i drove down to watertown today for a usability study at molecular. i met kim, my contact person, then i was led into a room with grace and david. the test was to gauge the effectiveness of certain online shopping cart interfaces. i didn't tell them about my secret background: besides having taken a course in user interface design back in college, i've also done work of this nature as a developer, and i'm an avid online shopper (at least i used to be). i wanted them to leave the room after an hour observing how i work the interface and say, "man, that guy was the best usability test subject we have ever had!" grace was an easy sell, but david sat emotionless throughout the whole session, none of my jokes could crack that hard exterior of his. i was lead to the polo.com website, where i was told to pick two items and pretend to order them as i would normally do, the only criteria is i have to send them to different addresses. after that was done, i was shown a shopping cart prototype that they designed (with flash), and told to go through it as i normally would. it was a pretty snazzy interface, but like i told them, when i'm shopping online, it's not about the special effects, it's more to do with the products and how fast i can check out without encountering any errors. it made me felt good when i'd comment on something and they'd write it down in their notepads. i based my performance how much writing i saw them do, even pausing to let them catch up with what i was saying. when it was all over, i was given a $25 gift certificate for l.l.bean. the original plan was i was supposed to order something for real from l.l.bean and use the gift certificate right then and there (last night i had already picked what i want, a headlamp, for no reason other than the fact that i'd be able to use up the entire $25), but the l.l.bean website was down all day today, that's why we only did a trial run.

i went home to belmont to return the car and get a ride back to cambridge. my father had fertilized the lawn so the grass was all green. all the fruiting trees in the backyard were in bloom (peach, pear, cherry) with white and pink flowers. on the ground were yellow orange daffodils, bluish purple grape hyacinths, and magenta tulips. it's also no surprise that the dandelions were out as well, lush plants. obviously benefitting from some of that fertilizing. bees were out as well, apart from carpenter bees, which i've seen since the weather started to get warm, i also saw a bumblebee today collecting pollen.

i came back to my place with my father. i went down to the basement and finally extinguished the pilot light of the furnace and closed the gas valve for the heat. we did some spring clean-up in the backyard, picking up a lot of the broken twigs and dried stalks, cutting off all the dead hydrangea flowers (which still had a slight fragrance to them despite being dried up). the perennial garden continues to astound me, as a new crop of flowers i've never seen before (or only seen in magazines or catalogs) pop up in the backyard. the most interesting are the snake's head fritillarias AKA checkered lilies. if you've never seen then before, they're these flowers with an unmistakable purple and white checkered pattern on the petals.


perennial 1

perennial 2

perennial 3

snake's head


vine with
purple flowers

wood poppy
with swamp

after my father left for work, i fell asleep on the sofa. andrew came by at 6:30pm, moving in more of his stuff with his girlfriend maura helping him. they left to go hang out with some friends (i gave andrew a set of house keys), while my parents came over for dinner. after my parents left, i took a hot bath, reading some more of 1421. as much as i want to believe that the chinese sailed to the new world before columbus, the book seems very much speculation, and i can see how historians might be angry. i'm at the part in the book where the author "proves" chinese visited south america because the chickens there are asiatic chickens, not european chickens.