What must it be like to sleep 10 hours every night?

I find myself won­der­ing, as I put­ter around the house doing dish­es and watch­ing TV and check­ing out new fonts, while fac­ing anoth­er night of five hours of sleep (thanks for the genes, Mom)… what would my life be like if I got as much sleep as my son does? Aidan goes to bed, and essen­tial­ly to sleep, at about 8:00 pm. He gets up any time between 5:30 am and 7:00 am, but usu­al­ly around 6:30 am. And he takes an hour and a half to two hours of nap dur­ing the day.

That’s around 12 hours of sleep a day.

Now, there’s no earth­ly way I can approx­i­mate that amount of sleep. I have things to do in the evening (like dish­es, laun­dry, cud­dling), and my employ­ers would not look kind­ly on my nap­ping dur­ing the day, but what if I tried going to bed as soon after Aidan goes to bed as I can? Let’s say I walk the dog, help make the boy’s lunch, cud­dle with the mis­sus, all in about an hour. Then I go to bed. I could get about eight to eight and a half hours of sleep a night. And I could get noth­ing much else done.

The ques­tion is, would I have as much ener­gy as my almost two-year-old? Or would I at least begin to approx­i­mate that. And would that be worth it?

I may have to try this.

I love my swing-arm iMac

I was just thinknig, this morn­ing, as I adjust­ed my swing-arm iMac’s screen for close up work, would I like one of the new G5 iMacs? All it can do is tilt. If some­one sits down next to me, I can turn this screen a lit­tle towards them, so we both get a good view. If Aidan walks up to the desk, I can tilt it down­ward, so he can see it bet­ter. With the iSight attached, I can just move the screen around, with­out hav­ing to twist the cam­era in its mount.

It seems to me that the arm is one of those fea­tures I would real­ly miss. And yet, I have heard noth­ing in the wider com­mu­ni­ty about peo­ple being dis­ap­point­ed when they upgrade. Are swing-arm iMac users not upgrad­ing? Are they hold­ing on to their flex­i­ble dis­plays tooth and nail? Will they be the next New­ton Users Group?

Poor Keywords, I hardly knew ye

I’ve been using iPho­to 5 to try to (re)organize all my pic­tures. All 2,500 of them. iPho­to offers sev­er­al facil­i­ties for doing this. You can see your pic­tures by date, and home in on a par­tic­u­lar date or range of dates. You can scroll through your pic­tures visu­al­ly, find­ing the one that stands out. Or you can assign key­words to a pho­to, per­form­ing a search on those key­words when you want to find all the pic­tures hav­ing to do with “Mason”. Key­words in iPho­to, though, are more like cat­e­gories. The pro­gram isn’t built to let you (eas­i­ly) use a ton of key­words. You want to keep them to a dozen or two. So you’re forced to be suc­cinct. A pho­to of my dog run­ning through a flock of pigeons might have the fol­low­ing key­words: “Mason Fun”

But a new orga­ni­za­tion­al scheme has come to the Inter­net. One that I think is inter­est­ing, but ulti­mate­ly flawed. They’re called tags. What’s a tag? It’s pret­ty much like a key­word, the way you expect them to be, not the way iPho­to lim­its you. You post, say, a pic­ture, and then you tag it. The pic­ture of Mason and the pigeons? Tagged with “dog Mason pigeons chase scat­ter fly­ing mur­der­ous”.

Online social appli­ca­tions like flickr then use the tags to cre­ate a com­mu­ni­ty. You can find all pic­tures post­ed to flickr with the tag “pigeons” and it is prob­a­bly a pret­ty big group. “mur­der­ous” would pro­vide an inter­est­ing sub­set. “Mason” would prob­a­bly pro­duce a small­er set of pic­tures. If you tagged some­thing with “alurehrs­gur” your pic­ture might be the only one.

Back to iPho­to though. I’ve found a bet­ter sys­tem of orga­ni­za­tion. iPho­to 5 has a full text search box, right in the inter­face. When I am anno­tat­ing my pic­tures, with titles, and rat­ings, and key­words, I ulti­mate­ly want to write a lit­tle text for each one in the com­ments field. “Our dog Mason run­ning through a flock of pigeons in Memo­r­i­al Park today. Oma­ha, NE. I think he had a mur­der­ous intent, but the pigeons scat­tered quite effec­tive­ly, leav­ing him noth­ing to chase.” The full text search, dynam­i­cal­ly find­ing pic­tures as I start typ­ing, is as effec­tive as the key­word search.

I see this idea extend­ing to the Inter­net soon­er, rather than lat­er. Google is already doing it with Google Sug­gest, and I can only see a full text, type-ahead sug­gest­ing search improv­ing the usabil­i­ty of places like flickr or del.icio.us.

I won­der how many peo­ple use their tag­ging field as a full text com­ment box? I would be curi­ous to do a search on one of those sites for words like “he” or “and” or “to”. I may start doing that, just to see what hap­pens.

In any case, I think the days of try­ing to pick out rel­e­vant key­words is fad­ing. Long live the key words.

Navigation by search?

I was tak­ing a look at Paul Nixon’s web site, and his links to the work they are doing redesign­ing the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ari­zon­a’s web site. They used to have a blog on which they described their work and solicit­ed com­ments, and one of the com­ments struck me. “Put a big logo and a Google search box. Done. Next project.”

One of the most vex­ing of prob­lems for a uni­ver­si­ty web design­er, espe­cial­ly one tasked with a dense web site, is how to facil­i­tate nav­i­ga­tion on that site. You have two audi­ences to cater to, the group that knows what it wants to find (cur­rent stu­dents and staff), and the group that has just come to browse (the all impor­tant prospec­tive stu­dents and their par­ents).

Tra­di­tion­al­ly, the designs pro­duced to solve this dilem­ma go one way: pro­vide a ton of links and let the user find what they want. Links by con­stituen­cy, links by top­ic area, links for non-inter­est­ed par­ties. You end up with 15 or 20 links, often with sub­menus, and then a smat­ter­ing of oth­er “impor­tant” links like news, or the foun­da­tion, or what­not.

But one of the impor­tant, and often neglect­ed aims of a Uni­ver­si­ty’s home page is to sell the place. To prospec­tive stu­dents, donors, news orga­ni­za­tions. Frankly, to any­one for whom a good expe­ri­ence is impor­tant to the Uni­ver­si­ty’s future.

How does the flip­pant com­ment I quot­ed above solve this prob­lem?

Well, I’m not sure. But it is an inter­est­ing per­spec­tive. What if… what if you cre­at­ed a Uni­ver­si­ty home page for the pub­lic. It was gor­geous to look at, and described the recent suc­cess­es of the Uni­ver­si­ty, while also let­ting the pub­lic know what was hap­pen­ing on cam­pus, what the Uni­ver­si­ty is all about, and how they can join the com­mu­ni­ty (either by donat­ing, enrolling, or just attend­ing an event, be it sports or the­ater or grad­u­a­tion or some­thing else).

Then, also on that page, is a “nav­i­ga­tion box.” On load, the focus of the cur­sor goes there. Start typ­ing, and it aut­ofills what you might be look­ing for (see Google), get off the aut­ofill track and hit return, and it search­es the Uni­ver­si­ty intel­li­gent­ly, return­ing rel­e­vant hits.

I imag­ine that search being as intu­itive, use­ful, and smart as say, the Launch­Bar search. Vis­it the Uni­ver­si­ty’s web site. Start typ­ing a few let­ters, hit return, and there you are, where you want­ed to be.

I don’t have a freakin’ clue how to do it. But I think it could be done. More impor­tant­ly, I think it should be done.

The iSight Express and the iSight Extreme

So, as you prob­a­bly know, we do a lot of iSight-enabled iChat AV ses­sions with Grand­ma. On our end, we have the iSight attached to an iBook on a wire­less net­work, so we just wan­der around after the boy (nee Grand­son) and Grand­ma watch­es. He can go to the base­ment, to the bed­room, or even out­side, and we can fol­low.

And yet, the iBook is unwieldy. In a moment of frus­tra­tion as I shift­ed the a‑bit-more-than-warm iBook around on my knee while try­ing to keep the boy in frame, it occurred to me… this would be bet­ter if it were a video cam­era.

The iSight Express would be an iSight cam­era, a WiFi con­nec­tion, and two LCD pan­els back to back. It is okay if they are small, maybe 320 x 240. You point the cam­era at your sub­ject, and you see them in the LCD fac­ing you. They, in turn, see the oth­er end of the con­ver­sa­tion in the LCD fac­ing them. All of this gets sent via WiFi to your com­put­er, which is man­ag­ing the con­nec­tion.

The iSight Extreme is sim­i­lar, except that it is a full client on the net­work, nego­ti­at­ing its own IP address, and mak­ing its own con­nec­tions, no com­put­er need­ed.

If Apple isn’t work­ing on this yet, they should be.

I’m reading The Fortress of Solitude, by Jonathan Lethem

cover-fortressofsolitude.jpgI’ve only just start­ed read­ing this book, but I already have had a few thoughts I want­ed to note, so I thought I’d try a run­ning review/commentary as I go.

July 7, 2004. I’ve read chap­ter one. The lit­tle boy, Dylan, though six years old at the start of the book, makes me think so much of Aidan. And it makes me sad, because Dylan’s life isn’t all that, and I so want my son to look back at his child­hood and think of it fond­ly. I could just imag­ine Aidan writ­ing about when he was six, and how he felt, and it just made me want to put the book down and stop read­ing. Not that Dylan has a bad life, I could sep­a­rate Aidan’s future expe­ri­ence from any­thing obvi­ous like being beat or hun­gry or what­not. But Dylan is just sort of melan­choly, sad, unsure. And I want Aidan to be hap­py and con­fi­dent and loved. Good book so far.

July 16, 2004. Well into the book now, I am start­ing to be able to put in words how it makes me feel. Read­ing this book is like read­ing Umber­to Eco, with bizarre, obscure, and extreme­ly eru­dite ref­er­ences to arcane bits of cul­tur­al lore. Read­ing Fou­cault’s Pen­du­lum required a set of the Ency­clo­pe­dia Bri­tan­ni­ca in tow. But the ref­er­ences in this book are to my own cul­tur­al swamp, albeit a few years ear­li­er than when I dwelled. The allu­sions are all to com­ic books and sci­ence fic­tion, to Boy Scouts and trac­ing breasts from car­toon char­ac­ters. It is all stuff I rec­og­nize… and yet, I did­n’t like Fou­cault’s Pen­du­lum, nev­er man­aged to fin­ish it. And I’m on my way to not lik­ing this book… I think because it is too much work. When one char­ac­ter tells Dylan to play his chess piece, “or Hulk Will Smash,” the author launch­es into sev­er­al para­graphs about the inner anger of this kid, the allu­sion to the kid’s own inner Hulk, wait­ing, seething, ready to Smash. And that hurts my brain. It is too dense. Maybe that’s the point, maybe we feel for Dylan, not because his life sucks, but because his inner life sucks, too full of allu­sive intro­spec­tion. Clear­ly, one of the themes of the book is that poor Dylan can’t just be a kid (or maybe that kids can’t just be Nor­man Rock­well kids, no mat­ter how much we think they can) but do we blame his cir­cum­stance, or do we blame him. I go back to read­ing.

Feb­ru­ary 15, 2005. Yeah, well I final­ly fin­ished this book. I actu­al­ly fin­ished it a week ago, but I need­ed a lit­tle time to digest it. In the end, I guess, it seems to have not been my cup of tea, though I am not sure why. I was very pleased with what I thought was the end of the book, until I real­ized I still had one chap­ter to go. And that one chap­ter just blew it for me. It took a pleas­ing wrap-up and left it strewn all over the high­way. Which, I con­cede, was prob­a­bly the point. But I could not help but feel betrayed.

This guy, Dylan, spent the entire book try­ing to be some­thing. He always came back to the same cen­tral issues though, always keep­ing him back. Min­go, Robert, Abra­ham… always back to them. But when al lthat final­ly gets resolved, some of it in a very sat­is­fy­ing way… well it turns out his life sucks any­way.

It did­n’t seem like the kind of book that was going to end that way. I mean, obvi­ous­ly it was­n’t going to end like a super­hero com­ic (Main Theme of Book: Life is not like the comics), but it did­n’t have to bite so thor­ough­ly.

Any­way. It cer­tain­ly kept my inter­est. For what that’s worth.

Do you charge for creativity?

I won­der at this. Does one charge for the cre­ative process? Say I am tasked with mak­ing some­thing cre­ative. A logo, an icon, a Pow­er­Point back­ground (shud­der). I hem, I haw, I try some­things, I troll the web, I try again, I change the col­ors, and even­tu­al­ly I come up with an idea.

Do I charge an hourly rate for the time it took me to come up with that idea? That is, for the hem and haw?

Or do I assume that my bril­liance is assumed (why I was tasked with this) and build that expec­ta­tion into my hourly rate?

Or do I charge a flat fee for bril­liance? “My cre­ativ­i­ty is worth $500 per.”

Once the idea is gen­er­at­ed, charg­ing for the grunt work of pro­duc­tion is a no-brain­er. I just don’t know what to do on the front end.