Thursday, May 22, 2008

musings over new york city life

I've started to do research a book I'm planning to write. Not a very committed statement, but true. And through my interviews, which are about new yorkers, I realize more and more that I don't want to leave Manhattan. In particular I don't want to leave the East Village. I have known this to be true for, well, since I moved in. In comparison I got a pretty good deal on my studio, which both my husband and I now live in. It's not great, but it's good. The only major complaint is when the plumbing in the building has some problem, which is every few months. None of it stops the world, so we get on.

I have, what I think is, a usual relationship with the city. I love it. Like it was a person you're dating or some such. Something to be proud of and desire. So I get a little indignant and a lot frustrated when I realize, not that far in the future, I'm going to have to leave the city and go to somewhere else. If we're going to have a kid, and likely we will within the year, we need more space. Well, we don't NEED more space but that would be nice. Half our stuff is in storage, even though every Spring and Fall (when we actually get those seasons for more than a few days anymore), we do a purge of our stuff.

We're both a little bit pack-rat like and so stuff accumulates. Even though we love a homey yet minimal design style, we have piles of stuff in places.

Anyway, we like some of our stuff so we keep it. But we can't afford the city, and the extra Manhattan city tax every year is just the punch in the stomach that makes me wish I was in Queens or Brooklyn. Most of our friends are still in Manhattan, or at least that's where we all hang out. So until they all leave, which few are starting to, we'll be resistant to move. Me in particular.

I keep asking myself, who are these people that can afford the rent in my neighborhood for 2 bedrooms, or any of those apartments that are more than $3k/month? Forget the multimillion dollar pads that I can't even imagine visiting let alone renting or owning. In my neighborhood, even when a 2bdrm exists, it's crazy expensive. To myself I ask them, what do you do? How much do you get paid? (And should I be doing that instead?)

I can only think that they make a considerable amount more than we do or are more comfortable living with debt than we are.

Either way, I feel shafted. I feel like my love and dedication to the city should reward me in some way. It's totally irrational, but in my weakest moments that's what I think. And then I suppose when the real, immediate need for a 2 bedroom is in my face, my priorities will change and I'll be more receptive to making concessions on location.

But for right now, I like that I'm here. Minca is across the street and I can't find a better noodle place in the city so far -- at least for me. Trust me, I've tried a LOT of noodles.

So here's to living well and environmentally-friendly my favorite neighborhood for as long as I can!

Friday, May 9, 2008

ux team of one, i wish it was me

How to be a UX Team Of One

From: ugleah, 3 weeks ago

How to Be a UX Team of One was presented by Leah Buley at the 2008 IA Summit in Miami, Florida.

It shows techniques for generative design that can be used by solo user experience practitioners.

SlideShare Link

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

New York City Congestion Charge

So it seems that although New York City wants to charge money to dissuade traffic in midtown, the state legislature thinks otherwise. I'll bet it has as much to do with timing of this proposal as it does with NYS's fear of losing business or money or something that isn't people's health.

Here's an excerpt from an email from the Mayor's office:

""Today is a sad day for New Yorkers and a sad day for New York City. Not only won't we see the realization of a plan that would have cut traffic, spurred our economy, reduced pollution and improved public health, we will also lose out on nearly $500 million annually for mass transit improvements and $354 million in immediate federal funds."

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

results of earth hour 08

Well after reading through the Google News headlines for results of March 29th Earth Hour it looks like there were reductions in energy use but that it is also a little too early to tell what the dip was and any environmental benefit. A bonus of the lights going out in some Canadian cities was that it left the night sky a bit less "polluted" with city lights. Richmond Hill's Observatory benefited. I can't imagine how clear the night sky would have been if my own New York City could follow suit. I have a hard time imagining the bureaucratic wrangling that it would take to turn the lights off of Times Square. But what a statement, eh? At least we passed Congestion Pricing today. I got the email notification from the City earlier today. Nice!

Now, go plant a tree:
If only I could figure out what open jobs they have at PLANYC. They might not want me but I definitely want to be involved. Trying to find the postings on is a bit, um, difficult. This is why I want to do more with information design/communication + environment. Make it personal, get it in the correct context for each audience. Redesign the interface so you can find what you are looking for.

I could go on... but I'm tired.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth Hour, wonder what will happen

If you don't know already, Earth Hour this year is tonight, March 29 from 20:00 - 21:00 local time. I'm, of course, going to participate and turn off all our lights. What's most interesting to me are two things:
1. The metrics of how many participated ( much CO2 and energy was saved) and how they'll compare it across time zones.
2. how many babies will be born 10 months from tonight because of this.

If you haven't heard, or want to know what's up, check it out here:

On another interesting note, is something I read from Google's EarthHour homepage today.
I had believed (or wanted to believe) blog post months about how if you just chance the color of the screen background from white to black (they used Google w/ black background -- Blackle-- as the example) that the monitor would use slightly less energy and therefore be less energy taxing/environmentally friendlier. Well, on Google's Earth Hour page explains it doesn't matter what color the screen background is. That's good for visual design since I have Accessibility questions about the contrast being high enough.

Grab a drink, turn off the lights. There's plenty of ways to entertain yourself for an hour in the "dark."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

being pregnant and true sustainability

I wrote this in a notebook February7 before I knew for certain that I was about 4 weeks pregnant. Even though my life has changed in this short amount of time, I still think it holds true and so I'm putting this out there. Basically, if we all took as good care of each other and the planet as many of us care for ourselves, things would be better.

Deep breath. Here goes...

The more I think about being pregnant, the more I believe there is a direct analogy for understanding sustainability. Sustainability is, in business, the means/way by which you are able to produce your product/service/whatever without negatively impacting the environment, others environment, the welfare of the people who work for you, the welfare of those who buy from you, who supply you. Ideally, not creating any waste and still creating a financial -- if not also ecological and social -- profit. Yes, I believe this is the Triple Bottom Line.

Sustainability is NOT the same as simply environmentally-friendly, -responsible, eco-friendly, "green" or social responsibility. It is all of these things and more. It is the full life cycle. More sucinctly: "Sustainability is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." This definition was created in 1987 at the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission).

So, let's just say that if you're in business and are sustainable, then you expect your business to sustain for 500 years in the future. You make plans and take actions to support that 500 year vision.

So how does this relate to pregnancy?

In a way it does. Whether intentionally or unintentionally pregnant -- and assuming the woman plans to take the pregnancy to full term (so no "planned" termination) -- her actions directly affect her life and the building life of another.

What she eats, drinks, does, breathes, consumes, puts on, etc. The vitamins she takes, creams she puts on, clothes she wears, garbage and waste she creates... it all affects the budding life's health and then afterwards.

Sometimes Nature steps in and the baby never arrives. But that wasn't planned. It was an uncontrollable effect. Similarly, sustainability in business, even the best intentions can be thwarted by Nature. However, in both cases direct action in an unsustainable way will guarantee long lasting negative effects. If not delayed negative effects in the case of plastic degrading in a landfill or, worse, in the oceans and re-entering the food supply as "food" for fish. For the pregnancy it will invariably result in the health of the baby that becomes a child and then adult. There is a consequence.

For example on the pregnancy argument, if a woman spends her entire pregnancy drinking beers and eating Twinkies or, say, doing some H -- as her main source of energy -- it is likely, although not guaranteed, her infant will be ill or have developmental problems. Now, given the plenitude of genes and natural development of a fetus, the same could happen to a woman who only eats healthily and exercises regularly. Like I wrote earlier, sometimes Nature intervenes in the development and the development stops.

Of course, this is where my analogy breaks down and I get close to insulting someone who has suffered a miscarriage or has opted for in vitro or other methods. But that's certainly not my point.

Comparing Nature, society, and finances to the natural process of pregnancy... well, there are genetic and business connections that I could make if I stretch this out really thinly. So I won't.

I guess what this comes down to is being a bit afraid and a lot aware of my daily choices now having a direct and visible affect on another person's existence. Where before, I believed this but I'll be able to see the effect on another person and before it was just measuring my "carbon footprint" and seeing how much trash I throw out.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Negative Ions, a well-designed solution to feeling better at home?

Around mid-September 2007, I posted an entry on my blog about how you can do your home up with clay plaster. That the ions that clay has are the same as what humans are accustomed to when living in nature.

Since I posted this blog entry I haven't tried the clay plaster; I haven't left my studio apartment in New York. So there hasn't been a home for me to try this on.

I more recently read in the Science Times section of the New York Times that mentioned humans like being in environments that have negative ions. So you feel better with clay plaster than others because of this fact. I also realized from the New York Times article that negative ions are why I prefer to leave the windows open instead of using the air conditioner (except when it's insanely hot) and put on more clothes than use the heat. I always would get, what I called as a kid, air conditioner headaches. Maybe it was just the lack of negative ions.

Perhaps all a well-designed home needs is to make more use of what humans have evolved from, the natural world. We're all star stuff after all ;)

Here's the section of the article from "Seasonal Affective Disorder" and the link to the article from Dec 18, 2007:

"It may sound suspiciously close to snake oil, but the newest promising therapy for SAD is negative air ionization. Dr. Terman found it serendipitously when he used a negative ion generator as a placebo control for bright light, only to discover that high-flow negative ions had positive effects on mood.

Heated and air-conditioned environments are low in negative ion content. Humid places, forests and the shore are loaded with them. It makes you wonder whether there is something, after all, to those tales about the mistral and all those hot dry winds, full of bad positive ions, that supposedly drive people mad."