Tiny Ninja Hideout: Sector One: For Rent

Its almost ready!! Just cleaning and fixing, fixing and cleaning.

The Hideout is located in Frallingford (in between Wallingford and Fremont) in Seattle. There is a community garden that is shared with the neighborhood preschool – Fremont Community School. We grow fresh veggies and fruit. There are apple trees, raspberries, grapes and soon cherries. It is pet friendly but there are three small dogs that live in the bottom apartment with my daughter and myself.

It is a fantastic neighborhood – one of the best places to live in Seattle. The house is walking distance to Fremont and Wallingford and close to number of places – Gas Works Park, The Burke Gilman Trail, Greenlake and Woodland Park Zoo. The bus is just 2 blocks away and it is walkable to downtown if you like to walk or a short bike ride.

  • 4 bedrooms (or office)
  • 2 baths
  • Free wifi
  • Large kitchen
  • Living room w/fireplace
  • Hardwood floors
  • Community Garden with free fruits & veggies
  • Good vibes 🙂
  • Deck with BBQ
  • Dishwasher
  • Refrigerator/Oven/Range
  • Gas fireplace
  • Parking negotiable

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Blogs are white noise online.

I haven’t blogged a long time. I kind of don’t see the point really. Anyone can blog about anything which means there are a shitload of people out there pounding out all the random thoughts in their heads thinking that people will read it. If you are reading this – well done! You have more patience than I do. I recently saw the film Interstellar. I really enjoyed it. The only problem is that it reaffirmed my recent feelings that there isn’t a lot of point to many of the things we worry and fear – which is what drives what we do. Therefore there isn’t a lot of point to the things we do, especially blogging. But to contradict my point, I did just write a blog post, which means I accomplished something I had been ‘kind of’ meaning to do just because I like to write and well, it is now written.

Happy Tolkien Reading Day!

This man is a genius

Interesting Literature

Today is Tolkien Reading Day, an annual event launched in 2003 by the Tolkien Society. (The date of 25 March was chosen in honour of the fall of Sauron in the Third Age, year 3019, in Tolkien’s fiction.) The reading day promotes the use of Tolkien’s writing in schools and library groups, and is celebrated in numerous countries. To mark the occasion, we’ve put together ten of our favourite quotations from John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. The first quotation, about Beowulf, is especially timely because of the recent announcement that Tolkien’s translation of that epic poem is finally going to be published!

On Beowulf and myth: ‘The significance of a myth is not easily to be pinned on paper by analytical reasoning. It is at its best when it is presented by a poet who feels rather than makes explicit what his theme portends; who presents it incarnate in the world of history and geography, as our poet has done. Its defender…

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Designer Segregation


Recently design of user interfaces has become segregated into disciplines. I’m not really even sure how many there are. I’ve heard of user experience designers, visual designers, interaction designers and information architects. I’m not sure if I am in agreement with this trend. Try and try as I might, I cannot separate these things in my brain. It seems to me that user experience is visual, auditory, tactile…emotional.

Back in the day, I started as a print designer. We designed printed things together. One person didn’t pick the paper, one design how the thing opened, one person the font, one person the imagery…we worked together to design the entire thing and all had input on all of it. Sure we had a creative director, an art director, senior and junior designers and sure each of us had strengths and weaknesses…but we all worked together to create. And sometimes we switched it up, the person who designed the page numbers might handle the images on the next project. This is how we kept it fresh and good.

I think designing products and interfaces has lost this approach and suffers because of it. It is definitely a requirement to split up design tasks in order to accomplish an overall goal but I don’t believe putting designers into these boxes is a good idea. A designer is a designer. I have never met one designer that wasn’t good at approaching almost any problem from a design perspective and it is these different perspectives that give us the power to create. If we do not share our strengths and even our weaknesses we do not become a true creative team to grow and create together, we are merely individuals piecing parts together. We are constantly seeking designers who ‘think outside the box’ but we are putting them into boxes.

Life is one BIG ASS UX

I am a user experience designer. I was a user experience designer before those words were put together – ‘user’ and ‘experience’. My goal in life and in most everything I do is to make things better – to make things good. I was probably a UX designer even as a small child. I had this obsession of rearranging my room a lot to get the ‘optimum layout’ and to change my perspective, something fresh. I don’t think I really knew why I did it at that time or even thought about why, I was just compelled to do it. I had the designer OCD and it was good.

A user experience life is tough. On most projects we start off full of excitement and passion for what can be done, the possible innovation that can occur, the happy customer (not the one paying to make the product, the one using it in the end). Images and dreams fill our brains with happy people thinking, and maybe even saying to other people, ‘Wow! This is great! I love it!’. We brainstorm, thumbnail, jot, scribble, doodle… in coffee shops, on the bus, and in the sketchbook next to your bed at 3 in the morning. We push ourselves as hard as we can to think of the very best that it could be…it could be amazing, it could be phenomenal…it could be…REVOLUTIONARY! Our excitement cannot be contained.

Then reality hits. The goal of this endeavor is not to be revolutionary. It is not to give the user the very best experience they could have – that would be ‘nice’. Those words ‘user experience’ are thrown out in project meetings and marketing materials, but it is just fluff. The goal of this endeavor is to make money.

O.M.G. we are thinking, how horrible! How could they? How could they just want to make money? (Those last words uttered as if spitting out some putrid tasting morsel). The fact is, fellow designers, it HAS to make money…that is the point…that is what keeps you in your nice little UX desk with your Cintiq and your Macbook Pro. It HAS to make money or you and the person next to you won’t be there in a year trying to contain your excitement.

There is a balance. It can be done. There is hope.

I love Steve Jobs. He was a genius. Bill Gates is also a genus. What Steve did, however, was to go straight for the UX to make him money, rather than make money so he could have a UX. It may sound stupid but I firmly believe that good brings money. It has been proven many, many times. When it is very good, people pay more, but it HAS to be very good, not just say that it is. That does not mean that not-so-good does not make money, it does. But then it becomes a very challenging battle between fractions of a cent. Cut the packaging costs to one dollar, use a cheaper material, degrade the quality of the camera (as the designers silently scream and gnash their teeth in frustration).

The common man has no idea of the struggle going on behind the scenes to get that thing to market. And in the end, the enthusiasm is gone and the designer (and everyone else) is just glad it made it out the door. I have worked in the corporate world for over a decade as a designer. I started off in print, taught myself HTML and moved into web, did a stint in television and ended up in mobile and consumer electronics. I have always done my very best to balance a world where money is not prioritized over creating good and to push for the good of the user. I am not only speaking of users of products, I am speaking of users as in all of humanity.

Somewhere in the history of our world we developed a philosophy that things are disposable and people are expendable. We learned that in order to be ‘a success’ at anything we must use whatever talents and resources at our disposal to climb to the top. We must manipulate others, be a political player, use those around you to support your rise to the top and get what you want.

I have worked on many projects, many of them very high profile. The last project broke me. It was the infotainment system for a high-end sports car. The client came to our company in the 4th quarter. They were behind by at least 3 touchdowns and possibly a field goal. They were launching there $300k+ sports car in just over 6 months. I didn’t want to take it. In fact, I outright refused to take it. It was a recipe for disaster and I knew I could not do another break-neck speed project when all I really wanted was just one good one to be proud of. I begged the other partners in our company not to take it but of course I did not win, the designer rarely does.

So we did it. We conceived the entire UI mostly from a cubicle in a clinical environment where no drinks were allowed and no posting on walls of any kind. It was like placing a sub-saharan species in the Artic. We did it and it looked good, but it killed me. When it was ready to launch I quit. I quit because it didn’t work, it wasn’t ready. People should not be using it. We all knew it but like I said – the designer rarely wins. And it had to make money. So there you go.

Then I started Tiny Ninja Cafe. A user experience dream. I actually speak to real people every day and have direct impact on their user experience and they have real impact on me. I am constantly fascinated by how humans think and behave. I used to design products in an office building far, far away from the people I was targeting. But here I have a chance to do good in simple ways that directly impact people. And here I can observe human behavior in such a pure way. It is not a room where X number of ‘subjects’ are brought in to try X product and give answers to X questions. It is merely observation and interaction – like a scientist would observe a subject and internalize information about how they perform in their natural habitat. Here I have a chance to share goodness and I do it through things I think will make a difference in the world – music, art, discussion, education.

What have I learned? Life is one BIG ASS UX. If we observe each other and ourselves with this mindset, things may not make perfect sense but insights happen routinely – almost every minute. We are fascinating and a tiny interaction impacts us in ways we would never imagine. If we can look at our impact on each other and our world in this way, we could do so much good.