Course: Edward Tufte, Presenting Data and Information

Karin from work and I attended a one-day course, Presenting Data and Information, by Edward Tufte at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

I had read some of his stuff a year or two earlier, tried to go to the Chicago course, and our crack clerical staff missed the deadline and it was full. So here we go! Long walk from Metra station to E Wacker Drive. But nice. Good weather. Nice walk.

Showed up, found our way thru the rabbit warren, and registered. We were issued a heavy cardboard box of 4 of ET’s books, and a homework assignment for reading before the class started. I grabbed a Starbucks from the lobby, and off we went.

Big room, lots of people, and not a lot of personal space — typical seminar. We plopped down and read. ET held “office hours” for autograph seekers and questions before, at lunchtime, and afterwards. When does the guy go potty?

The course itself was interesting. The guy is a great speaker, engaging and interesting. The time flew by. He showed 16th century books as examples of books and graphics as timeless art. Neat.

We did the fast 15-minute lunch at Houlihan’s next door. In and out quick, I had a nice chicken wrap, but by the time you walk there, eat, and return it was time to get going again. And the Starbuck’s went away in the PM.

Most of the items listed on the list of items to be covered were indeed covered. The final items were design of information displays in public spaces and design of computer interfaces and manuals. These were the items we were interested in. We got some of the kiosk discussion, but I don’t think we got much of the design of interfaces and manuals. NOTE: I found a review of Visual Explanations with references to Web development, but upon review, it is good stuff, but not a cookbook, more a philosophy.

Tufte manages to get everything important about Web design onto pages 146 through 149 of this book: let the information become the interface, use text rather than icons, don’t let the Web site mimic the bureaucratic structure of the publisher. The most remarkable thing is that he wasn’t even writing about the Web!

On the way home, got some combo cheese-and-caramel corn from the Garrett’s popcorn kiosk in the Metra station. Made a nice snack for us later.

Summary: Good course. Neat to see the 16th century books. If you read and have the books, probably a waste of time and money. If you don’t do technical presentations with lots of tables trying to prove things, (like us) perhaps limited use. But hearing “KISS” once more can be a good thing. And bashing PowerPoint is always fun.

Sanibel 2008 – Fun with Sam and Karin

Friday 21 March

Barely beat the snow closings out of MKE airport. Arrived on time in Ft Myers. Karin and Sam were at the Twins game. We stopped at the “used food store” (Dixie’s Discounted Wine) on Bonita Beach Rd just east of US 41 for some wine and discount food. Then we had to stop at Publix. The detour is not worth it. Checked in at West Wind. Got a drink at the pool bar and waited for Karin and Sam.

Dixie’s Discounted Wine • 9080 Bonita Beach Rd, Bonita Springs,FL 34135

Saturday 22 March

I rented a 24 speed recumbent bike on the Internet the previous week from Billy’s Rentals. They delivered it to the West Wind to keep it from disappearing like the rest of their bikes — thanks guys! It has chopper style handlebars, which is a whole new trick. I finally got it to go straight, but turns were a problem. Fast hard turns would put me on the ground. With my hip acting up, it was torture.

Rode around the island to the lighthouse. Overcast but warmish; good riding. 15 mins into the ride, it started to rain. We kept going to the lighthouse, looked around, and headed back up Periwinkle for lunch at the Lighthouse Cafe, the “hippie” cafe next to Sporty Seahorse. Great food, great atmosphere. And busy — prepare to wait. We ate lunch, but split a banana pancake just to try it — it was warm and gooey in the middle. Sam wanted to come back the next day for breakfast. So we did.

Karin bolted back on her bike. Sam followed her, and Bette and I stopped at a few shops on the way back. It started to clear up a bit and we got back in time

Dinner with Sam and Karin at Sanibel Steakhouse. We had the Crab Cake appetizer, yum. I had the 16oz NY Strip, I think my favorite cut, with baked potato. Mmmm. Karin and Bette had the 12oz NY Strips. Sam and I started a bottle of Dynamite Zinfandel. Bette and Karin had a glass of Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc. Sam had the blackened Ahi tuna. Yum, but when in a good steakhouse, I get a good steak. Dessert was Chocolate Lava and a Keylime Pie slice to go around. Recommended. $80/ea for 4 people w/o gratuity w/wine. Pricey but good.

Billy’s Bike Rentals – 1470 Periwinkle Way
Lighthouse Cafe – 362 Periwinkle Way
Chip’s Sanibel Steakhouse – 1473 Periwinkle Way

Sunday 23 March

Decided not to do church. The sun was out. Time to build a sand sculpture. Sam had borrowed the book on Sand Castle building from Sons of the Beach and was raring to go.

Started with some simple columns and structures. I played with the dump method of sand. Working out of the bucket was a good way to do it. Then figured out the Padre Island snow balls. Cool. Taught Sam.

Then started the octopus. Started out as a pile, but soon saw that a sea creature terrorizing the village would be very nice. Karin built up some tentacles and buildings and upholstered everything. Sam and I moved the sand into position and Sam and Bette lugged water.

Book Review: Object Oriented I/O using C++ IOSTREAMS

Hughes, Cameron and Thomas Hamilton and Tracey Hughes. 1995. Object Oriented I/O using C++ IOSTREAMS. John Wiley and Sons, New York, New York. ISBN 0-471-11809-5. Order…

Two halves of a book here. First is a good explanation of the IOSTREAMs package although a lot of it doesn’t seem to be more detailed than the Visual C++ help. The base classes and what they do are very well discussed, and I think I know quite a bit more that when I started.

BUT…then they talk about an implementation of character cell stream controlled output ala CURSES, and never show code. The object diagrams are in some strange notation explained in the appendix. UML is now the standard, I hope the next edition fixes this. The second half, as I see it, talks a lot about different window systems — interesting but not what I wanted to pay $34.95 for. And then we attach streams to these I/O devices. I want to write a DBWIN32 stream interface, and this infomation is not useful for that. You might find it better.

Book Review: Internetworking with TCP/IP

Comer, Douglas E. 1995. Internetworking with TCP/IP; Volume 1: Principles, Protocols, and Architecture. Third Edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-215987-8. Order…

A detailed look at the transport of the Internet. As one who spent days configuring an NT server into a multihomed host using subnetting, a lot of the information is already known, but would be a good introduction for a technical minded person who can resist the urge to sleep. Starts out with obligatory origins of the net, thru dotted decimal notation, etc. Lots of good info on IP, routing, accessories like FTP and Telnet, and the section on IPng was very interesting. Would be a good textbook for a course.

Book Review: Miracle Under the Oaks

Stevens, William K. 1995. Miracle Under the Oaks. New York, New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-78042-5

A discussion of the growing prairie and savanna restoration movement in Illinois and a view of the work of Steve Packard, a major force in the grassroots restoration movement. Very interesting to me since I worked on a prairie crew in 1990-91 at Poplar Creek and intend to do so again very soon.

Book Review: The Dilbert Principle

Adams, Scott. 1996. The Dilbert Principle, A Cubicle’s Eye View of Bosses, Meetings, Management Fads and other Workplace Afflictions. New York, New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-88370-787-6

Pretty Funny. The obvious assortment of Dilbert cartoons and email from hapless fans illustrate foibles in the modern re-engineered business world. The final chapter on the OA5 Corp ( Out At 5, meaning everyone leaves at five PM ) is some of the best straightforward advice on business climate I have ever read. At least the final chapter should be read by all management. Sometimes it takes a cartoonist to reveal the true nature of the beast.