Monday, April 18, 2011


Fortunately, I did not encounter any cows on the road in Idaho.

The drive from Boise, Idaho to Orem, Utah offered many breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains, particularly as I approached Salt Lake City. When I arrived in Orem, my hotel was situated at the edge of Utah Lake (connected via the Jordan River to the Great Salt Lake, north of Utah Lake) with the Wasatch Mountains as a backdrop. I stood in the parking lot, gazing intently at the scene before me, and understanding why the Mormons settled here -- isolation from the outside world and a place of natural beauty. As I drove around Orem I noticed two things immediately: 1) few liquor stores, but those that existed were state owned, and 2) it seemed that every few blocks was a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). As reported by some people who reside there, if you live outside of "the community," you can feel isolated socially.

My first night in Orem I had dinner with Yujia Zhao and Chad Camara, two students from IU's HCI/d program who now share their lives together; both work for Adobe (along with Matt Snyder, who was first to be hired). It was so good to share a meal with them and catch up on their lives. They spoke of the challenges and opportunities working at Adobe. When we think of Adobe, we typically think of products like CS5--Photoshop, InDesign, Acrobat, Flash, and Illustrator--to name a few. But what goes on in Orem, Utah is Adobe's work in web analytics:
Omniture® web analytics is now Adobe web analytics, powered by Omniture®. As online channels evolve beyond traditional web-based interactions to include mobile, video, and social networking, so does the need for web analytics to bring together customer interactions across all online channels in one place. The Adobe online analytics and online optimization products provide extensible applications that connect easily with partner applications for a consolidated view of customer interactions.
 Yujia's home-made Chinese dinner was delicious and we had a lot of laughs and discussion about graduate school, what they learned that made a difference for them (e.g., teams, working with others, patience), my book on design pedagogy, and the new course I was designing, Rapid Interaction Design Practice. The next day I was to visit Adobe and lead an hour-long seminar (similar to the one I did at Adobe in Seattle), so we talked about what I might expect. It was great to see these young professionals talking like pros about their work; it had only been a little over two years prior that they were confused master's students with sophomoric views of design. Now they were the design leads on their teams!

The next day I arrived at the Adobe offices and was struck by their "industrial coolness." What a great environment in which to work. Moreover, the offices were located at the base of the mountains; talk about inspirational views! Matt Snyder hosted my visit and showed me around the offices. After my tour we went into a conference room to set up for my seminar. Unfortunately, the company was preparing for the big annual Adobe conference at the end of the week so the attendance was limited. Nevertheless, the discussion was lively, and according to Matt's manager, Archana Thiagarajan--a very bright and insightful director, quite useful as well. We discussed "playing the whole game" of design at Adobe and different groups approached their tasks in different ways. It became clear that creating a unified and regimented design procedure for Adobe would be a mistake and that procedural variation should be allowed depending on circumstance and team experience.

After my talk, a few of us had lunch at Adobe, a healthy and tasteful spread; Archana and I chatted about design, and she said that hiring Matt was a superb move on their part, followed by Yujia and then Chad (coming from Disney Animation where he was an intern). The three of them had distinguished themselves in their short time at Adobe (less than a year). Archana presented me with an Adobe red Polartec fleece blanket, thanking me for my seminar presentation, and then I returned to my hotel room to relax before dinner. But before I left, Matt and I passed a conference room that included Chad at the head of the table, a number of developer-engineers, and Yujia sitting among them; Yujia was leading the team in a strategy session and it was clear to me that she was "in charge" of that meeting. I was so proud of her; our graduates are clearly making an impact on Adobe's products!

That evening, Matt, Chad, Yujia, and I went to a gourmet pizza restaurant, Pizzeria 712.  We each had individual pizzas. Mine consisted of house-made sausage, fennel, roasted pepper, tomato sauce, and mozzarella. Yum! (It was almost as good as the pizza in Boise.) The four of us enjoyed ourselves thoroughly that evening, and as I drove back to my hotel, I left the three of them chatting away in front of the restaurant. I'm certain that they were talking about design -- passionately!

The next morning I continued eastward to Laramie, Wyoming.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Cows Have the Right of Way

It's been too long since I last chronicled my sabbatical adventures, so it's time for an update. I'll write this in multiple parts so each post doesn't get excessively long.

My last week in Seattle was a blur of activity -- all good. I shifted my focus to gather research for my book on design pedagogy. Drew Paine, a Human Centered Design & Engineering PhD student at the University of Washington, was my academic guide. I first met Drew during a visit last year to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana, where he was a graduating senior in Computer Science and student of Professor Sriram Mohan (Sriram was a former student of mine at IU). Drew impressed me by his intelligence and drive, and I encouraged him to apply to our HCI/d graduate program; he did, but to the doctoral program where the competition for entry is fierce and limited. We offered him admittance to our master's program, but his offer into the doctoral program at Washington trumped ours (Washington's win, IU's loss). Drew became my connection to the inside scoop on UW (pronounced U-Dub) faculty and he even set up a dinner meeting with fellow graduate students. Drew also introduced me to the best burger place on the planet: Uneeda Burger.

I met with three UW faculty from Engineering and the i-School. All were extremely helpful, insightful, and encouraging -- James Parnell (an engineer and part-time furniture designer and craftsman), Andy Ko (energetic and perspicacious), and David Headry (thoughtful and creatively insightful).

Later in the week, Troy Church arranged for me to meet with designers at Adobe to discuss how they "play the whole game" of interaction design, and we had an engaging hour-long conversation. I was pleased to learn that how we prepare students for industry is not far off the mark -- or as Dane Petersen said to me a few weeks earlier when I was in San Francisco -- "HCI/d students are trained for jobs that will be relevant a few years in the future." "Better," I replied, "than training our students for jobs that were relevant a few years in the past!"

Troy is one of those stellar, gentle individuals that we are proud graduated from our program (in the "early days"). He's now a lead designer at Adobe, responsible for the interactive design of Adobe After Effects. I'm certain that many of the good features of this software are due to him.

It turns out that Troy is not the only designer in his family. His wife, Jodi, is a supreme cook, baker, and super-mom. Her chocolate cake is famous. I remember it from many years ago when I was invited over to their home in Bloomington. I could not pass up a repeat invitation for dinner in their Seattle home with their two daughters and baby son. It was a snowy evening (yes, it does snow in Seattle, and when it does the city shuts down; think "ice on steep hills"). Jodi did not disappoint me; the delicious dinner was only surpassed by the divine chocolate cake, even better than Shapiro's Delicatessen's chocolate cake in Indianapolis. It was my first home-made meal in a month. As my daughter Mara would say, "Sooo gooood!"

Two more meetings and meals with former students occurred before I left Seattle -- one with Vasudha Chandrasekaran, and another with Shruti Bhandari. I picked up Vasudha at her Kirland, WA home and she took me to a wonderful Italian restaurant where we talked about her time in graduate school at IU, the impact of my class on her work at Microsoft, and the challenges of being a mother and wife while excelling at her stress-filled job. It was a heart-felt discussion, sharing life's insights, and we both enjoyed it greatly. Vasudha is such a good person and so very smart; I enjoyed our precious time together and later that evening with her husband, KB (a senior manager at, and their young daughter, Diya, a sweet and energetic child who reminds me of Olivia in the Ian Falconer book with the same name.

I met Shruti and her fiance, Edgar, at Smith Pub, a place she suggested for brunch. Again, the food was superb, but catching up with Shruti and meeting Edgar was even better. There were two women named Shruti in our program -- one tall, and one short. Shruti Bhandari was "tall Shruti," a very attractive woman who now works at Microsoft. We had wonderful reminiscences when she was a student at IU, and she spoke fondly of her professors, especially Shaowen Bardzell and Eli Blevis.

Finally, before I left town I scheduled a meeting with Rebecca Norlander, an ex-Microsoft developer of 19 years, senior engineering manager who was introduced to me by David Krane of Google Ventures. I felt awkward talking to her because of how my Glerb plans had totally changed. But I couldn't turn down the opportunity to speak to her; perhaps she'd have some good advice moving forward. It was an extraordinary meeting; we had one of those instant "mind and heart" connections over our two hour conversation. She wanted me to pursue Glerb, thought the concept was a very good one, and asked me to put together a short document that we would use to help raise $300,000 to move forward. I asked her if she wanted to play a significant role in the company. She told me that her life was in transition but she didn't rule out the possibility.

I like possibilities...

I left Seattle on February 28th, a cold, snowy day. The darkness reflected my mood, feeling failure in getting Glerb off the ground. But I knew that I had to put that behind me and perhaps the drive east would put the experience in perspective and help me develop another plan. (It's about process, I tell my students.) I had a book to write, more research to gather, and an assignment from Rebecca.

The most direct route to Boise, Idaho from Seattle is through the Snoqualmie Pass on I-90. There were severe weather reports, blizzard conditions that day, and although it was "passable," snow chains would be required -- something that I did not own. (You can rent them, but it's a $125 expense every time you need to put them on and take them off.) Given that I was in no particular rush, I took the "long way" (just three more hours) to Boise by going south to Portland, OR, and then along the Hood and Columbia rivers (dividing Washington and Oregon) and heading into Pendleton, OR where I stayed the night. The rock formations along the river were breathtaking and I encourage others to explore this region of the country. It follows the Lewis and Clark Trail, and given the snow, rain, and ice I felt a bit like an explorer myself. Nevertheless, it was good to reach sunny Pendleton (where the original wool mills are located), leaving the bad weather behind me. The sunshine and a veggie pizza lifted my spirits considerably.

The next day I drove to Boise, Idaho and I had lunch with one of our HCI/d graduates, Breanne Kunz, who works for HP. She suggested a Thai restaurant and we each ordered the same thing -- Pad Thai with chicken, complete with "bubble tea." It was so good to see Breanne. I remember when she was a student at IU some years ago -- quiet, focused -- and always talking about and missing Boise. "I'll get there one day, Breanne." And now I was there. We talked about her work at HP -- ePrint -- and some of the challenges of being an interaction designer in an environment heavily dominated by engineers. Nevertheless, this quiet, focused, creative woman has found her place among the engineers and won their respect. I love to see our students turning into design leaders in their companies. We shared life's challenges, and then we departed. My parting words were that I had a great intern for her and that this person would be in touch; I'm always advocating for our IU students, particularly when I think there's a good match.

My next stop was to spend a couple days with my dear friend Joy Kopp and her husband Jim Reinken (or simply "Reinken," as Joy refers to him). I first met Joy while working at the Minnesota start-up, Authorware, in 1990 (Authorware merged with Macromind to become Macromedia and then was absorbed by Adobe); I was the Director of Professional Services and Joy was co-founder of ICONOS and consultant to Authorware. Her forte is writing, project management, information architecture, and so much more. I think of Joy as 911-woman; if you have a complex project you need to get done, call Joy. It will get done and brilliantly so.

Have you ever met a person with whom you're instantly attracted -- like she could be your long-lost sister, confidant, and reader of your mind? That's Joy for me. And even if I don't speak to her or see her for years, within minutes we're talking as if I had just spoken to her yesterday. Reinken, is something else entirely; he defies easy description, but if you ever want to explore the dark side of government or organizational structure, begin a conversation with Jim. Be prepared to settle in for a mind-exploding, conspiratorial discourse, complete with footnotes (be careful, too, about mentioning the name "Harvard")! Oddly, Joy and Jim's marriage appears to work well.

Our days and nights were filled with non-stop conversation, laughter, and some great food! The first night we shared a savory and wonderfully spiced chicken and long-grain rice and mushroom soup that Joy prepared, complete with crusty French baguettes and butter. Later that evening, feeling virtuous from eating "only soup" for dinner, we drove into town to have a hot-fudge sundae at a family-run chocolate, candy and ice cream store named "Goody's" (I learned that evening that one of the base ingredients of hot-fudge is caramel). It was a sundae "to die for." The second night we abandoned virtue and headed to Boise's famous pizza establishment, Flying Pie Pizza. Have you ever been to a pizza joint with a mission statement? I suspect not, but Flying Pie has one:
Flying Pie Pizzaria is dedicated to creating repeatably excellent experiences, often centered around a pizza meal. We show our integrity and practice of life-long learning via 'A better idea always wins.' We celebrate our imperfect results while looking for ways to improve them. We create an environment in which employees contribute, feel valuable, and invite customers into our inclusive community. Above all, we recognize that what we do takes place in the overlap between all of our interests.
A mission statement is a benchmark for the things we experience. At Southwest Airlines they say: 'If a policy or practice appears to violate the intent of the mission or is inconsistent with its values, people are expected to speak up.' At Flying Pie, that group of participating people includes you.
This owner sounds like a graduate of the HCI/d program, and the pizza we shared was an example of sublime culinary design -- a brilliant blend of six meats and four veggies: pepperoni, sliced ham, Italian sausage, Italian salami, ground beef, linguiça (a Portuguese pork sausage), sliced mushrooms, green pepper, onions, and olives. Mamma mia, was that good!

My friend and former long-term colleague at WisdomTools (the company I co-founded and chaired), Brian Bothwell, joined us at Joy and Jim's home. We got caught up on our lives and reminisced on the good times at WT in Bloomington. I really missed Brian; we can talk about anything from "geek" to movies to business to personal relationships and never get bored; we used to have amazing weekly lunch dates and I was greatly disappointed when he left Bloomington for Boise. No one provided better computer system and security support than Brian. He was a model of providing what Craig Wortmann, WisdomTool's CEO, called "customer delight" -- externally and internally.

The next day I was to head out to Orem, Utah. Joy and I agreed to have breakfast at a local bakery. That evening she shared with me the first few chapters of a manuscript she was writing -- a book about her father who had passed away about two years earlier. As I lay awake in bed, I read the first chapter. I was moved by her words; they awakened deep feelings about my own father's life and his relationship to me.

The next day in the bakery, enjoying our sugary delights and hot tea, Joy and I talked about my visit, what our friendship means to each other, and the emotions her book evoked about my own father. I had not thought about my dad during my entire trip. I looked into Joy's eyes and the tears flowed.


As I got in my car to head to the "land of Joseph Smith," and pulled out of the bakery's parking lot, Joy shouted, "Don't forget that in Idaho cows have the right of way!" I laughed through my tears and steered my car eastward.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

This Too Shall Pass

I had intended to be here for five months, but the curve ball of life suggested otherwise. So on February 28th I begin my journey east, ending at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. (More on this in a future post).

Seattle has been a good place for me to "chill" during my first sabbatical month. The 4,200 mile drive here was amazing, and when the clouds part over Seattle, it would be difficult to match a more majestic view of a city: lakes, snow-capped mountain ranges (the Cascades and the Olympics), and of course Mt. Rainer. Breathtaking! On the other hand, when it rains and snow, the place can be depressing and bone-chilling cold.

There's a certain pleasure found in being in a city where you're unknown. I can't walk 10-feet in Bloomington before I run into someone I know, but here I'm invisible. I don't need Alex's invisible cape; here I'm just not seen. It's taken quite a while for me to get used to this, and now it's more fun than not.

As my partner Doug would tell you, it takes me about two weeks before I can begin to relax while on vacation -- and that's only if I "disconnect" from email and phone; it has taken me longer here, but I finally feel I'm on sabbatical: what a gift. I now realize that it was a mistake not taking advantage of previous opportunities to take sabbatical leave; this should have been my fifth, but it's only my first! (Note to self on next life: take more sabbaticals and vacations!)

If you've been following this blog you know that my two priorities were to build the Glerb business and write a book on Design Pedagogy. In my mind, Glerb was the higher priority; now it has become secondary. It's probably a blessing in disguise because writing a book is no simple task and this allows me to focus on my writing. This week I have several meetings with University of Washington design faculty and students. What I'm discovering is that our program at IU is still "state of the art" in HCI design education; we are blessed with an amazing faculty, and students are not likely to fully appreciate them until they graduate. But other schools are catching up quickly, and so we must always innovate and expand. We always need to be "looking over our shoulders."

Yesterday I had a strange day. I even called Linda Hostetter to tell her about it (I figured she could use a good laugh). I drove to my favorite library in Bellevue (about 8 miles from my apartment and across Lake Washington). When I got out of my car I looked down and noticed that on my left foot I was wearing a gym shoe, and on my right foot I was wearing a brown leather shoe. (You may wonder how I managed to do this; my two pairs of shoes were sitting on the floor next to each other and I picked up one and not the other. Clearly my head was somewhere else.) Given that I'm not a "shoe fashionista" like Jeffrey Bardzell, I drove the 8 miles back home to replace the leather shoe with my other gym shoe. Eight miles back to Bellevue I felt a lot better entering the library.

When I got home last night there was a small package slipped under my door. Inside was a letter from Gopi, including a beautiful story told to him by his uncle. What also fell out of the package were about 30 index cards with personal messages addressed to me from the IU graduate students  -- cheering me up and telling me that I am missed. I was overwhelmed by these acts of kindness. We all need to remember that we are loved, and my students helped me know that in their special way. I fell asleep with a smile on my face, thinking of Ed Rice's note about contraction and expansion. Inhale and exhale.

This too shall pass...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

In Praise of Libraries and Librarians

I arrived in Seattle on February 1st; it's an amazing city -- "glamorous," some would say. The "geeky rich" permeate this city, and some say it's the smartest city in the U.S. But for me, I hardly knew a soul and "getting around" a city built on hills was no easy navigation task. If Seattle were an interface, it would be judged a failure. Yet there was one place that made a real difference for me, and I've revisited it almost daily -- the public library. This place is a common denominator, where all people are taken in without judgment or question. We sit at tables or in comfortable chairs -- reading, writing, computing, contemplating, and yes, sometimes snoozing. All are welcomed.

For me, it was my first days in the city. I didn't know how to get around. But the librarian at the reference desk heard the frustration in my voice when I asked about city maps and perhaps a guide that would orient me to the neighborhood. It must have been a slow afternoon, but this "patron-centered" librarian proceeded to draw a diagram to help me understand the city's layout. I told her that earlier in the day I asked someone for directions to one of the supermarkets, and the person answered "it's about a half mile from the water." What water? Seattle has several lakes and Puget Sound; the city is surrounded by water! My new friend smiled and decoded the water references for me, inserting them in her diagram. This librarian was my connection to municipal understanding and a modicum of security. She made me feel welcomed, shared a few locally produced resources, and invited me to obtain a "visitor's card" so I could check out books, DVDs, and music ("They'll keep you company," she suggested.)

Since then I've explored several libraries in the Seattle area, and currently I'm writing this from what has to be one of the best designed library structures in the U.S. -- the Bellevue Public Library. This place is amazing -- comfortable study carrels; private rooms for tutoring and conversation; an extraordinary collection of books, magazines, media, and interactive displays; an architecturally pleasing environment that creates the kind of library experience anyone would desire, and an energetic and expansive children's department (a library that strongly supports their children's department is a good indicator of overall library quality). It's the perfect place to begin writing my DESIGN PEDAGOGY book. I'm surrounded by inspiration -- other books!

Libraries, like national and state parks, are environments supported by tax dollars. They're public and available for all to enjoy. Let's remember these institutions in the context of anti-government rhetoric. There are things that governments do well; our public libraries are among them.

And while I'm on the topic of libraries and librarians, I want to give a shout out to my favorite librarian, my sister-in-law, Wendy Lukehart. She's the Youth Collections Coordinator in the District of Columbia Public Library, Washington D.C.

Back to writing...

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Curve Ball

One week after I arrived here, my plans for Glerb fell apart. The two Seattle people that were working on the project with me over the last few months began to have "second thoughts" about the company -- philosophy and viability -- and we parted ways. I NEVER anticipated that this would happen after driving 4,200 miles to get here, but life (and professors!) have a way of throwing you curve balls. Needless to say, I've run through a range of feelings, but I'm trying to remain optimistic and decide how to move forward.

On the positive side of things, I'm learning to navigate my way around the city (I'm far from being even mediocre at this, but each passing day helps). The traffic here is insane and the many winding streets don't make it any easier. But flowers and plants are beginning to pop out of the ground, and when the sun shines and the Cascade Mountains and Mount Ranier are in view, it's breathtaking.

I'm just starting to meet people. Two days ago, I visited Troy Church at Adobe -- beautiful offices and a very neat working environment; Troy is a graduate of our HCI/d program from several years ago; a very bright and creative designer. There's a good chance that I will be giving a talk at Adobe in their "Distinguished Lecture" series; I'll give an UNdistinguished lecture. LOL Also, Troy is setting up a group of designers for me to talk to at Adobe; I'm interviewing them for my book on Design Pedagogy.

Last night I met up with Drew Paine; he's a graduate of Rose-Hulman University in Indiana. He almost attended our master's program, but he also got accepted into the University of Washington's PhD program and that's where he headed last fall. He's having a great time here, and he's doing a lot of work in CSCW with his advisor. Over the next couple of weeks I will meet up with faculty and students at the UW ("U-Dub"), and I'm looking forward to that.

I've gotten a special appreciation for how it feels to move to a new city and not really know anyone -- to be on your own without anyone knowing what's happening to you. But in time I will make friends and feel familiar with Seattle. My big decision now is how long I want to stay here. It will depend greatly on what happens next with Glerb. I have a few ideas, so I'll see how events unfold. I'm not yet ready to give up on my dream; I also need to reflect on "lessons learned" -- my personal post-mortem.

[I've been hearing about the students who attended IxDA; I'm really proud about the way you've handled yourselves. Also, congratulations to Team "Foodmunity" for being one of 12 teams selected in the CHI competition. Everyone should help them improve their design, create their poster, and support their efforts; their win is your win too! Much appreciation, as well, to the teams that submitted a paper; I'm proud of their efforts too.]

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Navigating Place

Yesterday I moved into my new apartment: 1104 17th Ave. E. I live in the lower level of a home that the owners (two artists with their three sons) turned into a rental apartment; it's in very good condition and I'm enjoying my little home away from home. A particularly nice feature of the apartment is that I have a T1 WiFi connection, so I have very fast access to the Internet. After moving in and setting up the space to my satisfaction I met up with Anoo and Vamshi at their home to set up our initial attack on Glerb. It will take us awhile to synch on a common view of the company but I trust the process; we'll get there soon enough. I then went to a QFC supermarket to stock up on some basics and then returned to the apartment to work on a proposal to attend an NSF-sponsored conference, “Slow Down, You Move Too Fast: Rethinking the Culture of Busyness and IT.” It was due last night at midnight, so I worked up to the deadline and submitted a document that reflected the work Thomas Baker and I had been exploring on "Slow Change Interaction Design." We'll see if we get in.

Today has not gone as smoothly. After breakfast I decided it was time to navigate my neighborhood and explore Capitol Hill. I hoped to find a nice coffee and tea house where I could sip a drink and do my work, but it was not so simple -- even with Yelp. Often I would find a place but there was no obvious parking. And after about an hour I felt I was driving around in circles and getting increasingly frustrated and a little sorry for myself. So I decided to drive to Volunteer Park (actually walking distance from my home) and explore by foot. What I discovered was a park with an Asian Arts Museum, a conservatory featuring an orchid exhibit, and a very clear view of the Space Needle and the Cascade Mountains. [I'm very aware of the severe winter storm in Bloomington and throughout much of the nation; I wish you could be out here today!]

Right now I'm in one of Settle's public libraries and enjoying the open space.

Tonight I work on my vision for Glerb education... and outline my book on Design Pedagogy. But first I need to find some good Asian fusion food for dinner!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

To Doug

When the law does not allow you to get married, gay couples need to declare their anniversary date. Doug and I chose February 1st, the date Doug moved to Indiana from Wisconsin, and we began our life together. That was 19 years ago.

Like all relationships, we have had our ups and down, but all in all I’m a lucky guy. Without wearing my feelings on my sleeve, I will publicly state how much I appreciate Doug’s support of my journey to Seattle and my six-month sabbatical away from Bloomington. Because of Doug’s work as Coordinator of the GLBT Student Support Office, he is unable to join me except for one or two visits.

I miss him a lot. And on this day, on our 19th anniversary, I want to send him my love.

Monday, January 31, 2011


Have you seen the new comedy series, Portlandia? From the show's web site, they say this: "PORTLANDIA's inhabitants include but are not limited to: the owners of a feminist book store; a militant bike messenger; an artsy couple who attach cut-outs of birds to everything ("put a bird on it!"); an organic farmer who turns out to be a cult leader; an adult hide and seek league; and a punk rock couple negotiating a "safe word" to help govern their love life."

The show is a parody of Portland, Oregon, the state's most populace city. The parody is not far from the truth. I arrived in Portland on Saturday and spent two days with Adam and Annie Fischler. Adam was a former student of mine; he graduated with a master's degree in Instructional Systems Technology (IST) from Indiana University, and for many years has done work in the area of human computer interaction design and research. In addition, Adam engages in a variety of woodworking and crafts projects; he's one of the most creative guys I know -- with a wonderful, dry sense of humor. Elizabeth Boling (former IST Department Chair and now Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in the School of Education), too, is a good friend and former professor of Adam's (they share a fondness for information architecture books). Elizabeth and I attended Adam and Annie's wedding last fall, and some years ago we spent time with Adam in his parents' beach house on the Oregon coast. Annie recently received her doctorate in English and her specialty is writing and rhetoric. Both are perfectly suited for one another.

On Saturday we toured a part of the city while hunting down a restaurant for dinner; in the end we chose not to wait in line anywhere and instead ordered a delicious pepperoni, basil, and arugula pizza and Caesar salad to take home while we watched a movie on Adam's large-screen set-up: "Man on Wire" is the film documentary of Phillipe Petit, who on August 7, 1974, walked on an illegally erected high wire secretly strung between New York's twin towers.

The following day, Sunday, Adam and I shared pastries at a local bakery and then we hiked in a state park. It was great fun walking among the moss-covered trees while we hypothesized the reasons for the popular rise of social networking systems (we discussed the evolution of language systems from ape communities as well as the economic complexities and uncertainties of our current day).

Every Sunday, Adam, Annie, and a small group of friends and family (Adam's sister and niece) gather for dinner at one of the participant's homes. Last night it was at their home and I was their guest. They cooked a wonderful Indian chili and a special slaw, complete with cornbread; it was delicious. After the guests left we watched the first episode of Downton Abbey, a PBS Masterpiece series, suggested by Justin Donaldson; I think we're now hooked!

This morning Adam and I had breakfast at Kettleman Bagels, and then we parted. Adam is a close friend -- someone who understands and lives a "big rocks" life.

Tonight I stayed in Olympia, Washington, the capitol of Washington. Tomorrow I will drive the short distance to Seattle and conclude my three week journey from Bloomington, Indiana.

The trip has both relaxed me, given me the opportunity to reconnect with past friends and students, and allowed me to mentally prepare for the tasks ahead -- the writing of a book on design pedagogy and the development of Glerb with Anoo and Vamshi. I can't wait.

And I Thought "Shasta" was Soda Pop

From San Francisco I traveled North, driving through a dense wintertime fog. I was hoping to see the great redwood forests, but I-5 was too far from the coast so I missed this part of the country. Nevertheless, at California's northern border, a spectacular view awaited me -- 14,179-foot Mount Shasta, the second highest volcano in the continental United States. Its snow-covered peak is spectacular and I could see it more than 100 miles away as I drove toward the mountain on I-5. The interstate ride included some interesting winding climbs and and 6% declines, viewing pine trees (mostly Douglas Fir) as far as the eye could see in the foothills. I knew I was no longer in "my part of the country" as every other truck was carrying huge logs to the mills.

My destination was Ashland, Oregon, about 15 miles north of the border. It's a beautiful town and famous for the Oregon Shakespearean Festival. That night I stayed in a local hotel and dined in a lively pub, enjoying a great burger and fries. What struck me immediately about the town were the people. Such a difference from the "beautiful people" of southern California, the Oregonians reminded me more of the type of people you see at the Bloomington Farmer's Market on a Saturday morning -- just nice, easy-going folk, socially and environmentally minded. You definitely recycle in Oregon!

The next morning I found a bagel shop that served "hiker bagels," the equivalent of an "everyseed" at Bloomington Bagel Company. My next stop was Corvallis, OR, but first I needed to finish a report for IU on my iPad experience last semester.

Corvallis is the home of Oregon State University. It's a quiet town, not unlike Bloomington, with an abundance of local brew pubs. Corvallis also is home for Justin and Liz Donaldson (and Ginger, their dog); unfortunately, Liz was out-of-town on business, so it was just Justin, Ginger, and me.

Justin recently graduated from Indiana University with his Ph.D. in Informatics -- the first doctorate achieved in IU's HCI (human computer interaction) Program, but he now lives and works in Corvallis. We had a lot of fun talking about my new start-up, Glerb, and speculating how events might unfold over the coming months. Justin treated me to an amazing restaurant, Big River. It's a converted warehouse serving savory food and drink. I had my first beer in over 30 years -- a dark stout. I drank half of it and then returned to my usual Diet Coke. :) The next morning we had breakfast at a local bakery and then I headed to Portland.

I just passed the 4,000 mile mark on my journey from Bloomington.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rachel Maddow, 2007 HCI/d IU Graduate

So when you're sleeping in strange beds every night on a three-week road trip, you sometimes have strange dreams. My latest dream is that I was talking to Rachel Maddow about her experience in the human computer interaction design program at IU -- what worked for her during the program and how it might be improved given her experience "in the business." We had a great conversation; it all made sense in dream land, including some of her suggestions for improvement. And then I woke up! [For the record, Rachel has a B.A. from Stanford University and a Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford University. She's the host of the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.]

Back to reality. I've been in the San Francisco Bay area for the last two days -- having a Glerb business meeting at Google Ventures and catching up with old friends and former students. I've been hosted by Christian Beck and his wife Angie in their beautiful home in Novato (just north of the city, across the Golden Gate Bridge). They have a beautiful son, Milo (almost ready to walk!), two cats and a dog; I got along with everyone. Yesterday I visited Christian's office at Autodesk and he showed me some of the detailed and highly skilled design work he is doing.

Later in the day I visited with Dane Petersen at Adaptive Path, a super cool interactive design company. And then we met again for dinner with Matt Snyder (Adobe) who happened to be in town interviewing some customers. We had a lot of fun talking about design and the questions I "asked" Rachel Maddow! Much of these conversations throughout the day confirmed the design of my new course that I'll be offering in Fall 2011 (I590: Rapid Interaction Practice); more about this later.

Again it's so good to see that former students are doing very well in their careers. Dane said that his training at IU was for "a job that will likely exist in five years." By this he meant that the typical business world is not ready for high-end experience design or even deep design thinking. Nevertheless, Dane, Matt, and Christian agreed that their IU training was excellent and important. I urged them to think of themselves as design evangelists; they can make slow but important change at this stage in their careers. "Five years from now" will happen for them soon enough!

My meeting with David Krane at Google Ventures was very good. David has been providing great guidance for getting Glerb off the ground and he has networked us into valuable contacts in Seattle and the Bay area. Vamshi Reddy, one of three Glerb co-founders, was able to join the meeting via phone, and it was helpful for David to hear about his background (as well as Anoo Padte's, our third co-founder). We hope to present David and others with our business plan soon.

I've traveled 3,300 miles so far. Next stop: Ashland, Oregon.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sustainable Friendships

Over the last five days as I've traveled from the Grand Canyon to Tempe, AZ to Phoenix, AZ to Los Angeles, CA, and to Santa Monica, CA. In Tempe I spent the night with Betz and Harold Frederick; they were students of mine many years ago at the University of Illinois; they are both incredible math educators and we talked non-stop about the state of education today, the problems with teaching and learning math (many teachers don't understand math), and how math might be taught through Glerb. Betz urged me to develop conceptual understanding through Glerb lessons, that it had to be more than process practice. They shared a number of important documents, but the two most important ones were the new national standards in math and an important paper by one of Harold's favorite math educators. It has been more than 20 years since I last saw Betz and Harold; at that time they were getting their PhDs from the University of Illinois. Now I was seeing them in the later years of their career. All of our lives have undergone a lot of change, yet we continue to share a deep interest in teaching and learning. Within the year we want to reconnect again--this time in Vegas!

The next day I met up with Nancy Schwartz and stayed at her home for two nights. The drive from Tempe to Phoenix is literally a few miles (Tempe is like a suburb of Phoenix, although I'm sure they don't see it that way!).  I first met Nancy in the early '90s at Mr. D's (a supermarket) salad bar in Bloomington. We engaged in some small talk and then I saw her again at the check-out lane where we talked again; she said she was beginning graduate school in a few days and I wished her well. To her surprise (and mine), she showed up in the orientation of incoming master's students in Instructional Systems Technology (IST) where I was a professor. To this day we laugh about our first encounter. Nancy went on to earn in a PhD and over the years we worked on several projects together, and she lectured in my human-computer interaction (HCI) design class for many years on the topic of HCI and dance (Nancy is a dancer too!). But eventually Nancy wanted to return to her first love--elementary school teaching, and she did so by returning to the place where she first taught many years ago, Phoenix, Arizona. Nancy moved from Bloomington to Phoenix about a year ago and bought a beautiful home nestled into the foot of a mountain. It was great to catch up with her, schmooze, laugh, and enjoy good food. But most of all, it was good to see Nancy settled and independently successful, doing something she loved--teaching algebra to 8th graders; they're lucky to have her as their teacher.

While in Phoenix, I met up with a former secretary of mine, Joan Phebus and her son John. Joan is retired now, and John is a lawyer. We worked together for many years at the Computer-based Educational Research Lab (CERL) at the University of Illinois where I directed the PLATO Education Group for many years. We recounted stories of the past and laughed throughout lunch. It was great!

On Thursday morning I left Phoenix and drove to LA. It was amazing being in 75 degree and sunny weather that week, and the drive was very nice. As I entered California, I passed the Joshua Tree National Forest and then several miles of windmills nestled in the foothills of the mountains (near Palm Springs). I spent the night with Nina (who looks like Glenn Close!) and Ed Feinstein, parents of Rafi, an undergraduate student in my I300 and I441 classes. It was a bit strange sleeping in Rafi's bedroom, but Rabbis Nina and Ed (yes, they're both rabbis) were very hospitable and filled me with stories of becoming the second female rabbi and running a major synagogue in LA.

My next was Santa Monica to spend a couple of fun-filled days with my former student and good friend Joel Miller. I first met Joel in 1988 at the University of Illinois; he worked in my group at PLATO and then we kept in close contact over the years. Joel worked at Lilly and then was hired by Amgen in California, and has lived in Santa Monica for almost five years. We had lots of fun including seeing the ocean in Malibu and eating chocolate cupcakes and skim milk! Last night we had dinner at an amazing and sexily elegant restaurant, Sur, followed by a tour through Micky's and The Abbey, both wonderful bars. Joel is great and we continue to be life-long friends.

This morning I continue my journey to Ojai, CA (pronounced "Oh-high") to meet up with my Glerb partners, Anoo and Vamshi; they're vacationing there for a couple of months before returning to Seattle the same time I get there. We'll be meeting with a group of teachers this afternoon to get some honest feedback on our ideas.

It has been a great trip so far... renewing and creating sustainable friendships along the way.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Laughing Rocks

This morning I leave the Grand Canyon for Tempe, AZ to visit my friends Betz and Harold; Betz was a student of mine a long time ago at the University of Illinois. But in this note I want to talk about "the Canyon"--the big one, the Grand one!

I've never looked a mile down into anything (other than looking out an airplane window, and that's not the same thing). John Muir once wrote, "It seems a gigantic statement for even nature to make..." and J. B. Priestly described it as "all Beethoven's nine symphonies in stone and magic light." For me, I realized that as powerful as images can be, there's no technology that replaces the human eye and the mind's comprehension of image. To stand on the Canyon's rim and to look inside -- seeing the layers of depth, each connecting further down, until you think you've reached the bottom but there's still more to go -- that is a visual experience that I've not seen replicated in other media. I'm looking at something that was carved by a retreating ice age two million years ago, exposing rocks that are 200 million to two billion years old!

What have these rocks seen? If they could talk back to us, what would they say? I've been thinking about social networking systems of late. All the chatter, self-image making, and cultural flimflam seem so meaningless at times. But what if we could converse with those that are not here or listen to those objects that we experience now but have been in existence before our time? What if the rocks could speak, what would they say to us? I was imagining the design of an interactive system that could tutor or guide our perceptions -- that past wisdom might speak to the present and even laugh at our self-absorbed ways. Might we draw perspective from a greater context than the day-to-day urgent (and yet unimportant) events of our lives? I thought of these things as I sat on the edge of the "grand abyss." I wondered. I listened.

In 1991 I saw a movie that I enjoyed very much at the time -- "Grand Canyon." You can look it up to learn about the movie, but I've always remembered one scene. One of the characters, Simon, was talking to his buddy and asking him if he ever visited the Grand Canyon. Simon said about this place that I've now experienced:

"You ever been to the Grand Canyon? Its pretty, but that's not the thing of it. You can sit on the edge of that big ol' thing and those rocks... the cliffs and rocks are so old... it took so long for that thing to get like that... and it ain't done either! It happens right there while your watching it. It's happening right now as we are sitting here in this ugly town. When you sit on the edge of that thing, you realize what a joke we people really are... what big heads we have thinking that what we do is gonna matter all that much... thinking that our time here means diddly to those rocks. Just a split second we have been here, the whole lot of us. That's a piece of time so small to even get a name. Those rocks are laughing at me right now, me and my worries... Yeah, it's real humorous, that Grand Canyon. It's laughing at me right now. You know what I felt like? I felt like a gnat that lands on the ass of a cow chewing his cud on the side of the road that you drive by doing 70 mph."

I leave now for Tempe, AZ driving 70 down the interstate...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Diversity of the Land

I'm in Santa Fe, New Mexico right now -- 1.36 miles above sea level (7,200 feet). I'm staying as a guest in the home of Russ and Mary Roberts, dear friends of mine (and my children). They live in a magnificent home--a modern, Pueblo-style adobe structure, complete with huge ceiling beams and tiled floors. I'm staying in their guest house situated on a hillside that looks at a mountain range to the west and to the east; it's breathtaking at sunset. The air is pure and the oxygen is a bit thin; I've been drinking a LOT of water!

I am here for two days before moving to the Grand Canyon; it will be a time of rest and contemplation. Being 1,500 miles from Bloomington begins to engage my imagination. I don't know what will emerge, but my time alone affords me the opportunity to think of the challenges and opportunities before me.

Stay tuned!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snowy Arkansas

It's the first night "on the road." After about 10 hours of uneventful driving, I find myself at the Hampton Inn in Forrest City, Arkansas. The roads are unusually icy here. I'm about an hour away from Little Rock and the Clinton Library; I'm really looking forward to that tomorrow.

Throughout my drive the news was filled with stories of the Tucson shooting on Saturday, and particularly the heated political "rhetoric" that we hear in the media these days. There were interesting conversations about mental health and firearms as well. I particularly enjoyed the conversations on POTUS radio and Pete Dominick's show in particular. We've got to do better as a country in our political discourse. What role does education play? Interaction design? These are issues for us to consider.

By the way, 20 year old Daniel Hernandez, an intern for Rep. Gabrielle Gifford, was a hero in helping to save the Congresswoman's life, providing her first aid immediately after she was shot, potentially endangering himself. But he responded with competence and action. Could any of us respond similarly?

Be well...


Sunday, January 9, 2011

On the Road: My Sabbatical Begins!

In about 8 hours I leave Bloomington, IN for Seattle, WA via car. I will travel from IN to TN, AR, OK, TX, NM, AZ, then into LA and up the coast of CA to OR and then WA, arriving in Seattle on January 31st.

On Tuesday I will visit the William J Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas. Later in the week I'll be at the Grand Canyon National Park.

Along the way I will visit friends, colleagues, and former students. When I get to Seattle, I will settle down in this location. There I will live for several months. My plan is to spend some time at Adobe, Microsoft, and the University of Washington. I'll also be working with my two partners, Vamshi and Anoo, on our new company: Glerb. More about that at an appropriate time.

And I'll be writing a book on Design Pedagogy.

The car is packed. I need to get some sleep.
More later...