words can't describe
October 21, 2004
Kerry vs Bush World Series?
If the Astros win their game 7 tonight, we'll have Boston and Houston in the World Series. The Astros have never won the NLCS, the Sox haven't won the ALCS in nearly 20 years. How odd is that?
In any case, go Sox!
August 30, 2004
August 25, 2004
An Intermetrics alum
I just was browsing some search terms, and came across an entry for Intermetrics, a company I worked at many, many moons ago. Intermetrics, or I2 as it was known, was a wonderful place to work--even if I had missed the very early glory days (pre-1980). Intermetrics was a software tools company; it was founded by five guys from MIT; see Tony Flanders' history for the early days.
I spent 10 years there (from '83 to '94) in a variety of tech jobs...I did system admin in CFD for the first half ( RSX and VMS) and did tech peripheral in SPD (QA/tech support/tech writing) the second half before moving to Pittsburgh (and the web) in '94. After I left, I2 was acquired like 80 bazillion times; it's not really recognizable any more.
July 30, 2004
Out of Office
Thanks for your email. I will be away on holiday at a fab beach house in the Outer Banks (thanks Dad!) until mid-August and I will not be checking email during that period. If something is very urgent, look for me on the other side of the dune.
July 27, 2004
Postscript: Suspended from TECHWR-L
Ouch. He also included the list rules. They say that "If it is an ad of any sort, don't post it." And that I'm to "Direct all commentary about this message to my address, not the list."
Well, as I was spanked publically, I'd like to respond that way:
Mea culpa...I didn't make the "call for proposals" == "ad" connection. I guess it's a lame excuse, and it's your right to generate revenue. Had I even remotely thought of it as an ad, I would probably have checked your no ads unless you pay policy.
I guess I was suspended because I made this same infraction before, but if Eric emailed me last time, I blanked it out of my mind because it doesn't make any more sense to me now than it would have in the past. And I think I'm also guilty of misremembering a more friendly connection between STC and TECHWR-L years ago (having more senior moments these days). Fortunately for the list members, my suspension will prevent me from making this mistake (or intentional list abuse -- your call) again.
July 21, 2004
Cats as blog impediments
Gosh, sorry for the light posts lately. I hope to get back in form shortly. In the meantime, I've been meaning to follow Kottke's lead and add a personal cat anecdote to my weblog.
I mean seriously, you try blogging like this!
Yes, I have an upside-down picture frame that sits on two other frames to keep the cats from adding unintentional text. Hint: if you see 9999977777wwwww333 in a post, that wasn't me :).
It was much easier to blog when the cicadas were around!
June 2, 2004
Are you a geek?
Ken always finds the good tests. He's a a "Total Geek" with a score of 26.23274% (gotta love that precision). I, on the other hand, am a "Poser" with a score of 6.1144%. I'm not sure that's a bad thing :).
May 20, 2004
Why girls don't like math
If you thought it funny too, you'll probably enjoy why men are worse.
May 7, 2004
The Lou and Steve Show
I meant to steal this from Mike Lee yesterday. We had the great fortune to have had an opportunity for our web dev staff to have an informal conversation with Lou Rosenfeld and Steve Krug yesterday. Then Mike and I did lunch with Lou and Steve afterwards...sweet!
They are firming up their workshop/happy hour schedule for the fall. Check 'em out and see if they're coming to your town!
Not for Rumsfeld fans
April 29, 2004
Fun things to do in Baltimore
I can definitely second the recommendation for Amicci's in Little Italy (you must try the pane rotundo, bread covered with shrimp in a creamy sauce...yumm). I also like the Papermoon Diner ... ya gotta love a place which features "a pile of mismatched furniture, headless Barbies, naked mannequins (with limbs missing) and some very out-of-date clothes."
If you're local, do consider stopping by for the day. The conference is next to the train station, and day registrations are welcomed.
Hope to see you there hon!
April 20, 2004
The fifth sentence...
Far be it for me to pass up a meme.
As the original "point" (so called by Chaucer), it appears to occupy a place in our grammar that is unassailable.
Technically only the first three words are on p. 23 (it's a small book with amazingly long sentences). But "As the original" just didn't seem to do it. BTW, in case you're curious, the sentence refers to a full stop (or period).
Thanks to peterme for the pointer.
March 8, 2004
Separation of church and state
Warning: political post to follow. Ignore if you're only here for the information design :) ... maybe I need some kind of icon, like Lou's hotdog icon, when I go off topic.
Anyways, by now, if you're gay or if you have any gay friends, you've probably seen this circulated around. Seems there is a Presidential Prayer Council and one of their prayers on February 26th was:
Now that the President has declared his decision to work for an amendment to the Constitution that will codify marriage as being between one man and one woman, pray for this effort. Pray that biblical values will be honored in this endeavor, and the the support needed will arise from many corners of the Nation.
Sigh. Truth be told, maybe it is the Catholic upbringing I can't shake off (try as I might) but I must admit that for me, it's not exactly obvious that there needs to be gay marriage. That said, I've no trouble with the idea that gay couples are entitled to all the same rights that marriage grants. If that's a civil union, fine. But if it needs to be a marriage, then that's what it should be.
Anyways, if you haven't seen it, here's the liberal response to the Presidential Prayer Council (thanks to swimfins for the HTML). If "biblical values" are an important part of marriage in the US, then perhaps the following should also be considered:
All of this reminded me of something I'd heard a while back from Alan Dershowitz, who had this response in a debate with Alan Keyes on religion in America. It was a letter to Dr. Laura that he'd found while Internet surfing:
Dear Dr. Laura, Thank you so much for trying to educate people regarding God's law. I have learned a great deal from you, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:12 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.
Now if you're still with me, you may be interested to know that the Republican National Committee is trying to get TV stations to stop airing MoveOn's ads against President Bush:
The RNC charges that because the ads are designed to help defeat President Bush, the group cannot pay for them with unlimited "soft money" contributions but only with contributions raised in amounts less than $5,000. ...
If you're so inclined, you might want to visit MoveOn.org and donate an amount less than $5,000 to help MoveOn get its message out.
From my perspective, the good news is that the RNC wouldn't be working this hard if they weren't really concerned that MoveOn was having a real impact. Not into donating cash? Then maybe you can sign up for the MoveOn PAC.
I now return you to your regularly scheduled IDblog :).
March 7, 2004
Serendipity and rainbows
Not sure if you can spot it, but that's the Washington Monument that is to the left of where the rainbow hits the horizon in the photo (about a half inch). And it's only in the photo that I see that there was a second rainbow that was slightly visible. Not sure how I missed that in the sky!
I snapped a full moonrise later that same evening:
February 20, 2004
iTunes, Pepsi, and a laugh
More Friday fun. Historians should have a blast with the fact that the power of the Internet is (seemingly) applied to both presidential campaigns and Pepsi iTunes giveaways. So much so, that the traffic to the MacMerc.com site (which describes how not to "lose" the Pepsi challenge) is now around 30 page views/second.
But what really gave me a yuk was this commentary at the end:
You might find it easiest to practice while not in the store. Just buy a few and take them home. Get the knack for the angle, and it isn't that hard to pull off without looking like a huge tool.
Given that you are potentially saving yourself a whopping 99 cents per song, you just have to ask whether it's worth looking like even a small tool :).
Kitchen Stories--a UCD comedy
NPR had a review of Kitchen Stories this morning. It's an independent movie from Norway that's currently only showing in NY and LA, but it sounds like a movie any user-centered designer or ethnographer might find especially interesting.
Here's a detailed synopsis from MovieWeb:
In post-World War II Scandinavia, home science is a booming industry and Sweden's Home Research Institute is conducting studies aimed at standardizing the average household kitchen along the lines of an ultra-efficient assembly-line model. Over time, the researchers discover that simply by organizing the kitchens workstations properly, based on the layout of factories, the benefits (in terms of time, money and physical exertion) for a household could be enormous. Or, as a Swedish ad for the new ideal kitchen of the time put it: "Instead of a housewife having to walk what is the equivalent of Sweden to the Congo during a year of cooking, she now only needs to walk to northern Italy in order to get food on the table."
After thoroughly mapping the Swedish housewifes behavior in the kitchen, scientists at the Institute feel ready to venture beyond their own geographic and gender-based limitations. So, in the early 50s they send 18 observers to the rural farming district of Landstad, Norway, with its surplus of bachelors, to study the kitchen routines of single men.
In order to be on 24-hour call, the observers live in egg-shaped pea-green campers outside each subjects house. From custom-made observation chairs strategically placed high above each kitchen, they study and take notes. The observers must be allowed to come and go as they please, and under no circumstances must they be spoken to or included in kitchen activities. Immediately regretful of having signed up to be observed, Isak (who thought that by doing so he would be given a horse) makes it ridiculously difficult for Folke to analyze him. But small kindnesses whittle away at the wall between them, and they embark on a tentative friendship, much to the chagrin of Folke's by-the-book supervisor, who has zero tolerance for any deviations in this "scientific" inquiry.
DC's not exactly Podunk, Iowa, so perhaps it will show up here. (As an aside, I did not know that there are five Podunk's in the US. None are in Iowa.)
February 4, 2004
Looks like a delegates map
As Ken says, lot's of folks are doing this...states I've visited are red.
From the fine folks at World66. Funny though that they'd choose the two worst possible colors for anyone with red/green colorblindness.
January 20, 2004
I interrupt this regularly scheduled discussion of information design topics to ask IDblog readers who are US-based (or not, I guess!) to consider supporting the MoveOn.org Voter Fund. If you're like me, you're probably a bit discouraged (if not frightened) by recent Bush administration moves. The right is working incredibly hard to discredit MoveOn.org, which tells me that this is exactly the group to support to avoid having four more years of W.
Thanks for your consideration. I now return you to your regularly scheduled IDblog.
Update: Even if you're not into MoveOn's politics, this site--FactCheck.org--from the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania--may be well worth a bookmark. Their goal is to "reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics." Too bad they aren't looking for donations!
January 9, 2004
Amazing images from NASA
The last few entries have been very text heavy, so I figured it was time to add some visual interest. What better than something that has really fascinated me: a shot of an aurora from space (which I'd love to see live).
The image is one from NASA's Earth Observatory. If you like this kind of thing at all, I recommend that you subscribe to their weekly email, where you'll get updated on new photos and other items added to the site.
December 22, 2003
This item is relatively old (the original reference is from the JAMA in 1990), but I hadn't seen it before...so wanted to pass it along for other visual mystery fans. The question is: did Michelangelo paint God over an image representing the mid-sagittal outline of the human brain, and if so, why?
The nice thing about Bloglines is I don't have to plow through a bunch of posts I've already read at one computer when I switch to another.
The one bummer is that Bloglines quickly gets you in the habit of reading entries in its style-stripped bare RSS reader, since you have to do two clicks to launch the weblog itself...the first shows you all the recent entries. But since Bloglines has a feature that lets you export your feeds in OPML, I've at least not had to worry about building up a resource that is tool-dependent.
December 15, 2003
We're not worthy!
December 13, 2003
Poking fun at Jakob
November 18, 2003
Moms and blogs
I don't normally read the Onion, but this entry caught my eye: Mom Finds Out About Blog. An amusing read if you're so inclined.
The demented Mr. Lee :)
I put water in the bag, sealed the doll inside with the tie, and jammed its head into the ketchup cup. This only begins to illustrate the load that is in my wife's pelvis right now.
The next six months here at work--where our Mr. Lee will be filling in for his (very patient :) wife Amy--should be very interesting indeed!
October 27, 2003
The any key
I got a few yucks out of this one. Here's FAQ2859 from Compaq:
Where do I find the "Any" key on my keyboard?
This FAQ entry was created on 10/8/2001 and updated on 10/25/2002. Why the update? According to Ralph Lord (who frequents the same lists I do), the original version was written by author bgates and read:
Compaq is aware of this problem and is currently researching a solution. Please check back with our website for patches or updates which may address this problem.
Ralph writes that the author of this first entry was fired. Interesting that it apparently took a year or so to discover! While amusing, there is also some semblance of cautionary tale there too. It had been a while, so I went and did a Google search for disease of familiarity. Interesting that buddy Thom Haller had slots 1 and 2, while I had number 3. But poking through the other search results ultimately sent me back to Richard Saul Wurman, who talked about the "disease of familiarity" in both the original Information Anxiety and its sequel: Information Anxiety 2. Wurman writes:
Familiarity breeds confusion. Those afflicted are the experts in the world who, so bogged down by their own knowledge, regularly miss the key points as they try to explain what they know. ... We have all had teachers who we have said are extraordinarily bright, yet we cannot understand what they are saying.
Sigh...the more I think about it, the less this FAQ is that amusing. On the other hand, the original response (and author) is still pretty funny...just not that helpful!
October 15, 2003
More spam measures
Well, I don't know why I didn't do this sooner. But after having to delete hundreds of spam messages (and files like vicodin.gif), I'm crying uncle and signing on with a spam filter service...one of those where they check to see if it there's actually a human on the other side of that email.
My transition wasn't a smooth one, but that was largely due to my use of an embarrassingly old mailer. Now that I've upgraded, life is good! And I have to give a huge thumbs up to knowspam for their above and beyond tech support to help diagnose this. I'll be signing up long before the free trial is over!
BTW, I've made a tiny hack to MT so that folks who comment on IDblog will not need to prove they are humans :). I think the content of the comment will do that nicely.
October 9, 2003
Do you believe in miracles?
Meg inspired me to add my own right-nav decoration to IDblog. Having lived in Boston from 1976 to 1994, I'm afraid to hope. But there's just something so perfect about a 7-game Sox/Cubs World Series. Now if the teams can just deliver...
September 18, 2003
Eye of the storm
Here's an interesting perspective from the Washington Post; I've added the dot for DC's location. They've got some nice Flash pieces online that tell more of the story.
The building I live in is giving glow sticks to residents...smart idea (better than candles). Since the drug stores are gearing up for Halloween, I was able to get a bunch for my nieces...they'll get a kick out of it.
And I see that Mike's getting ready as well :).
September 17, 2003
My employer follows the government, so I'll be off tomorrow. I've got plenty to keep me busy, but the important task will be to help my sister--her hubby is off on a business trip, and my two 8-yr-old nieces are a bit nervous about the storm. So Auntie Beth will be sleeping over!
Anyone for a game of Scooby Doo Monopoly?
September 15, 2003
Go where the food is
I sent Mike Lee, veteran wi-fier, a link for jiwire, a site with a pretty nice resource for finding wi-fi spots. If you're a newbie like I am, there are also tips for setting up wi-fi at home and on your laptop.
In drilling down on their interactive map (at right), I was struck by the difference in accessibility between our two cities. Perhaps Mike will enjoy being down here "where the food is" when baby Lee arrives and he goes back to the daily grind :).
September 5, 2003
Sorry for the quiet here after just having been on vacation, but I'm in Chicago for AARP's National Event. Up until the last minute, I waffled on whether to bring the iBook, but finally decided to go without. I experimented Wednesday with the hotel's WebTV interface (bandwidth was good, but the resolution sucked...try doing anything useful--like email--with an effective resolution of about 400x300 and a keyboard that can handle about 10wpm). Today I'm at McCormick, and enjoying sole access to Gateway's setup in the exhibit hall...at least until it opens in two hours!
Last night Amy Lee and I had a great time with about 25 folks from the local UPA chapter (see her hubby Mike's moblog post). She did the formal presentation, and afterwards we had a rousing panel discussion. Thanks to Joi and friends for the warm welcome and to Susan Feinberg for hosting us at IIT!
Our big event will be a panel Saturday afternoon on computers and older adults. Our guest panelists are Don Norman, Ann Wrixon (president of SeniorNet), Don Jones (VP of Gateway), and Sandy Berger (host of AARP's Computers and Technology area). If you're in the area, stop by! Registration is only $15 for the three-day event, and you can collect that much in tchotchkes :).
August 22, 2003
August 20, 2003
Kudos to both Adaptive Path and iapps for a great happy hour this evening. The iapps folks (I can see why they are one of DC's best places to work) have a beautiful office in DC's Woodley Park area...which is right next to the Lebanese Taverna, where a few of us went afterwards...yum.
If Adaptive Path comes to your town, be sure to stop by. They are just as friendly to the happy hour crashers as they are to the paid guests :). And they throw a mean bash! Of course, you may want to attend their educational sessions too...the folks I spoke with this evening had nothing but great things to say.
July 31, 2003
July 28, 2003
For music fans
I just received my first Paste magazine. I'm not that much into the magazine itself (I've never been one to read about music). I subscribed because each issue comes with a compilation CD of non-mainstream artists (not just independents). My taste in music might be best described as "soft" alternative, with interests from folk to blues...with a preference for the lyrical. Paste (which I learned about via Utne magazine) has this and more.
For example, the latest issue includes some old and some new, like Natalie Merchant, Bruce Cockburn, and Eastmountainsouth. I see from the back issues that they had Vienna Teng (previously mentioned here) on an earlier compilation. And they get extra points; I got the CD today, and all the titles were in the CD database that iTunes uses.
Check it out...the price sure seems right to get exposed to some new music; and I'm planning to get the collection for long road trips. But beware...I noticed that in the letter to the editors, a couple complain that they are going broke buying so many new albums :).
Update, 10:23PM: Well, now I know this is a good fit for me. Here in the radio wasteland known as Washington DC, I thank g*d regularly for the Internet. My station of choice is WYEP, a public radio station I first listened to when I was living in Pittsburgh. A number of the tracks off this compilation are on WYEP's current playlist. Very cool!
July 22, 2003
Domains and brands
A too funny entry from David over at High Context:
The Italian subsidiary of Powergen has a very unfortunate domain name. Yikes! Probably not the connotation they had in mind.
July 15, 2003
Boy, there's been a dry spell here lately as far as visual imagery goes. So here's a recent photo from my digital camera that I really enjoy:
Yes, my camera, but I wasn't the photographer. At a recent family get-together, when we were all assembled in this old 1818 tavern somewhere in western Maryland, my niece Beverly asked if she could take some pictures.
Beverly is 8. And one of the wonderful things about digital cameras (with decently sized memory cards :) is that no one is going to get hot and bothered if someone is snapping away. Well, she started at my left and worked her way around the room. We were a big group (about 20 of us), but this room wasn't that large. By the time she was done, she had taken over 30 pictures, mostly of the walls, pictures on the walls, flags in the room, and so on.
When she got back to where I was, she snapped this picture of the thermostat on the wall (and look...she's already figured out the rule of thirds :).
I got a real kick out of seeing her take this picture. So now when I look at this not exactly interesting photo, it reminds me of that good time. May have to get it framed...could be a real conversation starter!
July 1, 2003
Anyways, the result of this is that I keep getting pointed to MT's activity log when this timeout happens. This wouldn't be newsworthy, except that as I posted awhile back, I added search to IDblog when I upgraded to the latest version of MT.
Besides timed-out pings, the activity log also shows what folks are searching for on IDblog, and that turns out to be really, really curious. For example:
Well, I can guess the last one (most likely they were looking for the Honda cog ad). But I can't guess why someone would search for the first three on an information design weblog. Maybe they thought it was really a Google search?
June 20, 2003
Here's something fun that appeared on the DC WebWomen list today: it's the Milko Muscle Machine, where you can create your own workout video starring a fairly likable animated cow. This is brought to you (in Shockwave) by the same folks who previously did the Milko Music Machine, where you can make your own music video starring the same cow.
Having recently worked with Apple's iMovie (which I really liked), I was quite impressed with all the controls for the Milko products. Alas, since I am unlikely to buy Swedish milk (not stocked by most US supermarkets), I'm not sure that my being impressed does too much for Milko. But I managed to kill a bit of time with it! And I think it shouldn't be hard to imagine how this kind of interaction could be extended in a, shall we say, more productive way.
If you play, be sure to mouseover all the moves...in particular, I most enjoyed seeing the "Travolta" (circa Saturday Night Fever) followed by the "Pulp Fiction" (above right) in the Music Machine. And if you really like your composition, you can email it to someone who might also be inspired!
June 1, 2003
A laugh riot, fish-style
Hmmm, how can I make the following relevant to an information design weblog?
Probably not. But there absolutely must be an experience design tie in some how. All I know is that Finding Nemo is probably the best movie I've seen with my 8-yr-old nieces. Yes, the visual design is spectacular, and there's a cute story, but I suppose I should be embarassed to admit just how funny I found this movie (e.g., I laughed out loud when I heard the 'volcano' in the fish tank is named "Mt. Hock-a-Loogie"). In particular, Ellen DeGeneres' character (above right, blue, who plays off beautifully against Albert Brooks character, above left) has most of the great lines...I almost totally lost it during the whale scene.
If you know a kid, take them. If not, you can either go for the humor (some of which is low-brow...the fart joke scene is pretty funny too) or just the fabulous animation work.
Google contender -- not?
From the Register (UK):
You're not going to believe this, but a new search engine has just appeared and, well, it may be better than Google.
Our search function is currently disabled. We are experiencing a very high load. Please try again later.
Contender to Google? I bet Turbo10's backers hope the aphorism "you never get a second chance to make a first impression" isn't true in their case.
May 8, 2003
Sorry if the posts are a bit spotty, but between being out of the office for three days and getting all my final projects for school done (due next week), I'm a bit behind! I'll catch up after the STC conference, I promise!
Two of the three days I was out were spent as an exhibitor at the spring FedWeb conference. Booth duty was slow, so fortunately there were some good sessions to attend, including one by local bud Thom Haller--who is one entertaining and informative speaker! I also caught Jared Spool's plenary on Wednesday. I know some hard-core usability folk have some issues with Jared, but he makes one hell of an entertaining speaker and was a great choice for an audience like the one at FedWeb. Alas, I missed Ginny Redish's, but fortunately I'll be able to catch her at STC in Dallas.
I also finally responded to an old daBurgh bud, Ken Mohnkern, in the STC conference thread. If you aren't a link clicker, do check out Ken's weblog. Interesting stuff!
April 12, 2003
Aiding and abetting?
I love the Internet. But if there is anything that is metaphorically a double-edged sword, it's the Internet. What's really cool is that you can go online to some place like Amazon and order a used copy of an information design classic, like Visual information for everyday use. At the time, the thought of saving 40 or 50% off the cover price of a new book made sense (and some times you can't even find it new). And when you're dealing with Amazon, where's the risk?
So...then you receive the book, in good shape, with all the trappings of a library book. Sigh. I paid for it, so I want to keep it, but now some person who checks out my collection some day will probably figure I stole it.
I don't know that this book was stolen. Maybe it was never checked out and so sold in some sale to raise funds for other books. But this seems to be a situation that is fraught with peril for libraries. How hard is it to rip off a library of a rare or classic book and then make a serious profit on E-bay or Amazon or Half.com? I don't think it is nearly hard enough.
April 5, 2003
A new toy!
Well, both Mike and his lovely wife (my co-worker Amy) were great PR for the Sidekick, but I (finally) decided that $300 off (from Amazon) and easy Outlook syncing were too hard to pass up. I'm now a happy owner of a Treo 270. If my boss is reading, yes Mark, I know I owe you some hours for yesterday :). But it was just too hard to pass up the chance to get everything working, including email and instant messaging.
And, can I just say, yikes, what documentation there is (and there isn't much that's useful) really bites. I'm not one of those folks who is convinced that convergence is a myth, but boy, we've got a long way to go before these kinds of things are general consumer products. The hardest part was figuring out the d*mn plans and what's included and what's not. T-mobile (and their bazillion plans and names for things) was probably the biggest pain of all.
Don't look for me to be mo-blogging the way Mike does so well. But this may cause designing for tiny screens to bump up a little on my priority list!
April 2, 2003
On the lighter side
Cool...IDblog is now on the map :).
And alas, I missed April Fools by a day, but this was way funny: Google Acquisitions Create Movable Bloggerland:
Asked whether this was a shot across Microsoft's bow, VP of Microsoft's Platform Group Jim Allnose said "Absolutely not. People are already blogging with Microsoft software. You just download the .NET framework, install some service packs, grab a few things from MSDN, install Sharepoint Team Services, and upgrade everything to Office 2003. Once you do that and upgrade to Windows Server 2003 which ships in the next few weeks, you're ready to go. It's simple, and we think it represents the future of consumer-based blogs."
Thanks...I needed the yucks :). If you are so inclined, be sure to check the links too!
March 29, 2003
I thought this was funny!
"I pahk my blohg at Hahavahd Yahd." Okay, I lived in Boston for nearly 20 years.
March 13, 2003
Mike brings new meaning to "I surf as much as I eat."
March 12, 2003
This one is at least marginally related to information design :). They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, in the hands of some, a picture and a dozen or so words make for some very funny ready.gov satire:
The fun thing is that these pictures are so ambiguous they could mean anything!
For example, the government's caption for the image at right is:
More fodder for the "words can't describe" category. There's this entry from Scylla regarding the horror of blimps. I don't know if it is really funny or it's just the power of suggestion at play, but this one did have me tearing up. For example:
Somewhere in the control room of my mind a fat little dwarf in a security outfit was paging through a Penthouse while smoking a cigar with his feet up on the table, watching the security monitors of my brain with his peripheral vision.
March 10, 2003
Usability of infants
Need a quick yuck? Did you love the great Dave Barry article about babies? Then you'll probably enjoy Scott McDaniel's "A Heuristic Evaluation of the Usability of Infants" which is now available on STC's Usability SIG website. Scott uses Jakob's ten usability heuristics to rate his experience of parenthood.
March 7, 2003
You'd think I'd point to the Cluetrain boys' latest on the world of ends. But heck, you'll be seeing that one all over the place. So instead, I'd rather chat about how I've always enjoyed the way Google plays with their logo. Yesterday's version of Google a la Michelangelo's David struck me as a bit odd, as I think this was the first time that they deviated so far from the traditional primary color scheme.
But I wasn't the only one who thought the logo odd! Over on kottke.org, Jason asked "where's David's doodle?" and provided an anatomically correct version:
Surely a small, pixelated phallus isn't going to offend anyone or corrupt the young. ... The change is small (sorry Mrs. David), but the man's wang deserves to be shown in all its glory.
Gosh...I hope I didn't get anyone fired at work. Flush those image caches :)
February 28, 2003
Deja vu all over again
Ah, take me back. Christine is working on her master's thesis for Georgetown's Communication, Culture, and Technology MA program. I finished my thesis there over the summer of 2001. I can feel her pain!
February 23, 2003
I mentioned a while back that 10% of my grade in one of my classes this semester is for maintaining a weblog. For half the class (most of whom are students who've been on the net for forever), this assignment is pretty straightforward.
And then there are classmates like Greg, who come into this primarily with a print designers' background (the school I'm at also offers an MA in Publications Design; this class satisfies a business elective for them).
I got a chuckle just now reading Greg's take on weblogging:
I really couldn't care if google purchased blogger. I'm trying to get my kids through school.
Okay, it may be more funny if you've met Greg. But it's probably also worthwhile to get those occasional reminders that not everyone is madly in love with all of this.
February 17, 2003
Thanks...I needed that!
What if, for the past year or so, terrorists, working in U.S. factories, have been putting lethal biochemical agents on... duct tape?
February 16, 2003
And pardon me while I stray a bit off-topic, but it's nice to hear that Tom Ridge is considering lowering the alert status. I'm sure that in reality we won't be more or less at risk, but after 9/11, the snipers, and recently a media-induced run on duct tape, nerves in DC are showing just a bit of strain.
But for today, things are quiet and peaceful. Let it snow!
A postscript: qu'elle surprise...Mike Lee (whose visual weblogs continue to inspire me) has blogged the snow scene in Baltimore. (I would have sent you to the individual entry page, but if you haven't heard the news, you should scroll down to read the news about Google acquiring Pyra! Wow.)
February 14, 2003
Hergee berger snooger bork
February 4, 2003
A cool link from LucDesk: see something called Imagination at Work, think Tetris :). My mouse dexterity stinks (ah heck, it wouldn't matter if I had a tablet, I'm no artist either). But I spent a chunk of time playing with this. There's something strangely compelling about the preview (which retraces all your actions). And it's even more interesting that they are saving the traces to replay them for your recipients. Seems like great fodder for a contest!
January 22, 2003
All things in moderation?
Phew! Things seem back to normal on the sigia email list after a brief moment of chaos. What to do when tensions ride high in an unmoderated list? One side frowns on any type of censorship, while the other side frowns on giving free rein to (real or perceived) disruptive discussions.
Here are a couple of things that I go back and forth about. Sure, "censorship" is easy to bash. But it's easier to talk about censorship being a "bad" thing when it isn't you being harassed by a disruptive element. The other is that, all things considered, there seems to be some value in having someone, anyone, help "vet" an email or post as being worth the trouble to read. This seems to be the sentiment of an article that recently made the rounds of a few weblogs on desire and customers. Here's an interesting conclusion from the article:
I'll admit, a lot of people don't like the sound of [submitting to a higher authority]. But this trend is fueled by our greatest passion: a passion for genuine tranquility, for real peace of mind. In the model of a marketplace dominated by metabrands, consumers yearn for fewer choices, not more choices, and they will yield to a trusted advocate who will clear a path through the chaos for them. Maybe that's unimaginable. It is also inevitable.
In other words, what does the audience need or want? Some may really be into the give and take, the high traffic, the "vibrancy." Others may well be content with a bit less drama, a bit more signal-to-noise, and...a bit more peace of mind!
January 14, 2003
Alright, the web tells me that "mishegas" is Yiddish for craziness. Not sure this entry applies, but as a former WBCN listener, I just like the word and figured it'd make a good title. So sue me if this isn't really "crazy." Shall we say it's just a bit more freeform than these entries have been in the recent past? Let's begin!
First of all, one of these days I am really going to have to do some kind of commentary about the weblog. One thing that struck me recently is how compelling a personal weblog is when it is dotted with even low-res photos (see Mike Lee's personal blog on Hiptop Nation as a terrific example). Mike does his normal design/IA blog at curiousLee. This blogging thing can be scary...my co-worker Amy (who is Mike's wife) is getting used to hearing about her personal life from her friends, family, and co-workers who are checking in on Mike :).
Anyways, I'm so glad I've been keeping up with Mike on Hiptop, as he posted a link to this fabulous story about a guy with a waterlogged camera that is now taking magic pictures. If you are a visual type, this is worth checking out.
Other things that have been compelling: a link from the folks at xblog that has led to a couple of interesting tidbits. First there's a neat idea for using a scanner to do illustrations. There's also a great page on using type as design. If you like these, you may want to check out their other tips as well.
This final entry compels me to ask...are IAs to PCs as IDs are to Macs? Anyways, Thomas suggests that the new 17" Powerbook has a heavy-duty lust factor. That was true in my office until I whipped out a piece of tabloid-sized paper, and the reaction was "gee, that wouldn't fit in my backpack." I think this plus-sized laptop may be nice for designers who need to do lots of on-the-road presentations. But it seems a tad large to be really "portable."
December 23, 2002
Pearls and literacy
The following made an appearance in my inbox as a result of one of my many list subscriptions. It's titled "A Holiday Greeting - The Pearls of Adult Literacy Education." Here's just a tiny highlight from the full version:
When you send your Holiday Greeting cards, do you use cards with your name printed on them, or do you sign them personally? It is easy to skip this personal touch, and so much more efficient to just have the cards printed. But when we do this, we run the risk of forgetting the deep meaning that being able to sign one’s name has had in the history of adult literacy and the struggle for civil rights. Like a chain of pearls, a major part of this history of adult illiterates and their passion for learning to write their names can be traced by following the teaching methods of three great women leaders of adult literacy education in the United States.
I don't get printed holiday cards, nor am I sure that the use of printed cards is the biggest issue around forgetting the importance of literacy. What really irks me is that I was just reading a great weblog entry on the subject of literacy and how the ability to move from an oral society to a written one was a paradigm shift equivalent to making use of fire. Do you think I could find this either via Google or Daypop? Noooooo. What a bummer. I remember the author mentioned Walter Ong, who wrote "Orality and Literacy" and he/she talked about a documentary where an indigenous people were shown the "magic" of the written word via a pseudo-game of telephone.
In any case, this just reminds me that there are two things I'm interested in regarding information design. The first is access and the second is access. I tend to focus on the readability/legibility/usability version of access, but every once in a while the literacy/digital divide/disease of familiarity version demands some attention.
December 18, 2002
Computers and common sense
Courtesy of my day job, I got a chance to talk with Walter Bender today. He's the executive director of the MIT Media Lab, and one of the projects he talked to us about was something called OpenMind, which is:
an attempt to make computers smarter by making it easy and fun for people all over the world to work together to give computers the millions of pieces of ordinary knowledge that constitute "common-sense", all those aspects of the world that we all understand so well we take them for granted.
All I want to know is how did it know how to ask such a relevant question when I gave it so little information :). My first teaching opportunity:
Hammers and nails
Lucian Millis (of LucDesk fame) is thousands of miles way across the pond. But he seems to hold a similar interest for Abraham Maslow's "if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" and blogs this brief bio of Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. If you're a psychology fan, don't miss That's My Theory where you can pick Sigmund Freud out of a "What's My Line" lineup with Maslow and B. F. Skinner.
I'm not quite sure whether it is Maslow's quote or "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" that describes my life more accurately these days!
December 16, 2002
The sub-titles for this entry are "Why Auntie Beth isn't getting Chris and Lexi a sled for Christmas" and "Why you shouldn't shop online at Amazon.com if you were at the office happy hour too long." I know that you have to pay a premium for shopping late for Christmas, but this is a bit much:
Emphasis mine! You'd think if the shipping was three times as much as the product, maybe Amazon could alert you? Yikes!
BTW, it's not like I have any major grudge against Amazon. I just spent $50 in their apparel store (the nieces are getting nice Lands End mittens and I'm getting a gift or two too) in order to get the $30 to spend later on the site (which is a much better way to promo their new apparel offering than saying that people who bought some book like clean underwear from some store) . But I just couldn't pass up the chance to blog a $50 shipping charge for a plastic toboggan!
December 14, 2002
I'm guessing that the architect list that Ken refers to is not the SIGIA list. I'd think we'd see a better librarian showing!
November 12, 2002
What is Amazon thinking?!? Here's part of a screen I grabbed tonight:
This is perhaps not misleading in the sense that the pick your favorite color ad that Yahoo's been running lately, but still. Maybe it's swell that Amazon is selling clothes, but using their relatively well-trusted "customers who bought this bought that" functionality to get the word out is, IMO, more than a little sleazy.
But maybe this is supposed to be funny ha-ha funny? I notice that when Challis Hodge visited the link for this same book, he found Amazon suggesting Clean Underwear from Amazon's Eddie Bauer Store. By the time I'd clicked on the link (a day later), the same shoppers for this book were now looking for "Clean Underwear" from the Gap. And the appearance of the suggested apparel is obviously fleeting, as I found when I tried to visit other books whose shoppers had convenient clothing tastes for Amazon's marketing practices. All gone now!
Finally, I'm not sure when it happened, but Amazon is now pushing (even in the legit categories) that "customers who shopped for this also shopped for this" rather than the old "customers who bought this also bought this." I suppose that the former gives shoppers more options, but it's not quite as much of an endorsement that someone scanned a page compared to plunking down their cash.
September 20, 2002
Six degrees of weblogs
Ah, it's a Friday evening, so my apologies in advance for a bit of a digression. I hadn't been to Doc Searls in a while, so I was scrolling and came across an entry pointing to RageBoy (who has the most fabulous tagline, "where we write at night when we should be sleeping. and it shows."), who pointed to something called BlogTree.
BlogTree is sorta the web equivalent of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Visitors can register their weblogs and say who inspired them. This creates weblog parents, siblings (blogs with shared parents), and children. Just for fun, I went ahead and registered IDblog. Dave Winer's Scripting News has 180 children, so it may be the grandaddy of all weblogs!
IDblog is Beth Mazur tilting at power law windmills. A little bit Internet, a little bit technology, a little bit society, and a lot about designing useful information products. Send your cards and letters to email@example.com.
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