Building a City: Upwards and Outwards

I know little of city planning. I'm a mere spectator to the whole thing.

So from my very simplistic eyes, cities grow outwards or upwards. Dallas, LA, Minneapolis: outwards. Infinite dirt in all directions. NYC, Tokyo…upwards. Tall skyscrapers kissing the clouds. 

Most (all?) cities end up doing some ratio of both as the times dictate. 

And so I think about art, or science, or music, or (as usual) myself.

When I think of, say, music going upwards. I think of Mozart, Elvis, or Swedish producers. Pushing the technique and precision to such a high level. And then at times, music grows outwards. Glass, Hendrix, Miles Davis. Just plain simply brand new novel sounds. Something we just haven't heard before as humans. 

For myself, I love outwards. I like new combinations, new things, new new. Refinement is less of a concern for me. 

I would have bought the piano when everyone was practicing the harpsichord. Gone electric like Dylan. (For the record, I'm terrible at anything musical. So I would have gone electric, but nothing like Dylan.)

But I respect those who go upwards. I need upward people on my team. And outward people. I want my city to grow in both directions as much as possible. But mostly outwards. Because, you know, it's me.

Tech Trees

Every 18-24 months or so, I get a hankering to play Civilization. A turn-based game that spans all of human history. You play a historical leader, and the goal is to outlast or outright murder the other civilizations. 

It's great.

One of the crucial aspects of the game is the "tech tree." It's a progression of technologies that reveal themselves as you "research" each one. Boats leads to watchtowers to pirate ships to eventually aircraft carriers. Swordsmen lead to sharper swords that eventually give way to guns. 

The whole aspect reframed my entire brain. It's abstract and really doesn't describe how invention and technology works, but it's a metaphor that's useful for attention and focus. 

The easy one is how little I invested into physical exercise "technologies." At 30 now, I'm finally spending time on my body. But the hill I'm climbing is something I look at my teenage self, and wonder what if I had taken it a bit more seriously. 

But it's not so much a regret, but rather a realization that there's only so much attention to give. Even now I skipped the gym to write a few blog posts. Will my 45-year old self sneer at that? Who knows, he'll probably have his eyes on an entirely different part of the tech tree.

Placeholder: "Baby Boomer Nostalgia"

A discussion between Ezra Klein and Yuval Levin about baby boomers' nostalgia, and how it's playing out in the 2016 Elections. Something that will take me a long while to process, and form my own thoughts on. Hence, the placeholder.

Many links in-case links expire:

I Want Your High

As a designer, it's weird to learn that color blindness exists. It's a splash of cold water when you realize that the colors you took hours to choose are moot for some people. 

"This red is vibrant and matches the tone and feel of this company."

"It's gray." 


And then as I do, I started thinking about something else. In particular, how much of a sledgehammer some drugs are. We don't know how any one person will metabolize, react, or reject a drug. And it can be for a multitude of reasons. So we throw a quantity into their body, and hope that the result is sorta what we wanted.

So I imagine a world where we have implantables and finally fine-tune the delivery of drugs or even at that point, specific neurotransmitters to simulate the effects we want. 

Tie that back to getting high. A group of friends takes a drug, and all get high.

But like the color blindness -- sure they all may be getting the same color, but how that color is exactly perceived will vary.

I'm curious about a world where we can so precise that we can replicate the exact same high in different people. 

Today, it's "let's get high."

Tomorrow, it'll be "I loved Dave's high from October 2013. Let's do that tonight."

A world where we all see the same vibrant colors that we intended for each other.

Generational Blindspots

I like to call them "Oh, Grandpa" moments. Those moments when your grandpa says something sorta racist, or sexist, or just crazy, and all you can do is "Oh, Grandpa." He's a product of his time, he could only introspect what he knew to introspect.

On a broad level, his culture never questioned certain things, so those become blindspots the moment he interacts with those who have. 

It's hard to tell what my generational blindspot will be. We don't have all the answers, but it's been hard not to be exposed to many of the issues that exist today. Race, religion, sexual orientation, differently-ableness--they are all popping into the culture at some point or another.

But one that I think will be ours is digital ethnics. 

The idea of managing one's digital exposure and what we services we blindly enter into will seem ridiculous to the next generations. 

The idea that we so willingly use Facebook, and Linkedin, and Snapchat because they're free will make us seem so ignorant. 

"Blah, we used to just send a dick pic for free! Put a filter on it. Which was also free! We thought it would disappear, but they didn't. Oh well!"

Eventually we'll build infrastructure about the ethnics and morality of these services. In the same way that the Stanford Experiment prompted written consent and ethnic boards for science. We will resist them because they seem so slow and imposing, but I imagine when I make that rant--the kids will roll their eyes and say those magical words...

"Oh, Grandpa."


Alone Time

I still wrestle with alone time vs being social.

It took me a while to realize that there's an ebb-and-flow to both ends of the spectrum. And that both are needed.

But it's still hard to figure when to switch, and how to ramp up either. 

For example, right now, I'm realizing I'd like to be more social, but being in a new city--it's hard to ramp that up quickly. And then eventually I know, I'll want to ramp down, but then feel bad about breaking rhythm with people.

It's also hard to figure out how intense to go. It's nuanced to tell someone that you want like 20 texts, but 30 is way too many right now. It's to hard to say that I'm even that fickle to need that specificity. 

Maybe I'm over-feeling the disruption, and everyone already gets it. But I dunno because I already want alone time, so I'm not texting anybody right now. 

Or maybe I should??


Obvious statement day: people make the workplace.

The work only takes you so far. The "congrats" only lingers in your mind for so long. The commute always sucks. 

So it's the people you can shoot the shit with, eat lunch with, work with, joke with, borrow gum from. It's 40 hours a week. Liking the people around you is a nice thing to have.

But I suspect it can cut the other way. You like these people so much that you start making so-so decisions. You burn a bit more to save someone. You take on a bit more because you really don't mind. 

And you hope that these good people will do the same for you.

However, I think it why some people stay a little too long. Get a little too complacent with things that might be toxic. They get a few too many wrinkles in the process. 

That line is too blurry for anyone to make that call consistently. But I think it's worth keeping in-mind as we plan for the future.

I Think I'm Qualified

It's weird to say that I've been a professional for eight years now. It feels like yesterday that I was figuring out what a portfolio was. 

But I suppose I've grown since then. I've seen design problems come and come back again. I've seen bad people fuck up projects. I've seen how good-intended people still fuck things up. 

(Let's be real too, I've seen myself fuck up projects.) 

Learned to present ideas. Learned to generate ideas. Learned that hating those ideas is part of the process. 

Etc. etc. But I think what brings all of this to sharpest resolution is seeing the mistakes...I take that back--they aren't even mistakes... Mis-steps? Maybe well-intended attempts to find the path in others. 

I run into younger designers, and can sense the lacking confidence, or the brave face, or well the worst one, the hubris. And the instinct to just tell them. "Hey! Don't stick your finger in the socket son!" or "Hey! That visual system can't be properly coded by the dev team, and will fall apart in four sprints!" 

The huge caveat, of course, that it's not like I'm not prone to lacking confidence, or brave faces, or hubris. It happens. But I'm thinking that the growth isn't the exorcism of these traits, but rather the faster and faster detection of them. 

You know, hey I'm feeling something familiar... a bad familiar... oh! My finger's in the socket again! I should remove it from said socket. 

So grown up. So wise.