Ina Golub, 1938-2015

Ina Golub, an award-winning Judaica artist whose weaving and beadwork are in the permanent collection of the Jewish Museum of New York and many congregations nationwide, died today in West Orange, New Jersey, from complications resulting from throat cancer. She was 76.


Ina was my aunt. She was the only notable relationship I had on my mother’s side of the family; my grandparents died early, and Ina and her husband, Herb, did not have children.

Going to their house was a much different experience than being in my own home. Ina and Herb were into the fine arts. He was a concert pianist and university professor; she, of course, was a weaver, and later a beadworker.

As a kid, stepping into their home was fascinating: the pianist rehearsing downstairs, the huge looms taking up two bedrooms, the balls of yarn and professional-grade drawing tables, the reel-to-reel playing classical music, the Eames recliner. Her house, never renovated, always stood out in my mind—the polished-brick entryway floor, the thick carpeting, the purple accents everywhere, and the dog, always a dog, a succession of fluffy Shetland sheepdogs when I was young (named Sebastian and Amadeus, naturally) and later an adorable rescue.

I spent hours drawing with high-end colored pencils in Ina’s studio, encouraged by her continual focus on creativity. Ina, my mother and I all inherited some of my grandfather Irving’s creative genes—Ina most of all, by far, but enough trickled down that Ina saw her lineage in me, and welcomed my explorations and curiosity.

Once a year, she’d drive me into New York from the suburbs, and we’d spend the day on the Upper West Side, poking around the dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History, and occasionally exploring the flea market on Columbus Avenue and the curio store Maxilla and Mandible. Decades later, I now live in the neighborhood, and I think of my aunt every time I bring my sons to the museum.

ina_golub_fishIna was immensely talented in a variety of physical media. Her “Adon Livyatan”
Havadalah Spice Container (right) won first prize from the 1998 Philip and Sylvia Spertus
Judaica Prize. Her tapestries hang in congregations like Emanu-El in New York, Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, California, and at several synagogues in her home state of New Jersey, including my mother’s own congregation.

I am honored to possess a variety of Ina’s works, including a woven challah cover and an astounding pair of beaded candleholders. Ina also created a pomegranate encasement that contained the ceremonial glass that I broke at my wedding ceremony, and the tallis in which I was bar mitzvahed and married. They are among my more cherished personal belongings.

Ina is survived by her sister, Myrna, and a lasting body of work that should be her legacy.

Emergency maintenance

Discovered late tonight that I had script errors that were compromising my WordPress install. The Ideapad looks to be up and running cleanly again, but some errors may persist. My kids’ websites may be offline a bit longer. Of course, you should just be following Nate and Eli on Twitter, anyway.

On leadership

In the wake of the Royals’ latest improbable postseason run, I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent New York Times Sunday Magazine profile of Ned Yost.

Not because Yost is so hard to parse—how is someone that obviously wrong turning out to be that right?—but because of Yost’s anecdote about his friendship with Dale Earnhardt:

In 1994, when a labor dispute truncated the baseball season, Earnhardt invited Yost to travel with him on the Nascar circuit and serve as “rehydration engineer” (in other words, water-fetcher). At one race, Earnhardt roared back from a huge deficit and nearly won. When Yost congratulated him, Earnhardt grabbed him by the shirt and pulled his friend nose to nose. ”Never, ever, let anybody who you’re around, anybody you’re associated with, allow you to settle for mediocrity,” Yost says Earnhardt told him.

What great perspective. So good I’m going to highlight it twice:

Never, ever, let anybody who you’re around, anybody you’re associated with, allow you to settle for mediocrity.

Why are the Royals successful? Because Yost holds his players to a high standard and expects them to reach it. He doesn’t pander, second-guess or micromanage. He sets a standard and his team follows it.

Ballplayers like to say they “believe in ourselves.” Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer stated as much in his post-game interview last night. That comes from the top: Yost, like his mentor Earnhardt, doesn’t let his team settle. It’s an attitude any good manager should adopt.

On Ghostery

With all the recent industry fuss over ad trackers, I got responsible and reinstalled Ghostery on my browser, and I activated many of its blockers. This has had several interesting effects.

One is that active tracker blocking is invasive in its own way. I’m creating hardships in my own browsing experience that privacy hard-liners don’t mention. If I block optimization schemes too aggressively, I can break essential functions once in awhile, including a site I manage at work whose navigation is mboxed for Adobe Test & Target tracking. Visiting Monoprice with Ghostery on, I discovered today, gnarls their top nav, too, and their search box disappears. And so on.

Another is the level of awareness that Ghostery creates in the end-user. I know about ad networks and trackers, of course I do, I’ve been in this industry 20 years now. But I didn’t actively think about them all that often.

Then I turned on Ghostery, and I visited, a humble little type-geek website that allows for quick unicode character finding. And in finding my ✔, I also found 87 trackers. Eighty-seven! I no longer wonder what purpose the site serves beyond its builders’ nerdy satisfaction: it’s a robust ad engine. As are many other websites for whom users unwittingly expose their usage details.

The full list, behind the jump, for posterity’s sake.

Continue reading

On spin

Re/code, this morning: “Some Uber passengers said they’re waiting to buy a car because of the ride-hailing app,” was a finding from a new report. “CEO Travis Kalanick has said the company’s real competitor … is the auto industry.” The report was commissioned by Uber.

The auto industry, last week: “New-vehicle sales soared a stunning 16 percent last month to 1.4 million cars and light trucks. … Practically all automakers reported double-digit percentage increases.”

We tell the story we want to tell.

A list of musicians of some renown that I did not know were still active but are, and have gigs at the Foundry in Athens, Ga., this summer and fall

Shawn Mullins
Shuggie Otis
Drivin N Cryin
Denny Laine
Albert Lee
James McMurtry
Loudon Wainwright III
George Winston

Either the Foundry is a fascinating music venue, or the old rock n’ roll hands are going down fighting, or maybe I just need to get to a show more often. (I’m thinking a bit of all three.) Also, the Foundry is a pretty cool joint. Good choice by the UX STRAT folks and their sponsors for the happy hour there.

This is a roundabout way of noting that I’m speaking at the conference tomorrow, on the subject of customer experience and how to successfully embed the discipline within a product hierarchy. I’ll post a link to the video here or on Twitter if one becomes available. Very good conference, by the way—highly recommended if you’re a UX professional.

Hey, Master DJ

As the parents of two perceptive and opinionated children, my wife and I grant a substantial amount of self-determination in their young lives. So when, on a lengthy road trip, our seven-year-old son asked to control the iPod, I saw no reason not to hand it to him. We stretched the cord as long as it could go, I handed over the iPod—a Classic model, with 17,000 songs on it—and he started exploring from the back seat.

The result, blasted into the car after a minute or two of silence: AC/DC’s “Caught with Your Pants Down.”

This track immediately became the soundtrack to our vacation. “Can I DJ?” followed by a big guitar riff and, roughly a minute later, lots of laughter at the chorus.

Our story would end here, with a smirk, were it not for our four-year-old, who, of course, also asked to DJ, and who, it should be noted, is a very good reader already. The first time he got ahold of the iPod, he clicked into albums, directly into Genesis’s “Abacab” (thanks, alphabetization!) and landed on “Keep It Dark.” Nice choice. He decided he liked the song and played it several times, not least because he knew how to find it.

His second track: “Rape Me.”

We’re thinking on the next road trip we’re going to have to bring the kids’ iPod with us.

An Apple Watch update

You haven’t mentioned your Apple Watch much since your tweetstorm on June 1.

Update: I’ve been wearing my stainless steel 42mm Apple Watch for seven weeks now.

Do you like it?

Yes, I do, very much.

How’s the battery life?

Better than my iPhone 5. I have a fairly sane amount of notifications coming into my watch: texts (via iMessage, Facebook and Twitter), calendar alerts, reminders from Due, and not much else. No email, news, stock quotes, or extraneous things that would interfere with my day.

As a result, I rarely use more than 40% of the battery in a day, and I routinely charge the watch every other night, not nightly. I’ve only had one day in this routine where I had to switch to reserve power. Of course, I did have one experience where something drained my mostly-full battery overnight, and I spent most of a work day without a watch, which felt kind of ridiculous. But then, it’s not unlike a quartz watch’s battery dying and your not noticing until after you’ve left the house wearing a watch stuck on 3:19.

What do you use it for?

A whole bunch of stuff, actually. Text messaging has been great, from the one-tap canned replies to the occasional voice recognition reply. I’m getting meeting alerts without having to dig into my watch or look at my laptop, and I enjoy checking (and dismissing) incoming messages by glancing at my wrist. I love how the Due app is set for the Watch; it reminds me of to-do list items daily. It’s just Bluetooth on a minimized screen, but each of these apps has worked beautifully. I’ve asked Siri a bunch of questions, although those are disappointing, because Siri usually prompts me to switch to my iPhone for the answer.

Not actually me.I also make the occasional call on it, which has worked well every single time, whether freeing my hands around the house or allowing me to answer the phone with minimal distraction while driving. The speaker is quiet but serviceable; the microphone has yet to prompt someone to ask me if I’m on my watch and not my phone. The Dick Tracy gimmick has proved to be useful, nerdy and delightful all at once.

And, a bit surprisingly, I’ve embraced the fitness tracking. I get annoyed at myself if I don’t meet my activity goals most days, which is a nice way to keep me on my feet and moving. (I also get annoyed at the stand-up reminders, which I may turn off.)

So you’re happy owning an Apple Watch?

Very much so. I was a bit ambivalent going in, as previously noted in this space; I didn’t quite see the point. Indeed, I got the watch in part to find that out.

What I wound up with is a great little gadget. It’s part fashion piece, part conversation topic, part functional tool, part toy. It has reduced the number of times I grab my phone over the course of a day, which is a victory. Frankly, I get a kick out of it.

So should I get one?

If you think it’ll be fun, then yes, particularly if you’re tired of peering at your iPhone all the time. Do you need one? Not yet, no. It’s not doing anything your phone (and, to be precise, your bluetooth headset and your FitBit) isn’t doing already. But it’s definitely an entertaining, high-quality product, and an amazing piece of human ingenuity.

Hey Mr. Conductor

While I was standing on a virtually empty subway platform at Houston Street at lunchtime a few weeks ago, an out-of-service train pulled into the station.

I was surprised when, rather than roll slowly through, the train made its routine stop, and the conductor of the out-of-service train launched into the usual station-stop routine. He opened his window; he pointed at the striped bar on the ceiling.

He then opened the two doors closest to his location, leaving the rest of the train shuttered and out of service. A handful of uniformed MTA employees were in the cars surrounding the conductor. The conductor announced the station per usual, seemingly for the benefit of his coworkers: downtown 1 to South Ferry, stanclearaclosindoors.

I was standing a directly in front of one of the open doors, a few feet from the conductor, and I gestured toward a uniformed man just inside the train.

“Training?” I asked.


The conductor closed the doors, looked deliberately up and down the platform, then watched, window open, as the train’s driver released the brakes.

Smiling, I gave the conductor a showy thumbs-up. Nice work, I wanted to express, good luck in your new career!

Instead, the conductor looked right past me. Didn’t even acknowledge my presence, despite my standing maybe five feet away, the only person in that area of the platform. Off he went to the next station on his training run, focused on his responsibilities like a racehorse wearing blinders.

I suppose the core job skills are taught right away. Even the unwritten ones.

Day 1 with an Apple Watch

I’m on Day Four wearing my Apple Watch, and I like it very much. I’m finding it useful, attractive, comfortable, interesting and fun.

Of course, my first day wearing it was something else entirely. And while reviewers intentionally give new products some breathing room, I thought I’d take a stab at quantifying the first impressions of a Watch wearer. This is a product with a learning curve—does it create impediments? Frustrated expectations? Or would it all be part of the fun?

So I live-tweeted my day getting used to the watch (to the chagrin of my friends on Facebook, where my tweets cross-post). I’m a few days removed from the experience, so they are presented below as-is. All in all, it was a very good first day.