Category Archives: Life

Meanwhile, back at the farm…

Rock the Garden

I flew back to Minnesota for the weekend to catch Rock the Garden with Kate. We were too busy filling up on beer and wine to catch much of Solid Gold and Yeasayer, but Calexico was a sweet breath of hot desert air blown in from the Great American Southwest. Then, The Decemberists played The Hazards of Love in its entirety, rendering me a weeping ball of blubbery, emotional goo for sixty minutes. They followed it up with a killer encore, which had me trying to reel my jaw back up into my face.

Those cats can play, man. They’re the real deal. Kate proposed we move to Portland because, you know, The Decemberists are from Portland, and I believe she makes a sound argument. Moving to a particular town in order to be closer to your favorite band that otherwise tours nationally on a regular basis makes complete sense.


Last night we (kinda, sorta) invited ourselves over to a dinner party at the Ingman Estate, where our tremendous peals of laughter dared set off car alarms in the street. We discussed such things as Super Fantastic tomatoes, sucker-popping, and a brilliant marketing campaign for propane.

We ate and drank and laughed and talked until the wee hours of the night, and this morning Kate and I woke up bright and early so we could get new iPhones. It’s a good thing we got a head start on the project, because we ended up traveling to three locations and spending four hours getting our plan in shape. Luckily we scored an incredibly helpful representative at the AT&T store, who got us all squared away after an hour of tireless effort.

Kate dropped me off at the Minneapolis airport where I spent a good half-hour going through security, and I made it to San Francisco just in time for a most-experiential ride on the BART. The doors didn’t work properly, the conductor spoke in an awkward and confusing cadence, they rebooted the train computer by shutting off power for a minute, and a homeless fellow panhandled us on the train. Which is mighty bold. Seriously, San Francisco has standards.

I love my job.

Get it while it's cake!



Long day. One last jam-packed ride on the 49 Muni to Japantown for Andrew Crow’s closing Interaction Design workshop for UX Intensive. An intense day of prototyping followed by a closing party, complete with an open bar and wonderful new friends with Minnesota and Bay Area connections alike. Then, a dash across town to the Adaptive Path office, for further drinks and entertaining in our inspiring design space.

Back to work tomorrow, with sketching on the menu. Sketching, sketching, sketching.

It is a good life.

I can’t wait to tell them about the exploding moon.

I woke up at 6:30 this morning and realized I had to give a 30-minute presentation to the company at noon, introducing myself to the entire gang. I was gunning for a largely visual deck and had flagged a number of photos in Aperture for this purpose, but I hadn’t even started assembling the presentation in Keynote.

It was definitely a cram and I think I pulled it off, but I did learn a thing or two about narration. If you introduce a character, say a car named the “Green Dragon Wagon”, your audience will become confused and uncomfortable when you replace it, unannounced, with a silver Subaru. Then, your audience will become downright hostile if you present a photo of an old pickup truck, unintentionally suggesting that this is your car, with nary a mention as to what happened to the Dragon or the Subaru.

Dog Mountain

You see, people interpret and grow attached to things, be they rhetorical conveyances or characters in a narrative. If you unintentionally toy with their emotions by flippantly dismissing or substituting these characters, they’ll call you on it. If they like you. If they don’t like you they’ll silently judge you for it, for the rest of their lives.

Dane and James' Lost Dreams

Also, in wrapping up my presentation I described to the company our concept work for Dane and James’ Lost Dreams, which is, for those who have forgotten, what you get when you combine a cruise ship with a roller coaster (you get Awesome, with a capital AWE). Yes, Dane and James’ Lost Dreams is a true work of user-centered brilliance, a cruise ship designed for the type of person that is most often attracted to cruise ships in the first place: chiefly, people who wear faded black Harley Davidson shirts with the sleeves cut off. Upon reflection, I wish Andrew could have been there for the “sharing out” of this, given his career history. Even so, we got some largely positive feedback on our work:

“Are you insane?!”

Probably. They’ve got eight more weeks of this, and they don’t even know the half of it yet.

Urban Excursion

You can tell a lot about a neighborhood in San Francisco based on how frequently they need to clean the streets. While biking around Sea Cliff today in a super-ritzy part of town I noticed that they have scheduled street cleanings twice a month.

My street? Three times a week.

I went for another bike ride today, starting out towards SoMa then up Embarcadero into Fisherman’s Wharf. I took lunch at the In-N-Out Burger, based on its legendary status in certain enclaves. A number of folks from WWDC were haunting the joint, along with perhaps the rest of humanity. Tables were scarce, and people were hunched over their claim hissing at passersby who would dare wrest it from their filthy clutches. I stood and waited for fifteen minutes in that awful purgatory between “In” and “Out”, getting jostled and manhandled by every other packet of flesh in the joint. That’s the thing about cities. No matter where you are, someone else always wants to occupy the space that you are taking up.

As for the burger? Not very good. The fries have promise, being truly potato-based in origin, but mine were as though they had been dipped in tepid oil and set to soak through their paper basket.

I continued on my journey, stopping at the Palace of Fine Arts on my way to the Golden Gate Bridge. I crossed over this time around, buffeted by strong winds for the entire length, and got to witness firsthand the circus that is the parking lot at the north overlook. I crossed back and continued west to Land’s End, a decidedly classy locale where a woman with a solid gold tooth asked if I could point her to the nearest restroom.

I dropped in at Seal Rocks and headed south past the Cliff House, and swung back east through the south edge of Golden Gate Park. Following my usual route I went out through the Panhandle, and took the Wiggle to Sanchez to Delores Park. It was here that the jeans got noticeably tighter, the keys began dangling on carabiners clipped to belt loops, and the U-locks were safely stowed in the left back pocket. I spun down Valencia and was soon hauling my (beautiful, lightweight) bicycle up to our third-floor flat.

All in all it was probably a 25-mile bike ride, and I’m hoping I slathered myself with enough sunscreen to stave off any further burns. My arms are peeling like crazy after last week’s ride, and everywhere I go I leave a disgusting trail of skin in my wake.

Kate noted how funny it was, that I had to move to one of the biggest cities in the country to become active in the outdoors again.

I’ll bet you can’t guess how this one ends.

The new bike is fast. It shaved five minutes off my three-mile commute this morning.

Chris, John and I, in celebration of surviving our first week as interns, took the Muni from SoMa through Chinatown to Italytown to grab some tasty slices of pizza. We ate them in a park while an old woman lurked behind us, waiting impatiently for Chris and John to give her their hurriedly-emptied cans of soda. Meanwhile, I gestured at pigeons.

Then we went to a baseball stadium and watched the opera.


All my mail is being forwarded for the summer, and it’s always shocking how long it takes something to wind up at its desired location. After more than a month in the system a stern letter from the IRS finally wound its way to my disciplined staff of Dutiful Mail Handlers in Minnesota. I’m summarizing the finer points of the memo, but apparently a stained cocktail napkin with some numbers scrawled on it is not a proper format for one’s own federal tax return. Which is funny, because I swear I scanned in that napkin and sent it to them electronically.

I called the IRS, and after assuring their automated phone system that I wasn’t looking for money, that I didn’t think the government owed me anything, that I didn’t care about the stimulus package or tax rebates or “gettin’ mine when the gettin’s good”, I was finally able to connect to a real person.

And he was the kindest, most helpful person in the world. Truly. The IRS employs some classy people, and if you can navigate the labyrinthine phone system and trick it into connecting you to them, you’re going to find yourself in a good place. We talked it through, resolved the issue, and that was it. Done. Consider, too, that it was 8:30 at night, Pacific, which is, like, already tomorrow for you suckers on the east coast. No matter where that dude was, he was workin’ late.

And I appreciated it.

Today was Day Two at the ‘Path. We got to hang with one of the founders for awhile and attend some company meetings, and I started getting oriented within my project. It’s pretty big and complex, but it’s currently moving into a new phase where I’ll be able to flex my elite interaction design skills. Sadly I cannot talk in detail about my work, so instead I will talk about my co-workers. Such as Andrew, who says he maintains a fire under his desk so he can burn all his trash, rather than learn which receptacle in the kitchen corresponds to recycling, trash and compost.

Yes. San Francisco offers curbside composting.

Besides the people who relieve themselves on your front steps.

Anything You Could Possibly Want

I finished reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas this afternoon, following it up by watching Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Too much fear and loathing? Nay. Johnny Depp’s narration is still soothing and brilliant.

“Don’t take any guff from these swine.”

I spent today largely running errands, and I’m still disappointed that I haven’t been able to find a source for curry leaves in this tiny seven-by-seven square of a town. Casa Thai on 16th and Mission didn’t pull through, though I did grab a bunch of bananas from them for 90 cents. The city life still amazes me, in that I can walk out my front door, cross a single street, and two minutes and 25 cents later return to my kitchen with a beautiful yellow onion. The only way I could do this in Bloomington would be to break into someone else’s apartment and steal their onions.

Which may not be all that bad an idea.

People say I would do well to check out Whole Paycheck, but I would also do well not to put myself in a financial position where I need to sell myself on the street for groceries. That said, Josh tells me there are some kind prostitutes that hang out on my street corner, so if things get rough I can probably get an apprenticeship or something.

Yes, anything you could possibly want is available within a two-minute radius from here.

Except curry leaves.


Drew and Daniela dropped by for dinner this evening on their mystical journey through the American West, and we had a delicious and rowdy time at the Velvet Cantina. I also had a long and wonderful conversation with Sally tonight about life, interaction design, freelancing, the underlying philosophies of biking, and the obvious moral imperative that Jake and I start a business together and call it Unstoppable Force.

Today I went to Maker Faire down in San Mateo, which was full of awesome stuff that awesome people built that was awesome. This also allowed me the opportunity to see some real life steampunks, who otherwise don’t have a whole lot to do during the other 357 days of the year that aren’t Burning Man.

Steampunk Keyboard

I do enjoy the aesthetic of steam punk, however, as I love wood, brass, cogs and springs as much as I love lavish Victorian elegance. Oh yes, and goggles. Always with the brass goggles.

Here is something that is on fire (that is presumably supposed to be on fire):

Pnuema Fire Sculpture

And this is the walking robotic version of President Barack Obama, inexplicably welded to a chariot and carrying an American flag:

Walking Obama Bot

Also, you may be interested in these videos, which depict events that happened days ago and thus would be considered historic artifacts by today’s standards.

Here Josh gives us bold statements regarding his surfing proficiencies:

Here an angry pack of gulls attack a wetsuited fellow, but only if you have no depth perception and believe that everything that happens in front of your eyes happens in only two dimensions:

And finally, here is the welcoming parade that the city of San Francisco was kind enough to throw in my honor:

I Enjoy Myself

Today I saw a gal riding a bicycle in high heels. “How did that work out for her?” you might ask. The answer is apparently not well at all, as her right ankle was all scabbed and bandaged up.

I hope she said yes.

I biked out to Ocean Beach this afternoon via Golden Gate Park, and spent some quality time in the Botanical Garden. It’s truly a beautiful, remarkable place, all split up in worldly biomes that let you trot the continents without leaving your skinny jeans and All-Stars. Really, it was the orange construction fences, road cones, weed whackers and front-end loaders that made it such an enlightening experience. I don’t know where I would have been without the delightful serenade of heavy machinery in reverse.

Gah. You ever wear the coat of sarcasm for so long that you don’t know how to shrug out of it? No really, I loved the Botanical Garden. The redwood forest was almost spiritual, with its cool damp air, soft mossy ground and towering trees. The garden even features all sorts of fun, interactive exhibits:

Poison Oak

Some of which border on the truly ludic:


All in all I biked about 17 miles today. It’s reassuring how quickly I’ve been able to abandon that bullshit graduate school lifestyle and instantly reengage with my formerly active self. It gives me hope that if I can endure one more year of satisfying the sedentary demands of academia, I can actually enjoy being myself again.