#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.