Photos: Sunday Cooking

I’ve been remiss in posting my Photo Fridays for the last two weeks, so I thought I’d make up for it today.

I spent a lot of my day puttering around my kitchen experimenting with new recipes, some of which even involved ingredients I have not used in my limited cooking experience. (Ginger root looks rather like a mummified tree branch, but it smells and tastes divine.)

The vibrant colors beckoned for their chance in the spotlight. Following are some of the days captures.


Toasting sesame seeds for the cucumber radish salad

Toasting sesame seeds for the cucumber radish salad

Cucumbers and radishes feel very spring like

Cucumbers and radishes feel very spring like

Sunny lemon on a cutting board

Sunny lemon on a cutting board

View from the cutting board (in case you were curious)

View from the cutting board (in case you were curious)


Doors and the Design of Everyday Things

A door that defies basic usage principles

A door that defies basic usage principles

Over the past week I have been reading The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman, a book about how product designs can hinder their functionality.

Using his background in psychology, Norman explores how people perceive and interact with objects they encounter in their daily life, paying particular attention to how the design of those objects often trip up the user.

An example that Norman often refers to is doors. When a person approaches a door, they must use visual cues to determine how to open the door (where to grab the door, whether to push/pull/slide, etc.). Apparently after the initial release of his book, some people began referring to baffling doors as “Norman doors.”

Well, this weekend I came across a Norman door (see photo at beginning of post).

If you look at the door handle, you may ascertain that this is a twist down and pull open scenario, not terribly uncommon.

I twisted down and pulled. Nothing happened. I looked at the handle for a moment, tried twisting down and pulling again. Nothing happened. I noticed the sign: “Turn handle up to open.” (At least someone thoughtfully provided ancillary instructions. Otherwise I may have resorted to banging on the door and calling for help.) I turned the handle up, pulled, and the door opened.

I did what any (easily amused, usability obsessed) person would do. I whipped out my iPhone and snapped a photo.

Then I stepped to the door, twisted the handle down, and pulled. Nothing happened. That’s how quickly a user forgets non-standard, forced learning behavior, folks!

Moral: Don’t let your product become a Norman product.

Bar Graphs and M&M’s

Bar graph: M&M's by color

Bar graph: M&M's by color

My fourth grade math teacher was brilliant. Yes, fourth grade was a long time ago. You may be wondering how I even remember that far back. I remember because she taught us about bar graphs by giving us candy. (Candy for math? Brilliant!)

After explaining what a bar graph is and how to read one, my teacher went around the room handing out packages of M&M’s. There was only one rule. You could not eat the M&M’s until you collected the needed data.

That assignment was fairly easy. We were to count how many of each color M&M’s were in the package, write down the data, then pull out our crayons and create a bar chart to show the results for our package. (Candy and crayons?! What a fabulous math lesson!)

The results were similar for all of my fellow students. Brown and tan were the dominating colors.

To this day I think of that lesson every time I have M&M’s.

So a few days ago when I found myself in possession of a bag of peanut M&M’s, I got the urge to once again plot the results. As I didn’t have crayons handy, I improvised. You can see my makeshift bar graph in the photo at the beginning of this post.

For this package, blue was the clear winner, surprising since blue didn’t exist that very first time I collected data. Of course, the candy company doesn’t make tan M&M’s anymore either. Trade-offs, I suppose.

Regardless of the results, you have to admit, I had a great teacher if she still captures my attention 20+ years later.

Photo Friday: Fireplace

My heat broke again this week. It broke last week during the blizzard and after a few cold days, someone came to fix it. I had already moved on with my life when the heat once again went dormant a couple of days ago. Fortunately this time it wasn’t quite as frigid as last week (still chilly though) and yesterday we had it fixed again.

As you might expect the fireplace became our family hangout, particularly during the blizzard where we vied for space amongst our pets, squished together as closely as possible, buried ourselves under blankets, and drank hot chocolate.

It only seemed right to make this week’s photo that of the the roaring fire.

Happy Friday!

A roaring fire fills in for our broken furnace

A roaring fire fills in for our broken furnace

Beach Goers Willingly Injected with RFID Tags

In it’s latest issue, Wired magazine has included a list of the “10 Best Uses for RFID Tags” and while some of the uses posed are interesting, I’m disturbed by one in particular.

(For those unfamiliar, RFID stands for radio frequency identification and refers to the use of a very small chip, called a tag, which contains a code. When passed by a reader, the code can be used to pull information from a database. Some consider it to be the next bar code. It is currently used for things like EZ Pass to zoom through tollbooths in the northeast U.S.)

Number 6 on the Wired list reads:

At Barcelona’s Baja Beach Club, VIPs are injected with RFIDs linked to debit accounts, making wallets passé. Handy when all you’re wearing is a thong.

No, no, no. I have worked with standards surrounding RFID use in the supply chain. I have been involved with public policy. Our stance was always tag products, not people.

Yet here is a beach club offering RFID tag injections to make it easier to pay for a drink or access a VIP area without ID. What ever happened to giving your name to access a tab or for someone to verify on a VIP list?

To me this is over the top and simply not enough of a step up in convenience. Obviously there are others who disagree because people are willingly accepting the chip. (Note: It is the consumer’s responsibility to have the tag removed later if they so choose.)

If you’re interested in reading more, these articles will tell you how the Baja Beach Club uses RFID and walk you through one patron’s experience with the chip.

As for me, I still don’t see a need for tagging people, nor do I mind carrying some form of payment and ID.

Usability Newsletter is Published

The latest edition of Usability Interface is now live. Usability Interface is a quarterly newsletter about web usability. If you’re interested you can read it on the STC’s Usability & User Experience community web site. I have been working on this newsletter for the past year and was honored to have recently been given editorship.

This month’s issue includes articles about heat maps, content page design best practices from Yahoo!’s Luke Wroblewski, upcoming STC (Society for Technical Communication) news and events, and a book review of Caroline Jarrett and Gerry Gaffney’s latest book Web Forms That Work.

You may recognize the name Caroline Jarrett. I interviewed her last Fall prior to the release of her book. She was so delightful to speak with. You can see a recap of that interview here.

Happy reading!

Photo Friday: Union Trust Restaurant

This Photo Friday is indeed coming about a 1/2 hour past the official end of Friday as I have just arrived home from a fabulous date night in Philadelphia with my husband.

We tried out a new restaurant called Union Trust which makes its home in an old bank. The place has been decked out in luxury and serves an impressive menu.

I took a photo of the interior on my iPhone. Given the low lighting this photo is a bit grainy, but still gives an idea to the feel of the restaurant.

Happy Friday!

Inside Union Trust, a new Philadelphia restaurant

Inside Union Trust, a new Philadelphia restaurant

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