Hey, Apple – The Activity App Needs Rest Days Like Right Now

It’s that time again. I woke up this morning and realized I’m once again starting a whole new month to try and keep my current move and exercise streaks alive in Apple’s Activity app. I’ve been really proud of myself for keeping the streak going for 3 whole months (I know people who have gone years!) but honestly, looking ahead at an empty September is daunting.

The problem only gets worse over time. The longer my streak continues, the more pressure there is not to break it. It can be so stressful in fact, some people have come up with clever hacks to work around breaking streaks. Contrary to what the folks on Apple’s Activity team may tell you, this isn’t actually healthy. It’s important to give your body (and mind) a break to recover and rebuild every now and then. Which is why iOS desperately needs to build in the concept of rest days into its Activity app.

Let’s just set aside the fact that the Activity app doesn’t even allow you to keep your streaks alive if you become sick or injured. That’s bad enough. But not to be able to give myself a much-needed break after many months of filling my rings is a poor decision on Apple’s part. I had really hoped iOS 13 would introduce Rest Days or Rain Checks or something that would allow us to take a day or two off a month and keep streaks alive, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Concept for a perfect month badge that gives you a rest day as an award

The concept is simple – For every perfect month of activity award I complete, give me one rest day that I can use at any time to take an activity break and recuperate. Over time they would accrue like vacation days and I could even apply them for actual vacations so I don’t have to worry about filling my rings when I’m laying on the beach or waiting in line at Disney World. However Craig Federighi and his team decides to do it, we need something that takes the pressure off and lets us not be slaves to our Apple Watches every now and then.

I’m really happy iOS 13 will bring health advancements like the Noise app to monitor your hearing and Activity Trends to keep an eye on long-term exercise goals. Rest Days should be a part of a healthy lineup, other exercise apps in the store have had them for a long time. Apple needs to adopt them too because a little peace of mind goes a long way towards overall health.

Hey, Travis Crabtree, The Legend of Boggy Creek Is Getting Remastered!

My favorite horror flick of all time, The Legend of Boggy Creek, has been lovingly restored and remastered and is coming to blu ray. The 1972 docudrama about the legendary “Fouke Monster”, or plain Bigfoot for you cryptozoological muggles out there, has been lovingly restored by the daughter of its creator, Pamula Pierce, and looks positively amazing.

I first saw Boggy Creek at a drive in theater with my parents as a kid and it made an impression on me that has lasted a lifetime. The film is the perfect mix of tall tales told by folksy locals, a cheesy soundtrack, out-of-focus monster shots and a vintage 70’s vibe that make it required viewing around Halloween each year. I’ve made Boggy wallpapers, written blog posts and enjoyed this flick since I was a kid (believe it or not it was rated “G” for general audiences) so I’m over the spooky moon with this news.

I’m a little concerned that cleaning up the film will detract from its overall feel of nostalgia but I’m willing to take that risk and support the efforts of the filmmakers. The film has never looked this good before so watching highlights from the restored version on YouTube is a bit surreal but to its credit still manages to give me goosebumps!

If you are a Boggy Creek fan like I am, be sure to head over to the official website and sign up to be notified when the film comes to blu ray sometime “this fall”. In the meantime, lock your doors, stay away from your windows and remember, he always travels the creek!

My New Favorite Thing: Birds Eye Cauliflower Tots

Birdseye's new cauliflower tots are super yummy

I’ve eaten quite a few tater tots in my day. I just love them which is why I’m so excited something new and better has finally come along. Imagine the best tater tot you ever had and then imagine it being a pale imitation of what tater tots are supposed to be, that’s Birds Eye Cauliflower Tots. They take everything you’ve ever loved about traditional tuber tots and raise the bar.

Made from just a few simple ingredients (unlike the 10+ ingredients in Ore-Ida Tater Tots), Birds Eye tots are slightly larger than your normal tot, but that’s not all. When baked they are very crispy on the outside and super creamy on the inside. If you’ve ever eaten a fondant potato from a fine dining restaurant, then you know what I’m talking about.

I was skeptical when Mindy suggested we try them, she’s been on a cauliflower kick for the past few months, but I have to say I’m so glad we did. About the only downside of course, is the price. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not that expensive – a bag of Cauliflower tots will run you just $3 at Target or $4 at your local grocery store but it only contains about 4 servings as compared to ten servings from Ore-Ida. So if you’re buying for a large family you’ll have to buy a few bags to stock up. The extra cost is well worth it however because they are simply delicious. They also have less sodium, less saturated fat and fewer carbs than regular tater tots.

Next time you’re grocery shopping pick up a bag (or two), try them out and let me know on Twitter how you liked them. I’m willing to bet you’ll never want to eat regular tater tots ever again.

One Perfect Shot: Star Trek’s ‘The Galileo Seven’

Back in 1967, fans of Star Trek were a little more than a dozen episodes into the new series and were craving to explore stories about one of their favorite new characters – the logical and enigmatic Mr. Spock. They got their wish in The Galileo Seven which thrust Spock into the command chair with his fellow Enterprise crew members in tow.

Kirk sends a shuttlecraft with a crew of seven to explore the Murasaki 312 quasar (re-rendered in spectacular fashion for the 2007 series remastering) when they are pulled off course and crash land on Taurus II, a lone planet at the heart of Murasaki 312. The planet is inhabited by a species of giant, “cave-man”-like humanoids who have a penchant for being just out of focus and throwing huge spears. Spock must solve problem after problem to try and save those under his command, all while dealing with an insubordinate junior office named Lt. Boma and of course the ever-cantackerous Dr. McCoy.

‘The Galileo Seven’ is notable primarily because it gave Leonard Nimoy center stage for the first time in the original series, something the actor later admitted he struggled with on the set. William Shatner’s Captain Kirk is sidelined from the main action, leading the search and rescue from his comfy chair on the bridge of the Enterprise. Meanwhile Spock, McCoy, Scotty and the rest of the shuttle crew are literally fighting for their lives back on Taurus II.

This was one of those episodes that kept me up late at night as a kid. The shadowy monsters, always lurking just out of sight of our heroes pushed all my fearful Bigfoot buttons as a boy. The fact that we never got a clear look at the creature’s faces only heightened the effect and was a happy accident during production. Special effects master Wah Chang created the ape-creature makeup to be shown on camera but it was considered by censors to be too grotesque to show in close-ups and so our imaginations are left to run wild.

Spock and crew examine the dead and hidden body of Latimer

Apparently the censors were working overtime for this episode because the scene where Latimer is killed was considered too gruesome and an additional mist effect was added to obscure the giant spear protruding from his dead body. How times would change.

This episode also marks one of the first occurrences of a VIP coming onboard the Enterprise and seriously mucking things up. Galactic High Commissioner Ferris joins the ranks of Robert Fox from “A Taste of Armageddon’, Commodore Matt Decker from ‘The Doomsday Machine’ and Richard Daystrom from ‘The Ultimate Computer’ as people who just don’t know how to quit when standing on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

Our one perfect shot comes as Scotty, McCoy and the surviving crew of the Shuttlecraft Galileo do their very best duck and cover impression while Spock tries to methodically deduce why his Vulcan logic has not only failed to rescue them but also harbor resentment among the crew.

Next up we trade giant monsters and foggy alien planets for something decidedly more budget friendly – the high courtroom drama of “Court Martial”.

Check out the entire series of perfect Star Trek shots to date.

Testing the T-Shirt Waters

If you’re like me and like to create things, then you probably know what it’s like when you don’t get the opportunity to express yourself. If I go too long without having an outlet for my thoughts and ideas, I get frustrated, depressed and anxious. Over the years I’ve had many avenues for my creativity, from icons and making apps to writing, cooking and even gardening.

Now I’m trying something new in the form of fun t-shirt designs over at TeePublic. Inspired by the designs of my friend and co-worker, Anthony Piraino, I’ve worked up a bunch of fun t-shirts based on favorite television shows, movies and original artwork. If you’re familiar with my work, or are a geek, then many of these will probably appeal to you. The original shirts I’ve created based around the cult 80’s movies The Last Starfighter and Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension are among my favorites.

A modern version of the Star League logo from 'The Last Starfighter'

An adorable poo emoji gins widely back at you

A cool technical schematic of the Oscillation Overthruster from the 80's movie Buckaroo Banzai

A fun smilie in dorky glasses with buck teeth

My own retro take on the Team Banzai logo from the 80's film Buckaroo Banzai

I have ideas for more shirt designs I’d like to post so if you like what you see, head on over to my store at TeePublic and grab a few. Nothing motivates an artist like knowing what they’ve done is enjoyed by others. T-shirts make great stocking stuffers too and if you hurry you can still get them delivered in time for Christmas. If you have an idea for a t-shirt you’d like to see, drop me an email or send me a suggestion on Twitter. You never know!

My 2018 Nissan Leaf: Three Days In

I recently turned in my venerable Ford C-MAX energi and leased a brand new 2018 Nissan Leaf EV. I test drove the Leaf in addition to the Chevy Bolt and ultimately went with the Leaf due to its lower cost and the fact that it wasn’t a GM brand car. I’ve wanted an all-electric vehicle for years and now I’ve finally taken the plunge. So far I’ve been very happy with how the Leaf has performed overall and I wanted to take just a few minutes and highlight my initial impressions about the car after my first three days owning it.

I’ll make more of these videos as I form opinions on other aspects of the car, but for now I hope you enjoy this brief glimpse into the Nissan Leaf.

iPhone X Wallpaper Updates

iPhone X lock screen showing the Star Trek LCARS wallpaper

If you’re the proud owner of a slick new iPhone X then I have some good news. I’ve updated three of my lock screen wallpapers for the new device and boy do they look great. The iPhone X’s new OLED screen means blacks are truly black resulting in a stunning appearance for lock screen designs like my popular Star Trek LCARS wallpaper. The design also seamlessly blends with the device’s bezel to create a fun Next Generation feel in your hands. The LCARS lock screen even comes in four variants so there’s lots options to try out.

I’ve also updated my Twin Peaks and Pokéwall wallpapers as well so be sure to check them out too. I’ll probably update the others (Westworld & Cosmos) in time but for now these three updates would make great additions to any iPhone X lock or home screen. Enjoy!

Reclaim Your Screen with Unobstruct

Unobstruct app iconRecently I had the pleasure of collaborating on a fun project with my friend and co-worker, Troy Gaul. Troy and I worked closely together to develop Linea and he asked if I could design the app icon for a new type of ad blocker he was developing which eventually became to be called Unobstruct. The concept behind the app is simple – get annoying social media banners that websites overlay on their content out of the way. Screen real estate, especially on mobile devices, is limited and the last thing users need are buttons for Twitter and Facebook cluttering up the view.

From the moment I took up the project I knew I wanted the app’s icon to be both fun and non-flat. Like many iOS developers these days, I’ve had my fill with two-dimensional glyph-type icons that seem to be piled as far as the eye can see in the App Store. I didn’t want to swing the pendulum all the way back to a full skeuomorphism but I didn’t want Unobstruct’s icon to be just another soulless geometric utility that no one would ever remember.

rough idea concepts for Unobstruct sketched in Linea on the iPad

I gathered the gang at the office for a quick brainstorming session and we sketched out a bunch of rough ideas (I have a fondness for the one that looked like a bare-chested Vladimir Putin but alas that was never meant to be). From those quick doodles in Linea, a concept formed of a tough little bot that pushes offending social media bars and banners off the screen. Once I drew his basic forms in Adobe Illustrator, I slowly built up shading and subtle gradients to give him an overall feel of tactility. You can see a similar approach in the xScope Mirror icon, creating subtle dimension through the strategic use of highlights and shadows.

The result is an adorable, tough-as-nails app that will never stop fighting to free up your screen from those annoying floating bars and let you read easier. Check out Troy’s Medium post detailing how he developed the app and what went into making it a reality. Unobstruct is available today in the App Store for .99¢. We hope you’ll give it a try, enjoy!

Twin Peaks Wallpapers for iPhone & iPad

iPhone lock screen showing the Twin Peaks wallpaper

When Twin Peaks premiered in April of 1990, I quickly found myself caught up in the show’s intricate and mysterious plot to discover who killed High School sweetheart, Laura Palmer. The series was groundbreaking and paved the way for many of the “puzzle series” we take for granted today like ‘Lost’, ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Westworld’. Twin Peaks’ writing, directing art direction and music all made it a cult classic that has been called by many one of the greatest TV dramas of all time.

As a die-hard Twin Peaks fan, I’m excited for the premiere of the new Limited Series coming to Showtime which airs on May 21st and will run for a full 18 episodes. Many of the original cast will return to reprise their rolls including Kyle MacLachlan, Mädchen Amick, Sherilyn Fenn, Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, and several others. To help celebrate Twin Peak’s return to television I took inspiration from some cool artwork created by artist and illustrator Chris Bishop. Chris created a neat Twin Peaks tribute graphic that I instantly knew would make for a great iOS wallpaper. I contacted him and received his permission to remix his original art and came up with something fun that any Twin Peaks fan would be proud to display on their iPhone or iPad.

The wallpaper depicts Special Agent Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer in the mysterious Red Room, along with a few surprises. It comes in two variants – Lock Screen and Home Screen and is ready to download to your favorite iOS device. My thanks to Chris for allowing me to run with his creation and to Mark Frost and David Lynch for bringing one of my all-time favorite TV series back from the dead. I can’t wait to see what the sleepy, mysterious town of Twin Peaks has in store for us this time. Enjoy!

How to download and apply the wallpapers on iOS:

1) Click to view the wallpaper that best fits your device:

• iPhone SE – Twin Peaks Lock Screen
• iPhone 6,7 – Twin Peaks Lock Screen
• iPhone 6,7 Plus – Twin Peaks Lock Screen
• iPhone X – Twin Peaks Lock Screen

• iPhone SE – Twin Peaks Home Screen
• iPhone 6,7 – Twin Peaks Home Screen
• iPhone 6,7 Plus – Twin Peaks Home Screen
• iPhone X – Twin Peaks Home Screen

• iPad – Twin Peaks Lock Screen
• iPad – Twin Peaks Home Screen

2) Tap & hold on the image in mobile Safari & save it to your photo library

3) Open Photos, view the image then tap the Share button in the lower left

4) Scroll to the right in the Share menu and tap Use as Wallpaper

5) Pinch Zoom OUT on the image to size it exactly to the screen

6) Turn Perspective Zoom OFF

7) Tap Set > Set Lock Screen

That’s it! Next time you unlock your iPhone you can help Agent Cooper navigate the supernatural labyrinth called Twin Peaks and solve the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer. Be sure to check out my other iPhone wallpapers – Westworld, Star Trek LCARS, Pokéwall and more. Enjoy!

UPDATE: I’ve added 2 new iPhone X variants for use with iOS 11. The device’s tall format of means the wallpaper had to change to accommodate the new design. Enjoy!

The Evolution of Linea

iMore Show artworkLast week, the Iconfactory launched its new simplified sketching app for iPad – Linea. We worked on the app for over a year and used it internally for client projects during its development. The response has been nothing short of amazing. We designed the app to be easy to use and immediately approachable for both advanced artists as well as novice users and that simplified philosophy seems to really have struck a chord with people.

Rene Richie invited me to come on episode 543 of the iMore Show and talk about Linea. We discussed how the app came to be, what went into bringing it to market and how it hopefully stands out in the crowded space of App Store sketch apps. I had a great time with Rene, Serenity Caldwell, Lory Gill and Georgia Dow talking about Linea and getting their insights into why they love sketching with it. As an aside, if you’ve not seen Serenity’s amazing video review of Linea, please do check it out, it’s one of the best product reviews I’ve ever seen.

A big thanks to the entire iMore crew for having me on to talk about Linea. It’s gratifying to see something you’ve worked so long and hard on be so loved by the iOS community. The Linea section of episode 543 starts around the 24 minute mark. Enjoy!

The Uncertain Highway

dark lines of a highway at night racing towards us

Today Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States. To say I never thought this day would come is probably my greatest understatement ever. I was certain we’d never see this man sitting in the Oval Office, yet here we are.

The journey from that stage of denial to today’s acceptance of his inauguration has been a tough one for myself and millions of my fellow Americans. At times it’s felt like I was shoved in a car by people I don’t know or associate with and forced to travel an unfamiliar highway late at night. What’s worse, the car has no headlights, no brakes and to top it all off we’re not even certain where we’re all going. Hopefully we can keep our wits about us and not drive off into the ditch. If we all do our part, God willing we’ll arrive someplace safe and not as bad as we originally thought.

This past week I spent time taking down Christmas decorations and as I was packing up the boxes I caught myself thinking “I hope this isn’t the last time I get to do this.” I was stunned to realize I actually thought such a thing but I had. What if this reckless, unfit, unqualified, corrupt bully of a man starts a war and kills us all? Is that posssible? As depressing as it sounds, yes, it certainly is. And if he doesn’t get us, climate change almost certainly will.

By the time I came back in the house however I started thinking of ways I and others can help make sure these things didn’t happen. Be kind to strangers, help those in need, call my local leaders and make damn sure they know Trump doesn’t speak for me or my family. Teach kids and grandkids to be self-reliant, keep an open mind and be tolerant of others. If you see an injustice being committed, especially to a person of color, speak up. Learn a new skill or trade and do what you need to do to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. It’s up to all of us to resist and not become complacent. It’s going to be so difficult these next four years to not simply give in to the constant stream of bullshit but that’s what we have to do. I for one am ready to fight, I’m ready to do my part to steady the wheel.

As one of my favorite cinematic characters once said “The future is not set, there is no fate but what we make.” Like her, I want to face that highway with a sense of hope for the future, not despair. It won’t be easy, and there are bound to be casualties along the way but I’m confident we’ll get there in the end if we work together and stay true to ourselves. Come with us if you want to live, love who you want and be free.

I Find Your Trump-Based Belief System Fascinating

I was listening to an interview with a 20-year female veteran on NPR today who’s struggled with whom to vote for this election. She said she ultimately decided she will vote for Trump because “more of his beliefs align with mine.”

As I listened, all I could think about was which beliefs of Trump’s those would be. The belief it’s okay to mock disabled people? The belief it’s acceptable to attack and disgrace a Gold Star family’s ultimate sacrifice? Maybe that it’s okay to call veterans like John McCain losers? Or perhaps it’s his belief that it is acceptable to be a sexual predator who forces himself on women when ever he feels like it? I have a feeling it’s his casual disregard for the Constitution like when he called for the population of an entire religion to be banned from the United States. I just can’t decide which belief(s) this woman shares with Trump.

When I hear just how little the things he’s said or done matter to a certain block of voters I’m reminded just how much sway emotion has over us. Lead with your heart, not your mind. Feelings are greater than facts. People also have a big tendency to stick to their tribal mindset way more than I’ve anticipated. It makes me depressed and saddened to think about them and where we’re headed in this country. Even when Hillary wins tomorrow, and she WILL win, we all still lose thanks to the millions of people who would rather be on the winning team than do what’s best for the entire country by electing a person who is for a lack of a better term – an asshole.

Westworld Wallpapers for iOS

Westworld lock screen wallpaper displayed on an outline iPhone 6'I admit it. I’m addicted to HBO’s new science fiction series – Westworld. Based on the 1973 thriller film written and directed by novelist Michael Crichton, HBO’s re-imagined series transports us to a futuristic theme park where people can live out every desire as part of the old west. Guests to the park can partake in over a hundred narrative storylines to search for lost treasure, hunt down wanted bandits or just visit the local saloons and brothels and have the vacation of a lifetime.

The show stars Oscar winning actor Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Ford, one of Westworld’s creators as well as Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores Abernathy, a robot who’s entire world is not what she believes it to be. We’re only three episodes in but I’m already addicted to the show, what it all means and where it’s headed. I find the sheer logistics of such an imagined theme park fascinating – it’s like Disney World on mega steroids.

Every part of Westworld from the robot inhabitants, called “hosts”, to the livestock and even the landscape is fabricated all for the pleasure of the guests. It’s like a gigantic MMORPG but in real life, full of twists and turns, mystery and intrigue. It has elements of some of my favorite television shows like Battlestar Galactica and Firefly with a touch of World of Warcraft thrown in for good measure. If you subscribe to HBO, I really recommend you check it out. You can also follow @HBOWestworld for the latest news and sneak peeks about the show.

I love Westworld so much in fact I went ahead and created a set of lock and home screen wallpapers that you can use on your iPhone. I think I captured the spirit of the series with both the nod to the old west as well as its enigmatic future.

How to download and apply the wallpapers on iOS:

1) Click to view the wallpaper that best fits your device:

• iPhone SE – Westworld Lock Screen
• iPhone 6,7 – Westworld Lock Screen
• iPhone 6,7 Plus – Westworld Lock Screen

• iPhone SE – Westworld Home Screen
• iPhone 6,7 – Westworld Home Screen
• iPhone 6,7 Plus – Westworld Home Screen

• iPad – Westworld Lock Screen
• iPad – Westworld Home Screen

2) Tap & hold on the image in mobile Safari & save it to your photo library

3) Open Photos, view the image then tap the Share button in the lower left

4) Scroll to the right in the Share menu and tap Use as Wallpaper

5) Pinch Zoom OUT on the image to size it exactly to the screen

6) Turn Perspective Zoom OFF

7) Tap Set > Set Lock Screen

That’s it! Next time you unlock your iPhone you can imagine you’re about to set out for adventure or whatever else may find you as you roam the vast, entertaining frontier that is HBO’s Westworld. Be sure to check out my other iPhone wallpapers – Star Trek LCARS, Pokéwall and more. Enjoy!

Holy Super-Overload, Batman!

Man ripping off shirt to reveal costume with dozens of super hero logos underneath

With Supergirl’s recent move to the CW network, I’ve started developing anxiety over this fall’s lineup of shows that start with the season premiere of The Flash on Tuesday, Oct. 4th. The CW has nearly cornered the market on the small-screen super hero genre and will have no less than four different DC properties running concurrently this fall – The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl.

So far I’ve only watched selected episodes of Supergirl but I liked what I saw and with Kara’s move from CBS, I’m more inclined to watch full time since the likelihood of more frequent crossovers seem logical. Kara’s (and by extension, Superman’s) world isn’t in the same multi-verse as the other three DC properties however and so she can’t just fly to Central City and team up with Barry Allen whenever she feels like it. This is probably a good thing or I’d feel even more compelled to watch every week and I can barely keep up with three shows as it is.

The premiere season of Legends of Tomorrow wasn’t spectacular either. It featured too many characters, uneven pacing and more super-cliche’s than I could shake a stick at. I’m prepared to give the new season a go for a few weeks but if they don’t step up Legend’s quality quickly, I’ll gladly sacrifice it in order to try and keep my sanity.

Montage of Supergirl, Green Arrow and The Flash character portraits

Since all these shows reference each other, it’s important to watch them all in tandem to get the most out of them and therein lies the rub. How am I supposed to keep up with an ever-expanding array of superheroes and their villainous counterparts from week to week? Supergirl on Monday nights, The Flash on Tuesdays, Arrow on Wednesdays and Legends on Thursdays. I fear all of this is enough to make me want to swear off the DC TV universe for good.

Managing four superhero properties and their inter-relationships has to be difficult for the show runners but the payoff for the network has huge potential. By binding these four titles to each other, they’re essentially turning them into one, huge, can’t-miss CW television show each week. For fans this would seem like a win-win scenario, but with a continuous stream of quality shows like Daredevil, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the new Luke Cage series coming to Netflix, our time and attention spans are ever-shortenting. I just hope they can deliver on the kinds of quality story writing, acting and special effects that are needed to keep us all tuning in for four hours of super-programming every week. Otherwise I’m afraid I’ll be giving my DVR a much needed break.

A Sticker By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

Sweet Stickypoo Sticker

So imagine that thing you’ve built your entire professional career on, something you love to create with a burning passion, slowly fades from popularity. Day by day people have less and less use for it, fewer and fewer people write you to make requests. You try to stay the course and keep doing your thing, but doubts inevitably creep in.

Then one day you find you’re just not doing it any more. You’re not really sure what happened but somewhere along the way it just… stopped. It pains you that people no longer love or even really need the thing you’ve honed your craft on for close to twenty years, but what can be done?

You go about your business, applying what you’ve learned to other areas of your discipline. Occasionally a project invites you to play in the fields you once roamed with glee, but they seem few and far between.

Then one day something comes along that turns the old thing you loved to do into something new and exciting. It presents that thing in a whole new, modern way and lets you express your creativity as never before to an entirely new audience. These people are too young to really remember you or where you’ve come from but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you’re standing in the middle of those lush, green fields once again and the sky is literally the limit. It may not last a year, a few months or even a week but for now, for right now, it’s just as fun, just as compelling and fulfilling as it ever was and it is glorious.

Those “things” are simply icons. Desktop icons, specifically.

They are what, since yesterday, we now call stickers in Messages but they’ll always be icons to me. Their introduction in iOS 10 represents a new era for icon artists like myself who once toiled for endless hours to create piles and piles of icons that people could download and use on their computer desktops. We created them because it was fun for us as artists and especially fun for those who collected them.

The advent of the iPhone and mobile era changed all that and desktop icons went out of fashion. People were glued to their tiny screens and didn’t have the time or attention span to customize their desktop folders and hard drives any longer. With the advent of iOS 10 however, people once again have a way to collect and share those tiny, iconic works of art in the form of iMessage stickers. Stickers, perhaps even more than emoji have the capacity to inspire and delight people as never before and I have completely enjoyed creating them during these precious weeks leading up to yesterday’s launch. I’ve been working with my friends at the Iconfactory to bring hundreds of icons stickers to life and it has been a blast. I’ve worked with outside artists as well and watching them create has been joyous.

Stickers may turn out to be another flash in the digital pan and fade quickly into the sunset but that hardly matters. Even if they do, for one brief moment, they allowed me to re-energize, create and dream what might be possible. In short, they have inspired me. As an artist I can truly say this matters more to me than all the tea in China. Thank you, Apple. I owe you one.

Pokéwall Wallpaper for iOS

Pokewall Wallpaper on an iPhone 6

I designed these mobile wallpapers to work specifically with iOS, but there’s nothing that says you can’t use them with Android or Windows phone too. I’m just not going to make a bazillion size variants for all those devices 😛

There’s no denying that the new augmented reality game Pokémon GO from Nintendo and Niantic, Inc. has taken the world by storm. People of all ages are getting their butts up off the couch and heading out into the real world to try and capture as many of these cuddly, courageous animals as they can.

I thought it would be fun to whip up a mobile wallpaper that let’s you turn your smart phone lock screen into a Pokéball, and so Pokéwall was born. Now you can become the envy of all those shiny new friends you’ve made while you explore your community at all hours of the day and night!

How to download and apply the wallpapers on iOS:

1) Click to view the wallpaper that best fits your device:

• iPhone 5 Series – Original
• iPhone 6 – Original
• iPhone 6 Plus – Original
• iPhone X – Original
• iPad & iPad Pro – Original

2) Tap & hold on the image in mobile Safari & save it to your photo library

3) Open Photos, view the image then tap the Share button in the lower left

4) Scroll to the right in the Share menu and tap Use as Wallpaper

5) Pinch Zoom OUT on the image to size it exactly to the screen

6) Turn Perspective Zoom OFF

7) Tap Set > Set Lock Screen

That’s it! Sleep/lock your iPhone and the next time you activate it, you can pretend you’re about to catch that elusive epic Pokémon you’ve always wanted. I hope you enjoy this fun treat & help spread the word via Twitter and Facebook. Have fun and stay safe!

PS – If you liked Pokéwall, be sure to check out my Star Trek LCARS wallpapers as well.

Guest Judging Food Network’s ‘Cake Wars’ Was a Sweet Treat

Cake Wars Emoji Panel

Pictured L to R: Myself, Cake Wars regular judges Ron Ben-Israel and Waylynn Lucas with host Jonathan Bennett

In my career as an icon artist I’ve had the privilege of working on tons of great projects, meeting fascinating people and participating in lots of wonderful events. This past March however, I was invited to appear on the Food Network’s reality baking competition, Cake Wars, as a guest judge and quite simply, it was an adventure of a lifetime. The theme of the episode I was to appear on was emoji, something I’ve become intimately familiar with these past few years. Needless to say when we received a request for one of us to fly to L.A. and participate as a judge I nearly fell out of my chair. From start to finish, my experience on Cake Wars was fantastic and so I just want to share some of those experiences with you.

The Journey

I’ve been a fan of reality TV cooking competitions for years with shows like Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, The Great British Baking Show and more recently Food Network’s Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen. Over the years I’ve considered applying to a few of these shows in the hopes of showing off my amateur cooking skills but had never gotten off my butt to do it. So you can imagine how amazing it was to ultimately be sitting at the Cake Wars judging table next to the incredibly talented Ron Ben-Israel and Waylynn Lucas.

From our initial email exchanges to arranging the trip, all of the people from Super Delicious, the company that produces Cake Wars for Food Network, were positively wonderful and made my time on set a joy. My first surprise happened as soon as I stepped out of the car on the Cake Wars lot. Ron Ben-Israel had also just arrived and he immediately came over to greet me outside the main door. He stepped right up, introduced himself and said “You must be Gedeon!” As we entered the building, he proceeded to tell me all about myself, where I went to school, some of the projects I’ve worked on over the years and even how long I’ve been at the Iconfactory. “You see Gedeon, I do my homework!” The sheer fact that Ron warmly greeted me and knew all about me was such a thoughful way to be welcomed to the set that I could hardly believe it.

All throughout the day, Ron helped me to know where to look for the camera, gave me speaking tips and even signed an autograph for me which I now have hanging on my desk at work. He even took time to answer any and all questions I peppered him with like how he makes the incredible buttercream for his award-winning cakes! In exchange I showed him how to receive animated emoji on his iPhone and tried not to gush over sitting right next to him *too* much. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say for the record that Waylynn Lucas and host Jonathan Bennett were also both super nice to me as were the entire crew of over 60 people. It was easy to see they had all done their jobs dozens of times before and knew where they should be, how to speak, what the director was looking for and more from the start.

Judge’s Table

If you’ve ever watched TV and wondered what it must be like to sit behind the judge’s table to critique culinary creations, let me try and set the scene. Cake Wars is broken down into two rounds; a smaller initial round where one of the four contestant teams is eliminated at the end and then a big, show-stopping round with the winner receiving a $10,000 prize. I’m not going to spoil the episode and tell you who won (you’ll have to watch to find out) but I will say that watching the bakers work and tasting their creations was a privilege. Both Ron and Waylynn warned me to be prepared to taste both great and not-so-great cakes and naturally they were right. Some were moist and delicious, some were flavored perfectly and some were so sweet they made my toes curl.

All of the cakes arrived at the judge’s table via production assistants with perfectly cut slices, meticulously arranged on white flatware in front of me. Needless to say I took great care when handling my fork and made sure to take my time, taste everything and made mental notes on each as I went. Thankfully the producers explained my primary concern was to critique the overall design and visual appeal of the cakes, how well they conformed to the emoji theme of the challenges and if they had been executed well or poorly. Since I’m not a food critic I gratefully kept the majority of my comments focused on the designs of the cakes. The contestants seemed to appreciate my feedback through the various rounds.

Behind the Scenes

Between rounds, each of the judges had the opportunity to retreat to their dressing rooms while the contestants baked. The final round happens over the course of 4 hours and so there’s a lot of work on set for the contestants to get their show-stopping cakes completed before time expires. The production assistant explained to me they would come and get all of us for the final 30 minutes of baking but I asked if I could stay in my seat and watch while they worked. She allowed me to remain on set and I’m so glad I did. Not only did I get to see the inner workings of the show and how it’s filmed but I also was able to ask one of the floor directors a bunch of questions that he graciously answered.

One thing I asked was if the producers look forward to “food disasters”, i.e. when cakes fall or major mistakes occur on set. His answer was telling. He explained that of course most producers will say they think these unplanned problems make for great TV, but they also tend to push the production schedule later in the day, sometimes much later and that’s bad. Things have to be re-filmed, stations reset and it just throws a monkey wrench into the works which wastes time, money and makes the entire production crew cranky. Ultimately he explained that Food Network wants the contestants to succeed in their efforts and produce the best cakes they can so in reality, it’s better to have everything go as smoothly as possible in the end.

That’s a Wrap

From the moment I stepped onto the studio lot, just like the emoji I was there to judge, I wore a huge smile across my face. To say I was honored to be a part of Food Network’s Cake Wars emoji episode just doesn’t do it justice. It was quite literally a foodie’s dream come true to be able to travel to L.A. and participate in judging these amazing cakes from talented bakers across the country. One of the teams however was much closer to home than I ever suspected.

I learned just this week that one of the teams I judged is based right here in Greensboro, NC! I went to visit Taylor Kisselstein at Easy Peasy Decadent Desserts and ordered a dozen cupcakes (emoji of course!) for the viewing party I held at my home the night the episode aired. Thanks, Taylor!

When I think back on my experience I will always remember the excitement of being on the set, but I also warmly recall the people, especially Ron Ben-Israel. He is a professional in every sense of the word with an amazing talent for baking positively beautiful cakes. I’ve spoken with him a few times since filming and even now he continues to be just as warm, gracious and helpful as he was that day and has even encouraged me to audition for Chopped! To him, and all the other members of the cast, crew and production team, and to everyone at Food Network, thank you for having me on the show. It was an experience of a lifetime that I will never forget.

The Emoji episode of Cake Wars is available for purchase via iTunes. Enjoy!

Miscellaneous Thoughts & Observations

• Each of the judge’s chairs have a leather pouch hanging from the back of the seat for their cell phone should they wish to keep it handy but not on their person during filming

• The feeling you get when you see your own name on a dressing room door is just as amazeballs as you can imagine

• Ron Ben-Israel used to subscribe to MacAddict Magazine & was a huge Mac gear head back in the day

• Multiple people on set told me the “Minecraft” ep of Cake Wars was… challenging to film

• Each baking team has its own “story producer” who encourages them on set to be energetic, enthusiastic & speak clearly during the course of filming

• If all teams are in the weeds and are behind, the producers have been known to give them extra time to complete their cake creations

• Almost all of the judge’s dialog is unscripted. In contrast, nearly 100% of host Jonathan Bennett’s dialog is written for the camera. The script is edited in real time and constantly finessed and adjusted as events unfold during filming

• Fraternizing with the contestants prior to filming was strictly forbidden. Also, if one of the contestants approached me before filming began I was supposed to let the powers that be know O_o

• Having to eliminate people from possibly winning a $10,000 prize really stinks

• Awarding a $10,000 prize to a talented cake artist is incredibly awesome and more than makes up for the former 🙂

Why I Love the Music of ‘The Martian’

While I was watching ‘The Martian‘ for the umpteenth time I had a mini-epiphany regarding the film’s music. One of the best parts of the movie for me is the sprawling, technical and beautiful score by Harry Gregson-Williams but I never realized why I loved it so much until recently. If you’re a fan of space-themed stuff like Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series then be sure to check out my take on the music of ‘The Martian’ in this short YouTube video.

Update: Here are links to all 3 albums discussed in the video:

The Martian – (Original Motion Picture Score)
Vangelis – Albedo 0.39
Vangelis – Direct

The Best BitCam Review. Ever.

BitCam review from the app store: WHY? - In 2016, why in the world would I want an app that makes my photos look WORSE? why? WHY?! I downloaded this app just to tell you guys ya crazy for giving it 5 stars. BOOO BOOO BOOOOO. Go HOME. And if you're at home, go stick your head in the ground. 8 bit camera...sheesh, good grief. As long as we're throwing out dumb ideas how about soggy bread, it goes down so much smoother! And what about ants in your pants? Oh yeah sounds like a great idea too; 5 stars for both. Finally, WHYYYYYY?!?

I and everyone at the Iconfactory are grateful so many people have been enjoying our little photographic throwback to the 1990′s with our recent release of BitCam. For those who remember the era it’s a nostalgia trip that brings bittersweet memories of straining modems and ear-piercing dot-matrix printers flooding right back. Millennials are not old enough to understand this however. To many of them, a dot-matrix printer is the tool that was used to print the flower patterns on the out house toilet paper back before there was indoor plumbing and colors hadn’t been invented yet.

Someday about 20 or 30 years from now, ya boy jax may well pine for the days when images were taken on a physical device instead of inside his eyeball. A time when talking with his friends meant tapping on a glass-covered screen to launch an archaic app like Snapchat instead of projecting a hologram of himself from his floaty chair onto whatever the internet eventually becomes. On that glorious day, I will push back in my recliner at the old folks home and smile the smile of kings.

We’re Talking Twitterrific and Accessibility

Twitterrific was recently honored by the folks at AppleVis with an induction into their App Hall of Fame for iOS Accessibly. The folks behind AppleVis invited me to their Extras podcast to talk about the nature of the award, how and why Twitterrific became accessible to VoiceOver users and what Twitterrific users can expect in the future. I had a great time chatting with them on this important subject. The AppleVis Extra podcast #44 is available for streaming online from their website. Enjoy!