Fride CalWe use shared Google Calendars for our family calendaring. Each of us has his/her own calendar, and we have a shared calendar for stuff that we all participate in. But when we're sitting in the kitchen with the kids at meals, particularly while getting ready for school in the morning, it would be nice not to have to fish out the phones and cross-reference, and blah blah blah.

I set out to find a solution to this issue. The obvious solution is a traditional calendar. Berta bought one and added October's events to it, but it had some of the traditional problems.

First, there wasn't anywhere useful to put the monthly paper calendar.  We never had one before, so we didn't have a place to keep it. The spots it ended up were first on the kitchen island, where it was always in the way, and then on the wall under some hung photos, which not only wasn't a readily visible location, but was behind some hung photos.

Second, it had these weird "Mine/Theirs" rows. I assume this was a nod to some parent who organizes the family events. Personally, I find this insulting.

Third, and this is really where my imagination starts to kick in, you can only see the current month on the paper calendar. When half the month is over, half of what is being shown is useless to you.  Worse, when you get closer to the end of the month, you have to flip back and forth between pages to see what's coming up.  What's coming up is the most important part!

One might suggest that we use one of those dry-erase magnetic fridge calendars. As you can see though, it fails for many of the same reasons that the paper calendar fails.  Worse, there's no next month at all on a single magnetic calendar.  And they also all seem to have that demeaning "Mine/Theirs" crap, too.

What's a person to do?

My Solution

It's not complicated. I bought a large sheet of dry-erase magnet from Amazon. The sheet was 11x17, and I cut it down to two strips of 5.5x15. On each strip, I drew a week's worth of boxes for each day with a Sharpie, labeling them with the day name and a blank box.  At the bottom of each box, I included two rows of small boxes labeled H, C, and P, for Homework, Chores, and Practice.

Here's the plan: With a fine point wet-erase marker, I fill in the current week's worth of date numbers in the blank boxes next to the weekday names. In the large area, I write all of each day's events and their times, just like you would on a paper calendar.

The bottom area is a bit of an experimental hack.  The idea is that there is one row for each kid (they're labeled A and R), and as they each complete the task for which the box is designated, they mark it with an X.  Consecutive X days will earn prizes, and (even better) end up with all of the homework, chores, and instrument practices being completed.

I follow this same process for next week, and then put both magnets on the fridge, one above the other.  When this week is over, I erase the events from this week (easily done, while leaving behind the permanent Sharpie-rendered calendar design) and fill in the next week. I move up the existing week and put the new week underneath. And so on.

The weird and important bit to mention is that although the sheet is a dry-erase board, I'm using it with wet-erase markers.  Why?  Dry erase markers can be too easily erased by casual bumping.  With a high-traffic area like the fridge, you want a slightly more permanent solution.  Wet-erase markers actually require some water to remove the markings. They also come off of the board more cleanly, whereas the dry-erase markers leave ghost images and odd smudges.

I'm enthusiastic about this solution. I think it's a nice compromise between writing a ton of future dates that could get stale onto a paper calendar and being able to see what's happening in the near-term. I like that it's analog and easily editable, and how it solves many of the issues with a traditional calendar. It won't be our canonical reference - the Google Calendar will still serve that function - but it will at least give us the "at a glance" reference that is useful for planning our weeks while simultaneously tracking essential chore completion duties.

I've been using Google Maps at home to find out how long it would take to get from one place to another before I actually do it.  Route planning is really essential to arriving on time, and planning ahead for traffic, when possible, is a useful way to avoid being late for that important meeting or missing the bobblehead give-away at the ballpark.  But it's with this use of Google Maps that I am frustrated, in part because it could do more, and in part because it seems like some features have been omitted in Google's latest Maps re-build.

My first issue is with a new feature that is actually something I've been longing for on Google Maps for the longest time.  I can now create a "Home" address and a "Work" address that reflect those locations, so I no longer have to enter the addresses for those places instead.  This is so handy, since (let's admit it) when Google knows everything about me already, it seems stupid for them not to use that information to make my life easier.  But it has one quirk that I'm not easily able to figure out.

Google Maps makes it conspicuously difficult to use this new feature.  If I click the "Home" entry to use it for directions, it starts edit mode to let me edit my Home location.  This is not what I want at all.  I have yet to figure out a key press that will select the Home option as my starting or ending location.  Everything I've tried turns it into an editable field instead.  I end up having to type "Home" into the box and press enter.  And while this is significantly more convenient than the prior alternative of typing out my own whole home address, it's significantly less convenient than just clicking on that option in the list.  All the while, I have the eerie impression that there's something simple I'm missing in this process.

The next thing that bothers me is that there is no way that I've seen to include directions for multiple waypoints.  It's possible to drag an existing route line to intersect with an additional location, but there seems to be no way to add an address to the list of waypoints.  Sometimes I don't know where the location of the waypoint is on the map, or would prefer to accurately target a specific place.  Google Maps doesn't seem to allow for this option.

Weirdly, I seem to remember a button in the old interface that would allow you to insert waypoints into the directions. You could then drag the waypoints to reorder them.  The new interface seems to only have a button that swaps the starting and ending addresses.  If I want to have two sets of directions from A to B then from B to C, I need to open two browser tabs and do separate searches.  This seems oddly inefficient to me.

Now, let me complain about the driving versus walking versus transit directions.  Google Maps very cleverly can combine walking and transit options in their directions.  This is great.  But it won't combine driving and transit directions at all.

As a basic example, assume I want to take the train into Philly.  I would have to get in my car and ride to one of the close Septa stations to catch the train.  From there, I would take the train into the city, and probably have to walk from the station there to my ultimate destination.

Google Maps will only show me bus directions on either end.  There are some times when I don't want to take the bus, particularly on the home side of the travel, but usually anytime! It seems like it would be a really good idea to be able to select any transportation-unique range of the route and convert it to a different type of transportation.

While I'm thinking about it, here's something I dislike about GPS/navigation in general: I shouldn't have to hear navigation out of my driveway.  Every 30 feet, the GPS will tell me to turn onto roads in my development that I'm familiar with.  It would be great if I could define a radius away from my house inside of which it would not give me directions. Instead, it would say "proceed to the intersection of 401 and 113", and from there start navigation.  Or, it would be great if I could mark a few well-known, well-traveled locations from which the GPS could start.  And if the directions don't pass through any of those locations (or some button is pressed to override it), then it would just do what it's always done and give complete directions.

Finally, where did Street View go? If you search for an address, you can click on the address' Street View image to go into Street View mode.  But in the old design, you could drop the little Street View man onto any blue-highlighted road, and see the Street View for that location.  To do that now, like if I see an interesting thing from "Earth" view and want to check it out from the street level, I have to click on the map and hope that there's a Street View image to click on to get to Street View.  I suppose this is a smallish change, but it's a totally different way of using the map, and one that doesn't feel intuitive to me yet.

Overall, I like the new design.  Some of the new features are pretty neat.  I suppose I'll just have to get used to the changes that merely bother me, and hope that they improve the usability on the ones that are more severe.

I was driving Riley home from karate when he asked me, "What if the Earth was 150 degrees all the time?"

There are two answers to this question, and one isn't very interesting.  I went with the second, more interesting one, "If it was 150 degrees all of the time, then when life evolved on this planet, it would have evolved to survive in 150-degree weather.  ...  It probably would have looked a lot different from what you see around here today, too."

I return to this conversation a lot because this answer challenges the pre-supposed notion that the present is - and will always be - the status quo.

Some online articles have expounded on the privacy concerns around Google Glass.  I suggest that we instead consider that the epoch of default privacy is comping to a close, and a new era of always-on personal surveillance is emerging upon us.

We grew up in a world where certain kinds of privacy existed, a default position of privacy.  If we had not been born into this state, we wouldn't know any better.  It would be as if the Earth evolved at at 150-degree temperature -- things would just be as they are.  Since we knew privacy, we expect it, and so we complain when we think we are being deprived of something we were born into.  I think the evolution of technology and the perception of privacy requires a new mindset, since future generations will have a steadily declining surety to privacy.

I used to think that there might be a market for private data, wherein you could sell your private details like your soul to the highest bidding demon. But people aren't prescient enough to assign appropriate value to that which they themselves take for granted, and the tools that might allow this to happen are too clumsy or outright don't exist.  In the end, everyone will have frittered their privacy away before anyone can be convinced to protect it.

It is useful to worry about privacy.  The information gathered by Glass will not (mostly) be used for good, I am certain.  I expect some of it to be used for evil and much of it to be used questionably.  But I think things are out of our hands now.  The avalanche has begun.  I can only hope that the dissolution of privacy is spread equally, while simultaneously empowering us in other different, but important ways.

It seems pointless to stare back up at the oncoming snow, yelling that we should have done something, rather than looking out for hazards while speeding downhill away from it.