All of this code to draw this measly little coffee cup. Thankfully I had PaintCode to output the code for me, but GOOD GRIEF.

iOS has been around for 8 years and this is still how you have to draw a “little” vector icon. In learning how to develop an app I’m discovering all of the “simple” stuff I’ve been taking for granted.

Coin Implodes

UPDATE 8/23/14 - Coin sent out an email today apologizing for not being transparent. They are not make backers pay to participate in Beta and promise better communication.

We promise to do better with our transparency and updates to backers. We promise to keep working hard to deliver you a great product. We value your honest feedback, good or bad; and we are always listening…First and foremost, we want to apologize to each and every one of you. We are building Coin for you and are extremely disappointed with ourselves that we made some of you unhappy with us.  We want to earn your trust again.


Since there’s no precedence of a Coin-like device, we need to validate compatibility nationwide to ensure a high quality product.

This is Coin’s answer in their “VIP backer” email as to why they are not fulfilling their promise for a Summer 2014 delivery. I consider myself a customer, not a “backer” since Coin referred to my transaction as a “pre-order” and not a Kickstarter.

Today’s update to the Coin delivery roadmap comes at the last minute as the shipping date on the Coin website has silently slipped to “Spring 2015”. Instead of a final device, Coin plans to ship a “Beta” version of the card to up to 10,000 customers who opt-in this Fall. As if that deal weren’t lousy enough, there’s an even better catch: If Coin customers opt-in to the Fall Beta, they’ll have to pay $30 more to get their non-beta Coin in the Spring! Customers can choose to not opt-in and stick it out until Spring (who knows, maybe the delivery date will get extended again), but its misleading of Coin to make its customers aware of this choice so late in the game.

If a Public Beta was part of the plan, customers should have been notified immediately, but as of July 21st there Coin gave not indication its customers that plans would change:

Things are moving quickly. Coin has now been swiped at thousands of bars, restaurants, shops, and stores and we’re happy to report the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Additionally, our in-house Reader Lab is testing new Point of Sale (POS) systems every day with great results; more swipes through more systems means a better experience for our users. Our confidence in having a great experience with Coin comes from meticulous research, rigorous testing, and lots of experience.

Coin has been testing their device internally with their “Street Team”, but it sounds like results aren’t what they expected and we are left with the choice of paying more for a sub-par device, or waiting until Spring. Here are the limitations of the Beta version:

  • 85% swipe acceptance
  • No Left-Behind Alert
  • Coin Beta users should carry a back up debit or credit card should they identify a machine that can’t yet accept Coin
  • Not available for international backers

I think they’re coming up with a good solution to try to give something to its customers as soon as possible, but they are putting up the front like this was the plan all along. And I think to some extent Coin is falling victim to its own deception because it thinks that by starting the SF Bay area on its Beta testing program now, it has technically met its deadline. Nope. Customers were never told that a Public Beta was part of the plan.

iWatch: Exciting Potential

Just a Watch?

When iPhone was introduced, we soon discovered that it was much more than a phone. It was a revolutionary portable computer that happened to include a phone. So it’s probably safe to say that a watch is at the bottom of the list of standout features that would define the iWatch (we’ll just call it that for now). If the main function of the device is to interface with your iPhone then minor conveniences such as quickly glancing at notifications or using Siri without lugging your iPhone out from the recesses of your pocket won’t set it apart in the crowd and probably aren’t worth Apple’s time or attention in introducing something new. A new product category from Apple needs to offer something revolutionary (vs. evolutionary) while tapping in to the "intersection of technology and liberal arts" conversation which often closes out an Apple keynote.

So how is the iWatch going to blow us away?

Health is More Than Movement

Rumor has it that the takeaway features of iWatch are related to biometric tracking. If iWatch does for health consciousness what iPhone did for the ubiquity of pocket computers, we could have an awesome and possibly even more meaningful product to look forward to.

Of course, other device manufacturers have succeeded to some degree on the health front. Through competition and outright fun — especially if you’ve got a circle of friends tracking fuel points together — the Nike Fuel Band can help motivate better and more frequent workouts. But exercise and activity are only part one’s overall physical health. Furthermore, the market is already saturated with plenty of devices that track movement, including the iPhone. Both the HealthKit initiative and Health app make it clear that Apple is even more determined to help us track and interact with our health data, but Apple’s hardware contribution needs track more than physical movement.

To succeed, iWatch hardware needs to bring not only new technology to personal biometric tracking, but the accompanying software needs to paint this new data into a picture that inspires change in the average person.

According to acquisitions made by Apple in the last few years as highlighted in this article, the company may in fact be on track to deliver hardware features in iWatch that could track users physical health in astounding new ways:

  • Pulse oximetry, which measures the amount of oxygen in the blood
  • Heart rate, body temperature, respiratory rate, sleep staging, posture, and even the intensity of a fall.
    • "Current devices are unable to tell the difference between, say, a heavy dead lift and bending over to tie a shoe. A wearable equipped with a sensor like [Apple acquired technology] potentially could, which would provide users with far more accurate data than they can get now."
  • More accurately monitoring of temperature, hormone production, and circadian rhythms to boost sleep quality.
  • Hydration levels
  • Determining, in real time, the amount of sugar in the blood

This last item is the killer feature, it’s something we haven’t seen before in any form (unless you want to prick your finger a few times a day) and is useful enough to get doctors excited:

Glucose is the holy grail of diagnostics,” says Zeev Zalevsky, of Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, who studies blood sugar–monitoring devices. Put another way, the iWatch might be able to tell you which beer will really make you put on pounds: Corona or your favorite craft IPA. (link)

Everyone’s body responds differently to sugar and trying to stay on top of the amount of sugar in your food or the glycemic index of your diet is not only a lot of work, but in the end it’s still much of a guessing game. A few months of weight gain and you’re left to put together the puzzle of “What’s changed?”. The drudgery of balancing how much food, what kind of food and how much and what type of exercise works and doesn’t work for you sucks. Anything to bring some order to this chaos would be welcomed by many with open arms. I don’t currently wear a watch, but if iWatch delivers on this front I’d grab that little fraker in a heartbeat.

I have no idea how the glucose tracking works, but the developing technology involved a patch and Apple snatched up the main brainchild behind it before it could hit the market. Heck, Nancy Dougherty sounded like she already worked for Apple way back in 2011:

I think that making biometric sensors more unobtrusive is important to seeing them adopted more widely…  It’s much more powerful to have all the data magically “there”- no need to press buttons to signal your actions… By taking all the user planning, effort, and willpower out of collecting the data, we can make applications for using that data much more effective… ( link )

A complete picture of your physical health

We have yet to see a personal health device that captures the awe of the masses, but Apple appears to have the right pieces in place to deliver one. These groundbreaking hardware features could create a whole new demand for personal health awareness the same way iPad opened a new market for tablets. I’m excited to see the possibilities of biometric tracking turned into something I can actually use. A device which brings about the motivation to change physical activity and food consumption through constant awareness. Where results, however small, could be seen day to day (perhaps even meal to meal in the case of blood sugar!).

While the mobile phone was used as a bridge to connect us to the profound utility of a pocket computer, maybe Apple doesn’t need to associate the new device with a watch to help introduce it to the world. We don’t need to be convinced that a device bringing accurate awareness to the current state of our health would be vitally important to our liveliness. As with iPhone, iPad, iMac etc. the “i” in Apple branding subtly serves to turn the product into a verb, so maybe instead of iWatch:

iLive.

Sitedrop: A Cool Online Workspace

In my search for the greatest bookingmarking tool for designers I stumbled across Sitedrop. I’m going to highlight what about this app caught my attention, but for a more in depth review , here is a good write-up.

Drag and drop your text files, photos, videos, links, pdfs, whatever into Dropbox folders and Sitedrop displays it in a Snazzy multi-level website.

Under the hood, the website is really just a jazzed up interface for navigating Dropbox folders, but it is very snazzy. Just check out the example sites.

Pinterest and Pocket are good for sharing a collection of links or web photos, but Sitedrop has the ability to preset a curated hierarchy of content in multiple pages as it relates to your special project.

Having friends and family involved in various creative fields, we are constantly searching for an easy way to put together a sort of “live mood-board” to capture web inspiration into something that looks good and can be easily shared. Maybe we’ve used a service like Dragdis or Pinterest to collect content that may have sparked an idea, but is now turning into an indiscernible mount of stuff. Now it’s time winnow all the crap down into something worth displaying for presentation or discussion. This process needs to be fast, dead simple, and the end product needs to look really nice. I think Sitedrop may have the secret sauce to accomplish this.

Embeded Video?

If you want to add a YouTube or Vimeo link, just drag and drop the link from your browser into your Sitedrop folder. Your computer will make a tiny .html file, but Sitedrop will recognize the link and embed the YouTube video into your site and it’ll look pretty right along side the rest of your stuff.

What About Text?

Adding text seems a tad fidgety at first, but the way it works offers maximum flexibility. Sitedrop has no text editor. To add text to the content of a page you’ve got to type up a .txt file, using your word processor of choice (Notepad or TextEdit are just fine) and place these text files along side the others in your Dropbox folder. The easiest and fastest way to format your text for Sitedrop is to create a text file with markdown syntax.

This may sound like a pain, but normally adding text to a website would involve manually writing the HTML or logging in to use some WYSIWYG editor every time you need to make a change. The power of creating the text files yourself is that all the text on your site is stored separately in text documents on your computer which means that you can update it at anytime without every having to log-in to a web service. No more fidgeting with WYSIWYG and if you stick with markdown what you type is what you will get.

A Handy Tool

I may not use Sitedrop for my professional website, but I don’t think that’s what it’s intended for. While the default template looks great, for now it is the only option, so if you don’t like the way your content is being presented, you’re out of luck. You allow others to upload to one of your site’s pages directly from the web interface your site, but to really collaborate you need to share your site’s Dropbox folder, which can be a pain. Creating text files is a powerful way of maintaining control of your site’s text, but this freedom comes at the cost of complexity. Despite these drawbacks, I think Sitedrop is useful and I know I’ll inevitably use it to share project ideas or as a collaborative workspace.

"Dragdis" Bookmarking Tool is A Great Replacement for Defunct "Icebergs"

A few months ago I stubbled across the bookmarking app Icebergs. Here is a good overview of what sets the site appart from similar sites like Pinterest and Dropmark. I thought I’d finally found a place to save and organize my favorite vimeo clips, photos, and visual websites, but alas Icebergs has been recently acquired by Pinterest and the service is being permanently shut down. I connected with the overall aesthetic of the site and there seemed to be less resistance in getting my content organized the way I wanted. My bookmarks felt more like a mood board - which is what I am looking for - than the same content pinned to my Pinterest account.

Icebergs:

Enter Dragdis

Icebergs allows you to export your bookmarks to a database file, so I’ve been searching for another site that can fill the iceberg shaped hole in my life and I think I finally found it. Dragdis looks similar and provides a simple folder structure and organizational paradigm very similar to that of Icebergs. Their bookmarking extension is even simpler to use. The only feature I miss is Icebergs “star” button which would expand the size of a bookmark’s thumbnail to feature it more prominently within a collection. This is a small price to pay for the overall snazziness appeal that I had come to love in Icebergs. I hope Dragdis sticks around for the long haul.

Dragdis:

My wife bought me this sweet marble machine kit for my birthday!

See it in action!

Purchased from Busted Bricks. My wife bought me this sweet marble machine kit for my birthday!

See it in action!

Purchased from Busted Bricks. My wife bought me this sweet marble machine kit for my birthday!

See it in action!

Purchased from Busted Bricks. My wife bought me this sweet marble machine kit for my birthday!

See it in action!

Purchased from Busted Bricks. My wife bought me this sweet marble machine kit for my birthday!

See it in action!

Purchased from Busted Bricks. My wife bought me this sweet marble machine kit for my birthday!

See it in action!

Purchased from Busted Bricks. My wife bought me this sweet marble machine kit for my birthday!

See it in action!

Purchased from Busted Bricks.

My wife bought me this sweet marble machine kit for my birthday!

See it in action!

Purchased from Busted Bricks.

Thoughts on “Noah”

I’m a big fan of this movie and have had the opportunity for some great conversations about it. I decided I would like to try jot down most of my thoughts and favorite quotes about the film into one place.

If you have been raised with the story of Noah, one of your first thoughts might somewhere along the lines of, “What the frak?! Like, 98% of that wasn’t written in the Bible!” Obviously much artistic license has to be taken to fill a two hour movie that is inspired by a handful of verses in the Bible, but as we bring a lot of our preconceived notions about how the story should be portrayed, there’s still lot of stuff in the movie that seems really weird.

Arronofsky on Noah as a “documentary”:

Well, you can’t. You can’t. It’s impossible to understand what these times are because there are four chapters in the Bible. It’s just important that you don’t contradict any of it and that you study each word, and study each sentence, and try to use and extract as much juice out of that to be inspired to turn it into a vision that represents the spirit of it all. That’s the goal. It’s like—not to compare me to Michelangelo in any way, I’m in awe of him—but you look at the Sistine Chapel and there’s the moment of the fingers almost about to touch the moment of creation—and that’s not described in the Bible that way. There was no finger-to-finger, E.T. moment in the Bible. But that’s how Michelangelo decided to draw it. Then we look at all the art that depicts Noah’s ark, religious art for thousands of years in temples and in churches around the world, and there’s never an appropriate representation of the ark even though the exact proportions are described to the number in Genesis. It is the most specific element of the entire story, besides “40 days and 40 nights.” But the numbers are so important to the story that they’re in there. And yet that’s a very easy problem to do proportion. I mean, they had the technology 300 years ago. They had that technology 2,000 years ago, and yet it’s always drawn as a boat. In our research we started to notice that 300 or 400 years ago, that the dove wasn’t always white. You see the white dove in [the works of] El Greco, which is 1500s, but then you go back before that and you start seeing doves that aren’t white. And you realize, Oh, that’s an interpretation from somewhere. We couldn’t actually find out the source, but you realize people have been interpreting this material for all of history.

So what happens when Darren Arronofsky interprets the story of Noah? Noah is an artistic film that falls somewhere into the “adventure sci-fi post-apocalyptic” genre. So even if you “get” the symbolism and metaphors it may just not be your kind of movie. But I feel that many are turned off by Noah – or wont even see the film – because there is this sort of atmosphere of “hollywood blasphemy” surrounding it. In my opinion, Noah is a profoundly “Christian” film made by non-Christians. There are many seemingly outlandish story decisions that actually help support the context of the rest of scripture of which Noah is deeply entrenched and – most importantly – they do not change the meaning of the story. Rather, in using the language of film I believe these symbols help enhance the meaning of the story for film. They show the filmmaker’s commitment to the Biblical text and their devotion to bringing it to the screen authentically.

I recently watched the film Enemy and my initial thoughts were that the entire movie was a convoluted mashup of ambiguous B.S.. I was so confused that I scrambled across Google trying to figure out what I had “missed”. Upon viewing some commentary by a critic explaining the film’s meaning through use of understatement and symbolism I believe I now understood what the director was trying to say, even though it took a little more “connecting the dots” than I’m comfortable with. I don’t like the movie much, but I do have a new respect and appreciation for the film as well thought-out and cohesive creative work.

I don’t know if a film should be as seemingly vague and difficult to understand as Enemy, but after reading a few interviews with the writer and director of Noah I believe that most if not all of the story decisions in the film were informed by scripture and have a Biblically inspired — and in my opinion really cool — explanation. For skeptical viewers the film may require some connecting of the dots to have an appreciation of where the filmmakers are coming from, but once you do it is easily accessible and exceptionally meaningful.

If you believe the additions to the story and artistic liberties are wielded only for blockbuster appeal, take a moment to consider one of weirdest symbols: the snakeskin that is passed down in Noah’s family. Upon first viewing, this thing seems like some sort of creepy pagan artifact. It’s also a little disturbing to think of the skin of a snake being portrayed as a good thing. But here’s what the director has to say about it:

When Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden, it says God gave them a garment of skin—sort of a parting gift from God to mankind as we leave Eden and go out into the world. So we wondered what that was—and as we looked at commentaries about it, one of the common ones was that it was the skin of the snake. We wondered why that would be, and it occurred to us that God made the snake. The snake was good, at first. But then, the Tempter arose through it. In our version, we have the snake shed that skin, and the shed skin is the shell of original goodness that the snake left behind when it became the Tempter. It’s a symbol of the Eden that we left behind. It’s a garment to clothe you spiritually.

So was snake skin the garment that was given to Adam and Eve? Maybe. Probably not, but who knows? The Bible doesn’t say either way. If you’ve got something important to say in a movie, its usually better to show what you are trying to say through the actions of your characters. The filmmaker’s use the snake skin as a creative visual reminder of the story of the garden which is very important to the story of Noah. It’s this physical embodiment of holiness that is symbolically and literally tossed back and forth between good and evil. Noah is loaded with rich visual metaphors like this that help us see Biblical themes.

Another example is Noah’s character arc. To bring the on-screen character of Noah to life, the creators could have chosen more or less any path for him (as long as it ended with the happy rainbow) – many of which would probably have just as much opportunity to garner box-office appeal – but surprisingly for hollywood the filmmaker’s chose a particularly challenging path: they attempted to use the character of Noah to dive deeper into what the Bible is saying:

All of it’s a test. We were trying to dramatize the decision God must have made when he decided to destroy all of humanity. At the beginning of the Noah story, everything is wicked and God wants to start over. The pain of that, the struggle of that, must have been immense. To basically go from creating this beautiful thing to watching it fall apart, and then doing this horrible thing where you have to try and start again. So we tried to take that huge cosmic idea and put it into a human’s hands. That’s what Noah’s story is. If you think about that moment, when God looks at the wickedness, it grieved him to his heart. We wanted to get that grief, that struggle, and stick it into Noah, so we can understand as people what it must have felt like. What would hurt more than to do — in vague terms — what Noah is about to do? Which for us was an exact metaphor for what the decision was, what the Creator went through. But he chose love! He chose mercy, which for us is the exact same story as the story in the Bible, just put into human terms.

The filmmaker’s used plot, character, dialogue and action to exegete one of Genesis’ most profound themes. This is good artistic license and it is the the spirit in which I believe these stories should be told.

I recognized I was not such a good kid, and felt guilty about it, so how could I get on the boat? …I found the story scary because I sympathized with everyone who drowned. - Darren Arronofsky

The story of Noah brought some sort of sense of conviction to Arronofky and he’s been waiting a long time to try to relate his understanding of the film to audiences. To me, watching the film felt like listening to a good sermon, I was left with lots of questions and inspired with a fresh sense of what the Bible is trying to teach and what that could mean for me. It’s an artistic achievement for movies about Bible stories and hopefully an inspiration for more Bible movies to come. That’s not to say that I don’t wish some things in the film were a little different or that this is some sort of “perfect” Bible movie, but I do believe it is an excellent film worthy of your time and attention.

Slick animation of the new system font in OSX Yosemite from Apple’s WWDC conference video

Slick animation of the new system font in OSX Yosemite from Apple’s WWDC conference video

At first I thought I’d make a really simple marble machine with one basic moving part just for fun and to experiment more with C4D dynamics. But then I started added more pieces and then I thought it would be cool to make it out of wood and then I wanted the star things to spin around…