Bad Inventions: The laptop girdle and the standing desk bra!

I have two new Bad Inventions for my collection of ideas that I will never implement and everyone is free to steal!

First, let me introduce the Laptop Girdle (or laptop belt)!

I often am working on my computer while lying on my back with knees and feet up on pillows to relieve strain in my low back and keep my painful ankles elevated. I’m sure many other people use their laptops in bed or on a couch lying down. One problem with this is the laptop needs to be specially propped up so it doesn’t slide upwards on your torso. Another problem is that your stomach or your belt can accidentally mess with the laptop track pad so that you suddenly click with your belly. I don’t even have that much belly and it happens all the time since my MacBook Air has very little space between the bottom edge of the laptop and the trackpad. Same with my belt. So, the Laptop Girdle will be a belt with a special groove meant to hold a laptop in place, immune from belly or belt-buckle clicks!

Also good for playing games on your ipad in bed!

The laptop belt is also useful for people who are sitting up with laptop ON THEIR ACTUAL LAP.

I think that boob clicks are also possible in this scenario so the laptop girdle must protect against boob clicks for those of us who are generously endowed.

Which thought leads us to . . . the Standing Desk Bra! Standing desks are amazingly popular with hipster programmers who aren’t me! There is one in my hotel room right now! Now, I am also not a person who needs a marvelously sturdy variety of bra which has the structural engineering of a suspension bridge. But for those of us who do wear amazingly constructed bras imagine if its support framework also had something that popped or folded out or attached on the underneath of the front of the bra, that would be a convenient shelf for your laptop, reading a book, or use as a handy drafting table! YES. The world needs Standing Desk Bras!

Please send me your drawings of these inventions as soon as possible so that we can make it happen. OR just make something like this and you are welcome to your ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

Related posts:

Sub-ether message

Quote of the day, because it’s silly and perfect! Give it a dramatic reading if you dare.

The photophonic visiscreen before Ranger brightened with the image of a stocky reptilian creature that looked vaguely humanoid. Its facial scales flushed violet with pleasure as it said: “Captain Farstar! Greetings from Newtonia. How pleased I am to see you again.” The being spoke good Unilingo that was only faintly slurred by a vague hissing.
“Greetings, Dr. Clay. My blood temperature is increased by your warmth,” Ranger said, using the semi-formal greeting ritual of Cretacia, the director’s native planet. “Did you receive my sub-ether message?”

This is from the opening chapter of The Treasure of Wonderwhat. I note that their ship is named “The Gayheart”.

Related posts:

The Planet of Swears

I’m writing some RSS feed scraper programs and while playing around with that, set up an install of Planet feed reader. It was very funny to see on the one hand, lots of people blogging or writing things like “Oh, this doesn’t even need setup, just unzip it and you’re basically done” — and the Planet documentation itself saying that the config file’s comments explained everything — vs. actual step by step instructions of what to do, like burningbird‘s post, which I found very helpful. That’s a lot of “nothing to do” to explain and it still didn’t get far enough for what I’d like to figure out: how to set up one installation of Planet but also set up multiple feeds in different directories, each with their own template.

Meanwhile I’m very amused that for another project I get to write a spider with a curse word filter. I haven’t had that hilarious of results since writing porn filters for Excite’s web spider. My output files and screen output when swear-spider.py runs are very funny. “Asshole Detected!”

A quick search on lists of dirty words gets some very amusing Supreme Court hearing transcripts. Like so!

FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726 (1978), Decided July 3, 1978. The dissenting opinions are especially great!

“A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged, it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used.”

I’ll try quoting that to my kid next time he frown at my liberal use of what he carefully calls “the f word”.

Related posts:

Programming languages and science fiction!

Cat Valente, Tiptree-winning author of The Orphan’s Tales, wrote up a brilliant comparison of programming languages to literary genres. She covers a lot of ground here as a cultural and critic, and she’s witty as hell. If the bits I’m quoting make you laugh, go read the whole thing!

Smalltalk is mythpunk, Python is speculative fiction, Java is…

Divorce in the suburbs, cancer of the miscarriage, and how God will punish you for having sex. That’s right, it’s the big, predictable Literary Fiction Gorilla, coming to destroy a gated community near you. Java is the mainstream of the mainstream, it gets all the critical hand jobs, they teach it at universities, and the support base is vast…

PHP is journalism, Perl is poetry, Ruby is steampunk, ASP is given a snarky kick to the head that keeps making me laugh!

It mixes all the worst parts of the other genres/languages. Hey! Serial killers are awesome! What about a vampire serial killer? What about a vampire werewolf serial killer with a heart of gold? What about a vampire werewolf serial killer with a heart of gold who mixes row result processing, business logic, and layout code ALL ON ONE PAGE??!

Sold, to your corporate overlords. After all, if you put the strength of an entire company behind it, it’ll be a success, even if it leaks memory and ends with and then I woke up.

The feel and culture (and reputation) of each programming language are well described and it takes some complicated snark to link them all to equally well described literary genres and subgenres. Geek culture is AWESOME.

I can’t imagine a more perfect post for this blog to link to! Thanks, Catherynne!

Related posts:

Neobaroque user interface

What do you think. Brilliant steampunk parody? Or simply the funniest, most godawful, user interface design in the history of the planet?

I can’t stop laughing! I keep expecting the Onceler to pop out and put a thneed on it!

It’s just like the early 90s software I remember when people had to make a GUI for everything, no matter if it was suited for it or not.

Related posts:

Geek culture changes

I have gone from working in places where I have about 4 computers on my desk plus root everywhere to working for Silicon Valley startups where people bring their own laptop to the job and no one has ever seen a terminal window before. Most of the bloggers I know (and support at work) deal with their blogs and web hosts entirely from ftp desktop clients. And at someone else’s fairly technically oriented workplace that shall remain nameless, just the other day, I over heard two people talking:

Q: So why do you people use those window things? And why are they always those black screens? Is it like, to look like The Matrix or something?
A: Um, well, I think it’s just a culture thing. It’s old school. Or something.

As I was reading through scads of comments on php.net and the forums on phpWomen.org I thought about how some people post stuff like “and here’s how I like to indent my code“, with examples. Actually I like reading that stuff and when it’s super simple, all the better. Yet I never post my own notes and habits and cheap unix tricks, because I’m embarrassed they aren’t super whizz bang hackery but are just my thoughts on vim vs. vi, or notes on how to change my csh prompt to be different colors. Why don’t I post on that stuff? I might start. How many times over the years have I gone to look something up and ended up on shallowsky.com? A ZILLION TIMES! (Thanks Akkana!) I’m not posting for programmers – actually I might be posting for the bloggers who are only just trying out their new shell account and want to know what it can do.

So about geek culture changes. Aside from people who don’t scream when they see a command line, what about the deeper culture? I was reading Rebecca MacKinnon’s post Silicon Valley’s benevolent dictatorships and thinking back on all the pocket-watch-toting, vest-wearing, oddball sys admins I’ve known. MacKinnon (heavily quoting Danny O’Brien) describes how U.S. geeks put a lot of trust in technology and the internet:

we have come to depend way too heavily on a small number of Internet and telecoms companies to conduct the most private and intimate details of our professional and personal lives. As long as those companies have values aligned with our own and are run by people we think have integrity, we don’t see a huge problem. But what if the values cease to be aligned or political circumstances change?

While I agree with MacKinnon that a company’s leaders are important, I suspect that a lot of power right now is in the hands of sys admins, quite often the actual benevolent association or intersection of hippies and hacker-anarchists who inhabit university basements and run the backbone of the net. They’re also powerful in determining what happens. I think about what is happening and how it’s partly about a cultural shift in what people think the Internet is – rather than it being something you get your hands dirty in, that you play around with, where you bother to go read the RFCs even if you’re not writing them… something that people like you are *making*… you shift it and its policies – you are its state and government – to something you consume or use that is run by far-distant giant corporations (whether they are trustable or not is not the point.) I wonder about younger generations of sys admins. Are they DIY in spirit – and have they been activists? That matters too – along with privacy policies which in theory are set by legal departments and corporate heads – because the people who will implement that stuff often care and have influence.

Related posts:

My evil mastermind futuristic wheelchair golfcart thing

Okay, I totally want this,

so I can zoom around wearing a sort of Servalan dress, like this, in it:

Something more in black, with a ridiculous collar that looks like bat wings and that stands up about 2 feet over my head.

A futuristic space pistol would be nice too!

It’s interesting that it’s being pitched as a Segway-like device rather than as a powerchair. On the other hand, I’ve always thought about the Segway, “What the hell, 200 pounds of machinery and I can’t sit down?”

The people who call it ridiculous miss the point. They’ll get it, though, when I wheel up to them all silent and menacing and then push a button to dump them into my shark tank before my GIANT LASER comes out of the volcanic island and starts bleeping gently before it takes over the world!

It lacks lasers, and a little platform for my nanobot-enhanced telepathic cat.

There is no way I am getting in something called a “Jazzy” especially if it looks like a garage sale office chair fucked a toaster.

I cannot be contained in less than the powerchair of an evil mastermind!

Related posts:

SXSWi: Kathy Sierra’s opening remarks

Kathy Sierra‘s opening remarks has two or three overflow rooms full of people. We’re responding to the screen just as if Kathy were in the room – what a great speaker!

Humanizing software and the net.

Audience participation exercise:

If you had to either save a guy from drowning or photograph it, how would you tag it in Flickr? Stand up, this makes you a “designer” (or i would say a content person)

If you had to code open source software or have sex… Ruby or Python? Stand up.

If you haven’t stood up, look around you at the people who have a job!

Now talk to a person who isn’t your same kind.

1) help users get together offline. face to face still matters.
2) make software interactions feel more human
– What can the user do with a human but not a computer?
– body language, gestures, (photo of face expressing “Whaaaaaa!?” or WTF: knit brow, questioning, maybe a little bit pissed off, puzzlement)
– Look confused, ask a question. You can’t do that with your software. Does your software know anything about that face?
– photos of anxiety, bewilderment, head in hands. Other entity responds to “looking confused”

A neurological quiz. Various “I-statements”. Aspies unite! In the tech world we are actually proud of our Aspergers. All our applications have Aspergers. (Also, all cats have Aspergers.) How can we compensate? Our app must know that a person is confused.

Nobody is passionate when they feel like they suck. Passion threshhold, Suck threshold. Your apps make people feel like they suck instead of getting them up past the suck threshold. I no longer suck, but I’m not good or expert anymore. We have to get people past that threshold. The passion threshold is when they’re so good they feel confident and expert. Passion isn’t about a tool, it’s about people feeling good about their ability.

Add a WTF button.

A great point: the help file or faq thinks you look like (photo of smiling confident student-looking guy with pencil poised to take notes) but really you’re like (photo of guy looking frustrated and flipping off his computer).

Example of a user in Excel. “I used to use Excel a long time ago and I just want to add up the numbers in a column” The help is utterly unhelpful and her screen captures are hilarious. People actually want to say “I’m lost. I’m stuck. I don’t know how I got here. I want to do a thing, but I don’t know what it’s called.”

Goal of the WTF button: Get user to the right context asap. Then give him an understandable set of questions. Let the user choose a high level statement. “I’m lost.” Narrow the context.
What other emotions can a computer recognize? buttons with faces. Click on picture of what you’re feeling. Bastards! Terror! WTF! Happy! You suck. He’s not really feeling “you suck”, he’s feeling, “I suck”. Hating software you’re hating it for making you feel like an idiot. If you can’t fix your application you can still help by reorganizing your documentation.

Looking confused tells a human, a human teacher for example, to try telling you a different way. Software gives you one chance, it’s like saying “I’m only going to tell you this once.” You’ll know you’ve succeeded when they feel creeped out.

Conversational language. Talk like a human. Use the word “you”. Contractions. Your brain reading conversational language – pays more attention.

The positive impact of good user experiences. If make a user have a slightly better experience, you’ve done something good. You give a person an opportunity to be in the “flow” state.

(YEAH!!!)

Those are some of the happiest moments in a person’s life. That’s the kind of experience we’re giving people all the time.

Technorati Tags: ,

Related posts:

Five things you probably don’t know about me

I got tagged for this meme by Chris Carfi of The Social Customer Manifesto. It was interesting reading Chris’s 5 things and following some of his links. I also came across The Blog Tag Tree which traces a bit of this meme’s geneology. Though – I first saw it a year ago or maybe longer, on LiveJournal.

“Write down five things about yourself that others probably don’t know, and pass it on.”

  • I lived in a 100-person co-op house (21st St. Co-op in Austin) for 5 years, and at different times held the positions of menu planner, dinner cook, dessert cook, and “cookie monster”. From this, I know how to cook a fancy meal for 200 people and how to boss a crew of helpers, as well as how to go to endless community meetings.
  • I can move my littlest toe on each foot independently of the other toes. Try it!
  • From age 14 to 17 I worked in a dry cleaners in Houston, way out near Tomball. Conditions were disgusting and inhumane. Don’t buy dry-clean-only clothes, if you can help it.
  • I played 5 bells in a handbell choir in a church in Allen Park, Michigan, when I was a little kid. The bells were huge and shiny, and had special fancy cases lined with velvet; we wore white gloves. In regular choir I sang alto and sometimes tenor. It was a good choir, and I liked wearing the robes. Once I got to be a ceremonial candle-snuffer, which was fun even though I was an ardent atheist.
  • Secretly I often like to pretend I’m someone else who has switched bodies with me. Usually they’re people from books I’ve just read – either fictional characters or people from history. What would they be thinking? How would they react to being in my body, doing whatever I’m doing? And what would I do if I were in their body and time? Now you know. You might be talking with Genghis Khan, Ayla, Ataturk, the Continental Op, or Laura Ingalls.
  • Tag, you’re it:

    * Ellen Moody from Ellen and Jim Have a Blog, Too
    * Vim from Screamything
    * Minnie from Screamything
    * Gabby De Cicco from Pont des Arts
    * Prentiss Riddle from Aprendiz de todo, maestro de nada

    Technorati Tags: , ,

    Related posts: