Heroes of the Day

This one may seem a bit out of left field but a week or so ago I got an itch to put up a wall of people I consider heroes in my time along with links to their various social network links, podcasts, videos etc. I may or may not expand the list in the future as time permits but I’m going ahead and publishing it now with the first 9 people otherwise I would never release it. I’m sure none of the people on this list will ever know about this site and honestly no one else besides me may even know the page exists … but that’s enough for me. The site should generally work ok on PC, tablet or phone but there may be quirks I have to iron out over time.

Feel free to chime in if you have suggestions on people I might add, violent reactions you have to anyone on this current list etc. Here’s the link:

http://heroes.chris-emerson.com/

Sample Screenshot

Donald J. Trump

Thoughts on Trump

Why would a billionaire take an extended leave from his very comfortable life and empire of successful businesses to run for the US presidency? Ego? Rich man’s guilt? Some other conspiracy?  And which of these or other reasons would make it remotely worth his while to go from being a world-renown businessman and celebrity to being thrashed in the news every other week being called idiot, a bigot, a joke … even a Hitler? Continue reading

Valiant Hearts

I shared my fondness of this game a few months ago but after finally finishing it this morning I had to mention it one more time. The game was simply a masterpiece on all fronts. The history was fascinating, the gameplay was fun, the puzzles had just the right level of difficulty, the story-telling never got old, the artwork was impossible to not drool over and the music was always perfect and often touching. From start to finish you could feel the developer’s respect for the history and the many “extra miles” I no doubt know they invested making this game.

Sincere thank you to everyone at Ubisoft Montpellier and whoever else played a role in making this game – bravo to you all.

[miniflickr photoset_id=72157647012661451&sortby=date-posted-asc&per_page=50]

http://valianthearts.ubi.com/game/en-US/home/

The Insane iPhone

I’ve meant to post about this for a long time – but it was just one of those things that kept getting put off. But after recently watching a hilarious bit from the comedian Louis C.K. about cell phones and how much we take them for granted (video: Warning Adult Language!) I got the final bit of motivation I needed to get this posted. 

Maybe most people are over the initial fascination with “smartphone” era that the iPhone kicked off – but I am still constantly amazed by how much these devices can do and what an integral role mine plays in my day-to-day life. Admittedly I am nerdier than most – I have no idea how my wife manages to walk around 80% of the day w/out her phone on or near her person! – but even though I may be a fringe case who uses the iPhone more than the average bear – and who would be helpless if/when all cell phones stop working – I’m sure everyone can at least appreciate how much these smartphones in our pockets can do.
So – here’s my super nerdy list of all the different ways I use my phone each day. Some days I use only some of these things – others I use almost all of them … But any way you slice it it is just plain insane how much you can do with a smartphone – it really is like a modern Swiss Army knife!

Personal/Family Stuff

  • Family grocery list! (Grocery IQ)
  • Exercise (Weight Lifting) (Strong)
  • To-Dos and Project Mgmt (Omnifocus)
  • Bank Account Mgmt
  • Shopping (Amazon, eBay, Starbucks etc)

Work

Media/Social

  • Telephone (Remember phones with cords, or the thing you would plug wireless phones into?)
  • Text Messages (Would take a book to sum up how this changed everything) 
  • Digital Camera (“… When I was a kid it took 6 weeks to get your film developed!”)
  • Video Camera (Our family video camera in the 90s was the size of a VCR… )
  • Music (Google Play)
  • Movies (Plex, iMDB, HBOGO, TV Guide)
  • Photos (40,000+ of my photos at my finger tips Flickr, FlickrStackr)
  • Twitter / Facebook / WordPress (I wrote half this post on my iPhone)

Utilities/Tools 

  • Clock (the last time I wore a watch was 1997?)
  • Dictionary
  • Encyclopedia (The other day the kids and I did voice search with Google to find “World record longest spaghetti?”… Answer: 12,000 ft).
  • Maps / Driving directions 
  • Calendars
  • Medical Advice (WebMD, etc)
  • Instant Weather (Dark SkyWeather Channel)
  • Recorder Pro (I love recording audio of my kids, ambient noise, etc)
  • Remote Desktop
  • Cloud File Access/Mgmt (Dropbox, Box)
  • Password Mgmt (LastPass
  • Flashlight (when replacing a video card in my computer under the desk)
  • Timer (“10 more minutes on Wii, kids…)

Learning

I’m sure I’ve left some stuff out but think I hit all the big ones. So now you know some of my favorite apps – and how nerdy I am. I can’t even imagine how I would do all of the above without my phone- at the very least my desk/office would have a lot of clutter/stuff lying around!

I know it’s probably going to be what kicks off SKYNET and will end up being the death of us all … but until then I am definitely thankful for what my iPhone can do!

Thanks, Steve.

Hayao Miyazaki Films

THE-WIND-RISES

I recently watched the animated film “The Wind Rises” and loved it. I hadn’t watched an “animated film” in quite a while (outside the seemingly lifeless, in comparison, mainstream stuff from Disney, Dreamworks etc) but there was something different and magical about that film.

Spirited-AwayShortly afterwards I discovered that “The Wind Rises” was a creation of the great Japanese animator/director Hayao Miyazaki who also did the movie “Spirited Away” back in 2001 which I meant to watch but never did. I watched Spirited Away over the next couple days and loved that film even more!

This Hayao Miyazaki fellow is quite a guy. He’s an acclaimed illustrator, animator, writer, director and more! I can’t put my finger on what makes these films so fascinating and irresistible to me yet – but one thing that is apparent is that they are so refreshingly original, creative and emotional – 3 things usually lacking in American animated films (outside some from Pixar … OMG why did they make Cars 2 and Planes?!). Miyazaki’s films are also all hand drawn as far as I know – yet they pack a far more powerful punch than most any 3D animated film I’ve ever seen. 

Naturally I am embarrassed that I haven’t seen any of Hayao’s films until now … but needless to say I will be devouring all of his films as quickly as I can now! The only problem is that it takes me a day or three to watch a full movie since my free time is usually so sparse/intermittent! I’ve already started watching Ponyo and am loving that as well …

Rocky Playlist

I’ve recently decided/discovered that my (Body Beast) workouts are double the fun with some (really loud) tunes playing on the sound system. I’ve been experimenting with all types of music – from metal, rock, techno and Eminem – but I have to say so far my favorite playlist is a collection of tunes from the best Rocky movies and a few funk/soul selections from the same era. See the playlist below to see the tracks – if you’re logged in to Spotify you can preview the tracks via the playlist window below.

Anyhow – I’m sharing this list here in hopes that others will have suggestions of similar style songs I could add to the list because I’ve run out of ideas for it – so please chime in with suggestions via the comments below if you know of songs that would fit in!

Dark Souls (PC)

Please pardon the geeky, gamer note here but I just had to post something for the record books to commemorate my finally finishing the PC game Dark Souls last night.

The game was refreshingly difficult to beat, set in a beautifully-imagined (bleak) world and took a looooong time to beat (probably over 60 hours over course of a year and a half). This game will definitely go down in my top 5 or 10 games of all time. I do wish I had started it on the Xbox or PS3 because couch gaming is always better than PC/desk gaming IMHO – but it was still a great ride and I was able to use my Xbox controller on Windows 7 thankfully.

Check out some of my screenshots here – the quality of the graphics aren’t amazing maybe to modern day standards – but the design of the game world was so well done that with some of the modifications people have made for the game it looked just as good as any cutting-edge graphics game today (IMHO).

Special thanks to FROM SOFTWARE and Hidetaka Miyazaki for creating such an unconventional, non-mainstream masterpiece. It was a great escape and adventure and I can’t wait for the sequel!

My New Year Resolutions for 2013

Ok first to review how this past year’s resolutions went…

2012 Resolution Review:

#1: “365 Project: Weekly or Daily iPad Paintings”

This one just fell off the map – I completely forgot about it really. I did create a few paintings on the iPad throughout the year (here) – but I definitely didn’t do anything close to a painting a week/month! I do like doing these things but I’m going to leave this off my 2013 list and just see what happens.

#2: “Submit app to the Apple and Android Store”

First – I did not get anything into the Android store this past year. However for the record I gave it 3 fair shots before giving up. While I won’t give up until I get something in the Android store I do find some solace in the fact that I’m not the only one who thinks that developing Android apps just plain sucks.
Aside from the Android note, I think I did pretty good on this resolution because I ended up getting not one but two new apps posted in the Apple app store this year. First was the iPhone-only app “PocketSwatch” (Blog Post | iTunes link) and the second one was a universal iPhone/iPad app “Kana Cards HD” (Blog Post | iTunes link).

Special Mentions

#3: Pull-Ups!

This one may sound silly to some folks but earlier this year it started bugging me that I couldn’t even do 1 pull-up (with good form). I would always skip the pull-up moves in my workouts and that always bugged me. Anyhow – at some point I got my hand on a book “7 weeks to 50 pull-ups” so I printed out the schedule/plan and gave it my best shot. First of all I did NOT make it to 50 pull-ups (the book actually has some small print to explain that not everyone will get that far on their first pass). However I am proud to say that I am now able to do 8-10 pull-ups and 8-10 chin-ups in single sets now with pretty good form! I want to get much better so I plan to keep working on this next year – but I’m definitely happy where I got after a few months.

#4: Rock Climbing: Part 1

This wasn’t on my list at the start of the year either but it is something new I went out on a limb to try out and am glad I did. As my fitness improved this past year (thanks to P90X2) I was wanting to get out in the world and try some kind of active/outdoor activity – and one idea was to try rock climbing. So a few months back I tried out and joined an indoor climbing gym near my office (TRC) and so far I’m really enjoying it. Please note I am still a huge noob at it and am still undecided on whether I prefer top-rope climbing or bouldering (I think bouldering wins right now) – but either way I find it a great workout and a fun new pass time for me (a great fit for lunch break on work days).

2013 Resolutions:

Ok – here’s my plan for 2013. Note – while I’m still into digital art and mobile app development, I think I am going to focus on more physical stuff this year.

#1: Continue the Journey of Fitness

I did pretty good this past year to never skip a workout day – although catching the Flu this past week forced me to take 5+ days off … and I coped quite badly with that. Anyhow – this won’t shock those who know me but I plan on continuing my workout schedule/pursuit of fitness in 2013 as well. I am very happy with the P90X2 program but will probably try mixing in other things this year to keep me on my toes.

#2: Couch to 5K Program #C25K

This is a famous program designed for people who never run (couch-sitters) to be able to run a 5K in around 9 weeks of 3 days investment per week. I’m not a runner and have often assumed I wouldn’t be able to do it due to having funky instep and wonky knees sometimes. But until my body or a doctor tells me otherwise I’m going to go for this and see where it takes me. I’m also really excited that Holly has agreed to do this program with me. Even though we may not be able to run on the same days due to schedule complexity having her go through it at the same time will help with my accountability and motivation … and of course will just be fun to share the experience together.

#3: Climb (or hike) a mountain

I don’t think this has to tie in to my indoor rock climbing gym hobby but maybe it will – who knows. The bare minimum for meeting this resolution is for me to walk or climb to the top of a mountain (not a hill!) and get back down w/out dying. As with rock climbing and running, I know zero about hiking, trekking or mountain climbing right now so I will need some help and research to get me up there – the trickiest part may be finding people to do it with me since this isn’t really a “bring your kids” type activity … but I’m aiming high and crossing my fingers I’ll figure something out!

The Quest for Dribbble

I recently stumbled onto dribbble.com … a site sometimes referred to as “Twitter for Designers” but instead of simply broadcasting random chatter like Twitter does, Dribbble is used by designers around the world to post their latest work with other designers – a very cool concept! Unfortunately, the site is somewhat exclusive in that you can’t just register and join – you have to be invited by a member who deems you worthy either by a random invite giveaway, or because you’ve found some other way to stand out from the rest of people wanting an invite.
Anyhow – as soon as I saw some of the artwork on the site I knew I wanted to be a member – not because I think my stuff is as good or better – just because I’d love to share and exchange ideas with such a talented group of designers around the world.

Some invite giveaways simply ask for your name/email and draw your name out of a hat, others require you to submit a small piece of artwork. This graphic here is the first (of many?) graphics I’ve done for such a contest (link here). Graphic was made with Adobe Flash Professional and a dash of Photoshop.

Sure would be nice if I won an invite with this – but some folks wait months/years from what I can tell. Here’s hoping!…

TC 2011

I do a fairly good job saving bookmarks with Delicious every time I find something online I find interesting, helpful etc – but I thought it might be helpful (for myself) to occasionally create a post that mentions the latest few things I’ve come across in some kind of “time capsule” format so I can look back and see some kind of history/archival of these things outside my bookmarks. As usual, few disclaimers up front:

Disclaimers

  • For this first post it’s hard for me to not go back 6-12 months to mention things I think are much more impressive – but I’m going to resist that urge and just post things from here on out (starting with last week).
  • These posts may be weekly, monthly or even less frequent – no idea yet… we’ll see I guess.
  • The variety of items mentioned in these posts will likely be all over the place – so if I mention “solving world hunger” next to “awesome new iPhone accessory” please don’t assume I give them both equal weight!

In any case – here’s the list of things for this time capsule:

Time Capsule 20110905

  1. Book (by David Allen): Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
      This is definitely the “big” item for this time capsule. Naturally it’s a bit embarassing that I’m only finding out about this just now (since it’s ~10 years old) – but I still am finding it fascinating. As late as I am to the party, I don’t feel too bad because:

      • Google had the book author come do a talk in 2007
      • Completely coincidentally, one of our customers at work is currently implementing this into their existing training curriculum
      • And finally, most importantly, I’ve found quite a few (current) iPad/iPhone apps built around this “GTD” methodology as well!


      In any case – I’m working my way through the book/audio book now and am obviously hoping to quadruple my productivity/efficiency in the weeks to come – I’ll get back to you on how that turns out!


  2. iPad App Omnifocus
      This is one of the more famous iPad apps (for certain groups) that falls into the productivity category. This one has the (unofficial) backing of David Allen (author of book above) so naturally I’m interested in learning and/or adopting this app into my work/life… another – time will tell item.

      For all those out there who swear by the “rival” app “Things“, I’ve researched both (and personally think Things looks cooler) but from what I can tell Omnifocus has a bit more GTD engrained than Things does (they even wrote up a whitepaper about it) so I’m going w/that for now.

  3. iPad App: Procreate for iPad
      I’ve been using Autodesk’s Sketchbook on iPhone/iPad for a long time now but a couple weeks ago I found out about this app because it was the first (AFAIK) to include “hi res” painting at 1408×1920 – which about doubles what all other iPhone/iPad painting apps have achieved to-date. The app also has some other features I’ve wanted in Sketchbook like paint blending, and more interesting brush types. It’s a different style of painting so it’s going to take a bit to get used to it. I’ve been experimenting with this app over the past couple weeks and will (hopefully) have something to show from it soon.
  4. Design Resource: CSS Gradient Generator
      I’m sure there are 2 dozen similar tools out there, but I found this last week and thought it was very cool/functional and I’m sure I’ll use it again in the future.
  5. Design Resource: 100 free @font-face fonts
      I, like many others, am addicted to fonts so naturally I bookmarked this link as soon as I saw it. I’m not sure who actually enforces legal/illegal font usage online but apparently these are all free for online use if you’re a stickler for that kind of thing.

SIGGRAPH 2011!

A few weeks ago I was invited to submit 2-3 of my iPad paintings to be displayed with other artists’ work in Autodesk’s booth at SIGGRAPH 2011. I was of course very humbled and excited to just send in the submission. Anyhow, a couple days ago one of the nice folks at Autodesk contacted me to let me know my paintings were indeed included and were on display at the show and on their website as well (http://area.autodesk.com/siggraph2011/ mine are in the first 6 or so in the Sketchbook section).

To be clear, the artists and geniuses featured at SIGGRAPH are leagues beyond me and my silly paintings can’t hold a candle up to most everyone else’s work there… But it still is fun to have been involved! I would have loved to go to the actual event in person but… I don’t get out much these days – plus this year it was in Vancouver.

Anyhow – thanks Autodesk for the invitation and gallery inclusion!

Here’s a screenshot to capture my moment of mingling with real talent in case they ever take the page down:

iOS Dev Program!

Just a quick post to celebrate my finally getting approved to be in the Apple iOS Developer Program today (iOS = iPad/iPhone). Technically anyone who pays Apple $99 (annually) can get in, but they took over two months to approve my application so I was starting to get worried towards the end there!

I have had access to the Apple Dev program stuff for a while now through work – but in order to (attempt to) achieve my new year’s resolution #2 I needed an account of my own.

As excited as I am I do have to say that I’m very surprised at how painful Apple has made the app “building” process. In order to even get to the point where you’re able to start building stuff you have to wade through hours of teeth-gnashing frustration sorting out developer certificates, App IDs, Device IDs, provision profiles, distribution profiles and more (and then repeat entire process if you want to use a 2nd machine!). I love Apple but seriously!!

In an case… Yaye!

A Logo and a Legend

One of the first things I had the opportunity to work on at my “new” job (PI) was coming up with a new logo for the company. Since I’m a big fan of logos in general and given the fact that I’ve spent ~7 years of my life working at PI (ignoring the 2 year hiatus that I’m still trying to forget) you can imagine how excited I was about this project. If that weren’t enough, I was teamed up with a big shot marketing consultant (legend) named Howard Rockett. Click here to toggle his bio text – it’s an impressive read!

Howard wasn’t really assigned to the logo work though – his tasks were much higher level – all centered around helping PI zero in on positioning that reflected all the things that make the company great (values, history, uniqueness etc). However – he made himself available to me whenever I wanted to discuss sketches, concepts etc. It was very inspiring – not to mention humbling – to be able to work with him.

Here’s the final result:

Side note – one of the more inspiring moments I had working with Howard was when he finally revealed our new company tag line. He had worked on it (and other things) while I was working on the logo and when the logo and the tag line came together it was a pretty cool moment. Not only did the icon shape look like a person (head, body, arm) but it also resembled building blocks – all contributing to adding visual design to the perfectly worded company tag line: “Building the people who build your success”. He claims the building blocks aspect hadn’t struck him until after he landed on the tag line – but I think he was just being humble!

In any case – it was very cool to be a part of that process… and of course humbling to be able to participate in helping PI come up with a new logo!

The God of Weather

This week’s 365 project is going great (of course after the lame coffee cups from last week anything is a step up!). Anyhow I got inspired while drinking my 8:30pm decaf tonight to do a second painting today… Just for fun :). And instead of holding it for the usual Sunday update I figured I’d post it by itself now fresh off the “easel”.

As for what it means, I’ll let everyone come up with your own conclusions… But for the record there were thunderstorms here tonight!

Jobs on Jobs

I posted this on Facebook a week or so ago but since I’m guessing most people likely didn’t have time to watch it I thought I’d write out my favorite quote from the speech here:

“For the past 33 years i’ve looked in the mirror and asked myself, if today was the last day of my life would I want to do what I’m about to do today – and whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row I know I have to change something.

…and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work – and the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

…You’ve got to find what you love. If you haven’t found it yet keep looking – and don’t settle.”

Easy words for a billionaire… I know. For most folks, myself included, running your life by these kind of idealistic terms is too risky. But once in a while moments come when it is possible.

Chris discovers minimalism

Most people who know me know I’m a huge pack rat… of things both physical and digital. However last week I stumbled on to a blog post about “minimalism* Specifically a maintaining a minimalist home and/or lifestyle and ironically it really caught my interest! One of the key things about the article that got my attention was the fact that it was pairing up concepts like “getting more done by doing less”, “surround yourself with only stuff that matters” and other normally lame cliché phrases with tactical instructions on how to actually achieve those things. So – in standard OCD fashion I proceeded to devour as many “minimalism” guides/articles I could find and by the weekend I had read enough to know I wanted to try it out.

Most “minimalism” guides I’ve read so far recommend starting small by picking 1 room of the house to start on vs. trying to tackle whole house at once… so I decided to attack our 3rd floor* my home office/TV room. Here’s what I was dealing with “before”…

Before

After spending every minute of my (scarce) weekend free time I made some decent progress. My efforts had produced ~7 full hefty trash bags of stuff, an impressive stack of broken-down cardboard boxes and various junk computer equipment (dead printer, empty computer case, old sound cards etc). I even got rid of %30 of what was in the storage closets too!

So what filled up all those bags of trash? Well – it was quite a varied list of things

  • Stacks old sound/video cards
  • Useless computer cables/peripherals
  • Stacks of obsolete software CDs
  • Misc college junk
  • Sega Dreamcast & Peripherals* More on this later
  • Empty electronics boxes
  • … and much more!

Here are a couple “after” photos

After!

These photos are just of my desk but I “minimalized” the entire attic – so now there is nothing just “lying around” anymore – everything is tucked away in an appropriate drawer, shelf etc now.

Another big moment during all this was the act of packing up all my beloved “nick nacks” and other “collectible” items – one of the biggest being my mountain of [World of Warcraft] stuff. I’ve been away from the game for a few months now – and don’t rule out a possible future return – but according to the minimalism rules I couldn’t leave this pile of stuff lying around.

Photos or it didn’t happen…

Packing my WoW stuff up like this was a big deal – almost felt like I was putting all my WoW friends in a bag and sending them away forever. Of course I didn’t throw this stuff away! It’s lovingly tucked away in an attic storage closet now – hopefully there is enough air in there for them to breathe.

Being a self-admitting OCD-prone person I realize this could all just be a “kick” that I could possibly abandon one day – but it’s hard to imagine that now because I am really enjoying the feeling/concept of it. Another good sign is that I’ve already taken my zeal down a floor and attacked my wardrobe closet and my side of the master bathroom. I tossed ~50% of the clothes in my closet* Half was trash, half I'll donate and did the same with my side of the bathroom! My bathroom sink counter now only has a bar of soap on top! Crazy – and awesome.

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Bathroom and Closet (After)

On the surface I know this looks like I’ve just done some spring cleaning – but the twist to it that has me semi-addicted is this notion of “throwing away the junk you don’t need”. Plus, I find the minimalism concept of keeping most flat surfaces clear (“decluttering”) fascinating as well. Who knows – maybe this is me having a nervous breakdown – but all I can think about right now is… what room do I attack next! (garage, kitchen, ?).

Reference Links: