Ink Café

A couple photos of one of my favorite places to drink my favorite beverages with a side of cheesecake. I haven’t yet found a coffee shop that compares – certainly nothing in Charlottetown. As I contemplate our relocation here I realize that my interest in having a hobby roasting coffee beans may take on a more urgent need.

Coffee is one of my favorite subjects on my instagram feed, including my many visits to Ink Café in Hsinchu.

The above photos are from Inks’ own Instagram photos.

Why you need to code

Recently I have yet again fallen in to the trap of trying to find a ready made solution to an easy to solve problem.

My portfolio website was quickly put together years ago and has languished ever since. From the time it was launched the extremely slow load times have made it embarrassing – it is a wordpress theme created by a talented German developer living in New Zealand. She has a love for JS loaders which for a host of reasons make each page take minutes, yes minutes, to load.

These past few weeks I have wanted to get a feel for employment opportunities here in Canada so a fast simple site is a good option as a way of introduction. My current site just won’t do.

Seeing as I have a lot of things occupying my time and thinking, my mental bandwidth has limits, and that I’ve let my web development skills languish somewhat, I chose to seek out a ready made template, thinking that I could then just focus on the typography, message, and load times.

First stop was the original developers themes but unfortunately, though matching my minimalist sensibilities, most suffer from the same load problems and they also have a host of usability issues.

Squarespace looks promising, but they also suffer from usability issues. Most of my work leans towards text vs. lovely art directed imagery, unless of course you find UX reports set in Times New Roman attractive, so their themes haven’t worked. ANd as soon as you step outside their defined templates, things become messy and difficult.

The point is all of the time I have spent trying to massage someone else’s work into something that would work for me I could have developed my own – except at the beginning it’s often difficult to see it that way.

In favor of prototyping for iOS I’ve let my web development skills fall by the wayside. This year I’ll work on polishing these skills so that I can quickly put together little projects without wasting time trying to fit some general purpose template into my needs.

Being able to code saves time.

Prince Edward Island Reverse Culture Shock

The reverse culture shock W-curve was developed by John and Jeanne Gullahorn. Upon arrival in the “home” culture, the returnee experiences a “honeymoon” period where all that is grand about home seems to shine through. Visits with old friends and family are refreshing, and you may notice some exciting changes. The honeymoon period doesn’t last long, though, as cultural differences and the stresses of reentry continue to mount. For people not expecting reentry stress, the challenges can be even more severe, plunging repatriates into the pit of reverse culture shock. As returnees cope with the cultural differences of their home culture and manage the logistical tasks, they climb up the slope of re-adaptation and again regain their psychological stability. As with initial culture shock, the duration of this phenomenon varies from person to person, but the phenomenon itself is prevalent among returning members of the foreign affairs community.

When working in China I’ve often looked forward to the time when I would leave, now that I back in Prince Edward Island I’ve been missing some of the differences that set the places apart.

I’ve been doing more than my far share of moaning, complaining and generally far too critical of all things local of late. Which is to say for the first time I am experiencing reverse culture shock. Over the past 18+ years the majority of my experience on *the Island* has been on holiday, always immersed in the honeymoon period, but now that I have returned to live the experience is naturally entirely different. Here are some of the differences I am adjusting to after almost 19 years in China and Taiwan:

  • No one seems to reply to email – of all the email I have sent to local businesses and government none have replied. I’ve often thought that email was broken, and I guess this proves it, as despite advising you to get in touch via email, the most I have gotten is an unrelated automated reply.
  • The weather makes training difficult. This is my first Canadian winter experience since I left. It’s cold. I opted for a membership at a local gym vs. the hefty investment in winter running gear required to survive running in -10 temperatures.
  • Sugar sugar sugar. I tend to make most meals myself and rely on whole unprocessed foods but in the few times I’ve tried a few treats I’ve almost gagged on the amount of sugar — even spicy Chinese style food hurts my teeth.
  • Mobile phone plans tend to emphasize voice and text messaging – I haven’t used either regularly in years. In fact the phone app isn’t even on my home screen. It’s a data device for me and most people I know; communication is via WeChat, iMessage, FaceTime and others. The plans themselves are easily twice as expensive as what I pay in Taiwan and China. Data speeds are ok.
  • At many places cash is still most convenient. In China I grew accustomed to never needing to take cash with me – everything was paid with my mobile. Even little fruit stalls in a market allows for payment via WeChat wallet. Here in PEI my pockets are flooded with change, it’s a never ending stream of metal, and this annoying nuisance even has resulted in huge innovative machines at the grocery store where it will sort and give you real money in exchange for a fee. Splitting a bill here also requires far more work than simply sending money via mobile.
  • Online shopping seems far less prevalent here. In China I would order everything via mobile and despite living in a rather remote location it would be arrive quickly; it was almost a nightly habit. In Taiwan, items would arrive within 24hrs. The few items I felt like ordering here all required 2 weeks to just prepare the order, then another length of time to arrive at my door. I understand that this is a big country but surely orders could arrive within a week. I ordered a razor 3 weeks ago and it’s still stuck in some clearing centre somewhere. Online grocery shopping doesn’t seem to exist.
  • Jobs. I always knew the job market was … difficult on PEI, otherwise so many wouldn’t leave, but I hadn’t really thought just how challenging an environment it is for design all over Canada. The economy here really is different and it takes a great deal of time to really understand the fact that there aren’t a seemingly unlimited number of companies “making things”.
  • Big box stores abound. I suppose that there are similar problems in Taiwan, but you soon get tired of dropping in to each and every big box store just to grab an item or two (and you can’t buy online). I really don’t see the attraction of all the big box stores, but I guess this just requires better planning skills. Taiwan’s convenience stores really are the best.

These are just little things – there are many habits that need to be changed and it’s just a matter of time. There are a whole host of other deeper cultural differences which I face, or observe, which will may never be adjusted to, but like arriving to a foreign country, I’m sure I will eventually accept or move on.

5 Talks on Empathy

Empathy, the essential element of good design.

To understand someone’s worldview that is foreign to yours is the hard work of being human. We need space to critically think and also have the support of people who possess a compassionate understanding so that our assessments aren’t entirely self-serving.

…five talks … that teach the beauty of empathy in multiple contexts: leadership, product design, social change, technology, and for the people you work with (including yourself).

5 Talks on Empathy That Will Change How You Connect and Create

It was shallow thinking to maintain that numbers and charts were the cold compression of unruly human energies, every sort of yearning and midnight sweat reduced to lucid units in the financial markets. In fact data itself was soulful and glowing, a dynamic aspect of the life process. This was the eloquence of alphabets and numeric systems, now fully realized in electronic form, in the zero-oneness of the world, the digital imperative that defined every breath of the planet’s living billions. Here was the heave of the biosphere. Our bodies and oceans were here, knowable and whole.
Don Delillo, Cosmopolis: A Novel (Scribner, 2003).