Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Trends of 2013: Is 3D Printing Finally Set to Take Off?

One of the technologies that have been bubbling just under the surface of consumer acceptance is 3D printing.  The magical abilities and sheer wonder of the process of turning a computer image and turning it into a solid object before our eyes may be dazzling, but they might also be off-putting.  Every year the amaze-factor of 3D printers and what they are capable of grows, and maybe that is what puts hesitation into our minds about adopting the nascent technology.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Los Angeles Times

Link to article:

Excerpt: "At the beginning of the year, I took an angst-ridden test drive of a Solidoodle 3-D printer. Since that clunky ride, the aptly termed "disruptive technology" has extruded a slew of firsts: bionic organs, electronics, stem cells, plastic and metal guns, bonbons, prosthetics (including eyeballs) and two Lady Gaga dresses.

The new rule: Imagine and design anything, then extrude it through fevered nozzles that layer material into three-dimensional shapes.

Those who believe the hype are betting that all savvy consumers will own 3-D printers within 10 years. Here are trends that may turn that prediction into reality:

Plug-and-play design. 3D Systems' $1,300 Cube is billed as the first "home-certified" 3-D printer on the market. With a kid-centric design, it resembles an urbane Play-Doh machine. Expect similar family-friendly models, higher print resolution and speed, lower prices and full-spectrum color as crucial design patents expire.

App world. Software and apps will largely create and drive the desire for printers. Gesture-based 3-D modeling (like molding clay on screens) is gaining traction. Look for smartphone scanner apps that translate images to 3-D objects within the year.

Complementary products. Attendant technology will spur the perceived need to possess a 3-D printer. Already, hand-held $400 scanners enable printing of full-body selfies that make generic wedding cake toppers look like 99 Cents Only Store grabs. MakerBot's futuristic Digitizer ($950) scans smaller objects for print replication. The $100 3Doodler pen allows users to scribble objects in the air.

Marketing rush. Increasingly, major brands will push interactive 3-D tie-ins to products. Why merely view a film? Marketers bet you'll want to print out the props. Microsoft and Warner Bros. UK recently partnered, offering J.R.R. Tolkien fans 3-D printable blueprints for the mystical Key to Erebor, featured in the "Hobbit" movies. McDonald's, make your move."

Monday, December 30, 2013

Lists of 2013: The Best Fonts of the Year

The pendulum swung away from Grunge fonts ten years ago, and back to a clean formality.  Now the driving force in typography is toward readability, and the final audience for your project is web and mobile consumers. With all those trends in mind, you would think that the fonts singled out in 2013 would be upright and a bit same-y. But fortunately there is some variety and a lot of joy in the typefaces that stand out for this year. Here are a few and the writer's notes on why they were chosen:

Hunter Communications Original News Source:

Link to article:
The best web and mobile fonts of 2013

Excerpt: "Once again, it’s time for our (and your) favorite end-of-year roundup: The typefaces! And holy moly, what a whirl of typefaces this year has been. Thanks to the magic of CSS (specifically, @font-face kits and kit generators), there’s pretty much no such thing as a print-only font anymore, unless you’re talking about hot metal and heavy machinery.
This web-scale liberation has fueled an explosion of amazing typography (and some really, really bad uses of otherwise good typefaces) all around the Internet in its many forms. As the fonts rolled out month after month, we kept tabs on our favorites and how we liked to see designers use them...

Best skinny display

Technically, Vinter ($90-$120) came out in December 2012, but we’re letting it slide. Vinter is delicate and lovely and all that, but there’s a real, legit reason we went looking for a skinny display font. One of the bigger design trends of 2013 was the emergence of stick-thin icons and navigational elements. Sticking those onscreen next to a clunky slab serif or condensed version of another family just wasn’t gonna cut it.
Enter Vinter, which manages to be both lightweight and contrasty. We dig it!

Best running-text sans

When you need to look good at small sizes, give Merriweather (FREE) a shot. This thoughtful sans serif gives just enough contrast in stroke weight to be super legible, and an all-caps application brings on the charm.
This full-fledged family features four weights in regular and italic variants.

Best semi-serif

Mid-2013, mid-week, mid-afternoon. Interior. A group of five sorta professional-looking young adults are sitting around a table. Behind them, a website is projected on the wall.
Taylor: We can’t go over this again. We just can’t. Every blog I read specifically said not to use a serif –
Alex, interrupting: No, we can’t go over this again! Serifs themselves were created for legibility in running text. You so-called self-educated quote-designers-end-quote are killing me. For the last time –
The Last Sane Person on Earth enters the room.
TLSPOE: Folks, we’re using a semi-serif: Linux Biolinum. It’s not a serif. It’s not a sans. It looks great in running copy. And it’s FREE. Now everyone is happy.
Everyone: Hooray! Let’s get cronuts!
[Ed.: Any similarity to conversations that may have happened in the VentureBeat editorial offices is purely coincidental.]"

Friday, December 27, 2013

Top Ten Lists for 2013: Top Ten Tech FAILS

As we peruse the usual wealth of year-end "best-of" lists, it's useful to remember that not everything can be the best.  So here, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times, is a list of the internet memes, tech stories, or marketing decisions that consituted the absoute worst of 2013.  Again, here is the list of the big FAILS, and then below youcan see an excerpt of the full article:

10. Google's "donkeygate"
9. iOS 7 install error causes Twitter panic
8. Windows 7 grows market share despite Windows 8.1 release
7. Twitter #Music quickly forgotten
6. Go Home, Facebook phone
5. Microsoft Surface fails to sell
4. BlackBerry in general
3. Yahoo's ongoing mail fail
2. Healthcare.gov debacle
And at the (in this case, not so much ) coveted #1 position, we have the FAIL of the year 2013:
1. NSA surveillance leaks
Facebook Phone That Nobody Wanted
Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Los Angeles Times
Link to article:
Excerpt: " In the world of tech, failure is almost a badge of honor. It shows others in the industry that you've been through tough times but have learned from mistakes and are now primed for success.
Perhaps that's true, but it doesn't make failure any more enjoyable, unless you're on the outside looking in. In that case, tech failure can be down right hilarious.
This year was filled with some pretty big fails, and a surprising bunch of them have only happened recently — I'm looking at you, Yahoo. I give you the top 10 tech fails of 20
10. Google's "donkeygate"
Google turned a near-public-relations problem into the funniest tech story line of 2013 after its users spotted some Street View imagery in Botswana that seemed to show that a company car may have done a hit-and-run on a wild donkey.
The Street View imagery in question showed a donkey standing in the distance, but as users navigated the imagery past the animal, the donkey is seen down on the ground after the Google car passes it up. The donkey looked as if it had been hit by the company's Street View car.
The Silicon Valley giant ended up having to post a blog explaining what exactly had happened, complete with visual evidence showing that no donkeys had been harmed in the making of its panoramic imagery.
'As our imagery below shows, the donkey was lying in the path — perhaps enjoying a dust bath — before moving safely aside as our car drove past. I’m pleased to confirm the donkey is alive and well,' a Google employee said in the post.
9. iOS 7 install error causes Twitter panic
When Apple released iOS 7 in September — its first major redesign of its iPhone and iPad software — millions of its faithful users all tried to download it. The huge traffic resulted in errors for many users that prevented them from downloading the fresh software.
As users tend to do in 2013, many took to Twitter to express their frustration, churning out hilarious tweet after hilarious tweet. The frustration was so widespread, the situation could have been mistaken for the Apocalypse, as BuzzFeed demonstrated.
8. Windows 7 grows market share despite Windows 8.1 release
Microsoft is having the opposite problem of Apple.
In November, more of the company's users installed Windows 7 than they did Windows 8.1 and Windows 8 combined. The stat marked a slow start for Windows 8.1, which was launched in late October.
Microsoft users have been slow to move over to Windows 8 and 8.1, which feature a redesign that emphasizes the use of touchscreen devices. As a result, the more traditional Windows 7 continues to hold the largest market share of any version of Microsoft's software.
7. Twitter #Music quickly forgotten
It's a good thing Twitter scored a major hit with Vine otherwise the San Francisco company may have taken more heat for the failure that is Twitter #music.
The popular social network released Twitter #music for iOS early in 2013 as a way to help users discover music. But shortly after launching, the app fell out of Apple's list of the top 100 apps — usually a sign of failure when major companies release new apps.
Twitter never bothered making an Android version of the app and in October, AllThingsD reported that Twitter #music would be killed. That hasn't happened, but would anyone be surprised if it did?"

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Google Has 5 of the Top Ten Mobile Apps for 2013

Google asserts its dominance more and more every year.  This year's list of the top ten apps for mobile devices shows the tech giant occupying 5 of the top ten spaces.  Facebook is number one, with Google Search, Google Play, Youtube (a Google brand), Google Maps and Gmail rounding out the top six.  Facebook's stable mate Instagram is the fastest-growing app at #7 on the list.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Marketing Land

Link to article:
Facebook No. 1 Mobile App of 2013

Excerpt: "Nielsen published a range of year-end data today. Among other things the measurement firm said that 65 percent of American cell phone users now own smartphones. By comparison comScore says the figure is 62 percent. Regardless it means there are now more than 150 million smartphone users in the US. Nielsen also reported that 29 percent of US households have at least one tablet. If there are roughly 115 million US households that argues there are roughly 33 million tablets in American homes.
Not counting iPads and iPod Touch devices, Nielsen found that Apple had a 41 percent OS share of the smartphone market compared with 52 percent for Android. The most recent comScore US smartphone data reflect a very comparable 52.2 percent (Android) to 40.6 percent (Apple).
Nielsen also reported that Facebook was the top mobile app of 2013 and the Facebook-owned Instagram came in seventh but it was the fastest-growing app of the year. The second-fastest growing was Apple Maps.
Google dominated the rest of the list with five out of the top 10 apps. It takes up the most mobile app 'shelf space.' Twitter came in at number 10."
top apps of 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Top Ten Lists for 2013 - Top Ten Tech Gadgets

2014 won't go down in history as a year of great leaps forward in technology.  Most of the gadgets on this list are refinements of earlier products or concepts that are closer to market.  But all of them moved the state of the art a bit closer to the wild science fiction future of our youth.  Here are the top ten in ascending order, courtesy of the LA Times (excerpt from the full article below):

10. Motorola Moto X modular customizable phone

9. LG G Flex Flexible curved-screen phone

8. Galaxy Gear smart wristwatch for cellphone pairing

7. Leap Motion Controller

6. Nokia 1020 mobile phone with 41-megapixel camera

4/5. *TIE* Microsoft Xbox One and Sony Playstation 4

3. Google Chromecast digital TV dongle

2. Apple Ipad Air

And at the coveted #1 spot, the most loved and hated new device that still hasn't hit the market......

1. Google Glass! (Hope we'll see you next year?)

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Los Angeles Times

Link to article:
The top 10 tech gadgets of 2013

Excerpt: "6. Nokia Lumia 1020
The Lumia 1020 is one of the most impressive gadgets we've seen this year, yet it had one of the worst launches.
The Nokia smartphone has top-of-the-line specifications, including a 720p HD 4.5-inch screen and the highest-resolution smartphone camera, with 41 megapixels. The camera lets users take pictures they can then zoom in on without decreasing the quality of the image.
But the Lumia 1020 runs on the Windows Phone operating system, and when it came out this summer, the platform was still missing many popular apps. At $299 with a two-year contract when it launched, it was also a bit pricey.
Since then, the Windows Phone system has been beefed up with more apps, and the price of the Lumia 1020 has been cut. Nokia lowered the phone's price to $199 with a two-year contract, and Windows Phone added Instagram, Vine and Waze -- three apps that had been noticeably missing.
Now, at a competitive price and with more apps available to flex the device's camera muscles, the Lumia 1020 is one of the best smartphones you can buy if photos are a top priority.
4 (Tie). Sony Playstation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One
This year marked the first time Sony and Microsoft released new video game consoles in more than seven years. Sony came out with the Playstation 4, and Microsoft launched the Xbox One.
The two systems are fairly similar, offering 500-gigabyte hard drives in similarly styled black shells. But the two companies are taking different approaches in marketing their products.
Sony is going after the hard-core gamers, offering them the ability to easily share video of themselves playing games over the Internet by tapping a "share" button on their game controllers.
Meanwhile, Microsoft wants the Xbox One to be the center of users' home theaters. By saying 'Xbox on' followed by a command, users can control their entertainment systems with their voices. The Xbox One can also load up specific users' profiles and preferences by detecting them with the its Kinect motion-sensor device.
For now, neither system has separated itself as the clear-cut top choice, and picking between them comes down to users' personal preferences. The PS4 retails for $399.99 while the Xbox One goes for $499.99, but good luck finding either one. At many stores they're back ordered.
3. Google Chromecast
Chromecast is a digital TV receiver that functions much like Roku and the Apple TV, but at a far lower price and in a much smaller package. The $35 Chromecast plugs into the TV's HDMI outlet and streams content from users' smartphones, tablets, laptops and computers with Wi-Fi connection.
When it launched, Chromecast worked only with Netflix, YouTube and other Google services. Since then it has been updated to also work with HBO Go, Pandora, Hulu Plus and other online subscription services.
If you're looking for a reliable, low-cost digital TV receiver, look no further than Chromecast."

Monday, December 23, 2013

Downtown LA Plans Mindblowing FX Light Show for NYEve

Granted, the dropping ball in New York's Time Square is an old and thrilling tradition.  But just as the latest Hollywood effects-laden blockbuster visually eclipses any sweet old black-and-white film from the 1940s, the new spectacular planned for LA's Grand Park on New Year's Eve 2014 could leave New York's celebration in the dust.  

Projection mapping has been refined and demonstrated several times and places around LA in recent years, notably a holiday light show at the Americana shopping center that turned an ordinary light-colored building into a fantasia of pine-decked windows flecked with snow, with holiday elves scurrying in and out of the windows and across the facade. The display planned for next week will turn the revered LA City Hall into a phantasmagoria of pulsating neon colors that turn into a cascade of fountain spray that ascends from the park's fountain.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
LA Weekly

Link to article: 

Excerpt: "On New Year's Eve, around midnight, City Hall will disappear.

First, the iconic 85-year-old art deco skyscraper will morph and vibrate with neon patterns, as its windows, walls and edges extend out into the night sky like a trippy hallucination: Electric Daisy Carnival meets Eric Garcetti. And then -- poof! -- the building will be gone. In its place: Grand Park's Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain blown up to a few times its normal size, shooting brightly colored bursts and streams of water into the air.

No one will get wet, but everyone watching will forget all about the dinky disco ball that slunk down a pole three hours earlier on the other side of the country, overshadowed by thousands of square feet of LED advertisements on every side.

To ring in 2014, downtown's Grand Park will host N.Y.E. LA, a free event expected to attract 15,000 revelers to a closed-off 12-block area from Hope Street to Spring Street. Starting at 6 p.m., partiers can enjoy food trucks, bands, DJs, face painters, sculptures, sign spinners, a dance performance, a cash bar and a photo booth that gives you the option of adding photos of the goofy faces you just made with your friends to an ongoing slideshow being projected onto the Hall of Records.

All this will be awesome, sure, but what organizers are hoping will be the centerpiece -- the part that will go viral the next morning and ignite civic pride among all Angelenos -- is the phantasmagoric 10-minute 3D show, which will prominently feature Grand Park's fountain. The show uses projection mapping, a process that turns objects -- in this case City Hall -- into a display surface for animated video projection.

'As a shared experience, it's like fireworks on steroids,' says project manager Jonathan Keith, who has been working with a team of local visual effects artists, animators, programmers, engineers and production designers since the beginning of October. The show itself will make use of a 20-foot stack of five 40,000-lumen projectors, each of which weighs 500 pounds and can convey brighter and sharper images than any other projector in existence."
London demonstration of the projection mapping technology LA will use on New Year's:

Friday, December 20, 2013

Simple Tips In Choosing Typography

The problem with a list of simple tips is that they usually sound TOO simple.  Anyone with common sense would know these already.  But common sense is one thing we don't always have in common.  Choosing a font for your project's text is important enough to use your common sense, and also to set aside your pride and redo the things you think you already did in planning and implementing your project.  

Use this (not overly) simple set of tips to choose an effective and beautiful typography for your book, poster, brochure, or web page.  (And thanks Lifehacker Australia for reminding us about FontSquirrel, an excellently-chosen repository of fonts that are 100% free for personal and commercial use.)

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Lifehacker Australia

Link to article:

Excerpt: "Effective typography is notoriously difficult to teach and learn. As a student I stared anxiously at my poorly designed pages, without instinctively knowing how to improve them. I recognise that same frustration in my students’ faces now. There is no quick fix. Typography is a painstakingly slow craft to master.

Which brings us to a problem. In an 'age of distraction', designing for long form reading requires thoughtfulness and skill. Yet putting typographic tools at the fingertips of untrained designers can lead to unreadable texts.

An illegible text is one that literally cannot be read — doctor’s handwriting, a book dropped in the bath. Unreadable texts are ones that you don’t want to read.

My aim here is to offer basic tips for designing long form texts in a way that encourages people to read them. More than making texts look good, my concern is making them readable.

For brevity’s sake, I’m writing about print design, but most of the points are transferable to screen design.

1. The Crystal Goblet approach

Designing a document with the reader in mind is an act of humbleness. It is not an opportunity for showmanship, experimentation or typographic trickery. There should be little evidence of the hand of the designer on the page.

Beatrice Warde famously uses the metaphor of a crystal goblet to explain that typography should be elegant but subtle, arguing the connoisseur of wine would choose to drink from a simple but elegant crystal glass over an exquisitely wrought gold goblet because 'everything about it is calculated to reveal rather than hide the beautiful thing which it was meant to contain'.

Sadly for those of us who appreciate a pat on the back, an effectively designed text often goes unnoticed. That’s the point. The reader should be paying attention to the author’s work, not the designer’s.

2. Set appropriate margins

Always start by considering the page size of the final document. Find a page or existing book at that size and hold it. You need to get a sense of the size and shape in your hands. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard a student say “it looked different on screen”. Yes. It does.

Considering the final page size, set margins for comfortable reading. For a book, the inside margin should be wide enough that words don’t fall into the gutter; if you have to crack the spine to read, it’s annoying. The outer margin should comfortably welcome the reader’s thumbs without obscuring the text; it’s distracting to have to move your hands while reading.

Set the bottom margin larger than the top. The optical centre of a page (where our eye hits first) is different than the mathematical centre.

If there is a running head or foot, the upper and lower margins should be adjusted accordingly so the flow of reading is not interrupted when you turn the page — you don’t want to accidentally read the book title as the next line of text.

3. Choose a (sensible) typeface (quickly)

Choose a typeface designed for long form reading, not a party invite. Don’t worry that a common typeface is boring. Familiarity is a bonus — the reader shouldn’t notice the typeface, the eye should move without distraction across the page.

You can lose hours of your life choosing typefaces. Ultimately, few people notice or care whether it’s Garamond or Jensen. After 10 years fussing, I now nominate a typeface a year (2013 was Fairfield, I’m currently shopping for 2014) which I use for almost everything, unless a task requires a particular look or special treatment. Two other typefaces I regularly use are Caslon — another classic typeface, with extra ligatures and ornaments and many different weights; and Scala and Scala Sans. Choosing a typeface with a serif and sans serif version allows for more diversity, while being sure the two faces match each other, as they were designed to.

I strongly suggest selecting a typeface from the menu in your software program, or buying one from a site such as MyFonts or Font Spring. Designers spend years developing new typefaces, don’t steal them.

That said, thousands of free font sites clutter the Internet. Many of them are either stolen or badly designed. I use Font Squirrel, the available typefaces have been selected by graphic designers and are free for commercial use, though you still need to read the individual licences.

Choose a typeface with a family — roman (sometimes called regular), bold, italic, at the minimum. This allows you to add emphasis to words or italicise titles without having to change typefaces.

Small caps are helpful for running heads, chapter titles and other emphasis. Some software allows you to 'force' italics, bold and small caps. Don’t do this. It can cause problems printing — these 'forced' elements can fail to print, or cause unexpected spacing issues that distract the eye of the reader.

If you’re using multiple typefaces (remembering the Bauhaus adage: less is more), make sure they sit well together. Either choose a face such as Scala (above) with a sans serif and a serif, or choose two faces that are compatible. Test this by looking at two things — x-height and the shape of bowls."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Amazing Jifiti App Combines Gift Card and Traditional Gift Giving

Last-minute shopping can be fraught with stress and pressure.  Most of us succumb to the temptation of just giving up and reaching for a gift card off the elefantine display at our local mega-supermarket.  But what if there were an app that could combine the possibilities of gift cards with the chance to send an actual gift from someone's wishlist? 

the new start-up Jifiti (app for Iphone or Android) lets you gift with e-cards or any item you might see at a participating retailer's store or website.  The gift will arrive as an email or message in the recipient's inbox. A picture of a wrapped gift invites the recipient to open it, revealing the gift you sent, which is bought, paid for, and available to pick up instantly at any location of the retailer's physical stores or website. It's a clever gimmick that somehow seems much more thoughtful and distinctive than a simple gift card.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
The New York Times

Link to article:

Excerpt: " The Pitch: Through market research, the founders determined two things: People hate giving gift cards because they feel impersonal. Those same people, however, love getting gift cards because they can select the gift they really want. Jifiti has created an app that is designed to make everyone happy. It allows users to give a specific gift from a roster of retailers and then send it digitally; the recipient can choose to keep or to exchange the item — either through the app or in one of the retailer’s physical stores. The retailers integrated into Jifiti’s platform include: Gap, Barnes & Noble, Game Stop, Sephora and Old Navy.
How it Works: Users can browse a store’s inventory through the app, choose the item they want to give as a gift and pay for it. 'Within seconds a note is sent by text, email or through Facebook to the recipient alerting them they have been sent a gift,' Mr. Martin said. The person receiving the gift 'opens' a card that contains a personal note and sees a wrapped gift. With a click, it unwraps and a picture of the gift appears. When recipients click on 'redeem this gift,' they see a gift card with a code on it that can be used to have that specific item shipped to them or to exchange it for something else. Givers can also walk into a participating retailer’s brick-and-mortar store and use the app to scan the item they want and complete the transaction.
Traction: Jifiti has more than 50 national retailers integrated into the app. 'We have more demand from retailers than we can on-board,' Mr. Martin said. For a retailer, adopting Jifiti’s app requires no integration on their part. 'They just sign up,' he said. 'We’re already integrated with the third-party gift card issuers they use, so they just have to approve Jifiti to produce gift codes and give us product feed so they can exist inside our app.' "

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fashion Designers Seize On Pantone's "Dazzling Blue" for Spring 2014

Sometimes, the colors chosen by the Pantone Institute as the defining hue for a season putter along, and are only
seen as a few accent pieces and accessories on the world's fashion runways.  This was not the case for Spring 2014, when Pantone's "Dazzling Blue" ruled the runways from New York to Paris, London and Milan.  Designers seem totally taken by the clear blue familiar to social media-ites as the color of Facebook.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:

Link to article:
Dazzling Blue Color for Spring 2014 on the Runways

Excerpt: "In all the four weeks of Fashion Month, Dazzling Blue was seen everywhere. During New York Fashion Week (where Dazzling Blue was seen the most), Dazzling Blue was seen on the runways of Anna Sui, Herve Leger, Jenny Packham, Tommy Hilfiger, Vera Wang, Band of Outsiders and many others.

On the runways of London, Dazzling Blue was spotted at the Sister by Sibling, Emilio de la Morena, David Koma and Matthew Williamson's runway shows. Next stop was Milan where Bottega Veneta, Alberto Ferretti, Costume National, Emilio Pucci, Etro, Max Mara, Fendi, Gianfranco Ferre, Missoni and Luisa Beccaria all embraced the richness of Dazzling Blue.

Lastly, off to Paris where Dazzling Blue was seen on the runways of Celine, Barbara Bui, Chloe (the one designer who used the color the most in their show), Emanuel Ungaro, Christian Dior, Kenzo, Moncler, Viktor & Rolf, Vivienne Westwood, Saint Laurent and others."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Go Beyond the Grande Drip: Starbucks' Secret Menu

There are few things more necessary and satisfying than your morning cup, delivered hot, steaming and exactly to order at Starbucks. But anyone would admit that sometimes you need a little change of pace.  Sure an "add shot" of espresso or a squirt of syrup might liven up the boredom, but what if there was a universe of secret drinks that any patient barista can whip up for you?  

For a few years, canny Starbucks fans have known about and added to the "secret menu" of drinks and preparation methods that will get you a truly unique morning or afternoon coffee. There is even a website, Starbucks Secret Menu, "created for Starbucks fans by Starbucks fans" that keeps you up and current with all the phantasmagorical creations (did you know that the "butterbeer" of Harry Potter books is part of the secret menu?).

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
The Daily Meal

Link to article:

Excerpt: "Lattes, coffees, and cappuccinos can become boring after a while of mass consumption. There are all sorts of crazy spices and syrups available at local coffee shops but no one ever knows how to use them properly. Your local barista is probably too busy to explain that they can create essentially anything you want behind the barista bar. Back in 2011 we discovered something amazing –Starbucks had a secret menu that allows you to get creative with all that Starbucks has to offer. This menu wasn’t widely known, but it was enough of a start to get us more interested in the craze. We found a number of creative drinks that were widely available at almost every Starbucks across the country. What we didn’t realize was how explosive the secret menu would become.

Click here to see the Starbucks Secret Menu Update (Slideshow) Following the development of our story, there were a number of websites created that allowed for individuals to share their own Starbucks concoction and build on old secret menu items. Sites like Starbucks Secret Menu feature loyal Starbucks goers that have come up with some pretty creative drinks like the Cake Batter Frappuccino which only calls for a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino and 1 pump of almond syrup for a tall. Other drinks require a little more patience on the part of the barista like the Hot Butterbeer Latte which needs caramel syrup, chai syrup, caramel syrup, cinnamon Dolce syrup, toffee nut syrup, and whipped cream and salted caramel bits. Then there’s the old favorites that have hit our list before like the Thin Mint Frappuccino which uses Tazo Green Tea Crème Frappuccino and is blended with chocolate syrup and java chips and The Dirty Hippy (a Dirty Chai Tea Latte with soy milk instead of regular milk). Some of these drinks don’t seem that difficult to make but when you’re 20 customers deep on a busy Monday morning, we can imagine the baristas are pretty overwhelmed when it comes to the hidden menu. That didn’t stop us from trying to find more drinks on the secret menu though. 

We scoured the web and found some pretty crazy sites that offered some creative and innovative Starbucks drinks from consumers. There are all kinds of secrets behind the bar at Starbucks – bet you didn’t know there’s even a size that is larger than the Venti called the Trenta that is a 31 ounce drink that’s available for iced drinks only. Walking into Starbucks can sometimes be overwhelming what with their plethora of possible drink orders. We were able to come across some new secret menu items that aren’t on the giant chalkboard but are definitely available to the daring coffee consumer..."

Monday, December 16, 2013

Photo of the Week: Small-Time Pro Wrestling in Big City LA

Pro wrestling used to be more of a mom and pop kind of operation, with every region across the country operating its own hometown league or at least franchise, and all of them choosing their "national" and "world" champion belt title-holders.  Then in the 80s and 90s wrestling consolidated andbecame big business, and eventually the one remaining major league, the WWE, became the face for all pro wrestling in the US.

But some hometown leagues remained, and more sprung up.  Fans still appreciate the intimacy of watching matches in a small auditorium or American Legion hall, and having their own local heroes and heels to root for and boo.  For the last three years, LA has been fortunate to have a thriving small wresting promotion televised late nights on weekend television.

Championship Wrestling from Hollywood (http://www.hollywoodwrestling.com/) is broadcast in the wee hours on local channel KDOC and nationally on satellite network MAV-tv, and brings back the excitement and ridiculous thrills of classic wrestling.  After years of taping their shows in front of live audiences in Hollywood, Glendale and the city of Commerce, the league found a fine new home at the Oceanview Pavilion in classic California beach town Port Hueneme.  At 50 miles up the coast, the "from Hollywood" name is tenuous, but the action and fun are better than ever.  Here is a photo album from one of their recent Sunday afternoon extravaganzas:

Friday, December 13, 2013

Extensis Reveals Top Ten Web Fonts for 2013

Extensis, the software provider for business and workgroups, has revealed the top ten web fonts for 2013.  After compiling data from Extensis' own font service, WebINK, the list shows that the most sought-after fonts for use in web projects are subtle variations on sans-serif powerhouses like Helvetica.  Watch below the clip where Thomas Phinney, Extensis' font guru-in-residence, demonstrates each font in action on an online magazine page, and expounds on the uses and attributes of each of the top ten.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:

Link to article:

Excerpt: "Extensis revealed today the list of top 10 web fonts used in 2013. According to data collected from the professional web font service WebINK, designers and developers used Myriad Pro most often for their projects, a position it also held in 2012.

New to this year’s list of top 10 used fonts are Fakt Pro and Museo Sans. These both continue the typography trend toward modern san serifs.

Fakt Pro by Thomas Thiemich is a fresh “Helvetica alternative,” as are several others already on the list such as Theinhardt and Aktiv Grotesk.

Museo Sans is a geometric sans serif by Jos Buivenga, that has a warm and somewhat retro feel, not unlike its Top-10 stablemate Proxima Nova.

The top 10 web fonts in use for 2013 are:
1. Myriad Pro by Carol Twombly & Robert Slimbach from Adobe
2. Theinhardt by François Rappo from Optimo
3. Proxima Nova by Mark Simonson from Mark Simonson Studio
4. Futura PT by Paul Renner, Vladimir Yefimov and Isabella Chaeva from ParaType
5. Aktiv Grotesk, a team effort from Dalton Maag
6. Effra by Fabio Luiz Haag & Jonas Schudel from Dalton Maag
7. Fakt Pro by Thomas Thiemich from OurType
8. Museo Sans by Jos Buivenga from exljbris
9. Adelle by Veronika Burian & José Scaglione from TypeTogether
10. Omnes by Joshua Darden from Darden Studio

Thomas Phinney, industry font guru and Senior Product Manager, Fonts & Typography at Extensis, noted: 'The latest font trends are always fascinating. WebINK customers continue to value quality crafting mixed with both leading-edge design and timeless classics from great designers.' "

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Communications Technology Speeding up Death of Small Languages

Yes, it's great that the Internet and digital technology is making us into a smaller, more-connected world.  But the Devil's part in the bargain is that with all that closeness and connection, we are becoming a more homogenous world at the same time.  

We all notice the rapid ascendancy of Engish and the lingua franca of the world now that everyone has access to media, entertainment and culture from the US.  But more broadly, recent studies have pinpointed the fact that only five percent of the languages of the world exist online, with the other 95% completely invisible to the digital world.  

This leads inexorably to the process where young people adopt the languages of commerce, entertainment, and culture, then they (and their progeny) completely abandon the rarely-spoken languages of their forefathers, and those languages die out.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
The Washington Post

Link to article:

Excerpt: "Less than five percent of current world languages are in use online, according to a recent study by prominent linguist András Kornai -- and the Internet may be helping the other 95 percent to their graves.

Those startling conclusions come from a paper published in the journal PLOSOne in October titled, appropriately, 'Digital Language Death.' The study sought to answer a question that’s both inherently fascinating and little-discussed: How many languages exist online? (And, on the flip side, how many don’t?)

For reference, at least 7,776 languages are in use in the greater offline world. To measure how many of those are also in use on the Internet, Kornai designed a program to crawl top-level Web domains and catalog the number of words in each language. He also analyzed Wikipedia pages, a key marker of a language’s digital vibrancy, as well as language options for things like operating systems and spell-checkers.

His finding: Less than five percent of languages in use now exist online.

Much of that gap can be attributed to the fact that the languages people use vary widely, in terms of scale and geography. More than 40 percent of world languages are already endangered, according to the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity. And even the ones that aren’t technically endangered may be spoken by only a few thousand people -- often in places like sub-Saharan Africa, southeast Asia and South America, where Internet penetration can be lower.

Still, a language’s failure to migrate online doesn’t augur well for its long-term prospects. Linguists have a sort of road map for language death, which Kornai lays out in the paper: First, its speakers stop using it in practical areas like commerce; then younger speakers lose interest in speaking that language; and, finally, the younger generation forgets it all together. A language is technically still alive as long as one person speaks it. And there are typically many years between when a language starts to decline and when its last speaker passes on, during which time young people fail to adopt it in their daily activities, such as when using the Internet."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Find Your Local Holiday Light Displays... On Your Phone!

The latest crowd-sourced application for your Iphone, Christmas and Holiday Light Displays, points you toward holiday light displays that are highly-rated and recommended by users.  If you have a secret "Candy Cane Lane" you want to share with the world, you can use your phone's geo-locating ability to pinpoint the location on a map, and then add your comments and tips. Isn't it funny how word-of-mouth is being replaced by announcements, revelations and helpful tips from your trusty device?

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
The New York Times

Link to article:

Excerpt: "If there were a Charlie Brown Christmas tree of apps, it would be Christmas and Holiday Light Displays.

Developers are quick to seize any opportunity to release new products, and December provides something of a bonanza for holiday apps. (You may have noticed the ubiquitous image of the Angry Bird in the Santa hat.)

But a homemade app with the worst graphics that I have seen in years is the sweetest, most Christmassy concept for a seasonal app that I have yet to come across.

Christmas and Holiday Light Displays was created by Greg Walters, who works for a telephone company in Lone Tree, Colo., and develops apps in his free time.

“When my kids were younger, I used to always drive them around and show them all the Christmas tree lights,” Mr. Walters said in a telephone interview. 'I just thought it would be nice if there was an app that would do the same thing.'

The app allows users to geotag (mark on a digital map) any place where they find a particularly dazzling display of lights. It is, essentially, a collection of holiday-themed spots available to anyone who downloads the app."
(PS--here's a little glimpse into the Valley's own beloved Candy Cane Lane in Winnetka)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pasadena's Iconic Colorado Street Bridge Turns 100

One of the most graceful and beautiful icons of Southern California, the Colorado Street Bridge that spans the Arroyo Seco ravine in Pasadena, celebrates its 100th birthday.  Its graceful arches and slightly curving span resemble the classic design of the Roman Aqueducts, and its history is only slightly less rich. 

Earlier bridges stretched across the seasonal Arroyo Seco river, and allowed travelers to get across even during winter rains that swell the waterway.  But the bigger problem was how to get across the ravine that stretches 500 yards across and dips 100 feet from the road level at either end.  This was a slowdown and inconvenience during the horse and buggy era, but became a major problem for the earliest automobiles that would be forced to clatter down to the ravine and climb up again at the other end. The resulting 1913 bridge was one of the first innovations in Southern California that ushered in the age of the automobile.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:

Link to article:
Colorado Street Bridge at 100:  Birth of a Pasadena Landmark

Excerpt: "The earliest bridge in the area -- J.W. Scoville's wooden trestle span, built in the late 1880s -- overcame only the first obstacle. Travelers still had to descend into the ravine, cross the bridge, and then climb the opposite bank -- a true hardship for horse-drawn vehicles, but an almost insurmountable one for the early automobiles that began using the bridge around the turn of the 20th century. So when Pasadena resolved to build a new bridge that would extend Colorado Street over the Arroyo Seco, it commissioned a structure that would cross the ravine at street level.

Based on a design by engineer Joseph Alexander Low Waddell with modifications by builder John Drake Mercereau, the Colorado Street Bridge spans 1,467½ feet with the aid of 11 arches. At its tallest, the reinforced-concrete structure soars nearly 150 feet above the streambed.

Upon its completion it was hailed as the longest and tallest bridge in Southern California. But what makes the structure's scale even more impressive are two charming quirks: a 52-degree curve in the bridge's center, and a constant 2.65 percent grade -- a result of the fact that the east bank is 30 feet higher than the west.

Construction began in July 1912 and lasted 18 months, employing 40 to 100 workers on any given day. Built with 11,000 cubic yards of concrete -- made from gravel collected from the arroyo -- and 600 tons of steel reinforcement, the bridge cost a total of $235,000.

In later years, the bridge carried the fabled Route 66 over the arroyo and transformed Colorado Street into Pasadena's main commercial corridor. To accommodate the increased auto traffic, the city widened Colorado by 28 feet between 1929 and 1930, slicing off the facades of old buildings. In 1958, it promoted Colorado Street to the status of boulevard.

But such change was still decades off when, on December 13, 1913, Pasadena residents climbed into their automobiles -- specially decorated for the occasion -- and paraded across the span, celebrating the creation of their city's most enduring visual landmark."

Monday, December 9, 2013

Ta Dah!... Pantone's Color of the Year 2014 is...

The announcement of the Pantone Institute's chosen "Color of the Year" is greeted by the public at large with mild interest and a bit of amusement, but in the worlds of fashion, home decorating, and retail, it's pretty big news.  And from the looks of this particular pretty big news, it looks like we will be seeing quite a bit of this fuschia-tinted-purply-pink in the next few months, because the anointed shade is Pantone #18-3224TCX, better known as Radiant Orchid!

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Los Angeles Times

Link to article:

Excerpt: "Emerald green is so 2013. Say hello to Radiant Orchid, Pantone's color of the year for 2014.

Those not familiar with phalaenopsis may wonder: What, exactly, is Radiant Orchid?

In the company's annual announcement, Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, described the hue as 'an enchanting harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones' that 'inspires confidence and emanates great joy, love and health.'

How much weight do these Pantone predictions carry?

At the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York last spring, Emerald -- Pantone's color of the year for 2013 -- could be found seemingly everywhere: Bernhardt furniture, acoustic wall textiles, Ikea velvet sofas."

Friday, December 6, 2013

Parking Apps Take Stress Out of Holiday Shopping

App shows parking usage at lots and garages
One of the biggest drawbacks and frustrations to holiday shopping in America's shopping malls is parking, or the lack thereof.  Many times you would not set out for the mall in the first place if you know the battle for a parking space that awaits you.  Now a raft of new parking apps monitor the spaces available in shopping area lots and garages, and then even help you remember where you parked once you find a space.

At present, about 25 to 30 thousand locations use electronic monitoring that provides information to the apps.  But because of the utility and popularity of parking apps, both the number of apps and the number of shopping centers included double or triple each year.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
The New York Times

Link to article:
Secret Weapon in Mall Battle - Parking Apps

Excerpt: "The fight for a mall parking spot, long a necessary evil of Black Friday, is growing easier thanks to the proliferation of new technologies, from apps and sensors to color-coded lights and electronic boards.

It’s one way that malls and shopping districts are trying to lure customers away from their computers, into the realm of their brick-and-mortar stores.

'What happens when there’s no spots? People drive around and become frustrated,' said Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. 'Who wants to start their shopping experience frustrated?'

ParkMe, which tracks more than 28,000 locations worldwide, has emerged as a mainstay app for mall customers navigating the nation’s parking lots. With the app, they can find the closest and least expensive lots, as well as alternative garage entrances. The app’s user base surged 97 percent in the past year, and it is adding hundreds of garages to its database.

'If there’s a way to get in off the beaten path, you can reduce stress,' said Sam Friedman, ParkMe’s co-founder and chief executive.

The app’s technology is simple enough: a magnetic loop at the garage clocks the number of times the gate lifts to admit or release a car, Mr. Friedman said. ParkMe also lets a customer reserve a spot in certain locations, like the Shore Hotel down the road from Santa Monica Place. Ms. Scott said she used that service during busy summer months.

Other parking apps are gaining traction as well. Parkopedia, which is linked to 26,000 lots in North America, also allows users to search parking sites, availability and prices using their smartphones. QuickPay plans to start in hundreds of malls in the United States next year to help shoppers pay for garage and metered spots and valet services from their smartphone.

'Parking is the gateway to the shopping experience,' QuickPay’s founder, Barney Pell, said. 'It can mean the success or failure of your whole business.'

Customers expect more than they did 10 years ago, said Casey Jones, a vice president for institutional services at Standard Parking, the Chicago-based provider of parking facility management services, and a past chairman of the International Parking Institute."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

3D Printing Creates Playable LP Record

It started as an experiment to test the resolution of current 3D printing, but now it has observers contemplating new uses for the burgeoning technology. Designer Amanda Ghassei managed to create an application that converts sound files into maps of the physical grooves on a record, that can be printed on current 3D printers. The result is a plastic "record" that, although primitive and lo-fi, will play a recognizable version of the song or sound that was encoded and replicated. Will future refinements make the 3D printer an invaluable tool in producing small runs of records for hipster bands?

Hunter Communications Original News Source:

Link to article:

Excerpt: "Over at Instructables, someone has pioneered techniques for creating custom 'vinyl' audio discs using a 3D printer. Instructables user amandaghassaei describes her creation in the introduction to the project:
In an effort to boldly 3D print where no man or woman has 3D printed before, I’ve created a technique for converting digital audio files into 3D printable 33rpm records and printed some functional prototypes over the weekend. These records play on regular turntables, with regular needles, at regular speeds, just like any vinyl record. Though the audio output from these records has a sampling rate of 11kHz (a quarter of typical mp3 audio) and 5-6bit resolution (mp3 audio is 16 bit), it is still easily recognizable, check out the video above to hear what it sounds like.
The records are produced on an Objet Connex500 3D printer, which uses UV-cured resin to produce objects. The Connex500 has impressive resolution of 600dpi in the x-axis and y-axis, and 16 micron resolution in the z-axis; however, this is still at least an order of magnitude coarser than the level of detail in a traditional vinyl audio disc.

Producing the STL data file for the 3D printer required the creation of some custom software to import the raw audio, massage it, convert it to a physical waveform, and generate the overall geometry of the target disc. The Instructable has complete details for those interested, including background information on how vinyl audio recording works, and a fascinating discussion of the evolution of the project. And, of course, there is plenty enough information to allow you to create your own discs, if you’re lucky enough to have access to a 3D printer.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

New 2035 Urban Plan for Warner Center Awaits Mayor's Approval

From an urban planning viewpoint, the current layout of the western San Fernando Valley area known as Warner Center is a throwback to an earlier, autocentric, suburban model. Huge buildings, massive parking lots and wide streets make the area daunting for pedestrians. But a new plan for the next two decades aims to expand the Warner Center area North to include frontage on the LA river, divide it to encompass eight districts of varied commercial, retail, entertainment, and residential uses, and use transit circulators and new pedestrian and bike paths to make the area more varied and pedestrian-friendly.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:


Link to article:
Ped-Friendly, River-Inclusive Warner Center Plan Approved by City Council

Excerpt: "Unanimously approved by City Council last month and now subject to the mayor's approval, the Warner Center 2035 Plan is looking to make the Woodland Hills area more walkable and pedestrian friendly. 'The new 2035 plan would create a true downtown for San Fernando Valley,' says Bernstein.

Warner Center is currently bounded by Vanowen Street to the north, the Ventura Freeway to the south, De Soto Avenue to the east, and Topanga Canyon Boulevard to the west. As part of proposed plan, Warner Center has expanded its boundaries north up to the south side of the Los Angeles River.

The 2035 vision aims to take advantage of the growing popularity of the Orange Line by adding an "urban circulator" within Warner Center that would transport residents in and around major venues within the neighborhood. "The plan is to have offices and commercial spaces be better connected to transit stations and pedestrians," says Bernstein. It would allow an addition of 19,000 housing units around the Warner Center transit stops, which would act as buffer for the lower density residential areas surrounding it.

The plan divides Warner Center into eight districts, each with its own development guidelines: College, Commerce, Downtown, North, Village, Park, River, Topanga, and Uptown. The College district, served by the De Soto and a new Oxnard Street Orange Line stop, will focus on live-work projects and small developments. The Commerce District, served by the Oxnard Street station, will become a secondary job center to the Downtown District. The North Village District, served by the Canoga and De Soto stations, will combine residential with transit-oriented development. The Park District, which includes the Warner Center Park, will allow townhomes and flats. The Topanga District would now only allow non-residential uses, while the Uptown District would allow mixed-use developments. A new River District will consist of properties along the river and add new pedestrian and bicycle paths.

'Warner Center has entertainment and retail right now,' says Tom Glick, the city planner in charge of the specific plan, 'what's missing is publicly open space and a connection to river.' To facilitate that, the specific plan would break up the large blocks into smaller, more pedestrian-friendly streets by adding crosswalks and paseos. Each development in the area would be required to maintain 15 percent of its site for public use at street level. Put together, it would build a network of green space in the area. It also encourages development of a 'Great Park' that could host a sports field, farmer's market, skate parks and natural trails."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Science Reveals Optimum Napping Strategies

In our book, all naps are good, and that's the beginning and end of the story.  Who knew that there are different optimal nap positions and lengths for different goals?  If you are napping for a refresher, your target time should be much shorter than a nap designed to mimic a mini-version of a full night's sleep.  And then there are the dreaded naps that leave you groggy and disoriented, feeling temporarily more tired than when you started.  Is there such a thing as a nap to recover from a nap?

Hunter Communications Original News Source:

Link to article:

Excerpt: "Taking a nap, we've seen time and again, is like rebooting your brain. But napping may be as much of an art as it is a science. The Wall Street Journal offers recommendations for planning your perfect nap, including how long to nap and when.3

The sleep experts in the article say a 10-to-20-minute power nap gives you the best "bang for your buck," but depending on what you want the nap to do for you, other durations might be ideal:
For a quick boost of alertness, experts say a 10-to-20-minute power nap is adequate for getting back to work in a pinch.
For cognitive memory processing, however, a 60-minute nap may do more good, Dr. Mednick said. Including slow-wave sleep helps with remembering facts, places and faces. The downside: some grogginess upon waking.
Finally, the 90-minute nap will likely involve a full cycle of sleep, which aids creativity and emotional and procedural memory, such as learning how to ride a bike. Waking up after REM sleep usually means a minimal amount of sleep inertia, Dr. Mednick said.
In addition to those recommendations, one surprising suggestion is to sit slightly upright during your nap, because it will help you avoid a deep sleep. And if you find yourself dreaming during your power naps, it may be a sign you're sleep deprived

Monday, December 2, 2013

Designers Weigh in Before Pantone's "Color of the Year" Announcement

Each year in December, the color experts at Pantone reveal their choice for "Color of the Year".  With the 2014 revelation just around the corner, IStock polled prominent graphic designers around the world for their sometimes-surprising choices and reasons for the official color of 2014.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:

Link to article:
Designers Cast Their Votes for Pantone's 2014 Color of the Year

Excerpt: "Pantone will soon be announcing the 2014 Color of the Year – but while we wait for the experts to come to a decision about what will replace Emerald Green, iStock turned to the creative community to put together an infographic about this year’s favorites. Senior designers from countries including Australia, Japan, Brazil, Italy, UK, Germany and USA were asked for their selections, along with a short blurb about what they think makes their selection so special."