September 14, 2016

Poem: Midlands September

Photo illustration by S. King. Mosquito image credits.
Some day soon
Mosquitoes will lie dormant
And the water in the air
Will retreat
To clouds, lakes, and rivers.

Some day soon
I will walk outside
And my shirt will not
Stick to my back and chest.

Some day soon
A breeze will make me shiver
And I will open
Every window in my house
To let it in.

Some day soon
Summer's tyranny will end
And we will dance in the streets,
Wearing jeans,
Rejoicing in the victory of Fall.

September 11, 2016

Creating a weekly family schedule

My husband and I both work full-time and we have two elementary-age kids. This means that our life can get pretty busy sometimes, what with everyone's activities, obligations, doctor appointments, etc.

Several months ago, my husband wished for a way to organize our chaotic schedules, to have a big-picture idea of what was coming instead of just being unpleasantly surprised by his phone alerting him that David has a basketball game across town in 15 minutes. Synced smart-phone calendars help, but they don't do a very good job of giving all four of us a picture of what our week will look like.

In the past, we'd also had laminated chore charts on the fridge so we could check off everyday chores. He wanted to bring those back, too, so I took it up as a design challenge to save fridge space and combine the two: weekly calendar and daily chore chart. After all, I'm a graphic designer turned UX specialist. This sort of thing ought to be right in my wheelhouse!

After several iterations, here is what I came up with. This is an example of a weekly schedule from a few months ago.

Here are some of the notable features of this design:

  • Only 4 activities fit on each day, a reminder that it's just not realistic to try and do too much in one day.
  • The schedule begins on Monday, because that's how we think of our weeks: five days of school/work followed by two days of weekend. Also, some events go across the whole weekend and having Saturday and Sunday next to each other makes it easier to show that.
  • The chores can be changed each week when I print out the new schedule. For example, this week I added making & delivering a cake to the chores. 
  • Originally, I had initials next to each chore showing who was supposed to do what. I ended up getting rid of those because everyone already knows which chores are theirs.
  • We can use this schedule to plan meals for the week, seeing ahead of time which days we'll have a lot of time for cooking and which days will be 'Leftovers a la Microwave.' If I were a terribly organized sort of person, I might even add the menu to the schedule (but I'm not, so I won't).
  • Even the youngest member of the family can easily see which days are busy and which are not, especially useful if you want to know when you can invite a friend to come over.
I'm still working on the design of the weekly schedule, refining features based on user feedback. For example, I'm experimenting with the best way to display multi-day events like the camping trip shown here (especially tricky since this has to work in print, not just on the screen).

I'd love to hear any feedback you have on this design, especially any ideas for improving it!

July 23, 2016

Poem: Spartanburg Dim

I wrote this poem a few months ago, but waited too long to post it, and now it's no longer relevant. However, I still think it's pretty good, so I'm posting it anyway. While Spartanburg, SC may have slain their dragon at the polls, there are plenty of other places across the USA where the advice in the last four lines still applies.

aerial view of Spartanburg, SC

The town is plain, unadorned
A model of the civic norm.
But look: inside
Its borders something hides.
Stupidity is sheltered there,
Ignorance has made its lair.
It sprawls, it rules,
It gibbers, shouts, and drools.
The light of knowledge flickers dim,
A brown-out of the brain within
This town. But wait,
It's spread across the state!
The people there have set it loose
To grow, breed, reproduce.
Who can suppress
This plague of foolishness?
Just like a fungus, like a mold
It's taken root and taken hold.
Look out! Despair!
The crazy's everywhere.
The folks back home now hold the key
To break the spell and set us free:
One man, one vote.
And while I breathe, I hope.