Crazy as a … writer?

I get fidgety about being creative. See, I’m a writer, by nature. Not by trade, but then that’s my own little piece of the “cross” to bear, as it were.

In my head there are stories of heroism and lust, history, passion, gadgets, and adventure. Plays and movies and novels and short stories all swimming around vying for my attention. None of them get any.

Writers, see, are kind of crazy. We have this impression that the things we have to say are valuable to folks other than ourselves. That is to say we believe that the stories in our head — no matter how absurd — have value outside the confines of our skulls. With me, though, there’s this meta-person keeping a tight reign on that insanity. Tight enough to matter, anyhow.

It’s true that by nature I’m a writer. It’s also true that I put a limiter on the amount of insanity I will let myself experience. In other words, I don’t let myself go where writers need to go, so I falter. Fail at putting my ideas down or really working on them at all. So this is how I live.

A hundred ideas for stories, a thousand plot twists and turns, millions of people living in the world between my ears. There they’ve been for 31 years, and there they’ll stay until I learn to let go. To be a little more crazy. To truly let myself believe that those stories, plots, and people are worth sharing.

Home to the flood

I’m riding home on the train to an uncertain future. Questions — possibly unanswerable questions — swim amidst the dampness of my brain as the train meanders northeast along the coast. What is the state of our basement, I ask myself. How warm is it now that the heat is back on, I wonder. Will I finally be able to take a hot shower? These questions remain unanswered, and my future remains unknown.

Pictures of our flooded basement

It seems that my earlier report of three inches of water in our basement was premature. I took a “last look” and the water had risen about a foot. Fifteen inches of water with an untold amount of pieces of our past drowned. Luckily, we’re all okay and there are plenty more opportunities for us to make more pieces of our past. For that, I’m grateful and humble.

Here are some pics of our particular slice of the flood:

General shot of the basement corner.
General shot of the basement corner.

Stairs leading down. The stuff on the stairs are some of the things to dry out.
Stairs leading down. The stuff on the stairs are some of the things to dry out. That’s a box of books at the bottom. Art, old love letters, and xmas decorations make up the rest.

Kitchen staging area.
Wet books and old toys of Gabe’s in the kitchen. They’re still draining onto the linoleum.

Box of special things.
Our entrance room is filled with wet boxes. This is a closeup of one of the ones that was underwater: a box of memoirs from our first years of marriage and Gabe’s first year of life.

We are relatively lucky, as we’re all okay and we didn’t lose all that many things. It could’ve been worse. And heck, we’ve got another three days of rain on the way, so who knows?

Basement flooding …

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May showers bring? If you live where we do, the answer is water in your basement. Three inches, to be exact.

Now, sure, you may think three inches isn’t a lot of water, but it’s enough to ruin college-era artwork of your wife’s, or damage one’s $1200 — hocks for $250 (ask me about Fitchburg somehow) — alto saxophone, for instance. And remember the food coloring and celery experiments in Biology? Capillary action? It’s amazing what a corrugated cardboard box can absorb in a morning.

Luckily most of our things were on palettes above the water line, and the rest of the things that weren’t I was able to move.

In addition to the wet weather, I’ve had some thoughts on Google, lately. Gmail pictures, calendar, notebook, etc. Aren’t they just supplying to Firefox users the kinds of funtionality that have been available to Mac OS X users for a while, now?

Sure, the cost of entry is definitely lower, so that’s a plus. I wonder, though, whether we’re not seeing just the evolution of hotmail and geocities. It certainly does make a future where the browser is the only application entirely possible. Something to watch for, anyhow.

IRE membership renewed

I got my renewed membership to IRE on Friday. I’m really excited about it. I was a member in 1999 while I was working at the Gardner News, so I was able to go in as an associate member with them this time around.

I’m thinking that maybe it’s time to pick one of the concerns I have about things and dig a bit to find a story I can tell. Nothing fancy. Nothing too intense. Just some nice, solid deep reporting to help bring something to light.

Empathy most important attribute of IA

After about 6 years of working in an IA capacity, I’ve come to realize what it’s all about: empathy. The best IAs don’t understand what the user needs, they feel what the user feels. It’s all about being able to place yourself in the position your users are in; have the thoughts they have; the hesitations, life-experiences, and navigational baggage they have.

The best IAs go beyond building systems, or architecting data storage models. They go beyond those because it’s not about the data: it’s about the people.

This is why I think architect is such a fitting word. An architect is someone who understands how to design space that meets in the middle of tri-fold field: function, form, usability. Good buildings serve an overall purpose: hold offices, serve fast food, reach towards the heavens. Better buildings do those things and are nice to look at, pretty up the neighborhood, and give aesthetic pride to their denizens. The best buildings are pretty and fuctional, but also account for those strange creatures that dwell within them: people.

See, people are weird. They do funny things like have to pee on the 37th floor. Or they need to throw a tissue away right now while they’re walking down the hallway. Or they derive pleasure from seeing the city shrink beneath them as they ride an elevator to the 56th floor.

A good architect can account for function, form, and usability to create some truly wonderous locations. Information architects should feel no shame in attempting the same.

So hang the debate about what to call ourselves. Just do what’s right and spend that energy creating places for people. Places that are efficient, beautiful, and pscyhologically satisfying: for both us and the end-users.