Matt Hackmann

Those Damn Backgrounds

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As I was talking about yesterday, today I gave the card pattern a shot with regards to the past bracket page. As for the cards themselves, I'm really pleased.

The CARDinal rule is...

However, the background leaves a lot to be desired. Putting it against a solid color loses the energy that I've got going to the landing page and, in the end, just looks empty. There's not enough content here to fill up all that empty space. So, I tried playing around with the layout some.



Not really satisfied with any of those. Perhaps I should take a photo that has less going on, something that could be centered more. Or perhaps I rework the cards themselves to fill more space on the page.

I dunno, back to pushing pixels.

Designing with Materials

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So, I found my bike pump. Turns out I stashed it in the back of my car at some point. Probably that time I drove down to San Mateo to bike into work (as I'll be doing very early tomorrow morning).

As I begin spinning up the ol' design gears readying myself for the inevitable yearly update to the bracket, I was scanning the docs for Google's Material specs. Interesting stuff, for sure, and an aesthetic I really like. That in mind, I attempted reworking the bracket selection page somewhat in this style. Failed miserably, but it was an interesting night of exploration.


The thought of a full screen selection page was kind of nice for about the first 30 minutes, but has since lost its appeal. Also, finding the right kind of imagery to pull that off would be difficult. On top of all that, not really pleased with the typography.

I think the better patter to use in this case would be a card. This will scale better with more brackets, will be easily transferrable to the other bracket site that's been spin from all of this, and also easily made for mobile devices. We'll see how that one goes.

And I would bike 500 miles

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But I wouldn't bike 500 more. At least, not within the span of a month.

This morning, as a friend and I were biking our disappointment of not biking away, he made a comment about attempting to hit 500 miles by the end of the month. Though I grunted an agreement, my thoughts were skeptical. However, as I was biking this evening, attempting to bring my total milage for the week above my goal of 50, I considered how I might go about this without killing myself.

Truth be told, it wouldn't be all bad.

Let's consider that today is the 7th and that I have 23 more days with which to achieve my goal. I've already biked 51.7 miles, so that leaves only 448.3 miles to go. Let's crack out some math:

448.3 / 23 = ~19.5 miles per day

Might seem high, but actually quite attainable. Let's break it down piece by piece.

Five days a week, I can bike to work from home. It's about 6.3 miles in each direction, so that'd be 12.6 miles. Lately, I've been enjoying doing an end-to-end-and-back-again ride on my street, which is just shy of ten miles even. So, on any given work day, I could bike 22.5 miles. With 17 work days left in the month, that would be:

22.5 * 17 = 382.5

Now to figure out the other 65.8 miles.

One way to do this would to simply continue my ten mile evening ride on the weekends. There are six weekend days left in the month, so that'd be 60 miles. Of course, there's no reason why I couldn't do something a little longer, such as a bike to San Jose and back. On average, these run about 20 miles, so trade out one ten mile ride for that and I'm already there.

But, let's assume I don't want to bike every day. Let's also assume that I'll be doing some riding from San Mateo (because I most certainly will).

The ride from San Mateo to Mountain View is on the order of 25.5 miles. Were I to do just one of those per week (let's assume Tuesdays), I could get four of those in. Here's the new workday break down:

13 * 12.6 + 4 * 25.5 + 4 * 6.3 + 17 * 10 = 461

So, that's 13 days of biking to and from home and work, four days of San Mateo -> work -> home, and then doing that short ten mile ride every evening. Suddenly, my weekends are free to collapse onto the couch and do nothing :D. Now, let's see how many calories this would burn (using some quickly head-calculated averages):

13 * 500 + 4 * 850 + 4 * 250 + 17 * 300 = 16,000 calories

So, basically 16 Taco Bell box meals if I don't drink soda. But, in actuality, I could eat more.

Because just living also burns calories...

The Lazy Approach to Design

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It's getting to be that time of year again when I begin making preparations for the annual awwnime bracket. Unlike last year, where I split the bracket up into boys and girls, I'm going to head off any "well, this character identifies as..." issues off at the pass and go back to a single bracket. And with the new bracket comes yet another tweaking of the design.

Last year, I requested custom artwork of 2012's bracket winner from a fledgling artist who was active in /r/awwnime. I placed his pieces on the site, mostly working around the existing design. This year I wanted to do something different, partly because I really am coming to loath that design, partly because I want to try something new. That something is mostly eschewing the much pixel pushing and heavily using photography and typography to create the interface.

Carrying on the trend of having the previous year's winner "emcee" the current year's bracket, I picked up a Nedoroid of said winner as the center piece for the design. Nendoroids, for those who have lives, are a chibi style line of figurines that are fully posable and come with a variety of different accessories and faces, allowing you to make many combinations of expressions. Generally, this is not my type of thing being more of the "static" figure type of guy, but for creating a photo based site design, it's quite perfect.

Now, I won't lie. The decision to go with this type of aesthetic was for the look, the other part was because I felt it was going to be simpler to pull off. Which is probably true, if you know how to correctly operate your camera, light your scene, and orchestrate things compositionally. I, sadly, did not know how to do these things very well. As such, this was my first result:

omm nom nom

First thing's first, the positioning of the little Tsukiko is way off, gobbling up (pun intended) too much of the center stage, leaving disgusting areas on the side that are trying to be hidden by some falloff gradients. Also, despite my best efforts to color correct the initial image, it still kind of has a urine stained feel to it (much like K-mart). Despite using the same post-processing, the iPhone landing screen was far and away better, if not color wise, certainly compositionally.

Peek a boo

Actually, that peeking above the fold arrangement is what I used for all of the app branding, from App Store images to icon. I quite like it.

Not satisfied with the original desktop splash screen and wanting to get the thing coded soon, I gave it another go. I happened to have some banana muffins sitting in the freezer, so I thought that might make a better set piece than the random not-identifiable-as-curry-box in the background. After switching the camera into full manual mode and playing around with poses and lighting, I arrived at this result:

For me?

Holy shit, that's so much better! So much better in fact, that almost all post processing was removed in Photoshop leaving only some slight tweaks to the color curves to bring the blues up a bit. Of course, this is but one of at least three screens that I have to do, the remaining two being the nomination and voting screens. Not sure what I'll do for those at this point, but at least I'm getting a feel for the camera and how these photos need to be taken to work well within a web layout.

That'll End Your Fun Real Quickly

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Deciding that my Taco Bell supper was too much to weigh on my conscience, I decided that a late night bike ride was the thing to do. This after dark guilt ride is something that happens entirely too frequently. But, that's beside the point.

Before I even get out the door, I was looking for my pump to top my tires off. How something that large can go completely missing is beyond me, but after a solid 10-15 minutes of looking, it was nowhere to be found. So, I decided to just live with the pressure at whatever it was and go. Get outside, start Strava and my music, hop on the saddle, clip in, and away I go... except I don't. As I'm rounding the corner towards the apartment exit, I realize I'm not wearing my helmet. Return home, grab helmet, rinse and repeat. I'm finally on the road.

So, I'm out biking, listening to some tunes and giving my new bike undies a test run. My outfit is said undies, a pair of gym shorts, and my Lockheed-Martin jersey (it has pockets which is handy for holding my hand pump). My ass was comfortable for sure, though there's not enough padding in the crotch. Probably too much information, but there it is.

Again, I'm out biking and not really taking any particular direction. Up over a bridge, under an overpass, around Fry's and to a side road that takes me past the rock climbing place. This drops me out on a road that goes by the Sunnyvale LinkedIn complex. Had I brought my badge, I could have stopped in and raided the pantry, but I didn't so I didn't. As I'm making a left out of that building and onto the road, I hear a loud "pop" behind me. I didn't need to inspect the bike to know what had happened; I'd been struck by the Curse of Jibjab.

One of my coworkers (well, technically two) have the same bike that I do. He blew a spoke on that bike not once, but twice, on the same wheel even. I pulled myself over to the sidewalk, flipped my bike over and began inspecting every spoke on the wheel. Lo and behold, a spoke has been sheared off.

That shit ain't right

At this point, I'm somewhere on the order of 2-3 miles away from home. I briefly consider my options and decide that, despite the fact that wheel won't even spin freely anymore, it's good enough under load to make it home. I wasn't really keen to the idea of walking that far back in my biking shoes.

So, I slow rode all the way back, worrying the entire time that my immense weight was going to crush the rest of the spokes. Luckily, it went by without incident. I suppose all in all this isn't such a bad ordeal as I was planning on replacing the wheels with something better anyways, but I don't really like being forced into these situations.

Fate, however, has its own plans.