Quarterlife Rants

Don’t read it, it’s a rant. If you want to read a rant, it has some cool stuff about paper phones as a perk.

Incoming rants… duck!

A lot of you may know, or have an inkling based on everything that goes on on this blog, that design is not insignificant in my life, whether it’s good design or bad being a separate matter. I like design but fear I’d get genuinely bored if that was all I had to do in life, but wasn’t sure I wanted to spend my whole life behind a desk coding…

We found a compromise, and such a good one that I hate to use the word ‘compromise’ on it: I found an entire interdisciplinary field out there that combined the two aspects, and many more disciplines, but was way more than the sum of the whole: human-computer interaction. The area that concerns how people use, work with, and understand technology of any sort. From interfaces to entire new technologies, webpage layouts to answering “how many new features can a phone introduce before users start throwing their phones against the wall screaming and check into the nearest isolation ward?” (although admittedly, today with COVID and everything, that question could just mean a tracing app alert…), everything to do with people using technology is the realm of human computer interaction.

Naturally then, it checks into all the different components that rule people, and technology: it’s a bit of computer science, naturally!; good design, psychology to know people better, linguistics, for phones to be able to talk to people better, you can see how many different angles this can bring in!

A professor I knew of spent years building technology that worked with hand gestures, but was on paper. No screens, and it wasn’t a phone. It was very cool. He brought the concept of a computer out into the real world, and built something he called the paper Windows. The year was 2004. It was more of a proof of concept admittedly, it made use of projectors, but that’s the spirit of HCI, anyway. How do humans interact with technology, and how can they?
(Spoiler, e-ink technology was definitely a hit with him. His next invention? The paper phone! He also made the first foldable, organic phone that he wrapped around his wrist, a concept I see Samsung eventually learned of.)

This video is from 2004. If you couldn’t believe it before, surely the 140 px gives it away?

So it’s an extremely interesting field, and contrary to what the above may make you think, it’s not just restricted to novelty labs tucked into universities on exclusive papers marked ‘Academic research only’, but one major component of it, user interface and experience design, is a pretty well known concept.

The only trouble in my eyes is that knowledge about it both is and isn’t. User experience (UX) involves researching about the people who will use your product, designing your product with those people, good design principles, and accessibility (ideally, but practically as I’m seeing it, only where budget permits and a larger proportion of users exist) in mind.

Lots of workshops litter the internet that will teach you how to make your first wireframe (a mock snapshot of your website/app’s final look, particularly if it’s a digital product you’re building), what goes into user research, and an emphasis on how badly good design is needed (My mother spent a month trying to click a button on Amazon’s website for a return to no avail. It’s genuinely one of the worst websites in the world. I’ve seen the button).

Perhaps for exactly that reason, there’s a lot of basic knowledge about it out there, but not the decisive expert’s eye. I’ve been trying to make something decent out of what I know for a couple of years now. It’s pretty basic. More importantly, it’s nowhere near enough. (I did warn you in line 1 this was a rant. Sure I deviated to give you a lecture on one of my interests on the way, but this remains at heart, a rant. I don’t have to be right about what I’m saying to rant.) University courses are all about the software development, maybe some about the theory, but in the rigour of more “mainstream” computer science courses, I’d honestly just forgotten for almost a year that I was really interested in HCI, that that was what I wanted to do. Getting caught up in the thick of it, I spent a lot of last year fretting about my strengths and weaknesses, and that I couldn’t find an interest within my own field. It wasn’t until I came across our course calendar this year that I remembered HCI was a thing. My thing.

I’m taking the HCI course next semester, and I have a course on UX next year. I’m super excited about them. But the fact that in all four years, I could only find those two courses was a bit of a downer. I know I’m an undergrad. We don’t specialise. But I get to see my friends in specific game design courses in second year itself, I get to see them in specialised software development streams that focus on the ins and outs of the software process. I get to wait till third year to take one course a year hereon that’s relevant to me.

It would be helpful to actually get to go into the thing I think I like and figure out if I really like it practically, or not. (Computer science is a great field to go into theoretically. The courses are fun, the things you can do with it are mindblowingly incredible. You kinda forget that once you leave that institution of possibilities for a real-world job in computing with real-world expectations and responsibilities. It can also be a drag.) I’d like to learn as early on as possible whether I’ve wasted the last two years gearing towards something I found out was actually only just okay. After all, as no matter how confident you sound in an application, you can’t possibly know whether you like what you think you like, from having done a 7-day free trial (okay, not free) on training wheels.

Still, all of that would be okay if the expectations matched the reality. Most computing students at the same level won’t have too much experience with fields like these that are still only in the process of being formalised, except for a few notable institutions (data science I think is another similar field, where most colleges won’t have specialised studies, but will sort of try and beef you up with your math and stats instead). The trouble is, the outside world still has such high expectations of anyone trying for human computer interaction and I just find myself thinking… how on earth do you ever fill your vacancies? You haven’t described a college grad, no sir. The entire planet is collectively still trying to figure out what interaction really entails and you’ve decided who the ideal candidate is? It’s also always candidate this, candidate that; anything you’ve ever done just has to be resume-ready, or it’s a waste.

I’m honestly quite proud of the trifle projects I’ve done. I think they look good. I think they were thought through. I also know that they’ll never be enough. (I just applied to internships to a place that had both HCI and software development postings, and I got passed through to a stage 2 for the development one, and flat out rejected for the HCI one, which for no real reason makes me so mad because I know if they asked me about the development position, I’d hecking say yes because why wouldn’t I, and then I get more dev experience and no HCI experience, and that puts me in a stronger position to apply as a developer in the future, and that means I get more dev projects and the HCI thing looks weak in comparison and gets pushed to the bottom again, until we’re at that embarrassing position in life where about five years later, I’ll rediscover this blog and go, “oh my goodness! I’d completely forgotten I wanted to do something in HCI!” and well, quarterlife crisis will hit early my friends.)

And I guess that was the central fire of this rant. I hate that I, inadvertently and circumstantially, will likely be heading towards something I’m only meh about, because I have too many years of lifeblood left in me to do something I’m meh about. And it looks like quarterlife crisis will come down to staging an intervention and answering some pretty touchy questions, and what makes me mad is I thought I’d already asked me those questions and got the answers. I could ask them today and still get the same answers. But it seems that what you say, even to yourself, can differ from what you do.

Is 20 too early for a quarterlife crisis?

(Yes, I could’ve ranted to my mum, but it’s 4 AM and she’s sleeping, besides, she’s heard this all before and is sick of it and I did promise you more writing. Relish in the dramatic anguish.

[Exit stage left]

[Lights fade]

(Trust me, I know what I’m doing, I’m in the playwriting course this year.)

Chocolate Or Crackers?

It’s officially holiday season! And for an expat like me (is that what I can myself?), it’s officially Schrödinger time. (It’s holiday season, but it’s also not.)

It’s Diwali this week, which means for the first time since lockdown began, we’ve had to clean the house out, and by “we”, I mean “not me”, because as I’ve discovered over socially distant (over 16,000 km and very responsible), time-zone factored online school, relaxing in the morning after a night long of school by washing windows is quite the way to wind down.

How much, you ask? So much that I’ve managed to break the spray-pump bottle we used to water the plants in little over a month washing windows. Plastic is a scam.

I’ve also found it pretty amusing to sing an old song by actor, comedian and musician George Formby, a Lancastrian Englishman who rose to fame in the 1930s and ’40s for his comedic morale boosting acts and wartime films in Britain. His cheeky sense of humour is on full display in this song, called When I’m Cleaning Windows (sometimes called The Window Cleaner).

The song, as performed in one of his films.

Fun fact: his lighthearted but sometimes risqué lyrics had him well banned by the BBC, who at the time were lead by moral strongman and man-who-made-frowning-accessible-to-the-masses, John Reith.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg
Man of the people, or rather, the collective frown of the people poured into one man, Lord John Reith.

(Note that I’m not doing the man ugly here. There genuinely isn’t a picture in the public domain of him actually smiling.)

Reith, who considered his role as Director of the BBC to be that of defender of public morality, famously refused to play Formby on the radio declaring, “If the public wants to listen to Formby singing his disgusting little ditty, they’ll have to be content to hear it in the cinemas, not over the nation’s airwaves”.

But Formby soon put an end to that: the royal family counted themselves as fans of his work!

61 George Formby Videos and HD Footage - Getty Images
Who’s laughing now, Lord Reith?

Either way, like everything else this lockdown, the window washing isn’t going great. They’re stubborn windows that won’t stay clean for long, making me feel like a smoker who’s decided to give up the fag: I’ll just clean these windows one last time, and then I’m done for three years, one last cigarette, just one more clean out tomorrow… but they’re dirty again!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 79ca30da-6c2f-4f10-bed0-f3bac09e4ad8.jpeg
For anyone keeping tabs, it’s these very same windows from 3+ years ago. Mmmm, read all about them!

Rounding up other things in the house that should’ve been thrown out years ago (I found mint chocolates from 2016), we found an old box of mini-fireworks we didn’t know we had, and taking things a little further, my grandparents weren’t even sure were fireworks at all. Small, triangular, squished up, or circular and similar: crackers or chocolates?

Which brings us to the absurd spot we’re in now. Chocolates or firecrackers? I wish I could put it out to the people to decide. Unfortunately, they’re gone. Someone’s eaten them.

Just kidding.

Don't Eat That: Sheneman, Drew: 9781101997291: Books - Amazon.ca

Chocolate?

It’s officially holiday season! And for an expat like me (is that what I can myself?), it’s officially Schrödinger time. (It’s holiday season, but it’s also not.)

It’s Diwali this week, which means for the first time since lockdown began, we’ve had to clean the house out, and by “we”, I mean “not me”, because as I’ve discovered over socially distant (over 16,000 km and very responsible), time-zone factored online school, relaxing in the morning after a night long of school by washing windows is quite the way to wind down.

How much, you ask? So much that I’ve managed to break the spray-pump bottle we used to water the plants in little over a month washing windows. Plastic is a scam.

I’ve also found it pretty amusing to sing an old song by actor, comedian and musician George Formby, a Lancastrian Englishman who rose to fame in the 1930s and ’40s for his comedic morale boosting acts and wartime films in Britain. His cheeky sense of humour is on full display in this song, called When I’m Cleaning Windows (sometimes called The Window Cleaner). The song, as performed in one of his films.

The song, as performed in one of his films.

Fun fact: his lighthearted but sometimes risqué lyrics had him well banned by the BBC, who at the time were lead by moral strongman and man-who-made-frowning-accessible-to-the-masses, John Reith.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg
Man of the people, or rather, the collective frown of the people poured into one man, Lord John Reith.

(Note that I’m not doing the man ugly here. There genuinely isn’t a picture in the public domain of him actually smiling.)

Reith, who considered his role as Director of the BBC to be that of defender of public morality, famously refused to play Formby on the radio declaring, “If the public wants to listen to Formby singing his disgusting little ditty, they’ll have to be content to hear it in the cinemas, not over the nation’s airwaves”.

But Formby soon put an end to that: the royal family counted themselves as fans of his work!

61 George Formby Videos and HD Footage - Getty Images
Who’s laughing now, Lord Reith?

Either way, like everything else this lockdown, the window washing isn’t going great. They’re stubborn windows that won’t stay clean for long, making me feel like a smoker who’s decided to give up the fag: I’ll just clean these windows one last time, and then I’m done for three years, one last cigarette, just one more clean out tomorrow… but they’re dirty again!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 79ca30da-6c2f-4f10-bed0-f3bac09e4ad8.jpeg
For anyone keeping tabs, it’s these very same windows from 3+ years ago. Mmmm, read all about them!

Rounding up other things in the house that should’ve been thrown out years ago (I found mint chocolates from 2016), we found an old box of mini-fireworks we didn’t know we had, and taking things a little further, my grandparents weren’t even sure were fireworks at all. Small, triangular, squished up, or circular and similar: crackers or chocolates?

Which brings us to the absurd spot we’re in now. Chocolates or firecrackers? I wish I could put it out to the people to decide. Unfortunately, they’re gone. Someone’s eaten them.

Just kidding.

Don't Eat That: Sheneman, Drew: 9781101997291: Books - Amazon.ca

Movies

I know it can be hard
In today’s age of Netflix n’ chill
But does anyone want to just
Settle down and watch a film?

I haven’t yet seen Star Wars,
But I know the plot twist already
My dad is a big fan
Of Star Wars, you see.

I’m good at not spoiling
And I don’t hog the popcorn
But if I fall asleep midway,
It’s uni’s fault; please don’t feel forlorn!

If that doesn’t work, just drop by
And bring along a kazoo,
And we’ll make funny versions of Blink-182 songs
For a good hour or two.

Valentine’s Haiku

See people walking
Arm in arm and down the street;
Really miss my sleep.


I’m so sleepy. I’m also going home this weekend as reading week finally begins.  All I am holding onto today as I finally end this bludgeoning week is that I’m going home, burying my face in our pup’s fur and zonking out.

Winter Morning Poetry

Grey blankets on the ground
Sandwiched under by navy
Sit and watch the silence
Watch it, till it’s pierced
By a single long beep,
As the grey turns to white
And the navy to bright,
And as the soft white underneath
Is tiled by a tarmac sheet
With a beep beep bleep,
The day has begun.

Just your typical snowy winter morning poetry.

Bless snow removal workers.

Picture credits blatantly go to Pinterest because even with just a door separating me from the outdoors, I refuse to venture any more outdoors than I have to, and with my classes being done for today (and the week), I refuse to go near this “outside”.

 

 

Pride

Stride
All you like
With a glide
In your footsteps
And pride
Hold your chin up
High
Like you have somewhere to
Go
And purpose to show
In every pace you
Move
And they approach
Calm, composed
Silent,
With the briefest look in the
Eye
That doesn’t give away my
Lies
Push on
One step
Back to my back

To let it all out
In a jelly wobble.

Walking through new buildings looking for a study space is one of the most psychological experiences I have in a day.
I know most people are only trying to help, but when I’m in a new building and looking around for someplace I might want to plop and get working, I really don’t want you asking me, “Where do you want to go?”
Am I lost? Yes, I’m lost. Can you help me? No, because I don’t know where I want to go. Yes, you’ve been around this building for years and years and know every inch of it by the inhale at the start of the syllable it begins with, but you still can’t help me, and I don’t want to stick around and hear it.
I know you’re being nice, but I’m just feeling like there’s impending judgement. Just don’t acknowledge me. I’ll find somewhere to sit.

Apart from that, exploring new buildings is also admittedly one of the coolest things you can do, because as a student, you’re legally allowed to just walk into a random building and it’s not trespassing, and you get to live out your Dora The Explorer dreams.

I got me supplies, let’s go!

What do you find exciting in a normal day? And what terrifies you, even though it’s totally normal?

Inspiration

“Come on,” she said, staring dispassionately at my laptop screen.


A pop-up ad had decided that now was the best time to inflict its superlatives upon me, but she didn’t know that.

“What?” I said, dishing out a beat rivalling a drum machine as I clicked the invisible cross in vain.

“You can do better than that. You’re better than a inspirational quote tells you you are”, she said, walking away.

“Are YOU a college student feeling dead inside? Is YOUR 90’s website failing?? Are YOU looking for a bartender’s mixing bottle?? CLICK HERE to find the perfect solution to your life’s problems!!”

“Google, what’s this?”

“I dunno miss, it’s based on your search history.”

“And who told you you could have that?”

“Oh look dear, the cross button’s moved to the bottom left corner now.”

My search history is pretty weird and I’d like to be a fly on the wall during the thought process of whatever algorithm is trying to profile me. Bartender’s mixing bottle, magician’s hat, 90’s websites, dead-looking college students and cat’s feet are genuine searches indexed in my history now. I blame my comics and the fact that I cannot draw. Who knows what evil cat machinery Google will be trying to sell me next?

Falling For The Heat

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This is the view from my window. It’s an absolutely lovely day, about fifteen degrees, not too windy, not a cloud in the sky, not a drop of rain.

If I’m being honest, I never imagined I’d ever come to find such a day appealing. I’ve spent eighteen years praying the sun away. Monsoon was not just a day when the rains poured, monsoon was a mood. It was the stop,–drop–and–roll! call, where you’d leave everything aside, pick up all your work, and just lodge your butt over a chair in the balcony. A cloudy day always held a calming presence over me, in fact it still does. But the way you respond to it varies in 30 degrees, and in 9.

We’ve had a drearily soppy week. Picture strong winds laced with rain pellets. Feel the little puddles on uneven ground, and water in your shoes and soaking into the socks. Saturday was a complete turnaround compared to the rest of the week, and Sunday’s looking like a cracker… from the glass of my window.

If it were up to me, I’d go completely Canadian on this weather. I’d go out for a long and pointless walk, just to greedily soak up a little more of the fleeting sunshine. Tomorrow’s scheduled to be cloudy. But of course, it must only look this good outside on a day I’ve really got to buckle down and work for a two-midterm onslaught to follow in the next two days.

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Any day that looks like this, you should probably be out.

So I’ll sit here, looking up occasionally from my work under the nefarious tubelight, and eventually the sun will go down and we’ll all sigh a sigh and forget, some of us thinking back on a lovely day well spent, and some others, in typical fashion, grunting and growling and muttering under their breath, will get ready to end a day and awake to the putrid petroleum smell of a fresh midterm season (does midterm season smell like petrol?)

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Even as the day dies, the sun’s fighting for a summer simulation that I won’t enter.

Anyway, sorry for dragging you into this rant. I hope you’re enjoying a good sunny day, if you live somewhere cold, or a relaxed, cloudy, calm day, if you live somewhere hot. It’s amazing how the perspectives can shift along just a few latitudes!

Anyway, if you’re mad about five minutes well wasted, here’s some eye-candy for you. Hope the fall satiates you, and have a great Sunday!

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Time

I’m being a little emo here, but here goes.

One good thing

About having more time this year,

Having time to really think

About what’s going on around me,

And to really see what’s happening

As opposed to last year’s rollercoaster:

”Ensure the arms and feet

Don’t leave the ride at any moment”;

Is that I finally have the time

And the mental headspace

To miss mum and dad

(And my sister, because she’ll be mad if I leave her out).

 

Blrlrrlrlrrlrllrlrlrl (shakes head and arms vigorously)