I was up in Minneapolis today to attend a seminar by Edward Tufte, a noted thinker on the best ways to present data. He's a hellaciously smart guy, an excellent speaker, and an agent provocateur on many things that I find interesting: how to write better, how to integrate images and words, how to combine old tech and new tech in a meaningful way, how to understand and formulate complicated arguments. Not incidentally, he also loves Apple - even as he also claims that OS X is almost as good as the original graphical-user interface developed by Xerox PARC about a quarter-century ago.
<whining>So while I thoroughly enjoyed the seminar itself, I did not enjoy the bad arrangements. By my calculations, there were 504 people attending the seminar today. At breaks and lunch, we all had to exit through one skinny stairwell or three small elevator cars. While waiting, I reminded myself of the origins of the term "a crush of people." The sardinian quality of the event forced me to cancel a much-anticipated lunch date with a friend (sorry, Squab!) and to consider making a break for the door well before the seminar ended. I didn't, thinking it rude and enjoying the last bit of the seminar.
Bad decision. Not only did I have to negotiate the aforementioned elevator mess, but once I was in my car on the top of the parking ramp, I had to wait 22 minutes before I could get a space in the queue of departing cars and then spend another 17 minutes inching down the decks. Not that I was tracking either my progress out of the deck or through the streets and down the freeways toward home.</whining>
Suffice to say, after this reminder of some of the downsides of the big city, that I'll welcome my eight-minute bike commute tomorrow. I'll use it to think about some of the great stuff Tufte talked about, like sparklines, why the iPhone is excellent, motion pictures from the 17th century, and how to detect a concealed handgun.