Day One of New Glasses

I’ve procrastinated for weeks but I’ve finally got around to wearing my new progressive lenses today. It’s absolutely maddening so far, especially trying to find the sweet spot while working. Generally, I don’t need to wear glasses when I work but I’d like to add a bit of distance between my face and monitors. This places the laptop and external monitor just outside the realm of crisp text, but the glasses don’t seem to be much clearer.

Moving my head from side to side while looking at my desk produces an “Inception” like effect, which I think if I kept repeating I might actually enter into some kind of trance like state, or fall out of my chair.

I get the feeling this is going to take some time.


The pot calling the kettle black

The Kettle Black

Cafés that you want to sit in and spend time enjoying always seem to have this unplanned homemade look to them, unlike say Tim Hortons whose experience is all about speed of delivery. Starbucks has systemized this, so that I can have a similar experience in Charlottetown, Hsinchu, Fuzhou or anywhere else the Starbucks brand intrudes upon. But with any large system you tend to lose the uniqueness of the place, and water down the experience so it can be consistently replicated. Which is one reason why I prefer local independents, each one placing unique emphasis on some part of the experience – my favorite spot is Hollatte馥拏鉄 自烘咖啡, located in a small alley in Hsinchu Science Park. Even after moving their location it’s still just a small shop store with a couple Ikea Tables at the center. Their mix tends to be coffee expertise vs. experience of place. Ink café in Hsinchu is a more balanced mix of the 2.

Their are a number of decent cafés in Charlottetown’s downtown area. The Kettle Black pictured above is my current favorite.


Looking for a desk

I spent the better part of a week going store to store in Charlottetown looking for a hard surface I could work on. My needs are simple, a flat surface, preferably wood, that is of a certain modest size and cheap. The cheap part is a bit tough here. For years I have bought kitchen tables from IKEA for this very purpose – often I would leave them unfinished but have also taken to staining them to help cover the change in color brought on by age and the effects of humidity. I wasn’t able to find much of an equivalent here, with most furniture stores opting for larger more showcase like units. My desk is going to be hidden away in a room, unseen by anyone but me. Staples had an inexpensive stand-up desk, but I imagined one frustrated fist on the desk would bring the whole surface crashing down. Eventually I realized that IKEA does indeed ship to PEI and for a price cheaper than local furniture stores.

Finding a figurative desk has thus far been easier. For the years that I freelanced while in Taiwan I often found the experience extremely … lonely. First when we were in Hsinchu’s equivalent of the suburbs, I would never come into human contact for weeks on end. When we moved to the Science Park, there were world class coffee shops aplenty but they were noisy or not conductive to longish sprints of work. Most of what I was missing was the “water cooler” talk and the opportunity to learn from people smarter than myself, collaborate, or ask for help. Hsinchu is full of big brains, but they work 12+ hours a day and there was little in the way of support for independents or small entrepreneurs. Taipei was the centre for that. So in Charlottetown I find myself in coffee shops, and at least for now occupying a hot desk at the Startup Zone. I find it a tad expensive but at least I get to see people walking by the windows and hopefully later absorb the work ethos of a bunch of young people working on their new companies (the office is generally empty these days). Despite being an introvert, I do find surrounding myself with people healthy for work. Just don’t ask me to “work the room”.

Later as I get my sea legs I might rent a more purpose built space, maybe joining the underground society, but I think the combination of working from home and getting out a couple days a week might work for now.


The curse of the upstairs neighbour

I’ve had the (mis)fortune of living in an eclectic range of places over the past 30+ years.

I remember distinctly the room I rented in Antigonish that was lousy with fleas. I would lay in bed at night and watch the fleas bounce off the blanket, but being a poor student and new to Antigonish, I had no where else to go. Apparently before I arrived, the room I was renting was the family dogs favorite place to sleep. Somehow they seemed offended when I no longer wanted to live there and later moved in with my now wife. I guess I have that dogs fleas to thank for a long and happy relationship. Sheryl’s apartment was pretty special too, featuring a shower head directly above the toilet. Such convenience!

The 10 years in Toronto were largely uneventful, other than the wide range of characters I lived with and the extreme noise from the St. Clair Ave Street Cars. There was the house in Malton that was condemned and I was forced to move out. There was the room I rented in Scarborough from a very bitter, and constantly drunk landlord, and her equally drunk daughter. I remember renting a couch, yes a couch was all I could afford, in one town house, and the guy who broke in through the living room window only to be met by 6 large college students. He sure could run.

My 20 years in Taiwan understandably brought a wide range of experiences. Our landlady in Taipei didn’t like my wife as much as me because my chopstick technique was better than hers. She always shared sweets with me first and then seemingly reluctantly offered them to Sheryl. Our first apartment in Hsinchu suffered from water pressure and large cockroach problems. Turn on the shower tap and dust came out. Eventually I worked out a system of periodically running out of the shower to the kitchen to turn on the hot water, thereby gaining a comfortable flow of hot water. Also, I was introduced to “those people” who train pigeons with fireworks, fireworks that used to explode outside our bedroom window on Saturday mornings. This apartment on Minzu Rd. also had the distinction of being where we experienced the 921 earthquake, the sound of which I will never forget.

Our next house in Hsinchu was an old 3 story alley house, which was nice except for the electrical wires which I melted due to my desire to have the computer and lights on at the same time. Once after a particularly heavy rainfall the drains on the roof became plugged and we had this pretty waterfall pouring down the 3 floors of the house. The hazardous waste that would flow in the drainage channel at the back of our house was becoming a concern, considering we had a new born to look after, thus we moved again.

That brought us to an even larger house in the wilds of Xiangshan. 5 stories of space which necessitated the purchase of an equal number of sofas and matching chairs. Lovely area, perfect for our growing family of 2 kids and 2 dogs, replete with parks and train station nearby, but oddly for Taiwan, no convenience stores in sight. We seemingly had no problems, nor much to complain about, except the previous waterfall was now in our basement bathroom, and the abundance of large wolf spiders that would keep smaller creatures to a minimum. Then we noticed the mold. Taiwan is sometimes lovingly called the big mold, and walls often have to be treated and painted many times to keep it in check. You don’t leave leather laying around and purchasing dehumidifiers is recommended. But this was different – large fuzzy and often mushroom like growth. Our kids developed problems, especially our son, perhaps it was allergies, so we left the “sick house” for the hustle of the Science Park.

After sealing all the windows to keep out the poison air and replacing the institutional beige walls with yellow, red and grey we settled into our much smaller apartment a short walk from all the conveniences that we could require. It was interesting and depressing at the same time to live at the epicentre of much of the global 3C supply chain. Despite these apartments being in demand, for a couple years no one lived above us, and luckily no one has ever lived below us (otherwise we would have been their nightmare neighbour). The first neighbour living above would serenade his partner to sleep every night with his ukulele, nice if he could play. The second neighbour wasn’t in the building often but when she was, she would take to vacuuming and cleaning after 10pm. It was the only time we knew she existed, I assumed she worked in China or elsewhere, and just used the apartment when she was required to be in Hsinchu. The next and most recent neighbour would come home late every night, about 10pm or so, with their toddler, who being a toddler needed to spend 30 minutes jumping up and down before settling down at night. And they constantly dropped heavy things, how or what was a source of constant mystery. There is something about that unique sharp sound that caused my anxiety to rise. A full nights sleep was rare.

We are early risers. The kids need to get to school early and I have to run before the heat of the day. To get a good nights sleep we need to be asleep long before 10, 5am comes quickly.

Living in China was the same but different. I lived in the managers accommodation, a modern newly built building where I had a large 2 bedroom apartment to myself, luxurious. I would send pictures to my wife teasing her about how great the company provided apartment was compared to what was provided to us in Taiwan. Outside the building was immaculate with an army of workers keeping the environment pristine. But, as luck would have it I had an upstairs neighbour who worked the afternoon shift which would bring her home at about 10 to 10:30 each evening. I can still here the reverberations of her high heel shoes as she stamped across the floor, and the arguments she had with her boyfriend on her mobile phone. As a manager I set my own hours, so could sleep in if I liked, but unfortunately this construction noise (another example) started at sunrise every morning except Sunday. I considered the high heels and the construction noise a form of mental torture.

I’ve never rented in Charlottetown and one of the conditions for us to return here was I never wanted to step foot in an apartment building. Buy or rent a house was to be the only option. Then we realized the realities of trying to find a place to live in Prince Edward Island. Deadlines were approaching. I was panicking. I couldn’t find any house rentals and buying a house remotely from Taiwan proved difficult and risky. Time was running out, so when my cousin cooly stated that he saw some places to rent I called the property manager immediately. My cousin inspected the apartment, and I rented it sight unseen.

Now I have a new upstairs neighbour. He’s what we call in running a heel striker, and every evening and morning he is on some mission to go places in his apartment. Like office workers who walk fast to look important and busy. The building is new, and attractive by Charlottetown standards, but it’s constructed so that it reverberates some sounds in an exaggerated way. I have no doubt that my upstairs neighbour has no idea the effect of his walking style, or that my kitchen table shakes in the morning. The air pressure change from closing a door has a similar but reduced effect. If it impacts my life in a negative way, beyond the already annoyance, I will have a polite word, but beyond that I can’t compel someone to walk “correctly”.

My cousin cautioned me about renting this property due to it requiring a fixed term lease. I read the Residential Property Act before signing and interpreted the act as giving me the right to terminate the contract with 60 days notice. My interpretation was incorrect. It’s very lessee sided and the first contract I have ever entered in without an escape clause. Moving so quickly after arriving is no joy anyway, so it looks like I may be in for another living arrangement to remember.


Those blue skies

With everyday bringing skies like this it’s proving very difficult to get back into some semblance of a work grove. I keep staring out the window wishing I was outside doing just about anything. After a time, perhaps the novelty will wear off and I’ll get back to days full of productive clicking and typing.


ChaTime Charlottetown

With the excellent weather we had yesterday it didn’t seem right to stay inside moving furniture around or spend time working on ‘odds n sods’ in front of computer screen. Other than running I was at a loss as to what to do on PEI on a Sunday, at least until the rest of the family arrives.

Weekends in Hsinchu were not a time of rest. Saturdays the kids had swimming and yoga, my daughter had a 3 hour math class in the afternoon. I often would have work to finish, and my wife if not the same, was off doing all kinds of chores. Sundays were generally set aside for outside activities, long runs, hiking or biking, and the occasional movie.

So I found myself walking around the downtown, checking out the market set-up along the side of Queen Street. Luckily I had no cash, otherwise I would have come home with more homemade soap then could possibly be needed. It’s generally a show for the tourists but I did manage to meet some interesting people and find a source for possible weekly meat deliveries from Saoirse Farms. After that short walk I found myself yet again at The Kettle Black enjoying a latte. Then I kept walking through the haunts of old, circling back to Queen where I fell upon the newly opened Cha Time.

My kids will be excited to see this chain. Tea shops like this are ubiquitous in Taiwan, and my kids, like many, love visiting as much as we allow, or have time for. We didn’t visit this chain often when in Taiwan, but they did sponsor a race my wife and I participated in this past year.

I’m not a tea drinker nor a huge fan of 珍珠 (the balls in milk tea) but I ordered my favourite 芒果冰沙, which is translated inaccurately as a mango smoothie. Not bad, though still too sweet despite ordering with no added sugar.

The staff still seem to be getting their sea legs, but they seem excited, the environment very clean, and the drink selection great. I’ll be back with the kids in tow.


Readers now recognize that unintelligible documents are not natural disasters that have to be accepted like summer squalls or sleet storms. Rather they know that poor documents are human artefacts produced by organisations that could be encouraged to take readers’ needs more seriously.
Karen A. Schriver

Intelligible copy is as much an issue today as it was 21 years ago when I was handed a stack of research by my then boss who reviewed my early attempts at producing readable web copy.


My conversation with Bell Aliant

Bell: Hello
Me: Is this Bell Aliant?
Bell: Who is calling?
Me: I’m Clark MacLeod and I am calling about the Fibre Installation that was scheduled for this evening
Bell: Give me your account number
Me: Let me look. #0000000
Bell: You’re calling from Nova Scotia?
Me: No, Prince Edward Island
Bell: Give me your postal code
Me: I can’t remember my postal code, I just moved in and it’s on the phone I am using to talk to you
Bell: Address?
Me: (I give address) Are you coming this evening to do an install?
Bell: I’m going to put you on hold for a minute
Me: Sigh Ok

A few minutes later.

Bell: They are working on it.
Me: What does that mean?
Bell: They will call you
Me: Thats all you can tell me?
Bell: Yes, they will call you
Me: Ummm, Thank you

I ordered Bell Fibre and was first told an install date of Tuesday evening, which after an evening phone call from a 877 number was asked to select another time. I selected the evening period over the “all day” period (who would select that?) and rushed home for 5pm in order to guarantee I was there to greet the technician. 3 1/2 hours later I made the above phone call.

There are two things that are guaranteed to make me upset, rudeness and wasting my time unpaid. Bell ticked those boxes. Not a smidgen of polite language did whoever I talked to on the phone use.

Certainly there is a better way than this. An automated system letting you know they aren’t going to be on time or a simple phone call. My previous interactions with the engineers that come to install have been good – they call just before they are about to arrive and generally stick to the promised schedule. Bell Alliant must be a different animal.

Hopefully today, or before the weekend, I can once again bask in the glow of high speed internet.


So what does 120 mean?

I’ve been doing fairly well with my cashless habits around Charlottetown as most places have some kind of creaky card terminal allowing me to pay via my bank card, not sure they support Unionpay which they should considering the amount of Chinese immigrants I see. Haven’t seen much in the way of mobile payments but it doesn’t seem to be as much a cultural fit here as it was in China.

One part of downtown that hasn’t yet joined the late 20th century are the parking meters. Yesterday out of coins, I quickly hiked up the street to my bank to stand in line for 10 minutes to get a handful of toonies before the dreaded “meter person” came and gave another ticket. I haven’t yet clued in that there are parking garages nearby.

I had received a ticket the day before because I thought 120 meant 120 minutes, but as I set my stop watch today I realized it actually means 1 hr and 20 minutes, hence my disbelief when I received a ticket yesterday AM.

I prefer the Taiwan system where someone drives around giving you a parking bill which you then later pay at a local convenience store.

The parking meters in Charlottetown are due for some kind of update. Perhaps the city could consider implementing the Smart Parking Eco-System that was presented to Parliament back in 2016.


Around Richmond

IMG_7413

Most nights of late have been spent sitting at Receivers Coffee on Richmond Street in Charlottetown utilizing their wifi and drinking their decaf expresso. They have a flourless brownie which is deceptively small, it’s so dense that it’s enough to share with 2 – 4. It’s a great place to spend the evening, if not a bit too noisy. I would guess the staff, after a long day, turns the music a little bit louder to help them get through the final couple hours of the night. Tonight Bell Aliant is coming to hook up fibre Internet to our place so my nights sitting here will be less frequent in the future. Which is a pity because the whole area is great for a short walk before heading home.

I didn’t notice it when I was home last spring but the downtown seems to have changed in many subtle ways over the years. Not just the demographics, which have changed a great deal – it’s wonderful to hear bits of Mandarin interspersed amongst the local version of English. There seem to be a flurry of apartment units and offices tucked tastefully into the neighborhood and an ever expanding choice of restaurants to choose from. I only wish the character of the streets around Richmond would continue for a few more blocks. And unlike in Hsinchu, no one tries to run you over with their car.

I don’t think it’s just the clear skies and fresh air influencing my belief that downtown Charlottetown is a great place to be and, for those lucky enough, live.


Data detox

I’ve been going through a forced internet detox of late — I procrastinated on signing up with a local mobile plan (sticker shock I think played a part) and Bell Alliant won’t be at our place until Tuesday to get our Fibre hook up and running.

Wifi access in these parts can be spotty it seems, except at Sobey’s, where I stand around the vegetable section pretending to make the hard decisions about carrots when in fact I am trying to reply to email and keep in touch with family in Taiwan.


Speed

In Hsinchu if you want an Uber or a taxi one comes seemingly instantly. Want furniture? It will be there tomorrow. Any item you need for your home, you can expect it the same day. Food is everywhere. Getting your car fixed doesn’t require an appointment and they come to collect your car. Movers can be found quickly and scheduled to your needs. That part of the world is far from some Jetson’s like utopia but services are built around peoples long working schedules. And it’s convenient and fast.

Here in the old country things work at an entirely different pace. Furniture and mattress shopping has taught me to in some cases to think in terms of months, not days. What people sit and sleep on in the interim is not clear to me. Trucks are available for rent 6 weeks from when you need it and Maritime Electric never answers their phone. The selection of goods locally necessitates buying online where your items “usually ship in 5 business days” and then arrive sometime later. Why it takes a business 5 days to put something in a box I don’t know.

One thing that does come quickly is mystery charges. A recent car inspection featured $24 for grease, they must be usually a lot of grease or it’s laced with titanium. Maritime electric charges a $40 “transfer fee” and because I am a stranger a $100 deposit. And I used to complain about ChungHwa Telecom in Taiwan with their foreigner deposit tax. Activating a SIM costs $30 and on and on.

Of course this change of pace also means a frequent dispensing of directness. In looking for some furniture the sales person first wanted to know all about me, what my last name was, who my father was, and what I had been up to these past 20 years. The conversation quickly reached the depths of discussing China’s socio-economic problems and his feelings about the recent wave of immigration. Its good for the furniture business apparently. This is a good thing, as relationships are important here, and it’s also entertaining. I think I have had more conversations with strangers here this past week than in a year in the new world. Thats a benefit of a slowing down.


The unknown restaurant at the Confederation Court Mall

I landed here in Charlottetown late Sunday night and luckily the trip was uneventful. I flew Taoyuan to Narita to Montreal and finally to Charlottetown.

Narita airport was a delight but suffers from a strange lack of snack buying options. There is a wonderful public lounge hidden away at the far end of the terminal that only compares unfavorably to the airline lounges in that you must bring your own refreshments. Montreal was a mess. The transfer to domestic process feels like a deliberate attempt at accessing your cognitive ability after a day of no sleep. It’s long, maze-like and involves picking up your luggage and lining up to put them back down on another conveyer belt. The terminal itself feels crowded, designed for another age I guess.

Charlottetown always feels timeless to me but my taxi driver insists that the past year has turned the Island upside down. Taxi drivers are a great source of information so I’ll take this for what it’s worth.

While I have been pretending that I am not suffering from a bad case of jet lag I have been enjoying the varied food options available here — primarily at a friends house but I’ve made a couple trips to a restaurant owned by a Chinese family in the Confederation Court Mall. Nice people and food that reminds me of what I might cook in Taiwan. I’ll keep returning I think.

Charlottetown would be better served if they gutted the malls interior and turned it into a green space or farmers market but I guess these kind of experiments are hard here. The place is depressing.


Recharge stations at Taoyuan International Airport Terminal 2

In all the areas that matter to me, Taoyuan airport favors very well when compared to the other airports I’ve flown to, especially large North American centers. Customs I find especially good, transportation options unfortunately not so good.

Which is why I was a bit surprised to day to notice that paucity of charging stations for mobile devices. With mobile devices being such a major part of peoples’ lives here it seems like a big oversight.

Usually I travel with a big battery but left it home this time due to it’s heft and borrowed my sons card sized.

There are two spots I notice which had a place to charge your devices. One was the Tokuyo chair display just before the “T” intersection which leads you to your gates, and the other were repurposed public phone installations right at the gate.

This is in contrast to Tokyo Narita where I am at present, able to sit in a comfortable chair, charge my devices, drink nasty Starbucks coffee, and write some email.


Final meal at 福樂 in Hsinchu

We’ve been wanting to return to this restaurant since our last visit, this time was to quietly celebrate my birthday and both kids graduating school. And with only two days left before I land in Charlottetown, it is the last meal out will have time for. The meal was great as always and to say I am going to miss this kind of food is an understatement, 鮭魚丼飯 or whatever other name it is called is one of my favorite foods. But that’s one the reasons to travel – to taste each regions food. Excuse the non-instagram worthy photography.

新竹美食禧樂 – 丼飯,刺身,炭燒


Give your children the gift of creativity.

If you want your kids to be able to think freely and creatively, then you’ll need to combat the messages they get in school. Give them space to do and want things that are “unrealistic.” Let them paint outside the lines and let them fail so that they can use that experience to develop their own novel solutions (Creative Confidence).

I can’t say we have succeeded, but we have tried to do this during our kids studies at local schools in Taiwan. It was extremely difficult this year for our daughter as everything was about the endless tests, but they have always been involved in activities outside of school, that the schools don’t believe in, or aren’t able to provide.


Pilot Juice Up Pens

My daughter has been raving about these pens for the past few months so I broke down and bought a few. They aren’t really promoted as anything special but they write really well – especially suited to filling out disembarkation cards. The 3mm would be perfect for teeny tiny Chinese text. They turned out to be a bit pricey at Amazon or other American/Canadian online shops, but fortunately extremely cheap here. Also included in the picture is a Nokumori mechanical pencil, a gift from my daughter for fathers day.


Goodbye old friend

This isn’t the best photo of her but it’s indicative of her patience for silliness. Other photos of her.

I lack the ability to express what it means to say goodbye to Lulu, our lab of over 10 years. We first met her as a stray in Taipei, and we rescued her by the time she was already about 2 years old, with all kinds of disagreeable habits learned. She didn’t immediately get along with our lab mix Elsa, which was also a rescue from the streets of Taipei, but they fast became sisters and have never been apart since.

She was the most gentle dog you would ever meet, she would gently suck peanut butter off your finger or gingerly take a piece of food off your hand. Never a growl. Never a bite. All she wanted to do was to be constantly by your side or at your feet.

She was playful, cuddly, and full of love. No matter my mood she would be there. She was my daughters companion too, and would wait eagerly for her to come home or wake in the morning. She had many annoying habits, but they seem irrelevant now.

A few months ago she started walking with a limp and after a couple days I took her to the vet, thinking it was a problem with her paw. I couldn’t see anything but perhaps she had a sprain, something she had experienced in the past. As it turns out she had a growth underneath her shoulder where right where all the nerve endings meet. As luck would have it this growth turned out to be a rare form of cancer with a terminal prognosis. We could operate and go through chemo, she would lose her leg, but it might give her another year or it might not. No one ever knows. Partially the decision was practical, the prescribed treatment was very expensive, with no guaranteed outcome. But mostly it seemed extremely aggressive, I didn’t want her to struggle and be in pain, so perhaps it was best to just to accept that this was her time.

We have given her 3 months of the best treatment we could give her. She ate her favorite foods and was pampered like a baby.

Today I had the unfortunate task of helping her “cross the rainbow bridge”. She was nervous at first but she trusted me to the end, following me into the doctors office where we said our final goodbyes before she went to sleep.

I think we will all miss her forever.


When a noun is actually a verb

I swear that on AirBnb’s mobile app. I read that you can get a full refund within 48hrs of your, or the, booking. Meaning 48hrs before.

Unfortunately it appears booking in this case is a verb, meaning 48hrs after my booking.

With a whole team of lawyers at their disposal I doubt AirBnb has made this slip up, and it surely shows that either my level of English comprehension has decreased while in Taiwan for 2 decades, I really do need good glasses, or I was just reading what I wanted to read.

Either way I’m out a booking fee and AirBnb gets to keep my money for 2 weeks, to do with as they see fit.


A Siri debacle

Without going into too much detail, our labrador Lulu is having problems related to having terminal cancer. While giving her a bath in our tub she lost control of her bowels creating an awful mess. After I got her cleaned up and out of the tub, she proceeded to urinate on the floor and on my foot. That’s the ugly sad scene.

During all this I was communicating with my wife, asking her to bring home new bandages (Lulu also injured her foot and it’s bleeding profusely) via Siri on my iPhone. I didn’t want to touch my phone with the potential of poopy hands.

I sometimes use colorful language.

Well, as it turns out Siri made a mistake, but only when I sent the messages to my wife that had colorful language.

Though I have a number of contacts named Sheryl in my contacts app., the mistake wasn’t in sending to the wrong Sheryl. The mistake was in sending to a contact named Carol, which has a similar ending sound to Sheryl.

Unfortunately, Carol also happens to be my former director who I haven’t talked to in 2 or more years.


Common UX problems to challenge and inspire designers

There are a few design problems floating around the internet, but nothing very extensive. I thought it might be useful if I collected some together and put them in one big list.

The examples here come from all kinds of places including personal experience, but I take no credit for any of them. I’ve included links when I know I saw it someplace else. I’m pretty sure a few came from my own imagination, but somebody else probably had the same idea first. It’s just the way ideas work. Still, if you want to be credited with one of these, let me know and I’ll happily link to the original.

You don’t have to look far to find some problems to fix. You could spend hours and hours finding problems with the Apple TV alone. Just walking down the street you can find issues due to poor design. ATMs, elevators, language selectors (“every” service in Canada adds an extra step due to language), parking meters, parking lots (they have really upped their game here in Taiwan with sensors and license plate recognition), and public navigation for the visually impaired.

But this list is a great start and features some problems that have a little more sex appeal than optimizing elevator keypads.

I plan to go through the list, creating sketches, storyboards, and prototypes. When I was in China I did a similar exercise, I had to come up with 5 ideas a day. At that time my focus was entirely on solving existing problems and thinking of something new helped exercise my mind. It should be fun.

100 example UX problems


The next chapter

In 10 days I’ll be leaving this island for another, thereby closing a chapter in my life, the life of my family, while opening another. I’ve lived here for just shy of 20 years, longer than any other place.

To say that I am reluctant to leave would be an understatement. For the past number of weeks I have been analyzing the decision from hundreds of different perspectives, have been filled with self-doubt, and anxious for the future. Taiwan in general, and Hsinchu in particular is a good place to live, but most of what I am feeling is just the normal resistance to change that many of us go through, especially after making such a significant investment in time as we have had here.

For my kids, Taiwan is the only home they have ever had. For them I think Prince Edward Island will be just about as different an experience as you could hope for. A bit like moving from Earth to Mars. Thats the point though, I want them to experience this contrast and learn to adapt in different environments. They have stood out for the entirety of their lives, with both good and bad effects, now they must endure the monotony of sameness. To stand out in the crowd will require more effort on their part.

Of course, Prince Edward Island is just a great place to spend your youth.

This isn’t my first time leaving, I left over 2 years ago to pursue work in China, which is why many people leave. Taiwanese included. China is the new America, without the freedom and open internet, and there are an enormous amount of opportunities there. It’s an exciting place where many things seem possible.

With my new home being in Charlottetown, I’ll be taking my excitement in smaller doses, maybe one to twice yearly to start. Well, if I remember my high school life correctly, I’m sure the kids will provide all the excitement I need.


Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.
Fred Rogers

The more time I spend observing children, my own and others, the more I come to the conclusion that we are born with the ability to do much correctly. Learn to walk by constantly trying and failing, climb-fall- and try again, we breathe and sit properly, our curiosity and creativity is unmatched, and watch kids run on a track and you will learn more than from a coach who is trying to undo decades of bad form. Adults distort the natural abilities we have to grow. I’ve seen it in teachers, parents and myself.


Double click speed setting

Using our old iMac has been a pain of late as it was impossible to open files, folders etc with the usual double click of the mouse. I don’t use the Mac very often so the problem just festered for months as everyone else just used right-click to open a menu, or a key combination whenever they needed to use the command. The old Apple mouse with a click wheel somehow received the blame, perhaps due to it’s reputation for being the worst mouse after the hockey puck.

As I was using it today to access old Firewire drives, of which I have bought far too many over the years, I grew annoyed and found that the problem is easily fixed by simply adjusting the double click rate in the mouse preferences pane. I didn’t dig deeper, but this seems like an ill advised feature, and one which is not immediately obvious as to it’s implications. As far as I can tell, the speed of the double click is tied to your finger and mouse’s ability to click fast enough. Which I guess the supplied Apple Mouse and a child’s finger are not able to map to.

But, problem solved, and we’ll file this UI oddity for use in some conversation later.


What’s in my pocket: 12yrs ago vs. today

This is what I could be found carrying ~12 years ago

What I commonly throw in my pocket these days.

A little Wednesday banality. I received an email from Flickr yesterday stating that someone “favorited” the first photograph above. I suspect that during the time I took the photo there was some kind of group share where you take a photo of the things that you were carrying in your pocket at that moment, or what you usually carry on your person. I think “Everyday Carry” or “What’s in my bag” series is still popular on some websites. Looking at the 2 photos above nothing much has changed; I don’t drive in Taiwan so my car keys are gone (thanks Uber) and tech has progressed a great deal. I still like smaller phones, this is my 2nd iPhone SE, and I still don’t carry a large wallet. The Bellroy leather wallet pictured was sent to me from them as a gift before they became the larger company they are today. I loved that tiny Panasonic phone, which I paid about $25 for in Thailand, but it was absolutely impossible to use for anything other than phone calls. A mini-flashlight and whistle are the only new additions, added due to the swarm of earthquakes we had earlier this year.