Monthly Archives: March 2011


Janeen McCrae is something of a hero to me. Last summer she rode her bike across country, raising money for the Austin LiveStrong Challenge, using a bike with a brain ( to let people follow the trip. She is writing about the trip, using her own brain, at

She actually had to start the trip twice – she suffered a terrible crash on the fourth day, barely 100 miles into the 4,400 mile trip, breaking her arm and spending a few hours unconscious in a ditch before being life-flighted to safety. A few months later she got back on her bike and did the full distance, finishing in time to ride the Austin LiveStrong Challenge ride in October. I was following her trip online and, as it happened, I got a chance to meet her and Precious at Mellow Johnny’s the day before the ride.

Janeen has an extensive collection of websites that she maintains while working as a freelance writer in New York. One new site she’s started working on is She takes a Tim Roth tweet, from a series he calls Ran Dom, and designs a poster based on the idea behind it. All in celebration of “The Year of the Brain“.

She was going to do one a week, but this week she was overtaken by events and the project has fallen behind. Janeen is the only person I know from the Internet, so I thought I’d help her out and enlist the kids to come up with a poster for this week’s RanDom tweet: Bring back scratch and sniff movies?

Thinky Time:

Scratch and sniff…Itchy and Scratchy, a cat and an anteater, a tiger and an elephant – Ice Age, a movie! A sabertooth tiger and a mammoth: Scratch (tiger) and Sniff (mammoth) some movie title – Movie poster.

Total Thinking Time: 2 minutes

Prepy Time:

Where are my kids? Where are their crayons? Why don’t we have any crayons anymore, I used to find them every-damn-where! What do we have – pens, colored pencils (Is it offensive that we call them that?) big art pad. Search Google images to figure out how to draw something vaguely Diego and Manny looking. Rough idea of what a Scratch&Sniff movie poster should look like.

Total Prepy Time: 10 minutes

Sit-down-and-doey Time:

I did most of the drawing and some of the writing, but they did the coloring and the Scratch and Sniff writing part, each taking a turn at a word. They also signed it.

I give it 3 pokes with a stick.

Total Sit-down-and-doey-time: 15 minutes.

We made something and we had a good time doing it. I hope that Janeen likes it.

There is some problem you are trying to solve. In your life, at work, in a design. You are probably solving the wrong problem. Paul MacCready, considered to be one of the best mechanical engineers of the 20th century, said it best: “The problem is we don’t understand the problem.”

…The problem was the problem. Paul realized that what we needed to be solved was not, in fact, human powered flight. That was a red-herring. The problem was the process itself, and along with it the blind pursuit of a goal without a deeper understanding how to tackle deeply difficult challenges. He came up with a new problem that he set out to solve: how can you build a plane that could be rebuilt in hours not months. And he did. He built a plane with Mylar, aluminum tubing, and wire….

What’s the take-away? When you are solving a difficult problem re-ask the problem so that your solution helps you learn faster. Find a faster way to fail, recover, and try again. If the problem you are trying to solve involves creating a magnum opus, you are solving the wrong problem.



Someone sure woke up on the right side of the bed this morning – never mind that said bed was mine and I was ejected to the living room. After she had breakfast she was full of enthusiasm for the day had me make sure her shoes weren’t “inappropriate” for gym class. I guess there had been warnings.