In the era of COVID, all of us are learning what it’s like to lose control and lose freedom.

There was a time where I perceived myself as just another healthy young person. That ended in 2006, when I had my first brush with serious medical issues. A pelvic pain when I inhaled turned out to be a grapefruit-sized cyst that required emergency surgery. That experience required 2 days in the hospital and 4 weeks out of work.

Two years later, unexpected significant weight loss turned out to be sudden onset hereditary hemachromatosis — by the time we caught it I was a few months from permanent liver damage. I needed phlebotomies twice a month for 6 months, and every three months for the rest of my life to prevent liver failure.

Discovering our innate human aversion to obstacles, and reflections on coping with “stay at home” orders

A colleague on a conference call during the coronavirus shelter-in-place orders shared her perspective: “I’m basically working from home all the time anyway, but now I haven’t been past my driveway in a week. It’s getting to me.”

Her story, and many others like it, have called up memories of a lesson I learned while working at my first job — as performer in the entertainment department at the Sesame Street theme park Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA.

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The author Cheryl Platz, dancing in a garish bowling shirt and holding a plastic saxophone as she dances to “Put Down the Duckie” in the Rock Around the Block parade at Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA.

The entertainment department was not just responsible for performing; we also owned the setup and maintenance around performances. This included all 4 theaters in the park, but it ALSO included prepping the park’s main thoroughfares for parade crowd control. …

Artificial intelligence leads to uncertain outcomes. What does this mean for our approach to product design?

Some days, it feels as if we’ve awakened in the early scenes of a Terminator film. Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere: on the news, in our phones, even in our light bulbs. With each new product claiming “smart” behavior, we sacrifice another sliver of control over the world around us in exchange for what we hope will be a more frictionless life.

But AI is inherently unpredictable, and the product design techniques we’ve developed in past decades assume a predictable, controllable outcome. …


Cheryl Platz

Designer, actress, teacher, runner, speaker, world traveler, writer, gamer… a twenty-sided woman. Founder of design education company Ideaplatz, LLC.

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