I don't know how to stop!

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 25.09.10    

I’ve been seeing and hearing more about the illusion of multitasking in the human brain for several months; after the publication of a research paper or two, there was the NPR special on how the human brain works…then I heard about Vitamin R, an application designed to segment work break schedules, and other apps for minimising distractions. Today Andy Ihnatko’s article on distractions and multitasking was posted to the Chicago Sun-Times website; Multitasking is a Lie – Your Brain Needs a Break

For me, the phenomenon of digital distractions is quickly and devastatingly compounded by my reticence towards…well, just about anything that might be work. And I don’t mean my job – I can be a terrifyingly hard worker – but rather anything that requires emotional expenditure or any sort of discipline. I do what I want to do, and I don’t do what I don’t want to do.

Some days (or scandalously longer) this means I’ll avoid cleaning the bathroom.

It also means there’s a 4 month old tomato left abandoned in my refrigerator.

Almost always, though, it means I put off dealing with issues unless given no other choice, typically by an outside force. I will ignore the need for human interaction and sequester myself into self absorbed hermithood. I will deny spiritual malaise and pretend things are ok. I will stifle any emotion for fear I might have to face it head on. I will do anything to distract, amuse, preoccupy, and otherwise block myself from dealing with anything that might require effort. Or honesty. Or a serious look at how I live my life.

In the end it’ll leave me suffocated, underdeveloped, dead. It’s hard to close any more chillingly than with Jonathan Acuff’s article from Wednesday; A Near Life Experience.

I pray God continues to wake me up, albeit slowly it seems, to the ways in which I sabotage my own life! Having just now taken out the trash, it’s a relief to know there’s no longer a tomato dissolving into patchwork moulds in the refrigerator. It’s also a really beautiful day out; a bit cloudy, but an invigorating breeze and fresh clean air. How much am I missing out on right now by stifling and ignoring the emotional baggage that needs to be unpacked, taken care of, sorted through, and dealt with via healthy disciplines?

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Trust

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 24.09.10    

Wednesday was one of those “off” days. I slept fitfully, woke up late, and work was frustratingly futile. To top it off, Jonathan Acuff’s daily article was pointedly painful. We may know all the right words, say all the right prayers, and talk of God’s grace and forgiveness. Yet if we don’t belong to Him, if we are not wholly surrendered, our complacent and selfish human hearts beat only enough to pump the blood out our gaping wounds, slowly draining us of life like the butcher at a slaughter house. Acuff spoke of the nuclear meltdowns, the rock bottom experiences, the last final gasps where we finally give up, and can then be reborn as we rely fully on God. I’ll refer you to the website instead of continuing to poorly reiterat – A Near Life Experience.

It’s terrifying to look at my life and see so many ways in which I live this way; slowly draining of life, but never fully surrendering or experiencing the fullness of submission to Christ. What a way to make to make an “off” day better. Wait, no, I felt far worse!

What drove my Bible reading that evening was Jon’s mention of Isaiah 30. It all starts off with a diatribe against Israel’s alliance with Egypt, condemning the agreement as unwise, ending only in shame and desolation. “But wait,” I think, “Israel was an occupied country!” They were under the oppressive control of Assyria and desperately wanted out. Time and time again, scripture talks of God’s desire for freedom; freedom from sin, from death, from slavery. Israel was suffering under all of it, and they were yearning for freedom!

Their desire was, I think, spot on.

Their action was not.

Instead of turning to God, or even asking if alignment with Egypt was wise, they made a choice on their own; what must have looked like a promising friendship, a shrewd and timely political alignment.

Now judging from what little I’ve read on the subject, it seems like allying with Egypt could have been recognisable as a bad idea, even without Divine insight. Egypt had been a fickle friend to the Philistines in exactly the same setup just a few years before, and had proven themselves an untrustworthy ally. But Hezekiah apparently didn’t know the underlying political motives, or realise just how easily Judah was getting played. Using neighbouring countries as a buffer between themselves and Assyria, Egypt encouraged rebellion by promising military backing as a way of preventing further incursion by the Assyrians into Egypt’s territory. Of course, once the small nations rose up against their oppressors, providing the perfect distraction for Assyria’s armies, Egypt’s promised military support never materialised, leaving the border countries overpowered and laid to waste. The parallel to our own trusting of worldly strength to combat sin is downright overwhelming as well; betrayal is the only result.

I can’t imagine that God didn’t want freedom for Judah, but that He wanted so badly to be their deliverer Himself. To be the first one they turned to, the only one they trusted, their sole focus. Maybe He would have destroyed Assyria from the inside out, struck them down with plagues, or even used Egypt to turn the tide of the invading armies, but Israel would have had to ask Him first! To trust!

While not as perhaps immediately comforting as I would have liked, I should have recognised the passage; Isaiah 30:18 has been in my list of daily reminders for several weeks now.

Isaiah 30:18 AMP
And therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]!

Mindblowing, isn’t it? I still have no idea how mercy and kindness are a causality of God’s justice, but I’ll try to keep reading through this passage every morning, dwelling daily on the sheer exuberance. The phrase “expect” seems especially potent, repeated both in this verse and in others. Unlike the english word “hope” it cannot be mistaken for vague optimism or well wishes for the future. It’s specific, focused…
and fully trusting.

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Gentleness

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 21.08.10    

The following is a short article I wrote primarily for myself, but ended up getting published in the Monthly Messenger. Reprinted here by permission of the MM editor, Amy Simonson.

The past several months I’ve been meeting with my pastor each Saturday morning to discuss various issues, questions, and what it means to think rationally as a Christian. One of the more curious personal revelations is that I have no concept of “self” outside of what I do, and more specifically, how well I do it. Not only does this lead to performance-based Christianity (not really Christianity at all!), but it leaves me incapable of understanding how God could love me, even as I fail. Again. And then again.

I rarely exercise as I should, but walking comes naturally enough when I’m mulling over especially troublesome issues. Usually it’s stress from work, but one night was more about my relationship with God. Recent sermons at Church have been about our identity in Christ; I even did artwork for the series, but it’s a concept I really struggle to “see.” After a mile or two on some of the walking paths and streets around my apartment, it’s something I was contemplating heavily again. Who am I? Stripped of everything, why would God care, much less love me?

Well…I create things. As an artist, that’s a rather easy statement to make, but it applies to all of us – in our own ways, we create things, be they sculptures, or words, or music, or hospitality. I know I can remember some of the most insignificant pieces I’ve done, even from 15 years ago, still living clearly in my mind. What if a work of art, one of my creations, were molested, defaced by vandals? What would I feel? Would I treat it with disdain, revulsion, disgust?

Or would I sit there, and cry…

Work sleepless nights to slowly clean, carefully rebuild, gently restore…

Isaiah 40:11
Jeremiah 31:3
Romans 11:6
Ephesians 1:7
Ephesians 2:10

I’ve had to pause several times just writing this, overwhelmed by tears, baffled by God. Gentleness was never something I associated with His character – certainly not His reaction to our fallen nature. But it’s slowly dawning on me that perhaps God wants to heal our broken lives not with brutality, but with care. I write as one not fully grasping yet, sussing out the truth, desperately praying I can be taught these inexpressible whispers from the One who made me.

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Trailers

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 24.06.10    

Seth Rogen has certainly played to a certain typecast, and it was with not-undue-amounts of trepidation that I watched the first trailer for The Green Hornet. Surprisingly enough, this may be his first film I actually watch. Based on what little can be communicated in a trailer, it seems to attempt a fine balance between homage and parody of Batman. It feels too keen to be a true satirization, but too lighthearted for full-out drama. With the mentioning of such genre lampooning, however, Scot Pilgrim vs. the World absolutely must be mentioned. By some of the same people that helped bring us Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (both deliciously genre-fied films), the Scott Pilgrim trailers promise an over-the-top tribute to classic gaming. Perfectly cornball in an honest and earnest way, I simply cannot wait to see it!

In another example of colours-as-a-name, Red has recently released a trailer as well. How has Helen Mirren not played an elderly hit woman before? Utterly brilliant. Add in Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, and others (including Karl Urban of Two Towers fame and Pathfinder infamy), this looks like a riotously fun film.

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Modern Genocide

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 18.01.10    

I read a short news article a year or two ago so shocking and so horrifying, I wasn’t sure what to do; words continue to fail me, so my blog post will remain short as well.

Today is a national holiday, celebrating the birth of one of the United States’ most prominent and inspiring freedom and equality advocates – Martin Luther King Jr.

Today also marks the beginning of Sanctity of Human Life Week – a both complementary and ironic juxtaposition.

Today, African American infants are 3 times more likely to be killed than a caucasian infant, and a disproportionate number of Planned Parenthood clinics are located in targeted minority communities.

As countries around the world attempt to recover from, continue heinous crimes of, or secretly prepare for genocide, please remember what’s going on in the US. How can I sit idly by? How can you?

Guttmacher Institute: research on worldwide abortion trends
NRL Current Bills, Legislative Action Center, Elected Officials directory

John Weis, 20.01.10

Thanks for posting about this! I was praying with them on the march at bound4life.com . Also, I’m about to use your mediaboxAdvanced plugin… Thanks for both!

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ProwlPost Automator Service

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 17.01.10    

I like to think Prowler is a pretty easy to use widget, but a poster on the Prowl user forums requested info on how to integrate Prowl notifications in Automator. An excellent question; even if you don’t need custom scripting, why not make a simple OSX Service that posts to Prowl? It’s not like the UI is particularly necessary.

It took a bit of trying, and the result is pretty rough, but it works! You may notice I’ve used a “Get Link URLs from Webpages” node to make the HTTPS connection. This is because something simpler (like “Get Text from Website”) inexplicably connects twice, sending double push notifications to the iPhone. No idea why, but at least it’s running ok with a rather repurposed action.

ProwlPostOSX automator service

To install, copy the file to your ~/library/Services/ directory, then double-click to edit in Automator. Update your UID (the Prowl API key) in the “Get Specified Text” node, save the service, and it should be ready to go. You can change the priority, application, and event name as well.

Make a text selection in any app that supports OSX automator services, then right-click to bring up the context menu. Select “ProwlPost” to send the selected text to the Prowl servers and push a notification to your iPhone.

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Removing SVN

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 14.12.09    

It’s one of the greatest banes of my existence; SVN should never, ever be used for graphics. I can spend hours trying to get projects committed, and days waiting for them to upload… only to eventually fail, and I have to start over.

So yeah, I really hate SVN. It shouldn’t even be considered in the list of graphic and media file versioning systems to choose from; yet I’m forced to use it every week at work. A constant, painful reminder that I don’t work at a design house, but a development company. Often SVN screws up so badly I have to rebuild the entire directory structure to clean it up. However, the root issue is obviously SVN itself; simply removing the hidden control files can set things right side up again rather quickly (the hidden folders also contain a duplicate of every single visible file, turning a 52Gb motion graphics project into an unwieldy 104Gb). Once the offending SVN directories are removed, I can finally freely move folders of assets from one project (previously subjected to versioning) to a fresh new project, or a project versioned under a different directory, without sending SVN into day-long seizures. Very helpful!

Mezzocode.com has kindly posted an Automator workflow for removing SVN files, and I’ve taken the liberty of updating it for OSX Snow Leopard as a dedicated Finder service (Jason Eisen has also posted SVN and hidden file removal workflows, if you’re interested). Hope it helps someone else as much as it has helped me!

Remove SVN

To install, copy the file to your ~/library/Services/ directory. Right-click on a folder in Finder, and “Remove SVN” should show up in the list of services. There may be a short pause as Finder opens the Automator workflow, but once started it’ll ask for confirmation before deleting any SVN files, then post a Growl notice on completion.

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Microsoft PowerPivot

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 12.11.09    

Normally I wouldn’t give Microsoft the time of day, nor would I even know about plugins for Excel 2010. But I happen to work on a lot of Microsoft projects, and I just so happen to be the lead artist on a series of PowerPivot videos (yes, there is still more coming!).

play

I’ve actually been holding on to the news for several months now, waiting anxiously for approval to publish the results of a very, very tight deadline. At long last; not only has the first video been posted to YouTube and Vimeo (visit! rate! love!), but I wrote two articles covering workflow development and effects for the series. They’re both in the After Effects tutorials section above: Lipsyncing with Papagayo helps explain the character animation process (along with a custom OSX Widget I wrote for translating lipsync files into keyframes), and Dynamic Paper Cutouts details how the torn and crumpled characters were generated on the fly during compositing.

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Trailers

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 2.11.09    

It’s been far too long since I posted movie trailers. In part, I’d like to say, because of the lacklustre performance of recent storytellers. I have no interest in a movie where Jessica Alba plays a woman unable to get a date for Valentine’s Day. Really, it’s not even funny, the woman can’t act. The latest Robert Zemekis abomination even stars Jim Carrey; barely palatable when he’s not a pointlessly-CG old man playing Scrooge. Nor do I, in a particularly twisted piece of irony, want any part in promoting a disaster film that appears to be one long VFX shot set in the year 2012. There may be people in there somewhere, but they’re hard to see, and I doubt anyone cares if they’re saying anything. Apparently watching a digital California crumble into the ocean is more important than a good story. On second thought, I’ll probably watch that. I hated LA.

(no offence to my friends that live in CA, of course, nor any future employers located there; who I am sure are awesome enough I can brave unbearable heat and deadened landscapes without so much as a whimper of despair!)

The other part of the blame, of course, rests with me. I missed a few cool trailers in the past few months, such as Daybreakers (Sam Neil is a vampire, and so is most of earth’s population), Zombieland (America’s own Shaun of the Dead cult classic), and The Men Who Stare at Goats (George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan McGregor, and Kevin Spacey all in one film!).

Anyway, there are a two trailers that caught my eye this week. First up is a new trailer for Prince of Persia. I normally wouldn’t give this much more than a cursory glance, but the Prince of Persia series (on the original Xbox) is one of the few xbox games I’ve ever owned. Sure, I love a good game of Halo with friends, but on my own? It’s pretty much the only console title to ever hold my attention. Back in 2004, it was, well, kinda beautiful! And now? It’s going to be a film. Don’t get me wrong, that’s usually a horrific proposition, but Prince of Persia should have some decent story arcs to play off of, and given some good writers, the right actors, and action packed cinematography, it could pull off a feat that no one has, to the best of my knowledge, pulled off before; a decent film based on a computer game. Unfortunately, I do have a lot of issues with the cast. Somehow they skipped a thousand actors better suited for the role, and hired Jake Gyllenhaal as the lead. Sir Ben Kingsley is even deplorably typecast as a bad guy. But it’s sometimes hard to tell how things will come together based only on the trailer; can’t say this will actually pull through, but I’m hoping it’s cool.

DreamWorks films are hardly a shining example of animation or even basic film making – compared to Pixar (the end-all/be-all of good storytelling … and they’re pretty good at 3D animation too), the films from DreamWorks Animation just don’t measure up. Maybe they’re not quite as family friendly, maybe the animation quality isn’t as good, maybe the story isn’t worthwhile, maybe they’re just dumber … usually it’s all of those issues and more. Of course, any diatribe of mine against Dreamworks must be prefaced with an acknowledgement that I really liked Shrek. Yes, it had many of the aforementioned issues, but I found myself identifying personally with the whole pretty/ugly dichotomy (probably why I loved Hellboy so much as well!). I enjoyed it enough that I even like the second film a little. And to be very honest, I did watch Kung Fu Panda. Not a great film, but the character rigging really stood out – as someone who’s done 3D for a wee bit of time, good character TDs are unsung heroes.

Well, enough of that, and now that my soap box is handily stowed away in an easily retrievable location, I can finally get to the trailer for How To Train Your Dragon. A DreamWorks film I may not hate! It’s written and directed by some of the same people that did Lilo and Stitch, not a favourite movie of mine, but strangely charming. I’m hoping we get something similar from this film – a little odd, just enough quirkiness to be endearing. I’m actually looking forward to how this turns out! Be it the dragon design (more unique than most, I would say, even cat-like), the overly dry comedic delivery (heck, Craig Ferguson is involved, clearly recognisable in the trailer!), or the wetter, grayer palettes employed by the look department. Of course, it’s also being made for stereoscopic projection. That’s a whole other diatribe, and there’s just not the time. At least, not right now. Maybe the next blog post.

For now, let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Adam, 5.11.09

Have you seen or played the most recent Prince of Persia game? Jake Gyllenhaal seems like a reasonable fit for the prince in that game, both in appearance and personality.

Aaron Mustamaa, 22.11.09

P.o.Persia looks like quite a treat for the eyes, story notwithstanding. I in particular fancy the 80’s reflective chrome Syd Mead revival-esque titles myself. =]

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Apple's Colour Picker

iaian7 » blog   John Einselen, 19.10.09    

I have had a seemingly long and sordid history with digital colour calibration. Back in college it was all about matching print output. Then it was web-safe (as in not web-safe). Then video chromaticity, gamma values, and black level IRE. Now I’m just constantly screwed by Apple and the OSX colour picker – it’s perfectly simple, has an easy to use colour swatch system, and … never keeps the right colour values. Ever.

In Lightwave, if I select a colour with a hue of 30 degrees, saturation and value set at 50%, next time I open it in the OSX colour picker? It’s a degree off, and perhaps 7% darker. Inexplicable. Same thing happens in Apple’s own developer tools, albeit without opening the colour picker at all – just by editing an element’s width or height in Dashcode, for example, can cause the object colours to: darken, skew, desaturate, and, if you have an alpha value selected, slowly fade into oblivion. It’s maddening I tell you!

What’s worse, Snow Leopard apparently is expanding colour management issues to inconsistently do the same thing to random UI elements. Such as the dock icons, which are now a pale imitation of their former glory, while still showing up in full vibrancy when viewed in a finder window. Utterly inexcusable.

It’s truly a bad position for Apple, as they have typically catered to those with keen eyes for colour – with colour management and ICC profiling built into the very OS, you’d think this the type of thing that wouldn’t happen. I’ve always loved the monitor calibration utility, but I have serious doubts as to how it’s affecting colour values across the board.

Yet, (and perhaps this is the mark of a sold-out fanboy) even with all these issues – the OSX colour picker is pretty dang helpful, if only because it is ubiquitous. I don’t trust it like I used to, but there are some plugins and tools that can make it, perhaps, useful again.

From Panic software, there’s the Developer Color Picker for easy copying of values for any number of Apple development tools (including full declarations for HTML or CSS code). There’s also the HEXcolorpicker for simpler HTML and CSS styling. You can even get Kuler integration with Mondrianum, which lets you load and browse colour schemes created with the online Adobe tool.

Mac OS X Hints posted an article recently detailing the simple steps needed to make the system colour picker into a standalone application. Especially useful when picking colours, as you’re able to use the magnifier icon to select any pixel value from, well, anywhere on your screen!

There are plenty of other plugins are out there, let me know if there’s something I should add to the list above.

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