#utopia

I just got vaccinated and, boy, are my arms tired.

I’m wrapping up a meeting on Wednesday morning when my phone buzzed. A text message flash across the screen. A reminder that my appointment to get the second COVID-19 vaccination shot was two hours away. Mild panic set in as Her Holiness of the O.C.D. told me we would be inoculated on Saturday. I know this because we were planning to deal with the “common” side effect of feeling flu-like symptoms all day Sunday. We purposefully bought comfort foods to help make our flu-day pass a little easier.

One hour and forty minutes to go, I telephoned H.H.O.. “Come with me if you want to live,” I did not say to her, but in hindsight, that would have been a great time to use that line. Instead, I relayed the information I had in front of me. “Hold please,” said the voice on the other line, but more like “Huh? That’s wrong.” Several precious seconds passed as information was correlated, verified, and processed. “Ok,” she said, “We gotta go.”

Like several people we know, the facility where we arranged to get our first dose is in another town, on the opposite side of the Seattle metropolitan area from where we live. It is a journey that would take one and a half hours if speed limits are observed and if there are no incidents that might cause further traffic delays. Fortunately, I don’t follow speed limits in the state of Washington as they are off by at least 10 to 20 M.P.H. by California and Texas standards (seriously, who came up with 60 M.P.H. for an interstate? If I drive the same interstate—The Five—in Southern California, it’s damn near like the Autobahn, but in Washington, the whole road is nothing but a speed trap. It’s super lame.

By the time I picked her up, we had one hour to go. I rigged the car for “performance” mode and punched the gas. As we merged from the on-ramp, I somehow managed to get boxed in Clark Griswald Style between three very large semi-trucks. Though they moved around, it wasn’t enough to get past anything. A steady stream of traffic whizzed by effectively blocking any chance to escape. 55MPH for five miles, it was almost enough to send me off the rails. Finally free of pack I increased the speed and took off. We made it in fifty minutes (point-to-point) and had to wait for our appointment time.

The parking lot of Edmonds Community College has been turned into a duo-lane track with checkpoints. Orange cones and people in high-visibility vests everywhere. The first time I saw all of this, I thought of the military checkpoints you see in science fiction films and games—The kind of installation for processing massive amounts of people quickly. I know this particular setup is tiny compared to others I’ve seen in the news, but it still took my breath away. It somehow made the global threat feel even more like a global threat.

The administration of the shot took seconds and was painless. The second shot was the same, but it came with a caution about the very real possibility of experiencing slight fever, aches, cills for twenty-four hours. And that was it. They gave us cards with the serial number for the dose of Moderna that we received and drove to the last checkpoint where you wait in case there is an unwanted reaction to medicine. Fifteen minutes later, we were done. Though everyday life (whatever that means anymore) is still a ways away, a huge weight feels like it has been lifted.

Neither of us got sick, but it does feel like a truck ran into my arm. And we’re both exhausted. I suspect that a good chunk of this weekend will be spent napping. If that’s the only side effect, then we’ll take it. And I know there is a high probability that this won’t be the last shot we’ll have to get to wipe COVID off the map, but at least we’re on our way to defeat this as we have for polio and smallpox.

In two weeks, the vaccine will be in full effect, and we’ll be free again to move about the country. And just in time because I need to see palm trees soon.

#utopia / How QAnon is tearing families apart.

Religion, no matter what the source, will inevitably tear everything apart once an ounce of fanaticism forms. And that’s what QAnon is, a fervent-fanatical belief in false stories that people want to believe are true and live by that information as if it is. What I don’t get is how profoundly stupid these stories are, and yet a good portion of this company can’t subscribe fast enough.

It would appear that common sense is dead.

#utopia / The "winner-loser gap."

After adjusting for demographic differences across countries, they estimated a 7% fall in satisfaction with democracy for a typical loser and a 6% rise for a typical winner (using an employed person of middle age and average education as their baseline)…models reckon that this effect is similar across the continent, regardless of a country’s electoral system. Strikingly, they also found signs of a winner-loser gap in the levels of trust citizens say they have in other respects—in parliament and politicians; the courts and police; and even in other people in general.

Just in case you were thinking our political problems around the planet were simple. I’d love to see a correlation of this data against trust in corporations.

#utopia

The next chapter is unexpectedly here.

Moments ago, I received a dizzying array of incoming messages from Kitchen Storey, my mother-in-law, and an SMS schedule bot. A nearby clinic received an additional shipment of vaccinations that they were making available to everyone. There was a link to schedule an appointment, but mine had already been made for me by my family.

Before all of this, I was in a design review talking about font weights, and now I’m scheduled to get my first shot tomorrow afternoon. My head is spinning.

It’s still sinking in—that tomorrow will be the first day of the rest of my life. At 3pm March 17, I will finally have a fighting chance against the death (or worse) this pandemic has brought to our very doorstep. As I read the appointment information, my eyes filled with water, and tears rolled down my face. Calling my wife didn’t help; it just made it worse. The last year has been scary and stressful, but evidently more than I was willing to admit (Oh, and look what The NY Times published a few hours after I posted. The stress was more than I knew that I needed to admit).

I don’t know that I’ve thought much about what happens after you get vaccinated. That day seemed to be months away. But already, it feels like a huge weight has lifted. It will still be some time before we can safely hang around friends and family with certainty, but the next chapter starts tomorrow.

#utopia / Democracy is in retreat.

For its latest appraisal, the think-tank convened around 165 experts to pore over a questionnaire about political rights and civil liberties in 195 countries and 15 territories. Each country was given a score from 0 to 100 and classified as “free”, “partly free” or “not free”. The results show that the world has suffered its 15th consecutive year of democratic decline. In February an annual survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a sister company of The Economist, reached a similar conclusion.

Even some of the world’s most durable democracies are struggling. America is classified by Freedom House as “free” but is no longer near the top of the class. Since 2016 the country has dropped 6 points. The report argues that the fact that Donald Trump’s calls to overturn November’s presidential election in America went “unchecked by most lawmakers from his own party” undermined basic democratic principles. India, the world’s most populous democracy, was downgraded from “free” to “partly free”. Under Narendra Modi, the prime minister, the country has elevated “narrow Hindu-nationalist interests” at the expense of “equal rights for all”, the report says.

Fifteen years—that’s hard to believe, but I’m not going to spend a minute arguing the data. That timing puts the US near the height of fighting the civil war in Iraq. Surely, that’s not a coincidence and we, the birth nation of democracy, have had a role in its decline. Anyone still celebrating Biden’s victory is fooling themselves into thinking the worst is behind us as more trouble lies ahead.

#utopia / One year of daily co-working.

Jesse shares his story and insights of hosting a daily video “room” during COVID-19. This is my favorite insight because I’ve experienced the same outcome from a handful of virtual groups that I have both lead and been a participant in the last year.

I firmly believe that much of the meaningfulness of this community can be chalked up to human beings caring about other human beings. People just wanted to have someone to talk to about their fears and concerns, someone to celebrate their victories with and share their pain, someone to ask about them when they’re not there. I’m very thankful for a group of people I was able to do that with.

What a great milestone to share with a community that didn’t really exist a year ago. Leaders have much to learn from this, especially as they consider a post-COVID work place.

#utopia / Once vaccinated are you free to hang out with other people?

Nope.

The best news of the past few months is that the three approved Covid-19 vaccines—the two-shot, mRNA-based ones from Pfizer and Moderna and the single-shot, adenovirus-vectored one from Johnson & Johnson—have one thing in common. They’re awesome. In trials, each prevented death and severe disease. But even though those are the endpoints that the vaccine makers tested, they aren’t the only important things to consider.

“We actually don’t know whether in real life, at the population level, that efficacy translates into vaccine effectiveness,” says Ana Bento, a disease ecologist at the Indiana University School of Public Health. “While it might protect you against disease, it might not protect you against infection. It’s too soon to actually know that.”

You can’t turn a marathon into a 100m dash in the middle of the race.

#utopia

A message worth considering during this tumultuous time.

My brother-in-law just sent me a text with a smart and thoughtful message in response to these uncertain and stressful times. I’m sharing it here because I think more people could use his perspective.

Just my thoughts, but need to get this out there. November is finally here. I have seen a lot of hate spewed in recent months about a man who is a constant winner and overachiever, and that’s what the people who support him like about him. Yes, he’s been caught in lies and twisted the truth a little but he’s still out there proving his haters wrong time after time. Some people are jealous of someone who is successful, powerful, and has a lot of money. Throw in a hot foreign model at his side and they hate him even more. You may not have wanted him in his role, but he’s there now and there’s nothing you can do about it. I know it’s possibly going to get worse over the next several days, but like him or not, Tom Brady is really turning things around in Tampa.

Perhaps satire is not dead yet.

#utopia

If it looks like the end of the world, pull up.

Looking back to four years ago to November 2, 2016, and what has happened since then is a lot to process. At the time, news of the election outcome seemed impossible, but NPR told me time and time again on my way to work that the results were authentic. I think they may have had to repeat it so many times for their own sake as a slight quiver in their professional voices betrayed the incredulousness they were feeling personally.

When I got to work, the floors of IBM Design were mostly empty. Hundreds and hundreds of desks with monitors sat empty. A few televisions glowed blue without input—forgotten in the previous afternoon rush to celebrate an anticipated outcome promised by polling data. Normally a vibrant and jovial workplace that morning was quiet with a mounting feeling of betrayal as more and more persons emerged from the elevators—zombies returning to their desk out of habit for lack of a better place to be. As more folks filled in the space, they began to wander around common areas providing support and seeking it. Sniffling and quiet crying could be heard here and there when I made my own sojourn around the studio to check in on the folks I knew and cared for at the time. Shock and awe was all I found.

That afternoon a meeting was called wherein the executive leadership tried to help make sense of things. Historical references were made. Assurances of checks and balances assured. And a reminder that while we all felt raw and gut-punched that the world was not ending and the best in life was still ahead of us, especially if we decided to make it that way.

That was three jobs ago—three employee IDs ago. One-hundred and sixty designers. One-design class. Two thousand plus miles between where I used to live and where I live now. Two cats, who I raised from kittens to senior citizens, now deceased. Two homes—one sold, one bought. Four new iPhones. One Prince. One Petty. Two 007s. Abdullah. Christopher. And one amazing wife back living at home instead of on another red-eye to places no one really wants to live, let alone visit. A podcast. And a book, co-authored. And that’s just some of the highlights. Digging deeper would require another five-hundred words. Maybe more.

Events these days are so big and so horrible that it’s easy to forget to take a step back and reflect on the details of our personal lives. Four years ago, the world seemed over, and yet life still moved on. And in that time a lot happened—good and bad—but I would never have imagined so much. While it hasn’t always been easy, finding a way to move forward continually was the best thing I could have done.

Tomorrow it’s highly likely that a group of people will feel betrayed. More folks will be scared, frightened by what comes next—not having a clear picture of a positive future. But I want to share that if the results don’t swing your way, the world will not be over. Give things some time, take a deep breath, and put one foot in front of the other. The world is on its own agenda, but it does not have control of your life.

#utopia

Ballast—005.

Wow, eight weeks sure does fly during a pandemic. June was rather uneventful except that Kitchen Storey had to return to working in her office full-time. Like so many other non-digital workers, her group quickly transformed and was highly productive, but her industry still thinks that productivity is related to being “seen” in the workplace. The irony here, my wife has a private office and keeps the door shut and locked during the workday.

  • I’m still thrilled to be the first guest on Uncle Weepy’s Depression Dungeon. I always have fun talking to Paul and Jeremy, and now Joy. Recording that show was some of the most fun I’ve had this year. Which tells you something about the year, but also how much I like recording podcasts. Hrmmm.
  • I’ve found two new indie magazines to obsess over and purchase. Eighty degrees is all about the world of tea. The production quality is on par with Drift, an indie magazine about coffee. Senet publishes stories on the wonderful world of board games. I highly recommend subscriptions to all three. And while you’re stuck at home, join the slow journalism movement with a subscription to Delayed Gratification.
  • Eye magazine reached its 100th issue. I know that because it says so on their website, but my issue has not arrived. And I am trying not to get worked up about it, but I’d very much like to have this issue as soon as possible, please! Eye is a magazine every designer should read. The quarterly has some of the best everything: production quality, journalism, and design. I wish it was a monthly periodical, but then it wouldn’t feel as unique each time it arrives in the post.
  • While I ping-pong between books, I could not help throwing them all to the ground (metaphorically, of course) to start reading Issac Asimov’s Foundation. After watching the trailer for their upcoming television production, I had to buy it and start reading immediately.
  • I used the launch of Aaron Walter’s second edition of his book, Design for Emotion as an excuse to pick up Jason’s book on typography and Yesenia Perez-Cruz’s Expressive Design Systems. I am looking forward to blasting through these when I’m done science fictioning.
  • The last book mention is Bruce Mau’s newest tome, MC24, on the principles he and his wife have created to drive their life’s work. I read Bruce’s book Massive Change back in 2005, and it was so inspiring but also so much very ahead of its time. While Bruce and his Massive Change Network have made dents for good in the world, it feels like there is still more work to do. MC24 arrived yesterday, but I can already tell this book will be transformative in my thinking about what I’m going to do in the next 20-30 years.
  • Other life changes are in progress. Over-all, alcohol consumption is down from its peak in the winter. I ordered both a standing desk and a Peleton back in early June. Neither order will be fulfilled until August due to demand and COVID manufacturing setbacks. Meanwhile, sporadic sessions in mindfulness and eventually, a stretching regiment are working their way into a routine. Tracksuits, as a daily uniform, are starting to sound appealing.
  • A parting message. Minutes ago, I posted a statement on Instagram to let my friends and followers (y’ all) know that I am leaving the platform. As companies hold back their advertising dollars in an effort to get Facebook to change their policies, I feel compelled to join the cause from the user end. As my statement on Instagram says, “Facebook’s leadership and its policies support the spread of racism, fascism, harmful misinformation by anti-vaxers and conspiracy idiots, and plain stupidity. The world does not need any more of this shit.” From here on out, I will be posting photos when I can on Flickr and VSCO as Brilliantcrank.

Be well. Wear masks. Stay home. And be sure you are registered to vote.

#utopia

We can not forget the price we paid for the freedoms we enjoy today.

My mother-in-law, Linda, wrote an Op-ed piece on the lack of news coverage for D-Day’s remembrance. She writes,

How can we celebrate today’s sacrifices and deaths without reflecting on our history and the men [and women] who gave their lives so that we can march in protest, and celebrate our freedoms 76 years later?

Similar reactions from my neighbors appeared on NextDoor. I don’t watch television news (because it’s seldom just the news), but I also noticed an absence of coverage from print journalism.

Typically this anniversary receives “front-page” treatment. I presume with so much else is going on—The protests, The pandemic, The global economy, OPEC, et cetera. that producers and editors felt priorities lay elsewhere. That said, broadcasters have ample time, and newsrooms have infinite webpages to tell stories even if their promotion is brief against the flood of current events.

I know we’re dealing with a lot at the moment, but we must never forget the cost and lasting impact of war. While D-Day may have been a lifetime ago, we are still living in the world shaped mostly by its outcome—the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany and World War II. The cost of that battle was high, 10-15k soldiers (Allied and Nazi) died on that day. The intent is not to overshadow the events unfolding around us but to take time to remember the millions of people who gave their lives fighting to liberate occupied Democracies and protect the freedoms we still employ at home.

As Linda writes, “You will have no future if you forget your history!”

Speaking of the lingering cost of war, last week Jason Kottke shared the story of Irene Triplett, “The last person in America to collect a pension from the Civil War.” Until last week after she passed away, Irene received $73.13 per month from the Department of Veteran Affairs for her father’s participation as a U.S. soldier fighting against the Confederate Union.

Yes, I am referring to The American Civil War from Abraham Lincoln times. The one that started in 1861 and was the topic of Ken Burns breakaway pan-and-scan hit series on PBS. Think about this now; American taxpayers have been paying for a war that ended 155 years ago after the Union conceded defeat. It’s not the amount of Irene’s pension that is insane, but the reminder that the cost of war is far from over when the actual conflict stops.

#utopia

Ballast—004.

  • After two months of sheltering in place, the walls are starting to feel like they are closing in. Last week we drove a few miles out of town to pick up a delivery and kept ongoing. It felt good to see something different, something new. About forty-five minutes out, we got to a small town where it became apparent that other folks needed to get out too. I’m not in a hurry for quarantine to be over, but I’ll be glad when it is. Thankfully we managed to get our outdoor furniture, which means we can live outside for part of the day, and that’s helped a lot. I have to admit I started to envy the folks who have driveways and backyards.

  • I had no idea how many millions of Darwin worshippers there are on the planet. So many just carrying on like nothing is happening—pandemic, what?! Hanging out in parks, getting together with friends (outside a bubble), and inviting the neighbors over for BBQ! The funny thing is, I bet most of these folks would never lay down $100 on a Blackjack table in Vegas, but they’re quick to gamble their lives. Talk about the ultimate face-palm; now I understand why Jesus did what he did. After a few years roaming the Earth and he knew humans didn’t have it in them to make it through on their own.

  • Zoom has been both a blessing and a curse. Turns out that “Zoom fatigue” is real. National Geographic published an interesting piece on how too much video conferencing is “taxing the brain.” While the quality of video conferencing under Zoom has been phenomenal, the future workforce is going to need more ways to interact and stay connected. I’ve started to use the Phone app on my iPhone instead of Slacking a Zoom link, and that’s been helpful. Also, I’m surprised to find that most people don’t know you can do both audio and video chats within Slack. The toolset is not meant to compete with Zoom’s features that make it perfect for meetings and events like webinars, but it’s quick and works quite well for small group conversations.

  • I got into the Valorant closed beta this week. It has been a long time since playing a game on a PC (In my case, a dual booted a MacBook Pro equipped with a Radeon Pro 560x, it does the job). Going from controller to keyboard and mouse has been weird but not as challenging as I thought it would be. Valorant hasn’t made the transition easy. One of the core tenants of the game is gun accuracy. Meaning the games doesn’t provide aim assistance. It’s still fun and reminds me of playing Return to Wolfenstein many, many years ago.

  • I posted this to Twitter earlier this week, but it’s worth repeating here, I don’t know who the design team is at Riot Games, but they are killing it with their web design right now. I love the art direction, page compositions, color palettes, type choices—all of it. Very nice work.

  • While I still intend to pick up the Cyberpunk 2077 Xbox (because it’s so damn cool looking), I’m not sure about buying into the next generation of consoles later this year and instead might switch to a Razer laptop.

  • Lastly, I enjoyed reading Ethan’s article on the gluttony of frameworks (my words, not his). Whatever trade-offs we’ve made by moving into the frequent use of these systems, it seems clear that the costs have been pushed to the user in loss of time and a severe increase in data usage. There’s another cost in the energy and materials resources it takes to push and pull all of that data. One website might not be a big deal, but look at the numbers with a million sites, and my guess is we’d need a serious forest of trees to offset the carbon generated by all of this extra code. Another keen observation about these frameworks—none of them are geared for accessibility or performance.

Be well y’all and don’t leave the house without a facemask on!

#utopia / "There is no plan to return to normal."

Vox looks at models (from left, center, and right-leaning institutions) projecting how to return people back to work and restart the economy while the virus continues to linger. One insight that seems certain: Mass-and-ongoing testing (when the nation has built the infrastructure) and mass surveillance are coming to the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, and Never Ready for a Real Crisis.

It might be a good time to brush up on 1984.

#utopia / Hey, who wants free Dungeons & Dragons stuff?

As part of a stay at home, play at home campaign the game publishers are giving away resources during the quarantine—Especially for parents.

With schools closed around the world, many parents and caregivers are at home with their kids, including many in the D&D community. If you are in need of fun & educational material to share and/or play with your kids, you can check back here each day for D&D stuff to help during this time. If you (or someone you know) is a younger gamer, we’re also releasing resources to make it even easier to get into D&D.

When I was in grade school the smart kids were pulled into special creative and critical thinking classes. One of the things we did was play Dungeons & Dragons to teach a number of team mechanics and to extend our imagination.

#utopia

Ballast—003.

Another week of random thoughts. I hope you’re sleeping better than I am.

  • I don’t know what’s in the water lately, but I’m on a tear to read, write, design, synthesize ideate. I haven’t felt this creative or the need to get so much done in a very long time. There are not enough hours in the day, but thankfully we’re on the right side of the winter solstice, which means there are more hours in the day where I don’t feel completely drained.
  • Side note: I might be to solar-powered to live in the PNW full time. If we’re here for good, I’m going to need a retreat in California.
  • The book shipped. It’s called Remote Work for Design Teams. I wrote the bulk of content directed towards design leaders. I’m proud of this work and the work of my co-authors. Also, the incredible village it took to make it all happen from the idea to published book in two weeks. Last Friday, we celebrated with a virtual happy hour, and I think all told around forty folks showed up at some point. Just to give you an idea of how many people were behind the entire effort. Thankfully I have more writing to do. Same audience, but content geared for an entirely different discussion. More on this later. Meanwhile, my article on facilitating remote workshops hit the Internet this week, and it’s getting a lot of positive attention.
  • Why did Apple force hyperlinks in Notes to appear in yellow on a white background? This can’t be accessible, but it’s certainly a horrible user experience. Who makes these kinds of brain-fart decisions at a company acknowledged by the world as the leader in extraordinary design? Whoever the jerk is, they should be fired immediately.
  • I have been doing more thinking on the future of this website, but more importantly, the brand. It’s too damn cool—if you don’t mind me saying—for a blog. I’ve been talking to Dorny about how to do something bigger with more folks involved. I’ve got some ideas percolating, especially one that would be crazy if it could be pulled off.
  • Remember, Volume One by Matt Owen? Damn, that was one cool website.
  • Another throwback, how about Veer. I recently discovered that you can download PDFs of almost all of their old catalogs for which they won several awards for their design.
  • Speaking of dope purveyors of amazing typefaces, check out Janus by ThreeDotsType.
  • I did the thing I posted about on Twitter and bought two sports video games, NBA2K20 and FIFA20. I didn’t buy them to play but instead for the computer to play itself so I can watch (and hear) sports again. Would I do this while real people were playing? No. But in the absence of live games, it does the job surprisingly well. Definitely worth the $20 spent on both titles.

Stay inside. It helps us identify the assholes and morons.

#utopia / "Larry David, master of his quarantine."

Be sure to add this to your reading list for the weekend. I mean come on, it’s not like you have anything else to do. Parents, give this article to your children and have them present a report on what they learned. It’s not like they have anything else to do either.

#utopia / RIP The Outline.

Sad to see it go. I would have liked to see what evolution looked like for all the effort they put into the design. I shudder to think how many more of these announcements are coming.

#utopia

.net Magazine is dead. Long live .net Magazine!

Earlier this morning, I caught some news that .net Magazine and Computer Arts are closing operations. The story now appears to be confirmed by friend and former .net editor Oliver Lindberg. Like many of my friends, my career has had a few meaningful intersections with the magazine over the years.

In 2010 my studio, Happy Cog, was awarded the .net Award for Web Design Studio of the Year. I traveled to London for a 36-hour trip to hang out with my business partners and see some of the sights before the award ceremonies. I’ll never forget having my first Full English Breakfast with Greg Hoy while outside a crew filmed a television commercial for an off-broadway performance of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Very colorful breakfast entertainment at no extra cost. I got to see Big Ben up close and ride The Tube a few times. We ate lunch with our friends at Clearleft, who were also up for the award. Later that day, when we won, my partners and I were on cloud nine. The news was a massive lift for everyone in the company, and we wore that award (figuratively) around our neck for the proceeding year.

Years later, I was profiled for issue 266; weeks after moving on from Happy Cog and closing down the Austin studio. It was a weird and challenging time for me to receive that treatment as I was most definitely in the middle of radical change. A few weeks after the initial interview, the magazine arranged a photoshoot in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I was staying for a few weeks. In her research for the shoot, the photographer noted that I enjoyed cigars and found a shop where she wanted to get some shots. We went to Burns Tobacconist in downtown Chattanooga and received permission to hang out and take photos. We weren’t prepared for Sherman, the owner of the shoeshine stand in the back, and a character I will never forget. That was one of the best days I’d had in years.

Here and there, I’ve been asked to contribute quotes and statements for stories since then. I recently submitted an AMA (Ask Me Anything) feature that I doubt will now see a drop of ink.

I am grateful to everyone behind .net Magazine over the years. It has been an anchor of the web design community and a supporter of generations of web designers. It is sad to see it go, but I am thankful for all it has done for us. Thanks to everyone who turned out issue after issue and extended the brand online. The web would not be the same without all of your interest, devotion, and support.

#utopia

Ballast—002.

This is late but I’m publishing it anyway.

  • Mr. Willis and I co-hosted an hour or two on a pop-up radio station last week. You didn’t miss much, believe me. Except for the part that Eric believes people can read his mind to hack his PIN code. We got into a bit of an argument over which is better: WarGames vs. Hackers (listen, if you want to make a good movie, don’t cast Mathew Lillard as anything other than the director’s assistant). And I shared the story of that one time when we were not fit to drive home and I convinced a valet at Eddie V’s to drive us home, park the vehicle, and run back to the restaurant. Best twenty bucks I ever spent. I’m told we had the best ratings of the twenty-four hours, but I think that was just the station owner’s way of saying, “please, never come back.”
  • I authored chapters for an upcoming book. More on this later.
  • Cloudy, rainy weather makes the home lockdown so much worse. I need to find a different part of the Pacific Northwest to shelter in place for the next pandemic or buy a place in Palm Springs. Also, you can have pools in Palm Springs.
  • We’re getting through more of our board games collection. Last week we played Parks for the first time. It’s a fun, but engaging strategy game that is based upon the artwork from the Fifty-Nine Parks print series. You play hikers engaging with different areas of a park. The path, weather conditions, and end game bonus points are all variables so the game can be replayed often. Another game with similar variables and beauty is Black Angel. I heart everything about the game and its design.
  • More gaming. I turned my MacBook Pro into a dual-boot machine so I could see what PC gaming is all about. It’s been fifteen years since I tried to shoot at people using a keyboard and mouse. It felt weird at first but I picked it back up alright. Windows is definitely the better platform for those experiences because the performance is night-and-day better over MacOS.
  • Having done that, I am going another direction with distractions this week and hopefully the rest of the month. I’ve assembled all of the parts to up my web camera game. I’m down to one last puzzle, finding a mount for my microphone boom. My desk is stainless steel with a secondary lower lip that prevents me from using the typical screw-based desk mount. I purchased a substantial mic stand base, but where there should be a standard-sized receptacle, there are screws instead. I think my end game is going to require a machinist or welder, but that will have to wait for a while. This makes my eye twitch.
  • Last thought. There are suggestions and reminders to call your friends and loved ones—especially the older generations during this time. There is another group that needs your attention as well, the folks who are sequestered by themselves. I’m concerned about this group because I don’t see that they are getting the same attention, but they need human interaction just the same. Friend or not, if you have co-workers or know folks who are living by themselves, make it a point to reach out and touch them—AT&T Style.

Stay safe and non-virusy.

#utopia

Ballast—001.

  • This afternoon I donned a pair of black Semperforce examination gloves from the box and headed out into the open to run errands. I bought the box years ago as part of my gear for cooking with the Big Green Egg because it’s a wonderful, messy process that involves building a fire from big pieces of charcoal. Sigh. Those were the salad days! Long before the world got its trial run at the Zombie Apocalypse. If this was something like a new strain of airborne Ebola—dear Lord in Heaven. And we’re failing by-the-way. At least here in Washington. Our governor is hoping that Gen Pop will do the right things and practice Safe Pandemic—keeping a distance, wearing gloves, not wearing face masks, and staying at home unless you really need to get out. Nope. I just braved the wilds of a Target, and it looked like any other time I’d been to a Target—Too much florescent lighting. Khaki, and metric tons of planet-killing, clutter-inducing shit that no one needs (pssst…no one wants) at discount prices. Not one pair of gloves in sight. I must have looked the closet things to a bubble child the young ones have ever seen. Oh, but I saw masks. Good luck with that, morons! Go ahead and walk around forced to inhale your own chronic halitosis while the Coronavirus collects on the ten digits you’re using to touch every, every, ev-er-y-thing. I don’t have to be an elected public official to know that people are stupid. We are way beyond a shared understanding of civic duty. We can’t rely on our neighbors to take anything seriously because they don’t have skin in the game. We can’t expect them too because they have everything and yet nothing to lose. I bet there’s a parable from the Greeks or Romans about this. A lesson from Classic Literature, but I went to a rural high school in the middle of Alaska, so the closest I got was Call of the Wild. And the only thing I can remember about that book is the dog dying at the end and how much I cried. So, maybe I got a classical education after all.

  • Last week, I was called to duty to help co-write a book. A guide, really. Counting all of my notes and edits, I got out ten thousand words. I’ve never written so much so quickly. Now it feels like I need to be writing all of the time. And so I’m sitting here fist pounding the keyboard into the only form of freestyle I know. From my mind straight to yours—raw! I was shooting at virtual competitors, controlled no doubt by an array of nine-to-fourteen-year-olds. In the past, that’s helped bring some balance; brought my mind some peace. But after cranking out enough words to fill an entire palette, there was something that said, “you need to shut this crap down and get back up on the keyboard.”

  • I got an email from Amazon asking me if I still wanted the thing I ordered even though it was on backorder until June. What am I, Amish? This is America. I don’t have time to wait another six weeks. So, I went to Target because the computer said they have many in stock. Guess what? The computer lied. I don’t know why I trust that source of information because it’s always wrong. Always! As soon as I got home, I placed another order but bought the more expensive option because that one is in stock.

  • In other news, one week from now, my Zoom video is going to look broadcast quality. Totally worth it.

  • The table-to-table meeting between Airbag and Forestry representatives has been postponed for obvious reasons. That said, I can already feel the need to migrate this site to Kirby. Especially after seeing Cameron launch his site earlier this week. And thanks to Corona, there’s never been a better time. Which reminds me, Cameron, I’ll go learn this new CMS while you should bring back Wicked Worn.

  • Last thing, and then I shall return to shooting children, Cameron is writing about mental health. And given these interesting times, I can see this being a beneficial resource sooner than later.

#utopia / Inside Delta's command center the week the coronavirus devastated the airline industry.

An interesting look behind the scenes of what it looks like to manage an entire airline, and the current decision making to reduce risk to passengers and the company.

On Friday, in an extraordinary letter to employees, chief executive Ed Bastian announced a 40 percent cut in capacity—the biggest in Delta’s history, including after 9/11. “The speed of the demand falloff is unlike anything we’ve seen.”

Feels like airline mergers are on the horizon again. Here’s Business Insider on “the fallout” from 9/11 and the coronavirus.

#utopia / "I ran the White House pandemic office. Trump closed it."

An op-ed piece from Beth Cameron, former senior director for global health security and biodefense on the White House National Security Council:

When President Trump took office in 2017, the White House’s National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense survived the transition intact. Its mission was the same as when I was asked to lead the office, established after the Ebola epidemic of 2014: to do everything possible within the vast powers and resources of the U.S. government to prepare for the next disease outbreak and prevent it from becoming an epidemic or pandemic. One year later, I was mystified when the White House dissolved the office, leaving the country less prepared for pandemics like covid-19.

No doubt part of the Drain the Swamp Make America Great Again initiative. Now we’re living in a swamp and America doesn’t feel so great. Nice work.

#utopia / Is it canceled yet?

“Coachella—sadly no.” An informative, single-function site with a bit of dark humor mixed in for good measure.

#utopia / "Stories of People Who Are Racing to Save Us."

From the editors of Wired magazine:

Climate change. Flawed algorithms. Deadly diseases. Tech monopolies. We are facing many existential challenges that need to be tackled head-on before it’s too late. Many of these problems are of our own making, consequences of our relentless push for progress. Fortunately, there are lots of people who are racing to save us from ourselves—progress we can definitely get behind.

It’s great to see Wired getting back into its game, and on these topics.