blog

Vernon Thommeret is a product manager working at Etsy in New York.

Billiards -- Learn about my newest project

fridge

Another Flash project. Hint: Try clicking the fruit more than once.

Launch fridge

The Amazing Cupcake Machine

I mentioned below that I was working on an interactive cupcake machine in Flash, and I wanted to share my progress. This isn't the final version, but it's pretty close.

Launch the Amazing Cupcake Machine

School work

One of the things that I love most about going to a liberal arts college is the opportunity to take wildly different classes — I'm studying computer science, digital media, and Buddhism. One of the projects that I'm working on for my Digital Media class is an interactive Flash piece that lets you generate and design your own cupcake (with color sliders and particle effect sprinkles). It's not quite finished yet, but here are some teasers:

Microphone

I recently saw this screenshot of the new Voice Memo application in the recent iPhone update and wanted to redraw the microphone. This is what I came up with:

The dimensions are copied from the original, but the rendering was done from scratch in Photoshop. I'm not sure what the Elgato logo's about, but it's the first thing I thought of.

Updated portfolios

I've finally updated my portfolios. Go check them out!

Illustrations

I was fortunate enough to pick up a refurbished Cintiq at a great price. Highly recommended. A few things I've done:

Jon's site

I designed this for my friend, Jon, and I thought other people might enjoy it:

Flow

I have this theory that we have periods of alternate experience, between intellectual or internal intelligence and emotional or social intelligence. When we're high in emotional intelligence — everything seems to make sense and everything feels comfortable. Being around people feels comfortable. When we're high in intellectual intelligence, we're easily motivated and stay concentrated. We can stay focused on something for hours without feeling impatient. When we're low in emotional intelligence, things seem foreign and detached. People are confusing. We're constantly anxious. When we're low in intellectual intelligence, its becomes difficult do anything. Everything seems enormous.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (I don't know how to pronounce it either) wrote a book in the early '90s about this very subject called Flow. I've only read parts of it, but his basic premise is that our feelings of intellectual intelligence can be mapped against our level of skill and the challenges we undertake. If we have no skills and undertake no challenges, we feel apathetic. If we have a high level of skill but no challenges, we alternate between boredom and relaxation. If we're low in skill and our challenges increase then we progress from worry into anxiety. Csikszentmihalyi's theory is that the optimal state of mind is when we achieve maximal skill with maximal challenge. He calls this either the flow state or the master state. An example would be Mozart composing a symphony. He chose the word flow to desribe this state because it was a word that was used by people who met his two criteria. They constantly described being "in flow."

Another book I'm reading is Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, also published in the '90s. He covers a lot of ground, but his basic premise is that emotional intelligence, or our understanding of our and others' feelings can be as important, if not more important than IQ. This isn't such a radical idea these days, but Goleman's book was fundamental in introducing this idea.

One of the things that stood out to me in his book was the concept of "pure types," i.e. theoretical models of people who exhibited either fully intellectual intelligence or emotional intelligence. He begins with the caveat that people with a high IQ and low emotional intelligence are rare, and vice versa. That said, I still think they're interesting:

The high-IQ male . . . is ambitious and productive, predictable and dogged, and untroubled by concerns about himself. He also tends to be critical and condescending, fastidious and inhibited, uneasy with sexuality and sensual experience, unexpressive and detached, and emotionally bland and cold.

Purely high-IQ women . . . are fluent in expressing their thoughts, value intellectual matters, and have a wide range of intellectual and aesthetic interests. They also tend to be introspective, prone to anxiety, rumination, and guilt, and hesitate to express their anger openly (though they do so indirectly).

. . . men who are high in emotional intelligence are socially poised, outgoing and cheerful, not prone to fearfulness or worried rumination. They have a notable capacity for commitment to people or causes, for taking responsibility, and for having an ethical outlook; they are sympathetic and caring their relationships. Their emotional life is rich, but appropriate; they are comfortable with themselves, others, and the social universe they live in.

Emotionally intelligent women . . . tend to be assertive and express their feelings directly, and to feel positive about themselves; life holds meaning for them. . . . Their social poise lets them easily reach out to new people; they are comfortable enough with themselves to be playful, spontaneous, and open to sensual experience. Unlike the women purely high in IQ, they rarely feel anxious or guilty, or sink into rumination.

One thing that I haven't seen covered (at least not yet), is the relationship between these two types of intelligence. Goleman says that the relationship is tenuous — people who are high in IQ but low in EQ (a bastardized abbreviation for emotional intelligence) are rare, and vice versa. Csikszentmihalyi focuses on (from what I've read) the positive emotions and feelings that arise from positive intellectual engagement.

And they're right. On a general level, a person's intellectual intelligence doesn't necessarily tell us anything about their emotional intelligence. But I wonder if, on a more granular level, they are related. In the beginning, I said that said that I believe we have cycles of alternate experience. I don't think this is always the case, but I do think that sometimes the two are at odds with each other. Goleman says that the high-IQ male is "untroubled by concerns about himself" while emotionally intelligent males "are comfortable with themselves". I think the difference between these two is interesting. Both are seemingly at ease with themselves, but one is "untroubled" while the other is "comfortable". This is something that I've seen not just in others, but also in myself — a kind of emotinal deadness, where flow overrides feeling. I may not be fully emotionally comfortable, but I'm untroubled by it. This break, I've generally been very accomplished — I'm learning a lot of new things, I'm reading, and I have multiple projects under my belt. This feels good. But a different kind of good, one that feels like it's covering something up.

On the other hand, the two aren't mutually exclusive — when we feel comfortable with ourselves emotionally we can more easily get over the initial hump of self-doubt and inadequacy and learn things meaningfully. And when things are going well intellectually we can see things more clearly and see our feelings more objectively. There are times when the two intelligences support each other, bolstering the other in a positive cycle. These moments are truly happy. I've felt this.

In the end, I agree with Goldman — I don't think there are people who are "essentially" emotionally intelligent or intellectually intelligent. Rather, I think that we go through phases, when we feel comfortable, calm, and emotionally open, and when we feel accomplished, motivated, and emotionally closed. Right now, I feel like the latter.

New Tropicana Bottles

thedieline.com

Tropicana recently redesigned their bottles. I haven't actually tried them although the reviews look less than favorable. I'm not sure if the laundry detergent aesthetic was intentional but I think it's an interesting spin on an old concept.

The Tenderloin

While looking up the local public library for some cooking books I wanted to pick up, I stumbled upon the Tenderloin's eponymous "website." It's basically a collection of photos, videos, and stories about one of the less glamorous neighborhoods of San Francisco. Partly disturbing, it's hard to look away from in an accident-on-the-side-of-the-road kind of way.

My tragic life

Browser wars. Or why I'm tired of defending my browser choice.

Safari and Firefox

Because I'm a web designer, I sometimes feel like I should include more web stuff here. Maybe. Here's a comment I wrote on Digg almost a year ago:

But what I am really tired of is this constant Firefox vs. Safari fight. The funny thing is that it only exists at the user level. There isn't any animosity between the developers. What some people don't understand is that browsers like Firefox, Safari, and Opera, collectively, are furthering the push to better standards adoption. Safari's foundations, WebCore and WebKit are being used in Nokia phones and the iPhone. Opera mini is used in other mobile devices. This is a good thing. The fact is, Firefox, Safari, and Opera are all excellent browsers. Safari's had a bit of a bad rep because of the popularity of Firefox, but it's largely unfounded. If you're going to make a decision between the two, it should be on features and speed. Memory usage and security simply don't play a factor.

That's the benefit of having good options. The WebKit community is absolutely phenomenal and is constantly doing their best to be good web citizens while pushing the envelope (the introduction of the canvas element, which was quickly ratified and later adopted by Firefox).

In the interest of full disclosure: I use Safari on a regular basis. I used OmniWeb for a long time before that, because I'm a big fan of its visual tabs, its speed, its ad blocking and its powerful features. I started using Safari again for a bit and kept with it, largely for its simplicity, but also because it's what I felt like using. They're both that good. I didn't have to worry about low-level problems like leaks or rendering. At work, I develop for MSIE, Firefox and Safari. Firebug is top notch, and I keep Firefox open for JavaScript debugging. Why don't I use Firefox? Personal preference. Safari is faster on the computers I use, launches more quickly, and display web pages more nicely. Are these all matters of opinion? Sure. But that doesn't matter. I have the luxury of choosing between several great browsers. Firefox is one of them.

Fun fact: Dave Hyatt, who co-created Firefox, helped begin the development of Safari and is currently the software architect.

It will be a sad day when either of the big three standards-based browsers die away (Firefox, Safari, Opera). No matter the Firefox-to-Safari usage ratio, this trio of browsers, as a whole, are in the far minority, and it's a collective effort. We need all the help we can get.

Making things do things

Soldered serial connector

I couldn't get the BasicX IDE under VMware Fusion working. It looks like I might have to throw in the towel and work on a Windows machine. If any of you guys have gotten this working on a Mac, let me know.

This is part of an ongoing quest to make things do things, or build electronics. I'll be posting my progress, or lack thereof, on this blog in the coming months.

The simple life

Chicken tikka masala

Lemon chicken

Chicken quesadillas with corn

Chicken cutlet with basmati rice and cream

Quotes

Also, I would gladly have designed the Breakout game for Atari for free, just to do it. I had a job at Hewlett Packard. I considered $350 a nice bonus, something that I'd earned myself. I probably had a pizza to celebrate. I was hurt in later years when I heard that Steve was paid more than he'd told me, and I don't think that I hurt easily. But it was a long time ago and I prefer to get away from it. Steve has always been a good friend to me in many ways more than just palling around. It's so ancient that maybe it didn't happen, and maybe the Atari people that said it and wrote it were wrong in their own memories. I do believe that this is possible. Also, if my own self, or my own children, or my own friends did such a thing in their life, it's easy to excuse it if the circumstances were as I described. It's not 'necessarily' akin to stealing. If there was some dishonesty, I'm over that. Who hasn't done some things that would be considered bad, anyway? I doubt that I'd find such a person interesting.

Steve Wozniak on being paid $350 instead of $2500 by Steve Jobs after redesigning Breakout for Atari. Found at woz.org.

My Exciting Life — 06/02/08

On failure

I made 5127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got it right. There were 5126 failures. But I learned from each one. That's how I came up with a solution. So I don't mind failure. I've always thought that schoolchildren should be marked by the number of failures they've had. The child who tries strange things and experiences lots of failures to get there is probably more creative...

We're taught to do things the right way. But if you want to discover something that other people haven't, you need to do things the wrong way. Initiate a failure by doing something that's very silly, unthinkable, naughty, dangerous. Watching why that fails can take you on a completely different path. It's exciting, actually. To me, solving problems is a bit like a drug. You're on it, and you can't get off.

James Dyson on designing and bringing his first vacuum cleaner to market. Found at Coding Horror.

06/29/08 — 11:08 pm

Tonight, the blind lead the blind.

emacs' abbreviation mode

In order to get rid of this annoying emacs message…

Save abbrevs in ~/.abbrev_defs? (y or n)

…simply add (setq save-abbrevs nil) to your .emacs file.

Vernon in California

Crowd gathers early for Steve's keynote

Going up at WWDC

Before Steve's keynote

Vernon new room

Tough love

Disclaimer: You probably don't want to read this.

I've long held this belief that there is a strong difference between what is right and what is nice. A weak statement would be that I've believed that we should always do what is right, but that being nice is, well, nice but unnecessary. A stronger statement would be that I've felt that being nice often implies doing things that are easier or more socially comfortable, at the expense of doing what's right.

I've also held the belief that we never have to be unhappy (note that being content and being happy is different). That is, there is never a time where we have to do something that makes us our or our peers feel bad. That includes things like our assignments, our jobs, or even our academics. If something is making us unhappy, yet we feel we can benefit from it, we should change it. But if that value is unclear, or the pain unending then we should leave. I tend to believe that we should strive to effect positive change, rather than leave, but that's up for debate.

Late this evening, as I was feeling bad, I realized that my beliefs were at odds with each other. While I continued to believe that we should never be unhappy, my actions spoke otherwise. I hurt someone today and made them feel bad, in the quest for something that was "just" or "right," or something silly like that. It didn't feel good then, and it doesn't feel good now.

What I've begun to realize is this: At the core of everything we do, we should strive to do what we feel is right. Not because we are right—we're not—but because until we respect ourselves and trust our instincts, then we should neither be respected nor trusted. But herein lies the caveat: We should never do this at the expense of another human being. We must realize that in the end, everything we do and experience relates to our feelings and the people we care about.

I can't count the number of times I've said or done things that made people feel bad, or made them feel negatively because I felt like I was doing the right thing, or helping them. And honestly that scares me. Making people unhappy is never the right thing. And it's certainly not helping them. People are inspired by hope, not guilt. Tell people what they did well and how they made you happy, and they will be willing to hear your suggestions for improvement. But never forget the first part. People have feelings too.

To the person I'm really writing this to— I am sorry. I shouldn't have acted like I did either tonight or continually in the past. I still think—perhaps foolishly—that what I said, and what I felt had some value but I said them in ways that were hurtful and disrespectful.

I can do better.

Business cards

I am at WWDC right now and I spent so much time on my portfolios that I didn't have time to print out my resumes, or prepare business cards. So I am designing some impromptu business cards right now and will try to find a Kinkos willing to help me print them out in the next 2 hours.

A few pictures I've taken coming up soon.