Friday, April 29, 2005

An Ode to the Story of J-B Weld

Last week I saw a knock-off Eames Lounge on craigslist for $100. The upholstery was in pretty good condition, but for $100 I suspected something was really wrong with it. When I went and saw it, it felt like something was broken in the seat base. But for a hundred bucks I took the chance. Besides, I needed this piece to match my $15 yard-sale Wassily knockoff!

As I brought my new chair to the house, the seat base fell off. I poked around and found that the seat post was originally just cold-headed to hold it to the seat bracket. It had bellmouthed its way out of its hole in the bracket over the years. Besides that, the rest of the chair base was in pretty good shape.

So, how could I get these pieces back together? I thought of Chris L., who once told me his house was so full of various lounge chairs that he was forbidden from buying any more, else risk divorce. He had gotten me thinking of lounge chairs, and the eames in particular. He had also introduced me to an adhesive called J-B Weld during a prototyping session at work.

"I fixed our sub's nuclear reactor, thanks to J-B Weld!" Posted by Hello

A package of J-B Weld looks like it came off the shelf in 1962, including testimonials on the back like "better than bailing wire" or "I fixed my combine and saved $2000!" (When was the last time you saw a testimonial on a package?). I figured this stuff would be perfect for fixing up my knock-off mid-century chair! And it was.

For me, J-B Weld's allure is the intentionally retro feel of the packaging. It tells a story about how trusted this product has been over the years, how it has saved money for housewives, farmers, do-it-yourselfers, machinists. You know -good, deserving people. It evokes the old days when things were made of cast metal rather than molded plastic, made to last, and you didn't throw 'em away, you fixed 'em and they were good as new. It made me feel good to entrust my new chair to J-B. The true story of J-B weld is just as good, which makes me wonder why they don't tell it louder.

Recently, there's been a lot of interest in storytelling- at IDEO, in managment books and blogs, such as Seth Godin's All Marketers Are Liars. I'm more conscious of the power of these kinds of stories. I have no idea if J-B Weld is actually any better than modern epoxies which it shares shelf space with, but it sure tells a good tale.

And it made me feel like I got a bargain on a cool chair.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Eichler Atrium Otaku

Atriums are yummy Posted by Hello

To borrow Seth Godin's borrowing of a Japanese phrase, I am a bit of an otaku of Eichlers, having been admitted to the club recently.

Godin says in a Fast Company article, "An otaku is a person with an obsession. There are thousands of people who are hot sauce otaku. There are no mustard otaku." There are probably very few Cape Cod otaku. Fewer still Mission-style townhouse otaku. But there is a community of Eichler otaku stretching from L.A to S.F and beyond.

A big area of discussion among these otaku is the Eichler atrium. Not a true atrium in the Roman sense, since it isnt actually surrounded on all sides by -sorry otaku-geeking out. Eichler otaku will discuss atrium subtleties such as covers, underground wiring, themes, water features, and more. I've even gotten advice on how to answer the door. So many Eichler otaku exist (or so few -after all this is the age of the long tail) so that articles and newsletters are written for them.

It is very strange and welcoming to live in architecture that is connected with such strong emotion.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Shhh, Quiet, A Swiss Purple Cow!

Even in fashion industry -especially in the fashion industry- there's a right way and a wrong way to build your brand. It's cool to see Akris, a Swiss(!) clothing company doing the remarkable & ignoring those rules:

From the WSJ thru Whisperbrand:

"Akris is unusual in that it sells no profit-boosting accessories, no namesake fragrances. By relying on a few key U.S. retail accounts, subtle marketing and just one brand, Akris tests the industry notion that multibrand conglomerates are the best route to growth...."

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Design lust at Target's pharmacy

Target has done it again.

As reported on Boing Boing: "
Target proves once again that it is a true "design within reach" store by introducing a well-designed, pleasing-to-behold pill bottle."

Better yet, Target was saavy enough to bypass every intermediary between the designer and the retailer. From the original article at (a nice design case study):

"For her SVA thesis project [Deborah] Adler revamped the familiar canister, then approached the FDA—but one of Target’s creative directors saw her work last summer, snapped up the patent, and rolled it out in record time. It’s already approaching design-classic status: ClearRx will be included in a MoMA exhibit this October."

and in my medicine cabinet by May.

Think Pink

Well, Pink is in the air.

At least in my bathroom, where a recent Wired is the reading material. Looking at the cover yesteday, I thought maybe I'd blog about the article on right brain thinking.

Then, getting into work today, I see that Daniel Pink, author of that article, is coming to speak at IDEO next week. One of the immensely great IDEO perqs: guest speakers that rock.

I think I'll have to get his latest book, on which the article is based: A Whole New Mind: Moving from the InformationAge to the Conceptual Age.

Nobody Knows

Sometimes a shirt is just a shirt. Posted by Hello

I'm gonna get me this shirt.

When I was younger, I had a t-shirt that read: "nobody knows I'm gay." I thought it was hilarious. My wife, not so much. Not that she didn't get the mind bending irony, she just didn't think hanging out with a guy wearing said t-shirt was particularly good for her reputation.

At least this new shirt would not get me beaten up in should our car break down during a road trip through middle America....

Monday, April 18, 2005

I heart my house

My house has a hole in the middle!
Posted by Hello


Before I moved into my current house, I never much considered the architecture of the house or building I lived in. At most, I worried about what color my walls were.

But now, I live in an Eichler.

Living in an Eichler is cool. Sure the architecture is cool, mid-century modern, and that's especially hip right now. But the coolness is that, when you buy an Eichler, you buy into a whole alternate Housing universe, populated by People Like You, and that's what makes it cool.

Your purchase price includes membership in a community, which makes 'Eichler Living' a hobby, rising above merely having a (no-attic, see-the-bottom-of-my-roof-beams?, is-yours-insulated-on-top?) roof over your head. When you tell people you live in an Eichler, you get knowing nods and smiles from fellow owners. People who don't get it give you that look of disgust. You can share stories about those roofs, Phillipine Mahagony, single-pane glass, architects and floor plans (Barry Brisco has my floor plan), atriums, and radiant heating. We have our own website to propagate the story, share tips and tricks, and give people a forum to share our experiences, both good and bad.

Which all makes me heart my Eichler.

Seth Godin's most recent blog (and book) is about Lies (really, stories, but Godin likes to get, you know, dramatic) that make products and experiences extraordinary. Part of choosing an Eichler is choosing this grand story, being a part of this hobbyist community around a still-alternative approach to houses and, by extension, life.

Friday, April 15, 2005

More on the Google Maps Meme

I havent even read this yet, but it sounds fascinating:

Surprises Lurk in Satellite Snaps from Wired

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Millennium Challenge 2002 and Design Thinking

My favorite part of Malcolm Gladwell's blink is the story of Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper and the Millennium Challenge.

NOVA's "Battle Plan Under Fire" which "probes the rapidly evolving science of war" describes the scenario:

" In Millennium Challenge 2002, a $250 million war game designed to test the new technologies and concepts of transformation and network-centric warfare—in which U.S. forces are data-linked with one another as never before—Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, former president of the Marine Corps University, was asked to command the "enemy" forces. In the first days of that mock battle, he used unconventional methods, including a preemptive attack that featured air-, sea-, and ground-launched cruise missiles to sink 16 American ships."

Gladwell sees this as a triumph of instinctual 'blink' thinking. As he described it to ESPN2:

"The team playing the U.S. had all kinds of computer programs and decision-making systems, and experts on every conceivable problem. But when the war started, Van Riper hit them with so many unexpected plays so quickly that he forced them out of that kind of conscious, deliberate decision-making mode -- and forced them to rely on their instincts. And they weren't prepared for that."

Another way of thinking of it: a triumph of nimble design thinking (quick attacks as simple prototypes; unconventional methods as entrepeneurship; playing to his strengths as empathy) over a traditional data-driven corporate bureaucracy.

So, the 16 lost ships were refloated, Von Riper was told not to try that sh*t again, and the wargame was restarted. Guess who 'won' this time (and skip down to the Q&A for remarks about Van Riper)?

Monday, April 11, 2005

Google Maps, Complexity, Simplicity, Orwell, and Design

I tried the new Google Maps the other day, and was blown away by how cool the integration of Keyhole imagary is. Thanks to Metacool I can see what a slacker I was.

Apparently, the usefulness of this is already being exploited and pondered in depth. Is this an opening salvo of DIY big-brotherness? from Jeffery Veen's "Google is Watching":

"But privacy goes both ways, doesn't it? Ultimately Orwell was right: everything we do will be watched. But he was wrong about the government building it. We did it ourselves. Which means where Matt sees chemistry, I see environmental accountability. Where others see surveillance, I see corporate whistle-blowing. It reminds me of the Surfrider Foundation's project to get kayakers in the San Francisco Bay to cameraphone the bilge coming out out of container ships. What happens when thousands of grassroots activists can click-and-drag through the remote places in this country? Clearcut! Oil spill! You can't dump that there -- we're watching!"

By example, Mezzoblue is using it to demonstrate the real effects of clearcutting around his neighborhood. Wow.

Metacool riffs on the design implications:

"I'm beginning to believe that the emergence of design thinking in our society is somehow related to the rise of the Internet as an ubiquitous source of information, entertainment, and stimulation. Never before have we had ready access to so much complexity. Design thinking -- with its emphasis on empathy for humans, iterative problem solving via prototyping, and an entrepreneurial mindset -- is the best way I know of to work with that complexity."

Its also a good example of how simplicity and complexity (hmm, design and engineering?) are merely different methods of approaching the same data set. Simplicity, to me, is zooming out (literally in this case) until an issue simplifies itself through the change in resolution. Complexity is the opposite: zooming in until the myriad details so overwhelm the context that the problem and solution become abstract to the point of having no value. By looking at the God's eye view of a clearcut landscape, one can intuitively see that something's not well. This is the kind of revelation mounds of passionless data just can't provide.


Sunday, April 10, 2005

1. Cara membuat air rebusan ayam atau daging.

This just looks like such good Thai food that although I cant understand a single word of it, I must link to it.

I mean, this is just the list of ingredients, doesn't it make your mouth water:


2 camca besar minyak sapi
2 camca besar mentega atau marjerin

2 labu bawang besar, dicincang halus
3 ulas bawang putih, dicincang halus
2 cm hala, dicincang
4 cm kulit kayu manis
3 kuntum bunga cengkih
3 kelopak bunga lawang
3 biji buah pelaga, dititik
3 cawan air
½ cawan Krimer Sejat Rendah Lemak IDEAL
500 gm beras basmati, basuh & tuskan
3 camca teh Serbuk Pati Ayam MAGGI

¼ cawan bawang goreng
¼ cawan kismis
1 biji hirisan cili merah
daun pudina

The Curious Incident of Facial Expressions

April 8th:
By serendipity, my wife just finished reading Macloclm Gladwell's Blink, and started reading
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (recommended by many, including Defective Yeti).

Both deal with the totally mindboggling subject of facial expressions and emotion.

Blink discusses the Facial Action Coding System
a detailed, technical guide that explains how to categorize facial behaviors. The protagonist of Curious Incident is an autistic boy, who has trouble reading these same facial expressions, and has his own system of determining what they mean.

Kind of a sweet and sour reading experience.

added April 10th:
I figured out why this subject was on my mind. My 2 year old has recently discovered that she can make faces: "Daddy, this is my MAD face!" And she does them really well! We're not trying to teach her to be an actress or anything, but I'm sure we're giving her positive feedback as she grinding her face into contorsions. Somewhere between FACS and autism, the rest of us have done this at one point or another, trying on different faces and different emotions. It's mindblowing how animal this is, yet humanity's complex social structures are based on being able to innately understand and manipulate these facial behaviors.

Of course by 5 year old tries to subvert this by making opposite faces. "Daddy," he says, cracking up as he's trying to make a Grrrr! face, "this is my HAPPY face!"

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Finally, Affordable design for the rest of the rest of us

Design Without Reach

Friday, April 08, 2005

More on AK-47s and Vodka

Amazingly enough, I found a post at ItchyRobot (scroll down a bit) on AK-47s and Kalashnikov's own brand of Vodka. Salut!


Thursday, April 07, 2005



A univeral icon

What designer hasn't dreamed that their vision of the Widget becomes a universal icon?

MIT Technology Review confirms that the AK-47 is the kick-ass universal icon of small arms.
Get this: The American M-16? 7 million in circulation. AK-47? 100 million. Wow, that's like Mac vs Windows.

Why is the AK so successful? Because it's a good design, done at an appropriate level for the marketplace:

"Kalashnikov ... began to create a design for a new weapon, one that could be assembled with relatively loose tolerances by relatively inexperienced workers, avoiding the supply bottlenecks that often resulted from the German cult of fine craftsmanship..... Not only was the AK-47 simple to manufacture, but it could withstand rough handling in harsh terrain and climates.

The decline of the market for Russian successors to the AK-47 reveals an unintended consequence of its rugged, reliable simplicity. It is all too easy for non-Russians, including anti-Russian terrorists, to reuse, repair, and manufacture it."

Nothing fancy, just enough design to get the job done. And the marketplace responded.


Losing the conversation, taking it back

Dyson has done an amazing thing with vacuum cleaners. He's managed to completely change the conversation around vacuums. Although his machines deliver on the claim of not losing suction, they're still not great vacuum cleaners. But by changing the conversation, he's convinced people that they are not only good enough, but better in new ways. Even people who should know better are momentarily blinded by the glittery lights (kidding, Diego, now I bet he won't let me borrow his copy of Thoughtless Acts)

OXO did the same thing with the salad spinner. It created a whole new market, by transforming the spinner from a serious, boring, prep tool into a fun, family-bonding kitchen friend. So what did Zyliss, the inventor of the salad spinner, do? Accept the new rules of OXO's conversation? Hell no, Zyliss took back the conversation with a radical new spinner that celebrated their heritage as a maker of high performance kitchen tools, heaped on loads of user centered design, and presented it all in a dangerously elegant form. [disclaimer, I worked on the Zyliss salad spinner project, so my views may be a little skewed].

So, what are Dyson's competitors going to do, to take back that conversation? WWSD?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Meanwhile, Diego Rodriguez has managed to finish reading two wonderful books that I've been sort of meaning to get to: Thoughtless Acts and All Marketers Are Liars.

Man, I still havent even gotten thru my copy of The Art of Innovation ...

Reality Check

Seth Godin recently wrote about the changing reality of recorded music, and recorded experience in general. I thought about this as I listened to my ipod thru the car stereo, looking at the scenery outside an imagining it was just a music video. So, which was less real, what I was hearing or what I was imagining I was seeing?

My kids will grow up on digital music, digital pictures, digital data. Reality to them won't be the feel of a paperback, flipping thru faded, badly composed snapshots, or the scratchy sound of a needle on vinyl. But so what, that doesnt make their experiences any less real.

I'm not giving up my paperbacks or analog watch, tho.

Hello, Is This Larry?

Hello, is this Larry?

Yes, it is.

One more blog in the sphere

One more node between design, parenthood, common sense, and pure crap.

Howarya, nice ta meetcha.