Chris Gonzales

Big Update to Shawn Blanc's eBook, 'Delight is in the Details'

Delight is in the Details — v2

My buddy Shawn Blanc has published a huge update to his ebook about creativity, Delight is in the Details. Everything that made the original version awesome is still there, along with a ton of new content and refinements:

  • The ebook has been upped from 75 pages to 88 thanks to the addition of two new chapters
  • Two new audio interviews (Matt Alexander and Jared Sinclair), bringing the total to 10
  • All of the audiobook and audio interview tracks have been remastered
  • There are now transcripts of all the interviews, in case you’d rather read than listen
  • A new Makers Q&A section
  • References to iOS and OS X have been updated
  • Three short videos about creativity and design, all with high production value. You can watch one of them right now: “The Creative Life”

If you already bought the first edition of Delight is in the Details, you get this update (and all future updates) for free. A Gumroad link to the new files will be emailed to you, so keep an eye out.

For the rest of you who have yet to make the plunge, the book is 25% off—$29, down from $39—today only. Now’s your chance to get in on a fantastic book that will spur your creative work and show you why sweating the details is so important.

David Sparks' New Field Guide: Presentations [iBookstore Link]

David Sparks (aka MacSparky) has released his long-awaited new Field Guide, Presentations. Beautifully designed from beginning to end, this ebook shows you how to make your presentations not suck.

With a primary focus on Apple’s Keynote software—and filled with more than 30 screencasts, audio interviews, and other rich media assets—David shows you how to plan an exceptional presentation that will connect with and delight your audience. He stresses the importance of telling a story rather than reading off bullet points out loud, how to make stunning presentation slides, and more.

He also shares some of his hard-earned presentation day tips, such as:

  • Putting together a “presentation toolbox”, a kit with all the adapters and other miscellany a presenter might need at the last minute
  • Advice on posture and stance
  • Presentation delivery techniques

I highly recommend picking up a copy of Presentations on the iBookstore. It's only $10, and your presentations will forever be changed for the better.

"Cut to B-Roll of Coffee"

Zachary Carlsen of coffee blog Sprudge is steamed that Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee isn't so much about the coffee anymore:

“Gone are the episodes of destination coffee-bar stops for decent coffee. So far, this season’s episodes have Seinfeld and his guests and cameras shoot in old-timey diners. In episode three with comedian legend Robert Klein, the pair visit the Landmark Diner in Ossining, NY but don’t even drink Landmark’s coffee. As they hem and haw, they drink from their take-out Starbucks cups they got off camera. Outside food and drink? Anything for his Majesty, King Seinfeld.

Maybe he's right, but I'm not as bothered by it. The show is as entertaining as ever and still one of my favorite things on the internet. As long as the conversations are interesting and they keep that coffee b-roll footage coming, I'm happy.

In any case, Zachary's article is a fun read and I get the sense he wrote it mostly in good jest. Mostly.

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In related news, today saw the release of the latest episode which features John Stewart of The Daily Show. I particularly enjoyed this moment at the 8:12 mark, as they were walking through a typical-looking suburban neighborhood:

Jerry: How close is this to how you grew up?

John: Pretty close.

Jerry: Really?

John: Yeah.

Jerry: Do you wish your kids were growing up like this?

John: No, that's why I've been working so hard.

And while we're on the subject, here are all of my favorite CICGC episodes, in case you've never watched the show and need a place to start:

"Not Your Average Bread and Butter"

Chef Dan Richer has been dubbed the "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" of bread and butter, and rightfully so. Rather than carelessly serving up some dull and forgettable form of this pre-meal staple at his New Jersey restaurant, he has poured his soul into perfecting the recipe.

His approach to food is rather similar to the editing practices of great writers:

“I'm like the anti-chef. Like, I wanna do less to something, and I wanna put less on the plate. If there's an ingredient I can take off of the plate to make it more simple and more pure so you can actually experience the essence of what it is that we're serving, that's what's special to me.”

Absolutely wonderful video. Set aside eight minutes to watch it and prepare to salivate.

Overcast.fm [App Store Link]

I know, I know, I'm a little late to the party posting this. In fact I'm only just now getting caught up on all of today's big news.

If you're wondering, my morning was spent with my wife and son at the downtown OKC library's storytime for toddlers, getting lunch, and eventually heading back home to lay him down for a nap. What can I say, that's what the life of being a stay-at-home dad is like sometimes.

Anyway, after months of anticipation I've finally had a chance to play with Marco Arment's new Overcast podcatcher for iPhone. My honest opinion so far? It's okay.

Don't get me wrong, Overcast has plenty of great features and special touches to speak of—just not enough to lure me away from Pocket Casts. If nothing else, the lack of an iPad client is a dealbreaker for me (though Marco does have one in the works). On top of that, Overcast is slow and buggy on my iPhone 4s. I can hardly blame him for not fully supporting such an outdated piece of hardware, but the fact remains.

With all that said, please don't let my first impressions tarnish your curiosity. If you're in the market for a new podcast app, Overcast is free to download and there's no reason not to give it a shot yourself. I just personally wasn't as blown away as I'd hoped.

For now, I remain optimistic that future updates will prove me wrong in the long run.

A Desk of iPad

Ben Brooks shares his thoughts after spending a day working from an iPad:

“When I have my Mac in front of me I am doing a lot of things, but not focusing on a lot of things. With the iPad only I felt that was reversed—I did a bit less, a bit slower, but what I did do was more focused and therefore carefully done. [...] That’s not to say that I won’t benefit from a laptop, or that an iPad is the best tool, but that the iPad did everything exceedingly well. I loved it. Not enough for everyday just yet, but when I know I have a busy day in meetings, I’m now going to leave the laptop behind.”

I enjoy seeing other people try these sorts of experiments. As many of you may know, I don't own a Mac and thus my primary device is an iPad (4th-gen). For me it's not an experiment or something I do for giggles, but a way of life. With that said, my verdict is the same as Ben's.

Just about anything I need to accomplish on a daily basis—writing and publishing articles, editing and uploading images, etc—I can do from an iPad. I never feel hindered, creatively or otherwise, by the iPad's size or OS limitations. In fact the opposite might be true. As the saying goes, constraint breeds creativity. Because it's so light and thin, I take my iPad out of the house far more often than I ever did my clunky old Gateway laptop. And as Ben points out, having only one app on the screen at any given time helps my productivity immensely.

Are there things about my iPad-only workflow that I wish were better? Absolutely, and maybe I'll write about them sometime. But at the end of the day, I feel very satisfied having the iPad as my primary device.

If you don't think it can be done, try it out for a day or two. You might be pleasantly surprised.

The Fermi Paradox

Tim Urban ponders the likelihood of extraterrestrial civilizations existing in our galaxy, and what such a thing might mean for humanity:

“Beyond its shocking science fiction component, The Fermi Paradox also leaves me with a deep humbling. Not just the normal “Oh yeah, I’m microscopic and my existence lasts for three seconds” humbling that the universe always triggers. The Fermi Paradox brings out a sharper, more personal humbling, one that can only happen after spending hours of research hearing your species’ most renowned scientists present insane theories, change their minds again and again, and wildly contradict each other—reminding us that future generations will look at us the same way we see the ancient people who were sure that the stars were the underside of the dome of heaven, and they’ll think “Wow they really had no idea what was going on.””

"Take a Talk Show and Make it Move"

Speaking of Jerry Seinfeld, I really enjoyed this recent hour-long chat between he and David Letterman. They discuss the inner workings of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, why the series was created in the first place, the importance of good editing, and a whole lot more. Lots of funny moments and interesting insights.

"A Little Hyper Aware"

Season four of my favorite web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, kicked off yesterday with a delightful interview featuring Sarah Jessica Parker, an old station wagon, and...a singing Seinfeld?

Overall, this was a great episode to start the new season with. I only hope Jerry never decides to do that intro again.

Neil Gaiman's 2012 Commencement Speech

Somehow I completely missed out on watching this speech until a few days ago. It seems like the kind of thing my internet friends would have been linking left and right, but I guess better late than never, right?

Here are a few of my favorite highlights, with accompanying time markers:

[1:51] - “First of all, when you start out on a career in the arts, you have no idea what you're doing. This is great. People who know what they're doing know the rules, and they know what is possible, and what is impossible. You do not, and you should not.”


[2:10] “The rules on what is possible and impossible in the arts were made by people who had not tested the bounds of the possible by going beyond them. And you can. If you don't know it's impossible, it's easier to do. And because nobody's done it before, they haven't made up rules to stop anyone doing that particular thing again.”


[19:29] “And now, go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.”

Broken Age for iPad [App Store Link]

Broken Age for iPad

For anyone unfamiliar, Broken Age is the delightful point-and-click adventure game I wrote about on Tools & Toys not long ago. I'm super excited to see it make the transition to iPad, much like I was when Machinarium did the same. These kinds of games just feel more natural to play on a touch screen rather than with a mouse or keyboard.

Even if you've already played Broken Age before, you should consider the iPad version. This isn't some cheap port—the wonderful soundtrack and quality voice acting are all still there, as well as the gorgeous, hand-painted design aesthetic. If you haven't had the chance to play it yet, you're in for a treat.

Note: this is still just Act 1 of the game, with Act 2 releasing later this year as an in-app purchase.

Get Broken Age for $10 on the iOS App Store.

Stache for Mac and iOS

Stache is new Mac app that allows you to bookmark and archive entire webpages, á la Pinboard. Rather than displaying as a simple list of links, Stache takes a more visual approach by attaching a screenshot to each bookmark.

It syncs over iCloud with its iOS companion app, which has no archiving abilites but does share the Mac app's "visual bookmark" design, bookmarklet/URL scheme support, and full-content search. Although I have no need to switch away from Pinboard, Stache certainly makes for an interesting alternative.

Stache is available on the Mac App Store for an introductory price of $7 (normally $10) and as a Universal app on the iOS App Store for $2.

Reeder 2.2 for iOS

~Finally~, Reeder for iOS has updated to v2.2, now with background app refresh and a load of other awesome features and fixes. Go get it.

Minor tangent: As much as I enjoy using Jared Sinclair's unique RSS app Unread, I always come back to Reeder. It has a slow development cycle to be sure, but after all these years I still love its sheer speed and simple design. Unless Silvio Rizzi goes out of business, I can't see myself ever needing another RSS app.

A (Very) Brief History of Unretrofied's Design

I haven't written anything meta about this site in a while, so I think I'm overdue to reminisce about its various design iterations. (That's a normal thing to do, right?)

If you like the sound of that, then read on, friend! If not, here's a 34-minute Ron Swanson supercut for you to enjoy instead. Actually you should just watch it either way. I can't top Swanson.

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For those of you who read this site solely in an RSS client and never click through to see my writing in its natural habitat, you may have missed a couple major redesigns in the last two months. Well, I say "major," but I haven't exactly been good at keeping track of version numbers.

Much like a trombone that ostensibly has seven slide positions but in practice has an infinitely variable range, there are particular "moments" in Unretrofied's design history that stand out to me but so many tweaks were made along the way that documenting specific versions seemed futile. I just [Joker voice] did things.

If you held a gun to my head and ordered me to assign some numbers anyway, here's how I'd do it:

Version 1.0
Unretrofied v1

Ah, this takes me back. I was so innocent back then, so naïve. This was my DF-wannabe phase. I still cringe a little, looking back at some of those early posts. By the way, the old site is still live if you want to, I dunno, click around on it or something.


Version 2.0
Unretrofied v2

This was my longest-lasting design by far. It was during this period that Unretrofied kind of started to take off, in terms of my writing ability and the amount of attention it received. I still love a lot of things about this design, particularly its newspaper-y aesthetic. As with many things in my life though, I needed to change it up after a while.


Version 3.0
Unretrofied v3

A short-lived but overall pleasant change from the previous iteration. Many of you will immediately note the resemblance to Shawn Blanc's site, something that earned me the internet version of a sideways glance from several people. I've been quite open about my reasons for the copycatting though.

As I've told everyone who has brought it up, it was an experiment I did while home alone one night, mainly to improve my CSS skills. Nothing more. I used Shawn's site as a template because I really like some of his design decisions, particularly the subtle ones people may not think about (link-list delineation, the transition animation that happens when you hover over links, etc).

This was never meant to be a permanent design. The only reason it stuck around for even a month was sheer laziness on my part. (Sorry Shawn!)


Version 4.0
Unretrofied v4

And now we come to the current version of Unretrofied, my favorite of the bunch. Some of the ideas I got from Shawn's site are still here, but I've mixed them with concepts from "v2.0" and ended up with something I'm pretty happy with.

I'd like to give a huge thanks to my internet buddy Sid O'Neill for helping me with several big CSS issues that were giving me trouble (read: things I broke while ignorantly tinkering). Most notably, the mobile versions of the site—at least on iPhone and iPad—are no longer broken the way they've always been in the past. In fact, this may be the most responsive the site has ever been.

* * *

So there you have it, a brief history of my design iterations. I hope you enjoyed this little tour.

The Case for Reparations

Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing for The Atlantic:

“But while the people advocating reparations have changed over time, the response from the country has remained virtually the same. “They have been taught to labor,” the Chicago Tribune editorialized in 1891. “They have been taught Christian civilization, and to speak the noble English language instead of some African gibberish. The account is square with the ex‑slaves.”

Not exactly. Having been enslaved for 250 years, black people were not left to their own devices. They were terrorized. In the Deep South, a second slavery ruled. In the North, legislatures, mayors, civic associations, banks, and citizens all colluded to pin black people into ghettos, where they were overcrowded, overcharged, and undereducated. Businesses discriminated against them, awarding them the worst jobs and the worst wages. Police brutalized them in the streets. And the notion that black lives, black bodies, and black wealth were rightful targets remained deeply rooted in the broader society. Now we have half-stepped away from our long centuries of despoilment, promising, “Never again.” But still we are haunted. It is as though we have run up a credit-card bill and, having pledged to charge no more, remain befuddled that the balance does not disappear. The effects of that balance, interest accruing daily, are all around us.”

An absolute must-read.

Content is Crap

Greg Satell:

“...content isn’t really king. Content is crap. Nobody walks out of a great movie and says, “Wow! What great content.” Nobody who produces meaningful artistic expression thinks of themselves as content producers either. So the first step to becoming a successful publisher is to start treating creative work with the respect it deserves.”

The Overview Effect

Overview is a lovely short film about the phenomenon known as the Overview Effect (which to me feels akin to Neil deGrasse Tyson's idea of the Cosmic Perspective). I've transcribed my favorite quote:

“One of the astronauts said, "When we originally went to the Moon, our total focus was on the Moon. We weren't thinking about looking back at the Earth. But now that we've done it, that may well have been the most important reason we went."”

Do yourself a favor and set aside 20 minutes to watch this video today.

(via Kottke)

Chicago's Last Tannery

Earlier this month, Jason Fried announced The Distance, a “magazine about businesses that haven't gone out of business.” The first issue is about Horween Leather Company, the only remaining tannery in Chicago.

It's a fascinating read, and provides a real sense of the company's history.

“[Nick Horween] sees similarities between cooking and making leather, even if the tannery can sometimes operate in ways that ruffle a classically trained chef’s sense of order and efficiency. Once he gently suggested to an employee that he rearrange his work station, only to get a long look from a man who, Nick realized, had been at Horween longer than Nick had been alive.”