Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Locked-In Syndrome Movie

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
DVD Release 4/29/08

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" movie is based on a book by the same name about which I wrote extensively on 11/30/07 (see archives.) The book's author, Jean-Dominique Bauby writes about his experience with Locked-In Syndrome after a stroke at age 43 years of age. This syndrome is characterized by complete body paralysis and inability to speak. The challenge is how to communicate. People around Bauby must first recognize that he is actually mentally intact in his body, then a system must be found that will enable him to express himself.

Of special signifcance in my original post was mention of two individuals living today who know first hand what a diagnosis of Locked-In Syndrome means to their life. I since have noted a third here, but there are likely more. This sudden circumstance presents the communication challenge which these people have faced with varying success in overcoming (not all can) :
  • a New Jersey, U.S.A. husband and father, Steve Chiappa, in 2001,
  • a young mother Glenda Hickey in 2000 of Alberta, Canada, as noted in these links to ABC News stories
  • a New Zealand Rugby player, Nick Chisholm, since 2000 in a BMJournal report.
I read Bauby's book when it was first published, then followed with intense interest the progress of the book to movie screen a few years later. "Diving Bell..." had limited theater release last year beginning with that end of ' 07 release date. Now the DVD is available.

I expressed some concern last November about whether or not the book's translation to the screen would aptly represent Bauby's story, since I have often been disappointed with other books' movie versions. I wrote I would comment on that matter once I viewed the film.

I had an opportunity to view this movie some time ago prior to the earlier Academy Awards ceremony. I was quite pleased with the production and can unequivocably recommend the film for viewing. I thought the movie portrayed Bauby's experience in such a way as to convey the unique happiness and joy he was able to create for himself within his limitations.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, awarded the film's director, Julian Schnabel an Oscar. (Correction: thanks to OldOld Lady of the Hills at "Here In The Hills": Schnabel was nominated for an Oscar but did not win.) Other awards for the film preceded that nomination including a Golden Globe as Best Director and Best Foreign Language Film. Read Chris Cabin's review at "Filmcritic.com"

The movie trailer can be seen at this Moviefone link.

The following comments will be most fully appreciated after reading my earlier post referenced above or even viewing the film.

I was able to immerse myself in this movie's story which features French dialogue augmented by English subtitles. The visual effects were especially significant in their ability to convey Bauby's perspective. I experienced simultaneously with him awakening to the fog-like gradually whitening light he sees when he first emerges from his stroke-caused coma. He sees a world that is startling to him as slowly human figures assume a more clearly defined presence, then he hears their voices offering information orienting him to his situation. This is his beginning to derive meaning from his surroundings, establish his new reality.

Medical personnel begin with accepted informal testing procedures to examine every facet of his functioning, including senses, motor skills for movement. Can he hear? Does he understand the words he is hearing? Is he able to speak? What body movements does he have? If he can't talk, is there some other way in which he can communicate? Is it possible to somehow devise a system using questions that require some sort of yes or no response, but with no spoken words? Could he possibly use a system that doesn't require speaking to actually designate words, then put words into sentences for complex thoughts? These questions were only a few of many that are asked, but require in depth exploration over a lengthy time period to determine whether or not he still has any of these skills.

Incorporated into this film are details of his life prior to his stroke with scenes integrated through the means of flashbacks. We become acquainted through his own recollections of complicated factual aspects of his personal life with his children, their mother, his father, his own psychological reckoning with his circumstances. His attitude, emotionality, and effects on behaviors, feelings of others are an integral part of this movie's story, his life story.

He perceives his paralyzed virtually motionless body as being beyond his control alone in a sea; envisioned like a heavily leaden-weighted deep-sea diver, sinking to the ocean bottom much as a diving bell. Ultimately, he realizes his mind is free as he imaginatively visualizes a world, desired activities, people, places in which he flits about much as a butterfly.

I, personally, find Bauby's story-telling of his life experience illustrative of possibilities in such a physically limiting life situation. I recommend this movie not only for that reason, but because I experienced the film overall as a pleasure to view. I do want to add a few thoughts that came to my mind as I watched the movie.

1. I think the film story may have minimized one important facet I recalled Bauby writing in his book. He reported that initially, for some period of time, he was presumed by many, including some medical professionals, to be a mental "vegetable" by virtue of the fact he was perceived as being unable to talk. He wrote about overhearing discussions by some staff to that effect, the anger and frustration he felt but could not express. He even mentioned being subjected to discussion with words to the effect that perhaps his life could be allowed to end since he was just a vegetable, anyway. My impression from reading the book was that he had a much longer period of such awareness and the medical staff were much slower to establish his mental capabilities than evidenced in the film.

I believe that communication issue is of singular importance to everyone, family members, friends, medical personnel. We should all keep in mind that just because someone is without speech, or gesture, assuming the individual is incapable of understanding could be a tragic mistake. By the same token we cannot assume that everyone who does not speak, understands everything they see and hear. Obviously, a determination of the situation must be carefully made.

2. The scene where Bauby is asked short yes and no questions beginning with the most simple such as, are you a man, are you a woman, etc. did accurately reflect how insulted he felt. He did not understand the need for what he perceived as demeaning questions. A few individual patients and some family members who overhear this sort of questioning can become quite irate, even despite having received explanatory information about the necessity for questions at such a basic level.

Establishing the level at which someone is able to understand after any sort of possible life altering brain event is a very delicate process in which you can never assume any individual continues to function as they did before. In the beginning under those circumstances, querying anyone with higher level questions i.e. do cats bark, do dogs meow, can be highly demoralizing to someone who is suddenly shocked with the realization they should know the correct answer, but now they don't. Some are so embarrassed, they pretend, and guess. Keep in mind there's a 50-50 chance of getting the right answer with a guess in yes/no questions.

3. Such instant establishment of someone's ability to understand all words said to them with just one or two basic yes/no questions as depicted in the movie, is generally not likely. There's a gradation of question complexity.

4. A patient being given a choice of visitors is good. There can be situations where a patient's choice to not see select people might not be in that same patient's best interest and an effort to circumvent their expressed choice might be better -- at least one time. But care must be taken since as individuals we do have the right to make choices.

5. There were probably more interventions before the alphabet card was introduced and having him spell words -- including introduction of words to see if he could read them, then sentences and more. But, that would have been tedious to include all that in the movie.

6. His imagination and memory were not paralyzed nor was his ability to blink his left eye which they established. We cannot always assume these functions are fully intact with someone.

7. Humor was an integral part of his recovery. There is a scene with a telephone man who couldn't understand how a man who couldn't talk could use a telephone, followed by a funny comment about which Bauby laughed -- in his mind. I believe humor is essential for all.

I would especially welcome the comments of any others who view this film, have read the book, or find this subject to be of interest.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Movie "21" Memory/Hawaii Kilauea Volcano

Hawaii Trade Winds Not Blowing Out Volcano Gases For 2nd Time
Volcano National Park had to be evacuated earlier this week for a rare second time on 4/23/08 United Press reports at
"Federal News Radio." Big Island's Kilauea Volcano has continued to spew its sulphuric gases, but the trade winds have failed to blow out the noxious fumes their news reports. Volcano National Park Officials are also quoted there, saying they're in contact with the National Weather Service and "...look forward to favorable winds by week's end." The link above provides additional information. My earlier blog posts this past week regarding Pele and the recent volcanic eruption provide links and information regarding the first evacuation which also included surrounding communities.

"21" Movie Stimulates Vegas Card Gambling Memory

I decided to take advantage of the special early afternoon rate to go to the movies recently and received the added bonus of a memory being stimulated. I've been so pleased our community finally has our own five screen theater complex again. Our previous theater closed some thirty years ago. I've been taking advantage periodically of viewing offerings of featured independent films I've looked forward to seeing. Often these are the films that never are shown in our surrounding communities more commercial movie houses.

One such film was the subject of an extensive post I wrote here earlier about "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." I was able to watch that film prior to the Academy Awards and will write next time about the eminent DVD release.

The movie theater drama I recently viewed, "21," is inspired by real events in which six MIT students undertake making a financial killing in Las Vegas by card counting -- a practice not welcomed there. The cast includes Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Laurence Fishburne, Kevin Spacey and others. If you're curious to see some scenes, read more about the storyline, and where it was filmed, I suggest you follow the link on the title above. I enjoyed the movie and left the theater feeling not only well entertained but in possession of a long ago forgotten memory.

Memories can be triggered in the most unexpected ways and at equally surprising times is a fact of which I've become more aware in recent years. This movie reminded me of those early college years, fellow student friends and acquaintances with whom I long ago ceased to have contact. Some full names I now remember, others are just shortened surnames by which the individuals were known, but I won't include them here.

The story as I first heard it was that two older students newly admitted from out of state had been talking about the possibility of devising a plan whereby they could beat a certain card game and win a lot of money gambling. Most of us just assumed this was the type of ideas fun talk that abounds on campuses but rarely goes beyond that stage. As the year progressed, however, these students were said to have progressed from talk to actually developing a system to enable them to win. Even then, those who heard the story concluded the system would likely not prove to be consistently successful beyond sport gambling in their dormitory.

Winter session passed and the spring session in the new year was coming to a close. Renewed rumors circulated in certain campus circles that the two students most specifically known as the brains behind this plan had actually come up with a system they and others, including a friend of mine, were increasingly confident would succeed. Furthermore, they were so convinced their system would work they were going to try it out in Las Vegas and win their fortunes.

None of us really thought such a trip would materialize into actual reality as the school year ended. Most of my friends left campus but I remained, attending summer school in an accelerated effort to hasten my graduation. The fall sessions began and my friend had not returned to the campus, so some of us began to ask questions about where they were. Eventually, someone purported to know that they had actually gone to Vegas, but that was all anyone knew. As the days, weeks, then a month or two went by we could only wonder if they had really gone to Vegas?

Questions abounded in our minds. Were they busy practicing their system as we spoke, accumulating thousands and thousands of dollars? Had they already won a lot of money, left the city and were now traveling all over the country, or even the world? I don't recall that we ever considered any of them might have incurred any actual physical harm from this venture, much less that anyone would figure out they had a system. I wonder if they considered all that in their planning? Of course we did know organized crime supposedly was in control of the casinos, if not the city, but surely these gangsters wouldn't be too hard on a few young clean cut college boys just having fun.

In the 1950s the rapid communication with cell phones and inexpensive calling long distances of today was not present. Long distance calling by the average person was usually done only in a case of emergency -- somebody died. So none of us really expected to hear from our former classmates right away and we didn't. In fact, we also wondered if maybe they might just go off to college somewhere else later and we'd never hear from them again.

Then, one late fall day I checked my campus mail box and found a letter that resolved the unanswered questions about my friend. He wrote me describing a much less exciting scenario of events than any of us had considered. He had gone to Vegas, but had not even been able to attempt to use the "system" as authorities had determined he was underage, and threw him out of the casino, so he never even got to gamble.

He wrote he had used his session's tuition money for this unsuccessful excursion which was less than pleasing to his father. Left without adequate tuition funds and to his own devices he had concluded the best thing he could do was join the Air Force which he had done. He was completing basic training at the time of his letter. I don't recall what, if anything, he said about any others who went to Vegas or what happened to them. I'm sure I would have answered his letter, but we didn't keep up a correspondence as I recall.

Many years later I happened to notice his name in an alumni magazine where he had updated his status. He had taken a position teaching at a university, having completed his undergraduate studies, then earning a doctorate after completing his Air Force enlistment term of duty. He was married and had a family.

Isn't it fascinating how memories are triggered? I wonder what other memories are waiting to emerge in the future?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day ' 08 /// Elderblogger Survey

Celebrate Earth Day 2008 -- today 4/22/08 and throughout the year -- check out the link.

Participate in the Elderblogger Survey about which you may read with this link to "Time Goes By."

Bloggers and blog readers age 50 and older are invited to participate in this survey that will be open until May 1st.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pele Dances On With Usual Steps

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Hawaiian Volcanic Observatory (HVO) status reports continue as previously with "Volcano Alert at Watch" level and the "Aviation Color Code: Orange."

In depth reports give no indication of overt new volcanic concerns nor have there been any reports of tradewinds blowing sulphuric gases toward population areas such as prompted my initial post. Lava is reported to be continuing to flow through the tubes into the Pacific Ocean contributing to the continued growth in size of this Big Island in the Hawaiian chain of islands.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hawaii's Pele Dancing Act Continues

Kilauea Volcano's Pele USGS status report:

Tues. 4/15/08
"Activity Summary for last 24 hours: Kilauea Volcano is active at two locations. At the summit, low ash production and elevated sulfur dioxide emissions continued from the Halema`uma`u vent. Seismic tremor levels continued elevated to several times background levels. The second DI tilt event in a week was finishing up this morning. At the east rift eruption site, lava continued to flow from vents in the east rift zone through tubes into the ocean at the Waikupanaha and Ki ocean entries."

Much more detailed information available at the web site link above; up dates there periodically.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Wednesday, April 16, 2008 report reveals the following remains the same as last week noted in my previous post.

19.42°N 155.29°W, Summit Elevation 4091 ft (1247 m)
Volcano Alert Level: WATCH
Aviation Color Code: ORANGE

"SO2 gas plume crosses road near Halemaumau and low on Chain of Craters Road. Sensitive individuals should limit exposure in these areas."
The National Park Services provides additional information with a map of the area and up dates when you visit the above page for this link titled:

"Current SO2 levels and wind direction in Hawaii National Park"

Wonder if Hawaii's mythical goddess Pele was really dancing or if she was feeling a bit explosive with that 4/15 income taxes filing date looming here in the U.S.? Well, it's past now, so perhaps she'll calm down.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Hawaiian Goddess Pele Dances

Kilauea Volcano's Pele on Hawaii's Big Island has recently been a bit more cantankerous than usual. Kilauea is the Hawaiian word meaning "spewing" or "spreading out" in reference to the lava flow. "In Hawaiian mythology, Pele, pronounced /pele/, (peh-leh, not pay-lay) is the goddess of fire, lightning, dance, volcanoes and violence," per Wikipedia described myths.

"Pele Dancing" was captured by Katia Krafft while she was photographing the lava streams flowing down Mauna Loa Volcano during its 1984 eruption...and this dramatic nighttime photograph shows her (Pele) exulting in her awesome volcanic power" per CSAV. (Enlarge by clicking on the photo at this University of Hawai'i at Hilo site for The Center for Study of Active Volcanos--CSAV. Read also about photographer Katia and husband, Maurice's tragic volcanic end in Japan in 1991.)

Trade winds during this current April 2008 Kilauea eruption have not been cooperating to keep the sulphuric fumes away from populated areas. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park had to be closed Tuesday 4/8/08 and some 2000 people had to leave the area. Several nearby communities on this Hilo side of the island were recommended to evacuate voluntarily including Volcano Village whose surrounding area is home to many artists and their studios.

I have loved ones living in one of those communities, so as you might well imagine I have been quite interested in news of Pele's activities and the trade winds directions. Wednesday an explosion blasted rocks 230 feet into the air from Halemaumau Crater where noxious gas continued to rise as reported by the U.S. Geological Surveys Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. USGS Kilauea

The Los Angeles Times print edition Fri. 4/12 includes a United Press International report the northeasterly trade winds have returned to push the sulfur dioxide away from visitor areas according to park officials.

KITV news reported the Volcanoes National Park reopening and the Honolulu Star Bulletin carried Sudhin Thanawala's United Press report on the pollution effects from volcanic fumes.

A Great Britain humanities scholar Dr. Ralph Harrington writes about Kilauea at "The Volcanism Blog" in his April 9th blog post.

National Geographic has a current photo of lava flow (Note: I found I had to move my cursor frequently over this short one minute video to keep it playing.)

National Geographic also as a short series of volcano videos, each a very few minutes duration including the last one which describes this continuously active since 1983 Kilauea volcano of the "shield" type. Keep in mind the Krafft couple who lost their lives as you watch this new young couple of Volcano Adventurers. (note: there are two brief commercials)

John Seach, described at his web site as "one of the world's leading volcano adventurers" reports on Kilauea at "Volcano Live," -- "the world's first volcano news and travel website, which monitors worldwide volcanic activity."

Fortunately, during this present Kilauea eruption the trade wind change means the air in surrounding communities has likely been cleared of the noxious sulphuric fumes. Several Hilo news sources speaking of Volcano Village reported the Big Island mayor said Weds. he had declared a lowering of the color coding alert system from the dangerous purple to yellow, but was expecting to go to the desired green code when the trade winds changed direction as they now have done.

My families many years of Big Island residence encompassed the volcanic event in 1983 when some significant loss occurred in some areas other than their immediate community. One family member had been part of a group helping remove and save some materials from an endangered visitor's center threatened by lava flow.

Residents are respectful of Pele but take all this action quite in stride, exercise precautionary measures as needed, but generally are nonplussed by it all. Stationed here on the mainland with bits and pieces of scattered sound bite news reports and awesome television and Internet photos I must confess to feeling just a bit less secure about their situation than they do. I'm quite cognizant that in times of trouble contacting others isn't always easy and must wait until some semblance of calm and stability has been established. I have so few family members still living, I may have come to experiencing undue concern for those remaining.

Their voices, especially, or messages from them or others always reassure me. We've generally said in our family, "no news is good news" based on the premise that bad news has a way of travelling fast. I embrace that idea, but I'm not so sure, even in this day and age, that's quite true. In fact, I've found it not to be on occasion.

Now with all the airlines bankrupting and going out of business, especially Aloha Airlines which ferried them about so much, I think about how much more complicated quickly leaving that island could be. Still they give no thought to leaving. Just another day on the Big Island that Pele reminds us all is shared with her.

As I complete writing this post I visited again the U. S.Geological Survey (USGS) Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) Friday, April 11, 2008 Daily Up Date is the last one posted. For the volcano this is a short summary at the beginning of the report:

19.42°N 155.29°W, Summit Elevation 4091 ft (1247 m)
Volcano Alert Level: WATCH
Aviation Color Code: ORANGE"

I'm glad the trade winds changed to blow any noxious gases away from Big Island populated areas. I hope whatever mythical Hawaiian god or goddess is responsible for those winds directions they continue blowing as they are.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Bookstore Addiction

Book store addictions may soon become a problem of the past. Every few months this year seems I read in newspapers, or hear on the radio that another independent bookseller is having to close their doors. (scroll down to Wikipedia's list of Indies at the end of end of article.) I feel guilty Indies are closing and think about how much my ordering that last book online contributed to their demise. I really do like going to a new or used bookstore, a library, and just wandering around.

I guess the beginnings of my book addiction occurred when I was quite young with stories being read to me, receiving books as gifts. Some were given to me with an inscription the book had once been gifted by someone else to my giver. They were now passing along their treasured book to me. I suppose it was only a matter of time before I would progress to visiting libraries, finally venturing on my own into a store selling new books. Probably, by the time I was a young adult I was becoming habituated to all forms of the book store habit.

I can remember being in my then home state's capital one afternoon when one of the main streets sported several adjacent large used book stores. I wandered in and out of them for several hours, up and down aisles lined by long shelves filled with books. I recall walking in the door, sensing a mixture of aromas emitted from the paper, bookbinders glues -- a musty aging smell that sounds quite off putting, but one I experienced as a unique special odor pleasantly wafting through the interiors air.

My awareness of a love affair with books began in the late 1940s when I was old enough to ride a city bus all by myself downtown, then walk the block or two over to the city library. I was in the upper years of elementary school. A young girl my age traveling alone in our community of around 15 thousand residents was quite safe then making such early afternoon daylight trips and walking around on our down town's main streets, in and out of stores. I could attend select daytime movies alone -- usually musicals.

I could even sit in the back of the bus. That was the location of the most attractive seats to those of my young age group. It wasn't until my family moved to another part of the country a few years later I was shocked to learn sitting anywhere on the bus was not free and open to everyone. Plus, I could no longer sit in the back of the bus. One more example to me that there were inequities in the world needing righting.

At the library I loved the freedom of looking at all those books to decide which ones I might select to check out and bring home. I also could look through books some might have considered "too old for you" and then select them for reading. I sometimes favored big thick books because they were really complex with plots that were challenging to follow and lots of pages meant the stories would last awhile. Historical dramas became a favorite and then a liking for other genre developed.

I introduced myself there to Lorna Doone, Madame Bovary which I probably read quite differently than I might have as an older adult. At home were books I had been gifted which were also favorites: The Bobbsey Twins, and always favored dog stories like Lad: A Dog. I still have a box of these books, but haven't looked at them for so long I can't remember what else might be in there. I always found it hard to part with books. Though their contents became part of me I still wanted to retain the physical enclosures of those magical words, people and places.

Recently I've found myself drawn back to bookstores, so have indulged that attraction. So many years there simply wasn't time in my life to do other than run in or out of a bookstore or library for just a pre-determined specific book with little time for leisurely browsing or reading. The independents and most used bookstores have slowly departed my area communities so I'm left with large corporate bookstores that probably contributed to the loss of the Indies. Now, it seems even those larger enterprises are under assault. I guess I better make the most of these stores before they are forced out.

What I'm finding pleasurable now is time spent just looking around in these bookstores that sell new books, even if they are chain businesses. Their plush easy chairs hidden throughout the store beckon. One section of the store draws me as it is situated near bars dispensing a variety of coffee lattes, iced beverage mixes, fruit scones, pastries, fruit and nut flavored bread slices, sandwiches, other finger foods.

I've gotten quite taken there with tables of books labelled: "buy 1, get 1 half price" -- noticing large size paperback books I intended to read but hadn't, along with some titles quite unfamiliar to me. An early afternoon on one of my first book store visits I noted that table held a familiar Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel and unfamiliar Elizabeth Berg's Dream When You're Feeling Blue. I've never been that keen drinking coffee other than straight black, but thought I might just splurge on this store's Seattle's Best in a nonfat latte form, try out one of those easy chairs and see if I really wanted to buy these books. Many hours later as I read the last page in Berg's book, I glanced out the floor-to-ceiling window behind me to discover darkness had enveloped the night.

I was quite surprised I had become so engrossed in this novel about three sisters, set in Chicago when World War II was raging in Europe. At that time I was only elementary school age. I thought of my older cousins living in a small village, driving weekends during a time of gas rationing to a city in a nearby state where they attended USO dances, entertaining the troupes. Some servicemen they met were invited on weekends home with the girls and their parents -- the "home away from home" atmosphere all of America wanted to create for our military, mostly sons, and daughters wherever they were in this country.

Author Berg is not of the WWII generation but has created her story from the memories of relatives who were. The sisters letters written to servicemen on the battlefront, coping with a boyfriend's departure, learning about love are the lessons at home and away in this compassionate tale of these women.

I used to want to buy only hardback books, but many many years ago I became attracted to large size paperbacks as they seemed to comprise more titles of interest to me. Also, a friend in the entertainment business, who had necessarily periodically relocated around our country as his broadcast contracts changed, told me he switched to paperbacks to lower his shipping expenses. This cost saving measure made sense to me given the difficulty I had parting with books I'd read and my expectation of moving about, too.

I have completely lost all reason these past few months with my periodic visits to this bookstore, and now have several books in various stages of being read. There's Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik and Complications by Atul Gawande. Also, Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos and Born On A Blue Day by Daniel Tammet intrigue me.

I recently visited one of the few used book stores near me. They will accept some new books but have a buy back provision for books purchased there. I also discovered they either have new ownership, or at least have changed to significantly increase offerings of a type that interest me, so I purchased an older release of Margaret Atwood's, The Blind Assassin. I read her writings many years ago, but drifted away to other books. I have other books in the process of being read or waiting to have their pages turned, others I've completed reading and may write more about here in the future.

I have reached one conclusion. I hope the day never comes when the only way I can obtain a book is online, or at large corporate bookstores who've decreased the variety of selections they offer, or when all independent book stores have closed.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Happy Birthday, Ronni Bennett

Monday, April 7, 2008



May your special day be filled with happiness

May you have many more years of joy filled birthdays

Readers Here:
Visit "Time Goes By" and leave Ronni a birthday wish.

Visit "Blogging In Paris" and see Ronni's interview on public radio's "Brian Lehrer Live" last week.

Added Later:
Ronni's interview (audio & video) on public radio's "Brian Lehrer Live" can also be seen on "Time Goes By" 4/7/08 post.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Simplicity, Sanity, Satisfaction in Technology

"Finally we are learning that simplicity equals sanity." This is the first sentence on the inside book cover of The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda. His biography describes him as "...a graphic artist, visual artist, computer scientist..." He founded the "Simplicity Consortium" at the MIT Media lab (Massachusetts Institute of Technology.)

This slim thin book offers complex thought simplified into the ten laws of the book's title. The author employs the techniques of his talents, informed by his personal family experience observing his young daughter's behaviors, to explain the laws he perceives.

The book was recommended to me last fall by an administrator at a company in the tech world, so I promptly ordered it and even sent a copy to another blogger with whom I shared some similar interests at the time. I never heard her reaction, and I never found time myself to read the book until some four months or so later. Only now am I finally writing about it here.

In this day of technological change where everything happens at a speed almost before it's actually happened, and ideas are soon outdated, surely the thoughts here aren't passe'. I have to recognize I'm sometimes a bit slower, occasionally still embracing some thoughts others have moved beyond, but I try to be aware of new ideas, or old ideas modified, presented from a new perspective. I still think, the thoughts here can't be that outdated. Simplicity is still important! Isn't it?

Maeda shares some of his current thoughts at his "Laws of Simplicity" blog.

More recently at MIT's "Technology Review" in Maeda's 3/31/08 blog post he references the typewriter. Remember the typewriter? I still have my Royal Portable from 50's college days though I must admit I haven't used it for some years. (I keep thinking if the power ever goes out for a really really long time, I can keep writing.) Maeda makes an interesting prediction on this blog for technologies future. He noted that "...every letter typed made an imperfect and unique imprint.." then explains why that might be just what we'll be seeking in our future.

In a Feb. post on one of his blogs he reports he is in the process of transitioning from MIT. I hope his emphasis on simplicity has been internalized in the educational process for future computer scientists and technology designers. Perhaps some of them will create tech equipment that incorporates features more user friendly for an aging population, or at least they'll seek out information to inform their designs.

I wonder what systems technology creators and designers have set up and utilize to solicit input from users, especially from the aging population? This is, after all, and aging society and our views, needs, desires deserve consideration. Those young techs will eventually age, too, and I think they might be glad they created products more amenable for their use then.

I wonder what features computer users, especially elder bloggers, would like to see modified, added or eliminated? What about laptops? Other technology, cell phones?

I'll be satisfied if some suggestions and feature applications are incorporated in new technology.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Announcing Eminent Blog Post Change

"Along The Way" future blog posts
increase in frequency
to at least twice a day
9 A.M. and 9 P.m. Pacific Time
(either daylight or standard time.)

  • Subject matter of many future posts will focus strictly on topics that have absolutely nothing to do with anything of consequence. (Some previous posts have already met that criteria.)
  • Earth topics will be centered solely on animals, vegetables and minerals -- maybe with occasional discussion of ice cream flavors, fruits and nuts. (You'd be surprised what the nut category includes.)
  • Reader's will be encouraged to share comments about their experiences in outer space, especially those who are visiting from other planets. (This includes those from outside our galaxy, but please use English.)
  • Suggestions for other blog topics will be welcomed and given not very serious consideration, unless they're humorous, unlike this post.
Life is serious, so just like credit cards, this blogger reserves the right to change this agreement, or any part therein at will.*

*For the Visually Impaired:
Life is serious, so just like credit cards, this blogger reserves the right to change this agreement, or any part therein at will.

Courtesy of an April Fool