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!
Harvard Business Review examines four scenarios that would lead to economic depression and why each scenario is unlikely. So why do we keep hearing about a pending depression? “We think at least part of the answer is the extreme intensity of the coronavirus shock.”
The Daily looks at the history of domestic policy, current situation, and the future of the US oil industry. One conclusion: “Energy security is an illusion.”
Seeing the flying fish market in Pikes Place operating behind the chain barrier is chilling.
A comprehensive social distancing guide to urban etiquette and ethics.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sound advice on how to live sanely during lockdown by astronaut Scott Kelly who lived onboard the International Space Station for a little more than a year. My next favorite piece: Follow a schedule.
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.
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.
“Coachella—sadly no.” An informative, single-function site with a bit of dark humor mixed in for good measure.
A poignant opinion piece inspired by the debut of William Gibson’s new book, Agency.
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.