Lockdown check-in

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After six and a half weeks in lockdown, I’m not anxious anymore. I don’t crave going out, and video calls have replaced face-to-face meetings very well: they no longer feel fake. I don’t perceive the screen anymore, but the person on the other side.

Habits are changing. I can’t go out to the supermarket when I’m bored (yes, I do that, or used to, anyways) or call a friend to meet at the neighborhood bar, but I took on Animal Crossing New Horizons, and as a distraction it’s a lifesaver. I’m making more music, I’m drawing more, and I play with my kids a lot more than before the pandemic.

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People working

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An actress doing a character. An audio engineer setting up equipment. The fact that a product sees the light thanks to each of their individual efforts is the most badass thing. We should all do our work with pride and intent. 

Making music

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This month I started making some music on my computer. I started with samples, but then I jumped into Cubase (I had a licence lying around, courtesy of my Zoom recorder) and started playing with midi and software instruments.

I’m still very self-conscious about it, but I decided I will share everything I create from now on, so I uploaded everything to SoundCloud.

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When I was a kid, I was always drawing. Mainly cartoon characters from Woody Woodpecker, The Flintstones, Looney Tunes, He-Man, Thundercats and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (I know, some of those are from my parents era, but in Mexico we get re-runs forever).

Somewhere down the path to adulthood I stopped drawing. I did some caricatures and satire comics in High School, but those were more for comedy than art. Then I got into design and I quit altogether.

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Resources for Landing Pages

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At work, I’m constantly making landing pages for our campaigns. Until recently, we used Unbounce for its speed, even though I’ve never liked WYSIWYG interfaces.

The problem with Unbounce, though, is that the resulting pages are not truly responsive, and at some sizes they can become a little awkward.

My solution was developing a website with Jekyll + Bootstrap, plus a few custom styles, and deploying it in a subdomain hosted at Netlify. I’m fairly proficient at writing code, and Netlify’s deploy process is delightfully simple.

Now, the next problem for speeding up the process was finding inspiration for those landing pages. They’re short-lived and, even though they obviously need to be brand-aligned and follow certain conventions defined by my digital marketing team, their visual design usually favors impact over consistency between them.

I’ve been using these resources to get inspiration and visual elements to use on my landing pages. If you’re in a similar situation, I’m sure they will be useful for you too:

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This weekend I was browsing HBO while procrastinating on watching Westworld (it needs oh-so-much attention, which I’m lacking lately), when I stumbled upon Barry, a black comedy TV series starring Bill Hader (yes, Stefon), and produced by him and Alec Berg (Silicon Valley, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld).

I decided to watch a couple episodes to see what’s was going on with it, and I got hooked. Simple story, subtle humor, and Bill Hader giving a very good performance (but still making weird faces).

I binged the first season (8 episodes), and I was always waiting for that moment the plot breaks, as in almost every light comedy tv series that think that the genre is a pretext to take shortcuts and easy fixes for tricky situations. Well, that moment never came up, and I’m so happy about it. The situation of the main characters turns darker and more desperate with each episode, without toning the comedy down. That’s refreshing.

(I tried my best not to spoil anything in the previous paragraph)

Anyway, I’m writing this here to recommend you go watch it. I like comedy TV series, I love the dark tones on this one, and I like Bill Hader very, very much. I’m super happy I ended up loving Barry.

The solar system dimensions and my ignorance

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When we moved into the house where my family and I live, it occurred to me that it would be super cool and educational to have a solar system model in the ceiling of my kid’s room.

And it would be a lot cooler —I thought— if the distances between the planets’ orbits and their size were proportional to their real-life counterparts, the light bulb in the center of the ceiling being the sun. I got really excited.

With all the excitement still in me, I got in front of my computer to calculate said distances. That’s when it hit me: I knew nothing about the solar system size.

If a common light bulb is 6 centimeters wide, and I made all the sizes and distances proportional, Uranus would have to be located at 193 kilometers from the bulb.

My kid’s room is not that big.

Also, the moon would have to be .14 milimeters in diameter.

Then I got angry at all the illustrations of the solar system I’ve seen in my entire life. They are so misleading! Why couldn’t they just depict the orbits and planets in a proportional way? Thinking a little bit harder, I realized it is simply impossible to do it in print, or in any practical media for that matter. Here’s a proportional depiction of the solar system in a webpage by Josh Worth.

So, at the end I don’t know if the basic education system failed me, or my common sense did.

I decided to go with glowing stars in the ceiling.

Fixing unresponsive volume keys in a Mac

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From time to time, specially after not restarting my computer for a few weeks, I get this annoying delay when I want to adjust the volume. I press the key, and the response comes a couple seconds later. I said annoying, but in reality it becomes infuriating real quick.

Thankfully, I learned how to fix it today, and it’s really easy:

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Learning JavaScript by building things

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A few days ago I found the 30 Day Vanilla JS Coding Challenge by Wes Bos. Until now, I’ve been somewhat proficient writing jQuery code for small interaction things in my design work, but I’ve been trying to get rid of any libraries and start writing vanilla JavaScript (or, you know, as the elders of the internet call it, JavaScript).

Right as you get into the JavaScript30 website, there’s this text that felt to be speaking directly to me:

So, you’ve done a few courses and read a few books but still don’t feel great about your relationship with JavaScript. How do you get better? Build things. Lots of things. Build 1,000 things. Keep it up and don’t stop. Seriously.

I’m currently at ~30% of the lessons and not only I’ve learned some cool stuff already (like sweet sweet ES6 Template Literals), but I’m diving into things that were too scary before. And of course, I started staying late and building things, and I want to show you two of them right now.

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Keep your SSH session alive and save your keyboard

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For the last couple years I’ve been setting up and maintaining the web server we use for our websites at work.

It’s been a long time since the FTP-based workflow we were forced into when we used regular shared servers. I now find myself doing stuff over SSH every day, so I have a session open in a terminal window at almost all times.

There was a problem that used to annoy me very much: after a few minutes without any activity, the SSH connection was dead and I couldn’t input any text. Then I had to reopen the terminal and log-in to the server again. Repeat this a million times during the day and you’ll soon start smashing your keyboard in frustration.

If you, like me, are a newbie in this subject and want to keep your keyboard safe, I have the solution for this specific annoyance (if you’re on a mac).

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Free sticker PSD mockup

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I constantly find myself looking for free PSD mockups to present work, usually for small things like stickers, mugs, or posters. Today I couldn’t find a decent one for a set of stickers, and instead of buying a premium one, I decided to scratch my own itch, make my own and share it with you.

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A notepad in the browser

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I take a lot of notes during the work day, and I usually have my Notes app at hand, but the thing that is always in front of me is the Browser, so the best thing would be to be able to take notes right there.

Recently, I tried a couple Chrome extensions to do this, but they’re either overkill or they have ads (and I really dislike ads squeezing in every part of my day), so a couple nights ago I set up to scratch my own itch and come up with a solution.

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Panic in the streets of Morrissey

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I’ve never been great at illustration. My strong skills in design are UI and front-end code (which I think is also design, btw). Still, I’ve made several illustrations for Nearsoft in the last couple of years, and that’s given me an itch to get better at it.

Last week I took Ryan Putnam’s class “Design your Avatar”. I went into the videos with low expectations, not because of Putnam (he’s great), but because of lousy experiences I’ve had with Skillshare in the past. This being said, the mastery and simplicity Putnam shows in his process made it a great learning experience. I recommend you go and take the class right now.

Two days after watching the class I learned about a contest Sticker Mule was running over Dribbble: to design a sticker under the theme “UK”.

I decided to draw one of the first things that come to my mind when I think of the UK: Morrissey (the other things are The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Pulp). I took the learnings from Putnam’s class for a run, and this is the result:

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Atom: How to use Emmet in PHP files

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If you use Atom to work in HTML and WordPress (or any other thing where PHP and HTML are mixed), you’ve probably been annoyed by the fact that Emmet abbreviations refuse to expand inside a PHP file.

Well, the solution is very easy: to make this work, you just need to open keymap.cson in Atom (⌘+⇧+P then enter “open keymap”) and add the following:

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In awe of modern inventions

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Before photography was invented, people could only see that in front of their eyes. To experience the rest of the world, people had to physically travel, or, if they couldn’t afford it, to use other’s interpretation of remote places via narrative or painting.

That’s why the invention of photography was so huge for the human race. It removed a limit that most people didn’t even thought was there, and it opened the possibility of exploring the physical world beyond our reach.

Today we don’t believe anymore that everything important was already invented, but we have an attitude of cynicism to every new thing that comes along. In 2017 we even have cars that drive themselves, and we aren’t excited at all.

These are two (now) very basic inventions that occurred during my lifetime and changed me forever:

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New website

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I’ve been meaning to build a proper personal website for years. The blockers are always the same: the design isn’t good enough, I don’t have enough content for the sections I want to include, day work takes over and I never have the chance to code it all, etc.

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