Category Archives: Personal

When the going gets weird, the weird go pro (2017 life update, part II)

man on grass hill in Astoria

I haven’t put this out there publicly yet, but should! I left Microsoft (and NYC) last week after 3+ years on the Technology and Civic Engagement team. I was extremely fortunate to get to serve on that team and learn about creating social impact at the scale of a giant tech company. The team, now Microsoft Cities, is in great shape — they’re expanding to more US cities, and will be covering more areas of social and civic impact work. I’m still deeply supportive of their work, if I can be of assistance connecting.

For a while now, I’ve been eager to get back to creating things myself, and I’m now in a great place where I can incubate projects again. Right now, I’m parked up in a beautiful place next to the ocean in Gloucester, MA. I’m going to hit the proverbial road and travel Latin America this winter, as well. Hit me up if you’d like to cross paths somewhere great. Ideally I find somewhere to park up relatively quickly.

Some of my upcoming work will go through the newly formed Bad Idea Factory, a creative collective of people building things to make you thinking face emoji. You can follow along with that crew’s misadventures on the popular microblogging service Twitter.

In terms of what I’m going to work on…here are a handful, in various stages of progress:

  • Revive and radically open up my puzzle states project to bring popular attention to the state legislators gerrymandering away our elections.
  • Build a web app to automatically track all of your giving across nonprofits, crowdfunders, and political campaigns. This one exists in alpha form, thanks to Justin Nowell. Hit me up if you’d be interested in trying it out.
  • Something, anything to detect capture more methane and buy us time to produce less carbon.
  • Make a game app that makes saving money anywhere near as fun as spending it.
  • Build a tool that helps people maintain a large number of healthy relationships, in excess of the Dunbar number, that isn’t a CRM or transactional, sales-based relationship model.
  • Publish more travel and freelance writing and photography.
  • Develop a noise sensor that lets you know midnight audio levels in the house you’re about to buy or rent.
  • See if we can invent washing machine filters that keep synthetic microplastics out of our oceans / oysters.
  • A bunch of random art projects to track your path across maps, an emoji alethiometer, turn street grids into sheet music, etc.

So, I plan to stay busy, while also adopting a healthier work-life balance and learning Spanish? Needless to say, I probably need to narrow that list down, but get in touch if you’re interested in collaborating. Or just want to get beers in a nice place together somewhere.

Remembering by living

Aaron has left us. Beautiful and honest eulogies pouring in from around the world make it clear how many people and ideas his short life touched. You should go read those. But for my own personal emotional processing, I’m going to borrow a mourning practice from my friend Sasha. When you lose someone important, you can personally honor their passing by incorporating some of their behaviors, values, and traits into your own life. Adopting a part of them keeps them alive in your own life, but also the lives of others.

From what I knew of Aaron and from what I’ve read this week, I’m going with these:

  • Liberally get in touch with people whose work you admire, even if you have no clear reason or zero ulterior motive, just to let them know it’s great.
  • Join the challenges that need champions. “That’s a problem I want to be a part of,” one post put it.
  • Practice that more natural method of self-education, that homeschool spirit of pursuing the things you’re excited by without regard for when the test will be, to learn in very great detail because of the natural interest inside you that must be quenched. Embrace the Wikipedia wormholes that transport you so quickly through time.
  • Accept people for their minds, not their appearance or position, and accept that many young people’s personalities are far more developed than we tend to give them credit for.
  • Double down on your natural enthusiasm for improving accessibility to human knowledge. The advancement of the human race depends on us learning more, but also, and probably in larger numbers, teaching and sharing more of what “we” already know.
  • And, of course, “Being a programmer is like finding out you have magic powers”:
AaronSW speaks at DC Week 2011
AaronSW speaks at DC Week 2011

I woke up today / In a very simple way

Don’t you love when you get into a song and its chorus just happens to coincide with your resolution of the week? This hasn’t happened to me since I discovered Okkervil River’s The President’s Dead right before Gerald Ford passed, but the stars have aligned again.

One of the few drawbacks of working from home is that the line between work and home gets the ol’ Gaussian blur. My girlfriend identified this before I even started, but it didn’t bother me until recently. It turns out the benefit of not having to commute in the morning is erased by how easy it is to just wander to your computer and fire up the email before properly waking up. You get an early jump, but it’s canceled out by the lack of focus that haunts you throughout the rest of the day.

So, in the spirit of the Secular Sabbath, I’m going Analog in the AM. From 7-9am I’ll be awake but not using screens. Sorely needed triathlon training or cleaning are two areas I might spend this time on. So if you’re an early riser yourself and see me on Gchat, AIM, Facebook, Gmail, and so on, tell me to shut ‘er down.

But really the whole point of this post was to play this song a bunch of times.

Fun Fact: Port O’Brien apparently work in a cannery in Alaska. My friend Dave just started working as a Carnie in Alaska. Less gritty, but still wild.

Garbage Pail Kids Reincarnated

Looking back, these were probably the most foul things my parents let us near in the otherwise innocent ’80’s. I remember not being allowed to buy the most super-disgusting Ninja Turtle villain. I couldn’t find a picture of him but I did find this one that my parents did let me get:

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But neither were anywhere near as gross as the many Garbage Pail Kids trading cards and stickers we had.

So it’s good to see that they’re back, complete with a make-your-own feature that was the most fun I’ve had this week. The customization panel is also by far the best series of tabs I’ve ever been offered:

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Unfortunately the share with a friend feature seems to be broken and there’s no way to embed your card anywhere (it was animated so the little rat comes over and eats at the pool of maggots), but still fun stuff for a Friday:

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Make your own.

Grandpa

My Dad’s eulogy for his dad, my granddad:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

— Dylan Thomas

Dad raged against the dying of the light. He did not go peacefully.

Yet his entire life was one of live and let live. He wished no one harm and harmed no one.

He loved his family, his forest and trees, which he planted, his dogs, multiple generations which he borne and raised. He was a doer…he made things and made things work. Not always successfully, but ample enough to get the job done.

He ran a farm, a coal mine, worked for a corporation, and developed a wood business that never made money but kept him busy and sane.

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He loved his tools, his workshop, his freedom to do what he pleased. He ran wild with thoughts and feelings and work and enjoyed getting up every day of his life. It is to be envied.

He reveled in building his house, his farm, the pond, and making things (and us) work. Many are the morning I arose to his ‘get out of bed you lazy bones’. Coffee was on, the sun was rising, and trees needed to be cut, split, loaded, dumped for props for the mine, and stacked. Then we had the cows to milk, the chickens and pigs to feed, the milk to churn into butter, and the rock shot to do in the mine. But, we all bear our cross…

Dad never ran out of things to do, to fix and to talk about. He lived a full life, always searching for things to do. We should all be so happy.

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Dad taught me to fish, to hunt, to plant gardens, to care for animals, and embedded in me a sense of honesty. You have to be responsible and proud of what you do and how you do it.

For all Dads’ social isolation, he was one of the original party animals. He loved to talk, dance, eat, and have a good time. I remember his trying to control our Friday night ventures into NY State, as we were 18 and could drink there. (This was popular at the time).

He bought us a keg of beer and had me and my friends stay in our back yard. Of course, by one o’clock, we were out playing football by moonlight. After the many calls from irate mothers the next morning over torn clothes and bruises, he never did it again. But the thought was pure.

I think what I will most miss about Dad is his calm presence in any situation. He just knew what to do and what to say to help us on our way.

God’s nature harsh and untamed,
Cold, wet, wild, un-named,
Create yourself in your own terms,
Make use of the abundance that is provided,

Dad made his choices and struck a claim
Worked the earth above and below
To keep his family fed and clothed
Hard work and fortitude
Honesty and frugality
Fun and laughter
Strong hands and strong bonds
Dad built a foundation out of nothing.

Yet end of days comes for everyone
To move on to another plane of life
But the transition is a new birthing and hard
Especially for those of us remaining here
Dust unto dust, but life ever-lasting

Dad is running free in the woods with his loving dogs
Fishing the streams for rainbow trout
And tuning the Chevy to purr like a cat
We are but moments and seconds from seeing him again
When he will turn and say, what took you so long, slow-poke?

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The Welcome Wagon

Justin laid The Rhinocerus Egg and breaks the tie on brothers blogging vs. having a life, with Jeff now the minority in the latter category.

Chandler joins The Cult of Pure Banality. Despite being unemployed, the only time Chandler can find to write is during his nightly regimen of drunk munchies:

In these frigid times, the plumbing of my mind has burst forth mental sewage onto the internet and straight into your homes. Inspired by capitalist propaganda and radical lunacy, I’m here to present you with some good-old-fashioned, totally useless drivel. The kind you used to get from your drunk friend at 3am in college when he decided it was time to “have a serious talk”, because that’s who I am: your drunk friend.