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  Saturday, May 3, 2008


Yes, you are quite right. It's been an age and a half since I made any significant comments on this blog. Frankly, I haven't the energy or interest. It's been 6 years since I started, much has happened, much has changed. And now I just can't write any more. It's time to shut this thing down.

I might pick it up again one day, in another location, but I won't renew the Radio Userland subscription when it comes up in 3 weeks.

As stable as my life might look to an outsider, there's chaos inside and I need to just focus on moving ahead with some urgent changes and prepare for my next life. The emotional stresses and strains are taking their toll, and I must drop something before something explodes.

What's up? There's an impending divorce to manage, while keeping the kids' needs in sharp focus. There's the exasperating and reluctant potential love interest (must. . . let. . . go). There's the turmoil of getting Mom moved into a nursing home and then tending to Dad's needs. There's work, where I'm undermotivated and underutilized. There's SIGCHI, where I'll have to make a decision about running for office again fairly soon. There's ACM Interactions magazine, where pulling together relevant and timely bi-monthly reviews is more stressful than it should be.

The doctors say I'm actually doing pretty well health-wise. The report from the cardiologist is rather positive: physically, my heart's healthy. Emotionally, it's fibrillating. Everyone says I have a "big" heart, but even that generous part of me is underutilized. Something's gotta change, something's gotta give. It's time for adjustments.

The last few weeks I've been playing one CD over and over: Moby Songs  1993-1998.  And the one that keeps going around in my  head  has this chorus:

I don't wanna swim the ocean,
I don't wanna fight the tide,
I don't wanna swim forever,
When it's cold I'd like to die.

I think I finally know why: it's about pushing the river vs. going with the flow. I resolve to stop fighting the tide.

Look for me on Twitter if you've a mind to: wfreds. More likely to post short bursts than anything thoughtful for a while. To those who have read this blog, thanks, I'm done with it now.

Ciao, and arrividerci.

10:25:23 PM    Questions? Comments? Flames? []

  Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Clarke's Three Laws:
1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Arthur C. Clarke, Premier Science Fiction Writer, Dies at 90. Mr. Clarke was a writer whose seamless blend of scientific expertise and poetic imagination helped usher in the space age. [NYT > Books]

8:17:11 PM    Questions? Comments? Flames? []

  Sunday, March 9, 2008


"I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it."
Recently a friend told me "you're very lucky." I had to ask what she meant, and she listed off a number of positive things in my life that, from my perspective, have nothing to do with luck: I worked for them, and made conscious decisions to do so. I don't believe in luck--it carries too much connotation of fate or destiny. And too often it's used as a synonym for chance, which is how I choose to interpret Nassim Nicolas Taleb's use of the word in his The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.

7:19:05 PM    Questions? Comments? Flames? []

Two recent posts on embedded assistance, my new specialty; one from Heidi Hansen, even though she doesn't mention EA specifically:

I came across this "you won't need them" verbiage this morning on an FAQ page and had to share it. The founders of this Web app, Tick, seem to think that it's so easy to use that you won't need even one Help topic as you use it. . . I applaud an app that has such great usability that a lengthy user guide is not necessary. . .  Heidi Hansen [Heidi Hansen's blog]

Then from IBM colleague Mike Hughes, much more directly:

Embedded Assistance
I'm working these days on some very exciting projects involving embedded assistance. Embedded assistance (EA) is user assistance that is incorporated directly into the user interface, specifically, assistance that does not require the user to go into a Help file or document.

Keep an eye out for Mike's next series of postings, he has some great perspective on the whole embedded assistance area. Mike's kind enough to mention my work on the subject, but of course I learned from others, including past STC President Andrea Ames, who's been preaching "think more, write less" for years now.

My goal for this year: get everything that a user needs to know right there in the UI, and never write another help topic again.



5:06:54 PM    Questions? Comments? Flames? []

  Friday, March 7, 2008


Hoo boy, this has to be the most dead-on quotation I've read in a long time:

"The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it's the same problem you had last year." - John Foster Dulles
I'm taking that one to work on Monday, and putting it into my annual goals statement. If I'm still fixing the same problem next year, something's very wrong.

8:52:19 PM    Questions? Comments? Flames? []

Daylight Saving Time wastes energy. Billions of dollars, just in Indiana. The stupid, misguided idea that moving the beginning and end dates would save energy was wrong. Stupid. Wrong. Someone sold the idiots in Congress a bill of goods, and we're paying for it. And just when it's getting comfortably light in the morning at the time when I'm normally heading off to work, they're taking away an hour of precious light at the beginning of the day--starting this Sunday--and giving it to the barbeque lobby. Yes, way back the last time Congress mucked with DST in the mid-'80s it was due to heavy lobbying from the barbeque industry, who figured folks would buy more Webers and charcoal with more hours of light at the end of the. What our brilliant legislators don't get is that there are only so many hours in the day, and only so many hours of daylight, and screwing with our clocks doesn't buy us one second more daylight. Dipsticks.

8:44:22 PM    Questions? Comments? Flames? []

  Sunday, March 2, 2008


No one could write about science, and especially about evolution, like Stephen Jay Gould. In these two sentences, Gould defines what a scientific fact (or theory) is, and demolishes the idea of teaching "intelligent design" as science:

"In science, 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.' I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms."Stephen Jay Gould.   [Quotes of the Day]

Only two sentences. I wish I could write like that.

7:01:36 PM    Questions? Comments? Flames? []

  Friday, February 29, 2008


"The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can't help it."
Well, that explains it.

7:05:52 AM    Questions? Comments? Flames? []

Two blog posts in one day that address Terry Winograd's review of the new design + business program at NWU, one from Don Norman, another from O'Reilly:

Terry Winograd of Stanford's computer science department and d.school wrote a very nice description of our new Design + Operations MMM program at the Kellogg School of Business and Northwestern Engineering. That article is available in Interactions, the magazine for Human Computer Interaction professionals. . . [jnd.org]

And:

Teaching design to businesspeople. . . .Andy Oram, in an internal O'Reilly list, pointed us to a fascinating article by Terry (Bringing Design to Software) Winograd of Stanford in the recent Interactions called "Design education for business and engineering management students: a new approach." Winograd reports on the insights that have come to Donald Norman as he has sought new ways to infect nondesigners with design smarts. The author of The Design of Everyday Things and Emotional Design has developed a "design track" in the Master of Manufacturing and Management program at Northwestern. . . [O'Reilly Radar - Insight, analysis, and research about emerging technologies]

I mention these posts here not only because the concept is interesting, but because I can take some responsibility for the article: as "(P)Reviews" editor for ACM Interactions, I asked Terry Winograd to write the review of the NWU program. A big thank-you to Terry, Don, and O'Reilly for the great work and recognition.


6:51:19 AM    Questions? Comments? Flames? []

  Friday, February 22, 2008


"Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it."

5:32:28 PM    Questions? Comments? Flames? []


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