Posted on

computers can do good

I thought I was going to write about the Francesca Woodman exhibit I saw at SF MOMA today because it reminded me so much of my friend Courtney’s work from when we studied in Bordeaux together. Or I would write about the baby shower I hosted at work, talk about a different kind of social gathering. Or maybe this awesome glass blowing workshop I took at Public Glass. But I realized something bigger together about why I hate working at the computer all day long every day, in a grey cubical no less, and how it doesn’t have to be so.

I don’t like the computer because I’ve been using it wrong, for a long time. Most of my time at the computer is spent doing research using online sources (OK, pretty convenient compared to the library stacks, but I love libraries so not super convincing), making PowerPoint slides (blegh!) or writing in Word, and emailing. Most of these activities are tedious and are not made that much better by the computer.

Now for what I learned.

I spent this last week using Tableau data visualization software with a team of data modelers at work. I normally only work with qualitative data, within that I usually do ethnography and apply it to designing. So, this was stretchin’ a little for me. I loved it. We took 400,000+ records which would have been difficult, if not impossible, to work with by hand, and experimented with it in Tableau. Incredible interface (I <3 drag and drop), fun to use, and you learn by making. Your end result is interactive visuals, much more meaningful than the 1000s of records you started with, and much more interesting for your audience. You create stories for your audience so that they can play with the visuals you created and discover your results, while still giving them the room to draw their own conclusions. Such a breath of fresh air!

I only want to use the computer now when it’s worth the energy I put into it. Emailing is convenient, but think about what a hassle it creates too – I say we broke even there. (Oh course, I like being employed and will do the other stuff as a consequence of that.) Tableau, software that makes unreadable data fun and easy to understand? Worth it.

Posted on

Taxi Cab Bumper Cars

Sometimes things never end up how you expected them to.

I would not say I am the best driver in the world, but I am not completely worthless behind the wheel. On a recent trip home in San Francisco, I was in the intersection of the two busiest downtown streets at rush hour when a taxi hit my bumper. It seems he would rather hit me then let me into his lane. A little shaken up, I pulled over reminding myself not to admit fault. The cabbie was not a happy one. The damage thankfully was very minor, both of our bumpers had some scratches. Amidst his shouting of “you hit my car! you hit my car!” we managed to exchanged insurance and license information.

This is when things got weird. A random passerby asked me and my friend why this man was going off on us. We calmly explained about our fender bender. Then she proceeded to go off on him, arguing that San Francisco is based on tourism and it is not necessary to yell at potential customers. She went so far as to offer him $200 to leave us alone. I was a little uncomfortable with this and told her it was not necessary but she was now on a mission. She pulled out her wallet and had only $100. With some convincing, he took the $100 in exchange for my name and information and we all parted ways without many more words.

It was definitely one of the strangest interactions I have ever encountered. Is it possible that someone is so kind to a stranger?

Posted on

first post pressure – fanny pack

To take the edge off of the first post, I thought I’d just dump something out and get it over with. I was contemplating what to dump when my husband surprised me with this gift fanny pack. Perfect! Gotta say I love the 80’s fanny pack, love it when it’s hipster ironic and love it when it’s totally serious. This is jogger sportique fanny pack, dig it.