Apple Freak

Lately I’ve found myself addicted to apples. No, not the kind that I usually write about, but an actual piece of fruit. You know, the kind you eat? I only recently discovered Gala apples and ever since I first had one at Panera Bread a few months ago, I can’t get enough of them. Ask any of my friends if I’m the type of guy that can be seen with a heart healthy snack in his hands and they would likely belly-laugh and tell you to go away.

Lately I’ve been warming up to the idea of eating more fruits and vegetables and the unassuming Gala apple has been leading the charge. If you’ve never had one, next time you’re in the produce section try and pick one up. They are softer than most apples with a thinner skin and a slightly sweeter taste than most. Developed in New Zealand in the 1920s by orchardist J.H. Kidd, Gala apples are a cross between a Golden Delicious and Kidd’s Orange Red. They resist bruising and are quite easy to eat. Even if you don’t particularly enjoy apples give them a try. They’ve easily become my new favorite snack and they could become yours too.

Yaz and I

They say kids can be cruel and that’s never more true than when you have an unusual name. Growing up, I knew my parents had named me after my grandfather, Gedeon Oliver Maheux. That being said, it was a little tough for me to appreciate my family heritage when neighborhood kids would call me all manor of strange and hurtful names. At some point in our lives we all get called mean things and if we’re lucky, it ends up building character instead of warping our “fragile little minds”.

But by the time I was seven, I disliked my name so much that when my mom and dad sent me off to 2 weeks of Catholic summer camp, I insisted they register me with my middle name of Paul instead of Gedeon. I had the brilliant idea that I would hide behind my dad’s name to avoid the inevitable onslaught of ridicule that would come with a cabin full of strange, new kids. All our clothes had to have name tags sewn on them for laundry identification, so for two weeks both my clothes and I were known as “Paul Maheux”. The clever charade worked great except that camp councilors thought I was going deaf since they’d call out “Paul!” and I wouldn’t even so much as turn my head in response.

Then when I was eleven years old, my father took me to my first big league baseball game. Living in New Hampshire, naturally it was the Boston Red Sox I saw that fateful day in 1980. Like most children, I can easily remember the first time I emerged from the concession tunnel to see the Green Monster. Although I had played baseball a bit at school, this was the first time I can honestly say I became interested in it. I sat with my father and watched the game unfold in unassuming fashion until a strange man took the field and the place went positively nuts.

Not being familiar with the players or the history of the Red Sox, I couldn’t understand why this scrawny guy was being greeted with such thunderous applause. Who was this man? What had he done to deserve this? Then the PA system blasted his name and quite literally changed my life. The announcer simply said one word as the scoreboard brightly flashed it over and over – “Yaz!”. Every fan in Fenway knew him to be Carl Yastrzemski, the legendary hitter and outfielder that fans lovingly referred to as Yaz. By the time I saw him that night, his profesional career was winding down, but I didn’t know that. All I knew was this man was loved and respected by thousands of people and to top it off he had a strange name, just like me.

After that fateful game, you couldn’t call me Paul if you wanted to. I was proud to be called Gedeon, but my smile grew if you called me simply Ged. I realized that it wasn’t a bad thing to have a unique name, in fact, just the opposite. Try a Google search for “Paul” and then one for “Gedeon” and you’ll know exactly what I mean. As I grew older I wore my name with pride and thanked my parents for setting me apart from the crowd. Today, I wouldn’t have it any other way and I have my family and a player named Yaz to thank for it.

Top Ten Things I Learned in NYC

David Lanham and I traveled to New York over the 4th of July weekend, 2008. We were invited by our friend Von Glitschka as guest speakers at the ICON5 Illustration conference. I had not been to NYC in years and it was great to meet talented artists, designers and see the city. While there I learned some important facts about the Big Apple that I thought I would share with all of my loyal readers.

• • •

10. Everyone either listens to an iPod or talks on a cell phone.

9. If I lived in NYC, I think I’d like to live in Greenwich Village.

8. Yankees fans get really upset when you tell them “Go Sox!”

7. No one in NYC bothers to read signs.

6. The line for the Empire State Building is really, really long.

5. There is a place to eat every few feet.

4. I need to buy more Apple stock.

3. Tell your traveling companion to call if he’ll be out after 2am.

2. Despite what you see in movies and TV, the people are friendly.

1. A cab ride through the heart of Manhattan is just as thrilling, nerve-wracking and expensive as a trip on Space Mountain.

Serenity Now!

To say things have been a little hectic at work lately would be an understatement. For the past several months, we’ve all been working hard to get you-know-what for the iPhone in ship shape. With the impending launch of the App Store, all of us have had our hands full and then some. In the midst of this massive effort, this 4th of July weekend, David and I travel to New York City to give a talk at the ICON5 Illustration Conference at the invitation of our friend and fellow artist, Von Glitschka. I can’t remember the last time I flew on a holiday and I can only imagine the travel nightmares that await us. My iPhone will be good and charged and packed with plenty of episodes of Futurama and Deep Space Nine.

Then there’s the little matter of day-to-day work at the factory. We’ve been snowed under at the office for months with a huge project that has kept us all busy every minute of every day. Having constant work is great, but it also makes it difficult to focus on internal projects like [REDACTED] and certain freeware releases that were only supposed to go on for a month, but due to forces outside our control, inevitably stretched into the future. If we could just get the R&D lab to perfect that cloning machine they’ve been teasing us with, everything would be peachy. However, as of this writing, there’s no word yet. Those bastards.

Somehow in the middle of all this madness, the gang at the Iconfactory managed to pull off an elegant punking of our dear friend and co-worker, Craig Hockenberry. See, back at WWDC Mr. Hockenberry came away with an ADA for his incredible work on Twitterrific for the iPhone and being the gracious man he is, he let Corey bring it back to North Carolina so the rest of us could get a fleeting glimpse of the “cube” before its return to Laguna Beach. Well, we thought it would be fun to create our own DIY ADA and mail that back to him just for kicks. We documented the creation process which you can find on the Iconfactory’s Flickr page. Needless to say the prank succeeded in putting a big smile on Craig’s face while relieving some stress around the office.

The good part of all this mayhem is that it keeps life interesting. There’s always a new challenge on the horizon, be it software, freeware or paying projects. Believe it or not, client work can sometimes provide a respite every now and then from the pressures we end up imposing on ourselves. Personally, if I can just get through July, I think I’l be just fine. Serenity now! Serenity now!

My Home Away From Home

It always fascinates me to see what people’s workspaces are like. I love getting an inside look at how artists, programmers and designers organize their desktops and select the tools they need to do their job. Some workspaces border on zen-like art, while others take on an air of controlled chaos. Some of us work in our homes like my friends Wolfgang Ante or Craig Hockenberry. But most of us spend the majority of our weekdays at “the office”.

And so, I thought I would throw my hat into the ring and give you a small peek at my workspace. My desk at the Iconfactory in Greensboro is where I do much of the pixel-pushing, writing, designing and illustrating that helps keep the bills paid and clients happy. Each and every day, I’m fortunate to work in a creative atmosphere surrounded by talented and dedicated people. Like many of us these days, I’ve tried working at home for extended periods, but it just doesn’t suit me. I love the bustle of the Iconfactory and the creativity our “open plan” offers the group (except when more than 3 of us are on the phone at the same time). I hope you enjoy this small behind-the-scenes look where I spend my days. Head on over to Flickr to check it out. Enjoy!

Embarrassing Auditory Confessions

They say confession is good for the soul, and since I’ve never had any problem with revealing my inner likes and dislikes, I jumped at the chance to join in on the fun of the latest group blog proposed by my friend Dave Caolo. This time around are songs that for one reason or another, you would be embarrassed to admit to liking in mixed company. I must say however that part of the reason I decided to throw my hat in the ring, was that it gave me the excuse to create the image you see above. What do Britney Spears and Bigfoot have in common? Well, read on my friends and find out!

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Merry Go Round

The Brady Bunch

I’m not ashamed to say that I have an entire iTunes playlist devoted exclusively to the perky tunes of those crazy Brady kids from my youth. Back in the 70′s the TV network suits figured the child actors of The Brady Bunch needed to compete with The Partridge Family and the Brady Six was born. Who among us can forget classics like Time to Change or Sunshine Day? Good times. Of all the Brady tracks I have however, Merry Go Round has to be the most sugar-coated piece of hippy jerky in the entire lot, and I love it! For some reason I can listen to Eve Plumb hit off-key notes until the cows come home and I just don’t care. Take a listen, but beware, the song is a total ear worm. Once I hear it, I usually can’t get it out of my head for days.

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You Drive Me Crazy

Britney Spears

Ah Britney! Back in the day, this familiar teen-pop queen commanded respect and actually worked her ass off to become successful. One day I broke down and bought You Drive Me Crazy for no apparent reason other than it was stuck in my head. To me, all of Britney’s songs sound somewhat the same (beat, rhythm, breathy lyrics), so I only own one… and this is it. I’m kinda ashamed to even have the one track in iTunes, but every time it comes up on random play, I relive a little part of 1999 and think back fondly on what Britney used to be. Ah Britney!

• • •

Wannabe

The Spice Girls

Everyone says they hate the Spice Girls, but I think secretly, everyone really loves them. I find the bulk of their songs incredibly infectious, bubbly and the perfect pick-me-up when I’m down. Their music is like watching a summer popcorn flick – a meaningless plot combined with a pulse-pounding soundtrack and dazzling special effects. It’s not academy award winning material, but it’s still a great time. I mean, how much more fun can it get than this:

“Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
So tell me what you want, what you really really want,
I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
So tell me what you want, what you really really want,
I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna really
really really wanna zigazig ha.”

• • •

America

Neil Diamond

If there is a more idealistic, or emotionally manipulative song in this world, I can’t think of one. I first heard America when I was 11, right around the time the classic Saturday morning cartoon School House Rock became popular. I think the SHR connection helps explain why I find this song so darned great. After all, it was SHR that taught me to love catchy songs about history like The Great American Melting Pot and The Preamble. Diamond’s America is like a top 40 School House Rock song on steroids. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

• • •

Love Theme from Boggy Creek

Charles B. Pierce

Ask any of the guys at the Iconfactory and they’ll tell you I’m obsessed with bigfoot/sasquatch/yeti and have been ever since I was a child. This embarrassing music track is one of my own making since it was impossible to purchase the soundtrack to the movie from which it came – The Legend of Boggy Creek. The song tells the funky tale of the Fouke Monster (bigfoot) and his lonely plight among the other creatures of the swamp. The song, like the movie, is cheesy, low-budget and so bad it’s good. I bust it out every year around Halloween, much to the dismay of my patience-filled wife. And now you know what Britney Spears and Bigfoot have in common – my twisted sense of musical tastes.

• • •

Other blogger’s musical confessions:

1. Living in the Now – Get the Funk Up!
2. Sharp Corners – Sing a Song of Sixpence
3. Hardcore Geek – The songs I hate to love

Those 70′s Photos

My mom recently sent me a bunch of photos from our family album taken when I was just a kid. I’ve posted a few of them up on Flickr and will keep adding to the set as I find time to process them. This particular one of me stood out for a bunch of reasons, but mainly I’m drawn to the big pea green chair and matching phone receiver. I remember my parents loved this color when I was a kid and it was all over our house. This could be why I have an aversion to peas today. Also note the big sticker on the phone’s handset. You might remember this from your childhood as well. People used to apply these on their phones so they could quickly reference important numbers like the police, fire department and poison control. Ah, the days before speed dialing and 9-1-1. Gets me all choked up sometimes. Watch for more Maheux family photos soon.

The Best of 2007

I’ve been into writing “listposts recently, so I thought a year-ending ‘Best of 2007′ post seemed appropriate. The following list are simply things that for no other reason, brought me joy over the past twelve months. You may be familiar with some of the items on the list, and others you may never even heard of. Either way, I promise you they are all worth checking out. If this post lets people know there is a better way to clean their toilet or helps you find new friends, then I can die a happy man. Well, that’s not really true, but at least it gave you a legitimate excuse to put off paying those online bills or jumping on the treadmill for another few minutes. I do what I can.

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Kaboom

Consumer Product

When my wife handed me a brush and a bottle of Kaboom Bowl Blaster a few months back and told me to get scrubbing, I did so begrudgingly. See, our toilets were dirty. I mean really dirty. Now before you go getting that look on your face, I don’t mean dirty like that, I mean dirty from hard water stains. Living in the country means that we’re on well water out here and don’t have the luxury of being hooked up to city water supplies. Our water is full of compounds and minerals like sulfur dioxide, zinc and calcium and it plays endless havoc on all of our plumbing fixtures.

I’ve scrubbed our toilets before with everything from Soft Soap and Comet to CLR and huge amounts of elbow grease and nothing, nothing has ever gotten the hard water stains 100% gone. That is until Kaboom came along. I’m not exaggerating or earning kickbacks when I say that, with only a minimal amount of scrubbing, Kaboom banished these unsightly stains to the infomercial netherworld from which they came. I’m not one who falls for late night commercial pitches, but I swear that this stuff works. If you have not tried it, next time you head to the grocery store, check it out. Your significant other will thank you.

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Kid Nation

Television

Even before a single minute of the first episode aired on CBS, TV critics, child welfare workers and over-protective parents were all doing everything in their power to make sure Kid Nation failed. The audience disagreed however and this unassuming little show about 40 kids unleashed on a New Mexico ghost town became an instant family hit and gave kids and parents everywhere a reason to cheer.

Each week kids like Sophia, Anjay, Greg and yes, even Taylor, gave us new insight into how children think, their resourcefulness and how much respect they deserve. I’ve written about Kid Nation before and with good reason. The show single-handedly reaffirmed my faith in television. Kid Nation proved that a reality show could succeed without all the back-stabbing, elimination voting that made shows like Survivor and Big Brother household names. Producers smartly structured the series around rewards rather than punishments and the result was a breath of fresh air for all of us watching at home. I sincerely hope there is a second season of Kid Nation, but if you missed it the first time, you can wait for the DVDs or check out the free downloadable episodes available from the Kid Nation website.

• • •

Super Mario Galaxy

Video Game

I’ve only been playing Super Mario Galaxy for the Nintendo Wii for a short time. I can already say that it’s become my favorite video game of 2007, and that’s coming from a certifiable Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess freak.

It never ceases to amaze me how Nintendo can continually make video games feel original and fresh as Super Mario Galaxy does. The story is the usual “Save Peach from Bowser!” narrative that we’ve come to know and expect. Just about everything else feels new. Game mechanics, play style and some of the best music ever written for a video game, all combine into another fun and surprisingly addictive winner from Shigeru Miyamoto. SMG is another feather in the cap of the Wii platform that some incorrectly predicted would be trounced by both the PS3 and XBOX 360. A year after launch, the Wii platform is still in high demand, and Super Mario Galaxy has helped me rediscover my love of video games. To top it all off, Mario is set to mark his 30th anniversary in just a few years. Not bad for a plumber who couldn’t tell a monkey from a donkey.

• • •

No Country for Old Men

Movie

No Country for Old Men is an odd tale that centers around a case of $2 million dollars that goes missing after a drug deal gone bad. Tommy Lee Jones plays Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, who, on the eve of his retirement, has the task of tracking down not only the money, but one of the scariest villains ever to hit the big screen. As is the case in most of the Coen brother’s films, location becomes an integral part of the story, so much so it’s almost like another character. The brother’s attention to detail and skill in building suspense, weaves a story that completely pulls us in and never lets go. The writing is sharp, the dialog is poetic and the cinematography is simply gorgeous. Take all of this, add mesmerizing performances from Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh and Josh Brolin as Llewelyn Moss and you have yourself the best picture of 2007.

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AmeriCone Dream

Consumer Product

You really have to hand it to Steven Colbert. One minute your one of Jon Stewart’s flunkies reporting from the green screen version of Iraq, and the next you’ve got Captain America’s shield hanging on your wall and an ice cream flavor named after you. Colbert’s meteoric rise hasn’t really come as a surprise to those of us who admired his hilarious nightly performances on The Daily Show, but I never would have guessed he had such a fantastic sweet tooth.

Ben & Jerry’s AmeriCone Dream ice cream features bits of waffle cone dipped in fudge, surrounded by a creamy, but conservative vanilla ice cream and swirls of all-American caramel. To top it all off, proceeds from Steven’s product go to The Stephen Colbert AmeriCone Dream Fund, which supports causes like aid to disadvantaged children, veterans, and the environment. About the only way it could get better would be if they managed to get the carton to make that shrieking bald eagle sound every time you opened it.

• • •

Apple iPhone

Hardware

I bet you thought the iPhone was going to be number one on my list didn’t you? Well guess again all-knowing swami! While it may not be my very favorite thing of 2007, it only lost out by a few ill-timed Mobile Safari crashes and a badly needed clipboard app. To say that my iPhone has improved my life might sound like the meaningless drivel of an Apple fanboy, but as someone famous once said “I cannot tell a lie.”

Before my iPhone, I never wanted to check my email on the go, or was able to effortlessly look up a destination in Google Maps after getting lost in some obscure corner of Greensboro. I can instantly add people and businesses to my phone’s address book with the press of a single button and browse my favorite websites just as they appear on my desktop computer. Before, I never could figure out how to use custom ring tones or have wallpapers I didn’t have to pay a monthly fee for. The iPhone opened the door to all of these small, but fun things for me.

Perhaps most important of all, it makes me feel good about carrying my phone all over the place. Before, my cell was just something I had to have in case I needed to call my wife or had an emergency. Now, I’m connected and able to look for information, tweet thoughts at random and have my iPod with me all the time. Anyone who tells you the iPhone is “just another cell phone” doesn’t have the first clue about what it represents or what its potential is. It changed the face of the cell phone industry for the better, forced cell carriers to “think different” about their business models and captured a big slice of the U.S. smartphone market in the process. Pretty good for a company that never made a cell phone before.

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Twitter.com

Social Networking Service

When it comes to Twitter, people invariably seem to be divided into two groups. The first group, let’s call them the “Eloi”, embraces the free and fascinating microblogging service. They make friends, send tweets about what they are eating, make interesting observations and find people with similar online interests as themselves. They live in the daylight and take Twitter for what it is, a place to feel connected with those around them, enjoy the fruits of the digital age and generally co-exist with others in virtual harmony.

Then there are the Twitter “Morlocks” who shun the technology, lash out against it and write blog posts saying things like “what’s the point?”, and “who in their right mind would use this stupid thing?”. They have Twitter friend lists of anywhere between 2 and 5 people, never venture out of their cave and prefer to dine on the recycled entrails of Blogger.com or Facebook. Poor, lost souls.

I count myself firmly in the Eloi camp and my life is far better for it. Twitter has allowed me to stay in touch with dear friends from college that have long since moved away. Twitter gives me a sounding board to bounce ideas off peers, is a reliable source for general knowledge, and lets me stay on top of the latest breaking news from around the world. But perhaps more than anything, it allows me to connect with like-mined individuals. For example, watching the World Series in 2007 was an amazing experience thanks to Twitter. Fellow Red Sox fans were able to joke and share thoughts and feelings with each other like we were in the same room. I’ve also expanded my network of designer and developer friends significantly. I feel like I know many of these people first hand and I look forward to meeting them at MacWorld at some point in the future.

Twitter has given us a way of interacting that is new, unique and intimate. It provides a glimpse into the lives of people that, for one reason or another, you find interesting. In a world where we are all becoming more and more like those isolated, underground dwellers the Morlocks, Twitter lets in just a touch of the much-needed sunlight.

My Christmas Card to You

When I was a child, one of my very favorite Christmas albums was A Partridge Family Christmas Card. My mom bought it for me when I was five and I just loved it to death. Even now, I can remember lying on the floor of my room and listening to that LP over and over. I always imagined that the Partridge kids were singing their jazzy carols to me and my family.

Every year at Christmas I load up the iPod with my copy of this album and listen to it when I’m out and about Christmas shopping, or just commuting to and from work. Mindy looks at me like I’m crazy whenever these songs come on our car stereo, and in a small way I don’t really blame her. By today’s standards, the tracks are somewhat cheesy and overly sentimental. She grins and bears the dulcet tones of David Cassidy crooning “Frosty the Snowman” because she knows how much it means to me.

When we’re kids, we never know what kinds of memories are going to stick with us throughout our lives. For me, A Partridge Family Christmas Card is an album that instantly takes me back to the home, and Christmases of my youth. I don’t think there could ever be a better present than one that helps keep you young at heart, and for that, I am grateful. So taking a cue from the Partridge clan, here is my Christmas wish to you:

“To you and all your family, your neighbors and your friends, may all your days be happy with a joy that never ends. May peace and love surround you at Christmas time and all the whole year through.”

I wish you and all of yours a joyous and peaceful holiday season. Merry Christmas!

Welcome to gedblog

It’s my pleasure to welcome you to the newly designed gedblog. After my friend and co-workers, Craig Hockenberry and Anthony Piraino launched their own blogs, each with a custom and rather nice look and feel, I thought it was finally time to break free of the default WordPress themes and do the place up right.

Although the look and feel of the site echos some of the colors of the Simpla theme by Phy Lu over at WordPress, the layout, secondary elements and overall feel are all me. This new design would not have been possible however, without the generous help of my friend Anthony who slaved away for weeks to turn my raw Photoshop templates into CSS reality. I owe ya big time my friend!

Likewise thanks go out to Craig as well who has been instrumental in getting the new blog up and running smoothly. Even though I’ll still be tinkering in the days and weeks ahead, I couldn’t have gotten the new site in place without Craig’s help, so once again, the Foreman sends his thanks.

If you’ve come here from my old WordPress blog, please update your bookmarks accordingly. The old site won’t be updated further, so this is now, as Frank Costanza says, “The place to be!”. I hope you enjoy the new site, be sure to tell all your friends, family and complete strangers to come and visit. Onward ho!