Top Five Things I Have Learned About Babies

My daughter, Elizabeth West Firment, was born in early November. The last…ever since…has been a nonstop, nonsleep blur of boobs, love, fuss, and delirium. In the process, I have learned these five things:

  • Ceiling fans are TV for babies.
  • At week six, nursing goes from being a special woodchipper for your nipples to something fairly ok. Eventually, it will become rather pleasant, and you will be able to play World of Warcraft while feeding your child, like my friend Kelly’s wife does. I’m pretty sure she levels up faster by simultaneously breastfeeding and p0wning n00bz.
  • The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play, so we sat in the house all that cold cold wet day.
  • There is a 4am. It comes before 5am, which is that time  you read about once that precedes 6am. You do not have the right to a full night’s sleep. You have given that right to your baby, who may use it as she sees fit.
  • Your baby’s smile generates a burst of hormones that if necessary will enable you to lift a car or cut out your own spleen.

Photos are up on flickr. Thanks for all the casseroles!

The Typography of Greenwashing

Instead of watching House episodes all day like a normal person, I spent one of my vacation days making a video about the media practice of greenwashing.

According to the world’s only remaining viable encyclopedia, greenwashing is the “practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly.”

I’m interested in the graphic design motifs that seem to pop up whenever a product wants to advertise itself as Good for the Environment. I was inspired by my hilarious friend Gus’s Media Show episode on greenwashing, and I started thinking about all the sans-serif fonts and burlap lining the shelves of my local organic grocery store.*

This is my first video, and I was a bit nervous. I used iMovie to do the editing, and I slapped the whole thing together in an afternoon with the help of some coffee and a misplaced sense of social justice.

I’d like to do more of this. If you guys have any suggestions for other ornery Librarian Avenger topics, I’d love to hear them.

* I live in San Francisco. I patronize an organic grocery store. I don’t own a car or a tv. Live the stereotype!
** That’s Sister Rosetta Tharpe playing in the background, who is the boss of you.

Daily Hilarity

Things today that made me laugh until I snorted:

  • Translating a boring work conversation into hula
  • Faygo Rock n’ Rye soda exploding in a Last Stand sort of way inside Chuck’s motorcycle case
  • Blurting out “stranger danger!” when surprise-hugged by my friend Rayne in the subway
  • Getting my butt handed to me by the office Galaga machine
  • My father-in-law’s introduction to the tapioca lumps in bubble tea
  • My new Frog Hat
  • Wearing my new Frog Hat on a video conference and demanding to be taken seriously

Vote for me on the SXSW Panel Picker

Rock The Vote Poster

I can’t be self-promotional all alone here, people. I need your help! Vote for meeeee!

My proposal is up for voting right now on the South By Southwest Interactive Panel Picker. It’s a geek frenzy over there. Vote early and often.

VOTE HERE (login required)

Panel Proposal:

Video Game Research: Failing Our Way to Victory

Users are weird. They tell you one thing and do another. They click everywhere and read nothing. Erica Firment, a User Experience designer for Linden Lab/Second Life, chronicles fast and effective ways to make your software suck less by spending a few hours watching users fail.

  1. How can video games win by watching their players fail?
  2. What is video game user research?
  3. What do you mean by “watch users fail?”
  4. Can’t I just send out a survey? (NO!)
  5. Why are 3D world interfaces hard to design?
  6. What are some things in Second Life that got better by watching users fail?
  7. How does Second Life collect information?
  8. Why should developers and product managers invest in user research?
  9. What are some easy ways for me to do user research?
  10. What are some cheap ways for me to do user research?

Librarian Avengers Stomp of Approval – Shelf Discovery

Bad books aren’t worth talking about. Good books, however, should stand up and be recognized.

Shelf DiscoveryTo that end, I invented a new thing that I’m going to act like I’ve been doing for ages: The Librarian Avengers Stomp of Approval.

As you know, Librarian Avengers stomp around quite a bit, railing against things and waving our arms around.

In this case, we’re stomping in approval of Lizzie Skurnick’s new book Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading.

Shelf Discovery is a compilation of Ms. Skurnick’s excellent Fine Lines posts on Jezebel, in which she lovingly scrutinizes Young Adult books read by bookish girls of the X/y/whatever generation.

I’m always surprised to find such quality writing just floating around on the web for anyone to read, and I’m glad there is finally a dead tree version available as well.

greenbooks.pngIf I suffered from Pageant-Mom syndrome and wanted to create an exact replica of myself from the raw material of some random pre-teen girl, I would begin my narcissistic experiment in literary manipulation by having her read all of the books celebrated in Shelf Discovery.

Which is all to say that I love this book and you should too. So, yay.

Stomp stomp stomp stomp.

How to stop using paper towels

Chuck works on motorcycles, and I’m a kitchen clean freak. We used to go through a shameful amount of paper towels. Like, buy in bulk, hate-the-earth, bulldoze-Costa-Rica amounts.

librarian canvas bagThen my friend Skud gave me a great idea. I cut up a cheap jersey sheet I had kicking around (those things pill up in about 5 washes, FYI) and I sliced up a couple conference t-shirts. We now have a canvas bag full of washcloth-sized fabric squares hanging in the kitchen.

This provides an endless amount of cleaning rags for just about any job.
They are washable, bleachable, and nearly indestructible. You can run them through the wash and re-use them, or if they are gross, just toss them into the compost.

It’s a great way to re-use otherwise disposable fabrics, and they are cheaper and more sturdy than paper towels.

Take that, Brawny!

Happy Fathers Day

This is my dad, the best joker in the world.

Who else would dance to “Re: Your Brains” (Jonathan Coulton’s Zombie song) at his daughter’s wedding?

My dad, the legally blind man who taught me to drive a stick shift.

This is the guy who plopped me in front of a VIC-20 when I was 5 years old and taught me LOGO.

He kept Adobe font catalogs and WIRED magazine around the house, inspiring a lifelong love of design and geekery.

I owe him most of my bad jokes, and all of my pedanticism.

It’s a good life. Thanks Dad!

Alliterative morning

Today I Skimmed Schmaltz, and was Rawked at by a Raven.

Raven with Sausages by quinet

The schmaltz came from a mess of chicken soup I made. A thick layer of chicken fat rose to the top overnight and was skimmed off and used to season the cat’s breakfast.

Chicken soup for the soul by tsheko

The raven is a Common Raven, who was hanging out in one of the San Francisco parks that I walk through on my way to work. Common Ravens are more common out here than they are back east.

They are about the size of a small dog, and live shoulder to shoulder with their smaller corvid friends the Crow and the Western Scrub Jay. All three species enjoy Rawking, poking at things with their substantial bills, and Making Trouble.

What alliterative things happened to YOU today?