I thought you might like to know what I’ve been up to, since I obviously haven’t been posting much lately.

Most of my free time has been sucked up by two volunteer projects:

First, I’m helping out in the Emotional Coding Lab as part of a Breast Cancer Support Group Research study being conducted through the Psychosocial Treatment Laboratory at Stanford University.

Basically, I watch tapes of metastatic breast-cancer patients in supportive-expressive groups and code them, which means we record who’s speaking, what they’re speaking about and what their emotions are.

I’m interested in this because the emotion recognition training is really fascinating! The system we use is based on John Gottman’s Specific Affect Coding System which was developed to code the emotions of couples going through marriage counseling. We use a derivative system developed for the lab, called Breast Cancer-SPAFF.

Emotions are assigned to speakers by taking into account four things:

  1. Micromusculature of the face
  2. Body position
  3. Tone of voice
  4. Topic of conversation

I’m hoping the experience will help me interpret subject’s emotions during contextual inquiries and usability tests.

The second project I’m helping with is Jef Raskin’s Humane Environment Project. I’ve just started on this one. Right now, I’m just making comments on the Technical Specification.

Third, I’m starting to get really interested in nutrition, primarily because of my friend Brad (his name is my name too). He turned me on to a book called, “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration,” which is an anthropological account of the affect of western diets on previously non-westernized cultures. It’s fascinating. I plan on posting a review when I’m done.

In addition, last weekend I helped a new store in Palo Alto get ready to open. The store is called Anthropologie. My girlfriend will to be working there as a customer care specialist. My only comment about that whole experience is that retail establishments (especially clothing stores) generate so much more waste than you probably realize! Everything is packaged in its own plastic bag and individual garments are bundled together into larger plastic bags. It really upset me actually. There’s got to be a huge market for improving the environmental friendliness of those sorts of stores.

In other news, I bought a new bed. It’s called the Grand Lit and was designed by Hans Sandgren Jakobsen. Happy to say I paid a lot less than the price listed on the DWR website.

The last thing I want to tell you about is my impending new year’s resolution. Now, I don’t normally make new year’s resolutions, but this year I am because I need to address a major personality flaw. That is, I’m interested in WAY too many things. Almost everything interests me. I spend hours and hours and hours trying to learn everything about everything. That’s not such a bad thing in-and-of-itself, but I feel like I’m spending too much time on those endeavors and not enough completing the truly important things I want to accomplish. Which is, at the most basic level: to change the world by making things easier for people—a goal that many designers share.

So, for the next year, I’m going to try to focus my free-time efforts on the three projects discussed above:

  1. Work at the Emotional Coding Lab
  2. Contributions to The Humane Editor Project
  3. Learning about “real nutrition” with my friend Brad

Of course I’ll still take classes and attend talks, but certainly to a lesser extent than in previous years.

What's Brad been up to?