October 2016

Working on an article for Nebraska History magazine. I haven’t written an academic paper since high school.

Went and picked out a car today. This was the last significant item on my “Moving To-Do List.” I felt claustrophobic in SF and LA and I think part of that was due to not having a car. Driving makes me feel free.

Bon Iver – 22, A Million

This will be on repeat all weekend.

September 2016

All moved in. Moving is the worst, but it provides an opportunity to reconsider all the ways you design your daily life.

Last day in Los Angeles. Last chance for In-N-Out.

On Being: Martin Sheen – The Spirituality of Imagination

“I only asked two things of [The West Wing] when I got the part – could the President be Catholic and could he have a Notre Dame degree? I wanted him to be Catholic so that I could personally relate to every issue in a moral frame of reference.”

The best roles seem to be ones where the line between character and actor is blurred.

I am re-watching The West Wing all the way through alongside The West Wing Weekly.

Youth (2015) ★★★

Want to Find Fulfillment at Last? Think Like a Designer.

Learning how you (consciously or unconsciously) design your life is something that should really be taught in high school.

Most of my career so far has been about exploring multiple viable options and prototyping possible futures.

“If it feels right, take it a step further; if it doesn’t, move on.”

A Most Violent Year (2014) ★★★★

“The result is never in question for me. Just what path do you take to get there, and there is always one that is most right.”

Last week before the move. I really hope this is the last time I do this for a while.

Homer Simpson: An Economic Analsyis

Hoffa (1992) ★★★

The Accidental Power of Design

“Design solidifies, and naturalizes, things that start off as opinions, stories and traditions, supplying form to the fictions by which we live.”

“It’s only when our belief systems shift, and culturally we experience a seismic disruption, that we suddenly recognize the underlying fictions on which our designed world is built.”

24 years old.

My day to reflect on the past year and plan for the next one:

What do I want to keep doing?
What do I want to give up?
What do I want to do differently?

Brooklyn (2015) ★★★★★

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) ★★★


Each visit gets more difficult. But in twenty years I’ll be glad I spent so much time with them.

Why Walking Helps Us Think

“Walking organizes the world around us; writing organizes our thoughts.”

The Good Shepherd (2006) ★★★


TSA Pre-Check is one of the more useful services I pay for.

I pay the extra $20-50 for Priority Boarding and Premium Economy. Turning a stressful situation into an enjoyable one is always worth it.

August 2016

Names in the Ivy League

“College campuses, however, are not ordinary places. They are, in the first place, explicitly intellectual; the whole point of college is to spur conversation. And, from an architectural perspective, colleges are unusual, too. Many campuses aren’t authentic places. Instead, an air of artificiality suffuses them; they are deeply shaped environments, designed to communicate some sort of cultural idea.”

Democracy is design.

“It seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.” – Alexander Hamilton

(Emphasis mine)

I find that music helps me switch between projects with vastly different subjects, for example historical research vs. design work. I pick a specific song as the stimulus and listen to it while working on a project. Then, in the future, when I lack motivation, listening to the song is the push I need to get started.

Music as motivation: Like classical conditioning – Pair song with action. Listen to song. Elicit reaction.

Augmented Urban Reality

“If the automobile caused us to disperse, the information age seems, paradoxically, to be drawing us back together.”

July 2016

NYPL Labs & Space/Time are the kind of projects I want to work on.

Which parts of my family history research could be better told with digital tools?

Turn my Google map into something like this (see instructions).

One World Trade Center’s NYC history elevator video.

Suffragette (2015) ★★★★


Took my time buying a return ticket. It didn’t feel like there was much of a reason to hurry back to L.A. now that I’ve decided to move.

“genealogy of ideas”: The ideas we expose ourselves to lead, directly, to the ideas we have ourselves.

My goal of one book per week took a hit as I slogged through the 1,336 pages of The Power Broker. But I have some shorter books that will help get me back on track.

June 2016

Family History | Day 5
→ Cape Cod
→ Wianno Club
→ Codman Estate
→ Portland, ME

Family History | Day 4
→ Middletown, NY
→ New Vernon Baptist Cemetery
→ Staatsburgh State Historic Site
→ Clermont State Historical Site

Family History | Day 3
→ NY Grand Lodge of Free Masons
→ High Line
→ Chelsea Market
→ Trinity Church
→ Federal Hall
→ Bowling Green

Family History | Day 2
→ 475 Fifth Ave.
→ New York Public Library
→ Upper East Side
→ New York Society Library

Family History | Day 1
→ Philadelphia, PA
→ Mount Airy, PA
→ Germantown, PA
→ Glen Ridge, NJ
→ Montclair, NJ


Meeting up with my dad for a family history research trip.

August: Osage County (2013) ★★★★

“This is not the Midwest. All right? Michigan is the Midwest, God knows why. This is the Plains: a state of mind, right, some spiritual affliction, like the Blues.”

May 2016


Seventeen hours to go.



First international flight since I was in third grade. I hate long flights. So I’m really not looking forward to the next 18 hours.

April 2016


Boopy’s 91st birthday at the Seattle Tennis Club. This was the largest family gathering we’ve had in a few years.


March 2016

I love walking. I try to never walk the same way twice.

Every morning for the last six months I have started the day with an ice cold shower. It’s one of the best parts of my day.

“Starting your morning by tackling challenges head-on will help encourage similar behavior throughout the day.”

25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music is Going

“One of the great tricks of pop music is that no matter how much we like to imagine it’s about musicians expressing themselves, it tends to be more useful as a way for listeners to figure out their own identities: Each song lets us try on a new way of being in the world.”

I constantly feel as if I’m being pulled between client work and in-house work. They each have their upsides and downsides, but neither feels like a good fit to me.

So I recently made the decision to be my own client and carve out significant chunks of time to work on my own projects.

My first word was “mine” and it still seems to be an important one to me.

February 2016

Shot | Reverse Shot

“When a squad is presented as a #squad, it is transforming itself, via the logic of media, from a social circumstance into a social product. . . . A #squad is a clique, commodified.”

Each year, instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I focus on one aspect of my life that I want to improve and I set a quantifiable goal. This year’s focus was on reading. My goal was to average one book per week. So far, I’m averaging 1.25 books/wk.

Mary Norris (Comma Queen) is one of my favorite contributors to the New Yorker’s Culture Desk.

How to Read a Movie

“Think of ‘intrinsic weighting’ as a process that gives all areas of the screen complete freedom, but acts like an invisible rubber band to create tension or attention when stretched.”

The Simpsons Movie References

When I was sixteen I watched AFI’s 100 Greatest Films and learned to appreciate The Simpsons even more.

Started using Processing to visualize some of the data I’ve collected from my family history research (migration, lifespan, social circles, etc).

CAD Mapper

Narcissism is Increasing. So You’re Not So Special.

“Instagram and the like doesn’t create a narcissist, but studies suggest it acts as an accelerant — a near ideal platform to facilitate what psychologists call ‘grandiose exhibitionism.'”

“Post to communicate, praise and learn — never to self-promote.


Who Needs Handwriting

Since buying a fountain pen, I’ve been writing more by hand. However, my handwriting is so poor that I’ve started practicing cursive again (something I haven’t done since third grade).

“The United States was in all likelihood the first nation to be designed – to come into being as a deliberate consequence of the actions of men who recognized a problem and resolved it with the greatest benefit to the whole. America did not just happen: It was designed.”

This quote (sent via Joe) has helped me to better understand how my interests in design, American history, and politics are connected.

Public policy is an ongoing design process: Recognize a problem. Take action. Observe the consequences. Repeat.

Note to self: Use technology as a tool, not a pastime.

Unclutter for Mac

My desktop tends to fill up with temporary items. This is a nice holding area until I can file things away properly.

Los Angeles is a great city. The weather is perfect, people are friendly, and (most) museums are free. But it still doesn’t feel quite right.

January 2016

Creating a Look, Page by Page

“Mr. Haynes assembled his image book almost as if it were a visual mixtape, pulling photos and movie screen grabs of his inspirations and laying them out in pages of collages that would help to synthesize his thoughts and create a kind of virtual movie. ‘It’s all creative problem solving and thematic decision making,’ he said. ‘When you put one image next to another, it says more than the two separately.’”

This page serves the same function. It is a collage of ideas. It can lead to greater understanding through the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated bits of information.

Researching family history has shown me the importance of well-structured folders, file-naming conventions, and aliasing files.

Finally deleted all my social accounts for good. This site is the extent of my online presence.

FoldingText is one of those rare tools that has fundamentally changed the way I work.

I’ve been wanting to write more letters, so I recently bought a nice fountain pen. I’ve found that strategic purchases can act as motivation to help achieve goals.


Trying to spend as much time as possible with the grandparents. I had a list of family-related questions, but they couldn’t remember much.

Finding Your Roots

Meet the Patels (2014) ★★★★

The New York Public Library Public Domain CollectionOld NYC have been great resources for my family history research. When I come across an ancestor’s address I drop it into Old NYC and try to find images from the right time period.


Researching my family history, I can’t help but think about the amount of information I create online (photos, blog posts, etc.) that will be so easy for future generations to find.

The Selfish Side of Gratitude

“All you have to do is to generate, within yourself, the good feelings associated with gratitude, and then bask in its warm, comforting glow. If there is any loving involved in this, it is self-love, and the current hoopla around gratitude is a celebration of onanism.”

December 2015

Star Wars: Episode VII ★★★

What We See When We Read

“Words are effective not because of what they carry in them, but for their latent potential to unlock the accumulated experience of the reader. Words ‘contain’ meanings, but, more important, words potentiate meaning.”

George Saunders: On Story

I wish I was a better gift-giver.

Why It’s a Wonderful Life is Still Relevant

It is embarrassing how much I love this movie.


The Fed’s Rube Goldberg Machine

“We thought that we would try to illustrate monetary policy in its most natural metaphor: as a Rube Goldberg machine, a complex contraption that performs simple tasks.”

I appreciate how the New York Times hasn’t dumbed down their online content, but instead figured out how the medium can compliment their more serious pieces of journalism.

The Ugly Truth

“Beauty does more than simply seduce: it masks and perfumes, freezes moral categories in place. Ugliness—with all its seams unconcealed—is sometimes the closest thing to the truth.”

Best of Enemies ★★★★

Shut Up – Chrome plug-in to automatically hide all comment sections on a website. This has made using the Internet far more enjoyable.

November 2015

sangfroid: composure or coolness, sometimes excessive, as shown in danger or under trying circumstances.

Super Normal

“Not, that old things shouldn’t be replaced. Or that new things are bad, just that things which are designed to attract attention are, from the outset, going to be unsatisfactory.”

The Completist

“‘The chair has four legs… Now, an animal has a one-track mind. For instance, the animal is coming after you with the idea of tearing your head off… You put the chair up, and all of a sudden, he has four points of interest.’ I’ve always thought Hoover’s observation was a terrific analogy for decision-making, for defining objectives when the array of choices at hand is burdensome. And although humans are too perceptive a species to be fooled by the four legs of a chair, they’re nevertheless docile when choices are too abundant.”

Note to self: Routinize the things you need to do. Ritualize the things you want to do. Routine focuses on the completion of tasks. Ritual celebrates the performance of tasks.

Spotlight (2015) ★★★★★

This movie, along with my NYT Insider subscription, perfectly illustrate the difference between journalism and content.

How to Watch a Movie

“Screens are strange tools; they display and they conceal.”

I’ve been diving back into code recently. I’m interested in making things, not just pictures of things.

“In the Age of the Image, when screens are so much our rulers, anyone who wishes to grab our attention – and to hold it – does so by converting himself into a ‘human-interest story,’ translating his life into a kind of fable… Those who long to be entrusted with real consequences in our lives acquire that power increasingly by presenting themselves as fairy tales.”

October 2015

“A house is a machine for living in.”

My Dark California Dream

“Like the rest of America, California is unformed, innovative, ahistorical, hedonistic, acquisitive, and energetic – only more so.”

The Art of Omission

“Writing is selection. From the first word of the first sentence in an actual composition, the writer is choosing, selecting, and deciding (more importantly) what to leave out.”

My Writing Education

“They could mock us, disregard us, use us to prop themselves up. But our teachers, if they are good, instead do something almost holy, which we never forget: they take us seriously.”

The best teachers I’ve ever had were the ones that took me seriously.

Terry Gross and the Art of Opening Up

“I try not to make it about me. I try to use my experiences to help me understand my guests’ experiences, but not to take anything away from them.”


This was a strange trip. My grandpa wasn’t sure who I was. However, we connected over some family-related photos I tracked down on the Durham Museum’s online photo collection.

September 2015

I am very much a creature of habit. As a result, I tend to avoid invitations and obligations that don’t fit into my routine.

Louis C.K. on Self-Awareness

“Self-love is a good thing, but self-awareness is more important. You need to once in a while go, ‘Uh, I’m kind of an asshole.'”

I enjoy spending my birthday alone. To me, it is a chance to silently reflect and to evaluate the past year.

The Widening World of Handpicked Truths

There are facts and there are beliefs. They are not equal.