Posts tagged “washington dc”

Any Palomar is a pal o’ mine?

I blogged about my UXWeek hotel before I headed to DC and again after I arrived (when they have my reservation – expecting me to arrive one day later). Here’s some thoughts about the rest of the experience there.

The elevator had lovely but deadly ceiling lighting. There was no place you could stand (regardless of height or headwear) that would prevent these lights from shining uncomfortably into your eyes. You had to bob and weave to see the buttons for choosing a floor, and then shift around the space inside during your ride in order to minimize the just-outside-awareness annoyance (like when a bug flits near your skin and although you don’t consciously realize what it is you are still annoyed by it).

This sink in my bathroom drove me nuts. Only one control, to the right of the very large and prominent faucet. The control swivels between its current position, let’s call that 6 o’clock, and 90 degrees to the right – say, 3 o’clock. I never managed to get Hot or Cold out of the tap, though, so I never really figured it out. For the first set of uses, I just tilted the control back and got warm enough/cold enough water to do my washing. Then I saw it rotated right, only.

Meanwhile, every time I’d go to wash my hands I’d “miss” because I’d be aiming for the hot tap on the left of the faucet and then I’d get sort of confused with my eyes and my hands when crossing under that huge faucet. It sounds dumb when explained logically, but in terms of instinct, I could just not manage to use this sink easily.

One night I got up to get a drink directly from the faucet and smacked myself pretty hard in the forehead with the giant metal faucet. That’ll make going back to sleep fun.

I hated this sink, but only once I tried to use it.

Looking at the clock radio, I saw that familiar connector and realized hey, that’s for an iPod. I liked the visual branding of the connector; slightly obscure but not entirely so. It semi-subtlely announces what it’s capable of by showing those pins (and connectors are often relegated to the back of the house)

It was really nice to be able to listen to my own music while I was in my room; I made good use of this feature. Sort of a weird interface; I had to keep pressing buttons to get it to play but it was also simple enough I didn’t really mind. I probably blamed myself for not really trying to figure it out – if I had taken 3 minutes to study and learn that would have explained the use model well enough that each action would confidently produce a desired result. But meanwhile, I was getting music and that was good.

Otherwise, the hell just seemed like good ideas that no one really thought through. Lots of half measures that reminded you of the flavor of good service but not the actual experience of it. Every lunch buffet seemed to be missing some implement – gorgeous chunks of chocolate but nothing to cut them with (although maybe it was simply display chocolate we weren’t meant to eat – what a concept) or cold cuts and bread where the bread was rolls with raisins or chunks of baguette that weren’t sliced lengthwise.

The main restroom near the conference was staffed by a guy with bright yellow rubber gloves on. Was he a men’s room attendant? Or was he always in there cleaning? It was pretty unclear and it was of course uncomfortable – how were we supposed to be interacting? No script for that one.

Other people reported the bar and restaurant had lovely tables that seemed at the wrong height for the chairs (or the chairs being the wrong height for the tables). That seemed the theme here – nice looking stuff that was just hard enough to use to make you feel wrong or awkward.

Let’s hope they get this stuff sorted out; I fear they are so far off the mark, though, putting up layers of surfaces without trying them out, that it may never resolve.

Fractured Prune, Coming Soon

Strange sign seen near the UXWeek hotel in D.C. Fractured Prune is a strange name for a donut shop (I mean shoppe). Their website explains how they named the chain after Prunella Shriek, a female athlete (sometimes injured) and landowner from the 1800s. But more interesting (as if the story of Prunella isn’t jaw-dropping in and of itself) is that “Here’s the fun part — you pick the toppings, glazes and sugars for your donuts!” from choices such as

honey, banana, chocolate, maple, strawberry, raspberry, peanut butter, mocha, mint, cherry, lemon, orange, blueberry, mixed berry, caramel
rainbow sprinkles, chocolate sprinkles, coconut, peanuts, Oreo cookie, mini chocolate chips, graham cracker crumbs
powdered, granulated, cinnamon/sugar

and resulting in a wild array of interesting combinations:
Peppermint Patty
Mint / Mini Chips

Blueberry Hill
Blueberry / Powdered Sugar

Trail Mix
Banana / Nuts / Coconut / Jimmies

Who knew? I just saw a strange logo and an old deli being torn down. Looks like an interesting version of a familiar product, with customization as an easy but powerful tool for reinvention. I would bet it’s a pretty fun experience, too.

The Phillips Collection

Our hotel in Washington was just blocks away from The Phillips Collection, a small museum (made up of an old house and a modern extension). I paid $12.00 to see the Klee exhibit (although the permanent collection is free). I don’t remember the last time I went to museum alone; lacking much of a grounding in art and artists it’s that much more of a challenge without someone to talk it over with — even the basics of who these artists were and what they were known for is helpful in order to build up a bit of a vocabulary. Given that, the Klee exhibit was worthwhile since I learned a fair amount about the artist and saw a lot of his work (I remember that he was actively championed in the US but never came here, was insanely prolific, had enormous variety in visual styles).

My favorite pieces were from the permanent collection, although much of it seemed browned and faded and cracked (more than I’ve never noticed in other galleries). Too much of the commentary had to do with the Collection itself (I learned a new word: deaccession, the removing of a work from a collection).

The Luncheon of the Boating Party (Renoir) is very cool. It was given a prominent place at the end of a small room. It’s one of those paintings where you think a light is being shone upon it, but it’s all in how it was painted. It just glowed with light, and with the complex energy and stories of these characters all in place.

Philip Guston, Untitled – 1980. I don’t know why I liked this, I just did. The cartoon-y look certainly appealed.

Approaching a City by Edward Hopper was a familiar and surprising subject for a painting. This would be a great photograph, but who would think to paint it?

Nicolas de Sta?´l (I’m not sure this was the piece I saw; they had a few de Sta?´l and all were amazingly thick-thick-thick with layers of paint, very cool in person but useless to see here).

Obviously these compressed on-screen images aren’t meant to evoke anything except recognition.

Quickies from UXWeek

Despite all the training, the swanky Palomar Hotel, site of UX Week, isn’t able to get basic things like room reservations (ObSeinfeld: “See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to *hold* the reservation”) sorted out. I wasn’t the only one it seems that arrived (hot and dusty from a long long voyage) to find some polite confusion at the front desk. And today (after friendly but pungent maintenance men visited my room during the well-communicated fire alarm test) a polite person knocked on my door to see if my room was indeed occupied.

Anyway, more content stuff to come (great keynote by Michael Bierut). Surreal moment of zen last night when the very “guy” bartenders at the billiards bar where Google hosted a (recruiting) party poured out pitchers of shots (of what they referred to as a concoction and had us all toast – like patrons of wet-t-shirt-nite – to GOOOOOOOOOOGLE!!!!!!!!!! It was a viral-video/co-creation opportunity waiting to happen.


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