Light on Water

It’s the shift in light over the water. The way the surface of Lake Michigan or the Atlantic goes from gray to silver to blue in a second. As I walked back from the bus stop the light reflected on the buildings downtown as if pools of water reached out into the sky.

AI Science Fiction Book Covers: Stranger in a Strange Land

If you click on the Craiyon-generated image, the larger view looks creepier. Today’s image is of Heinlein’s classic, Stranger in a Strange Land, though I wonder how the AI pulls from the Bible.

Valentine Michael Smith is a human being raised on Mars, newly returned to Earth. Among his people for the first time, he struggles to understand the social mores and prejudices of human nature that are so alien to him, while teaching them his own fundamental beliefs in grokking, watersharing, and love.

~ Goodreads

AI Science Fiction Book Covers: The Martian Chronicles

I love The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. On the left, we have the 1984 paperback cover. On the right, we have Craiyon AI‘s interpretation.

Events in the chronicle include the apocalyptic destruction of both Martian and human civilizations, both instigated by humans, though there are no stories with settings at the catastrophes. The outcomes of many stories raise concerns about the values and direction of America of the time by addressing militarism, science, technology, and war time prosperity

~ Wikipedia

AI Science Fiction Book Covers: The Day of the Triffids

What happens when you run a science fiction book title through Craiyon AI?

Today we took John Wyndam’s novel The Day of the Triffids and get this scary interpretation.

The Day of the Triffids is a 1951 post-apocalyptic novel by the English science fiction author John Wyndham. After most people in the world are blinded by an apparent meteor shower, an aggressive species of plant starts killing people. Although Wyndham had already published other novels using other pen name combinations drawn from his real name, this was the first novel published as “John Wyndham”.


Repainted Our New Home

Six months after buying our house we completed our first major project. We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. The colors work well together. It pops out and is refreshing. Feels like a new house.

The first big project on our home in Boston!

Our Old House in Arkansas

Sometimes, it feels like a lifetime ago that we lived in Arkansas. It was before the pandemic. Six months before the world changed. With all the changes from Covid-19, we had all of our personal changes on top of that.

The kids still remember “the blue house,” but it’s fuzzy around the corners. This was the house we bought when we moved to Conway, where we put so much energy into renovating it, where our kids used to call home.

Users Will Break Your Heart

wood love art heart
Photo by RODNAE Productions on

You design an application. Users are supposed to add data in a certain way; however, you’ve built an assumption into the code without being explicit to the user. The system is still not quite done; but you had to put it into production. Who has time for writing documentation when the system continually needs bug fixes? Has your feature development turned into reactive bug fixes? No matter how well you design something a user does something you didn’t intend.

Did Steve Jobs Design the iPad to Be a Doorstop for a Security Gate?

Of course not! He designed it to be that third device we don’t really need yet we’ve given our kids the old ones we bought after we realized they’re pretty good for entertainment in the car. When I was visiting a family friend in Greece though, who had an iPad when they were still novel, she walked us to our car and her security gate was closing. What did she do? She stuck the iPad in between the metal gate and brick wall. The aluminum case held up just fine and she didn’t get locked out. Why am I bringing this anecdote up? Because, a user decided that iPads could be doorsteps without any regard to what designers, engineers, or sales reps thought.

No system is perfect and no matter how well you design it, your users will find a way to break it or frustrate you.

What’s an experience you’ve had of users doing something unexpected?

Is Friendship Similar to Play?

The other week, I was reading Jennifer Senior’s article “It’s Your Friends Who Break Your Heart,” and thinking about friendships past and present. Moving to a new city brings with it the opportunities to make new friends; but, it’s also rife with loneliness at the friends left behind. Throughout my life, most of the times I’ve moved have also been in sync with a number of other people moving. College in Holland, Michigan, followed by grad school in Nebraska and Tennessee all brought with them a cohort of students starting out. We were in it together. Even starting work in Missouri and Arkansas was in conjunction with a wave of new hires at both Washington University and Hendrix College so there was a group of us who were all newly arrived. I should also say that those previous moves were before I had kids and when we moved to Arkansas, Ruthann and I were newly married. Even if a global pandemic hadn’t descended soon after our move to Boston, it’s much harder to make friends at this point in life.

While I was thinking about friendship though, it reminded me of the theory of play. While mentoring a student’s independent study on games and interactive fiction, we read a book called Man, Play, and Games that defined play as being:

  1. Free: in which playing is not obligatory; if it were, it would at once lose its attractive and joyous quality as diversion;
  2. Separate: circumscribed within limits of space and time, defined and fixed in advance;
  3. Uncertain: the course of which cannot be determined, nor the results attained beforehand, and some latitude for innovations being left to the player’s initiative;
  4. Unproductive: creating neither goods, nor wealth, nor new elements of any kind; and, except for the exchange or property among the players, ending in a situation identical to that prevailing at the beginning of the game;
  5. Governed by rules: under conventions that suspend ordinary laws, and for the moment establish new legislation, which along counts;
  6. Make-believe: accompanied by a special awareness of a second reality or of a free unreality, as against real life.

These components of play resonated with me in regard to friendship. Friendship is free, separate, uncertain, unproductive (interpreting as non-transactional), and has rules. One could argue whether or not friendship is make-believe. I’ll say it’s not make-believe, but if you feel strongly about it, then send me an email.

So what does friendship mean to you? Have you reevaluated your friendships over the course of Covid-19?

Coming Back to the Office After Two Years

I only worked at WGBH for two weeks before we all went remote with the idea that we’d be back in two weeks, three tops. Now, two years later, I’m finally back. I knew what floor we were on, but not where our office was.

It’s great to see colleagues and have in-person conversations that aren’t transactional. And, best of all, I found my beloved, insulated water bottle which I thought I lost moving from our apartment during the pandemic!

The wondering is over.

Librarians Fighting Against the Memory Hole In Ukraine

woman studying at a table with books

For how could you establish even the most obvious fact when there existed no record outside your own memory? ~1984

What do librarians do when there’s a war? In Ukraine, the president of the Ukrainian Library Association asserted that librarians must fight against misinformation and cyber attacks. Also, that librarians must do whatever they can to help. For some, that’s meant libraries becoming bomb shelters and teaching new skills, for other archivists and librarians that’s meant preserving digital collections while abroad, through a grassroots organization called SUCHO.

There’s a larger question of cultural history in the digital age though. Is there such a thing as saving so much that it then becomes inaccessible? Where does curation fit into the process? It also made me think of President Donald Trump carting off national documents to Mar-a-Lago in violation of the Presidential Records Act. The fight over the historical record is ongoing.

Librarians and archivists play a crucial role in cultural memory. If we physically or digitally erase records, how does one know the truth? We’ve already shifted to a “post-truth” world where some people believe conspiracy theories and lies over verifiable truth. Take away records and we’re that much closer to 1984. Digitizing creates access (for those with an internet connection), digital preservation can add another copy of a record or can help protect born-digital objects. But wars and natural disasters expose the fragility of cultural memory and that digitization is not “the answer” but another tool for archivists and librarians in the ongoing work of preservation and access.