Saturday, May 29, 2004
Our little lady Cianna isn't bugged by Mr. Cicada's climb up her shoulder. If anything, we have to make sure she doesn't pick him up for a squeeze. This is the scene I want to duplicate when this brood of cicadas returns to meet Cianna at age 17.
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Storm after the day
On our ride home to Baltimore last night, I was getting weather alerts on my Sidekick like this:
WWUS51 KLWX 260026
SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON DC
826 PM EDT TUE MAY 25 2004
...TORNADO WARNING CONTINUES FOR CITY OF ALEXANDRIA AND FAIRFAX COUNTIES UNTIL 900 PM EDT...
AT 826 PM EDT... RADAR INDICATED A DEVELOPING TORNADO OVER ROSE HILL...MOVING SOUTHEAST AT 20 MPH.
AT 825 PM...REPORTS OF FUNNEL CLOUDS JUST SOUTH OF ALEXANDRIA HAVE BEEN RECEIVED BY THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FROM LAW ENFORCEMENT.
THE WOODROW WILSON BRIDGE...ALEXANDRIA...FRANCONIA...HYBLA VALLEY...LINCOLNIA AND MOUNT VERNON ARE NEAR THE PATH OF THIS DANGEROUS STORM.
MOTORISTS IN THE PATH OF THIS STORM SHOULD ABANDON VEHICLES FOR MORE SUBSTANTIAL SHELTER! DO NOT TAKE SHELTER UNDER HIGHWAY OVERPASSES! TAKE COVER IN A NEARBY STURDY BUILDING. AS A LAST RESORT...TAKE COVER IN A DITCH OR CULVERT. PROTECT YOUR HEAD AND BODY FROM FLYING DEBRIS!
The "abandon vehicles" line certainly got my attention. I loaded the local weather radar, and sure enough, there was a massive line of storms coming over us.
The sky looked really bad as we were coming to the ramp leading into downtown Baltimore. I shoved my camera out the window (Amy was driving and I was in the back seat with the baby) to take some photos just as raindrops started to fall. I accidentally left my camera flash on and caught the nearest raindrops whizzing by.
This frame, with incredible churning clouds and raindrop trails that look like giant hail looking like a scene out of the movie The Day After Tomorrow, was taken as we came off I-95 onto the ramp to downtown. We'll likely see a few more storm squalls like this over the summer on our rides home.
We pulled up to the house and waited about 15 minutes under powerful lightning and thunder before the storm let up. The western sky soon opened up with an orange glow. I excitedly ran into the fading rain to look for a rainbow in the east. Alas no rainbowthe sun set just as the rain ended.
Update: It turns out two tornados did touch down in Maryland.
Monday, May 24, 2004
Maeda and me
John directs the Physical Language Workshop at the lab in addition to heading up the Information Organized Research Consortium in which AARP is a sponsor/member. He was in town today to chat with us on how we could adapt some of his technology platforms to enhance the online experience of a select group of AARP members. We're still in the early stages of planning, but I'm excited about helping to drive this joint initiative through our Web Strategy and Operations group.
Making technology usable, understandable, and enjoyable has been a theme throughout John's extensive career as a designer and teacher. He took new action on some of his ideas earlier this year to form an experimental research program called simply, simplicity. You'll notice that the letters M-I-T are even embedded in the logo treatment. Many point out that MIT is also in complexity, and what better an institution than this high temple of technology to come to the realization that we need a return to the basics.
The effort is still in its infancy, but John has turned the mantra up a notch with a recent essay [reg. req.] by Jessie Scanlon in the New York Times. John has assembled an impressive group of research fellows to do some initial thinking. Some of their first principles of simplicity:
1. Heed cultural patterns. The iPod, for instance, succeeded not just because of its sleek form, but because, in conjunction with iTunes, it solved so many of the problems of buying and storing music.
2. Be transparent. People like to have a mental model of how things work.
3. Edit. Simplicity hinges as much on cutting nonessential features as on adding helpful ones, the Newton MessagePad and the Palm Pilot being prime examples.
4. Prototype. Push beyond proof-of-technology demos and build prototypes that people can interact with.
Scanlon has started an outline for a book on simplicity, but in addition to upcoming press, some of the fellowship's ideas and examples will start to appear to the general public in a couple upcoming books. John's book Creative Code will arrive this summer, and Bill Moggridge of IDEO is finishing up a book manuscript entitled "Designing Interactions" for MIT Press to be released in the fall of 2005.
The simplicity braintrust reconvenes at the Media Lab early this July, and I'll likely be there to listen in. Stay tuned; stay simple.
Sunday, May 23, 2004
Golden Cicada Orchid
I made some images this week of emerging cicadas. I think they are at their most beautiful in the roughly 30 minutes it takes the adult cicadas to emerge from their nymph shells, and the hours after during which they darken. In the moments when their wings and legs are completely free for the first time, they look like rare orchids. Searching in Google, it turns out that there is indeed a rare orchid in Indonesia called chrysoglossum ornatum or the Golden Cicada Orchid.
The cicadas are reaching full force around here. In our neighborhood of Charles Village, nearby male cicadas are emitting loud bursts of their screeching mating call from the tops of many trees. Even more pervasive, and something I don't remember from 17 years ago, is a near constant distant hum that must be the blend of the echos of millions of calling cicadas. It's this dull hum that makes me more uneasy than the cicadas shells and bodies all over the ground. Fortunately, cicadas don't swarm.
Quiet moment at a party
My wife and six-month-old daughter share a moment of giggles at Loie and Bucky's 13th anniversary party yesterday. We can't keep our hands off those baby feet and toes. Pretty much sums up our weekend.
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Changes and handoffs
A year ago this week, I was saying goodbye to New York City after a six-month consulting engagement on Wall Street. This week, I'm finishing up another six-month engagement where I did my wife's job while she was on maternity leave. What's different this year is that I'm staying put for several more months to enter a new phase of work in the same offices. The arrival of a first child makes one want to wander less to new frontiers, but creates beautiful new linkages close to home.
Baby Cianna plays with my camera strap as the three of us ride from Baltimore down to my mom's house to drop her off so we can continue to Amy's first day back at work. This scene replaces views of hordes of passengers on my daily train commute.
We did the handoff of Cianna to my mom and continued driving to a subway stop at the northern edge of DC. We lucked out and got a parking space, but on most days, we'll probably have to drive straight to the office and park at a garage. Soon, we'll take Cianna to the office with us one or two days a week so that she can be at a daycare center across the street. This gives my mom a break. The total run from home to office was about an hour and twenty minutesabout the same as commuting by train.
We said hello to various people on our way into the building and dropped our stuff off at our desk. Amy did a ceremonial change of nameplates.
After a meeting with our design and production team, we took them out to lunch at Zola, the restaurant at the Spy Museum.
A couple routine project meetings pulled the rest of the afternoon quickly past us. Before long, we were back at my mom's for dinner, and to see our contently-sleeping baby. Then the drive back to Baltimore to walk the dog and bathe the babe. Mom and daughter are sound asleep as I close this blog post, and the lids of my laptop and eyes.
Saturday, May 15, 2004
Cianna and I spy a fully-matured cicada on our morning walk around the block. I'm holding the bug's wings in one hand and the camera in the other in this self-portrait. When the children of this brood return in 2021, my daughter will be driving a car and ready to go to college. I hope I remember to remake this photo then.
Empty cicada shells are now a common sight in the trees along the streets of Charles Village. Download this image as a desktop wallpaper.
A "beauty" shot of a cicada. Visit Cicada Mania for more photos and emergence reports.
Friday, May 14, 2004
Night of the Living Cicada
While walking the dog tonight, we saw our first cicada nymphs crawling across the sidewalks of Charles Village here in Baltimore. This is the first of Brood X, which were last with us back in 1987. To get this shot, I collected a few of the muddy buggers in one of my daughter's sippy cups (to her mom's mild dismay), and had the largest one climb up and down a twig until it got tired and paused to rest at the tip. Then I spotlighted the pooped nymph with my trusty X5 LED flashlight and made the shot using all manual settings on my digital camera. You can expect some shots of cicada with a cute baby here soon.
Sunday, May 09, 2004
Looking at Liz
Today I met up with hired model Liz at a friend's house in Ellicott City for another photo session. I've been thinking about posing Liz with her flaming red hair in the window well of a room in the house where the wallpaper had been stripped to reveal a complimentary turquiose patina. Everything came togetheralong with great weatherjust a week before the walls are to be covered up. The window photo looks like it could be a singer's CD/album cover, and, well, I wouldn't mind being hired to shoot for a CD cover. In the second image (click to pop up a larger version), Liz is posed just at the edge of shadow behind the house with the sun behind her. Nice wholesome light.
In both images, I used a 42" Photoflex silver Litedisc reflector to bounce light into her face. I'm hooked on these collapsible reflectors. They're so simple and effective. And my new-ish Olympus C-5060 is working quite well. I finally found my old Iomega 1 gig microdrive this weekend and pressed it into service.
Redhead Liz rounds out the hair color facet of my portfolio. Now I've got to continue to work on ethnic diversity in my quest to make photographs of female beauty.
Updated 5/13: After reviewing the take from Sunday some more, I replaced the previous feature image with a larger, bolder composition and pose. The color palette of the distressed walls harmonizes with Liz's hair and dress perfectly.
Saturday, May 08, 2004
A rigger works to inflate the balloon sponsored by Constellation Energy for tonight's Preakness Celebration Balloon Glow at the Inner Harbor, which was scheduled for 9pm. I didn't make it back to see the balloons in their full glory as we had a busy day toting the baby around with family for Mother's Day. Baby Cianna was somewhat overstimulated by dinnertime, so we had a quiet evening at home.