system that doesn’t work.

Of all the options, #3 is the worst, because it leads developers down a bad path, and because it makes users expect developers to use that syncing system.

Totally agreed. I’ve had such spotty results from iCloud, that I’m dropping it altogether for everything except native Apple apps, such as Reminders. It’s really third party developers, such as Dropbox, that make the Apple ecosystem viable to any sort of power user.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Kitten Covers





















The Kitten Covers has iconic album covers modified in the cutest of ways.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Anti-Apple Anger

I've noticed a very clear trend among tech sites I read: Android fans are unusually quick to fill the comment box with rage on articles that mention anything positive about Apple or its products. The reverse — Apple fans leaving angry comments on pro-Android articles — is almost completely absent from the sites I've seen, including sites like The Verge that have many readers in both camps.

Marco Arment on anti-Apple anger. I've seen this, as well. When I got my Thunderbolt Display at work, one of my colleagues looked at it and said he didn't have a problem with it, but that “there are some haters in this company.” At first, I had no idea what he meant. Now I think I'm starting to understand.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Facebook Graph Search

Rough Type on Facebook graph search.

Search companies in the past usually tried to choose uncorrupted signals as the criteria for their rankings. They wanted to give good, objective results in order to attract users. The corruption of the signals came later, after it became clear that the search results had commercial value. Facebook is taking a different tack. It's starting with a signal—Likes—that is already corrupted, that in fact has always been corrupted. People routinely Like a thing not because they actually like it, not because they have (to use a favorite Facebook word) any real affiliation with it, but because they've been, in one way or another, bribed to Like it.

And

If you can't read that, it says: "You must like The New Yorker to read the full text." And some 17,000 Facebookers dutifully clicked the Like button. Jonathan Franzen must have been thrilled to see his essay used as a worm to bait a rusty Facebook hook.

Friday, January 18, 2013

You Say Party

Canadian band You Say Party just released this new single. It is about former band member, drummer Devon Clifford, who died on stage, causing the band to change their name from “You Say Party! We Say Die!”

from Wikipedia:

On April 16, 2010, just after the band had just finished touring the U.S. and Western Canada, drummer Devon Clifford collapsed on stage during the band’s set at The Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver. He died on April 18, reportly as a result of complications arisen from a sudden brain hemorrhage. They were slated to begin a European tour later in the month in support of XXXX, starting in Germany in April and ending in Mallorca, Spain, in June.

The band subsequently announced that they were officially dropping “We Say Die” from their name, “out of respect for [Clifford] and the evolution of life”.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Office Superhero

It’s a widely held assumption that superheroes wear uniforms to disguise their identities1. However, Chris Gonzales writes over at Unretrofied about uniforms being important to our working mindset.

Everyone wants to be a superhero. It’s only natural. That’s why comic books have such staying power: they give us a glimpse into people we could never be with qualities we don’t have. We’re not perfect. We’re not the strongest person in the universe. We probably don’t have such a strong moral compass, either. There’s always one qualm people have about superheroes, however:

Why do they wear such silly costumes?

Most workers put on a uniform before heading to their job. Most of those uniforms are not spandex tights. Why would Bruce Wayne, a billionaire heir traumatized from the loss of his parents, wear a silly Bat costume to fight crime? The answer’s pretty simple, actually: he doesn’t feel like Bruce Wayne when he puts it on.

I’ve often through the same thing, mostly in the context of school uniforms. I never went to a school that required uniforms, though I feel like it would have been beneficial if I did for several reasons:

  • I wouldn’t have worried about what I was going to wear (this particularly comes up in high school, when I was mostly focused on wearing the right skateboarding atire and band t-shirts to show my allegiences).
  • Maybe, just maybe, I would have been in the mindset to get work done. Not to talk to my friends, not to daydream, but to do schoolwork.

Having said all that, I had only thought about applying this mentality to work, but never done anything about it. I work at a software company, and the dress code is casual. I usually don’t have a problem focusing on work when I’m in the office wearing jeans and a polo, but it might be nice to have a physical reminder of what I’m there to do. Maybe then I could be the office superhero.2


  1. Except for, maybe, Clark Kent. Unlike in movies like She’s All That, where nerds become cool when they remove them, the glasses don’t make that much of a difference.  ↩

  2. Note, I said superhero, not firefighter.  ↩

Creativity In Tech Blogging

Two of my favorite writers, +Federico Viticci and +Brett Terpstra talk about creativity in tech blogging.

More Reasons to Quit Instagram

There are more reasons to quit Instagram than just the fear that they will be selling your photos to advertisers. From the Egg Freckles post What I Left Behind in 2012:

I know Instagram won’t be selling my photos to advertisers, but by introducing advertising on Instagram their intentions are clear. I was never meant to be their customer. Only their product. Starting in 2013 I only want to support companies that are proud to have me as a customer. Instagram may be a slick app for taking photos, applying filters, and sharing pictures with friends, but their are better ways to do all three on my iPhone. By not limiting myself to Instagram I have more options. My favorite filters won’t suddenly disappear. I can share my photos on App.net. And I can still follow all of my friends photos by visiting their public Instagram profile pages, or by clicking the links they post. As Instagram’s popularity increases more of the photos in its collection will be of blond teenage girls, fingernail polish, and guys with their shirts off. These are photos I don’t need to see, and the reasons why I won’t be missing Instagram on my Home Screen in 2013.

I personally thought about quitting after it became clear the service was no longer social-network neutral when it dropped support for Twitter Cards. I’m a sucker for being able to view images inline with a Twitter post, and not having to go out of my Twitter client to the web, which I now have to do to view Instagram photos.

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