Wednesday, May 3, 2017

May the Fourth Be With You

...and also with you.*

This post is a part of Blog March 2017, a movement for Raising Voices for Freedom of Expression, Knowledge, and Information. We will be broadcasting voices throughout the month of May. Previous blog marcher was Domino Valdano at on May 3, next blog marcher will be Mary McGinley on May 5.

I am unapologetically a nerd. And a Geek God (according to the Geek Test). I have been so for my entire life, even if those particular terms weren't used for girls until I entered high school. Today is May 4th, which has been co-opted by pun-loving geeks and nerds and then elevated first by Lucasfilm's and later by Disney's marketing departments as Star Wars Day. Because puns.

So for Star Wars Day, I hereby post my obligatory photo of my hands-down favorite character from the franchise:

General Leia Organa. Although when I think about Carrie Fisher, I feel more like this:

I loved her when I was 20 in May of 1977 when I first saw the film that was to be retitled "A New Hope". I love her today and I feel her absence the most of all of the famous people who died last year.

It's difficult to separate the woman from the role she played; she admitted this herself in her writings and performances. But what is important for me to write about here and now is that she advocated for a woman's right to grow old. She did it through humor and out of necessity. Really, who among us can continue to look and feel like they did at 20 for the next 40 or 50 years?

I'm staring 60 in the face. It will have consumed me before the year is out. There were older friends who warned me about this milestone birthday. They poo-pooed my trepidation of 40. Of 50. "Wait until you're 60...Then you'll know," they said, ominously. Like they knew something I didn't. I still am not sure about it, but I can guess. I mean, I was alive through the last election cycle.

I don't know what's the huge deal with this "milestone" birthday. Maybe it's because you know for sure that the bulk of your days are behind you and you can see how many of them you squandered. Maybe it's because you realize you'll never ever be an astronaut or a swimsuit model now, and the chances of being a rock star at this point are pretty slim.

Getting old is scary. But it beats the alternative. Still.

*No, I have never been Catholic, but I have many friends and family members who are practicing or lapsed Catholics and apparently the "and also with you" response is programmed into them at an early age.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Harlequin and Other Fantasies

I decided to finally produce the coloring book I've been talking about and posting in-progress photos here for the past few months. I decided to crowd fund the production costs through Indiegogo.

This isn't going to be some cheap production on pulp paper; I plan to have the book printed on heavy-duty paper that won't bleed if you use markers or watercolor pencils, and it's going to be wire-o or spiral bound, so it will lay completely flat when you are working on a page.

I really need your help to make this happen.

What you can do to help:
  1. Fund the campaign with a donation, and get a thank you gift, such at the book itself (in print and/or eBook format).
  2. Share the project with your social media (let's make this thing go viral)
  3. Share the project with everyone you know (online and in "meat space")
I've timed this so that I should have books to ship out by the end of October; just in time for your Winter Holiday shopping (these make fantastic gifts!)

Monday, June 20, 2016

I Know It's Just a Show, BUT...

This week's episode of HBO's Silicon Valley was painfully aggravating. The episode, "Daily Active Users" encapsulated the problem of lots of people signing up for an app, but a very low number of people actually using the app after installing it. In the episode, they paid for focus group testing and discovered that the average person who would use the app didn't understand what it was supposed to do - one person complained that the "download button was missing".

The Pied Piper platform is supposed to be a revolutionary data compression system. The CEO complained they were too far ahead of their time for people to "get" the app.

The real problem is that their little start-up didn't have a UX person on the team. And it was one of those times where I found myself yelling at the TV, because Richard (the CEO) is seriously considering shutting his company down instead of hiring an interface designer (which he should have done in Season 2 of the series) to make the front end something that the non-technical people who are their user base can figure out how to use without hours of lectures about quantum computing and neural networks.

If this technology were so advanced, it can still live behind an interface that looks familiar to people, even if it's got actions that aren't necessary for how the back-end works, but makes the users feel more comfortable and familiar with what's going on.

It's not necessary for an average user to understand the algorithm behind the scenes. It's necessary for them to figure out how to use the thing in front of them. The rest can be "magic" unless they're interested in finding out how it works and then diving into the research.

Yeah, I find it really frustrating when TV characters are presented to us as the huge genius intellects and yet they miss some of the most obvious and basic solutions staring them right in the face. Maybe it wouldn't have been so funny or it would be less dramatic. It would have been nice to see someone suggest bringing in a designer - there is actually a lot of humor potential in the designer-developer dynamic; and it would have resulted in a robust product that could be successful in the context of the show.

Maybe they'll bring one in for the next season, and the designer can berate them for not including one at the inception of the company. With hilarious results.

Yes, it's only a show. But this is also a "teachable moment".

Bring in a designer when you are starting project development. It will help increase your "Daily Active User" numbers.

Monday, June 13, 2016

A scrap of writing

This week, I'm reorganizing my files. I found this scrap of writing, probably from over 25 years ago:

He sits across the room, staring at me. If he smiles, I will be happy for the rest of the day. All he needs to do is smile and I will fantasize about the family we will raise and the dates he will take me out on. He's never spoken to me since the fourth grade, but the torch was burning hot, even then.
When your heart's on your sleeve it's dangerous; it's a target to the cruel and vicious girls with deadly aimed words and trick. I don't remember why I cried every day anymore, only that I did it. Barry, never in your wildest dreams will you ever come close to what it would have been like. Even though I'm light years from Annandale and tornadoes,  I haven't laid you to rest. There will always be some fucking spark. I gave you a piece of me you you didn't even want it. But you took it anyway.
I don't know if I will ever attempt to write or be a writer, but it's nice to see a hint of talent buried in me. And for the record, I've reclaimed all these pieces of myself that I gave away wantonly with no forethought to all those boys and men who didn't deserve it.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Another Coloring Page (WIP)

I was working on this coloring page yesterday. I found it much easier to pencil in the stripes and trace around them (and then erase them for the final version) than to try to remember what line goes with what stripe.

this photo is after I finished inking the baby zebra, and before I erased the pencil lines. A border for this is in progress.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

My Very First Logo

Well, it's probably not my very first logo; I probably designed some others when I was in High School and before that (mostly for hand-crafted "magazines" and comics that my friend and I "published" - as in "made one copy on notebook paper"), but I didn't come across any of those sorting through a huge pile of business cards this afternoon.

This is a mockup of a label for a pretend beer product that was developed as the class project in a class on Advertising in the Wharton School of Business. I took this class to fulfill one of my elective requirements for my Electrical Engineering degree. So this makes it sometime in 1979 or 1980 or thereabouts.

The class was set up as an Advertising Agency and I was the head of the Creative Department. We also storyboarded a 1-minute commercial. I remember being part of the presentation to representatives from Annhauser-Bush. It wasn't anything like Mad Men.

Friday, April 8, 2016

I drew a thing

I'm feeling better and better about my pencil abilites. Now, I need to add color to my toolbox.