Category Archives: Design

The Glass Edge: Lots of Pictures

My First Week with Glass

Positive Impressions

  • Many serendipitous conversations.

This employee at Bed, Bath, and Beyond who turns out to have a very interesting background. I almost got it on my first guess.

The shoppers at the local HEB in Texas

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Two charming young girls, and their cool Dad, at the local steakhouse in Texas

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A collage of pictures I’ve taken. You can’t zoom with GoogleGlass yet, and that means some people don’t even know they are in the frame. I also like the non-posed quality of some of the shots.

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Overall, there is a more honest quality to many of the pictures.

  • People are comfortable speaking to me when I’m wearing GoogleGlass

Huge surprise here. People of all ages have been very relaxed. We talk for many minutes and it’s clear they’ve forgotten about them or at least processed their presence. Kids of course are no problem. Texans (I’ve been here this weekend) are quite enthusiastic. Even my 78-year-old mom was happy to try GoogleGlass and ended up reading a text on it wishing her a happy birthday yesterday.

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Of course many people pretend not to notice them.

  • Even if you have imperfect vision, you can make them work.

I wasn’t sure how GoogleGlass was going to work for me as I wear glasses and have a particularly weak right eye, and at least as of now the prism screen sits only over your right eye. But I’m happy to report I don’t have any problems using it or reading simple text (which is all you’ll ever see really) and I’m actually hopeful the new exercise for my right eye will finally get it to pull it’s weight.

Downsides

  1. They get warm, perhaps even hot. You tend to forget that GoogleGlass is a small computer and when you ramp it up to do harder things—like recording a video, it heats up. Just a bit uncomfortable but I have thick curly hair so I’m padded.
  2. I really wish they bent in the middle like regular glasses. You can’t easily tuck them in the V of your shirt. As I said I need to wear regular glasses in many situations so I’m constantly trading them with my GoogleGlass. Unless I’m going to put them away in their nifty carrying case (size of a quality paperback), I’m left to put them on the top of my head. Because the right arm of Glass is heavy, the slight pressure on my head tends to give me a little headache. The exact same kind that I would get in my youth when I tried to wear headbands.
  3. Short and mysterious battery life. Not always clear what’s drawing the power or why the power level can drop precipitously at certain moments.
  4. Touchpad and voice controls are both uncertain. I’m much better at it than I was a week ago, but both are still quite buggy. Of course voice controls can’t seem to distinguish nuances among words so there are just some things you can’t make it understand.

Stay tuned for more reports from the Glass Edge.

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Being Puerto Rican–A Network Analysis

I was born in Puerto Rico and I try to go back every year for at least a week. This is one of those weeks. If you haven’t been there, it is a diverse and beautiful island with some of the best examples of karst topography in the United States and hundreds of miles of diverse coastline, from pure white beaches to dramatic bluffs. Most people who just visit San Juan never get to experience this diversity and may get little appreciation for the Puerto Rican people and culture.

Speaking about Puerto Rican people and culture reminds me of how I  learned that “being Puerto Rican” had (has?) a certain malodor, at least in some major cities of the East Coast. I came to live as an adult in DC as a transfer college student. Previously I had been in Texas for 8 years, which is why I consider myself a Puerto Rican by birth and a Texan by nationality. And I had no real concept of what being Puerto Rican meant on the East Coast. (To this day when I meet someone new, the chances are 50-50 that, when they find out I’m Puerto Rican, they will just assume I grew up in NYC. Conversely, I take great and flinching pains to rescue them from that idea, which reveals my prejudice as well.) Anyway when I got to Catholic University, I started working in the dining hall and I just innocently told my coworkers I was Puerto Rican. And this fellow student from Connecticut advises me: “If I were you I wouldn’t tell too many people that cuz where I come from Puerto Ricans are lazy and dirty.” (To this day I have had a prejudice against any Connecticut, including always rooting against their excellent basketball teams. But it can’t be helped.)

Once you get away from San Juan it becomes clear how different the island is from the States. If Puerto Rico ever became a state, it would be, by a 50% factor, the poorest state in the union. The economy as currently structured does not generate enough jobs for the young men and women who live there. So everywhere you go you see large clumps of young people, mostly men, mostly doing nothing. Another indicator of the absence of youth engagement are the large pied-piper party trucks and vans that bounce along the roads, topped by about 6-foot speakers, blaring out rhythms enticing all to join them at the best place to party that night and this weekend. My mom observing all this said, “We Puerto Ricans are lazy.” I said, “I don’t think so. But there is certainly a messed up rewards structure here.” When there is nothing to work for, we humans, being reasoning animals, often choose not to work. Sensible.

In terms of manmade structures, most of the island is just a mess. For example, there appeared to have been no zoning laws for much of recent history, leading to just the ugliest stretches of suburban blight I’ve ever seen. And, and this is my opinion, the Fast Food industry appears to have been allowed to run roughshod over the local food culture (which truth be told wasn’t too healthy either, but at least there was less of it usually served).  What I find really appalling are the huge billboards all over the state, tempting you to “take a break” by eating about 2000 calories of carbohydrates and fat. Diabetes is, of course, an epidemic.

So as I drove around the state, visiting relatives (and I thought it would be impossible to drive 400 miles in one day in PR but I am here to attest it can be done) I realized the entire state is a very good example of a very poorly designed network. The risk/rewards structure facilitates nonproductive behavior. Lack of design thinking at the very beginning leads to consequences one could have foretold. (Is there a design checklist out there? There must be. That actually reminds me of another lesson, #20, as a CIA manager. The importance of checklists. Most serious professionals I’ve known are offended by the concept of checklists–we’re above that, they say. As a seriously flawed human being, however, who claims to very little expertise, I love checklists. But I digress….)

The road “system” is the most obvious if not the best example of bad networks. Intersections between major highways are particularly clumsy, leading to creative workarounds by drivers. I wish I had a picture to show you, but of course I’m always driving at the time. But the lesson is clear: people will adjust themselves to even the most badly designed network. But making the most of bad situations allows for survival, but not prosperity.

My relatives in Puerto Rico are real characters. A real highlight is Juana, my mother’s cousin, I think, although determining exact family connections is a challenge given the alarming rate at which people recouple, at least in my family, and produce half-brothers and half-sisters. Anyway here’s Juana telling us one her many wonderful stories. I particularly liked the one where she went to visit the grave of her beloved husband (I was going to write deceased husband, but thought better of it given that’s why he’s in the grave in the first place). Anyway, she’s at the gravesite when a sudden burst of wind manifests, blows her down–that wind was substantial!!–and deposits her exactly alongside the burial site of her departed Gabriel, precisely where she will lie when she eventually joins him.

And here are some of her beautiful orchids.