April, 2005

Apr 05

Good Design

This is a really great article:


about Target’s efforts to redesign the pill bottle. A great example of using superior design to rework something that people have complained about forever but not done anything about. If we applied better design skills to just a small fraction of the stuff we use every day, our lives would be a ton better.

Here’s a picture of the new bottle:

I’m really inclined just to fill prescriptions at Target now — and I didn’t even know they had a pharmacy before. Just super-smart design.

Apr 05

Ubik, by Philip K. Dick

A fun vacation book to read — wanted to read some of Dick’s work because it’s been so influential on Jonathan Lethem.

You may not know Philip K. Dick by name, but you’ve undoubtedly seen movies based on his work: “Blade Runner,” “Minority Report,” and “Total Recall.”

A really smart sci-fi book published in 1969 — one of the intersting “ahas” that I’ve had lately is that every future-looking novel written before about the year 2000 is always going to seem markedly different than sci-fi written afterwards, because of the Internet. We live in such a differently & massively connected world now that it’s impossible to think about the future without assuming that connectivity. That hasn’t always been the case.

Anyway, fun book — great to read on vacation. (Although, like a lot of Dick’s work, not incredibly positive in outlook on the human race…)

Apr 05

Gun, with Occasional Music, by Jonathan Lethem

I’ve mentioned here a few times that Jonathan Lethem is one of my favorite authors (most recently when describing The Disappointment Artist.) As I was looking around for books to take on vacation that were fun to read, I had an urge to read some old, more traditional science fiction, and this qualifies pretty well.

Gun is Lethem’s first novel, and most everyone describes it as an interesting mix of influences between Raymond Chandler and Philip K. Dick — and that’s accurate enough. This is a sci-fi noir book in the best sense — every sentence practically oozes cool. Here’s the first sentence: “It was there when I woke up, I swear. The feeling.” Classic.

Anyway, one of my favorite books in this genre, and the only one featuring kangaroos that carry guns and can talk.

Apr 05

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling

The 4th Harry Potter book is my very favorite in the series so far. It’s the first move into a more adult world, and you get your first glimpses into the world outside London & Hogwarts — you get introduced to the other wizarding schools, learn more about the other groups (like the House Elves & the Giants), and the coming war. Up until this point, the books have really been mostly about Harry & his friends learning what it means to grow up — but this book marks a shift towards the bigger conflict & context. Reading this book is the first time when I really felt like there was a huge universe outside of just what Rowling has written.

One of the interesting things I’m finding is that I wanted to pace myself on these books, reading maybe one a month leading up to the 6th book release in July, but they’ve got such a great momentum that I’m going much faster than I thought. I’m already almost finished with the fifth one — will have to find something else to keep me amused until July, I suppose. 🙂

Apr 05

The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, by Christopher Moore

Just popcorn vacation reading. I read Christopher Moore (a Hawaii resident) on trips when I’m just relaxing and not thinking too hard — it’s a sort of “Elmore Leonard meets Stephen King” vibe — sci-fi/horror mixed with madcap comedy. A good book, but not as good as his more recent ones (like The Supidest Angel.