Cycle count

Hearing aids: left, right. Disposable batteries lasting two days each.

A tiny Bluetooth remote + condenser mic paired to three devices, as well as both hearing aids. Rechargeable battery somehow lasts for 10-14 hours (depending on how desperately I claw at those radios).

An iPhone whose battery is always drained 18 hours later. iPhones are for people with short days and simple lives.

An iPad. Sucker can hold a charge. I use it for reading and writing. It is a screen for words, and words are what we have. Also, the iPad’s little keyboard, which has disposable batteries that change with the seasons.

A Macbook Pro. Several golden hours. Many more if I’m just looking at the computer rather than doing anything with it.

A Nintendo 3DS. Rechargeable battery, good for four hours or so. More than I ever play, these days. More than enough for a trip through the cataclysmic end of a pocket universe. Last days, last rites. This world collapses and is not rebuilt, again and again.

A small faceless watch (also pedometer and sleep tracker). Disposable battery lasting about two months.

Living with these devices means that I take a short midnight stroll around the house before bed, setting small, expensive objects in place and plugging them into various chargers. It means I have a nest of whatever-to-USB cables that I drag with me when on the road.

Because of these objects I can speak with the people around me and the people far away from me. I can make things, and try to understand and explain them. I can listen to music. That’s good enough for me, and I am grateful for them.

Because of these objects I am reminded that we are all set against the clock; that we can be renewed, albeit temporarily; and that we can only do what we do a certain number of times before the possibility for renewal is itself depleted.

And I suppose am grateful for that, too.

The blue and the green

Noted without comment:

There is only one crime, in the local sense, and that is not to turn blue, if the gods are blue: but, in the universal sense, the one crime is not to turn the gods themselves green, if you’re green.

From Charles Fort’s The Book of the Damned.

Hello, Koné Consulting

TRIZ is a half-hour scavenger hunt for things a system is doing that are actively keeping it from serving its purpose or intent. It’s one of the greatest liberating structures. In TRIZ, a group will:

  1. come up with processes or methods to consistently ensure an unwanted outcome (e.g. sales prospects are lost, all patients are infected, each software release has errors);
  2. think about things they are already doing that resemble the methods devised in the previous step; and
  3. figure out how to stop doing those things.

TRIZ is always funny, sometimes terrifying, and often directly useful. I rely on it for software products. Rather than making “usability improvements” or adding speculative features based on inadequate research, TRIZ helps me find aspects of a product that actively frustrate and defeat customers so I can yank those suckers out.

Controlled burn

I closed Different Chairs in order to make room for something else. Too many aspects of being a sole proprietor kept me from creating the experiences I wanted my clients to have.

In order to do better work, I had to find great people to work with, and, somehow, I fell in with the best. I’ve joined my friends, co-conspirators (and, now, colleagues) at Koné Consulting.

Forget chairs, let’s look at the whole damn table:


It’s a tiny, distributed group; we work remotely. But when we gather in person now and again, this is the inevitable configuration.

What does this mean?

For existing clients, this is all old news: I’ve been working to ensure continuity for those that want it.

For everybody else — well, it’s simple. It means that when you ask for help, or work with a product I make, or we sit down to figure out something tricky, you don’t just get me, even if it’s only the two of us at the table. You get Alicia’s commitment to quality and humanity, Sharon’s ability to create space for decision-making, Christina’s talent for taking care of any problem, Alicia H.’s focused execution, Devin’s rolled-up sleeves, André’s unlimited energy and relaxed discernment, and whatever scattershot nonsense it is I scrabble together. If that’s not Voltron, it’s at least the Sea Team.

And for me? Means I’m feeling lucky. These people make my work better in all the most difficult ways: by opening space for action and contemplation; by challenging me to keep that spring in my step; and (the hardest one) by actually helping me become a better person.

Please enjoy this photograph of a beautiful location at sunset.


Goodbye, Different Chairs

It’s been an interesting eight years.

I started Different Chairs after finishing grad school in the Potemkin village of Ann Arbor, Michigan. I didn’t know what I was doing; I made mistakes continuously. Wherever it was possible to do something wrong, I did, and maybe half of the time I managed to learn from it and improve my work.

Here’s one thing about running a small business: it’s never easy, although it’s sometimes good. Here’s the other thing: even a sole proprietor can only be as successful as the people whose support, collaboration, and friendship make it all possible. You know who you are. Yes, you. I don’t say it often enough, but I’ll say it now: thank you.

In the end, I solved problems. I made clients happy. I treasure every moment of it, even those I won’t miss. Today’s the last day of Different Chairs, and tomorrow is the first day of what’s next.







Pardon my feeds

Programming note: I’ve added articles from the Different Chairs journal to this site, and adjusted feeds and links accordingly.

If there’s any dust, remember that this (plus earth, air, and a touch of flame) is all you need to make a world.

Any physical thing

Ten years ago today, a colleague said, by way of explanation, in a meeting of people talking about software under fluorescent lights:

“An object is any physical thing in the directory.”

The person was referring to a software construct and its relationship to another software construct. It was just a passing comment, and I don’t remember the intent of the meeting or its outcome. (Given the organization, let’s assume the meeting had no purpose and that we did not meet it.) But I do remember writing the remark down, and mulling it over, and knowing that I was ready to move on; it wasn’t long before I’d quit that job and started things that were at least different and possibly even better. That said, I sometimes find myself returning to that phrase, while waiting for a train to arrive or a phone call to end: What is an object? Any physical thing. Where do you find such physical things? In the directory. What is the directory? — and so forth, until the train whistles or the call is finished and it’s time to move on to the next physical thing.