you write as well as ever you did

November 26, 2006

Sigh, the very last day of a 4 1/2 day vacation.

I've made fairly decent use of it, catching up on some correspondence, having various get-togethers with friends, ripping CDs, watching movies, improving kisrael's "backend" systems, spending time with Ksenia, playing with the Nintendo Wii, but still... it's never quite enough time..

Anecdote of the Moment
An author was boring Howells with his efforts to extract a compliment from him. "I don't seem to write as well as I used to," said the man fretfully. "Oh, yes, you do," said Howells reassuringly. "You write as well as ever you did. But your taste is improving."

--from Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes' entry on William Dean Howells. Sometimes I think I'm pretty much in that author's place.

Technology Gripe of the Moment
This is an ATM we have at my office building. You insert your card magnetic stripe down, as the picture indicates, but every time I use the machine I have to stop and think about it. I finally realized why: it's a matter of perspective. From where I'm standing, I can't see the damn stripe on the actual card as it is being properly inserted, but the drawing is from a toddler's-eye perspective in order to show the stripe directly.

I have a similar problem with the parking receipt reader at Porter Exchange. There they have a bit of homebrew workaround, some helpful person taped a spare ticket up and drew some arrows.

It's not easy to design hardware that implicitly suggests where the stripe goes, though on some swipe machines the side with the embedded reader is much lumpier than the other. (Not that I think people are likely to construct that kind of physical model in their head.) So the onus is on the people making the diagrams, and I think they should always try to match the perspective of the person using the machine (Err, ok, of people in the middle 90% of the height bellcurve,) even if it means having to fake a picture of the front of the card (heh... too bad XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX and ####-####-####-### both have total symmetry!) rather than the conceptually more important and visually stronger magnetic stripe.

(Tangent: does my difficulty realizing I need to change perspective mean I'm less of a 3D/Visual thinker? And does my atrocious spelling mean I'm more or less of a "audio" thinker? It's odd to me that I'm not sure what the implications of certain cognitive difficulties are.)