Monday, December 25, 2017

Final Update for 2017!

Weekly Update 2017-52: I can't believe it's been three whole years of updates. Get ready for my annual best-of post!

Music: Disc Van
One of the pivotal events of my year was definitely my summer trip to Portland. I have a sneaking suspicion that Spotify is somehow tracking my Facebook posts because it happened to produce one of my all-time favourite playlists as the Discover Weekly for the week of my trip. I saved it as "Discover Vancouver" - or Disc Van for short, to sound edgy and include Portland (since I was visiting both cities, and Portland is known for small-space kooky living, such as in a van). Pretty lame, but the music remains really good. I occasionally add to it, but generally come back to it every month or so to reminisce about the cool people and food of that trip. Check it out and relive with me:

Featuring the bands of my summer: Ought, Part Time, Boris, Gonjasufi, Whitney and Preoccupations.

This year, I got a lot of things done. I did a number of things that really scared me like biking in the winter (and taking a fall like a champion), switching jobs (while taking a break in between), and making a lot of changes that I never really had the nerve to do before. I'd say the scariest thing was probably giving myself permission to take a break when I was pretty burnt out earlier this year. I focused on enjoying the summer and regaining my creative spark, and did a lot of other stuff:
  • Went to Osheaga in Montreal
  • Went fishing with my dad
  • Went camping with TDot Batu
  • Went to the nude beach on Toronto island
  • Took a class on communication skills with Erika (How To Talk To People About Things)
  • Wrote my D’var Torah, learned to chant Torah, and had my Bat Mitzvah
  • Celebrated Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur at the synagogue with my family
  • Went to the Guillermo Del Toro exhibit at the AGO with my mom
  • Attended a bunch of design meetups
  • Had coffee chats with design people that I met at meetups
  • Visited a bunch of cool offices for interviews
  • Honed my interview skills (a lot)
  • Attended EDIT
  • Went to New York for Open House New York
While I still believe 2017 was a dumpster fire on a global scale, my year was pretty fulfilling and I have high hopes for 2018. I also cooked a lot of stuff, which I hope to continue next year!

Yes, it's an enamel pin by Hella Cool Kids :)

On a smaller scale, this week I have been cleaning the apartment like crazy for Erika's arrival back home (tonight). I've been organizing with some new systems and cooking too. I made a meat pie with a potato crust (it came to me in a dream):

My food pictures never turn out very well but this tasted amaaaazing.

Thinking about next year, I'd like to do a Trampoline Hall talk in 2018. Since I began attending the monthly event in 2016, I've always wanted to. I have been hesitant to ask Misha if he can pull some strings but since we're Facebook friends now, maybe it isn't such a big deal to ask. I think more public speaking ventures would be good for me in terms of honing my communication skills, not to mention the thought of doing it scares me. This means I know it would be a good growing experience.

This week, I'll be updating the typography and user experience of my blog, as much as I can anyway. In terms of the big blog redesign project, I am going to stick with the author-based interface I have for the moment. I don't have the patience or time at the moment to give that up in favour of a better reader-based experience. I would like to eventually tackle the bigger issue, but I'm thinking small and manageable for now.

I'm also going to make a lasagna! Because I make one every six months or so and it's just that time of year again. And yes, hearts of palm are definitely going on top again. Yum yum!

Random Thought:
I generated a word cloud for my most used words in Facebook stati (statuses?) this year. Considering I share all my blog titles as Facebook posts, it's an interesting look into the things I thought and wrote about this year.

This could make a good poem, just reading the words aloud in any random order.

Inspiration: The Art of Crowdsourcing Data
This has become increasingly true as time goes on: using data from real users of a product to influence and enhance its features and capabilities. Sort of like a chicken-and-egg theory, it's always best to use information gathered from users to make product-based decisions. Since it can be difficult to obtain this information via testing and interview procedures for various reasons, I have always loved the way some companies bake the user testing and monitoring into their products. Two birds with one stone: monitor product usage to understand behaviours.

And why do all of this? Because incorporating user data into meaningful product decisions is the difference between a good product and a great product.

Sometimes user data can do what other sources of information can't do with current infrastructure. Take the Transit App for example: inviting users to share their transit journey in real time with other riders so they know when the bus is coming.

And much like Nicolas Felton's annual reports, I'm attempting to catalog my life. I don't have a ton of personal data, but I do use the Moves app to log my cycling time this summer. I biked all the way from April 1 deep into December, pretty much until the first permanent snowfall. After downloading the .CSV files for 2017, I found that I burned 44,110 calories biking this year! And not one bit of it felt like work.

Well, it's been a sort of bumpy year but I think it turned out really nicely in the end. Here's to another year of weekly updates and thanks to you, the reader, for reading!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Manami Matsumae, Keener Critters & Junji Ito's Uzumaki

Weekly Update 2017-51: The penultimate update of the year brings the music of Manami Matsumae, delightfully Canadian messenger stickers and Uzumaki, the horrifically wonderful work of Junji Ito.

Music: Manami Matsumae
It's not very often that I come across a gem like this. Legendary producer of the original soundtrack for Mega Man and many video games following, the Tokyo-based composer has released an album showcasing her illustrious career so far. The title Three Movements encompasses the concept for the album: three separate sets of songs that are purposefully ordered in a way that showcases her career. The album as a whole is simply a masterpiece, with such contrasting styles of music flowing into each other so easily. Check it out below. And I really have to give a shoutout to the album art, which is equally beautiful (and contains three fields of colour to mimic the title!

I've got a serious list of food to make over the holiday, and I'm going to be meal prepping like crazy so that I don't have to prepare any food for the whole month of January. Okay, that's a bit insane, but it could happen.

I also took my bike in to get fixed, which wasn't as terrible an experience as I thought it might be. I was able to bike home from the shop, which was nice considering I haven't been able to bike in this darn weather since last Monday.

I'm hoping to bike to work one day this week, but that will really depend on the weather so it's more like a hope than a goal.

I'd also like to take out Anna Karenina from the library this week, to attempt to read as one of my Holiday goals.

Random Thought: Canadian Slang
I came across these cute and super Canadian Facebook stickers designed by Deshi Deng:

A puffin from Newfoundland that says Whaddya at b'y? What will they think of next?!

I have never been able to truly express myself through the medium of Facebook Messenger, until now. All of these are so Canadian. I especially like how there was some confusion over exactly what the Loon was holding/throwing out like chedda'. Read below:

Inspiration: Junji Ito
Through some slightly unnerving means, I have come into the temporary possession of a copy of Junji Ito's Uzumaki (Japanese for Spiral), a horror manga that is apparently quite horrific in both story and illustration style. Ito is a master of drawing imagery that unnerves the viewer, horrific looks on people's faces when they come to a realization that something terrible is happening to them and there is nothing they can do but accept it.

His work is very well received, but at the same time this book is so horrific and terrifying that it has made a friend of mine very upset to look at spirals.

I'll admit the scariness of this page isn't quite as strong in gif form (or on its own without context), but I did that on purpose. You're welcome.

I find the idea of horror very attractive but do not handle it well myself, so I try my best to avoid it. Being home alone with the book has only drawn me closer to it, though I promised myself that I would only read one chapter per day so as not to melt my brain into a puddle of fear.

Let's hope I don't become like mister eye-roller up there when I'm done.

Monday, December 11, 2017

2017 Wrapped, Smart Playlists & Benjamin Lory

Weekly Update 2017-50: Reviewing a year of music with Spotify's 2017 Wrapped, reminiscing about Smart Playlists, and the wonderful typography of Benjamin Lory.

Music: Spotify's 2017 Wrapped
In a similar fashion to 2016's year in review, Spotify has produced yet another interactive web experience for its users. People love to learn about their own habits (it's a form of narcissism, of course), and so the experience makes for an interesting trip down memory lane and a look at my year in music.

None of this is surprising.

I really do love Spoon. They've remained one of my favourite bands for a really long time, ever since I first heard I Turn My Camera On on an episode of Veronica Mars on CTV (Canada got the new episodes three days after the CW aired the premieres in the United States).

It's pretty cool that anyone with a Spotify account (free or paid) can access their own version of this experience chronicled from personalized data, I can see how it seems almost magical. It reminds me of how I used to make Smart Playlists in iTunes back in the day when I still used it. This is becoming more of a random thought, so read more on that below.

This weekend marked the fifth anniversary of my drumming band (which fell just before my personal second anniversary with the band). We played an amazing show in our rehearsal space, and honestly it might have been the best show I have ever performed. We sounded so incredibly good with our backup band, I played a huge cowbell-type instrument called a gonguê during Michael Jackson's The Way You Make Me Feel, we even played Salsa Percussiva without too many mistakes. On top of all that, I even got a great picture of me playing:

Occasionally my drumming face isn't terrible.

I had my first bike ride through a mild snowfall tonight, which was both scary and beautiful. I thought I would be clear to ride home before the streets became covered but it was too late. Good to know I can do it at least! Riding through Trinity Bellwoods was especially beautiful as the snow softly drifted onto my eyeballs and melted. Haha, sorry to be gross but honestly I got used to the feeling and it started to feel good after a few snowflakes. There may be something wrong with me.

I've been collecting ideas of things I want to accomplish during my week of winter holidays, and I'm hoping it'll be a productive week. I'd like to cook something fun, but I haven't come across the right recipe yet. I'll be on the hunt for some good recipes this week and collecting a list to go grocery shopping.

Random Thought: Smart Playlists
It's interesting to compare some of the exciting features of Spotify (my current music subscription service of choice) with the features of iTunes back in the day when I used it exclusively.

The current incarnation, Apple Music, doesn't produce the year-in-review feature for its users, but I find it interesting that its desktop app offers a much more robust system of analyzing and categorizing music and related habits than Spotify's desktop app.

Apple Music offers the Smart Playlist feature that will automatically create a playlist for you based on pretty much any detail or combination of details of your choosing, such as all songs with the word "love" in the title and released before 1975, or everything you listened to between 2:00AM and 7:30AM on every Friday between July of last year and today. Spotify curates the experience, but Apple Music offers more control to make your own experience. Based on Apple's product mantras for operating systems (like OSX or iOS) you'd think the role would be reversed.

Inspiration: Benjamin Lory
I have mentioned Trampoline Hall before on this blog, but if you haven't heard of it, don't get your hopes too high because it has nothing to do with trampolines. Instead of exercising your legs, you can exercise your brain at this monthly lecture series featuring three guest lecturers who speak about topics in which they are not professionals. Along with controversial Q&A periods that last as long as the lectures themselves, it makes for a good night out.

Alongside the sparkling and creative lectures are a different stage design and a different ticket design each month. The tickets are the first taste of what the event will be like, since they must be picked up from Soundscapes on College a few days before the event. They're always very interesting, and December's cohort was no exception.

Designed by Benjamin Lory, these seemingly random typographic arrangements are actually excerpts from the MC Misha Glouberman's introductory speech, which he strives to make "more and more the same" with each event. While I am a sucker for a good avant-garde (and slightly Dada) typographic composition, I was especially enamoured with these designs in the way they capture Misha's speaking style. He has an extremely toned way of addressing a crowd, the kind of tone that makes me laugh at the same joke every month for years.

Originally from France, Lory has immersed himself in the Toronto design community, especially with a wonderful project archiving and recreating street posters he found in Kensington Market. Lory posted the recreations around Kensington Market as a comment on the social fabric of the community. Called 100 Kensington Posters, check out some of the images below:

The original posters: Lory's inspiration for the project.

You can see something of a similarity between the Trampoline Hall tickets and this project. I like the roughness and stark communication style they both share. 100 Kensington Posters is really striking, I urge you to check it out on his website.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Quitters, Bluetooth Woes & Personal Kanban

Weekly Update 2017-49: Kathleen Edwards leaves us with a lovely album as she moves from music to coffee, the woes of a bad relationship with Bluetooth, and true inspiration from my friend's personal Kanban board.

Music: Kathleen Edwards
Not usually one for the Americana genre, this Ottawa-born folk singer caught my ear after reading a very interesting bit of entertainment news (another thing to which I don't usually subscribe). Edwards happened to strike up a relationship with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame after ending a five-year marriage with her former husband. She spent a number of months recording 2012's Voyageur at Vernon's studio in Wisconsin, only to break up after it was released. That doesn't take away from the strength of emotion that comes out of each song, though: some of loss, some of love, some of regret and joy. I think the sheer honesty is what draws me to it the most.

I especially like A Soft Place To Land, Mint and Change The Sheets.

This album is the newest musical release from Edwards yet it is almost six years old, as she has moved on from the musical life to open a coffee shop in Stittsville, Ontario (just outside of Ottawa). She named it Quitters Coffee, which I absolutely adore. Sometimes people change direction and it's okay to quit something if it's not right for you anymore. I think we've all experienced that at some point in our lives.

Kathleen Edwards sitting intensely on a table at her coffee shop Quitters Coffee.

Next time I'm in the Ottawa area, I'll definitely be checking out this coffee shop. Read more about Quitters Coffee in this Toronto Star article

I found a template for FriendCanoe emails but it has some issues with Outlook (no surprise there) so I'll be using it until I find something better. This week also marks seven weeks since I started my new job, which means I am more than halfway to health benefits and getting an eye exam. Ah, the things that make me excited as an adult are becoming really boring.

Well, here's a more fun thing - I attended the Christmas version of the Bunz flea this weekend and got some really amazing items:
  • A screenprinted bag and tea towel featuring my favourite moon (Earth's!)
  • Adventure Time Season 1 on DVD
  • a Jake plushie from the same show
  • two lovely handmade pins (one featuring an alpaca and the other a secret because it's a present for my sister)
  • ceramic T-Rex with a circular spot in its back for a candle
The ceramic T-Rex was a great trade because it originally belonged to a young boy (no older than eight years old?) who traded it to me for a pack of fat crayons that used to belong to my mother when she was a student. It was a really heartwarming moment.

Jake has also fit nicely into our home at the Noodle; he's already nestled comfortably into our Christmas tree.

This week, I'd like to wrap up all the gifts I've been collecting and dole them out. It seems a bit early in the season but this appears to be the weekend upon which gifts are exchanged between friends. And so it shall be!

I'd also like to find time to find a better email template, if such time exists on my calendar. I'll also be taking a first stab at a personal kanban board, probably on Thursday night. More on exactly what a kanban board is - found below in the Inspiration section.

Random Thought: Bluetooth Relationships
I have always had moderate trouble dealing with Bluetooth. I could never get my Bose Soundlink Mini to pair with my computer or phone without several attempts, turning things on and off, and even hard-resetting the speaker sometimes.

It was a big leap for me to buy Bluetooth earbuds, generally because I was really fed up with the cord of my headphones getting caught on things (especially TTC turnstiles and my scarf) and because I had a $90 Apple store gift card burning a hole in my pocket. And so I landed somehow on Beats Earbuds. After so much shit-talking of this brand (some of which out of my own mouth), they seemed like the best option at $180 or so (before gift card) and came with a lot of accessories to attempt to fit my weirdly-shaped ear canals.

And since buying them, it seems like my Bluetooth woes are somehow over. The Earbuds pair almost effortlessly with my phone and work computer, reconnecting in a matter of seconds, and it even somehow seems like my Soundlink Mini has fewer issues pairing with my phone and personal computer. I don't know how any of this happened, but it feels like my relationship with Bluetooth has gone from hatred to mutual respect and understanding. This is a really random thought but it feels as though my decision to change my outlook on Bluetooth with little or no solid reasoning behind it, was the catalyst to make Bluetooth finally work for me. This all to say, I wonder if Bluetooth can sense my emotions and respond, like a human-to-human relationship.

Inspiration: The Personal Kanban Board
If you work in the tech industry, you may be familiar with the Agile methodology. Its mantra is to work quickly and efficiently, estimate the resources that tasks will eat, prioritize tasks, and be willing to change direction when change is necessary (a similar theme to Kathleen Edwards' way of life, mentioned above).

One way of working with Agile is to manage a Kanban board, upon which you label, cost and categorize all your upcoming tasks or to-dos. Many of the methodologies in my workplace can certainly be applied to personal life (which I have mentioned before on this blog), though it never occurred to me to make a Kanban board for my personal goals and tasks. I had been a listmaker when I had a nice large whiteboard in my room, but I think the prioritization of tasks was what was missing in terms of inspiring a mentality for getting things done.

I am proud to have friends who are smarter than me, especially one of them who made his own kanban board in his apartment to keep track of personal life tasks.

A personal Kanban board taped up to my friend's closet door for easy daily access (and self-imposed guilt, I suppose).

Each post-it could be something as simple as "buy kitchen chairs" or as difficult as "find new mealprep recipes", depending on your point of view. The point is that you make a habit of moving post-its from the left side (backlog) through the middle (doing) and on to the right side (done) at a realistic, measured pace.

I don't think I have space for this sort of thing in my apartment, but I can definitely begin a digital one in Trello and I believe I will start that this week!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Cuphead, Anthropology & Mar Cerdà

Weekly Update 2017-48: Music from the Cuphead soundtrack, how designers relate to anthropologists, and the amazing miniature cut paper worlds of Mar Cerdà.

Music: Cuphead (Original Soundtrack)
Once in a while, I come across a game soundtrack that is so good, it could stand on its own without playing the game. And though I have yet to play this wonderful 1930's inspired run and gun action game, I am already enamoured with its soundtrack.

Recorded at Canterbury Music Company right here in Toronto, each of these amazing songs was composed by Kristofer Maddigan (a percussionist and composer also from Toronto). I love how the songs contain a lot of classical instruments and sounds mixed in with some weirdness that shows they don't take themselves too seriously. Floral Fury is a good example of this, using brass band sounds mixed with what sounds like a rubber straw being pushed in and out of a plastic cup. Check it out below:

This week I compiled a brief of sorts for the next phase of the FriendCanoe project - emails! There will be a number of communications that we will need to include in the experience, from Reset Your Password to It's time to hang out with your friend. Check out the brief here.

Now that the content of the emails has been solidified to some extent, I'll be designing the emails this week. I really need to make a big shoutout to Mailchimp, considering I know firsthand the headache of creating HTML email templates that work seamlessly across all the different platforms and devices (I'm looking at you, Outlook). So instead of all that mess, I'll be using Mailchimp templates and testing tools so as not to reinvent the email wheel. Who would ever want to do that?

Random Thought: Designer as Anthropologist
Reflecting on the past while in my role as a UX designer, I have been thinking about the parts of the job that relate best to my interests and personality. I have noticed lately that I really enjoy learning about cultures and the nature behind why people do the things they do. Understanding motivations allows designers the power to reshape experiences that are catered to those motivations, so that users can achieve their goals more easily.

In the coming months, I'd like to focus on my design practice as seen through a sort of anthropological lens, to try to tap into that obsession and make it into something useful. And this doesn't only apply to the way users use products that I might be redesigning, but also to daily processes within and without my workplace. Our design processes at ecentricarts are somewhat established but could certainly use a focused look to see if we are solving problems in the most efficient way.

Inspiration: Mar Cerdà
In continuation from last week's inspirational movie prop designer Annie Atkins (specializing in Wes Anderson movies), I now present to you an artist who has mastered the world of cut paper and watercolour miniature scenes (many of which also for Wes Anderson movies). Mar Cerdà is an illustrator based in Barcelona, Spain, using watercolor painting and paper as the base materials of her work. She uses both in watercolor prints and in little dioramas made of cut papers.

From The Grand Budapest Hotel.

From Moonrise Kingdom.

From The Royal Tenenbaums.

What's really interesting is her background in cinema and audiovisual, which have emphasized her fascination with scenography and the treatment of space. She firmly believes that a character can be defined by a space, even if the character is not present at all.

I have always been enamoured by dioramas and miniature scenes; playing with scale just tickles me in the right way. Check out more on Mar's website and Instagram.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Yeasayer, Emoji Renders & Movie Prop Designers

Weekly Update 2017-47: Yeasayer lays down harmonies so smooth they could butter your toast. Alongside that, the frustration of emojis rendering differently on someone else's phone and the people who design elaborate movie props.

Music: Yeasayer
I believe I first heard of this band by way of The Wedge, a now-defunct alternative programming music show on MuchMusic. They're an experimental rock band from Brooklyn, and the two lead singers Chris Keating and Anand Wilder really know how to pair some strange rhythms with their equally strange vocal qualities. Along with their third member Ira Wolf Tuton, the band produces their songs all together, a somewhat unorthodox take on composing. The band describes their own sound as “Middle Eastern-psych-snap-gospel,” if that helps at all. Better to just listen and see what you think.

They've released four studio albums since entering the limelight in 2006, and (no surprise) their live album from Brussels in 2013 compromises some of their amazing earlier songs along with great banter and stage presence (even if only for the ears). Check out Tightrope and Ambling Alp (my faves), and Red Cave specifically to hear some lovely harmonies.

I locked myself in a room at the library yesterday to work on the CSS for FriendCanoe. You can check out my progress here (don't judge me on my disorganized code writing skills, please)!

I also attended two client meetings through work last week (both of which required me to present something) and I think they both went quite well. There will be many more opportunities over the next few weeks to keep practicing, since the end of our engagement with this client is far from over, so I hope to continue improving these skills.

I also led my drumming band (for the first time ever) in the Newmarket Santa Claus Parade. It was so nerve-wracking! But everything went smoothly (even though it rained quite a bit). I'm waiting on my friend to send me some videos he took of us performing, it seemed like the crowd really liked us!

Being new to conducting, I picked up some good tips on how to improve my skills:
  • Hold sticks up very high for people to see
  • Say the number/beat/break while you do the sign
  • Hold sticks up straight and parallel while you mime the beats
  • Make sure you get people's attention before you make a sign
  • Try to look in people's eyes to ensure they see you (this is uncomfortably personal sometimes!)
  • Don't use thumbs up because it's confusing! (This was me trying to use positive reinforcement and just confusing people because the thumbs-up hand signal is used for a break).
This week I'd like to keep working on FriendCanoe and thinking of ways to improve the UX. I'll be consulting the Trello board to see what needs tackling next.

Random Thought:
Being someone who doesn't use a ton of emojis in their daily communication, I often wonder about the social behaviours associated with people who use them more frequently, and in different ways.

Depending on the make and model of your phone, the emoji I send to you may look completely different, or not be present at all and render as a blank square □ . On GetEmoji, you can see the differences in the ways Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft all design different emojis for their own brand, not to mention Facebook's weird designs that automatically translate from Emoji as soon as you hit send on your message.

Check out the different renderings for "singer/musician/rock star":

This may seem like a nit-pick, but Samsung really missed the mark here. The connotation of that singer looks much more "goody-two-shoes" to a North American audience (in my opinion) while I suppose someone from Asia might think of that as a k-pop or j-pop singer (more badass)? In any case, they're different. And this is only one example.

So, when I text people from my iPhone who have an Android phone, I feel apprehensive about using emojis. I never know how they will appear and how my message will be received.

Inspiration: Annie Atkins
Seeing the world through the eyes of a designer can sometimes be a chore. Not to be dramatic or anything, but I can never just sit and enjoy a movie without a million questions about little details running through my head. One of those things is a constant need to analyze all the props created for movies. I don't think people think about this as they watch movies, but feel free to correct me if you do.

Long story short, I spent two hours researching the painter who actually created the beautiful paintings (made by the character Sam) in Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. It's a problem.

So who are the people making these props? Take Annie Atkins, for example. She specializes in graphics for filmmaking, including lettering, illustrations and more — she has designed all kinds of graphic props, including “telegrams, vintage cigarette packaging, maps, love letters, books, poems, labeling, passports and fake CIA identification cards.” All of the small design decisions she makes contribute to the creation of a cohesive visual world, establishing a film’s period and place.

Grand Budapest Hotel, another Anderson instant-classic, contained countless props for Atkins to pore over and create from hotel room keys to books to maps to boxes for tiny little delicate pastries.

There's something so magnetic about designing props for another universe. They make the universe seem almost tangible through their own existence, as though they came into creation when the story was written and retain some proof of that universe's tangibility. Basically, they make the story that much more believable and immersive. Not to mention, I love a good eye for detail which Atkins has in spades. Check out her website.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Of Montreal, Coat Pockets & Massey Hall

Weekly Update 2017-46: Nostalgic thirst for Of Montreal, finding my way to accepting the design of coat pockets, and visiting backstage at Massey Hall.

Music: Of Montreal
One of those bands that stands the test of time for me is Of Montreal. Perhaps surprisingly not from Montreal but rather Athens, Georgia emerges Kevin Barnes, a majestic genre-hopping fantasyman with a knack for writing enchanting and nonsensical lyrics that seem to explain exactly how I'm feeling. Not to mention, I have a vivid memory of hearing songs from 2007's Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? on Radio Blog Club and then setting out to the mall to buy the CD from HMV. It was something like $20 which was certainly worth the lovely artwork and interestingly unique jewel case alone.

I digress. Every album is something new, with inspiration from funk to 60s psychedelic to acoustic Bob Dylan, and everything in between and beyond. I hope I'm not overselling. You may know my love of live albums, one of the reasons being they show a good range of genre-hopping musicians’ ever-changing styles, and another that you can hear the lead singer's banter. Kevin has good banter.

So peep this live album (recorded in 2015 in San Francisco) with some of my favourite songs spanning 15 years of their music:

This was an insane week. My job is the cause of most of the insanity, which involved coming up with a concept for the company holiday card, preparing for a presentation during a client meeting, and having the first check-in at my job (hosted by the President AND the CEO of the company at the same time). Intense. I got through all of it virtually unscathed, which I am honestly still surprised about. I hope it keeps going.

Thanks to a recent communication workshop I took called How To Talk To People About Things, I also did something socially that I'm really proud of, but is much too private to share on this blog (since I know some people who read it)! I'm writing this here in the hopes that my future self will remember what it is, and also a little bit to make you think I'm cool and mysterious.

The craziness at work has yet to end; I will be running a design exercise during our next client meeting (on Thursday) and I am waaaay nervous about it. I'm happy our clients are so awesome and positive about working together, which makes the space somewhat safer, but I have never done anything like this before. It reminds me of the quote “Do one thing per day that scares you”, this one may last me a couple of days.

I'm also going to do my darndest to help my friend Sasha finally launch our app FriendCanoe. This Sunday, after the Santa Claus Parade, I'll be locking myself in a room (or possibly the library?) to work on the CSS and start designing some of the leftover assets. We're entering the project into a WFH hackathon that finishes at the end of the month, so I'll be crunching to get it done.

Random Thought: Coat Pockets
I've noticed that people who wear purses definitely have varied feelings about them. I am no exception; I like to mate for life with my purses. By this I mean, I search forever until I find a purse that fits all (or most) of my parameters – usually at Value Village, where I can't get another when I eventually wear it to death because I detest switching all my items between purses.

I finally gave into the cold weather a few days ago and donned my winter coat. I don't usually like to give in so early before December, but I am biking into the recesses of the cold weather this year and caved. This coat got me thinking – it has labelled pockets and pockets that are otherwise designed to denote that they have a specific purpose. Isn't that kind of presumptuous for a coat? Coat, who are you to tell me where to put my keys, my phone, my ID?

But then, I realized that the coat designer had (hopefully) made a thoughtful and well-researched design decision to architect how and where I would store my various items. Since I am naturally careless with my belongings (I'm working on it), I realized that this was actually a godsend. The coat had already figured out where all my things should go, and had even included little signs to remind me in case I forgot. And you know, it hasn't made one bad suggestion yet.

Inspiration: Massey Hall
On Sunday I had the immense pleasure to visit Massey Hall in a way I have never had the chance to do before. One of their rare open houses, this event featured a look inside some of the backstage areas of the venue, as well as some old artifacts from the venue's past.

The view of the audience from the stage!

Above all else, I was excited to hear a wonderful historical music lecture from the illustrious Rob Bowman. Bowman is a music professor at York University, and I had the good fortune to take a class of his during my school days. Listening to him talk about all the amazing events that have taken place at Massey Hall since its opening in 1894, I was teleported back to university and hearing him paint such vivid pictures of concerts and musical happenings that changed the history of music.

There was also a lego model of Massey Hall (post-reno) and a really cool virtual reality exhibit, where visitors could us VR headsets to explore what Massey Hall will look like following the seven-year renovation that has already begun, Sadly, Massey Hall will be closed for an an 18-24 month period while some of these renovations take place, but it is set to restore some lovely stained glass windows, as well as expanding Centuries Bar (in the basement) into a nicer lounge to socialize and an intimate venue setting.

There will also be an additional venue added to the future fourth floor of the building, for a total of three. While Bowman's talk was very inspiring to see so much history in one place, I am at the same time very excited to see what Massey Hall will look like when it is complete. VR just can't do it justice.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Wild Nothing, Navigation & Tiffany Silver

Weekly Update 2017-45: Soothing sounds from Wild Nothing, Google's changing navigation elements, and Tiffany's new line of faux trash items (otherwise known as Everyday Objects).

Music: Wild Nothing
Wild Nothing is a pleasant, easy-listening shoegaze piece out of Virginia. I think I first heard of the band on Starbucks radio (surprisingly good for finding interesting indie musicians), and they popped back up on Spotify lately. Sometimes you just need some music to be calm with and drink some tea. This music is definitely that.

Check out To Know You, Nocturne and Whenever I.

I started my post on taking stock on the evolution of my Jewish identity, but I realized it's actually a challenging post to tackle, so I've only got an outline done at this point. I'm a little stagnated because I'm not entirely sure where I want to take this learning next, so I realized I'm putting it off a little. More on that soon.

On a whim I went to Yorkville last Saturday to check out a visual art exhibit run by OCAD students. I had never been to Yorkville Village (Hazelton Lanes) before, and it was almost as interesting to walk around as the art itself.

An art piece made of block sculptures, reminiscent of children's toys.

There were some interesting food choices since the mall is somewhat upscale, including Palm Lane (a vegan salad bar by Planta), and a HUGE hot table at Whole Foods. I really tried to restrain myself and ended up spending ~$15 on bulk food (that's how they get you) but it was so extremely good - it was like the type of food that warms your heart. 100% worth it.

I hadn't been into an interesting gift store called Rolo in many years, so I decided to go check it out and see if there was anything good to give my secret santa assignee for the Holidays. I got chatting with the owner, and we both realized we had been chatting on Bunz as well, trying to set up a trade! He was such a lovely guy. He also showed me some crazy art made out of vintage IV tubes:

At the behest of my friend Sasha, he and I entered into a month-long remote hackathon with FriendCanoe, in the hopes of finally getting an MVP to market. I think I've been the blocker since my life has been going crazy lately. Hopefully this will be the motivation we(I) need to keep working on it.

This week I'd like to keep working on the Jewish Identity reflection. I'd like to finish it between Thursday evening and Saturday late afternoon, so that I can start thinking about next steps.

I'd also like to make time for the hackathon. So some deft scheduling of my month will need to happen this weekend as well.

Random Thought: Changing Navigation Systems
I'm finishing up a user experience audit at work, of a real estate website that is in large need of revamp. Our client agrees, so that's all well and good, but it makes me wonder how their navigation even got to the state it's in now. Among other factors, various elements of the navigation change location, appear or disappear depending on which page the user is on. It may go without saying that general rules of navigation dictate that it should be consistent so that a user can become comfortable in the locations of all elements (for easier access to the information they need).

This rules does make sense for most websites. But have you ever noticed that Google, one of the most commonly visited websites...ever(?) does not follow this rule on mobile? Check out what I mean below:

A screenshot of me searching for "apple" and "joe fresh slip on sneaker" on Google.

Not only does the navigation order change to better suit what Google thinks I want to know (such as moving "Shopping" to the top of the list when I search for a shoe, but it also flickers quite a bit (note the quick change of navigation order after I search for "apple".

The former could be a winning case in that Google updates to help you find what you need, but the flicker is just messy. Its original state appears for long enough that I begin to organize and memorize the order of elements in my mind, just to have it change again.

I don't think I can use any of this in my current dilemma, but it's all interesting.

Inspiration: Tiffany Everyday Objects
They've done it again. Yet another haute couture trend I don't understand. I'm talking about Tiffany, the company with its own shade of greeny-blue and products so popular that you can find any number in a range of knockoffs (you haven't really made it until someone plagiarizes your style). They've just launched a collection of beautiful silver-and-blue items that are all replicas of cheap everyday objects like a paper plate, a crazy straw, a tin can (seriously) and lots more. Of course, the kicker is that these replicas are worth much, much more than their original counterparts, which I find slightly cheeky if nothing else.

This sterling replica of a paper plate is being sold for the price of 130,000 regular paper plates.

After all, this is a website that includes two separate navigational items for "jewelry" and "high jewelry" aka "you can't afford this".

I'm not really sure what to make of this line of items, but it feels as though the rich (or at least Tiffany designers) think that it's a novelty to experience life with the sorts of items a less fortunate person knows well, and not by choice. I can't put my finger on it, but something here feels a bit classist to me.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Alt-J, Witches & Fishy Alexa

Weekly Update 2017-44: Dreamy music from Alt-J, witches as the new symbol for feminism, and soldering an Amazon Alexa to a singing wall fish.

Music: Alt-J
I am counting down the days until Massey Hall closes its doors for two years of renovations by seeing as many shows as I possibly can there. One of those is English indie rock band Alt-J, who played two sold out performances on Friday and Saturday. Being the early-adopting hipster that I am, I was able to enjoy the Friday show, and what a show it was. The three musicians arrange themselves rather peculiarly onstage, along a row facing the audience, each on their own platform. There are series of lights between the platforms all the way to the ceiling, separating them by what is essentially walls of light. It makes for quite a light show.

Anyway, you probably know their music as they've become quite mainstream since winning the British Mercury Prize in 2012. In case not, check out Breezeblocks, Left Hand Free and Matilda.

Last week was full of small accomplishments that didn't add up to much in the end, unfortunately. For instance, I managed to make a nice trip home to visit my parents but we didn't get to relax and enjoy each others' company amidst the other catching up that needed doing. I also tried to dye my hair blue for my halloween costume, which ended up interesting but not the colour I needed for my costume. I managed to Bunz trade for a wig about 20 minutes before my halloween night began, but then didn't have the kind of night I was expecting to have.

All in all, everything got done. I did manage to visit The Green Room for one last drink before it closed yesterday. I can't believe that one of the classic bars of my youth is closing. I hear it's relocating to College, but the Annex is surely becoming something totally different than it once was.

I didn't get to do any writing last week, though I did do some soul searching to think about my next steps in building my Jewish identity. I'll be writing my reflection on my bat mitzvah this week.

One of my favourite events, the Bunz Flea is coming up tomorrow night. A whole hotel full of spooky artisans making cool stuff, all for trade. I feel almost like a travelling salesman when I attend these events, lugging all my wares along with me. But I usually find really cool stuff. And there's something about making a trade on the spot that's really thrilling.

I'm also hoping to check out the OCAD Yorkville Village Art Show in Hazelton Lanes this weekend. I've never seen anything like this in Hazelton lanes, so I am excited to see what's going to be there.

Random Thought: Being Witchy
Maybe it's the halloween in the air, but I've been noticing the higher-than-normal use of witch tropes in a positive light. It's almost like feminists are reclaiming the trope as something positive, which I am pretty excited about. The most recent episode of Broad City contained a whole sub-plot about women being witches in a coven, but in an empowering and positive, inclusive way.

Witches might be the ultimate feminists.

Maybe because we're living in a world of political turmoil where these topics are pretty much everywhere you look, it's easy to draw parallels between classic characters of the halloween season and the rapidly empowered women we are hearing about in the news every day, standing up for their rights and the rights of women around them. 

I especially love related ephemera like this vintage patch. I know it's a little extreme, but being a little edgy is funny. And I know women who could paralyze a man with their evil stare. Freaky.

Inspiration: Fishy Alexa
Ah, maker culture. Without it, we would never have...well, a bunch of things we probably don't need, but that bring a smile to our faces anyway. For example. Take an Amazon Alexa, a soldering iron and some know-how, and that old singing wall fish you got as a joke present. And what do you get?

Without maker culture, this never would have happened. There's no way a giant corporation would ever produce a singing wall fish that can be possessed by your smart home system. And if there were, I don't think I'd want to live in that world. I'm more that satisfied with the world in which this Fishy Alexa exists.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Twin Peaks, Process & Periods

Weekly Update 2017-43: Soulful sounds from Chicago band Twin Peaks, the move from aversion to acceptance of process work, and seeing periods depicted realistically in digital media.

Music: Twin Peaks
The most wonderful bout of garage rock popped into my Discover Weekly playlist last week. Amongst others was Twin Peaks out of Chicago. Their music has a lot of feeling to it and it just makes me happy. One of their singles, called Wanted You is especially soulful. I'd venture a guess that we've all experienced the sticky situation of unreciprocated feelings, and this song reflects the same vibe. It feels really honest and raw. I'd definitely suggest starting with that song (it's track 2 below).

I reflected and wrote a new post about my experiences from the communication workshop I've been taking for the past six weeks. Especially in a career where I work with all different types of people, this skill is becoming more and more important for me. It's really helped me focus a bit more on my oral communication skills and becoming more proactive on the spot. Anyway, if you want all the gory details, click here.

I've also made some medium-sized changes to the furniture layout in my room, for a few reasons:

  • I've had this idea for a while, but not sure if it would work out. I decided it wouldn't be too difficult to move back, so why not just try!
  • If it works, it will make the space in my room more efficient and hopefully stop me from piling too many clothes in one place (actively putting things back in their places)
  • Some change is good for the soul. I like controlled change; it acts as a reminder of positivity that I have some control in life (sounds dramatic)
I hope it works out. If not, something else to try!

This week I will be working on my Halloween costume, which includes making another medium-sized change. More on that to come. I've actually already started putting together the final pieces of my costume, and I'm pretty excited. I even have a cool secondary costume for the second of the two events my office is having on two different days, for some reason.

I'd also like to push out another blog post, keeping the reflection train rolling on through Bat Mitzvah town. Along that line, I want to think about how to continue my Jewish education in the near future and what that will look like in my life.

Random Thought: Process
One of the principles of design resides in the journey over the destination: understanding and building on process. Given the choice, any designer worth their salt will choose to read about a designer's process toward creating something than read about the final product itself. Of course the final product is important, but I am wildly obsessed with process these days. Maybe it's the new creative environment I'm in, but I've been trying to work out these ways of doing things and different ways of looking at or solving a problem.

I feel like there is a shifting (but still present) stigma away from a very recent aversion to process, or the act of learning about another creative's process. It was like sausage meat. “Just give me the end product, I don't want to see where it came from”. It's certainly simpler to think of design that way. Many end users never consider the fact that things they use every day were designed by someone. Looking inwardly in my community, I can still see remnants of that stigma on Dribbble, where some designers will still shy away from the challenge of solving a problem in any meaningful way for the user. In turn, commenters rarely inquire after process work, very few even manage much more than a couple of positive-sounding words.

I really enjoyed this video of how Kevin Parker, main songwriter for Tame Impala, creates music from a fabulous beachy apartment. Of course I do love this band to pieces, but to see how he layers music over itself and basically spends what I read as a “day” is mesmerizing.

~ 2min.

Inspiration: Bloody, Bloody Periods
I'm not usually so brashly-voiced on my blog, but yeah, women bleed from their vaginas every four weeks. No, I don't need to yell it from the rooftops, but it is something that we've decided is taboo enough to exclude from pretty much any form of media presence there is. Even advertisements for sanitary products, whose only purpose is to interact with the bloody mess so we don't have to, feature a weird blue substance (does anyone think that's what menstrual fluid is supposed to look like?) or sometimes no substance at all. We use our collective imagination. It's kind of insane.

Not to mention the gender imbalance here; no, men don't have to deal with periods, but yes, they should be educated on them and not be taught from a young age to view them as disgusting or unspeakable or (perish the thought) a sign of weakness.

And so, in these times what-are-a-changin', I bring you the first UK-based advertisement for a pad to show real menstrual blood. And I'm not warning you because there's nothing gross about it. It's empowering and uplifting and normalizes the period into what it is, a truly normal thing. (In the sense that many people have had periods before us, and many will have periods after we are gone).

The creator, Bodyform, states that it's not actually menstrual blood (for health and safety reasons), but it's a giant step in the right direction for the normalization of (already normal) human bodily functions. No body-shaming here! Read more about the campaign here.

How To Talk To People About Things

You may have read previously on my blog that I've been participating in an weekly evening communication workshop. I first heard about this very special class through Trampoline Hall, a monthly barroom lecture series with quite a rowdy Q&A period moderated by Misha Glouberman. His ability to read the audience and run the series is impeccable, often helping speakers through tough audience questions or digging into their chosen topic for deeper meaning.

Like any good businessperson, Misha cross-advertises a communication workshop that he runs through the newsletter of Trampoline Hall. Which worked very well for my roommate and me, since we were both lucky enough to take the class over six Tuesday evenings this Fall.

I took the class because I wanted to work on my negotiation skills. I feel that I communicate best on paper, but not as well in the moment. The class taught me many skills to keep in my toolbelt to prepare for negotiation, including how to know when to use those skills in the moment. I also learned that negotiation the process or setting of negotiation plays a big part. For example, I have influence to control the negotiation in the medium of my choosing, which can be over email or some other form of written word. Of course, that's not always possible, so there were lots of interesting cases and examples to study to understand how to work the current moment.

Read on for more detail than you ever asked for...

Class #1

We played an interesting exercise in which we pretended we were competing companies selling an object called The Pepulator. Without conversing with each other except for a quick 5 minutes in the middle of the exercise, we had to price our pepulators on a monthly basis to try to get the maximum profit possible. Since we couldn't converse with our counterparts to make an agreement on a staying at a higher price to provide more profit for both companies, we stayed at the lowest amount possible and neither company made as much profit as they could have.

The exercise was meant to show that in most situations, communication isn't necessary but certainly makes it easier for both sides to get what they want. And so we understood the theme of the class: being about effectively work with your counterpart to achieve something that both parties can be happy with. Of course, that can't work 100% of the time, but it's always worth trying.

We also discussed the notion of how trust is built up between two people. It involves a goal of high substance, and also of a quality relationship with your counterpart. If you only have one of those in mind, it'll be hard to get on the same page. If you have neither, there is no trust at all.
  • hearing a "no" in the short-term may feel like a loss but can actually lead to a future "yes"
    • the same goes for hearing a "yes" too early, you may still have some work to do...
  • try to assess the risk of striving for perfect substance and relationship - will it be possible/worthwhile to try to achieve with your counterpart?
  • be upfront about what you want, and ask the same of your counterpart
At the end of the class, we all made a commitment to be open and participatory throughout the coming weeks (both inside the class, and outside where we would try out these tools on people in our lives).

Class #2

Negotiation Concepts:
  1. Understand Interests
    - Position
    : what people ask for
    - Interest: why they're asking for it (focus on figuring this out)

    Two girls are fighting over an orange. Their dad breaks it up but cutting the orange in half and giving each half to each sister. This was useless to both girls because one needed the rind for a cake, and the other needed the flesh for orange juice.

    Identify your categories of interest:
    - common
    - differing (but not conflicting)
    - conflicting
    This tactic is your surface discovery, understanding what both sides want.

    By understanding interest, you can...
  2. Invent Options for Mutual Gain or Expand the Pie
    - focus on the maximum possible value for both parties, creating it instead of giving to or taking from the other person
    - this is where your creative hat goes on
  3. BATNA best alternative to negotiated agreement
    - discover and weigh all your possible alternatives to the agreement
    - know that your counterpart could also have alternatives, and discover those as well to better prepare for them
  4. Legitimacy/Benchmarks
    - what's fair to both parties?
    - are there external standards we can consult?
    - can we bring in a 3rd party to mediate?
We then played another exercise, involving roleplaying one of either the agent for opera singer Sally Soprano, or the representative for an opera company putting on a play. This play had a famous star playing the female lead, who had to drop out unexpectedly. The opera company had a couple choices to fill the role, but Sally is their first pick. Sally is worried that she is getting older and has already seen her golden years.

The two parties have to converse to strike some sort of deal, and neither knows the personal information or feelings of the other. In the end, as we communicated with each other in our role-playing exercise, we realized that our goals were not conflicting and we could both easily have what we wanted. The opera company wanted Sally for the role for a fair (but not too large) price, and Sally just wanted back into the spotlight. She had little need for a big paycheque, and the two were able to come to an understanding in pretty much every instance in the class.

Both parties:
  • were honest with each other at the start and didn't try to keep anything hidden
  • initiated/responded to trust and began to build an agreement that was equally beneficial to both
  • found value in the partnership beyond money (mentorship, fame, clout, popularity, improvement of the craft of opera)

Class #3

Misha told us an interesting story in which he moved in to an apartment only two weeks before a loud bar became his neighbour. He would often call or speak with the workers in person to ask that the music be turned down, and they would rarely comply. Soon enough he edged further and further to crazy and went to city hall to see what could be done on the legal side. Which was nothing. 

Eventually he caught wind that the bar was going to open a patio, which they would need community agreement in order to build. Misha saw this as his opportunity to gain some leverage, so he gathered his other neighbours (many of whom were as disgruntled as himself) and together they gathered so many signatures on a petition that they were successful in stopping the bar from being able to build the patio. In the midst of their new success, the city councillor asked them to step back into a room with the bar owners and listen to a possible approach that could benefit both sides even more. 

The neighbours were at first unwilling to listen to the councillor, but soon reconsidered since it would cost them nothing to listen, especially since they now had the upper hand. The councillor suggested that the patio permit be given to the bar owner on the condition that they would keep the noise down. Any further noise complaints from neighbours now actually had some weight to them: the bar would lose its patio license. Since the neighbours wouldn't really gain anything from the bar losing its patio (i.e. the bar would still keep them up at night with its music), the neighbours agreed and everyone got what they wanted. Apparently the bar owners never wanted the music so loud either, but they were simply bad at communicating volume needs to rowdy performing DJs.
  • Misha being nice to the bar workers at first, in hopes that they would do what he wanted, was focusing all on relationship and none on substance
  • When that failed, he moved right from relationship to the other side of substance, all the way across the scale (rallying neighbours against the bar)
  • Going to City Hall was Misha's BATNA, but it proved useless the first time
  • The patio plans gave Misha an opportunity to explore a better BATNA (rallying against that)
  • People value what they create together (i.e. the city councillor - mediator - bringing both sides together to create a better outcome)
Negotiation Concepts Continued:
  1. Discovering Interests
    Share your interests before inventing options (so you invent the correct ones)
    Ask things like "why is that important to you"?
    Share your interests and then ask for theirs
    Share your understanding of their interests and ask what's missing
    Use reciprocal disclosure to build trust and momentum
  2. Finding External Options
    Suspend commitment and evaluation while looking for a way for both to win
  3. BATNA
    Be aware of your BATNA and try to know theirs too
    Do not accept a negotiated agreement if your BATNA is better
    Strengthen your negotiation position by improving your BATNA
  4. Legitimacy
    Be prepared with outside information/tools to strengthen your case
  5. Communication
    Sit on the same side of the table, show you're working together
  6. Relationship
    Substance AND Relationship
  7. Commitment
    To the agreed upon outcome, from both sides
Curiosity & Transparency
  • listening
  • asking good questions
  • transferring information from the counterpart to me
  • being honest/upfront
  • inspiring trust
  • transferring information from me to the counterpart
Good communication requires both curiosity and transparency.

It is in your best interest to listen!

  • get over the many reasons for not listening to your counterpart like
    • focusing on yourself/what you're going to say
    • interrupting/discounting them
  • even if the other person is your enemy, you can use what they say to build a case against their wishes
In a negotiation where your counterpart isn't listening to you, don't try to keep explaining. This is when you should be listening more to their point of view, so that you can understand them and find points of common ground/mutual understanding.

Control Vs Influence
What We Control
  • how we behave
  • how we allow others to persuade us
What We Influence
  • behaviour of others
  • the process of negotiation
  • our relationship to the counterpart
  • the results of the negotiation
Try to focus on what you control moreso than what you influence.

Negotiate The Negotiation Process Itself
Who's involved? What are we discussing? When and where?
Do we agree on why this conversation is being had?

Say: "I want to share my concerns with you"
Don't Say: "Stop what you're doing and talk to me!"

The time and place of the negotiation process is not something we can always control, but we should try to create an environment that is conducive to both parties. If your counterpart is demanding your attention and you need more time, you can usually find a way to excuse yourself. Say you're going to the bathroom or taking a call.

Class #4

Four Communication Skills
  1. Inquiry
    Ask questions, learn information that will help you negotiate
  2. Paraphrase
    Summarize what your counterpart said so they know you've heard them
    Could work well as a question, asking if you've gotten it right
  3. Acknowledgement
    of their thoughts/views/feelings (without agreeing necessarily)
    try to move from BUT to AND
  4. Advocacy
    explaining your point of view
Try to keep away from advocacy. You may have different views of what happened, and both think the other person is wrong. It's not about who's right so much as a question: "Why do we see things differently?" Move away from winners/losers, you both can work collaboratively.

Ladder of Inference
We don't see the world as it is, but a lens based on our experiences. We filter and select information, moving more and more into areas that are not necessarily reality.

Try to stay away from assigning blame as the goal of your negotiation. Instead of focusing on the past, focus on the future of learning and improvement.

Know that when people do things, we assume intent but all we know is impact. It's possible that their intent was not the impact at all.

We then played an exercise in which we roleplayed one of either a manager of a company that develops video game software, or the female employee who has just been promoted to head of a department. The manager has chosen to give this prized project, the creation of a casino game, to the new, somewhat untested department head because she will have the opportunity to succeed and gain the respect of her peers. In the end, the project went poorly due to a series of factors, involving the manager not playing enough of a mentorship role and the department head not accepting help from her coworkers because she felt they were being sexist (she is the only female in that role).

The two parties have to converse to discuss the department head's performance now that the project is complete, and it becomes clear that neither party has all the information. The manager is unaware of the sexist comments and general exclusive nature of the other department heads, and the department head thinks she was doing her best without much in the way of instruction. Basically, there is a story that each person has in their mind about what happened, with a lot of inference and assumption, and when the two people come together to discuss, they come to a new understanding of what happened.

Class #5

Negotiating the Process
It's like having a meta-negotiation about the process itself. In order for the negotiation to succeed, both parties must agree on the process. Use the same steps that you would in a normal negotiation. Ask questions and be transparent. Ask if now is a good time to have the negotiation. If not, ask if there's a better time, or why this time doesn't work. There may be a separate interest from the position the counterpart takes, that they're not saying.

Third Story
We're both in a difficult situation that we'd like to get out of.
  1. Your Story (contains at least a little assumption and may be at any level of the ladder of inference)
  2. Their Story (also probably contains some assumption)
  3. Third Story
The third story is one that you create together with your counterpart. You both reach an understanding and uncover facts that were missing before you started the conversation. This will allow you to create a solution to the problem together, and in a way that works for both of you.

We then played an exercise using this third story. There are three rounds, with two roles for each. Let's call the two participants A and B. A has a negotiation coming up, and needs to prepare for it.

Round One: B interviews A about the negotiation
Round Two: A interviews B, with B playing the role of A's future counterpart
Round Three: A and B act out the negotiation, with A playing the future role of their counterpart and B playing A's future role

Class #6

My classmates had wonderful examples of how they'd attempted to use the class tools in situations in the past week.
  • one person laid the cards on the table by bringing up an issue that their counterpart might be thinking about, and reassured them that it wouldn't factor into their work
  • one person overprepared with a bunch of options, but only needed the first thing they prepared (this shows that we actually can prepare the first thing we are going to say)
  • one person did their best to stay in the data pool (without climbing the ladder of inference)
  • one person admitted that they were wrong about something right at the start of the conversation (which inspired trust from their counterpart)
  • one person began by agreeing on the process ("This is a thing that's happening. Can we talk about it now?")
  • one person was upfront about something that would put them in a better light in their counterpart's eyes (why not!)
What happens when emotions are high?
How do you handle a difficult conversation when your, their, or both of your emotions are high? You go into reaction mode, the conversation becomes less about curiosity than winning or losing. You're not your best self and you're unable to see the situation from outside of it.

What doesn't work?
Avoiding the subject, repeating your case over and over, or being passive-aggressive all don't usually work in a situation like that.

What can work?
De-escalating the issue is the key here. Try to find a way to take a break, even if it's your counterpart who needs the break. You might have to make an excuse like a bathroom break. You may want to get a mediator involved, or even try to acknowledge both of your emotions to try to control them again. Repeat your mantra: "there is a third story here". Stay away from attributes like "always" or "never". Note that you're too upset to negotiate when these rules start to seem stupid to you. You can even try setting a goal at the start and ensuring it doesn't change.

What happens when they don't want to talk?
Try to find out why not.
Maybe they're too important to talk to you, or don't respect you. Or maybe they think they know what you're going to say.

What can work?
Give them a reason why they should care about what you have to say. It may not be the same reason you want to talk to them. Ask them why they don't want to talk to you, and try to match their communication style. Perhaps they would prefer you email them, or talk to you another time. If all else fails, find a BATNA.

What happens when there's a power imbalance?
Such as a parent, teacher, boss, landlord, doctor etc.
No matter what the outcome could be, it's important to stay calm and be curious and transparent. Try to say what's on your mind and even negotiate the process to skew the power a little more to your favour. Focus on their interests to get them to inch toward yours.

Overall: The thing I will remember most from this class is that it takes two to tango, and that both sides need to understand the other and work together to find a true solution that will suit both sides. 

The Most Important Thing: Listen more. It will almost always benefit you to listen to the other person.