Winograd on The Future

September 29th, 2002

gramophoneHuman Computer Interaction audio:
winograd_future.mp3 – 25 minutes, 7 Mb. Synthesized speech for your MP3 player.
Original text here.

In this thoughtful essay, “From Computing Machinery to Interaction Design,” published in Beyond Calculation: The Next Fifty Years of Computing (1997), Stanford Human-Computer Interaction professor Terry Winograd considers how computers and interfaces might evolve over the next 50 years.

Summary: Winograd foresees three key trends in this evolution:
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Putting the ‘Ill’ in ‘Overkill’

September 24th, 2002

Noting all the recent, deadly-serious cheesebikini entries, some casual observers might imagine that I’ve grown up. They should stop making unreasonable assumptions.

Consider Exhibit A, highlights of a sophisticated e-mail debate that I undertook last week with my friend Dave Danzig:

      S: you put the ‘cyst’ in sister

      D: I put the cyst in YOUR sister.

      S: you put the penis in penicillin

      D: You put the vag in vagrant.
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How to Fix an Election

September 16th, 2002

Let's fix it!Spoken-word audio version:
how2fix.mp3 – 4 minutes, 1.2 Mb.
Synthesized speech for your MP3 player.

Text version:
About once a month I join my fellow native Floridians in a massive group cringe as the latest piece of staggeringly shameful Sunshine State news rockets its way around the planet.

The latest election embarrassment hit me harder than most Florida fiascoes because Human Computer Interaction professionals and journalists were to blame, and I’m an HCI geek and an ex-reporter.

We didn’t learn a thing when Florida made itself the butt of barroom jokes from Stockholm to Singapore by ruining the 2000 presidential election. We made the same mistakes last week.

Let’s reflect on this for a moment, before we botch another election.
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A Just War — or just Business?

September 13th, 2002

War propaganda reveals so much about the regime that produces it.

(left) World War II United States Goverment Printing Office Poster by Illustrator Harold Von Schmidt, 1944.

(right) One of 15,000 posters distributed by the office of San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, October 2001.

Images courtesy of Adbusters.

Soon after the “Open for Business” posters infested San Francisco, a local artist drafted a poignant rebuttal — an altered version of the poster appeared with missile silhouettes emerging from the top of the bag. The title read: “America: Dying for Business.” (Now I can’t find a copy; isn’t that a surprise? If you have a photo of this revamped poster, please send it in and I’ll post it.)

Life’ll Kill Ya

September 13th, 2002

Zevon “I was gambling in Havana;
I took a little risk.
Send lawyers, guns and money;
Dad, get me out of this.”

– Warren Zevon, “Lawyers, Guns and Money”

Too late for that. Zevon’s dying of lung cancer.

He avoided the corporate music cheese machine and his sardonic tunes remain unique and true. His zealous fan base includes Bob Dylan, Carl Hiaasen, David Letterman, poet Paul Muldoon, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, the Eagles, R.E.M, Fleetwood Mac and Hunter S. Thompson. If you’ve never heard of Zevon, see this excellent L.A. Times article.

So long Warren. Thanks for the music.

Pithy Party

September 11th, 2002

A Nation Whines

Harmony on Ice

September 7th, 2002

This job drought is driving tech people to the ends of the Earth.

My friend Harmony applied for a four- to six-month gig with Raytheon in Antarctica. Nice work if you can get it, and if you can avoid pulling a Jack Nicholson after a few months locked up with a bunch of eccentric chemists, blasters and postal clerks. Imagine the bizarre parties down there.

There are not many businesses to patronize in the permafrost, so McMurdo workers probably accumulate a decent stack of cash. After your tour of duty, you’re free of the usual barriers to travel (that car and apartment in San Francisco, for example). And you’re that much closer to primo destinations like Patagonia and New Zealand. Now, if only they’d hire interface designers…

UPDATE 1/8/04: We no longer have to imagine bizarre Antarctica parties; we can look at them. I give you Halloween at McMurdo, thanks to Sandwichgirl.

The Limerick

September 5th, 2002

The limerick is furtive and mean;
You must keep her in close quarantine,
Or she sneaks to the slums
And promptly becomes
Disorderly, drunk and obscene.

– Morris Bishop