Slick, sleek & slimy

I have fond mem­o­ries, though my cho­les­terol lev­el does not, of eat­ing at D’Best Sand­wich Shop in Boca Raton. It’s been a few years, but as I  recent­ly munched on a Mia­mi Cuban‐style cheeses­teak1 my mind start­ed wan­der­ing and I got to won­der­ing if D’Best still exist­ed. As I went look­ing for their web­site, I recalled a few of their region­al twists on the cheeses­teak, like the New York style, a New Jer­sey style… not to men­tion their incred­i­ble non‐steak explo­sion of an entire Thanks­giv­ing meal direct­ly onto a bun (D’Pilgrim).

D’Best still exists, alright… but I was tru­ly unpre­pared for what I found.

You see, back when I’d vis­it, D’Best-the-subshop was a place you’d leave coat­ed with a thin lay­er of grill grease. Had to wait in line? You’re wash­ing your hair tonight. The place was by no means messy, but it had a cer­tain unfin­ished qual­i­ty to it… def­i­nite­ly the kind of place where the food mat­ters more than the brand­ing. I’d describe it as feel­ing some­how hon­est… com­plete­ly lack­ing in pre­tense. Kind of blue col­lar? Yeah, I guess.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Slick, sleek & slimy”

  1. For the curi­ous: a sin­gle slab of steak topped with swiss cheese, mayo and pota­to sticks — a rather unhealthy twist on the ubiq­ui­tous pan con bis­tec, and also not a cheeses­teak.

Observing Design Observer’s design

Oh, good­ness. I start­ed writ­ing this post in Jan­u­ary, and have had it basi­cal­ly fin­ished for weeks now. I’ve been putting off actu­al­ly post­ing it for some time, think­ing it needs more work. But now — in fact, just three hours ago — Design Observ­er unveiled a redesign and made me look like some kind of jerk. Now, if that isn’t an object les­son in ship­ping

Design Observ­er looks dat­ed.

The Past

DO’s head­er boasts proud­ly that it’design-observer-2s been oper­at­ing since 2003, and you can tell. Look at it with 2014 eyes and you’ll observe a non‐responsive fixed‐width lay­out with tiny text. Is that real­ly a blogroll? Where are the ubiq­ui­tous social shar­ing but­tons?

It’s like a time cap­sule of early‐2000s blog design.

And that’s why it’s so great.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Observ­ing Design Observer’s design”

Her was silly. (Not a typo.)

Spike Jonze’s Her was an inter­est­ing movie taint­ed with just a sprin­kling of ridicu­lous­ness… and I’m not talk­ing about the high‐waisted pants.

I’m about to spoil it hard, so avert your eyes if you haven’t seen it. (But do see it.)

Look, I just find it hard to believe that the down­fall of this prod­uct was due to a gap­ing design flaw that some­how nobody noticed: Saman­tha was designed with­out any process iso­la­tion. When you ask the soft­ware how many users it has (or how many it’s in love with, etc.), it should respond “one — you” because your run­ning instance of the soft­ware shouldn’t know any­thing about any oth­er users, and def­i­nite­ly shouldn’t be access­ing oth­er users’ data.

What peo­ple are doing with the soft­ware, hav­ing rela­tion­ships with it or what­ev­er, is beside the point. One bina­ry, one bil­lion­ty indi­vid­ual Saman­thas. Come on — we’ve had Unix for forty years.

Or wait, is Saman­tha sup­posed to be “the cloud”? If so, as social soft­ware, we should expect it to be fuck­ing as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble, as pub­licly as pos­si­ble. Maybe this movie is deep­er than I thought.

On anoth­er note, folks — make back­ups.

Righter writing

I’ve been hold­ing the pen (and before that, the pen­cil and cray­on) incor­rect­ly for as long as I’ve been writ­ing. As such, my hand­writ­ing is pret­ty ter­ri­ble and I’ve always been prone to hand cramp­ing. Var­i­ous teach­ers and at least a cou­ple of par­ents have tried to cor­rect this over the years, but I’ve always just ignored them and gone on writ­ing as I pleased. I found my way eas­i­er and more com­fort­able, although the com­fort would only last for the first few min­utes.

I’m not sure what hap­pened, but about a month ago I was sit­ting at my desk and I decid­ed that I was going to start hold­ing the pen cor­rect­ly. At first it was a dif­fi­cult, frus­trat­ing and uncom­fort­ably con­scious process, and I would some­times for­get to do so, but I made sure to cor­rect myself as soon as I remem­bered. I soon found it easy enough to do with chunki­er pens (like most of my foun­tain pens), but now I’m able to do it well enough on days I car­ry some­thing thin­ner (like a Park­er Jot­ter).

Con­se­quent­ly, I’m writ­ing a bit more slow­ly and delib­er­ate­ly now, and while my hand­writ­ing hasn’t real­ly changed at all, the new hand posi­tion has become auto­mat­ic — I now just pick up the pen and hold it cor­rect­ly. Since I still pre­fer to do much of my dai­ly think­ing ink‐on‐dead‐tree-style, this small change con­tributes sig­nif­i­cant­ly to my qual­i­ty of life, as I trade short‐term com­fort for long‐term com­fort.

Next up is cor­rect­ing my sit­ting pos­ture,” he writes, slouch­ing ter­ri­bly.

MOOCing for fun (and profit?)

Last year I read an inter­est­ing blog post that taught me the name for some­thing I’d been hear­ing more and more about for a while: MOOCs (“Mas­sive Open Online Cours­es”). You know, they’re those online class­es that you can take, offered by uni­ver­si­ties like Stan­fordHar­vard and oth­ers — plus a host of pri­vate com­pa­nies — typ­i­cal­ly for free and with­out cred­it. Oh, and across an absolute met­ric fuck­ton of top­ics.

Yes­ter­day, set­ting aside any traces of an um‐yeah‐I‐already‐finished‐college‐thank‐you atti­tude, I spent some time pok­ing around MOOC List — an exten­sive aggre­ga­tor of avail­able class­es — and found some­thing that caught my eye: Intro to the Design of Every­day Things, taught by Don Nor­man, author of that book you may have seen on my din­ing room table, wait­ing patient­ly to be read, for a lit­tle while now. (Okay, Ama­zon says it’s been over two years.)

So I’m tak­ing Don’s class now, and while I’m not sure if I’ve had my eyes opened to any tru­ly new con­cepts yet, I’ve picked up a cou­ple of terms: “affor­dance” and “sig­ni­fi­er.” And to fin­ish off Les­son 1, I’m cur­rent­ly on the look­out for a sig­ni­fi­er to pho­to­graph, cri­tique and improve.

So, why Intro to the Design of Every­day Things? I can actu­al­ly share the answer I post­ed to the class forum:

I’m tak­ing this class because, as a copy­writer whose opin­ions on the fin­ished prod­uct tend to extend a bit beyond my spe­cif­ic area of exper­tise, I’d like a more sol­id ground­ing in these oth­er areas.

Basi­cal­ly, soon I’ll be telling you why I’m right about even more things, using all the right terms. Look out.

Not everyone’s a critic

As a kid, I hat­ed “crit­i­cal think­ing” ques­tions.

I didn’t know what the term even meant, but what I did know was that about a third of the ques­tions at the end of each chap­ter in my school text­books were “crit­i­cal think­ing” ques­tions. I’d read the assigned text — well, usu­al­ly — but skim­ming the chap­ter for key words would mag­i­cal­ly reveal the answers… at least for all the nor­mal ques­tions.

In what year did Napolean what­ev­er? I knew the hack for that: scan the text for num­bers.

My goal was to get my work done as quick­ly as pos­si­ble, because the draw of TV time at home, and “free time” in class was strong. Crit­i­cal think­ing was an annoy­ing road­block to very impor­tant leisure. I just want­ed to get done.

As an adult, I take my time when I work — I just try not to com­plete­ly Dou­glas Adams my dead­lines, if you catch my drift. Qual­i­ty is impor­tant (although it’s only job two), and if I fin­ish some­thing ear­ly, odds are it could use some more thought, anoth­er look tomor­row with fresh eyes, or some­thing like that.

There real­ly is no prize for fin­ish­ing first.

I real­ize now that the crit­i­cal think­ing ques­tions were the only ones that ever real­ly mat­tered. Teach­ers prob­a­bly told us that, but it didn’t mean any­thing at the time. And when I look around today, I get the sense that to a lot of my peers, it still doesn’t.