Liner Notes (February 1st, 2019)

The first day of February is here.

In this week’s roundup, I talk about the process of starting to think about a homepage redesign and the tools I’ve been using to brainstorm. I share another AppleScript service I use a lot and rant about Instagram ads that feel especially exploitative. Then I go through some music I listened to this week and share my thoughts after a very Star Trek heavy media diet. There’s also a playlist of ten songs I loved this week, and the supporter Q&A post can be found here.

Five Things

  • I got the itch this week to start playing around with new ideas for a redesign of the main website. It’s not something that needs to happen immediately, and I like our current design just fine, but there are little things and ideas I’ve had for a while on how to improve things. Things I wanted to implement or do from the start, but I was too rushed to finish when we launched. And if I’m going to build out those features, I think thinking the entire structure, top to bottom, is a fun place to start. To that end, I started by playing around with this app on the iPad called Concepts. It’s a drawing app, for use with the Apple Pencil, but the main way it differs from other apps is that it’s an infinite canvas. So you can draw something, pan over a little and add notes, or do a completely second, or third, drawing, all right in the same canvas space. It’s great for brainstorming and building on ideas. Instead of having to flip between a bunch of different digital sheets, you have this infinite space to work out ideas. It’s a more complex app than others, but once I figured out the little nuances and workflow, the power shines. I love being able to use different colors, grids, and erase/try new things, all in one space. It’s exactly what I hoped the iPad could become for me. If I ever launch the redesign, I’ll share some of the early drawings and ideas with you all.
  • Following that same line of thinking, I wanted to do something different with this project. For years, my process would be to do some brainstorming, do some sketching in notebooks, visualize what I wanted to build, and then a lot of the time I’d start building it. I felt like I was faster in code than I was making mockups in something like Photoshop. But this time I wanted to take the time to try some different things, experiment with different looks, and when I am designing and coding at the same time, I find that I get too tied to the vision in my head and want to make that on the screen. Not only does it lead to some, um, creative coding choices, but I often will do something on the third page I’m working on that I wish I would have thought of on the first page because I like the design decision/direction. This time I decided I wanted to lean into the design process and also learn more about the highly regarded design app Sketch. Holy shit this app is incredible. I’ve spent the last week playing around with it and building out some mockups of different pages. It’s been such a rewarding experience to flex this part of my brain again. And the app makes it so easy, fast, and fun to do. Instead of going back and forth between a web browser and text editor to make changes and try things and then try something else, I can make the changes and see it right there on the screen. Whereas I hated trying to mock things up in Photoshop, this tool feels exactly right for this kind of work. I know I’m late to the game here, but I’m so glad I gave this a shot instead of just building something in code first. I think the final output will greatly benefit from this process and I’ve already made tweaks and changes that I know I wouldn’t have done or come up with if I did it a different way.
  • I put up a new version of the Slack icon for macOS on Github. I didn’t use their new logo, because I hate it, but I did use their purple background. I used Louis Mantia’s logo idea instead.
  • I also shared a service I wrote that grabs all of the titles and URLs of all the open tabs in Safari and then converts them into Markdown links and a bullet list and puts the result on your clipboard. I use it for a variety of things, including putting together the “in case you missed it” section of this very newsletter. It’s pretty basic AppleScript, but I figured someone might get some use out of it, or want to adapt it for another need. I find it very useful. I also use this script from Gruber when posting news. It’s set to a hotkey, and when pressed, will show a menu of all your open tabs. You can select any of the URLs from the list and it’ll go onto your clipboard. This makes it so when I’m writing a news story I don’t have to constantly flip back to a tab to get the URL to link.
  • Random rant: I keep getting these ads on Instagram for artwork that is some basic stock photo thing with some song lyrics of an artist I like printed on top in some bad typography. There’s no way the artist licenses this, and I highly doubt they see a dime from any sales, and it feels so gross to me. I’ve seen some for The Gaslight Anthem (with typos), and it bugs me every time they pop-up. If someone wants to print out some lyrics, I think that’s a cool way to decorate, but to profit so brazenly off someone else’s work? And in such a gross way? I don’t know; it just doesn’t sit well with me at all.

In Case You Missed It

Music Thoughts

  • I broke out that The Night Game album for the first time in a while this week, and it’s just as good as I remembered. I still have a special place in my heart for these songs and the emotion they elicit from me.
  • I played the Better Oblivion Community Center album quite a bit this week. With the rainy/cold weather it felt fitting. It’s a really good album, but I’m not quite sure I’ve got it in the same “special” category quite yet. It could get there, but I can’t shake this feeling that what I really want is more Phoebe Bridgers. Still, definitely good.
  • I continued that theme and listened to the Boygenius EP a couple of times this week as well. It’s still great. I think I like it more than the BOCC album if I had to choose. Thankfully, I don’t, but yeah, it was a Phoebe Bridgers kind of week for me.
  • I had the pleasure of hearing the new album from Josh Ritter this week. It’s called Fever Breaks and comes out on April 26th. First impressions are almost entirely positive. I immediately like it more than his previous album, and it leans into various styles I think he does great. There’s a little more energy in some of the songs, a bit more rock, but then he also pulls it way back and leans into a folk vibe as well. I need more time with the lyrics, but what I’ve caught I’ve loved. It’s a heartfelt, cohesive, and very powerful. His last few records have been albums I’ve enjoyed, without really ever completely loving. This, at first blush, is the kind of album I could see myself falling for the more I play it.
  • PUP’s been a fantastic workout record. I haven’t found myself spinning it while at my desk as often, but it’s been powering me through workouts when podcasts just aren’t cutting it.
  • The Fall Out Boy song with Lil Peep isn’t the kind of thing I’d listen to on a regular basis, but I thought it was well done.
  • The new song from The Faim is not one of my favorites from them, but it’s still good. I still think that band has a bright future ahead of them if they can write the right single.
  • I’m spinning the new album from Broods as I write this. So far, it sounds like Broods. Then I plan to give the new records from Tiny Ruins and American Authors a spin as well. Bands like American Authors can be completely hit or miss for me depending on how I’m feeling at the moment. Sometimes it works, but often that version of radio pop just never grabs me. And Mary’s review of Tiny Ruins convinced me I need to check that out as well.

Entertainment Thoughts

  • There was a theme to this week’s entertainment: Lots, and lots, of Star Trek. I’ve never been what someone would call a “Trekkie,” but I’ve always enjoyed the shows (I’ve seen quite a few of them), seen all the movies at least once, and like the universe.
  • Star Trek: I know there’s a lot of mixed feelings on the recent Star Trek reboots, but I am in the “fan” camp. I especially love the first one and just about everything about. It’s fun, clever, I like the actors, and it’s the kind of movie that I can watch multiple times and always be entertained. After all these years I still get a smile on my face watching this movie.
  • Star Trek: Into Darkness: Think this one may be even more polarizing than the first. The entire Khan storyline, and its resolution, are a little ham-fisted, but at the same time it’s a good action movie, and it’s still a bunch of characters I like doing shit in space. This one has more parts that don’t quite work for me, and the ending really feels rushed, but I still enjoy it.
  • Star Trek: Beyond: Meh. This is just not a very interesting movie. It’s slow and kinda boring, the plotting is a mess, there are multiple eye-roll-worthy scenes, and it one of my least favorite tropes in stories by splitting up a bunch of the characters and keeping us from seeing them all interacting together. The villain is cookie cutter, the action is somewhat silly, and the best parts are the stuff in space that is way too few and far between. Some good CG work, I still like the characters, and I didn’t hate this as much as I did the last time I tried to watch it … but it’s still by far my least favorite of the trilogy, and it’s a real shame.
  • This entire week of watching Star Trek movies started because I decided to give Star Trek: Discovery a try starting last weekend. As of last night, I’ve watched the first seven episodes, and I gotta say, I like it so far. There are some flaws, there are some weird shifts in tone, and you’ll just be getting into the story or a cliffhanger only for the next episode to basically not progress any of those things, but I’m a fan of what I’ve seen. I can tell a show is working for me when I want to watch it, or make time for it, each night. I am not sure what they’re going to do with all the continuity stuff with the show and how it works with the rest of the Prime universe, but honestly, I don’t care that much about continuity. Does that make me the worst nerd? Like is that blasphemy? I dunno, but I view all these stories as living tales and legends and stories. They shift and bend and get reset, and things change or get added, and if you’re entertaining me in the process, I’m kinda alright with it all. I’m enjoying these characters, enjoying the basic plot conceit, and even have liked the episodes that feel like they could be right out of The Next Generation. I’ve always enjoyed the debates or dueling philosophies and morals in Star Trek shows. I’ll see how I feel after I finish up the first season, but as of right now I’m delighted I started watching it.
  • Below Deck: We’ve got four more episodes in season five, and then we’re going to be coming up against the show airing each week in their current season. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I can’t watch three of these back-to-back-to-back. I also find the conversations this show spawns with Hannah and me to be hilarious. A guest or cast member will do or say something ridiculous, and then we end up talking about the implications of that action and how it reminds us of this or that from our past and how we’d handle it differently now. This week we looked at our movie queue multiple times and the movies we hadn’t seen yet just all looked heavy. What we wanted was something to turn the brain off for a little bit and enjoy. This show continues to deliver.

Random and Personal Stuff

  • My sister and her boyfriend are coming over tonight for “game night.” We got a bunch of games for Christmas, and we’re going to try out some of them tonight. We’ve got Codenames (and the Marvel version) that I’m excited to play for the first time. We also have The Resistance, but that’s a five player game, and there’s only four of us tonight. I’m looking forward to some pizza, beer, and arguing over rules.
  • Wedding planning continues! We are finalizing guest list and putting together the invites/stationary stuff now. We’ve got things picked out that we like and need to make the final call and figure out little details. Because we’re giant dorks, we’ve decided that on the table number signs at each dinner table, we’re going to include lines from our favorite shows and movies at the bottom. So, like table six will be the Parks and Recreation table and have “I love you, and I like you” on the bottom of the table number card. It’s been fun coming up with a bunch of things from our relationship that we’ve loved together.

Ten Songs

Here are ten songs that I listened to and loved this week. Some may be new, some may be old, but they all found their way into my life during the past seven days.

  1. Josh Ritter – Old Black Magic
  2. Bad Cop/Bad Cop – Why Change a Thing
  3. Bad Religion – New Dark Ages
  4. Boygenius – Me & My Dog
  5. Alexisonfire – Mailbox Arson
  6. The Night Game – Coffee & Cigarettes
  7. James Blake – Into the Red
  8. 5 Seconds of Summer – Lie to Me (Acoustic)
  9. Aaron Sprinkle – Never Alone
  10. Amy Shark – Middle of the Night

The playlists are also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

I hope everyone has a great weekend. Thanks, as always, for being a supporting member.

Previous editions of this roundup can be found here.