Disagreements and differences of opinion are part of what makes a place vibrant, interesting and at times annoying.

You like tea, and think coffee tastes like shit. I love coffee and think tea tastes like pee. But we both can agree that sitting together drinking our favourite beverage leads to some interesting conversations.

But how do you discuss an issue with someone when their opinion has been formed based on complete fabrications? Fabrications from sources they trust. And they believe that your sources are complete garbage.

In business, decisions aren’t always based on good research, data, or any research at all. Sometimes good design loses over another approach. The results can be a loss of money, maybe a lot, or maybe nothing happens at all. In the public sphere that could mean a loss of life.

There will always be complete assholes of course, but how do you bridge this gap when the issues are important?

Study harder

“Keep this thought at the ready at daybreak, and through the day and night—there is only one path to happiness, and that is in giving up all outside of your sphere of choice, regarding nothing else as your possession, surrendering all else to God and Fortune.”

I told Sheryl the other day that I have been studying some of the wisdom of the stoics. Nothing serious, just some choice quotes and explanations.

This was at a time when after shovelling out all the walkways, so people could exit the building after the storm, (the people responsible never wake before noon, and take a couple days to get started) and shovelling and salting our parking spot clean, someone had the rudeness to take our parking spot. They came out later and moved the car without a hint of care.

This precipitated a boomer-like rant about selfish-individualism and the lack of empathy in people, laziness, and on and on.

We both agreed that perhaps more study was needed. My son simply stated that I needed to chill. He’s not wrong.

Tyranny of choice

Confronting the tyranny of choice is an unrealized opportunity in all manner of venues, from restaurants to bookstores.
One Book Bookstore

One of the most almost anxiety inducing activities when we would return from Taiwan was a trip to the drug store to buy toothpaste. With a seemingly endless variations to choose from, with countless different claims of efficacy, I used to stand in the aisles in befuddlement. In the early days of our move to Asia there were 1-3 choices in toothpaste brands to chose from, all much the same. The selection of deodorant was even more pithy, and in that case, seemingly few men applied it, I would carry tubes of it whenever I returned from a visit to the outside world.

See also The Paradox of Choice.

“Heavy production pressure”

I like Michael Turton’s take …

In Normal Accidents, Charles Perrow’s classic analysis of technological systems and the accidents they foster, Perrow observes that “when we have interactive systems that are tightly coupled, it is ‘normal’ for them to have this kind of accident, even though it is infrequent.” Such accidents are an “inherent property” of technological systems, and we have them because our industrial society is full of tightly coupled, interactive systems with great potential for catastrophe.

Here in Taiwan the omnipresence of tightly coupled systems — systems in which a failure in one leads to failure in another — operating in an atmosphere of intense production pressures and a lax safety culture has caused me to reflect often on Perrow’s insights. Everywhere you look, you see normal accidents.

Notes from central Taiwan: Taiwan’s normalized accidents

Liberty requires sacrifice

Not just America, but Canada and much of the West.

The pandemic has illuminated a set of imbalances in American society. The most profound among them is the growing disharmony between the individual and the community.

In recent decades many Americans have conflated liberty with selfishness, adopting the notion that freedoms are self-sustaining, that liberty is a birthright that no longer requires sacrifice or collective action. They denigrated the institutions and traditions that yielded our freedoms in the first place and serve as the connective tissue holding the nation together. These attitudes are societal comorbidities, and when the pandemic hit, the results were tragic. Despite having just 4% of the world’s population (and nearly 30% of the world’s wealth) America suffered 25% of reported covid-19 infections and 20% of its deaths.

Scott Galloway on recasting American individualism and institutions


A business card message I can agree with. It’s amazing the small stupid things that you carry around for years.


We need to recognize that stupid is a thing and, per Professor Cipolla, encourage our youth to discern how not to be stupid and to aspire to be “intelligent,” which also is a thing … and a noble thing, and not derived from a place of privilege that demands apology and self flogging.

He glosses over many issues and over simplifies situations which are actually complex – over-simplifications, objectifications, and identity politics are what have helped create the mess we are in. But sometimes the effort to understand human behaviour is just too great and a label such as stupid is all that can be summoned.

Stupid. His views on the pandemic are also of interest.

My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
Isaac Asimov

I see this quote periodically on Twitter, particularly now with COVID-19 and the American public’s unrepentent love of their current President, distrust of science and belief in all kinds of snake oil remedies and fairy tales.

I’ve yet to have the opportunity to read the article that the quote comes from until I came across this scan.

When you share a smile or laugh with someone face to face, a discernible synchrony emerges between you, as your gestures and biochemistries, even your respective neural firings, come to mirror each other. It’s micro-moments like these, in which a wave of good feeling rolls through two brains and bodies at once, that build your capacity to empathize as well as to improve your health. If you don’t regularly exercise this capacity, it withers.
Barbara L. Frederickson, Your Phone vs. Your Heart

What a fascinating field study of the malevolent it would be; though I suspect they would be utterly boring in their ordinariness.

I wish I could follow these people around with cameras all day long. I want to know everything about them. I want to know what they do every day, how they talk to each other, how they spend their free time, where they vacation. I want to know what kinds of human beings are comfortable behaving this monstrously. Do they look like monsters? It’s hard not to picture them as monsters.

Ask Polly: My In-Laws Are Careless About My Deadly Food Allergy!

Because weird, antisocial behavior is interesting to me I poked around and found a whole Allergic Living piece from 2010 with anecdotes of relatives sneak feeding allergens.

Affirming group membership by eating the same thing must be deep in humans.

Family Food Feud: Relatives and Allergies
Erika Hall

Cork Board Ephemera

Part of our current collection of things tacked in our kitchen. I generally loathe most typographic signs in the home of any kind, at least the kinds that are so popular today. Why people need a sign to remind them of “Home” or “Love” or some other kind positive messaging is beyond me. But the card above slipped into the fray, perhaps because it was created by Kim Roach.

Unplanned color scheme of green, red, and black.

WeChat and the Surveillance State

I spent a great deal of time setting up WeChat while I was in China – particularly WeChat wallet which is almost an indispensable addition but often difficult for foreigners to activate. It’s no exaggeration to say that WeChat is almost a requirement for living a normal life in China. It also delivers to the Communist Party a life map of pretty much everybody in this country, citizens and foreigners alike.

I’ve just been locked out of WeChat (or Weixin 微信 as it is known in Chinese) and, to get back on, have had to pass through some pretty Orwellian steps – steps which have led others to question why I went along with it.

“Faceprint is required for security purposes,” it said.

I was instructed to hold my phone up – to ‘face front camera straight on’ – looking directly at the image of a human head. Then told to ‘Read numbers aloud in Mandarin Chinese’.

In China pretty much everyone has WeChat. It’s almost impossible to live without it. People wouldn’t be able to speak to their friends or family without it. So the censors who can lock you out of WeChat hold real power over you.

WeChat could “deliver to the Communist Party a life map of pretty much everybody in this country, citizens and foreigners alike.

Capturing the face and voice image of everyone who was suspended for mentioning the Tiananmen crackdown anniversary in recent days would be considered very useful for those who want to monitor anyone who might potentially cause problems.

The app – thought by Western intelligence agencies to be the least secure of its type in the world – has essentially got you over a barrel.

If you want to have a normal life in China, you had better not say anything controversial about the Communist Party and especially not about its leader, Xi Jinping.

China social media: WeChat and the Surveillance State

This would have made a worthy addition to the discussion that followed Oliver’s excellent presentation on surveillance during the Crafting {:} a Life unconference.

Always on surveillance

Chinese schools are prototyping facial recognition to monitor students to identify distractedness, level of engagement, responsiveness and other attributes. Every culture has different notions of privacy that are present in social and technological norms and what is considered creepy one day can become the status quo the next and vice versa once underlying dynamics are revealed. The relative importance of education in China, and the invasiveness of these systems will make school monitoring systems a bellwether for Chinese privacy norms, until the next wave of invasiveness arrives.

Chinese schools are using facial recognition on students

If in-classroom facial-recognition systems are teaching students and staff to “perform” for the cameras—in the theatrical rather than pedagogical sense of the word—then how will similar systems extrapolate to society at large? Or for populations whose belief systems are considered at-odds with central government? If you live in a democracy, or a country such as the United States whose current leadership is leaning-towards autocracy then “at-odds-with” means any community that didn’t vote for the existing power structure.

How China’s Surveillance State Overwhelms Daily Life

You get used to having different personas for various aspects of your life. It’s only when you are in the comfort of your home, can you be your true self.

Via studio D.

There’s no shortage of individuals and individual freedom. In America, people are willing to sacrifice their well-being, social cohesion, stability and sustainability for the false notion of individual freedom. But the truth is, there is no individual. There’s no such thing. It’s an utter fiction. It was created in order to promote more consumption. The more people spend time with one another, the less stuff they buy. A deep connection to other humans makes you an enemy of the marketplace.
Douglas Rushkoff — Fighting for #TeamHuman

How An Aging Population Will Reshape The Internet

Although many older Americans have, like the rest of us, embraced the tools and playthings of the technology industry, a growing body of research shows they have disproportionately fallen prey to the dangers of internet misinformation and risk being further polarized by their online habits. While that matters much to them, it’s also a massive challenge for society given the outsize role older generations play in civic life, and demographic changes that are increasing their power and influence.

People 65 and older will soon make up the largest single age group in the United States, and will remain that way for decades to come, according to the US Census. This massive demographic shift is occurring when this age group is moving online and onto Facebook in droves, deeply struggling with digital literacy, and being targeted by a wide range of online bad actors who try to feed them fake news, infect their devices with malware, and steal their money in scams. Yet older people are largely being left out of what has become something of a golden age for digital literacy efforts.
Old, Online, And Fed On Lies

Versage: Following knock-off fashion’s flow from Lagos to Guangzhou (and back again).

“Nigerians in their own way like to emulate you know? We like to learn. Everywhere we are we just look at what entices our eyes and kind of put it on to try it, then we keep wearing it and we’ll think, if we can change it this way it can be also nice,” Uzoma mused. “We are inquisitive when it comes to fashion, curious. And we are also creative. We steal, we change, and add things to it.”

Life on the wrong side of China’s social credit system

As long as I’m insolvent, then I’m an unpardonable devil
David Kong, ‘discredited individual’

Sarah Dai writing for Inkstone on the social credit system in China.

While the Chinese social credit system appears draconian, with offenders banned from planes and high-speed trains, parallels can be made with ratings agencies and their clients the world over. A person who is interesting enough to have earned a low score, will also be interesting enough to work around the restrictions. Foreign companies are also required to register, and while it’s not yet official policy, expect all visitors to China to eventually have a score assigned to them. A score which follows you with facial recognition.

Copy machines

I’ve been both a part of the machine and on the receiving end of China and Taiwan’s remix copy culture.

Part of my value within one team was my then keen memory for design patterns and recollection of how other software makers solved certain problems. In may role as a human copy machine I produced all kinds of examples that the software team could follow, thereby saving them the effort of testing iterations.

The latest example, was receiving an email to collaborate on an app that just happens to be a carbon copy of a concept that we launched, and an offer to license my wife’s voice. I jokingly said that they will likely launch new products featuring her faster than we will. She didn’t find it very funny.


Dinner is a great chance to talk to your colleagues and find out what is happening in their lives outside of work.

Disneyland is there to conceal the fact that it is the “real” country, all of “real” America, which is Disneyland (just as prisons are there to conceal the fact that it is the social in its entirety, in its banal omnipresence, which is carceral). Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyperreal and of simulation. It is no longer a question of a false representation of reality (ideology), but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real, and thus of saving the reality principle.
Jean Baudrillard, Simulacrum and Simulacra

Old school social platform

Phone, newspapers and local advertising

There is certainly a lot to unpack in this photograph. It’s the way we used to communicate, keep informed and be pitched to all in one location; like the iPhone or Facebook. You could also imagine seeing missing pet signs or offers for various personal services.

Anytime is TV time

Waiting for an order at a Starbucks in Fuzhou.

Watching a Chinese soap opera while waiting in line for coffee at a Starbucks in China. With all too common use case, even in my household, you miss out on so much of what is happening around you. It’s also creating a generation of patients for physiotherapists. In an age of this kind of media portability I am an extreme edge case. I can stand in line for extended periods of time and simply think and observe.


Standing in line waiting for the clinic to open near GuanXin Rd. in Hsinchu

1 out of 12 seems about a correct ratio for people who would not continuously look at their phone while standing in line here in Hsinchu. I suspect he forgot his.