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December 31, 2012

Trending //

I’m not particularly fond of best-of, year-end lists, recaps, and anything of the like. Most of the time they don’t say much or provide much real value or insight. And so despite being a somewhat sentimental guy, I’ve made a more concerted effort to look forward, not back. To let go of the past, to drop the baggage that comes along with it. To be free to start over and re-invent.

If I had to define 2012 on a deeply personal level, what immediately comes to mind is clarity, focus, quiet, reduction, challenge, reinvention.

Here’s to continuing that trend in 2013.

November 6, 2012

Vote //

It’s typically a challenge to get me to talk politics. But it’s that time again where the single most significant election is upon us, and while I can’t vote (you know, being a Canadian living in the US), the outcome matters. It matters to me, to Canada, to the world. And just because I can’t vote, it doesn’t mean I can’t encourage you to.

Vote

I have a hard time believing that people have really fooled themselves into thinking that any elected official can really act on everything they’d like to in such a short period of time. Given the complexity of the political machine, nothing is simple and four years is not a long time. Little ever happens overnight.

While my instincts tell me I probably don’t need to do anything to encourage my US friends, I hope they all exercise their voting rights and give Obama (the guy I would vote for if I could) another four years to continue the process of turning around the mess he was left.

/End political commentary

October 7, 2012

Milton //

Occasionally when my inbox makes that “ping” sound, waiting for me is an email from my father-in-law. Sometimes it’s just a goofy joke or a shared article. Sometimes it’s a post from the media ecology mailing list. Other times it’s something special, such as a document brought back from the UK just the other day by his son (my brother-in-law), Andrew.

A good Booke is the precious Life-blood of a master Spirit, imbalam’d and treasur’d up on purpose to a Life beyond life.

Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a Potency of Life in them to be as active as that Soul was whose Progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a Vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living Intellect that bred them.

John Milton, Areopagitica (1644)

The sentiment of this brief quote from English poet, John Milton (1608-1674) echoes my own feelings towards books, and I’m certain, my father-in-law’s as well.

While I’m generally enthusiastic about digital books, I caveat it with the simple understanding that digital is not the answer for everything. Some books just don’t belong trapped as backlit ones and zeros. Instead the illumination of these books comes from their physical existence — from the impact they have in three dimensions. The loss of that would be a terrible tragedy.

June 30, 2012

Three Months in the Valley //

On March 26th I completed my first day as a Facebook employee. Personally and creatively, that day is a line in the sand and underscores exactly why Emily and I agreed to head off on such a grand adventure.

It reminded me that there are times when the best thing to do is to look ahead and not dwell too long on the past. To not forget how you got to where you are, but to press ahead, to pick a point somewhere off in the distance and head towards it.

As much as I’ve been cynical about social services in the past, getting to see behind the curtain at Facebook has altered my perspective and allowed me to see that there’s more to the company’s vision than just talk. Be open. Be bold. Build trust. Again, I see that point in the distance.

The warm and encouraging welcome I’ve received speaks to the quality and maturity of employees, and of the organization itself endeavoring to be transparent to all. It’s allowed me to comfortably find my rhythm, to carve a path, to have an impact, and to do meaningful work that I connect with.

Across the board, the Communications Design team is top notch. The level of insight, integrity, commitment, and carefully nurtured creativity each person contributes and that allows the team to succeed is impossible to ignore. That the same reaches out to every facet of the company — all the way to the top —makes it that much more impressive.

It’s those things that further highlight why this has been the right move. There’s a genuine effort to support one another, to allow people to move fast and iterate, but most importantly, to do things right. In my experience, that type of environment is rare.

That the organization has been equally patient and empathetic during such a long transitional period means a great deal. At this point there’s only a couple weeks before the movers show up, pack our stuff into a truck, and haul it out to California with my wife and kids not trailing far behind.

While I’ve been back to Toronto twice so far since March, being 3000+ miles away from family and close friends for four to five weeks at a time has been tough. For me, and I’m sure for them too. To say Emily has been a trooper wrangling the kids largely on her own doesn’t begin to express the effort she’s put in and sacrifices she’s made to make this work.

I could attribute how I’ve been affected by this to the change of scenery, the temperate climate, or having the unique opportunity to work alongside so many people at the peak of their careers, but whatever the case may be, the top is down, the sun is shining, the stereo is blasting, and as far as my eyes can see — the roads are clear ahead.

Except on the 101 where it’s bumper to bumper for miles.

July 21, 2011

McLuhan at 100 //

Although he died on the last day of 1980 and has therefore missed further pursuing so many of the technological advances and societal changes he foresaw, July 21st, 2011 marks the centennial of the birth of Marshall McLuhan.

Marshall McLuhan Centennial - MMXI - July 21, 2011
Photo of Marshall McLuhan and Centennial Edition Book Covers (Photographer unknown)

While there have already been many events this year celebrating McLuhan’s centennial, this week in particular has been the one so many have been waiting for — to properly re-examine, reflect on, and otherwise celebrate McLuhan’s life and still hotly debated body of work.

Events and Reissues

In addition to the worldwide events honouring McLuhan, new centennial editions of many of his most important books will be making their way to book sellers around the world. The most recent being a new paperback edition of The Medium is the Massage featuring a beautifully designed cover by Shepard Fairey.

Even if you’re not familiar with the man or his writing, if you work in the digital realm, you owe it to yourself to at least dip a toe into his observations and ideas — you may be surprised what you find and how it affects you.

Digging a little deeper, the seminal book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964), and the quick-hit mosaics of The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (1967) both still read as though they were written in the last few years. The world McLuhan describes is the one we live in now.

Celebrations in Toronto

Tonight, during a free to the public McLuhan Festival Celebration event, author John Ralston Saul will be awarded the first Gutenberg Galaxy Award for Literature “for his career achievements in literature and his contribution to the culture of Canada.” I also happen to know there’s at least one more surprise in store for someone else close to McLuhan during the evening…

Happy birthday Marshall.

January 26, 2011

Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work //

2010 was a year that included more meetings than I ever could have imagined. Many lacked clear agendas, required far too many participants to be productive or were simply directionless and resulted in countless hours of lost productivity and much head scratching, and so Jason Fried’s TED Talk on interruptions and productivity is timely and echos most of my feelings about being at the office.










A significant issue Fried doesn’t address directly is the problem of context shifting. For example — you’re interrupted at work while head down on a tough problem by a co-worker who has a question about another unrelated project. Like opening a computer program, it requires you to clear the first project information from memory (or push it aside) and load everything you know about the second one, even if it’s only for a minute. Try doing that a few times a day and your head will be spinning. It may already be. But it happens all the time and ties directly into why people are often mentally exhausted at the end of the day, don’t feel like they accomplished much, or worse yet, might be on the road to burning out.

October 21, 2010

Instant //

Given the reduced amount of writing I’ve been doing the last, oh, year or so, and the amount of photography gear I’ve acquired during that same time, I think it’s safe to say I’ve rekindled an old love of documenting important events and daily minutiae in photo form, more than in words.

Instagram shots
A handful of my Instagram photos

The problem with photography for me is that much of it I want to share with friends, family and other curated acquaintances (née internet friends). That can quickly turn into a lot of work — downloading photos from the camera (or scanning them in when dealing with Polaroids — another “hobby”), curating, editing and retouching, adding metadata, then uploading. This all takes a long time; time I could be doing other things.

Mix in additional complexity from having multiple cameras — my trusty Canon 30D, the main workhorse of the lot, a Polaroid SX70 land camera, a newer 600 speed Polaroid camera and of course the ubiquitous iPhone which generally acts as my go-to camera when out and about, and the whole thing gets to be a bit much most of the time. Particularly with competing requests for my attention.

Enter the recent release of what some might call “yet another camera app” for the iPhone: Instagram. Boring, right? Actually, not so much.

This one has thus far proven to be special in a way I didn’t expect. It doesn’t do too much that I’d call “new” but what it does do is take all that tedious work and, for lack of a better way to say it, makes it fun again. Or at least makes it “easy”.

Instagram’s killer feature is that it can simultaneously upload a photo to my photostream on Flickr while sharing it on Twitter. It’s also very quick about it all and happens to produce generally great results.

What would make me happier though is if Instagram would share a short link from Flickr instead of their own when passing off to Twitter. It’s simply because I prefer to have my photo content in one bucket, not spread around in too many sites simultaneously despite it meaning additional redundancy. Allowing the user to define their preferred social sharing mechanism would be a nice touch.

And while I really don’t need another social network/app to monitor, Instagram hasn’t been too obnoxious about it, at least not yet. Frankly, it’s been fun so far. I hope it continues to be.

July 15, 2010

New Rules //

I don’t think there’s any denying that technology and the internet, two interrelated things that should be helping streamline parts of our busy lives often result in the opposite.

Over the years many, many articles and studies illustrating this have been written and smart people have come up with approaches to at least attempt to counter the constant barrage of information, requests for our time and attention. These things each conflicting with our basic need to be in the moment or to be able to just get on with it.

I’ve been struggling with these things over the last few years myself as many people know. They directly relate to my experiences with burnout. Recently I started to notice that my particular burnout buttons felt like they were being pushed again — little by little.

This time though I’m ready.

I like to think I generally learn from my mistakes. As a result I’m taking a proactive approach and closely monitoring those particular triggers. This means changing routines and taking an objective look at how my days have been and are generally structured.

In doing just that, what I quickly discovered was that I’d become lazy about certain triggers. In other words, someone left the water hose on and the dripping was turning into more of a trickle.

To counter this I’ve started setting new rules for myself and going back and revisiting ones I let slip. Simple as that. For example:

  • Very deliberately breaking my day into managable segments
  • Turning off all social media distractions throughout the day
  • Setting specific times when I will check and respond to email
  • Taking deliberate breaks to clear my head
  • Setting limits and reinforcing how long I’ll allow myself to work on something
  • Maintaining a clear work-home boundary (with obvious exceptions when required)
  • Prioritizing tasks more effectively

These rules and others that I’ve been attempting to set up around myself are simply to ensure the time I need to be creative is carefully guarded. If that time isn’t protected and nurtured, it’s easily trampled on by others, whether intentionally or not.

If you feel like you’re days are too often spent in a reactionary tailspin, you might want to take a hard look and do some of the same.

June 25, 2010

Dominant //

The other night while home alone with the kids I had a little accident and slipped and fell, landing badly on my right hand. At first I figured I just sprained it, but the pain didn’t go away and the next morning I found myself in the ER to get my hand checked out.

Front and Back of my hand with fractured fifth metacarpal
Front and back of my hand with fractured fifth metacarpal

I was told it was fractured, or rather my fifth metacarpal was. And so now for the next few weeks I get to enjoy being somewhat useless due my being right-handed. Fantastic.

Using a mouse is near impossible, or at least comical, especially as I try to compensate with my left. Writing or drawing with a pen is equally pointless mostly due to an inability to move my wrist because of the splint. My Wacom hasn’t proven to be much help either.

My awesome new splint
My awesome new splint!

What I realized though was that this was going to be a good opportunity to use my iPad to it’s maximum potential. I can type reasonably well with one hand (I wrote this entry as such in Simplenote) and can doodle with my finger using Adobe Ideas or Drafts. Anything detailed is pretty much out of the question though which is going to prove challenging knowing what I have to accomplish over the next few weeks.

This time I suspect will also turn out to be somewhat of an exercise in better empathizing with the accessibility needs of those with reduced motor skills or inability to use a mouse; if for no other reason than for the next few weeks I more or less am one of those people.

June 2, 2010

A Lonely Future //

If digital is the way of the future for (most) books, your bookshelves, or those of your children will start to look extremely barren — and the thought of this potentially happening in my lifetime gives me pause.

Lonely iPad on a Bookshelf

As much as I’m in favour of worthwhile new technology, the designer and anthropologist in me desperately does not want to see the physical object — the “artifact” — go the way of the dodo.

High Fidelity

Contrary to the music industry where fidelity has started decreasing — from CDs to MP3 and M4A audio formats, digital books are moving in the opposite direction and becoming higher resolution than their paper counterparts. Text on paper doesn’t scale well, but digital text does.

An important counterpoint though is the issue of photos and illustrations in books — those things will likely go the low-resolution route in the short-term.

Dots on paper require high resolution to output any semblance of quality. Pixels can be a bit more forgiving, though that is less true as displays increase in resolution and artifacts begin to become more apparent. Early HD television is a good example of this occurrence.

As technology and publishers’ familiarity with electronic format options improves, along with a bit of experimentation, this will likely change. There’s a lot of promise in digital books, but they should be handled properly now to avoid bad precedents leading the way. For example, as Wired magazine is (hopefully) learning right now, a digital publication made up entirely of JPEG images will not fly. I’m willing to give them a pass on the first attempt — because at least they’re trying something — but it’s not a viable long-term strategy.

Illustration by Brian Stauffer, from The Atlantic Monthly - April 2010

April 26, 2010

Gone Baby Gone //

It’s been a little over a year since I decided Wishingline, the little company I started had gone in one direction and I was moving in another. It was headed east and I was moving west. I’m only sort of being facetious in saying that.

Since then I’ve hummed and hawed about what to do about the website — the one that became a true testament to the state of the shoes of the cobbler’s children.

Wishingline homepage
The Wishingline homepage just before taking the site offline

Until recently it was still getting a fair amount of organic search engine traffic as well as new and repeat referrals, but this whole time it’s pretty much been left out in the cold.

Despite neglecting it, there were a few parts of the ‘ol site that felt important and I’ve had tasks in Things since last year to do something about them. As it would happen though, I either haven’t had time or enough interest to actually do anything about it. Until last night at least.

Late last night I decided that traffic, and more importantly (to me at least) my interest had dropped off enough to just redirect the domain entirely and be done with it. And so after a couple minutes of changing DNS settings and updating a virtual host configuration, wishingline.com was essentially gone.

I’d say there’s a tear in my beer but that was long ago. I’m much older than that now.

March 12, 2010

Texmex //

I don’t know exactly where the days have gone since last year but SXSW 2010 starts today and as much as I’m excited to see old friends and connect with new ones, I’m feeling largely unprepared — even if I’m really not. I’m definitely a tad sleep deprived though, so I apologize in advance for being potentially incoherent while in Austin.

As much as I and others have been a bit blasé about it since ‘09, Southby is still something I think most of us look forward to every year — it’s that one big opportunity to catch up and exchange ideas with the web/interactive world as a whole. It’s more than a simple conference or “geek spring break”. The last couple days have had me thinking that this year is going to be a little different, maybe a little special somehow. I’m not yet sure what that means exactly but we’ll see.

Based on conversations via Twitter, it definitely feels like more people attending this year will be in Austin even less for the conference sessions than for the bits that happen in the hallways, coffee shops, bars and restaurants. I’d say that’s largely true for me even though after finally looking through the panels and talks, there are certainly some potentially good ones. Potentially.

Butter Me Up

Part of the excitement might just be around some of the changes that have been underway for me over the last few months, one of which being my working more with Luke on ButterLabel projects and planning what’s next with Ligature, Loop and Stem.

New foil stamped letterpress ButterLabel business cards
Foil stamped letterpress ButterLabel business cards

Luke and I have all kinds of schwag to hand out — some lovely foil stamped business cards, stickers, buttons (ButterLabel and LL&S), and even a few ButterLabel tees. I think we’ll be pretty selective about who those go to. All are definitely first-come, first-serve though.

Pre-trimmed ButterLabel buttons
Pre-trimmed 1in. ButterLabel buttons

On top of that I’ve got a few copies of Life in the Dead of Winter, my band’s 2009 EP with me (on 180g vinyl no less) for any vinyl enthusiasts out there. For anyone interested in a digital download, let me know and I’ll arrange to get you a special download code.

Extracurricular Activities

I would remiss to not finally mentioning that messieurs Hutchinson, Dorny and I will be hosting this year’s annual SXSW Found Type Photowalk event on Sunday morning in the absence of the illustrious Mr. Rubin who is currently in the UK.

Information is available on the Flickr group page, the awesome Sitby.us app by Weightshift, and Eventbrite through which you can RSVP to attend — there’s no cost and it’s always a good time. I believe Grant even has a little treat for those that do… Just sayin’.

For those in attendance — see you around Austin over the next five or so days. Who’s buying the first round?

January 6, 2010

Happy //

Now that Emily, Gillian, new baby brother Liam are all home, we’d all like to say thank you again to all our family, close friends and coworkers near and far for their well-wishes and congratulations on Liam’s birth on New Year’s Eve and throughout the last few days.

It all means a great deal, so thank you super nerds: @gordasm, @neilio, @robotjohnny, @jmcnally, @paulkyte, @fyang, @gmacgregor, @saila, ButterLabel, LL&S and former Wishingline co-conspirators: @luxuryluke, @splorp, @carywood, @mrwarren, @annamazon, @theinterned, and internet friends, peers, clients and all around awesome people: @sugarfreejones, @SharaK, @slowtron, @derekbalmer, @simplebits, @adactio, @feather, @nicepaul, @ktamura, @orderedlist, @drinkerthinker, @tiffehr, @mezzoblue, @TheAdnostic, @greghoyboy, @pws, @kenschafer, @jeffsmith, @renaud, @nathanborror, @vpieters, @mrs_hicks, @gleyseele, , @thedoeeyes, @kfinlayson, @danielseaman, @stickel, @louderthan10, @joshualane, @KuraFire, @breppy, @briandelicata, @kellysims, @katanma, @mattbrett, @soopa, @retodd, @adarowski, @dcharrison, @geoperdis, @andrewdotcom, @mintchaos, and @jaygoldman. Yes, even you too @kennymeyers. Jerk.

Needless to say it was one New Year’s Eve we won’t soon forget.

January 1, 2010

Untitled //

Yesterday was supposed to be a relaxed and uneventful New Year’s Eve for Emily and I but it would seem someone had other plans for us… Or at least wanted to ensure that the end of 2009 went out on the most positive note possible.

As it turns out we spent the night at Women’s College Hospital, not too far from home under the wonderful care of nurse Rebecca, who along with the other fantastic staff there helped deliver our new baby boy.

Our new as-yet-unnamed baby
The new addition to our little family — (now known as) Liam

Our special little guy was born at 10:21PM and came in at a healthy 8lbs and with a pretty full head of hair, just like his big sister Gillian. We didn’t know in advance whether it would be a boy or a girl, so now comes the fun part — picking out a name.

Thanks again to all our friends and well-wishers — we can’t wait to give you a proper introduction!

December 29, 2009

Not the Same (Part 2) //

Way back in September (it feels like eons ago to me) I put together a digital mix tape of cover songs. It went over pretty well and there was a big pile of songs that didn’t make the cut. More importantly though, there was enough demand (though it might just be because Luke told me to) to warrant a sequel — so here it is.

I think there’s perhaps a bit more range in this one than the first, but I’m pretty close to these songs so it’s hard for me to say without feeling somewhat biased about it.

Not the Same Part 2 cover artwork
Not the Same: Part 2 mixtape cover artwork

Creative Commons Photo used in the cover art by balakov / CC BY-NC 2.0

Download ‘Not the Same’ Part 2 (93.03MB m4a bookmarked format)

  1. Rocking Chair - Death Cab for Cutie (original by The Band) - There was a reason they were called The Band and Death Cab does them proud here. The addition of horns to the mix adds a little something new to the band’s already well-honed sound.
  2. Supernatural - Live (original by Vic Chesnutt) - Live never proved to be a great live band (IMO) but this was a solid, stirring highlight from their 1995 MTV Unplugged performance. It was also my introduction to the songs of Vic Chesnutt which I immediately began to search out.
  3. Reason to Believe - Aimee Mann & Michael Penn (original by Bruce Springsteen) - A great cover from one of indie-rock’s favourite husband and wife duos. From the tribute to Springsteen’s 1982 “Nebraska” record.
  4. Between the Bars - Metric (original by Elliott Smith) - Acoustic Metric + Elliott Smith = awesome. What else is there to say?
  5. She Said, She Said - Matthew Sweet (original by The Beatles) - One of the rockier tunes from The Beatles’ 1966 “Revolver” record, this version gives a good taste of what seeing Matthew Sweet live is like.
  6. Will He Be Waiting for Me - Sarah Harmer (original by Dolly Parton) - I don’t care for Dolly Parton herself but there’s some good songs in her back catalogue as the White Stripes and Sarah Harmer have proven.
  7. If You Tolerate This - David Usher with My Brilliant Beast (original by the Manic Street Preachers) - I’m of two minds about David Usher in general - he can be either hit or miss, but this cover with My Brilliant Beast falls in the ‘hit’ category for me.
  8. Fasinating - Fischerspooner (original by R.E.M.) - A highlight from R.E.M.’s “Up” album that didn’t make the cut and that most people have never even heard. This is obviously very different.
  9. The Spirit of Radio - Catherine Wheel (original by Rush) - For Greg Hoy. This might be as close to a simple rock version of a Rush tune you might ever hear, especially missing Geddy Lee’s vocal stamp.
  10. Hyperballad - Glen Phillips (original by Bjork) - I’ve always thought Bjork’s music presented an interesting opportunity to do something a bit different since her songs tend to be unlike just about anything in popular music. Glen unearths a simple ballad in this particular case.
  11. Guilty by Association - Joe Henry with Madonna (original by Vic Chesnutt) - From the second (and last) Sweet Relief album and yes, featuring that Madonna, who apparently happens to be Joe’s sister-in-law. The original features Vic and Michael Stipe of R.E.M. who produced Vic’s first two records.
  12. Paranoid Android - Steven Page (original by Radiohead) - Sufficiently weird and unlike anything the Barenaked Ladies ever produced.
  13. She Don’t Use Jelly - Ben Folds Five (original by The Flaming Lips) - The crazy, fun version. Features the vocal talents of all three members of the band along with help from multi-instrumentalist John Mark Painter and his wife, singer Fleming McWilliams.
  14. Wall of Death - R.E.M. (original by Richard Thompson) - Probably one of Richard Thompson’s most upbeat songs. Originally from the tribute album “Beat the Retreat”, this particular song reappeared a few years later as a B-side from the single for “E-Bow the Letter”.
  15. All the Young Dudes - Travis (original by David Bowie/Mott the Hoople) - A pretty straight-up cover but Fran and the boys never disappoint. This particular B-side comes from the single for “Side” off their album “The Invisible Band”.
  16. That’s All - Clare and The Reasons (original by Genesis) - This is one of those cases where the cover is massively better than the original. Still… needs more tuba.

The death of singer/songwriter Vic Chesnutt on Christmas day prompted my revisiting this so it’s fitting that he’s well represented with two songs. Although there’s still more on the cutting room floor, I’ll likely move on to something new the next time the urge strikes to do another of these.

Enjoy!

September 30, 2009

Not the Same //

I’ve always been a sucker for good cover songs. It might be that it’s a great way to learn about writing songs since it forces you to think about structure and how the nuances of a song sometimes really hold it together. They’re also just fun.

Not the Same cover artwork
Not the Same mixtape cover artwork

Most of the time covers follow the originals pretty closely, but on occasion they end up barely recognizable. It was with that in mind that I tossed together another digital mixed tape.

Download ‘Not the Same’ (83.9MB m4a bookmarked format)

  1. Power To The People - The Minus 5 (original by John Lennon) - A beefy, bouncy feedback-laden cover featuring R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck.
  2. Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head - Ben Folds Five (original by Burt Bacharach) - Still as catchy as you remember — just wait for the fuzz bass and the crazy ending!
  3. Cortez The Killer - Matthew Sweet (original by Neil Young and Crazy Horse) - A resonably obscure live cover which I’ve had kicking around for years and that I still prefer over the original.
  4. I Want a New Drug - Apostle of Hustle (original by Huey Lewis and the News) - Probably the most oddball pick of the lot. A weird, groovy ride. The bridge solo guitar lick is worth the price of admission alone.
  5. Sister I’m a Poet - Colin Meloy (original by Morrissey) - Acoustic studio version from a rare 5 song EP released as part of a solo tour by the Decemberists frontman.
  6. Gouge Away - Hayden (original by The Pixies) - A very raw, growly 1996 B-side.
  7. Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis - Neko Case (original by Tom Waits) - I think the first time I heard this was in an extra curricular philosophy class I took in high school. The teacher had a thing for existentialism and Tom Waits.
  8. Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want - She & Him (original by The Smiths) - A Smiths tunes plus indie darlings Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward is a combination that can’t go wrong.
  9. A Forest - Josh Rouse (original by The Cure) - A very odd song but a good one nonetheless. There’s at least one recording of my old band covering this floating around the internet too.
  10. Bad Time To Be Poor - The Weakerthans (original by The Rheostatics) - Let’s just call this my attempt at squeezing in a double shot of Canadian rock.
  11. One More Dollar - Glen Phillips (original by Gillian Welch) - A stripped down solo acoustic cover of a little folk tune by Gillian Welch and her partner David Rawlings.
  12. For What Reason - Emm Gryner (original by Death Cab for Cutie) - I forget when I clued in to what song this was but there’s something gripping about the sparseness of hearing it with a female voice and played entirely on piano.
  13. History Never Repeats - Eddie Vedder (original by Split Enz) - Lucky number 13. I suppose this is really only half a cover since both Neil and Tim Finn who wrote the song sing on it along with Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam. It’s from a Pearl Jam fan club single in case you were wondering.

Bonus points if you can identify all the songs in medley of track 14 (unlisted — it’s a surprise).

Left on the cutting room floor were covers of David Bowie, Dolly Parton, Vic Chesnutt, The Beach Boys, The Flaming Lips, Rush, The Beatles, The Band, Richard Thompson and more — which perhaps suggests a Part Deux?

September 23, 2009

Reconnected //

It seems for many friends, 2009 has been a year of change. Some expected, some perhaps not, but in the end — all good. I certainly didn’t expect the year to play out as it has so far.

It’s been several months now since I shook things up and, to a large extent, I’ve stayed quiet since. But it’s time to drop the cone of silence. If nothing else, a chance to write a bit wouldn’t hurt me since I haven’t done much of that lately. Even my Twittering has (mostly) been kept to a minimum.

Like Brand New

Although the decision I made back in March was difficult (hello, understatement!), my state of mind and attitude since solidifies that it was the right decision for me. My stress levels are manageable and daily routines are starting to feel “routine” again.

A break along with taking some of my own medicine has allowed me to assess and reconnect with the things I love to do, find out what’s truly important to me, and identify how to balance my working life with my “real” life based on those findings. In effect — a second chance; a clean slate.

The summer — what I’ve been affectionately referring to as my own Summer of George has found me reading, thinking, exploring, planning, and trying harder to live more in the moment. The things outside of “work” are fun again and the parts that have been largely absent are starting to trickle back in. I’ve also been cautiously getting back into the rhythm of project work.

The last two months have found me contributing design work to a few projects (none of which have gone live yet) and I’m beginning to schedule and prioritize others — with a clearer focus on “design”, not development. I’ve said before that I’m not a developer despite appearances to the contrary and now I really mean it.

Looking Sideways

One of the things taking a break has allowed me the flexibility to do is examine how I was doing things in the past from a new angle. What was working? Where was I making mistakes? What could I do better? Hindsight is 20/20 after all.

What I unearthed, aside from the need to spend more time evaluating projects for suitability and more strictly enforcing my own rules of engagement with clients, has been the opportunity to adapt or aport methodologies that have since proven to keep me focused, avoid falling into old traps and prioritize the work so that it contributes to a stable work-life balance instead of running ramshackle. The frustrating part being why I wasn’t able to crack that particular nut sooner…

It’s (almost) annoying how smoothly the latest projects have gone (compared to how prior projects on occasion went off the rails in their own ways) but I hope it continues — I’ll certainly do my part to ensure it does.

What’s Next?

The next obvious question of course is — what’s next?

For starters I’m taking on new design projects in a freelance capacity again. Specifically, I’m interested in projects where there’s the opportunity to develop mutually beneficial relationships and take a more strategic approach to design and producing great user experiences; not “cake decorating” projects as I like to call them. Please don’t waste my time with those.

The internet is nothing without people (users, visitors, customers — they’re all still “people”). The job of a designer focused on the web is more than just making something “pretty”. It’s about “doing the right thing” for people; to somehow bring a degree of humanity to something that’s inherently inhumane. To make things usable universally; to surprise and delight. To pay attention to the parts that most people will never notice. That’s where I fit in.

Of course I’m also still interested in front-end code — HTML, CSS and Javascript (primarily jQuery) which I consider part of wearing my designer hat and to ensure the best possible experiences are delivered. If past project work has taught me anything it’s that far too often when I’m not involved in the markup and styling of something I designed, the end result suffers. That might just be the perfectionist in me talking though.

Aside from being back in the design saddle, I’ll be in Chicago in October for An Event Apart and am bringing the family along for the ride. We’re taking the opportunity for a mini-vacation and will be arriving the Saturday before the conference starts to explore and enjoy some deep-dish pizza and Cheezborgers.

Lastly, there’s the cache of long-ignored pet projects that I finally feel ready to tackle and which I expect will start to trickle out before the end of the year along with maybe a surprise or two along the way.

Summer’s over and it’s time to get back to business.

May 26, 2009

Looking Glass //

In Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Caroll wrote:

It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.

In a roundabout way I think that passage perfectly sums up the state of the web industry for me in 2009 and is a perfect lead-in to mention issue number 284 of A List Apart which features an article on the topic of Burnout by yours truly.

It was a challenging article to write simply because it was so deeply rooted in my own personal experiences and I hope readers take note and are interested in continuing the discussion further because, obvious or not, the web and design industries are intrinsically ripe for extreme cases of burnout.

My thanks to Carolyn Wood, Krista Stevens, Erin Kissane, Zeldman et al.

May 1, 2009

Slate //

After a few weeks of soul searching I’ve made the decision to permanently close Wishingline. I hinted at this being a real possibility in a couple previous entries, though my original intenion was to simply put the company on ice in the short term because I needed some distance and clarity to make an informed decision about what to do.

I’ve had a bit of time now and simply, for me, the right thing to do is completely wipe the slate clean.

Illustration by Hugh MacLeod at gapingvoid
Illustration by Hugh MacLeod (gapingvoid)

Over the years Wishingline’s become more than just me and as I hinted at, I don’t entirely recognize it anymore. Simply — circumstances change and people change. As a result companies change and adapt too.

As I suspect is true of most companies who’ve got a few years under their belt, they’ve had their fair share of great successes, a few crushing defeats and a handful of fits and starts, but looking back, and dispite some mistakes made along the way, I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished and for taking some big risks. I don’t feel like I’ve failed by any means — or I at least need to keep reminding myself of that.

It was a risk when I left a stable job and struck out on my own. It was a risk when I decided it was time to grow the company and move into the office space the company occupied until last week. It was a risk when I brought in not just one new fulltime employee, but two, especially over a fairly short time period. And of course (for various reasons) it’s a risk I’m taking now closing the door on Wishingline.

When all’s said and done though, it’s the right thing for me to do.

Uncertain Weather

What the future holds for me is still very much uncertain. I have a good idea what I don’t want to do, it’s now a question of what I do want to do. I haven’t eliminated the possibility of freelancing or something similar, but if so, the circumstances under which that happens will be very different based on everything I’ve experienced and learned. And if so, it’d be under a different banner; but who knows. I might not return to the freelance/small agency world at all.

If I haven’t been particularly active here, on Twitter or Flickr of late, it’s because I’ve been working on tying up loose ends and exploring possibilities, including what exactly to do with this site. Honestly I’ve been feeling like a bit like a lost puppy and still have some important questions to answer before I make the next big decision.

As much as I’m still pretty emotional about everything that’s happened this year, and though I’m closing one door, I’m opening another. This is an opportunity. I don’t think it’s too pie in the sky to say, but life is just too short to spend stuck in a rut, doing something that doesn’t make you truly happy or leaves you feeling like you’re not living up to your full potential. Carpe diem, as they say.

Change, Change, Change

Over the next little while I’ll be starting to dismantle the business side of the Wishingline site. I’m debating what to do about this notebook though and whether I should keep it up as-is, do some fancy redirects to move it up to the top of the domain, move it to an entirely new domain or… I don’t know. I haven’t sorted out what all the possible implications are of doing any of the above but whatever I end up deciding, I’ll do what I can to not break the internets.

April 12, 2009

Spring //

It’s spring or at least that’s what the calendar says and that means it’s time for some spring cleaning. As a result of the changes ‘round these parts I now have a handful of software licenses that are no longer being used along with one shiny, good as new 24” iMac computer that’s for sale (the other ones are already accounted for).

Software

Hardware

At this point I don’t have much need to keep a second iMac around in the office since there’s already two other Macs and a PC at my disposal. The iMac is one of the current aluminum models (though prior to the last hardware minor update a few weeks back), approximately 6 months old and includes the obligatory AppleCare extended warranty.

Detailed Hardware Specifications
  • 24” glossy TFT widescreen active-matrix LCD display
  • 2.8GHz Intel Core2 Duo processor
  • 4MB shared L2 cache at full processor speed
  • 800MHz frontside bus
  • 4GB (two 2GB SO-DIMMs) of 166MHz DDR SDRAM
  • 500GB 7200 RPM internal Serial ATA hard drive
  • Apple slot-loading SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
  • AirPort Extreme Wi-Fi wireless networking (802.11n)
  • Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
  • Built-in 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit networking
  • Built-in stereo speakers, microphone and iSight video camera
  • Apple Keyboard and Mighty Mouse
  • Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard + iLife 08 software bundles

$1,800SOLD

If you’re interested or have a question about any of the above items, get in touch by sending an email to springcleaning {at} wishingline.com. Everything is first-come first-serve and once something is gone it’s gone. Shipping is not included and will be determined on a per-item basis as required.

March 27, 2009

Powers //

With everything that’s been going on lately, my third trip down to Austin for SXSW couldn’t have come at a better time. I definitely needed a break and some time to decompress.

In every sense: mission accomplished.

Mark Bixby and Joshua Lane at the Hampton Inn
Mark Bixby and Joshua Lane at the Hampton Inn

I was largely offline while in Austin. I didn’t bring my MacBook and it was often challenging to get connected on my iPhone since roaming data rates are insane (thanks again Rogers and AT&T). The often spotty wifi access didn’t help either. Despite that, being somewhat disconnected much of the time was refreshing — I think we’d all benefit from doing it more often.

Bigger, yes. Better?

Although I didn’t expect it to be bigger this year given the current economic climate, SXSW Interactive indeed was. Whether the conference itself was better than previous years though is still largely up for debate. Reports seem to indicate some good, a little bit of awesome and a whole lot of “meh” which isn’t really any different from previous years.

I honestly spent more time connecting with friends, both old and new than I did going to panels. I can count the number of panels I attended on one hand, but the ones I did were all enjoyable. Not mind blowing but enjoyable nonetheless.

It’s Made of People

SXSW has definitely become much more important to me (and many others) for the things that happen outside the conference sessions than in them. So much so for some that they didn’t bother to even get a conference pass this year, something that I would hazzard a guess will increase a bit more next year.

Luke Dorny, Brian Warren and Mr. President outside the Obama Store in Austin
Luke Dorny, Brian Warren and Mr. President outside the Obama Store in Austin

As this was my third year attending, having time to reaquaint with old friends I may not have seen for a year or more was great and getting the opportunity to meet so many more again proved to be well worth the cost of spending a week in Austin. Still, there were many faces missing this year and people I didn’t have a chance to find or chat with.

Now that the 2010 dates have been announced (March 12th—16th), if you’re thinking of attending, you mind want to consider skipping the conference pass and just hang out in the hallways or at Halcyon or Gingerman. I know I am. That’s where you’ll likely find a lot of us anyway.

Veerle and Geert on the patio at the Hampton Inn
Veerle and Geert on the patio at the Hampton Inn

More photographic evidence of my time in Austin at SXSW is available for your viewing pleasure at Flickr. On a side note — if you didn’t get a chance to see Gary Hustwit’s new film Objectified, do yourself a favour and make a point to.

Now that I’ve been back for about a week, caught up on work, the big iPhone OS 3.0 announcement and everything else going on in the web/design world, I’ve started to dedicate some time to reconnecting with a few of the things I’ve had sitting on the backburner or that will help me build up the momentum I need in planning what’s next.

First up: writing more and getting back on my book reading bandwagon. Two blog entries this week alone so I think I’m off to a good start.

March 26, 2009

More //

Never far from my thoughts since making the big announcement official last week and after reading through Snook’s announcement from a couple days ago, I realized I still have a bit more to say about why I made the decision to shake things up. If nothing else, to clarify how this all came about.

Identity Crisis

A while back we received a RFP for a project that would have lasted six months to a year if not longer. It was complicated and well beyond my comfort zone. Ultimately we declined to respond but while reviewing the project specs I realized something that I felt had been staring me in the face for some time, something I just hadn’t seen until then — Wishingline had a major identity problem.

Although recognized primarily as designers by other designers (and developers), to the outside world, Wishingline (and me by extension) were developers or some sort of hybrid. Not what I had in mind. That project RFP and the resulting conversation with the client confirmed it.

Insert panic attack here.

After walking home that night and mulling over the situation I had a pretty good idea where that perception problem came from. It turned out to be partially, if not entirely my own doing. Looking back through some of the more technically minded entries in the notebook and our previous enterprise application work made it abundantly clear.

I’m a designer first and foremost but I like to tinker. I’m innately curious and have always liked to know how things work but I’m not a developer. Building or fixing things comes naturally and I’ve always found that characteristic allowed me to be sympathetic to developers, resulting in better decisions and ultimately better sites or applications.

Development experience also meant I could bring more to the table when working with clients. What I didn’t realize at the time though was the cost of that knowledge and what it ultimately meant in relation to the type of work that showed up on our doorstep.

My involvement in the development side of the web increased out of interest and necessity but also from the type of work that Wishingline was already involved in — a considerable amount of application design (Rails, Sproutcore, iPhone, embedded web widgets, etc), rarely from the commercial website part of the business.

At this point I have about zero interest in doing any more web app design work. Those are problems I’m just not interested in trying to solve now. It’s too easy to get caught up in the minutia and technical details which can quickly suck the life and momentum out a project.

For now I’m only interested in focusing my time and effort into things I can get behind 100%. To some extent that means getting back to my roots and focusing much more on design rather than mucking about in code or someone else’s app framework.

The Intangible Web

The intangibleness and the seeming repetitiveness of the web is something I’ve struggled with for some time, leaving me feeling like the web is just too much of the “same old, same old” to be really interesting. I know that’s not really true but constantly being handed the same basic problems to solve over and over or being pigeonholed into one design aesthetic hasn’t helped bend my opinion to the other side.

Anna, Ned and I talked about this quite a bit in the office — how we could make the web more interesting (for us at least) by introducing more tangible visual elements and interaction into our work without resorting to Flash. We looked at potentially building actual “set pieces” and working more with real objects that we’d photograph and use as building blocks for site designs. Unfortunately we didn’t get the opportunity to put this into practice, but I’m not done with that idea yet.

I come from a largely traditional design background: paste-up by hand, processing my own film, print (litho, screenprinting, letterpress, flexo) and the like. I’ve used more than my fair share of Letraset and Rubylith.

I’ve always been passionate about typography but being as focused on the web for as long as I have left many of my typographic senses dulled. I’ve been chipping away at that problem for a little while now but I need to step that up, if only for myself. It’s not that I’m sick of Lucida Grande, Verdana or Georgia… Ok, maybe a little.

I also miss working with my hands instead of being glued to a desk and computer screen — whether this means sketching or working with real materials (paper, ink, film, traditional photography, etc) instead of doing everything digitally in Photoshop. Analog is where it’s at. I made a record for crying out loud.

Personal Projects

Like Jon, internal projects at Wishingline have been constantly sidelined. It’s a problem when the client vs internal/personal work division is almost always 100/0, and one which has weighed heavily on my mind for a long, long time.

A perfect example is the main Wishingline site which hasn’t been significantly updated in nearly 5 years and in desperate need of attention. There’s also a big sketchbook of creative project ideas that’s been sitting on my desk untouched for nearly as long. Paying the bills is all well and good but without a striking proper balance between client work and personal projects it can be difficult to stay engaged.

Simply put, a big part of why I started Wishingline in the first place, aside from the flexibility of being choosey about the for-hire projects I would work on, was to be free to work on these “fun” projects; to dedicate a portion of my day to reading, writing and doing whatever would allow me to stay creative, motivated and engaged so that the “work” projects don’t somehow become a burden. That hasn’t worked out quite the way it should have and in the end I’m the only one who can do something about it — and so I am.

Taking Back The Reins

Time is one of the few (only?) finite variables in life and the reality for me was that I didn’t want to look back and feel like I wasted an opportunity by trying to “tough it out” in a situation that wasn’t working. I have a wife and a young daughter and need to consider how what I do for a living affects those relationships too.

I’ve had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects with some smart people — many I’ve enjoyed for one reason or another, but there’s also been some real duds. There’s been times where I found myself severely overbooked and overwhelmed too. Sometimes it was my fault but other times it was entirely out of my control. Stress is ok in small doses but long-term, relentless stress is really, really bad even if you’re getting paid for the overtime. Trust me.

Perhaps naively, I almost always put client work first. That proved to be wrong. It’s important but only if it’s the right work or if it doesn’t occupy every waking moment of your life, in the office or out. Maybe that sounds selfish but personally I don’t think so. I’m honestly too close to really be objective anyway.

Let’s be totally clear — I’m not saying I’m done with the web or design in general. Far from it, but I need to redefine my place in it by better understanding what I want from it and by hopefully contributing something back to it that I (and others) think is truly interesting, engaging and worthwhile.

More on exactly what that means soon.

March 12, 2009

Watershed //

Somewhere along the way I remember reading something along the lines of “the best strategy is an exit strategy”. Today, more than any day before that holds a lot of meaning for me because I can finally let the cat out of the proverbial bag and announce that not so long ago I had a watershed moment and made a decision that’s ultimately led to the next big change for me personally and Wishingline which is officially on hiatus at least in the sense of accepting new client work for the foreseeable future.

The exact wording I used in trying to explain this to the few people who were told prior to now was “closed”, but more and more in mulling that over I thought “hiatus” would ultimately to be a better choice. “Crazy talk” some have told me so I’ll give you a moment…

Uh, what?

Let’s not have any illusions, it’s hard work running a business and Wishingline for the last 4+ years has been exactly that. It’s hard doing it by yourself as a freelancer and just as hard if not more when employees and other management responsibilities are thrown into the mix. The provincial and national government bodies here in Canada don’t make that any easier either. These things can constantly weigh on your shoulders (they certainly have mine) and deserve as much attention as the clients paying the bills.

Owning and managing a small but successful design agency (I can’t stand that term but it’ll do) can mean wearing a lot of different hats and juggling conflicting responsibilities. That balancing act can be exhausting, especially if many of those frequently conflict with your individual needs.

When it comes to “work”, I’m a designer first and foremost but also happen to have some background in a lot of other areas thanks to a solid and varied university education, previous jobs and generally being exposed to nearly every possible side of “the biz” at one time or another.

Even though I’ve had the opportunity to work on some interesting projects, particularly some of the more recent projects, I haven’t been feeling particularly creatively satisfied or engaged. Unfocused. Remember all those hats I mentioned a moment ago? Yeah, exactly.

Ultimately I think there’s little point in doing something where your passion is wavering, doesn’t provide sufficient purpose or from which you’re not deriving the right level of personal satisfaction. Some people might be able to get away with that but I’m not one of them. It’s not in my DNA.

For the last few months I’ve hummed and hawed over what to do, in part because of the implications to the business, clients, family, and the two talented and exceptionally smart people working with me in the office, but the reality was that, for beter or worse, change was inevitable. Thankfully there’s been no crying and no staplers, chairs or computers thrown in my general direction. At least not yet.

…Next

What that change ends up being is entirely up in the air right now. It might be a small change or it might be something more significant. For now it means that Wishingline is back to being just me while I tie up loose ends on a few projects and sort out what to do with the office, furniture, computers and such. Beyond that I have a few ideas and opportunities to explore though I’m in no hurry to rush into anything. I need to regroup and recalibrate first.

The one thing that’s for sure is that SXSW officially starts tomorrow and I’ll be down in Austin, TX for the next week, celebrating my birthday (today), shaking hands and kissing babies, uh, I mean hanging out with friends and undoubtedly letting off steam. I’ll have some nifty hotdog squiggle buttons with me along with a handful of copies of the new release from George, so please do say “hello”.

Shout outs

Wishingline’s clients deserve a very special thank you for their extreme patience and understanding through the current transition period. Ensuring they are taken care of and projects either wrapped up or in a state where they can be passed on has been, understandably, a huge concern. Thank you also to friends, dotcomrades and family for their unconditional support and encouragement.

February 17, 2009

George //

It’s amazing how long it can take to put out a record. It’s amazing how long it took to get this one out considering it was in the can (to use some old school industry lingo) months ago. We’ve been quietly sitting on it since while artwork was created, manufacturing was sourced, distribution was discussed, small details clarified and the final products finally arrived at our door. Oh, and building a little website to allow the band to sell the darn things too!

George - Life in the Dead of Winter record sleeves
George — Life in the Dead of Winter record sleeves

Did We Mention It’s an Actual Record?

Even if the quality of digital audio is technically better, there’s something magical and innately satisfying about the vinyl medium, particularly 180g (heavy duty) vinyl. The larger canvas for artwork is more impressive and simply more “fun”. Ultimately, The band (of which I happen to also be a member) decided to go the vinyl route for this recording for two main reasons:

  • The characteristics of the medium fit well with the songs themselves. They’re loose, a little raw and were largely recorded live off the floor in the studio
  • It was a challenge — it was a totally different experience than producing a CD

To put it another way and to take a page from Radiohead’s playbook, the band wanted a real artifact despite the recognition that most people would experience the music in a digital format such as on an iPod or their computer. Analog simply has more character than digital in pretty much every respect.

About the Packaging

The sleeve was illustrated by our good friend and exceptionally talented illustrator John Martz under direction from the band and Wishingline. The fine details in John’s illustrations, such as the subtle textures and hand lettering that might otherwise be lost if printed at CD size shine through and are further enhanced by the “reverse board” process suggested by our new friends at Vinyl Record Guru who were fantastic in guiding us through the entire production process.

Tidbits Learned Along the Way

This was a good learning project for us and even if it wasn’t all practical learning, we certainly picked up a few tidbits of vinyl trivia. For example — there are no vinyl pressing plants in Canada anymore. The last one closed down in early 2008. Now everything is handled out of a few locations in the US or Europe.

We also learned that vinyl sales roughly doubled in 2008 over 2007 (1.88 million vs 990,000 units) in Canada whereas CD sales slid a further 20%. Although still a niche market, that tidbit validated the band’s decision to produce the record on vinyl only.

Where Can I Get One?

Limited to a mere 300 copies, you can pick up one direct from the band at ournameisgeorge.com for the low, low price of $20 + shipping. Each copy will be individually numbered and will include a special code that can be used to download a digital version of the record in lossless AAC format. Sorry — no MP3s, but anyone who purchases a copy will of course be free to convert the AAC files to MP3 or any other audio format they want.

So, what are you waiting for — get ‘em while they’re hot!

January 7, 2009

Bulb //

Tonight during my daily 2.5km uphill walk home from HQ, someone turned on the proverbial light and a critically important question was answered.

This particular business matter has been giving me the evil eye for nearly six months but because everyone here has all been so heads-down in getting things done for other people, no one noticed it standing there until today when I apparently had a moment to pull myself away from the screen and put down my mouse.

This lightbulb moment will ultimately play a crucial role in one of our not-insignificant internal projects which is tentatively scheduled to be put into the blast tubes sometime around SXSW Interactive. We’ll have a lot to say about it at that time or whenever someone hands me the launch codes.

December 31, 2008

Booked //

One of the things I hoped would dominate a significant portion of my free time outside of the office in 2008 was reading. I’ve always had a real love of books, despite what anyone says about the decline of reading. Considering the sheer number of books purchased over the course of the year, I did ok, but not great. The pile of books never seemed to shrink — in fact, quite the opposite was true, though not for a lack of trying.

My 2009 reading list
A few of the titles on my 2009 reading list

In order to get off on the right foot in ‘09 though, I’m going to attempt to be a bit more methodical about my reading habits. This means blocking off a specific portion of every day to get through an already growing list of books. 30 minutes to an hour a day is all I really need to make a serious dent. The books shown above, while entirely design or business focused are just a sample of those on “the list”. I’ve got a few trashy novels and the like to break things up such as The Road and the last book by High Fidelity author, Nick Hornby.

What’s on your reading list? Are there any good (design or business) books I should pick up? I’d love to hear your recommendations — just drop a note in the comments. Oh, and happy new year!

April 9, 2008

Say Hello to “George” //

Regularly scheduled publishing will return here sometime soon (there’s a lot to catch up on when that does happen), but until then, enjoy some new tunes courtesy of the first, as-yet unfinished mixes from the band kinda-sorta formerly known as The Darns, now going under the moniker “George”.

We spent two days at Sleepytown Sound in the east-end of Toronto this past weekend to begin recording an EP which will eventually be released in some form or another, possibly a limited run of vinyl.

You must have the Adobe Flash Player installed to view this multimedia content.

The songs here are unmixed, unbalanced and still in need of a few touch ups. That said, please enjoy. On behalf of Ed, Tom, Kevin and myself, we’d love to hear what you think of them, good or bad.

Bonus points if you can pick out what font that is in the logo ;-)

March 4, 2008

Next Stop - SXSW 2008 //

SXSW Interactive 2008 is almost upon us - only a couple days left before a large part of the population of design/web and interactive geeks from around the world descend into Austin for a 4 days of panels, parties, and socializing.

SXSWi 2008 badge

The new (yay!) Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. office will be closed while I’m away for the conference and to spend some time with clients, but I’ll do my best to stay on top of e-mail and voicemail.

And if you happen to be in Austin for SXSW, please do say “hello”. Ask nice and I might have a button or two for you as well.

January 16, 2008

Nobody Reads Anymore //

On Tuesday, Steve Jobs was quoted in the New York Times when commenting on Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader device as saying:

It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore.

This caught my eye in particular and stopped me in my tracks as it relates to a trend I’ve noticed on Apple’s own site over, let’s say, the last year or so. Less text. More graphics. More video.

Apple’s website, in particular, prior to the big design change that rolled out last year was full of text content. Nearly every page, for virtually every product was loaded with well-written marketing copy. Now, not so much, at least in terms of the amount of text content. It’s still exceptionally written, full of beautiful graphics, strategically on target with Apple’s raison d’étre and Jobs’ infamous RDF — there’s simply less to read.

Jobs goes on to say:

Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.

I find these comments fascinating due to the proliferation of book stores here in Toronto and around the world — the big chains and small independents over the last 10 years. It’s completely contrary to my own experience. If I had to guess, I would say my local and extended (interweb-related) social circles read more, not less. Based on my book spending and reading habits over the last few years, I certainly wouldn’t fall into that 40%.

Whether there is any direct connection between Jobs’ feelings on the matter of reading and the amount of text content on the Apple website is not for me to say with any absolute certainty since I do not work for Apple, nor do I have any information on the inner workings of Apple’s web design/content teams, but it does strike me that such a connection could be drawn to explain what happened to all the content.

December 31, 2007

Looking Back at 2007 //

Although I’ve not really done a lot of “looking back” over the last couple of years, 2007 has been notable enough that it seems foolish not to turn the mirror around to see how I got where I am now.

While 2007 has generally been a good year, it’s also been one of the toughest I can remember. The specifics of this will be explained in due time but not necessarily here and now.

Looking back, I can see how the previous few years led me here and how I’ve learned and used many valuable lessons that continue to drive me forward both in my work, at home, and in the rest of my personal life. I can see where I made mistakes or the wrong choices too. Now, currently about three weeks into my month-long sabbatical, I’m starting to revisit those lessons - take stock of what’s working, what’s not, and getting things in order to start 2008 off on the right foot.

So what happened in 2007?

Around the World

While my travel exploits don’t compare to [certain][dkr] [others][haney], and although it’s still tough to be away from my family, I definitely did more travelling than I think I ever have before in a single year.

A few of the places I visited in 2007:

  • Austin, Texas (3 times)
  • London, England
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Reston, Virginia

As much as I might not enjoy living out of a suitcase, I got to put faces to names and feel like I made some great new friends, many of whom I expect to see again in January at WDN08 or in March for SXSWi and hopefully later in the year as well. I’ve also got a handful of new people who I’m looking forward to meeting in person in 2008. Social networking sites like Facebook, Virb, and Twitter are one thing, but cannot complete with actually connecting face to face with people.

Unfortunately I’ve not done the same kind of networking in the local Toronto web and technology communities; something which is high on my list of things to remedy in 2008. I’ve already got a good start and have a few opportunities already lined up to help move this along.

Business is Good

This year was one of growth and change for Wishingline. As a business entity, the company changed from a sole proprietorship to a full-fledged corporation with all the extra paperwork, meeting minutes and common shares that involves.

The employee roster also grew (officially) to two with the addition of Shawn Frair, who came on board at the beginning of December to take over the books, because, frankly, I’m not an accountant. Emily did a great job in helping get me through until now, but we’re both relieved to have this in Shawn’s hands now.

Aside from being a great friend, music lover, occasional blogger, and expert balloon animal maker, Shawn is filling an important need and taking charge of a core piece of the business that I really shouldn’t be too actively involved in. It’s a great relief to have the books in such capable hands, especially since it frees me to focus on both the creative and technical sides of the business along with simply growing the company.

Bringing one new person into the mix also meant that I started to put more serious thought into growth - beefing up the client roster, adding new talent, and moving the office. Although running the office out of the house has never been an issue with clients, it feels like the right time to start the search for proper office space especially if I plan on increasing the number of people actually doing the work beyond myself.

In the short term, the office has been reconfigured to add a second desk in preparation for adding employee number three. So, yes, that means officially I’m in hiring mode. This is the first of several self-induced kicks in the pants. More on this soon.

In terms of actual work - this year was a doozy. A couple of weeks ago, prior to starting my sabbatical I took a look back and assembled a near complete list of projects from the last year. It was so long that I nearly fell out of my seat. I had no idea how much I really accomplished; and as much as it kind of frightened me, it was also impressive.

Although my focus has been primarily web projects, I’ve had opportunities to work on print projects, ads, identity design and just about everything in between. Unfortunately, due to being so busy with client work meant that a few more personal projects fell by the wayside and got little, if any attention. Again, something that will be remedied in 2008 based on the planning I’ve been doing during my time off.

Musical Side Projects

In my musical world, 2007 also brought some changes. The Darns unfortunately disolved, but not without a new group rising out of the ashes. We moved out of our permanent rehearsal room in the west-end of the city and still haven’t bothered to come up with a name, but we’ve made great progress in writing new songs and are starting to put together a plan to do some recording in early 2008 with the possibility for an EP release. Might need to get that name thing worked out before that though…

At Home

The biggest adjustment in 2007 continued to be adapting to having a new baby in the house. Thankfully Gillian couldn’t be a better baby. She sleeps well, eats well and is incredibly good natured virtually all the time. We really couldn’t ask for more.

It’s been so much fun to watch her grow (she turned one in October), babble, crawl, laugh, splash around in the tub, chase the cats - it reminds me that even if I have a lousy day at the office, there’ll always be a smiling face waiting at the end of the day. To top her first year off right, we’re really looking forward to Gillian’s debut modelling appearance in the February 2008 issue of Style at Home magazine (page 24 I’m told).

Aside from all the changes revolving around Gillian, this year brought an opportunity to finally come to terms with many other life changes such as moving (twice), two summers of major home renovations and the psychological changes involved with going from being an employee to the boss. It was a nice break this summer not to have to also play the role of construction site foreman at the same time as attempting to work through it.

On Deck for 08

I’ve got what I think are notable goals and changes lined up for 2008 and we’ll see how I end up doing by the end of the year but I’m optimistic that the time off I’ve given myself has allowed me the chance to slow down, reflect and really think about the last year and what I want and need to accomplish in 2008. I think it’s only by looking back at our successes, and perhaps more importantly, our mistakes, that we truly learn.

So, cheers to 2007 and hello 2008.

December 7, 2007

Sabbatical //

2007, now coming to a close has been a really good year. It’s also been a tough one on a number of levels and the culmination of many changes that have slowly been creeping up and wearing me down. The European vacation Emily, Gillian and I took back in September was a good start at getting away, taking care of myself, ignoring the business for a brief period and simply regaining the sense of being grounded, despite it since proving not to have been enough.

So, because I need to, and because I can, I’m taking a brief sabbatical through the remainder of December to the second week of January 2008. This means the office is closed. I will not be doing anything resembling client work, probably not answering e-mails (not promptly at least) and instead just doing whatever tickles my fancy at that particular moment.

Thanks to friends, family, clients for your support. Happy holidays to all of you and see you in ‘08!

October 5, 2007

On Apple and Hacked iPhones in Canada //

In July I bought an iPhone while down in Austin on a business trip with the understanding that although I would be able to activate it, allowing me to use it as an iPod with WiFi functionality, the phone-related features would not be functional until someone figured out how to un-tether the device from AT&T so that it could be used on the networks of other, non-US carriers such as Rogers in Canada.

Apple iPhones
The first generation iPhone from Apple

In late August, the iPhone was unlocked by a group of industrious hackers. The unlock process wasn’t that simple, but certainly nothing insurmountable for those with a bit of technical knowledge, and made easier shortly after by the release of GUI tools to accomplish the task.

The various tools developed by those interested in the iPhone as a new platform, and otherwise unsatisfied with Apple’s web-oriented SDK, allowed the installation of additional applications on the device — both commonly used open-source applications and software designed just for the iPhone thus making the device even more appealing to many. Games, servers, ringtones, theme customizations and more.

Everything was golden until last week when Apple released a new version of the firmware software for the iPhone which would, in essence, cripple hacked phones. Although this was not unexpected, it essentially sent that group of hackers back to the drawing board to find new methods to activate and unlock the device.

The reason I can live with my iPhone as-is for now is simple: there’s no official word on a Canadian launch of the device. Unless a new method of activating and unlocking the device are developed, I will not be upgrading my iPhone to version 1.1.1 or newer.

My speculation is that by the time Apple and Rogers, the only carrier in Canada with the network capabilities to handle the iPhone (can you say lack of competition?) come to any licensing and marketing agreements, a second generation device will be on the market or near ready for release.

At that point or whenever there is an official release in Canada, moving to an un-hacked, official device will (should) be as simple as purchasing a new iPhone and inserting my existing SIM card from Rogers or getting them to switch the SIM associated with my account. This should mirror the process existing AT&T customers went through when they switched to an iPhone. I do not expect that an existing device purchased in the US will function, even with a valid SIM card.

At least I hope it will be that simple.

The real problem as I see it, ultimately, is two things: Rogers and Apple. There’s no cellular competition in Canada. There’s Bell, Rogers, and Telus. Rogers owns Fido, so they don’t count. Neither Bell nor Telus support GSM so they’re immediately ruled out, leaving only Rogers as a possible carrier. To some extent I think this puts Rogers on the high ground in negotiations, not Apple.

As most Canadians using any kind of smart-phone, mobile carrier data pricing is off the charts, something a lack of competition does not help. $20 a month for 5MB of EDGE data is shameful and unrealistic.

This presents a problem for Apple because they need to force a sea change in how data plans are priced on the chosen carrier here in order to make the iPhone appealing to both existing and new customers. I don’t expect people would stand for an iPhone-only data plan that is miles better than those offered for other devices.

Time will tell how this will all play out in Canada but for now I will continue to happily chirp away on a 1.0.2 firmware version of the iPhone. Oh — and yes, the phone part is actually good. I’m considerably happier with it than the Sony Ericcson device my SIM card came from.

October 4, 2007

Refreshed //

It’s amazing what a break can do for you. Emily, Gillian and I recently got back from a long-overdue and much needed vacation in the United Kingdom to visit friends and family and to just get away from it all for a couple weeks. It was just what the doctor ordered.

Crossing Abbey Road
Crossing Abbey Road in London

The last few months have been very challenging — transitioning the business from a sole proprietorship to a corporation, ongoing projects, new ones starting up — the process of simply finding the motivation and inspiration to get the job done has been a constant struggle; the pressure building up more and more each day.

Although I was able to get away for a couple days here and there, it never left me with a real opportunity to disconnect, so being away never felt like truly being away.

Two weeks in the UK, much of the time without e-mail or internet access was refreshing. I didn’t have to worry about a predictable daily routine or the near-constant beeping of Twitter, e-mail or news feeds which all helped drop my stress level which I could feel building up the last while. I woke up each morning relaxed.

Coming home, despite knowing what was waiting for me, I felt ready to tackle things again. Motivated. Refreshed. Inspired. Hopefully this also means I’ll find the energy to frequently blog again and even start tackling a number of personal projects that have been sitting idle for some time now.

It’s good to be back.

April 5, 2007

Rename The Podcast Contest //

My good friend, and one heck of a funny guy, Garrett Murray asked if I’d be interested in sponsoring a little contest he’s having to rename his critically-acclaimed comedic podcast, and of course — how could I say no?

First prize
Win an iPod nano, a set of DS Buttons, and more

The rules are simple: send in your ideas on a new name for the podcast (full contest details here). Send as many entries as you like before June 1st to qualify for the chance to win a spiffy new 4GB iPod nano in your choice of colours, a set of DS Buttons and a personalized message from Garrett and his partner in hilarity, Shawn Morrison. There’s even a pair of runner-up prizes which aren’t half bad either.

What are you waiting for? Get on it!

March 17, 2007

SXSWrapped 2007 //

SXSWi 2007 is now over and I’m back home in Toronto. What a week away! I’m sure I’m still a bit out of it after being awake for over 24 hours (8:30 AM Thursday though 9:30 PM Friday) so hopefully I’m somewhat coherent.

My 6AM Friday flight back to Toronto left me feeling particularly paranoid about sleeping through an alarm, so I stayed up chillin’ at my bud Rob Jones’ place in Austin until it was time to leave. I had to gas up the rental car, drop it off and then do all the usual stuff at the airport. Luckily, no problems with my connecting flights and I actually made it home a few minutes earlier than expected.

Back to South By

March 9th through the 16th was a crazy week and I’m flat out exhausted. SXSW was a great time and a nice break from work, allowing me to finally put faces and personalities to the names I mostly knew only online via Flickr, Twitter or other social networking sites.

Garrett Murray and I at the Ze Frank party
Garrett Murray and I at the Ze Frank party in Austin

The web standards/design community has a lot of great people in it; folks I admire and look to for advice, encouragement and inspiration. People from the Canada, the US, UK, Australia and elsewhere - all of whom came together to what is truly an international conference like no other.

Panels

Based on what I heard from numerous people who’ve attended previous South By conferences, this one, in terms of the actual conference panels was a bit of a let-down. The talks were often less interesting, less focused and poorly prepared.

In some ways, looking at the names of panellists, it stuck me as a bit of a changing of the guard in some respects. A lot of names I didn’t know with only a handful that I did. As such, I found myself spending more time socializing with my peers outside the panels, at various restaurants or bars around the 6th Street area rather than actually attending the panels. The handful that I did attend in general were good or at least passable.

Given that this was my first South By I find it hard to judge fairly aside from saying that these panels were generally much less well prepared than those at Apple’s WWDC conference, RailsConf or other conferences I’ve attended in the past. I think some of the panels touched briefly on topics that overall would have been more interesting than what the panellists actually spoke about.

Unfortunately, I think I missed just about all of the really good panels such as Richard Rutter and Mark Boulton’s panel on Web Typography, Khoi Vihn and Mark Boulton’s grid design panel. Luckily there are podcasts to make up for that in the same way Apple provides WWDC attendees video/audio and PDFs of the sessions each year.

THE Social Conference

Aside from the panels, and as I hinted at earlier, SXSW is really a massive social experience, even more so than I expected. Meeting the people and personalities I’ve almost exclusively known online and having them all turn out to be really cool, fun, and down to earth was the icing on the cake. Although I didn’t get to meet everyone I would have liked or had enough time to chat with the ones I did, I can’t complain.

Mike Stickel and D. Keith Robinson
Mike Stickel and D. Keith Robinson

I was fortunate enough to get to meet and/or hang out with folks like Dan and Alex Rubin, the entirely awesome Blue Flavor posse, Tiff Fehr, Matthew Pennell, Derek Featherstone, Veerle and Geert, Andy Budd, Paul Boag, Robert Scales, Mark Bixby, Brian Warren, Steve Smith, Patrick Haney, Jina Bolton, my homie Mike Stickle, Dave Shea, Jason Santa Maria and his lovely wife Liz (your mugs are in transit), Shaun Inman, Jesse Bennett-Chamberlai, Jon Snook, Faruk and his Apple Web Store cohorts, Anton Peck, Greg Storey, Bryan Veloso, Scott Raymond, Garrett Dimon, the Veer gang (Grant, Brock, Aaron, Issa and Yuval), Sean from frogdesign and undoubtedly many more who I’m blanking on right now.

I also finally got to meet the business partner of Theresa Neil with whom I’ve been working on the FiveRuns application for the last year - Rob Jones, a former frogdesign(er) and who’s just the best. Rob rocks, and along with his girlfriend Shara, was kind enough to put me up for my last couple nights in Austin while I was takin’ care of business.

The Year Of The Button

2007 was the year of the button. I’m nearly positive I’m heading home with more 1” buttons than business cards. I can think of a few folks though who I just realized I never snagged a card from and a few who just didn’t have any at all. But the buttons seemed to really be a big hit all around. They’re fun and it’s just something a little different.

Buttons
A big bag of 1 in. Wishingline popsicle buttons

I’m still adamant that the Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. popsicle buttons were the only ones that were hand-made (by my lovely wife). I think they turned out fantastically given the fact they weren’t printed and assembled until just hours before I left to come down to Austin.

There’s still a small handful of those buttons left for anyone who didn’t get one that wants one. Just send me an e-mail or IM me with you deets and I’ll get something in the mail for you.

About SXSW’s Idiotic Registration Process

As I said to Bryan Veloso when we briefly chatted during his and Dan Rubin’s Live from the 101 podcast, my biggest complaint about SXSW, aside from some bad or uninteresting panels and poor scheduling was the absolutely ridiculous registration process and just some generally bad conference structuring problems in terms of the location of things, including the panels.

Assuming you pay $300 to go to the conference, I think there’s a pretty darn good chance you’ll actually go.

Taking that into consideration, badges should have all been pre-printed for registrants like at every other conference in the world so that when you go to register, everything is just waiting for you. Having to wait in line, fill out a card with info they already have, possibly get your photo taken, then wait around for someone to print out your badge and yell out your name before you can actually finally get your badge. That’s just inefficient and stupid if you ask me.

For a conference with as much history as SXSW, that seems like a lesson they perhaps should already have learned. The same goes for putting the registration area right in the middle of a major throughway of people going to and from panels. Apparently much of this was worse last year which is a scary thought.

A Few Fun Moments

Other random fun moments — the Trailer Park Boys wandering around the convention centre, some dude dressed as Superman though with a cellphone and Blackberry case attached to his bright yellow belt, and apparently missing Paul Rudd as we left the trade show area. I’m also still convinced I saw Tarantino a few times on Saturday or Sunday night too when we were all out partying.

In terms of parties, I had a great time at just about all of the ones I made it out to - definitely the Blue Flavor party being my fave and MediaTemple one being possibly the most pretentious and possibly dull (hence my early exit) even though I made it into the “VIP” area.

The fact that Monday’s events were on my birthday made them particularly memorable and the most fun. Thanks to all for the birthday wishes and Twitters and to Mark Bixby and Brian Warren for filling me full of beer and assorted alcohol.

Monday the 12th was also made special by the Veer gang for taking me out for a big birthday steak dinner at Fleming’s. I know everyone loves Veer — but those guys really are the coolest, and if I didn’t enjoy working for myself, I could see having a lot of fun working with them. Right, Grant?

Lunch with Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain, Mark Bixby, Brian Warren, et al on Tuesday at Halcyon was also a real treat. Sure we got a bit wet (damn rain) making our way back to the convention centre for the afternoon but it was more than worth it.

It was nice to get away for a week though I missed Emily and Gillian and was very happy to get home. Talking with them on the phone or via IM just isn’t the same. I’m still filtering through pics to upload to Flickr, but should have the ones I want to post all up soon enough.

Thanks again to all my South By peeps, it was a blast. See you next year!

February 25, 2007

Breakups are Hard to Do //

Last week after a bit of a slow patch, a stint of writers block perhaps, The Darns decided to call it a day. Yep, the band is no more; well, sort of.

The Darns - Redesigned
The Darns — an all new website

You can still buy all 3 releases from the band on iTunes or can order a physical CD copy of the band’s last full release, “What It All Turns Into” from thedarns.com. We sold more than enough to cover manufacturing and marketing expenses so, for the foreseeable future they’ll be on sale at a discounted price for anyone that wants one.

SXSW attendees can request one in the comments and I’ll bring some along with me next month.

Now, back to the earlier sort of comment. Ed, Kevin, Tom and I are continuing on as a unit but shifting musical gears. We’re simplifying and refocusing. It may be 4 of 5 members, but it will not be the same band. It’s a fresh start.

Although we’re debating what to do about a singer long-term, Ed has currently taken up the challenge while we focus on the task of songwriting. Starting fresh means leaving behind years of material, but that, ultimately will be a good thing for us.

December 19, 2006

…And Then There Were Two //

Although we thought we had turned a corner last night following us receiving what seemed like the first real diagnosis of Newton’s recent illnesses, I’m incredibly sad to report that the little guy just didn’t have any strength left and passed away last night.

Emily and I are both pretty upset but are glad we were able to go visit him at the vet hospital one last time yesterday afternoon.

December 15, 2006

The (Mis)adventures of Newton J. Cat //

Newton, the spunky brown tabby we brought home around 3 years ago has had better days. He’s had better months. And for the last couple of months he’s certainly had it rough.

Newton has been sick a few times over the last year and a half. He gets crystals which is not that unusual for male cats. Newton, of course being the special cat that he is, gets an uncommon type of crystal; one that is more difficult to treat. This problem has recurred a few times, requiring late night trips to the emergency vet clinic as it always happens on the weekend when our regular vet is closed.

After his last bout of crystals he seemed to be bouncing back, at least for a short time when the crystals reared their ugly head again at which point we had to begin looking at other options for treating the problem since it was becoming expensive (think $1,500 or more per incident). After the last incident we decided the best option was for him to have a perineal urethrostomy.

The result of the surgery was that he had to suffer the great indignity of wearing one of those radar cones for a few weeks during which he was clearly depressed and couldn’t really eat without us taking the cone off.

Newton wearing a cone
Newton wearing a cone

We were also charged with carefully monitoring him, and as we have two other cats, he had to be isolated and was no longer allowed outside. This didn’t help the depression or his appetite.

During that time he essentially stopped eating or ate very little and lost weight — a lot of it in fact.

When he was last weighed his weight was down to around 8 1/2 pounds. As you might expect, this is bad for a cat that previously weighed somewhere between 12 and 13 pounds.

After numerous vet trips for checkups and to be weighed; during which we were force-feeding him by hand, he continued to lose weight and sank deeper into a funk we couldn’t break.

Jump ahead to a couple weeks ago.

Newton was in for a precautionary x-ray, which later showed that his intestine was, well.. full… of poop. Possibly weeks worth of it.

Newton's x-ray
Newton’s x-ray

The doctors quickly flushed him out, something which I’m sure he didn’t enjoy even though he probably felt a bit better in the end. Unfortunately this still didn’t do much for his appetite and he continued to refuse to eat and was generally uninterested in food.

Down to our last resort we opted to have a feeding tube put in so we could better control his eating. Minor surgery for a cat, but still a scary prospect.

Newton being fed
Newton’s new high fat syringe-fed diet

Newton was put on a high fat diet (basically kitten food) to help kickstart his appetite and put some weight back on. This went fine for a couple days and became more and more challenging as he would become much less tolerant of us pumping food into him through a syringe (and a tube in his neck). He also still continued to be uninterested in eating on his own.

Today we brought the poor little guy back to the vet for a check-up. The vet, concerned about a number of things took more x-rays and did more blood work. As it stands at the moment, Newton is slightly jaundiced and may have “fatty liver disease”, which as our regular vet described to us as (and I’m paraphrasing here), “a very bad thing.”

And so the saga continues…

November 2, 2006

Plus One //

On Monday night at 9:38PM Eastern Standard Time, Emily and I were blessed with the newest addition to our family — our new daughter, Gillian Audrey. It was a long day getting from home to the hospital and then through to the final delivery and recovery, but we’re all still here and all still slightly crazy.

Gillian and I at the hospital
Gillian and I at the Hospital

I had originally planned on taking up my bud Mathew’s call to do a play-by-play as he did prior to the birth of his son, in as much as Emily would allow me, but things didn’t quite work out as expected.

We had a scheduled ultrasound on Tuesday and weren’t expecting the baby to make it’s grand entrance until later in the week whether of its own accord or on our terms. Already past her due date, apparently Gillian had plans of her own and decided early Monday morning that she was ready to come out and join the party. Of course she decided to make this abundantly clear in the middle of the night. The point I’m trying to make here is that we were… how do you say… a little unprepared. And by a little, I mean not at all.

So at around 4AM Monday morning we started timing contractions and gauging exactly where we were in terms of labour stages. It felt to me like we went straight to the finish line, but that may have just been the fact that I was a bit of a zombie and wasn’t really sure what was going on. Not yet in any case.

By around 5 we called Emily’s sister and told her we were getting ready to go to the hospital since she was going to be joining us to help out during the delivery. It was during this time I was running around the house like a blind, slightly delusional maniac trying to get all the things we should have packed in a bag a couple weeks ago as well as making sure things were set for the cats since we were somewhat unexpectedly going to be leaving them to their own devices for a couple of days.

After packing the bag, making some coffee and feeding the cats, stuffing Newton into his cat carrier since he was due to have the stitches from his most recent surgery in our battle with crystals and calling the necessary family to tell them what was going on, we headed out the door in the direction of the downtown core and Women’s College Hospital.

We were checked in with triage by 7 or 7:30 AM, admitted and in a delivery room by around 9. When we arrived and after being examined we found out that Emily was 5 cm dilated and things were moving along.

We’d only heard good things about Women’s College Hospital and had a close friend who gave birth to both her kids there, and luckily it’s all true. The nurses were all wonderful, very friendly, attentive and informative. They do one-to-one care at this particular hospital and we couldn’t have asked for better care during our stay.

By noon, Emily was a full 10 cm dilated and pretty much ready to get the show on the road. And so on we went though an epidural, hours of contractions and numerous top-ups and such to try to ease the pain of the contractions; none of which really helped. Add on an hour and a half of pushing before conceding that Gillian just didn’t want to come out the old-fashioned way. In order to finally resolve the pain problem, the epidural was re-done in preparation for a now-scheduled C-section. This time it took and she was finally pain-free (and felt like “a million bucks” to quote my wife).

Gillian, Emily and I at the hospital
Gillian, Emily and I at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto

A C-section is a scary thing even though there’s such a large percentage of women who either opt for having one, or end up having one due to circumstances out of their control — I believe it’s something like 25% of all women at Women’s College Hospital. Anyhow, as nervous as we all might have been, everything went exactly as it should and out came little Gillian, who, technically remained nameless until Wednesday morning.

Since then we’ve been attempting to recover and learn how to take care of our new little pumpkin. I’ve changed a few diapers, cleaned up some slimy poop, learned how to wrap a baby up like a burrito, how to give her a bath, and kissed her and cuddled with her as much as I possibly can. It’s a truly amazing thing, and no matter what anyone tells you, you can’t prepare for the experience or how you feel the first time you set your eyes on your child. It’s truly the greatest feeling in the world. Definitely better than the lack of feeling in my arms after the first night of sleeping on the fold out chair in our recovery room ;-)

Gillian is everything we could have hoped for and we both feel unbelievably blessed.

Thank you to everyone who’s sent us an e-mail, text message, called to ask how we’re doing or offering to help with anything we might need. It’s greatly appreciated. We’ll do our best to get back to everyone as quickly as Gillian will allow us. And hopefully I’ll be back cranking out work shortly. Right after I get some sleep.

On one final note, a massive thank you to Anna (Emily’s sister), and all the nurses and doctors at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto — Kristine, Carrie, Grace, Myrna, Pat, Fernanda, “Dragon”, Dr. MacKenzie, Dr. Zaltz, and all those I’m forgetting. You made the last few days as easy as possible and Emily, Gillian and I can’t say thank you enough.

October 12, 2006

And Now a Month Later… //

Oh, how time flies when you’re having fun…

So, what’s new? Glad you asked.

The renovations are done. The new Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. office looks great although we’re still not completely done with it yet. Everything turned out really well and we’re exceedingly happy to finally have an end to the dust, piles of 2×4’s and plastic sheets.

The newest Wishingliner seen here is now less than two weeks away. A big congrats to my buds Luke and Mathew on their latest additions.

On the business front, things have been a bit crazy. Work is good. Too much work all at once is also good, but in a painful kind of way.

Toronto Life teaser
Toronto Life redesign teaser

We recently completed some additional work for Toronto Life although it hasn’t gone live yet. We’ve also been working with some new and some old clients on identity design, web application and site designs and redesigns with more on the way.

Some of this work literally just wrapped so it’s still a bit early to really say much, but when it’s time you’ll hear about it. Until then, here’s a bit of a tease.

Wishingline project teaser
Hivelogic identity concepts

The Darns were nominated for a Toronto Independent Music Award for “Best Alternative Act”, but sadly did not win. Maybe next year. And the band is finally celebrating the release of ‘What It All Turns Into’ on November 18th with a big CD release bash in Toronto. Next up — something that hopefully resembles a tour.

There’s also been a few small changes and tweaks made to the site such as the newish homepage graphic, the little availability info on the homepage (also repeated elsewhere through the site), and an upgrade of Movable Type and the newly released phpFlickr 2.0 scripts which use Flickr’s new serialized API. I only had to modify one line of code to update my scripts to work with the new release which was a nice surprise.

That all aside, there’s still a boatload of work piled up and I should probably start in on it now. I’ll try not to let another month slip by…

September 5, 2006

Gadget //

While likely not featured in the new 2007 catalogue, Ikea may have invented the greatest little plastic tool I have ever seen. It’s ingenious in its simplicity and sheer usefulness and while I’m amazed it’s taken this long to come up with such a great piece of engineering, I’m happy someone did. It saved my fingers this past weekend.

It looks like this:

Ikea Tool
Ikea’s genius shelving unit nail holder tool

What does it do you ask? Very simple. It holds those tiny finishing nails they give you to attach the back board to many of their pieces of furniture such as bookcases, cabinets and wardrobes. No more hitting your fingers with the hammer. No more crooked nails breaking through the back of the bookcase in the wrong spot. Perfect every time.

Thank you Ikea!

August 26, 2005

Keep Your Eyes On The Road //

It’s hard to reflect on where you’re going and how you got there when you can’t take your eyes off the road and your foot off the gas.

April 15, 2005

Moving The Plan Forward //

To try to keep things relatively sane around here I decided to keep this somewhat under wraps, but now’s a suitable time to spill the beans publicly. I promised something about this about two weeks ago and it’s time to make good on that.

The Scoop

First, the Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. site is on track to launch as part of the May 1st CSS Reboot. This is big since I’ve been struggling for the better part of two years to find the time and energy to do something about it. Still, it’s not just a random occurrence that this is happening now… which leads me to points two and three.

In recent months I’ve been gathering contacts and sourcing out opportunities to strike out on my own in a much larger way than the bits of freelance work I’ve been doing for a number of years now. What this means is that Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. is a full-time gig now(!), and as such the site needs to be done. For real. And it will be.

Stacks of business cards
Stacks of new Wishingline business cards and stationary

…But what about Masterfile you ask? Well, timing is everything really. As I was contemplating this and discussing the ramifications with Emily given that we were about to move to a new house; things were starting to wind down on a few active projects and it just happened to be a good time. There are some fantastically smart people who work at Masterfile and I feel I did good work and helped contribute to what is now a better site than where it was when I started.

From a front-end code perspective, the site is certainly more standards-compliant and (hopefully) leaner than before considering the big features such as SimSearch, weighted search and floating thumbs which were all added in the last year along with a major re-branding (and one colour change with another on the way). For me it’s been a good opportunity to work in a different kind of team environment and to learn things along the way that I can now use to good advantage, and make my own. All the best to the new media department in the massively big upcoming project. I’m sure it will turn out great.

Our Operators Are Standing By

And now for the big plug… If you know of companies in need of web or print design, Mac-focused technical consulting or training services, please drop me a line.

In general, I will be looking for projects in the local Toronto area though I can, and have worked with international clients (big and small). I will be starting to accept new work at the beginning of June 2005.

March 21, 2004

Words Of Wisdom //

I’m not sure who first said this, but it rings true to me and should for anyone else who feels as though their sense of ambition is squashed based on their working environment.

How can I soar with eagles when I work with turkeys?

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