Archive for November, 2021

Hybrid reality

Sunday, November 28th, 2021

When you are already living in a hybrid reality, where every second meeting is held virtually over Zoom, then physical travel takes on a different aspect. You are no longer separated by physical distance in the same way that you used to be.

You can start a face to face conversation from a thousand miles away, continue that face to face conversation later in the evening from two hundred miles away, and conclude the very next day in the same room as each other — literally face to face.

It is not that we couldn’t do these things before, it is that we didn’t do it so often that it felt like a single continuous conversation. And now it does.

Sondheim

Saturday, November 27th, 2021

It’s hard to believe he is gone. I last saw him a few years back in a lecture series. The depth of his humanity, grace and wry humor was palpable. His presence filled the lecture hall.

When I was just a teenager I was in a production of Forum. I look back on it as one of the highlights of my life. Another life highlight, somewhat later, was attending the astonishing production of Sweeney Todd with Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou. It’s amazing to realize that the same person wrote the lyrics and music for both of those shows.

So many Sondheim moments to remember in my life. And so much of the reason musicals are now taken seriously rests on the shoulders of this one man.

We need to keep learning from his words and we need to keep singing his songs. Children will listen.

Franksgiving

Friday, November 26th, 2021

Today I learned all about the Franksgiving controversy. From this we can immediately infer two things: (1) I am a student of American history, and (2) I clearly have too much time on my hands.

In any case, I encourage you two learn more about it. For one thing, it’s a fascinating episode in our nation’s history. For another, it is a good litmus test for whether you have too much time on your hands. 😉

Mixed emotions

Thursday, November 25th, 2021

I have mixed emotions about Thanksgiving. On the one hand, it’s a rare occasion for millions of Americans to simply enjoy being with their families.

The very idea of such a celebration cuts across all sorts of lines of political difference. And these days in particular, that is a very welcome respite.

On the other hand, on this day — of all days — it becomes impossible for me not to think about the people who lived here before anybody showed up from Europe, and how badly they have been treated (to put it mildly). Our history in that regard is an astonishing tale of betrayal and outright cruelty.

Maybe it’s good that I can’t get that out of my mind. The truth is a powerful disinfectant.

Working demo

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

I noticed that if I go up to just about anyone with a new idea, the response I get is usually “that’s a bad idea.” Either they say it can’t be done, or they say that it’s a waste of time, or some combination of the two.

But if I make a working demo, then everybody gets excited and becomes supportive. It’s the same idea. Only the presentation has changed.

People respond to working demos on a gut level, in a way that goes beyond rational assessment. So my advice, such as it is, is this: Don’t tell people your idea. Show them your working demo.

Strategic thinking

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021

Some years back I saw an ad that caught my eye in the personals section of a local newspaper. I can’t tell if it was more clever than funny, or vice versa.

But I do know that it was original, and maybe an interesting example of strategic thinking. The ad, in its entirety, read: “All of my former girlfriends are now happily married.”

Long term goal

Monday, November 22nd, 2021

I was at the gym today working out. At one point I got into a conversation with the trainer about how to measure your progress.

There are many ways to measure fitness. It really depends a lot on what your goals are.

I was searching for a simple way to talk about it. And then I had an inspiration.

I pointed first to my belly, and then to the barbell. “I think the long term goal,” I said, “is to take weight off of here, and put it on there.”

Reenactment

Sunday, November 21st, 2021

One thing I would really like to see, is a dramatic reenactment of the Rittenhouse affair, faithful in every way but with one change. A 17-year-old grabs his unlawfully obtained AK-47, travels to another state to help defend the empty parking lot of s car dealership from participants in a protest event.

Some protesters chase the gun toting kid, who then fires his assault rifle, killing three of them. A jury acquits him of all charges.

The only thing that I would change is that I would make Rittenhouse black. I wonder what people would think.

Four birthdays

Saturday, November 20th, 2021

Today I note four famous November 20 birthdays:

  • Benoit Mandelbrot (1924)
  • Robert Kennedy (1925)
  • Joe Biden (1942)
  • Microsoft Windows 1.0 (1985)

Of these four blessed events, which one do you think will be considered the most notable in another hundred years?

A good interface principle

Friday, November 19th, 2021

Just recently I noticed a really cool feature on the alarm clock on my Google Pixel Phone. It might have been there all the time, but I hadn’t noticed it before.

When I am setting the minute part of the timer, if I simply tap, it jumps to the nearest 5 minute mark. But if I hold and drag, then I can set it to the nearest minute.

Once I noticed this, I realized how clever it was. If you are in a rush, you can get an approximate time. But if it really matters to you to set the time to the exact minute, you put in the extra work and attention to do that.

Meanwhile, if you never notice this feature at all, nothing can go terribly wrong. It’s such a wonderful paradigm for how our devices should be Hey I was just about to wake you. Do you want to bite? It’s a little bit more us.

Interfaces shouldn’t be drawing all of our time and attention. They should be taking just enough of our attention to get the job done, but no more.

Building in that kind of flexibility of precision versus cognitive load seems to me to be an excellent design principle, which could easily be applied to many other situations.