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ambidextrous magazine

July 26, 2007 2 comments

I'm (in) Ambidextrous

Sorry to cross-post, but I know that at least one or two people who come here probably don’t read the Adaptive Path blog.

The article that I wrote for Ambidextrous’ “Food” issue is being published, and they were nice enough to provide me with a PDF of it. Give it a read, let me know what you think.

The process of getting published was certainly a learning experience. I actually wrote the article back in November. I had written twice as many words as they’d asked for (I absolutely need to work on that), and they were nice enough to come back with some great edits and a request to increase the word count beyond the initial proposal. Even better, they asked me to get their photographer Mike into the kitchen at Aqua so he could take some shots to accompany the article.

I like the way the finished piece looks – lots of people had a hand in getting it to this point, and I appreciate all the help I got (thank you to Evany, Amanda, Lora and Mike!). I’m hoping the article serves to start a conversation, if nothing else.

Categories: elsewhere, food, influences, writing

patrick glackin

April 23, 2007 Leave a comment

Today is the twelfth anniversary of the death of Patrick Glackin, my maternal grandfather. Born in 1904, he was nearly 91 when he passed, and was mourned by three generations of his family. Yesterday, my mother gave me a copy of the eulogy my eldest cousin read at his funeral. An excerpt:

To his grandchildren, he was more than a grandfather, he was a playmate and world-renowned storyteller. For years we believed that as an Admiral in the Irish Navy, he found Mom-mom (my grandmother Mary) in a coconut tree on a deserted island, and that he had single-handedly fought WWII from Elizabeth, NJ.

He was slightly infamous for those tall-tales, and my grandmother scolded him (gently, always gently) for filling our heads with “nonsense and donkey dust.” Years before he died, Pop began to suffer the ravages of Alzheimer’s. Over time, there was less and less of the man who told those stories, who would sing rebel songs along with Clancy Brothers albums, who would take out his teeth before smiling at you, just to get a laugh.

We lost him before we truly lost him, and more was the pity. His stories remain, thankfully, and are as well-known by his surviving children as they are by a score of great-grandchildren whom he never got a chance to meet.

May the good Lord bless and keep you, Pop. You are missed.

Categories: influences

anthony bourdain on rachael ray

November 20, 2006 Leave a comment

I have alternately praised and damned Anthony Bourdain more times than I can count. Kitchen Confidential got me through my rather disastrous final months at the California Culinary Academy, and colored my appreciation for both my stints on the line at Aqua. I have enormous respect for the old man, and so we attended his appearance tonight at City Arts and Lectures with the expectation that something worthy of his old cranky self would emerge.

We weren’t disappointed.

There were quite a few bon mots, but probably the best was after he admitted to having been changed by his travel – he owned up to being softer now, less cynical. In light of that, he was asked, is there anything Food Network “bobble head” Rachael Ray could do to get into Bourdain’s notoriously slim good graces?

His reply was a deadpanned, “no.” He paused for the audience’s guffaws to subside. And then this: “Well… I do suppose she could crack open a bottle of Old Crow during one of her shows…”

More laughter.

“That, and maybe pistol-whipping Lindsay Lohan.”

He’s mellowing gracefully, and it’s good to see.

Categories: entertainment, food, influences

panorama of the city of new york

September 13, 2006 Leave a comment

Tom Vanderbilt’s article at Design Observer got me to remember how much I enjoyed the Queens Musuem of Art’s Panorama of the City of New York. My friends Al and Debbie insisted on a visit while I was in Brooklyn a while ago. Completely worth it.

Feeling nostalgic, I hunted down a small but good Flickr set of the panorama. It’s not the same as hanging off the balcony above the teeny tiny city, but it does give an idea for how gorgeously detailed the panorama is.

Be sure to check out the QMA, should you ever get the chance. It’s surrounded by the artifacts of the 1964 World’s Fair (including the Unisphere!).

[Photo credit: dustin3000]

Categories: entertainment, influences

approaching a local maxima

June 27, 2006 8 comments

Did you see the Portugal v. Netherlands match? Meu Deus! Portugal advanced, and now Rachel, Mike and I will cheer on our boys against England. I must admit, I’ve enjoyed cheering on the English since Garry taught us the chants and songs in the Mad Dog years ago. My favorite? Versus the Germans, “Two World Wars and One World Cup” works pretty damn well.

Never thought I’d be forced to root against England. Damn shame.

Especially because today I finalized on tickets for the vacation we’ve been planning for a bit – we’ll be headed to London to visit friends and celebrate some birthdays (mine included). If you’ll be in town second week of August and looking to have a bite (especially at St. John), do let me know.

Meanwhile, Adam spoke at AP. We all got an opportunity to eat at Koh Samui afterwards, and discuss the implications of his “Everyware” presentation. His thoughts on the necessity of exposing the “seamfullness” of location-aware systems in the future is something that’s been on my mind of late, with regards to what both Dan and Nick Carr have been citing as the generational effect of technological development.

I’m convinced that for the first decade of development and popularization of RFID and ubicomp systems (is 2006 to be considered Year One?) the experience will be inherently seamfull – I think of it like the spread of cellular networks, with deadzones appearing on the edges and in-between every area of service, ultimately to the frustration of most users. I’m inclined to think that there will be an entire generation of people with no choice but to be aware of the change in state as they move from data-enriched environments to traditional “flat space” and back again.

If the system emerges with obvious seams, and no means or standards to even come close to ensuring a frictionless experience, will the generation that follows be inclined to reduce the perception of those seams between overlapping systems? Or will they persist as vestigial alerts on whatever interfaces they employ, like the subtle changes in provider status message my phone registers as I move from Louisville, to New York and back to SF? Food for thought.

To wrap it all up, Will Wright and Brian Eno spoke tonight at the Herbst Theater. All 900 seats sold out, and you couldn’t swing a dead cat over your head without hitting a blogger. I’m sure you can find a write-up if you look around. My own thoughts on “one pixel errors,” generative systems, and the pursuit of ultimate success probability spaces vs. local maxima will find their way into a post (maybe), once everything that was discussed has a chance to sort itself out in my brain properly.

In the meantime? Pictures from McCormack and Elaine’s wedding!

kevin slavin and big games

June 13, 2006 1 comment

The longer I am in the world, the smaller it seems to get.

My friend Cary works at frog design, on the other side of South Park from the Adaptive Path office. A friend of his had come into town for the Where 2.0 conference this week; Cary had asked him to speak to his colleagues about his work on Big Games, and was kind enough to invite me along to participate as well. Turns out the friend is none other than Kevin Slavin, a friend of Adam's, and someone whose work and ideas I find both interesting and inspiring.

Some background: Kevin started up area/code with Frank Lantz last year to pursue the development of Big Games, which they define as "large-scale, real-world games." With examples like PacManhattan and CONQWEST in their portfolio, they are evolving that meaning and demonstrating what this type of play can mean in pretty amazing ways.

Kevin's manner of presentation is friendly, open and unassuming – you can be lured into a comfortable rhythm by the way he speaks, and not realize the things he's saying are truly stunning. The work area/code is pioneering hinges on concepts that forge interfaces between datascapes and physical environments; they're working out means for incorporating these into single experiences, entirely oriented around play. And they're succeeding in novel and compelling ways.

In the matter of an hour, Kevin was able to weave all the following together: what semacodes are good for [and what they are decidedly not], "read/write urbanism", sign code conspiracies, public secrets, a reference to They Live, advice on how to prototype something that takes place on 20 city blocks square, and recontextualizing what we're "supposed to do" with the devices we work with every day.

That would have been more than enough, but he also gave us a sneak peak into a game still in development, and where area/code looks for game concepts. The thing I already love about Kevin and Frank's brains is that they find a certain wacked-out inspiration in the same things I do: Jazz funerals' "second line", Mardi Gras krewe histories, even the Vodun loa Baron Samedi. area/code have set their sights very high, tapping rich veins of material, and building engaging and novel experiences out of them.

After the presentation, I was delighted we got a chance to talk a little bit more over a couple rounds of bourbon at Nova. I asked what role ubiquitous computing elements might eventually play in Big Games, and Kevin wound up making probably the most salient point I've heard about ubi comp since SXSW: when the time comes to familiarize people to (and make them comfortable with) the ubiquitous technology embedded in their physical environments, games will prove invaluable. Why? Because it stands to reason that if adoption of these systems is to be widespread and without unnecessary friction, the means of their introduction might need to be voluntary and oriented around play.

Kevin will be addressing the Where2.0 conference on Thursday at 1:30pm. If you're there, be sure to check out what he's got to say – I gaurantee you he'll leave you with quite a bit to think about.

Categories: everyware, influences, play, ubicomp

cognition in the wild

June 2, 2006 Leave a comment

In 1993 I matriculated at UC San Diego, enrolled in the Department of Cognitive Science. The class sizes were small, the material was fascinating, and I knew, even in my first year, that I was passionate about the course of study I'd chosen. I was blessed with fantastic teachers who worked directly with their students, and a fascinating curriculum that blended neurophysiology, artificial intelligence modeling and human-computer interaction topics.

As strong as the overall influence of the Department and the material, I don't think I'd have embraced the field as I have done had it not been for the influence of Edwin Hutchins. Ed's classes on distributed cognition and cognitive ethnography were enormously influential on my thinking. I find myself referring to what he taught me on a regular basis, and can still talk people's ears off about cascading failure of cognitive systems during crisis (ask Adam).

I'm looking at what I wrote above and it looks like I'm eulogizing the man, but no – Ed isn't dead. He's alive and well, and just took part in my alma mater's first Cog Sci Alumni Reunion a few weekends ago. Fellow Cog Sci alum and Bolt|Peters co-founder Nate Bolt ('99) was on hand to represent the South Park contingent, and reports he had a great time. I missed it due to scheduling, but will look forward to the next one.

Nate was nice enough to send my regards to Ed Hutchins, who apparently remembered me, which just about made my week. There are quite a few people I have to thank for helping me get as far along in the field as I have these past few years, but very few have had quite the impact Professor Hutchins did. I look forward to having the opportunity to tell him that in person.

Categories: conferences, influences