Bad MUNI user experience works in my favor

I am a lazy San Franciscan. I live 10 blocks uphill from the building where I work, so it’s easy to walk downhill to work, but I take the bus uphill on the way home. Since I don’t go far and my bus is very crowded, I try to sit as close to the back door as a can so I can squeeze out without bumping too many people. From this position, I have a great view of the painful usability of the door mechanisms on the buses.

Since the bus driver does not necessarily open the back doors at every stop, there is a button next to the doors on the outside of the bus that will open the door. The button looks like this:

MUNI back door bus button

What most people don’t understand is that you have to hold down the button until the door opens.

On the style of bus I take, there is a pressure sensor built in to the step inside the bus leading down to the back door, which opens the door when you step down on it (which also isn’t great user experience, but that’s another story). I assume that when the buttons were installed, they were configured so that they would work the same way as the pressure sensor in the step. While it makes sense that you would need to keep standing on the step for a moment to open the door, that’s not a great user experience for a button.

Few people understand that they need to hold down the button to open the doors. Over the course of my 10 block bus ride, I usually see many people frantically pressing the button repeatedly, as though it were an unresponsive elevator button. It’s a perfectly reasonable response, considering how much the bus button looks like an elevator button.

Sadly, the bad design works in my favor. When people fail to open the doors from outside, the bus is able to leave a bit faster. Still, I feel a little guilty about benefiting from bad user experience.

Until MUNI posts instructions next to the button, I’ve resolved not to worry about it. If the bus isn’t crowded and I’m standing within a step of the door, I’ll open it for someone who wants to get on, but I won’t go out of my way to make a packed bus even more packed. If there’s anything San Francisco buses don’t need, it’s more confused riders.

Perspective for less stress: make cookies!

Very often lately I have felt stuck with lots to do and no way to do it. In three days, the convention I’ve been helping to plan will begin, and even though the rest of the convention chairs and I have done a lot to prepare, it never feels like enough. Despite the fact that I have the same workload as the other convention chairs, I feel much more stress than they do, and it’s affecting my day-to-day life. There is something about my way of thinking then, rather than the actual amount of work that I have to do, that is causing my stress.

I’ve been looking for a new mindset for a little while, but a breakthrough came the other day when my housemate Jackie came home. She put a couple boxes on the counter and talked about her professor bringing cookies to class. Continue reading

My favorite travel protip

Welcome to liveblogging from SFO, which has recently announced it will provide free wifi over the whole airport!

Well, sort of. Upon logging on, I found that Tmobile is providing 45 minutes of free wifi, and after that you have to pay their daily pass fees. Oh well. 45 minutes is enough to get a blog post off.

Now, I’d like to share my best tip for long days of travel, airline or otherwise: bring a loaf of bread. On the international terminal around gate A7 in SFO is a store with a rack of Boudin sourdough bread. Whenever I fly from San Francisco to New York, I make sure to buy a half pound round loaf for $2.99. When traveling all day, a loaf of bread is the best insurance against $15 sandwiches.

This tip has saved me more than once. When I was stuck on the train between New York City and my college for two hours with no dinner last year, that loaf kept me from going crazy. The same thing happened when my friends and I were stuck waiting for customs for hours on our train to Montreal. They had teased me about the bag of mini bagels I’d been shlepping around, but they sure were thankful for it later.

Summer is awesome!

I love my internship. I’m doing fun, challenging coding work, I’m absorbing office culture, and I get to sit in on seminars about business practices. It’s great because I feel like I’m learning what I need to know about the software industry that I can’t learn in a classroom.

But moreover, my internship is great because I don’t have signs like these on my door anymore. As much as I’m excited to go back this fall, I’m so glad classes are out for summer!

Binary search tree animation

Here’s my final project for the computer animation class I completed this semester. My goal was to simulate a binary search tree in a somehow artistic fashion. I tried to use as much MEL scripting as I could for this project, but it seemed like Maya was fighting me at every turn. In the end, I managed to write only one working method, but even that one method saved me a lot of tedious animating.

Corkscrew animation

I’m taking a computer animation course using Maya this semester, and our second project was due today. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out, and I thought it was worth sharing here. The assignment was pretty vague; the professor basically wanted us to experiment with pushing and pulling, using the methods we’d used in the labs. I decided to go with a corkscrew.

If anyone has any comments or suggestions for improvement, I’d love to hear them. I will probably have to modify this animation anyway before I turn in my whole portfolio at the end of the semester.

My roommate is a bit puzzled

When my roommate brought back about 15 puzzles after Christmas, I knew she was serious about completing them. I didn’t realize just how serious she was until I came across her method of sorting the pieces.

Ack! They're in grids!

Apparently once she had gotten to the point at which all the remaining pieces were the same color, some more organization was required to complete the puzzle. Still, that’s dedication, right there!

Of Muppets and Youtube

I seem to have developed a muppet addiction this week. The Muppets Studio released a new youtube video on Monday in which the Muppets do Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s been insanely popular, and even became a trending topic on Twitter today.

If you like that, you should check out the 1981 TV documentary, “Of Muppets and Men,” which can be found in six segments on Youtube. It goes into some detail on how The Muppet Show was produced, and has a lot of classic clips and great backstage footage. Here’s the first part for you: