Goodbye to Another Renegade – the loss of Virgin America


It’s not often we get the chance to see something truly amazing happen when it comes to creating a great user experience (or guest experience).

Jobs did it with Apple and the Mac, Disney did it with Disneyland, Musk did it with Tesla (and PayPal), Nest did it with IoT, and so on and so forth.

And Branson did it numerous times as well. In this case, he changed how people fly.

I had the opportunity to fly Virgin American once, back when a potential employer flew me from San Diego to SFO for a job interview – that was one of not only the best flights I had ever been on, but extremely comfy in “normal” seating, especially for being someone who is 6′ 7″. It’s sad that so many companies have the opportunity (and money) to create a great experience, but they don’t, either because they refuse to with “We’ve always done it this way”, or “if it ain’t broke” or not wanting to hire the renegade thinkers, or just not caring or even having true imagination.

Thing is, more people are beginning to get what a “good experience” is thanks to the Steve Jobs’, Jonny Ives’, Richard Branson’s, Walt Disney’s (and his Imagineers), and the rest of us who give a damn about making EVERY.SINGLE.EXPERIENCE wonderful, no matter what industry or who the end user/guest/customer is. Problem is, there’s not enough “employers” or companies out there who look to hire people like us, who want to shake things up; truly, radically, innovate, and make people wake up to what can be.

And so Virgin America was bought out by Alaska, then promptly killed off. Why? Maybe Alaska sees what they have is “good enough” or even “great”. I do remember ads by Alaska back when they first hit the tarmac, but from the looks of it, not even they could keep up with staying ahead of the pack. The sad thing is, this means the end of another great experience that a lot of people will never get the chance to.

Not to say we’ve never seen some brand bought out then killed off. It’s common in the business world. Sometimes it’s mainly to get rid of the competition.

But sometimes, it’s to help make one’s own product better. In this case, I think it’s the former. I hope not, and I hope that Alaska uses the things learned and created by Virgin America to create an even more amazing flight experience.

We need to be innovators. Not the “planned out, small iterations, slight changes” kind of innovators. We need to be the unexpected, risk-taking, big stupid ideas no one could even imagine kind of innovators.

Renegades, catalysts, different thinkers. And companies need to be willing to not just do things “the way we always have”, but be willing to take big risks in order to truly push technology and experiences forward.

You can either be “safe” and plan things out, or do something crazy and really have a massive, amazingly positive effect on how things are done.

Think big, think different, think about how you can change the world to make it a more wonderful place to be, one experience at a time.

So, here’s my regards to Branson and Company. My hat’s off to you Sir Richard for doing what you do, and hoping something great will come our way again someday.


Why Technology Today Should Be Magical (and why it isn’t).


Most of us have heard at one point or another the quote above from Arthur C. Clarke. And it’s true. In fact, I would suppose that most everyone in the business of technology, whether someone at the C level, or an engineer, or designer, and anyone else feels that this statement is true, and has a desire to make it so within their respective company.

But I think that as much as people want to make this happen, most of them can’t. The reason being, I believe, is they just can’t get past what they’re used to doing and redoing over and over and over again. It’s okay to take an idea and iterate on it, perfect it, make it better. But “lightning in a bottle” eventually loses it’s energy.

And not a lot of people get those “aha!” moments, or are capable of them, or even worse, there are those who are capable of amazing ideas but those above them in an organization, are afraid to rock the boat and do something different, or as the famous Apple campaign touted, to think different.

I believe though that everyone is born to be creative.
However, if that creativity is never nurtured by either a parent, teacher, or boss, then creativity within a given individual either dies, or maybe, just gets put away into some dusty little closet never to be played with again.

I myself have had plenty of moments of some new idea only to get shot down because management was used to doing things the way they were, and (even though they were bleeding users), thought it best to not get “too showy” or keep doing what worked best the last 20 years, but pretty things up.

Recently, I was reading an article on Interfaces on Demand. It had some great points, and was well thought out for the most part. My beef with it though, because this was written by someone in my field (experience design), was off and I was a bit surprised that the writer kept to the same conventions of usability that you and I and others are used to.

We need to stop thinking about how things should work the way we’re used to doing them. This is the future after all. We have computers we keep in our pockets, cars that talk to us and our devices, home appliances and smart things that all are beginning to work seamlessly (and I’m surprised it took this long, since I was working on the same stuff ready for market back in 1999 at Stellcom).

Making Tech a Magical Experience

Here’s the point: Our smart devices can only be as smart as the software written for them. My iPhone knows where I live, if I drive a car, how long it will take to get somewhere, where my car is parked, and so forth. It’s scary yet at the same time pretty neat. And I didn’t have to tell it anything or set anything up (aside from my home address when I got my phone).

Now imagine if my iPhone could tell me where there’s good parking when I get close to a destination, or has figured out where I tend to eat lunch or dinner when I’m out – and then tells me where a good place is to eat around lunch or dinner time when I’m not in my local neighborhood or in an area I’m not familiar with AND it offers to make a reservation for me thanks to Open Table…

I have yet to see that. Yes, Google Cards does something kind of like that, but I have to tell it what I want and they only work with Google apps – last time I tried to use them on my phone, which to be honest was a while ago, and to be even more honest, a pain to use. Tech should not be a pain to use. Smart tech should work with any app to leverage it’s features in order to create a seamless and magical experience. And it needs to be at the top interaction/user layer vs. buried in it’s own app.

So to all of my fellow UX/Experience Design/Technology colleagues: Stop being afraid to do something so different that it will blow people’s minds. It’s our job to make technology indistinguishable from magic.

Stop thinking small, safe and comfortable.


The Snobbery of UX


UX, or User Experience, is a great thing. It’s about, I think, creating wonderful, happy, engaging experiences for people. To me, it spans across software/apps, websites, products, cars, shopping centers, retail stores, and even themed entertainment.

UX is the glue that binds us together.

In all the years I’ve been part of the UX community, I’ve met colleagues who either believe we need to make co-workers, family, and friends, champions of UX – get them onboard and follow the cause, or think that we need to keep the secrets of good UX design to ourselves, like a magician never tells how a trick is done.

So I’d like to address the latter group. And for those of you who don’t think you belong to it, please consider what I’m about to say, for even though I want to think I’m in the first group, sometimes I’ve fallen into the pride of being a UX snob.

The thought about this all came about recently at a local meetup of UX pros, where a “TV show” was being filmed. The idea was you had people showing off their great idea, and then a panel of UX experts would comment and make suggestions to make it better, Shark Tank style.

What I noticed during the taping (or I should say digitizing) of the “show” was that the people showing their ideas were very passionate about them, and they thought they came up with the greatest thing since sliced bread. And to be honest, there were some great ideas/products being shown.

The panel would then make comments, some lighthearted, some constructive. But what kind of bugged me was some of the language they used.

Design language.

For us, design language is fine, using terms like “Design cues” and “Affordances”.  We tend to use those amongst ourselves often, to get to the point of something. However, normal everyday people who have an idea, or our co-workers, or bosses, don’t know what those are (especially what in the name of God’s green earth is an “affordance”).

It makes us sound like design snobs.

As the panelists were making suggestions and comments, I thought to myself while sitting in the audience, how would I be making suggestions, or wording them?  I think in the past, I may have been more snobby sounding, but all I could think of was “this guy is not getting what they’re saying. They need to sound more HUMAN”.

We need to create great experiences all the time, whether that’s for some thing, or even when talking to some ONE.

We need to always be cognizant of being in the first group – to win people over to the UX cause.

So please don’t use words like “affordances”, unless you’re talking to a college professor or fellow colleague – even at that, let’s make an effort to sound more human and less like someone with a Phd in human centered design or whatever.

It makes the listener feel dumb, and it even makes us look stupid. If we’re going to make UX matter to everyone, we need to champion it on the person-to-person, normal everyday  guy or gal level.

Put away your Phd or some degree for those moments, and focus on always creating a great experience instead.




What Makes a Great Interactive Experience?


The subject of what makes something engagingly interactive popped in my head last night as I was watching TV – well, our Apple TV, and how we go about looking for anything that my wife and I both like and haven’t completely binge watched to the end.

We have a 3rd gen Apple TV (because she didn’t want to spend the extra $40 on the 4th gen with Siri integration), so we’re still kind of stuck with that little Apple handheld remote that seems to always find it’s way somewhere in the couch.

As sleek as it is, all with it’s 3 buttons, it’s not a good interactive experience when searching for things beyond what Hulu or Netflix suggests. Searching is akin to the old days of arcade machines, where you had to select letters with a joystick and hit the FIRE button to get your 3 initials in for your high score.

I don’t miss that at all. This is not 1980-something and technology has gotten far better, so you’d think by now, because IT’S THE FUTURE we were all waiting for (computers that converse with us, robots that do more than randomly vacuum, like Pick up Our Messes; and flying DeLoreans). If we can fit the power of a Cray Supercomputer into a handheld mobile device we take everywhere with us, the rest shouldn’t be so difficult to achieve one would think.

So I thought I’d come up with some tenants of good interaction design. Or at least, what I think makes good interaction design. This can apply to apps, websites, games, robotics, smart/connected homes (and IoT), and autonomous cars.

1: Make it Easy.

Okay, this is a gimme. People  in general- the users, aren’t software developers (well, the majority aren’t) or engineers.

They’re the children, moms, dads, grandparents, teachers, call-center employee, government worker, average Joe. They deserve to have experiences that are simple to use. It doesn’t matter if it’s looking up someone’s property record or playing a game on their phone. It should be easy to use, easy to figure out with very little to no instruction – and if there is instruction, put it in as they’re doing whatever they’re doing so they can remember those WHILE doing it.

Engineers and software developers are great at making things work – taking a set of requirements and turning it into something. That’s their job. They spend hours making systems, or coding, and as long as their finished product does what the requirements say, it’s a good day.

As UX people (under the whole UX umbrella), our job is to make something that can be inherently difficult and boring to use both simple. Our users, humans, deserve that.

Which leads to the next thing..

2. Make it Nicely Engaging.

This should be a no brainer. Engaging means make it so that people want to come back and use your product, website, app, game. It has to be so freaking engaging that it almost becomes addictive.

It should make their lives or jobs easier to do, or take them away from their problems of the day or the moment and allow them to get away.

There are two types of engaging, maybe even more.  The two I can think of off the top of my head are fun and easy, or hard and confusing.

The fun and easy to use things make you want to use it, they make as I mentioned things like your job a bit easier to do for instance. Computers were made to essentially make our lives easier, but somehow that got lost in translation.

The hard and confusing apps, websites, software programs and products do engage us, but cause frustration, stress, pulling out of hair, sleepless nights, and so forth.  We can avoid making these types of interactive experiences – and in fact, no matter how complex any of those are, there are ways to make them simple and nicely engaging.

So, try always to make things nicely engaging. I’m sure you hate using something that is a pain in the butt to use, but you have to anyway (Dashboard editors anyone??).

Stop making it so hard for everyone else.

3. Make it Interactive

Hello, it’s now the 21st Century. We have the technology to make technology interactive, and nicely engaging, and simple for the user.

About 40 years ago, there was this software program for the Apple II, and I think the TRS-80, called Eliza. It was SO cool because it engaged the user. It could actually respond to your questions that you asked it, and it was pretty accurate. It was in a sense the first example of what AI could be. Think of Siri or Cortana or Alexis now, take away their voices, and put their response on-screen only. And that was basically what Eliza did. 40 YEARS AGO (*actually more like 38 years but you get the point).

We should be able to naturally interact with things by voice (with complete accuracy), by hand gestures, and the systems should learn how we do things so they just do it either on it’s own (turn on the lights at home when I’m a mile away for instance) or by asking first.

Unencumbered interaction.

For games, apps, etc. it should be something that makes us want to master it. Don’t make them too difficult to master but for games not too easy . There has to be some kind of reward.

For an app, the reward is in that it gets to know the user, and becomes a real digital assistant. And at that point, the interactivity increases between user and machine, to where the fact it’s an app becomes transparent to the user.

Yes, it’s not a high score with power-ups, but it is rewarding to the user when something just works.


Those are the 3 most important things I can think of when it comes to making a great interactive experience. I know that most of you know these things, and some have been discussed over and over, starting basically with Dieter Rams 10 Principles for Good Design 

Simple, Engaging, Interactive.

You’d be surprised how many people still don’t get that.

If you have any comments or think I’m off my rocker, or missed something, please feel free to reply below.


Disney Imagineers – the Forefathers of the Maker Movement


To some of you this might seem like a stretch,  but I want to state the case that being a “Maker” is actually a wonderful thing.

You might wonder why I titled this “Disney Imagineers – the Forefathers of the Maker Movement”. After all, people all over the world have been making things as long as one can remember.  But, as what we consider the Maker Movement, it’s formed on the grounds that someone, anyone, with very little to no training, or college education in a given field, can make really cool stuff.

Those people can range from artists to designers to school teachers to someone’s mom who got bored one day, and decided to make something unique and interesting. Or me. I really don’t know where to place myself among those folks, but even though I had never considered it in the past, I too am a Maker.

In fact, I remember one hiring manager – great guy who I have a ton of respect for, decided to pass me over based on the fact that I’m one of those folks. I wasn’t upset by that revelation,  but it got me to thinking about a couple things. What have I really made besides my R2D2 replica, and who else were makers that could prove in some way that being one is actually a great skill to have? A skill that adds to not only the abilities of that person, but also can be a great thing to have for any given company (hint: it all has to do with how resourceful and creative one can be, even in what seems like the most impossible situations).

Makers at heart are problem solvers, and have the willingness and curiosity to try new things and learn whatever they can (and quickly I might add) in order to solve a given problem. They’re willing to take on something they may have never done before in their lives in order to make something happen.

Let’s go back 61 years ago to 1955- the grand opening of the Happiest Place on Earth. For those who know their Disney history, you know the story that Walt wanted to make an amusement park like no other – one that was clean, both in the environment as well as the people who worked there (no Carnies), with memorable rides and experiences based on his studio’s movies, cartoons and characters – Disney’s IP.

The problem, at the time at least, was there really were no experts in creating such a place.

There wasn’t the Themed Entertainment Association, there weren’t classes at the universities or colleges teaching theme park design, and of course there weren’t Disney Imagineers — yet.

So Walt did what he did best, and gathered his animators and artists to create the design of the park – from the architectural concept drawings to the concepts and art for the rides, the Disney creative staff worked on what would become Disneyland.  He named them Imagineers – the hybrid name of Imagination and Engineering and formed WED Imagineering, known today as WDI, or Walt Disney Imagineering.

These folks were artists – creative in every sense of the word, and I’d argue the beginning of the what would eventually become the Maker Movement, because they designed and made things they really weren’t trained in (most of the animators were good cartoonists who learned on the job how to animate originally).

It wasn’t until recently that the Maker Movement that we all know started to take off with the advent of Maker Faires around the country and then the world.

Since my first “build” with R2, it made me look at things I’ve done in the past that most sane people wouldn’t attempt (btw everyone thought Walt Disney was NUTS to build another “amusement park” – referred to as Walt’s Folly). For instance, instead of building a house, why not buy a classic piece of California architecture and have it taken apart and moved to some land instead? That’s what my wife and I did nearly 20 years ago – we bought a 1953 California Ranch home in La Jolla that was to be torn down by it’s owners, and moved it to our 5 acres in the hills of San Diego’s east county, and we did most of the restoration work on our own.

After move 2
One-third of our house after the long haul from La Jolla to Jamul.
20 years later and still doing improvements.

More recently, my crazy builds that I’ve been doing, with no training or past experience, are a 12×4 outdoor dining table made from reclaimed palette wood, and a 24×40 f00t pole barn (okay, I did use some of my 1 semester of architecture class to design the structure). And aside from having someone help us set the posts, I’ve been doing all the work or getting some friends to help with the heavy lifting.



So yes, I’m a Maker -been one all my life that I can remember. And I’m proud to be one as I’m in pretty good company – Imagineers and Makers all over the world alike.

Now go make something 🙂





The Robot that Picks up Stuff for You (and your kids)-Socializing Robotics

A while ago over on my concepts and illustrations page, I had posted some sketches for a robot who’s sole job is to pick up stuff around the house.  This idea was borne while I was working for Brain – a local robotics company working on developing a way to make robots teachable, or trainable vs. the more common path of programming.

Pickup Robot 2
A robot to help around the house.

Teach a robot how to do something and you can get to market faster than programming it.

As a UX guy, my goal has always been about creating a great overall experience, from not only how something works, but also to how it’s packaged, and the whole OOBE (out of box experience).

Knowing that now dear reader, you can understand how my overarching goal is to take anything from a good idea to something really great.  At first when the idea of a robot that picks up your kid’s messes for them came about, going about the house doing what they should be doing, I thought it was truly a bad idea.

Having two grown children of my own, it was important for my wife and I to teach our children to be responsible, pick up after themselves, and take good care of what they had.

A simple concept.

In today’s fast-paced busy world, parents with young children seem to barely have enough time for that. My sister-in-laws children are doing sports (including lots of out of town games), errands, work, life. They’re really not home as much as they’d like as they play chauffeur most the time.

Looking at that, I get the idea of a smart machine helper to help keep the house tidy. And I had this idea, that the robot, instead of being just a machine, could interact with the children, making cleaning up and putting stuff away into different games.

The idea was socializing the robot into the home, so it would be part of the family. This concept wasn’t strange to me, as when I run my R2D2 around town at events, I do what I can to make him seem alive – by causing him to react to people’s interactions appropriately – in other words, creating a great user experience (or what I call a great Human experience).


Today while at the San Diego Comic Con, I met a very nice Disney Imagineer, who’s job is currently socializing robotics – which are being tested at Disney parks. Her job is to make robots seem alive and friendly.  That makes a lot of sense and something, to me, having been playing with robotics since I was very young, is a natural idea.

Needless to say, if you’ve read any of my past posts, being a Disney Imagineer is my dream job, and has been for quite a while. When I had the chance to work with Imagineers a few years ago at D23, that was an experience I will never forget – they all created an amazing experience for me.

So here’s hoping someday soon I’ll get the chance to land there and do what I love to do and what I live for – creating amazing experiences for all of you, and even maybe get to help steer robotics past the labs and into your home by inspiring children and young adults as Disney did for me when I was a child.

And don’t even bring up robot vacuums…



The Human Experience of VR


Recently I published a post on LinkedIn in regards to the Future of VR, as I see it (if you have a LinkedIn account, you can see that here).

If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, it basically talks about the importance of the portability of VR – in other words, being able to go anywhere with it and not being tied down by your computer or some crazy set-up in a room you’ve deemed to be your VR Cave.

And that brings me now to what I see as being, or should become, the Human Experience of VR, from a UX designer point of view as well as that of a filmmaker/storyteller point of view.

Of course, you may disagree or have even better ideas, so please feel free to comment.

First off, 360 degree VR is a completely sucky experience for humans. No, really, it is. NO ONE can naturally turn their head 360 or even 180 degrees from facing forward. Unless you’re an owl person or the human embodiment of R2D2, you physically can’t do it.  We can look over our shoulder to a certain degree, but that’s about it.

Looking around 360 degrees while stationary is not a natural human experience.

In fact as I was at E3, demoing the Immerex VR head mounted display to dozens and dozens of folks, which was playing 4k 3D 360 degree videos, not a SINGLE person looked BEHIND them, or at all 360 degrees of content, even though I told them at the beginning “You’re going to be watching a 360 DEGREE 3D VIDEO SO MAKE SURE TO TURN AROUND ONCE IN A WHILE TO ENJOY IT”.

Not one person did. Never. Not. Ever.

Like these guys..


Or this guy.


Nope. They just sat there staring straight in front of them for the most part, and once in a while looking side to side or even (gasp!) up and down. Happy as little clams with their comfy spot.

I had to remind them to look around, and once they did because they were sitting in a stool that allowed them to spin around, they were pretty happy, though a few people stopped as it was going to make them sick.

Funny how if the motion is in one direction and you spend to much time looking the wrong way, you get sick.

Add that if something is framed ahead of you to drive the story, you could miss out on it. It’s kinda like being that ADD kid in class that was looking everywhere instead of at the teacher.

So here’s a thought – take it as advice, or take it for what it’s worth. Don’t shoot 360 degree VR content if you’re making it move. This applies to storytellers, filmmakers, drone people, etc.

Now, of course, 360 degree video is great for VR tours, like a home, or office, or national park (and you can break what I said if it’s aerial footage). You stand, or sit in a swivel chair, and off you go.

For moviemaking, my suggestion is shoot either to cover 180 or even 200% from front, so the viewer can look over their shoulder.

It’s how people naturally look at things.

As a filmmaker, you can control the lighting, sound, and of course drive the direction of the story.

Your audience will be in the film, and if you’re clever enough, they can be one of the characters. There’s lots of big players getting onto the VR bandwagon, including Stephen Spielberg, who at one time talked about the danger of VR to the film world, and now is embracing it. It’ll be interesting to see what he does, or others and the standards that might come from that.

Next time I’ll be discussing an idea I have for story-based 3D virtual reality movies, and a special rig that’s being designed right now. 😉

Please feel free to add any comments or thoughts below.

Until next time.

Human Experience Engineer, Storyteller, Filmmaker

Thanks to the Few Followers (and everyone else who might read my blog)

Hello new people who are now following my blog.  You are part of a small, but awesome group of people – as are those who don’t follow me but still read my random thoughts once in a while.

I appreciate the interest.

One thing you’ll notice about this blog is I don’t post too often. In fact I post only when there’s something worth posting, as words are very valuable to me.

For me it’s about quality vs. quantity, and always has been how I’ve worked since childhood. I want the best of me out there, and if that means even a few iterations, that’s still not too bad.

So, don’t expect to see a lot. But when something is posted, I promise to make it interesting, thought-provoking (hopefully) and even touches your emotions.

Ramblings of a mad man are to be taken both with some seriousness and a grain of salt. It is whatever you make of it.

Stay tuned…


Random Thought – What Makes a Happy Experience?

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 11.55.18 AM

Yesterday — a Wednesday after Spring Break was supposed to be over, my 19 year old son and I made a 2 hour pilgrimage to the Disneyland Resort, or as we native Southern Californian’s call it, Disneyland.

I chose a Wednesday because it’s known as one of the lesser busy days. Add that I thought Spring Break was over, and it should have been a pretty slow day there. Lines should have been short, we should have been able to get on lots of rides, and moving from one area to the other should have been relatively simple.

It was, and it wasn’t. Turns out there was still a little bit of Spring Break going on, and everyone has been clued in that Wednesday is the slow day. (Turns out it’s TUESDAYS now).

Lines were anywhere from 25 minutes to 115 minutes (Radiator Springs Racers). But that was okay, as we planned on working around that, and a 65 minute line was bearable as it was a cool day out.

But the thing is, with all the people, lines, rides being stopped occasionally, it was still a great day and the title “Happiest Place on Earth” managed to live up to it’s name.

And that made me think why that is, from an experience designer’s point of view. I know nothing can ever be perfect, and there’s always room for improvement, whether it’s from an overall look at something, or down to the littlest of details.

As an experience designer, it’s my job (and that of fellow Experience Designers wherer they be a UX Designer, Interaction Designer, Information Architect, UX Researcher, Visual Designer, or theme park designer, producer, etc.), to create amazing, user-friendly, engaging, and even magical experiences for our audience.

In other words – A Happy Experience.

We know everything has room for improvement, and there’s never a point where something can be perfect. Walt Disney knew that, as he had said, basically, that he never wanted Disneyland to stay the same – he wanted to improve upon what first opened on July 17th, 1955. He knew it could only get better with time, technology, and the endless creativity of his Imagineers. But, Disneyland took what had been already done (amusement parks had been around for decades), and made it better.

Steve Jobs knew the iPhone wasn’t perfect, and there were plenty of mobile phones ahead of the iPhone, and even a couple smart phones. But Apple took what had been already done, and did it better. It wasn’t perfect, and will never be. But it’s overall a pretty good, to sometimes great, or even magical experience.

And it hit me yesterday as I was there at the park, what can make a Happy Experience, even among the crowds and lines. Same goes for apps we use, devices we interact with, etc.

It was the small details.  Things the experience designers come up with that make you, the audience, go “wow”, or smile, or anything that creates that moment of magic.  We know it’s not going to be perfect – what with budgets, deadlines, project timelines, and knowing there will always be a better way or better idea.

But we will always do our best to create those moments of magic.

It’s sometimes in the big things, but most of the time it’s in the little details.

Getting a hug from a Wookie, or a watching a group of street performers give their all (and you know it’s probably been a long day for them) are some moments of magic that the Disney Imagineers think of.



And there are some that they don’t —  one’s that just happen.

Yesterday, there were a few magical moments for us, and I could see some for other park guests.  One of them for us was we decided to stop by the Main Street Train Station, as we knew the trains were not running due to the Star Wars Land expansion. We were headed to California Adventure, and decided to take a little detour.

As we made our way up the door to the station, it looked like they were closing, but the Castmember let us in. We got to see the replica of Walt’s own live steamer he ran at his house, and then went out the platform to see #4 with the Lily Belle car at the end.  There wasn’t  a lot of people, and so I started to take some nice photos of the train. I noticed nearby was one of the engineers tending to it, so I struck up a conversation with him.



My son and I learned a lot about the engine (it was built in 1929 and was used at a rock quarry), as well as the engineer’s background, and met another engineer who’s from San Diego, and got to chat with both of them as well as the conductor.

They even took a photo of my son and I from down on the tracks, and offered to take us on a tour next time we came back.


That was a magical moment — one I’m sure not a lot of people get, except those who take the time to get off the beaten track (no pun) and explore a little bit.

The next magical moment happened when we were ready to head home, and decided to check out the new Luigi’s Rollicking Roadsters ride. 45 minutes.

As we stood in line and finally were in the main queue outside the building to see what was going on, I could see a smile on my son’s face as he and I watched the other riders experience a random Italian dance performed by the cars.

And you could see the smiles, laughter, and children inside all the adults out there being children again.

That was magical. We all know life can be hard. As experience designers, it’s our purpose in life to make the things people have to do everyday that they necessarily don’t want to, magical.

If even for a moment.

Nothing is perfect, but we can do our best to make things a little more so.






The Loss of a Childhood Hero


So this is going to be a little bit different from my normal posts on design or technology.

This is about someone I considered to be one of the greatest legends of basketball, and one of my childhood heroes, Meadowlark Lemon.

I was both shocked and very saddened to hear of his passing a few weeks ago on December 27th, 2015.  Normally when a celebrity passes, it’s sad, but for most of us non-celebrities, unless that person was a close friend or family member, the news of their death can only affect us so much.

I think in this case, the news of his death will last with me for a while.

When I was a young child, maybe 7 or 8 years old, I used to love watching the Harlem Globetrotters on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports”, as well as anytime there was a special.


And then they came to town. That was a magical moment for me, as we sat a few rows up from the court, and watched these men, among them Meadowlark, Curly Neal, and Geese Ausbie, play what I thought was pure magic.  At one point Meadowlark came and sat next to my mom.

That day and that game made such an impression, that I wanted to be a basketball player, and more so, a Harlem Globetrotter one day.. Disclaimer: I’m a tall white dude who isn’t that great at the game.  I did end up playing as a kid on a team, and had the number 36 on my jersey in honor of Meadowlark.  I did everything I could to learn their tricks, including practicing Curly’s famous half-court hook shot (which I actually managed to do one time after one of our games).

One Christmas, my folks bought me a new basketball and red and blue sweats, as well as tickets to the next game that was coming back to San Diego.

Needless to say, my basketball skills are still less than optimal.

A few years ago, on a whim, I invited Meadowlark to join my LinkedIn, and within a couple days he did!  That was an exciting moment for me, as I was now one step closer to someday, hopefully meeting him.   We’d message back and forth, and tried to meet when he came to town, but plans never quite worked out.  We kept in touch though, talked, and every time I felt like I was talking to an old friend.

So it’s with a lot of sadness and sorrow that he has passed, not only for me, but I would imagine for a lot of people out there who knew him, or who he had a major impact on.

The one thing I know for sure is he’s in heaven, as he had become an ordained minister and was a Believer.  Most likely he’s up there, playing a game with some of his teammates who had already passed, and I’d like to think even Christ himself plays a few with them.

So, thank you Meadowlark for who you were, making basketball magical, and showing kids like me what a true sportsman and godly man should be.


#harlemglobetrotters #meadowlarklemon