Balanced Anarchy

I’ve started watching “The Day The Universe Changed” in 10 minute bites on youtube.

I love this contemporary review from the Sydney Morning Herald:

This series, in which he verbally dances through the earth-shattering events in history is, quite simply, exciting. Like an intravenous slug of ice-cold Akvavit, he provokes shivers of shock and pleasure. His mix of cleverness, egotism, fun, imagination and accessibility is similar to the television styles of Robert Hughes or J.K.Galbraith, except that Burke is also naughty — like a mischievous elf.

Mind-Gangster # 1.

Shining in from another world

“‘Beauty pierces through like that ray through the clouds,” Orolo continued. “Your eye is drawn to where it touches something that is capable of reflecting it. But your mind knows that the light does not originate from the mountains and the towers. You mind knows that something is shining in from another world. Don’t listen to those who say it’s in the eye of the beholder.'”

“In our buildings and music, beauty was always present even if I didn’t notice. Orolo was onto something; when I saw any of those kinds of beauty I knew I was alive, and not just in the sense that when I hit my thumb with a hammer I knew I was alive, but rather in the sense that I was partaking of something – something was passing through me that it was in my nature to be a part of.”

Anathem, Neal Stephenson, p 114

Shipping Forecast Rosary

Shipping Forecast Rosary, originally uploaded by moleitau.

A side-project I’ve been playing with for a couple of months now. Have prototyped it using Ponoko, and now hope to make a couple of different material explorations – maybe even into metal.

Shipping Forecast Rosary - 06

It needs a bit more fine-tuning and then I’ll probably put them up for a limited sale on Folksy.

More pictures of the work-in-progress here.

Torch this website

A bit of a whinge this.

The Design Council is running a design competition for the 2012 London Olympic torch. Exciting! They have a nice page on their website that tells you exactly how exciting it is, and that all you need to do is go to the “CompeteFor” website and register your interest. Of course, we’d love a crack at it.

This is where the trouble begins.

CompeteFor is that kind of website, that you probably have to deal with every day in a big company intranet, or in local government – where almost no concession to the user is made. It’s impossible to navigate, you can’t find the correct entry for the Torch competition – or if you find anything, you’re made entirely unsure that it’s the right thing. It certainly doesn’t sound like the language used on the Design Council page.

And this is what’s disappointing.

You kind of *expect* things like CompeteFor to be that way. We’ve all banged our heads against such screens for years. But I don’t expect for the Design Council to settle for it.

I want some help, guidance or more direct linking. A bit of the ‘service-design’ thinking that they’ve been advocating for years – even if as a triage-like overlay of links and ‘walk-through’ language on their site before they dump you into CompeteFor.

I phoned the Design Council – and spoke to a helpful chap who promised he would find someone to phone me back. In the mean time I have left the comment below on their site.

The deadline is 20th August. Let’s see if I can figure it out before they do.

Hello. The Competefor web service seems to be some kind of initiative test that you’ve devised in order to weed out those without olympic levels of perseverance! It’s not possible from the home page of the service to find easily where the design competition should be registered for, and the registration process for the service itself is quite onerous.

Searching for “torch” leads to three duplicate records for what appears to be an engineering and manufacturing contract, with no validation of whether it is associated with the process you are facilitating or indeed which of the three (if any) should be responded to.

I’d appreciate any help you could give me tracking down how to register interest before the deadline, or indeed if the Design Council could provide a better advertisement for itself by performing some service-design triage on ‘competefor’?


Hurrah! The Design Council responded (only a couple of hours after posting this, good work!)

Hello Matt,

Thank you for your email and for your suggestions.

The Design Council is helping the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games promote the opportunity for designers, engineers and manufacturers to get involved in creating the Olympic Torches for the relay. We are not receiving and assessing entries directly and thus haven’t had the chance to make any impact on the CompeteFor website!

Once you’re on the CompeteFor site, you have to register your details for all LOCOG opportunities. Since you have already done that, you should be able to logon and search for opportunity number #11411323, which is the unique reference number for the Olympic Torch design project. That should provide you with more details of the project and allow you to express your interest in becoming the designer of the torch, and to share your relevant experience. I hope that works for you! If not, CompeteFor has a helpdesk number which should be able to explain their site better than I can! It’s number is 0845 2177804.

Best regards,

Tess Raine


In Adam’s post on reinventing cars, I had a little brainblip when I read the sentence:

“Bolt-on kits. Adaptive reuse. Provisional and experimental rezoning.”

I read it as something like Rezoning. Something like ‘reasoning’, but heavily-accented with the future.

Then again as Rezoning. Rezzing-up. Evoking the photon-lathing of Tron, or the synaesthesia-landscapes of Rez itself.

Of course, Adam actually means Rezoning. As in re-zoning what areas of cities are designated to be used for in urban plans.

Sometimes it’s nice to trip up on a word and see where you stumble.

5 things I’m thinking about

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Many have done this already. Here’s 5 of mine (sort-of). Bit of a scratchpad as don’t have much time for writing in length these days. Half-formed thoughts. But that’s the point. Right? No?

Oh well.

  • “Internet of things” ubicomp as a ‘lost future’ vs a world of glowing rectangles. This is a big deal for me a (and our little company) as I/we have been thinking about the former for years now, and believe that being in the world is a net Good Thing – and will win out. At the moment it seems like most of us (myself included) are voting with out feet for a world where our attention is consumed by glowing rectangles that live in our pockets, on our laps, in our houses and increasingly on the facades of our towns and cities. The seemingly-manifest-destiny of manufacturing and sourcing economics plays a huge role here – unseen and perhaps un-engaged with by most interaction designers. The world-factory is tooled for glowing rectangles of Cupertino’s design for quite some years. Aaaand of course our sociotechnical futures aren’t ever so neat – a gestalt of the two will probably emerge. At least until we hit Peak Indium. Which leads me to…
  • Going beyond PeakX: as a way of thinking = throw up hands and say hey-ho, that’s that then, isn’t everything complicated and terrible! Aren’t we wicked! There’s nothing to be done. How about ‘precious X’? ‘Resilient X’? ‘Chronodynamic design’ was something prententious that I wrote down a while back on a post-it, suggesting a Loewy-esque aesthetic celebration of an object’s resilience through time. Although at first blush, this might just be vernacular design – it might have legs as a more spectacular-vernacular. The High-Viridian Aesthetic. Moving beyond “Resource Constraints = design”, to source of ornament, cultural-invention, semantic-wealth. Charles & Ray Eames’s definition of the act of design still rings like a bell: do the best, for the most, with the least. Rhys, Raph and others work on Homegrown remains inspiring. I like Adaptive Path’s (at least that’s where I heard it first) conceit of ‘constraint-storming‘. Of course, most of the 1st-world isn’t even thinking about PeakX yet, and we don’t feel the pinch until we feel the pinch, so yeah. Anyway. I probably need to re-read “In The Bubble”, and wear a “John Thackara Was Right” (hair)t-shirt…
  • SpaceTime as a design material. Slow/long services. Still not done anything with it. Want to. Maybe/probably in an app context.
  • The boiling frog of population shock. More is different. Older is different. We don’t seem to get that. Many of our western/northern cultural tropes/beliefs/ways-of-living are based in the 18/19th century when world population was below 1 billion. We still believe it’s like in Britain, and it’ll kill us. Y’know – village green romanticism. We’re probably going to plateau at 10 billion in a couple of decades. We need a way to discuss the bigger/different crew of SpaceShipEarth without it sounding sinister. Permafutures not middle-class, ‘organic’, austerity-nostalgia that will only work for a less-crowded planet. I think it’s kind of exciting. 10 billion minds.
  • The longish-now of me. This is a bit self-centred to say the least. I’m going to be 40 soon. I find myself thinking about how to become a sustainable/resilient 50 year old. That is – well – 50 might be halfway through. Hell, it might be a third of the way through my life… I’ve been very lucky for the past 20 years. What the hell am I going to do with all that time? How am I going to pay my way? How do I stay involved and useful? More making? More teaching? Maybe.

If I could cheat and have six things I’m thinking about I’d say turning tablet computers into The Primer. But, then, I’m always thinking about the Primer, and Maneki Neko. So they don’t count.

Also, I just finished Anathem and it blew my mind. Between it, “Galileo’s Dream” and Ted Chiang’s “Story of your life” there’s something brewing I’m a bit scared to think about to hard in case I end up rocking and drooling. So. Yeah. A mess of things.