“I don’t own a radio”

So happy to learn that Ira Glass is bringing This American Life to the BBC. The Guardian seems to think that a reference to Ira Glass taking Ecstasy was was the headline. But the thing about TAL and Ira Glass is the program’s transcendence of the medium. The fact that it is more than just a radio show allows it to expand beyond the realm of radio and indeed beyond “American Life”. Ira Glass crafts stories which help us understand the world by connecting us deeply to the experiences held by other human beings.

There are stories that change the way I see stuff, like the Harper High School story. I didn’t really understand what it was like to live in a neighborhood like that, or be a kid like that. One of the things we learned is that every kid in the school is in a gang. The nerd kids are in a gang. The drama kids are in a gang. Before I read that series, and this is kind of ugly to say, but I would think, ‘Well, if they got shot they’re a gang kid … that’s a bad kid.’ I don’t feel that any more at all. Those of us who don’t live in neighborhoods like that, we’re so dumb.

Most important, design in grayscale

Adam Keys with some good advice on design for programmers. I think the advice is good for all graphic designers as well.

Most important: design in greyscale. Color is hard and can lead to tinkering. My goal is to get in and out of the front-end bits quickly, so tinkering is the enemy. Greyscale is one dimensional, greatly simplifying matters. Give important information higher contrast and less important information or “chrome” less contrast. Now you’re done thinking about color.


Abolitionist or Terrorist

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, Douglas Egerton contemplates the controversy surrounding a proposed monument to Denmark Vesey whose attempted slave rebellion resulted in his execution in 1826.

For many people, Vesey was a freedom fighter and a proto-civil rights leader. But the statue, the work of nearly two decades, brought out furious counterattacks; one recent critic called him a “terrorist,” and a historian denounced him as “a man determined to create mayhem.”


The complexity of Vesey’s story is hard to grasp, and wrestling with slavery and violence is hardly unique to South Carolina; white Southerners may rightly wonder when Manhattan will erect a statue to the slave Caesar Varick, who was burned alive in 1741 for plotting a revolt similar to Vesey’s.

“I’m an Occum’s razor kind of guy.”

Scott Berkun’s speech to the Economist in 2010:

Lastly, I need to talk about words. I’m a writer and a speaker, so words are my trade. But words are important, and possibly dangerous, for everyone. A fancy word I want to share is the word reification. Reification is the confusion between the word for something and the thing itself. The word innovation is not itself an innovation. Words are cheap. You can put the word innovation on the back of a box, or in an advertisement, or even in the name of your company, but that does not make it so.  Words like radical, game-changing, breakthrough, and disruptive are similarly used to suggest something in lieu of actually being it. You can say innovative as many times as you want, but it won’t make you an innovator, nor  make inventions, patents or profits magically appear in your hands.

WOBO: The world brick

In the early sixties, Heineken developed a bottle that could be used as a brick for building structures including homes. Seems like such a good idea. But like reusing shipping containers for home construction, it doesn’t seem to have been put to much use. I wonder whether that’s a problem of design compromise or an issue of cultural constraint. Who wants to live in a house made of beer bottles? I might.

(Viaparislemon. )

“It is fraying the fabric of democracy.”

Eduardo Porter, writing for the New York Times, offers From Mexico, Some Lessons for Europe:

But the most relevant parallel is one that European leaders refuse to see. If there is one overwhelming lesson from the debt crisis that struck Mexico and other Latin American countries so hard three decades ago, it is that countries that cannot grow will not pay. It is up to creditors, too, to allow them to grow. It took Mexico and its lenders seven years to figure that out. The European crisis is in its fifth year. You would think they might have learned something by now, but no.

All this makes me wonder who owns the debt owed by European nations, including the UK. In the case of Mexico in the 1980s, it was huge American banks who faced collapse if there was a debt default. A bankrupt nation is not a collateral that can be traded…