Mismatched Expectations

Life 2008-07-04 01:42

Mismatched expectations are the source of all drama.

Honk If You Hate Honking

Life 2008-04-18 11:21

People around here love to honk. I used to honk, very occasionally, while driving in LA. In almost all cases it was to alert someone that they were causing an obstruction, if it seemed like they were unaware of it. This is not supposed to be unfriendly. I think we’ve all done it - you’re digging around under the seat for something at a red light, the light turns green, and you fail to notice. After a brief waiting period (say, 5 or 10 seconds), a honk to alert you to the situation from the driver behind you is, to my mind, perfectly reasonable.

Since coming to SF, I’ve stopped using my horn altogether, as a backlash to what to me seems to be massively gratuitous use.

The use of honking here seems similar to my former purpose: alerting someone to an obstacle that they are causing. But the thing is, streets here are a veritable obstacle course nearly all of the time. Taxis pulling over to pick up fares. Riders on bikes and motorcycles. Lots of pedestrians, and rarely do they pay much attention to traffic signals. People looking for parking, or trying to parallel park in a space that’s just a tad too small (and they all are). Delivery trucks pulled over with their hazards on, because there’s no place to park them while making the delivery. Muni buses, tour buses, cable cars, and trains. And here and there, a newbie to driving in the city, who finds themselves constantly confused by the labyrinthine tangle of one-way streets and no-turn intersections. (e.g., me about eight months ago.)

In this environment, honking rarely serves a useful purpose. There’s cars and people and buses and bikes everywhere you look, all weaving in and out between one another; so when someone honks, it’s pretty much impossible to tell what they are honking about, if it is directed at you, and if so what you should do. It just adds more distractions to the chaotic mess. Which leads me to believe that in fact it isn’t about obstruction alerts anymore, but is just a way for people to vent.

This city has many charms, but this little bit of the local culture is really quite unpleasant.

Programmed For Scarcity

Life 2008-04-10 02:55

Humans are so prone to becoming information junkies:

“Because at one time we never knew when the next saber-toothed tiger might come along for food, it made sense to pack on the calories whenever we chanced upon them. That’s not much help in today’s world of snack aisles and super sizes. […] We are programmed for scarcity and can’t dial back when something is abundant.”

Organize

Life 2007-12-19 01:14

Most people assume that organization is inherently good. I mean, the problem is usually not being organized enough, right? Is there really such a thing as being too organized?

Actually, organization is the term we use to describe the beneficial part of this concept. But there’s a dark side.* When organization is bad, we call it something else: red tape, or bureaucracy.

For example, if you have thousands of digital photos, and you organize them into folders by year, this will most likely make the collection more manageable. But what if you have 3 photos? In that case, having a bunch of folders named for years would excessive red tape. For a collection of this size, just putting them all into one drawer - that is, unorganized - would be preferable.

* I’ve always wanted to say this.

Arrogance and Humility

Life 2007-10-21 11:32

“Arrogance without humility is a recipe for high-concept irrelevance; humility without arrogance guarantees unending mediocrity.”

From Arrogance and Humility by Clay Shirky

Work

Life 2007-10-11 03:57

“Most people like their jobs, and would work even if they did not have to. Obviously, there is a point beyond which excessive hours of work will lower health and quality of living. But within the bounds of normal work life, the data are overwhelmingly clear that for the vast majority of Americans, our work in and of itself gives us happiness.

How? There are several plausible explanations. Chief among them, according to many authors, is meaning.”

From I Love My Work by Arthur Brooks

Parkinson’s Law

Technology, Life 2007-10-06 07:48

Have you heard of Parkinson’s Law? It encompasses many common phenomenon you may have come across:

  • No matter how much hard drive space you have, you always fill it up eventually.
  • No matter how much time you have for a project, you are always working up till the last minute.
  • No matter how much money you have, you always find ways to spend most or all of it.

Humans seem to always fill things to their limit, regardless of where that limit is set. That’s why it’s so important to embrace constraints.

The Move

Life 2007-10-01 03:07

Los Angeles has been good to me. For all its faults, this is an amazing place to live and work. When I came here in early January of 2000, I hardly knew who I was. It was here in LA that I discovered my passion for business (four significant ventures under my belt now, all local to LA), started and finished my DJ career, and fell in love with my life partner. It was here that I became a political activist, became faciscnated with economics, threw several major parties, and built half a dozen Burning Man projects.

But even someplace as diverse as LA can cease to be stimulating once it becomes familiar enough. This is one of many reasons why I’ve decided it’s time to move on to someplace new: San Francisco.

All hippies end up in the bay area sooner or later. Throw in the fact that I’m also a software entrepreneur, and you have to admit it’s taken me this long to get up there. (I’ll use the excuse that the heavily socialist leaning in local politics has deterred me thus far.)

Currently I’m bouncing back and forth - I was there most of this week, back now briefly, and back again next week. By the end of this month I should be a permanent resident of San Francisco. Here’s to new adventures.

On the Verge

Life 2007-09-17 04:41

Humans seem to be drawn to verges. A verge is a place of transition, where you can see the previous and the next simultaneously. For example: a beach, the transition from land to water. Shoreline real estate is far more valuable than either an inland plot or a chunk of property far out to sea. Another example is a cliff. The stark transition from high to low, from rocky peak to fertile valley, pleases the soul. People hike long distances to see this sort of verge, or pay a substantial premium to own a house on or near one as compared to a residence not near a verge.

I think people like verges so much because they enable us to appreciate the true immensity and grandeur of the conjoining elements. Comparing them side-by-side makes each more dramatic. The ocean seems more vast when you compare it to the tiny city clinging precariously to the rocky coastline. And being at a high altitude isn’t particularly striking unless you stand near a dropoff and gaze over the edge.

Previously I was unfamiliar with the term “verge” except for that phrase it commonly appears in, “on the verge.” Virginia Postrel’s awesome book The Future and Its Enemies (is anything she writes ever not awesome?) introduced me to use of the term standalone. Now that it’s in my vocabulary, I find useful application for it everywhere.
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Inbox Distraction

Technology, Life 2007-08-17 07:08

This happens to me all the time: I’m in the zone, working on some project. Then I find myself needing to shoot out an email about it - asking a question, notifying someone of something I just did, whatever. I load my email client and - boom, my inbox is presented and I’m suddenly awash in messages demanding my attention. Fifteen minutes later I close my email client, having processed a bunch of messages, and then say - wait, what was I doing? And I realize I didn’t even send the message I originally intended.

We need a way to send email without looking at our inboxes. Most email clients make this difficult if not impossible. I’ve hacked around it with my gmail catapult launcher - I type “gmail compose” and it takes me straight to the compose screen, skipping the inbox.

Similarly, when I’m expecting a message but don’t want to be distracted by anything else, I’ll use the search capability of the launcher. Typing “gmail /“, where search terms is usually the name of the person I’m expecting an email from, shows me just what I need to see. (I wish there was a way to filter this to just new messages, but I haven’t figured out how to do that yet.) If the message I’m looking for isn’t there, I close the window, resisting the temptation to click on the “Inbox” link showing all those new messages.