Thursday, February 26, 2009

Usability and Frame of Reference, or "Dude, I'm Not In Your Head"

A musical friend of mine sent me an e-mail with a reference to the following site:

with the following amusing description:

...for a few of you musical pals of mine, I was just browsing the Bugs Bunny Road Runner Hour home page (a history of that show, just because I loved it), and I came across this fantastic paragraph. Seriously, this is a copy and paste directly from their page. Read on.

The musical phrase utilized for all of the titles of all Bugs Bunny cartoon shorts, the Tweety-and-Sylvester cartoons with them posed on stage and Sylvester holding Tweety in his hand, and most cartoons with characters other than the regulars, went as follows:

"Da-da-da... da-da. Da-da-da... da-da. Da-da-da-da-da-da. Da."

....Music with the tree-oriented title cards of Tweety-and-Sylvester cartoons, all cartoons titled with the semi-circle of Foghorn, Pepe, Speedy, Yosemite Sam, and Elmer, and all Road Runner cartoons, was a variation on the phrase opening the original theatrical Looney Tunes from the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s, combined with the closing motif from post-1964 cartoon shorts. First used for cartoons shown on The Road Runner Show, it sounded like this:

"Da. Da-da-da... da-da... da. Da. Da-da-da... da-da-da. DAAA! Da."

Right. So, here's what I get from those musical references:
  1. They are instrumental
  2. A vague indication of note duration.
Here's what I don't get from those phrases:
  1. Meter
  2. Actual note durations
  3. Actual musical pitches
I don't know about you, but I think actual musical pitches are pretty important in, well, music. (My friend said "I can make a case for the first sequence being the Jurrasic Park theme...")

This reminded me that I had seen some time ago a discussion of how to express music using ASCII notation. A search turned up the following:

which refers to Phillip Hazel's music writer:

The idea of communicating many aspects of a language (music) in a relatively primitive medium is academically interesting if not entirely practical.

That said, the real point to the story is: don't assume we all hear the music in your head.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ropes from the Moon

Several things got me thinking about the way we direct traffic recently:
  • During reconstruction of the I-35 bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, lines and lanes were re-drawn on several other major roads to accommodate the extra traffic. After the bridge was finished, some of the re-drawn lines worked so well, they have remained.
  • On winter roads covered with ice (or black ice), it's not possible to see the lane dividers.

What if we could have the lane markings always "on top", and easily changed to accommodate rush hour, presidential motorcades, HOV lanes, and so on?

Like football games on television, where they do that cool yard-line marker which is smart enough to go behind the players...or those Bluetooth projected keyboards, and Smartboard technology.

Couldn't we project the lane markers on top of the roads? Now, I recognize that out in the country, you can't project lane markers from outer space*, but in the city, near intersections, we have the infrastructure of lights and signage to house projectors.

Someone else has a similar idea to create your own bike lane:

I don't know how legal that is, but I love the idea.

*Reminds me of an infamous grade-school prank. This may be an old wive's tale, but someone told me it happened to them:

(Phone rings)
Victim: Hello?
Prankster: Hello, is Mr. Wall there?
(you know mostly where this is going, but stay with me here...)
Victim: Um, no, I think you have the wrong number.
Prankster: What about Mrs. Wall?
Victim: No, you must have the wrong number. There are no Walls here.
Prankster: Then how do you keep your roof up? Haha!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Usability and the Wii, Age 6

Playing Little League World Series Baseball on the Wii for the first time with my 6-year-old. (He said he'd "go easy on me" since I had never played.)

While batting, I was having trouble making contact with the ball. The timing was difficult to figure out. There are all these gauges and symbols on the screen that I didn't understand, so the conversation went something like this:

Me: Is there something I can look at on the screen that shows me when I should swing the bat?

Joe: No....well, actually, yes. THE BALL.

Me: Ha-ha. I meant a gauge or something.

Joe: Ha-ha. Yes, I knew what you meant.