Windows 8, the most radical redesign of Microsoft’s flagship operating system, is often said to be schizophrenic. On the one hand, the user interface that first greets users is beautiful: a fun, playful grid of colorful tiles, based on Microsoft’s well-received Metro design language, that offers access to apps and content. On the other hand, hidden beneath this Metro-enhanced surface is the same desktop-based UI we’ve known for decades, still riddled with taskbars, toolbars, and drop-down menus.
Today, Microsoft unveiled a preview of its latest version of Office, and like Windows 8, the newest iterations of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are just as split-minded. With roughly one billion users worldwide, Microsoft faced the same issues designing Office as it did Windows: How do you re-imagine a ubiquitous piece of software without alienating your global user base? While Microsoft designed this latest release for mobile, engineering the experience for touch-screen devices, and infusing elements of Metro’s design language into the program, Office 15 still feels slightly dated—bogged down by decades of legacy.
Many of you have asked, so here’s what’s going on with me.
WHAT HAPPENED BEFORE
- 8/1979: Born. Grew up in CT, built a killer eraser collection, fell in love with computers.
- Left college to start a company. Fell hard. Fled to India for 3 months.
- Started 2nd company. Learned to be an adult. Fell in love with NYC.
- Moved to SF, discovered burritos & some of my fave people on Earth.
- 9/2011: Got diagnosed with Leukemia!
- Cried. Went through 3 cycles of chemo. Hurt. Thought hard about what I want out of life. Grew up a second time.
… After over 100 drives organized by friends, family, and strangers, celebrity call-outs, a bazillion reblogs (7000+!), tweets, and Facebook posts, press, fundraising and international drives organized by tireless friends, and a couple painful false starts, I’ve got a 10/10 matched donor!
You all literally helped save my life. (And the lives of many others.)
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
Tomorrow, I’ll be admitted to Dana Farber in Boston for 4-5 weeks.
First I’ll get a second Hickman line to allow direct access to my heart (for meds and for nutrients if I’m not able to eat). Over the next week, the docs blast my body with a stiff chemo cocktail to try and eradicate all traces of cancer cells. In the process, the immune system I was born with, and my body’s ability to make blood, are destroyed.
Next Friday, I get my donor’s stem cells by IV. I start on immunosuppressants to prevent my body from rejecting them (I’ll be on them for 12-18 months). For these weeks I’ve no immune system, so I’m severely vulnerable to viruses and bacteria. My hospital room and hallway become my world.
Meanwhile, the stem cells make their way to my bone marrow and, with some luck, start producing platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells. At this point, my blood type changes to the blood type of my donor. And my blood will now have my donor’s DNA, not my own.
This is science fiction stuff. I can hardly believe it’s even possible, and there’s lots of chances for things to go wrong. It’s frightening.
AFTER THE TRANSPLANT
Recovery to a new state of “normal” takes about a year, but there’s a few storm clouds hovering:
- My immune system is new, like a baby’s. I’m prone to getting sick.
- Just as with any organ transplant, there’s a chance of rejection. Except in this case, it’s my blood that’s the foreign body, and it touches every organ. They call it graft-vs-host-disease and it can cause health issues and organ complications for the rest of my life.
- Successful transplant or not, Leukemia can relapse. Stubborn mofo.
Overall, 75% of AML transplant patients survive year one, 50% make it through year five. My odds are a little better since I’m young.
THE GREAT NEWS
I’ve got a long road ahead. But I’ve got a donor & amazing family & friends. A few months ago I didn’t have many options. Today I have a plan.
I am alive. I start tomorrow. Wish me luck!
I recently conducted an interview with Joan Didion. We spoke over the phone; she from her hotel in Washington. She was on tour for Blue Nights, a reminisence about the life and death of her daughter, Quintana, and Didion’s thoughts about her own mortality. Over the next few weeks, we will be posting highlights from this interview, then it will all be posted on The Believer website.
- Sheila Heti
THE BELIEVER: When you were a little girl you wanted to be an actress, not a writer?
JOAN DIDION: Right.
BLVR: But you said it’s okay, because writing is in some ways a performance. When you’re writing, are you performing a character?
JD: You’re not even a character. You’re doing a performance. Somehow writing has always seemed to me to have an element of performance.
BLVR: What is the nature of that performance? I mean, an actor performs a character—
JD: Sometimes an actor performs a character, but sometimes an actor just performs. With writing, I don’t think it’s performing a character, really, if the character you’re performing is yourself. I don’t see that as playing a role. It’s just appearing in public.
BLVR: Appearing in public and sort of saying lines—
JD: But not somebody else’s lines. Your lines. Look at me—this is me, is, I think, what you’re saying.
BLVR: And do you feel like that me is a pretty stable thing, or unstable? Is it consistent through one’s life as a writer?
JD: I think it develops into a fairly stable thing over time. I think it’s not at all stable at first. But then you kind of grow into the role you have made for yourself.
BLVR: How would you gauge the distance between the role you have made for yourself—
JD: —and the real person?
JD: Well, I don’t know. The real person becomes the role you have made for yourself.
Microsoft’s Would-Be iPhone — Circa 1991
In our May 2012 issue, contributing editor Joe Hagan profiled Microsoft veteran Nathan Myhrvold, who retired in 1999 after serving 14-years as Bill Gates’ personal tech visionary. Since leaving Microsoft, Myhrvold has lived a nerd fantasy, digging up T. rexes and producing a cookbook only a mad scientist could love.
During his years at the computing giant’s Redmond, Washington headquarters, Myhrvold described in precise terms what the future of computing would look like. More often that not, he was pretty damned accurate: In 1991, while serving as the company’s chief visionary, Myhrvold predicted the emergence of an iPhone-like device down to the smallest detail, describing a “digital wallet” that would consolidate personal communication — telephone, schedule manager, notepad, contacts, and a library of music and books — all in one.
Rarely seen outside of Myhrvold’s inner circle, this sketch of Microsoft’s would-be iPhone portrayed a gadget that could record and archive everything you asked it to, he surmised. “The cost will not be very high,” wrote Myhrvold. “It is pretty easy to imagine a $400 to $1,000 retail price.” Microsoft, however, was too cost conscious and risk averse to execute his vision. “Hey, it was better than predicting the wrong thing,” Myhrvold says now.
For more information about Myhrvold, his tenure at Microsoft, and his newfound passion for molecular gastronomy, read Joe Hagan’s “How a Geek Grills a Burger” here.