Responsive interviews

Responsive interviewing is yet another type to add to the vast typology (including: naturalistic, feminist, oral history, in-depth, free, organisational, culture, investigative, epistemic, agonistic, platonic, phenomenological, ethnographic, walk along (go along), informal, long, standardised, convergent, socratic, concept, clarification, open, theory elaboration, exit interview, evaluation, problem centred, walking interview, unstructured via U of Amsterdam .)

I like this explanation.

In ordinary conversations, people mostly focus on the immediate outcome—how was the date, who won the game. Qualitative researchers are more likely to look at events as they unfold over time, looking at chains of causes and consequences and searching for patterns—not just what happened at the last city council meeting but how council members make decisions or how citizens become engaged in public issues. In qualitative interviews, researchers seek

In qualitative interviews, researchers seek more depth but on a narrower range of issues than people do in normal conversations. Researchers plan interview questions in advance, organizing them so they are linked to one another to obtain the information needed to complete a whole picture. Instead of chatting on this and that, a researcher has to encourage the interviewee to answer thoughtfully, openly, and in detail on the topic at hand. If a researcher heard that a community group had held a meeting, he or she would want to know who was there, what was said, and what decisions, if any, were made. He or she would want to know the history of the issues, the controversies, and something about the decision makers—who they were, their concerns, their disagreements. The researcher might want to know about the tone of the meeting, whether anyone got angry and stomped out, or whether people laughed and generally seemed to be having a good time. This depth, detail, and richness is what Clifford Geertz (1973) called thick description . To get such depth and detail, responsive interviewers structure an interview around three types of linked questions: main questions, probes, and follow-up questions. Main questions assure that each of the separate parts of a research question are answered. Probes are standard expressions that encourage interviewees to keep talking on the subject, providing examples and details. Follow-up questions ask interviewees to elaborate on key concepts, themes, ideas, or events that they have mentioned to provide the researcher with more depth. Overall, qualitative interviewing requires intense listening, a respect for and curiosity about people’s experiences and perspectives, and the ability to ask about what is not yet understood. Qualitative interviewers listen to hear the meaning of what interviewees tell them. When they cannot figure out that meaning, they ask follow-up questions to gain clarity and precision.
Qualitative Interviewing – The Art of Hearing Data


Founders Food Hall and Market

I dropped by the Founders Food Hall and Market this afternoon for their opening. Well executed I think. Enjoyed some wonderful BBQ wood fired pizza from Fiamma and some kind of bacon, chocolate and coffee on a stick concoction from Holy Fox. This was washed down with samples from Receivers and RAW Juice. The sandwich meat was superb as well. I’m sure that different use cases for this space could be argued but it looks to my eyes to be the best looking space of this type on the Island. I didn’t catch the hours, but if they manage to have weekend hours it will be a more convenient alternative to the Charlottetown Farmers Market.


What a fascinating field study of the malevolent it would be; though I suspect they would be utterly boring in their ordinariness.

I wish I could follow these people around with cameras all day long. I want to know everything about them. I want to know what they do every day, how they talk to each other, how they spend their free time, where they vacation. I want to know what kinds of human beings are comfortable behaving this monstrously. Do they look like monsters? It’s hard not to picture them as monsters.

Ask Polly: My In-Laws Are Careless About My Deadly Food Allergy!

Because weird, antisocial behavior is interesting to me I poked around and found a whole Allergic Living piece from 2010 with anecdotes of relatives sneak feeding allergens.

Affirming group membership by eating the same thing must be deep in humans.

Family Food Feud: Relatives and Allergies
Erika Hall


The digital lives of refugees

Interesting research by GSMA which I’m slowly going through. I know very little about these regions included in the research, so it’s a bit of an eye opener.

There is growing recognition among donors and humanitarian organisations that mobile technology and mobile network operators (MNOs) have an important role to play in the delivery of dignified aid. This includes providing digital tools that help people affected by crisis become more self-sufficient, especially those in protracted humanitarian crises. However, more evidence is needed to understand the digital needs and preferences of people affected by crisis, how they are currently accessing and using mobile technology, and the barriers they encounter.

[…]

This report explores the ways in which mobile technology can improve access to financial services, utilities (notably energy) and identity services, as well as information to improve food security, with an overarching focus on gender and inclusivity in refugee contexts. The study aims to provide insight into these key thematic areas, drawing out emerging trends and cross-cutting themes across different contexts.

[…]

Key findings
The analysis begins with an overview of mobile technology access, use and barriers (section 3) in each context. This digital snapshot of refugees provides a foundation for subsequent chapters on five thematic areas.

  1. Over two-thirds of refugees in all three research locations are active mobile phone users, with the highest proportion in Jordan.
  2. Refugees access mobile services in creative ways depending on their context: sharing or borrowing handsets and owning multiple SIMs. For those who do not own handsets, borrowing is an important way of getting connected.
  3. The most commonly used mobile services among active users in all three research locations are making calls and using SMS services. Mobile money is one of the top three mobile use cases in Kiziba and Bidi Bidi, where 59 per cent and 44 per cent of refugees use mobile money, respectively.
  4. Awareness of mobile internet is high, but only about a third of respondents in Bidi Bidi and Kiziba have used it. The findings also indicate that refugees would like to use mobile internet more than they are currently able to.
  5. Affordability, literacy and digital skills, and charging are the main barriers to mobile phone ownership and mobile internet use in all contexts.

The digital lives of refugees: How displaced populations use mobile phones and what gets in the way


“perpetually dying of starvation”

For anyone who has not had the pleasure of meeting her, the utterly adorable Elsa. She’s sweet, affectionate, playful, and perpetually dying of starvation (her words, not mine!)

It makes me happy to see that all of Sheryl’s hard work has resulted in our old dog Elsa finding a home with someone who cares for her. It’s worked out better than we could have hoped.


Cork Board Ephemera

Part of our current collection of things tacked in our kitchen. I generally loathe most typographic signs in the home of any kind, at least the kinds that are so popular today. Why people need a sign to remind them of “Home” or “Love” or some other kind positive messaging is beyond me. But the card above slipped into the fray, perhaps because it was created by Kim Roach.

Unplanned color scheme of green, red, and black.


Secret Design Bunker Pop-up

I love the exterior of this building. So much more inviting than any blue glass monstrosity.

I dropped in to the Nine Yards Secret Design Bunker pop-up early this afternoon – it was a nice display of ideas. It would have been nice to have some explanation behind the work but my timing was off, as a large group arrived shortly after myself, which kept the sole person managing the affair busy answering their questions, afterwards they disappeared into what I guess was the secret bunker part of the exhibition.

It’s nice to see this kind of work – great aesthetic, perhaps a cross between Eslite and some of the work I have seen produced by NCTU GIA.

Hopefully this will be a regular event.


I know it’s pointless to argue against it, but circulating screengrabs of content make me sad. We don’t have a web anymore, just tides of flotsam and jetsam, a loose slurry of disconnected and contextless content microbeads washing over us.
Jesse James Garrett


The Brass Shop

We had coffee at the Receivers on Water St. yesterday and I agree with what was said at the table that the experience is far superior to their Victoria Row location. Better service and the latte’s better prepared.

The Victoria Row location would appear to not be designed for the flood of customers it often receives, particularly when the downtown is busy with guests enjoying the city. Sheryl and I had breakfast there earlier in the week while sitting outside; the environment was nice and the food ok if not comparatively more expensive. The latte did not look like the one pictured above.

I often mention the trials of finding good coffee in Charlottetown, but our friends we were chatting with thought it was richer tasting than I assume what they are used to in Singapore. I have little experience with coffee there but I have come to realize that my views on coffee are in the minority, or I’m just accustomed to, or romanticize the variety of tastes available in our former home.

Seeing as this location is only adds 2 minutes in walking time from Water & Queen, I’ll try visiting there when the need arises.


Comparisons are odious

As I was sitting at my desk sweating while waiting to talk with a CRA representative, I took the opportunity to connect with old colleagues and companies to see what kind of projects they have been working on. Comparing oneself to others, even other companies, is seldom a good thing, and it adds to my internal struggle as to whether to stay in PEI or to leave.

Working independently whether as a freelancer (not in my future), remotely for someone else, or as some kind of entrepreneur allows for the kind of freedom that I have always wanted in my life. It would be almost unheard of to take a 9am CrossFit class with my daughter while working in Taiwan, we would both be too busy and the political price for “custom” hours at a tech company too high. If you can manage the difficulties inherent in making a livable wage on PEI, the amount of free time people, including myself, have here makes for a higher quality life. Time > $$. The past year has felt somewhat like a vacation.

But, what I can accomplish alone, with very limited support, pales in comparison to what I was confronted with before. And what friends of mine are doing now. While they are building software that potentially affects the lives of many, I attempt to create things on a much much smaller scale. I’m not sure I can be content with creating podcasts, simple apps, and ed. services. Much of my experience and education has gone unused this past year; I feel rusty.

I guess this is an internal struggle many go through when they downsize or move to a more sane locale, some resolve it very quickly, and I suspect some struggle with it over longer periods like I do.

The beautiful summer skies here certainly help to push the problem to the back of my mind.


The past 5 days

With Sheryl’s arrival this past Tuesday on a delayed 1 am flight, my adventure as a single parent has come to an end.


Before my wife left Taiwan a student graciously gifted a huge box of coffee including these 3 bags. Good coffee is difficult to find on PEI, and shipping from elsewhere a tad too expensive, so after these are gone it’s back to home roasting.


What better way to kick off Sheryl’s first year in PEI than attending this years Business Women’s summit which was relocated to the Delta due to the Startup Zone’s ongoing AC troubles. They did a great job pulling it off considering, but I enjoyed last years more.


I’ve always marvelled at the skies on PEI; clean, free from pollutants and beautiful.

We attended the Pride PEI BBQ on Saturday, which I thought was well attended. After a quick chat with Sean Cassey we were off to Cornwall to attend Heath McDonald’s Strawberry Social. Despite not having any affiliation with the Liberal party, we attend (crash) their strawberry socials every summer.

We still feel like tourists here, so our annual sojourn to Cavendish still seems fitting.

It’s for the tourists. It’s fake. But Avonlea Village is the kind of city density that I appreciate. It’s walkable, free of cars, and well maintained. While I wouldn’t suggest a Disney-fication of all of Charlottetown, I would love to see this kind of density continue past the tourist area of the downtown.

I’m convinced though, that a walkable city is unpopular with many, if not most Islanders. Charlottetown is wonderful in the summer – kids running around, parents walking with strollers, all kinds of people enjoying the downtown in a myriad of ways, but these people are primarily visitors. Once they leave the city dies. Driving between the box stores seems to be more the norm.

Sheryl and I were in Georgetown for a 10k race on Sunday. It was so humid one would think we were running in Taiwan.


Design workshop theatre

After hours and hours of deliberate practice over years some people still cannot step into design thinking. Changing habits is hard.

Now let’s look at how design thinking is often taught: in boot camps and one day workshops. That’s design theater, not design thinking.

It’s not enough to say, look there is a better way! It takes practice. Lots of practice.
Christina Wodtke

I’ve been thinking of this quote as I get started outlining a series of workshops I have been tasked to facilitate for some kind of accelerator program that the Startup Zone (SUZ) is going to hold.

To their credit SUZ has held numerous workshops and talks over the past year, my favourites have generally been the smallish ones that are more conversation than speech, allowing for a more enjoyable flow. My least favourite are the almost day long events, in particular there was a workshop designed to teach you about personas with experts from off Island that taught without once uttering the word data. Personas without data are something else all together. The design thinking workshop was only moderately better, and only useful in that the facilitator was great and the activities entertaining.

In the past my approach to all talks was to cram as much information into peoples heads as I possibly could. This followed the philosophy endeared to me at Humber Music where they would often say that it will take us years to unpack all that we learned. This worked well with audiences in Taiwan and China in the past (I now know the younger generation desires more hands on, conversational approaches) but I realize this doesn’t fly here. Nor should it.

My other method, the method I use upon myself, is to simply point people to a few books and say – go read. When I joined a service design project in Fuzhou, despite all the similarities to what I had done in the past, I ordered and read the 3 most popular books on the topic. Not because I am smart, or like to read, but primarily out of fear. Despite all the available material available online, or in print, much of it cheap, this approach isn’t popular either.

I think my approach will likely combine what I experienced at Crafting {:} a Life (the conference that keeps on … influencing), kick off a topic of discussion with some salient points, give people something to work on, point them to resources to help them learn and maybe understand, and make myself available for help if I can give it. I’m not sure what else I can accomplish in an hour with people who may never have broached any of the topics we need to go through.


Good bye old girl

Elsa was the last of our 3 dogs. Our first dog in Taiwan was Buster, a large black lab and my daughters protector, who I had to send over the rainbow bridge due to a burst liver. Lulu, another Lab and an adopted sister to Elsa, developed cancer and I had to send her as well over the rainbow bridge, my last task before leaving Taiwan. All our dogs were adopted, Buster from the streets of Kaohsiung, Elsa and Lulu from the streets of Taipei. All had acute behavioural problems which required loads of time to work through as they became integral parts of our family. The kids miss them all.

Elsa didn’t join us here partly due to her age, we aren’t entirely sure, but we guess her age to be close to 15 years, which might make the stress of a long international flight too harrowing. There is also the simple fact that with the housing crisis on PEI, there was no place available that would allow pets. Our current lease forbids it and with the uncertainty of our life here the commitment of a house seems unwise.

Finding her a new home was an almost 1 year heart wrenching task for my wife; finding a home for any dog in Taiwan is difficult, we have re-homed many, but a senior dog is especially so. Luckily, in the end Elsa has a found a family that she can enjoy her final days with in love and comfort.


Switching to Amazon.ca

Canada selection

US selection

I switched my Amazon digital account to Amazon Canada from the US site recently, primarily to be able to try Kindle Unlimited, which has been running a .99$ 3 month trial recently. My daughters English reading habits were starting to be an over $30 a week expense, and I thought this might present some cost savings, and perhaps encourage her to read more. I could already access Kindle prime, but the selection is even more pithy than Unlimited has turned out to be.

My hesitation to date has primarily been the mess that my 3 Amazon accounts (US, CAN, CN) presented to me when dealing with Alexa and the belief that the American store would always present the best selection of books. A cursory search has proven that the category of books I might be interested in, the selection is indeed less on the Canadian side and in some cases more expensive.

Of all the possible specific titles I might be interested in reading, none were available as apart of Kindle Unlimited. So I suspect, other than my fascination with easy reads from fantasy and sci-fi genres, this will have limited utility for me. Hopefully it might be of interest to my daughter and possibly Sheryl.


St. Peter’s Harbour Lighthouse Beach

I’m not much of a beach person – I don’t swim and the kids seem to be just outside the age that we need to be concerned about beach shovels and the like. Also, I don’t particularly like going somewhere to relax, and can’t fathom travelling anywhere to just lay down (the beaches in Thailand are as much about the scenery, people watching, and sharing my kids love of the water as anything). But I appreciate the beach at St. Peter’s Harbour Lighthouse for its beauty, PEI has some of the best beaches I have seen anywhere (no medical waste garbage problems here), and for the fact that few if anyone ever goes there, so we often have the beach to ourselves.

That was the case yesterday and the kids and I walked along the beach talking, arguing, and enjoying the warm sun without any of the hubbub of the touristy areas. My son also collected drift wood, creating swords to protect against possible zombie attacks, and my daughter wondered if the buildings in the distance had any food. Admittance was free, as it should be.

Since it was only a short drive further, we drove to Ricks Fish ’n’ Chips in St. Peter’s Bay where we all had the haddock.

I’m glad we took this little afternoon diversion, as the weather this summer seems to be unusually cold and wet which would seem to continue for the next 10 days or so.


I hate open offices even more now

Most open offices I have worked in have the din of idle banter, or the sound of hushed conversations, but have unwritten rules about noise and rampant interruptions. The din is still disrupting, resulting in a requirement for headphones which also serve as a do not disturb sign.

The fishbowl, where I work out of now seems to not follow these rules. Few will ever interrupt you since we are all working on our own thing, but people will still think it’s ok to be on calls half the day, which since are generally voip, people believe they need to talk at twice their normal volume. Loud team meetings are also not uncommon.

It’s rude and annoying.

Open Office Etiquette and Ground Rules


Just read

In updating my What I am up to now page, something I haven’t been keeping up with, I realized the two books that I started reading earlier this year haven’t been finished. I’ve read, mostly trashy things that entertain, but nothing that requires my full attention, or perhaps challenges me in ways a harder text might. This is a somewhat embarrassing mistake on my part which I think illustrates just how much more challenging long form reading has become when my overwhelming habit is to skim for information. When reading in this manner, including the tweets, headlines, rss and websites that I visit becomes habit, it’s difficult to return to the kind of texts that really educate you, books “which force us to think deeply about ourselves and our world”. When trying to refresh or learn some new perspective with regard to design research, I even have the habit searching out a video first, and ignoring a more complete tome.

I now spend an increasing number of hours training my body every week, I think it’s time I return to doing the same for my mind. Reading challenging books should help with that.


Just Write

Ben Norris shares how writing and publishing a blog can be a helpful exercise even without a large audience, something I also believe:

Deep down, I know that part of what has held me back from writing more is the feeling of shouting into the void. There is not a large reader base waiting for me to publish again, and so the pressure is less than in other areas of my life. However, throughout the course of this year, I have learned that writing is a helpful exercise for me and my mind. I do not need an audience. I am my audience. The act of processing my thoughts sufficiently to express them is healthy and productive, and requires no other validation to be worthwhile. Hopefully I can remember that.

Via micro.blog


An Island moment

Yesterday, I had an eye exam at the Family Vision Centre, which encompassed far more tests than the garden variety done by teenagers at the ubiquitous eye glass stores in Hsinchu, and seemed lest harried than visiting the famous eye doctor on Dongda Rd in Hsinchu who has massive photos of herself covering the outside of her office. Afterwards, I hopped on my bike to see the on call eye doctor at the QEH ER.

The pace from eye exam, to further tests at the QEH, to sitting in a chair for a procedure was entirely unexpected. I didn’t even have time to consult with Dr. Google. This is how it should be, but I have been conditioned to having to wait from months to never for any kind of treatment here on the Island.

The fact that I have a health problem has chipped away at my belief that I am somewhat invincible. For the past 7 – 8 yrs or so, I’ve had an almost religious conviction that refraining from bad habits, eating right and vigorous exercise would shield me from the advancing maladies of middle age. While I can run up flights of stairs with greater ease than the colleagues of old who were half my age, there seems to be no avoiding some of the challenges brought forth by Father Time. Anyway, at this point it’s nothing serious.

After getting an injection in my eyeball, which at the time conjured up images of Blade Runner and had me wondering what the doctor now knew about me, the doctor asked how I was getting home. He knew I had arrived by bike but was concerned that I shouldn’t be riding over the bridge after having the procedure. Either due to the bridges reputation for carefree driving or concern over my now inability to see clearly out of my left eye, he insisted he drive me home.

So we walked out of the emergency room, I grabbed my bike, threw it in the back of his van, and he drove me over across the river to Casa MacLeod.

This could have happened no where else.


A bathroom reno

The bathroom in our apartment in Hsinchu has seen better days.

On the Island, renovations such as this, well likely far less extensive than this, result in what people have been calling renovictions, whereby the landlord is using renovations as an excuse to evict tenants and charge higher rent. But in Hsinchu at least, workers seal off the work areas, people keep on occupying the space, but with the added stress of even more dust and dirt in their homes.


The CBC has taken a detour into the lifestyles of the rich and famous with a piece on an expensive renovation project by AmberMac.

Reading Amber MacArthur gives P.E.I. historic home a high-tech makeover one would be led to believe she is transforming a century home into a Jetsons like experience. What we get is a short piece detailing things which as far as I’m concerned have been commonplace for years.

This piece seems more like a wasted opportunity to have her explain in more detail the “green and sustainability angle” of what she is doing, instead of the self-promotion piece it is. AmberMac has a talent for explaining technology in a way that most people can understand, it’s a shame they didn’t utilize it.


Unexpected efficiency

I have been experiencing problems with my left eye to the point that I’m finding work more annoying than it should be. As this has been ongoing and getting progressively worse a trip to the doctor was in order. “You only get one set of eyes” said someone who never watched scify movies.

My first planned stop was a walk-in clinic. PEI does not for some reason cover visits to an eye doctor as part of its universal health coverage, so keeping up with my el cheapo persona, I thought it best to discount any generalized causes before I paid out of pocket for privatized medicine. I half expected the doctor to tell me to stop running and going to CrossFit because almost every doctor I’ve met seems to be against pushing your body to it’s natural limits.

As it turns out it was a complete waste of time as the doctor simply flashed a light in my eye and sent me on my way. A very friendly yet perfunctory experience not unlike Taiwan.

As an aside, I find interesting the start contrast between visiting the offices of the public walk in clinic and the privatized eye doctor. It’s stark. The staff in the eye clinic are obviously paid far more (all wearing matching smart watches), the environment more relaxing, and you can actually see a doctor, and keep seeing that doctor within reasonable periods of time.

The problem with all this was the timing of the clinic visit. I used the Skip the Waiting Room system to book my time with the walk-in clinic doctor. It’s an effective, yet surprising, privatized efficiency infusion to a social system. I started the registration process shortly after it opened online and no doubt due to it’s popularity I wasn’t given a spot until close to closing. With my 15 minute lead time I was told I wouldn’t have to leave until about 3:10pm. I figured later.

Unfortunately I had somewhat of a scheduling conflict. I had a short meeting at 2pm discussing the possibility of helping various tourism SME’s develop a more cohesive experience strategy for their business. Businesses here have seemingly endless options for marketing expertise but few seem to be talking about customer experience or service design or other jargony speak. Intense competition in Taiwan makes staging an experience a necessity for survival for many businesses; but they call it something else and seldom hire experience designers specifically. Since I am a poor capitalist and dislike the word consultant, I envisioned doing this advising somewhat for free, much like what I do at StartUp Zone.

The meeting was short, a 30 minute meet and greet, so I decided to keep both appointments. That turns out was a mistake.

We were just in the midst of discussing customer journeys, and all that boring stuff you need to mention, when I started to get sms notifications to come to the clinic – a full 45 minutes earlier than expected. This doctor would seem to be quicker than most.

So I had to quickly wrap things up, bid adieu, and race out the door. No doubt never to hear from this government official again.

In the future when booking appointments with doctors here, I’ll be sure to block out either the whole morning or afternoon for the visit. I experienced a similar problem with a visit to Dr. Flemmings office with Camren recently, when a short visit became multiple hours due to delays and his fastidious attention to detail.

Lesson learned.


One cannot observe everything closely, therefore one must discriminate and try to select the significant. When practicing a branch of science, the ‘trained’ observer deliberately looks for specific things which his training has taught him are significant, but in research he often has to rely on his own discrimination, guided only by his general scientific knowledge, judgment and perhaps an hypothesis which he entertains.

Powers of observation can be developed by cultivating the habit of watching things with an active, enquiring mind. It is no exaggeration to say that well developed habits of observation are more important in research than large accumulations of academic learning.

Training in observation follows the same principles as training in any activity. At first one must do things consciously and laboriously, but with practice the activities gradually become automatic and unconscious and a habit is established. Effective scientific observation also requires a good background, for only by being familiar with the usual can we notice something as being unusual or unexplained.
The Art of Scientific Investigation


A taste of the exotic

Sheryl often sends me pictures of the treats that we loved when we lived in Taiwan. This was a favourite in the summer.

Peter writes:

Relative to 25 years ago, when we arrived here in Charlottetown, the proportion of “fries-with-that” restaurants has dramatically decreased; there was a time when that was almost all you could get if you ate out.

Certainly the selection of food in Charlottetown has improved dramatically since I left years ago, both in terms of what you can find in the grocery stores or in restaurants. When I lived here, a taste of the orient, or let’s have something “different”, meant a trip to the Canton Cafe or a package of frozen Wong Wing from Kmart foods. Now when the feeling strikes I can head to Walmart and source some Asian Pears (水梨), Bok Choi and a wide assortment of sauces and spices. The Asian Pears coming direct from China and the Bok Choi often sourced from Mexico. For some reason Walmart seems to have the best selection which forces me to visit despite my general hatred of the place.

The only complaint I have with Chinese cuisine here is that it is either loaded with sugar or that it is what I can only describe as being too clean. Old woks impart flavour in food. I talked to the owner of Mad Wok on an occasion and he confirmed the change in flavour to suit local tastes. This is common of course, which is why in Taiwan they have hideous pizza covered with corn, stinky tofu, tuna and on and on. Incidentally my kids think these flavours are great.

The problem I have is that every time I mention eating out the kids refuse to go for curry, noodles or the like (my son does like the all you can eat Chinese buffet at St. Awards, but though the owners are nice, the food is garbage), so it’s almost always a “fries-with-that” restaurant, because for them, hamburgers and fries is exotic.


The Art of Observation

“When I hear you give your reasons,” I remarked, “the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning, I am baffled until you explain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours.”

“Quite so,” he answered, lighting a cigarette, and throwing himself down into an armchair. “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room.”

“Frequently.”

“How often?”

“Well, some hundreds of times.”

“Then how many are there?”

“How many? I don’t know.”

“Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed.”
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes


Lots of people procrastinate, of course, but for writers it is a peculiarly common occupational hazard. One book editor I talked to fondly reminisced about the first book she was assigned to work on, back in the late 1990s. It had gone under contract in 1972.

I once asked a talented and fairly famous colleague how he managed to regularly produce such highly regarded 8,000 word features. “Well,” he said, “first, I put it off for two or three weeks. Then I sit down to write. That’s when I get up and go clean the garage. After that, I go upstairs, and then I come back downstairs and complain to my wife for a couple of hours. Finally, but only after a couple more days have passed and I’m really freaking out about missing my deadline, I ultimately sit down and write.”
Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators

I set aside this week to write, which was obviously a mistake, as I sit here staring out the window at the wet winter-like weather, getting nothing done, much like every other day this week.


Design Leadership for Introverts

When people paint a picture of what a leader looks like, it often looks like this: A leader commands the center of attention. A leader is outgoing, talkative, and dominant. A leader is able to deliver charismatic speeches, rallying large audiences at a drop of a hat. A leader is the ultimate salesman; people hang onto their every word, waiting for their next one with bated breath.

A leader is, in essence, an extrovert. I’m not saying this is a BAD way to lead. I’m saying this is not the ONLY way to lead, and certainly not all the time.

Which begs the question: If we can accept that the world desires extroverts, how can we as introverted designers and design leaders operate successfully within it?
Tom Yeo – Design Leadership for Introverts

I don’t have the answer, but the article by Tim Yeo attempts to answer it. Most of the advice seems geared towards corporate environments, which I have come to loath, but his advice on networking, which I also loath, works well for me. By making every conversation a potential user interview I am able to overcome my natural social awkwardness. But generally, like the recent StartUp Zone event, I just don’t care if I network or not, which I realize is likely not a very healthy attitude.

But articles like this tend to only focus on one form of leader, the frontman, but there are many other kinds – one doesn’t have to be at the front of the room to drive forward ideas, thoughts, or strategy. If your team is running well everyone has a voice and it just then becomes a matter of roles based on interests, talents and competencies. I’ve never been a General but I feel I make a competent Captain.


Dinner at Hojo’s Japanese Cuisine

Tuna & Salmon Don

We started with Miso soup which was good, but left me wanting more.

Last Sunday evening we had a delayed birthday celebration at Hojo’s Japanese Cuisine on Kent St. in Charlottetown. I’ve been looking forward to visiting since I heard they were opening and the food didn’t disappoint.

In the past we would eat from a similar menu weekly. Of course there were differences, the restaurants in Hsinchu tend to have a larger selection overall, especially deep fried seafood or fried meats. 鮭魚丼 has long been one of my favourite dishes – I ordered Dojo’s variation called Tuna & Salmon Don, which included a generous 12 pieces of fish. It was expertly prepared. Even the rice was about the best I’ve had locally. They could give a more generous amount of wasabi but perhaps that’s a local adaptation.

The kids had Ramen, and the pork broth, though a tad salty for my taste, was extremely tasty. My daughter liked it and she’s our resident noodle expert, so I expect I will hear frequent requests to return. I heard lots of kudos from other patrons while there as well.

The wait staff was friendly and attentive but seemed some how out of place in this environment.

One point of contention is the use of cheap disposable chopsticks. First, considering that the menu prices put this in the mid to high end in Charlottetown, it seems like an odd decision. Second, bleached chopsticks have long been frought with problems both for the environment and in some cases your health. Taiwan even moved to ban all disposable utensils years ago. Reusable plastic or metal utensils would seem more fitting for the surroundings and would remove the possibility of ingesting biphenyl or hydrogen peroxide.

As is the case with most restaurants in Charlottetown, the cost was about 2-3x the price of a similar meal in Hsinchu, but unlike the “fries-with-that” places that litter the city, it’s a worthwhile treat.