adventures in poor ux

Like many other apartment buildings, my front gate features a confusing and unintuitive dial access system.

The dial pad itself isn't so bad. You dial the apartment number then the octothorp sign. The gate rings up some telephone number, and if you are very lucky someone answers and lets you in. Pretty straight-forward.

No, the confusing part is the directory.

The directory has two columns. The left side lists apartment numbers for the first through third floors, and the right lists apartments fourth through sixth. Next to each apartment number is a space for the name of the occupant. And since no one felt like maintaining the ever changing directory, it remains entirely blank.

It looks something like this.

100  400 
101  401 
102  402 
103  403 
104  404 
105  405 
106  406 
107  407 
108  408 
109  409 
200  500 
201  501 
202  502 
203  503 
204  504 
205  505 
206  506 
207  507 
208  508 
209  509 
300  600 
301  601 
302  602 
303  603 
304  604 
305  605 
306  606 
307  607 
308  608 
309  609 

Most of the time my visitors dial my apartment without incident. Every once in awhile though, a guest will instead call me on my cell phone and say that they tried the gate and it didn't work. And since in these cases I had not received a call from the gate, I could only assume that gremlins in the phone lines were to blame.

That is until one day when I had the presence of mind to ask a perplexed guest what code they had dialed. Then it all became clear.

You see, upon arriving these attentive guests would, rather than punching numbers at random, take the time to look me up in the directory. Finding my apartment number--say it's 203--they would then look to the adjacent number in the same row row, and dial it.


The apparently empty apartment would ring indefinitely, until the visitor gave up and fell back to a more reliable technology.

Now that the mystery is solved, I'm tempted to post a sign. But what would it say? A sign announcing that this directory is blank might cause more confusion than it resolves. Besides, everyone knows nobody really reads directions.

"Sorry, we don't serve arthropods here."

Insects, despite their highly evolved mechanisms of detoxification, are as vulnerable to alcohol as the rest of us. Many insects attack wine grapes and rapidly destroy vineyards, becoming accidentally intoxicated on the odd fermenting grape. In 1545 a legal complaint against the insects was made by the wine growers of St. Julen, a small hamlet in France. The insects were actually brought to trial. The prosecution argued that lower animals should be subject to the laws of man. The insects were appointed an advocate who argued that they were only exercising their biblical rights to be fruitful and multiply, thereby obeying a divine law. The archival recorded indicate that a judge deliberated for a long period, but the final decision is unknown--the last page of the surviving records was destroyed by weevils!

--Intoxication by Ronald K Siegel
grr argh

legal and techinical adventures inside my head

One of my multiple personalities in my dream last night was appealing the court for emancipation. His desire was to be recognized as a distinct entity, with the rights and responsibilities of any other person. Relatedly, this particular personality also wanted to sue one of my other personalities. Something about dental work.

I am very often male in my dreams. Is that unusual?

I also dreamed that I broke my iPhone. There was shattered glass everywhere, and the inside looked like a motherboard from 1984. It was all rather traumatic.
nny, thinky

read any good books lately?

It seems it's time for another round of Recommend Me a Good Book. Though my to-read shelf is stacked 47 high, little of it is fiction and of that not much is getting me excited. Can you recommend something? I tend to like scifi, though really it's the quality of the writing that counts. Like these.

If something new doesn't turn up, I'm considering re-reading To Think Nothing Of The Dog, Treason or Hyperion.

Oh, and just for reference, I hated The Da Vinci Code.
  • Current Mood
    awfully sleepy
blogging this

cold feet

I recently started physical therapy for some feet issues I have had for a few years now. Nothing too terrible, but firmly in the I-should-probably-do-something-about-this-before-it-gets-worse category. I was given a startling amount of homework to accompany my therapy, and so far I have learned two things:

1. It is much less unpleasant to ice your feet if you are drunk at the time.
2. No matter how tired you may be, it is highly unlikely you will fall asleep while your foot is stuck in a bag of frozen peas.

scenes I'd like to see

You know that moment that inevitably happens in scifi shows, and a great many action shows as well, when one of the main characters has to explain the crazy sounding situation to a civilian to save them? Well, just once I want to hear them say, "Ok, look. You may think I'm crazy. And for the sake of argument, lets just go ahead and say you're right. But believe this. There are other, arguably crazy people who believe the exact same thing I do, and they are coming here to kill you."

Seems like it would save a lot of time.

Also, just once I want to see the hero who just had their best friend killed, have to tell the family, "He wanted me to tell you... well, I don't actually know. He started to tell me, but then I cut him off and reassured him we would get out of this. Guess I was wrong about that. My bad!"
nny, thinky

women in technology

Throughout the course of my career, I have worked in support roles doing administrative work, I have worked in support roles in technology companies, and I have worked for technology companies as a skilled employee.

In all of those roles, I have almost never experienced anything that I would classify as sexism. If I were to rate each experience according to how big of a role gender played in the attitude of the people around me, working in a technology company as a developer would win out head and shoulders above the rest.

Here's the thing.

The technology industry is a meritocracy. Geeks don't care where you were born, if you wear a suit or a scruffy tee shirt, what your orientation is, what you look like, and they barely notice if you happen to be female. Geeks care if you are smart, capable, and can make cool shit. Everything else is background noise. The men (and women) that I have known in technology make up one of the most consistently gender neutral cultures I have ever encountered.

I think that one of the reasons working in technology is difficult for many women is the simple challenge of feeling different. Anytime that you are different from everyone around you it is a challenge. You will run into places where the defaults just don't work for you. You will have to do more work to find solutions to problems no one else has. When your fundamental perspective diverges from the people around you, you have to work harder to communicate and understand ideas. At best, it's a lot more work. At worst, you may feel like you don't belong, worry that people don't accept you, or wonder if there is something wrong with you.

Me? Feeling different is comfortable territory. The skills for navigating a foreign environment, carving out my own place, and the ongoing extra effort involved all come second nature to me. Honestly, I don't even know what it would be like to "fit in".

I do know what it is like to be dismissed and looked down upon for being different, something I have seen in spades as a bisexual woman in the gay community, but not once as a female in technology.

I understand that my experience may not be representative of all industries, or even all technology companies.

But it bothers me deeply that women are being taught that they cannot succeed in technology. It offends me that they are told they will be oppressed and not taken seriously. And makes me angry to see women being trained to see every indication gender difference as a sign of prejudice.

"Why am I always getting sick?!"

Oh, that must be why.

"Cortisol is used in virtually every system in the body, a hormone that literally integrates the body and the mind by altering the configuration of the brain. Cortisol interferes with the immune system, changes the sensitivity of the ears, nose and eyes, and alters various bodily functions. When you have a lot of cortisol coursing through your veins, you are--by definition--under stress. Cortisol and stress are virtually synonymous.


In white blood cells cortisol is almost certainly involved in switching on a gene called TCF, also on chromosone IO, thus enabling TCF to make its own protein, whose job is to suppress the expression of another protein called interleukin 2, and interlukin 2 is a chemical that puts whte blood cells on alert to be especially vigilant for germs. So, cortisol supresses the immune alertness of white blood cells and makes you more susceptible to disease."
--Genome by Matt Ridley

It seems like one of the hundreds of times I bemoaned my susceptibility to illness, someone might have told me that my stress-monkey nature that is to blame.
  • Current Mood

What I mean to say.

I think one of the things that confuses me most about human beings is that just because they say something, it doesn't mean they mean it.

Being the type of person who analyzes thins all the time, chances are if I express an opinion, it is because I put a lot of thought into it. When I engage in conversation with someone, it is from the perspective of analyzing the new information that they can give me, the different perspective.

When someone approaches a conversation about ideas from the perspective of trying to be polite or aggreable, it's like we're trying to have different conversations.

Moreover, people are so willing to make bold statements based on vague impressions ans prejudices. Since one tends to assume that other people are the same as them, unless presented with dramatic and specific evidence to the contrary, I interpret these proclamations as if they have gone through the same rigorous vetting that such as statement from me would have gone through.

Humans are weird.