Making Light of Things

February 2008 Archives

Recap of UX Intensive

Heather, Michael, Jennifer, Ryan and Geoff. I’m glad we didn’t rotate around different tables like we were supposed to. That’s the toss-up at most workshops and conferences, isn’t it? Network more broadly or more deeply? I think we chose well.

KI1U5853Over the duration of the 4 day event, we got to work on fictitious websites, designed imaginary devices and cracked countless jokes. It was liberating to shed my Asian shell and get in there guns ablazing - after all, I only had 4 days.

On the first day, the most important thing I learned came not from the speaker but from Michael who sat beside me. He said managing working relationships was the same as crafting a user experience. What do your bosses need, what are their motivations, and how do you make it easy for them to close the “transaction”? How do you align what they need as a person with what the project needs? While the topic of managing bosses isn’t new to me, the juxtaposition of that and user experience was highly interesting.

Another interesting tidbit we had from the casual chat at the table was the differences between relationships with Americans, Europeans and Asians. Michael mentioned how Americans are quick to bond, but devote only the relevant slice of themselves - you may get to know them fast, but just the work part of their being, or the parent if you happen to be the teacher of their child. You don’t get the full person. His observations were that Asians were the other extreme. It took forever to get through the outer shell, but when you get past that, you get the whole person.

I suppose that is accurate to a certain degree. We tend to think of people as whole persons rather than functions. My mother has always drilled it in me to understand that people are more than their jobs. They are parents to their children, children to their parents, and that creates a fuller way of looking at people. Maybe not as efficient, but certainly more organic and less mechanical.

The workshops proper were grueling. I learned a lot from the design strategy, design research and interaction design workshops. The information architecture workshop was a little too rudimentary, but it probably helped those who didn’t do IA for a living.

Usability at Kabuki

After a long day on Design Strategy, I thought I’d highlight some of the more glaring usability flaws right here in the hotel.


The elevator at the lobby has 2 arrows pointing downwards. There’s no arrow pointing upwards. Instead, the words “This car up” lights up when the elevator is heading up. Why arrow for down and words for up?

The 2 elevators have different button layouts (elevator 1 and elevator 2). It’s crazy to have to look for your floor everytime, rather than remembering which position it’s in.

Then there’s the control for the shower. Hot’s cold, cold’s hot, warm is off and off is warm.

Why I Don't Eat In This Hotel


Second Opinions on First Impressions

I’m sitting here watching the proceedings of the NBA All-Star Game held at New Orleans. The Star-spangled Banner was performed by trumpeteer Christian Scott. It’s amazing, but the anthem never fails to move me, even when performed without words. I suppose you could say I’m in love with the United States of America, but the truth is that I’m in love with the idea of America, rather than America herself.

A country where anyone has the chance to be someone. Where everyone has a voice that is heard, however grating the message may be.

KI1U5581As I walked the streets of San Francisco this morning, the reality that America is rather divorced from her original ideals hits me. The huge dome of City Hall looked very impressive with its gilded edges and ornamentation. What you do not see in the photo are the homeless people scattered around its grounds.

The currentUnited States administration has done, in my own opinion, a horrible job of keeping the faith. Bush’s new $3 trillion budget’s main provisions go to the Department of Homeland Security. I’ve been in and out of the United States many, many times, but in recent years there’s been a tangible fear of walking through her immigration counters. It’s like you’ll never know when Homeland Security’s hyperactive index finger would point your way.

America has grown paranoid. Voices, even that of the majority, have been silenced. Newspapers and blogs write about how ridiculous certain bills are, but congress passes them anyway. I’m only a visitor to this country and I’ve seen a fair number of veterans homeless on the streets, but Bill O’Reilly , who actually lives in America, denies their existence. Everything is upside down, America.


Sometimes people are only as good as you believe them to be. When you stop believing in people, there is no incentive to live up to your expectations. There’d be no ideals to reach for.

Morning Photowalk

Covered 8km this morning.

Exploratory Walk

I went out looking for a YMCA where I could play some ball. According to a friend I walked right through some bad neighbourhoods. And then the YMCA didn’t have day passes to the courts. Where can I play some pickup ball?

Me Time

Here I am, sitting in the hotel room, watching Sportscenter. The city of San Francisco at my feet, and all I want to do is to be with my girls.

I am definitely not the same person I was before.

Photo 46

I miss you guys. Talk to you tonight, 9pm.


I’m writing this minutes from boarding the plane to San Francisco. I’ll be at UX Intensive for a round of much needed training. Much as I love my job, I don’t have anyone to bounce technical stuff off with. I hope this coming week will be rejuvenating.


It’s Valentine’s Day. Didn’t realise it until a colleague gave our flowers to everyone in the department - an extremely sweet gesture.

Tribolum turned 8 yesterday. So much has changed since. Finished college, married Faith, begot Anne, awaiting Caleb / Ezra, moved out, became a civil servant (I still shudder at the thought).

To me the major theme of this portion of my life has been that of goodbyes. Maybe I was a fool to ever have held on to the notion that I’d never have to let go; that somehow the world would remain small enough to always be part of my life. The small village life does not exist in the city.

I haven’t spoken to my childhood best friend in years. Many people I grew up with have moved to all corners of the earth. Though just a phone call or an email away, the distance seems unbridgeable. It is not a physical distance or a chasm created only by time, but one forged by life. Life may not bring us to the same place.

People who read my blog 8 years ago have gone on to do other things. Most were young people interested to read about my long-distance relationship with Faith. Now that we’re married, that chapter is closed, and those readers too have moved on.

I guess I’m learning to enjoy the ride, and not worry whether the party I started out with rides the same sled. We’ll probably bump and meet some point down the slope. I can’t help wondering how everyone is though.


You spend your days at work, gutting it out. At the end of the day you head home for some family time and some much needed shuteye. Home’s a place for rest, unless you stay near the circle line, where the management of the construction site doesn’t give a hoot about whether it’s 4am or 4pm.

We’ve had to endure this for about a month now. The station manager puts up a templatised letter in front of the lifts apologising for the inconvenience. Actually he puts up two - one to tell you he’s going to work through your weekend and another to say he’s going to work through your weekday nights. He changes the letters faithfully every week. We’ve given up hoping that the next pair of letters won’t go up. They always do.

I’ve called the public relations lady and the station engineer. Sincere apologies and “I’ll tell my management”, then it quietened down for 2 days. Then it starts again. I don’t mind noise much, but it’s banging and clanging, construction works dropping huge metal rods every 2 minutes. I’ve called the police post, who basically told me that the construction is on a tight schedule, and that I should call the NEA. I feel like I’m getting the standard government run-around. Should I care if they’re on a tight schedule? Should our children be denied a good night’s sleep because they’re behind time?

Home has become a place of dread. If the policeman tells you that the corporation’s operations are worth more than your rights to a relatively quiet weekend or night, who do we turn to? Maybe my MPs? Not sure if any of them even live in the area they’re in charge of.

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