border crossing

Monday, April 27th, 2009

last summer, i set out for southern california with the intention of setting down some semi-permanent roots in the san diego area by september. instead, i spent all my money on running a kitchen at burning man, and ran my energy bar down into the blinking red along the way.

the adventure was worth the risk, but i needed to recover, so i returned east to search for powerups, play some old mini-games i had already figured out pretty well, and develop my strategy a bit better. i learned a lot, and had a lot of fun, and felt very grateful for my friends.

i also thought quite a bit about the potential benefit of using games as a metaphor for life, and that may impact how i write for a while, so… fair warning.

last wednesday i arrived in san diego with a carload of assorted possessions, a two-month sublease on a room that is two blocks from the ocean, and a relatively well-defined concept for a web project that erik has agreed to work on with me for a while.

these are all very good things, and i’ve spent this weekend taking many deep breaths while looking out the window at the palm trees, listening to the birds, and trying to just let my new surroundings sink in.

i love california, but right now, bouncing back and forth between time zones as much as i am, i can’t help but marvel at how different it feels from the rest of the country when it comes to the simple mechanics of daily life.

when abundance can be taken as a given in life, strategies change.

whenever i’m here i feel like i’ve just been dealt a really great hand of cards, and at first it’s really fun to play it out and get a lot of points, but after a while it starts to get boring, and i start to wonder if maybe someone forgot to shuffle the deck…

for now, here i am, and my hand excites me.
i am good, but tired, and there are many stories to tell.
over the next few weeks i will try to figure out where to begin.

for erik, re: angles of approach, aka the bigger-than-burningman convo i wasn’t sure how to begin as we walked home across the UCSD campus with much in our arms and minds and hearts

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

because perhaps an online record should begin, no? considering we both aspire to full disclosure? ;)

other folks, please feel free to toss in any change your pockets care to share.

an excerpt from prometheus rising, by robert anton wilson, which i finally finished this morning after a multi-month hiatus:

Intelligence is the capacity to receive, decode, and transmit information efficiently. Stupidity is blockage of this process at any point. Bigotry, ideologies etc. block the ability to receive; robotic reality tunnels block the ability to decode or integrate new signals; censorship blocks transmission.
If intelligence could be increased, obviously solutions could be found more quickly to the various Doomsday scenarios threatening us.
If each scientist working on the energy-resources problem could double or triple his or her intelligence, work that would require 20 years might be done in six.
If human stupidity in general decreased, there would be less opposition to original thinking and new approaches to our old problems, less censorship and less bigotry.
If stupidity decreased, less money would be wasted on vast organized imbecilities such as the Arms Race, and more would be available for life enhancing projects.
There is nothing rationally desirable that cannot be achieved sooner if rationality itself increases. This is virtually a tautology, but we must consider the corollary:
Work to achieve Intelligence Intensification is work to achieve all our other sane and worthwhile goals.
Maurice Nicholl, physician, psychiatrist, student of Jung, Gurdjieff and Esoteric Christianity, wrote that “the only purpose in work on consciousness is to decrease the amount of violence in the world.” This is Public Health Problem Number One in the nuclear age, the age of overkill.
We are not talking about mere increase in linear IQ – third-circuit semantic cleverness. We are talking of also the kinds of right-brain intelligence that Nicholl acquired from Jungian neurogenetic research and Gurdjieff’s meta-programming techniques. We are talking of, say, Beethoven’s intelligence, which so disturbed Lenin, who could not bear to listen to the Appassionata (Sonata 23) because it made him “want to weep and pat people on the head, and we mustn’t pat them on the head, we must hit them on the head, hit them hard, and make them obey.” More of Beethoven’s intelligence is needed, desperately, to create a signal that the current Lenins cannot ignore, that will make them weep, and stop hitting heads.

burning my draft cards

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

here’s a fun chain of events for ya:

my mom emailed me an announcement that this american life is hiring a web director. and i consider myself qualified and available. whoa!

thinking about applying to work for an organization like TAL is an interesting mind game, because apart from a desire to sound sincere and professional without geeking out and being like “OMG!! i listen to your show all the time!! i even have the juice glasses!!”, there is also the consideration that actually? geeking out a little bit is probably advisable. because not only are they hiring you to be a web geek, but the whole culture of the show is geeky. i mean, if they interviewed someone who was talking about how it felt to apply to work for people she admired and she didn’t admit to freaking out a little bit? i don’t think they would believe her. ira would be like “come on… wasn’t it just a little weird? wasn’t it kind of like not wanting to wear the band shirt to the concert because that is totally lame but still thinking about the fact that you weren’t going to wear the band shirt, and being kind of proud that you were cool enough that you didn’t need to show off like that, and so you hoped that would somehow get across?”

and yeah, it is kind of like that. where does he come up with these questions?! ;)

but whatever, the mind shows its propensity to dizzy itself, and it is far too easy to get wrapped up in overthinking such matters.
i’ll just write them an honest letter and see what happens.
wish me luck!

in the meantime, however, i searched my blog for posts wherein i might have mentioned the show in the natural course of conversation. it has happened several times, actually, which does far more to show that i actually consider the show to be a part of my life than any assertions i could make at this point, so score one for blogging!

two of the mentions, however, were in unfinished draft form, and that got me thinking. the first post was about habeas corpus, and the date suggests that it was actually the first draft i posted after writing a REALLY LONG rant about a variety of things, including the decision that i should publish my drafts somewhere on the public record, if not on my main page.

well, that was a noble aspiration, and reading the habeas corpus post reminded me of why. i have this funny habit, you see, of almost finishing posts and then stopping because i can’t get the conclusion quite right. it’s really quite ridiculous, but it is the only way i have found to get myself to cross the hump of starting to write something without having to worry about perfecting it on the first pass. one of the reasons that the one hour essay project is such a compelling idea in my world is that i tend to bite off way more than i can chew in most of my writing. i want to somehow connect every idea i have to some larger law of the universe and also throw in an entertaining childhood anecdote, an obscure pop culture reference, and a puppy. such neatly bundled packages take time, however, and i simply can’t do that for every blog post i dream up, as much as i may wish otherwise. instead of just posting half-formed ideas or trying to chop things into smaller pieces, however, i end up with lots of posts about fluffy stuff, and a mess of unfinished posts that i can’t bear to delete, but also almost never get around to finishing.

SO. the one hour essay project is actually an attempt at the cutting things into smaller pieces approach, and i hereby redeclare my intentions to post all my drafts, which i had stopped doing at some point while traveling. you can read them via the blither and blather link in the header, or by clicking on drafts in my fancy tagcloud. i think that i will also make a little “current drafts” list in the sidebar, because that would be sweet, and make it easier for me to remember to edit them.

and to close, for those of you intrigued by my references to TAL posts, i offer the following reference list:

here’s to life in progress.

job free

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

well, i didn’t know what it was going to be like to come home from bonnaroo, collapse on the floor, and wake up to the reality of not having guaranteed gainful employment.

now that it has happened, lemme tell ya: it is bliss.

i got home so late on tuesday that some would call it wednesday, missed the chance to take the light rail from the airport so had to spring for a cab, enjoyed the door-to-door service, performed aforementioned collapse onto the floor, and embarked upon the rest of my week with no schedule to keep but my own.

for the past two days i have slept, unpacked, cleaned the house, cooked what could be salvaged from the fridge (an adventure which included the preparation of what is possibly the best tomato sauce i have ever had the privilege of bringing into the world), listened to music, walked around town, talked to friends, sorted through bills, and charted the first steps along the path towards the next income horizon.

i will save the details for another post because i’m making a website that will explain the idea more fully than i care to right now, but here’re the basics: i’m making lunches. for the people in the office where i used to work. and it’s hella fun. there are few things in this world i love more than playing with food, and right now i’m looking at a world where i get up, take care of myself, find and test recipes, assemble menus, play on my computer, make people happy and healthy, and spend the rest of my time as i wish.

feels good, people. feels good. now we just need to see if i get enough takers to pay the bills for a while.

happy official summer while we wait.

life is change

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

today i got some news that is very likely going to sound a lot more out of the blue to you than it does to me, but that’s just because the situation has been so weird and wishy washy that it hasn’t seemed worth writing about it.

now here it is, though, and no sense beating around the bush: my job is ending in two weeks.

as my supervisor was kind enough to state very clearly, this decision is not at all a reflection upon my performance over the last few months. it just turns out that shifting the design culture of a large company from the inside out requires quite a bit of a political maneuvering, we hit a few snags that were a bit larger than anticipated at this stage of the game, and, well, i’m the temporary contractor who wasn’t really planning to stay with the company that long anyway, so it makes sense that i’m the first (and hopefully only) casualty of budgeting rearrangements.

honestly, a lot of me feels relieved. i first heard that this might be possible about a month ago, but it was always at some unknown future point and it was never clear how real the threat was and it was impossible to really do anything with the news other than use it as ulcer fuel or ignore it, and so i did my darndest to do the latter as much as possible. but it still took its toll, as there is only so much patience i can muster for showing up at work and not really knowing if there is anything to do other than watch meetings be postponed and stretch simple tasks out over several days to fill the time. especially when i can think of lots of other things i want to be doing.

which leads well into the next reason i am not devastated by the development.

one of the major questions that i hoped to answer by taking this job was that of whether i am in a headspace for longterm full-time employment right now, and the past three months have provided quite a bit of useful data that has begun to suggest an answer quite a bit earlier than i anticipated. i have learned that there is a lot to be excited about in the professional design world right now, and i enjoy being a part of the conversation about where things are going. at the same time, however, i have learned that i still basically think of myself as a student, that i have Lots of stuff i want to work on for my own reasons that have nothing to do with any company that i know of at the moment, that the travel bug has not left my system, and that i am increasingly convinced of the merits of finding ways to work for myself.

with all that crystallizing in my head, i was honestly starting to get a bit antsy, and once it became clear that it was possible the job might not last the full 9 months after all? well, let’s just say i had no difficulty coming up with ideas of what i might like to do.

the anxiety, as usual, will hinge on money. the last month of my travels and the first month of my move and transition to employment put me once again in the red, and i had been employing a strategic approach to paying that back over time because i thought that my income was assured for a while. so it’s frustrating to have to deal with that. but not unmanageable. and i am hereby stamped as genius for adhering to my policy of sinking money into camping gear instead of furniture in an attempt to limit the number of things i will have to store, sell, or give away before i am able to uproot myself again.

on that note, look at what else i did today!

My tent in my house!

those wheels are tiffanie’s bike, which she lent me, and which i will now perhaps return. the thing that should jump out at you about the fact that you see those wheels is not really the bike, however, it is the fact that my new tent? it’s like one big window. this is nice in circumstances such as the present where it is pitched inside where there is little crosswind and you are still inside a sleeping bag for some reason. it is also nice, however, when it is inside your backpack weighing securely under 5 lbs. even with the rainfly and footprint, or when it is pitched outside in the summer and you want to separate yourself from bugs but not from breeze or scenery. and summer is the season which is about to be upon us. and did i mention that i might have more free time?

so yeah. options abound. and it is somewhat symbolic to me that i decided (and it was a somewhat spontaneous decision as well) to go ahead and buy the tent today of all days, with timing such that i was actually in the process of erecting the last major component of my bare bones self-sufficiency kit right when my phone rang with news to suggest that i might not want to buy the few pieces of furniture that i had decided to splurge for after all. i might have hesitated tomorrow, and i have many days ahead of me to decide if i want to trade it in for the other tent i was considering that is a fair bit cheaper. but today? today i just kept clicking the poles into place. i felt the metal bend, watched the fabric billow and tighten, listened to the silence on the phone and the buzz of the world out the window, and said: “oh. ok. how much time do i have?”

so here come an interesting two weeks, folks. on we go.

tiffanie has dibs on the daylight savings time story

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

but i will report that we have made it safely to chicagoland, and the hotel here is already way ahead in the contest with our former pad in baltimore. i’m about ready to go enjoy the cushy bed.

but first, i point you to the newly added photographic summary of my last few days, which were spent in a veritable candyland of medical paraphernalia.

For those late-night gauze cravings

we also managed to hit the famous aquarium, so you can also check out our stylin’ tourist selves.

Tiffanie is so not interested in my art

and a few pretty fishies.

Tetras plus turtle

and a chilled out amphibian or two.


unfortunately the aquarium killed my camera battery so i have no documentation of our lovely visit with my dear friend jen, her husband mike, and the -3 months and counting baby ?brandon?, who live (and gestate) in the greater baltimore area. all of them are doing well, and it was awesome to get a chance to see them, even if only for a couple of hours. next time i promise i will bring an extra battery.

i’m in the windy city until friday morning, and some of the points on this hotel’s scorecard are wireless internet and a room of my own, so some more thoughts on business travel soonlike.

it’s going to be an interesting nine months of work.

odd jobs for hire!

Thursday, January 4th, 2007
  • Something quirky happening with your blog or website that you’ve been putting off fixing or don’t understand?
  • Tedious data entry or formatting that you just don’t want to do?
  • Research you’ve been meaning to undertake but can’t find the time?

Cut your todo list down to size for the New Year – resolve to do the best and outsource the rest to me!

Rates and currency negotiable, no job too small, not responsible for drops in productivity that may occur due to free time on your xbox.

Calls within the next 15 minutes get a free banana!

this job definitely has its perks

Friday, September 1st, 2006

like having the chef plan our meals for us and do the shopping.

the live-in staff take turns cooking, so i will be up every 3-5 days (depending on how many more staff end up staying in the hotel), which is kind of fun. i like cooking, and planning a menu is some of the fun and a lot of the skill, but it’s nice not really having to think about it for a while, and it’s doubly nice having a professional do it for me.  it’s kind of like living in the dorms again and having a meal plan, except you’re allowed in the kitchen, you get to cook every once in a while, and the food is better.


the menu at the hotel is mostly seafood, and rather fancy, but we eat simpler things, making use of the leftovers in clever ways. yesterday we had some really good fried shrimp, chips, and a salad, and today we had a chicken stew with naan. there is also breakfast every day – cereal, leftover pastries, and/or eggs and bacon cooked to order, and we can make our own sandwiches and fruit for lunch.

i’m going to eat better for these few months than i have in a while, and with not much effort and not much expense – they take £30 out of my pay each week for room and board. two nights at the hostel in edinburgh cost the same, and a week in the room that i passed up in matthew’s house would have been twice that. and neither of those included any food.

so yeah, that’s a perk.

as is being able to write a blog post ten minutes before i have to start working, because all i need to do is change clothes and walk downstairs.

i think i’ll be ok with this for a while. :)

and the winner is…

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

today i took a job at the hollytree hotel, which is in the very small town (“town” really isn’t even that appropriate) of kentallen, right on the bank of loch linnhe, which is quite pretty.

and cold.

but people dive in it! i saw some this morning!

i also saw several rainbows in the mist over the lake loch, and had a nice little walk through the woods on my way into town to meet the woman from the hollytree. the hostel in edinburgh was at the top of a flight of 77 stairs, and the hostel in glencoe was a mile and a half out of town, with no buses. at this rate i’ll be climbing mountains bens soon. :)

i had a hard decision to make between this hotel, which is quiet and somewhat formal, and the clachaig inn, which has a famous pub and is rather laid back. the manager at the clachaig was very friendly and the chance to work in the pub was very tempting, but, at the end of the day, i chose the hollytree because the clachaig wanted me to stay at least until december, and i really think i want to set off again before that. the pay is also higher here, and there is wireless internet, so those are both nice bonuses.

hopefully, i won’t mind the quiet too much, and there will be different experiences of scotland to make up for not working in the pub. one of the potential perks is that there are bikes here that i can ride around for free, so that will be fun, and i should be able to drop by the clachaig every once and a while when they are playing music. i’m a little bit worried that i will regret the decision, i admit, but the fact that i’m worrying about it aloud while making use of the wireless makes it a bit less compelling, as worries go…

i don’t think that it has sunk in yet that i am planning to stay put now for a few months. i realized this morning that i have been on the road for a month and a half, so it’s nice to be somewhere with a room of my own and a chance to spread out a bit. i just hope that, once i’m rested up, i don’t freak out and wish i had stayed in edinburgh. :)

hopefully, i’ll be able to get my camera charger situation figured out now that i will be in one place for a little while, and then i will take pictures, because it is very beautiful.

now i need to do some laundry, and tonight i start work!

stepping back and stepping up in one smooth and intentional motion

Saturday, April 8th, 2006

an overly dramatic gesture towards less fluffy regions of thought, take one

i am not going to save the world.
i am going to build tools that will help people focus on doing their work with more passion and less hassle, be they world savers or dumpster divers.
specifically, i am going to build tools that will help people generate, annotate, delegate, interpolate and orchestrate the information in their lives.
i am going to help change the way that people think about the term “personal information,” because everything in the digital world is personal, and i believe that this presents us with both a great opportunity and a great challenge.
i am going to build tools that are respectful, responsive, and revelatory.
because then the world will be able to save itself.